Книга Perfume. The story of a murderer. Содержание - Fifteen

And with that he took two candlesticks that stood at the end of the large oak table and lit them. He placed all three next to one another along the back, pushed the goatskins to one side, cleared the middle of the table. Then, with a few composed yet rapid motions, he fetched from a small stand the utensils needed for the task-the big-bellied mixing bottle, the glass funnel, the pipette, the small and large measuring glasses -and placed them in proper order on the oaken surface.

Grenouille had meanwhile freed himself from the doorframe. Even while Baldini was making his pompous speech, the stiffness and cunning intensity had fallen away from him. He had heard only the approval, only the “yes,” with the inner jubilation of a child that has sulked its way to some— permission granted and thumbs its nose at the limitations, conditions, and moral admonitions tied to it. Standing there at his ease and letting the rest of Baldini’s oration flow by, he was for the first time more human than animal, because he knew that he had already conquered the man who had yielded to him.

While Baldini was still fussing with his candlesticks at the table, Grenouille had already slipped off into the darkness of the laboratory with its cupboards full of precious essences, oils, and tinctures, and following his sure-scenting nose, grabbed each of the necessary bottles from the shelves. There were nine altogether: essence of orange blossom, lime oil, attars of rose and clove, extracts of jasmine, bergamot, and rosemary, musk tincture, and storax balm, all quickly plucked down and set at the ready on the edge of the table. The last item he lugged over was a demijohn full of high-proof rectified spirit. Then he placed himself behind Baldini-who was still arranging his mixing utensils with deliberate pedantry, moving this glass back a bit, that one over more to one side, so that everything would be in its old accustomed order and displayed to its best advantage in the candlelight— and waited, quivering with impatience, for the old man to get out of the way and make room for him.

“There!” Baldini said at last, stepping aside. “I’ve lined up everything you’ll require for-let us graciously call it-your ‘experiment.’ Don’t break anything, don’t spill anything. Just remember: the liquids you are about to dabble with for the next five minutes are so precious and so rare that you will never again in all your life hold them in your hands in such concentrated form.”

“How much of it shall I make for you, maitre?” Grenouille asked.

“Make what…?” said Baldini, who had not yet finished his speech.

“How much of the perfume?” rasped Grenouille. “How much of it do you want? Shall I fill this big bottle here to the rim?” And he pointed to a mixing bottle that held a gallon at the very least.

“No, you shall not!” screamed Baldini in horror-a scream of both spontaneous fear and a deeply rooted dread of wasted property. Embarrassed at what his scream had revealed, he followed it up by roaring, “And don’t interrupt me when I am speaking, either!” Then in a calm voice tinged with irony, he continued, “Why would we need a gallon of a perfume that neither of us thinks much of? Haifa beakerful will do, really. But since such small quantities are difficult to measure, I’ll allow you to start with a third of a mixing bottle.”

“Good,” said Grenouille. “I’m going to fill a third of this bottle with Amor and Psyche. But, Maitre Baidini, I will do it in my own way. I don’t know if it will be how a craftsman would do it. I don’t know how that’s done. But I will do it my own way.”

“As you please,” said Baidini, who knew that in this business there was no “your way” or “my way,” but one and only one way, which consisted of knowing the formula and, using the appropriate calculations for the quantity one desired, creating a precisely measured concentrate of the various essences, which then had to be volatilized into a true perfume by mixing it in a precise ratio with alcohol-usually varying between one-to-ten and one-to-twenty. There was no other way, that he knew. And therefore what he was now called upon to witness-first with derisive hauteur, then with dismay, and finally with helpless astonishment-seemed to him nothing less than a miracle. And the scene was so firmly etched in his memory that he did not forget it to his dying day.


THE LITTLE MAN named Grenouille first uncorked the demijohn of alcohol. Heaving the heavy vessel up gave him difficulty. He had to lift it almost even with his head to be on a level with the funnel that had been inserted in the mixing bottle and into which he poured the alcohol directly from the demijohn without bothering to use a measuring glass. Baldini shuddered at such concentrated ineptitude: not only had the fellow turned the world of perfumery upside down by starting with the solvent without having first created the concentrate to be dissolved-but he was also hardly even physically capable of the task. He was shaking with exertion, and Baldini was waiting at any moment for the heavy demijohn to come crashing down and smash everything on the table to pieces. The candles, he thought, for God’s sake, the candles! There’s going to be an explosion, he’ll burn my house down…! And he was about to lunge for the demijohn and grab it out of the madman’s hands when Grenouille set it down himself, getting it back on the floor all in one piece, and stoppered it. A clear, light liquid swayed in the bottle-not a drop spilled. For a few moments Grenouille panted for breath, but with a look of contentment on his face as if the hardest part of the job were behind him. And indeed, what happened now proceeded with such speed that BaWini could hardly follow it with his eyes, let alone keep track of the order in which it occurred or make even partial sense of the procedure.

Grenouille grabbed apparently at random from the row of essences in their flacons, pulled out the glass stoppers, held the contents under his nose for an instant, splashed a bit of one bottle, dribbled a drop or two of another, poured a dash of a third into the funnel, and so on. Pipette, test tube, measuring glass, spoons and rods-all the utensils that allow the perfumer to control the complicated process of mixing-Grenouille did not so much as touch a single one of them. It was as if he were just playing, splashing and swishing like a child busy cooking up some ghastly brew of water, grass, and mud, which he then asserts to be soup. Yes, like a child, thought Baldini; all at once he looks like a child, despite his ungainly hands, despite his scarred, pockmarked face and his bulbous old-man’s nose. I took him to be older than he is; but now he seems much younger to me; he looks as if he were three or four; looks just like one of those unapproachable, incomprehensible, willful little prehuman creatures, who in their ostensible innocence think only of themselves, who want to subordinate the whole world to their despotic will, and would do it, too, if one let them pursue their megalomaniacal ways and did not apply the strictest pedagogical principles to guide them to a disciplined, self-controlled, fully human existence. There was just such a fanatical child trapped inside this young man, standing at the table with eyes aglow, having forgotten everything around him, apparently no longer aware that there was anything else in the laboratory but himself and these bottles that he tipped into the funnel with nimble awkwardness to mix up an insane brew that he would confidently swear-and would truly believe!-to be the exquisite perfume Amor and Psyche. Baldini shuddered as he watched the fellow bustling about in the candlelight, so shockingly absurd and so shockingly self-confident. In the old days-so he thought, and for a moment he felt as sad and miserable and furious as he had that afternoon while gazing out onto the city glowing ruddy in the twilight-in the old days people like that simply did not exist; he was an entirely new specimen of the race, one that could arise only in exhausted, dissipated times like these…, But he was about to be taught his lesson, the impertinent boy. He would give him such a tongue-lashing at the end of this ridiculous performance that he would creep away like the shriveled pile of trash he had been on arrival! Vermin! One dared not get involved with anyone at all these days, the world was simply teeming with absurd vermin!

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