The Saturday Night Special: “The Spider” by Hanns Heinz Ewers

The Spider

by Hanns Heinz Ewers


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When the student of medicine, Richard Bracquemont, decided to move
into room #7 of the small Hotel Stevens, Rue Alfred Stevens (Paris 6),
three persons had already hanged themselves from the cross-bar of the
window in that room on three successive Fridays.

The first was a Swiss traveling salesman. They found his corpse on
Saturday evening. The doctor determined that the death must have
occurred between five and six o’clock on Friday afternoon. The corpse
hung on a strong hook that had been driven into the window’s cross-bar
to serve as a hanger for articles of clothing. The window was closed,
and the dead man had used the curtain cord as a noose. Since the
window was very low, he hung with his knees practically touching the
floor-a sign of the great discipline the suicide must have exercised
in carrying out his design. Later, it was learned that he was a
married man, a father. He had been a man of a continually happy
disposition; a man who had achieved a secure place in life. There was
not one written word to be found that would have shed light on his

suicide…not even a will.

Furthermore, none of his acquaintances could recall hearing anything
at all from him that would have permitted anyone to predict his end.

The second case was not much different. The artist, Karl Krause, a
high wire cyclist in the nearby Medrano Circus, moved into room ¹7 two

Hanns Heinz Ewers 1871-1943

Hanns Heinz Ewers

days later. When he did not show up at Friday’s performance, the
director sent an employee to the hotel. There, he found Krause in the
unlocked room hanging from the window cross-bar in circumstances
exactly like those of the previous suicide. This death was as
perplexing as the first. Krause was popular. He earned a very high
salary, and had appeared to enjoy life at its fullest. Once again,
there was no suicide note; no sinister hints. Krause’s sole survivor
was his mother to whom the son had regularly sent 300 marks on the
first of the month.

For Madame Dubonnet, the owner of the small, cheap guesthouse whose
clientele was composed almost completely of employees in a nearby
Montmartre vaudeville theater, this second curious death in the same
room had very unpleasant consequences. Already several of her guests
had moved out, and other regular clients had not come back. She
appealed for help to her personal friend, the inspector of police of
the ninth precinct, who assured her that he would do everything in his
power to help her. He pushed zealously ahead not only with the
investigation into the grounds for the suicides of the two guests, but
he also placed an officer in the mysterious room.

This man, Charles-Maria Chaumié, actually volunteered for the task.
Chaumié was an old “Marsouin,” a marine sergeant with eleven years of
service, who had lain so many nights at posts in Tonkin and Annam, and
had greeted so many stealthily creeping river pirates with a shot from
his rifle that he seemed ideally suited to encounter the “ghost” that
everyone on Rue Alfred Stevens was talking about.

From then on, each morning and each evening, Chaumié paid a brief
visit to the police station to make his report, which, for the first
few days, consisted only of his statement that he had not noticed
anything unusual. On Wednesday evening, however, he hinted that he had
found a clue.

Pressed to say more, he asked to be allowed more time before making
any comment, since he was not sure that what he had discovered had any
relationship to the two deaths, and he was afraid he might say
something that would make him look foolish.

On Thursday, his behavior seemed a bit uncertain, but his mood was
noticeably more serious. Still, he had nothing to report. On Friday
morning, he came in very excited and spoke, half humorously, half
seriously, of the strangely attractive power that his window had. He
would not elaborate this notion and said that, in any case, it had
nothing to do with the suicides; and that it would be ridiculous of
him to say any more. When, on that same Friday, he failed to make his
regular evening report, someone went to his room and found him hanging
from the cross-bar of the window.

All the circumstances, down to the minutest detail, were the same here
as in the previous cases. Chaumié’s legs dragged along the ground. The
curtain cord had been used for a noose. The window was closed, the
door to the room had not been locked and death had occurred at six
o’clock. The dead man’s mouth was wide open, and his tongue protruded
from it.

Chaumié’s death, the third in as many weeks in room #7, had the
following consequences: all the guests, with the exception of a German
high-school teacher in room #16, moved out. The teacher took advantage
of the occasion to have his rent reduced by a third. The next day,
Mary Garden, the famous Opéra Comique singer, drove up to the Hotel
Stevens and paid two hundred francs for the red curtain cord, saying
it would bring her luck. The story, small consolation for Madame
Dubonnet, got into the papers.

