O. de Balzac
I. The Talisman
At the end of October, a young man entered the Palais Royal building – Rafael de Valantin, in whose eyes the players noticed some terrible secret, his features expressed the impassiveness of a suicide and a thousand deceived hopes. Los Valentine lost the last Napoleon, and in a daze began to wander the streets of Paris. His mind absorbed the only thought – to commit suicide by rushing to the Seine from the Royal Bridge. The thought that, in the afternoon, he would become a prey to boatmen, who would be valued at fifty francs, disgusted him. He decided to die at night, “to leave to society, the despicable greatness of his soul, an unidentified corpse.” Walking carelessly, he began to examine the Louvre, the Academy, the towers of the Cathedral of Our Lady, the tower of the Palace of Justice, the Bridge of Arts. To wait for the night, he went to the shop of antiquities to ask the price for works of art. A thin old man appeared in front of him with a sinister sneer on his thin lips. The astute old man guessed the young man’s spiritual torment and offered to make him more powerful than the monarch. He handed him a scrap of shagreen, in which the following words were engraved in Sanskrit: “Possessing me, you will have everything, but your life will belong to me. Wish – and your desires will be fulfilled. With every desire, I will decrease, like your days.” . “
II. Woman without heart
Rafael tells Emil about the causes of his mental anguish and suffering. Since childhood, Raphael’s father has subjected his son to severe discipline. Until the age of twenty-one, he was under the firm hand of the parent, the young man was naive and craved for love. Once at a ball he decided to play on his father’s money and won an impressive amount of money for him, however, ashamed of his act, hid this fact. Soon his father began to give him money for maintenance and share his plans. Father Raphael ten years struggled with Prussian and Bavarian diplomats, seeking recognition of the rights to foreign land holdings. From this process, to which Rafael actively connected, his future depended. When the decree about the loss of rights was promulgated, Raphael sold the land, leaving only an island of no value, where his mother’s grave was. There began a long payoff with creditors, which brought into the grave of his father. The young man decided to stretch the remaining funds for three years, and settled in a cheap hotel, engaged in scientific work – “Theory of Will.” He lived half-starving, but the work of thought, occupation, seemed to him the most beautiful thing in life. The hostess of the hotel, Mrs. Godin, motherly cared for Raphael, and her daughter Polina provided him with many services, which he could not reject. After a while he began to give lessons to Pauline, the girl was extremely capable and smart. Going headlong into science, Raphael continued to dream of a beautiful lady, luxurious, noble and rich. In Pauline, he saw the embodiment of all his desires, but she lacked salon gloss. “… a woman – if she is attractive, like the beautiful Elena, this Galatea Homer – can not win my heart,
One winter, Rastignac brought him into the house, “where the whole Paris was” and introduced the charming Countess Theodora, the owner of eighty thousand livres of income. The countess was a lady of about twenty-two, enjoyed an impeccable reputation, had a marriage behind her, but had no lover, the most enterprising Paris red tape suffered a fiasco in the struggle for the right to possess it. Rafael fell in love without memory in Theodora, she was the embodiment of those dreams that made his heart tremble. Parting with him, she asked him to visit her. Returning home and feeling the contrast of the situation, Raphael cursed his “honest and respectable poverty” and decided to seduce Theodora, who was the last lottery ticket on which his fate depended. On which only the victim was not a poor seducer: he was incredibly able to get to her house on foot in the rain and keep a presentable appearance; on the last money he drove her home, when they returned from the theater. To ensure a decent wardrobe, he had to conclude a contract to write false memoirs, which were supposed to come out under the name of another person. Once she sent him a note with a messenger and asked to come. Appearing at her call, Rafael learned that she needed the patronage of his influential relative, the Duke de Navarren. The enamored madman was only a means to the realization of a mysterious affair, which he did not even recognize. Raphael was tormented by the thought that the cause of the countess’ loneliness might be a physical defect. To dispel his doubts, he decided to hide in her bedroom. After leaving the guests, Theodora entered her apartment and seemed to take off the familiar mask of courtesy and affability. Rafael did not find any flaws in it, and calmed down; she fell asleep, she said: “My God!”. Delighted Raphael made a lot of guesses suggesting what this cry meant: “Her exclamation, whether meaningless or deep, or accidental, or significant, could express happiness and grief, and bodily pain, and concern” . As it turned out later, she just remembered that she forgot to tell her broker that he would exchange a five per cent rent for a three percent interest. When Raphael revealed to her his poverty and all-consuming passion for her, she replied that she would not belong to anyone and would have agreed to marry only the duke. Rafael forever left the countess and moved to Rastignac.
Rastignac, having played in the gambling house on their joint money, won twenty-seven thousand francs. From this day on, friends started to rampant. When the funds were wasted, Valantine, decided that he was a “social zero” and decided to leave his life.
The narrative returns to the moment when Raphael is in the Taifers mansion. He takes from his pocket a piece of shagreen leather and expresses the desire to become the owner of two hundred thousand annual income. The next morning, Notary Cardo informs the public that Rafael became a full-fledged heir to Major O’Flaherty, who died on the eve. The newly-made rich looked at the shagreen and noticed that it had decreased in size. He was enveloped in the ghostly chill of death, now “he could do everything – and he did not want anything anymore.”
