“Then the woman in bed, completely changed in voice and bearing, a harlot spitting mud, losing all shame.
“Third and last, the pitiless vixen, the thorough Satanist, whom I perceived yesterday.
“What is the binding-alloy that amalgamates all these beings of hers? I can’t say. Hypocrisy, no doubt. No. I don’t think so, for she is often of a disconcerting frankness—in moments, it is true, of forgetfulness and unguardedness. Seriously, what is the use of trying to understand the character of this pious harlot? And to be candid with myself, what I wish ideally will never be realized; she does not ask me to take her to swell places, does not force me to dine with her, exacts no revenue: she isn’t trying to compromise and blackmail me. I shan’t find a better—but, oh, Lord! I now prefer to find no one at all. It suits me perfectly to entrust my carnal business to mercenary agents. For my twenty francs I shall receive more considerate treatment. There is no getting around it, only professionals know how to cook up a delicious sensual dish.
“Odd,” he said to himself after a reflective silence, “but, all proportions duly observed, Gilles de Rais divides himself like her, into three different persons.
“First, the brave and honest fighting man.
“Then the refined and artistic criminal.
“Finally the repentant sinner, the mystic.
“He is a mass of contradictions and excesses. Viewing his life as a whole one finds each of his vices compensated by a contradictory virtue, but there is no key characteristic which reconciles them.
“He is of an overweening arrogance, but when contrition takes possession of him, he falls on his knees in front of the people of low estate, and has the tears, the humility of a saint.
“His ferocity passes the limits of the human scale, and yet he is generous and sincerely devoted to his friends, whom he cares for like a brother when the Demon has mauled them.
“Impetuous in his desires, and nevertheless patient; brave in battle, a coward confronting eternity; he is despotic and violent, yet he is putty in the hands of his flatterers. He is now in the clouds, now in the abyss, never on the trodden plain, the lowlands of the soul. His confessions do not throw any light on his invariable tendency to extremes. When asked who suggested to him the idea of such crimes, he answers, ’No one. The thought came to me only from myself, from my reveries, my daily pleasures, my taste for debauchery.’ And he arraigns his indolence and constantly asserts that delicate repasts and strong drink have helped uncage the wild animal in him.
“Unresponsive to mediocre passions, he is carried away alternately by good as well as evil, and he bounds from spiritual pole to spiritual pole. He dies at the age of thirty-six, but he has completely exhausted the possibilities of joy and grief. He has adored death, loved as a vampire, kissed inimitable expressions of suffering and terror, and has, himself, been racked by implacable remorse, insatiable fear. He has nothing more to try, nothing more to learn, here below.