A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition)


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Publisher: Fredonia Books NL , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. They are bound by no rules, and we cannot profit by one, as we might wish, to remedy another. Have we, then, a great affair? About lighting the town. If my memory serves me, you are referring to the lighting plan of Doctor Ox. But our excuse is, that Doctor Ox bears the whole expense of his experiment. It will not cost us a sou. Moreover, we must advance with the age. If the experiment succeeds, Quiquendone will be the first town in Flanders to be lighted with the oxy--What is the gas called?

At this moment the door opened, and Lotch came in to tell the burgomaster that his supper was ready. Counsellor Niklausse rose to take leave of Van Tricasse, whose appetite had been stimulated by so many affairs discussed and decisions taken; and it was agreed that the council of notables should be convened after a reasonably long delay, to determine whether a decision should be provisionally arrived at with reference to the really urgent matter of the Oudenarde gate.

The two worthy administrators then directed their steps towards the street-door, the one conducting the other. The counsellor, having reached the last step, lighted a little lantern to guide him through the obscure streets of Quiquendone, which Doctor Ox had not yet lighted. It was a dark October night, and a light fog overshadowed the town. Niklausse's preparations for departure consumed at least a quarter of an hour; for, after having lighted his lantern, he had to put on his big cow-skin socks and his sheep-skin gloves; then he put up the furred collar of his overcoat, turned the brim of his felt hat down over his eyes, grasped his heavy crow-beaked umbrella, and got ready to start.

When Lotch, however, who was lighting her master, was about to draw the bars of the door, an unexpected noise arose outside. Strange as the thing seems, a noise--a real noise, such as the town had certainly not heard since the taking of the donjon by the Spaniards in terrible noise, awoke the long-dormant echoes of the venerable Van Tricasse mansion. Some one knocked heavily upon this door, hitherto virgin to brutal touch! Redoubled knocks were given with some blunt implement, probably a knotty stick, wielded by a vigorous arm. With the strokes were mingled cries and calls.

These words were distinctly heard:-"Monsieur Van Tricasse! Monsieur the burgomaster!


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  • Open, open quickly! This passed their comprehension. If the old culverin of the chteau, which had not been used since , had been let off in the parlour, the dwellers in the Van Tricasse mansion would not have been more dumbfoundered. Meanwhile, the blows and cries were redoubled. Lotch, recovering her coolness, had plucked up courage to speak.

    The very man whose office it had been contemplated to suppress for ten years. What had happened, then? Could the Burgundians have invaded Quiquendone, as they did in the fourteenth century? No event of less importance could have so moved Commissary Passauf, who in no degree yielded the palm to the burgomaster himself for calmness and phlegm. On a sign from Van Tricasse--for the worthy man could not have articulated a syllable--the bar was pushed back and the door opened.

    Commissary Passauf flung himself into the antechamber. One would have thought there was a hurricane. Then the discussion got warm, and the advocate, Andr Schut, and the doctor, Dominique Custos, became so violent that it may be they will call each other out. A duel at Quiquendone! And what did Advocate Schut and Doctor Gustos say? That a phrase so evidently irritating should be pronounced by two of the principal men in the country! Come, gentlemen! Who, then, was this personage, known by the singular name of Doctor Ox? An original character for certain, but at the same time a bold savant, a physiologist, whose works were known and highly estimated throughout learned Europe, a happy rival of the Davys, the Daltons, the Bostocks, the Menzies, the Godwins, the Vierordts--of all those noble minds who have placed physiology among the highest of modern sciences.

    Doctor Ox was a man of medium size and height, aged but we cannot state his age, any more than his nationality. Besides, it matters little; let it suffice that he was a strange personage, impetuous and hot-blooded, a regular oddity out of one of Hoffmann's volumes, and one who contrasted amusingly enough with the good people of Quiquendone. He had an imperturbable confidence both in himself and in his doctrines. Always smiling, walking with head erect and shoulders thrown back in a free and unconstrained manner, with a steady gaze, large open nostrils, a vast mouth which inhaled the air in liberal draughts, his appearance was far from unpleasing.

    He was full of animation, well proportioned in all parts of his bodily mechanism, with quicksilver in his veins, and a most elastic step. He could never stop still in one place, and relieved himself with impetuous words and a superabundance of gesticulations. Was Doctor Ox rich, then, that he should undertake to light a whole town at his expense? Probably, as he permitted himself to indulge in such extravagance,--and this is the only answer we can give to this indiscreet question. Doctor Ox had arrived at Quiquendone five months before, accompanied by his assistant, who answered to the name of Gdon Ygne; a tall, dried-up, thin man, haughty, but not less vivacious than his master.

    And next, why had Doctor Ox made the proposition to light the town at his own expense? Why had he, of all the Flemings, selected the peaceable Quiquendonians, to endow their town with the benefits of an unheard-of system of lighting? Did he not, under this pretext, design to make some great physiological experiment by operating in anima vili? In short, what was this original personage about to attempt? We know not, as Doctor Ox had no confidant except his assistant Ygne, who, moreover, obeyed him blindly.

