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Title: Three Plays by Brieux - Preface by Bernard Shaw
Author: Brieux, Eugène
Language: English
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  Three Plays by Brieux
  Member of the French Academy

[Illustration: Brieux.]



  Three Plays by Brieux.
  With a Preface by Bernard
  Shaw. The English
  Versions by Mrs.
  Bernard Shaw, St. John
  Hankin and John Pollock.

  London: A. C. Fifield,
  13 Clifford’s Inn, E.C.
  1911.

[_Copyright 1911 by Charlotte Frances Shaw. Entered at Stationers’
Hall and at the Library of Congress, Washington, U.S.A. All rights
reserved._]

_Printed by G. Standring, Finsbury St., London, E.C._



Contents


  Brieux: a portrait                       Frontispiece

  Preface by Bernard Shaw                            ix

  Maternity. Translated by Mrs. Bernard
    Shaw                                            liv

  The Three Daughters of M. Dupont. Translated
    by St. John Hankin                               71

  Damaged Goods. Translated by John Pollock         176

  Maternity (new version). Translated by
    John Pollock                                    245



Preface

By Bernard Shaw.


From Molière to Brieux.

After the death of Ibsen, Brieux confronted Europe as the most
important dramatist west of Russia. In that kind of comedy which is so
true to life that we have to call it tragi-comedy, and which is not
only an entertainment but a history and a criticism of contemporary
morals, he is incomparably the greatest writer France has produced
since Molière. The French critics who take it for granted that no
contemporary of theirs could possibly be greater than Beaumarchais are
really too modest. They have never read Beaumarchais, and therefore do
not know how very little of him there is to read, and how, out of the
two variations he wrote on his once famous theme, the second is only
a petition in artistic and intellectual bankruptcy. Had the French
theatre been capable of offering a field to Balzac, my proposition
might have to be modified. But as it was no more able to do that than
the English theatre was to enlist the genius of Dickens, I may say
confidently that in that great comedy which Balzac called ‘the comedy
of humanity,’ to be played for the amusement of the gods rather than
for that of the French public, there is no summit in the barren plain
that stretches from Mount Molière to our own times until we reach
Brieux.


How the XIX century found itself out.

It is reserved for some great critic to give us a study of the
psychology of the XIX century. Those of us who as adults saw it
face to face in that last moiety of its days when one fierce hand
after another—Marx’s, Zola’s, Ibsen’s, Strindberg’s, Turgenief’s,
Tolstoy’s—stripped its masks off and revealed it as, on the whole,
perhaps the most villainous page of recorded human history, can also
recall the strange confidence with which it regarded itself as the
very summit of civilization, and talked of the past as a cruel gloom
that had been dispelled for ever by the railway and the electric
telegraph. But centuries, like men, begin to find themselves out in
middle age. The youthful conceit of the nineteenth had a splendid
exponent in Macaulay, and, for a time, a gloriously jolly one during
the nonage of Dickens. There was certainly nothing morbid in the
air then: Dickens and Macaulay are as free from morbidity as Dumas
_père_ and Guizot. Even Stendhal and Prosper Merimée, though by no
means burgess optimists, are quite sane. When you come to Zola and
Maupassant, Flaubert and the Goncourts, to Ibsen and Strindberg, to
Aubrey Beardsley and George Moore, to D’Annunzio and Echegaray, you are
in a new and morbid atmosphere. French literature up to the middle of
the XIX century was still all of one piece with Rabelais, Montaigne and
Molière. Zola breaks that tradition completely: he is as different as
Karl Marx from Turgot or Darwin from Cuvier.

In this new phase we see the bourgeoisie, after a century and a half
of complacent vaunting of its own probity and modest happiness (begun
by Daniel Defoe in Robinson Crusoe’s praises of ‘the middle station of
life’), suddenly turning bitterly on itself with accusations of hideous
sexual and commercial corruption. Thackeray’s campaign against snobbery
and Dickens’s against hypocrisy were directed against the vices of
respectable men; but now even the respectability was passionately
denied: the bourgeois was depicted as a thief, a tyrant, a sweater,
a selfish voluptuary whose marriages were simple legalizations of
unbridled licentiousness. Sexual irregularities began to be attributed
to the sympathetic characters in fiction not as the blackest spots in
their portraits, but positively as redeeming humanities in them.


Jack the Ripper.

I am by no means going here either to revive the old outcry against
this school of iconoclasts and disillusioners, or to join the new
reaction against it. It told the world many truths: it brought romance
back to its senses. Its very repudiation of the graces and enchantments
of fine art was necessary; for the artistic morbidezza of Byron and
Victor Hugo was too imaginative to allow the Victorian bourgeoisie
to accept them as chroniclers of real facts and real people. The
justification of Zola’s comparative coarseness is that his work could
not have been done in any other way. If Zola had had a sense of humor,
or a great artist’s delight in playing with his ideas, his materials,
and his readers, he would have become either as unreadable to the very
people he came to wake up as Anatole France is, or as incredible as
Victor Hugo was. He would also have incurred the mistrust and hatred
of the majority of Frenchmen, who, like the majority of men of all
nations, are not merely incapable of fine art, but resent it furiously.
A wit is to them a man who is laughing at them: an artist is a man of
loose character who lives by telling lying stories and pandering to the
voluptuous passions. What they like to read is the police intelligence,
especially the murder cases and divorce cases. The invented murders
and divorces of the novelists and playwrights do not satisfy them,
because they cannot believe in them; and belief that the horror or
scandal actually occurred, that real people are shedding real blood
and real tears, is indispensable to their enjoyment. To produce this
belief by works of fiction, the writer must disguise and even discard
the arts of the man of letters and assume the style of the descriptive
reporter of the criminal courts. As an example of how to cater for such
readers, we may take Zola’s Bête Humaine. It is in all its essentials
a simple and touching story, like Prévost’s Manon Lescaut. But into
it Zola has violently thrust the greatest police sensation of the XIX
century: the episode of Jack the Ripper. Jack’s hideous neurosis is
no more a part of human nature than Cæsar’s epilepsy or Gladstone’s
missing finger. One is tempted to accuse Zola of having borrowed it
from the newspapers to please his customers just as Shakespear used to
borrow stories of murder and jealousy from the tales and chronicles of
his time, and heap them on the head of convivial humorists like Iago
and Richard III, or gentle poets like Macbeth and Hamlet. Without such
allurements, Shakespear could not have lived by his plays. And if he
had been rich enough to disregard this consideration, he would still
have had to provide sensation enough to induce people to listen to what
he was inspired to say. It is only the man who has no message who is
too fastidious to beat the drum at the door of his booth.


Rise of the Scientific Spirit.

Still, the Shakesperean murders were romantic murders: the Zolaesque
ones were police reports. The old mad heroines, the Ophelias and Lucies
of Lammermoor, were rhapsodists with flowers in their hands: the new
ones were clinical studies of mental disease. The new note was as
conspicuous in the sensational chapters as in the dull chapters, of
which there were many. This was the punishment of the middle class
for hypocrisy. It had carried the conspiracy of silence which we call
decorum to such lengths that when young men discovered the suppressed
truths, they felt bound to shout them in the streets. I well remember
how when I was a youth in my teens I happened to obtain access to the
papers of an Irish crown solicitor through a colleague who had some
clerical work to do upon them. The county concerned was not one of the
crimeless counties: there was a large camp in it; and the soldier of
that day was not the respectable, rather pious, and very low-spirited
youth who now makes the King’s uniform what the curate’s black coat
was then. There were not only cases which were tried and not reported:
there were cases which could not even be tried, the offenders having
secured impunity by pushing their follies to lengths too grotesque to
be bearable even in a criminal court—also because of the silly ferocity
of the law, which punished the negligible indecencies of drunken young
soldiers as atrocious crimes. The effect produced by these revelations
on my raw youth was a sense of heavy responsibility for conniving at
their concealment. I felt that if camp and barrack life involved these
things, they ought to be known. I had been caught by the great wave of
scientific enthusiasm which was then passing over Europe as a result
of the discovery of Natural Selection by Darwin, and of the blow it
dealt to the vulgar Bible worship and redemption mongering which had
hitherto passed among us for religion. I wanted to get at the facts. I
was prepared for the facts being unflattering: had I not already faced
the fact that instead of being a fallen angel I was first cousin to a
monkey? Long afterwards, when I was a well-known writer, I said that
what we wanted as the basis of our plays and novels was not romance,
but a really scientific natural history. Scientific natural history is
not compatible with taboo; and as everything connected with sex was
tabooed, I felt the need for mentioning the forbidden subjects, not
only because of their own importance, but for the sake of destroying
taboo by giving it the most violent possible shocks. The same impulse
is unmistakeably active in Zola and his contemporaries. He also wanted,
not works of literary art, but stories he could believe in as records
of things that really happen. He imposed Jack the Ripper on his idyll
of the railwayman’s wife to make it scientific. To all artists and
Platonists he made it thereby very unreal; for to the Platonist all
accidents are unreal and negligible; but to the people he wanted to get
at—the anti-artistic people—he made it readable.

The scientific spirit was unintelligible to the Philistines and
repulsive to the dilettanti, who said to Zola: ‘If you must tell us
stories about agricultural laborers, why tell us dirty ones?’ But Zola
did not want, like the old romancers, to tell a story. He wanted to
tell the world the scientific truth about itself. His view was that
if you were going to legislate for agricultural laborers, or deal
with them or their business in any way, you had better know what they
are really like; and in supplying you with the necessary information
he did not tell you what you already knew, which included pretty
nearly all that could be decorously mentioned, but what you did not
know, which was that part of the truth that was tabooed. For the same
reason, when he found a generation whose literary notions of Parisian
cocotterie were founded on Marguerite Gauthier, he felt it to be a
duty to shew them Nana. And it was a very necessary thing to do. If
some Irish writer of the seventies had got himself banished from all
decent society, and perhaps convicted of obscene libel, by writing a
novel shewing the side of camp life that was never mentioned except in
the papers of the Crown Solicitor, we should be nearer to a rational
military system than we are today.


Zolaism as a Superstition.

It is, unfortunately, much easier to throw the forces of art into a
reaction than to recall them when the reaction has gone far enough.
A case which came under my own notice years ago illustrates the
difficulty. The wife of an eminent surgeon had some talent for
drawing. Her husband wrote a treatise on cancer; and she drew the
illustrations. It was the first time she had used her gift for
a serious purpose; and she worked hard enough at it to acquire
considerable skill in depicting cancerous proliferation. The book being
finished and published, she resumed her ordinary practice of sketching
for pleasure. But all her work now had an uncanny look. When she drew
a landscape, it was like a cancer that accidentally looked like a
landscape. She had acquired a cancerous technique; and she could not
get rid of it.

This happens as easily in literature as in the other arts. The men
who trained themselves as writers by dragging the unmentionable to
light, presently found that they could do that so much better than
anything else that they gave up dealing with the other subjects. Even
their quite mentionable episodes had an unmentionable air. Their
imitators assumed that unmentionability was an end in itself—that to
be decent was to be out of the movement. Zola and Ibsen could not,
of course, be confined to mere reaction against taboo. Ibsen was to
the last fascinating and full of a strange moving beauty; and Zola
often broke into sentimental romance. But neither Ibsen nor Zola,
after they once took in hand the work of unmasking the idols of the
bourgeoisie, ever again wrote a happy or pleasant play or novel.
Ibsen’s suicides and catastrophes at last produced the cry of ‘People
don’t do such things,’ which he ridiculed through Judge Brack in Hedda
Gabler. This was easy enough: Brack was so far wrong that people do
do such things occasionally. But on the whole Brack was right. The
tragedy of Hedda in real life is not that she commits suicide but that
she continues to live. If such acts of violent rebellion as those of
Hedda and Nora and Rebecca and the rest were the inevitable or even
the probable consequences of their unfitness to be wives and mothers,
or of their contracting repugnant marriages to avoid being left on
the shelf, social reform would be very rapid; and we should hear less
nonsense as to women like Nora and Hedda being mere figments of Ibsen’s
imagination. Our real difficulty is the almost boundless docility and
submission to social convention which is characteristic of the human
race. What baulks the social reformer everywhere is that the victims of
social evils do not complain, and even strongly resent being treated as
victims. The more a dog suffers from being chained the more dangerous
it is to release him: he bites savagely at the hand that dares touch
his collar. Our Rougon-Macquart families are usually enormously proud
of themselves; and though they have to put up with their share of
drunkards and madmen, they do not proliferate into Jack-the-Rippers.
Nothing that is admittedly and unmistakeably horrible matters very
much, because it frightens people into seeking a remedy: the serious
horrors are those which seem entirely respectable and normal to
respectable and normal men. Now the formula of tragedy had come down
to the nineteenth century from days in which this was not recognized,
and when life was so thoroughly accepted as a divine institution that
in order to make it seem tragic, something dreadful had to happen and
somebody had to die. But the tragedy of modern life is that nothing
happens, and that the resultant dulness does not kill. Maupassant’s Une
Vie is infinitely more tragic than the death of Juliet.

In Ibsen’s works we find the old traditions and the new conditions
struggling in the same play, like a gudgeon half swallowed by a pike.
Almost all the sorrow and the weariness which makes his plays so
poignant are the sorrow and weariness of the mean dull life in which
nothing happens; but none the less he provides a final catastrophe
of the approved fifth-act-blank-verse type. Hedwig and Hedda shoot
themselves: Rosmer and Rebecca throw themselves into the mill-race:
Solness and Rubeck are dashed to pieces: Borkman dies of acute stage
tragedy without discoverable lesions. I will not again say, as I have
said before, that these catastrophes are forced, because a fortunate
performance often makes them seem inevitable; but I do submit that the
omission of them would leave the play sadder and more convincing.


The Passing of the Tragic Catastrophe and the Happy Ending.

Not only is the tradition of the catastrophe unsuitable to modern
studies of life: the tradition of an ending, happy or the reverse, is
equally unworkable. The moment the dramatist gives up accidents and
catastrophes, and takes ‘slices of life’ as his material, he finds
himself committed to plays that have no endings. The curtain no longer
comes down on a hero slain or married: it comes down when the audience
has seen enough of the life presented to it to draw the moral, and must
either leave the theatre or miss its last train.

