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The Invisible Eye
by [?]

Sometimes I saw her spinning; but she never sang, as good, kind old women are accustomed to do, their trembling voices mingling well with the humming of the wheel.

Profound silence always reigned around her; she had no cat–that cherished society of old women–not even a sparrow came to rest under her roof. It seemed as if all animated nature shrank from her glance. The bloated spider alone took delight in her society.

I cannot now conceive how my patience could endure those long hours of observation: nothing escaped me; nothing was matter of indifference. At the slightest sound I raised my slate; my curiosity was without limit, insatiable.

Toubac complained greatly.

“Master Christian,” said he, “how in the devil do you pass your time? Formerly you painted something for me every week; now you do not finish a piece once a month. Oh, you painters! ‘Lazy as a painter’ is a good, wise proverb. As soon as you have a few kreutzers in possession, you put your hands in your pockets and go to sleep!”

I confess that I began to lose courage–I had watched, spied, and discovered nothing. I said to myself that the old woman could not be so dangerous as I had supposed; that I had perhaps done her injustice by my suspicions; in short, I began to make excuses for her. One lovely afternoon, with my eye fixed at my post of observation, I abandoned myself to these benevolent reflections, when suddenly the scene changed: Fledermausse passed through the gallery with the rapidity of lightning. She was no longer the same person; she was erect, her jaws were clinched, her glance fixed, her neck extended; she walked with grand strides, her gray locks floating behind her.

“Oh, at last,” I said to myself, “something is coming, attention!” But, alas! the shadows of evening descended upon the old building, the noises of the city expired, and silence prevailed.

Fatigued and disappointed, I lay down upon my bed, when, casting my eyes toward my dormer window, I saw the room opposite illuminated. So! a traveler occupied the Green Room–fatal to strangers.

Now, all my fears were reawakened; the agitation of Fledermausse was explained–she scented a new victim.

No sleep for me that night; the rustling of the straw, the nibbling of the mice under the floor, gave me nervous chills.

I rose and leaned out of my window; I listened. The light in the room opposite was extinguished. In one of those moments of poignant anxiety, I cannot say if it was illusion or reality, I thought I saw the old wretch also watching and listening.

The night passed, and the gray dawn came to my windows; by degrees the noise and movements in the street ascended to my loft. Harassed by fatigue and emotion I fell asleep, but my slumber was short, and by eight o’clock I had resumed my post of observation.

It seemed as if the night had been as disturbed and tempestuous to Fledermausse as to myself. When she opened the door of the gallery, I saw that a livid pallor covered her cheeks and thin throat; she had on only her chemise and a woolen skirt; a few locks of reddish gray hair fell on her shoulders. She looked toward my hiding place with a dreamy, abstracted air, but she saw nothing; she was thinking of other things.

Suddenly she descended, leaving her old shoes at the bottom of the steps. “Without doubt,” thought I, “she is going to see if the door below is well fastened.”

I saw her remount hastily, springing up three or four steps at a time–it was terrible.

She rushed into the neighboring chamber, and I heard something like the falling of the top of a great chest; then Fledermausse appeared in the gallery, dragging a manikin after her, and this manikin was clothed like the Heidelberg student.

With surprising dexterity the old woman suspended this hideous object to a beam of the shed, then descended rapidly to the courtyard to contemplate it. A burst of sardonic laughter escaped from her lips; she remounted, then descended again like a maniac, and each time uttered new cries and new bursts of laughter.