    In appearance, at least, Doctor Ox had agreed to light the town, which had much need of it, "especially at night," as Commissary Passauf wittily said. Works for producing a lighting gas had accordingly been established; the gasometers were ready for use, and the main pipes, running beneath the street pavements, would soon appear in the form of burners in the public edifices and the private houses of certain friends of progress.

    Van Tricasse and Niklausse, in their official capacity, and some other worthies, thought they ought to allow this modern light to be introduced into their dwellings. If the reader has not forgotten, it was said, during the long conversation of the counsellor and the burgomaster, that the lighting of the town was to be achieved, not by the combustion of common carburetted hydrogen, produced by distilling coal, but by the use of a more modern and twenty-fold more brilliant gas, oxyhydric gas, produced by mixing hydrogen and oxygen.

    The doctor, who was an able chemist as well as an ingenious physiologist, knew how to obtain this gas in great quantity and of good quality, not by using manganate of soda, according to the method of M. Tessi du Motay, but by the direct decomposition of slightly acidulated water, by means of a battery made of new elements, invented by himself. Thus there were no costly materials, no platinum, no retorts, no combustibles, no delicate machinery to produce the two gases separately. An electric current was sent through large basins.

    The oxygen passed off at one end; the hydrogen, of double the volume of its late associate, at the other. As a necessary precaution, they were collected in separate reservoirs, for their mixture would have produced a frightful explosion if it had become ignited. Thence the pipes were to convey them separately to the various burners, which would be so placed as to prevent all chance of explosion. Thus a remarkably brilliant flame would be obtained, whose light would rival the electric light, which, as everybody knows, is, according to Cassellmann's experiments, equal to that of eleven hundred and seventy-one wax candles,--not one more, nor one less.

    It was certain that the town of Quiquendone would, by this liberal contrivance, gain a splendid lighting; but Doctor Ox and his assistant took little account of this, as will be seen in the sequel. The day after that on which Commissary Passauf had made his noisy entrance into the burgomaster's parlour, Gdon Ygne and Doctor Ox were talking in the laboratory which both occupied in common, on the ground-floor of the principal building of the gas-works. For animation they are midway between sponges and coral! You saw them disputing and irritating each other by voice and gesture?

    They are already metamorphosed, morally and physically! And this is only the beginning. Wait till we treat them to a big dose! You'll see what we shall do some day! It is in the interests of science. What would you say if the dogs or frogs refused to lend themselves to the experiments of vivisection?

    See--this is a town where there has not been the shadow of a discussion for a century, where the carmen don't swear, where the coachmen don't insult each other, where horses don't run away, where the dogs don't bite, where the cats don't scratch,--a town where the police-court has nothing to do from one year's end to another,--a town where people do not grow enthusiastic about anything, either about art or business,--a town where the gendarmes are a sort of myth, and in which an indictment has not been drawn up for a hundred years,--a town, in short, where for three centuries nobody has struck a blow with his fist or so much as exchanged a slap in the face!

    You see, Ygne, that this cannot last, and that we must change it all. Seventy-nine parts of azote and twenty-one of oxygen, carbonic acid and steam in a variable quantity. These are the ordinary proportions. The Counsellor Niklausse and the Burgomaster Van Tricasse at last knew what it was to have an agitated night. The grave event which had taken place at Doctor Ox's house actually kept them awake. What consequences was this affair destined to bring about? They could not imagine. Would it be necessary for them to come to a decision?

    Would the municipal authority, whom they represented, be compelled to interfere? Would they be obliged to order arrests to be made, that so great a scandal should not be repeated? All these doubts could not but trouble these soft natures; and on that evening, before separating, the two notables had "decided" to see each other the next day. On the next morning, then, before dinner, the Burgomaster Van Tricasse proceeded in person to the Counsellor Niklausse's house. He found his friend more calm. He himself had recovered his equanimity.

    Contrary to all their habits, after coming to this decision the two notables set about putting it into execution forthwith. They left the house and directed their steps towards Doctor Ox's laboratory, which was situated outside the town, near the Oudenarde gate--the gate whose tower threatened to fall in ruins.

    They did not take each other's arms, but walked side by side, with a slow and solemn step, which took them forward but thirteen inches per second. This was, indeed, the ordinary gait of the Quiquendonians, who had never, within the memory of man, seen any one run across the streets of their town.

    From time to time the two notables would stop at some calm and tranquil crossway, or at the end of a quiet street, to salute the passers-by. But by certain agitated motions and questioning looks, it was evident that the altercation of the evening before was known throughout the town. Observing the direction taken by Van Tricasse, the most obtuse Quiquendonians guessed that the burgomaster was on his way to take some important step. The Custos and Schut affair was talked of everywhere, but the people had not yet come to the point of taking the part of one or the other.

    The Advocate Schut, having never had occasion to plead in a town where attorneys and bailiffs only. As for the Doctor Custos, he was an honourable practitioner, who, after the example of his fellow-doctors, cured all the illnesses of his patients, except those of which they died--a habit unhappily acquired by all the members of all the faculties in whatever country they may practise.