The man who faced France with a drama fulfilling all these conditions
was Brieux. He was as scientific, as conscientious, as unflinching as
Zola without being in the least morbid. He was no more dependent on
horrors than Molière, and as sane in his temper. He threw over the
traditional forced catastrophe uncompromisingly. You do not go away
from a Brieux play with the feeling that the affair is finished or the
problem solved for you by the dramatist. Still less do you go away
in ‘that happy, easy, ironically indulgent frame of mind that is the
true test of comedy’, as Mr. Walkley put it in The Times of the 1st
October 1909. You come away with a very disquieting sense that you are
involved in the affair, and must find the way out of it for yourself
and everybody else if civilization is to be tolerable to your sense of
honor.


The Difference between Brieux and Molière or Shakespear.

Brieux’s task is thus larger than Molière’s. Molière destroyed the
prestige of those conspiracies against society which we call the
professions, and which thrive by the exploitation of idolatry. He
unmasked the doctor, the philosopher, the fencing master, the priest.
He ridiculed their dupes: the hypochondriac, the academician, the
devotee, the gentleman in search of accomplishments. He exposed
the snob: he shewed the gentleman as the butt and creature of his
valet, emphasizing thus the inevitable relation between the man who
lives by unearned money and the man who lives by weight of service.
Beyond bringing this latter point up to a later date Beaumarchais did
nothing. But Molière never indicted society. Burke said that you cannot
bring an indictment against a nation; yet within a generation from
that utterance men began to draw indictments against whole epochs,
especially against the capitalistic epoch. It is true that Molière,
like Shakespear, indicted human nature, which would seem to be a
broader attack; but such attacks only make thoughtful men melancholy
and hopeless, and practical men cynical or murderous. Le Misanthrope,
which seems to me, as a foreigner perhaps, to be Molière’s dullest and
worst play, is like Hamlet in two respects. The first, which is that it
would have been much better if it had been written in prose, is merely
technical and need not detain us. The second is that the author does
not clearly know what he is driving at. Le Festin de Pierre, Molière’s
best philosophic play, is as brilliant and arresting as Le Misanthrope
is neither the one nor the other; but here again there is no positive
side: the statue is a hollow creature with nothing to say for himself;
and Don Juan makes no attempt to take advantage of his weakness.
The reason why Shakespear and Molière are always well spoken of and
recommended to the young is that their quarrel is really a quarrel with
God for not making men better. If they had quarrelled with a specified
class of persons with incomes of four figures for not doing their
work better, or for doing no work at all, they would be denounced as
seditious, impious, and profligate corruptors of morality.

Brieux wastes neither ink nor indignation on Providence. The idle
despair that shakes its fist impotently at the skies, uttering sublime
blasphemies, such as

  ‘As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods:
   They kill us for their sport,’

does not amuse Brieux. His fisticuffs are not aimed heavenward: they
fall on human noses for the good of human souls. When he sees human
nature in conflict with a political abuse he does not blame human
nature, knowing that such blame is the favorite trick of those who
wish to perpetuate the abuse without being able to defend it. He does
not even blame the abuse: he exposes it, and then leaves human nature
to tackle it with its eyes open. And his method of exposure is the
dramatic method. He is a born dramatist, differing from the ordinary
dramatists only in that he has a large mind and a scientific habit
of using it. As a dramatist he must take for his theme a conflict of
some sort. As a dramatist of large mind he cannot be satisfied with
the trumpery conflicts of the Divorce Court and the Criminal Court:
of the husband with the seducer, of the policeman with the murderer.
Having the scientific conscience in a higher degree than Zola (he has
a better head), he cannot be interested in imaginary conflicts which
he himself would have to invent like a child at play. The conflict
which inspires his dramatic genius must be a big one and a real one. To
ask an audience to spend three hours hanging on the question of which
particular man some particular woman shall mate with does not strike
him as a reasonable proceeding; and if the audience does not agree with
him, why, it can go to some fashionable dramatist of the boulevard who
does agree with it.


Brieux and the Boulevard.

This involves Brieux in furious conflict with the boulevard. Up to
quite recent times it was impossible for an Englishman to mention
Brieux to a Parisian as the only French playwright who really counted
in Europe without being met with astonished assurances that Brieux
is not a playwright at all; that his plays are not plays; that he is
not (in Sarcey’s sense of the phrase) ‘du théâtre’; that he is a mere
pamphleteer without even literary style. And when you expressed your
natural gratification at learning that the general body of Parisian
dramatists were so highly gifted that Brieux counted for nothing in
Paris—when you respectfully asked for the names of a few of the most
prominent of the geniuses who had eclipsed him, you were given three
or four of which you had never heard, and one or two known to you as
those of cynically commercial manipulators of the _ménage à trois_, the
innocent wife discovered at the villain’s rooms at midnight (to beg him
to spare the virtue of a sister, the character of a son, or the life
of a father), the compromising letter, the duel, and all the rest of
the claptraps out of which dramatic playthings can be manufactured for
the amusement of grown-up children. Not until the Academie Française
elected Brieux did it occur to the boulevardiers that the enormous
difference between him and their pet authors was a difference in which
the superiority lay with Brieux.


The Pedantry of Paris.

Indeed it is difficult for the Englishman to understand how bigotedly
the Parisians cling to the claptrap theatre. The English do not care
enough about the theatre to cling to its traditions or persecute anyone
for their sake; but the French do. Besides, in fine art, France is
a nation of born pedants. The vulgar English painter paints vulgar
pictures, and generally sells them. But the vulgar French painter
paints classical ones, though whether he sells them or not I do not
know: I hope not. The corresponding infatuation in the theatre is for
dramas in alexandrines; and alexandrines are far worse than English
blank verse, which is saying a good deal. Racine and Corneille,
who established the alexandrine tradition, deliberately aimed at
classicism, taking the Greek drama as their model. Even a foreigner
can hear the music of their verse. Corneille wrote alexandrines as
Dryden wrote heroic couplets, in a virile, stately, handsome and withal
human way; and Racine had tenderness and beauty as well. This drama of
Racine and Corneille, with the music of Gluck, gave the French in the
XVII and XVIII centuries a body of art which was very beautiful, very
refined, very delightful for cultivated people, and very tedious for
the ignorant. When, through the spread of elementary education, the
ignorant invaded the theatre in overwhelming numbers, this exquisite
body of art became a dead body, and was practised by nobody except the
amateurs—the people who love what has been already done in art and
loathe the real life out of which living art must continually grow
afresh. In their hands it passed from being a commercial failure to
being an obsolete nuisance.

Commercially, the classic play was supplanted by a nuisance which was
not a failure: to wit, the ‘well made play’ of Scribe and his school.
The manufacture of well made plays is not an art: it is an industry.
It is not at all hard for a literary mechanic to acquire it: the only
difficulty is to find a literary mechanic who is not by nature too
much of an artist for the job; for nothing spoils a well made play
more infallibly than the least alloy of high art or the least qualm
of conscience on the part of the writer. ‘Art for art’s sake’ is the
formula of the well made play, meaning in practice ‘Success for money’s
sake.’ Now great art is never produced for its own sake. It is too
difficult to be worth the effort. All the great artists enter into a
terrible struggle with the public, often involving bitter poverty and
personal humiliation, and always involving calumny and persecution,
because they believe they are apostles doing what used to be called the
Will of God, and is now called by many prosaic names, of which ‘public
work’ is the least controversial. And when these artists have travailed
and brought forth, and at last forced the public to associate keen
pleasure and deep interest with their methods and morals, a crowd
of smaller men—art confectioners, we may call them—hasten to make
pretty entertainments out of scraps and crumbs from the masterpieces.
Offenbach laid hands on Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and produced
J’aime les militaires, to the disgust of Schumann, who was nevertheless
doing precisely the same thing in a more pretentious way. And these
confectioners are by no means mere plagiarists. They bring all sorts
of engaging qualities to their work: love of beauty, desire to give
pleasure, tenderness, humor, everything except the high republican
conscience, the identification of the artist’s purpose with the purpose
of the universe, which alone makes an artist great.

But the well made play was not confectionery: it had not even the
derived virtue of being borrowed from the great playwrights. Its
formula grew up in the days when the spread of elementary schooling
produced a huge mass of playgoers sufficiently educated to want plays
instead of dog-fights, but not educated enough to enjoy or understand
the masterpieces of dramatic art. Besides, education or no education,
one cannot live on masterpieces alone, not only because there are
not enough of them, but because new plays as well as great plays are
needed, and there are not enough Molières and Shakespears in the world
to keep the demand for novelty satisfied. Hence it has always been
necessary to have some formula by which men of mediocre talent and
no conscience can turn out plays for the theatrical market. Such men
have written melodramas since the theatre existed. It was in the XIX
century that the demand for manufactured plays was extended to drawing
room plays in which the Forest of Bondy and the Auberge des Adrets, the
Red Barn and the Cave at Midnight, had to be replaced by Lord Blank’s
flat in Whitehall Court and the Great Hall, Chevy Chace. Playgoers,
being by that time mostly poor playgoers, wanted to see how the rich
live; wanted to see them actually drinking champagne and wearing real
fashionable dresses and trousers with a neatly ironed crease down the
knee.


How to Write a Popular Play.

The formula for the well made play is so easy that I give it for the
benefit of any reader who feels tempted to try his hand at making the
fortune that awaits all successful manufacturers in this line. First,
you ‘have an idea’ for a dramatic situation. If it strikes you as a
splendidly original idea whilst it is in fact as old as the hills, so
much the better. For instance, the situation of an innocent person
convicted by circumstances of a crime may always be depended on. If
the person is a woman, she must be convicted of adultery. If a young
officer, he must be convicted of selling information to the enemy,
though it is really a fascinating female spy who has ensnared him and
stolen the incriminating document. If the innocent wife, banished from
her home, suffers agonies through her separation from her children,
and, when one of them is dying (of any disease the dramatist chooses to
inflict), disguises herself as a nurse and attends it through its dying
convulsion until the doctor, who should be a serio-comic character,
and if possible a faithful old admirer of the lady’s, simultaneously
announces the recovery of the child and the discovery of the wife’s
innocence, the success of the play may be regarded as assured if the
writer has any sort of knack for his work. Comedy is more difficult,
because it requires a sense of humor and a good deal of vivacity;
but the process is essentially the same: it is the manufacture of a
misunderstanding. Having manufactured it, you place its culmination
at the end of the last act but one, which is the point at which the
manufacture of the play begins. Then you make your first act out of
the necessary introduction of the characters to the audience, after
elaborate explanations, mostly conducted by servants, solicitors,
and other low life personages (the principals must all be dukes and
colonels and millionaires), of how the misunderstanding is going to
come about. Your last act consists, of course, of clearing up the
misunderstanding, and generally getting the audience out of the theatre
as best you can.

Now please do not misunderstand me as pretending that this process is
so mechanical that it offers no opportunity for the exercise of talent.
On the contrary, it is so mechanical that without very conspicuous
talent nobody can make much reputation by doing it, though some can and
do make a living at it. And this often leads the cultivated classes
to suppose that all plays are written by authors of talent. As a
matter of fact the majority of those who in France and England make
a living by writing plays are unknown and, as to education, all but
illiterate. Their names are not worth putting on the playbill, because
their audiences neither know nor care who the author is, and often
believe that the actors improvise the whole piece, just as they in fact
do sometimes improvise the dialogue. To rise out of this obscurity
you must be a Scribe or a Sardou, doing essentially the same thing,
it is true, but doing it wittily and ingeniously, at moments almost
poetically, and giving the persons of the drama some touches of real
observed character.


Why the Critics are always Wrong.

Now it is these strokes of talent that set the critics wrong. For the
talent, being all expended on the formula, at last consecrates the
formula in the eyes of the critics. Nay, they become so accustomed
to the formula that at last they cannot relish or understand a play
that has grown naturally, just as they cannot admire the Venus of Milo
because she has neither a corset nor high heeled shoes. They are like
the peasants who are so accustomed to food reeking with garlic that
when food is served to them without it they declare that it has no
taste and is not food at all.

This is the explanation of the refusal of the critics of all nations
to accept great original dramatists like Ibsen and Brieux as real
dramatists, or their plays as real plays. No writer of the first
order needs the formula any more than a sound man needs a crutch.
In his simplest mood, when he is only seeking to amuse, he does not
manufacture a plot: he tells a story. He finds no difficulty in setting
people on the stage to talk and act in an amusing, exciting or touching
way. His characters have adventures and ideas which are interesting in
themselves, and need not be fitted into the Chinese puzzle of a plot.


The Interpreter of Life.

But the great dramatist has something better to do than to amuse either
himself or his audience. He has to interpret life. This sounds a mere
pious phrase of literary criticism; but a moment’s consideration will
discover its meaning and its exactitude. Life as it appears to us in
our daily experience is an unintelligible chaos of happenings. You
pass Othello in the bazaar in Aleppo, Iago on the jetty in Cyprus, and
Desdemona in the nave of St. Mark’s in Venice without the slightest
clue to their relations to one another. The man you see stepping into
a chemist’s shop to buy the means of committing murder or suicide,
may, for all you know, want nothing but a liver pill or a toothbrush.
The statesman who has no other object than to make you vote for his
party at the next election may be starting you on an incline at the
foot of which lies war, or revolution, or a smallpox epidemic, or five
years off your lifetime. The horrible murder of a whole family by the
father who finishes by killing himself, or the driving of a young girl
on to the streets, may be the result of your discharging an employee
in a fit of temper a month before. To attempt to understand life from
merely looking on at it as it happens in the streets is as hopeless as
trying to understand public questions by studying snapshots of public
demonstrations. If we possessed a series of cinematographs of all
the executions during the Reign of Terror, they might be exhibited
a thousand times without enlightening the audiences in the least as
to the meaning of the Revolution: Robespierre would perish as ‘un
monsieur’ and Marie Antoinette as ‘une femme.’ Life as it occurs is
senseless: a policeman may watch it and work in it for thirty years in
the streets and courts of Paris without learning as much of it or from
it as a child or a nun may learn from a single play by Brieux. For it
is the business of Brieux to pick out the significant incidents from
the chaos of daily happenings, and arrange them so that their relation
to one another becomes significant, thus changing us from bewildered
spectators of a monstrous confusion to men intelligently conscious of
the world and its destinies. This is the highest function that man
can perform—the greatest work he can set his hand to; and this is why
the great dramatists of the world, from Euripides and Aristophanes to
Shakespear and Molière, and from them to Ibsen and Brieux, take that
majestic and pontifical rank which seems so strangely above all the
reasonable pretensions of mere strolling actors and theatrical authors.


