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MODERN AUTHORS' SERIES


A RED FLOWER


A Story


Translated from the Russian of

VSEVOLOD GARSHIN


PHILADELPHIA

BROWN BROTHERS
1911



Copyright, 1911
by

BROWN BROTHERS



Dedicated to the

Memory of

IVAN SERGEIEVITCH TOURGENIEV



I.

"In the name of His Imperial Highness, Emperor Peter the First, I have come to make an inspection of this insane asylum!"

These words were spoken in a loud, shrill, ringing voice. The secretary of the asylum, entering the name of the new inmate in a large, much-worn book which lay on an ink-soiled table, could not resist a smile. But the two young men who brought the patient felt little inclination to laugh. They could hardly stand upon their legs after having passed forty-eight hours without sleep, alone with the madman, whom they accompanied on the train. At the railroad station preceding the last his violence increased greatly, and, with the assistance of the conductors and a gendarme, a straight-jacket, which had been obtained somewhere, was placed upon the patient. In this manner he was brought to the city and into the hospital.

He was frightful to see. His gray suit, torn to shreds during the attack, was partially concealed by the coarse canvas jacket, whose long sleeves clasped his arms cross-wise on his breast and were tied behind. His bloodshot, distended eyes he had not slept for ten days sparkled with a motionless, fiery lustre; the lower lip twitched convulsively; tangled, curly hair fell with a crest over his forehead; with quick and heavy footsteps he walked back and forth from one corner of the office to the other, searchingly examining the old cabinets containing documents, the oilcloth-covered chairs, and occasionally giving a glance at his fellow-travellers.

"Take him into the ward—to the right."

"I know, I know. I have been already with you during the past year. We examined the hospital. I know all, and it will be difficult for you to deceive me," said the madman.

He went towards the door. The attendant opened it before him; with a rapid, heavy and resolute gait, his distraught countenance lifted high, he walked out of the office, and, almost running, veered to the right in the direction of the department indicated. His guides could hardly keep up with him.

"Ring the bell. I can't. You've tied my hands."

The doorkeeper opened the door and the travellers entered the hospital.

This was a large stone building, an old governmental structure. Two large chambers—one a dining-room, the other a general apartment for calm patients—a wide corridor with a glass door at one end facing the flower garden, and about twenty separate chambers occupied by the patients constituted the ground floor. Here also were fitted up two dark rooms—one lined with cushions, the other with boards—both of which were used for confining the violent, and a large vaulted chamber—a bath room. The upper floor was occupied by women. A discordant din, accompanied by groans and cries, came from there. The hospital was originally constructed for eighty souls, but as it served for several of the neighboring districts it really harbored about three hundred. Each of the little chambers contained four or five beds; during the winter the patients were not permitted in the garden, and, all the iron-barred windows being kept tightly shut, it would become very suffocating.

The new patient was taken to the bathroom. This room would have produced a painful impression even upon a healthy man; upon a diseased and excited imagination it had a still more distressing effect. It was a large vaulted room with a stone floor, and lighted with but one corner window; the walls and the arches were painted dark red; on the level with the floor, which was thick with dirt, were incased two stone bathtubs; these seemed like two oval pits filled with water. The enormous copper stove, with a cylinder boiler for warming the water, and with an elaborate system of tubes and stopcocks, occupied a place opposite the window. Everything bore for a deranged mind a gloomy and fantastic character, and the bathroom attendant, a stout man, an ever-silent Little Russian, increased this impression by his sombre countenance.