    On reaching the Oudenarde gate, the counsellor and the burgomaster prudently made a short detour, so as not to pass within reach of the tower, in case it should fall; then they turned and looked at it attentively. That is the question. Doctor Ox could always be seen by the first authorities of the town, and they were at once introduced into the celebrated physiologist's study. Perhaps the two notables waited for the doctor at least an hour; at least it is reasonable to suppose so, as the burgomaster--a thing that had never before happened in his life--betrayed a certain amount of impatience, from which his companion was not exempt.

    Doctor Ox came in at last, and began to excuse himself for having kept them waiting; but he had to approve a plan for the gasometer, rectify some of the machinery--But everything was going on well! The pipes intended for the oxygen were already laid. In a few months the town would be splendidly lighted. The two notables might even now see the orifices of the pipes which were laid on in the laboratory. Then the doctor begged to know to what he was indebted for the honour of this visit.

    We go abroad but little in our good town of Quiquendone.

    We count our steps and measure our walks. We are happy when nothing disturbs the uniformity of our habits. His friend had never said so much at once--at least, without taking time, and giving long intervals between his sentences. It seemed to him that Van Tricasse expressed himself with a certain volubility, which was by no means common with him. Niklausse himself experienced a kind of irresistible desire to talk. As for Doctor Ox, he looked at the burgomaster with sly attention. Van Tricasse, who never argued until he had snugly ensconced himself in a spacious armchair, had risen to his feet.

    I know not what nervous excitement, quite foreign to his temperament, had taken possession of him. He did not gesticulate as yet, but this could not be far off. As for the counsellor, he rubbed his legs, and breathed with slow and long gasps. His look became animated little by little, and he had "decided" to support at all hazards, if need be, his trusty friend the burgomaster. Van Tricasse got up and took several steps; then he came back, and stood facing the doctor. The workmen of Quiquendone are as efficient as those of any other town in the world, you must know; and we shall go neither to Paris nor London for our models!

    As for your project, I beg you to hasten its execution. Our streets have been unpaved for the putting down of your conduit-pipes, and it is a hindrance to traffic. Our trade will begin to suffer, and I, being the responsible authority, do not propose to incur reproaches which will be but too just. He spoke of trade, of traffic, and the wonder was that those words, to which he was quite unaccustomed, did not scorch his lips.

    What could be passing in his mind? The world advances, and we do not wish to remain behind. We desire our streets to be lighted within a month, or you must pay a large indemnity for each day of delay; and what would happen if, amid the darkness, some affray should take place? Was he wrong in declaring that it was a political discussion? But of what stuff are you made, monsieur?

    Do you not know that in Quiquendone nothing more is needed to bring about extremely disastrous results? But monsieur, if you, or any one else, presume to speak thus to me--" "Or to me," added Niklausse. As they pronounced these words with a menacing air, the two notables, with folded arms and bristling air, confronted Doctor Ox, ready to do him some violence, if by a gesture, or even the expression of his eye, he manifested any intention of contradicting them. But the doctor did not budge. I am bound to insure the tranquillity of this town, and I do not wish it to be disturbed.

    The events of last evening must not be repeated, or I shall do my duty, sir! Do you hear? Then reply, sir. He was furious, the worthy Van Tricasse, and might certainly be heard outside. At last, beside himself, and seeing that Doctor Ox did not reply to his challenge, "Come, Niklausse," said he. And, slamming the door with a violence which shook the house, the burgomaster drew his friend after him.

    Little by little, when they had taken twenty steps on their road, the worthy notables grew more calm. Their pace slackened, their gait became less feverish. The flush on their faces faded away; from being crimson, they became rosy. It is always a pleasure to see him! Our readers know that the burgomaster had a daughter, Suzel But, shrewd as they may be, they cannot have divined that the counsellor Niklausse had a son, Frantz; and had they divined this, nothing could have led them to imagine that Frantz was the betrothed lover of Suzel.

    We will add that these young people were made for each other, and that they loved each other, as folks did love at Quiquendone. It must not be thought that young hearts did not beat in this exceptional place; only they beat with a certain deliberation. There were marriages there, as in every other town in the world; but they took time about it. Betrothed couples, before engaging in these terrible bonds, wished to study each other; and these studies lasted at least ten years, as at college. It was rare that any one was "accepted" before this lapse of time.

    Yes, ten years! The courtships last ten years! And is it, after all, too long, when the being bound for life is in consideration? One studies ten years to become an engineer or physician, an advocate or attorney, and should less time be spent in acquiring the knowledge to make a good husband? Is it not reasonable? When marriages in other more lively and excitable cities are seen taking place within a few months, we must shrug our shoulders, and hasten to send our boys to the schools and our daughters to the pensions of Quiquendone.

    For half a century but a single marriage was known to have taken place after the lapse of two years only of courtship, and that turned out badly! Frantz Niklausse, then, loved Suzel Van Tricasse, but quietly, as a man would love when he has ten years before him in which to obtain the beloved object. Once every week, at an hour agreed upon, Frantz went to fetch Suzel, and took a walk with her along the banks of the Vaar.