How the Great Dramatists torture the Public.

Now if the critics are wrong in supposing that the formula of the well
made play is not only an indispensable factor in playwriting, but is
actually the essence of the play itself—if their delusion is rebuked
and confuted by the practice of every great dramatist even when he is
only amusing himself by story telling, what must happen to their poor
formula when it impertinently offers its services to a playwright who
has taken on his supreme function as the Interpreter of Life? Not only
has he no use for it; but he must attack and destroy it; for one of
the very first lessons he has to teach to a play-ridden public is that
the romantic conventions on which the formula proceeds are all false,
and are doing incalculable harm in these days when everybody reads
romances and goes to the theatre. Just as the historian can teach no
real history until he has cured his readers of the romantic delusion
that the greatness of a queen consists in her being a pretty woman and
having her head cut off; so the playwright of the first order can do
nothing with his audiences until he has cured them of looking at the
stage through the keyhole and sniffing round the theatre as prurient
people sniff round the divorce court. The cure is not a popular one.
The public suffers from it exactly as a drunkard or a snuff taker
suffers from an attempt to conquer the habit. The critics especially,
who are forced by their profession to indulge immoderately in plays
adulterated with falsehood and vice, suffer so acutely when deprived
of them for a whole evening that they hurl disparagements and even
abuse and insult at the merciless dramatist who is torturing them.
To a bad play of the kind they are accustomed to they can be cruel
through superciliousness, irony, impatience, contempt, or even a
Rochefoucauldian pleasure in a friend’s misfortune. But the hatred
provoked by deliberately inflicted pain, the frantic denials as of a
prisoner at the bar accused of a disgraceful crime, the clamor for
vengeance thinly disguised as artistic justice, the suspicion that the
dramatist is using private information and making a personal attack:
all these are to be found only when the playwright is no mere _marchand
de plaisir_, but, like Brieux, a ruthless revealer of hidden truth and
a mighty destroyer of idols.


Brieux’s Conquest of London.

So well does Brieux know this that he has written a play, La Foi,
showing how truth is terrible to men, and how false religions
(theatrical romance, by the way, is the falsest and most fantastically
held of all the false religions) are a necessity to them. With this
play he achieved, for the first time on record, the feat of winning
a success in a fashionable London theatre with a cold-blooded thesis
play. Those who witnessed the performance of False Gods at His
Majesty’s Theatre this year were astonished to see that exceptionally
large theatre filled with strangely attentive ordinary playgoers, to
whose customary requirements and weaknesses no concession was made for
a moment by the playwright. They were getting a lesson and nothing
else. The same famous acting, the same sumptuous _mise en scène_, had
not always saved other plays from failure. There was no enthusiasm:
one might almost say there was no enjoyment. The audience for once had
something better to do than to amuse themselves. The old playgoers
and the critics, who, on the first night, had politely regretted an
inevitable failure after waiting, like the maturer ladies at the sack
of Ismail in Byron’s poem, for the adultery to begin, asked one another
incredulously whether there could really be money in this sort of
thing. Such feats had been performed before at coterie theatres where
the expenses were low and where the plays were seasoned with a good
deal of ordinary amusing comedy; but in this play there was not a jest
from beginning to end; and the size of the theatre and the expenses
of production were on a princely scale. Yet La Foi held its own. The
feat was quite unprecedented; and that it should have been achieved for
the first time by a Frenchman is about a million times more remarkable
than that the first man to fly across the channel (the two events were
almost simultaneous) should also have been a Frenchman.


Parisian Stupidity.

And here I must digress for a moment to remark that though Paris is
easily the most prejudiced, old-fashioned, obsolete-minded city in the
west of Europe, yet when she produces great men she certainly does not
do it by halves. Unfortunately, there is nothing she hates more than a
Frenchman of genius. When an Englishman says that you have to go back
to Michael Angelo to find a sculptor who can be mentioned in the same
breath as Rodin without manifest absurdity, the Parisians indignantly
exclaim that only an ignorant foreigner could imagine that a man who
was not a pupil at the Beaux Arts could possibly be a sculptor at all.
And I have already described how they talk about Brieux, the only
French dramatist whose fame crosses frontiers and channels, and fills
the continent. To be quite frank, I cannot to this day understand why
they made him an Academician instead of starving him to death and
then giving him a statue. Can it be that in his early days, before he
could gain his living by the theatre, he wrote a spelling book, or
delivered a course of lectures on the use of pure line in Greek design?
To suppose that they did it because he is a great man is to imply that
they know a great Frenchman when they see him, which is contrary to all
experience. They never know until the English tell them.


Brieux and the English Theatre.

In England our knowledge of Brieux has been delayed by the childishness
of our theatre. This childishness is by no means to be deplored: it
means that the theatre is occupied with the elementary education of the
masses instead of with the higher education of the classes. Those who
desire dramatic performances of the higher sort have procured them only
by forming clubs, hiring theatres, engaging performers, and selecting
plays for themselves. After 1889, when Ibsen first became known in
London through A Doll’s House, a succession of these clubs kept what
may be called the serious adult drama fitfully alive until 1904, when
Messrs. Vedrenne and Barker took the field with a regular theatrical
enterprise devoted to this class of work, and maintained it until the
National Theatre project was set on foot, and provisional repertory
schemes were announced by established commercial managements. It was
through one of these clubs, the Stage Society, that Brieux reached the
English stage with his Bienfaiteurs. Then the first two plays in this
volume were performed, and, later on, Les Hannetons. These performances
settled for English connoisseurs the question of Brieux’s rank among
modern playwrights. Later on his Robe Rouge introduced the ordinary
playgoers to him; and he is now no longer one of the curiosities of the
coterie theatre, as even Ibsen to some extent still is, but one of the
conquerors of the general British public.


The Censorship in France and England.

Unfortunately, he has not yet been able to conquer our detestable,
discredited, but still all-powerful censorship. In France he was
attacked by the censorship just as in England; but in France the
censorship broke itself against him and perished. The same thing would
probably have occurred here but for the fact that our Censor, by a
grotesque accident of history—to be precise, because Henry VIII. began
the censorship of the theatre by appointing an officer of his own
household to do the work—remains part of the King’s retinue; and his
abolition involves the curtailment of that retinue and therefore the
reduction of the King’s State, always a very difficult and delicate
matter in a monarchical country. In France the censorship was exercised
by the Minister of Fine Arts (a portfolio that does not exist in our
Cabinet) and was in the hands of two or three examiners of plays, who
necessarily behaved exactly like our Mr. Redford; for, as I have so
often pointed out, the evils of censorship are made compulsory by the
nature of the office, and are not really the fault of the individual
censor. These gentlemen, then, prohibited the performance of Brieux’s
best and most useful plays just as Mr. Redford did here. But as the
French Parliament, having nobody to consider but themselves and the
interests of the nation, presently refused to vote the salaries of the
Censors, the institution died a natural death. We have no such summary
remedy here. Our Censor’s salary is part of the King’s civil list, and
is therefore sacred. Years ago, our Playgoers’ Club asked me how the
censorship could be abolished. I replied, to the great scandal of that
loyal body: You must begin by abolishing the monarchy.


Brieux and the English Censorship.

Nevertheless, Brieux has left his mark even on the English censorship.
This year (1909) the prohibition of his plays was one of the strongest
items in the long list of grievances by which the English playwrights
compelled the Government to appoint a Select Committee of both houses
of Parliament to enquire into the working of the censorship. The
report of that Committee admits the charge brought against the Censor
of systematically suppressing plays dealing seriously with social
problems whilst allowing frivolous and even pornographic plays to
pass unchallenged. It advises that the submission of plays to the
Censor shall in future be optional, though it does not dare to omit
the customary sycophantic recommendation that the Lord Chamberlain
shall still retain his privilege of licensing plays; and it proposes
that the authors and managers of plays so licensed, though not exempt
from prosecution, shall enjoy certain immunities denied in the case of
unlicensed plays. There are many other conditions which need not be
gone into here; but to a Frenchman the main fact that stands out is
that the accident which has made the Censor an officer of the King’s
Household has prevented a parliamentary committee from recommending the
abolition of his control over the theatre in a report which not only
has not a word to say in his defence, but expressly declares that his
license affords the public no guarantee that the plays he approves are
decent, and that authors of serious plays need protection against his
unenlightened despotism.


Taboo.

We may therefore take it on the authority of the Select Committee that
the prohibition by the English censorship of the public performances of
the three plays in this book does not afford the smallest reasonable
ground for condemning them as improper—rather the contrary. As a matter
of fact, most men, if asked to guess the passages to which the Censor
took exception, would guess wrongly. Certainly a Frenchman would. The
reason is that though in England as in France what is called decency is
not a reasoned discrimination between what needs to be said and what
ought not to be said, but simply the observance of a set of taboos,
these taboos are not the same in England as in France. A Frenchman of
scrupulously correct behavior will sometimes quite innocently make an
English lady blush by mentioning something that is unmentionable in
polite society in England though quite mentionable in France. To take
a simple illustration, an Englishman, when he first visits France, is
always embarrassed, and sometimes shocked, on finding that the person
in charge of a public lavatory for men is a woman. I cannot give
reciprocal instances of the ways in which Englishmen shock the French
nation, because I am happily unconscious of all the _cochonneries_
of which I am no doubt guilty when I am in France. But that I do
occasionally shock the brave French bourgeois to the very marrow of his
bones by my indelicacy, I have not the smallest doubt. There is only
one epithet in universal use for foreigners. That epithet is ‘dirty.’


The Attitude of the People to the Literary Arts.

These differences between nation and nation also exist between class
and class and between town and country. I will not here go into the
vexed question of whether the peasant’s way of blowing his nose or
the squire’s is the more cleanly and hygienic, though my experience
as a municipal councillor of the way in which epidemics are spread
by laundries makes me incline to the side of the peasant. What is
beyond all question is that each seems disgusting to the other. And
when we come from physical facts to moral views and ethical opinions
we find the same antagonisms. To a great section—perhaps the largest
section—of the people of England and France, all novels, plays, and
songs are licentious; and the habit of enjoying them is a mark of a
worthless character. To these people the distinctions made by the
literary classes between books fit for young girls to read and improper
books—between Paul and Virginia and Mademoiselle de Maupin or Une Vie,
between Mrs. Humphry Ward and Ouida—have no meaning: all writers of
love stories and all readers of them are alike shameless. Cultivated
Paris, cultivated London, are apt to overlook people who, as they
seldom read and never write, have no means of making themselves heard.
But such simple people heavily outnumber the cultivated; and if they
could also outwit them, literature would perish. Yet their intolerance
of fiction is as nothing to their intolerance of fact. I lately heard
an English gentleman state a very simple fact in these terms: ‘I never
could get on with my mother: she did not like me; and I did not like
her: my brother was her pet.’ To an immense number of living English
and French people this speech would suggest that its utterer ought
to be burned alive, though the substitution of stepmother for mother
and of half-brother for brother would suffice to make it seem quite
probable and natural. And this, observe, not in the least because all
these horrified people adore and are adored by their mothers, but
simply because they have a fixed convention that the proper name of the
relation between mother and son is love. However bitter and hostile it
may in fact be in some cases, to call it by any other name is a breach
of convention; and by the instinctive logic of timidity they infer
that a man to whom convention is not sacred is a dangerous man. To them
the ten commandments are nothing but arbitrary conventions; and the man
who says today that he does not love his mother may, they conclude,
tomorrow steal, rob, murder, commit adultery, and bear false witness
against his neighbor.


The Dread of the Original Thinker.

This is the real secret of the terror inspired by an original thinker.
In repudiating convention he is repudiating that on which his neighbors
are relying for their sense of security. But he is usually also doing
something even more unpopular. He is proposing new obligations to add
to the already heavy burden of duty. When the boy Shelley elaborately
and solemnly cursed his father for the entertainment of his friends, he
only shocked us. But when the man Shelley told us that we should feed,
clothe and educate all the children in the country as carefully as if
they were our immediate own, we lost our tempers with him and deprived
him of the custody of his own children.

It is useless to complain that the conventional masses are
unintelligent. To begin with, they are not unintelligent except in
the sense in which all men are unintelligent in matters in which they
are not experts. I object to be called unintelligent merely because
I do not know enough about mechanical construction to be able to
judge whether a motor car of new design is an improvement or not, and
therefore prefer to buy one of the old type to which I am accustomed.
The brave bourgeois whom Brieux scandalizes must not be dismissed
with ridicule by the man of letters because, not being an expert in
morals, he prefers the old ways and mistrusts the new. His position is
a very reasonable one. He says, in effect, ‘If I am to enjoy any sense
of security, I must be able to reckon on other people behaving in a
certain ascertained way. Never mind whether it is the ideally right way
or the ideally wrong way: it will suit me well enough if only it is
convenient and, above all, unmistakeable. Lay it down if you like that
people are not to pay debts and are to murder one another whenever they
get a chance. In that case I can refuse to give credit and can carry
weapons and learn to use them to defend myself. On the other hand, if
you settle that debts are to be enforced and the peace kept by the
police, I will give credit and renounce the practice of arms. But the
one thing that I cannot stand is not knowing what the social contract
is.’


The Justification of Conventionality.

