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To be loved by a pure young girl, to be the first to reveal to her the strange mystery of love, is indeed a great happiness, but it is the simplest thing in the world. To take captive a heart which has had no experience of attack, is to enter an unfortified and ungarrisoned city. Education, family feeling, the sense of duty, the family, are strong sentinels, but there are no sentinels so vigilant as not to be deceived by a girl of sixteen to whom nature, by the voice of the man she loves, gives the first counsels of love, all the more ardent because they seem so pure.
The more a girl believes in goodness, the more easily will she give way, if not to her lover, at least to love, for being without mistrust she is without force, and to win her love is a triumph that can be gained by any young man of five-and-twenty. See how young girls are watched and guarded! The walls of convents are not high enough, mothers have no locks strong enough, religion has no duties constant enough, to shut these charming birds in their cages, cages not even strewn with flowers. Then how surely must they desire the world which is hidden from them, how surely must they find it tempting, how surely must they listen to the first voice which comes to tell its secrets through their bars, and bless the hand which is the first to raise a corner of the mysterious veil!
But to be really loved by a courtesan: that is a victory of infinitely greater difficulty. With them the body has worn out the soul, the senses have burned up the heart, dissipation has blunted the feelings. They have long known the words that we say to them, the means we use; they have sold the love that they inspire. They love by profession, and not by instinct. They are guarded better by their calculations than a virgin by her mother and her convent; and they have invented the word caprice for that unbartered love which they allow themselves from time to time, for a rest, for an excuse, for a consolation, like usurers, who cheat a thousand, and think they have bought their own redemption by once lending a sovereign to a poor devil who is dying of hunger without asking for interest or a receipt.
Then, when God allows love to a courtesan, that love, which at first seems like a pardon, becomes for her almost without penitence. When a creature who has all her past to reproach herself with is taken all at once by a profound, sincere, irresistible love, of which she had never felt herself capable; when she has confessed her love, how absolutely the man whom she loves dominates her! How strong he feels with his cruel right to say: You do no more for love than you have done for money. They know not what proof to give. A child, says the fable, having often amused himself by crying “Help! a wolf!” in order to disturb the labourers in the field, was one day devoured by a Wolf, because those whom he had so often deceived no longer believed in his cries for help. It is the same with these unhappy women when they love seriously. They have lied so often that no one will believe them, and in the midst of their remorse they are devoured by their love.
- Armand Duval (La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fills)
"Tell me, sir," I said to your father, wiping away my tears, "do you believe that I love your son?"- Marguerite Gautier (La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils)
"Yes," said M. Duval.
“With a disinterested love?”
“Do you believe that I had made this love the hope, the dream, the forgiveness—of my life?”
“Well, sir, embrace me once, as you would embrace your daughter, and I swear to you that that kiss, the only chaste kiss I have ever had, will make me strong against my love, and that within a week your son will be once more at your side, perhaps unhappy for a time, but cured forever.”
“You are a noble child,” replied your father, kissing me on the forehead, “and you are making an attempt for which God will reward you; but I greatly fear that you will have no influence upon my son.”
“Oh, be at rest, sir; he will hate me.”
I went home like a drunken man, and do you know what I did during the moment of jealous delirium which was long enough for the shameful thing I was going to do? I said to myself that the woman was laughing at me; I saw her alone with the count, saying over to him the same words that she had said to me in the night, and taking a five-hundred-franc note I sent it to her with these words:
”You went away so suddenly that I forgot to pay you. Here is the price of your night.”
- Armand Duval (La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils)
I can give you no idea of the different impressions which agitated me during the hour in which I waited; but when, toward nine o’clock, I heard a ring, they thronged together into one such emotion, that, as I opened the door, I was obliged to lean against the wall to keep myself from falling.- Armand Duval (La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils)
Fortunately the anteroom was in half darkness, and the change in my countenance was less visible. Marguerite entered.
She was dressed in black and veiled. I could scarcely recognize her face through the veil. She went into the drawing-room and raised her veil. She was pale as marble.
"I am here, Armand," she said; "you wished to see me and I have come."
And letting her head fall on her hands, she burst into tears.
That night I found her feverish and agitated. On seeing me, she flung her arms around my neck, but she cried for a long time in my arms. I questioned her as to this sudden distress, which alarmed me by its violence. She gave me no positive reason, but put me off with those evasions which a woman resorts to when she will not tell the truth.
When she was a little calmed down, I told her the result of my visit, and I showed her my father’s letter, from which, I said, we might augur well. At the sight of the letter and on hearing my comment, her tears began to flow so copiously that I feared an attack of nerves, and, calling Nanine, I put her to bed, where she wept without a word, but held my hands and kissed them every moment.
- Armand Duval (La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fills)
Marguerite began to laugh.
"What are you laughing at?"
"Tell me, I beg of you, or I shall think you are still laughing at me."
"You won’t be cross?"
"What right have I to be cross?"
"Well, there was a sufficient reason why I went in alone."
"Some one was waiting for me here."
If she had thrust a knife into me she would not have hurt me more. I rose, and holding out my hand, “Goodbye,” said I.
"I knew you would be cross," she said; "men are frantic to know what is certain to give them pain."
"But I assure you," I added coldly, as if wishing to prove how completely I was cured of my passion, "I assure you that I am not cross. It was quite natural that some one should be waiting for you, just as it is quite natural that I should go from here at three in the morning."
"Have you, too, some one waiting for you?"
"No, but I must go."
"You send me away?"
"Not the least in the world."
"Why are you so unkind to me?"
"How have I been unkind to you?"
"In telling me that some one was waiting for you."
"I could not help laughing at the idea that you had been so happy to see me come in alone when there was such a good reason for it."
"One finds pleasure in childish enough things, and it is too bad to destroy such a pleasure when, by simply leaving it alone, one can make somebody so happy."
"But what do you think I am? I am neither maid nor duchess. I didn’t know you till to-day, and I am not responsible to you for my actions. Supposing one day I should become your mistress, you are bound to know that I have had other lovers besides you. If you make scenes of jealousy like this before, what will it be after, if that after should ever exist? I never met any one like you."
"That is because no one has ever loved you as I love you."
"Frankly, then, you really love me?"
"As much as it is possible to love, I think."
"And that has lasted since—?"
"Since the day I saw you go into Susse’s, three years ago.
"Do you know, that is tremendously fine? Well, what am to do in return?"
"Love me a little," I said, my heart beating so that I could hardly speak.
- La dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fills
"Truly, we poor creatures of chance have fantastic desires and inconceivable loves. We give ourselves now for one thing, now for another. There are men who ruin themselves without obtaining the least thing from us; there are others who obtain us for a bouquet of flowers. Our hearts have their caprices; it is their one distraction and their one excuse. I gave myself to you sooner than I ever did to any man, I swear to you; and do you know why? Because when you saw me spitting blood you took my hand; because you wept; because you are the only human being who has ever pitied me."
"I am going to say a mad thing to you: I once had a little dog who looked at me with a sad look when I coughed; that is the only creature I ever loved. When he died I cried more than when my mother died. It is true that for twelve years of her life she used to beat me. Well, I loved you all at once, as much as my dog. If men knew what they can have for a tear, they would be better loved and we should be less ruinous to them."
- Marguerite Gautier (La dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils)