The Magic Skin
3. The Agony
In the early days of December an old man of some seventy years of age pursued his way
along the Rue de Varenne, in spite of the falling rain. He peered up at the door of each
house, trying to discover the address of the Marquis Raphael de Valentin, in a simple,
childlike fashion, and with the abstracted look peculiar to philosophers. His face plainly
showed traces of a struggle between a heavy mortification and an authoritative nature; his
long, gray hair hung in disorder about a face like a piece of parchment shriveling in the
fire. If a painter had come upon this curious character, he would, no doubt, have
transferred him to his sketchbook on his return, a thin, bony figure, clad in black, and
have inscribed beneath it: "Classical poet in search of a rhyme." When he had identified
the number that had been given to him, this reincarnation of Rollin knocked meekly at the
door of a splendid mansion.
"Is Monsieur Raphael in?" the worthy man inquired of the Swiss in livery.
"My Lord the Marquis sees nobody," said the servant, swallowing a huge morsel that he
had just dipped in a large bowl of coffee.
"There is his carriage," said the elderly stranger, pointing to a fine equipage that stood
under the wooden canopy that sheltered the steps before the house, in place of a striped
linen awning. "He is going out; I will wait for him."
"Then you might wait here till to-morrow morning, old boy," said the Swiss. "A carriage
is always waiting for monsieur. Please to go away. If I were to let any stranger come into
the house without orders, I should lose an income of six hundred francs."
A tall old man, in a costume not unlike that of a subordinate in the Civil Service, came
out of the vestibule and hurried part of the way down the steps, while he made a survey
of the astonished elderly applicant for admission.
"What is more, here is M. Jonathan," the Swiss remarked; "speak to him."
Fellow-feeling of some kind, or curiosity, brought the two old men together in a central
space in the great entrance-court. A few blades of grass were growing in the crevices of
the pavement; a terrible silence reigned in that great house. The sight of Jonathan's face
would have made you long to understand the mystery that brooded over it, and that was
announced by the smallest trifles about the melancholy place.
When Raphael inherited his uncle's vast estate, his first care had been to seek out the old
and devoted servitor of whose affection he knew that he was secure. Jonathan had wept
tears of joy at the sight of his young master, of whom he thought he had taken a final
farewell; and when the marquis exalted him to the high office of steward, his happiness
could not be surpassed. So old Jonathan became an intermediary power between Raphael
and the world at large. He was the absolute disposer of his master's fortune, the blind