If these events had occurred in summer, in July or August, Madame
Dubonnet would have secured three times that price for her cord, but
as it was in the middle of a troubled year, with elections, disorders
in the Balkans, bank crashes in New York, the visit of the King and
Queen of England, the result was that the affaire Rue Alfred Stevens
was talked of less than it deserved to be. As for the newspaper
accounts, they were brief, being essentially the police reports word
for word.

These reports were all that Richard Bracquemont, the medical student,
knew of the matter.

There was one detail about which he knew nothing because neither the
police inspector nor any of the eyewitnesses had mentioned it to the
press. It was only later, after what happened to the medical student,
that anyone remembered that when the police removed Sergeant Charles-
Maria Chaumié’s body from the window cross-bar a large black spider
crawled from the dead man’s open mouth. A hotel porter flicked it
away, exclaiming, “Ugh, another of those damned creatures.”

When in later investigations which concerned themselves mostly with
Bracquemont the servant was interrogated, he said that he had seen a
similar spider crawling on the Swiss traveling salesman’s shoulder
when his body was removed from the window cross-bar. But Richard
Bracquemont knew nothing of all this.

It was more than two weeks after the last suicide that Bracquemont
moved into the room. It was a Sunday. Bracquemont conscientiously
recorded everything that happened to him in his journal. That journal
now follows.

Monday, February 28 I moved in yesterday evening. I unpacked my two
wicker suitcases and straightened the room a little. Then I went to
bed. I slept so soundly that it was nine o’clock the next morning
before a knock at my door woke me. It was my hostess, bringing me
breakfast herself. One could read her concern for me in the eggs, the
bacon and the superb café au lait she brought me. I washed and
dressed, then smoked a pipe as I watched the servant make up the room.

So, here I am. I know well that the situation may prove dangerous, but
I think I may just be the one to solve the problem. If, once upon a
time, Paris was worth a mass (conquest comes at a dearer rate these
days), it is well worth risking my life pour un si bel enjeu. I have
at least one chance to win, and I mean to risk it. As it is, I’m not
the only one who has had this notion. Twenty-seven people have tried
for access to the room. Some went to the police, some went directly to
the hotel owner. There were even three women among the candidates.
There was plenty of competition. No doubt the others are poor devils
like me.

And yet, it was I who was chosen. Why? Because I was the only one who
hinted that I had some plan-or the semblance of a plan. Naturally, I
was bluffing.

These journal entries are intended for the police. I must say that it
amuses me to tell those gentlemen how neatly I fooled them. If the
Inspector has any sense, he’ll say, “Hm. This Bracquemont is just the
man we need.” In any case, it doesn’t matter what he’ll say. The point
is I’m here now, and I take it as a good sign that I’ve begun my task
by bamboozling the police.

I had gone first to Madame Dubonnet, and it was she who sent me to the
police. They put me off for a whole week-as they put off my rivals as
well. Most of them gave up in disgust, having something better to do
than hang around the musty squad room. The Inspector was beginning to
get irritated at my tenacity. At last, he told me I was wasting my
time. That the police had no use for bungling amateurs. “Ah, if only
you had a plan. Then…”

On the spot, I announced that I had such a plan, though naturally I
had no such thing. Still, I hinted that my plan was brilliant, but
dangerous, that it might lead to the same end as that which had
overtaken the police officer, Chaumié. Still, I promised to describe
it to him if he would give me his word that he would personally put it
into effect. He made excuses, claiming he was too busy but when he
asked me to give him at least a hint of my plan, I saw that I had
picqued his interest.

I rattled off some nonsense made up of whole cloth. God alone knows
where it all came from.

I told him that six o’clock of a Friday is an occult hour. It is the
last hour of the Jewish week; the hour when Christ disappeared from
his tomb and descended into hell. That he would do well to remember
that the three suicides had taken place at approximately that hour.
That was all I could tell him just then, I said, but I pointed him to
The Revelations of St. John.

The Inspector assumed the look of a man who understood all that I had
been saying, then he asked me to come back that evening.

I returned, precisely on time, and noted a copy of the New Testament
on the Inspector’s desk. I had, in the meantime, been at the
Revelations myself without however having understood a syllable.
Perhaps the Inspector was cleverer than I. Very politely-nay-
deferentially, he let me know that, despite my extremely vague
intimations, he believed he grasped my line of thought and was ready
to expedite my plan in every way.

