Piety is indeed a true disease of the soul. Apply whatever remedies you please, the fever will not subside, the patient never heals; finding readier entry into the souls of the woebegone and downtrodden, because to be devout consoles them for their other ills, it is far more difficult to cure in such persons than in others. Such was the case with Adelaide: the more that vista of debauchery and of libertinage unfolded before her eyes, the more she recoiled and sought sanctuary in the arms of that comfort-giving God she hoped one day would come and deliver her from the evils which, she saw only too well, her dreadful situation was going to bring down upon her head. No one had a more profound appreciation of her circumstances than she; her mind could not more clearly have foreseen everything that was necessarily to follow the fatal beginning of which already she had been a victim, however mildly; she wonderfully well understood that, as the stories grew progressively stronger, the men's use of her and of her companions, evolving sympathetically, would also grow more ferocious. All that, despite everything she was told, made her avidly seek out, as often and for as long as she could, the society of her beloved Sophie. No longer did she dare go in quest of her at night; her overseers were sharp-eyed, wary, and drastic steps had been taken to thwart any more of those escapades, but whenever she found herself free for an instant, she would fly to her soul mate, and upon this very morning of the day we are presently chronicling, having risen early from the Bishop's bed, where she had lain that night, she went into the young girls' quarters to chat with her dearest correspondent. Durcet, who because of his duties that month used also to rise earlier than the others, found her there and declared to her there was nothing for it, he could not both carry out his functions and overlook this infraction of the rules; the society would have to decide the matter according to its pleasure. Adelaide wept, tears were her sole weapon, and she resorted to them. The only favor she dared beg from her husband was to try to prevent Sophie from being punished; for Sophie, she argued, could not be guilty, since it had been she, Adelaide, who had come looking for her, not Sophie who had gone in search of Adelaide. Durcet said he would report the fact as he had observed it, would disguise nothing; no one is less apt to be melted than a punisher whose keenest interest lies in punishing. And such was the case here, of course; was there anything prettier to punish than Sophie? Surely not, and what cause might Durcet have for sparing her?
Their Lordships assembled, the financier made his report. Here was an habitual offender; the Président recollected that, when he had been at the Palais de Justice, his ingenious confreres used to contend that recidivism in a man proves Nature is acting more strongly in him than education or principles; hence, by repeated errors, he attests, so to speak, that he is not his own master; hence, he must be doubly punished - the Président now reasoned just as logically and with the same inspired verve that, as had won him his schoolmates' admiration, and he declared that, as he viewed the thing, one had no choice but to invoke the law and punish the incurable Adelaide and her companion with all permissible rigor. But as the law fixed the death penalty for this offense, and as Messieurs were disposed to amuse themselves yet a little longer with these ladies before taking the final step, they were content to summon them, to make them kneel, and to read them the article out of the ordinances applying to their case, drawing their attention to the grave risk they had just run in committing such a transgression. That done, their judges pronounced a sentence thrice as severe as the one which had been executed upon them the previous Saturday, they were forced to swear they would not repeat their crime, they were advised that, should the same thing occur again, they would have to endure the extreme penalty, and their names were inscribed in the register.
Durcet's inspection added three more names to the page; two from amongst the little girls, one of the boys rounded out the morning's capture. All this was the result of the experimenting with minor indigestions; it was succeeding extremely well, but those poor children, unable to restrain themselves another moment, were beginning to tumble one after another into states of culpability: such had been the experience of Fanny and of Hébé amongst the girls, and of Hyacinthe amongst the boys. The evidence found in their pots was enormous, and Durcet frolicked about with it for a long time. Never had so many permissions been requested on any given morning, and certain subordinate personages were heard to curse Duclos for having imparted her secret. Notwithstanding the multitude of requests, leave to shit was granted only to Constance, Hercule, two second-rank fuckers, Augustine, Zéphyr, and Desgranges; they provided a few minutes' entertainment, and Messieurs sat down to dine.
