My friend Théodore, leaning on the table with a truly bacchic unconcern, was smoking a short black pipe, nobly blackened, a veritable cutty-pipe, calculated to wake envy in a corporal of the Old Guard.
Now and then he put down his pipe, and gravely lifted his glass over his shoulder, or to the side of his mouth, or poured out from an empty bottle, or let his full glass fall. In short, our friend Théodore was completely drunk.
Unless he had thrown their contents out of the window, which was unlikely, he must be mathematically and logically dead-drunk. There would have been enough to make a drum-major and two bell-ringers tipsy, and our friend Théodore was alone.
He was alonethat is to say, he seemed to be so; for a deep sigh coming from under the table suddenly revealed a capsized comrade, and made it easier to explain the formidable array of empty and broken bottles that loaded the table.
If you like, Ill give you your glass, replied Théodore, feeling sure that he was too far gone to help his comrade up. How can a man soak himself like that! Fie, the drunkard! he added, by way of reflection.
Unnatural being, rejoined the voice from below, you wont help me up? Then fix lamps to peoples heads, so that carriages may not run over them when they fall off the curb because they forgot to water their wine that day. Ill not be friends with you any more. Ungrateful wretch!
Théodore, moved and softened by that touching remembrance, determined to attempt the dangerous operation of placing his friend on his chair. But the pious enterprise was not crowned with success. He made a plunge between the table and the seat and disappeared.
For a few minutes dull, stifled grunting might be heard; for Théodore had fallen on top of his friend, and he weighed on him more than remorse. However, after immense efforts, they succeeded in getting into a less uncomfortable position, and quiet was restored.
Thats out of Montaigne, and the most sensible thing youve said since youve murdered the language God gave you. Brutus defined virtue as a name. In fact, if it is a name, never have six letters met together to form a more insignificant word. Virtue is essentially negative. What is virtue if not to say no to everything that is pleasant in life, an absurd struggle with natural inclinations and passions, the triumph of hypocrisy and falsehood over truth. When states were founded on fictions, fictitious virtues were necessary, otherwise they could not have existed. But in a positive age, under a constitutional monarchy, surrounded by republican institutions, it is indecent and ill-bred to be virtuous. Only convicts are virtuous. As for virtuous women, the race is extinct. They are all in the Père-Lachaise or some other cemetery. The epitaphs bear witness to the fact.
Of course; so are all intelligent men. So ought you to be, for its very evident that there exists some hundred odd pounds of flesh called Théodore; and the existence of his mind is, to say the least of it, problematical, judging from the idiotic conversation we are indulging in.
So be it, then, rejoined the other. Its more bacchic and more shameless; theres more character about it. But you commenced by lamenting the virtue of your sweetheart, and it seems that the conversation has wandered dreadfully.
My dear fellow, you have no idea what torture I endure, having never experienced anything of the sort yourself. Its the most unfortunate thing imaginable to love any one who has no vice. The vices of our friends and sweethearts attach us to them, because they afford us the means of flattering them, and making ourselves agreeable to them. You make yourself the slave and purveyor of one of their vices, become necessary to them, and thus the most lasting friendships are formed.