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I soon realized that solitude, instead of curing me, was doing me harm, and so I completely changed my system. I went into the country, and galloped through the woods with the huntsmen; I would ride until I was out of breath, trying to cure myself with fatigue, and when, after a day of sweat in the fields, I reached my bed in the evening smelling of powder and the stable, I would bury my head in the pillow, roll about under the covers and cry: "Phantom, phantom! are you not satiated? Will you not leave me for one single night?" But why these vain efforts? Solitude sent me to nature, and nature to love. Standing in the street of Mental Observation, I saw myself pale and wan, surrounded by corpses, and, drying my hands on my bloody apron, stifled by the odor of putrefaction, I turned my head in spite of myself, and saw floating before my eyes green harvests, balmy fields, and the pensive harmony of the evening. "No," said I, "science can not console me; rather will I plunge into this sea of irresponsive nature and die there myself by drowning. I will not war against my youth; I will live where there is life, or at least die in the sunlight." I began to mingle with the throngs at Sevres and Chaville, and stretch myself on flowery swards in secluded groves. Alas! all the forests and fields cried to me: "What do you seek here? We are young, poor child! We wear the colors of hope." Then I returned to the city; I lost myself in its obscure streets; I looked up at the lights in its windows, into those mysterious family nests; I watched the passing carriages; I saw man jostling against man. Oh, what solitude! How sad the smoke on those roofs! What sorrow in those tortuous streets where all are hurrying hither and thither, working and sweating, where thousands of strangers rub against your elbows; a sewer where society is of bodies only, while souls are solitary and alone, where all who hold out a hand to you are prostitutes! "Become corrupt, corrupt, and you will cease to suffer!" This has been the cry of all cities unto man; it is written with charcoal on the walls, on the streets with mud, on men's faces with extravasated blood. At times, when seated in the corner of some salon I watched the women as they danced, some rosy, some blue, and others white, their arms bare and their hair gathered gracefully about their shapely heads, looking like cherubim drunk with light, floating in spheres of harmony and beauty, I would think: "Ah, what a garden, what flowers to gather, to breathe! Ah! Marguerites, Marguerites! What will your last petal say to him who plucks it? A little, a little, but not all. That is the moral of the world, that is the end of your smiles. It is over this terrible abyss that you are walking in your spangled gauze; it is on this hideous reality you run like gazelles on the tips of your little toes!" "But why take things so seriously?" said Desgenais. "That is something that is never seen. You complain because bottles become empty? There are many casks in the vaults, and many vaults in the hills. Give me a dainty fish-hook gilded with sweet words, a drop of honey for bait, and quick! catch in the stream of oblivion a pretty consoler, as fresh and slippery as an eel; you will still have the hook when the fish shall have glided from your hands. Youth must pass away, and if I were you I would carry off the queen of Portugal rather than study anatomy." Such was the advice of Desgenais. I made my way home with swollen heart, my face concealed under my cloak. I kneeled at the side of my bed and my poor heart dissolved in tears. What vows! what prayers! Galileo struck the earth, crying: "Nevertheless it moves!" Thus I struck my heart. Suddenly, in the midst of black despair, youth and chance led me to commit an act that decided my fate. I had written my mistress that I wished never to see her again; I kept my word, but I passed the nights under her window, seated on a bench before her door. I could see the lights in her room, I could hear the sound of her piano, at times I saw something that looked like a shadow through the partially drawn curtains. One night as I was seated on the bench, plunged in frightful melancholy, I saw a belated workman staggering along the street. He muttered a few words in a dazed manner and then began to sing. So much was he under the influence of liquor that he walked at times on one side of the gutter and then on the other. Finally he fell upon a bench facing another house opposite me. There he lay still, supported on his elbows, and slept profoundly. The street was deserted, a dry wind stirred the dust here and there; the moon shone through a rift in the clouds and lighted the spot where the man slept. So I found myself tete-a-tete with this boor, who, not suspecting my presence, was sleeping on that stone bench as peacefully as if in his own bed. The man served to divert my grief; I arose to leave him in full possession, but returned and resumed my seat. I could not leave that fateful door, at which I would not have knocked for an empire. Finally, after walking up and down a few times, I stopped before the sleeper.