فصل 08

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فصل 08

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Chapter eight

The Return of Camille

Laurent felt very worried as he left the little shop in the arcade. His desire for Therese had returned, but he was also very afraid of returning to his attic room. And for the first time, he was afraid of being alone. He went into a wine-shop and drank several glasses of wine. He was angry with Therese.

‘I wouldn’t be afraid if I’d stayed with her,’ he thought. He turned towards a waiter. ‘Bring me another glass of wine!’ he shouted.

Laurent stayed in the wine-shop for many hours. Then he bought some matches and walked home to his attic.

He had left a candle on a table on the first floor of the building. He had to go along a dark corridor, and up the stairs to the first floor to find his candle. He was terrified of the dark corridor. He believed that someone was waiting to kill him there.

Laurent struck a match and the flame gave a weak yellow light. Suddenly, the corridor became full of dark shadows. Laurent walked quickly up the stairs to the first floor and found his candle. He lit it and walked slowly up to the sixth floor, holding the candle in front of him.

When he reached his attic room, Laurent shut the door behind him. Then he closed the skylight and looked under the bed. The shadows in the room looked like people who were waiting to kill him. At last, he lay on the bed and began to think about Therese. He had to make a decision. Should he marry Therese, or not? He wanted to sleep, but his thoughts and fears kept him awake.

As he thought about Therese, Laurent’s desire for her returned. He dreamt that he went back to the drapers shop in the Passage du Pont-Neuf. In his dream, he ran along the dark streets and into the arcade. He went through the alley and up the stairs to Therese’s bedroom. Therese opened the bedroom door and stood there, waiting for him.

Laurent could see everything so clearly in his dream that he sat up in his bed and cried out. ‘I must go!’ he shouted. ‘Therese is waiting for me!’

He jumped out of his bed. The floor under his feet was very cold. Suddenly, Laurent felt afraid again. He was too frightened to leave his little room in the middle of the night. So he got back into the bed and pulled the bedclothes over his head. This quick movement made the bite-mark on his neck burn with pain. He touched the sore place and it reminded him of Camille. Laurent began to shake with fear. Perhaps Camille was in the room now! Perhaps he was under the bed!

Laurent sat up and lit the candle. Long, dark shadows moved on the walls.

‘What a fool I am,’ he said to himself. ‘I shouldn’t have stayed so long in the wine-shop. I drank too much wine. That’s why I have been dreaming. I’ll drink some water and try to sleep again.’

So Laurent drank some water, blew out the candle-flame, and lay down on the bed again. He felt calm now and he was sure that he would sleep. His body felt heavy and tired, but his mind was still busy.

Once more, he dreamt that he was on his way to the arcade in the Passage du Pont-Neuf. He ran along the little alley beside the shop and up the stairs. He knocked on the door and it opened immediately. But, oh, horror! It was Camille who opened the door! The corpse of his dead friend stood in the bedroom. Its skin was green and brown and covered in terrible wounds. Camille’s body looked the same as when Laurent had seen it in the morgue!

The dead Camille held out his arms to his murderer and a laugh came from his twisted mouth. Laurent could see the dead man’s black tongue behind his white teeth. Laurent woke up with a loud cry of fear. His bedclothes were damp from the cold sweat, which covered his body.

‘I must sleep,’ Laurent said to himself. ‘It will be morning soon.’

But every time that Laurent fell asleep, he had the same terrible dream. Again and again, the young man woke up and found cold sweat covering his skin.

At last he decided to get out of bed and get dressed. It was sunrise. Light was coming through the square skylight above the bed.

‘I can’t sleep because of Therese,’ he said to himself. ‘If she had let me stay with her, I wouldn’t have had this terrible dream.’

After he had washed his face and got dressed, Laurent felt a little better.

‘I’m not a coward,’ he thought. ‘I was strong and brave when I killed Camille. I wasn’t afraid of him when he was alive. I’m not afraid of him now that he’s dead. When Therese and I are married, I’ll hold her in my arms and forget all about Camille.’

Laurent stood in front of a mirror and looked at the bite-mark on his neck. Camille’s teeth had made the mark more than a year ago. But the sore place was still red and it felt very painful. Laurent turned up his shirt collar to hide the mark.

