Thursday, March 24, 2011

Musset: Poor Boy

I sat down on the other side of the room, determined not to rise until
I had learned what I wished to know. She appeared to be reflecting, and
walked back and forth before me.

I followed her with an eager eye, while her silence gradually increased
my anger. I was unwilling to have her perceive it and was undecided what
to do. I opened the window.

"You may drive off," I called to those below, "and I will see that you
are paid. I shall not start to-night."

"Poor boy!" repeated Brigitte. I quietly closed the window and sat down
as if I had not heard her; but I was so furious with rage that I
could hardly restrain myself. That cold silence, that negative force,
exasperated me to the last point. Had I been really deceived and
convinced of the guilt of a woman I loved I could not have suffered
more. As I had condemned myself to remain in Paris, I reflected that I
must compel Brigitte to speak at any price. In vain I tried to think of
some means of forcing her to enlighten me; for such power I would have
given all I possessed. What could I do or say? She sat there calm and
unruffled, looking at me with sadness. I heard the sound of the horses'
hoofs on the paving as the carriage drew out of the court. I had merely
to turn my hand to call them back, but it seemed to me that there was
something irrevocable about their departure. I slipped the bolt on the
door; something whispered in my ear: "You are face to face with the
woman who must give you life or death."

While thus buried in thought I tried to invent some expedient that
would lead to the truth. I recalled one of Diderot's romances in which
a woman, jealous of her lover, resorted to a novel plan, for the purpose
of clearing away her doubts. She told him that she no longer loved him
and that she wished to leave him. The Marquis des Arcis (the name of the
lover) falls into the trap, and confesses that he himself has tired of
the liaison. That piece of strategy, which I had read at too early an
age, had struck me as being very skilful, and the recollection of it at
this moment made me smile. "Who knows?" said I to myself. "If I should
try this with Brigitte, she might be deceived and tell me her secret."

My anger had become furious when the idea of resorting to such trickery
occurred to me. Was it so difficult to make a woman speak in spite of
herself? This woman was my mistress; I must be very weak if I could not
gain my point. I turned over on the sofa with an air of indifference.

"Very well, my dear," said I, gayly, "this is not a time for
confidences, then?"

She looked at me in astonishment.

"And yet," I continued, "we must some day come to the truth. Now I
believe it would be well to begin at once; that will make you confiding,
and there is nothing like an understanding between friends."

Doubtless my face betrayed me as I spoke these words; Brigitte did not
appear to understand and kept on walking up and down.

"Do you know," I resumed, "that we have been together now six months?
The life we are leading together is not one to be laughed at. You are
young, I also; if this kind of life should become distasteful to you,
are you the woman to tell me of it? In truth, if it were so, I would
confess it to you frankly. And why not? Is it a crime to love? If not,
it is not a crime to love less or to cease to love at all. Would it be
astonishing if at our age we should feel the need of change?"

Confessions of a Child of the Century

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