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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Salammbô Prepares for her Journey
By Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880)
 
From ‘Salammbô’

IT was the season when the doves of Carthage migrated to the mountain of Eryx in Sicily, there nesting about the temple of Venus. Previous to their departure, during many days, they sought each other, and cooed to reunite themselves; finally one evening they flew, driven by the wind, and this large white cloud glided in the heaven, very high above the sea.  1
  The horizon was crimson. They seemed gradually to descend to the waves, then disappear as though swallowed up, and falling of their own accord into the jaws of the sun. Salammbô, who watched them disappear, lowered her head. Taanach, believing that she surmised her mistress’s grief, tenderly said:—  2
  “But mistress, they will return.”  3
  “Yes, I know it.”  4
  “And you will see them again.”  5
  “Perhaps!” Salammbô said, as she sighed.  6
  She had not confided to any one her resolution, and for its discreet accomplishment she sent Taanach to purchase in the suburbs of Kinisdo (instead of requiring them of the stewards) all the articles it was necessary she should have: vermilion, aromatics, a linen girdle, and new garments. The old slave was amazed by these preparations, without daring to ask any questions; and so the day arrived, fixed by Schahabarim, when Salammbô must depart.  7
  Toward the twelfth hour she perceived at the end of the sycamores an old blind man, whose hand rested on the shoulder of a child who walked before him, and in the other hand he held against his hip a species of cithara made of black wood.  8
  The eunuchs, the slaves, the women, had been scrupulously sent away; no one could possibly know the mystery that was being prepared.  9
  Taanach lighted in the corners of the room four tripods full of strobus and cardamom; then she spread out great Babylonian tapestries and hung them on cords all round the room,—for Salammbô did not wish to be seen even by the walls. The player of the kinnor waited crouching behind the door, and the young boy, standing up, applied his lips to a reed flute. In the distance the street clamor faded, the violet shadows lengthened before the peristyles of the temples, and on the other side of the gulf the base of the mountain, the olive-fields, and the waste yellow ground indefinitely undulated till finally lost in a bluish vapor; not a single sound could be heard, and an indescribable oppression pervaded the air.  10
  Salammbô crouched on the onyx step on the edge of the porphyry basin; she lifted her wide sleeves and fastened them behind her shoulders, and began her ablutions in a methodical manner, according to the sacred rites.  11
  Next Taanach brought to her an alabaster phial containing something liquid, yet coagulated; it was the blood of a black dog, strangled by barren women on a winter’s night in the ruins of a sepulchre. She rubbed it on her ears, her heels, and the thumb of her right hand; and even the nail remained tinged a trifle red, as if she had crushed a berry.  12
  The moon rose; then, both at once, the cithara and the flute commenced to play. Salammbô took off her earrings, laid aside her necklace, bracelets, and her long white simarra; unknotted the fillet from her hair, and for some minutes shook her tresses gently over her shoulders to refresh and disentangle them. The music outside continued; there were always the same three notes, precipitous and furious; the strings grated, the flute was high-sounding and sonorous. Taanach marked the cadence by striking her hands; Salammbô, swaying her entire body, chanted her prayers, and one by one her garments fell around her on the floor.  13
  The heavy tapestry trembled, and above the cord that sustained it the head of the Python appeared. He descended slowly, like a drop of water trickling along a wall, and glided between the stuffs spread out, then poised himself on his tail; he lifted himself perfectly straight up, and darted his eyes, more brilliant than carbuncles, upon Salammbô.  14
  A shudder of cold, or her modesty perhaps, at first made her hesitate. But she recalled the order of Schahabarim, so she went forward; the Python lowered himself, alighting upon the nape of her neck in the middle of his body, allowing his head and tail to hang down like a broken necklace, and the two ends trailed on the floor. Salammbô rolled them around her sides, under her arms, between her knees; then taking him by the jaw, she drew his little triangular mouth close to her teeth; and with half-closed eyes she bent back under the moon’s rays. The white light seemed to enshroud her in a silvery fog; the tracks of her wet feet shone on the stones; stars twinkled in the depths of the water; the Python tightened against her his black coils speckled with spots of gold. Salammbô panted under this too heavy weight; her loins gave way, she felt that she was dying; the Python patted her thighs softly with his tail: then the music ceased, and he fell down.  15
