Émile Zola.

Thérèse Raquin : a novel online

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to her face a look of pain that amounted almost to


The two lovers were no longer eager to see each
other alone. They had never exchanged a kiss since
the death of Camille. In killing him they had slain
the eagerness of their passion.

They might have met, however, as often as they
pleased. Madame Raquin, childish and almost help-
less, was no obstacle. The house belonged virtually to
Th^rese. She could come in or go out precisely as she
pleased; but no temptation offered itself. She was
perfectly willing to remain behind the counter all day
long, and she and Laurent sat in the shop, conversing
calmly, looking in each other's faces without a quick-
ened pulse or heightened color, and almost seemed to
have forgotten their previous madness. They even
avoided meeting each other alone, for they felt that in
that case they would meet too coldly. When their
hands accidentally touched, a little shiver ran through
both, accompanied by a sense of uneasiness that almost
amounted to disgust.

They explained their conduct to themselves, however,
in a way that was entirely satisfactory. They said
their coldness arose from prudence, and their shivers
and repugnance were caused by the memory of that
terrible night.

Sometimes they each tried to hope — to revive those
dreams which had cost them so much — and were
astonished to find their imag;inations literally empty.
They consoled themselves, however, with the convic-
tion that when once married, and saw their aim


achieved, their passion would revive and they would
realize all their delicious dreams. This hope soothed
them and prevented them from realizing the depth of
the abyss that now yawned between them. They
persuaded themselves that they still loved each other,
as in the past, and that they only waited for the priest
to sanction their union, for happiness to be theirs.

Never had Thdrese been calmer or in better spirits.
Her nerves were no longer on the stretch, and she was
thankful as she lay in her bed, that she no longer heard
or saw Camille. She tried to forget her brief married
life, and to believe that she was again a girl. Bfer
large, cool room, with its high ceiling and dark corners,
pleased her, and she even went so far as to love the black
wall that rose before her window. She liked to look
at it and note the slow growth of the lichens in the
crevices, and then raise her eyes to the narrow glimpses
of the starry sky above. She rarely thought of Laurent
except when she awoke with a start in the night, and
then she said, as she shivered and shook, that when she
was married again, she should not be alone at night,
and therefore should not be frightened. She regarded
her lover somewhat in the light of a watch-dog, who
would protect her ; otherwise she never thought of his

During the day, when she was in the shop, she could
occupy her thoughts with other things, and was no
longer wrapped in sullen plans of revolt and vengeance.

She did not like to think — she wished to act. From


morning until night, she watched the people who
passed the door. Their bustle and hurry amused her.
She became curious about her neighbors and fond of
gossip. She became a woman, in fact — for up to this
time, she had thought and felt as a man.

She began to notice, from her seat behind the
counter, a young man — a student — who lived in
the vicinity, and who passed the shop constantly.
This young fellow had a certain beauty of face, with
the long hair of a poet, and the moustache of a calvary
officer. Th^rese thought him very distinguS, and
cherished for at least a week a school-girl fancy for
him. She read many romances in these days, and
comparing the young man to Laurent, she found the
latter too stout and too heavy. Her reading opened
to her a new world. She had hitherto loved only with
her blood and her nerves; she now loved vidth her

Finally the student disappeared ; he had probably
moved to some other quarters, and ThdrSse forgot him.

She subscribed to a circulating library, and fell in
love with all the heroes of the books she read. This
sudden passion for reading had a strange effect upon her
character, and she acquired a nervous sensibility which
caused her to laugh or weep almost without knowing
why. Her former equilibrium was totally upset. She
had a way of relapsing into long reveries, from which
some thought of Camille aroused her with a start of
terror and a longing for Laurent's presence, and the
safety which he would bring.


Sometimes she wished to marry her lover at once,
and then again she was tempted to fly and never see
him more. The novels which spoke to her of woman's
chastity and man's honor, put a strong obstacle
between her instincts and her wishes. She was still
the wretch who had violated her duties as a wife, and
had looked on at the murder of her husband ; but she
had at least a dim perception of goodness and sweet-
ness, and understood the docility of Olivier's wife.
She realized at last that she could not kill her husband
and expect to be happy.

