1 This manuscript was found among the papers of Viscount Jacques de X—— who committed suicide a few years ago, in his room in an hotel at Piombières. — R.M.]
For days and days, nights and nights, I had dreamt of that first kiss, which was to consecrate our engagement, and I knew not on what spot I should put my lips, that were madly thirsting for her beauty and her youth. Not on her forehead, that was accustomed to family caresses, nor on her light hair, which mercenary hands had dressed, nor on her eyes, whose turned up lashes looked like little wings, because that would have made me think of the farewell caress which closes the eyelids of some dead woman whom one has adored, nor her lovely mouth, which I will not, which I must not possess until that divine moment when Elaine will at last belong to me altogether and for always, but on that delicious little dimple which comes in one of her cheeks when she is happy, when she smiles, and which excited me as much as her voice did with languorous softness, on that evening when our flirtation began, at the Souverette’s.
Our parents had gone away, and were walking slowly under the chestnut trees in the garden, and had left us alone together for a few minutes. I went up to her and took both her hands into mine, which were trembling, and gently drawing her close to me, I whispered:
“How happy I am, Elaine, and how I love you!” and I kissed her almost timidly, on the dimple. She trembled, as if from the pain of a burn, blushed deeply and with an affectionate look, she said: “I love you also, Jacques, and I am very happy!”
That embarrassment, that sudden emotion which revealed the perfect spotlessness of a pure mind, the instinctive recoil of virginity, that childlike innocence, that blush of modesty, delighted me above everything as a presage of happiness. It seemed to me as if I were unworthy of her; I was almost ashamed of bringing her, and of putting into her small, saint-like hands the remains of a damaged heart, that had been polluted by debauchery, that miserable thing which had served as a toy for unworthy mistresses, which was intoxicated with lies, and felt as if it would die of bitterness and disgust. . . .
How quickly she has become accustomed to me, how suddenly she has turned into a woman and become metamorphosed; already she no longer is at all like the artless girl, the sensitive child, to whom I did not know what to say, and whose sudden questions disconcerted me!
She is coquettish, and there is seduction in her attitudes, in her gestures, in her laugh and in her touch. One might think that she was trying her power over me, and that she guesses that I no longer have any will of my own. She does with me whatever she likes, and I am quite incapable of resisting the beautiful charm that emanates from her, and I feel carried away by her caressing hands, and so happy that I am at times frightened at the excess of my own felicity.
My life now passes amidst the most delicious of punishments, those afternoons and evenings that we spend together, those unconstrained moments when, sitting on the sofa together, she rests her head on my shoulder, holds my hands and half shuts her beautiful eyes while we settle what our future life shall be, when I cover her with kisses and inhale the odor of all those little hairs that are as fine as silk and are like a halo round her imperial brow, excite me, unsettle me, kill me, and yet I feel inclined to shed tears, when the time comes for us to part, and I really only exist when I am with Elaine.
I can scarcely sleep; I see her rise up in the darkness, delicate, fair and pink, so supple, so elegant with her small waist and tiny hands and feet, her graceful head and that look of mockery and of coaxing which lies in her smile, that brightness of dawn which illuminates her looks, that when I think that she is going to become my wife, I feel inclined to sing, and to shout out my amorous folly into the silence of the night.
Elaine also seems to be at the end of her strength, has grown languid and nervous; she would like to wipe out the fortnight that we still have to wait, and so little does she hide her longing, that one of her uncles, Colonel d’Orthez, said after dinner the other evening: “By Jove, my children, one would take you for two soldiers who are looking forward to their furlough!”
I do not know what I felt, or whence those fears came which so suddenly assailed me, and took possession of my whole being like a flight of poisoned arrows. The nearer the day approached that I am so ardently longing for, on which Elaine would take my name and belong to me, the more anxious, nervous and tormented by the uncertainty of the morrow, I feel.
I love, and I am passionately loved, and few couples start on the unknown journey of a totally new life and enter into matrimony with such hopes, and the same assurance of happiness, as we two.
I have such faith in the girl I am going to marry, and have made her such vows of love, that I should certainly kill myself without a moment’s hesitation if anything were to happen to separate us, to force us to a correct but irremediable rupture, or if Elaine were seized by some illness which carried her off quickly; and yet I hesitate, I am afraid, for I know that many others have made shipwreck, lost their love on the way, disenchanted their wives and have themselves been disenchanted in those first essays of possession, during that first night of tenderness and of intimacy.
What does Elaine expect in her vague innocence, which has been lessened by the half confidences of married friends, by semi-avowals, by all the kisses of this sort of apprenticeship which is a court of love; what does she possess, what does she hope for? Will her refined, delicate, vibrating nature bend to the painful submission of the initial embrace; will she not rebel against that ardent attack that wounds and pains? Oh! to have to say to oneself that it must come to that, to lower the most ideal of affections, to think that one is risking one’s whole future happiness at such a hazardous game, that the merest trifle might make a woman completely ridiculous or hopeful, and make an idolized woman laugh or cry!
I do not know a more desirable, prettier or more attractive being in the whole world than Elaine; I am worn out by feverish love, I thirst for her lips and I wish every particle of her being to belong to me; I love her ardently, but I would willingly give half that I possess to have got through this ordeal, to be a week older, and still happy! . . .
My mother-inlaw took me aside yesterday, while they were dancing, and with tears in her eyes, she said in a tremulous voice:
“You are going to possess the most precious object that we possess here, and what we love best. . . . I beg you to always spare the slightest unhappiness, and to be kind and gentle towards her. . . . I count on your uprightness and affection to guide her and protect her in this dangerous life in Paris.” . . . And then, giving way to her feelings more and more, she added: “I do not think that you suppose that I have tried to instruct her in her new duties or to disturb her charming innocence, which has been my work; when two persons worship each other like you two do, a girl learns what she is ignorant of, so quickly and so well!”
I very nearly burst out laughing in her face, for such a theatrical phrase appeared to me both ridiculous and doubtful. So that respectable woman had always been a passive, pliable, inert object, who never had one moment of vibration, of tender emotion in her husband’s arms, and I understood why, as I wasted at the clubs, he escaped from her as soon as possible and made other connections which cost him dear, but in which he found at least some appearance of love.
Oh! to call that supreme bliss of possession, which makes human beings divine and which transports them far from everything, that despotic pain of virginity, which guesses, which waits, which longs for those mysterious, unknown, brief sufferings that contain the germs of future pleasure, the only happiness of which one never tires, a duty!
