How to create a criminal

Spreading Joy by Stealth (v.2)...




How to create a Criminal (to inflict upon Society-at-large).

From one of THE Bibles of Décadence: Joris-Karl Huysmans' A Rebours
(1884):


(La version française de ce texte paraît au-dessous de la version anglaise)

"It was some years ago now since one evening in the Rue de Rivoli,
he had come across a young scamp of sixteen or so, a pale-faced,
quick-eyed child, as seductive as a girl. He was sucking
laboriously at a cigarette, the paper of which was bursting where
the sharp ends of the coarse caporal had come through. Cursing
the stuff, the lad was rubbing kitchen matches down his thigh; they
would not light, and soon he came to the end of the box. Catching
sight of Des Esseintes who was watching him, he came up,
touching his peaked cap, and asked politely for a light. Des
Esseintes offered some of his own scented Dubeques, after which
he entered into conversation with the lad and urged him to tell the
story of his life.

Nothing could well be more ordinary; his name was Auguste
Langlois, and he worked at making pasteboard boxes; he had lost
his mother and had a father who beat him unmercifully.

Des Esseintes' thoughts were busy as he listened. "Come and have
a drink," he said,--and took him to a café where he regaled him
with goes of heady punch. The child drank his liquor without a
word. "Look here," broke in Des Esseintes suddenly, "would you
like some fun this evening? I'll pay the piper." And he had
thereupon carried off the youngster to Madame Laure's, a lady who
kept an assortment of pretty girls on the third floor of a house in
the Rue Mosnier; there was a series of rooms with red walls
diversified by circular mirrors, the rest of the furniture consisting
mainly of couches and wash-basins.

There, petrified with surprise, Auguste as he fingered his cloth cap,
had stared with round eyes at a battalion of women whose painted
lips exclaimed all together:

"Oh! the little lad! Why, he is sweet!"

"But, tell us, my angel, you're not old enough yet, surely?" a
brunette had interjected, a girl with prominent eyes... who filled at Mme.
Laure's establishment the indispensable rôle of the handsome....
Quite at his ease, and very much at home, Des Esseintes was
talking familiarly in a low voice with the mistress of the house.

"Don't be afraid, stupid," he turned to the child to say; "come now,
make your choice, it's my treat,"--and he pushed the lad gently
towards a divan, onto which he fell between two women. They
drew a little closer together, on a sign from Madame Laure,
enveloping Auguste's knees in their peignoirs and bringing under
his nose their powdered shoulders that emitted a warm, heady
perfume. The child never stirred, but sat there with burning cheeks,
a dry mouth and downcast eyes, darting from under their lids
downward glances of curiosity, that refused obstinately to leave the
upper part of the girls' thighs.

Vanda..., kissed him, giving him good advice,
telling him to do what father and mother told him, while her hands
were straying all the time over the lad's person; a change came
over his face and he threw himself back in a kind of transport on
her bosom.

"So it's not on your own account you've come tonight," observed
Madame Laure to Des Esseintes. "But where the devil did you get
hold of that baby?" she added, when Auguste had disappeared with
the handsome Jewess.

"In the street, my dear lady."

"Yet you're not drunk," muttered the old woman. Then, after
thinking a bit, she proceeded, with a motherly smile: "Ah, I
understand; you rascal, you like 'em young, do you?"

Des Esseintes shrugged his shoulders.--"You're wide of the mark!
oh! miles away from it," he laughed; "the plain truth is I am simply
trying to train a murderer. Now just follow my argument. This boy
is virgin and has reached the age when the blood begins to boil; he
might, of course, run after the little girls of his neighbourhood, and
still remain an honest lad while enjoying his bit of amusement; in
fact, have his little share of the monotonous happiness open to the
poor. On the contrary, by bringing him here and plunging him in a
luxury he had never even suspected the existence of and which will
make a lasting impression on his memory; by offering him every
fortnight a treat like this, I shall make him acquire the habit of
these pleasures which his means forbid his enjoying; let us grant it
will take three months for them to become absolutely
indispensable to him--and by spacing them out as I do, I avoid all
risk of satiating him--well, at the end of the three months, I stop
the little allowance I am going to pay you in advance for the
benevolence you show him. Then he will take to thieving to pay
for his visits here; he will stop at nothing that he may take his usual
diversions on this divan in this fine gas-lit apartment.

"If the worst comes to the worst, he will, I hope, one fine day kill
the gentleman who turns up just at the wrong moment as he is
breaking open his desk; then my object will be attained, I shall
have contributed, so far as in me lay, to create a scoundrel, an
enemy the more for the odious society that wrings so heavy a
ransom from us all."

The woman gazed at the speaker with eyes of amazement. "Ah! so
there you are!' he exclaimed, as he saw Auguste creeping back into
the room, red and shy, skulking behind the fair Vanda. "Come,
youngster, it is getting late, make your bow to the ladies." Then he
explained to him on their way downstairs that, once every
fortnight, he might pay a visit to Madame Laure's without putting
hand in pocket. Finally, on reaching the street, as they stood
together on the pavement, he looked the abashed child in the face
and said:

"We shall not meet again after this; do you go back hot foot to
your father, whose hand is itching for work to do, and never forget
this half divine command: 'Do unto others as you would NOT have
them do unto you.' With that to guide you you will go far!"

