Danton`s Kopf

From LOKUS SOLUS by Raymond Roussel:

My great-great-grandfather had grown up fraternally with Danton. Throughout his illustrious political career, Danton never forgot his childhood friend.

When Danton was sentenced to death, my great-great-grandfather was able to reach out to him and take his last will. Danton had heard that his enemies were determined to bury his remains in a common grave, with no clue by which to ever recognize them.

He begged his faithful companion to try the impossible and at least get his head, for which he must win helpr.

Sanson the Executioner, a fanatical admirer of the great orator, decided to break his rules in this case and instructed my great-great-grandfatherg:

At the fateful moment, Danton should ask the executioner to show his head to the people.

After the knife fell, Sanson would do as the executed man ordered, and expose the bloodied head to the greedy gazes of the people.

Then, the moment he dropped it again, he would slide it into the second basket, which was always near the first and contained cloths to clean the knife and tools to sharpen the edge.

Wea few days later, the knife completed its work.

Sanson carried out his plan and gave the head to my great-great-grandfather.

After learning about the most common method of embalming, he subjected the head to numerous chemical baths to ensure its preservation.

Since that time, the strange relic had been preserved through five generations of my family.

When I noticed the perfect condition of the brain matter and the nerves, I tried for a long time to produce some kind of reflex movement in the head by applying electricity. But all my attempts were unsuccessful.

I sunk my head in the big diamond that was filled with the aqua-micans.

The effect was far greater than in the previous experiments.

The nerves of the lips seemed to be forming words, while the muscles of the eyes and eyebrows moved tentatively. Evidently the brain was operating in a sort of routine, and after careful investigation I found that the astounding eloquence, the pre-eminent quality of the glorious orator, passed preferentially to the lips: the lips repeated Danton's last speech.

When this discovery became known, I received letters from families who had become aware, and who tenderly wished to see one of their own, hopelessly snatched from them, alive before their eyes after the unfortunate moment of separation.