From the corner of the window, where she languished so pale in the balmy warmth of the cushions, she obstinately followed him with her eyes, with her eyes with withered lids and whose deep scratches, like claws at the corners of the temples, proclaimed on that day more cruelly than ever the undeniable difference in age which separated them both, she worn out, dying and aged, he, still young, robust and squaring in an irreproachable jacket a vigorous male torso still eager to live and to enjoy.
Still young, of course, but already touched by life, the man whose silent walk, his forehead stuck on the high wool carpet, his feverish hands crossed behind his back, filled this room.[Pg 270] sickroom of a restless comings and goings of a caged beast; certainly, yes, already touched by life because the chestnut and coarse hair was already lightening towards the temples, streaked in places with thin silver threads, and under the mustache of a reddish blond, bushy and triumphant, the mouth with drawn corners also betrayed the bitterness of existing. Obviously obsessed, he strode up and down this high and bright room with the aspect of a boudoir with its panels of bleaching moires, framed by delicate woodwork which was cut here and there, skilfully alternating, by narrow oblong mirrors garlanded with flowers and fine attributes. Pompadour style; and it is this visible obsession, this real sorrow betrayed by the tension of the smile and the anxiety of these comings and goings,
From outside, in the one-way mirrors of the windows, the garden of the little hotel was framed, all yellow with the rust of the chestnut trees and the flowering of the Helleniums, with a farewell melancholy despite the vivid purple of the simple dahlias and flowers. double begonias, under the dreary littered with plane tree leaves raining on the lawns.
Oh! the sadness of this Parisian garden in October slowly decaying vis-à-vis the agony of this woman with the passionate and tense face, the devouring gaze, the pallor of the dead! But how much sadder still the hostile silence kept by these two beings of luxury and elegance in this sumptuous consumer’s room, where the soft shade of the curtains, the refined circumvention of the furniture and even the musky scent of white lilac, s’ huddling there to stifle the stubborn hints of ether and phenol, seemed to want to make an apotheosis to death.
A liaison however famous in the world of letters and the theater and whose repercussions had, for fifteen years, amused the idlers.[Pg 272] from Paris, this man and this woman today silent and closed in on themselves in this almost threatening tête-à-tête. She, acclaimed tragedian, today burned in the flames of all passions and all fantasies as well as in the limelight of all the limelight, was, fifteen years ago, in full maturity of beauty and success, crazy about the beautiful. poet with long, supple hair, with the vibrant contralto that he was then, he, a great unknown man, fresh from his province and stranded the day before in Paris to try his luck there, twenty-five years old and his young illusions. On the strength of his broad shoulders and the deep water of his blue eyes fringed with black eyelashes, she had loved both the man and the poet in him, had been enthusiastic in her dressing room about the massive roundness of his neck and in the alcove on the lyricism of his verses. De Morfels arrived in Paris with a three-act verse drama which he intended for Duquesnel. Dinah had read the play, instead listened to it read, got carried away with the role, forced it on her director and,[Pg 273] giving everything this time as she had never done before, playing with her flesh, her nerves and her heart, had consecrated the drama and made overnight, in Paris, someone of this passer-by appreciated in his bed the Eve.
How was this whim of Dinah Monteuil, the whimsical of the whimsical, degenerated in the actress into ulcerated and deep passion? During this meeting, from which she was to die, Dinah was entering her fortieth year, the age when the woman, warned by the less desirous looks of men, feels a flame flaring in her all the more unappeasable, as she knows it. ephemeral duration. Like the phthisis whose moments are counted, she brought in everything, especially in love, a feverish haste to feel and to enjoy, and then this is the punishment of courtesans of not experiencing loving tenderness until late in life and to adore at forty, with almost maternal devotion and delicacy, indifferent handsome guys who cheat on them with their maids and renew[Pg 274] thus the eternal and bloody betrayal of the sexes towards one another, the eternal agony of a soul for a soul which is called love.
illusory business of advertising and money, and that to impose, for fifteen years, on all the stages of the boulevard his dramas to him, the beloved, the favorite. Dramas[Pg 275] elated elsewhere and overflowing with soul and intense life, and whose Parisian malignity accused the actress of repeating the characters in the intimacy of stormy tête-à-tête before living them, and God knows with what frenzy nerves and passion! in front of the amused audience of the premieres and the large crowd of hundredths interested in gossip.
