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Title: Woman on Her Own, False Gods and The Red Robe - Three Plays By Brieux
Author: Brieux, Eugène, 1858-1932
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Woman on Her Own, False Gods and The Red Robe - Three Plays By Brieux" ***

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WOMAN ON HER OWN, FALSE
GODS AND THE RED ROBE:

THREE PLAYS BY BRIEUX.

THE ENGLISH VERSIONS BY MRS.
BERNARD SHAW, J. F. FAGAN,
AND A. BERNARD MIALL. WITH
AN INTRODUCTION BY BRIEUX

BRENTANO'S NEW YORK
MCMXVI

_Copyright, 1916, by Brentano's_


THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.



CONTENTS

Preface                                 vii

Woman On Her Own                          1

False Gods                              127

The Red Robe                            219



PREFACE


We are confronted at the present time by the woman who is anxious to lay
by means for her own support irrespective of the protection of her
husband. In this play I have indicated the tendency of this difficulty
and the consequent troubles which the older civilizations will bring
upon themselves when the woman's standing as a worker is generally
acknowledged. My conclusion, namely, that all these complications and
troubles are, at present at any rate, owing to the education of the man,
points to the remedy, as far as I can see it.

I must inform my readers that the version of LA FEMME SEULE, a
translation of which is now published in this volume, has, so far, not
appeared in France and is unknown there; at least as regards the larger
part of the third act. I might, did I think it advisable, reproduce in
its entirety a text which certain timidities have led me to emasculate.

As between the man and the woman the ideal situation would, no doubt, be
a rehabilitation of the old custom--the man at the workshop and the
woman in the home; thus reserving for her the holiest and most important
of all missions--the one which insures the future of the race by her
enlightened care of the moral and physical health of her children.

Unfortunately it happens that the wages of the working-man are
insufficient for the support of a family, and the poor woman is
therefore compelled to go to the factory. The results are deplorable.
The child is either entirely abandoned, or given to the State, and the
solidarity of the family suffers in consequence.

Then again a generation of women with new ideas has arisen, who think
they should have, if they wish it, the right to live alone and by
themselves, without a husband's protection. However much some of us may
regret this attitude, it is one which must be accepted, since I cannot
believe that the worst tyrants would dare to make marriage obligatory.
These women have a right to live, and consequently a right to work. Also
there are the widows and the abandoned women.

Women first took places which seemed best fit for them, and which the
men turned over to them because the work appeared to be of a character
suitable to the feminine sex. But the modern woman has had enough of the
meagre salary which is to be obtained by means of needle-work, and she
has invaded the shop, the office, the desks of the banks and post
office. In industry also she has taken her place by the side of the
working-man, who has made room for her first with ironical grace, then
with grumbling, and sometimes with anger. I believe that in Europe at
least this kind of difficulty will have to be faced in the future.

As to the rich woman (and in LA FEMME SEULE I have treated this subject
only slightly because it is one to which I expect to come back), they
have been driven from the home where the progress of domestic science
has left them very little to do. We have reached a kind of hypocritical
form of State Socialism, or perhaps it would be better to say
Collectivism, and this will profoundly change the moral outlook. All, or
nearly all, of the work of the home seems to be done by people from the
outside--from the cleaning of the windows to the education of the
children. The modern home is but a fireside around which one hardly sees
the family gathered for intimate talk.

It has thus happened that the woman who finds herself without work, and
with several children, looks out of the windows of her home away from it
for the employment of her activities. The future will tell us whether or
no this is good. In my opinion I believe it will be good, and I believe
that man will gain, through this new intelligence, in the direction of
the larger life which has come to women from this necessity of theirs.
Unquestionably there will have to be a new education, and this will
certainly come.

LA FOI.--This play is, without doubt, of all my plays the one which has
cost me the most labor and the one upon which I have expended the most
thought and time. The impulse to write it came to me at Lourdes in view
of the excited, suffering, and praying crowds of people. When the
thought of writing it came to me I hesitated, but during many years I
added notes upon notes. And it was while on a trip to Egypt that I saw
the possibility for discussing such questions in the theatre without
giving offence to various consciences. My true and illustrious friend,
Camille Saint-Saëns, has been kind enough to underline my prose with his
admirable music. In this way LA FOI has been produced on the stage at
Monte Carlo for the first time under the auspices of His Royal Highness
the Prince of Monaco, whom I now beg to thank.

English readers of LA ROBE ROUGE would, I think, be somewhat misled, if
they did not understand the difference between the procedure in criminal
cases in France and in Great Britain. My purpose in this preface is to
attempt to show that difference in a few words.

With you, a criminal trial is conducted publicly and before a jury; with
us in France it is carried on in the Chambers of the Judge with only the
lawyer present. There sometimes result from this latter method dramas of
the kind of which my play LA ROBE ROUGE is one. The judge, too directly
interested and free of the criticism which might fall on him from the
general public, is liable to the danger of forming for himself an
opinion as to the guilt of the accused. He may do this in perfect good
faith, but sometimes runs the risk of falling into grave error. It thus
occasionally happens that he is anxious not so much to know the truth as
to prove that he was right in his own, often rash, opinion.

LA ROBE ROUGE is a criticism of certain judicial proceedings which
obtain in France; but it is also a study of an individual case of
professional crookedness. We should be greatly mistaken were we to draw
the dangerous conclusion that all French judges resemble Mouzon, and we
should be equally wrong were we to condemn too hastily the French code
relating to criminal trials.

In the struggle of society with the criminal it is very difficult,
perhaps impossible, for the legislator to hold in equal balance the
rights of the individual as against the interests of society. The
balance sometimes leans one way and sometimes the other; and had I been
an English citizen, instead of writing a play against the abuse of
justice by a judge, I might have had to illustrate the same abuse by the
lawyer.

I wish most sincerely that these three plays may interest the people of
England and America. The problems which I have studied I am sure I have
not brought to their final solutions. My ambition was to draw and keep
the attention of honest people on them by means of the theatre.

                  BRIEUX.



WOMAN ON HER OWN

[LA FEMME SEULE]

TRANSLATED BY MRS. BERNARD SHAW


CHARACTERS

    THÉRÈSE
    MADAME NÉRISSE
    MADAME GUÉRET
    MOTHER BOUGNE
    CAROLINE LEGRAND
    MADAME CHANTEUIL
    LUCIENNE
    MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE
    MADEMOISELLE BARON
    MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT
    ANTOINETTE
    BERTHE
    CONSTANCe
    MAID
    WORKWOMEN
    NÉRISSE
    FÉLIAT
    RENÉ CHARTON
    GUÉRET
    MAFFLU
    VINCENT
    A DELEGATE
    PAGE BOY
    GIRARD
    CHARPIN
    DESCHAUME
    WORKMEN



WOMAN ON HER OWN



ACT I


    SCENE:--_A Louis XV sitting-room. To the right a large
    recessed window with small panes of glass which forms a
    partition dividing the sitting-room from an inner room. A
    heavy curtain on the further side shuts out this other room.
    There are a table and piano and doors to the right and at the
    back. The place is in disorder. One of the panes in the large
    window has been taken out and replaced by a movable panel. It
    is October._

    _Madame Guéret is sitting at a table. She is a woman of
    forty-five, dressed for the afternoon, cold and distinguished
    looking. Monsieur Guéret, who is with her, is about
    fifty-five and is wearing a frock coat. He is standing beside
    his wife._

GUÉRET. Then you really don't want me to go and hear the third act?

MADAME GUÉRET [_dryly_] I think as I've been let in for these
theatricals solely to please your goddaughter you may very well keep me
company. Besides, my brother is coming back and he has something to say
to you.

GUÉRET [_resignedly_] Very well, my dear.

     _A pause._

MADAME GUÉRET. I can't get over it.

GUÉRET. Over what?

MADAME GUÉRET. What we're doing. What _are_ we doing?

GUÉRET. We're giving a performance of _Barberine_ for the amusement of
our friends. There's nothing very extraordinary in that.

MADAME GUÉRET. Don't make fun of me, please. What we are doing is simply
madness. Madness, do you hear? And it was the day before yesterday--only
the day before yesterday--we heard the news.

GUÉRET. We--

MADAME GUÉRET [_Who has seen Lucienne come in_] Hush!

_Lucienne comes in, a girl of twenty, dressed as Barberine from Musset's
play; then Maud, Nadia, and Antoinette [eighteen to twenty-two], dressed
as followers of the queen. Lucienne goes to the piano, takes a piece of
music, and comes to Madame Guéret._

LUCIENNE. You'll help me along, won't you, dear Madame Guéret? You'll
give me my note when it comes to "Voyez vous pas que la nuit est
profonde"?

MADAME GUÉRET. Now don't be nervous.

MAUD [_coming in_] We're ready.

ANTOINETTE. If the third act only goes as well as the first two--

MAUD. We'll listen until we have to go on.

ANTOINETTE. Won't you come with us, Madame?

MADAME GUÉRET. No, I can't. I've had to undertake the noises behind the
scenes. _That_ job might have been given to someone else, I think.

LUCIENNE. Oh, Madame, please don't be angry with us. Madame Chain let us
know too late. And you're helping us so much.

MADAME GUÉRET. Well, I've invited the people, and I suppose I must
entertain them. As I gave in to Thérèse about getting up this play, I
don't want to do anything to spoil the evening.

LUCIENNE. How pretty she is as Kalekairi.

MADAME GUÉRET. You don't think people are shocked by her frock?

LUCIENNE. Oh, Madame!

MADAME GUÉRET. Well!

LUCIENNE. I shall have to go in a moment. Thérèse has come out; I can
hear her sequins rattling.

MADAME GUÉRET. Yes; so can I. But René will let us know. Never mind.

_She goes to the piano. René appears at the door at the back._

RENÉ. Are you ready, Lucienne?

LUCIENNE. Yes.

RENÉ. You've only two lines to say.

LUCIENNE. Only one. [_She speaks low to René_] No end of a success,
wasn't it, for your Thérèse?

RENÉ [_low_] Wasn't it? I _am_ so happy, Lucienne. I love her so.

LUCIENNE. Listen. That's for me, I think.

RENÉ. Yes, that's for you. Wait. [_He goes to the door at the back,
listens, and returns_] Come. Turn this way so as to make it sound as if
you were at a distance. Now then.

_Madame Guéret accompanies Lucienne on the piano._

LUCIENNE [_sings_]

    Beau chevalier qui partez pour la guerre,
          Qu'allez vous faire
          Si loin d'ici?

    Voyez-vous pas que la nuit est profonde
          Et que le monde
          N'est que souci.

MADAME GUÉRET [_civilly_] You have a delightful voice, Mademoiselle
Lucienne.

_Lucienne places her music on the piano with a smile to Madame Guéret._

RENÉ [_to Lucienne, drawing her to the partition window and showing her
where a pane has been removed_] And your little window! Have you seen
your little window? It was not there at the dress rehearsal. You lift
it like this. It's supposed to be an opening in the wall. It ought to
have been different; we were obliged to take out a pane. May I show her,
Madame Guéret?

MADAME GUÉRET [_resigned_] Yes, yes, of course.

RENÉ. You lift it like this; and to speak you'll lean forward, won't
you, so that they may see you?

LUCIENNE. I will, yes.

RENÉ. Don't touch it now. [_To Madame Guéret_] You won't forget the
bell, will you, Madame? There's plenty of time--ten minutes at least.
I'll let you know. Mademoiselle Lucienne, now, time to go on.

LUCIENNE. Yes, yes. [_She goes out_]

MADAME GUÉRET [_with a sigh_] To have a play being acted in the
circumstances we're in--it's beyond everything! I cannot think how I
came to allow it.

GUÉRET. You see they'd been rehearsing for a week. And Thérèse--

MADAME GUÉRET. And I not only allowed it, but I'm almost taking part in
it.

GUÉRET. We couldn't put off all these people at twenty-four hours'
notice. And it's our last party. It's really a farewell party. Besides,
we should have had to tell Thérèse everything.

MADAME GUÉRET. Well, you asked me to keep it all from her until
to-morrow--though it concerns her as much as it does us. [_Monsieur
Féliat comes in, a man of sixty, correct without being elegant_] Here's
my brother.

FÉLIAT. I've something to tell you. Shall we be interrupted?

MADAME GUÉRET. Yes, constantly.

FÉLIAT. Let's go into another room.

MADAME GUÉRET. I can't. And all the rooms are full of people.

GUÉRET. Marguerite has been good enough to help here by taking the place
of Madame Chain, who's ill.

MADAME GUÉRET [_angrily_] Yes, I've got to do the noises heard off! At
my age! [_A sigh_] Tell us, Etienne, what is it?

GUÉRET. We can wait until the play is over.

MADAME GUÉRET. So like you! You don't care a bit about what my brother
has to tell us. Who'd ever believe this is all your fault! [_To her
brother_] What is it?

FÉLIAT. I have seen the lawyer. Your goddaughter will have to sign this
power of attorney so that it may get to Lyons to-morrow morning.

GUÉRET [_who has glanced at the paper_] But we can't get her to sign
that without telling her all about it.

MADAME GUÉRET. Well, goodness me, she'll have to know sometime! I must
say I cannot understand the way you've kept this dreadful thing from
her. It's pure sentimentality.

GUÉRET. The poor child!

MADAME GUÉRET. You really are ridiculous. One would think that it was
only _her_ money the lawyer took. It's gone, of course; but so is ours.

GUÉRET. We still have La Tremblaye.

MADAME GUÉRET. Yes, thank goodness, because La Tremblaye belongs to me.

     _René comes in in great excitement._

RENÉ. Where is Mademoiselle Thérèse? She'll keep the stage waiting!
[_Listening_] No, she's coming, I hear her. Nice fright she's given me!
[_To Madame Guéret_] Above all, Madame, don't forget the bell, almost
the moment that Mademoiselle Thérèse comes off the stage.

MADAME GUÉRET. Yes, yes.

RENÉ. And my properties! [_He runs out_]

FÉLIAT. Now we can talk for a minute.

MADAME GUÉRET. Yes.

FÉLIAT. You've quite made up your minds to come to Evreux?

GUÉRET. Quite.

FÉLIAT. Are you sure you won't regret Paris?

MADAME GUÉRET. Oh, no.

GUÉRET. For the last two years I've hated Paris.

MADAME GUÉRET. Since you began to play cards.

GUÉRET. For the last two years we've had the greatest difficulty in
keeping up appearances. This lawyer absconding is the last blow.

FÉLIAT. Aren't you afraid you will be horribly bored at La Tremblaye?

GUÉRET [_rising_] What are we to do?

FÉLIAT. Well, now listen to me. I told you--

_René comes in and takes something off a table. Féliat stops suddenly._

RENÉ. Good-morning, uncle. [_He hurries out_]

FÉLIAT. Good-morning, René.

GUÉRET. He knows nothing about it yet?

FÉLIAT. No; and my sister-in-law asked me to tell him.

MADAME GUÉRET. Well, why shouldn't you? If they _are_ engaged, we know
nothing about it.

GUÉRET. Oh!

MADAME GUÉRET. We know nothing officially, because in these days young
people don't condescend to consult their parents.

FÉLIAT. René told his people and they gave their consent.

MADAME GUÉRET. Unwillingly.

FÉLIAT. Oh certainly, unwillingly. Then I'm to tell him?

MADAME GUÉRET. The sooner the better.

FÉLIAT. I'll tell him to-night.

GUÉRET. I'm afraid it'll be an awful blow to the poor chap.

MADAME GUÉRET. Oh, he's young. He'll get over it.

FÉLIAT. What was I saying when he came in? Ah, yes; you know I've
decided to add a bindery to my printing works at Evreux; you saw the
building started when you were down there. If things go as I want them
to, I shall try to do some cheap artistic binding. I want to get hold of
a man who won't rob me to manage this new branch and look after it; a
man who won't be too set in his ideas, because I want him to adopt mine;
and, at the same time, I'd like him to be not altogether a stranger. I
thought I'd found him; but I saw the man yesterday and I don't like him.
Now will _you_ take on the job? Would it suit you?

GUÉRET. Would it suit me! Oh, my dear Féliat, how can I possibly thank
you? To tell you the truth, I've been wondering what in the world I
should do with myself now; and I was dreading the future. What you offer
me is better than anything I could have dreamt of. What do you say,
Marguerite?

MADAME GUÉRET. I am delighted.

FÉLIAT. Then that's all right.

GUÉRET [_to his brother-in-law_] I think you won't regret having
confidence in me.

FÉLIAT. And your goddaughter?

MADAME GUÉRET. Thérèse?

FÉLIAT. Yes; how is _she_ going to face this double news of her ruin and
the breaking off of her engagement?

MADAME GUÉRET. I think she ought to have sense enough to understand that
one is the consequence of the other. She can hardly expect René's
parents to give their son to a girl without money.

FÉLIAT. I suppose not. But what's to become of her?

GUÉRET. She will live with us, of course.

MADAME GUÉRET. "Of course"! I like that.

GUÉRET. She has no other relations, and her father left her in my care.

MADAME GUÉRET. He left her in _your_ care, and it's _I_ who have been
rushed into all the trouble of a child who is nothing to me.

GUÉRET. Child! She was nineteen when her father died.

FÉLIAT. To look after a young girl of nineteen is a very great
responsibility.

MADAME GUÉRET [_laughing bitterly_] Ho! Ho! Look after! Look after
Mademoiselle Thérèse! You think she's a person who allows herself to be
looked after! And yet you've seen her more or less every holidays.

GUÉRET. You've not had to look after her; she has been at the Lycée.

_Thérèse comes in dressed as Kalekairi from "Barberine." She is a pretty
girl of twenty-three, healthy, and bright._

THÉRÈSE. The bell, the bell, godmother! You're forgetting the bell!
Good-evening, Monsieur Féliat.

_Thérèse takes up the bell, which is on the table._

MADAME GUÉRET. I was going to forget it! Oh, what a nuisance! All this
is so new to me.

FÉLIAT. Excuse me! I really didn't recognize you for the moment.

THÉRÈSE [_laughing_] Ah, my dress. Startling, isn't it?

MADAME GUÉRET [_with meaning_] Startling is the right word.

RENÉ [_appearing at the back, disappearing again immediately, and
calling_] The bell! And you, on the stage, Mademoiselle Thérèse!

THÉRÈSE. I'm coming. [_She rings_] Here I am!

     _She goes out._

MADAME GUÉRET [_with a sigh_] And I had it let down!

FÉLIAT. What?

MADAME GUÉRET. Her dress. [_To her husband_] What I see most clearly in
all this is that she must stay with us.

     _René comes fussing in._

RENÉ. Where's the queen? Where's Madame Nérisse?

MADAME GUÉRET. I've not seen her.

RENÉ. But goodness gracious--! [_He goes to the door on the left and
calls_] Madame Nérisse!

MADAME NÉRISSE [_from outside_] Yes, yes, I'm ready.

_Madame Nérisse comes in. She is about forty, flighty, and a little
affected._

RENÉ. I wanted to warn you that Ulric will be on your right, and if he
plays the fool--

MADAME NÉRISSE. Very well. Is it time?

RENÉ. Yes, come. [_To Madame Guéret_] You won't forget the trumpets?

MADAME GUÉRET. No, no. All the same, you'd better help me.

RENÉ. I will, I will.

     _He goes out with Madame Nérisse._

FÉLIAT. You know, if she wants one, she'll find a husband at Evreux.

MADAME GUÉRET. Without a penny!

FÉLIAT. Without a penny! She made a sensation at the ball at the
sous-préfecture. She's extremely pretty.

MADAME GUÉRET. She's young.

FÉLIAT. Monsieur Gambard sounded me about her.

MADAME GUÉRET. Monsieur Gambard! The Monsieur Gambard who has the house
with the big garden?

FÉLIAT. Yes.

MADAME GUÉRET. But he's very rich.

FÉLIAT. He's forty-nine.

MADAME GUÉRET. She'll have to take what she can get now.

FÉLIAT. And I think that Monsieur Beaudoin----

GUÉRET. But he's almost a cripple!

MADAME GUÉRET. She wouldn't do so well in Paris.

GUÉRET. She wouldn't look at either of them.

FÉLIAT. We must try and make her see reason.

_René enters busily. Lucienne follows him. Féliat is standing across the
guichet through which Barberine is to speak. René pulls him away without
ceremony._

RENÉ. Excuse me, Uncle; don't stand there before the little window.

FÉLIAT. Beg pardon. I didn't know.

RENÉ. I haven't a moment.

FÉLIAT. I've never seen you so busy. At your office they say you're a
lazy dog.

MADAME GUÉRET. Probably René has more taste for the stage than for
business.

RENÉ [_laughing_] Rather! [_To Lucienne_] Now, it's time. Come. Lift it.
Not yet! There! _Now!_

LUCIENNE [_speaking through the guichet_] "If you want food and drink,
you must do like those old women you despise--you must spin."

RENÉ. Capital!

LUCIENNE [_to Féliat_] Please forgive me, Monsieur, I've not had time to
speak to you.

FÉLIAT. Why, it's Mademoiselle Lucienne, Thérèse's friend, who came and
stayed in the holidays! Fancy my not recognizing you!

LUCIENNE. It's my dress. I _do_ like playing this part. I have to say
that lovely bit--you know--the bit that describes the day of the ideal
wife. [_She recites, sentimentally_] "I rise and go to prayers, to the
farmyard, to the kitchen. I prepare your meal; I go with you to church;
I read a page or two; I sew a while; and then I fall asleep happy upon
your breast."

FÉLIAT. That's good, oh, that's very good! _Barberine_--now, who wrote
that?

LUCIENNE. Alfred de Musset.

FÉLIAT. Ah, yes; to be sure, Alfred de Musset. I read him when I was
young. You often find his works lying about in pretty bindings.

RENÉ. Uncle, Uncle; I beg your pardon, but don't speak so loud. We can
hardly hear what they're saying on the stage.

FÉLIAT [_very politely_] Sorry, I'm sure.

RENÉ [_to Lucienne_] You. _Now._

LUCIENNE [_speaking through the guichet_] "My lord, these cries are
useless. It grows late. If you wish to sup--you must spin." [_turning to
the others_] There! Now I must go over the rest with Ulric.

_She runs out, with a little wave of adieu to Féliat._

RENÉ [_to Madame Guéret_] The trumpets, Madame. Don't forget.

MADAME GUÉRET. No, no. Don't worry.

     _René goes out._

FÉLIAT. You blow trumpets?

MADAME GUÉRET. Yes; on the piano.

FÉLIAT. I don't know what to do with myself. I don't want to be in the
way. I'm not accustomed to being behind the scenes.

MADAME GUÉRET. Nor am I.

_Thérèse comes in in the Kalekairi dress, followed by René._

THÉRÈSE. It's time for me now.

FÉLIAT [_to Madame Guéret_] She really looks like a professional
actress.

RENÉ [_to Thérèse_] Now!

THÉRÈSE [_speaking through the little window_] "My lady says, as you
will not spin, you cannot sup. She thinks you are not hungry, and I
wish you good-night." [_She closes the little window and says gayly_]
Good-evening, Monsieur Féliat.

RENÉ. Now then, come along. You go on in one minute.

THÉRÈSE [_to Féliat_] I'll come back soon.

     _She goes out._

RENÉ [_to Madame Guéret_] Now, Madame, _you_, Quick, Madame!

MADAME GUÉRET. Yes, yes. All right.

     _She plays a flourish of trumpets on the piano._

RENÉ. Splendid!

MADAME GUÉRET. Ouf! It's over. At last we can have peace! If she's such
a fool as to refuse both these men--

GUÉRET [_interrupting_] She won't refuse, you may be sure.

MADAME GUÉRET [_continuing_]--we shall have to keep her with us. But I
shall insist upon certain conditions.

GUÉRET. What conditions?

MADAME GUÉRET. I won't have any scandals at Evreux.

GUÉRET. There won't be any scandals.

MADAME GUÉRET. No; because she'll have to behave very differently, I can
tell you. She'll have to leave all these fine airs of independence
behind her in Paris.

GUÉRET. What airs?

MADAME GUÉRET. Well, for instance, getting letters and answering them
without any sort of supervision! [_To her brother_] She manages in such
a way that I don't even see the envelopes! [_To her husband_] I object
very much, too, to her student ways.

GUÉRET. She goes to classes and lectures with her girl friends.

MADAME GUÉRET. Well, she won't go to any more. And she will have to give
up going out alone.

GUÉRET. She's of age.

MADAME GUÉRET. A properly brought up young lady is never of age.

FÉLIAT. Perfectly true.

MADAME GUÉRET. And there must be a change in her way of dressing.

GUÉRET. There will. She'll have to dress simply, for she won't have a
rap.

MADAME GUÉRET. That has nothing to do with it. I shall make her
understand that she will have to behave like the other girls in good
society.

FÉLIAT. Of course.

MADAME GUÉRET. I shall also put a veto on certain books she reads. [_To
her brother_] It's really dreadful, Etienne. You've no idea! One day I
found a shocking book upon her table--a horror! What do you suppose she
said when I remonstrated? That that disgraceful book was necessary in
preparing for her examination. And the worst of it is, it was true. She
showed me the syllabus.

FÉLIAT. I'm afraid they're bringing up our girls in a way that'll make
unhappy women of them.

MADAME GUÉRET. Don't let's talk about it; you'll start on politics, and
then you and Henri will begin to argue. All the same I mean to be very
good to her. As soon as she knows what's happened her poor little
pretensions will come tumbling about her ears. I won't leave her in
uncertainty, and even before she asks I'll tell her she may stay with
us; but I shall tell her, too, what I expect from her in return.

GUÉRET. Wouldn't it be better--

MADAME GUÉRET. My dear, I shall go my own way. See what we're suffering
now in consequence of going _yours_. Here's Madame Nérisse. Then the
play is over. [_To her husband_] You must go and look after the people
at the supper table. I'll join you in a minute.

GUÉRET. All right.

     _He goes out._

MADAME NÉRISSE. I've hardly ever been at such a successful party. I
wanted to congratulate dear Thérèse, but she's gone to change her dress.

MADAME GUÉRET [_absently_] So glad. Were you speaking of having a notice
of it in your paper?

MADAME NÉRISSE. Of your play! If I was going to notice it! I should
think so! The photographs we had taken at the dress rehearsal are being
developed. We shall have a wonderful description.

MADAME GUÉRET [_imploring_] Could it be stopped?

MADAME NÉRISSE. It's not possible! Just think how amazed the subscribers
to _Feminine Art_ would be if they found nothing in their paper about
your lovely performance of _Barberine_, even if the editress of the
paper hadn't taken a part in the play. If it only depended on me,
perhaps I could find some way out--explain it in some way, just to
please you. But then there's your charming Thérèse--one of our
contributors. I can't tell you what a wonderful success she's had with
her two stories, illustrated by herself. People adore her.

MADAME GUÉRET. Nobody would know anything about it--

MADAME NÉRISSE. Nobody know! There are at least ten people among your
guests who will send descriptions of this party to the biggest morning
papers, simply for the sake of getting their own names into print. If
_Feminine Art_ had nothing about it, it would be thought extremely odd,
I assure you. [_She turns to Féliat_] Wouldn't it, Monsieur?

FÉLIAT. Pardon me, Madame, I know nothing about these things.

MADAME GUÉRET. Well, we'll say no more about it.

MADAME NÉRISSE. But what's the matter? You must have some very good
reason for not wanting me to put in anything about your delightful
party.

MADAME GUÉRET. No----only----[_Hesitating_] Some of our family are
country people, you know. It would take me too long to explain it all to
you. It doesn't matter. [_With a change of tone_] Then honestly you
think Thérèse has some little talent?

MADAME NÉRISSE. Little talent! No, but very great talent. Haven't you
read her two articles?

MADAME GUÉRET. Oh, I? I belong to another century. In my days it would
have been considered a very curious thing if a young girl wrote novels.
My brother feels this too. By the way, I have not introduced my brother
to you. Monsieur Féliat, of Evreux--Madame Nérisse, editress of
_Feminine Art_. Madame Nérisse has been kind enough to help us with our
little party. [_To Madame Nérisse_] Yes--you were speaking about--what
was it--this story that Thérèse has written. No doubt your readers were
indulgent to the work of a little amateur.

MADAME NÉRISSE. I wish I could find professionals who'd do half as well.
I'm perfectly certain the number her photograph is going to be in will
have a good sale.

FÉLIAT. You'll publish her photograph?

MADAME NÉRISSE. In her dress as Kalekairi.

MADAME GUÉRET. In her dress as Kalekairi!

MADAME NÉRISSE. On the front page. They tell me it's a first-rate
likeness. I'll bring you one of them before long, and your country
relations will be delighted. If you'll excuse me, I'll hurry away and
change my dress.

MADAME GUÉRET. Oh, please excuse me for keeping you.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Good-bye for the present. [_She goes to the door_] I was
looking for Maud and Nadia to take them away with me. I see them over
there having a little flirtation. [_She looks through the door and
speaks pleasantly to Maud and Nadia, who are just outside_] All right,
all right; I won't interrupt. [_To Madame Guéret_] They'd much rather
come home alone. Good-bye. [_She bows to Féliat_] Good-bye, Monsieur.
[_Turning again to Madame Guéret_] Don't look so upset because you have
a goddaughter who can be a great writer or a great painter if she
chooses; just as she would have been a great actress if she had taken a
fancy for that. Good-bye again and many congratulations.

     _She goes out._

MADAME GUÉRET. Well! Anyway, she's not _my_ daughter! I must go and say
good-bye to everybody. When I've got rid of them, I'll come back and see
Thérèse. Will you wait for me? You'll find some papers on that little
table. Oh, goodness, what times we live in!

     _Madame Guéret goes out. Féliat, left alone, strolls to the
     door and looks in the direction in which Madame Nérisse had
     seen Maud and Nadia. After a moment he shows signs of
     indignation._

FÉLIAT [_shocked_] Oh, I say, this is really--I must cough or something,
and let them know I'm here. [_He coughs_] They've seen me. They're
waving their hands--and--they 're going on just the same!

     _Lucienne and Thérèse in ordinary dress come in and notice
     what Féliat is doing._

THÉRÈSE [_to Lucienne_] What is he doing?

LUCIENNE. What's the matter?

     _They advance to see what has caused his perturbation. He
     hears them and turns._

FÉLIAT. It is incredible!

THÉRÈSE. You seem rather upset. What's the matter?

FÉLIAT. What's the matter? Those girls are behaving in such a scandalous
way with those young men.

LUCIENNE. Let's see.

FÉLIAT. Oh, don't look! [_Suddenly stopping, half to himself_] Though I
must say--

THÉRÈSE [_laughing_] What must you say?

FÉLIAT. Nothing.

LUCIENNE. I know. You mean that we're just as bad.

FÉLIAT. No, no, not as bad.

LUCIENNE. Yes, yes; well--almost. [_Féliat makes a sign of protest_] I
saw you watching us yesterday after the rehearsal! You saw I was
flirting, and I know you imagined all sorts of horrid things. Our little
flirtations are not what you think. When we flirt we play at love-making
with our best boys, just as once upon a time we played at mothering with
our dolls.

FÉLIAT. But that doesn't justify--

THÉRÈSE. You don't understand. People spoil us while we're children, and
then look after us so tremendously carefully when we grow up that we
guess there must be delightful and dangerous possibilities about us.
Flirting is our way of feeling for these possibilities.

LUCIENNE. We're sharpening our weapons.

THÉRÈSE. But the foils have buttons on them, and the pistols are only
loaded with powder.

LUCIENNE. And it's extremely amusing and does no harm to anybody.

THÉRÈSE. Monsieur Féliat, you've read bad books. Nowadays girls like us
are neither bread-and-butter misses nor demi-vierges. We're perfectly
respectable young people. Quite capable and self-possessed and, at the
same time, quite straight and very happy.

FÉLIAT. I'm perfectly sure of it, my dear young ladies. But you know
I've had a great deal of experience.

THÉRÈSE. Oh, _experience_! Well, you know--

LUCIENNE. Oh, _experience_!

THÉRÈSE. You say you have experience; that only means you know about the
past better than we do. But we know much better than you do about the
present.

FÉLIAT. I think those girls there are playing a dangerous game.

THÉRÈSE. You needn't have the smallest anxiety about them.

FÉLIAT. That way of going on might get them into great trouble.

THÉRÈSE. It won't, I assure you. Monsieur Féliat, believe me, you know
nothing about it.

LUCIENNE. We're clever enough to be able to take care of ourselves.

FÉLIAT. But there are certain things that take you by storm.

LUCIENNE. Not us. Flirting is an amusement, a distraction, a game.

THÉRÈSE. Shall we say a safety valve?

LUCIENNE. There's not a single one of us who doesn't understand the
importance of running straight. And, to do them justice, these boys have
no idea of tempting us to do anything else. What they want, what we all
really want, is a quite conventional, satisfactory marriage.

FÉLIAT. I most heartily approve; but in my days so much wisdom didn't
usually come from such fascinating little mouths.

THÉRÈSE. Now how can you blame us when you see that really we think
exactly as you do yourself?

FÉLIAT. In my days girls went neither to the Lycée nor to have
gymnastic lessons, and they were none the less straight.

LUCIENNE [_reflectively_] And yet they grew up into the women of to-day.
I get educated and try to keep myself healthy, with exercises and
things, because I want to develop morally and physically, and be fit to
marry a man a little bit out of the ordinary either in fortune or
brains.

THÉRÈSE. You see our whole lives depend upon the man we marry.

FÉLIAT. I seem to have heard that before.

LUCIENNE. Yes; so've I. But it's none the less true for that.

THÉRÈSE. Isn't it funny that we seem to be saying the most shocking
things when we're only repeating what our grandfathers and grandmothers
preached to their children?

LUCIENNE. They were quite right. Love doesn't make happiness by itself.
One has to consider the future. We do consider it; in fact we do nothing
else but consider it. We want to get the best position for ourselves in
the future that we possibly can. We're not giddy little fools, and we're
not selfish egotists. We want our children to grow up happy and capable
as we've done ourselves. We're really quite reasonable.

FÉLIAT [_hardly able to contain himself_] You are; indeed you are. It
makes one shudder. Excuse me, I'm going to supper.

LUCIENNE. Let's all go together.

FÉLIAT. Thanks, I can find my way.

LUCIENNE. It's down that passage to the right.

FÉLIAT. Yes, I shall find it, thank you.

     _He goes out._

THÉRÈSE. You shocked the poor old boy.

LUCIENNE. I only flavored the truth just enough to make it tasty. But
I've something frightfully important to tell you. It's settled.

THÉRÈSE. What's settled?

LUCIENNE. I'm engaged.

THÉRÈSE. You don't say so.

LUCIENNE. It's done. Armand has been to his people and they've come to
see mine. So I needn't play any more piano, nor sing any more
sentimental songs; I needn't be clever any more, nor flirt any more, nor
languish at young men any more. And how do you suppose it was settled?
Just what one wouldn't have ever expected. You know my people were doing
all they could to dress me up, and show me off, and seem to be richer
than they are, so as to attract the men. On my side I was giving myself
the smartest of airs and pretending to despise money and to think of
nothing but making a splash. Everything went quite differently from what
I expected. I wanted to attract Armand, and I was only frightening him
off. He thought such a woman as I was pretending to be too expensive. It
was just through a chance conversation, some sudden confidence on my
part, that he found out that I really like quite simple things. He was
delighted, and he proposed at once.

THÉRÈSE. Dear Lucienne, I'm so glad. I hope you'll be very, very happy.

LUCIENNE. Ah, that's another story. Armand is not by any means perfect.
But what can one do? The important thing is to marry, isn't it?

THÉRÈSE. Of course. Well, if your engagement is on, mine's off.

LUCIENNE. Thérèse! Why I've just been talking to René. I never saw him
so happy, nor so much in love.

THÉRÈSE. He doesn't know yet. Or perhaps they're telling him now.

LUCIENNE. Telling him what?

THÉRÈSE. I've lost all my money, my dear.

LUCIENNE. Lost all your money!

THÉRÈSE. Yes. The lawyer who had my securities has gone off with them.

LUCIENNE. When?

THÉRÈSE. I heard about it the day before yesterday. Godpapa and godmamma
were so awfully good they never said anything to me about it, though
they're losing a lot of money too. They thought I hadn't heard, and I
expect they wanted me to have this last evening's fun. I said nothing,
and so nobody knows anything except you, now, and probably René.

LUCIENNE. What will you do?

THÉRÈSE. What can I do? It's impossible for him to marry me without a
penny. Of course I shall release him from his promise.

LUCIENNE. You think he'll give you up?

THÉRÈSE. His people will make him. If they cut off his allowance, he'll
be at their mercy. He earns about twenty dollars a month in that
lawyer's office. So, you see--

LUCIENNE. Oh! poor Thérèse! And you could play Barberine with a secret
like that!

THÉRÈSE [_sadly_] I've had a real bad time since I heard. It's awful at
night!

LUCIENNE. My dearest! And you love him so!

THÉRÈSE [_much moved_] Yes--oh! don't make me cry.

LUCIENNE. It might do you good!

THÉRÈSE. You know--[_She breaks down a little_]

LUCIENNE [_tenderly_] Yes--I know that you're good and brave.

THÉRÈSE. I shall have to be.

LUCIENNE. Then you'll break off the engagement?

THÉRÈSE. Yes. I shall never see him again.

LUCIENNE. Never see him again!

THÉRÈSE. I shall write to him. If I saw him I should probably break
down. If I write I shall be more likely to be able to make him feel that
we must resign ourselves to the inevitable.

LUCIENNE. He'll be horribly unhappy.

THÉRÈSE. So shall I. [_Low and urgently_] Oh, if he only understood me!
If he was able to believe that I can earn my own living and that he
could earn his. If he would dare to do without his people's consent!

LUCIENNE. Persuade him to!

THÉRÈSE. It's quite impossible. His people are rich. Only just think
what they'd suspect me of. No; I shall tell him all the things his
father will tell him. But oh! Lucienne, if he had an answer for them! If
he had an answer! [_She cries a little_] But, my poor René, he won't
make any stand.

LUCIENNE. How you love him!

THÉRÈSE. Oh, yes; I love him. He's rather weak, but he's so loyal and
good and [_in a very low voice_] loving.

LUCIENNE. Oh, my dear, I do pity you so.

THÉRÈSE. I am to be pitied, really. [_Pulling herself together_] There's
one thing. I shall take advantage of this business to separate from
godpapa and godmamma.

LUCIENNE. But you have no money--

THÉRÈSE. I've not been any too happy here. You know they're--[_She sees
Madame Guéret and whispers to Lucienne_] Go now. I'll tell you all about
it to-morrow. [_Louder and gayly_] Well, good-night, my dear. See you
to-morrow at the Palais de Glace or at the Sorbonne! Good-night.

LUCIENNE. Good-night, Thérèse.

     _She goes out._

MADAME GUÉRET [_speaking through the door_] Yes, she's here. Come in.
[_Guéret and Féliat come in_] Thérèse, we have something to say to you.

THÉRÈSE. Yes, godmamma.

MADAME GUÉRET. It's about something important; something very serious.
Let us sit down.

GUÉRET. You'll have to be brave, Thérèse.

MADAME GUÉRET. We are ruined, and you are ruined too.

THÉRÈSE. Yes.

MADAME GUÉRET. Is that all you have to say?

THÉRÈSE. I knew it already.

MADAME GUÉRET. You _knew_ it? Who told you?

THÉRÈSE. The lawyer told me himself. I had a long letter from him
yesterday. He begs me to forgive him.

MADAME GUÉRET. Well, I declare!

THÉRÈSE. I'll show it to you. He's been gambling. To get a bigger
fortune for his girls, he says.

MADAME GUÉRET. You _knew_ it! And you've had the strength,
the--duplicity?

THÉRÈSE [_smiling_] Just as you had yourself, godmamma. And I'm so much
obliged to both of you for saying nothing to me, because I'm sure you
wanted me to have my play to-night and enjoy myself; and that was why
you tried to keep the news from me.

MADAME GUÉRET. And you were able to laugh and to _act_!

THÉRÈSE. I've always tried to keep myself in hand.

MADAME GUÉRET. Oh, I know. All the same--And I was so careful about
breaking this news to you, and you knew it all the time!

THÉRÈSE. I'm very sorry. But you--

MADAME GUÉRET. All right, all right. Well, then, we have nothing to
tell. But do you understand that you've not a penny left?

GUÉRET. You're to go on living with us, of course.

MADAME GUÉRET [_to her husband_] You really might have given her time to
ask us. [_To Thérèse_] We take it that you have asked us, and we answer
that we will keep you with us.

GUÉRET. We are going to Evreux. My brother-in-law is giving me work in
his factory.

MADAME GUÉRET. We will keep you with us, but on certain conditions.

THÉRÈSE. Thank you very much, godmamma, but I mean to stay in Paris.

GUÉRET. You don't understand. We are going to live at Evreux.

THÉRÈSE. But _I_ am going to live in Paris.

GUÉRET. Then it is I who do not understand.

THÉRÈSE. All the same--[_A silence_]

MADAME GUÉRET. I can hardly believe that you propose to live in Paris by
yourself.

THÉRÈSE [_simply_] I do, godmamma.

FÉLIAT. Alone!

GUÉRET. Alone! I repeat, I don't understand.

FÉLIAT. Nor do I. But no doubt you have reasons to give to your
godfather and godmother. [_He moves to go_]

THÉRÈSE. There's no secret about my reasons. All the world may know
them. When I've explained you'll see that it's all right.

MADAME GUÉRET. I must confess to being extremely curious to hear these
reasons.

THÉRÈSE. I do hope my decision won't make you angry with me.

MADAME GUÉRET. Angry! When have I ever been angry with you?

THÉRÈSE [_protesting_] You've both been--you've all three been--_most_
good and kind to me, and I shall always remember it and be grateful. You
may be sure I shan't love you any the less because I shall live in
Paris and you at Evreux. And I do beg of you to feel the same to me. I
shall never forget what I owe to you. Father was only your friend; we're
not related in any way: but you took me in, and for four years you've
treated me as if I was your daughter. From my very heart I'm grateful to
you.

GUÉRET [_affectionately_] You don't owe us much, you know. For two years
you were a boarder at the Lycée Maintenon, and we saw nothing of you but
your letters. You've only actually lived with us for two years, and
you've been like sunshine in the house.

MADAME GUÉRET. Yes, indeed.

THÉRÈSE. I've thought this carefully over. I'm twenty-three. I won't be
a burden to you any longer.

GUÉRET. Is that because you are too proud and independent?

THÉRÈSE. If I thought I could really be of use to you, I would stay with
you. If I could help you to face your troubles, I would stay with you.
But I can't, and I mean to shift for myself.

MADAME GUÉRET. And you think you can "shift for yourself," as you call
it, all alone?

THÉRÈSE. Yes, godmamma.

MADAME GUÉRET. A young girl, all alone, in Paris! The thing is
inconceivable.

GUÉRET. But, my poor child, how do you propose to live?

THÉRÈSE. I'll work.

MADAME GUÉRET. You don't mean that seriously?

THÉRÈSE. Yes, godmamma.

GUÉRET. You think you have only to ask for work and it will fall from
the skies!

THÉRÈSE. I have a few dollars in my purse which will keep me until I
have found something.

FÉLIAT. Your purse will be empty before you've made a cent.

THÉRÈSE. I'm sure it won't.

GUÉRET. Now, my dear, you're tired, and nervous, and upset. You can't
look at things calmly. We can talk about this again to-morrow.

THÉRÈSE. Yes, godpapa. But I shan't have changed my mind.

MADAME GUÉRET. I know you have a strong will of your own.

FÉLIAT. Let us talk sensibly and reasonably. You propose to live all
alone in Paris. Good. Where will you live?

THÉRÈSE. I shall hire a little flat--or a room somewhere.

MADAME GUÉRET. Like a workgirl.

THÉRÈSE. Like a workgirl. There's nothing to be ashamed of in that.

FÉLIAT. And you are going to earn your own living. How?

THÉRÈSE. I shall work. There's nothing to be ashamed of in that, either.

GUÉRET. I see. But a properly brought up young lady doesn't work for her
living if she can possibly avoid it.

MADAME GUÉRET. And above all, a properly brought up young lady doesn't
live all alone.

THÉRÈSE. All the same--

MADAME GUÉRET. You are perfectly free. There's no doubt about that. We
have no power to prevent you from doing exactly as you choose.

GUÉRET. But your father left you in my care.

THÉRÈSE. Please, godmamma, don't be hard upon me. I feel you think I'm
ungrateful, though you don't say so. I know that often and often I shall
long for your kindness and for the home where you've given me a place.
I've shocked you. Do please forgive me. I'm made like that, and made
differently from you. I don't say you're not right; I only say I'm
different. Certain ideas have come to me from being educated at the
Lycée and from all these books I've read. I think I'm able to earn my
own living, and so I look upon it as my bounden duty not to trespass
upon your charity. It's a question of personal dignity. Don't you think
that I'm right, godfather? [_With a change of tone_] Besides, if I did
go to Evreux with you, what should I do there?

GUÉRET. It's pretty easy to guess.

MADAME GUÉRET. Yes, indeed.

GUÉRET. You would live with us.

MADAME GUÉRET [_not very kindly_] You would have a home.

THÉRÈSE. Yes, yes, I know all that; and it would be a great happiness.
But what should I _do_?

GUÉRET. You would do what all well brought up young girls in your
position do.

THÉRÈSE. You mean I should do nothing.

GUÉRET. Nothing! No, not nothing.

THÉRÈSE. Pay visits, practise a bit; some crochet and a little
photography? That's to say, nothing.

GUÉRET. You were brought up to that.

THÉRÈSE. I should never have dared to put it into words. But afterwards?

GUÉRET. Afterwards?

THÉRÈSE. How long would that last?

GUÉRET. Until you marry.

THÉRÈSE. I shall never marry.

GUÉRET. Why not?

THÉRÈSE [_very gently_] Oh, godfather, you know why not. I have no
money. [_A silence_] So I'm going to try and get work.

FÉLIAT. Work! Now, Thérèse, you know what women are like who try to earn
their own living. You think you can support yourself. How?

THÉRÈSE. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I think I can support myself by my
pen.

FÉLIAT. Be a bluestocking?

THÉRÈSE. Yes.

MADAME GUÉRET. That means a Bohemian life, with everything upside down,
and a cigarette always between your lips.

THÉRÈSE [_laughing_] Neither Bohemia, nor the upside down, nor the
cigarette are indispensable, godmother. Your information is neither
firsthand nor up-to-date.

FÉLIAT. In a month's time you'll want to give it up.

THÉRÈSE. Under those circumstances there's no harm in letting me make
the experiment.

GUÉRET. Now, my dear child, don't you know that even with your
cleverness you may have to wait years before you make a penny. I've been
an editor. I know what I'm talking about.

MADAME GUÉRET. She's made up her mind, there's no use saying any more.

FÉLIAT. But _I_ want to talk to her now. Will you be so good as to
listen to me, Mademoiselle Thérèse? [_To Madame Guéret_] I wonder if I
might be allowed to have a few minutes with her alone.

MADAME GUÉRET. Most willingly.

GUÉRET [_to his wife_] Come, Marguerite.

MADAME GUÉRET. It's no use making up your mind to the worst in these
days; life always keeps a surprise for you. Let's go. [_She goes out
with her husband_]

FÉLIAT. My child, I have undertaken to say something to you that I fear
will hurt you, and it's very difficult. You know that I'm only René's
uncle by marriage. So it's not on my own account that I speak. I speak
for his parents.

THÉRÈSE. Don't say another word, Monsieur Féliat. I perfectly
understand. I'm going to release him from his engagement. I shall write
to him this very night.

FÉLIAT. My sister-in-law and her husband are most unhappy about all
this.

THÉRÈSE. I'm grateful to you all.

FÉLIAT. Their affection for you is not in any way diminished.

THÉRÈSE. I know.

FÉLIAT. And--

THÉRÈSE [_imploringly_] Please, _please_, Monsieur Féliat, don't say any
more; what's the good of it?

FÉLIAT. I beg your pardon, my dear. I am a little upset. I was
expecting--er, er--

THÉRÈSE. Expecting what?

FÉLIAT. I expected some resistance on your part, perhaps indignation. It
must be very hard for you; you were very fond of René.

THÉRÈSE. What's the good of talking about that? Of course he can't marry
me now that I've not got a penny.

FÉLIAT. You know--as a matter of fact--I--my old-fashioned ideas--well,
you go on surprising me. But this time my surprise is accompanied
by--shall I say respect?--and by sympathy. I expected tears, which would
have been very natural, because I know that your affection for René was
very great.

THÉRÈSE. I can keep my tears to myself.

FÉLIAT. Yes----Oh, I----at least----

THÉRÈSE. Let's consider it settled. Please don't talk to me about it any
more.

FÉLIAT. Very well. Now will you allow me to say one word to you about
your future?

THÉRÈSE. I shan't change my mind.

FÉLIAT. Perhaps not; all the same I want to advise you like--well, like
an old uncle. For several years you have been spending your holidays
with me at La Tremblaye. And I have a real affection for you. So you'll
listen to me?

THÉRÈSE. With all my heart.

FÉLIAT. You're making a mistake. Your ideas do you credit, but believe
me, you're laying up trouble for yourself in the future. [_She makes a
movement to interrupt him_] Wait. I don't want to argue. I want you to
listen to me, and I want to persuade you to follow my advice. Come to
Evreux and you may be perfectly certain that you won't be left an old
maid all your life. Even without money you'll find a husband there.
You're too pretty, too charming, too well educated not to turn the head
of some worthy gentleman. You made a sensation at the reception at the
Préfecture. If you don't know that already, I tell you so.

THÉRÈSE. I'm extremely flattered.

FÉLIAT. Do you know that if--well, if you decide to marry--I might--

THÉRÈSE. But I've _not_ decided to marry.

FÉLIAT. All right, all right, I am speaking about later on. Well, you've
seen Monsieur Baudoin and Monsieur Gambard--

THÉRÈSE. I haven't the slightest intention of--

FÉLIAT [_interrupting_] There's no question of anything immediate. But
for a person as wise and sensible as you are, the position of both the
one and the other deserves--

THÉRÈSE. I know them both.

FÉLIAT. Yes; but--

THÉRÈSE. Now look here. If I had two hundred thousand francs, would you
suggest that I should marry either of them?

FÉLIAT. Certainly not.

THÉRÈSE. There, you see.

FÉLIAT. But you've _not_ got two hundred thousand francs.

THÉRÈSE [_without showing any anger or annoyance_] The last thing I want
is to be exacting. But really, Monsieur Féliat, think for a minute. If I
were to marry a man I could not possibly love, I should marry him for
his money. [_Looking straight at him_] And in that case the only
difference between me and the women I am not supposed to know anything
about would be that a little ceremony had been performed over me and not
over them. Don't you agree with me?

FÉLIAT. But, my dear, you say such extraordinary things.

THÉRÈSE. Well, do you consider that less dishonoring than working?
Honestly now, do you? I think that the best thing about women earning
their living is that it'll save them from being put into exactly that
position.

FÉLIAT. The right thing for woman is marriage. That's her proper
position.

THÉRÈSE. It's sometimes an unhappy one. [_A maid comes in bringing a
card to Thérèse, who says_] Ask the lady kindly to wait a moment.

MAID. Yes, Mademoiselle. [_The maid goes out_]

FÉLIAT. Well, I'm off. I shall go and see René. Then you'll write to
him?

THÉRÈSE. This very evening.

FÉLIAT. He'll want to see you. My child, will you have the courage to
resist him?

THÉRÈSE. You needn't trouble about that.

FÉLIAT. If he was mad enough to want to do without his parents' consent,
they wish me to tell you that they would never speak to him again.

THÉRÈSE. I see.

FÉLIAT. That he would be a stranger to them. You understand all that
that means?

THÉRÈSE [_discouraged_] Yes, yes; oh yes.

FÉLIAT. If you are not strong enough to stand out against his
entreaties, you will be his ruin.

THÉRÈSE. I quite understand.

FÉLIAT. People would think very badly of you.

THÉRÈSE. Please don't say any more, I quite understand.

FÉLIAT. Then I may trust you?

THÉRÈSE. You may trust me.

FÉLIAT [_fatherly and approving_] Thank you. [_He holds out his hand_]
Thérèse, you're--well--you're splendid. I like courage. I wish you
success with all my heart. I really wish you success. But if, in the
future, you should want a friend--the very strongest may find themselves
in that position--let me be that friend.

THÉRÈSE [_taking the hand which Féliat holds out to her_] I'm grateful,
very grateful, Monsieur. Thank you. But I hope I shall be able to earn
my own living. That is all I want.

FÉLIAT. I wish you every success. Good-bye, Mademoiselle.

THÉRÈSE. Good-bye, Monsieur. [_He goes out. She crosses to another door
and brings in Madame Nérisse_] How good of you to come, dear Madame. Too
bad you should have the trouble.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Nonsense, my dear. I wanted to come. I'm so anxious to
show you these two photographs and consult you about which we're to
publish. I expected to find you very tired.

THÉRÈSE. I am not the least tired, and I'm delighted to see you.

MADAME NÉRISSE [_showing Thérèse the photographs_] This is more
brilliant, that's more dreamy. I like this one. What do you think?

THÉRÈSE. I like this one too.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Then that's settled. [_Putting down the photographs_]
What a success you had this evening.

THÉRÈSE. Yes; people are very kind. [_Seriously_] I'm so glad you've
come just now, dear Madame, so that we can have a few minutes' quiet
talk. I have something most important to say to you.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Anything I can do for you?

THÉRÈSE. Well, I'll explain. And please do talk to me quite openly and
frankly.

MADAME NÉRISSE. I will indeed.

THÉRÈSE. You told me that my article was very much liked. I can quite
believe that you may have exaggerated a little out of kindness to me. I
want to know really whether you think I write well.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Dear Thérèse, ask Madame Guéret to tell you what I said
to her just now about that very thing.

THÉRÈSE. Then you think my collaboration might be really useful to
_Feminine Art_?

MADAME NÉRISSE. There's nothing more useful to a paper like ours than
the collaboration of girls in society.

THÉRÈSE. Would you like me to send you some more stories like the first?

MADAME NÉRISSE. As many as you can.

THÉRÈSE. And--[_She hesitates a moment_] and would you pay me the same
price for them as for the one you've just published?

MADAME NÉRISSE. Yes, exactly the same; and I shall be very glad to get
them. I like your work; you have an exceptionally light touch; people
won't get tired of reading your stuff.

THÉRÈSE. Oh, I hope that's true! I'm going to tell you some bad news.
For family reasons my godfather and godmother are going to leave Paris.
I shall stay here by myself, and I shall have to live by my pen.

MADAME NÉRISSE. What an idea!

THÉRÈSE. It's not an idea, it's a necessity.

MADAME NÉRISSE. What do you mean? A necessity? Monsieur Guéret--. But I
mustn't be inquisitive.

THÉRÈSE. You're not inquisitive, and I'll tell you all about it very
soon; we haven't got time now. Can you promise to take a weekly article
from me?

MADAME NÉRISSE [_with less confidence_] Certainly.

THÉRÈSE [_joyfully_] You can! Oh, thank you, thank you! I can't tell you
how you've relieved my mind.

MADAME NÉRISSE. My dear child. I am glad you've spoken to me plainly. I
will do everything I possibly can. I'm extremely fond of you. I don't
think the Directors will object.

THÉRÈSE. Why should they have anything to do with it?

MADAME NÉRISSE [_doubtfully_] Perhaps not, but--the Directors like to
give each number a character of its own. It's a thing they're very
particular about.

THÉRÈSE. I could write about very different subjects.

MADAME NÉRISSE. I know you could, but it would be always the same
signature.

THÉRÈSE. Well, every now and then I might sign a fancy name.

MADAME NÉRISSE. That would be quite easy, and I don't think the
Directors would mind. They might say it was a fresh name to make itself
known and liked.

THÉRÈSE. We'll try and manage it.

MADAME NÉRISSE. We shall have to fight against some jealousy. The
Directors have protégées. The wife of one of them has been waiting to
get an innings for more than two months. There are so many girls and
women who write nowadays.

THÉRÈSE. Yes; but generally speaking their work is not worth much, I
think.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Oh, I don't know that. There are a great many who have
real talent. People don't realize what a lot of girls there are who have
talent. But, still, if I'm not able to take an article every week, you
may rely upon me to take one as often as I possibly can. Oh, I shall
make myself some enemies for your sake.

THÉRÈSE [_in consternation_] Enemies? How do you mean enemies?

MADAME NÉRISSE. My dear, it alters everything if you become a
professional. Let me see if I can explain. We have our regular
contributors. The editor makes them understand that they must expect to
run the gantlet of the occasional competition of society women; because,
if these women are allowed to write, it interests them and their
families in the paper, and it's an excellent advertisement for us.
That'll explain to you, by the way, why we sometimes publish articles
not quite up to our standard. But if it's a matter of regular,
professional work, we have to be more careful. We have to respect
established rights and consider people who've been with us a long time.
There is only a limited space in each number, and a lot of people have
to live out of that.

THÉRÈSE [_who has gone quite white_] Yes, I see.

