You are on page 1of 249


1C 1PL Lnu Cl 1PL nlCP1

LCulSlL8ulnAnu CLLlnL
1ranslaLed from Lhe lrench by 8ALP MAnPLlM
Peres how lL sLarLed ld never sald a word noL one word lL was ArLhur CanaLe
LhaL made me speak up
ArLhur was a frlend from med school So we meeL on Lhe lace Cllchy lL was afLer breakfasL Pe wanLs Lo
Lalk Lo me l llsLen noL ouL here he says LeLs go ln We go ln And Lhere we were 1hls Lerrace he
says ls for [erks Come on over Lhere 1hen we see LhaL Lheres noL a soul ln Lhe sLreeL because of Lhe
heaL no cars noLhlng Same when lLs very cold noL a soul ln Lhe sLreeL l remember now lL was hlm who
had sald one Llme 1he people ln arls always look busy when all Lhey acLually do ls roam around from
mornlng Lo nlghL lLs obvlous because when Lhe weaLher lsnL rlghL for walklng around when lLs Loo cold
or Loo hoL you donL see Lhem anymore Lheyre all lndoors drlnklng Lhelr cafes cremes or Lhelr beers And
LhaLs Lhe LruLh 1he cenLury of speed! Lhey call lL Where? CreaL changes! Lhey say lor lnsLance? noLhlng
has changed 1hey go on admlrlng Lhemselves LhaLs all And LhaLs noL new elLher Words Lven Lhe words
havenL changed much 1wo or Lhree llLLle ones here and Lhere leased aL havlng proclalmed Lhese
useful LruLhs we saL looklng aL Lhe ladles ln Lhe cafe
AfLer a whlle Lhe conversaLlon Lurned Lo resldenL olncare
who was due Lo lnauguraLe a puppy show
LhaL same mornlng and LhaL led Lo Le 1emps
where ld read abouL lL ArLhur 8anaLe sLarLs klddlng me
abouL Le 1emps WhaL a paper! he says When lL comes Lo defendlng Lhe lrench race lL hasnL lLs equal
And qulck Lo show lm well lnformed l flre back 1he lrench race can do wlLh some defendlng seelng lL
doesnL exlsL"
Ch yes lL does! he says And a flne race lL ls! Lhe flnesL ln Lhe world and anybody who says dlfferenL ls a
yellow dog! And he sLarLs slanglng me naLurally l sLuck Lo my guns
lLs noL Lrue! WhaL you call a race ls noLhlng buL a collecLlon of rlffraff llke me blearyeyed fleablLLen
chllled Lo Lhe bone
1hey came from Lhe four corners of Lhe earLh drlven by hunger plague Lumors and Lhe cold and sLopped
here 1hey couldnL go any furLher because of Lhe ocean 1haLs lrance LhaLs Lhe lrench people"
8ardamu he says very gravely and a blL sadly Cur forefaLhers were as good as we are donL speak lll of
Lhem! "
?oure rlghL ArLhur Lhere youre rlghL! PaLeful and splneless raped and robbed mangled and wlLless
Lhey were as good as we are you can say LhaL agaln! We never change nelLher our socks nor our masLers
nor our oplnlons or were so slow abouL lL LhaL lLs no use We were born loyal and LhaLs whaL kllled us!
Soldlers free of charge heroes for everyone else Lalklng monkeys LorLured words we are Lhe mlnlons of
klng Mlsery Pes our lord and masLer! When we mlsbehave he LlghLens hls grlp hls flngers are around
our neck LhaL makes lL hard Lo Lalk goL Lo be careful lf we wanL Lo eaL lor noLhlng aL all hell choke you
lLs noL a llfe "
1heres love 8ardamu!"
ArLhur l Lell hlm love ls Lhe lnflnlLe placed wlLhln Lhe reach of poodles l have my dlgnlLy!"
?ou do do you? ?oure an anarchlsL LhaLs whaL you are!"
A wlse guy as you see wlLh only Lhe mosL advanced oplnlons
1haLs rlghL you wlndbag lm an anarchlsL And Lo prove lL lve wrlLLen a klnd of prayer of soclal
vengeance lLll bowl you over 1he Colden Wlngs! 1haLs Lhe LlLle! And l reclLe
A Cod who counLs mlnuLes and pennles a desperaLe sensual Cod who grunLs llke a plg A plg wlLh golden
wlngs who falls and falls always belly slde up ready for caresses LhaLs hlm our masLer Come klss me"
?our llLLle plece doesnL hold waLer he says lm for Lhe esLabllshed order and lm noL lnLeresLed ln
pollLlcs WhaLs more Lhe day my counLry asks me Lo shed my blood lLll flnd me ready and no slacker
1haLs whaL he sald
lL so happened LhaL Lhe war was creeplng up on us wlLhouL our knowlng lL and someLhlng was wrong wlLh
my wlLs 1haL shorL buL anlmaLed dlscusslon had Llred me ouL 8esldes l was upseL because Lhe walLer had
sorL of called me a plker on accounL of Lhe Llp Well ln Lhe end ArLhur and l made up CompleLely We
agreed abouL almosL everyLhlng
lLs Lrue l sald Lrylng Lo be conclllaLory All ln all youre rlghL 8uL Lhe facL ls were all slLLlng ln a blg
galley pulllng aL Lhe oars wlLh all our mlghL ?ou canL Lell me dlfferenL! SlLLlng on nalls and pulllng llke
mad And whaL do we geL for lL? noLhlng! 1hrashlngs and mlsery hard words and hard knocks Were
workers Lhey say Work Lhey call lL! 1haLs Lhe crummlesL parL of Lhe whole buslness Were down ln Lhe
hold heavlng and panLlng sLlnklng and sweaLlng our balls off and meanwhlle! up on deck ln Lhe fresh alr
whaL do you see?! Cur masLers havlng a flne Llme wlLh beauLlful plnk and perfumed women on Lhelr laps
1hey send for us were broughL up on deck 1hey puL on Lhelr Lop haLs and glve us a blg splel llke as follows
?ou nogood swlne! Were aL war! 1hose sLlnkers ln CounLry no 2! Were golng Lo board Lhem and cuL
Lhelr llvers ouL! LeLs go! LeLs go! Weve goL everyLhlng we need on board! All LogeLher now! LeLs hear you
shouL so Lhe deck Lrembles Long llve CounLry no 1! So youll be heard for mlles around 1he man LhaL
shouLs Lhe loudesL wlll geL a medal and a lolllpop! LeLs go! And lf Lheres anybody LhaL doesnL wanL Lo be
kllled on Lhe sea he can go and geL kllled on land lLs even qulcker!"
1haLs Lhe way lL ls exacLly sald ArLhur suddenly wllllng Lo llsLen Lo reason
8uL [usL Lhen who should come marchlng pasL Lhe cafe where were slLLlng buL a reglmenL wlLh Lhe colonel
up fronL on hls horse looklng nlce and frlendly a flne flgure of a man! LnLhuslasm llfLed me Lo my feeL
lll [usL go see lf LhaLs Lhe way lL ls! l slng ouL Lo ArLhur and off l go Lo enllsL on Lhe double
lerdlnand! he yells back uonL be an ass! l suppose he was neLLled by Lhe effecL my herolsm was havlng
on Lhe people all around us
lL klnd of hurL my feellngs Lhe way he was Laklng lL buL LhaL dldnL sLop me l fell rlghL ln Pere l am l says
Lo myself and here l sLay"
l [usL had Llme Lo call ouL Lo ArLhur All rlghL you [erk well seebefore we Lurned Lhe corner And Lhere l
was wlLh Lhe reglmenL marchlng behlnd Lhe colonel and hls band 1haLs exacLly how lL happened
We marched a long Llme 1here were sLreeLs and more sLreeLs and Lhey were all crowded wlLh clvlllans and
Lhelr wlves cheerlng us on bombardlng us wlLh flowers from cafe Lerraces rallroad sLaLlons crowded
churches ?ou never saw so many paLrloLs ln all your llfe! And Lhen Lhere were fewer paLrloLs lL sLarLed Lo
raln and Lhen Lhere were sLlll fewer and fewer and noL a slngle cheer noL one
reLLy soon Lhere was nobody buL us we were all alone 8ow afLer row 1he muslc had sLopped Come Lo
Lhlnk of lL l sald Lo myself when l saw whaL was whaL Lhls ls no fun anymore! ld beLLer Lry someLhlng
else! l was abouL Lo clear ouL 1oo laLe! 1heyd quleLly shuL Lhe gaLe behlnd us clvlllans We were caughL
llke raLs
When youre ln youre ln 1hey puL us on
horseback and afLer wed been on horseback for Lwo monLhs Lhey puL us back on our feeL Maybe because
of Lhe expense Anyway one mornlng Lhe colonel was looklng for hls horse hls orderly had made off wlLh
lL nobody knew where Lo probably some quleL spoL LhaL bulleLs couldnL geL Lo as easlly as Lhe mlddle of
Lhe road 8ecause LhaL was exacLly where Lhe colonel and l had flnally sLaLloned ourselves wlLh me holdlng
hls orderly book whlle he wroLe ouL hls orders
uown Lhe road way ln Lhe dlsLance as far as we could see Lhere were Lwo black doLs plunk ln Lhe mlddle
llke us buL Lhey were Lwo Cermans and Lheyd been busy shooLlng for Lhe lasL flfLeen or LwenLy mlnuLes
Maybe our colonel knew why Lhey were shooLlng maybe Lhe Cermans knew buL l so help me hadnL Lhe
vaguesL ldea As far back as l could search my memory l hadnL done a Lhlng Lo Lhe Cermans ld always
LreaLed Lhem frlendly and pollLe l knew Lhe Cermans preLLy well ld even gone Lo school ln Lhelr counLry
when l was llLLle near Panover ld spoken Lhelr language A bunch of loudmouLhed llLLle halfwlLs LhaLs
whaL Lhey were wlLh pale furLlve eyes llke wolves wed go ouL Lo Lhe woods LogeLher afLer school Lo feel
Lhe glrls up or wed flre popguns or plsLols you could buy for four marks And we drank sugary beer
LogeLher 8uL from LhaL Lo shooLlng aL us rlghL ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe road wlLhouL so much as a word of
lnLroducLlon was a long way a very long way lf you asked me Lhey were golng Loo far
1hls war ln facL made no sense aL all lL couldnL go on
Pad someLhlng welrd goL lnLo Lhese people? SomeLhlng l dldnL feel aL all? l suppose l hadnL noLlced lL
Anyway my feellngs Loward Lhem hadnL changed ln splLe of everyLhlng ld have llked Lo undersLand Lhelr
bruLallLy buL whaL l wanLed sLlll more enormously wlLh all my hearL was Lo geL ouL of Lhere because
suddenly Lhe whole buslness looked Lo me llke a greaL blg mlsLake
ln a mess llke Lhls l sald Lo myself Lheres noLhlng Lo be done all you can do ls clear ouL "
Cver our heads Lwo mllllmeLers maybe one mllllmeLer from our Lemples Lhose long LempLlng llnes of
sLeel LhaL bulleLs make when Lheyre ouL Lo klll you were whlsLllng Lhrough Lhe hoL summer alr
ld never felL so useless as l dld amld all Lhose bulleLs ln Lhe sunllghL A vasL and unlversal mockery
l was only LwenLy aL Lhe Llme ueserLed farms ln Lhe dlsLance empLy wldeopen churches as lf Lhe peasanLs
had gone ouL for Lhe day Lo aLLend a falr aL Lhe oLher end of Lhe counLy leavlng everyLhlng Lhey owned wlLh
us for safekeeplng Lhelr counLryslde Lhelr carLs wlLh Lhe shafLs polnLlng ln Lhe alr Lhelr flelds Lhelr
barnyards Lhe road Lhe Lrees even Lhe cows a chalned dog Lhe works Leavlng us free Lo do as we
pleased whlle Lhey were gone nlce of Lhem ln a way SLlll l sald Lo myself lf Lhey hadnL gone
somewhere else lf Lhere were sLlll somebody here lm sure we wouldnL be behavlng so badly! So
dlsgusLlngly! We wouldnL dare ln fronL of Lhem! 8uL Lhere wasnL a soul Lo waLch us! nobody buL us llke
newlyweds LhaL sLarL messlng around when all Lhe people have gone home
And anoLher LhoughL l had (behlnd a Lree) was LhaL l wlshed ueroulede6Lhe one ld heard so much
abouLhad been Lhere Lo descrlbe hls reacLlons when a ball Lore open hls guLs
1hose Cermans squaLLlng on Lhe road shooLlng so obsLlnaLely were roLLen shoLs buL Lhey seemed Lo have
ammunlLlon Lo burn whole warehouses full lL looked Lo me nobody could say Lhls war was over! l have Lo
hand lL Lo Lhe colonel hls bravery was remarkable Pe roamed around ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe road up and
down and back and forLh ln Lhe mldsL of Lhe bulleLs as calmly as lf hed been walLlng for a frlend on a
sLaLlon plaLform excepL [usL a Llny blL lmpaLlenL
Cne Lhlng ld beLLer Lell you rlghL away ld never been able Lo sLomach Lhe counLry ld always found lL
dreary Lhose endless flelds of mud Lhose houses where nobodys ever home Lhose roads LhaL donL go
anywhere And lf Lo all LhaL you add a war lLs compleLely unbearable A sudden wlnd had come up on boLh
sldes of Lhe road Lhe claLLerlng leaves of Lhe poplars mlngled wlLh Lhe sharp crackllng sounds almed aL us
from down Lhe road 1hose unknown soldlers mlssed us every Llme buL Lhey spun a Lhousand deaLhs
around us so close Lhey seemed Lo cloLhe us l was afrald Lo move
1haL colonel l could see was a monsLer now l knew lL for sure he was worse Lhan a dog he couldnL
concelve of hls own deaLh AL Lhe same Llme l reallzed LhaL Lhere musL be plenLy of brave men llke hlm ln
our army and [usL as many no doubL ln Lhe army faclng us Pow many l wondered Cne or Lwo mllllon say
several mllllons ln all? 1he LhoughL Lurned my fear Lo panlc WlLh such people Lhls lnfernal lunacy could go
on for ever Why would Lhey sLop? never had Lhe world seemed so lmplacably doomed
Could l l LhoughL be Lhe lasL coward on earLh? Pow Lerrlfylng! All alone wlLh Lwo mllllon sLark ravlng
herolc madmen armed Lo Lhe eyeballs? WlLh and wlLhouL helmeLs wlLhouL horses on moLorcycles
bellowlng ln cars screechlng shooLlng ploLLlng flylng kneellng dlgglng Laklng cover boundlng over Lralls
rooLLooLLooLlng shuL up on earLh as lf lL were a loony bln ready Lo demollsh everyLhlng on lL Cermany
lrance whole conLlnenLs everyLhlng LhaL breaLhes desLroy desLroy madder Lhan mad dogs worshlplng
Lhelr madness (whlch dogs donL) a hundred a Lhousand Llmes madder Lhan a Lhousand dogs and a loL
more vlclous! A preLLy mess we were ln! no doubL abouL lL Lhls crusade ld leL myself ln for was Lhe
?ou can be a vlrgln ln horror Lhe same as ln sex Pow when l lefL Lhe lace Cllchy could l have lmaglned
such horror? Who could have suspecLed before geLLlng really lnLo Lhe war all Lhe lngredlenLs LhaL go Lo
make up Lhe roLLen herolc goodfornoLhlng soul of man? And Lhere l was caughL up ln a mass fllghL lnLo
collecLlve murder lnLo Lhe flery furnace SomeLhlng had come up from Lhe depLhs and Lhls ls whaL
1he colonel was sLlll as cool as a cucumber l waLched hlm as he sLood on Lhe embankmenL Laklng llLLle
messages senL by Lhe general readlng Lhem wlLhouL hasLe as Lhe bulleLs flew all around hlm and Learlng
Lhem lnLo llLLle pleces uld none of Lhose messages lnclude an order Lo puL an lmmedlaLe sLop Lo Lhls
abomlnaLlon? uld no Lop brass Lell hlm Lhere had been a mlsundersLandlng? A horrlble mlsLake? A mlsdeal?
1haL somebodyd goL lL all wrong LhaL Lhe plan had been for maneuvers a sham baLLle noL a massacre!
noL aL all! keep lL up colonel! ?oure dolng flne! 1haLs whaL Ceneral des LnLrayes7 Lhe head of our
dlvlslon and commander over us all musL have wrlLLen ln Lhose noLes LhaL were belng broughL every flve
mlnuLes by a courler who looked greener and more shlLless each Llme l could have palled up wlLh LhaL boy
wed have been scared LogeLher 8uL we had no Llme Lo fraLernlze
So Lhere was no mlsLake? So Lhere was no law agalnsL people shooLlng aL people Lhey couldnL even see! lL
was one of Lhe Lhlngs you could do wlLhouL anybody readlng you Lhe rloL acL ln facL lL was recognlzed and
probably encouraged by upsLandlng clLlzens llke Lhe drafL or marrlage or hunLlng! no Lwo ways abouL
lL l was suddenly on Lhe mosL lnLlmaLe Lerms wlLh war ld losL my vlrglnlLy ?ouve goL Lo be preLLy much
alone wlLh her as l was Lhen Lo geL a good look aL her Lhe sluL full face and proflle A war had been
swlLched on beLween us and Lhe oLher slde and now lL was burnlng! Llke Lhe currenL beLween Lhe Lwo
carbons of an arc lamp! And Lhls lamp was ln no hurry Lo go ouL! lL would geL us all Lhe colonel and
everyone else he looked preLLy splffy now buL he wouldnL roasL up any blgger Lhan me when Lhe currenL
from Lhe oLher slde goL hlm beLween Lhe shoulders
1here are dlfferenL ways of belng condemned Lo deaLh Ch! WhaL wouldnL l have glven Lo be ln [all lnsLead
of here! WhaL a fool ld been! lf only l had had a llLLle foreslghL and sLolen someLhlng or oLher when lL
would have been so easy and Lhere was sLlll Llme l never Lhlnk of anyLhlng ?ou come ouL of [all allve ouL of
a war you donL! 1he resL ls blarney
lf only ld had Llme buL l dldnL 1here was noLhlng lefL Lo sLeal Pow pleasanL lL would be ln a cozy llLLle
[allhouse l sald Lo myself where Lhe bulleLs couldnL geL ln Where Lhey never goL ln! l knew of one LhaL
was ready and walLlng all sunny and warm! l saw lL ln my dreams Lhe [allhouse of SalnLCermaln Lo be
exacL rlghL near Lhe foresL l knew lL well ld ofLen passed LhaL way Pow a man changes! l was a chlld ln
Lhose days and LhaL [all frlghLened me 8ecause l dldnL know whaL men are llke never agaln wlll l belleve
whaL Lhey say or whaL Lhey Lhlnk Men are Lhe Lhlng Lo be afrald of always men and noLhlng else
Pow much longer would Lhls madness have Lo go on before Lhese monsLers dropped wlLh exhausLlon? Pow
long could a convulslon llke Lhls lasL? MonLhs? ?ears? Pow many? Maybe Llll everyones dead? All Lhese
lunaLlcs? Lvery lasL one of Lhem? And seelng evenLs were Laklng such a desperaLe Lurn l declded Lo sLake
everyLhlng on one Lhrow Lo make one lasL Lry Lo see lf l couldnL sLop Lhe war [usL me all by myself! AL
leasL ln Lhls one spoL where l happened Lo be
1he colonel was only Lwo sLeps away from me paclng ld Lalk Lo hlm SomeLhlng ld never done 1hls was a
Llme for darlng 1he way Lhlngs sLood Lhere was pracLlcally noLhlng Lo lose WhaL ls lL? hed ask me
sLarLled l lmaglned aL my bold lnLerrupLlon 1hen ld explaln Lhe slLuaLlon as l saw lL and wed see whaL he
LhoughL 1he essenLlal ls Lo Lalk Lhlngs over 1wo heads are beLLer Lhan one
l was abouL Lo Lake LhaL declslve sLep when aL LhaL very momenL who should arrlve on Lhe double buL a
dlsmounLed cavalryman (as we sald ln Lhose days) exhausLed shaky ln Lhe [olnLs holdlng hls helmeL
upsldedown ln one hand llke 8ellsarlus8 Lrembllng all covered wlLh mud hls face even greener Lhan Lhe
courler l menLloned before Pe sLammered and gulped ?oud have LhoughL he was sLruggllng Lo cllmb ouL
of a Lomb and lL made hlm slck Lo hls sLomach Could lL be LhaL Lhls spook dldnL llke bulleLs any more Lhan l
dld? 1haL he saw Lhem comlng llke me?
WhaL ls lL? ulsLurbed Lhe colonel sLopped hlm shorL Lhe glance he flung aL LhaL ghosL was of sLeel
lL made our colonel very angry Lo see LhaL wreLched cavalryman so lncorrecLly clad and shlLLlng ln hls panLs
wlLh frlghL 1he colonel had no use for fear LhaL was a sure Lhlng And especlally LhaL helmeL held ln hand
llke a bowler was really Loo much ln a combaL reglmenL llke ours LhaL was [usL geLLlng lnLo Lhe war lL was as
lf Lhls dlsmounLed cavalryman had seen Lhe war and Laken hls haL off ln greeLlng
under Lhe colonels wlLherlng look Lhe wobbly messenger snapped Lo aLLenLlon presslng hls llLLle flnger Lo
Lhe seam of hls Lrousers as Lhe occaslon demanded And so he sLood on Lhe embankmenL sLlff as a board
swaylng Lhe sweaL runnlng down hls chln sLrap hls [aws were Lrembllng so hard LhaL llLLle aborLlve crles
kepL comlng ouL of hlm llke a puppy dreamlng ?ou couldnL make ouL wheLher he wanLed Lo speak Lo us or
wheLher he was crylng
Cur Cermans squaLLlng aL Lhe end of Lhe road had [usL changed lnsLrumenLs now Lhey were havlng Lhelr
fun wlLh a machlne gun spuLLerlng llke handfuls of maLches and all around us flew swarms of angry bulleLs
as hosLlle as wasps
1he man flnally managed Lo arLlculaLe a few words
Colonel slr SergeanL 8arousse has been kllled"
So whaL?"
Pe was on hls way Lo meeL Lhe bread wagon on Lhe LLrapes road slr"
So whaL?"
Pe was blown up by a shell!"
So whaL dammlL!"
1haLs whaL colonel slr"
ls LhaL all?"
?es slr LhaLs all colonel slr"
WhaL abouL Lhe bread? Lhe colonel asked
1haL was Lhe end of Lhe dlalogue because l remember dlsLlncLly he barely had Llme Lo say WhaL abouL
Lhe bread? 1haL was all AfLer LhaL Lhere was noLhlng buL flame and nolse 1he klnd of nolse you wouldnL
have LhoughL posslble Cur eyes ears nose and mouLh were so full of LhaL nolse l LhoughL lL was all over
and ld Lurned lnLo nolse and flame myself
AfLer a whlle Lhe flame wenL away Lhe nolse sLayed ln my head and my arms and legs Lrembled as lf
somebody were shaklng me from behlnd My llmbs seemed Lo be leavlng me buL Lhen ln Lhe end Lhey
sLayed on 1he smoke sLung my eyes for a long Llme and Lhe prlckly smell of powder and sulfur hung on
sLrong enough Lo klll all Lhe fleas and bedbugs ln Lhe whole world
l LhoughL of SergeanL 8arousse who had [usL gone up ln smoke llke Lhe man Lold us 1haL was good news
CreaL l LhoughL Lo myself 1haL makes one less sLlnker ln Lhe reglmenL! Pe wanLed Lo have me courL
marLlaled for a can of meaL lLs an lll wlnd l sald Lo myself ln LhaL respecL you canL deny lL Lhe war
seemed Lo serve a purpose now and Lhen! l knew of Lhree or four more ln Lhe reglmenL real scum LhaL ld
have gladly helped Lo make Lhe acqualnLance of a shell llke 8arousse
As for Lhe colonel l dldnL wlsh hlm any hard luck 8uL he was dead Loo AL flrsL l dldnL see hlm 1he blasL
had carrled hlm up Lhe embankmenL and lald hlm down on hls slde rlghL ln Lhe arms of Lhe dlsmounLed
cavalryman Lhe courler who was flnlshed Loo 1hey were embraclng each oLher for Lhe momenL and for all
eLernlLy buL Lhe cavalrymans head was gone all he had was an openlng aL Lhe Lop of Lhe neck wlLh blood
ln lL bubbllng and glugglng llke [am ln a keLLle 1he colonels belly was wlde open and he was maklng a
nasLy face abouL lL lL musL have hurL when lL happened 1ough shlL for hlm! lf hed beaL lL when Lhe
shooLlng sLarLed lL wouldnL have happened
All LhaL Langled meaL was bleedlng profusely
Shells were sLlll bursLlng Lo Lhe rlghL and lefL of Lhe scene
ld had enough l was glad Lo have such a good preLexL for maklng myself scarce l even hummed a Lune
and reeled llke when youve been rowlng a long way and your legs are wobbly !usL one shell! l sald Lo
myself Amazlng how qulck [usL one shell can clean Lhlngs up Could you belleve lL? l kepL saylng Lo myself
Could you belleve lL!"
1here was nobody lefL aL Lhe end of Lhe road 1he Cermans were gone 8uL LhaL llLLle eplsode had LaughL
me a qulck lesson Lo keep Lo Lhe cover of Lhe Lrees l was ln a hurry Lo geL back Lo our command posL Lo
see lf anyone else ln our reglmenL had been kllled on reconnalssance 1here musL be some good dodges l
sald Lo myself for geLLlng Laken prlsoner Pere and Lhere ln Lhe flelds a few puffs of smoke sLlll clung Lo
Lhe ground Maybe Lheyre all dead l LhoughL Seelng Lhey refuse Lo undersLand anyLhlng whaLsoever
Lhe besL soluLlon would be for Lhem all Lo geL kllled lnsLanLly 1he war would be over and wed go home
Maybe wed march across Lhe lace Cllchy ln Lrlumph !usL one or Lwo survlvors ln my dream
SLrapplng good fellows marchlng behlnd Lhe general all Lhe resL would be dead llke Lhe colonel Llke
8arousse llke vanallle (anoLher basLard) eLc 1heyd shower us wlLh decoraLlons and flowers wed
march Lhrough Lhe Arc de 1rlomphe Wed go Lo a resLauranL Lheyd serve us free of charge wed never pay
for anyLhlng anymore never as long as we llved! Were heroes! wed say when Lhey broughL Lhe blll
uefenders of Lhe aLrle! 1haL would do lL! Wed pay wlLh llLLle lrench flags! 1he lady aL Lhe cash desk
would refuse Lo Lake money from heroes shed even glve us some wlLh klsses Lhrown ln as we flled ouL
Llfe would be worLh llvlng"
As l was runnlng l noLlced my arm was bleedlng [usL a llLLle Lhough a far from saLlsfacLory wound a
scraLch ld have Lo sLarL all over
lL was ralnlng agaln Lhe flelds of llanders oozed wlLh dlrLy waLer lor a long Llme l dldnL meeL a soul only
Lhe wlnd and a llLLle laLer Lhe sun lrom Llme Lo Llme l couldnL Lell from where a bulleL would come flylng
merrlly Lhrough Lhe alr and sunshlne looklng for me lnLenL on kllllng me Lhere ln Lhe wllderness Why?
never agaln noL lf l llved anoLher hundred years would l go walklng ln Lhe counLry A solemn oaLh
Walklng along l remembered Lhe ceremony of Lhe day before lL had Laken place ln a meadow aL Lhe fooL
of a hlll Lhe colonel had harangued Lhe reglmenL ln hls boomlng volce Co Lo lL boys he had crled Co Lo
lL boys and vlve la lrance! When you have no lmaglnaLlon dylng ls small beer when you do have an
lmaglnaLlon dylng ls Loo much 1haLs my oplnlon My undersLandlng has never Laken ln so many Lhlngs aL
1he colonel had never had any lmaglnaLlon 1haL was Lhe source of all hls Lrouble and of ours even more
so Was l Lhe only man ln LhaL reglmenL wlLh any lmaglnaLlon abouL deaLh? l preferred my own klnd of
deaLh Lhe klnd LhaL comes laLe ln LwenLy years LhlrLy maybe more Lo Lhls deaLh Lhey were
Lrylng Lo deal me rlghL away eaLlng llanders mud my whole mouLh full of lL fuller Lhan full spllL Lo Lhe
ears by a shell fragmenL A mans enLlLled Lo an oplnlon abouL hls own deaLh 8uL whlch way lf LhaL was Lhe
case should l go? SLralghL ahead? My back Lo Lhe enemy lf Lhe Ms were Lo caLch me roamlng around l
knew my goose was cooked 1heyd glve me a slapdash Lrlal LhaL same afLernoon ln some deserLed
classroom 1here were loLs of empLy classrooms wherever we wenL 1heyd play courLmarLlal wlLh me
Lhe way klds play when Lhe Leacher lsnL Lhere 1he noncoms seaLed on Lhe plaLform me sLandlng ln
handcuffs ln fronL of Lhe llLLle desks ln Lhe mornlng Lheyd shooL me Lwelve bulleLs plus one So whaL was
Lhe answer?
And l LhoughL of Lhe colonel agaln such a brave man wlLh hls breasLplaLe and hls helmeL and hls musLache
lf Lhey had exhlblLed hlm ln a muslc hall walklng as l saw hlm under Lhe bulleLs and shellflre hed have
fllled Lhe Alhambra hed have ouLshone lragson9 and he was a blg sLar aL Lhe Llme lm Lelllng you abouL
1haLs whaL l was Lhlnklng My hearL was down ln Lhe dumps
AfLer hours and hours of cauLlous furLlve walklng l flnally caughL slghL of our men near a clump of
farmhouses 1haL was one of our advance posLs lL belonged Lo a squadron LhaL was bllleLed nearby
nobody kllled Lhey Lold me Lvery lasL one of Lhem allve! l was Lhe one wlLh Lhe blg news 1he colonels
dead l shouLed as soon as l was near enough lenLy more colonels where he came from 1haL was Lhe
snappy comeback of Corporal lsLll who was on duLy [usL Lhen whaLs more he was organlzlng deLalls
All rlghL you [erk unLll Lhey flnd a replacemenL for Lhe colonel you can be plcklng up meaL wlLh Lmpoullle
and kerdoncuff10 here Lake Lwo sacks each 1he dlsLrlbuLlon polnL ls behlnd Lhe church Lhe one you
see over Lhere uonL leL Lhem glve you a loL of bones llke yesLerday and Lry and geL back before
nlghLfall you lugs!"
So l hlL Lhe road agaln wlLh Lhe oLher Lwo
1haL plssed me off lll never Lell Lhem anyLhlng afLer Lhls l sald Lo myself l could see lL was no use Lalklng
Lo Lhose slobs a Lragedy llke whaL ld [usL seen was wasLed on such sLlnkers! lL had happened Loo long ago
Lo capLure Lhelr lnLeresL And Lo Lhlnk LhaL a week earller Lheyd have glven me four columns and my
plcLure ln Lhe papers for Lhe deaLh of a colonel Lhe way ld seen lL A bunch of halfwlLs
1he meaL for Lhe whole reglmenL was belng dlsLrlbuLed ln a summery fleld shaded by cherry Lrees and
parched by Lhe AugusL sun Cn sacks and LenL cloLhs spread ouL on Lhe grass Lhere were pounds and
pounds of guLs chunks of whlLe and yellow faL dlsemboweled sheep wlLh Lhelr organs every whlch way
oozlng lnLrlcaLe llLLle rlvuleLs lnLo Lhe grass round abouL a whole ox spllL down Lhe mlddle hanglng on a
Lree and four reglmenLal buLchers all hacklng away aL lL curslng and swearlng and pulllng off cholce
morsels 1he squadrons were flghLlng LooLh and nall over Lhe lnnards especlally Lhe kldneys and all around
Lhem swarms of flles such as one sees only on such occaslons as selflmporLanL and muslcal as llLLle blrds
8lood and more blood everywhere all over Lhe grass ln slugglsh confluenL puddles looklng for a congenlal
slope A few sLeps furLher on Lhe lasL plg was belng kllled Already four men and a buLcher were flghLlng
over cerLaln of Lhe prospecLlve cuLs
?ou crook you! ?oure Lhe one LhaL made off wlLh Lhe Lenderloln yesLerday!"
Leanlng agalnsL a Lree l had barely Llme enough Lo honor LhaL allmenLary dlspuLe wlLh Lwo or Lhree glances
before belng overcome by an enormous urge Lo vomlL whlch l dld so hard LhaL l passed ouL
1hey carrled me back Lo Lhe ouLflL on a sLreLcher naLurally Lhey swlped my Lwo ollcloLh sacks Lhe change
was Loo good Lo mlss
l woke up Lo one of Lhe corporals harangues 1he war wasnL over
AnyLhlng can happen and l ln my Lurn became
a corporal aL Lhe end of LhaL same monLh of AugusL Many a Llme l was senL Lo headquarLers wlLh flve men
for llalson duLy under Ceneral des LnLrayes Pe was a llLLle man he dldnL say much and aL flrsL slghL he
seemed nelLher cruel nor herolc 8uL lL was safer Lo suspend [udgmenL WhaL he seemed Lo value mosL
of all was hls comforL ln facL he LhoughL of hls comforL all Lhe Llme and even when wed been busy
reLreaLlng for more Lhan a monLh hed chew everybody ouL ln every new sLopplng place lf hls orderly
hadnL found hlm a nlce clean bed and a klLchen wlLh all Lhe modern appllances
1hls love of comforL gave our chlef of sLaff a loL of Lrouble 1he generals domesLlc requlremenLs goL on hls
nerves Lspeclally slnce he hlmself yellow gasLrlLlc ln Lhe exLreme and consLlpaLed wasnL Lhe leasL blL
lnLeresLed ln food 8uL he had Lo eaL hls sofLbolled eggs aL Lhe generals Lable all Lhe same and llsLen on
LhaL occaslon Lo hls complalnLs 1hose are Lhe Lhlngs a soldler has Lo puL up wlLh 8uL l couldnL feel sorry
for hlm because as an offlcer he was a flrsLraLe swlne !udge for yourself AfLer a whole day spenL dragglng
ourselves uphlll and down glade Lhrough carroLs and clover wed flnally sLop so Lhe general could geL Lo
sleep somewhere Wed flnd hlm a quleL shelLered vlllage where no Lroops had been bllleLed yeL or lf Lhey
had been Lheyd have Lo move on ln a hurry wed Lhrow Lhem ouL even lf Lheyd already sLacked Lhelr
rlfles and Lheyd [usL have Lo spend Lhe nlghL ln Lhe open
1he vlllage was reserved for Lhe general sLaff lLs horses lLs mess lLs luggage and noL leasL for LhaL sLlnklng
ma[or 1he basLards name was lnon Ma[or lnon11 l hope Lheyve kllled hlm off by now (and noL
pleasanLly) 8uL aL Lhe Llme lm Lalklng abouL lnon was dlsgusLlngly allve Lvery evenlng hed send for us
llalson men and glve us a good chewlng ouL Lo keep us on our Loes and flre us wlLh enLhuslasm 1hen hed
send us all over Lhe place afLer wed run errands for Lhe general all day ulsmounL! MounL! ulsmounL
agaln! And more of Lhe same carrylng hls orders ln all dlrecLlons 1hey mlghL [usL as well have drowned us
lL would have been more convenlenL for everybody
ulsmlssed! hed yell CeL back Lo your reglmenLs! And on Lhe double!"
Where ls Lhe reglmenL slr? wed ask
AL 8arblgny12 Wheres 8arblgny?"
Cver Lhere!"
Cver Lhere where he polnLed Lhered be noLhlng buL darkness same as everywhere else an enormous
darkness LhaL swallowed up Lhe road Lwo sLeps ahead of us only a llLLle sllver of road abouL Lhe slze of your
Longue was spared by Lhe darkness
1hls 8arblgny of hls was aL Lhe end of Lhe world 1ry and flnd lL! 1o flnd hls 8arblgny youd have had Lo
sacrlflce aL leasL a whole squadron! A squadron of brave men whaLs more! And l wasnL brave aL all l
couldnL see any reason Lo be brave so obvlously l had less deslre Lhan anyone else Lo flnd hls 8arblgny Lhe
slLuaLlon of whlch lncldenLally was pure guesswork as far as he was concerned Maybe Lhey LhoughL Lhey
could make me go and commlL sulclde lf Lhey yelled loud enough 8uL elLher you have lL ln you or you donL
l knew only one Lhlng abouL LhaL blackness whlch was so dense you had Lhe lmpresslon LhaL lf you
sLreLched ouL your arm a llLLle way from your shoulder youd never see lL agaln buL of LhaL one Lhlng l was
absoluLely cerLaln namely LhaL lL was full of homlcldal lmpulses
As soon as nlghL fell LhaL blgmouLh ma[or couldnL walL Lo send us Lo our deaLhs lL was someLhlng LhaL
came over hlm aL sundown Wed Lry a blL of passlve reslsLance wed preLend noL Lo undersLand wed Lry
Lo Lake rooL ln LhaL cozy llLLle bllleL buL when we flnally couldnL see Lhe Lrees we had Lo reslgn ourselves
Lo golng away and dylng a llLLle Lhe generals dlnner was ready
lrom Lhen on lL was all a maLLer of luck SomeLlmes wed flnd 8arblgny and Lhe reglmenL and someLlmes
we wouldnL When we found lL lL was mosLly by mlsLake because Lhe squadron senLrles would sLarL
shooLlng aL us So naLurally wed advance and be recognlzed and usually spend Lhe nlghL dolng all sorLs of
deLalls carrylng numberless bales of oaLs and buckeLs of waLer and geLLlng chewed ouL Llll our heads
reeled ln addlLlon Lo dropplng wlLh sleep
ln Lhe mornlng our llalson Leam all flve of us would reporL back Lo Ceneral des LnLrayes and geL on wlLh
Lhe war
8uL mosL of Lhe Llme we dldnL flnd Lhe reglmenL and wed clrcle around vlllages on unknown Lralls keeplng
away from evacuaLed hamleLs and Lreacherous LhlckeLsas much as posslble we avolded Lhose klnds of
Lhlngs because of Cerman paLrols We had Lo be somewhere Lhough whlle walLlng somewhere ln Lhe
darkness Some Lhlngs couldnL be avolded Lver slnce Lhen lve known how wlld rabblLs musL feel
lLy comes ln funny ways lf wed Lold Ma[or lnon LhaL he was noLhlng buL a cowardly sLlnklng murderer
wed only have glven hlm pleasure Lhe pleasure of havlng us shoL wlLhouL delay by Lhe M capLaln who
was always followlng hlm around and who llved for noLhlng else lL wasnL Lhe Cermans Lhal M had lL ln
So for nlghL afLer ldloLlc nlghL we crepL from ambush Lo ambush susLalned only by Lhe decreaslngly
plauslble hope of comlng ouL allve LhaL and no oLher and lf we dld come ouL allve one Lhlng was sure LhaL
wed never absoluLely never forgeL LhaL we had dlscovered on earLh a man shaped llke you and me buL a
Lhousand Llmes more feroclous Lhan Lhe crocodlles and sharks wlLh wldeopen [aws LhaL clrcle [usL below
Lhe surface around Lhe shlploads of garbage and roLLen meaL LhaL geL chucked overboard ln Lhe Pavana
1he blggesL defeaL ln every deparLmenL of llfe ls Lo forgeL especlally Lhe Lhlngs LhaL have done you ln and
Lo dle wlLhouL reallzlng how far people can go ln Lhe way of crummlness When Lhe grave lles open before
us leLs noL Lry Lo be wlLLy buL on Lhe oLher hand leLs noL forgeL buL make lL our buslness Lo record Lhe
worsL of Lhe human vlclousness weve seen wlLhouL changlng one word When LhaLs done we can curl up
our Loes and slnk lnLo Lhe plL 1haLs work enough for a llfeLlme
ld gladly have fed Ma[or lnon Lo Lhe sharks and hls M wlLh hlm Lo Leach Lhem how Lo llve my horse
Loo whlle l was aL lL so he wouldnL have Lo suffer anymore Lhe poor fellow dldnL have any back lefL lL was
so sore only Lwo plaques of raw flesh under Lhe saddle as blg as my Lwo hands oozlng rlvers of pus LhaL
ran from Lhe edges of hls blankeL down Lo hls hocks l had Lo rlde hlm all Lhe same LroL LroL 1haL LroL
LroL made hlm wrlggle and wrlLhe 8uL horses are even more paLlenL Lhan people Pls LroL was an
undulaLlon l had Lo leave hlm ouL ln Lhe open ln a barn Lhe smell of hls open wounds would have been
asphyxlaLlng When l mounLed hlm hls back hurL hlm so badly LhaL he arched lL oh very pollLely and hls
belly hung down Lo hls knees lL felL llke mounLlng a donkey lL was easler LhaL way l have Lo admlL We
were plenLy Llred ourselves wlLh all Lhe sLeel we had Lo carry on our heads and shoulders
Ceneral des LnLrayes was walLlng for hls dlnner ln hls speclally requlslLloned house 1he Lable had been seL
Lhe lamp was ln lLs place
8eaL lL ChrlsL AlmlghLy Lhe whole loL of you! lnon yelled aL us one more Llme shaklng hls lanLern
under our noses Were slLLlng down Lo Lable! lm Lelllng you for Lhe lasL Llme! Are Lhose swlne ever golng
Lo go! he screamed 1he passlon of sendlng us Lo our deaLh puL a llLLle color lnLo hls dlaphanous cheeks
SomeLlmes Lhe generals cook would sllp us a blLe before we lefL 1he general had Loo much Lo eaL seelng
Lhe regulaLlons allowed hlm forLy raLlons all for hlmself! Pe wasnL a young man anymore ln facL he musL
have been close Lo reLlremenL age Pls knees buckled when he walked and lm preLLy sure he dyed hls
1he velns ln hls Lemples we could see ln Lhe lampllghL as we were leavlng descrlbed meanders llke Lhe
Selne on lLs way ouL of arls Pe had grownup daughLers so lL was sald unmarrled and llke hlmself noL
rlch Maybe Lhose were Lhe LhoughLs LhaL made hlm so croLcheLy cranky llke an old dog dlsLurbed ln hls
hablLs who goes looklng for hls qullLed baskeL whenever anyone opens Lhe door for hlm
Pe loved beauLlful gardens and rosebushes Wherever we wenL he never passed up a rose garden When lL
comes Lo lovlng roses generals havenL Lhelr equal lLs a known facL
Anyway we flnally seL ouL lL was hard Lo geL Lhe plugs sLarLed 1hey were afrald Lo move because of Lhelr
wounds buL ln addlLlon Lhey were afrald of us and Lhe darkness afrald of everyLhlng Lo Lell Lhe LruLh So
were we! A dozen Llmes we wenL back Lo ask Lhe ma[or for dlrecLlons! A dozen Llmes he cursed us for
goldbrlcks and goofoffs llnally wlLh Lhe help of our spurs wed pass Lhe lasL ouLposL glve Lhe senLrles Lhe
password and plunge lnLo our murky advenLure lnLo Lhe darkness of Lhls no mans land
AfLer wanderlng a whlle from slde Lo slde of Lhe darkness we flnally goL parL of our bearlngs or so aL leasL
we LhoughL Whenever one cloud seemed llghLer Lhan anoLher we were convlnced LhaL wed seen
someLhlng 8uL up ahead of us Lhere was noLhlng we could be sure of buL Lhe echo LhaL came and wenL
Lhe echo of our horses hoof beaLs a horrendous sound you wanLed so bad noL Lo hear LhaL lL sLopped your
breaLh 1hose horses seemed Lo be LroLLlng Lo hlgh heaven Lo be calllng everybody on earLh Lo come and
massacre us And Lhey could have done lL wlLh one hand [usL sLeady a rlfle agalnsL a Lree and walL for us l
kepL Lhlnklng LhaL Lhe flrsL llghL wed see would be Lhe flash of Lhe shoL LhaL would end lL all
ln Lhe four weeks Lhe war had been golng on wed grown so Llred so mlserable LhaL Llredness had Laken
away some of my fear ln Lhe end Lhe LorLure of belng harassed nlghL and day by Lhose monsLers Lhe
noncoms especlally Lhe lowranklng ones who were even sLuplder peLLler and more haLeful Lhan usual
made even Lhe mosL obsLlnaLe among us doubL Lhe advlsablllLy of golng on llvlng
Ch how you long Lo geL away! 1o sleep! 1haLs Lhe maln Lhlng! When lL becomes really lmposslble Lo geL
away and sleep Lhen Lhe wlll Lo llve evaporaLes of lLs own accord Seelng we were sLlll allve wed [usL have
Lo look as lf we were looklng for our reglmenL
8efore a LhoughL can sLarL up ln Lhe braln of a [ughead a loL of cruel Lhlngs musL happen Lo hlm 1he man
who had made me Lhlnk for Lhe flrsL Llme ln my llfe really Lhlnk pracLlcal LhoughLs LhaL were really my
own was undoubLedly Ma[or lnon LhaL LorLure masLer l Lherefore LhoughL of hlm as hard as l could as l
clanked along crushed by Lhe welghL of my armor an exLra ln Lhls lncredlble lnLernaLlonal exLravaganza
lnLo whlch l have Lo admlL l had leapL wlLh enLhuslasm
Lvery yard of darkness ahead of us was a promlse of deaLh and desLrucLlon 8uL how would lL come? 1he
only elemenL of uncerLalnLy was Lhe unlform of Lhe klller Would he be one of us? Cr of Lhem?
l hadnL done anyLhlng Lo lnon! no more Lhan l had Lo Lhe Cermans WlLh hls face llke a roLLen peach
hls four bands LhaL gllLLered all over hlm from hls head Lo hls belly buLLon hls scraggly musLache and hls
bony knees wlLh Lhe fleld glasses dangllng from hls neck llke a cowbell and hls 1/1000 map l kepL
wonderlng why he was so lnLenL on sendlng oLher people Lo Lhelr deaLh CLher people who had no maps
We four horsemen on Lhe road were maklng as much nolse as a baLLallon 1hey musL have heard us comlng
Len mlles away or else Lhey dldnL wanL Lo hear us 1haL was always a posslblllLy Maybe Lhe Cermans were
afrald of us? Why noL?
A monLh of sleeplness on every eyelld LhaLs whaL we were carrylng and as much agaln ln Lhe backs of our
heads plus all Lhose pounds of Lln
1he men ln my parLy dldnL express Lhemselves very well AcLually Lhey hardly spoke aL all 1heyd come
from Lhe ends of 8rlLLany and whaL Lhey knew Lhey hadnL learned aL school buL ln Lhe army 1haL nlghL l
Lrled Lo make a llLLle conversaLlon abouL Lhe vlllage of 8arblgny wlLh Lhe one nexL Lo me hls name was
kersuzon l say Were ln Lhe Ardennes now uo you see anyLhlng ln Lhe dlsLance? l donL see a damn
Lhlng "
lLs as black as an asshole kersuzon says 1haL was enough
8uL l suggesL havenL you heard anyone menLlon 8arblgny ln Lhe course of Lhe day? Clve you an ldea
where lL ls?"
1haL was LhaL
We never dld flnd 8arblgny We wenL around ln clrcles unLll mornlng and ended up ln anoLher vlllage
where Lhe man wlLh Lhe fleld glasses was walLlng for us 1he general was Laklng hls black coffee ln Lhe arbor
ouLslde Lhe mayors house when we goL Lhere
Ah lnon! he says ln a loud volce Lo hls chlef of sLaff as he sees us pass ?ouLh ls so wonderful! AfLer
LhaL he wenL ouL for a leak and Lhen sLooped over hls hands behlnd hls back he Look a llLLle sLroll 1he
general was very Llred LhaL mornlng Lhe orderly conflded Lo me hed slepL badly some Lrouble wlLh hls
bladder so lL seemed
kersuzon always gave me Lhe same answer when l quesLloned hlm aL nlghL as lf ld pressed a buLLon lL klnd
of Llckled me 1wo or Lhree Llmes more he sald Lhe same Lhlng abouL Lhe asshole darkness and a whlle afLer
LhaL he was kllled on hls way ouL of some vlllage wed mlsLaken for some oLher vlllage by some lrench
soldlers whod mlsLaken us for somebody else
lL was a few days l remember now afLer kersuzon was kllled LhaL we dreamed up a llLLle Lrlck LhaL sulLed us
flne Lo keep from geLLlng losL ln Lhe darkness
So Lhey were Lhrowlng us ouL of Lhe bllleL All rlghL all rlghL We donL say a word no grlplng no comeback
Clear ouL! old wax face yelled as usual
?es slr very good slr"
And off wed go ln Lhe dlrecLlon of Lhe gunflre we dldnL walL Lo be asked Lwlce all flve of us ?oud have
LhoughL we were golng Lo plck cherrles lL was rolllng counLry around Lhere Lhe Meuse wlLh lLs vlne
covered hllls grapes LhaL werenL rlpe yeL and auLumn wooden vlllages well drled by Lhree monLhs of
summer hlghly lnflammable
Wed noLlced LhaL one nlghL when we couldnL flgure ouL where Lo go 1here was always a vlllage burnlng ln
Lhe dlrecLlon of Lhe gunflre We dldnL go Loo close we gave LhaL vlllage a wlde berLh and [usL waLched llke
an audlence so Lo speak from maybe seven or elghL mlles away And every nlghL from Lhen on all klnds of
vlllages would bursL lnLo a blaze on Lhe horlzon one afLer anoLher wed be surrounded by Lhem dozens of
burnlng vlllages ln a clrcle up ahead and on boLh sldes llke a crazy carnlval sendlng up flames LhaL llcked
Lhe clouds
Wed waLch Lhe flames as Lhey swallowed up everyLhlng churches and barns one afLer anoLher 1he
haysLacks burned hlgher and llveller Lhan anyLhlng else Lhe beams reared up ln Lhe darkness Lhrowlng off
sparks before crashlng lnLo a sea of llghL
Lven from Len or flfLeen mlles away you geL a good vlew of a burnlng vlllage lL was a merry slghL A Llny
hamleL LhaL you wouldnL even noLlce ln Lhe dayLlme wlLh ugly unlnLeresLlng counLry around lL you canL
lmaglne how lmpresslve lL can be when lLs on flre aL nlghL! ?oud Lhlnk lL was noLreuame! A vlllage even a
small one Lakes aL leasL all nlghL Lo burn ln Lhe end lL looks llke an enormous flower Lhen Lheres only a
bud and afLer LhaL noLhlng
Smoke rlses and Lhen lLs mornlng
Wed leave Lhe horses saddled ln a fleld close by and Lhey wouldnL move Wed go and saw wood ln Lhe
grass all buL one naLurally whod Lake hls Lurn on guard 8uL when youve goL flres Lo waLch Lhe nlghL
passes a loL more pleasanLly lLs noL a hardshlp anymore youre noL alone
unforLunaLely Lhe vlllages dldnL lasL AfLer a monLhs Llme Lhere wasnL a vlllage lefL ln LhaL neck of Lhe
woods 1he foresLs were shelled Loo 1hey dldnL lasL a week loresLs make nlce enough flres buL Lhey donL
AfLer LhaL Lhe roads were all clogged wlLh arLlllery columns golng ln one dlrecLlon and clvlllans runnlng away
ln Lhe oLher
So naLurally we couldnL go elLher way we could only sLay where we were
Wed llne up for Lhe prlvllege of geLLlng kllled Lven Lhe general couldnL flnd any bllleLs wlLh no soldlers ln
Lhem ln Lhe end we were sleeplng ln Lhe flelds general or no general 1hose who sLlll had a blL of splrlL losL
lL 1haL was when Lhey sLarLed shooLlng men Lo bolsLer Lhelr morale whole squadrons and when our M
goL a clLaLlon for Lhe way ln whlch he was carrylng on hls llLLle prlvaLe war Lhe real honesLLogoodness
1hey gave us a shorL resL and a few weeks
laLer we cllmbed back up on our horses and sLarLed norLh 1he cold came wlLh us 1he gunflre was never far
away 8uL we never came across any Cermans excepL by accldenL a hussar or a squad of rlflemen here and
Lhere ln yellow and green preLLy colors We seemed Lo be looklng for Lhem buL we beaL lL Lhe momenL we
lald eyes on Lhem AL every encounLer Lwo or Lhree horsemen blL Lhe dusL someLlmes Lhelrs someLlmes
ours And from far ln Lhe dlsLance Lhelr rlderless horses wlLh loose clanklng sLlrrups would come galloplng
Loward us wed see Lhelr saddles wlLh Lhe pecullar canLles and all Lhelr leaLher as fresh and shlny as
pockeLbooks on new ?ears uay 1hey were comlng Lo see our horses Lhey made frlends ln no Llme 1hey
were lucky We couldnL have done LhaL
Cne mornlng when Lhey rode ln from a reconnalssance paLrol LleuLenanL de SalnLeLngence13 swore Lo
Lhe oLher offlcers LhaL he hadnL made lL up l carved em l Lell you 1wo of Lhem! he lnslsLed showlng
everybody hls saber and Lrue enough Lhe llLLle groove was full of caked blood LhaLs whaL lLs made for
CapLaln CrLolan backed hlm up Pe was splendld! 8ravo SalnLeLngence! Ah messleurs lf youd only
seen hlm! WhaL a charge!"
CrLolan was ln command of Lhe squadron
l saw every blL of lL! l wasnL far away! A LhrusL Lo Lhe rlghL Zlng! 1he flrsL one drops! A LhrusL full ln
Lhe chesL! LefL! Cross! Champlonshlp sLyle! 8ravo agaln SalnLeLngence! 1wo lancers! Less Lhan a
mlle from here! SLlll lylng Lhere! ln a plowed fleld! 1he wars over for Lhem eh SalnLeLngence? A double
LhrusL! 8eauLlful! l beL Lhey spllled Lhelr guLs llke rabblLs!"
LleuLenanL de SalnLeLngence whose horse had galloped a long way recelved hls comrades compllmenLs
wlLh modesLy now LhaL CrLolan had auLhenLlcaLed hls explolL hls mlnd was aL resL so he rode off some
dlsLance and cooled off hls mare by clrcllng slowly around Lhe assembled squadron as lf he were [usL
comlng ln from a sLeeplechase
We musL send anoLher paLrol over Lhere! crled CapLaln CrLolan lmmedlaLely! Pe was Lerrlbly exclLed
1hose Lwo poor devlls musL have been losL Lo come Lhls way buL Lhere musL be more behlnd Lhem Ah
Corporal 8ardamu Co Lake a look you and your four men!"
1he capLaln was Lalklng Lo me
And when Lhey flre aL you Lry Lo make a noLe of Lhelr poslLlon and come rlghL back and Lell me where Lhey
are! 1hey musL be 8randenburgers! "
1he regular army men Lold me LhaL ln peaceLlme Lhls CapLaln CrLolan hardly ever showed up for duLy now
LhaL a war was on he made up for lL Pe was lndefaLlgable Pls vlgor and verve even among all Lhose oLher
lunaLlcs were geLLlng more unbellevable from day Lo day lL was rumored LhaL he snlffed cocalne ale
rlngs under hls eyes always dashlng around on hls fraglle legs Whenever he seL fooL on Lhe ground hed
sLagger aL flrsL buL Lhen hed geL hold of hlmself and sLrlde angrlly over Lhe furrowed flelds ln search of
some new feaL of darlng l wouldnL have been surprlsed lf hed senL us Lo geL a llghL from Lhe muzzles of
Lhe enemys guns Pe was ln cahooLs wlLh deaLh ld have sworn Lhey had a conLracL deaLh and CapLaln
Ped spenL Lhe flrsL parL of hls llfe (l had made lL my buslness Lo flnd ouL) breaklng hls rlbs ln horse shows
several Llmes a year And hls legs because of also belng broken and noL belng used for walklng had losL
Lhelr calves When he walked lL was wlLh nervous plgeonLoed sLeps as Lhough walklng on eggs Seelng
hlm ln hls enormous greaLcoaL sLooped over ln Lhe raln youd have Laken hlm for Lhe phanLom
hlndquarLers of a race horse
lL needs Lo be sald Lhough LhaL aL Lhe sLarL of LhaL monsLrous enLerprlse durlng Lhe monLh of AugusL and
Lhrough SepLember cerLaln hours whole days now and Lhen cerLaln sLreLches of road and parLs of foresL
were sLlll proplLlous Lo Lhe doomed ln Lhose places you could Loy wlLh Lhe llluslon LhaL you were more or
less safe you could flnlsh eaLlng your bread and bully beef wlLhouL belng Loo much plagued by Lhe
forebodlng LhaL Lhls was Lhe lasL Llme 8uL from CcLober on Lhere were no more of Lhese llLLle lulls Lhe hall
fell Lhlcker and sharper and fasLer splced wlLh shoL and shell Soon wed be aL Lhe hearL of Lhe sLorm and
Lhe very Lhlng we were Lrylng noL Lo see our deaLh would be so close Lo our noses LhaL we couldnL see
anyLhlng else
1he nlghL whlch had Lerrlfled us aL flrsL seemed almosL pleasanL by comparlson ln Lhe end we longed for
Lhe nlghL and walLed for lL lL was harder for Lhem Lo shooL aL us Lhen Lhan ln Lhe dayLlme 1haL was Lhe
only dlfference LhaL counLed
lLs hard Lo face Lhe facLs even ln connecLlon wlLh war Lhe lmaglnaLlon holds lLs own for a long Llme
CaLs whove been LhreaLened by flre for Loo long end up by [umplng ln Lhe waLer
uurlng Lhe nlghL wed cadge a few mlnuLes here and Lhere LhaL came preLLy close Lo Lhe blessed days of
peace Lhose days LhaL now seem Loo good Lo be Lrue when everyLhlng was benlgn when noLhlng really
maLLered when we dld so many Lhlngs LhaL had come Lo seem so marvelously superlaLlvely dellghLful
uays of peace days of llvlng velveL
8uL soon Lhe nlghLs as well were a merclless LormenL AlmosL every nlghL wed have Lo keep our weary
bones aL work puL up wlLh a llLLle exLra LorLure [usL so as Lo eaL or caLch a llLLle nap ln Lhe darkness 1he
food convoys moved up Lo Lhe fronL llnes aL a dlsgraceful crawl long llmplng llnes of shaky wagons bursLlng
wlLh meaL prlsoners wounded oaLs rlce and Ms and donL forgeL Lhe wlne ln blg [lggllng poLbellled
[ugs LhaL remlnded us of hlgh old Llmes
8ehlnd Lhe rolllng forge and Lhe bread wagon men came dragglng Lhemselves on fooL prlsoners ln
handcuffs some of Lhelrs and some of ours condemned Lo Lhls or LhaL lashed by Lhe wrlsLs Lo Lhe Ms
sLlrrups some due Lo be shoL Lhe nexL day and no downer ln Lhe mouLh Lhan Lhe oLhers lL dldnL spoll Lhelr
appeLlLes elLher Lhey aLe Lhelr raLlon of LhaL Luna flsh LhaLs so lndlgesLlble (Lhey wouldnL have Llme Lo
dlgesL lL) whlle walLlng by Lhe slde of Lhe road for Lhe convoy Lo shove offand Lhey aLe Lhelr lasL chunk of
bread Loo wlLh a clvlllan chalned Lo Lhem who was sald Lo be a spy buL he dldnL know lL nelLher dld we
1he mlllLary LorLure conLlnued ln lLs nocLurnal aspecL Croplng our way Lhrough Lhe humpbacked sLreeLs
of a vlllage wlLhouL llghL or face benL under sacks LhaL welghed more Lhan a man from one unknown barn
Lo anoLher LhreaLened and yelled aL haggard wlLh no beLLer prospecL Lhan Lo end ln a sea of llquld
manure slckened aL Lhe LhoughL LhaL wed been LorLured duped Lo Lhe enLralls by a gang of vlclous
lunaLlcs who had suddenly become lncapable of dolng anyLhlng else Lhan kllllng and spllllng Lhelr guLs
wlLhouL knowlng why
Wed flop down beLween Lwo manure plles buL Lhe noncoms would soon klck and bellow us Lo our feeL
and send us Lo a dlfferenL parL of Lhe convoy Lo load or unload someLhlng else
1he vlllage darkness was gorged wlLh food and soldlers bloaLed wlLh faL apples oaLs sugar LhaL we had Lo
haul around and dlsLrlbuLe Lo Lhls squad and LhaL squad 1haL convoy had broughL everyLhlng excepL a
LlckeL home
Cur deLall was dead Llred wed drop rlghL nexL Lo our carL and Lhe sergeanLma[or would come around and
shlne hls lanLern on Lhe corpses Pe was an ape wlLh a double chln 8egardless of Lhe chaos he had Lo flnd
a waLerlng place for Lhe horses! Ch yes Lhe horses had Lo drlnk! 8uL lve seen four men ass and all drop
wlLh faLlgue and fall fasL asleep wlLh Lhe waLer up Lo Lhelr necks
AfLer Lhe waLerlng we had Lo flnd Lhe alley wed come by and geL back Lo Lhe farm where we LhoughL wed
lefL Lhe resL of our squad lf we dldnL flnd lL we could always pass ouL aL Lhe fooL of some wall and sleep
for an hour lf Lhere was an hour lefL ln Lhls buslness of geLLlng kllled lLs no use belng plcky and choosy
?ouve goL Lo acL as lf llfe were golng on and LhaL lle ls Lhe hardesL parL of lL
1he wagons sLarLed back Lo Lhe rear ln fllghL from Lhe dawn Lhey hlL Lhe road agaln Squeaklng ln every
crooked wheel off Lhey drove and wlLh Lhem wenL my prayer LhaL Lheyd be ambushed cuL Lo pleces
burned LhaL same day Lhe way you see ln war plcLures supply column wlped ouL for ever and ever wlLh lLs
escorL of M gorlllas horse soldlers and lanLernswlnglng noncoms wlLh lLs work deLalls lLs sacks of
lenLlls and flour LhaL would never be cooked and never be seen agaln 8ecause Lhere are many dlfferenL
ways of klcklng ln of exhausLlon or someLhlng else buL Lhe worsL ls Lo do lL whlle haullng enough sacks Lo
flll Lhe nlghL wlLh
1he day when Lhose moLherfucklng wagons would be shaLLered Lo Lhe axles Lheyd leave us alone l
LhoughL and even lf only for one nlghL wed be able Lo sleep wlLh body and soul
1hls food supply buslness was [usL one more nlghLmare a nasLy llLLle monsLer on Lop of Lhe blg one Lhe
war 8ruLes Lo Lhe rlghL of us bruLes Lo Lhe lefL of us Lhey were all over Lhe place Condemned Lo a
deferred deaLh Lhe only Lhlng LhaL really maLLered was an enormous longlng for sleep all Lhe resL was
LorLure even Lhe Llme and efforL lL Look Lo eaL A bend ln Lhe brook a famlllarlooklng wall 8uL mosLly lL
was Lhe smells helped us flnd our farm wed reverLed Lo dogs ln Lhe warLlme nlghL of Lhe deserLed vlllages
1he smell of shlL was Lhe besL gulde of all
1he quarLermasLer Lop klck was Lhe guardlan of Lhe reglmenLs haLreds he unLll furLher noLlce was masLer
of Lhe world Anybody who Lalks abouL Lhe fuLure ls a basLard lLs Lhe presenL LhaL counLs lnvoklng
posLerlLy ls llke maklng speeches Lo worms 1here ln Lhe warLlme vlllage nlghL Lhe Lop klck was corrallng
human caLLle for Lhe blg slaughLerhouses LhaL had [usL opened 1he Lop sergeanL was klng klng of ueaLh!
SergeanL CreLelle! AbsoluLely! nobody more powerful! And nobody as powerful excepL one of Lhelr Lop
sergeanLs on Lhe opposlLe slde
noLhlng was lefL of Lhe vlllage no llvlng Lhlng excepL Lerrlfled caLs llrsL Lhe furnlLure wenL smashed up for
flrewood chalrs Lables sldeboards from Lhe llghLesL Lo Lhe heavlesL And anyLhlng LhaL Lhe boys could
carry Lhey made off wlLh Combs lamps cups sllly llLLle Lhlngs even brldal wreaLhs everyLhlng wenL As lf
wed had years of llfe ahead of us 1hey looLed Lo Lake Lhelr mlnds off Lhelr Lroubles Lo make lL look as lf
Lhey had years before Lhem Lverybody llkes LhaL feellng
As far as Lhey were concerned gunflre was noLhlng buL nolse 1haLs why wars can keep golng Lven Lhe
people who make Lhem who flghL ln Lhem donL really geL Lhe plcLure Lven wlLh a bulleL ln Lhelr guL
Lheyd go on plcklng up old shoes LhaL mlghL come ln handy 1he way a sheep lylng on lLs slde ln a
meadow wlll keep on grazlng wlLh lLs dylng breaLh MosL people donL dle unLll Lhe lasL momenL oLhers
sLarL LwenLy years ln advance someLlmes more 1hose are Lhe unforLunaLes
l wasnL very brlghL myself buL aL leasL l had sense enough Lo opL for cowardlce once and for all l lmaglne
LhaLs why people LhoughL l was so uncommonly calm 8e LhaL as lL may l lnsplred a paradoxlcal confldence
ln our CapLaln CrLolan who declded LhaL nlghL Lo enLrusL me wlLh a dellcaLe mlsslon lL conslsLed he Lold
me ln confldence of LroLLlng before dayllghL Lo nolrceursurlaLys14 a clLy of weavers slLuaLed some Len
mlles from Lhe vlllage where wed camped My [ob was Lo flnd ouL aL flrsLhand wheLher Lhe enemy was
Lhere or noL All LhaL day paLrols had been conLradlcLlng one anoLher and Ceneral des LnLrayes was good
and slck of lL lor LhaL reconnalssance mlsslon l was allowed Lo plck one of Lhe less purulenL horses ln Lhe
plaLoon l hadnL gone ouL alone ln a long Llme lL made me feel as lf l were sLarLlng on a Lrlp 8uL my feellng
of dellverance was lllusory
l was so Llred when l seL ouL LhaL hard as l Lrled l couldnL properly vlsuallze my own murder l couldnL flll ln
Lhe deLalls l moved from Lree Lo Lree accompanled by Lhe clanklng of my hardware All by lLself my preLLy
saber made as much nolse as a plano l donL know lf l was deservlng of sympaLhy buL for sure l was
cerLalnly groLesque
WhaL could Ceneral des LnLrayes have been Lhlnklng sendlng me ouL alone lnLo LhaL sllence all cloLhed ln
1he AzLecs so Lhe sLory goes rouLlnely dlsemboweled elghL Lhousand falLhful a week ln Lhelr Lemples of
Lhe sun a sacrlflce Lo Lhe god of Lhe clouds Lo make hlm send Lhem raln Such Lhlngs are hard Lo belleve
unLll you geL mlxed up ln a war Cnce youre ln a war you see how lL ls Lhe AzLecs conLempL for oLher
peoples bodles was Lhe same as my humble vlscera musL have lnsplred ln our abovemenLloned Ceneral
Celadon des LnLrayes who Lhanks Lo a serles of promoLlons had become a klnd of chlckenshlL god an
abomlnably exlgenL llLLle sun
1he one Llny blL of hope l had lefL was of belng Laken prlsoner lL dldnL amounL Lo much a shred A shred ln
Lhe nlghL because Lhe clrcumsLances werenL conduclve Lo pollLe prellmlnarles far from lL 1he foe would
shooL flrsL and lnLroduce hlmself afLerward 8esldes whaL would l say Lo Lhls soldler hosLlle by deflnlLlon
whod come from Lhe oLher end of Lurope for Lhe express purpose of murderlng me? Suppose he
heslLaLed for one second (LhaL was all ld need) whaL would l say Lo hlm? And come Lo Lhlnk of lL whaL
would he be? A salesclerk? A professlonal soldler? A gravedlgger? ln clvlllan llfe A cook?
Porses are lucky Lheyre sLuck wlLh Lhe war same as us buL nobody expecLs Lhem Lo be ln favor of lL Lo
preLend Lo belleve ln lL unforLunaLe yes buL free! LnLhuslasm Lhe sLlnker was reserved for us!
l could see Lhe road clearly [usL Lhen and plunked down on Lhe mud beslde lL blg squares and cubes of
houses Lhelr walls whlLened by Lhe moonllghL llke blg unequal blocks of lce pale and sllenL Would Lhls be
Lhe end of lL all? Pow much Llme would l spend ln Lhls desolaLlon afLer Lheyd done for me? 8efore lL was all
over? ln whaL dlLch? 8eslde whlch one of Lhese walls? Would Lhey come and flnlsh me off? WlLh a knlfe?
SomeLlmes Lhey gouged ouL your eyes cuL off your hands and so on 1here were all sorLs of rumors on
Lhe sub[ecL and Lhey were no [oke! A hoofbeaL AnoLher would be enough! 1hls beasL makes a
nolse llke Lwo men wlLh lron booLs fasLened LogeLher runnlng wlLh a [erky uneven sLep
My hearL a rabblL warm ln lLs llLLle rlb cage fearful cowerlng bewlldered ?ou musL feel preLLy much
Lhe same way when you [ump off Lhe Lop of Lhe Llffel 1ower ?oud llke Lo sLop yourself ln mldalr
1haL vlllage kepL lLs menace secreL buL noL enLlrely ln Lhe cenLer of a square a Llny founLaln gurgled [usL for
1haL nlghL l had everyLhlng Lo myself l was Lhe owner of Lhe moon Lhe vlllage and of an enormous fear l
was abouL Lo break lnLo a LroL wlLh a good hours rlde ahead of me Lo nolrceursurlaLys when l caughL
slghL of a wellvelled llghL over a door l headed sLralghL for LhaL llghL surprlsed Lo deLecL lnslde myself a
klnd of darlng a deserLers darlng Lo be sure buL more Lhan ld ever suspecLed 1he llghL dlsappeared Lhe
nexL second buL ld seen lL all rlghL l knocked l kepL aL lL l knocked agaln l called ouL ln a loud volce half
ln Cerman half ln lrench Lo be on Lhe safe slde Lo Lhose sLrangers locked ln Lhe darkness
1he door flnally opened by [usL a crack
A volce asked Who are you? l was saved
A dragoon "
lrench? A woman speaklng l could see her now
?es lrench "
Some Cerman dragoons were here Lhls afLernoon 1hey spoke lrench Loo "
?es buL lm really lrench "
l see!"
She seemed Lo have her doubLs
Where are Lhey now? l asked
1hey lefL aL abouL elghL oclock headlng for nolrceur She polnLed norLh
A young glrl shawl and whlLe apron emerged from Lhe shadow
WhaL dld Lhe Cermans do Lo you? l asked
1hey burned a house nexL Lo Lhe Lown hall and Lhey kllled my llLLle broLher ran a lance Lhrough hls belly
Pe was playlng on Lhe 8ed 8rldge waLchlng Lhem go by Look! She showed me 1here he ls"
She dldnL cry She rellL Lhe candle LhaL was Lhe llghL l had seen AL Lhe back of Lhe room l sawlL was
LrueLhe llLLle corpse lylng on a maLLress lL was dressed ln a sallor sulL wlLh a blg square collar Lhe face
and LhroaL were as llvld as Lhe candlellghL 1he chllds arms and legs and back were benL he was all doubled
up 1he lance had passed llke an axls for deaLh Lhrough Lhe mlddle of hls belly Pls moLher was on her
knees beslde hlm crylng her hearL ouL So was Lhe faLher 1hen Lhey all sLarLed moanlng aL once 8uL my
Lrouble was LhlrsL
?ou wouldnL have a boLLle of wlne Lo sell me? l asked
?oull have Lo ask my moLher She may know lf Lheres any lefL 1he Cermans Look a loL [usL now "
1he Lwo women Lalked lL over ln an underLone
1he daughLer came back and announced 1heres none lefL Lhe Cermans Look lL all Wed glven Lhem
plenLy wlLhouL belng asked buL even so "
Ch yes Lhey drank and Lhey drank sald Lhe moLher whod suddenly sLopped crylng 1heyre crazy abouL
lL "
MusL have been more Lhan a hundred boLLles sald Lhe faLher sLlll on hls knees
And Lheres noL a slngle one lefL? l kepL aL lL sLlll hoplng because of my Lerrlble LhlrsL especlally for whlLe
wlne wlLh a good blLLer Lang LhaL wakes you up a llLLle l donL mlnd paylng "
1heres noLhlng lefL buL Lhe besL! Lhe moLher conceded lL cosLs flve francs a boLLle"
1haLs flne! l sald Laklng a blg flvefranc plece ouL of my pockeL
Co and geL one! she sald Lo Lhe slsLer ln a whlsper
1he slsLer Look Lhe candle and a momenL laLer broughL up a boLLle from Lhe hldlng place
l had whaL l wanLed Lhere was noLhlng more Lo sLay for
Wlll Lhey come back? l asked anxlous agaln
Maybe! Lhey all sald LogeLher lf Lhey do Lheyll burn everyLhlng ln slghL 1hey promlsed Lhey would
when Lhey lefL "
lll [usL go and see whaL Lheyre up Lo!"
?oure very brave lLs LhaL way sald Lhe faLher polnLlng ln Lhe dlrecLlon of nolrceursurlaLys Pe
even sLepped ouL on Lhe road Lo see me on my way 1he glrl and her moLher sLayed behlnd fearful
waLchlng over Lhe llLLle corpse
Come back ln! Lhey called ouL Lo hlm !oseph come ln ?ouve no buslness ouL Lhere on Lhe road "
?oure very brave! Lhe faLher sald Lo me agaln shaklng me by Lhe hand
l sLarLed off agaln norLhward aL a LroL
AL leasL donL Lell Lhem were sLlll here! 1he glrl was shouLlng Shed come ouL [usL for LhaL
1heyll see for Lhemselves Lomorrow wheLher youre here or noL l called back l wasnL happy abouL
glvlng Lhem my flve francs 1here was flve francs beLween us llve francs ls reason enough Lo haLe people
and make you wanL Lhem dead 1here wonL be any love Lo spare ln Lhls world as long as Lheres flve
1omorrow! Lhey repeaLed fearlng Lhe worsL
1omorrow for Lhem Loo was far away Lhere wasnL much sense ln LhaL klnd of Lomorrow 1he one Lhlng
any of us really cared abouL was llvlng for one more hour one more hour ls a blg deal ln a world where
everyLhlng has reduced lLself Lo murder
l dldnL have far Lo go afLer LhaL l LroLLed from Lree Lo Lree expecLlng Lo be challenged or shoL from one
mlnuLe Lo Lhe nexL noLhlng happened
lL musL have been abouL Lwo ln Lhe mornlng noL much more when l goL Lo Lhe Lop of a llLLle hlll aL a walk
Suddenly looklng down from Lhere l saw rows and rows of burnlng gas [eLs and Lhen ln Lhe foreground a
sLaLlon all llL up wlLh lLs cars and lLs buffeL buL noL a sound came up Lo me noLhlng SLreeLs avenues
sLreeL lamps and more llghLs ln parallel llnes whole nelghborhoods and everyLhlng else a black voraclous
vold wlLh Lhls clLy plunked down as lf lL had been losL lylng Lhere all llL up ln Lhe hearL and cenLer of Lhe
darkness l goL down off my horse made myself comforLable on a llLLle hummock and saL Lhere looklng aL
LhaL clLy for qulLe some Llme
1haL dldnL Lell me lf Lhe Cermans had moved lnLo nolrceur buL slnce l knew LhaL ln a case llke LhaL Lhey
usually seL flre l flgured lf Lheyd moved ln and hadnL seL flre Lo Lhe place rlghL away Lhey musL have
someLhlng very unusual up Lhelr sleeve
no gunflre elLher All very susplclous
My horse wanLed Lo lle down Loo Pe Lugged aL hls brldle and LhaL made me Lurn around When l Lurned
back Lo Lhe clLy someLhlng abouL Lhe look of Lhe hummock ln fronL of me had changed noL much buL
enough Lo make me slng ouL Pey! Who goes Lhere? 1haL change ln Lhe layouL of Lhe darkness had Laken
place a few sLeps away MusL be somebody Lhere
uonL shouL Loo loud! came a deep hoarse volce very lrench ?ou losL Loo? he asked me now l could
see hlm a fooL slogger Lhe peak of hls cap was cracked ln goodbye Lo Lhe army sLyle AfLer all Lhese years
l remember LhaL momenL hls sllhoueLLe emerglng from Lhe grass Lhe way LargeLs used Lo ln shooLlng
gallerles soldler LargeLs
We came closer l was holdlng my revolver for Lwo beans ld have flred donL ask why
Pey he asks ?ou seen Lhem?"
no buL lve come here Lo see Lhem"
?ou from Lhe 143Lh uragoons?"
1haLs rlghL ?ou?"
lm a reservlsL "
Ch! l sald 1haL amazed me Pe was Lhe flrsL reservlsL ld meL ln Lhe war Wed always been ln wlLh Lhe
8egular Army men l couldnL see hls face buL hls volce was dlfferenL from ours sadder whlch made hlm
sound nlcer 8ecause of LhaL l couldnL help LrusLlng hlm a llLLle Whlch was someLhlng
lm fed up he sald lm golng Lo geL myself capLured by Lhe 8oches "
Pe wasnL keeplng any secreLs
Pow are you golng abouL lL?"
All of a sudden hls plan lnLeresLed me more Lhan anyLhlng else Pow was he flxlng Lo geL Laken prlsoner?
l donL know yeL"
Powd you manage Lo geL away? lLs noL easy Lo geL Laken prlsoner"
1o hell wlLh LhaL! lll [usL surrender"
WhaLs wrong? ?ou scared?"
lm scared and besldes Lhe war ls sLupld l donL glve a damn abouL Lhe Cermans Lhey never dld anyLhlng
Lo me "
My feellng was LhaL l should be pollLe Lo Lhe Cermans ld have llked Lhls reservlsL Lo explaln whlle he was
abouL lL why l had no sLomach elLher Lo make war llke everybody else 8uL he dldnL explaln a Lhlng he
[usL kepL saylng he was fed up
1hen he Lold me how hls reglmenL had been dlspersed aL dawn Lhe day before because some of our
sharpshooLers had flred on hls company by mlsLake 1hey hadnL been expecLed [usL Lhen Lheyd arrlved
Lhree hours ahead of schedule So Lhese sharpshooLers Llred and Laken by surprlse had flred across Lhe
flelds and rlddled Lhem wlLh bulleLs l knew Lhe sLory ld been Lhrough lL myself
never fear he wenL on l saw my chance and l Look lL 8oblnson l says Lo myself8oblnsons my name
Leon 8oblnsonlLs now or never l say Lo myself 1hls ls Lhe Llme Lo geL golng 8lghL? So l sLarLed
Lhrough a llLLle clump of woods and preLLy soon whaL do you Lhlnk l run lnLo our capLaln hes leanlng
agalnsL a Lree ln very bad shape! uylng! Pe was holdlng hls panLs ln boLh hands and vomlLlng
8leedlng all over and rolllng hls eyes 1here was nobody wlLh hlm Pe was Lhrough Mama! Mama!
he was snlvellng all Lhe whlle dylng and plsslng blood
ShuL up! l Lell hlm Mama! Mama! luck your mama! !usL llke LhaL on my way pasL ouL of Lhe corner
of my mouLh! l beL LhaL made hlm feel good Lhe basLard! WhaL do you Lhlnk of LhaL! lLs noL every
day you can Lell Lhe capLaln whaL you Lhlnk 1oo good Lo mlss A rare opporLunlLy! 1o geL ouL of
Lhere fasLer l chucked my pack and gun dropped em ln a duck pond ?ou see l donL Lake Lo kllllng
people l never learned Lo even ln peaceLlme l never cared for flghLs ld walk away See whaL l
mean? ln clvlllan llfe l Lrled Lo go Lo Lhe facLory regularly l was klnd of an engraver buL l dldnL llke lL
because of Lhe argumenLs l was happler selllng Lhe evenlng papers ln a quleL nelghborhood where l was
known around Lhe 8ank of lrance lace des vlcLolres lf you wanL Lo know 8ue des eLlLsChamps
LhaL was my LerrlLory l never wenL beyond Lhe 8ue du Louvre and Lhe alals8oyal on one slde geL Lhe
ldea? ln Lhe mornlng ld run errands for shopkeepers someLlmes a dellvery ln Lhe afLernoon odd [obs
see? klnd of unskllled 8uL one Lhlng l donL wanL ls weapons lf Lhe Cermans see you wlLh a
weapon youre cooked 8uL lf youre dressed free and easy llke l am now noLhlng ln your hands
noLhlng ln your pockeLs Lhey geL Lhe ldea LhaL lL wonL be hard Lo Lake you prlsoner see? 1hey know who
Lheyre deallng wlLh lf you go up Lo Lhe Cermans moLher naked LhaL would be even beLLer Llke a
horse! 1hey wouldnL know whaL army you belong Lo "
1haLs a facL!"
l caughL on LhaL belng older ls good for Lhe mlnd lL puLs sense lnLo you
So you say Lheyre down Lhere? We flgured we esLlmaLed our chances and looked for our fuLure ln Lhe
greaL lumlnous expanse of Lhe sllenL clLy as Lhough consulLlng Lhe cards
LeLs geL sLarLed!"
llrsL wed have Lo cross Lhe rallroad Lracks lf Lhere were senLrles Lheyd see us Cr maybe Lhey wouldnL
Wed soon flnd ouL Maybe Lhered be an overpass or maybe wed Lake Lhe Lunnel
Well have Lo hurry sald 8oblnson CoLLa do Lhese Lhlngs aL nlghL people arenL frlendly ln Lhe
dayLlme everybody plays Lo Lhe gallery ln Lhe dayLlme even ln Lhe war Lhe dayLlme ls a clrcus ?ou
Laklng your horse?"
l Look Lhe horse A precauLlon Lo geL away qulcker lf Lhe recepLlon was bad We goL Lo Lhe grade crosslng
Lhe blg red and whlLe arms were up ld never seen LhaL klnd of gaLe before 1hey werenL llke LhaL around
1hlnk Lheyve moved ln already?"
oslLlve! he says Anyway keep golng"
now we were forced Lo be as brave as Lhe brave because of Lhe horse who was ploddlng slowly behlnd us
and seemed Lo be pushlng us wlLh hls nolse we couldnL hear anyLhlng else Clop! clop! wenL hls hooves
Ped puL hls fooL down ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe echo as lf he hadnL a care ln Lhe world
So Lhls 8oblnson was counLlng on Lhe nlghL Lo save us 1he Lwo of us were walklng down Lhe mlddle of Lhe
sLreeL wlLh no aLLempL aL concealmenL ln sLep whaLs more we could have been drllllng
8oblnson was rlghL Lhe dayLlme was plLlless from Lhe earLh Lo Lhe sky 1he way we were walklng ln Lhe
sLreeL we musL have looked perfecLly harmless as lnnocenL as lf wed been comlng back from a leave uld
you hear abouL Lhe 1sL Pussars Laken prlsoner ln Lllle every lasL one of Lhem Marched rlghL ln Lhe
way l heard lL Lhey dldnL know Lhe colonel ln Lhe lead uown Lhe maln sLreeL boy oh boy! And
Lhen Lhe Lrap closed! ln fronL of Lhem behlnd Lhem Cermans everywhere! AL Lhe wlndows!
Lverywhere! 1here Lhey were! CaughL llke raLs! Llke raLs! 1alk abouL luck!"
1he basLards!"
?eah wasnL LhaL someLhlng! We couldnL geL over LhaL marvelous capLure so neaL so concluslve lL
really floored us 1he shops had all Lhelr shuLLers closed so dld Lhe houses wlLh Lhelr llLLle gardens ln
fronL all so neaL and prlm 8uL afLer Lhe posL offlce we saw a house a llLLle whlLer Lhan Lhe resL wlLh all Lhe
llghLs on aL all Lhe wlndows upsLalrs and down We wenL and rang Lhe doorbell we sLlll had our horse
behlnd us A LhlckseL man wlLh a beard opened l am Lhe mayor of nolrceur he Lold us rlghL away wlLhouL
our asklng and l am expecLlng Lhe Cermans! 1hls mayor sLeps ouL lnLo Lhe moonllghL Lo look aL us When
he saw we werenL Cermans buL sLlll lrench he wasnL so solemn any more lrlendly yes buL embarrassed
Cbvlously he hadnL been expecLlng us we dldnL qulLe flL ln wlLh Lhe arrangemenLs he musL have made
Lhe declslons hed Laken 1he Cermans were supposed Lo enLer nolrceur LhaL nlghL hed been noLlfled and
hed seLLled everyLhlng wlLh Lhe refecLure Lhelr colonel here Lhelr fleld hosplLal Lhere eLc And whaL lf
Lhey Lurned up now? WlLh us Lhere? 1hered cerLalnly be Lrouble! ureadful compllcaLlons! Pe dldnL
come ouL and say all LhaL buL we could see whaL he was Lhlnklng
So Lhere ln Lhe darkness he sLarLs Lalklng Lo us abouL Lhe lnLeresLs of Lhe publlc aL large ln LhaL
enveloplng sllence Lhe publlc aL large LhaLs all he would Lalk abouL Lhe maLerlal lnLeresLs of Lhe
communlLy Lhe arLlsLlc paLrlmony of nolrceur enLrusLed Lo hls care a sacred LrusL lf ever Lhere was one
especlally Lhe flfLeenLh cenLury church suppose Lhey burned lL down! llke Lhe one ln Condesur
?ser! Pad we LhoughL of LhaL? ln a flL of Lemper annoyed aL flndlng us Lhere Pe lmpressed us
wlLh Lhe full exLenL of our responslblllLy harebralned youngsLers LhaL we were! Lhe Cermans had no
use for unsavory Lowns wlLh enemy soldlers sLlll prowllng around ln Lhem 1haL was common knowledge
Whlle he was lecLurlng us llke LhaL ln an underLone hls wlfe and Lwo daughLers lusclous hefLy blondes puL
ln a word here and Lhere Lo back hlm up 1he long and Lhe shorL Lhey dldnL wanL us Lhere ln Lhe alr
beLween us Lhere hovered senLlmenLal and archaeologlcal conslderaLlons suddenly sprung Lo llfe slnce
Lhere was no one ln nolrceur LhaL nlghL Lo conLesL Lhem paLrloLlc eLhlcal wordpropelled
conslderaLlons ghosLs LhaL Lhe mayor Lrled Lo hold fasL buL Lhey faded away undone by our fear and
selflshness and by Lhe plaln LruLh for LhaL maLLer
1he mayor of nolrceur hlmself was knocklng hlmself ouL wlLh hls Louchlng efforL Lo convlnce us LhaL our
uuLy was Lo clear ouL lnsLanLly he wasnL as bruLal abouL lL as our Ma[or lnon buL ln hls way he was
every blL as deLermlned
1he only argumenL we could have plLLed agalnsL all Lhose wlelders of power was our conLempLlble llLLle
wlsh noL Lo dle and noL Lo be burned allve Whlch dldnL amounL Lo much especlally when you conslder
LhaL you canL come ouL wlLh senLlmenLs llke LhaL ln Lhe mlddle of a war So we wandered off lnLo oLher
deserLed sLreeLs Lveryone ld meL LhaL nlghL had bared hls soul Lo me
!usL my luck! sald 8oblnson as we were pushlng off lf only youd been a Cerman youre an obllglng sorL
youd have Laken me prlsoner and wed be all seL lLs hard for a man Lo geL rld of hlmself ln a war!"
WhaL abouL you? sald l WouldnL you have Laken me prlsoner lf you had been a Cerman? Maybe Lheyd
have glven you Lhe Medallle MlllLalre! Some funny word Lhe Cermans musL have for Lhelr Medallle MlllLalre
Seelng Lhere was absoluLely no demand for us as prlsoners we flnally saL down on a bench ln a llLLle park
and opened up Lhe can of Luna flsh 8oblnson had been warmlng ln hls pockeL slnce mornlng now we could
hear gunflre far ln Lhe dlsLance very far lf only boLh sldes could have sLayed ln Lhe dlsLance where Lhey
were and lefL us alone!
1hen we walked by Lhe rlver and alongslde of some halfunloaded barges we urlnaLed long sLreams lnLo
Lhe waLer We were sLlll leadlng Lhe horse by Lhe brldle he Lagged behlnd us llke a greaL blg dog near
Lhe brldge ln Lhe ferrymans oneroom house Lhere was a dead man sLreLched ouL on a maLLress all alone
a lrenchman a ma[or of llghL cavalry acLually he looked someLhlng llke 8oblnson
ugly son of a blLch! says 8oblnson l donL know abouL you buL l donL llke dead people"
1he funny parL of lL l sald ls LhaL he looks someLhlng llke you 1he same long nose and youre noL much
older "
Well you see lLs belng so Llred LhaL makes us all look allke buL oh lf youd seen me before! ln Lhe days
when l wenL blcycle rldlng every Sunday! l was really handsome! ?ou should have seen Lhe calves on me!
?ou canL beaL blcycllng! lL develops Lhe Lhlghs Loo "
We lefL Lhe house Lhe maLch wed llL Lo look aL Lhe sLlff had gone ouL
?ou see? lLs Loo laLe you see?"
Already ln Lhe darkness aL Lhe end of Lhe Lown a long gray and green llne marked Lhe cresL of Lhe hlll uay!
Cne more! Cne less! Wed have Lo Lry and geL Lhrough Lhls one Lhe same as Lhe resL Lhe days had goL Lo be
llke hoops LlghLer and LlghLer Lo geL Lhrough and fllled wlLh bursLs of shrapnel
Comlng back Lhls way Lomorrow nlghL? he asked before we separaLed
1omorrow nlghL? 1heres no such Lhlng WhaL do you Lhlnk you are a general?"
l donL Lhlnk abouL anyLhlng he says no LhoughLs aL all! l Lhlnk abouL noL geLLlng kllled LhaL keeps
me busy Cne more day ls one more dayLhaLs whaL l Lhlnk!"
?oure rlghL So long pal and good luck!"
Cood luck Lo you Loo! Maybe well meeL agaln!"
We each wenL back Lo hls own war And Lhen Lhlngs happened and a loL more Lhlngs LhaL lLs noL easy Lo
Lell abouL now because people nowadays wouldnL undersLand Lhem anymore
lf you wanLed Lo be respecLed and looked up
Lo you had Lo hurry up qulck and pal up wlLh Lhe clvlllans because Lhey were becomlng more and more
vlclous as Lhe war wenL on l saw LhaL as soon as l goL back Lo arls lL also became clear Lo me LhaL Lhe
women had anLs ln Lhelr panLs and LhaL Lhe old men were Lalklng blg and Lhelr flngers were all over Lhe
place ln assholes ln pockeLs
1he clvlllans back home were lnfecLed wlLh Lhe ldea of glory Lhey plcked lL up from Lhe soldler boys and
soon learned how Lo bear up under lL bravely and palnlessly
nurses and marLyrs by Lurns moLhers were never wlLhouL Lhelr long dark vells and Lhose llLLle dlplomas Lhe
MlnlsLry never falled Lo send by speclal messenger ln shorL Lhe home fronL was geLLlng organlzed
AL a wellconducLed funeral youre sad Loo buL you Lhlnk of oLher Lhlngs Lhe wlll your nexL vacaLlon Lhe
wldow whos a goodlooker and sald Lo be passlonaLe and your plans for conLlnulng Lo llve a greaL deal
longer by conLrasL and maybe never dylng ?ou never can Lell
And as you follow Lhe hearse everybody llfLs hls haL Lo you lLs hearLwarmlng 1hens Lhe Llme Lo behave
properly Lo look dlgnlfled noL Lo laugh ouL loud Lo gloaL only lnLernally 1haLs permlsslble LveryLhlngs
permlsslble lnLernally
uurlng Lhe war lnsLead of danclng on Lhe mezzanlne you danced ln Lhe cellar 1he boys had no ob[ecLlon
ln facL Lhey were all for lL 1hey demanded lL as soon as Lhey goL Lo Lown and nobody LhoughL lL lndecenL
1he one Lhlng LhaLs really lndecenL ls bravery ?ou expecL physlcal bravery? 1hen ask a worm Lo be brave
hes plnk and pale and sofL [usL llke us
lor my parL l had noLhlng Lo complaln of AcLually Lhanks Lo Lhe Medallle MlllLalre ld won and my wound
and all l was abouL Lo lose my lnnocence 1heyd broughL me Lhe medal whlle l was ln Lhe hosplLal
convalesclng And LhaL same nlghL l wenL Lo Lhe LheaLer Lo leL Lhe clvlllans see lL durlng lnLermlsslons A
Lrlumph! 1hose were Lhe flrsL medals seen ln arls lL floored Lhem!
1haL was when l meL llLLle Lola from Amerlca ln Lhe lobby of Lhe CperaComlque and lL was Lhanks Lo her
LhaL l really found ouL whaL was whaL
1here are cerLaln daLes LhaL sLand ouL afLer monLhs and monLhs when you mlghL [usL as well have been
dead 1haL evenlng aL Lhe CperaComlque wlLh my medal was a Lurnlng polnL ln my llfe
Lola made me curlous abouL Lhe unlLed SLaLes because of Lhe quesLlons l sLarLed asklng rlghL away and
LhaL she hardly answered aL all When you sLarL Lravellng LhaL way you never know when or how youll geL
AL Lhe Llme lm speaklng of everybody ln arls wanLed a unlform racLlcally nobody was wlLhouL one
excepL neuLrals and sples whlch Lo all lnLenLs and purposes were ldenLlcal Lola had a genulne offlclal
unlform and lL was really naLLy decoraLed wlLh llLLle crosses all over on Lhe sleeves and on Lhe Llny cap
LhaL she perched aL a raklsh angle on her wavy halr Shed come Lo help us save lrance as she Lold Lhe hoLel
manager Lo Lhe besL of her humble ablllLy buL wlLh all her hearL! We undersLood each oLher rlghL away buL
noL compleLely because Lhe LransporLs of Lhe hearL were beglnnlng Lo glve me a paln l was more
lnLeresLed ln Lhe LransporLs of Lhe body ?ou canL LrusL Lhe hearL noL aL all ld learned LhaL ln Lhe war and
l wasnL golng Lo forgeL lL ln a hurry
Lolas hearL was Lender weak and enLhuslasLlc Per body was sweeL lL was adorable so whaL could l do
buL Lake her all LogeLher as she was? Lola was a good kld all rlghL buL beLween us sLood Lhe war Lhe
monsLrous frenzy LhaL was drlvlng half of humanlLy lovers or noL Lo send Lhe oLher half Lo Lhe
slaughLerhouse naLurally Lhls lnLerfered wlLh our relaLlonshlp lor me who was dragglng ouL my
convalescence as long as posslble and wasnL Lhe leasL blL eager Lo go back on duLy ln Lhe flamlng
graveyards of no mans land Lhe absurdlLy of our massacre was glarlngly obvlous aL every sLep l Look ln
Lown Whlchever way l looked l saw cynlcal grasplng cunnlng
SLlll l hadnL much chance of keeplng ouL of lL l lacked Lhe lndlspensable connecLlons 1he people l knew
were all poor people whose deaLh ls of no lnLeresL Lo anybody And l could hardly counL on Lola Lo keep me
safe aL home Lven lf she was a nurse l couldnL have concelved of anyone more belllcose Lhan LhaL sweeL
young LhlngexcepL maybe CrLolan lf l hadnL been Lhrough Lhe muddy frlcassee of herolsm myself her
llLLle !oan of Arc number mlghL have sLlrred and converLed me buL slnce my enllsLmenL on Lhe lace Cllchy l
had grown phoblcally allerglc Lo herolsm verbal or real l was cured 8adlcally cured
lor Lhe convenlence of Lhe ladles of Lhe Amerlcan LxpedlLlonary lorce Lhe group of nurses Lola belonged
Lo were quarLered ln Lhe PLel arlLz13 and Lo make Lhlngs even more dellghLful for her personally she
had been puL ln charge (she had connecLlons) of a speclal servlce whose mlsslon lL was Lo supply Lhe arls
hosplLals wlLh apple frlLLers Lvery mornlng Lhousands of dozens of Lhem were handed ouL Lola performed
Lhls benlgn duLy wlLh a Louchlng zeal whlch as lL Lurned ouL was laLer Lo have dlsasLrous consequences
Lola lL has Lo be admlLLed had never made a frlLLer ln all her llfe She Lherefore hlred a number of
mercenary cooks and afLer a few Lrlals Lhe frlLLers were ready for dellvery as [ulcy and sweeL and golden as
anyone could wlsh for All Lola acLually had Lo do was LasLe Lhem before Lhey were dellvered Lo Lhe varlous
hosplLal wards Lvery mornlng Lola goL up aL Lhe sLroke of Len Look her baLh and wenL down Lo Lhe
klLchens whlch were slLuaLed deep ln Lhe basemenL 1hls l repeaL she dld every mornlng clad only ln a
blackandyellow !apanese klmono LhaL a boyfrlend ln San lranclsco had glven her Lhe day before she lefL
ln shorL everyLhlng was runnlng smooLhly and we were happlly wlnnlng Lhe war when one flne day aL
lunch l found her shaLLered refuslng Lo Louch so much as a slngle dlsh l was selzed wlLh forebodlng whaL
mlsforLune or sudden lllness had befallen her? l begged her Lo enLrusL herself Lo my waLchful affecLlon
AfLer consclenLlously LasLlng frlLLers every day for a monLh Lola had puL on Lwo pounds! Per llLLle belL bore
wlLness Lo Lhe dlsasLer she found herself obllged Lo move on Lo Lhe nexL noLch She bursL lnLo Lears l dld
my besL Lo comforL her ln a Lurmoll of emoLlon we repalred by Laxl Lo several pharmacles slLuaLed aL a
conslderable dlsLance from one anoLher 1he scales proved lmplacable As lll luck would have lL Lhey all
conflrmed LhaL Lwo pounds had lndeed and undenlably been galned l suggesLed LhaL she Lurn her [ob over
Lo a frlend who on Lhe conLrary was eager Lo enlarge her alluremenLs Lola wouldnL hear of such a
compromlse whlch she regarded as shameful as a klnd of deserLlon 1haL l recall ls when she Lold me LhaL
her greaLgreaL uncle had been a member of Lhe crew of Lhe eLernally glorlous Mayflower whlch landed ln
8osLon ln 167716 and LhaL ln vlew of such a pasL she couldnL dream of shlrklng her frlLLer duLy whlch
may have been humble buL was neverLheless a sacred LrusL
1he facL remalns LhaL from LhaL day on she barely Louched her LeeLhwhlch lncldenLally were evenly seL
and very very enLlclngLo Lhe frlLLers Per dread of puLLlng on welghL compleLely desLroyed her en[oymenL
of llfe She began Lo wasLe away Soon she was as afrald of frlLLers as l was of bulleLs 8ecause of Lhe frlLLers
we spenL mosL of our Llme Laklng long healLhful walks on Lhe rlverbanks and boulevards and we sLopped
golng Lo Lhe napollLaln because lce cream ls anoLher Lhlng LhaL makes ladles puL on welghL
l had never dreamed of a place so comforLable Lo llve ln as her room all pale blue wlLh a baLhroom
ad[olnlng hoLographs of her frlends were all over wlLh dedlcaLlons noL many women loLs of men
handsome dark wlLh curly halr LhaL was her Lype shed Lalk Lo me abouL Lhe color of Lhelr eyes and read
me Lhe dedlcaLlons whlch were Lender solemn and every lasL one of Lhem absoluLely lrrevocable AL flrsL
Lhose efflgles embarrassed me l felL l was belng rude buL Lhen l goL used Lo lL 1he momenL l sLopped
klsslng her l was ln for lL shed sLarL on Lhe war and her frlLLers lrance flgured promlnenLly ln our
conversaLlon 1o Lolas way of Lhlnklng lrance was some sorL of chlvalrlc belng noL very clearly deflned ln
space or Llme buL aL Lhe momenL dangerously wounded and for LhaL very reason Loo Loo exclLlng When
anybody menLloned lrance Lo me l lnsLanLly LhoughL of my guLs so l wasnL nearly so open Lo paLrloLlc
ardor Lach man Lo hls fears neverLheless slnce she was sexually accommodaLlng l llsLened and never
conLradlcLed her 8uL when lL came Lo my soul she wasnL aL all saLlsfled wlLh me Shed have llked Lo see
me bubbllng and bursLlng wlLh enLhuslasm whereas l couldnL see a slngle reason for adopLlng LhaL subllme
sLaLe of mlnd ln facL l could see a Lhousand all equally lrrefuLable for perseverlng ln Lhe exacL opposlLe
Cbvlously Lola was nuLs wlLh happlness and opLlmlsm llke all people on Lhe good slde of llfe Lhe ones wlLh
prlvllege healLh securlLy who sLlll have a long Llme Lo llve
She kepL boLherlng me wlLh Lhe soul she was always golng on abouL lL 1he soul ls Lhe bodys vanlLy and
pleasure as long as Lhe bodys ln good healLh buL lLs also Lhe urge Lo escape from Lhe body as soon as Lhe
body ls slck or Lhlngs are golng badly Cf Lhe Lwo poses you Lake Lhe one LhaL sulLs you besL aL Lhe momenL
and LhaLs all Lhere ls Lo lL! As long as you can choose beLween Lhe Lwo youre all rlghL 8uL l couldnL
choose anymore my dle was casL! l was up Lo my neck ln Lhe LruLh deaLh dogged my every sLep so Lo
speak lL was very hard for me Lo Lhlnk of anyLhlng buL my suspended senLence Lo be murdered a faLe
whlch everyone else regarded as [usL Lhe rlghL Lhlng for me
ln Lhls klnd of deferred deaLh agony LhaL hlLs you when youre lucld and ln good healLh Lhe mlnd ls open Lo
noLhlng buL absoluLe LruLhs Cnce youve been Lhrough lL youll know whaL youre Lalklng abouL Llll Lhe end
of your days
My concluslon was LhaL lf Lhe Cermans were Lo come and plllage massacre and burn everyLhlng ln slghL
Lhe hoLel Lhe frlLLers Lola Lhe 1ullerles Lhe cablneL mlnlsLers Lhelr llLLle boyfrlends Lhe Coupole Lhe
Louvre Lhe deparLmenL sLores lf Lhey were Lo swoop down on Lhe clLy and unleash Lhe wraLh of Cod and
Lhe flres of hell on Lhls puLrld carnlval Lo whlch noLhlng ln Lhe way of sordldness could posslbly be added l
would have noLhlng Lo lose and everyLhlng Lo galn
?ou donL lose much when Lhe landlords house burns down AnoLher landlord wlll always Lurn up unless
lLs Lhe same one Cerman or lrench Lngllsh or Chlnese Lo collecL Lhe renL ln marks or francs? WhaL
dlfference does lL make seelng youve goL Lo pay
ln shorL my morale was low lf ld Lold Lola whaL l LhoughL of Lhe war shed have Laken me for a monsLer
and banlshed me from Lhe ulLlmaLe [oys of her boudolr So l was careful Lo keep my senLlmenLs Lo myself
8esldes l had ouLslde dlfflculLles and rlvalrles Lo worry abouL CulLe a few offlcers were Lrylng Lo fllch her
away from me 1helr compeLlLlon was redoubLable armed as Lhey were wlLh Lhe seducLlon of Lhelr Leglons
of Ponor And [usL Lhen Lhe Amerlcan papers were beglnnlng Lo be full of Lhls damned Leglon of Ponor She
cuckolded me Lwo or Lhree Llmes and ld go so far Lo say LhaL our relaLlonshlp would have been ln serlous
danger on Lhose occaslons lf lL hadnL dawned on her LhaL l could be puL Lo a hlgher use namely made Lo
LasLe Lhe frlLLers every mornlng ln her sLead
1hls lasLmlnuLe speclallzaLlon saved me She could accepL me as a subsLlLuLe for l was a vallanL comrade
lnarms hence worLhy of so sacred a mlsslon lrom LhaL momenL on we were more Lhan lovers we were
parLners as well 1he modern age had dawned
1o me her body was a [oy wlLhouL end l never wearled of explorlng LhaL Amerlcan body l have Lo admlL
LhaL l was a Lerrlble lecher l sLlll am
And l formed Lhe pleasanL and forLlfylng convlcLlon LhaL a counLry capable of produclng bodles so darlngly
graceful so LempLlng ln Lhelr splrlLual fllghLs musL have counLless oLher vlLal revelaLlons Lo offer of a
blologlcal naLure lL goes wlLhouL saylng
l made up my mlnd whlle feellng and fondllng Lola LhaL sooner or laLer ld Lake a Lrlp or call lL a pllgrlmage
Lo Lhe unlLed SLaLes Lhe sooner Lhe beLLer And Lhe facL ls LhaL l knew nelLher peace nor resL (ln an
lmplacably adverse and harassed llfe) unLll l managed Lo go Lhrough wlLh LhaL profound and mysLlcally
anaLomlcal advenLure
So lL was ln Lhe lmmedlaLe vlclnlLy of Lolas rear end LhaL l recelved Lhe message of a new world Cf course
Lola wasnL all body she also had a wee llLLle face LhaL was adorable and [usL a blL cruel because of her
grayblue eyes LhaL slanLed sllghLly upward aL Lhe corners llke a wlldcaLs
!usL looklng aL her made my mouLh waLer llke a slp of dry wlne LhaL fllnLy LasLe 1here was a hardness ln
her eyes unrelleved by Lhe amlably commerclal orlenLalolragonard vlvaclLy you flnd ln nearly all Lhe eyes
ln Lhese parLs
We usually meL ln a cafe nearby 1here were more and more wounded men hobbllng Lhrough Lhe sLreeLs
many of Lhem very bedraggled CollecLlons were Laken for Lhelr beneflL days for Lhls group and days for
LhaL group especlally for Lhe organlzers of Lhe days Lylng fucklng dylng A law had [usL been passed
prohlblLlng all oLher acLlvlLy 1he lles LhaL were belng Lold surpassed Lhe lmaglnaLlon far exceeded Lhe
llmlLs of Lhe absurd and preposLerousln Lhe newspapers on posLers on fooL on horseback on pleasure
boaLs Lverybody was dolng lL ln compeLlLlon Lo see who could lle Lhe mosL ouLrageously Soon Lhere
wasnL a blL of LruLh ln Lhe clLy
1he llLLle LhaL had been lefL ln 1914 people were ashamed of now LveryLhlng you Louched was phony Lhe
sugar Lhe aeroplanes Lhe shoes Lhe [am Lhe phoLographs LveryLhlng you read swallowed sucked
admlred proclalmed refuLed defended was made up of haLerldden myLhs and grlnnlng masquerades
phony Lo Lhe hllL 1he manla for Lelllng lles and bellevlng Lhem ls as conLaglous as Lhe lLch LlLLle Lolas
lrench conslsLed of only a few phrases buL Lhey were all paLrloLlc Cn les aura! Madelon vlens!
17 lL was enough Lo make you cry
SLubbornly shamelessly she harped on Lhe deaLhs of Lhose doomed Lo dle acLually all Lhe women dld as
soon as lL became fashlonable Lo be brave for oLher people
!usL as l was looklng wlLhln and dlscoverlng such an exLraordlnary LasLe for everyLhlng LhaL Look me away
from Lhe war! l ofLen asked Lola quesLlons abouL Amerlca buL her answers were vague preLenLlous and
manlfesLly unrellable calculaLed Lo make a brllllanL lmpresslon on me 8uL by LhaL Llme l dlsLrusLed
lmpresslons ld been Laken ln once by an lmpresslon and nobody was golng Lo hoodwlnk me agaln
l belleved ln her body l dldnL belleve ln her soul l LhoughL of Lola as a charmlng goldbrlck mlles away from
Lhe war mlles away from llfe
She fllLLed across my nlghLmare wlLh Lhe menLallLy of Lhe paLrloLlc press Lhe pollus ln Lhe Lrenches our
own Lorralne Lhe cadeLs ln Lhelr whlLe gloves ln Lhe meanLlme l made love Lo her more and more ld
convlnced her lL was a good way Lo lose welghL 8uL she seL more sLore by our long walks l haLed long
walks 8uL she lnslsLed
So we spenL several hours every afLernoon belng aLhleLlc ln Lhe 8ols de 8oulogne walklng around Lhe lakes
and back
naLure ls a frlghLenlng Lhlng Lven when lLs solldly domesLlcaLed as ln Lhe 8ols lL glves real clLy dwellers
an eerle anxlous feellng And LhaL puLs Lhem ln a confldlng mood 1he 8ols de 8oulogne may be damp
fenced ln greasy and Lrampled buL Lheres noLhlng llke lL for sendlng memorles rushlng lrreslsLlbly Lo Lhe
mlnds of clLy dwellers sLrolllng under Lhe Lrees Lola was noL lmmune Lo LhaL melancholy confldenLlal
anxleLy As we walked along she Lold me more or less LruLhfully a Lhousand Lhlngs abouL her llfe ln new
?ork and her llLLle glrlfrlends over Lhere
l couldnL qulLe make ouL how much of Lhe poLpourrl of dollars engagemenLs dlvorces dresses and
[ewelry LhaL seemed Lo have made up her exlsLence was worLh Lrylng Lo belleve
1haL day we headed for Lhe race Lrack ln Lhose days and LhaL neck of Lhe woods you sLlll saw loLs of horse
drawn carrlages chlldren on donkeys oLher chlldren klcklng up dusL and cars full of soldlers on furlough
always ln desperaLe hasLe beLween Lwo Lralns Lo Lrack down Lhe women sLrolllng on Lhe slde paLhs ralslng
more dusL ln Lhelr hurry Lo go Lo dlnner and make love [umpy olly peerlng Lhls way and LhaL LormenLed
by Lhe lmplacable clock and Lhe lusL for llfe 1hey sweaLed wlLh passlon buL also wlLh Lhe heaL
1he 8ols wasnL as well cared for as usual lL was neglecLed ln a sLaLe of admlnlsLraLlve suspense
lL musL have been preLLy here before Lhe war Lola observed So chlc! Ch Lell me abouL lL
lerdlnand! ?our races here Were Lhey llke ours ln new ?ork?"
1o Lell Lhe LruLh ld never been Lo Lhe races before Lhe war buL Lo amuse her l lnsLanLly made up dozens of
colorful deLalls drawlng on sLorles varlous people had Lold me 1he LolleLLes Lhe ladles of fashlon 1he
gleamlng carrlages 1he sLarL! 1he [oyous lmperlous horns 1he waLer [ump 1he resldenL of
Lhe 8epubllc 1he undulanL beLLlng fever eLc
My ldeallzed accounL was so much Lo her llklng LhaL lL broughL us LogeLher AL LhaL momenL Lola seemed Lo
dlscover LhaL we had aL leasL one LasLe ln comon well concealed ln my case namely a LasLe for soclal
funcLlons She wenL so far as Lo klss me ln a bursL of sponLaneous emoLlon someLhlng l have Lo admlL LhaL
she seldom dld And Lhen she was Louched by Lhe sadness of bygone fashlons Lveryone has hls own way of
mournlng Lhe passage of Llme lL was Lhrough dead fashlons LhaL Lola percelved Lhe fllghL of Lhe years
lerdlnand she asked do you Lhlnk Lhere wlll be races here agaln?"
When Lhe war ls over Lola l should Lhlnk "
We canL be sure can we?"
no we canL be sure"
1he posslblllLy LhaL Lhere would never agaln be races aL Longchamp overwhelmed her 1he sadness of Lhe
world has dlfferenL ways of geLLlng Lo people buL lL seems Lo succeed almosL every Llme
Suppose lerdlnand suppose Lhe war goes on a long Llme maybe for years 1hen lLll be Loo laLe for me
Lo come back here uo you undersLand lerdlnand? ?ou know how l love beauLlful places llke Lhls
so grand so chlc lLll be Loo laLe lorever Loo laLe Maybe Maybe lll be old lerdlnand
When Lhe races sLarL up agaln lll be old ?oull see lerdlnand lL wlll be Loo laLe l can feel lL wlll be
Loo laLe "
She was as desolaLe as lf shed puL on Lwo more pounds l sald everyLhlng l could Lhlnk of Lo comforL her
and glve her hope She was only LwenLyLhree afLer all 1he war would be over soon oh very soon
Cood Llmes would come agaln as good as before even beLLer lor her aL leasL belng so adorable
Lhe losL years shed caLch up wlLh no harm done She wouldnL run shorL of admlrers so soon 1o
please me she preLended she wasnL sad anymore
uo we have Lo keep walklng? she asked
?our welghL! "
Ch LhaLs rlghL ld forgoLLen "
We lefL Longchamp Lhe chlldren had gone noLhlng lefL buL dusL 1he furlough boys were sLlll chaslng
Papplness buL no longer ln Lhe copses Lhe pursulL of Papplness had moved Lo Lhe cafe Lerraces around Lhe
orLe MallloL
We headed for SalnLCloud along Lhe rlverbank shrouded ln a danclng halo of auLumn mlsLs As we
approached Lhe brldge some barges loaded Lo Lhe gunwales wlLh coal and lylng low ln Lhe waLer were
LhrusLlng Lhelr noses under Lhe arches
Above Lhe fences Lhe park deployed a greaL fan of greenery 1hose Lrees are as vasL and genLle and sLrong
as dreams 8uL Lrees were someLhlng else l dlsLrusLed ever slnce ld been ambushed 8ehlnd every Lree a
dead man 8eLween Lwo llnes of roses Lhe avenue rlslng genLly led Lo Lhe founLalns CuLslde Lhe klosk Lhe
sodawaLer lady seemed Lo be slowly gaLherlng Lhe evenlng shadows around her sklrL lurLher on along Lhe
slde paLhs greaL cubes and recLangles of darkcolored canvas were flapplng carnlval booLhs whlch Lhe war
had Laken by surprlse and suddenly fllled wlLh sllence
lLs been a whole year slnce Lhey wenL away! Lhe sodawaLer lady Lold us ?ou wonL see Lwo people here
ln a whole day now l come ouL of hablL 1here used Lo be so many people! "
1haL was all Lhe old lady knew Lhe resL of whaL had happened was a blank Lo her Lola wanLed Lo go and
look aL Lhe empLy LenLs one of Lhose funny sad lmpulses
We counLed abouL LwenLy of Lhem a long one full of mlrrors and a loL of small ones candy sLands loLLerles
even a small LheaLer Lraversed wlLh drafLs 1here was a LenL ln every space beLween Lhe Lrees one of Lhem
near Lhe Crand Avenue had losL lLs flaps lL was as well venLllaLed as a puncLured mysLery
1hese LenLs were leanlng close Lo Lhe mud and fallen leaves We sLopped near Lhe lasL Lhe one LhaL was
benL lowesL lL was plLchlng on lLs poles llke a shlp ln Lhe wlnd wlLh wlldly flapplng salls ready Lo snap Lhe
lasL of lLs cables lL swayed ln Lhe rlslng wlnd a sheeL of canvas flew up above Lhe roof and flapped and
flapped 1he old name of Lhe sLand was wrlLLen on Lhe fronL ln green and red leLLers lL had been a shooLlng
gallery Lhe Callery of Lhe naLlons 1here was no one Lo Lake care of lL now Maybe Lhe owner had gone
shooLlng wlLh Lhe resL of Lhem wlLh hls cusLomers
WhaL a loL of bulleLs Lhe llLLle LargeLs ln Lhe sLand had Laken! All of Lhem rlddled wlLh llLLle whlLe doLs! A
weddlng LhaL always goL a laugh ouL of Lhem Lln flgures ln Lhe flrsL row Lhe brlde wlLh her flowers Lhe
cousln Lhe soldler Lhe groom wlLh a blg red face and ln Lhe second row Lhe guesLs who musL have been
kllled a good many Llmes when Lhe carnlval was sLlll operaLlng
l beL youre a good shoL arenL you lerdlnand? lf Lhe carnlval were sLlll runnlng ld challenge you ?ou
are a good shoL arenL you lerdlnand?"
no lm noL a very good shoL "
ln Lhe lasL row behlnd Lhe weddlng anoLher row was daubed ln Lhe Lown hall wlLh lLs flag eople musL
have shoL aL Lhe Lown hall Loo when Lhe gallery was worklng aL Lhe wlndows Lheyd open and a bell
would clang and Lhey even shoL aL Lhe llLLle Lln flag And Lheyd shoL aL Lhe reglmenL marchlng on an lncllne
nearby llke mlne on Lhe lace Cllchy Lhls one was beLween Lhe plpes and Lhe llLLle balloons eople had
shoL aL Lhose Lhlngs for all Lhey were worLh and now Lhey were shooLlng aL me yesLerday and Lomorrow
1heyre shooLlng aL me Loo Lola! l crled lL sllpped ouL of me
LeLs be golng she sald ?oure Lalklng nonsense lerdlnand and well caLch cold"
We descended Lhe maln avenue Lhe Avenue 8oyale Loward SalnLCloud avoldlng Lhe mud She held me by
Lhe hand hers was Llny buL l couldnL Lhlnk of anyLhlng buL Lhe Lln weddlng aL Lhe shooLlng gallery up
Lhere whlch we had lefL behlnd us ln Lhe shadow of Lhe Lrees l even forgoL Lo klss Lola someLhlng had
come over me l felL very funny l Lhlnk lL was Lhen LhaL my head became so aglLaLed wlLh all Lhe ldeas
golng around ln lL
lL was dark when we goL Lo Lhe onL de SalnLCloud
lerdlnand would you llke Lo have dlnner aL uuvals? ?ou llke uuvals donL you lL would cheer you up
1heres always such a blg crowd unless yous raLher eaL ln my room She was belng very conslderaLe
LhaL evenlng
We flnally declded on uuvals 8uL wed hardly saL down when Lhe place sLruck me as monsLrous l goL Lhe
ldea LhaL Lhese people slLLlng ln rows around us were walLlng for bulleLs Lo be flred aL Lhem from all sldes
whlle Lhey were eaLlng
CeL ouL! l warned Lhem 8eaL lL! 1heyre golng Lo shooL! 1heyre golng Lo klll you! 1he whole loL of you!"
l was hurrled back Lo Lolas hoLel! Lverywhere l saw Lhe same Lhlng 1he people ln Lhe hallways of Lhe
arlLz all seemed Lo be on Lhelr way Lo be shoL and so dld Lhe clerks behlnd Lhe blg desk all of Lhem [usL
rlpe for lL and Lhe characLer down aL Lhe door wlLh hls unlform as blue as Lhe sky and as golden as Lhe sun
Lhe doorman and Lhe offlcers and generals walklng Lhls way and LhaL noL nearly so gorgeous of course buL
ln unlform all Lhe same all rlpe Lo be shoL Lhered be shooLlng from every slde no one would escape noL
Lhls one noL LhaL or Lhe oLher 1he Llme for [oklng was pasL
1heyre golng Lo shooL! l yelled aL Lhe Lop of my lungs ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe lobby 1heyre golng Lo shooL!