And that piece of advice, at the last moment, which was as common-place and natural, and which I ought to have expected, enervated me, and, in spite of myself, plunged me into a state of perplexity, from which I could not extricate myself. I remembered those absurd stories which we hear among friends, after a good dinner. What would be that last trial of our love for her and for me, and could that love which then was my whole life, come out of the ordeal lessened or increased tenfold? And when I looked at the couch on which Elaine, my adored Elaine, was sitting, with her head half-hidden behind the feathers of her fan, she whispered in a rather vexed voice:
“How cross you look, my dear Jacques? Is the fact of your getting married the cause of it? And you have such a mocking look on your face. If the thought of it terrifies you too much, there is still time to say no!”
And delighted, bewitched by her caressing looks, I said in a low voice, almost into her small ear:
“I adore you; and these last moments that still separate us from each other, seem centuries to me, my dear Elaine!”
There were tiresome ceremonies yesterday, and today, which I went through almost mechanically.
First, there is the yes before the mayor at the civil ceremony,1 like some everyday response in church, which one is in a hurry to get over, and which has almost the suggestion of an imperious law, to which one is bound to submit, and of a state of bondage, which will, perhaps, be very irksome, since the whole of existence is made up of chances.
1 Civil marriages are obligatory in France, though usually followed by the religious rite. — TRANSLATOR.]
And then the service in church, with the decorated altar, the voices of the choir, the solemn music of the organ, the unctuous address of the old priest who marks his periods, who seemed quite proud of having prepared Elaine for confirmation, and then the procession to the vestry, the shaking hands, and the greetings of people whom you scarcely see, and whom you do, or do not recognize.
Under the long tulle veil, which almost covered her, with the symbolical orange flowers on her bright, light hair, in her white dress, with her downcast eyes and her graceful figure, Elaine looked to me like a Psyche, whose innocent heart was vowed to love. I felt how vain and artificial all this form was, how little this show counted before this Kiss, the triumphant, revealing, maddening Kiss, which rivets the flesh of the wife to the lips and all the flesh of the husband, which turns the Immaculate youth of the virgin into a woman, and consecrates it to tender caresses, to dreams and to future ecstacies, through the sufferings of a rape.
Elaine loves me, as much as I adore her.
She left her parental abode, as if she was going to some festivity, without turning round toward all that she had left behind her in the way of affection and recollection, and without even a farewell tear, which the first kiss effaces, on her long turned-up lashes.
She looked like a bird which had escaped from its cage, and does not know where to settle, which beats its wings in the intoxication of the light, and which warbles incessantly. She repeated the same words, as if she had been rather intoxicated, and her laugh sounded like the cooing of a pigeon, and looking into my eyes, with her eyes full of languor, and her arms round my neck like a bracelet, and with her burning cheek against mine, she suddenly exclaimed:
“I say, my darling, would you not give ten years of your life to have already got to the end of the journey?”
And that passionate question so disconcerted me, that I did not know what to reply, and my brain reeled, as if I had been at the edge of a precipice. Did she already know what her mother had not told her? Had she already learned what she ought to have been ignorant of? And had that heart, which I used to compare to the Vessel of Election, of which the litanies of Our Lady speak, already been damaged?
Oh! white veils, that hide the blushes, the half-closed eyes and the trembling lips of some Psyche, oh! little hands which you raised in an attitude of prayer toward the lighted and decorated altar, oh! innocent and charming questions, which delighted me to the depths of my being, and which seemed to me to be an absolute promise of happiness, were you nothing but a lie, and a wonderfully well acted piece of trickery?
But was I not wrong, and an idiot, to allow such thoughts to take possession of me, and to poison my deep, absorbing love, which was now my only law and my only object, by odious and foolish suggestions? What an abject and miserable nature I must have, for such a simple, affectionate, natural question to disturb me so, when I ought immediately to have replied to Elaine’s question, with all my heart that belonged to hear:
“Yes, ten or twenty years, because you are my happiness, my desire, my love!”
I did not choose to wait until she woke up, I sprang from the bed, where Elaine was still sleeping, with her disheveled hair lying on the lace-edged pillows. Her complexion was almost transparent, her lips were half open, as if she were dreaming, and she seemed so overcome with sleep, that I felt much emotion when I looked at her.
I drank four glasses of mild champagne, one after the other, as quickly as I could, but it did not quench my thirst. I was feverish and would have given anything in the world for something to interest me suddenly and have absorbed me and lifted me out of that slough in which my heart and my brain were being engulfed, as if in a quicksand. I did not venture to avow to myself what was making me so dejected, what was torturing me and driving me mad with grief, or to scrutinize the muddy bottom of my present thoughts sincerely and courageously, to question myself and to pull myself together.
It would have been so odious, so infamous, to harbor such suspicions unjustly, to accuse that adorable creature who was not yet twenty, whom I loved, and who seemed to love me, without having certain proofs, that I felt that I was blushing at the idea that I had any doubt of her innocence. Ah! Why did I marry?
I had a sufficient income to enable me to live as I liked, to pay beautiful women who pleased me, whom I chanced to meet, and who amused me, and who sometimes gave me unexpected proofs of affection, but I had never allowed myself to be caught altogether, and in order to keep my heart warm, I had some romantic and sentimental friendships with women in society, some of those delightful flirtations which have an appearance of love, which fill up the idleness of a useless life with a number of unexpected sensations, with small duties and vague subtle pleasures!
And was I now going to be like one of those ships which an unskillful turn of the helm runs ashore as it is leaving the harbor? What terrible trials were awaiting me, what sorrows and what struggles?
A chaffing friend said to me one night in joke at the club, when I had just broken one of those banks, which form an epoch in a player’s life:
“If I were in your place, Jacques, I should distrust such runs of luck as that, for one always has to pay for them sooner or later!”
Sooner or later!
I half opened the bedroom door gently. Elaine was in one of those heavy sleeps that follow intoxication. Who could tell whether, when she opened her eyes and called me, surprised at not finding herself in my arms, her whole being would not become languid, and suddenly sink into a state of prostration? I wanted to reason with myself, and bring myself face to face with those cursed suggestions, as one does with a skittish horse before some object that frightens it, and to evoke the recollection of every hour, every minute of that first night of love, and to extract the secret from her. . . .
Elaine’s looks and radiant smile were overflowing with happiness, and she had the air of a conqueror who is proud of his triumph, for she was now a woman already, and we had at least been alone in this modernized country house, which had been redecorated and smartened up to serve as the frame for our affection! She hardly seemed to know what she was saying or doing, and ran from room to room in her light morning dress of mauve crape, without exactly knowing where to sit, and almost dazzled by the light of the lamps that had large shades in the shape of rose leaves over them.
