Having made most accurate prognostications regarding the brightness of that Sunday morning, our programme had been drawn up on the previous evening. We were to walk to church and rise at an early hour.
Better to be ahead of the hour when the sun was pouring down upon the road and making it unbearable. However, projects of the day before have a strange habit of being changed on awakening the next morning. Therese moaned that she was sleepy; she threw her arms around my neck and sought to keep me in bed. And when I tried to disengage myself, she slid her hand with great rapidity towards the middle of my body and treacherously seized hold of me. Laughing at her roguishness, she exclaimed: “Tenio lupum auribus!”
“You’re a deep one! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
“But it’s in the Latin Grammar, darling.”
“I’m not talking to you about the Latin Grammar.”
Meanwhile she showed great concern over the fragile flabbiness of my sex, which was still somnolent in her hand. Stopping her laughter, she pressed me to her tenderly and murmured caressing words in my ear.
Then, once more, the azure of her eyes lit up with an amused look; for, beneath her imprisoning fingers, she began to feel my sex awaken from its torpor. Having relinquished the idea of getting out of bed, I already accepted defeat and anticipated the voluptuous reward for my cowardice. But Therese, doubtless, only wanted to make sure of my power over her. Satisfied with the experiment, she threw back the sheet and, at a glance, noted her triumph; then, after bestowing a rapid kiss on the Phallus, standing at attention in her hand, she escaped in the direction of the bath-room and doubly locked herself in.
After the monotony of the extensive walls skirting our deserted avenue, the road towards the church suddenly opened out into the country. It meandered between two thick-set hedges, — a true roadway of former times, when roads were not yet saddened beneath a black livery of tar. In the distance-as though from a past century- a light cart jolted towards us, — a veritable cart of former days with a piebald horse, its hood swaying backwards and forwards, and little spurts of dust rising under each wheel.
Therese had armed herself with a Japanese parasol (probably all that remained of some gallant fete) which had been left hanging about in the vestibule; and when she twirled this multicoloured omhrelle on her shoulder a kaleidoscopic effect aureoled the tranquil happiness of her face. It was certainly, on that day, going to be particularly hot; the shadows were already gathering together and taking refuge, as though in fear, at the base of the trees. But Therese’s wish was to pardon the sun, because of the gaiety of the birds, the provocative red of the poppies, the snowy-whiteness of the washing hanging in the orchards. And when, in advance, I made my excuses to her for a return journey which was bound to be irksome, she began to declaim a hymn to Light:
“Salut! car avant toi les choses n’etaient pas.
Salut! douce; salut! Puissante Lumiere, c’est par toi que les femmes sont belles.” (1). (i) “Hail! for before Thy birth all things were void.
Most sweet and powerful LightHail land once more Hail.
‘Tis through Thee, O Light, that women are beautiful.”
On coming to the end of these lines, she asked: “Who wrote that? Now, guess.” Uncertain, I named a number of authors, haphazard. She smiled at the name of Victor Hugo, burst into laughter when I mentioned Arthur Rimbaud, and clapped her hands joyfully when I attributed the poem to “some illustrious unknown writer.” Then, triumphantly, she named the “unknown one”:
“Anatole France, my dear sir.”
Whereupon, without transition, she stopped in the middle of the road and kissed me on the lips. Looking at me in a humble manner, she said:
“Don’t think that I’m filled with stupid vanity for having learnt a few verses by heart. I am well aware that a vast scientific and professional world exists, — one in which you, my darling, evolve at your ease. And when I think of that I feel shamefully ignorant.”
During the whole of the service, Therese, with her face in her hands, remained kneeling at her prie-dieu and appeared to ignore me completely. I felt rather annoyed at this. I envied the turbulent crowd of youngsters of the catechism class who were playing sly little tricks on each other; I envied their stifled laughter when they beheld a choir-boy, in too short a surplice, revealing his chubby, rubicund calves. And when we got outside I remained for a short time in the sulks.
