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AngelaCarter­TheBloodyChamberAndOtherStories

PublishedbythePenguinGroup PenguinBooksUSAInc.,

375HudsonStreet,NewYork,NewYork10014,U.S.A.

PenguinBooksLtd,27WrightsLane,LondonW85TZ,England

PenguinBooksAustraliaLtd,Ringwood,Victoria,Australia

PenguinBooksCanadaLtd.,10AlcornAvenue,

Toronto,Ontario,CanadaM4V3B2

PenguinBooks(N.Z.)Ltd,182­190WairauRoad,

Auckland10,NewZealand

PenguinBooksLtd,RegisteredOffices:

Harmondsworth,Middlesex,England

FirstpublishedinGreatBritainbyVictorGollanczLtd.1979

FirstpublishedintheUnitedStatesofAmericaby

Harper&Row,Publishers,Inc.1980

PublishedinPenguinBooks(UK)1981

PublishedinPenguinBooks(USA)1987

Thiseditionpublished1993

17192018

Copyright©AngelaCarter,1979

Allrightsreserved

Someofthestoriesinthiscollectionoriginallyappearedinsomewhatdifferentform,inthefollowingpublications:"TheCourtshipofMr. Lyon,"BritishVogue,"TheErl­King"and"TheCompanyofWolves,"Bananas;"TheLadyoftheHouseofLove,"TheIowaReview;"The Werewolf,"South­WestArtsReview;"Wolf­Alice,"Stand;allarereprintedherewiththepermissionoftheeditors."TheSnowChild"was

broadcastontheBBCRadio4programNotNow,I'mListening."Puss­in­Boots"appearedinananthology,TheStrawandtheGold,editedby

EmmaTennant(PierrotBooks,1979).

ISBN01401.7821X

PrintedintheUnitedStatesofAmerica

SetinMonotypeEhrhardt

ExceptintheUnitedStatesofAmerica,thisbookissoldsubjecttotheconditionthatitshallnot,bywayoftradeorotherwise,belent,re­sold,

hiredout,orotherwisecirculatedwithoutthepublisher'spriorconsentinanyformofbindingorcoverotherthanthatinwhichitispublished

andwithoutasimilarconditionincludingthisconditionbeingimposedonthesubsequentpurchaser.

Contents TheBloodyChamber TheCourtshipofMrLyon

Contents

TheBloodyChamber

TheCourtshipofMrLyon

TheTiger'sBride

Puss­in­Boots

TheErl­King

TheSnowChild

TheLadyoftheHouseofLove

TheWerewolf

TheCompanyofWolves

Wolf­Alice

TheBloodyChamber

Irememberhow,thatnight,Ilayawakeinthewagon­litinatender,deliciousecstasyofexcitement,myburningcheekpressedagainstthe

impeccablelinenofthepillowandthepoundingofmyheartmimickingthatofthegreatpistonsceaselesslythrustingthetrainthatboreme

throughthenight,awayfromParis,awayfromgirlhood,awayfromthewhite,enclosedquietudeofmymother'sapartment,intotheunguessable

countryofmarriage.

AndIrememberItenderlyimaginedhow,atthisverymoment,mymotherwouldbemovingslowlyaboutthenarrowbedroomIhadleftbehind

forever,foldingupandputtingawayallmylittlerelics,thetumbledgarmentsIwouldnotneedanymore,thescoresforwhichtherehadbeen

noroominmytrunks,theconcertprogrammesI'dabandoned;shewouldlingeroverthistornribbonandthatfadedphotographwithallthehalf­

joyous,half­sorrowfulemotionsofawomanonherdaughter'sweddingday.And,inthemidstofmybridaltriumph,Ifeltapangoflossasif,

whenheputthegoldbandonmyfinger,Ihad,insomeway,ceasedtobeherchildinbecominghiswife.

Areyousure,she'dsaidwhentheydeliveredthegiganticboxthatheldtheweddingdresshe'dboughtme,wrappedupintissuepaperandred

ribbonlikeaChristmasgiftofcrystallizedfruit.Areyousureyoulovehim?Therewasadressforher,too;blacksilk,withthedull,prismatic

sheenofoilonwater,finerthananythingshe'dwornsincethatadventurousgirlhoodinIndo­China,daughterofarichteaplanter.Myeagle­

featured,indomitablemother;whatotherstudentattheConservatoirecouldboastthathermotherhadoutfacedajunkfulofChinesepirates,

nursedavillagethroughavisitationoftheplague,shotaman­eatingtigerwithherownhandandallbeforeshewasasoldasI?

'Areyousureyoulovehim?'

'I'msureIwanttomarryhim,'Isaid.

Andwouldsaynomore.Shesighed,asifitwaswithreluctancethatshemightatlastbanishthespectreofpovertyfromitshabitualplaceatour

meagretable.Formymotherherselfhadgladly,scandalously,defiantlybeggaredherselfforlove;and,onefineday,hergallantsoldiernever

returnedfromthewars,leavinghiswifeandchildalegacyoftearsthatneverquitedried,acigarboxfullofmedalsandtheantiqueservice

revolverthatmymother,grownmagnificentlyeccentricinhardship,keptalwaysinherreticule,incase­­howIteasedher­­shewassurprisedby

footpadsonherwayhomefromthegrocer'sshop.

Nowandthenastarburstoflightsspatteredthedrawnblindsasiftherailwaycompanyhadlitupallthestationsthroughwhichwepassedin celebrationofthebride.Mysatinnightdresshadjustbeenshakenfromitswrappings;ithadslippedovermyyounggirl'spointedbreastsand shoulders,suppleasagarmentofheavywater,andnowteasinglycaressedme,egregious,insinuating,nudgingbetweenmythighsasIshifted restlesslyinmynarrowberth.Hiskiss,hiskisswithtongueandteethinitandaraspofbeard,hadhintedtome,thoughwiththesameexquisite tactasthisnightdresshe'dgivenme,oftheweddingnight,whichwouldbevoluptuouslydeferreduntilwelayinhisgreatancestralbedinthe sea­girt,pinnacleddomainthatlay,still,beyondthegraspofmyimagination thatmagicplace,thefairycastlewhosewallsweremadeof foam,thatlegendaryhabitationinwhichhehadbeenborn.Towhich,oneday,Imightbearanheir.Ourdestination,mydestiny.

Abovethesyncopatedroarofthetrain,Icouldhearhiseven,steadybreathing.Onlythecommunicatingdoorkeptmefrommyhusbandandit

stoodopen.IfIroseuponmyelbow,Icouldseethedark,leonineshapeofhisheadandmynostrilscaughtawhiffoftheopulentmalescentof

leatherandspicesthatalwaysaccompaniedhimandsometimes,duringhiscourtship,hadbeentheonlyhinthegavemethathehadcomeinto

mymother'ssittingroom,for,thoughhewasabigman,hemovedassoftlyasifallhisshoeshadsolesofvelvet,asifhisfootfallturnedthe

carpetintosnow.

Hehadlovedtosurprisemeinmyabstractedsolitudeatthepiano.Hewouldtellthemnottoannouncehim,thensoundlesslyopenthedoorand

softlycreepupbehindmewithhisbouquetofhot­houseflowersorhisboxofmarronsglacés,layhisofferinguponthekeysandclasphishands

overmyeyesasIwaslostinaDebussyprelude.Butthatperfumeofspicedleatheralwaysbetrayedhim;aftermyfirstshock,Iwasforced

alwaystomimicsurprise,sothathewouldnotbedisappointed.

HewasolderthanI.HewasmucholderthanI;therewerestreaksofpuresilverinhisdarkmane.Buthisstrange,heavy,almostwaxenfacewas

notlinedbyexperience.Rather,experienceseemedtohavewasheditperfectlysmooth,likeastoneonabeachwhosefissureshavebeeneroded

bysuccessivetides.Andsometimesthatface,instillnesswhenhelistenedtomeplaying,withtheheavyeyelidsfoldedovereyesthatalways

disturbedmebytheirabsoluteabsenceoflight,seemedtomelikeamask,asifhisrealface,thefacethattrulyreflectedallthelifehehadledin

theworldbeforehemetme,before,even,Iwasborn,asthoughthatfacelayunderneaththismask.Orelse,elsewhere.Asthoughhehadlaidby

thefaceinwhichhehadlivedforsolonginordertooffermyyouthafaceunsignedbytheyears.

And,elsewhere,Imightseehimplain.Elsewhere.But,where?

In,perhaps,thatcastletowhichthetrainnowtookus,thatmarvellouscastleinwhichhehadbeenborn.

Evenwhenheaskedmetomarryhim,andIsaid:'Yes,'stillhedidnotlosethatheavy,fleshycomposureofhis.Iknowitmustseemacurious

analogy,amanwithaflower,butsometimesheseemedtomelikealily.Yes.Alily.Possessedofthatstrange,ominouscalmofasentient

vegetable,likeoneofthosecobra­headed,funereallilieswhosewhitesheathsarecurledoutofafleshasthickandtenselyyieldingtothetouch

asvellum.WhenIsaidthatIwouldmarryhim,notonemuscleinhisfacestirred,butheletoutalong,extinguishedsigh.Ithought:Oh!howhe

mustwantme!AnditwasasthoughtheimponderableweightofhisdesirewasaforceImightnotwithstand,notbyvirtueofitsviolencebut

becauseofitsverygravity.

Hehadtheringreadyinaleatherboxlinedwithcrimsonvelvet,afireopalthesizeofapigeon'seggsetinacomplicatedcircleofdarkantique gold.Myoldnurse,whostilllivedwithmymotherandme,squintedattheringaskance:opalsarebadluck,shesaid.Butthisopalhadbeenhis ownmother'sring,andhisgrandmother's,andhermother'sbeforethat,giventoanancestorbyCatherinedeMedici everybridethatcameto thecastleworeit,timeoutofmind.Anddidhegiveittohisotherwivesandhaveitbackfromthem?askedtheoldwomanrudely;yetshewas asnob.Shehidherincredulousjoyatmymaritalcoup­­herlittleMarquise­­behindafaçadeoffault­finding.But,here,shetouchedme.I shruggedandturnedmybackpettishlyonher.Ididnotwanttorememberhowhehadlovedotherwomenbeforeme,buttheknowledgeoften teasedmeinthethreadbareself­confidenceofthesmallhours.

Iwasseventeenandknewnothingoftheworld;myMarquishadbeenmarriedbefore,morethanonce,andIremainedalittlebemusedthat,

afterthoseothers,heshouldnowhavechosenme.Indeed,washenotstillinmourningforhislastwife?Tsk,tsk,wentmyoldnurse.

Andevenmymotherhadbeenreluctanttoseehergirlwhiskedoffbyamansorecentlybereaved.ARomaniancountess,aladyofhighfashion.

DeadjustthreeshortmonthsbeforeImethim,aboatingaccident,athishome,inBrittany.TheyneverfoundherbodybutIrummagedthrough

thebackcopiesofthesocietymagazinesmyoldnannykeptinatrunkunderherbedandtrackeddownherphotograph.Thesharpmuzzleofa

pretty,witty,naughtymonkey;suchpotentandbizarrecharm,ofadark,bright,wildyetworldlythingwhosenaturalhabitatmusthavebeen

someluxuriousinteriordecorator'sjunglefilledwithpottedpalmsandtame,squawkingparakeets.

Beforethat?Herfaceiscommonproperty;everyonepaintedherbuttheRedonengravingIlikedbest,TheEveningStarWalkingontheRimof

Night.Toseeherskeletal,enigmaticgrace,youwouldneverthinkshehadbeenabarmaidinacaféinMontmartreuntilPuvisdeChavannes

sawherandhadherexposeherflatbreastsandelongatedthighstohisbrush.Andyetitwastheabsinthedoomedher,orsotheysaid.

Thefirstofallhisladies?Thatsumptuousdiva;IhadheardhersingIsolde,precociouslymusicalchildthatIwas,takentotheoperafora

birthdaytreat.Myfirstopera;IhadheardhersingIsolde.Withwhatwhite­hotpassionhadsheburnedfromthestage!Sothatyoucouldtellshe

woulddieyoung.Wesathighup,halfwaytoheaveninthegods,yetshehalf­blindedme.Andmyfather,stillalive(oh,solongago),tookhold

ofmystickylittlehand,tocomfortme,inthelastact,yetallIheardwasthegloryofhervoice.

Marriedthreetimeswithinmyownbrieflifetimetothreedifferentgraces,now,asiftodemonstratetheeclecticismofhistaste,hehadinvited

metojointhisgalleryofbeautifulwomen,I,thepoorwidow'schildwithmymouse­colouredhairthatstillborethekinksoftheplaitsfrom

whichithadsorecentlybeenfreed,mybonyhips,mynervous,pianist'sfingers.

HewasrichasCroesus.Thenightbeforeourwedding­­asimpleaffair,attheMairie,becausehiscountesswassorecentlygone­­hetookmy

motherandme,curiouscoincidence,toseeTristan.And,doyouknow,myheartswelledandachedsoduringtheLiebestodthatIthoughtI

musttrulylovehim.Yes.Idid.Onhisarm,alleyeswereuponme.ThewhisperingcrowdinthefoyerpartedliketheRedSeatoletusthrough.

Myskincrispedathistouch.

HowmycircumstanceshadchangedsincethefirsttimeIheardthosevoluptuouschordsthatcarrysuchachargeofdeathlypassioninthem!

Now,wesatinaloge,inredvelvetarmchairs,andabraided,bewiggedflunkeybroughtusasilverbucketoficedchampagneintheinterval.

Thefrothspilledovertherimofmyglassanddrenchedmyhands,Ithought:Mycuprunnethover.AndIhadonaPoiretdress.Hehad

prevaileduponmyreluctantmothertolethimbuymytrousseau;whatwouldIhavegonetohimin,otherwise?Twice­darnedunderwear,faded

gingham,sergeskirts,hand­me­downs.So,fortheopera,Iworeasinuousshiftofwhitemuslintiedwithasilkstringunderthebreasts.And

everyonestaredatme.Andathisweddinggift.

Hisweddinggift,claspedroundmythroat.Achokerofrubies,twoincheswide,likeanextraordinarilypreciousslitthroat.

AftertheTerror,intheearlydaysoftheDirectory,thearistoswho'descapedtheguillotinehadanironicfadoftyingaredribbonroundtheir necksatjustthepointwherethebladewouldhavesliceditthrough,aredribbonlikethememoryofawound.Andhisgrandmother,takenwith thenotion,hadherribbonmadeupinrubies;suchagestureofluxuriousdefiance!Thatnightattheoperacomesbacktomeevennow the whitedress;thefrailchildwithinit;andtheflashingcrimsonjewelsroundherthroat,brightasarterialblood.

Isawhimwatchingmeinthegildedmirrorswiththeassessingeyeofaconnoisseurinspectinghorseflesh,orevenofahousewifeinthemarket,

inspectingcutsontheslab.I'dneverseen,orelsehadneveracknowledged,thatregardofhisbefore,thesheercarnalavariceofit;anditwas

strangelymagnifiedbythemonoclelodgedinhislefteye.WhenIsawhimlookatmewithlust,Idroppedmyeyesbut,inglancingawayfrom

him,Icaughtsightofmyselfinthemirror.AndIsawmyself,suddenly,ashesawme,mypaleface,thewaythemusclesinmyneckstuckout

likethinwire.Isawhowmuchthatcruelnecklacebecameme.And,forthefirsttimeinmyinnocentandconfinedlife,Isensedinmyselfa

potentialityforcorruptionthattookmybreathaway.

Thenextday,weweremarried.

Thetrainslowed,shudderedtoahalt.Lights;clankofmetal;avoicedeclaringthenameofanunknown,never­to­bevisitedstation;silenceof

thenight;therhythmofhisbreathing,thatIshouldsleepwith,now,fortherestofmylife.AndIcouldnotsleep.Istealthilysatup,raisedthe

blindalittleandhuddledagainstthecoldwindowthatmistedoverwiththewarmthofmybreathing,gazingoutatthedarkplatformtowards

thoserectanglesofdomesticlamplightthatpromisedwarmth,company,asupperofsausageshissinginapanonthestoveforthestationmaster,

hischildrentuckedupinbedasleepinthebrickhousewiththepaintedshutters

mystunningmarriage,hadexiledmyself.

alltheparaphernaliaoftheeverydayworldfromwhichI,with

Intomarriage,intoexile;Isensedit,Iknewit­­that,henceforth,Iwouldalwaysbelonely.Yetthatwaspartofthealreadyfamiliarweightofthe

fireopalthatglimmeredlikeagypsy'smagicball,sothatIcouldnottakemyeyesoffitwhenIplayedthepiano.Thisring,thebloodybandage

ofrubies,thewardrobeofclothesfromPoiretandWorth,hisscentofRussianleather­­allhadconspiredtoseducemesoutterlythatIcouldnot

sayIfeltonesingletwingeofregretfortheworldoftar­tinesandmamanthatnowrecededfrommeasifdrawnawayonastring,likeachild's

toy,asthetrainbegantothrobagainasifindelightedanticipationofthedistanceitwouldtakeme.

Thefirstgreystreamersofthedawnnowflewintheskyandaneldritchhalf­lightseepedintotherailwaycarriage.Iheardnochangeinhis

breathingbutmyheightened,excitedsensestoldmehewasawakeandgazingatme.Ahugeman,anenormousman,andhiseyes,darkand

motionlessasthoseeyestheancientEgyptianspaintedupontheirsarcophagi,fixeduponme.Ifeltacertaintensioninthepitofmystomach,to

besowatched,insuchsilence.Amatchstruck.HewasignitingaRomeoyJulietafatasababy'sarm.

'Soon,'hesaidinhisresonantvoicethatwaslikethetollingofabellandIfelt,allatonce,asharppremonitionofdreadthatlastedonlyaslong

asthematchflaredandIcouldseehiswhite,broadfaceasifitwerehovering,disembodied,abovethesheets,illuminatedfrombelowlikea

grotesquecarnivalhead.Thentheflamedied,thecigarglowedandfilledthecompartmentwitharememberedfragrancethatmademethinkof

myfather,howhewouldhugmeinawarmfugofHavana,whenIwasalittlegirl,beforehekissedmeandleftmeanddied.

Assoonasmyhusbandhandedmedownfromthehighstepofthetrain,Ismelledtheamnioticsalinityoftheocean.ItwasNovember;thetrees,

stuntedbytheAtlanticgales,werebareandthelonelyhaltwasdesertedbutforhisleather­gaiteredchauffeurwaitingmeeklybesidethesleek

blackmotorcar.Itwascold;Idrewmyfursaboutme,awrapofwhiteandblack,broadstripesofermineandsable,withacollarfromwhich

myheadroselikethecalyxofawildflower.(Isweartoyou,IhadneverbeenvainuntilImethim.)Thebellclanged;thestrainingtrainleaptits

leashandleftusatthatlonelywaysidehaltwhereonlyheandIhaddescended.Oh,thewonderofit;howallthatmightofironandsteamhad

pausedonlytosuithisconvenience.TherichestmaninFrance.

'Madame.'

Thechauffeureyedme;washecomparingme,invidiously,tothecountess,theartist'smodel,theoperasinger?Ihidbehindmyfursasifthey

wereasystemofsoftshields.Myhusbandlikedmetowearmyopalovermykidglove,ashowy,theatricaltrick­­butthemomenttheironic

chauffeurglimpseditssimmeringflashhesmiled,asthoughitwasproofpositiveIwashismaster'swife.Andwedrovetowardsthewidening

dawn,thatnowstreakedhalftheskywithawintrybouquetofpinkofroses,orangeoftiger­lilies,asifmyhusbandhadorderedmeaskyfroma

florist.Thedaybrokearoundmelikeacooldream.

Sea;sand;askythatmeltsintothesea­­alandscapeofmistypastelswithalookaboutitofbeingcontinuouslyonthepointofmelting.A

landscapewithallthedeliquescentharmoniesofDebussy,oftheétudesIplayedforhim,thereverieI'dbeenplayingthatafternooninthesalon

oftheprincesswhereI'dfirstmethim,amongtheteacupsandthelittlecakes,I,theorphan,hiredoutofcharitytogivethemtheirdigestiveof

music.

And,ah!hiscastle.Thefaerysolitudeoftheplace;withitsturretsofmistyblue,itscourtyard,itsspikedgate,hiscastlethatlayonthevery bosomoftheseawithseabirdsmewingaboutitsattics,thecasementsopeningontothegreenandpurple,evanescentdeparturesoftheocean, cutoffbythetidefromlandforhalfaday thatcastle,athomeneitheronthelandnoronthewater,amysterious,amphibiousplace, contraveningthematerialityofbothearthandthewaves,withthemelancholyofamermaidenwhoperchesonherrockandwaits,endlessly,for aloverwhohaddrownedfaraway,longago.Thatlovely,sad,sea­sirenofaplace!

Thetidewaslow;atthishour,soearlyinthemorning,thecausewayroseupoutofthesea.Asthecarturnedontothewetcobblesbetweenthe

slowmarginsofwater,hereachedoutformyhandthathadhissultry,witchyringonit,pressedmyfingers,kissedmypalmwithextraordinary

tenderness.HisfacewasasstillaseverI'dseenit,stillasapondicedthicklyover,yethislips,thatalwayslookedsostrangelyredandnaked

betweentheblackfringesofhisbeard,nowcurvedalittle.Hesmiled;hewelcomedhisbridehome.

Noroom,nocorridorthatdidnotrustlewiththesoundoftheseaandalltheceilings,thewallsonwhichhisancestorsinthesternregaliaof

ranklinedupwiththeirdarkeyesandwhitefaces,werestippledwithrefractedlightfromthewaveswhichwerealwaysinmotion;that

luminous,murmurouscastleofwhichIwasthechatelaine,I,thelittlemusicstudentwhosemotherhadsoldallherjewellery,evenherwedding

ring,topaythefeesattheConservatoire.

Firstofall,therewasthesmallordealofmyinitialinterviewwiththehousekeeper,whokeptthisextraordinarymachine,thisanchored, castellatedoceanliner,insmoothrunningordernomatterwhostoodonthebridge;howtenuous,Ithought,mightbemyauthorityhere!Shehad abland,pale,impassive,dislikeablefacebeneaththeimpeccablystarchedwhitelinenhead­dressoftheregion.Hergreeting,correctbutlifeless, chilledme;daydreaming,Idaredpresumetoomuchonmystatus brieflywonderedhowImightinstallmyoldnurse,somuchloved,however cosilyincompetent,inherplace.Ill­consideredschemings!Hetoldmethisonehadbeenhisfostermother;wasboundtohisfamilyinthe utmostfeudalcomplicity,'asmuchpartofthehouseasIam,mydear'.Nowherthinlipsofferedmeaproudlittlesmile.Shewouldbemyally aslongasIwashis.Andwiththat,Imustbecontent.

But,here,itwouldbeeasytobecontent.Intheturretsuitehehadgivenmeformyveryown,IcouldgazeoutoverthetumultuousAtlanticand

imaginemyselftheQueenoftheSea.TherewasaBechsteinformeinthemusicroomand,onthewall,anotherweddingpresent­­anearly

FlemishprimitiveofSaintCeciliaathercelestialorgan.Intheprimcharmofthissaint,withherplump,sallowcheeksandcrinkledbrownhair,

IsawmyselfasIcouldhavewishedtobe.IwarmedtoalovingsensitivityIhadnothithertosuspectedinhim.Thenheledmeupadelicate

spiralstaircasetomybedroom;beforeshediscreetlyvanished,thehousekeepersethimchucklingwithsome,Idaresay,lewdblessingfor

newlywedsinhernativeBreton.ThatIdidnotunderstand.Thathe,smiling,refusedtointerpret.

Andtherelaythegrand,hereditarymatrimonialbed,itselfthesize,almost,ofmylittleroomathome,withthegargoylescarvedonitssurfaces

ofebony,vermilionlacquer,goldleaf;anditswhitegauzecurtains,billowingintheseabreeze.Ourbed.Andsurroundedbysomanymirrors!

Mirrorsonallthewalls,instatelyframesofcontortedgold,thatreflectedmorewhiteliliesthanI'deverseeninmylifebefore.He'dfilledthe

roomwiththem,togreetthebride,theyoungbride.Theyoungbride,whohadbecomethatmultitudeofgirlsIsawinthemirrors,identicalin

theirchicnavybluetailor­mades,fortravelling,madame,orwalking.Amaidhaddealtwiththefurs.Henceforth,amaidwoulddealwith

everything.

'See,'hesaid,gesturingtowardsthoseelegantgirls.'Ihaveacquiredawholeharemformyself!'

IfoundthatIwastrembling.Mybreathcamethickly.Icouldnotmeethiseyeandturnedmyheadaway,outofpride,outofshyness,and

watchedadozenhusbandsapproachmeinadozenmirrorsandslowly,methodically,teasingly,unfastenthebuttonsofmyjacketandslipit

frommyshoulders.Enough!No;more!Offcomestheskirt;and,next,theblouseofapricotlinenthatcostmorethanthedressIhadforfirst

communion.Theplayofthewavesoutsideinthecoldsunglitteredonhismonocle;hismovementsseemedtomedeliberatelycoarse,vulgar.

Thebloodrushedtomyfaceagain,andstayedthere.

Andyet,yousee,Iguesseditmightbeso­­thatweshouldhaveaformaldisrobingofthebride,aritualfromthebrothel.Shelteredasmylife

hadbeen,howcouldIhavefailed,evenintheworldofprimbohemiainwhichIlived,tohaveheardhintsofhisworld?

Hestrippedme,gourmandthathewas,asifhewerestrippingtheleavesoffanartichoke­­butdonotimaginemuchfinesseaboutit;this artichokewasnoparticulartreatforthedinernorwasheyetinanygreedyhaste.Heapproachedhisfamiliartreatwithawearyappetite.And whennothingbutmyscarlet,palpitatingcoreremained,Isaw,inthemirror,thelivingimageofanetchingbyRopsfromthecollectionhehad shownmewhenourengagementpermittedustobealonetogether thechildwithhersticklikelimbs,nakedbutforherbuttonboots,her gloves,shieldingherfacewithherhandasthoughherfacewerethelastrepositoryofhermodesty;andtheold,monocledlecherwhoexamined her,limbbylimb.HeinhisLondontailoring;she,bareasalambchop.Mostpornographicofallconfrontations.Andsomypurchaser unwrappedhisbargain.And,asattheopera,whenIhadfirstseenmyfleshinhiseyes,Iwasaghasttofeelmyselfstirring.

AtonceheclosedmylegslikeabookandIsawagaintheraremovementofhislipsthatmeanthesmiled.

Notyet.Later.Anticipationisthegreaterpartofpleasure,mylittlelove.

AndIbegantoshudder,likearacehorsebeforearace,yetalsowithakindoffear,forIfeltbothastrange,impersonalarousalatthethoughtof

loveandatthesametimearepugnanceIcouldnotstifleforhiswhite,heavyfleshthathadtoomuchincommonwiththearmfulsofarumlilies

thatfilledmybedroomingreatglassjars,thoseundertakers'lilieswiththeheavypollenthatpowdersyourfingersasifyouhaddippedthemin

turmeric.TheliliesIalwaysassociatewithhim;thatarewhite.Andstainyou.

Thisscenefromavoluptuary'slifewasnowabruptlyterminated.Itturnsouthehasbusinesstoattendto;hisestates,hiscompanies­­evenon

yourhoneymoon?Eventhen,saidtheredlipsthatkissedmebeforeheleftmealonewithmybewilderedsenses­­awet,silkenbrushfromhis

beard;ahintofthepointedtipofthetongue.Disgruntled,Iwrappedanegligeofantiquelacearoundmetosipthelittlebreakfastofhot

chocolatethemaidbroughtme;afterthat,sinceitwassecondnaturetome,therewasnowheretogobutthemusicroomandsoonIsettleddown

atmypiano.

Yetonlyaseriesofsubtlediscordsflowedfrombeneathmyfingers:outoftune onlyalittleoutoftune;butI'dbeenblessedwithperfect pitchandcouldnotbeartoplayanymore.Seabreezesarebadforpianos;weshallneedaresidentpiano­tuneronthepremisesifI'mtocontinue withmystudies!Iflungdownthelidinalittlefuryofdisappointment;whatshouldIdonow,howshallIpassthelong,sea­lithoursuntilmy husbandbedsme?

Ishiveredtothinkofthat.

HislibraryseemedthesourceofhishabitualodourofRussianleather.Rowuponrowofcalf­boundvolumes,brownandolive,withgilt

letteringontheirspines,theoctavoinbrilliantscarletmorocco.Adeep­buttonedleathersofatoreclineon.Alectern,carvedlikeaspreadeagle,

thatheldopenuponitaneditionofHuysmans'sLà­bas,fromsomeover­exquisiteprivatepress;ithadbeenboundlikeamissal,inbrass,with

gemsofcolouredglass.Therugsonthefloor,deep,pulsingbluesofheavenandredoftheheart'sdearestblood,camefromIsfahanand

Bokhara;thedarkpanellinggleamed;therewasthelullingmusicoftheseaandafireofapplelogs.Theflamesflickeredalongthespinesinside

aglass­frontedcasethatheldbooksstillcrispandnew.EliphasLevy;thenamemeantnothingtome.Isquintedatatitleortwo:TheInitiation,

TheKeyofMysteries,TheSecretofPandora'sBox,andyawned.Nothing,here,todetainaseventeen­year­oldgirlwaitingforherfirstembrace.

Ishouldhaveliked,bestofall,anovelinyellowpaper;Iwantedtocurlupontherugbeforetheblazingfire,losemyselfinacheapnovel,

munchstickyliqueurchocolates.IfIrangforthem,amaidwouldbringmechocolates.

Nevertheless,Iopenedthedoorsofthatbookcaseidlytobrowse.AndIthinkIknew,Iknewbysometinglingofthefingertips,evenbeforeI openedthatslimvolumewithnotitleatallonthespine,whatIshouldfindinsideit.WhenheshowedmetheRops,newlybought,dearly prized,hadhenothintedthathewasaconnoisseurofsuchthings?YetIhadnotbargainedforthis,thegirlwithtearshangingonhercheekslike stuckpearls,hercuntasplitfigbelowthegreatglobesofherbuttocksonwhichtheknottedtailsofthecatwereabouttodescend,whileaman inablackmaskfingeredwithhisfreehandhisprick,thatcurvedupwardslikethescimitarheheld.Thepicturehadacaption:'Reproofof curiosity'.Mymother,withalltheprecisionofhereccentricity,hadtoldmewhatitwasthatloversdid;Iwasinnocentbutnotnaïve.The

AdventuresofEulalieattheHaremoftheGrandTurkhadbeenprinted,accordingtotheflyleaf,inAmsterdamin1748,ararecollector'spiece.

Hadsomeancestorbroughtitbackhimselffromthatnortherncity?Orhadmyhusbandboughtitforhimself,fromoneofthosedustylittle bookshopsontheLeftBankwhereanoldmanpeersatyouthroughspectaclesaninchthick,daringyoutoinspecthiswares Iturnedthe pagesintheanticipationoffear;theprintwasrusty.Herewasanothersteelengraving:'ImmolationofthewivesoftheSultan'.Iknewenough forwhatIsawinthatbooktomakemegasp.

Therewasapungentintensificationoftheodourofleatherthatsuffusedhislibrary;hisshadowfellacrossthemassacre.

'Mylittlenunhasfoundtheprayerbooks,hasshe?'hedemanded,withacuriousmixtureofmockeryandrelish;then,seeingmypainful,furious

bewilderment,helaughedatmealoud,snatchedthebookfrommyhandsandputitdownonthesofa.

'HavethenastypicturesscaredBaby?Babymustn'tplaywithgrownups'toysuntilshe'slearnedhowtohandlethem,mustshe?'

Thenhekissedme.Andwith,thistime,noreticence.Hekissedmeandlaidhishandimperativelyuponmybreast,beneaththesheathofancient

lace.Istumbledonthewindingstairthatledtothebedroom,tothecarved,gildedbedonwhichhehadbeenconceived.Istammeredfoolishly:

We'venottakenluncheonyet;and,besides,itisbroaddaylight

Allthebettertoseeyou.

Hemademeputonmychoker,thefamilyheirloomofonewomanwhohadescapedtheblade.Withtremblingfingers,Ifastenedthething

aboutmyneck.Itwascoldasiceandchilledme.Hetwinedmyhairintoaropeandlifteditoffmyshoulderssothathecouldthebetterkissthe

downyfurrowsbelowmyears;thatmademeshudder.Andhekissedthoseblazingrubies,too.Hekissedthembeforehekissedmymouth.

