CHAPTER 6. CONTINUATION OF THE KEY TO THE RED DOOR.
That night, la Esmeralda had fallen asleep in her cell, full
of oblivion, of hope, and of sweet thoughts. She had already
been asleep for some time, dreaming as always, of Phoebus,
when it seemed to her that she heard a noise near her. She
slept lightly and uneasily, the sleep of a bird; a mere nothing
waked her. She opened her eyes. The night was very dark.
Nevertheless, she saw a figure gazing at her through the
window; a lamp lighted up this apparition. The moment that
the figure saw that la Esmeralda had perceived it, it blew out
the lamp. But the young girl had had time to catch a glimpse
of it; her eyes closed again with terror.
"Oh!" she said in a faint voice, "the priest!"
All her past unhappiness came back to her like a flash of
lightning. She fell back on her bed, chilled.
A moment later she felt a touch along her body which made
her shudder so that she straightened herself up in a sitting
posture, wide awake and furious.
The priest had just slipped in beside her. He encircled
her with both arms.
She tried to scream and could not.
"Begone, monster! begone assassin!" she said, in a voice
which was low and trembling with wrath and terror.
"Mercy! mercy!" murmured the priest, pressing his lips
to her shoulder.
She seized his bald head by its remnant of hair and tried to
thrust aside his kisses as though they had been bites.
"Mercy!" repeated the unfortunate man. "If you but knew what
my love for you is! 'Tis fire, melted lead, a thousand daggers
in my heart."
She stopped his two arms with superhuman force.
"Let me go," she said, "or I will spit in your face!"
He released her. "Vilify me, strike me, be malicious! Do
what you will! But have mercy! love me!"