On one December day, in the elegant mansion of the Marquis de Valanthene, an old man came, under whose leadership Rafael-mister Porriche once studied. The old faithful servant Jonathan, tells the teacher that his master is a reclusive life and suppresses all desires. The venerable old man came to ask the Marquis for him to talk to the minister about restoring him, Porric, as an inspector in a provincial college. Rafael, tired of the long outpourings of the old man, accidentally said that he heartily wished that he could achieve restoration in office. Realizing the above, the Marquis was enraged when he looked at the shagreen, it markedly decreased. In the theater he somehow met a dry old man with young eyes, whereas in his gaze today only echoes of obsolete passions were read. The old man led the familiar Raphael – the dancer Euphrasia – by the hand. At the inquiring glance of the marquis, the old man replied that now he is happy as a young man, and that he misunderstood being: “All life is in one hour of love.” Looking at the audience, Raphael stopped looking at Theodore, who was sitting with another fan, all the same beautiful and cold. On the next armchair with Raphael sat a beautiful stranger, riveting the admiring glances of all the men present. It was Pauline. Her father, who at one time commanded a squadron of mounted grenadiers of the Imperial Guard, was captured by Cossacks; according to rumors he managed to escape and get to India. Returning, he made his daughter the heiress of a millionaire estate. They agreed to meet at the Saint-Cantin Hotel, their former dwelling, which preserved the memories of their poverty, Polina wanted to pass on the papers that Raphael had bequeathed to her.
Finding himself at home, Rafael looked with longing at the talisman and made a wish that Polina loved him. The next morning he was filled with joy – the talisman did not decrease, so the contract was broken.
Having met young people realized that they love each other with all their heart and nothing hinders their happiness. When Raphael once again looked at the shagreen, he noticed that she again declined, and in a fit of anger threw it into the well. What will be, it will be, “decided Rafael, exhausted, and the soul began to live in the soul with Polina. On one February day, the gardener brought the Marquis an odd find, “the size of which did not exceed six square inches now.”
Henceforth, Rafael decided to seek the means of salvation from scientists, in order to stretch out shagreen and prolong his life. The first to whom he went was Mr. Lavril, the “priest of zoology.” Asked how to stop the narrowing of the skin, Lavril replied: “Science is vast, and human life is very short, so we do not pretend to know all the phenomena of nature.”
The second, to whom the marquis addressed, was Professor of Mechanics Planchet. An attempt to stop the narrowing of shagreen by influencing the hydraulic press was unsuccessful. Shagren remained unharmed. The struck German hit the skin with a blacksmith’s hammer, but there was no trace of damage on it. The apprentice threw the skin into a coal-fired furnace, but even from it the shagreen was taken out unscathed.
Zhafe, a chemist, broke a razor trying to cut his skin, tried to cut it off with an electric shock, subjected the voltaic column to action – all to no avail.
Now Valentin did not believe in anything, began to look for damage to his body and called doctors. For a long time he began to notice signs of consumption, now it became obvious to him and Pauline. Doctors came to the following conclusion: “to break the window, we needed a blow, but who did it?” They attributed leeches, diet and climate change. Raphael smiled sarcastically in response to these recommendations.
A month later he went to the water in Aix. Here he encountered a rough coldness and contempt for others. He was avoided and almost in person declared that “since a person is so sick, he should not go to the waters.” The clash with the cruelty of secular treatment led to a duel with one of the courageous brave ones. Rafael killed his opponent, and the skin narrowed again.
After leaving the water, he settled in a rural hut of Mont Dora. The people he lived with profoundly sympathized with him, and pity is “a feeling that is more difficult to endure from other people.” Soon after him came Jonathan and took his master home. The letters of Pauline, in which she poured out her love for him, he gave to the fireplace. Bianchon’s solution of opium plunged Raphael into an artificial sleep for several days. The old servant decided to follow Bianchon’s advice and entertain the host. He called a full house of friends, a lavish feast was planned, but Valantin, who saw this spectacle, came into violent anger. After drinking a portion of sleeping pills, he again fell asleep. Pauline woke him up, he begged her to leave him, showed a scrap of skin that was the size of a “vinca leaf”, she began to consider the talisman, and he, seeing how beautiful she was, I could not control myself. “Polina, come here! Pauline!” he shouted, and the talisman in her hand began to shrink. Polina decided to tear her breasts, slap her shawl to die. She decided that if he kills himself, he will be alive. Raphael, seeing all this, became intoxicated with passion, rushed to her and died immediately.
What happened to Polina?
On the steamer “The City of Angers” a young man and a beautiful woman admired a figure in the fog over the Loire. “The easy creation of this undine, then the sylphide soared in the air – so the word you are searching for is somewhere in the memory, but you can not catch it. You could have thought that this is the ghost of Lady, depicted by Antoine de la Salle, wants to protect her country from the invasion of modernity. “