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Книга Perfume. The story of a murderer. Содержание - Thirty-six

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The sweat stood out on Grenouille’s forehead. He knew that children did not have an exceptional scent, any more than green buds of flowers before they blossom. This child behind the wall, however, this bud still almost closed tight, which only just now was sending out its first fragrant tips, unnoticed by anyone except by him, Grenouille-this child already had a scent so terrifyingly celestial that once it had unfolded its total glory, it would unleash a perfume such as the world had never smelled before. She already smells better now, Grenouille thought, than that girl did back then in the rue des Marais-not as robust, not as voluminous, but more refined, more richly nuanced, and at the same time more natural. In a year or two this scent will be ripened and take on a gravity that no one, man or woman, will be able to escape. People will be overwhelmed, disarmed, helpless before the magic of this girl, and they will not know why. And because people are stupid and use their noses only for blowing, but believe absolutely anything they see with their eyes, they will say it is because this is a girl with beauty and grace and charm. In their obtuseness, they will praise the evenness of her features, her slender figure, her faultless breasts. And her eyes, they will say, are like emeralds and her teeth like pearls and her limbs smooth as ivory-and all those other idiotic comparisons. And they will elect her Queen of the Jasmine, and she will be painted by stupid portraitists, her picture will be ogled, and people will say that she is the most beautiful woman in France. And to the strains of mandolins, youths will howl the nights away sitting beneath her window… rich, fat old men will skid about on their knees begging her father for her hand… and women of every age will sigh at the sight of her and in their sleep dream of looking as alluring as she for just one day. And none of them will know that it is truly not how she looks that has captured them, not her reputed unblemished external beauty, but solely her incomparable, splendid scent! Only he would know that, only Grenouille, he alone. He knew it already in fact.

Ah! He wanted to have that scent! Not in the useless, clumsy fashion by which he had had the scent of the girl in the rue des Marais. For he had merely sucked that into himself and destroyed it in the process. No, he wanted truly to possess the scent of this girl behind the wall; to peel it from her like skin and to make her scent his own. How that was to be done, he did not know yet. But he had two years in which to learn. Ultimately it ought to be no more difficult than robbing a rare flower of its perfume.

He stood up, almost reverently, as if leaving behind something sacred or someone in deep sleep. He moved on, softly, hunched over, so that no one might see him, no one might hear him, no one might be made aware of his precious discovery. And so he fled along the wall to the opposite end of the town, where he finally lost the girl’s scent and reentered by way of the Porte des Feneants. He stood in the shadow of the buildings. The stinking vapors of the streets made him feel secure and helped him to tame the passions that had overcome him. Within fifteen minutes he had grown perfectly calm again. To start with, he thought, he would not again approach the vicinity of the garden behind the wall. That was not necessary. It excited him too much. The flower would flourish there without his aid, and he knew already in what manner it would flourish. He dared not intoxicate himself with that scent prematurely. He had to throw himself into his work. He had to broaden his knowledge and perfect the techniques of his craft in order to be equipped for the time of harvest. He had a good two years.


NOT FAR FROM the Porte des F6n6ants, in the rue de la Louve, Grenouille discovered a small perfumer’s workshop and asked for a job.

It turned out that the proprietor, maitre parfumeur Honore Arnulfi, had died the winter before and that his widow, a lively, black-haired woman of perhaps thirty, was managing the business alone, with the help of a journeyman.

After complaining at length about the bad times and her own precarious financial situation, Madame Arnulfi declared that she really could not afford a second journeyman, but on the other hand she needed one for all the upcoming work; that she could not possibly put up a second journeyman here in the house, but on the other hand she did have at her disposal a small cabin in an olive grove behind the Franciscan cloister-not ten minutes away-in which a young man of modest needs could sleep in a pinch; further, that as an honest mistress she certainly knew that she was responsible for the physical well-being of her journeymen, but that on the other hand she did not see herself in a position to provide two warm meals a day-in short (as Grenouille had of course smelled for some time already): Madame Amulfi was a woman of solid prosperity and sound business sense. And since he was not concerned about money and declared himself satisfied with a salary of two francs a week and with the other niggardly provisions, they quickly came to an agreement. The first journeyman was called in, a giant of a man named Druot. Grenouille at once guessed that he regularly shared Madame’s bed and that she apparently did not make certain decisions without first consulting him. With legs spread wide and exuding a cloud of spermy odor, he planted himself before Grenouille, who looked ridiculously frail in the presence of this Hun, and inspected him, looked him straight in the eye-as if this technique would allow him to recognize any improper intentions or a possible rival-finally grinned patronizingly, and signaled his agreement with a nod.

That settled it. Grenouille got a handshake, a cold evening snack, a blanket, and a key to the cabin-a windowless shack that smelled pleasantly of old sheep dung and hay, where he made himself at home as well as he could. The next day he began work for Madame Arnulfi.

It was jonquil season. Madame Arnulfi had the flowers grown on small parcels of land that she owned in the broad basin below the city, or she bought them from farmers, with whom she haggled fiercely over every ounce. The blossoms were delivered very early in the morning, emptied out in the workshop by the basketfuls into massive but lightweight and fragrant piles. Meanwhile, in a large caldron Druot melted pork lard and beef tallow to make a creamy soup into which he pitched shovelfuls of fresh blossoms, while Grenouille constantly had to stir it all with a spatula as long as a broom. They lay on the surface for a moment, like eyes facing instant death, and lost all color the moment the spatula pushed them down into the warm, oily embrace. And at almost the same moment they wilted and withered, and death apparently came so rapidly upon them that they had no choice but to exhale their last fragrant sighs into the very medium that drowned them; for-and Gre-aouille observed this with indescribable fascination -the more blossoms he stirred under into the caldron, the sweeter the scent of the oil. And it was not that the dead blossoms continued to give off scent there in the oil-no, the oil itself had appropriated the scent of the blossoms.

Now and then the soup got too thick, and they had to pour it quickly through a sieve, freeing it of macerated cadavers to make room for fresh blossoms. Then they dumped and mixed and sieved some more, all day long without pause, for the procedure allowed no delays, until, as evening approached, all the piles of blossoms had passed through the caldron of oil. Then-so that nothing might be wasted-the refuse was steeped in boiling water and wrung out to the last drop in a screw press, yielding still more mildly fragrant oil. The majority of the scent, however, the soul of the sea of blossoms, had remained in the caldron, trapped and preserved in an unsightly, slowly congealing grayish white grease.

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