It is a cherished tradition in English politics that at a meeting of
Lord Melbourne’s Cabinet in the early days of Queen Victoria, the Prime
Minister, when the meeting threatened to break up in confusion, put
his back to the door and said, in the cynically profane manner then
fashionable: ‘Gentlemen: we can tell the House the truth or we can tell
it a lie: I do not care a damn which. All I insist on is that we shall
all tell the same lie; and you shall not leave the room until you have
settled what it is to be.’ Just so does the bourgeois perceive that
the essential thing is not whether a convention is right or wrong, but
that everybody shall know what it is and observe it. His cry is always:
‘I want to know where I stand.’ Tell him what he may do and what he
may not do; and make him feel that he may depend on other people doing
or not doing the same; and he feels secure, knowing where he stands
and where other people stand. His dread and hatred of revolutions and
heresies and men with original ideas is his dread of disorientation
and insecurity. Those who have felt earthquakes assure us that there
is no terror like the terror of the earth swaying under the feet that
have always depended on it as the one immovable thing in the world.
That is just how the ordinary respectable man feels when some man of
genius rocks the moral ground beneath him by denying the validity of a
convention. The popular phrases by which such innovators are described
are always of the same kind. The early Christians were called men who
wished to turn the world upside down. The modern critics of morals
are reproached for ‘standing on their heads.’ There is no pretence of
argument, or of any understanding of the proposals of the reformers:
there is simply panic and a demand for suppression at all costs. The
reformer is not forbidden to advance this or that definite opinion,
because his assailants are too frightened to know or care what his
opinions are: he is forbidden simply to speak in an unusual way about
morals and religion, or to mention any subject that is not usually
mentioned in public.

This is the terror which the English censorship, like all other
censorships, gives effect to. It explains what puzzles most observers
of the censorship so much: namely, its scandalous laxity towards and
positive encouragement of the familiar and customary pornographic
side of theatrical art simultaneously with its intolerance of the
higher drama, which is always unconventional and super-bourgeois in
its ethics. To illustrate, let me cite the point on which the English
censorship came into conflict with Brieux, when Les Hannetons was first
performed by the Stage Society.


Why Les Hannetons was Censored.

Les Hannetons is a very powerful and convincing demonstration of
the delusiveness of that sort of freedom which men try to secure by
refusing to marry, and living with a mistress instead. The play is a
comedy: the audience laughs throughout; but the most dissolute man
present leaves the theatre convinced that the unfortunate hero had
better have been married ten times over than fallen into such bondage
as his liaison has landed him in. To witness a performance might very
wisely be made part of the curriculum of every university college and
polytechnic in the country.

Now those who do not know the ways of the censorship may jump to the
conclusion that the objection of the Censor was to the exhibition on
the stage of two persons living together in immoral relations. They
would be greatly mistaken. The censor made no difficulty whatever about
that. Even the funny but ruthless scene where the woman cajoles the
man by kissing him on a certain susceptible spot on his neck—a scene
from which our shamed conscience shrinks as from a branding iron—was
licensed without a word of remonstrance. But there is a searching
passage in the play where the woman confesses to a girl friend that one
of the lies by which she induced the man to enter into relations with
her was that he was not her first lover. The friend is simple enough
to express surprise, thinking that this, far from being an inducement,
would have roused jealousy and disgust. The woman replies that, on
the contrary, no man likes to face the responsibility of tempting a
girl to her first step from the beaten path, and that girls take care
accordingly not to let them know it.

This is one of those terrible stripping strokes by which a master of
realism suddenly exposes a social sore which has been plastered over
with sentimental nonsense about erring Magdalens, vicious nonsense
about gaiety, or simply prudish silence. No young man or young woman
hearing it, however anarchical their opinions may be as to sexual
conduct, can possibly imagine afterwards that the relation between
‘les hannetons’ is honest, charming, sentimentally interesting, or
pardonable by the self-respect of either. It is felt instinctively
to have something fundamentally dishonorable in it, in spite of the
innocence of the natural affection of the pair for one another. Yet
this is precisely the passage that the Censor refused to pass. All the
rest was duly licensed. The exhibition of the pretty, scheming, lying,
sensual girl fixing herself with triumphant success on the meanly
prudent sensual man, and having what many women would consider rather
a good time of it, was allowed and encouraged by the court certificate
of propriety. But the deadly touch that made it impossible for even the
most thoughtless pair in the audience to go and do likewise without
loathing themselves, was forbidden.


Misadventure of a Frenchman in Westminster Abbey.

In short, the censorship did what it always does: it left the poison on
the table and carefully locked up the antidote. And it did this, not
from a fiendish design to destroy the souls of the people, but solely
because the passage involved a reference by a girl to her virginity,
which is unusual and therefore tabooed. The Censor never troubled
himself as to the meaning or effect of the passage. It represented
the woman as doing an unusual thing: therefore a dangerous, possibly
subversive thing. In England, when we are scandalized and can give no
direct reason why, we exclaim ‘What next?’ That is the continual cry of
the Censor’s soul. If a girl may refer to her virginity on the stage,
what may she not refer to? This instinctive regard to consequences
was once impressed painfully on a pious Frenchman who, in Westminster
Abbey, knelt down to pray. The verger, who had never seen such a thing
happen before, promptly handed him over to the police and charged him
with ‘brawling.’ Fortunately, the magistrate had compassion on the
foreigner’s ignorance; and even went the length of asking why he should
not be allowed to pray in church. The reply of the verger was simple
and obvious. ‘If we allowed that,’ he said, ‘we should have people
praying all over the place.’ And to this day the rule in Westminster
Abbey is that you may stroll about and look at the monuments; but you
must not on any account pray. Similarly, on the stage you may represent
murder, gluttony, sexual vice, and all the crimes in the calendar and
out of it; but you must not say anything unusual about them.


Marriage and Malthus.

If Brieux found himself blocked by the censorship when he was exposing
the vice of illicit unions, it will surprise no one to learn that his
far more urgently needed exposures of the intemperance and corruption
of marriage itself was fiercely banned. The vulgar, and consequently
the official, view of marriage is that it hallows all the sexual
relations of the parties to it. That it may mask all the vices of the
coarsest libertinage with added elements of slavery and cruelty has
always been true to some extent; but during the last forty years it
has become so serious a matter that conscientious dramatists have to
vivisect legal unions as ruthlessly as illegal ones. For it happens
that just about forty years ago the propaganda of Neo-Malthusianism
changed the bearing of children from an involuntary condition of
marriage to a voluntary one. From the moment this momentous discovery
was made, childless marriage became available to male voluptuaries
as the cheapest way of keeping a mistress, and to female ones as the
most convenient and respectable way of being kept in idle luxury by a
man. The effects of this have already been startling, and will yet be
revolutionary as far as marriage is concerned, both in law and custom.
The work of keeping the populations of Europe replenished received a
sudden check, amounting in France and England to a threat of actual
retrogression. The appointment of a Royal Commission to enquire into
the decline of the birth-rate in the very sections of the population
which most need to be maintained, is probably not very far off: the
more far-seeing of those who know the facts have prophesied such a step
for a long time past. The expectation of the Neo-Malthusians that the
regulation of births in our families would give the fewer children born
a better chance of survival in greater numbers and in fuller health
and efficiency than the children of the old unrestricted families and
of the mother exhausted by excessive childbearing has no doubt been
fulfilled in some cases; but, on the whole, artificial sterility seems
to be beating natural fertility; for as far as can be judged by certain
sectional but typical private censuses, the average number of children
produced is being dragged down to one and a half per family by the
large proportion of intentionally childless marriages, and the heavy
pressure of the cost of private childbearing on the scanty incomes of
the masses.

That this will force us to a liberal State endowment of parentage,
direct or indirect, is not now doubted by people who understand the
problem: in fact, as I write, the first open step has already been
taken by the Government’s proposal to exempt parents from the full
burden of taxation borne by the childless. There has also begun a
change in public opinion as to the open abuse of marriage as a mere
means by which any pair can procure a certificate of respectability
by paying for it, which may quite possibly end in the disuse of the
ceremony for all except fertile unions. From the point of view of the
Church, it is a manifest profanation that couples whose only aim is a
comfortable domesticity should obtain for it the sacrament of religious
marriage on pretence of unselfish and publicly important purposes
which they have not the smallest intention of carrying out. From the
secular point of view there is no reason why couples who do not intend
to have children should be allowed to enslave one another by all the
complicated legal restrictions of their liberty and property which are
attached to marriage solely to secure the responsibility of parents to
the State for their children.


Brieux and the Respectable Married Man.

All these by no means remote prospects, familiar though they are to
the statesman and sociologist, are amazing to the bourgeois even when
he is personally implicated in the change of practice that is creating
the necessity for a change in law and in opinion. He has changed his
practice privately, without talking about it except in secret, or in
passages of unprintable Rabelaisian jocosity with his friends; and
he is not only unable to see why anyone else should talk publicly
about the change, but terrified lest what he is doing furtively and
hypocritically should be suddenly dragged into the light, and his own
case recorded, perhaps, in public statistics in support of innovations
which vaguely suggest to him the destruction of morals and the break-up
of the family. But both his pruderies and his terrors must give way
before the absolute necessity for re-examining the foundations of our
social structure after the shock they have received from the discovery
of artificial sterilization, and their readjustment to the new strains
they have to bear as a consequence of that discovery.

Tolstoy, with his Kreutzer Sonata, was the first to carry the war into
the enemy’s country by shewing that marriage intensified instead of
eliminating every element of evil in sexual relations; but Brieux was
the first dramatist to see not only the hard facts of the situation,
but its political importance. He has seen in particular that a new
issue has arisen in that eternal conflict of the sexes which is
created by the huge difference between the transient pleasure of
the man and the prolonged suffering of the woman in maintaining the
population. Malthusianism, when it passed from being the speculation
of an economist to being the ardent faith of a devoted band of
propagandists, touched our feelings mainly as a protest against the
burden of excessive childbearing imposed on married women. It was
not then foreseen that the triumph of the propaganda might impose a
still worse burden on them: the burden of enforced sterility. Before
Malthus was born, cases were familiar enough in which wives who had
borne two or three children as an inevitable consequence of their
conjugal relations had thereupon rebelled against further travail and
discontinued the relations by such a resolute assertion of selfishness
as is not easy to an amiable woman and practically not possible to
a loving or a jealous wife. But the case of a man refusing to fulfil
his parental function and thereby denying the right of his wife to
motherhood was unknown. Yet it immediately and inevitably arose
the moment men became possessed of the means of doing this without
self-denial. A wife could thus be put in a position intolerable to a
woman of honor as distinguished from a frank voluptuary. She could be
condemned to barren bodily slavery without remedy. To keep silence
about so monstrous a wrong as this merely because the subject is a
tabooed one was not possible to Brieux. Censorship or no censorship,
it had to be said, and indeed shouted from the housetops if nothing
else would make people attend, that this infamy existed and must be
remedied. And Brieux touched the evil at its worst spot in that section
of the middle class in which the need for pecuniary prudence has almost
swallowed up every more human feeling. In this most wretched of all
classes there is no employment for women except the employment of wife
and mother, and no provision for women without employment. The fathers
are too poor to provide. The daughter must marry whom she can get: if
the first chance, which she dares not refuse, is not that of a man
whom she positively dislikes, she may consider herself fortunate. Her
real hope of affection and self-respect lies in her children. And yet
she above all women is subject to the danger that the dread of poverty
which is the ruling factor in her husband’s world may induce him to
deny her right and frustrate her function of motherhood, using her
simply as a housekeeper and a mistress without paying her the market
price of such luxuries or forfeiting his respectability. To make us
understand what this horror means, Brieux wrote Les Trois Filles de
Monsieur Dupont, or, in equivalent English, The Three Daughters of Mr.
Smith. Mr. Smith, in the person of the Censor, immediately shrieked
‘You must not mention such things.’ Mr. Smith was wrong: they are just
the things that must be mentioned, and mentioned again and yet again,
until they are set right. Surely, of all the anomalies of our marriage
law, there is none more mischievously absurd than that a woman can have
her marriage annulled for her husband’s involuntary, but not for his
voluntary sterility. And the man is in the same predicament, though his
wife now has the same power as he of frustrating the public purpose of
all marriages.


Brieux shews the Other Side.

But Brieux is not, as the ordinary man mostly is, a mere reactionist
against the latest oversights and mistakes, becoming an atheist at
every flaw discovered in popular theology, and recoiling into the
grossest superstition when some Jesuit who happens by exception to be
a clever and subtle man (about the last thing, by the way, that a real
live Jesuit ever is) shews him that popular atheism is only theology
without mind or purpose. The ordinary man, when Brieux makes him aware
of the fact that Malthusianism has produced an unexpected and revolting
situation, instantly conceives a violent prejudice against it, pointing
to the declining population as evidence that it is bringing ruin on the
human race, and clamoring for the return of the conjugal morality of
his grandmother, as Theodore Roosevelt did when he was President of the
United States of America. It therefore became necessary for Brieux to
head him off in his frantic flight by writing another play, Maternity,
to remind him of the case for Malthusianism, and to warn him—if he is
capable of the warning—that progress is not achieved by panic-stricken
rushes back and forward between one folly and another, but by sifting
all movements and adding what survives the sifting to the fabric of our
morality. For the fact that Malthusianism has made new crimes possible
should not discredit it, and cannot stop it, because every step gained
by man in his continuous effort to control Nature necessarily does the
same. Flying, for instance, which has become practical as a general
human art for the first time this year, is capable of such alarming
abuse that we are on the eve of a clamor for its restriction, and even
for its prohibition, that will speedily make the present clamor against
motor cars as completely forgotten as the clamor against bicycles was
when motor cars appeared. But the motor car cannot be suppressed: it
is improving our roads, improving the manners and screwing up the
capacity and conduct of all who use them, improving our regulation
of traffic, improving both locomotion and character as every victory
over Nature finally improves the world and the race. Malthusianism is
no exception to the rule: its obvious abuses, and the new need for
protecting marriage from being made a mere charter of libertinage and
slavery by its means, must be dealt with by improvements in conduct and
law, and not by a hopeless attempt to drive us all back to the time of
Mrs. Gamp. The tyranny which denies to the wife the right to become
a mother has become possible through the discovery of the means of
escape from the no less unbearable tyranny which compelled her to set
another child at the table round which those she had already borne were
starving because there was not enough food for them. When the French
Government, like Colonel Roosevelt, could think of no better cure for
the new tyranny than a revival of the old, Brieux added a play on the
old tyranny to his play on the new tyranny.