Rapt,heintoned:'Ofherapparelsheretains/Onlyhersonorousjewellery.'

Adozenhusbandsimpaledadozenbrideswhilethemewinggullsswungoninvisibletrapezesintheemptyairoutside.

Iwasbroughttomysensesbytheinsistentshrillingofthetelephone.Helaybesideme,felledlikeanoak,breathingstertorously,asifhehad

beenfightingwithme.Inthecourseofthatone­sidedstruggle,Ihadseenhisdeathlycomposureshatterlikeaporcelainvaseflungagainsta

wall;Ihadheardhimshriekandblasphemeattheorgasm;Ihadbled.AndperhapsIhadseenhisfacewithoutitsmask;andperhapsIhadnot.

YetIhadbeeninfinitelydishevelledbythelossofmyvirginity.

Igatheredmyselftogether,reachedintothecloisonnecupboardbesidethebedthatconcealedthetelephoneandaddressedthemouthpiece.His

agentinNewYork.Urgent.

Ishookhimawakeandrolledoveronmyside,cradlingmyspentbodyinmyarms.Hisvoicebuzzedlikeahiveofdistantbees.Myhusband.

Myhusband,who,withsomuchlove,filledmybedroomwithliliesuntilitlookedlikeanembalmingparlour.Thosesomnolentlilies,thatwave

theirheavyheads,distributingtheirlush,insolentincensereminiscentofpamperedflesh.

Whenhe'dfinishedwiththeagent,heturnedtomeandstrokedtherubynecklacethatbitintomyneck,butwithsuchtendernessnow,thatI

ceasedflinchingandhecaressedmybreasts.Mydearone,mylittlelove,mychild,didithurther?He'ssosorryforit,suchimpetuousness,he

couldnothelphimself;yousee,helovesherso

onewhohadinflictedthepaincouldcomfortmeforsufferingit.Forawhile,hemurmuredtomeinavoiceI'dneverheardbefore,avoicelike

thesoftconsolationsofthesea.Butthenheunwoundthetendrilsofmyhairfromthebuttonsofhissmokingjacket,kissedmycheekbriskly

andtoldmetheagentfromNewYorkhadcalledwithsuchurgentbusinessthathemustleaveassoonasthetidewaslowenough.Leavethe

castle?LeaveFrance!Andwouldbeawayforatleastsixweeks.

andthislover'srecitativeofhisbroughtmytearsinaflood.Iclungtohimasthoughonlythe

'Butitisourhoneymoon!'

Adeal,anenterpriseofhazardandchanceinvolvingseveralmillions,layinthebalance,hesaid.Hedrewawayfrommeintothatwaxworks

stillnessofhis;Iwasonlyalittlegirl,Ididnotunderstand.And,hesaidunspokentomywoundedvanity,Ihavehadtoomanyhoneymoonsto

findthemintheleastpressingcommitments.IknowquitewellthatthischildI'veboughtwithahandfulofcolouredstonesandthepeltsofdead

beastswon'trunaway.But,afterhe'dcalledhisParisagenttobookapassagefortheStatesnextday­­justonetinycall,mylittleone­­weshould

havetimefordinnertogether.

AndIhadtobecontentwiththat,

AMexicandishofpheasantwithhazelnutsandchocolate;salad;white,voluptuouscheese;asorbetofmuscatgrapesandAstispumante.A

celebrationofKrugexplodedfestively.Andthenacridblackcoffeeinpreciouslittlecupssofineitshadowedthebirdswithwhichtheywere

painted.IhadCointreau,hehadcognacinthelibrary,withthepurplevelvetcurtainsdrawnagainstthenight,wherehetookmetoperchonhis

kneeinaleatherarmchairbesidetheflickeringlogfire.HehadmademechangeintothatchastelittlePoiretshiftofwhitemuslin;heseemed

especiallyfondofit,mybreastsshowedthroughtheflimsystuff,hesaid,likelittlesoftwhitedovesthatsleep,eachone,withapinkeyeopen.

Buthewouldnotletmetakeoffmyrubychoker,althoughitwasgrowingveryuncomfortable,norfastenupmydescendinghair,thesignofa

virginitysorecentlyrupturedthatstillremainedawoundedpresencebetweenus.HetwinedhisfingersinmyhairuntilIwinced;Isaid,I

remember,verylittle.

'Themaidwillhavechangedoursheetsalready,'hesaid.'WedonothangthebloodysheetsoutofthewindowtoprovetothewholeofBrittany

youareavirgin,notinthesecivilizedtimes.ButIshouldtellyouitwouldhavebeenthefirsttimeinallmymarriedlivesIcouldhaveshown

myinterestedtenantssuchaflag.'

ThenIrealized,withashockofsurprise,howitmusthavebeenmyinnocencethatcaptivatedhim­­thesilentmusic,hesaid,ofmy

unknowingness,likeLaTerrassedesaudiencesauclairdeluneplayeduponapianowithkeysofether.YoumustrememberhowillateaseI

wasinthatluxuriousplace,howuneasehadbeenmyconstantcompanionduringthewholelengthofmycourtshipbythisgravesatyrwhonow

gentlymartyrizedmyhair.Toknowthatmynaivetygavehimsomepleasuremademetakeheart.Courage!Ishallactthefineladytothe

mannerbornoneday,ifonlybyvirtueofdefault.

Then,slowlyyetteasingly,asifheweregivingachildagreat,mysterioustreat,hetookoutabunchofkeysfromsomeinteriorhidey­holein

hisjacket­­keyafterkey,akey,hesaid,foreverylockinthehouse.Keysofallkinds­­huge,ancientthingsofblackiron;othersslender,

delicate,almostbaroque;wafer­thinYalekeysforsafesandboxes.And,duringhisabsence,itwasIwhomusttakecareofthemall.

Ieyedtheheavybunchwithcircumspection.Untilthatmoment,Ihadnotgivenasinglethoughttothepracticalaspectsofmarriagewithagreat

house,greatwealth,agreatman,whosekeyringwasascrowdedasthatofaprisonwarder.Hereweretheclumsyandarchaickeysforthe

dungeons,fordungeonswehadinplentyalthoughtheyhadbeenconvertedtocellarsforhiswines;thedustybottlesinhabitedinracksallthose

deepholesofpainintherockonwhichthecastlewasbuilt.Thesearethekeystothekitchens,thisisthekeytothepicturegallery,atreasure

housefilledbyfivecenturiesofavidcollectors­­ah!heforesawIwouldspendhoursthere.

HehadamplyindulgedhistastefortheSymbolists,hetoldmewithaglintofgreed.TherewasMoreau'sgreatportraitofhisfirstwife,the famousSacrificialVictimwiththeimprintofthelacelikechainsonherpellucidskin.DidIknowthestoryofthepaintingofthatpicture?How, whenshetookoffherclothesforhimforthefirsttime,shefreshfromherbarinMontmartre,shehadrobedherselfinvoluntarilyinablushthat reddenedherbreasts,hershoulders,herarms,herwholebody?Hehadthoughtofthatstory,ofthatdeargirl,whenfirsthehadundressedme Ensor,thegreatEnsor,hismonolithiccanvas:TheFoolishVirgins.TwoorthreelateGauguins,hisspecialfavouritetheoneofthetranced browngirlinthedesertedhousewhichwascalled:OutoftheNightWeCome,IntotheNightWeGo.And,besidestheadditionshehadmade himself,hismarvellousinheritanceofWatteaus,PoussinsandapairofveryspecialFragonards,commissionedforalicentiousancestorwho,it wassaid,hadposedforthemaster'sbrushhimselfwithhisowntwodaughters Hebrokeoffhiscatalogueoftreasuresabruptly.

Yourthinwhiteface,chérie;hesaid,asifhesawitforthefirsttime.Yourthinwhiteface,withitspromiseofdebaucheryonlyaconnoisseur

coulddetect.

Alogfellinthefire,instigatingashowerofsparks;theopalonmyfingerspurtedgreenflame.IfeltasgiddyasifIwereontheedgeofa precipice;Iwasafraid,notsomuchofhim,ofhismonstrouspresence,heavyasifhehadbeengiftedatbirthwithmorespecificgravitythanthe restofus,thepresencethat,evenwhenIthoughtmyselfmostinlovewithhim,alwayssubtlyoppressedme No.Iwasnotafraidofhim;but ofmyself.Iseemedreborninhisunreflectiveeyes,reborninunfamiliarshapes.Ihardlyrecognizedmyselffromhisdescriptionsofmeandyet, andyet­­mighttherenotbeagrainofbeastlytruthhithem?And,intheredfirelight,Iblushedagain,unnoticed,tothinkhemighthavechosen mebecause,inmyinnocence,hesensedararetalentforcorruption.

Hereisthekeytothechinacabinet­­don'tlaugh,mydarling;there'saking'sransominSèvresinthatcloset,andaqueen'sransominLimoges.

Andakeytothelocked,barredroomwherefivegenerationsofplatewerekept.

Keys,keys,keys.Hewouldtrustmewiththekeystohisoffice,althoughIwasonlyababy;andthekeystohissafes,wherehekeptthejewelsI

shouldwear,hepromisedme,whenwereturnedtoParis.Suchjewels!Why,Iwouldbeabletochangemyearringsandnecklacesthreetimesa

day,justastheEmpressJosephineusedtochangeherunderwear.Hedoubted,hesaid,withthathollow,knockingsoundthatservedhimfora

chuckle,Iwouldbequitesointerestedinhissharecertificatesalthoughthey,ofcourse,wereworthinfinitelymore.

Outsideourfirelitprivacy,Icouldhearthesoundofthetidedrawingbackfromthepebblesoftheforeshore;itwasnearlytimeforhimtoleave

me.Onesinglekeyremainedunaccountedforontheringandhehesitatedoverit;foramoment,Ithoughthewasgoingtounfastenitfromits

brothers,slipitbackintohispocketandtakeitawaywithhim.

'Whatisthatkey?'Idemanded,forhischaffinghadmademebold.'Thekeytoyourheart?Giveitme!'

Hedangledthekeytantalizinglyabovemyhead,outofreachofmystrainingfingers;thosebareredlipsofhiscrackedsidelonginasmile.

'Ah,no,'hesaid.'Notthekeytomyheart.Rather,thekeytomyenfer.'

Heleftitonthering,fastenedtheringtogether,shookitmusically,likeacarillon.Thenthrewthekeysinajinglingheapinmylap.Icouldfeel

thecoldmetalchillingmythighsthroughmythinmuslinfrock.Hebentovermetodropabeard­maskedkissonmyforehead.

'Everymanmusthaveonesecret,evenifonlyone,fromhiswife,'hesaid.'Promisemethis,mywhey­facedpiano­player;promisemeyou'lluse

allthekeysontheringexceptthatlastlittleoneIshowedyou.Playwithanythingyoufind,jewels,silverplate;maketoyboatsofmyshare

certificates,ifitpleasesyou,andsendthemsailingofftoAmericaafterme.Allisyours,everywhereisopentoyou­­exceptthelockthatthis

singlekeyfits.Yetallitisisthekeytoalittleroomatthefootofthewesttower,behindthestill­room,attheendofadarklittlecorridorfullof

horridcobwebsthatwouldgetintoyourhairandfrightenyouifyouventuredthere.Oh,andyou'dfinditsuchadulllittleroom!Butyoumust

promiseme,ifyouloveme,toleaveitwellalone.Itisonlyaprivatestudy,ahideaway,a"den",astheEnglishsay,whereIcango,sometimes,

onthoseinfrequentyetinevitableoccasionswhentheyokeofmarriageseemstoweightooheavilyonmyshoulders.ThereIcango,you

understand,tosavourtherarepleasureofimaginingmyselfwifeless.'

Therewasalittlethinstarlightinthecourtyardas,wrappedinmyfurs,Isawhimtohiscar.Hislastwordswere,thathehadtelephonedthe

mainlandandtakenapiano­tunerontothestaff;thismanwouldarrivetotakeuphisdutiesthenextday.Hepressedmetohisvicuñabreast,

once,andthendroveaway.

IhaddrowsedawaythatafternoonandnowIcouldnotsleep.Ilaytossingandturninginhisancestralbeduntilanotherdaybreakdiscoloured

thedozenmirrorsthatwereiridescentwiththereflectionsofthesea.Theperfumeoftheliliesweighedonmysenses;whenIthoughtthat,

henceforth,Iwouldalwayssharethesesheetswithamanwhoseskin,astheirsdid,containedthattoad­like,clammyhintofmoisture,Ifelta

vaguedesolationthatwithinme,nowmyfemalewoundhadhealed,therehadawokenacertainqueasycravinglikethecravingsofpregnant

womenforthetasteofcoalorchalkortaintedfood,fortherenewalofhiscaresses.Hadhenothintedtome,inhisfleshasinhisspeechand

looks,ofthethousand,thousandbaroqueintersectionsoffleshuponflesh?Ilayinourwidebedaccompaniedby,asleeplesscompanion,my

darknewborncuriosity.

Ilayinbedalone.AndIlongedforhim.Andhedisgustedme.

Weretherejewelsenoughinallhissafestorecompensemeforthispredicament?Didallthatcastleholdenoughrichestorecompensemefor

thecompanyofthelibertinewithwhomImustshareit?Andwhat,precisely,wasthenatureofmydesirousdreadforthismysteriousbeing

who,toshowhismasteryoverme,hadabandonedmeonmyweddingnight?

ThenIsatstraightupinbed,underthesardonicmasksofthegargoylescarvedaboveme,rivenbyawildsurmise.Mighthehaveleftme,notfor

WallStreetbutforanimportunatemistresstuckedawayGodknowswherewhoknewhowtopleasurehimfarbetterthanagirlwhosefingers

hadbeenexercised,hitherto,onlybythepracticeofscalesandarpeggios?And,slowly,soothed,Isankbackontotheheapingpillows;I

acknowledgedthatthejealousscareI'djustgivenmyselfwasnotunmixedwithalittletinctureofrelief.

AtlastIdriftedintoslumber,asdaylightfilledtheroomandchasedbaddreamsaway.ButthelastthingIremembered,beforeIslept,wasthe

talljarofliliesbesidethebed,howthethickglassdistortedtheirfatstemssotheylookedlikearms,dismemberedarms,driftingdrownedin

greenishwater.

Coffeeandcroissantstoconsolethisbridal,solitarywaking.Delicious.Honey,too,inasectionofcombonaglasssaucer.Themaidsqueezed

thearomaticjuicefromanorangeintoachilledgobletwhileIwatchedherasIlayinthelazy,middaybedoftherich.Yetnothing,this

morning,gavememorethanafleetingpleasureexcepttohearthatthepiano­tunerhadbeenatworkalready.Whenthemaidtoldmethat,I

sprangoutofbedandpulledonmyoldsergeskirtandflannelblouse,costumeofastudent,inwhichIfeltfarmoreateasewithmyselfthanin

anyofmyfinenewclothes.

Aftermythreehoursofpractice,Icalledthepiano­tunerin,tothankhim.Hewasblind,ofcourse;butyoung,withagentlemouthandgreyeyes thatfixeduponmealthoughtheycouldnotseeme.Hewasablacksmith'ssonfromthevillageacrossthecauseway;achoristerinthechurch whomthegoodpriesthadtaughtatradesothathecouldmakealiving.Allmostsatisfactory.Yes.Hethoughthewouldbehappyhere.Andif, headdedshyly,hemightsometimesbeallowedtohearmeplay for,yousee,helovedmusic.Yes.Ofcourse,Isaid.Certainly.Heseemedto knowthatIhadsmiled.

AfterIdismissedhim,eventhoughI'dwokensolate,itwasstillbarelytimeformy'fiveo'clock'.Thehousekeeper,who,thoughtfully

forewarnedbymyhusband,hadrestrainedherselffrominterruptingmymusic,nowmademeasolemnvisitationwithalengthymenuforalate

luncheon.WhenItoldherIdidnotneedit,shelookedatmeobliquely,alonghernose.Iunderstoodatoncethatoneofmyprincipalfunctions

aschatelainewastoprovideworkforthestaff.But,allthesame,IassertedmyselfandsaidIwouldwaituntildinner­time,althoughIlooked

forwardnervouslytothesolitarymeal.ThenIfoundIhadtotellherwhatIwouldliketohavepreparedforme;myimagination,stillthatofa

schoolgirl,ranriot.Afowlincream­­orshouldIanticipateChristmaswithavarnishedturkey?No;Ihavedecided.Avocadoandshrimp,lotsof

it,followedbynoentréeatall.Butsurprisemefordessertwitheveryice­creamintheicebox.Shenotedalldownbutsniffed;I'dshockedher.

Suchtastes!ChildthatIwas,Igiggledwhensheleftme.

But,now whatshallIdo,now?

Icouldhavespentahappyhourunpackingthetrunksthatcontainedmytrousseaubutthemaidhaddonethatalready,thedresses,thetailor­

madeshunginthewardrobeinmydressingroom,thehatsonwoodenheadstokeeptheirshape,theshoesonwoodenfeetasifallthese

inanimateobjectswereimitatingtheappearanceoflife,tomockme.Ididnotliketolingerinmyovercrowdeddressingroom,norinmy

lugubriouslylily­scentedbedroom.HowshallIpassthetime?

Ishalltakeabathinmyownbathroom!Andfoundthetapswerelittledolphinsmadeofgold,withchipsofturquoiseforeyes.Andtherewasa tankofgoldfish,whoswaminandoutofmovingfrondsofweeds,asbored,Ithought,asIwas.HowIwishedhehadnotleftme.HowIwished itwerepossibletochatwith,say,amaid;or,thepiano­tuner butIknewalreadymynewrankforbadeoverturesoffriendshiptothestaff.

IhadbeenhopingtodeferthecallaslongasIcould,sothatIshouldhavesomethingtolookforwardtointhedeadwasteoftimeIforesaw

beforeme,aftermydinnerwasdonewith,but,ataquarterbeforeseven,whendarknessalreadysurroundedthecastle,Icouldcontainmyselfno

longer.Itelephonedmymother.AndastonishedmyselfbyburstingintotearswhenIheardhervoice.

No,nothingwasthematter.Mother,Ihavegoldbathtaps.

Isaid,goldbathtaps!

No;Isupposethat'snothingtocryabout,Mother.

Thelinewasbad,Icouldhardlymakeouthercongratulations,herquestions,herconcern,butIwasalittlecomfortedwhenIputthereceiver

down.

Yettherestillremainedonewholehourtodinnerandthewhole,unimaginabledesertoftherestoftheevening.

Thebunchofkeyslay,wherehehadleftthem,ontherugbeforethelibraryfirewhichhadwarmedtheirmetalsothattheynolongerfeltcoldto

thetouchbutwarm,almost,asmyownskin.HowcarelessIwas;amaid,tendingthelogs,eyedmereproachfullyasifI'dsetatrapforherasI

pickeduptheclinkingbundleofkeys,thekeystotheinteriordoorsofthislovelyprisonofwhichIwasboththeinmateandthemistressand

hadscarcelyseen.WhenIrememberedthat,Ifelttheexhilarationoftheexplorer.

Lights!Morelights!

Atthetouchofaswitch,thedreaminglibrarywasbrilliantlyilluminated.Irancrazilyaboutthecastle,switchingoneverylightIcouldfind­­I

orderedtheservantstolightupalltheirquarters,too,sothecastlewouldshinelikeaseabornebirthdaycakelitwithathousandcandles,onefor

everyyearofitslife,andeverybodyonshorewouldwonderatit.WheneverythingwaslitasbrightlyasthecaféintheGareduNord,the

significanceofthepossessionsimpliedbythatbunchofkeysnolongerintimidatedme,forIwasdetermined,now,tosearchthroughthemall

forevidenceofmyhusband'struenature.Hisofficefirst,evidently.

Amahoganydeskhalfamilewide,withanimpeccableblotterandabankoftelephones.Iallowedmyselftheluxuryofopeningthesafethat containedthejewelleryanddelvedsufficientlyamongtheleatherboxestofindouthowmymarriagehadgivenmeaccesstoajinn'streasury­­ parures,bracelets,rings WhileIwasthussurroundedbydiamonds,amaidknockedonthedoorandenteredbeforeIspoke;asubtle discourtesy.Iwouldspeaktomyhusbandaboutit.Sheeyedmysergeskirtsuperciliously;didmadameplantodressfordinner?

ShemadeamoueofdisdainwhenIlaughedtohearthat,shewasfarmoretheladythanI.But,imagine­­todressupinoneofmyPoiret extravaganzas,withthejewelledturbanandaigretteonmyhead,ropedwithpearltothenavel,tositdownallaloneinthebaronialdininghallat theheadofthatmassiveboardatwhichKingMarkwasreputedtohavefedhisknights Igrewcalmerunderthecoldeyeofherdisapproval.I adoptedthecrispinflectionsofanofficer'sdaughter.No,Iwouldnotdressfordinner.Furthermore,Iwasnothungryenoughfordinneritself. ShemusttellthehousekeepertocancelthedormitoryfeastI'dordered.Couldtheyleavemesandwichesandaflaskofcoffeeinmymusic room?Andwouldtheyalldismissforthenight?

Maisoui,madame.

IknewbyherbereftintonationIhadletthemdownagainbutIdidnotcare;Iwasarmedagainstthembythebrillianceofhishoard.ButIwould

notfindhisheartamongsttheglitteringstones;assoonasshehadgone,Ibeganasystematicsearchofthedrawersofhisdesk.

Allwasinorder,soIfoundnothing.Notarandomdoodleonanoldenvelope,northefadedphotographofawoman.Onlythefilesofbusiness

correspondence,thebillsfromthehomefarms,theinvoicesfromtailors,thebillets­douxfrominternationalfinanciers.Nothing.Andthis

absenceoftheevidenceofhisreallifebegantoimpressmestrangely;theremust,Ithought,beagreatdealtoconcealifhetakessuchpainsto

hideit.

Hisofficewasasingularlyimpersonalroom,facinginwards,ontothecourtyard,asthoughhewantedtoturnhisbackonthesirenseainorder

tokeepaclearheadwhilehebankruptedasmallbusinessmaninAmsterdamor­­Inoticedwithathrillofdistaste­­engagedinsomebusinessin

Laosthatmust,fromcertaincrypticreferencestohisamateurbotanist'senthusiasmforrarepoppies,betodowithopium.Washenotrich

enoughtodowithoutcrime?Orwasthecrimeitselfhisprofit?AndyetIsawenoughtoappreciatehiszealforsecrecy.

NowIhadransackedhisdesk,Imustspendacool­headedquarterofanhourputtingeverylastletterbackwhereIhadfoundit,and,asI

coveredthetracesofmyvisit,bysomechance,asIreachedinsidealittledrawerthathadstuckfast,Imusthavetouchedahiddenspring,fora

secretdrawerflewopenwithinthatdraweritself;andthissecretdrawercontained­­atlast!­­afilemarked:Personal.

Iwasalone,butformyreflectionintheuncurtainedwindow.

Ihadthebriefnotionthathisheart,pressedflatasaflower,crimsonandthinastissuepaper,layinthisfile.Itwasaverythinone.

Icouldhavewished,perhaps,Ihadnotfoundthattouching,ill­speltnote,onapapernapkinmarkedLaCoupole,thatbegan:'Mydarling,I cannotwaitforthemomentwhenyoumaymakemeyourscompletely.'ThedivahadsenthimapageofthescoreofTristan,theLiebestod,with thesingle,crypticword:'Until 'scrawledacrossit.Butthestrangestofalltheseloveletterswasapostcardwithaviewofavillagegraveyard, amongmountains,wheresomeblack­coatedghoulenthusiasticallydugatagrave;thislittlescene,executedwiththeluridexuberanceofGrand Guignol,wascaptioned:'TypicalTransylvanianScene­­Midnight,AllHallows.'And,ontheotherside,themessage:'Ontheoccasionofthis marriagetothedescendantofDracula­­alwaysremember,"thesupremeanduniquepleasureofloveisthecertaintythatoneisdoingevil". Toutesamitiés,C.'

Ajoke.Ajokeintheworstpossibletaste;forhadhenotbeenmarriedtoaRomaniancountess?AndthenIrememberedherpretty,wittyface,

andhername­­Carmilla.Mymostrecentpredecessorinthiscastlehadbeen,itwouldseem,themostsophisticated.

Iputawaythefile,sobered.Nothinginmylifeoffamilyloveandmusichadpreparedmeforthesegrown­upgamesandyetthesewerecluesto

hisselfthatshowedme,atleast,howmuchhehadbeenloved,eveniftheydidnotrevealanygoodreasonforit.ButIwantedtoknowstill

more;and,asIclosedtheofficedoorandlockedit,themeanstodiscovermorefellinmyway.

Fell,indeed;andwiththeclatterofadroppedcanteenofcutlery,for,asIturnedtheslickYalelock,Icontrived,somehow,toopenupthekey

ringitself,sothatallthekeystumbledlooseonthefloor.AndtheveryfirstkeyIpickedoutofthatpilewas,asluckorillfortunehadit,thekey

totheroomhehadforbiddenme,theroomhewouldkeepforhisownsothathecouldgotherewhenhewishedtofeelhimselfoncemorea

bachelor.

ImademydecisiontoexploreitbeforeIfeltafaintresurgenceofmyill­definedfearofhiswaxenstillness.PerhapsIhalf­imagined,then,thatI

mightfindhisrealselfinhisden,waitingtheretoseeifindeedIhadobeyedhim;thathehadsentamovingfigureofhimselftoNewYork,the

enigmatic,self­sustainingcarapaceofhispublicperson,whiletherealman,whosefaceIhadglimpsedinthestormoforgasm,occupiedhimself

withpressingprivatebusinessinthestudyatthefootofthewesttower,behindthestill­room.Yet,ifthatwereso,itwasimperativethatI

shouldfindhim,shouldknowhim;andIwastoodeludedbyhisapparenttasteformetothinkmydisobediencemighttrulyoffendhim.

Itooktheforbiddenkeyfromtheheapandlefttheotherslyingthere.

Itwasnowverylateandthecastlewasadrift,asfarasitcouldgofromtheland,inthemiddleofthesilentoceanwhere,atmyorders,itfloated,

likeagarlandoflight.Andallsilent,allstill,butforthemurmuringofthewaves.

Ifeltnofear,nointimationofdread.NowIwalkedasfirmlyasIhaddoneinmymother'shouse.

Notanarrow,dustylittlepassageatall;whyhadheliedtome?Butanill­litone,certainly;theelectricity,forsomereason,didnotextendhere,

soIretreatedtothestill­roomandfoundabundleofwaxedtapersinacupboard,storedtherewithmatchestolighttheoakboardatgrand

dinners.Iputamatchtomylittletaperandadvancedwithitinmyhand,likeapenitent,alongthecorridorhungwithheavy,IthinkVenetian,

tapestries.Theflamepickedout,here,theheadofaman,there,therichbreastofawomanspillingthrougharentinherdress­­theRapeofthe

Sabines,perhaps?Thenakedswordsandimmolatedhorsessuggestedsomegrislymythologicalsubject.Thecorridorwounddownwards;there

wasanalmostimperceptibleramptothethicklycarpetedfloor.Theheavyhangingsonthewallmuffledmyfootsteps,evenmybreathing.For

somereason,itgrewverywarm;thesweatsprangoutinbeadsonmybrow.Icouldnolongerhearthesoundofthesea.

Along,awindingcorridor,asifIwereinthevisceraofthecastle;andthiscorridorledtoadoorofworm­eatenoak,low,round­topped,barred

withblackiron.

AndstillIfeltnofear,noraisingofthehairsonthebackoftheneck,nopricklingofthethumbs.

Thekeyslidintothenewlockaseasilyasahotknifeintobutter.

Nofear;butahesitation,aholdingofthespiritualbreath.

IfIhadfoundsometracesofhisheartinafilemarked:Personal,perhaps,here,inhissubterraneanprivacy,Imightfindalittleofhissoul.It

wastheconsciousnessofthepossibilityofsuchadiscovery,ofitspossiblestrangeness,thatkeptmeforamomentmotionless,before,inthe

foolhardinessofmyalreadysubtlytaintedinnocence,Iturnedthekeyandthedoorcreakedslowlyback.

'Thereisastrikingresemblancebetweentheactofloveandtheministrationsofatorturer,'opinedmyhusband'sfavouritepoet;Ihadlearned

somethingofthenatureofthatsimilarityonmymarriagebed.Andnowmytapershowedmetheoutlinesofarack.Therewasalsoagreat

wheel,liketheonesIhadseeninwoodcutsofthemartyrdomsofthesaints,inmyoldnurse'slittlestoreofholybooks.And­­justoneglimpseof

itbeforemylittleflamecavedinandIwasleftinabsolutedarkness­­ametalfigure,hingedattheside,whichIknewtobespikedontheinside

andtohavethename:theIronMaiden.

Absolutedarkness.And,aboutme,theinstrumentsofmutilation.

Untilthatmoment,thisspoiledchilddidnotknowshehadinheritednervesandawillfromthemotherwhohaddefiedtheyellowoutlawsof

Indo­China;Mymother'sspiritdrovemeon,intothatdreadfulplace,inacoldecstasytoknowtheveryworst.Ifumbledforthematchesinmy

pocket;whatadim,lugubriouslighttheygave!Andyet,enough,oh,morethanenough,toseearoomdesignedfordesecrationandsomedark

nightofunimaginableloverswhoseembraceswereannihilation.

Thewallsofthisstarktorturechamberwerethenakedrock;theygleamedasiftheyweresweatingwithfright.Atthefourcornersoftheroom

werefuneraryurns,ofgreatantiquity,Etruscan,perhaps,and,onthree­leggedebonystands,thebowlsofincensehehadleftburningwhich

filledtheroomwithasacerdotalreek.Wheel,rackandIronMaidenwere,Isaw,displayedasgrandlyasiftheywereitemsofstatuaryandIwas

almostconsoled,then,andalmostpersuadedmyselfthatImighthavestumbledonlyuponalittlemuseumofhisperversity,thathehadinstalled

thesemonstrousitemshereonlyforcontemplation.

Yetatthecentreoftheroomlayacatafalque,adoomed,ominousbierofRenaissanceworkmanship,surroundedbylongwhitecandlesand,at

itsfoot,anarmfulofthesamelilieswithwhichhehadfilledmybedroom,stowedinafour­foot­highjarglazedwithasombreChinesered.I

scarcelydaredexaminethiscatafalqueanditsoccupantmoreclosely;yetIknewImust.

EachtimeIstruckamatchtolightthosecandlesroundherbed,itseemedagarmentofthatinnocenceofmineforwhichhehadlustedfellaway

fromme.

Theoperasingerlay,quitenaked,underathinsheetofveryrareandpreciouslinen,suchastheprincesofItalyusedtoshroudthosewhomthey

hadpoisoned.Itouchedher,verygently,onthewhitebreast;shewascool,hehadembalmedher.OnherthroatIcouldseetheblueimprintof

hisstrangler'sfingers.Thecool,sadflameofthecandlesflickeredonherwhite,closedeyelids.Theworstthingwas,thedeadlipssmiled.

Beyondthecatafalque,inthemiddleoftheshadows,awhite,nacreousglimmer;asmyeyesaccustomedthemselvestothegatheringdarkness,I

atlast­­oh,horrors!­­madeoutaskull;yes,askull,soutterlydenuded,now,offlesh,thatitscarcelyseemedpossiblethestarkbonehadonce

beenrichlyupholsteredwithlife.Andthisskullwasstrungupbyasystemofunseencords,sothatitappearedtohang,disembodied,inthestill,

heavyair,andithadbeencrownedwithawreathofwhiteroses,andaveiloflace,thefinalimageofhisbride.

Yettheskullwasstillsobeautiful,hadshapedwithitssheerplanessoimperiouslythefacethathadonceexistedaboveit,thatIrecognizedher

themomentIsawher;faceoftheeveningstarwalkingontherimofnight.Onefalsestep,oh,mypoor,deargirl,nextinthefatedsisterhoodof

hiswives;onefalsestepandintotheabyssofthedarkyoustumbled.

Andwherewasshe,thelatestdead,theRomaniancountesswhomighthavethoughtherbloodwouldsurvivehisdepredations?Iknewshemust

behere,intheplacethathadwoundmethroughthecastletowardsitonaspoolofinexorability.But,atfirst,Icouldseenosignofher.Then,

forsomereason­­perhapssomechangeofatmospherewroughtbymypresence­­themetalshelloftheIronMaidenemittedaghostlytwang;my

feverishimaginationmighthaveguesseditsoccupantwastryingtoclamberout,though,eveninthemidstofmyrisinghysteria,Iknewshe

mustbedeadtofindahomethere.