    He took good care to carry his fishing-tackle, and Suzel never forgot her canvas, on which her pretty hands embroidered the most unlikely flowers. Frantz was a young man of twenty-two, whose cheeks betrayed a soft, peachy down, and whose voice had scarcely a compass of one octave. As for Suzel, she was blonde and rosy. She was seventeen, and did not dislike fishing. A singular occupation this, however, which forces you to struggle craftily with a barbel.

    But Frantz loved it; the pastime was congenial to his temperament. As patient as possible, content to follow with his rather dreamy eye the cork which bobbed on the top of the water, he knew how to wait; and when, after sitting for six hours, a modest barbel, taking pity on him, consented at last to be caught, he was happy--but he knew how to control his emotion.

    On this day the two lovers--one might say, the two betrothed-- were seated upon the verdant bank. The limpid Vaar murmured a few feet below them. Suzel quietly drew her needle across the canvas. Frantz automatically carried his line from left to right, then permitted it to descend the current from right to left. The fish made capricious rings in the water, which crossed each other around the cork, while the hook hung useless near the bottom.

    From time to time Frantz would say, without raising his eyes,-"I think I have a bite, Suzel. You are always a few seconds too late, and the barbel takes advantage to escape. We shall see whether I am more adroit with the needle than with the hook. For hours together they thus exchanged soft words, and their hearts palpitated when the cork bobbed on the water. Ah, could they ever forget those charming hours, during which, seated side by side, they listened to the murmurs of the river? The barbels had not shown themselves complacent, and seemed to scoff at the two young people, who were too just to bear them malice.

    Then walking side by side, they turned their steps towards the house, without exchanging a word, as mute as their shadows which stretched out before them. Suzel became very, very tall under the oblique rays of the setting sun. Frantz appeared very, very thin, like the long rod which he held in his hand. They reached the burgomaster's house. Green tufts of grass bordered the shining pavement, and no one would have thought of tearing them away, for they deadened the noise made by the passers-by.

    As they were about to open the door, Frantz thought it his duty to say to Suzel,-"You know, Suzel, the great day is approaching? And, after the door had been closed, the young man resumed the way to his father's house with a calm and equal pace. The agitation caused by the Schut and Custos affair had subsided.

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    The affair led to no serious consequences. It appeared likely that Quiquendone would return to its habitual apathy, which that unexpected event had for a moment disturbed. Meanwhile, the laying of the pipes destined to conduct the oxyhydric gas into the principal edifices of the town was proceeding rapidly. The main pipes and branches gradually crept beneath the pavements.

    But the burners were still wanting; for, as it required delicate skill to make them, it was necessary that they should be fabricated abroad. Doctor Ox was here, there, and everywhere; neither he nor Ygne, his assistant, lost a moment, but they urged on the workmen, completed the delicate mechanism of the gasometer, fed day and night the immense piles which decomposed the water under the influence of a powerful electric current. Yes, the doctor was already making his gas, though the pipe-laying was not yet done; a fact which, between ourselves, might have seemed a little singular.

    But before long,--at least there was reason to hope so,--before long Doctor Ox would inaugurate the splendours of his invention in the theatre of the town. For Quiquendone possessed a theatre--a really fine edifice, in truth--the interior and exterior arrangement of which combined every style of architecture. It was at once Byzantine, Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, with semicircular doors, Pointed windows, Flamboyant rose-windows, fantastic bell-turrets,--in a word, a specimen of all sorts, half a Parthenon, half a Parisian Grand Caf.

    a Winter Amid the Ice by Jules Verne | Project Gutenberg | Hydrogen

    Nor was this surprising, the theatre having been commenced under the burgomaster Ludwig Van Tricasse, in , and only finished in , under the burgomaster Natalis Van Tricasse. It had required seven hundred years to build it, and it had, been successively adapted to the architectural style in vogue in each period. But for all that it was an imposing structure; the Roman pillars and Byzantine arches of which would appear to advantage lit up by the oxyhydric gas. Pretty well everything was acted at the theatre of Quiquendone; but the opera and the opera comique were especially patronized.

    It must, however, be added that the composers would never have recognized their own works, so entirely changed were the "movements" of the music. In short, as nothing was done in a hurry at Quiquendone, the dramatic pieces had to be performed in harmony with the peculiar temperament of the Quiquendonians. Though the doors of the theatre were regularly thrown open at four o'clock and closed again at ten, it had never been known that more than two acts were played during the six intervening hours.

    The vivaces, at the theatre of Quiquendone, lagged like real adagios. The allegros were "long-drawn out" indeed. The demisemiquavers were scarcely equal to the ordinary semibreves of other countries.

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    The most rapid runs, performed according to Quiquendonian taste, had the solemn march of a chant. The gayest shakes were languishing and measured, that they might not shock the ears of the dilettanti. To give an example, the rapid air sung by Figaro, on his entrance in the first act of "Le Barbir de Sville," lasted fifty-eight minutes--when the actor was particularly enthusiastic. Artists from abroad, as might be supposed, were forced to conform themselves to Quiquendonian fashions; but as they were well paid, they did not complain, and willingly obeyed the leader's baton, which never beat more than eight measures to the minute in the allegros.

