The Torture of Hope part 4

Forward! He must hasten toward that goal which he fancied (ab­surdly, no doubt) to be deliverance, toward the darkness from which he was now barely thirty paces distant. He pressed forward faster on his knees, his hands, at full length, dragging himself painfully along, and soon entered the dark portion of this terrible corridor.

Suddenly the poor wretch felt a gust of cold air on the hands resting upon the flags; it came from under the little door to which the two walls led.

Oh, Heaven, if that door should open outward. Every nerve in the miserable fugitive’s body thrilled with hope. He examined it from top to bottom, though scarcely able to distinguish its outlines in the sur­rounding darkness. He passed his hand over it: no bolt, no lock! A latch! He started up, the latch yielded to the pressure of his thumb: the door silently swung open before him.

“Halleluia!” murmured the rabbi in a transport of gratitude as, standing on the threshold, he

The Torture of Hope part 3

Suddenly the sound of a sandaled foot approaching reached his ears. He trembled violently, fear stifled him, his sight grew dim. Well, it was over, no doubt. He pressed himself into a niche and, half lifeless with terror, waited.

It was a familiar hurrying along. He passed swiftly by, holding in his clenched hand an instrument of torture—a frightful figure—and van­ished. The suspense which the rabbi had endured seemed to have sus­pended the functions of life, and he lay nearly an hour unable to move. Fearing an increase of tortures if he were captured, he thought of re­turning to his dungeon.

But the old hope whispered in his soul that divine perhaps, which comforts us in our sorest trials. A miracle had happened. He could doubt no longer. He began to crawl toward the chance of excape. Exhausted by suffering and hunger, trembling with pain, he pressed onward. The sepulchral corridor seemed to lengthen mysteriously, while he, still advancing, gazed into th

The Torture of Hope part 2

Perhaps Infinite Mercy will shine upon you at the last moment! We must hope so. There are examples. So sleep in peace to-night. To-morrow you will be included in the auto da fe: that is, you will be exposed to the quemadero, the symbolical flames of the Everlasting Fire: it burns, as you know, only at a distance, my son; and Death is at least two hours (often three) in coming, on account of the wet, iced bandages with which we protect the heads and hearts of the condemned. There will be forty- three of you. Placed in the last row, you will have time to invoke God and offer to Him this baptism of fire, which is of the Holy Spirit. Hope in the Light, and rest.”

With these words, having signed to his companions to unchain the prisoner, the prior tenderly embraced him. Then came the turn of the fra redemptor, who, in a low tone, entreated the Jew’s forgiveness for what he had made him suffer for the purpose of redeeming him; then the two familiars silently kissed him. This

The Torture of Hope part 1

Villiers de L’isle Adam (1838-1889)

Count Villiers de l’Isle Adam, bom in Brittany in 1838, led a strange life. “Born without average will-power,” says Huneker, “except the will to imagine beautiful and strange things, all his years he fought the contending impulses of his dual nature.”

He was the very model of a bohemian. His strange tales, the best of which are collected under the title Cruel Tales, are fantastic prose poems in the manner of Poe. The Torture of Hope, according to Huneker, recalls Poe at his best.

The present version, anonymously translated, is reprinted from an American collection of tales, not dated. It is from the volume of Cruel Tales.

The Torture of Hope

Many years ago, as evening was closing in, the venerable Pedro Arbuez d’Espila, sixth prior of the Dominicans of Segovia, and third Grand Inquisitor of Spain, followed by a fra redemptor, and pre­ceded by two familiars of the Holy Office, th

Lulu’s Triumph part 12

“And very capricious—”

“Lacking in judgment—”

And a whimsical creature. I am everything you like; lecture me,

I deserve it. Come; have you nothing to say? I am waiting.”

‘‘Give me a kiss, and go to bed. Good night, baby.”

“Thank you, mamma. Good night.”

“It is better so,” thought the good mother. “Lulu is too young yet. Every day one sees the sad consequences of these marriages of convenience. May Heaven free us from them! It is better so.”

What diplomacy

Uff! said Lulu, taking a deep breath. “What diplomacy I was forced to use, what art in order to convince mamma! I would make a perfect ambassador. What a triumph! Not like a triumph of love, to be sure, but it is Lulu’s triumph!”