When they brought the patient into this terrible room to give him a bath, and also, in accordance with the doctor's orders, to place on the nape of his neck a big Spanish fly, he became terror stricken. Thoughts distressing and absurd, one more monstrous than the other, flew about in his head. What was this? An Inquisition? Some secret torture chamber where his enemies had resolved to end his life? Perhaps it was hell itself? Finally he came to the conclusion that it was a test of some kind. Despite his desperate struggles he was undressed. His strength doubled by his disease, he easily threw several of the attendants who tried to hold him on the floor; but in the end four of them mastered him, and, holding him by the hands and feet, lowered him into the water. Boiling it seemed to him, and in his crazed mind there flashed an incoherent and fragmentary thought about having to undergo a test with boiling water and red-hot iron. Almost smothered in his speech by the water which filled his mouth, he continued to struggle convulsively with arms and legs, which were held fast by the attendants. He gave utterance to both prayers and curses. He shouted till his strength was gone, and finally, with hot tears in his eyes, he ejaculated a phrase which had not the least connection with his other utterances:

"Great martyr St. George! I give my body into thy hands. But the soul—no; oh, no! …"

The attendants still held him, though he had ceased to struggle. The warm bath and the Spanish fly had produced the desired effect. But when they removed him almost insensible from the water and set him down on the tabouret, the remainder of his strength and insane thoughts once more broke forth.

"Why? why?" shouted he. "I did not wish anyone harm. Why kill me? Oh, oh, oh! Oh, Lord! Oh, you martyrs before me! I pray to you, deliver me. …"

Feeling a burning on the nape of his neck, he began his struggles with the attendants anew. The nurse could not manage him, and did not know what to do. "You can't do anything with him," remarked the soldier who assisted in the operation. "It must be removed."

These simple words brought the patient into a trembling. "Removed? … Remove what? Remove whom? Remove me?" cried he, and in deathly agony he closed his eyes. The soldier grasped the two ends of a rough towel, and pressing it down tightly drew it quickly across the neck of the patient, causing the Spanish fly to come off, together with the outer skin, and leaving an ugly looking sore. The pain produced by this operation, not to be endured even by a sane and healthy person, seemed to the madman to be the end of all. He burst forward most ferociously, released the hold of the attendants, and his naked body rolled on the stone floor. He thought that they had chopped off his head. He wished to cry out, but could not. He was carried away on a litter in an insensible condition, which soon passed into a long and sound sleep.

 

II.

He awoke at night. Everything was still; from the large neighboring room could be heard the breathing of the sleeping inmates. Somewhere from afar sounded a strange, monotonous voice. It was that of a patient conversing with himself in a dark room; and from the top floor—the women's department—a hoarse contralto was singing a wild song. The patient listened to these sounds. He felt a terrible weakness in all his organs; his neck pained him frightfully.

"Where am I? What is the matter with me?" were the thoughts that came into his head, and suddenly, with an unusual vividness, there appeared before him the events of the past month, and he understood that he was ill and the nature of his illness. A whole row of disconnected thoughts, words and actions came into his memory, causing him to shudder in his entire body. "But this is ended, thank God, this is done," he muttered, and fell asleep again.

An open window with iron bars faced a little lane between the large buildings and a stone inclosure. No one ever entered this lane, which was thickly overgrown with wild bushes and weeds, magnificently blooming at that time of the year. . . . Behind the bushes, just opposite the window, was a high fence bordering on a large garden; over this fence appeared the tall treetops, bathed in moonlight.

To the right stood the white hospital building with lighted, iron-barred windows; to the left the white, deaf wall of the dead-house, made even more brilliant by the moonlight. The moonlight, entering through the window grating of our patient's room, illuminated a part of the bedding on the floor and the harassed, pale face of a man with closed eyes; there was nothing mad in him now. This was the deep, heavy sleep of a troubled man, dreamless and motionless and seeming almost without breath. He had awakened for a few minutes in full consciousness, as if well, but only to awaken again next morning the same madman.

 

III.

"How do you feel?" the physician asked him next day.

The patient, who had only just awakened, still lay under the quilt. "Excellent!" answered he, springing up and putting on his slippers and morning gown. "Fine! Only one thing: here!" He pointed to his neck.

"I can't turn my head without pain. But this is nothing. Everything is well if one only understands it; and I understand."

"Do you know where you are?"

"Of course, doctor! I am in an insane asylum. But if one understands it, it is quite immaterial; absolutely immaterial."