From the moment that this conclusion forced itself
upon her, she lived in a state of cruel indecision.

Laurent, on his side, had passed through different
phases of fever and repose. At first he enjoyed
immense tranquillity, and felt as if relieved from an
enormous weight. He questioned himself occasionally
in astonishment, and asked if he had not had a bad
dream — if he had really thrown CamUle into the
water, and if he had really seen his body lying at the

The memory of his crime was an ever-recurring sur-
prise to him, for he never would have believed himself
capable of committing a murder — cold beads of sweat
burst out on his brow when he thought his crime
might yet be discovered. He felt the knife of the
guillotine on his neck at such moments. He had acted
with the headstrong blindness of a brute. Now he
turned, and seeing the abyss he had leaped, was faint
and sick.


" I was mad," he thouglit, " this woman had intoxi-
cated me with her caresses — I risked the guillotine,
and for what ? I know very well, if I were to live
over the past year, that I should do very differently."

Laurent now became very cautious and prudent in
every act and word. He grew very stout, and moved
slowly and ponderously. No one in the world, looking
at his enormous body, apparently without nerves or
bones, would ever have dreamed of accusing him of
violence and cruelty.

He resumed all his former habits, and for several
months was a model employ^, performing each one of
his duties with exemplary fidelity. He dined every
night at a Cremerie in la Rue Saint-Vietdr, cutting
his bread into the thinnest possible slices, and prolong-
ing his repast as much as possible. Then he leaned
back against the wall and smoked his pipe. Any one
would have taken him for a good natured father of a

He thought only of his business during the day, and
at night his sleep was heavy and dreamless. Sleeping
well, eating well, warmed and clothed, he was happy.

He thought of Th^rdse as a man thinks of a woman
who is to be his wife at some future time. He waited
for the hour of his marriage with patience, and forget-
ting the wife he was to have, thought only of the new
position which would be his. He would then leave his
of&ce, and again amuse himself with painting.

These thoughts took him every evening to the shop,


in spite of the vague uneasiness tbat assailed him
whenever he entered it.

One Sunday, not knowing just what to dp, he went
to call on the old college friend, the painter with whom
he had lived so long.

The artist was working on a picture which he
intended to send to the salon, and which represented
a nude Bacchante lying on some rich stuff. At the
back of the atelier the model was posed. In this
model he recognized an old aquaintance, ■^ith whom his
relations were re-established within t\venty-foui- hours.
He never asked himself if this were not infidelity to
Th^rese, or how she would like it if she were to
know it. He was happier, that was all.

The term of mourning for Camille was now drawing
to an end, and one day the young widow appeared in a
light dress, and Laurent thought he had never seen her
so lovely. He never felt at ease with her now, how-
ever, for she was full of strange caprices, shedding
tears or laughing — without rhyme or reason. He
divined her indecision and her struggles, and began
himself to hesitate — being in great fear lest he should
sacrifice his own daily peace by marrying a woman
who had already affected his nerves to such a degree,
that he had perilled his neck for her sake.

He did not reason this out ; he felt by instinct that
to marry Th^rese would make of his life a daily

It was now fifteen months since Caniille's death, and


quite time for their marriage. For one moment Lau-
rent thought seriously of giving up the whole affair
and turning a cold shoulder on Th^rdse. Then he said
to himself, that if he did this, he should have commit-
ted a murder for nothing ; recalling the crime and the
terror of that day, he felt that if he did not now marry
this woman he had uselessly perilled his neck. To rob
a man of his wife and then drown liim, wait fifteen
months to marry his widow and then decide to throw
her over for the sake of a little model, seemed to
him simply ridiculous. Besides, was he not allied to
Th^rSse by a tie of blood and of horror — she was his
and he hers !

He was afraid of his accomplice. How could he be
sure that she, if he did not marry her, would not
expose him through jealousy and crime. These ideas
began to trouble him.

About this time, his model deserted him. She had
probably found more comfortable quarters.

Laurent was not profoundly afQicted, although he
certainly missed her. He went, that evening, to the
shop, more than usually desirous of seeing Th^rdse.
She was strangely thrilled by the passion in his eyes.