This is the explanation of what stupid people call the inconsistencies
of those modern dramatists who, like Ibsen and Brieux, are prophets as
well as playwrights. Ibsen did not write The Wild Duck to ridicule the
lesson he had already taught in Pillars of Society and An Enemy of the
People: he did it to head off his disciples when, in their stampede
from idealism, they forgot the need of ideals and illusions to men not
strong enough to bear the truth. Brieux’s La Foi has virtually the same
theme. It is not an ultramontane tract to defend the Church against
the sceptic. It is a solemn warning that you have not, as so many
modern sceptics assume, disposed of the doctrine when you have proved
that it is false. The miracle of St. Januarius is worked, not by men
who believe in it, but by men who know it to be a trick, but know also
that men cannot be governed by the truth unless they are capable of the
truth, and yet must be governed somehow, truth or no truth. Maternity
and The Three Daughters of Mr. Smith are not contradictory: they are
complementary, like An Enemy of the People and The Wild Duck. I myself
have had to introduce into one of my plays a scene in which a young
man defends his vices on the ground that he is one of my disciples. I
did so because the incident had actually occurred in a criminal court,
where a young prisoner gave the same reason and was sentenced to six
months imprisonment, less, I fear, for the offence than for the attempt
to justify it.


The Most Unmentionable of All Subjects.

Finally, Brieux attacked the most unmentionable subject of all: the
subject of the diseases that are supposed to be the punishment of
profligate men and worthless women. Here the taboo acquires double
force. Not only must not the improper thing be mentioned; but the evil
must not be remedied, because it is a just retribution and a wholesome
deterrent. The last point may be dismissed by simply inquiring how
a disease can possibly act as a deterrent when people are kept in
ignorance of its existence. But the punishment theory is a hideous
mistake. It might as well be contended that fires should not be put
out because they are the just punishment of the incendiary. Most of
the victims of these diseases are entirely innocent persons: children
who do not know what vice means, and women to whom it is impossible
to explain what is the matter with them. Nor are their fathers and
husbands necessarily to blame. Even if they were, it would be wicked
to leave them unwarned when the consequences can spread so widely
beyond themselves; for there are dozens of indirect ways in which
this contagion can take place exactly as any other contagion can. The
presence of one infected person in a house may lead to the infection of
everybody else in it even if they have never seen one another. In fact
it is impossible to prove in any given case that the sufferer is in any
way culpable: every profligate excuses himself or herself to the doctor
on this ground; and though the excuse may not be believed, its truth
is generally possible. Add to the chances of contagion the hereditary
transmission of the disease, and the fact that an innocent person
receiving it from a guilty partner without other grounds for divorce
has no legal redress; and it becomes at once apparent that every guilty
case may produce several innocent ones. Under such circumstances, even
if it were possible in a civilized community to leave misconduct to
be checked by its natural or accidental consequences or by private
vengeance instead of by carefully considered legal measures, such an
anarchical solution must be ruled out in the present case, as the
disease strikes blindly at everyone whom it reaches, and there are as
many innocent paths for its venom as guilty ones. The taboo actually
discriminates heavily against the innocent, because, as taboos are
not respected in profligate society, systematic profligates learn the
danger in their loose conversations, and take precautions, whereas the
innocent expose themselves recklessly in complete ignorance, handling
possibly contaminated articles and entering possibly infected places
without the least suspicion that any such danger exists. In Brieux’s
play the husband alone is culpable; but his misconduct presently
involves his wife, his child, and his child’s nurse. It requires
very little imagination to see that this by no means exhausts the
possibilities. The nurse, wholly guiltless of the original sin, is
likely to spread its consequences far more widely than the original
sinner. A grotesque result of this is that there is always a demand,
especially in France, for infected nurses, because the doctor, when he
knows the child to be infected, feels that he is committing a crime
in not warning the nurse; and the only way out of the difficulty is
to find a nurse who is already infected and has nothing more to fear.
How little the conscience of the family is to be depended on when the
interests of a beloved child are in the scale against a mere cold duty
to a domestic servant, has been well shewn by Brieux in the second Act
of his play. But indeed anyone who will take the trouble to read the
treatise of Fournier, or the lectures of Duclaux, or, in English, the
chapters in which Havelock Ellis has dealt with this subject, will need
no further instruction to convince him that no play ever written was
more needed than Les Avariés.

It must be added that a startling change in the urgency of the question
has been produced by recent advances in pathology. Briefly stated, the
facts of the change are as follows. In the boyhood of those of us who
are now of middle age, the diseases in question were known as mainly
of two kinds. One, admittedly very common, was considered transient,
easily curable, harmless to future generations, and, to everyone but
the sufferer, dismissible as a ludicrous incident. The other was known
to be one of the most formidable scourges of mankind, capable at its
worst of hideous disfigurement and ruinous hereditary transmission, but
not at all so common as the more trifling ailment, and alleged by some
authorities to be dying out like typhus or plague. That is the belief
still entertained by the elderly section of the medical profession and
those whom it has instructed.

This easy-going estimate of the situation was alarmingly upset in 1879
by Neisser’s investigation of the supposedly trivial disease, which
he associated with a malignant micro-organism called the gonococcus.
The physicians who still ridicule its gravity are now confronted by
an agitation, led by medical women and professional nurses, who cite
a formidable array of authorities for their statements that it is the
commonest cause of blindness, and that it is transmitted from father to
mother, from mother to child, from child to nurse, producing evils from
which the individual attacked never gets securely free. If half the
scientific evidence be true, a marriage contracted by a person actively
affected in either way is perhaps the worst crime that can be committed
with legal impunity in a civilized community. The danger of becoming
the victim of such a crime is the worst danger that lurks in marriage
for men and women, and in domestic service for nurses.

Stupid people who are forced by these facts to admit that the simple
taboo which forbids the subject to be mentioned at all is ruinous,
still fall back on the plea that though the public ought to be warned,
the theatre is not the proper place for the warning. When asked ‘What,
then, _is_ the proper place?’ they plead that the proper place is out
of hearing of the general public: that is, not in a school, not in a
church, not in a newspaper, not in a public meeting, but in medical
text-books which are read only by medical students. This, of course, is
the taboo over again, only sufficiently ashamed of itself to resort to
subterfuge. The commonsense of the matter is that a public danger needs
a public warning; and the more public the place the more effective the
warning.


Why the Unmentionable Must be Mentioned on the Stage.

But beyond this general consideration there is a special need for
the warning in the theatre. The best friends of the theatre cannot
deny, and need not seek to deny, that a considerable proportion of
our theatrical entertainments stimulate the sexual instincts of the
spectators. Indeed this is so commonly the case that a play which
contains no sexual appeal is quite openly and commonly written of,
even by professional critics of high standing, as being ‘undramatic,’
or ‘not a play at all.’ This is the basis of the prejudice against
the theatre shewn by that section of English society in which sex is
regarded as original sin, and the theatre, consequently, as the gate
of hell. The prejudice is thoughtless: sex is a necessary and healthy
instinct; and its nurture and education is one of the most important
uses of all art, and, for the present at all events, the chief use of
the theatre.

Now it may be an open question whether the theatre has proved itself
worthy of being entrusted with so serious a function. I can conceive
a community passing a law forbidding dramatic authors to deal with
sex as a motive at all. Although such a law would consign the great
bulk of existing dramatic literature to the waste paper basket, it
would neither destroy it wholly nor paralyze all future playwrights.
The bowdlerization of Molière and Shakespear on the basis of such
a law would leave a surprising quantity of their work intact. The
novels of Dickens and his contemporaries are before us to prove how
independent the imaginative writer is of the theme so often assumed
to be indispensable in fiction. The works in which it is dragged in
by the ears on this false assumption are far more numerous than the
tales and plays—Manon Lescaut is an example—of which it forms the
entire substance. Just as the European dramatist is able to write plays
without introducing an accouchement, which is regarded as indispensable
in all sympathetic Chinese plays, he can, if he is put to it, dispense
with any theme that law or custom could conceivably forbid, and still
find himself rich in dramatic material. Let us grant therefore that
love might be ruled out by a written law as effectually as cholera is
ruled out by an unwritten one without utterly ruining the theatre.

Still, it is none the less beyond all question by any reasonable and
thoughtful person that if we tolerate any subject on the stage we must
not tolerate it by halves. It may be questioned whether we should
allow war on the stage; but it cannot sanely be questioned that, if
we do, we must allow its horrors to be represented as well as its
glories. Destruction and murder, pestilence and famine, demoralization
and cruelty, robbery and jobbery, must be allowed to contend with
patriotism and military heroism on the boards as they do in actual war:
otherwise the stage might inflame national hatreds and lead to their
gratification with a recklessness that would make a cockpit of Europe.
Again, if unscrupulous authors are to be allowed to make the stage
a parade of champagne bottles, syphons, and tantaluses, scrupulous
ones must be allowed to write such plays as L’Assommoir, which has,
as a matter of simple fact, effectively deterred many young men from
drunkenness. Nobody disputes the reasonableness of this freedom to
present both sides. But when we come to sex, the taboo steps in,
with the result that all the allurements of sex may be exhibited on
the stage heightened by every artifice that the imagination of the
voluptuary can devize, but not one of its dangers and penalties. You
may exhibit seduction on the stage; but you must not even mention
illegitimate conception and criminal abortion. We may, and do, parade
prostitution to the point of intoxicating every young person in the
theatre; yet no young person may hear a word as to the diseases that
follow prostitution and avenge the prostitute to the third and fourth
generation of them that buy her. Our shops and business offices are
full of young men living in lonely lodgings, whose only artistic
recreation is the theatre. In the theatre we practise upon them every
art that can make their loneliness intolerable and heighten the
charm of the bait in the snares of the street as they go home. But
when a dramatist is enlightened enough to understand the danger, and
sympathetic enough to come to the rescue with a play to expose the
snare and warn the victim, we forbid the manager to perform it on pain
of ruin, and denounce the author as a corrupter of morals. One hardly
knows whether to laugh or cry at such perverse stupidity.


Brieux and Voltaire.

It is a noteworthy fact that when Brieux wrote Les Avariés (Damaged
Goods) his experience with it recalled in one particular that of
Voltaire.

It will be remembered that Voltaire, whose religious opinions were
almost exactly those of most English Nonconformists today, took
refuge from the Established Church of France near Geneva, the city of
Calvin, where he established himself as the first and the greatest of
modern Nonconformist philanthropists. The Genevese ministers found his
theology so much to their taste that they were prevented from becoming
open Voltaireans only by the scandal he gave by his ridicule of the
current Genevese idolatry of the Bible, from which he was as free as
any of our prominent Baptists and Congregationalists. In the same way,
when Brieux, having had his Les Avariés condemned by the now extinct
French censorship, paid a visit to Switzerland, he was invited by a
Swiss minister to read the play from the pulpit; and though the reading
actually took place in a secular building, it was at the invitation
and under the auspices of the minister. The minister knew what the
censor did not know: that what Brieux says in Les Avariés needs saying.
The minister believed that when a thing needs saying, a man is in due
course inspired to say it, and that such inspiration gives him a divine
right to be heard. And this appears to be the simple truth of the
matter in terms of the minister’s divinity. For most certainly Brieux
had every worldly inducement to refrain from writing this play, and no
motive for disregarding these inducements except the motive that made
Luther tear up the Pope’s Bull, and Mahomet tell the idolatrous Arabs
of Mecca that they were worshipping stones.

The reader will now understand why these three great plays have forced
themselves upon us in England as they forced themselves upon Brieux’s
own countrymen. Just as Brieux had to write them, cost what it might,
so we have had to translate them and perform them and finally publish
them for those to read who are out of reach of the theatre. The evils
they deal with are as rampant in England and America as they are in
France. The gonococcus is not an exclusively French microbe: the
possibility of sterilizing marriage is not bounded by the Channel,
the Rhine, or the Alps. The furious revolt of poor women against
bringing into the world more mouths to eat the bread that is already
insufficient for their firstborn, rages with us exactly as it does in
the final scene of Maternity. Therefore these three plays are given to
the English speaking peoples first. There are others to follow of like
importance to us. And there are some, like La Française, which we may
read more lightheartedly when we have learnt the lesson of the rest.
In La Française an American (who might just as well be an Englishman)
has acquired his ideas of France and French life, not from the plays of
Brieux, but from the conventional plays and romances which have only
one theme: adultery. Visiting France, he is received as a friend in
an ordinary respectable French household, where he conceives himself
obliged, as a gallant man of the world, to invite his hostess to commit
with him the adultery which he imagines to be a matter of course in
every French _ménage_. The ignominious failure of his enterprise
makes it much better comedy than his success would have made it in an
ordinary fashionable play.


As Good Fish in the Sea.

The total number of plays produced by Brieux up to the date on which
I write these lines is fifteen. The earliest dates as far back as
1890. It is therefore high time for us to begin to read him, as we
have already begun to act him. The most pitiful sort of ignorance is
ignorance of the few great men who are men of our own time. Most of
us die without having heard of those contemporaries of ours for our
opportunities of seeing and applauding whom posterity will envy us.
Imagine meeting the ghost of an Elizabethan cockney in heaven, and, on
asking him eagerly what Shakespear was like, being told either that
the cockney had never heard of Shakespear, or knew of him vaguely as
an objectionable writer of plays full of regrettable errors of taste.
To save our own ghosts from disgracing themselves in this manner when
they are asked about Brieux, is one of the secondary uses of this first
instalment of his works in English.

  G. B. S.

  PARKNASILLA AND AYOT ST. LAWRENCE.

  1909.



  Maternity

  [Maternité]

  Translated by Mrs. Bernard Shaw


Cast of the original production before the Stage Society at the King’s
Hall, London, on April 8, 9 and 10, 1906.