Withtremblingfingers,Iprisedopenthefrontoftheuprightcoffin,withitssculptedfacecaughtinarictusofpain.Then,overcome,Idropped

thekeyIstillheldinmyotherhand.Itdroppedintotheformingpoolofherblood.

Shewaspierced,notbyonebutbyahundredspikes,thischildofthelandofthevampireswhoseemedsonewlydead,sofullofblood oh God!howrecentlyhadhebecomeawidower?Howlonghadhekeptherinthisobscenecell?Haditbeenallthetimehehadcourtedme,inthe clearlightofParis?

Iclosedthelidofhercoffinverygentlyandburstintoatumultofsobbingthatcontainedbothpityforhisothervictimsandalsoadreadful

anguishtoknowI,too,wasoneofthem.

Thecandlesflared,asifinadraughtfromadoortoelsewhere.Thelightcaughtthefireopalonmyhandsothatitflashed,once,withabaleful

light,asiftotellmetheeyeofGod­­hiseye­­wasuponme.Myfirstthought,whenIsawtheringforwhichIhadsoldmyselftothisfate,was,

howtoescapeit.

Iretainedsufficientpresenceofmindtosnuffoutthecandlesroundthebierwithmyfingers,togatherupmytaper,tolookaround,although

shuddering,toensureIhadleftbehindmenotracesofmyvisit.

Iretrievedthekeyfromthepoolofblood,wrappeditinmyhandkerchieftokeepmyhandsclean,andfledtheroom,slammingthedoorbehind

me.Itcrashedtowithajudderingreverberation,likethedoorofhell.

Icouldnottakerefugeinmybedroom,forthatretainedthememoryofhispresencetrappedinthefathomlesssilveringofhismirrors.Mymusic roomseemedthesafestplace,althoughIlookedatthepictureofSaintCeciliawithafaintdread;whathadbeenthenatureofhermartyrdom? Mymindwasinatumult;schemesforflightjostledwithoneanother assoonasthetiderecededfromthecauseway,Iwouldmakeforthe mainland­­onfoot,running,stumbling;Ididnottrustthatleather­cladchauffeur,northewell­behavedhousekeeper,andIdarednottakeanyof

thepale,ghostlymaidsintomyconfidence,either,sincetheywerehiscreatures,all.Onceatthevillage,Iwouldflingmyselfdirectlyonthe

mercyofthegendarmerie.

But­­couldItrustthem,either?Hisforefathershadruledthiscoastforeightcenturies,fromthiscastlewhosemoatwastheAtlantic.Mightnot

thepolice,theadvocates,eventhejudge,allbeinhisservice,turningacommonblindeyetohisvicessincehewasmilordwhosewordmustbe

obeyed?Who,onthisdistantcoast,wouldbelievethewhite­facedgirlfromPariswhocamerunningtothemwithashudderingtaleofblood,of

fear,oftheogremurmuringintheshadows?Or,rather,theywouldimmediatelyknowittobetrue.Butwereallhonour­boundtoletmecarryit

nofurther.

Assistance.Mymother.Irantothetelephone;andtheline,ofcourse,wasdead.

Deadashiswives.

Athickdarkness,unlitbyanystar,stillglazedthewindows.Everylampinmyroomburned,tokeepthedarkoutside,yetitseemedstillto

encroachonme,tobepresentbesidemebutasifmaskedbymylights,thenightlikeapermeablesubstancethatcouldseepintomyskin.I

lookedatthepreciouslittleclockmadefromhypocriticallyinnocentflowerslongago,inDresden;thehandshadscarcelymovedonesingle

hourforwardfromwhenIfirstdescendedtothatprivateslaughterhouseofhis.Timewashisservant,too;itwouldtrapme,here,inanightthat

wouldlastuntilhecamebacktome,likeablacksunonahopelessmorning.

Andyetthetimemightstillbemyfriend;atthathour,thatveryhour,hesetsailforNewYork.

Toknowthat,inafewmoments,myhusbandwouldhaveleftFrancecalmedmyagitationalittle.MyreasontoldmeIhadnothingtofear;the

tidethatwouldtakehimawaytotheNewWorldwouldletmeoutoftheimprisonmentofthecastle.SurelyIcouldeasilyevadetheservants.

Anybodycanbuyaticketatarailwaystation.YetIwasstillrilledwithunease.Iopenedthelidofthepiano;perhapsIthoughtmyown

particularmagicmighthelpme,now,thatIcouldcreateapentacleoutofmusicthatwouldkeepmefromharmfor,ifmymusichadfirst

ensnaredhim,thenmightitnotalsogivemethepowertofreemyselffromhim?

Mechanically,Ibegantoplaybutmyfingerswerestiffandshaking.Atfirst,IcouldmanagenothingbetterthantheexercisesofCzernybut

simplytheactofplayingsoothedmeand,forsolace,forthesakeoftheharmoniousrationalityofitssublimemathematics,Isearchedamonghis

scoresuntilIfoundTheWell­TemperedClavier.IsetmyselfthetherapeutictaskofplayingallBach'sequations,everyone,and,Itoldmyself,if

Iplayedthemallthroughwithoutasinglemistake­­thenthemorningwouldfindmeoncemoreavirgin.

Crashofadroppedstick.

Hissilver­headedcane!Whatelse?Sly,cunning,hehadreturned;hewaswaitingformeoutsidethedoor!

Irosetomyfeet;feargavemestrength.Iflungbackmyheaddefiantly.

'Comein!'Myvoiceastonishedmebyitsfirmness,itsclarity.

Thedoorslowly,nervouslyopenedandIsaw,notthemassive,irredeemablebulkofmyhusbandbuttheslight,stoopingfigureofthepiano­

tuner,andhelookedfarmoreterrifiedofmethanmymother'sdaughterwouldhavebeenoftheDevilhimself.Inthetorturechamber,itseemed

tomethatIwouldneverlaughagain;now,helplessly,laughIdid,withrelief,and,afteramoment'shesitation,theboy'sfacesoftenedandhe

smiledalittle,almostinshame.Thoughtheywereblind,hiseyesweresingularlysweet.

'Forgiveme,'saidJean­Yves.'IknowI'vegivenyougroundsfordismissingme,thatIshouldbecrouchingoutsideyourdooratmidnight butI heardyouwalkingabout,upanddown­­Isleepinaroomatthefootofthewesttower­­andsomeintuitiontoldmeyoucouldnotsleepand might,perhaps,passtheinsomniachoursatyourpiano.AndIcouldnotresistthat.Besides,Istumbledoverthese­­'

AndhedisplayedtheringofkeysI'ddroppedoutsidemyhusband'sofficedoor,theringfromwhichonekeywasmissing.Itookthemfrom

him,lookedroundforaplacetostowthem,fixedonthepianostoolasiftohidethemwouldprotectme.Stillhestoodsmilingatme.Howhard

itwastomakeeverydayconversation.

'It'sperfect,'Isaid.'Thepiano.Perfectlyintune.'

Buthewasfulloftheloquacityofembarrassment,asthoughIwouldonlyforgivehimforhisimpudenceifheexplainedthecauseofit

thoroughly.

'WhenIheardyouplaythisafternoon,IthoughtI'dneverheardsuchatouch.Suchtechnique.Atreatforme,tohearavirtuoso!SoIcreptupto

yourdoornow,humblyasalittledogmight,madame,andputmyeartothekeyholeandlistened,andlistened­­untilmystickfelltothefloor

throughamomentaryclumsinessofmine,andIwasdiscovered.'

Hehadthemosttouchinglyingenuoussmile.

'Perfectlyintune,'Irepeated.Tomysurprise,nowIhadsaidit,IfoundIcouldnotsayanythingelse.Icouldonlyrepeat:'Intune perfect in tune,'overandoveragain.Isawadawningsurpriseinhisface.Myheadthrobbed.Toseehim,inhislovely,blindhumanity,seemedtohurtme verypiercingly,somewhereinsidemybreast;hisfigureblurred,theroomswayedaboutme.Afterthedreadfulrevelationofthatbloody chamber,itwashistenderlookthatmademefaint.

WhenIrecoveredconsciousness,IfoundIwaslyinginthepiano­tuner'sarmsandhewastuckingthesatincushionfromthepiano­stoolunder

myhead.

'Youareinsomegreatdistress,'hesaid.'Nobrideshouldsuffersomuch,soearlyinhermarriage.'

Hisspeechhadtherhythmsofthecountryside,therhythmsofthetides.

'Anybridebroughttothiscastleshouldcomereadydressedinmourning,shouldbringapriestandacoffinwithher,'Isaid.

'What'sthis?'

Itwastoolatetokeepsilent;andifhe,too,wereoneofmyhusband'screatures,thenatleasthehadbeenkindtome.SoItoldhimeverything,

thekeys,theinterdiction,mydisobedience,theroom,therack,theskull,thecorpses,theblood.

'Icanscarcelybelieveit,'hesaid,wondering.'Thatman sorich;sowell­born.'

'Here'sproof,'Isaidandtumbledthefatalkeyoutofmyhandkerchiefontothesilkenrug.

'OhGod,'hesaid.'Icansmelltheblood.'

Hetookmyhand;hepressedhisarmsaboutme.Althoughhewasscarcelymorethanaboy,Ifeltagreatstrengthflowintomefromhistouch.

'Wewhisperallmannerofstrangetalesupanddownthecoast,'hesaid.'TherewasaMarquis,once,whousedtohuntyounggirlsonthe

mainland;hehuntedthemwithdogs,asthoughtheywerefoxes.Mygrandfatherhaditfromhisgrandfather,howtheMarquispulledaheadout

ofhissaddlebagandshowedittotheblacksmithwhilethemanwasshoeinghishorse."Afinespecimenofthegenus,brunette,eh,Guillaume?"

Anditwastheheadoftheblacksmith'swife.'

But,inthesemoredemocratictimes,myhusbandmusttravelasfarasParistodohishuntinginthesalons.Jean­YvesknewthemomentI

shuddered.

'Oh,madame!Ithoughtallthesewereoldwives'tales,chatteringoffools,spookstoscarebadchildrenintogoodbehaviour!Yethowcouldyou

know,astranger,thattheoldnameforthisplaceistheCastleofMurder?'

HowcouldIknow,indeed?Exceptthat,inmyheart,I'dalwaysknownitslordwouldbethedeathofme.

'Hark!'saidmyfriendsuddenly.'Theseahaschangedkey;itmustbenearmorning,thetideisgoingdown.'

Hehelpedmeup.Ilookedfromthewindow,towardsthemainland,alongthecausewaywherethestonesgleamedwetlyinthethinlightofthe

endofthenightand,withanalmostunimaginablehorror,ahorrortheintensityofwhichIcannottransmittoyou,Isaw,inthedistance,stillfar

awayyetdrawingmomentbymomentinexorablynearer,thetwinheadlampsofhisgreatblackcar,gougingtunnelsthroughtheshiftingmist.

Myhusbandhadindeedreturned;thistime,itwasnofancy.

'Thekey!'saidJean­Yves.'Itmustgobackonthering,withtheothers.Asthoughnothinghadhappened.'

ButthekeywasstillcakedwithwetbloodandIrantomybathroomandhelditunderthehottap.Crimsonwaterswirleddownthebasinbut,as

ifthekeyitselfwerehurt,thebloodytokenstuck.Theturquoiseeyesofthedolphintapswinkedatmederisively;theyknewmyhusbandhad

beentoocleverforme!Iscrubbedthestainwithmynailbrushbutstillitwouldnotbudge.Ithoughthowthecarwouldberollingsilently

towardstheclosedcourtyardgate;themoreIscrubbedthekey,themorevividgrewthestain.

Thebellinthegatehousewouldjangle.Theporter'sdrowsysonwouldpushbackthepatchworkquilt,yawning,pulltheshirtoverhishead,

thrusthisfeetintohissabots

slowly,slowly;openthedoorforyourmasterasslowlyasyoucan

Andstillthebloodstainmockedthefreshwaterthatspilledfromthemouthoftheleeringdolphin.

'Youhavenomoretime,'saidJean­Yves.'Heishere.Iknowit.Imuststaywithyou.'

'Youshallnot!'Isaid.'Gobacktoyourroom,now.Please.'

Hehesitated.Iputanedgeofsteelinmyvoice,forIknewImustmeetmylordalone.

'Leaveme!'

Assoonashehadgone,Idealtwiththekeysandwenttomybedroom.Thecausewaywasempty;Jean­Yveswascorrect,myhusbandhad

alreadyenteredthecastle.Ipulledthecurtainsclose,strippedoffmyclothesandpulledthebedcurtainsroundmeasapungentaromaofRussian

leatherassuredmemyhusbandwasonceagainbesideme.

'Dearest!'

Withthemosttreacherous,lascivioustenderness,hekissedmyeyes,and,mimickingthenewbridenewlywakened,Iflungmyarmsaround

him,foronmyseemingacquiescencedependedmysalvation.

'DaSilvaofRiooutwittedme,'hesaidwryly.'MyNewYorkagenttelegraphedLeHavreandsavedmeawastedjourney.Sowemayresume

ourinterruptedpleasures,mylove.'

Ididnotbelieveonewordofit.IknewIhadbehavedexactlyaccordingtohisdesires;hadhenotboughtmesothatIshoulddoso?Ihadbeen

trickedintomyownbetrayaltothatillimitabledarknesswhosesourceIhadbeencompelledtoseekinhisabsenceand,nowthatIhadmetthat

shadowedrealityofhisthatcametolifeonlyinthepresenceofitsownatrocities,Imustpaythepriceofmynewknowledge.Thesecretof

Pandora'sbox;buthehadgivenmethebox,himself,knowingImustlearnthesecret.Ihadplayedagameinwhicheverymovewasgoverned

byadestinyasoppressiveandomnipotentashimself,sincethatdestinywashimself;andIhadlost.Lostatthatcharadeofinnocenceandvice

inwhichhehadengagedme.Lost,asthevictimlosestotheexecutioner.

Hishandbrushedmybreast,beneaththesheet.Istrainedmynervesyetcouldnothelpbutflinchfromtheintimatetouch,foritmademethink

ofthepiercingembraceoftheIronMaidenandofhislostloversinthevault.Whenhesawmyreluctance,hiseyesveiledoverandyethis

appetitedidnotdiminish.Histongueranoverredlipsalreadywet.Silent,mysterious,hemovedawayfrommetodrawoffhisjacket.Hetook

thegoldwatchfromhiswaistcoatandlaiditonthedressingtable,likeagoodbourgeois;scoopedouthisraidingloosechangeandnow­­oh

God!­­makesagreatplayofpattinghispocketsofficiously,puzzledlipspursed,searchingforsomethingthathasbeenmislaid.Thenturnstome

withaghastly,atriumphantsmile.

'Butofcourse!Igavethekeystoyou!'

'Yourkeys?Why,ofcourse.Here,they'reunderthepillow;waitamoment­­what­­Ah!No now,wherecanIhaveleftthem?Iwaswhiling awaytheeveningwithoutyouatthepiano,Iremember.Ofcourse!Themusicroom!'

Brusquelyheflungmynégligéofantiquelaceonthebed.

'Goandgetthem.'

'Now?Thismoment?Can'titwaituntilmorning,mydarling?'

Iforcedmyselftobeseductive.Isawmyself,pale,pliantasaplantthatbegstobetrampledunderfoot,adozenvulnerable,appealinggirls

reflectedinasmanymirrors,andIsawhowhealmostfailedtoresistme.Ifhehadcometomeinbed,Iwouldhavestrangledhim,then.

Buthehalf­snarled:'No.Itwon'twait.Now.'

Theunearthlylightofdawnfilledtheroom;hadonlyonepreviousdawnbrokenuponmeinthatvileplace?Andtherewasnothingforitbutto

goandfetchthekeysfromthemusicstoolandprayhewouldnotexaminethemtooclosely,praytoGodhiseyeswouldfailhim,thathemight

bestruckblind.

WhenIcamebackintothebedroomcarryingthebunchofkeysthatjangledateverysteplikeacuriousmusicalinstrument,hewassittingonthe

bedinhisimmaculateshirtsleeves,hisheadsunkinhishands.

Anditseemedtomehewasindespair.

Strange.Inspiteofmyfearofhim,thatmademewhiterthanmywrap,Ifeltthereemanatefromhim,atthatmoment,astenchofabsolute

despair,rankandghastly,asiftheliliesthatsurroundedhimhadallatoncebeguntofester,ortheRussianleatherofhisscentwererevertingto

theelementsofflayedhideandexcrementofwhichitwascomposed.Thechthonicgravityofhispresenceexertedatremendouspressureonthe

room,sothatthebloodpoundedinmyearsasifwehadbeenprecipitatedtothebottomofthesea,beneaththewavesthatpoundedagainstthe

shore.

Iheldmylifeinmyhandsamongstthosekeysand,inamoment,wouldplaceitbetweenhiswell­manicuredfingers.Theevidenceofthat

bloodychamberhadshowedmeIcouldexpectnomercy.Yet,whenheraisedhisheadandstaredatmewithhisblind,shutteredeyesasthough

hedidnotrecognizeme,Ifeltaterrifiedpityforhim,forthismanwholivedinsuchstrange,secretplacesthat,ifIlovedhimenoughtofollow

him,Ishouldhavetodie.

Theatrociouslonelinessofthatmonster!

Themonoclehadfallenfromhisface.Hiscurlingmanewasdisordered,asifhehadrunhishandsthroughitinhisdistraction.Isawhowhehad

losthisimpassivityandwasnowfilledwithsuppressedexcitement.Thehandhestretchedoutforthosecountersinhisgameofloveanddeath

shookalittle;thefacethatturnedtowardsmecontainedasombredeliriumthatseemedtomecompoundedofaghastly,yes,shamebutalsoofa

terrible,guiltyjoyasheslowlyascertainedhowIhadsinned.

Thattell­talestainhadresolveditselfintoamarktheshapeandbrillianceoftheheartonaplayingcard.Hedisengagedthekeyfromthering

andlookedatitforawhile,solitary,brooding.

'Itisthekeythatleadstothekingdomoftheunimaginable,'hesaid.Hisvoicewaslowandhadinitthetimbreofcertaingreatcathedralorgans

thatseem,whentheyareplayed,tobeconversingwithGod.

Icouldnotrestrainasob.

'Oh,mylove,mylittlelovewhobroughtmeawhitegiftofmusic,'hesaid,almostasifgrieving.'Mylittlelove,you'llneverknowhowmuchI

hatedaylight!"

Thenhesharplyordered:'Kneel!'

Ikneltbeforehimandhepressedthekeylightlytomyforehead,helditthereforamoment.Ifeltafainttinglingoftheskinand,whenI

involuntarilyglancedatmyselfinthemirror,Isawtheheart­shapedstainhadtransferreditselftomyforehead,tothespacebetweenthe

eyebrows,likethecastemarkofabrahminwoman.OrthemarkofCain.Andnowthekeygleamedasfreshlyasifithadjustbeencut.He

clippeditbackonthering,emittingthatsame,heavysighashehaddonewhenIsaidthatIwouldmarryhim.

'Myvirginofthearpeggios,prepareyourselfformartyrdom.'

'Whatformshallittake?'Isaid.

'Decapitation,'hewhispered,almostvoluptuously.'Goandbatheyourself;putonthatwhitedressyouworetohearTristanandthenecklacethat

prefiguresyourend.AndIshalltakemyselfofftothearmoury,mydear,tosharpenmygreat­grandfather'sceremonialsword.'

'Theservants?'

'Weshallhaveabsoluteprivacyforourlastrites;Ihavealreadydismissedthem.Ifyoulookoutofthewindowyoucanseethemgoingtothe

mainland.'

Itwasnowthefull,palelightofmorning;theweatherwasgrey,indeterminate,theseahadanoily,sinisterlook,agloomydayonwhichtodie.

AlongthecausewayIcouldseetroupingeverymaidandscullion,everypot­boyandpan­scourer,valet,laundressandvassalwhoworkedin

thatgreathouse,mostonfoot,afewonbicycles.Thefacelesshousekeepertrudgedalongwithagreatbasketinwhich,Iguessed,she'dstowed

asmuchasshecouldransackfromthelarder.TheMarquismusthavegiventhechauffeurleavetoborrowthemotorfortheday,foritwentlast

ofall,atastatelypace,asthoughtheprocessionwereacortegeandthecaralreadyboremycoffintothemainlandfor.burial.

ButIknewnogoodBretonearthwouldcoverme,likealast,faithfullover;Ihadanotherfate.

'Ihavegiventhemalladay'sholiday,tocelebrateourwedding,'hesaid.Andsmiled.

HoweverhardIstaredattherecedingcompany,IcouldseenosignofJean­Yves,ourlatestservant,hiredbuttheprecedingmorning.

'Go,now.Batheyourself;dressyourself.Thelustratoryritualandtheceremonialrobing;afterthat,thesacrifice.WaitinthemusicroomuntilI

telephoneforyou.No,mydear!'Andhesmiled,asIstarted,recallingthelinewasdead.'Onemaycallinsidethecastlejustasmuchasone

pleases;but,outside­­never.'

IscrubbedmyforeheadwiththenailbrushasIhadscrubbedthekeybutthisredmarkwouldnotgoaway,either,nomatterwhatIdid,andI

knewIshouldwearituntilIdied,thoughthatwouldnotbelong.ThenIwenttomydressingroomandputonthatwhitemuslinshift,costume

ofavictimofanauto­da­fé,hehadboughtmetolistentotheLiebestodin.Twelveyoungwomencombedouttwelvelistlesssheavesofbrown

hairinthemirrors;soon,therewouldbenone.Themassofliliesthatsurroundedmeexhaled,now,theodouroftheirwithering.Theylooked

likethetrumpetsoftheangelsofdeath.

Onthedressingtable,coiledlikeasnakeabouttostrike,laytherubychoker.

Alreadyalmostlifeless,coldatheart,IdescendedthespiralstaircasetothemusicroombutthereIfoundIhadnotbeenabandoned.

'Icanbeofsomecomforttoyou,'theboysaid.'Thoughnotmuchuse.'

Wepushedthepianostoolinfrontoftheopenwindowsothat,foraslongasIcould,Iwouldbeabletosmelltheancient,reconcilingsmellof

theseathat,intime,willcleanseeverything,scourtheoldboneswhite,washawayallthestains.Thelastlittlechambermaidhadtrottedalong

thecausewaylongagoandnowthetide,fatedasI,cametumblingin,thecrispwaveletssplashingontheoldstones.

'Youdonotdeservethis,'hesaid.

'WhocansaywhatIdeserveorno?'Isaid.'I'vedonenothing;butthatmaybesufficientreasonforcondemningme.'

'Youdisobeyedhim,'hesaid.'Thatissufficientreasonforhimtopunishyou.'

'IonlydidwhatheknewIwould.'

'LikeEve,'hesaid.

Thetelephonerangashrillimperative.Letitring.Butmyloverliftedmeupandsetmeonmyfeet;IknewImustanswerit.Thereceiverfelt

heavyasearth.

'Thecourtyard.Immediately.'

Myloverkissedme,hetookmyhand.HewouldcomewithmeifIwouldleadhim.Courage.WhenIthoughtofcourage,Ithoughtofmy

mother.ThenIsawamuscleinmylover'sfacequiver.

'Hoofbeats!'hesaid.

Icastonelast,desperateglancefromthewindowand,likeamiracle,Isawahorseandridergallopingatavertiginousspeedalongthe

causeway,thoughthewavescrashed,now,highasthehorse'sfetlocks.Arider,herblackskirtstuckeduparoundherwaistsoshecouldride

hardandfast,acrazy,magnificenthorsewomaninwidow'sweeds.

Asthetelephonerangagain.

'AmItowaitallmorning?'

Everymoment,mymotherdrewnearer.

'Shewillbetoolate,'Jean­Yvessaidandyethecouldnotrestrainanoteofhopethat,thoughitmustbeso,yetitmightnotbeso.

Thethird,intransigentcall.

'ShallIcomeuptoheaventofetchyoudown,SaintCecilia?Youwickedwoman,doyouwishmetocompoundmycrimesbydesecratingthe

marriagebed?'

SoImustgotothecourtyardwheremyhusbandwaitedinhisLondon­tailoredtrousersandtheshirtfromTurnbullandAsser,besidethe

mountingblock,with,inhishand,theswordwhichhisgreat­grandfatherhadpresentedtothelittlecorporal,intokenofsurrendertothe

Republic,beforeheshothimself.Theheavysword,unsheathed,greyasthatNovembermorning,sharpaschildbirth,mortal.

Whenmyhusbandsawmycompanion,heobserved:'Lettheblindleadtheblind,eh?Butdoesevenayouthasbesottedasyouarethinkshe

wastrulyblindtoherowndesireswhenshetookmyring?Giveitmeback,whore.'

Thefiresintheopalhadalldieddown.Igladlyslippeditfrommyfingerand,eveninthatdolorousplace,myheartwaslighterforthelackofit.

Myhusbandtookitlovinglyandlodgeditonthetipofhislittlefinger;itwouldgonofurther.

'Itwillservemeforadozenmorefiancées,'hesaid.'Totheblock,woman.No­­leavetheboy;Ishalldealwithhimlater,utilizingalessexalted

instrumentthantheonewithwhichIdomywifethehonourofherimmolation,fordonotfearthatindeathyouwillbedivided.'

Slowly,slowly,onefootbeforetheother,Icrossedthecobbles.ThelongerIdawdledovermyexecution,themoretimeitgavetheavenging

angeltodescend

'Don'tloiter,girl!DoyouthinkIshallloseappetiteforthemealifyouaresolongaboutservingit?No;Ishallgrowhungrier,moreravenous witheachmoment,morecruel Runtome,run!Ihaveaplacepreparedforyourexquisitecorpseinmydisplayofflesh!'

Heraisedtheswordandcutbrightsegmentsfromtheairwithit,butstillIlingeredalthoughmyhopes,sorecentlyraised,nowbegantoflag.If sheisnotherebynow,herhorsemusthavestumbledonthecauseway,haveplungedintothesea Onethingonlymademeglad;thatmylover wouldnotseemedie.

Myhusbandlaidmybrandedforeheadonthestoneand,ashehaddoneoncebefore,twistedmyhairintoaropeanddrewitawayfrommy

neck.

'Suchaprettyneck,'hesaidwithwhatseemedtobeagenuine,retrospectivetenderness.'Anecklikethestemofayoungplant.'

Ifeltthesilkenbristleofhisbeardandthewettouchofhislipsashekissedmynape.And,onceagain,ofmyapparelImustretainonlymy

gems;thesharpbladerippedmydressintwoanditfellfromme.Alittlegreenmoss,growinginthecrevicesofthemountingblock,wouldbe

thelastthingIshouldseeinalltheworld.

Thewhizzofthatheavysword.

And­­agreatbatteringandpoundingatthegate,thejanglingofthebell,thefrenziedneighingofahorse!Theunholysilenceoftheplace

shatteredinaninstant.Thebladedidnotdescend,thenecklacedidnotsever,myheaddidnotroll.For,foraninstant,thebeastwaveredinhis

stroke,asufficientsplitsecondofastonishedindecisiontoletmespringuprightanddarttotheassistanceofmyloverashestruggledsightlessly

withthegreatboltsthatkeptherout.

TheMarquisstoodtransfixed,utterlydazed,ataloss.ItmusthavebeenasifhehadbeenwatchinghisbelovedTristanforthetwelfth,the

thirteenthtimeandTristanstirred,thenleaptfromhisbierinthelastact,announcedinajauntyariainterposedfromVerdithatbygoneswere

bygones,cryingoverspiltmilkdidnobodyanygoodand,asforhimself,heproposedtolivehappilyeverafter.Thepuppetmaster,open­

mouthed,wide­eyed,impotentatthelast,sawhisdollsbreakfreeoftheirstrings,abandontheritualshehadordainedforthemsincetimebegan

andstarttoliveforthemselves;theking,aghast,witnessestherevoltofhispawns.

Youneversawsuchawildthingasmymother,herhatseizedbythewindsandblownouttoseasothatherhairwasherwhitemane,herblack

lislelegsexposedtothethigh,herskirtstuckedroundherwaist,onehandonthereinsoftherearinghorsewhiletheotherclaspedmyfather's

servicerevolverand,behindher,thebreakersofthesavage,indifferentsea,likethewitnessesofafuriousjustice.Andmyhusbandstoodstock­

still,asifshehadbeenMedusa,theswordstillraisedoverhisheadasinthoseclockworktableauxofBluebeardthatyouseeinglasscasesat

fairs.

Andthenitwasasthoughacuriouschildpushedhiscentimeintotheslotandsetallinmotion.Theheavy,beardedfigureroaredoutaloud,

brayingwithfury,and,wieldingthehonourableswordasifitwereamatterofdeathorglory,chargedus,allthree.

Onhereighteenthbirthday,mymotherhaddisposedofaman­eatingtigerthathadravagedthevillagesinthehillsnorthofHanoi.Now,without

amoment'shesitation,sheraisedmyfather'sgun,tookaimandputasingle,irreproachablebulletthroughmyhusband'shead.

Weleadaquietlife,thethreeofus.Iinherited,ofcourse,enormouswealthbutwehavegivenmostofitawaytovariouscharities.Thecastleis

nowaschoolfortheblind,thoughIpraythatthechildrenwholivetherearenothauntedbyanysadghostslookingfor,cryingfor,thehusband

whowillneverreturntothebloodychamber,thecontentsofwhichareburiedorburned,thedoorsealed.

IfeltIhadarighttoretainsufficientfundstostartalittlemusicschoolhere,ontheoutskirtsofParis,andwedowellenough.Sometimeswe

canevenaffordtogototheOpéra,thoughnevertositinabox,ofcourse.Weknowwearethesourceofmanywhisperingsandmuchgossip

butthethreeofusknowthetruthofitandmerechattercanneverharmus.Icanonlyblessthe­­whatshallIcallit?­­thematernaltelepathythat

sentmymotherrunningheadlongfromthetelephonetothestationafterIhadcalledher,thatnight.Ineverheardyoucrybefore,shesaid,by

wayofexplanation.Notwhenyouwerehappy.Andwhoevercriedbecauseofgoldbathtaps?

Thenighttrain,theoneIhadtaken;shelayinherberth,sleeplessasIhadbeen.Whenshecouldnotfindataxiatthatlonelyhalt,sheborrowed

oldDobbinfromabemusedfarmer,forsomeinternalurgencytoldherthatshemustreachmebeforetheincomingtidesealedmeawayfrom

herforever.Mypooroldnurse,leftscandalizedathome­­what?interruptmilordonhishoneymoon?­­shediedsoonafter.Shehadtakenso

muchsecretpleasureinthefactthatherlittlegirlhadbecomeamarquise;andnowhereIwas,scarcelyapennythericher,widowedat

seventeeninthemostdubiouscircumstancesandbusilyengagedinsettinguphousewithapiano­tuner.Poorthing,shepassedawayinasorry

stateofdisillusion!ButIdobelievemymotherloveshimasmuchasIdo.

Nopaintnorpowder,nomatterhowthickorwhite,canmaskthatredmarkonmyforehead;Iamgladhecannotseeit­­notforfearofhis

revulsion,sinceIknowheseesmeclearlywithhisheart­­but,becauseitsparesmyshame.

TheCourtshipofMrLyon

Outsideherkitchenwindow,thehedgerowglistenedasifthesnowpossessedalightofitsown;whentheskydarkenedtowardsevening,an

unearthly,reflectedpallorremainedbehinduponthewinter'slandscape,whilestillthesoftflakesfloateddown.Thislovelygirl,whoseskin

possessesthatsame,innerlightsoyouwouldhavethoughtshe,too,wasmadeallofsnow,pausesinherchoresinthemeankitchentolookout

atthecountryroad.Nothinghaspassedthatwayallday;theroadiswhiteandunmarkedasaspilledboltofbridalsatin.

Fathersaidhewouldbehomebeforenightfall.

Thesnowbroughtdownallthetelephonewires;hecouldn'thavecalled,evenwiththebestofnews.

Theroadsarebad.Ihopehe'llbesafe.

