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like a battle-cry, the name Bastide Grammont, a plaything
for her dreams.

An expression of relief flitted over the faces of the men
upon this first syllable of a significant confession. Presi-
dent Seguret covered his eyes with his hand. He resolved
in his heart to renounce his love for his misguided child.
Clarissa felt it; all the ties which had hitherto bound her
were broken.

She had, then, been in the room on the evening of the
nineteenth of March? she was asked. She nodded. How
had she come there? questioned Monsieur Jausion further,
and his tone and mien were marked by a certain cautious-
ness and nicety, as if he feared to disturb the still timorous
spirits of memory. Clarissa remained silent. Had she
come by way of the Rue des Hebdomadiers ? asked the
Prefect. Clarissa nodded. " Speak! Speak! " thundered
Monsieur Seguret suddenly, and even the two sheriff's
ofiQcers were startled.

'' I met several persons," Clarissa whispered in a tone
so low that all involuntarily bent their heads forward.


* ' I was afraid of them, and I ran, from fear, into the first
open house."

Monsieur Jausion winked to the clerk. " Into this house,
then? " he asked in a caressing voice, while the clerk seated
himself on the bench near the stove and wrote in a crouch-
ing position.

Clarissa continued in the same plaintive whisper: ''I
opened the door of this room. Somebody seized me by the
arm and led me into the alcove. He enjoined me to be silent.
It was Bastide Grammont."

At last the name! But how different it was to pro-
nounce it than merely to think it! Clarissa paused, while
she closed her eyes and elapsed her hands convulsively.
** After leaving me alone a while," she resumed as if speak-
ing in her sleep, ' ' he returned, bade me follow him and led
me into the street. There he stood still and asked whether
I knew him. I first said yes, then no. Thereupon he asked
me if I had seen anything, and I said no. ' Go away! ' he
ordered, and I went. But I had not reached the centre of
the town when he was again at my side and took my hand
in his. ' I am not one of the murderers,' he protested, ' I
met you and my only object was to save you. Swear that
you will remain silent, swear on your father's life.' I
swore, whereupon he left me. And that is all."

Monsieur Jausion smiled skeptically. " You claim,
Madame, to have fled in here from the street, ' ' he remarked,
** but it has been established by unexceptionable testimony
that the gate was locked from eight o'clock on. How do
you explain that? "

Clarissa remained mute, even her breath seemed to stop.
The Prefect motioned to Monsieur Jausion to desist; for
the present enough had been attained, it was enough that
Bastide Grammont had been recognized by Clarissa. The
resolve to force the criminal, who denied all share in the
guilt, to a confession by having him unexpectedly confront
the \\atness, came as a matter of course.

The gentlemen led Clarissa to the carriage, as she was


scarcely able to walk. At home she lapsed into a peculiar
state. First she lay back lethargically in a chair ; suddenly
she sprang up and cried: " Take away the murderers! "
The door opened and the terrified face of a servant ap-
peared in the crack. All the domestics stood waiting in the
hall, most of them resolved to leave the President's service.
Clarissa saw herself deprived of all the protection of love,
and cast out from the circle where birth is respected and
binding forms are recognized as the least of duties. She
was exposed to every eye, the boldest gaze could pry into
her inmost soul, she had become a public object, nothing
about her was any longer her own, she herself could no
longer find herself, find anything in herself upon which
she could lean, she was branded, without and within, food
for the general prurience, tossed defenselessly upon the
filthy floods of gossip, the centre of a fearful occurrence
from which she could no more dissever her thoughts. 'Sad-
ness, grief, anxiety, scorn, these were no longer feelings
for her, her blood coursed too wildly for that ; uncertainty
of herself dominated her, doubts as to her perception,
doubts as to visible things in general; and now and then
she would prick her finger with a needle just to feel the
pain, which would serve as evidence of her being awake
and might preserve her heart from decay. Added to this,
the torment she suffered from the intrusive : appeals to tell
the truth, the jeers from below, the command from above,
the thirst for revenge and the ineffaceableness of a word
once spoken; lastly, she saw the whole world filled with
red tongues, ceaselessly chattering; bloody tongues with
snakelike movements, directed toward her; every object
she touched turned into a slippery tongue. Human counte-
nances grew dim, save one, which, despite guilt and con-
demnation, was enthroned, in heroic suffering, high above
the others, nay, appeared preeminent through his guilt as
well as his defiance. And the day she was told that she
was to confront Bastide Grammont in order to accuse him,
her pulses beat in joyous measure again for the first time,
and she arrayed herself as if for a festival.


