20 Feb 2019

Dumas (CBS) The Wolf-Leader (Le meneur de loups), collected brief summaries

 

by Corry Shores

 

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[The following is collects the brief summaries of this text. Boldface, underlining, bracketed commentary, and section subdivisions are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. Text is copied from online sources (see bibliography below).]

 

 

 

 

Collected Brief Summaries of:

 

Alexandre Dumas

 

Le meneur de loups

The Wolf-Leader

 

 

0

Introduction:”

Ce que c’était que Mocquet, et comment cette histoire est parvenue à la connaissance de celui qui la raconte

“Who Mocquet Was, and How This Tale Became Known to the Narrator”

 

(0.1) The narrator finds themself later in their life and sees it is time to reflect on their early past. (We later learn that the narrator is named Alexandre and he is presented as if he were the author himself, Alexandre Dumas.) (0.2) The narrator (Alexandre) will tell us the story from his youth about “Thibault and his wolves, and of the Lord of Vez”. As a child, the narrator lived “in a little Château called Les Fossés” with his father (sometimes called “the General” / “le général”), his mother, his sister (who was normally away at school), Truffe the dog, Pierre the gardener, Hippolyte the valet, Marie the cook, and a keeper (gamekeeper) named Mocquet, also a friend of his father’s. Mocquet would tell stories about ghosts and werewolves. (0.3) Mocquet at this time of the narrator’s youth is about 45 years old. He is short and stocky and has sun-darkened skin. The narrator recalls him with “a game-bag over his shoulder, his gun in his hand, and a cutty-pipe in his mouth.” He always had the pipe in his mouth or hand. Even when it was not in his mouth, he spoke with clenched teeth. (0.4) One Day Mocquet suddenly announces that he has been “nightmared” (cauchemardé) for a week now “By Mother Durand, of Haramont, who ... is an old witch” (“la mère Durand, d’Haramont, qui ... est une vieille sorcière”) and whom Mocquet saw “riding past on her broomstick to her Witches’ Sabbath.” Mocquet explains that he once happened upon her “at midnight on the heath of Gondreville, when she was dancing round and round in her devil’s circle,” and now she is nightmaring him in revenge for this. The narrator’s father says this is a serious accusation and recommends that Mocquet find more proof before repeating it. Mocquet replies, “Proofs! What more proofs do I want! Does not every soul in the village know that in her youth she was the Mistress of Thibault, the wolf-leader?” The father and Mocquet both say they will look more into this matter. (0.5) Although the narrator’s (Alexandre’s) father said he would look into the matter of Mocquet’s being nightmared by the Old Witch Mother Durand, he did not believe this was the real cause; however, he does take the common people’s beliefs in superstitions seriously, as he knows they are widespread and deeply held. In fact, some have made real injury to others under the belief they were cursed, and given Mocquet’s seriousness about the matter and his grip on his gun, the father saw he needed to play along with Mocquet’s beliefs to gain his confidence and ensure Mocquet would consult him before doing anything drastic. Mocquet then explains that none of the folk remedies he has tried has successfully cured him of his nightmaring. For instance, he tried drinking a large bowl of hot wine before going to bed. He then says he next did what he normally does when he wants to catch a wily beast: “It is an animal that only goes about at night; that is, an animal that creeps into the pigeon-houses and kills the pigeons, like the pole-cat, or into the chicken-houses, to kill the chickens, like the fox; or into the folds, to kill the sheep, like the wolf; it means an animal which is cunning and deceitful, in short, a wily beast.” (0.6) Mocquet explains he sets traps to catch wily beasts, which in this case is the old witch, Mother Durand, who cursed him with nightmares. Mocquet does not know how she gets into his room, but when she does, she tramples all over his chest. He says that he sets the trap on his stomach and that it is the same trap he used to try to catch a wily grey wolf. The narrator’s father noted the trap was not effective, because the wolf ate the bait and ran off. Mocquet explains that the reason the wolf succeeded was that it was the wolf of “old Thibault, the sabot-maker.” The wolf that got away is the devil according to Mocquet (“le loup noir est le diable”), and he was once black but has turned grey over a period of one hundred years, and when the hundred is completed, he turns black again, then greys with time as before. The narrator’s father asks Mocquet not to tell his son (Alexandre, the narrator himself) the story of the black wolf until his age of 15. Mocquet agrees. He then explains what happened with the large metal trap he set for Mother Durand. When she came, she wore wooden sabots. Mocquet declares that he will now “let fly at her with my gun.” The father says that he (instead) needs Mocquet to run an errand for him, namely, to deliver a letter to M. Collard over at Villers-Hellon. In the letter, he tells M. Collard that he is trying to prevent Mocquet from committing murder, so he asks M. Collard, “Will you, also, on some pretext or other, send him on, as soon as he gets to you, to Danré, at Vouty, who will send him on to Dulauloy, who, with or without pretext, may then, as far as I care, send him on to the devil? In short, he must be kept going for a fortnight at least. By that time we shall have moved out of here and shall be at Antilly, and as he will then no longer be in the district of Haramont, and as his nightmare will probably have left him on the way, Mother Durand will be able to sleep in peace”. (It is signed Alex. Dumas., which suggests the narrator is in fact supposed to be the author and this his father, and these writings the author’s own memoires, supposedly at least.) The father’s plan succeeds. Three weeks later they reunite in Antilly, and Mocquet announces, “I’ve got rid of the old mole; it seems she has no power except in her own district.” (0.7) The narrator (Alexander) takes us 12 years later to the winter of 1817-18, and he is now over 15 years old. 10 years before this time, his father dies. The family now lives “in the market-place of Villers Cotterets, in a little house opposite the fountain, where my mother kept a bureau de tabac, selling powder and shot as well over the same counter”, but without Pierre, Hippolyte, or Mocquet in their normal roles (but it seems Mocquet was still around). The narrator speaks of his enthusiasm in his youth for sport and poaching. In the winter he shot birds and tracked wolves. On one winter day with deep snow, Mocquet invites the narrator (whom he calls “Monsieur Alexandre”) to hunt a wolf. The wolf took one of M. Destournelles’ sheep, and Mocquet tracked it to the Tillet woods. Mocquet says that he will locate its lair, and tomorrow morning they will kill it. Next they have to convince the narrator’s Mother. Mocquet assures her he will protect Alexandre, noting that he must face such dangers because he must become a man. After Alexandre departs, he sheds a tear, claiming it was from the cold, “But Thou, O God, who gavest me that tear, Thou knowest that it was not because of the cold that I was crying.” (0.8) Mocquet takes Alexandre the narrator to his house, feeds him, and puts him to bed, because they will rise at four the next morning to hunt the wolf. Alexandre then asks for a story, but Mocquet says there is no time. Mocquet falls asleep. The next morning at four, he awakes Alexandre, announcing he tracked the wolf to his lair, but it is hiding in the Three Oaks Covert, which is a “patch of trees and undergrowth, about two acres in extent, situated in the middle of the plain of Largny, about five hundred paces from the forest”. A number of other gamekeepers are waiting outside the forest, while Alexandre and Mocquet with a number of other gamekeepers will surround the Covert. And hunting dogs will be used. Mocquet offers Alexandre some brandy, but Alexandre declines. Mocquet replies, “You know the proverb: ‘Leave the house empty; the devil will be there.’ [‘Maison vide, le diable y entre.’] Believe me, you had better put something into your stomach.” Alexandre requests bread crust and a glass of pignolet, “a light wine made in non-winegrowing districts, generally said to require three men to drink it, one to drink, and two to hold him.” Mocquet puts a cross marking on Alexandre’s bullet so that they will know if Alexandre is the one to shoot it. They set off. (0.9) The gamekeepers and huntsmen meet “on the road leading to Chavigny.” They form the plan to encircle “the Three Oaks Covert at some considerable distance from it, and then gradually advance so as to form a cordon round it.” They need to proceed carefully and quietly so not to send the wolf off running (prematurely), and the field-keeper “was holding Mocquet’s hounds in leash.” Alexandre and Mocquet are positioned in the best place to intercept the wolf when it will probably try to run off into the forest. The dogs were loosed and the keeper followed them into the covert, making noise, “But the dogs, their eyes starting out of their heads, their lips drawn back, and their coats bristling, remained as if nailed to the ground. Nothing would induce them to move a step further.” After cries from the keeper (including “Tonnerre de Dieu !”), the wolf suddenly rushes out toward Mocquet and Alexandre. Mocquet makes two shots at the wolf but misses both. Alexandre then shoots and seemingly hits it. The wolf keeps running, dodging bullets from the two best shots in the area, Moynat and Mildet. Their failure to hit the wolf “was an unheard of thing” given their great skill in hunting. Mocquet and Alexandre then begin to carefully follow the wolf’s tracks to look for missed bullets and if there is blood on the snow, which could confirm that Alexandre was the only one to hit the wolf. Mocquet then finds Alexandre’s bullet under intriguing circumstances. He finds the mark of the wolf’s right foot in the snow, and near it is a little hole. Mocquet reaches into the snow there and finds Alexandre’s marked (and now) flattened bullet. Mocquet explains that the wolf is the devil, and it could deflect normal bullets, but not one with a (holy) cross on it. But the bullet did not kill the wolf, Mocquet explains, “Because it was made neither of gold nor of silver, my dear boy; and because no bullets but those that are made of gold or silver can pierce the skin of the devil, or kill those who have made a compact with him [Parce qu’elle n’était ni d’or ni d’argent, mon mignon, et qu’il n’y a que les balles d’or ou d’argent qui puissent entamer la peau du diable et tuer ceux qui ont fait un pacte avec lui.]” When Mocquet says that this animal is Thibault, the sabot-maker’s wolf, some of the huntsmen make the sign of the cross. Alexandre asks who is this wolf and Thibault. Mocquet realizes that Alexandre is now more than 15 years old and is allowed to hear the story (see section 0.6). He tells Alexandre that “Thibault, the sabot-maker’s wolf, is the devil” [“le loup de Thibault le sabotier, mon cher monsieur Alexandre, c’est le diable”], and that he will tell Alexandre the story when they get back to Mocquet’s house. This is the story that the narrator will now tell us in the rest of the book.

0.1

[Turning to the Narrator’s Early Life]

0.2

[The Family Home. Mocquet.]

0.3

[Mocquet’s Physical Appearance]

0.4

[Mocquet’s Cursing by the Old Witch (Sorcière) Mother Durand, Who Is “Nightmaring” Him]

 

 

 

1

Le grand louvetier de monseigneur

“The Grand Master of His Highness’ Wolf Hounds”

 

(1.1) We now learn of “Seigneur Jean, Baron of Vez” (recall from section 0.2), who “was a hardy and indefatigable sportsman.” He lived in a formidable medieval castle, and the narrator Alexandre is taking us to a time around 1780. While Vez was not as menacing to other humans as he may have seemed, “With the animals of the forest it was different, for he was avowedly their mortal and implacable enemy. He was chief wolf-hunter to his Royal Highness Louis Philippe of Orleans ... — a post which allowed him to gratify the inordinate passion he had for the chase. Although it was not easy, it was yet possible to bring the Baron to listen to reason in other matters; but as regards the chase, if once he had got a fixed idea in his head, nothing would satisfy him until he had carried it out and had achieved his purpose. ” On account of his position and marriage, he had “almost absolute power throughout the domains of his illustrious father-in-law, a power which no one dared to contest with him”. Regardless of the conditions outside, normally Vez conducts a hunt each day involving all the many people with their roles in the activity. This includes his chief pricker (whipper-in) Marcotte, the head of the keepers of the hounds Engoulevent, and the German executioner. (1.2) Vez hunted every sort of prey, but he especially hunted wolves, in accordance with his title “Chief Wolf Hunter”. One day his chief pricker Marcotte was despondent and explained to Vez that “the black wolf is about.” Vez had about five times before had the chance to hunt the black wolf, but “never once had he been able to get within gun-shot of him or to run him down.” Marcotte explains that the “the damned beast [la damnée bête] has employed himself so well all night crossing his track and doubling, that after having traced him over half the forest, I found myself at the place from which I started.” Then when Marcotte says there is no chance to get near the wolf, Vez exclaims “By all the devils in hell! [Par tous les diables !]” and he asks what beasts can they hunt “in place of this damned black wolf? [à la place de ce damné loup noir?]” Marcotte asks if they should just hunt the first animal they come across. Before Vez can answer, the head keeper of the hounds Engoulevent comes and says “there is a splendid buck in the neighbourhood.” He then demonstrates the buck’s presence in the vicinity by having their best hounds Matador and Jupiter find its scent. Shortly after they do, “a magnificent ten-tined stag came into view”. The hunt begins. They chase it for two hours. To escape the hunters, the buck first crosses over and back and also upstream through a brook (to slow the hounds down or maybe throw them off from their chase). But the dogs were skillful and employed cooperative and equally clever tactics to get right back on the trail and near the buck again. (1.3) The hunters eventually arrive near “the hut of Thibault, the sabot-maker,” that is, the “shoe-maker, the real hero of the tale.” He is around 25-27 years old. He is melancholic on account of his envy toward his more fortunate neighbors. Thibault “had been educated above his position,” having “learnt to read, write, and cypher; moreover he knew a little Latin, which made him inordinately proud of himself.” He is well read, but he tends toward what was bad. He had dreamt of becoming something other than a sabot-maker. At 20 he entered the army, but after five years later he left after failing to receive the least promotion. He considered joining the navy, but realized that would not work out in the end anyway. He considered becoming a notary, but he knew he would never eventually be able to afford a practice. When Thibault’s father died, he entrusted his father’s tools with a friend, sold all the furniture, and went travelling for three years around France. “he learnt a great many things in the course of his journey of which he was previously ignorant, and acquired certain accomplishments which he had previously been without.” For instance, he learned that while one should keep their word in business matters with other men, “it was no use whatever keeping love vows made to a woman.” Thibault had other impressive traits that made him proud, and with the self-esteem that brought him, he did not understand why he could not have been nobly born. He nonetheless resigned to get good at sabot-making, which served his father well. After retrieving his father’s tools, “he went to ask permission of the Steward of his Royal Highness Louis Philippe of Orleans, to build a hut in the forest, in which to carry on his trade. He had no difficulty in obtaining this”. He was allowed to pick his location in the forest. “Thibault chose the spot near the osier-beds, where the roads crossed, one of the most beautiful parts of the woods, less than a mile from Oigny and about three times that distance from Villers-Cotterets.” He then builds his wooden hut there, and in it he builds a bed and buys a mattress for it. Little by little he furnishes his hut. His business was successful, because he was good at making wooden shoes and at using the resulting scrap wood to craft other wooden things for sale. During this time, his only fault was being envious of his neighbors’ better fortune in life. “But this feeling was as yet so inoffensive, that his confessor had no need to do more than awaken in him a sense of shame for harbouring thoughts which had, so far, not resulted in any active crime.”

1.1

[Introducing Seigneur Jean, Baron of Vez, Chief Wolf-Hunter]

1.2

[The Buck-Hunt Begins]

1.3

[Introducing Thibault, the Sabot-Maker]

 

 

 

2

Le seigneur et le sabotier

“The Seigneur Jean and the Sabot-Maker”

 