There was no embarrassment, no hesitation, no shamefaced looks, no recoiling from the arms that were stretched out to her, or from the lips that begged; none of those delightful little pieces of awkwardness which show a virgin soul free from all perversion, in her manner of sitting on my knees, or putting her bare arms round my neck, and of offering me the back of her neck and her lips to kiss, but she laughed nervously, and her supple form trembled when I kissed her passionately on various places, and she said things to me that were suitable for being whispered on the pillows, while a strange languor overshadowed her eyes, and dilated her nostrils.
And suddenly with a mocking gesture, which seemed to bid defiance to the supper that was laid on a small table, cold meat of various kinds, plates of fruit and of cakes, the ice pail, from which the neck of a bottle of champagne protruded, she said merrily:
“I am not at all hungry, dear; let us have supper later! what do you say?”
She half turned round to the large bed, which seemed to be quite ready for us, and which looked white in the shadow of the recess in which it stood, with its two white, untouched, almost solemn pillows. She was not smiling any more; there was a bluish gleam in her eyes, like that of burning alcohol, and I lost my head. Elaine did not try to escape, and did not utter a complaint.
Oh! that night of torture and delight, that night which ought never to have ended!
I determined that I would be as patient as a policeman who is trying to discover the traces of a crime, that I would investigate the past of this girl, about which I knew nothing, as I should be sure to discover some proof, some important reminiscence, some servant who had been her accomplice.
And yet I adored her, my pretty, my divine Elaine, and I would consent no matter to what if only she were what I dreamt her, what I wished her to be, if only this nightmare would go and no longer rise up between her and me.
When she woke up, she spoke to me in her coaxing voice. . . . Oh! her kisses, again her kisses, always her kisses, in spite of everything!
Oh! to have believed blindly, to have believed on my knees that she was not lying, that she was not making a mockery of my tenderness, and that she had never belonged, and never would belong, to any one but me!
I wished that I could have transformed myself into one of those crafty, unctuous priests, to whom women confess their most secret faults, to whom they entrust their souls and frequently ask for advice, and that Elaine would have come and knelt at the grating of the confessional, where I should press her closely with questions, and gradually extract sincere confidences from her.
As soon as I am by the side of a young or old woman now, I try to give our conversation a ticklish turn; I forget all reserve and I try to make her talk of those jokes which nettle, those words of double meaning which excite, and to lead her up to the only subject that interests and holds me, to find out what she feels in her body as well as in her heart, on that night, when for the first time, she has to undergo the nuptial ordeal. Some do not appear to understand me, blush, leave me as if I were some unpleasant, ill-mannered person, and had offended them; as if I had tried to force open the precious casket in which they keep their sweetest recollections.
Others, on the other hand, understand me only too well, scent something equivocal and ridiculous, though they do not exactly know what, make me go on, and finally get out of the difficulty by some subtle piece of impertinence, and a burst of chaffing laughter.
Two or three at most, and they were those pretty little upstarts who talk at random, and brag about their vice, and whom one could soon not leave a leg to stand upon, were one to take the trouble, have related their impressions to me with ironical complaisance, and I found nothing in what they told me that reassured me, nor could I discover anything serious, true or moving in it.
That supreme initiation amused them as much as if it had been a scene from a comedy; the small amount of affection that they felt for the man with whom their existence had been associated grew less and evaporated altogether — and they remembered nothing about it except its ridiculous and hateful side, and described it as a sort of pantomime in which they played a bad part. But these did not love and were not adored like Elaine was. They married either from interest, or that they might not remain old maids, that they might have more liberty and escape from troublesome guardianship.
Foolish dolls, without either heart or head, they had neither that almost diseased nervosity, nor that requirement for affection, nor that instinct of love which I discovered in my wife’s nature, and which attracted me, at the same time that it terrified me.
Besides, who could convince me of my errors? Who could dissipate that darkness in which I was lost? What miracle could restore all my belief in her again?
Elaine felt that I was hiding something from her, that I was unhappy, that, as it were, some threatening obstacle had risen up between her and me, that some insupportable suspicion was oppressing me, torturing me and keeping me from her arms, was poisoning and disturbing that affection in which I had hoped to find fresh youth, absolute happiness, my dream of dreams.
She never spoke to me about it, however, but seemed to recoil from a definite explanation, which might make shipwreck of her love. She surrounded me with endearing attentions, and appeared to be trying to make my life so pleasant to me, that nothing in the world could draw me from it! And she would certainly cure me, if this madness of mine, were not, alas! like those wounds which are constantly reopening, and which no balm can heal.
But, at times, I lived again, I imagined that her caresses had exorcised me, that I was saved, that doubt was no longer gnawing at my heart, that I was going to adore her again, like I used to adore her. I used to throw myself at her knees and put my lips on her little hands which she abandoned to me, I looked at her lovely, limpid eyes as if they had been a piece of a blue sky that appeared amidst black storm clouds, and I whispered, with something like a sob in my throat:
“You love me, do you not, with all your heart; you love me as much as I love you; tell me so again, my dear love; tell me that, and nothing but that!”
And she used to reply eagerly, with a smile of joy on her lips:
“Do you not know it? Do you not see every moment that I love you, that you have taken entire possession of me, and that I only live for you and by you?”
And her kisses gave me new life, and intoxicated me, like when one returns from a long journey and had been in peril and is despaired of ever seeing some beloved object again, and one meets with a sort of frenzied embrace, and forgets everything in that divine feeling that one is going to die of happiness. . . .
But these were only ephemeral clear spots in our sky, and the cries which accompanied them only grew more bitter and terrible. I knew that Elaine was growing more and more uneasy at the apparent strangeness of my character, that she suffered from it and that it affected her nerves, that the existence to which I was condemning her in spite of myself, that all this immoderate love of mine, followed by fits of inexplicable coldness and of low spirits, disconcerted her, so that she was no longer the same, and kept away from me. She could not hide her grief, and was continually worrying me with questions of affectionate pity. She repeated the same things over and over again, with hateful persistence. She had vexed me, without knowing it! Was I already tired of my married life, and did I regret my lost liberty? Had I any private troubles which I had not told her of; heavy debts which I did not know how to pay; was it family matters or some former connection with a woman that I had broken off suddenly, and that now threatened to create a scandal? Was I being worried by anonymous letters? What was it, in a word; what was it?
