Also, for you non-Francophone readers (like me), here's a translation of what Synth posted:
For Édouard Manet
"Illusions," my friend said to me, "Are perhaps as numberless as the relations between men, or between men and things. And when the illusion disappears, that is to say, when we see the being or the fact as it exists outside of ourselves, we experience a bizarre feeling, complicated half by regret for the disappeared phantom, half by agreeable surprise in the face of novelty, in the fact of the real thing. If there is one obvious, trivial phenomenon, a phenomenon the remains always the same and about whose nature it is impossible to be mistaken, it is mother love. It is as difficult to imagine a mother without maternal love as a light without heat. Then isn't it perfectly legitimate to attribute all of the words and actions of a mother to mother love, at least as regards her child? And yet, listen to this little story, about a time when I was singularly mystified by the most natural of illusions.
"As a painter, I am driven to pay close attention to the faces, the physiognomies, that offer themselves to me on the street, and you know what enjoyment we draw from that ability, which in our eyes renders life more alive and more meaningful than it is for other men. In the remote quarter where I live and where vast grassy yards still separate buildings, I often saw a child whose ardent and mischievous physiognomy, more so than all the others, seduced me from the very first. He posed more than once for me, and I transformed him sometimes into a little gypsy, sometimes into an angel, sometimes into a mythological Cupid. I had him hold the vagrant's violin, the Crown of Thorns, the Nails of the Passion, and the Torch of Eros. Indeed, I took such a sharp pleasure in all of this urchin's drollery, that one day I begged his parents, who were poor people, to agree to give him to me, promising to dress him well, to give him some money, and to impose no other labor on him than cleaning my brushes and running errands for me. Once cleaned up, the boy proved charming, and the life he led with me seemed to him a paradise, compared to what he would have been subjected to in his father's hovel. However I must say that this little fellow sometimes astonished me with singular outbursts of precocious sadness, and that he sometimes demonstrated an immoderate taste for sugar and for liqueurs, so much so that one day, after I had ascertained that, despite numerous warnings, he had again committed a theft of this sort, I threatened to send him back to his parents. Then I went out, and my business kept me from home for quite a while.
"You can well imagine my horror and astonishment when, returning to my house, the first thing that struck me was my little fellow, the mischievous companion of my life, hanging from the panel of this armoire! He feet were almost touching the floor; a chair, which he had undoubtedly pushed away with his foot, was overturned next to him; his head lean convulsively on one shoulder; his swollen face and his eyes, wide open and staring with a frightening fixity, at first gave me the illusion that he was still alive. Unhanging him was not as easy a task as one might think. He was already very stiff, and I felt an inexpicable repugnance about letting him fall abruptly onto the floor. I had to hold him up with one arm and with my other hand cut the rope. But that done, I was still not finished: the little monster had used a very cord and it had cut deeply into his skin. It was now necessary for me to use small scissors to draw the rope out from between two swollen rolls of skin, in order to extricate his neck.
"I forgot to tell you that I had called loudly for help, but that all of my neighbors refused to come to my aid, faithful in this to the habits of the civilized man, who never wishes to get mixed up in the affairs of a hanged man, I know not why. Finally, a doctor came and declared that the child had been dead for several hours. When we later had to strip him for his burial, the rigidity of the corpse was so great that, giving up any hope of bending his limbs, we had to tear and cut his clothes in order to get them off.
The police officer to whom, naturally, I had to declare the accident, looked at me oddly and said: "There's something fishy about this!", moved undoubtedly by the inveterate desire and the professional habit of, in all events, scaring the innocent as well as the guilty.
"One final task remained, the very thought of which caused me a terrible anguish: I had to tell his parents. My feet refused to carry me to their house. Finally, I found the courage. But, to my great astonishment, the boy's mother remained unmoved, and not a tear leaked from the corner of her eye. I attributed that strangeness to the very horror she must have been feeling, and I recalled that well-known adage: "The most terrible sorrows are silent sorrows." As for the father, he satisfied himself with saying, half brutishly, half dreamily: "After all, maybe it's for the best -- he would eventually have come to a bad end!"
While the body was stretched out on my sofa and I was occupied with the final preparations, aided by a serving woman, the boy's mother came into my studio. She wanted, she said, to see the corpse of her son. I could not, in truth, stop her from getting drunk on her misfortune and refuse her this final, somber consolation. Afterwards, she asked me to show her the place where her son had hung himself. "Oh! No! Madame," I said, "That would not be good for you." As my eyes turned involuntarily toward the deadly armoire, I noticed -- with a disgust mixed with horror and anger -- that the nail was still stuck in the panel, with a long piece of rope still trailing from it. I quickly darted over and tore down these last vestiges of the misfortune, and as I was about to throw them out of the open window, the poor woman seized my arm and said to me in an irresistable voice: "Oh! Monsieur! Let me have that! Please! I beg you" Undoubtedly, it seemed to me, her despair had driven her so mad that she was now struck with a fondness for that which had served as the instrument of her son's death, and wished to keep it as a terrible and beloved relic. -- And she grabbed the nail and the rope.
"Finally! Finally! Everything was done. Nothing was left to me but to get back to work, more briskly than usual, in order to chase away little by little the tiny cadaver that continued to haunt the corners of my mind, and whose phantom was wearing me out with its great, staring eyes. But the next day I received a whole pile of letters, some from the tenants in my building, several others from neighboring buildings; one from the first floor, another from the second, another from the third, and so on; some written in a half-joking tone, as if to disguise under an apparent playfulness the seriousness of the request, others completely shameless and filled with misspellings, but all asking for the same thing: that is to say, seeking to obtain from me a piece of the deadly and blessed rope. Among the signers there were, I must say, more women than men, but not all of them, believe you me, belonging to the lowest and most vulgar class. I have kept these letters.
"And then, suddenly, a light went on in my head, and I understood why the boy's mother had been so concerned with taking that cord away from me and through what sort of commerce she planned to console herself for her loss."