(2.1) (Recall from section 1 that Seigneur Jean, Baron of Vez and chief wolf-hunter to Louis Philippe of Orleans, is leading a hunting party that is chasing a buck, and they have just arrived upon “the hut of Thibault, the sabot-maker,” that is, the “shoe-maker, the real hero of the tale” (p. 14, section 1.3)). As the weather is fine that autumn day, Thibault is working in his open lean-to. “Looking up, he suddenly espied the trembling animal, quivering in every limb, standing a few paces in front of him, gazing at him with intelligent and terrified eyes.” Thibault was aware of the ongoing hunt, and he complains of how the lords dine on fresh meats and aged wines every meal all while he can normally afford just potatoes and water. Soon after, Vez arrives and rudely addresses Thibault as “you scoundrel!” and asks him if he has seen the beast they are hunting. Thibault, offended, pretends not to know, saying, “what beast?” After Vez describes the buck, Thibault continues to pretend to be stupid and seems confused about whether they are taking about the buck’s horns or hooves. Impatiently, Vez begins asking Thibault relevant questions about the buck. Thibault says he does not know where the buck went. Vez asks, “Is it some while ago the buck passed this way, Master Simpleton?” Thibault answers, the day before yesterday, but he cannot stop from smiling. Vez comes at Thibault with a whip but Thibault takes shelter in his lean to. Thibault still lies and claims he did not see the buck, even though Vez points to its tracks on the ground. Angrily, Vez says, “Silence, and come here, blackguard!” When Thibault emerges from the lean to, Vez strikes him with the butt end of his whip. While Thibault begins falling face forward to the ground, Vez kicks him in the chest, sending him flying backward against his hut door. Vez says, “take that for your lie, and that for your banter!” Just then the hounds catch the buck’s scent again, and Vez rides off. (2.2) Thibault rises and checks for any broken bones. He vengefully vows to be the one who eats that buck tonight. He then gets his bill-hook and boar-spear and runs hell-bent as directly as possible to where he senses the buck is going to be. He considers his two possibilities for getting the buck: {1} he hides beside the path the buck will have to take and kill it with his boar-spear, or {2} he can “surprise the animal just as he was being hunted down by the dogs, and collar him there and then.” While he runs, he dreams both gluttonously of the great food he would be eating after capturing the animal and he also dreams vengefully of Vez’s disappointment as he returns home without a catch. Thibault calculates that the deer would take a particular bridge, so he hides nearby behind a rock and waits for it. When it comes, Thibault throws his spear and misses, and the buck runs away across the bridge. But this comes as a surprise, because Thibault is highly skilled with the spear. He grabs the spear from the ground and runs off toward the buck. He gets ahead of the deer and hides behind a tree, waiting for it. This time, even though the buck comes very close to him, he still misses it (so it seems) with his spear-throw. Now the hunting party approaches, yet Thibault is resolved: “ ‘I must have it, come what will,’ he cried, ‘ must! and if there is a God who cares for the poor, I shall have satisfaction of this confounded Baron, who beat me as if I were a dog, but I am a man notwithstanding, and I am quite ready to prove the same to him’.” Thibault runs off with the spear but is again unsuccessful with his next attempt: “it would appear that the good God whom he had just invoked, either had not heard him, or wished to drive him to extremities, for his third attempt had no greater success than the previous ones.” Thibault then becomes so determined that he now calls upon the devil for help: “ ‘By Heaven!’ exclaimed Thibault, ‘God Almighty is assuredly deaf, it seems Let the Devil [le diable] then open his ears and hear me! In the name of God or of the Devil, I want you and I will have you, cursed animal [animal maudit] !’ ” The deer passes him for the fourth time and disappears into the bushes. It happens so fast Thibault misses his chance to hit it. He then hears the hunting dogs approaching and decides it is too risky to continue hunting. “He looked round him, saw a thickly-leaved oak tree, threw his boar-spear into a bush, swarmed up the trunk, and hid himself among the foliage.” (2.3) Five minutes after Thibault climbed into the tree to hide, the hunting party comes by, and Vez is enraged that after four hours on the trail they had not caught the buck. “To lose four hours over a wretched deer and still to be running behind it! Such a thing had never happened to him before.” As they arrive below the tree where Thibault hides, the dogs stop: “All of a sudden, just as the hounds, that were crying in concert in a way which more and more delighted the Baron’s ears, were passing under the tree where Thibault was perched, the whole pack came to a standstill, and every tongue was silenced as by enchantment [par enchantement].” In anger, Vez yells “Ten thousand devils [Mille noms d’un diable] !” Vez then insults the dogs, calling them trash. The chief pricker (whipper-in) Marcotte takes offense and defends the dog’s dignity. But neither can explain why the dogs have gone silent. Marcotte says: “ ‘I cannot explain it any more than you can, my Lord; the damned animal [daim maudit] must have flown into the clouds or disappeared in the bowels of the earth [dans les entrailles de la terre]’.” Marcotte then notes the supernatural aspect of the event: “What is a truth, what is the fact, is that there is some witchcraft [la sorcellerie] behind all this. As sure as it is now daylight, my dogs, every one of them, lay down at the same moment, suddenly, without an instant hesitation. Ask anybody who was near them at the time. And now they are not even trying to recover the scent, but there they lie flat on the ground like so many stags in their lair. I ask you, is it natural [Est-ce naturel] ?” To offer explanation, the keepers of the hounds Engoulevent tells Vez to look up into the tree to see the “cuckoo” (Thibault) hiding there. Thibault had climbed to the top, and Vez could not see that it was he. Vez calls for him to climb down to talk, but Thibault remains silent. Vez then shoots the branch Thibault stood upon, and Thibault falls to the ground with the other branches breaking his fall. Upon seeing it is Thibault, Vez says: “ ‘By Beelzebub’s horns [Par les cornes de monseigneur Belzébuth] !’ exclaimed the Baron, delighted with his own skill, ‘if it is not my joker of the morning! Ah! so, you scamp! did the discourse you had with my whip seem too short to you, that you are so anxious to take it up again where we left off?’ ” Thibault explains that he was cutting dry branches for fuel. Vez asks, what happened to the deer? Marcotte notes: “By the devil [par le diable], he ought to know, seeing that he has been perched up there so as not to lose any of its movements.” Thibault swears however that he has no idea about this buck they are hunting. Marcotte then notes that it is here where the buck’s tracks end. So Vez says to Thibault that surely he must have heard the buck go by. Then Marcotte declares that Thibault killed the buck and hid it in a bush. Thibault swears “by all the saints in paradise” that he did not kill the buck. He says had he done so, there would be blood and his weapon. “But unfortunately for Thibault, he had hardly uttered these words, before Maître Engoulevent, who had been prowling about for some minutes past, re-appeared, carrying the boar-spear which Thibault had thrown into one of the bushes before climbing up the tree. He handed the weapon to the Baron. There was no doubt about it—Engoulevent was Thibault’s evil genius [mauvais génie].”

2.1

[Vez and Thibault’s Brutal Encounter]

2.2

[Thibault’s Buck-Hunt]

2.3

[Thibault’s Catch and Thibault Caught]

 

 

 

3

Agnelette

 

(Image from archive.org)

 

(3.1) (Recall from section 2 that the Chief Wolf Hunter, Baron Vez, was hunting a buck with his party. Thibault the sabot-maker, who has a hut in the woods, saw the buck, but resents the Baron’s privilege. Thibault refused to give information to help Vez locate the buck, and the Baron beat him down for his insolence. Thibault, wanting vengeance, hunted the wolf for himself but with no success. Before giving up completely, he called out to God or even the Devil, whoever would hear his plea, to help him catch the buck. After giving up, he threw his spear in the bushes, but thereby without his knowing hits the buck. Vez arrived with his hunting party and they discovered this fact.) Vez and the head keeper of the hounds Engoulevent inspect the boar-spear and see Thibault’s sabot marking on it. Vez then announces to Thibault that he has committed the crimes of poaching and perjury (for having lied about killing the buck. See section 2.3). Vez will now punish Thibault, calling for Marcotte the pricker to strip Thibault and tie him to a tree for a whipping. Thibault swears he did not kill the buck (which is true as far as he knows), but he is whipped mercilessly anyway by Marcotte.” (3.2) Vez turns away to leave so not to have to witness the full punishment, but “As he was on the point of doing this, a young girl suddenly emerged from the underwood, threw herself on her knees beside the horse, and lifting her large, beautiful eyes, all wet with tears, to the Baron, cried: ‘In the name of the God of mercy, my Lord, have pity on that man!’ ” The girl was beautiful and about 16 years old. “Ten thousand fiends [Mille charretées de diables verts] !” Vez exclaims and asks if she has any relation to Thibault. She says she has never seen him before. Vez bargains with her that if she kisses him, he will let Thibault go. She agrees, mounts on his horse with him, and offers him her cheek. He kisses her twice and calls for Thibault to be brought down. Marcotte gives one last, powerful blow, and Thibault is taken down. She tells Vez that her name is Georgine Agnelette. The Baron says it is an unlucky name, because “it makes you a prey for the wolf”. (Perhaps there is some relation of her name with agnus.) She further explains that she is from Préciamont and that she comes here to get grass for her three goats. Vez asks if she is ever afraid, and she says that sometimes she trembles, explaining: “I hear so many tales, during the winter evenings, about were-wolves [loups-garous], that when I find myself all alone among the trees, and can hear no sound but the west wind, and the branches creaking as it blows through them, I feel a kind of shiver run through me, and my hair seems to stand on end; but when I hear your hunting horn and the dogs crying, then I feel at once quite safe again.” Vez invites Agnelette to his castle, because there she would be protected from were-wolves. (“Come in future to the Castle of Vez; no were-wolf, or any other kind of wolf, has ever crossed the moat there, except when slung by a cord on to a hazel-pole.”) She declines, “Because I should find something worse there than the wolf.” (She is apparently referring to Vez.) Vez and his men all laugh, but when Marcotte indicates they have a long trip back, Vez and his party depart, leaving Agnelette with Thibault. (3.3) Agnelette and Thibault are now alone. Although Thibault should now feel grateful to Agnellete or appreciate her beauty, he is instead full of hatred for Vez. “Thibault, as you see, had, since the morning, been making rapid strides along the path of evil [la voie du mal].  ‘Ah! if the devil [le diable] will but hear my prayer this time,’ he cried, as he shook his fist, cursing the while, after the retiring huntsmen, who were just out of view, ‘if the devil will but hear me, you shall be paid back with usury for all you have made me suffer this day, that I swear’.” Agnelette says, “Oh, how wicked it is [que c’est mal] of you to behave like that!” She notes how gentle Vez is with women and reminds Thibault that he deserved his punishment. For, Thibault is hunting on Vez’s grounds. Agnelette says she saw him throw the spear at the buck. Agnelette also informs him that she knows him from the fête, where he was called “the beautiful dancer” and was watched by a crowd. He then remembers he danced with her, but she declined his request for a kiss. Thibault then compliments her beauty, and she blushes. He asks her if she has a lover. She says no and that she has no desire for one, because what she really wants is a husband. For, she needs to take care of her grandmother, and a husband could help her do that. Thibault asks if the husband would not get jealous from how much she loved her grandmother, and Agnelette assures him that she would give plenty of love to her husband: “Oh! how I should love the man who loved my grandmother! I promise you, that she, and my husband, and I, we should be three happy folks together.” Thibault notes that they would be very poor. Agnelette replies that the love they give each other would make them quite fortunate. Thibault then wonders to himself if it would not be better to be poor with Agnelette than to have a noblewoman. Thibault then proposes marriage to her. Agnelette does not agree yet but invites Thibault to see her grandmother, who will make the decision. He then helps her home with her burden, and when they depart he asks for and receives a kiss from her. But Thibault does not truly love her or feel fortunate for her but rather longs “for everything that belonged or might belong to another.” And “the farther he walked away from Agnelette ... the more urgently did his envious longings begin again as usual to torment his soul. It was dark when he reached home.”

3.1

[Thibault’s Whipping]

3.2

[Agnelette’s Rescue of Thibault]

3.3

[Thibault’s Marriage Proposal to Agnelette]

 

 

 

4

Le loup noir

“The Black Wolf”

(Image from archive.org)

 

(4.1) (Recall from section 3 that Thibault the sabot-maker has taken Agnelette his potential fiancée to her home and is now returning to his own home.) Thibault was not able to kill the buck from the hunt (see sections 2.3, 3.1, and 3.3) so he instead feasts on black bread. Thibault then hears his goat bleating and goes to feed her. When he arrives to the shed where it dwells, it rushes out suddenly toward the house. Thibault chases after it, and only after great struggle was he able to pull it back into its shed. But even with its food, it continues crying. He returns to the shed and upon inspecting it finds “the animal that had so frightened the goat, the buck of the Lord of Vez; the same buck that he had followed, had failed to kill, that he had prayed for in the devil’s name [nom du diable], if he could not have it in God’s; the same that had thrown the hounds out; the very same in short which had cost him such hard blows.” But Thibault does not know how the buck could have entered the shed, because it was bolted closed quite securely; also, the buck “had been fastened up to the rack by a cord.” This made Thibault feel very uneasy: “now a cold sweat began to break out in large drops on his brow, a curious kind of a shiver ran through his body, and his teeth chattered violently.” He goes out of the shed to find the goat. Then “Thibault had a perfect remembrance of the unholy invocation [le vœu impie] he had addressed to Satan [Satan], and although his prayer had been miraculously answered, he still could not bring himself to believe that there was any diabolic intervention [diabolique intervention] in the matter. As the idea, however, of being under the protection of the spirit of darkness [l’esprit des ténèbres] filled him with an instinctive fear, he tried to pray; but when he wished to raise his hand to make the sign of the cross on his forehead, his arm refused to bend, and although up to that time he had never missed a day saying his Ave Maria, he could not remember a single word of it. These fruitless efforts were accompanied by a terrible turmoil in poor Thibault’s brain; evil thoughts [mauvaises pensées] came rushing in upon him, and he seemed to hear them whispering all around him, as one hears the murmur of the rising tide, or the laughing of the winter wind through the leafless branches of the trees.” Thibault realizes he cannot eat the buck, because it might be “food sent from the nether regions [viande d’enfer].” He reasons it is safest to sell it to a nearby Nunnery, where he can turn a profit on it all while “ ‘The atmosphere of that holy place will drive the evil out of it [la purifiera], and I shall run no risk to my soul in taking a handful of consecrated crown pieces. What days of sweating over my work, and turning my auger, it would take, to earn even the quarter of what I shall get by just leading the beast to its new fold! The devil [diable] who helps one is certainly better worth than the angel who forsakes one. If my lord Satan [messire Satan] wants to go too far with me, it will then be time enough to free myself from his claws: bless me! I am not a child, nor a young lamb like Georgine, and I am able to walk straight in front of me and go where I like.’ He had forgotten, unhappy man, as he boasted of being able to go where and how he liked, that only five minutes before he had tried in vain to lift his hand to his head.” He imagines that with the money this will earn, he can buy Agnelette a white dress: “his thoughts would keep returning towards Agnelette; and he seemed to see her clad in a long white dress with a crown of white lilies on her head and a long veil. If, he said to himself, he could have such a charming guardian angel in his house, no devil [diable], however strong and cunning he might be, would ever dare to cross the threshold. ‘So,’ he went on, ‘there is always that remedy at hand, and if my lord Satan [messire Satan] begins to be too troublesome, I shall be off to the grandmother to ask for Agnelette; I shall marry her, and if I cannot remember my prayers or am unable to make the sign of the cross, there will be a dear pretty little woman, who has had no traffic with Satan [Satan] who will do all that sort of thing for me’.” Thibault wanted to make sure the buck was in good condition for sale, so he feeds it and checks its bedding. “The remainder of the night passed without further incident, and without even a bad dream.” (4.2) The next day, Vez was hunting for the wolf that they tracked the day before (see section 1.2). It is a “genuine wolf,” and although “it must have seen many and many a year,” “it was black all over. Black or grey, however, it was a bold and enterprising beast, and promised some rough work to the Baron and his huntsmen.” It leads the hunting party on a long, complicated chase, eventually leading back to Thibault’s hut. Thibault hears the hunting horn and dogs, and so he piles heather in front of the shed door so that the party will not be able to learn of the buck inside. He then goes back inside to get intently to work, “applying to it an energy unknown even to himself before, bending over the shoe he was making with an intentness which prevented him from even lifting his eyes. All at once he thought he detected a sound like something scratching at the door; he was just going through from his lean-to to open it when the door fell back, and to Thibault’s great astonishment an immense black wolf entered the room, walking on its hind legs. On reaching the middle of the floor, it sat down after the fashion of wolves, and looked hard and fixedly at the sabot-maker.” Alarmed, Thibault brandishes a hatchet, but “A curious mocking expression passed over the face of the wolf, and then it began to laugh. [...] And what a laugh it was! If a man had laughed such a laugh, Thibault would verily and indeed have been scared out of his wits.” After Thibault lowers the hatchet, the wolf speaks to him in a human voice, saying “I send you the finest buck from His Royal Highness’s forests, and in return, you want to split my head open with your hatchet. [...] let us be sensible and talk together like two good friends. Yesterday you wanted the Baron’s buck, and I led it myself into your shed, and for fear it should escape, I tied it up myself to the rack. And for all this you take your hatchet to me! [...] what I want to know is, are you willing to make me some return for the service I have done you?” Thibault agrees but wants to know the price. The Wolf asks for water, and Thibault eagerly gets some from a nearby brook. The Wolf then asks Thibault to help him get the hounds off his trail. They then negotiate what the Wolf will do in return, and Thibault asks for endless granting of wishes: “yesterday I wanted the buck, and you gave it me, it is true; to-morrow, I shall want something else. For some time past I have been possessed by a kind of mania, and I do nothing but wish first for one thing and then for another, and you will not always be able to spare time to listen to my demands. So what I ask for is, that, as you are the devil [le diable] in person or someone very like it, you will grant me the fulfilment of every wish I may have from this day forth.” The Wolf says this is too much and that Thibault must assume that he the Wolf depends on Thibault’s help. To demonstrate otherwise, the Wolf then suddenly disappears. Thibault asks, “ ‘Where the devil [Où diable] are you?’ ‘If you put a question to me in my real name,’ said the wolf with a sneer in his voice, ‘I shall be obliged to answer you. I am still in the same place’.”  The Wolf then explains that in fact the dogs will be led to Thibault, and Vez will whip him even more this time. The Wolf says that Thibault should instead let the buck free in hopes that the dogs will give up on the Wolf and chase the buck instead. Thibault runs off to the shed, “unfastened the buck, which, as if propelled by some hidden force, leapt from the house, ran round it, crossing the track of the wolf, and plunged into the Baisemont coppice.” The dogs then come to be “on the scent of the buck, and had abandoned that of the wolf.” Relieved, Thibault returns to his hut. “He found the wolf lying composedly on the same spot as before, but how it had found its way in again was quite as impossible to discover as how it had found its way out.”

4.1

[Thibault’s Decision to Sell the Buck to a Nunnery]

4.2

[The Wolf Devil’s Introduction to Thibault]

 

 

 

5

Le pacte

“The Pact with Satan”

 

(5.1) (Recall from section 2.2 that Thibault the sabot-maker wanted vengeance on Seigneur Jean, Baron of Vez, so he was hellbent on capturing the hunted buck before Vez got it. Thibault’s prayers to God for the buck went unanswered, so he prayed to the devil too. These prayers were heard, because the buck was delivered to his shed that night (section 4.1). The next day, Vez is hunting a black wolf. It enters Thibault’s house walking on its hind legs like a human. It is “the devil [le diable] in person or someone very like it”. Thibault helps the Wolf be free of the hunting chase by releasing the buck and sending the hounds on a different trail. Prior to this Thibault asked that in return the Wolf grant him every one of his wishes from now on (section 4.2).) As Thibault returns to his house from releasing the buck, the Wolf explains to him that while he cannot grant all his wishes, he can help him do ill to others, noting that “There is always something sweet to us in the misfortune of our friends,—even the dearest” and “there is always an opportunity of profiting by our neighbour’s calamity, whether he be friend or foe.” As payment for each request to harm another, Thibault will have to give up part of his body, namely, his hair, with the price doubling with each request. “Every time that you express a wish that is not to your own immediate advantage, you will have to repay me with a small portion of your person. [...] For the fulfilment of your first wish, one of your hairs; two hairs for the second wish, four for the third, and so on, doubling the number each time.” Thibault agrees, but as they cannot shake on it without the Wolf’s claws harming Thibault, they instead exchange their rings (the Wolf’s gold one for Thibault’s silver one). “ ‘Good!’ said the wolf, ‘now we two are married’.” The Wolf then disappears leaving a scent of sulfur. (5.2) Thibault then examines the gold ring from the Wolf. It has an engraved monogram, the letters T. and S. “ ‘Ah!’ he exclaimed, in a cold sweat, ‘Thibault and Satan, the family names of the two contracting parties [Thibault et Satan, les noms de famille des deux parties contractantes]. So much the worse for me! but when one gives oneself to the devil [diable], one has to do it without reserve.” Then “Thibault began humming a song, trying to drown his thoughts, but his voice filled him with fear, for there was a new and curious sound in it, even to his own ears.” Thibault gets to his work, and in the distance he hears Vez and his hunting party on the chase. Thibault then realizes his new power over him. “Ah, my fine Lord, you may chase your wolf as long as you like; but I can tell you, you won’t get this one’s paw to nail up over the door of your castle. What a lucky beggar I am! here am I, almost as good as a magician [fée], and while you ride on, suspecting nothing, my brave dispenser of blows, I have but to say the word, and a spell [un sort] will be cast over you whereby I shall be amply avenged.” Thibault thinks about the small price to pay for vengeance on Vez and Marcotte the chief pricker ((see section 1.1) who whipped him at Vez’s command (see sections 3.1 and 3.2)): “Thibault passed his hand through the thick, silky hair which covered his head like a lion’s mane. ‘I shall have plenty of hairs left to lose,’ he continued. ‘Why bother about one! [...] Very well then, I wish a serious accident to befall the Baron, and as for that good-for-nothing of a Marcotte, who laid on to me so roughly yesterday, it is only fair that something as bad again should happen to him.’ [...] After uttering his wish, he tried in vain to return to his work, he took hold of his parer, wrong side up, and took the skin off his fingers, and still going on with his paring he spoilt a pair of shoes worth a good twelve sous.” Just then the hunters came as if in funeral procession, and “he saw that they were carrying two rough litters, on which were stretched two lifeless bodies, those of the Baron and of Marcotte.” We then learn from the narrator what happened. The buck crosses closely in front of Vez, and then the dogs come making a racket. Vez gets profoundly angry at the dogs [perhaps for having chased the wrong prey] and “he rode them down, trampling them beneath his horse’s hoofs, flinging himself about in his saddle like a devil [un diable] in a stoup of holy water.”  Marcotte comes and whips the dogs, which nonetheless become even more determined to chase the buck. In the process, Marcotte rides his horse into a river, which was quite high and strong from rains, and he and the horse are overtaken by the currents. Vez calls for everyone to try to save Marcotte, promising a large reward. But they ultimately fail, and Marcotte drowns. Vez’s liking for wine “predisposed him ever so little to apoplexy,” and when he saw Marcotte’s corpse, “the emotion was so great, that the blood rushed to his head and brought on a fit.” As they pass before Thibault’s house, they begin searching his shed for things that might serve medicinally to help Vez.  Engoulevent (keeper of the hounds, see section 1.1) calls for a goat. He says he needs to slaughter it to get a small bone from the heart, which they will crush and use as medicine to treat Vez’s apoplexy. Thibault objects, because he loves his goat and depends on it for food. Engoulevent says Thibault can later come to Vez to ask for compensation. Thibault assents rather than call the devil for help, because his conscience is too heavy from already bringing so much harm. They slaughter the goat and make the medicinal preparation, which when administered to Vez immediately stops his fit. They give him water, which disgusts him, and he calls for wine. They bring some to him, which he drinks very quickly. “Then he turned himself round with his face to the wall, and murmuring—Mâcon, 1743—fell into a profound slumber.”

