moment. Destiny never opens one door without shutting another. After a certain step in advance, to step back is impossible. Whoso enters into transfiguration, leaves behind him evanescence. My lord, Gwynplaine is dead. Do you understand ?”

Gwynplaine trembled from head to foot.
Then he recovered himself.
“Yes," he said.

Barkilphedro, smiling, bowed, placed the casket under his cloak, and went out.

[blocks in formation]

GWYNPLAINE, left by himself, began to walk with long strides. A bubbling precedes an explosion.

Notwithstanding this agitation, in this impossibility of keeping still, he meditated. His mind liquefied as it boiled. He began to recall things to his memory. It is surprising how we find we have heard so well that to which we have scarcely listened. The declaration of the shipwrecked men, read by the sheriff in the Southwark cell, came back to him clearly and intelligibly. He recalled each word, he saw in idea all his infancy.

Suddenly he stopped, his hands behind his back, looking up to the ceiling—the sky- no matter what-whatever was above him.

“ Retribution !” he said.

He felt like one whose head rises out of the water. It seemed to him that he saw all—the past, the future, the present–in the accession of a sudden flash of light.

“ Ah !” he cried, for there are cries in the depths of thought. “Ah! thus it was ! I was a lord. All is discovered. Ah! They stole, betrayed, destroyed, abandoned, disinherited, murdered me ! The corpse of my destiny floated fifteen years on the sea ; all at once it touched the earth, and it started up, erect and living. I am rebom. I am born. I felt under my rags that the breast there palpitating was not that of a wretch ; and when I looked on crowds of men, I felt that they were the flocks, and that I was not the dog, but the shepherd! Shepherds of the people, leaders of men, guides and masters, such were my fathers; and what they were I am! I am a gentleman, and I have a sword; I am a baron, and I have a casque ; I am a marquis, and I have a plume; I am a peer, and I have a coronet. Lo! they deprived me of all this. I dwelt in light, they flung me into darkness. Those who proscribed the father, sold the

son. When my father was dead, they took from beneath his head the stone of exile which he had placed for his pillow, and, tying it to my neck, they flung me into a sewer. Oh! those scoundrels who tortured my infancy! Yes, they rise and move in the depths of my memory. Yes; I see them again. I was that morsel of flesh pecked to pieces on a tomb by a flight of crows. I bled and cried under all those horrible shadows. Lo! it was there that they precipitated me, under the crush of those who come and go, under the trampling feet of men, under the undermost of the human race, lower than the serf, baser than the serving man, lower than the felon, lower than the slave, at the spot when Chaos becomes a sewer, in which I was engulfed. It is from thence that I come; it is from this that I rise; it is from this that I am resuscitated. And, behold me. Retribution !”

He sat down, he arose, clasped his head with his hands, began to pace the room again, and this tempestuous monologue continued within him.

“ Where am I ?-on the summit ? Where is it that I have just alighted ?—on the highest peak? This pinnacle, this grandeur, this dome of the world, this great power, is my home. This temple is in air. I am one of the gods. I live in inaccessible heights. This supremacy, which I looked up to from below, and from whence emanated such rays of glory that I shut my eyes; this ineffaceable peerage ; this impregnable fortress of the fortunate, I enter. I am in it. I am of it. Ah, what a decisive turn of the wheel! I was below, I am on high-on high for ever! Behold me, a lord! I shall have a scarlet robe. I shall have an earl's coronet on my head. I shall assist at the coronation of kings. They will take the oath from my hands. I shall judge princes and ministers. I shall exist. From the depths into which I was thrown, I have rebounded to the zenith. I have palaces in town and country ; houses, gardens, chases, forests, carriages, millions. I will give fêtes. I will make laws. I shall have the choice of joys and pleasures. And the vagabond Gwynplaine, who had not the right to gather a flower in the grass, may pluck the stars from heaven !"

Melancholy overshadowing of a soul's brightness ! Thus it was that in Gwynplaine, who had been a hero and had not ceased to be one, moral greatness gave way to material splendour. A lamentable transition ! Virtue broken down by a troop of passing demons. A surprise made on the weak side of man's fortress. All the inferior circumstances called by men superior, ambition, the purblind desires of instinct, passions, covetousness, driven far from Gwynplaine by

[ocr errors]

the wholesome restraints of misfortune, took tumultuous possession of his generous heart. And from what had this arisen? From the discovery of a parchment in a waif drifted by the sea. Conscience may be violated by a chance attack.

Gwynplaine drank in great draughts of pride, and it dulled his soul. Such is the poison of this fatal wine.

Giddiness invaded him. He more than consented to its approach. He welcomed it. This was the effect of previous and long-continued thirst. Are we an accomplice of the cup which deprives us of reason ? He had always vaguely desired this. His eyes had always turned towards the great. To watch is to wish. The eaglet is not born in the eyrie for nothing.