    But what applause greeted these artists, who enchanted without ever wearying the audiences of Quiquendone! All hands clapped one after another at tolerably long intervals, which the papers characterized as "frantic applause;" and sometimes nothing but the lavish prodigality with which mortar and stone had been used in the twelfth century saved the roof of the hall from falling in.

    Besides, the theatre had only one performance a week, that these enthusiastic Flemish folk might not be too much excited; and this enabled the actors to study their parts more thoroughly, and the spectators to digest more at leisure the beauties of the masterpieces brought out. Such had long been the drama at Quiquendone. Foreign artists were in the habit of making engagements with the director of the town, when they wanted to rest after their exertions in other scenes; and it seemed as if nothing could ever change these inveterate customs, when, a fortnight after the Schut-Custos affair, an unlooked-for incident occurred to throw the population into fresh agitation.

    It was on a Saturday, an opera day. It was not yet intended, as may well be supposed, to inaugurate the new illumination. No; the pipes had reached the hall, but, for reasons indicated above, the burners had not yet been placed, and the wax-candles still shed their soft light upon the numerous spectators who filled the theatre. The doors had been opened to the public at one o'clock, and by three the hall was half full. A queue had at one time been formed, which extended as far as the end of the Place Saint Ernuph, in front of the shop of Josse Lietrinck the apothecary.

    This eagerness was significant of an unusually attractive performance. He will require watching! Now that we have agreed on this marriage, what more can he desire? But, in short-- we'll say no more about it--he will not be the last to get his ticket at the box-office.

    We have loved--we too! We have danced attendance in our day! Till to-night, then, till to-night! By-the-bye, do you know this Fiovaranti is a great artist? And what a welcome he has received among us! It will be long before he will forget the applause of Quiquendone! For three weeks Fiovaranti had been achieving a brilliant success in "Les Huguenots. His success had been still more marked in the third act of Meyerbeer's masterpiece.

    But now Fiovaranti was to appear in the fourth act, which was to be performed on this evening before an impatient public. Ah, the duet between Raoul and Valentine, that pathetic love-song for two voices, that strain so full of crescendos, stringendos, and piu crescendos--all this, sung slowly, compendiously,. Ah, how delightful! At four o'clock the hall was full. The boxes, the orchestra, the pit, were overflowing. In the front stalls sat the Burgomaster Van Tricasse, Mademoiselle Van Tricasse, Madame Van Tricasse, and the amiable Tatanmance in a green bonnet; not far off were the Counsellor Niklausse and his family, not forgetting the amorous Frantz.

    The families of Custos the doctor, of Schut the advocate, of Honor Syntax the chief judge, of Norbet Sontman the insurance director, of the banker Collaert, gone mad on German music, and himself somewhat of an amateur, and the teacher Rupp, and the master of the academy, Jerome Resh, and the civil commissary, and so many other notabilities of the town that they could not be enumerated here without wearying the reader's patience, were visible in different parts of the hall. It was customary for the Quiquendonians, while awaiting the rise of the curtain, to sit silent, some reading the paper, others whispering low to each other, some making their way to their seats slowly and noiselessly, others casting timid looks towards the bewitching beauties in the galleries.

    But on this evening a looker-on might have observed that, even before the curtain rose, there was unusual animation among the audience. People were restless who were never known to be restless before. The ladies' fans fluttered with abnormal rapidity. All appeared to be inhaling air of exceptional stimulating power. Every one breathed more freely. The eyes of some became unwontedly bright, and seemed to give forth a light equal to that of the candles, which themselves certainly threw a more brilliant light over the hall.

    It was evident that people saw more clearly, though the number of candles had not been increased. Ah, if Doctor Ox's experiment were being tried! But it was not being tried, as yet. The musicians of the orchestra at last took their places. The first violin had gone to the stand to give a modest la to his colleagues. The stringed instruments, the wind instruments, the drums and cymbals, were in accord.

    The conductor only waited the sound of the bell to beat the first bar. The bell sounds. The fourth act begins. The allegro appassionato of the inter-act is played as usual, with a majestic deliberation which would have made Meyerbeer frantic, and all the majesty of which was appreciated by the Quiquendonian dilettanti. But soon the leader perceived that he was no longer master of his musicians. He found it difficult to restrain them, though usually so obedient and calm. The wind instruments betrayed a tendency to hasten the movements, and it was necessary to hold them back with a firm hand, for they would otherwise outstrip the stringed instruments; which, from a musical point of view, would have been disastrous.

    The bassoon himself, the son of Josse Lietrinck the apothecary, a well-bred young man, seemed to lose his self-control. When Raoul appears at the door at the bottom of the stage, between the moment when Valentine goes to him and that when she conceals herself in the chamber at the side, a quarter of an hour does not elapse; while formerly, according to the traditions of the Quiquendone theatre, this recitative of thirty-seven bars was wont to last just thirty-seven minutes.

    Saint Bris, Nevers, Cavannes, and the Catholic nobles have appeared, somewhat prematurely, perhaps, upon the scene. The composer has marked allergo pomposo on the score. The orchestra and the lords proceed allegro indeed, but not at all pomposo, and at the chorus, in the famous scene of the "benediction of the poniards," they no longer keep to the enjoined allegro. Singers and musicians broke away impetuously. The leader does not even attempt to restrain them. Nor do the public protest; on the contrary, the people find.

