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Atlantida

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #210 on: April 05, 2009, 09:43:29 pm »

your answer before midday. If it is 'yes,' we lunch together at Voisin's, and the bargain is made.'

"I saw that she had already made up her mind, but she thought it well to display a little sentiment.

"'And you, you!' she groaned. "To leave you thus. . . . Never!'

"'No foolishness, dear child,' I said gently. 'You don't know perhaps that I am ruined. Yes, completely: I don't even know how I am going to pay for your complexion cream!'

"'Ah!' she sighed

"She added, however, 'And . . . the child?'

"'What child?'

"'Our child . . . our child.'

"'Ah! That is so. Why, you will nave to put it down to profit and loss. I am even convinced that Sheik Ahmed will find that it resembles him.'

"'You can turn everything into a joke,' she said between laughing and crying.

 

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #211 on: April 05, 2009, 09:43:49 pm »

"The next morning, at the same hour, the Marseilles express carried away the five Tuareg and Clémentine. The young woman, radiant, was leaning on the arm of Sheik Ahmed, who was beside himself with joy.

"'Have you many shops in your capital?' she asked him languidly.

"And he, smiling broadly under his veil, replied:

"'Besef, besef, bono, roumis, bono.'

p. 209

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #212 on: April 05, 2009, 09:44:00 pm »

"At the last moment, Clémentine had a pang of emotion.

"'Listen, Casimir, you have always been kind to me. I am going to be a queen. If you weary of it here, promise me, swear to me . . .'

"The Sheik had understood. He took a ring from his finger and slipped it onto mine.

"'Sidi Casimir, comrade,' he affirmed. 'You come—find us. Take Sidi Ahmed's ring and show it. Everybody at Ahaggar comrades. Bono Ahaggar, bono.'

"When I came out of the Gare de Lyon, I had the feeling of having perpetrated an excellent joke."

 

The Hetman of Jitomir was completely drunk. I had had the utmost difficulty in understanding the end of his story, because he interjected, every other moment, couplets from Jacques Offenbach's best score.


Dans un bois passait un jeune homme,
Un jeune homme frais et beau,
Sa main tenait une pomme,
Vous voyez d’ici le tableau.

"Who was disagreeably surprised by the fall of Sedan? It was Casimir, poor old Casimir! Five thousand louis to pay by the fifth of September, and not the first sou, no, not the first sou. I take my hat

p. 210

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #213 on: April 05, 2009, 09:44:12 pm »

and my courage and go to the Tuileries. No more Emperor there, no! But the Empress was so kind. I found her alone—ah, people scatter quickly under such circumstances I—alone with a senator, M. Mérimée, the only literary man I have ever known who was at the same time a man of the world. 'Madame,' he was saying to her, 'you must give up all hope. M. Thiers, whom I just met on the Pont Royal, would listen to nothing.'

"'Madame,' I said in my turn, 'Your Majesty always will know where her true friends are.'

"And I kissed her hand.


     "Evohé, que les déesses
     Ont de droles de façons
Pour enjôler, pour enjôler, pour enjôler les gaâarçons!

"I returned to my home in the Rue de Lille. On the way I encountered the rabble going from the Corps Législatif to the Hotel de Ville. My mind was made up.

"'Madame,' I said to my wife, 'my pistols.'

"'What is the matter?' she asked, frightened.

"'All is lost. But there is still a chance to preserve my honor. I am going to be killed on the barricades.'

"'Ah! Casimir,' she sobbed, falling into my

p. 211

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #214 on: April 05, 2009, 09:49:08 pm »

arms. 'I have misjudged you. Will you forgive me?'

"'I forgive you, Aurelie,' I said with dignified emotion. 'I have not always been right myself.'

"I tore myself away from this mad scene. It was six o'clock. On the Rue de Bac, I hailed a cab on its mad career.

"'Twenty francs tip,' I said to the coachman, 'if you get to the Gare de Lyon in time for the Marseilles train, six thirty-seven.' "

The Hetman of Jitomir could say no more. He had rolled over on the cushions and slept with clenched fists.

I walked unsteadily to the great window.