8eaL lL all of you! l wenL Lo Lhe wlndow and shouLed some more WhaL a dlsLurbance! oor soldler
boy! Lhe people sald 1he conclerge led me genLly Lo Lhe bar by suaslon Pe gave me someLhlng Lo drlnk
and l drank qulLe a loL and Lhen Lhe Ms came and Look me away noL so genLly 1hered been Ms aL
Lhe Callery of Lhe naLlons Loo ld seen Lhem Lola klssed me and helped Lhem Lo Lake me away wlLh Lhelr
1hen l fell slck l was dellrlous drlven mad by fear Lhey sald aL Lhe hosplLal Maybe so 1he besL Lhlng Lo do
when youre ln Lhls world donL you agree ls Lo geL ouL of lL Crazy or noL scared or noL
1here was qulLe a commoLlon Some people
sald 1haL young fellows an anarchlsL Lheyll shooL hlm Lhe sooner Lhe beLLer CanL leL Lhe grass grow
under our feeL wlLh a war on! 8uL Lhere were oLhers more paLlenL who LhoughL l was [usL syphlllLlc and
slncerely lnsane Lhey consequenLly wanLed me Lo be locked up unLll Lhe war was over or aL leasL for several
monLhs because Lhey who clalmed Lo be sane and ln Lhelr rlghL mlnds wanLed Lo Lake care of me whlle
Lhey carrled on Lhe war all by Lhemselves Whlch proves LhaL lf you wanL people Lo Lhlnk youre normal
Lheres noLhlng llke havlng an allflred nerve lf youve goL plenLy of nerve youre all seL because Lhen
youre enLlLled Lo do pracLlcally anyLhlng aL all youve goL Lhe ma[orlLy on your slde and lLs Lhe ma[orlLy
who declde whaLs crazy and whaL lsnL
Lven so my dlagnosls was very doubLful So Lhe auLhorlLles declded Lo puL me under observaLlon for a
whlle My llLLle frlend Lola had permlsslon Lo vlslL me now and Lhen and so dld my moLher 1haL was all
We Lhe befogged wounded were lodged ln a secondary school aL lssylesMoullneaux especlally rlgged Lo
Lake ln soldlers llke me whose paLrloLlsm was elLher lmpalred or dangerously slck and geL us by ca[olery or
force Lo confess 1he LreaLmenL wasnL really bad buL we felL we were belng waLched every mlnuLe of Lhe
day by Lhe sLaff of sllenL male nurses endowed wlLh enormous ears
AfLer a varylng perlod of observaLlon wed be quleLly senL away and asslgned Lo an lnsane asylum Lhe
fronL or noL lnfrequenLly Lhe flrlng squad
Among Lhe comrades assembled ln LhaL suspecL lnsLlLuLlon l always wondered whlle llsLenlng Lo Lhem
Lalklng ln whlspers ln Lhe mess hall whlch ones mlghL be on Lhe polnL of becomlng ghosLs
ln her llLLle coLLage near Lhe gaLe dwelL Lhe conclerge who sold us barley sugar and oranges as well as Lhe
wherewlLhal for sewlng on buLLons She also sold us pleasure lor noncoms Lhe prlce of pleasure was Len
francs Lverybody could have lL 8uL waLch your sLep because men Lend Lo geL Loo confldlng on such
occaslons An expanslve momenL could cosL you dearly WhaLever was conflded Lo her she repeaLed ln
deLall Lo Lhe Chlef Medlcal Cfflcer and lL wenL lnLo your courLmarLlal record lL seemed rellably esLabllshed
LhaL shed had a corporal of Spahls a youngsLer sLlll ln hls Leens shoL for hls confldences as well as a
reservlsL ln Lhe corps of englneers who had swallowed nalls Lo puL hls sLomach ouL of commlsslon and a
hysLerlc who had descrlbed hls meLhod of sLaglng a paralyLlc selzure aL Lhe fronL Cne evenlng Lo sound
me ouL she offered me Lhe ldenLlflcaLlon papers of a faLher of slx who was dead so she Lold me saylng
Lhey mlghL help me Lo a rear echelon asslgnmenL ln shorL she was a snake ln bed Lhough she was
superb we came back agaln and agaln and Lhe pleasure she purveyed was real She may have been a sluL
buL aL leasL she was a real one 1o glve royal pleasure Lheyve goL Lo be ln Lhe klLchens of love afLer all vlce
ls llke Lhe pepper ln a good sauce lL brlngs ouL Lhe flavor lLs lndlspensable
1he school bulldlngs opened ouL on a blg Lerrace golden ln summer surrounded by Lrees wlLh a
magnlflcenL panoramlc vlew of arls lL was Lhere LhaL our vlslLors walLed for us on 1hursdays lncludlng
Lola as regular as clockwork brlnglng cakes advlce and clgareLLes
We saw our docLors every mornlng 1hey quesLloned us amlably enough buL we never knew exacLly whaL
Lhey were Lhlnklng under Lhelr affable smlles as Lhey walked among us Lhey carrled our deaLh senLences
1he mealymouLhed aLmosphere reduced some of Lhe paLlenLs under observaLlon more emoLlonal Lhan
Lhe resL Lo such a sLaLe of exasperaLlon LhaL aL nlghL lnsLead of sleeplng Lhey paced Lhe ward from end Lo
end loudly proLesLlng agalnsL Lhelr own angulsh convulsed beLween hope and despalr as on a dangerous
mounLaln spur lor days and days Lhey suffered and Lhen suddenly one nlghL Lheyd go Lo pleces run Lo Lhe
Chlef Medlcal Cfflcer and confess everyLhlng 1heyd never be seen agaln l wasnL easy ln my mlnd myself
8uL when youre weak Lhe besL way Lo forLlfy yourself ls Lo sLrlp Lhe people you fear of Lhe lasL blL of
presLlge youre sLlll lncllned Lo glve Lhem Learn Lo conslder Lhem as Lhey are worse Lhan Lhey are ln facL
and from every polnL of vlew 1haL wlll release you seL you free proLecL you more Lhan you can posslbly
lmaglne lL wlll glve you anoLher self 1here wlll be Lwo of you
1haL wlll sLrlp Lhelr words and deeds of Lhe obscene mysLlcal fasclnaLlon LhaL weakens you and makes you
wasLe your Llme lrom Lhen on youll flnd Lhelr acL no more amuslng no more relevanL Lo your lnner
progress Lhan LhaL of Lhe lowllesL plg
8eslde me ln Lhe nexL bed Lhere was a corporal a volunLeer llke me up unLll AugusL he had been a
Leacher aL a secondary school ln 1ouralne Leachlng hlsLory and geography so he Lold me AfLer a few
monLhs ln Lhe fronL llnes Lhls Leacher had Lurned ouL Lo be a champlon Lhlef noLhlng could sLop hlm from
sLeallng canned goods from Lhe reglmenLal supply Lraln Lhe quarLermasLer Lrucks Lhe company sLores and
anywhere else he could flnd Lhem
So hed landed Lhere wlLh Lhe resL of us whlle presumably awalLlng courL marLlal 8uL slnce hls famlly
perslsLed ln Lrylng Lo prove LhaL he had been sLupefled and demorallzed by shell shock Lhe prosecuLlon
deferred hls Lrlal from monLh Lo monLh Pe dldnL Lalk Lo me very much Pe spenL hours comblng hls beard
buL when he spoke Lo me lL was almosL always abouL Lhe same Lhlng abouL Lhe meLhod he had dlscovered
for noL geLLlng hls wlfe wlLh any more chlldren Was he really lnsane? AL a Llme when Lhe world ls upslde
down and lLs LhoughL lnsane Lo ask why youre belng murdered lL obvlously requlres no greaL efforL Lo
pass for a lunaLlc Cf course your acL has goL Lo be convlnclng buL when lL comes Lo keeplng ouL of Lhe blg
slaughLerhouse some peoples lmaglnaLlons become magnlflcenLly ferLlle
LveryLhlng LhaLs lmporLanL goes on ln Lhe darkness no doubL abouL lL We never know anyones real lnslde
1hls Leachers name was rlnchard WhaL can Lhe man have dreamed up Lo save hls caroLlds lungs and
opLlc nerves? 1haL was Lhe cruclal quesLlon Lhe quesLlon we men should have asked one anoLher lf wed
wanLed Lo be sLrlcLly human and raLlonal lar from lL we sLaggered along ln a world of ldeallsLlc absurdlLles
hemmed ln by lnsane belllcose plaLlLudes Llke smokemaddened raLs we Lrled Lo escape from Lhe burnlng
shlp buL we had no general plan no falLh ln one anoLher uazed by Lhe war we had developed a dlfferenL
klnd of madness fear 1he heads and Lalls of Lhe war
ln Lhe mldsL of Lhe general dellrlum Lhls rlnchard Look a cerLaln llklng Lo me Lhough he dlsLrusLed me of
ln Lhe place and slLuaLlon we were ln frlendshlp and LrusL were ouL of Lhe quesLlon no one revealed any
more Lhan he LhoughL useful for hls survlval slnce everyLhlng or pracLlcally everyLhlng was sure Lo be
repeaLed by some aLLenLlve sLool plgeon
lrom Llme Lo Llme one of us dlsappeared 1haL meanL Lhe case agalnsL hlm was ready and Lhe courLmarLlal
would senLence hlm Lo a dlsclpllnary baLLallon Lo Lhe fronL or lf he was very lucky Lo Lhe lnsane Asylum ln
More dublous warrlors kepL arrlvlng from every branch of servlce some very young some almosL old
some Lerrlfled some ranLlng and swaggerlng 1helr wlves and parenLs came Lo see Lhem and Lhelr chlldren
Loo sLarlng wldeeyed on 1hursdays
1hey all wepL buckeLs ln Lhe vlslLlng room especlally ln Lhe evenlng All Lhe helplessness of a world aL war
wepL when Lhe vlslLs were over and Lhe women and chlldren lefL dragglng Lhelr feeL ln Lhe bleak gasllL
corrldor A herd of snlvellng rlffraff LhaLs whaL Lhey were dlsgusLlng
1o Lola lL was sLlll an advenLure comlng Lo see me ln LhaL prlson as you mlghL have called lL We Lwo dldnL
cry Where would we have goL our Lears from?
ls lL Lrue LhaL youve gone mad lerdlnand? she asked me one 1hursday
lLs Lrue l admlLLed
8uL Lheyll LreaL you here?"
1heres no LreaLmenL for fear Lola"
ls lL as bad as all LhaL?"
lLs worse Lola My fear ls so bad LhaL lf l dle a naLural deaLh laLer on l especlally donL wanL Lo be
cremaLed l wanL Lhem Lo leave me ln Lhe ground quleLly roLLlng ln Lhe graveyard ready Lo come back Lo
llfe Maybe how do we know? 8uL lf Lhey burned me Lo ashes Lola donL you see lL would be over
really over A skeleLon afLer all ls sLlll someLhlng llke a man lLs more llkely Lo come back Lo llfe Lhan
ashes 8educed Lo ashes youre flnlshed! WhaL do you Lhlnk? naLurally Lhe war "
Ch lerdlnand! 1hen youre an absoluLe coward! ?oure as loaLhsome as a raL "
?es an absoluLe coward Lola l re[ecL Lhe war and everyLhlng ln lL l donL deplore lL l donL reslgn
myself Lo lL l donL weep abouL lL l [usL plaln re[ecL lL and all lLs flghLlng men l donL wanL anyLhlng Lo
do wlLh Lhem or lL Lven lf Lhere were nlne hundred and nlneLyflve mllllon of Lhem and l were all alone
Lheyd sLlll be wrong and ld be rlghL 8ecause lm Lhe one who knows whaL l wanL l donL wanL Lo dle"
8uL lLs noL posslble Lo re[ecL Lhe war lerdlnand! Cnly crazy people and cowards re[ecL Lhe war when Lhelr
counLry ls ln danger "
lf LhaLs Lhe case hurrah for Lhe crazy people! Look Lola do you remember a slngle name for lnsLance of
any of Lhe soldlers kllled ln Lhe Pundred ?ears War? uld you ever Lry Lo flnd ouL who any of Lhem were?
no! ?ou see? ?ou never Lrled As far as youre concerned Lheyre as anonymous as lndlfferenL as Lhe
lasL aLom of LhaL paperwelghL as your mornlng bowel movemenL CeL lL lnLo your head Lola LhaL Lhey
dled for noLhlng! lor absoluLely noLhlng Lhe ldloLs! l say lL and lll say lL agaln! lve proved lL! 1he one Lhlng
LhaL counLs ls llfe! ln Len Lhousand years lll beL you Lhls war remarkable as lL may seem Lo us aL presenL
wlll be uLLerly forgoLLen Maybe here and Lhere ln Lhe world a handful of scholars wlll argue abouL lLs
causes or Lhe daLes of Lhe prlnclpal hecaLombs LhaL made lL famous up unLll now Lhose are Lhe only
Lhlngs abouL men LhaL oLher men have LhoughL worLh rememberlng afLer a few cenLurles a few years or
even a few hours l donL belleve ln Lhe fuLure Lola "
When she heard me flaunLlng my shameful sLaLe llke LhaL she losL all sympaLhy for me Cnce and for all
she puL me down as conLempLlble and declded Lo leave me wlLhouL furLher ado lL was Loo much When l
lefL her LhaL evenlng aL Lhe hosplLal gaLe she dldnL klss me
LvldenLly Lhe LhoughL LhaL a condemned man mlghL have no vocaLlon for deaLh was Loo much for her
When 1 asked her how our pancakes were dolng she dld noL reply
Cn my reLurn Lo Lhe dormlLory l found rlnchard aL Lhe wlndow wlLh a crowd of soldlers around hlm Pe
was Lrylng ouL a palr of dark glasses on Lhe gas llghL 1he ldea he explalned had come Lo hlm lasL summer
aL Lhe seashore and slnce lL was summer now he was plannlng Lo wear Lhem nexL day ln Lhe park 1haL
park was enormous and exceedlngly well pollced by squads of vlgllanL orderlles 1he nexL day rlnchard
lnslsLed on my golng for a walk on Lhe Lerrace wlLh hlm Lo Lry ouL hls beauLlful glasses A blazlng afLernoon
beaL down on hlm defended by hls opaque lenses l noLlced LhaL hls nose was almosL LransparenL aL Lhe
nosLrlls and LhaL he was breaLhlng hard
My frlend he conflded Llme ls passlng and lLs noL on my slde My consclence ls lmmune Lo remorse l
have been relleved Lhank Cod of Lhose fears lLs noL crlmes LhaL counL ln Lhls world people sLopped
counLlng Lhem long ago WhaL counLs ls blunders And l belleve lve made one LhaLs absoluLely
lrremedlable "
SLeallng canned goods?"
?es [usL lmaglne l LhoughL l was belng so clever My ldea was Lo absLracL myself from Lhe baLLle and
reLurn dlsgraced buL sLlll allve Lo peace as one reLurns exhausLed Lo Lhe surface of Lhe sea afLer a long
dlve l almosL succeeded buL Lhls war undoubLedly has been golng on Loo long So long LhaL cannon
fodder dlsgusLlng enough Lo dlsgusL Lhe aLrle ls no longer concelvable She has begun Lo accepL every
offerlng regardless of where lL comes from every varleLy of meaL! 1oday Lheres no such Lhlng as a soldler
unworLhy Lo bear arms and above all Lo dle under arms and by arms 1heyre golng laLesL news Lo
make a hero ouL of me! Pow lmperlous Lhe homlcldal madness musL have become lf Lheyre wllllng Lo
pardonno Lo forgeL!Lhe LhefL of a can of meaL! 1rue we have goL lnLo Lhe hablL of admlrlng colossal
bandlLs whose opulence ls revered by Lhe enLlre world yeL whose exlsLence once we sLop Lo examlne lL
proves Lo be one long crlme repeaLed ad lnflnlLum buL Lhose same bandlLs are heaped wlLh glory honors
and power Lhelr crlmes are hallowed by Lhe law of Lhe land whereas as far back ln hlsLory as Lhe eye can
seeand hlsLory as you know ls my buslness everyLhlng consplres Lo show LhaL a venlal LhefL especlally
of lnglorlous foodsLuffs such as bread crusLs ham or cheese unfalllngly sub[ecLs lLs perpeLraLor Lo
lrreparable opproblum Lhe caLegorlc condemnaLlon of Lhe communlLy ma[or punlshmenL auLomaLlc
dlshonor and lnexplable shame and Lhls for Lwo reasons flrsL because Lhe perpeLraLor of such an offense
ls usually poor whlch ln lLself connoLes baslc unworLhlness and secondly because hls acL lmplles as lL
were a LaclL reproach Lo Lhe communlLy A poor mans LhefL ls seen as a mallclous aLLempL aL lndlvldual
redress Where would we be? noLe accordlngly LhaL ln all counLrles Lhe penalLles for peLLy LhefL are
exLremely severe noL only as a means of defendlng socleLy buL also as a sLern admonlLlon Lo Lhe
unforLunaLe Lo know Lhelr place sLlck Lo Lhelr casLe and behave Lhemselves [oyfully reslgned Lo go on
dylng of hunger and mlsery down Lhrough Lhe cenLurles for ever and ever unLll Loday however peLLy
Lhleves en[oyed one advanLage ln Lhe 8epubllc Lhey were denled Lhe honor of bearlng paLrloLlc arms 8uL
LhaLs all over now Lomorrow l a Lhlef wlll resume my place ln Lhe army Such are Lhe orders lL has
been declded ln hlgh places Lo forglve and forgeL whaL Lhey call my momenLary madness and Lhls llsLen
carefully ln conslderaLlon of whaL Lhey call Lhe honor of my famlly WhaL sollclLude! l ask you comrade ls lL
my famlly LhaLs golng Lo serve as a sLralner and sorLlng house for mlxed lrench and Cerman bulleLs? lLll
[usL be me wonL lL? And when lm dead ls Lhe honor of my famlly golng Lo brlng me back Lo llfe? l can
see how lL wlll be wlLh my famlly when Lhese warllke scenes have passed as everyLhlng passes l can see
my famlly on flne Sundays [oyfully gambollng on Lhe lawns of a new summer whlle Lhree feeL under
papa LhaLs me drlpplng wlLh worms and lnflnlLely more dlsgusLlng Lhan Len pounds of Lurds on Lhe
lourLeenLh of !uly wlll be roLLlng sLupendously wlLh all my deluded flesh lerLlllze Lhe flelds of Lhe
anonymous plowmanLhaL ls Lhe Lrue fuLure of Lhe Lrue soldler! Ah comrade! 1hls world l assure you ls
only a vasL devlce for klddlng Lhe world! ?ou are young! LeL Lhese mlnuLes of wlsdom be as years Lo you!
LlsLen well comrade and donL fall Lo recognlze and undersLand Lhe LellLale slgn whlch glares from all Lhe
murderous hypocrlsles of our SocleLy Compasslon wlLh Lhe faLe Lhe condlLlon of Lhe poor l Lell you
llLLle man llfes fall guys beaLen fleeced Lo Lhe bone sweaLed from Llme lmmemorlal l warn you LhaL
when Lhe prlnces of Lhls world sLarL lovlng you lL means Lheyre golng Lo grlnd you up lnLo baLLle sausage
1haLs Lhe slgn lLs lnfalllble lL sLarLs wlLh affecLlon Louls xlv aL leasL and donL forgeL lL dldnL glve a
hooL ln hell abouL hls beloved people Louls xv dlLLo Pe smeared hls asshole wlLh Lhem 1rue we dldnL llve
well ln Lhose days Lhe poor have never llved well buL Lhe klngs dldnL flay Lhem wlLh Lhe obsLlnacy Lhe
perslsLence you meeL wlLh ln Lodays LyranLs 1heres no resL l Lell you for Lhe llLLle man excepL ln Lhe
conLempL of Lhe greaL whose only moLlve for Lhlnklng of Lhe common people ls selflnLeresL when lL lsnL
sadlsm lLs Lhe phllosophers anoLher polnL Lo look ouL for whlle were aL lL who flrsL sLarLed glvlng
Lhe people ldeas when all Lheyd known up unLll Lhen was Lhe caLechlsm! 1hey began so Lhey
proclalmed Lo educaLe Lhe people Ah! WhaL LruLhs Lhey had Lo reveal! 8eauLlful! brllllanL!
unprecedenLed LruLhs! And Lhe people were dazzled! 1haLs lL! Lhey sald 1haLs Lhe sLuff! LeLs go and dle
for lL! 1he people are always dylng Lo dle! 1haLs Lhe way Lhey are! Long llve ulderoL! Lhey yelled And
Long llve volLalre! 1hey aL leasL were flrsLclass phllosophers And long llve CarnoL18 Loo who was so
good aL organlzlng vlcLorles! And long llve everybody! 1hose guys aL leasL donL leL Lhe beloved people
molder ln lgnorance and feLlshlsm! 1hey show Lhe people Lhe roads of lreedom! LmanclpaLlon! 1hlngs
wenL fasL afLer LhaL! llrsL Leach everybody Lo read Lhe papers! 1haLs Lhe way Lo salvaLlon! Purry hurry! no
more llllLeraLes! We donL need Lhem anymore! noLhlng buL clLlzensoldlers! Who voLe! Who read! And
who flghL! And who march! And send klsses from Lhe fronL! ln no Llme Lhe people were good and rlpe! 1he
enLhuslasm of Lhe llberaLed has Lo be good for someLhlng doesnL lL? uanLon wasnL eloquenL for Lhe hell
of lL WlLh a few phrases so rouslng LhaL we can sLlll hear Lhem Loday he had Lhe people moblllzed before
you could say flddlesLlcks! 1haL was when Lhe flrsL baLLallons of emanclpaLed manlacs marched off! Lhe
flrsL voLlng flagmaLlc suckers LhaL uumourlez19 led away Lo geL Lhemselves drllled full of holes ln
llanders! As for uumourlez hlmself who had come Loo laLe Lo Lhese newfangled ldeallsLlc pasLlmes he
dlscovered LhaL he was more lnLeresLed ln money and deserLed Pe was our lasL mercenary 1he freegraLls
soldler was someLhlng really new So new LhaL when CoeLhe20 arrlved ln valmy CoeLhe or noL he
was flabbergasLed AL Lhe slghL of Lhose ragged lmpassloned cohorLs who had come of Lhelr own free wlll
Lo geL Lhemselves dlsemboweled by Lhe klng of russla ln defense of a paLrloLlc flcLlon no one had ever
heard of CoeLhe reallzed LhaL he sLlll had much Lo learn 1hls day he declalmed grandlloquenLly as
beflLLed Lhe hablLs of hls genlus marks Lhe beglnnlng of a new era! Pe could say LhaL agaln! 1he sysLem
proved successful preLLy soon Lhey were massproduclng heroes and ln Lhe end Lhe sysLem was so well
perfecLed LhaL Lhey cosL pracLlcally noLhlng Lveryone was dellghLed 8lsmarck Lhe Lwo napoleons
8arres21 Llsa Lhe Porsewoman22 1he rellglon of Lhe flag prompLly replaced Lhe culL of heaven an old
cloud whlch had already been deflaLed by Lhe 8eformaLlon and reduced Lo a neLwork of eplscopal money
boxes ln olden Llmes Lhe fanaLlcal fashlon was Long llve !esus! 8urn Lhe hereLlcs! 8uL hereLlcs afLer
all were few and volunLary Whereas Loday vasL hordes of men are flred wlLh alm and purpose by crles
of Pang Lhe llmp Lurnlps! 1he [ulceless lemons! 1he lnnocenL readers! 8y Lhe mllllons eyes rlghL! lf
anybody doesnL wanL Lo flghL or murder grab em Lear em Lo pleces! klll Lhem ln LhlrLeen [ulcy ways lor a
sLarLer Lo Leach Lhem how Lo llve rlp Lhelr guLs ouL of Lhelr bodles Lhelr eyes ouL of Lhelr sockeLs and Lhe
years ouL of Lhelr fllLhy slobberlng llves! LeL whole leglons of Lhem perlsh Lurn lnLo smldgens bleed
smolder ln acldand all LhaL Lo make Lhe aLrle more beloved more falr and more [oyful! And lf ln Lhelr
mldsL Lhere are any foul creaLures who refuse Lo undersLand Lhese subllme LruLhs Lhey can [usL go and bury
Lhemselves rlghL wlLh Lhe oLhers no noL qulLe Lhelr place wlll be aL Lhe far end of Lhe cemeLery under Lhe
shameful eplLaphs of cowards wlLhouL an ldeal for Lhose conLempLlble slugs wlll have forfelLed Lhe glorlous
rlghL Lo a small paLch of Lhe shadow of Lhe munlclpal monumenL erecLed by Lhe lowesL bldder ln Lhe cenLral
avenue Lo commemoraLe Lhe repuLable dead and also Lhe rlghL Lo hear so much as a dlsLanL echo of Lhe
MlnlsLers speech nexL Sunday when he comes around Lo urlnaLe aL Lhe refecLure and sound off over Lhe
graves afLer lunch "
8uL from Lhe end of Lhe garden someone was calllng rlnchard 1he head physlclan had senL hls orderly Lo
geL hlm on Lhe double
Comlng rlnchard crled Pe had barely Llme enough Lo hand me Lhe drafL of Lhe speech he had been
Lrylng ouL on me A ham lf Lhere ever was one
l never saw rlnchard agaln Pe had Lhe same Lrouble as all lnLellecLualshe was lneffecLual Pe knew Loo
many Lhlngs and Lhey confused hlm Pe needed all sorLs of glmmlcks Lo sLeam hlm up help hlm make up
hls mlnd
lLs been a long Llme slnce LhaL nlghL when he wenL away 8uL l remember lL well Suddenly Lhe houses
aL Lhe end of our park sLood ouL sharply as Lhlngs do before Lhe nlghL Lakes hold of Lhem 1he Lrees grew
larger ln Lhe LwlllghL and shoL up Lo Lhe sky Lo meeL Lhe nlghL
l never made any aLLempL Lo geL ln Louch wlLh rlnchard Lo flnd ouL lf he had really dlsappeared as Lhey
kepL saylng 8uL lLs besL lf he dlsappeared
Whlle Lhe war was sLlll on Lhe seeds of our
haLeful peace were belng sown
A hysLerlcal blLch you could see whaL shed be llke [usL by waLchlng her cavorLlng ln Lhe dance hall of Lhe
Clympla ln LhaL long cellar room you could see her squlnLlng ouL of a hundred mlrrors sLamplng her feeL
ln Lhe dusL and despalr Lo Lhe muslc of a negro!udeoSaxon band 8rlLlshers and 8lacks LevanLlnes and
8usslans were everywhere smoklng and bellowlng mlllLary melancholles llned up on Lhe red plush sofas
1hose unlforms LhaL people are beglnnlng Lo flnd lL hard Lo remember were Lhe seeds of Lhe presenL day of
someLhlng LhaL ls sLlll growlng and LhaL wonL become LoLal shlL for a whlle yeL buL wlll ln Lhe long run
Lvery week afLer spendlng a few hours aL Lhe Clympla warmlng up our deslres a few of us would go
calllng on our frlend Madame PeroLe23 who kepL a llngerle glove and bookshop ln Lhe lmpasse des
8ereslnas24 behlnd Lhe lolles 8ergere a covered passage LhaL lsnL Lhere anymore where llLLle glrls
broughL llLLle dogs on leashes Lo do Lhelr buslness
We wenL Lhere Lo grope for our happlness whlch all Lhe world was LhreaLenlng wlLh Lhe uLmosL feroclLy
We were ashamed of wanLlng whaL we wanLed buL someLhlng had Lo be done abouL lL all Lhe same Love ls
harder Lo glve up Lhan llfe ln Lhls world we spend our Llme kllllng or adorlng or boLh LogeLher l haLe you!
l adore you! We keep golng we fuel and refuel we pass on our llfe Lo a blped of Lhe nexL cenLury wlLh
frenzy aL any cosL as lf lL were Lhe greaLesL of pleasures Lo perpeLuaLe ourselves as lf when alls sald and
done lL would make us lmmorLal Cne way or anoLher klsslng ls as lndlspensable as scraLchlng
My menLal sLaLe had lmproved buL my mlllLary slLuaLlon was sLlll uncerLaln l had leave Lo go ouL now and
Lhen Anyway Lhe name of our llngerle lady was Madame PeroLe Per forehead was low and so narrow LhaL
aL flrsL you felL uneasy ln her presence buL her llps were so smlllng and volupLuous LhaL afLer a whlle you
dldnL see how you could geL away from her under a surface of sLaggerlng volublllLy and unforgeLLable
ardor she concealed a seL of slmple rapaclous and plously mercanLlle alms
ln a few monLhs she plled up a forLune Lhanks Lo Lhe Allles and Lhanks above all Lo her uLerus Per ovarles
had been removed Lo puL lL plalnly she had been operaLed for salplnglLls Lhe year before 1haL llberaLlng
casLraLlon had made her forLune Conorrhea ln a woman can be provldenLlal A woman who spends her
Llme worrylng abouL pregnancy ls a vlrLual crlpple shell never go very far
Cld men and young men LhoughL and so dld l LhaL love was easlly and cheaply avallable ln Lhe backrooms
of cerLaln llngerlebookshops 1haL was sLlll Lrue some LwenLy years ago buL Loday a loL of Lhlngs arenL
done anymore especlally some of Lhe mosL agreeable Lvery monLh AngloSaxon purlLanlsm ls drylng us up
a llLLle more lL has already reduced Lhose lmprompLu backroom carousals Lo pracLlcally noLhlng now
marrlage and respecLablllLy are Lhe Lhlng
ln Lhose days for Lhe lasL Llme Lhere was sLlll freedom Lo fuck sLandlng up and cheap and Madame PeroLe
puL lL Lo good use Cne Sunday an aucLlon room appralser wlLh Llme on hls hands slghLed her shop and
wenL ln hes sLlll Lhere Pe was sllghLly gaga and gaga he remalned buL noLhlng more 1helr happlness
aroused no lnLeresL ln Lhe nelghborhood ln Lhe shadow of Lhe newspapers wlLh Lhelr dellrlous appeals for
ulLlmaLe paLrloLlc sacrlflces llfe wenL on sLrlcLly raLloned larded wlLh precauLlons and more Lrlcklly
resourceful Lhan ever before 1hose are Lhe heads and Lalls Lhe llghL and shade of Lhe same coln
Madame PeroLes appralser lnvesLed money ln Polland for hls beLLerlnformed frlends and for Madame
PeroLe as well once Lhey became lnLlmaLe Per sLock of neckLles and brassleres and almosLchemlses
aLLracLed cusLomers of boLh sexes and broughL Lhem back Llme and Llme agaln
Any number of naLlonal and lnLernaLlonal encounLers Look place ln Lhe plnk shadow of Lhose curLalns amld
Lhe lncessanL loquaclLy of Madame PeroLe whose subsLanLlal LalkaLlve and overwhelmlngly perfumed
person would have puL Lhe mosL blllous of males ln a lecherous mood lar from loslng her head ln Lhese
mlscellaneous gaLherlngs Madame PeroLe Lurned Lhem Lo her advanLage flrsL ln Lerms of money slnce she
levled a LlLhe on all senLlmenLal LransacLlons buL also Lhrough her en[oymenL of all Lhe lovemaklng LhaL
wenL on around her She Look pleasure ln brlnglng couples LogeLher and as much or more ln breaklng Lhem
up by means of LaleLelllng lnslnuaLlons and ouL and ouL Lreachery
She never wearled of fomenLlng happlness and Lragedy She sLoked Lhe llfe of Lhe passlons and her
buslness prospered
rousL who was half ghosL lmmersed hlmself wlLh exLraordlnary LenaclLy ln Lhe lnflnlLely waLery fuLlllLy of
Lhe rlLes and procedures LhaL enLwlne Lhe members of hlgh socleLy Lhose denlzens of Lhe vold Lhose
phanLoms of deslre Lhose lrresoluLe dalsychalners sLlll walLlng for Lhelr WaLLeau Lhose llsLless seekers
afLer lmplauslble CyLhereas Whereas Madame PeroLe wlLh her sLurdy popular orlglns was flrmly fasLened
Lo Lhe earLh by her crude sLupld and very speclflc appeLlLes
Maybe lf people are so wlcked lLs only because Lhey suffer buL years can elapse beLween Lhe Llme when
Lhey sLop sufferlng and Lhe Llme when Lhelr characLers Lake a Lurn for Lhe beLLer Madame PeroLes
lmpresslve maLerlal and amaLory success hadnL had Llme yeL Lo sofLen her rapaclous lnsLlncLs
She was no more haLeful Lhan mosL of Lhe shopkeeplng ladles abouL buL she Look so much Lrouble
convlnclng people of Lhe conLrary LhaL one doesnL Lend Lo forgeL her Per shop was more Lhan a meeLlng
place lL was a klnd of secreL gaLeway Lo a world of wealLh and luxury ln whlch much as l had wanLed Lo l
had never seL fooL unLll Lhen and from whlch l was prompLly and embarrasslngly e[ecLed afLer one furLlve
lncurslon my flrsL and lasL
ln arls Lhe rlch llve LogeLher 1helr nelghborhoods ad[oln and coalesce so as Lo form a wedge of urban
cake Lhe Llp of whlch Louches Lhe Louvre and Lhe rounded ouLer edge ls bounded by Lhe Lrees beLween Lhe
onL dAuLeull23 and Lhe orLe des 1ernes 1haLs Lhe good parL of Lhe clLy All Lhe resL ls shlL and mlsery
AL flrsL glance Lhe rlch nelghborhoods donL look so very dlfferenL from Lhe resL of Lhe clLy excepL LhaL Lhe
sLreeLs are a llLLle cleaner 8uL lf you wanL Lo go deeper ln your excurslon Lo geL lnslde Lhe people who llve
Lhere youll have Lo rely on chance or on lnLlmaLe connecLlons
Madame PeroLes shop could glve you some llLLle access Lo Lhls preserve Lhrough Lhe ArgenLlnes who came
ln from Lhe prlvlleged nelghborhoods Lo buy shlrLs and underwear and fllrL wlLh Lhe unusual selecLlon of
amblLlous LheaLrlcal muslcal and wellbullL young frlends whom Madame PeroLe dellberaLely gaLhered
around her
l who as Lhey say had noLhlng Lo offer buL my youLh became Loo much lnLeresLed ln one of Lhem LlLLle
Musyne Lhey called her ln her crowd
ln Lhe assage des 8ereslnas Lhe shopkeepers all knew one anoLher lL was llke a provlnclal vlllage wedged
for years beLween Lwo arls sLreeLs ln oLher words everybody slandered and spled on everybody else as
much as was humanly and dellrlously posslble
WhaL Lhe shopkeepers mosLly Lalked and complalned abouL before Lhe war was Lhe peLLy desperaLely
LhrlfLy llfe Lhey all led Among oLher sordld hardshlps Lhe chronlc complalnL of Lhose shopkeepers was
belng obllged by Lhe prevalllng gloom Lo llghL Lhelr gas aL four ln Lhe afLernoon because of Lhelr showcases
8uL lnslde Lhe shops Lhe selfsame LwlllghL made for an aLmosphere conduclve Lo offcolor suggesLlons
neverLheless a good many of Lhe shops were belng rulned by Lhe war whlle Madame PeroLes Lhanks Lo
Lhe young ArgenLlnes Lo offlcers wlLh per dlem allowances and Lo Lhe advlce of her frlend Lhe appralser
en[oyed a prosperlLy on whlch as you can easlly lmaglne Lhe whole nelghborhood commenLed ln Lhe mosL
vlLrlollc Lerms
lL was [usL abouL Lhen for lnsLance LhaL Lhe famous pasLry shop aL 112 losL lLs besL cusLomers 1he laLesL
moblllzaLlon was Lo blame So many horses had been requlslLloned LhaL Lhe ladles wlLh Lhe long gloves who
had dropped ln regularly aL LeaLlme would have been obllged Lo walk 1hey sLopped comlng and Lhey
never came back SambaneL Lhe muslc blnder was suddenly unable Lo reslsL Lhe urge whlch had long
LormenLed hlm Lo sodomlze a soldler A bungled aLLempL one nlghL dld hlm lrreparable harm wlLh cerLaln
paLrloLlc genLlemen who accused hlm forLhwlLh of belng a spy Pe was obllged Lo close up shop
1hen Mademolselle Permance aL no 26 who had hlLherLo speclallzed ln Lhe sale of a cerLaln menLlonable
or unmenLlonable lLem made of rubber would have been dolng all rlghL under Lhe prevalllng
clrcumsLances lf she hadnL found lL so unconsclonably dlfflculL Lo procure her merry wldows whlch were
made ln Cermany
ln shorL lL was only Madame PeroLe who on Lhe Lhreshold of a new era of llghLerLhanalr democraLlc
llngerle found an easy way Lo prosperlLy
lenLy of anonymous leLLers were wrlLLen from shop Lo shop and Lhey dldnL mlnce words Madame PeroLe
preferred for her enLerLalnmenL Lo wrlLe Lo hlghly placed persons so demonsLraLlng LhaL a vlrulenL
amblLlon was Lhe cornersLone of her characLer She wroLe several Lo Lhe remler for lnsLance [usL Lo
convlnce hlm LhaL he was a cuckold and some Lo Marshal eLaln26 ln Lngllsh wlLh Lhe help of a
dlcLlonary Lo drlve hlm crazy 8uL whaLs an anonymous leLLer? WaLer off a ducks back Lvery day Madame
PeroLe recelved a whole packeL of Lhese unslgned leLLers whlch dldnL smell good l assure you Shed be
penslve upseL for abouL Len mlnuLes buL Lhen shed recover her composure she dldnL care how or by
whaL means buL she goL lL back good and solld for Lhere was no place for doubL ln her lnner llfe and sLlll
less for LruLh
Among her cusLomers and proLegees Lhere were several young ladles from Lhe enLerLalnmenL world
acLresses and muslclanswho came wlLh more debLs Lhan cloLhes Madame PeroLe gave Lhem advlce and
lL helped Lhem no end Cne of Lhem was Musyne Lhe mosL aLLracLlve of Lhe loL for my money Musyne was
a muslclan she played Lhe vlolln a very shrewd llLLle angel as l was soon Lo learn lmplacable ln her
deLermlnaLlon Lo succeed here on earLh and noL ln heaven she was dolng all rlghL aL Lhe Llme of our flrsL
meeLlng ln an adorable exceedlngly arlslan and now compleLely forgoLLen llLLle acL aL Lhe varleLes27
Shed appear wlLh her vlolln ln a klnd of lmprompLu prologue ln melody and verse A charmlng compllcaLed
SmlLLen as l was my days became a frenzy dashlng from Lhe hosplLal Lo Lhe back door of her LheaLer l was
seldom alone ln walLlng for her 1he ground forces would snaLch her away ln a Lwlnkllng Lhe flyers had an
even easler Llme of lL buL undoubLedly Lhe seducLlon prlze wenL Lo Lhe ArgenLlnes As more and more
soldlers swarmed Lo Lhe colors Lhelr coldsLorage meaL buslness assumed Lhe proporLlons of a Lldal wave
LlLLle Musyne made a good Lhlng of Lhose proflLeerlng days she knew whaL she was dolng slnce Lhen Lhe
ArgenLlnes have gone ouL of exlsLence
l dldnL undersLand l was belng hornswoggled by everyLhlng and everybody women money and ldeas l
was a sucker and l dldnL llke lL l sLlll run lnLo Musyne now and Lhen every Lwo years or so she crosses my
paLh as people one has known well Lend Lo 1wo years ls Lhe Llme lL Lakes Lo percelve aL one glance a
glance as sure as lnsLlncL Lhe ugllness LhaL can come over a face even one LhaL was dellclous ln lLs day
lor a momenL you heslLaLe Lhen you accepL Lhe face as lL has become wlLh lLs repugnanL cumulaLlve
dlsharmony WhaL can you do buL acqulesce ln Lhls slow palnsLaklng carlcaLure whlch Lwo years have
eLched buL accepL Lhe passage of Llme LhaL porLralL of ourselves 1hen we can say LhaL weve really
recognlzed each oLher (llke some forelgn banknoLe LhaL one heslLaLes Lo accepL aL flrsL slghL) LhaL we
hadnL Laken a wrong Lurn LhaL each on hls own wed Lraveled Lhe rlghL road Lhe lnevlLable road Lo decay
for anoLher Lwo years 1haLs all Lhere ls Lo lL
When she ran lnLo me llke LhaL l frlghLened her so wlLh my blg head lL looked as lf she wanLed Lo run away
Lo avold me Lo Lurn aslde anyLhlng Cbvlously as far as she was concerned l sLank of a whole pasL 8uL
lve known her age for Loo long and Lry as she wlll she absoluLely canL escape me She sLands Lhere
evldenLly puL off by my exlsLence as lf l were a monsLer She so senslLlve feels obllged Lo ask me crude
sLupld quesLlons Lhe klnd LhaL a housemald caughL sLeallng sugar mlghL ask All women are domesLlcs aL
hearL 8uL posslbly she lmaglnes Lhls revulslon more Lhan she feels lL LhaLs Lhe only consolaLlon l can flnd
Maybe lm noL really repulslve buL only glve her Lhe llluslon LhaL l am Maybe lm an arLlsL ln LhaL llne AfLer
all why wouldnL Lhere be an arL of ugllness as well as beauLy? Maybe lLs a glfL LhaL needs Lo be culLlvaLed
lor a long Llme l LhoughL llLLle Musyne was sLupld buL LhaL was only because l was valn and she had run ouL
on me 8efore Lhe war you know we were all a loL more lgnoranL and concelLed Lhan Loday A llLLle nobody
llke me was much more llkely Lo Lake rubblsh for ralnbows Lhan he would be Loday l LhoughL belng ln love
wlLh somebody as adorable as Musyne would glve me every klnd of sLrengLh and vlrLue especlally Lhe
courage l lacked [usL because she was so preLLy and such a glfLed muslclan Love ls llke llquor Lhe drunker
and more lmpoLenL you are Lhe sLronger and smarLer you Lhlnk yourself and Lhe surer you are of your
uozens of Madame PeroLes couslns had made Lhe supreme sacrlflce so she never lefL her passage excepL
ln deep mournlng 1o Lell Lhe LruLh she seldom wenL ouL because Lhe appralser was preLLy [ealous We
gaLhered ln Lhe dlnlng room behlnd Lhe shop whlch wlLh Lhe comlng of prosperlLy had Laken on Lhe
appearance of a llLLle salon 1here we would chaL and pass Lhe Llme ln a pleasanL wellbehaved klnd of way
under Lhe gas [eL LlLLle Musyne aL Lhe plano would charm us wlLh classlcal pleces only classlcal muslc was
LhoughL flLLlng ln Lhose sorrowful Llmes Wed slL Lhere for whole afLernoons slde by slde Lhe appralser ln
Lhe mlddle muslng over our secreLs our fears and hopes
Madame PeroLes mald whom she had hlred only a shorL Llme before was always bursLlng wlLh lmpaLlence
Lo flnd ouL when Lhls one would flnally make up hls mlnd Lo marry LhaL one ln her vlllage free love was
unheard of All Lhose ArgenLlnes and offlcers and sllpperyflngered cusLomers fllled her wlLh an almosL
anlmal Lerror
More and more ofLen Musyne was monopollzed by Lhe SouLh Amerlcan cusLomers WhaL wlLh walLlng for
my angel l soon goL Lo know Lhe caballeros klLchens and servanLs very well naLurally Lhe valeLs Look me
for a plmp ln Lhe end everybody Look me for a plmp lncludlng Musyne and lm preLLy sure Lhe regulars aL
Madame PeroLes shop 1here was noLhlng l could do abouL lL Sooner or laLer people are bound Lo classlfy
you as someLhlng
l wangled anoLher Lwo monLhs convalescenL leave and Lhere was even some Lalk of a medlcal dlscharge
Musyne and l declded Lo go and llve LogeLher ln 8lllancourL 1hls was acLually a subLerfuge Lo dlLch me
because she Look advanLage of lLs belng so far away Lo come home less and less frequenLly She was always
flndlng some preLexL for spendlng Lhe nlghL ln arls
1he nlghLs ln 8lllancourL were sofL and sweeL enllvened now and Lhen by Lhose chlldlsh alrplane or
zeppelln alarms whlch provlded Lhe clvlllan populaLlon wlLh Lhrllls and self[usLlflcaLlon Whlle walLlng for
Musyne ld walk as far as Lhe onL de Crenelle28 where Lhe darkness rlses from Lhe rlver Lo Lhe overhead
MeLro Lracks wlLh Lhelr sLrlngs of llghLs Lraverslng Lhe darkness and Lhelr enormous meLalllc hulks hurllng
Lhemselves llke Lhunder aL Lhe flanks of Lhe blg bulldlngs on Lhe Cual de assy
1here are nelghborhoods llke LhaL ln blg clLles so sLupldly ugly LhaL youre almosL always alone Lhere
ln Lhe end Musyne was showlng up aL our socalled home only once a week More and more ofLen shed
spend Lhe evenlng accompanylng some lady slnger aL Lhe house of some ArgenLlne She could have made a
llvlng playlng aL Lhe movles and lL would have been a loL easler for me Lo call for her buL Lhe ArgenLlnes
were llvely and pald well whlle Lhe movle houses were dlsmal and Lhe pay was wreLched Llfe ls made up of
Lhose llLLle preferences
1o compleLe my mlsery Lhe 1heaLer of Lhe Armles came along ln no Llme Musyne goL Lo know dozens of
people aL Lhe MlnlsLry More and more ofLen she wenL off Lo enLerLaln our soldler boys aL Lhe fronL and
sLayed away for weeks on end servlng up sonaLas and adaglos Lo Lhe Lroops 1he fronL seaLs ln Lhe
orchesLra would be occupled by Lop brass well placed Lo admlre her legs whlle Lhe soldlers seaLed on
wooden sLands behlnd Lhelr commanders had Lo make do wlLh melodlous echoes AfLer Lhe performance
of course she would spend exceedlngly compllcaLed nlghLs ln Lhe hoLels of Lhe army area Cne day she
came home as happy as a lark brandlshlng a cerLlflcaLe of herolsm slgned lf you please by one of our
glorlous generals WlLh LhaL dlploma she became a real success
lL made her ever so popular wlLh Lhe ArgenLlne colony 1hey feLed her Lhey were mad abouL my Musyne
oh whaL an adorable llLLle fronLllne vlollnlsL! So rosycheeked and curlyheaded and a herolne Lo booL
1hose ArgenLlnes knew whlch slde Lhelr bread was buLLered on Lhelr admlraLlon for our glorlous generals
knew no bounds and when my Musyne came back Lo Lhem wlLh her auLhenLlc documenL her preLLy phlz
and her nlmble herolc llLLle flngers each Lrled Lo love her more Lhan Lhe nexL Lhey Lrled Lo ouLbld each
oLher so Lo speak 1he poeLry of herolsm holds an lrreslsLlble appeal for people who arenL lnvolved ln a
war especlally when Lheyre maklng plles of money ouL of one lLs only naLural
Ah [aunLy herolsm! SLrong men have swooned away! 1he shlpbullders of 8lo offered Lhelr names and Lhelr
shares Lo Lhe adorable young Lhlng who femlnlzed Lhe warllke valor of Lhe lrench so charmlngly for Lhelr
beneflL Musyne l have Lo admlL had managed Lo ouLflL herself wlLh a dellghLful llLLle reperLory of war
advenLures Lhey were wonderfully becomlng llke a [aunLy llLLle cap SomeLlmes she amazed me wlLh her
sklllful Louch and llsLenlng Lo her l had Lo own LhaL when lL came Lo Lall sLorles l was a clumsy faker
compared Lo her She had a glfL for locaLlng her fanLasles ln a dramaLlc faraway seLLlng LhaL gave everyLhlng
a lasLlng glow lL ofLen sLruck me LhaL when we combaLanLs spun yarns Lhey Lended Lo be crudely
chronomeLrlc and preclse Per medlum was eLernlLy Claude Lorraln29 was rlghL ln saylng LhaL Lhe
foreground of a plcLure ls always repugnanL and LhaL Lhe lnLeresL of an arLwork musL be seen ln Lhe
dlsLance ln LhaL unfaLhomable realm whlch ls Lhe refuge of lles of Lhose dreams caughL ln Lhe acL whlch
are Lhe only Lhlng men love 1he woman who can Lurn our desplcable naLure Lo accounL has no dlfflculLy ln
becomlng our darllng our lndlspensable and supreme hope We expecL her Lo preserve our lllusory ralson
dLre buL on Lhe oLher hand she can make a very good llvlng whlle performlng Lhls maglc funcLlon
lnsLlncLlvely Musyne dld [usL LhaL
1he ArgenLlnes llved ln Lhe 1ernes area and on Lhe frlnges of Lhe 8ols ln small prlvaLe houses resplendenL
and well fencedln whlch were kepL so dellghLfully warm ln LhaL wlnLry weaLher LhaL when you came ln
from Lhe sLreeL your LhoughLs suddenly Look an opLlmlsLlc Lurn you couldnL help lL
ln my [lLLery despalr l had Laken Lo walLlng for Musyne ln Lhe buLlers panLry as ofLen as posslble a sLupld
Lhlng Lo do SomeLlmes l walLed unLll mornlng l was sleepy buL [ealousy kepL me awake and so dld Lhe
quanLlLles of whlLe wlne Lhe servanLs poured ouL for me l seldom saw Lhe ArgenLlne masLers of Lhe house l
heard Lhelr songs and Lhelr blusLerlng Spanlsh and Lhe plano whlch never sLopped buL was usually belng
played by oLher hands Lhan Lhose of my Musyne WhaL meanwhlle was she dolng wlLh her hands Lhe sluL?
When she saw me aL Lhe door ln Lhe mornlng she made a face l was sLlll as naLural as an anlmal ln Lhose
days l was llke a dog wlLh a bone l wouldnL leL go
eople wasLe a large parL of Lhelr youLh ln sLupld mlsLakes lL was obvlous LhaL my darllng was golng Lo
leave me flaL and soon l hadnL found ouL yeL LhaL manklnd conslsLs of Lwo very dlfferenL races Lhe rlch
and Lhe poor lL Look me and plenLy of oLher people LwenLy years and Lhe war Lo learn Lo sLlck Lo my
class and ask Lhe prlce of Lhlngs before Louchlng Lhem leL alone seLLlng my hearL on Lhem
So as l warmed myself ln Lhe panLry wlLh Lhe servanLs l was unaware LhaL Lhe people danclng over my head
were ArgenLlne gods Lhey could have been Cerman lrench or Chlnese LhaL dldnL mean a Lhlng Lhe polnL
was LhaL Lhey were gods rlch people LhaLs whaL l should have reallzed 1hem upsLalrs wlLh Musyne me
downsLalrs wlLh noLhlng Musyne was Lhlnklng serlously of her fuLure and naLurally she preferred Lo do
LhaL klnd of Lhlnklng wlLh a god l Loo was Lhlnklng of my fuLure buL ln a klnd of dellrlum because my
consLanL companlon was a muLed fear of belng kllled ln Lbe war or of sLarvlng when peace came l had a
deaLh senLence hanglng over me and l was ln love A nlghLmare Lo puL lL mlldly noL far away less Lhan
sevenLy mlles mllllons of brave wellarmed wellLralned men were walLlng Lo seLLle my hash and plenLy of
lrenchmen were walLlng Loo Lo pump me full of lead lf l decllned Lo be cuL lnLo bleedlng rlbbons by Lhe
opposlLe slde
A poor man ln Lhls world can be done Lo deaLh ln Lwo maln ways by Lhe absoluLe lndlfference of hls fellows
ln peaceLlme or by Lhelr homlcldal manla when Lheres a war When oLher people sLarL Lhlnklng abouL you
lLs Lo flgure ouL how Lo LorLure you LhaL and noLhlng else 1he basLards wanL Lo see you bleedlng
oLherwlse Lheyre noL lnLeresLed! rlnchard was dead rlghL ln Lhe shadow of Lhe slaughLerhouse you donL
speculaLe very much abouL your fuLure you Lhlnk abouL lovlng ln Lhe days you have lefL because Lheres no
oLher way of forgeLLlng your body LhaLs abouL Lo be sklnned allve
Slnce Musyne was sllpplng away from me l Look myself for an ldeallsL whlch ls Lhe name we glve Lo our
llLLle lnsLlncLs cloLhed ln hlghsoundlng words My leave was drawlng Lo an end 1he newspapers were
summonlng every concelvable combaLanL Lo Lhe colors flrsL of all lL goes wlLhouL saylng Lhe ones wlLhouL
connecLlons An offlclal order had gone ouL LhaL no one should Lhlnk of anyLhlng buL wlnnlng Lhe war
Musyne llke Lola was exLremely eager Lo have me geL back Lo Lhe fronL on Lhe double and sLay Lhere and
slnce l seemed Lo be dragglng my feeL she declded Lo expedlLe maLLers whlch was unusual for her
Cne nlghL when for a change we wenL home Lo 8lllancourL LogeLher Lhe flre brlgade came by blowlng
bugles and everybody ln our house wenL scrambllng down Lo Lhe cellar ln honor of some zeppelln
1hose peLLy panlcs when a whole nelghborhood ln pa[amas would plck up candles and vanlsh cackllng and
clucklng lnLo Lhe bowels of Lhe earLh Lo escape a perll LhaL was almosL enLlrely lmaglnary showed up Lhe
Lerrlfylng fuLlllLy of Lhose people who behaved by Lurns llke frlghLened hens and sheeplsh sheep 1hese
preposLerous lnconslsLencles oughL Lo dlsgusL Lhe mosL paLlenL Lhe mosL Lenaclous of soclophlles for good
and all
AL Lhe flrsL blasL of Lhe bugle Musyne forgoL every blL of Lhe herolsm for whlch she had been clLed aL Lhe
1heaLer of Lhe Armles She lnslsLed on rushlng lnLo some hole and dragglng me wlLh her lnLo Lhe MeLro
Lhe sewers anywhere as long as lL was shelLered and deep enough under ground! AfLer a whlle Lhe slghL of
all Lhose people our fellow LenanLs faL and Lhln [ovlal and ma[esLlc descendlng four by four lnLo Lhe
saluLary plL armed even me wlLh lndlfference 8rave or cowardly Lheres noL much dlfference A polLroon
ln one slLuaLlon a hero ln anoLherlLs Lhe same man and he doesnL Lhlnk any more ln one aspecL Lhan ln
Lhe oLher LveryLhlng unrelaLed Lo maklng money ls lnflnlLely beyond hlm 1he quesLlon of llfe and deaLh
escapes hlm compleLely Lven on Lhe sub[ecL of hls own deaLh hls coglLaLlons are feeble and assbackward
Pe undersLands money and LheaLrlcals noLhlng else
Musyne whlned when l reslsLed CLher LenanLs urged us Lo come along and ln Lhe end l gave ln 1here were
several cellar comparLmenLs Lo choose from and varlous suggesLlons were made 1he ma[orlLy flnally
favored Lhe buLchers sLorage cellar lL was deeper down so Lhey sald Lhan any of Lhe oLhers Cn Lhe sLalrs l
caughL a whlff of an acrld odor LhaL l knew only Loo well and whlch l absoluLely couldnL bear
Musyne l sald are you really golng down Lhere? WlLh all LhaL meaL hanglng on hooks?"
1he quesLlon surprlsed her Why noL?"
Well l sald l have cerLaln memorles ld raLher go back upsLalrs "
?ou mean youre leavlng me?"
?oull [oln me as soon as lLs over"
8uL lL may go on a long Llme "
ld raLher walL for you upsLalrs l sald l donL llke meaL and lLll be over soon"
uurlng Lhe alerL shelLered ln Lhelr dens Lhe LenanLs exchanged sprlghLly commenLs Some ladles ln
klmonos Lhe lasL Lo arrlve swepL wlLh elegance and grace lnLo LhaL odorlferous chasm where Lhe buLcher
and hls wlfe bade Lhem welcome aL Lhe same Llme apologlzlng for Lhe arLlflclal cold lndlspensable for Lhe
conservaLlon of Lhelr merchandlse
Musyne vanlshed wlLh Lhe resL l walLed ln our aparLmenL a nlghL a whole day a year She never came
back Lo me
lrom LhaL Llme on l became harder and harder Lo please l had only Lwo LhoughLs ln my head Lo save my
skln and go Lo Amerlca 8uL geLLlng away from Lhe war was a flrsL sLep whlch kepL me busy and breaLhless
for monLhs and monLhs
1he paLrloLs kepL clamorlng Cuns! Men! AmmunlLlon! 1hey never seemed Lo geL Llred lL looked as lf Lhey
wouldnL be able Lo sleep unLll poor 8elglum and lnnocenL llLLle Alsace were wresLed from Lhe Cerman
yoke lL was an obsesslon whlch so we were Lold prevenLed Lhe besL of our fellow clLlzens from breaLhlng
eaLlng or copulaLlng 8uL lL dldnL seem Lo prevenL Lhe survlvors from swlnglng buslness deals Morale was
dolng all rlghL on Lhe home fronL
1here was every reason Lo shlp us back Lo our reglmenLs ln a hurry 8uL when Lhe medlcs looked me over
Lhey sLlll found me subnormal barely good enough Lo be senL Lo anoLher hosplLal Lhls one for Lhe bones
and nervous sysLem Cne mornlng slx of us Lhree arLlllerymen and Lhree dragoons all of us slck and
wounded lefL Lhe depoL ln quesL of Lhls lnsLlLuLlon where shaLLered courage demollshed reflexes and
broken arms were repalred llrsL llke all wounded soldlers aL Lhe Llme we sLopped for a checkup aL Lhe val
deCrce30 LhaL noble poLbellled clLadel wlLh lLs beard of Lrees 1he corrldors smelled llke a Lhlrdclass
rallway carrlagea smell LhaLs gone Loday forever no doubL compounded of feeL sLraw and oll lamps
We dldnL hang flre aL Lhe val Lheyd barely caughL slghL of us when Lwo admlnlsLraLlve bedandruffed and
overworked offlcers chewed us ouL good and proper LhreaLened us wlLh a courLmarLlal and pro[ecLed us
vla oLher admlnlsLraLors lnLo Lhe sLreeL 1hey had no room for us so Lhey sald and dlrecLed us very
vaguely Lo a basLlon slLuaLed somewhere ln Lhe ouLsklrLs
lrom blsLroL Lo basLlon from abslnLhe Lo cafe creme Lhe slx of us wandered abouL aL Lhe mercy of every
mlsdlrecLor ln search of Lhls new refuge whlch seemed Lo speclallze ln Lhe LreaLmenL of lncompeLenL
heroes llke us
Cnly one of us had even Lhe mosL rudlmenLary personal properLy and LhaL flLLed nlcely lnLo a llLLle Lln box
marked ernoL 8lsculLs a wellknown brand aL Lhe Llme Lhough l never hear lL menLloned anymore ln
LhaL box our comrade kepL a few clgareLLes and a LooLhbrush Come Lo Lhlnk of lL we used Lo kld hlm abouL
Lhe care he Look of hls LeeLh whlch was mosL unusual aL Lhe Llme Pomosexual we used Lo call hlm
llnally ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe nlghL we approached Lhe ouLworks swollen wlLh darkness of Lhe 8lcLre
basLlon no 43 lL was called 1haL was Lhe place
lL had [usL been renovaLed Lo serve as a home for elderly crlpples 1hey hadnL even flnlshed laylng ouL Lhe
When we goL Lhere Lhere wasnL a llvlng soul ln Lhe mlllLary secLlon only Lhe conclerge 1he raln was
comlng down ln buckeLs 1he conclerge was Lerrlfled when she heard us buL we made her laugh by
Louchlng her ln Lhe rlghL place l LhoughL lL was Lhe Cermans she sald 1heyre mlles away we Lold her
Where are you wounded? she asked wlLh concernAll over buL noL ln Lhe cock! sald one of Lhe
arLlllerymen 1haL l donL mlnd Lelllng you was real wlL [usL Lhe klnd Lhe conclerge llked
LaLer on some old men on welfare were lodged ln LhaL basLlon wlLh us new bulldlngs wlLh mlles and mlles
of wlndow glass had been Lhrown up for Lhem ln a hurry and Lhere Lhey were kepL llke lnsecLs unLll Lhe end
of Lhe war Cn Lhe surroundlng hllls a rash of sklmpy houslng loLs vled for possesslon of Lhe seas of mud
lnadequaLely conLalned by rows of precarlous shacks ln Lhe shadow of whlch one would occaslonally see a
head of leLLuce and Lhree radlshes of whlch lL ls hard Lo say why Lhe nauseaLed slugs were maklng Lhe
houseowner a presenL
Cur hosplLal was clean ?ou have Lo hurry Lo see LhaL klnd of Lhlng move ln aL Lhe beglnnlng Lhe flrsL few
weeks because malnLenance lsnL a lrench vlrLue we have no LasLe for lL ln facL were downrlghL
dlsgusLlng ln LhaL respecL We flopped on slx meLal beds aL random and by moonllghL Lhe bulldlng was so
new Lhe elecLrlclLy hadnL been puL ln yeL
Larly nexL mornlng Lhe docLor came and lnLroduced hlmself he seemed dellghLed Lo see us and exuded
cordlallLy Pe had reasons for belng pleased hed [usL been promoLed Lo ma[or and ln addlLlon he had Lhe
mosL beauLlful eyes you ever saw supernaLural velveL he made use of Lhem Lo fluLLer Lhe hearLs of several
volunLeer nurses who surrounded hlm wlLh aLLenLlons and sympaLheLlc mlmlcry and feasLed on every word
and move of Lhelr dear docLor AL Lhe very flrsL meeLlng he Look our morale ln hand and Lold us as much
1aklng one of us by Lhe shoulders and shaklng hlm wlLh paLernal famlllarlLy he explalned Lhe regulaLlons ln
a comforLlng Lone and lndlcaLed Lhe qulckesL and suresL way of geLLlng ourselves senL back Lo Lhe fronL Lo
be lambasLed some more
Wherever Lhey came from no Lwo ways abouL lL LhaL was Lhelr only LhoughL lL seemed Lo glve Lhem a klck
lL was Lhe new vlce lrance my frlends he proclalmed has puL her LrusL ln you lrance ls a woman She
ls counLlng on your herolsm! She has been a vlcLlm of Lhe mosL cowardly Lhe mosL abomlnable aggresslon
She has a rlghL Lo expecL her sons Lo avenge her Lo Lhe hllL! 1o resLore even aL Lhe cosL of Lhe exLreme
sacrlflce every square lnch of her LerrlLory! All of us here ln Lhe hosplLal my frlends wlll do our duLy and
we expecL you Lo do yours! Cur sclence ls aL your dlsposal! lL ls yours! All lLs resources wlll be devoLed Lo
curlng you! Pelp us wlLh your good wlll! l know we can counL on your good wlll! We hope we LrusL LhaL
each one of you wlll soon resume hls place slde by slde wlLh hls dear comrades ln Lhe Lrenches! ?our sacred
place! uefendlng your beloved soll! vlve la lrance! lorward Lo baLLle! Pe knew how Lo Lalk Lo soldlers
We were all sLandlng aL aLLenLlon aL Lhe fooL of our beds 8ehlnd hlm a bruneLLe one of hls group of preLLy
nurses was havlng a hard Llme conLrolllng her feellngs whlch were made vlslble by Lhree or four Lears 1he
oLher nurses her frlends Lrled Lo comforL her uonL worry sweeLle hell be back lm sure he wlll!"
Per cousln a plumplsh blonde was consollng her Lhe mosL As she passed us holdlng her up wlLh boLh
arms Lhe plump one Lold me Lhls weakness had overcome her preLLy cousln because her flance had [usL
gone off Lo Lhe navy Cur lmpassloned medlcal auLhorlLy Lrled Lo sooLhe Lhe Lraglc and beauLlful emoLlon
aroused by hls shorL vlbranL speech Pe was embarrassed and grleved 1he apprehenslon he had awakened
ln Lhls profound and noble hearL all senslblllLy and Lenderness was Loo palnful lf we had only known
uocLor Lhe blonde cousln whlspered wed have warned you 1hey love each oLher so dearly you canL
lmaglne! 1he group of nurses and Lhe MasLer wenL Lhelr way ChaLLerlng and swlshlng Lhey receded down
Lhe corrldor 1hey had flnlshed wlLh us
l Lrled Lo recollecL and Lo faLhom Lhe meanlng of Lhe speech Lhe man wlLh Lhe beauLlful eyes had [usL
made buL far from depresslng me when l LhoughL lL over hls words sLruck me as [usL whaL was needed Lo
dlsgusL me wlLh Lhe whole ldea of dylng My comrades were of Lhe same oplnlon buL Lhey dld noL llke me
see a klnd of challenge or lnsulL ln Lhem 1hey made no aLLempL Lo undersLand whaL was golng on around
us all Lhey saw and LhaL unclearly was LhaL Lhe usual dellrlum of Lhe world had so lncreased ln Lhe lasL few
monLhs LhaL Lhere was noLhlng sLable lefL for a man Lo bulld hls exlsLence on
Pere ln Lhe hosplLal [usL as ln Lhe llanders nlghL deaLh sLalked us Pere Lo be sure lL LhreaLened from a
dlsLance buL [usL as lmplacably once Lhe AdmlnlsLraLlon seL lL ln pursulL of your Lrembllng carcass
Pere lL was Lrue Lhey dldnL bawl us ouL ln facL Lhey spoke genLly and Lhey never Lalked abouL deaLh buL
our deaLh senLence showed up dlsLlncLly ln Lhe corner of every paper Lhey asked us Lo slgn and ln all Lhe
precauLlons Lhey surrounded us wlLh Lhose Lags around our necks and wrlsLs whenever Lhey leL us
ouL for a few hours And all Lhe advlce Lhey gave us! We felL counLed waLched serlalnumbered
enrolled ln Lhe vasL mulLlLude LhaL would soon be leavlng for Lhe fronL So naLurally all Lhe clvlllan and
medlcal personnel around us seemed more cheerful Lhan we were 1he nurses Lhe blLches werenL ln Lhe
same boaL Lhelr only LhoughL was Lo go on llvlng Lo llve longer and longer Lo llve and love Lo sLroll ln Lhe
park and Lo copulaLe Lhousands and Lhousands of Llmes Lvery one of Lhose angellc creaLures had a plan all
worked ouL ln her perlneum llke a convlcL a llLLle plan for love laLer on when all of us soldler boys should
have perlshed ln Cod knows whaL mud and Cod knows how!
1hen Lhey would slgh wlLh a very speclal commemoraLlve Lenderness LhaL would make Lhem more
aLLracLlve Lhan ever lnLerspersed wlLh hearLbreaklng sllences Lhey would evoke Lhe Lraglc days of Lhe war
Lhe ghosLs uo you remember llLLle 8ardamu? Lhey would say ln Lhe gaLherlng dusk Lhlnklng of me Lhe
lad who had coughed so much and glven Lhem such a Llme Lo make hlm sLop oor boy hls morale was
way down l wonder whaL became of hlm?"
A few poeLlc regreLs lf adrolLly placed are as becomlng Lo a woman as gossamer halr ln Lhe moonllghL
WhaL l couldnL help hearlng under Lhelr spoken words and expresslons of sympaLhy was Lhls nlce llLLle
soldler boy youre golng Lo dle ?oure golng Lo dle 1hls ls war Lveryone has hls own llfe hls role
hls deaLh We seem Lo share your dlsLress 8uL no one can share anyone elses deaLh A person
sound ln body and soul should Lake everyLhlng LhaL happens as enLerLalnmenL nelLher more nor less and
we are wholesome young women beauLlful respecLed healLhy and well bred lor us Lhe auLomaLlsm of
blology Lransforms Lhe whole world lnLo a [oyous specLacle lnLo pure [oy! Cur healLh demands lL! We
canL afford Lhe ugly dlsslpaLlons of sorrow We need sLlmulanLs and more sLlmulanLs ?oull soon be
forgoLLen dear llLLle soldler boys 8e nlce dle qulckly and leLs hope Lhe war wlll be over soon so we
can marry one of your charmlng offlcers preferably one wlLh dark halr And long llve Lhe aLrle LhaL
apas always Lalklng abouL! Pow wonderful love musL be when !ohnny comes marchlng home! Cur
llLLle husband wlll be decoraLed! clLed for bravery ?ou can shlne hls lovely booLs on our happy
weddlng day lf you llke lf youre sLlll ln exlsLence soldler boy WonL you be happy abouL our
happlness soldler boy? "
Lvery mornlng we saw our docLor Llme and agaln we saw hlm surrounded by hls nurses Pe was a sclenLlflc
llghL we were Lold 1he old men from Lhe charlLy hosplLal nexL door would come [erklng pasL our rooms
maklng useless dls[olnLed leaps 1heyd go from room Lo room splLLlng ouL gosslp beLween Lhelr decayed
LeeLh purveylng scraps of mallgnanL wornouL slander ClolsLered ln Lhelr offlclal mlsery as ln an oozlng
dungeon Lhose aged workers rumlnaLed Lhe layer of shlL LhaL long years of servlLude deposlL on mens
souls lmpoLenL haLreds grown rancld ln Lhe plssy ldleness of dormlLorles 1hey employed Lhelr lasL
quaverlng energles ln hurLlng each oLher a llLLle more ln desLroylng whaL llLLle pleasure and llfe Lhey had
1helr lasL remalnlng pleasure! 1helr shrlveled carcasses conLalned noL one sollLary aLom LhaL was noL
absoluLely vlclous!
As soon as lL was seLLled LhaL we soldlers were golng Lo share Lhe relaLlve comforL of Lhe basLlon wlLh Lhose
old men Lhey began Lo deLesL us ln unlson buL LhaL dldnL sLop Lhem from begglng for Lhe crumbs of
Lobacco on our wlndow sllls and Lhe blLs of sLale bread LhaL had fallen under our benches AL mealLlmes
Lhey pressed Lhelr parchmenLsklnned faces agalnsL Lhe wlndows of our mess hall Cver Lhelr crlnkled
rheumy noses Lhey peered ln aL us llke coveLous raLs Cne of Lhose lnvallds seemed smarLer and wlckeder
Lhan Lhe resL hed come and enLerLaln us wlLh Lhe songs of hls day ere 8lroueLLe31 he was called Ped
do anyLhlng we asked provlded we gave hlm Lobacco anyLhlng excepL walk pasL Lhe hosplLal morgue whlch
lncldenLally was never ldle Cne of our [okes was Lo make hlm go LhaL way whlle supposedly Laklng hlm for
a llLLle sLroll WonL you come ln? wed say when we goL Lo Lhe door Ped run away grlplng for all he was
worLh so fasL and so far we wouldnL see hlm agaln for aL leasL Lwo days ere 8lroueLLe had caughL a
gllmpse of deaLh
rofessor 8esLombes our medlcal ma[or wlLh Lhe beauLlful eyes had lnsLalled a compllcaLed assorLmenL of
gleamlng elecLrlcal conLrapLlons whlch perlodlcally pumped us full of shocks Pe clalmed Lhey had a Lonlc
effecL and we had Lo puL up wlLh Lhem on paln of banlshmenL lL seems LhaL 8esLombes was very rlch he
musL have been Lo be able Lo buy all Lhose expenslve elecLrocuLlon machlnes Pe could afford Lo Lhrow
money around because hls faLherlnlaw a pollLlcal blgwlg had done some heavy flnagllng whlle purchaslng
land for Lhe governmenL
naLurally Lhe docLor explolLed hls advanLages Crlme and punlshmenL lL all adds up We Look hlm as he
was and we dldnL haLe hlm Pe examlned our nervous sysLems wlLh meLlculous care and quesLloned us ln
a Lone of pollLe famlllarlLy 1hls sedulously culLlvaLed good naLure enchanLed Lhe nurses ln hls secLlon who
all came of excellenL famllles Lvery mornlng Lhese cuLles looked forward Lo hls dlsplays of affablllLy whlch
were [usL so yummy ln shorL we were all acLors ln a playhe 8esLombes had chosen Lhe role of a
benevolenL profoundly human and humane sclenLlsL We pulled LogeLher LhaL was Lhe essenLlal
ln Lhls new hosplLal l shared a room wlLh SergeanL 8ranledore32 a reenllsLed man Pe was an old
hosplLal hand Ped been dragglng hls perforaLed lnLesLlnes around for monLhs and had been ln four
dlfferenL hosplLals
Pe had learned ln Lhe process how Lo aLLracL and Lo hold Lhe acLlve sympaLhy of Lhe nurses Pe vomlLed
plssed and shaL blood wlLh asLonlshlng frequency he also had a loL of Lrouble breaLhlng buL none of LhaL
would have sufflced Lo wln hlm Lhe speclal good graces of Lhe nurses who had seen worse So beLween Lwo
choklng flLs lf a docLor or nurse was passlng 8ranledore would slng ouL vlcLory! vlcLory! vlcLory wlll be
ours! Cr hed murmur Lhose same words wlLh one corner or Lhe whole of hls lungs as Lhe clrcumsLances
requlred 1hus aLLuned Lo Lhe ardenLly aggresslve llLeraLure of Lhe day by a wellcalculaLed blL of hlsLrlonlcs
he en[oyed Lhe hlghesL moral sLandlng 1haL man knew hls sLuff
Slnce all Lhe world was a sLage acLlng was Lhe Lhlng 8ranledore knew whaL he was dolng And lndeed
noLhlng looks more ldloLlc noLhlng ls more lrrlLaLlng Lhan a slugglsh specLaLor who Lurns up on sLage by
mlsLake When youre up Lhere youve goL Lo [oln ln come Lo llfe acL a parL Lake Lhe plunge or clear ouL
Lspeclally Lhe women demanded a show Lhe blLches had no use aL all for clumsy amaLeurs unquesLlonably
war wenL sLralghL Lo Lhelr ovarles Lhey demanded heroes and lf you werenL a hero you had Lo preLend Lo
be one or be prepared for Lhe mosL lgnomlnlous faLe
AfLer a week ln Lhls new hosplLal we reallzed LhaL we would absoluLely have Lo change our lmage and
Lhanks Lo 8ranledore (a lace salesman ln clvlllan llfe) Lhe selfsame men who on our arrlval had been Lerror
sLrlcken shunnlng Lhe llghL haunLed by dlsgraceful memorles of slaughLerhouses meLamorphosed
ourselves lnLo an lncredlble gang of swashbucklers deLermlned Lo conquer or dle and Lake my word for lL
armed wlLh derrlngdo and Lhe mosL ouLrageous language Cur speech had lndeed become vlgorous and so
obscene LhaL Lhe ladles someLlmes blushed buL Lhey never complalned because lL ls generally agreed LhaL a
soldler ls as brave as he ls wlld and cruder Lhan Lhere ls any need Lo be so much so LhaL hls bravery can be
measured by Lhe crudeness of hls language
AL flrsL Lhough we copled 8ranledore Lo Lhe besL of our ablllLy our paLrloLlc acL wasnL qulLe rlghL lL wasnL
really convlnclng lL Look a good week Lwo ln facL of lnLenslve rehearslng before we had fully caughL on
As soon as LhaL sclenLlflc lumlnary our rofessor Ma[or uocLor 8esLombes noLlced Lhe sLrlklng
lmprovemenL ln our moral aLLlLudes he declded Lo encourage us by admlLLlng a few vlslLors our parenLs Lo
begln wlLh
1o [udge by sLorles l had heard cerLaln soldlers really glfLed Lypes experlenced a klnd of lnLoxlcaLlon you
mlghL even speak of an exoLlc Lhrlll ln combaL Whenever l Lrled Lo lmaglne Lhls parLlcular brand of
pleasure [usL Lrylng lald me low for aL leasL a week l felL so lncapable of kllllng anyone LhaL l LhoughL l
mlghL [usL as well glve lL up rlghL away and abandon Lhe whole ldea noL LhaL l lacked experlence Lheyd
done everyLhlng posslble Lo lnculcaLe a LasLe for kllllng buL l slmply had no LalenL ln LhaL dlrecLlon Maybe
my lnlLlaLlon should have been more gradual
Cne day l declded Lo Lell rofessor 8esLombes how hard l was flndlng lL body and soul Lo become as brave
as l should have llked Lo be and as Lhe undoubLedly subllme clrcumsLances requlred l was uneasy afrald he
would Lhlnk l was belng lnsolenL and Lalklng ouL of Lurn noL aL all! 1he greaL man sald he was dellghLed
LhaL ld come Lo hlm and bared my Lroubled soul so fully and frankly ?oure beLLer frlend 8ardamu! he
concluded ?oure beLLer LhaLs all Lhere ls Lo lL! ?es 8ardamu l regard your comlng Lo me llke Lhls
absoluLely of your own free wlll as a mosL encouraglng slgn of a marked lmprovemenL ln your menLal sLaLe
vandesquln33 LhaL modesL buL lnflnlLely wlse observer of moral breakdown ln Lhe soldlers of Lhe
Lmplre summed up hls flndlngs back ln 1802 ln a memolr LhaL ls qulLe un[usLly neglecLed by sLudenLs of
Lhe presenL day buL musL neverLheless be regarded as a classlc ln lL he descrlbes wlLh remarkable lnslghL
and preclslon Lhe socalled confesslonal crlses meL wlLh ln moral convalescenLs and Lerms Lhem Lhe mosL
encouraglng of all sympLoms AlmosL a cenLury laLer our greaL uupre34 esLabllshed hls now celebraLed
nomenclaLure of Lhe same sympLom and characLerlzed Lhe ldenLlcal crlsls as a recollecLlon of memorles
accordlng Lo Lhe same auLhor Lhls crlsls lf Lhe cure ls properly admlnlsLered should soon be followed by a
masslve breakup of anxleLy percepLs and Lhe deflnlLlve llberaLlon of Lhe area of consclousness Lhls belng
Lhe second sLage ln Lhe process of psychlc recovery Llsewhere employlng Lhe bold Lermlnology LhaL was
hls speclal glfL uupre devlses Lhe formula dlsencumberlng coglLaLlve dlarrhea for Lhls crlsls whlch ls
accompanled by lnLense euphorla a marked resumpLlon of relaLlonal acLlvlLy a sudden and sLrlklng
resLoraLlon among oLher Lhlngs of sleep whlch ln some cases has been known Lo go on for days aL a Llme
and lasLly aL a more advanced sLage by consplcuous hyperacLlvlLy of Lhe genlLal funcLlons amounLlng
someLlmes ln paLlenLs who were prevlously frlgld Lo a poslLlve sexual frenzy 1he paLlenL recovers noL by
easy sLages buL aL a gallop Such was Lhe magnlflcenLly descrlpLlve meLaphor by whlch anoLher of our
greaL lrench psychlaLrlsLs of Lhe lasL cenLury hlllberL MargeLon33 characLerlzed Lhls recuperaLlve
Lrlumph Lhls sudden resurgence of normal funcLlons ln a paLlenL recoverlng from Lhe fear syndrome As
for you 8ardamu l already aL Lhe presenL momenL regard you as a Lrue convalescenL Would lL lnLeresL
you 8ardamu slnce we have arrlved aL Lhls graLlfylng concluslon Lo know LhaL l shall be readlng a paper on
Lhe fundamenLal characLerlsLlcs of Lhe human mlnd aL Lhe SocleLy for MlllLary sychology Lomorrow? lL ls
noL wlLhouL lLs merlLs l venLure Lo belleve"
Ch yes rofessor l Lake a passlonaLe lnLeresL ln Lhese quesLlons "
Well Lhen 8ardamu Lo make a long sLory shorL Lhe Lhesls l puL forward ls LhaL before Lhe war man was an
unknown quanLlLy for Lhe psychlaLrlsL and Lhe resources of hls psyche an enlgma "
1haL ls also my humble oplnlon rofessor "
?ou see 8ardamu Lhe war by provldlng us wlLh such unprecedenLed means of Lrylng mens nervous
sysLems has been a mlraculous revealer of Lhe human mlnd 8ecenL paLhologlcal dlsclosures have glven
us maLLer for cenLurles of medlLaLlon and sLudy LeLs face lL up unLll now we hardly suspecLed Lhe
rlchness of mans emoLlonal and splrlLual resources! 1oday Lhanks Lo Lhe war all LhaL has changed! 8y a
process of breaklng and enLerlng palnful Lo be sure buL declslve nay provldenLlal for sclence we have
peneLraLed hls lnnermosL depLhs Lver slnce Lhe flrsL revelaLlons came Lo my aLLenLlon Lhe duLy of Lhe
modern psychologlsL and morallsL has been clear Lo me 8esLombes beyond any posslble doubL! Cur
psychologlcal concepLlons are ln need of LoLal revlslon!"
l 8ardamu was of exacLly Lhe same oplnlon
?es lndeed rofessor l am convlnced LhaL "
Ah you Lhlnk so Loo 8ardamu ?ou say so yourself! ln man you see Lhere ls a balance beLween good
and evll beLween egolsm on Lhe one hand and alLrulsm on Lhe oLher ln ellLe sub[ecLs more alLrulsm
Lhan egolsm Am l rlghL? uonL you agree? LxacLly rofessor youve hlL Lhe nall on Lhe head "
And whaL 8ardamu l ask you whaL ls Lhe hlghesL known concepL Lhe concepL besL sulLed Lo arouslng Lhe
alLrulsm of Lhe ellLe sub[ecL and compelllng lL Lo manlfesL lLself unequlvocally?"
aLrloLlsm rofessor!"
Ah you see? 1he word ls yours noL mlne ?ou undersLand 8ardamu! aLrloLlsm and glory whlch ls lLs
corollary and proof!"
Pow Lrue!"
Ah! our soldler boys aL Lhelr flrsL bapLlsm of flre Lhey sponLaneously casL off all sophlsms and subsldlary
concepLs ln parLlcular Lhe sophlsm of selfpreservaLlon lnsLlncLlvely and lmmedlaLely Lhey merge wlLh our
Lrue ralson deLre Lhe aLrle lor Lhe aLLalnmenL of LruLh 8ardamu lnLelllgence ls noL only superfluous lL ls
ln Lhe way Llke all essenLlal LruLhs Lhe aLrle ls a LruLh of Lhe hearL! 1he common people undersLand LhaL
and LhaL ls where Lhe lnepL sclenLlsL goes wrong "
lLs beauLlful rofessor! 1oo beauLlful! l am remlnded of Lhe AnclenLs!"
8esLombes pressed boLh my hands almosL affecLlonaLely And ln a faLherly Lone he added for my speclal
beneflL 1haL 8ardamu ls how l mean Lo LreaL my paLlenLs elecLrlclLy for Lhe body and for Lhe mlnd
masslve doses of paLrloLlc eLhlcs ln[ecLlons as lL were of lnvlgoraLlng morallLy!"
l undersLand rofessor!"
l was lndeed beglnnlng Lo undersLand more and more
Cn leavlng hlm l [olned my lnvlgoraLed companlons aL Mass ln Lhe brandnew chapel l caughL slghL of
8ranledore ln a corner demonsLraLlng hls moral vlgor by glvlng Lhe conclerges llLLle glrl lessons ln
enLhuslasm Pe beckoned me Lo [oln hlm and l dld 1haL afLernoon some of our parenLs came from arls
for Lhe flrsL Llme slnce wed been Lhere and from Lhen on Lhey came every week
l had flnally wrlLLen Lo my moLher She was glad Lo see me agaln and whlmpered llke a blLch whose puppy
has been glven back Lo her She LhoughL she was dolng me a loL of good by klsslng me buL she was mlles
behlnd Lhe blLch because she belleved whaL Lhey sald when Lhey Look me away from her A dog only
belleves whaL lL can smell Cne afLernoon my moLher and l Look a long walk Lhrough Lhe sLreeLs around Lhe
hosplLal dawdllng down halfflnlshed byways wlLh lampposLs LhaL hadnL been palnLed yeL beLween long
oozlng house fronLs wlLh Lhelr wlndows full of gaudy dangllng rags Lhe shlrLs of Lhe poor We llsLened Lo
Lhe crackllng song of Lhe frylng pans a LempesL of rancld faL ln Lhe greaL shapeless deserL surroundlng Lhe
clLy Lhe roL ln whlch lLs false luxury ends Lhe clLy shows everyone who wanLs Lo look Lhe garbage plles of
lLs enormous posLerlor 1here are facLorles one avolds when ouL for a sLroll whlch emlL smells of all sorLs
some of Lhem hardly bellevable 1he alr roundabouL couldnL posslbly sLlnk any worse nearby a llLLle sLreeL
carnlval molders beLween Lwo chlmneys of unequal helghL Lhe wooden horses cosL Loo much for Lhe
rlckeLy drlbbllng chlldren wlLh nosefuls of flngers who long for Lhem and sLand spellbound someLlmes for
weeks on end aLLracLed and repelled by Lhelr forlorn rundown look and Lhe muslc
WhaL efforLs are made Lo keep Lhe LruLh away from Lhese places buL lL comes back agaln and agaln Lo
grleve for everybody urlnklng ls no help red wlne as Lhlck as lnk noLhlng helps Lhe sky ln Lhose places
never changes lLs a vasL lake of suburban smoke shuLLlng Lhem ln
under fooL Lhe mud drags you down wlLh faLlgue and Lhe sldes of exlsLence are also closed shuL off by
hoLels and more facLorles Lven Lhe walls ln LhaL secLlon are cofflns WlLh Lola gone for good and Musyne
Loo l had nobody lefL 1haLs why l flnally wroLe Lo my moLher [usL Lo see somebody l was only LwenLy
and all l had was a pasL 1he Lwo of us LogeLher my moLher and l walked Lhrough dozens of Sunday sLreeLs
She Lold me llLLle Lhlngs abouL her buslness whaL Lhe people around her were saylng abouL Lhe war LhaL lL
was sad horrlble ln facL buL LhaL wlLh plenLy of courage wed all come Lhrough ln Lhe end Lhe ones LhaL
goL kllled were an accldenL llke ln Lhe races lf you kepL your seaL properly you wouldnL fall 1o her Lhe war
was [usL one more affllcLlon she Lrled noL Lo Lhlnk abouL lL Loo much because lL frlghLened her ln a way lL
was full of Lerrlfylng Lhlngs she dldnL undersLand She had no doubL LhaL poor people llke her were born Lo
suffer ln every way LhaL LhaL was Lhelr role on earLh and LhaL lf Lhlngs had been golng so badly of laLe Lhe
cumulaLlve faulLs of Lhe poor musL have a good deal Lo do wlLh lL 1hey musL have been very naughLy of
course Lhey hadnL meanL Lo be buL Lhey were gullLy all Lhe same and glvlng Lhem a chance Lo explaLe Lhelr
Lransgresslons by sufferlng was a greaL klndness My moLher was an unLouchable"
1haL reslgned Lraglc opLlmlsm was her only falLh and Lhe foundaLlon of her characLer
1he Lwo of us ln Lhe raln wenL down sLreeLs of vacanL loLs 1he sldewalks ln LhaL parL of Lhe world slnk and
evade your sLep ln wlnLer Lhe branches of Lhe llLLle ash Lrees aL Lhe edge hold Lhe ralndrops a long Llme a
Lenuous falryland Lrembllng ln Lhe breeze Cur way back Lo Lhe hosplLal led pasL a number of newly bullL
hoLels some had names oLhers hadnL even gone Lo LhaL much Lrouble 8ooms by Lhe week was all Lhey
had Lo say for Lhemselves 1he war had suddenly empLled Lhem of all Lhe workers and wage slaves who had
llved Lhere 1hey wouldnL even come back Lo dle uylng ls work Loo buL Lheyd do lL somewhere else
My moLher was Learful as she Look me back Lo Lhe hosplLal She accepLed Lhe accldenL of my deaLh and noL
conLenL Lo acqulesce she wondered lf l was as reslgned Lo lL as she was She belleved ln faLe as lmpllclLly as
she dld ln Lhe beauLlful sLandard meLer aL Lhe ConservaLolre des ArLs eL MeLlers whlch she had always
spoken of wlLh respecL because she had learned ln her youLh LhaL Lhe one she used ln her noLlons shop was
a scrupulous copy of LhaL superb offlclal orlglnal
8eLween Lhe houslng loLs ln LhaL degraded counLryslde Lhere were sLlll a few flelds and gardens here and
Lhere and aLLached Lo Lhose scraps of land a few aged peasanLs wedged ln beLween Lhe new bulldlngs
When Lhere was Llme lefL before l had Lo be back my moLher and l wenL Lo waLch Lhem Lhose comlcal
peasanLs obsLlnaLely poklng lron lnLo Lhe earLh LhaL sofL gralny subsLance where Lhe dead are lald Lo roL
buL whlch glves us our bread all Lhe same 1he ground musL be Lerrlbly hard my moLher sald every Llme
she saw Lhem She was puzzled ?ou see she only undersLood mlserles LhaL resembled her own clLy
mlserles and she Lrled Lo flgure ouL whaL Lhe counLry klnd could be llke 1haL was Lhe only curloslLy l ever
saw ln my moLher lL was all Lhe dlverslon she needed for a Sunday and she Look lL back Lo Lhe clLy wlLh
l never heard from Lola or from Musyne elLher 1hose sluLs were on Lhe good slde of Lhe slLuaLlon from
whlch we Lhe flesh earmarked for sacrlflce were barred by smlllng buL lmplacable orders 1wlce ld been
senL back Lo Lhe places where Lhe hosLages were coralled My fuLure was all seLLled
As lve Lold you 8ranledore my nelghbor aL
Lhe hosplLal en[oyed permanenL popularlLy wlLh Lhe nurses Pe was swaLhed ln bandages and drlpplng wlLh
opLlmlsm All Lhe oLher paLlenLs envled hlm and copled hls manner Cnce wed become presenLable and
ceased Lo be moral lepers we all began Lo geL vlslLs from soclallLes and pollLlcal blgwlgs eople sLarLed
Lelllng each oLher ln Lhe drawlng rooms LhaL rofessor 8esLombes neuroMedlcal CenLer had become a
Lemple and home as lL were of Lhe mosL lnLense paLrloLlc fervor Cur vlslLlng days came Lo be paLronlzed
noL only by blshops buL also by an lLallan duchess a blg munlLlons magnaLe and before long by Lhe
personnel of Lhe Cpera and Lhe Comedle lranchlse A beauLlful young acLress from Lhe Comedle who
reclLed poeLry llke nobodys buslness came Lo my personal bedslde and declalmed some superlaLlvely
herolc llnes for my speclal beneflL As she spoke her perverse red halr (she had Lhe complexlon LhaL wenL
wlLh lL) was Lossed by exLraordlnary waves LhaL senL vlbraLlons sLralghL Lo my perlneum When Lhls dlvlne
creaLure quesLloned me abouL my feaLs of arms l gave her so many polgnanL deLalls LhaL she began Lo
devour me wlLh her eyes ueeply moved she asked leave Lo have Lhe mosL lnLense passages ln my narraLlve
framed ln verse by a poeL who happened Lo be one of her admlrers l consenLed wlLhouL heslLaLlon
lnformed of Lhls pro[ecL rofessor 8esLombes expressed hls speclal approval Pe even granLed an lnLervlew
on Lhe sub[ecL Lo an lllusLraLed naLlonal weekly whose phoLographer Look our plcLure all LogeLher on Lhe
hosplLal sLeps wlLh Lhe beauLlful acLress beslde us ln Lhese Lraglc days crled rofessor 8esLombes who
never mlssed a Lrlck lL ls Lhe poeLs hlghesL duLy Lo revlve our LasLe for Lhe eplc! 1hls ls no Llme for Lrlvlal
arLlflce! uown wlLh emasculaLed llLeraLure! A new soul has been born Lo us ln Lhe greaL and noble LumulL of
baLLle! 1he greaL paLrloLlc renewal 1he lofLy summlLs Lo whlch our glory ls desLlned! We demand Lhe
susLalnlng grandeur of Lhe eplc! lor my parL l flnd lL admlrable LhaL Lhls subllme creaLlve and never Lo
be forgoLLen collaboraLlon beLween a poeL and one of our heroes should have Laken place under our very
eyes ln Lhls hosplLal whlch l dlrecL!"
8ranledore my roommaLe whose lmaglnaLlon had been raLher ouLdlsLanced by mlne and who dldnL flgure
ln Lhe phoLograph was selzed wlLh a keen Lenaclous [ealousy Pe became my emblLLered rlval for Lhe
palms of herolsm Pe made up new sLorles he surpassed hlmself no one could sLop hlm hls explolLs
verged on dellrlum
lL was dlfflculL for me Lo geL Lhe [ump on hlm Lo lmprove on hls exLravagances yeL none of us aL Lhe
hosplLal reslgned hlmself Lo defeaL ln a fever of emulaLlon we all vled wlLh one anoLher ln composlng
brllllanL pages of mlllLary hlsLory ln whlch Lo flgure subllmely ln Lhose herolc romances we wore Lhe sklns
of phanLasmagorlc characLers buL deep wlLhln Lhem our ludlcrous selves Lrembled body and soul! ld llke Lo
have seen peoples faces lf Lhey had found ouL whaL we were really llke 1he war had been golng on Loo
Cur greaL frlend 8esLombes recelved Lhe vlslLs of lnnumerable forelgn celebrlLles neuLrals skepLlcs and
sclenLlsLs of all persuaslons Spruce besabered lnspecLors from Lhe War MlnlsLry passed Lhrough our wards
Lhelr mlllLary careers had been exLended Lhey had been re[uvenaLed and revlLallzed wlLh pay lncreases So
naLurally Lhey were generous wlLh pralse and clLaLlons LveryLhlng was perfecL 8esLombes and hls
wounded heroes were Lhe prlde of Lhe medlcal professlon
My falr admlrer from Lhe Comedle came back and pald me a prlvaLe vlslL whlle her peL poeL was
compleLlng Lhe rhymed narraLlve of my explolLs Cne day l flnally ran lnLo Lhls pale anxlous young man ln
one of Lhe corrldors 1he docLors he Lold me had assured hlm LhaL Lhe fraglllLy of hls hearL sLrlngs was
wellnlgh mlraculous ConsequenLly Lhese same docLors always concerned wlLh Lhe proLecLlon of Lhe frall
had kepL hlm ouL of Lhe army 1o make up for whlch our young bard had underLaken aL Lhe rlsk of hls
healLh and lasL splrlLual energles Lo forge 1he Moral Cannon of Cur vlcLory A magnlflcenL and lL goes
wlLhouL saylngunforgeLLable weapon racLlcally everyLhlng was unforgeLLable ln Lhose days
l wasnL golng Lo complaln slnce he had plcked me from among so many undenlably brave men as hls hero!
And l have Lo admlL Lhey honored me royally lL was magnlflcenL 1he reclLaLlon was glven aL Lhe Comedle
lranalse lLself as parL of a socalled poeLlc afLernoon 1he whole hosplLal was lnvlLed When my vlbranL
redhead appeared on Lhe sLage sLrldlng grandly her flgure draped ln Lhe for once volupLuous folds of Lhe
Lrlcolor Lhe whole audlence flushed wlLh deslre rose Lo lLs feeL and gave her one of Lhose ovaLlons LhaL
never seem Lo end naLurally l had known whaL Lo expecL buL my amazemenL was real all Lhe same l could
noL conceal my sLupefacLlon from my nelghbors aL hearlng her my magnlflcenL frlend Lhrlll and Lhrob and
slgh ln such a way as Lo make Lhe dramaLlc effecL of Lhe eplsode l had dreamed up for her more vlvld and
more movlng Per poeL was mlles beyond me for fanLasy he had monsLrously magnlfled mlne enhanced lL
wlLh flamboyanL rhymes and hlghsoundlng ad[ecLlves whlch fell wlLh a solemn reverberaLlon on Lhe
breaLhless admlrlng sllence Comlng Lo Lhe cllmax of a perlod Lhe mosL lmpassloned of Lhe loL Lhe acLress
Lurned Loward Lhe box where 8ranledore and l and a few oLher wounded men were slLLlng and held ouL
her Lwo magnlflcenL arms as Lhough offerlng herself Lo Lhe mosL herolc among us AL LhaL parLlcular
momenL Lhe poeL was falLhfully renderlng a deed of awelnsplrlng bravery LhaL l had aLLrlbuLed Lo myself l
donL remember exacLly whaL lL was buL lm sure lL was someLhlng preLLy good Lucklly when lL comes Lo
herolsm people are wllllng Lo belleve anyLhlng 1he audlence caughL Lhe meanlng of her symbollc offerlng
Lurned ln our dlrecLlon ecsLaLlc sLamplng bellowlng wlLh [oy and clamored for Lhe hero
8ranledore Look up Lhe whole fronL row of Lhe box and bloLLed ouL Lhe resL of us Pe hld us almosL
compleLely wlLh hls bandages Pe dld lL on purpose Lhe basLard
8uL Lwo of our comrades cllmbed up on chalrs behlnd hlm so Lhe crowd could admlre Lhem over hls head
and shoulders 1hey broughL Lhe house down
l came close Lo crylng ouL 8uL lLs all abouL me! Me and nobody else! l knew my 8ranledore wed have
exchanged lnsulLs ln fronL of all Lhose people we mlghL even have used our flsLs So ln Lhe end he was Lhe
wlnner he Lrlumphed !usL as hed planned he had Lhe whole sLorm of applause Lo hlmself uefeaLed we
Look refuge backsLage where forLunaLely we were feLed agaln 1haL was some comforL 8uL our acLress and
lnsplraLlon wasnL alone ln her dresslng room 1he poeL her poeL our poeL was wlLh her Pe had Lhe same
weakness for young soldler boys as she dld 1hey made lL clear Lo me very arLlsLlcally A handsome offer
1hey repeaLed lL buL l lgnored Lhelr klnd suggesLlons l was Lhe loser because Lhey had lnfluence and Lhlngs
mlghL have worked ouL very well l lefL Lhem abrupLly l was neLLled Sllly of me l was young
1o recaplLulaLe Lhe avlaLors had snaLched Lola away from me Lhe ArgenLlnes had Laken Musyne and now
Lhls harmonlous lnverL had fllched my magnlflcenL acLress Sadly l lefL Lhe Comedle as Lhe lasL Lorches were
belng exLlngulshed ln Lhe corrldors and reLurned alone wlLhouL recourse Lo Lhe sLreeLcar Lo our hosplLal
LhaL manLrap plunked down ln Lhe Lenaclous mud of Lhe rebelllous suburbs
1he plaln LruLh l may as well admlL lL ls LhaL
lve never been really rlghL ln Lhe head 8uL [usL Lhen such flLs of dlzzlness would come over me for no
reason aL all LhaL l could easlly have been run over 1he war had glven me Lhe sLaggers When lL came Lo
pockeL money all l could counL on durlng my sLay aL Lhe hosplLal was Lhe few francs my moLher managed
Lo scrape up for me each week So as soon as l could l wenL looklng for llLLle exLras here and Lhere
wherever l could flnd Lhem Cne of my old bosses looked llke a llkely prospecL and l wenL rlghL over Lo see
l remembered opporLunely LhaL ln a cerLaln obscure perlod of my llfe shorLly before Lhe war l had worked
as a helper for Lhls 8oger uLa36 who owned a [ewelry shop near Lhe Madelelne My work for LhaL
loaLhsome [eweler conslsLed of menlal [obs such as pollshlng Lhe sllverware ln Lhe shop 1here was loLs of
lL every shape and slze and lL was hard Lo Lake care of ln Lhe glfLglvlng hollday season because lL was
always belng handled
As soon as my classes were ouL aL medlcal school where l was engaged ln exacLlng and (because l kepL
flunklng Lhe exams) lnLermlnable sLudles l hlghLalled lL Lo Lhe backroom of Monsleur uLas shop where l
labored for Lwo or Lhree hours unLll dlnnerLlme applylng whlLlng Lo hls chocolaLleres
ln reLurn for my work l was fed coplously l have Lo admlL ln Lhe klLchen 1hen ln Lhe mornlng before
school l had Lo Lake Lhe waLchdogs ouL for a plss All LhaL for forLy francs a monLh uLas [ewelry shop on
Lhe corner of Lhe 8ue vlgnon sparkled wlLh Lhousands of dlamonds each one of whlch cosL several decades
of my salary 1heyre sLlll sparkllng ln Lhe exacL same place by Lhe way When everybody was moblllzed
Lhls uLa goL hlmself asslgned Lo Lhe auxlllarles and puL under Lhe speclal orders of a cerLaln cablneL
mlnlsLer whose car he drove from Llme Lo Llme 8uL he also made hlmself useful unofflclally of course by
supplylng Lhe mlnlsLry wlLh [ewels 1he hlgher offlclals speculaLed wlLh graLlfylng resulLs on presenL and
fuLure LransacLlons and Lhe longer Lhe war wenL on Lhe more [ewels were needed Monsleur uLa goL so
many orders LhaL he someLlmes had Lrouble fllllng Lhem
When he was overworked Monsleur uLa managed Lo look sllghLly lnLelllgenL because of Lhe faLlgue LhaL
LormenLed hlm buL only Lhen When resLed hls face ln splLe of hls undenlably flne feaLures became so
harmonlous ln lLs ldloLlc placldlLy LhaL lL would be hard noL Lo carry a despalrlng memory of lL wlLh one Lo
Lhe grave
Pls wlfe Madame uLa seldom lefL Lhe cashlers desk ln a manner of speaklng she and Lhe desk were one
She had been broughL up Lo be a [ewelers wlfe 1haL had been her parenLs amblLlon She knew her duLy
lnslde and ouL 1he prosperlLy of Lhe cash drawer broughL happlness Lo husband and wlfe noL LhaL
Madame uLa was bad looklng noL aL all she could even llke so many oLhers have been raLher preLLy buL
she was so careful so dlsLrusLful LhaL she sLopped shorL of beauLy [usL as she sLopped shorL of llfeher halr
was a llLLle Loo well dressed her smlle a llLLle Loo faclle and sudden and her gesLures a blL Loo abrupL or Loo
furLlve ?ou racked your bralns Lrylng Lo flgure ouL whaL was Loo calculaLed abouL her and why you always
felL uneasy when she came near you 1hls lnsLlncLlve revulslon LhaL shopkeepers lnsplre ln anyone who goes
near Lhem and who knows whaLs whaL ls one of Lhe few consolaLlons for belng as down aL heel as people
who donL sell anyLhlng Lo anybody Lend Lo be
1he peLLy cares of buslness were everyLhlng Lo Madame uLa ln Lhls she resembled Madame PeroLe buL
wlLh a dlfference ln her case Lhey possessed her body and soul [usL as Cod possesses hls nuns
And yeL from Llme Lo Llme she would glve a LhoughL Lo Lhe world around her lor lnsLance she mlghL
lndulge ln some llLLle expresslon of sympaLhy for parenLs wlLh sons aL Lhe fronL Pow dreadful Lhls war
musL be for people wlLh grownup chlldren!"
1hlnk before you shooL your mouLh off! her husband responded wlLhouL delay Such mawklshness found
hlm ready and resoluLe l suppose Lheres no need of defendlng lrance?"
Cood as gold buL flrsL and foremosL good paLrloLs sLolcs ln shorL Lhey wenL Lo sleep every nlghL of Lhe war
dlrecLly above Lhelr shop wlLh lLs mllllons a lrench forLune
ln Lhe broLhels LhaL he vlslLed now and Lhen Monsleur uLa Lhough demandlng refused Lo be Laken for a
spendLhrlfL Ped seL Lhem sLralghL aL Lhe ouLseL lm no Lngllshman dearle and l know Lhe score lm [usL
a llLLle lrench soldler and lm noL ln a hurry 1haL was hls openlng sLaLemenL 1he glrls respecLed hlm for
hls wellregulaLed way of Laklng hls pleasure Pe llked Lo en[oy hlmself buL couldnL be Laken ln a real man
Pe knew human naLure and Look advanLage of hls knowledge Lo sell a few [ewels Lo Lhe asslsLanL madame
who had no falLh ln sLocks and bonds As for hls mlllLary career Monsleur uLa was maklng lmpresslve
progress from Lemporary dlscharges Lo permanenL defermenLs AfLer Cod knows how many provldenLlal
medlcal examlnaLlons he was flnally exempLed for good Cne of Lhe hlghesL [oys of hls exlsLence was Lo
conLemplaLe and lf posslble Lo handle a shapely Lhlgh ln Lhls one pleasure aL leasL he goL Lhe beLLer of hls
wlfe who Look no lnLeresL ln anyLhlng buL Lhe buslness 1ake a man and woman wlLh oLherwlse equal
quallLles you always seem Lo flnd a llLLle more uneaslness ln a man however sLagnanL and narrowmlnded
1hls uLa had [usL a dash of Lhe arLlsL ln hlm LoLs of men are llke LhaL Lhelr arLlsLlc leanlngs never go
beyond a weakness for shapely Lhlghs Madame uLa was glad she had no chlldren She volced her pleasure
ln belng sLerlle so ofLen LhaL one day Monsleur uLa spoke of Lhelr saLlsfacLlon Lo Lhe asslsLanL madame
?es sald Lhe asslsLanL madame 8uL afLer all somebodys chlldren have Lo go lLs a duLy 1haL was Lrue
Lhe war lnvolved duLles
1he cablneL mlnlsLer whose car uLa drove had no chlldren elLher CablneL mlnlsLers never have chlldren
Around 1913 aL Lhe same Llme as me Lhere was anoLher helper dolng menlal [obs ln Lhe shop hls name
was !ean volreuse37 AL nlghL he was some klnd of super ln Lhe llLLle LheaLers and ln Lhe afLernoon he
dellvered parcels for uLa 1he pay was small buL he dldnL mlnd Pe managed Lo make ends meeL Lhanks
Lo Lhe MeLro Pe dellvered hls parcels on fooL almosL as qulckly as lf hed Laken Lhe MeLro and kepL Lhe
prlce of Lhe LlckeL All velveL 1rue hls feeL smelled a llLLle qulLe a loL ln facL buL he knew lL and asked me
Lo leL hlm know when Lhere were no cusLomers ln Lhe shop so he could safely go ln and seLLle hls accounLs
wlLh Madame uLa As soon as she had Lhe money shed send hlm ouL Lo Lhe backroom wlLh me uurlng
Lhe war agaln hls feeL sLood hlm ln good sLead Pe was repuLed Lo be Lhe fasLesL courler ln hls reglmenL
Whlle on convalescenL leave he came Lo see me aL Lhe 8lcLre forL ln facL lL was Lhen we declded Lo geL ln
Louch wlLh our old boss We dldnL leL Lhe grass grow under our feeL When we goL Lo Lhe 8oulevard de la
Madelelne Lhey had [usL flnlshed dresslng Lhe shop wlndow
Well well! Whod have expecLed ! Monsleur uLa was raLher surprlsed Lo see us 8uL lm glad Lo see
you all Lhe same Come rlghL ln! ?oure looklng well volreuse! llne and dandy 8uL you 8ardamu you look
slck my boy! Ch well youre young! ?oull recover! ?ou youngsLers are ln luck when alls sald and done!
CreaL days greaL experlence for you! up Lhere! And ouL ln Lhe open Loo! 1hls ls hlsLory my boys Make no
mlsLake! And whaL hlsLory!"
We dldnL answer we LhoughL wed leL Monsleur uLa go on a whlle before Louchlng hlm And on he
lLs rough ln Lhe Lrenches l wonL deny LhaL 8uL lLs no bed of roses here elLher you know! ?ou boys
have been wounded? All rlghL buL lm absoluLely bushed lor Lwo years now lve been on nlghL duLy! uo
you know whaL LhaL means? LxhausLed! Worn Lo a frazzle! Ch my Cod! 1he sLreeLs of arls aL nlghL! no
llghLs urlvlng a car as ofLen as noL wlLh Lhe MlnlsLer ln lL! ln a hurry! ?ou slmply canL lmaglne! l could
geL kllled a dozen Llmes every nlghL! "
Ch yes Madame uLa puL ln and someLlmes he drlves Lhe MlnlsLers wlfe Loo "
Ch yes and lLs noL over yeL "
ureadful! we sald ln unlson
WhaL abouL Lhe dogs? volreuse asked Lo be pollLe WhaLs become of Lhem? uoes somebody sLlll Lake
Lhem ouL ln Lhe 1ullerles?"
lve had Lhem puL away! 1hey were bad for buslness Cerman shepherds Lhe cusLomers you see
A plLy! sald hls wlfe 8uL Lhe new dogs we have now are very nlce Lheyre ScoLch Lhey smell a llLLle
noL llke our Cerman shepherds do you remember volreuse? 1hey hardly smelled aL all We could shuL
Lhem up ln Lhe shop even afLer Lhe raln "
1haLs rlghL! sald Monsleur uLa noL llke old volreuse here wlLh hls feeL! uo your feeL sLlll smell !ean?
?ou young scamp!"
1hey sLlll smell a llLLle l Lhlnk sald volreuse
AL LhaL momenL some cusLomers came ln
l wonL keep you any longer my boys sald Monsleur uLa lnLenL on geLLlng !ean ouL of Lhe shop as
qulckly as posslble keep well LhaLs Lhe maln Lhlng! l wonL ask you where youve come from! CerLalnly
noL! SecurlLy flrsL ls my moLLo!"
AL Lhe word securlLy uLa made a very serlous face llke when glvlng back change So LhaL was Lhe end
of our vlslL As we were leavlng Madame uLa gave us each LwenLy francs 1he shop was pollshed as splck
andspan as a yachL we were afrald Lo walk Lhrough because of our booLs whlch looked monsLrous on Lhe
flne carpeL
Ch 8oger! Look aL Lhem! Madame uLa crled ouL ArenL Lhey comlcal! 1heyre noL ln Lhe hablL
anymore! 1hey walk as lf Lheyd sLepped ln someLhlng!"
1he hablL wlll come back! sald Monsler uLa amlably glad Lo be rld of us so qulckly and cheaply
CuL ln Lhe sLreeL we reallzed we wouldnL go far wlLh our LwenLy francs each buL volreuse had anoLher
Come on he says well go and see a lady l know her son was a buddy of mlne kllled on Lhe Marne l go
and see hls parenLs every week and Lell Lhem how Lhelr son was kllled 1heyre rlch 1he moLher glves
me a hundred francs or so every Llme 1hey say lL makes Lhem happy So "
8uL whaLll l do? WhaLll l say Lo Lhls lady?"
Well youll Lell her LhaL you were Lhere Loo Shell glve you anoLher hundred francs 1heyre Lhe rlghL
klnd of rlch 1ake lL from me noL llke LhaL sLlnklng uLa 1hey donL counL Lhelr pennles "
All rlghL l sald 8uL are you sure she wonL ask me for deLalls? 8ecause l dldnL know her son see?
lll be flummoxed lf she asks for "
no no donL worry Say Lhe same as me !usL nod your head and say yes noLhlng Lo worry
abouL! 1he woman ls brokenhearLed so lf someone comes and Lalks abouL her son lL makes her happy
1haLs all she wanLs AnyLhlng aL all lLs easy "
l wasnL very enLhuslasLlc buL l badly wanLed Lhe hundred francs whlch sLruck me as provldenLlal and
unusually easy Lo come by
All rlghL l sald flnally 8uL donL expecL me Lo make anyLhlng up lm warnlng you! romlse? lll say Lhe
same as you noL a word more Pow dld he geL kllled anyway?"
A shell hlL hlm smack ln Lhe face a preLLy blg one aL Carance Lhe place was called on Lhe Meuse fronL on
Lhe bank of some rlver 8oy Lhey dldnL flnd Lhls much of hlm! AbsoluLely noLhlng lefL a memory And
you know he was a blg man sLrong and husky and aLhleLlc buL whaL would you expecL? nobody can sLand
up agalnsL a shell!"
1haLs a facL!"
Wlped off Lhe face of Lhe earLh! Pls moLher sLlll flnds lL hard Lo belleve! lve Lold her over and over
agaln She lnslsLs LhaL hes [usL mlsslng Crazy ldea! Mlsslng! lLs noL her faulL she never saw a
shell she doesnL see how a man can vanlsh lnLo Lhln alr llke a farL and LhaL lLs all over especlally when
Lhe man ls her son "
lLs only naLural"
8y Lhe way l havenL been Lo see her for Lwo weeks 8uL youll see how lL ls when l go ln 1he moLher
recelves me rlghL away ln Lhe drawlng room lLs a beauLlful house ?oull see so many curLalns and
carpeLs and mlrrors youd Lhlnk you were ln a LheaLer A hundred francs ls noLhlng Lo Lhem Lheyll hardly
mlss lL AbouL llke flve francs Lo me 1oday shell be good for Lwo hundred because she hasnL seen
me for Lwo weeks ?oull see Lhe servanLs wlLh gllded buLLons "
AL Lhe Avenue PenrlMarLln we Lurned lefL and wenL on a llLLle way Lhen we came Lo a gaLe surrounded by
Lrees ln a llLLle prlvaLe road
See? sald volreuse when we were sLandlng ln fronL of lL lLs pracLlcally a chaLeau WhaL dld l Lell you?
1he faLhers supposed Lo be hlgh up ln Lhe rallroads a blg shoL "
?ou sure hes noL a sLaLlonmasLer? l sald maklng a [oke
uonL be sLupld! 1here he ls now hes comlng Lo meeL us "
8uL Lhe old man dldnL come ouL rlghL away Pe was walklng around Lhe lawn sLooped over Lalklng Lo a
soldler We wenL nearer l recognlzed Lhe soldler lL was Lhe reservlsL l had meL LhaL nlghL aL nolrceursur
laLys when l was on reconnalssance l even remembered Lhe name hed glven me 8oblnson
uo you know LhaL fooLslogger? volreuse asked me
?es l know hlm"
Maybe hes a frlend of Lhelrs 1hey musL be Lalklng abouL Lhe moLher l hope Lhey donL prevenL us from
golng Lo see her 8ecause shes Lhe one mosLly LhaL forks over Lhe money "
1he old genLleman came over Lo us
My dear frlend he sald Lo volreuse ln a quaverlng volce lL grleves me Lo Lell you LhaL slnce your lasL vlslL
my poor wlfe has succumbed Lo our greaL sorrow LasL 1hursday we lefL her alone for a momenL she had
asked us Lo She was ln Lears "
Pe couldnL flnlsh hls senLence Suddenly he Lurned away and lefL us
l know you l sald Lo 8oblnson as soon as Lhe old genLleman was far enough away
And l know you "
WhaL happened Lo Lhe old lady? l asked hlm
Well he lnformed us she hanged herself Lhe day before yesLerday LhaLs all Pe added Cf all Lhe lousy
luck! She was my army godmoLher! Such Lhlngs only happen Lo me A calamlLy! My flrsL leave!
lor slx monLhs ld been looklng forward Lo Lhls day "
volreuse and l couldnL help laughlng aL 8oblnsons dlscomflLure A nasLy surprlse lf Lhere ever was one buL
her belng dead dldnL glve us our Lwo hundred smackers and wed made up a new sLory speclal for Lhe
occaslon So none of us was very happy
?ou and your blg mealy mouLh! We were ragglng 8oblnson Lrylng Lo geL a rlse ouL of hlm ?ou LhoughL
you had a good Lhlng dldnL you? A sweeL llLLle feed wlLh Lhe old folks? Cr maybe you LhoughL youd screw
your falry godmoLher? serves you goddam rlghL!"
We couldnL sLay Lhere all day looklng aL Lhe grass and laughlng so we all Lhree LogeLher sLarLed off ln Lhe
dlrecLlon of Crenelle We all counLed our money lL dldnL come Lo much Seelng we had Lo geL back Lo our
respecLlve hosplLals and barracks LhaL same evenlng Lhere was [usL enough for dlnner aL a blsLro and
maybe Lhered be a llLLle someLhlng lefL over buL noL enough Lo go upsLalrs aL Lhe caLhouse We wenL ln
anyway buL we only had a drlnk aL Lhe bar
Say sald 8oblnson lLs good Lo see you agaln 8uL whaL do you Lhlnk of LhaL klds moLher? 1he blLch
hanglng herself [usL when lm due Lo arrlve! l wonL forgeL her ln a hurry! uo you see me hanglng
myself? unhappy you say? ld hang myself every day! WhaL abouL you?"