“You are saying nothing, darling.”
“I don’t dare to speak a word. I’m still intimidated by your recent meditation.”
“Meditation?” She shook her head. “Rather my attempt to meditate. I was more distracted than Margaret after her fall; and doubtless some Mephistopheles near to me was inspiring impure thoughts in my brain.”
“Who was it? The stout gentleman who was sitting on your right?”
“Oh! I say! I didn’t even notice him. No, you, in all probability, were the Tempter.”
“If I may say so, I was sitting most quietly in my corner-yawning, and had no other distraction than to caress your legs with my eyes.”
“But that was very naughty of you, sir. I don’t want you to have the air of being a libertine, or one who makes a show of his incredulity. What must the poor devout folks have thought of you?”
She concluded in a more serious tone:
“You must not shock them!”
“Are you yourself such a firm believer?”
“A believer? No: at any rate not sufficiently one. On the other hand, I am incapable of turning other peoples’ beliefs to derision. If there’s one piece of vulgarity which exasperates me, it’s that which ridicules mystic preoccupations, — the stupid sufficiency of Monsieur Homais.”
“Is that meant as a reproach?”
“Oh! not at all, darling. I know quite well that, as regards so-called religion, you think as I do. Had I been a more firm believer-even a little more devout-you would have been respectful of my faith.”
Pressing herself against me, she added in a lower voice:
“Just as you have been respectful-so tenderly respectful of my fears, of my first feelings of shame as a young wife.”
She repeated to me what her letters had already revealed regarding the evolution of her soul: her religious aspirations, the anguish aroused by her early doubts, the revival of faith in consequence of a “retreat”, and then, once more, a spiritual downfall. I admired her mental seriousness, her intellectual probity, and the precision of her own psychological diagnosis.
“I have not confessed to you… But I am afraid you will make fun of me.”
“No, no. Tell me, dearie.”
“For a time I went into training with Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises.”
“Indeed so. And with every bit as great a conviction as is shown to-day when training for a final in a foot-ball contest… However, I didn’t succeed. But sometimes I was transported by mighty mystic aspirations, yet without succeeding in coming to any clear conception of my ideal. Perhaps it was towards you that, unconsciously, I aspired.”
As soon as we got back, we separated for a short time, in order to put on what we called our “garden costumes”, — in her case, ample beach pyjamas, a light jersey, and a very short bolero; in mine, a flannel suit, worn next the skin. But I made out that her jersey was superfluous.
“Take it off, Therese. It’s getting scorching hot outside.”
“But you see quite well that that’s an impossibility. This is a ridiculously short bolero and it would be terribly open on my bosom. I should be a most indecent object.”
“Nobody will see us under the arbour.”
“What about the gardeners?”
“I have granted them, most royally, the day off. They are at Evreux, or somewhere in the neighbourhood. In this six to seven acre park we are as much alone as Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden.”
She accused me of criminal premeditation; and then, without further protest, allowed me to bare her bosom. She was so calm, amidst the Olympian indifference of her semi-nudity, that I did not daredespite the temptation-to kiss her breasts. So that, when I replaced her bolero and fastened it as well as possible around her breasts, she began to reproach me.
“What’s the matter?”
“You don’t love me any more. You didn’t even give them a kiss.”
Only too happy to make amends, I bent towards her. But she crossed her arms over her bubbies and with well-feigned indignation exclaimed:
“No, sir. They are very annoyed with you. They will let everybody kiss them, save you.”
As on preceding days, we took refuge under the cool shade of a clump of lindens, which were almost completely encircled by a thick hedge of privet, leaving, in that sunlit garden, only a narrow and discreet glimpse of the distance. The wooden seat was already familiar to us,a common wood bench, made of green strips, such as one can see in every garden. But its curved back (doubtless designed by some sensually-minded constructor) fitted to the body most softly. Seated on my right, Therese removed her large straw hat, with an excellent imitation of Cyrano’s manner: “Gracefully I fling aside my felt…”, at the same time, in a comical voice, imitating the nasal drawl of certain old actors. Then she stopped for a few moments, fell into a dreamy state, and, with a sigh, let her head droop on to my shoulder.
