THE KEY TO THE RED DOOR (CONTINUED)
THAT night la Esmeralda had gone to sleep in her cell, filled with oblivion, hope, and sweet thoughts. She had been asleep for some time, dreaming as always of Phoebus, when she seemed to hear a noise near her. She slept as lightly and restlessly as a bird; the least thing woke her up. She opened her eyes. The night was very dark. She saw, however, at the window a face looking at her. A lamp lit up this apparition. The moment the figure realized that la Esmeralda had seen it, it blew out the lamp. Nevertheless the girl had had time to catch a glimpse. Her eyes closed again in terror. 'Oh!' she said in a faint voice, 'the priest!'
All her past misfortunes came back to her in a flash. She fell back on her bed, ice-cold.
A moment later she felt a touch along her body which made her shudder so violently that she sat up fully awake and furious.
The priest had just slipped in beside her. He had both arms round her.
She tried to scream, but could not.
'Go away, monster! Go away, murderer!' she said in a low voice, trembling with anger and terror.
'Mercy! mercy!'murmured the priest, pressing his lips to her shoulders.
She seized his bald head in both hands by his remaining hair, and strove to ward off his kisses as if they had been bites.
'Mercy!'the wretched man repeated. 'If you knew what my love for you is like! It's fire, molten lead, thousands of knives in my heart!'
And he held her arms still with superhuman strength. Distraught, she said: 'Let me go, or I'll spit in your face!'
He let her go: 'Degrade me, hit me, be vicious! Do whatever you like! But mercy! love me!'