MADAME NÉRISSE [_who sees Thérèse's emotion_] How sorry I am for you! If
you only knew how I feel for you! Don't look so unhappy. [_Thérèse makes
a gesture of despair_] You're not an ordinary girl, Thérèse, and it
shall never be said that I didn't do all I could for you. Listen. I told
you just now that I had some big projects in my mind. You shall know
what they are. My husband and I are going to start an important weekly
feminist paper on absolutely new lines. It's going to leave everything
that's been done up to now miles behind. My husband shall explain his
ideas to you himself. It'll be advanced and superior and all that, and
at the same time most practical. Even to think of it has been a touch of
genius. When you meet my husband you'll find that he's altogether out of
the common. He's so clever, and he'd be in the very first rank in
journalism if it wasn't for the envy and jealousy of other men who've
intrigued against him and kept him down. I don't believe he has his
equal in Paris as a journalist, I'll read you some of his verses, and
you'll see that he's a great poet too. But I shall run on forever. Only
yesterday he got the last of the capital that's needed for founding the
paper; it's been definitely promised. We're ready to set about
collecting our staff. We shall have leading articles, of course, and
literary articles. Do you want me to talk to him about you?

THÉRÈSE. Of course I do. But--

MADAME NÉRISSE. We want to start a really smart, respectable woman's
paper; of course without sacrificing our principles. Our title by itself
proves that. It's to be called _Woman Free_.

THÉRÈSE. I'll give you my answer to-morrow--or this evening, if you
like.

MADAME NÉRISSE [_hesitatingly_] Before I go--as we're to be thrown a
good deal together--I must tell you something about myself--a secret. I
hope you won't care for me less when you know it. I call myself Madame
Nérisse. But I have no legal right to the name. That's why I've always
found some reason for not introducing Monsieur Nérisse to you and your
people. He's married--married to a woman who's not worthy of him. She
lives in an out-of-the-way place in the country and will not consent to
a divorce. My dear Thérèse, it makes me very unhappy. I live only for
him. I don't think a woman can be fonder of a man than I am of him. He's
so superior to other men. But unfortunately I met him too late. I felt I
ought to tell you this.

THÉRÈSE. Your telling me has added to my friendship for you. I can guess
how unhappy you are. Probably I'll go this very evening to your house
and see your husband and hear from him if he thinks I can be of use.
Anyway, thank you very much.

MADAME NÉRISSE. And thank _you_ for the way you take this. Good-bye for
the present.

     _She goes out. Thérèse stands thinking for a moment, then
     René comes in. He is very much upset._

THÉRÈSE. René!

RENÉ. Thérèse, it can't be true! It's not possible! It's not all
over--our love?

THÉRÈSE. We must be brave.

RENÉ. But I can't give you up.

THÉRÈSE. I've lost every penny, René dear.

RENÉ. But I don't love you any the less for that. I can't give you up,
Thérèse. I _can't_ give you up. I love you, I love you.

THÉRÈSE. Oh, René, don't! I need all my courage to face this. Help me.
Don't you see, your people will never consent now.

RENÉ. My uncle told me so. But I'll see them. I'll persuade them. I'll
explain to them.

THÉRÈSE. You know very well they never really liked me, and that they'll
be glad of this opportunity of breaking it off.

RENÉ. I don't know what to do. But I _cannot_ give you up. What would
become of me without you? You're everything to me, everything. And
suddenly--because of this dreadful thing--I must give up my whole life's
happiness.

THÉRÈSE. Your people are quite right, René.

RENÉ. And you, _you_ say that!

     _He hides his face in his hands. A silence._

THÉRÈSE [_gently removing his hands_] Look at me, René. You're crying.
Oh, my dear love!

RENÉ [_taking her in his arms_] I love you, I love you!

THÉRÈSE. And I love you. Oh, please don't cry any more! [_She kisses
him_] René, dear, don't cry any more! You break my heart. I can't bear
it, I'm forgetting all I ought to say to you. [_Breaking down_] Oh, how
dreadful this is! [_They cry together. Then she draws herself away from
him, saying_] This is madness.

RENÉ. Ah, stay, Thérèse.

THÉRÈSE. No. We mustn't do this; we must be brave. Oh, why did you come
here? I was going to write to you. We're quite helpless against this
dreadful misfortune.

RENÉ. I don't know what to do! But I _can't_ give you up.

THÉRÈSE [_to herself_] I must do the right thing. [_To him_] René, stop
crying. Listen to me.

RENÉ. I love you.

THÉRÈSE. Yes; there's our love. But besides that there's life, and life
is cruel and too strong for our love. There is your future, my dearest.

RENÉ. My future is to love you. My future is nothing if I lose you. [_He
buries his face in his hands_]

THÉRÈSE. You can't marry a girl without any money. That's a dreadful
fact, like a stone wall. We shall only break ourselves to pieces if we
dash ourselves against it. Listen, oh, please listen to me. Don't you
hear what I'm saying? René--dear.

RENÉ. I'm listening.

THÉRÈSE. I give you your freedom without any bitterness or hardness.

RENÉ. I don't want it!

THÉRÈSE. Now listen. You mustn't sacrifice your whole life for a love
affair, no matter how great the love is.

RENÉ. It's by losing you I shall sacrifice my life.

THÉRÈSE. Try and be brave; control yourself. Let us face this quietly.
Suppose we do without your people's consent. What will become of us? Try
to look the thing in the face. How should we live? René, it's horrible
to bring our love down to the level of these miserable realities, but
facts are facts. You know very well that if you marry me without your
father and mother's consent, they won't give you any money. Isn't that
so?

RENÉ. Oh! father is hard.

THÉRÈSE. He's quite right, my dear, quite right. If I was your sister, I
should advise you not to give up the position you have been brought up
in and the profession you've been educated for.

RENÉ. But I love you.

THÉRÈSE [_moved_] And I love you. Well, we've got to forget one another.

RENÉ. That's impossible.

THÉRÈSE. We must be wise enough to--[_She stops, her voice breaks_]

RENÉ. Oh! how unhappy I am.

THÉRÈSE [_controlling herself_] Don't let yourself go. We're not in
dreamland. If you keep on saying "I am unhappy," you'll be unhappy.

RENÉ. I love you so. Oh, Thérèse, how I love you!

THÉRÈSE [_softly_] You'll forget me.

RENÉ. Never.

THÉRÈSE. Yes. You'll remember me in a way, of course. But you're young.
Very soon you'll be able to live, to laugh, to love, to work.

RENÉ. My dearest! I don't know what to say. I can't talk of it. I only
know one thing--I can't let you go.

THÉRÈSE. But we should be miserable, René.

RENÉ. Miserable _together_!

THÉRÈSE. Think, dear, think. It will be years before you can earn your
own living, won't it?

RENÉ. But I--

THÉRÈSE. Now you know you've tried already. Only last year you wanted to
leave home and be independent, and you had to go back because you were
starving. Isn't that true?

RENÉ. It's dreadful, dreadful! [_He is overcome, terrified_]

THÉRÈSE. So we must look at life as it is, practically, mustn't we? We
have to have lodging and furniture and clothes. How are we to manage?

RENÉ. It's dreadful!

THÉRÈSE. How would you bear to see me going about in rags? [_He is
silent. She waits, looking at him, hoping for a word of strength or
courage. It does not come. She draws herself up slowly, her face
hardening_] You can't face that, can you? Tell me. Can you face that?

RENÉ. No.

THÉRÈSE [_humiliated by his want of courage and infected by his
weakness_] So you see, I'm right.

RENÉ [_sobbing_] Oh! Oh!

THÉRÈSE [_setting her teeth_] Oh, can you do nothing but cry?

RENÉ. What a useless creature I am.

THÉRÈSE. There, now, you see you're better!

RENÉ. I'm ashamed of being so good-for-nothing.

THÉRÈSE [_hopeless_] You're just like all the others. Now, don't be
miserable. I'm not angry with you; you are doing what I told you we must
do, and you agree. Go, René. Say good-bye. Good-bye, René.

RENÉ. Thérèse!

THÉRÈSE [_her nerves on edge_] Everything we can say is useless, and
it'll only torture and humiliate us. We must end this--now--at once.

RENÉ. I shall always love you, Thérèse.

THÉRÈSE. Yes--exactly--now go.

RENÉ. Oh, my God!

THÉRÈSE. Go.

RENÉ. I'll go and see my people. They'll never be so cruel--

THÉRÈSE. Yes, yes, all right.

RENÉ. I'll write you.

THÉRÈSE. Yes--that's it--you'll write.

RENÉ. I shall see you again, Thérèse? [_He goes slowly to the door_]

THÉRÈSE [_ashamed for him, covers her face with her hands. Then, all of
a sudden, she bursts out into passionate sobs, having lost all control
of herself, and cries wildly_] René!

RENÉ [_returning, shocked_] Thérèse! Oh, what is it?

THÉRÈSE [_completely at the mercy of her feelings_] Suppose--suppose
after all, we _did_ it? Listen. I love you far more than you know, more
than I have ever let you know. A foolish feeling of self-respect made me
hide a lot from you. Trust me. Trust your future to me. Marry me all the
same. Believe in me. Marry me. You don't know how strong I am and all
the things I can do. I will work, and you will work. You didn't get on
when you were alone, but you will when you have me with you. I'll keep
you brave when things go badly, and I'll be happy with you when they go
right. René, I'll be content with so little! The simplest, humblest,
hardest life, until we've made our way together--_together_, René, and
conquered a place in the world for ourselves, that we'll owe to no one
but ourselves. Let us have courage--[_At this point she looks at him,
and having looked she ceases to speak_]

RENÉ. Thérèse, I'm sure my people will give in.

THÉRÈSE [_after a very long silence, inarticulately_] Go, go; poor René.
Forget what I said. Good-bye.

RENÉ. Oh, no! not good-bye. I'll make my father help us.

THÉRÈSE [_sharply_] Too late, my friend, I don't want you now.

     _She leaves the room. René sinks into a chair and covers his
     face with his hands._



ACT II

     SCENE:--_A sitting-room at the offices of "Woman Free." The
     door at the back opens into an entrance hall. The general
     editorial office is to the right, Monsieur Nérisse's room to
     the left. At the back, also to the left, is another door
     opening into a smaller sitting-room. There are papers and
     periodicals upon the tables._

     _The curtain rises upon Monsieur Mafflu. He is a man of
     about fifty, dressed for ease rather than elegance, and a
     little vulgar. He turns over the papers on the tables,
     studies himself in the mirror, and readjusts his tie. Madame
     Nérisse then comes in. She has Monsieur Mafflu's visiting
     card in her hand. They bow to each other._


MONSIEUR MAFFLU. My card will have informed you that I am Monsieur
Mafflu.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Yes. Won't you sit down?

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. I am your new landlord, Madame. I have just bought this
house. I've retired from business. I was afraid I shouldn't have enough
to do, so I've bought some houses. I am my own agent. It gives me
something to do. If a tenant wants repairs done, I go and see him. I
love a bit of a gossip; it passes away an hour or so. In that way I make
people's acquaintance--nice people. I didn't buy any of the houses where
poor people live, though they're better business. I should never have
had the heart to turn out the ones that didn't pay, and I should have
been obliged to start an agent, and all my plan would have been upset.
[_A pause_] Now, Madame, for what brought me here. I hope you'll forgive
me for the trouble I'm giving you--and I'm sorry--but I've come to give
you notice.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Indeed! May I ask what your reason is?

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. I am just on the point of letting the second floor. My
future tenant has young daughters.

MADAME NÉRISSE. I'm afraid I don't see what that has got to do with it.

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Well--he'll live only in a house in which all the
tenants are private families.

MADAME NÉRISSE. But we make no noise. We are not in any way
objectionable.

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Oh, no, no; not at all.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Well, then?

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. How shall I explain? I'm certain you're perfectly all
right, and all the ladies who are with you here too, but I've had to
give in that house property is depreciated by people that work; all the
more if the people are ladies, and most of all if they're ladies who
write books or bring out a newspaper with such a name as _Woman Free_.
People who know nothing about it think from such a name--oh, bless you,
I understand all that's rubbish, but--well--the letting value of the
house, you see. [_He laughs_]

MADAME NÉRISSE. The sight of women who work for their living offends
these people, does it?

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Yes, that's the idea. A woman who works is always a
little--hum--well--you know what I mean. Of course I mean nothing to
annoy you.

MADAME NÉRISSE. You mean that your future tenants don't want their young
ladies to have our example before them.

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. No! That's just what they don't. Having independent
sort of people like you about makes 'em uneasy. For me, you know, I
wouldn't bother about it--only--of course you don't see it this way, but
you're odd--off the common somehow. You make one feel queer.

MADAME NÉRISSE. But there are plenty of women who work.

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Oh, common women, yes; oh, that's all right.

MADAME NÉRISSE. If you have children, they have nurses and governesses.

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Oh, those. They work, of course. They work for me,
that's quite different. But you--What bothers these ladies, Madame
Mafflu and all the others, is that you're in our own class. As for me I
stick to the old saying, "Woman's place is the home."

MADAME NÉRISSE. But there are women who have got no home.

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. That's their own fault.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Very often it's not at all their own fault. Where are
they to go? Into the streets?

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. I know, I know. There's all that. Still women can work
without being feminists.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Have you any idea what you mean by "feminist"?

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Not very clear. I know the people I live among don't
know everything. I grant you all that. But _Woman Free! Woman Free!_
Madame Mafflu wants to know what liberty--or what liberties--singular or
plural; do you take me?--ha! ha! There might be questions asked.

MADAME NÉRISSE [_laughing_] You must do me the honor of introducing me
to Madame Mafflu. She must be an interesting woman. I'll go and see
her.

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Oh, do! But not on a Wednesday.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Why not?

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. 'Cos Wednesday's her day.

MADAME NÉRISSE [_gayly_] I must give it up, then, as I'm free only on
Wednesdays.

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. I should like her to see for herself how nice you are.
Her friends have been talking to her. They thought that you--well--they
say feminist women are like the women were in the time of the Commune.
They said perhaps you'd even go on a deputation!

MADAME NÉRISSE. You wouldn't approve of that?

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Oh, talkin' of that, one of my friends has an argument
nobody can answer. "Let these women," he says, "let 'em do their
military service."

MADAME NÉRISSE. Well, you tell him that if men make wars, women make
soldiers; and get killed at that work too, sometimes.

MONSIEUR MAFFLU [_after reflecting for some moments_] I'll tell him, but
he won't understand.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Well, no matter. I won't detain you any longer, Monsieur
Mafflu.

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Oh! Madame. I should like to stay and talk to you for
hours.

MADAME NÉRISSE [_laughing_] You're too kind.

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Then you forgive me?

MADAME NÉRISSE [_going to the door with him_] What would one not forgive
you?

MONSIEUR MAFFLU [_turning back_] I say--

MADAME NÉRISSE. No, no. Good-bye, Monsieur.

MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Good-bye, Madame.

     _He goes out._

MADAME NÉRISSE [_to herself_] One really couldn't be angry!

     _Thérèse comes in with a little moleskin bag on her arm. She
     is in a light dress, is very gay, and looks younger._

THÉRÈSE. Good-morning, Madame. I'm so sorry to be late. I met Monsieur
Féliat, my godmother's brother.

MADAME NÉRISSE. How is Madame Guéret?

THÉRÈSE. Very well, he says.

MADAME NÉRISSE. And does Monsieur Guéret like his new home?

THÉRÈSE. Yes, very much.

MADAME NÉRISSE. And Madame Guéret?

THÉRÈSE. She seems to be quite happy.

MADAME NÉRISSE. What a good thing. Here's the letter Monsieur Nérisse
has written for you to that editor. [_She hands her an unsealed letter_]

THÉRÈSE. Oh, thank you!

MADAME NÉRISSE. Did you find out when he could see you?

THÉRÈSE. To-morrow at Two O'clock. Can you spare me then?

MADAME NÉRISSE. Yes, certainly.

THÉRÈSE. Thank you.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Why don't you read your letter? You see it's open.

THÉRÈSE. I'll shut it up.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Read it.

THÉRÈSE. Shall I?

MADAME NÉRISSE. Yes, do.

THÉRÈSE [_reading_] Oh, it's too much. This is too kind. With a letter
like this my article is certain to be read. Monsieur Nérisse _is_ kind!
Will you tell him how very grateful I am?

MADAME NÉRISSE [_coldly_] Yes. [_She makes an effort to be kind_] I'll
tell him, of course. But I dictated the letter myself. Monsieur Nérisse
only signed it. [_She rings_]

THÉRÈSE. Then I have one more kindness to thank you for.

MADAME NÉRISSE [_to the page boy_] I expect Monsieur Cazarès.

BOY. Monsieur--?

MADAME NÉRISSE. Our old editor--Monsieur Cazarès. You know him very
well.

BOY. Oh, yes, Madame, yes!

MADAME NÉRISSE. He will have another gentleman with him. You must show
them straight into Monsieur Nérisse's room and let me know.

BOY. Yes, Madame.

     _During this conversation Thérèse has taken off her hat and
     put it into a cupboard. She has opened a green cardboard box
     and put her gloves and veil into it--folding the latter
     carefully--also Monsieur Nérisse's letter. She has taken out
     a little mirror, given some touches to her hair, and has put
     it back. Finally she closes the box._

MADAME NÉRISSE. Monsieur Cazarès is bringing us a new backer. We're
going to make changes in the paper. I'll tell you all about it
presently. [_With a change of tone_] Tell me, what was there between you
and Monsieur Cazarès?

THÉRÈSE [_simply_] Nothing at all.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Isn't he just a wee bit in love with you?

THÉRÈSE. I haven't the least idea. He's said nothing to me about it, if
he is.

MADAME NÉRISSE. He's always behaved quite nicely to you?

THÉRÈSE. Always.

MADAME NÉRISSE. And Monsieur Nérisse?

THÉRÈSE. Monsieur Nérisse? I don't understand.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Oh, yes, you do. Has he ever made love to you?

THÉRÈSE. [_hurt_] Oh, Madame!

MADAME NÉRISSE. [_looking closely at her and then taking both her hands
affectionately_] Forgive me, dear child. I know how good and straight
you are. You mustn't mind the things I say. Sometimes I'm horrid I know.
I have an idea that Monsieur Nérisse is not as fond of me as he used to
be.

THÉRÈSE. Oh, indeed that's only your fancy.

MADAME NÉRISSE. I hope so. I'm a bit nervous I think. I've such a lot of
trouble with the paper just now. It's not going well. [_Gesture of
Thérèse_] We're going to try something fresh. This time I think it'll be
all right. You'll see it will. [_A pause_] What's that? Did he call? I'm
sure that idiot of a boy hasn't made up his fire, and he'd never think
of it. He's like a great baby. [_As she goes towards Monsieur Nérisse's
door--the door on the left--the door on the right opens, and
Mademoiselle Grégoire comes in. She has taken off her hat. Madame
Nérisse turns to her_] Why, it's Mademoiselle Grégoire! You know, _Dr._
Grégoire! [_To Mademoiselle Grégoire_] This is Mademoiselle Thérèse.
[_They shake hands_] I spoke to you about her. She'll explain everything
to you in no time. I'll come back very soon and introduce you to the
others. Excuse me for a minute. [_She goes out to the left_]

THÉRÈSE. [_pleasantly_] I really don't know what Madame Nérisse wants me
to explain to you. You know our paper?

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. No, I've never seen it.

THÉRÈSE. Never seen it! Never seen _Woman Free_?

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. Never. I only know it by name.

THÉRÈSE. How odd! Well, here's a copy. It's in two parts, you see, and
they're quite different from each other. Here the doctrine, there the
attractions. Madame Nérisse thought of that.

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE [_reading as she turns over the leaves_] "Votes
for Women."

THÉRÈSE [_reading with her_] "Votes for Women," "An End of Slavery." And
then, on here, lighter things.

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. Frivolities?

THÉRÈSE. Frivolities. A story. "Beauty Notes."

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE [_reading and laughing a little_] "The Doctor's
Page."

THÉRÈSE. Oh, too bad! But it wasn't I who first said frivolities!

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE [_still laughing_] I shall bear up. And what comes
after "The Doctor's Page"?

THÉRÈSE. "Beauty Notes" and "Gleanings."

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. Gleanings?

THÉRÈSE. Yes. It's a column where real and imaginary subscribers
exchange notes about cookery receipts, and housekeeping tips, and hair
lotions, and that sort of thing.

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. Quite a good thing.

THÉRÈSE. I most confess it's the best read part.

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. I'm not at all surprised.

THÉRÈSE. I'm afraid we can't conceal from ourselves that Monsieur
Nérisse has not altogether succeeded. Each of us is inclined to like
only her own section. We've a girl here, Caroline Legrand, one of the
staff, who's tremendously go-a-head. You should hear her on the subject
of "Soap of the Sylphs" and "Oriental Balm."

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. It makes her furious?

THÉRÈSE. She's a sort of rampageous saint; ferocious and affectionate by
turns, a bit ridiculous perhaps, but delightful and generous. She's so
simple nasty people could easily make a fool of her, but all nice people
like her.

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. Shall I have much to do with her?

THÉRÈSE. Not much. You'll be under Mademoiselle de Meuriot, and you'll
be lucky. She's a dear. She's been sacrificing herself all her life.
She's my great friend--the only one I have.

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE [_taking up the paper again_] But how's this? Your
contributors are all men. Gabriel de--, Camille de--, Claud de--, René
de--, Marcel de--.

THÉRÈSE. Well! I never noticed that before. They're the pen-names of our
writers.

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. All men's names?

THÉRÈSE. Yes. People still think more of men as writers. You see they
are names that might be either a man's or a woman's. Camille, René,
Gabriel.

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. There's only one woman's name--Vicomtesse de
Renneville.

THÉRÈSE. That's snobbery! It's Madame Nérisse's pen-name.

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. Well, I suppose it's good business.

     _Mademoiselle de Meuriot comes in at the back, bringing a
     packet of letters._

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. The post's come, Thérèse.

THÉRÈSE. This is Mademoiselle de Meuriot. [_Introducing Mademoiselle
Grégoire_] Our new contributor.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. You're welcome, Mademoiselle.

     _The door on the left opens and Madame Nérisse appears
     backwards, still talking to Monsieur Nérisse, who is
     invisible in the inner room._

MADAME NÉRISSE. Yes, dearest. Yes, dearest. Yes, dearest.

     _Mademoiselle Grégoire looks up at Madame Nérisse._

     _Mademoiselle de Meuriot and Thérèse turn away their heads
     to hide their smiles; finally Madame Nérisse shuts the door,
     not having noticed anything, and comes forward. She speaks
     to Mademoiselle Grégoire._

MADAME NÉRISSE. Come, my dear. I'll introduce you to the others. [_To
Mademoiselle de Meuriot_] Ah! the post has come. Open the letters,
Thérèse, will you?

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Yes, we will.

MADAME NÉRISSE [_at the door on the right, to Mademoiselle Grégoire_]
You first. [_They go out_]

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_smiling_] I think our new friend was a bit
amused. She's pretty.

THÉRÈSE. Yes, and she looks capable.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Let's get to work.

     _She sits down, at a desk. Thérèse sits near her at the end
     of the same desk. During all that follows Thérèse opens
     envelopes with a letter opener and passes them to
     Mademoiselle de Meuriot, who takes the letters out, glances
     at them, and makes three or four little piles of them._

THÉRÈSE. Here! [_Holding out the first letter_]

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_as she works_] And you? How are you this
morning? [_Looking closely at her and shaking a finger_] You're tired,
little girl. You sat up working last night.

THÉRÈSE. I wanted to finish copying out my manuscript. It took me ages,
because I wanted to make it as clear as print.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_gravely_] You know you mustn't be ill,
Thérèse.

THÉRÈSE. How good you are, Mademoiselle, and how lucky I am to have you
for a friend. What should I do without you?

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. How about your godmother?

THÉRÈSE. I didn't get on with her. She never could hide her dislike for
me, and it burst out in the end. When she saw that in spite of
everything she could say I was going to leave her, she let herself go
and made a dreadful scene. And, what was worse, my good, kind godfather
joined in! It seemed as if they thought my wanting to be independent was
a direct insult to them. What a lot of letters there are to-day.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. It's the renewal of the subscriptions.

THÉRÈSE. Oh, is that it? So you see we parted, not exactly enemies--but,
well--on our dignity. We write little letters to one another now, half
cold and half affectionate. I tell you, without you I should be quite
alone.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Not more alone than I am.

THÉRÈSE. I have someone to talk to now and tell my little worries to.
It's not that, even. One always finds people ready to listen to you and
pity you, but what one doesn't find is people one can tell one's most
impossible dreams to and feel sure one won't be laughed at. That's real
friendship. [_She stops working as she continues_] To dare to think out
loud before another person and let her see the gods of one's secret
idolatry, and to be sure one's not exposing one's precious things to
blasphemy. How I love you for being like you are and for caring for me a
little. [_She resumes her work_]

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. I don't care for you a little, Thérèse! I care
for you very much indeed. I like you because you're brave and hurl
yourself against obstacles like a little battering ram, and because
you're straight and honest and one can depend on you.

THÉRÈSE [_who can't get open the letter she holds_] Please pass me the
scissors. Thanks. [_She cuts open the envelope_] I might have been all
those things, and it would have been no good at all, if you hadn't been
able to see them.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Remember that in being friends with you I get
as much as I give. My people were very religious and very proud of their
title. I made up my mind to leave home, but since then I've been quite
alone--alone for thirty years. I'm selfish in my love for you now. I've
had so little of that sort of happiness.

THÉRÈSE. You've done so much for women. You've helped so many.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_touching her piles of letters_] Here's another
who won't renew.

THÉRÈSE. What will Madame Nérisse say? [_Continuing_] You know,
Mademoiselle, it's not only success that I want. I have a great
ambition. I should like to think that because I've lived there might be
a little less suffering in the world. That's the sort of thing that I
can say to nobody but you.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_tenderly_] Thérèse has an ardent soul.

THÉRÈSE. Yes, Thérèse has an ardent soul. It was you who said that about
me first, and I think I deserve it. [_Changing her tone_] Here's the
subscriber's book. [_She hands the book and continues in her former
voice_] Like Guyan, I have more tears than I need to spend on my own
sufferings, so I can give the spare ones to other people. And not only
tears, but courage and consolation that I have no opportunity of using
up myself. Do you understand what I mean?

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Yes, I understand, my dear. I see my own youth
over again. [_Sadly_] Oh, I hope that you--but I don't want to rouse up
those old ghosts; I should only distress you. Perhaps lives like mine
are necessary, if it's only to throw into relief lives that are more
beautiful than mine. Keep your lovely dreams. [_A silence_] When I think
that instead of being an old maid I might have been the mother of a girl
like you!

THÉRÈSE [_leaning towards her and kissing her hair_] Don't cry.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_tears in her eyes and a smile upon her lips_]
No, no, I won't; and when I think that somewhere or other there's a man
you love!

THÉRÈSE [_smiling_] Some day or other I must tell you a whole lot of
things about René.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Have you seen him again?

THÉRÈSE. Yes.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. But you were supposed not to meet any more.

THÉRÈSE [_with a mutinous little smile_] Yes, we were supposed not to
meet any more. One says those things and then one meets all the same. If
René had gone on being the feeble and lamentable young man that I parted
from the _Barberine_ evening, I should perhaps have never seen him
again. You don't know what my René has done, do you now?

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. No.

THÉRÈSE. I've been looking forward so to telling you. [_Eagerly_] Well,
he's quite changed. He's become a different man. Oh, he's not a marvel
of energy even yet, but he's not the helpless youth who was still
feeding out of his father's hands at twenty-five.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. And how has this great improvement come about?

THÉRÈSE [_looking at her knowingly_] You'll make me blush.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Was it for love of you?

THÉRÈSE. I think it _was_ for love of me. Let me tell you. He wanted to
see me again, and he waited at the door when I was coming out from my
work, just as if I was a little milliner's assistant. And then he came
back another evening, and then another. While we were walking from here
to my place we chattered, and chattered, and chattered. We had more to
say to each other than we'd ever had before, and I began to realize that
his want of will and energy was more the result of always hanging on to
his people than anything else. Then there came a crash. [_She laughs_] A
most fortunate crash. His father formally ordered him not to see me
again; threatened, if he did, to stop his allowance. What do you think
my René did? He sent back the cheque his people had just given him with
quite a nice, civil, respectful letter. Then he left his office and got
a place in a business house at an absurdly small salary, and he's been
working there ever since. [_Laughing_] He shocked all the other young
men in the office by the way he stuck to it. He got gradually interested
in what he had to do. He read it all up; the heads of the firm noticed
him and were civil to him, and now they've sent him on important
business to Tunis. And that's what he's done all for love of me! Now,
don't you think I ought to care for him a little? Don't you?

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Yes, my dear. But then if he's in Tunis?

THÉRÈSE. Oh, he'll come back.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. And when will the wedding be?

THÉRÈSE. He's sure his people will give in in the end if he can make
some money. We shall wait.

     _The page boy comes in with seven or eight round parcels in
     his arms._

BOY. Here are this morning's manuscripts.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Put them with the others.

BOY. There was one lady was quite determined to see you herself. She
said her article was most particular. It's among that lot.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Very well.

BOY. Mademoiselle Caroline Legrand is coming.

     _He opens the door and stands back to allow Caroline Legrand
     to come in. She is dressed in a long brown tailor-made
     overcoat and a white waistcoat, with a yellow necktie._

CAROLINE LEGRAND. Good-morning, Meuriot.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Good-morning, Caroline Legrand. [_They shake
hands_]

CAROLINE LEGRAND. It seems there's something new going on here.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. I believe there is, but I know nothing about
it.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. I expect the paper's not going well, the jam hasn't
hidden the pill. Even Madame Nérisse's thirtieth article upon divorce at
the desire of one party hasn't succeeded in stirring up enthusiasm this
time. She's been preaching up free love, but she really started the
paper only because she thought it would help her to get the law changed
and allow her to marry her "dearest."

THÉRÈSE. Mademoiselle Legrand, I have some news that will please you.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. Are all the men dead?

THÉRÈSE. No, not yet; but I've heard that in a small country town
they're starting a Woman's Trade Union.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. It won't succeed. Women are too stupid.

THÉRÈSE. They've opened a special workshop there, and they're going to
have work that's always been done by men done by women.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. That's splendid! A woman worker the more is a slave
the less.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_gravely_] Are you quite sure of that?

CAROLINE LEGRAND. Oh, don't you misunderstand me! [_Forcibly_] Listen to
this. A time will come when people will be as ashamed of having made
women work as they are ashamed now of having kept slaves. But, until
then--

THÉRÈSE. The employer is rather disturbed about it.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. He's quite right. Very soon there'll be a fierce
reaction among the men about this cheap women's labor. There's going to
be a new sex struggle--the struggle for bread. Man will use all his
strength and all his cruelty to defend himself. There's a time coming
when gallantry and chivalry will go by the board, _I_ can tell you.

     _Madame Nérisse comes in._

MADAME NÉRISSE. Oh, good-morning, Legrand. I'm glad you're here, I've
been wanting to ask your advice about a new idea I want to start in
_Woman Free_. A correspondence about getting up a league of society
women--

CAROLINE LEGRAND. What about the others?

MADAME NÉRISSE [_continuing, without attending to her_]--and smart
people, who will undertake not to wear ornaments in their hats made of
the wings or the plumage of birds.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. You're giving up _Woman Free_ for _Birds Free_, then?

MADAME NÉRISSE. What do you mean?

CAROLINE LEGRAND. You'd better make a league to do away with hats
altogether as a protest against the sweating of the women who stitch the
straw at famine prices and make the ribbon at next to nothing. I shall
be more concerned for the fate of the sparrows when I haven't got to
concern myself about the fate of sweated women.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Well, of course. That's the article we've got to write.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. Of course.

MADAME NÉRISSE. We'll write it in the form of a letter to a member of
parliament--it had better be a man, because we're going to put him in
the wrong--a member of parliament who wants to form the league I
suggested. What you said about the sparrows will be a splendid tag at
the end. Will you write it?

CAROLINE LEGRAND. Rather! It's lucky you don't stick to your ideas very
obstinately, because they can sometimes be improved upon. I think I
shall write your paper for you in future.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Go along and send me in Mademoiselle Grégoire and Madame
Chanteuil. They'll bother you, and I want them here.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. To write about "Soap of the Sylphs." _I_ know.

     _She goes out to the right._

MADAME NÉRISSE. She's a little mad, but she really has good ideas
sometimes.

     _The page boy comes in._

BOY [_to Madame Nérisse_] The gentlemen are there, Monsieur Cazarès and
another gentleman.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Are they with Monsieur Nérisse?

BOY. Yes, Madame.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Very well, I'll go. [_The boy goes out. She speaks to
the others_] Divide the work between you. [_To Madame Chanteuil and
Mademoiselle Grégoire, who come in from the right_] There's lots of work
to be done. [_She goes out to the left_]

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. We'd better sit down. [_She sits down and says
what follows whilst they are taking their places round the table. She
takes up the first letter_] This is for the advertising department. Is
Mademoiselle Baron here?

THÉRÈSE. No, poor little thing. She's trudging round Paris to try and
get hold of a few advertisements.

MADAME CHANTEUIL. It's a dreadful job, trying to get advertisements for
a paper that three-quarters of the people she goes to have never heard
of. It gives me the shivers to remember what I had to go through myself
over that job.

THÉRÈSE. And poor little Baron is so shy!

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. She earned only fifty francs all last month.

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. I know her, I met her lately; she told me she was
in luck, that she had an appointment with the manager of the Institut de
Jouvence.

MADAME CHANTEUIL. And she thinks she's in luck!

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. It appears that that's a place where you can do
quite good business.

MADAME CHANTEUIL [_gravely_] Yes, young women can do business there if
they're pretty; but have you any idea what price they pay? Nothing would
induce me to put my foot inside the place again.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Oh, the poor little girl! Oh, dear! [_A pause.
She begins to sort the letters_]

THÉRÈSE [_half to herself_] It seems to me our name _Woman Free_ is
horrible irony.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_holding a letter in her hand_] Oh, Chanteuil,
what _have_ you done? Here's somebody perfectly furious. She says she
asked you to give her some information in the beauty column. [_Reading_]
It was something she was mistaken about. She wrote under the name of
"Always Young," and apparently you've answered "Always Young is a
mistake." She thinks you did it to insult her. You must write her a
letter of apologies.

MADAME CHANTEUIL. Yes, Mademoiselle.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_holding up another letter_] "Little Questions
of Sentiment." This is for you, Thérèse. [_She reads_] "I feel so sad
because I am getting old," etc. Answer, "Why this sadness--"

THÉRÈSE. "White hairs are a crown of--" [_She writes a few words in
pencil upon the letter which Mademoiselle de Meuriot has passed to her_]

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. "Astral Influences." [_Looking round_] Who is
"Astral Influences"?

MADAME CHANTEUIL. I am.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_passing her letters_] Here are two, three--one
without a post office order. Put that one straight into the waste paper
basket. Remember that you must always promise them luck, with little
difficulties to give success more flavor. And be sure to tell them
they're full of good qualities, with some little amiable weaknesses and
the sort of defects one enjoys boasting about. [_Going on reading_]
"About using whites of eggs to take the sharpness out of sorrel," "To
take out ink-stains." These are for you, dear.

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. Yes. [_She takes the letters_] I didn't think of
that when I took my degree.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_continuing_] "Stoutness"; that's for you too.
[_Glancing again at the letter_] What does this one want? [_Fluttering
the leaves_] Four pages; ah, here we are--"A slender figure--smaller
hips--am not too stout anywhere else." That's for the doctor. [_She
gives the letter to Mademoiselle Grégoire with several others_]

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. Iodiform soap.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. My dear, not at all, "Soap of the Sylphs."

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. But that's exactly the same thing.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. I know that. But it sounds so different.
[_Taking another letter_] "A red nose"--

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. Lemon juice.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_continuing_] "Superfluous hairs." Be sure to
recommend the cream that gives us advertisements; don't make any mistake
about that. "Black specks on the chin," "Wrinkles round the eyes."

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. There's no cure for that.

MADAME CHANTEUIL. Tell her to go to bed early and alone.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. That's too easy, she wouldn't believe in it.
Find something else. [_Continuing to read_] "To make them firm without
enlarging them"; that's for you too. And all the rest I think. "To
whiten the teeth," "To make the hair lighter," "To give firmness to the
bust."

MADAME CHANTEUIL. They're always asking that.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_reading_] "To enlarge the eyes," "get rid of
wrinkles"--"and double chins"--"a clear complexion"--"to keep
young"--ouf! That's all. No, here's one that wants white arms. They're
all alike, poor women!

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. And all that to please men.

MADAME CHANTEUIL. To please a man more than some other woman, and so to
be fed, lodged, and kept by him.

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE [_between her teeth_] _Kept_ is the right word.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Ah, here's Mademoiselle Baron. [_To
Mademoiselle Baron_] Well? What luck?

MADEMOISELLE BARON [_miserably_] There's no one in the office. I've got
the signed contract for the advertisements of the Institut de Jouvence.
Now I must go on to the printers. Here it is. Good-bye. [_A silence_]

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_in a suffocated voice_] Good-bye, my dear.

     _They watch her go sadly. A long silence._

THÉRÈSE [_speaking with great emotion_] Poor, _poor_ little thing!

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_also quite overcome, slowly_] Perhaps she has
someone at home who's hungry.

     _They each respond by a sigh or an ouf! Mademoiselle
     Grégoire, Madame Chanteuil, and Mademoiselle de Meuriot
     rise, picking up their papers._

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE. I must go and see to the "Doctor's Page."

MADAME CHANTEUIL. And I to the "Gleaner's Column."

     _They go out to the right. Thérèse rests her chin on her two
     hands and reflects profoundly. Monsieur Nérisse comes in at
     the back._

NÉRISSE [_speaking back to the people he has left in his office in an
irritated voice_] Do as you like. I've told you my opinion. I wash my
hands of it. When your draft is ready show it to me. [_He shuts the
door. Thérèse, when she hears his voice, has gathered up her papers and
is making for the door on the right. He calls her back_] Mademoiselle!

THÉRÈSE. Monsieur!

NÉRISSE. Listen. I have something to say to you. [_Thérèse returns_] Did
Madame Nérisse give you the letter of introduction I wrote for you?

THÉRÈSE. Yes, Monsieur. Please forgive me for not having thanked you
before.

NÉRISSE. It's nothing.

THÉRÈSE. Indeed it's a great deal.

NÉRISSE. Nothing.

THÉRÈSE. Yes, I'm sure to be received quite differently with that letter
from what I should be without it.

NÉRISSE. I can give you any number of letters like that. May I?

THÉRÈSE [_coldly_] No, thank you.

NÉRISSE. You won't let me?

THÉRÈSE. No.

NÉRISSE. Why?

THÉRÈSE. You know very well why.

NÉRISSE. You're still angry with me. You do yourself harm by the way you
treat me, you do indeed. Listen, this is the sort of thing. Moranville,
the editor of the review I was talking about, is going to meet me at my
restaurant after dinner. I know he wants just such stories as you write.
But Moranville reads only the manuscripts of people he knows--he has a
craze about it. Well, I hardly dare propose to you a thing which
nevertheless is perfectly natural among colleagues, to come and dine
with me first and meet him after. I hardly like--[_Thérèse draws herself
up_] You see, I'm right. You don't trust me.

THÉRÈSE. On the contrary, I'll go gladly. Madame Nérisse will be with
you of course?

NÉRISSE [_annoyed_] Madame Nérisse! Nonsense! Do you suppose I drag her
everywhere I go? Say no more about it. Whatever I say will only make you
suspicious. [_With a sigh_] All this misunderstanding and suspicion is
horrible to me. How stupid the world is! There are times when I feel
disgusted with everything, myself included! I'm getting old. I'm a
failure. I'm losing my time and wasting my life over this ridiculous
paper, which will never be anything but an obscure rag. I shall have
done for myself soon.

THÉRÈSE [_awkwardly, for something to say_] Don't say that.

NÉRISSE. Yes, I shall. I might have a chance of saving myself yet if I
took things energetically and got free of the whole thing. But I should
have to be quick about it. [_A silence. Thérèse does not know what to
say and does not dare to leave the room_] I'm so low--so unhappy!

THÉRÈSE. So unhappy?

NÉRISSE. Yes. [_Another silence. Madame Nérisse comes in and looks at
them pointedly_] Are they gone?

MADAME NÉRISSE. Yes, they're gone.

NÉRISSE. Is it all settled?

MADAME NÉRISSE. Yes. I am to meet them at the bank at four. But they
wouldn't give way on the question of reducing expenses as regards the
contributors.

NÉRISSE. And the dates of publication?

MADAME NÉRISSE. We are to come out fortnightly instead of weekly.
[_Indicating the door on the right_] You must go and speak to them.

NÉRISSE. Is Thérèse's salary to be reduced too?

MADAME NÉRISSE. It would be impossible to make distinctions.

NÉRISSE. Difficult, yes. Still--I think one might have managed to do
something for her.

MADAME NÉRISSE. I cannot see how she differs from the others. Can you?

NÉRISSE. Oh, well--say no more about it.

MADAME NÉRISSE. That will be best. [_He goes out to the right. To
herself_] I should think so indeed! [_To Thérèse_] While Monsieur
Nérisse was talking to the other man I had a chat with Monsieur Cazarès.
He was talking about you. He's a nice fellow, and it's quite a good
family you know. He's steady and fairly well off--very well off.

THÉRÈSE [_laughing_] You talk as if you were offering me a husband!

NÉRISSE. And what would you say supposing he had asked me to sound you?

THÉRÈSE. I should say that I was very much obliged, but that I decline
the honor.

NÉRISSE. What's wrong with him?

THÉRÈSE. Nothing.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Well then?

THÉRÈSE. You can't marry upon that.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Have you absolutely made up your mind?

THÉRÈSE. Absolutely.

MADAME NÉRISSE. I think you're making a mistake. I think it all the more
because this chance comes just at a time--well, you'll understand what I
mean when I've told you something that I have to say to you as
manageress of _Woman Free_. It's this. You know that in spite of all we
could do we've had to hunt about for more capital. We've found some, but
we've had to submit to very severe conditions. The most important is
that they insist upon a stringent cutting down of expenses. Instead of
coming out every week, _Woman Free_ will be a fortnightly in future, and
we've been obliged to consent to reducing the salaries of the
contributors in proportion.

THÉRÈSE. How much will they be reduced?

MADAME NÉRISSE. In proportion I tell you. They'll be cut down by one
half.

THÉRÈSE. And I shall not have enough to live upon even in the simplest
way.

MADAME NÉRISSE. That was exactly what I said to them. And the work will
not be the same.

THÉRÈSE. My work will not be the same?

MADAME NÉRISSE. No; you will be obliged to work at night.

THÉRÈSE. At night?

MADAME NÉRISSE. Yes.

THÉRÈSE. But then I shall be free all day.

MADAME NÉRISSE. No, you won't. In the daytime you will have to take
charge of the business part of the paper, and in the evening too your
work will not be purely literary, but more of an administrative
character.

THÉRÈSE. It appears to me that I'm asked to accept a smaller salary and
to do double work for it.

MADAME NÉRISSE. I am conveying to you the offers of the new Directors;
if they don't suit you, you have only to refuse them.

THÉRÈSE. Of course I refuse them, and you may say to the people who have
made them that they must be shameful sweaters to dare to offer women
salaries that leave them no choice between starvation and degradation.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Those are strong words, my dear, and you seem to forget
very quickly--

THÉRÈSE [_softening_] Yes. Oh, I beg your pardon. But think for a
minute, Madame, and you'll forgive me for being angry. I hardly know
what I'm saying. [_Madame Nérisse half turns away_] Listen, oh listen!
Forget what I said just now; I'll explain to you. I accept the reduction
of salary. I'll manage. I'll get my expenses down. Only I can't consent
to give up all my time. You know I have some work in hand; you know I
have a big undertaking to which I've given all my life. I've told you
about it, you know about that. You know I can only stand my loneliness
and everything because of the hope I have about this. If people take all
my time, it's the same as if they killed me. I beg you, I implore you,
get them to leave me my evenings free.

MADAME NÉRISSE. It can't be done.

THÉRÈSE [_pulling herself together_] Very well, that's settled. I will
go at the end of the month; that's to say to-morrow.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Take a little time to consider it.

THÉRÈSE. I have considered it. They propose that I should commit
suicide. I say no!

MADAME NÉRISSE. I'm sorry, truly sorry. [_She rings. While she waits for
the bell to be answered, she looks searchingly at Thérèse, who does not
notice it. To the page boy who comes in_] Go and call me a taxi, but
first say to Monsieur Nérisse--

BOY. Monsieur Nérisse has just gone out, Madame.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Are you quite sure?

BOY. I called him a taxi.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Very well, you can go. [_To Thérèse_] I'll ask you for
your final answer this evening. [_She hands her two large books_] If you
make up your mind to stay, make me these two bibliographies.

     _Thérèse does not answer. Madame Nérisse goes out to the
     left. Left alone Thérèse begins to sort the papers on her
     bureau rather violently. She seizes a paper knife, flings it
     upon the couch, and afterwards walks up and down the room in
     great agitation. The door on the right opens and there come
     in such exclamations as No! Never! It's monstrous! I shall
     leave! It's an insult!_

     _Caroline Legrand, Mademoiselle Grégoire, Madame Chanteuil,
     and Mademoiselle de Meuriot come in. Mademoiselle de Meuriot
     is the only one who has kept her self-possession._

MADEMOISELLE GRÉGOIRE [_speaking above the din_] Good-bye, all. [_She
goes to the small salon from which she originally came in, and during
the conversation that follows comes in putting on her hat, and goes out
unnoticed at the back_]

THÉRÈSE. Well, what do you think of this?

MADAME CHANTEUIL AND CAROLINE LEGRAND [_together_] It's an insult.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. You must try and keep quiet. [_To Thérèse_]
What shall you do?

THÉRÈSE. I shall leave.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. You ought to stay.

MADAME CHANTEUIL. No, Thérèse is right. We must all leave.

THÉRÈSE. We must leave to-morrow--no, this evening.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_quietly_] Do you think that you'll be able to
make better terms anywhere else?

THÉRÈSE. That won't be difficult.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. You think so?

THÉRÈSE. Rather.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. Where, for instance?

THÉRÈSE. There are other papers in Paris besides this one.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Then you know a lot of others that pay better?

THÉRÈSE. One will be enough for me.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. And you think you'll find a place straight off? You
know there are other people--

THÉRÈSE. I'll give lessons. I took my degree.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. Much good may it do you.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. You think you'll be a governess? At one time a
governess could get 1,200 francs, now it's 650 francs--less than the
cook. And if you were to be a companion--

THÉRÈSE. Why not a lady's maid at once?

CAROLINE LEGRAND. Yes; lady's maid. That's not a bad idea. It's the only
occupation a girl brought up as rich people bring up their daughters can
be certain to get and to keep, if she's only humble enough.

THÉRÈSE. I shall manage to get along without taking to that.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. But, Thérèse, have you really been blind to all
that's been going on here? Haven't you constantly seen unfortunate
women, as well brought up and as well educated as yourself, coming
hunting for work? Don't you remember that advertisement of the girl that
Caroline Legrand was interested in? That advertisement has been
appearing in the paper for the last three months. I'll read it to you.
[_Caroline Legrand takes up a number of "Women Free" and passes it to
Mademoiselle de Meuriot_] Here it is. [_Reading_] "A young lady of
distinguished appearance, who has taken a high certificate for teaching.
Good musician. Drawing, English, shorthand, etc." I know that girl. She
told me all about her life. D'you know what she's offered? She asked two
francs an hour for teaching the piano. They laughed in her face, because
for that they could get a girl who'd taken first prize at the
Conservatoire. They gave her seventy-five centimes. Deduct from that
seventy-five centimes the price of the journey in that underground, the
wear and tear of clothes, the time lost in going and coming, and then
what do you think is left?

CAROLINE LEGRAND. Let's be just. She got answers from doubtful places
abroad, letters from old satyrs, and invitations to pose for the
"movies."

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. What's left then? The stage. It's quite natural
you should think of the stage.

THÉRÈSE. If one must.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. If one must! You'd condescend to it, wouldn't you? You
poor child!

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. You can't get into the Conservatoire after
twenty-one. Are you under that? No. Are you a genius? No. Well then?

CAROLINE LEGRAND. Have you a rich lover who will back you?

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. No. Then you'll get nothing at all in the
theatres except by making friends with half a dozen men or selling
yourself to one.

THÉRÈSE. I'll go into a shop. At any rate, when it shuts I shall be
free.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. You think they're longing for you, don't you? You
forget you'd have to know things for that one doesn't learn by taking a
degree; things like shorthand and typewriting. Do you know there are
twenty thousand women in Paris who want to get into shops and offices
and can't find places?

MADAME CHANTEUIL. I know exactly what's going to become of _me_.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. Now you're going to say something silly.

MADAME CHANTEUIL. You think so, you've guessed. Well, I tell you, middle
class girls thrown on the world as we are can't get along without a
man--a husband or a lover. We haven't got the key of the prison door.
We've not learned a trade. We've learned to smile, and dance, and
sing--parlor tricks. All that's only of use in a love affair or a
marriage. Without a man we're stranded. Our parents have brought us all
up for one career and one only--the man. I was a fool not to understand
before. Now I see.

CAROLINE LEGRAND. Look here, you're not going to take a lover?

MADAME CHANTEUIL. Suppose I am?

CAROLINE LEGRAND. My dear, you came here full of indignation, clamoring
against the state of society. You called yourself a feminist, but you,
and women like you, are feminists only when it's convenient. There are
no real feminists except ugly women like me or old ones like Meuriot.
You others come about us in a swarm and then drop away one after
another to go off to some man. As soon as a lover condescends to throw
the handkerchief you're up and off to him. You _want_ to be slaves. Go,
my dear, and take your lover. That's your fate. Good-night. [_She goes
out_]

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_to Madame Chanteuil_] Don't listen to her, you
poor child. Don't ruin all your life in a fit of despair.

MADAME CHANTEUIL. I can't stay here. I'm not a saint and I'm not a fool.
How can I live on what they offer to pay me?

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Stay for a little, while you're looking for
something else.

MADAME CHANTEUIL. Look for something else! Never! That means all the
horrors I went through, before I came here, over again! No! _no! no!_
Never! Looking for work means trailing through the mud, toiling up
stairs, ringing bells, being told to call again, calling again to get
more snubs. And then when one thinks one's found something one comes up
against a door guarded by a man who's watching you, and who's got to be
satisfied before you can get into the workroom, or the office, or the
shop, or whatever it may be. And then you've got to begin again with
somebody else and be snubbed again. No. Since it's an accepted, settled,
decided thing that the only career for a woman is to satisfy the
passions of a man, I prefer the one I've chosen myself.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. And what if he goes off and leaves you with a
baby?

MADAME CHANTEUIL. Well, I'll bring it up. I shan't be the first. Women
do it. It happens to one in every five in Paris. Ask Mademoiselle de
Meuriot, the old maid, if she wouldn't be glad to have one now? When one
grows old it's better to have had a child in that way than not to have
had one at all. Ask her if I'm not telling the truth. Ask her if she's
happy in her loneliness.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Oh, it's true--it's true! Sometimes--

     _She bursts into tears. Thérèse goes to her and takes her in
     her arms._

THÉRÈSE. Oh, Mademoiselle, dear Mademoiselle!

MADAME CHANTEUIL [_between her teeth_] Good-bye, Mademoiselle. Good-bye,
Thérèse.

MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [_to Madame Chanteuil_] Wait, wait. I'm going
with you. I am not going to leave you just now.

     _Mademoiselle de Meuriot goes out with Madame Chanteuil.
     Thérèse, left alone, buries her head in her hands and
     thinks. Then she takes the two books that Madame Nérisse has
     handed her, and with a determined swing sits down and starts
     working. After a moment Monsieur Nérisse comes in._

NÉRISSE. My dear child, I have news for you. Pleasant news, I think.

THÉRÈSE [_rather grimly_] Have you?

NÉRISSE. One little smile, please, or I shall tell you nothing.

THÉRÈSE. I assure you smiling is the last thing I feel like.

NÉRISSE. If you only knew what I've been doing for you, you wouldn't
receive me so unkindly.

THÉRÈSE. _You_ can do nothing for me. Will you please leave me alone?

NÉRISSE. I don't deserve to be spoken to like that, Thérèse. Listen; we
must come to an understanding. I know you're angry with me still about
what happened last month. I promised you then I would say no more. Have
I kept my word?

THÉRÈSE. Yes, you have.

NÉRISSE. Will you always be angry? Is it quite impossible for us to be
friends? I am constantly giving you proofs of my friendship. I've done
two things for you quite lately. The first was that letter to the editor
you're going to see to-morrow, and the second is what I've done now with
our new backer. It's this. They wanted to sack you or to offer you
humiliating conditions. I said if you didn't stay I wouldn't stay
either. I gave in on other points to get my way about this. I shall have
their final answer to-morrow, and I know I shall succeed if I stick to
my point.

THÉRÈSE. But what right had you to do such a thing? We agreed to forget
altogether that you had dared to make love to me. D'you really not
understand how that makes it impossible I should ever accept either
assistance or protection from you?

NÉRISSE. I have still the right to love you in secret.

THÉRÈSE. Indeed you have not, and you've kept your secret precious
badly. Madame Nérisse suspects, and I can see quite well that she's
jealous of me. I owe her a great deal; she gave me my first start and
got me my place here. I wouldn't make her unhappy for anything in the
world. As soon as she hears of what you've done what d'you suppose
she'll think?

NÉRISSE. I don't care a rap what she thinks.

THÉRÈSE. But I care very much. You've compromised me seriously.

NÉRISSE [_sincerely contemptuous_] Compromised you! Aha, yes, there's
the word! Oh, you middle class girls! Always the same! What are you
doing here then? What d'you know about life? Nothing. Compromised! Then
all your dreams of elevating humanity, all your ambitions, your career,
the realization of yourself--you'll give up all that before you'll be
what you describe by that stupid, imbecile, middle class word,
compromised. When you shook yourself free of your family you behaved
like a capable woman. Now you're behaving and thinking like a
fashionable doll. Isn't that true? I appeal to your intelligence, to
your mind, to everything in you that lifts you out of the ordinary ruck.
Your precious word compromised is only the twaddle of a countrified
miss. Don't you see that yourself?

THÉRÈSE [_very much out of countenance_] Ah, if I were only certain that
you are hiding nothing behind your friendship and your sympathy!

NÉRISSE [_with perfectly genuine indignation_] Hiding? You said hiding?
Is that what you throw in my face? You insult me? What d'you take me
for?

THÉRÈSE. I beg your pardon.

NÉRISSE. What kind of assurance do you want me to give you? Do you
believe in nothing? Is it quite impossible for you to feel frankly and
naturally, and to say "I have confidence in you, and I accept your
friendship"--a friendship offered to you perfectly honestly and loyally?
It really drives one to despair.

THÉRÈSE [_without enthusiasm_] Well, yes. I say it.

     _She puts her hands into the hands Monsieur Nérisse holds
     out to her._

NÉRISSE. Thank you. [_A silence. Then he says in a low voice_] Oh,
Thérèse, I love you, how I love you!

THÉRÈSE [_snatching her hands away_] Oh, this is abominable. You set a
trap for me, and my vanity made me fall into it.

NÉRISSE. I implore you to let me tell you about myself. I'm so miserable
and lonely when you're away.

THÉRÈSE [_trying to speak reasonably_] I know quite well what you want
to say to me, and it all amounts to this: you love me. It's quite clear,
and I answer you just as clearly: I do _not_ love you.

NÉRISSE. I'm so unhappy!

THÉRÈSE. If it's true that you're unhappy because I don't love you, that
is a misfortune for you; a misfortune for which I am not in any way
responsible, because you certainly cannot accuse me of having encouraged
you.

NÉRISSE. I don't ask you to love me--yet. I ask you to allow me to try
and win your love.

THÉRÈSE [_almost desperate_] Don't dare to say that again. If you were
an honorable man, you couldn't possibly have said these things to me
to-day when my living depends upon you. You know the position I'm in,
and you know that if I don't stay here, there are only two courses open
to me--to go and live at the expense of my godmother, which I will _not_
do, or to take the chances of a woman alone looking for work in Paris.
Don't you understand that speaking about your love for me to-day is the
same as driving me into the street?

NÉRISSE. If you go into the street, it is by your own choice.

THÉRÈSE. Exactly. There's the old, everlasting, scandalous bargain. Sell
yourself or you shall starve. If I give in, I can stay; if I don't--

NÉRISSE. _I_ didn't say so. But clearly my efforts to help you will be
greater if I know that I'm working for my friend.

THÉRÈSE. You actually confess it! You think yourself an honorable man,
and you don't see that what you're doing is the vilest of crimes.

NÉRISSE. Now I ask you. Did I wait for your answer before I began to
defend you and to help you?

THÉRÈSE. No, but you believe I shall give in through gratitude or fear.
Well, don't count upon it. Even if I have to kill myself in the end, I
shall never sell myself, either to you or to anyone else. [_In despair_]
Then that's what it comes to. Wherever we want to make our way, to have
the right to work and to live, we find the door barred by a man who
says, Give yourself or starve. Because one's on one's own, because they
know that there's not another man to start up and defend his _property_!
It's almost impossible to believe human beings can be so vile to one
another. For food! Just for food! Because they know we shall starve if
we don't give in. Because we have old people, or children at home who
are waiting for us to bring them food, men put this vile condition to
us, to do like the girls in the streets. It's shameful, shameful,
shameful. It's enough to make one shriek out loud with rage and despair.

