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IT was something, but it was not enough. I knew what power I had over her, and took cowardly advantage of it.

When I reflect that she is dead now, I wonder if God will ever forgive me for the hurt I caused her.

After supper, which was very rowdy, people began to gamble.

I sat next to Olympe, and bet my money so boldly that she could hardly fail to notice. In a trice, I won a hundred and fifty or two hundred louis which I spread out in front of me; she stared at them with eager eyes.

I was the only person there who was not totally absorbed by the play, and I alone paid her any attention. For the rest of the night, I went on winning, and it was I who gave her money to gamble with, for she had lost everything she had on the table in front of her, and most probably all the money she had in the house.

People started to leave at five in the morning.

I had won three hundred louis.

All the gamblers had gone downstairs. Only I had stayed behind. No one noticed, for none of the other gentlemen were friends of mine.

Olympe herself was lighting them down the staircase, and I was about to go down like everyone else, when, turning back to her, I said:

'I must speak to you.'

'Tomorrow, ' she said.

'No. Now.'

'What is it you want to say?'

'You'll see.'

And I went back into her apartment.

'You lost, ' I said.

'Yes.'

'Everything you had here?'

She hesitated.

'Speak frankly.'

'Oh very well, you're right.'

'I won three hundred louis. They're yours, if you let me stay.'

And, as I spoke, I tossed the gold on to the table.

'Why the offer?'

'Because I love you, dammit!'

'No so. Because you're in love with Marguerite and want to have your revenge by becoming my lover. You can't fool a woman like me, you know. Unfortunately, I'm still too young and too beautiful to accept the role you propose.'

'So you refuse?'

'Yes.'

'Would you rather have me for love than money? If so, I should be the one to refuse. Think, my dear Olympe. If I'd sent somebody or other along to offer you these same three hundred louis on my behalf and on the same terms that I have set out, you would have accepted. I preferred to deal with you directly. Say yes, and don't look for motives behind what I'm doing. Keep telling yourself that you're beautiful, that there's nothing surprising in the fact that I'm in love with you.'

Marguerite was a kept woman like Olympe, and yet the first time I saw her, I would never have dared say to her what I had just said to this woman. The difference was that I loved Marguerite, and had sensed instincts in her which were lacking in this other creature who, for all her very great beauty, even as I put the arrangement to her and prepared to agree terms, sickened me.

In the end she consented, of course, and when I walked out of her apartment at noon, I was her lover. But I slipped from her bed carrying away no memory of the caresses and loving words which she had felt obliged to lavish on me in exchange for the six thousand francs which I left for her.

And yet men had ruined themselves for that woman.

Starting from that day, I subjected Marguerite to constant persecution. Olympe and she stopped seeing each other: you can easily understand why. I gave my new mistress a carriage and jewels, I gambled and, in a word, committed all the follies which a man in love with a woman like Olympe normally commits. Rumours of my new passion spread at once.

Even Prudence was taken in by them and ended up believing that I had completely forgotten Marguerite. Marguerite, either because she guessed the motive which drove me or because she was deceived like everyone else, responded with great dignity to the slights I inflicted on her every day. Yet she appeared to be ill, for everywhere I met her I found her looking paler and paler and increasingly sad. My love for her, exalted to the point where it felt as though it had turned to hate, revelled in the spectacle of her daily sufferings. Several times, in situations where I behaved with unspeakable cruelty, Marguerite looked at me with such imploring eyes that I reddened at the role I had chosen to play, and came near to asking for her forgiveness.

But my repentance never lasted longer than a flash of lightning. Besides, Olympe, who in the end had set aside all thought of self-respect and realized that by hurting Marguerite she could get anything she wanted out of me, constantly set me against her and, whenever she had the chance, insulted her with the relentless cowardice of a woman who has the backing of a man.

Finally, Marguerite stopped going either to the ball or the theatre for fear of meeting Olympe and me. Then the direct insults were replaced by anonymous letters: there was nothing too shameful which I did not urge my mistress to put about nor too despicable which I did not myself spread concerning Marguerite.