The physician looked intently into the man's eyes. The beautiful, careworn face, with its luxuriant, blonde beard, and calm, blue eyes, which gazed through gold-rimmed spectacles, was motionless and impenetrable. The doctor watched him.

"Why do you look at me so intently? You will not read that which is in my soul," said the patient, "but I can read yours clearly! Why do you do evil? Why did you gather this crowd of unfortunates, and why do you hold them here? To me it is all the same; I understand all, and am calm; but they? Why this torture? When man has attained that state when his soul harbors a great thought—a universal thought—to him 'tis immaterial where he lives or what he feels. Even to live, or not to live. . . . Is it not so?"

"Perhaps so," replied the doctor, sitting down on the stool in the corner of the room, that he might more easily observe the patient, who walked rapidly from one corner of the room to the other, dragging noisily his enormous horseskin slippers, and flaunting his cotton gown, decorated with wide, red stripes and large flowers. The assistant physician and the superintendent, both of whom accompanied the head physician, continued to stand at a distance, near the door.

"But I possess it!" exclaimed the patient. "And when I found it, I felt myself born over again. My senses have become more acute; my brain works better than ever. What once required a long path of reasoning and conjecture I can do now intuitively. I have attained that degree in fact which has been projected in philosophy. I am experiencing those ideas in which time and space are essentials. I am living through all ages. I am living without space; everywhere or nowhere, as you wish. And that is why it is immaterial to me whether you hold me here or give me liberty, whether I am free or bound. I have noticed that there are several here such as I. But for the bulk of the inmates here the situation is terrible. Why don't you free them? Who needs. . ."

"You remarked," the physician interrupted, "that you live without space or time. However, you cannot but agree with me that we are within this room, and that now (here the doctor pulled out his watch) is half-past ten A. M., on the sixth of May, of the 18—th year. What say you to that?"

"Nothing; it's all the same to me where I am and when I live. If it's all the same to me, does it not mean that I'm everywhere and always?"

The physician smiled.

"Rare logic," said he, rising. "I think you're right. Good-by. Will you have a cigar?"

"Thank you." He stopped, took the cigar and nervously bit off the end. "This helps one to think," said he. "This world is a microcosm. On one end is alkali, and on the other acids. . . . The same equilibrium has the world, in which the opposing ends become neutralized. Farewell, doctor!"

The physician went further. Many of the patients, stretched in their hammocks, were awaiting him anxiously. No commander receives such homage from his subordinates as does the head physician from his insane patients.

Our patient, left alone, continued to pace impetuously from one end of the chamber to the other. Tea was brought him. Without seating himself, he swallowed in two gulps the entire contents of the cup, and it took him but an instant to make away with a big slice of white bread. Later he went out of the room, and, taking no rest, spent several hours in walking, with his usual rapid and heavy gait, from one end of the building to the other. It was a rainy day and the patients were not permitted in the garden. When the assistant physician began to search for the new patient, they pointed him out at the end of the corridor; he stood there, with his face against the pane in the glass door, his eye fixed on a flower bed. His entire attention seemed attracted by a bright red flower, one which had the appearance of a poppy.

"Please have yourself weighed," said the assistant physician, touching the man's shoulder. When the individual thus addressed turned his face the doctor almost fell back in fright—so much savage hate and wickedness burned in the patient's senseless eyes. But seeing the assistant physician he at once changed the expression of his face, and obediently followed without saying a word, as if absorbed in deep thought. They entered the physician's cabinet; the patient mounted the platform of a small scale; the assistant weighing him noted in a book opposite his name 109 pounds. On the second day it was 107; on the third 106.

"If he goes on in this way, he will not survive," said the physician, giving special orders to have him fed well.

Notwithstanding this fact, however, and the extraordinary appetite of the patient, the latter grew thinner each day, and the assistant physician noted in the book a fewer and fewer number of pounds. The sick man rarely slept and passed whole days in ceaseless motion.

 

IV.

