Yesterday I returned to Paris, and when I saw my room again--our room, our bed, our furniture, everything that remains of the life of a human being after death--I was seized by such a violent attack of fresh grief, that I felt like opening the window and throwing myself out into the street. I could not remain any longer among these things, between these walls which had enclosed and sheltered her, which retained a thousand atoms of her, of her skin and of her breath. I took up my hat to make my escape, and just as I reached the door, I passed the large glass in the hall, which she had put there so that she might look at herself every day from head to foot as she went out, from her little boots to her bonnet. I stopped short in front of that looking-glass in which she had so often been reflected--so often, so often, that it must have retained her reflection. I was standing there. trembling, with my eyes fixed on the glass--on that flat, profound, empty glass--which had contained her entirely, and had possessed her as much as I, as my passionate looks had. I felt as if I loved that glass. I touched it; it was cold. Sorrowful mirror, burning mirror, horrible mirror, to make men suffer such torments! Happy is the man whose heart forgets everything that it has contained. I went out without knowing it, without wishing it, and toward the cemetery. I found her simple grave, a white marble cross, with these few words: ‘'She loved, was loved, and died.'
She is there, below. I sobbed with my forehead on the ground, and I stopped there for a long time. Then I saw that it was getting dark, and a strange, mad wish, the wish of a despairing lover, seized me. I wished to pass the night, the last night, in weeping on her grave. But I should be seen and driven out. How was I to manage? I was cunning, and got up and began to roam about in that city of the dead. I walked and walked. How small this city is, in comparison with the city in which we live. And yet, how much more numerous the dead are than the living. We want high houses, wide streets, and much room. And for all the generations of the dead, there is scarcely anything! The earth takes them back. Adieu! At the end of the cemetery, I was in its oldest part, where the crosses themselves are decayed. It is full of untended roses, of strong and dark cypress-trees, a sad and beautiful garden. I was alone, perfectly alone. So I crouched in a green tree and hid myself there completely amid the thick and somber branches. When it was quite dark, I left my refuge and began to walk softly, slowly, inaudibly, through that ground full of dead people. I wandered about for a long time, but could not find her tomb again. I went on with extended arms, knocking against the tombs with my hands, my feet, my knees, my chest, even with my head, without being able to find her. I groped about like a blind man finding his way, I felt the stones, the crosses, the iron railings, the metal wreaths, and the wreaths of faded flowers! I read the names with my fingers, by passing them over the letters. What a night! What a night! I could not find her again! There was no moon. What a night! I was frightened, horribly frightened in these narrow paths, between two rows of graves. I sat down on one of them, for I could not walk any longer, my knees were so weak. I could hear my heart beat! And I heard something else as well. What? A confused, nameless noise. Was the noise in my head, in the impenetrable night, or beneath the mysterious earth? I looked all around me: I was paralyzed with terror, cold with fright, ready to shout out, ready to die. Suddenly, it seemed to me that the slab of marble on which I was sitting, was moving. As if it were being raised. With a bound, I sprang on to the neighboring tomb, and I saw, yes, I distinctly saw the stone which I had just quitted rise upright. Then the dead person appeared, pushing the stone back with its bent back. I saw it quite clearly, although the night was so dark. On the cross I could read: 'Here lies Jacques Olivant, who died at the age of fifty-one. He loved his family, was kind and honorable, and died in the grace of the Lord.' The dead man also read what was inscribed on his tombstone; then he picked up a stone off the path, a little, pointed stone and began to scrape the letters carefully. He slowly effaced them, and with the hollows of his eyes he looked at the places where they had been engraved. Then with the tip of the bone that had been his forefinger, he wrote in luminous letters: 'Here reposes Jacques Olivant, who died at the age of fifty-one. He hastened his father's death by his unkindness, as he wished to inherit his fortune, he tortured his wife, tormented his children, deceived his neighbors, robbed everyone he could, and died wretched.' When he had finished writing, the dead man stood motionless, looking at his work. On turning round I saw that all the graves were open, that all the dead bodies had emerged from them, and that all had effaced the lies inscribed on the gravestones by their relations, substituting the truth instead. And I saw that all had been the tormentors of their neighbors--malicious, dishonest, hypocrites, liars, rogues, calumniators, envious; that they had stolen, deceived, performed every disgraceful, every abominable action, these good fathers, these faithful wives, these devoted sons, these chaste daughters, these honest tradesmen. They were all writing at the same time, on the threshold of their eternal abode, the truth, the terrible and the holy truth of which everybody was ignorant, or pretended to be ignorant, while they were alive. I thought that SHE also must have written something on her tombstone, and now running without any fear, I went toward her, sure that I should find her immediately. I recognized her at once, without seeing her face, and on the marble cross, where shortly before I had read: 'She loved, was loved, and died.'
I now saw:
'Having gone out in the rain one day, in order to deceive her lover, she caught cold and died.' It appears that they found me at daybreak, lying on the grave unconscious.