"Well, now you see your mistake in allowing your daughter to receive religious instruction," Durcet said to Curval; "there's nothing to be done about her now. Those imbecilities have taken root in her head. And I told you they would, ages ago."
"In faith," said Curval, "I thought that acquaintance with them would be just one more reason she'd have for despising them, and that as she grew up she would convince herself of the stupidity of those infamous dogmas."
"What you say is all very well for reasoning minds," said the Bishop, "but one simply must not expect it to succeed with a child."
"I'm afraid we're going to be forced to resort to violent measures," said the Duc, who knew very well Adelaide could overhear him.
"Oh yes, in good time," Durcet nodded. "I can assure her that if she has no one but me for her advocate, she'll be poorly defended in court."
"Oh, I know that, Monsieur!" Adelaide stammered through her tears; "everyone is aware of your feelings toward me."
"My feelings?" protested Durcet. "But, my dear wife, I ought perhaps to begin by informing you I have never had any feelings whatsoever for a woman, and assuredly fewer for you, who belong to me, than for any other. I hate religion, as well as those who practice it, and I warn you that, from the indifference I have in your regard, I shall pass damned quickly to the most violent aversion if you continue to revere infamous and execrable illusions, phantoms which have ever been the object of my contemptuous scorn. One must first have lost one's mind to be able to acknowledge a god, and to have gone completely mad to worship such a thing. In short, I declare to you before your father and these other gentlemen that there are no lengths to which I shall not go if I ever again find you guilty of such a sin. You should have been sent to a nunnery if you wanted to pray to your fuck-in-the-ass God; there you'd have been able to worship the bugger to your heart's content."
"Ah!" put in Adelaide, groaning, "a nun, Great God, a nun, would to heaven that I were such."
And Durcet, who at the time was sitting opposite her, annoyed by her response, hurled a silver plate at her face; it would have killed her had it struck her head, for the shock was so violent the missile bent double upon crashing against the wall.
"You're an insolent creature," Curval said to his daughter, who, to avoid plate, had leapt between her father and Antinoüs. "You deserve to have your belly kicked in."
And driving her away from him with a blow of his fist:
"Go crawl on your knees and beg your husband's forgiveness," said he, "or we'll expose you to the severest ordeal you've ever dreamt of."
In tears, she cast herself at Durcet's feet, but he, having got a very solid erection from hurling the plate, and declaring he'd have given a thousand louis to have hit his mark, Durcet said that he felt an immediate, a general, and an exemplary punishment was in order; another would of course be executed on Saturday, but he proposed that this one time they do without the children's services at coffee and devote that period to amusing themselves with Adelaide. Everyone consented to the proposal; Adelaide, Louison, and Fanchon, the most wicked of the four elders and the most dreaded by the women, moved into the salon; certain considerations obliged us to draw a curtain over what transpired there. But of one thing we may be perfectly certain: our four heroes discharged during that set-to, and Adelaide was allowed to take to her bed. 'Tis for the reader to invent the combinations and scene he'd like best, and kindly consent to be conveyed, if 'twould please him to accompany us, directly to the throne room where Duclos is about to resume her narrative. All of the friends have taken their places near their wives, all, that is to say, save the Duc, who was to have Adelaide that afternoon, and who has replaced her with Augustine; everyone then being ready, Duclos begins to speak.
One day, said that talented orator, while I was maintaining before one of my fellow procuresses that I had surely seen all it were possible to see of the most furious by way of passive flagellation, in that I had flogged and witnessed others flog men with thorns and the bull's pizzle:
"Oh, by God," my colleague answered, "you still have a great deal to see, my dear, and to persuade you that you've by no means observed the worst, I'll send one of my clients around tomorrow."