In Gwynplaine's brain was the giddy whirlwind of a crowd of new circumstances; all the light and shade of a metamorphosis ; inexpressibly strange confrontations; the shock of the past against the future. Two Gwynplaines, himself doubled ; in the past an infant in rags, crawling through night--wandering, shivering, hungry, provoking laughter; in the future, a brilliant nobleman-luxurious, proud, dazzling all London.

In idea he threw away one, and amalgamated himself in the other. He cast the slough of the mountebank, and became a peer. Change of skin is sometimes a change of soul. At some moment the past seemed like a dream. It was complex, bad and good He thought of his father. It was a poignant anguish never to have known his father. He tried to picture him to himself. He thought of his brother, of whom he had just heard. Then he had a family! He, Gwynplaine! He lost himself in fantastic dreams. He saw visions of magnificence; unknown forms of solemn grandeur moved in mist before him. He heard a flourish of trumpets.

“And then," he said, "I shall be eloquent."

He pictured to himself a splendid entrance into the House of Lords. He should arrive full to the brim with new facts and ideas. What could he not tell them? What subjects he had accumulated ! What an advantage to be in the midst of them, a man who had seen, touched, undergone, and suffered ; who could cry aloud to them, “I have been near to all, from which you are so far removed." He would hurl reality in the face of those patricians, crammed with illusions. They should tremble, for it would be true. They would applaud, for it would be grand. He would arise amongst these powerful men, more powerful than they.

“I shall appear as a torch-bearer, to show them truth; and as a sword-bearer, to show them justice !"

[ocr errors]

What a triumph! . And, building up these fantasies in his mind, clear and confused at the same time, he had accessions of delirium,-sinking on the first seat he came to; sometimes drowsy, sometimes starting up. He came and went, looked at the ceiling, examined the coronets, studied vaguely the hieroglyphics of the emblazonment, felt the velvet of the walls, moved the chairs, turned over the parchments, read the names, spelt out the titles, Buxton, Homble Grundraith, Hunkerville, Clancharlie ; compared the wax, the seal, felt the twist of silk appended to the royal privy seal, approached the window, listened to the splash of the fountain, contemplated the statues, counted, with the patience of a somnambulist, the columns of marble, and said,

“ It is real.”
Then he touched his satin clothes, and asked himself,-
“ Is it I? Yes.”
He was torn by an inward tempest.

In this whirlwind, did he feel faintness and fatigue ? Did he drink, eat, sleep? If he did so, it was without knowing it.

In certain violent situations instinct satisfies itself, according to its requirements, without consciousness. Besides, his thoughts were less thoughts than mists. At the moment that the black flame of an eruption disgorges itself from depths full of boiling lava, has the crater any consciousness of the flocks which crop the peaceful grass at the foot of the mountain ?

The hours passed.

The dawn appeared, and brought the day. A bright ray penetrated the chamber, which at the same instant entered the soul of Gwynplaine.

And the Light said “ Dea !”


Ursus under his Different Aspects.



AFTER Ursus had seen Gwynplaine thrust within the door of the Southwark Jail he remained, haggard, in the corner from which he was watching. For a long time his ears were haunted by that grinding of bolts and bars, which resembled a howl of joy that one wretch more should be enclosed within them.

He waited. For what? He watched. For what? Such inexorable doors, once shut, do not open again immediately.

He scrutinised by turns those two black walls, sometimes the high one, sometimes the low; sometimes the door near which the ladder to the gibbet stood, then that surmounted by a death's head. It seemed as if he were caught in a vice, composed of a prison and a cemetery.

This shunned and unpopular street was so deserted that Ursus was unobserved.

At length he left the arch under which he had taken shelter, a kind of chance sentry-box, where he had acted the watchman, and departed with slow steps. The day was declining, for his sentinel duty had been long. From time to time he turned his head and looked at the frightful wicket through which Gwynplaine had disappeared. His eyes were glassy and dull. He reached the end of the alley, entered another, then another, retracing almost unconsciously the road which he had taken some hours before. At intervals he turned, as if he could still see the door of the prison, though he was not in the street in which the jail was situated.

Little by little he approached Tarrinzeau Field. The lanes in the neighbourhood of the fair-ground were deserted pathways between enclosed gardens. He walked along, with bent head, by the hedges and ditches. All at once he halted, and drawing himself up, exclaimed, “So much the better!"

At the same time he struck his fist twice on his head and twice on his thigh, thus proving himself to be a sensible fellow, who saw things in their right light; and then he began to growl inwardly, yet now and then raising his voice.

VOL, IV., N. S. 1870.


« 前へ次へ »