Buttheoldcarstuckfastinarut,wouldn'tbudgeaninch;theenginewhirred,coughedanddiedandhewasfarfromhome.Ruined,once;then

ruinedagain,ashehadlearntfromhislawyersthatverymorning;attheconclusionofthelengthy,slowattempttorestorehisfortunes,hehad

turnedouthispocketstofindthecashforpetroltotakehimhome.AndnotevenenoughmoneyleftovertobuyhisBeauty,hisgirl­child,his

pet,theonewhiteroseshesaidshewanted;theonlygiftshewanted,nomatterhowthecasewent,howrichhemightonceagainbe.Shehad

askedforsolittleandhehadnotbeenabletogiveittoher.Hecursedtheuselesscar,thelaststrawthatbrokehisspirit;then,nothingforitbut

tofastenhisoldsheepskincoataroundhim,abandontheheapofmetalandsetoffdownthesnow­filledlanetolookforhelp.

Behindwroughtirongates,ashort,snowydriveperformedareticentflourishbeforeaminiature,perfect,Palladianhousethatseemedtohide

itselfshylybehindsnow­ladenskirtsofanantiquecypress.Itwasalmostnight;thathouse,withitssweet,retiringmelancholygrace,would

haveseemeddesertedbutforalightthatflickeredinanupstairswindow,sovagueitmighthavebeenthereflectionofastar,ifanystarscould

havepenetratedthesnowthatwhirledyetmorethickly.Chilledthrough,hepressedthelatchofthegateandsaw,withapang,how,onthe

witheredghostofatangleofthorns,thereclung,still,thefadedragofawhiterose.

Thegateclangedloudlyshutbehindhim;tooloudly.Foraninstant,thatreverberatingclangseemedfinal,emphatic,ominousasifthegate,now

closed,barredallwithinitfromtheworldoutsidethewalled,wintrygarden.And,fromadistance,thoughfromwhatdistancehecouldnottell,

heheardthemostsingularsoundintheworld:agreatroaring,asofabeastofprey.

Intoomuchneedtoallowhimselftobeintimidated,hesquareduptothemahoganydoor.Thisdoorwasequippedwithaknockerintheshape

ofalion'shead,witharingthroughthenose;asheraisedhishandtowardsit,itcametohimthislion'sheadwasnot,ashehadthoughtatfirst,

madeofbrass,but,instead,ofsolidgold.Before,however,hecouldannouncehispresence,thedoorswungsilentlyinwardonwell­oiledhinges

andhesawawhitehallwherethecandlesofagreatchandeliercasttheirbenignlightuponsomany,manyflowersingreat,free­standingjarsof

crystalthatitseemedthewholeofspringdrewhimintoitswarmthwithaprofoundintakeofperfumedbreath.Yettherewasnolivingpersonin

thehall.

Thedoorbehindhimclosedassilentlyasithadopened,yet,thistime,hefeltnofearalthoughheknewbythepervasiveatmosphereofa

suspensionofrealitythathehadenteredaplaceofprivilegewhereallthelawsoftheworldheknewneednotnecessarilyapply,forthevery

richareoftenveryeccentricandthehousewasplainlythatofanexceedinglywealthyman.Asitwas,whennobodycametohelphimwithhis

coat,hetookitoffhimself.Atthat,thecrystalsofthechandeliertinkledalittle,asifemittingapleasedchuckle,andthedoorofacloakroom

openedofitsownaccord.Therewere,however,noclothesatallinthiscloakroom,noteventhestatutorycountry­housegardenmackintoshto

greethisownsquirearchalsheepskin,but,whenheemergedagainintothehall,hefoundagreetingwaitingforhimatlast­­therewas,ofall

things,aliverandwhiteKingCharlesspanielcrouched,withheadintelligentlycocked,ontheKelimrunner.Itgavehimfurther,comforting

proofofhisunseenhost'swealthandeccentricitytoseethedogwore,inplaceofacollar,adiamondnecklace.

Thedogsprangtoitsfeetinwelcomeandbusilyshepherdedhim(howamusing!)toasnuglittleleather­panelledstudyonthefirstfloor,where

alowtablewasdrawnuptoaroaringlogfire.Onthetable,asilvertray;roundtheneckofthewhiskydecanter,asilvertagwiththelegend:

Drinkme,whilethecoverofthesilverdishwasengravedwiththeexhortation:Eatme,inaflowinghand.Thisdishcontainedsandwichesof

thick­cutroastbeef,stillbloody.Hedranktheonewithsodaandatetheotherwithsomeexcellentmustardthoughtfullyprovidedinastoneware

pot,and,whenthespanielsawtoithehadservedhimself,shetrottedoffaboutherownbusiness.

AllthatremainedtomakeBeauty'sfatherentirelycomfortablewastofind,inacurtainedrecess,notonlyatelephonebutthecardofagarage thatadvertisedatwenty­four­hourrescueservice;acoupleofcallslaterandhehadconfirmed,thankGod,therewasnoserioustrouble,onlythe car'sageandthecoldweather couldhepickitupfromthevillageinanhour?Anddirectionstothevillage,buthalfamileaway,were supplied,inanewtoneofdeference,assoonashedescribedthehousefromwherehewascalling.

Andhewasdisconcertedbut,inhisimpecuniouscircumstances,relievedtohearthebillwouldgoonhishospitableifabsenthost'saccount;no

question,assuredthemechanic.Itwasthemaster'scustom.

Timeforanotherwhiskyashetried,unsuccessfully,tocallBeautyandtellherhewouldbelate;butthelineswerestilldown,although,

miraculously,thestormhadclearedasthemoonroseandnowaglancebetweenthevelvetcurtainsrevealedalandscapeasofivorywithan

inlayofsilver.Thenthespanielappearedagain,withhishatinhercarefulmouth,prettilywagginghertail,asiftotellhimitwastimetobe

gone,thatthismagicalhospitalitywasover.

Asthedoorswungtobehindhim,hesawthelion'seyesweremadeofagate.

Greatwreathsofsnownowprecariouslycurdedtherosetreesand,whenhebrushedagainstastemonhiswaytothegate,achillarmfulsoftly

thuddedtothegroundtoreveal,asifmiraculouslypreservedbeneathit,onelast,single,perfectrosethatmighthavebeenthelastroseleftliving

inallthewhitewinter,andofsointenseandyetdelicateafragranceitseemedtoringlikeadulcimeronthefrozenair.

Howcouldhishost,somysterious,sokind,denyBeautyherpresent?

Notnowdistantbutcloseathand,closeasthatmahoganyfrontdoor,roseamighty,furiousroaring;thegardenseemedtoholditsbreathin

apprehension.Butstill,becausehelovedhisdaughter,Beauty'sfatherstoletherose.

Atthat,everywindowofthehouseblazedwithfuriouslightandafugalbaying,asofaprideoflions,introducedhishost.

Thereisalwaysadignityaboutgreatbulk,anassertiveness,aqualityofbeingmoretherethanmostofusare.Thebeingwhonowconfronted

Beauty'sfatherseemedtohim,inhisconfusion,vasterthanthehouseheowned,ponderousyetswift,andthemoonlightglitteredonhisgreat,

mazyheadofhair,ontheeyesgreenasagate,onthegoldenhairsofthegreatpawsthatgraspedhisshoulderssothattheirclawspiercedthe

sheepskinasheshookhimlikeanangrychildshakesadoll.

ThisleonineapparitionshookBeauty'sfatheruntilhisteethrattledandthendroppedhimsprawlingonhiskneeswhilethespaniel,dartingfrom

theopendoor,dancedroundthem,yappingdistractedly,likealadyatwhosedinnerpartyblowshavebeenexchanged.

'Mygoodfellow­­'stammeredBeauty'sfather;buttheonlyresponsewasarenewedroar.

'Goodfellow?Iamnogoodfellow!IamtheBeast,andyoumustcallmeBeast,whileIcallyou,Thief!'

'Forgivemeforrobbingyourgarden,Beast!'

Headofalion;maneandmightypawsofalion;herearedonhishindlegslikeanangrylionyetworeasmokingjacketofdullredbrocadeand

wastheownerofthatlovelyhouseandthelowhillsthatcuppedit.

'Itwasformydaughter,'saidBeauty'sfather.'Allshewanted,inthewholeworld,wasonewhite,perfectrose.'

TheBeastrudelysnatchedthephotographherfatherdrewfromhiswalletandinspectedit,firstbrusquely,thenwithastrangekindofwonder,

almostthedawningofsurmise.Thecamerahadcapturedacertainlookshehad,sometimes,ofabsolutesweetnessandabsolutegravity,asifher

eyesmightpierceappearancesandseeyoursoul.Whenhehandedthepictureback,theBeasttookgoodcarenottoscratchthesurfacewithhis

claws.

'Takehertherose,then,butbringhertodinner,'hegrowled;andwhatelsewastheretobedone?

Althoughherfatherhadtoldherofthenatureoftheonewhowaitedforher,shecouldnotcontrolaninstinctualshudderoffearwhenshesaw

him,foralionisalionandamanisamanand,thoughlionsaremorebeautifulbyfarthanweare,yettheybelongtoadifferentorderofbeauty

and,besides,theyhavenorespectforus:whyshouldthey?Yetwildthingshaveafarmorerationalfearofusthanisoursofthem,andsome

kindofsadnessinhisagateeyes,thatlookedalmostblind,asifsickofsight,movedherheart.

Hesat,impassiveasafigurehead,atthetopofthetable;thediningroomwasQueenAnne,tapestried,agem.Apartfromanaromaticsoupkept

hotoveraspiritlamp,thefood,thoughexquisite,wascold­­acoldbird,acoldsoufflé,cheese.Heaskedherfathertoservethemfromabuffet

and,himself,atenothing.Hegrudginglyadmittedwhatshehadalreadyguessed,thathedislikedthepresenceofservantsbecause,shethought,a

constanthumanpresencewouldremindhimtoobitterlyofhisotherness,butthespanielsatathisfeetthroughoutthemeal,jumpingupfrom

timetotimetoseethateverythingwasinorder.

Howstrangehewas.Shefoundhisbewilderingdifferencefromherselfalmostintolerable;itspresencechokedher.Thereseemedaheavy,

soundlesspressureuponherinhishouse,asifitlayunderwater,andwhenshesawthegreatpawslyingonthearmofhischair,shethought:

theyarethedeathofanytenderherbivore.Andsuchaoneshefeltherselftobe,MissLamb,spotless,sacrificial.

Yetshestayed,andsmiled,becauseherfatherwantedhertodoso;andwhentheBeasttoldherhowhewouldaidherfather'sappealagainstthe

judgement,shesmiledwithbothhermouthandhereyes.Butwhen,astheysippedtheirbrandy,theBeast,inthediffuse,rumblingpurrwith

whichheconversed,suggested,withahintofshyness,offearofrefusal,thatsheshouldstayhere,withhim,incomfort,whileherfather

returnedtoLondontotakeupthelegalcudgelsagain,sheforcedasmile.Forsheknewwithapangofdread,assoonashespoke,thatitwould

besoandhervisittotheBeastmustbe,onsomemagicallyreciprocalscale,thepriceofherfather'sgoodfortune.

Donotthinkshehadnowillofherown;only,shewaspossessedbyasenseofobligationtoanunusualdegreeand,besides,shewouldgladly

havegonetotheendsoftheearthforherfather,whomsheloveddearly.

Herbedroomcontainedamarvellousglassbed;shehadabathroom,withtowelsthickasfleeceandvialsofsuaveunguents;andalittleparlour

ofherown,thewallsofwhichwerecoveredwithanantiquepaperofbirdsofparadiseandChinamen,wheretherewerepreciousbooksand

picturesandtheflowersgrownbyinvisiblegardenersintheBeast'shothouses.Nextmorning,herfatherkissedheranddroveawaywitha

renewedhopeabouthimthatmadeherglad,but,allthesame,shelongedfortheshabbyhomeoftheirpoverty.Theunaccustomedluxuryabout

hershefoundpoignant,becauseitgavenopleasuretoitspossessorandhimselfshedidnotseealldayasif,curiousreversal,shefrightened

him,althoughthespanielcameandsatwithher,tokeephercompany.Today,thespanielworeaneatchokerofturquoises.

Whopreparedhermeals?LonelinessoftheBeast;allthetimeshestayedthere,shesawnoevidenceofanotherhumanpresencebutthetraysof

foodthatarrivedonadumbwaiterinsideamahoganycupboardinherparlour.DinnerwaseggsBenedictandgrilledveal;sheateitasshe

browsedinabookshehadfoundintherosewoodrevolvingbookcase,acollectionofcourtlyandelegantFrenchfairytalesaboutwhitecats

whoweretransformedprincessesandfairieswhowerebirds.Thenshepulledasprigofmuscatgrapesfromafatbunchforherdessertand

foundherselfyawning;shediscoveredshewasbored.Atthat,thespanieltookholdofherskirtwithitsvelvetmouthandgaveitafirmbut

gentletug.Sheallowedthedogtotrotbeforehertothestudyinwhichherfatherhadbeenentertainedandthere,toherwell­disguiseddismay,

shefoundherhost,seatedbesidethefirewithatrayofcoffeeathiselbowfromwhichshemustpour.

Thevoicethatseemedtoissuefromacavefullofechoes,hisdark,softrumblinggrowl;afterherdayofpastel­colouredidleness,howcouldshe

conversewiththepossessorofavoicethatseemedaninstrumentcreatedtoinspiretheterrorthatthechordsofgreatorgansbring?Fascinated,

almostawed,shewatchedthefirelightplayonthegoldfringesofhismane;hewasirradiated,asifwithakindofhalo,andshethoughtofthe

firstgreatbeastoftheApocalypse,thewingedlionwithhispawupontheGospel,SaintMark.Smalltalkturnedtodustinhermouth;smalltalk

hadnever,atthebestoftimes,beenBeauty'sforte,andshehadlittlepracticeatit.

Buthe,hesitantly,asifhehimselfwereinaweofayounggirlwholookedasifshehadbeencarvedoutofasinglepearl,askedafterherfather's

lawcase;andherdeadmother;andhowthey,whohadbeensorich,hadcometobesopoor.Heforcedhimselftomasterhisshyness,which

wasthatofawildcreature,andsoshecontrivedtomasterherown­­tosucheffectthatsoonshewaschatteringawaytohimasifshehadknown

himallherlife.Whenthelittlecupidinthegiltclockonthemantelpiecestruckitsminiaturetambourine,shewasastonishedtodiscoveritdid

sotwelvetimes.

'Solate!Youwillwanttosleep,'hesaid.

Atthat,theybothfellsilent,asifthesestrangecompanionsweresuddenlyovercomewithembarrassmenttofindthemselvestogether,alone,in

thatroominthedepthsofthewinter'snight.Asshewasabouttorise,heflunghimselfatherfeetandburiedhisheadinherlap.Shestayed

stock­still,transfixed;shefelthishotbreathonherfingers,thestiffbristlesofhismuzzlegrazingherskin,theroughlappingofhistongueand

then,withafloodofcompassion,understood:allheisdoingiskissingmyhands.

Hedrewbackhisheadandgazedatherwithhisgreen,inscrutableeyes,inwhichshesawherfacerepeatedtwice,assmallasifitwereinbud.

Then,withoutanotherword,hesprangfromtheroomandshesaw,withanindescribableshock,hewentonallfours.

Nextday,allday,thehillsonwhichthesnowstillsettledechoedwiththeBeast'srumblingroar:hasmastergonea­hunting?Beautyaskedthe

spaniel.Butthespanielgrowled,almostbad­temperedly,asiftosay,thatshewouldnothaveanswered,evenifshecouldhave.

Beautywouldpassthedayinhersuitereadingor,perhaps,doingalittleembroidery;aboxofcolouredsilksandaframehadbeenprovidedfor

her.Or,wellwrappedup,shewanderedinthewalledgarden,amongtheleaflessroses,withthespanielatherheels,anddidalittlerakingand

rearranging.Anidle,restfultime;aholiday.Theenchantmentofthatbright,sad,prettyplaceenvelopedherandshefoundthat,againstallher

expectations,shewashappythere.ShenolongerfelttheslightestapprehensionathernightlyinterviewswiththeBeast.Allthenaturallawsof

theworldwereheldinsuspension,here,whereanarmyofinvisiblestenderlywaitedonher,andshewouldtalkwiththelion,underthepatient

chaperonageofthebrown­eyeddog,onthenatureofthemoonanditsborrowedlight,aboutthestarsandthesubstancesofwhichtheywere

made,aboutthevariabletransformationsoftheweather.Yetstillhisstrangenessmadehershiver;andwhenhehelplesslyfellbeforehertokiss

herhands,ashedideverynightwhentheyparted,shewouldretreatnervouslyintoherskin,flinchingathistouch.

Thetelephoneshrilled;forher.Herfather.Suchnews!

TheBeastsunkhisgreatheadontohispaws.Youwillcomebacktome?Itwillbelonelyhere,withoutyou.

Shewasmovedalmosttotearsthatheshouldcareforherso.Itwasinherhearttodropakissuponhisshaggymanebut,thoughshestretched

outherhandtowardshim,shecouldnotbringherselftotouchhimofherownfreewill,hewassodifferentfromherself.But,yes,shesaid;I

willcomeback.Soon,beforethewinterisover.Thenthetaxicameandtookheraway.

YouareneveratthemercyoftheelementsinLondon,wherethehuddledwarmthofhumanitymeltsthesnowbeforeithastimetosettle;and

herfatherwasasgoodasrichagain,sincehishirsutefriend'slawyershadthebusinesssowellinhandthathiscreditbroughtthemnothingbut

thebest.Aresplendenthotel;theopera,theatres;awholenewwardrobeforhisdarling,soshecouldstepoutonhisarmtoparties,toreceptions,

torestaurants,andlifewasasshehadneverknownit,forherfatherhadruinedhimselfbeforeherbirthkilledhermother.

AlthoughtheBeastwasthesourceofthisnew­foundprosperityandtheytalkedofhimoften,nowthattheyweresofarawayfromthetimeless

spellofhishouseitseemedtopossesstheradiantandfinitequalityofdreamandtheBeasthimself,somonstrous,sobenign,somekindofspirit

ofgoodfortunewhohadsmiledonthemandletthemgo.Shesenthimflowers,whiterosesinreturnfortheoneshehadgivenher;andwhen

shelefttheflorist,sheexperiencedasuddensenseofperfectfreedom,asifshehadjustescapedfromanunknowndanger,hadbeengrazedby

thepossibilityofsomechangebut,finally,leftintact.Yet,withthisexhilaration,adesolatingemptiness.Butherfatherwaswaitingforherat

thehotel;theyhadplannedadeliciousexpeditiontobuyherfursandshewasaseagerforthetreatasanygirlmightbe.

Sincetheflowersintheshopwerethesamealltheyearround,nothinginthewindowcouldtellherthatwinterhadalmostgone.

Returninglatefromsupperafterthetheatre,shetookoffherearringsinfrontofthemirror;Beauty.Shesmiledatherselfwithsatisfaction.She

waslearning,attheendofheradolescence,howtobeaspoiledchildandthatpearlyskinofherswasplumpingout,alittle,withhighlivingand

compliments.Acertaininwardnesswasbeginningtotransformthelinesaroundhermouth,thosesignaturesofthepersonality,andher

sweetnessandhergravitycouldsometimesturnamitepetulantwhenthingswentnotquiteasshewantedthemtogo.Youcouldnothavesaid

thatherfreshnesswasfadingbutshesmiledatherselfinmirrorsalittletoooften,thesedays,andthefacethatsmiledbackwasnotquitetheone

shehadseencontainedintheBeast'sagateeyes.Herfacewasacquiring,insteadofbeauty,alacqueroftheinvincibleprettinessthat

characterizescertainpampered,exquisite,expensivecats.

Thesoftwindofspringbreathedinfromthenearbyparkthroughtheopenwindows;shedidnotknowwhyitmadeherwanttocry.

Therewasasudden,urgent,scrabblingsound,asofclaws,atherdoor.

Hertrancebeforethemirrorbroke;allatonce,sherememberedeverythingperfectly.Springwashereandshehadbrokenherpromise.Nowthe

Beasthimselfhadcomeinpursuitofher!First,shewasfrightenedofhisanger;then,mysteriouslyjoyful,sherantoopenthedoor.Butitwas

hisliverandwhitespottedspanielwhohurledherselfintothegirl'sarmsinaflurryoflittlebarksandgruffmurmurings,ofwhimperingand

relief.

Yetwherewasthewell­brushed,jewelleddogwhohadsatbesideherembroideryframeintheparlourwithbirdsofparadisenoddingonthe

walls?Thisone'sfringedearsweremattedwithmud,hercoatwasdustyandsnarled,shewasthinasadogthathaswalkedalongwayand,if

shehadnotbeenadog,shewouldhavebeenintears.

Afterthatfirst,rapturousgreeting,shedidnotwaitforBeautytoorderherfoodandwater;sheseizedthechiffonhemofhereveningdress,

whimperedandtugged.Threwbackherhead,howled,thentuggedandwhimperedagain.

Therewasaslow,latetrainthatwouldtakehertothestationwhereshehadleftforLondonthreemonthsago.Beautyscribbledanoteforher

father,threwacoatroundhershoulders.Quickly,quickly,urgedthespanielsoundlessly;andBeautyknewtheBeastwasdying.

Inthethickdarkbeforedawn,thestationmasterrousedasleepydriverforher.Fastasyoucan.

ItseemedDecemberstillpossessedhisgarden.Thegroundwashardasiron,theskirtsofthedarkcypressmovedonthechillwindwitha

mournfulrustleandtherewerenogreenshootsontherosesasif,thisyear,theywouldnotbloom.Andnotonelightinanyofthewindows,

only,inthetopmostattic,thefaintestsmearofradianceonapane,thethinghostofalightonthevergeofextinction.

Thespanielhadsleptalittle,inherarms,forthepoorthingwasexhausted.ButnowhergrievingagitationfedBeauty'surgencyand,asthegirl

pushedopenthefrontdoor,shesaw,withathrustofconscience,howthegoldendoorknockerwasthicklymuffledinblackcrêpe.

Thedoordidnotopensilently,asbefore,butwithadolefulgroaningofthehingesand,thistime,ontoperfectdarkness.Beautyclickedher

goldcigarettelighter;thetapersinthechandelierhaddrownedintheirownwaxandtheprismswerewreathedwithdriftingarabesquesof

cobwebs.Theflowersintheglassjarsweredead,asifnobodyhadhadthehearttoreplacethemaftershewasgone.Dust,everywhere;andit

wascold.Therewasanairofexhaustion,ofdespairinthehouseand,worse,akindofphysicaldisillusion,asifitsglamourhadbeensustained

byacheapconjuringtrickandnowtheconjurer,havingfailedtopullthecrowds,haddepartedtotryhisluckelsewhere.

Beautyfoundacandletolightherwayandfollowedthefaithfulspanielupthestaircase,pastthestudy,pasthersuite,throughahouseechoing

withdesertionupalittlebackstaircasededicatedtomiceandspiders,stumbling,rippingthehemofherdressinherhaste.

Whatamodestbedroom!Anattic,withaslopingroof,theymighthavegiventhechambermaidiftheBeasthademployedstaff.Anightlighton

themantelpiece,nocurtainsatthewindows,nocarpetonthefloorandanarrow,ironbedsteadonwhichhelay,sadlydiminished,hisbulk

scarcelydisturbingthefadedpatchworkquilt,hismaneagreyishrat'snestandhiseyesclosed.Onthestick­backedchairwherehisclotheshad

beenthrown,therosesshehadsenthimwerethrustintothejugfromthewashstandbuttheywerealldead.

Thespanieljumpeduponthebedandburrowedherwayunderthescantycovers,softlykeening.

'Oh,Beast,'saidBeauty.'Ihavecomehome.'

Hiseyelidsflickered.Howwasitshehadnevernoticedbeforethathisagateeyeswereequippedwithlids,likethoseofaman?Wasitbecause

shehadonlylookedatherownface,reflectedthere?

'I'mdying,Beauty,'hesaidinacrackedwhisperofhisformerpurr.'Sinceyouleftme,Ihavebeensick.Icouldnotgohunting,IfoundIhadnot

thestomachtokillthegentlebeasts,Icouldnoteat.IamsickandImustdie;butIshalldiehappybecauseyouhavecometosaygood­byeto

me.'

Sheflungherselfuponhim,sothattheironbedsteadgroaned,andcoveredhispoorpawswithherkisses.

'Don'tdie,Beast!Ifyou'llhaveme,I'llneverleaveyou.'Whenherlipstouchedthemeat­hookclaws,theydrewbackintotheirpadsandshesaw

howhehadalwayskepthisfistsclenchedbutnow,painfully,tentatively,atlastbegantostretchhisfingers.Hertearsfellonhisfacelikesnow

and,undertheirsofttransformation,thebonesshowedthroughthepelt,thefleshthroughthewide,tawnybrow.Andthenitwasnolongeralion

inherarmsbutaman,amanwithanunkemptmaneofhairand,howstrange,abrokennose,suchasthenosesofretiredboxers,thatgavehima

distant,heroicresemblancetothehandsomestofallthebeasts.

'Doyouknow,'saidMrLyon,'IthinkImightbeabletomanagealittlebreakfasttoday,Beauty,ifyouwouldeatsomethingwithme.'

MrandMrsLyonwalkinthegarden;theoldspanieldrowsesonthegrass,inadriftoffallenpetals.

TheTiger'sBride

MyfatherlostmetoTheBeastatcards.

There'saspecialmadnessstrikestravellersfromtheNorthwhentheyreachthelovelylandwherethelemontreesgrow.Wecomefrom

countriesofcoldweather;athome,weareatwarwithnaturebuthere,ah!youthinkyou'vecometotheblessedplotwherethelionliesdown

withthelamb.Everythingflowers;noharshwindstirsthevoluptuousair.Thesunspillsfruitforyou.Andthedeathly,sensuallethargyofthe

sweetSouthinfectsthestarvedbrain;itgasps:'Luxury!moreluxury!'Butthenthesnowcomes,youcannotescapeit,itfollowedusfromRussia

asifitranbehindourcarriage,andinthisdark,bittercityhascaughtupwithusatlast,flockingagainstthewindowpanestomockmyfather's

expectationsofperpetualpleasureastheveinsinhisforeheadstandoutandthrob,hishandsshakeashedealstheDevil'spicturebooks.

Thecandlesdroppedhot,acridgoutsofwaxonmybareshoulders.Iwatchedwiththefuriouscynicismpeculiartowomenwhomcircumstances

forcemutelytowitnessfolly,whilemyfather,firedinhisdesperationbymoreandyetmoredraughtsofthefirewatertheycall'grappa',rids

himselfofthelastscrapsofmyinheritance.WhenweleftRussia,weownedblackearth,blueforestwithbearandwildboar,serfs,cornfields,

farmyards,mybelovedhorses,whitenightsofcoolsummer,thefireworksofthenorthernlights.Whataburdenallthosepossessionsmusthave

beentohim,becausehelaughsasifwithgleeashebeggarshimself;heisinsuchapassiontodonatealltoTheBeast.

Everyonewhocomestothiscitymustplayahandwiththegrandseigneur;fewcome.TheydidnotwarnusatMilan,or,iftheydid,wedidnot

understandthem­­mylimpingItalian,thebewilderingdialectoftheregion.Indeed,Imyselfspokeupinfavourofthisremote,provincialplace,

outoffashiontwohundredyears,because,ohirony,itboastednocasino.IdidnotknowthatthepriceofastayinitsDecembralsolitudewasa

gamewithMilord.

Thehourwaslate.Thechilldampofthisplacecreepsintothestones,intoyourbones,intothespongypithofthelungs;itinsinuateditselfwith

ashiverintoourparlour,whereMilordcametoplayintheprivacyessentialtohim.Whocouldrefusetheinvitationhisvaletbroughttoour

lodging?Notmyprofligatefather,certainly;themirrorabovethetablegavemebackhisfrenzy,myimpassivity,thewitheringcandles,the

emptyingbottles,thecolouredtideofthecardsastheyroseandfell,thestillmaskthatconcealedallthefeaturesofTheBeastbutfortheyellow

eyesthatstrayed,nowandthen,fromhisunfurledhandtowardsmyself.

'LaBestia!'saidourlandlady,gingerlyfingeringanenvelopewithhishugecrestofatigerrampantonit,somethingoffear,somethingof

wonderinherface.AndIcouldnotaskherwhytheycalledthemasteroftheplace,'LaBestia'­­wasittodowiththatheraldicsignature?­­

becausehertonguewassothickenedbythephlegmy,bronchiticspeechoftheregionIscarcelymanagedtomakeoutathingshesaidexcept,

whenshesawme:'Chebella!'

SinceIcouldtoddle,alwaystheprettyone,withmyglossy,nut­browncurls,myrosycheeks.AndbornonChristmasDay­­her'Christmasrose',

myEnglishnursecalledme.Thepeasantssaid:'Thelivingimageofhermother,'crossingthemselvesoutofrespectforthedead.Mymotherdid

notblossomlong;barteredforherdowrytosuchafecklesssprigoftheRussiannobilitythatshesoondiedofhisgaming,hiswhoring,his

agonizingrepentances.AndTheBeastgavemetherosefromhisownimpeccableifoutmodedbuttonholewhenhearrived,thevaletbrushing

thesnowoffhisblackcloak.Thiswhiterose,unnatural,outofseason,thatnowmynervousfingersripped,petalbypetal,apartasmyfather

magnificentlyconcludedthecareerhehadmadeofcatastrophe.

Thisisamelancholy,introspectiveregion;asunless,featurelesslandscape,thesullenriversweatingfog,theshorn,hunkeringwillows.Anda

cruelcity;thesombrepiazza,aplaceuniquelysuitedtopublicexecutions,undertheheedingshadowofthatmalignbarnofachurch.Theyused

tohangcondemnedmenincagesfromthecitywalls;unkindnesscomesnaturallytothem,theireyesaresettooclosetogether,theyhavethin

lips.Poorfood,pastasoakedinoil,boiledbeefwithsauceofbitterherbs.Afunerealhushabouttheplace,theinhabitantshuddledupagainstthe

coldsoyoucanhardlyseetheirfaces.Andtheylietoyouandcheatyou,innkeepers,coachmen,everybody.God,howtheyfleecedus!

ThetreacherousSouth,whereyouthinkthereisnowinterbutforgetyoutakeitwithyou.

MysenseswereincreasinglytroubledbythefuddlingperfumeofMilord,fartoopotentareekofpurplishcivetatsuchclosequartersinsosmall

aroom.Hemustbathehimselfinscent,soakhisshirtsandunderlineninit;whatcanhesmellof,thatneedssomuchcamouflage?

Ineversawamansobiglooksotwo­dimensional,inspiteofthequainteleganceofTheBeast,intheold­fashionedtailcoatthatmight,fromits

looks,havebeenboughtinthosedistantyearsbeforeheimposedseclusiononhimself;hedoesnotfeelheneedkeepupwiththetimes.Thereis

acrudeclumsinessabouthisoutlines,thatareontheungainly,giantside;andhehasanoddairofself­imposedrestraint,asiffightingabattle

withhimselftoremainuprightwhenhewouldfarratherdropdownonallfours.Hethrows.ourhumanaspirationstothegodlikesadlyawry,

poorfellow;onlyfromadistancewouldyouthinkTheBeastnotmuchdifferentfromanyotherman,althoughhewearsamaskwithaman's

facepaintedmostbeautifullyonit.Oh,yes,abeautifulface;butonewithtoomuchformalsymmetryoffeaturetobeentirelyhuman:one

profileofhismaskisthemirrorimageoftheother,tooperfect,uncanny.Hewearsawig,too,falsehairtiedatthenapewithabow,awigofthe

kindyouseeinold­fashionedportraits.Achastesilkstockstuckwithapearlhideshisthroat.Andglovesofblondkidthatareyetsohugeand

clumsytheydonotseemtocoverhands.

Heisacarnivalfiguremadeofpapiermâchéandcrêpehair;andyethehastheDevil'sknackatcards.

Hismaskedvoiceechoesasfromagreatdistanceashestoopsoverhishandandhehassuchagrowlingimpedimentinhisspeechthatonlyhis

valet,whounderstandshim,caninterpretforhim,asifhismasterweretheclumsydollandhetheventriloquist.

Thewickslumpedintheerodedwax,thecandlesguttered.Bythetimemyrosehadlostallitspetals,myfather,too,wasleftwithnothing.

'Exceptthegirl.'

Gamblingisasickness.Myfathersaidhelovedmeyethestakedhisdaughteronahandofcards.Hefannedthemout;inthemirror,Isawwild

hopelightuphiseyes.Hiscollarwasunfastened,hisrumpledhairstooduponend,hehadtheanguishofamaninthelaststagesofdebauchery.