And here, I must acknowledge that he has indeed been tremendously
helpful. It was he who made the arrangement with the owner that I was
to have anything I needed so long as I stayed in the room. The
Inspector gave me a pistol and a police whistle, and he ordered the
officers on the beat to pass through the Rue Alfred Stevens as often
as possible, and to watch my window for any signal. Most important of
all, he had a desk telephone installed which connects directly with
the police station. Since the station is only four minutes away, I see
no reason to be afraid.

Wednesday, March 1 Nothing has happened. Not yesterday. Not today.

Madame Dubonnet brought a new curtain cord from another room-the rooms
are mostly empty, of course. Madame Dubonnet takes every opportunity
to visit me, and each time she brings something with her. I have asked
her to tell me again everything that happened here, but I have learned
nothing new. She has her own opinion of the suicides. Her view is that
the music hall artist, Krause, killed himself because of an unhappy
love affair. During the last year that Krause lived in the hotel, a
young woman had made frequent visits to him. These visits had stopped,
just before his death. As for the Swiss gentleman, Madame Dubonnet
confessed herself baffled. On the other hand, the death of the
policeman was easy to explain. He had killed himself just to annoy

These are sad enough explanations, to be sure, but I let her babble on
to take the edge off my boredom.

Thursday, March 3 Still nothing. The Inspector calls twice a day. Each
time, I tell him that all is well. Apparently, these words do not
reassure him.

I have taken out my medical books and I study, so that my self-imposed
confinement will have some purpose.

Friday. March 4 I ate uncommonly well at noon. The landlady brought me
half a bottle of champagne. It seemed a meal for a condemned man.
Madame Dubonnet looked at me as if I were already three-quarters dead.
As she was leaving, she begged me tearfully to come with her, fearing
no doubt that I would hang myself ‘just to annoy her.’

I studied the curtain cord once again. Would I hang myself with it?
Certainly, I felt little desire to do so. The cord is stiff and rough-
not the sort of cord one makes a noose of. One would need to be truly
determined before one could imitate the others.

I am seated now at my table. At my left, the telephone. At my right,
the revolver. I’m not frightened; but I am curious.

Six o’clock, the same evening Nothing has happened. I was about to
add, “Unfortunately.” The fatal hour has come-and has gone, like any
six o’clock on any evening. I won’t hide the fact that I occasionally
felt a certain impulse to go to the window, but for a quite different
reason than one might imagine.

The Inspector called me at least ten times between five and six
o’clock. He was as impatient as I was. Madame Dubonnet, on the other
hand, is happy. A week has passed without someone in #7 hanging
himself. Marvelous.

Monday, March 7 I have a growing conviction that I will learn nothing;
that the previous suicides are related to the circumstances
surrounding the lives of the three men. I have asked the Inspector to
investigate the cases further, convinced that someone will find their
motivations. As for me, I hope to stay here as long as possible. I may
not conquer Paris here, but I live very well and I’m fattening up
nicely. I’m also studying hard, and I am making real progress. There
is another reason, too, that keeps me here.

Wednesday, March 9 So! I have taken one step more. Clarimonda.

I haven’t yet said anything about Clarimonda. It is she who is my
“third” reason for staying here. She is also the reason I was tempted
to go to the window during the “fateful” hour last Friday. But of
course, not to hang myself.

Clarimonda. Why do I call her that? I have no idea what her name is,
but it ought to be Clarimonda. When finally I ask her name, I’m sure
it will turn out to be Clarimonda.

I noticed her almost at once…in the very first days. She lives
across the narrow street; and her window looks right into mine. She
sits there, behind her curtains.

I ought to say that she noticed me before I saw her; and that she was
obviously interested in me. And no wonder. The whole neighborhood
knows I am here, and why. Madame Dubonnet has seen to that.

I am not of a particularly amorous disposition. In fact, my relations
with women have been rather meager. When one comes from Verdun to
Paris to study medicine, and has hardly money enough for three meals a
day, one has something else to think about besides love. I am then not
very experienced with women, and I may have begun my adventure with
her stupidly. Never mind. It’s exciting just the same.

At first, the idea of establishing some relationship with her simply
did not occur to me. It was only that, since I was here to make
observations, and, since there was nothing in the room to observe, I
thought I might as well observe my neighbor-openly, professionally.
Anyhow, one can’t sit all day long just reading.