    Nevers has scarcely time to protest, and to sing that "among his ancestors were many soldiers, but never an assassin. The police and the aldermen rush forward and rapidly swear "to strike all at once. The three monks, with white scarfs, hasten in by the door at the back of Nevers's room, without making any account of the stage directions, which enjoin on them to advance slowly.

    Already all the artists have drawn sword or poniard, which the three monks bless in a trice. Everybody is agitated--in the boxes, the pit, the galleries. It seems as if the spectators are about to rush upon the stage, the Burgomaster Van Tricasse at their head, to join with the conspirators and annihilate the Huguenots, whose religious opinions, however, they share. They applaud, call before the curtain, make loud acclamations! Tatanmance grasps her bonnet with feverish hand.

    The candles throw out a lurid glow of light. Raoul, instead of slowly raising the curtain, tears it apart with a superb gesture and finds himself confronting Valentine. At last! It is the grand duet, and it starts off allegro vivace. Raoul does not wait for Valentine's pleading, and Valentine does not wait for Raoul's responses. The fine passage beginning, "Danger is passing, time is flying," becomes one of those rapid airs which have made Offenbach famous, when he composes a dance for conspirators.

    The andante amoroso, "Thou hast said it, aye, thou lovest me," becomes a real vivace furioso, and the violoncello ceases to imitate the inflections of the singer's voice, as indicated in the composer's score. In vain Raoul cries, "Speak on, and prolong the ineffable slumber of my soul. Her b's and her c's above the stave were dreadfully shrill. He struggles, he gesticulates, he is all in a glow. The alarum is heard; the bell resounds; but what a panting bell! The bell-ringer has evidently lost his self-control. It is a frightful tocsin, which violently struggles against the fury of the orchestra.

    Finally the air which ends this magnificent act, beginning, "No more love, no more intoxication, O the remorse that oppresses me! You would say an express-train was whirling by. The alarum resounds again. Valentine falls fainting.

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    Raoul precipitates himself from the window. It was high time. The orchestra, really intoxicated, could not have gone on. The leader's baton is no longer anything but a broken stick on the prompter's box. The violin strings are broken, and their necks twisted. In his fury the drummer has burst his drum. The counter-bassist has perched on the top of his musical monster.

    The first clarionet has swallowed the reed of his instrument, and the second hautboy is chewing his reed keys. The groove of the trombone is strained, and finally the unhappy cornist cannot withdraw his hand from the bell of his horn, into which he had thrust it too far. And the audience! The audience, panting, all in a heat, gesticulates and howls. All the faces are as red as if a fire were burning within their bodies. They crowd each other, hustle each other to get out--the men without hats, the women without mantles! They elbow each other in the corridors, crush between the doors, quarrel,.

    There are no longer any officials, any burgomaster. All are equal amid this infernal frenzy! The fourth act of the "Huguenots," which formerly lasted six hours, began, on this evening at half-past four, and ended at twelve minutes before five. It had only lasted eighteen minutes! But if the spectators, on leaving the theatre, resumed their customary calm, if they quietly regained their homes, preserving only a sort of passing stupefaction, they had none the less undergone a remarkable exaltation, and overcome and weary as if they had committed some excess of dissipation, they fell heavily upon their beds.

    The next day each Quiquendonian had a kind of recollection of what had occurred the evening before. One missed his hat, lost in the hubbub; another a coat-flap, torn in the brawl; one her delicately fashioned shoe, another her best mantle. Memory returned to these worthy people, and with it a certain shame for their unjustifiable agitation. It seemed to them an orgy in which they were the unconscious heroes and heroines. They did not speak of it; they did not wish to think of it. But the most astounded personage in the town was Van Tricasse the burgomaster.

    The next morning, on waking, he could not find his wig. Lotch looked everywhere for it, but in vain. The wig had remained on the field of battle. As for having it publicly claimed by Jean Mistrol, the town-crier,--no, it would not do. It were better to lose the wig than to advertise himself thus, as he had the honour to be the first magistrate of Quiquendone. The worthy Van Tricasse was reflecting upon this, extended beneath his sheets, with bruised body, heavy head, furred tongue, and burning breast.

    He felt no desire to get up; on the contrary; and his brain worked more during this morning than it had probably worked before for forty years. The worthy magistrate recalled to his mind all the incidents of the incomprehensible performance. He connected them with the events which had taken place shortly before at Doctor Ox's reception. He tried to discover the causes of the singular excitability which, on two occasions, had betrayed itself in the best citizens of the town. Are we about to go mad, and must we make the town one vast asylum?

    For yesterday we were all there, notables, counsellors, judges, advocates, physicians, schoolmasters; and ail, if my memory serves me,--all of us were assailed by this excess of furious folly! But what was there in that infernal music? It is inexplicable! Yet I certainly ate or drank nothing which could put me into such a state. No; yesterday I had for dinner a slice of overdone veal, several spoonfuls of spinach with sugar, eggs, and a little beer and water,--that couldn't get into my head!

