The Magic Skin HTML version
2. A Woman Without A Heart
After a moment's silence, Raphael said with a careless gesture:
"Perhaps it is an effect of the fumes of punch--I really cannot tell--this clearness of mind
that enables me to comprise my whole life in a single picture, where figures and hues,
lights, shades, and half-tones are faithfully rendered. I should not have been so surprised
at this poetical play of imagination if it were not accompanied with a sort of scorn for my
past joys and sorrows. Seen from afar, my life appears to contract by some mental
process. That long, slow agony of ten years' duration can be brought to memory to-day in
some few phrases, in which pain is resolved into a mere idea, and pleasure becomes a
philosophical reflection. Instead of feeling things, I weigh and consider them----"
"You are as tiresome as the explanation of an amendment," cried Emile.
"Very likely," said Raphael submissively. "I spare you the first seventeen years of my life
for fear of abusing a listener's patience. Till that time, like you and thousands of others, I
had lived my life at school or the lycee, with its imaginary troubles and genuine
happinesses, which are so pleasant to look back upon. Our jaded palates still crave for
that Lenten fare, so long as we have not tried it afresh. It was a pleasant life, with the
tasks that we thought so contemptible, but which taught us application for all that. . . ."
"Let the drama begin," said Emile, half-plaintively, half-comically.
"When I left school," Raphael went on, with a gesture that claimed the right of speaking,
"my father submitted me to a strict discipline; he installed me in a room near his own
study, and I had to rise at five in the morning and be in bed by nine at night. He meant me
to take my law studies seriously. I attended the Schools, and read with an advocate as
well, but my lectures and work were so narrowly circumscribed by the laws of time and
space, and my father required such a strict account of my doings, at dinner, that . . ."
"What is this to me?" asked Emile.
"The devil take you!" said Raphael. "How are you to enter into my feelings if I do not
relate the facts that insensibly shaped my character, made me timid, and prolonged the
period of youthful simplicity? In this manner I cowered under as strict a despotism as a
monarch's till I came of age. To depict the tedium of my life, it will be perhaps enough to
portray my father to you. He was tall, thin, and slight, with a hatchet face, and pale
complexion; a man of few words, fidgety as an old maid, exacting as a senior clerk. His
paternal solicitude hovered over my merriment and gleeful thoughts, and seemed to cover
them with a leaden pall. Any effusive demonstration on my part was received by him as a
childish absurdity. I was far more afraid of him than I had been of any of our masters at