Thedraughtscameoutoftheoldwallsandbitme,IwascolderthanI'deverbeeninRussia,whennightsarecoldestthere.

Aqueen,aking,anace.Isawtheminthemirror.Oh,Iknowhethoughthecouldnotloseme;besides,backwithmewouldcomeallhehad lost,theunravelledfortunesofourfamilyatoneblowrestored.Andwouldhenotwin,aswell,TheBeast'shereditarypalazzooutsidethecity; hisimmenserevenues;hislandsaroundtheriver;hisrents,histreasurechest,hisMantegnas,hisGiulioRomanos,hisCellinisaltcellars,his tides theverycityitself.

Youmustnotthinkmyfathervaluedmeatlessthanaking'sransom;but,atnomorethanaking'sransom.

Itwascoldashellintheparlour.Anditseemedtome,childofthesevereNorth,thatitwasnotmyfleshbut,truly,myfather'ssoulthatwasin

peril.

Myfather,ofcourse,believedinmiracles;whatgamblerdoesnot?Inpursuitofjustsuchamiracleasthis,hadwenottravelledfromthelandof

bearsandshootingstars?

Soweteeteredonthebrink.

TheBeastbayed;laiddownallthreeremainingaces.

Theindifferentservantsnowglidedsmoothlyforwardasonwheelstodousethecandlesonebyone.Tolookatthemyouwouldthinkthat

nothingofanymomenthadoccurred.Theyyawnedalittleresentfully;itwasalmostmorning,wehadkeptthemoutofbed.TheBeast'sman

broughthiscloak.Myfathersatamongstthesepreparationsfordeparture,staringonatthebetrayalofhiscardsuponthetable.

TheBeast'smaninformedmecrisplythathe,thevalet,wouldcallformeandmybagstomorrow,atten,andconductmeforthwithtoThe

Beast'spalazzo.Capisco?SoshockedwasIthatIscarcelydid'capisco';herepeatedmyorderspatiently,hewasastrange,thin,quicklittleman

whowalkedwithanirregular,joltingrhythmuponsplayedfeetincurious,wedge­shapedshoes.

Wheremyfatherhadbeenredasfire,nowhewaswhiteasthesnowthatcakedthewindow­pane.Hiseyesswam;soonhewouldcry.

'"LikethebaseIndian,"'hesaid;helovedrhetoric.'"Onewhosehand,/LikethebaseIndian,threwapearlaway/Richerthanallhistribe "I havelostmypearl,mypearlbeyondprice.'

Atthat,TheBeastmadeasudden,dreadfulnoise,halfwaybetweenagrowlandaroar;thecandlesflared.Thequickvalet,theprimhypocrite,

interpretedunblinking:'Mymastersays:Ifyouaresocarelessofyourtreasures,youshouldexpectthemtobetakenfromyou.'

Hegaveusthebowandsmilehismastercouldnotofferusandtheydeparted.

Iwatchedthesnowuntil,justbeforedawn,itstoppedfalling;ahardfrostsettled,nextmorningtherewasalightlikeiron.

TheBeast'scarriage,ofanelegantifantiquedesign,wasblackasahearseanditwasdrawnbyadashingblackgeldingwhoblewsmokefrom

hisnostrilsandstampeduponthepackedsnowwithenoughsprightlyappearanceoflifetogivemesomehopethatnotalltheworldwaslocked

inice,asIwas.IhadalwaysheldalittletowardsGulliver'sopinion,thathorsesarebetterthanweare,and,thatday,Iwouldhavebeengladto

departwithhimtothekingdomofhorses,ifI'dbeengiventhechance.

Thevaletsatupontheboxinanattyblackandgoldlivery,clasping,ofallthings,abunchofhismaster'sdamnedwhiterosesasifagiftof

flowerswouldreconcileawomantoanyhumiliation.Hesprangdownwithpreternaturalagilitytoplacethemceremoniouslyinmyreluctant

hand.Mytear­beslobberedfatherwantsarosetoshowthatIforgivehim.WhenIbreakoffastem,Iprickmyfingerandsohegetshisroseall

smearedwithblood.

Thevaletcrouchedatmyfeettotucktherugsabout.mewithastrangekindofunflatteringobsequiousnessyetheforgothisstationsufficiently

toscratchbusilybeneathhiswhiteperiwigwithanover­suppleindexfingerasheofferedmewhatmyoldnursewouldhavecalledan'old­

fashionedlook',ironic,sly,asmidgenofdisdaininit.Andpity?Nopity.Hiseyesweremoistandbrown,hisfaceseamedwiththeinnocent

cunningofanancientbaby.Hehadanirritatinghabitofchatteringtohimselfunderhisbreathallthetimeashepackeduphismaster's

winnings.Idrewthecurtainstoconcealthesightofmyfather'sfarewell;myspitewassharpasbrokenglass.

LosttoTheBeast!Andwhat,Iwondered,mightbetheexactnatureofhis'beastliness'?MyEnglishnurseoncetoldmeaboutatiger­manshe

sawinLondon,whenshewasalittlegirl,toscaremeintogoodbehaviour,forIwasawildweethingandshecouldnottamemeinto

submissionwithafrownorthebribeofaspoonfulofjam.Ifyoudon'tstopplaguingthenursemaids,mybeauty,thetiger­manwillcomeand

takeyouaway.They'dbroughthimfromSumatra,intheIndies,shesaid;hishinderpartswereallhairyandonlyfromtheheaddownwardsdid

heresembleaman.

AndyetTheBeastgoesalwaysmasked;itcannotbehisfacethatlookslikemine.

Butthetiger­man,inspiteofhishairiness,couldtakeaglassofaleinhishandlikeagoodChristiananddrinkitdown.Hadshenotseenhimdo

so,atthesignofTheGeorge,bythestepsofUpperMoorFieldswhenshe,wasjustashighasmeandlispedandtoddled,too.Thenshewould

sighforLondon,acrosstheNorthSeaofthelapseofyears.But,ifthisyoungladywasnotagoodlittlegirlanddidnoteatherboiledbeetroot,

thenthetiger­manwouldputonhisbigblacktravellingcloaklinedwithfur,justlikeyourdaddy's,andhiretheErl­King'sgalloperofwindand

ridethroughthenightstraighttothenurseryand­­

Yes,mybeauty!GOBBLEYOUUP!

HowI'dsquealindelightedterror,halfbelievingher,halfknowingthatsheteasedme.AndtherewerethingsIknewthatImustnottellher.In

ourlostfarmyard,wherethegigglingnursemaidsinitiatedmeintothemysteriesofwhatthebulldidtothecows,Iheardaboutthewaggoner's

daughter.Hush,hush,don'tletontoyournursiewesaidso;thewaggoner'slass,hare­lipped,squint­eyed,uglyassin,whowouldhavetaken

her?Yet,tohershame,herbellyswelledamidthecruelmockeryoftheostlersandhersonwasbornofabear,theywhispered.Bornwithafull

peltandteeth;thatprovedit.But,whenhegrewup,hewasagoodshepherd,althoughhenevermarried,livedinahutoutsidethevillageand

couldmakethewindblowanywayhewantedtobesidesbeingabletotellwhicheggswouldbecomecocks,whichhens.

Thewonderingpeasantsoncebroughtmyfatheraskullwithhornsfourincheslongoneithersideofitandwouldnotgobacktothefieldwhere

theirpoorploughdisturbedituntilthepriestwentwiththem;forthisskullhadthejaw­boneofaman,haditnot?

Oldwives'tales,nurseryfears!IknewwellenoughthereasonforthetrepidationIcosilytitillatedwithsuperstitiousmarvelsofmychildhoodon

thedaymychildhoodended.FornowmyownskinwasmysolecapitalintheworldandtodayI'dmakemyfirstinvestment

Wehadleftthecityfarbehindusandwerenowtraversingawide,flatdishofsnowwherethemutilatedstumpsofthewillowsflourishedtheir

ciliateheadsathwartfrozenditches;mistdiminishedthehorizon,broughtdowntheskyuntilitseemednomorethanafewinchesaboveus.As

faraseyecouldsee,notonethingliving.Howstarveling,howbereftthedeadseasonofthisspuriousEdeninwhichallthefruitwasblightedby

cold!Andmyfrailroses,alreadyfaded.Iopenedthecarriagedoorandtossedthedefunctbouquetintotherucked,frost­stiffmudoftheroad.

Suddenlyasharp,freezingwindaroseandpeltedmyfacewithadryriceofpowderedsnow.Themistliftedsufficientlytorevealbeforemean

acreageofhalf­derelictfaçadesofsheerredbrick,thevastman­trap,themegalomaniaccitadelofhispalazzo.

Itwasaworldinitselfbutadeadone,aburned­outplanet.IsawTheBeastboughtsolitude,notluxury,withhismoney.

Thelittleblackhorsetrottedsmartlythroughthefiguredbronzedoorsthatstoodopentotheweatherlikethoseofabarnandthevalethanded

meoutofthecarriageontothescarredtilesofthegreathallitself,intotheodorouswarmthofastable,sweetwithhay,acridwithhorsedung.

Anequinechorusofneighingsandsoftdrummingsofhoovesbrokeoutbeneaththetallroof,wherethebeamswerescabbedwithlastsummer's

swallows'nests;adozengracilemuzzlesliftedfromtheirmangersandturnedtowardsus,earserect.TheBeasthadgivenhishorsestheuseof

thediningroom.Thewallswerepainted,aptlyenough,withafrescoofhorses,dogsandmeninawoodwherefruitandblossomgrewonthe

boughtogether.

Thevalettweakedpolitelyatmysleeve.Milordiswaiting.

Gapingdoorsandbrokenwindowsletthewindineverywhere.Wemountedonestaircaseafteranother,ourfeetcloppingonthemarble.

Througharchwaysandopendoors,IglimpsedsuitesofvaultedchambersopeningoneoutofanotherlikesystemsofChineseboxesintothe

infinitecomplexityoftheinnardsoftheplace.HeandIandthewindweretheonlythingsstirring;andallthefurniturewasunderdustsheets,

thechandeliersbundledupincloth,picturestakenfromtheirhooksandproppedwiththeirfacestothewallsasiftheirmastercouldnotbearto

lookatthem.Thepalacewasdismantled,asifitsownerwereabouttomovehouseorhadneverproperlymovedin;TheBeasthadchosento

liveinanuninhabitedplace.

Thevaletdartedmeareassuringglancefromhisbrown,eloquenteyes,yetaglancewithsomuchqueersuperciliousnessinitthatitdidnot

comfortme,andwentboundingaheadofmeonhisbandylegs,softlychatteringtohimself.Iheldmyheadhighandfollowedhim;but,forall

mypride,myheartwasheavy.

Milordhashiseyriehighabovethehouse,asmall,stifling,darkenedroom;hekeepshisshutterslockedatnoon.Iwasoutofbreathbythetime

wereacheditandreturnedtohimthesilencewithwhichhegreetedme.Iwillnotsmile.Hecannotsmile.

Inhisrarelydisturbedprivacy,TheBeastwearsagarmentofOttomandesign,aloose,dullpurplegownwithgoldembroideryroundtheneck

thatfallsfromhisshoulderstoconcealhisfeet.Thefeetofthechairhesitsinarehandsomelyclawed.Hehideshishandsinhisamplesleeves.

Theartificialmasterpieceofhisfaceappalsme.Asmallfireinasmallgrate.Arushingwindrattlestheshutters.

Thevaletcoughed.Tohimfellthedelicatetaskoftransmittingtomehismaster'swishes.

'Mymaster­­'

Astickfellinthegrate.Itmadeamightyclatterinthatdreadfulsilence;thevaletstarted;losthisplaceinhisspeech,beganagain.

'Mymasterhasbutonedesire.'

Thethick,rich,wildscentwithwhichMilordhadsoakedhimselfthepreviouseveninghangsallaboutus,ascendsincursivebluefromthe

smokeofapreciousChinesepot.

'Hewishesonly­­'

Now,inthefaceofmyimpassivity,thevalettwittered,hisironiccomposuregone,forthedesireofamaster,howevertrivial,mayyetsound

unbearablyinsolentinthemouthofaservantandhisroleofgo­betweenclearlycausedhimagooddealofembarrassment.Hegulped;he

swallowed,atlastcontrivedtounleashanunpunctuatedflood.

'Mymaster'ssoledesireistoseetheprettyyoungladyunclothednudewithoutherdressandthatonlyfortheonetimeafterwhichshewillbe

returnedtoherfatherundamagedwithbankers'ordersforthesumwhichhelosttomymasteratcardsandalsoanumberoffinepresentssuchas

furs,jewelsandhorses­­'

Iremainedstanding.Duringthisinterview,myeyeswerelevelwiththoseinsidethemaskthatnowevadedmineasif,tohiscredit,hewas

ashamedofhisownrequestevenashismouthpiecemadeitforhim.Agitato,moltoagitato,thevaletwrunghiswhite­glovedhands.

'Desnuda­­'

Icouldscarcelybelievemyears.Iletoutaraucousguffaw;noyoungladylaughslikethat!myoldnurseusedtoremonstrate.ButIdid.Anddo.

Attheclamourofmyheartlessmirth,thevaletdancedbackwardswithperturbation,palpitatinghisfingersasifattemptingtowrenchthemoff,

expostulating,wordlesslypleading.IfeltthatIowedittohimtomakemyreplyinasexquisiteaTuscanasIcouldmaster.

'Youmayputmeinawindowlessroom,sir,andIpromiseyouIwillpullmyskirtuptomywaist,readyforyou.Buttheremustbeasheetover

myface,tohideit;thoughthesheetmustbelaidovermesolightlythatitwillnotchokeme.SoIshallbecoveredcompletelyfromthewaist

upwards,andnolights.Thereyoucanvisitmeonce,sir,andonlytheonce.AfterthatImustbedrivendirectlytothecityanddepositedinthe

publicsquare,infrontofthechurch.Ifyouwishtogivememoney,thenIshouldbepleasedtoreceiveit.ButImuststressthatyoushouldgive

meonlythesameamountofmoneythatyouwouldgivetoanyotherwomaninsuchcircumstances.However,ifyouchoosenottogivemea

present,thenthatisyourright.'

HowpleasedIwastoseeIstruckTheBeasttotheheart!For,afterabaker'sdozenheartbeats,onesingletearswelled,glittering,atthecornerof

themaskedeye.Atear!Atear,Ihoped,ofshame.Theteartrembledforamomentonanedgeofpaintedbone,thentumbleddownthepainted

cheektofall,withanabrupttinkle,onthetiledfloor.

Thevalet,tickingandcluckingtohimself,hastilyusheredmeoutoftheroom.Amauvecloudofhismaster'sperfumebillowedoutintothechill

corridorwithusanddissipateditselfonthespinningwinds.

Acellhadbeenpreparedforme,averitablecell,windowless,airless,lighdess,inthevisceraofthepalace.Thevaletlitalampforme;anarrow

bed,adarkcupboardwithfruitandflowerscarvedonitbulkedoutofthegloom.

'Ishalltwistanooseoutofmybedlinenandhangmyselfwithit,'Isaid.

'Oh,no,'saidthevalet,fixinguponmewideandsuddenlymelancholyeyes.'Oh,no,youwillnot.Youareawomanofhonour.'

Andwhatwashedoinginmybedroom,thisjiggingcaricatureofaman?WashetobemywarderuntilIsubmittedtoTheBeast'swhimorheto

mine?AmIinsuchreducedcircumstancesthatImaynothavealady'smaid?Asifinreplytomyunspokendemand,thevaletclappedhis

hands.

"Toassuageyourloneliness,madame

'

Aknockingandclatteringbehindthedoorofthecupboard;thedoorswingsopenandoutglidesasoubrettefromanoperetta,withglossy,nut­

browncurls,rosycheeks,blue,rollingeyes;ittakesmeamomenttorecognizeher,inherlittlecap,herwhitestockings,herfrilledpetticoats.

Shecarriesalookingglassinonehandandapowderpuffintheotherandthereisamusicalboxwhereherheartshouldbe;shetinklesasshe

rollstowardsmeonhertinywheels.

'Nothinghumanliveshere,'saidthevalet.

Mymaidhalted,bowed;fromasplitseamatthesideofherbodiceprotrudesthehandleofakey.Sheisamarvellousmachine,themost

delicatelybalancedsystemofcordsandpulleysintheworld.

'Wehavedispensedwithservants,'thevaletsaid.'Wesurroundourselves,instead,forutilityandpleasure,withsimulacraandfinditnoless

convenientthandomostgentlemen.

Thisclockworktwinofminehaltedbeforeme,herbowelschurningoutasettecentominuet,andofferedmetheboldcarnationofhersmile.

Click,click­­sheraisesherarmandbusilydustsmycheekswithpink,powderedchalkthatmakesmecough;thenthruststowardsmeherlittle

mirror.

Isawwithinitnotmyownfacebutthatofmyfather,asifIhadputonhisfacewhenIarrivedatTheBeast'spalaceasthedischargeofhisdebt.

What,youself­deludingfool,areyoucryingstill?Anddrunk,too.Hetossedbackhisgrappaandhurledthetumbleraway.

Seeingmyastonishedfright,thevalettookthemirrorawayfromme,breathedonit,polisheditwiththehamofhisglovedfist,handeditbackto

me.NowallIsawwasmyself,haggardfromasleeplessnight,paleenoughtoneedmymaid'ssupplyofrouge.

Iheardthekeyturnintheheavydoorandthevalet'sfootstepspatterdownthestonepassage.Meanwhile,mydoublecontinuedtopowderthe

air,emittingherjanglingtunebut,asitturnedout,shewasnotinexhaustible;soonshewaspowderingmoreandyetmorelanguorously,her

metalheartslowedinimitationoffatigue,hermusicalboxrandownuntilthenotesseparatedthemselvesoutofthetuneandploppedlikesingle

raindropsand,asifsleephadovertakenher,atlastshemovednolonger.Asshesuccumbedtosleep,Ihadnooptionbuttodoso,too.Idropped

onthatnarrowbedasiffelled.

TimepassedbutIdonotknowhowmuch;thenthevaletwokemewithrollsandhoney.Igesturedthetrayawaybuthesetitdownfirmly

besidethelampandtookfromitalittleshagreenbox,whichheofferedtome.

Iturnedawaymyhead.

'Oh,mylady!'Suchhurtcrackedhishigh­pitchedvoice!Hedextrouslyunfastenedthegoldclasp;onabedofcrimsonvelvetlayasingle

diamondearring,perfectasatear.

Isnappedtheboxshutandtosseditintoacorner.Thissudden,sharpmovementmusthavedisturbedthemechanismofthedoll;shejerkedher

armalmostasiftoreprimandme,lettingoutaripplingfartofgavotte.Thenwasstillagain.

'Verywell,'saidthevalet,putout.Andindicateditwastimeformetovisitmyhostagain.Hedidnotletmewashorcombmyhair.Therewas

solittlenaturallightintheinteriorofthepalacethatIcouldnottellwhetheritwasdayornight.

YouwouldnotthinkTheBeasthadbudgedaninch,sinceIlastsawhim;hesatinhishugechair,withhishandsinhissleeves,andtheheavyair

nevermoved.Imighthavesleptanhour,anight,oramonth,buthissculpturedcalm,thestiflingairremainedjustasithadbeen.Theincense

rosefromthepot,stilltracedthesamesignatureontheair.Thesamefireburned.

Takeoffmyclothesforyou,likeaballetgirl?Isthatallyouwantofme?

'Thesightofayounglady'sskinthatnomanhasseenbefore­­'stammeredthevalet.

IwishedI'drolledinthehaywitheveryladonmyfather'sfarm,todisqualifymyselffromthishumiliatingbargain.Thatheshouldwantsolittle

wasthereasonwhyIcouldnotgiveit;IdidnotneedtospeakforTheBeasttounderstandme.

Atearcamefromhisothereye.Andthenhemoved;heburiedhiscardboardcarnivalheadwithitsribbonedweightoffalsehairin,Iwouldsay,

hisarms;hewithdrewhis,Imightsay,handsfromhissleevesandIsawhisfurredpads,hisexcoriatingclaws.

Thedroppedtearcaughtuponhisfurandshone.AndinmyroomforhoursIhearthosepawspadbackandforthoutsidemydoor.

Whenthevaletarrivedagainwithhissilversalver,Ihadapairofdiamondearringsofthefinestwaterintheworld;Ithrewtheotherintothe

cornerwherethefirstonelay.ThevalettwitteredwithaggrievedregretbutdidnotoffertoleadmetoTheBeastagain.Instead,hesmiled

ingratiatinglyandconfided:'Mymaster,hesay:invitetheyoungladytogoriding.'

'What'sthis?'

Hebrisklymimickedtheactionofagallopand,tomyamazement,tunelesslycroaked:'Tantivy!tantivy!a­huntingwewillgo!'

'I'llrunaway,I'llridetothecity.'

'Oh,no,'hesaid.'Areyounotawomanofhonour?'

Heclappedhishandsandmymaidservantclickedandjangledintotheimitationoflife.Sherolledtowardsthecupboardwhereshehadcome

fromandreachedinsideittofetchoutoverhersyntheticarmmyridinghabit.Ofallthings.Myveryownridinghabit,thatI'dleftbehindmein

atrunkinaloftinthatcountryhouseoutsidePetersburgthatwe'dlostlongago,before,even,wesetoutonthiswildpilgrimagetothecruel

South.Eithertheveryridinghabitmyoldnursehadsewnformeorelseacopyofitperfecttothelostbuttonontherightsleeve,therippedhem

heldupwithapin.Iturnedthewornclothaboutinmyhands,lookingforaclue.Thewindthatsprintedthroughthepalacemadethedoor

trembleinitsframe;hadthenorthwindblownmygarmentsacrossEuropetome?Athome,thebear'ssondirectedthewindsathispleasure;

whatdemocracyofmagicheldthispalaceandthefirforestincommon?Or,shouldIbepreparedtoacceptitasproofoftheaxiommyfather

haddrummedintome:that,ifyouhaveenoughmoney,anythingispossible?

'Tantivy,'suggestedthenowtwinklingvalet,evidentlycharmedatthepleasuremixedwithmybewilderment.Theclockworkmaidheldmy

jacketouttomeandIallowedmyselftoshrugintoitasifreluctantly,althoughIwashalfmadtogetoutintotheopenair,awayfromthis

deathlypalace,eveninsuchcompany.

Thedoorsofthehallletthebrightdayin;Isawthatitwasmorning.Ourhorses,saddledandbridled,beastsinbondage,werewaitingforus,

strikingsparksfromthetileswiththeirimpatienthooveswhiletheirstablemateslolledateaseamongthestraw,conversingwithoneanotherin

themutespeechofhorses.Apigeonortwo,featherspuffedtokeepoutthecold,struttedabout,peckingatearsofcorn.Thelittleblackgelding

whohadbroughtmeheregreetedmewitharingingneighthatresonatedinsidethemistyroofasinasoundingboxandIknewhewasmeantfor

metoride.

Ialwaysadoredhorses,noblestofcreatures,suchwoundedsensitivityintheirwiseeyes,suchrationalrestraintofenergyattheirhigh­strung

hindquarters.Ilirrupedandhurrumphedtomyshiningblackcompanionandheacknowledgedmygreetingwithakissontheforeheadfromhis

softlips.Therewasalittleshaggyponynuzzlingawayatthetrompel'oeilfoliagebeneaththehoovesofthepaintedhorsesonthewall,into

whosesaddlethevaletsprangwithaflourishasofthecircus.ThenTheBeast,wrappedinablackfur­linedcloak,cametoheavehimselfalofta

gravegreymare.Nonaturalhorsemanhe;heclungtohermanelikeashipwreckedsailortoaspar.

Cold,thatmorning,yetdazzlingwiththesharpwintersunlightthatwoundstheretina.Therewasascurryingwindaboutthatseemedtogowith

us,asifthemasked,immenseonewhodidnotspeakcarrieditinsidehiscloakandletitoutathispleasure,foritstirredthehorses'manesbut

didnotliftthelowlandmists.

Abereftlandscapeinthesadbrownsandsepiasofwinterlayallaboutus,themarshlanddrearilyprotractingitselftowardsthewideriver.Those

decapitatedwillows.Nowandthen,theswoopofabird,itsirreconcilablecry.

Aprofoundsenseofstrangenessslowlybegantopossessme.Iknewmytwocompanionswerenot,inanyway,asothermen,thesimian retainerandthemasterforwhomhespoke,theonewithclawedfore­pawswhowasinaplotwiththewitcheswholetthewindsoutoftheir knottedhandkerchiefsuptowardstheFinnishborder.IknewtheylivedaccordingtoadifferentlogicthanIhaddoneuntilmyfatherabandoned metothewildbeastsbyhishumancarelessness.Thisknowledgegavemeacertainfearfulnessstill;but,Iwouldsay,notmuch Iwasayoung girl,avirgin,andthereforemendeniedmerationalityjustastheydeniedittoallthosewhowerenotexactlylikethemselves,inalltheir unreason.IfIcouldseenotonesinglesoulinthatwildernessofdesolationallaroundme,thenthesixofus­­mountsandriders,both­­could boastamongstusnotonesoul,either,sinceallthebestreligionsintheworldstatecategoricallythatnotbeastsnorwomenwereequippedwith theflimsy,insubstantialthingswhenthegoodLordopenedthegatesofEdenandletEveandherfamiliarstumbleout.Understand,then,that thoughIwouldnotsayIprivatelyengagedinmetaphysicalspeculationaswerodethroughthereedyapproachestotheriver,Icertainly meditatedonthenatureofmyownstate,howIhadbeenboughtandsold,passedfromhandtohand.Thatclockworkgirlwhopowderedmy cheeksforme;hadInotbeenallottedonlythesamekindofimitativelifeamongstmenthatthedoll­makerhadgivenher?

Yet,astothetruenatureofthebeingofthisclawedmaguswhorodehispalehorseinastylethatmademerecallhowKublaiKhan'sleopards

wentouthuntingonhorseback,ofthatIhadnonotion.

Wecametothebankoftheriverthatwassowidewecouldnotseeacrossit,sostillwithwinterthatitscarcelyseemedtoflow.Thehorses

loweredtheirheadstodrink.Thevaletclearedhisthroat,abouttospeak;wewereinaplaceofperfectprivacy,beyondabrakeofwinter­bare

rushes,ahedgeofreeds.

'Ifyouwillnotlethimseeyouwithoutyourclothes­­'

Iinvoluntarilyshookmyhead­­

'­­youmust,then,prepareyourselfforthesightofmymaster,naked.'

Theriverbrokeonthepebbleswithadiminishingsigh.Mycomposuredesertedme;allatonceIwasonthebrinkofpanic.IdidnotthinkthatI

couldbearthesightofhim,whateverhewas.Themareraisedherdrippingmuzzleandlookedatmekeenly,asifurgingme.Thisriverbroke

againatmyfeet.Iwasfarfromhome.

'You,'saidthevalet,'must.'

WhenIsawhowscaredhewasImightrefuse,Inodded.

Thereedboweddowninasuddensnarlofwindthatbroughtwithitagustoftheheavyodourofhisdisguise.Thevaletheldouthismaster's

cloaktoscreenhimfrommeasheremovedthemask.Thehorsesstirred.

Thetigerwillneverliedownwiththelamb;heacknowledgesnopactthatisnotreciprocal.Thelambmustlearntorunwiththetigers.

Agreat,feline,tawnyshapewhosepeltwasbarredwithasavagegeometryofbarsthecolourofburnedwood.Hisdomed,heavyhead,so

terriblehemusthideit.Howsubtlethemuscles,howprofoundthetread.Theannihilatingvehemenceofhiseyes,liketwinsuns.

IfeltmybreastrippedapartasifIsufferedamarvellouswound.

Thevaletmovedforwardasiftocoveruphismasternowthegirlhadacknowledgedhim,butIsaid:'No.'Thetigersatstillasaheraldicbeast,

inthepacthehadmadewithhisownferocitytodomenoharm.HewasfarlargerthanIcouldhaveimagined,fromthepoor,shabbythingsI'd

seenonce,intheCzar'smenagerieatPetersburg,thegoldenfruitoftheireyesdimming,witheringinthefarNorthofcaptivity.Nothingabout

himremindedmeofhumanity.

Itherefore,shivering,nowunfastenedmyjacket,toshowhimIwoulddohimnoharm.YetIwasclumsyandblushedalittle,fornomanhad

seenmenakedandIwasaproudgirl.Prideitwas,notshame,thatthwartedmyfingersso;andacertaintrepidationlestthisfraillittlearticleof

humanupholsterybeforehimmightnotbe,initself,grandenoughtosatisfyhisexpectationsofus,sincethose,forallIknew,mighthavegrown

infiniteduringtheendlesstimehehadbeenwaiting.Thewindclatteredintherushes,purledandeddiedintheriver.

Ishowedhisgravesilencemywhiteskin,myrednipples,andthehorsesturnedtheirheadstowatchme,also,asifthey,too,werecourteously

curiousastothefleshlynatureofwomen.ThenTheBeastloweredhismassivehead;Enough!saidthevaletwithagesture.Thewinddied

down,allwasstillagain.

Thentheywentofftogether,thevaletonhispony,thetigerrunningbeforehimlikeahound,andIwalkedalongtheriverbankforawhile.Ifelt

Iwasatlibertyforthefirsttimeinmylife.Thenthewintersunbegantotarnish,afewflakesofsnowdriftedfromthedarkeningskyand,when

Ireturnedtothehorses,IfoundTheBeastmountedagainonhisgreymare,cloakedandmaskedandoncemore,toallappearances,aman,

whilethevalethadafinecatchofwaterfowldanglingfromhishandandthecorpseofayoungroebuckslungbehindhissaddle.Iclimbedupon

theblackgeldinginsilenceandsowereturnedtothepalaceasthesnowfellmoreandmoreheavily,obscuringthetracksthatwehadleft

behindus.

Thevaletdidnotreturnmetomycellbut,instead,toanelegant,ifold­fashionedboudoirwithsofasoffadedpinkbrocade,ajinn'streasuryof

Orientalcarpets,tintinnabulationofcut­glasschandeliers.Candlesinantleredholdersstruckrainbowsfromtheprismaticheartsofmydiamond

earrings,thatlayonmynewdressingtableatwhichmyattentivemaidstoodreadywithherpowderpuffandmirror.Intendingtofixthe

ornamentsinmyears,Itookthelookingglassfromherhand,butitwasinthemidstofoneofitsmagicfitsagainandIdidnotseemyownface

initbutthatofmyfather;atfirstIthoughthesmiledatme.ThenIsawhewassmilingwithpuregratification.

Hesat,Isaw,intheparlourofourlodgings,attheverytablewherehehadlostme,butnowhewasbusilyengagedincountingouta

tremendouspileofbanknotes.Myfather'scircumstanceshadchangedalready;well­shaven,neatlybarbered,smartnewclothes.Afrostedglass

ofsparklingwinesatconvenienttohishandbesideanicebucket.TheBeasthadclearlypaidcashonthenailforhisglimpseofmybosom,and

paiduppromptly,asifithadnotbeenasightImighthavediedofshowing.ThenIsawmyfather'strunkswerepacked,readyfordeparture.

Couldhesoeasilyleavemehere?

Therewasanoteonthetablewiththemoney,inafinehand.Icouldreaditquiteclearly.'Theyoungladywillarriveimmediately.'Someharlot

withwhomhe'dbrisklynegotiatedaliaisononthestrengthofhisspoils?Notatall.For,atthatmoment,thevaletknockedatmydoorto

announcethatImightleavethepalaceatanytimehereafter,andheboreoverhisarmahandsomesablecloak,myveryownlittlegratuity,The

Beast'smorninggift,inwhichheproposedtopackmeupandsendmeoff.

WhenIlookedatthemirroragain,myfatherhaddisappearedandallIsawwasapale,hollow­eyedgirlwhomIscarcelyrecognized.Thevalet

askedpolitelywhenheshouldpreparethecarriage,asifhedidnotdoubtthatIwouldleavewithmybootyatthefirstopportunitywhilemy

maid,whosefacewasnolongerthespitofmyown,continuedbonnilytobeam.Iwilldressherinmyownclothes,windherup,sendherback

toperformthepartofmyfather'sdaughter.

'Leavemealone,'Isaidtothevalet.