  Lucie Brignac                           SUZANNE SHELDON
  Julien Brignac                             DENNIS EADIE
  Lioret                                      ROBERT GREY
  Annette                                 MURIEL ASHWYNNE
  Catherine                                  BETTY CASTLE
  Mme. Bernin                            LILIAN M. REVELL
  Pierre Poiret                                FRED GROVE
  Laurent                               CHARLES DODSWORTH
  Le Sous-Intendant                    MICHAEL SHERBROOKE
  Le Colonel                              FRANK H. DENTON
  M. Chevillot                          VINCENT STERNROYD
  Jacques Poiret                              TREVOR LOWE
  Mme. Chevillot                      Mrs. CHARLES MALTBY
  Le Président                            KENYON MUSGRAVE
  L’Avocat                            C. HERBERT HEWETSON
  Mme. Thomas                                 CLARE GREET
  Marie Gaubert                              ITALIA CONTI
  Tupin                                       BLAKE ADAMS
  Mme. Tupin                                  EILY MALYON
  Le Procureur                           CHARLES A. DORAN



ACT I


  _Brignac’s drawing-room. Doors right, left, and at the back.
  Furniture of a government official. When the curtain rises Lucie,
  a woman of about thirty, is alone. Brignac, a man of thirty-eight,
  opens a door outside and calls gaily from the anteroom._

BRIGNAC. Here I am. [_He takes off his cloak, gives it to a
maid-servant, and enters_].

LUCIE [_gaily_] Good morning, sous-préfet.

BRIGNAC [_he is in the uniform of a sous-préfet. A tunic or dolman,
with simple embroidery and two rows of buttons; a cap with an
embroidered band, a sword with a mother o’ pearl handle and a
silver-plated sheath. His belt is of silk; his trousers blue with a
silver stripe; and he wears a black cravat. He comes forward, taking
off his sword and belt during the following conversation. He is
finishing a large cigar_] Have you been bored all alone?

LUCIE. With three children one hasn’t time to be bored.

BRIGNAC [_taking his sword into the anteroom_] By Jove, no!

LUCIE. Well, how did the luncheon go off?

BRIGNAC [_throwing away his cigar-end_] Very well. I’ll tell you all
about it in a minute. [_Going to the door to the right and calling
through_] Has M. Mouton come?

A VOICE [_from outside_] Yes, monsieur le sous-préfet. Shall I tell him
he’s wanted?

BRIGNAC. No. Bring me my letters. [_He closes the door and comes back_]
Shall I never catch that fellow out?

LUCIE. Why do you want to?

BRIGNAC. I want to get rid of him, of course, and get a young chap. An
unmarried man wouldn’t ask half the salary I give this one.

  _A clerk enters bringing letters._

CLERK. The letters, monsieur le sous-préfet.

BRIGNAC. All right.

  _The clerk goes out. Brignac glances at the addresses and sorts the
  letters into several piles without opening the envelopes._

LUCIE. That little ceremony always amuses me.

BRIGNAC. What ceremony? Sorting my letters?

LUCIE. Without opening them.

BRIGNAC. I know what’s inside by looking at them.

LUCIE. Nonsense!

BRIGNAC. Don’t you believe it? Well, look. Here’s one from the mayor of
St. Sauveur. Something he asks me to forward to the préfet. [_He opens
it and hands the letter to his wife, who does not take it_] There!

LUCIE. Why doesn’t he send it direct to the préfet?

BRIGNAC. What would be the use of _us_ then?

LUCIE [_laughing_] That’s true.

BRIGNAC. Now I suppose you’ll make some more jokes about sous-préfets
and their work. It’s easy, and not particularly clever. Perhaps some
of us don’t take our jobs very seriously, but I’m not like that. If we
_are_ useless, our business is to make ourselves indispensable. Just
take to-day for example and see if I’m not busy enough. This morning
I signed thirty documents; afterwards I went to the meeting of the
Council of Revision.[A] Then came this luncheon of the mayor’s to all
these gentlemen. Now I shall have an hour of office-work, and then I
shall have to go and meet our guests and bring them here, to our own
dinner. [_Pause_] Oh! and I forgot—after dinner there will be that
reception at the Club that they put off to suit me. That’s a fairly
full official day, isn’t it?

[Footnote A: The Board appointed to inspect conscripts, and see if they
are fit for military service.—_Note by the Translator._]

LUCIE. Yes.

BRIGNAC. We shall only have part of the Committee at dinner. Some of
the members have refused. [_With interest_] Hullo! I didn’t see this. A
letter from the Minister of the Interior.

LUCIE. Perhaps it’s your promotion.

BRIGNAC [_opening the letter_] One never knows—No, it’s a circular
[_pause_] upon the decline of the population. [_He runs his eye through
the paper_] Most important. [_He goes to the door on the right_] M.
Lioret!

  _A clerk comes in._

CLERK. Yes, monsieur le sous-préfet?

BRIGNAC [_giving him papers_] Give that to M. Mouton. It must be done
by five o’clock, and _well_ done. This for M. Lamblin—M. Rouge—And put
this upon my desk. I will see to it myself and give it the attention it
requires.

  _The clerk goes out._

LUCIE. Perhaps it’s not worth attention.

BRIGNAC. It needs an acknowledgment anyway; and the terms used in the
original must be most carefully reproduced in the acknowledgment.

LUCIE. Now tell me how the luncheon went off.

BRIGNAC. I _have_ told you. It went off very well. Too well. The mayor
wanted to be even with us. All the same, our dinner to-night will be
better. [_He takes a cigar out of his pocket_] I brought away a cigar
to show it to you. Are ours as big?

LUCIE. Pretty much the same.

BRIGNAC. He doesn’t give you cigars like that at his big receptions.
There’s the menu.

LUCIE [_glancing at it_] Oh! I say!

BRIGNAC. The champagne was decanted!

LUCIE. Well, we’ll have ours decanted. [_Brightly_] Only, you know,
it’ll cost money. We shouldn’t have much left if we had to give many
dinners to Councils of Revision.

BRIGNAC. Don’t worry about that. You know very well that when Balureau
gets back into power he’ll have us out of this dead-alive Châteauneuf,
and give us a step up.

LUCIE. Yes; but _will_ he get back into power?

BRIGNAC. Why shouldn’t he?

LUCIE. He was in such a short time.

BRIGNAC. Precisely. They hadn’t time to find him out.

LUCIE [_laughing_] If he heard you!

BRIGNAC. You misunderstand me. I have the greatest respect for—

LUCIE [_interrupting_] I know, I know. I was only joking.

BRIGNAC. You’re always worrying about the future; now what makes me the
man I am is my persistent confidence in the future. If Balureau doesn’t
get into office again we’ll stay quietly at Châteauneuf, that’s all.
_You_ can’t complain, as you were born here.

LUCIE. But it’s _you_ who complain.

BRIGNAC. I complain of the want of spirit in the people. I complain
that I cannot get them to love and respect our political institutions.
I complain above all of the society of Châteauneuf: a set of officials
entertaining one another.

LUCIE. Society in Châteauneuf doesn’t open its arms to us, certainly.

BRIGNAC. It doesn’t think us important enough.

LUCIE. To have a larger acquaintance we ought to entertain the
commercial people. You won’t do that.

BRIGNAC. I have to consider the dignity of my position.

LUCIE. As you often say, we are in the enemy’s camp.

BRIGNAC. That’s true. But the fact that people hate me shows that I am
a person of some importance. We must look out for the unexpected. How
do you know some great opportunity won’t come in my way to-morrow, or
next month, or in six months? An opportunity to distinguish myself and
force the people in Paris to pay attention to me.

LUCIE. Yes; you’ve been waiting for that opportunity for eleven years.

BRIGNAC. Obviously then it is so much the nearer.

LUCIE. And what will it be?

BRIGNAC. Some conflict, some incident—trouble.

LUCIE. Trouble at Châteauneuf?

BRIGNAC. I’m quite aware that Châteauneuf is most confoundedly
peaceable. One gets no chance. I count more upon Balureau than on
anything else. [_Pause_] Is Annette with her friend Gabrielle?

LUCIE. No.

BRIGNAC. But this is Tuesday.

LUCIE. It’s not time for her to go yet.

BRIGNAC. Yes, but if she puts it off till too late.

LUCIE. I’ve wanted for some time to speak to you about Annette. Don’t
you think she goes to the Bernins a little too often?

BRIGNAC. Not at all. They’re very influential people and may be useful
to me. Call her. [_He goes to the door to the left and calls himself_]
Annette! [_Coming back_] Annette goes three times a week to practise
with Mademoiselle Bernin, who goes everywhere. That’s an excellent
thing for us, and may be of consequence. [_Annette comes in_] Annette,
don’t forget how late it is. It’s time you were with your friend.

ANNETTE [_going out_] Yes, yes. I’ll go and put on my hat.

LUCIE [_to Brignac_] They want Annette to spend a few days with them in
the country. Ought we to let her?

BRIGNAC. Why not? She wants to go. You know how fond she is of
Gabrielle.

LUCIE. Yes; but Gabrielle has a brother.

BRIGNAC. Young Jacques. But he’s going to be married, my dear.

LUCIE. Is he?

BRIGNAC. Yes, yes, of course. [_Annette comes in from the left_] Make
haste, Annette.

LUCIE. What does it matter if she’s five minutes late?

ANNETTE. No—no—Where _is_ my music?

LUCIE. You look quite upset. Would you rather not go?

ANNETTE. Yes, yes, I’ll go—Good-bye. [_She hurries off, forgetting her
music_].

LUCIE [_calling_] Your music! [_she holds out the music-case_].

ANNETTE. Oh, thank you. Good-bye. [_She goes out_].

LUCIE. Don’t you think Annette has been a little depressed lately?

BRIGNAC. Eh? Yes—no—has she? Have you found a new parlor-maid?

LUCIE. Yes.

BRIGNAC. There, you see! You were worrying about that.

LUCIE. I had good reason to worry. I’ve been without a parlor-maid for
a week. I liked a girl who came yesterday very much; but she wouldn’t
take the place.

BRIGNAC. Why not?

LUCIE. She said there were too many children here.

BRIGNAC. Too many children! Three!

LUCIE. Yes: but the eldest is three years old and the youngest two
months.

BRIGNAC. There’s a nurse.

LUCIE. I told her that, of course.

BRIGNAC. Well, I declare! And when you consider that it meant coming to
the sous-préfet!

LUCIE. I suppose she’s not impressed by titles.

BRIGNAC. And what about the one you have engaged?

LUCIE. She’s elderly. Perhaps she’ll be steady.

BRIGNAC. Yes, and have other vices. Still—

LUCIE. The unhappy woman has two children out at nurse, and two older
ones at Bordeaux. Her husband deserted her.

BRIGNAC. Too bad of Céline to force us to turn her out of doors.

LUCIE. Her conduct was bad, certainly. All the same—

BRIGNAC. Oh, it was not her _conduct_! She might have conducted herself
ten times worse if only she had had the sense to keep up appearances.
Outside her duty to me her life was her own. But we have to draw the
line at a confinement in the house. You admit that, don’t you? [_A
pause. Lucie does not answer_] It was getting quite unmistakable—you
know it was. Those wretched grocer’s boys are a perfect scourge to
decent houses. [_He takes up a paper_] This circular is admirable.

LUCIE. Is it?

BRIGNAC. And of the greatest importance. Such style, too. Listen. [_He
reads_] ‘Our race is diminishing! Such a state of affairs demands the
instant attention of the authorities. The Legislature must strenuously
endeavour to devise remedial measures against the disastrous phenomenon
now making itself manifest in our midst.’ The Minister of the Interior
has done this very well. The end is really fine—quite touching.
Listen. ‘Truth will triumph: reason will prevail: the noble sentiment
of nationality and the divine spirit of self-sacrifice will bear us
on to victory. We who know the splendid recuperative power of our
valiant French race look forward with confidence and security to the
magnificent moral regeneration of this great and ancient people.’ [_He
looks at his wife_].

LUCIE. It’s well written, certainly.

BRIGNAC [_continuing to read_] ‘Let each one, in his own sphere of
action and influence, work with word and pen to point out the peril and
urge the immediate necessity of a remedy. Committees must be formed
all over France to evolve schemes and promote measures by which the
birth-rate may be raised.’

LUCIE. Does it suggest any scheme?

BRIGNAC. Yes. The rest of the circular is full of the ways and means. I
shall read it aloud this evening.

LUCIE. This evening!

BRIGNAC. Yes. [_He goes to the right hand door and calls_] Monsieur
Lioret!

CLERK [_coming in_] Monsieur le sous-préfet.

BRIGNAC. Make me two copies of this circular _yourself_; you will
understand its great importance. And bring the original back _yourself_
and place it upon this table.

CLERK. Yes, monsieur le sous-préfet. [_He goes out_].

BRIGNAC [_returning to Lucie_] The covering letter from my official
superior ends with these words: ‘Have the goodness, M. le sous-préfet,
to send me at once a statistical schedule of all committees or
associations of this nature at present existing in your district,
and let me know what measures you think of taking in response to the
desiderata of the Government.’ Well, I shall take advantage of the
dinner we give to-night to the members of the Council of Revision to
set on foot some associations of the sort, and then I can write up to
the authorities, ’There were no associations: _I_ created them’!

LUCIE. But is the dinner a suitable—

BRIGNAC. Listen to me. This morning there was a Council of Revision at
Châteauneuf.

LUCIE. Yes.

BRIGNAC. The mayor invited the members to luncheon and we have invited
them to dinner.

LUCIE. Well?

BRIGNAC. The Council of Revision is composed of a Councillor to the
Prefecture, a general Councillor, a district Councillor—I leave out
the doctor—and the mayors of the communes concerned—_the mayors of
the communes concerned_. I shall profit by the chance of having
them all together after dinner to-night—after a dinner where the
champagne will be decanted, mind you—to impress them with my own
enthusiasm and conviction. _They_ shall create local committees, and
_I_ shall presently announce the formation of those committees to the
authorities. So even if Balureau doesn’t get into power, I shall sooner
or later force the Minister to say, ’But why don’t we give a man like
Brignac a really active post?’ This is a first-rate opening for us: I
saw it at a glance. After dinner I shall shew them my diagram. You must
make my office into a cloak-room, and—

LUCIE [_interrupting_] Why? There’s room in the hall.

BRIGNAC. I can’t put the diagram in the hall, and I want an excuse for
bringing them all through the office. Some day the Colonel may meet the
Minister of the Interior and say to him: ‘I saw in the sous-préfecture
at Châteauneuf’—

LUCIE [_interrupting again_] All right. As you like.

BRIGNAC. You trust to me. You don’t understand anything about it. You
didn’t even know how a Council of Revision was made up,—you, the wife
of a sous-préfet. And yet every year we give them a dinner. And we’ve
been married four years.