NÉRISSE [_speaking sternly_] I've never asked you to sell yourself. I
ask you to love me.

THÉRÈSE. I shall never love you.

NÉRISSE [_as before_] You'll never love. Neither me nor others. Listen--

THÉRÈSE [_interrupting_] I--

NÉRISSE [_preventing her from speaking_] Wait; I insist upon speaking.
You will never love, you say. You will live alone all your life. You're
foolish and self-confident enough to think that you can do without a
man's affection.

THÉRÈSE. But I--

NÉRISSE [_continuing_] I must try to make you understand your folly.
These efforts you're making to escape from the ordinary life of
affection are useless, and it's lucky for you they are useless. You
can't live without love.

THÉRÈSE. Why?

NÉRISSE. All lonely people are wretched. But the lonely woman is twice,
a hundred times more wretched than the man. You've no idea what it is.
It's to pass all your life under suspicion, yes, suspicion. The world
never believes that people live differently from others unless they have
secret reasons, and the world always says that secret reasons are
shameful reasons. And that's not all. Think of the lonely room where you
may cry without anyone to hear you. Think of illness where to your
bodily pain is added the mental torture of the fear of dying all alone.
Think of the empty heart, the empty arms always, always. And in old age,
more wretchedness in the regret for a wasted life. And for what and for
whom are you making this sacrifice? For a convention; for a morality
that nobody really believes in. Who'll think the better of you for it?
People won't even believe in your honesty. They will find explanations
for it that would make you die of shame if you knew them. Is that what
you want, Thérèse? I am unhappy. Love me. Oh, if you only--

THÉRÈSE. Please spare me your confidences.

NÉRISSE. You think this is only a caprice on my part. You are mistaken.
I ask you to share my life.

THÉRÈSE. I will never be your mistress.

NÉRISSE. You're proud and you're strong. You insist upon marriage. Very
well. I agree.

THÉRÈSE. I will not have you! I will not have you!

NÉRISSE. Why? Tell me why.

THÉRÈSE. I _will_ tell you why; and then, I hope, I shall have done with
you. You're right in one way. I believe I should not be able to live all
alone. I should be too unhappy. But at least I'll keep my right of
choice. If ever I give myself to anyone, it will be to someone I love.
[_With vehemence_] And I love him, I love him!

NÉRISSE [_violently_] You have a lover! If that's true--

THÉRÈSE [_with a cry of triumph_] Oh, have I got to the bottom of your
vulgar, hateful little soul? If there ever was any danger of my giving
in, your expression then would have saved me. You never thought there
could be anything better. A lover! No, I have no lover. I have a love.

NÉRISSE. I don't see so very much difference.

THÉRÈSE [_proudly_] I know you don't, and that shows what you are. This
is the one love of my life, my love for my betrothed. I lost my money
and that separated us, but we found each other again. It's unhappy to be
separated, but we bear our unhappiness out of respect for what you call
prejudices, because we know how our defying them would hurt those we
love. You think me ridiculous, but you cannot imagine how utterly
indifferent I am. I am waiting, we are waiting, with perfect trust and
love. Now d'you understand that I'm perfectly safe from you? Go!

NÉRISSE [_in a low voice which trembles with anger and jealousy_] How
dare you say that to me, Thérèse? How dare you bring such a picture
before me? I will not allow you to belong to another man. [_He advances
towards her_]

THÉRÈSE [_in violent excitement_] No, no, don't dare! Don't touch me!
don't dare to touch me!

     _She cries out those words with such violence and in a voice
     of such authority that Nérisse stops and drops into a
     chair._

NÉRISSE. Forgive me. I'm out of my mind. I don't know what I'm doing.

THÉRÈSE [_in a low, forced voice_] Will you go? I've work to do.

NÉRISSE. Yes, I'll go. [_He rises and says humbly_] I want to ask
you--you won't leave us?

THÉRÈSE. You dare to say that? You think I'll expose myself a second
time to a scene like this. Yes! I shall leave, and leave to-night!
_Will_ you go?

NÉRISSE. I implore you. [_Hearing a noise outside, suddenly alarmed_]
Here she is! Control yourself, I beg of you. Don't tell her.

THÉRÈSE. You needn't be afraid.

     _Madame Nérisse comes in._

MADAME NÉRISSE [_looking from one to the other_] What's going on here?

NÉRISSE. Mademoiselle Thérèse says that she's going to leave us, and I
tried to make her understand--perhaps you could do something--I must go
out.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Yes. Go.

     _He takes his hat and goes out at the back._

MADAME NÉRISSE. You wish to leave us?

THÉRÈSE. Yes, Madame.

MADAME NÉRISSE. Because Monsieur Nérisse--?

THÉRÈSE. Yes, Madame.

MADAME NÉRISSE [_troubled and sad_] What can I say to you?

THÉRÈSE. Nothing, Madame.

MADAME NÉRISSE. My poor child.

THÉRÈSE. I don't want pity. Don't be unhappy about me. I shall be able
to manage for myself. I have plenty of courage.

MADAME NÉRISSE. I'm so ashamed to let you go like this. How honest and
loyal you are! [_To herself_] I was honest too, once.

THÉRÈSE. Good-bye, Madame. [_She begins to tidy her papers_]

MADAME NÉRISSE. Good-bye, Thérèse.

     _Madame Nérisse goes out._

     _When Thérèse is left alone she breaks down and bursts out
     crying like a little child. Then she wipes her eyes, puts
     her hat on, goes to the cardboard box, and takes out her
     veil, which she slips into her little bag. She takes out
     Monsieur Nérisse's letter; still crying she puts the letter
     into another envelope, which she closes and leaves well in
     sight upon the table. Then she takes her little black
     moleskin bag and her umbrella and goes out slowly. She is
     worn out, almost stooping; and, as the curtain falls, one
     sees the poor little figure departing, its shoulders shaken
     by sobs._



ACT III


    SCENE:--_Thérèse's studio at the bookbinding workshops of
    Messrs. Féliat and Guéret at Evreux. Strewn about are
    materials for binding books: patterns, tools, and silks. A
    glazed door on the right opens into the general women's
    workshops, and there is a door leading into a small office on
    the left. In the middle, towards the back, is a large drawing
    table; several easels stand about. There are some chairs and
    a small bureau. Cards hang upon the walls, on which are
    printed the text of the Factory Laws. There is a door at the
    back._

    _It is October._

    _Monsieur Guéret and Monsieur Féliat come in excitedly._

GUÉRET. I tell you Duriot's men are coming out on strike.

FÉLIAT. And I ask you, what's that to me?

GUÉRET. Ours will do the same.

FÉLIAT. Oh no, they won't.

GUÉRET. You'll see.

FÉLIAT. Duriot's men are furious with the women because of what happened
last year.

GUÉRET. They say woman's the enemy in business.

FÉLIAT. Let 'em talk.

GUÉRET. They want Duriot to sack all his women.

FÉLIAT. And I've told you why. There's no danger of anything like that
happening here.

GUÉRET. You think so, do you? Well, you'll see.

FÉLIAT. We shall see.

GUÉRET. You'll give in only after they've broken two or three of your
machines as they did Duriot's, or done something worse, perhaps.

FÉLIAT. My dear Guéret, I get out of the women for a cent what I have to
pay the men three cents for. And as long as I can economize ten cents on
the piece I shall go on.

GUÉRET. You'll regret it. If I was in your place--[_He stops_]

FÉLIAT. Well, what would you do if you were in my place?

GUÉRET. What should I do?

FÉLIAT. Yes, what?

GUÉRET. I shouldn't take long to think. I'd cut off a finger to save my
hand, I'd turn out every one of the women to-morrow.

FÉLIAT. You're mad. You've always objected to my employing women, and I
know very well why.

GUÉRET. Well, let's hear why.

FÉLIAT. You want to know. Well, because you've been jealous of Thérèse
ever since she came here six months ago.

GUÉRET. Oh, I say!

FÉLIAT. That's it; my sister can't endure her.

GUÉRET. Marguerite--

FÉLIAT. You know she wouldn't even see her when she came down from
Paris; and if Thérèse got work here, it was in spite of Marguerite. I
was wiser than you about this. The girl's courage appealed to me. She's
plucky and intelligent. Oh, I don't want to make myself out cleverer
than I am. I took her a bit out of pity, and I thought she'd draw me a
few designs; that was all I expected. But she has energy and initiative.
She organized the two workrooms, and now she's got the whole thing into
order by starting this Union.

GUÉRET. The Hen's Union.

FÉLIAT. What?

GUÉRET. That's what the men call her Union. You should hear the things
they say about it.

FÉLIAT. Well, long live the Hen's Union! A hen's plucky when it has to
be.

GUÉRET. Seriously, it's just this Union which has annoyed the men. They
feel it's dangerous.

FÉLIAT. Very well. I'll be ready for them.

     _Thérèse comes in._

GUÉRET. I'll go and find out what's going on.

FÉLIAT. Yes, do.

     _Monsieur Guéret goes out._

THÉRÈSE. I've just been seeing the man who makes our finishing tools. He
says it's perfectly easy to make a tool from the drawing I did that
won't be more expensive than the old one. [_Looking for a paper and
finding it on the table_] Here's the drawing. You see I've thought of
cheapness, but I've not sacrificed utility. After all, it's only a copy
of a Grolier, just a little altered.

FÉLIAT. Very good, but what will the price come out at?

THÉRÈSE. How much do you think.

FÉLIAT. I can easily do it. [_He calculates during what follows_]

THÉRÈSE. The beating won't be done with a hammer, but in the rolling
machine; the sawing-in and the covering will be done as usual.

FÉLIAT [_having finished his sum_] Two francs forty.

THÉRÈSE [_triumphantly_] One franc seventy. You've calculated on the
basis of men's work. But, if you approve, I'll open a new workroom for
women in the old shop. Lucienne can manage it. I could let Madame
Princeteau take Lucienne's present place, and I'll turn out the stuff at
the price I quoted.

FÉLIAT. But that's first-rate. I give you an absolutely free hand.

THÉRÈSE. Thank you, Monsieur Féliat.

FÉLIAT. How do you think the men will take it? You know that last year,
before you came here, a strike of the workmen was broken by the women
taking the work the men were asking a rise for--taking it at lower
wages, too. Since then the men feel very strongly against the women.
Your godfather is anxious about it.

THÉRÈSE. Oh, leave it to me, I'm not afraid.

FÉLIAT. Well done. I like pluck. Go ahead. How lucky I was to get you
here.

THÉRÈSE. How grateful I am to you for believing in me. [_Lucienne
appears at the door on the right. She is speaking to a workwoman who is
not visible, while the following conversation goes on_] And how good you
are, too, to have given work to poor Lucienne. When I think what you
saved her from! She really owes her life to you. At any rate she owes it
to you that she's living respectably.

FÉLIAT. Well, I owe _you_ ten per cent reduction on my general expenses.
[_With a change of tone_] Then that's agreed? You're going ahead?

THÉRÈSE. Yes, Monsieur.

FÉLIAT. I'll go and give the necessary orders. [_He goes out_]

THÉRÈSE. It's all right. It's done. He's agreed! I'm to have my new
workroom, and you're to be the head of it.

LUCIENNE. Oh, splendid! Then I'm really of some importance here at last.
[_A long happy sigh_] Oh dear, how happy I am. I'd never have believed I
could have enjoyed the smell of a bindery so. [_Sniffing_] Glue, and
white of egg, and old leather; it's lovely! Oh, Thérèse, what you did
for me in bringing me here! What I owe you! That's what a woman's being
free means; it means a woman who earns her own living.

THÉRÈSE. Oh, you're right! Isn't it splendid, Lucienne, ten wretched
women saved, thanks to our new workshop. I've seen Duriot's forewoman.
At any moment fifty women from there may be out of work. I can take on
only ten at present, and I've had to choose. That was dreadful! Thirty
of them are near starvation. I took the worst cases: the old maids, the
girls with babies, the ones whose husbands have gone off and left them,
the widows. Every one of those, but for me, would have been starved or
gone on the streets. I used to want to write books and realize my dreams
that way. Now I can realize them by work. I wish Caroline Legrand could
know what I'm doing. It was she who helped me to get over my silly
pride, and come and ask for work here.

LUCIENNE. Dear Caroline Legrand! Without her! Without you! [_With a
change of tone_] What d'you suppose happened to me this morning? I had a
visit from Monsieur Gambard.

THÉRÈSE [_laughing_] Another visit! I shall be jealous!

LUCIENNE. You've reason. For the last week that excellent old man has
come every single morning with a book for me to bind. I begged him not
to take so much trouble, and I told him that if he had more work for us
to do, we could send for the books to his house. What d'you think he did
to-day?

THÉRÈSE. I've no idea.

LUCIENNE. He asked me to marry him.

THÉRÈSE. My dear! What then?

LUCIENNE. Why, then I told him that I was married and separated from my
husband.

THÉRÈSE. There's such a thing as divorce.

LUCIENNE. Naughty girl! That's exactly what he said. I told him that my
first experience of marriage was not calculated to make me run the
chances of a second. And then he asked me to be his mistress.

THÉRÈSE. Indignation of Lucienne!

LUCIENNE. No! I really couldn't be angry. He offered so naïvely to
settle part of his fortune upon me that I was disarmed. I simply told
him I was able to earn my own living, so I was not obliged to sell
myself.

THÉRÈSE. And he went off?

LUCIENNE. And he went off.

THÉRÈSE [_starting suddenly_] Was that three o'clock that struck.

LUCIENNE. Yes, but there's nothing very extraordinary in that.

THÉRÈSE. Not for you, perhaps. But I made up my mind not to think about
a certain thing until it was three o'clock. I stuck to it--almost--not
very easily. Well, my dear, three o'clock to-day is a most solemn hour
in my life.

LUCIENNE. You don't say so!

THÉRÈSE. _I do._ Lucienne, I am so happy. I don't know how I can have
deserved to be as happy as I am.

LUCIENNE. Good gracious, what's happened in the last five minutes?

THÉRÈSE. I'll tell you. One hour ago René arrived at Evreux. He's come
back from Tunis. Come back a success and a somebody. And now--

     _Vincent, a workman, comes in._

VINCENT. Good-morning, Mademoiselle Thérèse. I want a word with you,
because it's you who engages--

THÉRÈSE. Not the workmen.

VINCENT. I know. But it's about a woman, about my wife.

THÉRÈSE [_sharply_] Your wife? But I don't want your wife.

VINCENT. I heard as how you were taking on hands.

THÉRÈSE. Yes, but I choose them carefully. First of all I take the ones
who need work or are not wanted at home.

VINCENT. You're quite right--but I ain't asking you to pay my old woman
very much--not as much as a man.

THÉRÈSE. Why not, if she does the same work?

VINCENT [_with male superiority_] Well, in the first place, she's only a
woman; and, besides, if you didn't make a bit out of it, you wouldn't
take her in the place of a man.

THÉRÈSE. But you get excellent wages here yourself. You can live without
forcing your wife to work.

VINCENT. Well, anyhow, her few halfpence would be enough to pay for my
tobacco.

LUCIENNE [_laughing_] Come, you don't smoke as much as all that.

VINCENT. Besides, it'll put a bit more butter on the bread.

THÉRÈSE. But your wife will take the place of another woman who hasn't
even dry bread perhaps.

VINCENT. Oh, if one was bothering all the time about other people's
troubles, you'd have enough to do!

THÉRÈSE. Now will you forgive me if I meddle a little in what isn't
exactly my business?

VINCENT. Oh, go on, you won't upset me.

THÉRÈSE. What d'you do when you leave the works? You go to the saloon?

VINCENT [_losing control of himself and becoming violent and coarse_]
That's yer game, is it! You take me for a regler soaker. That's a bit
too thick, that is. You can go and ask for yourself in all the saloons
round here. Blimey, sometimes I don't drink nothing but water for
a week on end! Can you find anybody as has ever seen me
blue-blind-paralytic--eh? I'm one of the steady ones, I am. I has a
tiddley in the morning, like every man as is a man, to keep out the
fog; then I has a Vermouth before lunch, and a drop of something short
after, just to oil the works like--and that's the bloomin' lot. Of
course you're bound to have a Pernod before dinner to get your appetite
up; and if I go for a smoke and a wet after supper, well, it's for the
sake of a bit of company.

THÉRÈSE [_who has been jotting down figures with a pencil while he has
been talking_] Well, that's a franc a day you might have saved.

VINCENT. A franc.

THÉRÈSE [_holding out the paper to him_] Add it up.

VINCENT [_a little confused_] Oh, I'll take your word for it. I ain't
much good at sums.

THÉRÈSE. With that franc you might have put a fine lot of butter on
every round of bread.

VINCENT. Well, look here, I want a bicycle.

THÉRÈSE. Why? You live five minutes' walk from here.

VINCENT. Yes, but I want to get about a bit on Sundays.

THÉRÈSE. There's one thing you haven't thought of. You have two little
children. Who'll look after them if your wife comes to work here?

VINCENT. Don't you worry about that. You takes 'em all dirty to the
crèche every morning and gets 'em back in the evenin' all tidied up.

THÉRÈSE. And who's going to get supper ready?

VINCENT [_naïvely_] Why, the old woman when she comes back from work.

THÉRÈSE. While you take your little drink?

VINCENT [_the same tone_] Oh, yes; I shan't hurry her up too much.

THÉRÈSE. Who'll mend your clothes?

VINCENT. Why, the old woman of course.

THÉRÈSE. When?

VINCENT. On Sundays.

THÉRÈSE. While you go off for a run on the bicycle?

VINCENT. Yes; it'll be a change for her. And at night I'll take her to
see me play billiards. [_With a change of tone_] That's all settled,
ain't it?

THÉRÈSE. Indeed, it's not.

VINCENT. Why not? Aren't you going to open a new workroom?

THÉRÈSE. Your wife has no need to work.

VINCENT. What's that got to do with you? You're taking on the others.

THÉRÈSE. The others are in want.

VINCENT. That's nothing to me. You ought to take the wives of the chaps
as works here first.

THÉRÈSE. All I can do is to mention her name at the next meeting of our
Union.

VINCENT. Oh, damn your Union--it's a fair nuisance!

THÉRÈSE. A Union is always a nuisance to somebody.

VINCENT. And you'll ask your Union not to take my old woman?

THÉRÈSE. I certainly shall.

VINCENT [_rather threateningly_] Very well. Things was more comfortable
here before you come from Paris, you know.

THÉRÈSE [_quietly_] I'm sorry.

VINCENT. And they'll be more comfortable when you take your hook back.

THÉRÈSE. That won't be for a good while yet.

VINCENT. I ain't so damned sure about that! Good-afternoon.

THÉRÈSE. Good-afternoon.

     _He goes out._

LUCIENNE. You've made an enemy, my dear.

THÉRÈSE. I don't care as long as I'm able to prevent women being driven
to work to pay for their husbands' idleness and drunkenness.

     _Féliat and Guéret come in. Lucienne goes out._

FÉLIAT. Tell me, Mademoiselle, if there was a strike here, could you
count upon your workwomen?

THÉRÈSE. I'm sure I could.

FÉLIAT. Are you certain none of them would go back on you?

THÉRÈSE. Two or three married women might if their husbands threatened
them.

FÉLIAT. Will you try, in a quiet way, to find out about that?

THÉRÈSE. Yes, certainly. [_She makes a movement to go out_]

FÉLIAT. Look here, it seems that Duriot has just had a visit from two
delegates from the Central Committee in Paris, who were sent down to
protest against the engagement of women. I'm afraid we're going to have
trouble here.

THÉRÈSE. The conditions here are very different from those at Duriot's.

FÉLIAT. All the same, find out what you can.

THÉRÈSE. I will, at once. [_She goes towards the door_]

FÉLIAT. Whatever happens we must send off that Brazilian order. How is
it getting on?

THÉRÈSE. We shall have everything ready in three days. I'll go and
inquire about the other thing.

     [_She goes out_]

FÉLIAT. Good.

GUÉRET. Three days isn't the end of the world. I think I can promise you
to keep my men as long as that.

FÉLIAT. If it's absolutely necessary, one might make them some little
concessions.

GUÉRET. I'll do all I can.

FÉLIAT. Yes. And if they're too exacting, we'll let them go, and the
women shall get the stuff finished up for us. [_There is a knock at the
door_] Come in.

     _René comes in._

GUÉRET. Hullo!

FÉLIAT. René!

GUÉRET. You or your ghost?

FÉLIAT. Where do you come from? Nobody's heard of you for a hundred
years.

RENÉ. Come now, only six months, and you've had some news.

FÉLIAT. Where are you from last?

RENÉ. From Tunis.

GUÉRET. And what are you doing here?

RENÉ. I'll tell you all about it. I want to have a bit of a talk with
you.

FÉLIAT. Well, we're listening.

GUÉRET. You're mighty solemn about it.

RENÉ. It's extremely serious business.

FÉLIAT. Don't be tragic. You're here safe and sound; and you've not lost
money, because you'd none to lose.

RENÉ. I've come to marry Thérèse.

GUÉRET. Well, I must say you don't beat about the bush.

FÉLIAT. But it's to your own people you've got to say that. What the
devil--! Thérèse has no more money than she had a year ago. So--

RENÉ. I'll marry her in spite of them.

GUÉRET. Well, we've nothing to do with it.

RENÉ. Yes, but I don't want to marry her in spite of you.

FÉLIAT. Nor in spite of herself.

RENÉ. I'm certain she won't say no.

FÉLIAT. But a year ago you solemnly separated; you both agreed
everything was over.

RENÉ. Nothing was over. A year ago I was a fool.

GUÉRET. To the point again.

FÉLIAT. And what are you now?

RENÉ. At any rate I am not quite useless any longer. I'm not a boy now,
obliged to do what he's told because he's perfectly incapable of doing
for himself.

FÉLIAT. Have you found something to do?

RENÉ. I'm in phosphates.

FÉLIAT. And what the devil are you in phosphates?

RENÉ. Representative.

FÉLIAT. How do you mean?

RENÉ. A commercial traveller, as father said with great contempt.

 GUÉRET. Well, it was not with a view to that sort of future that he had
you called to the Bar.

RENÉ. At the Bar I could have earned my own living in about ten
years--possibly. When I had to give up marrying Thérèse I saw how
useless I was. Thanks to her I found myself out. She gave me a bit of
her own courage. She woke up my self-respect. Besides, after that I had
something to work for, an aim, and I seemed to understand why I was
alive. I worked and read a lot; my firm noticed me; they sent me to
Tunis. I asked them to let me give up clerk work and have a try on my
own. Over there I got into touch with three small firms. I placed their
goods. I earn four hundred francs a month. Next year I mean to start a
little branch in this district where we will manufacture
superphosphates. From now until then I shall travel about the district
and try and get customers; and my wife--and Thérèse--will go on with her
work here, if you will be so good as to keep her.

GUÉRET. Ouf! Think of a young man who can talk as long as that, without
taking breath, giving up the Bar. What a pity!

FÉLIAT [_to René_] Have you told all that to your people?

RENÉ. Yes. They're not at all proud of my business. And after refusing
to let me marry Thérèse because she had no money they won't let me marry
her now because she works for her living. To be directress of a bindery,
even of your bindery, uncle, is not distinguished enough for them.

FÉLIAT. Well, my boy, you certainly couldn't have stood up to things
like that a year ago. What d'you want us to do for you? Thérèse doesn't
want our consent to marry; nor do you.

     _While Monsieur Féliat has been speaking, old Mother Bougne
     has come in from the right. She is a poor old workwoman who
     walks with difficulty, leaning on a broom, from which one
     feels that she never parts. She has a bunch of keys at her
     waistbelt; her apron is turned up and makes a sort of pocket
     into which she slips pieces of paper and scraps that she
     picks up from the floor. René looks at her with surprise._

FÉLIAT. You're looking at Mother Bougne. Good-morning, Mother Bougne.

MOTHER BOUGNE. Good-morning, Monsieur Féliat.

FÉLIAT. When does the Committee of your Union sit?

MOTHER BOUGNE. On Wednesday, Monsieur Féliat.

FÉLIAT. You won't miss it, will you?

MOTHER BOUGNE. I haven't missed one up to now, Monsieur Féliat.

FÉLIAT. That's right. [_She goes out at the back during what follows.
Monsieur Féliat turns to René and says_] We call Mother Bougne our
Minister of the Interior, because she tries to keep the place tidy.
She's been a weaver near Rouen since she was eight years old; she's been
stranded here.

RENÉ. And she's a member of the Committee of the Union?

GUÉRET. Yes, she's a member. Thérèse insisted on it. When Thérèse
founded a Woman's Trade Union here she had the nice idea of including
among them this poor old creature, wrecked by misery and hard work. Our
Thérèse has ideas like that. [_With a change of tone_] But business,
business. What do you want us to do for you?

RENÉ. I've come to ask you two things. The first is to try to get round
my people.

FÉLIAT. Well, I'll try. But I know your father. He's even more obstinate
than I am myself. I shan't make the smallest impression upon him. What
else?

RENÉ. I want to have a talk with Thérèse in your presence.

FÉLIAT. In our presence! Now listen, my boy. Our presence will be much
more useful in the work rooms. We have our hands full here. You've
dropped in just at the point of a split between workmen and employers.
Besides, to tell you the truth, I think I know pretty well what you have
to say to Thérèse. I'll send her to you. And, look here, don't keep her
too long, because she's got her hands full too. [_To Guéret_] Will you
go and telephone to Duriot's?

GUÉRET [_looking at his watch_] Yes, there might be some news. [_He goes
out_]

FÉLIAT [_to René_] And I'll send Thérèse here.

     _He goes out and René is alone for a few moments. Then
     Thérèse comes in. They advance towards each other quietly._

THÉRÈSE. How do you do, René?

RENÉ. How are you, Thérèse?

     _They shake hands, then, giving way to their feelings, they
     kiss each other tenderly and passionately._

THÉRÈSE [_in a low voice_] That'll do; don't, René dear. [_She withdraws
gently from his embrace_] Don't. Let's talk. Have you seen your people?

RENÉ. Yes.

THÉRÈSE. Well?

RENÉ. Well, Thérèse, they won't come to our wedding.

THÉRÈSE. They still refuse their consent?

RENÉ. We can do without it.

THÉRÈSE. But they refuse it?

RENÉ. Yes. Forgive me, my dearest, for asking you to take just my own
self. Do you love me enough to marry me quite simply, without any
relations, since I leave my relations for your sake?

THÉRÈSE. My dear, we mustn't do that; we must wait.

RENÉ. No, I won't wait. I won't lose the best time of my life, and years
of happiness, for the sake of prejudices I don't believe in. Do you
remember what you said to me the night we played _Barberine_? You were
splendid. You said: "Marry me all the same, in spite of my poverty."
[_She makes a movement to stop him_] Oh, let me--please let me go on! I
was only a miserable weakling then, I was frightened about the future.
But you roused me and set me going. If I'm a man now, it's to you I owe
it. Thanks to you I know how splendid it is to trust one's self and
struggle, and hope, and succeed. Now I can come to you and say: "I am
the man you wanted me to be, let us marry and live together." Oh,
together, together! How splendid it sounds! Do you remember how you said
that night long ago: "Let us conquer our place in the world together"?

THÉRÈSE. Oh, René! René! We must wait!

RENÉ. Why? Why must we wait? What possible reason can you have for not
doing now what you wanted me to do a year ago? Don't you believe in me?

THÉRÈSE. Oh yes, yes. It's not that!

RENÉ. What is it then? Thérèse, you frighten me. It seems as if you were
hiding something from me.

THÉRÈSE. No, no. What an idea!

RENÉ. Is it--oh, can it be that you don't love me so much?

THÉRÈSE. Oh, René, no, no. Don't think that for a moment.

RENÉ. But you're not being straight with me. You're hiding something.

THÉRÈSE. Don't ask me.

RENÉ. Thérèse!

THÉRÈSE. Oh, please don't ask me!

RENÉ. Now, you know very well that's impossible. How can there be
secrets between us? You and I are the sort of people who are straight
with one another. I must have my share in everything that makes you
unhappy.

THÉRÈSE. Well, then, I must tell you. It's about your father and mother.
Oh, how I wish I needn't tell you. René, while you've been away your
people have been dreadful to me. Your father came here to see me. He
wanted me to swear never to see you again--never. Of course I wouldn't.
When I refused to give in he said it was through worldly wisdom. He
said: "If he wasn't going to inherit my money, you wouldn't hang on to
him like this." He dared to say that to me, René--your father whom I
have always wanted to respect and love. He thought that of me. And then
I swore to him, and I've sworn to myself, that I'll never marry you,
never, without his consent. I cannot be suspected of _that_. You
understand, don't you? The poorer I am the prouder I ought to be. [_She
bursts into tears_] My dear--my dear! How unhappy I am! How dreadfully
unhappy I am!

RENÉ. My darling! [_He kisses her_]

THÉRÈSE. Don't, René! I couldn't help telling you. But you understand,
my dearest, that we've got to wait until he knows me better.

RENÉ [_forcibly_] No. We will _not_ wait.

THÉRÈSE. I'll never break my word.

RENÉ. What d'you want us to wait for? A change of opinion that'll
probably never come. And our youth will go, we shall have spoilt our
lives. You want to send me back to Paris all alone and unhappy, to spend
long silent evenings thinking about you and suffering from not being
with you, while you, here, will be suffering in the same way, in the
same loneliness. And we love each other, and it absolutely depends only
on ourselves whether we shall change our double unhappiness for a double
joy. [_Changing his tone_] I can't stand it, Thérèse. I've loved you for
two years, and all this last year I've toiled and slaved to win you.
[_Low and ardently_] I want you.

THÉRÈSE. Oh, hush, hush!

RENÉ. I want you. You're the one woman I've loved in my life. My love
for you _is_ my life. I can't give up my life. Listen: I have to be in
Paris this evening; are you going to let me leave you broken-hearted?

THÉRÈSE. Do you think that I'm not broken-hearted?

RENÉ. I shan't suffer any the less because I know that you're suffering
too.

THÉRÈSE. It doesn't depend upon us.

RENÉ. It depends entirely upon us. Look here, if people refuse to let us
marry, our love for each other is strong enough to do without marriage.
Thérèse, come with me!

THÉRÈSE. Oh, René, René! What are you asking me to do?

RENÉ. Have you faith in me? Look at me. Do you think I'm sincere? Do you
think I'm an honest man? Do you think that, if people refuse to let us
go through a ridiculous ceremony together, our union will be any the
less durable? Is it the ceremony that makes it real? Thérèse, come with
me. Come this evening; let's go together; let's love each other. Oh, if
you loved me as much as I love you, you wouldn't hesitate for a second.

THÉRÈSE. Oh, don't say that, I implore you!

RENÉ. Then you don't trust me?

THÉRÈSE. I won't do it. I won't do it.

RENÉ. What prevents you? You're absolutely alone, you have no relations.
You owe nothing to anybody. No one will suffer for your action. You've
already given a year of your life to the foolish prejudices of society.
You've shown them respect enough. First they prevented our marriage
because you were poor; now they want to prevent it because you work.
Thanks to you I have been able to assert myself and get free. My father
and mother can keep their money. I don't want it. Come.

THÉRÈSE [_in tears_] You're torturing me. Oh, my dear, you're making me
most unhappy. I could never do that, never. Don't be angry with me. I
love you. I swear that I love you.

RENÉ. I love you, Thérèse. I swear that I love you. All my life is
yours. [_He breaks down_] Don't make me so unhappy. The more unhappy,
the more I love you.

THÉRÈSE. I couldn't do it.

     _Monsieur Féliat comes in._

FÉLIAT. Hullo! Was it to make her cry like that that you wanted to see
her? Is that what you've learnt "in phosphates"? [_To Thérèse_] Don't,
my dear. [_In a tone of kindly remonstrance_] You! Is it you I find
crying like a little schoolgirl? [_Thérèse wipes her eyes_] Oh, I
understand all about it. But his father will give in in the end. And
you, René, be reasonable, don't hurry things.

RENÉ. But I want--

FÉLIAT [_interrupting him_] No, no, for goodness' sake, not just now.
We'll talk about it later on. Just now we have other fish to fry. We're
in a fix, my young lover. We've got to face some very serious
difficulties. Go along with you.

     _Monsieur Guéret comes in._

GUÉRET [_to Monsieur Féliat_] One of the delegates of the Central
Committee is outside.

FÉLIAT. And what does the brute want?

GUÉRET [_makes a gesture of caution and points to the door_] He wishes
to speak to the Chairman of the Women's Union.

FÉLIAT. Oh, ask the gentleman in. [_To René_] My boy, you must be off.
I'll see you presently.

RENÉ. Yes, presently.

THÉRÈSE [_aside to René_] Be at the station half an hour before the
train goes. I'll be there to say good-bye.

     _René goes out. Monsieur Guéret brings in the delegate and
     goes out again himself._

FÉLIAT. Good-morning. What can I do for you?

DELEGATE. I am a delegate from the Central Committee in Paris.

FÉLIAT. I am Monsieur Féliat, the owner of these works. I'm at your
service.

DELEGATE. It's not to you I wish to speak. This is a question which
doesn't concern you.

FÉLIAT. Which doesn't concern _me_!

DELEGATE. Not at present, at any rate. Will you kindly tell me where I
can find the person I have come to see?

FÉLIAT [_furious_] I--[_controlling himself_] She is here. [_He
indicates Thérèse_]

     _Monsieur Féliat goes out to the right._

DELEGATE. Mademoiselle, I'm here as the representative of the Central
Committee in Paris to request you to break up your Women's Union.

THÉRÈSE. So that's it.

DELEGATE. That's it.

THÉRÈSE. What harm does it do you?

DELEGATE. It strengthens you too much against us.

THÉRÈSE. If I asked you to break up yours for the same reason, what
would you say to me?

DELEGATE. Our union is to fight the masters; yours is to fight us.

THÉRÈSE. It does you no harm whatever.

DELEGATE. Your union supports a movement we've decided to fight.

THÉRÈSE. What movement?

DELEGATE. The movement of the competition of women, the invasion of the
labor market by female labor.

THÉRÈSE. Not a very dangerous invasion.

DELEGATE. You think not. Listen. I've just come down from Paris. Who
gave me my railway ticket? A woman. Who did I find behind the counter at
the Post Office? A woman. Who was at the end of the telephone wire? A
woman. I had to get some money; it was a woman who gave it to me at the
bank. I don't even speak of the women doctors and lawyers. And in
industry, like everywhere else, women want to supplant us. There are
women now even in the metal-working shops. Everyone has the right to
defend himself against competition. The workmen are going to defend
themselves.

THÉRÈSE. Without troubling about the consequences. To take away a
woman's right to work is to condemn her to starvation or prostitution.
You're not competitors, you're enemies.

DELEGATE. You're mistaken. We're so little the enemies of the women
that in asking you to do away with your Union we're speaking in your own
interest.

THÉRÈSE. Bah!

DELEGATE. We don't want women to take lower wages than ours.

THÉRÈSE. I know the phrase. "Equal wages for equal work."

DELEGATE. That's absolutely just.

THÉRÈSE. The masters won't give those equal wages.

DELEGATE. The women have a means of forcing them to; they can strike.

THÉRÈSE. We don't wish to employ those means.

DELEGATE. I beg your pardon, the women would consent at once. It's you
that prevent them, through the Union that you've started. Isn't that so?

THÉRÈSE. That is so. But you know why.

DELEGATE. No, I do not know why.

THÉRÈSE. Then I will tell you why. It is because the phrase only seems
to be just and generous. You know very well that here, at any rate, the
owner would not employ any more women if he had to pay them the same
wages he pays the men. And if they struck, he'd replace them by men.
Your apparent solicitude is only hypocrisy. In reality you want to get
rid of the women.

DELEGATE. Well, I admit that. The women are not competitors; they're
enemies. In every dispute they'll take the side of the masters.

THÉRÈSE. How d'you know that?

DELEGATE. They've always done it, because women take orders by instinct.
They're humble, and docile, and easily frightened.

THÉRÈSE. Why don't you say inferiors, at once?

DELEGATE. Well, yes; inferiors, the majority of them.

THÉRÈSE. If they're inferiors, it's only right that they should take
lower wages.

DELEGATE. Oh, I didn't mean to say--

THÉRÈSE [_interrupting him_] But it's not true--they are _not_ your
inferiors. If they believe they are, it's because of the wrongs and
humiliations you've imposed on them for centuries. You men stick
together. Why are we not to do the same? If you start trade unions, why
may not we? As a matter of fact, as regards work, we're your equals. We
need our wages; and to get hold of the jobs that we're able to do we
offer our work at a cheaper rate than you do. That is competition; you
must protect yourselves from it. If you want no more competition, keep
your women at home and support them.

DELEGATE. But that's precisely what we want: "The man in the workshop,
the woman in the home."

THÉRÈSE. If the mother is not at home nowadays, it's because the man is
in the saloon.

DELEGATE. The men go to the saloons because they're tired of finding the
place badly kept and the supper not ready when they go home, and instead
of a wife a tired-out factory hand.

THÉRÈSE. D'you think it's to amuse themselves the women go to work?
Don't you suppose they prefer a quiet life in their own homes?

DELEGATE. They've only got to stay there.

THÉRÈSE. And who's to support them?

DELEGATE. Their husbands!

THÉRÈSE. First they've got to have husbands. What about the ones who
have no husbands--the girls, the widows, the abandoned? Isn't it better
to give them a trade than to force them to take a lover? Some of them
want to leave off being obliged to beg for the help of a man. Can't you
see that for a lot of women work means freedom? Can you blame them for
demanding the right to work? That's the victory they're fighting for.

DELEGATE. I'm not at all sure that that victory is a desirable one.
Indeed, I'm sure it is not. When you've succeeded in giving the woman
complete independence through hard work; when you have taken her
children from her and handed them over to a crèche; when you've severed
her from her domestic duties and also from all domestic happiness and
joy, how d'you know she won't turn round and demand to have her old
slavery back again? The quietness and peace of her own home? The right
to care for her own husband and nurse her own child?

THÉRÈSE. But can't you see that it's just that that the immense majority
of women are demanding now? We want the women to stay at home just as
much as you do. But how are you going to make that possible? At present
the money spent on drink equals the total of the salaries paid to women.
So the problem is to get rid of drunkenness. But the middle classes
refuse to meet this evil straightforwardly because the votes which keep
them in power are in the pockets of the publicans; and you socialist
leaders refuse just as much as the middle classes really to tackle the
drink question because you're as keen for votes as they are. You've got
to look the situation in the face. We're on the threshold of a new era.
In every civilized country, in the towns and in the rural districts,
from the destitute and from the poor, from every home that a man has
deserted for drink or left empty because men have no longer the courage
to marry, a woman will appear, who comes out from that home and will sit
down by your side in the workshop, in the factory, at the office, in the
counting house. You don't want her as housewife; and as she refuses to
be a prostitute, she will become a woman-worker, a competitor; and
finally, because she has more energy than you have, and because _she_
is not a drunkard, she will take your places.

DELEGATE [_brutally_] Well, before another hour's gone over our heads
you'll find that she won't start that game here.

     _Monsieur Féliat comes in._

FÉLIAT [_to the delegate_] My dear sir, a thousand pardons for
interrupting you, but as I've just turned your friend out of my house
because he took advantage of being in it to start a propaganda against
me, what's the use of your going on talking to this lady about a course
of action she will no more consent to than I shall?

DELEGATE. Very well, Monsieur. I shall telephone to Paris for
instructions. Probably you will refuse to let me use your instrument.

FÉLIAT. I most certainly shall.

DELEGATE. So I shall go to the Post Office, and in ten minutes--

FÉLIAT. Go, my dear sir, go. But let me tell you in a friendly way that
it'll take you more than ten minutes to get on to Paris.

DELEGATE. It takes you more, perhaps, but not me. Good-morning. [_The
delegate goes out_]

FÉLIAT [_to Thérèse_] The low brute! Things are not going well. What
happened at Duriot's has made a very unfortunate impression here. The
news that you were going to open a new workshop for the women has been
twisted and distorted by gossip and chatter, and my men have been worked
up by the other brute to come and threaten me.

THÉRÈSE. What d'you mean?

FÉLIAT. They threaten me with a strike and with blacklisting me if I
don't give up the idea.

THÉRÈSE. You can't give up absolutely certain profits.

FÉLIAT. If I am too obstinate, it may result in much larger losses which
will be equally certain.

THÉRÈSE. But what then?

FÉLIAT. I've had to promise that for the present at any rate there's no
question of taking on any more women.

THÉRÈSE. Oh!

FÉLIAT. What could I do?

     _Monsieur Guéret comes in._

FÉLIAT [_to Guéret_] Well?

GUÉRET. They wouldn't listen.

FÉLIAT. I was afraid they wouldn't. [_To Thérèse_] That's not all. Your
godfather has been trying something else, and I understand he's not
succeeded. I shall have to take the mending away from your workshop.

THÉRÈSE. The women won't agree to that.

GUÉRET. Perhaps that would be the best solution of the difficulty.

THÉRÈSE [_startled_] Don't say that. You can't mean it. Think!

GUÉRET. What's more, the men refuse to finish the work the women have
begun.

THÉRÈSE. We'll finish it.

GUÉRET. Then they'll strike.

THÉRÈSE. Let them strike. Monsieur Féliat, you can fight now and get
terms for yourself. Just at this moment we have only one very urgent
order. If the men strike, I can find you women to replace them. Every
day I am refusing people who want to be taken on.

GUÉRET [_suddenly_] I have an idea.

THÉRÈSE. What's that?

GUÉRET. I know my men; they're not bad fellows.

THÉRÈSE. My workers are splendid women.

GUÉRET. Of course they are. As a matter of fact we're face to face now,
not with a fight between men and masters, but with a fight between
men-workers and women-workers. The men have their trade union, and the
women have theirs. Both unions have a President and two Vice-Presidents.
Both have their office. We must have a meeting between the two here at
once, in a friendly, sensible way, before they've all had time to excite
themselves; and let them find some way out that'll please 'em all.

FÉLIAT. But, my dear fellow, if you bring them together, they'll tear
one another's eyes out.

GUÉRET. Oh, we know you don't believe the working classes have any
sense.

FÉLIAT [_between his teeth_] I don't. I've been an employer too long.

THÉRÈSE [_to Monsieur Féliat_] Why not try what my godfather suggests?
What do you risk?

FÉLIAT. I don't mind. But I will have nothing to do with it personally.

GUÉRET. Neither will I.

THÉRÈSE. I'll go and see if Berthe and Constance are here. [_To Guéret_]
You go and fetch your men. [_She goes out to the left_]

GUÉRET. I give you my word that, if there's any possible way out, this
is the only chance of getting at it.

FÉLIAT. Very well, go and fetch them.

     _Guéret goes out. Thérèse comes in with Berthe and
     Constance. They are wearing large aprons and have scissors
     attached to their waistbelts. Berthe is a fat, ordinary
     woman. Constance is tall, dry, and ugly._

BERTHE [_respectfully_] Good-morning, Monsieur Féliat.

CONSTANCE [_the same_] Good-morning, Monsieur Féliat.

THÉRÈSE. I want Berthe and Constance to tell you themselves whether you
can count upon them in case of the men striking.

CONSTANCE. Oh yes, Monsieur Féliat. We'll do anything you want us to.

BERTHE. Oh, Monsieur Féliat, don't send us away!

CONSTANCE [_imploringly_] Oh, Monsieur Féliat, you won't send us away,
will you?

BERTHE. We do want the work so, Monsieur.

CONSTANCE. It's God's truth we do.

FÉLIAT. I'll do everything possible on my side, but it all depends on
yourselves and the men. Try to come to some understanding.

CONSTANCE. Yes, Monsieur.

BERTHE [_lowering her voice_] If you can't pay us quite as much for the
mending, we don't mind taking a little less. You'd keep it dark,
wouldn't you?

FÉLIAT. We'll see about it.

     _Girard, Charpin, Deschaume, and Vincent come in._

WORKMEN [_very civil and speaking together_] Good-morning, ladies and
gents.

FÉLIAT. Has my brother explained to you why he asked you to meet the
representatives of the Women's Union and to try to come to an
understanding with them?

GIRARD. Yes, Monsieur Féliat.

CHARPIN. That's all we want. All friends together, like.

DESCHAUME. That's the hammer, mate!

FÉLIAT. Then I'll go. Do try and keep your tempers.

ALL [_speaking together_] Oh yes. To be sure, sir. You needn't trouble,
sir.

     _Féliat goes out. The workmen and workwomen left together
     shake hands all round without any particular courtesy or
     cordiality._

CHARPIN. Well, what d'you say to a sit down?

DESCHAUME [_speaking of Charpin_] That lazy swine's only comfortable
when he's sittin' down.

CHARPIN. I ain't agoing to tire meself for nix, not 'arf!

     _Berthe and Constance have mechanically brought chairs for
     the workmen, who take them without any thanks, accustomed as
     they are to be waited upon. When all are seated they see
     that Thérèse has been left standing._

CONSTANCE [_rising_] Have my chair, Mademoiselle.

THÉRÈSE. No, thank you, I prefer to stand.

CHARPIN. I see that all our little lot's here. There's four on us, but
only three 'er you.

DESCHAUME [_meaningly_] One of the hens ain't turned up yet.

CHARPIN [_sniggering_] Perhaps she's a bit shy, like.

THÉRÈSE. You mean Mother Bougne. You, workmen yourselves, mock at an old
woman wrecked by work. But you're right. She ought to be here. I'll go
and fetch her. Only to look at her would be an argument on our side.
[_She goes out to the right_]

DESCHAUME. Mademoiselle Thérèse needn't kick up such a dust about a
little thing like that. There's four on us; so there must be four on
you, in case we have to take a vote.

     _Thérèse comes back with Mother Bougne._

THÉRÈSE [_to the workmen_] Give me a chair. [_They do so_] Sit down,
Mother Bougne. [_Insisting_] Mother Bougne, sit down.

MOTHER BOUGNE. Oh, don't trouble, miss, I'm not used to--

THÉRÈSE [_sharply_] Sit down.

     _Mother Bougne sits down._

CHARPIN. Well, here's the bloomin' bunch of us.

DESCHAUME. We'd best fix up a chairman.

GIRARD. What's the good of that?

DESCHAUME. We'd best have you, Girard. You've education, and you're up
to all the dodges about public meetings.

GIRARD. It's not worth while.

DESCHAUME. Well, I only put it forrard because it's the usual. But have
it your own way! [_A silence_] Only don't all jaw at once. You'll see
you'll want a chairman, I tell you that, but I don't care. It ain't my
show.

CHARPIN. Get a move on you, Girard, and speak up.

GIRARD. Well, ladies--

VINCENT [_interrupting_] Now look here. I want to get at an
understandin'.

THÉRÈSE. Monsieur Girard, will you be kind enough to speak for your
friends? We have nothing to say on our part. We're asking for nothing.

GIRARD. Well, that's true. We want to have the mending back.

THÉRÈSE. And we don't mean to give it up.

GIRARD. Well, we expected that. Now, to show you that we're not such a
bad lot as you think, we'll share it with you on two conditions. The
first is that you're paid the same wages as we are.

DESCHAUME. Look here, that won't suit me at all, that won't. If my old
woman gets as much as me, how am I to keep her under? Blimey, she'll
think she's my bloomin' equal!

GIRARD [_impatiently_] Oh, bung her into some other berth. Let me go on.
The second condition is that you aren't to have a separate workshop.
We'll all work together as we used to.

THÉRÈSE. Why?

DESCHAUME. You women do a damned sight too much for your ha'pence.

GIRARD. Yes, it's all in the interests of the masters. It's against
solidarity.

THÉRÈSE. Will you allow me to express my astonishment that you should
make conditions with us when you wish to take something from us?

CHARPIN. We're ony tellin' you our terms for sharing the work with you.

THÉRÈSE. I quite understand; but we have no desire to share it with you.
We mean to keep it. And I'm greatly surprised to hear you suggest that
we should all work together.

CONSTANCE. Indeed we won't.

DESCHAUME. Why not, Mademoiselle? When we worked together--

CONSTANCE [_interrupting_] When we worked with you before, you played
all sorts of dirty tricks on us to make us leave.

DESCHAUME. What tricks? Did you hear anything about that, Charpin?

CHARPIN. I dunnow what she's talkin' about. D'you Vincent?

VINCENT. Look here, I only want to get to an understandin'.

CONSTANCE. You never stopped sayin' beastly things.

DESCHAUME AND CHARPIN [_protesting together_] Oh! O-ho!

DESCHAUME. Well, if we can't have a bit of chippin' in a friendly way
like!

BERTHE. Beastly things like that ain't jokes. I didn't know where to
look meself; and I've sat for a sculptor, so I ain't too particular.

CHARPIN. He! He! I thought she was talkin' about that old joke of the
rats.

     _The men laugh together._

THÉRÈSE. Yes, you're laughing about it still! About shutting up live
rats in our desks before we came to work.

GIRARD. He! He! We didn't mean any harm.

THÉRÈSE. You didn't mean any harm! The little apprentice was ill for a
week, and Madame Dumont had a bad fall. You thought of dozens of things
of that kind, like the typists who mixed up all the letters on the
women's desks. When we went away to get our lunch, you came and spoilt
our work and made the women lose a great part of their day's pay or work
hours of overtime. We don't want any more of that. You agreed we should
have a separate workshop. We'll keep it.

GIRARD. If Monsieur Féliat sticks to you, we'll have to come out on
strike.

THÉRÈSE. We don't want Monsieur Féliat to get into trouble because of
us.

GIRARD. Well, what are you going to do about it?

THÉRÈSE. We'll take your places.

CHARPIN [_bringing his fist down with a bang upon the table_] Well, I'm
damned!

DESCHAUME [_threateningly_] If you do, we'll have to put you through it!

CONSTANCE. We'll do it!

GIRARD [_to Thérèse_] D'you understand now, Mademoiselle, why we
socialists don't want women in the factory or in the workshop? The
woman's the devil because of the low salary she has to take. She's a
victim, and she likes to be a victim, and so she's the best card the
employer has to play against a strike. The women are too weak, and if I
might say so, too slavish--

DESCHAUME. Yes, that's the word, mate, slavish.

BERTHE [_very angry_] Look at that man there, my husband, and hear what
he's saying before me, his wife, that he makes obey him like a dog. He
beats me, he does. You don't trouble about my being what you call
slavish when it's you that profits by it! I'd like to know who taught
women to be slavish but husbands like you.

THÉRÈSE. You've so impressed it upon women that they're inferior to men,
that they've ended by believing it.

GIRARD. Well, maybe there's exceptions, but it's true in the main.

DESCHAUME. Let 'em stay at home, I says, and cook the bloomin' dinner.

BERTHE. And what'll they cook the days when you spend all your wages in
booze.

GIRARD. It's the people that started you working that you ought to
curse.

BERTHE. I like that! It was my husband himself that brought me to the
workshop.

THÉRÈSE. She's not the only one, eh, Vincent?

VINCENT. But I ain't sayin' nothin', I ain't. What are you turnin' on me
for? I ain't sayin' nothin'.

BERTHE. We'd like nothing better than to stay at home. Why don't you
support us there?

CONSTANCE. It's because you don't support us there that you've got to
let us work.

DESCHAUME. We ain't going to.

BERTHE. We won't give in to you.

GIRARD. If you don't, we'll turn the job in.

THÉRÈSE. And I tell you that we shall take your places.

DESCHAUME. Rats! You can't do it.

THÉRÈSE. We couldn't at one time, that's true. But now we've got the
machines. The machines drove the women from their homes. Up to lately
one had to have a man's strength for the work; now, by just pulling a
lever, a woman can do as much and more than the strongest man. The
machines revenge us.

DESCHAUME. We'll smash the things.

GIRARD. She's right. By God, she's right! It's them machines has done
it. If any one had told my grandfather a time would come when one chap
could keep thousands of spindles running and make hundreds of pairs of
stockings in a day, and yards and yards of woollen stuff, and socks and
shirts and all, why grandfather'd've thought everybody'd have shirts and
socks and comforters and shoes, and there'd be no more hard work and
empty bellies. Curse the damned things! We works longer hours, and
there's just as many bare feet and poor devils shivering for want of
clothes. The machines were to give us everything, blast 'em! The workers
are rotten fools! The damned machines have made nothing but hate between
them that own them and them that work them. They've used up the women
and even the children; and it's all to sell the things they make to
niggers or Chinamen; and maybe we'll have war about it. They've made the
middle classes rich, and they're the starvation of all of us; and after
they've done all that, here are the women, our own women, want to help
'em to best us!

MOTHER BOUGNE. You're right, Girard. When I was a kid, and there was no
machines--leastways, not to speak of--we was all better off. Women
stayed at home, and they'd got enough to do. Why, my old grandmother
used to fetch water from the well and be out pickin' up sticks before it
was light of a mornin'! Yes, and women made their own bread, and did
their washin', and made their bits of things themselves! Now it's
machines for everythin', and they say to us: "Come into the factory and
you'll earn big money." And we come, like silly kids! Why, fancy me,
eight years old, taken out of the village and bunged into a spinnin'
mill! Then, when I was married, there was me in a workman's dwellin'.
You turn a tap for your water, don't fetch it; baker's bread, and your
bit of dinner from the cookshop, or preserved meat out of a tin. You
don't make a fire, you turn on the gas; your stockin's and togs all
fetched out of a shop. There ain't no need for the women to stay at home
no longer, so they cuts down the men's wages and puts us in the
factories. We ain't got time to suckle our kids; and now they don't want
young 'uns any more! But when you're in the factory, they make yer pay
through the nose for yer gas and yer water, and baker's bread and
ready-made togs; and you've got nothin' left out of yer bit of wages,
and you're as poor as ever; and you're only a "hand" at machines in the
damp and smoke, instead of bein' in your own house an' decent like. What
are you fussin' about, Girard? Don't you see that we _can't_ go back to
the old times now? A woman ain't got a house now, only a little room
with nothin' but a dirty bed to sleep on! And I tell you, Girard, you've
got to let us earn our livin' like that now, because it's you and the
likes of you that's brought us to it.

GIRARD. Well, after all, we've got to look after our living. The women
want to take it from us.

MOTHER BOUGNE. It's because they haven't got any themselves, my lad.
They've got to live as well as you, you see.

GIRARD. And supposing there isn't enough living for everybody?

MOTHER BOUGNE. The strongest'll get it and the weak 'uns'll be done in.

GIRARD. Well, we've not made the world, and we're not going to have our
work taken away from us.

CONSTANCE. And we're not, either.

DESCHAUME. Damn it all, we've got to live.

BERTHE. Well, we've got to live too. The kids has got to live and we've
got to live. One would think we was brute beasts.

CONSTANCE. We say just the same as you. We've not made the world, it
ain't our fault.

     _During the last few speeches women have appeared at the
     door to the right and have remained on the threshold,
     becoming excited by the conversation._

A WOMAN [_at the door_] It ain't our fault.

     _Some men show themselves at the door at the back._

A MAN. So much the worse for you.

ANOTHER WOMAN. We've got to live, we've got to live!

ANOTHER MAN. Ain't we got to live too?

THÉRÈSE. Well, don't drink so much.

     _The women applaud this speech with enthusiasm._

A WOMAN [_bursting out laughing_] Ha! Ha! Ha!

WOMEN. Right, Mademoiselle! Well done! Good!

     _They come further forward._

BERTHE. You won't get our work away from us.

DESCHAUME. It's _our_ work; you took it.

BERTHE. You gave it up to us.

A MAN. Well, we'll take it back from you.

ANOTHER MAN. We were wrong.

ANOTHER MAN. Drive out the Hens.

ANOTHER MAN. The strike! Long live the strike! We'll come out!

A WOMAN. We'll take your places; we've got to live.

A MAN. There's no living for you here.

A WOMAN. Yes there is; we'll take yours.

THÉRÈSE. Yes, we'll take yours. And your wife that you brought here
yourself will take your place, Vincent. And you the same, Deschaume.
She'll take your place, and it'll serve you right. You can stay at home
and do the mending to amuse yourself.

GIRARD [_to the women_] This woman from Paris is turning the heads of
the lot of you.

CHARPIN. Yes, that's about the size of it.

VINCENT. She don't play the game. She does as she bloomin' well likes.
She wouldn't engage my old woman. She took women from Duriot's.

GIRARD [_to Thérèse_] That's it. It's you that's doing it. [_To the
women_] You've got to ask the same wages as us.

THÉRÈSE. You know very well--

GIRARD [_interrupting_] It's all along of your damned Union.

VINCENT. There wasn't any ructions till you come.

CHARPIN. We'll smash the Hens' Union.

     _A row begins and increases._

A MAN. Put 'em through it! Down 'em! Smash the Hens! Smash 'em!

A WOMAN. Turn out the lazy swines!

A WOMAN [_half mad with excitement_] We're fightin' for our kids. [_She
shrieks this phrase continuously during the noise which follows_]

BERTHE. Turn out the lazy swines!

DESCHAUME [_shaking his wife_] Shut up, blast you, shut up!

ANOTHER MAN [_holding him back_] Don't strike her!

DESCHAUME. It's my wife; can't I do as I like? [_To Berthe_] Get out,
you!

BERTHE. I won't!

     _Deschaume tries to seize hold of his wife; this starts a
     general fight between the men and women, during which one
     distinguishes various cries, finally a man's voice._

A MAN. Damn her, she's hurt me!

ANOTHER MAN. It's her scissors! Get hold of her scissors.