He was conscious that he was in an insane asylum, and was also aware that he was sick. Sometimes, as on the first night, he would awaken amidst the stillness, after a whole day of turbulent motion, feeling rheumatic pains in all his organs and a terrible heaviness in the head, but nevertheless in full consciousness. Perhaps this effect was produced by the absence of sensations in nocturnal stillness and dusk; or perhaps it was due to the weak efforts of a suddenly awakened brain, enabling him to catch, during these few moments, a glimpse of reason, and to understand his condition as if he were in a normal state. With the approach of day, however; with the reappearance of light and the reawakening of life in the hospital, the other mood would seize him again; the sick brain could not cope with it, and he would become mad once more. He was in a strange state of sound reason mixed with absurdity. He understood that all around him were unwell; at the same time he saw in each one of them some secretly concealed face which he had known, read or heard of before. The asylum was inhabited by people of all ages and all lands. Here were both the living and the dead. Here were celebrities and heroes and the soldiers killed in the recent war. He saw himself in some enchanted sphere, which concentrated in itself the entire power of the earth; in proud enthusiasm he regarded himself as the centre of this sphere. They all, his comrades in the asylum, had gathered there to accomplish a deed, which appeared in his fancy as some giant undertaking toward the extinction of evil on earth. He did not know in what it would consist, but he felt in himself sufficient strength for its execution. He could read the thoughts of other people; he saw in common things all their history; the big elm trees in the garden related to him many legends of the past; the hospital building, indeed an old one, he regarded as a structure of Peter the Great's time, and he was confident that the Czar occupied it at the time of the battle of Poltava. He read this on the walls, on the crumbling wall plaster, on broken bricks and tiles found by him in the garden; the entire history of the house and garden was inscribed upon them. He peopled the little deadhouse with tens and hundreds of long deceased men, and glancing attentively into its little cellar-window in the corner of the garden, he discovered in the uneven reflection of light on the old, rainbow-tinted and dirty glass familiar lines seen by him some time during his life on portraits.

Meanwhile there came a period of fine, clear weather; the patients spent many days in the open air. Their portion of the garden, wherever possible, was planted with flowers. The superintendent set to work all who showed any aptitude; whole days they dug and sprinkled the paths with sand; they weeded and watered the flower-beds; cucumbers, watermelons and cantaloupes were cared for by the same hands. A corner of the garden was planted densely with cherry trees; here, too, stretched rows of elms; in the centre, upon a little elevation, bloomed the garden's prettiest rosebush; bright flowers grew along the edges of the place, while in the centre flaunted a large and uncommonly yellow dahlia with red speckles. This flower really marked the centre of the whole garden, lifting itself above it, and the fact could not pass unnoticed that the inmates paid it some mysterious tribute. To the new patient it also seemed out of the ordinary, as some sort of a palladium of the garden and building.

All paths were similarly planted by the hands of the inmates. Here were found all the flowers usually seen in the gardens of Little Russia—tall rose-mallows, the tobacco plant, with its small, pink flowers; mint, violets, nasturtium and poppy. Here also, approaching the high steps of the entrance, grew two little bushes of poppy of some peculiar species. They were much smaller than that of the ordinary type, and they also differed in the unusual brightness of their red. This was the flower which so impressed the patient when he first gazed into the garden through the glass door.

Entering the garden for the first time, his eye fell immediately on these bright flowers. There were only two of them. By some chance they grew apart from the others on an uncultivated spot, so that dense weeds and high grass surrounded them. The inmates, one by one, passed through the door, at which stood an attendant, who gave each one a thick, white cotton cap, with a red decoration sewed on in front. These caps were used during the war and were bought at auction. The patient seemed to give this red decoration some secret significance. He took off his cap, looked at the decoration, then at the poppy flowers. The flowers were a much brighter red.

"It is vanquishing," murmured the patient; "but we shall see."

He descended the steps. Having glanced around and not observed the attendant behind him, he stepped over the flower bed and stretched out his hand toward the poppy plant; but he had not yet decided to break it off. He felt a fever and a pain in his outstretched hand, and later in his whole body, as if a strong current of some mysterious power escaped from the red petals and penetrated his entire system. He moved nearer, and stretched out his hand to the flower itself; but the flower, it seemed to him, defended itself, discharging a poisonous and deadly breath. His head whirled; he made the last desperate effort and had caught its stem, when a heavy hand was laid suddenly upon his shoulder. It was the watchman.