5.1

[Thibault’s Pact with the Wolf]

5.2

[The Devil’s Deed]

 

 

 

6

Le cheveu du diable

“The Bedevilled Hair”

 

_(6.1)_ (Recall from section 5 that Thibault the sabot-maker made use of his pact with the devil (see section 5.1) to do grave injury to his enemy, Seigneur Jean, Baron of Vez (see section 5.2). He had a apoplectic fit and was brought into Thibault’s house. They had to slaughter Thibault’s goat to extract a medicine to cure Vez.) The hunting party went to find the dogs, which captured and ate the buck they were chasing. They visitors then take Thibault’s food and roast his goat for dinner. Thibault thinks of his potential fiancée Agnelett (see section 3.3), and he seems to regard it being best not to pursue the engagement. He considers instead a prosperous widow,  Madame Polet, who runs a busy mill. He never thought before that he had a chance with her, but now with his pact with the devil, he can get rid of his rivals. He also notes his pact may help with Polet’s rumored bad temper and hard heart. The next day Vez and the hunting party leave, and Vez thanks Thibault and forgives him for his previous crimes (see section 2). Thibault regrets the whole affair, as the huntsman ransacked and trashed his house. But he also recognizes that all this matters little in comparison to his new power. He then sets off to Madame Polet to try his luck with her. _(6.2)_ Thibault takes a slightly longer route to pass by the place he first saw Agnelette. He sees her cutting grass for her goats. “He might easily have passed her without being seen, for her back was turned towards him; but the evil spirit prompted him [le démon le tenta], and he went straight up to her.” She sees Thibault and blushes. She then says she dreamt of him last night and prayed for him. “And as she spoke, the vision of Agnelette passing along the sky, with the dress and wings of an Angel, and her hands joined in supplication, as he had seen her the previous night, returned to him.” She then explains: “‘I dreamed of you, Thibault, because I love you,’ she said, ‘and I prayed for you, because I saw the accident that happened to the Baron and his huntsmen, and all the trouble that you were put to in consequence.... Ah! if I had been able to obey the dictates of my heart, I should have run to you at once to give you help’.” She notices his gold ring (the one he made to seal his deal with the Wolf Devil; see section 5.1), and asks where it is from, suspecting it was given by another woman. He lies and says “it is our betrothal ring, the one I have bought to put on your finger the day we are married.” She sadly proves that she knows he is lying, because it is large enough for two of her fingers. She departs from him, saying “I do not love liars.” But she says if it is really her ring, then: “give it me to keep till our wedding day, and on that day I will give it back to you, that you may have it blessed.” He says she should wear it, and: “I am going into Villers-Cotterets to-day, we will take the measure of your finger, and I will get Monsieur Dugué, the goldsmith there, to alter it for us.” Agnelette brightens up. He kisses her hand and offers her forehead too, asking to see the ring. Thibault tries to put it on, starting with her thumb, but the ring resists: “to his great astonishment, he could not get it over the joint. [...] Then Thibault tried to pass it over the first finger, but with the same result as when he put it on the thumb. He next tried the middle finger, but the ring seemed to grow smaller and smaller, as if fearing to sully this virgin hand; then the third finger, the same on which he wore it himself, but it was equally impossible to get it on. And as he made these vain attempts to fit the ring, Thibault felt Agnelette’s hand trembling more and more violently within his own, while the sweat fell from his own brow, as if he were engaged in the most arduous work; there was something diabolic [diabolique] at the bottom of it, as he knew quite well. At last he came to the little finger and endeavoured to pass the ring over it. This little finger, so small and transparent, that the ring should have hung as loosely upon it as a bracelet on one of Thibault’s, this little finger, in spite of all Agnelette’s efforts, refused to pass through the ring.” Agnelette is confused by this odd behavior of the ring. Then, “ ‘Ring of the Devil, return to the Devil! [Anneau de Satan, retourne à Satan !]’ cried Thibault, flinging the ring against a rock, in the hope that it would be broken. As it struck the rock, it emitted flame; then it rebounded, and in rebounding, fitted itself on to Thibault’s finger.” Agnelette “looked at Thibault in horrified amazement,” and “as she continued to look at Thibault, her eye grew more and more wild and frightened.” Thibault asks what is wrong. She points to his head asking “Oh! Monsieur Thibault, Monsieur Thibault, what have you got there?” Thibault asks her to specify what she is referring to, “But instead of replying, Agnelette covered her face with her hands, and uttering a cry of terror, turned and fled with all her might.” Thibault, alarmed, goes to a crystal clear stream and sees what frightened Agnelette: “he saw there was something bright that shone amid the dark curls on his head and fell over his forehead. He leaned closer still—it was a red hair. A red hair, but of a most peculiar red—not sandy coloured or carrotty; neither of a light shade nor a dark; but a red of the colour of blood, with a brightness of the most vivid flame.” He pulls at it with all his might, but rather then come free, it cut into his fingers. “Thibault might as well have tried to move the oak that threw its shady branches across the stream.” He sets off to Madame Polet, but is so frustrated by this red hair which “seemed to dance before his eyes, dazzling him like flames of running fire” that he says, “By all the devils in hell! I am not far from home yet, and I’ll get the better of this confounded hair somehow [Mille noms d’un diable ! s’écria Thibault, je ne suis pas encore si loin de chez moi, et je veux avoir raison de ce cheveu damné],” and he turns back home to try to uproot it. But even strong tools cannot break it off: he “seized a carpenter’s chisel, placed it so as to cut off the hair as close to the head as possible, and keeping hair and tool in this position, leant over his bench, and dug the chisel down with as much force as possible. The tool cut deeply into the wood of the bench, but the hair remained intact. He tried the same plan again, only this time he armed himself with a mallet, which he swung over his head and brought down with redoubled blows on the handle of the chisel—but he was as far as ever from carrying out his purpose. He noticed, however, that there was a little notch in the sharp edge of the chisel, just the width of a hair. Thibault sighed; he understood now that this hair, the price he had paid in return for his wish, belonged to the black wolf, and he gave up all further attempts to get rid of it.”

6.1

[Thibault’s Journey to Woo Madame Polet]

6.2

[Thibault’s Dreadful Encounter with Agnelette and His New Bedeviled Red Hair]

 

 

 

7

Le garçon du moulin

“The Boy at the Mill”

 

_(7.1)_ (Recall from section 5 that Thibault the sabot-maker made use of his pact with the devil to get vengeance on his enemy Seigneur Jean, Baron of Vez, and recall from section 6.2 that in accordance with his agreement with the Wolf Devil, he paid the price for this deed (see section 5.1) by having one of the hairs on his head turn startlingly fire-red. No amount of force and no tool allowed him to remove the hair.) As Thibault cannot remove the “the accursed hair [le cheveu maudit],” he hides it by covering it over with his other black hairs. He then goes to visit Madame Polet the widow and successful miller (see section 6.1) to try to win her hand. On the way he encounters his cousin Landry, who is the head boy at Polet’s mill. Thibault hopes Landry will introduce him to Madame Polet. When he comes upon Landry, Thibault notices that he looks sad and troubled. Thibault figures out it is because he is in love with Madame Polet. She saw that he was in love with her, but, Landry explains: “I forgot that I had to do with someone above me in position, and I spoke. Then Madame Polet flew into a great rage; called me an insolent beggar, and threatened to turn me out of doors the very next week.” Yet he still works there and she cruelly torments him. Thibault suggests making her jealous by giving his affection to another woman. He says that would not work, because something else has happened, but he will not say what it was. Thibault does not see Landry as a competitor, because Madame Polet does not love him, and Thibault feels confident in his own chances. _(7.2)_ Thibault and Cousin Landry arrive at Madame Polet’s mill, which lies in a scenic green valley. The beautiful scenery delights Thibault as he thinks about someday owning this prosperous land. They come upon Madame Polet, and Thibault introduces himself. “The mistress of the Mill was extremely gracious, and invited the new comer to spend the day at the Mill, accompanying her invitation with a smile that Thibault took as a most favourable augury.” He offers her a gift of thrushes he caught. They have it prepared for dinner. While talking, Madame Polet is often distracted by the sight of Cousin Landry, working in the background. When Thibault notices this, she turns “red as a cherry.” She then asks Thibault to help Landry unload the donkeys, which angers Thibault: “ ‘Now, the devil!’ muttered Thibault, as he looked first after Madame Polet and then at Landry, ‘is the fellow after all more fortunate than he suspects himself, and shall I be forced to call the black wolf to my assistance to get rid of him?’ ” Thibault believes that Madame Polet can see them from the window, so he “put forth all his strength, and displayed to the full his athletic grace, in the accomplishment of the task in which he was sharing.” Then at dinner Madame Polet is very attentive and polite to Thibault, which raises his spirits. Landry all the while, rather than eating, is crying: “great tears were rolling down his cheeks, and falling into the untasted juniper sauce. This mute sorrow touched her heart; a look almost of tenderness came into her face, as she made a sign to him with her head, which seemed to say, so expressive was it, “Eat, Landry, I beg of you.” There was a whole world of loving promises in this little pantomime. Landry understood the gesture, for he nearly choked himself trying to swallow the bird at one mouthful, so eager was he to obey the orders of his fair mistress.” Thibault bitterly notices their affectionate interactions. “He swore to himself [Par la rate-Dieu ! murmura-t-il], using an oath [juron] that he had heard in the mouth of the Seigneur Jean, and which, now that he was the friend of the devil [l’ami du diable], he fancied he might use like any other great lord.” Thibault decides to call upon the Wolf Devil to get Landry out of the picture: “ ‘what am I to do with Cousin Landry? his love, it is true, upsets my arrangements; but I really cannot for so small a thing send him to join the wretched Marcotte in the other world. But what a fool I am to bother my brains about finding a way to help myself! It’s the wolf’s business, not mine?’ Then in a low voice: ‘Black wolf,’ he said, ‘arrange matters in such a way, that without any accident or harm happening to my Cousin Landry, I may get rid of him.’ The prayer was scarcely uttered, when he caught sight of a small body of four or five men in military uniform, walking down the hill-side and coming towards the mill. Landry also saw them; for he uttered a loud cry, got up as if to run away, and then fell back in his chair, as if all power of movement had forsaken him.”

7.1

[Thibault’s Trip to Madame Polet and His Encounter with His Cousin Landry on the Way]

7.2

[Madame Polet’s Affection for Cousin Landry and Thibault’s Evocation of the Wolf-Devil’s Help to Get Rid of Him]

 

 

 

 

8

Les souhaits de Thibault

“Thibault’s Wishes”

 

__(8.1)__ (Recall from section 7 that Thibault the sabot-maker is with his cousin Landry at the home of Madame Polet the miller. Thibault is trying to woo Madame Polet, but she and his cousin are already affectionate for each other. Thibault then uses his pact with the Wolf-Devil, and asks that Thibault be taken out of the picture without any harm done to him. Then some soldiers approach the mill, which alarms Landry.) Landry explains his alarm at the soldiers. He says that he enlisted in a moment of despair over his love for Madame Polet. Madame Polet tries to hide Landry somewhere in the house. Thibault then accidentally makes another wish to the Wolf-Devil. He suggests that the soldier will smell Landry out. The soldiers come and say they are looking for Landry. Madame Polet says she never heard of him. The Sergeant says he needs to search the mill. They find him in Madame Polet’s room after Polet reluctantly gives up the key to it. Thibault is concerned, because he knows that the only way they would have looked in that room was if the Wolf-Devil interfered. Despite all of Madame Polet’s efforts to keep him, Landry is taken away. As he is taken away, he says to Madame Polet “that far or near, he would always love her, and that, if he died, her name would be the last upon his lips,” and Madame Polet makes one last desperate, loving embrace. __(8.2)__ Madame Polet is very upset at losing Landry. Thibault tries to comfort her, and he is glad to have gotten rid of Landry, now seeing how much she loved him. She then discusses her love for Landry to Thibault and how good of a husband he would be. Then Thibault tries to console her and suggests she find someone equal to Landry. She says there could be no equal. Thibault remarks that Landry is young, and he may lose his good traits with time, so instead she should marry a grown man who will not change on her. “In short, what you need, is a man who while earning your respect, will, at the same time make the Mill work profitably. You have but to say the word, and you would not have to wait long before you found yourself well provided for, my fair Madame, a good bit better than you were just now.” She asks where can she find such a man. Thibault proposes himself. This enrages Madame Polet, who orders Thibault to leave immediately, and she throws objects at him to make him go. As her servants arrive, Thibault tries to leave. But he trips over the pig and falls into the mud, which leads to him evoking the Wolf-Devil’s aid again: “ ‘Devil take you, you beast [Que le diable t’emporte, animal maudit !]!’ cried the shoe-maker, bruised by his fall, but even more furious at seeing his new clothes covered with mud. The wish [souhait] was hardly out of his mouth, when the pig was suddenly taken with a fit of frenzy, and began rushing about the farm-yard like a mad animal, breaking, shattering, and turning over everything that came in its way.” The servants cannot catch the crazed pig and it eventually “threw itself under the mill wheel ... and disappeared as if sucked down by a whirlpool.” Madame Polet realizes that Thibault worked black magic. “ ‘Lay hold of Thibault!’ she cried, for she had heard Thibault’s curse [malédiction], and had been amazed and horrified at the instantaneous way in which it [ce souhait] had worked. ‘Lay hold of him! knock him down! he is a wizard [un magicien], a sorcerer [un sorcier]! a were-wolf [un loup-garou]!’—applying to Thibault with this last word, one of the most terrible epithets that can be given to a man in our forest lands.” Thibault flees with supernatural abilities: “he darted through the farm-yard gate, and began running up an almost perpendicular hill-side at full speed, with an ease which only confirmed Madame Polet’s suspicions, for the hill had always hitherto been looked upon as absolutely inaccessible, at any rate by the way Thibault had chosen to climb it.” The servants do not chase after Thibault, which angers Madame Polet, but they explain: “what is the use, what can we do against a were—wolf?”]

