Dumas, Alexandre - from Memoirs I
Type of spiritual experience
A description of the experience
Alexandre Dumas - Memoirs Volume I
The night of my father’s death I was taken away from the house and left with my cousin Marianne, who lived at her father’s home in the rue de Soissons.
Whether, feeling the end was near, they did not wish me, as a child, to see a coffin, or whether they feared I might be in the way, this precaution was taken about 5 o’clock in the afternoon.
I adored my father. Perhaps at that age the sentiment I now call love was but ingenuous astonishment due to the Herculean form and the tremendous strength I had seen him exhibit on several occasions; perhaps, even, it was a childish and vain admiration for his embroidered coat, his three coloured aigrette and his great saber, which I was barely able to lift; but at all events, the memory of my father – every contour of his body, every feature of his countenance – is as vivid as though I had lost him yesterday.
I love him today with a love as tender as deep and as real as if he had watched over my childhood and I had had the happiness of passing from this childhood to adolescence, leaning on his strong arm. For his part, my father adored me; I cannot repeat this too often, above all if the dead hear what is said of them; and although, during the last part of his life, suffering had soured his disposition to such an extent that he could not bear any sound or movement in his room, he made an exception in my favour.
I had no conception of death. It would have been most difficult for me to foresee that of my father – I, who three days before had seen him mount a horse. I made no objection, therefore, to leaving the house and once I had left, I do not know if my father spoke of me or asked after me.
But the occurrence of which I am about to relate has remained perfectly fresh in my mind in every detail.
They had left me at the home of my cousin’s father. This worthy fellow was a blacksmith named Fortier; he had a brother, the village priest. I was put in the care of my cousin Marianne.
The house extended from the Rue de Soissons to the Place du Chateau. As a result of this location, the moment the smithy door, giving on the rue de Soissons and the door of the garden, giving on the Place du Chateau, had been closed, the house could not be entered except by scaling the walls.
So I had remained with my cousin Marianne; I loved to go into the smithy; I made fireworks there with filings and the workmen told me most interesting stories.
I stayed in the smithy until rather late in the evening; at night it was full of fantastic reflections and plays of light and shadow which gave me infinite pleasure. About 8 o’clock my cousin Marianne came to look for me there, put me to bed in the little bed next to the big one, and I fell into the good slumber that God gives children – a slumber like spring dew.
At midnight I was awakened – or rather my cousin and I were awakened – by a loud blow struck upon the door.
A night lamp was burning on a table; by its light I saw my cousin sit up in bed, very much frightened, but she said nothing.
No one could knock at this inner door since the other two doors were closed.
But I, who today almost tremble as I write these lines – I, on the contrary felt no fear; I got down from my bed and went toward the door.
‘Where are you going Alexandre?’ my cousin called to me.
‘You see very well’ I answered calmly ‘that I am going to open the door for Papa, who has come to say good-bye to us’.
The poor girl sprang from her bed, quite terrified, caught me as I was raising my hand to the lock and forcibly put me back into bed.
I struggled in her arms, shouting at the top of my lungs ‘Good-bye, Papa! Good-bye, Papa!’
Something resembling the exhalation of a last breath touched my face and calmed me.
Nevertheless, I went back to sleep with my eyes full of tears and sobs in my throat.
The next morning we were awakened when day came
My father had died at precisely the time at which this loud blow, of which I have spoken, had been struck on the door!
Then I heard these words, without knowing what lips uttered them:
‘My poor child, your papa, who loved you so, is dead’.