And having given me notice of the hour of the visit, and advised me of the ritual expected by that elderly post-office commissioner whose name, I remember, was Monsieur de Grancourt, I made full preparations and awaited for our man; I was to give him my personal attention, the thing was so arranged. He arrives at the house, and after we have retired to a room together:
"Monsieur," I say, "I deeply regret having to make the following disclosure, but I am bound to inform you that you are a prisoner and cannot leave this place. I further regret to say that Parliament has delegated me to arrest and punish you, and the Legislature has so willed it, and I have its order in my pocket. The person who sent you to me set a trap for you, for she knew full well the implications of your coming here, and she could most assuredly have enabled you to avoid this scene. As for the rest, you know the facts in the case: 'tis not with impunity one perpetrates the black and dreadful crimes you have committed, and I consider you exceedingly fortunate to get off with so little."
Our man had listened with the keenest attention to my harangue, and immediately I had done, he burst into tears and fell down on his knees before me, imploring me to deal leniently with him.
"Well I know," said he, "that I have greatly misbehaved. I know I have affronted God and justice; but since 'tis you, my sweet lady, who are appointed to chasten me, I most earnestly entreat your indulgence in my regard."
"Monsieur," I replied, "I shall do my duty. How can you be sure I am not myself being closely watched? What makes you suppose I have it in my power to respond to your pleas for merciful compassion? Remove your clothes and adopt a docile attitude, that is all I can say to you."
Grancourt obeyed; in a trice he was as naked as the palm of your hand. But, great God! what was this body he offered to my sight! I can only compare its skin to a ruffled taffeta. Upon that whole body, marked everywhere, there was not a single spot which did not bear terrible evidence of the lash.
However, into the fire I had thrust an iron scourge garnished with pointed steel tips; I had received the weapon that morning together with the final instructions. This murderous instrument had reached a bright-red color about the same moment Grancourt had removed his last stitch. I snatched the scourge from the coals and, starting to beat him with it, gently at first, then with increasing severity, then with all my strength, and that heedless of where my blows fell, rending him from the nape of his neck to his heels, I had my man streaming blood in an instant.
"You are a villain," I told him as I brought the scourge whistling down upon his body, "you're a villain and you've committed all sorts of crimes. Nothing is sacred to you, and I've lately heard that you've poisoned your own mother."
"'Tis true, Madame, oh, 'tis only too true. I'm a monster, I'm a criminal," said he as he frigged himself. "There's no infamy I've not perpetrated and am not prepared to do again. Come now, your blows are utterly in vain, I'll never mend my ways, I find too much delight in crime. You'd have to kill me to put a stop to my joy; crime is my element, 'tis my life, I've lived in crime, I'll die in it."
And you may well imagine how, these remarks of his inspiring my arm and tongue, I redoubled my blows and invectives. The word "fuck" escaped his lips, however: that was the signal: I lay on with all my might and endeavor to strike his most sensitive parts. He skips, hops, jumps, and capers, he eludes me and, discharging, he scampers into a tub of warm water specially prepared to purify him after this bloody ceremonial. Ah, upon my soul, yes! I ceded to my friend the honor of having seen more of this sort of thing than I, and I believe we two were able to say at the time that we had seen more than all the rest of Paris, for our Grancourt's needs never varied, and for above twenty years he had been going every day to that woman's establishment for the same treatment.
Shortly afterward, that same woman arranged to have me meet another libertine whose idiosyncrasy, I fancy, will seem at least unusual to you. The scene transpired in his little house at Roule. I am introduced into a rather obscurely lit room, where I find a man lying in bed, and, posed in the center of the room, a coffin.
"You see before you," our libertine said to me, "a man reclining upon his deathbed, one who would not close his eyes without rendering a last homage to the object he worships. I adore asses, and if I am to perish, I want to die while kissing one. When life shall have fled this frame, you yourself shall lift me into that coffin, draw round the shrouds, and nail down the lid. It is my design thus to die in pleasure's embrace, and at this last moment to be served by the very object of my lubricious heats. Come . . . come," he continued in a broken, weak, gasping voice, "make haste, for I am nigh to the threshold."
I draw near to him, turn around, I exhibit my buttocks.