I must have taken leave of my senses to allow affairs to come to such a pass. I was like a man who has got fighting drunk and falls into an uncontrollable rage in which his hand is quite capable of committing a crime without involving his mind. In the midst of it all, I went through torment. The way Marguerite reacted to all my attacks? with a calmness that was as free of scorn as her dignity was of contempt? made her my superior even in my eyes, but served only to provoke me further.

One evening, Olympe had gone out somewhere and met Marguerite who, on this occasion, did not spare the stupid girl who insulted her, and things reached the point where Olympe was forced to back down. She came back seething. Marguerite, who had fainted, had to be carried home.

As soon as she came in, Olympe told me what had happened. She said that when Marguerite had seen that she was by herself, she had wanted revenge because Olympe was my mistress. She said that I had to write a letter saying that, whether I was with her or not, the woman I loved was to be respected.

I have no need to tell you that I agreed. I put everything bitter, shameful and cruel I could think of into that missive which I sent to her home address that same day.

This time, the cut went too deep for the unhappy girl to be able to bear it in silence.

I was confident that a reply would be delivered. Accordingly, I was determined not to go out all that day.

Around two o'clock, there was a ring at the door and Prudence was shown in.

I tried to appear unconcerned as I asked her to what I owed her visit. But that day Madame Duvernoy was in no mood for laughter and, sounding terribly upset, she pointed out that since my return, that is for the last three weeks or so, I had not missed an opportunity to hurt Marguerite. It was making her ill. The scene the night before, and the letter I'd sent that morning, had forced her to take to her bed.

And so, without framing a single reproach, Marguerite had sent to ask for mercy, informing me that she no longer had either the emotional nor physical strength to endure what I was doing to her.

'If Mademoiselle Gautier, ' I told Prudence, 'wishes to close her door to me, then she is perfectly entitled to do so. But that she should insult a woman I love on the ground that the woman is my mistress, is something which I shall never tolerate.'

'My dear, ' said Prudence, 'you're being ruled by the influence of a heartless, thoughtless, common girl. You love her, it's true, but that's no reason for tormenting a woman who can't defend herself.'

'Let Mademoiselle Gautier send her Count de N to me and the game will be even.'

'You know very well she'll never do that. So let her be, dear Armand. If you saw her, you'd be ashamed of the way you're behaving towards her. She's got no colour, and she's coughing. She's not long for this world now.'

Prudence held out her hand to me and added:

'Come and see her. A visit from you will make her very happy.'

'I have no wish to meet Monsieur de N.'

'Monsieur de N is never there. She can't stand him.'

'If Marguerite really wants to see me, she knows where I live. She can come here. But I shall never set foot in the rue d'Antin.'

'And you'd be nice to her?'

'I'd behave perfectly.'

'Well, I'm sure she'll come.'

'Let her.'

'Are you going out today?'

'I shall be home all evening.'

'I'll go and tell her.'

Prudence left.

I did not even bother to write and let Olympe know that I should not be going to see her. I behaved pretty much as I liked towards her. I hardly spent one night a week with her now. She found consolation with, I believe, an actor from one or other of the Boulevard theatres.

I went out for dinner and came back almost immediately. I had fires lit in every room and told Joseph he would not be needed.

I could not give you any sort of account of the various thoughts which troubled my mind during the hour I waited. But when I heard the doorbell, at around nine o'clock, they all came together in one emotion so powerful that, as I went to open the door, I was obliged to lean against the wall to prevent myself falling.

Fortunately, the hallway was only half-lit, so that the change in my features was less noticeable.

Marguerite came in.

She was dressed entirely in black and wore a veil. I could only just make out her face beneath the lace.

She walked on into the drawing- room and lifted her veil.

She was as pale as marble.

'Here I am, Armand, ' she said. 'You wanted to see me. I came.'

And, lowering her head which she took in both hands, she burst into tears.

I went up to her.

'What is it?' I said falteringly.

She pressed my hand without replying, for the tears still dimmed her voice. But a few moments later, having regained something of her composure, she said:

'You have hurt me a great deal, Armand, and I never did anything to you.'

'Never did anything?' I replied, with a bitter smile.

'Nothing, except what circumstances forced me to do to you.'

I do not know if you have ever experienced in your life, or ever will, what I went through as I looked at Marguerite.