“Are you sad, Therese?”
“No, most happy. Only a little tired.”
Under her wide-open bolero I could perceive the curve of a breast, its pure line emphasized by a ruddy spot. My wish was to be able to admire it peaceably, but already my loins became affected: that indocile parasite, my penis, awakened and began to lengthen itself out. Encircling Therese’s shoulders with one arm and advancing my free hand towards the beautiful, semi-bare breast, I bestowed upon it the softest of caresses. Therese laid her hand on mine to immobilize it.
“Darling, — leave your hand where it is, but don’t move it. You know quite well that if you caress me, I shall at once become frightfully excited. I want to rest a little. It is so delightfully shady here after the sunny road.”
I obeyed her, enclosing the throbbing globe with my hand; and it was a novel, delicious pleasure to note that this somewhat tiny portion of her bosom coincided exactly with the measurements of my fingers. My conversion to the thesis of final causes was then an easy matter. The rosy nipple-unhardened by voluptuousness-slumbered, as it were, under my palm.
Therese had placed a hand on my knee. I drew it very gently towards me. Immediately responding to this impulse, her hand travelled along my thigh, came into contact with my stiffened member, under the thin flannel of my trousers. And then her fingers clutched it. But this contact was too indistinct a one to give either of us satisfaction, so her hand again moved, searching for the opening in my garment.
“Help me a little, darling,” she whispered. “I’m still much of a novice.”
Feverishly unbuttoning, until my “fly” was wide-open, I could not help feeling somewhat ashamed when my dark fleece was suddenly disclosed and Therese’s eyes were fixed upon me. But she smiled and snuggled up tenderly in the hollow of my shoulder. Her hand was soon busy amusing itself with the untangling of the little curls, or losing itself in the hairy labyrinth; but soon she seized hold of the burning rod and fingered it, — though still with a little uncertainty, And on coming to the extreme point where my desire was centred, she stopped there for a short time before starting again. This time her hand slipped between my legs to caress, ever so lightly, those organs with whose timorous fragility her fingers were already acquainted. With her fingers she made a little nest for them and became wholly motionless.
The dense foliage of the linden-trees completely isolated our love. But the shrill cries from the swallows, wheeling in the sky, and the confused concert of the church-bells, reminded us of the infinite stretch of blue sky on that Sunday in July. With closed eyes, Therese appeared to have dozed off to sleep on my shoulder. Nevertheless, her fingers-still holding me prisoner- were animated by a strange tremor; it was a barely perceptible caress, yet my hypersensitive flesh responded at once. My hand, still encircling her breast, then momentarily contracted. Therese strained towards me and, amidst a sigh, said:
“I love you, — I love you, darling. How intensely I love you. Oh! that I could explain… So many things.”
“Is it so difficult to put them into words?”
“Yes, — alas! And yet I feel that the immensity of the love which disturbs me is so full of life. My heart overflows with it, — rises, one might think, straight to my lips and escapes in the form of ardent words. But lips, you know, possess only one language when they are amorous, — that of kisses. And when you ask them to express themselves verbally, they are incapable of accurate translation.”
After a short silence, she continued: “Moreover, I should fear to give you an analysis of myself in your presence. You would find me so terribly complicated.”
“Do you still mistrust me? That’s hardly nice. Do you think that I should love you more if, instead of being complicated, as you say you are, you gave way to your instinct, without reflecting? On the contrary, I love the adorable diversity of your being, infinitely. My love for you, darling, — my love, so intensely fleshly, has its birth in that very diversity; it is compound of admiration for the clarity of your intelligence, the limpidity of your soul, almost as much as of the desire for your body. And our caresses the most… the most tenderly bold appear to be legitimate because, despite everything, I love in you something more than your body.”