When he assisted her to close the shop, he caught
her hand and said something, in a low voice :

She drew back.

" No, no," she said, hastily. " If you wish me to be
your wife, I am ready."

124 th:6kese kaquin.



LAURENT left the shop greatly disturbed. These
words uttered by Thdrdse had brought back much
of the old feeling. He took the street by the Quais,
and walked with his hat in his hand in order to cool
his hot and throbbing head.

When he reached la Hue Saint- Victor, and was about
to enter his Hotel, he was suddenly seized with an
inexplicable feeling of terror. A fear like that of a
child who believes a man to be hidden under his bed,
made him afraid to enter his attic room. Never before
in his life had he felt this. He made no attempt to
reason away this sensation, but he turned back and
entered a wine shop, where he remained until midnight,
sitting alone at a table, drinking great glasses of wine.
He thought of Th^rSse with a feeling of sullen irrita-
tion. The wine shop was closed, and he was obliged
to leave — he went back to ask for a match. The oflSce
of his Hotel was up one flight of stairs, and he had a
long corridor to traverse, which was in total darkness.
Generally he never thought of the darkness, but this
night, he felt as if assassins were hidden at every
angle, who would leap out at his throat as he passed.

He lighted a match which went out, he tried another


and another, rubbing them on the damp wall. He suc-
ceeded in lighting one at last, and watched the ghastly
blue of the sulphur as it slowly ignited the wood ; it
seemed to him that monstrous forms were cowering in
the corners.

At last the wood caught, and, by the light, he hurried
up the steps, believing himself safe, only when he
received his candle in the office.

Holding his candle high above his head, he ascended
the stairs to his room — trembling at every shadow, and
imagining the creak of the stairs under his feet to be
made by his pursuers.

When he reached the door, he threw it open and
hastily entered, closing it again as rapidly as possible.
His first care was to look under his bed and in his
wardrobe. He closed the Window on the roof bethink-
ing himself for the first time that some one could easily
enter that way.

When he had done this he was calm, and as he
undressed, he smiled at himself for being such a
poltroon; but he was uneasy that he was unable to
explain to his own satisfaction, this sudden access of
terror. He went to bed and closed his eyes, but his
mind was in a turmoil, and over and over again, he
found himself recapitulating the advantages of a
speedy marriage. He tossed from one side of the bed
to the other, and said, aloud :

" This wiU never do — I have to get up early, and be
at my office at eight o'clock."


It was of no use, he could not sleep, his brains con-
tinued to "work, showing him aU the reasons for and
against marrying Th^r^se.

Finally, he asked himself why he did not go to
Th^rdse at once ; he could not sleep — and then half
awake, he began in his fancy to huriy through the
streets, saying to himself, " I will turn this corner, for
it cuts off so much." He followed in his imagination,
the narrow lane, saying to himself that he had suc-
ceeded in turning into it without being seen by the
woman who kept the stall where imitation jewelry was
sold. He again perceived the damp, foul odors of the
lane — he touched the cold wall, feeling for the door
which suddenly opened, and Th^rdse stood before him.
He started from his bed, but when his feet touched the
cold floor, the same deadly horror seized him as before.
He gasped for breath and looked about his room fear-
fully — ^but saw only the white moonlight streaming in.
He returned to his bed, and pulling the clothes over
his head, shivered and cowered as before the knife of
an assassin.

A sharp pain in his neck caused him to put his hand
to it involuntarily. He felt the scar made by Camille's
teeth, which he had almost forgotten. He was startled,
and wondered if it were a cancer eating his flesh. He
rubbed it gently, hoping to ease the pain, but it seemed
only to increase it. In order to keep his hands from
touching this scar, he placed them both between his
knees, and lay in this restrained position, his teeth
chattering with fear.