The last time she had come to my apartment, she had sat in the same chair where she was now sitting. But since those days, she had been another man's mistress; other kisses than mine had brushed those lips towards which my own were now involuntarily drawn. And yet I felt that I loved her no less, and perhaps even more, than I had ever loved her.

However, it was difficult for me to broach the subject which had brought her. Most likely Marguerite understood this, for she went on:

'My coming here will be tiresome for you, Armand, for I have two requests to make: your forgiveness for what I said to Mademoiselle Olympe yesterday, and your mercy for what you may still be thinking of doing to me. Whether you wanted to or not, you have hurt me so much since your return that I should not now be able to stand a quarter of the emotions which I have borne up to this morning. You will have pity on me, won't you? And you will remember that there are nobler things for a good man to do than to take his revenge against a woman as ill and as wretched as I am. Come. Take my hand. I am feverish: I left my bed to come here to ask, not for your friendship, but for your indifference.'

As she asked, I took Marguerite's hand. It was hot, and the poor woman was shivering beneath her velvet cloak.

I rolled the armchair in which she was sitting nearer the fire.

'Do you imagine that I didn't suffer, ' I resumed, 'that night when, after waiting for you in the country, I came looking for you in Paris where all I found was that letter which almost drove me out of my mind?

'How could you have deceived me, Marguerite? I loved you so much!'

'Let's not speak of that, Armand, I did not come here to speak of that. I wanted to see you other than as an enemy, that's all, and I wanted to hold your hand once more. You have a young, pretty mistress whom you love, so they say be happy with her and forget me.'

'And what of you? I suppose you're happy?'

'Have I the face of a happy woman, Armand? Don't mock my sorrows, for you should know their cause and extent better than anyone.'

'It was entirely up to you never to be unhappy, if, that is, you are as unhappy as you say.'

'No, my friend, circumstances were too strong for my will. I did not follow my immoral instincts as you seem to be saying, but obeyed a solemn injunction and yielded to arguments which, when some day you know what they were, will make you forgive me.'

'Why not tell me now what these arguments are?'

'Because they would not bring us together again, for we can never be together again, and because they might alienate you from those from whom you must not be alienated.'

'Who are these people?'

'I cannot tell you.'

'Then you're lying.'

Marguerite stood up and walked to the door.

I could not stand by and watch such silent, expressive grief without being moved by it, when my mind's eye I compared this white-faced, weeping woman with the high-spirited girl who had laughed at me at the Opera-Comique.

'You shall not go, ' I said, thrusting myself against the door.

'Why not?'

'Because in spite of all you've done to me, I still love you and want to keep you here.'

'So that you can throw me out tomorrow, is that it? No, it's out of the question! Our destinies are separate, let's not try to unite them, for them you might despise me, whereas now you have no choice but hate.'

'No, Marguerite, ' I exclaimed, feeling all my love, all my desires awaken with her nearness, 'No, I shall forget all that is past, and we will be happy, as we promised we would.'

Marguerite shook her head uncertainly, then said:

'Am I not your slave, your dog? Do with me what you will. Take me, I am yours.'

And removing her coat and her hat which she flung on to the sofa, she began feverishly unloosing the bodice of her dress, for, her condition deterioriating suddenly, as often happened in her illness, and with the blood rushing from her heart to her head, she was having difficulty breathing.

There followed a bout of dry, hoarse coughing.

'Have my coachman told, ' she went on, 'to drive my carriage home.'

I went down myself to dismiss the man.

When I returned, Marguerite was lying in front of the fire, and her teeth were chattering with cold.

I took her in my arms, undressed her where she lay without stirring, and carried her icy body to my bed.

Then I sat by her side and tried to warm her with my caresses. She did not speak, but she smiled at me.

Oh! How strange was the night that followed! The whole of Marguerite's life seemed to be concentrated in the kisses she lavished on me. I loved her so intensely that, in the transports of my loving frenzy, I wondered whether I should not kill her so that she would never belong to anyone else.

A month of such loving, body and soul, would be enough to bury most people.

Day found us both awake.