Hedidnotneedtolockthedoor,now.Ifixedtheearringsinmyears.Theywereveryheavy.ThenItookoffmyridinghabit,leftitwhereitlay

onthefloor.But,whenIgotdowntomyshift,myarmsdroppedtomysides.Iwasunaccustomedtonakedness.Iwassounusedtomyown

skinthattotakeoffallmyclothesinvolvedakindofflaying.IthoughtTheBeasthadwantedalittlethingcomparedwithwhatIwasprepared

togivehim;butitisnotnaturalforhumankindtogonaked,notsincefirstwehidourloinswithfigleaves.Hehaddemandedtheabominable.I

feltasmuchatrociouspainasifIwasstrippingoffmyownunderpeltandthesmilinggirlstoodpoisedintheoblivionofherbalkedsimulation

oflife,watchingmepeeldowntothecold,whitemeatofcontractand,ifshedidnotseeme,thensomuchmorelikethemarketplace,wherethe

eyesthatwatchyoutakenoaccountofyourexistence.

Anditseemedmyentirelife,sinceIhadlefttheNorth,hadpassedundertheindifferentgazeofeyeslikehers.

ThenIwasflinchingstark,exceptforhisirreproachabletears.

IhuddledinthefursImustreturntohim,tokeepmefromthelaceratingwindsthatracedalongthecorridors.Iknewthewaytohisdenwithout

thevalettoguideme.

Noresponsetomytentativeraponhisdoor.

Thenthewindblewthevaletwhirlingalongthepassage.Hemusthavedecidedthat,ifoneshouldgonaked,thenallshouldgonaked;without

hislivery,herevealedhimself,asIhadsuspected,adelicatecreature,coveredwithsilkenmoth­greyfur,brownfingerssuppleasleather,

chocolatemuzzle,thegentlestcreatureintheworld.HegibberedalittletoseemyfinefursandjewelsasifIweredressedupfortheoperaand,

withagreatdealoftenderceremony,removedthesablesfrommyshoulders.Thesablesthereuponresolvedthemselvesintoapackofblack,

squeakingratsthatrattledimmediatelydownthestairsontheirhardlittlefeetandwerelosttosight.

ThevaletbowedmeinsideTheBeast'sroom.

Thepurpledressinggown,themask,thewig,werelaidoutonhischair;aglovewasplantedoneacharm.Theemptyhouseofhisappearance

wasreadyforhimbuthehadabandonedit.Therewasareekoffurandpiss;theincensepotlaybrokeninpiecesonthefloor.Half­burnedsticks

werescatteredfromtheextinguishedfire.Acandlestuckbyitsowngreasetothemantelpiecelittwonarrowflamesinthepupilsofthetiger's

eyes.

Hewaspacingbackwardsandforwards,backwardsandforwards,thetipofhisheavytailtwitchingashepacedoutthelengthandbreadthofhis

imprisonmentbetweenthegnawedandbloodybones.

Hewillgobbleyouup.

Nurseryfearsmadefleshandsinew;earliestandmostarchaicoffears,fearofdevourment.ThebeastandhiscarnivorousbedofboneandI,

white,shaking,raw,approachinghimasifoffering,inmyself,thekeytoapeaceablekingdominwhichhisappetiteneednotbemyextinction.

Hewentstillasstone.HewasfarmorefrightenedofmethanIwasofhim.

Isquattedonthewetstrawandstretchedoutmyhand.Iwasnowwithinthefieldofforceofhisgoldeneyes.Hegrowledatthebackofhis

throat,loweredhishead,sankontohisforepaws,snarled,showedmehisredgullet,hisyellowteeth.Inevermoved.Hesnuffedtheair,asifto

smellmyfear;hecouldnot.

Slowly,slowlyhebegantodraghisheavy,gleamingweightacrossthefloortowardsme.

Atremendousthrobbing,asoftheenginethatmakestheearthturn,filledthelittleroom;hehadbeguntopurr.

Thesweetthunderofthispurrshooktheoldwalls,madetheshuttersbatterthewindowsuntiltheyburstapartandletinthewhitelightofthe

snowymoon.Tilescamecrashingdownfromtheroof;Iheardthemfallintothecourtyardfarbelow.Thereverberationsofhispurringrocked

thefoundationsofthehouse,thewallsbegantodance.Ithought:'Itwillallfall,everythingwilldisintegrate.'

Hedraggedhimselfcloserandclosertome,untilIfelttheharshvelvetofhisheadagainstmyhand,thenatongue,abrasiveassandpaper.'He

willlicktheskinoffme!'

Andeachstrokeofhistonguerippedoffskinaftersuccessiveskin,alltheskinsofalifeintheworld,andleftbehindanascentpatinaofshining

hairs.Myearringsturnedbacktowaterandtrickleddownmyshoulders;Ishruggedthedropsoffmybeautifulfur.

Puss­in­Boots

Figarohere;Figaro,there,Itellyou!Figaroupstairs,Figarodownstairsand­­oh,mygoodnessme,thislittleFigarocanslipintomylady's

chambersmartasyoulikeatanytimewhatsoeverthathetakesthefancyfor,don'tyouknow,he'sacatoftheworld,cosmopolitan,

sophisticated;hecantellwhenafurryfriendistheMissus'bestcompany.Forwhatladyinalltheworldcouldsay'no'tothepassionateyet

toujoursdiscretadvancesofafinemarmaladecat?(Unlessitbehereyesincontinentlyoverflowattheslightestwhiffoffur,whichhappened

once,asyoushallhear.)

Atom,sirs,agingertomandproudofit.Proudofhisfine,whiteshirtfrontthatdazzlesharmoniouslyagainsthisorangeandtangerine

tessellations(oh!whatafierysuitoflightshaveI);proudofhisbird­entrancingeyeandmorethanmilitarywhiskers;proud,toafault,some

say,ofhisfine,musicalvoice.AllthewindowsinthesquareflyopenwhenIbreakintoimpromptusongatthespectacleofthemoonabove

Bergamo.Ifthepoorplayersinthesquare,thesullenroutofraggedtrashthathauntstheprovinces,arerewardedwithahailofpennieswhen

theysetuptheirmakeshiftstageandstarttheirraucouschoruses,thenhowmuchmoreliberallydothecitizensdelugemewithpailsofthe

freshestwater,vegetableshardlyspoiledand,occasionally,slippers,shoesandboots.

Doyouseethesefine,high,shiningleatherbootsofmine?Ayoungcavalryofficermademethetributeof,first,one;then,afterIcelebratehis

generositywithafreshobbligato,themoonnofullerthanmyheart­­whoops!Inimblyspringaside­­downcomestheother.Theirhighheelswill

clicklikecastanetswhenPusstakeshispromenadeuponthetiles,formysongrecallsflamenco,allcatshaveaSpanishtingealthoughPuss

himselfelegantlylubricateshisvirile,muscular,nativeBergamasquewithFrench,sincethatistheonlylanguageinwhichyoucanpurr.

'Merrrrrrrrrrrci!'

InstanterIdrawmynewbootsonoverthenattywhitestockingsthatterminatemyhinderlegs.Thatyoungman,observingwithcuriosityby

moonlighttheusetowhichIputhisfootwear,callsout:'Hey,Puss!Puss,there!'

'Atyourservice,sir!'

'Uptomybalcony,youngPuss!'

Heleansout,inhisnightshirt,offeringencouragementasIswingsuccinctlyupthefaçade,forepawsonacurlycherub'spate,hindpawsona

stuccowreath,bringthemuptomeetyourforepawswhile,firstpawforward,hup!ontothestonenymph'stit;leftpawdownabit,thesatyr's

bumshoulddothetrick.Nothingtoit,onceyouknowhow,rococo'snoproblem.Acrobatics?Borntothem;Pusscanperformaback

somersaultwhilstholdingaloftaglassofvinoinhisrightpawandneverspilladrop.

But,tomyshame,thefamousdeath­defyingtriplesomersaultenpleinair,thatis,inmiddleair,thatis,unsupportedandwithoutasafetynet,I,

Puss,haveneveryetattemptedthoughoftenIhavedashinglybroughtoffthedoubletour,totheapplauseofall.

'Youstrikemeasacatofparts,'saysthisyoungmanwhenI'marrivedathiswindow­sill.Imadehimahandsomegenuflection,rumpout,tail

up,headdown,tofacilitatehisfriendlychuckundermychin;and,asinvoluntaryfreegift,mynatural,myhabitualsmile.

Forallcatshavethisparticularity,eachandeveryone,fromthemeanestalleysneakertotheproudest,whitestshethatevergracedapontiff's

pillow­­wehaveoursmiles,asitwere,paintedon.Thosesmall,cool,quietMonaLisasmilesthatsmilewemust,nomatterwhetherit'sbeen

funorit'sbeennot.Soallcatshaveapolitician'sair;wesmileandsmileandsotheythinkwe'revillains.But,Inote,thisyoungmanis

somethingofasmilerhisself.

'Asandwich,'heoffers.'And,perhaps,asnifterofbrandy.'

Hislodgingsarepoor,thoughhe'shandsomeenoughandevenendéshabillé,nightcapandall,there'saneat,smart,dandifiedairabouthim.

Hereisonewhoknowswhat'swhat,thinksI;amanwhokeepsupappearancesinthebedchambercanneverembarrassyououtofit.And

excellentbeefsandwiches;Irelishaleansliceofroastbeefandearlylearnedatasteforspirits,sinceIstartedlifeasawine­shopcat,hunting

cellarratsformykeep,beforetheworldsharpenedmywitsenoughtoletmelivebythem.

Andtheupshotofthismidnightinterview?I'mengaged,onthespot,asSir'svalet:valetdechambreand,fromtimetotime,hisbodyservant,

for,whenfundsarerunninglow,astheymustdoforeverygallantofficerwhenthepickingsfalloff,hepawnsthequilt,doesn'the.Thenfaithful

Pusscurlsuponhischesttokeephimwarmatnights.

Andifhedon'tlikemetokneadhisnipples,which,outofthepurestaffectionandthedesire­­ouch!hesays­­totesttheretractabilityofmy

claws,Idoinmomentsofabsenceofmind,thenwhatothervaletcouldslipintoayounggirl'ssacredprivacyanddeliverherabillet­douxatthe

verymomentwhenshe'sreadingherprayerbookwithhersaintedmother?AtaskIonceortwiceperformforhim,tohisinfinitegratitude.

And,asyouwillhear,broughthimatlasttothebestoffortunesforusall.

SoPussgothispostatthesametimeashisbootsandIdaresaytheMasterandIhavemuchincommonforhe'sproudasthedevil,touchyas

tin­tacks,lecherousasliquoriceand,thoughIsayitasloveshim,asquick­wittedarascalaseverputoncleanlinen.

Whentimeswerehard,I'dpilferthemarketforbreakfast­­aherring,anorange,aloaf;weneverwenthungry.Pussservedhimwellinthe

gamingsalons,too,foracatmaymovefromlaptolapwithimpunityandcasthiseyeoveranyhandofcards.Acatcanjumponthedice­­he

can'tresisttoseeitroll!poorthing,mistookitforabird;and,afterI'vebeen,limp­spined,stiff­legged,playingthesillybuggers,scoopedupto

bechastised,whocanrememberhowthedicefellinthefirstplace?

Andwehad,besides,less gentlemanlymeansofmaintenancewhentheyclosedthetablestous,as,churlishly,theysometimesdid.I'd performmylittleSpanishdancewhilehewentroundwithhishat:olé!Butheonlyputmyloyaltyandaffectiontothetestofthishumiliation whenthecupboardwasasbareashisbackside;after,infact,he'dsunksolowastopawnhisdrawers.

SoallwentrightasninepenceandyouneversawsuchbooncompanionsasPussandhismaster;untilthemanmustneedsgofallinlove.

'Headoverheels,Puss.'

Iwentaboutmyablutions,tonguingmyarseholewiththeimpeccablehygienicintegrityofcats,onelegstuckintheairlikeahambone;I

choosetoremainsilent.Love?Whathasmyrakishmaster,forwhomI'vejumpedthroughthewindowofeverybrothelinthecity,besides

hauntingthevirginalbackgardenoftheconventandgodknowswhatothergoatisherrands,todowiththetenderpassion?

'Andshe.Aprincessinatower.RemoteandshiningasAldebaran.Chainedtoadoltanddragon­guarded.'

Iwithdrewmyheadfrommyprivatesandfixedhimwithmymostsatiricsmile;Idarehimwarbleoninthatstrain.

'Allcatsarecynics,'heopines,quailingbeneathmyyellowglare.

Itisthehazardofitdrawshim,see.

Thereisaladysitsinawindowforonehourandonehouronly,atthetenderesttimeofdusk.Youcanscarcelyseeherfeatures,thecurtains

almosthideher;shroudedlikeaholyimage,shelooksoutatthepiazzaastheshopsshutup,thestallsgodown,thenightcomeson.Andthatis

alltheworldsheeversees.NeveragirlinallBergamososecludedexcept,onSundays,theylethergotoMass,bundledupinblack,withaveil

on.Andthensheisinthecompanyofanagedhag,herkeeper,whogrumpsalonggrimasaprisondinner.

Howdidheseethatsecretface?WhoelsebutPussrevealedit?

Backwecomefromthetablessolate,soverylateatnightwefound,toouremergentsurprise,thatallatonceitwasearlyinthemorning.His

pocketswereheavywithsilverandbothourgutssweetlya­gurglewithchampagne;LadyLuckhadsatwithus,whatfinespiritswerewein!

Winterandcoldweather.Thepioustrottochurchalreadywithlittlelanternsthroughthechillfogaswegoungodlyrollinghome.

See,ablackbarque,likeastatefuneral;andPusstakesitintohisbubbly­addledbraintoboardher.Tackingobliquelytoherside,Irubmy

marmaladepateagainsthershin;howcouldanyduenna,besheneversostern,takeoffenceatsuchattentionstoherchargelingfromalittlecat?

(Asitturnsout,thisone:attishooo!does.)AwhitehandfragrantasArabiadescendsfromtheblackcloakandreciprocallyrubsbehindhisears

atjusttheecstaticspot.Pussletsriparoaringpurr,rearsbrieflyonhishigh­heeledboots;jigwithjoyandpirouettewithglee­­shelaughstosee

anddrawsherveilaside.Pussglimpseshighabove,asitwere,analabasterlamplitbehindbydawn'sfirstflush:herface.

Andshesmiling.

Foramoment,justthatmoment,youwouldhavethoughtitwasMaymorning.

oughtitwasM aymorning. Advertisement Hotelen

Hotelen

'Comealong!Come!Don'tdawdleoverthenastybeast!'snapstheoldhag,withtheonetoothinhermouth,andwarts;shesneezes.

HOUSTON

Theveilcomesdown;socolditis,anddark,again.

JwMarriottHoustonDowntown

apartirde

U$S

Tarifaporpersonaenbasedobleocuádruple segúncorresponda.

109

s e g ú n c o r r e s p o n d a

ItwasnotIalonewhosawher;withthatsmileheswearsshestolehisheart.

Love.

I'vesatinscrutablybyandwashedmyfaceandsparklingdickywithmycleverpawwhilehemadethebeastwithtwobackswitheveryharlotin

thecity,besidesanumberofgoodwives,dutifuldaughters,rosycountrygirlscometosellceleryandendiveonthecorner,andthe

chambermaidwhostripsthebed,what'smore.TheMayor'swife,even,shedherdiamondearringsforhimandthewifeofthenotaryun­shufiled

herpetticoatsand,ifIcould,Iwouldblushtorememberhowherdaughtershookoutherflaxenplaitsandjumpedinbedbetweenthemandshe

notsixteenyearsold.Butnevertheword,'love',hasfallenfromhislips,norinnoroutofanyofthesetransports,untilmymastersawthewife

ofSignorPanteleoneasshewentwalkingouttoMass,andsheliftedupherveilthoughnotforhim.

Andnowheishalfsickwithitandwillgotothetablesnomoreforlackofheartandneverevenpatsthebustlingrumpofthechambermaidin

hisnew­found,maudlincelibacy,sowegetourslopsleftfesteringfordaysandthesheetsfilthyandthewenchgoesbangingaboutbad­

temperedlywithherbroomenoughtofetchtheplasteroffthewalls.

I'llswearhelivesforSundaymorning,thoughneverbeforewasheareligiousman.Saturdaynights,hebatheshimselfpunctiliously,even,I'm

gladtosee,washesbehindhisears,perfumeshimself,presseshisuniformsoyou'dthinkhehadarighttowearit.Somuchinlovehevery

rarelypanderstothepleasures,evenofOnan,asheliestossingonhiscouch,forhecannotsleepforfearhemissthesummoningbell.Thenout

intothecoldmorning,harkingafterthatblack,vagueshape,haplessfishermanforthissealedoysterwithsuchapearlinit.Hecreepsbehindher

acrossthesquare;howcansoamorousbeartobesoinconspicuous?Andyet,hemust;though,sometimes,theoldhagsneezesandsaysshe

swearsthereisacatabout.

Hewillinsinuatehimselfintothepewbehindmiladyandsometimescontrivetotouchthehemofhergarment,whentheyallkneel,andnevera

thoughttohisorisons;sheisthedivinityhe'scometoworship.Thensitssilent,inadream,tillbed­time;whatpleasureishiscompanyforme?

Hewon'teat,either.Ibroughthimafinepigeonfromtheinnkitchen,freshoffthespit,parfuméavectarragon,buthewouldn'ttouchitsoI

cruncheditup,bonesandall.Performing,aseveraftermeals,mymeditativetoilette,Ipondered,thus:one,heisinafairwaytoruiningusboth

byneglectinghisbusiness;two,loveisdesiresustainedbyunfulfilment.IfIleadhimtoherbedchamberandtherehetakeshisfillofherlily­

white,he'llberightasrainintwoshakesandnextdaytricksasusual.

ThenMasterandhisPusswillsoonbesolventonceagain.

Which,atthemoment,verymuchnot,sir.

ThisSignorPanteleoneemploys,hisonlyservantbutthehag,akitchencat,asleek,sprytabbywhomIaccost.Graspingtheslackofherneck

firmlybetweenmyteeth,Igaveherthecustomarytributeofafewfirmthrustsofmystripedloinsand,whenshegotherbreathback,she

assuredmeinthefriendliestfashiontheoldmanwasafoolandamiserwhokeptherselfonshortcommonsforthesakeofthemousingandthe

youngladyasoft­heartedcreaturewhosmuggledbreastofchickenandsometimes,whenthehag­dragon­governessnappedatmidday,snatched

thisprettykittyoutofthehearthandintoherbedroomtoplaywithreelsofsilkandrunaftertrailedhandkerchiefs,whensheandshehadas

muchfuntogetherastwoCinderellasatanall­girls'ball.

Poor,lonelylady,marriedsoyoungtoanolddoddererwithhisbaldpateandhisgoggleeyesandhislimp,hisavarice,hisgorebelly,his

rheumaticks,andhisflaghangsallthetimeathalf­mastindeed;andjealousasheisimpotent,tabbydeclares­­he'dputastoptoalltheruttingin

theworld,ifhehadhisway,justtocertifyhisyoungwifedon'tgetfromanotherwhatshecan'tgetfromhim.

'Thenshallwehatchaplottoantlerhim,myprecious?'

Nothingloath,shetellsmethebesttimeforthisaccomplishmentshouldbetheonedayinalltheweekheforsakeshiswifeandhiscounting­

housetorideoffintothecountrytoextortmostgraspingrentsfromstarvelingtenantfarmers.Andshe'sleftallalone,then,behindsomany

boltsandbarsyouwouldn'tbelieve;allalone­­butforthehag!

Aha!Thishagturnsouttobethebiggestsnag;aniron­plated,copper­bottomed,swornman­haterofsomesixtybitterwinterswho­­asillluck

wouldhaveit­­shatters,clatters,eruptsintoparoxysmsofthesneezeattheveryglimpseofacat'swhisker.NochanceofPussworminghis

winsomewayintothatone'saffections,norformytabby,neither!But,ohmydear,Isay;seehowmyingenuityrisestothischallenge

resumethesweetestpartofourconversationinthedustyconvenienceofthecoalholeandshepromisesme,leastshecando,toseethefair,

hitherto­inaccessibleonegetsalettersafeifIslipittoherandslipittoherforthwithIdo,thoughsomewhatdiscommodedbymyboots.

Sowe

Hespentthreehoursoverhisletter,didmymaster,aslongasittakesmetolickthecoaldustoffmydicky.Hetearsuphalfaquireofpaper,

splaysfivepen­nibswiththeforceofhisadoration:'Looknotforanypeace,myheart;havingbecomeaslavetothisbeauty'styranny,dazzled

amIbythissun'sraysandmytormentscannotbeassuaged.'That'snotthehighroadtotherumplingofthebedcovers;she'sgotoneninny

betweenthemalready!

'Speakfromtheheart,'Ifinallyexhort.'Andallgoodwomenhaveamissionarystreak,sir;convinceherherorificewillbeyoursalvationand

she'syours.'

'WhenIwantyouradvice,Puss,I'llaskforit,'hesays,allatoncehoity­toity.Butatlasthemanagestopentenpages;arake,aprofligate,a card­sharper,acashieredofficerwellonthewaytorackandruinwhenfirsthesaw,asifitwereaglimpseofgrace,herface hisangel,his goodangel,whowillleadhimfromperdition.

Oh,whatamasterpiecehepenned!

'Suchtearssheweptathisaddresses!'saysmytabbyfriend.'Oh,Tabs,shesobs­­forshecallsme"Tabs"­­Inevermeanttowreaksuchhavoc

withapureheartwhenIsmiledtoseeabootedcat!Andputhispapernexttoherheartandswore,itwasagoodsoulthatsentherhisvowsand

shewastoomuchinlovewithvirtuetowithstandhim.If,sheadds,forshe'sasensiblegirl,he'sneitheroldasthehillsnoruglyassin,thatis.'

Anadmirablelittlenotethelady'ssenthiminreturn,perFigarohereandthere;sheadoptsaresponsiveyetuncompromisingtone.For,saysshe,

howcansheusefullydiscusshispassionfurtherwithoutaglimpseofhisperson?

Hekissesherletteronce,twice,athousandtimes;shemustandwillseeme!Ishallserenadeherthisveryevening!

So,whenduskfalls,offwetrottothepiazza,hewithanoldguitarhepawnedhisswordtobuyandmost,ifImaysayso,outlandishlyrigged

outinsomekindofvagabondmountebank'soutfithebarteredhisgold­braidedwaistcoatwithpoorPierrotbrayinginthesquarefor,moonstruck

zany,lovelornloonhewashimselfandevenplasteredhisfacewithflourtomakeitwhite,poorfool,andsoramhomehisheartsickstate.

Theresheis,theeveningstarwiththecloudsaroundher;butsuchacreakingofcartsinthesquare,suchaclatterandcrashastheydismantlethe

stalls,suchanululationofballad­singersandorationofnostrum­peddlersandperturbationoferrandboysthatthoughhewailsouthisheartto

her:'Oh,mybeloved!',whyshe,allinadream,sitswithhergazeinthemiddledistance,wherethere'sacrescentmoonstuckontheskybehind

thecathedralprettyasapaintedstage,andsoisshe.

Doesshehearhim?

Notagrace­note.

Doessheseehim?

Neveraglance.

'Upyougo,Puss;tellhertolookmyway!'

Ifrococo'sapieceofcake,thatchaste,tasteful,earlyPalladianstumpedmanyabettercatthanIinitstime.Agility'snotinit,whenitcomesto

Palladian;daringalonewillcarrythedayand,thoughthefirststorey'sgracedwithaheftycaryatidwhosebulbousloinclothandtremendous

pectsfacilitatethefirstascent,theDoriccolumnonherheadprovesahorseofadifferentcolour,Icantellyou.HadInotseenmyprecious

Tabbycrouchedinthegutterabovemekeeningencouragement,I,evenI,mightneverhavebravedthatflying,upwardleapthatbroughtme,as

ifHarlequinhimselfonwires,inoneboundtoherwindow­sill.

'Deargod!'theladysays,andjumps.Iseeshe,too,ah,sentimentalthing!clutchesawell­thumbedletter.'Pussinboots!'

Ibowherwithacourtlyflourish.Whatlucktohearnosnifforsneeze;where'shag?Asuddenfluxspedhertotheprivy­­notamomenttolose.

'Castyoureyebelow,'Ihiss.'Himyouknowoflurksbelow,inwhitewiththebighat,readytosingyouaneveningditty.'

Thebedroomdoorcreaksopen,then,and:wheelthroughtheairPussgoes,discretionisthebetterpart.And,forboththeirsweetsakesIdidit,

thesightofboththeirbrighteyesinspiredmetothenever­before­attempted,bymeoranyothercat,inbootsoroutofthem­­thedeath­defying

triplesomersault!

Andathree­storeydroptoground,what'smore;agranddescent.

Onlythemeresttriflewinded,I'mproudtosay,IneatlylandonallmyfoursandTabsgoeswild,huzzah!Buthasmymasterwitnessedmy

triumph?Hashe,myarse.He'stuningupthatoldmandolinandbreaks,asdownIcome,againintohissong.

Iwouldneverhavesaid,inthenormalcourseofthings,hisvoicewouldcharmthebirdsoutofthetrees,likemine;andyetthebustlediedfor

him,thehomeward­turningcosterspausedintheirtrackstohearken,thepreeningstreetgirlsforgottheirhard­edgedsmilesastheyturnedto

himandsomeoftheoldoneswept,theydid.

Tabs,upontheroofthere,prickupyourears!ForbyitspowerIknowmyheartisinhisvoice.

Andnowtheladylowershereyestohimandsmiles,asonceshesmiledatme.

Then,bang!asternhandpullstheshuttersto.Anditwasasifallthevioletsinallthebasketsofalltheflower­sellersdroopedandfadedatonce;

andspringstoppeddeadinitstracksandmight,thistime,notcomeatall;andthebustleandthebusinessofthesquare,thathadsomagically

quietedforhissong,nowroseupagainwiththeharshclamourofthelossoflove.

Andwetrudgedrearilyofftodirtysheetsandameansupperofbreadandcheese,allIcanstealhim,butatleastthepoorsoulmanifestsahearty

appetitenowsheknowshe'sintheworldandnottheugliestofmortals;forthefirsttimesincethatfatefulmorning,sleepssound.Butsleep

conieshardtoPusstonight.Hetakesamidnightstrollacrossthesquare,sooncomfortablydiscussesachoicemorselofsaltcodhistabbyfriend

foundamongtheashesonthehearthbeforeourconverseturnstoothermatters.

'Rats!'shesays.'Andtakeyourbootsoff,youuncouthbugger;thosethree­inchheelswreakhavocwiththesoftfleshofmyunderbelly!'

Whenwe'drecoveredourselvesalittle,Iaskherwhatshemeansbythose'rats'ofhersandsheproposesherschemetome.Howmymaster

mustposeasarat­catcherandI,hisambulantmarmaladerat­trap.Howwewillthengokilltheratsthatravagemilady'sbedchamber,theday

theoldfoolgoestofetchhisrents,andshecanhaveherwilloftheladatleisurefor,ifthereisonethingthehagfearsmorethanacat,itisarat

andshe'llcowerinacupboardtillthelastratisoffthepremisesbeforeshecomesout.Oh,thistabbyone,sharpasatackisshe!Icongratulate

heringenuitywithafewaffectionatecuffsroundtheheadandhomeagain,forbreakfast,ubiquitousPuss,here,thereandeverywhere,who's

yourFigaro?

Masterapplaudstheratploy;but,astotheratsthemselves,howaretheytoarriveinthehouseinthefirstplace?hequeries.

'Nothingeasier,sir;myaccomplice,awittysoubrettewholivesamongthecinders,dedicatedassheistotheyounglady'shappiness,will

personallystrewalargenumberofdeadanddyingratsshehasherselfcollectedaboutthebedroomofthesaidingenue'sduenna,and,most

particularly,thatofthesaidingénueherself.Thistobedonetomorrowmorning,assoonasSirPantaloonridesouttofetchhisrents.Bygood

fortune,downinthesquare,plyingforhire,aratcatcher!Sinceourhagcannotabideeitheraratoracat,itfallstomiladytoescorttherat­

catcher,noneotherthanyourself,sir,andhisintrepidhunter,myself,tothesiteoftheinfestation.

'Onceyou'reinherbedroom,sir,ifyoudon'tknowwhattodo,thenIcan'thelpyou.'

'Keepyourfoulthoughtstoyourself,Puss.'

Somethings,Isee,aresacrosanctfromhumour.

Sureenough,promptatfiveinthebleaknextmorning,Iobservewithmyowneyesthelovelylady'slubberyhusbandhumpoffonhishorselike

asackofpotatoestorakeinhisdues.We'rereadywithoursign:SIGNORFURIOSO,THELIVINGDEATHOFRATS;andintheleathershe's

borrowedfromtheporter,Ihardlyrecognizehimmyself,notwiththefalsemoustache.Hecoaxesthechambermaidwithafewkisses­­poor,

deceivedgirl!loveknowsnoshame­­andsoweinstallourselvesunderacertainshutteredwindowwiththegreatpileoftrapsshe'slentus,the

signofourprofession,Pussperchedatopthembearingthehumbleyetdeterminedlookofaswornenemyofvermin.

We'venotwaitedmorethanfifteenminutes­­andjustaswell,somanyrat­plaguedBergamotsapproachusalreadyandarenoteasilydissuaded

fromemployingus­­whenthefrontdoorfliesopenonalustyscream.Thehag,aghast,flingsherarmsroundflinchingFurioso,howfortuitous

tofindhim!But,atthewhiffofme,she'ssneezingsovaliantly,hereyesawash,theverticalguttersofhernostrilsaswillwithsnot,shebarely

candepictthescenesinside,rattusdomesticusdeadinherbedandall;andworse!intheMissus'room.

SoSignerFuriosoandhisquestingPussareusheredintotheverysanctuaryofthegoddess,ourpresenceannouncedbyafanfarefromher

keeperonthenoseharp.Attishhoooo!!!

Sweetandpleasantinamorninggownoflooselinen,ouringenuejumpsatthetattooofmybootheelsbutrecoversinstantlyandthewheezing,

hawkinghagisinnostatetosnifflemorethan:'Ain'tIseenthatcatbefore?'

'Notachance,'saysmymaster.'Why,he'scomebutyesterdaywithmefromMilano.'

Soshehastomakedowiththat.

MyTabshaslinedtheverystairswithrats;she'smadeamorgueofthehag'sroombutsomethingmorelivelyofthelady's.Forsomeofherprey

she'sverycleverlynotkilledbutcrippled;abigblackbeastieweavesitswaytowardsusovertheturkeycarpet,Puss,pounce!Between

screamingandsneezing,thehag'sinafinestate,Icantellyou,thoughmiladyexhibitsamostpraiseworthyandcollectedpresenceofmind,

being,Iguess,ayoungwomanofnosmallgraspso,perhaps,shehasasniffoftheplot,already.

Mymastergoesdownhandsandkneesunderthebed.

'Mygod!'hecries.'There'sthebiggesthole,hereinthewainscoting,Ieversawinallmyprofessionalcareer!Andthere'sanarmyofblackrats

gatheringbehindit,readytostormthrough!Toarms!'

But,forallherterror,thehag'sloathtoleavetheMasterandmealonetodealwiththerats;shecastshereyeonasilver­backedhairbrush,a

coralrosary,twitters,hovers,screeches,muttersuntilmiladyassuresher,amidstscenesofrisingpandemonium:

'IshallstayheremyselfandseethatSignorFuriosodoesn'tmakeoffwithmytrinkets.Yougoandrecoveryourselfwithaninfusionoffriar's

balsamanddon'tcomebackuntilIcall.'

Thehagdeparts;quickasaflash,labelleturnsthekeyinthedooronherandsoftlylaughs,thenaughtyone.

Dustingtheslut­flufffromhisknees,SignerFuriosonowstandsslowlyupright;swiftly,heremoveshisfalsemoustache,fornoelementofthe

farcicalmustmarthisfirst,deliriousencounteroftheselovers,mustit.(Poorsoul,howhishandstremble!)

AccustomedasIamtothesplendid,felinenakednessofmykind,thatoffersnoconcealmentofthatsoulmademanifestinthefleshoflovers,I

amalwaysalittlemovedbythepoignantreticencewithwhichhumanityshylyhesitatestodivestitselfofitsclutterofconcealingragsinthe

presenceofdesire.So,first,thesetwosmile,alittle,asiftosay:'Howstrangetomeetyouhere!',uncertainofalovingwelcome,still.AnddoI

deceivemyself,ordoIseeateara­twinkleinthecornerofhiseye?Butwhoisitstepstowardstheotherfirst?Why,she;women,Ithink,are,of

thetwosexes,themorekeenlytunedtothesweetmusicoftheirbodies.(Apennyformyfoulthoughts,indeed!Doesshe,thatwise,grave

personageinthenégligé,thinkyou'vestagedthisgrandcharademerelyinordertokissherhand?)But,then­­oh,whataprettyblush!steps

back;nowit'shisturntotaketwostepsforwardinthesarabandofEros.