He could now think of nothing but Camille. Up to
this time, Laurent had not been much troubled by the
recollection of his victim, but thinking of Th^r^se,
seemed to hare called up the spectre of her husband.
The murderer dared not open his eyes, lest he should
see Camille in the room. Once he fancied that his bed
was strangely jarred — might it not be that the ghost
was hidden under it ? With his hair rising ou his head,
lie clung to his mattress. Suddenly, he perceived that
bhe bed did not move, and all at once, his self-possession
returned. He sat up and called himself a fool, as he
calmly lighted his candle and drank a large glass of

" The fact is," he said to himself, " I drank too much
wine to-night. If I don't get some sleep, I shall be in
a nice state to-morrow to do my work. I ought to close
my eyes as soon as my head touches the pillow. If I
once get to thinking it is all up with me."

He blew out his candle again, turned his pillow over
and gave it a thump, and lay down again, determined
to .sleep. Fatigue now began to relax the tension of
his nerves.

He did not sleep in his usual fashion — all the
time feeling that his body was slumbering, while
his mind was as active as ever. Again, he went
through the streets dividing him from Th^rSse ; again,
he entered the alley and felt his way up the stairs ;
again, did the door open, but this time it was not
Th^r^se, who stood before him — it was Camille —


Camille, as he had seen him at the Morgue, horrible to
look upon.

Laurent uttered a wild cry and started up. He was
in a cold sweat. He puUed the coverings once more
over his head, and again did he fall into the same state
in which he seemed to himself to be harrying through
the streets to find Th^rdse, whose door was opened by
the spectre of Camille.

The murderer once more started up in his bed.
What should he do to drive away this persistent
dream ? As long as he was awake, he could keep this
phantom at bay; but as soon as he was no longer
master of himself, he was overpowered.
/ This lasted all night. Ten times he had this same
dream. Each time he reached Th^rSse he encoun-
tered Camille, and from each of these dreams he awoke
with a start — the last so violent that he determined to
rise, as day was breaking, and a cold, gray light coming
in at the window in the roof.

Laurent dressed slowly with a sense of sullen irri-
tation. He was exasperated at not having slept, and
indignant at his own fears. He shuddered, however,
at the thought that it would ever be his fate to pass
such another night.

He buried his head in the basin and combed his hair,
which refreshed him in some degree, though he felt
sadly weary.

" I am not a coward," he said to himself, " and how
could I have been such a fool as to seriously believe


that poor devil Camille was under my bed? I
■wonder if this fear is to haunt me every night?' I
see now, that Th^rdse had best be my wife at once ;
when she is near me, I shall never again think of
Camille. I must look at this scar, by the way."

He went to the mirror and looked. The scar was
of a pinkish hue. Laurent could distinctly see the
marks made by the teeth of his victim, and the
color rose to his face. He then perceived a strange
phenomenon. The scar was crimsoned by this rising
flush, and stood out red and angry on his white neck.
At the same instant Laurent felt a little prickling
sensation, as if needles had been driven into the wound.
He hastily pulled up the collar of his shirt.

" Pshaw ! " he said, " that is nothing. Th^rSse will
kiss and make it well ! What an idiot I am, to think
of these things ! "

He put his hat on his head and went out. He
needed air and exercise. As he went through the
dark corridor and past the cellar door, he smiled, but
nevertheless, stopped to see that the door was securely

It was now about five o'clock, and Laurent walked
for some time through the deserted streets.

Laurent passed a most atrocious day, struggling
against the sleepiness that assailed him the moment he
took his seat at the desk. His head, in spite of every
effort, would drop among his papers, and he would lift
ii with a start on hearing the footsteps of one of his


chefs. This constant struggling broke down his
strength and made him feel teally ill.

That night, in spite of his fatigue, he went to see
Th^r^se. He found her feverish and Ul ; quite as weary
as he was himself.

" Our poor Th^r^se had a very bad night," said
Madame Eaquin, as soon as he was seated. "It seems
that she had a succession of nightmares whenever she
fell asleep. I heard her cry out several times during
the night, and this morning she was really ill."

While her aunt spoke, Th6rese looked steadily at
Laurent. Without doubt, they divined each other's
secret terrors, for each shuddered. They sat until ten
o'clock, talking of common-place things, each entreat-
ing the other — with eyes if not with lips — to hasten
the moment when they could stand united against the
drowned man.