Marguerite was ghastly pale. She did not utter a word. From time to time, large tears flowed from her eyes and halted on her cheeks where they glistened like diamonds. Her weary arms opened now and then to hold me fast to her, and then fell back lifelessly on to the bed.

For a moment, I thought I could forget everything that had happened since the moment I had left Bougival, and I said to Marguerite:

'Would you like us to go away, to leave Paris?'

'No, no!' she said, near to panic, 'we should be too wretched. There's nothing I can do now to make you happy, but as long as I have breath in my body, I will be the slave of your every whim. Whatever time of day or night you want me, come to me: I shall be yours. But you mustn't go on trying to link your future with mine. You'd only be too unhappy, and you would make me very wretched.

'I'll keep my looks for a little while longer. Make the most of them, but don't ask any more of me.'

When she had gone, I felt frightened by the loneliness to which she had abandoned me. Two hours after her departure, I was still sitting on the bed she had just left, staring at the pillow which bore the imprint of her head, and wondering what should become of me, torn as I was between love and jealousy.

At five o'clock, without having any clear idea of what I would do when I got there, I went round to the rue d'Antin.

It was Nanine who opened the door.

'Madame cannot see you now, ' she said, with some embarrassment.

'Why not?'

'Because Count de N is with her, and he doesn't want me to let anyone in.'

'Oh, of course, ' I stammered, 'I'd forgotten.'

I returned home like a man drunk, and do you know what I did in that moment of jealous frenzy which lasted only long enough for the disgraceful action which I was about to commit, can you guess what I did? I told myself that this woman was making a fool of me, I pictured her locked in inviolable intimacies with the Count, repeating to him the same words she had said to me that night, and, taking a five hundred franc note, I sent it to her with this message:

'You left so quickly this morning that I forgot to pay you. The enclosed is your rate for a night.'

Then, when the letter had gone, I went out as though to escape from the instant remorse which followed this unspeakable deed.

I called on Olympe and I found her trying on dresses. When we were alone, she sang obscene songs for my amusement.

She was the archetypal courtesan who has neither shame nor heart nor wit? or at least she appeared so to me, for perhaps another man had shared with her the idyll I had shared with Marguerite.

She asked me for money. I gave it her. Then, free to go, I went home.

Marguerite had not sent a reply.

There is no point in my telling you in what state of agitation I spent the whole of the following day.

At half past six, a messenger brought an envelope containing my letter and the five hundred franc note, but nothing else.

'Who gave you this?' I said to the man.

'A lady who was leaving on the Boulogne mail coach with her maid. She gave me orders not to bring it until the coach was clear of the depot.'

I ran all the way to Marguerite's apartment.

'Madame left for England today at six o'clock, ' said the porter in answer to my question.

There was nothing now to keep me in Paris, neither love nor hate. I was exhausted by the turmoil of these events. One of my friends was about to set off on a tour of the Middle East. I went to see my father and said I wished to go with him. My father gave me bills of exchange and letters of introduction, and a week or ten days later I boarded ship at Marseilles.

It was at Alexandria, through an Embassy attache whom I had occasionally seen at Marguerite's, that I learnt about the poor girl's illness.

It was then that I sent her the letter to which she wrote the reply you have read for yourself. I got it when I reached Toulon.

I set out immediately and you know the rest.

All that remains now is for you to read the papers which Julie Duprat kept for me. They are the necessary complement of the story I have just told you.

这已经够她受的了,但还不行。我知道我有力量控制这个女人,我卑鄙地滥用了这种力量。

如今我想到她已经死了,我自问天主是不是会原谅我给她所受的痛苦。

夜宵时热闹非凡,夜宵以后开始赌钱。

我坐在奥林普身旁,我下注的时候那么大胆,不能不引起她的注意。不一会儿,我就赢了一两百个路易,我把这些钱摊在我面前,她贪婪地注视着。

只有我一个人没有把全部注意力放在赌博上,而是在观察她。整个晚上我一直在赢钱,我拿钱给她赌,因为她已经把她面前的钱全都输光了,也许把她家里的钱也全都输光了。

清晨五点钟大家告辞了。

我赢了三百个路易。

所有的赌客都已经下楼,谁也没有发觉只有我一个人留在后面,因为那些客人里面没有一位是我的朋友。

奥林普亲自在楼梯上照亮,当我正要和大家一样下楼时,我转身向她走去对她说:

“我要跟您谈谈。”

“明天吧,”她说。

“不,现在。”

“您要跟我谈什么呢?”