    There is something that I cannot explain, and as, after all, I am responsible for the conduct of the citizens, I will have an investigation. If the facts were clear, the causes escaped the sagacity of the magistrates. Besides, tranquillity had been restored in the public mind, and with tranquillity, forgetfulness of the strange scenes of the theatre. The newspapers avoided speaking of them, and the account of the performance which appeared in the "Quiquendone Memorial," made no allusion to this intoxication of the entire audience. Meanwhile, though the town resumed its habitual phlegm, and became apparently Flemish as before, it was observable that, at bottom, the character and temperament of the people changed little by little.

    One might have truly said, with Dominique Custos, the doctor, that "their nerves were affected. This undoubted change only took place under certain conditions. When the Quiquendonians passed through the streets of the town, walked in the squares or along the Vaar, they were always the cold and methodical people of former days. So, too, when they remained at home, some working with their hands and others with their heads,--these doing nothing, those thinking nothing,--their private life was silent, inert, vegetating as before.

    No quarrels, no household squabbles, no acceleration in the beating of the heart, no. The mean of their pulsations remained as it was of old, from fifty to fifty-two per minute. But, strange and inexplicable phenomenon though it was, which would have defied the sagacity of the most ingenious physiologists of the day, if the inhabitants of Quiquendone did not change in their home life, they were visibly changed in their civil life and in their relations between man and man, to which it leads.

    If they met together in some public edifice, it did not "work well," as Commissary Passauf expressed it. On 'change, at the town-hall, in the amphitheatre of the academy, at the sessions of the council, as well as at the reunions of the savants, a strange excitement seized the assembled citizens. Their relations with each other became embarrassing before they had been together an hour. In two hours the discussion degenerated into an angry dispute.

    Heads became heated, and personalities were used.

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    Even at church, during the sermon, the faithful could not listen to Van Stabel, the minister, in patience, and he threw himself about in the pulpit and lectured his flock with far more than his usual severity. At last this state of things brought about altercations more grave, alas! This peculiarity could not be observed by these minds, which were absolutely incapable of recognizing what was passing in them.

    One person only in the town, he whose office the council had thought of suppressing for thirty years, Michael Passauf, had remarked that this excitement, which was absent from private houses, quickly revealed itself in public edifices; and he asked himself, not without a certain anxiety, what would happen if this infection should ever develop itself in the family mansions, and if the epidemic--this was the word he used--should extend through the streets of the town. Then there would be no more forgetfulness of insults, no more tranquillity, no intermission in the delirium; but a permanent inflammation, which would inevitably bring the Quiquendonians into collision with each other.

    How check these goaded temperaments? My office would be no longer a sinecure, and the council would be obliged to double my salary-- unless it should arrest me myself, for disturbing the public peace! The infection spread from 'change, the theatre, the church, the town-hall, the academy, the market, into private houses, and that in less than a fortnight after the terrible performance of the "Huguenots. That wealthy personage gave a ball, or at least a dancing-party, to the notabilities of the town. He had issued, some months before, a loan of thirty thousand francs, three quarters of which had been subscribed; and to celebrate this financial success, he had opened his drawing-rooms, and given a party to his fellow-citizens.

    Everybody knows that Flemish parties are innocent and tranquil enough, the principal expense of which is usually in beer and syrups. Some conversation on the weather, the appearance of the crops, the fine condition of the gardens, the care of flowers, and especially of tulips; a slow and measured dance, from time to time, perhaps a minuet; sometimes a waltz, but one of those German waltzes which achieve a turn and a half per minute, and during which the dancers hold each other as far apart as their arms will permit,--such is the usual fashion of the balls attended by the aristocratic society of Quiquendone.

    The polka, after being altered to four time, had tried to become accustomed to it; but the dancers always lagged behind the orchestra, no matter how slow the measure, and it had to be abandoned. These peaceable reunions, in which the youths and maidens enjoyed an honest and moderate pleasure, had. Why, then, on this evening at Collaert the banker's, did the syrups seem to be transformed into heady wines, into sparkling champagne, into heating punches? Why, towards the middle of the evening, did a sort of mysterious intoxication take possession of the guests?

    Why did the minuet become a jig? Why did the orchestra hurry with its harmonies? Why did the candles, just as at the theatre, burn with unwonted refulgence? What electric current invaded the banker's drawing-rooms? How happened it that the couples held each other so closely, and clasped each other's hands so convulsively, that the "cavaliers seuls" made themselves conspicuous by certain extraordinary steps in that figure usually so grave, so solemn, so majestic, so very proper?

    Commissary Passauf, who was present at the party, saw the storm coming distinctly, but he could not control it or fly from it, and he felt a kind of intoxication entering his own brain. All his physical and emotional faculties increased in intensity. He was seen, several times, to throw himself upon the confectionery and devour the dishes, as if he had just broken a long fast. The animation of the ball was increasing all this while. A long murmur, like a dull buzzing, escaped from all breasts.

