I left that place still believing in pleasure, but where love was concerned, I had become as atheistic as a mathematician. Two months later, I was sitting alongside that exquisite woman, in her boudoir, on her divan. I held one of her hands clasped in my own, and such lovely hands they were; we were scaling the Alps of emotion, picking the prettiest flowers, pulling the petals from daisies (one always ends up pulling the petals from daisies, even in a drawing room, without a daisy in sight). At the peak of tenderness, when one is most in love, love is so aware of its fleetingness that each lover feels an imperious need to ask, ‘Do you love me? Will you love me forever?’ I seized that elegiac moment, so warm, so florid, so radiant, to make her tell her most wonderful lies, in that glittering language of exquisite poetry and purple prose peculiar to love.

—From The Human Comedy by Honoré de Balzac, translated by Jordan Stump. Read more fiction.


Photo: 63794459@N07, Flickr

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