8.1

[Cousin Landry is Taken Away to Service]

8.2

[Madame Polet’s Discovery of Thibault’s Devilry]

 

 

 

 

9

Le meneur de loups

“The Wolf-Leader”

 

__(9.1)__ (Recall from section 8 that Thibault the sabot-maker is fleeing from Madame Polet’s mill, because he used his pact with the devil to kill her pig, and she realizes his sorcery.) Thibault runs “instinctively towards the forest.” He does not fear those who may chase him, because “he was armed with the diabolical power [armé du pouvoir diabolique] which he had received from the wolf.” But he knows that while killing a pig with this power is acceptable, killing a human is a much graver thing. Thibault arms himself with a stick he made from a chestnut branch, which he can use adeptly as a quarterstaff. “So he entered the forest with all boldness of heart, at the spot which is known to this day as the Wolf’s Heath.” He hears something walking behind him. “He turned and the first thing he could distinguish in the darkness was the glowing light in a pair of eyes which shone like live coals.” He sees it is a wolf, not the black Wolf-Devil he made his pact with, but a reddish-brown one. Thibault tries to scare it off with his quarterstaff, “But to his great surprise the wolf went on trotting quietly behind him, without evincing any hostile intention, pausing when he paused, and going on again when he did, only now and then giving a howl as if to summon re-inforcements.” More wolves appear in front of him. He attacks one, but the wolf sees no threat: “Not pausing to reflect whether it might not be unwise now to attack the first wolf, Thibault brought down his staff, giving the fellow a violent blow on the head. The animal uttered a howl of pain, then shaking his ears like a dog that has been beaten by its master, began walking on in front of the shoe-maker.” As Thibault continues walking, wolves gather and walk with him; “Before he had gone a mile, a dozen of the animals had formed a circle round him.” He tries singing to scare them off with the human sound of his voice, “but the expedient was vain. Not a single animal swerved from its place in the circle, which was as exactly formed as if drawn with compasses.” Thibault eventually arrives home, with the wolves still following docilely. Yet, “he did not at first recognise his own house. But a still greater surprise awaited him, for the wolves who were in front now respectfully drew back into two lines, sitting up on their hind legs and making a lane for him to pass along.” Thibault is unsettled by all this, and he runs headlong into his house, slamming and bolting the door behind him. After resting and regaining his calm, “he went and peeped through the little window that looked out on the forest. A row of gleaming eyes assured him that far from having retired, the wolves had arranged themselves symmetrically in file in front of his dwelling.” Thibault builds a hearty fire to frighten the wolves, “But Thibault’s wolves were evidently wolves of a special sort, accustomed to fire, for they did not budge an inch from the post they had taken up.” He was distressed and could not sleep. The next morning he looked out and saw that “They seemed, just as on the night before, to be waiting, some seated, some lying down, others sleeping or walking up and down like sentinels.” But as dawn breaks, all the wolves depart. __(9.2)__ Thibault takes a moment to wonder why despite his handsomeness, Madame Polet preferred his cousin over him. He looks in the mirror and sees just how much of his hair has changed color: “he had hardly given the first glance at himself in the mirror, before he uttered a cry, half of astonishment, half of horror. True, he was still the handsome Thibault, but the one red hair, thanks to the hasty wishes which had so imprudently escaped him, had now grown to a regular lock of hair, of a colour and brilliancy that vied with the brightest flames upon his hearth.” Thibault then “made up his mind to make the best of the matter as it stood, and in future to forbear as far as possible from framing any wishes. The best thing was to put out of his mind all the ambitious desires that had worked so fatally for him, and go back to his humble trade.” But he is not able to resign himself to his humble life: “Formerly, even the preparation of his frugal meal had been an agreeable distraction, but it was so no longer; when hunger seized him and he was forced to eat his piece of black bread, he did it with a feeling of repugnance, and the envy, which had hitherto been nothing more than a vague aspiration after ease and comfort, was now developed into a blind and violent hatred towards his fellow creatures.” __(9.3)__ That night, the wolves return to his house: “Scarcely had the shadows begun to darken, before a wolf emerged from the underwood, and, as on the previous evening, went and lay down at a short distance from the house. As on the evening before, this wolf was followed by a second, by a third, in short by the whole pack [toute la bande], and once more they all took up their respective posts preparatory to the night’s watch.” Thibault barricades himself inside and sleeps. When he awakes the next morning, he sees that the wolves have disappeared, “leaving behind only the mark of where their bodies had lain on the dew-covered grass.” They return again the next evening. Thibault thinks that his alliance with the Wolf-Devil somehow “awakened sympathetic feelings towards him in all other individuals of the same species.” He wants to know the wolves’ real intention, so he arms himself with a bill-hook and boar-spear, and goes out to face them. “Having half expected that they would spring upon him, he was greatly surprised to see them begin to wag their tails like so many dogs on seeing their master approach. Their greetings were so expressive of friendliness, that Thibault even ventured to stroke one or two of them on the back, which they not only allowed him to do, but actually gave signs of the greatest pleasure at being thus noticed.” Thibault realizes that now as the leader of the wolves, he has a hunting pack that can catch game for him: “ ‘if these queer friends of mine are as obedient as they are gentle, why, here I am, the owner of a pack [une meute] unequalled by any my Lord Baron has ever possessed, and I shall have no difficulty whatever now in dining on venison whenever the fancy so takes me’. He had hardly said the words, when four of the strongest and most alert of the four-footed beasts separated themselves from the others and galloped off into the forest. A few minutes later a howl was heard, sounding from the depths of the underwood, and half an hour afterwards one of the wolves reappeared dragging with it a fine kid which left behind it a long trail of blood on the grass. The wolf laid the animal at Thibault’s feet, who delighted beyond measure at seeing his wishes, not only accomplished, but forestalled, broke up the kid, giving each of the wolves an equal share, and keeping the back and haunches for himself. Then with the gesture of an Emperor, which showed that he now at last understood the position he held, he ordered the wolves away until the morrow.” __(9.4)__ Thibault sells the meat to an Innkeeper in town, the next day he brings half a boar, and soon Thibault is the Innkeeper’s main meat supplier. Now instead of making shoes, Thibault spends time in the taverns. “One or two of his acquaintances began to make fun of his red lock, for however assiduously he covered it with the rest of his hair, it always found a way of getting through the curls that hid it, and making itself visible. But Thibault soon gave it plainly to be understood that he would take no joking about the unfortunate disfigurement.” __(9.5)__ Then “Duke of Orleans and Madame de Montesson came to spend a few days at Villers-Cotterets.” All the nobles dressed in their most impressive clothing, and their nobility was put on magnificent display, as the aristocrats feasted, danced, and “drove out in beautiful gilt carriages bedizened with coats of arms of every colour.” Thibault eagerly looked on at their displays, and he “would ask himself why he was not one of those young lords in their embroidered coats; why he had not one of these beautiful women in their rustling satins for his mistress. Then his thoughts would turn to Agnelette and Madame Polet, and he saw them just as they were, the one a poor little peasant girl, the other nothing more than the owner of a rustic mill.” __(9.6)__ As Thibault walks home with his wolf pack, he notes his great ambitions in life, and resolves to attain to the greatness of the nobility. “At last one day he said to himself definitely that it would be the veriest folly to go on living his poor life when a power so tremendous as he now possessed, was at his disposal. From that moment he made up his mind that, no matter if his hair should grow as red as the crown of fire which is seen at night hanging over the great chimney at the glass works of Saint Gobain, he would exercise this power of his to the accomplishing of the most high-flown of his ambitions.

9.1

[Thibault Leads the Wolf Pack]

9.2

[Thibault’s Reflection on His New Situation]

9.3

[Thibault’s Command Over His Wolf Pack]

9.4

[Thibault the Meat Seller]

9.5

[Thibault’s Spectatorship of Noble Displays]

9.6

[Thibault’s Determination to Use His Power to Gain Nobility]

 

 

 

 

10

Le bailli Magloire

“Maitre Magloire”

 

__(10.1)__ (Recall from section 9 that Thibault the sabot-maker, who made a pact with the devil, became a leader of the wolves in the forest, who do his bidding, and he vows to use his pact to rise to nobility.) Thibault begins the new year by charging more for the meat his wolves catch for him, and thus his material conditions have improved. He always has money in his pocket, and he dresses better, looking no longer “like a wooden shoe-maker’s apprentice, but like some well-to-do farmer, or even a comfortable citizen, carrying on a trade maybe, but simply for his own pleasure.”  But although his “body might seem in good plight, the soul was already alarmingly compromised.” __(10.2)__ Thibault, now in his new attire, attends a village fête where they drain two ponds in such a way that a net captures all the fish as the water runs out of the pond. Spectators crowd around the pond to watch the fish get caught as the water drains (but there is the inconvenience of inhaling the marsh-gas that is released in the process). The draining water begins clear, then darkens, and when it runs black, the fish finally come out into the net. “Each fish, according to its power of resistance, struggles against the current which is bearing it along in this unusual manner. Instinctively they feel there is danger, and each strives its hardest to swim in an opposite direction; the pike struggles beside the carp which it was yesterday pursuing so hard; the perch is reconciled to the tench, and as they swim side by side, does not so much as think of taking a bite out of the flesh he finds so palatable at other times. So the Arabs at times find huddled together in the pits they dig to catch game, gazelles and jackals, antelopes and hyenas, the jackals and hyenas having grown as gentle and as timid as the gazelles and antelopes.” The fish are then gathered by pickers-up, who put them into baskets or tanks, depending on whether the fish will be sold alive or dead or otherwise keep alive for restocking. The capture of each fish brings delight to the onlookers. “As in a well-ordered review, the troops file past in order, according to their weight, if we may use the expression, first the fight sharp-shooters, then the somewhat heavier dragoons, and finally the ponderous cuirassiers and heavy artillery to bring up the rear, so the fish sweep by according to their several species; the smallest, that is the weakest, first, the heaviest, that is the strongest, last. At last the moment comes when the water ceases to flow; the passage is literally obstructed by the remainder of the fish, the big-wigs of the pond, and the pickers-up have veritable monsters to fight with. This is the supreme moment. Now comes the climax of applause, the last vociferous bravos. Then, the play being over, everyone goes to examine the actors; the latter are mostly lying gasping to death on the grass of the field, while a certain number are recovering themselves in the water.” The eels burrow into the mud but days later surface and are caught. __(10.3)__ People from all around were invited to the fête. Thibault no longer needs to make shoes and instead has the wolves work for him by hunting game that he sells. So he attends and pushes his way to the front of the crowd. In doing so, “he happened to rumple the dress of a tall, fine woman” who then calls Thibault a lout. But in admiration of her beauty, Thibault merely tries to apologize to her. She is accompanied by a short plump man serving as her protector (who we later learn is her husband). He says to her, “Gently, Madame Magloire! gently, Madame Bailiff! [...] those were ugly words to use to the poor fellow, who is more sorry than you are for the accident.” She defends her actions to this other man, whom she calls “Monsieur Magloire.” Thibault apologizes to her more directly and graciously, saying, “when you turned your face towards me, its wonderful beauty dazzled me like a ray of May sunshine, so that I could not see where I was treading.” The lady “only responded with a haughty little pouting of the mouth,” because she “detected at once to what class he belonged.” Her husband however is quite pleased by Thibault’s complementary attitude and remarks, and he invites Thibault to accompany them home for wine. Madame Magloire notes that Monsieur Magloire (whom she also calls Master Népomucène) will take any opportunity to drink, although the doctor forbids him from drinking between meals. Monsieur Magloire says to her (whom he also calls Suzanne) that they should make an exception for the “agreeable young fellow” Thibault and that if she agrees, he will buy her “that figured silk dress, which you have been wishing for so long.” She eagerly accepts and takes Thibault’s arm. Monsieur Magloire is a magistrate (a bailiff), and the crowd parts deferentially before him as they exit. Thibault thinks about this new companionship and “all the advantages to be drawn from the good fortune which had so unexpectedly befallen him, and which he had so long desired.” The three arrive at “the village of Erneville, which is situated about a mile and a half from the Poudron ponds. It was here, in this charming village, which lies half-way between Haramont and Bonneuil, within a stone’s throw or two of the Castle of Vez, the dwelling of my lord the Baron, that Monsieur Magloire sat as magistrate.”

10.1

[Thibault’s Improved Material Conditions]

10.2

[The Drawing of the Ponds, Fish Catch Spectacle]

10.3

[Thibault’s Fortuitous Encounter with Monsieur and Madame Magloire]

 

 

 

 

11

David et Goliath

“David and Goliath”

 

__(11.1)__ (Recall from section 10 that Thibault the sabot-maker is accompanying Monsieur Magloire the bailiff and his wife who will host him over wine.) Bailiff Népomucène Magloire welcomes Thibault into his home. Madame Magliore notices how stunned Thibault is with the nice furnishings of the house. Instead of hosting Thibault, she retires to her room. Before departing, she wishes Thibault find his way home well, “ending her speech with a smile which displayed a row of charming teeth. Thibault responded with so much lively pleasure in his voice that it rendered any roughness of speech less noticeable, swearing that he would sooner lose the power to eat and drink than the remembrance of a lady who was as courteous as she was beautiful.” Monsieur Magloire is relieved at her absence, as it will allow the two men to get on with their wine drinking. Monsieur Magloire goes to the wine cellar to pick the wine. He brings back sparkling Sillery, a very old Chambertin, and a bottle of Hermitage. They go now to the dining room where the maid Perrine has laid out a “little supper [...] quite a simple one, and yet it pleases me more, I am sure, than would have Belshazzar’s feast [le festin de Balthazar].” (This feast is discussed in chapter 11 of Maurice Leblanc’s La vie extravagante de Balthazar.) The table is full of a variety of modest but very appetizing foods. Previously Monsieur Magloire sent the maid Perrine to ask if Madame Magliore would join them. When she returns now to say Madame Magliore will not join on account of a sick-headache, Monsieur Magloire rejoices at the prospect of enjoying the dinner and especially the wine without restraint. They proceed to enjoy their dinner and wine with relish. __(11.2)__ As they continue dining, Thibault learns about Monsieur Népomucène Magloire’s past. He was from an early age and for thirty years the “head-cook with Louis’ son, his Highness the Duke of Orleans.” He grew so fat by the age of 55 that out of fear of getting stuck in a doorway or passage, he asked permission to resign. The Duke is grateful for his long and competent service and promises him a healthy retirement income of a thousand livres a month along with Magloire’s pick of some of the Duke’s furniture. Madame Suzanne Magliore is his fourth wife, whom he married for her exceptional beauty. She does not care for Monsieur Magloire’s wine drinking and “did everything she could, even using physical force, to prevent his too frequent visits to the cellar.” She loves fine clothing. While Monsieur Magloire speaks of her better traits, Thibault reflects on her beauty. When it is Thibault’s turn to talk about himself, he “felt that it was very necessary to disguise the truth; and accordingly gave himself out as a man living at ease in the country, on the revenues of two farms and of a hundred acres of land, situated near Vertefeuille. There was, he continued, a splendid warren on these hundred acres, with a wonderful supply of red and fallow deer, boars, partridges, pheasants and hares, of which the bailiff should have some to taste.” Monsieur Magloire is excited at the prospect of enjoying Thibault’s venison. They finish their seventh bottle of wine, and Monsieur Magloire  affectionately sends Thibault off with the promise of them seeing each other tomorrow. __(11.3)__ It is midnight, and Thibault is a little drunk from all the wine. “What followed next was as vague and mysterious to him as the phantasmagoria of a dream.” He leans against a wall below a window. A large man exits that window, presumably leaving his lover secretly, using Thibault’s shoulders like a ladder. Thibault resents this and confronts the man, who then calls Thibault a drunk and idiot. Thibault says he wants to punch the man, and instantly the man punches Thibault first in the face. They exchange blows until Thibault falls to the ground. He throws a stone at the man’s head, who then collapses unconscious or dead. “Not knowing whether he had killed, or only wounded his adversary, Thibault took to his heels and fled, not even turning to look behind him.”

11.1

[Monsieur Magloire Hosting Thibault for Dinner and Wine

11.2

[Thibault’s and Monsieur Magloire’s Dinner Conversation]

11.3

[Thibault’s Fight with a Stranger]

 

 

 

 

12

Deux loups dans la bergerie

“Wolves in the Sheep Fold”

 