The meeting was to take place in the magistrate's office.
Besides Monsieur Jausion and his clerks, Counselor Pinaud,
who had returned, was present. Monsieur Jausion cast a
malicious glance at him over his spectacles as Clarissa
Mirabel, decked in lace, rustled in, bowed smiling to the
gentlemen, and then swept her gaze with cheerful calmness
over the inhospitable room. From a frame in the centre
of the wall the fat and ill-humored face of the King looked
down upon her, as ill-humored as if each one of his subjects
were especially repugnant to him. She forgot that it was
only a picture that hung before her and looked up with a
coquettish pout.

The magistrate made a sign, a side-door was thrown
open, and Bastide Grammont, with hands chained together
and with an officer of justice on either side of him, walked
in. Clarissa gave a low cry and her face turned livid.

Prison atmosphere enveloped Bastide. The shaggy hair,
the long, neglected beard, the staring, somewhat dazed look,
the slight stoop, as of a carrier of burdens, of the gigantic
form, the secretly quivering wrath upon his newly furrowed
brow — all proclaimed their cause and origin. Yes, he
seemed to carry about him the invisible walls which filled
him with agony and gloom, and which, month after month,
pictured to him with more and more hopeless brilliance
the images of freedom, until finally they refused to delude
him with blooming tree or flourishing field; then they re-
sembled the desolate gray of an autumn evening, when the
air already smacks of winter, the hearse rattles oftener
than usual past the garden-gate toward the little church-
yard, and the rising half -moon floats in glowing radiance
in the misty azure like a bleeding, divided heart.

And yet that haughty eye, in which shone the resolve to
be true to himself? And yet that strangely bitter scorn in
his mien which might be compared to the cautious and at
the same time majestic crouching of a tiger cat? The in-
finite contempt with which he looked at the hands of the
clerks, prepared to write, his inner freedom and grand
detachment in spite of the handcuffs and the two soldiers?


It was this that wrung the cry from Clarissa's lips, and
drove the mad merriment from her face. Not, indeed, be-
cause she was forced to behold the former genius of the
woods and wilds bound and shattered, but because she recog-
nized as in a flash of lightning that that hand could not have
wielded a murderous knife, that such a deed did not touch
the circle of his being, even if he may have been capable of
the act, and that all was in vain, an incomprehensible intoxi-
cation and madness, an impenetrable horror, an exhibition
of hypocrisy and disease, A dizziness seized her as if she
were falling from a high tower. She was ashamed of her
showy dress, its conspicuous finery, and in passionate excite-
ment she tore the costly lace from her arms and, with an
expression of the utmost loathing, threw it on the ground.

Monsieur Jausion must have interpreted it differently.
Again he smiled at Monsieur Pinaud, but this time in tri-
umph, as if he would say: the sample tallies. '' Do you
know this lady, Bastide Orammont? " he asked the pris-
oner. Bastide turned his head aside, and his look of care-
less, bitter disdain cut Clarissa to the quick. '' I don't
know her, ' ' he replied gloomily, ' ' I have never seen her. ' '

And once more Monsieur Jausion smiled, as if to correct
a parsing error, and murmured: " That is not possible;
Madame Mirabel, dressed at that time as a man, and with
a hat with green feathers, was in the Bancal house, and
was led by you yourself to the street, where you received
her oath. I beg you to call it to mind."

Bastide 's face contracted as if at the annoying persis-
tence of a fly, and he repeated in a loud, energetic tone:
" I don't know the lady. I have never seen her." And
his tightly compressed lips betrayed his firm resolve to
remain silent.

Monsieur Jausion adjusted his wig and looked troubled.
'■ ' What answer have you to that, Madame ? " he asked^
addressing Clarissa.

*' He may not know that I saw him," she said in a
whisper, but her voice had the penetrating quality of the
chirping of a cricket.


Bastide turned toward her once more, and in the some-
what oblique glance of his wearily brilliant eyes there was
a mixture of curiosity and scorn, no more, however, than
would be bestowed upon a mushroom or a spider. Inwardly
he weighed, as it were, the slender, childlike form, won-
dered casually at the agitation of her gestures, her flashing
eyes, the helpless twitching of her lips, wondered at the
lace lying on the floor, and thought he was dreaming when
he became aware that an imploring gesture of her hands
was meant for him.

