by J.H. Rosny jeune
published in El Paso Herald, November 02, 1910, an anonymous translation
I have known what hatred means ever since I was a child. At the age when other children play in the sunshine, I roamed about the country alone crying with rage. Years of misery count double and the soul awakens early in the child that suffers and sees others suffering.
My father, who was a farmer, was the tenant of count Narox in Los Landes. He was quite prosperous until an epidemic broke out among his cattle, the same year the rye crop failed and the corn did not ripen from lack of sun. This would have meant nothing had we had a good master, we would have made up for it the following year, but count Narox was merciless. Our poor crop and all our belongings were sold at public auction.
Nobody understood why the count was so hard on us. My mother was a beautiful woman, I saw her grow pale and thin. I saw my father cry, and I understood nothing of it all, but in my childish mind was born a desire for revenge, undoubtedly a sentiment to which I was predestined.
Our family formerly respected and honored became poverty stricken. The farmer became a workingman and my mother and her oldest children had to gather wood in the forest to sell to the peasants.
I was not quite 20 when I left France and went to Argentine, carrying with me my hatred of the man who made gave me strength and courage to undertake the most dangerous enterprises and succeed. In a comparatively few years I made and immense fortune. Still a young man, only 35 years of age, I might have enjoyed life, but I could not. There was a vision that haunted my life; that of a poor farmer driven from his house at the beginning of winter by a merciless master. As long as count Narox was living unpunished, I could not enjoy my millions and not one of the dark beauties of Argentine made any impression on my heart.
I obeyed my destiny and returned to France. Thanks to my wealth, my family was honored and respected once more in the village of Narox. I was careful not to tell anybody of my return to avoid a public reception which would have been distasteful to me.
To get to Narox from the nearest railroad station, you have to take a kind of stage coach with side curtains which in the days of my childhood seemed to me the acme of luxury and comfort. It was driven by an old man the same I had known when I was a boy, for in that country few things had changed in 15 years.
A beautiful young girl arrived in the same train as I. Her beauty was of the kind that at once reminds you of Flanders and Spain, beautiful blue eyes and magnificent bluish black hair, rounded shoulders, a slender waist and an imitable grace of carriage. I was so confused at the sight of her that when she entered the stage I climbed to the boxseat and sat down next to the driver, in spite of the burning sun. It was terribly hot, the curtains were open and when I looked back I could just get a glimpse of her beautiful face.
The driver was an old chatterbox and insisted on talking all the time, though I did not answer a single word. He told me everything about every person living within a radius of 10 miles and the fact that he was half drunk and undoubtedly had recognized me did not help to make him less talkative.
From him I heard all about the man I hated, count Nerox, who had been immensely wealthy, was now poor and sick. An attempt to recover his lost fortunes had failed, his wife and sons who had done their share to ruin him by riotous living and reckless gambling in Paris, had left him and he was now mostly alone.
“One daughter only, the youngest, sticks to her father and brightens his last days, and that is the young girl, sitting behind us just now,” he added in a whisper.
“She is count Narox‘s daughter, I exclaimed.
“Yes, that is Genevieve, his youngest child. She has been away to visit her aunt, but her father is sick, so that is why she is coming back to take care of him. All the others are in Paris.”
Turning around to look at his fair passenger the old man dropped the reins which fell down and scared the horses who began to gallop madly down the road, I had just time to save myself by jumping, when the coach went over the mountain side, crashing into the river fully 200 feet below.
I could see the driver lying motionless on the river bank and was trying to discover what had become of the girl, when a cry attracted my attention and I saw Genevieve clinging to a tuft of grass a hundred feet below, her body swaying in the air and her big blue eyes staring at me with an expression of deadly terror.
I held the means of revenge in my hands. The bitter hatred that had been seething in my heart for more then 20 years flared up with fresh vigor when I saw with my own eyes the agony of my enemy’s beloved daughter.
An atrocious and at the same time delicious vision appeared to me: I saw myself bringing to this king Lear the body of his Cordelia, I enjoyed his intense grief and despair, I lived over again the day when he had thrown us out of our home, our first night spent in a barn, our misery, our many days of cold and starvation.
In two minutes, I have been told, a dying man may live over again his whole life, one second was enough for me. I crawled down the steep mountain side, clinging to every root, every tuft of heather, every projecting rock, down towards the frail young creature whose sacred eyes followed my every movement. I told myself I was going to loosen the grip of her slender fingers and enjoy the sight of her body falling to the rocks below, and my heart was beating with joy of my revenge.
I reached her, stretched out my hand and got hold of her trembling body.
I was about to hurl her down when two soft arms threw themselves around my neck and I felt her heart, beating against mine.
Spinoza says: “Hatred that is completely conquered by love, grows into love and this love is far stronger than if it had not been preceded by love.”
In the same moment I held her in my arms, I knew I was holding the woman loved, without whom life would not be worth living.
I did bring Cordelia to old king Lear that day, but it was only to ask for her hand. Her heart was already mine.