Clarimonda, I have concluded, lives alone in the small flat across the
way. The flat has three windows, but she sits only before the window
that looks into mine. She sits there, spinning on an old-fashioned
spindle, such as my grandmother inherited from a great aunt. I had no
idea anyone still used such spindles. Clarimonda’s spindle is a lovely
object. It appears to be made of ivory; and the thread she spins is of
an exceptional fineness. She works all day behind her curtains, and
stops spinning only as the sun goes down. Since darkness comes
abruptly here in this narrow street and in this season of fogs,
Clarimonda disappears from her place at five o’clock each evening.

I have never seen a light in her flat.

What does Clarimonda look like? I’m not quite sure. Her hair is black
and wavy; her face pale.

Her nose is short and finely shaped with delicate nostrils that seem
to quiver. Her lips, too, are pale: and when she smiles, it seems that
her small teeth are as keen as those of some beast of prey.

Her eyelashes are long and dark; and her huge dark eyes have an
intense glow. I guess all these details more than I know them. It is
hard to see clearly through the curtains.

Something else: she always wears a black dress embroidered with a
lilac motif; and black gloves, no doubt to protect her hands from the
effects of her work. It is a curious sight: her delicate hands moving
perpetually, swiftly grasping the thread, pulling it, releasing it,
taking it up again; as if one were watching the indefatigable motions
of an insect.

Our relationship? For the moment, still very superficial, though it
feels deeper. It began with a sudden exchange of glances in which each
of us noted the other. I must have pleased her, because one day she
studied me a while longer, then smiled tentatively. Naturally, I
smiled back. In this fashion, two days went by, each of us smiling
more frequently with the passage of time. Yet something kept me from
greeting her directly.

Until today. This afternoon, I did it. And Clarimonda returned my
greeting. It was done subtly enough, to be sure, but I saw her nod.

Thursday, March 10 Yesterday, I sat for a long time over my books,
though I can’t truthfully say that I studied much. I built castles in
the air and dreamed of Clarimonda.

I slept fitfully.

This morning, when I approached my window, Clarimonda was already in
her place. I waved, and she nodded back. She laughed and studied me
for a long time.

I tried to read, but I felt much too uneasy. Instead, I sat down at my
window and gazed at Clarimonda. She too had laid her work aside. Her
hands were folded in her lap. I drew my curtain wider with the window
cord, so that I might see better. At the same moment, Clarimonda did
the same with the curtains at her window. We exchanged smiles.

We must have spent a full hour gazing at each other.

Finally, she took up her spinning.

Saturday, March 12 The days pass. I eat and drink. I sit at the desk.
I light my pipe; I look down at my book but I don’t read a word,
though I try again and again. Then I go to the window where I wave to
Clarimonda. She nods. We smile. We stare at each other for hours.

Yesterday afternoon, at six o’clock, I grew anxious. The twilight came
early, bringing with it something like anguish. I sat at my desk. I
waited until I was invaded by an irresistible need to go to the
window-not to hang myself; but just to see Clarimonda. I sprang up and
stood beside the curtain where it seemed to me I had never been able
to see so clearly, though it was already dark.

Clarimonda was spinning, but her eyes looked into mine. I felt myself
strangely contented even as I experienced a light sensation of fear.

The telephone rang. It was the Inspector tearing me out of my trance
with his idiotic questions.

I was furious.

This morning, the Inspector and Madame Dubonnet visited me. She is
enchanted with how things are going. I have now lived for two weeks in
room #7. The Inspector, however, does not feel he is getting results.
I hinted mysteriously that I was on the trail of something most

The jackass took me at my word and fulfilled my dearest wish. I’ve
been allowed to stay in the room for another week. God knows it isn’t
Madame Dubonnet’s cooking or wine-cellar that keeps me here. How
quickly one can be sated with such things. No. I want to stay because
of the window Madame Dubonnet fears and hates. That beloved window
that shows me Clarimonda.

I have stared out of my window, trying to discover whether she ever
leaves her room, but I’ve never seen her set foot on the street.

As for me, I have a large, comfortable armchair and a green shade over
the lamp whose glow envelopes me in warmth. The Inspector has left me
with a huge packet of fine tobacco-and yet I cannot work. I read two
or three pages only to discover that I haven’t understood a word. My
eyes see the letters, but my brain refuses to make any sense of them.
Absurd. As if my brain were posted: ‘No Trespassing.’ It is as if
there were no room in my head for any other thought than the one:
Clarimonda. I push my books away; I lean back deeply into my chair. I

Sunday, March 13 This morning I watched a tiny drama while the servant
was tidying my room. I was strolling in the corridor when I paused
before a small window in which a large garden spider had her web.