The magistrate sprang up and, with distorted face, cried :
" Do not jest with us, Madame, it may cost you dear.
Speak out, then! A forced oath is not valid! The peace
of your fellow-citizens, the peace of the country is at stake.
Free yourself from the spell of the wretched being! Your
infamous smile, Grammont, will be laid to your account on
the day of the sentence."

Counselor Pinaud stepped forward and murmured a few
words into the ear of Bastide, who lifted his arms, and
with an expression of consuming rage pressed his clenched,
chained hands to his eyes. Clarissa staggered to the
magistrate's table, and while a deadly pallor overspread
her cheeks, she shrieked : ' ' It is all a lie ! Lie ! Lie ! ' '

Monsieur Jausion measured her from head to foot.
" Then I place you in the position of an accused person,
Madame, and declare you under arrest."

A gleam of mournful satisfaction flitted over Clarissa's
features. Swiftly, with the lightning-like wheeling of a
dancer, she turned toward Bastide Grammont, looked at
him as one looks up at a stormy sky after a sultry day,
and with a pained, long-drawn breath, she called his name
in a low voice. He, however, stepped back as if at an
impure touch, and never before had Clarissa encountered
such a glance and expression of disdain. Her knees shook,
a feeling of distress overcame her, her eyes filled with
tears. It was only when the door of the prison closed
behind her that the helpless sensation of being flogged left


her. Shame and remorse overpowered her; even the
mysteriousness of her position afforded her but slight con-
solation. Controlled by no law, she seemed to have been
shoved off the track upon which, in the ordinary course
of nature, cause and effect, cumbrously linked together,
crawl along in the slow process of experience.

In accordance with her station, she had been assigned
the best room in the prison. The first hours she lay on
the straw-bed and writhed in agony. When the keeper on
her urgent request brought a light, as she feared she would
go insane in the darkness, the candle-light fell upon the
image of Christ upon the cross with the crown of thorns,
which hung upon the gray-tinted wall. She gave a shriek,
her overstrained senses found in the features of the Saviour
a resemblance to those of Bastide Grammont. His lips had
had the same agonized curve w^hen he pressed his clenched
hands to his eyes.

Once more she rebelled against the boundless injustice.
To live with the world was her real element; her entire
nature was attuned to a kindly understanding with people.
She asked for paper and pen, and wrote a letter to the

' ' Justice, Count ! ' ' she wrote. " It is still time to pre-
vent the worst. Remember the difficulty you had in extort-
ing from me what was supposed to be the truth, remember
the threats which made me compliant. I am a victim of
circumstances. Whatever I confessed is false. No man of
sense can discover the stamp of probability in my state-
ments. In a freak of desperation I bore false witness.
Tell my father that his cruelty is more sure to rob him of
his daughter than her seeming transgression. Already I
know not what I should believe, the past escapes my m-em-
ory, my confidence begins to totter. If it is too much to
ask for justice, then I beg for mercy. My destiny seeks to
try me, but my heart is clear as the day. ' '

It was in vain. It was too late for words, even if the
mouth of a prophet had proclaimed them in tones of


From, the Paintirig by Riuiolf Biemerschmid ^


thunder. The next morning many of the witnesses and
prisoners were brought before Clarissa. Thus there were
Bach, the Bancals, the soldier Colard, Eose Feral, Mis-
sonier, and little Madeleine Bancal. Bousquier was ill.
The sight of the crushed, slouching, phantom-like creatures,
intimidated by a hundred torments, revengefully ready for
any deed, disturbed her to the core, and gave her at the
same time a feeling of indelible contamination. " Is she
the one? " each of the unfortunates was asked — and with
insolent indifference they answered : * ' It is she. ' ' Mis-
sonier alone stood there laughing like an idiot.

