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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

I could not help loving Clarimonde


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her tears rain on the arm

she held. At last she summoned courage; she pricked me slightly with the bodkin and began to suck out the blood. But she drank only a few drops, as if she feared to exhaust me, and then carefully bound up my arm after anointing it with an unguent which closed the wound at once. I could now doubt no longer: Serapion was right. Yet, in spite of this certainty, I could not help loving Clarimonde, and I would willingly have given her all the blood whereof she had need, to sustain her artificial life. Besides, I had not much to fear; the woman was my warrant against the vampire; and what I had heard and seen completely reassured me. I had then well-nourished veins, which were not to be soon drawn dry, nor had I reason to grudge and count their drops. I would have pierced my arm myself and bid her drink. I was careful to make not the slightest allusion to the narcotic she had given me, or to the scene that followed, and we lived in unbroken harmony. But my priestly scruples tormented me more than ever, and I knew not what new penance to invent to blunt my passion and mortify my flesh. Though my visions were wholly involuntary and my will had nothing to do with them, I shrank from touching the host with hands thus sullied and spirit defiled by debauchery, whether in act or in dream. To avoid falling into these harassing hallucinations, I tried to prevent myself sleeping;
I held my eyelids open, and remained in a standing posture, striving with all my force against sleep. But soon the waves of slumber drowned my eyes, and seeing that the struggle was hopeless, I let my hands drop in weariness, and was once more carried to the shores of delusion.... Serapion exhorted me most fervently, and never ceased reproaching me with my weakness and my lack of zeal. One day, when I had been more agitated than usual, he said to me, "There is only one way to relieve you from this haunting plague, and, though it be extreme, we must try it. Great evils need heroic remedies. I know where Clarimonde was buried; we must disinter her, and you shall see the real state of your lady-love. You will hardly be tempted to risk your soul for a vile body, the prey of worms and ready to turn to dust. That, if anything, will restore you to yourself." For my part, I was so weary of this double life that I closed with his offer. I longed to know once for all, which--priest or gallant--was the dupe of a delusion, and I was resolved to sacrifice one of my two lives for the good of the other--yea, if it were necessary, to sacrifice both, for such an existence as I was leading could not last.... Father Serapion procured a mattock, a crowbar, and a lantern, and at midnight we set out for the cemetery, whose plan and arrangements he knew well. After directing the rays of the dark lantern on the inscriptions of several graves, we came at last to a stone half buried under tall grass, and covered with moss and lichen, whereon we deciphered this epitaph, "Here lies Clarimonde, who in her lifetime was the fairest in the world." "'Tis here," said Serapion; and, placing his lantern on the ground, he slipped the crowbar into the chinks of the slab and essayed to lift it. The stone yielded, and he set to work with the spade. As for me, stiller and more gloomy than the night itself, I watched him at work, while he, bending over his ill-omened task, sweated


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