Fear in reading nights with Theo
Théophile Gautier, born in Tarbes, knew how to strike fear into the bones of several of his fantastic stories such as Omphale or the tapestry of love, La Morteamour, La Cafetière…
Today, as part of Nuits de la lecture, we offer you an excerpt from La Cafetière, a short story published on May 4, 1831 in the magazine Le Cabinet de Lecture (Gautier at the age of twenty).
“Last year I was invited, together with two of my fellows from the workshop, to spend a few days at an estate, deep in Normandy. The weather, which, when we left, promised to be excellent, We thought we should change suddenly, and It rained so much that the submerged paths we walked on were like the bed of a torrent. We did not reach our destination until an hour after sunset. We were exhausted; so our host, seeing our efforts to stifle our yawns and keep our eyes open, as soon as we had dinner, they took each of us to our room.
Mine was huge; Entering it, I felt like a fever because it seemed to me that I was entering a new world. One could imagine in the time of the regency… Nothing was disturbed. The toilet, covered with boxes of combs and puffs of powder, looked like it had been used the day before. I noticed that only after I put the candlestick on the table. I started shaking like a leaf. I quickly undressed, lay down and closed my eyes, facing the wall. But it was impossible for me to stay in this position: the bed moved under me like a wave, my eyelids were violently withdrawn. I was forced to turn and see. The blazing fire threw a reddish glare into the apartment, so that the figures on the tapestry and the figures in the smoky portraits hanging on the wall could easily be distinguished. They were the ancestors of our host, knights clad in iron, counselors with wigs and beautiful ladies with painted faces and hair sprinkled with white powder, with roses in their hands.
Suddenly the fire assumed an unusual degree of activity; a dim light illuminated the room, and I saw clearly that what I had taken for empty pictures was reality; because the pupils of these framed beings moved, shimmered in a unique way; their lips opened and closed like the lips of men speaking, but all I could hear was the ticking of the clock and the whistling of the autumn breeze.
I didn’t know what to make of what I saw; but what remained for me to see was even more remarkable. One of the portraits, the oldest of them all, that of a fat, chubby man with a gray beard, appeared scowling, his head pulled out of the frame, and after a great effort pushing his shoulders and plump belly between the narrow planks of the curb, he jumped heavily to the ground. As soon as he took a breath, he pulled an incredibly small key from the pocket of his overalls; he applied it to all frames one after the other. And all the frames expanded in such a way that the figures they contained could easily pass…”
What will happen to our young man? These characters from another age: will these iron-clad knights be aggressive? Why do they go out of their way? Don’t hesitate to order La Cafetière from your favorite bookstore to learn more about this fantastic new release.