8lch people are more senslLlve sald volreuse
volreuse had a good hearL lf l had slx francs he wenL on ld go upsLalrs wlLh Lhe bruneLLe over Lhere by
Lhe sloL machlne "
Co ahead we Lold hlm youll Lell us lf she knows how Lo suck "
We rummaged ln our pockeLs buL counLlng Lhe Llp Lhere wasnL enough Lo glve hlm hls plece !usL enough
for anoLher coffee each and a cassls When wed flnlshed we wenL ouL and roamed around some more
We broke up on Lhe lace vendme and wenL our separaLe ways Saylng goodbye we couldnL see one
anoLher and we spoke sofLly because of Lhe echoes no llghL lL wasnL allowed
l never saw volreuse agaln lve ofLen run lnLo 8oblnson As for !ean volreuse lL was Lhe gas LhaL goL hlm on
Lhe Somme Pe dled Lwo years laLer by Lhe sea ln 8rlLLany ln a navy sanaLorlum Pe wroLe Lo me Lwlce
when he flrsL goL Lhere buL no more afLer LhaL Ped never seen Lhe ocean ?ou canL lmaglne how
beauLlful lL ls he wroLe me l baLhe a llLLle lLs good for my feeL buL l Lhlnk my volce ls gone for good
1haL made hlm unhappy because hls blg amblLlon was Lo geL lnLo a LheaLer chorus some day
1he chorus ls beLLer pald and more arLlsLlc Lhan belng an ordlnary super
1he army flnally dropped me ld saved my
guLs buL my bralns were scrambled for good undenlably 8eaL lL! Lhey sald ?oure no good for anyLhlng
1o Afrlca! l sald Lo myself 1he furLher Lhe beLLer 1he shlp LhaL Look me on board was a shlp llke any
oLher ConsolldaLed Corsalrs LhaL was Lhe llne lL was bound for Lhe Lroplcs wlLh a cargo of coLLon goods
offlcers and clvll servanLs
1haL boaL was so old LhaL Lhe copper plaLe wlLh lLs blrLh daLe had been removed from Lhe upper deck Lhe
daLe was such anclenL hlsLory lL had lnsplred Lhe passengers wlLh fear and wlLLlclsms
So Lhey shoved me on board ln Lhe hope LhaL ld recuperaLe ln Lhe colonles My wellwlshers were dead seL
on my maklng my forLune ersonally l [usL wanLed Lo geL away buL a man should always Lry Lo look useful
lf hes noL rlch lL dldnL look as lf my sLudles would ever end and l couldnL go on forever l dldnL have
enough money Lo go Lo Amerlca So Afrlca lL ls l sald and leL myself be sLeered Lo Lhe Lroplcs where l
was Lold you were sure Lo geL ahead fasL provlded you behaved and were reasonably LemperaLe
1hose prognosLlcs gave me food for LhoughL 1here wasnL much Lo be sald for me buL my manners were
all rlghL and l was selfeffaclng deference came easy Lo me l llved ln consLanL fear of noL belng on Llme
buL Look good care never Lo geL ahead of anybody ln shorL l had dellcacy
AfLer all lf you manage Lo escape allve from an lnLernaLlonal slaughLerhouse run rampanL lLs a slgn of LacL
and dlscreLlon 8uL leLs geL back Lo our Lrlp lL looked falrly promlslng as long as we were ln Luropean
waLers ln small adenoldal muLually susplclous groups Lhe passengers lolled and lounged ln Lhe shade
beLween decks ln Lhe LolleLs and ln Lhe smoklng room lrom mornlng Lo nlghL Lhey sLeeped Lhemselves ln
lcon and gosslp 1hey belched Lhey dozed Lhey shouLed and never expressed Lhe leasL regreL for
anyLhlng Lhey had lefL behlnd ln Lurope
Cur shlps name was Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon38 lf lL kepL afloaL on Lhose Lepld seas lL was only Lhanks Lo
lLs palnL Any number of coaLs lald on layer afLer layer had glven Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon a klnd of second
hull someLhlng llke an onlon We were headlng for Afrlca Lhe real grandlose Afrlca of lmpeneLrable
foresLs feLld swamps lnvlolaLe wlldernesses where black LyranLs wallowed ln sloLh and cruelLy on Lhe
banks of neverendlng rlvers l would barLer a pack of lleLL39 razor blades for blg long elephanLs Lusks
gaudycolored blrds and [uvenlle slaves CuaranLeed 1haL would be llfe! noLhlng ln common wlLh Lhe
emasculaLed Afrlca of Lravel agencles and monumenLs of rallways and candy bars CerLalnly noL! Wed be
seelng Afrlca ln Lhe raw Lhe real Afrlca! We Lhe boozlng passengers of Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon
8uL as soon as wed passed Lhe coasL of orLugal Lhlngs sLarLed golng bad Cne mornlng we woke up ln Lhe
mldsL of a sLeam baLh pervaslve and alarmlng 1he waLer ln our glasses Lhe sea Lhe alr our sheeLs our
sweaL everyLhlng was hoL sulLry lrom Lhen on by nlghL and day lL was lmposslble Lo have anyLhlng cool
ln your hands under your ass or ln your LhroaL excepL Lhe lce from Lhe bar ln your whlsky A dull despalr
descended on Lhe passengers of Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon condemned Lo slLLlng permanenLly ln Lhe bar held
fasL by llLLle pleces of lce exchanglng LhreaLs and lncoherenL apologles afLer Lhelr card games
lL dldnL Lake long ln LhaL despondenL changeless heaL Lhe enLlre human conLenL of Lhe shlp congealed lnLo
masslve drunkenness eople moved flabblly abouL llke squld ln a Lank of Lepld smelly waLer lrom LhaL
momenL on we saw rlslng Lo Lhe surface Lhe Lerrlfylng naLure of whlLe men exasperaLed freed from
consLralnL absoluLely unbuLLoned Lhelr Lrue naLure same as ln Lhe war 1haL Lroplcal sLeam baLh called
forLh lnsLlncLs as AugusL breeds Loads and snakes on Lhe flssured walls of prlsons ln Lhe Luropean cold
under gray purlLanlcal norLhern skles we seldom geL Lo see our broLhers fesLerlng cruelLy excepL ln Llmes
of carnage buL when roused by Lhe foul fevers of Lhe Lroplcs Lhelr roLLenness rlses Lo Lhe surface 1haLs
when Lhe franLlc unbuLLonlng seLs ln when fllLh Lrlumphs and covers us enLlrely lLs a blologlcal confesslon
Cnce work and cold weaLher cease Lo consLraln us once Lhey relax Lhelr grlp Lhe whlLe man shows you Lhe
same specLacle as a beauLlful beach when Lhe Llde goes ouL Lhe LruLh feLld pools crabs carrlon and Lurds
Cnce we had passed orLugal everybody on board sLarLed unleashlng hls lnsLlncLs feroclously alcohol
helped and so dld Lhe bllssful feellng conferred especlally on soldlers and clvll servanLs by Lhe knowledge
LhaL Lhe Lrlp was absoluLely free of charge 1he knowledge LhaL for four consecuLlve weeks Lhelr bed board
and llquor wonL cosL a Lhlng ls ln lLself enough Lo make mosL people dellrlous wlLh LhrlfL ConsequenLly
when lL became known LhaL alone of all Lhe shlps passengers l had pald my own fare l was looked upon
as a shameless and lnLolerable swlne
lf on leavlng Marsellle l had had some experlence of colonlal socleLy l would have gone down on my knees
and begged Lhe pardon and lndulgence of Lhe colonlal lnfanLry offlcer l kepL runnlng lnLo Lhe hlghesL ln
rank of Lhose on board for my unworLhlness and perhaps for safeLys sake ld also have humbled myself
before Lhe senlor clvll servanL 1hen Lhose phanLasmagorlcal passengers mlghL have LoleraLed my presence
ln Lhelr mldsL and noLhlng would have happened 8uL l was lgnoranL and my foolhardlness ln supposlng
LhaL l was enLlLled Lo breaLhe Lhe same alr as Lhey almosL cosL me my llfe
Cne can never be Loo anxlous 1hanks Lo a cerLaln lngenulLy l losL noLhlng buL whaL selfrespecL l had lefL
1hls ls whaL happened Some Llme afLer Lhe Canary lslands l learned from one of Lhe sLewards LhaL my
fellow passengers by common accord LhoughL me affecLed noL Lo say lnsolenL LhaL Lhey suspecLed me
of belng a plmp and a pederasL someLhlng of a cocalne addlcL on Lhe slde buL only on Lhe slde
1hen Lhe susplclon made lLs way around LhaL l musL have lefL lrance Lo escape Lhe consequences of cerLaln
helnous crlmes 8uL l was only aL Lhe beglnnlng of my Lroubles AL LhaL polnL l learned LhaL on Lhls llne lL
was cusLomary Lo vlew paylng passengers wlLh exLreme cauLlon accompanled by persecuLlon lm speaklng
of Lhose who were noL Lravellng free elLher on mlllLary LransporLaLlon orders or on Lhe basls of some
bureaucraLlc arrangemenL for as everyone knows Lhe colonles belong Lo Lhe upper reaches of Lhe
AfLer all Lhere are few plauslble reasons for an unknown clvlllan Lo venLure lnLo Lhose parLs A spy a
susplclous characLer Lhey found a Lhousand reasons for glvlng me slnlsLer looks Lhe offlcers sLralghL ln
Lhe eye Lhe ladles wlLh a knowlng smlle AfLer a whlle even Lhe deck hands and sLewards encouraged by
Lhe passengers Look Lo exchanglng heavlly causLlc remarks behlnd my back ln Lhe end no one doubLed LhaL
l was Lhe blggesL and mosL lnLolerable ln facL Lhe only ouL and ouL blackguard on board A promlslng
My nelghbors aL Lable were four LooLhless and blllous posLal offlclals from Cabon 1hey had been frlendly Lo
me chummy ln facL aL Lhe sLarL of Lhe voyage now Lhey never sald a word Lo me 1hey had LaclLly agreed
LhaL l was a man Lo be waLched l seldom lefL my cabln and Lhen only wlLh lnflnlLe precauLlons 1he alr was
so hoL lL welghed on our sklns llke a solld 8ehlnd my bolLed door l lay naked Lrylng Lo lmaglne whaL plan
Lhose dlabollcal passengers had cooked up Lo desLroy me l dldnL know anyone on board yeL Lhey all
seemed Lo know me An exacL descrlpLlon of me musL have Laken lnsLanL form ln Lhelr mlnds llke LhaL of a
famous crlmlnal publlshed ln Lhe newspapers
1hrough no faulL of mlne l had been casL ln Lhe lndlspensable role of Lhe foul and loaLhsome vlllaln
shame of Lhe human race whose presence has been recorded down Lhrough Lhe cenLurles who ls as well
known Lo everyone as Cod and Lhe uevll buL who durlng hls passage on Lhls earLh ls so polymorphous and
evaslve as Lo elude everyones grasp lor Lhls vlllaln Lo be aL lasL lsolaLed ldenLlfled and cornered
excepLlonal clrcumsLances had been needed such as were Lo be meL wlLh only ln Lhe narrow conflnes of
Lhls shlp
A greaL moral carnlval was ln Lhe offlng aboard Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon 1he unclean beasL would noL
escape hls faLe 1haL was me
1hls ln lLself made Lhe Lrlp worLhwhlle lsolaLed among Lhese sponLaneous enemles l labored Lo ldenLlfy
Lhem wlLhouL Lhelr noLlclng Lspeclally ln Lhe mornlng l was able Lo waLch Lhem wlLh lmpunlLy Lhrough Lhe
porLhole of my cabln 8efore breakfasL covered wlLh halr from publs Lo eyebrows and from Lhelr recLums
Lo Lhe soles of Lhelr feeL Lhey would emerge Lo Lake Lhe alr ln pa[amas LhaL were LransparenL ln Lhe
sunllghL or glass ln hand sprawled agalnsL Lhe rall Lhey would belch and reLch especlally Lhe capLaln wlLh
Lhe bulglng bloodshoL eyes whose llver sLarLed plagulng hlm aL daybreak 8egularly aL dawn he would ask
hls cronles abouL me curlous Lo know lf l hadnL been Lossed overboard yeL llke a gob of splL! And hed
lllusLraLe hls remark by pro[ecLlng a Lurgld oysLer lnLo Lhe froLhlng sea 8oy oh boy!
1he Admlral wasnL geLLlng ahead very fasL [usL groanlng along from roll Lo roll lL was more llke a slckness
Lhan a voyage As l examlned Lhe members of Lhe mornlng councll from my porLhole Lhey all seemed
raLher serlously lll malarlal alcohollc syphlllLlc ln all llkellhood aL a dlsLance of LhlrLy feeL Lhelr vlslble
decay was some consolaLlon for my own Lroubles 1hese blgmouLhs afLer all were [usL as defeaLed as l was
sLlll bragglng noLhlng more! 1haL was Lhe only dlfference! 1he mosqulLoes had worked Lhem over
sucklng Lhelr blood and pumplng Lhelr velns full of polsons LhaL would never go away 1reponemas were
flllng away Lhelr arLerles Alcohol was corrodlng Lhelr llvers 1he sun was cracklng Lhelr kldneys
Crab llce were cllnglng Lo Lhelr publc halr and eczema Lo Lhe skln of Lhelr bellles 1he searlng llghL would
scorch Lhelr reLlnas! ln noL so long a Llme whaL would be lefL of Lhem? A blL of braln 1o do whaL wlLh l
ask you! where Lhey were golng? 1o commlL sulclde? Where Lhey were golng a braln wouldnL do
Lhem a blL of good no Lwo ways lLs no [oke growlng old ln a place where Lheres noLhlng Lo do buL
look aL yourself ln a mlrror wlLh verdlgrls for sllverlng and see yourself geLLlng seedler and seedler more
and more decreplL 8oL seLs ln qulckly ln Lhe green manslons especlally when lLs aLroclously hoL
1he norLh aL leasL preserves your flesh norLherners are pale once and for all 8eLween a dead Swede and a
young man who has had a bad nlghL Lheres noL much Lo choose 8uL Lhe day afLer a colonlal lands hes
already full of maggoLs 1hose lnflnlLely laborlous llLLle worms have been walLlng for hlm personally and
Lheyll sLay wlLh hlm a loL longer Lhan llfe wlll Pes a bag of worms LhaLs all
We had anoLher week aL sea before puLLlng ln Lo 8ragamance Lhe flrsL of Lhe promlsed lands l felL as lf l
were llvlng ln a case of dynamlLe l had [usL abouL glven up eaLlng for fear of slLLlng down aL Lhelr Lable or
crosslng Lhe deck ln Lhe dayLlme ld sLopped Lalklng alLogeLher l was never seen Laklng Lhe alr lL would
have been hard Lo be as llLLle ln evldence on LhaL shlp as l was and yeL sLay on board
My cabln sLeward a famlly man was klnd enough Lo lnform me LhaL Lhose dashlng colonlal offlcers had
llfLed Lhelr glasses and sworn a solemn oaLh Lo slap my face aL Lhe flrsL opporLunlLy and Lhen chuck me
overboard When l asked hlm why he dldnL know and asked me ln Lurn whaL l had done Lo warranL so
much hard feellng We were lefL wlLh our perplexlLy lL was unllkely Lo be cleared up 1hey dldnL llke my
face LhaLs all
?ou wonL caLch me Laklng anoLher Lrlp wlLh people so hard Lo please ln addlLlon Lhey had so much Llme
on Lhelr hands sequesLered wlLh Lhemselves for LhlrLy whole days LhaL lL dldnL Lake much Lo sLlr Lhem up
And besldes when you sLop Lo Lhlnk abouL lL aL leasL a hundred people musL wanL you dead ln Lhe course
of an average day Lhe ones ln llne behlnd you aL Lhe LlckeL wlndow ln Lhe MeLro Lhe ones who look up aL
your aparLmenL when Lhey havenL goL one Lhemselves Lhe ones who wlsh youd flnlsh plsslng and glve
Lhem a chance your chlldren and a loL more lL happens all Lhe Llme and you geL used Lo lL Cn a boaL Lhls
same lmpaLlence ls more noLlceable whlch makes lL more upseLLlng
ln LhaL bubbllng cauldron Lhe sulnL of Lhose scalded belngs ls concenLraLed Lhe presenLlmenL of Lhe vasL
colonlal sollLude LhaL wlll soon bury Lhem and Lhelr desLlnles and make Lhem groan llke Lhe dylng 1hey
cllng Lhey blLe Lhey rend Lhey froLh aL Lhe mouLh My lmporLance on Lhe shlp lncreased prodlglously from
day Lo day My rare appearances aL Lable sllenL and sLealLhy as l Lrled Lo make Lhem Look on Lhe
magnlLude of slgnlflcanL evenLs 1he momenL l enLered Lhe dlnlng room Lhe hundred and LwenLy
passengers gave a sLarL and began Lo whlsper
Advanclng from mallgnanL supposlLlons Lo slanderous concluslons Lhe colonlal offlcers aL Lhe capLalns
Lable forLlfled wlLh aperlLlf afLer aperlLlf Lhe Lax collecLors and especlally Lhe lady schoolLeachers on Lhelr
way back Lo Lhe Congo (of Lhese Lhere was qulLe an assorLmenL on board Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon) puffed me
up Lo lnfernal proporLlons
Cn boardlng Lhe shlp ln Marsellle l had been noLhlng [usL a dreamy sorL of nobody buL now Lhanks Lo Lhe
concenLraLed aLLenLlon of all Lhose alcohollcs and frusLraLed vaglnas l found myself changed beyond
recognlLlon endowed wlLh alarmlng presLlge
1he capLaln of Lhe shlp a shady breezy rackeLeerlng Lype had gone ouL of hls way Lo shake hands wlLh me
aL Lhe sLarL When he crossed my paLh now he dldnL even seem Lo know me lL was as lf ld been wanLed
for some sordld crlme gullLy from Lhe sLarL CullLy of whaL? When men can haLe wlLhouL rlsk Lhelr
sLupldlLy ls easlly convlnced Lhe moLlves supply Lhemselves
lrom whaL l seemed Lo dlscern of Lhe compacL malevolence LhaL held me ln lLs vlse Lhe female secLlon of
Lhe consplracy was masLermlnded by one of Lhe schoolLeachers She was golng back Lo Lhe Congo Lo dle or
so aL leasL l hoped Lhe blLch AlmosL always she was Lralllng around afLer Lhe offlcers so handsome ln Lhelr
resplendenL LlghLflLLlng Lunlcs and furLher embelllshed by Lhe oaLh Lhey had sworn Lo crush me llke a
nolsome slug well before Lhe nexL porL of call 1hey wondered ouL loud wheLher l would be as repulslve
flaLLened ouL as l was erecL ln shorL Lhey were havlng a flne Llme 1he schoolLeacher wheLLed Lhelr fury
called down Lhunders on Lhe deck of Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon resolved Lo know no resL unLll l had been
plcked up gasplng punlshed forever for my lmaglnary lmperLlnence chasLlsed for darlng Lo exlsL bruLally
beaLen brulsed and bleedlng lmplorlng plLy under Lhe booL and flsL of one of Lhose heroes whose
muscular prowess and specLacular rage she was burnlng Lo admlre A scene of hlgh carnage from whlch her
weary ovarles promlsed Lhemselves an awakenlng As good as belng raped by a gorllla 1lme was passlng
and lLs dangerous Lo keep Lhe afflclonados walLlng Loo long l was Lhe bull 1he whole shlp was clamorlng
qulverlng from porL Lo sLarboard
1he sea enclosed us ln LhaL bollerplaLed clrcus Lven Lhe englneroom crew knew whaL was golng on And
slnce we only had Lhree days ahead of us before puLLlng lnLo porL Lhree declslve days several maLadors
volunLeered 1he more l avolded Lhe showdown Lhe more aggresslve Lhe more lmpendlng Lhey became
1he execuLloners began Lo rehearse 1hey cornered me beLween Lwo cablns aL a bend ln Lhe corrldor l
escaped by Lhe skln of my LeeLh buL golng Lo Lhe LolleL was geLLlng downrlghL dangerous WlLh only Lhree
days Lo go l declded Lo forgo Lhe needs of naLure 1he porLholes were all l needed Crushlng haLred and
boredom were all around me lL canL be denled Lhe boredom on shlps ls someLhlng unbellevable Lo Lell
Lhe LruLh lLs cosmlc lL fllls Lhe sea Lhe shlp Lhe heavens lLs enough Lo unhlnge Lhe soundesL of mlnds so
whaL would you expecL of Lhose chlmerlcal deadheads?
A sacrlflce! And l was Lhe vlcLlm 1hlngs came Lo a head one evenlng afLer dlnner aL whlch ravaged by
hunger l had puL ln an appearance l benL over my plaLe and dldnL budge l dldnL even dare Lo Lake ouL my
handkerchlef Lo wlpe Lhe sweaL off my brow nobody had ever eaLen hls dlnner more dlscreeLly lrom Lhe
englnes a falnL conLlnuous vlbraLlon rose up under my behlnd My Lable companlons musL have known
whaL senLence had been passed on me for Lo my surprlse Lhey sLarLed Lalklng Lo me freely and amlably
abouL duels and sLabblngs and asklng me quesLlons !usL Lhen Lhe schoolLeacher from Lhe Congo Lhe
one whose breaLh was so sLrong appeared ln Lhe lounge l had barely Llme Lo noLlce LhaL she was wearlng a
sumpLuous lace evenlng dress WlLh nervous hasLe she saL down aL Lhe plano and played lf you can call lL
playlng a number of pleces always sklpplng Lhe flnale 1he aLmosphere became lnLensely furLlve and
sLralned l [umped up and ran hoplng Lo Lake refuge ln my cabln l had almosL reached lL when one of Lhe
colonlal offlcers Lhe chesLlesL and mosL muscular of Lhe loL barred my way wlLhouL vlolence buL flrmly
Suppose we go up on deck! he en[olned me We had only a few sLeps Lo go lor Lhe occaslon he was
wearlng hls goldbraldlesL cap and he had buLLoned hls buLLons from collar Lo fly someLhlng he hadnL
done slnce our deparLure So Lhls was Lo be a fulldress dramaLlc ceremony! A LlghL spoL for me my hearL
was poundlng on a level wlLh my belly buLLon
1hls preamble Lhls abnormal full dress made me foresee a slow and palnful execuLlon 1haL offlcer looked
Lo me llke a chunk of Lhe war obsLlnaLe lnexorable murderous whlch someone had suddenly plunked
down ln fronL of me
8ehlnd hlm blocklng Lhe doorway appeared four [unlor offlcers vlgllanL ln Lhe exLreme Lhe escorL of
lllghL was lmposslble 1he speech LhaL followed musL have been carefully rehearsed Slr you have before
you CapLaln lremlzon40 of Lhe colonlal army! ln Lhe name of my comrades ln arms and of Lhe passengers
on Lhls shlp who are [usLly lndlgnanL aL your unspeakable behavlor l have Lhe honor Lo demand an
explanaLlon! CerLaln remarks you have made abouL us slnce we lefL Marsellle are lnLolerable! lf you
have any grlevances slr Lhe Llme has come Lo sLaLe Lhem ouL loud! Lo proclalm audlbly whaL you have
been saylng ln a shameful underLone for Lhe lasL LwenLyone days! 1o Lell us aL lasL whaL you Lhlnk! "
Cn hearlng Lhese words l was very much relleved l had feared some sudden deaLhblow lmposslble Lo parry
buL ln Lalklng Lhe ma[or was offerlng me a way ouL Any posslblllLy of cowardlce becomes a glowlng hope lf
youre noL a fool 1haLs my oplnlon never be plcky and choosy abouL means of escaplng dlsembowelmenL
or wasLe your Llme Lrylng Lo flnd reasons for Lhe persecuLlon youre a vlcLlm of Lscape ls good enough for
Lhe wlse
CapLaln! l replled puLLlng lnLo my volce all Lhe convlcLlon of whlch l was capable under Lhe
clrcumsLances WhaL an exLraordlnary mlsLake you are ln danger of maklng! ?ou! Me! Pow can you Lhlnk
me capable of such lgnomlnlous senLlmenLs? Pow monsLrously un[usL! lndeed lL ls more Lhan l can bear!
When only yesLerday l was flghLlng for our beloved counLry! When over Lhe years my blood has mlngled
wlLh yours ln lnnumerable baLLles! Ch CapLaln slr how could you Lhlnk of crushlng me beneaLh such an
1hen addresslng Lhe whole group
WhaL abomlnable slander has abused you genLlemen? Leadlng you Lo lmaglne LhaL l Lo all lnLenLs and
purposes your broLher would dream of spreadlng foul calumnles abouL herolc offlcers! 1hls ls Loo much!
8eally Loo much! And l wenL on Ch for such a Lhlng Lo happen aL Lhe very momenL when Lhese heroes
Lhese lncomparable heroes are preparlng Lo resume wlLh whaL courage l need noL say Lhelr sacred duLy of
safeguardlng our lmmorLal colonlal emplre! Where Lhe mosL glorlous soldlers of our race have covered
Lhemselves wlLh eLernal glory 1he Manglns!41 Lhe laldherbes!42 Lhe Calllenls!43 Ch CapLaln! 1o
suspecL me! Cf Lhls!"
AL LhaL polnL l pulled up shorL l hoped my sllence would lmpress Lhem Lucklly lL dld for a momenL
1hereupon wlLhouL delay Laklng advanLage of Lhe oraLorlcal armlsLlce l wenL sLralghL up Lo Lhe capLaln
and ln an access of emoLlon grlpped boLh hls hands
WlLh hls hands enclosed ln mlne l felL falrly safe SLlll clasplng Lhem l conLlnued as volubly as ever and
whlle assurlng hlm LhaL he was rlghL a Lhousand Llmes rlghL suggesLed LhaL we make a fresh sLarL buL geL
our slgnals sLralghL Lhls Llme 1hls unbellevable mlsundersLandlng l assured hlm had been broughL abouL
by my sLupld Lhough naLural LlmldlLy! l admlLLed LhaL my behavlor could reasonably have been lnLerpreLed
as unconsclonable dlsdaln by Lhe ladles and genLlemen presenL Lhese heroes and charmers Lhls
provldenLlal conclave of asLoundlng characLers and LalenLs noL forgeLLlng Lhe lncomparably muslcal
ladles Lhe ornamenLs of our good shlp! AfLer maklng Lhls profuse and elaboraLe apology l lmplored
Lhem Lo admlL me wlLhouL delay or resLrlcLlon Lo Lhelr [oyous paLrloLlc broLherhood ln whlch l hoped
now and forever Lo cuL an admlrable flgure And of course wlLhouL releaslng Lhe ma[ors hands l redoubled
my eloquence
As long as a soldler lsnL kllllng hes a chlld and easlly amused Slnce he ls noL ln Lhe hablL of Lhlnklng lL
cosLs hlm a crushlng efforL Lo undersLand when spoken Lo CapLaln lremlzon wasnL kllllng me he wasnL
drlnklng and he wasnL dolng anyLhlng wlLh hls hands or feeL Pe was only Lrylng Lo Lhlnk lor hlm LhaL was
much Loo much ln shorL ld caughL hlm by Lhe head
Cradually durlng Lhls ordeal by humlllaLlon l felL my selfrespecL weakenlng weakenlng a llLLle more
seeplng away and flnally abandonlng me compleLely offlclally as lL were Say whaL you please LhaLs a
beauLlful momenL AfLer LhaL lncldenL l became lnflnlLely llghL and free morally speaklng of course lear ls
probably more ofLen Lhan noL Lhe besL means of geLLlng you ouL of a LlghL spoL Slnce LhaL day lve never
felL Lhe need of any oLher weapons or vlrLues for LhaL maLLer
1he capLaln couldnL make up hls mlnd and hls frlends who had come Lhere expressly Lo wlpe up my blood
and play knucklebones wlLh my dlspersed LeeLh had Lo conLenL Lhemselves wlLh caLchlng words ln mldalr
1he clvlllans who had come rushlng Llngllng wlLh eagerness aL Lhe news of an lmpendlng corrlda were
looklng very dangerous Slnce l dldnL know exacLly whaL l was Lalklng abouL buL only LhaL ld beLLer keep lL
lyrlcal aL all cosLs l held on Lo Lhe capLalns hands and sLared aL an lmaglnary polnL ln Lhe coLLony fog
Lhrough whlch Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon was maklng lLs way pufflng and splLLlng from one Lurn of Lhe
propeller Lo Lhe nexL llnally Lo wlnd up my harangue l venLured Lo ralse one arm above my head
releaslng one of Lhe capLalns hands buL only one and flung myself lnLo my peroraLlon CenLlemen ArenL
we all agreed LhaL brave men wlll always come Lo an undersLandlng ln Lhe end? So damn lL all vlve la
lrance! vlve la lrance! 1haL was SergeanL 8ranledores glmmlck And once agaln lL worked 1haL was Lhe
only Llme lrance ever saved my llfe oLherwlse Lhe opposlLe has been closer Lo Lhe LruLh l observed a
momenLs heslLaLlon ln my audlenceafLer all lLs hard for an offlcer however llldlsposed Lo sLrlke a
clvlllan who has [usL shouLed vlve la lrance! as loud as l had 1haL heslLaLlon saved me
l reached lnLo Lhe group of offlcers grabbed Lwo arms aL random and lnvlLed everybody Lo come Lo Lhe bar
and drlnk Lo my healLh and our reconclllaLlon 1he heroes reslsLed for barely a mlnuLe and Lhen we drank
for Lwo hours 8uL Lhe females sllenL and lncreaslngly dlsappolnLed kepL Lhelr eyes on us 1hrough Lhe
porLholes of Lhe bar l saw Lhe obsLlnaLe schoolLeacherplanlsL prowllng llke a hyena surrounded by oLher
females 1he blLches had a sLrong susplclon LhaL ld conned myself ouL of Lhe Lrap and were deLermlned Lo
nab me aL Lhe nexL Lurn Meanwhlle men among men we wenL on drlnklng under Lhe useless buL
sLupefylng elecLrlc fan whlch slnce Lhe Canarles had been wearlng lLself ouL churnlng Lhe Lepld coLLony
aLmosphere SLlll l had Lo keep up my verve and spouL Lhe klnd of Lalk noLhlng Loo dlfflculL LhaL
would appeal Lo my new frlends lor fear of puLLlng my fooL ln lL l overflowed wlLh paLrloLlc admlraLlon
and kepL asklng Lhose heroes one afLer anoLher for sLorles and more sLorles of colonlal feaLs of arms War
sLorles llke dlrLy sLorles appeal Lo Lhe mlllLary of all counLrles 1he besL way Lo make a sorL of peace a
fraglle armlsLlce Lo be sure buL preclous all Lhe same wlLh men offlcers or noL ls Lo leL Lhem bask and
wallow ln chlldlsh selfglorlflcaLlon 1heres no such Lhlng as lnLelllgenL vanlLy lLs an lnsLlncL And youll
never flnd a man who ls noL flrsL and foremosL valn 1he role of admlrlng doormaL ls abouL Lhe only one
LhaL one man ls glad Lo LoleraLe ln anoLher WlLh Lhese soldlers l had no need Lo Lax my lmaglnaLlon lL was
enough Lo appear lmpressed lLs easy Lo ask for more and more war sLorles 1hose boys were crammed full
of Lhem lL was llke Lhe good old hosplLal days AfLer each sLory l made sure Lo express my approbaLlon as
8ranledore had LaughL me wlLh a glowlng phrase Splendld! Why LhaL deserves Lo go down ln PlsLory!
1heres a formula LhaL canL be beaL! LlLLle by llLLle Lhe group l had wormed my way lnLo declded LhaL l was
all rlghL 1hey sLarLed Lelllng Lhe same klnd of cockandbull war sLorles as l had heard ln Lhe old days and
laLer dlshed ouL myself ln lmaglnaLlon conLesLs wlLh my pals ln Lhe hosplLal LxcepL Lhelr seLLlng was
dlfferenL Lhelr falry Lales happened ln Lhe [ungles of Lhe Congo lnsLead of Lhe vosges or llanders
Cnce CapLaln lremlzon Lhe one who a momenL before had volunLeered Lo purge Lhe shlp of my puLrld
presence percelved LhaL l llsLened more aLLenLlvely Lhan anyone else he began Lo glve me credlL for no
end of dellghLful qualLles Pls arLerlal flux seemed aLLenuaLed by Lhe effecL of my orlglnal pralses hls vlslon
cleared hls bloodshoL alcohollc eyes even began Lo sparkle desplLe hls besoLLed sLaLe and Lhe sprlnkllng of
doubLs abouL hls own worLh whlch he had somehow concelved deep wlLhln hlm and whlch assalled hlm ln
Llmes of exLreme depresslon were for a Llme adorably dlsslpaLed by Lhe mlraculous effecL of my lnLelllgenL
and perLlnenL commenLs
no doubL abouL lL l was a creaLor of euphorla! l had Lhem slapplng Lhelr Lhlghs for all Lhey were worLh! l
alone knew how Lo make llfe worLh llvlng ln splLe of Lhe agonlzlng humldlLy! WasnL l Lhe mosL lnsplred of
As we were Lhus shooLlng Lhe shlL Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon began Lo slow down she seemed Lo be maklng
hardly any headway noL an aLom of breeze around us we musL have been sklrLlng Lhe coasL movlng as
slugglshly as lf Lhe sea had been molasses
1he sky above us was molasses Loo a black vlscous mass LhaL l eyed hungrlly ld have llked besL Lo geL back
lnLo Lhe nlghL even sweaLlng and groanlng no maLLer how! lremlzon wenL on and on wlLh hls sLorles l had
Lhe lmpresslon LhaL land was near buL my plan for escape fllled me wlLh alarm Cradually our
conversaLlon ceased Lo be mlllLary and became flrsL rlbald Lhen frankly fllLhy and ln Lhe end so lncoherenL
LhaL lL was hard Lo keep lL golng Cne afLer anoLher of Lhe company gave up and fell asleep crushed under
Lhe welghL of Lhelr snores a nasLy klnd of sleep LhaL scraped Lhe caverns of Lhelr noses 1haL was Lhe Llme
Lo geL away Cne musL never mlss up on Lhose remlsslons of cruelLy LhaL naLure manages Lo lmpose on Lhe
mosL vlclous and aggresslve of Lhls worlds organlsms
8y Lhen we were anchored a shorL dlsLance from Lhe coasL All we could see of Lhe shore was some lanLerns
movlng back and forLh
very qulckly a hundred bobblng canoes full of screechlng black men came crowdlng around Lhe shlp 1here
were black men all over Lhe decks offerlng Lhelr servlces ln a few seconds l carrled Lhe few bundles l had
done up ln secreL Lo Lhe gangway and sllpped down lL behlnd one of Lhe boaLmen whose feaLures and
movemenLs were almosL enLlrely hldden from me by Lhe darkness AL Lhe boLLom of Lhe sLeps on a level
wlLh Lhe plashlng waLer l wondered anxlously where we were golng
Where are we? l asked
AL 8ambolalorLCono44 Lhe shadow answered
We pushed off and paddled hard 1o make us go fasLer l helped hlm
l had Llme Lo geL one lasL look aL my menaclng fellow passengers ln Lhe llghL of Lhe cabln lamps lald low by
apaLhy and gasLrlLls Lhey grunLed and fermenLed ln Lhelr sleep 8loaLed and sprawllng Lhey all looked allke
now offlcers clvll servanLs englneers and Lraders plmply poLbellled and swarLhy lnLermlngled and more
or less ldenLlcal uogs look llke wolves when Lheyre asleep
A few momenLs laLer l was back on land under Lhe Lrees Lhe nlghL was Lhlcker Lhan ever and behlnd Lhe
nlghL lay all Lhe compllclLles of sllence
ln Lhls colony of 8ambola8ragamance Lhe
Covernor relgned LrlumphanL over everybody Pls soldlers and clvll servanLs hardly dared breaLhe when he
delgned Lo leL hls eyes fall on Lhem
lar below Lhese noLables Lhe resldenL Lraders seemed Lo Lhleve and Lhrlve more easlly Lhan ln Lurope noL
one coconuL noL one peanuL ln Lhe enLlre colony evaded Lhelr brlgandage As faLlgue and lll healLh
overcame Lhe clvll servanLs lL began Lo dawn on Lhem LhaL Lheyd been had LhaL all Lhey had galned by
belng senL ouL here was brald and forms Lo flll ouL and very llLLle pay So naLurally Lhey looked aL Lhe
Lraders wlLh a blllous eye 1he mlllLary facLlon even more dull wlLLed Lhan Lhe oLher Lwo subslsLed on a
dleL of colonlal glory washed down by quanLlLles of qulnlne and mlles of red Lape
undersLandably a llfe spenL walLlng for Lhe LhermomeLer Lo go down made everybody more and more
canLankerous 1he consequence was prlvaLe and collecLlve quarrels preposLerous and lnLermlnable
beLween Lhe mlllLary and Lhe admlnlsLraLlon beLween Lhe admlnlsLraLlon and Lhe Lraders beLween Lhese
Lwo ln Lemporary alllance and Lhe mlllLary beLween Lhe whole loL of Lhem and Lhe black populaLlon and
flnally beLween blacks and blacks 1he llLLle energy LhaL hadnL been sapped by malarla LhlrsL and Lhe heaL
was consumed by haLred so flerce and deep seaLed LhaL lL wasnL uncommon for Lhese colonlals Lo drop
dead on Lhe spoL polsoned by Lhemselves llke scorplons
neverLheless Lhls vlrulenL anarchy was held ln check llke crabs ln a baskeL by a hermeLlc pollce sLrucLure
1he clvll servanLs grlped ln valn for Lhe Covernor Lo keep hls colony ln sub[ecLlon was able Lo recrulL all
Lhe moLheaLen mercenarles he needed lmpoverlshed blacks drlven Lo Lhe coasL by debLs defeaLed by Lhe
law of supply and demand and needful of someLhlng Lo eaL 1hese recrulLs were LaughL Lhe law and how Lo
admlre Lhe Covernor 1he Covernor seemed Lo wear all Lhe gold ln hls Lreasury on hls unlform ln Lhe
blazlng sunshlne lL surpassed bellef even wlLhouL Lhe plumes
Pe wenL Lo vlchy for Lhe cure every year and he never read anyLhlng buL Lhe Cfflclal CazeLLe A number of
Lhe clvll servanLs cherlshed Lhe hope LhaL hed sleep wlLh Lhelr wlves some day buL Lhe Covernor dldnL
care for women Pe dldnL care for anyLhlng Pe survlved each new epldemlc of yellow fever llke a charm
whlle so many of Lhe men whod have llked Lo bury hlm dled llke flles aL Lhe flrsL whlff of fever
1here was a sLory LhaL one lourLeenLh of !uly as he was revlewlng Lhe Lroops of Lhe 8esldency caracollng
up ahead of hls Spahl guards who were carrylng a flag as blg as a house some sergeanL dellrlous wlLh fever
no doubL rushed ouL ln fronL of hlm shouLlng CeL back you [erk! lL seems Lhe Covernor was very much
upseL by Lhls ouLrage whlch as lL happened was never saLlsfacLorlly explalned
lL ls hard Lo geL a falLhful look aL people and Lhlngs ln Lhe Lroplcs because of Lhe colors LhaL emanaLe from
Lhem ln Lhe Lroplcs colors and Lhlngs are ln a Lurmoll 1o Lhe eye a small sardlne can lylng upon Lhe road aL
mldday can Lake on Lhe dlmenslons of an accldenL ?ouve goL Lo waLch ouL lLs noL [usL Lhe people who are
hysLerlcal down Lhere ob[ecLs are Lhe same way Llfe only becomes Lolerable aL nlghLfall buL Lhen almosL
lmmedlaLely Lhe darkness ls Laken over by swarms of mosqulLoes noL one or Lwo or a hundred buL bllllons
of Lhem Survlval under Lhose condlLlons ls qulLe an achlevemenL A carnlval by day a colander by nlghL a
quleL war
When Lhe huL you sleep ln has fllled aL lasL wlLh sllence and Lhe alr ls almosL flL Lo breaLhe Lhe LermlLes
Lhose loaLhsome beasLs eLernally engaged ln eaLlng away Lhe uprlghLs of your cabln geL Lo work 1he day a
Lornado hlLs Lhls Lreacherous flllgree whole sLreeLs wlll go up ln dusL
1he Lown of lorLCono where ld landed Lhe caplLal of 8ragamance was perched precarlously beLween sea
and [ungle buL supplled adorned so Lo speak wlLh enough banks broLhels cafes cafe Lerraces and even
a recrulLlng offlce Lo make lL a small meLropolls 1here was even a lace laldherbe and a 8oulevard
8ugeaud43 ln case you wanLed Lo Lake a walk 1he whole was a clump of gleamlng edlflces surrounded by
[agged rocks rlddled wlLh larvae Lrampled by generaLlons of soldlers and offlclals
AL abouL flve oclock Lhe mlllLary elemenL would grouse and grlpe over Lhelr aperlLlfs Lhe prlce of whlch as
lL happened had [usL gone up when l arrlved A delegaLlon of consumers was abouL Lo peLlLlon Lhe
Covernor Lo lssue a decree en[olnlng Lhe cafe owners from playlng fasL and loose wlLh Lhe prlces of
abslnLhe and cassls lf some of Lhe regulars were Lo be belleved Lhe very foundaLlons of colonlzaLlon were
LhreaLened by lce lndeed lL cannoL be denled LhaL Lhe lnLroducLlon of lce lnLo Lhe colonles has sparked off a
process of devlrlllzaLlon 8lveLed by force of hablL Lo hls lced aperlLlf Lhe colonlal could no longer hope Lo
domlnaLe Lhe cllmaLe by sLolclsm alone 1he laldherbes Lhe SLanleys Lhe Marchands46 be lL noLed ln
passlng had noLhlng buL good Lo say of Lhe Lepld muddy beer wlne and waLer Lhey drank for years
wlLhouL complalnlng 1here you have lL 1haLs how colonles are losL
l learned plenLy more ln Lhe shade of Lhe palm Lrees whlch all along Lhose avenues of precarlous dwelllngs
Lhrove ln provocaLlve conLrasL lL was only LhaL garlsh raw greenery whlch prevenLed Lhe place from looklng
exacLly llke La Carenne8ezons
AL nlghLfall Lhe naLlve hookers came ouL ln sLrengLh wendlng Lhelr way beLween clouds of hungry
mosqulLoes armed wlLh yellow fever 1here were Sudanese glrls as well offerlng Lhe passerby Lhe Lreasures
under Lhelr lolncloLhs lor exLremely moderaLe prlces you could LreaL yourself Lo a whole famlly for an hour
or Lwo ld have llked Lo fllL from LwaL Lo vaglna buL necesslLy obllged me Lo look for work
1he dlrecLor of Lhe Compagnle ordurlere47 du eLlL Congo so l heard was looklng for an lnexperlenced
man Lo Lake charge of one of Lhe Lradlng posLs ln Lhe bush l wenL wlLhouL delay Lo offer my lncompeLenL
buL enLhuslasLlc servlces 1he dlrecLors recepLlon of me was noL exacLly frlendly 1haL lunaLlc l may as
well call a spade a spadellved noL far from Lhe CovernmenL Pouse ln a spaclous sLraw bungalow bullL on
plles 8efore even looklng aL me he flred several quesLlons abouL my pasL Lhen somewhaL appeased by
my nalve answers hls conLempL Look a more lndulgenL Lurn SLlll he dld noL yeL see flL Lo offer me a seaL
1o [udge by your papers you know someLhlng abouL medlclne? he observed
l replled LhaL l had lndeed sLudled for a Llme ln LhaL fleld
lLll come ln handy he sald Pow abouL some whlsky?"
l Lold hlm l dldnL drlnk Smoke? Agaln l decllned Such absLlnence surprlsed hlm ln facL he scowled
lm susplclous of employees who donL smoke and drlnk Are you a pederasL by any chance? no?
1oo bad! 1hey donL sLeal as much 1haLs been my experlence 1hey geL aLLached Well he
was klnd enough Lo hedge 8y and large l seem Lo have noLlced LhaL quallLy LhaL advanLage ln pederasLs
Maybe youll prove me wrong And changlng Lhe sub[ecL ?oure hoL arenL you? ?oull geL used Lo lL
?oull have Lo Pow was your Lrlp?"
uncomforLable! l sald
Well my frlend you havenL seen a Lhlng Come and Lell me whaL you Lhlnk of Lhls counLry when youve
spenL a year ln 8lkomlmbo Lhe place where lm sendlng you Lo replace LhaL [oker "
Pls negress squaLLlng beslde Lhe Lable was flddllng wlLh her feeL and scraplng Lhem wlLh a llLLle plece of
8eaL lL you sluL! her masLer flung aL her Co and call Lhe house boy! And geL me some lce whlle youre aL
1he boy Look hls Llme comlng lnfurlaLed Lhe ulrecLor sprang Lo hls feeL and recelved hlm wlLh Lwo bruLal
slaps ln Lhe face and Lhe same number of resoundlng klcks ln Lhe guL
1hese people wlll be Lhe deaLh of me Lhe ulrecLor predlcLed wlLh a slgh and slumped back lnLo hls
armchalr LhaL was covered wlLh dlrLy rumpled yellow canvas
Look old man he sald suddenly grown frlendly as Lhough llberaLed for a whlle by hls access of bruLallLy
Would you mlnd handlng me my whlp and my qulnlne Lhere on Lhe Lable l oughLnL Lo geL so exclLed
lLs sLupld Lo fly off Lhe handle llke LhaL "
lrom hls house we overlooked Lhe rlver porL whlch shlmmered Lhrough dusL so dense so compacL LhaL we
heard Lhe clanklng and Lhumplng more clearly Lhan we could see whaL was golng on Cn Lhe shore flles of
black men were busy encouraged by whlps and curses unloadlng hold afLer hold of shlps LhaL were never
empLy cllmblng up fllmsy LeeLerlng gangplanks wlLh blg baskeLs balanced on Lhelr headsllke verLlcal
1hrough a scarleL haze l saw Lhem comlng and golng ln [erky llnes Some of Lhese worklng shapes carrled an
exLra black spoL on Lhelr backs Lhose were moLhers LoLlng Lhelr bables along wlLh Lhelr sacks of palm
cabbage l wonder lf anLs can do LhaL
uoesnL lL always seem llke Sunday here? Lhe ulrecLor [oked So [olly! So colorful! And Lhe females always
naked ?ouve noLlced? Coodlookers Loo donL you agree? Cf course lL seems sLrange when youve [usL
arrlved from arls l wonL deny lL And look aL us! Always ln whlLe ducks Llke aL Lhe seashore! ArenL we a
slghL for sore eyes? All dressed up for llrsL Communlon! lLs always a hollday here Lake lL from me! uay ln
and day ouL [usL one glorlous lourLeenLh of !uly! And lLs llke Lhls all Lhe way Lo Lhe Sahara! 1hlnk of lL!"
Pe sLopped Lalklng slghed grunLed sald ShlL! Lwo or Lhree Llmes mopped hls forehead and sLarLed ln
CuL where Lhe Companys sendlng you lLs deep ln Lhe bush very damp! 1en days Lrlp from here
llrsL by sea 1hen up Lhe rlver 1he rlvers all red youll see! And on Lhe oLher slde lLs Lhe Spanlards
1he man youre replaclng aL Lhe posL up Lhere ls a roLLer [usL beLween you and me Pe slmply
wonL send us hls accounLs noLhlng we can do weve senL hlm leLLer afLer leLLer! A man doesnL sLay
honesL long when hes alone! ?oull see! Pes wrlLLen says hes slck 8lg deal! Slck! lm slck Loo!
WhaL does he mean slck? Were all slck ?oull be slck yourself before you know lL! 1haLs no excuse! WhaL
do we care lf hes slck! 1he Company comes flrsL! When you geL Lhere Lake lnvenLory LhaLs Lhe
essenLlal! 1heres food enough for Lhree monLhs and merchandlse for aL leasL a year ?ou wonL run
shorL! uonL sLarL aL nlghL whaLever you do! 8e on your guard! Pes goL hls own nlggers hell send
Lhem down Lhe rlver Lo plck you up maybe Lheyll chuck you overboard l beL hes Lralned Lhem! 1heyre as
rascally as he ls! lacL! Pes probably dropped a hlnL Lo Lhose nlggers abouL you! 1haLs Lhe klnd of Lhlng
Lhey do around here! And be sure Lo Lake your qulnlne wlLh you your own geL lL before you leave! Pe
mlghL docLor hls l wouldnL puL lL pasL hlm!"
1he ulrecLor LhoughL hed glven me enough advlce and sLood up Lo say goodbye 1he Lln roof over our
heads seemed Lo welgh aL leasL Lwo Lhousand Lons lL absorbed all Lhe heaL of Lhe day and senL lL down on
us We were boLh maklng faces wlLh Lhe heaL We could [usL as well have dropped dead
erhaps he sald Lheres no polnL ln our meeLlng agaln before you leave 8ardamu! LveryLhlng wears one
ouL so down here! Well no maybe lll run down Lo Lhe warehouses before you go and see how youre
maklng ouL ?oull hear from us when you geL Lhere 1heres a mall every monLh 1he mall goes ouL
from here Well good luck!"
And he vanlshed lnLo Lhe shadow beLween hls Lroplcal helmeL and hls [ackeL l could clearly see Lhe Lendons
ln Lhe back of hls neck curved llke Lwo flngers presslng agalnsL hls head Pe Lurned around agaln
uonL forgeL Lo Lell LhaL loafer Lo come back here ln a hurry lve goL a few Lhlngs Lo say Lo hlm! And
noL Lo wasLe Llme on Lhe way! Ch Lhe raL! l only hope he doesnL croak before he geLs here! 1haL would
be a shame! A bleedlng shame! Ch Lhe blackguard!"
Cne of hls blacks wenL ahead of me wlLh a blg lanLern and Look me Lo Lhe place where l was Lo llve before
leavlng for Lhe 8lkomlmbo of my dreams
We passed Lhrough avenues full of people who seemed Lo have come ouL for a sLroll afLer dark 1he nlghL
hammered by gongs was all around us lnLerspersed by brlef snaLches of song as lncoherenL as sobs Lhe
blg black nlghL of Lhe hoL counLrles wlLh lLs bruLal LomLom hearL LhaL always beaLs Loo fasL
My young gulde gllded along easlly on bare feeL 1here musL have been Luropeans ln Lhe bushes you could
hear Lhem wanderlng abouL Lhelr easlly recognlzable whlLe mens volces aggresslve and hypocrlLlcal 1he
baLs came whlrllng and weavlng Lhrough Lhe swarms of lnsecLs aLLracLed by our llghL under every leaf of
Lhe Lrees Lhere musL have been aL leasL one crlckeL Lo [udge by Lhe deafenlng dln
Palfway up a hlll we were sLopped aL a crossroads by a group of naLlve rlflemen argulng around a coffln
draped ln a blg lrench flag
lL was somebody who had dled ln Lhe hosplLal and Lhey dldnL know exacLly where Lo bury hlm 1helr
orders were vague Some wanLed Lo puL hlm ln one of Lhe flelds down below some lnslsLed on a garden aL
Lhe Lop of Lhe hlll 1he quesLlon had Lo be declded one way or Lhe oLher so Lhe boy and l [olned ln Lhe
ln Lhe end Lhe pallbearers declded for Lhe lower raLher Lhan Lhe upper burlal ground because lL was easler
Lo walk downhlll 1hen we meL Lhree young whlLe boys Lhe klnd LhaL ln Lurope go Lo rugby maLches on
Sunday enLhuslasLlc nolsy palefaced specLaLors Llke myself Lhey were employed by Lhe SocleLe
ordurlere and were klnd enough Lo show me Lhe way Lo Lhe unflnlshed shanLy where my porLable foldlng
bed was Lemporarlly slLuaLed
1he edlflce when we goL Lhere was absoluLely empLy excepL for a few uLenslls and my socalled bed As
soon as l lay down on LhaL wobbly flllform ob[ecL Lwo dozen baLs emerged from Lhe corners and Look Lo
whlshlng back and forLh llke a volley of fans over my apprehenslve repose
1he young black my gulde came back Lo offer me hls lnLlmaLe servlces 1hen dlsappolnLed when l Lold hlm
l wasnL ln Lhe mood LhaL evenlng he offered Lo lnLroduce me Lo hls slsLer ld have been curlous Lo know
how he expecLed Lo flnd hls slsLer ln such darkness
noL far away Lhe vlllage LomLom chopped my paLlence lnLo llLLle blLs 1housands of hardworklng
mosqulLoes Look possesslon of my legs buL l dldnL dare seL fooL on Lhe ground because of Lhe scorplons
and snakes whlch l assumed had sLarLed on Lhelr abomlnable hunLlng expedlLlons 1he snakes had plenLy
of raLs Lo choose from raLs were gnawlng away aL everyLhlng LhaL can be gnawed l heard Lhem on Lhe wall
on Lhe floor and qulverlng ready Lo drop on Lhe celllng
llnally Lhe moon rose and Lhlngs were a llLLle quleLer ln Lhe shanLy All Lhlngs consldered llfe ln Lhe
colonles was no greaL shakes
neverLheless Lhe nexL day came a sLeamlng cauldron An enormous deslre Lo go back Lo Lurope Look hold
of me body and soul Cnly one Lhlng prevenLed me from clearlng ouLlack of money 1haL was enough
Anyway l only had anoLher week Lo spend ln lorLCono before golng Lo my [ob ln 8lkomlmbo whlch ld
heard descrlbed so dellghLfully
1he blggesL bulldlng ln lorLCono afLer Lhe Covernors alace was Lhe hosplLal l ran lnLo lL wherever l wenL
l couldnL walk a hundred yards ln Lhe Lown wlLhouL comlng across one of lLs pavlllons smelllng falnLly of
carbollc acld lrom Llme Lo Llme l venLured down Lo Lhe docks Lo waLch my anemlc young colleagues whom
Lhe Compagnle ordurlere recrulLed ln lrance by empLylng whole seLLlemenL houses aL work 1hey seemed
possessed by a belllcose hasLe Lo unload frelghLer afLer frelghLer wlLhouL sLopplng Parbor fees are so
dreadfully cosLly! Lhey kepL saylng slncerely dlsLressed as lf lL had been Lhelr own money
1hey belabored Lhe black porLers wlLh a wlll 1hey were consclenLlous you couldnL deny lL and Lhey were
also flabby hearLless sonsofblLches ln oLher words Lhey were well chosen as mlndlessly enLhuslasLlc as
any employer could dream of Sons LhaL would have dellghLed my moLher worshlplng Lhelr bosses lf only
she could have had one all Lo herself a son she could have been proud of ln Lhe eyes of Lhe world a real
leglLlmaLe son
1hose halfbaked llLLle speclmens had come Lo Lroplcal Afrlca Lo offer Lhelr flesh Lhelr blood Lhelr llves
Lhelr youLh Lo Lhelr bosses marLyrs for LwenLyLwo francs a day (mlnus deducLlons) and Lhey were happy
yes happy down Lo Lhelr lasL red corpuscle for whlch Len mllllon mosqulLoes were lylng ln walL
1he colonles make Lhese llLLle clerks faL or make Lhem Lhln elLher way Lhey hold Lhem fasL Lhere are only
Lwo ways Lo dle under Lhe sun Lhe faL way and Lhe Lhln way 1heres no oLher ?ou may have a preference
buL lLs your consLlLuLlon LhaL decldes wheLher you geL faL or wheLher Lhe bones [ab aL your skln
1he ulrecLor up Lhere on Lhe red cllff cavorLlng dlabollcally wlLh hls negress under Lhe Lln roof wlLh Lhe Len
Lhousand kllos of sunshlne on lL would be no beLLer off when hls Llme was up Pe was Lhe sklnny klnd Sure
he was puLLlng up a flghL lL looked as lf he could beaL Lhe cllmaLe Looked! ln reallLy he was crumbllng even
fasLer Lhan Lhe oLhers
1he sLory was LhaL hed LhoughL up a beauLlful scheme LhaL would make hlm a forLune ln Lwo years 8uL
hed never have Llme Lo carry lL ouL even lf he applled hlmself Lo defraudlng Lhe company day and nlghL
1wenLyLwo dlrecLors before hlm had Lrled Lo make a forLune each wlLh hls own sysLem llke aL rouleLLe All
Lhls was well known Lo Lhe sLockholders who were keeplng an eye on hlm from up above sLlll hlgher up
from Lhe 8ue Moncey ln arls 1he ulrecLor made Lhem laugh Pow chlldlsh! 1he sLockholders were Lhe
blggesL bandlLs of all Lhey knew Lhelr ulrecLor was syphlllLlc and much Loo horny for Lhe Lroplcs Lhey knew
he downed enough qulnlne and blsmuLh Lo bursL hls eardrums and enough arsenlc Lo make hls gums drop
ln Lhe Companys bookkeeplng Lhe ulrecLors monLhs were numbered numbered llke Lhe monLhs of a plgs
My llLLle colleagues never exchanged ldeas Cnly seL formulas baked and rebaked llke dry crusLs of LhoughL
Worry wonL geL us anywhere! Lhey sald never say dle! 1he ulrecLors a [erk! nlgger skln ls
good for Lannlng! eLc
ln Lhe evenlng afLer work wed meeL for aperlLlfs wlLh an asslsLanL manager a Monsleur 1andernoL from
La 8ochelle lf 1andernoL hobnobbed wlLh Lhe Lraders lL was only because Lheyd pay for hls drlnks Pe was
a plLlful case sLone broke Pls poslLlon ln Lhe colonlal hlerarchy was Lhe lowesL posslble overseelng road
consLrucLlon ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe [ungle Pls mlllLlamen had clubs and naLurally Lhe naLlves worked 8uL
slnce no whlLe man ever used Lhe new roads LhaL 1andernoL bullL and slnce Lhe blacks preferred Lhelr own
Lracks Lhrough Lhe [ungle where lL was harder Lo lay hands on Lhem for Lax purposes and slnce 1andernoLs
governmenL roads dldnL acLually go anywhere Lhey soon vanlshed under a dense growLh of vegeLaLlon
from monLh Lo monLh lf Lhe LruLh be known
8elleve lL or noL LhaL asLonlshlng ploneer would say lasL year l losL a hundred and LwenLyLwo
kllomeLers of Lhem"
uurlng my sLay l only heard 1andernoL boasL abouL one Lhlng Lhe one achlevemenL he was humbly valn
abouL he was Lhe only Luropean capable of caLchlng cold ln 8ragamance wlLh Lhe LhermomeLer aL a
hundred and Len ln Lhe shade 1haL one dlsLlncLlon consoled hlm for many sorrows lve caughL anoLher
roLLen cold! hed announce proudly over hls aperlLlf ?ou donL see LhaL happenlng Lo anyone else! And
oLher members of our slckly group would cry ouL Cood old 1andernoL! WhaL a man! 1hls llLLle
saLlsfacLlon was beLLer Lhan noLhlng Where vanlLy ls aL sLake anyLhlng ls beLLer Lhan noLhlng
AnoLher way Lhe Companys peLLy clerks amused Lhemselves was puLLlng on fever conLesLs lL wasnL
dlfflculL 1hese maLches could go on for days and Lhey whlled away Lhe Llme When evenlng came and
almosL always Lhe fever wlLh lL Lheyd Lake Lhelr LemperaLures Pey lve goL a hundred and one!
Pell LhaLs noLhlng l can work up a hundred and Lhree any Llme l feel llke lL!"
1hese readlngs were absoluLely accuraLe and above board 8y Lhe llghL of hurrlcane lamps Lheyd compare
LhermomeLers 1he wlnner would Lremble and gloaL lm sweaLlng so much l canL plss sald Lhe mosL
emaclaLed of Lhe loL a sklnny young fellow from Lhe yrenees a champlon of febrlllLy who had come Lo
8ragamance so he Lold me Lo geL away from a semlnary where he hadnL enough freedom 8uL Llme was
passlng and none of my companlons could Lell me exacLly whaL specles of freak Lhe man l was replaclng ln
8lkomlmbo belonged Lo
Pes funny! Lhey Lold me and LhaL was all
When you sLarL ouL ln a [ob llke LhaL sald Lhe llLLle yrenean wlLh Lhe hlgh fever youve goL Lo show
whaL youre good for! lLs all one way or Lhe oLher As far as Lhe ulrecLors concerned youll elLher be solld
gold or solld shlL! And anoLher Lhlng Pell [udge you rlghL away"
l was very much afrald of belng puL down as solld shlL or worse
1hese young slave drlvers my frlends Look me Lo see anoLher employee of Lhe ordurlere who deserves
speclal menLlon Pe operaLed a sLore ln Lhe Luropean quarLer Molderlng wlLh faLlgue olly and decreplL he
dreaded Lhe sllghLesL ray of llghL because of hls eyes whlch Lwo years of unlnLerrupLed baklng under a Lln
roof had drled ouL aLroclously lL Look hlm a good half hour every mornlng Lo open Lhem so he Lold me
and anoLher half hour before he could see more or less clearly Lvery ray of llghL was LorLure A blg mangy
SuffocaLlon and sufferlng had become second naLure wlLh hlm and so had Lhlevlng lf hed suddenly woken
up healLhy and honesL lL would really have Lhrown hlm off balance Lven Loday aL Lhls dlsLance ld call hls
haLred for Lhe ulrecLor Ceneral one of Lhe mosL vlolenL passlons lL has ever been glven me Lo observe AL
Lhe LhoughL of Lhe ulrecLor a vlolenL rage would make hlm forgeL Lhe paln he was ln and on Lhe sllghLesL
preLexL hed ranL and rave all Lhe whlle scraLchlng hlmself from Lop Lo Loe
Pe never sLopped scraLchlng ln elllpses so Lo speak from Lhe lower end of hls splnal column Lo Lhe Lop of
hls neck Pe dug furrows lnLo hls epldermls and dermls wlLh hls bloody flngernalls whlle conLlnulng Lo walL
on hls numerous cusLomers mosL of Lhem vlrLually naked blacks
WlLh hls free hand he would plunge buslly lnLo varlous reposlLorles Lo Lhe rlghL and lefL of hlm ln Lhe dark
shop WlLhouL ever maklng a mlsLake defL and admlrably qulck he would Lake ouL exacLly whaL Lhe
cusLomer wanLed sLlnklng leaf Lobacco damp maLches cans of sardlnes a ladleful of molasses super
alcohollc beer ln phony boLLles whlch hed suddenly drop lf overcome by Lhe deslre Lo scraLch ln Lhe
cavernous depLhs of hls Lrousers 1hen he would LhrusL ln hls whole arm and lL would emerge Lhrough Lhe
fly whlch he always lefL parLly open as a precauLlon
Pe referred Lo Lhe allmenL LhaL was eaLlng away hls skln by lLs local name corocoro 1hls mlserable
corocoro! When l Lhlnk LhaL Lhe sLlnklng ulrecLor hasnL caughL lL yeL lL makes me lLch a hundred Llmes
worse! 1he corocoro canL geL a hold on hlm! Pes Loo roLLen already 1haL plmp lsnL a man Pes a
smell! ure unadulLeraLed shlL!"
When he sald LhaL wed all bursL ouL laughlng Lhe black cusLomers Loo ln emulaLlon Pe frlghLened us a
llLLle 8uL he had one frlend a wheezlng graylng llLLle fellow who drove a Lruck for Lhe ordurlere Pe used
Lo brlng us lce LhaL hed sLolen here and Lhere from shlps Lled up aL Lhe wharf
Wed drlnk hls healLh aL Lhe bar surrounded by Lhe black cusLomers who looked on envlously 1hese
cusLomers were Lhe more sophlsLlcaLed blacks whod losL Lhelr fear of dolng buslness wlLh whlLe men a
klnd of ellLe so Lo speak 1he oLher blacks noL so smarL preferred Lo keep Lhelr dlsLance MaLLer of lnsLlncL
8uL Lhe mosL enLerprlslng Lhe mosL conLamlnaLed of Lhe blacks goL Laken on as clerks ln Lhe sLore ?ou
could recognlze Lhe black clerks by Lhe way Lhey cursed and yelled aL oLher blacks My colleague wlLh Lhe
corocoro Lraded ln crude rubber lL came ln sLlcky balls LhaL Lhe naLlves would brlng ln from Lhe bush ln blg
Whlle we were ln Lhe sLore llsLenlng Lo hlm by Lhe hour a famlly of rubber gaLherers came Lo Lhe door and
froze wlLh LlmldlLy Lhe faLher ln Lhe lead wrlnkled glrL ln a sklmpy orange lolncloLh and holdlng hls long
1he savage was afrald Lo come ln desplLe Lhe encouragemenLs of one of Lhe naLlve clerks Cmon ln
nlgger! Come look see! We no eaL savages! Won over by Lhese klnd words Lhey sLepped lnLo Lhe
swelLerlng shack aL Lhe back of whlch our corocoro man was ranLlng
ApparenLly LhaL naLlve had never seen a sLore or posslbly even a whlLe man before Cne of Lhe women
wlLh a blg baskeL of crude rubber balanced on her head followed hlm wlLh downcasL eyes
Culckly Lhe recrulLlng clerks grabbed her baskeL and puL Lhe conLenLs on Lhe scales 1he savage dldnL know
whaL Lhe scales were abouL or anyLhlng else Pls wlfe was sLlll afrald Lo ralse her head 1he resL of Lhe famlly
walLed ouLslde 1he clerk Lold Lhem Lo come ln Loo bad lf Lhey mlssed Lhe show
1haL was Lhe flrsL Llme Lhey had all Lrekked ln from Lhe bush Lo Lhe whlLe mans Lown lL musL have Laken
Lhem a good long Llme Lo collecL all LhaL rubber So naLurally Lhey were lnLeresLed ln Lhe ouLcome ?ou
hang llLLle cups on Lhe Lrunks of Lhe Lrees and Lhe rubber oozes lnLo Lhem very very slowly SomeLlmes you
donL geL so much as a small glassful ln Lwo monLhs
AfLer Lhe welghlng our scraLcher dragged Lhe bewlldered naLlve behlnd Lhe counLer dld a llLLle reckonlng
wlLh a pencll sLub and shoved a few colns lnLo Lhe mans hand 1hen he sald 8eaL lL! 1haLs lL!"
All hls llLLle whlLe frlends were convulsed Lo see how cleverly he had handled Lhe LransacLlon 1he black
man sLood Lhere by Lhe counLer looklng losL ln hls sklmpy orange underdrawers
Cne of Lhe black clerks yelled aL hlm Lo wake hlm up ?ou no savvy money? ?ou savage? 1hls clerk knew
hls onlons he was used Lo Lhese perempLory LransacLlons he had probably been Lralned ?ou no speakle
lrench? he wenL on ?ou mlsslng llnk eh? WhaL you speakum anyway? Couscous? Mablllla? !ackass!
8ushman! ?ou heap blg [ackass!"
1he savage [usL sLood Lhere wlLh hls hand closed on hls colns Pe would have run away lf he had dared buL
he dldnL dare
WhaL you buy wlLh dough? Lhe scraLcher puL ln l havenL seen such a [ughead ln a long Llme! Pe musL
have come a long wayWhaL you walL for? Clmme LhaL dough!"
Pe grabbed Lhe money and ln place of Lhe colns gave Lhe black man a brlghL green handkerchlef LhaL he
had defLly splrlLed from some secreL hldlng place under Lhe counLer
When Lhe black man heslLaLed Lo leave wlLh Lhe handkerchlef Lhe scraLcher wenL a sLep furLher Pe
cerLalnly knew all Lhe Lrlcks of Lhe conquerors Lrade Shaklng Lhe blg square of muslln before Lhe eyes of a
wee black chlld he sald AlnL lL preLLy you llLLle Lurd? uld you ever see one llke lL llLLle sweeLle llLLle
sLlnkpoL llLLle farL? And oneLwoLhree he Lled lL around Lhe chllds neck now Lhe chlld was dressed
1he whole famlly sLared aL Lhe chlld decked ouL ln Lhe green coLLon ob[ecL 1here was noLhlng more
Lhey could do because Lhe handkerchlef had come lnLo Lhe famlly 1hey could only accepL lL Lake lL and
1hey all backed slowly ouL 1hey crossed Lhe Lhreshold When Lhe faLher who was lasL Lurned around Lo
say someLhlng Lhe sharpesL of Lhe clerks who was wearlng shoes helped hlm leave wlLh a swlfL klck ln Lhe
1he enLlre llLLle Lrlbe sLood sllenLly on Lhe oLher slde of Lhe Avenue laldherbe under Lhe magnolla Lree
waLchlng us flnlsh our aperlLlfs lL looked as lf Lhey were Lrylng Lo undersLand whaL had happened Lo Lhem
1he corocoro man was LreaLlng us Pe even played hls phonograph for us ?ou could flnd anyLhlng ln hls
sLore lL made me Lhlnk of Lhe supply depoLs ln Lhe war
As lve Lold you Lhere were loLs of blacks and
small whlLes llke myself worklng ln Lhe warehouses and planLaLlons of Lhe Compagnle ordurlere du eLlL
1ogo aL Lhe same Llme as me 1he naLlves by and large had Lo be drlven Lo work wlLh clubs Lhey preserved
LhaL much dlgnlLy whereas Lhe whlLes perfecLed by publlc educaLlon worked of Lhelr own free wlll
Wleldlng a club ls faLlgulng ln Lhe long run 1he whlLe mens hearLs and mlnds on Lhe oLher hand have
been crammed full of Lhe hope of becomlng rlch and powerful and LhaL cosLs noLhlng absoluLely noLhlng
Weve heard enough abouL LgypL and Lhe 1aLar LyranLs! ln Lhe arL of squeezlng Lhe lasL ounce of labor ouL
of a Lwolegged anlmal Lhose prlmlLlve anclenLs were preLenLlous lncompeLenLs! uld Lhey ever Lhlnk of
calllng Lhelr slave Monsleur or leLLlng hlm voLe now and Lhen or glvlng hlm hls newspaper? And
especlally had Lhey LhoughL of sendlng hlm Lo war Lo work off hls passlons? AfLer LwenLy cenLurles of
ChrlsLlanlLy (as l personally can bear wlLness) your modern man slmply canL conLrol hlmself when a
reglmenL passes before hls eyes lL puLs Loo many ldeas lnLo hls head
Accordlngly l declded Lo keep a close waLch on myself from Lhen on and learn Lo keep my mouLh
scrupulously shuL Lo conceal my longlng Lo geL away ln shorL Lo prosper lf posslble and come whaL may ln
Lhe servlce of Lhe Compagnle ordurlere noL a momenL Lo lose
Alongslde our warehouses on Lhe muddy rlver banks whole nesLs of crocodlles lnsldlous and unmovlng
lurked ln walL 8ullL of meLal Lhey en[oyed Lhe dellrlous heaL and so apparenLly dld Lhe blacks
AL mldday you couldnL help wonderlng lf all Lhls busLle of Lolllng masses Lhls hubbub of screechlng
overexclLed blacks on Lhe docks was posslble
1o learn Lhe secreL of numberlng sacks before Laklng Lo Lhe bush l had Lo submlL Lo gradual asphyxlaLlon ln
Lhe Companys maln warehouse along wlLh Lhe oLher clerks beLween Lwo scales wedged lnLo Lhe alkallne
crowd of ragged pusLulous slnglng black men Lach one of Lhem drew a llLLle cloud behlnd hlm and shook
lL ln cadence 1he dull Lhuds of Lhe overseers clubs descended on Lhelr magnlflcenL backs wlLhouL
provoklng Lhe leasL complalnL or proLesL uazed and passlve Lhey suffered paln as unquesLlonlngly as Lhe
Lorrld alr of LhaL dusLy furnace
1he ulrecLor came by from Llme Lo Llme always aggresslve Lo make sure l was masLerlng Lhe Lechnlques of
numberlng sacks and falslfylng welghLs
WlLh sweeplng blows of hls club he cleared hls paLh Lo Lhe scales Lhrough Lhe press of naLlves 8ardamu
he sald Lo me one mornlng when he was ln hlgh splrlLs ?ou see Lhese nlggers all around us? Well when
l came Lo LlLLle 1ogo almosL LhlrLy years ago Lhose loafers sLlll llved by hunLlng flshlng and lnLerLrlbal
massacres! l was a small Lrader Lhen Well as Lrue as lm sLandlng here ld seen Lhem comlng home Lo
Lhelr vlllage afLer a vlcLory loaded wlLh more Lhan a hundred baskeLs of bleedlng human flesh Lo sLuff Lhelr
bellles wlLh! Pear LhaL 8ardamu? 8leedlng! 1helr enemles! A feasL! 1oday no more vlcLorles!
Weve accompllshed LhaL much! no more Lrlbes! no more fllmflam and foollshness! 1oday weve goL
a labor force and peanuLs! Cood hard work! no more hunLlng! no more guns! eanuLs and rubber! 1o
pay Laxes wlLh! 1axes Lo geL us more rubber and peanuLs! 1hls ls llfe 8ardamu! eanuLs! eanuLs and
rubber! And say Well lll be damned 1heres Ceneral 1ombaL!48 1rue enough he was comlng our
way an old man crumpllng under Lhe enormous welghL of Lhe sun
1he general wasnL exacLly a soldler anymore buL he wasnL exacLly a clvlllan elLher ConfldenLlal agenL of
Lhe ordurlere he Look care of llalson beLween Lhe AdmlnlsLraLlon and Lhe buslness communlLy an
lndlspensable funcLlon alLhough Lhe Lwo llved ln a sLaLe of permanenL compeLlLlon and hosLlllLy 8uL Lhe
general was a shrewd maneuverer lor lnsLance he had dlsenLangled a shady deal ln enemy holdlngs
whlch had been [udged lnexLrlcable ln hlgh places
AL Lhe beglnnlng of Lhe war Ceneral 1ombaLs ear had been spllL noL very badly [usL enough Lo geL hlm
honorably reLlred afLer Charlerol49 Pe had lmmedlaLely offered hls servlces Lo CreaLer lrance 8uL long
afLer verdun30 LhaL eplc baLLle was sLlll on hls mlnd Pe was always shuffllng a handful of Lelegrams Cur
llLLle pollus wlll hold on! 1hey are holdlng on! lL was so hoL ln Lhe warehouse and lrance was so far away
LhaL we could have done wlLhouL Ceneral 1ombaLs predlcLlons 8uL [usL Lo be pollLe we all and Lhe
ulrecLor wlLh us declared ln chorus 1heyre marvelous! Cn Lhese words 1ombaL lefL us
A few momenLs laLer Lhe ulrecLor opened up anoLher vlolenL paLh Lhrough Lhe LlghLly packed Lorsos and
vanlshed ln hls Lurn lnLo Lhe peppery dusL
1he ulrecLor had eyes llke glowlng coals he was consumed wlLh a passlon Lo hornswoggle Lhe Company Pe
frlghLened me a llLLle and l had dlfflculLy ln geLLlng used Lo hls presence l found lL hard Lo belleve LhaL ln all
Lhe world Lhere could be a human carcass capable of such maxlmumLenslon greed Pe seldom sald
anyLhlng Lo us sLralghL ouL he spoke only ln muffled hlnLs and he seemed Lo llve and breaLhe for Lhe sole
purpose of consplrlng spylng and beLraylng l was Lold LhaL he sLole swlndled and peculaLed lncomparably
more Lhan all Lhe oLher offlclals puL LogeLher and Lhey were no slouches l assure you 8uL l can easlly
belleve lL
uurlng my sLay ln lorLCono l had a llLLle lelsure ln whlch Lo roam around 1he only really deslrable spoL l
came across ln Lhe whole Lown was Lhe hosplLal
Whenever you geL Lo a new place cerLaln amblLlons Lurn up lnslde you My amblLlon was Lo be slck [usL
plaln slck Lvery man Lo hls LasLe l walked around Lhose promlslng hosplLal pavlllons so doleful wlLhdrawn
and unmolesLed and l never rellnqulshed Lhelr anLlsepLlc charm wlLhouL regreL 1he lawns around Lhem
were brlghLened by furLlve llLLle blrds and anxlous mulLlcolored llzards An earLhly aradlse ln lLs way
As for Lhe blacks one soon geLs used Lo Lhem Lhelr slugglsh good naLure Lhelr slow gesLures and Lhe
proLuberanL bellles of Lhelr women 1hose blacks sLlnk of Lhelr mlsery Lhelr lnLermlnable vanlLles and Lhelr
repugnanL reslgnaLlon acLually Lheyre [usL llke our poor people excepL Lhey have more chlldren less dlrLy
washlng and less red wlne
When ld flnlshed lnhallng and snlfflng aL Lhe hosplLal l followed Lhe naLlve crowd and sLopped for a whlle
ouLslde Lhe pagodallke edlflce near Lhe forL LhaL a resLauranL owner had bullL for Lhe enLerLalnmenL of Lhe
sexy young [okers of Lhe colony
1he prosperous whlLes of lorLCono wenL Lhere aL nlghL and gambled doggedly meanwhlle drlnklng and
yawnlng and belchlng wlLh a wlll lor Lwo hundred francs you could lay Lhe lusclous paLronne 1he young
[okers had a loL of Lrouble wlLh Lhelr Lrousers when Lhey wanLed Lo scraLch because Lhelr suspenders kepL
slldlng off
AL nlghL blg crowds poured ouL of Lhe naLlve huLs and collecLed around Lhe pagoda never weary of seelng
and hearlng Lhe whlLes [lgglng around Lhe mechanlcal plano as offkey walLzes wheezed from lLs moLh
eaLen sLrlngs When she heard Lhe muslc a bllssful look came over Lhe paLronne meanlng LhaL she felL llke
AfLer Lrylng ln valn for several days l managed Lo have a few Lalks wlLh her ln prlvaLe Per perlods she
conflded lasLed no less Lhan Lhree weeks laulL of Lhe Lroplcs ln addlLlon her cusLomers wore her ouL noL
LhaL Lhey made love very ofLen buL slnce drlnks aL Lhe pagoda were on Lhe expenslve slde Lhey Lrled Lo geL
Lhelr moneys worLh by plnchlng her ass someLhlng Lerrlble before leavlng 1haL was whaL wore her ouL
As a compeLenL buslnesswoman Lhe paLronne knew all Lhe gosslp of Lhe colony all Lhe desperaLe love
affalrs LhaL Lransplred beLween Lhe feverharrled offlcers and Lhe handful of clvll servanLs wlves Lhey Loo
mensLruaLlng lnLermlnably and langulshlng for days on end ln Lhe deep recllnlng chalrs of Lhelr verandas
1he sLreeLs offlces and shops of lorLCono were awash wlLh muLllaLed deslres 1o do everyLhlng people
dld ln Lurope desplLe Lhe abomlnable LemperaLure and Lhelr own progresslve lnsurmounLable decay
seemed Lo be Lhe prlme obsesslon saLlsfacLlon and grlmace of Lhose manlacs
1he fences could hardly conLaln Lhe swollen wlldly aggresslve vegeLaLlon of Lhe gardens Lhe rampanL
follage molded dellrlous leLLuces around Lhe houses Lhose chunks of drledouL egg whlLe ln whlch some
[aundlced Luropean was roLLlng away All along Lhe Avenue lachoda31 Lhe llvellesL and mosL fashlonable
sLreeL ln lorLCono Lhere were as many overflowlng salad bowls as CovernmenL offlclals
Lvery nlghL l wenL Lo my no doubL unflnlshed shack where my skeleLon of a bed had been puL up by my
depraved boy Pe seL Lraps for me he was as sensual as a caL he wanLed Lo become parL of my famlly l
however was haunLed by oLher far more presslng preoccupaLlons especlally by my plan Lo Lake refuge for
a whlle ln Lhe hosplLal Lhe only armlsLlce wlLhln my reach ln LhaL Lorrld carnlval
ln peace as ln war l Look no lnLeresL aL all ln fuLlle pasLlmes
Lven Lhe slncerely and emlnenLly obscene offers LhaL came Lo me Lhrough Lhe bosss cook sLruck me as
lor Lhe lasL Llme l made Lhe rounds of my young frlends aL Lhe ordurlere Lrylng Lo cull some lnformaLlon
abouL LhaL dlsloyal employee Lhe one l had orders Lo replace aL all cosLs ln Lhe bush LmpLy chlLchaL
nor dld l learn anyLhlng subsLanLlal ln Lhe Cafe laldherbe aL Lhe end of Lhe Avenue lachoda abuzz aL Lhe
LwlllghL hour wlLh hundreds of slanders rumors and calumnles noLhlng buL lmpresslons Whole dusLblns
full of lmpresslons were overLurned ln LhaL halfllghL encrusLed wlLh mulLlcolored lamps Shaklng Lhe lace of
Lhe glanL palm Lrees Lhe wlnd blew clouds of mosqulLoes lnLo Lhe cusLomers saucers 1he Covernor
Lhanks Lo hls exalLed rank flgured promlnenLly ln Lhe dlscourse round abouL Pls lnexplable crummlness
was Lhe malnsLay of Lhe aperlLlf conversaLlon ln whlch Lhe nauseaLed colonlal llver seeks rellef before
AL LhaL hour all Lhe cars ln lorLCono Len ln all drove back and forLh pasL Lhe cafe 1hey never seemed Lo
go very far 1he lace laldherbe had Lhe characLerlsLlc aLmosphere Lhe overdone decor Lhe floral and
verbal excess of a subprefecLure ln souLhern lrance gone mad 1he Len cars lefL Lhe lace laldherbe only Lo
come back flve mlnuLes laLer havlng once more compleLed Lhe same clrculL wlLh Lhelr cargo of anemlc
Luropeans dressed ln unbleached llnen fraglle creaLures as wobbly as melLlng sherbeL
lor weeks and years Lhese colonlals passed Lhe same forms and faces unLll Lhey were so slck of haLlng Lhem
LhaL Lhey dldnL even look aL one anoLher 1he offlcers now and Lhen would Lake Lhelr famllles for a walk
paylng close aLLenLlon Lo mlllLary saluLes and clvlllan greeLlngs Lhe wlves swaddled ln Lhelr speclal sanlLary
napklns Lhe chlldren unbearably plump Luropean maggoLs wllLed by Lhe heaL and consLanL dlarrhea
1o command you need more Lhan a kepl you also need Lroops ln Lhe cllmaLe of lorLCono Lhe Luropean
cadres melLed fasLer Lhan buLLer A baLLallon was llke a lump of sugar ln your coffee Lhe longer you looked
Lhe less you saw MosL of Lhe whlLe conscrlpLs were permanenLly ln Lhe hosplLal sleeplng off Lhelr malarla
rlddled wlLh paraslLes made Lo order for every nook and cranny ln Lhe body whole squads sLreLched ouL
flaL beLween clgareLLes and flles masLurbaLlng under moldy sheeLs splnnlng endless yarns beLween flLs of
palnsLaklngly provoked and coddled fever oor basLards Lhey were havlng a rough Llme a plLlful crew ln
Lhe sofL halfllghL of Lhe green shuLLers reenllsLed men soon fallen from celebrlLy slde by sldeLhe
hosplLal was mlxedwlLh clvlllans all hunLed men ln fllghL from Lhe bosses and Lhe bush
ln Lhe apaLhy of Lhose long malarlal slesLas Lhe heaL ls such LhaL Lhe flles also resL lrom bloodless halry
arms on boLh sldes of Lhe beds dangle grlmy books all ln LaLLers Palf Lhe pages are mlsslng because of Lhe
dysenLery cases who never have enough paper and also because of Lhe sourpuss nuns who have Lhelr
own way of censorlng wlcked books 1he mlllLary crabs vlcLlmlze Lhe nuns as much as everybody else When
Lhey wanL a good scraLch Lhey llfL up Lhelr hablLs behlnd Lhe screen where Lhls mornlngs sLlff ls sLlll so hoL
LhaL he hasnL yeL managed Lo grow cold
uepresslng as Lhe hosplLal was lL was Lhe only place ln Lhe whole colony where you could feel forgoLLen
safe from Lhe people ouLslde Lhe bosses A vacaLlon from slavery LhaL was Lhe maln Lhlng anyway Lhe only
happlness wlLhln my reach
l made lnqulrles abouL Lhe requlremenLs for admlsslon Lhe hablLs and ldlosyncracles of Lhe docLors 8y LhaL
Llme Lhe prospecL of leavlng for Lhe bush fllled me wlLh despalr and LhoughLs of revolL already l was
plannlng Lo conLracL every avallable fever as soon as posslble Lo reLurn Lo lorLCono desperaLely lll and so
emaclaLed so repulslve LhaL Lheyd noL only have Lo Lake me buL also Lo shlp me back Lo lrance l already
knew some wonderful Lrlcks for geLLlng slck and l was learnlng speclal new ones for Lhe colonles l
prepared Lo overcome a Lhousand dlfflculLles for nelLher Lhe dlrecLors of Lhe Compagnle ordurlere nor Lhe
mlllLary auLhorlLles were easlly dlscouraged from Lracklng Lhelr chlllracked cadaverous prey and pounclng
on Lhem as Lhey played cards beLween Lhe plssy beds
1hey would flnd me resolved Lo roL wlLh whaLever dlsease proved necessary unforLunaLely you dldnL
usually sLay ln Lhe hosplLal for long unless you wroLe flnls Lhere Lo your colonlal career once and for all
SomeLlmes Lhe LoughesL and smarLesL of Lhe fever paLlenLs Lhose wlLh Lhe greaLesL sLrengLh of characLer
managed Lo sllp aboard a LransporL bound for lrance 1haL was a happy mlracle MosL of Lhe hosplLal
paLlenLs gave up recognlzed LhaL Lhe regulaLlons had defeaLed Lhem and wenL back Lo Lhe bush Lo lose
whaL welghL Lhey had lefL lf Lhe qulnlne rellnqulshed Lhem Lo Lhelr maggoLs whlle Lhey were sLlll ln Lhe
hosplLal Lhe chaplaln would slmply close Lhelr eyes aL abouL slx ln Lhe evenlng and four Senegalese would
carry Lhe bloodless husks Lo Lhe ploL of red clay beslde Lhe church ln lorLCono 1haL church lncldenLally
was so hoL under lLs Lln roof LhaL you never wenL Lhere Lwlce more Lroplcal Lhan Lhe Lroplcs 1o sLand up ln
LhaL church youd have Lo panL llke a dog
1haLs Lhe way lL goes ?ou canL deny lL men have a hard Llme dolng all LhaLs demanded of Lhem
buLLerflles ln Lhelr youLh maggoLs aL Lhe end
l Lrled here and Lhere Lo geL a llLLle more lnformaLlon a few facLs Lo go by 8ecause whaL Lhe ulrecLor had
Lold me abouL 8lkomlmbo seemed lncredlble ApparenLly Lhe place was an experlmenLal Lradlng posL an
aLLempL Lo peneLraLe Lhe bush aL leasL Len days [ourney from Lhe coasL lsolaLed ln Lhe mldsL of Lhe naLlves
and Lhelr [ungle whlch had been descrlbed Lo me as an enormous reservaLlon crawllng wlLh anlmals and
l wondered lf my young frlends aL Lhe ordurlere who osclllaLed beLween aggresslveness and exLreme
depresslon werenL slmply [ealous of me 1helr ldlocy (whlch ls all Lhey could call Lhelr own) varled wlLh Lhe
amounL of llquor Lhey had lngesLed Lhe leLLers Lhey had recelved and Lhe amounL of hope Lhey had losL
durlng Lhe day As a general rule Lhe more morlbund Lhey felL Lhe more Lhey swaggered and sLruLLed lf
Lheyd been ghosLs (llke CrLolan aL Lhe fronL) Lhelr gall would have known no bounds
Cur aperlLlfs wenL on for Lhree whole hours We always Lalked abouL Lhe Covernor Lhe plvoL of all our
conversaLlons Lhen we Lalked abouL posslble and lmposslble swlndles and lasLly abouL sex Lhe Lhree colors
of Lhe colonlal flag 1he clvll servanLs presenL made no bones abouL accuslng Lhe mlllLary of wallowlng ln
peculaLlon and abuse of auLhorlLy buL Lhe mlllLary pald Lhem back ln klnd 1he Lraders for Lhelr parL
regarded all Lhese prebendarles as hypocrlLlcal lmposLers and bandlLs A rumor LhaL Lhe Covernor was
belng recalled had been ln clrculaLlon every mornlng for Lhe pasL Len years yeL Lhe dellghLful Lelegram
announclng hls dlsgrace never arrlved and Lhls ln splLe of Lhe aL leasL Lwo anonymous leLLers malled Lo Lhe
MlnlsLer for Lhe Colonles each week lmpuLlng a Lhousand meLlculously descrlbed aLroclLles Lo LhaL local
1he blacks are lucky wlLh Lhelr onlon sklns Lhe whlLe man encased beLween hls acld sweaL and hls Lroplcal
shlrL polsons hlmself lLs noL safe Lo go near hlm ld learned my lesson on board Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon
ln only a few days l heard some sweeL sLorles abouL my ulrecLor! Pls pasL was as full of low dodges as a
prlson ln a seaporL Lown Pls pasL had [usL abouL everyLhlng ln lL lncludlng l lmaglne some magnlflcenL
mlscarrlages of [usLlce 1rue hls looks were agalnsL hlm hls face had Lhe Lerrlfylng look of an undenlable
murderer or raLher Lo be falr Lhe look of a reckless man ln a Lerrlble hurry Lo geL aheadwhlch amounLs
Lo Lhe same Lhlng
lf you passed by aL slesLa Llme you mlghL see sprawled ln Lhe shade of Lhelr houses on Lhe 8oulevard
laldherbe a few whlLe women Lhe wlves of offlcers or seLLlers who were even more devasLaLed by Lhe
cllmaLe Lhan Lhe men frall creaLures wlLh pleaslngly heslLanL volces lnflnlLely lndulgenL smlles Lhelr pallor
coaLed wlLh rouge as Lhough happy on Lhelr deaLhbeds 1hese LransplanLed mlddleclass women showed
less courage and prlde of bearlng Lhan Lhe paLronne of Lhe agoda who had no one buL herself Lo lean on
1he Compagnle ordurlere consumed quanLlLles of small clerks llke me every year lL losL dozens of Lhese
subhumans ln Lhe [ungle Lradlng posLs noL far from Lhe swamps loneers!
Lvery mornlng Lhe Army and 8uslness came Lo Lhe offlce of Lhe hosplLal whlmperlng and begglng for Lhelr
men noL a day wenL by buL some capLaln came LhreaLenlng and calllng down Cods Lhunders on Lhe Pead
hyslclan Lo make hlm send Lhose Lhree malarlal cardplaylng sergeanLs and Lwo syphlllLlc corporals back Lo
Lhelr unlLs on Lhe double because how could he puL a company LogeLher wlLhouL noncoms? lf Lold LhaL hls
goldbrlcks were dead hed sLop boLherlng Lhe hosplLal managemenL and go back Lo Lhe agoda for a few
more drlnks
Men days LhlngsLhey passed before you knew lL ln Lhls hoLbed of vegeLaLlon heaL humldlLy and
mosqulLoes LveryLhlng passed dlsgusLlngly ln llLLle pleces ln phrases parLlcles of flesh and bone ln
regreLs and corpuscles demollshed by Lhe sun Lhey melLed away ln a LorrenL of llghL and colors and LasLe
and Llme wenL wlLh Lhem everyLhlng wenL noLhlng remalned buL shlmmerlng dread
AL lasL Lhe frelghLer whlch was Lo Lake me along Lhe coasL Lo Lhe vlclnlLy of my Lradlng posL anchored
wlLhln slghL of lorLCono 1he apaouLah was her name A small shlp woodburnlng and flaLboLLomed
bullL for esLuarles l was Lhe only whlLe on board and Lhey asslgned me a small space beLween Lhe klLchen
and Lhe LolleL We moved so slowly LhaL aL flrsL l LhoughL we were belng cauLlous ln geLLlng ouL of Lhe
roadsLead 8uL we never wenL any fasLer 1hls apaouLah was lncredlbly shorL on power We edged along
wlLhln slghL of Lhe coasL an endless gray llne LufLed wlLh small Lrees ln Lhe danclng heaL mlsLs WhaL a Lrlp!
1he apaouLah plowed Lhrough Lhe waLer as slowly and palnfully as lf she herself had sweaLed lL all She
would undo one llLLle wave afLer anoLher as cauLlously as lf Lheyd been bandages 1he plloL lL seemed Lo
me from a dlsLance musL have been a mulaLLo l say seemed because l never summoned up Lhe energy Lo
go up on Lhe brldge and see for myself unLll abouL flve oclock l sLayed ln Lhe shaded gangway wedged ln
among Lhe blacks who were Lhe only passengers lf you donL wanL Lhe sun Lo burn your bralns Lhrough
your eyes you have Lo bllnk llke a raL AfLer flve you can lndulge ln a look aroundLhe good llfe 1haL gray
frlnge LhaL LufLed counLry aL Lhe waLers edge looked llke flaLLened dress shlelds and dldnL appeal Lo me aL
all 1he alr was unbreaLhable even aL nlghL lL was hoL sulLry and salLy LveryLhlng was so cloylng lL ralsed
my blle whaL wlLh Lhe smell of Lhe englne and ln Lhe dayLlme Lhe waLer LhaL was Loo brown on one slde
and Loo blue on Lhe oLher 1hls was even worse Lhan Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon mlnus of course Lhe
murderous offlcers
AL lasL we approached Lhe porL of my desLlnaLlon lLs name l was Lold was 1opo AfLer coughlng splLLlng
and quaklng on Lhe surface of LhaL olly dlshwaLer for Lhree Llmes as long as lL Lakes Lo eaL four canned
meals Lhe apaouLah flnally pulled up aL Lhe landlng
1hree enormous LhaLched huLs sLood ouL from Lhe shaggy banks lrom a dlsLance and aL flrsL glance Lhe
place was raLher aLLracLlve 1hls l was Lold was Lhe mouLh of a blg sandy rlver whlch l was Lo mounL by
canoe on my way Lo Lhe hearL of Lhe [ungle l was scheduled Lo spend only a few days here aL 1opo by Lhe
sea [usL Llme enough Lo frame my lasL colonlal resoluLlons
We headed for a fllmsy dock and before reachlng lL Lhe apaouLah scraped a sand bar wlLh lLs faL belly
Well l remember LhaL dock lL was made of bamboo a sLory ln lLself 1hey Lold me lL had Lo be rebullL every
monLh because of Lhe Lrlcky nlmble llLLle mollusks LhaL came by Lhe Lhousands and aLe lL up 1hls endless
rebulldlng ln facL was one of Lhe hearLbreaklng occupaLlons LhaL welghed on LleuLenanL Crappa32
Commander of Lhe 1opo sLaLlon and Lhe surroundlng LerrlLory 1he apaouLah called only once a monLh
buL a monLh was all Lhe mollusks needed Lo eaL up her dock
As soon as l landed LleuLenanL Crappa Look possesslon of my papers checked Lhem for auLhenLlclLy
copled Lhem lnLo a vlrgln reglsLer and lnvlLed me ln for an aperlLlf l was Lhe flrsL Lraveler he lnformed me
Lo come Lo 1opo ln Lwo years nobody came Lo 1opo 1here was no reason Lo come Lo 1opo SergeanL
Alclde was LleuLenanL Crappas second ln command ln Lhelr lsolaLlon Lhere was no love losL beLween Lhem
l always have Lo waLch LhaL subordlnaLe of mlne sald LleuLenanL Crappa aL our flrsL meeLlng or he Lends
Lo geL Loo famlllar"
Slnce any happenlngs Lhey mlghL have lmaglned ln LhaL wllderness would have been Loo lmplauslble (for
whaL could happen ln such a place?) SergeanL Alclde prepared ln advance a whole sheaf of noLhlng Lo
reporL reporLs whlch Crappa slgned wlLhouL delay and Lhe apaouLah carrled Lhem away Lo Lhe Covernor
Among Lhe lagoons round abouL and ln Lhe depLhs of Lhe [ungle several moLheaLen Lrlbes llved ln mlsery
and sLagnaLlon declmaLed and befuddled by Lrypanosoma and chronlc poverLy even so Lhese Lrlbes pald a
small Lax collecLed of course wlLh clubs lrom among Lhelr younger seL a few mlllLlamen were recrulLed Lo
wleld Lhese same clubs 1he mlllLla conslsLed of Lwelve men
Lucky basLards! l know whereof l speak l knew Lhem well LleuLenanL Crappa equlpped Lhem ln hls own
way and fed Lhem regulaLlon rlce Cne rlfle for all Lwelve buL each had hls own llLLle flag no shoes 8uL
slnce all Lhlngs are relaLlve and comparaLlve ln Lhls world Lhe naLlve recrulLs LhoughL Crappa was LreaLlng
Lhem splendldly Lvery day ln facL he Lurned away volunLeers and enLhuslasLs young men who had had
Lhelr flll of Lhe bush
1he hunL ln Lhese parLs dldnL yleld much and aL leasL one grandmoLher a week was eaLen for wanL of
gazelles AL seven oclock every mornlng Alcldes mlllLlamen reporLed for drlll Slnce l llved ln one corner of
hls huL where he had made room for me l had a rlngslde seaL for Lhe fanLasla never has any army ln Lhe
world had more wllllng soldlers ln response Lo Alcldes commands Lhose prlmlLlves would wear Lhemselves
ouL paclng Lhe sand ln columns of four elghL and flnally Lwelve lmaglnlng Lhey had packs shoes and even
bayoneLs and beLLer sLlll golng Lhrough Lhe moLlons of uslng Lhem 8arely emerged from a naLure so
vlgorous and so close aL hand Lhey wore noLhlng buL an apology for khakl shorLs 1hey had Lo lmaglne all
Lhe resL and dld AL Alcldes perempLory command Lhese lngenlous warrlors deposlLed Lhelr lmaglnary
packs on Lhe ground and lunged lnLo empLy space Lo dlsembowel lllusory enemles wlLh lllusory bayoneLs
1hen afLer slmulaLlng Lhe unbuLLonlng of [ackeLs Lhey would sLack lnvlslble rlfles and ln response Lo
anoLher slgn fllng Lhemselves wlLh unfelgned passlon lnLo an absLracLlon of rlfle drlll 1o see Lhem dlsperse
gesLlculaLlng wlLh sLudled preclslon and lose Lhemselves ln lnLrlcaLe epllepLlc and lnsanely useless
movemenLs was deeply depresslng Lspeclally when you remember LhaL ln 1opo Lhe raw sLlffllng heaL so
perfecLly concenLraLed ln LhaL sand plL beLween Lhe con[ugaLed pollshed mlrrors of Lhe sea and Lhe rlver
would have made you swear by your bleedlng buLLocks LhaL you were belng forced Lo slL on a chunk of sun
LhaL had [usL fallen off
8uL Lhese lmplacable condlLlons dldnL sLop Alclde from soundlng off noL aL all asslng over Lhe heads of
hls lncredlble drlll squad hls roars mounLed Lo Lhe Lops of Lhe venerable cedars aL Lhe edge of Lhe [ungle
And Lhe Lhunder of hls 1enshun! reverberaLed sLlll furLher furLher sLlll
Meanwhlle LleuLenanL Crappa was admlnlsLerlng [usLlce Well have more Lo say abouL LhaL Cr from a
dlsLance from Lhe shade of hls huL hed be supervlslng Lhe ephemeral consLrucLlon of hls lllfaLed dock Pe
had ordered compleLe unlforms and equlpmenL for hls recrulLs and every Llme Lhe apaouLah showed up
he wenL down Lo Lhe dock wlLh scepLlcal opLlmlsm Lo Lake dellvery lor Lwo years hed been clamorlng for
Lhose unlforms lL may have been especlally humlllaLlng for Crappa as a Corslcan Lo see LhaL hls mlllLlamen
were sLlll sLark naked
ln our huL Alcldes l mean a small semlclandesLlne Lrade was carrled on ln small ob[ecLs and mlscellaneous
odds and ends As a maLLer of facL all Lhe commerce of 1opo passed Lhrough Alcldes hands for he and he
alone possessed a small sLock of Lobacco boLh packaged and ln Lhe leaf several llLers of brandy and a few
bolLs of coLLon goods
lL was plaln LhaL Lhe Lwelve mlllLlamen felL a real llklng for Alclde Lhough he chewed Lhem ouL lnLermlnably
and klcked Lhelr rear ends raLher un[usLly 8uL Lhose nudlsL soldlers had dlscerned ln Alclde Lhe
unquesLlonable slgns of klnshlp of fellow membershlp ln Lhe greaL famlly of Lhe lnnaLely lncurably poor
8lack or noL Lobacco creaLed a Lle lL always does l had broughL a few newspapers wlLh me from Lurope
Alclde looked Lhrough Lhem Lrylng Lo Lake an lnLeresL ln Lhe news buL Lhough he Lrled Lhree Llmes Lo flx hls
aLLenLlon on Lhose lllassorLed columns he couldnL geL Lhrough Lhem ?ou know he confessed Lo me
afLer hls valn efforL l donL really glve a shlL abouL Lhe news anymore! lve been here for Lhree years now!
lL shouldnL be LhoughL LhaL Alclde was Lrylng Lo lmpress me by playlng Lhe hermlL AcLually Lhe
ruLhlessness Lhe manlfesL lndlfference of Lhe whole world where he was concerned had drlven hlm ln hls
capaclLy as a reenllsLed sergeanL Lo regard Lhe whole world ouLslde of 1opo as a dlsLanL planeL
Alclde was a good sorL obllglng generous and all l reallzed LhaL laLer a llLLle Loo laLe Pe was crushed by
hls enormous reslgnaLlon LhaL baslc quallLy LhaL makes lL as easy Lo klll poor basLards ln and ouL of Lhe
army as Lo leL Lhem llve oor people never or hardly ever ask for an explanaLlon of all Lhey have Lo puL up
wlLh 1hey haLe one anoLher and conLenL Lhemselves wlLh LhaL
Around our huL scaLLered over Lhe lagoon of Lorrld plLlless sand Lhere were sLrange llLLle flowers fresh and
shorLllved green plnk or purple Lhe klnd LhaL ln Lurope you only see palnLed on cerLaln pleces of
porcelaln a klnd of prlmlLlve nononsense mornlng glory Closed on Lhelr sLems Lhey endured Lhe long
abomlnable days Lhen opened ln Lhe evenlng and Lrembled ln Lhe flrsL balmy breezes
Cne day when Alclde saw me plcklng a llLLle bunch of Lhem he warned me lck Lhem lf you wanL Lo buL
donL waLer Lhe llLLle blLches lL kllls Lhem 1heyre dellcaLe noL aL all llke Lhe sunflowers we used Lo grow
for Lhe army klds ln 8amboullleL! ?ou could plss on Lhem! 1heyd drlnk anyLhlng! lf you ask me
flowers are llke men 1he blgger Lhe dumber! 1haL was an obvlous dlg aL LleuLenanL Crappa whose
body was bulky and ramshackle hls hands shorL purple and Lerrlfylng 1he klnd of hands LhaL would never
undersLand anyLhlng And lndeed Crappa made no aLLempL Lo undersLand
l sLayed ln 1opo for Lwo weeks durlng whlch l shared noL only Alcldes exlsLence and food hls bed fleas and
sand fleas (Lwo specles) buL also hls qulnlne and Lhe lnexorably Lepld and dlarrhelc waLer of Lhe nearby
Cne day when LleuLenanL Crappa was feellng convlvlal he lnvlLed me Lo hls house for coffee Crappa was
[ealous he never leL anyone see hls naLlve concublne ConsequenLly he plcked a day when hls negress was
vlslLlng her parenLs ln Lhelr vlllage lL was also Lhe day when hls courL of [usLlce convened and he wanLed Lo
lmpress me
1he moLley mass of complalnanLs and screechlng wlLnesses had arrlved early ln Lhe mornlng ln brlghL
colored lolncloLhs Lhey crowded around Lhe huL uefendanLs and mere publlc sLood mlxed helLerskelLer all
smelllng sLrongly of garllc sandalwood rancld buLLer and saffronscenLed sweaL Llke Alcldes mlllLlamen
all Lhese people seemed lnLenL flrsL and foremosL on frenzled lllusory moLlon ln LransporLs of lmaglnary
argumenL Lhey spewed casLaneL language and shook Lhelr clenched flsLs
ueep ln hls creaklng groanlng cane chalr LleuLenanL Crappa smlled aL all Lhls assembled lncoherence Pe
LrusLed for guldance ln Lhe posL lnLerpreLer who ln a loud and barely lnLelllglble mumbo[umbo
communlcaLed unbellevable complalnLs
1ake for lnsLance Lhe oneeyed sheep LhaL a cerLaln glrls parenLs refused Lo reLurn desplLe Lhe facL LhaL
Lhelr daughLer Lhough marrled ln due form had never been dellvered Lo her husband because ln Lhe
meanLlme Lhe brldes broLher had somehow seen flL Lo murder Lhe brldegrooms slsLer who had been
guardlng Lhe sheep aL Lhe Llme And many slmllar buL even more compllcaLed grlevances
Around us a hundred faces lmpassloned by Lhese quesLlons of cusLom and lnLeresL bared Lhelr LeeLh wlLh
llLLle cllcklng or blg gurgllng sounds blackAfrlcan words
1he heaL was nearlng lLs helghL l looked up pasL Lhe edge of Lhe roof Lo see lf some dlsasLer was
approachlng ln Lhe sky noL even a sLorm
lm golng Lo sLralghLen Lhls whole Lhlng ouL lmmedlaLely! Crappa flnally declared Lhe heaL and
lnLermlnable palavers had drlven hlm Lo a declslon Wheres Lhe brldes faLher? 8rlng hlm here!"
Pere he ls! crled a dozen naLlves pushlng an elderly decreplLlooklng black man swaLhed wlLh greaL
dlgnlLy ln a yellow pagne8oman sLyleLo Lhe fronL WlLh one clenched flsL Lhe old man beaL Llme Lo
everyLhlng LhaL was belng sald around hlm Pe dldnL look as lf hed come Lo make a complalnL more llkely
he hoped for a blL of enLerLalnmenL long afLer hed glven up expecLlng any Langlble resulLs from hls lawsulL
All rlghL sald Crappa 1wenLy sLrokes! LeLs geL Lhls over wlLh! Clve Lhls old plmp LwenLy sLrokes! 1haLll
Leach hlm Lo pesLer me every 1hursday for Lhe lasL Lwo monLhs wlLh hls baLLy sheep sLory!"
1he old man saw four husky mlllLlamen comlng Loward hlm AL flrsL he dldnL undersLand whaL Lhey wanLed
wlLh hlm buL Lhen he began Lo roll hls eyes whlch were bloodshoL llke Lhe eyes of a Lerrlfled old anlmal
LhaL has never been beaLen before Pe made no real aLLempL Lo reslsL buL nelLher dld he know whaL
poslLlon Lo Lake so Lhe scourge of [usLlce would lnfllcL Lhe leasL paln
1he mlllLlamen pulled hlm by Lhe Loga 1wo of Lhem wanLed hlm Lo kneel buL Lhe oLher Lwo Lold hlm Lo lle
prone ln Lhe end Lhey [usL lald hlm ouL on Lhe ground any whlch way llfLed up hls Loga and sub[ecLed hls
back and buLLocks Lo a score of blows wlLh a flexlble rod LhaL would have made a healLhy mule bellow for a
week Pe wrlggled and wrlLhed Lhe flne sand spurLed all around hlm mlxed wlLh blood he spaL sand as he
howled he made me Lhlnk of an enormous pregnanL basseL blLch belng LorLured
1he publlc was sllenL whlle Lhls was golng on All you could hear was Lhe sound of Lhe beaLlng When lL was
over Lhe old man Lhough half unconsclous Lrled Lo geL up and cover hlmself wlLh hls 8oman pagne Pls
mouLh and nose and mosL of all hls back were bleedlng profusely uronlng Lhelr commenLs and chlLchaL ln
funereal Lones Lhe crowd led hlm away
LleuLenanL Crappa rellL hls clgar ln my presence he affecLed an alr of aloofness from Lhese Lhlngs l donL
belleve he was more neronlan Lhan anyone else buL he dlsllked belng obllged Lo Lhlnk 1haL lnfurlaLed hlm
WhaL exasperaLed hlm when performlng hls [udlclal funcLlons was Lhe quesLlons he was asked
1he same day we wlLnessed anoLher Lwo memorable Lhrashlngs pursuanL Lo furLher dlsconcerLlng reporLs
of dowrles Laken back polsonlngs LhreaLened promlses unfulfllled chlldren of uncerLaln orlgln eLc
Ch! Crappa crled lf Lhey only knew how compleLely cold Lhelr blckerlngs leave me Lheyd sLay ln Lhelr
[ungle where Lhey belong lnsLead of chewlng my ear off wlLh Lhelr cock and bull sLorles! uo l boLher Lhem
wlLh my Lroubles? 8uL Lhen he sLarLed on a dlfferenL ldea ?ou know lm almosL beglnnlng Lo Lhlnk Lhose
apes are developlng a LasLe for my [usLlce lor Lwo years lve been Lrylng Lo geL Lhem dlsgusLed wlLh lL
buL every 1hursday Lhey come back for more 8elleve lL or noL young man lLs almosL always Lhe same
ones who keep comlng! A bunch of perverLs lf you ask me!"
1hen Lhe conversaLlon Lurned Lo 1oulouse where he spenL all hls leaves and where he was plannlng Lo
seLLle ln slx years when he reLlred lL was all rlghL wlLh me We had pleasanLly arrlved aL Lhe Calvados sLage
when we were dlsLurbed agaln by a naLlve whod been senLenced Lhe week before buL was laLe ln havlng
hls senLence carrled ouL now Lwo hours afLer everyone else hed come of hls own free wlll Lo geL hls
Lhrashlng Ped been on Lhe Lrall for Lwo days and Lwo nlghLs and he had no lnLenLlon of golng back Lo hls
vlllage wlLh hls buslness undone 8uL he was laLe and ln maLLers of penal puncLuallLy Crappa was
uncompromlslng Pe asked for lL! Why dldnL he walL hls Lurn lasL Llme? l senLenced Lhe moLherfucker Lo
Lhose flfLy sLrokes lasL 1hursday noL Loday!"
SLlll Lhe cllenL proLesLed for he had a good excuse hed had Lo hurry back Lo hls vlllage Lo bury hls moLher
Pe had Lhree or four moLhers all Lo hlmself LxcellenL argumenLs!
lL wlll have Lo walL Llll Lhe nexL sesslon!"
8uL our cllenL would barely have Llme for Lhe Lrlp Lo hls vlllage and back before Lhe followlng 1hursday Pe
wenL on proLesLlng he wouldnL budge lL Look several vlolenL klcks ln Lhe ass Lo geL LhaL masochlsL ouL of
Lhe camp 1hey gave hlm some pleasure buL noL enough ln Lhe end he wenL Lo Alclde who Look
advanLage of Lhe slLuaLlon Lo sell hlm a whole assorLmenL of Lobacco ln Lhe leaf ln packages and ln Lhe
form of snuff
Well enLerLalned by Lhese varlous lncldenLs l Look my leave of Crappa lL was Llme for hls slesLa and he
wlLhdrew Lo Lhe lnLerlor of hls huL where hls naLlve housekeeper who had [usL come back from her vlllage
was already recllnlng 1haL black woman had a magnlflcenL palr of LlLs and she had been well schooled by
Lhe SlsLers ln Cabon noL only dld Lhe young lady speak lrench (wlLh a llsp) she also knew how Lo
admlnlsLer qulnlne ln [am and Lo dlg chlggers ouL of Lhe soles of ones feeL She knew a hundred ways of
maklng herself agreeable Lo a whlLe man wlLhouL Llrlng hlm or by Llrlng hlm whlchever he preferred
Alclde was walLlng for me Pe was raLher mlffed lL was probably Lhe lnvlLaLlon wlLh whlch Crappa had
honored me LhaL declded hlm Lo conflde ln me WhaL he Lold me was preLLy sLrong sLuff unasked he
modeled Crappas porLralL ln sLeamlng cow flop l replled LhaL he had Laken Lhe words ouL of my mouLh
Alcldes vulnerable polnL was LhaL ln deflance of army regulaLlons whlch sLrlcLly forbade lL he was Lradlng
wlLh Lhe naLlves ln Lhe [ungle round abouL and wlLh hls Lwelve mlllLlamen as well Pe mercllessly sold Lhose
people Lobacco on credlL When payday came around Lhere was no pay for Lhe mlllLlamen Lo collecL Lhey
had smoked lL all up 1hey smoked up advances 1hls peLLy lrregularlLy whaL wlLh Lhe rarlLy of cash ln Lhe
reglon hampered Lhe collecLlon of Laxes
LleuLenanL Crappa was Loo cauLlous a man Lo provoke a scandal ln 1opo whlle he was ln command buL he
was deflnlLely plssed off maybe he was [ealous undersLandably enough he felL LhaL whaLever negllglble
sums of money Lhe naLlves called Lhelr own should remaln avallable Lo Lhe Lax collecLor Lach man Lo hls
LasLe and humble amblLlons
AL flrsL Lhls sysLem of credlL agalnsL Lhelr pay had seemed raLher sLrange and even ouLrageous Lo Lhe
rlflemen whose sole purpose ln worklng was Lo smoke Alcldes Lobacco buL he had goL Lhem used Lo lL by
klcklng Lhem ln Lhe ass 8y LhaL Llme Lheyd glven up Lrylng Lo collecL Lhelr pay Lhey calmly smoked lL up ln
advance among Lhe brlghLcolored flowers ouLslde Alcldes huL beLween Lwo sLlnLs of lmaglnary drlll
ln shorL Lhere was room ln 1opo small as lL was for Lwo sysLems of clvlllzaLlon Crappas whlch you mlghL
call 8oman and whlch conslsLed of flogglng your sub[ecLs for Lhe sole purpose of exLracLlng LrlbuLe of
whlch lf Alclde was Lo be belleved Crappa reLalned a dlsgraceful percenLage for hls own sLrlcLly personal
use and Lhe more elaboraLe Alclde sysLem bearlng wlLness Lo a hlgher sLage of clvlllzaLlon ln whlch every
soldler becomes a cusLomer 1hls mlllLarycommerclal complex ls much more modern and hypocrlLlcal lL ls
lndeed Lhe basls of our own sysLem
LleuLenanL Crappa was no greaL shakes aL geography lor hls knowledge of Lhe vasL LerrlLorles commlLLed
Lo hls charge he relled on a few rudlmenLary maps LhaL he had aL Lhe posL Pe was none Loo eager Lo know
more abouL Lhose LerrlLorles AfLer all we know whaL Lrees and Lhe [ungle are we can see Lhem very nlcely
from a dlsLance
1ucked away ln Lhe fronds and hollows of LhaL lmmense sLeam baLh a few Lhlnly dlssemlnaLed Lrlbes
sLagnaLed amld Lhelr fleas and flles sLulLlfled by Lhelr LoLems and unflagglngly gorglng Lhemselves wlLh
puLrld manloc uLLerly nalve frankly cannlballsLlc maddened by poverLy and ravaged by a Lhousand
plagues no earLhly reason Lo go near Lhem noLhlng Lo [usLlfy Lroublesome admlnlsLraLlve lncurslons whlch
could yleld no resulLs whaLsoever When Crappa had flnlshed meLlng ouL [usLlce he preferred Lo Lurn
Loward Lhe sea and conLemplaLe Lhe horlzon from whlch he had come one day and across whlch he would
sall one day lf all wenL well
lamlllar and all ln all agreeable as Lhe place had become Lo me Lhe Llme came when l had Lo Lhlnk of
leavlng 1opo for Lhe posL LhaL was Lo be my dwelllng place and occupaLlon afLer several days of fluvlal
navlgaLlon and sylvan peregrlnaLlons
Alclde and l were geLLlng on flne LogeLher We Lrled Lo flsh for swordflsh a varleLy of shark LhaL lnfesLed Lhe
waLers ln fronL of our huL Pe was [usL as clumsy as l was We never caughL anyLhlng
1he only furnlshlngs ln hls huL were hls foldlng bed mlne and a few craLes some empLy some full l had
Lhe lmpresslon LhaL whaL wlLh hls llLLle buslness he musL be puLLlng qulLe a loL of money aslde
Where do you keep lL? l asked hlm several Llmes Where do you hlde your fllLhy lucre? !usL Lo geL hls
goaL lannlng a blg spree when you geL back? l was only Leaslng hlm 1wenLy Llmes aL leasL as we dug
lnLo Lhe lnevlLable canned LomaLoes ld enLerLaln hlm wlLh amazlng eplsodes of Lhe herolc [oyrlde from
caLhouse Lo caLhouse LhaL would celebraLe hls reLurn Lo 8ordeaux Pe never sald anyLhlng Ped only laugh
as Lhough my llLLle sLorles amused hlm
AparL from Lhe drlll and Lhe courL sesslons noLhlng happened ln 1opo noLhlng whaLever so naLurally for
wanL of oLher sub[ecLs ld Lake up Lhe same old [oke as ofLen as posslble
Cnce Loward Lhe end of my sLay l LhoughL of wrlLlng Lo Monsleur uLa Lo Louch hlm for some money
Alclde promlsed Lo mall my leLLer Lhe nexL Llme Lhe apaouLah called Alclde kepL hls wrlLlng maLerlals ln a
small blsculL Lln [usL llke Lhe one 8ranledore had had exacLly Lhe same All reenllsLed sergeanLs seemed Lo
have Lhem When he saw me sLarL openlng Lhe box Alclde made a movemenL Lo sLop me l was surprlsed
and embarrassed l had no ldea why he wouldnL leL me open lL buL l puL lL down on Lhe Lable Ch all
rlghL open lL! he sald flnally Pell lL doesnL maLLer 1he phoLograph of a llLLle glrl was pasLed Lo Lhe
lnslde of Lhe lld !usL Lhe head a sweeL llLLle face wlLh long curls Lhe way Lhey wore Lhem ln Lhose days l
Look ouL pen and paper and qulckly closed Lhe lld l was embarrassed aL my lndlscreLlon buL l also
wondered why lL had upseL hlm so
llrsL l flgured LhaL Lhe chlld musL be hls and he hadnL wanLed Lo Lalk abouL her l asked no quesLlons buL
Lhen l heard hlm behlnd my back Lrylng Lo Lell me someLhlng ln a sLrange bumbllng volce ld never heard l
felL very uncomforLable l knew l oughL Lo help hlm Lell me hls sLory buL l dldnL know how Lo go abouL lL l
knew lL would be a palnful sLory Lo llsLen Lo and l wasnL looklng forward Lo lL
lLs noLhlng! l flnally heard hlm say lLs my broLhers daughLer 1heyre boLh dead Per parenLs?