She paused outside her sister’s door and listened. She heard every now and then a repressed sigh. Poor Sofia had lost her peace of mind.

‘Sleep, Slofia, sleep,”

Lulu’s Triumph part 11

“Mother, let us define the world.”


“And who is Mr. People? I do not know him; I am not obliged to be unhappy for the sake of Mr. People.”

“You are a terrible girl! But how am I to arrange it with Roberto? What am I to say to him?”

“What you wish. That is what you are my mother for.”

“Oh, indeed! To remedy the wrongs you have done. There will be a scandal.”

“I do not think so; you can say it politely, with pretty manners. Indeed, I think you might even speak badly of me—call me capricious, frivolous, childish; say that I would be a very bad wife, that I am not at all serious, that I am lacking in dignity, that my sister is—”

“Your sister? Are you losing your mind, Lulu?”

“Pshaw! you could easily say that. At present Roberto and Sofia are indifferent to each other, but if they come to know each other better they might appreciate each other, and then—who can

Lulu’s Triumph part 10

Finally, she decided not to let herself be seen. Every evening for a week she shut herself in her room, trembling with impatience, trying to smother her unhappiness.

One evening Lulu entered her room. “Will you do me a favor?” she asked.

“What do you want?”

“I have a note to write,” said Lulu. “Roberto is alone, out on the terrace. Will you go and keep him company?”

“But I—”F X

Do you wish to stay shut up here? Does it cost you so much to please me?”

“Will you come back soon?”

“I only want time to write four lines.”

Summon courage for the ordeal

Sofia turned toward the terrace, trying to summon courage for the ordeal. She paused on the threshold. Roberto was walking up and down; she went up to him.

“Lulu sends me,” she said in a low voice.

“You forced yourself to come?”


I trembled throughout he

Lulu’s Triumph part 9

Sofia was very happy, very happy. For this reason she wept, sobbing heartily, her head buried in her pillow.

Three months had passed, Lulu’s marriage was still postponed. Every once in a while her mother, who did not understand this delay, would call her daughter aside and ask her the cause.

“I wish to wait,” Lulu replied; “I need to know Roberto better.”

In fact, the girl had become observing. She went about as usual, sang as usual, laughed, joked, but often interrupted these pleasant occupations to study her sister, or to listen closely to Roberto s every word. The former was often seen with lips compressed, her eyebrows drawn together with an air of great attention.

Then Lulu looked about her. And about her strange things were happening, Roberto was no longer serene and hilarious as usual, but thoughtful, pale, and agitated. He spoke briefly and absently; to many things in which he had formerly been interested he now seemed quite

Lulu’s Triumph part 8

“Lulu did not expect you—I am sorry—”

“Oh, it does not matter,” interrupted Roberto.

The interruption was too quick, and hardly flattering to the absent one. “And you did not go?” he resumed.

“No, you know I am not very fond of balls.”

“Do you prefer reading?”

“Yes, very much.”

“Are you not afraid of doing yourself harm?”

“I have good eyes,” replied Sofia, raising them to the face of her questioner.

And beautiful ones,” thought Roberto, “but expressionless. I meant—”

“Moral injury, perhaps. I do not think so. From the books that I read I always derive great peace.”

“Do you need peace?”

“We all need peace.”

Woman hitherto unknown

Sofia’s voice was grave, resonant. Roberto took pleasure in it, as though he were hearing it for the first time. He seemed to find himself face to face with a woman hith

Lulu’s Triumph part 7

“No; he is going to his club, where there is a directors’ meeting. I am going to profit by it and go to the Dellinos’ ball, and shall dance until to-morrow morning.”

“And when he knows of it?”

“So much the better. He will learn from now on to leave me free; I do not wish him to acquire bad habits.”

“You love him very little, it seems to me.”

“Very much, in my own way. But I must hurry away to dress. It will take me at least two hours.”

Sofia stood listening to the noise of the departing carriage which bore away her mother and sister. She was left alone, quite alone, as she had always wished to be left. As a child, when some wrong or injustice had been done her, she had cried all alone, when she was in bed, in the dark, and the habit had remained with her.

Now, alone in the great drawing-room, beneath the brightly lighted chandelier, her hands inert, her head resting against the back of her chair, he

Lulu’s Triumph part 6

“What are you doing here, Donna Sofia Santangelo? Are you reading?”

