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"A child is born. This poor creature has lost her beauty and she has never loved. The child is brought to her with the words: "You are a mother." She replies: 'I am not a mother; take that child to some woman who can nurse it. I can not.' Her husband tells her that she is right, that her child would be disgusted with her. She receives careful attention and is soon cured of the disease of maternity. A month later she may be seen at the Tuileries, at the ball, at the opera; her child is at Chaillot, at Auxerre; her husband with another woman. Then young men speak to her of love, of devotion, of sympathy, of all that is in the heart. She takes one, draws him to her bosom; he dishonors her and returns to the Bourse. She cries all night, but discovers that tears make her eyes red. She takes a consoler, for the loss of whom another consoles her; thus up to the age of thirty or more. Then, blase and corrupted, with no human sentiment, not even disgust, she meets a fine youth with raven locks, ardent eye and hopeful heart; she recalls her own youth, she remembers what she has suffered, and telling him the story of her life, she teaches him to eschew love. "That is woman as we have made her; such are your mistresses. But you say they are women and that there is something good in them! "But if your character is formed, if you are truly a man, sure of yourself and confident of your strength, you may taste of life without fear and without reserve; you may be sad or joyous, deceived or respected; but be sure you are loved, for what matters the rest? "If you are mediocre and ordinary, I advise you to consider your course very carefully before deciding, but do not expect too much of your mistress. "If you are weak, dependent upon others, inclined to allow yourself to be dominated by opinion, to take root wherever you see a little soil, make for yourself a shield that will resist everything, for if you yield to your weaker nature you will not grow, you will dry up like a dead plant, and you will bear neither fruit nor flowers. The sap of your life will dissipate into the formation of useless bark; all your actions will be as colorless as the leaves of the willow; you will have no tears to water you, but those from your own eyes; to nourish you, no heart but your own. "But if you are of an exalted nature, believing in dreams and wishing to realize them, I say to you plainly: Love does not exist. "For to love is to give body and soul, or better, it is to make a single being of two; it is to walk in the sunlight, in the open air through the boundless prairies with a body having four arms, two heads, and two hearts. Love is faith, it is the religion of terrestrial happiness, it is a luminous triangle suspended in the temple of the world. To love is to walk freely through that temple, at your side a being capable of understanding why a thought, a word, a flower makes you pause and raise your eyes to that celestial triangle. To exercise the noble faculties of man is a great good--that is why genius is glorious; but to double those faculties, to place a heart and an intelligence upon a heart and an intelligence--that is supreme happiness. God has nothing better for man; that is why love is better than genius. "But tell me, is that the love of our women? No, no, it must be admitted. Love, for them, is another thing; it is to go out veiled, to write in secret, to make trembling advances, to heave chaste sighs under starched and unnatural robes, then to draw bolts and throw them aside, to humiliate a rival, to deceive a husband, to render a lover desolate. To love, for our women, is to play at lying, as children play at hide and seek, a hideous orgy of the heart, worse than the lubricity of the Romans, or the Saturnalia of Priapus; a bastard parody of vice itself, as well as of virtue; a loathsome comedy where all is whispering and sidelong glances, where all is small, elegant, and deformed, like those porcelain monsters brought from China; a lamentable satire on all that is beautiful and ugly, divine and infernal; a shadow without a body, a skeleton of all that God has made." Thus spoke Desgenais; and the shadows of night began to fall. The following morning I rode through the Bois de Boulogne; the weather was dark and threatening. At the Porte Maillot I dropped the reins on my horse's back and abandoned myself to revery, revolving in my mind the words spoken by Desgenais the evening before. Suddenly I heard my name called. Turning my head I spied one of my inamorata's most intimate friends in an open carriage. She bade me stop, and, holding out her hand with a friendly air, invited me to dine with her if I had no other engagement. This woman, Madame Levasseur by name, was small, stout, and decidedly blonde; I had never liked her, and my attitude toward her had always been one of studied politeness. But I could not resist a desire to accept her invitation; I pressed her hand and thanked her; I was sure that we should talk of my mistress.