My denials only exasperated her, so that she sulked in silence, while her brain worked and her heart grew hard towards me; but could I, as a matter of fact, tell her of my suspicions which were filling my life with gloom and annihilating me? Would it not be odious and vile to accuse her of such a fall, without any proofs or any clue, and would she ever forget such an insult?
I almost envied those unfortunate wretches who had the right to be jealous, who had to fight against a woman’s coquettes and light behavior, and who had to defend their honor that was threatened by some poacher on the preserves of love. They had a target to aim at; they knew their enemies and knew what they were doing, while I was wounding in a land of terrible mirages, was struggling in the midst of vague suppositions, and was causing my own troubles and was enraged with her past, which was, I felt sure, as white and pure as any bridal veil.
Ah! It would be better to blow my brains out, I thought to myself, than to prolong such a situation! I had had enough of it. I scarcely lived, and I wished to know all that Elaine had done before we became engaged. I wanted to know whether I was the first or the second, and I determined to know it, even if I had to sacrifice years of my life in inquiry, and to lower myself to compromising words and acts, and to every species of artifice and to spend everything that I possessed!
She might believe whatever she liked, for after all, I should only laugh at it. We might have been so happy, and there were so many who envied me, and who would gladly have consented to take my place!
I no longer knew where I was going, but was like a train going at full speed through a dense fog, and which in vain disturbs the perfect silence of the sleeping country with its puffing and shrill whistles; when the driver cannot distinguish the changing lights of the discs, nor the signals, and when soon some terrible crash will send the train off the rails, and the carriages will become a heap of ruins.
I was afraid of going mad, and at times I asked myself whether any of my family had shown any signs of mental aberration, and had been locked up in a lunatic asylum, and whether the life of constant fast pleasures, of turning night into day and of frequent violent emotions, that I had led for years, had not at last affected my brain. If I had believed in anything, and in the science of the occult, which haunts so many restless brains, I should have imagined that some enemy was bewitching me and laying invisible snares for me, that he was suggesting those actions which were quite unworthy of the frank, upright and well-bred man that I was, and was trying to destroy the happiness of which she and I had dreamt.
For a whole week I devoted myself to that hateful business of playing the spy, and to those inquiries which were killing me. I had succeeded in discovering the lady’s maid who had been in Elaine’s service before we were married, and whom she loved as if she had been her foster sister, who used to accompany her whenever she went out, when she went to visit the poor and when she went for a walk, who used to wake her every morning, do her hair and dress her. She was young and rather pretty, and one saw that Paris had improved her and given her a polish, and that she knew her difficult business from end to end.
I had found out, however, that her virtue was only apparent, especially since she had changed employers; that she was fond of going to the public balls, and that she divided her favors between a man who came from her part of the country, and who was a sergeant in a dragoon regiment, and a footman, and that she spent all her money on horse races and on dress. I felt sure that I should be able to make her talk and get the truth out of her, either by money or cunning, and so I asked her to meet me early one morning in a quiet square.
She listened to me first of all in astonishment, without replying yes or no, as if she did not understand what I was aiming at, or with what object I was asking her all these questions about her former mistress; but when I offered her a few hundred francs to loosen her tongue, as I was impatient to get the matter over and pretended to know that she had managed interviews for Elaine with her lovers, that they were known and being followed, that she was in the habit of frequenting quiet bachelors’ quarters, from which she returned late, the sly little wench frowned angrily, shrugged her shoulders and exclaimed:
“What pigs some men are to have such ideas, and cause such an excellent person as Mademoiselle Elaine any unhappiness. Look here, you disgust me with your banknotes and your dirty stories, and I don’t choose to say what you ought to wear on your head!”
She turned her back on me and hurried off, and her insolence, that indignant reply which she had given me, rejoiced me to the depths of my heart, like soothing balm that lulls the pain.
I should have liked to have called her back, and told her that it was all a joke, that I was devotedly in love with my wife, that I was always on the watch to hear her praised, but she was already out of sight, and I felt that I was ridiculous and mean, that I had lowered myself by what I had done, and I swore that I would profit by such a humiliating lesson, and for the future show myself to Elaine as the trusting and ardent husband that she deserved, and I thought myself cured, altogether cured. . . .
And yet, I was again the prey to the same bad thoughts, to the same doubts, and persuaded that that girl had lied to me just like all other women lie when they are on the defensive, that she made fun of me, that perhaps some one had foreseen this scene and had told her what to say and made sure of her silence, just as her complicity had been gained. Thus I shall always knock up against some barrier, and struggle in this wretched darkness, and this mire from which I cannot extricate myself!
Nobody knew anything. Neither the Superior of the Convent where she had been brought up until she was sixteen, nor the servants who had waited on her, nor the governesses who had finished her education, could remember that Elaine had been difficult to check or teach, or that she had had any other ideas than those of her age. She had certainly shown no precocious coquetry and disquieting instincts; she had had no equivocal cousinly relationships, when if the bridle is left on their neck at all, and one of them has learned at school what love is, the two big children yield to the fatal law of sex, and begin the inevitable eclogue of Daphne and Chole over again.
However, Oh! I felt it too much for it to be nothing but a chimera and a mirage, it was no virgin who threw her arms round my neck so lovingly, and who returned my first kisses so deliciously, who was attracted by my society, who gave no signs of surprise and uttered no complaint, who appeared to forget everything when in my society. No, no, a thousand times no, that could not have been a pure woman.
I ought to have cast off that intoxication which was bewitching me, and to have rushed out of the room where such a lie was being consummated; I ought to have profited by her moments of amiable weakness, while she was incapable of collecting her thoughts, when she would with tears have confessed an old fault, for which the unhappy girl had not, perhaps, been altogether responsible. Perhaps by my entreaties, or even perhaps by violence, in terror at my furious looks, when my features would have been distorted by rage, and my hands clenched in spite of myself in a gesture of menace and of murder, I might have forced her to open her heart, to show me its defilement, and to tell me this sad love episode.
How do I know whether her disconsolateness might not have moved me to pity, whether I should not have wept with her at the heavy cross that we both of us had to bear, whether I should not have forgiven her and opened my arms wide, so that she might have thrown herself into them like into a peaceful refuge?
Would not any man, or vicious collegian on the lookout for innocent girls, have perceived her nervousness, her vice? Would he not have hypnotized her, as it were, by amorous touches, by skillful caresses and reduced her to the absolute passiveness of an animal, who had been taken unawares, without any care for the morrow, or what the consequences of such a fault might be?