Madame Dubonnet will not have it removed because she believes spiders
bring luck, and she’s had enough misfortunes in her house lately.
Today, I saw a much smaller spider, a male, moving across the strong
threads towards the middle of the web, but when his movements alerted
the female, he drew back shyly to the edge of the web from which he
made a second attempt to cross it. Finally, the female in the middle
appeared attentive to his wooing, and stopped moving. The male tugged
at a strand gently, then more strongly till the whole web shook. The
female stayed motionless. The male moved quickly forward and the
female received him quietly, calmly, giving herself over completely to
his embraces. For a long minute, they hung together motionless at the
center of the huge web.

Then I saw the male slowly extricating himself, one leg over the
other. It was as if he wanted tactfully to leave his companion alone
in the dream of love, but as he started away, the female, overwhelmed
by a wild life, was after him, hunting him ruthlessly. The male let
himself drop from a thread; the female followed, and for a while the
lovers hung there, imitating a piece of art. Then they fell to the
window-sill where the male, summoning all his strength, tried again to
escape. Too late. The female already had him in her powerful grip, and
was carrying him back to the center of the web. There, the place that
had just served as the couch for their lascivious embraces took on
quite another aspect. The lover wriggled, trying to escape from the
female’s wild embrace, but she was too much for him. It was not long
before she had wrapped him completely in her thread, and he was
helpless. Then she dug her sharp pincers into his body, and sucked
full draughts of her young lover’s blood. Finally, she detached
herself from the pitiful and unrecognizable shell of his body and
threw it out of her web.

So that is what love is like among these creatures. Well for me that I
am not a spider.

Monday, March 14 I don’t look at my books any longer. I spend my days
at the window. When it is dark, Clarimonda is no longer there, but if
I close my eyes, I continue to see her.

This journal has become something other than I intended. I’ve spoken
about Madame Dubonnet, about the Inspector; about spiders and about
Clarimonda. But I’ve said nothing about the discoveries I undertook to
make. It can’t be helped.

Tuesday, March 15 We have invented a strange game, Clarimonda and I.
We play it all day long. I greet her; then she greets me. Then I tap
my fingers on the windowpanes. The moment she sees me doing that, she
too begins tapping. I wave to her; she waves back. I move my lips as
if speaking to her; she does the same. I run my hand through my sleep-
disheveled hair and instantly her hand is at her forehead. It is a
child’s game, and we both laugh over it. Actually, she doesn’t laugh.
She only smiles a gently contained smile. And I smile back in the same

The game is not as trivial as it seems. It’s not as if we were grossly
imitating each other-that would weary us both. Rather, we are
communicating with each other. Sometimes, telepathically, it would
seem, since Clarimonda follows my movements instantaneously almost
before she has had time to see them. I find myself inventing new
movements, or new combinations of movements, but each time she repeats
them with disconcerting speed. Sometimes. I change the order of the
movements to surprise her, making whole series of gestures as rapidly
as possible; or I leave out some motions and weave in others, the way
children play “Simon Says.” What is amazing is that Clarimonda never
once makes a mistake, no matter how quickly I change gestures.

That’s how I spend my days…hut never for a moment do I feel that I’m
killing time. It seems, on the contrary, that never in my life have I
been better occupied.

Wednesday. March 16 Isn’t it strange that it hasn’t occurred to me to
put my relationship with Clarimonda on a more serious basis than these
endless games. Last night, I thought about this…I can, of course,
put on my hat and coat, walk down two flights of stairs, take five
steps across the street and mount two flights to her door which is
marked with a small sign that says “Clarimonda.” Clarimonda what? I
don’t know. Something. Then I can knock and…

Up to this point I imagine everything very clearly, but I cannot see
what should happen next. I know that the door opens. But then I stand
before it, looking into a dark void. Clarimonda doesn’t come. Nothing
comes. Nothing is there, only the black, impenetrable dark.

Sometimes, it seems to me that there can be no other Clarimonda but
the one I see in the window; the one who plays gesture-games with me.
I cannot imagine a Clarimonda wearing a hat, or a dress other than her
black dress with the lilac motif. Nor can I imagine a Clarimonda
without black gloves. The very notion that I might encounter
Clarimonda somewhere in the streets or in a restaurant eating,
drinking or chatting is so improbable that it makes me laugh.

