It might have been two in the morning. The candle, not speckled, had a snub; the fire was almost out.
My friend Theodore, leaning on his table with quite Bacchic casualness, was smoking a short black pipe, nobly cheeky, a worthy firebreaker, to make a corporal of the old guard envy.
From time to time he put down his pipe, and gave himself a drink over the shoulder, or beside the mouth, or poured himself out of an empty bottle, or dropped his full glass; in short, our friend Theodore was completely drunk.
And it would not have seemed surprising to anyone, seeing the long line
Bottles on cu
Who said, without a bottleneck: We have lived too much.
Unless he threw the contents out the window, which is unlikely, he must mathematically and logically be dead drunk. There would have been enough to intoxicate a drum major and two bell-ringers, and our friend Theodore was alone.
I admit blushing, he was alone, despite the famous adage: He who drinks alone is unworthy of life. An adage so religiously followed in any somewhat civilized state.
He was alone, that is to say, he seemed so; for a deep sigh, coming from under the table, suddenly revealed a capsized companion, and made it easier to explain the formidable number of empty or broken flasks which encumbered the pedestal table and the table.
Theodore let fall from a height, and with an air of ineffable pity, an uncertain and dazed look at the shapeless mass which moved in the shadows, and noisily inhaled a gulp of smoke.
-Oh! Theodore, your diamond dog is hard as a woman’s heart; hold out your hand, let me get up and drink: I’m thirsty.
“If you want, I’ll pass you your drink,” Theodore replied, feeling in his conscience that he was beyond his strength to raise his comrade. Can we get drunk like that!… Fi, the drunkard, he added in a thoughtful way.
“Distorted soul,” the voice from below went on with comical seriousness, “you won’t get me up? So put paper lanterns on people after that, lest the cars run over them, when they fall at the corners of the terminals for having forgotten to soak their wine that day: I will not be taken back. Ungrateful!
Theodore, sensibly moved and touched by this touching memory, decided to attempt the perilous operation of putting his friend back in his chair; but success did not crown this pious enterprise; he plunged between the table and the bench, and disappeared.
It was for a few minutes muffled grunts; for Theodore had fallen precisely on the stomach of his esteemed comrade, and he weighed more than remorse; however, after incredible efforts, they managed to put themselves in a somewhat less awkward position, and calm was restored.
After a long enough silence:
-Alas! Roderick said.
“What is the matter, my dear friend! said Theodore with all the effusion characteristic of drunkards.
“I am very unhappy!
“Did your mistress plant you there?”
“On the contrary, my friend, the poor woman is not capable of that; it is, unfortunately, the most virtuous creature there is.
“Here is a singular reproach.
“You can see that you are lucky enough to have a whore for mistress.
“Certainly, but you are not able to understand it; you have only ever had girls or women maintained, or at most grisettes. You never came down to the honest woman, you don’t know what is. By an honest woman, I do not mean, what is generally meant by that, a woman who has a husband, a cashmere who lives on the first floor, and hardly allows herself one lover at a time.
-What is it then? said the other, lifting himself up on his elbow in deep amazement.
“It’s not even the one who doesn’t have a lover at all.
“Humph! said Theodore like a man whose conviction is quite troubled.
“O my friend! I am mortified for you, you are an ass, and you probably won’t be anything else for a long time.
At this point in his apostrophe, Roderick gave a hazardous gasp and paused for a moment; but he soon resumed the thread of his speech with a very particular grace, imitating the accent of Frederick in the Auberge des Adrets :
—You understand absolutely nothing about the trituration of affairs, and you do not have the least rudiment of metaphysics; your philosophy is devilishly backward, and I am sorry to say it, with fine dispositions, you will never achieve anything.
“What is virtue, Theodore?
“What do I know?
“This is from Montaigne, and this is the most reasonable thing you have said since you abuse the language God gave you, Brutus defines virtue as a name. In truth, if it is only a name, never have five letters combined in two miserable syllables to form a more insignificant word. Besides, if it is permissible for someone who is not a vaudevillist to make a pitiful pun, virtue is not a name, but an indefinitely prolonged no.
Theodore, startled, breathed through his nostrils like a hippopotamus, and redoubled his attention.
“Yes, my friend, virtue is essentially negative. To be virtuous, what is it other than saying no to all that is pleasant in this life, than an absurd struggle with the inclinations and natural passions, than the triumph of hypocrisy and lies over the truth? When states were based on fictions, there was a need for fictitious virtues, otherwise they could not have lived; but, in such a positive century, under a constitutional monarchy, surrounded by republican institutions, it is indecent and bad tone to be virtuous: only convicts are so. As for honest women, the race is lost; they are all at Père-Lachaise or elsewhere: the epitaphs prove this.