  Taanach drew near to Salammbô, and after arranging two candelabra, of which the lights burned in two crystal globes filled with water, she tinted with henna the inside of the hands of her mistress, put vermilion on her cheeks, antimony on her eyelids, and lengthened her eyebrows with a mixture of gum, musk, ebony, and crushed flies’ feet.  16
  Salammbô, sitting in a chair mounted with ivory, abandoned herself to the care of her slave. But the soothing touches, the odor of the aromatics, and the fasts she had kept, enervated her; she became so pale that Taanach paused.  17
  “Continue!” said Salammbô; and as she drew herself up in spite of herself, she felt all at once reanimated. Then an impatience seized her; she urged Taanach to hasten, and the old slave growled:—  18
  “Well, well, mistress!… You have no one waiting for you elsewhere!”  19
  “Yes!” responded Salammbô: “some one waits for me.”  20
  Taanach started with surprise, and in order to know more she said:—  21
  “What do you order me to do, mistress, if you should remain away?”…  22
  But Salammbô sobbed, and the slave exclaimed:—  23
  “You suffer! What is the matter with you? Do not go! Take me! When you were a little one and wept, I held you to my heart and suckled you, and made you laugh. Now I am old! I can do nothing for you! You do not love me any more! You hide your troubles from me; you disdain your nurse!” With fondness and vexation the tears coursed down her face, in the scars of her tattooing.  24
  “No!” said Salammbô; “no: I love you; be comforted!”  25
  Taanach, with a smile like the grimace of an old monkey, recommenced her task. Following the directions of the priest, Salammbô ordered her slave to make her magnificent. Taanach complied, with a barbaric taste full of elaboration and ingenuity.  26
  Over a first fine wine-colored tunic she placed a second one, embroidered with birds’ plumes. Golden scales were fastened to her hips; from her wide girdle flowed the folds of her blue, silver-starred petticoat-trousers. Then Taanach adjusted an ample robe of rare stuff from the land of the Seres, white, variegated with green stripes. She attached over Salammbô’s shoulders a square of purple, made heavy at the hem with beads of sandastrum; and on the top of all these vestments she arranged a black mantle with a long train. Then she contemplated her, and proud of her work, she could not keep from saying:—  27
  “You will not be more beautiful on the day of your nuptials!”  28
  “My nuptials!” repeated Salammbô in a reverie, as she leaned her elbow on the ivory chair.  29
  Taanach held up before her mistress a copper mirror, wide and long enough for her to view herself completely. She stood up, and with a light touch of one finger put back a curl that dropped too low on her forehead. Her hair was powdered with gold, crimped in front, hanging down her back in long twists, terminating in pearls. The light from the candelabra heightened the color on her cheeks, the gold throughout her garments, and the whiteness of her skin. She wore around her waist, on her arms, hands, and feet, such a profusion of jewels that the mirror, reflecting like a sun, flashed back prismatic rays upon her; and Salammbô stood beside Taanach, leaning and turning around on all sides to view herself, smiling at the dazzling effect.  30
  She walked to and fro, embarrassed by the time that she needs must tarry.  31
  Suddenly the crow of a cock was heard. She quickly pinned over her hair a long yellow veil, passed a scarf around her neck, and buried her feet in blue leather buskins, saying to Taanach:  32
  “Go, see under the myrtles if there is not a man with two horses.”  33
  Taanach had scarcely re-entered before Salammbô descended the stairway of the galleys.  34
  “Mistress!” called out the slave. Salammbô turned around and placed one finger on her lips, in sign of discretion and silence.  35
  Taanach crept quietly the length of the prows as far as the base of the terrace, and in the distance by the moonlight she distinguished in the cypress avenue a gigantic shadow, moving obliquely to the left of Salammbô: this was a foreboding of death.  36
  Taanach went back to her room, threw herself on the floor, tore her face with her finger-nails, pulled out her hair, and uttered shrill yells at the top of her voice.  37
  Finally the thought came to her that some one might hear; then she was quiet, and sobbed very low, with her head between her hands and her face laid flat on the stones.  38
 
 
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