"Ah, wondrous ass!" he cries. "'Tis well, I am easy thus to be able to take with me to the grave the idea of a behind as pretty as that one!"
And he fondled it, opened it, nuzzled and kissed it just the way the healthiest man in the world might have done.
"Oh, indeed!" said he a moment later as he left off his task and rolled toward the wall, "well I knew 'twould not be for long I'd savor this pleasure; I do now expire, remember what I have enjoined you to do."
And so saying, he uttered a profound sigh, grew rigid, and played his part with such skill that damn me if I didn't think he was dead. I kept my wits about me; eager to see the end of this droll ceremony, I wrapped him in the shroud. He had ceased to stir, and whether it was that he knew some secret for feigning death, or whether my imagination had been affected, he felt as rigid and cold as a bar of iron; only his prick gave some hints of life: it too was rigid, but not cold, and glued to his belly, and drops of fuck seemed to come oozing from it despite his moribund condition. Directly I have him swathed in the sheet, I take him up in my arms, and it wasn't easy, for the way he'd become rigid made him as heavy as a steer. I succeeded nevertheless in transporting him to the coffin. As soon as I have laid him out, I start reciting the prayer for the dead, and finally I nail the coffin shut; that was the critical instant for him: no sooner have I driven the last nail home than he sets to screeching like a madman:
"Holy name of God, I'm coming! Get out, whore, get out, for if I catch you, you're done for!"
I'm seized by fear, I dart to the stairs, upon which I meet a tactful manservant who is thoroughly acquainted with his master's manias and who gives me two louis; I proceed to the door, while the valet hastens into the patient's bedchamber to free him from the sealed coffin.
"Now there's a quaint taste," said Durcet. "Well, Curval, what do you think of that one?"
"Marvelous," the Président replied; "there you have an individual who wishes to make himself familiar with the idea of death, and hence unafraid of it, and who to that end has found no better means than to associate it with a libertine idea. There is absolutely no doubt about it: that man will die fondling an ass."
"Nor any doubt," said Champville, "that he is proudly impious; I know him, and I shall have occasion to describe the use he makes of religion's holiest mysteries."
"I don't wonder he is an unbeliever," said the Duc. "He's clearly a man who laughs at the whole business and who wishes to accustom himself to acting and thinking the same way during his last minutes."
"For my part," the Bishop said, "I find something very piquant in that passion, and I'll not hide the fact I'm stiff from hearing about it. Continue, Duclos, go on, for I have the feeling I might do something silly, and I'd prefer to leave well enough alone for the rest of the day."
Very well, said that splendid raconteur, here's one less complex; 'tis the story of a man who for five years regularly applied at my door for the single pleasure of getting me to sew up his asshole. He used to stretch out belly down upon a bed, I would seat myself between his legs and, equipped with a stout needle and half a spool of heavy cobbler's thread, I'd sew his anus completely closed, and this fellow's skin in that area was so toughened and so used to needle thrusts that my operation would not draw a single drop of blood from his hide. While I worked, he would frig himself, and he used to discharge like a mule when I'd taken the last stitch. His ecstasy dissipated, I'd promptly undo my work, and that would be that.
Another used to have brandy rubbed over every part of his body where Nature had placed hair, then I'd put a match to those areas I'd rubbed with alcohol, and all the hair would go up in flames. He would discharge upon finding himself afire, meanwhile I'd shown him my belly, my cunt, and so forth, for that fellow had the bad taste never to want to see anything but fronts.
"But, tell me, Messieurs, did any of you know Mirecourt, today président in the upper chamber, and in those days attorney to the Crown?"
"I knew him," said Curval.
"Well, my Lord, do you know what used to be, and what I dare say still is, his passion?"
"No; and he passes, or wishes to pass, for a devout and good subject, I'd be most pleased to know."
"My Lord," Duclos said, "he likes also to be taken for an ass. . . ."