“But it seems to me that you said earlier, Roderick, that your mistress was virtuous?”
—Benêt! when we say that all women are whores, it is always implied that we except his mother and his mistress: thus, your observation does not have common sense.
“Yet,” replied Theodore timidly, “I wooed a woman for a fortnight this winter, and I did not have her.
“If you had courted him for sixteen days instead of fifteen, the result might have been quite different. You left when she was going to give in to you for love or boredom; for boredom is at least half in the conquests we make. Besides, although your waistcoat is of an irreproachable cut, and you make your whistle whistle quite fashionably, you are still only a mediocre don Juan, and you hear nothing at the end of things; you are only able to do second hand bribery; you enter brazenly enough into souls whose locks are forced, but you do not know how to force the lock yourself; it takes a thief smarter than you to open the door and remove the treasure. Whether it is opened with a key or a nightingale, it does not matter; but you; you are not in a position to find the real key, or to forge a false one. This woman you were telling me about might have been. No doubt she would have yielded to me or to someone else. Your example proves nothing; All is relative. I didn’t mean to say that a woman was a whore for everyone, I only meant that she wasn’t virtuous for everyone, which is quite different. A woman who would be virtuous for all and at all times would be a monstrosity: these monstrosities are rare, very fortunately. a woman was whore for everyone, I only meant that she was not virtuous for everyone, which is quite different. A woman who would be virtuous for all and at all times would be a monstrosity: these monstrosities are rare, very fortunately. a woman was whore for everyone, I only meant that she was not virtuous for everyone, which is quite different. A woman who would be virtuous for all and at all times would be a monstrosity: these monstrosities are rare, very fortunately.
“My Aunt Gryselde,” interrupted Theodore, “was certainly an honest woman.
“My worthy friend, I don’t know what your father and your mother were thinking while doing you, but they were certainly thinking of something else: they missed your brain. Your aunt Gryselde, whom you quote, was hunchbacked, red-haired, one-eyed and toothbreaker; she must not have been much solicited, which does not prove that she did not solicit herself, for the ass balks, and the flesh speaks louder than the spirit.
“So you are a materialist, O Roderick?”
“I am, all men of spirit are; it’s safer. You should be too, because it is quite obvious that there are a hundred and a few pounds of flesh called Theodore, and the existence of his mind is at least problematic, hearing the stupid conversation we have together. .
I don’t want to make Byron here, it’s as worn out as Florian; but allow me to share some thoughts with you: is there a woman in the world who has never failed, I am not saying in action, there is, but in thought? I do not believe that. You are going to find me singular, but I want to be cut in slices like a beet, if I would not prefer a woman who would have failed bodily than one who would have failed spiritually. One has its senses as an excuse, the other does not; in short, I would more readily marry a girl who would have been raped than one who would have resisted a loved lover. I prefer, materialist that I am, the virginity of the soul to that of the body. A good search of the virtues of women, all that remains to be analyzed are vices, pride and fear. Who is the woman who, sure of the secret, will have the strength to resist? any; this is what explains why priests once had so many wives. Who is the woman who, at the end of her career, has not repented of having been virtuous? who is the woman who did not wish to be a man?
There are women who remain virtuous in order to give themselves the pleasure of tearing up those who are not: these by the fear they have of those; others through nonchalance or lack of opportunity; others, finally, through helplessness or natural coldness, because they have neither heart nor entrails, because they neither feel nor understand anything: they are the worst of all and the most common.
Basically, there is hardly anything but the means of corruption which varies; they are all corruptible. A yields because his pride is flattered, because you are peer of France, that you are duke, that you have some celebrity whatever; one because she loves ornaments, diamonds and feathers; the other, for any other reason, to have someone to talk to, to support; it is a great coincidence when there is one who gives way for love: these are the virtuous, in my opinion.
The one who still holds on to a hundred thousand francs would yield to two hundred. There is a historical trait about this from a courtier to a queen which I will not tell you, for you know it as well as I do, and which is very true. There is no difference between the woman who gives herself up for a million and the girl who prostitutes herself for a hundred cents.
This woman is virtuous, that’s good, I want to believe it; who tells you that you have to be under an obligation? A ring of the doorbell, a suddenly opened door, are perhaps the only cause of this intact virtue of which she so flaunts.
A good, well-pulled lock, and a back door in the event of an accident, there is no virtue in that.
And then, every woman like every man has his ideal; we sometimes die looking for it. One more year of life, we would have found it; So, tell me, what would have become of virtue?