Sometimes I ask myself whether I love her. It’s impossible to say,
since I have never loved before. However, if the feeling that I have
for Clarimonda is really-love, then love is something entirely
different from anything I have seen among my friends or read about in

It is hard for me to be sure of my feelings and harder still to think
of anything that doesn’t relate to Clarimonda or, what is more
important, to our game. Undeniably, it is our game that concerns me.
Nothing else-and this is what I understand least of all.

There is no doubt that I am drawn to Clarimonda, but with this
attraction there is mingled another feeling, fear. No. That’s not it
either. Say rather a vague apprehension in the presence of the
unknown. And this anxiety has a strangely voluptuous quality so that I
am at the same time drawn to her even as I am repelled by her. It is
as if I were moving in giant circles around her, sometimes coming
close, sometimes retreating…back and forth, back and forth.

Once, I am sure of it, it will happen, and I will join her.

Clarimonda sits at her window and spins her slender, eternally fine
thread, making a strange cloth whose purpose I do not understand. I am
amazed that she is able to keep from tangling her delicate thread.
Hers is surely a remarkable design, containing mythical beasts and
strange masks.

Thursday, March 17 I am curiously excited. I don’t talk to people any
more. I barely say “hello” to Madame Dubonnet or to the servant. I
hardly give myself time to eat. All I can do is sit at the window and
play the game with Clarimonda. It is an enthralling game.

I have the feeling something will happen tomorrow.

Friday, March 18 Yes. Yes. Something will happen today. I tell myself-
as loudly as I can–that that’s why I am here. And yet, horribly
enough, I am afraid. And in the fear that the same thing is going to
happen to me as happened to my predecessors, there is strangely
mingled another fear: a terror of Clarimonda. And I cannot separate
the two fears.

I am frightened. I want to scream.

Six o’clock, evening I have my hat and coat on. Just a couple of

At five o’clock, I was at the end of my strength. I’m perfectly aware
now that there is a relationship between my despair and the “sixth
hour” that was so significant in the previous weeks. I no longer laugh
at the trick I played the Inspector.

I was sitting at the window, trying with all my might to stay in my
chair, but the window kept drawing me. I had to resume the game with
Clarimonda. And yet, the window horrified me. I saw the others hanging
there: the Swiss traveling salesman, fat, with a thick neck and a grey
stubbly beard; the thin artist; and the powerful police sergeant. I
saw them, one after the other, hanging from the same hook, their
mouths open, their tongues sticking out. And then, I saw myself among

Oh, this unspeakable fear. It was clear to me that it was provoked as
much by Clarimonda as by the cross-bar and the horrible hook. May she
pardon me…but it is the truth. In my terror, I keep seeing the three
men hanging there, their legs dragging on the floor.

And yet, the fact is I had not felt the slightest desire to hang
myself; nor was I afraid that I would want to do so. No, it was the
window I feared; and Clarimonda. I was sure that something horrid was
going to happen. Then I was overwhelmed by the need to go to the
window-to stand before it. I had to…

The telephone rang. I picked up the receiver and before I could hear a
word, I screamed, “Come. Come at once.”

It was as if my shrill cry had in that instant dissipated the shadows
from my soul. I grew calm.

I wiped the sweat from my forehead. I drank a glass of water. Then I
considered what I should say to the Inspector when he arrived.
Finally, I went to the window. I waved and smiled. And Clarimonda too
waved and smiled.

Five minutes later, the Inspector was here. I told him that I was
getting to the bottom of the matter, but I begged him not to question
me just then. That very soon I would be in a position to make
important revelations. Strangely enough, though I was lying to him. I
myself had the feeling that I was telling the truth. Even now, against
my will, I have that same conviction.

The Inspector could not help noticing my agitated state of mind,
especially since I apologized for my anguished cry over the telephone.
Naturally, I tried to explain it to him, and yet I could not find a
single reason to give for it. He said affectionately that there was no
need ever to apologize to him; that he was always at my disposal; that
that was his duty. It was better that he should come a dozen times to
no effect rather than fail to be here when he was needed. He invited
me to go out with him for the evening. It would be a distraction for
me. It would do me good not to be alone for a while. I accepted the
invitation though I was very reluctant to leave the room.