“Yes, I was reading.”

“And you did not even care to stand on the balcony?”

“And if I had?”

“Pshaw! I had to stay upstairs, for Albina, the dressmaker, had brought my gown for this evening, and all the while I was trembling with impatience, for I wanted to be here. Yesterday evening I told Roberto to wear his gray overcoat, to have Selim harnessed to the cart, and to pass at half-past six. Who knows if he obeyed me!”

“Roberto passed here in the cart, and wearing his gray overcoat.” “Good gracious! How do you know all this? I thought you were reading?”

“I was in the window.”

“And you recognized Roberto, although you never look at him? Wonderful! Did he bow to you?”


“How did he take off his hat?”

“Why—as he always does.”

“And you bowed to him?”

Lulu’s Triumph part 5

We shall take a trip through Italy, but without haste, taking short journeys, enjoying every comfort, stopping where we please, seeing even the most insignificant things. We will thus occupy three months; no, that will not be enough, let us say four months; I shall be glad to get Lulu away for a certain time from the doleful society of Sofia. But, I ask, is it natural that that girl should be so serious at her age? She must be twenty-three. She is not plain.

Cause seriousness

In fact, she has beautiful eyes, and the carriage of a queen. If she were not so severe she would please. I wager that she will be an old maid; perhaps that is her secret torment, perhaps a love affair, some unfortunate love affair?—I am curious to know the cause of her seriousness—I shall ask Lulu when we are alone—“Lulu is fond of bonbons, she told me so that second evening I went to her house. How she nibbles them! How they disappear between her little red lips, and after a mo

Lulu’s Triumph part 4

But this afternoon he lay stretched out in an armchair, one leg crossed over the other, a book in his hand, with the fixed determination of reading. The book was interesting; yet, new and strange as it may seem, the reader had become very absent-minded. In fact, he was more than that; he was nervous and restless. He never turned a page, because after reading a couple of lines the letters seemed to leave their printed places, to dance about, become confused, disappear. Roberto had involuntarily taken a journey into the unknown regions of thought.

Papa is satisfied, my aunts all have sent me their blessings, my girl cousins are angry, my friends at the cafis congratulate me ironically, my true friends clasp my hand; therefore I am doing well to marry.

I can not deny that Lulu is very pretty; when she fixes her eyes so full of mischief upon me, when she laughs and shows her little white teeth, I want to take her charming little head between my hands and kiss her ove

Lulu’s Triumph part 3

“Have I said anything wrong?”

“No, dear, no; you are right. When one loves one marries. It is difficult to awaken love,” and she sighed softly.

An irritated manner

“Awaken love, awaken love!” repeated Lulu, in an irritated manner. “It is very easy, Sofia; but when one has a serious brow, like you, sad eyes, and unsmiling lips; when one goes and sits in a comer thinking, while every one else is dancing and jesting; when one reads instead of laughing, and instead of living, dreams; and when one cultivates an old and lackadaisical manner, though still young, then it is difficult to be loved.”

Sofia lowered her head and made no reply. Her lips quivered slightly, as though she were suppressing a sob.

“Have I hurt you again?” asked Lulu. “It is because I should like to see you beloved, surrounded with affection, to see you a bride—How nice it would be if we were to be married on the same day!”


Lulu’s Triumph part 2

“I will stop, I will stop. Well, then, at the races we sat in the front row on the grand stand. Paolo Lovato came and presented a handsome young man to us, Roberto Montefranco. After the usual greetings and vague compliments, they found places directly behind us; we exchanged a few words until the signal for the start of the horses was heard. You remember that I favored Gorgon, without foreseeing how ungrateful she was to be to me—one must resign one’s self to ingratitude even with beasts. A cloud of dust quite hid the horses.

‘Gorgon wins!’ I cried. ‘No,’ said Montefranco, smilingly, ‘Lord Lavello.’ I was vexed at his contradiction; but he continued smiling and contradicting me; we ended by making a wager. Finally, after half an hour of palpitation and anxiety, I learned that Gorgon had played me false, that I had lost and Montefranco had won; only fancy! I tell him that I will pay at once; he bows and replies that there is plenty of time.