“您就会知道的。”

我又回到了房间里。

“您输了,”我对她说。

“是的。”

“您把家里的钱全都输光了吧。”

她迟疑着没有回答。

“说实话吧。”

“好吧,真是这样。”

“我赢了三百路易,全在这里,如果您愿意我留下来的话。”

同时我把金币扔在桌子上。

“您为什么提出这种要求?”

“老天!因为我爱您呀。”

“不是这么回事,因为您爱着玛格丽特,您是想做我的情人来报复她。我这样的女人是不会受欺骗的。遗憾的是我太年轻,太漂亮了,接受您要我扮演的角色是不合适的。”

“这么说,您拒绝了?”

“是的。”

“难道您宁愿白白地爱我吗?那我是不会接受的。您想,亲爱的奥林普,我本来可以派一个人带着我的条件来代我送上这三百个路易,这样您可能会接受的。可是我还是喜欢和您当面谈。接受吧,别管我这样做的原因是什么;您说您长得漂亮,那么我爱上您也就不足为奇了。”

玛格丽特像奥林普一样是个妓女,但我在第一次看见她时决不敢对她说我刚才对这个女人说的话。这说明了我爱玛格丽特,这说明了我感到在玛格丽特身上有一些这个女人身上所缺少的东西。甚至就在我跟她谈这次交易的时候,尽管她长得千娇百媚,我还是非常讨厌这个和我谈生意的女人。

当然啦,她最后还是接受了。中午我从她家里出来时我已经是她的情人了。为了我给她的六千法郎,她认为不能不好好地和我说些情话,亲热一番;但是我一离开她的床,就把这一切抛在脑后去了。

然而也有人为了她而倾家荡产的。

从这一天起,我每时每刻都在虐待玛格丽特。奥林普和她不再见面了,原因您也可想而知。我送了一辆马车和一些首饰给我新结交的情妇。我赌钱,最后我就像一个爱上了奥林普这样一个女人的男人一样做了各种各样的荒唐事,我又有了新欢的消息很快就传开了。

普律当丝也上了当,她终于也相信我已经完全忘记了玛格丽特。对玛格丽特来说,要么她已经猜到了我这样做的动机,要么她和别人一样受骗了。她怀着高度的自尊心来对付我每天给她的侮辱。不过她看上去很痛苦,因为不论我在哪里遇到她,我看到她的脸色总是一次比一次苍白,一次比一次忧伤。我对她的爱情过于强烈以致变成了仇恨,看到她每天都这样痛苦,我心里很舒服。有几次在我卑鄙残酷地折磨她时,玛格丽特用她苦苦哀求的眼光望着我,以致我对自己扮演的那种角色感到脸红,我几乎要求她原谅我了。

但是这种内疚的心情转瞬即逝,而奥林普最后把自尊心全都撇在一边,她知道只要折磨玛格丽特就可以从我这里得到她需要的一切。她不断地挑唆我和玛格丽特为难,一有机会她就凌辱玛格丽特,像一个后面有男人撑腰的女人一样,她的手段总是非常卑劣的。

玛格丽特最后只能不再去参加舞会,也不去戏院看戏了,她害怕在那些地方遇到奥林普和我。这时候写匿名信就代替了当面挑衅,只要是见不得人的事,都往玛格丽特身上栽;让我情妇去散布,我自己也去散布。

只有疯子才会做出这些事情来,那时候我精神亢奋,就像一个灌饱了劣酒的醉汉一样,很可能手里在犯罪,脑子里还没有意识到。在于这一切事情的时候,我心里是非常痛苦的。面对我这些挑衅,玛格丽特的态度是安详而不轻蔑,尊严而不鄙视,这使我觉得她比我高尚,也促使我更加生她的气。

一天晚上,不知道奥林普在哪里碰到了玛格丽特,这一次玛格丽特没有放过这个侮辱她的蠢姑娘,一直到奥林普不得不让步才罢休。奥林普回来时怒气冲冲,玛格丽特则在昏厥中被抬了回去。