Icouldwish,though,they'ddancealittlefaster;thehagwillsoonrecoverfromherspasmsandshallshefindtheminflagrante?

Hishand,then,trembling,uponherbosom;hers,initiallymorehesitant,sequentiallymorepurposeful,uponhisbreeches.Thentheirstrange trancebreaks;thatsentimentalhaveringdone,Ineversawtwofalltoitwithsuchappetite.Asifthewhirlwindgotintotheirfingers,theystrip eachotherbareinatwinklingandshefallsbackonthebed,showshimthetarget,hedisplaysthedart,scoresaninstantbullseye.Bravo!Never canthatoldbedhaveshookwithsuchastormbefore.Andtheirsweet,chokedmutterings,poorthings:'Inever ''Mydarling ''More 'And etc.etc.Enoughtomeltthethorniestheart.

Herisesuponhiselbowsonceandgaspsatme:'Mimicthemurderoftherats,Puss!MaskthemusicofVenuswiththeclamourofDiana!'

A­huntingweshallgo!Loyaltothelast,IplaycatchascatchcanwithTab'sdeadrats,givingthedyingthecoupdegraceandbayingwith

resonantvigourtodrowntheextravagantscreechesthatbreakforthfromthat(whowouldhavesuspected?)morepassionateyoungwomanas

shecomesoffinfinestyle.(Fullmarks,Master.)

Atthat,theoldhagcomesbatteringatthedoor.What'sgoingon?Whyfortheracket?Andthedoorrattlesonitshinges.

'Peace!'criesSignorFurioso.'Haven'tIjustnowblockedthegreathole?'

Butmilady'sinnohurrytodonhersmockagain,shetakesherlovelytimeaboutit;sofullofpleasuregratifiedherlanguorouslimbsyou'dthink

herverynavelsmiled.Shepecksmymasterprettilythank­youonthecheek,wetsthegumonhisfalsemoustachewiththetipofherstrawberry

tongueandsticksitbackonhisupperlipforhim,thenletsherwardressintothesceneofthefauxcarnagewiththemostmodestand

irreproachableairintheworld.

'See!Pusshasslaughteredalltherats.'

Irush,purringproud,togreetthehag;instantly,hereyeso'erflow.

'Whythebedclothessodisordered?'shesqueaks,notquiteblinded,yet,byphlegmandchosenforherpostfromalltheotherapplicantson

accountofhersuspiciousmind,even(oh,dutiful)wheningrandepeurdesrats.

'Pusshadamightybattlewiththebiggestbeastyoueversawuponthisverybed;can'tyouseethebloodstainsonthesheets?Andnow,whatdo

weoweyou,SignorFurioso,forthissingularservice?'

'Ahundredducats,'saysI,quickasaflash,forIknowmymaster,lefttohimself,would,likeanhonourablefool,takenothing.

'That'stheentirehouseholdexpensesforamonth!'wailsavarice'swell­chosenaccomplice.

'Andwortheverypenny!Forthoseratswouldhaveeatenusoutofhouseandhome.'Iseetheglimmeringsofsturdybackboneinthislittlelady.

'Go,paythemfromyourprivatesavingsthatIknowof,thatyou'veskimmedoffthehousekeeping.'

Mutteringandmoaningbutnothingforitexceptdoassheisbid;andthefuriousSirandItakeoffalaundrybasketfullofdeadratsassouvenir­

­wedropit,plop!inthenearestsewer.Andsitdowntoonedinnerhonestlypaidfor,forawonder.

Buttheyoungfoolisoffhisfeed,again.Pusheshisplateaside,laughs,weeps,burieshisheadinhishandsand,timeandtimeagain,goestothe

windowtostareattheshuttersbehindwhichhissweetheartscrubsthebloodawayandmydearTabsrestsfromhersupremeexertions.Hesits,

forawhile,andscribbles;ripsthepageinfour,hurlsitaside.Ispearafallingfragmentwithaclaw.DearGod,he'stooktowritingpoetry.

'Imustandwillhaveherforever,'heexclaims.

Iseemyplanhascometonothing.Satisfactionhasnotsatisfiedhim;thatsoultheybothsawinoneanother'sbodieshassuchinsatiablehunger

nosinglemealcouldeverappeaseit.Ifalltothetoiletteofmyhinderparts,myfavouritestancewhencontemplatingthewaysoftheworld.

'HowcanIlivewithouther?'

Youdidsofortwenty­sevenyears,sir,andnevermissedherforamoment.

'I'mburningwiththefeveroflove!'

Thenwe'resparedtheexpenseoffires.

'Ishallstealherawayfromherhusbandtolivewithme.'

'Whatdoyouproposetoliveon,sir?'

'Kisses,'hesaiddistractedly.'Embraces.'

'Well,youwon'tgrowfatonthat,sir;thoughshewill.Andthen,moremouthstofeed.'

'I'msickandtiredofyourfoul­mouthedbarbs,Puss,'hesnaps.Andyetmyheartismoved,fornowhespeakstheplain,clear,foolishrhetoricof

loveandwhoistherecunningenoughtohelphimtohappinessbutI?Scheme,loyalPuss,scheme!

Mywashcompleted,Istepoutacrossthesquaretovisitthatcharmingshewho'swormedherwaydirectlyintomyownhitherto­untrammelled

heartwithhersharpwitsandherprettyways.Sheexhibitswarmemotiontoseeme;and,oh!whatnewsshehastotellme!Newsofaraptand

personalnature,thatturnsmymindtothoughtsofthefuture,and,yes,domesticplansofmostfamilialnature.She'ssavedmeapig'strotter,a

whole,entirepig'strottertheMissussmuggledtoherwithawink.Afeast!Masticating,Imuse.

'Recapitulate,'Isuggest,'thedailymotionsofSirPantaloonwhenhe'sathome.'

Theysetthecathedralclockbyhim,sorigidandsoregularhishabits.Upatthecrack,hemeagrelybreakfastsoffyesterday'scrustsandacupof

coldwater,tosparetheexpenseofheatingitup.Downtohiscounting­house,countingouthismoney,untilabowlofwell­wateredgruelat

midday.Theafternoonhedevotestousury,bankrupting,here,asmalltradesman,there,aweepingwidow,forfunandprofit.Dinner'sluxurious,

atfour;soup,withabitofrancidbeeforatoughbirdinit­­he'sanarrangementwiththebutcher,takesunsoldstockoffhishandsinreturnfora

shutmouthaboutapiethathadafingerinit.Fromfour­thirtyuntilfive­thirty,heunlockstheshuttersandletshiswifelookout,oh,don'tI

know!whilehagsitsbesidehertomakesureshedoesn'tsmile.(Oh,thatblessedflux,thosepreciouslooseminutesthatsetthegameinmotion!)

Andwhileshebreathestheairofevening,why,hechecksuponhischestofgems,hisbalesofsilk,allthosetreasureshelovestoomuchto

sharewithdaylightandifhewastesacandlewhenhesoindulgeshimself,why,anymanisentitledtoonelittleextravagance.Anotherdraught

ofAdam'salehealthfullyconcludestheday;uphetucksbesidesMissusand,sincesheishisprizepossession,consentstofingerheralittle.He

palpitatesherhideandslapsherflanks:'Whatagoodbargain!'Alack,candonomore,notwishingtoprofligatehisnaturalessence.Andso

driftsofftosinlessslumberamidtheprospectsoftomorrow'sgold.

'Howrichishe?'

'Croesus.'

'Enoughtokeeptwolovingcouples?"

'Sumptuous.'

Earlyintheuncandledmorning,gropingtotheprivyblearedwithsleep,weretheoldmantoplacehisfootuponthesubfuscyetvolatilefurofa

shadow­camouflagedyoungtabbycat­­

'Youreadmythoughts,mylove."

Isaytomymaster:'Now,yougetyourselfadoctor'sgown,impedimentaallcompleteorI'mdonewithyou.'

'What'sthis,Puss?'

'DoasIsayandnevermindthereason!Thelessyouknowofwhy,thebetter.'

Soheexpendsafewofthehag'sducatsonablackgownwithawhitecollarandhisskullcapandhisblackbagand,undermydirection,makes

himselfanothersignthatannounces,withallduepomposity,howheisIlFamedDottore:Achescured,painsprevented,bonesset,graduateof

Bologna,physicianextraordinary.Hedemandstoknow,isshetoplaytheinvalidtogivehimfurtheraccesstoherbedroom?

'I'llclaspherinmyarmsandjumpoutofthewindow;wetooshallbothperformthetriplesomersaultoflove.'

'Youjustmindyourownbusiness,sir,andletmeminditforyouaftermyownfashion.'

Anotherrawandmistymorning!Hereinthehills,willtheweathereverchange?Sobleakitis,anddreary;buttherehestands,graveasa

sermoninhisblackgownandhalfthemarketpeoplecomewithcoughsandboilsandbrokenheadsandIdispensetheplastersandthevialsof

colouredwaterI'dforethoughtfullystowedinhisbag,hetooagitatotosellforhimself.(And,whoknows,mightwenothavestumbledona

profitableprofessionforfuturepursuit,ifmypresentplansmiscarry?)

Untildawnshootshislittleyethowflamingarrowpastthecathedralonwhichtheclockstrikessix.Atthelaststroke,thatfamousdoorflies

openonceagainand­­eeeeeeeeeeeeech!thehagletsrip.

'Oh,Doctor,oh,Doctor,comequickasyoucan;ourgoodman'stakenasorrytumble!'

Andweepingfittofloatasmack,sheis,sodoesn'tseethedoctor'sapprenticeismostcolourfullyandcompletelyfurredandwhiskered.

Theoldbooby'sflatoutatthefootofthestair,hisheadatanacuteanglethatmightturnchronicandabigbunchofkeys,still,grippedinhis

righthandasiftheywerethekeystoheavenmarked:Wantedonvoyage.AndMissus,inherwrap,bendsoverhimwithaprettyairofconcern.

'Afall­­'shebeginswhensheseesthedoctorbutstopsshortwhensheseesyourservant,Puss,lookingassuitablydown­in­the­mouthashis

chronicsmilewilllethim,humpinghismaster'sstock­in­tradeandhawinglikeasawbones.'You,again,'shesays,andcan'tforbeartogiggle.

Butthedragon'stooblubberedtohear.

Mymasterputshiseartotheoldman'schestandshakeshisheaddolefully;thentakesthemirrorfromhispocketandputsittotheoldman's

mouth.Notabreathcloudsit.Oh,sad!Oh,sorrowful!

'Dead,ishe?'sobsthehag.'Brokehisneck,hashe?'

Andsheslylymakesalittlegrabforthekeys,inspiteofherwell­orchestrateddistress;butMissusslapsherhandandshegivesover.

'Let'sgethimtoasofterbed,'saysMaster.

Heupsthecorpse,carriesitalofttotheroomweknowfullwell,bumpsPantaloondown,twitchesaneyelid,tapsakneecap,feelsapulse.

'Deadasadoornail,'hepronounces.'It'snotadoctoryouwant,it'sanundertaker.'

Missushasahandkerchiefverydutifullyandcorrectlytohereyes.

'Youjustrunalongandgetone,'shesaystohag.'AndthenI'llreadthewill.Becausedon'tthinkhe'sforgottenyou,thoufaithfulservant.Oh,

mygoodness,no.'

Sooffgoeshag;youneversawawomanofheraccumulatedChristmasessprintsofast.Assoonastheyareleftalone,notrifling,thistime;

they'reatit,hammerandtongs,downonthecarpetsincethebedisoccupé.Upanddown,upanddownhisarse;inandout,inandoutherlegs.

Thensheheaveshimupandthrowshimonhisback,herturnatthegrind,now,andyou'dthinkshe'llneverstop.

Toujoursdiscret,Pussoccupieshimselfinunfasteningtheshuttersandthrowingthewindowsopentothebeautifulbeginningsofmorningin

whoselivelyyetfragrantairhissensitivenostrilscatchthefirstandvernalhintofspring.Inafewmoments,mydearfriendjoinsme.Inotice

already­­orisitonlymyfondimagination?­­acharmingnewportlinessinhergait,hithertosoelastic,sospring­heeled.Andtherewesitupon

thewindow­sill,likethetwogeniiandprotectorsofthehouse;ah,Puss,yourramblingdaysareover.Ishallbecomeahearthrugcat,afatand

cosycushioncat,singtothemoonnomore,settleatlastamidthesedentaryjoysofadomesticitywetwo,sheandI,havesorichlyearned;

Theircriesofrapturerousemefromthispleasantrevery.

Thehagchooses,naturellement,thistenderifoutrageousmomenttoreturnwiththeundertakerinhischiffonedtopper,plusabraceofmutes

blackasbeetles,glumasbailiffs,bearingtheelmboxbetweenthemtotakethecorpseawayin.Buttheycheerupsomethingwonderfulatthe

unexpectedspectaclebeforethemandheandsheconcludetheiramorousinterludeamidstroarsofapprobationandtorrentsofapplause.

Butwhataracketthehagmakes!Police,murder,thieves!UntiltheMasterchucksherpursefulofgoldbackagain,foragratuity.(Meanwhile,I

notethatsensibleyoungwoman,mother­nakedassheis,hasyetthepresenceofmindtocatchholdofherhusband'skeyringandsharplytugit

fromhissere,coldgrip.Onceshe'sgotthekeyssecure,she'sinchargeofall.)

'Now,nomoreofyournonsense!'shesnapstohag.'IfIherebygiveyouthesack,you'llgetahandsomegifttogoalongwithyoufornow'­­

flourishingthekeys­­'Iamarichwidowandhere'­­indicatingtoallmybareyetblissfulmaster­­'istheyoungmanwho'llbemysecond

husband.'

WhenthegovernessfoundSignorPanteleonehadindeedrememberedherinhiswill,leftherakeepsakeofthecuphedrankhismorningwater

from,shemadenotasqueakmore,pocketedafatsumwiththanksand,sneezing,tookherselfoffwithnomorecriesof'murder',neither.The

oldbuffoonbrisklybundledinhiscoffinandburied;MastercomesintoagreatfortuneandMissusroundingoutalreadyandtheyashappyas

pigsinplunk.

ButmyTabsbeathertoit,sincecatsdon'ttakemuchtimeaboutengendering;threefine,new­mintedgingerkittens,allcompletewithsnowy

socksandshirtfronts,tumbleinthecreamandtangleMissus'sknittingandputasmileoneveryface,notjusttheirmother'sandproudfather's

forTabsandIsmilealldaylongand,thesedays,weputourheartsinit.

Somayallyourwives,ifyouneedthem,berichandpretty;andallyourhusbands,ifyouwantthem,beyoungandvirile;andallyourcatsas

wily,perspicaciousandresourcefulas:

PUSS­IN­BOOTS.

TheErl­King

Thelucidity,theclarityofthelightthatafternoonwassufficienttoitself;perfecttransparencymustbeimpenetrable,theseverticalbarsofa

brass­coloureddistillationoflightcomingdownfromsulphur­yellowintersticesinaskyhunkeredwithgreycloudsthatbulgewithmorerain.It

struckthewoodwithnicotine­stainedfingers,theleavesglittered.AcolddayoflateOctober,whenthewitheredblackberriesdangledliketheir

owndourspooksonthediscolouredbrambles.Therewerecrisphusksofbeechmastandcastacorncupsunderfootintherussetslimeofdead

brackenwheretherainsoftheequinoxhadsosoakedtheearththatthecoldoozedupthroughthesolesoftheshoes,lancinatingcoldofthe

approachofwinterthatgripsholdofyourbellyandsqueezesittight.Nowthestarkeldershaveananorexiclook;thereisnotmuchinthe

autumnwoodtomakeyousmilebutitisnotyet,notquiteyet,thesaddesttimeoftheyear.Only,thereisahauntingsenseoftheimminent

cessationofbeing;theyear,inturning,turnsinonitself.Introspectiveweather,asickroomhush.

Thewoodsenclose.Youstepbetweenthefirsttreesandthenyouarenolongerintheopenair;thewoodswallowsyouup.Thereisnoway

throughthewoodanymore,thiswoodhasrevertedtoitsoriginalprivacy.Onceyouareinsideit,youmuststaythereuntilitletsyououtagain

forthereisnocluetoguideyouthroughinperfectsafety;grassgrewoverthetrackyearsagoandnowtherabbitsandthefoxesmaketheirown

runsinthesubtlelabyrinthandnobodycomes.Thetreesstirwithanoiseliketaffetaskirtsofwomenwhohavelostthemselvesinthewoods

andhuntroundhopelesslyforthewayout.Tumblingcrowsplaytiginthebranchesoftheelmstheyclottedwiththeirnests,nowandthen

raucouslycawing.Alittlestreamwithsoftmarginsofmarshrunsthroughthewoodbutithasgrownsullenwiththetimeoftheyear;thesilent,

blackishwaterthickens,now,toice.Allwillfallstill,alllapse.

AyounggirlwouldgointothewoodastrustinglyasRedRidingHoodtohergranny'shousebutthislightadmitsofnoambiguitiesand,here,

shewillbetrappedinherownillusionbecauseeverythinginthewoodisexactlyasitseems.

Thewoodsencloseandthenencloseagain,likeasystemofChineseboxesopeningoneintoanother;theintimateperspectivesofthewood

changedendlesslyaroundtheinterloper,theimaginarytravellerwalkingtowardsaninventeddistancethatperpetuallyrecededbeforeme.Itis

easytoloseyourselfinthesewoods.

Thetwonotesofthesongofabirdroseonthestillair,asifmygirlishanddeliciouslonelinesshadbeenmadeintoasound.Therewasalittle

tangledmistinthethickets,mimickingthetuftsofoldman'sbeardthatflossedthelowerbranchesofthetreesandbushes;heavybunchesofred

berriesasripeanddeliciousasgoblinorenchantedfruithungonthehawthornsbuttheoldgrasswithers,retreats.Onebyone,thefernshave

curleduptheirhundredeyesandcurledbackintotheearth.Thetreesthreadedacat'scradleofhalf­strippedbranchesovermesothatIfeltIwas

inahouseofnetsandthoughthecoldwindthatalwaysheraldsyourpresence,hadIbutknownitthen,blewgentlearoundme,Ithoughtthat

nobodywasinthewoodbutme.

Erl­Kingwilldoyougrievousharm.

Piercingly,now,therecameagainthecallofthebird,asdesolateasifitcamefromthethroatofthelastbirdleftalive.Thatcall,withallthe

melancholyofthefailingyearinit,wentdirectlytomyheart.

Iwalkedthroughthewooduntilallitsperspectivesconvergeduponadarkeningclearing;assoonasIsawthem,Iknewatoncethatallits

occupantshadbeenwaitingformefromthemomentIfirststeppedintothewood,withtheendlesspatienceofwildthings,whohaveallthe

timeintheworld.

Itwasagardenwherealltheflowerswerebirdsandbeasts;ash­softdoves,diminutivewrens,freckledthrushes,robinsintheirtawnybibs,

huge,helmetedcrowsthatshonelikepatentleather,ablackbirdwithayellowbill,voles,shrews,fieldfares,littlebrownbunnieswiththeirears

laidtogetheralongtheirbackslikespoons,crouchingathisfeet.Alean,tall,reddishhare,uponitsgreathindlegs,nosea­twitch.Therustyfox,

itsmuzzlesharpenedtoapoint,laiditsheaduponhisknee.Onthetrunkofascarletrowanasquirrelclung,towatchhim;acockpheasant

delicatelystretchedhisshimmeringneckfromabrakeofthorntopeerathim.Therewasagoatofuncannywhiteness,gleaminglikeagoatof

snow,whoturnedhermildeyestowardsmeandbleatedsoftly,sothatheknewIhadarrived.

Hesmiles.Helaysdownhispipe,hiselderbird­call.Helaysuponmehisirrevocablehand.

Hiseyesarequitegreen,asiffromtoomuchlookingatthewood.

Therearesomeeyescaneatyou.

TheErl­Kinglivesbyhimselfallaloneintheheartofthewoodinahousewhichhasonlytheoneroom.Hishouseismadeofsticksandstones

andhasgrownapeltofyellowlichen.Grassandweedsgrowinthemossyroof.Hechopsfallenbranchesforhisfireanddrawshiswaterfrom

thestreaminatinpail.

Whatdoesheeat?Why,thebountyofthewoodland!Stewednettles;savourymessesofchickweedsprinkledwithnutmeg;hecooksthefoliage

ofshepherd'spurseasifitwerecabbage.Heknowswhichofthefrilled,blotched,rottedfungiarefittoeat;heunderstandstheireldritchways,

howtheyspringupovernightinlightlessplacesandthriveondeadthings.Eventhehomelywoodblewits,thatyoucookliketripe,withmilk

andonions,andtheegg­yolkyellowchanterellewithitsfan­vaultingandfaintscentofapricots,allspringupovernightlikebubblesofearth,

unsustainedbynature,existinginavoid.AndIcouldbelievethatithasbeenthesamewithhim;hecamealivefromthedesireofthewoods.

Hegoesoutinthemorningtogatherhisunnaturaltreasures,hehandlesthemasdelicatelyashedoespigeons'eggs,helaystheminoneofthe

basketsheweavesfromosiers.Hemakessaladsofthedandelionthathecallsrudenames,'bum­pipes'or'piss­the­beds',andflavoursthemwith

afewleavesofwildstrawberrybuthewillnottouchthebrambles,hesaystheDevilspitsonthematMichaelmas.

Hisnannygoat,thecolourofwhey,giveshimherabundantmilkandhecanmakesoftcheesethathasaunique,rank,amniotictaste.Sometimes

hetrapsarabbitinasnareofstringandmakesasouporstew,seasonedwithwildgarlic.Heknowsallaboutthewoodandthecreaturesinit.

Hetoldmeaboutthegrasssnakes,howtheoldonesopentheirmouthswidewhentheysmelldangerandthethinlittleonesdisappeardownthe

oldones'throatsuntilthefrightisoverandouttheycomeagain,torunaroundasusual.Hetoldmehowthewisetoadwhosquatsamongthe

kingcupsbythestreaminsummerhasaverypreciousjewelinhishead.Hesaidtheowlwasabaker'sdaughter;thenhesmiledatme.He

showedmehowtothreadmatsfromreedsandweaveosiertwigsintobasketsandintothelittlecagesinwhichhekeepshissingingbirds.

Hiskitchenshakesandshiverswithbirdsongfromcageuponcageofsingingbirds,larksandlinnets,whichhepilesuponeonanotheragainst

thewall,awalloftrappedbirds.Howcruelitis,tokeepwildbirdsincages!ButhelaughsatmewhenIsaythat;laughs,andshowshiswhite,

pointedteethwiththespittlegleamingonthem.

Heisanexcellenthousewife.Hisrustichomeisspickandspan.Heputshiswell­scouredsaucepanandskilletneatlyonthehearthsidebyside,

likeapairofpolishedshoes.Overthehearthhangbunchesofdryingmushrooms,thethin,curlingkindtheycalljew's­ears,whichhavegrown

ontheeldertreessinceJudashangedhimselfonone;thisisthekindoflorehetellsme,temptingmyhalf­belief.Hehangsupherbsinbunches

todry,too­­thyme,marjoram,sage,vervain,southernwood,yarrow.Theroomismusicalandaromaticandthereisalwaysawoodfirecrackling

inthegrate,asweet,acridsmoke,abright,glancingflame.Butyoucannotgetatuneoutoftheoldfiddlehangingonthewallbesidethebirds

becauseallitsstringsarebroken.

Now,whenIgoforwalks,sometimesinthemorningswhenthefrosthasputitsshinythumbprintontheundergrowthorsometimes,thoughless

frequently,yetmoreenticingly,intheeveningswhenthecolddarknesssettlesdown,IalwaysgototheErl­Kingandhelaysmedownonhis

bedofrustlingstrawwhereIlieatthemercyofhishugehands.

Heisthetenderbutcherwhoshowedmehowthepriceoffleshislove;skintherabbit,hesays!Offcomeallmyclothes.

Whenhecombshishairthatisthecolourofdeadleaves,deadleavesfalloutofit;theyrustleanddrifttothegroundasthoughhewereatree

andhecanstandasstillasatree,whenhewantsthedovestofluttersoftly,crooningastheycome,downuponhisshoulders,thosesilly,fat,

trustingwoodieswiththeprettyweddingringsroundtheirnecks.Hemakeshiswhistlesoutofaneldertwigandthatiswhatheusestocallthe

birdsoutoftheair­­allthebirdscome;andthesweetestsingershewillkeepincages.

Thewindstirsthedarkwood;itblowsthroughthebushes.Alittleofthecoldairthatblowsovergraveyardsalwaysgoeswithhim,itcrispsthe

hairsonthebackofmyneckbutIamnotafraidofhim;only,afraidofvertigo,ofthevertigowithwhichheseizesme.Afraidoffallingdown.

FallingasabirdwouldfallthroughtheairiftheErl­Kingtiedupthewindsinhishandkerchiefandknottedtheendstogethersotheycouldnot

getout.Thenthemovingcurrentsoftheairwouldnolongersustainthemandallthebirdswouldfallattheimperativeofgravity,asIfalldown

forhim,andIknowitisonlybecauseheiskindtomethatIdonotfallstillfurther.Theearthwithitsfragilefleeceoflastsummer'sdying

leavesandgrassessupportsmeonlyoutofcomplicitywithhim,becausehisfleshisofthesamesubstanceasthoseleavesthatareslowly

turningintoearth.

Hecouldthrustmeintotheseed­bedofnextyear'sgenerationandIwouldhavetowaituntilhewhistledmeupfrommydarknessbeforeIcould

comebackagain.

Yet,whenheshakesoutthosetwoclearnotesfromhisbirdcall,Icome,likeanyothertrustingthingthatperchesonthecrookofhiswrist.

IfoundtheErl­Kingsittingonanivy­coveredstumpwindingallthebirdsinthewoodtohimonadiatonicspoolofsound,onerisingnote,one

fallingnote;suchasweetpiercingcallthatdowntherecameasoft,chirrupingjostleofbirds.Theclearingwasclutteredwithdeadleaves,some

thecolourofhoney,somethecolourofcinders,somethecolourofearth.HeseemedsomuchthespiritoftheplaceIsawwithoutsurprisehow

thefoxlaiditsmuzzlefearlesslyuponhisknee.Thebrownlightoftheendofthedaydrainedintothemoist,heavyearth;allsilent,allstilland

thecoolsmellofnightcoming.Thefirstdropsofrainfell.Inthewood,noshelterbuthiscottage.

ThatwasthewayIwalkedintothebird­hauntedsolitudeoftheErl­King,whokeepshisfeatheredthingsinlittlecageshehaswovenoutof

osiertwigsandtheretheysitandsingforhim.

Goat'smilktodrink,fromachippedtinmug;weshalleattheoatcakeshehasbakedonthehearthstone.Rattleoftherainontheroof.Thelatch

clanksonthedoor;weareshutupinsidewithoneanother,inthebrownroomcrispwiththescentofburninglogsthatshiverwithtinyflame,

andIliedownontheErl­King'screakingpalliasseofstraw.Hisskinisthetintandtextureofsourcream,hehasstiff,russetnipplesripeas

berries.Likeatreethatbearsbloomandfruitonthesameboughtogether,howpleasing,howlovely.

Andnow­­ach!Ifeelyoursharpteethinthesubaqueousdepthsofyourkisses.Theequinoctialgalesseizethebareelmsandmakethemwhizz

andwhirllikedervishes;yousinkyourteethintomythroatandmakemescream.

Thewhitemoonabovetheclearingcoldlyilluminatesthestilltableauxofourembracements.HowsweetIroamed,or,rather,usedtoroam;

onceIwastheperfectchildofthemeadowsofsummer,butthentheyearturned,thelightclarifiedandIsawthegauntErl­King,tallasatree

withbirdsinitsbranches,andhedrewmetowardshimonhismagiclassoofinhumanmusic.

IfIstrungthatoldfiddlewithyourhair,wecouldwaltztogethertothemusicastheexhausteddaylightfoundersamongthetrees;weshould

havebettermusicthantheshrillprothalamionsofthelarksstackedintheirprettycagesastheroofcreakswiththefreightofbirdsyou'velured

toitwhileweengageinyourprofanemysteriesundertheleaves.

Hestripsmetomylastnakedness,thatunderskinofmauve,pearlizedsatin,likeaskinnedrabbit;thendressesmeagaininanembracesolucid

andencompassingitmightbemadeofwater.AndshakesovermedeadleavesasifintothestreamIhavebecome.

Sometimesthebirds,atrandom,allsinging,strikeachord.

Hisskincoversmeentirely;weareliketwohalvesofaseed,enclosedinthesameintegument.Ishouldliketogrowenormouslysmall,sothat

youcouldswallowme,likethosequeensinfairytaleswhoconceivewhentheyswallowagrainofcornorasesameseed.ThenIcouldlodge

insideyourbodyandyouwouldbearme.

Thecandlefluttersandgoesout.Histouchbothconsolesanddevastatesme;Ifeelmyheartpulse,thenwither,nakedasastoneontheroaring

mattresswhilethelovely,moonynightslidesthroughthewindowtodappletheflanksofthisinnocentwhomakescagestokeepthesweetbirds

in.Eatme,drinkme;thirsty,cankered,goblin­ridden,Igobackandbacktohimtohavehisfingersstripthetatteredskinawayandclothemein

hisdressofwater,thisgarmentthatdrenchesme,itsslitheringodour,itscapacityfordrowning.

Nowthecrowsdropwinterfromtheirwings,invoketheharshestseasonwiththeircry.

Itisgrowingcolder.Scarcelyaleafleftonthetreesandthebirdscometohiminevengreaternumbersbecause,inthishardweather,itislean

pickings.Theblackbirdsandthrushesmusthuntthesnailsfromhedgebottomsandcracktheshellsonstones.ButtheErl­Kinggivesthemcorn

andwhenhewhistlestothem,amomentlateryoucannotseehimforthebirdsthathavecoveredhimlikeasoftfalloffeatheredsnow.He

spreadsoutagoblinfeastoffruitforme,suchappallingsucculence;Ilieabovehimandseethelightfromthefiresuckedintotheblackvortex

ofhiseye,theomissionoflightatthecentre,there,thatexertsonmesuchatremendouspressure,itdrawsmeinwards.

Eyesgreenasapples.Greenasdeadseafruit.

Awindrises;itmakesasingular,wild,low,rushingsound.

Whatbigeyesyouhave.Eyesofanincomparableluminosity,thenuminousphosphorescenceoftheeyesoflycanthropes.Thegelidgreenof

youreyesfixesmyreflectiveface;Itisapreservative,likeagreenliquidamber;itcatchesme.IamafraidIwillbetrappedinitforeverlikethe

poorlittleantsandfliesthatstucktheirfeetinresinbeforetheseacoveredtheBaltic.Hewindsmeintothecircleofhiseyeonareelof

birdsong.Thereisablackholeinthemiddleofbothyoureyes;itistheirstillcentre,lookingtheremakesmegiddy,asifImightfallintoit.

Yourgreeneyeisareducingchamber.IfIlookintoitlongenough,Iwillbecomeassmallasmyownreflection,Iwilldiminishtoapointand

vanish.Iwillbedrawndownintothatblackwhirlpoolandbeconsumedbyyou.Ishallbecomesosmallyoucankeepmeinoneofyourosier

cagesandmockmylossofliberty.Ihaveseenthecageyouareweavingforme;itisaveryprettyoneandIshallsit,hereafter,inmycage

amongtheothersingingbirdsbutI­­Ishallbedumb,fromspite.

WhenIrealizedwhattheErl­Kingmeanttodotome,IwasshakenwithaterriblefearandIdidnotknowwhattodoforIlovedhimwithall

myheartandyetIhadnowishtojointhewhistlingcongregationhekeptinhiscagesalthoughhelookedafterthemveryaffectionately,gave

themfreshwatereverydayandfedthemwell.Hisembraceswerehisenticementsandyet,ohyet!theywerethebranchesofwhichthetrap

itselfwaswoven.Butinhisinnocenceheneverknewhemightbethedeathofme,althoughIknewfromthefirstmomentIsawhimhowErl­

Kingwoulddomegrievousharm.