__(12.1)__ (Recall from section 11 that Thibault the sorcerer made friends with the Bailiff Monsieur Népomucène Magloire and his beautiful wife Madame Suzanne Magloire. He drank wine and dined with Monsieur Magloire and will probably see them again soon. On the way home, by chance he enters into a fist fight with a stranger, ending with the other man falling dead or unconscious.) Thibault walks home through the woods, accompanied by his wolf companions. Thibault thinks to himself that it would be great if Monsieur Magloire died and he could marry Madame Magloire. But Thibault does not want to kill Monsieur Magloire, because he treated him so well. He thinks instead that Monsieur Magloire’s glutenous eating habits will kill him before long, and all the while he will have “already acquired some rights over Madame Suzanne”. He says (perhaps as a wish for the Wolf-Devil): “no illness, no death! but just those ordinary disagreeables which happen to everybody; only, as it is to be to my advantage, I should like rather more than the usual share to fall to him; one cannot at his age set up for a smart young buck; no, every one according to their dues ... and when these things come to pass, I will give you more than a thank you, Cousin Wolf’.” The next day, “He was hatching a plot.” He will gain the best game possible for his new friend and rival Monsieur Magloire. “He tracked the deer to its lair, the wild boar to its soil, the hare to its form; and followed their traces to discover where they went at night.” That night, Thibault “explained that he expected a more than usually fine night’s hunting from his friends, and as an encouragement to them, announced his intention of going with them himself and giving his help in the chase. It was in very truth a hunt beyond the power of words to describe. The whole night through did the sombre glades of the forest resound with hideous cries. Here, a roebuck pursued by a wolf, fell, caught by the throat by another wolf hidden in ambush; there, Thibault, knife in hand like a butcher, was running to the assistance of three or four of his ferocious companions, that had already fastened on a fine young boar of four years old, which he now finished off.” They also catch hare and partridges. “In a couple of hours’ time the wolves had heaped up a perfect cart-load of game in front of Thibault’s hut. Thibault selected what he wanted for his own purposes, and left over sufficient to provide them a sumptuous repast.” Thibault sells some of the meat to a gamedealer, reserving the best for his gift. He pays a peasant to deliver the gift first, and Thibault will arrive as they dine on it later. __(12.2)__ When Thibault arrives, Monsieur Magloire is overjoyed seeing the table full of such great game food. Monsieur Magloire tells his wife Madame Suzanne to thank Thibault by for this wonderous gift by shaking his hands and embracing him, which she did, also allowing Thibault to kiss her.  To show her gratitude, Madame Suzanne says Thibault should not go home until they finished with all this food he brought them. This delights Thibault. They then have some vermouth to ready their appetite. Madame Suzanne changes her clothes, returning in a dazzling dress. During the meal, “Not only did he cast frequent and unmistakable sheep’s eyes at his fair hostess, but he gradually brought his knee nearer to hers, and finally went so far as to give it a gentle pressure.” Suddenly Madame Suzanne “went off into such a violent fit of laughter, that she almost choked, and nearly went into hysterics.” Monsieur Magloire then notices Thibault’s streaks of brilliantly colored red hair, and, thinking his hair is on fire, gets ready to throw water on it. Thibault realizes that he forgot to fix his hair to hide the alarming red locks. In fact, “he had during this short period given vent to so many little wishes, one here, and one there, all more or less to the detriment of his neighbour, that the flame-coloured hairs had multiplied to an alarming extent, and at this moment, any one of them could vie in brilliancy with the light from the two wax candles which lit the room.” Thibault explains the red hair with a lie: “it came from a fright my mother had with a pan of hot coals, that nearly set her hair on fire before I was born.” Madame Suzanne must control her laughter and notes it is strange she did not notice the hair until now, thinking his hair was just “as black as my velvet mantle.” After a little more conversation, Monsieur Magloire returns them to their feast. While eating, Madame Suzanne keeps noticing Thibault’s red hair with a mocking look. “He was very much annoyed at this, and, in spite of himself, he kept putting up his hand to try and hide the unfortunate lock under the rest of his hair. But the hairs were not only unusual in colour, but also of a phenomenal stiffness—it was no longer human hair, but horse-hair [Ce n’étaient plus des cheveux, – c’était du crin]. In vain Thibault endeavoured to hide the devil’s hairs [les cheveux du diable] beneath his own, nothing, not even the hair-dresser’s tongs could have induced them to lie otherwise than in the way which seemed natural to them. But although so occupied with thinking of his hair, Thibault’s legs still continued their tender manœuvres; and although Madame Magloire made no response to their solicitations, she apparently had no wish to escape from them, and Thibault was presumptuously led to believe that he had achieved a conquest.” __(12.3)__ The dining continues with Monsieur Magloire getting very drunk. Thibault decides he should “declare his love to the Bailiff’s wife without delay, judging it a good opportunity to speak while the husband was heavy with drink.” He announces that he would like to retire. They all leave the table, and the maid Perrine takes Thibault to his room. On the walk there, he asks where his room is, where Monsieur Magloire’s is, and also where Madame Magloire’s is. “The Bailiff’s room, and his wife’s, communicated with one another by an inner door; Thibault’s room had access to the corridor only.” While Madame Suzanne helps Monsieur Magloire into bed in his room, Thibault sneaks into Suzanne’s room. “The door opened; the room was in total darkness. But having for so long consorted with wolves, Thibault had acquired some of their characteristics, and, among others, that of being able to see in the dark.” He hides behind a window curtain. “After waiting a quarter of an hour, during which time Thibault’s heart beat so violently that the sound of it, fatal omen! reminded him of the click-clack of the mill-wheel at Croyolles, Madame Suzanne entered the room.” Out of fear of surprising her and making her call out, he decides to “wait until Monsieur Magloire was asleep beyond all power of being awakened”. But instead of going into bed, Madame Suzanne “had taken up her position before the mirror of her Pompadour table, and was decking herself out as if she were going to a festival or preparing to make one of a procession. She tried on ten veils before making choice of one. She arranged the folds of her dress. She fastened a triple row of pearls round her neck. Then she loaded her arms with all the bracelets she possessed. Finally she dressed her hair with the minutest care.” Just then, a large man climbs through her window. This reminds Thibault of the man he fought who was leaving by a window after his last visit, using Thibault as a ladder (see section 11.3). Thibault recognizes the man’s voice as that very man he fought. She says that she did not want to leave him waiting out in the cold, but they had a guest. They kiss. He goes to warm up by the fire, and she joins him. The man asks about the guest, and she says it was the same drunken man he encountered the night before. The man begins to vow to harm Thibault next chance he gets, but Suzanne tries to calm him: “ ‘My lord,’ responded Suzanne, in a voice as soft as music, ‘you must not harbour evil designs against your enemies; on the contrary, you must forgive them as we are taught to do by our Holy Religion’.” The man then says that actually Thibault is the reason for their love affair, because she saw him faint and had him brought into their home: “And so, this good-for-nothing fellow, this contemptible scamp, is after all the source of all good, for all the good of life for me is in your love; nevertheless if ever he comes within reach of my whip, he will not have a very pleasant time of it.” Madame Suzanne then says that Thibault is trying to woo her. The man becomes enraged: “What! that boor, that low rascal! Where is he? Where does he hide himself? By Beelzebub [Par Belzébuth]! I’ll throw him to my dogs to eat!” Thibault then recognizes the man’s voice. It is the Baron of Vez. Madame Suzanne calms him by saying, “your lordship is the only person whom I love, and even were it not so, a man with a lock of red hair right in the middle of his forehead is not the one to whom I should give away my heart.” This reminds Thibault of Madame Suzanne’s laughter over the red hair at dinner and drives him to call upon the Wolf-Devil’s aid: “ ‘Ah! traitress!’ he exclaimed to himself, ‘what would I not give for your husband, your good, upright husband, to walk in at this moment and surprise you.’ Scarcely was the wish uttered, when the door of communication between Suzanne’s room and that of Monsieur Magloire was thrown wide open, and in walked her husband with an enormous night-cap on his head, which made him look nearly five feet high, and holding a lighted candle in his hand.  ‘Ah! ah!’ muttered Thibault. ‘Well done! It’s my turn to laugh now, Madame Magloire’.”

12.1

[Thibault’s Great Hunt, a Fantastic Gift for the Magliore’s]

12.2

[The Magloire’s Sudden Discovery of Thibault’s Red Hair]

12.3

[Thibault’s Discovery of Vez as Madame Suzanne’s Secret Lover, and His Calling for the Wolf-Devil to Make Monsieur Magloire Find Them Together]

 

 

 

 

13

Où il est prouvé qu’une femme ne parle jamais plus éloquemment que lorsqu’elle ne parle pas

“Where It Is Demonstrated That a Woman Never Speaks More Eloquently Than When She Holds Her Tongue”

 

__(13.1)__ (Recall from section 12 that Thibault the sorcerer spied Madame Suzanne Magloire having a tryst with the Baron of Vez and out of jealousy calls upon the Wolf-Devil to make her husband the Bailiff Monsieur Magloire enter to find the two illicit lovers.) Susanne whispers something to Vez, but Thibault does not hear it. What he does see is that Suzanne “appeared to totter, and then fell back into her lover’s arms, as if in a dead faint.” Vez and Monsieur Magloire have rather cordial greetings. Vez says they should attend to the seeming unconscious Suzanne. The Baron tells the lie that he saw her in her window making signs of distress. She did not call for Monsieur Magloire, because that would endanger his life. Vez continues to say that she was afraid of Thibault, who was secretly trying to romance her by touching her under the dinner table (which is coincidentally true, see section 12.2). Then, according to Vez’s false story, Susanne came to her room after putting Monsieur Magloire to bed. She then panicked and made her distress signals, which Vez noticed outside. She then told Vez to come because there is a man in her room. He entered, and that is when she fainted into his arms. They then burn a feather under Suzanne’s nose to make her wake from her spell, and she comes to life. She claims to have had a bad dream. They say it really happened. She asks Vez if he told her husband about Thibault fondling her knee under the dinner table. Vez confirms this, which angers Monsieur Magloire. She says Thibault also tried to kiss her against her will at the table while Monsieur Magloire’s eyes were shut. She continues to explain that when she came into her room, she thought she saw the window curtain move, and thinking Thibault to be hiding behind it, she called at the window for help. This enrages Monsieur Magloire: “ ‘Oh! the vile rascal!’ roared the Bailiff, taking hold of the Baron’s sword which the latter had laid on a chair, and drawing it out of the scabbard, then, running toward the window which his wife had indicated, ‘He had better not be behind these curtains, or I will spit him like a woodcock,’ and with this he gave one or two lunges with the sword against the window hangings.” He stops while doing so, upon seeing that hiding behind the curtain was Thibault, who had proven “himself a false friend.” After Monsieur Magloire lifts the curtain to reveal Thibault, “His wife and the Lord of Vez had both been participators in the unexpected vision, and both uttered a cry of surprise. In telling their tale so well, they had had no idea that they were so near the truth.” Vez is furthered surprised to see it is Thibault, whom he confronts and accuses of poaching on Monsieur Magloire’s  grounds. He then exposes Thibault’s lie that he is a landowner (see section 11.2) and reveals that he is a lowly sabot-maker. “Madame Suzanne, on hearing Thibault thus classified, made a gesture of scorn and contempt, while Maître Magloire drew back a step, while the colour mounted to his face” upon realizing that “he had drunk in company with a liar and a traitor.” __(13.2)__ Thibault replies in a way that suggests he could expose Vez’s and Suzanne’s love affair. Suzanne tries to prevent that by saying Thibault will speak falsely about them out of his resentment for his unrequited love for her. Vez then goes to strike Thibault with his sword. Monsieur Magloire intervenes, stopping the blow from happening and thereby preventing Thibault from uttering “some terrible wish which would avert the danger from him.” Monsieur Magloire says he forgives Thibault. Then Suzanne begins to cry loudly. Monsieur Magloire responds by pledging his unbreakable love and loyalty to Suzanne, saying he would forgive anything about her no matter what. Suzanne responds to this speech by throwing herself at Monsieur Magloire’s feet, and Vez is also moved and tells Monsieur Magloire that “if I have ever had a thought of doing you wrong, may God forgive me for it! I can safely swear, whatever happens, that I shall never have such another again.” All the while, “Thibault’s heart was swelling with rage and hatred; himself unaware of the rapid growth of evil within him, he was fast growing, from a selfish and covetous man, into a wicked one. Suddenly, his eyes flashing, he cried aloud: ‘I do not know what holds me back from putting a terrible end to all this!’ On hearing this exclamation, which had all the character of a menace in it, the Baron and Suzanne understood it to mean that some great and unknown and unexpected danger was hanging over everybody’s heads.” Vez again tries to strike Thibault with his sword, and Monsieur Magloire intervenes, saying another sin will not take the first one away, and he asks Vez to allow Thibault to leave the house unharmed. Vez agrees but notes that Thibault is rumored to be a sorcerer and will have his hut destroyed if true: “ ‘So be it!’ answered the Baron, ‘I shall meet him again. All kinds of bad reports are about concerning him, and poaching is not the only harm reported of him; he has been seen and recognised running the forest along with a pack of wolves and astonishingly tame wolves at that [accompagné de loups singulièrement apprivoisés]—. It’s my opinion that the scoundrel [le drôle] does not always spend his midnights at home, but sits astride a broom-stick oftener than becomes a good Catholic; the owner of the mill at Croyolles has made complaint of his wizardries [ses maléfices]. However, we will not talk of it any more now; I shall have his hut searched, and if everything there is not as it should be, the wizard’s hole [ce bouge de sorcellerie] shall be destroyed, for I will not allow it to remain on his Highness’s territory. And now, take yourself off, and that quickly!’ ” Thibault leaves and enters the dark forest, plunging “into its depths,” “guided solely by chance.”

13.1

[The Exposure of Thibault’s Treachery by the Other Traitors]

13.2

[Accusations of Thibault’s Sorcery. His Departure.]

 

 

 

 

14

Une noce de village

“A Village Wedding”

 

__(14.1)__ (Recall from section 13 that Thibault the sorcerer was kicked out of Monsieur Magloire’s house after being discovered hiding in his wife’s bedroom as part of Thibault’s scheme to win her. He next enters the forest.) Upon entering the forest, “he found himself surrounded by his wolves. He was pleased to see them again; he slackened his pace; he called to them; and the wolves came crowding round him. Thibault caressed them as a shepherd might his sheep, as a keeper of the hounds his dogs. They were his flock, his hunting pack [sa meute]; a flock with flaming eyes, a pack [meute] with looks of fire.” Owls perch above. Thibault is “in the middle of it all, the centre of the devilish circle [un cercle infernal].” Like the wolves, the owls seem to be attracted to Thibault. He notes that “I am not then the enemy of all created things; if men hate me, the animals love me.” Thibault “had become among men, what they were among animals; a creature of the night! a man of prey! With all these animals together, he could not do an atom of good; but, on the other hand, he could do a great deal of harm. Thibault smiled at the thought of the harm he could do.” He realizes he is too tired to finish his trip home, so he decides to rest in a great and ancient oak tree’s hollow, which “was as large as an ordinarily sized room; but the entrance to it barely allowed a man to pass through.” He takes his place on a soft seat inside, “and bidding good night to his wolves and his screech owls, he closed his eyes and fell asleep, or at least appeared to do so. The wolves lay down in a circle round the tree; the owls perched in the branches. With these lights spread around its trunk, with these lights scattered about its branches, the oak had the appearance of a tree lit up for some infernal revel [fête infernale].” __(14.2)__ Thibault awakes the next day to the sound of a band playing merry music and approaching his tree. But “all this up-springing of happiness, brought no calmer thoughts back to Thibault, but rather increased the anger and bitterness of his feelings. He would have liked the whole world to be as dark and gloomy as was his own soul.  On first detecting the sounds of the approaching rural band, he thought of running away from it; but a power, stronger than his will, as it seemed to him, held him rooted to the spot; so he hid himself in the hollow of the oak and waited.” After hearing other sounds like a gun firing, he realizes there is a village wedding, and he then sees this is the procession. Among them he notices some “keepers in the service of the lord of Vez. Then came Engoulevent, the second huntsman, giving his arm to an old blind woman, who was decked out with ribands like the others; then the major-domo of the Castle of Vez, as representative probably of the father of the little huntsman, giving his arm to the bride.” Thibault stares at he bride “with wild fixed eyes,” surprised to learn that she is Agnelette! He is humiliated to see that she is so joyful, despite marrying someone other than himself. “But the chief cause of Agnelette’s happiness and smiles was not the great love she felt towards the man who was to become her husband, but her contentment at having found what she so ardently desired, that which Thibault had wickedly promised to her without really wishing to give her,—someone who would help her to support her blind old grandmother.” The procession “passed along the road within twenty paces of Thibault, without observing the head with its flaming hair and the eyes with their fiery gleam, looking out from the hollow of the tree.” After they pass by, Thibault becomes enflamed with jealousy, even though he had no real intention of keeping his promises to her: “a new fire of hell had been lighted in his heart the worst of the fires of hell; that which gnaws at the vitals like the sharpest serpent’s tooth, and corrodes the blood like the most destructive poison—the fire of jealousy. [un enfer nouveau venait de s’allumer dans son cœur ; le plus terrible de tous, celui dont les serpents mordent le cœur avec les dents les plus aiguës et infiltrent le poison le plus corrosif : L’enfer de la jalousie !]” Thibault “persuaded himself that Agnelette was engaged to him by oath, that Engoulevent was carrying off what belonged to him.” Thibault then falls into a rueful despair: “He bit his fists, he knocked his head against the sides of the tree, and finally began to cry and sob. But they were not those tears and sobs which gradually soften the heart and are often kindly agents in dispersing a bad humour and reviving a better one; no, they were tears and sobs arising rather from anger than from regret, and these tears and sobs had no power to drive the hatred out of Thibault’s heart. As some of his tears fell visibly adown his face, so it seemed that others fell on his heart within like drops of gall.” Although Thibault in that state could have wished the bride and groom die at the alter, “God, who was reserving the two children for other trials, did not allow this fatal wish to formulate itself in Thibault’s mind.” __(14.3)__ Thibault rushes home. Then “he went into his hut as a tiger might enter its den, closed the door behind him, and went and crouched down in the darkest corner he could find in his miserable lodging. There, his elbows on his knees, his chin on his hands, he sat and thought. And what thoughts were they which occupied this unhappy, desperate man? Ask of Milton what were Satan’s thoughts after his fall [Demandez à Milton quelles furent les pensées de Satan après sa chute]. He went over again all the old questions which had upset his mind from the beginning, which had brought despair upon so many before him, and would bring despair to so many that came after him. Why should some be born in bondage and others be born to power? Why should there be so much inequality with regard to a thing which takes place in exactly the same way in all classes—namely birth? By what means can this game of nature’s, in which chance for ever holds the cards against mankind, be made a fairer one? And is not the only way to accomplish this, to do what the clever gamester —get the devil to back him up [en mettant le diable de leur côté ]?” He notes that cheating as he had with the devil’s help never worked: “Each time he had held a good hand, each time he had felt sure of the game, it was the devil [le diable] after all who had won.” For, with the devil’s supernatural aid, he lost Agnelette, Madame Poulet the Miller, and Madame Magloire. He also caused the death of Marcotte without even getting the buck he hunted, which was his original ambition. “And then this rapid multiplication of devil’s hairs [cheveux diaboliques] was appalling! He recalled the tale of the philosopher who asked for a grain of wheat, multiplied by each of the sixty-four squares of the chess board—the abundant harvests of a thousand years were required to fill the last square. And he—how many wishes yet remained to him?—seven or eight at the outside. The unhappy man dared not look at himself either in the spring which lurked at the foot of one of the trees in the forest, or in the mirror that hung against the wall. He feared to render an exact account to himself of the time still left to him in which to exercise his power; he preferred to remain in the night of uncertainty than to face that terrible dawn which must rise when the night was over.” Yet Thibault holds onto the belief that were he educated enough, he would be able to figure out a way to cause misfortune to others in a way that brought himself wealth and happiness. But the example of Faust suggests otherwise: “Poor fool! If he had been a man of learning, he would have known the legend of Doctor Faust. To what did the omnipotence conferred on him by Mephistopheles [Méphistophélès] lead Faust, the dreamer, the thinker, the pre-eminent scholar? To the murder of Valentine! to Margaret’s suicide! to the pursuit of Helen of Troy, the pursuit of an empty shadow!” Thibault is especially angered that Agnelette’s groom is “That wretched little Engoulevent, the man who had spied him out when he was perched in the tree, who had found his boar-spear in the bush, which had been the cause of the stripes he had received from Marcotte. Ah! if he had but known! to him and not to Marcotte would he have willed that evil should befall! What was the physical torture he had undergone from the blows of the strap compared to the moral torture he was enduring now.” The narrator notes that had Thibault not become overcome with ambition and pride, he could have lived a happy life as a workman married to Agnelette; for he was Agnelette’s first love. While the wedding party feasts, Thibault resentfully is left with bread, water, and solitude in his hut. He then realizes that his money can buy a nice meal at the fine restaurant Dauphin d’Or, which he heads off to.