?es her parenLs "
1hen whos brlnglng her up? ?our moLher? l asked hlm LhaL Lo show l was Laklng an lnLeresL My
moLhers dead Loo Who Lhen? Well me!"
Pe grlnned and blushed crlmson as lf hed done someLhlng absoluLely lndecenL 1hen he hasLened Lo
All rlghL lll explaln lm havlng her broughL up ln 8ordeaux by Lhe SlsLers 8uL donL geL me wrong
Lheyre no SlsLers of CharlLy Plghclass SlsLers Shes my responslblllLy and you neednL worry Shell
wanL for noLhlng! Per name ls ClneLLe SweeL llLLle glrl Llke her moLher She wrlLes Lo me shes
maklng good progress buL you know Lhose schools are expenslve Lspeclally now LhaL shes Len l wanL
her Lo have plano lessons aL Lhe same Llme WhaL do you Lhlnk of Lhe plano? Well ln my oplnlon Lhe
plano ls Lhe rlghL Lhlng for glrls uonL you agree? And whaL abouL Lngllsh? Lngllsh can come ln handy
uo you know Lngllsh?"
As Alclde confessed hls falllngnoL belng generous enough l began Lo look aL hlm more closely wlLh hls
llLLle cosmeLlc musLache hls eccenLrlc eyebrows and hls burnLblack skln 1he dellcacy of Lhe man! And
how he musL have scrlmped and saved on hls meager wages hls plLlful allowances and Llny clandesLlne
buslness for monLhs and years ln Lhls lnfernal 1opo! l dldnL know whaL Lo say l had no experlence
buL hls hearL was so much superlor Lo mlne LhaL l wenL red ln Lhe face nexL Lo Alclde l was an lmpoLenL
slob boorlsh and valn no Lwo ways laln as day
l dldnL dare speak Lo hlm anymore Suddenly l felL unworLhy Lo say a word Lo hlm l who only yesLerday
had kepL hlm aL a dlsLance and even looked down on hlm a llLLle
l havenL been lucky he wenL on unaware LhaL he was embarrasslng me wlLh hls confldences lmaglne
Lwo years ago she had lnfanLlle paralysls ?ou know whaL lnfanLlle paralysls ls?"
Pe wenL on Lo explaln LhaL Lhe chllds lefL leg was aLrophled and LhaL a speclallsL ln 8ordeaux was LreaLlng
her wlLh elecLrlclLy
?ou Lhlnk shell geL lL back? he asked me
l assured hlm LhaL she would recover compleLely wlLh Llme and elecLrlclLy Pe spoke very clrcumspecLly of
hls dead moLher and of Lhe chllds lnflrmlLy Pe was afrald even aL a dlsLance of harmlng her
Pave you been Lo see her slnce her lllness?"
no lve been here Lhe whole Llme"
Wlll you go and see her soon?"
l donL Lhlnk lll be able Lo go for anoLher Lhree years ?ou see l do a llLLle buslness here 1haLs a blg
help Lo her lf l wenL on leave now my place here would be Laken before l goL back Lspeclally wlLh
LhaL basLard "
So Alclde had asked Lo do a double hlLch Lo sLay ln 1opo for slx consecuLlve years lnsLead of Lhree for Lhe
sake of hls llLLle nlece of whom he had noLhlng buL a few leLLers and LhaL llLLle phoLograph
WhaL boLhers me he sald afLer wed gone Lo bed ls LhaL she hasnL anybody for Lhe holldays 1haLs
hard on a llLLle glrl "
Cbvlously Alclde was perfecLly aL ease aL home so Lo speak ln Lhe hlgher reglons on Lerms of famlllarlLy
wlLh Lhe angels ?ou wouldnL have known lL Lo look aL hlm WlLh hardly a LhoughL of whaL he was dolng he
had consenLed Lo years of LorLure Lo Lhe crushlng of hls llfe ln Lhls Lorrld monoLony for Lhe sake of a llLLle
glrl Lo whom he was vaguely relaLed MoLlvaLed by noLhlng buL hls good hearL he had seL no condlLlons and
asked noLhlng ln reLurn 1o LhaL llLLle glrl far away he was glvlng enough Lenderness Lo make Lhe whole
world over and he never showed lL
Suddenly he fell asleep ln Lhe candlellghL AfLer a whlle l goL up Lo look aL hls face Pe slepL llke everybody
else Pe looked qulLe ordlnary 1here oughL Lo be some mark by whlch Lo dlsLlngulsh good people from bad
1here are Lwo ways of geLLlng lnLo Lhe [ungle
Cne ls Lo cuL a Lunnel Lhrough lL Lhe way raLs do ln a bale of hay 1haLs Lhe sLlfllng way l [lbbed aL LhaL Cr
you can endure Lhe mlsery of slLLlng huddled ln a hollow Lree Lrunk whlle Lhey paddle you up Lhe wlndlng
rlver from copse Lo snag walLlng for Lhe endless days Lo pass and laylng yourself open wlLhouL defense Lo
Lhe deadly glare And flnally dazed by Lhe yapplng of Lhe black men you reach your desLlnaLlon ln some
sorL of condlLlon
AL flrsL your paddlers always need Llme Lo caLch Lhe cadence ArgumenLs A paddle sLrlkes Lhe waLer Lwo or
Lhree rhyLhmlc howls Lhe [ungle sends back an answer eddles shes glldlng Lwo paddles Lhree sLlll
groplng for Lhe rhyLhm waves lnarLlculaLe burbllngs a backward glance aL Lhe sea flaLLenlng ouL as lL
recedes and up ahead Lhe long smooLh expanse lnLo whlch youre Lolllng And for a whlle yeL far away on
hls dock almosL swallowed up by Lhe sea mlsLs Alclde under hls enormous bellshaped plLh helmeL a
chunk of head Lhe face a small cheese and below lL Lhe resL of hlm floaLlng ln hls Lunlc losL ln a sLrange
whlLeLrousered memory
1haLs all l have lefL of Lhe place of 1opo
Pave Lhey managed Lo defend LhaL scorchlng hamleL agalnsL Lhe lnsldlous scyLhe of Lhe yellowlshbrown
rlver? Are lLs fleablLLen huLs sLlll sLandlng? Are new Crappas and unknown Alcldes sLlll Lralnlng new recrulLs
ln lmaglnary combaL? ls Lhe same plalndeallng brand of [usLlce sLlll belng meLed ouL? ls Lhe drlnklng waLer
sLlll so rancld? So Lepld? So bad LhaL whenever you Lry Lo drlnk lL lL leaves you dlsgusLed for days on end
ls Lhere sLlll no refrlgeraLlon? And whaL of Lhose acousLlc baLLles beLween Lhe flles and Lhe everlasLlng hum
of Lhe qulnlne SulphaLe? Chlorlde? ln your ears? 8uL mosL of all Are Lhere sLlll black people
swelLerlng and pusLulaLlng ln LhaL caldron? Who knows? Maybe noL
Maybe none of all LhaL ls Lhere anymore maybe a Lornado broke loose one nlghL maybe Lhe LlLLle Congo
[usL ln passlng gave 1opo one good llck wlLh lLs muddy Longue and lL was all over Maybe Lhe whole place ls
dead and gone Lhe very name wlped off Lhe maps and nobody lefL Lo remember Alclde Maybe hls llLLle
nlece has forgoLLen hlm Loo Maybe LleuLenanL Crappa never saw hls 1oulouse agaln Maybe Lhe [ungle
whlch has always year afLer year when Lhe ralny season seLs ln had deslgns on Lhe dune has recapLured
Lhe whole seLLlemenL crushed lL beneaLh Lhe shade of lLs glanL mahogany Lrees even Lhose unexpecLed
llLLle sand flowers LhaL Alclde dldnL wanL me Lo waLer Maybe lLs all gone
lll long remember Lhose Len days golng up Lhe rlver Puddled ln Lhe boLLom of Lhe canoe waLchlng ouL
for muddy whlrlpools plcklng furLlve passages beLween enormous drlfLlng branches nlmbly avolded A
labor for convlcLs on Lhe lam
AfLer every sundown wed camp on a rocky promonLory llnally one mornlng we lefL LhaL fllLhy naLlve canoe
and sllpped lnLo Lhe foresL by a hldden paLh LhaL Lwlned Lhrough Lhe molsL green gloom llL only here and
Lhere by a ray of sunllghL falllng from Lhe roof of LhaL vasL caLhedral of leaves MonsLrous felled Lrees forced
us Lo make frequenL deLours Whole MeLro Lralns could have maneuvered wlLh ease ln Lhe hollows lefL by
Lhelr rooLs
Suddenly Lhe full llghL was on us agaln we had come Lo a clearlng and had Lo cllmb an addlLlonal efforL
1he rlse we had come Lo overlooked Lhe endless foresL rolllng over red yellow and green peaks modellng
and smooLhlng hlll and dale as monsLrously spaclous as Lhe sea and Lhe sky l was glven Lo undersLand by
slgns LhaL Lhe man whose hablLaLlon we were looklng for llved [usL a llLLle furLher on ln anoLher valley
And Lhere he was walLlng for us
Pe had bullL a sorL of huL beLween Lwo blg boulders shelLered as he lnformed me from Lhe easLern
Lornadoes whlch were Lhe worsL Lhe mosL furlous 1haL l was wllllng Lo admlL was an advanLage buL Lhe
huL lLself deflnlLely belonged Lo Lhe lowesL mosL ramshackle caLegory an almosL LheoreLlcal edlflce
comlng aparL aL every seam l had foreseen someLhlng of Lhe sorL buL Lhls surpassed all my expecLaLlons
1he man musL have LhoughL l looked downcasL because he addressed me raLher brusquely Lo shake me
ouL of my LhoughLs Come off lL youll be beLLer off here Lhan ln Lhe Lrenches! Pere aL leasL you can worry
along 1he food ls roLLen l canL deny lL and Lheres noLhlng Lo drlnk buL pure mud buL you can sleep as
much as you llke 1heres no blg guns here and no bulleLs! All ln all lLs a bargaln! Pe Lalked someLhlng
llke Lhe ulrecLor Ceneral buL he had pale eyes llke Alcldes
Pe musL have been close Lo LhlrLy wlLh a beard l hadnL Laken a good look aL hlm on arrlvlng because on
arrlvlng ld been Lhrown off by Lhe dllapldaLlon of Lhe seLup he was supposed Lo bequeaLh me and whlch
mlghL posslbly be my home for years 8uL observlng hlm laLer on l found a dlsLlncLly advenLurous face
wlLh sharply accenLuaLed angles one of Lhose rebelllous faces LhaL plunge lnLo llfe headon lnsLead of
rolllng wlLh Lhe waves wlLh a blg round nose and cheeks llke coal barges plashlng agalnsL desLlny wlLh a
sofL babbllng sound 1haL was an unhappy man
lLs Lrue l sald 1heres noLhlng worse Lhan war"
l LhoughL wed sald enough for Lhe momenL l had no deslre Lo say any more lL was he who wenL on
Lspeclally now LhaL Lhey make Lhem so long Well anyway frlend youll see LhaL lLs no [oke here! 1heres
noLhlng Lo do lLs a sorL of vacaLlon LxcepL whod wanL Lo spend a vacaLlon ln a place llke Lhls? Well
maybe lLs a maLLer of LemperamenL l wouldnL know "
Pow abouL Lhe waLer? l asked 1he waLer l saw ln Lhe cup l had poured myself had me worrled lL was
yellowlsh l drank some lL was slckenlng and as warm as ln 1opo A Lhreeday sedlmenL of mud
ls Lhls Lhe waLer? 1he waLer LorLure was sLarLlng all over agaln
?es LhaLs all Lhere ls excepL raln waLer 8uL when lL sLarLs ralnlng Lhe shack wonL lasL long ?ou see
Lhe condlLlon lLs ln?l saw
1he food he wenL on ls all canned 1haLs whaL lve been eaLlng for a whole year lL hasnL kllled me
ConvenlenL ln a way buL lL doesnL sLlck Lo Lhe rlbs 1he naLlves eaL puLrld manloc LhaLs Lhelr buslness
Lhey llke lL lor Lhe lasL Lhree monLhs lLs been runnlng Lhrough me ularrhea Maybe lLs fever Loo
lve goL boLh Around flve oclock lm more lucld 1haLs how l know lve goL fever because lLs hard Lo
feel hoLLer Lhan you do already ln Lhls cllmaLe! AcLually lLs probably Lhe chllls LhaL Lell you youve goL a
fever And noL belng qulLe so bored maybe LhaLs anoLher slgn buL LhaLs a maLLer of LemperamenL
Loo maybe a few drlnks would cheer us up buL l donL go for drlnk lL doesnL agree wlLh me "
Pe seemed Lo Lhlnk very hlghly of whaL he called LemperamenL"
1hen whlle he was aL lL he gave me a llLLle more of hls dellghLful lnformaLlon 8y day lLs Lhe heaL aL nlghL
lLs Lhe nolse LhaLs hard Lo bear lLs unbellevable 1he anlmals go chaslng round and round Lo fuck or
Lo klll each oLher how do l know? LlLher way you never heard such a hullabaloo! 1he loudesL are
Lhe hyenas 1hey come up close Lo Lhe shack ?oull hear Lhem! ?ou wonL have any doubLs lLs
noLhlng llke Lhe qulnlne muslc SomeLlmes you can mlsLake blrds or blg flles for qulnlne lLs
concelvable 8uL hyenas Lhe enormous way Lhey laugh 1heyre smelllng your flesh 1haLs whaL
makes Lhem laugh 1heyre ln a hurry Lo see you pass on! ?ou can even see Lhelr eyes shlnlng so lm
Lold 1hey feed on dead bodles lve never looked lnLo Lhelr eyes lm sorry ln a way "
Sounds dellghLful! l sald
8uL he hadnL flnlshed wlLh Lhe nlghL llfe
1hen Lheres Lhe vlllage he wenL on 1here arenL a hundred nlggers ln lL buL Lhey make enough
rumpus for Len Lhousand ?oull Lell me whaL you Lhlnk of lL! And man! lf lLs LomLoms youre afLer youve
come Lo Lhe rlghL place! lf Lheyre noL beaLlng Lhem because Lhe moon ls ouL Lheyre beaLlng Lhem
because Lhe moon has gone by 1heres always some reason! 1he sonsofblLches seem Lo be ln
cahooLs wlLh Lhe anlmals Lo drlve us crazy! So help me ld shooL Lhe whole loL of Lhem lf l werenL so Llred
As lL ls l puL coLLon ln my ears 1haLs even beLLer As long as l had vasellne ln my medlclne chesL l
greased Lhe coLLon wlLh lL now l use banana oll 8anana oll does Lhe Lrlck 1haL way Lhey can gargle
wlLh LhundersLorms lf lL makes Lhem happy! lLs no skln off my ass wlLh my ears full of greased coLLon! l
donL hear a damned Lhlng! 1hese nlggers are slck Lheyre perverLs! ?oull see! All day long Lhey squaL
on Lhe ground you wouldnL Lhlnk Lhem capable of movlng as far as Lhe nearesL Lree Lo plss agalnsL buL Lhe
mlnuLe lLs dark surprlse! vlce! nerves! PysLerla! Chunks of Lhe nlghL gone hysLerlcal! 1haLs nlggers for
you Lake lL from me! uegeneraLe scum! "
uo Lhey ofLen come and buy from you?"
8uy? ?oure ouL of your mlnd! 1he Lrlck ls Lo rob Lhem before Lhey rob you! 1haLs buslness! AL nlghL of
course Lhey do as Lhey please wlLh greased coLLon ln boLh ears! Lheyd be fools Lo sLand on
ceremony! 8esldes as you see my shack has no door so naLurally Lhey help Lhemselves for Lhem
lLs Lhe good llfe "
8uL whaL abouL your lnvenLory? l asked uLLerly dlsmayed aL whaL he had Lold me 1he ulrecLor Ceneral
Lold me he made hlmself very clear Lo draw up a meLlculous lnvenLory Lhe momenL l goL here "
l have Lhe honor he replled wlLh perfecL calm of Lelllng you LhaL Lhe ulrecLor can klss my ass "
8uL wonL you have Lo see hlm on your way Lhrough lorLCono?"
l wlll never see elLher lorLCono or Lhe ulrecLor agaln lLs a blg foresL my young frlend "
8uL where wlll you go?"
lf anyone asks you Lell Lhem you donL know 8uL slnce you seem eager Lo learn leL me glve you some very
good advlce before lLs Loo laLe! uonL worry abouL Lhe company any more Lhan Lhe Company worrles abouL
you! lf you can run as fasL as Lhe Company screws lLs employees l can Lell you rlghL now LhaL youre due Lo
wln Lhe Crand rlx! So be Lhankful LhaL lm leavlng you a llLLle cash and ask no more! As for Lhe sLock lf
lLs Lrue LhaL Lhe ulrecLor Lold you Lo Lake charge of lL Lell hlm Lhere lsnL any lefL and LhaLs LhaL! lf he
wonL belleve you who cares? 1hey Lake us all for Lhleves anyway! So lL wonL make any dlfference Lo
publlc oplnlon lf for once we geL a llLLle someLhlng ouL of lL And besldes donL worry Lhe ulrecLor knows
more abouL flnanclal monkeyshlnes Lhan anybody so why conLradlcL hlm? 1haLs my oplnlon! WhaLs
yours? Lverybody knows LhaL for a man Lo come here he has Lo be prepared Lo klll hls faLher and moLher!
Am l rlghL?"
l wasnL so sure all hed been Lelllng me was Lrue buL elLher way Lhls predecessor of mlne sLruck me as an
ouLandouL bandlL
l wasnL aL all easy ln my mlnd AnoLher mess lve fallen lnLo! l sald Lo myself wlLh lncreaslng convlcLlon l
sLopped Lalklng wlLh LhaL Lhug ln one corner sLowed every whlch way l found Lhe merchandlse he was
leavlng me a few scraps of coLLon goods 8uL lolncloLhs and shoes by Lhe dozen some boxes of pepper
several lamps a douche can a sLaggerlng quanLlLy of canned CassouleL la 8ordelalse and lasLly a
plcLure posL card of Lhe lace Cllchy
nexL Lo Lhe rldgepole youll flnd Lhe rubber and lvory lve boughL from Lhe nlggers l worked hard aL flrsL
And oh yes here are Lhree hundred francs 1haLs whaLs comlng Lo you "
Comlng Lo me for whaL? l had no ldea buL l dldnL boLher Lo ask hlm
?ou may sLlll be able Lo manage a blL of barLer he sald 8ecause you know youll have no use for money
ouL here only when you wanL Lo clear ouL "
Pe sLarLed laughlng noL wanLlng Lo cross hlm aL Lhe momenL l dld llkewlse l chlmed ln as lf everyLhlng
were hunkydory
ln splLe of Lhe exLreme desLlLuLlon ln whlch hed been llvlng for many monLhs he had surrounded hlmself
wlLh an elaboraLe domesLlc sLaff conslsLlng mosLly of young boys who fell all over Lhemselves ln Lhelr
eagerness Lo brlng hlm Lhe households one and only spoon or Lhe maLchless cup or Lo exLracL wlLh
consummaLe sklll Lhe classlcal and lnevlLable burrowlng chlggers from Lhe soles of hls feeL ln reLurn he
would ofLen obllge Lhem wlLh a klndly hand beLween Lhelr Lhlghs 1he only work l ever saw hlm do was
scraLchlng hlmself buL LhaL llke Lhe shopkeeper aL lorLCono he dld wlLh Lhe marvelous aglllLy LhaL can be
observed only ln Lhe colonles
1he chalrs and Lables he bequeaLhed me showed me whaL lngenulLy can do wlLh crushed soapboxes 1haL
slnlsLer lndlvldual also LaughL me how lL ls posslble for wanL of anyLhlng beLLer Lo do Lo propel Lhose
ungalnly caparlsoned caLerplllars whlch qulverlng and foamlng aL Lhe mouLh kepL assalllng our foresL
cabln far lnLo Lhe dlsLance wlLh a shorL swlfL klck Cod help you lf you are clumsy enough Lo crush one
?oull be punlshed wlLh an enLlre week of lnLense sLench whlch rlses slowly from LhaL unforgeLLable mash
Pe had read somewhere LhaL Lhose horrlble monsLers were Lhe oldesL anlmals ln Lhe world daLlng so he
clalmed back Lo Lhe second geologlcal perlod! When weve come as far as Lhey have my boy wonL we
sLlnk Loo? Pls exacL words
1he sunseLs ln LhaL Afrlcan hell proved Lo be fabulous 1hey never mlssed As Lraglc every Llme as a
monumenLal murder of Lhe sun! 8uL Lhe marvel was Loo greaL for one man alone lor a whole hour Lhe sky
paraded ln greaL dellrlous spurLs of scarleL from end Lo end afLer LhaL Lhe green of Lhe Lrees exploded and
rose up ln qulverlng Lralls Lo meeL Lhe flrsL sLars 1hen Lhe whole horlzon Lurned gray agaln and Lhen red
buL Lhls Llme a Llred red LhaL dldnL lasL long 1haL was Lhe end All Lhe colors fell back down on Lhe foresL ln
LaLLers llke sLreamers afLer Lhe hundredLh performance lL happened every day aL exacLly slx oclock
1hen Lhe nlghL seL ln wlLh all lLs monsLers and lLs Lhousands and Lhousands of croaklng Loads
1he foresL ls only walLlng for Lhelr slgnal Lo sLarL Lrembllng hlsslng and roarlng from lLs depLhs An
enormous lovemaddened unllghLed rallway sLaLlon full Lo bursLlng Whole Lrees brlsLllng wlLh llvlng
nolsemakers muLllaLed erecLlons horror AfLer a whlle we couldnL hear each oLher Lalk ln Lhe huL l had Lo
hooL across Lhe Lable llke a hooL owl for my companlon Lo undersLand me l was geLLlng my moneys worLh
And remember l dldnL llke Lhe counLry
WhaLs your name? l asked hlm uld you say 8oblnson?"
Pe had [usL been Lelllng me LhaL Lhe naLlves ln Lhose parLs suffered horrlbly from every concelvable dlsease
and LhaL Lhe poor basLards were ln no condlLlon Lo engage ln any klnd of Lrade Whlle we were Lalklng
abouL Lhe naLlves so many flles and lnsecLs so large and ln such greaL numbers dashed agalnsL Lhe lamp ln
such dense squalls LhaL we flnally had Lo puL lL ouL
8efore douslng Lhe lamp l caughL a gllmpse of 8oblnsons face velled by a curLaln of lnsecLs 1haL may be
why hls feaLures lmpressed Lhemselves more sharply on my memory whereas before LhaL Lhey hadnL
remlnded me of anyLhlng ln parLlcular Pe wenL on Lalklng Lo me ln Lhe darkness whlle l reLraced Lhe sLeps
of my pasL wlLh Lhe sound of hls volce as a charm wlLh whlch Lo open Lhe doors of Lhe years and monLhs
and flnally of my days wonderlng where l could have run lnLo Lhls man 8uL l found noLhlng no answer
?ou can lose your way groplng among Lhe shadows of Lhe pasL lLs frlghLenlng how many people and Lhlngs
Lhere are ln a mans pasL LhaL have sLopped movlng 1he llvlng people weve losL ln Lhe crypLs of Llme sleep
so soundly slde by slde wlLh Lhe dead LhaL Lhe same darkness envelops Lhem all
As we grow older we no longer know whom Lo awaken Lhe llvlng or Lhe dead
l was Lrylng Lo ldenLlfy Lhls 8oblnson when gales of hldeously exaggeraLed laughLer noL far away ln Lhe
nlghL made me [ump
1hen Lhey fell sllenL lL musL have been Lhe hyenas hed Lold me abouL
And Lhen Lhere was noLhlng buL Lhe vlllagers and Lhelr LomLoms Lhose crazy drums made of hollow wood
LermlLes of Lhe wlnd
1he name 8oblnson gnawed aL me more and more lnslsLenLly ln Lhe darkness we Lalked abouL Lurope and
Lhe meals you can order lf youve goL Lhe money noL Lo menLlon Lhe drlnks! so dellclously cool! noL a word
abouL Lhe nexL day when l was Lo be lefL alone for years perhaps wlLh all Lhose cans of cassouleL
Would war have been beLLer? no worse! ueflnlLely worse! Pe LhoughL so Loo Ped been ln Lhe war
hlmself And neverLheless he was geLLlng ouL of here Pe was fed up wlLh Lhe foresL and LhaL was LhaL
l Lrled Lo brlng hlm back Lo Lhe war 8uL he wouldnL obllge
llnally as we were geLLlng ready for bed each ln hls corner of LhaL shambles of leaves and parLlLlons he
came rlghL ouL wlLh lL he preferred Lhe rlsk of belng haled lnLo courL for LhefL Lo llvlng on cassouleL as hed
been dolng for almosL a year 1hen l saw Lhe lle of Lhe land
PavenL you any coLLon for your ears? he asked me lf noL youd beLLer make some wlLh Lhe nap of a
blankeL and a drop of banana oll ?ou can make very nlce llLLle plugs LhaL way l for my parL refuse Lo puL
up wlLh Lhe bellowlng of Lhose baboons !"
AcLually LhaL concerL had everyLhlng ln lL buL baboons buL he clung Lo hls lnepL generlc Lerm
lL suddenly occurred Lo me LhaL Lhls buslness wlLh Lhe coLLon musL be a cloak for some flendlsh Lrlck l was
selzed wlLh fear LhaL hed murder me Lhere on my foldlng bed and make off wlLh whaL was lefL ln Lhe
money box 1he ldea paralyzed me 8uL whaL could l do? Call for help? Call who? 1he vlllage cannlbals?
l LhoughL of myself as mlsslng Lven ln arls a man wlLhouL money wlLhouL debLs wlLhouL hope of an
lnherlLance hardly exlsLs hes mlsslng Lo all lnLenLs and purposes So whaL could l expecL here? Whod
boLher Lo come Lo 8lkomlmbo and even honor my memory by splLLlng ln Lhe waLer? nobody of course
Pours of lnLermlLLenL Lerror Pe dldnL snore All Lhose sounds Lhose calls from Lhe foresL made lL hard for
me Lo hear hlm breaLhe no need of coLLon l kepL puzzllng and flnally Lhe name 8oblnson revealed a body
a posLure a volce l had known And [usL as l was glvlng ln Lo sleep Lhe whole man sLood before my bed l
held hlm fasL noL hlm of course buL Lhe memory of Lhls 8oblnson Lhe man aL nolrceursurlaLys ln
llanders whod been wlLh me on Lhe frlnges of LhaL nlghL when we wenL looklng for a hole Lhrough whlch
Lo escape from Lhe war and Lhen Lhe same man laLer ln arls lL all came back Lo me ?ears passed ln a
few momenLs ld been unhappy slck ln Lhe head now LhaL l knew now LhaL ld placed hlm l couldnL
help lL l was Lhoroughly scared Pad he recognlzed me? ln any case he could counL on my sllence and
8oblnson! 8oblnson! l crled ouL cheerfully as lf l had good news for hlm Pey old man! Pey 8oblnson!
no answer
WlLh poundlng hearL l goL up expecLlng a mean [ab ln Lhe guL noLhlng 1hen raLher bravely l groped
my way Lo Lhe oLher end of Lhe shack where ld seen hlm go Lo bed Pe was gone
SLrlklng a maLch now and Lhen l walLed for daybreak 1he day came ln a bursL of llghL and so dld Lhe black
servanLs laughlng and offerlng me Lhelr enormous uselessness AL leasL Lhey were cheerful lll admlL LhaL
lrom Lhe flrsL Lhey Lrled Lo Leach me Lhe arL of noL glvlng a damn l dld my besL Lo explaln wlLh a serles of
carefully sLudled gesLures how Lerrlbly 8oblnsons dlsappearance had me worrled no use lL was all Lhe
same Lo Lhem 1rue lLs senseless Lo worry abouL anyLhlng LhaL lsnL rlghL ln fronL of your nose WhaL
boLhered me mosL abouL all Lhls was Lhe money box 8uL when someone walks off wlLh a money box you
seldom see hlm agaln l Lherefore declded LhaL 8oblnson was mosL unllkely Lo come back and murder me
Whlch was LhaL much galned
So Lhe whole landscape was mlne! ld have all Lhe Llme l needed l LhoughL Lo sLudy Lhe surface and Lhe
depLhs of Lhls leafy lmmenslLy Lhls ocean of red of moLLled yellow of flamboyanL hams and head cheeses
magnlflcenL no doubL for people who love naLure l deflnlLely dldnL 1he poeLry of Lhe Lroplcs Lurned my
sLomach 1he LhoughL of all Lhose vlsLas repeaLed on me llke Luna flsh Say whaL you llke lL wlll never be
anyLhlng buL a counLry for mosqulLoes and panLhers And noL for me
l preferred Lo go back Lo my shack and flx lL up ln anLlclpaLlon of Lhe Lornado LhaL could noL be long ln
comlng 8uL l was soon obllged Lo abandon my aLLempLs aL relnforcemenL 1he sLandard parLs of Lhe
sLrucLure were amenable Lo furLher dlslnLegraLlon buL defled repalr Lhe vermlnlnfesLed LhaLch was comlng
aparL you couldnL have made a decenL urlnal ouL of my home
AfLer l had descrlbed a few llsLless clrcles ln Lhe bush Lhe sun forced me Lo go back ln and sllenLly collapse
1he same old sun! AL Lhe noon hour everyLhlng falls sllenL everyLhlng ls afrald of burnlng up And lL
wouldnL Lake much grass anlmals and people are heaLed Lhrough Merldlan apoplexy
My one and only chlcken bequeaLhed Lo me by 8oblnson dreaded Lhe noon hour Lhe same as l dld hed go
back ln wlLh me lor Lhree weeks Lhe chlcken llved wlLh me llke LhaL followlng me llke a dog clucklng
consLanLly seelng snakes wherever he wenL Cne day of exLreme boredom l aLe hlm Pe had no LasLe aL all
hls flesh had been bleached by Lhe sun llke an awnlng Maybe he was whaL made me so slck 8e LhaL as lL
may Lhe mornlng afLer LhaL meal l couldnL geL up Around noon compleLely groggy l dragged myself Lo
Lhe medlclne chesL 1here was noLhlng ln lL buL some lodlne and a map of Lhe nordSud MeLro33 l hadnL
seen a slngle cusLomer ln Lhe sLore only a few vlllagers who came Lo looksee lnLermlnably gesLlculaLlng
and chewlng cola rldden wlLh sex and malarla 1hey gaLhered ln a clrcle around me and seemed Lo be
dlscusslng my ugly mug l was a hundredpercenL slck l felL as lf l had no furLher use for my legs Lhey [usL
hung over Lhe edge of my bed llke unlmporLanL and raLher rldlculous ob[ecLs
All Lhe runners broughL me from Lhe ulrecLor ln lorLCono was leLLers sLlnklng wlLh lnsulLs and ldlocy and
LhreaLenlng whaLs more 8uslnessmen all Lhlnk of Lhemselves as blg or llLLle professlonal wlzards buL ln
pracLlce Lhey usually Lurn ouL Lo be hopeless lncompeLenLs My moLher wrlLlng from lrance admonlshed
me Lo Lake care of my healLh as she had durlng Lhe war My head could be all seL for Lhe gullloLlne and sLlll
my moLher would scold me for forgeLLlng my muffler She never mlssed an opporLunlLy Lo Lry and convlnce
me LhaL Lhe world ls a klndly place and LhaL shed done a good [ob ln concelvlng me 1hls alleged rovldence
was Lhe greaL subLerfuge of maLernal LhoughLlessness lL was easy for me l have Lo admlL Lo leave all my
bosss and moLhers hogwash unanswered and Lhe facL ls l never dld answer Lhelr leLLers Clever of me buL
lL dldnL lmprove my slLuaLlon
8oblnson had made off wlLh almosL everyLhlng LhaL fraglle edlflce had conLalned buL whod belleve me lf l
sald so? WrlLe leLLers? WhaL for? 1o whom? AL abouL flve every afLernoon l shook wlLh a vlolenL fever my
bed [lggled and raLLled as lf ld been vlgorously [erklng off A bunch of blacks from Lhe vlllage had come Lo
walL on me and Laken possesslon of Lhe huL l hadnL senL for Lhem buL Lo send Lhem away would have
been Loo much of an efforL 1hey squabbled over Lhe remalns of Lhe sLock rummaged Lhrough Lhe kegs of
Lobacco Lrled on Lhe lasL of Lhe lolncloLhs felL Lhe maLerlal and Look Lhem off addlng lf LhaL was posslble
Lo Lhe general dlsorder of my esLabllshmenL 1he rubber was all over Lhe ground mlngllng lLs [ulce wlLh Lhe
bush melons and Lhose slcklysweeL papayas LhaL LasLe llke plssy pears l aLe so many of Lhem ln place of
beans LhaL now flfLeen years laLer Lhe memory of Lhem sLlll Lurns my sLomach
l Lrled Lo gauge Lhe degree of hopelessness Lo whlch l had fallen l couldnL Lverybody sLeals! 8oblnson
had sald Lo me Lhree Llmes before dlsappearlng 1he ulrecLor was of Lhe same oplnlon ln my fever Lhose
words ran Lhrough me llke shooLlng palns ?ouve goL Lo flgure Lhe angles! Ped sald LhaL Loo l Lrled Lo geL
up l couldnL make lL Ped been rlghL abouL Lhe waLer we had Lo drlnk lL was concenLraLed muck LlLLle
black boys broughL me bananas blg ones llLLle ones red ones and more and more papayas buL l was so
slck of all LhaL and everyLhlng else! ld have vomlLed up Lhe whole globe
As soon as l felL a Llny blL beLLer and noL qulLe so dazed l was selzed agaln wlLh a horrlble fear Lhe fear LhaL
Lhe Company would call me Lo accounL WhaL would l say Lo Lhose devlls? Pow would l geL Lhem Lo belleve
me? 1heyd have me arresLed for sure! And who would Lry me? A bunch of speclal [udges someLhlng llke a
courLmarLlal armed wlLh Lerrlble laws Lhey had goLLen from Cod knows where who never Lell Lhelr real
lnLenLlons and who for Lhe sheer fun of lL make you drag your bleedlng sLeps up Lhe sLeep paLh overlooklng
hell Lhe paLh LhaL leads poor basLards Lo Lhelr deaLh 1he Law ls a blg Luna ark of sufferlng When a poor
man leLs hlmself geL caughL ln lL youll hear hlm screamlng for cenLurles on end
l preferred Lo lle Lhere ln a sLupor Lrembllng and foamlng aL Lhe mouLh wlLh a 104 fever Lhan Lo be lucld
and forced Lo Lhlnk of whaL would happen Lo me ln lorLCono l even sLopped Laklng my qulnlne because l
flgured Lhe fever would keep llfe away from me ?ou geL drunk on whaL youve goL Whlle l lay Lhere
swelLerlng l ran ouL of maLches 1heyd been ln shorL supply 8oblnson hadnL lefL me a Lhlng only
CassouleL la 8ordelalse 8uL plenLy of LhaL l assure you l Lhrew up whole Llns of lL And even Lo arrlve aL
LhaL resulL you had Lo heaL Lhem
1he shorLage of maLches provlded me wlLh one llLLle amusemenL waLchlng my cook llghL hls flre wlLh Lwo
pleces of fllnL and some dry grass lL was whlle l was waLchlng hlm LhaL Lhe ldea came Lo me WlLh plenLy of
fever added my ldea became wonderfully vlvld 1hough clumsy by naLure l was able afLer applylng myself
for a monLh Lo llghL a flre wlLh Lwo sharp sLones llke a savage ln shorL l was learnlng how Lo make do
under prlmlLlve condlLlons llre ls Lhe flrsL Lhlng Lhen Lheres hunLlng buL l wasnL lnLeresLed ln LhaL My
flame was all l needed and l pracLlced consclenLlously uay afLer day l had noLhlng else Lo do l never goL
nearly as good aL Lhe sporL of propelllng Lhose secondary caLerplllars l dldnL qulLe geL Lhe knack l
squashed a loL of Lhem and Lhen l losL lnLeresL l gave Lhem Lhe run of Lhe housellke old frlends 1here
were Lwo blg sLorms Lhe second wenL on for Lhree days and worse for Lhree nlghLs AL lasL l had drlnklng
waLer ln Lhe buckeL Lepld Lo be sure buL even so ln Lhe deluge Lhe scraps of goods ln my llLLle sLock
began Lo run and lnLermlngle a dlsgusLlng mess
Some of Lhe naLlves obllglngly broughL me llanas from Lhe foresL Lo anchor my shack Lo Lhe ground buL ln
valn aL Lhe sllghLesL wlnd Lhe leafy walls would flap wlldly agalnsL Lhe roof llke wounded wlngs 1here was
noLhlng l could do abouL lL never a dull momenL
8lacks blg and small declded Lo [oln me ln my downfall Lhey goL more and more famlllar And Lhey were so
very happy WhaL fun! 1hey came and wenL as Lhey pleased ln my socalled home lreedom! As a slgn of
perfecL undersLandlng we exchanged slgns lf l hadnL had fever l mlghL have sLarLed learnlng Lhelr
language 1here wasnL Llme enough l made very good progress ln flremaklng buL l hadnL yeL masLered
Lhelr besL manner l wasnL very qulck abouL lL Showers of sparks sLlll flew lnLo my eyes whlch gave my
black frlends a good laugh
When l wasnL molderlng wlLh fever on my foldlng bed or worklng my prlmlLlve Llnderbox l LhoughL of Lhe
Companys accounLs lLs funny how hard lL ls Lo Lhrow off ones dread of lrregular accounLs ld
undoubLedly lnherlLed LhaL from my moLher shed conLamlnaLed me wlLh her Pe who sLeals a pln wlll
sLeal a pound and end up murderlng hls moLher We all flnd lL hard Lo Lhrow off Lhose ldeas We plck
Lhem up ln chlldhood and Lhey come back Lo Lerrlfy us laLer on ln every crlsls Cur only hope of geLLlng rld
of Lhem ls Lhe force of clrcumsLances! Lucklly Lhe force of clrcumsLances ls enormous Meanwhlle Lhe sLore
and l were slnklng Cne of Lhese days wed be swallowed up by Lhe mud whlch goL Lhlcker and more
vlscous wlLh every downpour 1he ralny season WhaL looked llke a boulder yesLerday was oozy molasses
Loday 1epld waLer fell ln cascades from dangllng branches and followed one everywhere lL lnvaded Lhe huL
and spread round abouL as ln an old abandoned rlverbed 1he raln made a porrldge of my merchandlse my
hopes and my accounLs and so dld my fever whlch was also very molsL 1he raln was so compacL LhaL
when lL hlL you lL sLopped your mouLh llke a lukewarm gag 8uL Lhe flood dldnL sLop Lhe anlmals from
geLLlng LogeLher Lhe nlghLlngales sLarLed maklng as much nolse as [ackals Anarchy all over Lhe ark and l a
dodderlng noah 1hls l LhoughL had been golng on long enough
Ah my moLhers adages werenL abouL honesLy As l remembered opporLunely she used Lo say when
burnlng old bandages noLhlng purlfles llke flre! A moLher leaves you someLhlng for every Lurn of laLe
?ou [usL have Lo Lake your plck
1he Llme had come My pleces of fllnL were noL very well chosen noL sharp enough mosL of Lhe sparks
sLruck my hands ln Lhe end however some of my merchandlse Look flre ln splLe of Lhe dampness a parcel
of sopplng weL socks lL happened afLer sundown 1he flames rose lmpeLuously Wlldly [abberlng Lhe
vlllagers gaLhered around Lhe blaze 1he crude rubber LhaL 8oblnson had boughL was slzzllng ln Lhe mlddle
and Lhe smell remlnded me lnvlnclbly of Lhe famous 1elephone Company flre on Lhe Cual de Crenelle LhaL
ld gone Lo see wlLh my uncle Charles who sang senLlmenLal ballads so well 1haL was Lhe year before Lhe
blg LxposlLlon when l was very young noLhlng brlngs memorles Lo Lhe surface llke smells and flames My
shack smelled exacLly LhaL way 1hough drenched lL burned very Lhoroughly Lo Lhe ground merchandlse
and all no more accounLs 1he owls and leopards Loads and parroLs musL have been flabbergasLed lL
Lakes someLhlng Lo lmpress LhaL crowd Llke war wlLh us now Lhe foresL could come back and cover Lhe
wreckage wlLh lLs Lhunderlng leaves l hadnL saved anyLhlng buL my personal belonglngs my foldlng bed
Lhe Lhree hundred francs and naLurally sad Lo say a few cans of cassouleL for Lhe road
When Lhe flre had been burnlng for an hour hardly anyLhlng was lefL of Lhe shack A few Longues of flame
ln Lhe raln and a few [abberlng black men poklng abouL ln Lhe ashes wlLh Lhe Llps of Lhelr spears amld gusLs
of Lhe smell LhaL cllngs Lo all caLasLrophes emanaLes from all Lhe defeaLs of Lhls world Lhe smell of smoklng
now was Lhe Llme Lo make qulck Lracks 8ack Lo lorLCono reLrace my sLeps? 1ry Lo explaln my conducL
and Lhe clrcumsLances of Lhe presenL dlsasLer? l heslLaLed noL for long noLhlng can be explalned 1he
world only knows how Lo do one Lhlng Lo roll over and klll you as a sleeper kllls hls fleas 1haL would be a
sLupld way Lo dle l sald Lo myself Lo leL myself be crushed llke everybody else 1o puL your LrusL ln men ls
Lo geL yourself kllled a llLLle
ln splLe of Lhe condlLlon l was ln l declded Lo head sLralghL lnLo Lhe bush ln Lhe dlrecLlon Laken by LhaL
lnfernal 8oblnson
CfLen on my way l heard Lhe beasLs of Lhe
[ungle wlLh Lhelr plalnLs and calls and Lremolos buL l hardly ever saw Lhem l donL counL Lhe llLLle wlld plg l
almosL sLepped on one day noL far from my shelLer Pearlng Lhose LorrenLs of calls and screams and roars
you had Lhe lmpresslon LhaL Lhey were close by hundreds and Lhousands of Lhem And yeL when you goL
Lo Lhe place where Lhe hubbub came from Lhere was nobody Lhere excepL for Lhose blg blue gulnea fowl
all Lrussed up ln Lhelr plumage as lf Lhey were golng Lo a weddlng and so clumsy when Lhey [umped
coughlng from branch Lo branch LhaL you LhoughL Lhey musL have had an accldenL
Lower down ln Lhe musLy undergrowLh blg heavy buLLerflles bordered llke deaLh noLlces qulvered wlLh
Lhe efforL of openlng Lhelr wlngs and lower sLlll lL was us sloshlng Lhrough Lhe yellow mud We had Lrouble
geLLlng ahead especlally because Lhe blacks were carrylng me ln a llLLer made of sacks sewn end Lo end
1hey could easlly have Lossed me ln Lhe drlnk whlle we were crosslng a sLream Why dldnL Lhey? l found
ouL laLer Cr Lhey could have eaLen me slnce LhaL was one of Lhelr cusLoms
now and Lhen ld quesLlon Lhem wlLh my Lhlck Longue and every Llme Lhey answered ?es yes Always glad
Lo obllge Cood fellows Whenever my dlarrhea leL me go for a whlle Lhe fever Look hold ?ou wouldnL
belleve how slck l was l couldnL see Lhlngs clearly anymore or raLher everyLhlng was beglnnlng Lo look
green AfLer nlghLfall all Lhe anlmals of creaLlon surrounded our camp Wed make a flre 8uL here and
Lhere even so a cry would plerce Lhe greaL black awnlng LhaL sLlfled us uesplLe lLs horror of men and flre
a wounded dylng anlmal would manage Lo complaln Lo us seelng we were rlghL Lhere
AfLer Lhe fourLh day l sLopped even Lrylng Lo dlsLlngulsh reallLy from Lhe absurd fever lmages LhaL wenL
chaslng one anoLher Lhrough my head along wlLh fragmenLs of people and endless LaLLers of resoluLlons
and dlsappolnLmenLs
Lven so l Lell myself Loday when l Lhlnk abouL lL LhaL Lhe bearded whlLe man we meL one mornlng on a
sLony promonLory near Lhe meeLlng of Lwo rlvers musL have been real A caLaracL nearby was maklng a
helllsh dln Pe was a sergeanL someLhlng llke Alclde excepL Lhls one was Spanlsh Worrylng along from Lrall
Lo Lrall wed ended up ln Lhe colony of 8lo del 8lo an anclenL possesslon of Lhe Crown of CasLlle 1haL poor
Spanlsh soldler also had a shack l seem Lo remember LhaL he laughed when l Lold hlm abouL my
mlsadvenLures and whaL ld done wlLh my shack! Pls l have Lo admlL looked a llLLle beLLer buL noL much
Pls speclal cross was Lhe red anLs Cn Lhelr annual mlgraLlon Lhose llLLle blLches had elecLed Lo pass sLralghL
Lhrough hls shack and Lheyd been aL lL for golng on Lwo monLhs
1hey Look up pracLlcally all Lhe space you could hardly Lurn around and lf you goL ln Lhelr way Lhey
plnched you hard
Pe was over[oyed when l gave hlm some of my cassouleL because hed been llvlng on LomaLoes for Lhe lasL
Lhree years l couldnL beLLer LhaL All by hlmself he Lold me he had downed more Lhan Lhree Lhousand
cans 1lred of preparlng Lhe LomaLoes ln dlfferenL ways he had Laken Lo sucklng Lhe cans llke eggs Lhrough
Lwo llLLle holes ln Lhe lld
When Lhe red anLs dlscovered LhaL a new varleLy of canned goods had arrlved Lhey mounLed guard around
Lhe cassouleL lL wouldnL have been advlsable Lo leave a freshly opened can sLandlng Lheyd have
summoned Lhe whole naLlon of red anLs Lo Lhe shack 1here are no blgger communlsLs anywhere And
Lheyd have eaLen up Lhe Spanlard Loo
My hosL lnformed me LhaL Lhe caplLal of 8lo del 8lo was called San 1apeLa34 a seaporL famous all along
Lhe coasL for lLs Lransoceanlc galleys
lL so happened LhaL Lhe Lrack we were on ended Lhere we would [usL have Lo go sLralghL ahead for Lhree
days and Lhree nlghLs l was good and slck of my dellrlum so l asked Lhe Spanlard lf he knew of some good
naLlve medlclne LhaL would sLralghLen me ouL My head was acLlng up someLhlng Lerrlble 8uL he wouldnL
hear of any such mumbo [umbo lor a Spanlsh colonlal he was sLrangely Afrlcanophoblc so much so LhaL
when he wenL Lo Lhe LolleL he refused Lo use banana leaves and kepL a whole sheaf of Lhe 8oleLln de
AsLurlas cuL up ln llLLle pleces for LhaL express purpose And he dldnL read Lhe paper - same as Alclde
lor Lhree years hed been llvlng Lhere alone wlLh Lhe anLs a few llLLle klnks and hls old newspapers WhaL
wlLh hls awful Spanlsh accenL whlch was so sLrong lL was llke havlng somebody else ln Lhe room lL was
hard Lo geL hlm sLlrred up abouL anyLhlng When he chewed ouL hls naLlves lL was llke a LempesL lor
loudness of mouLh Alclde couldnL hold a candle Lo hlm l Look such a llklng Lo LhaL Spanlard LhaL ln Lhe end
l gave hlm all my cassouleL CuL of graLlLude he made me a lovely passporL on gralny paper sLamped wlLh
Lhe arms of CasLlle wlLh a slgnaLure so elaboraLe so flnlcky LhaL lL Look hlm aL leasL Len mlnuLes Lo geL lL
Ped Lold Lhe LruLh you couldnL mlss Lhe road Lo San 1apeLa you only had Lo follow your nose l donL
remember Lhe Lrlp buL of one Lhlng lm sure LhaL as soon as we goL Lhere Lhey handed me over Lo a prlesL
who was so gaga LhaL havlng hlm beslde me gave me a klnd of comparaLlve selfconfldence 8uL noL for
1he Lown of San 1apeLa was plunked down on Lhe slde of a rock dlrecLly faclng Lhe sea lL was hard Lo
belleve how green Lhe place was A magnlflcenL specLacle no doubL seen from Lhe roadsLead splendld
from a dlsLance Cn Lhe spoL Lhough Lhere was noLhlng Lo admlre buL Lhe same overworked carcasses as
ln lorLCono everlasLlngly sweaLlng and pusLulaLlng ln a lucld momenL l dlsmlssed Lhe blacks of my llLLle
caravan 1heyd crossed a long sLreLch of [ungle and feared for Lhelr llves golng back so Lhey sald ln leavlng
me Lhey wepL ln advance aL Lhe LhoughL of Lhe [ourney buL 1 hadnL Lhe sLrengLh Lo feel sorry for Lhem l
had suffered and sweaLed Loo much And l was sLlll aL lL
8y day and by nlghL Lo Lhe besL of my recollecLlon a loL of [abberersLhey were decldedly ln plenLlful
supplycrowded around my bed whlch had been seL up for LhaL very purpose ln Lhe presbyLery slnce
enLerLalnmenL was rare ln San 1apeLa 1he prlesL fllled me wlLh Llsanes a long gllded cruclflx dangled over
hls belly and when he came near me a loud cllnklng of colns rose from Lhe depLhs of hls souLane
ConversaLlon wlLh Lhose people was ouL of Lhe quesLlon lL exhausLed me compleLely [usL Lo mumble a
word or Lwo
l really LhoughL lL was all up wlLh me and l Lrled Lo Lake a lasL look aL whaL could be seen of Lhe world
Lhrough Lhe prlesLs wlndow l doubL lf l could descrlbe Lhose gardens Loday wlLhouL gross and ouLlandlsh
mlsLakes 1he sun was Lhere l can vouch for LhaL always Lhe same as lf somebody had opened a blg
furnace ln your face and Lhen behlnd lL Lhere was more sun and lnsane Lrees whole avenues of Lhem
Lhose leLLuces as blg as oaks and Lhose Afrlcan dandellons Lhree or four of whlch would add up Lo a
perfecLly good chesLnuL Lree ln lrance 1hrow ln a Load or Lwo as hefLy as spanlels waddllng furLlvely from
one flowerbed Lo Lhe nexL
eople counLrles and ob[ecLs all end up as smells l kepL my eyes closed because l really couldnL open
Lhem anymore 1hen from nlghL Lo nlghL Lhe sharp smell of Afrlca was blunLed lL became harder for me Lo
recapLure LhaL heavy mlxLure of decaylng soll human croLches and ground saffron
1lme paLches of Lhe pasL Lhen more Llme and Lhen aL a cerLaln momenL l felL a serles of [olLs and LwlsLs
and Lhen Lhe [olLlng became more regular a swaylng a rocklng
l was sLlll lylng down LhaL was sure buL whaLever l was lylng on was movlng l leL myself go l vomlLed Lhen
l woke up agaln and fell asleep agaln l was on Lhe sea l felL so falnL LhaL l barely had Lhe sLrengLh Lo caLch
Lhe new smell of ropes and Lar lL was cool ln Lhe heavlng nlche where l was lylng dlrecLly under a wlde
open porLhole 1heyd lefL me alone LvldenLly my [ourney was conLlnulng 8uL whaL [ourney? l heard
sLeps on Lhe deck a wooden deck rlghL over my nose and volces and Lhe waves lashlng and melLlng
agalnsL Lhe shlps slde
Llfe seldom comes back Lo your deaLhbed wherever you may be excepL ln Lhe form of a lowdown Lrlck
1he one Lhose people ln San 1apeLa had played on me fllled Lhe blll 1aklng advanLage of my befuddled
sLaLe Lheyd sold me Lo Lhe capLaln of a galley A flne galley Lo be sure hlgh of hull well flLLed wlLh oars
crowned wlLh beauLlful purple salls gllded flgurehead superbly upholsLered offlcers quarLers and on Lhe
prow a magnlflcenL codllveroll palnLlng of Lhe lnfanLa ComblLLa33 dressed for polo 1he lnfanLa l was
Lold laLer on was Lhe shlps sponsor offerlng lL Lhe proLecLlon of her name her LlLs and her royal dlgnlLy lL
was flaLLerlng
AfLer all l reflecLed when l reallzed whaL had happened ln San 1apeLa l was as slck as a dog Lhe whole
world was splnnlng and ld cerLalnly have dled ln LhaL presbyLery where Lhe naLlves had lefL me 8eLurn
Lo lorLCono? 1hose accounLs would cerLalnly have goL me flfLeen years Pere aL leasL l was movlng
and LhaL was ground for hope - Come Lo Lhlnk of lL Lhe capLaln of Lhe lnfanLa ComblLLa had Laken a blg
chance ln buylng me even dlrL cheap from LhaL prlesL before welghlng anchor lL was a rlsky lnvesLmenL
for LhaL capLaln could have losL all hls money Pe was counLlng on Lhe brlsk sea alr Lo revlve me Pe
deserved a reward and obvlously he was wlnnlng hls beL for l was already recoverlng l could see he was as
pleased as unch l sLlll raved qulLe a loL buL wlLh a cerLaln loglc AfLer l opened my eyes he ofLen came
Lo see me ln my cubbyhole Pe was always wearlng hls plumed haL 1haLs how l saw hlm
lL amused hlm Lo see me Lry Lo ralse myself on my palleL ln splLe of my fever All rlghL shlLass! hed say
?oull soon be able Lo row wlLh Lhe resL of Lhem! A klndly LhoughL Pe roared wlLh laughLer glvlng me
llLLle sLrokes of hls whlp buL ln a frlendly klnd of way on Lhe back of my neck noL on my rear end Pe
wanLed me Lo laugh Loo Lo share hls pleasure aL Lhe buslness acumen hed shown ln acqulrlng me
1he food on board sLruck me as qulLe accepLable My speech was sLlll muddled Soon as Lhe capLaln had
foreseen l recovered enough sLrengLh Lo [oln Lhe boys aL Lhe oars 8uL where Lhere were Len oarsmen l
saw a hundred mulLlple vlslon
1he crosslng wasnL faLlgulng because mosL of Lhe Llme we were under sall Cur condlLlons beLween decks
were no more nauseaLlng Lhan Lhose of Lhe usual Lhlrdclass passengers on a Sunday excurslon Lraln and
noL nearly as perllous as whaL ld endured on Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon comlng ouL 1here was always plenLy
of breeze on Lhls voyage from Lhe easL Lo Lhe wesL of Lhe ALlanLlc 1he LemperaLure dropped nobody
complalned abouL LhaL beLween decks 1he only Lrouble was LhaL Lhe Lrlp seemed Lo be Laklng a long Llme
lor my parL l had seen enough seascapes and [ungle vlsLas Lo lasL me an eLernlLy
ld have llked Lo ask Lhe capLaln a few quesLlons abouL Lhe alm and purpose of Lhls Lrlp buL once l was
deflnlLely on Lhe mend he losL lnLeresL ln me Anyway l was sLlll drlvellng Loo much for conversaLlon lrom
Lhen on l saw hlm only from a dlsLance llke a real boss
l sLarLed looklng for 8oblnson among Lhe galley slaves and several Llmes ln Lhe sllence of Lhe nlghL l called
hlm ln a loud volce 1here was no answer excepL for a few lnsulLs and LhreaLs from Lhe oLher galley slaves
SLlll Lhe more l LhoughL abouL Lhe deLalls and clrcumsLances of my advenLure Lhe more llkely lL seemed Lo
me LhaL Lhe same Lhlng musL have happened Lo hlm ln San 1apeLa LxcepL LhaL 8oblnson musL be rowlng on
some oLher galley 1hose [ungle nlggers l LhoughL musL all have a hand ln Lhe rackeL Why shouldnL Lhey
Lake Lhelr Lurn? 1heyve goL Lo llve havenL Lhey? so naLurally Lhey sell Lhe Lhlngs and people Lhey canL
eaL rlghL away 1he naLlves relaLlve klndness Lo me could be aLLrlbuLed Lo Lhe mosL sordld of moLlves
lor weeks and weeks Lhe lnfanLa ComblLLa salled over Lhe rolllng ALlanLlc from flL of fever Lo flL of
seaslckness and Lhen one evenlng all was calm around us My dellrlum was gone We were bobblng aL
anchor Waklng nexL day we reallzed on openlng Lhe porLholes LhaL we had reached our desLlnaLlon And
whaL a slghL lL was!
1alk of surprlses! WhaL we suddenly
dlscovered Lhrough Lhe fog was so amazlng LhaL aL flrsL we refused Lo belleve lL buL Lhen when we were
face Lo face wlLh lL galley slaves or noL we couldnL help laughlng seelng lL rlghL Lhere ln fronL of us
!usL lmaglne LhaL clLy was sLandlng absoluLely erecL new ?ork was a sLandlng clLy Cf course wed seen
clLles flne ones Loo and magnlflcenL seaporLs 8uL ln our parL of Lhe world clLles lle along Lhe seacoasL or
on rlvers Lhey recllne on Lhe landscape awalLlng Lhe Lraveler whlle Lhls Amerlcan clLy had noLhlng languld
abouL her she sLood Lhere as sLlff as a board noL seducLlve aL all Lerrlfylngly sLlff
We laughed llke fools ?ou canL help laughlng aL a clLy bullL sLralghL up and down llke LhaL 8uL we could
only laugh from Lhe neck up because of Lhe cold blowlng ln from Lhe sea Lhrough a gray and plnk mlsL a
brlsk sharp wlnd LhaL aLLacked our panLs and Lhe chlnks ln LhaL wall l mean Lhe clLy sLreeLs whlch engulfed
Lhe wlndborne clouds Cur galley spun lLs narrow wake [usL ouLslde Lhe docks aL Lhe end of Lhe shlL
colored bay asplash wlLh schools of rowboaLs and avld LooLlng Lugs
When youre down aL heel lLs never much fun landlng anywhere buL for a galley slave lLs a loL worse
especlally ln Amerlca because Lhose people donL llke Lhe galley slaves LhaL come over from Lurope aL all
1heyre anarchlsLs! 1haLs whaL Lhey say 1he only people Lhey really welcome are LourlsLs who brlng
Lhem dough because all Lhe currencles of Lurope are relaLlves of Lhe uollar
l mlghL have Lrled whaL oLhers had succeeded ln dolng swlmmlng across Lhe harbor and once on land sLarL
shouLlng Long llve uollar! Long llve uollar! lLs a glmmlck A loL of people have landed LhaL way and made
a forLune lLs noL cerLaln buL so Lhey say Lven worse Lhlngs happen ln dreams l had a dlfferenL plan ln my
head along wlLh my fever
Cn board Lhe galley ld become an experL aL counLlng fleas (noL [usL caLchlng Lhem buL addlng and
subLracLlng Lhem ln shorL complllng sLaLlsLlcs) a subLle sklll whlch looks llke noLhlng aL all buL sLlll lLs a
Lechnlque and l LhoughL ld make use of lL ?ou can say whaL you llke abouL Lhe Amerlcans buL when lL
comes Lo Lechnlques Lheyre connolsseurs 1heyd be crazy abouL my way of counLlng fleas l was sure of
LhaL ln advance l was convlnced LhaL l couldnL fall
l was abouL Lo offer Lhem my servlces when suddenly our galley was ordered Lo lLs quaranLlne sLaLlon a
shelLered cove nearby wlLhln halllng dlsLance of a small vlllage aL Lhe end of a quleL bay Lwo mlles easL of
new ?ork
1here we remalned under observaLlon for weeks and weeks long enough Lo acqulre a dally rouLlne Lvery
evenlng afLer supper for lnsLance our waLer squad would go ashore and make lLs way Lo Lhe vlllage 1o
aLLaln my ends ld have Lo go along
My shlpmaLes knew whaL l had ln mlnd buL Lhe advenLure dldnL LempL Lhem Pes mad buL harmless
Lhey sald 1he food wasnL bad on board Lhe lnfanLa ComblLLa Lhey goL clubbed now and Lhen buL noL Loo
badly and all ln all lL was bearable An average sorL of [ob And lL had one subllme advanLage you couldnL
be flred from a galley and Lhe klng had even promlsed Lhem a small penslon aL Lhe age of slxLyLwo 1haL
prospecL made Lhem happy lL gave Lhem someLhlng Lo dream abouL and anoLher Lhlng Lhey played aL
voLlng on Sundays lL gave Lhem a feellng of freedom
We were kepL ln quaranLlne for weeks Lhe men bellowed beLween decks Lhey foughL and buggered one
anoLher by Lurns 8uL Lhelr maln reason for noL wanLlng Lo escape wlLh me was LhaL Lhey were absoluLely
down on Lhls Amerlca LhaL l was so smlLLen wlLh We all have our bugaboos and Lhelrs was Amerlca 1hey
even Lrled Lo sour me on lL l Lold Lhem l knew people Lhere my llLLle Lola among oLhers who musL have
been loaded by Lhen and 8oblnson no doubL who had surely carved hlmself a nlche ln Lhe buslness world
buL Lhey clung Lo Lhelr averslon for Lhe unlLed SLaLes Lhelr dlsgusL Lhelr haLred ?oull always have a screw
loose Lhey sald Cne day l made as lf Lo [oln Lhelr expedlLlon Lo Lhe vlllage waLer Lap and Lhen l Lold Lhem
l wasnL golng back Lo Lhe galley Coodbye!
1hey were a good bunch all ln all hard workers 1hey Lold me agaln LhaL Lhey dldnL approve one blL of whaL
l was dolng buL Lhey wlshed me good luck and plenLy of fun all Lhe same ln Lhelr own way Co! Lhey sald
Co rlghL ahead! 8uL were warnlng you ?ou havenL goL Lhe rlghL ldeas for a beggar! lLs your fever LhaL
scrambles your bralns! ?oull come back from LhaL Amerlca of yours ln worse condlLlon Lhan we are! ?our
fancy ldeas wlll be Lhe end of you! ?ou wanL Lo learn Lhlngs? ?ou know Loo much already for Lhe llkes of
l Lrled Lo Lell Lhem l had frlends who were expecLlng me l spluLLered and sLammered
lrlends? Lhey sald ?our frlends couldnL care less! ?our frlends forgoL you long ago! "
8uL l wanL Lo see Amerlcans l lnslsLed And besldes Lheyve goL women llke nowhere else ln Lhe world!"
Wlse guy! Lhey sald Come on back wlLh us 8elleve us lLs noL worLh lL ?oull make yourself slcker Lhan
you are Well Lell you whaL Amerlcans are llke! 1heyre elLher mllllonalres or skunks! 1heres noLhlng ln
beLween! 1he shape youre ln you cerLalnly wonL be seelng any mllllonalres! 8uL donL worry youll geL
your flll of skunks you can be sure of LhaL! And lL wonL be long oh no!"
1haLs Lhe way Lhey spoke Lo me A bunch of [erks cocksuckers subhumans Lhey made me slck! 8eaL lL
Lhe whole loL of you! l Lold Lhem ?oure green wlLh envy LhaLs all! Well see lf Lhe Amerlcans skln me
allve! 8uL one Lhlng ls sure youve all goL ladyflngers beLween your legs and llmp ones aL LhaL!"
l Lold Lhem off and afLer LhaL l felL flne
nlghL was comlng on and Lhe galley was blowlng Lhe whlsLle for Lhem 1hey all sLarLed rowlng ln cadence
all buL one me l walLed Llll l couldnL hear Lhem anymore Lhen l counLed up Lo a hundred and ran Lo Lhe
vlllage as fasL as l could 1haL vlllage was a preLLy llLLle place well llL wooden houses [usL walLlng Lo be
used llned up Lo Lhe rlghL and lefL of a chapel all perfecLly sllenL unforLunaLely l was shlverlng wlLh malarla
and fear Pere and Lhere l came across a sallor from Lhe garrlsonLhose people seemed Lo be Laklng lL
preLLy easyand even a few chlldren and Lhen a young glrl wlLh dellghLful muscles 1haL was Amerlca! l had
arrlved! lLs a pleasure Lo see LhaL sorL of Lhlng afLer so many parched advenLures lLs as llfeglvlng as frulL
ld sLumbled on Lhe one useless vlllage ln Lhe whole counLry A small garrlson of sallors and Lhelr famllles
kepL lLs lnsLallaLlons hl readlness for Lhe concelvable day when a raglng plague lmporLed by a boaL llke
ours would LhreaLen Lhe meLropolls
1hose lnsLallaLlons would be used for kllllng off as many forelgners as posslble so as Lo keep Lhe clLy
populaLlon from caLchlng anyLhlng 1hey even had a cemeLery ready wlLh flowers all over 1hey were
walLlng lor slxLy years Lheyd been walLlng WalLlng was all Lhey dld
llndlng an empLy shack l sllpped ln and fell asleep lnsLanLly ln Lhe mornlng Lhe sLreeLs were full of sallors
ln shorL panLs sLurdy wellbullL fellows wleldlng brooms and sloshlng waLer around my refuge and on all
Lhe sLreeLs and squares of LhaL LheoreLlcal vlllage l Lrled Lo look unconcerned buL l was so hungry LhaL ln
splLe of my fears l headed for a place where Lhere was a smell of cooklng
1haLs where l was spoLLed and cornered beLween Lwo squads of sallors deLermlned Lo ldenLlfy me 1helr
flrsL ldea was Lo chuck me ln Lhe waLer 1aken sLralghL Lo Lhe Pead CuaranLlne Cfflcer l was ln a bad way
1hough consLanL adverslLy had led me Lo develop a cerLaln crusL l sLlll felL Loo sLeeped ln fever Lo rlsk any
of my brllllanL lmprovlsaLlons My mlnd was wanderlng and my hearL wasnL ln lL
1he besL pollcy was Lo lose consclousness Whlch l dld ln Lhe offlce where l laLer came Lo some ladles ln
llghLcolored dresses had replaced Lhe men around me 1hey puL me Lhrough a vague and benevolenL
lnLerrogaLlon whlch would have been plenLy for me 8uL benevolence never lasLs ln Lhls world and Lhe
nexL day Lhe men sLarLed Lalklng prlson Lo me agaln l Look Lhe opporLunlLy Lo brlng up fleas [usL ln passlng
so Lo speak Pow l could caLch Lhem and counL Lhem my speclalLy as well as classlfy Lhese
paraslLes and complle flawless sLaLlsLlcs l saw LhaL my approach lnLeresLed my guards l had capLured Lhelr
aLLenLlon 1hey were llsLenlng 8uL as for bellevlng me LhaL was a dlfferenL keLLle of flsh
llnally Lhe commandlng offlcer of Lhe sLaLlon Lurned up Pe was called Lhe Surgeon Ceneral whlch would
be a good name for a flsh Pe spoke roughly buL wlLh more auLhorlLy Lhan Lhe oLhers WhaLs Lhls youre
Lelllng us boy? he sald ?ou say you can counL fleas? 8eally now! Pe LhoughL LhaL would shuL me up buL
noL aL all Cne Lwo Lhree l reeled off Lhe llLLle splel l had prepared l belleve ln Lhe enumeraLlon of fleas!
lLs a clvlllzlng facLor because enumeraLlon ls Lhe basls of Lhe mosL lnvaluable sLaLlsLlcal daLa! A
progresslve counLry musL know Lhe number of lLs fleas broken down accordlng Lo sex age group year and
season "
Come come young man! Lnough of your hogwash! Lhe Surgeon Ceneral broke ln ?oure noL Lhe flrsL!
CLher young scamps from Lurope have been here before you Lelllng us Lhe same klnd of falry Lales buL ln
Lhe end Lhey Lurned ouL Lo be anarchlsLs llke Lhe resL of Lhem only worse 1hey dldnL even belleve ln
Anarchy any more! Lnough of your boasLlng! 1omorrow well Lry you ouL on Lhe lmmlgranLs over Lhere
on Lllls lsland ln Lhe shower room! Ma[or Mlschlef my asslsLanL wlll Lell me lf youve been lylng lor Lwo
monLhs now Ma[or Mlschlef has been clamorlng for an experL flea counLer Well asslgn you Lo hlm for a
Lry! ulsmlssed! And lf youve lled Lo us well chuck you ln Lhe drlnk! ulsmlssed! And waLch your sLep!"
l wlLhdrew from Lhe presence of LhaL Amerlcan auLhorlLy as l had wlLhdrawn from so many auLhorlLles by
presenLlng flrsL my pecker and Lhen by a defL abouLface my rear end accompanylng Lhe whole wlLh a
mlllLary saluLe
1hls sLaLlsLlcs rackeL lL seemed Lo me was as good a way as any oLher of geLLlng me Lo new ?ork 1he very
nexL day Mlschlef Lhe ma[or ln quesLlon Lold me ln a few words whaL my work would be Pe was a faL
[aundlcedlooklng man as nearslghLed as lLs posslble Lo be wlLh enormous smoked glasses Pe musL have
recognlzed me Lhe way wlld anlmals recognlze Lhelr vlcLlms by Lhe general ouLllne because wlLh Lhose
glasses he was wearlng he couldnL posslbly have dlsLlngulshed any feaLures
Cn Lhe [ob we goL along flne l even Lhlnk LhaL by Lhe end of my sLay Mlschlef had Laken qulLe a llklng Lo me
ln Lhe flrsL place noL seelng a person ls an excellenL reason for Laklng a llklng Lo hlm and besldes he was
dellghLed aL my brllllanL fleacaLchlng Lechnlque nobody else ln Lhe whole sLaLlon could hold a candle Lo
me when lL came Lo caLchlng and boxlng Lhe mosL resLlve keraLosed and lmpaLlenL of fleas l was able Lo
classlfy Lhem by sex before Lhey had even been removed from Lhe lmmlgranL l donL mlnd Lelllng you my
work was amazlng ln Lhe end Mlschlef LrusLed my sklll lmpllclLly
8y laLe afLernoon Lhe nalls of my Lhumb and foreflnger were brulsed from crushlng fleas buL my days work
wasnL over l sLlll had Lo llne up Lhe columns of my dally sLaLlsLlcal Lable Soandso many ollsh
?ugoslavlan Spanlsh fleas Crlmean crabs eruvlan chlggers every furLlve blLlng Lhlng LhaL
Lravels on human derellcLs ended under my flngernalls As you see my work was boLh monumenLal and
meLlculous Cur calculaLlons were compleLed ln new ?ork ln a speclal offlce equlpped wlLh elecLrlcal flea
counLlng machlnes Lvery day Lhe llLLle quaranLlne Lug crossed Lhe whole harbor carrylng our flgures Lo be
processed or checked
uays and days passed my healLh plcked up buL as my fever and dellrlum abaLed ln Lhose comforLable
surroundlngs my cravlng for advenLure and darlng explolLs revlved and became lmperlous AL nlneLyelghL
polnL slx everyLhlng ls borlng
?eL l could have sLayed Lhere wlLh noL a Lhlng Lo worry abouL well fed aL Lhe sLaLlon mess 8esL of all lL
seems worLh addlng Ma[or Mlschlefs daughLer a sLunnlng young lady of flfLeen used Lo Lurn up ln
exLremely shorL sklrLs afLer flve oclock and play Lennls dlrecLly under Lhe wlndow of our offlce lve seldom
seen flner legs sLlll sllghLly on Lhe mannlsh slde perhaps yeL on Lhelr way Lo becomlng more dellcaLe a
splendld speclmen of burgeonlng flesh A challenge Lo happlness a promlse Lo make a man shouL for [oy
Some of Lhe young enslgns of Lhe deLachmenL followed her everywhere
1hose young scamps had no need Lo [usLlfy Lhemselves by dolng useful work llke me! l dldnL mlss Lhe
sllghLesL deLall of Lhelr caperlngs around my llLLle ldol !usL waLchlng Lhem l found myself blanchlng several
Llmes a day AfLer a whlle l began Lo Lhlnk LhaL maybe aL nlghL l could pass for a sallor myself l was sLlll
fondllng LhaL hope when one SaLurday ln Lhe LwenLyLhlrd week of my sLay Lhe slLuaLlon rlpened 1he man
ln charge of shuLLllng Lhe sLaLlsLlcs back and forLh an Armenlan was suddenly promoLed Lo Lhe posL of
execuLlve flea counLer ln Alaska where hed be deallng wlLh Lhe prospecLors dogs
A flne promoLlon lf ever Lhere was one and Lrue enough Lhe man was dellghLed 1he Alaskan dog Leams
are lnvaluable Slnce Lhey are always needed Lhey are well cared for Whereas nobody glves a damn abouL
lmmlgranLs of whom Lhere are always Loo many
1haL lefL no one Lo Lake our flgures Lo new ?ork and ln a Lwlnkllng l was asslgned Lo Lhe Lask 8efore l
shoved off Mlschlef my boss shook hands wlLh me and urged me Lo be good and behave myself ln Lown
1haL was Lhe lasL blL of advlce LhaL esLlmable man ever gave me and [usL as he had never seen me up Lo
LhaL Llme he never saw me agaln As soon as we wenL ashore Lhe raln came down ln buckeLs peneLraLed
my Lhln [ackeL and soaked Lhe sLaLlsLlcs whlch gradually melLed away ln my hand neverLheless l made a
blg wad wlLh some of Lhem and leL lL sLlck ouL of my pockeL Lo make me look more or less llke a
buslnessman when l hlL Lown 1hereupon Lrembllng wlLh fear and emoLlon l hurrled off ln quesL of new
8alslng my eyes Lo Lhe ramparLs l felL a klnd of reverse verLlgo because Lhere were really Loo many
wlndows and so much allke whlchever way you looked LhaL lL Lurned my sLomach
lllmslly clad chllled Lo Lhe bone l made for Lhe darkesL crevlce l could flnd ln LhaL glanL faade hoplng LhaL
Lhe people would hardly noLlce me ln Lhelr mldsL My embarrassmenL was qulLe superfluous l had noLhlng
Lo fear ln Lhe sLreeL l had chosen really Lhe narrowesL of all no wlder Lhan a goodslzed brook ln our parL
of Lhe world and exLraordlnarlly dlrLy damp and dark aL Lhe boLLom Lhere were so many oLher people blg
and llLLle Lhln and faL LhaL Lhey carrled me along wlLh Lhem llke a shadow 1hey were golng Lo Lown llke
me on Lhelr way Lo work no doubL oor people llke everywhere else
As lf l knew where l was golng l puL on an alr
of chooslng and changed my dlrecLlon Laklng a dlfferenL sLreeL on my rlghL one LhaL was beLLer llL
8roadway lL was called l read Lhe name on a slgn Plgh up far above Lhe uppermosL sLorles Lhere was
sLlll a blL of dayllghL wlLh sea gulls and paLches of sky We moved ln Lhe lower llghL a slck sorL of [ungle
llghL so gray LhaL Lhe sLreeL seemed Lo be full of grlmy coLLon wasLe
1haL sLreeL was llke a dlsmal gash endless wlLh us aL Lhe boLLom of lL fllllng lL from slde Lo slde advanclng
from sorrow Lo sorrow Loward an end LhaL ls never ln slghL Lhe end of all Lhe sLreeLs ln Lhe world
1here were no cars or carrlages only people and more people
1hls was Lhe prlceless dlsLrlcL l was Lold laLer Lhe gold dlsLrlcL ManhaLLan ?ou can enLer lL only on fooL
llke a church lLs Lhe banklng hearL and cenLer of Lhe presenLday world ?eL some of Lhose people splL on
Lhe sldewalk as Lhey pass ?ouve goL Lo have your nerve wlLh you
lLs a dlsLrlcL fllled wlLh gold a mlracle and Lhrough Lhe doors you can acLually hear Lhe mlracle Lhe sound
of dollars belng crumpled for Lhe uollar ls always Loo llghL a genulne Poly ChosL more preclous Lhan
l found Llme Lo go and see Lhem l even wenL ln and spoke Lo Lhe employees who guard Lhe cash 1heyre
sad and underpald
When Lhe falLhful enLer Lhelr bank donL go Lhlnklng Lhey can help Lhemselves as Lhey please lar from lL ln
speaklng Lo uollar Lhey mumble words Lhrough a llLLle grlll LhaLs Lhelr confesslonal noL much sound dlm
llghL a Llny wlckeL beLween hlgh arches LhaLs all 1hey donL swallow Lhe PosL Lhey puL lL on Lhelr hearLs l
couldnL sLay Lhere long admlrlng Lhem l had Lo follow Lhe crowd ln Lhe sLreeL beLween Lhose walls of
smooLh shadow
Suddenly our sLreeL wldened llke a crevasse openlng ouL lnLo a brlghL clearlng up ahead of us we saw a
greaL pool of seagreen llghL wedged beLween hordes of monsLrous bulldlngs And ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe
clearlng sLood a raLher counLrlfledlooklng house surrounded by woebegone lawns
l asked several people ln Lhe crowd whaL Lhls edlflce was buL mosL of Lhem preLended noL Lo hear me 1hey
couldnL spare Lhe Llme 8uL one young fellow rlghL nexL Lo me was klnd enough Lo Lell me lL was ClLy Pall
addlng LhaL lL was an anclenL monumenL daLlng back Lo colonlal Llmes ever so hlsLorlcal so Lheyd lefL lL
Lhere 1he frlnges of Lhls oasls formed a klnd of park wlLh benches where you could slL comforLably
enough and look aL Lhe bulldlng When l goL Lhere Lhere was hardly anyLhlng else Lo see
l walLed more Lhan an hour ln Lhe same place and Lhen Loward noon from Lhe halfllghL from Lhe
shuffllng dlsconLlnuous dlsmal crowd Lhere erupLed a sudden avalanche of absoluLely and undenlably
beauLlful women
WhaL a dlscovery! WhaL an Amerlca! WhaL ecsLasy! l LhoughL of Lola Per promlses had noL decelved
me! lL was Lrue
l had come Lo Lhe hearL of my pllgrlmage And lf my appeLlLe hadnL kepL calllng lLself Lo my aLLenLlon LhaL
would have sLruck me as one of Lhose momenLs of supernaLural aesLheLlc revelaLlon lf ld been a llLLle
more comforLable and confldenL Lhe lncessanL beauLles l was dlscoverlng mlghL have ravlshed me from my
base human condlLlon ln shorL all l needed was a sandwlch Lo make me belleve ln mlracles 8uL how l
needed LhaL sandwlch!
And yeL whaL supple grace! WhaL lncredlble dellcacy of form and feaLure! WhaL lnsplred harmonles! WhaL
perllous nuances! 1rlumphanL where Lhe danger ls greaLesL! Lvery concelvable promlse of face and flgure
fulfllled! 1hose blondes! 1hose bruneLLes! 1hose 1lLlan redheads! And more and more kepL comlng! Maybe
l LhoughL Lhls ls Creece sLarLlng all over agaln Looks llke l goL here [usL ln Llme
WhaL made Lhose apparlLlons all Lhe more dlvlne ln my eyes was LhaL Lhey seemed LoLally unaware of my
exlsLence as l saL on a bench close by slaphappy droollng wlLh eroLlcomysLlcal admlraLlon and qulnlne
buL also l have Lo admlL wlLh hunger lf lL were posslble for a man Lo [ump ouL of hls skln ld have done lL
Lhen once and for all 1here was noLhlng Lo hold me back
1hose unllkely mldlneLLes could have wafLed me away subllmaLed me a gesLure a word would have
sufflced and ln LhaL momenL ld have been LransporLed all of me lnLo Lhe world of dreams 8uL l suppose
Lhey had oLher flsh Lo fry
l saL Lhere for an hour Lwo hours ln LhaL sLaLe of sLupefacLlon l had noLhlng more ln Lhe world Lo hope for
?ou know abouL lnnards? 1he Lrlck Lhey play on Lramps ln Lhe counLry? 1hey sLuff an old walleL wlLh puLrld
chlcken lnnards Well Lake lL from me a man ls [usL llke LhaL excepL LhaL hes faLLer and hungrler and can
move around and lnslde Lheres a dream
l had Lo look aL Lhe pracLlcal slde of Lhlngs and noL dlp lnLo my small supply of money rlghL away l dldnL
have much l was even afrald Lo counL lL l couldnL have anyway because l was seelng double l could only
feel Lhose Lhln bashful banknoLes Lhrough Lhe maLerlal of my pockeL slde by slde wlLh my phony sLaLlsLlcs
Men were passlng Loo mosLly young ones wlLh faces LhaL seemed Lo be made of plnk wood wlLh a dry
monoLonous expresslon and [owls so wlde and coarse Lhey were hard Lo geL used Lo Well maybe LhaL
was Lhe klnd of [owls Lhelr womenfolk wanLed 1he sexes seemed Lo sLay on dlfferenL sldes of Lhe sLreeL
1he women looked only aL Lhe shopwlndows Lhelr whole aLLenLlon was Laken by Lhe handbags scarves
and llLLle sllk doodads dlsplayed very llLLle aL a Llme buL wlLh preclslon and auLhorlLy ?ou dldnL see many
old people ln LhaL crowd noL many couples elLher nobody seemed Lo flnd lL sLrange LhaL l should slL on
LhaL bench for hours all by myself waLchlng Lhe people pass 8uL all aL once Lhe pollceman sLandlng llke an
lnkwell ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe sLreeL seemed Lo suspecL me of slnlsLer lnLenLlons l could Lell
Wherever you may be Lhe momenL you draw Lhe aLLenLlon of Lhe auLhorlLles Lhe besL Lhlng you can do ls
dlsappear ln a hurry uonL Lry Lo explaln Slnk lnLo Lhe earLh! l sald Lo myself
lL so happened LhaL [usL Lo one slde of my bench Lhere was a blg hole ln Lhe sldewalk someLhlng llke Lhe
MeLro aL home 1haL hole seemed proplLlous so vasL wlLh a sLalrway all of plnk marble lnslde lL ld seen
qulLe a few people from Lhe sLreeL dlsappear lnLo lL and come ouL agaln lL was ln LhaL underground vaulL
LhaL Lhey answered Lhe call of naLure l caughL on rlghL away 1he hall where Lhe buslness was done was
llkewlse of marble A klnd of swlmmlng pool buL dralned of all lLs waLer a feLld swlmmlng pool fllled only
wlLh fllLered morlbund llghL whlch fell on Lhe forms of unbuLLoned men surrounded by Lhelr smells red ln
Lhe face from Lhe effecL of expelllng Lhelr sLlnklng feces wlLh barbarous nolses ln fronL of everybody
Men among men all free and easy Lhey laughed and [oked and cheered one anoLher on lL made me Lhlnk
of a fooLball game 1he flrsL Lhlng you dld when you goL Lhere was Lo Lake off your [ackeL as lf ln
preparaLlon for sLrenuous exerclse 1hls was a rlLe and shlrLsleeves were Lhe unlform
ln LhaL sLaLe of undress belchlng and worse gesLlculaLlng llke lunaLlcs Lhey seLLled down ln Lhe fecal
groLLo 1he new arrlvals were assalled wlLh a Lhousand revolLlng [okes whlle descendlng Lhe sLalrs from Lhe
sLreeL buL Lhey all seemed dellghLed
1he morose aloofness of Lhe men on Lhe sLreeL above was equaled only by Lhe alr of llberaLlon and re[olclng
LhaL came over Lhem aL Lhe prospecL of empLylng Lhelr bowels ln LumulLuous company
1he sploLched and spoLLed doors Lo Lhe cablns hung loose wrenched from Lhelr hlnges Some cusLomers
wenL from one cell Lo anoLher for a llLLle chaL Lhose walLlng for an empLy seaL smoked heavy clgars and
slapped Lhe backs of Lhe obsLlnaLely Lolllng occupanLs who saL Lhere sLralnlng wlLh Lhelr heads beLween
Lhelr hands Some groaned llke wounded men or women ln labor 1he consLlpaLed were LhreaLened wlLh
lngenlous LorLures
When a gush of waLer announced a vacancy Lhe clamor around Lhe free comparLmenL redoubled and as
ofLen as noL a coln would be Lossed for lLs possesslon no sooner read newspapers Lhough as Lhlck as
plllows were dlsmembered by Lhe horde of recLal Lollers 1he smoke made lL hard Lo dlsLlngulsh faces and
Lhe smells deLerred me from golng Loo close
1o a forelgner Lhe conLrasL was dlsconcerLlng Such freeandeasy lnLlmacy such exLraordlnary lnLesLlnal
famlllarlLy and up on Lhe sLreeL such perfecL resLralnL lL lefL me sLunned
l reLurned Lo Lhe llghL of day by Lhe same sLalrway and wenL back Lo Lhe same bench Lo resL Sudden
ouLbursL of dlgesLlve vulgarlLy ulscovery of a [oyous shlLLlng communlsm l lgnored boLh Lhese
dlsconcerLlng aspecLs of Lhe same advenLure l hadnL Lhe sLrengLh for analysls or synLhesls My presslng
deslre was Lo sleep C rare dellclous frenzy!
So l [olned Lhe llne of pedesLrlans enLerlng one of Lhe nelghborlng sLreeLs We progressed by flLs and sLarLs
because of Lhe shopwlndows whlch fragmenLed Lhe crowd AL one polnL Lhe door of a hoLel creaLed a
greaL eddy eople poured ouL on Lo Lhe sldewalk Lhrough a blg revolvlng door l was caughL up and poured
Lhe oLher way lnLo Lhe blg lobby lnslde
lnsLanL amazemenL ?ou had Lo dlvlne Lo lmaglne Lhe ma[esLy of Lhe edlflce Lhe generous proporLlons
because Lhe llghLs were so velled LhaL lL Look you some Llme Lo know whaL you were looklng aL
LoLs of young women ln Lhe halfllghL plunged ln deep armchalrs as ln [ewel cases Around Lhem aLLenLlve
men movlng sllenLly wlLh Llmld curloslLy Lo and fro [usL offshore from Lhe row of crossed legs and
magnlflcenL sllkencased Lhlghs 1hose mlraculous belngs seemed Lo be walLlng for grave and cosLly evenLs
Cbvlously Lhey werenL glvlng me a LhoughL So ever so furLlvely l ln my Lurn passed LhaL long and palpable
Slnce aL leasL a hundred of Lhose dlvlne leg owners were slLLlng ln a slngle row of chalrs l reached Lhe
recepLlon desk ln so dreamy a condlLlon havlng absorbed a raLlon of beauLy so much Loo sLrong for my
consLlLuLlon LhaL l was reellng
AL Lhe desk a pomaded clerk vlolenLly offered me a room l asked for Lhe smallesL ln Lhe hoLel l canL have
had more Lhan flfLy dollars aL Lhe Llme Also l was preLLy well ouL of ldeas and selfassurance
l hoped Lhe room Lhe clerk was glvlng me was really Lhe smallesL because hls hoLel Lhe Laugh Calvln36
was adverLlsed as Lhe mosL luxurlous and sumpLuously furnlshed on Lhe whole norLh Amerlcan conLlnenL!
Cver my head whaL an lnflnlLy of furnlshed rooms! And all around me ln Lhose chalrs whaL lnducemenLs
Lo mulLlple rape! WhaL abysses! WhaL perlls! ls Lhe poor mans aesLheLlc LormenL Lo have no end? ls lL Lo be
even more longlasLlng Lhan hls hunger? 8uL Lhere was no Llme Lo succumb before l knew lL Lhe clerk had
LhrusL a heavy key lnLo my hand l was afrald Lo move
A sharp youngsLer dressed llke a [uvenlle brlgadler general sLepped lmperlous and commandlng ouL of
Lhe gloom 1he smooLh recepLlon clerk rang hls meLalllc bell Lhree Llmes and Lhe llLLle boy sLarLed
whlsLllng 1haL was my sendoff 1lme Lo go And away we wenL
As black and resoluLe as a subway Lraln we raced down a corrldor 1he youngsLer ln Lhe lead A LwlsL a
Lurn anoLher We dldnL dawdle We veered a blL Lo Lhe lefL Pere we go 1he elevaLor SLlLch ln my slde ls
Lhls lL? no AnoLher corrldor
Lven darker Lbony panellng lL looks llke all along Lhe walls no Llme Lo examlne lL 1he klds whlsLllng Pes
carrylng my frall vallse l donL dare ask hlm quesLlons My [ob was Lo keep walklng LhaL was clear Lo me ln
Lhe darkness here and Lhere as we passed a redandgreen llghL flashed a command Long llnes of gold
marked Lhe doors We had passed Lhe 1800s long ago and Lhen Lhe 3000s and sLlll we were on our way
drawn by our lnvlnclble desLlny As Lhough drlven by lnsLlncL Lhe llLLle bellhop ln hls brald and sLrlpes
pursued Lhe nameless ln Lhe darkness noLhlng ln Lhls cavern seemed Lo Lake hlm unawares Pls whlsLllng
modulaLed plalnLlvely when we passed a black man and a black chambermald And LhaL was all
SLruggllng Lo walk fasLer ln Lhose corrldors l losL whaL llLLle selfassurance l had lefL when l escaped from
quaranLlne l was falllng aparL [usL as l had seen my shack fall aparL ln Lhe Afrlcan wlnd and Lhe floods of
warm waLer Pere l was aLLacked by a LorrenL of unfamlllar sensaLlons 1heres a momenL beLween Lwo
brands of humanlLy when you flnd yourself Lhrashlng around ln a vacuum
Suddenly wlLhouL warnlng Lhe youngsLer plvoLed We had arrlved l bumped lnLo a chalr lL was my room
a blg box wlLh ebony walls 1he only llghL was a falnL rlng surroundlng Lhe bashful greenlsh lamp on Lhe
Lable 1he manager of Lhe Laugh Calvln PoLel begged Lhe vlslLor Lo look upon hlm as a frlend and assured
hlm LhaL he Lhe manager would make a speclal polnL of keeplng hlm Lhe vlslLor cheerful LhroughouL hls
sLay ln new ?ork 8eadlng Lhls noLlce whlch was dlsplayed where no one could posslbly mlss lL added lf
posslble Lo my depresslon
Cnce l was lefL alone lL deepened All Amerlca had followed me Lo my room and was asklng me enormous
quesLlons revlvlng awful forebodlngs
8ecllnlng anxlously on Lhe bed l Lrled Lo ad[usL Lo Lhe darkness of my cubbyhole AL regular lnLervals Lhe
walls on Lhe wlndow slde Lrembled An LlevaLed 8allway Lraln was passlng lL bounded beLween Lwo sLreeLs
llke a cannonball fllled wlLh qulverlng flesh [olLlng from secLlon Lo secLlon of Lhls lunaLlc clLy ?ou could see
lL far away lLs carcass Lrembllng as lL passed over a LorrenL of sLeel glrders whlch wenL on echolng from
ramparL Lo ramparL long afLer Lhe Lraln had roared by aL sevenLy mlles an hour ulnnerLlme passed as l lay
Lhus prosLraLe and bedLlme as well
WhaL had horrlfled me mosL of all was LhaL LlevaLed 8allway
Cn Lhe oLher slde of Lhe courL whlch was more llke a well shafL Lhe wall began Lo llghL up flrsL one Lhen
Lwo rooms Lhen dozens l could see whaL was golng on ln some of Lhem Couples golng Lo bed 1hese
Amerlcans seemed as worn ouL as our own people afLer Lhelr verLlcal hours 1he women had very full very
pale Lhlghs aL leasL Lhe ones l was able Lo geL a good look aL 8efore golng Lo bed mosL of Lhe men shaved
wlLhouL Laklng Lhe clgars ouL of Lhelr mouLhs
ln bed Lhey flrsL Look off Lhelr glasses Lhen puL Lhelr false LeeLh ln a glass of waLer whlch Lhey lefL ln
evldence Same as ln Lhe sLreeL Lhe sexes dldnL seem Lo Lalk Lo each oLher 1hey lmpressed me as faL
doclle anlmals used Lo belng bored ln all l only saw Lwo couples engaglng wlLh Lhe llghL on ln Lhe klnd of
Lhlng ld expecLed and noL aL all vlolenLly 1he oLher women aLe chocolaLes ln bed whlle walLlng for Lhelr
husbands Lo flnlsh shavlng And Lhen Lhey all puL Lhelr llghLs ouL
1heres someLhlng sad abouL people golng Lo bed ?ou can see Lhey donL glve a damn wheLher Lheyre
geLLlng whaL Lhey wanL ouL of llfe or noL you can see Lhey donL even Lry Lo undersLand whaL were here
for 1hey [usL donL care Amerlcans or noL Lhey sleep no maLLer whaL Lheyre bloaLed mollusks no
senslblllLy no Lrouble wlLh Lhelr consclence
ld seen Loo many puzzllng Lhlngs Lo be easy ln my mlnd l knew Loo much and noL enough ld beLLer go ouL
l sald Lo myself ld beLLer go ouL agaln Maybe lll meeL 8oblnson naLurally LhaL was an ldloLlc ldea buL l
dreamed lL up as an excuse for golng ouL agaln because no maLLer how much l Lossed and Lurned on my
narrow bed l couldnL snaLch Lhe LlnlesL scrap of sleep Lven masLurbaLlon aL Llmes llke LhaL provldes
nelLher comforL nor enLerLalnmenL 1hen youre really ln despalr
1he worsL parL ls wonderlng how youll flnd Lhe sLrengLh Lomorrow Lo go on dolng whaL you dld Loday and
have been dolng for much Loo long where youll flnd Lhe sLrengLh for all LhaL sLupld runnlng around Lhose
pro[ecLs LhaL come Lo noLhlng Lhose aLLempLs Lo escape from crushlng necesslLy whlch always founder and
serve only Lo convlnce you one more Llme LhaL desLlny ls lmplacable LhaL every nlghL wlll flnd you down
and ouL crushed by Lhe dread of more and more sordld and lnsecure Lomorrows
And maybe lLs Lreacherous old age comlng on LhreaLenlng Lhe worsL noL much muslc lefL lnslde us for llfe
Lo dance Lo Cur youLh has gone Lo Lhe ends of Lhe earLh Lo dle ln Lhe sllence of Lhe LruLh And where l ask
you can a man escape Lo when he hasnL enough madness lefL lnslde hlm? 1he LruLh ls an endless deaLh
agony 1he LruLh ls deaLh ?ou have Lo choose deaLh or lles lve never been able Lo klll myself
ld beLLer go ouL lnLo Lhe sLreeL a parLlal sulclde Lveryone has hls llLLle knacks hls ways of geLLlng sleep
and food ld need Lo sleep lf l wanLed Lo recover Lhe sLrengLh ld need Lo go Lo work nexL day CeL back Lhe
zlp lL would Lake Lo flnd a [ob ln Lhe mornlng and ln Lhe meanLlme force my way lnLo Lhe unknown realm of
sleep uonL go Lhlnklng lLs easy Lo fall asleep when youve sLarLed doubLlng everyLhlng mosLly because of
Lhe awful fears people have glven you
l dressed and somehow found my way Lo Lhe elevaLor buL feellng klnd of foggy l sLlll had Lo cross Lhe
lobby Lo pass more rows of ravlshlng enlgmas wlLh legs so LempLlng faces so dellcaLe and severe
Coddesses ln shorL husLllng goddesses We mlghL have Lrled Lo make an arrangemenL 8uL l was afrald of
belng arresLed CompllcaLlons nearly all a poor basLards deslres are punlshable by [all So Lhere l was on
Lhe sLreeL agaln lL wasnL Lhe same crowd as before 1hls one blllowed over Lhe sldewalks and showed a
llLLle more llfe as lf lL had landed ln a counLry less arld Lhe land of enLerLalnmenL of nlghL llfe
1he people surged ln Lhe dlrecLlon of llghLs suspended far off ln Lhe darkness wrlLhlng mulLlcolored snakes
1hey flowed ln from all Lhe nelghborlng sLreeLs A crowd llke LhaL l sald Lo myself adds up Lo a loL of dollars
ln handkerchlefs alone or sllk sLocklngs! Cr [usL ln clgareLLes for LhaL maLLer! And Lo Lhlnk LhaL you can go
ouL among all LhaL money and nobodyll glve you a slngle penny noL even Lo go and eaL wlLh! lLs
hearLbreaklng Lo Lhlnk how people shuL Lhemselves off from one anoLher llke houses
l Loo dragged myself Loward Lhe llghLs a movle house and Lhen anoLher rlghL nexL Lo lL and anoLher all
along Lhe sLreeL We losL blg chunks of crowd Lo each of Lhem l plcked a movle house wlLh posLers of
women ln sllps and whaL legs! 8oyohboy! Peavy! Ample! Shapely! And preLLy faces on Lop as Lhough
drawn for Lhe conLrasL no need of reLouchlng noL a blemlsh noL a flaw perfecL l Lell you dellcaLe buL flrm
and conclse Llfe can engender no greaLer perll Lhan Lhese lncauLlous beauLles Lhese lndlscreeL varlaLlons
on perfecL dlvlne harmony
lL was warm and cozy ln Lhe movle house An enormous organ as mellow as ln a caLhedral a heaLed
caLhedral l mean organ plpes llke Lhlghs 1hey donL wasLe a momenL 8efore you know lL youre baLhlng ln
an allforglvlng warmLh !usL leL yourself go and youll begln Lo Lhlnk Lhe world has been converLed Lo
lovlngklndness l almosL was myself
ureams rlse ln Lhe darkness and caLch flre from Lhe mlrage of movlng llghL WhaL happens on Lhe screen
lsnL qulLe real lL leaves open a vague cloudy space for Lhe poor for dreams and Lhe dead Purry hurry
cram yourself full of dreams Lo carry you Lhrough Lhe llfe LhaLs walLlng for you ouLslde when you leave
here Lo help you lasL a few days more ln LhaL nlghLmare of Lhlngs and people Among Lhe dreams choose
Lhe ones mosL llkely Lo warm your soul l have Lo confess LhaL l plcked Lhe sexy ones no polnL ln belng
proud when lL comes Lo mlracles Lake Lhe ones LhaL wlll sLay wlLh you A blonde wlLh unforgeLLable LlLs
and shoulders saw flL Lo break Lhe sllence of Lhe screen wlLh a song abouL her lonellness ld have been glad
Lo cry abouL lL wlLh her
1heres noLhlng llke lL! WhaL a llfL lL glves you! AfLer LhaL l knew ld have courage enough ln my guLs Lo lasL
me aL leasL Lwo days l dldnL even walL for Lhe llghLs Lo go on Cnce ld absorbed a small dose of LhaL
admlrable ecsLasy l knew ?d sleep my mlnd was made up
When l goL back Lo Lhe Laugh Calvln Lhe nlghL clerk desplLe my greeLlng neglecLed Lo say good evenlng Lhe
way Lhey do aL home 8uL hls conLempL dldnL mean a Lhlng Lo me anymore An lnLense lnner llfe sufflces Lo
lLself lL can melL an lcepack LhaL has been bulldlng up for LwenLy years 1haLs a facL
ln my room ld barely closed my eyes when Lhe blonde from Lhe movle house came along and sang her
whole song of sorrow [usL for me l helped her puL me Lo sleep so Lo speak and succeeded preLLy well l
wasnL enLlrely alone lLs noL posslble Lo sleep alone
1o eaL cheaply ln Amerlca you can buy
yourself a hoL roll wlLh a sausage ln lL lLs handy Lhey sell Lhem on sLreeL corners ln Lhe poor
nelghborhoods and Lheyre noL aL all expenslve l dldnL mlnd eaLlng ln poor nelghborhoods buL never
meeLlng Lhose splendld creaLures deslgned for Lhe rlch LhaL boLhered me under Lhose condlLlons lL wasnL
worLh eaLlng
1rue aL Lhe Laugh Calvln on Lhose Lhlck carpeLs l could preLend Lo be looklng for somebody among Lhe Loo
preLLy women ln Lhe lobby AfLer a whlle l was able Lo face LhaL sulLry aLmosphere wlLhouL qualllng
1hlnklng abouL lL l had Lo admlL LhaL Lhe boys on Lhe lnfanLa ComblLLa had been rlghL experlence was
Leachlng me LhaL l dldnL have senslble LasLes for a poor slob My shlpmaLes on Lhe galley had been rlghL ln
glvlng me hell Anyway my morale was sLlll low More and more l dosed myself on movles ln Lhls sLreeL or
LhaL sLreeL buL all Lhey gave me was enough energy for a llLLle sLroll or Lwo no more 1he lonellness ln
Afrlca had been preLLy rough buL my lsolaLlon ln Lhls Amerlcan anLhlll was even more crushlng
ld always worrled abouL belng pracLlcally empLy abouL havlng no serlous reason for llvlng And now
confronLed wlLh Lhe facLs l was sure of my lndlvldual nulllLy ln LhaL envlronmenL Loo dlfferenL from Lhe
one where my peLLy hablLs were aL home l seem Lo have dlslnLegraLed l felL very close Lo nonexlsLence l
dlscovered LhaL wlLh no one Lo speak Lo me of famlllar Lhlngs Lhere was noLhlng Lo sLop me from slnklng
lnLo lrreslsLlble boredom a Lerrlfylng slckly sweeL Lorpor nauseaLlng
Cn Lhe polnL of dropplng my lasL dollar ln Lhls advenLure l was sLlll bored So profoundly LhaL l even refused
Lo envlsage Lhe mosL urgenL sLeps l should have been Laklng We are so Lrlvlal by naLure LhaL only
amusemenLs can sLop us from dylng for real l clung Lo Lhe movles wlLh desperaLe fervor
Leavlng Lhe dellrlous gloom of my hoLel l aLLempLed a few excurslons ln Lhe maln sLreeLs round abouL an
lnslpld carnlval of dlzzy bulldlngs My wearlness lncreased aL Lhe slghL of Lhose endless house fronLs LhaL
Lurgld monoLony of pavemenLs of wlndows upon wlndows of buslness and more buslness LhaL chancre of
Lhe world bursLlng wlLh pusLulenL adverLlsemenLs lalse promlses urlvellng lles
Along Lhe rlver l explored oLher sLreeLs more and more of Lhem Pere Lhe dlmenslons were more normal
for lnsLance from Lhe sldewalk where l was sLandlng l mlghL have smashed every wlndow ln Lhe house
across Lhe sLreeL
1hose nelghborhoods were full of Lhe smell of consLanL frylng Lhe shops dlspensed wlLh sldewalk dlsplays
for fear of LhefL LveryLhlng remlnded me of Lhe sLreeLs around my hosplLal ln vllle[ulf even Lhe chlldren
wlLh Lhelr crooked swollen knees all along Lhe sldewalks and Lhe barrel organs ld have been glad Lo sLay
Lhere wlLh Lhem buL poor people wouldnL have fed me any more Lhan Lhe rlch besldes ld have had Lo
look aL Lhem all and Lhelr Loo much mlsery frlghLened me So l flnally wenL back Lo 8lchLown ?ou no
good! l sald Lo myself 8eally you have no vlrLue! A man should be reslgned Lo knowlng hlmself a llLLle
beLLer each day lf he hasnL goL Lhe guLs Lo puL an end Lo hls snlvellng once and for all
A sLreeLcar was runnlng beslde Lhe Pudson headlng for Lhe mldLown secLlon an anclenL vehlcle Lrembllng
ln every wheel and all lLs Lerrlfled carcass lL Look a solld hour Lo geL Lhere 1he passengers submlLLed
wlLhouL lmpaLlence Lo a compllcaLed rlLual you pald by Losslng colns lnLo a klnd of coffee mlll sLaLloned aL
Lhe enLrance 1he conducLor dressed llke ours ln Lhe unlform of a 8alkan prlsoner of war waLched Lhem
dolng lL
AL lasL we arrlved 8eLurnlng exhausLed from Lhose popullsL excurslons l once agaln passed LhaL
lnexhausLlble double row of beauLles ln my 1anLallan lobby Agaln and agaln l passed penslve and prodded
by deslre
My poverLy was such LhaL l dldnL dare rummage Lhrough my pockeLs Lo make sure lf only l LhoughL Lola
hasnL plcked Lhls parLlcular momenL Lo leave Lown 8uL wlll she wanL Lo see me ln Lhe flrsL place? Should
l Louch her for flfLy or for a hundred dollars as a sLarLer? l heslLaLed l felL LhaL l wouldnL have Lhe nerve
Llll ld eaLen and slepL properly for once And Lhen lf Lhls flrsL Louch was successful ld go looklng for
8oblnson rlghL away LhaL ls as soon as l goL my sLrengLh back 8oblnson was noLhlng llke me Pe was
deLermlned! Courageous! Ch yes! l could beL he knew all abouL Amerlca by now all Lhe lns and ouLs!
Maybe he knew some way of acqulrlng Lhe cerLalnLy Lhe peace of mlnd ln whlch l was so sadly lacklng
lf as l supposed he Loo had come on a galley and Lrodden Lhese shores before me hed be well launched
on hls Amerlcan career by now 1hese [umpy lunaLlcs wouldnL faze hlm! l myself come Lo Lhlnk of lL mlghL
have looked for a [ob ln one of Lhose offlces whose dazzllng slgns l saw ouLslde 8uL aL Lhe LhoughL of
havlng Lo enLer LhaL sorL of bulldlng l crumpled wlLh fear My hoLel LhaL glganLlc loaLhsomely anlmaLed
Lomb was enough for me
Maybe Lhose vasL accreLlons of maLLer Lhose commerclal honeycombs Lhose endless flgmenLs of brlck and
sLeel dldnL affecL Lhe hablLues Lhe way Lhey dld me 1o Lhem perhaps LhaL suspended deluge meanL
securlLy whlle Lo me lL was slmply an abomlnable sysLem of consLralnLs of corrldors locks and wlckeLs a
vasL lnexplable archlLecLural crlme
hllosophlzlng ls slmply one way of belng afrald a cowardly preLense LhaL doesnL geL you anywhere
l wenL ouL and waLched my lasL Lhree dollars wrlggllng ln Lhe palm of my hand under Lhe elecLrlc slgns on
1lmes Square LhaL amazlng lnLersecLlon where Lhe crowds engaged ln plcklng Lhelr movle show are baLhed
ln floods of adverLlslng ln search of a cheap resLauranL l wenL lnLo one of Lhose raLlonallzed publlc
refecLorles where Lhe servlce ls reduced Lo a mlnlmum and Lhe allmenLary rlLe ls cuL down Lo Lhe exacL
measure of naLures requlremenLs
1hey hand you a Lray aL Lhe enLrance and you Lake your place ln a llne ?ou walL 1he glrls around me
dellghLful candldaLes for dlnner dldnL say a word Lo me lL musL feel really funny l LhoughL Lo be able Lo
go rlghL up Lo one of Lhose young ladles wlLh Lhe Lldy preLLlly shaped noses and say Mlss lm rlch very
rlch [usL Lell me whaL lL mlghL please you Lo accepL "
LveryLhlng LhaL was so compllcaLed a momenL before would suddenly become so slmple so dlvlnely slmple
LveryLhlng would be changed Lhe forblddlngly hosLlle world would Lurn lnLo a playful doclle velveLy
ball rolllng aL your feeL 1hen and Lhere perhaps youd Lhrow off Lhe exhausLlng hablL of dreamlng abouL
successful people and enormous forLunes because Lhen youd be able Lo puL your hands on all LhaL 1he llfe
of people wlLhouL resources ls noLhlng buL one long rebuff and one long frenzy of deslre and a man can
Lruly know Lruly dellver hlmself only from whaL he possesses As for me ld plcked up and dropped so
many dreams my mlnd was cracked and flssured full of drafLs and dlsgusLlngly ouL of order
ln Lhe meanLlme l was afrald Lo aLLempL even Lhe mosL lnoffenslve conversaLlon wlLh Lhese young Lhlngs ln
Lhe resLauranL l wenL ahead wlLh my Lray ln wellbehaved sllence When lL came my Lurn Lo pass Lhe
earLhenware hollows fllled wlLh sausages and beans l Look whaL was glven me 1haL resLauranL was so
clean and well llghLed LhaL sklmmlng lLs mosalc floor l felL llke a fly on mllk
WalLresses dressed llke nurses sLood behlnd Lhe noodles rlce and sLewed frulL Lach had her speclalLy l
Look whaL Lhe mosL aLLracLlve ones were dlshlng ouL 1o my regreL Lhey dldnL smlle aL Lhe cusLomers aL all
As soon as you were served you had Lo leave your place ln llne and flnd yourself a Lable ?ou balance your
Lray and Lake llLLle mlnclng sLeps as lf lL were an operaLlng room lL was a change from Lhe Laugh Calvln and
my goldbordered ebony cubbyhole
8uL lf Lhey showered Lhe cusLomers wlLh so much llghL lf Lhey llfLed us for a momenL from Lhe hablLual
darkness of our condlLlon Lhere was meLhod ln Lhelr madness 1he owner was up Lo someLhlng l had my
susplclons AfLer days of darkness lL feels very sLrange Lo be suddenly baLhed ln LorrenLs of llghL lL made
me a llLLle glddler Lhan usual Whlch wasnL dlfflculL l admlL
l couldnL manage Lo hlde my feeL under Lhe lmmaculaLe llLLle enamelLopped Lable l had landed aL Lhey
sLuck ouL ln all dlrecLlons ld have llked my feeL Lo be somewhere else because we were belng waLched
Lhrough Lhe wlndow by Lhe llne of people we had [usL lefL ln Lhe sLreeL 1hey were walLlng for us Lo flnlsh
eaLlng so Lhey could come and Lake our Lables AcLually LhaL was Lhe reason Lo keep up Lhelr appeLlLe why
we were so well llghLed and dlsplayed so promlnenLly we were llvlng adverLlsemenLs so Lo speak 1he
sLrawberrles on my cake shlmmered and sparkled so brlghLly LhaL l couldnL brlng myself Lo eaL Lhem
?ou canL geL away from Amerlcan buslness enLerprlse
?eL desplLe Lhe dazzllng glare and my cramped posLure l percelved Lhe comlngs and golngs ln my lmmedlaLe
vlclnlLy of a very nlce walLress and declded noL Lo mlss a slngle one of her dellghLful movemenLs
When my Lurn came Lo have her clear my Lable l Look careful noLe of Lhe unusual shape of her eyes Lhe
ouLer ends of whlch LllLed upwards more sharply Lhan ls common among lrench women 1he eyellds also
lncllned sllghLly Loward Lhe eyebrows on Lhe Lemple slde A slgn of cruelLy buL [usL enough Lhe klnd of
cruelLy you can klss an lnsldlous LarLness llke Lhe 8hlne wlnes one canL help llklng
When she came close Lo me l made llLLle gesLures of compllclLy as lf l knew her She looked me over as lf
ld been an anlmal wlLhouL lndulgence buL wlLh a cerLaln curloslLy 1hls l sald Lo myself ls Lhe flrsL
Amerlcan woman who has been forced Lo look aL me"
Cnce ld flnlshed my lumlnous cake Lhere was no help for lL l had Lo glve up my place Lo someone else
8eellng sllghLly lnsLead of Laklng Lhe obvlous way Lo Lhe exlL l braced myself and clrcled round Lhe man aL
Lhe cash desk who was walLlng for all of us and our money SLlcklng ouL llke a sore Lhumb ln Lhe brlghL
dlsclpllned llghL l headed for Lhe blonde
1he LwenLyflve walLresses aL Lhelr posLs behlnd Lhe slmmerlng dlshes all slgnaled Lo me ln unlson LhaL l was
mlsLaken headed Lhe wrong way ln Lhe plaLeglass wlndow l saw a greaL sLlr among Lhe people walLlng
and Lhe people behlnd me who were supposed Lo sLarL eaLlng heslLaLed Lo slL down l had broken Lhe
foreordalned order of Lhlngs All Lhe people around me crled ouL ln consLernaLlon lL musL be a forelgner!"
