Книга Perfume. The story of a murderer. Содержание - PART IV

The people of Grasse awoke with a terrible hangover. Even those who had not drunk had heads heavy as lead and were wretchedly sick to their stomachs and wretchedly sick at heart. Out on the parade grounds, by bright sunlight, simple peasants searched for the clothes they had flung off in the excesses of their orgy; respectable women searched for their husbands and children; total strangers unwound themselves in horror from intimate embraces; acquaintances, neighbors, spouses were suddenly standing opposite each other painfully embarrassed by their public nakedness.

For many of them the experience was so ghastly, so completely inexplicable and incompatible with their genuine moral precepts that they had literally erased it from their memories the moment it happened and as a result truly could not recall any of it later. Others, who were not in such sovereign control of their faculties of perception, tried to shut their eyes, their ears, their minds to it-which was not all that easy, for the shame of it was too obvious and too universal. As soon as someone had found his effects and his kin, he beat as hasty and inconspicuous a retreat as possible. By noon the grounds were as good as swept clean.

The townspeople did not emerge from their houses until evening, if at all, to pursue their most pressing errands. Their greetings when they met were of the most cursory sort; they made nothing but small talk. Not a word was said about the events of the morning and the previous night. They were as modest now as they had been uninhibited and brash yesterday. And they were all like that, for they were all guilty. Never was there greater harmony among the citizens of Grasse than on that day-people lived packed in cotton.

Of course, many of them, because of the offices they held, were forced to deal directly with what had happened. The continuity of public life, the inviolability of law and order demanded that swift measures be taken. The town council was in session by afternoon. The gentlemen-the second consul among them-embraced one another mutely as if by this conspiratorial gesture the body were newly constituted. Then without so much as mentioning the events themselves or even the name Grenouille, they unanimously resolved “immediately to have the scaffold and grandstand on the parade grounds dismantled and to have the trampled fields surrounding them restored to their former orderly state.” For this purpose, 160 livres were appropriated.

At the same time the judges met at the provost court. The magistrates agreed without debate to regard the “case of G.” as settled, to close the files, to place them in the archives without registry, and to open new proceedings against the thus-far unidentified murderer of twenty-five maidens in the region around Grasse. The order was passed to the police lieutenant to begin his investigation immediately.

By the next day, he had already made new discoveries. On the basis of incontrovertible evidence, he arrested Dominique Druot, maitre parfumeur in the rue de la Louve, since, after all, it was in his cabin that the clothes and hair of all the victims had been found. The judges were not deceived by the lies he told at first. After fourteen hours of torture, he confessed everything and even begged to be executed as soon as possible-which wish was granted and the execution set for the following day. They strung him up by the gray light of dawn, without any fuss, without scaffold or grandstand, with only the hangman, a magistrate of the court, a doctor, and a priest in attendance. Once death had occurred, had been verified and duly recorded, the body was promptly buried. With that the case was closed.

The town had forgotten it in any event, forgotten it so totally that travelers who passed through in the days that followed and casually inquired about Grasse’s infamous murderer of young maidens found not a single sane person who could give them any information. Only a few fools from the Charite, notorious lunatics, babbled something or other about a great feast on the place du Cours, on account of which they had been forced to vacate their rooms.

And soon life had returned completely to normal. People worked hard and slept well and went about their business and behaved decently. Water gushed as it always had from the fountains and wells, sending muck floating down the streets. Once again the town clung shabbily but proudly to its slopes above the fertile basin. The sun shone warmly. Soon it was May. They harvested roses.



GRENOULLE TRAVELED by night. As he had done at the beginning of his journeys, he steered clear of cities, avoided highways, lay down to sleep at daybreak, arose in the evening, and walked on. He fed on whatever he found on the way: grasses, mushrooms, flowers, dead birds, worms. He marched through the Provence; south of Orange he crossed the Rhone in a stolen boat, followed the Ardeche deep into the Cevennes and then the Allier northwards.

In the Auvergne he drew close to the Plomb du Cantal. He saw it lying to the west, huge and silver gray in the moonlight, and he smelled the cool wind that came from it. But he felt no urge to visit it. He no longer yearned for his life in the cave. He had experienced that life once and it had proved unlivable. Just as had his other experience-life among human beings. He was suffocated by both worlds. He no longer wanted to live at all. He wanted to go to Paris and die. That was what he wanted.

From time to time he reached in his pocket and closed his hand around the little glass flacon of his perfume. The bottle was still almost full. He had used only a drop of it for his performance in Grasse. There was enough left to enslave the whole world. If he wanted, he could be feted in Paris, not by tens of thousands, but by hundreds of thousands of people; or could walk out to Versailles and have the king kiss his feet; write the pope a perfumed letter and reveal himself as the new Messiah; be anointed in Notre-Dame as Supreme Emperor before kings and emperors, or even as God come to earth-if there was such a thing as God having Himself anointed…

He could do all that, if only he wanted to. He possessed the power. He held it in his hand. A power stronger than the power of money or the power of terror or the power of death: the invincible power to command the love of mankind. There was only one thing that power could not do: it could not make him able to smell himself. And though his perfume might allow him to appear before the world as a god-if he could not smell himself and thus never know who he was, to hell with it, with the world, with himself, with his perfume.

The hand that had grasped the flacon was fragrant with a faint scent, and when he put it to his nose and sniffed, he grew wistful and forgot to walk on and stood there smelling. No one knows how good this perfume really is, he thought. No one knows how well made it is. Other people are merely conquered by its effect, don’t even know that it’s a perfume that’s working on them, enslaving them. The only one who has ever recognized it for its true beauty is me, because I created it myself. And at the same time, I’m the only one that it cannot enslave. I am the only person for whom it is meaningless.

And on another occasion-he was already in Burgundy: When I was standing there at the wall below the garden where the redheaded girl was playing and her scent came floating down to me… or, better, the promise of her scent, for the scent she would carry later did not even exist yet-maybe what I felt that day is like what the people on the parade grounds felt when I flooded them with my perfume…? But then he cast the thought aside: No, it was something else. Because I knew that I desired the scent, not the girl. But those people believed that they desired me, and what they really desired remained a mystery to them.

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