奥林普回来以后,对我诉说了刚才发生的事情,她对我说,玛格丽特看到她只有一个人就想报仇,因为她做了我的情妇。奥林普要我写信告诉她,以后不管我在不在场,她都应该尊敬我所爱的女人。

不用多说,我同意这样做了。我把所有我能找到的挖苦的、羞辱的和残忍的话一古脑儿全写在这封信里面,这封信我当天就寄到了她的家里。

这次打击太厉害了,这个不幸的女人不能再默默地忍受了。

我猜想一定会收到回信的。因此我决定整天不出门。

两点钟光景有人拉铃,我看到普律当丝进来了。

我试着装出一副若无其事的模样问她来找我有什么事。这天迪韦尔诺瓦太太可一丝笑容也没有,她用一种严肃而激动的声调对我说,自从我回到巴黎以后,也就是说将近三个星期以来,我没有放过一次机会不折磨玛格丽特,因此她生病了。昨天晚上那场风波和今天早晨我那封信使她躺倒在床上。

总之,玛格丽特并没有责备我,而是托人向我求情,说她精神上和肉体上再也忍受不了我对她的所作所为。

“戈蒂埃小姐把我从她家里赶走,”我对普律当丝说,“那是她的权利,但是她要侮辱一个我所爱的女人,还借口说这个女人是我的情妇,这我是绝对不能答应的。”

“我的朋友,”普律当丝对我说,“您受了一个既无头脑又无心肝的姑娘的影响了;您爱她,这是真的,但这不能成为可以欺凌一个不能自卫的女人的理由呀。”

“让戈蒂埃小姐把她的N伯爵给我打发走,我就算了。”

“您很清楚她是不会这样干的。因此,亲爱的阿尔芒,您让她安静点吧。如果您看到她,您会因为您对待她的方式感到惭愧。她脸色苍白,她咳嗽,她的日子不长了。”

普律当丝伸手给我,又加了一句:

“来看看她吧,您来看她,她会非常高兴的。”

“我不愿碰到N先生。”

“N先生决不会在她家里,她受不了他。”

“倘使玛格丽特一定要见我,她知道我住在哪儿,让她来好啦,我是不会再到昂坦街去了。”

“那您会好好接待她吗?”

“一定招待周到。”

“好吧,我可以肯定她会来的。”

“让她来吧。”

“今天您出去吗?”

“整个晚上我都在家。”

“我去对她说。”

普律当丝走了。

我甚至没有给奥林普写信,告诉她我不到她那里去了,对这个姑娘我是随随便便的。一星期我难得和她过上一夜。我相信她会从大街上随便哪一家戏院的男演员那儿得到安慰的。

我吃晚饭时出去了一下,几乎马上就赶了回来。我吩咐把所有的炉子都点上火,还把约瑟夫打发走了。

我无法把我等待着的那一个小时里的种种想法告诉您,我心情太激动了。当我在九点左右听到门铃声的时候,我百感交集,心乱如麻,以致去开门的时候,不得不扶着墙壁以防跌倒。

幸好会客室里光线暗淡,不容易看出我那变得很难看的脸色。

玛格丽特进来了。

她穿了一身黑衣服,还蒙着面纱,我几乎认不出她在面纱下的脸容。

她走进客厅,揭开了面纱。

她的脸像大理石一样惨白。

“我来了,阿尔芒,”她说,“您希望我来,我就来了。”

随后,她低下头,双手捂着脸痛哭起来。

我向她走去。

“您怎么啦?”我对她说,我的声音都变了。

她紧紧握住我的手,不回答我的话,因为她已经泣不成声。过了一会儿,她平静了一些,就对我说:

“您害得我好苦,阿尔芒,而我却没有什么对不起您。”

“没有什么对不起我吗?”我带着苦笑争辩说。

“除了环境逼得我不得不做的以外,我什么也没有做。”

我看到玛格丽特时心里所产生的感觉,不知道在您的一生中是否感受过,或者在将来是否会感受到。

上次她到我家里来的时候,她就是坐在她刚坐下的地方。只不过从此以后,她已成为别人的情妇;她的嘴唇不是被我,而是被别人吻过了,但我还是不由自主地把嘴唇凑了上去。我觉得我还是和以前一样爱着这个女人,可能比以前爱得还要热烈些。

