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

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But nothing came of that. Nothing could ever come of it. And most certainly not on this day. For after all, he was masked with the best perfume in the world, and beneath his mask there was no face, but only his total odorlessness. Suddenly he was sick to his stomach, for he felt the fog rising again.

Just as it had back then in his cave, in his dream, in his sleep, in his heart, in his fantasy, all at once fog was rising, the dreadful fog from his own odor, which he could not smell, because he was odorless. And just as then, he was filled with boundless fear and terror, felt as if he were going to suffocate. But this time it was different, this was no dream, no sleep, but naked reality. And different, too, because he was not lying alone in a cave, but standing in a public place before ten thousand people. And different because here no scream would help to wake and free him, no flight would rescue him and bring him into the good, warm world. For here and now, this was the world, and this, here and now, was his dream come true. And he had wanted it thus.

The horrible, suffocating fog rose up from the morass of his soul, while all around him people moaned in orgiastic and orgasmic rapture. A man came running up to him. He had leapt up out of the first row of the notables’ grandstand so violently that his black hat toppled from his head, and now with his black frock coat billowing, he fluttered across the parade grounds like a raven or an avenging angel. It was Richis.

He is going to kill me, thought Grenouille. He is the only one who has not let himself be deceived by my mask. He won’t let himself be deceived. The scent of his daughter is clinging to me, betraying me as surely as blood. He has got to recognize me and kill me. He has got to do it.

And he spread his arms wide to receive the angel storming down upon him. He already could feel the thrust of the dagger or sword tickling so wonderfully at his breast, and the blade passing through his armor of scent and the suffocating fog, right to the middle of his cold heart-finally, finally, something in his heart, something other than himself! And he sensed his deliverance already at hand.

And then, suddenly, there was Richis at his breast, no avenging angel, but a shaken, pitiably sobbing Richis, who threw his arms around him, clutching him very tight, as if he could find no other footing in a sea of bliss. No liberating thrust of the dagger, no prick to the heart, not even a curse or a cry of hatred. Instead, Richis’s cheek wet with tears glued to his, and quivering lips that whimpered to him: “Forgive me, my son, my dear son, forgive me!”

With that, everything within him went white before his eyes, while the world outside turned raven black.

The trapped fog condensed to a raging liquid, like frothy, boiling milk. It inundated him, pressed its unbearable weight against the inner shell of his body, could find no way out. He wanted to flee, for God’s sake, to flee, but where… He wanted to burst, to explode, to keep from suffocating on himself. Finally he sank down and lost consciousness.


WHEN HE again came to, he was lying in Laure Richis’s bed. The reliquary of clothes and hair had been removed. A candle was burning on the night table. The window was ajar, and he could hear the exultation of the town’s revels in the distance. An-toine Richis was sitting on a footstool beside the bed watching him. He had placed Grenouille’s hand in his own and was stroking it.

Even before he opened his eyes, Grenouille had checked the atmosphere. Everything was quiet within him. There was no more boiling or bursting. His soul was again dominated as usual by cold night, just what he needed for a frosty and clear conscious mind to be directed to the outside world: there he smelled his perfume. It had changed. Its peaks had leveled off so that the core of Laure’s scent emerged more splendidly than ever-a mild, dark, glowing fire. He felt secure. He knew that he was unassailable for a few hours yet, and he opened his eyes.

Richis’s gaze rested on him. An infinite benevolence lay in that gaze: tenderness, compassion, the empty, fatuous profundity of a lover.

He smiled, pressed Grenouille’s hand more tightly, and said, “It will all turn out all right. The magistrate has overturned the verdict. All the witnesses have recanted. You are free. You can do whatever you want. But I would like you to stay here with me. I have lost a daughter, but I want to gain you as my son. You’re very much like her. You are beautiful like her, your hair, your mouth, your hand… I have been holding your hand all this time, your hand is like hers. And when I look into your eyes, it’s as if she were looking at me. You are her brother, and I want you to become my son, my friend, my pride and joy, my heir. Are your parents still alive?”

Grenouille shook his head, and Richis’s face turned beet red for joy. “Then will you be my son?” he stammered, jumping up from his stool to sit on the edge of the bed and clasp Grenouille’s other hand as well. “Will you? Will you? Will you have me for a father?-Don’t say anything! Don’t speak! You are still too weak to talk. Just nod”

Grenouille nodded. And joy erupted from Richis’s every pore like scarlet sweat, and he bent down to Grenouille and kissed him on the mouth.

“Sleep now, my dear son!” he said, standing back up again. “I will keep watch over you until you have fallen asleep.” And after he had observed him in mute bliss for a long time: “You have made me very, very happy.”

Grenouille pulled the corners of his mouth apart, the way he had noticed people do when they smile. Then he closed his eyes. He waited a while before letting his respiration grow easy and deep like a sleeper’s. He could feel Richis’s loving gaze on his face. At one point he felt Richis bending forward again to kiss him, but then refraining for fear of waking him. Finally the candle was blown out, and Richis slipped on tiptoe from the room.

Grenouille lay there until he could no longer hear a sound in the house or the town. When he got up, it was already dawn. He dressed and stole away, softly down the hall, softly down the stairs, and through the salon out onto the terrace.

From there you could see over the city wall, out across the valley surrounding Grasse-in clear weather probably as far as the sea. A light fog, or better a haze, hung now over the fields, and the odors that came from them-grass, broom, and rose-seemed washed clean, comfortably plain and simple. Grenouille crossed the garden and climbed over the wall.

Out on the parade grounds he had to fight his way through human effluvia before he reached open country. The whole area and the slopes looked like a gigantic, debauched army camp. Drunken forms by the thousands lay all about, exhausted by the dissipations of their nocturnal festivities, many of them naked, many half exposed, half covered by their clothes, which they had used as a sort of blanket to creep under. It stank of sour wine, of brandy, of sweat and piss, of baby shit and charred meat. The camp-fires where they had roasted, drunk, and danced were still smoking here and there. Now and then a murmur or a snigger would gurgle up from the thousands of snores. It was possible that a few people were still awake, guzzling away the last scraps of consciousness from their brains. But no one saw Grenouille, who carefully but quickly climbed over the scattered bodies as if moving across a swamp. And those who saw him did not recognize him. He no longer had any scent. The miracle was over.

Once he had crossed the grounds, he did not take the road toward Grenoble, nor the one to Cabris, but walked straight across the fields toward the west, never once turning to look back. When the sun rose, fat and yellow and scorching hot, he had long since vanished.

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