فصل 11

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فصل 11

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Chapter eleven

Madame Raquin

Madame Raquin had been ill for some time. Then she had a stroke. She stopped speaking in the middle of a sentence and she never said another word again. She also became paralysed - she could not move any part of her body, except her eyes.

Laurent and Therese were shocked and upset. But they were sorry for themselves, not for the poor old woman. From that day, their lives became worse. Madame Raquin’s happy conversation had given them peace. Now she was silent and they lived with the ghost of death all the time.

The light of the lamp fell on Madame Raquin’s round pale face. Therese and Laurent sat in the shadows and watched the old woman. When Madame Raquin shut her eyes, they woke her up. The old woman’s eyes seemed to be the only living things in the room.

Therese looked after her aunt carefully and gently. She fed her and dressed her. She tried to understand what the old woman needed. Every morning, Laurent carried the silent old woman into the sitting-room and she sat there all day. Then Laurent went to his studio and Therese sat in the shop. In the evenings, they all sat together in the sitting-room.

The Thursday evenings went on as usual. Madame Raquin’s friends talked to her. They pretended that nothing had happened. They pretended that she was talking with them.

Madame Raquin could not move and she could not speak. But she was happy because her children were looking after her. Her eyes were bright with joy. The only person who understood the old woman was Therese. She watched her aunt’s eyes carefully and tried to help her.

Madame Raquin lived like this for several weeks. She thought that nothing worse could happen to her. But she was wrong. Laurent and Therese became careless. They began to talk about Camille so that the old woman could hear their conversation.

‘Is he there in the shadows?’ Laurent asked Therese one evening. ‘Is that why you are shaking? Drowned men do not return from their graves, do they?’

‘You know that they do, you murderer!’ Therese replied. ‘You killed him. It is because of you that he comes here.’

‘And did you help Camille when I pushed him in the water?’ Laurent asked his wife. ‘No! If I’m a murderer, then so are you. We both wanted him dead.’

‘We were fools!’ Therese said. ‘Our lives were better when Camille was alive. We made love every day and he didn’t know. We were happy then. We killed our own happiness when we killed stupid Camille.’

Madame Raquin was horrified. The poor old woman knew the truth at last, but it was too late. She could do nothing. She tried to speak, but she could not. She tried to move her hands, but she could not. Tears ran down her face.

Therese and Laurent saw what they had done.

‘We must put her into her bed,’ Therese said. ‘Take her out of this room.’

Laurent picked up the old woman. Her bright eyes stared at him.

‘Look at me if you want to,’ Laurent said. ‘Camille is dead. There is nothing that you can do about it now.’

But Therese was not so sure. Thursday came and she was very worried.

‘My aunt might find a way to tell her friends,’ Therese told Laurent. ‘There’s a terrible look in her eyes. I’m sure that she will find a way to tell them our secret.’

‘How?’ replied Laurent. ‘She can’t move and she can’t speak. What can she do? Nothing! Her friends are stupid. We must behave normally. We are quite safe.’

So that Thursday evening was the same as all the other Thursdays. Suzanne, Olivier, Old Michaud and Grivet sat round the table with them and began to play dominoes. Madame Raquin sat in her chair. She did not move and she did not speak. But she had a plan.

Madame Raquin slowly moved her right hand from her knee. Slowly, very slowly, her hand moved up and onto the table. The hand lay there, soft and white.

‘Look at that!’ Old Michaud said. ‘Madame Raquin can move her fingers! Perhaps she’s trying to tell us something.’

The two murderers looked at the hand that was going to tell everyone the truth. One of the fingers on Madame Raquin’s right hand moved on the table.

‘She is trying to write some words,’ Grivet said. ‘Yes, she has written your name, Therese.’ He started to read the words. ‘Therese and … Go on, dear Madame, go on.’

Olivier continued reading the message. ‘Therese and Laurent … Therese and Laurent are … ‘he said. ‘What are they? Your dear children?’

The two murderers were now mad with fear. They almost completed the sentence themselves.

Madame Raquin’s hand moved once more and then became still.

‘I know what our poor friend wanted to say,’ Grivet said. ‘Madame Raquin wanted to tell us about her children. She wanted to say: Therese and Laurent are taking good care of me.’

The others all agreed and they started another game of dominoes.

