I have now to recount what happened to my love, and the change that took place in me. What reason can I give for it? None, except as I repeat the story and as I say: "It is the truth." For two days, neither more nor less, I was Madame Pierson's lover. One fine night I set out and traversed the road that led to her house. I was feeling so well in body and soul that I leaped for joy and extended my arms to heaven. I found her at the top of the stairway leaning on the railing, a lighted candle beside her. She was waiting for me, and when she saw me ran to meet me.
She showed me how she had changed her coiffure which had displeased me, and told me how she had passed the day arranging her hair to suit my taste; how she had taken down a villainous black picture-frame that had offended my eye; how she had renewed the flowers; she recounted all she had done since she had known me, how she had seen me suffer and how she had suffered herself; how she had thought of leaving the country, of fleeing from her love; how she had employed every precaution against me; how she had sought advice from her aunt, from Mercanson and from the cure; how she had vowed to herself that she would die rather than yield, and how all that had been dissipated by a single word of mine, a glance, an incident; and with every confession a kiss.
She said that whatever I saw in her room that pleased my taste, whatever bagatelle on her table attracted my attention, she would give me; that whatever she did in the future, in the morning, in the evening, at any hour, I should regulate as I pleased; that the judgments of the world did not concern her; that if she had appeared to care for them, it was only to send me away; but that she wished to be happy and close her ears, that she was thirty years of age and had not long to be loved by me. "And you will love me a long time? Are those fine words, with which you have beguiled me, true?" And then loving reproaches because I had been late in coming to her; that she had put on her slippers in order that I might see her foot, but that she was no longer beautiful; that she could wish she were; that she had been at fifteen. She went here and there, silly with love, rosy with joy; and she did not know what to imagine, what to say or do, in order to give herself and all that she had.
I was lying on the sofa; I felt, at every word she spoke, a bad hour of my past life slipping away from me. I watched the star of love rising in my sky, and it seemed to me I was like a tree filled with sap that shakes off its dry leaves in order to attire itself in new foliage. She sat down at the piano and told me she was going to play an air by Stradella. More than all else I love sacred music, and that morceau which she had sung for me a number of times gave me great pleasure.
"Yes," she said when she had finished, "but you are very much mistaken, the air is mine, and I have made you believe it was Stradella's."
"It is yours?"
"Yes, and I told you it was by Stradella in order to see what you would say of it. I never play my own music when I happen to compose any; but I wanted to try it with you, and you see it has succeeded since you were deceived."
What a monstrous machine is man! What could be more innocent? A bright child might have adopted that ruse to surprise his teacher. She laughed heartily the while, but I felt a strange coldness as if a dark cloud had settled on me; my countenance changed:
"What is the matter?" she asked. "Are you ill?"
"It is nothing; play that air again."
While she was playing I walked up and down the room; I passed my hand over my forehead as if to brush away the fog; I stamped my foot, shrugged my shoulders at my own madness; finally I sat down on a cushion which had fallen to the floor; she came to me. The more I struggled with the spirit of darkness which had seized me, the thicker the night that gathered around my head.
"Verily," I said, "you lie so well? What! that air is yours? Is it possible you can lie so fluently?"
Confessions of a Child of the Century