Or was I completely her dupe and the dupe of a villain? Had she loved, and did she still love the man who had first possessed her, who had been her first lover? Who could tell me, or come to my aid? Who could give me the proofs, the real, undeniable proofs, either that I was an infamous wretch to suspect Elaine, whom I ought to have worshiped with my eyes shut, or that she was guilty, that she had lied, and that I had the right to cast her out of my life and to treat her like a worthless woman!
If I had married when I was quite young, before I had wallowed in the mire of Paris, from which one can never afterwards free oneself, for heart and body both retain indelible marks of it, if I had not been the plaything of a score of mistresses, who disgusted me with belief in any woman, if I had not been weaned from supreme illusions, and surfeited with everything to the marrow, should I have these abominable ideas?
I waited almost until I was beginning to decline in life, before I took the right path and sought refuge in port; before going to what is pure and virtuous, and before listening to the continual advice of those who love me, I passed too suddenly from those lies, from those ephemeral enjoyments, from that satiety which depraves us, from vice in which one tries to acquire renewed strength and vigor, and to discover some new and unknown sensation, to the pure sentimentalities of an engagement, to the unspeakable delights of a life that was common to two, to that kind of amorous first communion which ought to constitute married life.
If, instead of getting involved in an engagement and forming any resolution so quickly, as I had been afraid that somebody else would be beforehand with me and to rob me of Elaine’s heart, or of relapsing into my former habits, if instead of lacking moral strength and character enough, in case I might have had to wait, if I had backed out without entering into any engagement and without having bound my life to that of the adorable girl whom chance had thrown in my way, it would surely have been far better if I had waited, prepared myself, questioned myself, and accustomed myself to that metamorphosis; if I had purified myself and forgotten the past, like in those retreats which precede the solemn ceremony, when pious souls pronounce their indissoluble vows?
The reaction had been too sudden and violent for such a convalescent as I was. I worked myself up, and pictured to myself something so white, so virginal, so paradisical, such complete ignorance, such unconquerable modesty and such delicious awkwardness, that Elaine’s gayety, her unconstraint, her fearlessness, and her passionate kisses bewildered me, roused my suspicions and filled me with anguish.
And yet I know how all, or nearly all, girls are educated in these days, and that the ignorant, simple ones only exist on the stage, and I know also that they hear and learn too many things both at home and in society, not to have the intuition of the results of love.
Elaine loves me with all her heart, for she has told me so time after time, and she repeats it to me more ardently than ever when I take her into my arms and appear happy. She must have seen that her beauty had, in a manner, converted me; that in order to possess her I had renounced many seductions and a long life of enjoyment; and, perhaps, she would no longer please me if she was too much of the little girl, and that she would appear ridiculous to me if she showed her fears by any entreaty, and gesture, or any sigh.
As the people in the South say, she would have acted the brave woman, and boasted, so that no complaint might betray her, and have imparted the wild tenderness of a jealous heart to her kisses, and have attempted a struggle, which would certainly have been useless, against those recollections of mine, with which she thought I must be filled, in spite of myself.
I accused myself, so that I might no longer accuse her. I studied my malady; I knew quite well that I was wrong, and I wished to be wrong, I measured the stupidity and the disgrace of such suspicions, and, nevertheless, in spite of everything, they assailed me again, watched me traitorously and I was carried away and devoured by them.
Ah! Was there in the whole world, even among the most wretched beggars that were dying of starvation, whom nature squeezes in a vice, as it were, or among the victims of love, anybody who could say that he was more wretched than I?
This morning Count de Saulnac, who was lunching here, told us a terrible story of a rape, for which a man is to be tried in a few days.
A charming girl of eighteen grew languid, and became so pale and morose, her cheeks were so wax-like, her eyes so sunken and she had altogether such a look of anemia, that her parents grew uneasy and took her to a doctor who lived near them. He examined her carefully, said vaguely what was the matter with her, spoke of an illness that required assiduous care and attention, and advised the worthy couple to bring the poor girl to him every day for a month.
As they were not well off enough to keep a servant, and each had their work to attend to, the husband as an employee in a public office and his wife as cashier in a milliner’s shop, and did not dream of any evil, and were further reassured by the charitable, unctuous and austere looks of the doctor, they allowed their daughter to go and consult him by herself.
The old man made much of her, tried to make her get over her shyness, adroitly made her tell him all about her usual life, took a long time in sounding her chest, helped her to dress and undress, in a very paternal way, gave her a potion and was so thoughtful and caressing, that the poor girl blushed and felt quite uncomfortable at it all. He soon saw that he should obtain nothing from her innocence, but that she would resist his slightest attempts at improper familiarity, and as he was extremely taken with the delicate and amusing girl, and with her charming person, the wretch sent her to sleep with a few magnetic passes, and outraged her.
She awoke without being conscious of what had happened, and only felt rather more listless than usual, like she used to do when there was thunder in the air. From that time, the doctor put longer intervals between her visits, and soon, after having prescribed insignificant remedies for her, he told her that she was quite cured, and that there was no occasion for her to come and see him any more. Two months passed, and the girl, who at first had seemed much better and more lively, relapsed into a state of prostration which had so alarmed them, dragged herself about more than she walked, and seemed to be succumbing under some heavy burden.
As they had not paid the old doctor’s bill, and as they were afraid that he would ask them for it if they went to see him again, her father took the girl to Beaujon, and they thought that he should have gone mad with despair and shame when one of the house-surgeons, without mincing his words, told them in a chaffing manner, that she was in the family way.
In the family way! What did he mean by that? And by whom?
They were small, thoroughly respectable and upright shopkeepers, and this made them cruel. They tormented the poor girl, to make her acknowledge her fault and tell them the name of her seducer. It was of no use for her to bemoan herself, to throw herself at their feet, to tear her hair in desperation, and to swear that no man in the world had ever touched her lips; in vain, did she exclaim indignantly that it was impossible that such a dreadful thing could be; that the man had made a mistake or was joking with them. In vain, did she try to calm them, and to soften them by her entreaties; they turned away their heads, and had only one reply to make:
“His name, his name!”
When she saw that her figure was altering, she was at length undeceived, and became like an imprisoned animal, did not speak and cowered motionless in the darkest corners, and did not even rebel at the blows, which marked her pale, passive face. She carefully thought over every minute in the past few months, and did her utmost to fill up the voids in her memory, and at last she guessed who the guilty person was.
Then, in despair, she scribbled on a scrap of paper:
“I swear to you, my dear parents, that I have nothing to reproach myself with. The old doctor treated me so strangely, that I often felt inclined to run out of the consulting room. One day he put me to sleep, and perhaps it was he who. . . . ”
And not having the courage to finish the lamentable sentence, she went and drowned herself, and the parents had the doctor, who had forgotten all about that old story, arrested, and in his examination he confessed the crime. . . .