"It is forbidden to break off flowers," said the old muzhik; "and don't step on the flower beds. There are plenty of you madmen; a flower for each, and the whole garden is gone!" persuasively argued the muzhik, still holding him by the shoulder.

The sick man looked in the watchman's face; he silently freed himself from his hands, and in deep agitation walked along the path. "Oh, unfortunates!" thought he, "I'll end it yet. If not to-day, we'll measure our strength to-morrow. And if I'm lost, is it not all the same?"

He diverted himself in the garden till evening, making acquaintances and holding strange conversations, and his companions, giving their attention, seemed keenly interested in his insane ideas, expressed in incoherent and mysterious words. The patient strolled, now with one comrade, now with another, and at the conclusion of the day he was convinced that "all is ready," as he said to himself. "Soon, soon, shall fall apart the iron bars; all these prisoners will depart from here, and go to all the corners of the earth; the whole world shall tremble; it shall cast off its old cover, and appear in a new and marvellous beauty." He had almost forgotten the flower, but, in ascending the entrance stairs, he again noticed in the dense and darkened grass, on which the dew had just begun to fall, two little red objects. He straggled behind the others, and waited for an opportune moment when the watchman would turn his back. No one had noticed that he jumped over the flower bed, broke off the flower, and hid it hastily in his bosom, inside his shirt. When the fresh leaves, wet with dew, came in contact with his body, he became deathly pale, and opened his eyes wide in terror. A cold sweat covered his forehead.

The hospital lamps were lighted. Awaiting their supper, most of the inmates lay in their beds, save those few restless ones who walked back and forth in the corridor and in the rooms. Our patient was among the latter. He walked, convulsively pressing his arms crosswise on his breast; it seemed as if he wished to crush the blossom in this manner. Upon meeting someone he would avoid him, in fear of coming in contact with the hem of his dress. "Keep away! keep away!" he would exclaim. Little attention was paid to such trifles in the asylum. And he walked quicker and quicker; he made steps larger and larger; he walked on one hour, two hours, suffering with exasperation.

"I'll tire you, I'll strangle you!" muttered he, wrathfully; several times he gnashed his teeth.

In the dining-room the supper was ready. Upon a big table, minus a tablecloth, were placed several painted, wooden bowls, containing a thin millet-gruel. The patients sat down on the benches and each was given a piece of black bread. About eight persons ate with wooden spoons out of a single bowl. The few who were entitled to a superior diet ate separately. Our patient, quickly swallowing his portion brought by the attendant into his room, was not satisfied with this alone, and went into the general dining-room.

"Allow me to sit down here!" said he to the superintendent.

"Why, haven't you had your supper?" asked the superintendent, pouring extra portions into the bowls.

"I'm very hungry, and I need something to strengthen me a great deal. My whole subsistence is in food; you are aware that I do not sleep at all."

"All right, my dear fellow, eat all you want. Taras, give him a spoon and bread."

Sitting down before one of the bowls, he ate another enormous quantity of gruel.

"Well, enough, enough," said the superintendent finally, when all had finished their supper; but our patient still continued to sit over the bowl, employing one hand to draw the gruel, and clasping the other tightly to his breast.

"You'll overeat yourself."

"Ah, if you only knew how much strength I need, how much strength! Farewell, Nicolai Nicolaiich," said the patient, rising from his seat and grasping vigorously the hand of the superintendent. His voice trembled and tears ran down his cheeks.

"Calm yourself, my dear fellow, calm yourself," replied the superintendent. "Why such gloomy thoughts? Go, lie down and fall asleep. You should sleep more."

The patient wept. The superintendent turned away, in order to tell the attendant to remove what remained of the supper. In the course of half an hour every one slumbered in the hospital, save one man who lay without undressing himself in his bed in the corner room. He shook as in a fever, and pressed vehemently his bosom, which was impregnated, as it seemed to him, with some unheard-of deadly poison.