"Ah! by God! said the Duc; and turning to Curval: "what do you think of that, my friend? Damned strange taste, don't you think, for a judge? I'll wager that once he's an ass he thinks he's going to pronounce judgment. Well, what next?" he asked of Duclos.
"Next, your Grace, one must lead him by the halter, walk him about the room for an hour, he brays, one mounts astride him, and when one's in the saddle, one whips his entire body with a switch, as if to quicken his gait. He breaks into a trot, and as he's started by now to frig himself, he soon discharges and, while he does so, makes loud noises, bucks, rears, and throws the rider."
"That, I'd say, is more diverting than lubricious. And pray tell me, Duclos," the Duc went on, "did that man ever tell you he had some comrade who shared his taste?"
"Why, indeed, he did tell me so," said the amiable Duclos, entering into the joke with a merry laugh and descending from her platform, for her day's stint was over; "Yes, Sire, he told me he had a quantity of comrades, but that not all of them would allow themselves to be mounted."
The séance had come to an end, Messieurs were disposed to perform a few stunts before supper; the Duc hugged Augustine in close embrace.
"You know," he said dreamily, frigging her clitoris and directing her to grasp his prick, "you know, I'm not at all surprised that Curval is sometimes tempted to violate the pact and pop a pucelage or two, for I feel at this very moment, for example, that I could willingly send Augustine's to the devil."
"Which one?" Curval inquired.
"Both of them, bless my soul," answered the Duc; "but one must behave oneself during this sojourn; in having thus to wait a little while for our pleasures, we make them far more delicious. Well, little girl," he continued, "show me your buttocks, perhaps 'twill change the character of my ideas. . . . Bleeding Christ! look at that little whore's ass! Curval, what do you advise me to do with this thing?"
"Put some vinegar sauce on it," said Curval.
"Mercy!" exclaimed the Duc, "what a notion. But patience, patience . . . everything will come in good time."
"My very dear brother," said the Bishop in a halting voice, "there's something in your words that smells of fuck."
"Really? For indeed I have the greatest desire to lose some."
"And what prevents you?" the Bishop wanted to know.
"Oh, many things, many things," the Duc replied. "First of all, I see no shit in the pipe, and I'd like shit, and then . . . I don't know - there are so many things I'd like. . . ."
"What?" asked Durcet just before Antinoüs' turd cascaded into his mouth.
"What?" echoed the Duc. "There's, to begin with, a little infamy I simply must perform."
And retiring to the distant boudoir with Augustine, Zélamir, Cupidon, Duclos, Desgranges, and Hercule, he was heard, a minute later, to utter ringing cries and oaths which proved the Duc had finally managed to calm his brain and soothe his balls. Little precise information exists upon what he did to Augustine, but, notwithstanding his love for her, she was seen to return in tears and, ominous sign! one of her fingers had been twisted. We deeply regret not yet to be able to explain all this to the reader, but it is quite certain that these gentlemen, on the sly and before the arrival of the day heralding open season, were giving themselves over to tricks which have not so far been embodied in story, hence to unsanctioned deeds, and in so doing they were acting in formal violation of the regulations they had sworn in honor to observe; but, you know, when an entire society commits the same faults, they are commonly pardoned. The Duc came back and was pleased to see that Durcet and the Bishop had not been wasting their time, and that Curval, in Bum-Cleaver's arms, was deliciously doing everything one may possibly do with all the voluptuous objects one may possibly assemble around oneself.
Supper was served, orgies followed as usual, the household retired to bed. Lame and aching as Adelaide was, the Duc, who was scheduled to have her by him that night, wanted her there, and as he had come from the orgies rather drunk, as was his wont, it is said that he did not deal tenderly with her. But by and large the night was passed just like all the preceding nights, that is to say, in the depths of delirium and debauchery, and fair-haired Aurora having come, as the poets say, to fling open the gates of the palace where dwelt Apollo, that god, somewhat a libertine himself, only mounted his azure chariot in order to bring light to shed upon new lecheries.