    They danced--really danced. The feet were agitated by increasing frenzy. The faces became as purple as those of Silenus. The eyes shone like carbuncles. The general fermentation rose to the highest pitch. And when the orchestra thundered out the waltz in "Der Freyschtz,"--when this waltz, so German, and with a movement so slow, was attacked with wild arms by the musicians,--ah! Then a galop, an infernal galop, which lasted an hour without any one being able to stop it, whirled off, in its windings, across the halls, the drawing-rooms, the antechambers, by the staircases, from the cellar to the garret of the opulent mansion, the young men and young girls, the fathers and mothers, people of every age, of every weight, of both sexes; Collaert, the fat banker, and Madame Collaert, and the counsellors, and the magistrates, and the chief justice, and Niklausse, and Madame Van Tricasse, and the Burgomaster Van Tricasse, and the Commissary Passauf himself, who never could recall afterwards who had been his partner on that terrible evening.

    And ever since that day she has seen in her dreams the fiery commissary, enfolding her in an impassioned embrace! And "she"--was the amiable Tatanmance! The laying of the pipes is finished. Now, then, we are going to operate on a large scale, on the masses! During the following months the evil, in place of subsiding, became more extended.

    From private houses the epidemic spread into the streets. The town of Quiquendone was no longer to be recognized. A phenomenon yet stranger than those which had already happened, now appeared; not only the animal kingdom, but the vegetable kingdom itself, became subject to the mysterious influence.

    According to the ordinary course of things, epidemics are special in their operation. Those which attack humanity spare the animals, and those which attack the animals spare the vegetables. A horse was never inflicted with smallpox, nor a man with the cattle-plague, nor do sheep suffer from the potato-rot. But here all the laws of nature seemed to be overturned. Not only were the character, temperament, and ideas of the townsfolk changed, but the domestic animals--dogs and cats, horses and cows, asses and goats--suffered from this epidemic influence, as if their habitual equilibrium had been changed.

    The plants themselves were infected by a similar strange metamorphosis. In the gardens and vegetable patches and orchards very curious symptoms manifested themselves. Climbing plants climbed more audaciously. Tufted plants became more tufted than ever. Shrubs became trees. Cereals, scarcely sown, showed their little green heads, and gained, in the same length of time, as much in inches as formerly, under the most favourable circumstances, they had gained in fractions. Asparagus attained the height of several feet; the artichokes swelled to the size of melons, the melons to the size of pumpkins, the pumpkins to the size of gourds, the gourds to the size of the belfry bell, which measured, in truth, nine feet in diameter.

    The cabbages were bushes, and the mushrooms umbrellas. The fruits did not lag behind the vegetables. It required two persons to eat a strawberry, and four to consume a pear. The grapes also attained the enormous proportions of those so well depicted by Poussin in his "Return of the Envoys to the Promised Land. And the tulips,--those dear liliaceous plants so dear to the Flemish heart, what emotion they must have caused to their zealous cultivators!

    The worthy Van Bistrom nearly fell over backwards, one day, on seeing in his garden an enormous "Tulipa gesneriana," a gigantic monster, whose cup afforded space to a nest for a whole family of robins! The entire town flocked to see this floral phenomenon, and renamed it the "Tulipa quiquendonia". But alas!

    The air which they absorbed rapidly exhausted them, and they soon died, faded, and dried up. Such was the fate of the famous tulip, which, after several days of splendour, became emaciated, and fell lifeless. It was soon the same with the domestic animals, from the house-dog to the stable pig, from the canary in its cage to the turkey of the back-court. It must be said that in ordinary times these animals were not less phlegmatic than their masters.

    The dogs and cats vegetated rather than lived. They never betrayed a wag of pleasure nor a snarl of wrath. Their tails moved no more than if they had been made of bronze. Such a thing as a bite or scratch from any of them had not been known from time immemorial. As for mad dogs, they were looked upon as imaginary beasts, like the griffins and the rest in the menagerie of the apocalypse. But what a change had taken place in a few months, the smallest incidents of which we are trying to reproduce! Dogs and cats began to show teeth and claws.

    Several executions had taken place after reiterated offences. A horse was seen, for the first time, to take his bit in his teeth and rush through the streets of Quiquendone; an ox was observed to precipitate itself, with lowered horns, upon one of his herd; an ass was seen to turn himself ever, with his legs in the air, in the Place Saint Ernuph, and bray as ass never brayed before; a sheep, actually a sheep, defended valiantly the cutlets within him from the butcher's knife.

    Van Tricasse, the burgomaster, was forced to make police regulations concerning the domestic animals, as, seized with lunacy, they rendered the streets of Quiquendone unsafe. No age was spared by the scourge. Babies soon became quite insupportable, though till now so easy to bring up; and for the first time Honor Syntax, the judge, was obliged to apply the rod to his youthful offspring. There was a kind of insurrection at the high school, and the dictionaries became formidable missiles in the classes.

    The scholars would not submit to be shut in, and, besides, the infection took the teachers themselves, who overwhelmed the boys and girls with extravagant tasks and punishments.

    A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition) A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition)
    A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition) A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition)
    A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition) A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition)
    A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition) A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition)
    A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition) A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition)
    A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition) A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition)
    A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition) A Winter Amid The Ice And Other Thrilling Stories (Illustrated Edition)

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