‘I’ll ask Therese to kiss my neck,’ he said. ‘Then the mark will disappear.’

Laurent felt very tired in the office all that day. He fell asleep many times.

‘Poor Therese is very tired,’ Madame Raquin told Laurent that evening. ‘She did not sleep well last night. She had bad dreams and cried out while she was sleeping. When the poor girl woke up this morning, she felt ill.’

While Madame Raquin was talking, Therese came into the sitting-room. She looked at Laurent and he looked at her.

The ghost of Camille had visited Therese too. Her desire for Laurent had returned. But in her dreams, she had seen the terrible corpse of her husband.

Laurent and Therese had drowned Camille. His dead body would hold the lovers together for ever. They would never be able to escape from his ghost. They had to marry as soon as possible. Only then would the ghost of Camille leave them in peace.

The months passed. The lovers made a plan. They would not talk about marriage themselves. Laurent would continue to come to the Raquins’ shop each evening. He would be kind and polite to Therese and her aunt. He would help them as much as possible. Soon Madame Raquin would believe that Therese should marry her husband’s friend, Laurent. If the old woman suggested the marriage, there would be no problem.

As soon as Laurent and Therese were married, the ghost of Camille would leave them alone. That is what they believed. But they did not want to marry immediately. If they did, their friends might think about the relationship between Laurent and Therese. And then their friends might ask questions about Camille’s death.

Every night, the lovers slept in their own beds. Every night, Camille’s ghost came and they were unable to sleep.

Therese kept a lighted candle in her room. But the pale yellow flame did not stop the shadow of Camille’s corpse from visiting her.

Laurent was afraid to go home and he sometimes walked through the streets all night. Whenever he slept, he dreamt that he was holding Therese in his arms. But then his dream changed and he saw that he was holding Camille’s corpse.

Laurent and Therese became more terrified every day. But their desire for each other was like a burning fever.

Therese wanted to marry Laurent because she was afraid. And she needed Laurent and his kisses. Laurent wanted to marry Therese because he wanted an easy, comfortable life. He wanted to eat, drink, sleep and make love to Therese whenever he wished.

He also wanted money. He had not seen his father for years. He would never get any money from him. But Madame Raquin had about forty thousand francs. If he married her niece, Laurent would not have to work. For all these reasons, he had murdered Camille.

After several months, the lovers’ plan began to work. Therese behaved like a sad, young widow. She moved slowly and she took no interest in anything. She said very little and she often wept.

‘Perhaps Therese is ill. Perhaps she’s dying!’ Madame Raquin thought. She became very worried. The old woman had no other relatives. Madame Raquin feared that she would be alone if Therese died.

One Thursday evening, Madame Raquin told Old Michaud her fears.

‘My dear friend, don’t you know why Therese is behaving like this?’ he said, laughing. ‘Your niece is unhappy because she has been alone every night for nearly two years. She needs a husband!’

Madame Raquin could not believe these words. Did Therese want another husband now that her dear Camille had died?

‘Make her marry as soon as possible,’ Old Michaud said. ‘Please believe me. I know that I’m right.’

Michaud’s words made Madame Raquin cry. She cried for her dead son and she cried for herself. She could not believe that people were forgetting Camille already.

But Therese’s unhappiness was making the old woman unhappy. Madame Raquin liked people to be cheerful and friendly. She wanted her niece to be happy again. But she did not want a stranger in her family.

Laurent came to the shop nearly every day. He helped Madame Raquin as much as possible. Then he would sit for many hours and talk to her in a soft, kind voice.

Laurent also told the old woman that he was worried about Therese.

‘Dear Therese is very ill,’ he said sadly. ‘I’m afraid that we will lose her soon. What will happen to us then? Poor Therese loved Camille very much. We all loved him! Your niece has been slowly dying for the past two years. Therese is getting weaker every day.’

Laurent almost believed his own words. Madame Raquin began to cry. At last, the poor mother began to think of Laurent as her son and she soon loved him as her own child.

On the next Thursday evening, Old Michaud noticed Laurent talking kindly to Therese. Michaud whispered to his old friend.