Saturday, March 19 We went to the Gaieté Rochechouart, La Cigale, and
La Lune Rousse. The Inspector was right: It was good for me to get out
and breathe the fresh air. At first, I had an uncomfortable feeling,
as if I were doing something wrong; as if I were a deserter who had
turned his back on the flag. But that soon went away. We drank a lot,
laughed and chatted. This morning, when I went to my window,
Clarimonda gave me what I thought was a look of reproach, though I may
only have imagined it. How could she have known that I had gone out
last night? In any case, the look lasted only for an instant, then she
smiled again.

We played the game all day long.

Sunday, March 20 Only one thing to record: we played the game.

Monday, March 21 We played the game-all day long.

Tuesday, March 22 Yes, the game. We played it again. And nothing else.
Nothing at all.

Sometimes I wonder what is happening to me? What is it I want? Where
is all this leading? I know the answer: there is nothing else I want
except what is happening. It is what I want…what I long for. This

Clarimonda and I have spoken with each other in the course of the last
few days, but very briefly; scarcely a word. Sometimes we moved our
lips, but more often we just looked at each other with deep

I was right about Clarimonda’s reproachful look because I went out
with the Inspector last Friday. I asked her to forgive me. I said it
was stupid of me, and spiteful to have gone. She forgave me, and I
promised never to leave the window again. We kissed, pressing our lips
against each of our windowpanes.

Wednesday, March 23 I know now that I love Clarimonda. That she has
entered into the very fiber of my being. It may be that the loves of
other men are different. But does there exist one head, one ear, one
hand that is exactly like hundreds of millions of others? There are
always differences, and it must be so with love. My love is strange, I
know that, but is it any the less lovely because of that? Besides, my
love makes me happy.

If only I were not so frightened. Sometimes my terror slumbers and I
forget it for a few moments, then it wakes and does not leave me. The
fear is like a poor mouse trying to escape the grip of a powerful
serpent. Just wait a bit, poor sad terror. Very soon, the serpent love
will devour you.

Thursday, March 24 I have made a discovery: I don’t play with
Clarimonda. She plays with me.

Last night, thinking as always about our game, I wrote down five new
and intricate gesture patterns with which I intended to surprise
Clarimonda today. I gave each gesture a number. Then I practiced the
series, so I could do the motions as quickly as possible, forwards or
backwards. Or sometimes only the even-numbered ones, sometimes the
odd. Or the first and the last of the five patterns. It was tiring
work, but it made me happy and seemed to bring Clarimonda closer to
me. I practiced for hours until I got all the motions down pat, like

This morning, I went to the window. Clarimonda and I greeted each
other, then our game began. Back and forth! It was incredible how
quickly she understood what was to be done; how she kept pace with me.

There was a knock at the door. It was the servant bringing me my
shoes. I took them. On my way back to the window, my eye chanced to
fall on the slip of paper on which I had noted my gesture patterns. It
was then that I understood: in the game just finished, I had not made
use of a single one of my patterns.

I reeled back and had to hold on to the chair to keep from falling. It
was unbelievable. I read the paper again-and again. It was still true:
I had gone through a long series of gestures at the window, and not
one of the patterns had been mine.

I had the feeling, once more, that I was standing before Clarimonda’s
wide open door, through which, though I stared. I could see nothing
but a dark void. I knew, too, that if I chose to turn from that door
now. I might be saved; and that I still had the power to leave. And
yet, I did not leave—because I felt myself at the very edge of the
mystery: as if I were holding the secret in my hands.

“Paris! You will conquer Paris,” I thought. And in that instant, Paris
was more powerful than Clarimonda.

I don’t think about that any more. Now, I feel only love. Love, and a
delicious terror.

Still, the moment itself endowed me with strength. I read my notes
again, engraving the gestures on my mind. Then I went back to the
window only to become aware that there was not one of my patterns that
I wanted to use. Standing there, it occurred to me to rub the side of
my nose; instead I found myself pressing my lips to the windowpane. I
tried to drum with my fingers on the window sill; instead, I brushed
my fingers through my hair. And so I understood that it was not that
Clarimonda did what I did. Rather, my gestures followed her lead and
with such lightning rapidity that we seemed to be moving
simultaneously. I, who had been so proud because I thought I had been
influencing her, I was in fact being influenced by her. Her
influence…so gentle…so delightful.

I have tried another experiment. I clenched my hands and put them in
my pockets firmly intending not to move them one bit. Clarimonda
raised her hand and, smiling at me, made a scolding gesture with her
finger. I did not budge, and yet I could feel how my right hand wished
to leave my pocket. I shoved my fingers against the lining, but
against my will, my hand left the pocket; my arm rose into the air. In
my turn, I made a scolding gesture with my finger and smiled.

