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.“Oh!” she murmurs in both relief and disappointment.“Oh …”Then Martha, like Ruth, like little Ella and even intemperate Emily Durand, finally also enters dreamland, but the bitter scents of the burning city alter the workings of her sleeping brain, and so the unknown man Martha glimpsed from her window grows and grows until he becomes a giant of a person, capable of reaching his huge hands into her bed and snatching her up as if she were only a small and helpless child.“Father?” she mutters in her sleep.“Father, have you come home at last?”Mary, AloneTHE MAN IS NAKED FROM the waist down; his buttocks, as he bends over the girl, are as white-gray and slippery as fish skin.Her skin is white also, a tangle of straight, young legs and arms whose color is brushed with a healthy-looking pink although it should not be.Because the girl is dead, and has been dead for some minutes.The man knows this fact; he’s already left off squeezing her throat but is continuing to pump his buttocks up and down, his flesh growing increasingly slick and prickled as if slapped with a sleety wind.“Mary,” he croons as he works, “my little Mary …”The child doesn’t answer, of course, and the man’s ecstasy increases.He’s aware of the rapid beating of his heart, aware of the blood coursing through his body, and of a sensation of remarkable rejuvenation and power.He feels transformed, healed, saved, and wholly and forever at peace.“Mary,” he sighs again, “my little one, my dear.” He closes his eyes and sees angels and clouds, God ensconced on an amber throne and the saints who parade before him night and day, chanting hymns throughout the heavens.He accompanies their pure, celestial voices as they sing:“‘Blessed are those that are undefiled in the way, and walk in the law of the Lord … Blessed are all they that fear the Lord … Blessed be the Lord my strength who teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight … O daughter of Babylon, wasted with misery … Blessed be he that taketh thy children and throweth them against the stones to execute judgment upon them … Deliver my soul, Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.’”Then the sensation of glory and might begins to leach out of him as it always does, and he becomes increasingly aware of the dead body beneath him, its scent of fear, the excrement and blood and urine that seeped from it to stain his own spotless skin.He stands up in sudden disgust.This girl has soiled him all the way down to the depths of his soul.She is no beloved “Mary”; nor will she ever be.He reaches into the pocket of his fine velvet jacket, extracting a pearl-handled pocketknife, which he puts beside the girl’s jumbled body.Then he removes his jacket and waistcoat and shirt, placing them in careful regard upon the far corner of the bed.He steps to the washstand and carefully bathes himself with a wet towel and a hearty dose of soapsuds.He enjoys the sensation of rubbing his body clean, the languid, thoughtful motions, the propriety of the act.His spirits begin to revive, although the reek of the fancy house and the cloying odor of grown women remain disappointingly in his nostrils.He sighs that this should ever be the case, then dries himself, takes up his handsome knife, and twists the girl’s head till it faces him.He opens her mouth, takes hold of her tongue, and in one quick movement severs it from her head.The metal blade bangs once against her fox-like little teeth.He winces at the unpleasant harshness of the sound, wrinkles his nose at the swift gush of blood.Finally, he places the tongue upon a pillow and arranges the girl in a kneeling position, face down, chest down, with her feet trailing upon the dusty floor as though she were deep in prayer.He surveys his work, then washes and dries himself again and pulls on his trousers, his fine leather boots, his soft linen shirt, the jacket that’s the color of a mole’s soft belly, his cravat, his fur-lined greatcoat, his scarf and beaver hat.At last, wiping the knife clean on the coverlet, he returns it to an interior pocket [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]