"That guy," he begins, meaning Carl, "that guy's an artist. He described every detail minutely. He told it to me with such accuracy that I know it's all a goddamned lie...but I can't dismiss it from my mind. You know how my mind works!"
He interrupts himself to inquire if Carl has told me the whole story. There isn't the least suspicion in his mind that Carl may have told me one thing and him another. He seems to think that the story was invented expressly to torture him. He doesn't seem to mind so much that it's a fabrication. It's the "images" as he says, which Carl left in his mind, that get him. The images are real, even if the whole story is false. And besides, the fact that there actually is a rich cunt on the scene and that Carl actually paid her a visit, that's undeniable. What actually happened is secondary; he takes it for granted that Carl put the boots to her. But what drives him desperate is the thought that what Carl has described to him might have been possible.
"It's just like that guy," he says, "to tell me he put it to her six or seven times. I know that's a lot of shit and I don't mind that so much, but when he tells me that she hired a carriage and drove him out to the Bois and that they used the husband's fur coat for a blanket, that's too much. I suppose he told you about the chauffeur waiting respectfully...and listen, did he tell you how the engine purred all the time? Jesus, he built that up wonderfully. It's just like him to think of a detail like that...it's one of those little details which makes a thing psychologically real...you can't get it out of your head afterward. And he tells it to me so smoothly, so naturally....I wonder, did he think it up in advance or did it just pop out of his head like that, spontaneously? He's such a cute little liar you can't walk away from him...it's like he's writing you a letter, one of those flowerpots that he makes overnight. I don't understand how a guy can write such letters...I don't get the mentality behind it...it's a form of masturbation...what do you think?"
But before I have an opportunity to venture an opinion, or even to laugh in his face, Van Norden goes on with his monologue.
"Listen, I suppose he told you everything...did he tell you how he stood on the balcony in the moonlight and kissed her? That sounds banal when you repeat it, but the way that guy describes it...I can just see the little prick standing there with the woman in his arms and already he's writing another letter to her, another flowerpot about the roof tops and all that crap he steals from his French authors. That guy never says a thing that's original, I found that out. You have to get a clue like...find out whom he's been reading lately...and it's hard to do that because he's so damned secretive. Listen, if I didn't know that you went there with him, I wouldn't believe that the woman existed. A guy like that could write letters to himself. And yet he's lucky...he's so damned tiny, so frail, so romantic looking, that women fall for him now and then...they sort of adopt him...they feel sorry for him, I guess. And some cunts like to receive flowerpots...it makes them feel important...But this woman's an intelligent woman, so he says. You ought to know...you've seen her letters. What do you suppose a woman like that saw in him? I can understand her falling for the letters...but how do you suppose she felt when she saw him?