LUCIE [_gently and pleasantly_] Now think for a minute. We’ve been
married four years, that’s true. But this time three years was just
after Edmée was born: two years ago I was expecting little Louise;
and last year after weaning her I was ill. Remember too that if I had
nursed the last one myself I could not be at dinner tonight, as she is
only two months old.

BRIGNAC. You complain of that?

LUCIE [_laughing_] No: but I am glad to be having a holiday.

BRIGNAC [_gaily_] You know what I said: as long as we haven’t a boy—

LUCIE [_brightly_] We ought to have a trip to Switzerland first.

BRIGNAC. No, no, no. We have only girls: I want a boy.

LUCIE [_laughing_] Is it the Minister’s circular that—

BRIGNAC. No, it is _not_ the Minister’s circular.

LUCIE. Then let me have time to breathe.

BRIGNAC. You can breathe afterwards.

LUCIE. Before.

BRIGNAC. After.

LUCIE. Wouldn’t you rather have a holiday?

BRIGNAC. No.

LUCIE [_gently_] Listen, Julien, since we’re talking about this. I
wanted to tell you—I haven’t had much leisure since our marriage. We’ve
not been able to take advantage of a single one of your holidays. And
if you don’t agree to let—[_tenderly_] Maurice—wait another year it
will be the same thing this time. [_Smiling_] I really have a right to
a little rest. Consider. We’ve not had any time to know one another,
or to love one another. Besides, remember that we already have to find
dowries for three girls.

BRIGNAC. I tell you this is going to be a boy.

LUCIE. A boy is expensive.

BRIGNAC. We are going to be rich.

LUCIE. How?

BRIGNAC. Luck may come in several ways. I may stay in the Civil Service
and get promoted quickly. I may go back to the Bar: I was a fairly
successful barrister once. I may have some unexpected stroke of luck.
Anyway, I’m certain we shall be rich. [_Smiling_] After all, it’s not
much good you’re saying no, if I say yes.

LUCIE [_hurt_] Evidently. My consent was asked for before I was given a
husband, but my consent is not asked for before I am given a child.

BRIGNAC. Are you going to make a scene?

LUCIE. No. But all the same—this slavery—

BRIGNAC. What?

LUCIE. Yes, _slavery_. After all you are disposing of my health,
my sufferings, my life—of a year of my existence, calmly, without
consulting me.

BRIGNAC. Do I do it out of selfishness? Do you suppose I am not a most
unhappy husband all the time I have a future mother at my side instead
of a loving wife? ’A father is a man all the same.’

LUCIE [_ironically_] Oh, you are _most_ unhappy, aren’t you?

BRIGNAC. Yes.

LUCIE. Rubbish!

BRIGNAC. Rubbish?

LUCIE. You evidently take me for a fool.

BRIGNAC. I don’t understand.

LUCIE. I know what you do at those times. _Now_ do you understand?

BRIGNAC. No.

LUCIE [_irritated_] Don’t deny it. You must see that I know all about
it. The best thing you can do is to be silent, as I have pretended so
far to know nothing.

BRIGNAC [_coming off his high-horse_] I assure you—

LUCIE. Do you want me to tell you the name of the person you go to see
over at Villeneuve, while I am nursing, or a ‘future mother’ as you
call it?

BRIGNAC. If you’re going to believe all the gossip you hear—

LUCIE. We had better say no more about it.

BRIGNAC. I beg to observe that it was not I who started the subject.
There, there—you’re in a bad temper. I shall go and do some work, and
then I must join those gentlemen. Only, you know, you’re mistaken.

LUCIE. Oh, yes, of course.

  _He goes out to the right, shrugging his shoulders. Lucie rings.
  Catherine comes in._

LUCIE. Are Nurse and Josephine out with the children?

CATHERINE. Yes, madame.

LUCIE [_beaming_] Were my little ones well and happy?

CATHERINE. Oh, yes, madame.

LUCIE [_sincerely_] Aren’t my little girls pretty?

CATHERINE. Yes: pretty and clever.

LUCIE. The other day Edmée was talking about playing horses, and Louise
said ‘’orses’ quite distinctly. It’s wonderful at her age.

CATHERINE. I’ve seen lots of children, but I never saw such nice ones
before.

LUCIE. I’m so glad. You’re a good creature, Catherine.

  _Annette comes in. She pulls off her hat, wild with joy._

ANNETTE. Lucie! Sister! News! Great news! Good news!

LUCIE. What is it?

ANNETTE [_giving her hat to Catherine_] Take this, Catherine, and go.
[_She pushes her out gently_].

LUCIE [_laughing_] Well!

ANNETTE. I must kiss you, _kiss_ you! I wanted to kiss the people in
the street. [_She bursts into a laugh which ends in a sob_].

LUCIE. Little sister Annette, you’ve gone quite mad.

ANNETTE. No—not mad—I’m so happy.

LUCIE. What is it, little girl?

ANNETTE [_in tears_] I’m happy! I’m happy!

LUCIE. Why, what’s the matter with the child?

ANNETTE. No, no. It’s all right—don’t speak to me. I shall soon be
better. It’s nervous. [_She laughs and cries at the same time_]. I tell
you I’m happy—only—only—How stupid it is to cry like this. I can’t help
it. [_She puts her arms round Lucie’s neck_]. Oh, little mother, I love
you—I _do_ love you. [_She kisses Lucie: another little sob_]. Oh, I
_am_ silly. There now, it’s all right—I’ve done. [_She wipes her eyes_]
There: now I’m going to tell you. [_With great joy and emotion, and
very simply_] I am going to be married. Monsieur and Madame Bernin are
coming to see you about it.

LUCIE. Why?

ANNETTE. Because Jacques has told them to.

LUCIE. Jacques!

ANNETTE [_very fast, tumbling out the words_] Yes, it was when I
was practising with Gabrielle. He had guessed—it happened this
way—practising—he sings a little—oh, nothing very grand—once—[_she
laughs_] but I’ll tell you about that afterwards—it’s because of
that—We shall be married soon. [_Fresh tears. Then she says gravely,
embracing Lucy_] I _do_ love him so, and if he hadn’t asked me to marry
him—You don’t understand?

LUCIE [_laughing_] I guess a little.

ANNETTE. Do you want me to tell you all about it, from the beginning?

LUCIE. Yes.

ANNETTE. I want to so much. If it won’t bore you. It would make me so
happy.

LUCIE. Go on.

ANNETTE. Well, when I was playing duets with Gabrielle—I must tell you
that I began by detesting him because he will make fun of everybody.
But he’s most kind, _really_. For instance—

LUCIE. Now keep to the point. When you played duets—

ANNETTE. Yes, I was telling you. When I played duets with Gabrielle
he used to come and listen to us. He stood behind us to turn over the
leaves: once he put his hand upon my shoulder—

LUCIE. You let him?

ANNETTE. He had his other hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder—it would have
been priggish to say anything.

LUCIE. Yes, but with Gabrielle it’s different.

ANNETTE. That’s what I was going to say. My heart began beating so—I
got so red, and I had no idea what I was playing. And then, another
time—he couldn’t see the music—he stooped right down. But that’s all
nothing. We love each other, that’s the whole thing.

LUCIE. And has he told you that he loves you?

ANNETTE [_gravely_] Yes.

LUCIE. And you hid all that from me? I’m sorry, Annette.

ANNETTE. I’m so, _so_ sorry. But it all came so gradually. I can hardly
tell now exactly when it began. I even thought I was mistaken. And
then—then—when we first dared to speak to one another about what we had
never spoken of, though we both knew it so well—I knew I’d done wrong.
But I was so ashamed I _couldn’t_ tell you about it then.

LUCIE [_tenderly_] All the same it was very naughty of you, darling.

ANNETTE. Oh, don’t scold me! Please, please don’t scold me. If you only
knew how I’ve repented—how unhappy I’ve been. Haven’t you noticed?

LUCIE. Yes. Then he’s spoken to his father and mother?

ANNETTE. Some time ago.

LUCIE. And they consent?

ANNETTE. They are coming this afternoon.

LUCIE. Why didn’t they come sooner?

ANNETTE. Well—Jacques begged them to, but they didn’t want it at first.
They wanted Gabrielle to be married first. It was even arranged that I
should pretend I didn’t know they had been told. Then, to-day, I met
Jacques in the street—

LUCIE. In the street?

ANNETTE. Yes. Lately he has not been coming to our practices—so I meet
him—

LUCIE. In the street!

ANNETTE. Generally we only bow to one another, and that’s all. But
to-day he said to me as he passed, ‘My mother is going to your house.
She’s there behind me.’ Then I hurried in to tell you. [_With a happy
smile_] He was quite pale. Please don’t scold me, I am so happy.
Forgive me.

LUCIE [_kissing her_] Yes: I forgive you. Then you’re going away from
me, you bad thing.

ANNETTE. Yes, I am _bad_. Bad and ungrateful. That’s true.

LUCIE. Marriage is a serious thing. Are you sure you will suit one
another?

ANNETTE. Oh, I’m certain of it. We’ve quarrelled already.

LUCIE. What about?

ANNETTE. About a book he lent me.

LUCIE. What book?

ANNETTE. Anna Karenina. He liked Vronsky better than Peter Levin.
He talked nonsense. He said he didn’t believe in Madame Karenina’s
suicide. You remember, she throws herself under the wheels of the train
Vronsky is going away in. Don’t you remember? It doesn’t matter.

LUCIE. And then?

ANNETTE. And then—there’s a ring—perhaps that’s the Bernins.

  _A silence. Catherine appears with a card._

LUCIE. Yes. It’s Madame Bernin.

ANNETTE. Oh! [_Going to her room_] You’ll come and fetch me presently.

LUCIE. Yes. [_To Catherine_] Show the lady in.

ANNETTE. Don’t be long.

  _She goes out. Lucie tidies herself before a glass. Madame Bernin
  comes in._

MME. B. How do you do, Madame Brignac?

LUCIE. How do you do, madame?

MME. B. Are you quite well?

LUCIE. Very well, madame. And you?

MME. B. I need not ask after M. Brignac.

LUCIE. And M. Bernin?

MME. B. He’s very well, thank you.

LUCIE. Won’t you sit down?

MME. B. Thank you. [_Sits_] What lovely weather.

LUCIE. Yes, isn’t it? How lucky you are to be able to get into the
country. Annette is so looking forward to her visit to you.

MME. B. Well, I came to-day—first of all to have the pleasure of seeing
you—and then to have a chat with you about that very matter.

LUCIE. And about another matter, too, I think.

MME. B. Another matter?

LUCIE. Not about another?

MME. B. No, I don’t quite understand—

LUCIE. Oh, then I beg your pardon. Tell me what it is about Annette’s
visit.

MME. B. My daughter has just got an invitation to spend some time with
her cousins the Guibals, and we can’t possibly refuse to let Gabrielle
go to them. So I’ve come to beg you to excuse us, because—as Gabrielle
won’t be there—

LUCIE. Oh, of course, madame. Will Mademoiselle Gabrielle make a long
stay with her cousins?

MME. B. Well, that’s just what’s so annoying. We don’t know exactly: it
might be a week, or it might be a month. And she _may_ stay there all
the time we are away from Châteauneuf.

LUCIE. Poor little Annette!

MME. B. But I thought you were going away somewhere yourselves this
Easter?

LUCIE. Yes.

MME. B [_kindly_] That relieves my mind a little, and I hope it will
make up to Mademoiselle Annette for the disappointment I am obliged to
cause her—to my very great regret.

LUCIE [_after a silence_] Will you excuse me, madame. [_Hesitating_]
Perhaps this is indiscreet.

MME. B. Oh, I am sure not, Madame Brignac.

LUCIE. I only wanted to ask you if it is long since Mademoiselle
Gabrielle got this invitation from her cousins?

MME. B. About a week.

LUCIE. A week!

MME. B. Why does that surprise you?

LUCIE. Because she did not mention it to Annette.

MME. B. She was afraid of disappointing her.

LUCIE. Only yesterday Annette was telling me about all sorts of
excursions your daughter was planning for them both. Madame, this
invitation is an excuse: please tell me the whole truth. Annette is
only my sister, but I love her as if she was my own child, and I speak
as a mother to a mother. I’m not going to try to be clever or to stand
on my dignity. This is how it is: Annette believes your son loves her,
and when you were announced just now she thought you came to arrange
her marriage with him. Now you know all that I know. Tell me the truth,
and let us do what we can to prevent unhappiness.

MME. B. As you speak so simply and feelingly I will tell you candidly
exactly what is in my mind. As a matter of fact this invitation to
Gabrielle is only a device of ours to prevent Jacques and Annette
seeing any more of one another.

LUCIE. Then you don’t want them to see any more of one another?

MME. B. No, because I don’t want them to marry.

LUCIE. Because Annette is poor?

MME. B [_after some hesitation_] Well—since we’re speaking
plainly—yes, because she is poor. Ah, dear Madame Brignac, we have both
been very much to blame for not foreseeing what has happened.

LUCIE. _We_ have been to blame?

MME. B. I know Annette, and I like her very much. I know you too,
better than you think, and I have the greatest respect and esteem for
you; it has never even occurred to me that in seeking our acquaintance
you had any other motive than friendship. But you ought to have feared
and foreseen what has happened?

LUCIE. What should I fear? Annette went to see Gabrielle. How could
I know that you let your son be with them? You knew it because it
happened at your house, and it is you who have been wanting in prudence
and foresight. You invited this poor child, you exposed her to danger,
you let her take a fancy to your son, you allowed them to fall in love
with one another, and you come to-day and calmly tell me that this
marriage is impossible, and you are going off to the country leaving it
to me to break the poor child’s heart.

MME. B. How do you know I foresaw nothing? And how can one tell the
right moment to interfere to prevent playmates becoming lovers? While
I was uncertain didn’t I run the risk of causing the very thing I was
anxious to prevent, by separating them without a good reason? When I
really felt sure there was danger I spoke to Jacques. I said to him
‘Annette is not a suitable match for you: you must be very careful how
you behave to her: don’t forget to treat this girl as a sister.’

LUCIE. And he said ‘It is too late: we love each other.’