Somewhat reticent (apparently so at any rate) but above all coquettish and playful, Therese pouted. She protested:
“Nevertheless, you must not disdain my body; even when it surrenders itself too madly. You must not be ashamed of loving it.”
“Ah! yes, indeed it looks as though I did so. But, seriously, dearie, the veneration I feel for your intellectual and moral soul must not disturb you. It does not make my desire more timorous. On the contrary, it provokes it, makes it more exacting, more audacious. It allows it greater freedom, because there is thus an excuse for its very folly. And it will make my desire still more durable.”
Therese did not reply. But her hand, nestling between my legs, enveloped me at one and the same time with a persistent and fluidlike sensation. There was a fluidity in her touch which aroused a keen sense of voluptuousness and positively electrified me. Suddenly indifferent to our discussion, Therese took no further interest save in the prolonged echoes of that caress throughout my sensual frame. She kept on the alert for those vibrations, — nay, provoked them time after time; and finally let them die down altogether. Then she smiled, — with a rather troubled expression, and appeared to make an effort to recover the thread of her ideas.
“What were we talking about?”
“Of ourselves, dearie. And of your love, which you regarded as so complicated.”
“Ah! yes. What appeared to me to be complicated, you know, — what I wanted to be able to explain to you, was, — how can I express it?the multiplicity of my love. Doubtless it has grown too quickly; it contains a little of everything. But in what a state of disorder! A veritable bric-a-brac shop. Remnants of religious mysticism, mingled with a paganistic adoration of yourself; a profound admiration for your intelligence, at the same time as a crazy tenderness for certain details of your body; an almost material need to coddle you and then, all of a sudden, an ardent desire for your caresses. All that I perceive quite clearly, especially when I am against you, fascinated by the depth of your looks and yet disturbed by your sex, which vibrates so intensely in my hand. But I express myself so badly and fear that you will not understand to what extent I love you.”
“Yet you are not downcast, are you?”
“Downcast? What for, indeed?”
“Owing to the long wait I have imposed on you. Later, perhaps, you will be doubtful of my desire-of my love for you?”
“Oh! darling. But I have seen, I have touched your sex and felt it falter through the excess of our caresses. And don’t you understand that I love you all the more for having known the whole of you before my own surrender? Don’t you realize my gratitude-and also my pridefor not having had to surrender myself blindly?”
Nevertheless her words troubled me. It was with a feeling of apprehension that I asked her:
“Do you think that it would be better to wait still longer?”
“Oh! no, no. Really I couldn’t. You know quite well that I am now longing to belong to you, — body and soul. But it is thanks to you that I have passed a few days amidst a miraculous dream, which will ever illuminate our love; a dream that would have been impossible, I know full well, with any other person than you.”
Her hand, which held me prisoner with tender precautions, recommenced its wanderings on my body. Over the hard stiffness of my sex she became compassionate, and the moist confession of my desire moved her.
“I understand what it must have cost you,” said Therese. “I understand to how severe a trial I have put your tenderness-your infinite delicacy. What I admire in you, above all, is precisely the contrast between your terribly imperious desire and your indulgence towards my fears-those of a little girl. At one and the same time I love you for the violence you displayed the first day, to my very great fear, and for your patience since then.”
Within the corolla of her closed fingers, she amorously pressed the ardent extremity of my penis, and concluded as follows:
“I adore Thee, — I adore Thee because Thou art… as He is, most powerful and yet most tender.”
Her voice grew fainter and seemed to hesitate, as though weary of everything that words could not express. But her fingers became more caressing, more inquisitive of the details of my flesh, more skilful in provoking my sensual vibrations. And under my own hand I felt that Therese’s breast was swelling-was protruding its nipple towards me.
With a painful and dull hammering on my temples, I rose.
“My beloved wife,” said I, “come with me.