The sun was rising, pale yellow, behind the sharp blue mountains.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Footnotes
204:1 Dialect spoken in Algeria and the Levant—a mixture of Arabian, French, Italian and Spanish.

205:1 I have succeeded in finding on the registry of the Imperial Printing Press the names of the Tuareg chiefs and those who accompanied them on their visit, M. Henry Duveyrier and the Count Bielowsky. (Note by M. Leroux.)



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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #215 on: April 05, 2009, 09:49:34 pm »

p. 212

CHAPTER XIV
HOURS OF WAITING
It was at night that Saint-Avit liked to tell me a little of his enthralling history. He gave it to me in short instalments, exact and chronological, never anticipating the episodes of a drama whose tragic outcome I knew already. Not that he wished to obtain more effect that way—I felt that he was far removed from any calculation of that sort! Simply from the extraordinary nervousness into which he was thrown by recalling such memories.

One evening, the mail from France had just arrived. The letters that Chatelain had handed us lay upon the little table, not yet opened. By the light of the lamp, a pale halo in the midst of the great black desert, we were able to recognize the writing of the addresses. Oh! the victorious smile of Saint-Avit when, pushing aside all those letters, I said to him in a trembling voice:

"Go on."

He acquiesced without further words.

 

"Nothing can give you any idea of the fever I

p. 213

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #216 on: April 05, 2009, 09:49:46 pm »

was in from the day when the Hetman of Jitomir told me of his adventures to the day when I found myself in the presence of Antinea. The strangest part was that the thought that I was, in a way, condemned to death, did not enter into this fever. On the contrary, it was stimulated by my desire for the event which would be the signal of my downfall, the summons from Antinea. But this summons was not speedy in coming. And from this delay, arose my unhealthy exasperation.

Did I have any lucid moments in the course of these hours? I do not think so. I do not recall having even said to myself, "What, aren't you ashamed? Captive in an unheard of situation, you not only are not trying to escape, but you even bless your servitude and look forward to your ruin." I did not even color my desire to remain there, to enjoy the next step in the adventure, by the pretext I might have given—unwillingness to escape without Morhange. If I felt a vague uneasiness at not seeing him again, it was not because of a desire to know that he was well and safe.

Well and safe, I knew him to be, moreover. The Tuareg slaves of Antinea's household were certainly not very communicative. The women were hardly more loquacious. I heard, it is true, from Sydya and Aguida, that my companion liked pomegranates or that he could not endure kouskous of bananas. But if I asked for a different kind of information,

p. 214

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #217 on: April 05, 2009, 09:50:09 pm »

they fled, in fright, down the long corridors. With Tanit-Zerga, it was different. This child seemed to have a distaste for mentioning before me anything bearing in any way upon Antinea. Nevertheless, I knew that she was devoted to her mistress with a doglike fidelity. But she maintained an obstinate silence if I pronounced her name or, persisting, the name of Morhange.

As for the Europeans, I did not care to question these sinister puppets. Besides, all three were difficult of approach. The Hetman of Jitomir was sinking deeper and deeper into alcohol. What intelligence remained to him, he seemed to have dissolved the evening when he had invoked his youth for me. I met him from time to time in the corridors that had become all at once too narrow for him, humming in a thick voice a couplet from the music of La Reine Hortense.


De ma fille Isabelle
Sois l’époux à l’instant,
Car elle est la plus belle
Et toi, le plus vaillant.

As for Pastor Spardek, I would cheerfully have killed the old skinflint. And the hideous little man with the decorations, the placid printer of labels for the red marble hall,—how could I meet him without wanting to cry out in his face: "Eh! eh! Sir Professor, a very curious case of apocope: Ἀτλαντίνεα

p. 215

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #218 on: April 05, 2009, 09:50:24 pm »

Suppression of alpha, of tau and of lambda! I would like to direct your attention to another case as curious: κλημῆντινεα, Clémentine. Apocope of kappa, of lambda, of epsilon and of mu. If Morhange were with us, he would tell you many charming erudite things about it. But, alas! Morhange does not deign to come among us any more. We never see Morhange."