Althoughthebowhangsbesidetheoldfiddleonthewall,allthestringsarebrokensoyoucannotplayit.Idon'tknowwhatkindoftunesyou

mightplayonit,ifitwerestrungagain;lullabiesforfoolishvirgins,perhaps,andnowIknowthebirdsdon'tsing,theyonlycrybecausethey

can'tfindtheirwayoutofthewood,havelosttheirfleshwhentheyweredippedinthecorrosivepoolsofhisregardandnowmustliveincages.

Sometimeshelayshisheadonmylapandletsmecombhislovelyhairforhim;hiscombingsareleavesofeverytreeinthewoodanddryly

susurratearoundmyfeet.Hishairfallsdownovermyknees.SilencelikeadreaminfrontofthespittingfirewhileheliesatmyfeetandIcomb

thedeadleavesoutofhislanguoroushair.Therobinhasbuilthisnestinthethatchagain,thisyear;heperchesonanunburntlog,cleanshis

beak,ruffleshisplumage.Thereisaplaintivesweetnessinhissongandacertainmelancholy,becausetheyearisover­­therobin,thefriendof

man,inspiteofthewoundinhisbreastfromwhichErl­Kingtoreouthisheart.

LayyourheadonmykneesothatIcan'tseethegreenishinward­turningsunsofyoureyesanymore.

Myhandsshake.

Ishalltaketwohugehandfulsofhisrustlinghairashelieshalfdreaming,halfwaking,andwindthemintoropes,verysoftly,sohewillnot

wakeup,and,softly,withhandsasgentleasrain,Ishallstranglehimwiththem.

Thenshewillopenallthecagesandletthebirdsfree;theywillchangebackintoyounggirls,everyone,eachwiththecrimsonimprintofhis

love­biteontheirthroats.

Shewillcarveoffhisgreatmanewiththeknifeheusestoskintherabbits;shewillstringtheoldfiddlewithfivesinglestringsofash­brown

hair.

Thenitwillplaydiscordantmusicwithoutahandtouchingit.Thebowwilldanceoverthenewstringsofitsownaccordandtheywillcryout:

'Mother,mother,youhavemurderedme!'

TheSnowChild

Midwinter­­invincible,immaculate.TheCountandhiswifegoriding,heonagreymareandsheonablackone,shewrappedintheglittering

peltsofblackfoxes;andsheworehigh,black,shiningbootswithscarletheels,andspurs.Freshsnowfellonsnowalreadyfallen;whenit

ceased,thewholeworldwaswhite.'IwishIhadagirlaswhiteassnow,'saystheCount.Theyrideon.Theycometoaholeinthesnow;this

holeisfilledwithblood.Hesays:'IwishIhadagirlasredasblood.'Sotheyrideonagain;hereisaraven,perchedonabarebough.'IwishI

hadagirlasblackasthatbird'sfeather.'Assoonashecompletedherdescription,thereshestood,besidetheroad,whiteskin,redmouth,black

hairandstarknaked;shewasthechildofhisdesireandtheCountesshatedher.TheCountliftedherupandsatherinfrontofhimonhissaddle

buttheCountesshadonlyonethought:howshallIberidofher?

TheCountessdroppedhergloveinthesnowandtoldthegirltogetdowntolookforit;shemeanttogallopoffandleavehertherebuttheCount

said:'I'llbuyyounewgloves.'Atthat,thefurssprangofftheCountess'sshouldersandtwinedroundthenakedgirl.ThentheCountessthrewher

diamondbroochthroughtheiceofafrozenpond:'Diveinandfetchitforme,'shesaid;shethoughtthegirlwoulddrown.ButtheCountsaid:

'Issheafish,toswiminsuchcoldweather?'ThenherbootsleaptofftheCountess'sfeetandontothegirl'slegs.NowtheCountesswasbareas

aboneandthegirlfurredandbooted;theCountfeltsorryforhiswife.Theycametoabushofroses,allinflower.'Pickmeone,'saidthe

Countesstothegirl.'Ican'tdenyyouthat,'saidtheCount.

Sothegirlpicksarose;pricksherfingeronthethorn;bleeds;screams;falls.

Weeping,theCountgotoffhishorse,unfastenedhisbreechesandthrusthisvirilememberintothedeadgirl.TheCountessreinedinher

stampingmareandwatchedhimnarrowly;hewassoonfinished.

Thenthegirlbegantomelt.Soontherewasnothingleftofherbutafeatherabirdmighthavedropped;abloodstain,likethetraceofafox'skill

onthesnow;andtheroseshehadpulledoffthebush.NowtheCountesshadallherclothesonagain.Withherlonghand,shestrokedherfurs.

TheCountpickeduptherose,bowedandhandedittohiswife;whenshetouchedit,shedroppedit.

'Itbites!'shesaid.

TheLadyoftheHouseofLove

Atlasttherevenantsbecamesotroublesomethepeasantsabandonedthevillageanditfellsolelyintothepossessionofsubtleandvindictive

inhabitantswhomanifesttheirpresencesbyshadowsthatfallalmostimperceptiblyawry,toomanyshadows,evenatmidday,shadowsthathave

nosourceinanythingvisible;bythesound,sometimes,ofsobbinginaderelictbedroomwhereacrackedmirrorsuspendedfromawalldoesnot

reflectapresence;byasenseofuneasethatwillafflictthetravellerunwiseenoughtopausetodrinkfromthefountaininthesquarethatstill

gushesspringwaterfromafaucetstuckinastonelion'smouth.Acatprowlsinaweedygarden;hegrinsandspits,archeshisback,bounces

awayfromanintangibleonfourfear­stiffenedlegs.Nowallshunthevillagebelowthechateauinwhichthebeautifulsomnambulisthelplessly

perpetuatesherancestralcrimes.

Wearinganantiquebridalgown,thebeautifulqueenofthevampiressitsallaloneinherdark,highhouseundertheeyesoftheportraitsofher

dementedandatrociousancestors,eachoneofwhom,throughher,projectsabalefulposthumousexistence;shecountsouttheTarotcards,

ceaselesslyconstruingaconstellationofpossibilitiesasiftherandomfallofthecardsontheredplushtableclothbeforehercouldprecipitateher

fromherchill,shutteredroomintoacountryofperpetualsummerandobliteratetheperennialsadnessofagirlwhoisbothdeathandthe

maiden.

Hervoiceisfilledwithdistantsonorities,likereverberationsinacave:nowyouareattheplaceofannihilation,nowyouareattheplaceof

annihilation.Andsheisherselfacavefullofechoes,sheisasystemofrepetitions,sheisaclosedcircuit.'Canabirdsingonlythesongit

knowsorcanitlearnanewsong?'Shedrawsherlong,sharpfingernailacrossthebarsofthecageinwhichherpetlarksings,strikinga

plangenttwanglikethatofthepluckedheartstringsofawomanofmetal.Herhairfallsdownliketears.

Thecastleismostlygivenovertoghostlyoccupantsbutsheherselfhasherownsuiteofdrawingroomandbedroom.Closelybarredshutters

andheavyvelvetcurtainskeepouteveryleakofnaturallight.Thereisaroundtableonasinglelegcoveredwitharedplushclothonwhichshe

laysoutherinevitableTarot;thisroomisnevermorethanfaintlyilluminatedbyaheavilyshadedlamponthemantelpieceandthedarkred

figuredwallpaperisobscurely,distressinglypatternedbytherainthatdrivesinthroughtheneglectedroofandleavesbehinditrandomareasof

staining,ominousmarkslikethoseleftonthesheetsbydeadlovers.Depredationsofrotandfunguseverywhere.Theunlitchandelierisso

heavywithdusttheindividualprismsnolongershowanyshapes;industriousspidershavewovencanopiesinthecornersofthisornateand

rottingplace,havetrappedtheporcelainvasesonthemantelpieceinsoftgreynets.Butthemistressofallthisdisintegrationnoticesnothing.

Shesitsinachaircoveredinmoth­ravagedburgundyvelvetatthelow,roundtableanddistributesthecards;sometimesthelarksings,butmore

oftenremainsasullenmoundofdrabfeathers.SometimestheCountesswillwakeitforabriefcadenzabystrummingthebarsofitscage;she

likestohearitannouncehowitcannotescape.

Sheriseswhenthesunsetsandgoesimmediatelytohertablewheresheplayshergameofpatienceuntilshegrowshungry,untilshebecomes

ravenous.Sheissobeautifulsheisunnatural;herbeautyisanabnormality,adeformity,fornoneofherfeaturesexhibitanyofthosetouching

imperfectionsthatreconcileustotheimperfectionofthehumancondition.Herbeautyisasymptomofherdisorder,ofhersoullessness.

Thewhitehandsofthetenebrousbelledealthehandofdestiny.HerfingernailsarelongerthanthoseofthemandarinsofancientChinaand

eachisparedtoafinepoint.Theseandteethasfineandwhiteasspikesofspunsugararethevisiblesignsofthedestinyshewistfullyattempts

toevadeviathearcana;herclawsandteethhavebeensharpenedoncenturiesofcorpses,sheisthelastbudofthepoisontreethatsprangfrom

theloinsofVladtheImpalerwhopicnickedoncorpsesintheforestsofTransylvania.

Thewallsofherbedroomarehungwithblacksatin,embroideredwithtearsofpearl.Attheroom'sfourcornersarefuneraryurnsandbowls

whichemitslumbrous,pungentfumesofincense.Inthecentreisanelaboratecatafalque,inebony,surroundedbylongcandlesinenormous

silvercandlesticks.Inawhitelacenégligéstainedalittlewithblood,theCountessclimbsuponhercatafalqueatdawneachmorningandlies

downinanopencoffin.

AchignonedpriestoftheOrthodoxfaithstakedoutherwickedfatherataCarpathiancrossroadbeforehermilkteethgrew.Justastheystaked

himout,thefatalCountcried:'Nosferatuisdead;longliveNosferatu!'Nowshepossessesallthehauntedforestsandmysterioushabitationsof

hisvastdomain;sheisthehereditarycommandantofthearmyofshadowswhocampinthevillagebelowherchateau,whopenetratethewoods

intheformofowls,batsandfoxes,whomakethemilkcurdleandthebutterrefusetocome,whoridethehorsesallnightonawildhuntsothey

aresacksofskinandboneinthemorning,whomilkthecowsdryand,especially,tormentpubescentgirlswithfaintingfits,disordersofthe

blood,diseasesoftheimagination.

ButtheCountessherselfisindifferenttoherownweirdauthority,asifsheweredreamingit.Inherdream,shewouldliketobehuman;butshe

doesnotknowifthatispossible.TheTarotalwaysshowsthesameconfiguration:alwayssheturnsupLaPapesse,LaMort,LaTourAbolie,

wisdom,death,dissolution.

Onmoonlessnights,herkeeperletsheroutintothegarden.Thisgarden,anexceedinglysombreplace,bearsastrongresemblancetoaburial

groundandalltherosesherdeadmotherplantedhavegrownupintoahuge,spikedwallthatincarceratesherinthecastleofherinheritance.

Whenthebackdooropens,theCountesswillsnifftheairandhowl.Shedrops,now,onallfours.Crouching,quivering,shecatchesthescentof

herprey.Deliciouscrunchofthefragilebonesofrabbitsandsmall,furrythingsshepursueswithfleet,four­footedspeed;shewillcreephome,

whimpering,withbloodsmearedonhercheeks.Shepourswaterfromtheewerinherbedroomintothebowl,shewashesherfacewiththe

wincing,fastidiousgesturesofacat.

Thevoraciousmarginofhuntress'snightsinthegloomygarden,crouchandpounce,surroundsherhabitualtormentedsomnambulism,herlife

orimitationoflife.Theeyesofthisnocturnalcreatureenlargeandglow.Allclawsandteeth,shestrikes,shegorges;butnothingcanconsole

herfortheghastlinessofhercondition,nothing.SheresortstothemagiccomfortoftheTarotpackandshufflesthecards,laysthemout,reads

them,gathersthemupwithasigh,shufflesthemagain,constantlyconstructinghypothesesaboutafuturewhichisirreversible.

Anoldmutelooksafterher,tomakesuresheneverseesthesun,thatalldayshestaysinhercoffin,tokeepmirrorsandallreflectivesurfaces

awayfromher­­inshort,toperformallthefunctionsoftheservantsofvampires.Everythingaboutthisbeautifulandghastlyladyisasitshould

be,queenofnight,queenofterror­­exceptherhorriblereluctancefortherole.

Nevertheless,ifanunwiseadventurerpausesinthesquareofthedesertedvillagetorefreshhimselfatthefountain,acroneinablackdressand

whiteapronpresentlyemergesfromahouse.Shewillinviteyouwithsmilesandgestures;youwillfollowher.TheCountesswantsfreshmeat.

Whenshewasalittlegirl,shewaslikeafoxandcontentedherselfentirelywithbabyrabbitsthatsqueakedpiteouslyasshebitintotheirnecks

withanauseatedvoluptuousness,withvolesandfield­micethatpalpitatedforabaremomentbetweenherembroidress'sfingers.Butnowsheis

awoman,shemusthavemen.Ifyoustoptoolongbesidethegigglingfountain,youwillbeledbythehandtotheCountess'slarder.

Allday,sheliesinhercoffininhernégligéofblood­stainedlace.Whenthesundropsbehindthemountain,sheyawnsandstirsandputsonthe

onlydressshehas,hermother'sweddingdress,tositandreadhercardsuntilshegrowshungry.Sheloathesthefoodsheeats;shewouldhave

likedtotaketherabbitshomewithher,feedthemonlettuce,petthemandmakethemanestinherred­and­blackchinoiserieescritoire,but

hungeralwaysovercomesher.Shesinksherteethintotheneckwhereanarterythrobswithfear;shewilldropthedeflatedskinfromwhichshe

hasextractedallthenourishmentwithasmallcryofbothpainanddisgust.Anditisthesamewiththeshepherdboysandgipsyladswho,

ignorantorfoolhardy,cometowashthedustfromtheirfeetinthewaterofthefountain;theCountess'sgovernessbringsthemintothedrawing

roomwherethecardsonthetablealwaysshowtheGrimReaper.TheCountessherselfwillservethemcoffeeintinycracked,preciouscups,

andlittlesugarcakes.Thehobbledehoyssitwithaspillingcupinonehandandabiscuitintheother,gapingattheCountessinhersatinfinery

asshepoursfromasilverpotandchattersdistractedlytoputthemattheirfatalease.Acertaindesolatestillnessofhereyesindicatessheis

inconsolable.Shewouldliketocaresstheirleanbrowncheeksandstroketheirraggedhair.Whenshetakesthembythehandandleadsthemto

herbedroom,theycanscarcelybelievetheirluck.

Afterwards,hergovernesswilltidytheremainsintoaneatpileandwrapitinitsowndiscardedclothes.Thismortalparcelshethendiscreetly

buriesinthegarden.ThebloodontheCountess'scheekswillbemixedwithtears;herkeeperprobesherfingernailsforherwithalittlesilver

toothpick,togetridofthefragmentsofskinandbonethathavelodgedthere

Feefiefofilm

IsmellthebloodofanEnglishman.

Onehot,ripesummerinthepubescentyearsofthepresentcentury,ayoungofficerintheBritisharmy,blond,blue­eyed,heavy­muscled,

visitingfriendsinVienna,decidedtospendtheremainderofhisfurloughexploringthelittle­knownuplandsofRomania.Whenhequixotically

decidedtotraveltheruttedcart­tracksbybicycle,hesawallthehumourofit:'ontwowheelsinthelandofthevampires'.So,laughing,hesets

outonhisadventure.

Hehasthespecialqualityofvirginity,mostandleastambiguousofstates:ignorance,yetatthesametime,powerinpotentia,and,furthermore,

unknowingness,whichisnotthesameasignorance.Heismorethanheknows­­andhasabouthim,besides,thespecialglamourofthat

generationforwhomhistoryhasalreadypreparedaspecial,exemplaryfateinthetrenchesofFrance.Thisbeing,rootedinchangeandtime,is

abouttocollidewiththetimelessGothiceternityofthevampires,forwhomallisasithasalwaysbeenandwillbe,whosecardsalwaysfallin

thesamepattern.

Althoughsoyoung,heisalsorational.HehaschosenthemostrationalmodeoftransportintheworldforhistriproundtheCarpathians.Toride

abicycleisinitselfsomeprotectionagainstsuperstitiousfears,sincethebicycleistheproductofpurereasonappliedtomotion.Geometryat

theserviceofman!GivemetwospheresandastraightlineandIwillshowyouhowfarIcantakethem.Voltairehimselfmighthaveinvented

thebicycle,sinceitcontributessomuchtoman'swelfareandnothingatalltohisbane.Beneficialtothehealth,itemitsnoharmfulfumesand

permitsonlythemostdecorousspeeds.Howcanabicycleeverbeanimplementofharm?

AsinglekisswokeuptheSleepingBeautyintheWood.

ThewaxenfingersoftheCountess,fingersofaholyimage,turnupthecardcalledLesAmoureux.Never,neverbefore neverbeforehasthe Countesscastherselfafateinvolvinglove.Sheshakes,shetrembles,hergreateyesclosebeneathherfinelyveined,nervouslyflutteringeyelids; thelovelycartomancerhas,thistime,thefirsttime,dealtherselfahandofloveanddeath.

Behealiveorbehedead

I'llgrindhisbonestomakemybread.

Atthemauvishbeginningsofevening,theEnglishm'sieutoilsupthehilltothevillageheglimpsedfromagreatwayoff;hemustdismountand pushhisbicyclebeforehim,thepathtoosteeptoride.Hehopestofindafriendlyinntorestthenight;he'shot,hungry,thirsty,weary,dusty Atfirst,suchdisappointment,todiscovertheroofsofallthecottagescavedinandtallweedsthrustingthroughthepilesoffallentiles,shutters hangingdisconsolatelyfromtheirhinges,anentirelyuninhabitedplace.Andtherankvegetationwhispers,asiffoulsecrets,here,where,ifone weresufficientlyimaginative,onecouldalmostimaginetwistedfacesappearingmomentarilybeneaththecrumblingeaves buttheadventure ofitall,andtheconsolationofthepoignantbrightnessofthehollyhocksstillbravelybloomingintheshaggygardens,andthebeautyofthe flamingsunset,alltheseconsiderationssoonovercamehisdisappointment,evenassuagedthefaintuneasehe'dfelt.Andthefountainwherethe villagewomenusedtowashtheirclothesstillgushedoutbright,clearwater;hegratefullywashedhisfeetandhands,appliedhismouthtothe faucet,thenlettheicystreamrunoverhisface.

Whenheraisedhisdripping,gratifiedheadfromthelion'smouth,hesaw,silentlyarrivedbesidehiminthesquare,anoldwomanwhosmiled

eagerly,almostconciliatorilyathim.Sheworeablackdressandawhiteapron,withahousekeeper'skeyringatthewaist;hergreyhairwas

neatlycoiledinachignonbeneaththewhitelinenheaddresswornbyelderlywomenofthatregion.Shebobbedacurtsyattheyoungmanand

beckonedhimtofollowher.Whenhehesitated,shepointedtowardsthegreatbulkofthemansionabovethem,whosefaçadelouredoverthe

village,rubbedherstomach,pointedtohermouth,rubbedherstomachagain,clearlymiminganinvitationtosupper.Thenshebeckonedhim

again,thistimeturningdeterminedlyuponherheelasthoughshewouldbrooknoopposition.

Agreat,intoxicatedsurgeoftheheavyscentofredrosesblewintohisfaceassoonastheyleftthevillage,inducingasensuousvertigo;ablast

ofrich,faintlycorruptsweetnessstrongenoughalmost,tofellhim.Toomanyroses.Toomanyrosesbloomedonenormousthicketsthatlined

thepath,thicketsbristlingwiththorns,andtheflowersthemselveswerealmosttooluxuriant,theirhugecongregationsofplushpetalssomehow

obsceneintheirexcess,theirwhorled,tightlybuddedcoresoutrageousintheirimplications.Themansionemergedgrudginglyoutofthisjungle.

Inthesubtleandhauntinglightofthesettingsun,thatgoldenlightrichwithnostalgiaforthedaythatisjustpast,thesombrevisageofthe

place,partmanorhouse,partfortifiedfarmhouse,immense,rambling,adilapidatedeagle'snestatopthecragdownwhichitsattendantvillage

meandered,remindedhimofchildhoodtalesonwinterevenings,whenheandhisbrothersandsistersscaredthemselveshalfoutoftheirwits

withghoststoriessetinjustsuchplacesandthenhadtohavecandlestolightthemupnewlyterrifyingstairstobed.Hecouldalmosthave

regrettedacceptingthecrone'sunspokeninvitation;butnow,standingbeforethedooroftime­erodedoakwhilesheselectedahugeironkey

fromtheclankingringfulatherwaist,heknewitwastoolatetoturnbackandbrusquelyremindedhimselfhewasnochild,now,tobe

frightenedofhisownfancies.

Theoldladyunlockedthedoor,whichswungbackonmelodramaticallycreakinghinges,andfussilytookchargeofhisbicycle,inspiteofhis

protests.Hefeltacertaininvoluntarysinkingofthehearttoseehisbeautifultwo­wheeledsymbolofrationalityvanishintothedarkentrailsof

themansion,to,nodoubt,somedampouthousewheretheywouldnotoilitorcheckitstyres.But,inforapenny,inforapound­­inhisyouth

andstrengthandblondbeauty,intheinvisible,evenunacknowledgedpentacleofhisvirginity,theyoungmansteppedoverthethresholdof

Nosferatu'scastleanddidnotshiverintheblastofcoldair,asfromthemouthofagrave,thatemanatedfromthelightless,cavernousinterior.

Thecronetookhimtoalittlechamberwheretherewasablackoaktablespreadwithacleanwhiteclothandthisclothwascarefullylaidwith

heavysilverware,alittletarnished,asifsomeonewithfoulbreathhadbreathedonit,butlaidwithoneplaceonly.Curiouserandcuriouser;

invitedtothecastlefordinner,nowhemustdinealone.Allthesame,hesatdownasshehadbidhim.Althoughitwasnotyetdarkoutside,the

curtainswerecloselydrawnandonlythesparinglighttricklingfromasingleoillampshowedhimhowdismalhissurroundingswere.Thecrone

bustledabouttogethimabottleofwineandaglassfromanancientcabinetofwormyoak;whilehebemusedlydrankhiswine,shedisappeared

butsoonreturnedbearingasteamingplatterofthelocalspicedmeatstewwithdumplings,andashankofblackbread.Hewashungryafterhis

longday'sride,heateheartilyandpolishedhisplatewiththecrust,butthiscoarsefoodwashardlytheentertainmenthe'dexpectedfromthe

gentryandhewaspuzzledbytheassessingglintinthedumbwoman'seyesasshewatchedhimeating.

Butshedartedofftogethimasecondhelpingassoonashe'dfinishedthefirstoneandsheseemedsofriendlyandhelpful,besides,thathe

knewhecouldcountonabedforthenightinthecastle,aswellashissupper,sohesharplyreprimandedhimselfforhisownchildishlackof

enthusiasmfortheeeriesilence,theclammychilloftheplace.

Whenhe'dputawaythesecondplateful,theoldwomancameandgesturedheshouldleavethetableandfollowheronceagain.Shemadea

pantomimeofdrinking;hededucedhewasnowinvitedtotakeafter­dinnercoffeeinanotherroomwithsomemoreelevatedmemberofthe

householdwhohadnotwishedtodinewithhimbut,allthesame,wantedtomakehisacquaintance.Anhonour,nodoubt;indeferencetohis

host'sopinionofhimself,hestraightenedhistie,brushedthecrumbsfromhistweedjacket.

Hewassurprisedtofindhowruinoustheinteriorofthehousewas­­cobwebs,worm­eatenbeams,crumblingplaster;butthemutecrone

resolutelywoundhimonthereelofherlanterndownendlesscorridors,upwindingstaircases,throughthegallerieswherethepaintedeyesof

familyportraitsbrieflyflickeredastheypassed,eyesthatbelonged,henoticed,tofaces,oneandall,ofaquitememorablebeastliness.Atlast

shepausedand,behindthedoorwherethey'dhalted,heheardafaint,metallictwangasof,perhaps,achordstruckonaharpsichord.Andthen,

wonderfully,theliquidcascadeofthesongofalark,bringingtohim,intheheart­­hadhebutknownit­­ofJuliet'stomb,allthefreshnessof

morning.

Thecronerappedwithherknucklesonthepanels;themostseductivelycaressingvoicehehadeverheardinhislifesoftlycalledout,inheavily

accentedFrench,theadoptedlanguageoftheRomanianaristocracy:'Entrez.'

Firstofall,hesawonlyashape,ashapeimbuedwithafaintluminositysinceitcaughtandreflectedinitsyellowedsurfaceswhatlittlelight

therewasintheill­litroom;thisshaperesolveditselfintothatof,ofallthings,ahoop­skirteddressofwhitesatindrapedhereandtherewith

lace,adressfiftyorsixtyyearsoutoffashionbutonce,obviously,intendedforawedding.Andthenhesawthegirlwhoworethedress,agirl

withthefragilityoftheskeletonofamoth,sothin,sofrailthatherdressseemedtohimtohangsuspended,asifuntenantedinthedankair,a

fabulouslending,aself­articulatedgarmentinwhichshelivedlikeaghostinamachine.Allthelightintheroomcamefromalow­burning

lampwithathickgreenishshadeonadistantmantelpiece;thecronewhoaccompaniedhimshieldedherlanternwithherhand,asiftoprotect

hermistressfromtoosuddenlyseeing,ortheirguestfromtoosuddenlyseeingher.

Sothatitwaslittlebylittle,ashiseyesgrewaccustomedtothehalf­dark,thathesawhowbeautifulandhowveryyoungthebedizened

scarecrowwas,andhethoughtofachilddressingupinhermother'sclothes,perhapsachildputtingontheclothesofadeadmotherinorderto

bringher,howeverbriefly,tolifeagain.

TheCountessstoodbehindalowtable,besideapretty,silly,gilt­and­wirebirdcage,handsoutstretchedinadistractedattitudethatwasalmost

oneofflight;shelookedasstartledbytheirentryasifshehadnotrequestedit.Withherstarkwhiteface,herlovelydeath'sheadsurroundedby

longdarkhairthatfelldownasstraightasifitweresoakingwet,shelookedlikeashipwreckedbride.Herhugedarkeyesalmostbrokehisheart

withtheirwaiflike,lostlook;yethewasdisturbed,almostrepelled,byherextraordinarilyfleshymouth,amouthwithwide,full,prominentlips

ofavibrantpurplish­crimson,amorbidmouth.Even­­butheputthethoughtawayfromhimimmediately­­awhore'smouth.Sheshiveredallthe

time,astarvelingchill,amalarialagitationofthebones.Hethoughtshemustbeonlysixteenorseventeenyearsold,nomore,withthehectic,

unhealthybeautyofaconsumptive.Shewasthechatelaineofallthisdecay.

Withmanytenderprecautions,thecronenowraisedthelightsheheldtoshowhishostessherguest'sface.Atthat,theCountessletoutafaint,

mewingcryandmadeablind,appalledgesturewithherhands,asifpushinghimaway,sothatsheknockedagainstthetableandabutterfly

dazzleofpaintedcardsfelltothefloor.Hermouthformedaround'o'ofwoe,sheswayedalittleandthensankintoherchair,whereshelayasif

nowscarcelycapableofmoving.Abewilderingreception.Tsk'ingunderherbreath,thecronebusilypokedaboutonthetableuntilshefoundan

enormouspairofdarkgreenglasses,suchasblindbeggarswear,andperchedthemontheCountess'snose.

Hewentforwardtopickuphercardsforherfromacarpetthat,hesawtohissurprise,waspartrottedaway,partlyencroacheduponbyallkinds

ofvirulent­lookingfungi.Heretrievedthecardsandshuffledthemcarelesslytogether,fortheymeantnothingtohim,thoughtheyseemed

strangeplaythingsforayounggirl.Whatagrislypictureofacaperingskeleton!Hecovereditupwithahappierone­­oftwoyounglovers,

smilingatoneanother,andputhertoysbackintoahandsoslenderyoucouldalmostseethefrailnetofbonebeneaththetranslucentskin,a

handwithfingernailsaslong,asfinelypointed,asbanjopicks.

Athistouch,sheseemedtorevivealittleandalmostsmiled,raisingherselfupright.

'Coffee,'shesaid.'Youmusthavecoffee.'Andscoopeduphercardsintoapilesothatthecronecouldsetbeforeherasilverspiritkettle,asilver

coffeepot,creamjug,sugarbasin,cupsreadyonasilvertray,astrangetouchofelegance,evenifdiscoloured,inthisdevastatedinteriorwhose

mistressethereallyshoneasifwithherownblighted,submarineradiance.

Thecronefoundhimachairand,titteringnoiselessly,departed,leavingtheroomalittledarker.

Whiletheyoungladyattendedtothecoffee­making,hehadtimetocontemplatewithsomedistasteafurtherseriesoffamilyportraitswhich

decoratedthestainedandpeelingwallsoftheroom;theselividfacesallseemedcontortedwithafebrilemadnessandtheblubberlips,thehuge,

dementedeyesthatallhadincommonboreadisquietingresemblancetothoseofthehaplessvictimofinbreedingnowpatientlyfilteringher

fragrantbrew,evenifsomeraregracehassofinelytransformedthosefeatureswhenitcametohercase.Thelark,itschorusdone,hadlongago

fallensilent;nosoundbutthechinkofsilveronchina.Soon,sheheldouttohimatinycupofrose­paintedchina.

'Welcome,'shesaidinhervoicewiththerushingsonoritiesoftheoceaninit,avoicethatseemedtocomeelsewherethanfromherwhite,still

throat.'Welcometomychateau.Irarelyreceivevisitorsandthat'samisfortunesincenothinganimatesmehalfasmuchasthepresenceofa

stranger Thisplaceissolonely,nowthevillageisdeserted,andmyonecompanion,alas,shecannotspeak.OftenIamsosilentthatIthinkI, too,willsoonforgethowtodosoandnobodyherewillevertalkanymore.'

SheofferedhimasugarbiscuitfromaLimogesplate;herfingernailsstruckcarillonsfromtheantiquechina.Hervoice,issuingfromthosered

lipsliketheobeserosesinhergarden,lipsthatdonotmove­­hervoiceiscuriouslydisembodied;sheislikeadoll,hethought,aventriloquist's

doll,or,more,likeagreat,ingeniouspieceofclockwork.Forsheseemedinadequatelypoweredbysomeslowenergyofwhichshewasnotin

control;asifshehadbeenwoundupyearsago,whenshewasborn,andnowthemechanismwasinexorablyrunningdownandwouldleaveher

lifeless.Thisideathatshemightbeanautomaton,madeofwhitevelvetandblackfur,thatcouldnotmoveofitsownaccord,neverquite

desertedhim;indeed,itdeeplymovedhisheart.Thecarnivalairofherwhitedressemphasizedherunreality,likeasadColumbinewholosther

wayinthewoodalongtimeagoandneverreachedthefair.

'Andthelight.Imustapologizeforthelackoflight ahereditaryafflictionoftheeyes

'

Herblindspectaclesgavehimhishandsomefacebacktohimselftwiceover;ifhepresentedhimselftohernakedface,hewoulddazzleherlike

thesunsheisforbiddentolookatbecauseitwouldshrivelherupatonce,poornightbird,poorbutcherbird.

Vousserezmaproie.

Youhavesuchafinethroat,m'sieu,likeacolumnofmarble.Whenyoucamethroughthedoorretainingaboutyouallthegoldenlightofthe

summer'sdayofwhichIknownothing,nothing,thecardcalled'LesAmoureux'hadjustemergedfromthetumblingchaosofimagerybefore

me;itseemedtomeyouhadsteppedoffthecardintomydarknessand,foramoment,Ithought,perhaps,youmightirradiateit.

Idonotmeantohurtyou.Ishallwaitforyouinmybride'sdressinthedark.

Thebridegroomiscome,hewillgointothechamberwhichhasbeenpreparedforhim.

Iamcondemnedtosolitudeanddark;Idonotmeantohurtyou.

Iwillbeverygentle.

(Andcouldlovefreemefromtheshadows?Canabirdsingonlythesongitknows,orcanitlearnanewsong?)

See,howI'mreadyforyou.I'vealwaysbeenreadyforyou;I'vebeenwaitingforyouinmyweddingdress,whyhaveyoudelayedforsolong

itwillallbeoververyquickly.