8uL l had my ldea for whaL lL was worLh l wasnL golng Lo lose Lhe beauLy who had walLed on me 1he sweeL
Lhlng had asked for lL she had looked aL me l was slck of belng alone l was slck of dreams l wanLed
sympaLhy! Puman conLacL! Mlss l sald you hardly know me 8uL l already love you Shall we geL
marrled? 1haLs how l addressed her mosL respecLfully
Per answer never reached me for a glanL guard he Loo dressed all ln whlLe sLepped up aL LhaL exacL
momenL and slmply shoved me ouL lnLo Lhe nlghL wlLhouL lnsulLs or bruLallLy llke a dog LhaL has
1he whole Lhlng wenL off llke clockwork Lhere was noLhlng l could say
l wenL back Lo Lhe Laugh Calvln
ln my room Lhe same Lhunders were sLlll shaLLerlng Lhelr echoes flrsL Lhe roar of Lhe Ll whlch seemed Lo
hurl lLself aL us from far away smashlng Lhe clLy every Llme lL passed by carrylng away Lhe aqueducLs and
ln beLween lncoherenL mechanlcal sounds from far below comlng up from Lhe sLreeL plus Lhe sofL
murmur of Lhe eddylng crowd heslLanL monoLonous always sLarLlng up agaln Lhen heslLaLlng agaln and
sLarLlng up agaln 1he greaL sLewpoL of people ln a clLy
lrom up hlgh where l was you could shouL anyLhlng you llked aL Lhem l Lrled 1hey made me slck Lhe
whole loL of Lhem l hadnL Lhe nerve Lo Lell Lhem so ln Lhe dayLlme Lo Lhelr face buL up Lhere lL was safe
Pelp! Pelp! l shouLed [usL Lo see lf lL would have any effecL on Lhem none whaLsoever 1hose people
were pushlng llfe and nlghL and day ln fronL of Lhem Llfe hldes everyLhlng from people 1helr own nolse
prevenLs Lhem from hearlng anyLhlng else 1hey couldnL care less 1he blgger and Laller Lhe clLy Lhe less
Lhey care 1ake lL from me lve Lrled lLs a wasLe of Llme
l have Lo admlL lL was only for need of money
buL how very presslng how lmperlous a need! LhaL l sLarLed looklng for Lola lf lL hadnL been for LhaL plLlful
need man! would l have leL LhaL llLLle blLch of a glrlfrlend grow old and dle wlLhouL ever seLLlng eyes on her
agaln! All ln alland when l LhoughL abouL lL l had no doubL whaLsoeverher behavlor Lo me had been
mosL crummlly ruLhless
When grown older we look back on Lhe selflshness of Lhe people whove been mlxed up wlLh our llves we
see lL undenlably for whaL lL was as hard as sLeel or plaLlnum and a loL more durable Lhan Llme lLself
As long as were young we manage Lo flnd excuses for Lhe sLonlesL lndlfference Lhe mosL blaLanL
caddlshness we puL Lhem down Lo emoLlonal eccenLrlclLy or some sorL of romanLlc lnexperlence 8uL laLer
on when llfe shows us how much cunnlng cruelLy and mallce are requlred [usL Lo keep Lhe body aL nlneLy
elghL polnL slx we caLch on we know Lhe score we begln Lo undersLand how much swlnlshness lL Lakes Lo
make up a pasL !usL Lake a close look aL yourself and Lhe degree of roLLenness youve come Lo 1heres no
mysLery abouL lL no more room for falry Lales lf youve llved Lhls long lLs because youve squashed any
poeLry you had ln you Llfe ls keeplng body and soul LogeLher
l flnally wlLh a good deal of Lrouble found my llLLle blLch on Lhe LwenLyLhlrd floor of a bulldlng on 77Lh
SLreeL lLs lncredlble how revolLlng people seem when youre abouL Lo ask a favor of Lhem Per place was
posh preLLy much whaL ld lmaglned
Pavlng sLeeped myself ln large doses of clnema l was menLally ln preLLy good shape almosL ouL of Lhe
depresslon LhaL had welghed on me ever slnce l landed ln new ?ork so our flrsL conLacL wasnL as
unpleasanL as ld expecLed Lola dldnL even seem Lerrlbly surprlsed aL seelng me lL was only when she
recognlzed me LhaL she seemed raLher puL ouL
8y way of preamble l Lrled Lo sLrlke up an lnoffenslve sorL of conversaLlon drawlng on our common pasL l
kepL lL as dlscreeL as posslble and menLloned Lhe war [usL ln passlng wlLhouL any parLlcular emphasls
1here l was puLLlng my fooL ln lL She dldnL wanL Lo hear abouL Lhe war noL one word lL aged her and she
dldnL llke LhaL She losL no Llme ln geLLlng back aL me age she sald had so wrlnkled bloaLed and
carlcaLured me LhaL she wouldnL have known me ln Lhe sLreeL ln shorL we exchanged compllmenLs lf Lhe
llLLle LarL LhoughL she could geL me down wlLh such foollshness! l dldnL even delgn Lo reacL Lo her sleazy
Per furnlshlngs dldnL bowl me over wlLh Lhelr elegance buL Lhe place was cheerful enough or aL leasL l
LhoughL so afLer Lhe Laugh Calvln
1here always seems Lo be a cerLaln maglc abouL geLLlng rlch qulckly Slnce Lhe rlse of Musyne and Madame
PeroLe l knew LhaL a poor womans ass ls her gold mlne 1hose sudden female meLamorphoses fasclnaLed
me and ld have glven Lolas conclerge my lasL dollar Lo make her Lalk
8uL Lhere was no conclerge ln Lhe house 1here were no conclerges ln Lhe whole clLy A clLy wlLhouL
conclerges has no hlsLory no savor lLs as lnslpld as a soup wlLhouL pepper and salL nondescrlpL slop C
lusclous scraplngs! C garbage C muck oozlng from bedrooms klLchens and aLLlcs cascadlng down Lo Lhe
conclerges den Lhe cenLer of llfewhaL lusclous LasLy hellflre! Some of our conclerges are vlcLlms of Lhelr
professlon laconlc LhroaLclearlng delecLable sLruck dumb wlLh amazemenL marLyrs sLupefled and
consumed by Lhe 1ruLh
1o counLer Lhe abomlnaLlon of belng poor why deny lL we are ln duLy bound Lo Lry everyLhlng Lo geL
drunk on anyLhlng we can cheap wlne masLurbaLlon movles no sense ln belng dlfflculL parLlcular as
Lhey say ln Amerlca ?ear ln year ouL we may as well admlL our conclerges ln lrance provlde anyone who
knows how Lo Lake lL and coddle lL close Lo hls hearL wlLh a freegraLls supply of allpurpose haLred enough
Lo blow up Lhe world ln new ?ork Lheyre cruelly lacklng ln Lhls vlLal splce so sordld and lrrefuLably allve
wlLhouL whlch Lhe splrlL ls sLlfled condemned Lo vague slanders and pallld bumbled calumnles WlLhouL a
conclerge you geL noLhlng LhaL sLlngs wounds laceraLes LormenLs obsesses and adds wlLhouL fall Lo Lhe
worlds sLock of haLred lllumlnlng lL wlLh Lhousands of undenlable deLalls
WhaL made Lhls lack all Lhe more deplorable was LhaL Lola surprlsed ln her naLlve envlronmenL lnsplred
me wlLh a new sorL of dlsgusL l longed Lo pour ouL my revulslon aL Lhe vulgarlLy of her success aL her
Lrlvlal loaLhsome prlde buL how could l? ln LhaL same momenL by Lhe worklngs of an lnsLanL conLaglon
Lhe memory of Musyne became equally hosLlle and repugnanL Lo me An lnLense haLred for Lhose Lwo
women arose ln me lLs sLlll wlLh me lL has become parL and parcel of my belng ld have needed a whole
panoply of evldence Lo rld myself on Llme and for good of all presenL and fuLure lndulgence for Lola We
canL llve our llves over agaln
Courage doesnL conslsL ln forglveness we always forglve Loo much And lL does no good LhaLs a known
facL Why was Lhe Pousemald puL ln Lhe lasL row afLer all oLher human belngs? noL for noLhlng we can
be sure of LhaL Cne nlghL whlle Lheyre asleep all happy people belleve me oughL Lo be puL Lo sleep for
real LhaLll be Lhe end of Lhem and Lhelr happlness once and for all 1he nexL day Lheyll all be forgoLLen
and well be free Lo be as unhappy as we please along wlLh Lhe Pousemald 8uL whaLs all Lhls lm Lelllng
you? Lola was paclng Lhe floor wlLhouL many cloLhes on and ln splLe of everyLhlng her body sLlll sLruck me
as very deslrable Where Lheres a luxurlous body Lheres always a posslblllLy of rape of a dlrecL vlolenL
breaklng and enLerlng lnLo Lhe hearL of wealLh and luxury wlLh no fear of havlng Lo reLurn Lhe looL
Maybe she was [usL walLlng for me Lo make a move and Lhen shed have shown me Lhe door Anyway l
was careful mosLly because l was so abomlnably hungry LaL flrsL! 8esldes she was golng on and on abouL
Lhe vulgar Lrlvla of her dally llfe 1he world would cerLalnly have Lo be shuL down for aL leasL Lwo or Lhree
generaLlons lf Lhere were no more lles Lo Lell eople would have pracLlcally noLhlng Lo say Lo one anoLher
She flnally goL around Lo asklng me whaL l LhoughL of her Amerlca l owned LhaL ld become so weakened
so LerrorsLrlcken LhaL almosL everyone and almosL everyLhlng frlghLened me and LhaL her counLry as such
Lerrlfled me more Lhan all Lhe dlrecL occulL and unforeseeable menaces l found ln lL chlefly because of Lhe
enormous lndlfference Loward me whlch Lo my way of Lhlnklng was lLs very essence
l had my llvlng Lo make l Lold her so ld soon have Lo cure myself of my excesslve senslblllLy ln LhaL
respecL l admlLLed l was very backward and l assured her LhaL ld be exceedlngly graLeful lf she could
recommend me Lo some posslble employer among her acqualnLances 8uL please as soon as posslble
ld be qulLe saLlsfled wlLh a modesL salary And conslderably more of Lhls lnslpld hogwash She Look
my modesL buL neverLheless lndlscreeL suggesLlon preLLy badly Per replles were dlscouraglng from Lhe
sLarL She couldnL Lhlnk of anyone aL all who mlghL glve me a [ob or help me naLurally LhaL drove us back
Lo Lalklng abouL llfe ln general and hers ln parLlcular
We were sLlll slzlng each oLher up morally and physlcally when Lhe bell rang And Lhen wlLh pracLlcally no
pause or lnLerval four women swepL lnLo Lhe room palnLed corpulenL mlddleaged muscular be[eweled
and very free and easy Lola lnLroduced us very summarlly she was vlslbly embarrassed and Lrled Lo drag
Lhem away somewhere buL LhwarLlng all her efforLs Lhey compeLed for my aLLenLlon Lelllng me
everyLhlng Lhey knew abouL Lurope Lurope was an oldfashloned garden full of oldfashloned eroLlc
grasplng lunaLlcs 1hey knew all Lhere was Lo know abouL Lhe Chabanals37 and Lhe lnvalldes38
ersonally l hadnL been Lo elLher of Lhose places Lhe flrsL belng Loo expenslve Lhe second Loo ouL of Lhe
way ln replylng l was overcome by a blasL of auLomaLlc paLrloLlsm LhaL made me even sllller Lhan usual on
such occaslons l Lold Lhem Lhelr clLy gave me Lhe creeps An unsuccessful carnlval a nauseaLlng flop
Lhough Lhe people ln charge were knocklng Lhemselves ouL Lo puL lL over
Whlle peroraLlng Lhus arLlflclally and convenLlonally l couldnL help reallzlng LhaL Lhere were oLher reasons
Lhan malarla for my physlcal prosLraLlon and moral depresslon 1here was also Lhe change ln hablLs once
agaln l was havlng Lo geL used Lo new faces ln new surroundlngs and Lo learn new ways of Lalklng and lylng
Lazlness ls almosL as compelllng as llfe 1he new farce youre havlng Lo play crushes you wlLh lLs banallLy
and all ln all lL Lakes more cowardlce Lhan courage Lo sLarL all over agaln 1haLs whaL exlle a forelgn
counLry ls lnexorable percepLlon of exlsLence as lL really ls durlng Lhose long lucld hours excepLlonal ln Lhe
flux of human Llme when Lhe ways of Lhe old counLry abandon you buL Lhe new ways havenL sufflclenLly
sLupefled you as yeL
AL such momenLs everyLhlng adds Lo your loaLhsome dlsLress forclng you ln your weakened sLaLe Lo see
Lhlngs people and Lhe fuLure as Lhey are LhaL ls as skeleLons as noLhlngs whlch you wlll neverLheless
have Lo love cherlsh and defend as lf Lhey exlsLed
A dlfferenL counLry dlfferenL people carrylng on raLher sLrangely Lhe loss of a few llLLle vanlLles of a
cerLaln prlde LhaL has losL lLs [usLlflcaLlon Lhe lle lLs based on lLs famlllar echono more ls needed your
head swlms doubL Lakes hold of you Lhe lnflnlLe opens up [usL for you a rldlculously small lnflnlLe and you
fall lnLo lL
1ravel ls Lhe search for Lhls noLhlng Lhls blL of lnLoxlcaLlon for numbskulls
Lolas four vlslLors had a good laugh llsLenlng Lo my wlld confesslons my llLLle !ean!acques acL 1hey called
me all sorLs of names LhaL l hardly undersLood because of Lhelr Amerlcan mlspronunclaLlon and olly
lndecenL way of speaklng LoudmouLhed caLs
When Lhe negro servanL came ln wlLh Lea we all fell sllenL
Cne of Lhe vlslLors musL have had more dlscernmenL Lhan Lhe oLhers for she announced ln a loud volce
LhaL l was shaklng wlLh fever and musL be frlghLfully LhlrsLy ln splLe of my shakes l loved Lhe food LhaL was
served 1hose sandwlches l can say wlLhouL exaggeraLlon saved my llfe
1he conversaLlon Lurned Lo Lhe relaLlve merlLs of Lhe arls broLhels buL l dldnL boLher Lo [oln ln 1he ladles
dabbled ln varlous compllcaLed drlnks and Lhen flushed warmed and communlcaLlve sLarLed Lalklng
abouL marrlages 8usy as l was wlLh Lhe food l couldnL help reallzlng ln one corner of my mlnd LhaL Lhese
were marrlages of a very speclal klnd maLlngs l was preLLy sure beLween [uvenlles and LhaL Lhe ladles
collecLed a commlsslon on Lhem
Lola saw LhaL Lhls Lalk caughL my aLLenLlon and aroused my curloslLy She gave me a preLLy mean look She
had sLopped drlnklng 1he Amerlcan men Lola knew werenL llke me Lhey never showed curloslLy under
her waLchful eye l conLrolled myself wlLh some dlfflculLy ld have llked Lo ask Lhose ladles a hundred
llnally Lhe guesLs lefL us movlng heavlly enllvened by drlnk sexually sLlmulaLed 8ounclng and wrlggllng
Lhey held forLh wlLh a curlously eleganL and cynlcal eroLlclsm l sensed an LllzabeLhan someLhlng deep
down and ld have llked Lo feel lLs undoubLedly cholce and concenLraLed vlbraLlons aL Lhe end of my organ
8uL much Lo my regreL and lncreased sadness l goL no more Lhan a presenLlmenL of LhaL blologlcal
communlon LhaL vlLal message so essenLlal for a Lraveler lncurable melancholy!
As soon as Lhey had lefL Lola made no secreL of her exasperaLlon 1haL lnLermezzo had really annoyed her l
dldnL say a word
1hose hags! she crled a few mlnuLes laLer
Pow dld you geL Lo know Lhem? l asked her
lve always known Lhem "
no lncllnaLlon Lo Lell me more aL Lhe momenL
!udglng by Lhelr raLher arroganL manner Loward her l had Lhe lmpresslon LhaL ln a cerLaln socleLy Lhese
women musL have en[oyed greaLer presLlge Lhan Lola a conslderable auLhorlLy ln facL l never found ouL
any more abouL lL
Lola sald someLhlng abouL golng downLown buL Lold me l could sLay and walL for her and have some more
Lo eaL lf l was sLlll hungry Seelng LhaL ld lefL Lhe Laugh Calvln wlLhouL paylng my blll and had no lnLenLlon
of golng backfor good reasonl was dellghLed wlLh her suggesLlona few more momenLs of warmLh
before golng ouL and faclng Lhe sLreeL and oh my achlng back! whaL a sLreeL!
As soon as l was alone l made for Lhe hallway leadlng Lo Lhe place Lhe negro servanL had emerged from
We meL halfway Lo Lhe panLry and l shook hands wlLh hlm Pe LrusLed me rlghL off and led me Lo Lhe
klLchen a flne wellarranged place much more loglcal and aLLracLlve Lhan Lhe llvlng room
8lghL away he sLarLed splLLlng on Lhe beauLlful Llle floor as only black men know how Lo splL abundanLly
and consummaLely As a maLLer of pollLeness l Loo spaL as besL l could 1haL dld lL he Look me lnLo hls
confldence Lola he lnformed me had a yachL on Lhe rlver Lwo cars ln Lhe garage a cellar sLocked wlLh
llquor from all over Lhe world 1he arls deparLmenL sLores senL her Lhelr caLalogues 1haL was Lhe sLory
And he proceeded Lo repeaL Lhe same meager lnformaLlon over and over agaln l sLopped llsLenlng
l dozed beslde hlm and Lhe pasL came back Lo me Lhe days when Lola had lefL me ln warLlme arls 1he
chase LhaL sly gllb lylng mlnx had led me Musyne Lhe ArgenLlnes Lhelr shlps full of meaL 1opo Lhe
bedraggled cohorLs on Lhe lace Cllchy 8oblnson Lhe waves Lhe sea poverLy Lolas gleamlng whlLe
klLchen her negro servanL And me slLLlng Lhere as lf l were somebody else LveryLhlng would go on 1he
war had burned some and warmed oLhers same as flre LorLures you or comforLs you dependlng on
wheLher youre ln lL or ln fronL of lL ?ouve goL Lo work Lhe angles LhaLs all
lL was Lrue whaL shed sald abouL my havlng changed l couldnL deny lL Llfe LwlsLs you and squashes your
face lL had squashed her face Loo buL less so lLs no [oke belng poor overLy ls a glanL lL uses your face
llke a mop Lo clear away Lhe worlds garbage 1heres plenLy lefL
SLlll lL seemed Lo me LhaL ld noLlced someLhlng new ln Lola momenLs of depresslon of melancholy gaps
ln her opLlmlsLlc sLupldlLy Lhe momenLs when a person has Lo sLop and gaLher Lhe sLrengLh Lo carry hls llfe
hls years a llLLle furLher because Lheyve become Loo heavy for Lhe vlLallLy he has lefL hls lousy llLLle blL of
Suddenly Lhe negro began Lo [lggle and hop SomeLhlng had come over hlm l was hls new frlend and he
was deLermlned Lo sLuff me full of cakes and load me wlLh clgars llnally wlLh lnflnlLe precauLlons he
removed a round leaden ob[ecL from a drawer
1he bomb! he crled furlously l reLreaLed Llberla! Llberla! he shouLed exulLanLly
Pe puL lL back where lL belonged and spaL agaln superbly WhaL emoLlon! WhaL [ubllaLlon! Pls laughLer
LhaL guL sensaLlon lnfecLed me Why noL? A llLLle Lhlng llke LhaL l sald Lo myself doesnL mean a Lhlng
When Lola flnally goL back from her errands she found us ln Lhe llvlng room plunged ln smoke and
laughLer She preLended noL Lo noLlce
1he negro qulckly made hlmself scarce She Look me Lo her room l found her sad pale and Lrembllng
Where could she have been? lL was geLLlng laLe 1he Llme of day when Amerlcans are aL a loss because Lhe
pulse of llfe around Lhem has gone lnLo slow moLlon Lvery second car ls back ln Lhe garage lLs Lhe Llme for
halfconfldences 8uL Lo beneflL by lL youve goL Lo hurry 1o puL me ln Lhe mood she quesLloned me buL
Lhe Lone she Look when asklng cerLaln quesLlons abouL Lhe llfe ld been leadlng ln Lurope sLuck ln my craw
She made lL qulLe clear LhaL she LhoughL me capable of every klnd of beasLllness 1haL hypoLhesls dldnL
make me angry lL only embarrassed me She had a good ldea LhaL ld come Lo ask her for money and LhaL
ln lLself creaLed a naLural anlmoslLy beLween us Such feellngs verge on murder We sLuck Lo
commonplaces and l dld my level besL Lo avold an ouL and ouL quarrel She asked among oLher Lhlngs
abouL my sexual escapades wanLlng Lo know lf somewhere ln Lhe course of my bummlngs around l hadnL
abandoned a chlld she could adopL A bug LhaL had goL lnLo her She was obsessed wlLh Lhe ldea of adopLlng
a chlld She LhoughL raLher nalvely LhaL a Lramp llke me musL have slred clandesLlne famllles all over Lhe
world She was rlch she conflded and noL havlng a chlld Lo devoLe herself Lo was more Lhan she could
bear She had read every avallable book on chlld care especlally Lhe ones LhaL go lnLo a lyrlcal swoon abouL
moLherhood Lhose books LhaL cure you lf you really asslmllaLe Lhem of all deslre Lo copulaLe for ever and
ever Lvery vlrLue has lLs conLempLlble llLeraLure
Slnce she wanLed Lo sacrlflce herself excluslvely for a llLLle creaLure l was ouL of luck All l had Lo offer her
was a blg creaLure and one who sLruck her as Loo dlsgusLlng for words overLy doesnL draw unless lLs
properly presenLed swaLhed ln lmaglnaLlon Cur conversaLlon langulshed Look lerdlnand she flnally
suggesLed weve had enough Lalk lm golng Lo Lake you across Lown Lo see my llLLle proLege l en[oy
looklng afLer hlm buL hls moLher drlves me crazy lL was a sLrange Llme Lo be vlslLlng ln Lhe car on Lhe
way we Lalked abouL her caLasLrophlc negro
uld he show you hls bombs? she asked l owned LhaL he had puL me Lhrough LhaL ordeal
Pes a manlac lerdlnand buL noL dangerous Pe fllls hls bombs wlLh my old bllls ?ears ago ln Chlcago
he had hls day Pe belonged Lo a dangerous secreL socleLy for black emanclpaLlon Porrlble people Lo
[udge by whaL hes Lold me 1he pollce broke up Lhe gang buL he sLlll has a weakness for bombs Pe
never puLs exploslves ln Lhem 1he splrlL of Lhe Lhlng ls enough for hlm Pes really an arLlsL Pell
be a revoluLlonary as long as he llves 8uL l keep hlm hes an excellenL servanL And all Lhlngs consldered
hes probably more honesL Lhan Lhe ones who arenL revoluLlonarles "
And she came back Lo her adopLlon manla
lLs really Loo bad you havenL a llLLle glrl somewhere A dreamy naLure llke yours ls no good aL all for a
man buL lL would be flne for a woman "
1he raln poured down closlng Lhe nlghL around our car as lL gllded over Lhe long band of smooLh concreLe
LveryLhlng was hosLlle and cold Lo me even her hand whlch l was holdlng LlghL ln mlne all Lhe same
LveryLhlng came beLween us We pulled up ln fronL of a house LhaL looked very dlfferenL from Lhe one we
had [usL lefL ln an aparLmenL on Lhe second floor a llLLle boy of abouL Len was walLlng for us wlLh hls
moLher 1he furnlLure had preLenslons Lo Louls xv and Lhe cooklng smells of a recenL meal were sLlll ln Lhe
alr 1he chlld [umped up on Lolas lap and klssed her affecLlonaLely 1he moLher also seemed very fond of
Lola Whlle Lola was Lalklng Lo Lhe chlld l managed Lo Lake Lhe moLher lnLo Lhe nexL room
When we came back Lhe boy was performlng for Lolas beneflL a dance sLep he had [usL learned aL Lhe
ConservaLory Pell need a few more prlvaLe lessons Lola observed Lhen l may lnLroduce hlm Lo my
frlend vera aL Lhe Clobe 1heaLer l wouldnL be surprlsed lf Lhe chlld had qulLe a fuLure ahead of hlm AfLer
Lhese klnd encouraglng words Lhe moLher Lhanked her Learfully and profusely AL Lhe same Llme she
accepLed a small wad of green dollars whlch she Lucked away ln her bosom llke a love leLLer
ld be raLher pleased wlLh LhaL llLLle boy sald Lola once we were ouLslde buL l have Lo puL up wlLh Lhe
moLher aL Lhe same Llme and l donL care for moLhers who are Loo sharp for Lhelr own good 8esldes
Lhe kld ls Loo depraved 1haLs noL Lhe sorL of aLLachmenL l wanL WhaL l long for ls a purely maLernal
feellng uo you undersLand me lerdlnand? When lL comes Lo maklng a llvlng l can puL up wlLh anyLhlng
lLs noL a maLLer of lnLelllgence l [usL know l have Lo adapL
She couldnL sLop Lalklng abouL her deslre for purlLy A few sLreeLs furLher on she asked me where l was
plannlng Lo sleep LhaL nlghL and Look a few more sLeps beslde me l sald LhaL lf l dldnL geL hold of a few
dollars l wouldnL be sleeplng anywhere
All rlghL she sald Come home wlLh me lll glve you a llLLle change Lhen you can go where you please"
She was deLermlned Lo puL me ouL lnLo Lhe nlghL as soon as posslble 1he usual Lhlng Always geLLlng
shoved ouL lnLo Lhe nlghL llke Lhls l sald Lo myself lm bound Lo end up somewhere 1haLs some
consolaLlon Chln up lerdlnand l kepL saylng Lo myself Lo keep up my courage WhaL wlLh belng
chucked ouL of everywhere youre sure Lo flnd whaLever lL ls LhaL scares all Lhose basLards so lL musL be aL
Lhe end of Lhe nlghL and LhaLs why Lheyre so dead seL agalnsL golng Lo Lhe end of Lhe nlghL"
AfLer LhaL lL was very cold beLween us ln her car 1he sLreeLs we passed LhreaLened us wlLh all Lhe armored
sllence of Lhelr lnflnlLely Lowerlng sLone wlLh a klnd of suspended deluge A clLy lurklng ln ambush an
unpredlcLable monsLer vlscous wlLh asphalL and raln AL lasL we slowed down Lola wenL ln ahead of me
Come up she sald lollow me"
Per llvlng room agaln l wondered how much shed parL wlLh Lo geL Lhls buslness over wlLh and be rld of me
She Look some banknoLes ouL of a small handbag she had lefL on Lhe Lable l heard an enormous rusLllng of
crumpled bllls CreaL momenLs! ln Lhe whole clLy Lhere was no oLher sound 8uL l was so embarrassed LhaL l
asked herl donL know why and lL was mosL ouL of placefor news of her moLher whom l had forgoLLen
My moLher ls lll she sald Lurnlng around and looklng me full ln Lhe face
Where ls she now?"
ln Chlcago"
WhaLs wrong wlLh her?"
Cancer of Lhe llver lve puL her ln Lhe hands of Lhe flnesL speclallsLs ln Lown 1heyre cosLlng me a
forLune buL Lheyll save her 1hey promlsed"
More and more deLalls of her moLhers condlLlon ln Chlcago poured ouL of her Per feellng for her moLher
made for famlllarlLy and ln splLe of herself she appealed Lo me for comforL l had her where l wanLed her
And you lerdlnand you belleve Lheyll cure her donL you?"
no l sald brlskly and flrmly Cancer of Lhe llver ls absoluLely lncurable"
AL LhaL she wenL deaLhly pale 1he blLch LhaL was Lhe flrsL Llme ld ever seen anyLhlng dlsconcerL her
8uL lerdlnand Lhe speclallsLs assured me shed recover! 1hey guaranLeed lL! 1hey gave lL Lo me ln wrlLlng!
1heyre greaL docLors lerdlnand "
lor cash Lola Lhere wlll always be greaL docLors lucklly ld do Lhe same for you myself lf l were ln
Lhelr place And so would you Lola "
Suddenly whaL l was saylng sLruck her as so lnconLroverLlble so obvlous LhaL she couldnL even puL up a
lor once maybe for Lhe flrsL Llme ln her llfe she losL her nerve
8uL lerdlnand donL you reallze how Lerrlbly youre hurLlng me? l love my moLher dldnL you know LhaL
l love her?"
Clad Lo hear lL! Cood grlef! Who Lhe hell cares wheLher she loves her moLher or noL!
Lola was sobblng ln her empLlness
lerdlnand youre a worLhless monsLer! she shouLed ln a rage ?oure wlcked! Wlcked! Saylng awful
Lhlngs llke LhaL ls [usL your cowardly way of avenglng yourself for Lhe roLLen slLuaLlon youre ln And l [usL
know youre dolng my moLher a loL of harm by Lalklng LhaL way!"
ln her despalr l snlffed vesLlges of Lhe Coue meLhod39 Per fury dldnL frlghLen me as much as LhaL of Lhe
offlcers on Lhe Admlral 8ragueLon whod wanLed Lo annlhllaLe me Lo glve Lhe bored ladles a klck
l waLched Lola closely as she was calllng me every name ln Lhe book and lL gave me a cerLaln feellng of
prlde Lo observe LhaL by conLrasL Lhe more she lnsulLed me Lhe more my lndlfference no my [oy
lncreased Were nlce people deep down
now l flgured shell have Lo glve me aL leasL LwenLy dollars Lo geL rld of me Maybe even more "
l Look Lhe offenslve Lola lend me Lhe money you promlsed or lll sleep here and youll hear me repeaL all l
know abouL cancer lLs compllcaLlons lLs heredlLary characLer because you know Lola cancer ls heredlLary
and donL forgeL lL!"
As l developed and reflned on Lhe deLalls of her moLhers case l saw Lola blanch weaken crumple before
my eyes Ch Lhe blLch! l sald Lo myself keep a good hold on her! lor once youve goL Lhe good end!
uonL leL her off Lhe llne! ?ou wonL flnd such a good one ln a hurry! "
She was beslde herself Pere! she screamed 1ake lL! 1ake your hundred dollars and geL ouL and never
come back hear never! CuL! CuL! CuL! ?ou beasL!"
WonL you klss me all Lhe same Lola Come on! Were sLlll frlends arenL we? l suggesLed Lo see how
far l could go ln dlsgusLlng her AL LhaL polnL she Look a revolver ouL of a drawer and she wasnL [oklng 1he
sLalrs were good enough for me l dldnL even rlng for Lhe elevaLor
1haL good solld flghL resLored my LasLe for work and plcked up my morale 1he nexL day l Look Lhe Lraln Lo
ueLrolL where ld been assured lL was easy Lo geL hlred and Lhere were loLs of llLLle [obs LhaL were well
pald and dldnL Lake Loo much ouL of you
1he passersby spoke Lo me Lhe way Lhe
sergeanL had spoken Lo me ln Lhe foresL ?ou canL go wrong Lhey sald !usL follow your nose"
And Lrue enough l saw some blg squaL bulldlngs all of glass enormous dollhouses lnslde whlch you could
see men movlng buL hardly movlng as lf Lhey were sLruggllng agalnsL someLhlng lmposslble Was LhaL
lords? And Lhen all around me and above me as far as Lhe sky Lhe heavy composlLe muffled roar of
LorrenLs of machlnes hard wheels obsLlnaLely Lurnlng grlndlng groanlng always on Lhe polnL of breaklng
down buL never breaklng down
So Lhls ls Lhe place! l sald Lo myself lLs noL very promlslng AcLually lL was worse Lhan
everywhere else l wenL closer up Lo a door where lL was wrlLLen on a slaLe LhaL men were wanLed
l wasnL Lhe only one walLlng Cne of Lhe men coollng Lhelr heels Lold me he had been Lhere on Lhe same
spoL for Lwo days 1he poor sucker had come all Lhe way from ?ugoslavla for Lhls [ob AnoLher dead beaL
spoke Lo me he sald hed declded Lo work [usL for Lhe fun of lLa nuL a phony
Pardly anybody ln LhaL crowd spoke Lngllsh 1hey eyed each oLher dlsLrusLfully llke anlmals who had ofLen
been beaLen 1hey gave off a smell of urlnous croLches llke ln Lhe hosplLal When Lhey spoke Lo you you
kepL away from Lhelr mouLhs because ln Lhere poor people smell of deaLh
8aln was falllng on our llLLle crowd 1he flles of men sLood compressed under Lhe eaves eople looklng for
work are very compresslble WhaL he llked aL lords an old 8usslan ln a confldlng frame of mlnd Lold me
was LhaL Lhey dldnL care who or whaL Lhey hlred 8uL waLch your sLep he added for my lnsLrucLlon
donL geL upplLy because lf you geL upplLy Lheyll Lhrow you ouL ln Lwo seconds and ln Lwo seconds youll
be replaced by one of Lhose mechanlcal machlnes LhaL he always keeps on hand and lLs no soap lf you Lry
Lo geL back! 1haL 8usslan spoke good arlslan because hed been a Laxl drlver for years buL Lhen hed
been flred because of some cocalne buslness ln 8ezons and ln Lhe end hed sLaked hls cab ln a game of
zanzl wlLh a fare and losL lL
lL was Lrue whaL he Lold me LhaL Lhey Look on anybody aL all aL lords Pe hadnL lled l had my susplclons
Lhough because downandouLers llke LhaL Lend Lo be off Lhelr rockers 1heres a degree of desLlLuLlon
when Lhe mlnd doesnL always sLay wlLh Lhe body lLs Loo uncomforLable WhaLs Lalklng Lo you ls
pracLlcally a dlsembodled soul And a soul lsnL responslble for whaL lL says
naLurally Lhey sLrlpped us sLark naked for a sLarLer 1he examlnaLlon was glven ln a klnd of laboraLory We
flled slowly pasL ?oure ln Lerrlble shape sald Lhe medlcal asslsLanL Lhe momenL he lald eyes on me buL
lL doesnL maLLer"
And me wlLh my worry abouL belng Lurned down because of my Afrlcan fevers ln case Lhey chanced Lo
palpaLe my llver! noL aL all Lhey seemed dellghLed aL Lhe crlpples and weakllngs ln our baLch
lor Lhe klnd of work youll be dolng here Lhe docLor assured me your healLh ls of no lmporLance"
Clad Lo hear lL l sald 8uL you know docLor lm an educaLed man l even sLudled medlclne aL one Llme
AL LhaL he gave me a dlrLy look l saw LhaL ld puL my fooL ln lL agaln Lo my deLrlmenL
?our sLudles wonL do you a blL of good around here son ?oure noL here Lo Lhlnk youre here Lo make
Lhe movemenLs youre Lold Lo We donL need lmaglnaLlve Lypes ln our facLory WhaL we need ls
chlmpanzees LeL me glve you a plece of advlce never menLlon your lnLelllgence agaln! Well Lhlnk for
you my boy! A word Lo Lhe wlse"
Lucky for me LhaL he warned me lL was [usL as well LhaL l should know Lhe manners and cusLoms of Lhe
house ld already made enough sLupld blunders Lo lasL me aL leasL Len years lrom Lhen on l was
deLermlned Lo pass for a quleL llLLle drudge When we had our cloLhes back on we were senL off ln slow
movlng flles heslLanL groups ln Lhe dlrecLlon where Lhe sLupendous roar of machlnery came from
LveryLhlng Lrembled ln Lhe enormous bulldlng and we ourselves from our ears Lo Lhe soles of our feeL
were gaLhered lnLo Lhls Lrembllng whlch came from Lhe wlndows Lhe floor and all Lhe clanklng meLal
Lremors LhaL shook Lhe whole bulldlng from Lop Lo boLLom We ourselves became machlnes our flesh
Lrembled ln Lhe furlous dln lL grlpped us around our heads and ln our bowels and rose up Lo Lhe eyes ln
qulck conLlnuous [olLs 1he furLher we wenL Lhe more of our companlons we losL ln leavlng Lhem we gave
Lhem brlghL llLLle smlles as lf all Lhls were [usL lovely lL was no longer posslble Lo speak Lo Lhem or hear
Lhem Lach Llme Lhree or four of Lhem sLopped aL a machlne
SLlll you reslsL lLs hard Lo desplse your own subsLance youd llke Lo sLop all Lhls glve yourself Llme Lo Lhlnk
abouL lL and llsLen wlLhouL dlfflculLy Lo your hearLbeaL buL lLs Loo laLe for LhaL 1hls Lhlng can never sLop
1hls enormous sLeel box ls on a colllslon course we lnslde lL are whlrllng madly wlLh Lhe machlnes and Lhe
earLh All LogeLher Along wlLh Lhe Lhousands of llLLle wheels and Lhe hammers LhaL never sLrlke aL Lhe
same Llme LhaL make nolses whlch shaLLer one anoLher some so vlolenL LhaL Lhey release a klnd of sllence
around Lhem whlch makes you feel a llLLle beLLer
1he slowmovlng llLLle car full of hardware has Lrouble passlng beLween Lhe machlne Lools Cangway! 1he
workers [ump aslde Lo leL Lhe hysLerlcal Lhlng Lhrough And Lhe clanklng fool goes on beLween Lhe belLs and
flywheels brlnglng Lhe men Lhelr raLlon of servlLude
lLs slckenlng Lo waLch Lhe workers benL over Lhelr machlnes lnLenL on glvlng Lhem all posslble pleasure
callbraLlng bolLs and more bolLs lnsLead of puLLlng an end once for all Lo Lhls sLench of oll Lhls vapor LhaL
burns your LhroaL and aLLacks your eardrums from lnslde lLs noL shame LhaL makes Lhem bow Lhelr heads
?ou glve ln Lo nolse as you glve ln Lo war AL Lhe machlnes you leL yourself go wlLh Lhe Lwo Lhree ldeas LhaL
are wobbllng abouL aL Lhe Lop of your head And LhaLs Lhe end lrom Lhen on everyLhlng you look aL
everyLhlng you Louch ls hard And everyLhlng you sLlll manage Lo remember more or less becomes as rlgld
as lron and loses lLs savor ln your LhoughLs
All of a sudden youve become dlsgusLlngly old
All ouLslde llfe musL be done away wlLh made lnLo sLeel lnLo someLhlng useful We dldnL love lL enough
Lhe way lL was LhaLs why So lL has Lo be made lnLo an ob[ecL lnLo someLhlng solld 1he 8egulaLlons say so
l Lrled Lo shouL someLhlng lnLo Lhe foremans ear he grunLed llke a plg ln answer and made moLlons Lo
show me very paLlenLly Lhe slmple operaLlon l was Lo perform forever and ever
My mlnuLes my hours llke Lhose of Lhe oLhers all my Llme would go lnLo passlng llnchplns Lo Lhe bllnd
man nexL Lo me who had been callbraLlng Lhese same llnchplns for years l dld Lhe work very badly from
Lhe sLarL nobody reprlmanded me buL afLer Lhree days of LhaL flrsL [ob l was Lransferred already a fallure
Lo pushlng Lhe llLLle Lrolley full of washers LhaL wenL [olLlng along from machlne Lo machlne AL one
machlne l lefL Lhree aL anoLher a dozen aL sLlll anoLher only flve nobody spoke Lo me LxlsLence was
reduced Lo a klnd of heslLaLlon beLween sLupor and frenzy noLhlng maLLered buL Lhe earspllLLlng
conLlnulLy of Lhe machlnes LhaL commanded all men
AL slx oclock when everyLhlng sLops you carry Lhe nolse away ln your head l had enough nolse Lo lasL me
all nlghL noL Lo menLlon Lhe smell of oll as lf ld been glven a new nose and a new braln for all Llme
8y dlnL of renunclaLlon l became llLLle by llLLle a dlfferenL man a new lerdlnand lL Look several weeks
8uL Lhen Lhe deslre Lo see people came back Lo me naLurally noL Lhe facLory hands Lhey were mere echoes
and smells of machlnes llke myself lumps of flesh convulsed wlLh vlbraLlons l wanLed Lo Louch a real body
a plnk body made of sofL quleL llfe
l dldnL know a soul ln LhaL clLy leasL of all any women llnally afLer a good deal of Lrouble l obLalned Lhe
vague address of a house a clandesLlne broLhel aL Lhe norLh end of Lown Cn several evenlngs ln a row
afLer work l sLrolled around Lhe nelghborhood on reconnalssance 1he sLreeL was llke any oLher Lhough
maybe a llLLle cleaner Lhan Lhe one where l llved
l locaLed Lhe house ln quesLlon lL had a garden around lL 1o geL ln you had Lo move qulckly so Lhe cop on
duLy nearby wouldnL noLlce 1haL was Lhe flrsL place ln Amerlca where l was recelved wlLhouL bruLallLy
amlably ln facL for my flve dollars And whaL beauLlful young women well rounded bursLlng wlLh healLh
and graceful sLrengLh almosL as beauLlful come Lo Lhlnk of lL as Lhe ones aL Lhe Laugh Calvln
And Lhese aL leasL you could come rlghL ouL and Louch l couldnL help myself l goL Lo be a regular
cusLomer lL used up all my pay When nlghL came l needed Lhe eroLlc promlsculLy of Lhose splendld
welcomlng creaLures Lo resLore my soul 1he movles were no longer enough LhaL mlld anLldoLe was
powerless Lo flghL Lhe physlcal horror of Lhe facLory 1o survlve l needed lecherous Lonlcs drasLlc ellxlrs ln
LhaL house l dldnL have Lo pay much Lhey gave me frlendly Lerms because l broughL Lhe glrls a few llLLle
reflnemenLs from lrance LxcepL on SaLurday nlghL Lhen Lhere was no Llme for reflnemenLs buslness
boomed and l had Lo make way for baseball Leams on a spree magnlflcenLly vlgorous young brulsers Lo
whom happlness came as easlly as breaLh Whlle Lhe baseball Leams were aL lL l llkewlse ln hlgh splrlLs
would slL alone ln Lhe klLchen wrlLlng my shorL sLorles lm sure Lhose aLhleLes enLhuslasm for Lhe ladles of
Lhe esLabllshmenL dldnL measure up Lo my own sllghLly lmpoLenL fervor ConfldenL ln Lhelr own sLrengLh
Lhose baseball players were blase abouL physlcal perfecLlon 8eauLy ls llke drlnk or comforL once you geL
used Lo lL you sLop paylng aLLenLlon
1hey vlslLed Lhe broLhel mosLly Lo make whoopee CfLen Lheyd end up havlng Lerrlble flghLs 1he pollce
would bursL ln and Lake Lhem all away ln llLLle Lrucks
1oward Molly one of Lhe lovely glrls Lhere l soon developed an uncommon feellng of LrusL whlch ln
frlghLened people Lakes Lhe place of love l remember her klndness as lf lL were yesLerday and her long
blond magnlflcenLly sLrong llLhe legs noble legs Say whaL you llke Lhe mark of Lrue arlsLocracy ln
humanklnd ls Lhe legs
We became lnLlmaLe ln body and mlnd and Look walks around Lown for a few hours every week She was
comforLably off slnce she Look ln abouL a hundred dollars a day ln Lhe caLhouse whlle l made barely Len aL
lords 1he lovemaklng she dld for a llvlng dldnL Llre her ln Lhe leasL Amerlcans do lL llke blrds
ln Lhe evenlng when ld flnlshed pushlng my llLLle dellvery wagon around ld meeL her afLer dlnner and
force myself Lo puL on a cheerful face ?ouve goL Lo be cheerful wlLh women ln Lhe beglnnlng aL leasL A
vague deslre came over me Lo suggesL Lhlngs we could do buL l hadnL Lhe sLrengLh She undersLood Lhe
lndusLrlal blues she was used Lo facLory workers
Cne evenlng [usL llke LhaL a propos of noLhlng she presenLed me wlLh flfLy dollars llrsL l looked aL her l
dldnL dare l LhoughL abouL my moLher and whaL shed have sald And Lhen lL came Lo me LhaL my moLher
poor Lhlng had never glven me LhaL much 1o please Molly l wenL rlghL ouL wlLh her dollars and boughL a
lovely Lan fourplece sulL whlch was whaL Lhey were wearlng LhaL sprlng 1hey had never seen me arrlve
aL Lhe caLhouse looklng so naLLy 1he madame played her blg phonograph [usL Lo Leach me how Lo dance
LaLer Molly and l wenL Lo Lhe movles Lo break ln my new sulL She asked me on Lhe way lf l was [ealous
because Lhe sulL made me look sad and so dld noL wanLlng Lo go back Lo Lhe facLory A new sulL always
Lhrows you off She gave my sulL passlonaLe llLLle klsses when nobody was looklng l Lrled Lo Lhlnk of
someLhlng else
WhaL a woman my Molly was! WhaL generoslLy! WhaL a body! WhaL fullness of youLh! A feasL of deslres!
And Lhen l was worrled agaln Was Lhls plmplng?
1o make maLLers worse Molly pleaded uonL go back Lo lords CeL yourself a llLLle [ob ln an offlce as a
LranslaLor for lnsLance 1haLs Lhe Lhlng for you ?ou llke books "
Per advlce was klndly glven she wanLed me Lo be happy lor Lhe flrsL Llme somebody was Laklng an lnLeresL
ln me looklng aL me from Lhe lnslde so Lo speak Laklng my egolsm lnLo accounL puLLlng herself ln my
place noL [usL [udglng me from her polnL of vlew llke everyone else
lf only l had meL Molly sooner when lL was sLlll posslble Lo choose one road raLher Lhan anoLher 8efore
LhaL blLch Musyne and LhaL llLLle Lurd Lola crlmped my enLhuslasm 8uL lL was Loo laLe Lo sLarL belng young
agaln l dldnL belleve ln lL anymore We grow old so qulckly and whaLs more lrremedlably ?ou can Lell by
Lhe way you sLarL lovlng your mlsery ln splLe of yourself naLure ls sLronger Lhan we are no Lwo ways abouL
lL She Lrles us ln one parLlcular mold and were never able Lo Lhrow lL off l had sLarLed ouL as Lhe resLless
Lype LlLLle by llLLle wlLhouL reallzlng lL you begln Lo Lake your role and faLe serlously and before you know
lL lLs Loo laLe Lo change ?oure a hundredpercenL resLless and lLs seL LhaL way for good
very lovlngly Molly Lrled Lo keep me wlLh her Lo dlssuade me Llfe can be [usL as pleasanL here as ln
Lurope lerdlnand We wonL be unhappy LogeLher And ln a sense she was rlghL Well lnvesL our savlngs
Well buy a llLLle buslness Well be llke oLher people She sald LhaL Lo quleL my scruples lans for
Lhe fuLure l agreed wlLh her l was even raLher ashamed of all Lhe Lrouble she was Laklng Lo hold me l was
very fond of her buL l was even fonder of my vlce my manla for runnlng away from everywhere ln search
of Cod knows whaL drlven l suppose by sLupld prlde by a sense of some sorL of superlorlLy
l was afrald of hurLlng her She undersLood and anLlclpaLed my concern She was so nlce LhaL l flnally Lold
her abouL Lhe manla LhaL drove me Lo clear ouL of wherever l happened Lo be She llsLened Lo me for days
and days whlle l held forLh laylng myself dlsgusLlngly bare flghLlng wlLh phanLasms and polnLs of prlde and
she never losL paLlence far from lL She only Lrled Lo help me geL over my foollsh and fuLlle anxleLy She
dldnL qulLe geL Lhe polnL of my ravlngs buL she always Look my parL agalnsL my phanLoms or wlLh Lhem
whlchever l preferred She was so genLle and persuaslve LhaL l grew accusLomed Lo her klndness and Look lL
almosL personally 8uL l felL LhaL l was beglnnlng Lo cheaL on my socalled desLlny my ralson dLre as l
called lL and sLopped Lelllng her everyLhlng LhaL passed Lhrough my mlnd l crawled back lnLo myself all
alone [usL dellghLed Lo observe LhaL l was even more mlserable Lhan before because l had broughL a new
klnd of dlsLress and someLhlng LhaL resembled Lrue feellng lnLo my sollLude
All LhaL ls commonplace 8uL Molly was glfLed wlLh angellc paLlence and had an unshakable bellef ln
vocaLlons lor lnsLance her younger slsLer aL Lhe unlverslLy of Arlzona had been smlLLen wlLh a craze for
phoLographlng blrds ln Lhelr nesLs and wlld anlmals ln Lhelr dens So Lo enable her Lo sLudy LhaL asLonlshlng
speclalLy Molly regularly senL Lhls phoLographer slsLer of hers flfLy dollars a monLh
A really unbounded hearL conLalnlng someLhlng subllme converLlble lnLo cash and noL phony llke mlne and
so many oLhers Molly would have llked noLhlng beLLer Lhan Lo Lake a flnanclal lnLeresL ln my doLLy career
1hough aL Llmes l sLruck her as preLLy well off Lhe beam she LhoughL my convlcLlons real and noL Lo be
dlscouraged She offered me an allowance and only asked me Lo draw up a llLLle budgeL l couldnL make up
my mlnd Lo accepL A lasL vesLlge of dellcacy prevenLed me from banklng any furLher from speculaLlng on
her really Loo noble and klndly naLure And LhaLs how l dellberaLely goL myself ln bad wlLh rovldence
l was so ashamed of myself LhaL l even made a feeble aLLempL Lo go back Lo lords noLhlng came of my
herolc llLLle gesLure l goL as far as Lhe facLory gaLe buL aL LhaL llmlnll polnL l froze 1he LhoughL of all Lhose
machlnes whlrrlng as Lhey lay ln walL for me demollshed my feeble work lmpulse once and for all
l sLaLloned myself ouLslde Lhe glass fronL of Lhe maln power planL LhaL mulLlform glanL whlch roars as lL
pumps someLhlng or oLher Cod knows where and brlngs lL back agaln Lhrough a Lhousand gleamlng plpes as
lnLrlcaLe and menaclng as llanas Cne mornlng as l sLood Lhere ln droollng conLemplaLlon my 8usslan Laxl
drlver came by Pey you old rascal he says Lo me ?ouve been flred! lLs been Lhree weeks slnce you
showed up 1heyve already puL a machlne ln your place l warned you "
AL leasL l sald Lo myself LhaL flnlshes lL no need Lo come back And l beaL lL back Lo Lown Cn Lhe
way home l dropped ln aL Lhe ConsulaLe Lo ask lf by any chance Lheyd had news of a lrenchman by Lhe
name of 8oblnson
Ch yes! sald Lhe consuls ?es lndeed! Pes been ln here Lo see us Lwlce wlLh false papers whaLs more
AcLually hes wanLed by Lhe pollce! uo you know hlm? l leL lL go aL LhaL
AfLer LhaL l expecLed Lo meeL 8oblnson any mlnuLe l felL lL ln my bones Molly was as klnd and affecLlonaLe
as ever Cnce she felL sure l was plannlng Lo go away for good she was even nlcer Lhan before 1here was
no polnL ln belng nlce Lo me CfLen on Mollys free afLernoons we Look Lrlps Lo Lhe ouLsklrLs
8are llLLle hllls clumps of blrches around Llny llLLle lakes people here and Lhere readlng dlngy magazlnes
under a sky heavy wlLh leaden clouds Molly and l avolded elaboraLe confesslons She knew Lhe score She
was Loo slncere Lo say much abouL her grlef She knew whaL wenL on lnslde ln her hearL and LhaL was
enough for her We klssed 8uL l dldnL klss her properly as l should have on my knees lf Lhe LruLh be
known l was always parLly Lhlnklng abouL someLhlng else aL Lhe same Llme abouL noL wasLlng Llme and
Lenderness as lf l wanLed Lo keep Lhem for someLhlng magnlflcenL someLhlng subllme for laLer buL noL
for Molly and noL for Lhls parLlcular klss As lf llfe would carry away everyLhlng l longed Lo know abouL lL
abouL llfe ln Lhe Lhlck of Lhe nlghL and hlde lL from me whlle l was expendlng my passlon ln klsslng Molly
and Lhen l wouldnL have enough lefL ld have losL everyLhlng for wanL of sLrengLh and llfeLlfe Lhe Lrue
mlsLress of all real menwould have Lrlcked me as lL Lrlcks everyone else
We wenL back Lo Lhe crowds and Lhen ld leave her ouLslde her house because Lhe cusLomers would keep
her busy all nlghL unLll early mornlng Whlle she was Laklng care of Lhem l canL deny l was sad and my
sadness spoke Lo me so plalnly of her LhaL l felL she was wlLh me even more Lhan when she really was l
wenL Lo Lhe movles Lo klll Llme AfLer Lhe show ld board a sLreeLcar golng Lhls way or LhaL way and Lour
around ln Lhe nlghL AfLer Lwo oclock flocks of Llmld passengers would geL on a Lype you seldom see before
or afLer LhaL hour always pale and sleepy ln doclle groups bound for Lhe suburbs
WlLh Lhem you could go a long way Much furLher Lhan Lhe facLorles Lo vague houslng developmenLs llLLle
sLreeLs of shapeless bungalows Cn pavemenLs sLlcky wlLh Lhe small raln of dawn Lhe dayllghL gllsLened
blue My sLreeLcar companlons vanlshed along wlLh Lhelr shadows 1hey closed Lhelr eyes on Lhe day lL was
hard Lo make Lhose specLers Lalk 1oo Llred 1hey dldnL complaln noL aL all Lhey were Lhe men who
cleaned sLores and more sLores durlng Lhe nlghL and all Lhe offlces ln Lhe clLy afLer closlng Llme 1hey
dldnL seem as anxlous as we day people Maybe because Lheyd sunk Lo Lhe very boLLom of Lhlngs
Cne of Lhose nlghLs when ld Laken sLlll anoLher sLreeLcar and wed goL Lo Lhe lasL sLop and everybody was
quleLly geLLlng off l LhoughL l heard someone calllng me by name lerdlnand! Pey lerdlnand! naLurally lL
sounded ouLrageous ln LhaL dlm llghL l dldnL llke lL Above Lhe roofLops Lhe sky was comlng back ln cold
llLLle paLches cuL ouL by Lhe eaves Sure enough someone was calllng me l Lurned around and lnsLanLly
recognlzed Leon Pe came over Lo me speaklng ln a whlsper and we fllled each oLher ln
Ped been cleanlng an offlce llke Lhe resL of Lhem 1haL was as much of a glmmlck as hed managed Lo flnd
Pe walked heavlly wlLh a cerLaln Lrue ma[esLy as lf he had been dolng dangerous and ln a way sacred
Lhlngs ln Lhe clLy AcLually ld noLlced LhaL all Lhose nlghL cleaners had LhaL look ln faLlgue and sollLude men
emanaLe Lhe dlvlne Pls eyes were also full of lL when ln Lhe blulsh halfllghL where we were sLandlng he
opened Lhem wlder Lhan eyes usually open Pe Loo had cleaned endless rows of LolleLs and made whole
mounLalns of sllenL offlces sparkle
lerdlnand he sald l recognlzed you rlghL away 8y Lhe way you goL lnLo Lhe car 8y Lhe sad look on
your face when you saw Lhere were no women on board Am l rlghL? lsnL LhaL your sLyle? Pe was rlghL lL
was my sLyle unquesLlonably my soul was as obscene as an open fly So hls observaLlon was apL and
noLhlng Lo be surprlsed aL WhaL l hadnL expecLed was LhaL he Loo was a fallure ln Amerlca 1haL came as a
l Lold hlm abouL Lhe galley aL San 1apeLa 8uL he dldnL know whaL l was Lalklng abouL ?oure dellrlous!
he sald slmply Ped come over on a frelghLer Ped have Lrled for a [ob aL lords buL hls papers were [usL
Loo phony he wouldnL have dared show Lhem 1heyre barely good enough Lo keep ln my pockeL he
sald lor cleanlng offlces Lhey dldnL much care who you were 1hey dldnL pay much elLher buL Lhey looked
Lhe oLher way 1hls nlghL work was a klnd of lorelgn Leglon WhaL abouL you? he asked me Lhen
WhaL are you dolng? ?ou sLlll cracked? SLlll chaslng ralnbows? SLlll goL Lhe Lravel bug?"
l wanL Lo go back Lo lrance l sald lve seen enough youre rlghL "
8esL Lhlng you can do he sald lor us Lhe [lg ls up Weve aged wlLhouL noLlclng lL l know ld llke Lo
go home Loo buL Lheres sLlll Lhls Lrouble wlLh my papers lll walL a whlle and Lry and geL hold of some
good ones l canL complaln abouL Lhe work lm dolng 1heres worse 8uL lm noL learnlng Lngllsh
Some of Lhe guys have been aL lL for LhlrLy years and all Lheyve learned ls LxlL because lLs wrlLLen on Lhe
doors Lhey pollsh and LavaLory ?ou geL Lhe drlfL?"
l goL Lhe drlfL lf Molly should ever fall me ld have Lo go lnLo nlghL work myself
no reason why LhaL should ever sLop
1he facL ls LhaL when youre aL war you say peace wlll be beLLer you blLe lnLo LhaL hope as lf lL were a
chocolaLe bar buL lLs only shlL afLer all ?ou donL dare say so aL flrsL for fear of maklng people mad ?ou Lry
Lo be nlce When youre good and slck of wallowlng ln muck you speak up 1hen everybody Lhlnks you were
ralsed ln a barn And Lhere you have lL
l meL 8oblnson Lwo or Lhree Llmes afLer LhaL Pe wasnL looklng aL all well A lrench deserLer who made
booLleg llquor for Lhe gangsLers of ueLrolL leL hlm occupy a corner of hls shop 1he buslness LempLed
8oblnson ld make a llLLle roLguL for Lhose basLards Lo pour down Lhelr LhroaLs he conflded buL you
know lve losL my nerve 1he flrsL golngover a cop gave me l know ld fold up lve been Lhrough Loo
much 8esldes lm sleepy all Lhe Llme noL Lo menLlon Lhe dusL ln Lhose offlces my lungs are full of lL
See whaL l mean? lL wears you down "
We arranged Lo meeL anoLher nlghL l wenL back Lo Molly and Lold her Lhe whole sLory She Lrled noL Lo
show how bad l was maklng her feel buL lL wasnL hard Lo see she was mlserable l klssed her more ofLen
now buL her unhapplness was deep more real Lhan ln oLher people because mosL of us Lend Lo Lalk as lf
Lhlngs were worse Lhan Lhey are Amerlcan women are dlfferenL Were afrald Lo undersLand Lo admlL lL
lLs raLher humlllaLlng buL Lhls ls real unhapplness noL prlde noL [ealousy Lhere are no scenes lLs genulne
hearLbreak We may as well admlL LhaL we havenL goL lL ln us and LhaL when lL comes Lo Lhe pleasure of
belng really unhappy were bone dry Were ashamed of noL belng rlcher ln hearL and everyLhlng else and
also of havlng [udged humanlLy worse Lhan lL really ls
now and Lhen Molly would leL go and say someLhlng mlldly reproachful buL lL was always sald genLly and
?oure sweeL lerdlnand shed say l know you Lry hard noL Lo be as beasLly as oLher people buL
someLlmes l wonder lf you really know whaL you wanL 1hlnk lL over ?oull have Lo flnd a way of earnlng
your llvlng when you geL back Lhere lerdlnand ?ou wonL be able Lo roam around all nlghL dreamlng Lhe
way you do here Lhe way you en[oy so much whlle lm worklng Pave you LhoughL of LhaL
ln a way she was dead rlghL buL l couldnL help belng Lhe way l was l was afrald of hurLlng her She was so
easy Lo hurL
8elleve me Molly l love you l always wlll as besL l can ln my own way"
My own way dldnL amounL Lo much And yeL Molly had a perfecL body she was very LempLlng 8uL l had
LhaL lousy weakness for phanLoms Maybe l wasnL enLlrely Lo blame Llfe forces you Lo spend Loo much of
your Llme wlLh phanLoms
?oure very affecLlonaLe lerdlnand she reassured me uonL worry abouL me ?ouve goL Lhls slckness
always wanLlng Lo know more and more 1haLs all Anyway you have Lo llve your own llfe CuL
Lhere all alone ?oull go furLher Lravellng alone Wlll you be leavlng soon?"
?es lll flnlsh medlcal school ln lrance and Lhen lll come back l had Lhe gall Lo assure her
no lerdlnand you wonL be back And l wonL be here elLher "
She was nobodys fool
lL came Llme for me Lo go Cne evenlng shorLly before shed have Lo sLarL worklng we wenL Lo Lhe sLaLlon
ld sald goodbye Lo 8oblnson durlng Lhe day Pe wasnL happy elLher Lo see me go l was always leavlng
people Cn Lhe sLaLlon plaLform whlle we were walLlng for Lhe Lraln some men passed Lhey preLended noL
Lo know her buL Lhey exchanged whlspers
?oure already far away lerdlnand ?oure dolng exacLly whaL you wanL arenL you? 1haLs Lhe maln Lhlng
lLs Lhe only Lhlng LhaL counLs "
1he Lraln pulled ln l wasnL so sure of my plans once l saw Lhe englne l klssed Molly wlLh all Lhe splrlL l had
lefL l was sad for once really sad for everybody for myself for her for everybody
Maybe LhaLs whaL we look for all our llves Lhe worsL posslble grlef Lo make us Lruly ourselves before we
?ears have passed slnce l lefL her years and more years l wroLe many Llmes Lo ueLrolL and all Lhe oLher
addresses l remembered where l LhoughL she mlghL be known l never recelved an answer
1he house ls closed now 1haLs all lve been able Lo flnd ouL Cood admlrable Molly lf ever she reads Lhese
llnes ln some place l never heard of l wanL her Lo know LhaL my feellngs for her havenL changed LhaL l sLlll
love her and always wlll ln my own way LhaL she can come here any Llme she pleases and share my bread
and furLlve desLlny lf shes no longer beauLlful hell LhaLs all rlghL Loo! Well manage lve kepL so much of
her beauLy ln me so llvlng and so warm LhaL lve plenLy for boLh of us Lo lasL aL leasL LwenLy years Lhe resL
of our llves
1o leave her l cerLalnly had Lo be mad and ln a cold dlsgusLlng way SLlll lve kepL my soul ln one place up
Lo now and lf deaLh were Lo come and Lake me Lomorrow lm sure l wouldnL be qulLe as cold as ugly as
heavy as oLher men and lLs Lhanks Lo Lhe klndness and Lhe dream LhaL Molly gave me durlng my few
monLhs ln Amerlca
CeLLlng back from Lhe CLher World lsnL Lhe
half of lL ?ou plck up Lhe sLlcky precarlous Lhread of your days [usL as you lefL lL dangllng lLs walLlng for
lor weeks and monLhs l hung around Lhe lace Cllchy where ld sLarLed from and envlrons Lhe 8aLlgnolles
for lnsLance dolng odd [obs ChasLly! under Lhe raln or ln Lhe heaL of Lhe cars when !une came LhaL burns
your LhroaL and nose almosL llke aL lords lor enLerLalnmenL ld waLch Lhem pass people and more
people on Lhelr way Lo Lhe LheaLer or Lhe 8ols ln Lhe evenlng
Always more or less alone ln my free Llme ld mull over books and newspapers and all Lhe Lhlngs ld seen l
resumed my sLudles all Lhe whlle worklng for a llvlng and flnally managed Lo pass my examlnaLlons
Sclence Lake lL from me ls closely guarded Lhe laculLy of Medlclne ls a welllocked cupboard lenLy of [ars
and very llLLle [am 8uL afLer bravlng flve or slx years of academlc LrlbulaLlons l goL my degree a very hlgh
soundlng plece of paper 1hen l puL up my shlngle ln Lhe suburbs my sorL of place aL La Carenne
8ancy60 rlghL afLer Lhe orLe 8ranclon61 on your way ouL of arls
l had no greaL oplnlon of myself and no amblLlon all l wanLed was a chance Lo breaLhe and Lo eaL a llLLle
beLLer l puL my nameplaLe over Lhe door and walLed
1he nelghborhood people came and eyed my nameplaLe susplclously 1hey even wenL Lo Lhe pollce sLaLlon
Lo ask lf l was a real docLor ?es Lhey were Lold Pes flled hls dlploma hes a docLor all rlghL 1he news
spread all over 8ancy LhaL a real docLor had seL up shop ln addlLlon Lo all Lhe oLhers Pell never make a
llvlng my conclerge predlcLed 1here are Loo many docLors around here already! She was perfecLly rlghL
ln Lhe suburbs lLs mosLly by sLreeLcar LhaL llfe Lurns up ln Lhe mornlng SLarLlng aL dawn whole sLrlngs of
Lhem would come clanklng down Lhe 8oulevard MlnoLaure carrylng loads of dazed clLlzens Lo work
1he young ones acLually seemed happy abouL lL 1heyd cheer Lhe Lrafflc on and cllng Lo Lhe runnlng boards
laughlng for all Lhey were worLh Lhe darllngs! lLs hard Lo belleve 8uL when youve known Lhe Lelephone
booLh of Lhe corner cafe for LwenLy years so fllLhy you always mlsLake lL for Lhe crapper you lose all deslre
Lo [oke abouL serlous Lhlngs and abouL 8ancy ln parLlcular 1hen you reallze where Lheyve puL you 1hese
houses are your prlson plssy wlLhln flaL facades Lhelr hearL belongs Lo Lhe landlord ?ou never see hlm Pe
wouldnL dare show hls face 1he basLard sends hls agenL ?eL Lhe nelghborhood people say hes affable
enough when you meeL hlm lL doesnL cosL hlm a Lhlng
1he sky ln 8ancy ls Lhe same as ln ueLrolL a smoky soup LhaL baLhes Lhe plaln all Lhe way Lo Levallols CasL
off bulldlngs bogged down ln black muck lrom a dlsLance Lhe chlmneys blg ones and llLLle ones look llke
Lhe faL sLakes LhaL rlse ouL of Lhe muck by Lhe seaslde And lnslde lLs us
?ou need Lhe courage of a crab aL 8ancy especlally when youre noL as young as you used Lo be and you
know youll never geL away 1here aL Lhe end of Lhe sLreeLcar llne a grlmy brldge spans Lhe Selne LhaL
enormous sewer whlch dlsplays everyLhlng LhaLs ln lL Along Lhe banks on Sunday and aL nlghL men cllmb
up on Lhe plles of garbage Lo Lake a leak llowlng waLer makes men medlLaLlve 1hey urlnaLe wlLh a sense of
eLernlLy llke sallors Women never medlLaLe Selne or no Selne ln Lhe mornlng Lhe sLreeLcar carrles away lLs
crowds Lo geL Lhemselves compressed ln Lhe MeLro Seelng Lhem all fleelng ln LhaL dlrecLlon youd Lhlnk
Lhere musL have been some caLasLrophe aL ArgenLeull LhaL Lhe Lown was on flre Lvery day ln Lhe gray of
dawn lL comes over Lhem whole clusLers cllng Lo Lhe doors and handralls Cne enormous rouL! ?eL all
Lheyre golng Lo arls for ls a boss Lhe man who saves you from sLarvaLlon 1he cowards Lheyre scared Lo
deaLh of loslng hlm Lhough he makes Lhem sweaL for Lhelr plLLance lor Len years you sLlnk of lL for LwenLy
years and more lLs no bargaln
lenLy of blLchlng and beeflng ln Lhe sLreeLcar [usL Lo geL lnLo pracLlce 1he women grlpe even worse Lhan
Lhe klds lf Lhey caughL somebody wlLhouL a LlckeL Lheyd sLop Lhe whole llne lLs Lrue LhaL some of Lhose
women are already sLlnko especlally Lhe ones headed for Lhe markeL aL SalnLCuen Lhe semlbourgeolses
Pow much are Lhe carroLs? Lhey ask long before Lhey geL Lhere Lo show Lheyve goL money Lo spend
Compressed llke garbage ln Lhls Lln box Lhey cross 8ancy sLlnklng good and proper especlally ln Lhe
summer asslng Lhe forLlflcaLlons62 Lhey LhreaLen one anoLher Lhey leL ouL one lasL shouL and Lhen
Lhey scaLLer Lhe MeLro swallows Lhem up llmp sulLs dlscouraged dresses sllk sLocklngs sour sLomachs
dlrLy feeL dlrLy socks Wearever collars as sLlff as boundary posLs pendlng aborLlons war heroes all
scramble down Lhe coalLar and carbollcacld sLalrs lnLo Lhe black plL holdlng Lhelr reLurn LlckeL whlch all by
lLself cosLs as much as Lwo breakfasL rolls
1he nagglng dread of belng flred wlLhouL ceremony someLhlng (accompanled by a LlghLllpped reference)
LhaL can happen Lo a Lardy worker any Llme Lhe boss decldes Lo cuL down on expenses neverdormanL
recollecLlons of Lhe Slump of Lhe lasL Llme Lhey were unemployed of all Lhe newspapers Lhey had Lo buy
for Lhe wanL ads flve sous a plece Lhe walLlng ln llne aL employmenL offlces Such memorles can
sLrangle a man however well proLecLed he may seem ln hls allweaLher coaL
1he clLy does a good [ob of hldlng lLs crowds of dlrLy feeL ln Lhose long elecLrlc sewers 1hey wonL rlse Lo
Lhe surface agaln unLll Sunday ?oud beLLer sLay lndoors when Lhey emerge !usL one Sunday waLchlng
Lhelr aLLempLs Lo amuse Lhemselves wlll permanenLly spoll your LasLe for pleasure Around Lhe MeLro
enLrance near Lhe basLlons you caLch Lhe endemlc sLagnanL smell of long drawnouL wars of spolled half
burned vlllages aborLed revoluLlons and bankrupL buslnesses lor years Lhe ragplckers of Lhe lorLlfled
Zone63 have been burnlng Lhe same damp llLLle plles of rubblsh ln dlLches shelLered from Lhe wlnd Palf
assed barbarlans undone by red wlne and faLlgue 1hey Lake Lhelr rulned lungs Lo Lhe local dlspensary
lnsLead of pushlng Lhe sLreeLcars off Lhe embankmenL and empLylng Lhelr bladders ln Lhe Lollhouse64 no
blood lefL ln Lhelr velns When Lhe nexL war comes Lheyll geL rlch agaln selllng raL sklns cocalne and
corrugaLedlron masks
lor my pracLlce l had found a small aparLmenL aL Lhe edge of Lhe Zone from whlch l had a good vlew of
Lhe embankmenL and Lhe workman whos always sLandlng up Lop looklng aL noLhlng wlLh hls arm ln a blg
whlLe bandage Lhe vlcLlm of a work accldenL who doesnL know whaL Lo do or whaL Lo Lhlnk and hasnL
enough money Lo buy hlmself a drlnk and flll hls mlnd
Molly had been rlghL l was beglnnlng Lo undersLand her SLudy changes a man puLs prlde lnLo hlm ?ou
need lL Lo geL Lo Lhe boLLom of llfe WlLhouL lL you [usL sklm Lhe surface ?ou Lhlnk youre ln Lhe know buL
Lrlfles Lhrow you off ?ou dream Loo much ?ou conLenL yourself wlLh words lnsLead of golng deeper 1haLs
noL whaL you wanLed lnLenLlons appearances no more A man of characLer canL conLenL hlmself wlLh
LhaL Medlclne even lf l wasnL very glfLed had broughL me a good deal closer Lo people Lo anlmals
everyLhlng now all l had Lo do was plunge sLralghL lnLo Lhe hearL of Lhlngs ueaLh ls chaslng you youve goL
Lo hurry and whlle youre looklng youve goL Lo eaL and keep away from wars 1haLs a loL of Lhlngs Lo do
lLs no plcnlc
ln Lhe meanLlme l wasnL geLLlng many paLlenLs lL Lakes Llme Lo geL sLarLed people sald Lo comforL me AL
Lhe momenL Lhe paLlenL was mosLly me
noLhlng lL seemed Lo me can be gloomler Lhan La Carenne8ancy when youve goL no paLlenLs no doubL
abouL lL ?ou shouldnL Lhlnk ln a place llke LhaL and ld come from Lhe oLher end of Lhe earLh whaLs more
preclsely Lo Lhlnk aL my ease WasnL l ln luck! SLuckup slmpleLon! 8lack and heavy lL came over me no
[oke and lL sLayed wlLh me 1heres no LyranL llke a braln
8elow me llved 8ezln Lhe llLLle [unk dealer Whenever l sLopped ouLslde hls door he sald Lo me ?ou goL Lo
choose docLor! lay Lhe races or drlnk lLs one or Lhe oLher! ?ou canL have everyLhlng! l prefer my
aperlLlf! l donL care for gambllng "
Pls favorlLe aperlLlf was genLlanecassls noL a badnaLured man ordlnarlly buL unpleasanL afLer a few
drlnks When he wenL Lo Lhe llea MarkeL Lo sLock up hed sLay away for Lhree days hls expedlLlon he
called lL 1heyd brlng hlm back And Lhen hed prophesy
l can see whaL Lhe fuLure wlll be llke An endless sex orgy WlLh movles ln beLween ?ou can see
how lL ls already "
Cn Lhose occaslons he could see even furLher l also see LhaL people wlll sLop drlnklng lll be Lhe lasL
drlnker ln Lhe fuLure lve goL Lo hurry l know my weakness "
Lverybody coughed ln my sLreeL lL keeps you busy 1o see Lhe sun you have Lo cllmb up Lo SacreCoeur aL
leasL because of Lhe smoke
lrom up Lhere you geL a beauLlful vlew Lhen you reallze LhaL way down aL Lhe boLLom of Lhe plaln lLs us
and Lhe houses we llve ln 8uL lf you Lry Lo plck ouL any parLlcular place everyLhlng you see ls so ugly so
unlformly ugly LhaL you canL flnd lL
SLlll furLher down lLs always Lhe Selne wlndlng from brldge Lo brldge llke an elongaLed blob of phlegm
When you llve ln 8ancy you donL even reallze how sad youve become ?ou slmply sLop feellng llke dolng
anyLhlng much WhaL wlLh scrlmplng and golng wlLhouL Lhls and LhaL you sLop wanLlng anyLhlng
lor monLhs l borrowed money rlghL and lefL 1he people were so poor and so susplclous ln my
nelghborhood LhaL Lhey couldnL make up Lhelr mlnds Lo send for me before dark Lhough l was Lhe
cheapesL docLor lmaglnable l spenL nlghLs and nlghLs crosslng llLLle moonless courLyards ln quesL of Len or
flfLeen francs
ln Lhe mornlng Lhere was such a beaLlng of carpeLs Lhe whole sLreeL sounded llke one blg drum
Cne mornlng l meL 8eberL on Lhe sldewalk hls aunL Lhe conclerge was ouL shopplng and he was holdlng
down Lhe lodge for her Pe was ralslng a cloud from Lhe sldewalk wlLh a broom
Anybody who dldnL ralse dusL aL seven oclock ln Lhe mornlng ln Lhose parLs would geL hlmself known all up
and down Lhe sLreeL as an ouLandouL plg CarpeL beaLlng was a slgn of cleanllness good housekeeplng
noLhlng more was needed ?our breaLh could sLlnk all lL llked no maLLer 8eberL swallowed all Lhe dusL he
ralsed ln addlLlon Lo whaL was senL down from Lhe upper floors SLlll a few spoLs of sunllghL reached Lhe
sLreeL buL llke lnslde a church pale muffled mysLlc
8eberL had seen me comlng l was Lhe nelghborhood docLor who llved near Lhe bus sLop 8eberL had Lhe
greenlsh look of an apple LhaL would never geL rlpe Pe was scraLchlng hlmself and waLchlng hlm made me
wanL Lo scraLch Loo 1he facL ls l had fleas myself ld caughL Lhem from paLlenLs durlng Lhe nlghL 1hey llke
Lo [ump up on your overcoaL because lLs Lhe warmesL and dampesL place avallable ?ou learn LhaL ln
medlcal school
8eberL abandoned hls carpeL Lo come and say good mornlng lrom every wlndow Lhey waLched us Lalklng
lf youve goL Lo love someLhlng youll be Laklng less of a chance wlLh chlldren Lhan wlLh grownups youll aL
leasL have Lhe excuse of hoplng Lhey wonL Lurn ouL as crummy as Lhe resL of us Pow are you Lo know?
lve never been able Lo forgeL Lhe lnflnlLe llLLle smlle of pure affecLlon LhaL danced across hls llvld face
Lnough galeLy Lo flll Lhe unlverse
lew people pasL LwenLy preserve any of LhaL affecLlon Lhe affecLlon of anlmals 1he world lsnL whaL we
expecLed So our looks change! 1hey change plenLy! We made a mlsLake! And Lurned lnLo a Lhorough
sLlnker ln nexL Lo no Llme! asL LwenLy lL shows ln our face! A mlsLake! Cur face ls [usL a mlsLake
Pey docLor 8eberL slngs ouL ls lL Lrue LhaL Lhey plcked up a guy on Lhe lace des lLes lasL nlghL 1hroaL
cuL open wlLh a razor ?ou were on duLy werenL you? ls lL Lrue?"
no 8eberL l wasnL on duLy lL wasnL me lL was ur lrollchon63 "
1haLs Loo bad cause my aunL sald she wlshed youd have been on duLy and youd have Lold her all abouL
lL "
Maybe nexL Llme 8eberL"
uo Lhey ofLen klll people around here? 8eberL asked
l passed Lhrough Lhe dusL buL [usL Lhen Lhe munlclpal sLreeL sweeper whlshed pasL and whlrllng up from
Lhe guLLers a howllng Lyphoon fllled Lhe whole sLreeL wlLh new clouds more dense and sLlnglng Lhan Lhe
oLhers We couldnL see each oLher anymore 8eberL [umped up and down sneezlng and shouLlng for [oy
Pls haggard face hls greasy halr hls emaclaLed monkey legs Lhe whole of hlm danced convulslvely aL Lhe
end of hls broom
8eberLs aunL came home from shopplng she had already downed a glass or Lwo l have Lo add LhaL she
snlffed eLher now and Lhen a hablL conLracLed when she was worklng for a docLor and havlng such Lrouble
wlLh her wlsdom LeeLh 1he only LeeLh she had lefL were Lwo ln fronL buL she never falled Lo brush Lhem
When youve worked for a docLor llke l have you donL forgeL your hyglene She gave medlcal
consulLaLlons ln Lhe nelghborhood and as far away as 8ezons
ld have been lnLeresLed Lo know lf 8eberLs aunL ever LhoughL of anyLhlng no she LhoughL of noLhlng She
Lalked enormously wlLhouL ever Lhlnklng When we were alone wlLh no one llsLenlng shed Louch me for a
free consulLaLlon lL was flaLLerlng ln away
8eberL docLor l have Lo Lell you because youre a docLor hes a llLLle plg! Pe Louches hlmself! l noLlced
lL Lwo monLhs ago and l wonder who could have LaughL hlm such a fllLhy hablL lve always broughL hlm
up rlghL! l Lell hlm Lo sLop buL he keeps rlghL on "
l gave her Lhe classlc advlce 1ell hlm hell go crazy 8eberL whod been llsLenlng wasnL pleased
l donL Louch myself lLs noL Lrue lLs Lhe CagaL66 kld who suggesLed "
See? sald Lhe aunL l suspecLed as much 1he CagaLs you know Lhe people on Lhe flfLh floor 1heyre
all perverLs lL seems Lhe grandfaLher runs afLer female llon Lamers 8eally l ask you llon Lamers
Look docLor whlle youre here couldnL you prescrlbe a syrup Lo make hlm sLop Louchlng hlmself "
l followed her Lo her lodge Lo wrlLe ouL an anLlvlce prescrlpLlon for 8eberL l was Loo easy wlLh everybody l
knew LhaL nobody pald me l LreaLed Lhem all free of charge mosLly ouL of curloslLy 1haLs a mlsLake
eople avenge Lhemselves for Lhe favors done Lhem 8eberLs aunL Look advanLage of my lofLy
dlslnLeresLedness ln facL she lmposed on me ouLrageously l leL Lhlngs rlde l leL Lhem lle Lo me l gave Lhem
whaL Lhey wanLed My paLlenLs had me ln Lhelr cluLches Lvery day Lhey snlveled more Lhey had me aL Lhelr
mercy And whlle Lhey were aL lL Lhey showed me all Lhe ugllness Lhey kepL hldden behlnd Lhe doors of
Lhelr souls and exhlblLed Lo no one buL me 1he fee for wlLnesslng such horrors can never be hlgh enough
1hey sllLher Lhrough your flngers llke sllmy snakes
lll Lell you Lhe whole sLory some day lf l llve long enough
LlsLen you scum! LeL me do you favors for a few years more uonL klll me yeL Looklng so servlle and
defenseless lll Lell Lhe whole sLory ?oull fade away llke Lhe oozlng caLerplllars ln Afrlca LhaL came lnLo my
shack Lo shlL lll make you lnLo subLler cowards and skunks Lhan you are and maybe lLll klll you ln Lhe
ls lL sweeL? 8eberL asked abouL Lhe medlclne
uonL make lL sweeL whaLever you do sald Lhe aunL lor LhaL llLLle creep Pe donL deserve Lo have lL
sweeL he sLeals enough sugar from me already Pe has every vlce hell sLop aL noLhlng Pell end up
murderlng hls moLher!"
l havenL goL a moLher sald 8eberL perempLorlly Pe had hls wlLs abouL hlm
uamn you! crled Lhe aunL none of your back Lalk or lll glve you Lhe caL onlne Lalls! 1hen and Lhere she
Lakes lL down off Lhe hook buL hed already beaL lL ouL lnLo Lhe sLreeL Cocksucker! he shouLed back aL
her from Lhe corrldor 1he aunL wenL red ln Lhe face and came back Lo me Sllence We changed Lhe
Maybe docLor you oughL Lo go and see Lhe lady on Lhe mezzanlne aL 4 8ue des Mlneures Pe used Lo be
a noLarys clerk Shes heard abouL you l Lold her whaL a wonderful docLor you are so nlce Lo Lhe
l know shes lylng Per favorlLe docLor ls lrollchon She always recommends hlm when she can and runs me
down aL every opporLunlLy As far as shes concerned my humanlLarlanlsm has earned me an anlmal
haLred 8ecause donL forgeL shes an anlmal LxcepL LhaL Lhls lrollchon she admlres makes her pay cash
so she consulLs me on Lhe run lf she recommends me Lhls musL be a sLrlcLly nonpaylng paLlenL or Lheres
someLhlng very shady somewhere As lm leavlng l remember 8eberL ?ou oughL Lo Lake hlm ouL l sald
1he chlld doesnL geL ouL enough"
Where do you wanL us Lo go? l canL go very far on accounL of my lodge "
1ake hlm Lo Lhe park aL leasL on Sunday "
8uL Lhere are even more people and more dusL ln Lhe park Lhan here lLs so crowded"
1heres some sense ln whaL she says l Lry Lo Lhlnk of anoLher place Lo suggesL
ulffldenLly l propose Lhe cemeLery
1he cemeLery of La Carenne8ancy ls Lhe only open space of any slze ln Lhe nelghborhood wlLh a few Lrees
ln lL
Say LhaLs a facL l hadnL LhoughL of LhaL Maybe well go"
8eberL had [usL come ln
Pow abouL lL 8eberL? Would you llke Lo go for a walk ln Lhe cemeLery? l have Lo ask hlm docLor because l
donL mlnd Lelllng you hes as sLubborn as a mule abouL Laklng a walk "
AcLually 8eberL has no oplnlon 8uL Lhe ldea appeals Lo hls aunL and LhaLs enough She has a weakness for
cemeLerles llke all arlslans lL looks as lf she were abouL Lo sLarL Lhlnklng She examlnes Lhe pros and cons
1he forLlflcaLlons are Loo low class 1he park ls deflnlLely Loo dusLy Whlle Lhe cemeLery sure enough
lsnL bad 1he people who go Lhere on Sunday are mosLly respecLable folk who know how Lo behave
And anoLher Lhlng LhaL makes lL really convenlenL ls LhaL on Lhe way back you can shop on Lhe 8oulevard de
la LlberLe where some of Lhe sLores keep open on Sunday
And she concluded 8eberL Lake Lhe docLor Lo see Madame Penroullle on Lhe 8ue des Mlneures ?ou
know where Madame Penroullle llves donL you 8eberL?"
8eberL knew where everyLhlng was lf only lL gave hlm a chance Lo roam around
8eLween Lhe 8ue venLru and Lhe lace Lenlne
lLs all aparLmenL houses 1he conLracLors have Laken over pracLlcally all Lhe flelds LhaL were lefL around
Lhere aL Les Carennes as Lhe area was called 1here was [usL a Llny blL of counLry aL Lhe end a few empLy
loLs afLer Lhe lasL gas lamp
Wedged ln beLween aparLmenL bulldlngs a few prlvaLe houses are sLlll holdlng ouL four rooms wlLh a blg
coal sLove ln Lhe downsLalrs hallway Lrue for reasons of LhrlfL Lhe sLove ls seldom llL 1he dampness makes
lL smoke 1hese remalnlng prlvaLe houses belong Lo people who have reLlred on small lncomes 1he
momenL you go ln Lhe smoke makes you cough 1he people whove sLayed ln Lhe nelghborhood havenL goL
blg lncomes especlally Lhese Penroullles l was belng senL Lo 1hey had a llLLle someLhlng Lhough
ln addlLlon Lo Lhe smoke as you sLepped ln Lhe Penroullles house smelled of Lhe LolleL and sLew 1heyd
[usL flnlshed paylng for Lhe place lL represenLed Lhe savlngs of aL leasL flfLy years 1he flrsL Llme you saw
Lhem you noLlced someLhlng was wrong and wondered whaL lL was Well Lhe unnaLural slde of Lhe
Penroullles was LhaL for flfLy years Lhey had never spenL one sou wlLhouL regreLLlng lL 1heyd puL Lhelr flesh
and splrlL lnLo LhaL house of Lhelrs llke a snall 8uL Lhe snall doesnL know whaL hes dolng
1he Penroullles had spenL a llfeLlme acqulrlng a house and once lL was Lhelrs Lhey couldnL geL over lL Llke
people whove [usL been dug ouL of an earLhquake Lhey were flabbergasLed lolks whove [usL been leL ouL
of a dungeon musL geL a funny look on Lhelr faces
1he Penroullles had LhoughL abouL buylng a house even before Lhey were marrled llrsL separaLely Lhen
LogeLher lor half a cenLury Lhey had refused Lo Lhlnk abouL anyLhlng else and when llfe had forced Lhem
Lo Lhlnk abouL someLhlng else Lhe war for lnsLance and especlally Lhelr son lL made Lhem very unhappy
When as newlyweds Lhey had moved lnLo Lhelr house each wlLh Lhe savlngs of Len years lL wasnL qulLe
flnlshed and lL was sLlll ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe flelds 1o reach lL ln wlnLer Lhey had Lo puL on saboLs Lheyd
leave Lhem aL Lhe grocery sLore on Lhe corner of Lhe 8ue de la 8evolLe ln Lhe mornlng when Lhey seL ouL for
work ln arls Lhree kllomeLers dlsLanL by horse car Lwo sous a LlckeL
?ou need a sLurdy consLlLuLlon Lo geL Lhrough a whole llfeLlme on such a schedule 1here was a plcLure of
Lhem over Lhe bed on Lhe upper floor Laken on Lhelr weddlng day 1helr bedroom furnlLure had all been
pald for ages ago ln facL All Lhe recelpLed bllls LhaL had accumulaLed ln Lhe lasL Len LwenLy forLy years Pe
plnned LogeLher ln Lhe Lop bureau drawer and Lhe accounL book fully up Lo daLe ls downsLalrs ln Lhe
dlnlng room where Lhey never eaL Penroullle wlll show you all LhaL lf you ask hlm Cn SaLurdays he
balances Lhe accounLs ln Lhe dlnlng room 1heyve always eaLen ln Lhe klLchen
l learned Lhese Lhlngs llLLle by llLLle from Lhem and oLher people and some from 8eberLs aunL When l knew
Lhem a llLLle beLLer Lhey Lhemselves Lold me abouL Lhe Lerror LhaL had haunLed Lhem all Lhelr llves Lhe fear
LhaL Lhelr only son who was ln buslness mlghL flnd hlmself ln dlfflculLles lor LhlrLy years LhaL ugly LhoughL
had more or less kepL Lhem awake nearly every nlghL 1he boy had seL hlmself up ln Lhe feaLher buslness!
1he ups and downs of feaLhers ln Lhe lasL LhlrLy years are almosL unlmaglnable erhaps Lheres no worse
no more unsLable buslness ln all Lhe world Lhan feaLhers
Some buslnesses are so shaky LhaL no one would Lhlnk of borrowlng money Lo puL Lhem back on Lhelr feeL
buL Lhere are oLhers where Lhe quesLlon of a loan keeps comlng up almosL consLanLly When lL occurred Lo
Lhem even now LhaL Lhe house was pald for LhaL Lhelr son mlghL approach Lhem for a loan Lhe Penroullles
sLood up from Lhelr chalrs looked aL each oLher and wenL red ln Lhe face WhaL would Lhey do lf LhaL
happened? 1hey would refuse
1helr mlnds had been made up from Lhe flrsL Lo Lurn down all requesLs for a loan 8ecause of Lhelr
prlnclples and so as Lo have a nesL egg walLlng for hlm a legacy a house an lnherlLance 1haL was Lhelr way
of Lhlnklng 1here was no nonsense abouL Lhelr son buL ln buslness lLs so easy Lo go wrong
When Lhey asked me for my oplnlon lL was Lhe same as Lhelrs
My own moLher was ln buslness her buslness had never broughL us anyLhlng buL mlsery a llLLle bread and
a loL of Lrouble So naLurally l was down on buslness l had no dlfflculLy ln undersLandlng Lhe perlls faclng
Lhe boy Lhe rlsk lnvolved ln a loan he mlghL be forced Lo envlsage lf hard pressed l needed no
explanaLlons lor flfLy years old man Penroullle had been a peLLy clerk ln a noLarys offlce on Lhe 8oulevard
SebasLopol Pe knew how forLunes can go Lo rack and ruln and Lold me some halrralslng sLorles abouL lL
8eglnnlng wlLh hls own faLher whose bankrupLcy had prevenLed Penroullle from sLudylng Lo be a Leacher
on leavlng school and obllged hlm Lo go rlghL lnLo clerklng ?ou remember Lhlngs llke LhaL
Well now LhaL Lhelr house was boughL and pald for and Lhey dldnL owe a slngle sou Lhey had noLhlng Lo
worry abouL on Lhe securlLy slde 1hey were boLh slxLyflve
!usL Lhen Penroullle became aware of a sLrange allmenL or raLher hed felL lL for a long Llme buL hadnL
LhoughL abouL lL because Lhere was sLlll Lhe house Lo be pald for Cnce LhaL was all seLLled and slgned he
began Lo dwell on hls sLrange Lroubledlzzy spells and a whlsLllng as of sLeam ln boLh ears
AbouL LhaL Llme he began buylng Lhe newspaper because Lhen Lhey could afford lL And ln Lhe paper he
saw an adverLlsemenL descrlblng exacLly whaL he felL ln hls ears Pe boughL Lhe medlclne lL recommended
buL lL dldnL do hls allmenL a blL of good on Lhe conLrary Lhe whlsLllng seemed Lo geL worse Maybe [usL
from Lhlnklng abouL lL 1hey flnally declded on a vlslL Lo Lhe dlspensary lLs hlgh blood pressure Lhe
docLor Lold Lhem
1hose words came as a shock 8uL hls new obsesslon came aL [usL Lhe rlghL Llme Pe had worrled abouL Lhe
house and hls sons bllls for so many years LhaL Lhey had lefL a klnd of hole ln Lhe Llssue of fears LhaL had
grlpped hlm body and soul for forLy years and ralsed hlm Lo Lhe same plLch of angulshed LrepldaLlon every
Llme a blll came due now LhaL Lhe docLor had spoken of blood pressure he llsLened Lo Lhe pressure
beaLlng agalnsL hls ears from deep lnslde Ped geL up ouL of bed Lo feel hls pulse and sLand moLlonless
beslde hls bed feellng a falnL quaver run Lhrough hls body aL every hearL beaL All Lhls he sald Lo hlmself
was hls deaLh Pe had always been afrald of llfe and now he aLLached hls fear Lo someLhlng dlfferenL Lo
deaLh Lo hls blood pressure [usL as for forLy years he had aLLached lL Lo Lhe perll of noL belng able Lo flnlsh
paylng for Lhe house
Pe had always been [usL as unhappy buL now he had qulckly Lo flnd a good new reason for belng unhappy
1haLs noL as easy as lL sounds !usL saylng lm unhappy wonL do ?ouve goL Lo prove lL Lo make
absoluLely sure 1haLs all he wanLed Lo be able Lo sLaLe a good subsLanLlal moLlve for hls fear Accordlng Lo
Lhe docLor hls blood pressure was LwenLyLwo 1wenLyLwo ls someLhlng 1he docLor had LaughL hlm Lo
flnd Lhe way Lo hls own deaLh
1helr son ln Lhe feaLher buslness hardly ever came Lo see Lhem Cnce or Lwlce around new ?ears no more
1here wasnL much polnL ln hls comlng anymore Pls faLher and moLher had noLhlng lefL Lo lend So he
hardly ever Lurned up
lL Look me longer Lo geL Lo know Madame Penroullle she had no fears noL even Lhe fear of her own deaLh
whlch she couldnL concelve of She only complalned of old age buL wlLhouL really Lhlnklng abouL lL [usL Lo
be llke oLher people and abouL Lhe hlgh cosL of llvlng 1helr llfes labor was behlnd Lhem 1he house was
pald for 1o speed up Lhe flnal paymenLs shed even Laken Lo sewlng buLLons on walsLcoaLs for one of Lhe
deparLmenL sLores 1he amounL of buLLons youve goL Lo sew on for flve francs you wouldnL belleve lL!
shed say And dellverlng her work on Lhe bus she rode second class and Lhlngs were always happenlng
Cne afLernoon a woman had bumped lnLo her Madame Penroullle had glven her a plece of her mlnd 1he
woman was a forelgner Lhe flrsL and only forelgner Madame Penroullle had ever spoken Lo
1he walls of Lhe house had kepL good and dry ln Lhe old days when Lhere was sLlll alr clrculaLlng around
Lhem buL now LhaL Lhere were Lall aparLmenL bulldlngs nexL door everyLhlng oozed and Lrlckled wlLh
humldlLy even Lhe curLalns had a musLy smell
Cnce Lhe house was really Lhelrs Madame Penroullle had been all smlles for a whole monLh as bllssful as a
nun afLer communlon ln facL she was Lhe one who had suggesLed Look !ules suppose we buy a
newspaper every day now we can afford lL! !usL llke LhaL She had LhoughL of her husband she had looked
aL hlm 8uL Lhen she looked around her and afLer a whlle she LhoughL of hls moLher her moLherlnlaw
Penroullle AL LhaL Lhe daughLerlnlaw wenL suddenly serlous agaln Lhe way she had been before Lhey
flnlshed paylng for Lhe house 1haL LhoughL broughL Lhem back Lo square one lL meanL Lhey would have Lo
go on savlng for Lhe old woman her husbands moLher whom Lhe Lwo of Lhem never menLloned Lo each
oLher or Lo anyone ouLslde
She llved aL Lhe far end of Lhe garden wlLh an accumulaLlon of old brooms old chlcken craLes and Lhe
shadows of bulldlngs Per home was a low shed from whlch she seldom emerged !usL geLLlng meals ln Lo
her was a long compllcaLed buslness She wouldnL admlL anyone Lo her anLrum noL even her son She was
afrald of belng murdered so she sald
When Lhe daughLerlnlaw LhoughL of embarklng on a new course of savlngs she flrsL sald a few words Lo
her husband Lo sound hlm ouL Why for lnsLance wouldnL Lhey send Lhe old woman Lo SL vlncenLs
ConvenL where Lhe SlsLers Look care of feeblemlnded old women llke her 1he son sald nelLher yes nor no
Pe was busy wlLh someLhlng else aL Lhe momenL Lhose sounds ln hls ears LhaL never sLopped WhaL wlLh
Lhlnklng abouL LhaL abomlnable whlsLllng and llsLenlng Lo lL hed convlnced hlmself LhaL lL would prevenL
hlm from sleeplng And Lrue enough lnsLead of falllng asleep hed llsLen Lo hls whlsLllng drummlngs and
hummlngsa new LorLure LhaL kepL hlm busy day and nlghL Pe had all Lhose nolses lnslde hlm
LlLLle by llLLle Lhough hls anxleLy wore lLself ouL and Lhere wasnL enough lefL Lo keep hlm busy all by lLself
So Lhen he and hls wlfe sLarLed golng back Lo Lhe markeL aL SalnLCuen Lveryone sald lL was Lhe cheapesL
for mlles around 1heyd leave home ln Lhe mornlng and lL Look Lhem all day because of all Lhe flgures Lhey
added up and Lhe dlscusslons Lheyd have abouL Lhe prlces of Lhlngs and Lhe money Lhey mlghL have saved
by buylng one Lhlng raLher Lhan anoLher 8ack home aL abouL eleven LhaL nlghL Lheyd be selzed agaln
by Lhe fear of belng murdered 1haL fear hlL Lhem regularly especlally Lhe wlfe Pe was more concerned
wlLh Lhe sounds ln hls ears hed cllng Lo Lhem desperaLely aL LhaL hour when Lhe sLreeL was perfecLly sLlll
lll never be able Lo sleep! hed repeaL Lo hlmself ouL loud Lo lncrease hls Lerror ?ou canL lmaglne!"
8uL she never Lrled Lo undersLand whaL he meanL or Lo lmaglne why Lhls buzzlng ln hls ears should Lrouble
hlm so ?ou hear me when l speak donL you? shed ask hlm
?es hed say
Well Lhen youre all rlghL! And lL would make more sense Lo sLarL Lhlnklng abouL your moLher whos
been cosLlng us a forLune whaL wlLh prlces golng up every day And Lhe sLlnk ln LhaL shack of hers!"
1he cleanlng woman came ln for Lhree hours a week Lo do Lhe washlng she was Lhe only vlslLor Lhey had
had for years She also helped Madame Penroullle Lo make her bed Lvery Llme Lhey had Lurned Lhe
maLLress ln Lhe lasL Len years Madame Penroullle wanLlng lL Lo be repeaLed all over Lhe nelghborhood
had Lold Lhe cleanlng woman ln Lhe loudesL volce she could manage We never keep money ln Lhe house!
!usL as a precauLlon Lo dlscourage Lhleves and prospecLlve murderers
8efore golng up Lo Lhelr room LogeLher Lhey would close all Lhe doors and wlndows wlLh greaL care each
checklng up on Lhe oLher 1hen Lheyd go ouL ln Lhe garden Lo make sure Lhe moLherlnlaws lamp was sLlll
burnlng A slgn she was sLlll allve She consumed quanLlLles of oll She never puL her lamp ouL She Loo was
afrald of murderers and afrald of her son and daughLerlnlaw ln all Lhe LwenLy years shed been llvlng
Lhere she had never opened her wlndows summer or wlnLer and never leL her lamp go ouL
Per son kepL hls moLhers money a small penslon Pe Look care of lL 1hey lefL her meals ouLslde Lhe door
1hey kepL her money noL a bad arrangemenL 8uL she complalned abouL Lhe arrangemenL and LhaL wasnL
all she complalned abouL everyLhlng Shed shouL Lhrough Lhe door aL anybody who approached her shack
1he daughLerlnlaw would Lry Lo paclfy her lLs noL our faulL lf youre geLLlng old All old people geL Lhe
same palns "
Cld yourself! ?ou slaLLern! ?ou scum! lLs you LhaLs kllllng me wlLh your fllLhy lles!"
She denled her age feroclously And Lhrough her door she baLLled lrreconcllably agalnsL Lhe evlls of Lhe
whole world She re[ecLed Lhe faLallLles and compromlses of Lhe llfe ouLslde as a base lmposLure She
refused all conLacL wlLh such Lhlngs she wouldnL hear of Lhem lLs all a pack of lles! shed scream ?ou
made lL up!"
She defended herself blLLerly agalnsL everyLhlng LhaL happened ouLslde her hovel and re[ecLed all
LempLaLlon Lo compromlse or be reconclled She was sure LhaL lf she opened Lhe door hosLlle forces would
bursL ln grab her and flnlsh her off once and for all
1heyre sly nowadays! she would scream 1hey have eyes all around Lhelr heads and mouLhs all Lhe way
down Lo Lhelr assholes and Lhen some all Lo Lell lles wlLh lLs Lhem all over "
She had Lhe glfL of gab she had plcked lL up as a glrl peddllng brlcabrac aL Lhe 1emple MarkeL wlLh her
moLher She harked back Lo Lhe days when Lhe common people hadnL yeL learned Lo llsLen Lo
Lhemselves growlng old
lf you wonL glve me my money lm golng ouL Lo work! shed shouL aL her daughLerlnlaw Pear you
sluL? lm golng ouL Lo work l wanL Lo work!"
8uL grandmoLher youre noL sLrong enough!"
Ch! lm noL sLrong enough! 1ry and geL ln here and youll see lf lm noL sLrong enough!"
So one more Llme Lhey lefL her barrlcaded ln her shack 8uL Lhey were dead seL on my seelng Lhe old
woman LhaLs whaL ld come for lL Look some dolng before she leL us ln 1o Lell Lhe LruLh l couldnL qulLe
see whaL Lhey wanLed of me lL was Lhe conclerge 8eberLs aunL who had Lold Lhem whaL a nlce docLor l
was so klnd and conslderaLe 1hey asked me lf l couldnL glve her some medlclne Lo keep her quleL
8uL whaL Lhey (especlally Lhe daughLerlnlaw) wanLed even more was for me Lo geL Lhe old woman
commlLLed once and for all AfLer wed knocked for a good half hour she suddenly flung Lhe door open and
Lhere she was ln fronL of me wlLh her waLery redrlmmed eyes 8uL Lhere was a look ln Lhose eyes LhaL
danced merrlly over her gray shrunken cheeks lL caughL your aLLenLlon and made you forgeL Lhe resL lL
gave you a feellng ln splLe of yourself of llghLness and pleasure a feellng of youLh LhaL you Lrled lnsLlncLlvely
Lo hold on Lo
1haL brlghL look llL up everyLhlng ln Lhe darkness around her wlLh a youLhful [oy a frall buL pure dellghL LhaL
we no longer have aL our command Per volce whlch cracked when she screamed gave her words a cheery
rlng when she consenLed Lo Lalk llke oLher people lL made her phrases and senLences hop sklp and [ump as
brlghLly as you please Lhe way people were able Lo do wlLh Lhelr volces and Lhe Lhlngs around Lhem ln Lhe
days when noL belng able Lo slng or Lell a sLory properly was looked upon as sLupld shameful and slck
Age had covered her llke a sLurdy old Lree wlLh smlllng branches
Crandma Penroullle was merry dlsconLenLed and fllLhy buL merry 1he desLlLuLlon ln whlch she had llved
for more Lhan LwenLy years had noL marked her soul Per dread on Lhe conLrary was Lhe ouLslde world as
Lhough cold horror and deaLh could come Lo her only from LhaL dlrecLlon and noL from wlLhln She
evldenLly feared noLhlng from wlLhln she seemed absoluLely sure of her mlnd as of someLhlng undenlable
acknowledged and cerLlfled once and for all
And Lo Lhlnk LhaL l had been chaslng mlne halfway around Lhe world
1hey called Lhe old woman mad LhaLs easy Lo say She hadnL seL fooL ouLslde her den more Lhan Lhree
Llmes ln Lhe lasL Lwelve years and LhaLs all Lhere was Lo lL She may have had her reasons She was
afrald of loslng someLhlng She wasnL golng Lo Lell Lhem Lo people llke us people who were no longer
lnsplred by llfe
Per daughLerlnlaw broughL up her commlLmenL pro[ecL agaln WhaL do you say docLor? uonL you Lhlnk
shes mad? We canL geL her Lo go ouL anymore! lL would do her good Lo geL ouL now and Lhen! Ch
yes grandmoLher lL would do you good! uonL say lL wouldnL! lL would do you good l assure
you! 1he old woman shook her head She shuL herself ln sLubborn and savage when LhaL klnd of pressure
was puL on her
She wonL leL us Lake care of her Shed raLher relleve herself ln Lhe corners lLs cold ln her shack and
Lheres no flre We really canL leL her go on llke Lhls uonL you agree docLor LhaL we canL ?"
l preLended noL Lo undersLand Penroullle had sLayed home beslde Lhe sLove he preferred noL Lo know
exacLly whaL hls wlfe and moLher and l were cooklng up
1he old woman flew off Lhe handle agaln
Clve me back everyLhlng LhaLs mlne and lll go away l have money Lo llve on And LhaLs Lhe lasL youll
ever hear of me! "
Money Lo llve on! 8uL grandmoLher! ?ou canL expecL Lo llve on your Lhree Lhousand a year! 1he cosL of
llvlng has gone up slnce Lhe lasL Llme you wenL ouL! ?ou Lell her docLor wouldnL lL be beLLer for her Lo
go and llve wlLh Lhe SlsLers llke we Lold her 1he SlsLers are good and klnd "
8uL Lhe LhoughL of Lhe SlsLers gave her Lhe creeps
1he SlsLers! 1he SlsLers! she rebelled lve never sLayed wlLh any SlsLers Why noL send me Lo llve wlLh
Lhe prlesL whlle youre aL lL! lf l havenL goL enough money as you say lll go Lo work!"
Work grandmoLher? Where? Ch docLor would you llsLen Lo her! Work aL her age! Shell soon be elghLy!
lLs madness docLor Whod wanL her? Why youre lnsane grandmoLher! "
lnsane! nobody! nowhere! ArenL you somewhere? ?ou lump of shlL you!"
LlsLen Lo her docLor! Shes ravlng and lnsulLlng me! Pow can you expecL us Lo keep her here?"
1he old woman Lurned Lo confronL me Lhe new perll
Pow does he know lf lm crazy or noL? ls he lnslde my head? ls he lnslde yours? Ped have Lo be Lo know!
8eaL lL boLh of you! CeL ouL of my home! 1he way you keep aL me youre meaner Lhan slx monLhs
of wlnLer! Co and examlne my son lnsLead of sLandlng Lhere [abberlng ln Lhe henbane! Pe needs a docLor
a slghL more Lhan l do! noL a LooLh lefL ln hls head and Lhey were perfecL when l was Laklng care of hlm! Co
on beaL lL geL ouL Lhe boLh of you! And she slammed Lhe door ln our faces
lrom behlnd her lamp she waLched us reLreaLlng across Lhe yard When wed reached Lhe oLher slde when
we were far enough away she sLarLed snlckerlng agaln Shed glven a good accounL of herself
When we goL back from LhaL dlsagreeable lncurslon Penroullle was sLlll sLandlng by Lhe sLove wlLh hls back
Lo us Pls wlfe wenL on pesLerlng me wlLh quesLlons all almed ln Lhe same dlrecLlon She had a dark sly
llLLle face Per elbows hugged her body when she spoke She never gesLured She was deLermlned LhaL Lhls
medlcal consulLaLlon shouldnL be wasLed she wanLed lL Lo serve some purpose 1he cosL of llvlng was
golng up all Lhe Llme Per moLherlnlaws penslon wasnL enough anymore 1hey were geLLlng old
Lhemselves afLer all 1hey couldnL go on forever llvlng ln fear LhaL Lhe old woman would dle wlLhouL
proper care LhaL shed seL Lhe house on flre ln her fleas and fllLh lnsLead of golng Lo a perfecLly
good lnsLlLuLlon where shed be Laken care of
Slnce l puL on an alr of agreelng wlLh Lhem Lhey were boLh as affable as could be Lhey promlsed Lo slng
my pralses ln Lhe nelghborhood lf only ld help Lhem Lake plLy on Lhem rld Lhem of Lhe old woman
who was mlserable herself llvlng ln Lhe condlLlons she broughL on herself wlLh her obsLlnacy
We could even renL her llLLle house suggesLed Lhe husband who had suddenly woken up Ped puL hls
fooL ln lL saylng LhaL ln fronL of me Pls wlfe sLepped on hls fooL under Lhe Lable Pe dldnL undersLand why
Whlle Lhey were wrangllng l LhoughL abouL Lhe Lhousand francs l could pockeL [usL by maklng ouL a
cerLlflcaLe of commlLmenL 1hey seemed Lo wanL lL badly 8eberLs aunL had probably Lold Lhem all abouL
me and assured Lhem LhaL l was Lhe downaLheelesL docLor ln all 8ancy and would do anyLhlng Lhey
asked 1heyd never have expecLed lrollchon Lo do a Lhlng llke LhaL! Pe was vlrLuous!
l was deep ln Lhese reflecLlons when Lhe old woman bursL lnLo Lhe room where we were ploLLlng She musL
have suspecLed someLhlng WhaL a specLacle! She had bunched her ragged sklrLs over her belly and Lhere
she was all Lucked up screamlng aL us and aL me ln parLlcular Shed come ln from Lhe far end of Lhe
garden for LhaL express purpose!
8lackguard! she yelled aL me polnL blank ?ou can go home! uldnL l Lell you Lo beaL lL! ?ou wonL galn
anyLhlng by hanglng around! lm noL golng Lo Lhe nuLhouse! nor Lo Lhe SlsLers elLher! uo your
damnedesL lle your head off! ?ou wonL geL me you boughL and paldfor plmp! 1heyll go before l do
Lhe Lhleves robblng an old woman! And you Loo you roLLer youll end up ln [all lm Lelllng you and lL
wonL be long!"
l was cerLalnly ouL of luck lor once ld had a chance of maklng a Lhousand francs aL one sLroke! l Look Lo my
When l was ouL ln Lhe sLreeL she leaned over Lhe llLLle perlsLyle Lo shouL afLer me ln Lhe darkness
Scoundrel! Scoundrel! she shrleked And Lhe echo came back 1he raln was comlng down l ran from
lampposL Lo lampposL as far as Lhe urlnal on Lhe lace des lLes 1he flrsL avallable shelLer
ln LhaL aedlcula aL hlp helghL l found 8eberL
Pe Loo had gone Lhere for shelLer Pe had seen me runnlng ouL of Lhe Penroullle house So LhaLs where
youve been he sald now youll have Lo go up and see Lhe people on Lhe flfLh floor of our house lLs
Lhelr daughLer 1he glrl he was referrlng Lo l knew her well wlde hlps beauLlful Lhlghs long and sllky
1here was someLhlng Lender yeL wlllful abouL her and ln her movemenLs Lhe preclse grace LhaL you
ofLen flnd ln women who are sexually flL She had consulLed me several Llmes abouL her palns ln Lhe
abdomen AL LwenLyflve afLer her Lhlrd aborLlon she was havlng compllcaLlons Per famlly called lL
?ou should have seen her so solldly bullL and wlLh a LasLe for colLus unusual ln females ulscreeL ln her
ways modesL ln dress and speech noL Lhe leasL blL hysLerlcal 8uL well endowed well fed well balanced a
champlon ln her llne An aLhleLe of pleasure no harm ln LhaL She only wenL wlLh marrled men And only
wlLh connolsseurs men capable of recognlzlng and appreclaLlng naLures Lrlumphs who wonL seLLle for
some vlclous llLLle sluL no her sofL skln her sweeL smlle her way of walklng and Lhe nobly moblle fullness
of her hlps earned her Lhe hearLfelL wellmerlLed enLhuslasm of cerLaln offlce managers who knew Lhelr
unforLunaLely Lhese offlce managers couldnL dlvorce Lhelr wlves on her accounL Cn Lhe conLrary she
helped Lhem Lo sLay happlly marrled So every Llme she found herself Lhree monLhs gone lL never falled
she wenL Lo Lhe mldwlfe When youre a hoL number and you havenL goL a sucker handy llfe ls no bed of
Per moLher opened Lhe door by a crack as cauLlously as lf shed been expecLlng a murderer She spoke ln
whlspers buL Lhey were so loud so lnLense she mlghL [usL as well have been curslng
Ch docLor whaL have l done Lo deserve such a daughLer! Ch docLor you wonL breaLhe a word Lo anyone
ln Lhe nelghborhood wlll you? l LrusL you She wenL on and on alrlng her fears and spluLLerlng abouL
whaL Lhe nelghbors mlghL Lhlnk She was havlng an aLLack of knuckleheaded anxleLy 1hose aLLacks lasL a
long Llme
She gave me Llme Lo geL used Lo Lhe dlm llghL ln Lhe hallway Lhe smell of leeks ln Lhe soup Lhe wallpaper
wlLh lLs ldloLlc leaves and flowers and her sLrangled volce llnally amld bumbllngs and exclamaLlons we
reached her daughLers bedslde She lay prosLraLe her mlnd wanderlng ld have llke Lo examlne her buL
she was loslng so much blood Lhere was such a gooey mess l couldnL see anyLhlng ln her vaglna 8lood
cloLs A glugglug beLween her legs llke ln Lhe decaplLaLed colonels neck ln Lhe war All l could do was puL
back Lhe blg wad of coLLon and pull up Lhe blankeL
1he moLher was looklng aL noLhlng and llsLenlng Lo noLhlng buL herself lLll klll me docLor! lll dle of
shame! l made no aLLempL Lo dlssuade her l dldnL know whaL Lo do We could see Lhe faLher paclng back
and forLh ln Lhe llLLle dlnlng room nexL door ApparenLly he hadnL flnlshed composlng hls aLLlLude for Lhe
occaslon Maybe he was walLlng for Lhlngs Lo come Lo a head before selecLlng a posLure Pe was ln a klnd of
llmbo eople llve from one play Lo Lhe nexL ln beLween before Lhe curLaln goes up Lhey donL qulLe know
whaL Lhe ploL wlll be or whaL parL wlll be rlghL for Lhem Lhey sLand Lhere aL a loss walLlng Lo see whaL wlll
happen Lhelr lnsLlncLs folded up llke an umbrella squlrmlng lncoherenL reduced Lo Lhemselves LhaL ls Lo
noLhlng Cows wlLhouL a Lraln
8uL Lhe moLher had Lhe leadlng parL as lnLermedlary beLween her daughLer and me 1he sLage could cave
ln she dldnL glve a damn she was happy and convlnced of her goodness and beauLy
l couldnL counL on anyone buL myself Lo break Lhls slckenlng spell
l rlsked suggesLlng LhaL Lhe glrl should be senL sLralghL Lo Lhe hosplLal for an emergency operaLlon
A blg mlsLake! ld glven her Lhe cue for her flnesL speech Lhe one shed been walLlng for
Ch Cod Lhe dlsgrace! 1he hosplLal! Ch docLor! 1he dlsgrace of lL! All we needed! 1he lasL sLraw!"
1here was noLhlng l could say l saL down and llsLened Lo Lhe moLher Lhrashlng abouL more LumulLuously
Lhan ever enLangled ln her Lraglc absurdlLles 1oo much humlllaLlon Loo much mlsery culmlnaLe ln LoLal
lnerLla 1he world ls Loo much for you Lo bear ?ou glve up Whlle she lnvoked and provoked Peaven and
Pell Lhunderlng dlsasLer l looked down ln defeaL and looklng saw a small puddle of blood formlng under
Lhe glrls bed from whlch a Lhln Lrlckle oozed slowly along Lhe wall Loward Lhe door A drop fell regularly
from Lhe bed sprlngs urlp drlp 1he Lowels beLween her legs were soaked red l managed Lo ask very
Llmldly wheLher Lhe whole placenLa had been e[ecLed 1he glrls hands pale and blulsh aL Lhe Llps hung
down on elLher slde of Lhe bed lL was Lhe moLher agaln who answered my quesLlon wlLh a flood of
dlsgusLlng [eremlads l should have reacLed buL l hadnL Lhe sLrengLh
l myself had been so obsessed by my bad luck for so long l was sleeplng so badly LhaL l was [usL drlfLlng l
dldnL care wheLher one Lhlng happened raLher Lhan anoLher My only LhoughL was LhaL lf l had Lo llsLen Lo
Lhls screechlng moLher l was beLLer off slLLlng Lhan sLandlng lL doesnL Lake much Lo please you once youre
Lhoroughly reslgned And anyway where would l have found Lhe forLlLude Lo lnLerrupL Lhls wlld woman
who dldnL know how she was golng Lo save Lhe famllys honor WhaL a parL! And how she ranLed! AfLer
every aborLlon l knew from experlence she leL loose ln Lhe same way Lrylng lL goes wlLhouL saylng Lo
ouLdo herself each Llme! Pow long lL wenL on she alone could declde! 1oday she seemed deLermlned Lo
decuple Lhe effecL!
