Frédéric Boutet: The Fortuneteller (conclusion)
The voracious Guland had swallowed a rabbit bone sideways and nearly made an end of himself. It was tragic. Mme Lazzarra, a hand in the suffocating pug’s gullet, fished for the bone. Gloria was hysterical. Guland at last vomited and was saved. Madame now felt ill, so that it needed an abundance of vinegar applied to the skin, and of trefoil taken internally, to restore her spirits.
And she was still under the combined influences of emotion and medicine when the hour arrived for the consultation…
The brunette Andrée and the blonde Irene, in simple gowns and heavy veils…and a little overawed…rang at the door. Silently, it opened. They glimpsed, in the dimness of an antechamber, a pale figure in a heavy headdress of copper ornaments that wove amidst the hair, and with great eyes seeming to stare unseeing. It was Gloria, clad in a long violet robe, on her chest a figure vaguely geometric that wanted to be a pentacle. This bizarre person ushered the trembling visitors into a grand salon draped in somber tapestries, drawn curtains intercepting all light of day—for Mme Lazzarra performed in the school of the gothic.
Three red lamps set at angles glimmered weakly and an incense burner on a tripod exhaled a heavy aromatic cloud. With beating hearts, the two women waited, not speaking. A door at the back opened. Gloria glided like a spectre over the thick rug.
“One of you, only one,” she rasped.
It was Andrée she took by the hand and led to the cabinet of consultation. This was a small room buried entirely in black hangings, decorated with silver signs of the zodiac and unknown mystic symbols. Over the floor fell a green light.
Here as well was a white circle designed on a black rug, in the middle of which Mme Lazzarra stood under the green light, her voluminous person concealed in a red tunic with stripes of cabalistic cyphers. A scarlet bandeau cinched her head, making her broad face more ghostly. She grimaced as though already under the influence of a demon.
“In the circle! Come into the circle!” she ordered, in a wheeze.
The young woman obeyed, pushed by Gloria, who eclipsed herself at once. The seer with her left hand seized one of Andrée’s, and with her right, a small fork with a wooden shaft and two steel teeth.
“Whatever you hear, whatever you see, say nothing…do not move,” said Mme Lazzarra. “Here you are safe. I shall begin the conjuration.”
Then: “I call thee, Lucifer, by the inscrutable name of the God On, by Alpha and Omega, Eloy, Eloym. Begone, Saday, Luxles Mugiens, Rex, Salus, Adonay. I adjure thee, appear and I shall exorcise thee by the names which are declared in the letters V. C. X., and by the names Sol, Agla, Riffasoris, Oriston, Amul, Soter, Tétragrammaton, Perchiram, Simulaton, Perpi, and by the most high and inscrutable names of Galli, Euga, Ingadum, Obu, Euglabis…”
“He comes! He comes! The voice!” she cried. “What do you want to know? The past, the future? Listen!”
Fifteen minutes later, Andrée, a little pale, left the antechamber of the sybil, and the blonde Irene replaced her, trembling.
When the two young women found themselves again on the street, they exchanged their impressions.
“She was amazing! Amazing!” declared Irene. “She told me everything. I was so afraid…she knew my whole life. It is a marvel! In the future, I will follow her counsels. They were not very clever.” She said this with a hint of regret. “But, what can I do? I’ll follow them. I would be too scared not to…it is my destiny, after all. It must be obeyed.”
“Oh, me too. I was stunned,” murmured Andrée. “Believe me, I’m going to take her advice. I’ve been foolish, really…”
She finished in a tone of firm resolve. “I have the right to be happy!”
And the result was that Irene became an icicle to everyone, except her husband, in whom she discovered oceans of unsuspected love and depths of more terrible jealousy; while Andrée searched among friends of the family for the heart of fire who adored her, and found him as easily as one would suppose.
For Mme Lazzarra, discombobulated by Guland’s accident, yet recalling the predictions she was to make, had confounded the fine gentleman’s information, taking the blonde for the wife, and the brunette for the friend—and had given her prophecies accordingly.
(2020, translation, Stephanie Foster)