然而我很难开口谈为什么叫她到这里来的理由,玛格丽特大概了解了我的意思,因为她接着又说:

“我打扰您了,阿尔芒,因为我来求您两件事:原谅我昨天对奥林普小姐说的话;别再做您可能还要对我做的事,饶了我吧。不论您是不是有意的,从您回来以后,您给了我很多痛苦,我已经受不了啦,即使像我今天早晨所受的痛苦的四分之一,我也受不了啦!您会可怜我的,是不是?而且您也明白,像您这样一个好心肠的人,还有很多比对一个像我这样多愁多病的女人报复更加高尚的事要干呢。您摸摸我的手,我在发烧,我离开卧床不是为了来向您要求友谊,而是请您别再把我放在心上了。”

我拿起玛格丽特的手,她的手果然烧得烫人,这个可怜的女人裹在天鹅绒大衣里面,浑身哆嗦。

我把她坐着的扶手椅推到火炉边上。

“您以为我就不痛苦吗?”我接着说,“那天晚上我先在乡下等您,后来又到巴黎来找您,我在巴黎只是找到了那封几乎使我发疯的信。

“您怎么能欺骗我呢,玛格丽特,我以前是多么爱您啊!”

“别谈这些了,阿尔芒,我不是来跟您谈这些的。我希望我们不要像仇人似的见面,仅此而已。我还要跟您再握一次手,您有了一位您喜欢的、年轻美貌的情妇,愿你俩幸福,把我忘了吧。”

“那么您呢,您一定是幸福的啦?”

“我的脸像一个幸福的女人吗?阿尔芒,别拿我的痛苦来开玩笑,您比谁都清楚我痛苦的原因和程度。”

“如果您真像您所说的那样不幸,那么您要改变这种状况也取决于您自己呀。”

“不,我的朋友,我的意志犟不过客观环境,您似乎是说我顺从了我做妓女的天性。不是的,我服从了一个严肃的需要,这些原因您总有一天会知道的,您也会因此原谅我。”

“这些原因您为什么不在今天就告诉我呢?”

“因为告诉了您这些原因也不可能使我们重归于好,也许还会使您疏远您不应该疏远的人。”

“这些人是谁?”

“我不能跟您说。”

“那么您是在撒谎。”

玛格丽特站起身来,向门口走去。

当我在心里把这个形容枯槁、哭哭啼啼的女人和当初在喜剧歌剧院嘲笑我的姑娘作比较时,我不能看着她的沉默和痛苦的表情而无动于衷。

“您不能走,”我拦在门口说。

“为什么?”

“因为,尽管您这样对待我,我一直是爱您的,我要您留在这里。”

“为了在明天赶我走,是吗?不,这是不可能的!我们两个人的缘分已经完了,别再想破镜重圆了;否则您可能会轻视我,而现在您只是恨我。”

“不,玛格丽特,”我嚷道,一面觉得一遇上这个女人,我所有的爱和欲望都复苏了,“不,我会把一切都忘记的,我们将像过去曾经相许过的那么幸福。”

玛格丽特疑惑地摇摇头,说道:

“我不就是您的奴隶,您的狗吗?您愿意怎样就怎样吧,把我拿去吧,我是属于您的。”

她脱掉大衣,除下帽子,把它们全都扔在沙发上,突然她开始解连衣裙上衣的搭扣,由于她那种疾病的一种经常性的反应,血从心口涌上头部,使她透不过气来。

接着是一阵嘶哑的干咳。

“派人去关照我的车夫,”她接着说,“把车子驶回去。”