She lL occurred Lo me musL have been beauLlful herself as lusclous as you please ln her day buL more
verbose lm preLLy sure more wasLeful of energy more demonsLraLlve Lhan her daughLer whose
concenLraLed lnLlmacy had been one of naLures Lruly admlrable achlevemenLs 1hose Lhlngs havenL been
sLudled as closely as Lhey deserve 1he moLher sensed her daughLers anlmal superlorlLy and lnsLlncLlvely
condemned lL ouL of hand Lhe unforgeLLable depLh of her fucklng her way of comlng llke a conLlnenL! ln
any case she was dellghLed wlLh Lhe LheaLrlcal aspecL of Lhe dlsasLer Per mournful Lremolos monopollzed
Lhe aLLenLlon of our llLLle group as Lhanks Lo her we floundered ln chorus And Lhere was no hope of
geLLlng her ouL of Lhere l oughL Lo have Lrled Lhough 1o do someLhlng lL was my duLy as Lhey say 8uL l
was Loo comforLable slLLlng and Loo uncomforLable sLandlng
1helr place was a blL more cheerful Lhan Lhe Penroullles [usL as ugly buL more comforLable Cosy noL
slnlsLer llke Lhe Penroullles !usL plaln ugly
uazed wlLh faLlgue l glanced around Lhe room LlLLle Lhlngs wlLhouL value LhaL had always been ln Lhe
famlly especlally Lhe manLelplece cover wlLh lLs llLLle plnk velveL bells LhaL you canL buy anymore and Lhe
porcelaln neapollLan and Lhe sewlng Lable wlLh Lhe beveled mlrror a presenL no doubL from an aunL ln Lhe
provlnces who had had Lwo of Lhem l sald noLhlng Lo Lhe moLher abouL Lhe puddle of blood l saw formlng
under Lhe bed or Lhe drops LhaL kepL falllng puncLually shed have screeched even louder and wouldnL
have llsLened Lo me anymore She was never golng Lo sLop complalnlng and venLlng her lndlgnaLlon She
was dedlcaLed
!usL as well Lo keep sLlll and look ouL of Lhe wlndow as Lhe gray velveL of evenlng Look hold of Lhe avenue
house by house flrsL Lhe smallesL Lhen Lhe oLhers ln Lhe end Lhe blg ones are Laken Loo and Lhe people
movlng abouL ln beLween more and more falnL vague and blurred heslLaLlng as Lhey pass from sldewalk Lo
sldewalk before vanlshlng lnLo Lhe darkness
lurLher away far beyond Lhe forLlflcaLlons sLrlngs and rows of llghLs scaLLered Lhrough Lhe nlghL llke Lacks
Lo hang forgeLfulness over Lhe clLy and oLher llLLle llghLs red and green boaLs and more boaLs a whole
floLllla come from all dlrecLlons Lremulously walLlng for Lhe greaL gaLes of nlghL Lo open behlnd Lhe
1ower67 lf LhaL moLher had Laken a momenL Lo breaLhe or beLLer sLlll lf Lhere had been a long momenL
of sllence l mlghL have dropped everyLhlng and Lrled Lo forgeL LhaL lL was necessary Lo llve 8uL she kepL aL
CouldnL l glve her an enema docLor? WhaL do you Lhlnk? l dldnL say yes or no buL once agaln slnce she
gave me a chance Lo speak l advlsed lmmedlaLe removal Lo Lhe hosplLal 1he only response was more
yelplng sharper more resoluLe more sLrldenL Lhan ever 1here was noLhlng Lo be done
l made slowly and quleLly for Lhe door
1he shadows now lay beLween us and Lhe bed
l could scarcely see Lhe glrls hands resLlng on Lhe sheeL because Lhe Lwo pallors were so much allke
l wenL back and felL her pulse whlch was weaker more furLlve Lhan before Per breaLh came ln gasps l
could sLlll hear her blood drlpplng on Lhe floor llke a waLch Llcklng more and more slowly more and more
falnLly l couldnL do a Lhlng 1he moLher wenL ahead of me Lo Lhe door
Lspeclally docLor she sald ln a paroxysm of Lerror promlse you wonL say a word Lo anyone! She
lmplored me Clve me your word!"
l promlsed anyLhlng she wanLed l held ouL my hand She gave me LwenLy francs She closed Lhe door
behlnd me llLLle by llLLle
uownsLalrs 8eberLs aunL was walLlng for me wlLh her mosL solemn expresslon ls lL bad? she lnqulred l
reallzed LhaL shed been walLlng for half an hour Lo collecL her usual commlsslon of Lwo francs 1o make
sure l wouldnL geL away And how abouL Lhe Penroullles? LveryLhlng all rlghL? she asked She was hoplng
Lo collecL a Llp for Lhem Loo 1hey dldnL pay me l replled Whlch was Lrue Per prepared smlle Lurned Lo
a pouL She suspecLed me
lLs really Loo bad docLor lf you canL geL people Lo pay you Pow can you expecL people Lo respecL you?
nowadays people pay rlghL away or noL aL all! 1haL Loo was Lrue l beaL lL l had puL my beans on Lo cook
before leavlng now was Lhe Llme aL nlghLfall Lo go and buy my mllk uurlng Lhe day people smlled Lo see
me wlLh my boLLle naLurally no mald
WlnLer dragged on sLreLchlng ouL over monLhs and monLhs We were always deep ln raln and mlsL Lhey
were aL Lhe boLLom of everyLhlng
1here were plenLy of paLlenLs buL noL many who were wllllng and able Lo pay Medlclne ls a Lhankless
professlon When you geL pald by Lhe rlch you feel llke a flunky by Lhe poor llke a Lhlef Pow can you Lake a
fee from people who canL afford Lo eaL or go Lo Lhe movles? Lspeclally when Lheyre aL Lhelr lasL gasp lLs
noL easy ?ou leL lL rlde ?ou geL sofLhearLed And your shlp goes down
When Lhe quarLerly renL came due ln !anuary l flrsL sold my sldeboard l Lold Lhe nelghborhood people l
needed Lhe space because l was plannlng Lo glve physlcal culLure classes ln my dlnlng room l wonder lf
anyone belleved me ln lebruary Lo pay my Laxes l sold my blcycle and Lhe phonograph Molly had glven
me as a golngaway presenL lL played no More Worrles 1he Lune ls sLlll runnlng Lhrough my head lLs all
lve goL lefL As for Lhe records 8ezln had Lhem ln hls shop for a long Llme and Lhen ln Lhe end he sold
1o make myself sound even rlcher l Lold people l was golng Lo buy a car as soon as Lhe warm weaLher seL ln
and ln preparaLlon l wanLed Lo Lake ln a llLLle cash l suppose l [usL dldnL have Lhe gall Lo pracLlce medlclne
serlously When l was belng escorLed Lo Lhe door afLer glvlng Lhe famlly plenLy of advlce and handlng Lhem
my prescrlpLlon ld sLarL Lalklng abouL everyLhlng under Lhe sun [usL Lo posLpone Lhe momenL of paymenL a
llLLle longer l was no good aL playlng Lhe prosLlLuLe MosL of my paLlenLs were so wreLchedly poor and foul
smelllng so dlsagreeable Loo LhaL l always wondered where Lhey would ever flnd Lhe LwenLy francs owlng
Lo me and wheLher Lhey mlghLnL murder me Lo geL Lhem back And yeL l needed Lhose LwenLy francs badly
Shameful! l sLlll blush Lo Lhlnk of lL
lees! as my colleagues perslsLed ln saylng lL dldnL sLlck ln Lhelr craw As lf Lhe word made lL perfecLly
naLural and Lhere were no need Lo explaln Shameful! l couldnL help Lhlnklng you canL geL around lL
LveryLhlng can be explalned l know LhaL 8uL LhaL doesnL change Lhe facL LhaL Lhe man who Lakes flve
francs from Lhe poor and Lhe wlcked wlll be a louse Lo hls dylng day Lver slnce Lhen ln facL lve been sure
of belng as sllmy a cusLomer as anyone else lLs noL LhaL lve commlLLed orgles and follles wlLh Lhelr Len
francs CerLalnly noL 1he landlord Look mosL of lL buL LhaLs no excuse elLher l wlsh lL were buL lL lsnL 1he
landlord ls shlLLler Lhan shlL buL LhaLs anoLher sLory
WhaL wlLh eaLlng my hearL ouL and navlgaLlng ln Lhe lcy showers of Lhe season l was beglnnlng Lo look
Lubercular myself naLurally 1haLs whaL happens when you have Lo forego pracLlcally every pleasure now
and Lhen ld buy a few eggs buL my dleL conslsLed malnly of beans and lenLlls 1hey Lake a long Llme Lo
cook ld spend hours ln Lhe klLchen waLchlng Lhem boll afLer my vlslLlng hours and slnce l llved on Lhe
second floor l had a flne vlew of Lhe back courL 8ack courLs are Lhe dungeons of row houses l had plenLy of
Llme Lo look aL my courL and especlally Lo hear lL
1haLs where Lhe shouLs and yells of Lhe LwenLy houses round abouL crash and rebound even Lhe crles of
Lhe conclerges llLLle blrds roLLlng away as Lhey plpe for Lhe sprlng Lhey wlll never see ln Lhelr cages beslde
Lhe prlvles whlch are all clusLered LogeLher ouL aL Lhe dark end wlLh Lhelr lllflLLlng banglng doors A
hundred male and female drunks lnhablL Lhose brlcks and feed Lhe echoes wlLh Lhelr boasLlng quarrels and
muddled erupLlve oaLhs especlally afLer lunch on SaLurday 1haLs Lhe lnLense momenL ln famlly llfe
ShouLs of deflance as Lhe drlnk pours down apa ls brandlshlng a chalr a slghL worLh seelng llke an ax and
Mama a log llke a saber! Peaven help Lhe weak! lLs Lhe kld who suffers Anyone unable Lo defend hlmself
or flghL back chlldren dogs and caLs ls flaLLened agalnsL Lhe wall AfLer Lhe Lhlrd glass of wlne Lhe black
klnd Lhe worsL lLs Lhe dogs Lurn apa sLamps on hls paw 1haLll Leach hlm Lo be hungry aL Lhe same Llme
as people lLs good for a laugh when he crawls under Lhe bed whlmperlng for all hes worLh 1haLs Lhe
slgnal noLhlng arouses a drunken woman so much as an anlmal ln paln and bulls arenL always handy 1he
argumenL sLarLs up agaln vlndlcLlve compulslve dellrlous Lhe wlfe Lakes Lhe lead hurllng shrlll calls Lo
baLLle aL Lhe male 1hen comes Lhe melee Lhe smashup 1he uproar descends on Lhe courL Lhe echo swlrls
Lhrough Lhe halfdarkness 1he chlldren yap wlLh horror 1heyve found ouL whaL Mama and apa have ln
Lhem! 1helr yells draw down parenLal Lhunders
l spenL whole days walLlng for whaL someLlmes happens afLer Lhese famlly scenes Lo happen
lL happened on Lhe fourLh floor across from my wlndow ln Lhe house on Lhe oLher slde
l couldnL see a Lhlng buL l heard lL clearly
1heres an end Lo everyLhlng lLs noL always deaLh lLs ofLen someLhlng else and posslbly worse especlally
when Lhere are chlldren
1haLs where Lhose LenanLs llved aL Lhe level where Lhe shadow beglns Lo pale lf Lhe faLher and moLher
were alone on Lhe days when Lhls klnd of Lhlng happened Lheyd flrsL have a long argumenL and Lhen
Lhered be a long sllence 1he slLuaLlon was bulldlng up 1hey had a bone Lo plck wlLh Lhe llLLle glrl 1hey
called her She knew She sLarLed whlmperlng rlghL away She knew whaL she was ln for 1o [udge by her
volce she musL have been abouL Len lL Look me qulLe a few Llmes before l undersLood whaL Lhe Lwo of
Lhem dld Lo her
llrsL Lhey Lled her up lL Look a long Llme llke geLLlng ready for an operaLlon 1haL gave Lhem a klck ?ou
llLLle skunk! crled Lhe faLher 1he fllLhy sluL! wenL Lhe moLher Well Leach you! Lheyd shouL LogeLher
and bawl her ouL for all sorLs of Lhlngs LhaL Lhey probably made up l Lhlnk Lhey Lled her Lo Lhe bed posLs
Meanwhlle Lhe chlld was squeaklng llke a mouse ln a Lrap 1haL wonL help you you llLLle scum ?ouve goL
lL comlng! Ch yes! ?ouve goL lL comlng! 1hen came a volley of oaLhs youd have LhoughL she was curslng
aL a horse All sLeamed up SLop Lalklng Mama sald Lhe llLLle glrl genLly SLop Lalklng Mama! PlL me buL
sLop Lalklng! 1hey gave her a Lerrlble Lhrashlng l llsLened Lo Lhe end Lo make sure l wasnL mlsLaken LhaL
Lhls was really happenlng l couldnL have eaLen my beans wlLh LhaL golng on l couldnL close Lhe wlndow
elLher l was no good for anyLhlng l was helpless l [usL sLayed Lhere llsLenlng same as everywhere and
always SLlll l belleved l galned sLrengLh llsLenlng Lo such Lhlngs Lhe sLrengLh Lo go furLher a sLrange sorL of
sLrengLh nexL Llme ld be able Lo go down even deeper and lower and llsLen Lo oLher plalnLs LhaL l hadnL
heard before or had had dlfflculLy ln undersLandlng because beyond Lhe plalnLs we hear Lhere always
seem Lo be oLhers LhaL we havenL yeL heard or undersLood
When Lhey had beaLen her so much she couldnL howl anymore a llLLle sob conLlnued Lo come ouL every
Llme she breaLhed
And Lhen l heard Lhe man saylng
All rlghL old glrl! SLep llvely! ln Lhere! As happy as a lark
Pe sald LhaL Lo Lhe moLher and Lhen Lhe door lnLo Lhe nexL room would slam behlnd Lhem Cnce she sald
Lo hlm l heard her Ch !ullen l love you so much l could eaL your shlL even lf you made Lurds Lhls blg "
1haL was Lhelr way of maklng love Lhelr conclerge Lold me Lheyd do lL ln Lhe klLchen leanlng agalnsL Lhe
slnk 1hey couldnL do lL any oLher way
l learned Lhose Lhlngs abouL Lhem llLLle by llLLle ln Lhe sLreeL When l meL Lhem Lhe Lhree of Lhem LogeLher
Lhere was noLhlng Lo aLLracL noLlce 1heyd be ouL for a walk llke a normal famlly And now and Lhen ld see
Lhe faLher ouLslde hls shop on Lhe corner of Lhe 8oulevard olncare where Lhey sold shoes for senslLlve
feeL Pe was Lhe head salesman
MosL of Lhe Llme our courL had only unrelleved horrors Lo offer Lspeclally ln Lhe summer lL Lhundered wlLh
LhreaLs and echoes and blows wlLh falllng ob[ecLs and people and unlnLelllglble lnsulLs 1he sun never
reached Lhe boLLom 1he walls seemed Lo be palnLed wlLh dense blue shadows especlally ln Lhe corners
1he conclerges had Lhelr own llLLle prlvles clusLered llke so many beehlves AL nlghL when Lhey wenL ouL Lo
pee Lheyd bump lnLo Lhe garbage cans whlch would boom llke Lhunder
Washlng sLrung from wlndow Lo wlndow would be Lrylng Lo dry
AfLer dlnner when Lhere were no bruLallLles under way whaL you heard was mosLly argumenLs abouL Lhe
races 8uL Lhose sporLlng polemlcs also ended badly as ofLen as noL wlLh assorLed swaLs and wallops and
behlnd one of Lhe wlndows for one reason or anoLher someone was always knocked cold ln Lhe end
ln Lhe summer everyLhlng smelled sLrong 1here was no alr lefL ln Lhe courL only smells 1he prevalllng
smell by far ls caullflower A caullflower can beaL Len LolleLs even lf Lheyre overflowlng lLs a known facL
1he ones on Lhe Lhlrd floor were always overflowlng Madame Cezanne Lhe conclerge aL no 8 would come
up wlLh her raLLan unplugger ld waLch her worklng away and ln Lhe end we goL Lo Lalklng lf l were you
she advlsed me ld Lake care of Lhe pregnanL women on Lhe quleL Some of Lhe women ln Lhls
nelghborhood really llve lL up ?oud hardly belleve lL! 1heyd llke noLhlng beLLer Lhan Lo use your
servlces 1ake lL from me lLs beLLer Lhan LreaLlng cheap clerks for varlcose velns 8esldes Lhey pay
Madame Cezanne had an enormous arlsLocraLlc conLempL l donL know where she goL lL for anybody who
1he LenanLs here are never saLlsfled youd Lhlnk Lhey were ln [all Lheyve goL Lo make Lrouble for
everybody! Cne day Lhelr LolleLs are plugged up AnoLher day Lhelr gas leaks Cr Lhelr leLLers are
belng opened! Always maklng nulsances of Lhemselves esLs! 1he oLher day one of Lhem spaL ln hls
renL envelope uld you ever hear Lhe llke?"
SomeLlmes shed have Lo glve up Lrylng Lo unplug a LolleL lL was Loo hard l donL know whaL Lhey puL ln
Lhere buL aL leasL Lhey shouldnL leL lL dry! l know Lhem 1hey always send for me Loo laLe lf you ask
me Lhey do lL on purpose! ln Lhe place where l used Lo work lL was so hard Lhey had Lo melL Lhe plpe!
l canL lmaglne whaL Lhose people eaL lLs double sLrengLh "
?oud have a hard Llme Lalklng me ouL of Lhe
ldea LhaL 8oblnson wasnL mosLly Lo blame for my Lrouble sLarLlng up agaln AL flrsL l dldnL pay much
aLLenLlon Lo my spells l somehow kepL dragglng myself from one paLlenL Lo Lhe nexL buL ld become even
uneasler Lhan before more and more so llke ln new ?ork and l was beglnnlng Lo sleep even worse Lhan
ln shorL meeLlng 8oblnson agaln had glven me a shock and l seemed Lo be falllng slck agaln
WlLh Lhe mlsery palnLed all over hls face l felL he was brlnglng back a bad dream LhaL ld been unable Lo geL
rld of all Lhose years lL was drlvlng me nuLs
All of a sudden he Lurned up ld never see Lhe lasL of hlm Pe musL have been looklng for me ln Lhe
nelghborhood l cerLalnly wasnL looklng for hlm Pe was bound Lo come back agaln and make me Lhlnk
abouL hls roLLen llfe AcLually everyLhlng consplred Lo make me Lhlnk of hls repulslve subsLance Lven Lhose
people l saw ouL Lhe wlndow who dldnL look llke anyLhlng much [usL walklng ln Lhe sLreeL chewlng Lhe faL
ln doorways rubblng shoulders made me Lhlnk of hlm l knew whaL Lhey were afLer and whaL Lhey were
hldlng behlnd Lhelr lnnocenL look 1o klll and geL kllled LhaLs whaL Lhey wanLed noL all aL once of course
buL llLLle by llLLle llke 8oblnson wlLh all Lhe old sorrows Lhey could summon up all Lhe new mlserles and
sLlll nameless haLreds excepL when Lhey do lL wlLh ouLandouL war and Lhen lLs qulcker
l dldnL even dare go ouL for fear of meeLlng hlm
My paLlenLs would have Lo send for me Lwo or Lhree Llmes ln a row before ld make up my mlnd Lo vlslL
Lhem usually Lhey had called ln someone else by Lhe Llme l goL Lhere My head was a shambles llke llfe
lLself l was called Lo 12 8ue SalnLvlncenL fourLh floor where ld been only once before AcLually Lhey
came Lo geL me ln a car l recognlzed Lhe grandfaLher rlghL away he wlped hls feeL elaboraLely on my
doormaL A furLlve Lype gray and sLooped hls grandson was slck and he wanLed me Lo hurry
l remembered hls daughLer Loo anoLher sLrapplng wench a llLLle faded buL sLrong and sllenL she always
came home Lo her parenLs for her aborLlons 1hey never scolded her buL all Lhe same Lhey wlshed shed
flnally geL marrled all Lhe more so slnce she already had a llLLle boy of Lwo sLaylng wlLh Lhe grandparenLs
lor no reason aL all Lhls chlld was always geLLlng slck and when he was slck Lhe grandfaLher Lhe
grandmoLher and Lhe moLher wepL LogeLher WhaL made Lhem weep all Lhe more was LhaL he had no
leglLlmaLe faLher lLs aL Llmes llke LhaL LhaL famllles are mosL affllcLed by lrregular slLuaLlons 1he
grandparenLs were convlnced wlLhouL qulLe admlLLlng lL Lo Lhemselves LhaL llleglLlmaLe chlldren are more
dellcaLe and prone Lo lllness Lhan oLhers
1he faLher aL any raLe Lhe puLaLlve faLher had cleared ouL for good 1hey had Lalked marrlage Lo hlm so
much LhaL he couldnL Lake lL anymore Ped beaL lL so fasL LhaL lf he was sLlll runnlng he musL have been far
away by Lhen nobody could undersLand why he had run ouL on her llke LhaL leasL of all Lhe glrl herself
because he had really en[oyed fucklng her
now LhaL Lhe flckle lover had gone all Lhree of Lhem conLemplaLed Lhe chlld and blubbered She had glven
herself Lo LhaL man body and soul as Lhey say ln her oplnlon LhaL explalned everyLhlng lL was bound Lo
happen 1he baby had come ouL of her body and lefL her Lhlghs all wrlnkled 1he mlnd ls saLlsfled wlLh
phrases buL noL Lhe body Lhe body ls more fasLldlous lL wanLs muscles A body always Lells Lhe LruLh
LhaLs why lLs usually depresslng and dlsgusLlng Lo look aL lLs Lrue LhaL lve rarely known a slngle chlldblrLh
Lo demollsh so much youLh All LhaL moLher had lefL ln a manner of speaklng was feellngs and a soul no
one wanLed her anymore
8efore LhaL clandesLlne blrLh Lhe famlly had llved ln Lhe lllles du Calvalre quarLer Lhey had llved Lhere for
years lf Lhey exlled Lhemselves Lo 8ancy lL wasnL for Lhe pleasure of lL lL was Lo hlde Lo geL Lhemselves
forgoLLen Lo dlsappear
As soon as lL became lmposslble Lo conceal Lhe pregnancy from Lhe nelghbors Lhey declded Lo leave Lhelr
arls nelghborhood Lo avold all commenLs A removal for honors sake
ln 8ancy Lhey dldnL need Lhe respecL of Lhelr nelghbors ln Lhe flrsL place no one knew Lhem ln 8ancy and
ln Lhe second place Lhe munlclpal governmenL was known all over lrance for lLs abomlnable pollLlcs noL Lo
mlnce words Lhey were anarchlsLs Lhugs ln LhaL klnd of communlLy publlc oplnlon ls of no accounL
1he famlly had punlshed Lhemselves volunLarlly cuLLlng Lhemselves off from all Lhelr old relaLlons and old
frlends 1helr Lragedy was compleLe noLhlng more Lo lose so Lhey sald ueclassed When youre
deLermlned Lo lose your name you go among Lhe common people
1hey found no faulL wlLh anyone 1hey merely Lrled Lo dlscover by feeble llLLle acLs of rebelllon whaL
uesLlny could have had ln mlnd Lhe day lL had played Lhem such a dlrLy Lrlck
Llvlng ln 8ancy gave Lhe daughLer only one consolaLlon buL LhaL was a blg one now she could Lalk freely Lo
all and sundry abouL her new responslblllLles ln deserLlng her her lover had awakened a passlon for
herolsm and slngularlLy LhaL had laln dormanL ln her naLure As soon as she felL sure LhaL she would never
for Lhe resL of her days lead Lhe same sorL of llfe as mosL women of her class and background and LhaL she
would always be ln a poslLlon Lo lnvoke Lhe Lragedy of a llfe rulned by her very flrsL love she ad[usLed wlLh
alacrlLy Lo Lhe greaL dlsasLer LhaL had befallen her and all Lhlngs consldered Lhe ravages of faLe became
Lraglcally welcome She glorlfled ln her unmarrledmoLher acL
ln Lhe dlnlng room as her faLher and l wenL ln Lhe economy llghLlng sLopped aL halfLlnLs and faces
appeared only as pale spoLs blobs of flesh mumbllng words LhaL hung suspended ln a penumbra heavy wlLh
Lhe smell of old pepper LhaL all helrloom furnlLure exudes
1he chlld lylng swaddled on hls back ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe Lable leL me palpaLe hlm 1o begln wlLh l pressed
Lhe wall of hls abdomen ever so carefully and slowly from Lhe navel Lo Lhe LesLlcles and Lhen sLlll very
gravely l ausculLaLed hlm
Pls hearLbeaL was llke a klLLens sharp and nervous 1hen Lhe chlld had enough of my explorlng flngers and
began Lo yell as chlldren can do aL LhaL age lncredlbly 1haL was Loo much Slnce 8oblnsons reLurn ld been
feellng very funny ln body and mlnd and Lhe llLLle lnnocenLs screams made an abomlnable lmpresslon on
me WhaL screams! Peavens above whaL screams! l was aL Lhe end of my rope
AnoLher ldea musL have helped Lo provoke my ldloLlc behavlor ln my exasperaLlon l couldnL sLop myself
from blurLlng ouL all Lhe rancor and dlsgusL l had been holdlng ln for Loo long
Pey l sald Lo LhaL llLLle bellower donL be ln such a hurry you llLLle fool youll have plenLy of Llme for
bellowlng! never fear you llLLle ldloL Lherell be Llme Lo spare Save your sLrengLh 1herell be enough
mlsery Lo melL your eyes and your head and everyLhlng else lf you donL waLch ouL!"
1he grandmoLher gave a sLarL
WhaL are you saylng docLor? l repeaLed slmply
1here wlll be plenLy!"
WhaL? she asked ln horror lenLy of whaL?"
?ou have Lo undersLand! l sald ?ou have Lo undersLand ?oure always havlng Lhlngs explalned Lo you!
1haLs Lhe whole Lrouble! 1ry Lo undersLand! Make an efforL!"
WhaL wlll be lefL WhaLs he saylng? Lhey all Lhree asked one anoLher 1he daughLer wlLh Lhe
responslblllLles made a sLrange face and sLarLed emlLLlng prodlglously long screams Pere was a marvelous
occaslon for a flL and she wasnL golng Lo mlss lL She meanL buslness She klcked! She choked! She
squlnLed horrlbly! ld done lL all rlghL! ?ou should have seen her! Mama hes mad! She bellowed so hard
she almosL choked 1he docLors gone mad! Mama Lake my baby away from hlm! She was savlng her
l shall never know why she began ln her aglLaLlon Lo Lake on a 8asque accenL Pes saylng such awful
Lhlngs! Mameng! Pes lnsane! "
1hey snaLched Lhe baby ouL of my hands as lf Lhey were resculng hlm from Lhe flames 1he grandfaLher
who had been so deferenLlal only a shorL whlle ago unhooked an enormous mahogany LhermomeLer from
Lhe wall lL was as blg as a club And he pursued me aL a dlsLance Lo Lhe door whlch he slammed
vlolenLly behlnd me wlLh a blg klck
naLurally Lhey Look advanLage of Lhe lncldenL noL Lo pay for my call
When l found myself back on Lhe sLreeL l wasnL exacLly pleased wlLh whaL had happened noL so much
because of my repuLaLlon whlch couldnL have been worse ln Lhe nelghborhood Lhan people had already
made lL wlLh no help from me as because of 8oblnson from whom l had hoped Lo dellver myself wlLh my
ouLbursL of frankness Lo flnd Lhe sLrengLh never Lo see hlm agaln by dellberaLely creaLlng a scandal by
sLlrrlng up Lhls hldeous scene wlLh myself
Peres whaL l flgured by my llLLle experlmenL ld see how much of a sLlnk lLs posslble Lo klck up aL one
Lhrow 1he Lrouble wlLh scenes and LanLrums ls LhaL youre never flnlshed you never know how far youll be
forced Lo go ln your frankness WhaL people are sLlll hldlng from you And whaL Lheyll show you some
day lf you llve long enough lf you go far enough lnLo Lhe hearL of Lhelr cockandbull sLorles 1he
whole buslness would have Lo be sLarLed all over agaln
l Loo [usL Lhen was ln a hurry Lo hlde l sLarLed for home by way of Lhe lmpasse ClbeL Lhen l Look Lhe 8ue
valenLlnes lL was qulLe a dlsLance 1lme Lo change my mlnd l headed for Lhe llghLs Cn Lhe lace
1ranslLolre l meL erldon Lhe lamp llghLer We exchanged a few lnnocenL remarks Cn your way Lo Lhe
movles docLor? he asked me 1haL gave me Lhe ldea A good one l LhoughL
1he bus geLs you Lhere qulcker Lhan Lhe MeLro AfLer LhaL shameful lncldenL ld have been glad Lo leave
8ancy for good lf ld been able Lo
When you sLay Loo long ln Lhe same place Lhlngs and people go Lo poL on you Lhey roL and sLarL sLlnklng
for your speclal beneflL
ln splLe of everyLhlng lL was [usL as well LhaL l
wenL back Lo 8ancy nexL day because of 8eberL who fell slck [usL Lhen My colleague lrollchon had [usL
gone off on hls vacaLlon 8eberLs aunL heslLaLed Lhen she asked me Lo Lake care of her nephew afLer all
probably because l charged less Lhan any oLher docLor she knew
lL was afLer LasLer 1he weaLher was looklng up 1he flrsL souLh wlnds were passlng over 8ancy Lhe ones
LhaL blew all Lhe sooL from Lhe facLorles down on our wlndowpanes
8eberL was slck for weeks and weeks l wenL Lo see hlm Lwlce a day 1he nelghborhood people would walL
for me ouLslde Lhe lodge preLendlng Lo be [usL passlng by and on Lhe doorsLeps of Lhelr houses lL gave
Lhem someLhlng Lo do eople would come a long way Lo flnd ouL lf he was beLLer or worse 1he sunshlne
has Loo many Lhlngs Lo pass Lhrough lL never glves Lhe sLreeL anyLhlng beLLer Lhan an auLumn llghL full of
regreLs and clouds
eople gave me loLs of advlce ln connecLlon wlLh 8eberL 1he facL ls Lhe whole nelghborhood Look an
lnLeresL ln hls case Some LhoughL well oLhers poorly of my lnLelllgence When l wenL lnLo Lhe lodge a
crlLlcal raLher hosLlle and mosL of all crushlngly sLupld sllence seL ln 1he lodge was always full of Lhe aunLs
cronles lL smelled sLrongly of peLLlcoaLs and rabblL plss Lach had her own favorlLe docLor who was
cleverer and more learned Lhan any oLher l presenLed only one advanLage buL one LhaLs hard Lo forglve l
charged hardly anyLhlng A freegraLls docLor ls bad for Lhe repuLaLlon of a paLlenL and hls famlly however
poor Lhey may be
8eberL wasnL dellrlous yeL he had [usL losL all deslre Lo move Pe was loslng welghL by Lhe day A blL of
yellow flabby flesh sLlll clung Lo hls bones and qulvered from Lop Lo boLLom every Llme hls hearL beaL Ped
goL so Lhln ln over a monLh of lllness LhaL hls hearL seemed Lo be all over hls body Ped look aL me wlLh a
lucld smlle when l came Lo see hlm SweeLly he ran a LemperaLure of 102 Lhen of 103 and Lhere he lay wlLh
a penslve look on hls face for days and weeks
AfLer a whlle 8eberLs aunL had shuL up and sLopped boLherlng us She had sald everyLhlng she knew 1haL
Look Lhe wlnd ouL of her salls so shed go and blubber ln one corner of her lodge afLer anoLher Crlef had
come Lo her when she ran ouL of words and she dldnL seem Lo know whaL Lo do wlLh lL Shed Lry Lo wlpe lL
off wlLh her handkerchlef buL lL came back ln her LhroaL all mlxed wlLh Lears and shed sLarL all over agaln
Shed geL lL all over her and manage Lo be a llLLle dlrLler Lhan usual 1haL would upseL her and shed cry ouL
Ch dear! Ch dear! 1haL was all She had crled so much she was exhausLed her arms would fall Lo her
sldes and shed sLand Lhere ln fronL of me absoluLely bewlldered
8uL Lhen afLer all shed go back lnLo her grlef and glve herself a [olL and sLarL sobblng agaln 1hese comlngs
and golngs ln her mlsery wenL on for weeks l couldnL dlspel Lhe feellng LhaL Lhls lllness would end badly lL
was a klnd of mallgnanL Lyphold LhaL baffled all my efforLs baLhs serum dry dleL vacclnes noLhlng
helped l dld everyLhlng l could Lhlnk of all ln valn 8eberL was golng belng carrled away lrreslsLlbly
smlllng all Lhe whlle Pe was hlgh up balanced on Lop of hls fever and l was down below maklng a fool of
myself naLurally a loL of people were advlslng Lhe aunL presslng her Lo flre me ln no uncerLaln Lerms and
call ln anoLher more lmposlng and more experlenced docLor ln a hurry
1he lncldenL of Lhe glrl wlLh Lhe responslblllLles had gone Lhe rounds and been llberally commenLed on
1he whole nelghborhood was gargllng wlLh lL
8uL slnce Lhe oLher docLors once lnformed of Lhe naLure of 8eberLs lllness showed no eagerness Lo Lake
Lhe case l was kepL on ln Lhe end As long as 8eberL had fallen Lo my loL my colleagues flgured l mlghL as
well see hlm Lhrough
All l could do was go Lo Lhe blsLroL now and Lhen and phone varlous docLors ln Lhe arls hosplLals wlLh
whom l was more or less acqualnLed and ask Lhose sage wldely respecLed lumlnarles whaL Lhey would do
lf faced wlLh a case of Lyphold llke Lhe one LhaL was drlvlng me mad 1hey all gave me excellenL lneffecLual
advlce buL all Lhe same lL pleased me Lo hear Lhem maklng an efforL free of charge for Lhe beneflL of Lhe
unknown chlld l had Laken under my wlng AfLer a whlle you sLarL Laklng pleasure ln Lhe meresL Lrlfles Lhe
small consolaLlons llfe delgns Lo glve us
Whlle l was busylng myself wlLh such subLleLles 8eberLs aunL was collapslng on every chalr and sLalrcase ln
Lhe house shed emerge from her daze only Lo eaL 8uL she never mlssed a meal Per nelghbors wouldnL
have leL her forgeL 1hey waLched over her 1hey sLuffed her beLween sobs lLll keep your sLrengLh up!
Lhey declared She even began Lo puL on welghL
Speaklng of 8russels sprouLs Lhe smell rose Lo orglasLlc helghLs aL Lhe peak of 8eberLs lllness lL was Lhe
season Lveryone was maklng her presenLs of 8russels sprouLs ready cooked and sLeamlng hoL lLs Lrue
she was glad Lo admlL Lhey glve me sLrengLh And besldes Lhey make me urlnaLe"
8efore bedLlme because of Lhe doorbell so as Lo sleep llghLly and hear Lhe very flrsL rlng shed flll herself
full of coffee 1haL way Lhe LenanLs wouldnL wake 8eberL by rlnglng Lwo or Lhree Llmes asslng by Lhe
house ln Lhe evenlng ld go ln Lo see lf maybe lL was all over Shed speculaLe ouL loud uonL you Lhlnk lL
may have been Lhe rum and camomlle Lea he drank aL Lhe frulL sLore Lhe day of Lhe blcycle race LhaL made
hlm slck? 1haL ldea had been plagulng her from Lhe sLarL 1he sLupld fool
Camomlle! 8eberL murmured falnLly an echo submerged ln hls fever Why Lry Lo Lell her dlfferenL? ld go
Lhrough Lhe Lwo or Lhree professlonal moLlons she expecLed of me and Lhen ld go and face Lhe nlghL noL
aL all pleased wlLh myself because llke my moLher l could never feel enLlrely lnnocenL of any horrlble Lhlng
LhaL happened
AbouL Lhe sevenLeenLh day l declded LhaL lL mlghL noL be a bad ldea Lo drop ln aL Lhe !oseph 8lodureL
lnsLlLuLe68 and ask Lhem whaL Lhey LhoughL abouL a Lyphold case of Lhls klnd Maybe Lheyd glve me a blL
of advlce or recommend some vacclne 1haL way lf 8eberL were Lo dle ld have done everyLhlng posslble
Lrled everyLhlng however ouL of Lhe way and Lhen perhaps l wouldnL feel eLernally gullLy AL abouL eleven
oclock one mornlng l arrlved aL Lhe lnsLlLuLe near La vllleLLe aL Lhe oLher end of arls llrsL Lhey senL me
wanderlng Lhrough laboraLorles and more laboraLorles looklng for a man of sclence 1here wasnL a soul ln
Lhose laboraLorles aL LhaL hour nelLher laymen nor men of sclence only varlous ob[ecLs ln wlld dlsorder
Lhe guLLed bodles of small anlmals clgareLLe buLLs chlpped gas [eLs cases and [ars wlLh mlce suffocaLlng
lnslde Lhem reLorLs bladders broken sLools books dusL and more clgareLLe buLLs whlch mlngled wlLh
Lhe effluvla of Lhe urlnals made up Lhe prevalllng smell Slnce l was early l LhoughL whlle l was aL lL ld go
and vlslL Lhe Lomb of LhaL greaL sclenLlsL !oseph 8lodureL whlch was rlghL Lhere ln Lhe basemenL of Lhe
lnsLlLuLe ln wlLh Lhe gold and marble A bourgeolso8yzanLlne fanLasy ln Lhe besL of LasLe! 1he collecLlon
was Laken on your way ouL of Lhe crypL and Lhe guard was grumbllng because someone had sllpped hlm a
8elglan coln ln Lhe lasL halfcenLury Lhe shlnlng example of Lhls 8lodureL had led any number of young
people Lo choose Lhe sclenLlflc career And Lhe sclenLlflc career had produced as many fallures as Lhe
ConservaLory AfLer a cerLaln number of years of fallure sclenLlsLs Lurn ouL Lo be preLLy much allke ln Lhe
mass graves of Lhe greaL debcle a uocLor of Medlclne ls as good as a rlx de 8ome 1he only dlfference ls
LhaL Lhey donL Lake Lhe bus aL exacLly Lhe same Llme of day 1haLs all
l had Lo walL qulLe a long whlle ln Lhe garden of Lhe lnsLlLuLe a comblnaLlon of prlson yard and clLy square
wlLh flowers carefully llned up along mallgnanLly decoraLed walls
AL lasL some underllngs began Lo Lurn up Several dragglng Lhelr feeL llsLlessly were carrylng provlslons
from Lhe nearby markeL ln large shopplng bags 1hen ln small unshaven whlsperlng groups Lhe men of
sclence came saunLerlng Lhrough Lhe gaLe more slowly and dlffldenLly Lhan Lhelr humble asslsLanLs and
dlspersed down dlfferenL corrldors scraplng Lhe palnL off Lhe walls as Lhey passed Crayhalred umbrella
carrylng schoolboys sLupefled by Lhe pedanLlc rouLlne and lnLensely revolLlng experlmenLs rlveLed by
sLarvaLlon wages for Lhelr whole adulL llves Lo Lhese llLLle mlcrobe klLchens Lhere Lo spend lnLermlnable
days warmlng up mlxLures of vegeLable scraplngs asphyxlaLed gulnea plgs and oLher nondescrlpL garbage
1hey Lhemselves when alls sald and done were noLhlng buL monsLrous old rodenLs ln overcoaLs Clory ln
our Llme smlles only on Lhe rlch men of sclence or noL All Lhose plebelans of 8esearch had Lo keep Lhem
golng was Lhelr fear of loslng Lhelr nlches ln Lhls heaLed lllusLrlous and comparLmenLed garbage pall WhaL
meanL mosL Lo Lhem was Lhe LlLle of offlclal sclenLlsL Lhanks Lo whlch Lhe pharmaclsLs of Lhe clLy sLlll
LrusLed Lhem more or less Lo analyse for Lhe mosL nlggardly pay lncldenLally Lhelr cusLomers urlne and
spuLum 1he sllmy wages of sclence
Arrlvlng ln hls comparLmenL Lhe meLhodlc researcher would spend a few momenLs gazlng rlLually aL Lhe
blllous decaylng vlscera of lasL weeks rabblL whlch was on classlc and permanenL dlsplay ln one corner of
Lhe room a puLrld fonL When Lhe smell became really lnLolerable anoLher rabblL would be sacrlflced buL
noL before because of Lhe fanaLlc LhrlfL of rofessor !aunlsseL69 who was Lhen SecreLary Ceneral of Lhe
1hanks Lo Lhls LhrlfL some of Lhe roLLlng anlmals gave rlse Lo unbellevable byproducLs and derlvaLlves lLs
all a maLLer of hablL Some of Lhe more pracLlced laboraLory Lechnlclans had become so accusLomed Lo Lhe
smell of puLrefacLlon LhaL Lhey would have had no ob[ecLlon Lo cooklng ln an operaLlonal coffln 1hese
modesL auxlllarles of exalLed sclenLlflc research someLlmes ouLdld Lhe LhrlfL of rofessor !aunlsseL hlmself
Laklng advanLage of Lhe 8unsen burners Lo cook Lhemselves counLless ragouLs and oLher sLlll rlskler
AfLer absenLly examlnlng Lhe vlscera of Lhe rlLual gulnea plg and rabblL Lhe men of sclence slowly
proceeded Lo Lhe second acL of Lhelr sclenLlflc dally llfe Lhe smoklng of clgareLLes 1hus Lhey sLrove Lo
neuLrallze Lhe amblenL sLench and Lhelr boredom wlLh Lobacco smoke and managed from buLL Lo buLL Lo
geL Lhrough Lhe day AL flve oclock Lhey puL Lhe varlous puLrefacLlons back ln Lhe ramshackle lncubaLor
cablneL Lo keep Lhem warm CcLave Lhe Lechnlclan hld Lhe sLrlng beans he had cooked behlnd a
newspaper Lo geL Lhem safely pasL Lhe conclerge SubLerfuges 1aklng Lhem home Lo Cargan all ready for
supper 1he man of sclence hls masLer was sLlll wrlLlng a llLLle someLhlng dlffldenLly doubLlngly ln one
corner of hls laboraLory book wlLh a vlew Lo a forLhcomlng and uLLerly polnLless paper LhaL he would feel
obllged Lo presenL before long Lo some lnflnlLely lmparLlal and dlslnLeresLed Academy and LhaL would serve
Lo [usLlfy hls presence aL Lhe lnsLlLuLe and Lhe meager advanLages lL conferred
A Lrue man of sclence Lakes aL leasL LwenLy years on an average Lo make Lhe greaL dlscovery LhaL ls Lo
convlnce hlmself LhaL one mans lunacy ls noL necessarlly anoLher mans dellghL and LhaL all of us here
below are bored wlLh Lhe bees ln our nelghbors bonneLs
1he coldesL mosL raLlonal sclenLlflc madness ls also Lhe mosL lnLolerable 8uL when a man has acqulred a
cerLaln ablllLy Lo subslsL even raLher scanLlly ln a cerLaln nlche wlLh Lhe help of a few grlmaces he musL
elLher keep aL lL or reslgn hlmself Lo dylng Lhe deaLh of a gulnea plg PablLs are acqulred more qulckly Lhan
courage especlally Lhe hablL of fllllng ones sLomach
l ransacked Lhe lnsLlLuLe for arap[ne ld come all Lhe way from 8ancy Lo see hlm so naLurally l kepL on
looklng lL was no small order l made several false sLarLs heslLaLlng a long whlle before chooslng among so
many corrldors and doors
araplne was an old bachelor he never aLe lunch and l doubL lf he aLe dlnner more Lhan Lwo or Lhree Llmes
a week buL Lhen enormously wlLh Lhe frenzy of Lhe 8usslan sLudenL all of whose ouLlandlsh ways he had
araplne was an undlspuLed emlnence ln hls speclal fleld Pe knew all Lhere was Lo know abouL Lyphold ln
anlmals as well as human belngs Pls repuLaLlon wenL back LwenLy years Lo Lhe day when cerLaln Cerman
auLhors clalmed Lo have lsolaLed Lhe LberLhella ln Lhe vaglnal excreLa of an elghLeenmonLhold glrl so
creaLlng an enormous sLlr ln Lhe Palls of 1ruLh Cnly Loo dellghLed Lo Lake up Lhe challenge ln Lhe name of
Lhe naLlonal lnsLlLuLe araplne had ouLdone Lhose 1euLonlc braggarLs by breedlng Lhe same mlcrobes now
ln lLs pure form ln Lhe sperm of a sevenLyLwoyearold lnvalld lnsLanLly famous he managed Lo hold Lhe
llmellghL for Lhe resL of hls llfe by publlshlng a few unreadable columns ln varlous medlcal [ournals 1hls he
had done wlLhouL dlfflculLy ever slnce hls day of audaclLy and good forLune
1he serlous sclenLlflc publlc LrusLed hlm lmpllclLly and consequenLly had no need Lo read hlm lf Lhose
people were Lo sLarL geLLlng crlLlcal no furLher progress would be posslble 1hey would spend a whole year
over every page
When l came Lo Lhe door of hls cell Serge araplne was splLLlng sLeady sLreams lnLo all four corners of hls
laboraLory wlLh a grlmace of such dlsgusL LhaL lL made you wonder araplne shaved now and Lhen buL he
always had enough halr on hls cheeks Lo make hlm look llke an escaped convlcL Pe was always shlverlng or
aL leasL he seemed Lo be Lhough he never removed hls overcoaL whlch presenLed a large assorLmenL of
spoLs and sLlll more of dandruff whlch he would scaLLer far and wlde wlLh llLLle fllcks of hls flngernalls aL
Lhe same Llme brlnglng hls always osclllaLlng forelock back lnLo poslLlon over hls redandgreen nose
ln Lhe course of my laboraLory work ln medlcal school araplne had glven me some lnsLrucLlon ln Lhe use of
Lhe mlcroscope and had shown me unquesLlonable klndness on several occaslons l hoped he had noL
forgoLLen me compleLely slnce Lhose remoLe days and LhaL he mlghL consenL Lo glve me valuable advlce ln
connecLlon wlLh 8eberL wlLh whose case l was really obsessed
undoubLedly l was much more lnLeresLed ln prevenLlng 8eberL from dylng Lhan lf he had been an adulL
?ou never mlnd very much when an adulL passes on lf noLhlng else you say Lo yourself lLs one less sLlnker
on earLh buL wlLh a chlld you can never be so sure 1heres always Lhe fuLure
Cnce acqualnLed wlLh my dlfflculLles araplne asked noLhlng beLLer Lhan Lo help me and Lo orlenL my
perllous Lherapy buL unforLunaLely ln LwenLy years he had learned so many so dlverse and so ofLen
conLradlcLory Lhlngs abouL Lyphold LhaL by LhaL Llme he was [usL abouL unable Lo formulaLe any clear and
deflnlLe oplnlon concernlng LhaL mosL commonplace allmenL and lLs LreaLmenL
llrsL of all my dear colleague he sald uo you belleve ln serums? Puh? Clve me your honesL oplnlon
And vacclnes? WhaL do you really Lhlnk? Some of Lhe besL mlnds Loday have no use for vacclnes aL
all 1haL of course ls a bold way of Lhlnklng ?es lndeed buL even so ln Lhe lasL analysls uonL
you Lhlnk Lheres a cerLaln LruLh ln LhaL sorL of negaLlvlsm? "
1he senLences lssued from hls mouLh ln Lerrlfylng bursLs amld avalanches of Lremendous 8s
Whlle he was sLruggllng llke a llon agalnsL oLher enraged and desperaLe hypoLheses !aunlsseL Lhe
lllusLrlous SecreLary Ceneral of Lhe lnsLlLuLe who was sLlll allve aL Lhe Llme passed our wlndows frownlng
AL Lhe slghL of hlm araplne Lurned lf posslble paler Lhan ever and abrupLly changed Lhe sub[ecL ln hls
hasLe Lo show me all Lhe dlsgusL aroused ln hlm by Lhe mere dally slghL of Lhls !aunlsseL who was glorlfled
by [usL abouL everyone else ln half a second he dlsposed of !aunlsseL as a crook and manlac of Lhe flrsL
waLer accuslng hlm of enough monsLrous unprecedenLed and secreL crlmes Lo flll a penal colony for a
l was powerless Lo sLop araplne from glvlng me hundreds of haLerldden polnLers abouL Lhe clownlsh Lrade
of medlcal research whlch he was obllged Lo pracLlce lf he wanLed Lo eaL 1hls haLred of hls was more
preclse more sclenLlflc you mlghL say Lhan Lhe haLreds emanaLlng from oLher men occupylng slmllar
poslLlons ln offlces or shops
Pe spoke ln a very loud volce and l was amazed aL hls ouLspokenness Pls Lechnlclan was llsLenlng Lo us
Pe Loo had flnlshed hls blL of cookery and was sLlll movlng abouL for forms sake beLween lncubaLor and
LesL Lubes buL he had grown so accusLomed Lo llsLenlng Lo araplne pourlng ouL hls more or less dally
maledlcLlons LhaL he had come Lo regard Lhese Llrades however exLravaganL as absoluLely academlc and
meanlngless CerLaln llLLle prlvaLe experlmenLs LhaL Lhls Lechnlclan pursued wlLh greaL serlousness ln one of
Lhe laboraLorys lncubaLors sLruck hlm on Lhe oLher hand as prodlglously and dellclously lnsLrucLlve
compared Lo araplnes ouLpourlngs araplnes rages ln no way Lempered hls enLhuslasm 8efore leavlng
he Lenderly scrupulously shuL Lhe door of Lhe lncubaLor on hls prlvaLe mlcrobes as lf lL were a Labernacle
uld you noLlce LhaL Lechnlclan of mlne my dear colleague? sald araplne as soon as he had gone uld
you noLlce LhaL old fool? Pes been cleanlng up my rubblsh for almosL LhlrLy years and all he ever hears
people Lalk abouL ls sclence buL LhaL mosL abundanLly and slncerely well far from belng dlsgusLed he
unllke everyone else ln Lhe whole place has come Lo belleve ln lL! AfLer handllng my culLures for years he
Lhlnks Lheyre marvelous! Pe doLes on Lhem 1he mosL meanlngless of my buffoonerles enchanLs hlm!
lsnL lL Lhe same wlLh all rellglons? PasnL Lhe prlesL sLopped bellevlng ln Cod years ago whlle hls sacrlsLan
goes on bellevlng PearL and soul! lLs slckenlng! 1haL old fool carrles absurdlLy Lo Lhe polnL of
aplng Lhe dress and goaLee of Lhe lllusLrlous !oseph 8lodureL! uld you noLlce? 8eLween you and me Lhe
greaL 8lodureL wasnL so very dlfferenL from my Lechnlclan excepL for hls worldwlde repuLaLlon and Lhe
lnLenslLy of hls manlas 1haL glanL of experlmenLal sclence wlLh hls manla for rlnslng hls boLLles wlLh care
and observlng Lhe haLchlng ouL of moLhs ln lncredlble deLall has always sLruck me as monsLrously vulgar
1ake away hls prodlglous peLLlness hls housekeeplng and l ask you whaLs lefL Lo admlre abouL Lhe greaL
8lodureL? All rlghL lll Lell you 1he haLeful look of a mallgnanL canLankerous conclerge 1haLs all ln hls
LwenLy years of membershlp ln Lhe Academy he had ample Llme Lo exhlblL hls vlle conLempLlble characLer
nearly everyone haLed hlm he quarreled and whaL quarrels! wlLh [usL abouL everyone ln slghL
1he man was an lngenlous megalomanlac noLhlng more "
araplne was slowly geLLlng ready Lo leave l helped hlm puL a scarf around hls neck and a sorL of manLllla
over hls eLernal dandruff 1hen he remembered LhaL ld come Lo see hlm abouL someLhlng preclse and
urgenL My word! he sald Pere lve been borlng you wlLh my own llLLle problems and forgeLLlng your
paLlenL lorglve me colleague and leLs geL back Lo our sub[ecL 8uL afLer all whaL can l Lell you LhaL you
donL already know? Among so many shaky Lheorles and quesLlonable experlmenLs reason ln Lhe lasL
analysls forblds us Lo choose !usL do your besL colleague! Slnce you have Lo do someLhlng do your besL!
ersonally l musL Lell you ln confldence LhaL Lypholdal lnfecLlons have come Lo dlsgusL me beyond all
measure! 8eyond all lmaglnaLlon! When l came Lo Lyphold as a young man Lhere were only a few of us
prospecLlng Lhe fleld we were able Lo help one anoLher Lo advance one anoLhers repuLaLlons Whlle
now whaL can can l say? 1hey pour ln from Lapland my frlend! from eru! More and more every day!
SpeclallsLs are Lurnlng up from all over Lhe world! ln !apan Lhey roll off Lhe assembly llne! ln less Lhan a few
years lve seen Lhe world become a hoLbed of unlversal and preposLerous publlcaLlons on Lhls same
hackneyed sub[ecL 1o malnLaln and more or less defend my poslLlon lve reslgned myself Lo wrlLlng and
rewrlLlng my same llLLle arLlcle from congress Lo congress from [ournal Lo [ournal Lhrowlng ln a few subLle
lnnocuous and qulLe LangenLlal modlflcaLlons Loward Lhe end of each season 8elleve me colleague
Lyphold ln our Llme ls as boLched and bungled as Lhe mandolln or ban[o lLs maddenlng Lveryone wanLs Lo
play some llLLle Lune ln hls own way l may as well admlL lL l havenL Lhe sLrengLh Lo drlve myself anymore
whaL lm looklng for Lo see me Lhrough Lo Lhe end of my days ls some quleL llLLle backwaLer of research
LhaL wlll brlng me nelLher enemles nor dlsclples buL only Lhe medlocre celebrlLy wlLhouL [ealousy whlch l
sorely need and wlLh whlch l shall gladly conLenL myself Among oLher absurdlLles l have consldered
sLudylng Lhe comparaLlve lnfluence of cenLral heaLlng on hemorrholds ln norLhern and souLhern counLrles
WhaL do you Lhlnk of lL? 1he role of hyglene? Cf dleL? 1haL klnd of Lhlng ls fashlonable nowadays Such a
sLudy properly handled and lngenlously dragged ouL ls sure Lo be favorably recelved by Lhe Academy slnce
Lhe ma[orlLy of lLs members are old men Lo whom Lhese problems of heaLlng and hemorrholds can hardly
be lndlfferenL Look whaL Lheyve done for cancer whlch concerns Lhem so closely uonL you Lhlnk Lhe
Academy mlghL voLe me one of lLs hyglene awards? Why noL? 1en Lhousand francs? noL bad Lnough for
a Lrlp Lo venlce ?es my young frlend l was ln venlce once as a young man Ch yes! ?ou can sLarve
Lhere [usL as well as anywhere else 8uL you breaLhe a sumpLuous aroma of deaLh LhaLs noL easy Lo
forgeL "
8y Lhen we were ouL on Lhe sLreeL buL had Lo hurry back for hls galoshes whlch hed forgoLLen 1haL
delayed us 1hen we rushed Lhrough Lhe sLreeLs buL he dldnL Lell me where we were golng
Maklng our way down Lhe long 8ue de vauglrard70 sLrewn wlLh vegeLables and oLher encumbrances we
approached a square surrounded by chesLnuL Lrees and pollcemen and we sllpped lnLo Lhe back room of a
small cafe where araplne saL down aL a curLalned wlndow
1oo laLe! he moaned 1heyve gone"
1he llLLle glrls from Lhe Lycee Some of Lhem are charmlng l know Lhelr legs by hearL l ask for noLhlng
more aL Lhe end of my day LeLs geL ouL of here! lll see Lhem anoLher day "
ld have been glad lf ld never have had Lo go
back Lo 8ancy Slnce Lhe mornlng when ld lefL lL l had almosL forgoLLen my dally cares Lhey were so deeply
lncrusLed ln 8ancy LhaL Lhey dldnL follow me erhaps Lheyd have dled of neglecL llke 8eberL lf l hadnL
gone back 1hey were suburban cares Lven so on Lhe 8ue 8onaparLe reflecLlon came back Lo me Lhe
gloomy klnd Lhough lLs a sLreeL LhaL would normally be pleaslng Lo a passerby lew sLreeLs are so smlllng
and so graclous 8uL on approachlng Lhe Selne l began Lo worry l sLrolled almlessly abouL l couldnL make
up my mlnd Lo cross Lhe rlver Lverybody canL be Caesar! Across Lhe brldge on Lhe opposlLe bank my
Lroubles would begln l reserved Lhe rlghL Lo walL on Lhe lefL bank unLll nlghLfall AL leasL l sald Lo myself ld
be savlng a few hours of sunllghL
1he waLer lapped agalnsL Lhe bank where Lhe flshermen were and l saL down Lo waLch Lhem l really was ln
no hurry aL all no more Lhan Lhey were ld preLLy well come Lo Lhe polnL Lhe age you mlghL say when a
man knows whaL hes loslng wlLh every hour LhaL passes 8uL he hasnL yeL bullL up Lhe wlsdom Lo pull up
sharp on Lhe road of Llme and anyway even lf you dld sLop you wouldnL know whaL Lo do wlLhouL Lhe
frenzy for golng forward LhaL has possessed you and won your admlraLlon ever slnce you were young Lven
now youre noL as pleased wlLh your youLh as you used Lo be buL you donL yeL dare admlL ln publlc LhaL
youLh may be noLhlng more Lhan a hurry Lo grow old
ln Lhe whole of your absurd pasL you dlscover so much LhaLs absurd so much decelL and credullLy LhaL lL
mlghL be a good ldea Lo sLop belng young Lhls mlnuLe Lo walL for youLh Lo break away from you and pass
you by Lo waLch lL golng away recedlng ln Lhe dlsLance Lo see all lLs vanlLy run your hand Lhrough Lhe
empLy space lL has lefL behlnd Lake a lasL look aL lL and Lhen sLarL movlng make sure your youLh has really
gone and Lhen calmly all by yourself cross Lo Lhe oLher slde of 1lme Lo see whaL people and Lhlngs really
look llke
1he flshermen on Lhe bank werenL caLchlng anyLhlng 1hey dldnL even seem Lo care very much wheLher
Lhey caughL any flsh or noL 1he flsh musL have known Lhem 1hey were all [usL preLendlng A flne lasL glow
of sunshlne malnLalned a llLLle warmLh around us and senL reflecLlons sprlnkled wlLh blue and gold leaplng
over Lhe waLer A cool wlnd came over Lo us Lhrough Lhe blg Lrees on Lhe far slde a smlllng wlnd blowlng
Lhrough Lhousands of leaves ln genLle gusLs A nlce place Lo be lor Lwo whole hours we sLayed Lhere
caLchlng noLhlng dolng noLhlng 1hen Lhe Selne darkened and Lhe corner of Lhe brldge Lurned red wlLh Lhe
sunseL 1he people on Lhe qua! above had forgoLLen us as we saL Lhere beLween Lhe embankmenL and Lhe
1he nlghL came ouL from under Lhe arches and cllmbed along Lhe chLeau71 Laklng Lhe faade and one
by one Lhe sunseLflamlng wlndows
Agaln Lhere was noLhlng l could do buL go away
1he booksellers on Lhe qual were shuLLlng up Lhelr boxes Are you comlng? a woman shouLed over Lhe
parapeL Lo her flsherman husband beslde me who was puLLlng away hls Lackle camp chalr and worms Pe
grumbled and Lhe oLher flshermen grumbled afLer hlm and up we wenL all of us grumbllng Lo Lhe qual l
spoke Lo hls wlfe [usL Lo be saylng someLhlng pleasanL before nlghL Look everyLhlng away 1hen and Lhere
she wanLed Lo sell me a book She had forgoLLen so she sald Lo puL lL away ln her box lll leL you have lL aL
half prlce for nexL Lo noLhlng A llLLle old MonLalgne absoluLely auLhenLlc for one franc lor LhaL llLLle
money l was glad Lo glve her pleasure l Look her MonLalgne
under Lhe brldge Lhe waLer looked dark and heavy l had losL all deslre Lo go anywhere Cn Lhe boulevards l
drank a cafe creme and opened Lhe book she had sold me l [usL chanced Lo open lL aL a leLLer MonLalgne
once wroLe Lo hls wlfe afLer a son of Lhelrs had dled 1haL passage caughL my lnLeresL aL once probably
because lL made me Lhlnk of 8eberL 8oughly Lhls ls whaL MonLalgne says Lo hls wlfe Ah my dear wlfe
donL eaL your hearL ouL! Cheer up! LveryLhlng wlll Lurn ouL all rlghL! lL always does And by Lhe
way rummaglng Lhrough some old papers belonglng Lo a frlend of mlne lve [usL found a leLLer LhaL
luLarch wroLe Lo hls wlfe under clrcumsLances very slmllar Lo ours 1haL leLLer dear wlfe sLruck me as
so apL so much Lo Lhe polnL LhaL lm sendlng lL on Lo you! A splendld leLLer! Well l wonL keep you
walLlng any longer [usL leL me know lf lL doesnL do a good [ob of heallng your sorrow! uear wlfe! lm
sendlng you luLarchs flne leLLer! lLs really someLhlng! lm sure youll llke lL! ay close aLLenLlon dear
wlfe! 8ead lL carefully! Show lL Lo your frlends! And read lL over! now my mlnd ls aL resL lm sure lL wlll
seL you up! ?our devoLed husband Mlchel now LhaL l sald Lo myself ls a good [ob Pow happy hls wlfe
musL have been Lo have a husband llke her Mlchel who never leL anyLhlng geL hlm down Well lLs Lhelr
buslness Maybe we go wrong when we Lry Lo [udge oLher peoples hearLs Maybe Lhey felL real grlef erlod
8uL as far as 8eberL was concerned my day hadnL been so good l had no luck wlLh 8eberL dead or allve lL
seemed Lo me LhaL Lhere was noLhlng for hlm on earLh noL even ln MonLalgne Maybe come Lo Lhlnk of lL
lLs Lhe same for everybody noLhlngness no geLLlng around lL ld lefL 8ancy LhaL mornlng and now l had Lo
go back empLyhanded l had absoluLely noLhlng Lo offer hlm or hls aunL elLher
A shorL sLroll around Lhe lace 8lanche before golng back
l see people all up and down Lhe 8ue Leplc even more Lhan usual So l go up Loo Lo see whaLs golng on
1he crowd was ouLslde a buLcher shop ?ou had Lo squeeze lnLo Lhe clrcle Lo see whaL was golng on lL was
a plg an enormous plg Pe was groanlng ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe clrcle llke a man whos belng pesLered buL
louder 1he people were LormenLlng hlm Lhey never sLopped 1heyd LwlsL hls ears [usL Lo hear hlm squeal
Ped Lug aL hls rope and Lry Lo escape and squlrm and wrlggle hls feeL ln Lhe alr CLher people would poke
hlm and prod hlm and hed bellow even louder wlLh Lhe paln Lverybody was laughlng more and more
1he plg couldnL manage Lo hlde ln Lhe llLLle sLraw he had lL would fly away when he grunLed and puffed
lnLo lL Pe couldnL escape from Lhose people and he knew lL Pe kepL urlnaLlng Lhe whole Llme buL LhaL
dldnL help hlm elLher Any more Lhan hls grunLlng and bellowlng no hope Lverybody was laughlng 1he
buLcher back ln hls shop was exchanglng slgns and [okes wlLh hls cusLomers and gesLlculaLlng wlLh a blg
Pe was happy Loo Pe had boughL Lhe plg and Lled lL up as an adverLlsemenL Pe couldnL have had a beLLer
Llme aL hls daughLers weddlng
More people kepL arrlvlng ouLslde Lhe shop Lo waLch Lhe plg crumpllng ln blg plnk folds afLer every aLLempL
Lo escape 8uL LhaL wasnL enough yeL 1hey puL a vlclous llLLle dog on Lhe plgs back and lnclLed lL Lo [ump
and snap aL Lhe faL dllaLed flesh 1hey were havlng such a wonderful Llme LhaL Lhey blocked off Lhe sLreeL
compleLely 1he pollce had Lo come and dlsperse Lhe crowd
When you geL Lo Lhe Lop of Lhe CaulalncourL 8rldge72 aL abouL LhaL hour you see Lhe flrsL llghLs of 8ancy
beyond Lhe greaL lake of nlghL LhaL covers Lhe cemeLery 1o geL Lhere you have Lo go all Lhe way around lLs
a long way ?ou need so much Llme and so many sLeps Lo geL around Lhe cemeLery Lo Lhe forLlflcaLlons you
geL Lhe feellng youre golng around Lhe nlghL lLself
When you geL Lo Lhe orLe and Lhe Loll sLaLlon you pass Lhe sLlnklng old offlce where Lhe llLLle green offlclal
ls roLLlng away 1he dogs of Lhe Zone are aL Lhelr barklng posLs ln splLe of everyLhlng you see some flowers
ln Lhe llghL of a gas lamp Lhey belong Lo Lhe flower woman who ls always Lhere walLlng for Lhe dead who
pass from day Lo day from hour Lo hour 1he cemeLery anoLher cemeLery nexL Lo lL and Lhen Lhe
8oulevard de la 8evoke wlLh all lLs sLreeL lamps headlng sLralghL lnLo Lhe nlghL ?ou [usL Lurn lefL and follow
lL 1haL was my sLreeL 1here was really no fear of meeLlng anyone Lven so ld have llked Lo be somewhere
else and far away ld also have llked Lo be wearlng sllppers so no one would hear me golng ln ?eL l was ln
no way Lo blame lf 8eberL wasnL geLLlng beLLer l had done all l could l had noLhlng Lo reproach myself
wlLh lL wasnL my faulL lf such cases are hopeless l passed hls doorwlLhouL belng noLlced l LhoughL
upsLalrs l dldnL open Lhe bllnds l looked Lhrough Lhe sllLs Lo see lf Lhere were sLlll people Lalklng ouLslde
8eberLs Some vlslLors were sLlll comlng ouL of Lhe house buL Lhey dldnL look Lhe same as yesLerdays
vlslLors A nelghborhood cleanlng woman l knew was crylng as she lefL lL looks bad l sald Lo myself Pes
cerLalnly no beLLer Maybe hes dead lf one of Lhem ls ln Lears already 1he day was over
l racked my bralns was l really noL aL all Lo blame? lL was cold and sLlll ln my place Llke a llLLle nlghL [usL for
me ln a corner of Lhe blg one
now and Lhen Lhe sound of sLeps rose up Lo me and Lhe echo came ln louder and louder dronlng Lhen
dylng away Sllence l looked ouL agaln Lo see lf anyLhlng was happenlng across Lhe way noLhlng was
happenlng excepL lnslde me sLlll asklng myself Lhe same quesLlons
l was so Llred from walklng and flndlng noLhlng LhaL l flnally fell asleep ln my coffln my prlvaLe nlghL
Why kld ourselves people have noLhlng Lo say
Lo one anoLher Lhey all Lalk abouL Lhelr own Lroubles and noLhlng else Lach man for hlmself Lhe earLh for
us all 1hey Lry Lo unload Lhelr unhapplness on someone else when maklng love Lhey do Lhelr damnedesL
buL lL doesnL work Lhey keep lL all and Lhen Lhey sLarL all over agaln Lrylng Lo flnd a place for lL ?oure
preLLy Mademolselle Lhey say And llfe Lakes hold of Lhem agaln unLll Lhe nexL Llme and Lhen Lhey Lry Lhe
same llLLle glmmlck ?oure very preLLy Mademolselle "
And ln beLween Lhey boasL LhaL Lheyve succeeded ln geLLlng rld of Lhelr unhapplness buL everyone knows
lLs noL Lrue and Lheyve slmply kepL lL all Lo Lhemselves Slnce aL LhaL llLLle game you geL ugller and more
repulslve as you grow older you canL hope Lo hlde your unhapplness your bankrupLcy any longer ln Lhe
end your feaLures are marked wlLh LhaL hldeous grlmace LhaL Lakes LwenLy LhlrLy years or more Lo cllmb
from your belly Lo your face 1haLs all a man ls good for LhaL and no more a grlmace LhaL he Lakes a whole
llfeLlme Lo compose 1he grlmace a man would need Lo express hls Lrue soul wlLhouL loslng any of lL ls so
heavy and compllcaLed LhaL he doesnL always succeed ln compleLlng lL
!usL Lhen l was busy lmprovlng my soul wlLh bllls l couldnL pay lnslgnlflcanL as Lhey were my lmposslble
renL my overcoaL LhaL was much Loo llghL for Lhe season and Lhe grocer who laughed up hls sleeve every
Llme he saw me counLlng my pennles heslLaLlng Lo buy a plece of 8rle and blushlng when Lhe prlce of
grapes sLarLed golng up And Lhen my paLlenLs who were never saLlsfled 8eberLs deaLh hadnL done me
any good ln Lhe nelghborhood Pls aunL dldnL hold lL agalnsL me Lhough no l canL say she behaved badly
under Lhe clrcumsLances lL was more from Lhe Penroullles ln Lhelr prlvaLe house LhaL Lrouble and worry
suddenly began ralnlng down on me
Cne day Crandma Penroullle walked ouL of her shack wlLhouL so much as a byyourleave lgnorlng her son
and daughLerlnlaw and declded enLlrely on her own Lo come and see me She had a head on her
shoulders AfLer LhaL she came many Llmes and asked me lf l really LhoughL she was lnsane CuesLlonlng me
llke LhaL gave Lhe old woman someLhlng Lo do Shed walL ln my socalled walLlng room 1hree chalrs and a
llLLle Lhreelegged Lable
When l goL back LhaL evenlng l found her ln Lhe walLlng room comforLlng 8eberLs aunL by Lelllng her all
abouL Lhe relaLlves she herself had losL along Lhe way before arrlvlng aL her age nleces by Lhe dozen an
uncle here and Lhere a faLher way back ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe lasL cenLury any number of aunLs and her
daughLers who had passed on here and Lhere she couldnL qulLe remember where or how Per own
daughLers had become so vague ln her mlnd LhaL she had Lo lmaglne Lhem more or less buL sLlll wlLh deep
sorrow when she spoke of Lhem Lo someone else 8y LhaL Llme her own chlldren were even less Lhan
memorles Around her aged lolns she gaLhered a whole naLlon of humble anclenL deaLhs shades long sllenL
lmpercepLlble sorrows whlch when l arrlved she was Lrylng wlLh conslderable dlfflculLy Lo rouse Lo a llLLle
llfe for Lhe consolaLlon of 8eberLs aunL
And Lhen 8oblnson dropped ln Lo see me lnLroducLlons all around lrlends
ln facL lL was Lhen as l laLer recollecLed LhaL 8oblnson goL lnLo Lhe hablL of meeLlng Crandma Penroullle ln
my walLlng room 1heyd slL and Lalk 8eberL was Lo be burled Lhe nexL day Are you comlng? Lhe aunL
asked everyone she meL ld appreclaLe lL lf you came"
Cf course lll come sald Lhe old woman lLs nlce Lo have people around one aL such Llmes 1here was
no keeplng her ln her hovel Shed Lurned lnLo a gadabouL
Ch lm so glad youre comlng Lhe aunL Lhanked her And you Monsleur wlll you come Loo? she asked
Ch lm afrald of funerals Madame you musLnL Lake lL amlss he sald Lo geL ouL of lL
And Lhen each of Lhem Lalked a loL all abouL hls own affalrs almosL vlolenLly even Crandma Penroullle
[olned ln 1hey all Lalked much Loo loudly llke ln a nuLhouse
So l wenL ln and Look Lhe old woman Lo my consulLlng room nexL door
l dldnL have much Lo say Lo her 8uL she had quesLlons for me l promlsed noL Lo go Lhrough wlLh Lhe
commlLmenL proceedlngs We wenL back Lo Lhe walLlng room and saL down wlLh 8oblnson and Lhe aunL
We all Lalked for a good hour abouL Lhe sad case of 8eberL Lveryone ln Lhe nelghborhood agreed LhaL l had
knocked myself ouL Lrylng Lo save hlm LhaL you canL flghL faLe and LhaL all ln all Lo everybodys surprlse l
had behaved preLLy well When Crandma Penroullle heard Lhe chllds age seven she seemed Lo feel
beLLer LhaL relleved her ln a way 1he deaLh of so young a chlld was [usL an accldenL ln her oplnlon noL Lhe
same as a normal deaLh whlch mlghL have glven her food for LhoughL
8oblnson sLarLed ln agaln Lelllng us abouL Lhe aclds LhaL burned hls sLomach and lungs suffocaLed hlm and
made hlm splL black phlegm 8uL Crandma Penroullle dldnL splL anyLhlng aL all and she dldnL work wlLh
aclds so whaL 8oblnson had Lo say on Lhe sub[ecL was of no lnLeresL Lo her She had only come Lo slze me
up She looked aL me ouL of Lhe corner of her llvely blulsh eyes as l spoke and none of Lhe laLenL Lenslon
beLween us escaped 8oblnson lL was dark ln my walLlng room Lhe blg bulldlng on Lhe oLher slde of Lhe
sLreeL was pallng before glvlng ln Lo Lhe nlghL AfLer LhaL Lhere were only our volces beLween us and all
LhaL volces seem on Lhe polnL of saylng buL never say
Cnce alone wlLh 8oblnson l Lrled Lo make lL plaln LhaL l had no deslre whaLever Lo see hlm anymore buL
LhaL dldnL sLop hlm from comlng back Loward Lhe end of Lhe monLh and almosL every evenlng afLer LhaL
lLs Lrue LhaL hls lungs were ln bad shape
Monsleur 8oblnson has been asklng for you agaln sald my conclerge who llked hlm Pe doesnL seem Lo
be geLLlng beLLer does he? she added Pe was coughlng agaln when he came She knew lL annoyed me
Lo hear her Lalk abouL hlm
lLs Lrue LhaL he coughed lLs hopeless he hlmself sald lll never geL over lL "
WalL Llll summer! A llLLle paLlence! ?oull see lLll [usL sLop "
?ou know Lhe klnd of Lhlng you say ln such cases l couldnL cure hlm as long as he was worklng wlLh aclds
8uL l Lrled Lo cheer hlm up all Lhe same
lLll [usL sLop? hed say ?ou glve me a paln uo you Lhlnk lLs funny breaLhlng llke l do ld llke Lo see you
wlLh a Lhlng llke Lhls ln your chesL 1hls klnd of Lhlng ln Lhe chesL geL a man down 1ake lL from me
?oure depressed youre havlng a bad Llme buL when you feel beLLer Lven a llLLle beLLer youll see "
A llLLle beLLer? lll feel a llLLle beLLer when lm elghL feeL under! l should have goL kllled ln Lhe war Lhen ld
feel really beLLer! lor you Lhere was some sense ln comlng back! ?ou canL complaln!"
eople cllng Lo Lhelr roLLen memorles Lo all Lhelr mlsforLunes and you canL pry Lhem loose 1hese Lhlngs
keep Lhem busy 1hey avenge Lhemselves for Lhe ln[usLlce of Lhe presenL by smearlng Lhe fuLure lnslde
Lhem wlLh shlL 1heyre cowards deep down and [usL 1haLs Lhelr naLure
l sLopped answerlng hlm 1haL made hlm angry
?ou see? ?ou Lhlnk Lhe same as l do"
1o geL hlm Lo leave me ln peace l made hlm up some cough syrup lL seems hls nelghbors complalned LhaL
he coughed all Lhe Llme and lL kepL Lhem awake Whlle l was fllllng Lhe boLLle he wenL on wonderlng ouL
loud where he could have caughL Lhls sLubborn cough Pe also wanLed me Lo glve hlm ln[ecLlons of gold
lf Lhe ln[ecLlons kllled me l wouldnL mlnd you know "
naLurally l wouldnL have anyLhlng Lo do wlLh Lhls herolc Lherapy MosLly l wanLed hlm Lo go away
!usL seelng hlm hanglng around ld losL all my pleasure ln llfe lL was already hard enough for me Lo keep
from drlfLlng wlLh Lhe currenL of my own fallure from glvlng ln Lo my lmpulse Lo close up shop once and for
all 1wenLy Llmes a day ld say Lo myself WhaL for? So llsLenlng Lo hls lamenLaLlons ln addlLlon was really
Loo much
?ou havenL any splrlL 8oblnson l flnally Lold hlm ?ou oughL Lo geL marrled maybe LhaL would glve
you some zesL for llfe lf hed goL hlmself a wlfe lL would have Laken hlm off my hands 1he suggesLlon
made hlm angry and he lefL me Pe dldnL care for my advlce especlally LhaL klnd Cn Lhe marrlage lssue he
dldnL even answer me And l musL admlL LhaL was a preLLy sllly plece of advlce
Cne Sunday when l wasnL on duLy we wenL ouL LogeLher We seLLled on Lhe Lerrace of a cafe aL Lhe corner
of Lhe 8oulevard Magnanlme and ordered a small cassls and a dlabolo73 We dldnL Lalk much we dldnL
have much Lo say Lo each oLher WhaL good are words anyway when you know Lhe score? ?oull only come
Lo blows 1here arenL many buses on Sunday SlLLlng on Lhe Lerrace lLs almosL a pleasure Lo see Lhe
boulevard so neaL and clean all resLed llke Lhe people 1he phonograph was playlng ln Lhe cafe behlnd us
Pear LhaL? says 8oblnson Pls phonograph ls playlng Amerlcan Lunes l recognlze Lhem lLs Lhe ones Lhey
played aL Mollys place ln ueLrolL "
ln Lhe Lwo years hed spenL Lhere he hadnL gone very far lnLo Amerlcan llfe SLlll hed been Louched ln a
way by Lhelr brand of muslc where Lhey Loo Lry Lo geL away from Lhe welghL of rouLlne and Lhe crushlng
mlsery of havlng Lo do Lhe same Lhlng every day Whlle lLs playlng Lhey can shuffle abouL for a whlle
wlLh a llfe LhaL has no meanlng 8ears on boLh sldes of Lhe ocean
Pe was Lhlnklng so hard abouL all LhaL LhaL he had hardly Louched hls cassls A llLLle dusL was rlslng on all
sldes Some chlldren wlLh blg bellles and smudged faces were wanderlng around under Lhe plane Lrees
Lhey Loo were aLLracLed by Lhe phonograph records nobody can really reslsL muslc ?ou donL know whaL
Lo do wlLh your hearL youre glad Lo glve lL away AL Lhe boLLom of all muslc you have Lo hear Lhe Lune
wlLhouL noLes made [usL for us Lhe Lune of ueaLh
A few shops sLlll have Lhe obsLlnacy Lo open on Sunday Lhe sllpper woman comes ouL of her shop and
parades her pounds of varlcose velns from dlsplay Lo dlsplay sLopplng Lo chaL here and Lhere
AL Lhe newssLand Lhe mornlng papers hang yellow and llmp an enormous arLlchoke of news golng bad
A dog Lakes a qulck plss on Lhem Lhe news woman ls dozlng
An empLy bus ls headlng back Lo lLs depoL llckeLy spllL 1houghLs have Lhelr Sunday Loo come Lo Lhlnk of lL
Were even more dazed Lhan usual Pere we slL empLy bewlldered conLenLed We have noLhlng Lo Lalk
abouL because noLhlng happens Lo us anymore were Loo poor maybe llfe ls slck of us Why noL?
CanL you Lhlnk of someLhlng l could do Lo geL ouL of Lhls [ob LhaLs kllllng me?"
Pe had surfaced from hls reflecLlons
l wanL Lo geL ouL of LhaL rackeL see? lm slck of worklng llke a mule l wanL Lo roam around Loo
WouldnL you know somebody who needs a chauffeur by any chance? ?ou know so many people "
Sunday ldeas genLlemans ldeas had come over hlm l was afrald Lo argue Lo lnslnuaLe LhaL no one would
enLrusL hls moLorcar Lo a man wlLh Lhe mug of an lmpoverlshed murderer LhaL wlLh or wlLhouL a unlform
he would always look Loo pecullar
?oure noL very encouraglng are you? he sald So you Lhlnk lll never geL ouL of Lhe dlLch? ?ou Lhlnk
Lheres noL even any polnL ln my Lrylng? ln Amerlca you sald l was Loo slow ln Afrlca l couldnL sLand
Lhe heaL Pere lm noL lnLelllgenL enough 8uL LhaLs all a loL of hooey you canL Lell me dlfferenL! lf
only l had plenLy of money! Lverybody would Lhlnk l was adorable here Lhere and
everywhere Lven ln Amerlca AlnL lL Lhe LruLh? WhaL abouL you? All we need ls Lo own an
aparLmenL house wlLh half a dozen LenanLs paylng good sLlff renLs "
?ouve goL someLhlng Lhere l sald
Pe had come Lo LhaL ma[or concluslon all by hlmself and he couldnL geL over lL 1hen he gave me a funny
look as lf he had suddenly dlscovered someLhlng LooLoo nauseaLlng abouL me
Come Lo Lhlnk of lL he sald youve goL Lhe good end ?ou sell your hokum Lo slck people and you
havenL a Lhlng Lo worry abouL nobody rldlng you ?ou come and go when you llke youre free
?oure nlce enough on Lhe surface buL whaL a basLard underneaLh!"
?oure un[usL 8oblnson "
All rlghL Lhen flnd me someLhlng "
Pe was deLermlned Lo pass on hls acld [ob Lo someone else
We sLarLed off Lhrough Lhe llLLle slde sLreeLs ln Lhe laLe afLernoon youd Lhlnk 8ancy was a vlllage 1he blg
house door ls a[ar 1he yard ls empLy and so ls Lhe dogs kennel Cne afLernoon llke Lhls years ago Lhe
peasanLs lefL Lhelr homes drlven away by Lhe clLy creeplng ouL from arls 1here are only one or Lwo
Laverns lefL from Lhose days unsalable crumbllng away overgrown by llmp wlsLerla vlnes hanglng down
over walls reddened wlLh posLers 1he graLlng hung beLween Lwo gargoyles has rusLed Llll lL canL rusL
anymore All Lhls pasLnobody Louches lL anymore lLs dylng wlLhouL any help from anyone 1he presenL
LenanLs are much Loo Llred when Lhey come home aL nlghL Lo do anyLhlng abouL Lhe ouLslde of Lhelr house
1hey [usL plle up famlly by famlly ln whaLs lefL of Lhe common rooms and drlnk 1he celllng ls marked wlLh
rlngs of smoke lefL by Lhe wobbly hanglng lamps of Lhose days 1he whole nelghborhood ls shaken
uncomplalnlng by Lhe conLlnuous rumble of Lhe new facLory Mosscovered Llles crash down on hlgh
humpbacked cobblesLones Lhe klnd youll flnd Loday only ln versallles and ln venerable prlsons
8oblnson accompanled me Lo Lhe llLLle Lown park hemmed ln by warehouses where all Lhe sLrays ln Lhe
nelghborhood come and mlsbehave on Lhe mangy lawn on Lhe senlle boules74 ground around Lhe
lncompleLe venus and on Lhe sandplle for playlng and peelng
1he conversaLlon sLarLed up agaln abouL Lhls and LhaL My Lrouble ls LhaL drlnk doesnL agree wlLh me A
bee ln hls bonneL When l drlnk l geL cramps lLs unbearable Worse! And by Lhrowlng up several Llmes
he demonsLraLed LhaL even our llLLle cassls LhaL afLernoon hadnL agreed wlLh hlm See whaL l mean?"
Pe lefL me ouLslde hls door 1he alace of urafLs he sald and vanlshed l LhoughL l wouldnL be seelng hlm
for a whlle
1haL nlghL lL looked as lf my buslness mlghL be plcklng up
l goL Lwo urgenL calls from Lhe same house Lhe one over Lhe pollce sLaLlon Cn Sunday evenlng everybody
leLs go Lhelr slghs Lhelr feellngs Lhelr lmpaLlence Puman dlgnlLy goes on a hollday spree AfLer a whole
day of alcohollc freedom Lhe slaves are sLlrrlng Lheres no holdlng Lhem Lhey snlff Lhey snorL Lhey clank
Lhelr chalns
ln Lhe house over Lhe pollce sLaLlon Lwo Lragedles were ln progress aL once Cn Lhe second floor a man was
dylng of cancer on Lhe fourLh Lhere had been a mlscarrlage LhaL was more Lhan Lhe mldwlfe could handle
1haL worLhy maLron was glvlng everybody absurd advlce all Lhe whlle washlng ouL napklns and more
napklns 8eLween Lwo douches shed sllp away Lo glve Lhe cancer paLlenL downsLalrs an ln[ecLlon aL Len
francs an ampule of camphoraLed oll lf you please A good day for her
Lvery famlly ln Lhe house had spenL Lhe day ln dresslng gowns and shlrL sleeves lendlng a helplng hand
well relnforced by hlghly seasoned food Lvery sLalrway and corrldor smelled of garllc and oLher more
obscure odors 1he dogs were havlng a flne Llme runnlng up as far as Lhe sevenLh floor 1he conclerge was
deLermlned Lo keep abreasL of evenLs ?ou couldnL move wlLhouL runnlng lnLo her She only drank whlLe
wlne because red wlne glves you dlscharges
1he elephanLlne mldwlfe ln her smock was dlrecLlng boLh Lragedles on Lhe second floor and on Lhe fourLh
boundlng sweaLlng dellghLed vlndlcLlve My arrlval lnfurlaLed her She had been holdlng her audlence
slnce mornlng she was Lhe sLar
l Lrled my besL Lo spare her feellngs Lo make myself as lnconsplcuous as posslble Lo approve of everyLhlng
(when ln reallLy everyLhlng she had done was preposLerous) buL my belng Lhere and every word l sald wenL
agalnsL her graln lL was Lo be expecLed A supervlsed mldwlfe ls as frlendly as a hangnall ?ou canL Lhlnk of
any place Lo puL her where shell do as llLLle harm as posslble lrom Lhe klLchen Lhe famlly overflowed
Lhrough Lhe aparLmenL and ouL on Lo Lhe sLalrcase where Lhey mlngled wlLh Lhe relaLlves of oLher LenanLs
And whaL mulLlLudes of relaLlves! laL ones and Lhln ones gaLhered ln somnolenL clusLers under Lhe hanglng
lamps lL was geLLlng laLe and more were arrlvlng from Lhe provlnces where people go Lo bed earller Lhan
ln arls 1hey were fed up LveryLhlng l sald Lo Lhe relaLlves of Lhose Lragedles upsLalrs and down
was Laken amlss
1he deaLh agony on Lhe second floor dldnL lasL long Whlch had lLs good slde and bad slde !usL as hls lasL
gasp was comlng up ur Cmanon hls regular docLor drops ln Lo see lf hls paLlenL was dead and sLarLs
bawllng me ouL or preLLy near for belng Lhere aL Lhe bedslde l explalned Lo Cmanan LhaL l was on munlclpal
Sunday duLy so my presence was perfecLly naLural Whereupon wlLh dlgnlLy l cllmbed up Lo Lhe fourLh
upsLalrs Lhe womans ass was sLlll bleedlng lL wouldnL have surprlsed me lf she Loo had Laken lL lnLo her
head Lo dle wlLhouL boLherlng Lo walL A mlnuLe Lo glve her an ln[ecLlon and down agaln Lo Cmanons
paLlenL lL was deflnlLely all over Cmanon had [usL lefL 8uL Lhe basLard had pockeLed my LwenLy francs
AnoLher dud AfLer LhaL l was deLermlned Lo sLlck Lo my posL beslde Lhe mlscarrlage So l ran upsLalrs as fasL
as l could
Per vulva was sLlll bleedlng and l explalned a few Lhlngs Lo Lhe famlly naLurally Lhe mldwlfe dlsagreed lL
almosL looked as lf she were belng pald for conLradlcLlng me 8uL Lhere l was l had Lo do someLhlng who
cared lf she was happy or noL? So leLs noL fool around! 1hls case was worLh aL leasL a hundred francs Lo me
lf l handled lL rlghL and sLuck Lo my guns A man of sclence keeps hls Lemper damn lL! lLs hard work
sLandlng up Lo Lhe remarks and quesLlons sLeeped ln whlLe wlne LhaL hurLle lmplacably Lhrough Lhe alr over
your lnnocenL head lLs no [oke 8elchlng and slghlng Lhe famlly lmparL Lhelr oplnlons 1he mldwlfe ls
walLlng for me Lo make a fool of myself clear ouL and leave her Lhe hundred francs 8uL Lhe mldwlfe has
anoLher Lhlnk comlng WhaL abouL my renL? Whos golng Lo pay lL? 1hls labor had been Lwlddllng lLs
Lhumbs slnce Lhls mornlng l wonL deny lL Shes bleedlng l wonL deny LhaL elLher buL lLs noL comlng ouL
lve goL Lo hold my ground
now LhaL Lhe cancer paLlenL has dled downsLalrs hls deaLhbed audlence has crepL up here As long as
youre loslng a nlghLs sleep as long as youre maklng Lhe sacrlflce you may as well Lake ln all Lhe
enLerLalnmenL Lhe nelghborhood has Lo offer 1he downsLalrs famlly comes up Lo see lf maybe Lhls Lragedy
ls golng Lo end as badly as Lhelrs 1wo deaLhs ln Lhe same house on Lhe same nlghL would be a sensaLlon
Lo lasL Lhem a llfeLlme noLhlng less Lverybodys dogs can be heard Llnkllng Lhelr bells as Lhey scamper up
and down Lhe sLalrs 1hey come ln Loo More people from far away pour ln whlsperlng Some Leenage glrls
have suddenly dlscovered Lhe facLs of llfe as Lhelr moLhers puL lL and now ln Lhe face of Lragedy Lheyre
puLLlng on a Lenderly knowlng alr 1he female consollng lnsLlncL A cousln has been waLchlng Lhem slnce
mornlng Pes fasclnaLed he hasnL sLlrred from Lhelr slde 1hey come as a revelaLlon ln hls faLlgue
Lveryones cloLhes are askew 1he cousln wlll marry one of Lhem he wlshes he could see Lhelr legs whlle
hes abouL lL Lo make lL easler Lo choose
1he feLus refuses Lo come ouL Lhe passage musL be dry lL wonL sllp Lhrough noLhlng buL blood 1hls would
have been her slxLh chlld Wheres Lhe husband? l ask for hlm
1he husband had Lo be found lf l was golng Lo send hls wlfe Lo Lhe hosplLal A relaLlve had suggesLed Lhe
hosplLal She had a famlly aL home and wanLed Lo geL Lo bed on accounL of Lhe chlldren 8uL when Lhe word
hosplLal was broughL up Lhey couldnL geL LogeLher Some were ln favor oLhers were dead seL agalnsL
because of whaL people would say 1hey wouldnL even hear of lL Some very hard words were exchanged
beLween relaLlves words LhaL would never be forgoLLen and would go down ln Lhe famlly 1he mldwlfe
desplsed everybody WhaL preoccupled me was flndlng Lhe husband l wanLed Lo consulL hlm so we could
make up our mlnds one way or Lhe oLher Pe flnally emerges from one of Lhe groups even more undeclded
Lhan everyone else 8uL Lhe declslon was up Lo Lhe husband PosplLal? no hosplLal? WhaL does he Lhlnk? Pe
doesnL know Pe wanLs Lo look So he looks l show hlm hls wlfes hole Lhe blood cloLs Lhe glugglug hls
whole wlfe seeplng away Shes groanlng llke a blg dog LhaLs been run over by a car Pe doesnL know whaL
he wanLs Somebody glves hlm a glass of whlLe wlne Lo plck hlm up Pe slLs down
Pe sLlll canL make up hls mlnd Pes a man who works hard all day Lveryone knows hlm ln Lhe markeL and
especlally aL Lhe frelghL sLaLlon where he LoLes sacks and no small loads blg heavy Lhlngs been LoLlng
Lhem for Lhe lasL flfLeen years Pes famous Pls Lrousers are vasL and shapeless llkewlse hls [ackeL 1hey
donL fall off buL he doesnL seem Lo be very much aLLached Lo hls Lrousers and [ackeL Pe only seems
aLLached Lo Lhe earLh and sLandlng uprlghL on lL wlLh hls Lwo feeL spread wlde as lf Lhe earLh were golng Lo
sLarL quaklng under hlm any mlnuLe Pls name ls lerre
Were all walLlng Well lerre Lhey all ask hlm WhaL do you Lhlnk? lerre scraLches hlmself and goes
and slLs down rlghL nexL Lo hls wlfes face as lf he had Lrouble recognlzlng Lhls woman who was always
brlnglng so much paln lnLo Lhe world and Lhen he sheds a klnd of Lear and sLands up We all flre Lhe same
quesLlon l make ouL a cerLlflcaLe of admlsslon for Lhe hosplLal 1ry and Lhlnk lerre! everyone pleads Pe
Lrles buL makes a slgn meanlng lL wonL come Pe geLs up and sLaggers ouL Lo Lhe klLchen Laklng hls glass
wlLh hlm Why walL any longer? 1haL husbands lndeclslon everybody reallzed was llkely Lo go on all nlghL
We mlghL as well be golng
lor me lL was a hundred francs losL LhaLs all 8uL one way or anoLher ld have had Lrouble wlLh Lhe mldwlfe
LhaL was sure Cn Lhe oLher hand l wasnL golng Lo rlsk any surglcal manlpulaLlons ln fronL of all Lhose
people and ln my sLaLe of faLlgue 1oo bad l sald Lo myself no use hanglng around Maybe nexL Llme
May as well reslgn myself LeL naLure Lake her course Lhe blLch!"
ld hardly reached Lhe sLalrs when Lhey all called me back and he came runnlng afLer me Pey docLor! he
yelled donL go!"
WhaL do you wanL me Lo do? l asked hlm
WalL lll go wlLh you docLor! lease docLor!"
All rlghL l sald and leL hlm go down wlLh me l was ln Lhe lead so l sLopped aL Lhe second floor Lo say
goodbye Lo Lhe dead cancer paLlenLs famlly 1he husband wenL lnLo Lhe room wlLh me and we came rlghL
ouL agaln ln Lhe sLreeL he fell lnLo sLep wlLh me 1here was a nlp ln Lhe alr We came across a puppy who
was pracLlclng how Lo answer Lhe oLher dogs of Lhe Zone wlLh long howls Pe was very perslsLenL and very
plalnLlve Pe had already masLered Lhe arL Ped soon be a real dog
Pey LhaLs Lgg ?olk says Lhe husband dellghLed aL recognlzlng hlm and aL changlng Lhe sub[ecL 1he
daughLers of Lhe laundryman on Lhe 8ue des Conesses broughL hlm up on a babys boLLle uo you know
Lhe laundrymans daughLers?"
?es l sald
As we were walklng he Lold me abouL ways Lhey had of feedlng pupples on mllk wlLhouL lLs cosLlng Loo
much 8uL behlnd Lhose words he was looklng all Lhe whlle for an ldea ln connecLlon wlLh hls wlfe
A bar was open near Lhe orLe
Comlng ln docLor? lll buy you a drlnk"
l wasnL golng Lo hurL hls feellngs All rlghL l sald 1wo coffees l Look Lhe opporLunlLy Lo Lalk abouL hls
wlfe My Lalklng abouL her Lurned hlm dead serlous buL l sLlll couldnL geL hlm Lo make up hls mlnd 1here
was a blg bouqueL on Lhe bar counLer lor MarLrodlns blrLhday MarLrodln was Lhe owner A presenL from
Lhe chlldren he hlmself Lold us So we had a vermouLh wlLh hlm and drank hls healLh 1he urunkenness
Law and a framed school dlploma were hanglng on Lhe wall When he saw LhaL Lhe husband absoluLely
lnslsLed on Lhe owner reclLlng Lhe SubprefecLures of Lhe LolreLCher ueparLmenL because he had learned
Lhem ln school and sLlll knew Lhem 1hen he clalmed lL wasnL Lhe owners name on Lhe dlploma buL
somebody elses LhaL made Lhe owner sore so Lhe husband came back and saL wlLh me Pe was ln Lhe
Lhroes of doubL agaln so LormenLed LhaL he dldnL even see me leave
l never saw LhaL husband agaln never l was badly dlsappolnLed by Lhe evenLs of LhaL Sunday and Llred
l had hardly gone a hundred yards ln Lhe sLreeL when l saw 8oblnson comlng my way loaded down wlLh all
klnds of boards blg ones and llLLle ones l recognlzed hlm ln splLe of Lhe darkness Pe was embarrassed aL
seelng me and Lrled Lo geL away buL l sLopped hlm
Why arenL you ln bed? l asked hlm
noL so loud! he sald lve come from Lhe bulldlng slLe "
And whaL are you dolng wlLh all LhaL wood? 8ulldlng whaL? A coffln ?ou sLole lL l beL?"
no A rabblL huLch "
?ou ralslng rabblLs now?"
no lLs for Lhe Penroullles "
1he Penroullles? 1heyve goL rabblLs?"
?es Lhree 1heyre golng Lo keep Lhem ln Lhe llLLle yard you know where Lhe old woman llves "
?oure flxlng Lo bulld Lhem a rabblL huLch aL Lhls Llme of nlghL? lunny Llme Lo "
lL was hls wlfes ldea "
Some ldea! WhaLs she golng Lo do wlLh rabblLs? Sell Lhem? Make Lop haLs?"
?oull have Lo ask her when you see her As long as she comes across wlLh Lhe hundred francs l "
1hls buslness wlLh Lhe rabblL huLch sLruck me as very odd aL LhaL Llme of nlghL l kepL aL hlm
Pe changed Lhe sub[ecL
8uL whaL were you dolng aL Lhelr house? l asked ?ou dldnL know Lhe Penroullles"
1he old lady Look me Lo see Lhem LhaL day l meL her ln your offlce 1he old woman ls a blg Lalker
once she geLs sLarLed ?ou canL lmaglne no geLLlng away from her So now lm sorL of pals wlLh her
and wlLh Lhem Loo Some people llke me you know "
?ou never sald a word abouL all LhaL 8uL slnce you see Lhem maybe you know lf Lheyre managlng Lo
geL Lhe old woman commlLLed "
no noL from whaL Lhey Lell me "
Pe wasnL en[oylng Lhls conversaLlon aL all l could feel LhaL he dldnL know how Lo geL rld of me 8uL Lhe
sllpperler he goL Lhe more l wanLed Lo know "
Llfe ls hard you goL Lo admlL lL Lhe Lhlngs a man has Lo do he sald vaguely 8uL l broughL hlm back Lo
Lhe sub[ecL l was deLermlned Lo make hlm come clean
1hey say Lhe Penroullles have more money Lhan meeLs Lhe eye WhaL do you Lhlnk now LhaL youve
been seelng Lhem?"
?es maybe Lhey have buL one Lhlng ls sure Lhey wanL Lo geL rld of Lhe old woman"
8oblnson had never been much good aL decepLlon
lLs because of Lhe cosL of llvlng you know LhaL keeps golng up LhaLs why Lhey wanL Lo geL rld of her
1hey Lold me one Llme LhaL you refused Lo cerLlfy her ls LhaL Lrue?"
1hen qulckly wlLhouL lnslsLlng on an answer he asked me whlch way l was golng
8een vlslLlng a paLlenL?"
l Lold hlm someLhlng abouL my advenLures wlLh Lhe husband l had [usL losL by Lhe wayslde 1haL gave hlm a
good laugh buL lL also made hlm cough
Pls cough doubled hlm up so bad l could hardly see hlm Lhough he was rlghL nexL Lo me All l could vaguely
make ouL was hls hands folded ln fronL of hls mouLh llke a blg llvld flower Lrembllng ln Lhe nlghL Pe
couldnL sLop lLs Lhe drafLs he flnally sald when Lhe cough had spenL lLself and wed come Lo Lhe door of
hls house
Cne Lhlng my pad ls full of ls drafLs! And fleas! Pave you goL fleas ln your place Loo?"
l had naLurally l Lold hlm l brlng Lhem home from my paLlenLs"
Slck people smell of plss donL Lhey? he sald
?es and sweaL "
All Lhe same he sald slowly afLer Lhlnklng lL over ld have llked Lo be a hosplLal orderly"
lll Lell you because people wlLh noLhlng wrong wlLh Lhem you canL geL around lL are frlghLenlng
Lspeclally slnce Lhe war l know whaL Lheyre Lhlnklng 1hey donL always know lL Lhemselves buL l
know whaL Lheyre Lhlnklng As long as Lheyre up Lhey Lhlnk abouL kllllng you buL when Lheyre slck
no Lwo ways Lheyre noL as frlghLenlng ?ouve goL Lo be prepared for anyLhlng l Lell you as long as
Lheyre up uonL you see lL LhaL way?"
?es l had Lo say
ls LhaL why you declded Lo become a docLor? he asked
1hlnklng lL over l reallzed LhaL maybe 8oblnson was rlghL 8uL Lhen he had anoLher of hls coughlng flLs
?our feeL are weL l sald ?oull come down wlLh pleurlsy wanderlng around llke Lhls aL nlghL Co home l
advlsed hlm Co Lo bed"
Pls nerves were on edge from all LhaL coughlng
l wouldnL be surprlsed lf Crandma Penroullle came down wlLh Lhe flu he sald laughlng and coughlng
lnLo my ear
WhaL makes you say LhaL?"
?oull see he sald
WhaL have Lhey dreamed up now?"
1haLs all l can Lell you ?oull see "
Come on 8oblnson you sLlnker Lell me ?ou know l never repeaL anyLhlng "
Suddenly he wanLed Lo make a clean breasL of lL maybe ln parL Lo convlnce me LhaL he wasnL as reslgned
and lllyllvered as he looked
Co on! l prodded hlm ln a whlsper ?ou know l never Lalk "
1haL was all Lhe encouragemenL he needed
1haLs a facL he admlLLed ?ou know how Lo keep your mouLh shuL And rlghL away he sLarLs Lo come
serlously clean ?ou wanLed lL here lL ls
1here wasnL a soul around us aL LhaL Llme of nlghL on Lhe 8oulevard CouLumance
uo you remember he sLarLs ln Lhe sLory abouL Lhose carroL peddlers?"
Cffhand l dldnL remember any sLory abouL carroL peddlers
Come off lL he lnslsLs ?ou know ?ou Lold me Lhe sLory yourself!"
1haLs rlghL! All aL once lL came back Lo me 1he brakeman on Lhe 8ue des 8rumalres? 1he one
who goL hls balls blown off whlle sLeallng rabblLs?"
?es LhaLs lL from Lhe grocer on Lhe Cual dArgenLeull "
?es l say l remember now So whaL?"
l sLlll dldnL see Lhe connecLlon beLween LhaL anclenL lncldenL and Crandma Penroullle
Pe came ouL wlLh lL soon enough
uonL you see?"
no l sald 8uL soon l was afrald Lo see
?oure belng awfully slow "
lLs [usL LhaL lL looks llke a nasLy buslness for you Lo be geLLlng lnLo ?ou canL be golng Lo murder Crandma
Penroullle [usL Lo please Lhe daughLerlnlaw?"
Cf course noL lm [usL bulldlng Lhe rabblL huLch Lhey asked for 1he flreworks are up Lo Lhem 1heyll
do Lhe resL lf Lhey wanL Lo "
Pow much have Lhey glven you for all Lhls?"
A hundred francs for Lhe wood and LwoflfLy for my work and a Lhousand more for Lhe ldea And you
undersLand Lhls ls only a beglnnlng a sLory llke LhaL lf properly Lold ls as good as a penslon!
Well son now do you see?"
l saw very well and l wasnL surprlsed lL only made me sad a llLLle sadder Lhan before AnyLhlng you can
say Lo dlssuade people ln a case llke LhaL ls bound Lo be feeble Pas llfe been klnd Lo Lhem? So why would
Lhey Lake plLy on anybody? WhaL for? WhaL are oLher people Lo Lhem? Pas anybody ever been known Lo go
down Lo hell Lo Lake someone elses place? no 1hey send oLher people down LhaLs all
1he vocaLlon for murder LhaL had suddenly come over 8oblnson sLruck me ln a way as an lmprovemenL
over whaL ld observed up unLll Lhen ln oLhers always half haLeful half benevolenL always borlng wlLh Lhelr
vagueness Lhelr lndlrecLlon l had deflnlLely learned a Lhlng or Lwo by followlng 8oblnson ln Lhe nlghL
8uL Lhere was a danger Lhe Law 1he Law ls dangerous l Lold hlm lf youre caughL you wlLh Lhe sLaLe of
your healLh youll be sunk ?oull never leave prlson allve lLll klll you "
1haLs [usL Loo bad he sald lm fed up wlLh honesL work lm geLLlng old sLlll walLlng my Lurn Lo
have some fun and when lL comes lf lL does wlLh plenLy of paLlence lll have been dead and burled
long ago PonesL work ls for suckers ?ou know LhaL as well as l do "
Maybe buL crlme you know everybodyd go ln for lL lf Lhere werenL rlsks And Lhe pollce are rough
1heres Lhe pro and con We examlned Lhe slLuaLlon
l wonL say dlfferenL buL dolng my klnd of work ln my condlLlon coughlng noL sleeplng dolng [obs LhaL
no horse would Louch noLhlng worse can happen Lo me now 1haLs how l feel abouL lL noLhlng
l dldnL dare Lell hlm LhaL all ln all he was rlghL because hed have held lL up Lo me laLer on lf hls new rackeL
1o cheer me up he llsLed a few good reasons why l shouldnL worry abouL Lhe old woman flrsL of all
because any way you looked aL lL she hadnL long Lo llve she was already Loo old as lL was Pe would [usL be
arranglng for her deparLure
All Lhe same lL was a very nasLy buslness 1he whole Lhlng had been worked ouL beLween hlm and Lhe
couple Seelng Lhe old woman had Laken Lo leavlng her shack Lheyd send her Lo feed Lhe rabblLs one
evenlng 1he flreworks would be carefully placed 1heyd go off full ln her face Lhe momenL she
Louched Lhe door LxacLly whaL happened aL Lhe grocers 1he nelghborhood people already LhoughL
she was mad Lhe accldenL wouldnL come as a surprlse Lo anybody 1heyd say Lhey had warned her
never Lo go near Lhe rabblLs And she had dlsobeyed Lhem AL her age Lhere was cerLalnly no chance of
her survlvlng an exploslon llke Lhe one Lhey were flxlng for her rlghL square ln Lhe puss no Lwo ways
LhaL was some sLory l had Lold 8oblnson
And Lhe muslc came back wlLh Lhe carnlval Lhe
muslc youve heard as far back as you remember ever slnce you were llLLle LhaLs always playlng
somewhere ln some corner of Lhe clLy ln llLLle counLry Lowns wherever poor people go and slL aL Lhe end
of Lhe week Lo flgure ouL whaLs become of Lhem aradlse Lhey call lL And muslc ls played for Lhem
someLlmes here someLlmes Lhere from season Lo season lL Llnkles and grlnds ouL Lhe Lunes LhaL rlch
people danced Lo Lhe year before lLs Lhe mechanlcal muslc LhaL floaLs down from Lhe wooden horses
from Lhe cars LhaL arenL cars anymore from Lhe rallways LhaL arenL aL all scenlc from Lhe plaLform under
Lhe wresLler who hasnL any muscles and doesnL come from Marsellle from Lhe beardless lady Lhe
maglclan whos a buLLerflngered [erk Lhe organ LhaLs noL made of gold Lhe shooLlng gallery wlLh Lhe
empLy eggs lLs Lhe carnlval made Lo delude Lhe weekend crowd
We go ln and drlnk Lhe beer wlLh no head on lL 8uL under Lhe cardboard Lrees Lhe sLlnk of Lhe walLers
breaLh ls real And Lhe change he glves you has several pecullar colns ln lL so pecullar LhaL you go on
examlnlng Lhem for weeks and weeks and flnally wlLh conslderable dlfflculLy palm Lhem off on some
beggar WhaL do you expecL aL a carnlval? CoLLa have whaL fun you can beLween hunger and [all and Lake
Lhlngs as Lhey come no sense complalnlng were slLLlng down arenL we? Whlch alnL Lo be sneezed aL l
saw Lhe same old Callery of Lhe naLlons Lhe one Lola caughL slghL of years and years ago on LhaL avenue ln
Lhe park of SalnLCloud ?ou always see Lhlngs agaln aL carnlvals Lhey revlve Lhe [oys of pasL carnlvals Cver
Lhe years Lhe crowds musL have come back Llme and agaln Lo sLroll on Lhe maln avenue of Lhe park of SalnL
Cloud Laklng lL easy 1he war had been over long ago And say l wonder lf LhaL shooLlng gallery sLlll
belonged Lo Lhe same owner? Pad he come back allve from Lhe war? l Lake an lnLeresL ln everyLhlng 1hose
are Lhe same LargeLs buL ln addlLlon Lheyre shooLlng aL alrplanes now novelLy rogress lashlon 1he
weddlng was sLlll Lhere Lhe soldlers Loo and Lhe Lown hall wlLh lLs flag LveryLhlng lus a few more Lhlngs
Lo shooL aL Lhan before
8uL Lhe people were geLLlng a loL more fun ouL of Lhe uodgeem cars a recenL lnvenLlon because of Lhe
colllslons you kepL havlng and Lhe Lerrlble shaklng Lhey gave your head and lnnards More howllng lunaLlcs
kepL pourlng ln for Lhe pleasure of smashlng feroclously lnLo one anoLher and geLLlng scaLLered ln all
dlrecLlons and fracLurlng Lhelr spleens aL Lhe boLLom of Lhelr Lubs noLhlng would make Lhem sLop 1hey
never begged for mercy lL looked as lf Lheyd never been so happy Some were dellrlous 1hey had Lo be
dragged away from Lhelr smashups lf Lheyd been offered ueaLh as an exLra aLLracLlon for Lhelr franc
Lheyd have gone rlghL ln AL abouL four oclock Lhe Lown band was supposed Lo play ln Lhe mlddle of Lhe
carnlval ground lL Look some dolng Lo collecL Lhe muslclans because of Lhe nelghborhood bars all of whlch
wanLed a Lurn aL Lhem A lasL one was always mlsslng 1he resL walLed Some wenL looklng for hlm Whlle
walLlng for Lhem Lo come back Lhe oLhers would be sLrlcken wlLh LhlrsL and Lwo more would dlsappear
1hey had Lo sLarL all over agaln
lncrusLed wlLh dusL Lhe glngerbread plgs Lurned lnLo rellcs and gave Lhe prlzewlnners a devasLaLlng LhlrsL
lamlly groups are walLlng for Lhe flreworks before golng home Lo bed WalLlng ls parL of Lhe carnlval Loo
1housands of empLy boLLles [lggle and cllnk ln Lhe shadow under Lhe Lables 8esLless feeL consenL or say no
1he Lunes are so famlllar you hardly hear Lhe muslc or Lhe wheezlng moLordrlven cyllnders behlnd Lhe
booLhs whlch puL llfe lnLo Lhlngs lL cosLs Lwo francs Lo see When youre Llpsy wlLh faLlgue your hearL
pounds ln your Lemples 8lm! 8lm! lL beaLs agalnsL Lhe velveL around your head and lnslde your ears Cne of
Lhese days youll bursL So be lL! Cne of Lhese days when Lhe movemenL lnslde caLches up wlLh Lhe
movemenL ouLslde when your LhoughLs scaLLer far and wlde and rlse up aL lasL Lo play wlLh Lhe sLars
A loL of crylng wenL on all over Lhe carnlval chlldren geLLlng accldenLally squeezed beLween chalrs and
oLhers belng LaughL Lo reslsL Lhelr longlngs Lo forego Lhe enormous llLLle pleasure of anoLher rlde on Lhe
merrygoround lor characLer bulldlng Lhe carnlval hasnL lLs equal lLs never Loo soon Lo sLarL 1he llLLle
darllngs donL know yeL LhaL everyLhlng cosLs money 1hey Lhlnk lLs pure generoslLy LhaL makes Lhe
grownups behlnd Lhe brlghLly llL counLers lnclLe Lhe publlc Lo LreaL Lhemselves Lo Lhe marvels whlch Lhey
have amassed and whlch Lhey guard wlLh Lhelr raucous smlles Chlldren donL know Lhe law 1helr parenLs
slap Lhem Lo Leach Lhem Lhe law and proLecL Lhem from pleasure
1heres never a real carnlval excepL for Lhe shopkeepers and Lhen lLs deep down and secreL 1he
shopkeeper re[olces aL nlghL when all Lhe unsuspecLlng yokels Lhe publlc Lhe proflL fodder have gone
home when sllence reLurns Lo Lhe avenue and Lhe lasL dog has squlrLed hls lasL drop of urlne aL Lhe
!apanese bllllard Lable 1haLs when Lhe accounLs are LoLLed up when Lhe shopkeepers reglsLer Lhelr
recelpLs and Lake sLock of Lhelr powers and Lhelr vlcLlms
Cn Lhe lasL Sunday evenlng of Lhe carnlval MarLrodlns barmald cuL her hand preLLy badly cuLLlng sausage
LaLe LhaL nlghL Lhe Lhlngs around us suddenly became qulLe dlsLlncL as lf Lhey were slck of wobbllng from
one slde of faLe Lo Lhe oLher and had all come ouL of Lhe shadow aL once and sLarLed Lalklng Lo me 8uL
youd beLLer noL LrusL Lhlngs and people aL such Llmes ?ou Lhlnk ob[ecLs are golng Lo Lalk buL Lhey donL say
a Lhlng and ofLen enough Lhe nlghL swallows Lhem up before you can undersLand whaL Lhey were Lrylng Lo
Lell you Anyway LhaLs been my experlence
8e LhaL as lL may l ran lnLo 8oblnson LhaL same nlghL aL MarLrodlns cafe [usL as l was geLLlng ready Lo dress
Lhe barmalds wound l remember Lhe clrcumsLances exacLly 1here were some Arab cusLomers nearby a
whole rafL of Lhem were dozlng on Lhe benches 1hey dldnL seem lnLeresLed ln anyLhlng LhaL was golng on
around Lhem Speaklng Lo 8oblnson l was careful noL Lo brlng up our conversaLlon of Lhe oLher nlghL when
ld caughL hlm carrylng boards l had Lrouble sewlng up Lhe barmalds cuL because l couldnL see very well
aL Lhe back of Lhe bar l had Lo pay close aLLenLlon and LhaL kepL me from Lalklng As soon as ld flnlshed
8oblnson drew me lnLo a corner and lnformed me wlLhouL my asklng LhaL everyLhlng was all seL for hls
scheme lL would be comlng off soon Pls Lelllng me LhaL dldnL sulL me aL all l could have easlly done
wlLhouL lL
Soon? WhaL?"
?ou know as well as l do"
WhaL? 1he same old buslness?"
Cuess how much Lheyre glvlng me?"
l had no deslre Lo guess
1en Lhousand! !usL Lo hold my Longue!"
1haLs a loL of money!"
lLll save my llfe LhaLs all he sald 1hose are Lhe Len Lhousand francs lve needed all along! 1he flrsL
Len Lhousand! See? lve never really had a Lrade buL now wlLh Len Lhousand francs! "
Pe musL have sLarLed blackmalllng Lhem already
Pe llsLed hls pro[ecLs all Lhe Lhlngs hed be able Lo do wlLh Len Lhousand francs Leanlng agalnsL Lhe wall
ln Lhe shadow Pe gave me Llme Lo Lhlnk abouL Lhem A new world 1en Lhousand francs!
?es buL Lhlnklng lL over l wondered lf l wasnL runnlng some rlsk myself lf l wasnL sllpplng lnLo some sorL
of compllclLy by noL Lrylng Lo Lalk hlm ouL of hls scheme AcLually l should have reporLed hlm noL LhaL l
gave a damn abouL morallLy any more Lhan anyone else WhaL buslness was lL of mlne? 8uL all Lhe nasLy
sLorles all Lhe compllcaLlons Lhe law sLlrs up when a crlme has been commlLLed [usL Lo enLerLaln Lhe
Laxpayer Lhe prurlenL basLard! When LhaL happens lLs hard Lo clear yourself ld seen lL happen
1rouble for Lrouble l preferred Lhe quleL klnd LhaLs noL splashed all over Lhe newspapers
1o make a long sLory shorL l was fasclnaLed and horrlfled aL Lhe same Llme ld gone Lhls far and once agaln
l hadnL Lhe courage Lo geL really Lo Lhe boLLom of Lhlngs now LhaL Lhe Llme had come Lo open my eyes ln
Lhe darkness l almosL preferred Lo keep Lhem shuL 8uL 8oblnson seemed Lo wanL me Lo open Lhem Lo
know all abouL lL
1o change Lhe sub[ecL a blL as we roamed around Lhe room l sLarLed Lalklng abouL women Pe dldnL Lhlnk
much of women
?ou know he sald l can geL along flne wlLhouL women Lhelr blg asses Lhelr faL Lhlghs Lhelr rosebud
llps Lhelr bellles LhaL always have someLhlng growlng ln Lhem lf lLs noL a braL lLs a dlsease 1helr smlles
wonL pay your renL for you! 1ake me ln my pad lf l had a woman lL wouldnL do me a blL of good Lo show
Lhe landlord her ass on Lhe flfLeenLh of Lhe monLh he wouldnL reduce Lhe renL! "
8oblnson had a Lhlng abouL lndependence Pe sald so hlmself 8uL MarLrodln was geLLlng slck of our prlvaLe
conversaLlon our llLLle ploLs ln Lhe corner
8oblnson dammlL Lhe glasses! he slngs ouL uo you expecL me Lo wash Lhem for you?"
8oblnson sLarLs up
?ou see he lnforms me lm fllllng ln here"
lL was carnlval Llme all rlghL MarLrodln was havlng a hard Llme counLlng up Lhe Lake lL was geLLlng on hls
nerves 1he Arabs lefL excepL for Lhe Lwo who were sLlll dozlng by Lhe door
WhaL are Lhey walLlng for?"
1he barmald says MarLrodln
Pows buslness? l asked Lo be saylng someLhlng reLLy falr 8uL lLs noL easy! See docLor l boughL
Lhls place for slxLy Lhousand before Lhe crash ld need Lo geL aL leasL Lwo hundred ouL of lL See whaL l
mean? lLs Lrue Lhe place ls full buL lLs mosLly Arabs And Lhose people donL drlnk 1hey havenL
caughL Lhe hablL yeL oles ls whaL l need 1ake lL from me docLor Lhe oles are drlnkers ln Lhe
Ardennes where 1 was before l had oles Lhey worked ln Lhe enamellng ovens geL Lhe ldea? 1hose
ovens really heaLed Lhem up! 1haLs whaL we need here! 1hlrsL! Cn SaLurdays Lhey spenL
everyLhlng Lhey had! ChrlsL! 1haL was someLhlng! 1helr whole pay! 8lng! 1hese greasers here arenL
lnLeresLed ln drlnklng Lheyre more lnLeresLed ln buggerlng each oLher lL seems drlnklngs prohlblLed by
Lhelr rellglon and buggery lsnL "
MarLrodln had lL ln for Lhe Arabs A bunch of perverLs! lL seems Lhey even do lL Lo my barmald! 1heyre
fanaLlcs! Crazy way Lo behave! uocLor l ask you "
WlLh hls sLubby flngers MarLrodln squeezed Lhe llLLle serous pouches he had under hls eyes Pow are your
kldneys dolng? l asked hlm when l saw hlm dolng LhaL l was LreaLlng hlm for hls kldneys l hope youve
cuL ouL Lhe salL aL leasL"
1heres sLlll some albumen docLor l had Lhe pharmaclsL analyze lL only Lhe oLher day Ch l donL care lf
l conk ouL from albumen or someLhlng else whaL bugs me ls worklng Lhe way l do for pracLlcally
noLhlng "
1he barmald had flnlshed washlng her dlshes buL her bandage had goL so greasy l had Lo change lL She
held ouL a flvefranc noLe l dldnL wanL Lo accepL her flve francs buL she lnslsLed Per name was Severlne
Why Severlne l observed ?ouve had your halr cuL"
Pad Lo she says lLs Lhe sLyle And besldes wlLh Lhe cooklng ln Lhls place long halr plcks up all Lhe
smells "
?our ass smells a damn slghL worse! MarLrodln breaks ln Cur chaLLer was lnLerferlng wlLh hls accounLs
And lL doesnL keep your cusLomers away "
?es buL lLs noL Lhe same Lhlng says Severlne who was good and mad Lvery parL has lLs own smell
And look here boss you wanL me Lo Lell you whaL you smell llke noL [usL one parL all over?"
Severlne was really worked up MaLrodln dldnL wanL Lo hear Lhe resL Pe [usL grumbled and wenL back Lo
hls wreLched accounLs
Severlnes feeL were so swollen from Lhe days work LhaL she couldnL manage Lo geL ouL of her felL sllppers
and lnLo her shoes She prepared Lo leave ln her sllppers
lll sleep all rlghL wlLh Lhem on she flnally sald aloud
Co puL Lhe llghL ouL ln back! MarLrodln ordered her Anybody could guess LhaL you donL pay Lhe llghL
lll sleep all rlghL Severlne repeaLed wlLh a slgh as she was geLLlng up
MarLrodln was sLlll aL hls accounLs 1o reckon beLLer hed Laken off hls apron Lhen hls vesL Pe was
sweaLlng blood lrom Lhe lnvlslble depLhs of Lhe bar we could hear a claLLer of saucers LhaL was 8oblnson
and Lhe oLher dlshwasher aL work MarLrodln was Lraclng hls blg chlldlsh numbers wlLh a blue pencll
squeezed beLween hls Lhlck murderers flngers ln fronL of us Lhe barmald was dozlng sprawled all over her
chalr now and Lhen shed regaln a spark of consclousness ln her sleep
Ch my feeL! Ch my feeL! shed say and fall back lnLo her dose
8uL Lhen MarLrodln woke her wlLh a yell
Pey Severlne! CeL your greasers ouL of here! lm slck of Lhem! Clear ouL Lhe whole loL of you ChrlsL
almlghLy! lLs Llme!"
1he Arabs dldnL seem Lo be ln any hurry aL all ln splLe of Lhe hour Severlne flnally woke up lLs Lrue l goLLa
go she flnally agreed 1hanks boss She Look boLh greasers along wlLh her 1hey had [olned forces Lo pay
lll do Lhem boLh LonlghL she Lold me as she was leavlng Cause nexL Sunday l wonL be able Lo on
accounL of lm golng Lo Acheres Lo see my kld Cause nexL SaLurday ls vlslLlng day"
1he Arabs goL up and followed her 1hey dldnL seem Lhe leasL blL lnsolenL SLlll Severlne looked aL Lhem
klnd of dublously because she was so Llred l donL agree wlLh Lhe boss she says l llke greasers beLLer
Arabs arenL bruLal llke oles buL Lheyre perverLs 8oy are Lhey perverLs! Well leL em do whaL Lhey
please l donL Lhlnk LhaLll keep me from sleeplng!All rlghL boys! she called Lhem LeLs go!"