My fever for information found a little more favorable reception from Rosita, the old negress manicure. Never have I had my nails polished so often as during those days of waiting! Now—after six years—she must be dead. I shall not wrong her memory by recording that she was very partial to the bottle. The poor old soul was defenseless against those that I brought her and that I emptied with her, through politeness.

Unlike the other slaves, who are brought from the South toward Turkey by the merchants of Rhât, she was born in Constantinople and had been brought into Africa by her master when he became kaïmakam of Rhadamès. . . . But don't let me complicate this already wandering history by the incantations of this manicure.

"Antinea," she said to me, "is the daughter of El-Hadj-Ahmed-ben-Guemâma, Sultan of Ahaggar, and Sheik of the great and noble tribe of Kel-Rhela. She was born in the year twelve hundred and eighty-one of the Hegira. She has never wished to marry

p. 216

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #219 on: April 05, 2009, 09:50:42 pm »

any one. Her wish has been respected for the will of women is sovereign in this Ahaggar where she rules to-day. She is a cousin of Sidi-el-Senoussi, and, if she speaks the word, Christian blood will flow from Djerid to Touat, and from Tchad to Senegal. If she had wished it, she might have lived beautiful and respected in the land of the Christians. But she prefers to have them come to her."

"Ceghéir-ben-Cheikh," I said, "do you know him? He is entirely devoted to her?"

"Nobody here knows Ceghéir-ben-Cheikh very well, because he is continually traveling. It is true that he is entirely devoted to Antinea. Ceghéir-ben-Cheikh is a Senoussi, and Antinea is the cousin of the chief of the Senoussi. Besides, he owes his life to her. He is one of the men who assassinated the great Kébir Flatters. On account of that, Ikenoukhen, amenokol of the Adzjer Tuareg, fearing French reprisals, wanted to deliver Ceghéir-ben-Cheikh to them. When the whole Sahara turned against him, he found asylum with Antinea. Ceghéir-ben-Cheikh will never forget it, for he is brave and observes the law of the Prophet. To thank her, he led to Antinea, who was then twenty years old, three French officers of the first troops of occupation in Tunis. They are the ones who are numbered, in the red marble hall, 1, 2, and 3."

"And Ceghéir-ben-Cheikh has always fulfilled his duties successfully?"

p. 217

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #220 on: April 05, 2009, 09:51:03 pm »

"Ceghéir-ben-Cheikh is well trained, and he knows the vast Sahara as I know my little room at the top of the mountain. At first, he made mistakes. That is how, on his first trips, he brought back old Le Mesge and marabout Spardek."

"What did Antinea say when she saw them?"

"Antinea? She laughed so hard that she spared them. Ceghéir-ben-Cheikh was vexed to see her laugh so. Since then, he has never made a mistake."

"He has never made a mistake?"

"No. I have cared for the hands and feet of all that he has brought here. All were young and handsome. But I think that your comrade, whom they brought to me the other day, after you were here, is the handsomest of all."

"Why," I asked, turning the conversation, "why, since she spared them their lives, did she not free the pastor and M. Le Mesge?"

"She has found them useful, it seems," said the old woman. "And then, whoever once enters here, can never leave. Otherwise, the French would soon be here and, when they saw the hall of red marble, they would massacre everybody. Besides, of all those whom Ceghéir-ben-Cheikh has brought here, no one, save one, has wished to escape after seeing Antinea."

"She keeps them a long time?"

"That depends upon them and the pleasure that

p. 218

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #221 on: April 05, 2009, 09:51:17 pm »

she takes in them. Two months, three months, on the average. It depends. A big Belgian officer, formed like a colossus, didn't last a week. On the other hand, everyone here remembers little Douglas Kaine, an English officer: she kept him almost a year."

"And then?"

"And then, he died," said the old woman as if astonished at my question.

"Of what did he die?"

She used the same phrase as M. Le Mesge:

"Like all the others: of love.

"Of love," she continued. "They all die of love when they see that their time is ended, and that Ceghéir-ben-Cheikh has gone to find others. Several have died quietly with tears in their great eyes. They neither ate nor slept any more. A French naval officer went mad. All night, he sang a sad song of his native country, a song which echoed through the whole mountain. Another, a Spaniard, was as if maddened: he tried to bite. It was necessary to kill him. Many have died of kif, a kif that is more violent than opium. When they no longer have Antinea, they smoke, smoke. Most have died that way . . . the happiest. Little Kaine died differently."

