The garden has wrapped itself in autumn haze. An unusual autumn, lacking that thrill of vegetal warmth when the sap is still alive and holds up the trees, drunk on solar gold. It is the sorrowful climax of a summer's drought. Never before was I so struck by the cancerous emaciation in a garden. The leaves started turning yellow in July and began falling, like a dance of prematurely withered bodies.
There is a certain period of the soul-culture when it begins to interfere with some of characters of typical beauty belonging to the bodily frame, the stirring of the intellect wearing down the flesh, and the moral enthusiasm burning its way out to heaven, through the emaciation of the earthen vessel; and there is, in this indication of subduing the mortal by the immortal part, an ideal glory of perhaps a purer and higher range than that of the more perfect material form. We conceive, I think, more nobly of the weak presence of Paul than of, the fair and ruddy countenance of David.
Then Chameroy spoke. 'You always put the blame on opium, but as I see it the case of Freneuse is much more complicated. Him, an invalid? No - a character from the tales of Hoffmann! Have you never taken the trouble to look at him carefully? That pallor of decay; the twitching of his bony hands, more Japanese than chrysanthemums; the arabesque profile; that vampiric emaciation - has all of that never given you cause to reflect? In spite of his supple body and his callow face Freneuse is a hundred thousand years old. That man has lived before, in ancient times under the reigns of Heliogabalus, Alexander IV and the last of the Valois. What am I saying? That man is Henri III himself. I have in my library an edition of Ronsard - a rare edition, bound in pigskin with metal trimmings - which contains a portrait of Henri engraved on vellum. One of these nights I will bring the volume here to show you, and you may judge for yourselves. Apart from the ruff, the doublet and the earrings, you would believe that you were looking at the Due de Freneuse. As far as I'm concerned, his presence here inevitably makes me ill - and so long as he is present, there is such an oppression, such a heaviness...