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Version Française:

Il y avait de cela quelques années, il s' était
croisé, rue de Rivoli, un soir, avec un galopin
d' environ seize ans, un enfant pâlot et fûté, tentant
de même qu' une fille. Il suçait péniblement
une cigarette dont le papier crevait, percé par les
bûches pointues du caporal. Tout en pestant, il
frottait sur sa cuisse des allumettes de cuisine qui
ne partaient point ; il les usa toutes. Apercevant
alors Des Esseintes qui l' observait, il s' approcha,
la main sur la visière de sa casquette et lui
demanda poliment du feu. Des Esseintes lui offrit
d' aromatiques cigarettes de dubèque, puis il entama
la conversation et incita l' enfant à lui conter son
histoire.

Elle était des plus simples, il s' appelait Auguste
Langlois, travaillait chez un cartonnier, avait
perdu sa mère et possédait un père qui le battait
comme plâtre.

Des Esseintes l' écoutait pensif : -viens boire,
dit-il. Et il l' emmena dans un café où il lui fit
servir de violents punchs. -l' enfant buvait, sans
dire mot. -voyons, fit tout à coup Des Esseintes,
veux-tu t' amuser, ce soir ? C' est moi qui paye. Et
il avait emmené le petit chez Madame Laure, une
dame qui tenait, rue Mosnier, au troisième, un
assortiment de fleuristes, dans une série de pièces
rouges, ornées de glaces rondes, meublées de canapés
et de cuvettes.

Là, très ébahi, Auguste avait regardé, en pétrissant
le drap de sa casquette, un bataillon de
femmes dont les bouches peintes s' ouvrirent toutes
ensemble :

-ah le môme ! Tiens, il est gentil !

-mais, dis donc, mon petit, tu n' as pas l' âge,
avait ajouté une grande brune, aux yeux à fleur
de tête, au nez busqué, qui remplissait chez
Madame Laure l' indispensable rôle de la belle juive.
Installé, presque chez lui, Des Esseintes causait
avec la patronne, à voix basse.

-n' aie donc pas peur, bêta, reprit-il, s' adressant
à l' enfant. Allons, fais ton choix, je régale. Et
il poussa doucement le gamin qui tomba sur un
divan, entre deux femmes. Elles se serrèrent un
peu, sur un signe de madame, enveloppant les
genoux d' Auguste, avec leurs peignoirs lui
mettant sous le nez leurs épaules poudrées d' un
givre entêtant et tiède, et il ne bougeait plus, le
sang aux joues, la bouche rêche, les yeux baissés,
hasardant, en dessous, des regards curieux qui
s' attachaient obstinément au haut des jambes.

Vanda, la belle juive, l' embrassa, lui donnant
de bons conseils, lui recommandant d' obéir
à ses père et mère, et ses mains erraient, en même
temps, avec lenteur, sur l' enfant dont la figure
changée se pâmait sur son cou, à la renverse.

Alors ce n' est pas pour ton compte que tu
viens, ce soir, dit à Des Esseintes Madame Laure.
Mais où diable as-tu levé ce bambin ? Reprit-elle,
quand Auguste eut disparu, emmené par la belle
juive.

-dans la rue, ma chère.

-tu n' es pourtant pas gris, murmura la vieille
dame. Puis, après réflexion, elle ajouta, avec un
sourire maternel : -je comprends ; mâtin, dis-donc,
il te les faut jeunes, à toi !

Des Esseintes haussa les épaules. -tu n' y es pas ;
oh ! Mais pas du tout, fit-il ; la vérité c' est que
je tâche simplement de préparer un assassin. Suis
bien, en effet, mon raisonnement. Ce garçon est
vierge et a atteint l' âge où le sang bouillonne ; il
pourrait courir après les fillettes de son quartier,
demeurer honnête, tout en s' amusant, avoir, en
somme, sa petite part du monotone bonheur réservé
aux pauvres. Au contraire, en l' amenant
ici, au milieu d' un luxe qu' il ne soupçonnait même
pas et qui se gravera forcément dans sa mémoire ;
en lui offrant, tous les quinze jours, une telle
aubaine, il prendra l' habitude de ces jouissances que
ses moyens lui interdisent ; admettons qu' il faille
trois mois pour qu' elles lui soient devenues
absolument nécessaires-et, en les espaçant comme
je le fais, je ne risque pas de le rassasier ; -eh
bien, au bout de ces trois mois, je supprime la
petite rente que je vais te verser d' avance pour cette
bonne action, et alors il volera, afin de séjourner
ici ; il fera les cent dix-neuf coups, pour se
rouler sur ce divan et sous ce gaz !

En poussant les choses à l' extrême, il tuera, je
l' espère, le monsieur qui apparaîtra mal à propos
tandis qu' il tentera de forcer son secrétaire ; -
alors, mon but sera atteint, j' aurai contribué,
dans la mesure de mes ressources, à créer un
gredin, un ennemi de plus pour cette hideuse
société qui nous rançonne.

Les femmes ouvrirent de grands yeux.
-te voilà ? Reprit-il, voyant Auguste qui rentrait
dans le salon et se dérobait, rouge et penaud,
derrière la belle juive. -allons, gamin, il se
fait tard, salue ces dames. Et il lui expliqua dans
l' escalier qu' il pourrait, chaque quinzaine, se
rendre, sans bourse délier, chez Madame Laure ;
puis, une fois dans la rue, sur le trottoir,
regardant l' enfant abasourdi :

-nous ne vous verrons plus, fit-il ; retourne au
plus vite chez ton père dont la main est inactive
et le démange, et rappelle-toi cette parole
quasi-évangélique : fais aux autres ce que tu ne veux
pas qu' ils te fassent ; avec cette maxime tu iras
loin!"