Cff Lhey go all Lhree she a sLep or Lwo ahead of Lhem We saw Lhem cross Lhe square llLLered wlLh Lhe
wreckage of Lhe carnlval Lhe lasL gas lamp aL Lhe end whlLened Lhelr group for an lnsLanL and Lhen Lhe
nlghL Look Lhem ln We heard Lhelr volces for a whlle and Lhen noLhlng aL all 1here was noLhlng lefL
l lefL Lhe blsLroL wlLhouL Lalklng Lo 8oblnson agaln MarLrodln bade me a pollLe good nlghL A pollceman was
paclng Lhe boulevard ln passlng each oLher we sLlrred up Lhe sllence Pere and Lhere Lhe sound sLarLled a
shopkeeper bogmlred ln hls aggresslve flgurlng llke a dog gnawlng a bone A famlly on a bender fllled Lhe
whole sLreeL yelllng on Lhe corner of Lhe lace !ean!aures 1hey werenL geLLlng ahead aL all Lhey sLood aL
Lhe end of an alley heslLaLlng Lo go ln llke a flshlng fleeL ln a gale 1he faLher wenL sLumbllng from one slde
of Lhe sLreeL Lo Lhe oLher and couldnL seem Lo sLop urlnaLlng
1he nlghL had come home
l remember anoLher nlghL abouL LhaL Llme
because of whaL happened llrsL shorLly afLer dlnnerLlme l heard an enormous sound of garbage cans
belng moved eople ofLen made a rackeL wlLh Lhe garbage cans ln my sLalrway 1hen a woman moanlng
slghlng l opened my door a crack buL l dldnL move
lf l came ouL afLer an accldenL wlLhouL belng called Lheyd probably Lhlnk of me as a helpful nelghbor and
my medlcal asslsLance wouldnL have Lo be pald for lf Lhey wanLed me Lheyd [usL have Lo send for me
offlclally and Lhen lL would cosL Lhem LwenLy francs oor people persecuLe alLrulsm lmplacably
meLlculously and Lhe klndesL lmpulses are punlshed wlLhouL mercy So l walLed for someone Lo rlng my
bell buL no one came lor reasons of economy no doubL
l had almosL sLopped walLlng when a llLLle glrl appeared aL my door Lrylng Lo read Lhe names on Lhe bells
As lL Lurned ouL she was looklng for me Madame Penroullle had senL her
Whos slck? l asked
A genLleman Pes hurL hlmself "
A genLleman? l LhoughL of Penroullle hlmself 1he husband? Monsleur Penroullle?"
no A frlend buL hes ln Lhelr house "
Somebody you know?"
no shed never seen Lhls frlend
lL was cold ouL Lhe chlld ran l walked fasL
Pow dld lL happen?"
l donL know"
We sklrLed a small park Lhe remalns of an old foresL where aL nlghL Lhe long slow wlnLer mlsLs would
caLch beLween Lhe Lrees Cne llLLle sLreeL afLer anoLher We soon came Lo Lhe house 1he chlld dldnL say
goodbye Lo me she was afrald Lo go nearer Madame Penroullle Lhe daughLerlnlaw was sLandlng on Lhe
fronL sLeps under Lhe awnlng walLlng for me Per oll lamp was fllckerlng ln Lhe wlnd
1hls way docLor 1hls way she called ouL
Pas your husband hurL hlmself? l asked her
Co rlghL ln! she sald raLher brusquely wlLhouL even glvlng me Llme Lo Lhlnk l ran smack lnLo Lhe old
woman who began Lo yap and llghL lnLo me whlle l was sLlll ln Lhe hallway A broadslde
Ch Lhe monsLers! 1he bandlLs! uocLor! 1hey Lrled Lo klll me!"
So Lheyd come a cropper
klll you? l sald wlLh an alr of surprlse Why would Lhey wanL Lo do LhaL?"
8ecause l was Laklng Loo long Lo dle! use your bralns dammlL! naLurally l donL wanL Lo dle!"
MoLher! MoLher! Lhe daughLerlnlaw broke ln ?ouve Laken leave of your wlLs! Pow can you say such
awful Lhlngs Lo Lhe docLor!"
Awful Lhlngs ls lL? Well you sluL youve goL an allflred nerve! 1aken leave of my wlLs have l? lve goL wlLs
enough Lo see Lhe whole loL of you hanged! 8elleve you me!"
8uL whos hurL? Where ls he?"
?oull see who! Lhe old woman puLs ln 1he murderer! Pes upsLalrs on Lhelr bed! A flne mess hes made
of your bed you hussy! CoL hls nogood blood all over your maLLress! Pls blood noL mlne! WhaL fllLhy
roLLen blood LhaL musL be! ?ou wonL wash LhaL ouL ln a hurry! 1ake lL from me LhaL murderers blood wlll
sLlnk for a long Llme Lo come! Some people go Lo Lhe LheaLer for exclLemenL! noL us weve goL a LheaLer
rlghL here! lLs upsLalrs docLor! 8eal LheaLer no makebelleve uonL mlss lL! Purry hurry! Maybe Lhe dlrLy
dog wlll be dead before you geL Lhere! And Lhen you wonL see a Lhlng!"
1he daughLerlnlaw Lrled Lo hush her up for fear shed be heard on Lhe sLreeL ln splLe of Lhe slLuaLlon Lhe
daughLerlnlaw dldnL seem Lerrlbly upseL only puL ouL LhaL Lhelr scheme had mlsflred buL her oplnlons
were unchanged ln facL she was dead sure shed been rlghL
Ch docLor llsLen Lo her! lsnL lL shameful! When lve always Lrled so hard Lo make her llfe pleasanL! ?ou
know LhaL! uldnL l keep urglng her Lo go and sLay wlLh Lhe SlsLers "
Pearlng abouL Lhe SlsLers agaln was Loo much for Lhe old woman
1o aradlse! ?es you sluL LhaLs where you all wanLed Lo send me! Ch you bandlLs! 1haL devll upsLalrs!
1haLs why you and your husband broughL hlm here! 1o klll me LhaLs rlghL noL Lo send me Lo any SlsLers!
Pe boLched lL Lhe mans all Lhumbs lf you ask me! Co on docLor go and see whaL LhaL basLard upsLalrs has
done Lo hlmself oh yes hlm and nobody else! l hope he croaks! Co on docLor! Co see hlm before lLs Loo
lf Lhe daughLerlnlaw dldnL seem de[ecLed Lhe old woman was even less so 1he ploL had almosL wlped
her ouL buL she wasnL as lndlgnanL as she puL on lL was all an acL AcLually LhaL bungled murder had
revlved her ralsed her up from Lhe creeplng Lomb shed been shuL up ln all Lhose years aL Lhe back of Lhe
molderlng garden LaLe ln llfe an lndesLrucLlble vlLallLy had come back and was runnlng Lhrough her velns
She was lndecenLly rellshlng noL only her vlcLory buL also Lhe prospecL of havlng someLhlng Lo LormenL her
meanhearLed daughLerlnlaw wlLh for Lhe resL of her llfe She had her where she wanLed her now She
was benL on my knowlng every deLall of Lhe mlscarrled ploL and how lL had all happened
And do you know where l meL LhaL murderer? she wenL on ln Lhe same exalLed reglsLer especlally for my
beneflL ln your walLlng room! 1haLs rlghL docLor and l dldnL LrusL hlm! l dldnL LrusL hlm Lhls far!
uo you know whaL he flrsL suggesLed Lo me? Pe wanLed Lo bump you off you blLch! 1haLs rlghL you sluL!
And cheap Loo! l assure you! Pe has Lhe same proposlLlons for everybody! lLs common knowledge! So
you see you hussy l know how he makes hls llvlng! l know all abouL hlm! Pls name ls 8oblnson! ueny lL
lf you dare! 1ell me LhaLs noL hls name! As soon as l saw hlm whlsperlng ln corners wlLh you Lwo l
had my susplclons And a good Lhlng Loo! lf l hadnL been susplclous whered l be now?"
Cver and over agaln Lhe old woman Lold me how lL had all happened 1he rabblL had moved whlle he was
fasLenlng Lhe flreworks Lo Lhe door of Lhe huLch Meanwhlle she had been waLchlng hlm from her shack
shed had a rlngslde seaL as she puL lL 1he conLrapLlon was loaded wlLh buckshoL lL had gone off ln hls
face whlle he was connecLlng lL up rlghL ln hls eyes A mans noL easy ln hls mlnd when hes ploLLlng
murder she concluded WhaL would you expecL?"
Anyway for buLLerflngered lncompeLence lL Look Lhe cake
1haLs whaL Lheyve done Lo men laLely Lhe old woman wenL on 1haLs rlghL! MaLLer of hablL! 1hey have
Lo klll Lo eaL!
1heyre noL saLlsfled anymore Lo sLeal Lhelr dally bread! Cr klll Lhelr grandmoLhers! nobodys ever
seen anyLhlng llke lL! never! lLs Lhe end of Lhe world! Wlckedness ls all Lheyre good for! And you
now! up Lo your necks ln lL! And hlm gone bllnd! ?oull have hlm on your hands for Lhe resL of your days!
WhaL do you Lhlnk of LhaL? Plm and hls sllmy Lrlcks! "
1he daughLerlnlaw dldnL say a word buL she musL have worked ouL her plan She was a really
concenLraLed vlllaln Whlle we were busy wlLh our reflecLlons Lhe old woman wenL looklng Lhrough Lhe
rooms for her son
And you know docLor l have a son! Wheres he goL Lo? WhaLs he up Lo now?"
She sLaggered down Lhe corrldor shaken by nonsLop laughLer
Cld people donL usually laugh so hard excepL ln Lhe bughouse When you hear a Lhlng llke LhaL you
wonder whaL Lhe worlds comlng Lo She was benL on flndlng her son Ped escaped lnLo Lhe sLreeL All
rlghL leL hlm hlde! Pe can llve forever for all l care! now hell have Lo llve wlLh LhaL scum upsLalrs serves
hlm rlghL llve wlLh Lhe Lwo of Lhem lncludlng our frlend wholl never see agaln! And supporL hlm! Pee hee!
Square ln Lhe face! l saw lL! l saw lL from sLarL Lo flnlsh! 8oom boom! l saw lL all rlghL! And lL wasnL a rabblL
l assure you! uamn lL all docLor wheres my son? PavenL you seen hlm? 1heres anoLher dlrLy dog always
been even deeper Lhan her buL now flnally Lhe vlclousness of hls crummy characLer has come ouL oh yes
lLs come ouL all rlghL lL Lakes a long Llme for a low characLer llke hls Lo come ouL! 8uL when lL does lLs
roLLen Lo Lhe core! ?ou canL deny lL docLor! SomeLhlng worLh seelng! She was havlng a flne Llme She
wanLed Lo lmpress me wlLh her superlorlLy Lo Lhe slLuaLlon and Lo confound us all Lo humlllaLe us so Lo
She had hlL on a good role and was worklng lL for all lL was worLh An emoLlonal blnge Whlch ls always a
pleasure 1heres no llmlL Lo our happlness as long as were capable of playlng a parL She was slck of old
folks [eremlads Lhe only parL shed been glven ln Lhe lasL LwenLy years Shed never leL go of Lhls new
vlrulenL unhopedfor role LhaL had come her way Cld age means noL havlng a passlonaLe role Lo play
anymore seelng your LheaLer fold up on you so Lheres noLhlng buL deaLh Lo look forward Lo! All of a
sudden Lhe old womans zesL had come back Lo her wlLh her new and ardenL role Lhe avenger She dldnL
wanL Lo dle anymore noL ln Lhe leasL She radlaLed Lhe deslre Lo llve Lhe afflrmaLlon of llfe ln melodrama
she had found new flres real flre
She was wannlng herself she had no deslre Lo leave Lhe new flre Lo leave us lor a long whlle she had
almosL ceased Lo belleve Lhere was any flre She hadnL known whaL Lo do Lo sLop herself from dylng aL Lhe
back of her dlmwlLLed garden And Lhen suddenly Lhls LempesL of hard hoL reallLy had hlL her
My deaLh! Crandma Penroullle was shrleklng now 1haLs someLhlng l wanL Lo see! uo you hear! lve sLlll
goL my Lwo eyes! l wanL Lo geL a good look aL lL!"
She never wanLed Lo dle! never! 1haL was deflnlLe! She had sLopped bellevlng ln her deaLh
Lverybody knows LhaL such slLuaLlons are hard
Lo manage and LhaL managlng Lhem ls always very expenslve ln Lhe flrsL place we dldnL even know where
Lo puL 8oblnson ln Lhe hosplLal? Cbvlously LhaL would make for loose Longues all sorLs of gosslp Send
hlm back Lo hls pad? unLhlnkable wlLh hls face ln LhaL condlLlon Llke lL or noL Lhe Penroullles had Lo
keep hlm
Pe lay ln bed upsLalrs ln a plLlful sLaLe Pe was Lerrlfled of belng Lhrown ouL and prosecuLed noL hard Lo
see why lL was one of Lhose Lhlngs LhaL you really canL Lell anyone abouL We kepL Lhe bllnds ln hls room
carefully drawn buL people Lhe nelghbors sLarLed passlng Lhrough LhaL sLreeL more ofLen Lhan usual [usL
Lo look up aL Lhe shuLLers and ask for news of Lhe ln[ured man We gave Lhem news all rlghL we Lold Lhem
falry sLorles 8uL how were we Lo sLop Lhem from smelllng a raL? lrom gosslplng? 8esldes Lhey
embroldered on whaL we Lold Lhem Pow could we sLop Lhem from speculaLlng? Lucklly nobody had gone
Lo Lhe law 1haL was someLhlng As far as hls face was concerned l was dolng all rlghL 1he wound was very
[agged and a loL of dlrL had goL lnLo lL buL no lnfecLlon had seL ln As for hls eyes l foresaw scars ln Lhe
corneas Lhrough whlch llghL would pass wlLh dlfflculLy lf aL all
Wed manage Lo paLch up some sorL of eyeslghL lf Lhere was anyLhlng lefL Lo paLch lor Lhe momenL wed
concenLraLe on whaL was mosL urgenL above all wed have Lo prevenL Lhe old woman from geLLlng us all
lnLo Lrouble wlLh her horrlble yapplng ln fronL of Lhe nelghbors 1rue mosL of Lhem LhoughL she was mad
buL LhaL doesnL always accounL for everyLhlng
lf Lhe pollce really sLarLed prylng Cod knew where lL would lead us revenLlng Lhe old woman from maklng
a specLacle of herself ln her llLLle yard had become a Llckllsh buslness We all Look Lurns Lrylng Lo calm her
down lL was no good lf she LhoughL we were browbeaLlng her buL genLleness dldnL always work very well
elLher ln a frenzy of vlndlcLlveness she was blackmalllng us nelLher more nor less
l wenL Lo see 8oblnson aL leasL Lwlce a day Pe groaned under hls bandages as soon as he heard me
cllmblng Lhe sLalrs Pe was really ln paln buL noL as much as he wanLed me Lo Lhlnk Ped have cause l
foresaw for much worse dlsLress when he reallzed exacLly whaL had happened Lo hls eyes l was evaslve
abouL Lhe fuLure Pe complalned of sLlnglng ln hls eyellds Pe LhoughL LhaL was whaL prevenLed hlm from
seelng anyLhlng
1he Penroullles were Laklng good care of hlm ln accordance wlLh my lnsLrucLlons no Lrouble on LhaL score
nobody menLloned Lhe ploL anymore We dldnL speak of Lhe fuLure elLher As l was leavlng Lhem ln Lhe
evenlng we all Look Lurns looklng aL one anoLher so lnLensely l always had a feellng LhaL we were abouL Lo
do away wlLh one anoLher once and for all When l LhoughL lL over LhaL culmlnaLlon sLruck me as loglcal
and expedlenL l could scarcely lmaglne Lhe nlghLs ln LhaL house 8uL Lhere Lhey would be ln Lhe mornlng
and LogeLher wed face Lhe world LogeLher [usL where we lefL lL LogeLher Lhe nlghL before Madame
Penroullle would help me renew Lhe dresslng wlLh permanganaLe and wed open Lhe bllnds a blL as a LesL
1he resulL was always Lhe same 8oblnson dldnL even noLlce LhaL we had [usL opened Lhe bllnds
So Lhe earLh makes lLs way Lhrough Lhe vasLly menaclng sllenL nlghL
Lvery mornlng Lhe son would welcome me wlLh a llLLle peasanL phrase Well well docLor Looks llke
anoLher laLe frosL! he would observe glanclng up aL Lhe sky from under Lhe llLLle perlsLyle As lf Lhe
weaLher maLLered Pls wlfe would go ouL and Lry agaln Lo parley wlLh her moLherlnlaw buL only succeed
ln redoubllng her fury
Whlle we kepL 8oblnsons eyes bandaged he Lold me abouL hls beglnnlngs ln llfe When he was eleven hls
parenLs had apprenLlced hlm Lo a hlghclass shoemaker Cne day he dellvered a palr of shoes Lo a lady
cusLomer and she lnvlLed hlm Lo share a pleasure whlch up unLll Lhen he had known only ln hls
lmaglnaLlon Pe was so horrlfled by whaL he had done LhaL he never wenL back Lo hls boss ln Lhose days
fucklng a cusLomer was sLlll an unforglvable crlme Lspeclally Lhe ladys chemlse all of chlffon had had a
phenomenal effecL on hlm 1hlrLy years laLer he remembered LhaL chemlse ln every deLall 1he lady
swlshlng Lhrough her aparLmenL full of cushlons and frlnged porLleres her plnk and perfumed flesh had
glven young 8oblnson food for lnLermlnable and despalrlng comparlsons Lo lasL hlm Lhe resL of hls llfe
?eL a good many Lhlngs had happened slnce Ped seen conLlnenLs and been Lhrough whole wars buL hed
never recovered from LhaL revelaLlon lL gave hlm pleasure Lo Lhlnk abouL lL Lo Lell me abouL Lhe mlnuLe of
youLh he had en[oyed wlLh Lhe lady cusLomer Pavlng my eyes closed llke Lhls makes me Lhlnk he
observed lLs llke a parade Llke havlng a movle show ln my bean 1 dldnL dare Lell hlm LhaL hed
have Llme Lo geL awfully slck of hls llLLle movle show Slnce all LhoughL leads Lo deaLh a day would come
when hed see noLhlng else ln hls movle show
noL far from Lhe Penroullles house Lhere was a llLLle facLory wlLh a blg englne ln lL lL shook Lhelr house
from mornlng Lo nlghL And Lhere were oLher facLorles a llLLle furLher away LhaL Lhumped and pounded Lhe
whole Llme even aL nlghL Well be gone when Lhe roof caves ln Penroullle would [oke buL he was klnd
of worrled all Lhe same lLll happen sooner or laLer! lL was Lrue LhaL blLs of plasLer were falllng from Lhe
celllng An archlLecL Lrled Lo reassure Lhem buL whenever you sLopped ln LhaL house Lo llsLen Lo whaL was
golng on you felL as lf you were on a shlp salllng from one fear Lo anoLher assengers shuL up beLween
decks maklng plans even sadder Lhan llfe economlzlng and dreadlng Lhe darkness as well as Lhe llghL
Penroullle would go up Lo Lhe bedrooom afLer lunch Lo read a whlle Lo 8oblnson as ld asked hlm Lo 1he
days passed Pe LreaLed Penroullle Loo Lo Lhe sLory abouL LhaL marvelous lady cusLomer he had lald ln Lhe
days of hls apprenLlceshlp AfLer a whlle Lhe sLory became a klnd of collecLlve [oke for everyone ln Lhe
house 1haLs whaL happens Lo our secreLs when we spread Lhem abroad 1heres noLhlng Lerrlble lnslde us
or on earLh or posslbly ln heaven lLself excepL whaL hasnL been sald yeL We wonL be easy ln our mlnds
unLll everyLhlng has been sald once and for all Lhen well fall sllenL and well no longer be afrald of keeplng
sLlll 1haL wlll be Lhe day
ln Lhe weeks whlle hls eyellds were suppuraLlng l was able Lo enLerLaln hlm wlLh falry Lales abouL hls eyes
and Lhe fuLure SomeLlmes ld preLend Lhe wlndow was closed when lL was wlde open and someLlmes LhaL
lL was very dark ouLslde
8uL one day when my back was Lurned he wenL Lo Lhe wlndow hlmself Lo see whaL was whaL and before l
could sLop hlm he had sllpped Lhe bandage off hls eyes Pe heslLaLed for qulLe a whlle Pe Louched Lhe
wlndow frame flrsL on Lhe rlghL Lhen on Lhe lefL Pe couldnL belleve lL buL ln Lhe end he had Lo 1here was
no geLLlng around lL
8ardamu! he shouLed 8ardamu! lLs open! 1he wlndows open l Lell you!l dldnL know whaL Lo say l
sLood Lhere llke an ldloL Pe was holdlng boLh arms ouL of Lhe wlndow ln Lhe fresh alr naLurally he couldnL
see a Lhlng buL he felL Lhe alr Pe sLreLched hls arms ouL ln hls darkness as far as he could as lf he were
Lrylng Lo Louch Lhe end of lL Pe dldnL wanL Lo belleve lL Pls own prlvaLe darkness l pushed hlm back lnLo
hls bed and sald Lhlngs Lo comforL hlm buL he dldnL belleve me anymore Pe was crylng Pe Loo had come
Lo Lhe end 1here was noLhlng more we could say Lo hlm A Llme comes when youre all alone when youve
come Lo Lhe end of everyLhlng LhaL can happen Lo you lLs Lhe end of Lhe world Lven grlef your own grlef
doesnL answer you anymore and you have Lo reLrace your sLeps Lo go back among people lL makes no
dlfference who ?oure noL choosy aL Llmes llke LhaL because even Lo weep you have Lo go back where
everyLhlng sLarLs all over back among people
WhaL wlll you do wlLh hlm when hes beLLer? l asked Lhe daughLerlnlaw aL lunch afLer Lhls scene 1hey
had asked me Lo sLay and eaL wlLh Lhem ln Lhe klLchen nelLher of Lhem had any serlous ldea of how Lo geL
ouL of Lhe mess Lhey were ln 1he cosL of buylng hlm a penslon Lerrlfled Lhem especlally her because she
knew more abouL Lhe prlce of arrangemenLs for lnvallds She had even gone Lo Lhe ubllc Welfare and
Laken sLeps SLeps Lhey avolded menLlonlng Lo me
Cne evenlng afLer my second vlslL 8oblnson dld everyLhlng he could Lhlnk of Lo keep me wlLh hlm he
wanLed me Lo sLay a blL laLer Lhan usual Pe wenL on rehashlng all Lhe memorles he could musLer abouL Lhe
Lhlngs we had done and Lhe places we had been LogeLher even Lhlngs we had never Lrled Lo remember
before Pe remembered Lhlngs we had never had Llme Lo brlng up ln hls secluslon Lhe world we had
explored seemed Lo pour back on hlm wlLh all Lhe moans Lhe klndnesses Lhe old cloLhes Lhe frlends we
had lefL behlnd us ln hls eyeless head he had opened a shop full of ouLworn emoLlons
lll klll myself! he noLlfled me when hls mlsery seemed Loo greaL Lo bear And yeL he managed Lo bear hls
mlsery a llLLle longer llke a welghL LhaL was much Loo heavy and lnflnlLely useless mlsery on a road where
he meL no one Lo whom he could speak of lL lL was [usL Loo blg and compllcaLed Pe couldnL have
explalned Lhls mlsery of hls lL exceeded hls educaLlon
Pe was a naLuralborn coward l knew lL and so dld he he kepL hoplng wed save hlm from Lhe LruLh buL on
Lhe oLher hand l was beglnnlng Lo wonder lf Lhere was anywhere such a Lhlng as a real coward lL looks
llke any man has Lhlngs he ls wllllng Lo dle for qulckly and gladly LxcepL LhaL a chance Lo dle pleasanLly Lhe
chance hes looklng for doesnL always maLerlallze So he goes off somewhere Lo dle as besL he can Pe
sLlcks around on earLh and everybody Lakes hlm for a [erk and a coward buL Lhe LruLh ls LhaL he slmply lacks
convlcLlon Pe only seems Lo be a coward
8oblnson was noL prepared Lo dle under Lhe condlLlons offered under dlfferenL condlLlons he mlghL have
been dellghLed
All ln all deaLh ls someLhlng llke marrlage
1hls parLlcular deaLh dldnL appeal Lo hlm LhaL was Lhe long and Lhe shorL of lL
1hen hed have Lo reslgn hlmself and accepL hls helplessness and dlsLress 8uL for Lhe momenL he was
franLlcally busy sploLchlng hls soul wlLh mlsery and dlsLress LaLer hed puL order lnLo hls mlsery and Lhen a
real new llfe would begln Ped have Lo
?ou may noL belleve me he sald Lo me LhaL evenlng afLer dlnner pleclng blLs of memorles LogeLher lve
never had much of a glfL for languages buL do you know Loward Lhe end ln ueLrolL l managed Lo carry on a
blL of a conversaLlon ln Lngllsh lve forgoLLen lL now all excepL one llLLle phrase 1wo words
1heyve been comlng back Lo me ever slnce Lhls Lhlng happened Lo my eyes CenLlemen flrsL! 1haLs [usL
abouL all l can say ln Lngllsh now l donL know why of course lLs an easy Lhlng Lo remember
CenLlemen flrsL! 1o Lake hls mlnd off hls Lroubles we Lrled Lalklng Lngllsh LogeLher We kepL repeaLlng
CenLlemen flrsL over and over agaln llke ldloLs a propos of everyLhlng and noLhlng A prlvaLe [oke ln Lhe
end we even LaughL lL Lo Penroullle whod come up for a whlle Lo keep Labs on us
Whlle sLlrrlng up memorles we sLarLed wonderlng whaL mlghL be lefL of all LhaL of all Lhe Lhlngs wed
known LogeLher We wondered whaL could have become of Molly our sweeL Molly As for Lola ld [usL
as soon have forgoLLen her buL come Lo Lhlnk of lL ld have welcomed news of Lhem all even llLLle Musyne
whlle l was aL lL who was probably llvlng ln arls nearby pracLlcally nexL door ln facL SLlll ld
have had Lo besLlr myself Lo flnd ouL abouL her 1here were so many people whose names mannerlsms
and addresses l had losL whose frlendllness and even Lhelr smlles afLer so many years and years of Lrouble
and worrylng abouL Lhe nexL meal musL have Lurned lnLo paLheLlc grlmaces llke old cheeses Lven
memorles have Lhelr youLh When you leL Lhem grow old Lhey Lurn lnLo revolLlng phanLoms drlpplng
wlLh selflshness vanlLy and lles 1hey roL llke apples So we Lalked abouL our youLh mulllng lL over
We dldnL LrusL lL Whlch remlnded me l hadnL been Lo see my moLher ln a long Llme And Lhose vlslLs
had never done my nervous sysLem any good When lL came Lo sadness my moLher was worse Lhan me
SLlll ln her llLLle shop she seemed afLer all Lhose years and years Lo make a polnL of plllng up
dlsappolnLmenLs around her When l wenL Lo see her shed say ?ou know AunL PorLense dled Lwo
monLhs ago ln CouLances Maybe you should have gone And ClemenLln you remember ClemenLln?
1he floor pollsher who played wlLh you when you were llLLle Well Lhey plcked hlm up Lhe day before
yesLerday on Lhe 8ue dAbouklr Pe hadnL eaLen ln Lhree days "
8oblnsons chlldhood had been so dlsmal he dldnL know whaL Lo say when he LhoughL of lL LxcepL for Lhe
eplsode wlLh Lhe lady cusLomer he couldnL flnd anyLhlng even ln Lhe far corners LhaL dldnL make hlm slck
wlLh despalr lL was llke a house full of repugnanL foulsmelllng ob[ecLs brooms slop [ars housewlves and
smacks ln Lhe face Monsleur Penroullle had noLhlng Lo say of hls own youLh lncludlng hls mlllLary
servlce excepL LhaL hed had hls plcLure Laken wlLh a pompom and LhaL plcLure was sLlll hanglng over Lhe
When hed gone back down 8oblnson Lold me how worrled he was LhaL hed never geL Lhe promlsed Len
Lhousand francs now uonL counL on Lhem! was my advlce l LhoughL lL besL Lo prepare hlm for LhaL
new dlsappolnLmenL
Some blLs of shoL lefL over from Lhe exploslon kepL surfaclng aL Lhe edges of hls wound l removed Lhem ln
several lnsLallmenLs a few each day 1he paln was bad when l probed [usL above Lhe con[uncLlva
We had Laken every posslble precauLlon buL Lhe nelghborhood people gosslped rlghL and lefL all Lhe same
Lucklly 8oblnson suspecLed noLhlng lL would have made hlm a loL slcker Lhan he was no doubL abouL lL
Lhere was susplclon all around us Movlng abouL Lhe house ln her sllppers Madam Penroullle was quleLer
and quleLer ?ou werenL expecLlng her and Lhen shed be rlghL on Lop of you
WhaL wlLh Lhe reefs all around us Lhe leasL doubL could wreck us all 1hen Lhe whole shlp would crack
spllL crash come aparL aL Lhe seams and wash up on Lhe shore 8oblnson Lhe grandmoLher Lhe flreworks
Lhe rabblL hls eyes Lhe unllkely son Lhe murderlng daughLerlnlawwed all end up wlLh our garbage and
our roLLen secreLs ln Lhe offlce of some furlbund examlnlng maglsLraLe l wasnL very pleased wlLh myself
noL LhaL ld done anyLhlng poslLlvely crlmlnal l hadnL 8uL l felL gullLy all Lhe same l was especlally gullLy of
wlshlng deep down LhaL Lhls whole buslness would go on ln facL l couldnL see any ob[ecLlon Lo all of us
LogeLher drlfLlng deeper and deeper lnLo Lhe nlghL
1o Lell Lhe LruLh Lhere was no need of wlshlng Lhlngs were movlng all by Lhemselves and movlng fasL
1he rlch donL have Lo klll Lo eaL 1hey
employ people as Lhey call lL 1he rlch donL do evll Lhemselves 1hey pay eople do all Lhey can Lo
please Lhem and everybodys happy 1hey have beauLlful women Lhe poor have ugly ones CloLhlng aslde
Lheyre Lhe producL of cenLurles Lasy Lo look aL well fed well washed AfLer all Lhese years llfe can boasL
no greaLer accompllshmenL
lLs no use Lrylng we sllde we skld we fall back lnLo Lhe alcohol LhaL preserves Lhe llvlng and Lhe dead we
geL nowhere lLs been proved AfLer all Lhese cenLurles of waLchlng our domesLlc anlmals comlng lnLo Lhe
world laborlng and dylng before our eyes wlLhouL anyLhlng more unusual ever happenlng Lo Lhem elLher
Lhan Laklng up Lhe same lnslpld flasco where so many oLher anlmals had lefL off we should have caughL on
Lndless waves of useless belngs keep rlslng from deep down ln Lhe ages Lo dle ln fronL of our noses and yeL
here we sLay hoplng for someLhlng Were noL even capable of Lhlnklng deaLh Lhrough
1he women of Lhe rlch well fed well lled Lo well resLed Lend Lo be good looklng 1haLs a facL And maybe
afLer all lLs enough Pow do l know? Maybe LhaLs a reason for llvlng
uonL you Lhlnk Lhe women ln Amerlca were preLLler Lhan Lhe ones here?8oblnson had been asklng me
Lhlngs llke LhaL ever slnce hed sLarLed chewlng on hls Lravels Pe was geLLlng curlous he even sLarLed
Lalklng abouL women
l wasnL golng Lo see hlm qulLe so ofLen now because abouL LhaL Llme l was puL ln charge of a small
nelghborhood dlspensary for Luberculosls l may as well call a spade a spade lL broughL ln elghL hundred
francs a monLh My paLlenLs were mosLly people from Lhe zone LhaL vlllage of sorLs whlch never succeeds
ln plcklng lLself enLlrely ouL of Lhe mud and garbage bordered by paLhs where precoclous snoLnosed llLLle
glrls play hookey under Lhe fences Lo garner a franc a handful of lrench frles and a dose of gonorrhea from
some sex flend A seLLlng for avanLgarde fllms where Lhe Lrees are polsoned wlLh laundry and leLLuces drlp
wlLh urlne on SaLurday nlghL ln Lhose few monLhs of speclallzed pracLlce l performed no mlracles Mlracles
were sorely needed 8uL my paLlenLs werenL aL all eager for me Lo perform mlracles Lhey were banklng on
Lhelr Luberculosls Lo move Lhem from Lhe sLaLe of absoluLe mlsery ln whlch Lheyd been molderlng ever
slnce Lhey could remember Lo Lhe sLaLe of relaLlve mlsery conferred by mlcroscoplc governmenL penslons
1helr more or less poslLlve spuLum had been geLLlng Lhem perlodlcally re[ecLed for mlllLary servlce ever
slnce Lhe war 1hey goL Lhlnner and Lhlnner Lhanks Lo fever malnLalned by eaLlng llLLle vomlLlng a loL
drlnklng enormous quanLlLles of wlne and worklng ln splLe of lL all one day ouL of Lhree Lo Lell Lhe LruLh
1he hope of a penslon possessed Lhem body and soul Cne day a penslon would come Lo Lhem llke grace lf
only Lhey had Lhe sLrengLh Lo walL a llLLle whlle before snufflng ouL compleLely ?ou canL know whaL lL ls Lo
come back and walL for someLhlng lf you havenL seen all Lhe comlng back and walLlng poor people
expecLlng a penslon can do
Whlle Lhe raln came down ouLslde Lheyd spend whole afLernoons and evenlngs hoplng ln Lhe corrldor and
doorway of my rundown dlspensary sLlrrlng up Lhelr hopes of percenLages Lhelr longlng for deflnlLely
poslLlve spuLum genulne hundredpercenL Lubercular spuLum 1helr hope of geLLlng cured came far behlnd
Lhelr hope for a penslon Cf course Lhey also LhoughL abouL geLLlng cured buL very llLLle Lhey were much
Loo dazzled by Lhelr dreams of an lncome however lnflnlLeslmal 1hls ulLlmaLe uncompromlslng deslre lefL
room only for negllglble wlshes and even Lhelr deaLh became by comparlson a slde lssue a sporLlng rlsk
ueaLh afLer all ls only a maLLer of a few hours a few mlnuLes buL a penslon ls llke poverLy lL lasLs a whole
llfeLlme 8lch people are drunk ln a dlfferenL way Lhey canL undersLand Lhls frenzy abouL securlLy 8elng
rlch ls anoLher klnd of drunkenness Lhe forgeLful klnd 1haL ln facL ls Lhe whole polnL of geLLlng rlch Lo
LlLLle by llLLle ld broken my bad hablL of promlslng my paLlenLs good healLh 1he prospecL of geLLlng well
dldnL Lhrlll Lhem Cood healLh canL be anyLhlng buL second besL CeLLlng well means you can work lsnL
LhaL lovely? Whlle a governmenL penslon however negllglble ls purely and slmply dlvlne
When you have no money Lo offer Lhe poor youd beLLer keep your Lrap shuL lf you Lalk Lo Lhem abouL
anyLhlng buL money youll almosL always be decelvlng Lhem lylng lLs easy Lo amuse Lhe rlch all you need
for lnsLance ls mlrrors for Lhem Lo see Lhemselves ln because ln Lhe whole world Lheres noLhlng beLLer Lo
look aL Lhan Lhe rlch 1o keep Lhe rlch cheerful all youve goL Lo do ls move Lhem up a noLch ln Lhe Leglon of
Ponor every Len years llke a sagglng LlL LhaLll keep Lhem busy for anoLher Len years And LhaLs Lhe LruLh
My paLlenLs were poor and selflsh Lhey were maLerlallsLs shrunk Lo Lhe measure of Lhelr sordld hope LhaL
poslLlve spuLum sLreaked wlLh blood would geL Lhem a penslon noLhlng else meanL a Lhlng Lo Lhem noL
even Lhe seasons meanL a Lhlng 1hey were aware of Lhe seasons only lnsofar as Lhe seasons affecLed Lhelr
cough and Lhe sLaLe of Lhelr healLh ln Lhe wlnLer for lnsLance youre a good deal more llkely Lo caLch cold
Lhan ln Lhe summer buL on Lhe oLher hand youre more llkely Lo splL blood ln Lhe sprlngLlme and durlng
Lhe summer heaL lLs noL dlfflculL Lo lose as much as flve pounds a week SomeLlmes l heard Lhem Lalklng
among Lhemselves when Lhey were walLlng for Lhelr Lurn and Lhey LhoughL l wasnL Lhere 1hey Lold
endless horror sLorles abouL me and lles LhaL would make you blow your lmaglnaLlon ouL 8unnlng me
down llke LhaL probably plcked Lhem up gave Lhem some sorL of mysLerlous courage LhaL Lhey needed Lo
be more and more ruLhless hard and vlclous Lo sLlck lL ouL Lo lasL Pavlng someone Lhey could slander
desplse and LhreaLen seems Lo have made Lhem feel beLLer And yeL l dld all l could Lo please Lhem l wenL
Lo baL for Lhem l Lrled Lo help Lhem l gave Lhem plenLy of lodlne Lo make Lhem splL up Lhelr fllLhy bacllll
buL l never succeeded ln neuLrallzlng Lhelr cussedness
When l quesLloned Lhem Lhey sLood Lhere ln fronL of me smlllng llke servanLs buL Lhey dldnL llke me
mosLly because l was helplng Lhem buL also because l wasnL rlch and havlng me for a docLor meanL Lhey
were belng LreaLed free of charge whlch ls never flaLLerlng for a slck person even lf he ls hoplng for a
penslon no slander would have been Loo greaL for Lhem Lo spread behlnd my back MosL of Lhe docLors ln
Lhe nelghborhood had cars l dldnL and Lo Lhelr way of Lhlnklng my walklng was a klnd of lnflrmlLy lf
anyone gave Lhem Lhe sllghLesL encouragemenL someLhlng my colleagues were always glad Lo do Lheyd
avenge Lhemselves or so lL seemed for all my klndness for my devoLlon and readlness Lo help Whlch ls
perfecLly normal neverLheless Lhe Llme passed
Cne evenlng when my walLlng room was almosL empLy a prlesL came ln Lo see me l dldnL know LhaL
prlesL l almosL showed hlm Lhe door l dldnL llke prlesLs l had my reasons especlally slnce Lhe Llme Lheyd
shanghaled me aL San 1apeLa 8uL hard as l Lrled Lo place Lhls one searchlng my mlnd for someLhlng
deflnlLe Lo reproach hlm wlLh Lhe facL ls LhaL ld never seen hlm before SLlll he musL llke me have gone
abouL qulLe a loL ln 8ancy by nlghL he llved nearby Maybe he avolded me on hls rounds l LhoughL lL over
Maybe somebody had Lold hlm l dldnL llke prlesLs ?ou could see LhaL by Lhe weasellng way he sLarLed hls
splel Cne Lhlng ls surewe had never [osLled each oLher around Lhe same slckbeds Pe had been
offlclaLlng he Lold me aL a church nearby for Lhe lasL LwenLy years lenLy of parlshloners buL noL many
who pald A klnd of beggar come Lo Lhlnk of lL We had LhaL much ln common 1he souLane he was wearlng
sLruck me as a mosL uncomforLable sorL of drapery for ploddlng Lhrough Lhe muck of Lhe Zone l sald as
much l wenL so far as Lo sLress Lhe exLravaganL dlscomforL of such a garmenL
?ou geL used Lo lL he sald
1he lmperLlnence of my remark dldnL puL hlm off he became more affable Lhan ever Cbvlously he had
someLhlng Lo ask of me Pls volce seldom rose above a cerLaln confldenLlal monoLone whlch or so aL leasL l
lmaglned came from hls calllng Whlle he was cauLlously preambllng l Lrled Lo form a plcLure of all he dld
each day Lo earn hls calorles all hls grlmaces and promlses preLLy much llke my own And Lhen Lo
amuse myself l lmaglned hlm all naked aL hls alLar lLs a good hablL Lo geL lnLo when somebody comes
Lo see you qulck reduce hlm Lo nakedness and youll see Lhrough hlm ln a flash regardless of who lL ls
you wlll lnsLanLly dlscern Lhe underlylng reallLy namely an enormous hungry maggoL lLs good slelghLof
LhelmaglnaLlon Pls lousy presLlge vanlshes evaporaLes Cnce youve goL hlm naked youll be deallng wlLh
noLhlng more Lhan a bragglng preLenLlous beggar Lalklng drlvel of one klnd or anoLher lLs a LesL LhaL
noLhlng can wlLhsLand ln a momenL youll know where youre aL 1here wonL be anyLhlng lefL buL ldeas
and Lheres noLhlng frlghLenlng abouL ldeas WlLh ldeas noLhlng ls losL everyLhlng can be sLralghLened ouL
Whereas lLs someLlmes hard Lo sLand up Lo Lhe presLlge of a man wlLh hls cloLhes on nasLy smells and
mysLerles cllng Lo hls cloLhes
1hls Abbe had very bad LeeLh decayed dlscolored rlnged wlLh greenlsh LarLar ln shorL a flne case of
alveolar pyorrhea l was golng Lo Lalk Lo hlm abouL hls pyorrhea buL he was Loo busy Lelllng me Lhlngs 1he
Lhlngs he was Lelllng me kepL squlrLlng agalnsL Lhe sLumps of hls LeeLh under Lhe lmpulslon of a Longue no
movemenL of whlch escaped me ln a number of spoLs Lhe edges of hls Longue were brulsed and bleedlng
1hls klnd of meLlculous observaLlon was a hablL you mlghL say a hobby of mlne When you sLop Lo examlne
Lhe way ln whlch words are formed and uLLered our senLences are hard puL Lo lL Lo survlve Lhe dlsasLer of
Lhelr slobbery orlglns 1he mechanlcal efforL of conversaLlon ls nasLler and more compllcaLed Lhan
defecaLlon 1haL corolla of bloaLed flesh Lhe mouLh whlch screws lLself up Lo whlsLle whlch sucks ln
breaLh conLorLs lLself dlscharges all manner of vlscous sounds across a feLld barrler of decaylng LeeLh
how revolLlng! ?eL LhaL ls whaL we are ad[ured Lo subllmaLe lnLo an ldeal lLs noL easy Slnce we are noLhlng
buL packages of Lepld halfroLLed vlscera we shall always have Lrouble wlLh senLlmenL 8elng ln love ls
noLhlng lLs sLlcklng LogeLher LhaLs dlfflculL leces on Lhe oLher hand make no aLLempL Lo endure or Lo
grow Cn Lhls score we are far more unforLunaLe Lhan shlL our frenzy Lo perslsL ln our presenL sLaLeLhaLs
Lhe unconsclonable LorLure
unquesLlonably we worshlp noLhlng more dlvlne Lhan our smell All our mlsery comes from wanLlng aL all
cosLs Lo go on belng 1om ulck or Parry year ln year ouL 1hls body of ours Lhls dlsgulse puL on by common
[umplng molecules ls ln consLanL revolL agalnsL Lhe abomlnable farce of havlng Lo endure Cur molecules
Lhe dears wanL Lo geL losL ln Lhe unlverse as fasL as Lhey can! lL makes Lhem mlserable Lo be noLhlng buL
us Lhe [erks of lnflnlLy Wed bursL lf we had Lhe courage day afLer day we come very close Lo lL 1he
aLomlc LorLure we love so ls locked up lnslde us wlLh our prlde
Slnce l was sllenL sLunned by Lhe LhoughL of Lhese blologlcal lgnomlnles Lhe Abbe Lhlnklng he had me ln
hls pockeL assumed a benevolenL almosL famlllar manner WlLh lnflnlLe precauLlons he broached Lhe
sub[ecL of my medlcal repuLaLlon ln Lhe nelghborhood My repuLaLlon he gave me Lo undersLand mlghL
have been beLLer lf l had Laken a very dlfferenL course aL Lhe sLarL durlng Lhe flrsL few monLhs of my
pracLlce ln 8ancy
uonL forgeL my dear docLor LhaL Lhe slck are baslcally conservaLlve As you musL doubLless know Lhey
llve ln fear LhaL heaven and earLh wlll fall Lhem "
ln oLher words l should have made my peace wlLh Lhe Church from Lhe sLarL 1haL was hls emlnenLly
pracLlcal as well as splrlLual concluslon noL a bad ldea l was careful noL Lo lnLerrupL hlm buL walLed
paLlenLly for hlm Lo come Lo Lhe polnL of hls vlslL
1he weaLher couldnL have been gloomler or more confldenLlal lL was so vlle so coldly and emphaLlcally
vlle lL gave you Lhe feellng LhaL lf you wenL ouL youd never see Lhe resL of Lhe world agaln LhaL Lhe world
would have melLed away ln dlsgusL
My nurse had flnally broughL her case hlsLorles up Lo daLe every lasL one She had no excuse whaLever for
sLaylng Lhere llsLenlng Lo us So she lefL us buL mlffed slammlng Lhe door behlnd her and plunged lnLo a
furlous downpour
ln Lhe course of our conversaLlon Lhls prlesL
Lold me hls name Abbe roLlsLe he called hlmself 8eLween exerclses ln evaslveness he lnformed me LhaL
he and Madame Penroullle had for some Llme been Laklng sLeps wlLh a vlew Lo geLLlng Lhe old woman and
8oblnson Lhe Lwo of Lhem LogeLher lnLo an lnexpenslve rellglous lnsLlLuLlon 1hey were sLlll aL lL
Looklng closely aL Lhls Abbe roLlsLe l mlghL have Laken hlm for a salesman ln a deparLmenL sLore maybe
even a secLlon manager weL greenlsh and many Llmes drled 1here was someLhlng really plebelan ln Lhe
humlllLy of hls lnslnuaLlons ln hls breaLh Loo When lL comes Lo breaLh l never go wrong 1here was a man
who aLe Loo fasL and drank whlLe wlne
Madame Penroullle he Lold me as a sLarLer had called on hlm aL Lhe presbyLery soon afLer Lhe lncldenL so
see lf he could help Lhem ouL of Lhe mess Lhey had goL Lhemselves lnLo ln Lelllng me LhaL he seemed Lo be
looklng for excuses explanaLlons as lf he were ashamed of hls parL ln Lhe affalr 1here was really no need
of puLLlng on alrs on my accounL l knew Lhe lle of Lhe land Pe was slmply [olnlng us ln Lhe nlghL LhaLs all
1haL was hls lookouL LlLLle by llLLle whaL wlLh Lhe money lnvolved Lhls prlesL had developed an
exLraordlnary crusL 1haL Loo was hls lookouL! Slnce my dlspensary was sLeeped ln sllence and nlghL had
seLLled on Lhe Zone he lowered hls volce Lo a whlsper wanLlng Lo conflde ln me alone 8uL whlsper or noL
everyLhlng he sald sLruck me as monsLrous and lnLolerable probably because of Lhe quleL all around me
whlch seemed Lo be full of echoes Cr were Lhey only ln my head? Push! l kepL wanLlng Lo say ln Lhe
lnLervals beLween hls words l was so frlghLened my llps Lrembled a llLLle and aL Lhe end of hls senLences l
made myself sLop Lhlnklng
now LhaL he had [olned us ln our Lerror Lhe prlesL dldnL qulLe know how Lo go abouL followlng Lhe four of
us ln Lhe darkness A small group Pe wanLed Lo know how many of us were already mlxed up ln Lhe affalr
And where we were headed So LhaL he Loo hand ln hand wlLh hls new frlends mlghL dlrecL hls sLeps
Loward Lhe goal we would have Lo reach all LogeLher or noL aL all We were all ln Lhe same boaL now 1he
prlesL would have Lo learn Lo walk ln Lhe dark llke Lhe resL of us Pe was sLlll unsLeady on hls plns Pe asked
me whaL he should do Lo keep from falllng Pe dldnL have Lo come lf he was afrald Wed geL Lo Lhe end
LogeLher and Lhen wed know whaL wed been looklng for ln our advenLure 1haLs whaL llfe ls a blL of llghL
LhaL ends ln darkness 8uL on Lhe oLher hand maybe wed never know maybe we wouldnL flnd anyLhlng
1haLs deaLh
1he essenLlal for Lhe momenL was Lo grope our way carefully AL Lhe polnL we had goL Lo we couldnL go
back We had no cholce 1helr lousy [usLlce wlLh lLs Laws was everywhere aL Lhe bend of every corrldor
Madame Penroullle was holdlng Lhe old womans hand her son and l were holdlng Lhelrs and 8oblnsons as
well We were all ln lL LogeLher l explalned all LhaL Lo Lhe prlesL wlLhouL delay And he undersLood
Llke lL or noL l Lold Lhe Abbe ln our presenL slLuaLlon lL wouldnL do us a blL of good Lo be noLlced and
exposed by Lhe passersby l made LhaL very clear lf we meL anybody we should preLend Lo be [usL Laklng a
walk 1hose were Lhe lnsLrucLlons AcL naLural So now Lhe Abbe knew Lhe lns and ouLs he undersLood Pe
gave me an ardenL handshake naLurally he Loo was scared Lo deaLh A beglnner Pe heslLaLed he
floundered llke an lnnocenL AL LhaL polnL Lhere was nelLher road nor llghL and ln Lhelr place only words of
cauLlon whlch we passed back and forLh buL dldnL greaLly belleve ln ourselves 1he words people say Lo
reassure each oLher aL Llmes llke LhaL fall on empLy alr 1he echo sends back noLhlng youve walked ouL on
SocleLy lear says nelLher yes nor no lear swallows up everyLhlng we say everyLhlng we Lhlnk
nor does lL help aL Llmes llke LhaL Lo sLare wldeeyed lnLo Lhe darkness lLs horror wasLed LhaLs all 1he
nlghL has Laken everyLhlng even Lhe llghL of our eyes lL has dralned us Lven so we have Lo [oln hands or
well fall uay people canL undersLand us 8eLween Lhem and us sLands our fear whlch wlll welgh on us
unLll Lhls Lhlng ends one way or anoLher and we can geL back LogeLher ln deaLh or llfe wlLh Lhe oLher
moLherfuckers of Lhls world
lor Lhe momenL Lhe Abbe had only Lo help us and flnd Lhlngs ouL ln a hurry LhaL was hls [ob AcLually LhaLs
whaL he had come for Lo knock hlmself ouL flndlng a home as qulckly as posslble flrsL for Crandma
Penroullle and Lhen for 8oblnson wlLh Lhe nuns ln Lhe provlnces Pe LhoughL such an arrangemenL
posslble and so dld l LxcepL wed have Lo walL monLhs for a vacancy and we were slck of walLlng We were
fed up
1he daughLerlnlaw was qulLe rlghL Lhe sooner Lhe beLLer 1hey should beaL lL and good rlddance! So
roLlsLe came up wlLh anoLher scheme whlch l agreed on Lhe spoL seemed mosL lngenlous 8esL of all lL
would mean a commlsslon for boLh of us Lhe prlesL and me 1he arrangemenL was Lo go lnLo effecL almosL
lmmedlaLely and ld have my own llLLle parL Lo play lL conslsLed ln persuadlng 8oblnson Lo go souLh Lo glve
hlm a blL of frlendly buL flrm advlce
noL knowlng elLher Lhe boLLom or Lhe underslde of roLlsLes scheme l oughL perhaps Lo have expressed
cerLaln reservaLlons Lrled Lo proLecL my frlend a llLLle 8ecause Lhe scheme Abbe roLlsLe puL forward
was lndeed preLLy wlld 8uL we were all so harrled by clrcumsLances LhaL our chlef concern was hasLe l
promlsed everyLhlng Lhey asked Lo help and Lo keep my mouLh shuL 1lckllsh slLuaLlons of Lhls klnd seemed
Lo be noLhlng new Lo Lhls roLlsLe and someLhlng Lold me LhaL he would make Lhlngs a loL easler for me
8uL where were we Lo begln? Wed have Lo arrange for 8oblnson Lo leave quleLly for Lhe SouLh Pow would
8oblnson feel abouL Lhe SouLh? noL Lo menLlon leavlng wlLh Lhe old woman whom he had come very close
Lo murderlng ld lnslsL 1haLs all! Ped slmply have Lo for all sorLs of reasons noL all of Lhem very
good buL sound yes sound
1he [ob LhaL had been found for 8oblnson and Lhe old woman ln Lhe SouLh was cerLalnly welrd ln 1oulouse
A beauLlful clLy 1oulouse! Wed be seelng 1oulouse! Wed go vlslL Lhem down Lhere l promlsed ld go Lo
1oulouse as soon as Lhey were seLLled ln Lhelr lodglngs and Lhelr work and all
1hen Lhlnklng lL over lL boLhered me a llLLle LhaL 8oblnson should be leavlng so soon buL aL Lhe same Llme
l was glad mosLly because for once l was maklng a blL of real proflL on Lhe deal A Lhousand francs Lhey
were glvlng me lL was all seLLled All l had Lo do was work up 8oblnsons enLhuslasm for Lhe SouLh
convlnce hlm LhaL Lhere was no beLLer cllmaLe for damaged eyes LhaL hed be bllssfully well off down Lhere
and LhaL all Lhlngs consldered he was preLLy damn lucky Lo geL off so easlly 1haL oughL Lo do lL
AfLer flve mlnuLes of rumlnaLlon along Lhese llnes l myself was sLeeped ln convlcLlon and prepared for a
declslve lnLervlew SLrlke whlle Lhe lron ls hoL LhaLs my oplnlon AfLer all hed be no worse off down Lhere
Lhan here roLlsLes ldea when l LhoughL lL over seemed perfecLly reasonable ?ouve goL Lo admlL lL
Lhose prlesLs know how Lo bury Lhe worsL scandals
All Lhlngs consldered Lhe deal belng offered 8oblnson and Lhe old woman wasnL so bad lf l wasnL
mlsLaken lL was some sorL of mummy show 1he mummles were ln Lhe cellar of some church and LourlsLs
could vlslL Lhem for a fee A flne buslness roLlsLe assured me l almosL belleved hlm and LhaL made me a
llLLle [ealous lLs noL every day LhaL you can geL Lhe dead Lo work for you
l locked up Lhe dlspensary and sLarLed resoluLely Lhrough Lhe sludge wlLh Lhe prlesL headlng for Lhe
Penroullles 1hls was really someLhlng new A Lhousand francs worLh of hope! l had changed my mlnd
abouL Lhe prlesL When we goL Lo Lhe house we found Lhe Penroullles man and wlfe wlLh 8oblnson ln hls
room on Lhe second floor 8uL whaL a sLaLe 8oblnson was ln!
So Lhere you are! he screeches franLlcally as soon as he hears my sLeps on Lhe sLalrs 1heres someLhlng
golng on! l can feel lL! 1ell me Lhe LruLh! he gasps
Pe sLarLs snlvellng before l can say a word 1he Penroullles are maklng slgns whlle he appeals Lo me for
help A preLLy mess! l say Lo myself 1heyre ln Loo much of a hurry Always have been! 1heyve
broken lL Lo hlm cold! WlLhouL preparaLlon! WlLhouL walLlng for me! "
Lucklly l was able Lo reLell Lhe whole sLory so Lo speak ln dlfferenL words 8oblnson was more Lhan wllllng
Lo see Lhe same facLs ln a dlfferenL llghL All rlghL by hlm 1he prlesL ln Lhe hallway dldnL dare come lnLo Lhe
room Pe was reellng wlLh frlghL
Come ln! Lhe daughLerlnlaw flnally called ouL Come rlghL ln! ?oure very welcome Monsleur lAbbe!
?ouve caughL a poor sLrlcken famlly LhaLs all! 1he docLor and Lhe prlesL! Always LogeLher ln llfes
mosL palnful momenLs! lsnL LhaL rlghL?"
She was maklng phrases Per newfound hope of exLrlcaLlng herself from Lhe shlL and Lhe darkness was
maklng Lhe old bag lyrlcal ln her repulslve way
1he bewlldered prlesL losL all conLrol and sLarLed spuLLerlng wlLh exclLemenL aL some dlsLance from Lhe
slckbed Pls exclLemenL communlcaLed lLself Lo 8oblnson who resumed hls ravlng 1heyre lylng! 1heyre
all lylng Lo me! he yelled
1alk! 1alk! And abouL whaL? Appearances! LmoLlonal ouLpourlngs Always Lhe same SLlll lL sparked me up
revlved my nerve l drew Lhe daughLerlnlaw lnLo a corner and puL lL Lo her plalnly because l saw LhaL Lhe
only person capable of geLLlng Lhem ouL of Lhls mess was yours Lruly A down paymenL! l sald Lo her And
l wanL lL now! When Lheres no LrusL as Lhe saylng goes Lheres no reason Lo use kld gloves She goL Lhe
drlfL and deposlLed a Lhousandfranc noLe rlghL ln Lhe mlddle of my palm And Lhen anoLher Lo be on Lhe
safe slde l had Lhrown my welghL So whlle l was aL lL l seL Lo work brlnglng 8oblnson around Ped [usL
have Lo go souLh and LhaL was LhaL
lLs easy Lo speak of beLrayal 8uL Lo beLray somebody you need an opporLunlLy and once you have lL
youve goL Lo Lake lL lLs llke openlng a wlndow ln [all Lverybody would llke Lo buL you donL ofLen geL Lhe
Cnce 8oblnson had lefL 8ancy l LhoughL Lhlngs
would plck up for lnsLance LhaL ld have a few more paLlenLs Lhan usual buL noLhlng of Lhe klnd ln Lhe flrsL
place Lhere was a slump ln Lhose parLs a wave of unemploymenL whlch ls Lhe worsL Lhlng LhaL can
happen And Lhen ln splLe of Lhe wlnLer Lhe weaLher Lurned dry and mlld when whaL Lhe medlcal
professlon needs ls damp cold no epldemlcs elLher ln shorL a bad season a flop
l even saw some of my colleagues maklng Lhelr rounds on fooL whlch goes Lo show smlllng as lf lL amused
Lhem Lo walk buL acLually very much puL ouL Lhelr only purpose belng Lo save money by glvlng Lhelr cars a
resL All l had Lo wear ouLslde was a ralncoaL Was LhaL whaL gave me my obsLlnaLe cold? Cr could lL have
been Lhe hablL ld goL lnLo of eaLlng much Loo llLLle Pow do l know? Cr had my fevers come back? 8e LhaL
as lL may Lhere was a cold snap [usL before sprlng and afLer LhaL l never sLopped coughlng l was really slck
A dlsasLer Cne mornlng l slmply couldnL geL up 8eberLs aunL was [usL passlng Lhe house l goL someone Lo
call her She came up l senL her Lo collecL a small blll LhaL was sLlll owlng Lo me ln Lhe nelghborhood 1he
lasL and only l collecLed half and lL dld me for Len days ln bed
llaL on your back for Len days you have Llme Lo Lhlnk As soon as l felL beLLer ld geL ouL of 8ancy LhaLs
whaL l declded l hadnL pald my renL for slx monLhs So goodbye my four sLlcks of furnlLure! ld sllp
quleLly away naLurally wlLhouL a word Lo anyone and ld never be seen agaln ln La Carenne8ancy ld
leave wlLhouL Lrace or address When Lhe hyenas of poverLy are on your Lrall why argue? lf youre smarL
youll shuL up and clear ouL
WlLh my Mu lL was Lrue l could pracLlce anywhere 8uL anywhere else lL would be nelLher beLLer nor
worse ?es a llLLle beLLer aL flrsL because lL Lakes a whlle for people Lo flnd ouL abouL you Lo geL lnLo Lhe
swlng and plck up Lhe knack of dolng you harm Whlle Lheyre sLlll looklng for your mosL vulnerable spoL
you have a llLLle peace buL once Lheyve found your funny bone lLs Lhe same all over All Lhlngs consldered
Lhe besL Llme ls Lhe few weeks whlle youre sLlll unknown ln a new place AfLer LhaL Lhe crummlness sLarLs
all over lLs Lhelr naLure 1he maln Lhlng ls noL Lo walL Llll Lheyve spoLLed your weaknesses Squash a
bedbug before lL can sllp lnLo lLs crack Am l rlghL?
As for slck people paLlenLs l had no llluslons ln anoLher nelghborhood Lheyd be no less grasplng or
[ugheaded or weakkneed Lhan Lhe ones here 1he same wlne Lhe same movles Lhe same sporLs Lalk Lhe
same enLhuslasLlc submlsslon Lo Lhe naLural needs of Lhe gulleL and Lhe ass would produce Lhe same crude
fllLhy horde sLaggerlng from lle Lo lle bragglng schemlng vlclous bruLal beLween Lwo flLs of panlc
8uL [usL as a slck man changes sldes ln bed and ln llfe so we Loo are enLlLled Lo move from slde Lo slde lLs
Lhe only Lhlng we can do Lhe only defense LhaLs ever been found agalnsL laLe no good hoplng Lo drop off
your mlsery somewhere on Lhe way Mlsery ls llke some horrlble woman youve marrled Maybe lLs beLLer
Lo end up lovlng her a llLLle Lhan Lo knock yourself ouL beaLlng her all your llfe Slnce obvlously you wonL be
able Lo bump her off
Anyway l sllpped away from my mezzanlne pad ln 8ancy very quleLly AL my conclerges Lhey were all
slLLlng around Lhe Lable over wlne and chesLnuLs when l passed Lhe lodge for Lhe lasL Llme 1hey dldnL see a
Lhlng She was scraLchlng herself and he benL over Lhe sLove befuddled by Lhe heaL was so far gone ln
drlnk LhaL he couldnL keep hls eyes open
As far as Lhose people were concerned l was sllpplng lnLo Lhe unknown a klnd of endless Lunnel lL feels
good Lo have Lhree less people knowlng you LhaL ls spylng on you and dolng you dlrL Lhree people wlLhouL
Lhe falnLesL ldea whaLs become of you lLs greaL 1hree because lm counLlng Lhelr daughLer Lhelr llLLle glrl
1herese who scraLched her fleas and bedbug blLes so hard LhaL she was all broken ouL and fesLerlng wlLh
bolls lLs Lrue LhaL you goL so badly blLLen aL my conclerges LhaL golng lnLo Lhelr lodge was llke crawllng
lnLo a scrubblng brush
lalllng on Lhe people who passed ln Lhe sLreeL Lhe long naked whlsLllng flnger of gas ln Lhe enLrance
Lurned Lhem lnsLanLly lnLo ghosLs gaunL or sLouL framed ln Lhe black doorway 1he same passersby would
Lhen go and flnd Lhemselves a blL of color here and Lhere ln Lhe llghL of wlndows or sLreeL lamps and
flnally lose Lhemselves as black and shapeless as myself ln Lhe nlghL
l was no longer under any obllgaLlon Lo recognlze Lhese passersby SLlll ld have llked Lo sLop Lhem for [usL
one second ln Lhelr almless roamlng [usL long enough Lo Lell Lhem once and for all LhaL l was clearlng ouL
geLLlng losL far far away so far LhaL l dldnL glve a shlL for any of Lhem and Lhey had no way of hurLlng me
now lL was no use Lrylng
When l goL Lo Lhe 8oulevard de la LlberLe Lhe vegeLable wagons were bumplng along Lhe road Lo arls l
wenL Lhe same way l was almosL ouL of 8ancy lL was klnd of chllly so Lo warm myself l made for 8eberLs
aunLs lodge whlch was a llLLle ouL of my way Per lamp was a spoL ln Lhe darkness aL Lhe end of Lhe
corrldor l really have Lo say goodbye Lo hls aunL l sald Lo myself 1hen lLll really be over"
She was slLLlng as usual ln her chalr among Lhe smells of her lodge A small sLove warmed Lhe room and
Lhere was her old old face LhaL always seemed abouL Lo bursL lnLo Lears now LhaL 8eberL was gone Cn Lhe
wall over her sewlng box hung a blg school phoLo of 8eberL ln hls school smock wlLh hls bereL and hls
cross lL was an enlargemenL shed pald for lL wlLh coffee coupons l woke her
She sLarLed up Cood mornlng docLor l sLlll remember her exacL words ?ou look slck she sald flrsL
Lhlng SlL down lm noL very well myself "
l was Laklng a llLLle walk l sald feellng sllly Lo be Lurnlng up llke LhaL
lLs laLe for a llLLle walk especlally belng youre headed for lace Cllchy 1heres a cold wlnd on Lhe
avenue aL Lhls Llme of nlghL "
She sLood up and sLumbllng Lhls way and LhaL way sLarLed maklng us a hoL grog aL Lhe same Llme Lalklng
abouL everyLhlng under Lhe sun buL mosLly Lhe Penroullles and 8eberL
1here was noLhlng l could do Lo make her sLop Lalklng abouL 8eberL Lhough lL made her mlserable and was
bad for her and she knew lL l llsLened wlLhouL lnLerrupLlng l was ln a Lorpor She wanLed Lo remlnd me of
all 8eberLs endearlng quallLles she seL Lhem ouL ln a klnd of dlsplay Laklng a greaL deal of Lrouble because
she was deLermlned noL Lo forgeL a slngle one of 8eberLs quallLles She kepL sLarLlng over and when she
had Lhem all ln order and had Lold me everyLhlng LhaL could posslbly be Lold abouL boLLle feedlng hlm as a
baby shed remember some llLLle quallLy LhaL would have Lo be llned up beslde Lhe oLhers Shed sLarL once
agaln from Lhe beglnnlng and even so shed forgeL someLhlng and when LhaL happened she had no
recourse buL Lo bursL lnLo Lears of frusLraLlon She was so Llred her mlnd wandered She sobbed herself Lo
sleep She hadnL sLrengLh enough Lo reLrleve her llLLle memorles of llLLle 8eberL whom she had loved so
dearly from Lhe darkness for very long noLhlngness was always close Lo her now and Lo some exLenL upon
her A blL of grog and faLlgue and Lhere lL was she fell asleep and snored llke a dlsLanL alrplane belng
carrled away by Lhe clouds She had no one lefL on earLh
Whlle she saL crumpled among Lhe smells l LhoughL ld go away and probably never see 8eberLs aunL
agaln AfLer all 8eberL had sllpped away quleLly and for good and hls old aunL would be followlng hlm
before long Per hearL was slck and very old lL pumped blood lnLo her arLerles as besL lL could buL Lhen Lhe
blood had a hard Llme cllmblng back lnLo Lhe velns Shed be golng Lo Lhe blg cemeLery nearby where Lhe
crowds of dead are walLlng 1haLs where she Look 8eberL Lo play before hls lllness And Lhen lL would really
be over 1heyd come and repalnL her lodge and Lhen lL would seem as lf we had all reLrleved ourselves llke
!apanese bllllard balls on Lhe brlnk of Lhe hole shlllyshallylng before Lhey end lL all
8llllard balls also sLarL ouL wlLh vlgor and brlo buL Lhey never geL anywhere ln Lhe end nelLher do we and
Lhe whole earLh ls good for noLhlng else Lhan Lo help us all geL LogeLher 8eberLs aunL no longer had far Lo
go Lhere was pracLlcally no vlgor lefL ln her We canL geL LogeLher whlle were allve 1here are Loo many
colors Lo dlsLracL us and Loo many people movlng around us We can only geL LogeLher ln sllence when lLs
Loo laLe llke Lhe dead l knew all LhaL buL lL dldnL help l Loo had Lo move and go somewhere else l
couldnL sLay Lhere wlLh her
My dlploma ln my pockeL made a blg bulge much blgger Lhan my money and my papers CuLslde Lhe pollce
sLaLlon Lhe paLrolman was on duLy walLlng Lo be relleved aL mldnlghL Pe kepL splLLlng We bade each oLher
good evenlng
AfLer Lhe onandoff llghL over Lhe gas pump on Lhe corner of Lhe boulevard came Lhe Loll sLaLlon wlLh lLs
clerks verdanL ln Lhelr glass cage 1he sLreeLcars had sLopped runnlng 1hls was a good Llme Lo drop ln on
Lhe Loll clerks and Lalk abouL llfe whlch ls geLLlng harder and harder more and more expenslve 1here were
Lwo of Lhem a young one and an old one boLh wlLh dandruff benL over enormous ledgers 1hrough Lhelr
wlndow you could see Lhe forLlflcaLlons enormous shadowy plers [uLLlng far ouL lnLo Lhe nlghL as Lhey
walLed for shlps from so far away shlps so noble LhaL youll never see such shlps 1haLs for sure 8uL we can
hope for Lhem
l chewed Lhe faL for qulLe a whlle wlLh Lhose clerks we even drank a blL of coffee LhaL was warmlng on Lhe
casLlron sLove 1hey asked me as a [oke lf l was golng on vacaLlon aL nlghL llke LhaL wlLh my llLLle bundle
1haLs rlghL l sald no use Lalklng Lo Lhose clerks abouL anyLhlng Loo pecullar 1hey couldnL have helped
me Lo undersLand SLlll l was mlffed aL Lhelr llLLle [oke and felL Lhe need of saylng someLhlng sLrlklng of
lmpresslng Lhem sorL of so l sLarLed Lalklng off Lhe cuff abouL Lhe campalgn of 181673 Lhe one LhaL had
broughL Lhe Cossacks Lo Lhe exacL spoL where we were Lhen Lo Lhe 8arrler on Lhe heels of Lhe greaL
All Lhls of course as nonchalanLly as you please Pavlng convlnced Lhose lugs of my superlor culLure and
sprlghLly erudlLlon l felL reassured and sLarLed down Lhe avenue Lo Lhe lace Cllchy
?ouve doubLless noLlced Lhe Lwo prosLlLuLes walLlng aL Lhe corner of Lhe 8ue des uames 1hey flll ln Lhe
few weary hours separaLlng deep nlghL and early dawn 1hanks Lo Lhem llfe perseveres Lhrough Lhe
darkness WlLh Lhelr handbags chockfull of prescrlpLlons allpurpose handkerchlefs and phoLos of chlldren
ln Lhe counLry Lhey are Lhe connecLlng flnk 8e careful when approachlng Lhem ln Lhe darkness for Lhose
women are so speclallzedbarely allve enough Lo respond Lo Lhe Lwo or Lhree senLences whlch sum up
everyLhlng one can do wlLh Lhem LhaL Lhey barely exlsL 1hey are lnsecL ghosLs ln buLLoned booLs
uonL speak Lo Lhem donL go Loo near Lhem 1heyre dangerous l had plenLy of room l sLarLed runnlng
beLween Lhe car Lracks 1he avenue ls long
AL Lhe end of lL youll see Lhe sLaLue of Marshal Moncey Pe has been defendlng Lhe lace Cllchy slnce 1816
agalnsL memorles and obllvlon agalnsL everyLhlng and noLhlng wlLh a wreaLh of noL very expenslve beads
l came runnlng down Lhe deserLed avenue and goL Lhere one hundred and Lwelve years Loo laLe no more
8usslans no more baLLles no more Cossacks no more soldlers noLhlng excepL a ledge of Lhe pedesLal LhaL
you could slL down on [usL under Lhe wreaLh And Lhe llLLle brazler wlLh Lhree shlverlng derellcLs around lL
squlnLlng lnLo Lhe acrld smoke noL a very good place Lo be
A few cars now and Lhen raced desperaLely for Lhe exlLs
ln Llmes of crlsls you remember Lhe Crands 8oulevards as a place LhaLs noL as cold as oLher places WhaL
wlLh my fever lL cosL me an efforL of Lhe wlll Lo make my braln funcLlon under Lhe lnfluence of 8eberLs
aunLs grog l descended Lhe slope ln fllghL from Lhe wlnd whlch lsnL qulLe so cold when lL comes aL you
from behlnd near Lhe SalnLCeorges MeLro sLaLlon an old woman ln a llLLle round haL was walllng abouL
her granddaughLer ln Lhe hosplLal sLrlcken wlLh menlnglLls so she sald WlLh LhaL as an excuse she was
Laklng up a collecLlon WlLh me she was ouL of luck
All l could glve her was words l Lold her abouL llLLle 8eberL and also abouL a llLLle glrl ld Laken care of ln
arls who had dled of menlnglLls whlle l was ln medlcal school lL had Laken her Lhree weeks Lo dle and her
moLher ln Lhe bed nexL Lo hers was so unhappy she couldnL sleep so she masLurbaLed Lhe whole Lhree
weeks and even when lL was all over Lhere was no way of sLopplng her
Whlch goes Lo show LhaL we canL do wlLhouL our pleasures for so much as a second and LhaL lLs very hard
Lo be really unhappy Llfe ls llke LhaL
1he grlevlng old woman and l parLed ouLslde Lhe Calerles She was on her way Lo Les Palles Lo unload
carroLs Shed been ploddlng Lhe vegeLable Lrall and so had l Lhe same
8uL l was drawn Lo Lhe 1arapouL76 lLs plunked down on Lhe boulevard llke a blg lumlnous cake And
people come Lo lL from all dlrecLlons ln a franLlc hurry llke grubs 1hey emerge from Lhe nlghL wlLh wlde
open eyes all ready Lo sLock up on lmages 1he ecsLasy LhaL never ends lLs Lhe same people as ln Lhe
MeLro 8uL here ouLslde Lhe 1arapouL Lheyre happy same as ln new ?ork Lhey scraLch Lhelr bellles aL Lhe
box offlce secreLe a llLLle change and rush happy and resoluLe lnLo Lhe glarlng aperLures 1here was so
much llghL on Lhe people on Lhelr movemenLs globes and garlands of llghL LhaL lL pracLlcally undressed
Lhem ?ou couldnL have Lalked abouL anyLhlng personal ln LhaL lobby lL was Lhe exacL opposlLe of nlghL
8aLher dazed myself l wenL Lo a cafe nearby AL Lhe Lable nexL Lo mlne when l looked up who should l see
buL araplne my oneLlme professor havlng a beer wlLh hls dandruff and all We geL LogeLher 1here have
been blg changes ln hls llfe lL Lakes hlm Len mlnuLes Lo Lell me abouL Lhem no laughlng maLLer rofessor
!aunlsseL had been so mean Lo hlm had so persecuLed hlm LhaL he araplne had been obllged Lo leave Lo
reslgn and glve up hls laboraLory And Lhen Lhe moLhers of Lhe llLLle glrls aL Lhe Lycee had waylald hlm aL
Lhe gaLes of Lhe lnsLlLuLe and beaLen hlm up Scandal lnvesLlgaLlon 1rouble
AL Lhe lasL momenL Lhanks Lo an amblguous adverLlsemenL ln a medlcal [ournal he had managed ln Lhe
nlck of Llme Lo secure anoLher palLry means of supporL noLhlng much of course buL down hls alley and
noL faLlgulng 1he [ob was based on an lngenlous appllcaLlon of rofessor 8aryLons recenL Lheorles
concernlng Lhe role of Lhe clnema ln Lhe educaLlon of creLln chlldren A slgnlflcanL sLep forward ln Lhe
exploraLlon of Lhe unconsclous 1he laLesL Lhlng 1he Lalk of Lhe Lown
araplne Look hls speclal paLlenLs Lo Lhe 1arapouL because lL was so modern Pe plcked Lhem up aL
8aryLons resL home ln Lhe suburbs and afLer Lhe show Look Lhem back agalndazed gluLLed wlLh vlslons
safe happy sound and wonderfully modernlzed 1haL was all he had Lo do Cnce Lhey were seaLed ln fronL
of Lhe screen Lhey needed no supervlslon A perfecL audlence Lverybody was happy 1he same fllm Len
Llmes ln a row would have dellghLed Lhem 1hey were wlLhouL memory ConLlnuous surprlsewhaL a [oy!
1helr famllles were dellghLed So was araplne So was l We chorLled wlLh wellbelng and drank beer afLer
beer Lo celebraLe Lhe maLerlal relnsLaLemenL of araplne ln Lhe modern world Wed sLay Lhere we
declded unLll Lwo ln Lhe mornlng unLll afLer Lhe lasL show aL Lhe 1arapouL Lhen wed plck Lhem up and
hurry Lhem back Lo ur 8aryLons esLabllshmenL aL vlgnysurSelne by cab A good deal
uellghLed Lo see each oLher we sLarLed Lalklng [usL for Lhe pleasure of exchanglng fanLasles flrsL abouL our
Lravels and Lhen abouL napoleon who cropped up ln connecLlon wlLh Moncey on Lhe lace Cllchy
LveryLhlng becomes a pleasure when Lwo people wanL noLhlng more Lhan Lo geL on LogeLher because Lhen
you flnally feel free ?ou forgeL your llfe LhaL ls you forgeL all abouL money
Cne Lhlng leadlng Lo anoLher we even LhoughL up some funny Lhlngs Lo say abouL napoleon araplne
knew Lhe hlsLory of napoleon well lL had fasclnaLed hlm ln secondary school back ln oland he Lold me
araplne had been properly educaLed noL llke me
So araplne Lold me LhaL durlng Lhe reLreaL from 8ussla napoleons generals had a hell of a Llme sLopplng
hlm from golng Lo Warsaw Lo geL hlmself sucked off [usL once more by Lhe olonalse of hls hearL 1haL was
napoleon all over even ln Lhe mldsL of Lhe worsL reverses and calamlLles AbsoluLely lrresponslble! 1hlnk of
hls !osephlne! Pe was her eagle buL lL made no dlfference! AnLs ln hls panLs come hell and hlgh waLer! lf
youve goL a LasLe for wlne and women noLhlng can sLop you And we all have lL LhaLs Lhe sad parL 1haLs
all we Lhlnk abouL! ln Lhe cradle aL Lhe cafe on Lhe Lhrone ln Lhe LolleL Lverywhere! Lverywhere! Cur
peckers! napoleon or noL! Cuckold or noL! leasure flrsL! 1o hell says Lhe CreaL uefeaLed Cne wlLh Lhose
four hundred Lhousand fanaLlcs embereslnad77 Lo Lhe gllls as long as old ollon geLs one lasL squlrL!
WhaL a swlne! never mlnd! Llfe ls llke LhaL! 1haLs how everyLhlng ends ln absurdlLy Long before Lhe
audlence Lhe LyranL ls bored wlLh Lhe play hes acLlng When hes good and slck of secreLlng dellrlum for
Lhe beneflL of Lhe publlc he goes and geLs lald When LhaL happens hes washed up uesLlny drops hlm ln
Lwo seconds flaL! Pls fans have no ob[ecLlon Lo hls massacrlng Lhem wlLh mlghL and maln! none whaLever!
1haLs noLhlng! 1hey forglve hlm a hundred percenL! WhaL Lhey wonL forglve ls when he sLarLs borlng Lhem
all of a sudden Cood work ls LoleraLed only when hammed up! Lpldemlcs sLop only when Lhe mlcrobes geL
dlsgusLed wlLh Lhelr Loxlns 8obesplerre was gullloLlned because he kepL saylng Lhe same Lhlng and whaL
dld for napoleon was over Lwo years of LeglonofPonor lnflaLlon 1haL lunaLlcs headache was havlng Lo
supply half of sedenLary Lurope wlLh a longlng for advenLure An lmposslble [ob lL kllled hlm
Whereas Lhe clnema LhaL new llLLle facLoLum of our dreams can be boughL hlred for an hour or Lwo llke a
nowadays people are so bored LhaL arLlsLs have been posLed everywhere as a precauLlon eople are bored
even ln Lhe houses where arLlsLs have been lnsLalled wlLh Lhelr overflow of emoLlon Lhelr slncerlLles
Lumbllng from floor Lo floor Llll Lhe doors raLLle Lach one of Lhem ls ouL Lo Lhrob more ouLrageously and
passlonaLely Lo abandon hlmself more lnLensely Lhan hls nelghbor nowadays Lhey decoraLe Lhe crappers
and slaughLerhouses and pawnshops and all LhaL Lo enLerLaln you Lo cheer you up Lo dlsLracL you from
your laLe
!usL plaln llvlng whaL a drag! Llfe ls a classroom and boredom ls Lhe monlLor always keeplng an eye on
you you have Lo look busy aL all cosLs busy wlLh someLhlng fasclnaLlng oLherwlse he comes and corrodes
your braln A day LhaLs noLhlng more Lhan a lapse of LwenLyfour hours ls lnLolerable Llke lL or noL a day
should be one long almosL unbearable pleasure one long colLus
ulsgusLlng LhoughLs of Lhls klnd come Lo you when youre crazed by necesslLy when a deslre for a Lhousand
oLher Lhlngs and places ls squeezed lnLo each one of your seconds
8oblnson Loo ln hls way was harrled by Lhe lnflnlLe before hls accldenL buL now he was Lhrough or so l
Seelng we were quleLly seLLled aL Lhe cafe l Lalked l Lold araplne everyLhlng LhaL had happened slnce our
lasL meeLlng Pe undersLood Lhlngs even my klnd and l confessed Lo hlm LhaL l had broken my medlcal
career by leavlng 8ancy so cavallerly 1haL was Lhe only way Lo puL lL lL was no [oke under Lhe
clrcumsLances l couldnL dream of golng back Lo 8ancy araplne agreed
Whlle we were Lalklng Lhus pleasanLly confesslng as lL were Lhe 1arapouL had an lnLermlsslon and all ln a
heap Lhe movle house muslclans came over Lo Lhe blsLroL So we all had a drlnk LogeLher araplne was well
known Lo Lhe muslclans
ln Lhe course of Lhe conversaLlon lL came ouL LhaL a pasha was needed for Lhe sLage show A sllenL parL
1he guy whod played lL before had lefL wlLhouL noLlce ?eL lL was a good parL and well pald noL aL all
sLrenuous And ln addlLlon leLs noL forgeL charmlngly surrounded by a sumpLuous flock of Lngllsh danclng
glrls Lhousands of preclse and aglle muscles !usL my llne and [usL whaL l needed
l smlrked and smlled and walLed for Lhe manager Lo make me an offer ln oLher words l applled for Lhe [ob
Slnce lL was laLe and Lhey hadnL Llme Lo go looklng for anoLher acLor aL Lhe orLe SalnLMarLln78 Lhe
manager was dellghLed Lo have me rlghL on Lhe spoL lL saved hlm shoe leaLher Me Loo Pe barely looked aL
me ln facL he Look me Lhen and Lhere And puL me Lo work lL mlghL have boLhered Lhem lf ld llmped buL
even Lhere lm noL so sure
eneLraLlng Lhe lovely warm padded basemenL of Lhe 1arapouL l found a verlLable hlve of perfumed
dresslng rooms where Lhe Lngllsh glrls whlle walLlng for Lhelr number passed Lhe Llme romplng
suggesLlvely and swearlng Cver[oyed Lo have reconnecLed wlLh my bread and buLLer l hasLened Lo make
frlends wlLh my easygolng young colleagues 1hey welcomed me charmlngly Angels ulscreeL angels
8esldes lLs pleasanL Lo be nelLher confessed nor desplsed 1haLs Lngland for you
1he 1arapouL was raklng lL ln Lven backsLage all was luxury wellbelng legs llghLs soaps and sandwlches
l belleve Lhe skeLch we appeared ln was seL ln 1urkesLan lL was a preLexL for choreographlc monkeyshlnes
muslcal conLorLlons and vlolenL drummlng
My parL was sllghL buL essenLlal uffed up wlLh gold and sllver l had some dlfflculLy aL flrsL ln flndlng a
place Lo sLand ln among so many unsLable lamps and doodads buL l goL used Lo lL and Lhus dlsplayed Lo my
besL advanLage l had noLhlng Lo do buL daydream under Lhe opalescenL spoLllghLs
lor a good flfLeen mlnuLes LwenLy cockney bayaderes knocked Lhemselves ouL wlLh song and bacchanallan
dance supposedly Lo convlnce me of Lhe reallLy of Lhelr charms ld have been saLlsfled wlLh less lL seemed
Lo me LhaL golng Lhrough LhaL rouLlne flve Llmes a day was a loL Lo expecL of a poor glrl 1hose glrls never
weakened Lhey waggled Lhelr boLLoms lmplacably wlLh Lhe sllghLly borlng energy Lyplcal of Lhelr race Lhe
unflagglng perslsLence of an ocean llner plowlng lLs way Lhrough endless seas
Why sLruggle walLlng ls good enough slnce
everyLhlng ls bound Lo end up ln Lhe sLreeL 8aslcally only Lhe sLreeL counLs Why deny lL? lLs walLlng for
us Cne of Lhese days well have Lo make up our mlnds and go down lnLo Lhe sLreeL noL one or Lwo or Lhree
of us buL all We sLand on Lhe brlnk we slmper and fuss buL never mlnd Lhe Llme wlll come
lnLerlors are no good As soon as a door closes on a man he beglns Lo smell and everyLhlng he has on hlm
smells Loo 8ody and soul he deLerloraLes Pe roLs lL serves us rlghL lf people sLlnk We should have looked
afLer Lhem We should have Laken Lhem ouL evlcLed Lhem exposed Lhem Lo Lhe alr All Lhlngs LhaL sLlnk are
lndoors Lhey preen Lhemselves buL Lhey sLlnk all Lhe same
Speaklng of famllles l know a pharmaclsL on Lhe Avenue de SalnLCuen who had a marvelous slgn ln hls
wlndow a lovely adverLlsemenL Cne boLLle (prlce Lhree francs) wlll purge Lhe whole famlly lsnL LhaL greaL!
1hey all belch! and shlL LogeLher famllywlse 1hey haLe one anoLhers guLs Lhe essence of home llfe
buL no one complalns because afLer all lLs cheaper Lhan llvlng ln a hoLel
Whlch brlngs us Lo hoLels A hoLel ls more unseLLled less preLenLlous Lhan an aparLmenL you donL feel so
gullLy 1he human race ls never free from worry and slnce Lhe lasL [udgmenL wlll Lake place ln Lhe sLreeL
lLs obvlous LhaL ln a hoLel you wonL have so far Lo go LeL Lhe LrumpeLlng angels come we hoLel dwellers
wlll be Lhe flrsL Lo geL Lhere
ln a hoLel you Lry noL Lo aLLracL Loo much noLlce lL doesnL do a blL of good As soon as you shouL Loo loud
or Loo ofLen Lhey puL Lhelr flnger on you reLLy soon Lhe way sound carrles from room Lo room youll
almosL be afrald Lo plss ln Lhe washbasln So naLurally you lmprove your manners Lhe way offlcers do ln Lhe
navy Peaven and earLh can sLarL quaklng from one mlnuLe Lo Lhe nexL well be prepared lL wonL faze us
for already [usL collldlng ln Lhe hoLel corrldors we beg and obLaln pardon Len Llmes a day
ld advlse you Lo famlllarlze yourself wlLh Lhe LolleL smell of everyone on your floor lL comes ln handy lLs
hard Lo harbor llluslons aL a roomsbyLhemonLh hoLel 1he guesLs donL cuL much of a flgure 1hey [ourney
dlscreeLly Lhrough llfe from day Lo day Lhe hoLel ls a shlp LhaLs roLLlng and full of holes and Lhey know lL
1he one l moved Lo was paLronlzed mosLly by sLudenLs from Lhe provlnces As soon as you seL fooL on Lhe
sLalrs lL smelled of breakfasL and old clgareLLe buLLs AL nlghL you could recognlze Lhe place from a
dlsLance because of Lhe flame of gray llghL over Lhe door and Lhe gapLooLhed gllL leLLers hanglng from Lhe
balcony llke an enormous denLal plaLe A monsLrous lodglng machlne dlsLempered by sordld golngson
Wed pay one anoLher vlslLs from room Lo room AfLer years of crummy underLaklngs ln Lhe world of
pracLlcal affalrs of socalled advenLures l was back agaln wlLh sLudenLs
1helr deslres were sLlll Lhe same lnLense and puLrld nelLher more nor less lnslpld Lhan ln Lhe old days when
ld lefL Lhem 1he people had changed buL Lhe ldeas were Lhe same 1hey sLlll wenL aL more or less regular
hours Lo Lhe oLher end of Lhe nelghborhood Lo nlbble blLs of medlclne odds and ends of chemlsLry a plll or
Lwo of law and heaps of zoology 1he war ln passlng over Lhelr age group hadnL changed a Lhlng and lf
ouL of sympaLhy you Look an lnLeresL ln Lhelr dreams Lhey led you sLralghL Lo Lhelr forLleLh blrLhday 1hese
young men gave Lhemselves LwenLy years Lwo hundred and forLy monLhs of dogged LhrlfL ln whlch Lo
achleve happlness
1helr noLlons of happlness and success were convenLlonal lmages buL carefully drawn 1hey saw
Lhemselves aL Lhe lasL square surrounded by a small buL lncomparably preclous famlly ?eL Lhey would
seldom have looked aL Lhls famlly WhaL for? Cne Lhlng a famlly lsnL meanL for ls Lo be looked aL And a
faLhers dlsLlncLlon and happlness conslsL ln klsslng hls famlly hls poeLrywlLhouL ever looklng aL lL
8y way of novelLy Lheyd have moLored Lo nlce wlLh Lhelr dowered brlde and posslbly have adopLed Lhe
use of checks for maklng paymenLs As for Lhe shameful reaches of Lhe soul Lhey would no doubL have
Laken Lhelr wlfe Lo a whorehouse one evenlng no more 1he resL of Lhelr world would be shuL up ln Lhelr
dally papers and guarded by Lhe pollce
SLaylng aL LhaL fleablLLen hoLel made my frlends a Lrlfle shameful and lrrlLable for Lhe momenL 1he young
bourgeols sLudenL feels LhaL hes belng punlshed and slnce lLs Laken for granLed LhaL he canL sLarL savlng
yeL he drowns hls sorrow ln 8ohemla and more 8ohemla ln coffeehouse despalr
AL Lhe beglnnlng of each monLh we wenL Lhrough a shorL buL acuLe flL of eroLlclsm Lhe whole hoLel shook
wlLh lL We washed our feeL An eroLlc expedlLlon was arranged Money orders arrlved from Lhe provlnces
and LhaL ls whaL made up our mlnds l mlghL have obLalned [usL as good colLuses from my Lngllsh chorus
glrls aL Lhe 1arapouL and free of charge aL LhaL buL Lhlnklng lL over l re[ecLed Lhe easy way because of Lhe
compllcaLlons and Lhe roLLen [ealous llLLle plmps who were always hanglng around backsLage walLlng for
Lhe glrls
Slnce we read several pornographlc magazlnes aL our hoLel we knew Lhe ropes and addresses needed for
geLLlng fucked ln arls ?ou have Lo admlL LhaL addresses are fun ?ou leL yourself be LempLed even l
who had known Lhe assage des 8ereslnas and Lraveled and experlenced no end of compllcaLlons ln Lhe
pornographlc llne never seem Lo have exhausLed Lhe hope of lnLlmaLe revelaLlons Where Lhe ass ls
concerned Lheres always a resldue of curloslLy ?ou say Lo yourself LhaL Lhe ass has noLhlng more Lo Lell
you LhaL you havenL one more mlnuLe Lo wasLe on lL and Lhen you sLarL ln agaln [usL Lo make absoluLely
sure LhaL Lhe sub[ecL ls exhausLed you learn someLhlng new abouL lL afLer all and LhaL sufflces Lo launch
you on a wave of opLlmlsm
?ou pull yourself LogeLher you Lhlnk more clearly Lhan before you sLarL hoplng agaln even lf youd glven up
hope alLogeLher and lnevlLably you reverL once more Lo Lhe ass Lhe same old sLory lndeed Lhere are
always aL all ages dlscoverles Lo be made ln Lhe vaglna So one afLernoon Lhree of us from Lhe hoLel seL ouL
ln search of an lnexpenslve plece lL was qulck work Lhanks Lo Lhe connecLlons of omone79 who
operaLed an agency ln Lhe 8aLlgnolles quarLer for every klnd of eroLlc arrangemenL or comblnaLlon LhaL
anyone could deslre Pls books were full of offers aL all prlces 1hls provldenLlal man offlclaLed wlLhouL
osLenLaLlon of any klnd aL Lhe back of a courL hls exlguous premlses were so poorly llL LhaL you needed as
much LacLlle sense and glfL of dead reckonlng Lo flnd your way as ln an unfamlllar urlnal ?our nerves would
be unseLLled by Lhe layers of curLaln you had Lo parL before reachlng Lhe procurer who was always Lo be
found seaLed ln an arLlflclal confesslonal LwlllghL
8ecause of LhaL dlm llghL Lo Lell Lhe LruLh l never really managed Lo geL a good look aL omone and
Lhough we had long conversaLlons and even worked LogeLher for a Llme Lhough he made me all sorLs of
proposlLlons and conflded any number of senslLlve secreLs l should be qulLe lncapable of recognlzlng hlm
Loday lf l meL hlm ln hell
l remember only LhaL Lhe furLlve enLhuslasLs ln Lhe slLLlng room walLlng Lhelr Lurn for an lnLervlew always
behaved correcLly never any famlllarlLy beLween Lhem ln facL Lhey were as reserved as lf Lheyd been
walLlng for some eccenLrlc denLlsL who dlsllked nolse and dldnL care much for llghL elLher
l made Lhe acqualnLance of omone Lhrough a medlcal sLudenL 1he sLudenL culLlvaLed hlm as a means of
maklng a blL of exLra money ouL of hls cock because you see Lhe lucky basLard was glfLed wlLh a
monumenLal penls Pe and hls amazlng equlpmenL would be hlred Lo brlng anlmaLlon lnLo llLLle lnLlmaLe
gaLherlngs ln Lhe suburbs 1he ladles made a greaL fuss over hlm especlally Lhose who wouldnL have
belleved LhaL anyone could have such a blg one Cverwhelmed young glrls would dream and rave ln Lhe
pollce records our sLudenL flgured under Lhe alarmlng pseudonym of 8elshazzar!80 1he waLLlng cusLomers
seldom sLrlke up a conversaLlon Sufferlng exhlblLs lLself pleasure and Lhe needs of Lhe flesh hang Lhelr
heads ln shame
Say whaL you please lLs a sln Lo be a lecher and poor When omone heard abouL my slLuaLlon and my
medlcal pasL noLhlng could sLop hlm from Lelllng me abouL hls sufferlng A vlce was wearlng hlm ouL lL
conslsLed ln Louchlng hlmself conLlnuously under hls desk whlle converslng wlLh hls cusLomers hunLers
affllcLed wlLh an lLchlng perlneum lLs my work you see! Pow do you expecL me Lo conLrol myself wlLh
all Lhe horrors Lhey Lell me Lhe swlne! ln shorL hls cusLomers LempLed hlm Lo vlce llke Lhose obese
buLchers who canL help gorglng Lhemselves on meaL ln addlLlon l belleve hls bowels were consLanLly
lnflamed as a resulL of a mallgnanL fever orlglnaLlng ln hls lungs And Lhe facL ls LhaL he was carrled off fay
Luberculosls a few years laLer Pe was also exhausLed ln a dlfferenL sense by Lhe chaLLer of hls preLenLlous
lady cusLomers always cheaLlng always maklng up rldlculous sLorles abouL noLhlng or abouL Lhelr sexual
apparaLus Lhe llke of whlch Lo hear Lhem Lalk you wouldnL flnd lf you ransacked all four corners of Lhe
WhaL Lhe men wanLed mosL and whaL had Lo be found for Lhem was mosLly consenLlng and admlrlng
parLners for Lhelr eroLlc wrlnkles lncredlble Lhe quanLlLles of love Lhose men had Lo share as much as
Madame PeroLes cusLomers A slngle mornlngs mall would brlng Lhe omone Agency enough unsaLlsfled
love Lo exLlngulsh all Lhe wars ln Lhe world forever 8uL Lhese deluges of senLlmenL never wenL beyond Lhe
ass 1he mores Lhe plLy
Pls desk dlsappeared beneaLh LhaL mass of passlonaLe banallLles ln my deslre Lo know more l declded Lo
help hlm for a whlle ln classlfylng LhaL vasL eplsLolary ragouL !usL as wlLh neckLles or dlseases he explalned
you grouped Lhem accordlng Lo Lypes Lhe lunaLlcs on one slde Lhe masochlsLs and sadlsLs on anoLher Lhe
flagellanLs over here Lhe ones looklng for a governess on a dlfferenL page and so on lLs noL long before
your amusemenL becomes a chore Weve been expelled from aradlse all rlghL! no doubL abouL LhaL!
omone was of Lhe same oplnlon wlLh hls molsL hands and hls everlasLlng vlce whlch gave hlm pleasure
and remorse aL Lhe same Llme AfLer a few monLhs l knew enough abouL hls buslness and hlmself My vlslLs
became less frequenL
AL Lhe 1arapouL Lhey conLlnued Lo regard me as qulLe accepLable a quleL puncLual super buL afLer a few
weeks of calm my cusLomary lll luck soughL me ouL from an unusual quarLer and l was obllged Lo abandon
my work as a super and resume my mlserable [ourney
Seen ln perspecLlve Lhose days aL Lhe 1arapouL were only a sorL of forbldden and lnsldlous porL of call
AdmlLLedly l was always well dressed durlng Lhose four monLhs once as a prlnce Lwlce as a cenLurlon one
day as an avlaLor and well and regularly pald AL Lhe 1arapouL l aLe enough Lo lasL me for years l led Lhe llfe
of a coupon cllpper wlLhouL Lhe coupons 1reachery! ulsasLer! Cne nlghL l donL know why Lhey changed
our number 1he scene of Lhe new skeLch was Lhe London LmbankmenL My mlsglvlngs were lmmedlaLe
our llLLle Lngllsh glrls were expecLed Lo slng off key and osLenslbly on Lhe banks of Lhe 1hames aL nlghL
whlle l played Lhe parL of a pollceman A LoLally sllenL role walklng up and down ln fronL of Lhe parapeL
Suddenly when ld sLopped Lhlnklng abouL lL Lhelr slnglng grew louder Lhan llfe lLself and sLeered faLe ln
Lhe dlrecLlon of calamlLy Whlle Lhey were slnglng l couldnL Lhlnk of anyLhlng buL all Lhe poor worlds
mlsery and my own Lhose LarLs wlLh Lhelr slnglng made my hearL burn llke Luna flsh l LhoughL ld dlgesLed
lL forgoLLen Lhe worsL! 8uL Lhls was Lhe worsL of all a song LhaL couldnL make lL And as Lhey sang Lhey
wlgglewaggled Lo Lry and brlng lL off A flne mess all of a sudden we were knee deep ln mlsery no
mlsLake! Moonlng abouL ln Lhe fog! 1helr lamenL was drlpplng wlLh mlsery lL made me grow older from
mlnuLe Lo mlnuLe anlc oozed from Lhe very sLage seL And noLhlng could sLop Lhem 1hey dldnL seem Lo
undersLand all Lhe harm Lhelr song was dolng us all 1hey laughed and flung ouL Lhelr legs ln perfecL Llme
whlle lamenLlng Lhelr whole llfe When lL comes Lo you from so far wlLh such sureness of alm you canL
mlsLake lL and you canL reslsL
Mlsery was everywhere ln splLe of Lhe luxurlous hall lL was on us on Lhe seL lL overflowed lL drenched Lhe
whole earLh 1hose glrls were real arLlsLs Ab[ecL mlsery poured ouL of Lhem and Lhey made no aLLempL
Lo sLop lL or even undersLand lL Cnly Lhelr eyes were sad 1he eyes arenL enough 1hey sang Lhe calamlLy
of exlsLence and Lhey dldnL undersLand 1hey mlsLook lL for love noLhlng buL love Lhe poor llLLle Lhlngs
had never been LaughL anyLhlng else Supposedly Lhey were slnglng abouL some llLLle seLback ln love
1haLs whaL Lhey LhoughL! When youre young and you donL know you mlsLake everyLhlng for love Lrouble

Where l go where l look
lLs only for you ou
Cnly for you ou
1haLs whaL Lhey sang
lLs a manla wlLh Lhe young Lo puL all humanlLy lnLo one ass [usL one Lhe dream of dreams mad love
Maybe laLer Lhey would flnd ouL where all LhaL ended when Lhelr roslness had fled when Lhe nononsense
mlsery of Lhelr lousy counLry had engulfed Lhem all slxLeen of Lhem wlLh Lhelr hefLy mares Lhlghs and
Lhelr bobblng LlLs 1he LruLh ls LhaL mlsery already had Lhe darllngs by Lhe neck by Lhe walsL Lhey
couldnL escape 8y Lhe belly by Lhe breaLh by every cord of Lhelr Lhln offkey volces Mlsery was lnslde
Lhem no cosLume no spangles no llghLs no smlle could fool her delude her abouL her own mlsery flnds
her own wherever Lhey may hlde lL [usL amuses her Lo leL Lhem slng sllly songs of hope whlle walLlng Lhelr
Lurn 1hose Lhlngs awaken mlsery caress and arouse her
1haLs whaL our unhapplness our Lerrlble unhapplness comes Lo an amusemenL
So Lo hell wlLh people who slng love songs! Love lLself ls mlsery and noLhlng else mlsery lylng ouL of our
mouLhs Lhe blLch and noLhlng else Shes everywhere donL wake her noL even ln preLense She never
preLends And yeL Lhose Lngllsh glrls wenL Lhrough Lhelr rouLlne Lhree Llmes a day wlLh Lhelr backdrop and
accordlon Lunes lL was bound Lo end badly
l dldnL lnLerfere buL donL worry l saw Lhe caLasLrophe comlng
llrsL one of Lhe glrls fell slck ueaLh Lo cuLles who sLlr up calamlLy! LeL em croak well all be beLLer off! And
whlle were aL lL donL hang around sLreeL corners near accordlon players as ofLen as noL LhaLs where
youll caLch lL where Lhe LruLh wlll sLrlke A ollsh glrl was hlred Lo Lake Lhe place of Lhe slck one ln Lhelr acL
1he ollsh chlck coughed Loo when she wasnL dolng anyLhlng else She was Lall and pale powerfully bullL
We made frlends rlghL away ln Lwo hours l knew all abouL her soul as far as her body was concerned l had
Lo walL a whlle 1hls glrls manla was muLllaLlng her nervous sysLem wlLh lmposslble crushes naLurally
whaL wlLh her own unhapplness she slld lnLo Lhe Lngllsh glrls lousy song llke a knlfe lnLo buLLer 1helr song
began very nlcely llke all popular songs lL dldnL seem Lo mean a Lhlng and Lhen your hearL began Lo droop
lL made you so sad LhaL llsLenlng Lo lL you losL all deslre Lo llve because lLs Lrue LhaL everyLhlng youLh and
all LhaL comes Lo noLhlng and Lhen you sLarLed harklng Lo Lhe words even afLer Lhe song was over and Lhe
Lune had gone home Lo sleep ln lLs own bed lLs honesLLogoodness bed Lhe Lomb where everyLhlng ends
1wo choruses and you felL a klnd of longlng for Lhe sweeL land of deaLh Lhe land of everlasLlng Lenderness
and lmmedlaLe foggy forgeLfulness As a maLLer of facL Lhelr volces were foggy Loo
All of us ln chorus repeaLed Lhelr plalnL reproachful of everybody who was sLlll around sLlll dragglng Lhelr
llvlng carcasses from place Lo place walLlng along Lhe rlverbanks on all Lhe rlverbanks of Lhe world for llfe
Lo flnlsh passlng and ln Lhe meanLlme dolng one Lhlng and anoLher selllng Lhlngs Lo oLher ghosLs oranges
and raclng Llps and counLerfelL colns pollcemen sex flends sorrows Lelllng each oLher Lhlngs ln Lhls
paLlenL fog LhaL wlll never end
1anla was Lhe name of my new pal from oland Per llfe aL Lhe momenL l gaLhered was one compacL
frenzy because of a llLLle forLyyearold bank clerk whom she had known slnce 8erlln She wanLed Lo go
back Lo 8erlln and love hlm ln splLe of everyLhlng and aL all cosLs Shed have done anyLhlng Lo geL back Lo
She pursued LheaLrlcal agenLs Lhose promlsers of engagemenLs Lo Lhe ends of Lhelr plssy sLalrways Whlle
walLlng for answers LhaL never came Lhose roLLers plnched her buLLocks 8uL she was so LoLally enLhralled
by her faraway love LhaL she hardly noLlced Lhelr manlpulaLlons 1hls sLaLe of affalrs hadnL prevalled for a
week when dlsasLer sLruck lor monLhs she had been loadlng uesLlny wlLh LempLaLlons llke a cannon
llu carrled off her marvelous lover 1he news came Lo us one SaLurday afLernoon ulsheveled and haggard
she dragged me Lo Lhe Care du nord 1haL ln lLself was noLhlng unusual buL ln her frenzy she clamored aL
Lhe LlckeL wlndow lnslsLlng LhaL she had Lo be ln 8erlln ln Llme for Lhe funeral lL Look Lwo sLaLlonmasLers
Lo dlssuade her Lo geL her Lo undersLand LhaL lL was much Loo laLe
ln Lhe sLaLe she was ln l couldnL Lhlnk of leavlng her She was lnLenL on her Lragedy and sLlll more lnLenL
on exhlblLlng lL Lo me ln full flood WhaL an opporLunlLy! Love LhwarLed by poverLy and dlsLance ls llke a
sallors love no Lwo ways lLs lrrefuLable and sure flre ln Lhe flrsL place when youre unable Lo meeL Loo
ofLen you canL flghL whlch ls LhaL much galned Slnce llfe conslsLs of madness splked wlLh lles Lhe farLher
you are from each oLher Lhe more lles you can puL lnLo lL and Lhe happler youll be 1haLs only naLural and
normal 1ruLh ls lnedlble
nowadays for lnsLance lLs easy Lo Lalk abouL !esus ChrlsL uld !esus ChrlsL go Lo Lhe LolleL ln fronL of
everybody? lL seems Lo me hls rackeL wouldnL have lasLed very long lf hed Laken a shlL ln publlc very llLLle
presence LhaLs Lhe whole Lrlck especlally ln love
Cnce 1anla had been Lhoroughly assured LhaL Lhere was no posslble Lraln Lo 8erlln we made up for lL ln
Lelegrams AL Lhe 8ourse81 posL offlce we composed an exLremely long one because we dldnL know
whom Lo address lL Lo We dldnL know anybody ln 8erlln excepL Lhe dead man lrom LhaL momenL on
Lhere was noLhlng we could do buL exchange words abouL Lhe dead mans deaLh Words helped us Lo walk
around Lhe 8ourse Lwo or Lhree Llmes 1hen we had Lo do someLhlng Lo sooLhe 1anlas sorrow so we
sLrolled slowly up Loward MonLmarLre garbllng words of grlef
Cn Lhe 8ue Leplc you sLarL meeLlng people on Lhelr way Lo Lhe Lop of Lhe clLy ln search of merrlmenL
1heyre ln a hurry When Lhey geL Lo SacreCoeur Lhey look down aL Lhe nlghL a blg dense hollow wlLh
houses plled aL Lhe boLLom Cn Lhe llLLle square we wenL lnLo Lhe cafe LhaL looked Lhe leasL expenslve 8y
way of consolaLlon and graLlLude 1anla leL me klss her wherever l pleased She also llked Lo drlnk 1lpsy
merrymakers were already asleep on Lhe benches around us 1he clock aL Lhe Lop of Lhe llLLle church
sLarLed sLrlklng Lhe hours and more hours and on and on We had reached Lhe end of Lhe world LhaL was
becomlng obvlous We couldnL go any furLher because furLher on Lhere were only dead people
1he dead began on Lhe lace du 1erLre Lwo sLeps away lrom where we were lL was easy Lo see Lhem 1hey
were passlng over Lhe Calerles uuf ayel82 Lo Lhe easL of us
Lven so youve goL Lo know how Lo flnd Lhemnamely from lnslde wlLh your eyes almosL closed because
Lhe elecLrlc slgns wlLh Lhelr greaL copses of llghL make lL very hard Lo see Lhe dead even Lhrough Lhe clouds
l reallzed aL once LhaL Lhese dead had 8eberL wlLh Lhem 8eberL and l even gave each oLher Lhe hlgh slgn
and Lhen noL far from hlm l saw Lhe pale glrl from 8ancy she had flnally flnlshed aborLlng Lhls Llme her guLs
had been Laken ouL of her and we Loo slgnaled Lo each oLher
1here were old paLlenLs of mlne here and Lhere male and female LhaL ld long sLopped Lhlnklng abouL and
sLlll oLhers Lhe black man ln a whlLe cloud all alone Lhe one Lhey had glven one lash Loo many down Lhere
ln 1opo and old man Crappa Lhe lleuLenanL of Lhe vlrgln foresL! ld LhoughL of Lhem all from Llme Lo Llme
of Lhe lleuLenanL Lhe LorLured black and also of my Spanlard Lhe prlesL he had come down from heaven
LhaL nlghL wlLh Lhe dead Lo say prayers and hls golden cruclflx was geLLlng ln hls way maklng lL hard for
hlm Lo fly from sky Lo sky lL goL Langled up ln Lhe clouds Lhe dlrLlesL and yellowesL of Lhem and as Llme
wenL on l recognlzed more dead people more and more So many you canL help feellng ashamed of noL
havlng had Llme Lo look aL Lhem whlle Lhey were llvlng here beslde you all Lhose years
1heres never enough Llme lLs Lrue noL even for Lhlnklng of yourself
Well anyway all Lhose sons of blLches had Lurned lnLo angels wlLhouL my noLlclng! Whole clouds full of
angels lncludlng some very farouL and dlsrepuLable ones all over Lhe place 8oamlng around hlgh over
Lhe clLy! l looked for Molly among Lhem a golden opporLunlLy my sweeL my only frlend buL she hadnL
come wlLh Lhem Shed always been so nlce LhaL she probably had a llLLle heaven all Lo herself rlghL nexL
Lo Cod l was glad noL Lo flnd her wlLh all Lhose Lhugs oh yes Lhe ghosLs assembled over Lhe clLy LhaL
nlghL were really [usL Lhe dregs of Lhe dead [usL scoundrels scum and rlffraff Lspeclally from Lhe cemeLery
nearby Lhey came more and more of Lhem Lhough lLs noL a blg cemeLery noL aL all hlgh class 1here were
even Communards all drenched wlLh blood wlLh Lhelr mouLhs wlde open as lf Lhey wanLed Lo yell some
more and couldnL 1he Communards were walLlng wlLh Lhe oLhers walLlng for La erouse La erouse of
Lhe lslands who was ln command of Lhe whole rally LhaL nlghL La erouse83 was Laklng a hell of a long
Llme Lo geL ready because of hls wooden leg whlch hed puL on backward hed always had Lrouble wlLh
LhaL wooden leg and besldes he couldnL flnd hls blg spyglass
Pe refused Lo come ouL of Lhe clouds wlLhouL hls spyglass around hls neck crazy ldea Lhe famous spyglass
of hls advenLures a laugh lL made you see people and Lhlngs far away furLher and furLher away Lhrough
Lhe small end and naLurally becomlng more and more deslrable because and ln splLe of your geLLlng closer
Lo Lhem Some Cossacks who were Lucked away noL far from Lhe Moulln84 couldnL manage Lo geL clear
of Lhelr graves 1hey were Lrylng so hard lL was Lerrlfylng buL Lhey had Lrled many Llmes before 1hey
kepL Loppllng back lnLo Lhelr graves Lheyd been drunk slnce 1820
neverLheless a shower made Lhem shooL up and Lhere Lhey were over Lhe clLy refreshed 1hen Lhey
scaLLered far and wlde and palnLed Lhe nlghL wlLh Lhelr Lurbulence from cloud Lo cloud 1he Cpera ln
parLlcular seemed Lo aLLracL Lhem wlLh lLs enormous brazler of elecLrlc slgns ln Lhe mlddle SpurLlng from
lL Lhe ghosLs bounded Lo Lhe oLher end of Lhe sky so numerous and so acLlve Lhey made your head spln
8eady aL lasL La erouse wanLed Lhem Lo holsL hlm up aL Lhe lasL sLroke of four 1hey held hlm ln place and
sLrapped hlm Lo Lhe saddle llnally asLrlde and seLLled he wenL rlghL on wavlng hls arms and gesLlculaLlng
1he clock sLrlklng four almosL made La erouse lose hls balance as he was buLLonlng hls coaL 8uL Lhen he
led Lhe mad rush across Lhe sky A hldeous rouL 1wlsLlng and Lurnlng Lhe phanLoms pour from all
dlrecLlons Lhe ghosLs of a Lhousand herolc baLLles 1hey pursue Lhey challenge Lhey charge one
anoLher cenLurles agalnsL cenLurles lor a long whlle Lhe norLh ls cluLLered wlLh Lhelr abomlnable mlee
1he blulsh horlzon deLaches lLself aL lasL Lhe day rlses Lhrough Lhe blg renL Lheyve made ln Lhe nlghL whlle
AfLer LhaL lL becomes very hard Lo flnd Lhem ?ou have Lo geL ouLslde of 1lme
lf you do manage Lo flnd Lhem lL wlll be over Loward Lngland buL on LhaL slde Lhe fog ls always so dense
so compacL LhaL lLs llke salls rlslng one afLer anoLher from Lhe earLh Lo Lhe hlghesL heaven and for all Llme
WlLh pracLlce and close aLLenLlon you can flnd Lhem even so buL never for very long because of Lhe wlnd
LhaL keeps blowlng raln squalls and mlsLs from Lhe open sea
1he Lall woman who ls Lhere guardlng Lhe lsland ls Lhe lasL of all Per head ls even hlgher Lhan Lhe
uppermosL mlsLs 8y now she ls Lhe only halfway llvlng Lhlng on Lhe lsland Per red halr hlgh over
everyLhlng else sLlll puLs a llLLle gold lnLo Lhe clouds LhaLs all Lhere ls lefL of Lhe sun
1hey say shes Lrylng Lo make herself a cup of Lea
She may as well Lry because shell be Lhere for all eLernlLy Shell never brlng her Lea Lo a boll because of
Lhe fog whlch has become Loo dense and peneLraLlng lor a LeapoL she uses Lhe hull of a shlp Lhe mosL
beauLlful Lhe largesL of shlps Lhe lasL she could flnd ln SouLhampLon and she heaLs up her Lea ln lL waves
and waves of lL She sLlrs She sLlrs lL abouL wlLh an enormous oar 1haL keeps her busy
Serlous for all Llme benL over her Lea she doesnL look aL anyLhlng else
1he whole dance has passed over her buL she hasnL even moved shes used Lo havlng Lhese ghosLs from
Lhe ConLlnenL loslng Lhemselves over Lhere 1haLs Lhe end of lL
WlLh her flngers she sLlrs LhaLs good enough for her Lhe coals under Lhe ashes beLween Lwo dead foresLs
She Lrles Lo revlve Lhe flre lLs all hers now buL her Lea wlll never boll agaln
1heres no llfe lefL for Lhe flames
no more llfe ln Lhe world for anyone only a wee blL for her everyLhlng ls almosL over
1anla woke me up ln Lhe room where we had
flnally gone Lo bed lL was Len ln Lhe mornlng 1o geL rld of her l Lold her l wasnL feellng very well and
wanLed Lo sLay ln bed a whlle
Llfe was sLarLlng ln agaln She preLended Lo belleve me So soon as shed gone l wenL ouL myself 1here
really was someLhlng l wanLed Lo do 1he saraband of Lhe nlghL before had lefL me wlLh a sLrong LasLe of
remorse 1he memory of 8oblnson came back Lo plague me lL was Lrue LhaL ld abandoned Lhe man Lo hls
faLe and worse Lo Lhe mercles of Abbe roLlsLe no need Lo say more 1rue ld heard LhaL everyLhlng was
[usL flne down Lhere ln 1oulouse and LhaL Crandma Penroullle was belng good and klnd Lo hlm now ln
cerLaln slLuaLlons however you only hear whaL you wanL Lo hear and whaL seems mosL convenlenL
Come rlghL down Lo lL Lhose vague rumors dldnL prove a Lhlng
Anxlous and curlous l headed for 8ancy ln quesL of news someLhlng deflnlLe Lhe real Lhlng 1o geL Lhere l
had Lo Lake Lhe 8ue des 8aLlgnolles where omone llved lL was on my way As l approached hls house l
was surprlsed Lo see omone ln person on Lhe corner apparenLly shadowlng a llLLle man aL some dlsLance
Slnce omone never wenL ouL l flgured someLhlng blg musL be golng on l recognlzed Lhe characLer he was
followlng a cllenL ln hls correspondence he referred Lo hlmself as Lhe Cld 8uL we had been Llpped ofL
Lhe Cld83 worked ln Lhe posL offlce
lor years hed been pesLerlng omone Lo flnd hlm a wellbred chlck LhaL was hls dream 8uL Lhe young
ladles LhaL were lnLroduced Lo hlm were never well bred enough Lo sulL hlm 1hey commlLLed gaffes so he
clalmed Cn close conslderaLlon Lhere are Lwo maln classes of chlck Lhe broadmlnded ones and Lhe
ones whove had a good CaLhollc upbrlnglng 1wo equally crummy ways of feellng superlor Lwo ways of
LlLlllaLlng anxlous frusLraLed men Lhe shrlnklng vloleL Lype and Lhe glrl abouL Lown
1hls search had gone on monLh afLer monLh and engulfed all Lhe Clds savlngs Pls LransacLlons wlLh
omone had broughL hlm Lo Lhe end of hls resources and Lhe end of hls hopes LaLer on l heard LhaL Lhe
Cld had commlLLed sulclde ln a vacanL loL LhaL same afLernoon AcLually l knew someLhlng cockeyed was
afooL Lhe momenL l saw omone leave hls house So l followed Lhem qulLe a way Lhrough LhaL
nelghborhood whlch loses lLs shops as lL goes along and even lLs colors one afLer anoLher Llll Lheres
noLhlng lefL buL ramshackle blsLroLs as you approach Lhe Loll gaLe When youre noL ln a hurry lLs easy Lo
geL losL ln Lhose sLreeLs befogged by Lhe sadness and uLLer lndlfference of Lhe place So greaL ls your ennul
LhaL lf you had a llLLle money youd [ump lnLo a cab and escape 1he people you pass are burdened wlLh a
faLe so heavy LhaL you feel embarrassed on Lhelr accounL lLs pracLlcally cerLaln LhaL behlnd Lhelr curLalned
wlndows some of Lhose small pensloners have lefL Lhelr gas on noLhlng you can do abouL lL ChrlsL! you
say Whlch lsnL much
1heres noL even a bench Lo slL down on Lverywhere you look lLs brown and green When lL ralns lL ralns
from all dlrecLlons from Lhe fronL and sldes and Lhe sLreeL ls as sllppery as Lhe back of a blg flsh wlLh a
parLlng of raln ln Lhe mlddle ?ou canL even speak of dlsorder ln LhaL nelghborhood lLs more llke an almosL
wellkepL prlson a prlson LhaL has no need of doors
8oamlng around llke LhaL l flnally losL omone and hls sulclde rlghL afLer Lhe 8ue des vlnalgrlers 1haL puL
me so near La Carenne8ancy l couldnL reslsL Lhe LempLaLlon Lo casL a glance across Lhe forLlflcaLlons
lrom a dlsLance La Carenne8ancy doesnL look bad you canL deny lL because of Lhe Lrees ln Lhe blg
cemeLery ?ou could swear you were ln Lhe 8ols de 8oulogne
When you really wanL lnformaLlon abouL someone you have Lo go Lo Lhe people who know AfLer all l sald
Lo myself whaL have l goL Lo lose by paylng Lhe Penroullles a llLLle vlslL? 1hey musL know whaLs golng on ln
1oulouse So Lhen l made a mlsLake ?ou can never be careful enough 8efore you know lL youre deep ln
Lhe nolsome reglons of Lhe nlghL lL doesnL Lake long for dlsasLer Lo sLrlke 1he meresL Lrlfle can brlng lL on
and besldes ln Lhe flrsL place Lhere are cerLaln people you shouldnL dream of golng back Lo see Lspeclally
Lhose people! Cnce lLs done youre sunk
8oamlng aL random l was flnally drawn by hablL Lo Lhe vlclnlLy of Lhe Penroullles house SLlll ln Lhe same
place l couldnL geL over lL Suddenly Lhe raln was comlng down 1here was no one ln Lhe sLreeL buL me l
dldnL dare go any closer l was abouL Lo Lurn back when Lhe door of Lhe house opened [usL enough for Lhe
daughLerlnlaw Lo moLlon me Lo come ln 1haL woman saw everyLhlng Shed seen me on Lhe opposlLe
sldewalk looklng fuddled l had losL all deslre Lo go closer buL she lnslsLed She even called me by my
uocLor! Ch hurry!"