 

V.

He had not slept a wink through the night. He had broken off this flower because he saw in his action a duty. At his first glance through the glass door the red petals had attracted his attention, and it now seemed to him that he had fulfilled that which he was to accomplish on earth. In this bright red flower was concentrated all evil. He knew that opium was made out of poppy; perhaps it was this thought which, growing and assuming various monstrous forms, had created in his mind the fearful fantastic idea. The flower, as he saw it, ruled over evil; it absorbed in itself all innocently-shed blood (that is why it was so red), all tears and all the gall of humanity. It was an awful and mysterious being, the antithesis of God, an Ahriman presenting a most unassuming and innocent appearance. It was necessary to break it off and kill it. But this was not all; it was also necessary not to permit it at its death to discharge its evil upon the world. And that is why he put it in his bosom. He hoped that by morning the flower would lose its strength. Its evil would transplant itself to his breast, to his soul, and there it would be vanquished, or else it would vanquish; then he would perish, die, but die like an honest combatant, as the first champion of humanity, because until now no one had yet dared to wrestle at one onset with all the evil of the universe.

"They did not see it. I saw it. Can I permit it to live? Better death."

And he lay there, succumbing to a visionary, non-existing struggle. In the morning the assistant physician found him barely alive. Nothwithstanding this, however, in a short while he seemed to regain his vigor; he jumped out of bed, and as formerly he traversed the hospital, conversing with the inmates and with himself in a louder tone and more incoherently than before. He was not allowed in the garden. The doctor, noticing that his weight was growing less, that he did not sleep and that he walked and walked all the time, prescribed morphine. He did not struggle; fortunately at this moment his insane thoughts seemed agreeable to the operation. He soon fell asleep. His frenzied motion ceased, and there was relief from the noise made by his impetuous footsteps. He slumbered and ceased to think of everything, even of the second flower, which it was necessary to sever from its stem.

However, he detached the flower three days later, before the eyes of the old watchman, who was not sufficiently quick to prevent it. The old man ran after him. With a loud and joyful cry the patient ran into the hospital, and, casting himself into his room, hid the flower in his bosom.

"Why do you break off flowers?" asked the watchman, entering the room. The sick man, however, lying in his bed in his usual position with crossed arms, began to talk such nonsense that the watchman, cap in hand, silently made his exit. The visionary, fantastic struggle began anew. The patient felt the long, snake-like, creeping leaves of the flower—coils of evil they were—enwrap him, strangle him; he felt them impregnating all his body with their terrible contents. He wept, and prayed to God, and cursed his enemy. The madman crushed the faded flower under his foot, and, picking up the remains from the floor, took them into the bathroom. He threw the shapeless plant into the red-hot stove, and he gazed long thereon as his enemy hissed, shriveled and finally became transformed into fine, snow-white ashes. He blew with his mouth, and it all disappeared.

On the next day the patient grew worse. Horribly pale in his hollow cheeks, his burning eyes sunk deeply in his head, he began to reel and stumble when he walked. But he continued to stroll impetuously, and he talked and talked without end.

"I should not like to employ force," remarked the senior physician to his assistant.

"But it is absolutely necessary to stop this thing. To-day he only weighed ninety-three pounds. If this goes on any farther, he'll die in the course of a day or two."

The senior physician fell into deep thought. "Morphine? chloral?" said he, half-questioningly.

"Even yesterday the morphine refused to act."

"Have him bound; otherwise he is to remain unmolested."

 

VI.

The patient was bound. He lay in his bed, dressed in the straight-jacket, and tightly bound with wide strips of cloth to the iron cross-beams of the bed. The violence of his movements, however, did not cease, but had even increased. In the course of many hours he made several attempts to free himself. Finally, bursting forth with all his strength, he broke one of the bonds, freed his feet, and, slipping from under the others, began to walk around the room, his arms still tied, making wild and unintelligible cries.