With an evil look on her face, such as I have never seen before, and with vibrating nostrils, Elaine exclaimed in a hard voice:
“To think that such a monster was not sent to the guillotine!”
Can she also have suffered the same thing?
But unless Elaine was a monster of wickedness, unless she had no heart and knew how to lie and to deceive as well as a girl whose only pleasure consists in making all those who are captivated by her beauty, play the laughable part of dupes, unless that mask of youth concealed a most polluted soul, if there had been any unhappy episode in her life, if she had endured the horrors of violation, and gone through all the horrors of desolation, fear and shame, would not something visible, something disgusting, attacks of low spirits, and of gloom, and disgust with everything have remained, which would have shown the progress of some mysterious malady, the gradual weakening of the brain and the enlargement of an incurable wound?
She would have cried occasionally, would have been lost in thought and become confused when spoken to, she would scarcely have taken any interest in anything that happened, either at home or elsewhere. Kisses would have become torture to her, and would have only excited a fever of revolt in her inanimate being.
I fancy that I can see such a victim of inexorable Destiny, as if she were a consumptive woman whose days are numbered, and who knows it. She smiles feebly when any one tries to get her out of her torpor, to amuse her and to instill a little hope into her soul. She does not speak, but remains sitting silently at a window for whole days together, and one might think that her large, dreamy eyes are looking at strange sights in the depths of the sky, and see a long, attractive road there. But Elaine, on the contrary, thought of nothing but of amusing herself, of enjoying life and of laughing, and added all the tricks of a girl who has just left school, to her seductive grace of a young woman. She carried men away with her; she was most seductive, and loving seemed to be her creation. She thought of nothing but of little coquettish acts that made her more adorable, and of tender innuendos that triumph over everything, that bring men to their knees and tempt them.
It was thus that I formerly dreamt of the woman who was to be my wife, and this was the manner in which I looked on life in common; and now this perpetual joy irritates me like a challenge, like some piece of insolent boasting, and those lips that seek mine, and which offer themselves so alluringly and coaxingly to me, make me sad and torture me, as if they breathed nothing but a Lie.
Ah! If she had been the lover of another man before marriage, if she had belonged to some one else besides me, it could only have been from love, without altogether knowing what she wanted or what she was doing! And, now, because she had acquired a name by marriage, because she had accidentally extricated herself from that false step and thought she had won the game, now that she fancied that I had not perceived anything, that I adored her and possessed her absolutely!
How wretched I was! Should I never be able to escape from that night which was growing darker and darker, which was imprisoning me, driving me mad and raising an increasing and impenetrable barrier between Elaine and me. Would not she, in the end, be the stronger, she whom I loved so dearly, would not she envelope me in so much love, that at last I should again find the happiness that I had lost, as if it were a calm, sunlit haven, and thus forget this horrible nightmare when I fell on my knees before her beauty, with a contrite heart and pricked by remorse, and happy to give myself to her for ever, altogether and more passionately than at the divine period of our betrothal.
Even the sight of our bedroom became painful to me. I was frightened of it; I was uncomfortable there, and felt a kind of repulsion in going there. It seemed to me as if Elaine were repeating a part that someone else had taught her, and I almost hoped that in a moment of forgetfulness she would allow her secret to escape her, and pronounce some name that was not mine, and I used to keep awake, with my ears on the alert, in the hope that she might betray herself in her sleep and murmur some revealing word, as she recalled the past, and my temples throbbed and my whole body trembled with excitement.
But when this was over and I saw her sleeping peacefully as a little girl who was tired with playing, with parted lips and disheveled hair, and measured the full extent of the stupidity of my hatred and the sacrilegious madness of my jealousy, my heart softened and I fell into such a state of profound and absolute distress that I thought I should have died of it, and large drops of cold perspiration ran down my cheeks and tears fell from my eyes, and I got up, so that my sobs might not disturb her rest and wake her.
As this could not continue, however, I told her one day that I felt so exhausted and ill that I should prefer to sleep in my own room. She appeared to believe me and merely said:
“As you please, my dear!” but her blue eyes suddenly assumed such an anxious, such a grieved look, that I turned my head aside, so as not to see them. . . .
I was again in the old house, and without her, in the old house where Elaine used to spend all her holidays, in the room whose shutters had not been opened since our departure, seven months ago.
Why did I go there, where the calm of the country, the silence of the solitude and my recollections, irritated me and recalled my trouble, where I suffered even more than I did in Paris, and where I thought of Elaine every moment I seemed to see her and to hear her, in a species of hallucination.
What did her letters that I had taken out of her writing table, which she had used as a girl, what did her ball cards which were stuck round her looking glass, in which she used to admire herself formerly, what did her dresses, her dressing gowns, and the dusty furniture whose repose my trembling hands violated, tell me? Nothing, and always nothing.
At table, I used to speak with the worthy couple who had never left the mansion and who appeared to look upon themselves as its second masters, with the apparent good nature of a man who was in love with his wife and who wished only to speak about her, who took an interest in the smallest detail of her childhood and youth, with all the jovial familiarity which encourages peasants to talk, and when a few glasses of white wine had loosened their tongues they would talk about her, whom they loved as if she had been their child, and at other times I used to question the farmers, when they came to settle their accounts.
Had Elaine the bridle on her neck like so many girls had; did she like the country, were the peasants fond of her, and did she show any preference for one or the other? Were many people invited for the shooting, and did she visit much with the other ladies in the neighborhood?
And they drank with their elbows resting on the table in front of me, uttered her praises in a voice as monotonous as a spinning wheel, lost themselves in endless, senseless chatter which made me yawn in spite of myself, and told me her girlish tricks which certainly did not disclose what was haunting me, the traces of that first love, that perilous flirtation, that foolish escapade in which Elaine might have been seduced.
Old and young men and women, spoke of her with something like devotion, and all said how kind and charitable she was, and as merry as a bird on a bright day; they said she pitied their wretchedness and their troubles, and was still the young girl in spite of her long dresses, and fearing nothing, while even the animals loved her.
She was almost always alone, and was never troubled with any companions; she seemed to shun the house, hide herself in the park when the bell announced some unexpected visits, and when one of her aunts, Madame de Pleissac, said to her one day:
“Do you think that you will ever find a husband with your stand-offish manners?”
She replied with a burst of laughter:
“Oh! Very well, then, Auntie, I shall do without one!”
