The poet replied: “I always am, my child; you will be too in a few years. While one is climbing the ladder, one sees the top and feels hopeful; but when one has reached that summit, one sees the descent and the end which is death. It is slow work ascending, but one descends rapidly. At your age one is joyous; one hopes for many things which never come to pass. At mine, one expects nothing but death.”
Duroy laughed: “Egad, you make me shudder.”
Norbert de Varenne continued: “You do not understand me now, but later on you will remember what I have told you. We breathe, sleep, drink, eat, work, and then die! The end of life is death. What do you long for? Love? A few kisses and you will be powerless. Money? What for? To gratify your desires. Glory? What comes after it all? Death! Death alone is certain.”
He stopped, took Duroy by his coat collar and said slowly: “Ponder upon all that, young man; think it over for days, months, and years, and you will see life from a different standpoint. I am a lonely, old man. I have neither father, mother, brother, sister, wife, children nor God. I have only poetry. Marry, my friend; you do not know what it is to live alone at my age. It is so lonesome. I seem to have no one upon earth. When one is old it is a comfort to have children.”
When they reached Rue de Bourgogne, the poet halted before a high house, rang the bell, pressed Duroy’s hand and said: “Forget what I have said to you, young man, and live according to your age. Adieu!” With those words he disappeared in the dark corridor.