我亲自下楼把车夫打发走了。

当我回来的时候,玛格丽特躺在炉火前面,冷得牙齿格格直响。

我把她抱在怀里,替她脱衣服,她一动也不动,全身冰冷,我把她抱到了床上。

于是我坐在她身边,试着用我的爱抚来暖和她,她一句话也不跟我说,只是对我微笑着。

喔!这真是一个奇妙的夜晚,玛格丽特的生命几乎全部倾注在她给我的狂吻里面。我是这样地爱她,以致在我极度兴奋的爱情之中,我曾想到是不是杀了她,让她永远不会属于别人。

一个人的肉体和心灵都像这样地爱上一个月的话,就只能剩下一具躯壳了。

天亮了,我们两人都醒了。

玛格丽特脸色灰白。她一句话也不说,大颗的泪珠不时从眼眶里滚落在她的面颊上,像金刚钻似的闪闪发光,她疲乏无力的胳臂不住地张开来拥抱我,又无力地垂落到床上。

有一时我想我可以把离开布吉瓦尔以来的事统统忘记掉,我对玛格丽特说:

“你愿不愿意跟我一起走?让我们一起离开巴黎。”

“不,不,”她几乎带着恐惧地说,“我们以后会非常不幸的,我不能再为你的幸福效劳,但只要我还剩下一口气,你就可以把我随心所欲,不管白天或者黑夜,只要你需要我,你就来,我就属于你的,但是不要再把你的前途和我的前途连在一起,这样你会非常不幸,也会使我非常不幸。

“我眼下还算是一个漂亮姑娘,好好享用吧,但是别向我要求别的。”

在她走了以后,我感到寂寞孤单,非常害怕。她走了已有两个小时了,我还是坐在她适才离开的床上,凝视着床上的枕头,上面还留着她头形的皱褶,一面考虑着在我的爱情和嫉妒之间我将变成什么样子。

五点钟,我到昂坦街去了,我也不知道我要上那儿去干什么。

替我开门的是纳尼娜。

“夫人不能接待您,”她尴尬地对我说。

“为什么?”

“因为N伯爵先生在这里,他不让我放任何人进去。”

“是啊,”我结结巴巴地说,“我忘了。”

我像个醉汉似的回到了家里,您知道在我那嫉妒得发狂的一刹那间我干了什么?这一刹那就足够我做出一件可耻的事,您知道我干了什么?我心想这个女人在嘲笑我,我想象她在跟伯爵两人促膝谈心,对他重复着她昨天晚上对我讲过的那些话,还不让打扰他们。于是我拿起一张五百法郎的钞票,写了下面这张纸条一起给她送了去。

今天早晨您走得太匆忙了,我忘了付钱给您。这是您的过夜钱。

当这封信被送走以后,我就出去了,仿佛想逃避做了这件卑鄙的事情以后出现的一阵内疚。

我到奥林普家里去,我见到她在试穿衣服,当我们只剩下两个人时,她就唱些下流的歌曲给我散心。

这个女人完全是一个不知羞耻、没有心肝、没有头脑的妓女的典型,至少对我来说是这样,因为也许有别的男人会跟她一起做我跟玛格丽特一起做过的那种美梦。

她问我要钱,我给了她,于是就可以走了,我回到了自己家里。

玛格丽特没有给我回信。

不用跟您说第二天我是在怎样激动的心情下度过的。

六点半,一个当差给我送来了一封信,里面装着我那封信和那张五百法郎的钞票,此外一个字也没有。

“是谁把这封信交给您的?”我对那个人说。

“一位夫人,她和她的使女一起乘上了去布洛涅的驿车,她吩咐我等驿车驶出庭院之后再把信送给您。”

我跑到玛格丽特家里。

“太太今天六点钟动身到英国去了。”看门人对我说。

没有什么可以再把我留在巴黎了,既没有恨也没有爱。由于受到这一切冲击我已精疲力竭。我的一个朋友要到东方去旅行,我对父亲说我想陪他一起去;我父亲给了我一些汇票和介绍信。八九天以后,我在马赛上了船。

在亚历山大①,我从一个我曾在玛格丽特家里见过几面的大使馆随员那里,知道了这个可怜的姑娘的病况。

于是我写了一封信给她,她写给我一封回信,我是在土伦②收到的,您已经看到了。

①亚历山大:埃及的一个重要港口。

②土伦:法国地中海沿岸的一个城市。

我立刻就动身回来,以后的事您都知道了。

现在您只要读一下朱利·迪普拉交给我的那些日记就行了,这是我刚才对您讲的故事的不可缺少的补充。