She had never given a hand to spiteful chatter or to slander, and had not flirted with the best looking young man in the neighborhood, any more than she had with the officers who stayed at the château during the maneuver, or the neighbors, who came to see her parents. And some of them even old men, whom years of work had bent like vine-stalks and had tanned like the leather bottles which are used by caravans in the East, used to say with tears in their dim eyes:
“Ah! When you married our young lady, we all said that there would not be a happier man in the whole world than you!”
Ought I to have believed them? Were they not simple, frank souls, who were ignorant of wiles and of lies, who had no interest in deceiving me, who had lived near Elaine while she was growing up and becoming a woman, and who had been familiar with her?
Could I be the only one who doubted Elaine, the only one who accused her and suspected her, I who loved her so madly, I, whose only hope, only desire, only happiness she was? May heaven guide me on this bad road on which I have lost my way, where I am calling for help and where my misery is increasing every day, and grant me the infinite pleasure of being able to enjoy her caresses without any ill feeling, and to be able to love her, as she loves me. And if I must expiate my old faults, and this infamous doubt which I am ashamed of not being immediately able to cast from me, if I must pay for my unmerited happiness with usury, I hope that I may be given to death as a prey, only provided that I might belong to her, idolize her, believe in her kisses, believe in her beauty and in her love, for one hour, for even a few moments!
To-day I suddenly remembered a funny evening which I spent when I was a bachelor, at Madame d’Ecoussens, where all of us, some with secret and insurmountable agony, and others with absolute indifference, went into one of the small rooms where a female professor of palmistry, who was then in vogue, and whose name I have forgotten, had installed herself.
When it came to my turn to sit opposite to her, as if I had been going to make my confession, she took my hands into her long, slender fingers, felt them, squeezed them and triturated them, as if they had been a lump of wax, which she was about to model into shape.
Severely dressed in black, with a pensive face, thin lips and almost copper-colored eyes and neither young nor old, this woman had something commanding, imperious, disturbing about her, and I must confess that my heart beat more violently than usual while she looked at the lines in my left hand through a strong magnifying glass, where the mysterious characters of some satanic conjuring look appear, and form a capital M.
She was interesting, occasionally discovered fragments of my past and gave mysterious hints, as if her looks were following the strange roads of Destiny in those unequal, confused curves. She told me in brief words that I should have and had had some opportunities, that I was wasting my physical, more than my moral strength in all kinds of love affairs that did not last long, and that the day when I really loved, or when, to use her expression, I was fairly caught, would be to me the prelude of intense sufferings, a real way of the Cross and of an illness of which I should never be cured. Then, as she examined my line of life, that which surrounds the thick part of the thumb, the lady in black suddenly grew gloomy, frowned and appeared to hesitate to go on to the end and continue my horoscope, and said very quickly:
“Your line of life is magnificent, monsieur; you will live to be sixty at least, but take care not to spend it too freely or to use it immoderately; beware of strong emotions and of any passional crisis, for I remark a gap there in the full vigor of your age, and that gap, that incurable malady which I mentioned to you, in the line of your heart. . . . ”
I mastered myself, in order not to smile, and took my leave of her, but everything that she foretold has been realized, and I dare not look at that sinister gap which she saw in my line of life, for that gap can only mean madness!
Madness, my poor, dear adored Elaine!
I became as bad and spiteful as if the spirit of hatred had possession of me, and envied those whose life was too happy, and who had no cares to trouble them. I could not conceal my pleasure when one of those domestic dramas occurred, in which hearts bleed and are broken, in which odious treachery and bitter sufferings are brought to light.
Divorce proceedings with their miserable episodes, with the wranglings of the lawyers and all the unhappiness that they revealed and which exposed the vanity of dreams, the tricks of women, the lowness of some minds, the foul animal that sits and slumbers in most hearts, attracted me like a delightful play, a piece which rivets one from the first to the last act. I listened greedily to passionate letters, those mad prayers whose secrets some lawyer violates and which he reads aloud in a mocking tone, and which he gives pell-mell to the bench and to the public, who have come to be amused or excited and to stare at the victims of love.
I followed those romances of adultery which were unfolded chapter by chapter, in their brutal reality, of things that had actually occurred, and for the first time I forgot my own unhappiness in them. Sometimes the husband and wife were there, as if they wished to defy each other, to meet in some last encounter, and pale and feverish they watched each other, devoured each other with their eyes, hiding their grief and their misery. Sometimes again, the lover or the mistress were there and tore their gloves in their rage, wishing to rush at the bar to defend their love, to bring forward accusations in their turn, and would tell the advocate that he was lying, and would threaten him and revile him with all their indignant nature. Friends, however, would restrain them, would whisper something to them in a low voice, press their hands like after a funeral, and try to appease them.
It seemed to me, as if I were looking at a heap of ruins, or breathing in the odor of an ambulance, in which dying men were groaning, and that those unhappy people were assuaging my trouble somewhat, and taking their share of it.
I used to read the advertisements in the Agony Columns in the newspapers, where the same exalted phrases used to recur, where I read the same despairing adieux, earnest requests for a meeting, echoes of past affection, and vain vows; and all this relieved me, vaguely appeased me, and made me think less about myself, that hateful, incurable I which I longed to destroy!
As the heat was very oppressive, and there was not a breath of wind, after dinner she wanted to go for a drive in the Bois de Boulogne and we drove in the victoria towards the bridge at Suresne.
It was getting late, and the dark drives looked like deserted labyrinths, and cool retreats where one would have liked to have stopped late, where the very rustle of the leaves seems to whisper amorous temptations, and there was seduction in the softness of the air and in the infinite music of the silence.
Occasionally, lights were to be seen among the trees, and the crescent of the new moon shone like a half-opened gold bracelet in the serene sky, and the green sward, the copses and the small lakes, which gave an uncertain reflection of the surrounding objects, came into sight suddenly, out of the shade, and the intoxicating smell of the hay and of the flower beds rose from the earth as if from a sachet.
We did not speak, but the jolts of the carriage occasionally brought us quite close together, and as if I were being attracted by some irresistible force, I turned to Elaine and saw that her eyes were filled with tears, and that she was very pale, and my whole body trembled when I looked at her. Suddenly, as if she could not bear this state of affairs any longer, she threw her arms round my neck, and with her lips almost touching mine, she said:
“Why do you not love me any longer? Why do you make me so unhappy? What have I done to you, Jacques?”