"Confound you! . . ." exclaimed the watchman, entering the room. "Who the deuce helps you? Gritsko! Ivan! Come in here, quick. He has unbound himself."

The three threw themselves on the madman, and then began a long struggle, a wearying one for the attacking party, and a harassing one for the man on the defensive, spending the remainder of his well-nigh exhausted strength. Finally they threw him upon the bed and bound him still more fast than before.

"You do not know what you are doing," cried the madman, stifled. "You are perishing! I saw the bud of a third one yesterday. Now it is ready. Allow me to finish the deed! It must be killed! killed! killed! Then all will be done, all will be saved. I would send you to do it, but this only I alone could do. You would die from contact alone."

"Be quiet, man, be quiet!" said the old watchman, remaining on duty near the bed.

The madman suddenly became silent. He had determined to deceive the watchman. He was kept bound the entire day, and was left in the same condition for the night. Having given him his supper, the watchman lay down to sleep on the floor, close to the bed of the patient. It was no longer than a minute before he fell into a deep slumber, but the madman began to work.

Bending his whole body so as to come in contact with the iron beam of the bed, and having found it finally by feeling with the hand hid in the long sleeve, he began to rub the latter rapidly and forcibly against the iron. After some time, the thick cloth gave way, and he succeeded in freeing his index finger. Then the work went on with more speed. With a dexterity and a suppleness, unusual for the ordinary man, he untied behind him the knot which drew together the two long sleeves, unbound the straight-jacket, and for a long time he listened to the snoring of the watchman. But the old man slept soundly. The madman removed the straight-jacket and rose from the bed. He was free. He tried the door; it was locked from the inside; the key was probably in the watchman's pocket. In fear of awaking him, he did not dare to look through the pockets, and he resolved to make his exit through the window.

It was a calm, warm and dark night; the sky was resplendent with stars. He looked up at them, discerning a familiar constellation and feeling happy at the thought that they, as it seemed to him, understood him and sympathized with him. Blinking, he saw endless rays which they sent him, and his mad desire increased. It was necessary to straighten the thick bar of the iron grating, to squeeze himself through the narrow opening facing the corner overgrown with bushes, and to climb over the high stone wall. There the final struggle would take place, and then—even death.

He attempted to straighten the bar with his bare hands, but the iron would not give way. Then, twisting the strong sleeves of the straight-jacket into a rope, and tying one end to the bar, he hung on to it with his entire body. After many vehement efforts, exhausting almost all of his remaining strength, the bar yielded, and a narrow opening was made. He squeezed himself through it, grazing his shoulders, elbows and bared knees. He made his way through the bushes and stopped before the wall. Everything was silent; through a window of the large building could be seen the interior, faintly illumined by the night-lamps; he did not see anyone there. No one would notice him, thought he; the old man set to watch at his bedside evidently slept very soundly. The stars gleamed radiantly and their rays penetrated his very heart.

"I'm coming to you," he murmured, gazing at the sky. Having failed in his first effort, he, with broken toenails, blood-stained hands and knees, began to look for a better place to climb. There where the wall joined the deadhouse a few bricks had fallen from both wall and house. The madman soon felt these hollows with his hands. He climbed the wall, caught hold of a branch of an elm growing on the other side, and silently descended the tree to the ground. He threw himself towards the familiar spot. The flower appeared to be dark; its leaves were curled up and stood forth clearly in the dewy grass.

"The last one," murmured the madman. "The last! To-day, victory or death. But to me 'tis all the same now," said he, gazing at the sky. "I'll soon be with you."

He seized the flower; crushing it in his hand, and holding on to it, he returned through the same path to his room. The old watchman slept. The madman scarcely managed to get to his bed, and fell down upon it unconscious.

In the morning he was found dead. His face was calm and clear; the harassed features, with thin lips and deeply-sunken, closed eyes, seemed to express some proud happiness. When they laid him on the litter they tried to unclasp his hand and to remove the red flower. But the hand had become stiffened, and he took the trophy with him into the grave.