14.1

[Thibault’s Sleeping in an Oak Tree]

14.2

[Thibault’s Learning of Agnelette's Wedding with Engoulevent]

14.3

[Thibault’s Brooding, Jealous Regret and His Decision to Dine Out at a Fine Restaurant]

 

 

 

 

15

Le seigneur de Vauparfond

“The Lord of Vauparfond”

 

__(15.1)__ (Recall from section 14 that Thibault was upset upon seeing his once potential fiancée Agnelette marrying Engoulevent, the head of the keepers of the hounds for Thibault’s enemy, the Baron of Vez. He decided to go to town to the restaurant Dauphin d’Or for a nice meal instead of stewing at home in his misery.) At the Dauphin d’Or restaurant, he orders the best meal he can think of ordering. And instead of eating in a private room, he decides to eat with others to make them envy his better food and wine. Thibault then sees Auguste François Levasseur, valet to Raoul the Lord of Vauparfond. Thibault loudly tries to get François to join him for dinner, but François tries to hush Thibault, explaining that “I am here as proxy in a love affair for my master, and I am waiting for a letter from a lady to carry back to him.” They arrange to dine privately upstairs, and they discuss how François is a “grey-coat,” because he “is a liveried servant, who puts on a grey overall to hide his livery, while he stands sentinel behind a pillar, or mounts guard inside a doorway.” He is awaiting another grey-coat, named Champagne, from his master’s mistress, Comtesse de Mont-Gobert. They discuss her beauty and then notice Champagne outside. They call him up. Because the lovers will have a meeting, that gives the grey-coats their own free time for a while. They toast to love affairs, but Thibault expresses his bitterness about the lack of love in his life: “ ‘As to myself,’ said the shoe-maker, a look of hatred to his fellow creatures passing over his face, ‘I am the only person who loves nobody, and whom nobody loves.” Thibault’s companions then ask if the rumors about Thibault being a were-wolf are true. Thibault laughs and notes that he does not look like like a were-wolf: “‘‘Tell me, now, have I a tail?’ he said, ‘have I a wolf’s claws, have I a wolf’s snout?’ ” But when he next toasts their drinks of wine to the devil, his companions become superstitious: “ ‘To the health of the devil [À la santé du diable] who provides it, gentlemen.’ The two men who were holding their glasses in their hand, put both glasses down on the table. ‘What is that for?’ asked Thibault. ‘You must find someone else to drink that health with you,’ said François [...]’ ” Thibault then drinks their wines, which the companions seemingly think is now cursed. The companions announce they must depart, but Thibault says they should have a stirrup-cup first. They say they cannot drink from the (cursed) wine glasses, so Thibault jokes that they “better call the sacristan and have them washed in holy water.” Instead they ask the waiter for fresh glasses. But given what happens next with the cursed wine glasses, the companions’ superstition was proven right: “ ‘These three, then,’ said Thibault, who was beginning to feel the effects of the wine he had drunk, ‘are fit for nothing more than to be thrown out of window? To the devil with you!’ he exclaimed as he took up one of them and sent it flying. As the glass went through the air it left a track of light behind it, which blazed and went out like a flash of lightning. Thibault took up the two remaining glasses and threw them in turn, and each time the same thing happened, but the third flash was followed by a loud peal of thunder. Thibault shut the window, and was thinking, as he turned to his seat again, how he should explain this strange occurrence to his companions; but his two companions had disappeared.” __(15.2)__ Thibault then drinks the rest of the wine from the bottle, pays his bill, and leaves. He resents his cursed lot, but resolves to still get “the pleasures of the damned” that are uniquely available to him: “He was in an angry disposition of enmity against all the world; the thoughts from which he had hoped to escape possessed him more and more. Agnelette was being taken farther and farther from him as the time went by; everyone, wife or mistress, had someone to love them. This day which had been one of hatred and despair to him, had been one full of the promise of joy and happiness for everybody else; the lord of Vauparfond, the two wretched valets, François and Champagne, each of them had a bright star of hope to follow; while he, he alone, went stumbling along in the darkness. Decidedly there was a curse upon him. ‘But,’ he went on thinking to himself, ‘if so, the pleasures of the damned [les plaisirs des maudits] belong to me, and I have a right to claim them’.” While walking to his hut, a man riding a galloping horse comes behind him. It is Raoul the Lord of Vauparfond, who is riding swiftly to his meeting with his mistress Comtesse de Mont-Gobert (which we learned about in section 15.1). Thibault does not get out of Raoul’s way quick enough, and the rider “brought his whip down upon him in a violent blow, calling out at the same time: ‘Get out of the way, you beggar, if you don’t wish to be trampled under the horse’s feet!’ ” Thibault then “rose to his knees, furious with anger, and shaking his fist at the retreating figure: ‘Would the devil [Mais, au nom du diable],’ he exclaimed, ‘I might just for once have my turn at being one of you great lords, might just for twenty-four hours take your place, Monsieur Raoul de Vauparfond, instead of being only Thibault, the shoe-maker, so that I might know what it was to have a fine horse to ride, instead of tramping on foot; might be able to whip the peasants I met on the road, and have the opportunity of paying court to these beautiful women, who deceive their husbands, as the Comtesse de Mont-Gobert does!’ The words were hardly out of his mouth, when the Baron’s horse shied, throwing the rider over its head.

15.1

[Thibault’s Revealing of His Sorcery to His Dinner Companions]

15.2

[Thibault’s Bedeviled Encounter with Rider Raoul]

 

 

 

 

16

Une soubrette de grande dame

“My Lady’s Lady”

 

(Image from archive.org)

 

__(16.1)__ (Recall from section 15 that Thibault the sorcerer was whipped by Raoul the Lord of Vauparfond, who was riding swiftly to his meeting with his mistress Comtesse de Mont-Gobert. Thibault uses his pact with the devil to wish that he could be a noble for a day, upon which Raoul falls from his horse.) Thibault runs to the fallen Monsieur Raoul de Vauparfond, finding him lying unconscious. Remarkably, “this figure was not in the dress of a gentleman, but clothed like a peasant, and, what was more, the clothes he had on seemed to Thibault to be the same as he himself had been wearing only a moment before.” Moreover, he is surprised to see that he now is wearing the fine costume of a noble. Even his workman’s walking stick and staff weapon is now “a light whip, with which he gave a cut through the air, listening with a sense of aristocratic pleasure to the whistling sound it made.” He also has “a hunting-knife, half-sword, half-dagger.” He wants to see his face in the mirror, but must first get his key from the fallen person’s pocket. His hut is dark, and while trying to light his candle, which is merely, “an end stuck into an empty bottle,” he complains (like an arrogant nobleman) “ ‘Pah!’ he said, ‘what pigs these peasants are! I wonder how they can live in this dirty sort of way!’ ” When he could finally see himself in the mirror, “he uttered a cry of astonishment, it was no longer himself that he saw, or rather, although it was still Thibault in spirit, it was no longer Thibault in body. His spirit had entered into the body of a handsome young man of twenty-five or twenty-six years of age, with blue eyes, pink fresh cheeks, red lips, and white teeth; in short, it had entered into the body of the Baron Raoul de Vauparfond. Then Thibault re-called the wish that he had uttered in his moment of anger after the blow from the whip and his collision with the horse. His wish had been that for four and twenty hours he might be the Baron de Vauparfond, and the Baron de Vauparfond be Thibault, which now explained to him what had at first seemed inexplicable, why the unconscious man now lying in the road was dressed in his clothes and had his face.” He also realizes that the unconscious figure he left on the road is still his body. He gets it and puts it in his bed, locks the door, and hides the key in a tree hollow. __(16.2)__ Thibault is not normally an experienced rider, but he rides the horse well, because he gained some of the physical abilities of Raoul’s body. Thibault knows he is to ride to meet his mistress Comtesse de Mont-Gobert for their planned tryst, but he is not sure how it will all work, for instance how he will enter the castle; “it only remained for him to discover what to do, step by step, as he proceeded.” He then realizes he must have the letter she sent him (see section 15.1). Thibault stops to read it, but he needs a light. He asks a stable boy who first is annoyed to be awoken. Thibault, after realizing his new social power, threatens to whip the boy if he does not bring a light. The boy obeys. Thibault reads the letter, but it is cryptic and vague, particularly about where Thibault should go: “ ‘My dear Raoul, The goddess Venus has certainly taken us under her protection. A grand hunt of some kind is to take place to-morrow out in the direction of Thury; I know no particulars about it, all I do know is, that he is going away this evening. You, therefore, start at nine o’clock, so as to be here at half-past ten. Come in by the way you know; someone whom you know will be awaiting you, and will bring you, you know where. Last time you came, I don’t mean to upbraid you, but it did seem to me you stayed a long time in the corridors. Jane.” Thibault thinks it unwise to wake the Raoul in Thibault’s body, so he decides instead to trust the horse to recall the way: “He had heard a great deal about the wonderful sagacity of animals, and had himself, during his life in the country, had occasion more than once to admire their instinct, and he now determined to trust to that of his horse. Riding back into the main road, he turned the horse in the direction of Mont-Gobert, and let it have its head. The horse immediately started off at a gallop; it had evidently understood. Thibault troubled himself no further, it was now the horse’s affair to bring him safely to his destination.” When he reaches the corner of the park wall, the horse stops and is uneasy. Thibault thinks he sees two shadows, but he cannot find what made them. He thinks they might be poachers. Thibault then lets the horse continue discretely to where it knows to go. They come to a breach in the wall, which the horse climbs through, bringing them within the park. __(16.3)__ Now in the park, the horse takes him to a little hut a short distance from the castle. A girl comes out and greets him. She says to leave the horse, which will be in Cramoisi’s care, and she remarks that “we must make haste or Madame will complain again that we loiter in the corridors.” As she begins to lead Thibault to Madame Mont-Gobert, she stops, hearing someone walking on a branch. Thibault says it must be Cramoisi, and the girl notes he is her fiancé. She leads Thibault into the castle. When Thibault heads toward the great reception room, she stops him, noting that “That would give a fine opportunity to my lord the Count, truly!” As they take an alternate route, Thibault tries romancing the girl, saying “if my name this evening were Thibault instead of Raoul, I would carry you up with me to the garrets, instead of stopping on the first floor!” She hurries him up into a room at the top of the stairs.

16.1

[Thibault’s Transformation Into Raoul]

16.2

[Thibault’s Ride to the Comtesse de Mont-Gobert]

16.3

[Thibault’s Journey Into the Castle]

 

 

 

 

 

17

Le baron de Mont-Gobert

“The Baron De Mont-Gobert”

 

__(17.1)__ (Recall from section 16 that Thibault the sorcerer has taken up the body of Raoul the Lord of Vauparfond and he is sneaking into a room with his illicit lover the Comtesse de Mont-Gobert.) The room he enters is lavishly furnished and adorned, and Thibault is deeply impressed, even wondering “Were there really men and women in the world, so blessed by fortune as to live in such surroundings as these? Had he not been carried to some wizard’s castle [le château de quelque génie], to some fairy’s palace [le palais de quelque fée]? And those who enjoyed such favour as this, what special good had they done? what special evil had they done [fait de mal], who were deprived of these advantages?” The beautiful and richly adorned Countess appears. Thibault falls to his knees before her. She thinks this is fitting given his crimes, that is, for him “having the blackest soul and the falsest heart ever hidden beneath such a gay and golden exterior. Now, get up, and come and give an account of yourself to me.” He gets up and kisses her hand. She asks what he has done since their last meeting five days ago. In their conversation where Thibault must do a lot of guessing and playing along, we learn that the Countess suspects him of romancing the girl Lisette who helps him to her room in secret, and this is what was meant by her anger over his loitering in the corridors (see section 16.2 and 16.3). She asks, “Where had you been the other night, when you were met on the road between Erneville and Villers-Cotterets?” Thibault says he was fishing at the drawing the Berval ponds and afterward dining with the Baron at Vez. She then forgives him for all this. Thibault asks if he committed an even blacker crime. She says yes, yesterday at the Duke of Orleans’ ball where Thibault “danced four times with Madame de Bonneuil.” Thibault, in trying to win over the Countess, falls to his knees before her. __(17.2)__ Just then, Lisette rushed alarmed into the room. She says urgently that Thibault (Raoul) must save himself, because the count is coming with his huntsman Lestocq. The Countess thinks that she has been set-up by her husband to catch her with her illicit lover. Thibault suggests they kill the Count. The Countess instead says he should run. Lisette takes Thibault away just before someone comes to the room. She navigates him through a series of backways until he finally exits through a window. He jumps on his horse, but instead of taking Thibault away, it collapses. Thibault realizes that the Count hamstrung it to prevent his escape. “Thibault uttered an oath: ‘If I ever meet you, Monsieur Comte de Mont-Gobert,’ he said, ‘I swear that I will hamstring you, as you have hamstrung this poor beast!’” Thibault tries to escape on foot through the breach in the wall he originally came through (see section 16.2). But as he exits, he faces the Count, who is ready for him with his sword. The Count calls for him to draw his sword to fight, but Thibault draws his hunting-knife instead (see section 16.1). They fight. Thibault fights with the great skill of Raoul’s body. They continue until Thibault finally cuts into the Count’s shoulder, causing him to drop his sword and fall to the ground, crying for help from Lestocq. Thibault, who vowed to hamstring the Count, does so, but this gives Lestocq the opportunity to put Thibault’s hunting-knife through his chest from behind. “Then he saw a cloud of blood, and knew no more.”

17.1

[Thibault’s Defenses Against the Countess’s Accusations]

17.2

[Thibault’s Failed Escape and Gruesome Fight with the Count]

 

 

 

 

18

Mort et résurrection

“Death and Resurrection”

 

__(18.1)__ (Recall from section 17 that Thibault the sorcerer had taken up the body of Raoul the Lord of Vauparfond and he was secretly visiting Raoul’s illicit lover Comtesse de Mont-Gobert. Her husband was ready for this deception and fought Thibault, resulting in the Count getting hamstrung by Thibault and Thibault being stabbed through the chest by the Count’s partner Lestocq). Thibault regains consciousness. He sees the blood from the fight, but since the Count and Lestocq are gone, he concludes Lestocq helped the Count inside and left Thibault/Raoul to die. “He had it on the tip of his tongue to hurl after them all the maledictory wishes wherewith one would like to assail one’s cruellest enemy. But since Thibault had been no longer Thibault, and indeed during the remainder of the time that he would still be the Baron Raoul, or at least so in outward appearance, his demoniacal power had been and would continue in abeyance. [Mais, depuis que Thibault n’était plus Thibault, et pour tout le temps qu’il lui restait à être encore le baron Raoul, ou du moins à se dissimuler, sous son enveloppe, tout son pouvoir fantastique était perdu.]” Thibault hopes he can stay alive until nine that night, at which time presumably he will return to his normal body. He regrets the fact that when he was originally cursing Raoul and making his wishes to the devil, he mentioned this very sort of violent encounter with the Count, and so he inadvertently brought this upon himself. Thibault tries calling to passers-by for help, “but the blood filled his mouth and nearly choked him.” He instead signals to them using his hat on his knife blade and then falls unconscious. Peasants take him to a village priest. When the Priest comes, he recognizes Raoul as a former student. A doctor arrives, examines the terrible wound, and says there is no treatment left and that Thibault/Raoul will probably die today. The Doctor dresses the wound and when leaving says he will come back tomorrow, even though probably Raoul will be dead by that time. Thibault falls into delirium. Before his mind flashes the important events of his life going back to his meeting the Wolf-Devil. When the flashbacks finally arrive at his recent attempted escape, “he found himself at a cross-road where three ways only met, and each of these was guarded by one of his victims: the first, by the spectre of a drowned man, that was Marcotte; the second, by a young man dying of fever on a hospital bed, that was Landry; the third, by a wounded man, dragging himself along on one knee, and trying in vain to stand up on his mutilated leg, that was the Comte de Mont-Gobert. He fancied that as all these things passed before him, he told the history of them one by one, and that the priest, as he listened to this strange confession, looked more like a dying man, was paler and more trembling than the man whose confession he was listening to; that he wanted to give him absolution, but that he, Thibault, pushed him away, shaking his head, and that he cried out with a terrible laugh: ‘ want no absolution! I am damned! damned! damned!’[Pas d’absolution ! je suis damné ! je suis damné ! je suis damné !]” As time passes, Thibault feels himself dying until finally he does die at “exactly one second after the half hour after nine.”

18.1

[Thibault’s Experience of Raoul’s Death]

 

 

 

 

19

Lequel était vivant, lequel était mort ?

“The Dead and the Living”

 

__(19.1)__ (Recall from section 18 that Thibault the sorcerer was temporarily in body of Raoul the Lord of Vauparfond and he just experienced his death.) Thibault awakes from his death experience in his hut, which is entirely in flames; “at first he thought it was a continuation of his nightmare, but then he heard cries of, ‘Death to the wizard! death to the sorcerer! death to the were-wolf!’ [« Mort au sorcier ! Mort au magicien ! Mort au loup-garou ! »] and he understood that some terrible attack was being made upon him.” Thibault runs out of his house with his boar spear. The attackers chase after him and shoot at him. From their dress he knows they are the Baron of Vez’s men, and he recalls the Baron’s promise of doing this (see section 13.2). “He was then beyond the pale of the law; he could be smoked out of his hole like a fox; he could be shot down like a buck.” __(19.2)__ He escapes and “sat down at the foot of a tree and buried his head in his hands. The events of the last forty-eight hours had succeeded each other with such rapidity, that there was no lack of matter to serve as subjects of reflection to the shoe-maker.” Thibault decides he should go see if Baron Raoul is really dead like how Thibault experienced it. Just then his pack of wolves gather around him. They head to town, but are seen: “The huntsmen of the Lord of Vez, who were poking up the remaining embers of the ruined hut, saw a man pass, as in a vision, running at the head of a dozen or more wolves. They crossed themselves, and became more convinced than ever that Thibault was a wizard [sorcier]. And anybody else who had seen Thibault, flying along as swiftly as his swiftest wolf, and covering the ground between Oigny and Puiseux in less than a quarter of an hour, would certainly have thought so too.” When he gets to town, he tells the wolves not to follow but rather to amuse themselves, including killing men. He goes to the Priest’s, making “a circuit so as to avoid passing in front of the Cross.” In the window he sees a corpse. He goes in to see that indeed it is Raoul. “At the first glance you might have thought he only slept; but on gazing longer you recognised in that immovable calm something more profound than sleep. The presence of one who carries a sickle for sceptre, and wears a shroud for mantle was unmistakeable, and you knew King Death was there.” A woman in black enters, all while another woman keeps lookout. It is Raoul’s illicit lover, the Countess of Mont-Gobert. She cries and asks the body to tell her his assassin so she can avenge his death. She then thinks she hears someone say, “I will!” and the curtain shakes, and she jumps backward. But when she looks behind the curtain, no one is there. She cuts herself a lock of Raoul’s hair. As she was leaving, the Priest enters and asks who she is. She replies, “I am Grief,” and the Priest lets her pass. __(19.3)__ The Countess leaves by foot. Down the road Thibault hides behind a willow tree, then jumps out in front of them. He says he is the one who said, “I will [tell the assassin's name and help avenge Raoul’s death]” just before. He says he will help her avenge Raoul’s death. They need to discuss this in secret. Thibault reveals that he knows Raoul’s secret entrance method: “I can go through the breach in the park wall: Mademoiselle Lisette can wait for me in the hut where Monsieur Raoul used to leave his horse, she can take me up the winding-stair and into your room. If you should be in your dressing-room, I will wait for you, as Monsieur Raoul waited the night before last” (see sections 16.2 and 16.3). The women are alarmed by this and ask how he knows it. Thibault says he will explain it later. Thibault disappears. Then later at the castle, Lisette brings Thibault to the Countess’ room, but she is disturbed by Thibault’s knowledge of how to get there: “he knew his way up as well as I did! And oh! Madame! if you knew what he said to me! That man is the devil [le démon], Madame, I feel sure!” When he presents himself to the Countess, “He gave the impression of a man who had once and for all made up his mind, but it was also easy to see that it was for no good purpose; a Satanic smile played about his mouth, and there was a demoniacal light in his eyes [la bouche était contractée par un rire satanique, l’œil brillait d’une lueur infernale]. He had made no attempt to hide his red hairs, but had left them defiantly uncovered, and they hung over his forehead like a plume of flame.” Thibault explains that the reason he knows the way is because he was here the night before. Thibault describes the events in perfect detail. In the middle of his recounting, the Countess says: “‘Lisette was right, you can be nothing less than the devil [le démon],’ said the Countess with a sinister laugh, ‘and I think we shall be able to do business together.... Finish your account.’ ” Thibault continues the narration all the way to Raoul’s death. To pay for Thibault’s services, she hand him pearls worth fifty thousand livres. He says it will cost more, but he will name the price when they meet again the next night here at her room. Thibault leaves. “The Countess went and replaced the pearls in her dressing case; lifted up a false bottom, and drew from underneath it a small bottle containing an opal-coloured liquid, and a little dagger with a jewelled handle and case, and a blade inlaid with gold. She hid both beneath her pillow, knelt at her prie-dieu, and, her prayer finished, threw herself dressed on to her bed....”