     _Berthe screams._

THÉRÈSE. They'll kill one another! [_To the women_] Go home, go home;
they'll kill you. Go home at once.

     _The women are suddenly taken with a panic; they scream and
     run away, followed by the men._

A WOMAN. Oh, you brutes! Oh, you brutes!

     _Thérèse goes out to the right with the women. The men go
     off with Deschaume, whose hand is bleeding. Girard, who was
     following them, meets Monsieur Féliat at the door._

GIRARD [_to Féliat_] Deschaume's bin hurt, sir.

FÉLIAT. He must be taken to the Infirmary.

DESCHAUME [_excitedly_] With her scissors she did it, blast 'er!

CHARPIN. The police, send for the police!

GIRARD. Don't be a bally fool. We can take care of ourselves, can't we,
without the bloomin' coppers.

DESCHAUME [_shouting_] The police, send for the police! To protect the
right to work. Send for 'em.

GIRARD [_to Monsieur Féliat_] If 't was to bully us, you'd have sent for
'em long ago. What are you waiting for?

FÉLIAT. I'm waiting till you kindly allow me to speak. I can't believe
my ears. Is it you, Girard, and you, Deschaume, who want to have the
police sent for to save you from a pack of women? Ha! Ha!

CHARPIN. Oh, it makes you laugh, does it?

GIRARD. You defend the cats because they're against us. Well, we won't
have it. Duriot's men came out--

CHARPIN. Yes, and we'll do the same.

DESCHAUME. We will. Look out for the strike!

GIRARD. We're agreed; ain't we, mates?

CHARPIN AND DESCHAUME [_together_] Yes, yes. We'll strike. Let's strike.

FÉLIAT. You don't really mean that you're going on strike?

GIRARD. Don't we, though!

FÉLIAT. How can you? I've given everything you've asked for.

CHARPIN [_growling_] That's just the reason.

GIRARD. If you've given in, that shows we were right. You'll have to
give in some more.

FÉLIAT. Good God, what d'you want now?

CHARPIN. We want you to sack all the women.

DESCHAUME. No we don't. We want you to sack Mademoiselle Thérèse.

FÉLIAT. You're mad! What harm has she done you?

GIRARD. The harm she's done us? Well, she's on your side.

DESCHAUME. She's turned the women's heads. They want to take our places.

CHARPIN. And we won't have it.

FÉLIAT. Come! Be reasonable. You can't ask me that.

GIRARD. We _do_ ask you that.

FÉLIAT. It will upset my whole business.

CHARPIN. What's that to us?

FÉLIAT. Well, I must have time to think about it.

GIRARD. There's nothing to think about. Sack the Paris woman or we go on
strike.

FÉLIAT. You can't put a pistol to my head like this. I've got orders in
hand.

GIRARD. What's that to us?

FÉLIAT. Well then, I won't give in this time. You demanded that I should
not open a new workshop. I gave in. I won't go further than that.

GIRARD. Then out we go.

FÉLIAT. Well go, and be damned to you. [_Pause_] The women will take
your places.

GIRARD. You think so, do you? You think it's as easy as that. Well, try.
Just you try to fill up our places. Have you forgot there's two
delegates here from the Central Committee? A phone to Paris and your
bally show is done for.

FÉLIAT. It's damnable.

GIRARD. And if that doesn't choke you off, there's other things.

CHARPIN. We'll set the whole bloomin' place on fire.

GIRARD. Don't you try to bully us.

FÉLIAT. Well, look here. We won't quarrel. I'll send away Mademoiselle
Thérèse. But give me a little time to settle things up.

CHARPIN. No; out she goes.

FÉLIAT. Give me a month. I ask only a month.

GIRARD. An hour, that's all you'll get, an hour.

CHARPIN. An hour, not more.

GIRARD. We're going off to meet the delegates at the Hotel de la Poste;
you can send your answer there. The Parisian goes out sharp now, or else
look out for trouble. Come on, boys, let's go and tell the others.
There's nothing more to do here.

FÉLIAT. But stop, listen--

CHARPIN [_to Féliat_] That's our last word. [_To the others_] Hurry on.

     _The workmen go out. Thérèse has come in a moment before and
     is standing on the threshold._

FÉLIAT [_to Thérèse_] How much did you hear?

THÉRÈSE. Oh, please, please, don't give in. Don't abandon these women.
It's dreadful in the workroom. They're in despair. I've just been with
them, talking to them. They get desperate when they think of their
children.

FÉLIAT. The men are not asking me now to get rid of them. What they're
asking for is the break-up of your Union, and that you yourself should
go.

THÉRÈSE. Oh, they say that now. But if you give in, they'll see that
they can get anything they like from your weakness, and they'll make you
turn out all these wretched women.

FÉLIAT. But I can't help myself! You didn't hear the brutal threats of
these men. If I don't give in, I shall be blacklisted, and they'll set
the place on fire; they said so. Where will your women's work be then?
And I shall be ruined.

THÉRÈSE. Then you mean to give in without a struggle?

FÉLIAT. Would _you_ like to take the responsibility for what will happen
if I resist? There'll be violence. Just think what it'll mean. In the
state the men are in anything may happen. There's a wounded man already.
How many would there be to-morrow?

THÉRÈSE. You think only of being beaten. But suppose you win? Suppose
you act energetically and get the best of it.

FÉLIAT. My energy would be my ruin.

THÉRÈSE [_with a change of tone_] Then you wish me to go?

FÉLIAT. I have only made up my mind to it to prevent something worse.

THÉRÈSE [_very much moved_] It's impossible you can sacrifice me in this
way at the first threat. Look here, Monsieur Féliat; perhaps it doesn't
come very well from me, but I can't help reminding you that you've said
repeatedly yourself that I've been extremely useful to you. Don't throw
me overboard without making one try to save me.

FÉLIAT. It would be no use.

THÉRÈSE. How can you tell? It's your own interest to keep me. The
delegate said that if I go they'll break up the Women's Union and make
the women take the same wages as the men.

FÉLIAT. They won't do that because they know I wouldn't keep them.

THÉRÈSE. You see! If you give in, it means the break-up of the whole
thing and the loss to you of the saving I've made for you. And you have
obligations to these women who have been working for you for years.

FÉLIAT. If I have to part with them, I will see they are provided for.

THÉRÈSE. Yes, for a day--a week, perhaps. But afterwards? What then?
Little children will be holding out their hands for food to mothers who
have none to give them.

FÉLIAT. But, good God, what have _I_ to do with that? Is it my fault?
Don't you see that I'm quite powerless in the matter?

THÉRÈSE. No, you're not quite powerless. You can choose which you will
sacrifice, the women who have been perfectly loyal to you, or the men
who want to wring from your weakness freedom from competition which
frightens them.

FÉLIAT. They're fighting for their daily bread.

THÉRÈSE. Yes, fighting the woman because she works for lower wages. She
can do that because she is sober and self-controlled. Is it because of
her virtues that you condemn her?

FÉLIAT. I know all that as well as you do, and I tell you again the
women can go on working just as they were working before you came.

THÉRÈSE. You'll be made to part with them.

FÉLIAT. We shall see. But at present that's not the question. The
present thing is about you. One of us has to be sacrificed, you or me. I
can see only one thing. If I stick to you, my machinery will be smashed
and my works will be burned. I'm deeply sorry this has happened, and I
don't deny for a moment the great value of your services; but, after
all, I can't ruin myself for your sake.

THÉRÈSE [_urgently_] But you _wouldn't_ be ruined. Defend yourself,
take measures. Ask for assistance from the Government.

FÉLIAT. The Government can't prevent the strike.

THÉRÈSE. But the women will do the work.

FÉLIAT. You think of nothing but your women. And the men? They'll be
starving, won't they? And their women and their children will starve
with them.

THÉRÈSE [_almost in tears_] And me, you have no pity for me. What's to
become of me? If you abandon me, I'm done for. I'd made a career for
myself. I had realized my dreams. I was doing a little good. And I was
so deeply grateful to you for giving me my chance. I'm all alone in the
world, you know that very well. Before I came here I tried every
possible way to earn my living. Oh, please don't send me away. Don't
drive me back into that. Try once again, do something. Let me speak to
the men. It's all my life that's at stake. If you drive me out, I don't
know where to go to.

     _Monsieur Guéret comes in._

GUÉRET [_greatly excited_] Féliat, we mustn't wait a moment; we must
give in at once. They're exciting themselves; they're mad; they're
getting worse; they may do anything. They've gone to the women's
workroom and they're driving them out.

     _From the adjoining workshop there comes a crash of glass
     and the sound of women screaming._

THÉRÈSE [_desperately_] Go, Monsieur! Go quickly! Don't let anything
dreadful happen. You're right. I'll leave at once. Go!

     _Monsieur Guéret and Monsieur Féliat rush into the women's
     workshop. The noise increases; there is a sound of furniture
     overthrown and the loud screams of women._

THÉRÈSE [_alone, clasping her hands_] Oh, God! Oh, God!

     _Thérèse stands as if hypnotized by terror, her eyes wide
     open and fixed upon the door of the workshop. The noise
     still increases; there is a revolver shot, then a silence.
     Finally the voice of Monsieur Féliat is heard speaking,
     though the words are not intelligible, and a shout of men's
     voices. Then Monsieur Guéret comes in very pale._

GUÉRET. Don't be frightened, it's all over. The shot was fired in the
air. The men have gone out; there are only the women now--crying in the
workshop.

THÉRÈSE. Are you sure nobody is killed? Is it true, oh, tell me, is it
really true?

     _Monsieur Féliat comes in._

FÉLIAT. Poor Thérèse! Don't be frightened.

THÉRÈSE. Oh, those screams! Those dreadful screams! Is it true, really,
nobody was hurt?

FÉLIAT. Nobody, I assure you.

THÉRÈSE. The shot?

FÉLIAT. Fired in the air, to frighten the women. The men broke in the
door, and upset a bench, and made a great row. I got there just in time.
As soon as they were promised what they want they were quiet.

THÉRÈSE [_after a pause, slowly_] They were promised what they want. So
it's done. [_A silence_] Then there's nothing left for me but to go.

GUÉRET. Where are you going to?

FÉLIAT. You needn't go at once.

THÉRÈSE. Yes, I'm going at once. [_A silence_] I'm going where I'm
forced to go.

FÉLIAT. You can leave to-morrow or the day after.

THÉRÈSE. No, I leave by train, this evening, for Paris.

CURTAIN.



FALSE GODS


CHARACTERS


    THE PHARAOH
    THE HIGH PRIEST
    RHEOU
    SATNI
    PAKH
    SOKITI
    BITIOU, the dwarf
    NOURM
    THE STEWARD
    THE EXORCIST
    A PRIEST
    THE PARALYZED YOUTH
    THE MAN WITH THE BANDAGED HEAD
    THE TWO SONS OF THE MAD WOMAN
    MIERIS
    YAOUMA
    KIRJIPA
    ZAYA
    DELETHI
    NAGAOU
    HANOU
    NAHASI
    SITSINIT
    MOUENE
    NAZIT
    THE YOUNG WOMAN
    THE MOTHER
    THE BLIND GIRL
    FIVE MOURNERS

The Scene is laid in Upper Egypt during the Middle Empire.



ACT I

    SCENE:--_The first inner court of the house of Rheou. At the
    back between two lofty pylons the entrance leading up from
    below. Through the columns supporting the hanging garden
    which stretches across the back can be seen the Nile. A high
    terrace occupies the left of the scene. Steps lead up to it,
    and from there to the hanging garden. Along the side of the
    terrace a small delicately carved wooden statue of Isis
    stands on a sacrificial table. On the right is the peristyle
    leading to the inner dwelling of Akhounti. The bases of the
    columns are in the form of lotus buds, the shafts like lotus
    stems, the capitals full blown flowers. In the spaces between
    the columns are wooden statues of the gods._

    _Delethi is playing a harp. Nagaou dances before her. Nahasi
    is juggling with oranges, while Mouene sits watching a little
    bird in a cage. Yaouma reclines on the terrace supporting her
    head on her elbows and gazing out at the Nile. Zaya is beside
    her. On a carpet Sitsinit, lying flat upon her stomach with a
    writing box by her side, is busy painting an ibis on the left
    hand of Hanou, who lies in a similar attitude._


SITSI. Did you not know? She, on whose left hand a black ibis has been
painted, is certain of a happy day.

HANOU. A happy day! Why then, 'tis I, perhaps, who will be chosen
to-night!

DELETHI [_playing the harp while Nagaou dances before her_] More
slowly!--more slowly!... you must make them think of the swaying of a
lotus flower, that the Nile's slow-moving current would bear away, and
that raises itself to kiss again the waters of the stream.

NAGAOU. Yes, yes.... Begin again!

NAHASI [_juggling with oranges_] Nagaou would let herself be borne away
without a struggle. [_She laughs_].

MOUENE [_hopping on one foot_] We know that she goes to the bank of the
Nile, at the hour when the palm-trees grow black against the evening
sky, to listen to a basket maker's songs.

HANOU [_to Sitsinit_] And this morning I anointed my whole body with
Kyphli, mixed with cinnamon and terrabine and myrrh.

DELETHI [_to Nagaou_] 'Tis well ... you may dance the great prayer to
Isis with the rest.

NAGAOU [_to Mouene_] Yes! I do go to listen to songs at dark. You are
still too little for anyone, basket maker or any other, to take notice
of you.

MOUENE. You think so!... who gave me this little bird? [_She draws the
bird from the cage by a string attached to its leg_] Who caught thee,
flower-of-the-air, who gave thee to me? [_Holding up a finger_] Do not
tell! Do not tell....

HANOU [_looking at herself in a metal mirror_] Sitsinit ... the black
line that lengthens this eye is too short ... make it longer with your
reed. I think the more beautiful I am, the more chance I shall have to
be chosen for the sacrifice.... Is it not so, Zaya?... What are you
doing there without a word?

ZAYA. I was watching the flight of a crane with hanging feet, that
melted away in the distant blue of heaven.... Do not hope to be chosen
by the gods, Hanou.

HANOU. Wherefore should I not be chosen?

ZAYA. Neither you nor any who are here. The gods never demand the
sacrifice two years together from the same village.

HANOU. Never?

ZAYA. Rarely.

HANOU. 'Tis a pity. Is it not, Nagaou?

NAGAOU. I know not.

SITSI. Would it not make you proud?

NAGAOU. Yes. But it makes me proud, too, to lean on the breast of him
whose words still the beating of my heart.

DELETHI. To be taken by a god! By the Nile!

HANOU. Preferred to all the others!

MOUENE [_the youngest_] For my part I should prefer to live....

SITSI. Still, if the God desired you....

ZAYA. Oh! one can refuse....

DELETHI. Yes, but one must leave the country, then.... None of the
daughters of Haka-Phtah could bring themselves to that.

     _A pause._

YAOUMA [_to herself_] Perhaps!

NAHASI. What do you say, Yaouma?

YAOUMA. Nothing. I was speaking to my soul.

MOUENE. Yaouma's eyes weep for weariness because they watch far off for
him, who comes not.

YAOUMA. Peace, child.

ZAYA [_to Delethi_] One thing is certain, someone must go upon the
sacred barge?

DELETHI. Without the sacrifice the Nile would not overflow, and all the
land would remain barren.

HANOU. And the corn would not sprout, nor the beans, nor the maize, nor
the lotus.

DELETHI. And all the people would perish miserably.

HANOU. So that she who dies, sacrificed to the Nile, saves the lives of
a whole people. That is a better thing, Nagaou, than to make one man's
happiness.

     _A pause._

YAOUMA [_to herself_] Perhaps.

HANOU. And on the appointed day one is borne from the house of the god
to the Nile, surrounded by all the dwellers in the town.... The
Pharaoh--health and strength be unto him!...

DELETHI. You do not know, Hanou, you tell us what you do not know.

HANOU. But it is so, is it not, Zaya? Zaya knows about the ceremony,
because last year it was her sister who was chosen.

MOUENE. Tell us, Zaya.

NAHASI. Yes, tell us the manner of it.

ZAYA. On the fifth day of the month of Paophi....

MOUENE. To-day--that is to-day?

NAHASI. Yes. What will happen.... The prayer of Isis.... But afterwards?
Before?

     _They gather round Zaya._

ZAYA. Before the sun has ended his day's journey, the people, summoned
to the terraces by a call from the Temple, will intone the great hymn to
Isis, which is sung but once a year. Within the house of the god the
assembled priests will await the sign that shall reveal the virgin to be
offered to the Nile to obtain its yearly flood. The name of the chosen
will be cried from the doorway on high, caught up by those who hear it
first, cried out to others, who in turn will cry it running towards the
house that Ammon has favored with his choice. Then shall the happy
victim of the year stand forth alone, amid her kinsfolk bowed before
her, and to her ears shall rise the shoutings of the multitude.

ALL. Oh!

DELETHI. And after a month of purification she will be borne to the
house of the god!

ZAYA. And on the day of Prodigies....

NAHASI. Oh, the day of Prodigies!

ZAYA. She will be the foremost nearer to the Sanctuary than all the
rest. She will pray with the praying crowd, she will behold the lowering
of the stone that hides the face of Isis....

DELETHI. She will behold Isis--face to face....

ALL. Oh!

ZAYA. She will beg the goddess graciously to incline her head, in sign
that, yet another year, Egypt shall be protected. And when the fervor of
the crowd's united prayer is great enough, the head of the Goddess of
Stone will bow. That will be the first prodigy.

DELETHI. The head of the Goddess of Stone will bow--that will be the
first prodigy.

ZAYA. And in the crowd there will be blind who shall see, and deaf who
shall hear, and dumb who shall speak.

DELETHI. Perhaps Mieris, our good mistress, will be cured of her
blindness at last.

HANOU. And when she who is chosen goes forth from the house of the
God.... Tell us, Zaya, tell us the manner of her going forth.

ZAYA. Three days before the appointed day, in the town and throughout
the land, they will begin the preparations for the festival. When the
moment comes, the crowd will surge before the temple, guarded by Lybian
soldiers. And she, she, the elect, the saviour, will come forth, ringed
by the high priests of Ammon in purple and in gold, and aloft on a
chariot where perfumes burn, deafened by sound of trumpet and cries of
joy, she will behold the people stretch unnumbered arms to her....

ALL. Oh!

DELETHI. And she will be borne to the Nile....

ZAYA. And she will be borne to the Nile. She will board the barge of
Ammon....

DELETHI. And the barge will glide from the bank....

ZAYA. And the barge will glide from the bank where all the crowd will
bow their faces to the dust. [_She stops, greatly moved_] And when the
barge returns she will be gone.

ALL [_in low tones_] And when the barge returns she will be gone.

ZAYA. And after two days the waters of the Nile will rise.

ALL. The waters of the Nile will rise....

DELETHI. And as far as the waters flow they will speak her name, who
made the sacrifice, with blessings and with tears.

HANOU. If it were I!...

ALL [_save Yaouma_] If it were I!...

     _Yaouma rises to a sitting posture._

ZAYA. If it were you, Yaouma?

YAOUMA. Perhaps I should refuse.

ALL. Oh!

MOUENE [_mischievously_] I know why! I know why!

DELETHI. We know why.

ZAYA. Tell us....

YAOUMA. Tell them....

DELETHI. 'Tis the same reason that has held you there this many a day.

YAOUMA. Yes.

MOUENE. She watches for the coming of the galley with twenty oars,
bearing the travellers from the North. There is a young priest among
them, the potter's son.

DELETHI. A young priest, the potter's son, who went away two years ago.

YAOUMA. He is my betrothed.

NAHASI. But you know what they say?

ZAYA. They say that on the same boat there comes a scribe who preaches
of new gods....

YAOUMA. I know.

DELETHI. Of false gods.

MOUENE. The priests will stop the boat, and eight days hence, perhaps,
Yaouma will still be awaiting her betrothed.

YAOUMA. I shall wait.

     _The Steward enters and whispers to Delethi._

DELETHI. The mistress sends word the hour is come to go indoors.

     _They go out L, Sitsinit picking up the writing box, Nahasi
     juggling with oranges, Mouene carrying her cage and dancing
     about, Delethi plays her harp singing with Hanou and
     Nagaou._

        Black is the hair of my love,
        More black than the brows of the night,
        Than the fruit of the plum tree.

     _The Steward, who had gone out, returns at once, whip in
     hand, followed by a poor old man, half naked, and covered
     with mud, who carries a hod._

STEWARD [_stopping before the statue of Thoueris_] There. Draw near,
potter, and look. By some mischance, the horn and the plume of Goddess
Thoueris have been broken. The master must not see them when he comes
back for the feast of the Nomination. There is the horn--there is the
plume. Replace them.

PAKH [_with terror_] I--must I ... to-day when my son is coming home?

STEWARD. Are you not our servant?

PAKH. I am.

STEWARD. And a potter?

PAKH. I am.

STEWARD. Did you not say you knew how to do what I ask?

PAKH. I did not know that I must lay hands on the Goddess Thoueris.

STEWARD. Obey.

PAKH [_throwing himself on his knees_] I pray you! I pray you ... I
should never dare. And then ... my son ... my son who is coming back
from a long, long journey....

STEWARD. You shall have twenty blows of the stick for having tired my
tongue. If you refuse to obey me you shall have two hundred.

PAKH. I pray you.

STEWARD. Bid Sokiti help you.

     _He goes out at the back; as he passes he gives Sokiti a
     blow with his whip, making a sign to him to go and join
     Pakh._

     _Sokiti obeys without manifesting sorrow or surprise._

PAKH. He says we must lift down the Goddess.

SOKITI. I?

PAKH. You and I.

SOKITI [_beginning to tremble. After a pause_] I am afraid.

PAKH. I too--I am afraid.

SOKITI. If you touch her you die.

PAKH. You will die of the stick if you do not obey.

SOKITI. Why cannot they leave me at my work. I was happy.

PAKH. We must--we must tell her that it is in order to repair her crown.

SOKITI. Yes. We must let her know.

     _They prostrate themselves before the goddess._

PAKH. Oh, Mighty One!--thou who hast given birth to the gods, pardon if
our miserable hands dare to touch thee! Thy horn and thy right plume
have fallen off. 'Tis to replace them.

SOKITI. We are forced to obey--O breath divine--creator of the
universe.... It is to mend thee.

PAKH [_rising, to Sokiti_] Come!

     _Bitiou, the dwarf, enters; he is a poor deformed creature.
     When he sees Pakh and Sokiti touching the statue, he tries
     to run away. He falls, picks himself up, and hides in a
     corner. By degrees he watches and draws near during what
     follows. Pakh and Sokiti take the statue from its pedestal
     and set it upright on the ground._

SOKITI. She has not said anything.

PAKH. She must be laid on her belly.

SOKITI. Gently....

     _They lay her flat._

PAKH [_giving him the horn_] Hold that. [_He goes to his hod, takes a
handful of cement, and proceeds to mend the statue_] Here ... the plume
... so ... there ... we must let her dry. In the meantime let us go look
upon the Nile; we may see the boat that brings my son.

SOKITI. You will not see him.

PAKH. I shall not see him?

SOKITI. He is a priest.

PAKH. Not yet.

SOKITI. But he was brought up in the temple ... 'tis to the temple he
will go.

PAKH. He will come here ... because he would see his father and mother
once more.

SOKITI. And Yaouma his betrothed.

PAKH. And Yaouma his betrothed.

     _He goes R. Bitiou approaches the statue timidly, and stops
     some way off._

SOKITI. There is nothing in sight.

PAKH. No.... [_suddenly_] You saw the crocodile?

SOKITI. Yes.... There is a woman going to the Nile with her pitcher on
her head.

PAKH. That is my wife, that is Kirjipa, that is mine. She seeks with her
eyes the boat that bears her son--Satni.

SOKITI. She is going into the stream.

PAKH. How else can she draw clear water?

SOKITI. But at the very spot where the crocodile plunged.

PAKH. What matter? She wears the feather of an ibis ... and I know a
magic spell. [_He begins to chant_] Back, son of Sitou! Dare not! Seize
not! Open not thy jaws! Let the water become a sheet of flame before
thee! The spell of thirty-seven gods is in thine eye. Thou art bound,
thou art bound! Stay, son of Sitou! Ammon, spouse of thy mother, protect
her!

SOKITI [_without surprise_] It is gone.

PAKH [_without surprise_] It could not do otherwise.

     _Bitiou, now close to the statue, touches it furtively with
     a finger tip, then runs, falls, and picks himself up. He
     comes up to Pakh and Sokiti._

SOKITI [_pointing to the statue_] She is dry now, perhaps?

PAKH. Yes, come.

SOKITI. I am afraid still.

PAKH. So am I, but come and help me.

     _They replace the statue on its pedestal, then step back to
     look at it._

SOKITI. She has done us no harm.

PAKH. No.

SOKITI. Ha! ha!

PAKH. Ha! ha! ha! ha! [_Bitiou laughs with them. A distant sound of
trumpets is heard. Sokiti and Pakh go to the terrace to look_] It is the
chief of the Nome. They are bearing him to the city of the dead. At this
moment his soul is before the tribunal, where Osiris sits with the two
and forty judges.

SOKITI. May they render unto him all the evil he has done!...

PAKH. The evil he has done will be rendered unto him a thousand fold....
He will pass first into the lake of fire.

SOKITI [_laughing_] Pakh! Pakh! picture him in Amenti--in the hidden
place--

PAKH. I see him ... the pivot of the gate of Amenti set upon his eye,
turns upon his right eye, and turns on that eye whether in opening or in
shutting, and his mouth utters loud cries.

SOKITI [_doubling up with delight_] And he who ate so much!... He who
ate so much! He will have his food, bread and water, hung above his
head, and he will leap to get it down, whilst others will dig holes
beneath his feet to prevent his touching it.

PAKH. Because his crimes are found to outnumber his merits....

SOKITI. And we--we--say--what will happen to us?

PAKH. We shall be found innocent by the two and forty judges.

SOKITI. And after?--after?

PAKH. We shall go to the island of the souls--in Amenti--

SOKITI. Yes, where there will be.... Speak. What shall we have in the
island of the souls?

PAKH. Baths of clear water....

SOKITI [_with loud laughter_] What else ... what else?

PAKH. Ears of corn of two arms' length.... [_Laughing_].

SOKITI [_laughing_] Yes, ears of corn, of two arms' length.

PAKH. And bread of maize, and beans....

SOKITI. And blows of the stick--say, will there be blows of the stick?

PAKH. Never again.

SOKITI. Never again....

PAKH. I shall forget all I have endured.

SOKITI. I shall be famished; and I shall be able to eat until my hunger
is gone ... every day!

BITIOU. And I--I shall be tall, with straight strong legs, like the rest
of the world.

PAKH. That will be better than having been prince on the earth.

     _They laugh. The Steward appears._

STEWARD. What are you doing there? [_Striking them with the whip_] Your
mistress comes! Begone!

     _They go out._

     _The Steward bows low before Mieris who is blind, and who
     enters with her arms full of flowers and led by Yaouma._

     _The Steward retires._

MIERIS [_gently_] Leave me, Yaouma--I shall be able to find my way to
her, alone.

YAOUMA. Yes mistress.... [_Nevertheless, she goes with her
noiselessly_].

MIERIS [_smiling_] I can feel you do not obey. Be not afraid. [_She has
come as far as the little statue of Isis_] You see, I do not lose my
way. I have come every day to bring her flowers, a long, long time....
Leave me.

YAOUMA. Yes, mistress.

     _She withdraws._

MIERIS [_touching the statue in the manner of the blind_] Yes, thou art
Isis. I know thy face, and I can guess thy smile. [_She takes some of
the flowers which she has laid beside her and lays them one by one on
the pedestal of the statue_] Behold my daily offering! I know this for a
white lotus flower. It is for thee. I am not wrong, this one, longer,
and with the heavier scent, is the pink lotus. It is for thee. And here
are yet two more of these sacred flowers. At dawn, they come from out
the water, little by little. At midday they open wide. And when the sun
sinks they, too, hide themselves, letting the waters of the Nile cover
them like a veil. Men say they are fair to see. Alas, I know not the
beauty of the gifts I bring! Here is a typha ... here an alisma; and by
the overpowering perfume, this, I know, is the acacia flower. I have
had them tell me how the light, playing through the filmy petals, tints
them with color sweet unto the eyes. May the sight gladden thine! I know
not the beauty of the gifts I bring! But all the days of my life, a
suppliant I shall come, and weary not to ply thee with my prayers, until
in the end thou absolve me, until thou grant me the boon that all save I
enjoy, to behold the rays of the shining God, of Ammon-Ra, the Sun
divine. O Isis, remember the cruel blow that did befall me! I had a
little child. Unto him sight was given, and when he first could speak,
it was life's sweetest joy, to hear him tell the color and the form of
things. He is dead, Isis! And I have never seen him--Take thou my
tears and my prayer, bid this perpetual night, wherein I scarce
can breathe, to cease--And if thou wilt not, deliver me to
death--She-who-loves-the-silence, and after the judgment I may go to
Amenti, and find my well-beloved child--find him, and there at last
behold his face. Isis, I give thee all these flowers. [_She rises_]
Come, Yaouma. [_As she is about to go, she stops, suddenly radiant_]
Stay--I hear--yes! Go, bring the ewer and the lustral water. It is the
master--He is here.

     _Yaouma goes out, but returns quickly. Enter Rheou._

MIERIS. Be welcome unto your house, master!

     _Yaouma pours water over the hands of Rheou and gives him a
     towel._

RHEOU. Gladly I greet you once more in your house, mistress! [_Pakh
appears, returning to look for his hod_] [_To Pakh_] Well! potter, do
you not go to meet your son?

PAKH. I would fain go, master, but I looked upon the Nile a while ago;
there is nothing in sight.

RHEOU. The galley came last night at dusk, and, by order of the priests,
was kept at the bend of the river till now. Go!

PAKH. I thank you, master.

     _He goes out._

RHEOU. Is all made ready for the solemn prayer to Isis? The Sun is
nearing the horizon.

MIERIS. Yaouma, go and warn them all.

YAOUMA [_kneeling in supplication_] Mistress--

MIERIS [_laying her hand on Yaouma's head_] What is it?

YAOUMA. The galley.

MIERIS. Well?--Ah, yes! you were betrothed to the potter's son--But
to-day you must not go forth. Who shall say you are not she whom the God
Ammon will choose?

YAOUMA. The God Ammon knows not me.

MIERIS. Did he choose you, he must know you.

YAOUMA. Me! Me! A poor handmaiden--Is it then possible--truly?

MIERIS. Truly--Yaouma, go.

YAOUMA [_to herself as she goes_] The God Ammon--the God of Gods--

MIERIS. Rheou, what ails you?

RHEOU [_angered_] It was a fresh insult that awaited me--

MIERIS. Insult?

RHEOU. When I came into the audience chamber I prostrated myself before
the Pharaoh. "What would you?" he cried in that hard voice of his. You
know 'tis the custom to make no reply, that one may seem half dead with
fear before his majesty--

MIERIS. Did you not so?

RHEOU. I did, but he--

MIERIS. Have a care! Is no one there who might overhear you?

RHEOU. No one--but he, in place of ordering them to raise me up, in
place of bidding me speak--Oh, the dog of an Ethiopian!--he feigned not
to see me--for a long while, a long, long while--At length, when he
remembered I was there, anger was choking me; he saw it; he declared an
evil spirit was in me, and having ridiculed me with his pity, he bade me
then withdraw. He forgets that if I wished--

MIERIS. Be still! Be still! Know you not that there, beside you, are the
Gods who hear you!

RHEOU [_derisively_] Oh! the Gods!

MIERIS. What mean you?

RHEOU [_derisively_] I am the son of a high priest; I know the Gods--The
Pharaoh forgets that were I to remind the people of my father's
services, were I to arm all those who work for me, and let them loose
against him--

MIERIS. Rheou! Rheou!

RHEOU. Think you they would not obey me? I am son of that high priest,
the Pharaoh's friend who wished to replace the Gods of Egypt, by one
only God. The court cannot forgive me for that. Little they dream, that
were I to declare my father had appeared to me, all those who know me,
all the poor folk whose backs are blistered by the tax-gatherer's whip,
all who are terrorized by schemes of foreign war--all, all would take my
orders as inspired, divine.

MIERIS. The fear of the Gods would hold them back.

RHEOU. How long--I wonder!

MIERIS. I hear them coming for the prayer.

RHEOU. Yes. Let us pray--that they may have nothing to reproach me with
before I choose my hour.

MIERIS. What hour?

RHEOU. Could I but realize the work my father dreamed of--and at the
same stroke be avenged--avenged for all the humiliations--

MIERIS. Be silent--I hear--

     _The singers and the dancers and all the women and servants
     come on gradually._

RHEOU [_going to the terrace_] The sun is not yet down upon the hill.
But look--upon the Nile--see, Yaouma! 'tis the galley that bears your
betrothed.

YAOUMA. 'Tis there! 'Tis there!--See--it has stopped--they take the
mallet, and drive in the stake. The boat's prow is aground. Now they
have prayed--they disembark. Look, there is the strange scribe!

RHEOU [_looking_] A stranger--he--I do not think it.

YAOUMA. I thought, from his garments, perhaps--

     _Pakh returns._

RHEOU. Did you not wait for your son?

PAKH [_terrified_] Master, on the road that leads to the Nile, I beheld
two dead scarabs--

RHEOU. None, then, save the High Priest, may pass till the road be
purified.

PAKH. I have warned the travellers they must go a long way round.

RHEOU. Did you not recognize your son?

PAKH. No, he will be among the last to land, perhaps.

YAOUMA. But look--look! Behold that man--the stranger who comes this way
alone--Pakh! where were they, Pakh--the scarabs?

PAKH. Near to the fig tree.

YAOUMA [_terrified_] He is about to pass them--Oh! He does not
know--[_Relieved_] Ah! at last, they warn him.

RHEOU. He stays.

YAOUMA. Near to the fig tree, said you! But he is going on--He moves--he
comes--He is past them--[_To Mieris_] Come, mistress, come! Oh Ammon!
Ammon!

     _Hiding her face she leads Mieris quickly away._

RHEOU. 'Tis to our gates he comes--he is here.

     _Satni enters._

SATNI [_bowing before Rheou_] Rheou, I salute you!

RHEOU. What do I behold! Satni--'tis you--

PAKH. My son!

SATNI [_kneeling_] Father!

PAKH. 'Twas you!--you, who came that way, despite the scarabs?

SATNI. It was I.

PAKH. You know then some magic words, I do not doubt; but I--I who saw
them--I must needs go purify myself before the prayer--to-day is the
feast of the Nomination--did you know?

SATNI. I knew--and Yaouma?

PAKH. She is here--in a little you shall see her.

RHEOU. Satni!

SATNI. You called me?

RHEOU. Yes. Did not you see the two scarabs that lay upon your path?

SATNI. I saw them.

RHEOU. And you did not stop?

SATNI. No.

RHEOU. Why?

SATNI. I have learned many things in the countries whence I come.

RHEOU. You are a priest. Was not your duty to go unto the temple, even
before you knelt at your father's feet?

SATNI. Never again shall I enter the temple.

     _A long trumpet call is heard far off._

RHEOU. It is the signal for the prayer.

     _He mounts the terrace and stretches his arms to the setting
     sun. Women play upon the harp and upon drums, and the double
     flute. Others clash cymbals and shake the sistrum. Dancers
     advance, slowly swaying their bodies. The rest mark the
     rhythm by the beating of hands._

     _Music._

RHEOU. O Isis! Isis! Isis! Three times do I pronounce thy name.

ALL [_murmuring_] O Isis! Isis! Isis! Three times do I pronounce thy
name.

RHEOU. O Isis! thou who preservest the grain from the destroying winds,
and the bodies of our fathers from the ruinous work of time.

ALL [_murmuring_] O Isis! thou who preservest the grain from the
destroying winds, and the bodies of our fathers from the ruinous work of
time.

RHEOU. O Isis! preserve us.

ALL [_murmuring_] O Isis! preserve us.

RHEOU. By the three times thy name is spoken.

ALL [_murmuring_] By the three times thy name is spoken.

RHEOU. Both here, and there, and there.

ALL [_murmuring_] Both here, and there, and there.

RHEOU. And to-day, and all days, and throughout the ages, as long as our
temples are mirrored in the waters of the Nile.

ALL [_murmuring_] And to-day, and all days, and throughout the ages, as
long as our temples are mirrored in the waters of the Nile.

RHEOU. Isis!

ALL [_murmuring_] Isis!

RHEOU. Isis!

ALL [_murmuring_] Isis!

RHEOU. Isis!

ALL [_murmuring_] Isis!

     _All prostrate themselves save the singers and the dancers._

RHEOU. We beseech thee, Ammon! Deign to make known the virgin who will
be offered to the Nile. Ammon, deign to make her known!

ALL [_murmuring_] Deign to make her known.

     _The music stops. A long pause in silence. Then far off a
     trumpet call._

RHEOU. Rise! The God has made his choice.

     _All rise, and begin chattering and laughing gaily._

RHEOU [_to Satni_] You, alone, did not pray, and stood the while.
Wherefore?

SATNI. I have come from a land where I learned wisdom.

RHEOU. You!--You who were to be priest of Ammon!

SATNI. I shall never be priest of Ammon.

VOICES. Listen! Listen!--The name! They begin to cry the name!

     _The distant sound of voices is heard. Every one in the
     scene save Satni is listening intently._

RHEOU. The name! The name!

     _He mounts the terrace. The setting sun reddens the
     heavens._

SATNI [_to Yaouma_] At last I find you again, Yaouma. And you wear still
the chain of maidenhood. You have waited for me?

YAOUMA. Yes, Satni, I have waited for you.

SATNI. The memory of you went with me always.

YAOUMA. Listen!--[_Distant sound of voices_].

A WOMAN. Methinks 'tis Raouit of the next village.

A MAN. No! No! 'Tis not that name.

SATNI [_to Yaouma_] What matter their cries to you. Have you forgot our
promises?

YAOUMA. No--Listen!--[_Voices nearer_].

A WOMAN. 'Tis Amterra! 'Tis Amterra!

ANOTHER. No! 'Tis Hihourr!

ANOTHER. No! Amterra lives the other way.

ANOTHER. One can hear nothing clearly now.

ANOTHER. They are passing behind the palm grove.

SATNI [_to Yaouma_] Answer me--you have ears only for their clamor--I
love you, Yaouma.

A VOICE. They are coming! They are coming!

ANOTHER. Then 'tis Karma, of the next house.

ANOTHER. No! 'tis Hene. Ahou, I tell you--or Karma! Karma!

SATNI [_to Yaouma_] Have you, then, ceased to love me?

YAOUMA [_distracted_] No, no, I love you--Satni--but I seem to hear my
name amid the cries--

SATNI. Let them cry your name--I will watch over you.

YAOUMA. Oh, Satni! If the God have chosen me?

SATNI. What God? It is the priests who make him speak.

     _The sounds come nearer._

A VOICE. 'Tis Yaouma! they come here! Quick, quick, let us do them honor
on their coming.

ANOTHER. No!

ANOTHER. Yes!

ANOTHER. 'Tis she!

ANOTHER. No!

ANOTHER. Yes! yes! Yaouma!

SATNI [_to Yaouma_] Do not be fooled. The God is but a stone.

YAOUMA [_who no longer listens_] I have heard. It is my name--my name!

A VOICE. They are coming!--

ANOTHER. They are here!

     _Every one begins to go out._

ANOTHER [_going_] 'Tis Yaouma!

     _Loud shouts without--"'Tis Yaouma--'Tis Yaouma--"_

STEWARD [_to Rheou_] Master, it is Yaouma.

RHEOU. Go, as 'tis custom, let all go forth to meet those who come.

     _All go out save Yaouma and Satni._

SATNI. 'Tis you--

YAOUMA [_radiant_] 'Tis I!

SATNI. You may refuse.

YAOUMA. And leave Egypt--

SATNI. We will leave it together.

YAOUMA. 'Tis I! Think of it, Satni! The God, out of all my companions,
the God has chosen me!

SATNI. Do not stay here. Come with me.

YAOUMA [_listening_] Yes--yes--You hear them? It is I!

SATNI. You are going to refuse!

YAOUMA [_with a radiant smile_] You would love me no longer, if I
refused.

SATNI. But know you not, it is death?

YAOUMA [_in ecstasy_] Yes, Satni, it is death!

SATNI. You are mine--You are plighted to me--Come--Come!

YAOUMA. Satni--Satni--you would not have me refuse?

SATNI. I would. I love you.

YAOUMA. Refuse to answer the call of the Gods.

SATNI. The call of the Gods is death.

YAOUMA. The God has chosen me, before all he has preferred me. He has
preferred me to those who are fairer, to those who are richer. And I
should hide myself!

SATNI. It is out of pride then that you would die?

YAOUMA. I die to bring the flooding of the Nile--to make fertile all the
Egyptian fields. If I answer not to the voices that call me, my name
will be a byword wherever the rays of the sun-God fall. Another than I
will go clothed in the dazzling robe. Another will hear the shouting of
the multitude. Another will be given to the Nile.

SATNI. Another will die, and you, you will live, for your own joy and
for mine.

YAOUMA. For my own shame and for yours.

SATNI. Light the world with your beauty. Live, Yaouma, live with me!
Bright shall your breast be with the flower of the persea, and your
tresses anointed heavy with sweet odor.

YAOUMA. The waves of the Nile will be my head-dress. Oh! fair green
robe, with flowers yet more fair.

SATNI. Yaouma, you loved me--[_She bends her head_] Remember, remember
my going away, but two years since, how you did weep when I embarked.
You ran by the bank, you followed the boat that bore me. I see you
still, the slim form, the swift lank limbs; I can hear still the sound
of your little naked feet upon the sand. And when the boat grounded--do
you remember? For hours the oarsmen pushed with long poles, singing the
while, and you clapping your hands and crying out my name. And when at
length we floated, there was laughter and cries of joy--but you, you did
stand all on a sudden still, and I knew then that you wept. You climbed
to a hillock, and you waved your arms, you grew smaller, smaller,
smaller, till we turned by a cluster of palms. Oh, how you promised to
wait for me!

YAOUMA. Have I not waited?

SATNI. We had chosen the place to build our home. Do you remember?

YAOUMA. Yes.

SATNI. And dreamed of nights when you should sleep with your head upon
my breast--[_Yaouma bends her head_] And now you seek a grave in the
slime of the river.

YAOUMA [_with fervor_] The slime of the river is holy, the river is
holy. The Nile is nine times holy. It makes grow the pasture that feeds
our flocks. It drinks the tears of all our eyes.

SATNI. Listen, Yaouma, I will reveal the truth to you. The Gods who
claim your sacrifice--the Gods are false.

YAOUMA. The Gods are true--

SATNI. They are powerless.

YAOUMA. It is their power that subdues me--it is stronger than love.
Until to-day I loved you more than all the living things upon the
earth--the breath of your mouth alone gave life to my heart. Even this
very day, I dreaded being chosen of the Gods. But now, who has so
utterly transformed me if it be not the Gods? You are to me as nothing,
now. And I who trembled at a scorpion, who wept at the pricking of a
thorn, I am all joy at the thought of dying soon. How could this be if
the Gods had not willed it?

SATNI. Hear me a little--and I can prove to you--

YAOUMA. No words can take away the glory of being chosen by the Gods.

SATNI. By the priests.

YAOUMA. 'Tis the same, the priests are the voice of the Gods.

SATNI. 'Tis they who say so. The Gods of Egypt exist only because men
have invented them.

YAOUMA. The peoples from whose lands you come have made you lose your
reason. [_With a smile of pity_] Say that our Gods exist not! Think,
Satni!

SATNI. Neither the Gods, nor the happy fields, nor the world to come,
nor hell.

YAOUMA. Ah! Ah! I will prove you mad--you say there is no hell--But we
know, we know that it exists, look there! [_Pointing to the sunset_]
When the sun grows red at evening, is it not because the glow of hell is
thrown upon it from below? You have but to open your eyes. [_Laughing_]
The Gods not exist!

SATNI. They do not. In the sanctuaries of our temples is nothing save
beasts, unclean, absurd, and lifeless images; believe me, Yaouma--I
love you--I will not see you die. Your sacrifice is useless. Not because
you are offered up will the waters of the Nile rise! Refuse, hide
yourself, the waters will still rise. Ah, to lose you for a lie! To lose
you--you! How can I convince you?--I know! Yaouma, you saw me cross the
dead scarabs on my path. And yet I live! Oh! it angers me to see my
words move you not. Your reason, your reason! Awaken your reason--

YAOUMA. I am listening to my heart.

SATNI. I will save you in spite of you--I will keep you by force--

YAOUMA. If you do, I shall hate you--

SATNI. What matter I shall have saved you.

YAOUMA. And I shall kill myself.

SATNI [_seizing her_] Will you not understand! The God-bull, the
God-hippopotamus, the God-jackal--they are naught but idols!

YAOUMA. My father worshipped them.

     _Every one comes back. Rheou, who during all the preceding
     scene was hidden behind a pillar, goes to meet them._

SOME MEN. Yaouma! Yaouma!

ANOTHER. Up to the terrace!

OTHERS. Up to the terrace! Let her go up to the terrace!

ANOTHER. And let her lift her arms to heaven!

ANOTHER. Let her show that she will give herself to the Nile.

SATNI [_to Yaouma_] Stay! Stay with me! Then together--

YAOUMA [_in ecstasy_] He has chosen me from among all others!

ALL. Yaouma!

SATNI. She has refused! She has refused! And I will take her away.

ALL. No! No! To the terrace! The prayer! The prayer!

RHEOU. Yaouma, go and pray.

SATNI. She has refused!

MIERIS. Choose, Yaouma, between our Gods and a man.

RHEOU. Between the glory of sacrifice--

SATNI. Between falsehood and me, Yaouma--

YAOUMA. The God has called me to save my brothers!

SATNI. You are going to death!

YAOUMA. To life--the real life--the life with the Gods. [_Going to the
terrace_].

SATNI. They lie!

YAOUMA. Peace!

SATNI. In spite of you, I will save you. [_Yaouma goes up the stairway
leading to the terrace. Satni stands on a bench and shouts to the
crowd_] Hear me, my brothers, I know of better Gods, of Gods who ask for
no victims--

THE PEOPLE. They are false Gods!

SATNI. They are better Gods--

STEWARD. Rheou! Rheou! bid him cease!

RHEOU. No--let him speak.

SATNI. I come to save you from error, to overthrow the idols, to teach
you eternal truths--

     _An immense shout of acclamation drowns the rest of Satni's
     words, as Yaouma, who has appeared on the terrace above,
     stands with her arms raised to the setting sun. Mieris
     kneels and crosses her hands in prayer._

CURTAIN



ACT II


    SCENE: _Same as Act I._

     _Rheou discovered alone. After a few moments the Steward
     enters through the gates._

RHEOU. What have you seen?

STEWARD. The preparations for the festival continue.

RHEOU. At the Temple?

STEWARD. At the Temple.

RHEOU. For the Feast of Prodigies?

STEWARD. For the Feast of Prodigies.

RHEOU. And the priests believe they can celebrate it to-morrow?

STEWARD. I have seen no reason to doubt of it.

RHEOU. Without Yaouma?

STEWARD. I do not know.

RHEOU. You are mistaken perhaps. Did you go down as far as the Nile?

STEWARD. Yes, master.

RHEOU. Well?

STEWARD. They have finished the decoration of the sacred barge.

RHEOU. I do not understand it.

STEWARD. Nor I, for I know that a certain number of the soldiers have
refused to renew the attempt of yesterday--

RHEOU. They have refused?

STEWARD. Yes.

RHEOU. What did they say?

STEWARD. That they were afraid.

RHEOU. Of what--of whom?

STEWARD. Of Satni.

RHEOU. Of Satni?

STEWARD. Yes. They say it was he who caused the miracle of yesterday.

RHEOU. What--what do they say? Their words--tell me?

STEWARD. That it was he--

RHEOU. He, Satni?--

STEWARD. Yes.

RHEOU. Who caused the miracle of yesterday?

STEWARD. Yes.

RHEOU. The miracle that prevented them from carrying out the order of
the High Priest?

STEWARD. Yes.

RHEOU. The order to come here and seize Yaouma?

STEWARD. Yes.

RHEOU. So that is what they say?

STEWARD. Every one says it.

RHEOU [_after some reflection_] Come, it is time you learned the truth,
that you may repeat it all. In the countries whither he went Satni
learned many things--great things. Come hither, lend your ear. He
declares there be other gods than the gods of Egypt--and more powerful.
If you remember, my father and the Pharaoh Amenotep likewise declared
this, and would have made these gods known to us. How they were
frustrated you know. It seems--for my own part I know not, 'tis Satni
says so, ceaselessly, these two months since his return--it seems then,
the time is come when these Gods would make them known to us. They have
endowed Satni with superhuman power. That I _know_, and none may doubt
it now. Satni is resolved to keep his betrothed, and the Lybian Guards
were not deceived, it was he who yesterday called down the thunder and
the floods from Heaven upon the soldiers sent here to seize Yaouma.

STEWARD. The oldest remember but one such prodigy.

RHEOU. What I have told you, tell to all; and this, besides, say to
them: each time that any would cross the will of Satni--they who dare
the attempt will be scattered, even as the guards were scattered
yesterday. Add this, that Satni is guided by the spirit of the dead
Pharaoh, that I last night beheld my father's spirit, and that great
events will come to pass in Egypt.

STEWARD. I shall tell them.

RHEOU. Behold, the envoy of the new gods! Leave me to speak with him.
Go, repeat my words.

     _The Steward goes out._

     _Satni enters from the back. Rheou prostrates himself before
     Satni._

SATNI [_looking behind him_] Before which God do you still bow down?

RHEOU. Before you. If you be not a God, you are the spirit of a God.

SATNI. I do not understand your words.

RHEOU. Who can call down thunderbolts from heaven, unless he be an envoy
of the Gods?

SATNI. I am no--

RHEOU. 'Tis well, 'tis well. You would have us blind to your power of
working miracles. After yesterday you can hide it no more. Henceforth,
Satni, you must no longer confine your teaching to Mieris, to me, to
your parents, Yaouma, to a few--henceforth you may speak to all, all
ears are opened by this miracle.

SATNI. Let us leave that! I pray you rise and tell me rather what has
befallen Yaouma.

RHEOU. Yaouma!--Did she not at first interpret the thunderclap as sign
of the wrath of Ammon against her?

SATNI. She believes still in Ammon, then, despite all I have said to
her.

RHEOU. Happily I undeceived her. I made her understand that 'twas you
the elements obeyed, that the thunder that frighted her, was but a sign
of your power.

SATNI. Why should you lie to her?

RHEOU. It was not wholly lying. Besides, it was fortunate I could thus
explain the event. Had you but seen her--

SATNI. All my efforts of these two months past, in vain!

RHEOU. You remember when you left us yesterday. You might have thought
that all her superstitions were banished at last. She no longer answered
you, she questioned you no more, and at your last words her silence
confirmed the belief that at length you had won her away from Ammon. Yet
after you were gone, at the moment of entering her hiding place, she was
swept with sudden fury as though an evil spirit had entered her, wept,
cried and tore her hair--

SATNI. What said she?

RHEOU. "To the temple! to the temple! I would go to the temple! The God
has chosen me! The God awaits me! Egypt will perish!" In short, words of
madness. She would have killed herself!

SATNI. Killed herself!

RHEOU. We had to put constraint on her. And 'twas only when I led her to
this terrace, after the thunderbolt, and pointed out the scattered
soldiery, that she came to herself, that at length she perceived that
your God was the most powerful. "What," she cried, "'tis he, he, my
Satni, who shakes the heavens and the earth for me! For me!" she
murmured, "for me!" She would have kissed your sandals, offered you a
sacrifice, worshipped, adored you. See where she comes, with Mieris!
Stay.

SATNI. No.

     _He goes. Rheou accompanies him. Mieris enters, bearing
     flowers and led by Yaouma._

MIERIS [_listening_] Is he there?

YAOUMA. No.

MIERIS. Leave me.

     _Yaouma goes out. Mieris left alone makes several hesitating
     steps toward the statue of Isis, then goes up to it and
     touches it. A pause._

MIERIS. If it be only of wood!

     _A gesture of disillusion. She draws slowly away from the
     statue, letting her flowers fall, broken-hearted, and begins
     to weep. Rheou returns._

RHEOU. Why, Mieris--do you bring flowers to Isis still?

MIERIS. It is the last time. Listen, Rheou--We mast ask Satni to heal
me. Do not tell me it is not possible; he has healed Ahmarsti.

RHEOU. Healed Ahmarsti?

MIERIS, Yes. He made her drink a liquid wherein no doubt a good genius
was hidden, and the evil spirit that tormented her was driven forth.

RHEOU [_credulously_] Is't possible?

MIERIS. Every one saw it. And Kitoui--

RHEOU. Well?

MIERIS. Kitoui, the cripple, went this morning to draw water from the
Nile, before all her neighbors who marvelled and cried with joy. And she
had merely touched the hem of his garment, even without his knowing it.
He has healed the child of Riti, too, he knows gods more powerful than
ours--younger gods, perhaps, our gods are so old--If it were not so, how
could he have walked unscathed the road where the scarabs lay, that day
when he came home? Since then, men have seen him do a thousand forbidden
things, have seen him defy our gods by disrespect. Without the
protection of a higher power, how could he escape the chastisement
whereof another had died? Who are his gods? Rheou, he must make them
known to you.

RHEOU. He refuses.

MIERIS. For what reason?

RHEOU. The reason he gives is absurd--he says there are no gods--

MIERIS. No gods! no gods!--he is mocking you.

RHEOU. He is bound to secrecy, perhaps.

MIERIS. Rheou, know you that this Ahmarsti--these two years now, on the
day of Prodigies, have I heard her at my side howling prayers at the
goddess that were never answered.

RHEOU. I know. Satni declares he could have healed all whom the goddess
has relieved.

MIERIS [_to herself_] He relieves even those women whom she
abandons--[_After a pause_] He must teach you the words that work these
miracles.

RHEOU. He refuses.

MIERIS. Force him!

RHEOU. He says there are none.

MIERIS. Threaten him with death--he will speak.

RHEOU. No.

MIERIS [_with excitement_] But you do not understand me!--he has healed
Ahmarsti, he has healed Kitoui, wherefore should he not heal me?

RHEOU [_sadly_] Ah! Mieris, Mieris, think you I waited for your prayer,
to ask him that?

MIERIS. Well--Well--?

RHEOU. I could gain nothing but these words from him: "Could I overcome
the evil Mieris suffers from, even now should she rejoice in the
splendor of day."

MIERIS. Nothing is impossible to the gods, even to ours; how much more
then to his!--He did not yield to your prayers!--Insist, order,
threaten! Force him to speak. You have the right to command him. He is
but the son of a potter after all. Let him be whipped till he yield. Do
anything, have him whipped to the point of death--or better, offer him
fields, the hill of date-trees that is ours; offer him our flocks, and
my jewels and precious stones--tell him we know him for a living
god--but I would be healed. I would be healed! I would see! See! [_With
anger_] Ah! you know not the worth of the light, you whose eyes are
filled with it! You cannot picture my misery, you who suffer it not! You
grieve for me, I doubt not, but you think you have done enough, having
given me pity!--No, no, I am wrong--I am unjust. But forgive me; this
thought that I might be healed has made me mad. Rheou!--Think, Rheou,
what it means to be blind, to have been so always, and to know that
beside one are those who see--who see!--The humblest of our shepherds,
the most wretched of the women at our looms, I envy them. And when, at
times, I hear them complain, I curb myself lest I should strike them,
wretches that know not their good fortune. I feel that all you, you who
see, should never cease from songs of joy, and hymns of thanksgiving to
the gods--[_With an outburst_] I speak of sight! Think, Rheou, I have
not even a clear idea of what it means "to see." To recognize without
touch, to know without need to listen. To perceive the sun another way
than by the heat of its rays!--They say the flowers are so beautiful!--I
would see _you_, my well-beloved. Oh! the day when I shall see your
eyes!--I would see, that you may show me some likeness of the little
child we lost. You shall point out, among the rest, those that are most
like to him. This misery--O my beloved!--I do not often speak of it--but
I suffer it! I suffer it! [_She is in his arms_] They have taken from me
the hope that our gods will heal me, if they give me nothing in its
place, know you what I shall do?--I shall go away, alone, one night,
touching the walls, and the trees--and the trees, with my arms
outstretched; I shall go down as far as the Nile and there, gently, I
shall glide away to death.

RHEOU. Peace, O my best beloved!

MIERIS [_listening_] I hear him--he comes. I leave you with him! Lead
him to my door--love me--save me!

     _She attempts to go out, he leads her. Satni enters followed
     by Nourm, Sokiti, and Bitiou._

NOURM. Yes! Thou who art mighty!--Yes! Yes! Make me rich--I have had
blows of the stick so long! I would be rich to be able to give them in
my turn!--You have but to speak the magic words.

SATNI [_somewhat brutally_] Leave me! I am no magician.

SOKITI. I, I do not ask for money. Listen not to him; he is bad. I, I
only ask that you make Khames die; he has taken from me the girl I would
have wed. [_Satni pushes him away. Sokiti, weeping, clings to his
garments_] Grant it, I implore you--I implore you!--My life is gone with
her--make him die, I pray you.

SATNI. Leave me!

SOKITI. Hear me.