"How did little Kaine die?"

"In a way that pained us all very much. I told you that he stayed longer among us than anyone

p. 219

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #222 on: April 05, 2009, 09:51:28 pm »

else. We had become used to him. In Antinea's room, on a little Kairoun table, painted in blue and gold, there is a gong with a long silver hammer with an ebony handle, very heavy. Aguida told me about it. When Antinea gave little Kaine his dismissal, smiling as she always does, he stopped in front of her, mute, very pale. She struck the gong for someone to take him away. A Targa slave came. But little Kaine had leapt for the hammer, and the Targa lay on the ground with his skull smashed. Antinea smiled all the time. They led little Kaine to his room. The same night, eluding guards, he jumped out of his window at a height of two hundred feet. The workmen in the embalming room told me that they had the greatest difficulty with his body. But they succeeded very well. You have only to go see for yourself. He occupies niche number 26 in the red marble hall."

The old woman drowned her emotion in her glass.

"Two days before," she continued, "I had done his nails, here, for this was his room. On the wall, near the window, he had written something in the stone with his knife. See, it is still here."

"Was it not Fate, that on this July midnight . . ."

At any other moment, that verse, traced in the stone of the window through which the English officer had hurled himself, would have killed me with overpowering emotion. But just then, another thought was in my heart.

p. 220

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Crystal Thielkien
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« Reply #223 on: April 05, 2009, 09:51:42 pm »

"Tell me," I said, controlling my voice as well as I could, "when Antinea holds one of us in her power, she shuts him up near her, does she not? Nobody sees him any more?"

The old woman shook her head.

"She is not afraid that he will escape. The mountain is well guarded. Antinea has only to strike her silver gong; he will be brought back to her immediately."

"But my companion. I have not seen him since she sent for him. . . ."

The negress smiled comprehendingly.

"If you have not seen him, it is because he prefers to remain near her. Antinea does not force him to. Neither does she prevent him."

I struck my fist violently upon the table.

"Get along with you, old fool. And be quick about it!"

Rosita fled frightened, hardly taking time to collect her little instruments.

"Was it not Fate, that on this July midnight . . ."

I obeyed the negress's suggestion. Following the corridors, losing my way, set on the right road again by the Reverend Spardek, I pushed open the door of the red marble hall. I entered.

The freshness of the perfumed crypt did me good. No place can be so sinister that it is not, as it were, purified by the murmur of running water. The cascade, gurgling in the middle hall, comforted me.

p. 221

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« Reply #224 on: April 05, 2009, 09:51:56 pm »

 One day before an attack I was lying with my section in deep grass, waiting for the moment, the blast of the bugle, which would demand that we leap forward into the hail of bullets. A stream was at my feet. I listened to its fresh rippling. I admired the play of light and shade in the transparent water, the little beasts, the little black fish, the green grass, the yellow wrinkled sand . . . The mystery of water always has carried me out of myself.

Here, in this magic hall, my thoughts were held by the dark cascade. It felt friendly. It kept me from faltering in the midst of these rigid evidences of so many monstrous sacrifices. . . . Number 26. It was he all right. Lieutenant Douglas Kaine, born at Edinburgh, September 21, 1862. Died at Ahaggar, July 16, 189o. Twenty-eight. He wasn't even twenty-eight! His face was thin under the coat of orichalch. His mouth sad and passionate. It was certainly he. Poor youngster.—Edinburgh,—I knew Edinburgh, without ever having been there. From the wall of the castle you can see the Pentland hills. "Look a little lower down," said Stevenson's sweet Miss Flora to Anne of Saint-Yves, "look a little lower down and you will see, in the fold of the hill, a clump of trees and a curl of smoke that rises from among them. That is Swanston Cottage, where my brother and I live with my aunt. If it really pleases you to see it, I shall be glad." When he left for Darfour, Douglas Kaine

p. 222

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