It seemed to me that it was not I who was doing all this. It was a
stranger whom I was watching.

But, of course, I was mistaken. It was I making the gesture, and the
person watching me was the stranger; that very same stranger who, not
long ago, was so sure that he was on the edge of a great discovery. In
any case, it was not I.

Of what use to me is this discovery? I am here to do Clarimonda’s
will. Clarimonda, whom I love with an anguished heart.

Friday, March 25 I have cut the telephone cord. I have no wish to be
continually disturbed by the idiotic inspector just as the mysterious
hour arrives.

God. Why did I write that? Not a word of it is true. It is as if
someone else were directing my pen.

But I want to…want to…to write the truth here…though it is
costing me great effort. But I want to…once more…do what I want.

I have cut the telephone cord…ah…

Because I had to…there it is. Had to…

We stood at our windows this morning and played the game, which is now
different from what it was yesterday. Clarimonda makes a movement and
I resist it for as long as I can. Then I give in and do what she wants
without further struggle. I can hardly express what a joy it is to be
so conquered; to surrender entirely to her will.

We played. All at once, she stood up and walked back into her room,
where I could not see her; she was so engulfed by the dark. Then she
came back with a desk telephone, like mine, in her hands. She smiled
and set the telephone on the window sill, after which she took a knife
and cut the cord. Then I carried my telephone to the window where I
cut the cord. After that, I returned my phone to its place.

That’s how it happened…

I sit at my desk where I have been drinking tea the servant brought
me. He has come for the empty teapot, and I ask him for the time,
since my watch isn’t running properly. He says it is five fifteen.
Five fifteen…

I know that if I look out of my window, Clarimonda will be there
making a gesture that I will have to imitate. I will look just the
same. Clarimonda is there, smiling. If only I could turn my eyes away
from hers.

Now she parts the curtain. She takes the cord. It is red, just like
the cord in my window. She ties a noose and hangs the cord on the hook
in the window cross–bar.

She sits down and smiles.

No. Fear is no longer what I feel. Rather, it is a sort of oppressive
terror which I would not want to avoid for anything in the world. Its
grip is irresistible, profoundly cruel, and voluptuous in its

I could go to the window, and do what she wants me to do, but I wait.
I struggle. I resist though I feel a mounting fascination that becomes
more intense each minute.

Here I am once more. Rashly, I went to the window where I did what
Clarimonda wanted. I took the cord, tied a noose, and hung it on the

Now, I want to see nothing else-except to stare at this paper. Because
if I look. I know what she will do…now…at the sixth hour of the
last day of the week. If I see her, I will have to do what she wants.
Have to…

I won’t see her…

I laugh. Loudly. No. I’m not laughing. Something is laughing in me,
and I know why. It is because of my…I won’t…

I won’t, and yet I know very well that I have to…have to look at
her. I must…must…and then…all that follows.

If I still wait, it is only to prolong this exquisite torture. Yes,
that’s it. This breathless anguish is my supreme delight. I write
quickly, quickly…just so I can continue to sit here; so I can
attenuate these seconds of pain.

Again, terror. Again. I know that I will look toward her. That I will
stand up. That I will hang myself.

That doesn’t frighten me. That is beautiful…even precious.

There is something else. What will happen afterwards? I don’t know,
but since my torment is so delicious. I feel…feel that something
horrible must follow.

Think…think…Write something. Anything at all…to keep from
looking toward her…

My name…Richard Bracquemont. Richard Bracquemont…Richard


I can’t…go on. I must…no…no…must look at her…Richard
Bracquemont…no . .

. no more…Richard…Richard Bracque–. . .

The inspector of the ninth precinct, after repeated and vain efforts
to telephone Richard, arrived at the Hotel Stevens at 6:05. He found
the body of the student Richard Bracquemont hanging from the cross-bar
of the window in room #7, in the same position as each of his three

The expression on the student’s face, however, was different,
reflecting an appalling fear.

Bracquemont’s eyes were wide open and bulging from their sockets. His
lips were drawn into a rictus, and his jaws were clamped together. A
huge black spider whose body was dotted with purple spots lay crushed
and nearly bitten in two between his teeth.

On the table, there lay the student’s journal. The inspector read it
and went immediately to investigate the house across the street. What
he learned was that the second floor of that building had not been
lived in for many months.


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