BITIOU [_coming between them and striking Sokiti_] Begone! Begone! He
would not hear you! [_Sokiti goes out_] Listen--listen--you see I made
him go. All--all whom you will, I shall beat them for you. Listen--if
you could make me tall like you, and steady on my legs--See--here--I
have hidden away, safe, three gold rings, that I stole a while since; I
will give them you.

SATNI. Go, take them to the high priest--

BITIOU [_pitiably_] I have given four to him already.

     _Sokiti and Nourm are conferring together. Enter Rheou.
     They run away, Bitiou follows, falling and picking himself
     up._

RHEOU. What do they want of you?

SATNI. They came here, following me. They believe me gifted with
supernatural power, and crave miracles of me, as though I were a God, or
a juggler. I am neither, and I work no miracles.

RHEOU. None the less you have worked two miracles.

SATNI. Not one.

RHEOU. And you will work yet one more.

SATNI. Never. I came hither not to perform miracles, but to prevent
them.

RHEOU. You will heal Mieris.

SATNI. No one can heal her, nor I, nor any other.

RHEOU. Give her a little hope.

SATNI. How can I?

RHEOU. Tell her you will invoke your God, and that some day perhaps--

SATNI. I have no God. If there be a god, he is so great, so far from as,
so utterly beyond our comprehension, that for us it is as though he did
not exist. To believe that one of our actions, to believe that a prayer
could act upon the will of God, is to belittle him, to deny him. He is
himself incapable of a miracle; it would be to belie himself. Could he
improve his work, he would not then have created it perfect from the
first. He could not do it.

RHEOU. Our ancient gods at least permitted hope.

SATNI. Keep them.

RHEOU. In the heart of Mieris, you have destroyed them.

SATNI. Do you regret it?

RHEOU. Not yet.

SATNI. What would you say?

RHEOU. Even if it be true that sight will never be given her, do not
tell her so. Far better promise that she will be healed.

SATNI. And to all the others, must I promise healing too? Because in a
house I relieved a child, whose illness sprang from a cause I could
remove; because a woman, ill in imagination, did cure herself by
touching my garment's hem; must I then descend to play the part of
sorcerer? I had behind me there, but now, a rabble of the wretched
imploring me, believing me all powerful, begging for them and theirs
unrealizable miracles. Should I then cheat them too, all those poor
wretches, promising what I know I cannot give? I came hither to make an
end of lies, not to replace them with others.

RHEOU [_with passion_] Ah! You would not lie. You would not lie to the
wretched. You would not lie to Mieris. You would lie to no one, is it
so?

SATNI. To no one.

RHEOU. We shall see! [_Calling right_] Yaouma!--Let them send Yaouma!
[_To Satni_] Not to her either, then? Good; if you speak the truth to
her, if you deny that you have supernatural power, if you force her to
believe you had no hand in the miracle that saved her yesterday, she
will give herself to the priests, or she will kill herself! What will
you do?

     _Yaouma enters, she tries to prostrate herself before Satni,
     who prevents her. In the meantime the Steward greatly moved
     has come to whisper to Rheou._

RHEOU [_deeply moved_] He is there!

STEWARD. In person.

RHEOU. 'Tis an order of the Pharaoh then?

STEWARD. Yes.

RHEOU. I am troubled.

     _He goes out with the Steward._

SATNI [_to Yaouma_] What is it ails you? Why are you so sad?

YAOUMA. You will want nothing more of me, now that you are a god.

SATNI. Be not afraid: I am not a god.

YAOUMA. Almost. 'Tis a daughter of the Pharaoh you will marry now.

SATNI. I will marry you.

YAOUMA. You will swear to.

SATNI. Yes.

YAOUMA. By Ammon?--[_Recollecting_] By your god?

SATNI. My god is not concerned with us.

YAOUMA. Who then is concerned with us?

SATNI. No one.

YAOUMA. You do not want to tell me. You treat me as a child--mocking me.

SATNI. Why do you need an oath? I love you, and you shall be my wife.

YAOUMA [_radiant_] I shall be your wife!--I, little Yaouma, I shall be
wife to a man whom the heavens obey!--[_A pause_] When I think that you
loosed the thunder for my sake--

SATNI. No, vain child, I did not loose the thunder.

YAOUMA. Yes, yes, yes--I understand. You want no one to know that you
have found the book of Thoth--fear not, I know how to hold my peace.
[_Coaxingly she puts her arms round Satni's neck and rubs her cheek
against his_] Tell me, how did you find it?

SATNI. I have not found the book of magic spells; besides, it would have
profited me nothing.

YAOUMA. Sit--you would not sit? They say 'tis shut up in three caskets,
hidden at the bottom of the sea.

SATNI. I tell you again I neither sought, nor found it.

YAOUMA. What do you do then, to strike fire from heaven?

SATNI. I did not strike fire from heaven.

YAOUMA [_crossly_] Oh! I do not love you now!--Yes, yes, yes, I love
you! [_A pause_] So it pleased you then, when you were going away in the
galley, to see me run barefoot on the bank--?

SATNI. Yes.

YAOUMA [_angry_] But speak! speak! [_Checking herself, then more coaxing
still_] You wanted to weep? No? You said you did. For my part I know
not, then, I could see nothing. But the day of your return, when you
learned I was chosen for the sacrifice, then, then I saw your eyes--You
love me--You said to me you would prevent me going to the Nile. I
believed you not--you remember--Why! even yesterday, yes, yesterday
again, in spite of all your words, I was resolved to escape and go to
the temple. It needed this proof of your power!--tell me, it was you who
shook the heavens and the earth for me.

SATNI. No.

YAOUMA. Again!--You must think but little of me, to believe I should
reveal what you bade me keep secret. [_She lays her hands on Satni's
cheeks_] It _was_ you, was it not?

SATNI. No, no, no! a thousand times no!

YAOUMA. It was your gods then, your gods whom I know not.

SATNI. No.

YAOUMA. Who was it then?

SATNI. No one.

YAOUMA [_out of countenance_] No one! [_A pause_] You possess no power
that other men have not?

SATNI. No.

YAOUMA [_the same_] You seem as one speaking truth.

SATNI. I speak the truth.

YAOUMA. 'Tis a pity!

SATNI. Why?

YAOUMA. It would have been more beautiful. [_A long grave pause_] To go
in the barge, on the Nile, that too had been more beautiful.

     _Rheou and the Steward enter_

RHEOU [_agitated_] Go in, Yaouma. [_To the Steward_] Conduct her to her
mistress--and make known to her what has passed. [_Yaouma and the
Steward go out_] Satni, terrible news has come to me: the Pharaoh,
finding the people's enmity increase against him, has taken fright, and
striking first, the blow has fallen on me. My goods are confiscated. I
am sent to exile. The palace Chamberlain, but now, brought me the order
to quit my house to-day, and deliver myself to the army leaving for
Ethiopia.

SATNI. Can you do nothing against this order?

RHEOU. Yes. I can kill those who gave it.

SATNI. Kill!

RHEOU. Listen. I bring you the means to win the triumph of your ideas,
and at the same time serve my cause. I can arm all the dwellers on my
lands. We two must lead them. They will follow you, knowing you all
powerful. Nay, hear me--wait. The soldiers, who fear you, will not dare
resist us, we shall kill the high priest, the Pharaoh if need be--we
shall be masters of Egypt.

SATNI. I would not kill.

RHEOU. So be it. Enough that you declare yourself ready to repeat the
miracle of yesterday.

SATNI. I would not lie.

RHEOU. If you would neither kill nor lie, you will never succeed in
governing men.

SATNI. I would fight the priests of Ammon, not imitate them.

RHEOU. You will never triumph without doing so. Profit by events. Do not
deny the power they believe to be yours. Men will not follow you, if you
speak only to their reason. You are above the crowd by your learning;
that gives you rights. You would lead them to the summits; to get there,
one must blindfold those who suffer from dizziness.

SATNI. I refuse.

RHEOU. One would think you were afraid of victory!

SATNI. Rheou, 'tis not the victory of my ideas you seek, 'tis your own
vengeance, your own ambition.

RHEOU. They wish to rush the people of Egypt into an unjust and useless
war. They hesitate; they feel the people lacking zest, that is why they
have delayed the going of the army till the feast of Prodigies.
To-morrow they will make the goddess speak, and all those poor creatures
will be led away. You can save thousands of lives by sacrificing a few.

SATNI. I refuse. The truth will prevail without help from cruelty or
falsehood.

RHEOU. Never. The crowd is not a woman to be won by loud wooing, but one
who must be taken by force, whom you must dominate before you can
persuade.

SATNI. Say no more, Rheou, I refuse.

RHEOU. Blind! Fool! Coward!

     _Mieris enters, led by Yaouma. A moment later some
     men--Bitiou, Sokiti, Nourm._

MIERIS. Rheou!--where are you? where are you? [_Yaouma leads her toward
him_] It is true, this that I hear?--Exile--Misery?

RHEOU. It is true.

MIERIS. Courage--As for me, a palace or a cottage--I know not the one
from the other.

RHEOU. [_to Satni_] Satni, can you still refuse?

SATNI. You torture me! No, I will not be credited with power that is not
mine; to stir men up against their fellows--I would not kill, I tell
you.

MIERIS. I understand you, Satni--it is wrong to kill!--But look once
more upon me--I am poor now, I am going away, will you not consent to
heal me?

SATNI [_anguished_] Mieris--Could I have healed you, would it not be
done already?

MIERIS. You can do it! I know you can do it! Work a miracle.

YAOUMA. A miracle! Show that your god is more powerful than our gods.

A MAN [_who has just entered_] Heal us!

SATNI. I am not able.

ANOTHER. Work a miracle.

SATNI. There are no miracles!

A MAN. Then your gods are less mighty than ours.

SATNI. Yours do not exist.

THE PEOPLE [_terrified at the blasphemy_] Oh!

A MAN. Why do you lead us away from our gods, if you have no others to
give us?

ANOTHER. You shall not insult our gods!

ANOTHER. We will hand you over to the priests lest the gods smite us for
hearing you!

ANOTHER. Ammon will chastise us!

SATNI. No.

A MAN. Isis will abandon us!

SATNI. It will not make you more wretched.

ANOTHER. Then show us you are stronger than our gods.

MIERIS. A miracle!

RHEOU. He is stronger than our gods!  } [_Together_]
YAOUMA. A miracle or I die!           }

SATNI. You demand it! You demand a miracle. Well, then, you shall have
one, I will do this, but in the presence of all! Go! go! go throughout
the domains--bring hither those you find bowed on the earth, or hung to
poles for drawing water. Go you others, summon the slaves, the piteous
workers--call hither the drawers of stones, bid them drop the ropes
that flay their shoulders, bid them come.

MIERIS. What would you do?

SATNI. Convince them.

MIERIS. Now of a sudden, brutally?

SATNI. Brutally.

RHEOU. Do you believe them ready?

SATNI. You are afraid.

RHEOU. Day comes not suddenly on night, between them is the dawn.

     _Delethi leads Mieris right under the peristyle._

SATNI. I would have day, broad daylight--Now, at once, for all! 'Tis a
crime to _promise_ them reward for their suffering. How do we know that
they will ever be paid?

RHEOU. They are so miserable--

SATNI. The truth--is the truth good only for the rich? Will you add that
injustice to all the others? Behold them! [_Gradually the slaves and
workers of all kinds have entered till they fill the stage. Amongst them
Pakh, Sokiti, Bitiou the Dwarf_] Yes, behold them, the victims, behold
the wretched! I know you all. You, you are shepherd, you are worse
nourished than your flocks, and your beasts, at least, are not given
blows. They do not beat the cows nor the sheep. You, you sow and you
reap; beneath the sun, tortured by flies, you gather abundant crops. You
sleep in a hole. Others eat the corn you made grow, and sleep on
precious stuffs. You, you are forever drawing water from the Nile;
betwixt you and the ox they harness to another machine, there is no
difference, and yet you are a man. You, you are one of those who drag
great stones, to build the monuments of pride. You are a digger in the
tombs, you live a month or more without sight of day. To glorify the
death of others, you give your life. You are a trainer of lions for war;
your father was eaten--they would have wept had the lion died--How can
it be that you accept all this, when you see beside you happiness
without work, and abundance without effort? I will tell you. 'Tis
because, in the name of the god Ammon-Ra, they have said to you: "Have
patience, this injustice will last but a life-time." Fools! nothing but
that! All the time you are on earth, suffer, produce for others. Content
ye with hunger, you who produce food. Content ye with worse usage than
the swine, you who have guard of them. Content ye to sleep in the open,
you who build palaces and temples. Content ye with all miseries, you
carvers of gold, and setters of precious stones. Look without envy,
without anger, on the welfare of those who do nothing, all this will
last only the whole of your lives! After, in another world, you shall
have the fulness of all the crops, and the joy of all the pleasures.
Well, they lied to you: there is no island of souls, there are no happy
fields, there is no life of atonement after this. [_Loud murmurs_] They
have set up these gods for your servile adoration; they have counselled
you: "Bow down, these gods will avenge you." They have said: "Prostrate
yourselves, these gods are just." They have said: "Throw yourselves to
earth, these gods are good." They have declared them all powerful; shut
them in sanctuaries of awful gloom, whence you are shown them once a
year, to keep alive your terror of the Gods; and last, they have made
you believe no man may touch these images and live. I tell you they
lied--I will show you they lied to you. Behold the most mighty
Ammon--the father of the gods--I spit my hate at him! Thou art but an
idol; I curse thee for evil men have done in thy name! I curse thee in
the name of all the enslaved, in the name of all those they have cheated
with hopes of an avenging life; in the name of all who for thousands of
years have groaned and wept; suffered insult, outrage, blows, death,
without thought of revolt, because promises made in thy name had
soothed their rage to sleep! And I curse thee for the sorrow that now
fills me, and for the ills that must come even of thy going! Die! [_He
throws a stool in the face of the statue_] You others do as I. Go, climb
their pedestals! Lay hold of their hands, they are lifeless! Strike,
'tis but an image! Spit in their faces, they are senseless! Strike!
Ruin! All this is nothing but hardened mud!

     _The crowd which had punctuated the words of Satni with
     cries and murmurs has approached the statues behind him and
     followed his example, blaspheming, and howling with fury.
     The more courageous begin, being hoisted to the pedestals,
     the rest follow suit. The gods are overthrown._

RHEOU. Now, let them open my granaries, that each may help himself; and
take from my flocks to sate you all.

     _Cries of joy, they go out slowly. Bitiou in the meantime
     approaches an overthrown statue and still half-afraid, kicks
     it. He tries to run, falls, picks himself up, then seeing
     that decidedly there is no danger, seats himself on the
     stomach of the goddess Thoueris and bursts into a peal of
     triumphant bestial laughter._

BITIOU. Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!

     _Then he perceives the little statue of Isis which Mieris
     shields with her arms, points it out to a couple of men who
     advance to it._

DELETHI. Mistress, they would take Isis!

MIERIS [_in tears_] Let me keep her--

RHEOU. No, Mieris.

MIERIS [_letting go_] Take her--[_Then_] Stay!

RHEOU. Wherefore?

MIERIS. Can you part from her, and feel nothing? Even now, Satni, in
denouncing the gods to the fury of the crowd, you did not say
everything--You, who can see her, behold this little image, think how
many tears were shed before her, in the years since she was made. She
has been ours for generations. Call up the countless crowds of those who
have fixed their anxious looks upon her eyes, dead even as mine are. It
is for all the anguish she has looked upon, we must respect her. Tears
make holy. I doubt not you are right: she must be broken too--but not
without farewell. [_To Yaouma_] Where is she, Yaouma? I would say my
last prayer to her. [_To the statue_] Oh, them who didst not heal, but
didst console me; O thou who hast heard so many entreaties and
thanksgivings, thou art but clay! Yet men have given thee life; thy life
was not in thee, it was in them--and the proof is that thou diest, now
they have taken their soul from thee. I give thee over to those who
would break thee, but I revere thee, I salute thee, and I thank thee for
all the hope thou hast given me; and I thank thee in the name of all the
sorrows that thou hast sent to sleep. [To the men] Take her hence--let
them destroy her with respect.

     _They take Isis away._

SATNI. There is nothing so sad or so great as the death of a god! [_A
pause. To Yaouma, who comes through the crowd_] Behold, Yaouma! The gods
are dead and I live--behold them! Do you believe me--do you believe me?

     _Sadly Yaouma looks at the broken statues, then bursts into
     tears before Satni, who stands amazed._

CURTAIN



ACT III

    SCENE:--_The yard in front of the potter's hut. On the right
    from the middle of the back of the scene to the footlights,
    the walls of the dwelling made of beaten clay. Two unequal
    doors. The wall is slightly raised supporting a terrace where
    pottery of all kinds is drying in the sun. Left, a wall of
    loose stones high enough to lean on. Between the wall and the
    house an opening leading to an invisible inclined plane that
    descends to the Nile, the water and opposite bank of which
    are visible. Behind the house and on the right groups of
    lofty palms. The whole is abject misery beneath the splendor
    of a heaven blazing with light._

    _Kirjipa, crouching down, is grinding corn between a large
    and a small stone. Satni is seated on the wall dreaming._


KIRJIPA. Son.

SATNI. Mother.

KIRJIPA. And so you do not believe that when the moon grows little by
little less, 'tis because it is eaten by a pig?

SATNI. No, mother.

KIRJIPA. Then what beast eats it?

SATNI. None.

KIRJIPA [_laughing_] You have ideas that are not reasonable. What makes
me marvel, is that your father seems to understand them. I must haste to
make the bread, that he find it when he returns.

SATNI. Here comes the messenger from Rheou.

KIRJIPA [_horrified_] The messenger of him who kills the gods.

SATNI. We do not kill what has no life.

KIRJIPA. I would not see him. [_She picks up her corn_].

SATNI. Why?

KIRJIPA. Brrr!--[_To herself_] To-morrow I shall burn some sacred herbs
here. [_She goes out_].

     _The Steward enters._

STEWARD. Satni, I have been seeking you. Since this morning unhappy
things have come to pass--

SATNI. Yaouma is not in danger, or Mieris, of Rheou?

STEWARD. No. All three are safe in the palace.

SATNI. Well?

STEWARD. You remember the order the master gave me this morning, after
the death of the gods?

SATNI. No.

STEWARD. Yes, to open his granaries to all.

SATNI. Yes, yes, well?

STEWARD. When I went to obey, to my amazement I beheld the men stand by
the door in earnest converse, then without entering they withdrew. This
is what happened. They went to the house of the neighboring master,
roused his servants and laborers, and strove to force them to overthrow
the statues of his gods, and rob him of his corn. They killed his
steward. Soldiers came--Nepk had been killed, others too. Then all were
scattered. The master sent me to bid you reason with those whom you
might find. Look! there are some who have taken refuge here! [_To some
men who are outside_] Enter--come--Satni would speak with you!

     _Bitiou, Sokiti, and Nourm appear behind the wall. Bitiou
     comes in._

SATNI [_To Bitiou_] Whither go you?

STEWARD. Whither go you? Whence come you?

BITIOU. I followed the others--

STEWARD. Whence come you?

BITIOU. I came back with the others, Sokiti and Nourm.

SATNI. Where are they?

BITIOU. There.

STEWARD. Bid them enter.

SATNI [_going to the door_] Sokiti, Nourm, come.

     _Sokiti and Nourm enter awkwardly._

STEWARD. Why do you hide yourselves?

NOURM. We do not hide from you, but from the Lybian soldiers.

SATNI. Why do you fear them?

SOKITI. Because they are chasing us.

STEWARD. And why are they chasing you?

     _The three men look at each other._

SATNI. Bitiou, answer.

BITIOU. Bitiou knows not.

STEWARD [_to the others_] You know it, you.

NOURM. They took us for the others.

SATNI. What others?

NOURM. Perhaps they took us for the servants of the neighboring master.

STEWARD. They have done mischief, then, the servants of the neighboring
master? [_Pause_] Answer--you!

NOURM [_to Satni_] They did that at his house, that you made us do at
yours.

STEWARD. The priests heard of it?

NOURM. No, but the master sent for the soldiers.

SATNI. Only for that!

NOURM. I know not.

SATNI. Had there been nothing else, he would not have sent for the
Lybian soldiers. He knew our projects--he is with us. There is something
else, eh!--

     _Bitiou yawns loudly._

SOKITI. Yes.

SATNI. What?

SOKITI [_to Nourm_] Tell.

NOURM. They were angered with the master. He was bad, the master.

STEWARD. He is hard, but he gives much to those who have nothing.

SOKITI. He gave here, that he might receive hereafter.

NOURM. After his death.

SATNI. And now he gives no more?

NOURM. Nothing.

SATNI. Ah!

BITIOU. Nothing--and so, all stomachs empty, very much. [_He laughs_].

NOURM. He gives only blows of the stick now.

SOKITI [_with conviction_] One cannot live on that alone.

NOURM. And so his servants asked him for corn?

BITIOU. No good--only blows of the stick.

STEWARD. They _took_ the corn that was refused them?

BITIOU [_laughing_] Hunger! [_A gesture_].

SATNI. You knew they were going to do that?

SOKITI. Yes.

SATNI. It was for that you went to join them?

NOURM. Yes.

STEWARD. Why?

NOURM. It came into our heads like this: better not take corn from the
good master, but take it from the bad one.

SOKITI. Justice!

BITIOU [_to the Steward_] You content. You still got all your corn.

     _He laughs, his comrades laugh with him._

NOURM. You, we like you.

BITIOU. You--good! We--good!

SOKITI. See!

BITIOU [_collecting two ideas_] Wait: neighboring master bad. They bad.
[_To the others_] Heh?--Heh?--you see--Heh? Heh? [_All three draw
themselves up proudly and laugh_] And the steward he bad, he dead--well
done!

SATNI. What would he say?

SOKITI [_laughing_] They took the steward and then--[_Chokes with
laughter_].

NOURM. They gave him back all the blows of the stick they had had from
him.

SATNI. You saw that?

NOURM. Yes.

SOKITI [_proudly_] Me too, me too--

BITIOU. I laugh very much--because--because--Steward, very big, strong,
and then when very much beaten, fell down--fell on the ground--like me!
like me! He, big, he fell down just the same--he like Bitiou--I very
glad. [_During what follows he plays with his foot_].

STEWARD. What they have done is bad.

NOURM. No. The steward had been happy all his life. He was old.

SOKITI. He was old. So 'tis not bad to have killed him--He had
finished--He was fat--and he had lost his appetite--

NOURM. Only just, he should leave his place to another.

SATNI. We must not kill.

SOKITI. What does that mean?

NOURM. Yes, kill a good one, that is bad. But kill a bad one, that is
good.

SATNI. And if you are mistaken?

SOKITI. No, he is bad, I kill him.

SATNI. What if he be not bad, and you think him so?

SOKITI. If he were not bad, I should not think it.

STEWARD. You do not understand--Listen, I am not bad, am I?

SOKITI. But we do not want to kill you.

STEWARD. Let me speak. You remember Kob the black. He thought me bad.

NOURM. Yes.

STEWARD. And if he had killed me?

SOKITI. We are not blacks--

STEWARD. You do not understand me. Consider. He thought me bad. I am not
bad. What you were saying, would justify him if he had killed me.

     _They consider._

SOKITI. I understand. You say: If the slave had killed me--no, it is not
that.

SATNI. Human life must be respected.

     _Gravely they make sign of acquiescence, to escape further
     torment. Nourm picks up a package he had brought and turns
     to go out unobserved._

STEWARD. What are you carrying there?

NOURM. Nothing, 'tis mine--

BITIOU. That is a necklace--show. [_Begins to open the package_].

NOURM. Yes, a necklace.

SATNI. From whom did you take it?

NOURM. From the neighboring master.

SATNI. Do you think you did well?

NOURM [_hesitating_] Why--yes.

SATNI. You are wrong.

NOURM. Be not afraid, no one saw me.

SATNI. It is wrong.

NOURM. No. What can wrong me, is wrong. Since no one saw me, they will
not punish me. So it is not wrong.

SATNI. Wrong not to you, but to the neighboring master.

NOURM. He has many others.

SOKITI. Has had them for years, he has! Nourm never had one. Not just.
I, I never had, this--[_He holds up a bracelet_].

SATNI. You have taken this bracelet!

SOKITI [_delighted_] It is mine.

SATNI. We are content.

     _They laugh._

NOURM. And Bitiou--

SATNI AND SOKITI. Yes, Bitiou--

NOURM. He took the best thing.

STEWARD. What?

BITIOU. A woman.

STEWARD. By force?

BITIOU. No woman would come willingly with Bitiou.

SOKITI. But she escaped from him.

BITIOU. Yes. [_He weeps_].

SATNI. You must give back the necklace and this bracelet to the
neighboring master.

NOURM. Give back, but he has others!

SATNI. You cannot make yourself the judge of that. If you were selling
perfumes, for instance, would you think it natural that a man should
come and take them from you, because you had plenty and he had none?

NOURM. You tell me hard things.

SATNI. You must give back this bracelet, Sokiti.

SOKITI. Yes, master.

SATNI. And you the necklace.

NOURM. Yes, master.

     _A sorrowful pause._

SATNI. See, you are sad. You perceive that you did wrong.

SOKITI. Yes, we did wrong--

SATNI. Ah!

SOKITI. We did wrong to tell you what we did, because you are not
pleased.

SATNI. 'Tis for your sake I am grieved.

NOURM. Then you have not told the truth; there is a hell, and there is
an island of souls.

SATNI. No.

NOURM. If the gods do not punish, and men, not having seen, do not
punish either--[_Pause_] Well--I shall give it back.

SOKITI. I, I shall not give back. Not stolen. Another, a servant of the
neighboring master stole the bracelet, not I!

STEWARD. Yet 'tis you who have it.

SOKITI. I took it from the other.

STEWARD. He let you do it?

SOKITI. Yes. Could not help it, he was wounded.

SATNI. You should have succored him.

SOKITI. I did not know him.

SATNI. He was a man like you.

SOKITI. There are plenty of them.

SATNI. We must do good to others.

SOKITI. What good will that do to me?

SATNI. You will be content with yourself.

SOKITI. I would rather have the bracelet--

SATNI. It is only by refraining from doing one another harm that mankind
may hope to gain happiness; nay more, only by lending one another aid.
Do you understand?

SOKITI [_gloomily_] Yes.

SATNI. And you, and you--

NOURM AND BITIOU [_in different tones_] Yes, yes.

STEWARD [_to Sokiti_] Repeat it then.

SOKITI. If men did not steal bracelets--

STEWARD. Well?

SOKITI. Bracelets--[_He laughs_].

SATNI [_to Nourm_] And you?

NOURM. He was wrong to take the bracelet.

SATNI. Why?

NOURM. Because you are not pleased.

SATNI. No, no, 'tis not for that.

SOKITI. I was not wrong--

NOURM. Yes! wait! I understand--If you steal, another may steal from
you. Likewise if you kill--

SATNI. Right. And why is it necessary to be good?

NOURM. Wait [_To Sokiti_] If you do good to one whom you know not,
another who knows you not, may do good to you.

STEWARD. Ah!--Do you understand, Sokiti?

SOKITI. I think so.

SATNI. Explain.

SOKITI [_after a great effort_] You do not want us to steal bracelets
from you--

SATNI. I do not want you to steal from any one--Do you understand?

SOKITI. No.

STEWARD [_to Bitiou, who listens open-mouthed_] And you?

BITIOU. I--I have a pain in my head--

     _Satni comes to the Steward. Bitiou and Sokiti slip off._

STEWARD. Look at them--

SATNI. The tree that was bent from its birth, not in one day can you
make it straight?

STEWARD. We must leave it what it is, or tear it down?

SATNI. No, we must seek patiently to straighten it. [_With feeling_] And
above all we must keep straight those that are young.

     _Cries are heard outside._

STEWARD. What cries are those?

SATNI. Women in distress.

     _Yaouma enters, leading Mieris. Both are agitated._

YAOUMA. Come, mistress--come--We are at the house of the potter, the
father of Satni--Satni help--quick! quick! Run! your father, Satni!

SATNI. Mieris, Yaouma, how come you here?

YAOUMA. They will tell you--go!

MIERIS. Fly to the rescue, he is wounded!--I have sent to the palace for
those who drive out the evil spirits.

YAOUMA. We were set upon by some men.

MIERIS. He defended us--But they will kill him--go!

     _Satni and the Steward seize some arms left by Nourm and run
     out._

MIERIS. Yaouma! He is wounded! Wounded in saving us--

YAOUMA. Alas!

MIERIS [_listening_] Who is there?

NOURM. I, mistress.

MIERIS. Nourm! Run to the palace, bid them send hither those who drive
forth the evil spirits--

YAOUMA. Alas! mistress, I do fear--already he has fallen--struck to
earth.

MIERIS. They will save him, they will bear him hither--

YAOUMA. Will they bear him hither alive?

MIERIS [_to Nourm_] Run!--You hear!--Run to the palace, bid those who
assist at the last hour be ready to come. If he have died defending us,
the same honors shall be paid him as though ourselves were dead! Go!
[_Nourm goes out. A pause_] Now, Yaouma, lead me out upon the road to
the Nile.

YAOUMA. Mistress, you seek to die? Many then must be your sorrows!

MIERIS. Alas! Alas! Why did you discover my flight? Why did you seek me,
find me, and bring me back--

YAOUMA. Had I not guessed your purpose?

MIERIS. What have I left to live for?

YAOUMA. You have lived all these years in spite of your affliction, what
is there that is changed?

MIERIS. What is there that is changed! You ask me what is changed! Until
now I lived in the hope of a miracle.

YAOUMA. Perhaps it would never have come.

MIERIS. Even at my last hour I should have still looked for it.

YAOUMA. Then you would have died believing in a lie--if what they say be
true.

MIERIS. What matter, I had smiled as I died, thinking death but the
journey to a land where my lost child was waiting for me. The death of a
child! No mother ever can believe, at heart, in that. It is too
unjust--too cruel to be possible. One says to oneself: it is but a
separation! Oh! Satni, thy doctrines may be the truth. But they declare
this separation eternal; they make the death of our loved ones final,
irreparable, horrible, therefore I foretell thee this: Women will never
believe them! What is there that is changed?--Yesterday, children came
playing close to us. You know how their cries and laughter made me
glad--the voice of one of them was like the voice of mine. I made him
come, I put out my hand, in the old way. I felt, at the old height,
tossed hair, and the warmth of a living body. And I did not weep, but my
voice spoke in my heart and said: "Little child, thy years are as many
as his, whom she-who-loves-the-silence took from me. But in Amenti,
where he is, in the island of souls, he is happier than thou, for he is
safe from all the ills that threaten thee. He is happier than thou. He
lives beneath a sun of gold, amid flowers of strange beauty, and
perfumed baths refresh him. And when she-who-loves-the-silence takes me
in my turn, _I shall see him, I shall see him_ for the first time--and
I shall fondle him as I fondle thee, and none, then, may put us asunder.
Go, little child, the happy ones are not on this side of the earth!" Now
have I lost the hope of a better life before death, and the hope of a
better life beyond as well. If you took both crutches from a cripple, he
would fall. Only this twofold hope sustained me. They have taken it from
me. And so, it is the end, it is the end--'tis as though I were fallen
from a height, I am broken, I have no strength left to bear with life: I
tell you, it is the end, it is the end!

YAOUMA [_with intense fervor_] Mistress, they speak not the truth!

MIERIS. Our gods, did they exist, would already have taken vengeance.

YAOUMA. Before the outrage, already, they had taken vengeance on you.

MIERIS. Good Yaouma, you would give me back my faith, you who could not
keep your own.

YAOUMA. Mistress, I lied to you; nothing is destroyed in me.

MIERIS. You refuse to give yourself in sacrifice!--Oh, you are right....

YAOUMA. I do not refuse.

MIERIS. You do not?

YAOUMA. No. Know you how I learned, a while ago, that you were gone?

MIERIS. How?

YAOUMA. I, too, was seeking to escape.

MIERIS. You?

YAOUMA. To go to the temple, to place myself in hands of the priests, to
give to Ammon the victim he has chosen.

MIERIS. Do you believe in all these fables still?

YAOUMA [_in a low voice_] Mistress, I have _seen_ Isis.

MIERIS. Has one of her images been spared then?

YAOUMA. It was not an image that I saw. It was Isis herself, the
goddess--I have _seen_ her.

MIERIS. You--you have seen--what is it? I know not what you say--to
see--that word has no clear sense for me.

YAOUMA. She has spoken to me--

MIERIS. You have heard her voice--

YAOUMA. I have heard her voice.

MIERIS. How! How!--You were sleeping--'twas in a dream--

YAOUMA. I did not sleep. I did not dream. I saw her. I heard her. I was
alone, and I wept. A great sound filled me with terror. A great light
blinded me. Perfumes unknown ravished my senses. And I beheld the
goddess, more beauteous than a queen. Then all was gone--

MIERIS. But her voice--

YAOUMA. The next day she came again, she spoke to me, she called me by
name and said to me: "Egypt will be saved by thee."

MIERIS. Why did you not speak of it?

YAOUMA. I feared they would not believe me.

MIERIS. Oh, Yaouma, how I envy you! If you but knew the ill they have
done me. They have half killed me, killing all the legends and all the
memories that were mine. They made me blush at my simplicity. I felt
shamed to have been so easily fooled by such gross make-believes. And
now, what have I gained by this revelation? My soul is a house after the
burning, black, ruined, empty. Nothing is left but ruins, ruins one
might laugh at. [_In tears_] I am parched with thirst, I hunger, I
tremble with cold. They have made my soul blind, too. I cry out for
help, for consolation. Oh! for a lie, some other lie, to replace the one
they have taken away from me!

YAOUMA. Why ask a lie? Why not forget what they have said. Why not
recall what you learned at your mother's knee--Why not, yourself, set up
in your heart again, those images which they threw down--

MIERIS. Yes! Yes! I will do it. They have awakened my reason, and killed
my faith. I shall kill my reason, to revive our gods. Though I no longer
believe, I shall do the actions of believers--and, if my god be false, I
shall believe so firmly in him that I shall make him true!--Yes, the
lowest, the most senseless superstitions, I venerate them, I exalt--I
glory in them! The ugliest, the most deformed, the most unreal of our
gods, I adore them, and I bow down before their impossibility. [_She
kneels_] Oh, I stifle in their petty narrow world, sad as a forest
without birds! Air! Air! Singing! The sound of wings! Things that fly!

YAOUMA [_kneeling_] Let me be sacrificed!

MIERIS. Let me have a reason for living!

YAOUMA. I would give my life to the gods who gave me birth!

MIERIS. I would believe that there is some one above men!

YAOUMA. Some one who watches over us!

MIERIS. Who will console as with his justice!

YAOUMA. Some one to cry our sorrows to!

MIERIS. Yes, some one to pray to, and to thank!

YAOUMA [_sobbing_] Oh! the pity of it, to feel we were abandoned!

MIERIS [_throwing herself in Yaouma's arms_] I would not be abandoned!

YAOUMA. We are not! Gods! Gods!

MIERIS. Gods! We need gods! There are too many sorrows, it is not
possible this earth should groan as it groans beneath a pitiless
heaven--Ammon, reveal thyself.

YAOUMA. Isis, show thyself! Have pity! [_A pause. Then in a
hushed voice_] Mistress, I think she is going to appear to me
again!--Isis!--mistress--do you hear--

MIERIS [_listening_] I hear nothing.

YAOUMA. Singing--the sound of harps--'tis she--

MIERIS. I do not hear--

YAOUMA. She speaks! Yes--goddess!

MIERIS. Do you see her?

YAOUMA [_in ecstasy_] I see her! She is bending down above us--

MIERIS. O goddess!--

YAOUMA. She is gone--Mistress, you could not see her, but did you hear
the sound of her feet?

MIERIS. Yes, I believe I heard it--I believe and I am comforted.

YAOUMA. I am happy! To the temple! She beckoned me! To the temple! Come!

     _They go up. Rheou meets them and leads them away. Satni
     enters with some men bearing Pakh, who is wounded. Kirjipa
     almost swooning follows, supported by some women who lead
     her into the house. The Exorcist, who with his two
     assistants follows Pakh, takes some clay from a coffer
     carried by one of his men, shapes it into a ball, and
     begins, then, the incantation._

EXORCIST. Pakh! Son of Ritii! Through thy wound an evil spirit has
entered thee. I am about to speak the words that shall drive him out:
"The virtues of him who lies there, and who suffers, are the virtues of
the father of the gods. The virtues of his brow are the virtues of the
brow of Thoumen. The virtues of his eye are the virtues of the eye of
Horus, who destroys all creatures."

     _A pause._

PAKH. Begone!

EXORCIST. His upper lip is Isis. His lower lip is Neptes, his neck is
the goddess, his teeth are swords, his flesh is Osiris, his hands are
divine souls, his fingers are blue serpents, snakes, sons of the
goddess Sekhet--

PAKH. Begone! I no longer believe in your power!

EXORCIST [_taking a doll from the coffer_] Horus is there! Ra is there!
Let them cry to the chiefs of Heliopolis--

PAKH. Have done!

     _He knocks down the doll which the Exorcist holds over him.
     The music stops suddenly._

EXORCIST. The evil spirits are strongest in him. He will die. Only his
son has the right to be with him at death.

     _All go out save Pakh and Satni._

SATNI. My father--

PAKH. You are there, my son--'tis well--I am glad--that that maker of
spells is gone. [_Simply_] Heal me.

SATNI. Yes, father, you shall be healed. But you must have patience.

PAKH [_simply_] Heal me, now, at once.

SATNI. I cannot.

PAKH. Why do you not want to heal me?--See you not that I am wounded--I
suffer--come, give me ease--

SATNI. I would give all, that it were in my power to do so.

PAKH. You know prayers that our priests know not--

SATNI. I know no prayers.

PAKH [_in anguish_] You are not going to let me die?

SATNI. You will not die--have confidence.

PAKH. Confidence? In what? [_A pause_] You cannot heal me?

SATNI. I cannot.

PAKH. All your knowledge, then, is but knowledge of how to destroy--My
son!--I pray you--my blood goes out with my life--I do not want to die!
I pray you--give me your hand. I seem to be sinking into night--hold me
back--you will not let me die--your father! I am your father. I gave you
life--hold me back--all grows dim around me--But at least do
something--speak--say the incantations--[_He raises himself_] No! No! I
refuse to die! I am not old. [_Strongly_] I will not! I will not! Do not
let go my hand! I would live, live--All my life, I have worked, I have
sorrowed, I have suffered--Satni--will you let me go before I share the
peace and happiness you promised--

SATNI. Oh! My father!

PAKH. You weep--I am lost, then--Yes--I have seen it in your eyes. And
the silence deepens around me. To die--to die--[_A long pause_] And
after? [_Pause_] And so this is a poor man's life! Work from childhood,
blows. Then work, always, without profit. Only for bread. And still
work. For others. Not one pleasure. We die. And 'tis finished! You came
back to teach me that--Work--blows--misery--the end. [_A silence_] What
did you come here to do? Is that your work? [_Strongly_] Satni, Satni!
Give me back my faith! I want it! Ah! Why were you born a destroyer? Is
that your truth? You are evil--you were able to prove that all was
false. Prove to me now that you lied! I demand it! Give me back my
faith, give me back the simple mind that will comfort me.

SATNI. Do not despair--

PAKH. I despair because the happy fields do not exist--

SATNI. Yes, father, yes, they exist--

PAKH. You lied, then!

SATNI. I lied.

PAKH. They exist--and if I die--

SATNI. If you die, you will go to Osiris, you will become Osiris.

PAKH. It is not true. 'Tis now you lie--There is no Osiris! There is no
Osiris! Nothing! there is nothing--but life. I curse you, you who taught
me that [_He almost falls from his litter, Satni reverently lifts him
up_] Ah! accursed! Accursed! I die in hate, in rage, in fear. Bad son!
Bad man! I curse you, come near. [_Seizing him by the throat_] Oh! If I
were strong enough!--I would my nails might pierce your throat--Ah! Ah!
accursed [_He lets him go_] All my life lost! All my suffering
useless!--Forever--Never! Never! shall I know--Pity! [_He holds out his
arms to Satni and falls dead_].

SATNI [_horror-stricken_] He is dead!--[_He lifts him reverently and
lays him on the litter_] Father! For me, too, at this moment there would
have been comfort in a lie--

     _He weeps, kneeling by the body with his arms stretched over
     it. Kirjipa appears at the door of the house. She comes
     near, then standing upright cries out to the four points of
     the horizon, tearing her hair._

KIRJIPA. The master is dead! The master is dead! The master is dead! The
master is dead!

     _The five mourners appear outside, Delethi, Nazit, Hanou,
     Zaya, and Nagaou._

KIRJIPA [_with cries that are calls_] The master is dead! The master is
dead!

MOURNERS [_entering_] The master is dead! The master is dead!

     _Music till the end of the scene._

KIRJIPA. O my father!

MOURNERS [_louder and in a chant_] O my master! O my father!

KIRJIPA. O my beloved!

MOURNERS. The she-wolf, death; the she-wolf, death; the she-wolf, death,
has taken him!

     _They rush at the body, kissing it with piercing cries. They
     beat their breasts, uttering long cries, after silent
     pauses. Kirjipa and another woman dance a hieratic dance,
     their feet gliding slowly over the ground. They bend to
     gather handfuls of earth, which they scatter on their heads
     as they dance. The cries are redoubled._

KIRJIPA [_after bowing before the corpse_] Go in peace towards Abydos!
Go in peace towards Osiris!

ALL. Towards Abydos! Towards Osiris! To the West, thou who wast the best
of men!

KIRJIPA. If it please the gods, when the day of eternity comes, we shall
see thee, for behold thou goest towards the earth that mixeth men.

ALL. Towards Abydos! Towards Osiris!

     _They make believe to bear away the corpse; ritual
     movements._

KIRJIPA. O my husband! O my brother! O my beloved! Stay, live in thy
place. Pass not away from the earthly spot where thou art! Leave him!
Leave him! Wherefore are ye come to take him who abandons me.

MOURNERS [_in a fury of despair_] Groans! Groans! Tears! Sobs! Sobs!
Make, make lamentation without end, with all the strength that is given
you.

     _The music stops._

KIRJIPA [_to the corpse_] Despair not. Thy son is there!

     _They point to Satni._

ALL. Despair not. Thy son is there!

DELETHI. When I have spoken, and after me Hanou, and after her Nazit,
thy son will speak the magic words, whose power shall make thee go even
unto Osiris, before the two and forty judges. They shall place thy heart
in the balance, and thou shalt say: "I have done wrong to no man, I have
done nothing that is abominable in the sight of the gods."

SATNI [_to himself_] No, I will not speak the magic words.

     _The music begins again._

ALL. Despair not! Thy son is there!

HANOU. Despair not, thy son is there. When I have spoken and after me
Nazit, thy son will say the magic prayers whose power shall bring thee
even unto Osiris, and thou shalt say: "I have starved none, I have made
none weep, I have not killed, I have not robbed the goods of the
temples."

SATNI [_to himself_] No, I will say no useless words.

ALL. Despair not! Thy son is there!

NAZIT. Despair not! Thy son is there! When I have spoken he will say the
sacred words whose power shall bring thee even unto Osiris and thou
shalt say: "I did not filch the fillets from the mummies, I did not use
false weights, I did not snare the sacred birds. I am pure--"

ALL. I am pure! I am pure!--

KIRJIPA [_continuing_] Give to me what is my due, to me who am pure.
Give me all that heaven gives, all that the earth brings forth, all that
the Nile bears down from its mysterious springs. Despair not! Thy son is
there! Thy son will say the sacred words!

     _A pause. All look at Satni._

SATNI. No, I will not say words that are lies!

     _General consternation. Kirjipa comes to him and lays her
     hands on his shoulders._

KIRJIPA. Speak the sacred words!

SATNI. No!

KIRJIPA. Accursed!

     _She falls in a swoon. The women press round her. Satni
     bursts into sobs._


CURTAIN



ACT IV

    SCENE:--_The interior of a temple._

    _Columns, huge as towers and covered with hieroglyphics. On
    the left the Sanctuary; in the foreground in a little nook,
    invisible to the faithful, but visible to the audience is
    installed the machinery for the miracle, a lever, and ropes.
    Against the central pillar two thrones, one magnificent, that
    of the Pharaoh; the other simple, that of the High Priest._

    _The Pharaoh, the High Priest, an officer, an old man, and
    six priests discovered. When the curtain rises all are
    seated, the priests on little chairs between the two
    thrones._


THE OFFICER [_prostrated before the Pharaoh_] Pharaoh! may Ammon-Ra
preserve thy life in health and strength!

THE PHARAOH. [_with fury_] My orders! My orders!

THE OFFICER. Lord of the two Egypts, friend of Ra, favorite of Mentu,
may Ammon--

THE PHARAOH. Enough! my orders!

THE OFFICER. I would have died--

THE PHARAOH. The wish shall be granted, be assured, and soon! My orders!
Dog, why did you not carry out my orders?

THE OFFICER. Satni--

THE PHARAOH. Satni! Yes, Satni, the impostor! Where is he?

THE OFFICER. Pharaoh--may Ammon, Soukou Ra, Horus--

THE PHARAOH. I will have you whipped till your blood run--Satni! Where
is Satni! I sent you to seize him! Where is he?

THE OFFICER. No one knows.

THE PHARAOH. Scoundrel! You are his accomplice!

THE OFFICER. O Ammon!

THE PHARAOH. Did you go to the house of his father, to Rheou?

THE OFFICER. We searched them in vain.

THE PHARAOH. He has taken flight, then?

THE OFFICER. I know not.

THE PHARAOH. You are a traitor! You shall die! Take him out! And you
others, hear the commands of the High Priest and begone.

HIGH PRIEST. Let each fulfil the mission he is charged with. Let the
young priests mix with the crowd, the moment it enters the Temple. Let
them excite the people's fervor, that as many prodigies as possible may
be won from the goddess. Now when you are gone the stones that screen
the sanctuary will roll away before the Pharaoh and the High Priest;
and, first by right, they shall behold the goddess face to face. Humbly
prostrated we shall speak to her the mysterious words that other men
have never heard. Bow down before the Pharaoh, may he live in health and
strength [_All kneel and remain with their faces on the ground during
what follows, save an old man whom the High Priest calls to his side by
a sign; and to whom he says in low tones_] Let the man Satni be taken
from the crypt where he is imprisoned [_The old man bows_] When I give
the signal let them bring him here. While the Pharaoh goes in procession
through the town let them do what I have told you [_The old man bows_]
[_To the others_] Rise! [_To the Pharaoh_] Son of Ammon-Ra, bow down
before him who represents the god. [_The Pharaoh rises and after a
slight hesitation bows down before the High Priest_] Withdraw, we would
pray. [_Motionless the High Priest and the Pharaoh wait till the last of
the assistants are gone_].

THE PHARAOH [_giving up his hieratic pose, angrily_] I would all the
flies of Egypt might eat thy tongue.

HIGH PRIEST [_without feeling_] The flies of Egypt are too many and my
tongue is too small, for your wish to be realized, Pharaoh.

THE PHARAOH. This is the result of my weakness!

HIGH PRIEST [_with flattering unction_] The Pharaoh, Son of
Ammon-Ra--Lord of the two Egypts--Friend of Ra--

THE PHARAOH. Enough! Enough! We are alone. There are none whom your
words may deceive. And your mock-reverence fools not me. You would not
let me put Satni to death, your subtleties confused my mind, I gave in
to you, and now Satni escapes us.

HIGH PRIEST. You should not let anger master you for that.

THE PHARAOH. Satni has foretold to thousands of ears that there will be
no miracle.

HIGH PRIEST. The miracle will be.

THE PHARAOH. Who knows that?

HIGH PRIEST. I.

THE PHARAOH. Satni has declared he will enter the temple--

HIGH PRIEST. 'Tis possible.

THE PHARAOH. He has declared he knows the secret recess, whence one of
your priests makes the head of the image move.

HIGH PRIEST. Most like he speaks the truth.

THE PHARAOH. He declares the miracle will not take place. If the people
suffer this disappointment, tell me what chance can there be for the war
of conquest I would wage in Ethiopia?

HIGH PRIEST. Why wage a war of conquest in Ethiopia?

THE PHARAOH. I need gold. I need women. I need slaves. There will be a
share of the spoil for your temple.

HIGH PRIEST. I like not bloodshed.

THE PHARAOH. The treasury is empty. Our whippings are useless now. Our
blows no longer bring forth taxes. If the people lose confidence in the
gods, what will happen to-morrow? Who will follow me, unless they
believe the gods confirm my orders?

HIGH PRIEST. Satni will not prevent the miracle.

THE PHARAOH. What do you know of it?

HIGH PRIEST. I know.

THE PHARAOH. Is Satni dead?

HIGH PRIEST. He lives.

THE PHARAOH [_suddenly guessing_] You are hiding him!

HIGH PRIEST. Yes.

THE PHARAOH. You knew I was about to rid me of him, and you took him to
prevent me?

HIGH PRIEST. Yes.

THE PHARAOH. What do you intend?

HIGH PRIEST. It shall be done with him as I wish, not as you wish.

THE PHARAOH. His crime is a crime against Egypt.

HIGH PRIEST. A crime against me. That is still more grave. Therefore be
satisfied.

THE PHARAOH. Why then all these ceremonies before you kill him?

HIGH PRIEST. That all may know his faults.

THE PHARAOH. Satni was one of yours, and you defend him.

HIGH PRIEST. We must not make martyrs--if we can avoid it. In killing
Satni you would have killed only a man. If what I dream succeed, I
shall kill his work. That is a better thing.

THE PHARAOH. What will you make of him?

HIGH PRIEST. A priest.

THE PHARAOH. A priest?

HIGH PRIEST. He was initiated before he went away. He was then a young
man, pious and wise. On his travels he lost some piety, and gained some
wisdom.

THE PHARAOH. Have I not always said: "it is not good to travel."

HIGH PRIEST. I think like you. Travellers learn too much. Yet am I
hopeful. I shall bring him back to our gods.

THE PHARAOH. You will fail.

HIGH PRIEST. He who for long has breathed the air of temples can never
wholly clear his breast of it. If he give way, he shall never leave the
house of the Gods again, if he be still rebellious, he shall leave to go
to his death.

THE PHARAOH. I order you to give Satni up to me.

HIGH PRIEST. I would I might bow to your will. But he is a priest: his
life is sacred. And I may not transgress the orders given me by the
Gods.

THE PHARAOH. Prate not of these follies to me--do you take me for one of
your priests? Obey! I command you!

HIGH PRIEST. Do you take me for one of your soldiers?

THE PHARAOH. I command it.

HIGH PRIEST. The gods forbid.

THE PHARAOH. I laugh at your gods.

HIGH PRIEST. Beware lest your people hear.

THE PHARAOH. I would be master, in truth. And more, I refuse to submit
to the humiliation that again you put on me a while ago.

HIGH PRIEST. How should that humiliate you? Before you, the highest bow
down.

THE PHARAOH. Yes. And straightway, then, I must bow me down before you.

HIGH PRIEST. You salute, not me, but the god whom I represent.

THE PHARAOH. I pay homage to the god, it is the priest who receives it.

HIGH PRIEST [_faintly smiling_] Rest assured! I pass it on to him.

THE PHARAOH. And you mock me, besides! Oh! if I but dared to kill you,
hypocrite!

HIGH PRIEST. Vain man!

THE PHARAOH. You tremble at sight of a sword, coward!

HIGH PRIEST. Being a butcher, you know only how to kill.

THE PHARAOH. Liar!

HIGH PRIEST. Who made you Pharaoh?

THE PHARAOH. Beware lest one day I have you thrown to my lions!

HIGH PRIEST. Beware lest one day I strike the crown of the two Egypts
from your head, telling the people the god has set his face against you!
[_A pause_] Come, we must work together. We complete each other. To
govern men, we have both the reality of the evils you inflict on them,
and the hope of the good I promise them. Believe me, we must work
together. The day that one of us disappears, the fate of the other will
be in jeopardy--I perceive they make sign to me. They think our prayers
are long and fervent. The hour is come for you to receive the
acclamation of your people, and follow them to the shrine of Isis--when
Satni will not prevent the miracle, I pledge my word to that.

     _The cortége comes on and goes out with Pharaoh. Satni is
     led before the High Priest._

HIGH PRIEST. You know me again!

SATNI [_troubled_] Yes, you are the High Priest.

HIGH PRIEST [_with sweet gentleness_] I, too, I know you again. Your
father is a potter. You were brought up and taught by us. In the crowd
of neophytes I singled you out by your gentleness, your great
intelligence; and I saw you destined for the highest dignities. I
esteemed you, I was fond of you. We took you from wretchedness. What you
know, for the most part, you owe to us. This thing that you have done
should anger me--I am only sad, my son. [_A pause_] You are troubled.

SATNI. Yes, I looked for threats, for torture. The kindness of your
voice unmans me.

HIGH PRIEST. Be not distressed. Forget who I am. None hear us. Let us
talk together as father and son. Or better, since your learning makes
you worthy, as two men. You have proclaimed broadcast that the miracle
will not come to pass.

SATNI. The goddess is stone. Stone does not move itself. The image will
not bow its head unless man intervene.

HIGH PRIEST. That is evident.

SATNI. You admit it?

HIGH PRIEST. To you, yes. We give to each one the faith he deserves. Had
you remained with us, at each step in the priesthood you would have
beheld the gods rise with you, become more immaterial, more noble, as
you became more learned. We give to the people the gods they can
understand. Our god is different. He is the one who exists in essence.
The one who lives in substance, the sole procreator who was not
engendered, the father of the fathers, the mother of mothers. The one
and only. And we crave his pardon for belittling him by miracles. But
they are part of that faith which alone contents the simple-minded. You
are above them--I admit freely that the miracle could be prevented. You
declared it would not take place--you have found the means to make it
impossible?

SATNI [_suspecting the trap_] I said that, left to herself, the goddess
would not move.

HIGH PRIEST. To say only that, would not have served you. You intended
to prevent the miracle. Come, admit it--it is so.

SATNI. Perhaps.

HIGH PRIEST. By seizing you, I prevent your committing the sacrilege.
Your purpose will not be realized. In an hour the festival of the
Prodigy will take place, and you are my prisoner. It follows then, the
miracle will be performed--you believe that, do you not?

SATNI [_after a pause_] Yes, I believe it.

HIGH PRIEST. And so your cause is lost. [_A pause_] Listen to me; the
priests who have taken their final vows are as wise and as little
credulous as you. I offer you a place among them. Return to us. A little
wisdom banishes the gods--great wisdom brings them back.

SATNI. I refuse.

HIGH PRIEST. My son, my son, you will not cause me this sorrow. Think
what you will drive me to, if you refuse--Satni, do not force me to send
you before the tribunal, whose sentence must be death. Death, for you,
so young, whose future is so bright!

SATNI. I do not fear death.

HIGH PRIEST. Besides--I mind me--you were betrothed to that little
Yaouma whom the god has chosen as victim. You know she may be saved from
the sacrifice, if she become the wife of a priest. They guarded her but
ill at Rheou's house, she is here. I have seen her; she is kind and
gentle, and you would lead a happy life with her.

SATNI. Yaouma! Yaouma! [_He hides his face_]

HIGH PRIEST [_laying a hand on his shoulder_] So that on one side is
Yaouma's death and yours; on the other, happiness with her--and power.
Say nothing. I speak as a father might, you can see. I say besides, that
you will better serve the crowd in leaving them their gods. I wish to
convince you of it, and you will stay with us--weep no more. You will
stay, will you not? Wait! Hear me, before you answer. You seek happiness
for the lower orders? There is no happiness for them without religion.
Already you have seen what they become, when it is taken from them. The
riots of yesterday cost your father his life. He suffered much, they
tell me. Is it true? I do not know the details. You saw him die, did you
not? Tell me how it happened.

SATNI. Ah! I was right. It was in truth torture that awaited me here.
You have guessed you would gain nothing racking my body--you keep your
torments for my heart.

HIGH PRIEST. Have I said other than what is true? The conversions that
your preaching made were followed by disorders--was it not then that
your father was wounded? I knew him. He was a man, simple and good. You
are the cause of his death, as you will be the cause of Yaouma's.

SATNI. Peace! You would have my sorrows crush my will!

HIGH PRIEST. I shall speak of them no more. But think of the people of
Egypt, what evils you would bring on them! If you take away their
religion, what will keep them virtuous?

SATNI. What you call their virtue, is only their submission.

HIGH PRIEST. You let loose their vilest instincts, if you remove the
fear of the gods.

SATNI. The fear of the gods has prevented fewer crimes than were needed
to create it.

HIGH PRIEST. Be it so. But it exists.

SATNI. It is your interest to spread the belief, that the fear of the
gods is a restraint. And you know that it is not. You do not leave the
punishment of crime to the gods. You have the lash, hard labor in the
mines; you have scaffolds, you have executioners. No one believes
sincerely in the happy life beyond the grave. If we believed, we should
kill ourselves, the sooner to reach the Island of the Souls, the fields
of Yalou.

HIGH PRIEST. By what then are the appetites restrained?

SATNI. By the laws, by the need of the esteem of others--

HIGH PRIEST. We have just seen that, in sooth. So then it was virtue
that the people showed yesterday, after you made them break their gods?
They seemed to care little for the esteem of others, for they stole,
they pillaged, they killed. Do you approve of that? Have they gained
your esteem, those who have done what they have done?

