Suppose, for example, that it, too, is offended (and it is almost always offended), and it, too, wishes to take revenge. For it may have stored up even more spite than l’homme de la nature et de la verite. The nasty, base little desire to pay the offender back with the same even may scratch still more nastily in it than in l’homme de la nature et de la verite, because l’homme de la nature et de la verite, with his innate stupidity, regards his revenge quite simply as justice;whereas the mouse, as a result of its heightened consciousness, denies it any justice. Things finally come down to the business itself, to the act of revenge itself. The wretched mouse, in addition to the one original nastiness, has already managed to fence itself about with so many other nastinesses in the form of questions and doubts; it has padded out the one question with so many unresolved questions that, willy-nilly, some fatal slops have accumulated around it, some stinking filth consisting of its dubieties, anxieties, and, finally, of the spit raining on it from the ingenious figures who stand solemnly around it like judges and dictators, guffawing at it from all their healthy gullets. Of course, nothing remains for it but to wave the whole thing aside with its little paw, and, with a smile of feigned contempt, in which it does not believe itself, slip back shamefacedly into its crack. There, in its loathsome, stinking underground, our offended, beaten-down, and derided mouse at once immerses itself in cold venomous, and above all, everlasting spite. For forty years on end it will recall its offense to the last, most shameful details, each time adding even more shameful details of its own, spitefully taunting and chafing itself with its fantasies. It will be ashamed of its fantasies, but all the same it will recall everything, go over everything, heap all sorts of figments on itself, under the pretext that they, too, could have happened, and forgive nothing. It may even begin to take revenge, but somehow in snatches, with piddling things, from behind the stove, incognito, believing neither in its right to revenge itself nor in the success of its vengeance, and knowing beforehand that it will suffer a hundred times more from all its attempts at revenge than will the object of its vengeance, who will perhaps not even scratch at the bite. On its deathbed it will recall everything, adding the interest accumulated over all that time, and… But it is precisely this cold, loathsome half-despair, half-belief, in this conscious burying oneself alive from grief for forty years in the underground, in this assiduously produced and yet somewhat dubious hopelessness of one’s position, in all this poison of unsatisfied desires penetrating inward, in all this fever of hesitations, of decisions taken forever, and repentances coming again a moment later, that the very sap of that strange pleasure I was talking about consists. It is so subtle, sometimes so elusive of consciousness, that people who are even the slightest bit narrow-minded, or who simply have strong nerves, will not understand a single trace of it.
what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”