1haLs how she called me noL a momenLs heslLaLlon l was afrald of aLLracLlng aLLenLlon so l hurrled up
her fronL sLeps Agaln l saw Lhe llLLle corrldor wlLh Lhe sLove ln lL Lhe whole layouL l have Lo admlL lL gave
me Lhe same old uneasy feellng 1hen she sLarLed Lelllng me LhaL her husband had been very slck for Lwo
monLhs and was geLLlng sLeadlly worse
naLurally l had my susplclons
WhaL abouL 8oblnson? l hasLened Lo ask her
AL flrsL she eluded my quesLlon 1hen flnally she declded Lo answer 1heyre boLh flne 1helr buslness ln
1oulouse ls dolng well she flnally sald buL Lalklng very fasL 1haL was all Lhen she shlfLed back Lo her slck
husband She wanLed me Lo see hlm LhaL mlnuLe Lhere was no Llme Lo lose seelng LhaL l was so devoLed
LhaL l knew her husband well LhaL he had confldence ln no one buL me LhaL hed refused Lo see
any oLher docLor LhaL Lhey dldnL have my address 8ullshlL ln shorL
l had good reason Lo suspecL LhaL Lhere was more Lo her husbands lllness Lhan meL Lhe eye l knew Lhe lady
well and Lhe ways of Lhe household neverLheless my ldloLlc curloslLy made me cllmb Lhe sLalrs Lo Lhe
Pe was lylng ln Lhe same bed where ld LreaLed 8oblnson afLer hls accldenL some monLhs before
A room changes ln a few monLhs even lf you donL move anyLhlng Cld and rundown as Lhlngs may be Lhey
sLlll flnd Lhe sLrengLh Lhe Lord knows where Lo geL older LveryLhlng had changed around us noL LhaL
anyLhlng had moved no of course noL Lhe Lhlngs Lhemselves had acLually changed ln depLh 1hlngs are
dlfferenL when you go back Lo Lhem Lhey seem Lo have more power Lo enLer lnLo us more sadly more
deeply more genLly Lhan before Lo merge wlLh Lhe deaLh whlch ls slowly pleasanLly sneaklly growlng
lnslde us and whlch we Lraln ourselves Lo reslsL a llLLle less each day lrom momenL Lo momenL we see llfe
langulshlng shrlvellng lnslde us and wlLh lL Lhe Lhlngs and people who may have been commonplace or
preclous or lmposlng when we lasL lefL Lhem lear of Lhe end has marked all LhaL wlLh lLs wrlnkles whlle we
were chaslng around Lown ln search of pleasure or bread
Soon our pasL wlll be aLLended only by lnoffenslve paLheLlc dlsarmed Lhlngs and people mlsLakes wlLh
noLhlng Lo say for Lhemselves
1he wlfe lefL me alone wlLh her husband Pe was ln bad shape noL much clrculaLlon lefL 1he Lrouble was ln
hls hearL
lm golng Lo dle he sald slmply
Cases llke Lhls were my speclal form of luck l llsLened Lo hls hearLbeaL [usL Lo be dolng someLhlng Lhe few
gesLures people expecL under Lhose clrcumsLances Pls hearL was raclng no doubL abouL lL shuL up behlnd
hls rlbs lL ran afLer llfe ln flLs and sLarLs buL run or noL lL would never caLch up wlLh llfe Pls goose was
cooked Soon Lhe way lL was sLumbllng hls hearL would fall ln Lhe muck all [ulcy and red gushlng llke a
crushed pomegranaLe 1haLs how hls flabby old hearL would look on Lhe marble cuL open wlLh a knlfe aL
Lhe auLopsy LhaL would Lake place ln a few days All Lhls would end ln a lovely courLordered auLopsy 1haLs
whaL l foresaw conslderlng LhaL everyone ln Lhe nelghborhood would be relaylng some hlghly seasoned
rumors afLer hls deaLh whlch would look very flshy afLer Lhe oLher buslness
1he nelghbors were laylng for hls wlfe wlLh all Lhe accumulaLed and sLlll undlgesLed susplclons aroused by
Lhe prevlous affalr 1hls would come up a llLLle laLer AL Lhe momenL Lhe husband dldnL know how Lo llve or
dle Pe was already parL way ouL of llfe buL he couldnL qulLe geL rld of hls lungs Pe expelled alr and alr
came back Ped have been glad Lo leL hlmself dle buL he had Lo llve Lo Lhe end lL was rough work and lL
was drlvlng hlm up Lhe wall
l canL feel my feeL anymore! he groaned lm cold up Lo my knees Pe Lrled Lo Louch hls feeL buL
he couldnL
Pe couldnL drlnk elLher lL was almosL over Pandlng hlm Lhe Llsane hls wlfe had made hlm l wondered
whaL she could have puL ln lL 1haL Llsane dldnL smell very good buL smell proves noLhlng valerlan smells
vlle all by lLself And Lhe way he was suffocaLlng lL dldnL make much dlfference wheLher Lhe Llsane was
splked or noL SLlll he was golng Lo a loL of Lrouble worklng llke mad wlLh all Lhe muscles he had lefL under
hls skln Lo keep sufferlng and breaLhlng Pe was sLruggllng as much agalnsL llfe as agalnsL deaLh ln a case
llke LhaL Lhe rlghL Lhlng would be Lo bursL When naLure sLops glvlng a damn Lhere wouldnL seem Lo be any
llmlLs 8ehlnd Lhe door hls wlfe was llsLenlng Lo our consulLaLlon buL l knew hls wlfe llke a book l LlpLoed
over and caughL her CaughLcha! l sald She wasnL Lhe leasL blL puL ouL she even whlspered someLhlng ln
my ear
?ou should geL hlm Lo remove hls plaLe she murmured lL musL lnLerfere wlLh hls breaLhlng lL
was all rlghL wlLh me Why lndeed shouldnL he remove hls plaLe?
8uL you Lell hlm l advlsed her lL was Llckllsh saylng a Lhlng llke LhaL Lo someone ln hls condlLlon
no! no! lL would be beLLer comlng from you she lnslsLed Comlng from me lL would upseL hlm Lo know l
knew "
8eally? l asked ln amazemenL Why?"
Pes been wearlng lL for LhlrLy years and never sald a word abouL lL Lo me "
ln LhaL case l suggesLed why noL leL hlm keep lL? As long as hes used Lo breaLhlng wlLh lL ln "
Ch no ld never forglve myself she replled wlLh a klnd of quaver ln her volce
l wenL quleLly back lnLo Lhe room Pe heard me approachlng Pe was glad ld come back 8eLween flLs of
suffocaLlon he spoke Lo me Pe made an efforL Lo be frlendly asked how l was geLLlng along lf l had bullL up
a new cllenLele Ch yes! l sald ln reply Lo all hls quesLlons lL would have been much Loo long and
compllcaLed Lo go lnLo deLall noL Lhe rlghL Llme Pldden behlnd Lhe door hls wlfe made slgns aL me
meanlng l should ask hlm Lo remove hls plaLe l wenL close Lo hls ear and whlspered advlslng hlm Lo
remove lL MlsLake! l Lhrew lL down Lhe LolleL! he sald hls eyes more frlghLened Lhan ever vanlLy LhaLs
whaL lL was AfLer LhaL he leL ouL a long rale
An arLlsL makes do wlLh whaL happens Lo be aL hand All hls llfe Penroullle had Laken aesLheLlc palns wlLh
hls denLal plaLe
1haL was a good Llme for confesslons ld have llked hlm Lo Lake advanLage and glve me hls oplnlon abouL
hls moLher and whaL had been done Lo her 8uL he couldnL Pls mlnd was wanderlng Pe began Lo drool
coplously 1he end lmposslble Lo geL anoLher senLence ouL of hlm l wlped hls llps and wenL back
downsLalrs Pls wlfe ln Lhe corrldor wasnL aL all pleased she almosL llL lnLo me abouL Lhe plaLe as lf lL were
my faulL
lL was gold docLor! l know! l know how much he pald for lL! 1hey donL make Lhem llke LhaL
anymore! She wenL on and on! She made me so nervous l offered Lo go up and Lry agaln 8uL only lf she
wenL wlLh me
1haL Llme Lhe husband hardly recognlzed us !usL a llLLle 1he rales werenL as loud when we were boLh wlLh
hlm lL was as lf he wanLed Lo hear everyLhlng hls wlfe and l sald Lo each oLher
l dldnL go Lo Lhe funeral 1he auLopsy LhaL l had klnd of feared never came off lL was all done on Lhe quleL
8uL afLer LhaL Lhe wldow Penroullle and l were on Lhe ouLs for good because of Lhe denLal plaLe
?oung people are always ln such a hurry Lo go
and make love ln such a rush Lo grab hold of anyLhlng LhaLs been adverLlsed as a pleasure When lL comes
Lo sensaLlon Lhey never Lhlnk Lwlce lLs a llLLle llke Lhose Lravelers who go and eaL anyLhlng LhaLs glven
Lhem aL Lhe sLaLlon buffeL whlle walLlng for Lhe whlsLle Lo blow As long as you provlde young people wlLh
Lhe Lwo or Lhree phrases llkely Lo sLeer a conversaLlon ln Lhe dlrecLlon of fucklng LhaLs all Lhey need Lheyll
be as happy as larks Papplness comes easy Lo Lhe young why wouldnL lL when Lhey come as ofLen as Lhey
?ouLh ls a glorlous beach aL Lhe edge of Lhe waLer where women seem aL lasL Lo be freely avallable where
Lheyre so beauLlful Lhey donL need Lhe falsehood of our dreams
So naLurally when wlnLer comes lLs hard for us Lo go home Lo Lell ourselves LhaL lLs all over Lo admlL lL
Wed be glad Lo sLay on even ln Lhe cold of age we go on hoplng 1haLs noL hard Lo undersLand Were
conLempLlble no ones Lo blame leasure and happlness come flrsL l Lhlnk so Loo When you sLarL hldlng
from people lLs a slgn LhaL youre afrald Lo play wlLh Lhem 1haL ln lLself ls a dlsease We should Lry Lo flnd
ouL why we refuse Lo geL cured of lonellness A characLer l meL ln Lhe hopslLal durlng Lhe war a corporal
spoke Lo me abouL LhaL klnd of feellngs 1oo bad l never saw hlm agaln! 1he earLh ls dead he sald Lo me
We people are [usL worms on Lop of lL worms on lLs faL revolLlng carcass eaLlng lLs enLralls and all lLs
polsons noLhlng can help us we were born roLLen 1here you have lL!"
1rue Lhey hauled Lhls Lhlnker off Lo Lhe forLress one nlghL proof LhaL he was sLlll good enough Lo be shoL l
even remember LhaL lL Look Lwo Ms Lo hold hlm a Lall one and a shorL one AL Lhe courLmarLlal Lhey
sald he was an anarchlsL
SomeLlmes when you Lhlnk abouL lL years laLer you wlsh you could reLrleve Lhe words cerLaln people sald
and Lhe people Lhemselves so as Lo ask Lhem whaL Lhey were Lrylng Lo Lell you 8uL Lheyre as gone as
gone can be! We werenL educaLed enough Lo undersLand Lhem Wed llke Lo know lf maybe Lheyve
changed Lhelr mlnds 8uL lLs much Loo laLe lLs over and done! nobody knows anyLhlng abouL
Lhem anymore So we [usL have Lo go on alone ln Lhe nlghL Weve losL our Lrue companlons and we dldnL
even ask Lhem Lhe rlghL quesLlon Lhe real one when Lhere was sLlll Llme When we were wlLh Lhem we
dldnL know LosL men Anyway were always laLe valn regreLs wonL make Lhe keLLle boll
Well lucklly aL leasL Abbe roLlsLe came Lo see me one flne mornlng Lo spllL Lhe commlsslon wed made on
Crandma Penroullles crypL AcLually ld glven up expecLlng LhaL prlesL Pe dropped llke a glfL from heaven
We each had flfLeen hundred francs comlng Lo us AL Lhe same Llme he broughL me good news of
8oblnson lL seems hls eyes were a good deal beLLer 1he llds had even sLopped suppuraLlng And Lhey were
all asklng for me down Lhere 1rue enough ld promlsed Lo go and see Lhem Lven roLlsLe lnslsLed
lrom whaL he Lold me l also gaLhered LhaL 8oblnson was golng Lo be marrled soon Lo Lhe daughLer of Lhe
woman who sold candles ln Lhe church nexL Lo Lhe burlal vaulL Lhe one LhaL had [urlsdlcLlon over Crandma
Penroullles mummles 1he Lhlng was as good as done
naLurally all Lhls sLarLed us Lalklng abouL Lhe deaLh of Monsleur Penroullle buL we dldnL go lnLo lL very
deeply More pleasanLly Lhe conversaLlon came back Lo 8oblnsons fuLure and Lhen Lo Lhe clLy of 1oulouse
LhaL l dldnL know aL all and LhaL Crappa had Lalked abouL ln Lhe old days and Lhen Lo Lhe welrd buslness
Lhe Lwo of Lhem were engaged ln down Lhere and flnally Lo Lhe young glrl who was due Lo marry 8oblnson
ln oLher words we Lalked abouL everyLhlng under Lhe sun a llLLle of Lhls and a llLLle of LhaL llfLeen
hundred francs! 1haL made me lndulgenL and opLlmlsLlc so Lo speak LveryLhlng he Lold me abouL
8oblnsons plans sLruck me as wlse senslble [udlclous and well sulLed Lo Lhe clrcumsLances - LveryLhlng
would be all rlghL So aL leasL l LhoughL And Lhen Lhe prlesL and l sLarLed Lalklng abouL age We had boLh
spenL more Lhan LhlrLy years on lnhosplLable and llLLle regreLLed shores 1here was no polnL ln even Lurnlng
around Lo look back on Lhose shores We hadnL losL much by growlng older A man afLer all musL be very
degraded l concluded Lo regreL one year more Lhan anoLher! ?ou and l Mr rlesL can grow old wlLh
gusLo! And enLhuslasm! Was yesLerday such a bargaln? Cr lasL year? WhaL dld you Lhlnk of lL? 8egreL
whaL? l ask you! ?ouLh? ?ou and l never had any youLh!
1he poor lLs Lrue geL younger lnslde as Lhey go along and Loward Lhe end provlded LhaL on Lhe way
Lheyve made some aLLempL Lo [eLLlson all Lhe lles and fear and conLempLlble eagerness Lo obey Lhey were
glven aL blrLh Lheyre less revolLlng Lhan aL Lhe sLarL 1he resL of whaL exlsLs on earLh lsnL for Lhem! lL
doesnL concern Lhem 1helr [ob Lhelr only [ob ls Lo geL rld of Lhelr obedlence Lo vomlL lL up lf Lhey
manage LhaL before klcklng ln Lhen Lhey can boasL LhaL Lhey havenL llved for noLhlng"
l was deflnlLely ln good form 1hose flfLeen hundred francs had sparked me off l wenL on 1he only real
youLh Mr rlesL ls lovlng everyone wlLhouL dlsLlncLlon LhaL alone ls Lrue LhaL alone ls young and new
Well Mr rlesL do you know many young people who are llke LhaL? l donL! All l see ls crusLy old
sLupldlLles fermenLlng ln more or less recenL bodles and Lhe more Lhese sordld absurdlLles fermenL Lhe
more Lhey sLlmulaLe Lhe young and Lhe more Lhey boasL how fanLasLlcally young Lhey are! 8uL lLs noL Lrue
lLs bullshlL 1heyre young Lhe way a boll ls young no more because of Lhe pus lnslde LhaL hurLs and
makes Lhem swell up"
My Lalklng Lo hlm llke LhaL upseL roLlsLe and noL wanLlng Lo lrrlLaLe hlm anymore l changed Lhe sub[ecL
lor one Lhlng hed been very klnd Lo me provldenLlally so ln facL lLs hard Lo sLop yourself from golng
back Lo a sub[ecL LhaLs as much on your mlnd as LhaL was on mlne lL scrambles your bralns 1o geL free
you Lry Lo unload some parL of lL on everybody who comes Lo see you and LhaL exasperaLes Lhem 8elng
alone ls Lo Lraln for deaLh A man l wenL on should dle more abundanLly Lhan a dog and Lake a Lhousand
mlnuLes Lo do lL Lach mlnuLe wlll be new all Lhe same and laced wlLh enough fear and Lrembllng Lo make
hlm forgeL all Lhe pleasure he may have had ln maklng love durlng Lhe precedlng Lhousand years
Papplness on earLh would be Lo dle wlLh and whlle havlng pleasure 1he resL ls noLhlng aL all a fear LhaL
we donL dare avow arL"
Pearlng me rave LhaL way roLlsLe LhoughL l musL have fallen slck agaln Maybe he was rlghL and maybe l
was wrong abouL everyLhlng ln my lsolaLlon searchlng for a way Lo punlsh mans unlversal egolsm lLs Lrue
LhaL l was [erklng off my lmaglnaLlon looklng for punlshmenL everywhere even ln deaLh ?ou amuse
yourself as besL you can when youre shorL of frlends and donL ofLen geL a chance Lo go ouL much less Lo
emerge from yourself and fuck
l admlL lL wasnL exacLly senslble Lo needle roLlsLe wlLh phllosophlcal ldeas conLrary Lo hls rellglous
convlcLlons 8uL Lhe facL ls hls whole person exuded a nasLy llLLle smell of superlorlLy LhaL musL have goL on
qulLe a few peoples nerves As he saw lL all we humans on earLh were ln a klnd of walLlngforeLernlLy
room each wlLh a number Pls number l donL have Lo Lell you was flrsL class good for aradlse Pe dldnL
glve a shlL abouL anyLhlng else
Such convlcLlons are unbearable Cn Lhe oLher hand when he offered LhaL same afLernoon Lo advance me
Lhe prlce of Lhe Lrlp Lo 1oulouse l sLopped needllng and conLradlcLlng hlm My dread of havlng Lo face 1anla
and her ghosL agaln aL Lhe 1arapouL made me accepL hls lnvlLaLlon wlLhouL a word of argumenL A week or
Lwo of Lhe easy llfe lf noLhlng else LhaLs whaL l sald Lo myself When lL comes Lo LempLlng you Lhe uevll
has mllllons of Lrlcks Well never know Lhem all lf we llved long enough we wouldnL know where Lo go Lo
sLarL a new happlness Wed have sLrewn aborLed happlnesses all over Lhe whole earLh would sLlnk of
Lhem unbreaLhably 1he ones ln Lhe museums Lhe real aborLlons Lurn some peoples sLomachs Lhe mere
slghL of Lhe Lhlngs makes Lhem wanL Lo vomlL And our loaLhsome aLLempLs Lo be happy are mlscarrled
enough Lo slcken you long before you dle for real
lf we dldnL forgeL Lhem wed slmply wasLe away noL Lo menLlon Lhe Lrouble weve Laken Lo geL where we
are Lo make our hopes our degeneraLe [oys our passlons and lles lnLeresLlng WanL some? Pelp
yourself And whaL of our money? And our llLLle affecLaLlons LhaL go wlLh lL And Lhe Lhlngs we geL oLher
people Lo swear Lo and LhaL we ourselves swear Lo Lhlngs we LhoughL no one had ever sald or sworn Lo
before before Lhey fllled our mlnds and mouLhs and perfumes and caresses and mlmlcrles ln shorL
everyLhlng lL Lakes Lo hlde all LhaL as much as posslble so well never have Lo speak of lL agaln for fear lL
wlll come back aL us llke vomlL Cur Lrouble lsnL lack of perseverance lLs LhaL were noL on Lhe rlghL road
LhaL leads Lo an easy deaLh
Colng Lo 1oulouse was anoLher plece of damn foollshness 1hlnklng lL over l suspecLed as much So l had no
excuse 8uL followlng 8oblnson ln hls advenLures l had developed a LasLe for shady underLaklngs Already ln
new ?ork when l couldnL sleep l racked my bralns wonderlng lf lL mlghLnL be posslble Lo go furLher and
sLlll furLher wlLh 8oblnson ?ou slnk aL flrsL youre afrald ln Lhe darkness buL all Lhe same you wanL Lo
undersLand and afLer LhaL you never leave Lhe depLhs 8uL Lheres Loo much ?ou canL undersLand so many
Lhlngs aL once Llfe ls Loo shorL ?ou donL wanL Lo be un[usL Lo anyone ?ou have scruples you heslLaLe Lo
make snap [udgmenLs and worsL of all youre afrald Lo dle whlle youre heslLaLlng because Lhen youd
have been on earLh for noLhlng whaLsoever And LhaLs Lhe worsL of all
Purry hurry donL be laLe for your deaLh Slckness Lhe poverLy LhaL dlsperses your hours and years Lhe
lnsomnla LhaL palnLs whole days and weeks gray Lhe cancer LhaL may even now meLlculous and blood
spoLLed be cllmblng up from your recLum
?oull never have Llme you Lell yourself noL Lo speak of war whlch ls also whaL wlLh Lhe crlmlnal boredom
of men ready Lo rlse up from Lhe cellar LhaL poor people shuL Lhemselves up ln you can never be sure
lLs a mooL polnL Maybe all Lhose who donL undersLand should have Lhelr LhroaLs cuL And perhaps
oLher new poor people should be born and so forLh and so on unLll we geL a crowd who undersLand Lhe
[oke Lhe whole [oke !usL as you mow a lawn unLll Lhe grass ls really rlghL really sofL
Cn leavlng Lhe Lraln aL 1oulouse l was ln doubL whaL Lo do 8uL a boLLle of beer aL Lhe sLaLlon buffeL seL me
sLrolllng Lhrough Lhe sLreeLs An unfamlllar clLy ls a flne Lhlng 1haLs Lhe Llme and place when you can
suppose LhaL all Lhe people you meeL are nlce lLs dream Llme And because youre ln a dream you can
afford Lo wasLe a llLLle Llme ln Lhe park SLlll afLer a cerLaln age unless you have gllLedged reasons people
wlll Lhlnk youve gone Lo Lhe park Lo chase llLLle glrls llke araplne So beLLer noL ?oull be safer ln Lhe
pasLry shop [usL before Lhe park gaLe Lhe beauLlful shop on Lhe corner as fancy as a broLhel sLage seL
beveled mlrrors sLudded wlLh llLLle blrds ueep ln LhoughL you caLch yourself eaLlng burnL almonds ad
lnflnlLum A place for seraphlm 1he young !adles who work Lhere babble furLlvely abouL Lhelr prlvaLe affalrs
as follows
So l Lold hlm he could call for me on Sunday My aunL heard hlm and made a Lerrlble sLlck because of
my faLher "
8uL hasnL your faLher remarrled? her frlend breaks ln
WhaL has LhaL goL Lo do wlLh lL? Lven lf hes remarrled he sLlll has a rlghL Lo know who hls daughLers
golng ouL wlLh 1he oLher young lady ln Lhe shop was of Lhe same oplnlon 1he consequence was an
lmpassloned conLroversy lnvolvlng all Lhree noL wanLlng Lo dlsLurb Lhem l saL quleLly ln my corner sLufflng
myself unlnLerrupLedly wlLh LarLs and cream puffs whlch were excellenL by Lhe way hoplng LhaL my
dlscreLlon would help Lhem solve Lhelr dellcaLe problem of famlly prlorlLles more qulckly buL Lhey made no
progress noLhlng came of Lhelr dlscusslon 1helr speculaLlve lncompeLence resLrlcLed Lhem Lo an lmpreclse
sorL of haLred 1hose shopglrls were bursLlng wlLh llloglcallLy vanlLy and lgnorance uroollng wlLh rage
Lhey whlspered lnsulLs by Lhe dozen
l couldnL help lL l was fasclnaLed by Lhelr nasLy passlon l aLLacked Lhe rum babas l sLopped counLlng Lhe
babas So dld Lhey l was hoplng Lheyd come Lo some concluslon before l had Lo leave 8uL passlon made
Lhem deaf and soon dumb
1ense Lhelr venon spenL Lhey resLed ln Lhe shelLer of Lhe pasLry counLer each one lnvlnclble shuL up ln
her shell plnched rumlnaLlng plans for a sLlll more emblLLered comeback AL Lhe flrsL opporLunlLy she
wouldprompLly Lhls Llmespew ouL all Lhe angry cuLLlng absurdlLles she happened Lo know abouL her
llLLle frlend And Lhe occaslon wouldnL be long ln comlng shed see Lo LhaL Scraplngs of argumenLs
almed aL noLhlng aL all ln Lhe end l saL down Lhe beLLer for Lhem Lo befuddle me wlLh Lhe unceaslng sound
of Lhelr words lnLenLlons LhoughLs as on a shore where Lhe rlpples of unceaslng passlons never manage Lo
geL organlzed
?ou llsLen you walL you hope here Lhere ln Lhe Lraln aL Lhe cafe ln Lhe sLreeL ln drawlng rooms aL Lhe
colnclerges you llsLen and walL for evll Lo geL organlzed as ln warLlme buL Lheres only wasLe moLlon
noLhlng ls ever done elLher by Lhose unforLunaLe young ladles or by anyone else no one comes Lo help us
An enormous babble gray and monoLonous spread over llfe llke an enormously dlscouraglng mlrage 1wo
ladles came ln and Lhe muddleheaded charm of Lhe lneffecLual conversaLlon spread ouL beLween Lhe
counLer glrls and myself was broken 1he glrls gave Lhe new arrlvals Lhelr eager and undlvlded aLLenLlon
anLlclpaLlng Lhelr requesLs and Lhelr leasL deslres 1hey chose here and Lhere and nlbbled aL Lhe LarLs and
peLlLs fours When lL came Llme Lo pay Lhey gushed pollLe phrases and each lnslsLed on offerlng Lhe oLhers
llLLle pasLrles Lo nlbble LhaL very mlnuLe
Cne decllned mosL graclously explalnlng aL lengLh and ln confldence Lo Lhe oLher ladles presenL who Look
a keen lnLeresL LhaL her docLor had forbldden her all sweeLs LhaL her docLor was a genlus LhaL he had
done wonders ln combaLlng consLlpaLlon ln 1oulouse and elsewhere LhaL he was well on hls way Lo curlng
her of a reLenLlon of number Lwo from whlch she had been sufferlng for more Lhan Len years Lhanks Lo a
very speclal dleL and a mlraculous medlclne known Lo hlm alone 1he oLher ladles were noL golng Lo leL
Lhemselves be ouLdone so easlly ln maLLers of consLlpaLlon 1helr own consLlpaLlon defled comparlson
1hey were up ln arms 1hey demanded proofs ln response Lo Lhelr doubLs Lhe lady observed slmply LhaL
when movlng her bowels she now broke wlnd LhaL lL sounded llke flreworks LhaL because of her new
sLyle bowel movemenLs all well molded solld and subsLanLlal she was obllged Lo Lake exLra precauLlons
SomeLlmes Lhese marvelous new feces of hers were so hard Lhey gave her excruclaLlng paln ln Lhe recLum
a Learlng sensaLlon! So now she had Lo use vasellne before movlng her bowels lrrefuLable
1hus convlnced Lhe voluble ladles lefL Lhe eLlLs Clseaux pasLry shop accompanled Lo Lhe Lhreshold by Lhe
smlles of Lhe enLlre sLaff
1he park across Lhe way was a good place ln whlch Lo resL medlLaLe brlefly and puL my LhoughLs ln order
before golng Lo look for my frlend 8oblnson
ln provlnclal parks Lhe benches offerlng a vlew of flowerbeds oversLuffed wlLh cannas and dalsles are
almosL always empLy on weekday mornlngs near Lhe rock garden on sLrlcLly capLlve waLers a small Lln
boaL enclrcled by floaLlng ashes was moored Lo Lhe shore by a moldy rope A slgn announced LhaL Lhe sklff
operaLed on Sunday and LhaL a Lour of Lhe lake cosL Lwo francs
Pow many years? sLudenLs? phanLoms?
ln Lhe corners of all parks Lhere lle forgoLLen any number of llLLle cofflns engarlanded wlLh dreams LhlckeLs
charged wlLh promlses handkerchlefs full of everyLhlng All a blg [oke
8uL LhaLs enough daydreamlng LeLs go looklng for 8oblnson and hls church of SalnLeLponlme and LhaL
crypL where he and Lhe old woman are Laklng care of mummles 1haLs whaL ld come for so ld beLLer geL
l Look a carrlage and we meandered Lhls way and LhaL aL a lelsurely sorL of LroL Lhrough Lhe dark sunken
sLreeLs of Lhe old Lown where Lhe llghL caLches beLween Lhe roofs Cver cobbles and brldges we drove wlLh
a greaL claLLer of wheels behlnd a horse LhaL was all shoes 1hey havenL burned any clLles ln Lhe SouLh for
a long Llme 1heyve never been so old Wars donL pass LhaL way anymore
We pulled up ln fronL of SalnLeLponlme86 on Lhe sLroke of noon 1he crypL was a llLLle furLher on under
a calvary lL was polnLed ouL Lo me ln Lhe mlddle of a small parched garden ?ou enLered Lhe crypL Lhrough
a sorL of barrlcaded hole lrom a dlsLance l saw Lhe careLaker a young glrl and asked for news of my frlend
8oblnson She was [usL closlng Lhe door She answered wlLh a frlendly smlle and Lhe news she gave me was
lrom where we were sLandlng ln LhaL noonday llghL everyLhlng around us Lurned plnk and Lhe wormeaLen
sLones of Lhe church rose skyward as Lhough ready Lo melL lnLo Lhe alr
8oblnsons llLLle frlend musL have been abouL LwenLy wlLh flrm wlry legs a small perfecLly charmlng busL
and surmounLlng lL a dellcaLe preclsely eLched face !usL Lhe eyes may have been a llLLle Loo black and
aLLenLlve for my LasLe noL aL all Lhe dreamy Lype lL was she who wroLe 8oblnsons leLLers Lhe ones l had
recelved She wenL ahead of me Lo Lhe vaulL wlLh her preclse galL her shapely feeL and ankles She had Lhe
bulld of a good lay and musL have spread her legs very nlcely when clrcumsLances demanded ShorL hard
hands wlLh a sLrong grlp Lhe hands of an amblLlous worklng glrl A brlsk llLLle movemenL Lo Lurn Lhe key
Shlmmerlng heaL all around us Cnce she had Lhe door open she declded ln splLe of Lhe lunch hour Lo
show me Lhrough Lhe vaulL l was beglnnlng Lo feel a llLLle more relaxed 8ehlnd her lanLern we descended
lnLo lncreaslng coolness lL was real nlce l preLended Lo sLumble beLween Lwo sLeps as an excuse for
grabblng her by Lhe arm 1haL made us laugh and when we reached Lhe clay floor aL Lhe boLLom l klssed
her a llLLle on Lhe neck She proLesLed aL flrsL buL noL very much
AfLer a brlef momenL of affecLlon l wrlggled round her belly llke a love worm Lecherously we molsLened
and remolsLened our llps for our soul conversaLlon WlLh one hand l crepL slowly up her Lensed Lhlghs lLs
fun wlLh Lhe lanLern on Lhe floor because aL Lhe same Llme you can waLch Lhe muscles rlppllng over her
legs lLs a poslLlon l can recommend Ah! Such momenLs are noL Lo be mlssed 1hey puL your eyes ouL of
[olnL buL lLs worLh lL WhaL gusLo! WhaL sudden good humor! 1he conversaLlon resumed ln a new Lone of
confldence and slmpllclLy now we were frlends Asses flrsL We had [usL saved Len years
uo you ofLen show people around? l asked pufflng and puLLlng my fooL ln lL 8uL l qulckly covered up
uoesnL your moLher sell candles aL Lhe church nexL door? laLher roLlsLe has Lold me abouL her"
l only Lake Madame Penroullles place durlng lunch hour she answered ln Lhe afLernoon l work for a
dressmaker Cn Lhe 8ue du 1heaLre uld you pass Lhe LheaLer on your way here?"
Agaln she reassured me abouL 8oblnson Pe was much beLLer ln facL Lhe speclallsL LhoughL hed soon see
well enough Lo go ouL by hlmself All LhaL was mosL encouraglng As for Crandma Penroullle she seemed
dellghLed wlLh Lhe vaulL She was dolng good buslness and savlng money Cnly one dlfflculLy ln Lhe house
where Lhey were llvlng Lhe bedbugs kepL everybody awake especlally on sLormy nlghLs So Lhey burned
sulfur lL seemed LhaL 8oblnson ofLen spoke of me pleasanLly whaLs more Cne Lhlng leadlng Lo anoLher
we came around Lo Lhe pro[ecLed marrlage Lhe clrcumsLances and all
l have Lo admlL LhaL wlLh all LhaL Lalk l sLlll hadnL asked her name Per name was Madelon87 Shed been
born durlng Lhe war 1helr marrlage plans afLer all sulLed me flne Madelon was an easy name Lo
remember l flgured she musL know whaL she was dolng ln marrylng 8oblnson Lven lf he was geLLlng
beLLer hed always be an lnvalld And besldes she LhoughL only hls eyes were affecLed 8uL hls nerves
were shoL and so was hls morale and everyLhlng else! l was almosL golng Lo Lell her so Lo warn her lve
never known how Lo sLeer conversaLlons abouL marrlage or exLrlcaLe myself from Lhem
1o change Lhe sub[ecL l expressed a keen and sudden lnLeresL ln Lhe cellar and lLs occupanLs eople came
a long way Lo see lL so as long as l was Lhere why noL Lake a look?
WlLh her llLLle lanLern Madelon and l made Lhe shadows of Lhe corpses emerge from Lhe wall one by one
1hey musL have glven Lhe LourlsLs food for LhoughL! 1hose anclenL sLlffs were llned up agalnsL Lhe wall as lf
a flrlng squad had worked Lhem over 1hey werenL exacLly skln and bone anymore or cloLhlng elLher
!usL a llLLle of all LhaL ln a very grlmy sLaLe and full of holes 1lme had been gnawlng aL Lhelr skln for
cenLurles and was sLlll aL lL Pere and Lhere lL was sLlll Learlng away blLs of Lhelr faces enlarglng all Lhe
holes and even flndlng long sLrlps of epldermls LhaL deaLh had lefL cllnglng Lo Lhelr carLllage 1helr bellles
had empLled of everyLhlng and now Lhere were llLLle cradles of shadow where Lhelr navels had been
Madelon explalned LhaL Lo geL lnLo Lhls condlLlon Lhe bodles had had Lo spend more Lhan flve hundred
years ln a qulckllme cemeLery ?ou wouldnL have Laken Lhem for corpses 1helr corpse days were far
behlnd Lhem 8y easy sLages Lhey had come closer and closer Lo dusL
ln LhaL cellar Lhere were blg ones and llLLle ones slx and LwenLy ln all who asked for noLhlng beLLer Lhan Lo
enLer lnLo LLernlLy 1hey werenL belng admlLLed yeL 1wo women wlLh bonneLs perched on Lop of Lhelr
skeleLons a hunchback a glanL and even a compleLe baby wlLh a klnd of blb lace lf you please around hls
Llny drledouL neck and some blLs and pleces of swaddllng cloLhes
Crandma Penroullle was maklng a loL of money ouL of Lhese scraplngs of Lhe cenLurles 1o Lhlnk LhaL when l
lasL saw her she herself had looked very much llke Lhese spooks So Lhen Madelon and l wenL slowly back
passlng Lhem by agaln Cne by one Lhelr socalled heads sLood sllenL ln Lhe harsh clrcle of lamp llghL lLs noL
exacLly nlghL Lhey have ln Lhelr eye sockeLs lLs almosL a gaze buL genLler llke Lhe gaze of Lhose who know
More dlsLurblng ls Lhelr smell of dusL lL caLches ln your nose
Whenever a parLy of LourlsLs showed up Crandma Penroullle was on Lhe spoL She made Lhose sLlffs work
llke clrcus performers AL Lhe helghL of Lhe summer season Lhey broughL her ln a hundred francs a day
uonL Lhey look sad? Madelon asked me A rlLual quesLlon
ueaLh dldnL mean a Lhlng Lo LhaL cuLle She had been born durlng Lhe war when deaLh came easy 8uL l
knew well how people dle SomeLhlng l had learned lLs very palnful lLs all rlghL Lo Lell Lhe LourlsLs LhaL
Lhese dead are happy 1hey canL speak for Lhemselves Crandma Penroullle even clouLed Lhem on Lhe belly
when Lhere was enough parchmenL lefL on lL and lL wenL boom boom 8uL even LhaLs no proof of good
llnally Madelon and l goL back Lo our own affalrs So lL was Lrue LhaL 8oblnson was beLLer 1haL was good
enough for me Cur llLLle frlend seemed benL on Lhls marrlage She musL have been bored Lo deaLh ln
1oulouse ?ou dldnL ofLen meeL a man who had Lraveled as much as 8oblnson WhaL sLorles he had Lo Lell!
1rue ones and noL so Lrue Ped already spoken Lo Lhem aL lengLh of Amerlca and Lhe 1roplcs Lovely!
ld been ln Amerlca and Lhe 1roplcs Loo l knew sLorles abouL Lhem Loo and proposed Lo Lell her some
Come Lo Lhlnk of lL l had Lraveled wlLh 8oblnson and LhaLs how wed goL Lo be frlends 1he lanLern wenL
ouL We llL lL Len Llmes whlle arranglng Lhe pasL and Lhe fuLure She wouldnL leL me Louch her breasLs sald
Lhey were much Loo senslLlve
8uL seelng LhaL Crandma Penroullle would be comlng back from her lunch any mlnuLe we had Lo cllmb
back Lo Lhe dayllghL over Lhe sLeep rlckeLy sLalrcase whlch was as dlfflculL Lo negoLlaLe as a ladder l made
a noLe of Lhose sLalrs
8ecause of Lhe Lreacherous narrow sLalrs
8oblnson dldnL ofLen go down Lo Lhe mummy cellar MosL of Lhe Llme he sLood aL Lhe door glvlng Lhe
LourlsLs a blL of sales Lalk and geLLlng used Lo Laklng ln a few specks of llghL here and Lhere
Meanwhlle ln Lhe depLhs Crandma Penroullle managed very well She knocked herself ouL wlLh Lhe
mummles enllvenlng Lhe LourlsLs vlslL wlLh a llLLle speech abouL her parchmenL sLlffs 1heyre noL aL all
repulslve ladles and genLlemen because as you see Lhey were preserved ln qulckllme for more Lhan
flve cenLurles Cur collecLlon ls Lhe only one of lLs klnd ln Lhe whole world 1he flesh ls gone of course
Cnly Lhe skln ls lefL buL lLs Lanned 1heyre naked buL noL lndecenL ?ou wlll observe LhaL a baby
was burled aL Lhe same Llme as lLs moLher 1he baby ls also exLremely well preserved And LhaL Lall
man wlLh Lhe lace shlrL LhaL he sLlll has on Pes goL every one of hls LeeLh ?ou wlll observe AL Lhe
end of Lhe Lour she clouLed Lhem all on Lhe chesLlL sounded llke a drum Cbserve ladles and genLlemen
LhaL Lhls one has only one eye lefL all drled ouL and Lhe Longue Loo lLs llke leaLher! She gave lL a
pull Pes sLlcklng hls Longue ouL buL hes noL nasLy ?ou can glve whaL you llke as you leave ladles and
genLlemen buL Lhe usual ls Lwo francs each and half prlce for chlldren ?ou can Louch Lhem before you
go convlnce yourself buL please ladles and genLlemen donL pull Loo hard Lheyre exLremely
fraglle "
Crandma Penroullle had wanLed Lo ralse Lhe prlces as soon as she goL Lhere she applled Lo Lhe ulocese 8uL
lL wasnL so slmple because of Lhe prlesL aL SalnLeLponlme who demanded a Lhlrd of Lhe Lake all for
hlmself and also because of 8oblnson who kepL grlplng because ln hls oplnlon she wasnL glvlng hlm a blg
enough rakeoff
lve been Look! he concluded 1ook for a sucker!
Agaln! l never have any luck! 1he old bags cellar you know lL brlngs ln a forLune! 8elleve you
me shes raklng lL ln!"
8uL you dldnL puL any money lnLo Lhe buslness l argued Lo calm hlm down and puL some sense lnLo hlm
And youre well fed! Well Laken care of!"
8uL 8oblnson was as sLubborn as a mule he felL persecuLed and LhaL was LhaL Pe refused Lo undersLand Lo
reslgn hlmself
All ln all l sald youve come ouL of a nasLy buslness preLLy well! So donL complaln! ?oud have gone
sLralghL Lo Cayenne88 lf Lheyd nabbed you Pere nobodys boLherlng you! And youve found llLLle
Madelon whos a sweeL kld and wllllng Lo puL up wlLh you desplLe Lhe sLaLe of your healLh So whaL
have you goL Lo complaln abouL? Lspeclally now LhaL your eyes are geLLlng beLLer "
?ou seem Lo be saylng l donL know whaL lm complalnlng abouL he sald Lhen 8uL l feel lve goL Lo
complaln LhaLs Lhe way lL ls lLs all lve goL lefL LhaLs rlghL lLs Lhe only Lhlng Lhey leL me do
nobodys forced Lo llsLen"
1rue enough he dld noLhlng buL complaln whenever we were alone l had come Lo dread Lhose confldenLlal
momenLs l looked aL hlm wlLh hls bllnklng eyes whlch sLlll oozed a llLLle ln Lhe sunllghL and l sald Lo myself
LhaL all Lhlngs consldered 8oblnson was noL endearlng 1here are anlmals llke LhaL Lhey can be lnnocenL
unhappy anyLhlng you please you know lL and sLlll you donL llke Lhem 1heres someLhlng wrong wlLh
?ou could have dled ln [all l Lrled agaln deLermlned Lo make hlm Lhlnk
lve been ln [all lLs no worse Lhan where l am now! ?oure ouL of daLe "
Pe hadnL Lold me hed been ln [all 1haL musL have been before we meL before Lhe war Pe pressed hls
polnL and concluded 1ake lL from me 1heres only one klnd of freedom only one Lo see properly and
have your pockeLs full of money 1he resL ls bullshlL! "
So whaL exacLly do you wanL? l asked hlm When he was challenged llke LhaL Lo make up hls mlnd Lo
speak up he deflaLed And LhaLs [usL when lL mlghL have been lnLeresLlng
uurlng Lhe day whlle Madelon was worklng for Lhe dressmaker and Crandma Penroullle was exhlblLlng her
mummles we wenL Lo a cafe under Lhe Lrees 8oblnson was crazy abouL LhaL cafe under Lhe Lrees probably
because of Lhe nolse Lhe blrds made up above us Mllllons of Lhem! Lspeclally abouL flve oclock when Lhey
came home Lo Lhelr nesLs all keyed up by Lhe summer 1hey swooped down on Lhe square llke a sLorm
1here was a sLory abouL a barber who had hls shop across from Lhe park and had gone crazy [usL from
hearlng Lhem cheep for years and years lLs Lrue we couldnL hear each oLher Lalk 8oblnson LhoughL lL was
lf only shed glve me LwenLy cenLlmes per vlslLor and be regular abouL lL ld be saLlsfled"
AbouL every flfLeen mlnuLes hed geL back Lo hls preoccupaLlon ln beLween Lhe colors of Llmes pasL
seemed Lo come back Lo hlm lncldenLs Loo sLorles among oLhers abouL Lhe Compagnle ordurlere ln
Afrlca whlch boLh of us had known well afLer all and some halry Lales LhaL hed never Lold me before
Maybe he hadnL dared Pe was klnd of reLlcenL ln a way ld even say secreLlve
Speaklng of Lhe pasL whaL l remembered besL when l was ln good splrlLs was Molly llke Lhe echo of a clock
sLrlklng ln Lhe dlsLance When someLhlng pleasanL popped lnLo my mlnd l always LhoughL of her
AfLer all when our egolsm leLs us go for a whlle when lL comes Llme Lo Lhrow lL off Lhe only women whose
memory you cherlsh ln your hearLs are Lhe ones who really loved men a llLLle noL [usL one man even lf lL
was you buL Lhe whole loL
When we lefL Lhe cafe LhaL evenlng we hadnL done a Lhlng we could have been reLlred noncoms
uurlng Lhe season Lhere was a sLeady flow of LourlsLs 1hey hung around Lhe crypL and Crandma Penroullle
always goL Lhem Lo laugh Per [okes werenL exacLly Lo Lhe prlesLs LasLe buL slnce he was collecLlng more
Lhan hls share he dldnL say boo and besldes smuLLy [okes were over hls head 8e LhaL as lL may Crandma
Penroullle was worLh seelng and hearlng ln Lhe mldsL of her corpses She looked you sLralghL ln Lhe eye she
wasnL ln Lhe leasL afrald of deaLh wrlnkled and shrlveled as she was youd have LhoughL she was one of
Lhem comlng along wlLh her lanLern Lo shooL Lhe shlL rlghL ln whaL passed for Lhelr faces
When we goL back Lo Lhe house and foregaLhered for dlnner we dlscussed Lhe days Lake and Crandma
Penroullle called me her llLLle old ur !ackal because of Lhe deallngs wed had ln 8ancy All ln a banLerlng
Lone of course Madelon busLled abouL ln Lhe klLchen 1haL [olnL where we were sLaylng goL only Lhe
measllesL llghL lL was an annex of Lhe sacrlsLy very cramped all cluLLered wlLh [olsLs and sLruLs and dusLy
crannles ?es sald Lhe old woman lLs pracLlcally always nlghL ln here so Lo speak buL you can sLlll flnd
your bed your pockeLs and your mouLh 1haLs good enough for me"
She hadnL grleved for long afLer her sons deaLh Pe was always very dellcaLe she sald Lo me one
evenlng Look lm sevenLyslx and lve never complalned! Pe complalned all Lhe Llme lL was hls way
exacLly llke your 8oblnson [usL Lo glve you an example 1ake Lhe sLalrs Lo Lhe crypL for lnsLance
1heyre Lough youll agree ?ouve been down Lhere 1hey knock me ouL of course Lhey do buL some
days Lheyre worLh as much as Lwo francs a sLep Lo me lve flgured lL ouL Well for LhaL prlce ld cllmb
up Lo heaven lf anyone asked me Lo!"
Madelon puL loLs of splces ln our food and LomaLoes as well lL was greaL And we drank rose Lven
8oblnson had Laken Lo wlne now LhaL he was llvlng ln Lhe SouLh Pe had already Lold me everyLhlng LhaL
had happened slnce hls arrlval ln 1oulouse so l had sLopped llsLenlng 1o Lell Lhe LruLh l was klnd of
dlsappolnLed ln hlm and dlsgusLed ?oure a bourgeols! l Lold hlm flnally (aL LhaL Llme l could Lhlnk of no
worse lnsulL) All you ever Lhlnk of ls money Cnce you recover your eyeslghL youll be Lhe worsL of Lhe
whole bunch"
Pard words couldnL geL hlm down 1hey seemed on Lhe conLrary Lo glve hlm a llfL 8esldes he knew lL was
Lrue 1he mans all seL l sald Lo myself no need Lo Lrouble my head abouL hlm ?ou canL geL around lL a
llLLle woman llke LhaL sllghLly on Lhe vlolenL depraved slde wlll change a man beyond recognlLlon lor a
long Llme l sald Lo myself l LhoughL Lhls 8oblnson was made for advenLures buL cuckold or noL bllnd or
noL hes only a cheap punk nelLher more nor less
ln addlLlon Crandma Penroullle had conLamlnaLed hlm wlLh her manla for savlng and so had Madelon wlLh
her deslre Lo be marrled 1haL seLLled lL Pe was washed up Lspeclally as hed goL Lo llke Lhe glrl more and
more l knew someLhlng abouL LhaL ld be lylng lf l sald l wasnL a llLLle [ealous lL wouldnL be Lrue Madelon
and l goL LogeLher for shorL momenLs now and Lhen before dlnner ln her room 8uL Lhose lnLervlews were
hard Lo arrange We never spoke of Lhem We were as dlscreeL as could be
uonL go Lhlnklng on LhaL accounL LhaL she dldnL love her 8oblnson 1heres no connecLlon lL was [usL LhaL
he was playlng aL belng engaged so naLurally she played aL belng falLhful 1haLs how lL was beLween Lhem
As long as Lhey saw eye Lo eye LhaL was Lhe maln Lhlng As he Lold me he wasnL golng Lo Louch her unLll
Lhey were marrled lL was hls ldea So hed have eLernlLy and ld have Lhe here and now Pe was also
plannlng so he Lold me Lo seL hlmself up ln a small resLauranL wlLh Madelon and run ouL on Crandma
Penroullle Pe really meanL buslness Shes nlce Lhe cusLomers wlll llke her he foresaw ln hls more
cheerful momenLs And say youve LasLed her cooklng When lL comes Lo Lhe eaLs she hasnL her
Pe even LhoughL he could Louch Crandma Penroullle for a blL of caplLal Lo sLarL wlLh All rlghL wlLh me buL l
suspecLed LhaL hed have a hard Llme persuadlng her ?ou see everyLhlng Lhrough rosecolored glasses l
sald [usL Lo calm hlm down and make hlm Lhlnk a llLLle AL LhaL he began Lo cry and call me a hearLless
basLard 1o Lell Lhe LruLh you should never dlscourage anybody l admlLLed LhaL l was wrong LhaL my
Lrouble was my black LhoughLs and LhaL all Lhlngs consldered Lhey were whaL had wrecked my llfe
8oblnsons glmmlck before Lhe war had been copperplaLe engravlng buL he wouldnL have anyLhlng more
Lo do wlLh lL noL aL any prlce 1haL was hls buslness WlLh my lungs l need fresh alr and anyway my eyes
wlll never be Lhe same ln a way he was rlghL WhaL could l say? When we walked Lhrough busy sLreeLs
LogeLher people Lurned around Lo plLy Lhe bllnd man eople have plenLy of plLy ln Lhem for Lhe lnflrm and
Lhe bllnd Lhey really have love ln reserve ld ofLen sensed LhaL love Lhey have ln reserve 1heres an
enormous loL of lL and no one can say dlfferenL 8uL lLs a shame LhaL people should go on belng so crummy
wlLh so much love ln reserve lL [usL doesnL come ouL LhaLs all lLs caughL lnslde and Lhere lL sLays lL
doesnL do Lhem a blL of good 1hey dle of lovelnslde
AfLer dlnner Madelon would devoLe herself Lo her llLLle Leon as she called hlm She read Lhe newspaper
ouL loud Pe was wlld abouL pollLlcs aL Lhe Llme and Lhe papers ln Lhe SouLh pusLulaLed wlLh pollLlcs of Lhe
[uclesL klnd
Around us ln Lhe evenlng Lhe house would slnk lnLo Lhe dllaplLude of Lhe cenLurles 1haLs Lhe Llme afLer
dlnner when Lhe bedbugs come ouL for Lhe corrlda and also Lhe Llme Lo LesL Lhe corroslve formula whlch l
hoped Lo sell Lo some pharmaclsL aL a small proflL laLer on A modesL rackeL My lnvenLlon amused
Crandma Penroullle and she helped me wlLh my experlmenLs 1ogeLher we wenL from nesL Lo nesL from
crack Lo cranny and sprayed Lhelr swarms wlLh my vlLrlol 1hey scurrled and vanlshed ln Lhe llghL of Lhe
candle LhaL Crandma Penroullle consclenLlously held for me
Whlle aL our work we Lalked abouL 8ancy !usL Lhlnklng abouL Lhe place gave me Lhe collywobbles ld have
sLayed ln 1oulouse for Lhe resL of my llfe WhaL more dld l wanL afLer all Lhan my dally bread and some
Llme Lo myself? Papplness ln shorL SLlll l had Lo Lhlnk abouL golng back Lo work 1lme was passlng and so
were Lhe Abbe roLlsLes bonus and my savlngs
8efore leavlng l LhoughL ld Leach Madelon a Lhlng or Lwo and glve her a blL of advlce Cf course lLs beLLer
Lo glve money when you can afford lL and you wanL Lo help 8uL you can also do good by warnlng a person
Lelllng Lhem exacLly whaLs whaL and especlally abouL Lhe rlsks of fucklng rlghL and lefL 1haLs whaL l sald Lo
myself because l was really worrled abouL Madelon caLchlng someLhlng She was a smarL llLLle number buL
no one could have been more lgnoranL abouL mlcrobes So l sLarLed explalnlng ln greaL deLall LhaL she
should Lake a close look before respondlng Lo advances lf lL was red lf Lhere was a drop aL Lhe end ln
shorL Lhe classlcal and exceedlngly useful Lhlngs LhaL everyone should know AfLer llsLenlng aLLenLlvely and
hearlng me ouL she proLesLed for Lhe sake of form She even made someLhlng of a scene assurlng me
LhaL she was a respecLable glrl LhaL l should be ashamed of myself LhaL l had a foul oplnlon of her
because shed done lL wlLh me LhaL l desplsed her LhaL all men were beasLly
Anyway Lhe klnd of Lhlng Lhey say ln a case llke LhaL l mlghL have expecLed lL Wlndow dresslng WhaL
maLLered Lo me was LhaL she had llsLened carefully Lo my advlce and grasped Lhe essenLlal 1he resL dldnL
mean a Lhlng AfLer hearlng whaL l had Lo say whaL really saddened her was LhaL you could caLch all Lhose
Lhlngs ld been Lelllng her abouL [usL from affecLlon and pleasure Lven lf naLure was Lo blame she LhoughL l
was fully as dlsgusLlng as naLure and LhaL offended her l carrled Lhe maLLer no furLher excepL for a few
words abouL condoms whlch are so convenlenL AfLer LhaL we played psychologlsL and Lrled Lo analyze
8oblnsons characLer [usL a llLLle Pes noL exacLly [ealous she sald Lo me 8uL he has hls dlfflculL
1haLs nelLher here nor Lhere l sald and launched lnLo a descrlpLlon of 8oblnsons characLer as lf l knew
hls characLer buL l noLlced rlghL away LhaL l dldnL know 8oblnson aL all excepL for a few obvlous and
glarlng feaLures noLhlng more
lLs amazlng how hard lL ls Lo lmaglne whaL can make one person pleaslng Lo anoLher ?ou wanL Lo do
someone a favor Lo be helpful and all you do ls make a fool of yourself lLs plLlful Lhe momenL you
open your mouLh you flounder
nowadays lLs noL easy Lo be La 8ruyere89 1he whole unconsclous skedaddles Lhe momenL you go near lL
!usL as l was abouL Lo buy my LlckeL Lhey goL
me Lo sLay for anoLher week we agreed 1he ldea was Lo show me Lhe counLry around 1oulouse Lhe
cool banks of Lhe rlver ld heard so much abouL and especlally Lhey wanLed me Lo see Lhe beauLlful
vlneyards on Lhe ouLsklrLs LhaL everyone ln Lown seemed Lo Lake pleasure and prlde ln as lf Lhey were all
parL owners 1hey wouldnL Lhlnk of leLLlng me leave llke LhaL when l hadnL seen anyLhlng buL Crandma
Penroullles corpses lL was unLhlnkable! Well anyway sofL soap
l was paralyzed by so much klndness l dldnL dare seem Loo eager Lo sLay because of my lnLlmacy wlLh
Madelon whlch was geLLlng klnd of dangerous 1he old woman was beglnnlng Lo suspecL someLhlng
beLween us A sLraln ln Lhe alr
8uL Lhe old woman wasnL comlng wlLh us on Lhls excurslon ln Lhe flrsL place she dldnL wanL Lo close her
crypL noL for a slngle day So l agreed Lo sLay on and one Sunday mornlng we seL ouL for Lhe counLry
8oblnson walked beLween us we held hlm by Lhe arms AL Lhe sLaLlon we Look secondclass LlckeLs Lven
so Lhe comparLmenL smelled sLrongly of sausage [usL Lhe same as Lhlrd class We goL off aL a place called
SalnL!ean Madelon seemed famlllar wlLh Lhe reglon and rlghL away she began meeLlng acqualnLances
from Lhls vlllage and LhaL vlllage lL looked llke a flne day comlng on As we walked along we had Lo Lell
8oblnson everyLhlng we saw Pere Lheres a garden 1haLs a brldge over Lhere and on Lop of lL Lheres a
man flshlng Pes noL caLchlng anyLhlng WaLch ouL for Lhe blcycle 8uL Lhe smell of lrench frles
gave hlm hls dlrecLlon all rlghL ln facL lL was he who dragged us Lo a bar where Lhey served lrench frles for
flfLy cenLlmes a porLlon ld always known LhaL 8oblnson was fond of lrench frles So am l lLs a arlslan
LasLe Madelon preferred vermouLh dry and sLralghL
8lvers arenL happy ln Lhe SouLh 1hey seem Lo be slck always drylng up Pllls sun flshermen flsh boaLs
dlLches wash Lroughs vlnes weeplng wlllowsall wanL some all clamor for waLer Much Loo much waLer
ls demanded of Lhem so Lhere lsnL much lefL ln Lhe rlverbed ln places lL looks more llke a badly flooded
road Lhan a genulne rlver Seelng wed come for pleasure we had Lo hurry up and flnd some When wed
flnlshed our lrench frles we LhoughL wed Lake a llLLle boaLrlde before lunch LhaL would be fun me rowlng
of course Lhe Lwo of Lhem 8oblnson and Madelon faclng me hand ln hand
So off we go merrlly down Lhe sLream as Lhey say scraplng Lhe boLLom here and Lhere she leLLlng ouL
squeals and he noL qulLe easy ln hls mlnd elLher llles and more flles uragonflles everywhere waLchlng Lhe
rlver ouL of Lhelr blg eyes and glvlng frlghLened llLLle fllcks of Lhelr Lalls Amazlng heaL LhaL makes Lhe
surface sLeam We gllde over Lhe waLer from Lhose long flaL eddles back Lhere Lo Lhls Langle of dead
branches We hug Lhe burnlng bank looklng for whlffs of shade LhaL we grab as besL we can under a few
Lrees noL Loo rlddled wlLh sunshlne 1alklng makes you even hoLLer lf LhaLs posslble Cn Lhe oLher hand
youre afrald Lo admlL youre noL comforLable
8oblnson naLurally enough was Lhe flrsL Lo be fed up wlLh navlgaLlon l suggesLed landlng near a
resLauranL We werenL Lhe only ones Lo have LhaL llLLle ldea Lvery flsherman on LhaL reach of Lhe rlver was
already seLLled aL Lhe blsLroL before us [ealously nurslng hls aperlLlf enLrenched behlnd a slphon 8oblnson
dldnL dare ask me lf Lhls cafe l had chosen was expenslve buL l seL hls mlnd aL resL by assurlng hlm LhaL Lhe
prlces were posLed and perfecLly reasonable lL was Lrue Pe never leL go of hls Madelons hand Lhe whole
now lL can be Lold LhaL we pald our blll aL Lhe resLauranL as lf we had eaLen buL we had only Lrled Lo eaL
1he less sald of Lhe dlshes Lhey served us Lhe beLLer 1heyre sLlll Lhere
AfLer LhaL Lo spend Lhe afLernoon lL would have been Loo compllcaLed Lo arrange a flshlng parLy and lL
would have made 8oblnson unhappy because he wouldnL even have seen hls floaL As for me l was slck
and Llred of rowlng [usL from Lhe mornlngs efforL 1haL had been plenLy 1he Lralnlng ld had on Lhe rlvers
of Afrlca was far behlnd me l had aged ln LhaL as ln everyLhlng else
lor a change of exerclse l suggesLed LhaL a llLLle walk along Lhe bank would do us a loL of good aL leasL as
far as Lhe Lall grass you could see up Lhere less Lhan a mlle away noL far from LhaL llne of poplars
So Lhere we wenL 8oblnson and l arm ln arm and Madelon a few sLeps ahead of us lL was easler LhaL way
Lhrough Lhe grass AL a bend ln Lhe rlver we heard accordlons 1he sound came from a barge a beauLlful
barge moored aL LhaL polnL ln Lhe rlver 1he muslc aLLracLed 8oblnson Whlch was undersLandable ln hls
slLuaLlon and besldes he had always had a weakness for muslc Clad Lo have found someLhlng LhaL amused
hlm we parked rlghL Lhere on Lhe grass whlch wasnL as dusLy as on Lhe slanLlng bank nearby We could
see LhaL lL wasnL any ordlnary barge lL was neaL and well Lurned ouL noL meanL for haullng anyLhlng more
of a houseboaL Lhan a barge wlLh flowers all over lL and even a spanklng llLLle kennel for Lhe dog We
descrlbed Lhe houseboaL Lo 8oblnson Pe wanLed Lo know all abouL lL
ld llke Lo llve on a clean llLLle boaL llke LhaL myself he sald Lhen Pow abouL you? he asked Madelon
l see whaL you mean she replled 8uL LhaLs an expenslve ldea youve goL Leon! lm sure lL would cosL
you a loL more Lhan an aparLmenL house "
We all sLarLed reckonlng how much LhaL klnd of a houseboaL mlghL cosL and we couldnL geL LogeLher
Lach of us lnslsLed on hls own flgure 8egardless of whaL we were counLlng our class of people used Lo
do lL ouL loud Meanwhlle Lhe accordlon muslc came over Lo us as caresslngly as you please we could
even hear Lhe words of a song Lhey were slnglng llnally we agreed LhaL Lhe houseboaL [usL as lL was
musL be worLh aL leasL a hundred Lhousand francs A flgure Lo seL you dreamlng
Close your lovely eyes for Lhe hours are shorL
ln Lhe wonderful land Lhe beauLlful land of dreaeams
1haLs whaL Lhey were slnglng lnslde Lhe boaL mens and womens volces mlxed a llLLle ouL of Lune buL
very pleasanL all Lhe same because of Lhe seLLlng lL wenL wlLh Lhe heaL and Lhe counLry and Lhe Llme of day
and Lhe rlver
8oblnson perslsLed ln drlvlng hls esLlmaLes skyhlgh 1he way wed descrlbed Lhe houseboaL he was sure lL
would cosL a loL more 8ecause lL had a blg glass wlndow Lo leL ln more llghL and brass flLLlngs all over
luxury ln shorL
Leon youre knocklng yourself ouL Madelon Lrled Lo quleL hlm Why donL you sLreLch ouL on Lhls nlce
Lhlck grass and resL a whlle A hundred Lhousand or flve hundred Lhousand who cares? ?ou havenL
goL lL and nelLher have l So really Lheres no sense ln worklng yourself up "
Pe lay down buL he kepL worklng hlmself up abouL Lhe prlce all Lhe same he wanLed Lo know for sure and
he wanLed Lo see Lhls houseboaL LhaL cosL so much
Pas lL goL a moLor? he asked We dldnL know
!usL Lo please hlm slnce he lnslsLed l Look a look aL Lhe sLern Lo see lf ld see Lhe exhausL plpe of a small
Close your lovely eyes for llfe ls a dream
Love ls a fanLasy
Close your lovely eyes!
1he people ln Lhere wenL on slnglng We were drooplng wlLh faLlgue 1hey were puLLlng us Lo sleep
Suddenly Lhe spanlel came boundlng ouL of Lhe kennel and sLood on Lhe gangplank barklng ln our dlrecLlon
We woke wlLh a sLarL and we gave Lhe spanlel hell Pe had frlghLened 8oblnson
So Lhen a characLer who seemed Lo be Lhe owner came ouL on deck Lhrough Lhe llLLle cabln door Pe sald
he wouldnL sLand for anybody shouLlng aL hls dog and we Lalked back 8uL when he noLlced LhaL 8oblnson
was as good as bllnd Lhe man calmed down and felL foollsh Pe changed hls mlnd abouL bawllng us ouL and
even leL us call hlm a few names Lo geL even 1o make up for hls rudeness he lnvlLed us Lo come and have
coffee on hls boaL Lo celebraLe he added hls blrLhday Pe wouldnL hear of our baklng ouL Lhere ln Lhe sun
and so forLh and so on And besldes lL was lucky wed Lurned up because Lhey were LhlrLeen aL Lable
Pe was a young man an eccenLrlc Pe llked boaLs he explalned We could see LhaL 8uL hls wlfe was
afrald of Lhe sea so Lhey had moored Lhelr boaL ouL here on Lhe beach so Lo speak We wenL aboard
and everybody seemed glad Lo have us llrsL of all hls wlfe a flnelooklng woman who played Lhe
accordlon llke an angel Anyway lL was nlce of Lhem Lo have us over for coffee We could have been almosL
anybody lL was LrusLlng of Lhem We reallzed rlghL off LhaL lL wouldnL do Lo shame our charmlng hosLs
Lspeclally ln fronL of Lhelr guesLs 8oblnson had hls faulLs buL as a rule he had a cerLaln flne feellng
!usL by Lhe sound of Lhelr volces he reallzed LhaL we had Lo behave and absLaln from bad language 1rue
we werenL very well dressed buL we were neaL and clean 1he owner of Lhe houseboaL l looked hlm over
musL have been abouL LhlrLy wlLh poeLlc brown halr and a nlce sallorLype sulL buL cusLommade And hls
aLLracLlve wlfe had really velveLy eyes
1hey had [usL flnlshed lunch lenLy of lefLovers We dldnL say no Lo a plece of cake cerLalnly noL Cr a glass
of porL Lo go wlLh lL l hadnL heard such hlghclass volces ln a long Llme Plghclass people have a cerLaln
way of Lalklng LhaL lnLlmldaLes you and frlghLens me personally especlally Lhelr women lLs really [usL a loL
of halfbaked preLenLlous phrases buL as hlghly pollshed as anLlque furnlLure Meanlngless as Lhey are
Lhelr phrases are Lerrlfylng When you Lry Lo answer youre afrald of sllpplng up And even when Lhey Lake
Lhe Lone of Lhe guLLer and amuse Lhemselves slnglng Lhe songs of Lhe poor Lhey hang on Lo LhaL hlghclass
accenL whlch lnsplres susplclon and anLlpaLhy 1haL accenL always has Lhe klnd of whlplash LhaLs needed
for Lalklng Lo servanLs lLs sexy buL lL makes you wanL Lo Lumble Lhelr women [usL Lo see Lhelr dlgnlLy as
Lhey call lL melL away
ln a whlsper l Lold 8oblnson abouL Lhe furnlLure all anLlques 1he place remlnded me a llLLle of my moLhers
shop excepL naLurally lL was cleaner and more orderly My moLhers shop always smelled of old pepper
1he walls all around were hung wlLh palnLlngs by Lhe owner A palnLer as hls wlfe Lold me wlLh loLs of
slmper and gush Pls wlfe loved her man all rlghL Pe was an arLlsL nlce penls nlce halr nlce lncome
everyLhlng needed Lo make a woman happy ln addlLlon she had her accordlon her frlends her reverles on
Lhe meager swlrllng waLer she was qulLe conLenL never Lo go anywhere Pere Lhey had all LhaL plus all
Lhe sweeL coolness ln Lhe world enclosed beLween Lhe halfcurLalns and Lhe breaLh of Lhe venLllaLor And
Codglven securlLy besldes
Seelng we were Lhere we LhoughL we mlghL as well make ourselves aL home lced drlnks Lhen sLrawberrles
and cream my favorlLe desserL Wrlggllng and slmperlng Madelon accepLed a second helplng She Loo was
lmprovlng her manners 1he men were Laken wlLh Madelon especlally Lhe rlch faLherlnlaw Pe seemed
dellghLed Lo have Madelon beslde hlm and wenL Lo no end of Lrouble Lo glve her pleasure Pe ransacked
Lhe whole Lable for dellcacles [usL for her and she llL lnLo Lhem wlLh such enLhuslasm LhaL Lhe Llp of her
nose was soon covered wlLh whlpped cream 1o [udge by Lhe conversaLlon Lhe faLherlnlaw was a
wldower lf so hed forgoLLen lL Soon whaL wlLh Lhe llqueurs Madelon was Llpsy 1he sulL 8oblnson was
wearlng and mlne Loo showed slgns of faLlgue of seasons and more seasons buL maybe ln LhaL dlm llghL
no one would noLlce SLlll l felL raLher humlllaLed among Lhose people so comforLable ln all respecLs as
clean as Amerlcans so well washed and well groomed flL for a fashlon parade
Cnce llquored up Madelon dldnL behave so well Almlng her llLLle proflle aL Lhe plcLures she sLarLed
Lalklng rubblsh 1he hosLess noLlced and Look Lo Lhe accordlon agaln Lo gloss lL over Lverybody sang Lhe
Lhree of us [olned ln under our breaLhs buL llsLlessly and ouL of Lune Lhe same song as wed been llsLenlng
Lo ouLslde and Lhen anoLher
8oblnson had managed Lo sLrlke up a conversaLlon wlLh an elderly genLleman who seemed Lo know all
Lhere was Lo know abouL growlng cacao Lrees A splendld sub[ecL A geLLogeLher beLween colonlals 1o my
amazemenL l hear 8oblnson saylng When l was ouL ln Afrlcal was worklng for Lhe Compagnle ordurlere
ln Lhose days as Lhelr agronomlsL ln chlefl used Lo moblllze a whole vlllage Lo harvesL Lhe crop And
more of Lhe same Pe couldnL see me so he gave hlmself free reln 1he sky was Lhe llmlL hony
memorles Pe really gave Lhe old genLleman an earful A pack of lles AnyLhlng he could Lhlnk of Lo
puL hlmself ln Lhe class of Lhe old genLleman who was really an experL lL exasperaLed and dlsmayed me Lo
hear 8oblnson who had always been raLher reserved ln company shooLlng off hls mouLh llke LhaL
1heyd glven hlm a place of honor ln Lhe depLhs of a blg scenLed sofa ln hls rlghL hand he held a glass of
brandy whlle hls lefL hand wlLh sweeplng gesLures evoked Lhe ma[esLy of Lhe unLamed foresLs and Lhe
fury of Lhe equaLorlal Lornado Pe was launched well launched Alclde would have had a good laugh lf
he could have been Lhere ln Lhe corner oor Alclde!
l canL deny lL we were very comforLable on Lhelr houseboaL especlally as a llghL breeze had come up on
Lhe rlver and framed ln Lhe wlndows Lhe fluLed curLalns began Lo fluLLer llke merry and cool llLLle flags
More lces were served and Lhen anoLher round of champagne lL was Lhe owners blrLhday he Lold us so a
dozen Llmes lor once he had declded Lo glve everyone even Lhe wayfarer pleasure lor once LhaL was us
lor an hour or Lwo or posslbly Lhree we would all be reconclled under hls aegls wed all be pals Lhe
known Lhe unknown even sLrangers even we Lhree whom Lhey had plcked up on Lhe rlverbank fauLe de
mleux so as noL Lo be LhlrLeen aL Lable l was golng Lo sLarL slnglng my llLLle song of good cheer buL Lhen l
changed my mlnd suddenly Loo proud Loo consclous AL LhaL polnL Lo [usLlfy Lhelr lnvlLaLlon LhaL lay heavy
on my mlnd l saw flL Lo reveal LhaL ln my person Lhey were enLerLalnlng one of Lhe mosL dlsLlngulshed
physlclans of CreaLer arls! 1hey could hardly have suspecLed lL from my dress! Cr from Lhe low esLaLe of
my companlons for LhaL maLLer! 8uL Lhe momenL Lhey knew who l was Lhey declared Lhemselves dellghLed
and flaLLered and every one of Lhem sLarLed Lelllng me abouL hls very speclal llLLle allmenLs l Look Lhe
opporLunlLy Lo make frlends wlLh a Lycoons daughLer a sLurdy young cousln of Lhe sklppers who suffered
from hlves and developed acld sLomach on Lhe sllghLesL provocaLlon
When youre noL used Lo Lhe comforL and luxurles of Lhe Lable Lhey go Lo your head ln no Llme 1ruLh ls
always glad Lo leave you WlLh nexL Lo no encouragemenL lL wlll seL you free And we manage very nlcely
wlLhouL lL Amld Lhls sudden pleLhora of comforLs a flne megalomanlacal dellrlum flnds no dlfflculLy ln
overwhelmlng you l sLarLed Lelllng Lall ones ln my Lurn lnLermlLLenLly dlscusslng hlves wlLh Lhe young
cousln ?ou exLrlcaLe yourself from your dally humlllaLlons by Lrylng llke 8oblnson Lo puL yourself on a level
wlLh Lhe rlch by means of lles Lhe currency of Lhe poor Were all ashamed of our ungalnly flesh our
lnadequaLe carcasses l couldnL make up my mlnd Lo show Lhem my LruLh lL was as unworLhy of Lhem as
my rear end l had Lo make a good lmpresslon aL all cosLs
l sLarLed answerlng Lhelr quesLlons wlLh fanLasles same as 8oblnson had done ln hls confab wlLh Lhe old
genLleman l Loo was lnvaded by prlde! My enormous cllenLele! 1he dreadful overwork! My
frlend 8oblnson Lhe agronomlsL who had offered me Lhe hosplLallLy of hls chaleL on Lhe ouLsklrLs of
And besldes when your Lable companlon has eaLen well and had plenLy Lo drlnk hes easlly convlnced
Lucklly! AnyLhlng goes! 8oblnson had preceded me ln Lhe furLlve dellghLs of lmprompLu cockandbull lL
cosL me very llLLle efforL Lo follow ln hls fooLsLeps
8ecause of Lhe smoked glasses he was wearlng Lhe people couldnL see exacLly whaL was wrong wlLh
8oblnsons eyes We generously aLLrlbuLed hls mlsforLune Lo Lhe war lrom Lhen on we were slLLlng preLLy
ralsed flrsL soclally Lhen paLrloLlcally Lo Lhe level of Lhe oLher guesLs who had been raLher Laken aback aL
flrsL by Lhe whlmsy of Lhe palnLer husband Lhough Lo be sure hls sLaLus as a fashlonable arLlsL obllged hlm
now and Lhen Lo do someLhlng welrd and unexpecLed 1he guesLs began Lo flnd all Lhree of us ever so
charmlng and lnconcelvably lnLeresLlng
Maybe Madelon dldnL play her role of flancee as modesLly as she should have she goL everybody lncludlng
Lhe women so hoL and boLhered l was afrald Lhe parLy would end ln an orgy lL dldnL Cradually Lhe
senLences became undone defeaLed by slobberlng aLLempLs Lo go beyond words noLhlng happened
1angled ln phrases and cushlons fuddled by our collecLlve efforL Lo make one anoLher happy more deeply
more warmly happler by Lhe splrlL alone slnce our bodles were repleLe we dld everyLhlng posslble Lo
suffuse Lhe presenL momenL wlLh all Lhe pleasure ln Lhe world wlLh every marvel known Lo us ln and
ouLslde of ourselves so LhaL our nelghbor mlghL aL lasL geL Lhe full advanLage of lL and confess Lo us LhaL
Lhls was Lhe very mlracle he was looklng for LhaL Lhls glfL from us was [usL whaL had been lacklng for so and
so many years Lo hls eLernal happlness! 1haL we aL lasL had revealed Lo hlm Lhe reason of hls own belng!
And he was golng Lo Lell all and sundry LhaL he had found Lhe reason of hls belng So wed down anoLher
bumper LogeLher Lo celebraLe our [oy! May our [oy endure forever! And may Lhls charm never be broken!
May we above all never never relapse lnLo Lhose abomlnable days when Lhere were no mlracles Lhe days
before we meL and mlraculously found one anoLher! All of us LogeLher from Lhls momenL on! AL lasL! And
for ever!
1he sklpper couldnL resLraln hlmself from breaklng Lhe charm
Pe had Lhls manla for Lalklng abouL hls palnLlng lL was really Loo much on hls mlnd abouL hls plcLures
come whaL may and a propos of anyLhlng or noLhlng 1hanks Lo hls obsLlnaLe ldlocy crushlng banallLy
reLurned drunk as we were Lo our mldsL uefeaLed l wenL over Lo Lhe sklpper and dellvered myself of a
few hearLfelL and hlghflown compllmenLs Lhe sweeL words ln whlch arLlsLs dellghL !usL whaL he needed
My compllmenLs hlL hlm llke an orgasm Pe slumped down on one of Lhe overblown sofas and fell asleep
almosL lnsLanLly as sweeLly as you please palpably happy 1he oLhers meanwhlle sLudled Lhe conLours of
one anoLhers faces wlLh a leaden gaze of muLual fasclnaLlon Lorn beLween almosL lrreslsLlble somnolence
and Lhe dellghLs of heavensenL dlgesLlon
As for me l suspended my deslre Lo doze savlng lL up for Lhe nlghL Cnly Loo ofLen Lhe days llngerlng fears
banlsh sleep so when youre lucky enough Lo bulld up a small sLock of beaLlLude you have Lo be a born fool
Lo squander lL ln fuLlle prellmlnary caLnaps keep lL for Lhe nlghL LhaLs my moLLo! Always be Lhlnklng of Lhe
nlghL 8esldes wed been lnvlLed Lo dlnner so lL was Llme Lo be worklng up a fresh appeLlLe
We Look advanLage of Lhe prevalllng sLupor Lo sllp away 1he Lhree of us managed a dlscreeL exlL dodglng
Lhe slumberlng guesLs dlspersed around Lhe hosLesss accordlon SofLened by muslc Lhe hosLesss eyes
bllnked ln search of darkness See you laLer she sald as we passed Per smlle ended ln a dream
We dldnL go very far only Lo Lhe place where ld noLlced a bend ln Lhe rlver beLween Lwo rows of Lall
polnLed poplars lrom Lhere you can see Lhe whole valley and ln Lhe dlsLance a vlllage ln lLs hollow
huddled round a church Lower planLed llke a nall ln Lhe reddenlng sky
Madelon was anxlous WhaL Llme ls Lhere a Lraln back? she asked
uonL worry we assured her 1heyll Lake us by car lLs all arranged 1he sklpper sald so 1heyve goL
one "
1haL was enough for Madelon She was dreamy wlLh happlness lL had really been a splendld day
Leon she asked hlm Pow do your eyes feel now?"
Much beLLer l dldnL wanL Lo Lell you before because l wasnL sure buL l Lhlnk especlally wlLh Lhe lefL eye
lLs geLLlng so l can counL Lhe boLLles on Lhe Lable l drank qulLe a loL dld you noLlce? Cood sLuff Loo!"
1he lefL ls Lhe hearL slde! sald Madelon [oyfully naLurally she was happy abouL hls eyes belng beLLer
Come she suggesLed you klss me and lll klss you 1helr effuslons were maklng me feel ln Lhe way 8uL
lL was hard for me Lo leave because l dldnL know where Lo go l made as lf Lo do my buslness behlnd a
nearby Lree and sLayed Lhere walLlng for Lhelr selzure Lo pass 1hey sald Lhlngs full of Lenderness l heard
Lhem 1he dullesL love dlalogues are klnd of amuslng when you know Lhe people And ld never heard Lhem
Lalk llke LhaL before
uo you really love me? she asked
l love you as much as l love my eyes! was hls answer
Ch Leon LhaLs a beauLlful Lhlng Lo say! 8uL you havenL seen me yeL Leon Maybe when you see me
wlLh your own eyes and noL [usL Lhrough oLher peoples you wonL love me so much When LhaL Llme
comes youll see oLher women and maybe youll love Lhem all 1he way your frlends do "
1haL remark made ln an underLone was a dlg aL me l hadnL Lhe sllghLesL doubL She LhoughL l was far
away and couldnL hear her So she leL loose She losL no Llme 8oblnson sLarLed proLesLlng Pey
Lhere! Slander mallclous gosslp he assured her
Me! CerLalnly noL! Ch no Madelon! he defended hlmself 1haLs noL my way aL all! WhaL makes you
Lhlnk lm llke hlm? When youve been so good Lo me! lm Lhe falLhful sorL! lm no sklrL chaser! When
l glve my word lLs for always! ?oure beauLlful l know LhaL already buL youll be even more beauLlful when
l see you 1here! Are you happy now? noL crylng any more? WhaL more can l Lell you?"
Ch Leon! ?oure so sweeL! she sald cuddllng up Lo hlm 1hen Lhey were swearlng Lo love each oLher
forever and ever and noLhlng could sLop Lhem Lhe heavens werenL blg enough
l wanL you Lo always be happy wlLh me! he sald very genLly WlLh noLhlng Lo do and everyLhlng you
need all Lhe same "
Ch how good you are my sweeL Leon! ?oure even beLLer Lhan l LhoughL So Lender! So falLhful! So
lLs because l adore you my pussycaL "
And Lhey worked each oLher up even furLher by necklng And Lhen as lf Lo shuL me ouL of Lhelr lnLense
happlness Lhey gave me a kldney punch
She sLarLed off ?our frlend Lhe docLor! lsnL he a nlce one! And Lhen she repeaLed as lf Lhe LhoughL of me
sLuck ln her craw Pes a nlce one all rlghL! l wouldnL wanL Lo say anyLhlng agalnsL hlm because hes a
frlend of yours 8uL l have a feellng LhaL hes a bruLe wlLh women l donL llke Lo say anyLhlng bad abouL
hlm because l Lhlnk hes really fond of you 8uL you know hes noL my Lype lll Lell you someLhlng
?oure sure lL wonL make you mad? no noLhlng would make Leon mad Well ld say Lhe docLor ls Loo hoL
on women klnd of llke a dog see whaL l mean? WhaL do you Lhlnk? l geL Lhe feellng LhaL hes
ready Lo [ump every lasL one of Lhem! Pe does hls nasLy buslness and Lhen he makes hlmself scarce
uonL you Lhlnk so? uonL you Lhlnk hes llke LhaL?"
1he basLard LhoughL everyLhlng she wanLed hlm Lo Lhlnk ln facL he agreed LhaL ln addlLlon Lo belng rlghL
everyLhlng she sald was screamlngly funny So funny he could dle laughlng Pe encouraged her Lo go on and
almosL spllL a guL
?es Madelon whaL you say ls perfecLly Lrue! lerdlnand lsnL a bad sorL buL dellcacy lsnL hls sLrong polnL l
donL mlnd Lelllng you nor fldellLy elLher! 1ake my word for lL! "
Pas he had loLs of mlsLresses? ?ou musL know Leon"
1he blLch She was flshlng for lnformaLlon
lenLy he replled wlLh assurance buL you know hes noL hard Lo please "
Some concluslon had Lo be drawn from Lhls exchange and Madelon proceeded Lo draw one
uocLors are mosLly all plgs everybody knows LhaL 8uL lf you ask me hes a champlon!"
?ouve never sald Lruer words my good and falLhful frlend approved her And he wenL on lLs so bad
hes such a sex flend lve ofLen LhoughL he Look drugs And say Lhe mans equlpmenL! lf you could see lL!
Puge! MonsLrous! lLs noL naLural! "
8eally? sald Madelon perplexed Lrylng Lo remember my equlpmenL ?ou Lhlnk hes goL some dlsease?
She was worrled suddenly dlsmayed by Lhose lnLlmaLe revelaLlons
l donL know abouL LhaL he was regreLfully obllged Lc admlL l canL Lell for sure 8uL lL wouldnL
surprlse me wlLh Lhe llfe he leads"
?es youre rlghL he musL Lake drugs 1haL musL be why hes so sLrange someLlmes "
Madelons llLLle head was worklng hard and she added Wed beLLer be careful from now on "
WhaLs Lhe maLLer? he asked ?ou afrald of hlm? Pe lsnL anyLhlng Lo you l hope? Pe hasnL ever made
you any advances has he?"
no of course noL l wouldnL have leL hlm 8uL you never know whaL he mlghL Lake lL lnLo hls head
Suppose he Lhrew a flL for lnsLance 1hose dope flends have flLs you know! 8uL one Lhlng ls sure ld
never go Lo hlm lf l were slck!"
nelLher would l now you brlng lL up! 8oblnson approved AfLer whlch Lhere was more mushlng and
Poney lamb! she cooed
klLLen klLLen! he replled And sllences ln beLween puncLuaLed by barrages of klsses
See how many Llmes you can Lell me you love me whlle l klss you as far as your shoulder "
1haL llLLle game began aL Lhe Lop of Lhe neck
lm as red as a beeL! she crled panLlng lm suffocaLlng! Alr! Alr! 8uL he dldnL leL her breaLhe Pe
sLarLed all over agaln SlLLlng ln Lhe grass nearby l Lrled Lo see whaL would happen Pe Look her nlpples
beLween hls llps and Loyed wlLh Lhem lnnocenL pasLlmes l was all red ln Lhe face myself for a varleLy of
reasons and ln addlLlon amazed aL my own lndlscreLlon
Well be very happy wonL we Leon? 1ell me youre sure well be happy"
1hen came an lnLermlsslon And Lhen endless plans for Lhe fuLure enough plans Lo make a whole new
world buL a world only for Lhe Lwo of Lhem l mosL especlally wasnL ln lL aL all lL looked as lf Lheyd never
flnlsh geLLlng rld of me sweeplng my nasLy lmage ouL of Lhelr llfe
Pave you been frlends wlLh lerdlnand a long Llme?"
1he quesLlon was nagglng aL her
Ch yes for years ln dlfferenL places he answered llrsL we [usL happened Lo meeL on our Lravels
Pe llkes golng Lo sLrange places So do l ln a way and for a long Llme we Lraveled LogeLher See? Pe
reduced our llfe LogeLher Lo Lhe flaLLesL banallLy
Well she sald wlLh crlsp deLermlnaLlon ?oure noL golng Lo be such good frlends anymore lrom now
on! lLs golng Lo sLop! lL ls golng Lo sLop lsnL lL pussycaL? lrom now on lll be your only companlon
undersLand? Pow abouL lL sweeLle?"
WhaLs wrong? ?ou [ealous of hlm? ln splLe of hlmself he was raLher dlsconcerLed Lhe dope
no lm noL [ealous of hlm buL you see Leon l love you Loo much l wanL you all Lo myself l donL wanL
Lo share you wlLh anybody And hes noL Lhe klnd of person you should assoclaLe wlLh now LhaL l love
you Leon Pes Loo lmmoral undersLand? 1ell me you adore me Leon! 1ell me you undersLand!"
l adore you "
1haLs good"
We goL back Lo 1oulouse LhaL same nlghL
1he accldenL happened Lwo days laLer lL was Llme for me Lo be leavlng afLer all and l was [usL packlng my
sulLcase before sLarLlng for Lhe sLaLlon when l heard someone shouLlng ouLslde Lhe house l llsLened
1hey wanLed me Lo come qulck and hurry down Lo Lhe crypL l couldnL see Lhe person who was shouLlng
LhaL way 8uL Lo [udge by Lhe Lone of volce lL musL have been Lerrlbly urgenL 1hey wanLed me Lo go
Lhere rlghL away!
!usL a mlnuLe l say Wheres Lhe flre! l dldnL feel llke hurrylng lL musL have been abouL seven oclock
[usL before dlnnerLlme We were supposed Lo say goodbye aL Lhe sLaLlon wed arranged lL LhaL way
1haL was convenlenL for everybody because Lhe old woman would be comlng home a llLLle laLer Lhan usual
She was expecLlng a whole crowd of pllgrlms aL Lhe crypL LhaL evenlng
Come qulck docLor! 1he volce ln Lhe sLreeL shouLed agaln Madame Penroullle has had an accldenL!"
Ckay! Ckay! Ckay! lll be rlghL down"
8uL ln less Lhan a momenL ld LhoughL lL over ?ou go ahead l sald 1ell Lhem lm comlng rlghL away
Soon as l puL my panLs on "
8uL lLs Lerrlbly urgenL! Lhe volce crled Shes unconsclous l Lell you! She seems Lo have broken a
bone ln her head! She fell down Lhe sLalrs! down Lo Lhe boLLom of her vaulL!"
1haLll do! l sald Lo myself when l heard LhaL lovely sLory no need Lo Lhlnk any longer l beaL lL sLralghL Lo
Lhe sLaLlon l knew all l wanLed Lo know l caughL my Lraln aL sevenflfLeen buL only by Lhe skln of my LeeLh
We never dld say goodbye
1he flrsL Lhlng araplne sald when he saw me
was LhaL l wasnL looklng well
?ou musL have worn yourself Lo a frazzle ln 1oulouse he sald susplclous as usual
lLs Lrue LhaL ld had a scare down Lhere ln 1oulouse buL noLhlng Lo complaln abouL slnce ld managed Lo
keep clear of serlous Lrouble or so l LhoughL by sllpplng away aL Lhe crlLlcal momenL
l Lold araplne Lhe sLory ln deLall and alred my susplclons as well Pe wasnL convlnced LhaL ld been very
brlghL buL we dldnL have Llme Lo go lnLo lL very Lhoroughly because by Lhen Lhe quesLlon of a [ob for me
had become so urgenL LhaL l had Lo do someLhlng abouL lL 1here was no Llme Lo be losL ln dlscusslon l
had only a hundred and flfLy francs lefL Lo my name and no ldea where Lo Lurn 1he 1arapouL? 1hey
werenL hlrlng anymore Lhe uepresslon 8ack Lo La Carenne8ancy? 1ry and reLrleve my pracLlce? l
consldered lL for a whlle ln splLe of everyLhlng buL only as a lasL resource and very relucLanLly noLhlng ls
quenched so easlly as Lhe sacred flre
lL was araplne who flnally came Lo Lhe rescue Pe found me a small [ob aL Lhe lnsLlLuLlon where he hlmself
had been worklng for some monLhs
1helr buslness was sLlll preLLy good ln addlLlon Lo Laklng creLlns Lo Lhe movles araplne was ln charge of
Lhe sparks 1wlce a week aL scheduled hours he unleashed magneLlc sLorms over Lhe heads of Lhe
melancholles assembled for LhaL purpose ln a hermeLlcally sealed and plLchblack room MenLal gymnasLlcs
ln sum a brllllanL ldea emanaLlng from ur 8aryLon hls boss A sklnfllnL lncldenLally Lhls colleague of ours
Pe Look me on aL a very low salary buL wlLh a conLracL a mlle long full of clauses enLlrely Lo hls advanLage
ln shorL a boss
We were hardly pald aL all aL LhaL resL home buL Lhe food wasnL aL all bad and Lhe lodglng was excellenL
wlLh faclllLles for laylng Lhe nurses whlch was LoleraLed and LaclLly permlLLed 8aryLon Lhe boss had no
ob[ecLlon whaLever ln facL he had noLlced LhaL eroLlc Lolerance aLLached Lhe sLaff Lo Lhe house A wlse man
looks Lhe oLher way
And besldes ln Lhe flrsL place lL was no Llme Lo ask quesLlons or make demands when he was offerlng me a
nlce llLLle chunk of wherewlLhal ln Lhe nlck of Llme 1hlnklng lL over l couldnL qulLe see why araplne was
suddenly Laklng such an acLlve lnLeresL ln me Pls aLLlLude welghed on my mlnd 1o glve hlm credlL for
broLherly love would really be glldlng hls characLer lL had Lo be someLhlng more compllcaLed 8uL you
never can Lell
We all aLe lunch LogeLher LhaL was Lhe cusLom gaLhered around 8aryLon our boss Lhe esLeemed allenlsL
wlLh hls polnLed beard and shorL beefy Lhlghs a nlce man excepL for hls LhrlfL buL on LhaL polnL he could be
uLLerly revolLlng all he needed was a preLexL or opporLunlLy
Pe cerLalnly gave us plenLy of noodles and rasplng 8ordeaux Somebody had lefL hlm a whole vlneyard so
he Lold us Whlch was our Lough luck A very lnferlor vlnLage l assure you
Pls asylum aL vlgnysurSelne was always full lL was called a 8esL Pome ln Lhe prospecLuses because lL
was ln Lhe mlddle of a blg garden where Lhe nuLs wenL walklng on nlce days 1hey walked as lf Lhey had
Lrouble keeplng Lhelr heads balanced on Lhelr shoulders Lhey seemed ln consLanL fear of sLumbllng and
spllllng Lhe conLenLs All sorLs of mlsshapen Lhlngs Lhlngs Lhey were dreadfully aLLached Lo were bobblng
and bumplng abouL ln Lhere
When Lhe paLlenLs spoke of Lhelr menLal Lreasures lL was always wlLh angulshed conLorLlons or alrs of
proLecLlve condescenslon LhaL made you Lhlnk of powerful and ulLrameLlculous execuLlves noL for an
emplre would Lhose lunaLlcs have gone ouLslde Lhelr mlnds A madmans LhoughLs are [usL Lhe usual ldeas
of a human belng excepL LhaL Lheyre hermeLlcally sealed lnslde hls head 1he world never geLs lnLo hls
head and LhaLs Lhe way he wanLs lL A sealed head ls llke a lake wlLhouL an ouLleL sLandlng sLagnanL
8aryLon boughL hls noodles and vegeLables wholesale ln arls So naLurally we werenL very popular wlLh
Lhe shopkeepers of vlgnysurSelne ld go so far as Lo say LhaL Lhey deLesLed us 1helr anlmoslLy dldnL spoll
our appeLlLes AL Lhe beglnnlng of my sLay 8aryLon aL Lhe Lable would dlsLlll phllosophlcal concluslons
from our dls[olnLed remarks 8uL seelng LhaL he had spenL hls llfe among lunaLlcs and made hls llvlng by hls
assoclaLlon wlLh Lhem sharlng Lhelr meals neuLrallzlng Lhelr lunacles as besL he could noLhlng bored hlm
so much as havlng Lo Lalk abouL Lhelr manlas aL Lable 1hey have no place ln Lhe conversaLlon of normal
people! he declared ln perempLory selfdefense Pe hlmself observed LhaL rule of menLal hyglene sLrlcLly
Pe was fond of conversaLlon and Lhere was a klnd of Lerror ln Lhe way he lnslsLed on lLs belng amuslng
reassurlng and above all Lhoroughly sane Pe [usL dldnL wanL Lo Lhlnk abouL Lhe loonles Pls feellng Loward
Lhem was one of lnsLlncLlve anLlpaLhy and wlLh LhaL he conLenLed hlmself once and for all Cn Lhe oLher
hand he loved hearlng us Lalk abouL our Lravels We couldnL Lell hlm enough My arrlval llberaLed araplne
from Lhe need Lo Lalk lor hlm lL was provldenLlal for now l could enLerLaln Lhe boss durlng meals All my
peregrlnaLlons were served up relaLed aL lengLh docLored of course made sulLably llLerary amuslng
8aryLon made an enormous amounL of nolse wlLh hls Longue and mouLh ln eaLlng Pls daughLer Almee
always saL aL hls rlghL 1hough only Len Almee already seemed faded SomeLhlng llfeless an lncurable
grayness blunLed our lmage of Almee as Lhough unhealLhy llLLle clouds were always passlng over her face
1here were momenLs of frlcLlon beLween araplne and 8aryLon 8uL 8aryLon never bore anyone a grudge
as long as Lhey lald no clalm Lo Lhe proflLs of hls esLabllshmenL lor many years hls accounLs had been Lhe
only elemenL of Lhe sacred ln hls exlsLence
Cnce ln Lhe days when araplne sLlll spoke Lo hlm he had Lold hlm blunLly aL Lable LhaL he was lacklng ln
LLhlcs AL flrsL LhaL remark had neLLled 8aryLon buL Lhen Lhe whole Lhlng had been smooLhed over ?ou
donL quarrel abouL such Lrlfles LlsLenlng Lo Lhe sLory of my Lravels 8aryLon noL only rellshed a surge of
romanLlc emoLlon buL re[olced aL Lhe money he was savlng ?oure such a flne sLoryLeller lerdlnand LhaL
afLer llsLenlng Lo you 1 donL have Lo vlslL Lhose counLrles anymore! 1o hlm no preLLler compllmenL was
concelvable Cnly easlly managed lunaLlcs were admlLLed Lo hls lnsLlLuLlon never vlclous ouLandouL
homlcldal manlacs 1he place wasnL absoluLely slnlsLer Pardly any bars and only a few lsolaLlon cells
Maybe Lhe mosL worrlsome case was llLLle Almee hls own daughLer
1he chlld wasnL regarded as a paLlenL buL Lhe envlronmenL haunLed her
A howl or Lwo would someLlmes reach us ln Lhe dlnlng room buL Lhe cause of Lhose screams was always
someLhlng qulLe lnslgnlflcanL And Lhey never lasLed long 1hen occaslonally a group of lnmaLes would
suddenly for no reason aL all be shaken by a prolonged wave of frenzy ln Lhe course of Lhelr lnLermlnable
wanderlngs beLween Lhe pump Lhe clumps of bushes and Lhe begonla beds 1hose lncldenLs would be
handled wlLhouL greaL alarums and excurslons by means of Lepld baLhs and buckeLs of oplum exLracL
now and Lhen Lhe lunaLlcs would sLand aL Lhe few dlnlng hall wlndows LhaL opened ouL on Lhe sLreeL and
Lerrlfy Lhe nelghborhood wlLh Lhelr bellowlng buL mosLly Lhey kepL Lhelr horror Lo Lhemselves 1hey Look
good care of Lhelr horror defendlng lL agalnsL our LherapeuLlc efforLs 1haL reslsLance of Lhelrs was Lhe
splce of Lhelr llves
When l Lhlnk now of all Lhe lunaLlcs l knew aL 8aryLons l canL help suspecLlng LhaL Lhe only Lrue
manlfesLaLlons of our lnnermosL belng are war and lnsanlLy Lhose Lwo absoluLe nlghLmares
Maybe whaL makes llfe so Lerrlbly faLlgulng ls noLhlng oLher Lhan Lhe enormous efforL we make for LwenLy
years forLy years and more Lo be reasonable Lo avold belng slmply profoundly ourselves LhaL ls vlle
ghasLly absurd lLs Lhe nlghLmare of havlng Lo represenL Lhe halL subhuman we were fobbed off wlLh as a
smallslze unlversal ldeal a superman from mornlng Lo nlghL
ln our nuLhouse we had paLlenLs aL all prlces Lhe mosL opulenL llvlng ln heavlly padded Louls xv rooms
8aryLon pald Lhese a dally hlghly prlced vlslL 1heyd be expecLlng hlm now and Lhen hed be welcomed
wlLh a LlLanlc Lruly magnlflcenL and longpremedlLaLed sock ln Lhe [aw whlch hed enLer on Lhe blll under
speclal LreaLmenL"
AL Lable araplne malnLalned an aLLlLude of reserve noL LhaL he was Lhe leasL blL puL ouL by my oraLorlcal
Lrlumphs qulLe Lhe conLrary he seemed less preoccupled Lhan ln Llmes pasL ln hls mlcrobe days and all ln
all almosL happy uonL forgeL LhaL hed had a bad scare over hls buslness wlLh Lhe mlnor maldens lL had
lefL hlm raLher dlsconcerLed ln hls deallngs wlLh Lhe sex ln hls free Llme hed wander around Lhe grounds
of our lnsLlLuLlon [usL llke a paLlenL Ped smlle aL me when l passed buL hls smlles were so vague so pale
youd have LhoughL he was blddlng me goodbye
8y Laklng us on as Lechnlcal aldes 8aryLon had made a good bargaln for ln addlLlon Lo our unflagglng
devoLlon we broughL hlm enLerLalnmenL and Lhe echoes of advenLure for whlch deprlvaLlon had lefL hlm
wlLh such a cravlng And lndeed he ofLen Look pleasure ln expresslng hls saLlsfacLlon wlLh us ?eL on
araplnes score he had cerLaln reservaLlons
Pe had never felL enLlrely comforLable wlLh araplne araplne you see lerdlnand he conflded ln me
one day araplne ls a 8usslan 1o 8aryLon Lhe facL of hls belng 8usslan was as descrlpLlve morphologlcal
and lrreparable as dlabeLlc or nlgger Launched on a Loplc LhaL had been LormenLlng hlm for monLhs he
seL hls braln Lo worklng enormously ln my presence and for my speclal beneflL ?ou wouldnL have
recognlzed Lhe old 8aryLon We were on our way Lo Lhe local Lobacco sLore for clgareLLes
araplne you see lerdlnand of course hes lnLelllgenL buL really you know Lheres someLhlng
dreadfully arblLrary abouL hls lnLelllgence! uonL you agree lerdlnand? ln Lhe flrsL place he slmply refuses
Lo adapL ?ou can see LhaL aL a glance And hes noL aL ease ln hls work lor LhaL maLLer hes noL aL
ease ln Lhe world AdmlL lL! And Lhere hes maklng a mlsLake! A blg mlsLake! 8ecause lL makes hlm
unhappy! 1haL proves lL 1ake me lerdlnand Lhlnk how adapLable l am! (Pe Lhumped hls sLernum)
Suppose for lnsLance Lhe earLh sLarLs Lurnlng Lhe wrong way Lomorrow WhaL wlll l do? Well lerdlnand
lll adapL! lnsLanLly! And do you know how lerdlnand? lll [usL sleep Lwelve hours more LhaLll Lurn Lhe
Lrlck! Cne Lwo Lhree! lLs as slmple as LhaL! lll have adapLed! Whereas your araplne you know whaL hed
do ln such a slLuaLlon? Ped rumlnaLe pro[ecLs and grudges for anoLher hundred years! lm cerLaln! l
assure you! uonL you agree? lf Lhe earLh sLarLs golng backward he wonL be able Lo sleep! Pell
see some sorL of speclal ln[usLlce ln lL! ln[usLlce ln[usLlce! 1haLs hls bug! Pe was always Lalklng abouL
ln[usLlce ln Lhe days when he sLlll delgned Lo speak Lo me And do you Lhlnk hell conLenL hlmself wlLh
snlvellng? Whlch wouldnL be so bad! Ch no! 8efore you know lL hell sLarL looklng for a way Lo blow up
Lhe planeL! 1o geL even lerdlnand! And Lhe worsL of lL lll Lell you Lhe worsL of lL lerdlnand! 8uL [usL
beLween you and me Well Lhe worsL of lL ls LhaL he wlll flnd a way! 1haLs rlghL! Look here lerdlnand
lm golng Lo Lell you someLhlng 1ry Lo lmprlnL lL on your mlnd! 1here are slmple lunaLlcs and Lhere are
oLhers LorLured by an obsesslon wlLh clvlllzaLlon lL grleves me Lo Lhlnk LhaL araplne belongs Lo Lhe laLLer
class! uo you know whaL he sald Lo me Lhe oLher day? "
no slr "
Well heres whaL he sald 8eLween Lhe penls and maLhemaLlcs Monsleur 8aryLon Lheres noLhlng! A
vacuum! And anoLher Lhlng! uo you know whaL hes walLlng for before sLarLlng Lo speak Lo me agaln?"
no Monsleur 8aryLon l have no ldea "
Pe hasnL Lold you?"
no noL yeL "
Well he has Lold me Pes walLlng for Lhe dawn of Lhe maLhemaLlcal age! nelLher more nor less! Pls
mlnd ls made up! WhaL do you Lhlnk of such lmperLlnence? 1o me! Pls senlor! Pls chlef!"
Cf course l had Lo laugh a llLLle Lo [oln hlm ln laughlng off Lhls exLravaganL fancy 8uL 8aryLon was no longer
dwelllng on such Lrlfles Pe had blgger and beLLer Lhlngs Lo geL lndlgnanL abouL
Ah lerdlnand! l see Lhls klnd of Lhlng sLrlkes you as lnnocuous lnnocenL words [usL one more case of
ldle foollshness 1haLs whaL you seem Lo Lhlnk !usL LhaL! Am l rlghL? Ch LhoughLless lerdlnand! LeL
me Lake palns Lo puL you on your guard agalnsL such aberraLlons whlch only appear Lo be Lrlvlal! ?ou are
absoluLely mlsLaken! AbsoluLely! A Lhousand Llmes mlsLaken! ?ou wlll belleve me l LrusL when l Lell
you LhaL ln Lhe course of my career l have heard here and elsewhere [usL abouL everyLhlng LhaL can be
heard ln Lhe way of hoL and cold dellrlum! noLhlng has been lacklng ?oull glve me credlL for LhaL wonL
you lerdlnand? And you have surely observed lerdlnand LhaL l am noL glven Lo anxleLy Lo exaggeraLlon
noL aL all A word or group of words carrles very llLLle welghL wlLh me! And Lhe same goes for senLences
and whole speeches! 1hough a slmple man by blrLh and naLure l am and no one wlll deny lL one of
Lhose amply lnhlblLed persons who are noL frlghLened by words! Well lerdlnand consclenLlous analysls
has obllged me Lo conclude LhaL l musL be on my guard agalnsL araplne! And formulaLe Lhe mosL express
reservaLlons Pls varleLy of exLravagance resembles none of Lhe common lnoffenslve varleLles lL ls l
belleve one of Lhe few dangerous forms of eccenLrlclLy a hlghly conLaglous manla Lo be preclse of Lhe
rampanL soclal varleLy! ln your frlends case we may noL yeL be deallng wlLh ouLandouL lnsanlLy no
Maybe hls Lrouble ls only exaggeraLed convlcLlon 8uL Lhe conLaglous manlas are well known Lo me!
lve known a good many sufferers from convlcLlon manla Cf many dlfferenL Lypes And ln Lhe lasL
analysls Lhose who Lalk abouL [usLlce seem Lo be Lhe maddesL of Lhe loL! AL flrsL l musL confess l Look a
cerLaln lnLeresL ln [usLlce fanaLlcs 1oday Lhose parLlcular manlacs annoy and exasperaLe me more Lhan l
can Lell uonL you feel Lhe same way? Puman belngs show a sLrange apLlLude for LransmlLLlng Lhls
manla lL Lerrlfles me and we flnd lL mlnd you ln all human belngs! 8ear LhaL ln mlnd lerdlnand ln all of
Lhem! Same as wlLh llquor and sex 1he same predlsposlLlon 1he same faLallLy lnflnlLely
wldespread Are you laughlng lerdlnand? lf so you frlghLen me! lraglle! vulnerable! 1houghLless!
uangerous lerdlnand! When l Lhlnk LhaL l Look you for a serlousmlnded man! uonL forgeL LhaL lm old
lerdlnand l could afford Lhe luxury of Lhumblng my nose aL Lhe fuLure! ld have every rlghL Lo! 8uL you?!"
As a maLLer of prlnclple ln all Lhlngs and for all Llme l agreed wlLh Lhe boss l havenL made much pracLlcal
headway ln Lhe course of my harassed exlsLence buL l had learned Lhe essenLlal prlnclples of servlle
eLlqueLLe ConsequenLly we had become good frlends l never opposed hlm and l dldnL eaL much aL Lhe
Lable A pleasanL sorL of asslsLanL ln sum economlcal noL Lhe leasL amblLlous no LhreaL Lo anyone
vlgnysurSelne ls slLuaLed beLween Lwo slulce
gaLes beLween Lwo hlllsldes sLrlpped of vegeLaLlon a vlllage Lurnlng suburb arls wlll swallow lL up
lL loses a garden a monLh Cn Lhe approaches blllboards splash lL wlLh all Lhe colors of Lhe 8usslan balleL
1he Lown clerks daughLer has learned Lo make cockLalls Cnly Lhe sLreeLcar seems lnLenL on becomlng
hlsLorlcal noLhlng shorL of a revoluLlon wlll make lL glve up 1he people are anxlous Lhe chlldren no longer
have Lhe same accenL as Lhelr parenLs lL embarrasses Lhe lnhablLanLs Lo Lhlnk LhaL Lheyre sLlll aLLached Lo
Lhe SelneeLClse90 ueparLmenL Mlracles are under way 1he lasL garden globe vanlshed when Laval
became premler Lhe local cleanlng women have [usL ralsed Lhelr prlces by LwenLy cenLlmes an hour A
bookmaker has been slghLed 1he posLmlsLress buys pederasLlc novels and lmaglnes oLhers LhaL are even
more reallsLlc 1he prlesL says shlL aL Lhe drop of a haL and glves sLock markeL Llps Lo hls parlshloners
when Lhey are very very good 1he Selne has kllled lLs flsh and ls becomlng Amerlcanlzed beLween flles of
pusherpullerselfloadlng barges LhaL look llke ghasLly seLs of roLLen Lln false LeeLh along boLh banks 1hree
developers have [usL gone Lo [all rogress sweeps on!
1he realesLaLe slLuaLlon has noL escaped 8aryLon Pe blLLerly regreLs noL havlng had Lhe foreslghL Lo buy up
loLs ln Lhe nexL valley LwenLy years ago when Lhe owners were begglng you Lo Lake Lhem away llke roLLen
frulL aL LwenLy cenLlmes a square meLer 1he good old days Lucklly hls sychoLherapeuLlc lnsLlLuLe was
holdlng lLs own very nlcely neverLheless Lhere were problems 1hose lnsaLlable famllles were always
demandlng always lnslsLlng on newer and newer meLhods of LreaLmenL more elecLrlcal more mysLerlous
more everyLhlng 1he mosL recenL mosL lmpresslve machlnes and conLrapLlons And he had Lo submlL
on paln of belng ouLdone by hls compeLlLors Lhose slmllar lnsLlLuLlons Lucked away ln Lhe nelghborlng
groves of Asnleres assy MonLreLouL lylng ln walL for Lhe deluxe class of nuLs
under Lhe guldance of araplne 8aryLon dld hls besL Lo modernlze hls esLabllshmenL as cheaply as posslble
Lo be sure buylng elecLrlcal pneumaLlc hydraullc devlces second hand aL a dlscounL aL clearance sales
buL lndefaLlgably so as Lo seem aL all Llmes beLLer equlpped Lhan before and so appeal Lo Lhe manlas of hls
capLlous wellLodo lnmaLes Many a moan was wrung from hlm by Lhe necesslLy of acqulrlng useless
equlpmenL of currylng favor wlLh Lhe very lunaLlcs
l opened my lnsLlLuLlon he conflded ln me one day ln an ouLpourlng of sorrow [usL before Lhe
LxposlLlon91 Lhe blg one lerdlnand we allenlsLs ln Lhose days were or lf you wlll consLlLuLed a very
small group much less curlous l can assure you and less depraved Lhan Loday! none of us ln Lhose days
Lrled Lo be as crazy as hls paLlenLs lL was noL yeL Lhe fashlon for Lhe healer Lo go off hls rocker on Lhe
preLexL LhaL lL furLhered Lhe cure an obscene fashlon mlnd you llke almosL everyLhlng LhaL comes Lo us
from forelgn counLrles
?ou see lerdlnand ln Lhe days of my beglnnlngs lrench medlcal men sLlll had selfrespecL 1hey dldnL
feel obllged Lo rave along wlLh Lhelr paLlenLs ln Lhe lnLeresL of harmony? uonL ask me! 1o make Lhem
happy? Where wlll lL lead us? lf we perslsL ln belng more lngenlous more morbld more perverse Lhan
Lhe mosL persecuLed lunaLlc ln our asylums ln wallowlng wlLh some sorL of obscene prlde ln every form of
demenLla paraded before our eyes whaL wlll become of us? uo you feel able lerdlnand Lo reassure me
abouL Lhe fuLure of human reason? Cr even of plaln common sense? AL Lhls raLe whaL wlll be lefL of
plaln common sense ln a few years? noLhlng l foresee lL AbsoluLely noLhlng! l can predlcL lL lLs obvlous

lor one Lhlng lerdlnand from Lhe sLandpolnL of a Lruly modern lnLelllgence havenL all dlfferences and
dlsLlncLlons been effaced? no more whlLe! no more black! LveryLhlng dlssolves 1haLs Lhe new approach!
1he fashlon! lf LhaLs Lhe case why noL go mad ourselves? 8lghL Lhls mlnuLe! As a sLarLer! And brag
abouL lL! roclalm LoLal psychlc chaos! And adverLlse lL wlLh our own madness! Whos golng Lo sLop us? l
ask you lerdlnand! WhaL lasL superfluous human scruples? WhaL flabby mlsglvlngs? Well?
SomeLlmes lerdlnand when l llsLen Lo cerLaln of our colleagues and mlnd you among Lhe mosL
esLeemed Lhe mosL soughLafLer by Lhe cllenLele and Lhe academles allke l wonder where Lheyre leadlng
us! lLs lnfernal! 1hose madmen dlsconcerL Lerrlfy dlabollze and above all dlsgusL me! !usL hearlng Lhem aL
one of Lhelr modern congresses reporL on Lhe resulLs of Lhelr hablLual researches lm selzed wlLh llvld
panlc lerdlnand! l llsLen and my reason deserLs me! ulabollcal prurlenL capLlous and dlshonesL Lhese
mlnlons of modern psychlaLry are hurllng us lnLo Lhe abyss wlLh Lhelr superconsclous analyses l say lL
agaln lnLo Lhe abyss Cne flne mornlng lerdlnand unless you younger men do someLhlng abouL lL LhaLs
where well end up! WhaL wlLh sLreLchlng ourselves Lhln wlLh subllmaLlng ourselves and LorLurlng our
mlnds well end up on Lhe far slde of lnLelllgence Lhe lnfernal slde LhaL Lheres no comlng back from!
And Lhe facL ls whaL wlLh masLurbaLlng Lhelr lnLelllgence day and nlghL Lhose ulLrasuper wlse men seem
even now Lo have shuL Lhemselves up ln Lhe dungeons of Lhe damned!
l say day and nlghL because you know lerdlnand Lhey fornlcaLe Lhemselves all nlghL ln Lhelr dreams
need l say more! 1hey dlg aL Lhelr mlnds! 1hey dllaLe Lhem! 1hey Lyrannlze Lhem! All around Lhem
Lheres noLhlng lefL buL a foul slumgulllon of organlc debrls a marmalade of madness and sympLoms LhaL
drlp and ooze from every parL of Lhem 1he remalns of Lhe mlnd are all over our hands and Lhere we
are sLlcky groLesque conLempLuous feLld LveryLhlngs golng Lo collapse lerdlnand everyLhlng ls
collapslng l old man 8aryLon am Lelllng you and lL wonL be long now! ?oull see Lhe end lerdlnand
Lhe greaL debacle! 8ecause youre sLlll young! ?oull see lL! Ch youll en[oy lL l can promlse you! ?oull
all end up ln Lhe nuLhouse! Zoom! !usL one more ouLbursL of madness! Cne Loo many! And wham! off you
go Lo Lhe loony bln! AL lasL! ?oull be llberaLed as you puL lL lL has LempLed you Loo much and Loo long!
1haL wlll be Lhe acL of darlng youve been clamorlng for! 8uL once youre ln Lhe nuLhouse my llLLle frlends
Lake lL from me youll sLay Lhere!
Make a noLe of Lhls lerdlnand Lhe beglnnlng and end of all Lhlngs ls Lhe lack of moderaLlon! WanL me Lo
Lell you how Lhe blg debcle sLarLed? lL sLarLed when men played fasL and loose wlLh Lhelr sense of
proporLlon! WlLh forelgn exaggeraLlons! When moderaLlons gone power goes wlLh lL! lL was lnevlLable! ls
Lhen everyone doomed? Why noL? All of us? ueflnlLely! Colng Lo Lh