SATNI. Oh, I know! I know! That is your strongest argument. Creatures
degraded by centuries of slavery, drunk with the first hours of freedom,
commit crimes. You argue from this, that they were meant for slaves.
Yes, it is true that if you take a child from the leading strings that
upheld it, the child falls down. But you who watch over it, you rejoice
at the fall, for then you can assert that the child must go back to its
leading strings--and be kept in them till death.

HIGH PRIEST. Then you declare that all supports must be suppressed? [_A
pause_] Religion is a prop. It soothes--consoles. He does evil who
disturbs it.

SATNI. Many religions died before ours. The passing of each caused the
sorrows you foresee. Should we then have kept the first, to prevent some
suffering?

HIGH PRIEST. Ours is yet young, though so old; look in the halls of our
temples, behold the countless thank-offerings brought there for prayers
that were granted.

SATNI. Your temples could not hold the offerings, unthinkable in number,
that those whose prayers were not granted might have made, and who none
the less prayed as well as the others.

HIGH PRIEST. Even unanswered their prayers were recompensed. They had
hope, and it is likewise a boon to the poor to promise them welfare in
the world to come.

SATNI. You promise them welfare in the world to come, to make them
forget that all the welfare in this world is yours.

HIGH PRIEST. Can you give happiness to all who are on earth? We are more
generous than you; at least we give them consolation.

SATNI. You make them pay dear for it.

HIGH PRIEST. In truth the granaries of our temples are full to
overflowing. Left to themselves, the people would not think of the lean
years, in the years of abundance. We think for them, and they bring us,
gladly, what they would refuse did they not believe they gave to the
gods. We proclaim the Nile sacred; it is forbidden to sully its waters.
Is that to honor it as a god? Not so, it is to avoid the plague. And all
the animals we deified are those man has need of. You did not learn all
things on your travels--

SATNI. You would have the peasant remain a child, because you fear the
reckoning he would demand of you, if you let him grow up. You know you
could not stay him then by showing him the god-jackal, the god-ram, the
god-bull, and the rest that do not exist.

HIGH PRIEST. Are you certain they do not exist?

SATNI. Yes.

HIGH PRIEST. Know you where you are?

SATNI. In the temple.

HIGH PRIEST. In the temple; where you were brought up. There was a time
when you dared not have crossed the first sacred enclosure. You are in
the third. Look round! There is the holy of holies. At my will the
stones that mask the entrance will roll back, and the goddess will be
unveiled. Except the High Priest and the Pharaoh, no mortal, if he be
not priest himself, may look on her and live--save at the hour of the
annual Festival of Prodigies, which is upon us now. Do you believe that
you can endure to be alone in her presence?

SATNI. I do believe it.

HIGH PRIEST. We shall see. If you be afraid, call and prostrate
yourself. Afterwards you shall go and tell what you have seen, to those
whom you deceived.

     _The High Priest makes a sign. Total darkness. A peal of
     thunder._

SATNI. Ah! [_Terrified, he leaps forward. A faint light returns slowly,
the temple is empty_] I am alone! [_He is terrified, standing erect
against a pillar facing the audience_] Alone in the temple, within sight
of the goddess almost. I know 'tis but an image--yet am I steeped in
terror, even to the marrow of my bones. [_He utters an agonized cry_]
Ah!--I thought I beheld in the darkness--No--I know that there is
nothing--Oh! coward nature! Because I was cradled amid tales of
religion, because I grew up in the fear of the gods, because my father
and my father's father, and all those from whom I come, were crushed by
this terror even from the blackest night of time, I tremble, and my
reason totters. All this is false, I know--the god obeys the priest.
Yet, from these towering columns, horror and mystery descend upon
me--[_A thunder clap brings him to his knees. The stones that mask the
entrance to the sanctuary roll slowly back. He tries to look_] The holy
of holies opens--I am afraid--I am afraid--[_He mutters words, wipes the
sweat from his brow with his hand. He trembles and falls sobbing to the
ground. A long pause_] 'Tis the beast in me that is afraid--Ah! coward
flesh! [_Biting his hands_] I shall conquer thee--I would chastise my
weakness. I am shamed--I am shamed--In spite of all I will look her in
the face. I have the will! but I must fight against so many memories,
against all the dead whose spirits stir in mine. I shall conquer the
dead. My life, and my will--courage!

     _With great effort and after many struggles he gains the
     mastery of himself, goes to the shrine and looks upon the
     goddess. The High Priest reappears touching him on the
     shoulder._

HIGH PRIEST. Terror does not move you. Let us see if you be proof
against pity. Come--[_He leads him to the side of the shrine, presses a
spring and a door opens, revealing in the interior of the shrine the
machinery of the miracle, a lever and cordage_] Look! 'Tis by pressing
this lever that one of ours, in a little while, will bring about the
miracle. I leave you in his place. At my signal the doors of the sacred
enclosure will open, and the people draw near the sanctuary. Listen to
them. And if you are moved to pity by their prayers, you--_you_ shall
give them the consoling lie for which they pray.

SATNI. There will be no miracle.

HIGH PRIEST. Watch and hear. [_He leaves Satni, who remains visible to
the audience. The stones roll back over the shrine. The High Priest
makes a sign, other priests appear_] All is ready?

A PRIEST. All.

HIGH PRIEST [_to another_] Listen.

     _He whispers to him. The Priest bows and goes out. While
     the crowd comes in later, this priest is seen to enter the
     hiding-place right, where he stands watching Satni, dagger
     in hand._

HIGH PRIEST. Now, let them come in.

     _He makes a gesture and all disappear. A pitiable crowd
     bursts into the temple, bustling, running, filling all the
     empty spaces. Four men carry a litter on which is a
     beautiful young woman clothed in precious stuffs. Mieris,
     Yaouma, and all the characters of the play come on._

YOUNG WOMAN. Nearer, lay me nearer the goddess! She will drive forth the
evil spirit that will not let me move my legs.

     _Cripples, people on crutches, creatures with hands or feet
     wrapped in bandages crowd past her._

A BLIND GIRL [_to him who leads her_] When the stone rolls back and the
goddess appears, watch well her face, to tell me if she will not give me
back my sight.

     _A paralytic drags himself in on his hands._

THE PARALYTIC. I would be quite near, quite near! In a little while I
shall walk.

     _Two sons lead in their mother, who is mad, striving to calm
     her. A mother, with her child in her arms, begs the crowd to
     let her get near. A man, whose head is bandaged, and whose
     eyes and mouth are mere holes, hustles his neighbors. Many
     blind, and people borne on chairs._

A WOMAN. She will speak, she will say "yes." She will reveal herself
again as protectress of Egypt.

ANOTHER. They say not. They say that great calamities are in store for
us.

ANOTHER. If she answer not?

ANOTHER. Silence!

     _Music. The Pharaoh's procession enters. He is conducted
     down left where he remains invisible to the spectators. The
     High Priest mounts his throne. The people prostrate
     themselves._

HIGH PRIEST. Ammon is great!

     _A pause._

THE PEOPLE. Ammon is great!

HIGH PRIEST. The sanctuary is about to open.

VOICES. The stones will roll back! I am afraid! The goddess will appear!
We shall behold her! Hush! Hush!

     _The High Priest lifts his hands to heaven._

A PRIEST [_in the recess, to some men ready to work the ropes, in a low
voice_] Now!

     _The men pull the ropes, the stones roll back. The crowd bow
     themselves flat on the ground. Those who cannot, hide their
     faces on their arms._

HIGH PRIEST. Rise! Behold and pray! [_A smothered cry of terror rises,
women mad with terror are seized with nervous fits. They are carried
out_] O goddess! Thy people adore thee, and humble themselves before
thee!

ALL. Isis, we adore thee!

HIGH PRIEST. This year, once more, show to us by that miraculous sign of
thy divine head, that still thou art our protectress. [_The people
repeat the incantation in a murmur_] O goddess, if thou hast pity on
those who suffer, thou wilt bend thy head. Pity! Pity! we suffer! The
evil spirits torment us.

THE PEOPLE. We suffer! Drive forth the evil spirits!

HIGH PRIEST. Neith! Mother of the Universe! The evil spirits torment us!
Neith! Virgin genetrix! Isis, sacred earth of Egypt, bend thy head!
Sati, queen of the heavens! Bend thy head!

THE MOTHER. The soul of a dead man has entered the body of my child, O
Isis! And he is dying. I hold him towards thee, Isis. Behold how he is
fair, behold how he suffers. Look, he is so little. Let me keep him!
Isis! Isis! Let me keep him!

ALL. Pity! Pity!

HIGH PRIEST. Show us that thou dost consent to hear us! Isis, bend thy
head!

BLIND GIRL. Open my eyes! Ever since I was born a demon held them
closed. Let me see the skies of whose splendor they tell me. I am
unhappy, Isis! He whom I love, he who loves me, I have not looked upon
his countenance! I am unhappy, Isis!

ALL. Pity! Pity!

HIGH PRIEST. Anouke! Soul of the Universe! Pity! We are before thee like
little children who are lost.

THE PEOPLE. Yes! Yes! like little children who are lost!

THE SON. For my father who is blind, Isis, I implore thee!

ALL. Isis! Father! Pity!

HIGH PRIEST. Thmei, Queen of Justice! Mirror of truth! Bend thy head!

THE YOUNG PARALYTIC. I have offered up ten lambs to thee. Let me get up
and walk!

THE MAN [_with the bandaged head_] An unseen monster devours my face
making me howl with pain.

PARALYZED MAN. I drag through the mire, like a beast unclean. Let me
walk upright like a god.

THE TWO SONS [_of the mad woman_] Behold our mother, Isis, behold our
mother, who knows us no more, who knows not herself even, and who
laughs!--

THE MOTHER. Isis! Thou art a mother. Isis, in the name of thine own
child, save mine. Let me not go with empty arms, bereft of my tender
burden. Thou art a mother, Isis!

HIGH PRIEST. All! All! Pray! Supplicate! Fling you with your faces to
the ground--yes! yes! again! Silence! She is about to answer. [_A long
pause_] Your prayers are lukewarm. Your supplications need fervor! Pray!
Weep! Cry out! Cry out!

ALL. Isis! Drive out the evil spirits! Answer us! Answer us!

HIGH PRIEST. Louder! Louder!

THE PEOPLE. Sorrows! Tears! Sobs! Cries! Have pity!

HIGH PRIEST. Once more, though you die!

THE PEOPLE. Thou dost abandon Egypt! What ills will overwhelm us! Help!
Help us! Have pity!

HIGH PRIEST. Have pity! Have pity! [_bursting into sobs_] Oh! unhappy
people, Isis, if thou dost abandon them.

VOICES [_amid the sobs of the others_] She hears us not! She answers
not. Evil is upon us! Evil overwhelms us!

HIGH PRIEST. Desperate! We are desperate!

ALL. We are desperate!

A CRY. Her head is bending! No! Yes!

     _Silence. Then a great cry of distress and disappointment._

HIGH PRIEST. O mother! O goddess!

THE MOTHER. O Isis! mother of Horus! the child god! Wilt thou let die my
child? Behold him! Behold him!

YOUNG PARALYTIC. Thy heart is hard, O goddess!

PARALYZED MAN. Thou hast but to will it, Isis, and I walk!

THE MAN [_with the bandaged head_] Heal my sores! I sow horror around
me! Heal my sores!

HIGH PRIEST. Answer us! Bend thy head!

ALL. Pity!

     _The crowd, delirious, cries and sobs in a paroxysm of
     despair._

SATNI. Oh! the poor wretched souls!

     _He presses the lever. As the head of the statue bows, the
     people respond with one wild roar of acclamation._

CURTAIN



ACT V

    SCENE:--_Same as Acts I and II._

     _The statues of the gods are set up again, in their places,
     facing them a throne has been erected on which the High
     Priest is seated. Rheou, Satni, Mieris, Yaouma, Sokiti,
     Nourm, Bitiou, the Steward and all the women and servants of
     the household, and the laborers. When the curtain rises all
     are prostrate with their faces to the ground._


HIGH PRIEST [_after a pause_] Rise! [_All rise to their knees. A pause_]
The divine images are again in their places. You have shown that you
repent. You have begged for pardon. You have testified your horror of
the terrible crime you were driven to commit. You await your
chastisement. The gods now permit that we proceed to the sacrifice, that
will bring about the overflowing of the Nile, and give for yet another
year, life to the land of Egypt. She who has chosen, the elect, the
savior, is she here?

YAOUMA [_rising to her feet, radiant_] I am here!

HIGH PRIEST. Let her go to clothe her in the sacred robe. Form the
procession to bear her to the threshold of the abode of the glorious and
the immortal.

YAOUMA. Come!

     _A number of the women rise and go out right with Yaouma._

HIGH PRIEST. To-day, at the hour when Ammon-Ra came forth from the
underworld, I entered the sanctuary. Face to face with the god, I heard
his words, which now you shall hear from me. These are the commands of
the God. Rheou! [_Rheou stands up_] You have been to make submission to
the Pharaoh--Light of Ra--you have implored his mercy. You have sworn on
the body of your father, to serve him faithfully, and you have given
that body to him in pledge of your obedience. You have denounced to his
anger and justice those who conceived the impious plot to dethrone the
Lord of Egypt. You have declared that if you did permit the images of
the gods to be thrown down before you, it was because the spells of
Satni had clouded your reason. Ammon has proclaimed to me that you are
sincere! You are pardoned, on conditions which I shall presently impart.
[_Rheou bows and kneels down_] Satni! [_Satni stands up. He casts down
his eyes, he is steeped in sorrow and shame_] Satni, you have admitted
and proclaimed the power of the gods, whom you dared to deny. You have
bowed you down before them. Once, in the temple, you took the first
priestly vows; your life is therefore sacred. But you stand now
reproved. This very day you will quit Egypt. Withdraw from the Gods!
[_Satni, with eyes on the ground, withdraws, the people shrink aside to
let him pass, abusing him in whispers, shaking their fists, and some
even striking him. He goes to the terrace down left where he stands,
hiding his face on his arm_] Ammon has spoken other words. [_The people
turn from Satni_] All you who are here, you are guilty of the most
odious, the most monstrous of crimes. You are all deserving of death.
Such is the decree of the God.

ALL. O Ammon! Pity! Pity! Ammon!

HIGH PRIEST. Cease your sobs! Cease your cries! Cease your useless
prayers! Hear the God who speaks through my mouth.

ALL. Be kind! Thou! Thou! Have pity! Beseech the God for us, we implore
thee! We would not die. Not death! not death! not death!

HIGH PRIEST. Yes--I--I have pity on you. But your crime is so great!
Have you considered well the enormity of your sin? None can remember to
have seen the like. The Gods! To overthrow the Gods! And such Gods!
Ammon and Thoueris! I would I might disarm their wrath. But what shall I
offer them in your name that may equal your offence?

PEOPLE. All! Take all we possess, but spare our lives.

HIGH PRIEST. All you possess! 'Tis little enough.

PEOPLE. Take our crops.

HIGH PRIEST. And who then will feed you? Already you pay tithes. I will
offer a fourth of your harvests for ten years. But 'tis little. Even did
I say you would give half of all that is in your homes, should I
succeed? And would you give it me?

PEOPLE. Yes! Yes!

HIGH PRIEST. Still it will not be enough. Hear what the God hath
breathed to me. There must be prayers, ceaseless prayers in the temple.
Every year ten of your daughters must enter the house of the God to be
consecrated.

PEOPLE. Our daughters! Ammon! Our daughters!

HIGH PRIEST. The God is good! The God is good! Lo! I hear him pronounce
the words of pardon. But further, you must needs assist the Pharaoh to
carry out the divine commands. Ammon wills that the Ethiopian infidels
be chastised. All who are of an age to fight will join the army, that is
on the eve of departure.

PEOPLE [_in consternation_] Oh! the war! the war!

HIGH PRIEST. Proud Ethiopia threatens invasion to Egypt. You must defend
your tombs, your homes, and your women. Would you become slaves of the
blacks?

PEOPLE. No, no, we would not!

HIGH PRIEST. You will go to punish the foes of your kings?

PEOPLE. We will go.

HIGH PRIEST. And what will be your reward? Know you not that victory
will be yours, because the god is with you. And if some fall in battle,
should we not all envy their fate, since they leave this world to go
towards Osiris. The arrows of your foes will fall harmless at your feet,
like wounded birds. Their swords shall bend on your invulnerable bodies.
The fire they light against you will become as perfumed water. All this
you know to be true. You know that your gods protect you. You know they
are all-powerful, because, yesterday, you all did see how the stone
image of the goddess Isis did bow, to show you she protects you.

PEOPLE. To the war! To the war! To Ethiopia!

SATNI [_leaping up to the terrace_] I have been coward too long! [_To
the crowd_] The miracle of yesterday--'twas I--'twas I who worked it.

     _General uproar._

HIGH PRIEST. I deliver this man to you, and I deliver you to him. You
will not let him deceive you twice.

     _Execrations of the people, Satni cannot speak. The High
     Priest is borne out on his throne accompanied by Rheou._

SATNI [_when the uproar subsides_] I was in the temple--

PEOPLE. That is a lie!

SATNI. It was I who made the head of the image bow.

PEOPLE. He blasphemes. Have done! Have done! Let him not blaspheme!

SATNI. It was I! And I ask your forgiveness.

A MAN. Why should you do it, if you despise our gods?

SATNI. I did it out of pity.

PEOPLE. We have no need of your pity.

SATNI. That is true. You have need only of my courage. And I failed you.
I was touched by your tears. I was weak, thinking to be kind.

A MAN. You are not kind. You would have handed us over to foreign gods.

PEOPLE. Yes! yes! that is true!

SATNI. I gave you the lie that you begged for. I wanted to lull your
sorrows to sleep.

A MAN. You have brought down on us the anger of the gods.

ANOTHER. The evils that crush us, 'tis you have let them loose on us.

ALL. Yes, yes! Liar! Curse you! Let him be accursed!

SATNI. Curse me. You are right. I am guilty. I had not the strength to
persevere; to lead you, in spite of your tears, to the summits I would
lead you to. To still a few sobs, to give hope to some who were
stricken, I worked the miracle; and, beholding that false miracle, you
made submission. I have confirmed, I have strengthened the empire of the
lie.

A MAN. 'Twas you who lied.

SATNI. I have given back your minds, for another age, to slavery and
debasement. I have given back to the priests their power that was
endangered. I have given them means to increase your burdens, to take
your daughters, to send you to a war, covetous, murderous, and unjust.

A MAN. You are a spy from Ethiopia!

ANOTHER. You are a traitor to your country!

ALL. Yes! a traitor! Death to the traitor!

SATNI. And to defend your tyrants, you will kill men as wretched as
yourselves, dupes like you, and like you enslaved.

A MAN. We know you are paid to betray Egypt!

ALL. Yes, we know it! We know the price of your treason!

ANOTHER. You would sell Egypt, and 'tis to weaken us you would overthrow
our gods.

ALL. Traitor! Traitor!

SATNI. If I am a traitor, 'tis to my own cause! But a while ago I was
proud of my deed, thinking I had sacrificed myself to you. Alas! I only
sacrificed your future to my pity. I wept for you; to weep for
misfortune--what is that but an easy escape from the duty of fighting
its cause? I pitied you. Pity is but a weakness, a submission--To
perpetuate the falsehood of the miracle, and the life of atonement to
come is to drug misery to sleep.

A MAN. Misery!--can you give us anything to cure it?

     _They laugh._

SATNI. They have implanted in you, the belief that misery is immortal,
invincible. By my falsehood, I too have seemed to admit this; and thus I
have helped those, in whose interest it is that misery should last for
ever.

A MAN. He insults the Pharaoh!

ANOTHER. Do not insult our priests!

SATNI. Had there been no miracle, you would have despaired--you would
have sorrowed. I ought to have faced that. I ought to have faced the
death of a few, to save the future of all. We go forward only by
destroying. What matter blood and pain! Pain and blood--never a child is
born without them! I would--

     _An angry outburst._

A WOMAN. Kill him! Kill him! He says we must put our children to death!

SATNI. All are glorious who preach new efforts--

PEOPLE. Death! Death to the traitor!

SATNI. All are infamous who preach resignation--

PEOPLE. Enough! Kill him! Death!

SATNI. It is in this world that the wretched must find their paradise,
it is here that every one's good must be sought with a zeal that knows
no limit, save respect for the good of others.

     _A burst of laughter._

PEOPLE. He is mad! He knows not what he says! He is mad!

     _Yaouma is borne on right on a litter carried by young
     girls. She is decked out like an idol; she stands erect,
     half in ecstasy._

PEOPLE. Yaouma! The chosen of Ammon-Ra! Glory to her who goes to save
Egypt!

     _With jubilant cries the procession goes slowly towards the
     gates at the back, preceded and surrounded by musicians and
     dancers._

SATNI. Yaouma! Yaouma! One word! One look of farewell! Yaouma! 'Tis I,
Satni! Look on me!

     _The acclamations drown his voice. Yaouma is wrapped in her
     soul's dream. She passes without hearing Satni's voice. The
     crowd follows her._

MIERIS [_to Delethi who supports her_] Lead me to Satni--go--[_To
Satni_] Satni, your words have sunk deep in my heart--Yaouma, they tell
me, did not hear your voice. She is lost in the joy of sacrifice. The
need to make sacrifice is in us all. If the gods are not, to whom shall
we sacrifice ourselves?

SATNI. To those who suffer.

MIERIS. To those who suffer.

     _During this Bitiou has come slowly down behind Satni._

BITIOU. Look! He too, he will fall down!

     _He plunges a dagger in Satni's back. Delethi draws Mieris
     away. Satni falls._

SATNI [_raising himself slightly_] It was you who struck me,
Bitiou--[_He looks long and sadly at him_] I pity you with all my
heart--with all my heart. [_He dies_]

     _Bitiou looks at the blood on the dagger, and flings it away
     in horror. Then he crouches down by Satni and begins to cry
     softly._

DELETHI [_to Mieris_] Mistress, come and pray!

MIERIS. No, I do not believe in gods in whose name men kill.

     _Outside are heard the trumpets and acclamations that
     accompany Yaouma to the Nile._


CURTAIN



THE RED ROBE


CHARACTERS

    MOUZON
    VAGRET
    ETCHEPARE
    MONDOUBLEAU
    LA BOUZOLE
    BUNERAT
    ATTORNEY-GENERAL
    PRESIDENT OF ASSIZES
    DELORME
    ARDEUIL
    BRIDET
    POLICE SERGEANT
    RECORDER
    PLAÇAT
    DOORKEEPER
    YANETTA
    ETCHEPARE'S MOTHER
    MADAME VAGRET
    MADAME BUNERAT
    BERTHA
    CATIALÉNA

     _Time--The present._



ACT I


    SCENE I:--_A small reception-room in an old house at
    Mauleon._

     _The curtain rises, revealing Madame Vagret in evening
     dress; she is altering the position of the chairs to her own
     satisfaction. Enter Bertha, also in evening dress, a
     newspaper in her hand._

BERTHA. Here's the local paper, the _Journal_. I sent the _Official
Gazette_ to father; he has just come home from the Court. He's dressing.

MADAME VAGRET. Is the sitting over?

BERTHA. No, not yet.

MADAME VAGRET [_taking the newspaper_] Are they still discussing the
case?

BERTHA. As usual.

MADAME VAGRET. One doesn't need to search long. There's a big head-line
at the top of the page: "The Irissary Murder." They're attacking your
father now! [_She reads_] "Monsieur Vagret, our District Attorney."
[_She continues to read to herself_] And there are sub-headings too:
"The murderer still at large." As if that was our fault! "Justice
asleep!" Justice asleep indeed! How can they say such things when your
father hasn't closed his eyes for a fortnight! Can they complain that he
hasn't done his duty? Or that Monsieur Delorme, the examining
magistrate, isn't doing his? He has made himself quite ill, poor man!
Only the day before yesterday he had a tramp arrested because his
movements were ever so little suspicious! So you see! No! I tell you
these journalists are crazy!

BERTHA. It seems they are going to have an article in the Basque paper
too.

MADAME VAGRET. The _Eskual Herria_!

BERTHA. So the chemist told me.

MADAME VAGRET. I don't care a sou for that. The Attorney-General doesn't
read it.

BERTHA. On the contrary, father was saying the other day that the
Attorney-General has translations sent him of every article dealing with
the magistracy.

MADAME VAGRET. The Attorney-General has translations sent him! Oh well,
never mind. Anyhow, let's change the subject! How many shall we be this
evening? You've got the list?

BERTHA [_She takes the list from the over-mantel_] The President of
Assizes--the President of the Court--

MADAME VAGRET. Yes. Yes, that's all right; nine in all, isn't it?

BERTHA. Nine.

MADAME VAGRET. Nine! To have nine people coming to dinner, and not to
know the exact hour at which they'll arrive! That's what's so trying
about these dinners we have to give at the end of a session--in honor of
the President of Assizes. One dines when the Court rises. When the Court
rises! Well, we'll await the good pleasure of these gentlemen! [_She
sighs_] Well, child!

BERTHA. Mother?

MADAME VAGRET. Are you still anxious to marry a magistrate?

BERTHA [_with conviction_] I am not!

MADAME VAGRET. But you were two years ago!

BERTHA. I am not now!

MADAME VAGRET. Look at us! There's your father. Procurator of the
Republic--Public Prosecutor--State Attorney; in a court of the third
class, it's true, because he's not a wire-puller, because he hasn't
played the political game. And yet he's a valuable man--no one can deny
that. Since he's been District Attorney he has secured three sentences
of penal servitude for life! And in a country like this, where crimes
are so frightfully rare! That's pretty good, don't you think? Of course,
I know he'll have had three acquittals in the session that ends to-day.
Granted. But that was mere bad luck. And for protecting society as he
does--what do they pay him? Have you any idea?

BERTHA. Yes, I know; you've often told me, mother.

MADAME VAGRET. And I'll tell you again. Counting the stoppages for the
pension, he gets altogether, and for everything, three hundred and
ninety-five francs and eighty-three centimes a month. And then we are
obliged to give a dinner for nine persons in honor of the President of
Assizes, a Councillor! Well, at all events, I suppose everything is
ready? Let's see. My _Revue des Deux Mondes_--is it there? Yes. And my
armchair--is that in the right place? [_She sits in it_] Yes. [_As
though receiving a guest_] Pray be seated, Monsieur le Président. I hope
that's right. And Monsieur Dufour, who was an ordinary magistrate when
your father was the same, when we were living at Castelnaudery, he's now
President of the second class at Douai, and he was only at Brest before
he was promoted!

BERTHA. Really!

MADAME VAGRET [_searching for a book on the over-mantel_] Look in the
Year Book.

BERTHA. I'll take your word for it.

MADAME VAGRET. You may! The Judicial Year Book. I know it by heart!

BERTHA. But then father may be appointed Councillor any day now.

MADAME VAGRET. He's been waiting a long time for his appointment as
Councillor.

BERTHA. But it's as good as settled now. He was promised the first
vacancy, and Monsieur Lefévre has just died.

MADAME VAGRET. I hope to God you are right. If we fail this time, we're
done for. We shall be left at Mauleon until he's pensioned off. What a
misfortune it is that they can't put their hands on that wretched
murderer! Such a beautiful crime too! We really had some reason for
hoping for a death sentence this time! The first, remember!

BERTHA. Don't worry, motherkins. There's still a chance.

MADAME VAGRET. It's easy for you to talk. You see the newspapers are
beginning to grumble. They reproach us, they say we are slack. My dear
child, you don't realize--there 's a question of sending a detective
down from Paris! It would be such a disgrace! And everything promised so
well! You can't imagine how excited your father was when they waked him
up to tell him that an old man of eighty-seven had been murdered in his
district! He dressed himself in less than five minutes. He was very
quiet about it. But he gripped my hands. "I think," he said, "I think we
can count on my nomination this time!" [_She sighs_] And now everything
is spoilt, and all through this ruffian who won't let them arrest him!
[_Another sigh_] What's the time?

BERTHA. It has just struck six.

MADAME VAGRET. Write out the _menus_. Don't forget. You must write only
their titles--his Honor the President of Assizes, his Honor the
President of the High Court of Mauleon, and so forth. It's the preamble
to the _menu_. Don't forget. Here is your father. Go and take a look
round the kitchen and appear as if you were busy. [_Bertha leaves the
room. Vagret enters in evening dress_]


SCENE II:--_Vagret, Madame Vagret._

MADAME VAGRET. Hasn't the Court risen yet?

VAGRET. When I left my substitute was just getting up to ask for the
adjournment.

MADAME VAGRET. Nothing new?

VAGRET. About the murder? Nothing.

MADAME VAGRET. But your Monsieur Delorme--the examining magistrate--is
he really looking for the murderer?

VAGRET. He's doing what he can.

MADAME VAGRET. Well, if I were in his place, it seems to me--Oh, they
ought to have women for examining magistrates! [_Distractedly_] Is there
nothing in the _Official Gazette_?

VAGRET [_dispirited and anxious_] Yes.

MADAME VAGRET. And you never told me. Anything that affects us?

VAGRET. No. Nanteuil has been appointed Advocate-General.

MADAME VAGRET. Nanteuil?

VAGRET. Yes.

MADAME VAGRET. Oh, that's too bad! Why, he was only an assistant at
Lunéville when you were substitute there!

VAGRET. Yes. But he has a cousin who's a deputy. You can't compete with
men like that. [_A pause. Madame Vagret sits down and begins to cry_]

MADAME VAGRET. We haven't a chance.

VAGRET. My dearest! Come, come, you are wrong there.

MADAME VAGRET [_still tearful_] My poor darling! I know very well it
isn't your fault; you do your best. Your only failing is that you are
too scrupulous, and I am not the one to reproach you for that. But what
can you expect? It's no use talking; everybody gets ahead of us. Soon
you'll be the oldest District Attorney in France.

VAGRET. Come, come! Where's the Year Book?

MADAME VAGRET [_still in the same tone_] It's there--the dates, the
length of service. See further on, dear.

VAGRET [_throwing the Year Book aside_] Don't cry like that! Remember
I'm chosen to succeed Lefévre.

MADAME VAGRET. I know that.

VAGRET. I'm on the list for promotion.

MADAME VAGRET. So is everybody.

VAGRET. And I have the Attorney-General's definite promise--and the
presiding judge's too.

MADAME VAGRET. It's the deputy's promise you ought to have.

VAGRET. What?

MADAME VAGRET. Yes, the deputy's. Up to now you've waited for promotion
to come to you. My dear, you've got to run after it! If you don't do as
the others do, you'll simply get left behind.

VAGRET. I am still an honest man.

MADAME VAGRET. It is because you are an honest man that you ought to try
to get a better appointment. If the able and independent magistrates
allow the others to pass them by, what will become of the magistracy?

VAGRET. There's some truth in what you say.

MADAME VAGRET. If, while remaining scrupulously honest, you can better
our position by getting a deputy to push you, you are to blame if you
don't do so. After all, what do they ask you to do? Merely that you
should support the Ministry.

VAGRET. I can do that honestly. Its opinions are my own.

MADAME VAGRET. Then you'd better make haste--for a ministry doesn't
last long! To support the Ministry is to support the Government--that
is, the State--that is, Society. It's to do your duty.

VAGRET. You are ambitious.

MADAME VAGRET. No, my dear--but we must think of the future. If you knew
the trouble I have to make both ends meet! We ought to get Bertha
married. And the boys will cost us more and more as time goes on. And in
our position we are bound to incur certain useless expenses which we
could very well do without; but we have to keep up appearances; we have
to "keep up our position." We want Georges to enter the Polytechnique,
and that'll cost a lot of money. And Henri, if he's going to study
law--you'd be able to help him on all the better if you held a better
position.

VAGRET [_after a brief silence_] I haven't told you everything.

MADAME VAGRET. What is it?

VAGRET [_timidly_] Cortan has been appointed Councillor at Amiens.

MADAME VAGRET [_exasperated_] Cortan! That idiot of a Cortan?

VAGRET. Yes.

MADAME VAGRET. This is too much!

VAGRET. What can you expect? The new Keeper of the Seals is in his
department. You can't fight against that!

MADAME VAGRET. There's always something--Cortan! Won't she be making a
show of herself--Madame Cortan--who spells "indictment" i-n-d-i-t-e?
She'll be showing off her yellow hat! Don't you remember her famous
yellow hat?

VAGRET. No.

MADAME VAGRET. It's her husband who ought to wear that color!

VAGRET. Rosa, that's unjust.

MADAME VAGRET [_painfully excited_] I know it--but it does me good!

     _Enter Catialéna._

CATIALÉNA. Madame, where shall I put the parcel we took from the
linen-closet this morning?

MADAME VAGRET. What parcel?

CATIALÉNA. The parcel--you know, Madame--when we were arranging the
things in the linen-closet.

MADAME VAGRET [_suddenly_] Oh--yes, yes. Take it to my room.

CATIALÉNA. Where shall I put it there?

MADAME VAGRET. Oh well, put it down here. I will put it away myself.

CATIALÉNA. Very good, Madame. [_She leaves the room_]

MADAME VAGRET [_snipping at the parcel and speaking to herself_] It's no
use stuffing it with moth-balls--it'll all be moth-eaten before ever you
wear it.

VAGRET. What is it?

MADAME VAGRET [_placing the parcel on the table and opening the
wrapper_] Look!

VAGRET. Ah, yes--my red robe--the one you bought for me--in advance--two
years ago.

MADAME VAGRET. Yes. That time it was Gamard who was appointed instead of
you.

VAGRET. What could you expect? Gamard had a deputy for his
brother-in-law; there's no getting over that. The Ministry has to assure
itself of a majority.

MADAME VAGRET. And to think that in spite of all my searching I haven't
been able to discover so much as a municipal councillor among our
relations!

VAGRET. Well--hide this thing. It torments me. [_He returns the gown,
which he had unfolded, to his wife_] In any case I dare say it wouldn't
fit me now.

MADAME VAGRET. Oh, they fit anybody, these things!

VAGRET. Let's see--[_He takes off his coat_]

MADAME VAGRET. And it means a thousand francs more a year!

VAGRET. It isn't faded. [_At this moment Bertha enters. Vagret hides the
red gown_] What is it?

BERTHA. It's only me.

VAGRET. You startled me.

BERTHA [_catching sight of the gown_] You've been appointed! You've been
appointed!

VAGRET. Do be quiet! Turn the key in the door!

BERTHA. Papa has been appointed!

MADAME VAGRET. Do as you're told! No, he hasn't been appointed.

VAGRET. It's really as good as new. [_He slips it on_]

MADAME VAGRET. Well, I should hope so! I took care to get the very best
silk.

VAGRET. Ah, if I could only wear this on my back when I'm demanding the
conviction of the Irissary murderer! Say what you like, the man who
devised this costume was no fool! It's this sort of thing that impresses
the jury. And the prisoner too! I've seen him unable to tear his eyes
from the gown of the State Attorney! And you feel a stronger man when
you wear it. It gives one a better presence, and one's gestures are more
dignified: "Gentlemen of the court, gentlemen of the jury!" Couldn't I
make an impressive indictment? "Gentlemen of the court, gentlemen of the
jury! In the name of society, of which I am the avenging voice--in the
name of the sacred interests of humanity--in the name of the eternal
principles of morality--fortified by the consciousness of my duty and my
right--I rise--[_He repeats his gesture_] I rise to demand the head of
the wretched man who stands before you!"

MADAME VAGRET. How well you speak!

     _Vagret, with a shrug of the shoulders and a sigh, slowly
     and silently removes the gown and hands it to his wife._

VAGRET. Here--put it away.

MADAME VAGRET. There's the bell.

BERTHA. Yes.

MADAME VAGRET [_to her daughter_] Take it.

BERTHA. Yes, mother. [_She makes a parcel of the gown and is about to
leave the room_]

MADAME VAGRET. Bertha!

BERTHA. Yes, mother!

MADAME VAGRET [_tearfully_] Put some more moth-balls in it--poor child!

     _Bertha goes out. Catialéna enters._


SCENE III:--_Vagret, Madame Vagret, Catialéna._

CATIALÉNA [_holding out an envelope_] This has just come for you, sir.
[_She goes out again_]

VAGRET. What's this? The Basque paper--the _Eskual Herria_--an article
marked with blue pencil. [_He reads_] "Eskual herri guzia hamabartz egun
huntan--" How's one to make head or tail of such a barbarian language!

MADAME VAGRET [_reading over his shoulder_] It's about you--

VAGRET. No!

MADAME VAGRET. Yes. There! "Vagret procuradoreak galdegin--" Wait a
minute. [_Calling through the further doorway_] Catialéna! Catialéna!

VAGRET. What is it?

MADAME VAGRET. Catialéna will translate it for us. [_To Catialéna, who
has entered_] Here, Catialéna, just read this bit for us, will you?

CATIALÉNA. _Why, yes, Madame._ [_She reads_] "Eta gaitzegilia ozda
oraino gakpoian Irrysaryko."

VAGRET. And what does that mean?

CATIALÉNA. That means--they haven't arrested the Irissary murderer yet.

VAGRET. We know that. And then?

CATIALÉNA. "Baginakien yadanik dona Mauleano tribunala yuye arin edo
tzarrenda berechiazela." That means there are no magistrates at Mauleon
except those they've got rid of from other places, and who don't know
their business--empty heads they've got.

VAGRET. Thanks--that's enough.

MADAME VAGRET. No, no! Go on, Catialéna!

CATIALÉNA. "Yaun hoyen Biribi--"

MADAME VAGRET. Biribi?

CATIALÉNA. Yes, Madame.

MADAME VAGRET. Well, what does Biribi mean in Basque?

CATIALÉNA. I don't know.

MADAME VAGRET. What? You don't know? You mean you don't want to say? Is
it a bad word?

CATIALÉNA. Oh no, Madame, I should know it then.

VAGRET. Biribi--

BERTHA. Perhaps it's a nickname they give you.

MADAME VAGRET. Perhaps that's it. [_A pause_] Well?

CATIALÉNA. They're speaking of the master.

MADAME VAGRET [_to her husband_] I told you so. [_To Catialéna_] Abusing
him?

VAGRET. I tell you that's enough! [_He snatches the paper from Catialéna
and puts it in his pocket_] Go back to the kitchen. Hurry now--quicker
than that!

CATIALÉNA. Well, sir, I swear I won't tell you the rest of it.

VAGRET. No one's asking you to. Be off.

CATIALÉNA. I knew the master would be angry. [_She turns to go_]

MADAME VAGRET. Catialéna!

CATIALÉNA. Yes, Madame?

MADAME VAGRET. Really now, you don't know what Biribi means?

CATIALÉNA. No, Madame, I swear I don't.

MADAME VAGRET. That's all right. There's the bell--go and see who it is.
[_Catialéna goes_] I shall give that woman a week's notice, and no later
than to-morrow.

VAGRET. But really--

CATIALÉNA [_returning_] If you please, sir, it's Monsieur Delorme.

MADAME VAGRET. Your examining magistrate?

VAGRET. Yes. He's come to give me his reply. [_To Catialéna_] Show him
in.

MADAME VAGRET. What reply?

VAGRET. He has come to return me his brief.

MADAME VAGRET. The brief?

VAGRET. Yes. I asked him to think it over until this evening.

MADAME VAGRET. He'll have to stay to dinner.

VAGRET. No. You know perfectly well his health--Here he is. Run away.

MADAME VAGRET [_amiably, as she goes out_] Good-evening, Monsieur
Delorme.

DELORME. Madame!


SCENE IV:--_Vagret, Delorme._

VAGRET. Well, my dear fellow, what is it?

DELORME. Well, it's no--positively no.

VAGRET. Why?

DELORME. I've told you. [_A pause_]

VAGRET. And the _alibi_ of your accused?

DELORME. I've verified it.

VAGRET. Does it hold water?

DELORME. Incontestably.

VAGRET [_dejectedly_] Then you've set your man at liberty?

DELORME [_regretfully_] I simply had to.

VAGRET [_the same_] Obviously. [_A pause_] There is not a chance?

DELORME. No.

VAGRET. Well, then?

DELORME. Well, I beg you to give the brief to someone else.

VAGRET. Is that final?

DELORME. Yes. You see, my dear fellow, I'm too old to adapt myself to
the customs of the day. I'm a magistrate of the old school, just as you
are. I inherited from my father certain scruples which are no longer the
fashion. These daily attacks in the press get on my nerves.

VAGRET. They would cease at the news of an arrest.

DELORME. Precisely. I should end by doing something foolish. Well, I
have done something foolish already. I should not have arrested that man
if I had not been badgered as I was.

VAGRET. He was a tramp. You gave him shelter for a few days. There's no
great harm done there.

DELORME. All the same--

VAGRET. You let yourself be too easily discouraged. To-night or
to-morrow something may turn up to put you on a new scent.

DELORME. Even then--Do you know what they are saying? They are saying
that Maître Plaçat, the Bordeaux advocate, is coming to defend the
prisoner.

VAGRET. I don't see what he has to gain by that.

DELORME. He wants to come forward at the next election in our
arrondissement--and he counts on attacking certain persons in his plea,
so as to gain a little popularity.

VAGRET. How can that affect you?

DELORME. Why, he can be present at all the interrogations of the
accused. The law allows it--and as he is ravenous for publicity, he
would tell the newspapers just what he pleased, and if my proceedings
didn't suit him, I'd be vilified in the papers day after day.

VAGRET. You are exaggerating.

DELORME. I'm not. Nowadays an examination takes place in the
market-place or the editorial offices of the newspapers rather than in
the magistrate's office.

VAGRET. That is true where notorious criminals are concerned. In reality
the new law benefits them and them only--you know as well as I do that
for the general run of accused persons--

DELORME. Seriously, I beg you to take the brief back.

VAGRET. Come! You can't imagine that Maître Plaçat, who has a hundred
cases to plead, can be present at all your interrogations. You know what
usually happens. He'll send some little secretary--if he sends anyone.

DELORME. I beg you not to insist, my dear Vagret. My decision is
irrevocable.

VAGRET. Then--

DELORME. Allow me to take my leave. I don't want to meet my colleagues
who are dining with you.

VAGRET. Then I'll see you to-morrow. I'm sorry--

DELORME. Good-night.

     _He goes out. Madame Vagret at once enters by another door._


SCENE V:--_Vagret, Madame Vagret, then Bertha, Bunerat, La Bouzole,
Mouzon._

MADAME VAGRET. Well, I heard--he gave you back the brief.

VAGRET. Yes--his health--the newspapers--

MADAME VAGRET. And now?

VAGRET. Be careful. No one suspects anything yet.

MADAME VAGRET. Make your mind easy. [_She listens_] This time it is our
guests.

BERTHA. [_entering_] Here they are.

MADAME VAGRET. To your work, Bertha! And for me the _Revue des Deux
Mondes_.

     _They sit down. A pause._

BERTHA. They are a long time.

MADAME VAGRET. It's Madame Bunerat. Her manners always take time.

THE MANSERVANT. His Honor the President of the Court and Madame Bunerat.

MADAME VAGRET. How do you do, dear Madame Bunerat? [_They exchange
greetings_]

THE MANSERVANT. His Honor Judge La Bouzole. His worship Judge Mouzon.

     _Salutations; the guests seat themselves._

MADAME VAGRET [_to Madame Bunerat_] Well, Madame, so another session's
finished!

MADAME BUNERAT. Yes, at last!

MADAME VAGRET. Your husband, I imagine, is not sorry.

MADAME BUNERAT. Nor yours, I'm sure.

MADAME VAGRET. And the President of Assizes?

BUNERAT. He will be a little late. He wants to get away early to-morrow
morning, and he has a mass of documents to sign. You must remember the
Court has barely risen. When we saw that we should be sitting so late we
sent for our evening clothes, and we changed while the jury was
deliberating; then we put our robes on over them to pronounce sentence.

MADAME VAGRET. And the sentence was?

BUNERAT. An acquittal.

MADAME VAGRET. Again! Oh, the juries are crazy!

VAGRET. My dear, you express yourself just a little freely.

MADAME BUNERAT. Now, my dear Madame Vagret, you mustn't worry yourself.

     _She leads her up the stage._

BUNERAT [_to Vagret_] Yes, my dear colleague, an acquittal. That makes
three this session.

MOUZON [_a man of forty, whiskered and foppish_] Three prisoners whom we
have had to set at liberty because we couldn't hold them for other
causes.

BUNERAT. A regular run on the black!

LA BOUZOLE [_a man of seventy_] My dear colleagues would prefer a run on
the red.

BUNERAT. La Bouzole, you are a cynic! I do not understand how you can
have the courage to joke on such a subject.

LA BOUZOLE. I shouldn't joke if your prisoners were condemned.

MOUZON. I'm not thinking of our prisoners--I'm thinking of ourselves. If
you imagine we shall receive the congratulations of the Chancellery, you
are mistaken.

BUNERAT. He doesn't care a straw if the Mauleon Court does earn a black
mark in Paris.

LA BOUZOLE. You have said it, Bunerat; I don't care a straw! I have
nothing more to look for. I shall be seventy years old next week, and I
retire automatically. Nothing more to hope for; I have a right to judge
matters according to my own conscience. I'm out of school! [_He gives a
little skip_] Don't get your backs up--I've done--I see the Year Book
over there; I'm going to look out the dates of the coming vacation for
you. [_He takes a seat to the left_]

BUNERAT. Well, there it is. [_To Vagret_] The President of Assizes is
furious.

MOUZON. It won't do him any good either.

VAGRET. And my substitute?

BUNERAT. You may well say "your substitute"!

MOUZON. It's all his fault. He pleaded extenuating circumstances. He!

BUNERAT. Where does the idiot hail from?

VAGRET. He's far from being an idiot, I assure you. He was secretary to
the Conference in Paris; he is a doctor of laws and full of talent.

BUNERAT. Talent!

VAGRET. I assure you he has a real talent for speaking.

BUNERAT. So we observed.

VAGRET. He's a very distinguished young fellow.

BUNERAT [_with emphasis_] Well! When a man has such talent as that he
becomes an advocate; he doesn't enter the magistracy.

MADAME VAGRET [_to La Bouzole, who approaches her_] So really, Monsieur
La Bouzole, it seems it's the fault of the new substitute.

MADAME BUNERAT. Tell us all about it.

LA BOUZOLE. It was like this. [_He turns towards the ladies and
continues in a low tone. Bertha, who has entered the room, joins the
group, of which Vagret also forms one_]

MOUZON [_to Bunerat_] All this won't hasten our poor Vagret's
nomination.

BUNERAT [_smiling_] The fact is he hasn't a chance at the present
moment, poor chap!

MOUZON. Is it true that they were really seriously thinking of him when
there is a certain other magistrate in the same court?

BUNERAT [_with false modesty_] I don't think I--Of whom are you
speaking?

MOUZON. Of yourself, my dear President.

BUNERAT. They have indeed mentioned my name at the Ministry.

MOUZON. When you preside at Assizes the proceedings will be far more
interesting than they are at present.

BUNERAT. Now how can you tell that, my dear Mouzon?

MOUZON. Because I have seen you preside over the Correctional Court.
[_He laughs_]

BUNERAT. Why do you laugh?

MOUZON. I just remembered that witty remark of yours the other day.

BUNERAT [_delighted_] I don't recall it.

MOUZON. It really was very witty! [_He laughs_]

BUNERAT. What was it? Did I say anything witty? I don't remember.

MOUZON. Anything? A dozen things--a score. You were in form that day!
What a figure he cut--the prisoner. You know, the fellow who was so
badly dressed. Cock his name was.

BUNERAT. Ah, yes! When I said: "Cock, turn yourself on and let your
confession trickle out!"

MOUZON [_laughing_] That was it! That was it! And the witness for the
defence--that idiot. Didn't you make him look a fool? He couldn't finish
his evidence, they laughed so when you said: "If you wish to conduct the
case, only say so. Perhaps you'd like to take my place?"

BUNERAT. Ah, yes! Ladies, my good friend here reminds me of a rather
amusing anecdote. The other day--it was in the Correctional Court--

THE MANSERVANT [_announcing_] Monsieur Gabriel Ardeuil.


SCENE VI:--_The same, with Ardeuil._

ARDEUIL [_to Madame Vagret_] I hope you'll forgive me for coming so
late. I was detained until now.

MADAME VAGRET. I will forgive you all the more readily since I'm told
you have had such a success to-day as will make all the advocates of the
district jealous of you.

     _Ardeuil is left to himself._

LA BOUZOLE [_touching him on the shoulder_] Young man--come, sit down by
me--as a favor. Do you realize that it won't take many trials like
to-day's to get you struck off the rolls?

ARDEUIL. I couldn't be struck off the rolls because--

LA BOUZOLE. Hang it all--a man does himself no good by appearing
singular.

ARDEUIL. Singular! But you yourself--Well, the deliberations are secret,
but for all that I know you stand for independence and goodness of heart
in this Court.

LA BOUZOLE. Yes, I've permitted myself that luxury--lately.

ARDEUIL. Lately?

LA BOUZOLE. Yes, yes, my young friend, for some little time. Because for
some little time I've been cured of the disease which turns so many
honest fellows into bad magistrates. That disease is the fever of
promotion. Look at those men there. If they weren't infected by this
microbe, they would be just, kindly gentlemen, instead of cruel and
servile magistrates.

ARDEUIL. You exaggerate, sir. The French magistracy is not--

LA BOUZOLE. It is not venal--that's the truth. Among our four thousand
magistrates you might perhaps not find one--you hear me, not one--even
among the poorest and most obscure--who would accept a money bribe in
order to modify his judgment. That is the glory of our country's
magistracy and its special virtue. But a great number of our magistrates
are ready to be complaisant--even to give way--when it is a question of
making themselves agreeable to an influential elector, or to the deputy,
or to the minister who distributes appointments and favors. Universal
suffrage is the god and the tyrant of the magistrate. So you are
right--and I am not wrong.

ARDEUIL. Nothing can deprive us of our independence.

LA BOUZOLE. That is so. But, as Monsieur de Tocqueville once remarked,
we can offer it up as a sacrifice.

ARDEUIL. You are a misanthrope. There are magistrates whom no promise of
any kind--

LA BOUZOLE. Yes, there are. Those who are not needy or who have no
ambitions. Yes, there are obscure persons who devote their whole lives
to their professions and who never ask for anything for themselves. But
you can take my word for it that they are the exceptions, and that our
Court of Mauleon, which you yourself have seen, represents about the
average of our judicial morality. I exaggerate, you think? Well! Let us
suppose that in all France there are only fifty Courts like this.
Suppose there are only twenty--suppose there is only one. It is still
one too many! Why, my young friend, what sort of an idea have you got of
the magistracy?

ARDEUIL. It frightens me.

LA BOUZOLE. You are speaking seriously?

ARDEUIL. Certainly.

LA BOUZOLE. Then why did you become a substitute?

ARDEUIL. Through no choice of my own! My people pushed me into the
profession.

LA BOUZOLE. Yes. People look on the magistracy as a career. That is to
say, from the moment you enter it you have only one object--to get on.
[_A pause_]

ARDEUIL. Yet it would be a noble thing--to dispense justice tempered
with mercy.

LA BOUZOLE. Yes--it should be. [_A pause_] Do you want the advice of a
man who has for forty years been a judge of the third class?

ARDEUIL. I should value it.

LA BOUZOLE. Send in your resignation. You have mistaken your vocation.
You wear the wrong robe. The man who attempts to put into practice the
ideas you have expressed must wear the priest's cassock.

ARDEUIL [_as though to himself_] Yes--but for that one must have a
simple heart--a heart open to faith.

BUNERAT [_who is with the others_] If only we had the luck to have a
deputy of the department for Keeper of the Seals! Just for a week!

LA BOUZOLE [_to Ardeuil_] There, my boy, that's the sort of thing one
has to think about.

THE MANSERVANT [_entering_] From his Honor the President of Assizes.
[_He gives Vagret a letter_]

VAGRET. He isn't coming?

MADAME VAGRET [_after reading the note_] He isn't coming.

BUNERAT. I hardly expected him.

MADAME VAGRET. A nervous headache he says. He left by the 6:49 train.

MOUZON. That's significant!

MADAME BUNERAT. It would be impossible to mark his disapproval more
clearly.

BUNERAT. Three acquittals too!

MADAME BUNERAT. If it had been a question of celebrated pleaders! But
newly fledged advocates!

BUNERAT. Nobodies!

MADAME VAGRET [_to her daughter_] My poor child! What will his report be
like?

BERTHA. What report?

MADAME VAGRET. Don't you know? At the close of each session the
President submits a report to the Minister--Ah, my dear Madame Bunerat!
[_The three women seat themselves at the back of the stage_]

MOUZON. Three acquittals--and the Irissary murder. A deplorable record!
A pretty pickle we're in.

BUNERAT. You know, my dear Vagret, I'm a plain speaker. No
shilly-shallying about me. When I hunt the boar I charge right down on
him. I speak plainly--anyone can know what's in my mind. I'm the son of
a peasant, I am, and I make no bones about it. Well, it seems to me that
your Bar--I know, of course, that you lead it with distinguished
integrity and honesty--but it seems to me--how shall I put it?--that
it's getting weak. Mouzon, you will remember, said the same thing when
he was consulting the statistics.

MOUZON. It really is a very bad year.

BUNERAT. You know it was a question of making ourselves an exception to
the general rule--of getting our Court raised to a higher class. Well,
Mauleon won't be raised from the third class to the second if the number
of causes diminishes.

MOUZON. We should have to prove that we had been extremely busy.

BUNERAT. And many of the cases you settled by arrangement might well
have been the subject of proceedings.

MOUZON. Just reflect that this year we have awarded a hundred and
eighteen years less imprisonment than we did last year!

BUNERAT. And yet the Court has not been to blame. We safeguard the
interests of society with the greatest vigilance.

MOUZON. But before we can punish you must give us prisoners.

VAGRET. I have recently issued the strictest orders respecting the
repression of smuggling offences, which are so common in these parts.

BUNERAT. Well, that's something. You understand the point of view we
take. It's a question of the safety of the public, my dear fellow.

MOUZON. We are falling behind other Courts of the same class. See, I've
worked out the figures. [_He takes a paper from his pocket-book and
accidentally drops other papers, which La Bouzole picks up_] I see--

LA BOUZOLE. You are dropping your papers, Mouzon. Is this yours--this
envelope? [_He reads_] "Monsieur Benoît, Officer of the Navy, Railway
Hotel, Bordeaux." A nice scent--

MOUZON [_flurried, taking the letter from La Bouzole_] Yes--a letter
belonging to a friend of mine.

LA BOUZOLE. And this? The Irissary murder?

MOUZON. Ah, yes--it's--I was going to explain--it's--oh, the Irissary
murder, yes--it's the translation Bunerat gave me of the article which
appeared in the _Eskual Herria_ to-day. It is extremely unpleasant. They
say Mauleon is a sort of penal Court--something like a Biribi of the
magistracy.

VAGRET. But, after all, I can't invent a murderer for you just because
the fellow is so pig-headed that he won't allow himself to be taken!
Delorme has sent the description they gave us to the offices of all the
magistrates.

MOUZON. Delorme! Shall I tell you what I think? Well, our colleague
Delorme is making a mistake in sticking to the idea that the criminal is
a tramp.

VAGRET. But there is a witness.

MOUZON. The witness is lying, or he's mistaken.

BUNERAT. A witness who saw gipsies leaving the victim's house that
morning.

MOUZON. I repeat, the witness is lying, or he is mistaken.

VAGRET. Why so?

MOUZON. I'm certain of it.

BUNERAT. Why?

MOUZON. Because I'm certain the murderer wasn't a gipsy.

VAGRET. But explain--

MOUZON. It's of no use, my dear friend. I know my duty to my colleague
Delorme too well to insist. I've said too much already.

VAGRET. Not at all.

BUNERAT. By no means.

MOUZON. It was with the greatest delicacy that I warned our colleague
Delorme--he was good enough to consult me and show me day by day the
information which he had elicited--I warned him that he was on a false
scent. He would listen to nothing; he persisted in searching for his
tramp. Well, let him search! There are fifty thousand tramps in France.
After all, I am probably wrong. Yet I should be surprised, for in the
big towns in which I have served as magistrate, and in which I found
myself confronted, not merely now and again, but every day, so to speak,
with difficulties of this sort, I was able to acquire a certain practice
in criminal cases and a certain degree of perspicacity.

VAGRET. Obviously. As for Delorme, it is the first time he has had to
deal with such a big crime.

MOUZON. In the case of that pretty woman from Toulouse, at Bordeaux, a
case which made a good deal of stir at the time, it was I who forced the
accused to make the confession that led her to the guillotine.

BUNERAT [_admiringly_] Was it really?

VAGRET. My dear friend, I ask you most seriously--and if I am insistent,
it is because I have reasons for being so--between ourselves, I beg you
to tell us on what you base your opinion.

MOUZON. Well, I don't want to hide my light under a bushel--I'll tell
you.

BUNERAT. We are listening.