‘Look, my dear Madame,’ he said. ‘Here is the husband that your niece should marry. Laurent should be Therese’s husband. You must tell them this. We’ll help you!’

Therese marry Laurent? Madame Raquin had never thought of this. But she understood immediately. It was a good idea! The three of them would be a perfect family.

All through the evening, Madame Raquin smiled at Laurent and her niece. The murderers knew that their plan was working well.

When they left the drapers shop that night, Old Michaud spoke to Laurent. He told him his idea about the marriage.

Laurent pretended to be very surprised.

‘But Therese is the widow of my dear friend, Camille. Therese is like a sister to me,’ Laurent said in a quiet voice. ‘I couldn’t marry her.’

‘But you would take the place of your dear friend,’ Michaud said. ‘Therese needs a husband. And you are the only man that Madame Raquin likes and trusts. She will accept you. The marriage would please her very much.

‘Therese was a good wife to Camille,’ Michaud went on. ‘She will be a good wife to you. You must marry her. We all think that this should happen.’

Laurent pretended to think for a moment.

‘You’re much older than me and I trust you,’ he said. ‘If the marriage will make Madame Raquin happy, then yes, I agree to it. I’ll marry Therese Raquin.’

At the same time, Madame Raquin was talking to her niece.

‘I’ve been a widow for many years,’ the old woman said. ‘I know that it’s terrible to lose a husband, Therese. I loved my husband, and you loved Camille. I know that. His death was terrible and we will never forget it. But you are unhappy, my dear. Don’t you ever think of marrying again?’

‘Camille was my husband. No one can ever take his place,’ Therese said quietly.

‘I think that you’re wrong, my dear,’ Madame Raquin said. She was crying now and so was Therese.

‘Laurent is already part of this family,’ the old woman went on. ‘He has been kind to both of us. We could all be happy together.’

‘I want to please you, dear aunt,’ Therese said. ‘I love Laurent as a brother. But I’ll try to accept him as a husband, if that will make you happy.’

She kissed Madame Raquin and held the old woman in her arms. The two women wept together.

The next morning, Michaud spoke to Madame Raquin outside the shop. They agreed that Therese and Laurent should get married.

Old Michaud was in the shop when Laurent arrived at five o’clock.

‘Therese has agreed,’ he whispered to Laurent. ‘She will marry you.’

Therese looked up and stared at Laurent and he looked at her. Then Old Michaud went over to Madame Raquin and put his hand on her shoulder.

‘Dear Madame,’ he said. ‘These two young people want to make you happy.’

Madame Raquin could not speak for several minutes. She held Therese’s hand and placed it in Laurent’s hand.

‘I want you to get married,’ she said. ‘I want you, my dear niece, Therese, to marry dear Laurent. Then Laurent can be my true son.’

The guilty lovers’ bodies shook as their hands touched.

‘Therese, would you like to make your aunt happy?’ Laurent asked.

‘Yes,’ Therese replied.

Laurent turned to Madame Raquin. ‘When Camille fell into the water, he cried, “Help my Therese!’” Laurent said. ‘He wanted me to look after her. I’m sure of that, Madame. I will marry Therese. I think that is the right thing to do.’

Therese could not listen to these words and she turned away. But Madame Raquin was weeping with happiness.

‘Yes, yes. Make Therese happy, my dear,’ she said to Laurent. ‘My son thanks you from his grave!’

‘Kiss each other,’ Old Michaud said to Laurent and Therese.

Laurent kissed Therese and her pale face became red. This was the first time that anyone had seen them kissing each other.

By the following Thursday, all their friends knew about the marriage between Laurent and Therese.

‘The marriage was my idea,’ Old Michaud said. ‘Laurent and Therese will be happy when they are husband and wife!’

Suzanne Michaud kissed Therese, and Grivet made a few stupid jokes. Laurent and Therese were polite to each other, but they did not show their true feelings. They carefully hid their desire.

Laurent wrote to his father. He hoped that Old Laurent would be pleased and that he would send his best wishes. But the old man said that he did not care about his son. He also said that Laurent would never get his money. When Madame Raquin heard this, she did a very stupid thing. She gave all her money - forty thousand francs - to her niece. She knew that Therese and Laurent would always look after her. The preparations for the wedding started at once.

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