19.1

[Thibault’s Persecution and Escape]

19.2

[Thibault’s Visit to Dead Raoul]

19.3

[The Countess’ Deal with Thibault]

 

 

 

 

20

Fidèle au rendez-vous

“True to Tryst”

 

__(20.1)__ (Recall from section 19 that Thibault the sorcerer will make a deal with the Countess of Mont-Gobert to avenge her illicit lover Raoul the Lord of Vauparfond by killing his assassin). Thibault leaves the castle but has no where to go, because the Baron of Vez had his hut burned down (see section 19.1) and he has no friends. He goes to the forest. There he sees a “silver badge belonging to a huntsman’s shoulder-belt,” but the corpse it is on has been eaten to the bone. Thibault realizes it must have been eaten by his wolf friends after he gave them permission to hunt humans (see section 19.2). He checks the badge to see who it is and learns it is Lestocq (see the end of section 17.1). That night he returns to the castle, going first to Lisette, who says something cryptic about them not needing to worry about anyone seeing them, because “‘the eyes that could have seen us are all closed.’ Although he did not understand what the young girl meant by these words, the tone in which they were spoken made Thibault shiver.” When they arrive at the Countess’ room, she is lying still on the bed. Thibault goes to her and sees she is dead. In one hand is a little bottle (see section 19.3) and in the other is a piece of paper with the message, “True to tryst.” Lisette then informs Thibault that the Countess murdered the Count in his bed with a dagger (again see section 19.3). She then dressed herself exactly how she was when she last saw Raoul (which was actually when Thibault was in Raoul’s body) and then took the poison from the bottle. But before doing so, she instructed Lisette to bring Thibault to the room to show that she kept her bargain except she was the one to commit the murder. __(20.2)__ Thibault leaves the castle. “The sky was dark, and if it had not been January, you might have imagined a thunder storm was brewing; there was barely light enough to see the footpath, as he went along. Once or twice Thibault paused; he fancied he had detected the sound of the dry branches cracking under someone’s footsteps keeping pace with his, both to right and left.” At the breach in the wall, “Thibault distinctly heard a voice say: ‘that’s the man!’ and at the same moment, two gendarmes, concealed on the farther side of the wall, seized Thibault by the collar, while two others came up behind.” Cramoisi had seen a man prowling the area recently, and he reported this to the police. “When the recent serious events that had taken place at the Castle became generally known, orders were given to send four men and take up any suspicious looking person seen prowling about.” These four men overcome and capture Thibault. They then see for themselves that it is Thibault, who has earned a bad reputation. They bind his hands and fetter his feet and lead him away. Thibault decides to save the use of his powers until he really needs them. But for this reason, the gendarmes “made jokes and laughed at him, asking the wizard Thibault [sorcier Thibault], why, being possessed of such power, he had allowed himself to be taken.” They arrive at the forest. “The weather was growing more and more threatening; the dark clouds hung so low that the trees looked as if they were holding up a huge black veil, and it was impossible to see four steps ahead.” Thibault then sees “lights swiftly passing, and crossing one another, in the darkness” (the wolves’ eyes) and laughs. Thibault calls to them with a howl, and “Twenty or more howls responded, some from close at hand, some from farther off.” Thibault next tells the wolves to all howl at once, which they do. The wolves then draw up to the group, even making contact with Thibault. The horses start panicking. Thibault tries to negotiate with the gendarmes to let him go. After one gendarme cuts into a wolf with his sword, the other wolves feast on it. Thibault explains, “the wolves eat each other, whatever the proverb may say, and once having tasted blood, I do not know that even I shall have the power to hold them back.” Then “ There was a sudden sound as of an approaching hurricane—the whole pack was in pursuit, following them up at full gallop.” The horses take off to escape the pack. The gendarme who held the rope that was tied to Thibault lets go of it while trying to control his horse. Then “the wolves leaped on to the horses, clinging desperately to the cruppers and withers and throats of the terrified animals. No sooner had the latter felt the sharp teeth of their assailants, than they scattered, rushing in every direction.” The wolves chase the horses and their riders off in various directions, leaving Thibault all alone. But no matter how hard he tried, he could not get out of his restraints. “At last, tired of trying to wrest his hands free, he lifted them, bound as they were, to heaven, and cried: ‘Oh! black wolf! friend, let these cords that bind me be loosened; thou knowest well that it is only to do evil that I wish for my hands to be free.’ And at the same moment his fetters were broken and fell to the ground, and Thibault beat his hands together with another roar, this time of joy.”

20.1

[The Countess’ Murder and Suicide]

20.2

[Thibault’s Capture and Escape]

 

 

 

 

21

Le génie du mal

“The Genius of Evil”

 

__(21.1)__ (Recall from section 20 that Thibault the sorcerer had escaped capture by the gendarmes when his wolves came and chased them away.) Thibault returns to the remains of his burnt down hut (see section 19.1). “A heap of smoking cinders alone marked the place where it had stood; and as Thibault came in sight of it, he saw the wolves, as if he had appointed them to meet him there, forming an immense circle round the ruins, and looking upon them with an expression of mournful anger. They seemed to understand that by destroying this poor hut, made of earth and branches, the one who, by the compact with the black wolf, had been given them for master, had been made a victim. As Thibault entered the circle, all the wolves gave simultaneously a long and sinister sounding howl, as if to make him understand that they were ready to help in avenging him.” He takes a minute to think, “But he was not reflecting that the ruin which he saw around him was the consequence and the punishment of his jealous and covetous desires, which had gone on gathering strength. He felt neither repentance nor regret. That which dominated all other feeling in him was his satisfaction at the thought of being henceforth able to render to his fellow-creatures evil for evil, his pride in having, thanks to his terrible auxiliaries, the power to fight against those who persecuted him.”  He thus calls for revenge on the Baron of Vez, who caused this destruction: “Come then, let us go from this hut to the Castle, and carry thither the desolation which they have brought home to me.” __(21.2)__ Thibault and his pack of wolves head toward the Château of Vez, leaving a path of destruction. The first night they kill off the animals on the farms of the Vez estate. Vez sees a mixture of human and animal behind the carnage: “The Baron was doubtful at first if this could be the work of the beasts against which he waged so fierce a warfare; there seemed something partaking rather of intelligence and revenge in it than of the mere unreasoning attacks of a pack of wild animals.” The next two nights Thibault and his wolves decimate the parks and stables of Soucy, Vivierès, Boursonnes, and Yvors. Thibault and his wolves have reached a high degree of what Deleuze & Guattari call “becoming-animal”: “The work of annihilation, once begun, must be carried out with desperate determination, and the master never left his wolves now; he slept with them in their dens, and lived in the midst of them, stimulating their thirst for blood. Many a woodman, many a heath-gatherer, came face to face in the thickets with the menacing white teeth of a wolf, and was either carried off and eaten, or just saved his life by the aid of his courage and his bill-hook. Guided by a human intelligence, the wolves had become organised and disciplined, and were far more formidable than a band of discontented soldiery let loose in a conquered country.” The people of the region become terrorized. “The Bishop of Soissons ordered public prayer to be made, asking God to send a thaw, for the unusual ferocity of the wolves was attributed to the great quantity of snow that had fallen. But the report also went about that the wolves were incited to their work, and led about by a man; that this man was more indefatigable, more cruel and insatiable than the wolves themselves; that in imitation of his companions he ate raw flesh and quenched his thirst in blood.” The Priest excommunicates Thibault, and Vez wants to hunt him down: “He was somewhat cast down at so much blood being spilt, and his pride was sorely hurt that his, the Grand Master’s, own cattle should have suffered so heavily from the very wolves he was especially appointed to destroy.” Vez is especially excited for the glory of this particular hunt for Thibault and his wolves. But despite the best efforts of Vez’s able hunting team, they could only catch the weaker wolves that pose no threat anyway, while “the larger, well-grown wolves, with their thick dark coats, their muscles like steel springs and their long slender feet—not one of these lost a hair in the war that was being made upon them. Thanks to Thibault they met their enemies in arms on nearly equal ground.” Even Vez undergoes some becoming-animal, “As the Baron of Vez remained for ever with his dogs, so did Thibault with his wolves.” The wolves use clever techniques to throw the dogs off their scent and to further confuse Vez’s expert tracking judgement. (Englouvant, by the way, has taken Marcotte’s place as chief pricker.) With time, Vez’s hounds are decimated by the wolf pack, and “The stable was in no better condition than the kennel.” Baron Vez changes tactics and tries using battue beating, but Thibault simply goes to places where the beaters are not working. The hunt goes on for several months. “Both the Baron and Thibault carried out the task each had set before himself, with equally passionate energy; the latter, like his adversary, seemed to have required some supernatural power, whereby he was able to resist fatigue and excitement; and this was the more remarkable seeing that during the short intervals of respite accorded by the Lord of Vez, the Wolf-leader was by no means at peace in himself.” However sometimes Thibault becomes gloomy when thinking about Agnelette, because “he felt he loved her more than he had ever thought it possible for him to love anybody. At times he would weep at the thought of all his lost happiness, at others he was seized with a wild fit of jealousy against the one to whom she now belonged,—she, who at one time, might if he had liked, have been his.” __(21.3)__ One day the Baron was busy making preparations and so was not hounding Thibault and the wolves for a while. Thibault was in a gloomy mood from thinking about Agnelette, and he “wandered forth from the den where he lived in company with the wolves.” He reflects on his earlier, simpler, and happier life before his pact with the devil. He has wandered near the place he first saw Agnelette, and he hears a cry of distress, which he runs toward. There “he saw a woman struggling with an immense wolf which had thrown her on the ground. Thibault could not have said why he was so agitated at this sight, nor why his heart beat more violently than usual; he rushed forward and seizing the animal by the throat hurled it away from its victim, and then lifting the woman in his arms, he carried her to the side of the lane and laid her on the slope. Here a ray of moonlight, breaking through the clouds, fell on the face of the woman he had saved, and Thibault saw that it was Agnelette.” She is terrified upon seeing it is Thibault. She pleads with him not to kill her, for the sake of her grandmother. “The Wolf-leader stood overcome with consternation; up to this hour he had not fully realised the hideous renown which he had gained; but the terror which the sight of him inspired in the woman who had loved him and whom he still loved, filled him with a horror of himself.” To explain why he went astray in his life, he confesses his love for her: “you do not understand that I loved you—that I adored you Agnelette, and that the loss of you sent me out of my mind?” She asks what prevented him from marrying her, and he says, “The spirit of evil [L’esprit du mal].” Agnelette confesses that she loved him too “and I suffered cruelly waiting for you.” She says that she is not allowed to love Thibault anymore (because she is now married to Engoulevent, see section 14.2), but she can never forget her first love, Thibault. She also says she is not to blame for having been afraid of Thibault’s ring (which was exchanged as a token of his pact with the Wolf-Devil, see section 5.1, and which refused to leave Thibault and be given to Agnelette, see section 6.2.) Thibault now tries to remove the ring to satisfy Agnelette, but even with his best efforts it will not come off his finger: “In vain he struggled with it, and tried to move it with his teeth; the ring seemed rivetted to his finger for all eternity. Thibault saw that it was no use trying to get rid of it; it was a token of compact between himself and the black wolf [c’était le gage du pacte passé entre lui et le loup noir].” Agnelette then observes “Thibault’s hair. Thibault was bare-headed, and, by the light of the moon Agnelette could see that it was no longer a single hair that shone red as the flames of hell [flammes de l’enfer], but that half the hair on Thibault’s head was now of this devil’s colour [la teinte diabolique].” She is alarmed and asked what has happened to him. Thibault falls crying, saying she would be the only one he could possibly confess to, and asks if she truly loved him. She says she used to wait for him to come to the door to announce his love of her to her grandmother, and whenever someone came that was not he, she would take to the corner and cry from disappointment.  She explains that she moved out of their house at Vez because there was no room there for her grandmother, so she moved back in with her. He wants her to confess her love to him, despite her current marriage, and he promises her great things with his last wishes: “you do not know my power. I know that I have only a wish or two left, but with your help, by combining these wishes together, I could make you as rich as a queen.... We could leave the country, leave France, Europe; there are large countries, of which you do not even know the names, Agnelette, called America and India. They are paradises, with blue skies, tall trees and birds of every kind. Agnelette, say that you will come with me; nobody will know that we have gone off together, nobody will know where we are, nobody will know that we love one another, nobody will know even that we are alive.” He continues to try to convince her to run off with him, which he says will result in him being saved and potentially being restored to his previous, modest life: “I am going to speak to you in the name of this world and the next. Do you wish to save me, Agnelette, body and soul? If so, do not resist my pleading, have pity on me, come with me; let us go somewhere together, where we shall no longer hear these howlings, or breathe this atmosphere of reeking flesh; and, if it scares you to think of being a rich, grand lady, somewhere then where I can again be Thibault the workman, Thibault, poor but beloved, and, therefore, Thibault happy in his hard work, some place where Agnelette will have no other husband but me.” She says she cannot betray Engoulevent, because he has sacrificed and pledged himself to her. She will not say that she loves Thibault or that she does not love Engoulevent, but she is a committed friend to him, and she prays for his salvation: “‘I should like to see you happy, my friend; above all I should like to see you abjure your evil ways and repent of your sins; and last of all, I wish that God may have mercy upon you, and that you may be delivered from that spirit of evil, of which you spoke just now. For this I pray night and morning on my knees; but even that I may be able to pray for you, I must keep myself pure; if the voice that supplicates for mercy is to rise to God’s throne, it must be an innocent one; above all, I must scrupulously keep the oath which I swore at His altar.’ On hearing these decisive words from Agnelette, Thibault again became fierce and morose. ” Thibault then tries threatening her with his power and notes there is no one to save her from him. She reminds him she is not afraid of him. His tries to convince her by saying, “you cannot think what the devil is whispering to me [que le démon me souffle à l’oreille], and what an effort I have to make to resist his voice.” And even though Engoulevent is far away, Thibault threatens him too: “thanks to the diabolical power [pouvoir infernal] I possess and which I can hardly fight against, I am able to strike as well far as near.” She says that if he kills Englouvant, she would not want to marry such a murderous man as him. Thibault then falls on his knees, begging her to “save me from committing a further crime.” She answers, “It is you, not I, who will be responsible for the crime. I can give you my life, Thibault, but not my honour.” This angers Thibault. He says without her love, he will act on his evil influences and impulses, and he threatens her husband and also reminds her of her good influence over himself: “Agnelette! take heed to your husband! The devil [Le démon] is in me, and he will soon speak through my mouth. Instead of the consolation which I had hoped from your love, and which your love refuses, I will have vengeance. Stay my hand, Agnelette, there is yet time, stay it from cursing, from destroying; if not, understand that it is not I, but you, who strike him dead! Agnelette, you know now.... Agnelette, you do not stop me from speaking? Let it be so then, and let the curse [maudits] fall on all three of us, you and him and me! Agnelette, I wish your husband to die, and he will die!” She replies that “my prayers will prevail against your maledictions [malédictions].” Thibault says her prayers may not work, and she better hurry to protect her husband, whom she might find dead. “Overcome by the tone of conviction with which these last words were pronounced, and yielding to an irresistible feeling of terror, Agnelette, without responding to Thibault, who stood on the further side of the lane with his hand held out and pointing towards Préciamont, set off running in the direction which it seemed to indicate, and soon disappeared into the night as she turned out of sight at the corner of the road. As she passed from his view, Thibault uttered a howl, which might have been taken for the howling of a whole pack of wolves, and plunging into the thicket, ‘Ah! now,’ he cried aloud to himself, ‘I am indeed a lost and accursed soul! [maintenant je suis bien véritablement maudit !]’.”