THERESE, too, had been visited by the spectre of
Camille, during this night of fever.

Laurent's passionate words, after months of seeming
indifference, had greatly disturbed her. Her slumbers
were restless, and she, too, in the silent watches of the
night, had seen Camille's ghost arise, and like Laurent,
she, too, had said that she should know no such fears
when her lover was at last near her.

Thus at the same hour, these two guilty beings — this
man and this woman — were strangely drawn together
once more. They shuddered with the same cold
fright — they had, so to speak, but one soul and one
body with which to suffer. This sympathy, this mutual
permeation — if we may be allowed the expression —
is a psychological and physiological fact which often
occurs between persons who, by a succession of great
nervous shocks, are driven toward each other.

For more than a year, Th^r^se and Laurent had
worn the chain that bound them together very lightly.
In the dull exhaustion that followed the sharp crisis of
the murder — in the disgust and need of forgetfulness
that succeeded this exhaustion — these two criminals
had come to believe that they were free, and that no


iron bond united them. The chain dragged on the
ground between them and they forgot it. They were
wrapped in slumbrous content, and even sought to
turn their affections elsewhere and to live, each without
the aid and support of the other.

But on the day when, impelled by remorseless facts,
they had again exchanged words of tenderness, the
chain was violently wrenched and they felt a shock
which told them that they were forever bound to-

Early the next day, Th^rdse went to work and paved
the way for her marriage with Laurent. It was a
dif&cult task and one that was full of peril. The
lovers trembled lest they should commit some impru-
dence, and awaken suspicions by showing that they
had some interest in the death of CamUle. Realizing
that it was wiser that the proposition should be made
to them by Madame Raquin and her friends, rather
than by themselves, they determined to suggest the
idea delicately to these good people and allow it to
ripen in their minds, and finally lead them to believe
that they had originated it.

This comedy was long and difficult to plan. Th^rdse
and Laurent argued together as to the course they
should pursue. They advanced with extreme caution,
carefully weighing each word and each gesture, all the
time devoured by impatience and nervous excitement.
Thus they lived in the midst of incessant irritation,
and required aU their strength to keep up a semblance
of smiles and serenity.


If they wished to hasten their marriage, it was
because each was afraid to be alone, for now each
night Camille's spectre haunted their sleepless couches.
Th^r^se no longer dared to go up to her room in the
twilight, and when she was obliged to retire for the
night, it seemed to her impossible that she could ever
shut herself into that large, cold room, whose desolate
height was peopled with strange shadows as soon as the
light was extinguished. She fell into a habit of leav-
ing her candle burning, and when her weary lids finally
closed, she saw Camille in the darkness and opened her
eyes with a start.

In the morning she dragged herself down stairs,
exhausted and depressed, having slept at the most not
more than two or three hours.

As to Laurent, he had become an arrant coward.
Before that, he had never known what fear was — now,
at the least unwonted sound, he started and turned
pale, like a timid boy. His limbs had once shivered
with terror, and this terror had never left them since.

At night he suffered more than Th^rdse — he saw
the day grow old with absolute agony — he watched
the gradually growing darkness with a heart sinking
vnth dread, and several times he spent the night in the
deserted streets. Once he remained until daybreak
under the shelter of a bridge, though it was raining
hard. Stiff with cold, he for six hours watched the
dull waters of the river running past, bearing on their
breast, as it seemed to him, crowds of drowned men

134 th1ir]5Se raquik.

and women, borne onward by the current. When some-
times he was so pitifully weary that he could hardly
drag one foot after another, he would crawl up the stairs
of his hotel, and throwing himself on his bed, would
lie with wide open eyes until it was time for him to go
to his office. If he dropped off into a feverish slum-
ber, be regularly dreamed that he held ThdrSse in bis
arms, and that when bis lips sought hers they met
Camille's. These repeated shocks wore on his huge
frame until he looked and felt as if he had had a long
attack of illness.

This grew worse and worse ; they longed for each
other only that they might sleep in peace. They had
hesitated for a time whether this marriage should ever

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Online LibraryÉmile ZolaThérèse Raquin : a novel → online text (page 6 of 15)