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- Therese Raquin - 30/39 -
Grivet had contracted a mania. He affirmed that Madame Raquin and himself understood one another perfectly; and that she could not look at him without him at once comprehending what she desired. This was another delicate attention. Only Grivet was on every occasion in error. He frequently interrupted the game of dominoes, to observe the infirm woman whose eyes were quietly following the game, and declare that she wanted such or such a thing. On further inquiry it was found that she wanted nothing at all, or that she wanted something entirely different. This did not discourage Grivet, who triumphantly exclaimed:
"Just as I said!" And he began again a few moments later.
It was quite another matter when the impotent old lady openly expressed a desire; Therese, Laurent, and the guests named one object after another that they fancied she might wish for. Grivet then made himself remarkable by the clumsiness of his offers. He mentioned, haphazard, everything that came into his head, invariably offering the contrary to what Madame Raquin desired. But this circumstance did not prevent him repeating:
"I can read in her eyes as in a book. Look, she says I am right. Is it not so, dear lady? Yes, yes."
Nevertheless, it was no easy matter to grasp the wishes of the poor old woman. Therese alone possessed this faculty. She communicated fairly well with this walled-up brain, still alive, but buried in a lifeless frame. What was passing within this wretched creature, just sufficiently alive to be present at the events of life, without taking part in them? She saw and heard, she no doubt reasoned in a distinct and clear manner. But she was without gesture and voice to express the thoughts originating in her mind. Her ideas were perhaps choking her, and yet she could not raise a hand, nor open her mouth, even though one of her movements or words should decide the destiny of the world.
Her mind resembled those of the living buried by mistake, who awaken in the middle of the night in the earth, three or four yards below the surface of the ground. They shout, they struggle, and people pass over them without hearing their atrocious lamentations.
Laurent frequently gazed at Madame Raquin, his lips pressed together, his hands stretched out on his knees, putting all his life into his sparkling and swiftly moving eyes. And he said to himself:
"Who knows what she may be thinking of all alone? Some cruel drama must be passing within this inanimate frame."
Laurent made a mistake. Madame Raquin was happy, happy at the care and affection bestowed on her by her dear children. She had always dreamed of ending in this gentle way, amidst devotedness and caresses. Certainly she would have been pleased to have preserved her speech, so as to be able to thank the friends who assisted her to die in peace. But she accepted her condition without rebellion. The tranquil and retired life she had always led, the sweetness of her character, prevented her feeling too acutely the suffering of being mute and unable to make a movement. She had entered second childhood. She passed days without weariness, gazing before her, and musing on the past. She even tasted the charm of remaining very good in her armchair, like a little girl.
Each day the sweetness and brightness of her eyes became more penetrating. She had reached the point of making them perform the duties of a hand or mouth, in asking for what she required and in expressing her thanks. In this way she replaced the organs that were wanting, in a most peculiar and charming manner. Her eyes, in the centre of her flabby and grimacing face, were of celestial beauty.
Since her twisted and inert lips could no longer smile, she smiled with adorable tenderness, by her looks; moist beams and rays of dawn issued from her orbits. Nothing was more peculiar than those eyes which laughed like lips in this lifeless countenance. The lower part of the face remained gloomy and wan, while the upper part was divinely lit up. It was particularly for her beloved children that she placed all her gratitude, all the affection of her soul into a simple glance. When Laurent took her in his arms, morning and night, to carry her, she thanked him lovingly by looks full of tender effusion.
She lived thus for weeks, awaiting death, fancying herself sheltered from any fresh misfortune. She thought she had already received her share of suffering. But she was mistaken. One night she was crushed by a frightful blow.
Therese and Laurent might well place her between them, in the full light, but she was no longer sufficiently animated to separate and defend them against their anguish. When they forgot that she was there and could hear and see them, they were seized with folly. Perceiving Camille, they sought to drive him away. Then, in unsteady tones, they allowed the truth to escape them, uttering words that revealed everything to Madame Raquin. Laurent had a sort of attack, during which he spoke like one under the influence of hallucination, and the paralysed woman abruptly understood.
A frightful contraction passed over her face, and she experienced such a shock that Therese thought she was about to bound to her feet and shriek, but she fell backward, rigid as iron. This shock was all the more terrible as it seemed to galvanise a corpse. Sensibility which had for a moment returned, disappeared; the impotent woman remained more crushed and wan than before. Her eyes, usually so gentle, had become dark and harsh, resembling pieces of metal.