Because he was cheating on her, and it was for this that she died even more than for her health as a cabotine compromised almost from childhood and since worn out in so many adventures and irreparably overworked and destroyed! He was deceiving her and that, almost from the early days, with the first coming, of the extras taken behind a theatrical window in the stench of the wings; then, the reputation coming to Morfels, with comrades of its own, little actresses without grace and without talent, but having their youth on their side, all delighted, the extra as the actress, to steal the lover from Madame, to a large who touched fires of fifty louis[Pg 276] per evening, when they had to pay a fine of fifty francs on monthly installments of one hundred and fifty. Finally, with the consecrated successes of his plays, worldly intrigues and even high gallantry had been formed in the life of Morfels; for the most part, the foolish, the vicious and the idle, curious to know what the happiness of La Monteuil tasted like, and not sorry, the evil creatures, to disturb a little of this happiness; and he, enchanted in his vanity as a man and author with this rustle around him of popular names and rare fabrics, had accepted all the meetings, all the provocations, impertinent or gallant, had gone to all the calls, brazenly deceiving his mistress for women who, of course, were not worth her, copied her in the city as in the theater,
So she had married him with her own hand to a[Pg 277] betrothed by her, chosen from among the most opulent, the most tidy, the most bourgeois, the most offering guarantees; she hoped to keep him there, but de Morfels, now thrown into the whirlwind of good fortune, classified as a man of adventures, had simply cheated on his wife, as he cheated on his old collage, now trampling two souls instead of one, breaking quietly two existences with its impulses of the head, of the senses or of the heart.
“With heart, heart of a girl, and more of a girl than I still, to believe that I am the honest man and he the courtesan”, as it sometimes happened to say to La Monteuil in moments of weariness and resentment; and she always forgave, the sore old mistress, accepting everything rather than going without her visits, not even being able to admit the idea, attached to this man as by a sort of bewitchment, resigned to all the sufferings that came to her of him, and seeming to love him more, loving him to the point of being happy to suffer from it. However, that day[Pg 278] like a fever of joy, of secret revenge also blazed in the sad look of the actress. There was a smile in her eyes as she followed her lover’s anxious walk, silent and somber, forehead resting on the carpet. Suddenly she was stretching under her white furs, her long waxed hands carrying a wreath of Japanese anemones to her face, resting on her knees. “Are you in pain, my friend?” His hoarse voice, a little tired, had just broken the silence.
– “No, I assure you,” replied the man without interrupting his angry walk, “it’s you who dream, as always.” What did the patient stifle a yawn: “I haven’t dreamed for a long time”, and a shrug of the shoulders from her lover: “Do you know that there are days when I think there are a God?” And as he had stopped abruptly: “Come here, Raoul”, commanded the patient, and de Morfels having obeyed: “Do you know why I believe in God today? she insisted[Pg 279] looking at him ardently to the soul, because of this. ” And his index finger with the already bluish nail touched the poet instead of the heart. “She let you go, huh?” and you suffer in your turn, poor friend? ” And as the man, his face suddenly flushed, stammered, looking for defeat: “What’s the use of apologizing?” resumed the hoarse voice, am I not aware of all your follies? Ah! Even though I don’t go out, don’t I have good friends to come and see me and make me atone for my success … my old successes … by pinning the news on my heart? Bah! I’m made for it. So she let you go, this little Ronnerolle, for whom, for three months, you have been mortgaging your hotel, and that for a mutt, a horrible mutt from the Montparnasse Theater, almost an extra … A handsome boy like you let go! She let you go after cheating on you for two months, and that’s why you prowl here and there with those nervous hands and that murderous face, unable to keep still. A little more you would cry! Admit that[Pg 280] it hurts? Have you ever thought about the harm you have done to me? For a mutt from Montparnasse! and she skillfully pressed the words. And not even well of himself, I have been told, but he is twenty-three and you are forty. As the present avenges the past, my poor friend, now you are getting old in your turn. ”
And in his turn he shivered, quite pale, with the rising humidity of two tears ready to spring from his eyes. At this sight, La Monteuil’s gaze became blurred, her voice altered and, with a gesture of supreme pity, seizing Morfels’ hands: “My poor friend,” she whispered caressingly, “this will begin for you too. and you are going to know him, the atrocious and long torment of loving without being loved. Five more years, ten years, and you will have to face the facts. Oh! to grow old, what cruelty, to read in the eyes of others the pity, the devotion, never again the desire … “Instinctively the man had bent the knee and, the heart suddenly melted in a stupid tenderness, he sobbed[Pg 281] like a child, her head buried between the knees of this dying woman, and she, as in a dream, continued her soliloquy, while running her pale hands through her lover’s hair. “To no longer be loved, to say that this is what I am dying for and that is what you will die for too!” Because I know you, my poor child, you adored him, the feast of crowds and women, you won’t be able to get used to it either. We resign ourselves to dying, but not to that. Because that is to no longer exist. ” And suddenly, with theatrical inflections in her voice: “How this beautiful hair that I have known so supple and so brown, has become stiff to the touch!” isn’t it that they turn white and despite your mustache I saw a little while ago, on the right, that you have a tooth that is turning blue. This is the beginning; but you are still beautiful and you still have ten years to go, I assure you; don’t cry, my darling! ” And as the man prostrate in the plush and the furs was still choking on deaf hammered sobs, one would have said, on the anvil[Pg 282] from the heart: “Others will love you again, you will love others too; I have been dead for a long time. It is for me that I cry while weeping for you others, forgive me that, forgive me to sadden your forty years, Raoul, it is so long that I suffer. I wanted to live my sorrow in you, to bring my old soul to you a little. I was wrong, I know it, Raoul, don’t be sad anymore. It was myself that I regretted. Your grief is mine, it was for fun, console yourself, my friend ”