In any case, he would simply not reply.
But in spite of himself he reopened the letter.
“Well now, what do I risk? If this woman wants to sell me an over-ripe heart, there is nothing forcing me to purchase it. I don’t commit myself to anything by going to an assignation. But where shall I meet her? Here? No! Once she gets into my apartment complications arise, for it is much more difficult to throw a woman out of your house than simply to walk off and leave her at a street corner. Suppose I designated the corner of the rue de Sevres and the rue de la Chaise, under the wall of the Abbaye-au-Bois. It is solitary, and then, too, it is only a minute’s walk from here. Or no, I will begin vaguely, naming no meeting-place at all. I shall solve that problem later, when I get her reply.”
He wrote a letter in which he spoke of his own spiritual lassitude and declared that no good could come of an interview, for he no longer sought happiness on earth.
“I will add that I am in poor health. That is always a good one, and it excuses a man from ‘being a man’ if necessary,” he said to himself, rolling a cigarette.
“Well, that’s done, and she won’t get much encouragement out of it. Oh, wait. I omitted something. To keep from giving her a hold on me I shall do well to let her know that a serious and sustained liaison with me is impossible ‘for family reasons.’ And that’s enough for one time.”
He folded the letter and scrawled the address.
Then he held the sealed envelope in his hand and reflected.
“Of course I am a fool to answer her. Who knows what situations a thing like this is going to lead to? I am well aware that whoever she be, a woman is an incubator of sorrow and annoyance. If she is good she is probably stupid, or perhaps she is an invalid, or perhaps she is so disastrously fecund that she gets pregnant if you look at her. If she is bad, one may expect to be dragged through every disgusting kind of degradation. Oh, whatever you do, you’re in for it.”
He regurgitated the memories of his youthful amours. Deception. Disenchantment. How pitilessly base a woman is while she is young!
" ... To be thinking of things like that now at my age! As if I had any need of a woman now!”
But in spite of all, his pseudonymous correspondent interested him.
“Who knows? Perhaps she is good-looking, or at least not very ill-looking. It doesn’t cost me anything to find out.”
He re-read her letter. No misspelling. The handwriting not commercial. Her ideas about his book were mediocre enough, but who would expect her to be a critic? “Discreet scent of heliotrope,” he added, sniffing the envelope.
“Oh, well, let’s have our little fling.”
And as he went out to get some breakfast he left his reply with the concierge.