Madame Raquin was in despair. Her friends had not understood her! Her son’s murderers would never be caught and punished now.

Two more months passed. Therese and Laurent hated each other and they hated their marriage. There was no escape. Their marriage was their punishment and they would never be happy again. Every night, Laurent and Therese quarrelled. The guilty lovers made each other angry about nothing. The quarrels started with cruel words and often ended with a beating. Laurent hit Therese until he could not lift his fists.

Madame Raquin watched and listened. And so she learnt everything about Laurent and Therese’s adultery. She learnt about her son’s death. Every evening, the old woman heard something new and the tears ran down her face.

Sometimes Therese asked Laurent to stop talking about the murder in front of her aunt.

‘Let her cry! Who cares about her?’ he shouted. ‘She can’t do anything and we’ve got her money. We don’t have to feel sorry for her!’

And then the quarrel would begin all over again. They did not take Madame Raquin to her own room. She heard every terrible word.

One evening at dinner, Laurent decided that the water in a jug was not cold enough.

‘I can’t drink warm water. It makes me feel sick,’ he said.

‘I couldn’t get any ice,’ Therese replied. ‘The water tastes all right.’

‘No, it doesn’t, it tastes like river water,’ Laurent told her angrily.

‘River water!’ Therese screamed. ‘How can you talk about river water? You drowned Camille in the river!’

‘You made me do it!’ Laurent shouted. ‘You sat and watched as I pushed him under the water. You are as guilty as I am. You knew what I was going to do. I told you my plan. Then you got in the boat. You didn’t try to stop me, did you?’

‘I was too shocked,’ Therese replied. ‘I couldn’t think clearly. You murdered Camille, not me.’

‘You helped me to commit the crime! You are guilty too!’ Laurent shouted. ‘You asked me to come to your husband’s bed. Then you came to my room to make love. You hated Camille and you wanted him dead. You made me kill him.’

‘The power of your love made me mad and weak,’ Therese replied. ‘I wasn’t strong enough to fight you. You’ve destroyed my life!’

Laurent lifted his hand. He was going to hit her.

‘That’s right, hit me!’ Therese screamed. ‘Murder me too! Then I’ll be dead, like Camille!’

And so they went on. They would shout and scream at each other until they could no longer speak. And all the time, Madame Raquin was watching them destroy each other.

Therese was on the edge of complete madness. She could not control her thoughts, her feelings, or what she did. The unhappy young woman talked to Madame Raquin for many hours. She told her everything that she thought and felt. She fell onto her knees in front of her aunt and begged her forgiveness.

‘You were always good to me and I deceived you!’ Therese cried. ‘You can see my pain. Please forgive me!’

Therese kissed her aunt and the young woman’s tears fell on the old woman’s stiff, pale face.

‘Yes! You have forgiven me,’ Therese cried. ‘I knew that you would forgive me!’

But Madame Raquin could not forgive Therese. She wanted revenge. She wanted the murderers to be punished. That was all that the poor woman thought about.

When Laurent came home, he pulled Therese to her feet.

‘Get up!’ he said to her. ‘You are doing this to make me angry. Cry if you want to. But you aren’t sorry for anything.’

‘I am sorry,’ Therese cried. ‘I’m as guilty as you. I am guilty of adultery. I am guilty of murder.’

‘Well, that’s true,’ Laurent said. ‘But leave the old woman alone. You can see that she hates you.’

‘You’re wrong. She is good and so was Camille,’ Therese said. ‘I loved Camille and he loved me.’

‘If you loved your husband, why did you want a lover?’ Laurent shouted.

‘I loved Camille,’ Therese replied. ‘I loved him as if he was my brother. Camille and his mother were always kind to me. We were all happy until we met you here. I loved him and I hate you.’

‘Be quiet!’ Laurent shouted.

‘No, I won’t be silent!’ Therese screamed. Tears ran down her face. ‘You’re a murderer!’

Laurent knocked Therese down and held her on the floor. He lifted his hand.

‘Hit me! Murder me too!’ she cried. ‘You’re not a man, you’re an animal!’

As Laurent hit his wife, Madame Raquin watched and she was happy.

After this, Therese began to speak about Camille every day. She spoke about him in every conversation. When he thought about Camille, Laurent became mad and Therese knew this. She would repeat Camille’s name until Laurent hit her. Then she knew that she had won.

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