Clarissa was amazed. She had not expected that the
answers would be characterized by such assurance, such a
matter-of-fact air. With inward sobs she held from her
what was undeniable in the present situation, and shudder-
ingly sought a path in her memory to that past situation
on which the present w^as founded and which she was asked
to verify. Her agitated spirit crept back to her earlier
years, back to her youth, to her childhood, in order to dis-
cover her inimical second-self; that which had seemed weird
and strange gradually became the essence and centre of
her being, and the fateful night in Bancal's house turned,
like the rest of the world, into a vision of blood and

But athwart the gloomy fancies the way led to Bastide
Grammont; a flowery path among burning houses. It
seemed fine to her to be assured of his guilt. Perchance he
had pressed his lips to hers before he had clutched the
murderous knife. She coupled her own obscurely felt guilt
with his greater one. That which cut him off from human-
ity bound him to her. His reasons for the deed? She did
not concern herself about them. No doubt it had struck
root when she had first beheld him, when he had swallowed
in a breath all the wood, all the springtime. No matter
whether he dipped his hands in the sunlight or in blood,
both pertained to his image, to her mysterious passion, and
Fualdes was the evil genius and the destructive principle.


''Ah," she reflected in her singular musing, " had I known
of it, I should have committed the deed myself and might
have been a heroine like Charlotte Corday! " Why, how-
ever, did he deny it, why was he silent? Why that look of
overwhelming contempt, which she could not forget and
which still scorched her skin like a brand of infamy? Was
he too proud to bow to a sentence which put his crime on
a level with that of any highwayman? No doubt he did
not recognize his judges. She could, then, draw him down
to herself, make him dependent upon the breath of her
lips; and she forgot the iron alternatives that confront
one's destiny here, and let herself go like a child that knows
nothing of death.

The trial before the court of assizes was set for the six-
teenth of October. At noon of the tenth, Clarissa requested
an interview with Monsieur Jausion. Conducted before the
magistrate, she declared she knew about the whole matter,
and wished to confess everything. In a voice trembling
with excitement. Monsieur Jausion summoned his clerks.

' ' I came into the room and saw the knife glisten, ' '
Clarissa confessed. " I took refuge in the alcove, Bastide
Grammont hurried after me, embraced and kissed me. He
confided to me that Fualdes must die, for the old devil had
destroyed his happiness and made life worthless to him.
Bastide was intoxicated, as it were, with enthusiasm, and
when I raised objections, he stopped my mouth with kisses
once more, yes, he kissed me so hard that I could not offer
any resistance. Then he had me take an oath, w^hereupon
he left me and I heard a groaning, I heard a terrible cry;
little Madeleine Bancal, who was lying in bed, raised her-
self suddenly and wept. Then I lost consciousness, and
when I regained it I found myself in the street."

She recounted this story in a mechanically measured
tone; her voice had a metallic ring, her eyes were veiled
and half closed, her little hands hung heavy at her side,
and when she ceased she gazed before her with a pleased


" You had consorted with Bastide Grammont before that,
then? " questioned the Magistrate.

'' Yes, we met in the forest. In the neighborhood of
La Morne there is an old well in the field; there, also, we
used to meet frequently ; particularly at night and by moon-
light. Once Bastide took me on his horse and we rode at
a furious pace to the gorge at Guignol. I asked, ' A¥hat
are you fleeing from, Bastide ? ' for I was cold with fright ;
and he whispered : ' From myself and from the world. '
Otherwise, however, he was always gentle. I have never
known a better man. ' '

More and more silvery rang her voice, and finally she
spoke like one transported or asleep. Her statement was
read aloud to her; she affixed her signature calmly and
without hesitation, whereupon Monsieur Jausion stated
to her that she was free.

In the chateau she was met by a hostile silence. The
few domestics who remained whispered insolently behind
her back. Nobody looked to her comfort, she had to fetch
the pitcher of water herself from the kitchen. In the mean-
time when President Seguret returned home, he already
knew, as did the whole town, about Clarissa's confession.
The circumstance of her amorous relation to Bastide shed
a sudden light upon preceding events and wove a halo about
her former silence. But Monsieur Seguret only hardened
his heart all the more, and when he passed her as she stood
on the threshold of her room, he turned away his head with
a gesture of disgust.

In the evening the President entertained a number of
his friends. In the course of the meal the door opened and
Clarissa made her appearance. Monsieur Seguret sprang
from his chair, rage robbing him of speech. " Do not
dare," he stammered hoarsely, " do not dare! "

Regardless of that, Clarissa advanced to the edge of the
table. A radiant, bewitching expression lit up her counte-
nance. She turned her full gaze upon her father, so that
he dropped his glance as if dazzled. " Do not revile me,
father," she said gently in a tone of captivating entreaty.