She was at my mercy, she was undergoing the influence of the charm of one of those moonlight nights which unbrace women’s nerves, make them languid, and leave them without a will and without strength, and I thought that she was going to tell me everything and to confess everything to me, and I had to master myself, not to kiss her on her sweet coaxing lips, but I only replied coldly:
“Do you not know, Elaine? . . . Did you not think that sooner or later I should discover everything that you have been trying to hide from me?”
She sat up in terror, and repeated as if she were in a profound stupor:
“What have I been trying to hide from you?”
I had said too much, and was bound to go on to the end and to finish, even though I repented of it ever afterwards, and amidst the noise of the carriage I said in a hoarse voice:
“Is it not your fault if I have become estranged from you, shall not I be the only one to be unhappy, I who loved you so dearly, who believed in you, and whom you have deceived, and condemned to take another man’s mistress?”
Elaine closed my mouth with my fingers, and panting, with dilated eyes and with such a pale face that I thought she was going to faint, she said hoarsely:
“Be quiet, be quiet, you are frightening me, . . . frightening me as if you were a madman. . . . ”
Those words froze me, and I shivered as if some phantoms were appearing among the trees and showing me the place that had been marked out for me by Destiny, and I felt inclined to jump from the carriage and to run to the river, which was calling to me yonder in a maternal voice, and inviting me to an eternal sleep, eternal repose, but Elaine called out to the coachman:
“We will go home, Firmin; drive as fast as you can!”
We did not exchange another word, and during the whole drive Elaine sobbed convulsively, though she tried to hide the sound with her pocket handkerchief, and I understood that it was all finished and that I had killed our love. . . .
Yes, all was finished and stupidly finished, without the decisive explanation, in which I should find strength to escape from a hateful yoke, and to repudiate the woman who had allured me with false caresses, and who no longer ought to bear my name.
It was either that, or else, who knows, the happiness, the peace, the love which was not troubled by any evil afterthoughts, that absolute love that I dreamt of between Elaine and myself when I asked for her hand, and which I was still continually dreaming of with the despair of a condemned soul far from Paradise, and from which I was suffering, and which would kill me.
She prevented me from speaking; with her trembling hand she checked that flow of frenzied words which were about to come from my pained heart, those terrible accusations which an imperious, resistless force incited me to utter, and those terrified words which escaped from her pale lips, froze me again, and penetrated to my marrow as if they had been some piercing wind.
In spite of it all, I was in full possession of my reason, I was not in a passion, and I could not have looked like a fool.
What could she have seen unusual in my eyes that frightened her, what inflections were there in my voice for such an idea suddenly to arise in her brain? Suppose she had not make a mistake, suppose I no longer knew what I was saying nor what I was doing, and really had that terrible malady that she had mentioned, and which I cannot repeat!
It seems to me now as if I could see myself in a mirror of anguish, altogether changed, as if my head were a complete void at times and became something sonorous, and then was struck violent, prolonged blows from a heavy clapper, as if it had been a bell, which fills it with tumultuous deafening vibrations, from a kind of loud tocsin and from monotonous peals, that were succeeded by the silence of the grave.
And the voice of recollection, a voice which tells me Elaine’s mysterious history, which speaks to me only of her, which recalls that initial night, that strange night of happiness and of grief, when I doubted her fidelity, when I doubted her heart as well as I did herself, passes slowly through this silence all at once, like the voice of distant music.
Alas! Suppose she had not made a mistake!
I must be an object of hatred to her, and I left home without writing her a line, without trying to see her, without wishing her good-bye. She may pity me or she may hate me, but she certainly does not love me any longer, and I have myself buried that love, for which I would formerly have given my whole life. As she is young and pretty, however, Elaine will soon console herself for these passing troubles with some soul that is the shadow of her own, and will replace me, if she has not done that already, and will seek happiness in adultery.
What are she and her lover plotting? What will they try to do to prevent me from interfering with them? What snares will they set for me so that I may go and end my miserable life in some dungeon, from which there is no release?
But that is impossible; it can never be; Elaine belongs to me altogether and forever; she is my property, my chattel, my happiness. I adore her, I want her all to myself, even though she be guilty, and I will never leave her again for a moment, I will still stick to her petticoats, I will roll at her feet, and ask her pardon, for I thirst for her kisses and her love.
To-night in a few hours, I shall be with her, I shall go into our room and lie in our bed, and I will cover the cheeks of my fair-haired darling with such kisses, that she will no longer think me mad, and if she cries out, if she defends herself and spurns me, I shall kill her; I have made up my mind to that.
I know that I shall strike her with the Arab knife that is on one of the console-tables, in our room among other knick-knacks. I see the spot where I shall plunge in the sharp blade, into the nape of her neck, which is covered with little soft pale golden curls, that are the same color as the hair of her head. It attracted me so at one time, during the chaste period of our engagement, that I used to wish to bite it, as if it had been some fruit. I shall do it some day in the country, when she is bathed in a ray of sunlight, which makes her look dazzling in her pink muslin dress, some day on a towing-path, when the nightingales are singing, and the dragonflies, with their reflections of blue and silver are flying about.
There, there, I shall skillfully plunge it in up to the hilt, like those who know how to kill. . . .
And after I had killed her, what then?
As the judges would not be able to explain such an extraordinary crime to themselves, they would of course say that I was mad, medical men would examine me and would immediately agree that I ought at once to be kept under supervision, taken care of and placed in a lunatic asylum.
And for years, perhaps, because I was strong, and because such a vigorous animal would survive the calamity intact, although my intellect might give way, I should remain a prey to these chimeras, carry that fixed idea of her lies, her impurity and her shame about with me, that would be my one recollection, and I should suffer unceasingly.
I am writing all this perfectly coolly and in full possession of my reason; I have perfect prescience of what my resolve entails, and of this blind rush towards death. I feel that my very minutes are numbered, and that I no longer have anything in my skull, in which some fire, though I do not quite know what it is, is burning, except a few particles of what used to be my brain.
Just as a short time ago, I should certainly have murdered Elaine, if she had been with me, when invisible hands seemed to be pushing me towards her, inaudible voices ordered me to commit that murder, it is surely most probable that I shall have another crisis, and will there be any awakening from that?
Ah! It will be a thousand times better, since Destiny has left me a half-open door, to escape from life before it is too late, before the free, sane, strong man that I am at present, becomes the most pitiable, the most destructive, the most dangerous of human wrecks!
May all these notes of my misery fall into Elaine’s hands some day, may she read them to the end, pity and absolve me, and for a long time mourn for me!
(Here ends Jacques’ Journal.)
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:11