Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation

Georges Rodenbach's The Bells of Bruges

When the guilty couple were together, she rushed down. Her entrance was like a thunderbolt: ‘Miserable wretches!’

The cry was emitted by a voice that was completely changed, a panting voice, as if she had been running for a long time.

Immediately Godelieve foresaw a catastrophe. Joris watched, anxious to know just how much Barbara suspected.

Barbara repeated, ‘Oh, you two miserable wretches!’

She swooped on Joris. ‘I know everything!’

And she showed him the rings, clinking in the quivering jewel case of her palm, tiny, humble, appearing to ask pardon for having given them away.

And she laughed derisively, a madwoman's arpeggio of chilling laughter.

Then she turned to face Godelieve. ‘As for you — off you go! Off you go! Leave my house!’

She was going to push her, use force; Joris stood between them.

At that her anger exploded with the fury of a raging sea that nothing could hold back, an onslaught of pebbles and wreckage, a spattering of foam that left Joris and Godelieve feeling wounded, sullied to the very depths of their being. While she was heaping abuse on them she suddenly threw their two gold rings at them, like missiles. ‘There you are! You can keep them, your rings!’

Her face seemed to be breaking up, like ice floes in a thaw. And she kept on repeating, like a hiccup, a refrain of despair: ‘It's disgusting! Disgusting!’ Joris and Godelieve remained silent, not daring to utter a word to mollify her, to calm things down.

Provoked even more by their silence and furious that the rings had not hit either of them, Barbara, beside herself with fury, grabbed an old Delft vase from the sideboard and flung it with all the force she could muster at Joris's head. He fended it off, but the blue vase crashed into the mirror, which immediately cracked.

The vase fell onto the marble fireplace, smashing to pieces with a long, piercing noise which maddened Barbara even more. In that moment she saw herself in the mirror, her face appearing cut in two by a gash running from top to bottom.

She felt as if her head were splitting as well and, completely distraught, grasped other objects and threw them at the guilty pair standing there before her, aghast and pale, trying to stop her, to take cover, unable to get away since she was blocking the door, wild-eyed, foaming at the mouth, rabid, driven mad by the pain, by her pride, by the wound in the mirror which she thought she could feel on her face — widening, and all the more terrible for not bleeding — by the crash of all the things she was throwing at the walls and the windows, breaking crystal, vases, candlesticks, sending them flying across the room and falling to the floor in fragments, seized with a destructive furor, a frenzy to lay waste to everything around her, since there was nothing but ruins in her heart.

And when the carnage was over, weary and ashamed, she let out a long cry and left, sobbing along the corridors.

Joris and Godelieve were alone once more.