Never had despair fallen more rigorously on a being. The sinister truth, like a flash of flame, scorched the eyes of the paralysed woman and penetrated within her with the concussion of a shaft of lightning. Had she been able to rise, to utter the cry of horror that ascended to her throat, and curse the murderers of her son, she would have suffered less. But, after hearing and understanding everything, she was forced to remain motionless and mute, inwardly preserving all the glare of her grief.
It seemed to her that Therese and Laurent had bound her, riveted her to her armchair to prevent her springing up, and that they took atrocious pleasure in repeating to her, after gagging her to stifle her cries--
"We have killed Camille!"
Terror and anguish coursed furiously in her body unable to find an issue. She made superhuman efforts to raise the weight crushing her, to clear her throat and thus give passage to her flood of despair. In vain did she strain her final energy; she felt her tongue cold against her palate, she could not tear herself from death. Cadaverous impotence held her rigid. Her sensations resembled those of a man fallen into lethargy, who is being buried, and who, bound by the bonds of his own frame, hears the deadened sound of the shovels of mould falling on his head.
The ravages to which her heart was subjected, proved still more terrible. She felt a blow inwardly that completely undid her. Her entire life was afflicted: all her tenderness, all her goodness, all her devotedness had just been brutally upset and trampled under foot. She had led a life of affection and gentleness, and in her last hours, when about to carry to the grave a belief in the delight of a calm life, a voice shouted to her that all was falsehood and all crime.
The veil being rent, she perceived apart from the love and friendship which was all she had hitherto been able to see, a frightful picture of blood and shame. She would have cursed the Almighty had she been able to shout out a blasphemy. Providence had deceived her for over sixty years, by treating her as a gentle, good little girl, by amusing her with lying representations of tranquil joy. And she had remained a child, senselessly believing in a thousand silly things, and unable to see life as it really is, dragging along in the sanguinary filth of passions. Providence was bad; it should have told her the truth before, or have allowed her to continue in her innocence and blindness. Now, it only remained for her to die, denying love, denying friendship, denying devotedness. Nothing existed but murder and lust.
What! Camille had been killed by Therese and Laurent, and they had conceived the crime in shame! For Madame Raquin, there was such a fathomless depth in this thought, that she could neither reason it out, nor grasp it clearly. She experienced but one sensation, that of a horrible disaster; it seemed to her that she was falling into a dark, cold hole. And she said to herself:
"I shall be smashed to pieces at the bottom."
After the first shock, the crime appeared to her so monstrous that it seemed impossible. Then, when convinced of the misbehaviour and murder, by recalling certain little incidents which she had formerly failed to understand, she was afraid of going out of her mind. Therese and Laurent were really the murderers of Camille: Therese whom she had reared, Laurent whom she had loved with the devoted and tender affection of a mother. These thoughts revolved in her head like an immense wheel, accompanied by a deafening noise.
She conjectured such vile details, fathomed such immense hypocrisy, assisting in thought at a double vision so atrocious in irony, that she would have liked to die, mechanical and implacable, pounded her brain with the weight and ceaseless action of a millstone. She repeated to herself:
"It is my children who have killed my child."
And she could think of nothing else to express her despair.
In the sudden change that had come over her heart, she no longer recognised herself. She remained weighed down by the brutal invasion of ideas of vengeance that drove away all the goodness of her life. When she had been thus transformed, all was dark inwardly; she felt the birth of a new being within her frame, a being pitiless and cruel, who would have liked to bite the murderers of her son.
When she had succumbed to the overwhelming stroke of paralysis, when she understood that she could not fly at the throats of Therese and Laurent, whom she longed to strangle, she resigned herself to silence and immobility, and great tears fell slowly from her eyes. Nothing could be more heartrending than this mute and motionless despair. Those tears coursing, one by one, down this lifeless countenance, not a wrinkle of which moved, that inert, wan face which could not weep with its features, and whose eyes alone sobbed, presented a poignant spectacle.
Therese was seized with horrified pity.
"We must put her to bed," said she to Laurent, pointing to her aunt.
Laurent hastened to roll the paralysed woman into her bedroom. Then, as he stooped down to take her in his arms, Madame Raquin hoped that some powerful spring would place her on her feet; and she attempted a supreme effort. The Almighty would not permit Laurent to press her to his bosom; she fully anticipated he would be struck down if he
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