She turned to one of the guests with a commonplace
question. The gentleman addressed hesitated, seemed con-
founded, astonished, but was unable to resist. Her fea-
tures, pallid from the prison atmosphere, had acquired
something dreamily spiritual ; the most ordinary word from
her lips had a charm of its own.

The conversation became general ; the guests conquered,
nay, forgot, their secret amazement. Clarissa's wit and
playful humor exercised a great fascination. Along with
them, there was a sensuously pungent air about her which
does not escape men, her gestures had something flattering,
her eyes glowed with a romantic fire. Disturbed, lending
but a reluctant ear. Monsieur Seguret could, nevertheless,
not wholly evade the witchery which took his guests cap-
tive. A power stronger than his resolve forced him to
leniency; he took a timid share in the conversation, in
spite of the heavy load upon his heart. The talk turned
upon politics, books, art, hunting, the war, nothing and
everything — a sparkling interchange of polished phrases
and sparkling reflections, of smiles and plaudits, jest and
earnest. At times it seemed like a scene in a play enacted
with masterly skill, or as if a light intoxication induced by
champagne had exhilarated their spirits; each one was at
his best and strove to outdo himself, and Clarissa held and
led them all, like a fairy who upon a chariot of clouds
guides a flock of pigeons.

Shortly after midnight she rose, a fleeting, complacent,
capricious smile flashing across her face, and, with a rather
affected bow, she left the room, the men relapsing into a
sudden, strange silence. Monsieur Seguret was agitated
when he conducted his guests to the door, and they left the
chateau as silently as thieves.

The President strode up and down the entrance-hall
awhile, his thoughts chasing each other like a fleeing troop
of wild animals. As the echo of his footsteps struck him
unpleasantly, he stepped out into the garden, and, strolling
in the winding paths, he inhaled the fresh night air with


a feeling of relief. As lie was leaving the avenue of yews,
a streak of light fell across the path; Monsieur Seguret
stepped upon the low wall encircling a small fountain and
could thus look into Clarissa 's room, the windows of which
stood open. With difficulty he refrained from crying out
in astonishment on beholding Clarissa in a loose night-
dress, dancing with an expression of ecstasy and with
passionate movements. Her eyes were tightly closed, as
if they were sealed, her eyebrows lifted in coquettish
anxiety, her shoulders rocked in a stream of inaudible
tones whose tempo seemed now hurried, now excessively
slow. Suddenly she seized something and held it before
her, — it was a mirror; glancing into it, she recoiled with
a shudder and let it fall, so that the listener could hear
the clinking of the broken glass; then she went up to the
window, tore her dress from her bosom, laid her hand upon
her bare breast and looked straight in the direction w^here
Monsieur Seguret was standing. He crouched down as if
a gun had been aimed at him; Clarissa, however, did not
see him ; she fixed her gaze awhile upon the sweeping clouds
and then closed the window. The President remained
standing at his post some time longer and was unable to
divert the current of his thoughts. AVhom is she deceiving?
he pondered, distressed — herself, or people in general, or

For the first time in many days Clarissa enjoyed a peace-
ful sleep once more. Yet when she laid herself in her white
bed the pillows seemed to assume a purple hue and she
fell into slumber as into an abyss. She dreamed of land-
scapes, of weird old houses, and of a sky that looked like
clotted blood. She herself wandered in the silvery light,
and without feeling any touch or seeing any human form,
she nevertheless had a sensation of passionate kisses being
pressed upon her lips, and there w^as a stirring in her body
as of life taking shape.

This strange mood and agitation endured for days after-
ward. A silvery veil lay between her and the world. For


fear of rending it, she spoke in low tones and walked with
measured steps ; beyond it, the sun had no more illuminat-
ing power than the moon. When, on the evening before
the trial, she was returning from a stroll in the fields, she
saw two women standing in the gateway of the chateau.
One of them hurried forward to meet her, threw herself
on her knees and seized her hands. It was Charlotte
Arlabosse. '' What have you done? " murmured the
beautiful girl, panting. ''He is innocent, by Christ's
Passion, he is innocent ! Have mercy, Madame, even if not
upon me, at least upon his old mother ! "

The crimson of the setting sun lit up her features, dis-

Online LibraryKuno FranckeThe German classics : masterpieces of German literature translated into English (Volume 20) → online text (page 4 of 34)