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"Strange theory!" cried I.
"Strange in what? According to all the doctrines of the Church, the
world will have an end. Science teaches the same fatal conclusions.
Why, then, is it strange that the same thing should result from moral
Doctrine? 'Let those who can, contain,' said Christ. And I take this
passage literally, as it is written. That morality may exist between
people in their worldly relations, they must make complete chastity
their object. In tending toward this end, man humiliates himself. When
he shall reach the last degree of humiliation, we shall have moral
"But if man, as in our society, tends only toward physical love, though
he may clothe it with pretexts and the false forms of marriage, he will
have only permissible debauchery, he will know only the same immoral
life in which I fell and caused my wife to fall, a life which we call
the honest life of the family. Think what a perversion of ideas must
arise when the happiest situation of man, liberty, chastity, is looked
upon as something wretched and ridiculous. The highest ideal, the best
situation of woman, to be pure, to be a vestal, a virgin, excites fear
and laughter in our society. How many, how many young girls sacrifice
their purity to this Moloch of opinion by marrying rascals that they
may not remain virgins,--that is, superiors! Through fear of finding
themselves in that ideal state, they ruin themselves.
"But I did not understand formerly, I did not understand that the words
of the Gospel, that 'he who looks upon a woman to lust after her has
already committed adultery,' do not apply to the wives of others, but
notably and especially to our own wives. I did not understand this, and
I thought that the honeymoon and all of my acts during that period
were virtuous, and that to satisfy one's desires with his wife is an
eminently chaste thing. Know, then, that I consider these departures,
these isolations, which young married couples arrange with the
permission of their parents, as nothing else than a license to engage in
"I saw, then, in this nothing bad or shameful, and, hoping for great
joys, I began to live the honeymoon. And very certainly none of these
joys followed. But I had faith, and was determined to have them,
cost what they might. But the more I tried to secure them, the less
I succeeded. All this time I felt anxious, ashamed, and weary. Soon I
began to suffer. I believe that on the third or fourth day I found my
wife sad and asked her the reason. I began to embrace her, which in my
opinion was all that she could desire. She put me away with her hand,
and began to weep.
"At what? She could not tell me. She was filled with sorrow, with
anguish. Probably her tortured nerves had suggested to her the truth
about the baseness of our relations, but she found no words in which to
say it. I began to question her; she answered that she missed her absent
mother. It seemed to me that she was not telling the truth. I sought to
console her by maintaining silence in regard to her parents. I did not
imagine that she felt herself simply overwhelmed, and that her parents
had nothing to do with her sorrow. She did not listen to me, and I
accused her of caprice. I began to laugh at her gently. She dried her
tears, and began to reproach me, in hard and wounding terms, for my
selfishness and cruelty.
"I looked at her. Her whole face expressed hatred, and hatred of me. I
cannot describe to you the fright which this sight gave me. 'How? What?'
thought I, 'love is the unity of souls, and here she hates me? Me? Why?
But it is impossible! It is no longer she!'
"I tried to calm her. I came in conflict with an immovable and cold
hostility, so that, having no time to reflect, I was seized with keen
irritation. We exchanged disagreeable remarks. The impression of this
first quarrel was terrible. I say quarrel, but the term is inexact. It
was the sudden discovery of the abyss that had been dug between us. Love
was exhausted with the satisfaction of sensuality. We stood face to
face in our true light, like two egoists trying to procure the greatest
possible enjoyment, like two individuals trying to mutually exploit each
"So what I called our quarrel was our actual situation as it appeared
after the satisfaction of sensual desire. I did not realize that this
cold hostility was our normal state, and that this first quarrel would
soon be drowned under a new flood of the intensest sensuality. I thought
that we had disputed with each other, and had become reconciled, and
that it would not happen again. But in this same honeymoon there came a
period of satiety, in which we ceased to be necessary to each other, and
a new quarrel broke out.
"It became evident that the first was not a matter of chance. 'It was
inevitable,' I thought. This second quarrel stupefied me the more,
because it was based on an extremely unjust cause. It was something like
a question of money,--and never had I haggled on that score; it was even
impossible that I should do so in relation to her. I only remember that,
in answer to some remark that I made, she insinuated that it was my
intention to rule her by means of money, and that it was upon money
that I based my sole right over her. In short, something extraordinarily
stupid and base, which was neither in my character nor in hers.
"I was beside myself. I accused her of indelicacy. She made the same
accusation against me, and the dispute broke out. In her words, in the
expression of her face, of her eyes, I noticed again the hatred that
had so astonished me before. With a brother, friends, my father, I had
occasionally quarrelled, but never had there been between us this fierce
spite. Some time passed. Our mutual hatred was again concealed beneath
an access of sensual desire, and I again consoled myself with the
reflection that these scenes were reparable faults.
"But when they were repeated a third and a fourth time, I understood
that they were not simply faults, but a fatality that must happen again.
I was no longer frightened, I was simply astonished that I should be
precisely the one to live so uncomfortably with my wife, and that the
same thing did not happen in other households. I did not know that in
all households the same sudden changes take place, but that all,
like myself, imagine that it is a misfortune exclusively reserved for
themselves alone, which they carefully conceal as shameful, not only to
others, but to themselves, like a bad disease.
"That was what happened to me. Begun in the early days, it continued and
increased with characteristics of fury that were ever more pronounced.
At the bottom of my soul, from the first weeks, I felt that I was in a
trap, that I had what I did not expect, and that marriage is not a joy,
but a painful trial. Like everybody else, I refused to confess it (I
should not have confessed it even now but for the outcome). Now I am
astonished to think that I did not see my real situation. It was so easy
to perceive it, in view of those quarrels, begun for reasons so trivial
that afterwards one could not recall them.
"Just as it often happens among gay young people that, in the absence of
jokes, they laugh at their own laughter, so we found no reasons for our
hatred, and we hated each other because hatred was naturally boiling
up in us. More extraordinary still was the absence of causes for
"Sometimes words, explanations, or even tears, but sometimes, I
remember, after insulting words, there tacitly followed embraces and
declarations. Abomination! Why is it that I did not then perceive this
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