21.1

[Thibault’s Assessment of His Hut Destruction and Resolve to Gain Vengeance on Vez]

21.2

[Thibault’s Rampage; Vez’s Hunt]

21.3

[Thibault’s Encounter with Agnelette]

 

 

 

 

22

Le dernier souhait de Thibault

“Thibault’s Last Wish”

 

__(22.1)__ (Recall from section 21 that Thibault the sorcerer encountered his love Agnelette. When she refused to leave her husband Engoulevent for him, he pledges to do him harm. Agnelette runs off to protect him.) Agnelette is running fast to the village where she left her husband Engoulevent. When she draws near, Engoulevent surprises her by jumping out from a bush he was hiding behind. She is relieved to find him alive (and she calls him “Etienne”), and she tells him all about her encounter with Thibault (again, see section 21). Engoulevent will take Agnelette to her grandmother’s, and he will ride to Vez to tell the Baron where Thibault is now located so that they can move their battue to that area, but he will take a route that avoids the forest and thus the danger that Thibault presents to his life. On the way home, Agnelette tries to convince Engoulevent not to tell Vez of Thibault’s whereabouts, because Thibault saved her, withheld his power from her, and also, when he learns about such a treachery, Thibault “would never under similar circumstances show mercy to any one again.” Out of his jealousy about Thibault’s love for Agnelette and also on account of the grudge between him and Thibault from when he “had spied out Thibault in his tree, and his boar-spear in a neighbouring bush” (see section 2.3), Engoulevent refuses to restrain himself on the matter. When they reach Préciamont, there are guards who are protecting the town from Thibault and are guarding the entrance. A sentinel calls to Engoulevent and Agnelette “Who goes there?”, but they do not hear it, because they are still discussing the matter. The sentinel aims his gun to shoot. Seeing this, Engoulevent protects Agnelette with his body and is shot in the heart and dies. Agnelette faints. Then “They carried her to her grandmother’s, but she only came to her senses to fall into a state of despair which bordered on delirium, and which at last became almost madness. She accused herself of her husband’s death, called him by name, begged the invisible spirits, which seemed to haunt her, even in the short intervals of slumber which her excited state of brain made possible, to have mercy upon him. She called Thibault’s name, and addressed such heartbroken supplications to him that those about her were moved to tears. By degrees, in spite of the incoherence of her words, the real facts became evident, and it grew to be generally understood that the Wolf-leader was in some way accountable for the unhappy accident which had caused poor Etienne’s death. The common enemy was therefore accused of having cast a spell [jeté un sort] over the two unfortunate young creatures, and the animosity felt towards the former shoe-maker became intensified.” Gradually Agnelette’s health declines until she nears death. __(22.2)__ There are two women attending to Agnelette in her room while she is ill. They witness Thibault paying a dramatic visit: “All at once, the sick woman, who for some minutes past had been shivering at intervals, seemed to be fighting against some horrible dream, and gave a piercing cry of anguish. At that moment the door burst open, a man seemingly encircled by flames, rushed into the room, leapt to Agnelette’s bed, clasped the dying woman in his arms, pressed his lips upon her forehead, uttering cries of sorrow, then, rushing to another door which gave on to the open country, opened it and disappeared. The apparition had come and gone so quickly that it seemed almost like an hallucination, and as if Agnelette were endeavouring to repulse some invisible object as she cried out, ‘Take him away! take him away!’ But the two watchers had seen the man and had recognised Thibault, and there was a clamouring outside, in the midst of which the name of Thibault could be distinguished.” A group of villagers arrive to Agnelette’s hut; they are close to catching Thibault, who was seen already in the area. “Thibault, hearing of the hopeless condition in which Agnelette was, had not been able to resist his longing to see her once again, and at the risk of what might happen to him, he had passed through the village, trusting to the rapidity of his movements, had opened the door of the hut and rushed in to see the dying woman.” The woman “showed the peasants the door by which Thibault had escaped, and like a pack that has recovered the scent they started afresh on his track with renewed cries and threats. Thibault, it need hardly be said, escaped from them and disappeared in the forest.” Then “Agnelette’s condition, after the terrible shock given her by Thibault’s presence and embrace, became so alarming that before the night was over the priest was sent for; she had evidently now but a few hours longer to live and suffer.” But Agnelette seems to gain a little strength and a priest hears her praying for someone. “And who was that other? God, the priest, and Agnelette alone knew.”

22.1

[Agnelette’s and Engoulevent’s Unfortunate Accident]

22.2

[Thibault’s Visit to Agnelette]

 

 

 

 

23

L’anniversaire

“The Anniversary”

 

__(23.1)__ (Recall from section 22 that Thibault the sorcerer was being chased by villagers after quickly visiting his love Agnelette, who was sick and dying in bed. Agnelette then prayed for someone, possibly Thibault.) Thibault has run into the forest and happens to have arrived at his burned down hut (see section 19.1). He cries. It is midnight, and “At this moment the priest was listening to Agnelette’s dying prayers.” Perhaps these prayers are causing Thibault to have a change of heart: “‘Cursed be the day!’ cried Thibault, ‘when I first wished for anything beyond what God chooses to put within the reach of a poor workman! Cursed be the day when the black wolf gave me the power to do evil, for the ill that I have done, instead of adding to my happiness, has destroyed it for ever!’” Just then, Thibault hears loud laughter behind him. “He turned; there was the black wolf himself, creeping noiselessly along, like a dog coming to rejoin its master. The wolf would have been invisible in the gloom but for the flames shot forth from his eyes, which illuminated the darkness; he went round the hearth and sat down facing the shoe-maker.” The Wolf-Devil wonders why Thibault is so displeased. Thibault says that “since I first met you, have known nothing but vain aspirations and endless regrets.” He notes that he wished for riches, rank, and love, but now he only has these burnt down ruins, he is universally despised, and he lost to another man his true love who is now dying, “while I, notwithstanding all the power you have given me, can do nothing to help her!” The Wolf-Devil replies, “Leave off loving anybody but yourself, Thibault.” Then the Wolf-Devil notes that Thibault was an envious person even before meeting him (see section 1.3). Thibault says he only wanted a buck, but the Wolf-Devil reminds him that his ambitions were boundless (see section 4.2), as he is as envious as Luciferthe fallen Angel [l’ange déchu], your master and mine:” “You thought your wishes were going to stop at the buck, Thibault; but wishes lead on to one another, as the night to the day, and the day to night. When you wished for the buck, you also wished for the silver dish on which it would be served; the silver dish led you on to wish for the servant who carries it and for the carver who cuts up its contents. Ambition is like the vault of heaven; it appears to be bounded by the horizon, but it covers the whole earth. You disdained Agnelette’s innocence, and went after Madame Poulet’s mill; if you had gained the mill, you would immediately have wanted the house of the Bailiff Magloire; and his house would have had no further attraction for you when once you had seen the Castle of Mont-Gobert. You are one in your envious disposition with the fallen Angel [l’ange déchu], your master and mine; only, as you were not clever enough to reap the benefit that might have accrued to you from your power of inflicting evil, it would perhaps have been more to your interest to continue to lead an honest life.” Thibault acknowledges this with the proverb “Evil to him who evil wishes.” He asks the Wolf-Devil if he can become honest again. “My good fellow, the devil can drag a man to hell ... by a single hair [avec un seul cheveu, le diable peut conduire un homme en enfer]” and he notes that Thibault has only one black hair left and that he is well past hope of repenting. But Thibault wonders, “‘But if a man is lost when but one of his hairs belongs to the devil,’ said Thibault, ‘why cannot God likewise save a man in virtue of a single hair?’” Thibault also seems to plead ignorance, saying “when I concluded that unhappy bargain [funeste marché] with you, I did not understand that it was to be a compact [un pacte] of this kind.” The Wolf-Devil explains that demons cannot take hold over baptized people, so their bargains involve humans giving up parts of their body to the devils, and this is how the they have taken possession of Thibault: “Since men invented baptism, we do not know how to get hold of them, and so, in return for any concessions we make them, we are bound to insist on their relinquishing to us some part of their body on which we can lay hands. You gave us the hairs of your head; they are firmly rooted, as you have proved yourself and will not come away in our grasp.... No, no, Thibault, you have belonged to us ever since, standing on the threshold of the door that was once there, you cherished within you thoughts of deceit and violence.” So now Thibault is sure he can never get into heaven and instead is damned. He is angry that he can now never have the pleasures of the afterlife, and he also cannot even enjoy the pleasures of this world. The Wolf-Devil says that in fact there is still away for him to enjoy the pleasures of this world. He first explains how in a general way: “By boldly following the path that you have struck by chance, and resolutely determining on a course of conduct which you have adopted as yet only in a halfhearted way; in short, by frankly owning yourself to be one of us.” Specifically, this involves taking the Wolf-Devil’s place: “You will then acquire my power, and you will have nothing left to wish for.” Thibault does not understand what is in it for the Wolf-Devil, who seems to be giving up his riches. The Wolf-Devil explains: “Do not trouble yourself about me. The master for whom I shall have won a retainer will liberally reward me.” The Wolf-Devil further informs Thibault that he will take the Wolf-Devil’s animal form “in the night-time; by day you will be a man again.” He also says that while in this form his skin is “impenetrable by iron, lead or steel” and he is immortal. The only exception is the following: “once a year, like all were-wolves, you will become a wolf again for four and twenty hours, and during that interval, you will be in danger of death like any other animal. I had just reached that dangerous time a year ago to-day, when we first met.” Thibault now realizes why he was so afraid of Vez’s hounds (see section 4.2). (Also note that this seems to make today the day of vulnerability.) The Wolf-Devil also notes that “When we have dealings with men, we are forbidden to speak anything but the truth, and the whole truth; it is for them to accept or refuse.” He further explains the powers Thibault will gain: It will be such that even the most powerful king will not be able to withstand it, since his power is limited by the human and the possible,” and Thibault will be  “So rich, that you will come in time to despise riches, since, by the mere force of your will, you will obtain not only what men can only acquire with gold and silver, but also all that superior beings get by their conjurations.” And he will be able to completely avenge himself on his enemies, because “You will have unlimited power over everything which is connected with evil.” He will also be able to gain and keep any lover: “As you will have dominion over all your fellow creatures, you will be able to do with them what you like.” The Wolf-Devil also reiterates that except for that one day a year, “nothing can harm you, neither iron, lead, nor steel, neither water, nor fire.” Thibault then gets the Wolf-Devil’s assurances on all this. Thibault accepts and is instructed to “Pick a holly-leaf, tear it in three pieces with your teeth, and throw it away from you, as far as you can.” Then “Having torn the leaf in three pieces, he scattered them on the air, and although the night till then had been a peaceful one, there was immediately heard a loud peal of thunder, while a tempestuous whirlwind arose, which caught up the fragments and carried them whirling away with it.” The Wolf-Devil then says: “‘And now, brother Thibault,’ said the wolf, ‘take my place, and good luck be with you! As was my case just a year ago, so you will have to become a wolf for four and twenty hours; you must endeavour to come out of the ordeal as happily as I did, thanks to you, and then you will see realised all that I have promised you. Meanwhile, I will pray the lord of the cloven hoof that he will protect you from the teeth of the Baron’s hounds, for, by the devil himself, I take a genuine interest in you, friend Thibault.’ And then it seemed to Thibault that he saw the black wolf grow larger and taller, that it stood up on its hind legs and finally walked away in the form of a man, who made a sign to him with his hand as he disappeared. We say it seemed to him, for Thibault’s ideas, for a second or two, became very indistinct. A feeling of torpor passed over him, paralysing his power of thought. When he came to himself, he was alone. His limbs were imprisoned in a new and unusual form; he had, in short, become in every respect the counterpart of the black wolf that a few minutes before had been speaking to him. One single white hair on his head alone shone in contrast to the remainder of the sombre coloured fur; this one white hair of the wolf was the one black hair which had remained to the man.” __(23.2)__ Thibault then hears Vez’s hounds approaching, and “He made off, striking straight ahead, as is the manner of wolves, and it was a profound satisfaction to him to find that in his new form he had tenfold his former strength and elasticity of limb.” Vez’s new huntsman tells him this is the same black wolf they were trying to hunt before (see section 1.2). Vez is determined to catch it: “‘I have got this cursed black wolf on my brain,’ added the Baron, ‘and I have such a longing to have its skin, that I feel sure I shall catch an illness if I do not get hold of it.’” The new dogs catch Thibault’s scent and begin their chase, with Vez following determined to catch this wolf.

23.1

[Thibault’s Becoming a Were-Wolf]

23.2

[Vez’s Hunt for the Were-Wolf]

 

 

 

 

24

Une chasse enragée

“Hunting down the Were-Wolf”

 

__(24.1)__ (Recall from section 23 that Thibault the sorcerer became a were-wolf and is now being hunted by the Baron of Vez. Today is the one day of the year that Thibault is vulnerable, so the hunt could kill him.) Thibault continues to try to get ahead of the hunting dogs that are on his trail. But “Unfortunately for him, just as he reached the end of the Route du Pendu, he came across another pack of twenty dogs, which Monsieur de Montbreton’s huntsman was bringing up as a relay, for the Baron had sent his neighbour news of the chase.” Vez is hellbent on catching the prey, “his eye flashing, his nostrils dilated, exciting the pack with wild shouts and furious blasts.” Thibault is equally intent: “As he retained to the full all his human consciousness, it seemed to him impossible, as he still ran on, that he should not escape in safety from this ordeal; he felt that it was not possible for him to die before he had taken vengeance for all the agony that others made him suffer, before he had known those pleasures that had been promised him, above all—for at this critical moment his thoughts kept on running on this—before he had gained Agnelette’s love. [...] So he determined to take a bold course so as to out-distance the dogs, and to get back to his lairs, where he knew his ground and hoped to evade the dogs. He therefore doubled for the second time. He first ran back to Puiseux, then skirted past Viviers, regained the forest of Compiègne, made a dash into the forest of Largue, returned and crossed the Aisne at Attichy, and finally got back to the forest of Villers-Cotterets at the low lands of Argent. He trusted in this way to baffle the strategical plans of the Lord of Vez, who had, no doubt, posted his dogs at various likely points.” Finally Thibault takes a position across a river. When the dogs come, they all fall into it and are swept away, with the hunters going in after them. __(24.2)__ Thibault now goes up the river to the village Préciamont, where Agnelette had lived, in order to be somewhere the hunters would not expect. It is now evening. Thibault notices the beauty of nature and wonders if he made the right decision in becoming a were-wolf today: “When, at last, after circling round by Manereux and Oigny, the black wolf reached the borders of the heath by the lane of Ham, the sun was already beginning to sink, and shedding a dazzling light over the flowery plain; the little white and pink flowers scented the breeze that played caressingly around them; the grasshopper was singing in its little house of moss, and the lark was soaring up towards heaven, saluting the eve with its song, as twelve hours before it had saluted the morn. The peaceful beauty of nature had a strange effect on Thibault. It seemed enigmatical to him that nature could be so smiling and beautiful, while anguish such as his was devouring his soul. He saw the flowers, and heard the insects and the birds, and he compared the quiet joy of this innocent world with the horrible pangs he was enduring, and asked himself, whether after all, notwithstanding all the new promises that had been made him by the devil’s envoy [l’envoyé du démon], he had acted any more wisely in making this second compact than he had in making the first. He began to doubt whether he might not find himself deceived in the one as he had been in the other.” He then walks the “very path that he had taken Agnelette home on the first day of their acquaintance; the day, when inspired by his good angel, he had asked her to be his wife. The thought that, thanks to this new compact [pact], he might be able to recover Agnelette’s love, revived his spirits, which had been saddened and depressed by the sight of the universal happiness around him.” He next goes into a cemetery and hides: “The wolf made for the thickest of these bramble bushes; he found a sort of ruined vault, whence he could look out without being seen, and he crept under the branches and hid himself inside.” Nearby is a freshly dug grave. A funeral procession comes to the grave. “Although there was nothing unusual in such a sight as this, seeing that he was in a cemetery, and that the newly-dug grave must have prepared him for it, Thibault, nevertheless, felt strangely moved as he looked on. Although the slightest movement might betray his presence and bring destruction upon him, he anxiously watched every detail of the ceremony.” When the pall is lifted from the body’s face, Thibault sees it is Agnelette, his love and potential salvation. “A low groan escaped from Thibault’s agonised breast, and mingled with the tears and sobs of those present. Agnelette, as she lay there so pale in death, wrapped in an ineffable calm, appeared more beautiful than when in life, beneath her wreath of forget-me-nots and daisies. As Thibault looked upon the poor dead girl, his heart seemed suddenly to melt within him. It was he, as he had truly realised, who had really killed her, and he experienced a genuine and overpowering sorrow, the more poignant since for the first time for many long months he forgot to think of himself, and thought only of the dead woman, now lost to him for ever.” Thibault is overcome when she is laid to rest: “But the grief of the man overcame this instinct of the wild beast at bay; a shudder passed through the body hidden beneath its wolf skin; tears fell from the fierce blood-red eyes, and the unhappy man cried out: ‘O God! take my life, I give it gladly, if only by my death I may give back life to her whom I have killed!’ The words were followed by such an appalling howl, that all who were in the cemetery fled, and the place was left utterly deserted. Almost at the same moment, the hounds, having recovered the scent, came leaping in over the wall, followed by the Baron, streaming with sweat as he rode his horse, which was covered with foam and blood.” The dogs go to the bramble bush where Thibault had hidden himself. Baron Vez goes to see what the dogs found. The hounds were “fighting over a fresh and bleeding wolf-skin, but the body had disappeared.” This is Thibault’s pelt, because it was entirely black except for one white hair (see section 23.1). The people believe that Thibault was saved: “as the skin had been found without the body, and, as, from the spot where it was found a peasant reported to have heard someone speak the words: ‘O God! take my life! I give it gladly, if only by my death I may give back life to her whom I have killed,’ the priest declared openly that Thibault, by reason of his sacrifice and repentance, had been saved!  And what added to the consistency of belief in this tradition was, that every year on the anniversary of Agnelette’s death, up to the time when the Monasteries were all abolished at the Revolution, a monk from the Abbey of the Premonstratensians at Bourg-Fontaine, which stands half a league from Préciamont, was seen to come and pray beside her grave. __(24.3)__ This ends the story Mocquet has been telling the narrator and author, Alexandre Dumas (see section 0.9).

24.1

[Thibault’s Chase and Temporary Escape]

24.2

[Thibault’s Disappearance and Possible Salvation]

24.3

[The End of Mocquet’s Story]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

 

Dumas, Alexandre. 1868. Le meneur de loups. (Nouvelle édition). Paris: Lévy.

PDF at:

https://archive.org/det ails/bub_gb_BhlMAAAAMAAJ/page/n5

and:

https://beq.ebooksgratuits.com/vents/Dumas-meneur.pdf

Online text at:

https://fr.wikisource.org/wik i/Le_Meneur_de_loups

and

https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Livre:Dumas_- _Le_Meneur_de_loups_(1868).djvu

 

Dumas, Alexandre.  1921. The Wolf-Leader. Translated by Alfred Allinson. London: Methuen.

PDF at:

https://archive.org/details/wolfle ader00duma

or:

https://archive.org/details/wo lfleader00dumauoft

Online text at:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/51054

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/51054/51054-h/51054-h.htm

 

Image from:

https://archive.org/details/thewolfleader51054gut

.