MOUZON. Recall the facts. In a house isolated as are most of our Basque
houses they find, one morning, an old man of eighty-seven murdered in
his bed. Servants who slept in the adjacent building had heard nothing.
The dogs did not bark. There was robbery, it is true, but the criminal
did not confine himself to stealing hard cash; he stole family papers as
well. Remember that point. And I will call your attention to another
detail. It had rained on the previous evening. In the garden footprints
were discovered which were immediately attributed to the murderer, who
was so badly shod that the big toe of his right foot protruded from his
boot. Monsieur Delorme proceeds along the trail; he obtains a piece of
evidence that encourages him, and he declares that the murderer is a
vagrant. I say this is a mistake. The murderer is not a vagrant. Now the
house in which the crime was committed is an isolated house, and we know
that within a radius of six to ten miles there was no tramp begging
before the crime. So this tramp, if there was one, would have eaten and
drunk on the scene of the crime, either before or after striking the
blow. Now no traces have been discovered which permit us to suppose that
he did anything of the kind. So--here is a man who arrives in a state of
exhaustion. He begs; he is refused. He then hides himself, and, when it
is night, he robs and assassinates. There is wine and bread and other
food at hand; but he goes his way without touching them. Is this
probable? No. Don't tell me that he was disturbed and so ran off; it is
not true; their own witness declares that he saw him in the morning, a
few yards from the house, whereas the crime was committed before
midnight. If Monsieur Delorme, in addition to his distinguished
qualities, had a little experience of cases of this kind, he would
realize that empty bottles, dirty glasses, and scraps of food left on
the table constitute, so to speak, the sign manual which the criminal
vagrant leaves behind him on the scene of his crime.

BUNERAT. True; I was familiar with that detail.

LA BOUZOLE [_under his breath to Ardeuil_] That fellow would send a man
to the scaffold for the sake of seeming to know something.

VAGRET. Go on--go on.

MOUZON. Monsieur Delorme ought to have known this also: in the life of
the vagrant there is one necessity which comes next to hunger and
thirst--it is the need of footwear. This is so true that they have
sometimes been known to make this need a pretext for demanding an
appeal, because the journey to the Court of Appeal is generally made on
foot, so that the administration is obliged to furnish shoes, and, as
these are scarcely worn during the period of detention, they are in good
condition when the man leaves prison. Now the supposed vagrant has a
foot very nearly the same size as that of his victim. He has--you
yourself have told us--boots which are in a very bad condition. Well,
gentlemen, this badly shod vagrant does not take the good strong boots
which are in the house! I will add but one word more. If the crime had
been committed by a passing stranger--by a professional mendicant--will
you tell me why this remarkable murderer follows the road which passes
in front of the victim's house--a road on which he would find no
resources--a road on which houses are met with only at intervals of two
or three miles--when there is, close at hand, another road which runs
through various villages and passes numbers of farmhouses, in which it
is a tradition never to refuse hospitality to one of his kind? One word
more. Why does this vagrant steal family papers which will betray him as
the criminal the very first time he comes into contact with the police?
No, gentlemen, the criminal is not a vagrant. If you want to find him,
you must not look for a man wandering along the highway; you must look
for him among those relatives or debtors or friends, who had an interest
in his death.

VAGRET. This is very true.

BUNERAT. I call that admirably logical and extremely lucid.

MOUZON. Believe me, the matter is quite simple. If I were intrusted with
the examination, I guarantee that within three days the criminal would
be under lock and key.

VAGRET. Well, my dear colleague, I have a piece of news for you.
Monsieur Delorme, who is very unwell, has returned me his brief this
afternoon, and it will be intrusted to you. Henceforth the preliminary
examination of the Irissary murder will be in your hands.

MOUZON. I have only to say that I accept. My duty is to obey. I withdraw
nothing of what I have said; within three days the murderer will be
arrested.

BUNERAT. Bravo!

VAGRET. I thank you for that promise in the name of all concerned. I
declare that you relieve us of a great anxiety. [_To his wife_] Listen,
my dear. Monsieur Mouzon is undertaking the preliminary examination, and
he promises us a result before three days are up.

MADAME VAGRET. We shall be grateful, Monsieur Mouzon.

MADAME BUNERAT. Oh, thank you!

VAGRET. Bertha! Tell them to serve dinner--and to send up that old
Irrouleguy wine! I will drink to your success, my dear fellow.

THE MANSERVANT. Dinner is served.

     _The gentlemen offer their arms to the ladies preparatory to
     going in to dinner._


CURTAIN.



ACT II

     _In the office of Mouzon, the examining magistrate. A door
     at the back and in the wall to the right. On the left are
     two desks. Portfolios, armchairs, and one ordinary chair._


SCENE I:--_The recorder, then the doorkeeper, then Mouzon. When the
curtain rises the recorder, seated in the magistrate's armchair, is
drinking his coffee. The doorkeeper enters._

RECORDER. Ah! Here's our friend the doorkeeper of the courthouse! Well,
what's the news?

DOORKEEPER. Here's your boss.

RECORDER. Already!

DOORKEEPER. He got back from Bordeaux last night. Fagged out he looked.

RECORDER [_loftily_] A Mauleon magistrate is always fatigued when he
returns from Bordeaux!

DOORKEEPER. Why?

RECORDER [_after a pause_] I do not know.

DOORKEEPER. It's the Irissary murder that has brought him here so early.

RECORDER. Probably. [_While speaking he arranges his cup, saucer, sugar
basin, etc., in a drawer. He then goes to his own place, the desk at the
back. Mouzon enters. The doorkeeper pretends to have completed some
errand and leaves the room. The recorder rises, with a low bow_]
Good-morning, your worship.

MOUZON. Good-morning. You haven't made any engagements, have you, except
in the case of the Irissary murder?

RECORDER. I have cited the officer of the gendarmerie, the accused, and
the wife of the accused.

MOUZON. I am tired, my good fellow. I have a nervous headache! Any
letters for me?

RECORDER. No, your worship.

MOUZON. His Honor the State Attorney hasn't asked for me?

RECORDER. No, your worship. But all the same I have something for you.
[_He hands him an envelope_]

MOUZON [_opening the envelope_] Stamps for my collection! I say, Benoît,
that's good! Now let's see. Let's see. [_He unlocks the drawer of his
desk and takes out a stamp album_] Uruguay. I have it! Well, it will do
to exchange. And this one too. Oh! Oh! I say, Benoît! A George Albert,
first edition! But where did you get this, my dear fellow?

RECORDER. A solicitor's clerk found it in a brief.

MOUZON. Splendid! I must stick that in at once! Pass me the paste, will
you? [_He delicately trims the edges of the stamp with a pair of
scissors and pastes it in the album with the greatest care, while still
talking_] It is rare, extremely rare! According to the _Philatelist_ it
will exchange for three blue Amadei or a '67 Khedive, obliterated.
There! [_Turning over the leaves of his album_] Really, you know, it
begins to look something like. It's beginning to fill up, eh? You know I
believe I shall soon be able to get that Hayti example. Look! See here!
[_In great delight_] There's a whole page-full! And all splendid
examples. [_He closes the album and sighs_] O Lord!

RECORDER. You don't feel well?

MOUZON. It's not that. I was rather worried at Bordeaux.

RECORDER. About your stamps?

MOUZON. No, no. [_A sigh to himself_] Damn the women! The very thing I
didn't want. [_He takes his album again_] When I've got that Hayti
specimen I shall need only three more to fill this page too. Yes. [_He
closes the album_] Well, what's the post? Ah! Here is the information
from Paris in respect of the woman Etchepare and her husband's judicial
record. [_The doorkeeper enters with a visiting-card_] Who is coming to
disturb me now? [_More agreeably, having read the name_] Ah! Ah! [_To
the recorder_] I shall see him alone.

RECORDER. Yes, your worship. [_He goes out_]

MOUZON [_to the doorkeeper_] Show him in. [_He hides his album, picks up
a brief, and affects to be reading it with the utmost attention_]


SCENE II:--_Enter Mondoubleau._

MONDOUBLEAU [_speaking with a strong provincial accent_] I was passing
the Law Courts, and I thought I'd look in and say how do. I am not
disturbing you, I hope?

MOUZON [_smiling and closing his brief_] My dear deputy, an examining
magistrate, as you know, is always busy. But it gives one a rest--it
does one good--to see a welcome caller once in a while. Sit down, I beg
you. Yes, please!

MONDOUBLEAU. I can stop only a minute.

MOUZON. But that's unkind of you!

MONDOUBLEAU. Well, what's the latest about the Irissary murder?

MOUZON. So far there's nothing new. I've questioned the accused--an
ugly-looking fellow and a poor defence. He simply denied everything and
flew into a temper. I had to send him back to the cells without getting
anything out of him.

MONDOUBLEAU. Are you perfectly sure you've got the right man?

MOUZON. Certain--no; but I should be greatly surprised if I were
mistaken.

MONDOUBLEAU. I saw Monsieur Delorme yesterday. He's a little better.

MOUZON. So I hear. He thinks the murderer was a tramp. Now there, my
dear sir, is one of the peculiarities to which we examining magistrates
are subject. We always find it the very devil to abandon the first idea
that pops into our minds. Personally I do my best to avoid what is
really a professional failing. I am just going to examine Etchepare, and
I am waiting for the results of a police inquiry. If all this gives me
no result, I shall set the man at liberty and look elsewhere for the
culprit--but I repeat, I firmly believe I am on the right scent.

MONDOUBLEAU. Monsieur Delorme is a magistrate of long experience and a
very shrewd one, and I will not deny that the reasons he has given me
are--

MOUZON. I know my colleague is extremely intelligent. And, once more, I
don't say that he's wrong. We shall see. At present I am only morally
certain. I shall be materially certain when I know the antecedents of
the accused and have established an obvious motive for his action. At
the moment of your arrival I was about to open my mail. Here is a letter
from the Court of Pau; it gives our man's judicial record. [_He takes a
paper-knife in order to open the envelope_]

MONDOUBLEAU. A curious paper-knife.

MOUZON. That? It's the blade of the knife that brought the pretty
Toulouse woman to the guillotine at Bordeaux. Pretty weapon, eh? I had
it made into a paper-knife. [_He opens the envelope_] There--there you
are! Four times sentenced for assaulting and wounding. You see--

MONDOUBLEAU. Really, really! Four times!

MOUZON. This is getting interesting. Besides this--I have neglected
nothing--I have learned that his wife, Yanetta Etchepare--

MONDOUBLEAU. Is that the young woman I saw in the corridor just now?

MOUZON. I have called her as witness. I shall be hearing her directly.

MONDOUBLEAU. She looks a very respectable woman.

MOUZON. Possibly. But, as I was about to tell you, I have learned that
she used to live in Paris--before her marriage--I have written asking
for information. Here we are. [_He opens the envelope and smiles_] Aha!
Well, this young woman who looks so respectable was sentenced to one
month's imprisonment for receiving stolen goods. Now we will hear the
police lieutenant who is coming, very obligingly, to give me an account
of the inquiry with which I intrusted him, and which he will put in
writing this evening. I shall soon see--

MONDOUBLEAU. Do you suppose he will have anything new for you?

MOUZON. Does this interest you? I will see him in your presence. [_He
goes to the door and makes a sign. He returns to his chair_] Understand,
I assert nothing. It is quite possible that my colleague's judgment has
been more correct than mine. [_The officer enters_]


SCENE III:--_The same and the officer._

OFFICER. Good-morning, Monsieur.

MOUZON. Good-morning, lieutenant. You can speak before this gentleman.

OFFICER [_saluting_] Our deputy--

MOUZON. Well?

OFFICER. Yes! He's the man!

MOUZON [_after a glance at Mondoubleau_] Don't let's go too fast. On
what grounds do you make that assertion?

OFFICER. You will see. In the first place there have been four
convictions already.

MOUZON. I know.

OFFICER. Then fifteen years ago he bought, from Daddy Goyetche, the
victim, a vineyard, the payment taking the form of a life annuity.

MOUZON. Well!

OFFICER. He professed to have made a very bad bargain, and he used to
abuse old Goyetche as a swindler.

MOUZON. Excellent!

OFFICER. Five years ago he sold this vineyard.

MOUZON. So that for five years he has been paying an annuity to the
victim, although the vineyard was no longer his property.

OFFICER. Yes, your worship.

MOUZON. Go on.

OFFICER. After his arrest people's tongues were loosened. His neighbors
have been talking.

MOUZON. That's always the way.

OFFICER. I have heard a witness, the girl Gracieuse Mendione, to whom
Etchepare used the words, "It is really too stupid to be forced to pay
money to that old swine."

MOUZON. Wait a moment. You say the girl Gracieuse?

OFFICER. Mendione.

MOUZON [_writing_] Mendione--"It is really too stupid to be forced to
pay money to that old swine." Good! Good! Well?

OFFICER. I have another witness, Piarrech Artola.

MOUZON [_writing_] Piarrech Artola.

OFFICER. Etchepare told him, about two months ago, in speaking of old
Goyetche, "It's more than one can stand--the Almighty's forgotten him."

MOUZON [_writing_] "The Almighty has forgotten him." Excellent. Is this
all you can tell me?

OFFICER. Almost all.

MOUZON. At what date should Etchepare have made the next annual payment
to old Goyetche?

OFFICER. A week after Ascension Day.

MOUZON. That is a week after the crime?

OFFICER. Yes, your worship.

MOUZON [_to Mondoubleau_] Singular coincidence! [_To the officer_] Was
he comfortably off, this Etchepare?

OFFICER. He was pressed for money. Three months ago he borrowed eight
hundred francs from a Mauleon cattle-dealer.

MOUZON. And what do the neighbors say?

OFFICER. They say Etchepare was a sly grasping fellow, and they aren't
surprised to hear that he's the murderer. All the same, they all speak
very highly of the woman Yanetta Etchepare. They say she is a model
mother and housekeeper.

MOUZON. How many children?

OFFICER. Two--Georges and--I can't remember the name of the other now.

MOUZON. And the woman's moral character?

OFFICER. Irreproachable.

MOUZON. Good.

OFFICER. I was forgetting. One of my men, one of those who effected the
arrest, informs me that when Etchepare saw him coming he said to his
wife, "They've got me."

MOUZON. "They've got me." That is rather important.

OFFICER. And then he told his wife, in Basque, "Don't for the world let
out that I left the house last night!"

MOUZON. He said this before the gendarme?

OFFICER. No, your worship--the gendarme was outside--close to an open
window. Etchepare didn't see him.

MOUZON. You will have him cited as witness.

OFFICER. Yes, your worship. Then there's that witness for the defence
too--Bridet.

MOUZON. Ah, yes--I have read the deposition he made in your presence.
It's of no importance. Still, if he's there I'll hear him. Thank you.
Well, draw up a report for me, in full detail, and make them give you
the summonses for the witnesses.

OFFICER. Yes, your worship. [_He salutes and goes out_]


SCENE IV:--_Mouzon and Mondoubleau._

MONDOUBLEAU. Monsieur Delorme is a fool.

MOUZON [_laughing_] Well, I don't say so, my dear deputy.

MONDOUBLEAU. It's wonderful, your faculty of divination.

MOUZON. Wonderful--no, no. I assure you--

MONDOUBLEAU. Now how did you come to suspect this Etchepare?

MOUZON. Well, you know, it is partly a matter of temperament. The
searching for a criminal is an art. I may say that a good examining
magistrate is guided less by the facts themselves than by a kind of
inspiration.

MONDOUBLEAU. Wonderful. I repeat it's wonderful. And this witness for
the defence?

MOUZON. He may be a false witness.

MONDOUBLEAU. What makes you think that?

MOUZON. Because he accuses the gipsies! Moreover, he had business
dealings with Etchepare. The Basque, you know, still look on us rather
as enemies, as conquerors, and they think it no crime to deceive us by
means of a false oath.

MONDOUBLEAU. Then you were never inclined to accept the theory of your
predecessor?

MOUZON. Tramps--the poor wretches! I know what an affection you have for
the poor, and I feel with you that one should not confine oneself to
suspecting the unfortunate--people without shelter, without bread even.

MONDOUBLEAU. Bravo! I am delighted to find that you are not only an able
magistrate, but also that you think with me on political matters.

MOUZON. You are very good.

MONDOUBLEAU. I hope that from now on the Basque newspapers will cease
its attacks upon you.

MOUZON. I am afraid not.

MONDOUBLEAU. Come, come!

MOUZON. What can you expect, my dear sir? The paper is hostile to you,
and as I do not scruple openly to support your candidature they make the
magistrate pay for the opinions of the citizen.

MONDOUBLEAU. I feel ashamed--and I thank you with all my heart, my dear
fellow. Go on as you are doing--but be prudent--eh? The Keeper of the
Seals was saying to me only a couple of days ago, "I look to you to see
that there is no trouble in your constituency. No trouble--above all no
scandal of any kind!" I ought to tell you that Eugène is the subject of
many attacks at the present moment.

MOUZON. You are on very intimate terms with his Honor the Keeper of the
Seals.

MONDOUBLEAU [_makes a gesture, then, simply_] We were in the Commune
together.

MOUZON. I see.

MONDOUBLEAU. Tell me, by the way, what sort of a man is your State
Attorney?

MOUZON. Monsieur Vagret?

MONDOUBLEAU. Yes.

MOUZON. Oh, well--he's a very painstaking magistrate, very exact--

MONDOUBLEAU. No, I mean as to his political opinions.

MOUZON. You mustn't blame him for being in the political camp of those
who are diametrically opposed to us. At all events, don't run away with
the idea that he is a mischievous person.

MONDOUBLEAU. Narrow-minded. [_He has for some little time been gazing at
Mouzon's desk_] I see you've got the Labastide brief on your table.
There's nothing in it at all. I know Labastide well; he's one of my
ablest electoral agents; and I assure you he's absolutely incapable of
committing the actions of which he is accused. I told Monsieur Vagret as
much, but I see he is prosecuting after all.

MOUZON. I can only assure you, my dear deputy, that I will give the
Labastide affair my most particular attention.

MONDOUBLEAU. I have too much respect for you, my dear fellow, to ask
more of you. Well, well, I mustn't waste your time. So for the present--

MOUZON. Au revoir. [_The deputy goes out. Mouzon is alone_] I don't
think our deputy is getting such a bad idea of me. [_Smiling_] The fact
is it was really clever of me to suspect Etchepare. Now the thing is to
make him confess the whole business, and as quickly as possible--

     _The doorkeeper enters, a telegram in his hand._

MOUZON. A telegram for me?

DOORKEEPER. Yes, your honor.

MOUZON. Give it me. Right. [_The doorkeeper goes out. Mouzon reads_]
"Diane is detained under arrest. The report of yesterday's affair sent
to the Attorney-General.--Lucien." That's nice for me! [_He is silent,
pacing to and fro_] Oh, the accursed women! [_Silence_] Come, I must
get to work. [_He goes to the door at the back and calls his recorder_]
Benoît!


SCENE V:--_Mouzon, the recorder, and then Bridet._

MOUZON [_seated, gives a brief to the recorder_] Make out an order of
non-lieu in the Labastide case and the order for his immediate release.
You can do that during the interrogatories. Now, let us begin! It is two
o'clock already and we have done nothing. Make haste--Let's see--What
are you waiting for? Give me the list of witnesses--the list of
witnesses. Don't you understand? What's the matter with you to-day?
That's right. Now bring in this famous witness for the defence and let
us get rid of him. Is Etchepare there?

RECORDER. Yes, your honor.

MOUZON. His wife too?

RECORDER. Yes, your honor.

MOUZON. Well, then! What's the matter with you that you look at me like
that? Bring him in.

RECORDER. Which first? Etchepare?

MOUZON. No!--the witness for the defence. The wit-ness for the
de-fence--do you understand?

RECORDER [_outside, angrily_] Bridet! Come, Bridet, are you deaf? Come
in! [_Roughly_] Stir yourself!

     _Bridet enters._

BRIDET. Your worship, I am going to tell you--

MOUZON. Hold your tongue. You will speak when you are questioned. Name,
surname, age, profession, and place of domicile.

BRIDET. Bridet, Jean-Pierre, thirty-eight, maker of _alpargates_ at
Faigorry.

MOUZON [_in a single breath_] You swear to speak the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth. Say, "I swear." You are neither a
blood relative nor a relation by marriage of the accused, you are not in
his service and he is not in yours. [_To the recorder_] Has he said, "I
swear"?

RECORDER. Yes, your worship.

MOUZON [_to Bridet_] Speak! [_Silence_] Go on--speak!

BRIDET. I am waiting for you to ask me questions.

MOUZON. Just now one couldn't keep you quiet; now when I ask you to
speak you have nothing to say. What interest have you in defending
Etchepare?

BRIDET. What interest?

MOUZON. Yes. Don't you understand your own language?

BRIDET. Yes, Monsieur. Why, no interest.

MOUZON. No interest? Is that the truth? Eh? None? Come, I want very much
to believe you. [_Very sternly_] However, I remind you that Article 361
of the Penal Code punishes false evidence with imprisonment. Now that
you know the risk you run in not telling the truth I will listen to you.

BRIDET [_confused_] I was going to say that old Goyetche was murdered by
gipsies who came from over the frontier, down the mountain.

MOUZON. You are sure of that?

BRIDET. I believe it's so.

MOUZON. You are not here to say what you believe. Tell me what you saw
or heard. That is all that's asked of you.

BRIDET. But one's always meeting them, these gipsies. The other day they
robbed a tobacconist's shop. There were three of them. Two of them went
inside. I must tell you they had looked the place over during the day--

MOUZON. Did you come here to laugh at the law? Eh?

BRIDET. I?--But, Monsieur--

MOUZON. I ask if you came here to mock at the law?

BRIDET. No, Monsieur.

MOUZON. That's as well, for such a thing won't answer--you understand?
Do you hear?

BRIDET. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON. Is that all you have to say?

BRIDET. No, Monsieur.

MOUZON. Well, then, go on! Confound it! Don't waste my time in this way!
Do you think I've nothing to do but listen to your gossip? Come now,
tell me.

BRIDET. Well, the day after Ascension Day--that is, on the Monday--no,
on the Friday--

MOUZON. Was it Monday or Friday?

BRIDET. Friday--it was like a Monday, you see, because it was the day
after the holiday. Well, the day they found old Goyetche murdered I saw
a troop of gipsies leaving his house.

MOUZON. Then you were quite close to the house?

BRIDET. No, I was passing on the road.

MOUZON. Did they close the door behind them?

BRIDET. I don't know, Monsieur.

MOUZON. Then why do you say you saw them come out of the house?

BRIDET. I saw them come out of the meadow in front of the house.

MOUZON. And then?

BRIDET. That's all.

MOUZON [_throwing himself back in his chair_] And you've come here to
bother me for this, eh? Answer. For this?

BRIDET. But, your worship--I beg your pardon--I thought--I beg your
pardon--

MOUZON. Listen. How many gipsies were there? Think well. Don't make a
mistake.

BRIDET. Five.

MOUZON. Are you certain of that?

BRIDET. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON. Yes. Well, in the presence of the gendarmes you said there were
five or six. So you are more certain of a fact at the end of a month
than you were on the day on which you observed it. On the other hand,
you no longer know whether the fact occurred on a Monday or a Friday,
nor whether the gipsies were leaving the house or merely crossing the
fields. [_Sternly_] Tell me, are you acquainted with the accused?
Etchepare--do you know him?

BRIDET. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON. You have business relations with him? You used to sell him
sheep?

BRIDET. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON. That's enough for me. Get out!

BRIDET. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON. And think yourself lucky that I let you go like this.

BRIDET. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON. In future, before asking to be heard as a witness for the
defence in a trial at law, I recommend you to think twice.

BRIDET. Rest your mind easy, Monsieur. I swear they'll never get me
again!

MOUZON. Sign your interrogatory and be off. If there were not so many
easy-going blunderers of your sort, there would be less occasion to
complain of the law's delays and hesitations for which the law itself is
not responsible.

BRIDET. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON [_to the recorder_] Send for Etchepare.

RECORDER [_returning immediately_] Your worship.

MOUZON. Well?

RECORDER. The advocate--Maître Plaçat.

MOUZON. Is he there?

RECORDER. Yes, your honor. He would like to see you before the
interrogatory.

MOUZON. Well, show him in, then! What are you waiting for? Be off--and
come back when I send for the accused.

     _The recorder goes out as Plaçat enters._


SCENE VI:--_Mouzon, Maître Plaçat._

MOUZON. Good-day, my dear fellow--how are you?

PLAÇAT. Fine. And you? I caught sight of you last night at the Grand
Theatre; you were with an extremely charming woman.

MOUZON. Ah, yes--I--er--

PLAÇAT. I beg your pardon. Tell me now--I wanted to have a word with you
about the Etchepare case.

MOUZON. If you are free at the present moment, we are going to hold the
examination at once.

PLAÇAT. That's the trouble--I haven't a minute.

MOUZON. Would you like us to postpone it until to-morrow?

PLAÇAT. No, no--I have just been speaking to the accused. An
uninteresting story. He just keeps on denying--that's all. He agreed to
be interrogated without me. [_Laughing_] I won't hide from you that I
advised him to persist in his method. Well, then, au revoir. If he wants
an advocate later on, let me know--I'll send you one of my secretaries.

MOUZON. Right. Good-bye for the present, then.

     _He returns to his desk. The recorder enters, then
     Etchepare, between two gendarmes._


SCENE VII:--_Mouzon, Etchepare, the recorder._

RECORDER. Step forward.

MOUZON [_to the recorder_] Recorder, write. [_Very quickly, stuttering_]
In the year nineteen hundred and ninety-seven, etc. Before me, Mouzon,
examining magistrate, in the presence of--and so on--the Sieur Etchepare
Jean-Pierre was brought to our office, his first appearance being
recorded in the report of--and so on. We may mention that the accused,
having consented to interrogation in the absence of his advocate--[_To
Etchepare_] You do consent, don't you?

ETCHEPARE. I am innocent. I don't need any advocate.

MOUZON [_resumes his stuttering_] We dispensed therewith. In consequence
of which we have immediately proceeded as below to the interrogation of
the said Sieur Etchepare Jean-Pierre. [_To Etchepare_] Etchepare, on the
occasion of your first appearance you refused to reply, which wasn't
perhaps very sensible of you, but you were within your rights. You lost
your temper and I was even obliged to remind you of the respect due to
the law. Are you going to speak to-day?

ETCHEPARE [_disturbed_] Yes, your worship.

MOUZON. Ah! Aha! my fine fellow, you are not so proud to-day!

ETCHEPARE. No. I've been thinking. I want to get out of this as quickly
as possible.

MOUZON. Well, well, for my part, I ask nothing more than to be able to
set you at liberty. So far we understand each other excellently. Let us
hope it'll last. Sit down. And first of all I advise you to give up
trying to father the crime onto a band of gipsies. The witness Bridet,
who has business relations with you, has endeavored, no doubt at your
instigation, to induce us to accept this fable. I warn you he has not
succeeded.

ETCHEPARE. I don't know what Bridet may have told you.

MOUZON. Oh! You deny it? So much the better! Come, you are cleverer than
I thought! Was it you who murdered Goyetche?

ETCHEPARE. No, Monsieur.

MOUZON. You had an interest in his death?

ETCHEPARE. No, Monsieur.

MOUZON. Oh, really! I thought you had to pay him a life annuity.

ETCHEPARE [_after a moment's hesitation_] Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON. Then you had an interest in his death? [_Silence_] Eh! You don't
answer? Well, let us continue. You said to a witness, the young
woman--the young woman Gracieuse Mendione--"It is really too stupid to
be forced to pay money to that old swine."

ETCHEPARE [_without conviction_] That's not true.

MOUZON. It's not true! So the witness is a liar, eh?

ETCHEPARE. I don't know.

MOUZON. You don't know. [_A pause_] You thought that Goyetche had lived
too long?

ETCHEPARE. No, Monsieur.

MOUZON. No, Monsieur. Then why did you say to another witness, Piarrech
Artola, why did you say, in speaking of your creditor, "It's too much,
the Almighty has forgotten him"?

ETCHEPARE. I didn't say that.

MOUZON. You didn't say that. So this witness is a liar too! Answer me.
Is he a liar? [_Silence_] You don't answer. It's just as well. Come now,
Etchepare, why do you persist in these denials--eh? Isn't it all plain
enough? You are avaricious, interested, greedy for gain--

ETCHEPARE. It's so hard to make a living.

MOUZON. You are a man of violent temper--from time to time you get
drunk, and then you become dangerous. You have been four times convicted
for assault and wounding--you are over-ready with your knife. Is that
the truth or isn't it? You were tired of paying--for nothing--a biggish
annual sum to this old man. The time for payment was approaching; you
were pressed for money; you felt that Goyetche had lived too long, and
you killed him. It's so obvious--eh? Isn't it true?

ETCHEPARE [_gradually recovering himself_] I did not murder him.

MOUZON. We won't juggle with words. Did you pay anyone else to kill him?

ETCHEPARE. I had nothing to do with his death. You yourself say I was
pressed for money. So how could I have paid anyone to kill him?

MOUZON. Then you did it yourself.

ETCHEPARE. That's a lie.

MOUZON. Listen, Etchepare--you will confess sooner or later. Already you
are weakening in your defence.

ETCHEPARE. If I was to shout, you'd say I was play-acting.

MOUZON. I tell you sooner or later you will change your tune. Already
you admit facts which constitute a serious charge against you.

ETCHEPARE. That's true; I said it without thinking of the consequences.

MOUZON. Ah, but you ought to think of the consequences; for they may be
peculiarly serious for you.

ETCHEPARE. I'm not afraid of death.

MOUZON. The death of others--

ETCHEPARE. Nor my own.

MOUZON. So much the better. But you are a Basque; you are a Catholic.
After death there is hell.

ETCHEPARE. I'm not afraid of hell; I've done nothing wrong.

MOUZON. There is the dishonor that will fall on your children. You love
your children, do you not? Eh? They will ask after you--they love
you--because they don't know--yet--

ETCHEPARE [_suddenly weeping_] My poor little children! My poor little
children!

MOUZON. Come, then! All good feeling isn't extinct in you. Believe me,
Etchepare, the jury will be touched by your confession, by your
repentance--you will escape the supreme penalty. You are still
young--you have long years before you in which to expiate your crime.
You may earn your pardon and perhaps you may once again see those
children, who will have forgiven you. Believe me--believe me--in your
own interests even, confess! [_Mouzon has approached Etchepare during
the foregoing; he places his hands on the latter's shoulders; he
continues, with great gentleness_] Come, isn't it true? If you can't
speak, you've only to nod your head. Eh? It's true? Come, since I know
it's true. Eh? I can't hear what you say. It was you, wasn't it? It was
you!

ETCHEPARE [_still weeping_] It was not me, sir! I swear it was not me! I
swear it!

MOUZON [_in a hard voice, going back to his desk_] Oh, you needn't
swear. You have only to tell me the truth.

ETCHEPARE. I am telling the truth--I am--I can't say I did it when I
didn't!

MOUZON. Come, come! We shall get nothing out of you to-day. [_To the
recorder_] Read him his interrogatory and let him be taken back to his
cell. One minute--Etchepare!

ETCHEPARE. Monsieur?

MOUZON. There is one way to prove your innocence, since you profess to
be innocent. Prove, in one way or another, that you were elsewhere than
at Irissary on the night of the crime, and I will set you at liberty.
Where were you?

ETCHEPARE. Where was I?

MOUZON. I ask you where you were on the night of Ascension Day. Were you
at home?

ETCHEPARE. Yes.

MOUZON. Is that really the truth?

ETCHEPARE. Yes.

MOUZON [_rising, rather theatrically, pointing at Etchepare_] Now,
Etchepare, that condemns you. I know that you went out that night. When
you were arrested you said to your wife, "Don't for the world admit that
I went out last night." Come, I must tell you everything. Someone saw
you--a servant. She told the gendarmes that as she was saying good-night
to a young man from Iholdy, with whom she had been dancing, at ten
o'clock at night, she saw you a few hundred yards from your house. What
have you to say to that?

ETCHEPARE. It is true--I did go out.

MOUZON [_triumphantly_] Ah! Now, my good man, we've had some trouble in
getting you to say something. But I can read it in your face when you
are lying--I can read it in your face in letters as big as that. The
proof is that there was no witness who saw you go out--neither your
servant nor anyone else; and yet I would have sworn to it with my head
under the knife. Come, we have made a little progress now. [_To the
recorder_] Have you put down carefully his first admission? Good. [_To
Etchepare_] Now think for a moment. We will continue our little
conversation. [_He goes towards the fireplace, rubbing his hands, pours
himself a glass of spirits, swallows it, gives a sigh of gratification,
and returns to his chair_]

FIRST GENDARME [_to his comrade_] A cunning one, he is!

SECOND GENDARME. You're right!

MOUZON. Let us continue. Come, now that you've got so far, confess the
whole thing! Here are these good gendarmes who want to go to their grub.
[_The gendarmes, the recorder, and Mouzon laugh_] You confess? No? Then
tell me, why did you insist on saying that you remained at home that
night?

ETCHEPARE. Because I'd told the gendarmes so and I didn't want to make
myself out a liar.

MOUZON. And why did you tell the gendarmes that?

ETCHEPARE. Because I thought they'd arrest me on account of the
smuggling.

MOUZON. Good. Then you didn't go to Irissary that night?

ETCHEPARE. No.

MOUZON. Where did you go?

ETCHEPARE. Up the mountain, to look for a horse that had got away the
night before, one of a lot we were taking to Spain.

MOUZON. Good. Excellent. That isn't badly thought out--that can be
maintained. You went to look for a horse lost on the mountain, a horse
which escaped from a lot you were smuggling over the frontier on the
previous night. Excellent. If that is true, there is nothing for it but
to set you at liberty before we are much older. Now to prove that you've
simply to tell me to whom you sold the horse; we shall send for the
purchaser, and if he confirms your statement, I will sign your
discharge. To whom did you sell the horse?

ETCHEPARE. I didn't sell it.

MOUZON. You gave it away? You did something with it!

ETCHEPARE. No--I didn't find it again.

MOUZON. You didn't find it again! The devil! That's not so good. Come!
Let's think of something else. You didn't go up the mountain all alone?

ETCHEPARE. Yes, all alone.

MOUZON. Bad luck! Another time, you see, you ought to take a companion.
Were you out long?

ETCHEPARE. All night. I got in at five in the morning.

MOUZON. A long time.

ETCHEPARE. We aren't well off, and a horse is worth a lot of money.

MOUZON. Yes. But you didn't spend the whole night on the mountain
without meeting someone--shepherds or customs officers?

ETCHEPARE. It was raining in torrents.

MOUZON. Then you met no one?

ETCHEPARE. No one.

MOUZON. I thought as much. [_In a tone of disappointed reproach, with
apparent pity_] Tell me, Etchepare, do you take the jurymen for idiots?
[_Silence_] So that's all you've been able to think of? I said you were
intelligent just now. I take that back. But think what you've told me--a
rigmarole like that. Why, a child of eight would have done better. It's
ridiculous I tell you--ridiculous. The jurymen will simply shrug their
shoulders when they hear it. A whole night out of doors, in the pouring
rain, to look for a horse you don't find--and without meeting a living
soul--no shepherds, no customs officers--and you go home at five in the
morning--although at this time of the year it's daylight by then--yes,
and before then--but no, no one saw you and you saw no one. So everybody
was stricken with blindness, eh? A miracle happened, and everyone was
blind that night. You don't ask me to believe that? No? Why not? It's
quite as probable as what you do tell me. So everybody wasn't blind?
[_The recorder bursts into a laugh; the gendarmes imitate him_] You see
what it's worth, your scheme of defence! You make the gaolers and my
recorder laugh. Don't you agree with me that your new method of defence
is ridiculous?

ETCHEPARE [_abashed, under his breath_] I don't know.

MOUZON. Well, if you don't know, we do! Come now! I have no advice to
give you. You repeat that at the trial and see what effect you produce.
But why not confess? Why not confess? I really don't understand your
obstinacy. I repeat, I really do not understand it.

ETCHEPARE. Well, if I didn't do it, am I to say all the same that I did?

MOUZON. So you persist in your story of the phantom horse? You persist
in it, do you?

ETCHEPARE. How do I know? How should I know what I ought to say? I
should do better not to say anything at all--everything I say is turned
against me!

MOUZON. Because the stories you invent are altogether too
improbable--because you think me more of a fool than I am in thinking
that I am going to credit such absurd inventions. I preferred your first
method; at least you had two witnesses to speak for you--two witnesses
who were not worth very much, it's true, but witnesses all the same.
You've made a change; well, you are within your rights. Let us stick to
the lost horse.

ETCHEPARE. Well, then? [_A long pause_]

MOUZON. Come! Out with it!

ETCHEPARE [_without emphasis, hesitation, gazing at the recorder as
though to read in his eyes whether he was replying as he should_] Well,
I'm going to tell you, Monsieur. You are right--it isn't true--I didn't
go up into the mountain. What I said first of all was the truth--I
didn't go out at all. Just now I was all muddled. At first I denied
everything, even what was true--I was so afraid of you. Then, when you
told me--I don't remember what it was--my head's all going like--I don't
know--I don't remember--but all the same I know I am innocent. Well,
just now, I almost wished I could admit I was guilty if only you'd leave
me in peace. What was I saying? I don't remember. Ah, yes--when you told
me--whatever it was, I've forgotten--it seemed to me I'd better say I'd
gone out--and I told a lie. But [_sincerely_] what I swear to you is
that I am not the guilty man. I swear it, I swear it!

MOUZON. I repeat, I ask nothing better than to be able to believe it. So
now it's understood, is it, that you were at home?

ETCHEPARE. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON. We shall hear your wife directly. You have no other witnesses to
call?

ETCHEPARE. No, Monsieur.

MOUZON. Good. Take the accused away--but remain in the Court. I shall
probably need him directly for a confrontation. His interrogatory isn't
finished.

     _The gendarmes lead Etchepare away._


SCENE VIII:--_Mouzon and the recorder._

MOUZON [_to the recorder_] What a rogue, eh? One might have taken him in
the act, knife in hand, and he'd say it wasn't true! A crafty fellow
too--he defends himself well.

RECORDER. I really thought, at one time, that your worship had got him.

MOUZON. When I was speaking of his children?

RECORDER. Yes, that brought tears to one's eyes. It made one feel one
wanted to confess even though one hadn't done anything!

MOUZON. Didn't it? Ah, if I hadn't got this headache! [_A pause_] I did
a stupid thing just now.

RECORDER. Oh, your worship!

MOUZON. I did. I was wrong to show him how improbable that new story of
his was. It is so grotesque that it would have betrayed him--while, if
he goes on asserting that he never left the house, if the servant
insists he didn't, and if the wife says the same thing, that's something
that may create a doubt in the mind of the jury. He saw that perfectly,
the rascal! He felt that of the two methods the first was the better.
That's one against me, my good Benoît. [_To himself_] That must be set
right. Let me think. Etchepare is the murderer, there's no doubt about
that. I am as certain of that as if I'd been present. So he wasn't at
home on the night of the crime and his wife knows it. After the way he
hesitated just now--if I can get the wife to confess that he was absent
from home till the morning, we get back to the ridiculous story of the
lost horse, and I catch him twice in a flagrant lie, and I've got him.
Come, we must give the good woman a bit of a roasting and get the truth
out of her. It'll be devilish queer if I don't succeed. [_To the
recorder_] What did I do with the police record of the woman Etchepare
that was sent from Paris?

RECORDER. It's in the brief.

MOUZON. Yes--here it is--the extract from her judicial record. Report
number two, a month of imprisonment, for receiving--couldn't be better.
Send her in.

     _The recorder goes to the door and calls._

RECORDER. Yanetta Etchepare!

     _Enter Yanetta._


SCENE IX:--_Mouzon, recorder, Yanetta._

MOUZON. Step forward. Now, Madame, I shall not administer the oath to
you, since you are the wife of the accused. But none the less I beg you
most urgently to tell the truth. I warn you that an untruth on your part
might compel me to accuse you of complicity with your husband in the
crime of which he is accused and force me to have you arrested at once.

YANETTA. I'm not afraid. I can't be my husband's accomplice because my
husband isn't guilty.

MOUZON. That is not my opinion. I will say further: you know a great
deal more about this matter than you care to tell.

YANETTA. I? That's infamous.

MOUZON. Come, come, no shouting! I don't say you took a direct part in
the murder, I say it is highly probable that you knew of the murder,
perhaps advised it, and that you have profited by it. That would be
enough to place you in the dock beside your husband at the assizes. My
treatment of you will depend on the sincerity of your answers to my
questions. As you do or do not tell me the truth I shall either set you
at liberty or have you arrested. Now you can't say that I haven't warned
you! And now, if you please, inform me whether you persist in your first
statement, in which you affirm that Etchepare stopped at home on the
night of Ascension Day.

YANETTA. I do.

MOUZON. Well, it is untrue.

YANETTA [_excited_] The night on which Daddy Goyetche was murdered my
husband never left the house.

MOUZON. I tell you that is not the truth.

YANETTA [_as before_] The night Daddy Goyetche was murdered my husband
never left the house.

MOUZON. You seem to have got stuck. You go on repeating the same thing.

YANETTA. Yes, I go on repeating the same thing.

MOUZON. Well, now let us examine into the value of your evidence. Since
your marriage--for the last ten years--your conduct has left nothing to
be desired. You are thrifty, faithful, industrious, honest--

YANETTA. Well?

MOUZON. Wait a moment. You have two children, whom you adore. You are an
excellent mother. One hears of your almost heroic behavior at the time
your eldest child was ill--Georges, I think.

YANETTA. Yes, it was Georges. But what has that to do with the charge
against my husband?

MOUZON. Have patience. You will see presently.

YANETTA. Very well.

MOUZON. It is all the more to your credit that you are what you are, for
your husband does not give us an example of the same virtues. He
occasionally gets drunk.

YANETTA. No, he doesn't.

MOUZON. Come--everyone knows that. He is violent.

YANETTA. He's not violent.

MOUZON. So violent that he has been convicted four times for assault and
battery.

YANETTA. That's possible; at holiday times, in the evening, men get
quarrelling. But that was a long time ago. Now he behaves better, and
I'm very happy with him.

MOUZON. That surprises me.

YANETTA. Anyhow, does that prove he murdered old Goyetche?

MOUZON. Your husband is very grasping.

YANETTA. Poor people are forced to be very grasping or else to die of
starvation.

MOUZON. You defend him well.

YANETTA. Did you suppose I was going to accuse him?

MOUZON. Have you ever been convicted?

YANETTA [_anxious_] Me?

Mouzon. Yes, you.

YANETTA [_weakly_] No, I've never been convicted.

Mouzon. That is curious because there was a girl of your name in Paris
who was sentenced to a month's imprisonment for receiving stolen
property.

YANETTA [_weakly_] For receiving stolen property--

MOUZON. You are not quite so bold now--you are disturbed.

YANETTA [_as before_] No--

MOUZON. You are pale--you are trembling--you are feeling faint. Give her
a chair, Benoît. [_The recorder obeys_] Pull yourself together!

YANETTA. My God, you know that?

MOUZON. Here is the report which has been sent me. "The woman Yanetta
X--was brought to Paris at the age of sixteen as companion or lady's
maid by Monsieur and Madame So-and-so, having been employed by them in
that capacity at Saint-Jean-de-Luz." Is that correct?

YANETTA. Yes.

MOUZON. Here is some more. "Illicit relations were before long formed
between the girl Yanetta and the son of the family, who was twenty-three
years of age. Two years later the lovers fled, taking with them eight
thousand francs which the young man had stolen from his father. On the
information of the latter the girl Yanetta was arrested and condemned to
one month's imprisonment for receiving stolen property. After serving
her sentence she disappeared. It is believed that she returned to her
own district." Are you the person mentioned here?

YANETTA. Yes. My God, I thought that was all so long ago--so completely
forgotten. It is all true, Monsieur, but for ten years now I've given
every minute of my life to making up for it, trying to redeem myself.
Just now I answered you insolently; I beg your pardon. You have not only
my life in your hands now, but my husband's, and the honor of my
children.

MOUZON. Does your husband know of this?

YANETTA. No, Monsieur. Oh, you aren't going to tell him! I beg you on my
knees! It would be wicked, I tell you, wicked! Listen, Monsieur--listen.
I came back to the country; I hid myself; I would rather have died; I
didn't want to stay in Paris--you understand why--and then in a little
while I lost mother. Etchepare was in love with me, and he bothered me
to marry him. I refused--I had the courage to go on refusing for three
years. Then--I was so lonely, so miserable, and he was so unhappy, that
in the end I gave way. I ought to have told him everything. I wanted to,
but I couldn't. It would have hurt him too much. For he's a good man,
Monsieur, I swear he is. [_Mouzon makes a gesture_] Yes, I know,
sometimes when he's been drinking, he's violent. I was going to tell you
about that. I don't want to tell you any more untruths. But it's very
seldom he's violent now. [_Weeping_] Oh, don't let him know, Monsieur,
don't let him know. He'd go away--he'd leave me--he'd take my children
from me. [_She gives a despairing cry_] Ah, he'd take my children from
me! I don't know what to say to you--but it isn't possible--you can't
tell him--now you know all the harm it would do. You won't? Of course I
was guilty--but I didn't understand--I didn't know. I wasn't seventeen,
sir, when I went to Paris. My master and mistress had a son; he forced
me almost--and I loved him--and then he wanted to take me away because
his parents wanted to send him away by himself. I did what he asked me.
That money--I didn't know he had stolen it--I swear I didn't know--

MOUZON. That's all right; control yourself.

YANETTA. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON. We'll put that on one side for the moment.

YANETTA. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON. Now your husband--

YANETTA. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON [_with great sincerity_] You will have need of all your courage,
my poor woman. Your husband is guilty.

YANETTA. It's impossible! It's impossible!

MOUZON [_with great sincerity_] He has not confessed it, but he is on
the point of doing so. I myself know what happened that night after he
left your house--witnesses have told me.

YANETTA. No! No! My God, my God! Witnesses? What witnesses? It isn't
true!

MOUZON. Well, then, don't be so obstinate! In your own interest, don't
be so stubborn! Shall I tell you what will be the end of it? You will
ruin your husband! If you insist on contradicting the evidence, that he
passed the night away from the house, you'll ruin him, I tell you. On
the other hand, if you will only tell me the truth, then if he is not
the murderer, he will tell us what he did do and who his companions
were.

YANETTA. He hadn't any.

MOUZON. Then he went out alone?

YANETTA. Yes.

MOUZON. At ten o'clock?

YANETTA. At ten.

MOUZON. He returned alone at five in the morning?

YANETTA. Yes, all alone.

MOUZON. But perhaps you are thinking of some other night. It was really
the night of Ascension Day when he went out alone?

YANETTA. Yes.

MOUZON. Benoît, have you got that written down?

RECORDER. Yes, your worship.

MOUZON. Madame, I know how painful this must be to you, but I beg you to
listen to me with the greatest attention. Your husband was pressed for
money, was he not?

YANETTA. No.

MOUZON. Yes.

YANETTA. I tell you no.

MOUZON. Here is the proof. Three months ago he borrowed eight hundred
francs from a cattle-dealer of Mauleon.

YANETTA. He never told me about it.

MOUZON. Moreover, he owed a considerable sum to Goyetche.

YANETTA. I've never heard of that either.

MOUZON. Here is an acknowledgment written by your husband. It is in his
handwriting?

YANETTA. Yes, but I didn't know--

MOUZON. You didn't know of the existence of this debt? That tends to
confirm what I know already--your husband went to Irissary.

YANETTA. No, sir; he tells me everything he does.

MOUZON. But you see very well that he doesn't, since you didn't know of
the existence of this debt. He went to Irissary. Don't you believe me?

YANETTA. Yes, Monsieur, but he didn't kill a man for money; it's a lie,
a lie, a lie!

MOUZON. It's a lie! Now how am I to know that? Your husband begins by
denying everything, blindly, and then he takes up two methods of defence
in succession. You yourself begin by a piece of false evidence. All
this, I tell you again, will do for the man.

YANETTA. I don't know about that, but what I do tell you again is that
he didn't kill a man for money.

MOUZON. Then what did he kill him for? Perhaps after all he isn't as
guilty as I supposed just now. Perhaps he acted without premeditation.
This is what might have happened. Etchepare, a little the worse for
drink, goes to Goyetche in order to ask him once more to wait for the
payment of this debt. There is a dispute between the two men; old
Goyetche was still a strong man; there may have been provocation on his
part, and there may have been a struggle, with the tragic result you
know of. In that case your husband's position is entirely different--he
is no longer a criminal premeditating a crime; and the sentence
pronounced against him may be quite a light one. So you see, my good
woman, how greatly it is in your interest to obtain a complete
confession from him. If he persists in his denials, I am afraid the jury
will be extremely severe upon him. There is no doubt that he killed
Goyetche; but under what conditions did he kill him? Everything depends
on that. By persistently trying to pass for a totally innocent man he
risks being thought more guilty than he is. Do you understand?

YANETTA. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON. Will you speak to him as I suggest? Shall I send for him?

YANETTA. Yes, Monsieur.

MOUZON. [_to the recorder_] Bring in the accused. Tell the gendarmes I
shall not need them.

     _Etchepare enters._


SCENE X:--_The same, Etchepare._

YANETTA. Pierre! To see you here--my Pierre--a prisoner--like a thief!
My poor husband--my poor husband! Oh, prove you haven't done anything!
Tell his worship--tell him the truth. It'll be best. I beg you tell him
the truth.

ETCHEPARE. It's all no good. I know, I can feel, I'm done for. All that
I can do or say would be no use. Every word I do say turns against me.
The gentleman wants me to be guilty. I must be guilty, according to him.
So you see! What would you have me do, my poor darling? I've got no
strength to go on struggling against him. Let them do what they like
with me; I shan't say anything more.

YANETTA. Yes, yes, you must speak. You must defend yourself. I beg of
you, Pierre. I beg of you, defend yourself.

ETCHEPARE. What's the use?

YANETTA. I beg you to in the name of your children. They don't know
anything yet--but they cry because they see me crying--because, you see,
I can't hide it, I can't control myself always in front of them. I can't
be cheerful, can I? And then they love me, so they notice it. And they
ask me questions, questions. If you only knew! They ask me about you.
André was asking me again this morning, "Where's father? Are you going
to look for him? Tell me, are you going to fetch him?" I told him "yes"
and I ran away. You see you must defend yourself so as to get back to
them as soon as possible. If you've anything to reproach yourself with,
even the least thing, tell it. You are rough sometimes--so--I don't
know. But if you went to Irissary, you must say so. Perhaps you had a
quarrel with the poor old man. If that was it, say so, say so. Perhaps
you got fighting together and you--I'm saying perhaps you did--I don't
know--you understand--but his worship promised me just now that if it
was like that they wouldn't punish you--or not very much. My God, what
am I to say to you? What's to be done?

ETCHEPARE. So you believe I'm guilty--you too! Tell me now! Do you
believe me guilty too?

YANETTA. I don't know! I don't know!

ETCHEPARE [_to Mouzon_] Ah, so you've managed that too; you've thought
of that too, to torture me through my wife--and it was you put it into
her head to speak to me about my children. I don't know what you can
have told her, but you've almost convinced her that I'm a scoundrel, and
you hoped she'd succeed in sending me to the guillotine in the name of
my children, because you know I worship them and they are everything to
me. You are right; I dare say there isn't another father living who
loves his little ones more than I love mine. [_To Yanetta_] You know
that, Yanetta! You know that! And you know too that with all my faults
I'm a true Christian, that I believe in God, in an almighty God. Well,
then, listen! My two boys--my little Georges, my little André--I pray
God to kill them both if I'm a criminal!

YANETTA [_with the greatest exultation_] He is innocent! I tell you he's
innocent! I tell you he's innocent! [_A pause_] Ah, now you can bring
your proofs, ten witnesses, a hundred if you like, and you might tell me
you saw him do it--I should tell you: It's not true! It's not true! You
might prove to me that he had confessed to it himself, and I would tell
you it wasn't true! Oh, you must feel it, your worship. You have a
heart--you know what it is when one loves one's children--so you must be
certain, you too, that he's innocent. You are going to give him back to
me, aren't you? It's settled now and you will give him back to me?

MOUZON. If he is innocent, why did he lie just now?

ETCHEPARE. It was you who lied--you! You told me you had witnesses who
saw me leave my house that night--and you hadn't anyone!

MOUZON. If I had no one at that moment, I have someone now. Yes, there
is a witness who has declared that you were not at home on the night of
the crime, and that witness is your wife!

ETCHEPARE [_to Yanetta_] You!

MOUZON [_to the recorder_] Give me her interrogatory.

     _While Mouzon looks through his papers Yanetta gazes for
     some time at her husband, then at Mouzon. She is reflecting
     deeply. Finally she seems to have made up her mind._

MOUZON. There. Your wife has just told us that you left the house at ten
o'clock and did not return until five in the morning.

YANETTA [_very plainly_] I did not say that. It is not true.

MOUZON. You went on to say that he returned alone.

YANETTA. I did not say that.

MOUZON. I will read your declaration. [_He reads_] Question: Then he
went out alone? Reply: Yes. Question: At ten o'clock? Reply: At ten
o'clock.

YANETTA. I did not say that.

MOUZON. Come, come! And I was careful to be precise. I said to you, "But
perhaps you are thinking of another night? It was really on the night of
Ascension Day that he went out alone?" And you replied, "Yes."

YANETTA. It's not so!

MOUZON. But I have it written here!

YANETTA. You can write whatever you like.

MOUZON. Then I'm a liar. And the recorder too, he is a liar?

YANETTA. The night old Goyetche was murdered my husband did not leave
the house.

MOUZON. You will sign this paper, and at once. It is your interrogatory.

YANETTA. All that is untrue! I tell you it's untrue! [_Shouting_] The
night old Goyetche was murdered my husband never left the house--he
never left the house.

MOUZON [_pale with anger_] You will pay for this! [_To the recorder_]
Make out immediately an order for the detention of this woman and call
the gendarmes. [_To Yanetta_] Woman Etchepare, I place you under arrest
on a charge of being accessory to murder. [_To the gendarmes_] Take the
man to the cells and return for the woman.

     _The gendarmes remove Etchepare._


SCENE XI:--_Mouzon, Yanetta, the recorder._

YANETTA. Ah, you are angry, aren't you--furious--because you haven't got
your way! Although you've done everything, everything you possibly
could, short of killing us by inches! You pretend to be kind. You spoke
kindly to us. You wanted to make me send my husband to the scaffold!
[_Mouzon has taken up his brief and affects to be studying it with
indifference_] It's your trade to supply heads to the guillotine. You
must have criminals, guilty men, you must have them at any cost. When a
man falls into your clutches he's a dead man. They come in here innocent
and they've got to go out again guilty. It's your trade; it's a matter
of vanity with you to succeed! You ask questions which don't seem to
mean anything in particular, and yet they may send a man to the next
world; and when you've forced the poor wretch to condemn himself you're
delighted, like a savage would be!

MOUZON [_to the gendarmes_] Take her away--be quick!

YANETTA. Yes, a savage! You call that justice! [_To the gendarmes_] You
don't take me like that, I tell you! [_She clings to the furniture_]
You're a butcher! You are as cruel as the people in history who broke
one's bones to make one confess! [_The gendarmes have dragged her free;
she lets herself fall to the ground and shouts the rest of her speech
while the men drag her to the door at the back_] Brute! Savage brute!
No, you don't think so--you think yourself a fine fellow, I haven't a
doubt, and you're a butcher--

MOUZON. Take her away, I tell you! What, the two of you can't rid me of
that madwoman?

     _The gendarmes make a renewed effort._

YANETTA. Butcher! Coward! Judas! Pitiless beast! Yes, pitiless, and you
are all the more dishonest and brutal when you've got poor folk like us
to do with. [_She is at the door, holding to the frame_] Ah, the brutes,
they are breaking my fingers! Yes, the poorer one is the wickeder you
are! [_They carry her away. Her cries are still heard as the curtain
falls_] The poorer one is the more wicked you are--the poorer one is the
more wicked you are--

CURTAIN.



ACT III

_The office of the District Attorney. A door to the left, set in a
diagonal wall, gives on to a corridor. It opens inwardly, so that the
lettering on the outside can be read: "Parquet de Monsieur le Procureur
de la République." A desk, chairs, and a chest of drawers._


SCENE I:--_Benoît, La Bouzole. As the curtain rises the recorder is
removing various papers from the desk and placing them in a cardboard
portfolio. Enter La Bouzole._

LA BOUZOLE. Good-day, Benoît.

RECORDER [_hesitating to take the hand which La Bouzole extends to him_]
Your worship. It's too great an honor--

LA BOUZOLE. Come, come, Monsieur Benoît, shake hands with me. From
to-day I'm no longer a magistrate; my dignity no longer demands that I
shall be impolite to my inferiors. How far have they got with the
Etchepare trial?

RECORDER. So far the hearing has been devoted entirely to the indictment
and the counsel's address.

LA BOUZOLE. They will finish to-day?

RECORDER. Oh, surely. Even if Monsieur Vagret were to reply, because his
Honor the President of Assizes goes hunting to-morrow morning.

LA BOUZOLE. You think it will be an acquittal, Monsieur Benoît?

RECORDER. I do, your worship. [_He is about to go out_]

LA BOUZOLE. Who is the old lady waiting in the corridor?

RECORDER. That is Etchepare's mother, your worship.

LA BOUZOLE. Poor woman! She must be terribly anxious.

RECORDER. No. She is certain of the verdict. She hasn't the slightest
anxiety. She was there all yesterday afternoon and she came back to-day,
just as calm. Only to-day she wanted at any price to see the District
Attorney or one of his assistants. Monsieur Ardeuil is away and Monsieur
Vagret--

LA BOUZOLE. Is in Court.

