“I have loved this woman of my own choosing, above all others; the choice made, I have worked at my love as I would at a cherished poem; it has been the subject of all my meditations, the fairy of all my dreams, for more than a year. I have not had a thought in which I have not paid her homage. I have devoted my talents to her; it seemed to me that by loving and perpetually contemplating her image, I might at last become worthy of painting it. I was conscious of a grand future, if only she had understood me; I often thought of Raphael and his own Fornarina. There is a throne vacant in poetry; I had dreamed of this throne in order to lay it at Clemence’s feet. Oh! although this may never be more than a dream, this dream has given me hours of incomparable happiness! I should be ungrateful to deny it.
“And yet this love is only a fictitious sentiment; I realize it today. It is not with her that I am in love, it is with a woman created by my imagination, and whom I see clearly within this unfeeling marble shape. When we have meditated for a long time, our thoughts end by taking life and walking by our side. I can now understand the allegory of Adam taking Eve from his own substance; but flesh forms a palpitating flesh akin to itself; the mind creates only a shadow, and a shadow can not animate a dead body. Two dead bodies can not make a living one; a body without a soul is only a cadaver—and she has no soul.”
Gerfaut sat motionless for some time with his face buried in his hands; suddenly he raised his head and burst into harsh laughter.
“Enough of this soaring in the clouds!” he exclaimed; “let us come down to earth again. It is permissible to think in verse, but one must act in prose, and that is what I shall do tomorrow. This woman’s caprices, which she takes for efforts of virtue, have made of me a cruel and inexorable man; I have begged in vain for peace; if she wishes war, very well, so be it, she shall have war.”
GERFAUT WINS A POINT