RECORDER. She seemed very much put out at finding no one.

LA BOUZOLE. Well, send her in here; perhaps I can give her a little
advice. Maître Plaçat will be some time yet, won't he?

RECORDER. I believe so.

LA BOUZOLE. Well, tell her to come and speak to me, poor woman. That
won't upset anybody and it may save her some trouble.

RECORDER. Very well, your worship. [_He goes to the door on the right,
makes a sign to old Madame Etchepare, and goes out by the door at the
back_]

LA BOUZOLE [_alone_] It's astonishing how benevolent I feel this
morning!

     _Old Madame Etchepare enters, clad in the costume peculiar
     to old women of Basque race._


SCENE II:--_La Bouzole, Old Madame Etchepare._

LA BOUZOLE. They tell me, Madame, that you wished to see one of the
gentlemen of the Bar.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. Yes, sir.

LA BOUZOLE. You wish to be present at the trial?

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. No, sir. I know so well that they cannot condemn
my son that what they say in there doesn't interest me in the least. I
am waiting for him. I have come because they have turned us out of our
house.

LA BOUZOLE. They have turned you out?

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. The bailiffs came.

LA BOUZOLE. Then your son owed money?

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. Since they arrested him all our men have left us.
We couldn't get in the crops nor pay what was owing. But of course I
know they'll make all that good when my son is acquitted.

LA BOUZOLE [_aside_] Poor woman!

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. I'm so thankful to see the end of all our
troubles. He'll come back and get our house and field again for us.
He'll make them give up our cattle. That's why I wanted to see one of
these gentlemen.

LA BOUZOLE. Will you explain?

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. A fortnight after the gendarmes came to arrest my
boy, Monsieur Claudet turned the waste water from his factory into the
brook that passes our house where we water the beasts. That was one of
the things that ruined us too. If Etchepare finds things like that when
he gets back, God knows what he'll do! I want the law to stop them doing
us all this harm.

LA BOUZOLE. The law! Ah, my good woman, it would be far better for you
to have nothing to do with the law.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. But why? There is justice, and it's for everybody
alike.

LA BOUZOLE. Of course.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. Has Monsieur Claudet the right--

LA BOUZOLE. Certainly not.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. Then I want to ask the judge to stop him.

LA BOUZOLE. It is not so simple as you suppose, Madame. First of all you
must go to the bailiff.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. Good.

LA BOUZOLE. He will make a declaration.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. What about?

LA BOUZOLE. He will declare that your water supply is contaminated.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. There is no need to trouble a bailiff, sir. A
child could see that.

LA BOUZOLE. It is the law.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. Well, and then?

LA BOUZOLE. Then you must go to a lawyer and get a judgment.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. Very well, if there 's no other way of doing it--

LA BOUZOLE. That is not all. If Monsieur Claudet contests the facts, the
President will appoint an expert who will visit the site and make a
report. You will have to put in a request that the President will grant
a speedy hearing on grounds of urgency. Your case being finally put on
the list of causes, it would be heard in its turn--after the vacations.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. After the vacations!

LA BOUZOLE. And that is not all. Monsieur Claudet's lawyer might
default, in which case judgment would be declared in your favor. But
Monsieur Claudet might defend the case, or enter some kind of plea and
obtain a judgment on that plea, or appeal against the judgment before
the matter would be finally settled. All this would cost a great deal of
money.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. Who would pay it?

LA BOUZOLE. You, naturally, and Monsieur Claudet.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. It's all one to him; he's rich; but for us, who
haven't a penny left!

LA BOUZOLE. Then you would have to apply for judicial assistance.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. That would take still more time?

LA BOUZOLE. That would take much longer.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. But, sir, I've always been told that justice was
free in France.

LA BOUZOLE. Justice is gratuitous, but the means of obtaining access to
justice are not. That is all.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. And all that would take--how long?

LA BOUZOLE. If Monsieur Claudet were to appeal, it might last two years.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. It isn't possible! Isn't the right on my side?

LA BOUZOLE. My poor woman, it's not enough to have the right on your
side--you must have the law on your side too.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. I understand. Justice is a thing we poor people
can know only when it strikes us down. We can know it only by the harm
it does us. Well--we must go away--it doesn't matter where--and I shan't
regret it; people insult us; they call out to us as they pass. Etchepare
wouldn't put up with that.

LA BOUZOLE. In that respect the law protects you. Register a complaint
and those who insult you will be prosecuted.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. I don't think so. I have already registered a
complaint, as you say, but they've done nothing to the man who injured
us. So he goes on.

LA BOUZOLE. Is he an inhabitant of your commune?

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. Yes. A neighbor, a friend of Monsieur Mondoubleau,
the deputy. Labastide.

LA BOUZOLE. Good. I will do what I can, I promise you.

OLD MADAME ETCHEPARE. Thank you, sir. [_A pause_] Then I will go and
wait till they give me back my boy.

LA BOUZOLE. That's right.

     _She goes out slowly._


SCENE III:--_La Bouzole, recorder._

RECORDER [_entering by the door at the back_] The hearing is suspended,
your worship.

LA BOUZOLE. Has Maître Plaçat concluded?

RECORDER. With great applause. Two of the jurymen were seen wiping their
eyes. No one doubts there will be an acquittal.

LA BOUZOLE. So much the better.

RECORDER. Your worship knows the great news?

LA BOUZOLE. Which?

RECORDER. That the Attorney-General has arrived.

LA BOUZOLE. No--I know nothing of it.

RECORDER. Yes, he has just arrived. It seems he brings the nomination of
one of these gentlemen to the post of Councillor in the Court of Appeal.

LA BOUZOLE. Ah, ah! And whose is the prize, in your opinion, Benoît?
Vagret's?

RECORDER. That was my opinion. I hesitated a long time between him and
his Honor the President, and I decided it would be Monsieur Vagret. But
now I think I am wrong.

LA BOUZOLE. Do you think Monsieur Bunerat is appointed?

RECORDER. No, your worship. I feel very proud--I believe it is my
employer who has the honor.

LA BOUZOLE. Monsieur Mouzon!

RECORDER. Yes, your worship.

LA BOUZOLE. What makes you think that?

RECORDER. His Honor the Attorney-General requested me to beg Monsieur
Mouzon to come and speak to him before the rising of the Court.

LA BOUZOLE. My congratulations, my dear Monsieur Benoît.

     _Madame Bunerat enters._


SCENE IV:--_The same and later Madame Vagret, Bunerat, the President of
Assizes, and Mouzon, then the Attorney-General._

MADAME BUNERAT [_in tears_] Oh, my dear Monsieur La Bouzole!

LA BOUZOLE. What has happened, Madame Bunerat?

MADAME BUNERAT. It's that advocate! What talent! What a heart! What
feeling! What genius! I feel quite shaken--quite upset--

LA BOUZOLE. It's an acquittal?

MADAME BUNERAT. They hope so--

MADAME VAGRET [_entering_] Well, my dear Monsieur La Bouzole, you have
heard this famous advocate! What a ranter!

LA BOUZOLE. It seems he has touched the jury. That means an acquittal.

MADAME VAGRET. I'm very much afraid it does.

     _Enter Bunerat in a black gown._

BUNERAT. Do you know what they tell me? The Attorney-General is here!

MADAME BUNERAT. Really!

MADAME VAGRET. Are you certain?

LA BOUZOLE. It is true enough. He brings Monsieur Mouzon his appointment
to the Court of Appeal at Pau.

BUNERAT. Mouzon!

MADAME VAGRET AND MADAME BUNERAT. And my husband! We had a definite
promise!

     _The President of Assizes enters, wearing a red gown._

THE PRESIDENT. Good-day, gentlemen. You have not seen the
Attorney-General, have you?

LA BOUZOLE. No, your honor--but if you will wait--

THE PRESIDENT. No. Tell me, La Bouzole--you are an old stager--were you
in Court?

LA BOUZOLE. From the balloting for the jurymen to the plea for the
defence.

THE PRESIDENT. Did you notice if I let anything pass that would make an
appeal to the Court of Cassation possible?

LA BOUZOLE. I am sure you didn't.

THE PRESIDENT. It's my constant fear--I am thinking of nothing else all
the time counsel are speaking. I always have the Manual of the President
of Assizes wide open in front of me; I'm always afraid, nevertheless, of
forgetting some formality. You see the effect of being in the
Chancellery--I never have a quiet conscience until the time-limit has
expired. [_A pause_] They tell me there were journalists here from
Toulouse and Bordeaux.

LA BOUZOLE. And one from Paris.

THE PRESIDENT. One from Paris! Are you sure?

LA BOUZOLE. He was standing near the prisoner's bench.

THE PRESIDENT. He was left to stand! A journalist from Paris and he was
left to stand! [_Catching sight of the recorder_] You knew that,
Monsieur the recorder, and you didn't warn me? Is that how you perform
your duties? Go at once and express my regret and find him a good seat;
do you hear?

RECORDER. Yes, your honor. [_He turns to go_]

THE PRESIDENT [_running after him_] Here! [_Aside to the recorder_] Find
out if he's annoyed.

RECORDER. Yes, your honor.

THE PRESIDENT. And then--[_He encounters Madame Bunerat at the door.
Pardon, Madame. He goes out, running, lifting up his gown_]

LA BOUZOLE. When I was at Montpellier I knew an old tenor who was as
anxious as that at his third début--

     _Enter Mouzon. Frigid salutations._

MADAME BUNERAT [_after a pause_] Is it true, Monsieur Mouzon--

MADAME VAGRET. That the Attorney-General--

BUNERAT. Has arrived?

MOUZON [_haughtily_] Quite true.

BUNERAT. They say he brings a councillor's appointment.

MOUZON. They say so.

MADAME BUNERAT. And you don't know?

MADAME VAGRET. You don't know?

MOUZON. Nothing at all.

BUNERAT. Does nothing lead you to suppose--

MOUZON. Nothing.

RECORDER [_entering_] Here is his Honor the Attorney-General.

MADAME BUNERAT. Oh, Lord!

     _She arranges her hair. Enter the Attorney-General, a man
     with handsome, grave, austere features._

ALL [_bowing and cringing, in a murmur_] His Honor the
Attorney-General--

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. I think you can resume the hearing, gentlemen--I am
only passing through Mauleon. I hope to return before long and make your
better acquaintance.

ALL. Your honor--[_They make ready to leave_]

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Monsieur Mouzon, will you remain?

     _Mouzon bows._

MADAME VAGRET [_as she goes out_] My respects--the honor--Monsieur--

ATTORNEY-GENERAL [_bowing_] Mr. President--Madame--Madame--

BUNERAT [_to his wife_] You see, that's it!

     _They go out._

MOUZON [_to the recorder, who is about to leave_] Well, my dear fellow,
I believe my appointment is settled.

RECORDER. I am delighted, Monsieur the Councillor! [_Exit_]


SCENE V:--_Mouzon, Attorney-General. Mouzon rubs his hands together,
bubbling with joy._

MOUZON [_obsequiously_] Your honor--

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Sit down. [_Mouzon does so_] A report has come to my
office from Bordeaux--which concerns you, Monsieur! [_Feeling in his
portfolio_] Here it is. [_Reading_] Mouzon and the woman Pecquet. You
know what it is?

MOUZON [_not taking the matter seriously, forces a smile. After a long
silence_] Yes, your honor--

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. I am waiting for your explanation.

MOUZON [_as before_] You have been young, your honor--

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Not to that extent, Monsieur!

MOUZON. I admit I overstepped the mark a trifle.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL [_reading_] "Being in a state of intoxication, together
with the woman Pecquet and two other women of bad character who
accompanied him, the aforesaid Mouzon used insulting and outrageous
language to the police, whom he threatened with dismissal." Is that what
you call overstepping the mark a trifle?

MOUZON. Perhaps the expression is a little weak.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. And you allow the name of a magistrate to be coupled
in a police report with that of the woman Pecquet?

MOUZON. She told me her name was Diane de Montmorency.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. [_continuing_] "Questioned by us, the commissary of
police, on the following morning, as to the rank of officer in the navy
which he had assumed"--[_The Attorney-General gazes at Mouzon. Another
pause_]

MOUZON [_still smiling_] Yes, it's on account of my whiskers, you know.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Really?

MOUZON. When I--oh, well--when I go to Bordeaux I always assume the rank
of naval officer, in order to safeguard the dignity of the law.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. You seem to have been a little tardy in considering
it.

MOUZON. I beg you to note, your honor, that I endeavored to safeguard it
from the very first, since I took care to go out of the arrondissement
and even the judicial division--in order to--

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. I will continue. "Monsieur Mouzon then informed us of
his actual position as examining magistrate, and invoked that quality in
requesting that we would stop proceedings."

MOUZON. The ass. He has put that in his report? Oh, really--that's due
to his lack of education. No, it's a political affair--the commissary is
one of our opponents--I asked him--After all--I wanted to avoid scandal.
Anyone would have done the same in my place.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Is that the only explanation you have to give me?

MOUZON. Explanation? The truth is, Monsieur, that if you insist on
maintaining, in this conversation, the relations between a superior and
a subordinate, I can give you no further explanation. But if you would
be so good as to allow me for a moment to forget your position, if you
would agree to talk to me as man to man, I should tell you that this was
a fault of youth, regrettable, no doubt, but explained by the profound
boredom which exudes from the very paving-stones of Mauleon. Come, come!
I had dined too well. Every night of the year a host of decent fellows
find themselves in the same case. It's a pecadillo which doesn't affect
one's personal honor.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Monsieur, when one has the honor to be a
magistrate--when one has accepted the mission of judging one's fellows,
one is bound more than all others to observe temperance and to consider
one's dignity in all things. What may not affect the honor of the
private citizen does affect the honor of the judge. You may take that
for granted.

MOUZON. As you refuse to discuss the matter otherwise than in an
official manner, nothing remains for me but to beg you to inform me what
you have decided to do.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Cannot you guess?

MOUZON. I am an examining magistrate. You will make me an ordinary
magistrate. It means my income will be diminished by five hundred francs
a year. I accept.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. It is unfortunately impossible for me to content
myself with such a simple measure. To speak plainly, I must inform you
that Monsieur Coire, the director of the newspaper which attacks us so
persistently, is acquainted with the whole of the facts of the
accusation brought against you and will not give his word not to publish
them unless by the end of the month you have left the Mauleon Court. I
therefore find myself in the unhappy necessity of demanding your
resignation.

MOUZON. I shall not resign.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. You will not resign?

MOUZON. I am distressed to oppose any desire of yours, but I am quite
decided. I shall not resign.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. But really--you cannot know--

MOUZON. I know everything.  ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Very well, sir, we shall
proceed against you.

MOUZON. Proceed. [_He rises_]

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Are you not alarmed at the scandal which would result
from your appearance in court and your probable conviction?

MOUZON. Conviction is less probable than you think. I shall be able to
defend myself and to select my advocate. As for the scandal, it wouldn't
fall on me. I am a bachelor, with no family; I know no one or next to no
one in Mauleon, where I am really in exile. My friends are all in
Bordeaux; they belong to the _monde ou l'on s'amuse_, and I should not
in the least lose caste in their eyes on account of such a prosecution.
You think I ought to leave the magistracy? Fortunately I have sufficient
to live on without the thirty-five hundred francs the Government of the
Republic allows me annually.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. That is enough, Monsieur. Good-day.

MOUZON. My respects. [_He goes out_]

DOORKEEPER. Monsieur the deputy is here, your honor. Monsieur the deputy
says that your honor is waiting for him.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. That is so. Ask him to come in.

     _Enter Mondoubleau. The Attorney-General advances towards
     him and shakes hands with him._


SCENE VI:--_Mondoubleau, Attorney-General._

MONDOUBLEAU. Good-day, my dear Attorney-General.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Good-day, my dear deputy.

MONDOUBLEAU. I'm delighted to see you. I've come from Paris. I had lunch
yesterday with my friend the Keeper of the Seals. The Government is
badly worried just at the moment.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. About what?

MONDOUBLEAU. They're afraid of an interpellation. Just a chance--I'll
tell you about it. Tell me--it seems you have a young assistant here who
has been playing pranks.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Monsieur Ardeuil?

MONDOUBLEAU. Ardeuil, yes, that's the man. Eugène follows matters very
closely.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Eugène?

MONDOUBLEAU. Eugène--my friend Eugène--the Keeper of the Seals. He said
to me, "I expect your Attorney-General to understand how to do his
duty."

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. I ask nothing better, but let me know what my duty is.

MONDOUBLEAU. That's just what one wants to avoid. But look here, my
friend, you are a very mysterious person!

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. I?

MONDOUBLEAU. You are asking for a change of appointment.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Who told you that?

MONDOUBLEAU. Who do you suppose? He is the only one who knows.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Eug--[_Quickly_] The Keeper of the Seals?

MONDOUBLEAU. You want to be appointed to Orléans? Am I correctly
informed?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Quite true. We have relations there.

MONDOUBLEAU. I fancy you are concerned in the movement now in
preparation.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Is there a movement in preparation?

MONDOUBLEAU. There is. As for Monsieur Ardeuil, the Minister confined
himself to saying that he had confidence in your firmness and zeal.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. The Keeper of the Seals may rely on me. I shall have
to show considerable severity in several directions here, and I shall
lack neither determination nor zeal, I can assure you.

MONDOUBLEAU. Yes, but above all, tact! Eugène repeated a dozen times,
"Above all, no prosecutions, no scandals. At the present moment less
than ever. We are being watched. So everything must be done quietly."

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. You needn't be alarmed. There's the matter of Mouzon.

MONDOUBLEAU. Mouzon! Mouzon the examining magistrate!

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Yes.

MONDOUBLEAU. Of Mauleon?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Precisely.

MONDOUBLEAU. You aren't thinking of--One of my best friends--very well
disposed--a capital fellow--an excellent magistrate, full of energy and
discernment. I mentioned his name to Eugène in connection with the
vacant post of Councillor.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. [_offering him the report_] You've picked the wrong
man. I am going to show you a document about him. Besides, the post is
promised to Monsieur Vagret.

MONDOUBLEAU. What is wrong?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Here. I shall have to report him to the Superior
Council of the Magistracy or proceed against him in the Court of Appeal.

MONDOUBLEAU. What has he done?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Read it.

MONDOUBLEAU [_after casting a glance over the document which the other
has handed to him_] Of course. But really--there's nothing in that. If
you keep quiet about it, no one will know anything. No scandal. The
magistracy is suffering from too many attacks already just now, without
our providing our enemies with weapons.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Unfortunately Coire knows of it, and he threatens to
tell the whole story in his paper unless Monsieur Mouzon is sent away
from Mauleon.

MONDOUBLEAU. The devil! [_He begins to laugh_]

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. What are you laughing at?

MONDOUBLEAU. Nothing--an extravagant idea, a jest. [_He laughs_] Tell
me--but you won't be annoyed?--it's only a joke--

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Well?

MONDOUBLEAU. I was thinking--I tell you, it's a grotesque idea. But
after all--after all, if you propose Mouzon for the Councillor's chair
at Pau, you will be pleasing everyone!

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. My dear deputy--

MONDOUBLEAU. A joke--of course, merely a joke--but what's so amusing
about it is that if you did so it would please Coire, it would please
me, it would please Mouzon, and it would please Eugène, who doesn't want
any scandal.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. But it would be a--

MONDOUBLEAU. No, no. In politics there can be no scandal except where
there is publicity.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. But really--

MONDOUBLEAU. I agree with you--I know all that could be said--I repeat,
I am only chaffing. And do you realize--it's very curious--when one
reflects--this fantastic solution is the only one that does not offer
serious disadvantages--obvious disadvantages. That is so. If you leave
Mouzon here, Coire tells everything. If you proceed against him, you
give a certain section of the press an opportunity it won't lose--an
opportunity of sapping one of the pillars of society. Those gentry are
not particular as to the means they employ. They will confound the whole
magistracy with Mouzon. It won't be Mouzon who will be the rake, but the
Court, the Court of Appeal. There will be mud on all--on every robe.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. But you can't seriously ask me--

MONDOUBLEAU. Do you know what we ought to do? Let us go and talk it over
with Rollet the senator--he is only a step from here.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. I assure you--

MONDOUBLEAU. Come--come. You will put in a word as to your going to
Orléans at the same time. What have you to risk? I tell you my solution
is the best. You will come to it, I assure you! I'll take you along.
[_He takes his arm_]

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Well, well, I had certainly something to say to
Rollet.

     _The doorkeeper enters._

DOORKEEPER. Your honor--

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Where are they? The verdict--?

DOORKEEPER. Not yet. Monsieur Vagret has been making a reply.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Is the jury in the withdrawing room?

DOORKEEPER. No, your honor. They were going out when Monsieur Vagret
asked for an adjournment.

MONDOUBLEAU. What an idea! Really! Well, my friend, let us go. I tell
you, you'll come round!

ATTORNEY-GENERAL [_weakly_] Never! Never!


SCENE VII:--_Recorder, then the doorkeeper, then Madame Vagret, the
President of Assizes, Bunerat, Madame Bunerat, and Vagret._

RECORDER [_much moved_] Admirable!

DOORKEEPER [_half opening the door at the back_] Monsieur Benoît! What's
the news?

RECORDER. Splendid! Our Prosecutor was admirable--and that Etchepare is
the lowest swine.

     _Enter Madame Vagret, greatly moved. The recorder goes up to
     her. The doorkeeper disappears._

MADAME VAGRET. Ah! My God!

RECORDER. Madame Vagret, I am only a simple clerk, but allow me to say
it was admirable! Wonderful!

MADAME VAGRET. Wonderful!

RECORDER. As for the counsel from Bordeaux, Monsieur Vagret had him
absolutely at his mercy!

MADAME VAGRET. Hadn't he?

RECORDER. He's certain enough, now, to be condemned to death!

MADAME VAGRET. Certain!

RECORDER. Madame, the jurymen were looking at that fellow Etchepare,
that thug, in a way that made my blood run cold. As Monsieur Vagret went
on with his speech you felt they would have liked to settle his hash
themselves--the wretch!

MADAME VAGRET. I saw that--

RECORDER. I beg your pardon, Madame--I am forgetting myself--but there
are moments when one is thankful, yes, so gratified, that social
differences don't count.

MADAME VAGRET. You are right, my dear man.

     _Enter the President of Assizes and Bunerat._

THE PRESIDENT. Madame, I congratulate you! We've got it, the capital
sentence!

MADAME VAGRET. We have it safely this time, haven't we, Monsieur?

THE PRESIDENT. That is certain. But where is our hero? Magnificent--he
was magnificent--wasn't he, Bunerat?

BUNERAT. Oh, sir, but the manner in which you presided prepared the way
so well--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, well, I don't say I count for nothing in the
result, but we must do justice to Vagret. [_To Madame Vagret_] You ought
to be greatly gratified--very proud and happy, my dear Madame--

MADAME VAGRET. Oh, I am, your honor--

THE PRESIDENT. But what a strange idea to demand an adjournment! Is he
unwell?

MADAME VAGRET. Oh, dear!

THE PRESIDENT. No. Here he is.

     _Enter Vagret. He is anxious._

MADAME VAGRET. Ah, my dear! [_She takes his hand in hers. She can say no
more, being choked by tears of joy_]

THE PRESIDENT. It was wonderful!

BUNERAT. I can't restrain myself from congratulating you too.

VAGRET. Really, you confuse me. The whole merit is yours, Monsieur.

THE PRESIDENT. Not at all. Do you know what carried them all away? [_He
lights a cigarette_]

VAGRET. No!

THE PRESIDENT. It was when you exclaimed, "Gentlemen of the jury, you
own houses, farms, and property; you have beloved wives, and daughters
whom you tenderly cherish. Beware--" You were splendid there!
[_Resuming_] "Beware, if you leave such crimes unpunished; beware, if
you allow yourselves to be led astray by the eloquent sentimentality of
the defence; beware, I tell you, if you fail in your duty as the
instrument of justice; beware, lest those above you snatch up the sword
which has fallen from your feeble hands, when the blood that you have
not avenged will be spilt upon you and yours!" That was fine! Very fine!
And it produced a great effect.

BUNERAT. But you, my dear President, you moved them even more noticeably
when you recalled the fact, very appropriately, that the accused loved
the sight of blood.

THE PRESIDENT. Ah, yes, that told a little!

ALL. What? What was that?

BUNERAT. The President put this question: "On the morning of the crime
did you not slaughter two sheep?" "Yes," replied the accused. And then,
looking him straight in the eyes--

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I asked him: "You were getting into practice,
weren't you?" [_To Vagret_] But after all, if I have to a certain extent
affected the result, the greater part of the honor of the day is yours.

VAGRET. You are too kind.

THE PRESIDENT. Not at all! And your peroration! [_With an artist's
curiosity_] You were really, were you not, under the stress of a great
emotion, a really great emotion?

VAGRET [_gravely_] Yes, I was under the stress of a great emotion, a
really great emotion.

THE PRESIDENT. You turned quite pale when you faced the jury--when you
added, in a clear voice, "Gentlemen, I demand the head of this man!"

VAGRET [_his eyes fixed_] Yes.

THE PRESIDENT. Then you made a sign to the advocate.

VAGRET. Yes. I thought he would have something else to say.

THE PRESIDENT. But why delay the verdict? You had won the victory.

VAGRET. Precisely.

THE PRESIDENT. What do you mean?

VAGRET. During my indictment a fact came to light that worried me.

THE PRESIDENT. A fact?

VAGRET. Not a fact--but--in short--[_A pause_] I beg your pardon--I am
very tired--

THE PRESIDENT. I can very well understand your emotion, my dear
Vagret. One always feels--on the occasion of one's first death
sentence--but--you will see one gets used to it. [_Going out, to
Bunerat_] Indeed, he does look very tired.

BUNERAT. I fancy he is feeling his position too keenly.

VAGRET. As I was leaving the Court I met the Attorney-General. I begged
him urgently to give me a moment's conversation. I wanted to speak with
him alone--and with you, Monsieur le Président.

BUNERAT. As you wish.

MADAME VAGRET. I am afraid you are unwell, my dear. I shall wait there.
I will come back directly these gentlemen have gone.

VAGRET. Very well.

MADAME BUNERAT [_going out, to her husband_] There's a man ready to do
something stupid.

BUNERAT. That doesn't concern us.

     _They go out._


SCENE VIII:--_Vagret, the President of Assizes, then the
Attorney-General._

THE PRESIDENT. Did you notice any mistake on my part in the direction of
the case?

VAGRET. No, if any mistake was made, it was I who made it.

     _The Attorney-General enters._

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. What is this that is so serious, my dear sir?

VAGRET. It's this--I am more worried than I can say. I want to appeal to
the conscience of you two gentlemen--to reassure myself--

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Tell us.

VAGRET. A whole series of facts--the attitude of the accused--certain
details which had escaped me--have given rise, in my mind, to a doubt as
to the guilt of this man.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Was there any mention of these facts, these details,
in the brief?

VAGRET. Certainly.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Had the advocate studied this brief?

VAGRET. Naturally.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Well, then? What are you worrying yourself about?

VAGRET. But--suppose the man is not guilty?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. The jury will decide. We can do no more, all of us,
than bow to its verdict.

VAGRET. Let me tell you, sir, how my convictions have been shaken.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. I do not wish to know. All that is a matter between
yourself and your conscience. You have the right to explain your
scruples to the jury. You know the proverb: "The pen is a slave, but
speech is free."

VAGRET. I shall follow your advice.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. I do not give you any advice.

VAGRET. I shall explain my doubts to the jury.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. It will mean acquittal.

VAGRET. What would you have?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Do as you wish; but I should like to tell you one
thing. When a man plans a startling trick of this kind and has the
courage to accomplish it entirely of his own accord, he must have the
courage to accept the sole responsibility of the blunders he may commit.
You are too clever; you want to discover some means by which you need
not be the only one to suffer from the consequences of your
vacillations.

VAGRET. Clever? I? How?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Come, come! We are not children, and I can perfectly
well see the trap into which you have lured me. You are sheltering
yourself behind me. If the Chancellery should complain of your attitude,
you will say that you consulted your superior, and I shall be the
victim. And then I shall have a quarrel with the Chancellery on my
hands. You don't care, you don't think of my position or my interests,
of which you know nothing. Some silly idea gets into your head, and
against my will you want to make me responsible for it. I say again, it
is extremely clever, and I congratulate you, but I don't thank you.

VAGRET. You have misunderstood me, sir. I have no wish to burden you
with the responsibilities I am about to assume. I should hardly choose
the moment when I am on the point of being appointed Councillor to
perpetrate such a blunder. I told you of my perplexity, and I asked your
advice. That was all.

THE PRESIDENT. Are you certain one way or the other?

VAGRET. If I were certain, should I ask advice? [_A pause_] If we only
had a cause for cassation, a good--

THE PRESIDENT [_enraged_] What's that you say? Cause for cassation?
Based on an error or on an oversight on my part, no doubt! Really, you
have plenty of imagination! You are attacked by certain doubts, certain
scruples--I don't know what--and in order to quiet your morbidly
distracted conscience you ask me kindly to make myself the culprit!
Convenient, in truth, to foist on others who have done their duty the
blunders one may have committed oneself!

ATTORNEY-GENERAL [_quietly_] It is indeed.

THE PRESIDENT. And at the Chancellery, when they mention me, they'll
say, "Whatever sort of a councillor is this, who hasn't even the
capacity to preside over an Assize Court at Mauleon!" A man whom we've
taken such trouble to get condemned! And to make me, me, the victim of
such trickery! No, no! Think of another way, my dear Monsieur; you won't
employ that, I can assure you.

VAGRET. Then I shall seek other means; but I shall not leave matters in
their present state.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL. Do what you like, but realize that I have given you no
advice in one direction or another.

VAGRET. I realize that.

THE PRESIDENT. When you have decided to resume the hearing you will
notify us.

VAGRET. I will notify you.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL [_to the President_] Let us go.

     _They leave the office._


SCENE IX:--_Vagret, Madame Vagret._

MADAME VAGRET. What is it?

VAGRET. Nothing.

MADAME VAGRET. Nothing? You are so depressed--and yet you've just had
such a success as will tell on your career.

VAGRET. It is that success which alarms me.

MADAME VAGRET. Alarms you?

VAGRET. Yes, I'm afraid--

MADAME VAGRET. Afraid of what?

VAGRET. Of having gone too far.

MADAME VAGRET. Too far! Doesn't the murderer deserve death ten times
over?

VAGRET [_after a pause_] Are you quite certain, yourself, that he is a
murderer?

MADAME VAGRET. Yes.

VAGRET [_in a low voice_] Well--for myself--

MADAME VAGRET. You?

VAGRET. I--I don't know. I know nothing.

MADAME VAGRET. My God!

VAGRET. A dreadful thing happened to me in the course of my indictment.
While I, the State Attorney, the official prosecutor, was exercising my
function, another self was examining the case calmly, in cold blood; an
inner voice kept reproaching me for my violence and insinuating into my
mind a doubt, which has gone on increasing. A painful struggle has been
going on in my mind, a cruel struggle--and if, as I was finishing, I
labored under that emotion of which the President was speaking, if when
I demanded the death penalty my voice was scarcely audible, it was
because I was at the end of my struggle; because my conscience was on
the point of winning the battle, and I made haste to finish, because I
was afraid it would speak out against my will. When I saw the advocate
remain seated and that he was not going to resume his speech in order to
tell the jury the things I would have had him tell them--then I was
really afraid of myself, afraid of my actions, of my words, of their
terrible consequences, and I wanted to gain time.

MADAME VAGRET. But, my dear, you have done your duty; if the advocate
has not done his, that does not concern you.

VAGRET. Always the same reply. If I were an honest man I should tell the
jury, when the hearing is resumed, of the doubts that have seized me. I
should explain how those doubts arose in me; I should call their
attention to a point which I deliberately concealed from them, because I
believed the counsel for the defence would point it out to him.

MADAME VAGRET. You know, my dear, how thoroughly I respect your
scruples, but allow me to tell you all the same that it won't be you who
will declare Etchepare guilty or not guilty; it will be the jury. If
anyone ought to feel disturbed, it is Maître Plaçat, not you--

VAGRET. But I ought to represent justice!

MADAME VAGRET. Here is a prisoner who comes before you with previous
convictions, with a whole crushing series of circumstances establishing
his guilt. He is defended by whom? By one of the ornaments of the Bar, a
man famed for his conscience as much as for his ability and his
oratorical skill. You expound the facts to the jury. If the jury agrees
with you, I cannot see that your responsibility as a magistrate is
involved.

VAGRET. I don't think about my responsibility as a magistrate--but my
responsibility as a man is certainly involved! No! No! I have not the
right. I tell you there is a series of circumstances in this case of
which no one has spoken and the nature of which makes me believe in the
innocence of the accused.

MADAME VAGRET. But--these circumstances--how was it you knew nothing of
them until now?

VAGRET [_his head drooping_] Do you think I did know nothing of them? My
God! Shall I have the courage to tell you everything? I am not a bad
man, am I? I wouldn't wish anyone to suffer for a fault of
mine--but--oh, I am ashamed to admit it, to say it aloud, even, when I
have admitted it to myself! Well, when I was studying the brief, I had
got it so firmly fixed in my mind, to begin with, that Etchepare was a
criminal, that when an argument in his favor presented itself to my
mind, I rejected it utterly, shrugging my shoulders. As for the facts of
which I am speaking, and which gave rise to my doubts--at first I simply
tried to prove that those facts were false, taking, from the depositions
of the witnesses, only that which would militate against their truth and
rejecting all the rest, with a terrible simplicity of bad faith. And in
the end, in order to dissipate my last scruples, I told myself, just as
you told me, "That is the business of the defence; it isn't mine!"
Listen, and you'll see to what point the exercise of the magistrate's
office distorts our natures, makes us unjust and cruel. At first I had a
feeling of delight when I saw that the President, in his
cross-examination, was throwing no light whatever on this series of
little facts. It was my profession speaking in me, my profession, do you
see? Oh, what poor creatures we are, what poor creatures!

MADAME VAGRET. Perhaps the jury won't find him guilty?

VAGRET. It will find him guilty.

MADAME VAGRET. Or it may find there are extenuating circumstances.

VAGRET. No. I adjured them too earnestly to refuse to do so. I was
zealous enough, wasn't I? Violent enough?

MADAME VAGRET. That's true. Why did you make your indictment so
passionately?

VAGRET. Ah, why, why? Long before the hearing of the case it was so
clearly understood by everybody that the prisoner was the criminal! And
then it all went to my head, it intoxicated me--the way they talked. I
was the spokesman of humanity, I was to reassure the countryside, I was
to restore tranquillity to the family, and I don't know what else! So
then--I felt I must show myself equal to the part intrusted to me. My
first indictment was relatively moderate--but when I saw the celebrated
counsel making the jurymen weep, I thought I was lost; I felt the
verdict would escape me. Contrary to my habit, I replied. When I rose to
my feet for the second time I was like a man fighting, who has just had
a vision of defeat, and who therefore fights with the strength of
despair. From that moment Etchepare, so to speak, no longer existed. I
was no longer concerned to defend society or sustain my accusation; I
was contending against the advocate; it was a trial of orators, a
competition of actors; I had to be the victor at all costs. I had to
convince the jury, resume my hold on it, wring from it the double "yes"
of the verdict. I tell you, Etchepare no longer counted; it was I who
counted, my vanity, my reputation, my honor, my future. It's shameful, I
tell you, shameful. At any cost I wanted to prevent the acquittal which
I felt was certain. And I was so afraid of not succeeding that I
employed every argument, good and bad, even that of representing to the
terrified jurymen their own houses in flames, their own flesh and blood
murdered. I spoke of the vengeance of God falling on judges without
severity. And all this in good faith--or rather unconsciously, in a
burst of passion, in an access of anger against the advocate, whom I
hated at that moment with all my might. My success was greater than I
hoped; the jury is ready to obey me; and I, my dear, I have allowed
myself to be congratulated, I have grasped the hands held out to me.
That is what it is to be a magistrate!

MADAME VAGRET. Never mind. Perhaps there aren't ten in all France who
would have acted otherwise.

VAGRET. You are right. Only--if one reflects--it's precisely that that's
so dreadful.

RECORDER [_entering_] Monsieur le Procureur, the President is asking
when the sitting can be resumed.

VAGRET. At once.

MADAME VAGRET. What are you going to do?

VAGRET. My duty as an honest man. [_He makes ready to go_]


CURTAIN.



ACT IV

SCENES--_Same as the Second Act._


SCENE I:-_Bunerat, the President of Assizes, and Vagret._

BUNERAT. Well, your honor, there's another session finished.

THE PRESIDENT [_in red robe_] I've been in a blue funk lest these brutes
would make me lose my train. I'm going shooting to-morrow on the Cambo
Ponds, you see, my dear fellow, and after to-night's train it's no go.
[_Looks at his watch_] Oh, I've an hour and a half yet.

BUNERAT. And what do you think of it, your honor?

THE PRESIDENT. Of what? Of the acquittal? What does it matter to me? I
don't care--on the contrary, I prefer it. I am certain the advocate
won't ferret out some unintentional defect--some formality gone wrong.
Where's my hat-box?

     _He is about to stand on a chair to reach the hat-box, which
     is on the top of a cupboard. Bunerat precedes him._

BUNERAT. Permit me, Monsieur. You are at home here. [_From the chair_] I
believe I shall have the pleasure of seeing you here again next session.
[_He sighs, holding out the hat-box_]

THE PRESIDENT. A pleasure I shall share, my dear fellow. [_He takes out
a small felt hat from the box_]

BUNERAT. Would you like a brush? There's Mouzon's brush. [_A sigh_] Ah,
good God, when shall I leave Mauleon? I should so like to live at Pau!

THE PRESIDENT. Pooh! A much overrated city! Come, come!

BUNERAT. I suppose my new duties won't take me there yet?

THE PRESIDENT. Don't you worry yourself. In the winter, yes, it's very
well--but the summer--ah, the summer.

BUNERAT. I am not the one appointed?

THE PRESIDENT. Ah! You know already?

BUNERAT. Yes--I--yes--that is to say, I didn't know it was official.

THE PRESIDENT [_brushing his hat and catching sight of a dent_] Dented
already. In these days the hats they sell you for felt, my dear chap,
they're paste-board, simply--

BUNERAT. True. Yes, I didn't know it was official. Monsieur Mouzon is
very lucky.

     _Enter Vagret in mufti._

THE PRESIDENT. There, there is our dear Monsieur Vagret. Changed your
dress already. Yes, you're at home, you. For my part I must pack up all
this. Where the devil is the box I put my gown in? [_Bunerat makes a
step to fetch it and then remains motionless_] It's curious--that--what
have they done with it? In that cupboard--you haven't seen it, my dear
Monsieur Bunerat?

BUNERAT. No.

THE PRESIDENT. Ah, here it is--and my jacket in it. [_He opens the box
and takes out his jacket, which he lays aside on the table_] Well, well,
you've got them acquitted, my dear sir! Are you satisfied?

VAGRET. I am very glad.

THE PRESIDENT. And if they are the murderers?

VAGRET. I must console myself with Berryer's remark: "It is better to
leave ten guilty men at liberty than to punish one innocent man."

THE PRESIDENT. You have a sensitive nature.

VAGRET. Ought one to have a heart of stone, then, to be a magistrate?

THE PRESIDENT [_tying up the box in which he has put his judge's
bonnet_] One must keep oneself above the little miseries of humanity.

VAGRET. Above the miseries of others.

THE PRESIDENT. Hang it all--

VAGRET. That is what we call egoism.

THE PRESIDENT. Do you say that for my benefit?

VAGRET. For all three of us.

BUNERAT. Au revoir, gentlemen. Au revoir. [_He shakes hands with each
and goes out_]

THE PRESIDENT [_taking off his gown_] My dear Monsieur, I beg you to be
more moderate in your remarks.

VAGRET. Ah, I assure you that I am moderate! If I were to speak what is
in my mind, you would hear very unpleasant things.

THE PRESIDENT [_in shirt sleeves_] Are you forgetting to whom you are
speaking? I am a Councillor of the Court, Monsieur le Procureur.

VAGRET. Once again, I am not speaking to you merely; the disagreeable
things I might say would condemn me equally. I am thinking of those poor
people.

THE PRESIDENT [_brushing his gown_] What poor people? The late
prisoners? But after all, they are acquitted. What more do you want? To
provide them with an income?

VAGRET. They are acquitted, true; but they are condemned, all the same.
They are sentenced to misery for life.

THE PRESIDENT. What are you talking about?

VAGRET. And through your fault, Monsieur.

THE PRESIDENT [_stopping in his task of folding his gown_] My fault!

VAGRET. And what is so particularly serious is that you didn't know it,
you didn't see, you haven't seen the harm you did.

THE PRESIDENT. What harm? I have done no harm! I?

VAGRET. When you informed Etchepare that his wife had long ago been
condemned for receiving stolen goods, and that she had been seduced
before his marriage with her. When you did that you did a wicked thing.

THE PRESIDENT. You are a Don Quixote. Do you suppose Etchepare didn't
know all that?

VAGRET. If you had noticed his emotion when his wife, on your asking her
if the facts were correct, replied that they were, you would be certain,
as I am, that he knew nothing.

THE PRESIDENT [_packing his gown in its box_] Well, even so! You
attribute to people of that sort susceptibilities which they don't
possess.

VAGRET. Your honor, "people of that sort" have hearts, just as you and I
have.

THE PRESIDENT. Admitted. Didn't my duty force me to do as I did?

VAGRET. I know nothing about that.

THE PRESIDENT [_still in shirt sleeves_] It's the law that is guilty,
then, eh? Yes? Well, Monsieur, if I did my duty--and I did--you are
lacking in your duty in attacking the law, whose faithful servant you
should be, the law which I, for one, am proud to represent.

VAGRET. There's no reason for your pride.

THE PRESIDENT. Monsieur!

VAGRET. It's a monstrous thing, I tell you, that one can reproach an
accused person, whether innocent or guilty, with a fault committed ten
years ago, and which has been expiated. Yes, Monsieur, it is a horrible
thing that, after punishing, the law does not pardon.

THE PRESIDENT [_who has put on his jacket and hat_] If you think the law
is bad, get it altered. Enter Parliament.

VAGRET. Alas, if I were a deputy, it is probable that I should be like
the rest; instead of thinking of such matters I should think of nothing
but calculating the probable duration of the Government.

THE PRESIDENT [_his box under his arm_] In that case--is the
doorkeeper--

VAGRET [_touching a bell_] He will come. Then it's Monsieur Mouzon who
is appointed in my place?

THE PRESIDENT. It is Monsieur Mouzon.

VAGRET. Because he's the creature of a deputy, a Mondoubleau--

THE PRESIDENT. I cannot allow you to speak ill of Monsieur
Mondoubleau--before my face.

VAGRET. You think you may perhaps have need of him.

THE PRESIDENT. Precisely. [_The doorkeeper appears_] Will you carry that
to my hotel for me? The hotel by the station. You will easily recognize
it; my sentry is at the door. [_He hands the doorkeeper his boxes_] Au
revoir, my dear Vagret--no offence taken.

     _He goes. Vagret puts on his hat and also makes ready to go.
     Enter recorder and Etchepare._

THE RECORDER. You are going, your honor?

VAGRET. Yes.

THE RECORDER. You won't have any objection, then, if I bring Etchepare
in here? He's in the corridor, waiting for the formalities of his
release--and he complains he's an object of curiosity to everyone.

VAGRET. Of course!

THE RECORDER. I'll tell them to bring his wife here too when she leaves
the record office.

VAGRET. Very well.

THE RECORDER. I am just going to warn the warders--but the woman
Etchepare can't be released immediately.

VAGRET. Why?

THE RECORDER. She's detained in connection with another case. She's
charged with abusing a magistrate in the exercise of his duty.

VAGRET. Is that magistrate Monsieur Mouzon?

THE RECORDER. Yes, Monsieur.

VAGRET. I will try to arrange that.

THE RECORDER. Good-day, your honor.

VAGRET. Good-day.


SCENE II.

THE RECORDER [_at the door_] Etchepare--come in. You had better wait
here for your final discharge. It won't take much longer.

ETCHEPARE. Thank you, Monsieur.

THE RECORDER. Well, there you are, then, acquitted, my poor fellow!
There's one matter done with.

ETCHEPARE. It's finished as far as justice is concerned, Monsieur; it
isn't finished for me. I'm acquitted, it's true, but my life is made
miserable.

THE RECORDER. You didn't know--

ETCHEPARE. That's it.

THE RECORDER. It's a long time ago--you'll forgive her.

ETCHEPARE. Things like that, Monsieur--a Basque never forgives them.
It's as though a thunderbolt had struck me to the heart. And all the
misfortune that's befallen us--it's she who is the cause--God has
avenged himself. Everything's over.

THE RECORDER [_after a pause_] I am sorry for you with all my heart.

ETCHEPARE. Thank you, Monsieur. [_A pause_] Since you are so kind,
Monsieur, will you allow my mother, who's there in the corridor, waiting
for me, to come and speak to me?

THE RECORDER. I'll send her in to you. Good-bye.

ETCHEPARE. Good-bye.


SCENE III:--_The recorder goes out. Enter Etchepare's mother._

ETCHEPARE [_pressing his mother's head against his breast_] Poor old
mother--how the misery of these three months has changed you!

THE MOTHER. My poor boy, how you must have suffered!

ETCHEPARE. That woman!

THE MOTHER. Yes, they've just been telling me.

ETCHEPARE. For ten years I've lived with that thief--that wretched
woman! How she lied! Ah! When I heard that judge say to her, "You were
convicted of theft and complicity with your lover," and when, before all
those people, she owned to it--I tell you, mummy, I thought the skies
were falling on my head--and when she admitted she'd been that man's
mistress--I don't know just what happened--nor which I would have killed
soonest--the judge who said such things so calmly or her who admitted
them with her back turned to me. And then I was on the point of
confessing myself guilty--I, an innocent man--in order not to learn any
more--to get away--but I thought of you and the children! [_A long
pause_] Come! We've got to make up our minds what we're going to do. You
left them at home?

THE MOTHER. No. I had to send them to our cousin at Bayonne. We've no
longer got a home--we've nothing--we are ruined. Besides, I've got a
horror of this place now. The women edge away and make signs to one
another when I meet them, and in the church they leave me all alone in
the middle of an empty space. Already--I had to take the children away
from school.

ETCHEPARE. My God!

THE MOTHER. No one would speak to them. One day Georges picked a quarrel
with the biggest, and they fought, and as Georges got the better of it,
the other, to revenge himself, called him the son of a gallows-bird.

ETCHEPARE. And Georges?

THE MOTHER. He came home crying and wouldn't go out of doors. It was
then that I sent them away to Bayonne.

ETCHEPARE. That's what we'll do. Go away. We'll go and fetch them.
To-morrow or to-night I shall be with you again. There are emigration
companies there--boats to America--they'll send all four of us--they'll
give us credit for the voyage on account of the children.

THE MOTHER. And when they ask for their mother--

ETCHEPARE [_after a pause_] You'll tell them she's dead.


SCENE IV:--_Yanetta is shown in._

YANETTA [_to someone outside_] Very good, Monsieur. [_The door is
closed_]

THE MOTHER [_without looking at Yanetta_] Then I'll go.

ETCHEPARE [_the same_] Yes. I shall see you again to-night or down there
to-morrow.

THE MOTHER. Very well.

ETCHEPARE. Directly you get there you'll go and find out about the day
and hour.

THE MOTHER. Very well.

ETCHEPARE. Till to-morrow then.

THE MOTHER. To-morrow. [_She goes out without glancing at Yanetta_]

YANETTA [_takes a few steps towards her husband, falls on her knees, and
clasps her hands. In a low voice_] Forgive me!

ETCHEPARE. Never!

YANETTA. Don't say never!

ETCHEPARE. Was the judge lying?

YANETTA. No--he wasn't lying.

ETCHEPARE. You wretched thing!

YANETTA. Yes, I am a wretched thing! Forgive me!

ETCHEPARE. Kill you rather! I could kill you!

YANETTA. Yes, yes! But forgive me!

ETCHEPARE. You're just a loose woman--a loose woman from Paris, with no
honor, no shame, no honesty even!

YANETTA. Yes! Insult me--strike me!

ETCHEPARE. For ten years you have been lying to me!

YANETTA. Oh, how I wished I could have told you everything! Oh, how many
times I began that dreadful confession! I never had courage enough. I
was always afraid of your anger, Pierre, and of the pain I should cause
you--I saw you were so happy!

ETCHEPARE. You came from up there, fresh from your vice, fresh from
prison, and you chose me to be your gull.

YANETTA. My God, to think he believes that!

ETCHEPARE. You brought me the leavings of a swindler--the leavings of a
swindler--and you stole, in my house, the place of an honest woman!
Your lies have brought the curse of God on my family and it's you who
are the cause of everything. The misfortune that's just befallen us,
it's you who are the cause of it, I tell you! You're a pest, accursed,
damned! Don't say another word to me! Don't speak to me!

YANETTA. Have you no pity, Pierre? Do you suppose I'm not suffering?

ETCHEPARE. If you are suffering you've deserved it! You haven't suffered
enough yet. But what had I ever done to you that you should choose me
for your victim? What did I ever do that I should have to bear what I'm
suffering? You've made me a coward--you've lowered me almost to your own
level--I ought to have been able to put you out of my mind and my heart
already! And I can't! And I'm suffering torture, terrible torture--for
I'm suffering through the love I once had for you. You--you were
everything to me for ten years--my whole life. You've been everything,
everything! And now the one hope left me is that I may forget you!

YANETTA. Oh, forgive me!

ETCHEPARE. Never! Never!

YANETTA. Don't say that word--only God has the right to say--never! I
will come back to you. I'll be only like the head servant--no, the
lowest if you like! I won't take my place in the home again until you
tell me to.

ETCHEPARE. We have no house; we have no home. Nothing is left now! And I
tell you again it's your fault--and it's because you used to be there,
in the mother's place, my mother's place, you, a lie and a
sacrilege--it's because of that that misfortune has overtaken us!

YANETTA. I swear to you I'd make you forget it all in time--I'd be so
humble, so devoted, so repentant. And wherever you go I shall follow
you. Pierre--think, your children still need me.

ETCHEPARE. My children! You shall never see them again! You shall never
speak to them. I won't have you kiss them. I won't have you even touch
them!

YANETTA [_changing her tone_] Ah, no, not that, not that! The children!
No, you are wrong there! You can deprive me of everything--you can put
every imaginable shame upon me--you can force me to beg my bread--I'll
do it willingly. You needn't look at me--you needn't speak to me except
to abuse me--you can do anything, anything you like. But my children, my
children--they are mine, the fruit of my body--they are still part of
me--they are blood of my blood and bone of my bone forever. You might
cut off one of my arms, and my arm would be a dead thing, and no part of
myself any more, but you can't stop my children being my children.

ETCHEPARE. You have made yourself unworthy to keep them.

YANETTA. Unworthy! What has unworthiness to do with it? Have I ever
failed in my duty to them? Have I been a bad mother? Answer me! I
haven't, have I? Well then, if I haven't been a bad mother, my rights
over them are as great as ever they were! Unworthy! I might be a
thousand times more guilty--more unworthy, as you call it--but neither
you, nor the law, nor the priests, nor God himself would have the right
to take them from me. I have been to blame as a wife, it's possible, but
as a mother I've nothing to reproach myself with. Well then--well
then--no one can steal them from me! And you, who could think of such a
thing, you're a wretch! Yes, it's to avenge yourself that you want to
part me from them! You're just a coward! Just a man! There's no
fatherhood left in your heart--you don't think of them. Yes--you are
lying--I tell you, you are lying! When you say I'm not worthy to bring
them up you're lying! It's only a saying--only words. You know it isn't
true--you know I've nourished them, cared for them, loved them, consoled
them, and I have taught them to say their prayers every night, and I
would go on doing so. You know that no other woman will ever fill my
place--but that makes no difference to you. You forget them--you want to
punish me, so you want to take them from me. I'm justified in saying to
you that it's an act of cowardly wickedness and a vile piece of
vengeance! Ah! The children! You want to gamble with them now. No--to
take them away from me--think, Pierre, think; it isn't possible, what
you are saying!

ETCHEPARE. You are right; I am revenging myself! What you think an
impossibility is done already. My mother has taken the children and gone
away with them.

YANETTA. I shall find them again.

ETCHEPARE. America is a big country.

YANETTA. I shall find them again!

ETCHEPARE. Then I shall tell them why I have taken them away from you!

YANETTA. Never! Never that! I'll obey you, but swear--

     _The recorder enters._

THE RECORDER. Etchepare, come and sign your discharge. You will be
released at once.

YANETTA. Wait a moment, Monsieur, wait a moment. [_To Etchepare_] I
agree to separation if I must. I will disappear--you will never hear of
me again. But in return for this wicked sacrifice swear solemnly that
you will never tell them.

ETCHEPARE. I swear.

YANETTA. You swear never to tell them anything that may lessen their
affection for me?

ETCHEPARE. I swear.

YANETTA. Promise me too--I beg you, Pierre--in the name of our happiness
and my misery--promise to keep me fresh in their memory--let them pray
for me, won't you?

ETCHEPARE. I swear it.

YANETTA. Then go--my life is done with.

ETCHEPARE. Good-bye.

     _He goes out with the recorder. At the door the latter meets
     Mouzon._

THE RECORDER [_to Etchepare_] They are coming to show you the way out.

THE RECORDER [_to Mouzon_] The woman Etchepare is there.

MOUZON. Ah, she's there. Monsieur Vagret has been speaking of her. Well,
I withdraw my complaint; I ask nothing better than that she shall be set
at liberty. Now that I am a Councillor I don't want to be coming back
from Pau every week for the examination. Proceed with the necessary
formalities.


SCENE V:--_Mouzon, Yanetta, the recorder._

MOUZON. Well--in consideration of the time you have been in custody, I
am willing that you should be set at liberty--provisional liberty. I
may, perhaps, even withdraw my complaint if you express regret for
having insulted me.

YANETTA [_calmly_] I do not regret having insulted you.

MOUZON. Do you want to go back to prison?

YANETTA. My poor man, if you only knew how little it matters to me
whether I go to prison or not!

MOUZON. Why?

YANETTA. Because I have nothing left, neither house, nor home, nor
husband, nor children. [_She looks at him_] And--I think--I think--

MOUZON. You think?

YANETTA. I think it is you who are the cause of all the trouble.

MOUZON. You are both acquitted, aren't you? What more do you ask?

YANETTA. We have been acquitted, it is true. But all the same, I am no
longer an honest woman--neither to my husband, nor to my children, nor
to the world.

MOUZON. If anyone reproaches you with the penalty inflicted upon you
formerly, if anyone makes any illusion to the time you have spent in
custody under remand, you have the right to prosecute the offender in
the courts. He will be punished.

YANETTA. Well! It is because someone reproached me with that old
conviction that my husband has taken my children from me. That someone
is a magistrate. Can I have him punished?

MOUZON. No.

YANETTA. Why not? Because he is a magistrate?

MOUZON. No. Because he is the law.

YANETTA. The law! [_Violently_] Then the law is wicked, wicked!

MOUZON. Come, no shouting, no insults, please. [_To the recorder_] Have
you finished? Then go to the office and have an order made out for her
discharge.

YANETTA. I'm no scholar; I've not studied the law in books, like you,
and perhaps for that very reason I know better than you what is just and
what is not. And I want to ask you a plain question: How is the law
going to give me back my children and make up to me for the harm it's
done me?

MOUZON. The law owes you nothing.

YANETTA. The law owes me nothing! Then what are you going to do--you,
the judge?

MOUZON. A magistrate is not responsible.

YANETTA. Ah, you are not responsible! So you can arrest people just as
you like, just when you fancy, on a suspicion or even without a
suspicion; you can bring shame and dishonor on their families; you can
torture the unhappy, ferret into their past lives, expose their
misfortunes, dig up forgotten offences, offences which have been atoned
for and which go back to ten years ago; you can make use of your skill,
your tricks and lies, and your cruelty to send a man to the foot of the
scaffold, and worse still, you can drive people into taking a mother's
children away from her--and after that you say, like Pontius Pilate,
that you aren't responsible! Not responsible! Perhaps you aren't
responsible in the eyes of this law of yours, since you tell me you
aren't, but in the eyes of pure and simple justice, the justice of
decent people, the justice of God, before that I swear you are
responsible, and that is why I am going to call you to account!

     _She sees on Mouzon's desk the dagger which he uses as a
     paper-knife. He turns his back on her. She seizes the knife
     and puts it down again._

MOUZON. I order you to get out of here.

YANETTA. Listen to me. For the last time I ask you--what do you think
you can do to make up to me--to give me back all I've lost through your
fault; what are you going to do to lessen my misery, and how do you
propose to give me back my children?

MOUZON. I have nothing to say to you. I owe you nothing.

YANETTA. You owe me nothing! You owe me more than life--more than
everything. My children I shall never see again. What you've taken from
me is the happiness of every moment of the day--their kisses at
night--the pride I felt in watching them grow up. Never, never again
shall I hear them call me "mother." It's as though they were dead--it's
as though you had killed them. [_She seizes the knife_] Yes! That's your
work; it's you bad judges have done it; you have nearly made a criminal
of an innocent man, and you force an honest woman, a mother--to become a
criminal!

     _She stabs him. He falls._


CURTAIN.





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