MME. B. On the contrary, he said: ‘You needn’t worry, mother. I have
been thinking the same thing myself, and I am a man of honor. Besides,
though Annette is charming, she’s not the sort of woman I mean to
marry.’

LUCIE. How long ago did he tell you that?

MME. B. About two months ago.

LUCIE. Well, at that time he had already spoken of marriage to Annette;
or at least he had spoken of love, which from him to her is the same
thing.

MME. B. I can only tell you what I know.

LUCIE. Well, madame, all this is beside the question. You are opposed
to this marriage?

MME. B. Yes.

LUCIE. Finally? Irrevocably?

MME. B. Finally. Irrevocably.

LUCIE. Because Annette has no money?

MME. B. Yes.

LUCIE. Your son knew she had no money when he made her love him.

MME. B. Believe me, he didn’t mean to do the harm he has done. A young
girl of his own age was his sister’s constant companion, and at first
he treated her as he treated his sister. At first, I’m sure, it was
without any special intention that he saw so much of her. Afterwards
probably he made some pretty speeches to your little Annette, and
no doubt he was greatly taken with her. As Annette is more innocent
and simple and affectionate, and of course more ignorant than he is,
she has been more quickly and more deeply touched. But my son is not
the worthless fellow you think him, and the proof of that is that he
himself came and told me all about it.

LUCIE. And when you told him he must give up Annette, he agreed?

MME. B. Yes, he agreed. He’s reasonable and sensible, and he saw the
force of my arguments. He saw that this parting, though it will be
painful, was an absolute necessity. He will certainly suffer; but they
are both so young. At that age love troubles don’t last.

LUCIE. I understand. In a week your son will have forgotten all about
it. But Annette—

MME. B. She will soon forget it, too.

LUCIE. I don’t know—I don’t know. Oh, my poor darling! If you had seen
her just now when she came to tell me about it! It’s not for joy she
will cry now. Oh!—[_she begins to cry_].

MME. B [_moved_] Don’t cry—oh, don’t cry. I assure you I am most
deeply sorry. Oh, if it were only possible, how happy it would make
me that my boy should marry Annette. The girl he is engaged to is an
affected little thing who annoys me, and I really love your sister.

LUCIE. But if that is true you can afford to let your son marry a girl
without fortune.

MME. B. No: we’re not so well off as people think. There’s Gabrielle to
be provided for. There will be next to nothing left for Jacques.

LUCIE. But he might work.

MME. B. He has not been brought up to that.

LUCIE. That was a mistake.

MME. B. The professions are overcrowded. Would you have him go into
an office and get 200 francs a month? They wouldn’t be able to keep a
servant.

LUCIE. He could earn more than that.

MME. B. If he got 500—could he keep up his position? Could he remain in
his present set? It would be a come-down for him; a come-down he would
owe to his wife; and sooner or later he would reproach her for it. And
think of their children! They would have just enough to send their son
to a board school, and make their daughter a post office clerk. And
even then they would have to pinch and screw to provide for her until
she got in.

LUCIE. It’s true.

MME. B. You see that I’m right. I can’t say I’m proud of having to
say such things—of belonging to a society that forces one to do such
things. But we’re not in a land of romance. We live among vain,
selfish, hard-headed people.

LUCIE. You despise them, and yet you sacrifice everything to their
opinion.

MME. B. Yes: because everything depends upon their opinion. Social
position depends upon it. One must be a very exceptional person to be
able to defy public opinion. And Jacques is not exceptional.

LUCIE. That’s nothing to be proud of. If he was exceptional, I mean
if he was different to all these people about, he would find his love
would prevent him from troubling about the sneers of worthless idlers.

MME. B. His love! Love goes: poverty stays: it is a proverb. Beauty
passes: want remains.

LUCIE. But you, madame, yourself—you and your husband are a proof that
one can marry poor and make a fortune. Your story is well known. Your
husband began in an office, then he started his own business; and if
riches make happiness, you are happy now—you and he—aren’t you?

MME. B. No, no, _no_; we are not happy, because we have worn ourselves
out hunting after happiness. We wanted to ‘get on,’ and we got on. But
_what_ a price we paid for it! First, when we were both earning wages,
our life was one long drudgery of petty economy and meanness. When
we set up on our own account we lived in an atmosphere of trickery,
of enmity, of lying; flattering the customers, and always in terror
of bankruptcy. Oh, I know the road to fortune! It means tears, lies,
envy, hate; one suffers—and one makes other people suffer. I’ve had
to go through it: my children shan’t. We’ve only had two children:
we meant only to have one. Having two we had to be doubly hard upon
ourselves. Instead of a husband and wife helping one another, we have
been partners spying upon one another; calling one another to account
for every little expenditure or stupidity; and on our very pillows
disputing about our business. That’s how we got rich; and now we can’t
enjoy our money because we don’t know how to use it; and we aren’t
happy because our old age is made bitter by the memories and the rancor
left from the old bad days: because we have suffered too much and hated
too much. My children shall not go through this. I endured it that they
might be spared. Good-bye, madame.

LUCIE. Good-bye.

  _Madame Bernin goes out. After a moment Lucie goes slowly to
  Annette’s door and opens it._

ANNETTE [_coming in_] You’ve been crying! It’s because I’m going away,
isn’t it? Not because there’s anything in the way of—[_with increasing
trouble_] Tell me, Lucie!

LUCIE. You love him so much then?

ANNETTE. If we were not to be married—I should die.

LUCIE. No, you wouldn’t die. Think of all the girls who have said that:
did they die?

ANNETTE. Is there anything to prevent?

LUCIE. No, no.

ANNETTE. And when is it to be? Did you talk about that?

LUCIE. What a state of excitement you are in! Annette, dear, you must
try to control yourself a little.

ANNETTE [_making an effort_] Yes. You’re right. I’m a little off my
head.

LUCIE. You are really.

ANNETTE [_still controlling herself_] Well, tell me. What did Madame
Bernin say?

LUCIE. What a hurry you are in to leave me! You don’t care for me any
more, then?

ANNETTE [_gravely_] Ah, my dear! If I hadn’t you what would become of
me! [_A silence_] But you’re telling me _nothing_. You don’t seem to be
telling me the truth—you’re hiding something from me—there _is_ some
difficulty, I’m certain of it. If there wasn’t you’d say there wasn’t,
you wouldn’t put me off—you’d tell me what Madame Bernin said.

LUCIE. Well—there is something.

ANNETTE [_bursting into tears_] Oh, my God!

LUCIE. You are both very young. It would be better to wait a little—a
year—perhaps more.

ANNETTE [_crying_] Wait—a year!

LUCIE. Come, come, stop crying. There’s really no reason for all this.
I am not quite pleased with you, Annette. You’re barely nineteen. If
you waited to marry until you are twenty it would be no harm.

ANNETTE. It’s not possible!

LUCIE. Not possible? [_She looks searchingly at her_]. Annette, you
frighten me. If it wasn’t you—[_tenderly and gravely_] Have I been
wrong to trust you?

ANNETTE. No! No! What can you be thinking of—Oh, _indeed_—

LUCIE. What is it, then?

ANNETTE. Well, I’ve been such a fool as to tell some friends I was
engaged.

LUCIE. Before speaking to me about it?

ANNETTE [_confused_] Don’t, _please_, ask me any more questions.

LUCIE. Annette, I must scold you a little. You’ve hurt me very much
by keeping me in the dark about all this. Nothing would have made me
believe that you’d do such a thing. I thought you were too fond of
me not to tell me at once about anybody—any man—you were interested
in. I find I was mistaken. We see one another every day, we are never
parted, and yet you have managed to conceal from me the one thing your
heart was full of. You ought to have told me. Not because I am your
elder sister, but because I take mother’s place towards you. And for
a better reason still—because I am your friend. It’s been a kind of
treason. A little more, and I should have heard that you were engaged
from strangers and not from you. Well, my dear, you’ve been wrong:
these people are not worth crying about. Now be brave and remember your
self-respect: I am going to tell you the whole truth. They don’t want
you, my poor little girl: you are not rich enough for them.

ANNETTE [_staring blindly at her sister_] They don’t want me! They
don’t want me! But Jacques! Jacques! Does _he_ know?

LUCIE. Yes, he knows.

ANNETTE. He means to give me up if they tell him to?

LUCIE. Yes.

ANNETTE [_beside herself_] I must see him. I will write to him. I
_must_ see him. If they don’t want me there is nothing left but to kill
myself.

LUCIE [_obliging Annette to look her in the face_] Annette, look at me.
[_Silence. Then tenderly and gravely_] I think you have something to
tell me.

ANNETTE [_tearing herself away_] Don’t ask me—don’t [_very low_] or I
shall die of shame.

  _Lucie forces her to sit down beside her and takes her in her arms._

LUCIE. Come—into my arms. Put your head on my shoulder as you used when
you were little. There now, tell me what the trouble is. [_Speaking
low_]. My darling—my little darling—I’m afraid you’re most unhappy. Try
and think that it’s mother.

ANNETTE [_very low, crying piteously_] Oh, mother! If you knew what I
have done!

LUCIE [_rocking her gently_] There—tell me. Whisper it to me. Whisper—

  _Annette whispers. Lucie rises and separates herself from her sister.
  She hides her face in her hands._

LUCIE. Oh, Annette! _You!_

ANNETTE [_kneeling and stretching out her arms_] Forgive me! Forgive
me! Forgive me! I deserve it all. But I’m almost mad.

LUCIE. You, Annette! _You!_

ANNETTE. Are you going to make me sorry I didn’t kill myself before I
told you! Forgive me—

LUCIE. Get up. It’s too awful. I must forgive you. [_She sits down_].

ANNETTE [_still kneeling_] I didn’t know—I understood nothing. He took
me by surprise. I had loved him for a long time. When he was with his
regiment I used to look forward for weeks to his coming home on leave.
Just the thought of seeing him used to make me tremble. Before I even
knew myself that I was in love with him, he guessed it. He made me
tell him so when he asked me to marry him. Then one day—his father and
mother were away, and someone came and called Gabrielle, I don’t know
why. When we were alone—I didn’t understand—I thought he had suddenly
gone mad. But when he kissed me like that I was stunned—I couldn’t do
any thing—happy, and afraid, and ashamed. That was three months ago.
The next day I met him in the street. I was in such a state that he
said, quite of himself ‘I shall speak at once to my people about our
marriage.’ I know he meant it, because really he is honest and good.
Only, I suppose he hadn’t courage. Then, when I found they were going
away so soon, I said to him yesterday ‘You _must_ speak.’ And now they
don’t want me!

LUCIE. And he knows that—?

ANNETTE. No. No. Since that day—O, that day!—I’ve never been alone with
him. We say ‘monsieur’ and ’mademoiselle’ when we meet and [_in an
awestruck tone_] he is the father of my child.

LUCIE [_after a silence_] It’s not a question now of a girl not to be
married because she is poor. It’s a question of atoning for a crime.
Julien must speak to M. Bernin.

ANNETTE. You’re going to tell him?

LUCIE. I must. Go back to your room. You’re in no fit state to come
to dinner. [_She looks at the clock_] I have only just time to dress.
Directly the people are gone I shall speak to Jules. When do they go
away?

ANNETTE. In a fortnight.

LUCIE. It’s no matter. Jules shall see M. Bernin tomorrow.

ANNETTE. He won’t. He’ll have nothing more to do with me.

LUCIE. No. He will do all he can to save you.

ANNETTE. I don’t think so. Dearest, you are mistaken.

LUCIE. No, I’m not mistaken. I am _certain_. Go. [_Annette goes out_].
I’m _not_ mistaken. But if I were! If there were no one but me to
defend this child and her baby! [_A knock at the office door_]. Come
in. [_The clerk enters_] What is it?

CLERK [_laying a paper on the table_] It is the circular from the
Minister of the Interior. M. le sous-préfet told me to put it here.



ACT II

  _Same scene._


  _Lucie, the colonel, Madame Chevillot, Chevillot, the sous-intendant,
  Brignac, Jacques Poiret, Pierre Poiret, and Laurent. The last three
  are provincial mayors._

  _Lucie and Madame Chevillot are in smart evening gowns; the colonel
  and the sous-intendant in uniform; Chevillot and Brignac are in
  evening dress; Jacques Poiret in a frock coat, and Laurent and Pierre
  Poiret in morning coats._

  _It is after dinner. They are drinking coffee._

PIERRE [_a tall, thin peasant, embarrassed by his coffee cup, speaks
aside to Laurent in a strong provincial accent_] A fine thing, ain’t
it, to be so rich and not have enough tables to go round.

LAURENT [_formerly a working man, to Pierre Poiret_] At lunch ’twas
just the same.

JACQUES [_a crafty farmer, putting his cup down upon the centre table,
and speaking generally_] As for me, I—

LAURENT [_passing his cup to Jacques_] M. le maire, would you mind?

PIERRE [_the same_] M. le maire, would you—?

  _They get rid of their cups, passing them from one to the other._

BRIGNAC [_to the mayors_] Will you take liqueurs? [_He points to a
bottle and small glasses on a tray_].

ALL THREE [_making too much fuss about it_] Thank you, thank you, M. le
sous-préfet.

BRIGNAC. Delighted. [_He passes behind the centre table and pours out
liqueur_].

SOUS-IN [_he is small and thin and wears spectacles: a professor
disguised as a soldier_] Yes, ladies: it is an eccentricity. I
acknowledge it and beg you to excuse it: I am a collector. But you must
confess that I have not bored you with it.

COLONEL [_very much the fine gentleman_] Indeed, no, it was I who let
out the secret. But I said also that you are a learned man.

SOUS-IN. A dabbler only, colonel.

BRIGNAC [_pretending to find upon the table the circular mentioned in
the first act_] Hullo! what’s this? [_No one hears him. He puts the
circular back again upon the table_].

LUCIE [_to the sous-intendant_] And are you also a literary man?

SOUS-IN. The Intelligence Department is the literary section of the
army.

LAURENT [_to Jacques Poiret, passing him his glass_] M. le maire—?

PIERRE [_same thing_] M. le maire—?

BRIGNAC [_again taking up the circular: in a louder voice_] Hullo!
What’s this? [_They all look at him_]. It’s that very circular I was
talking about at dinner: the one from the Minister of the Interior.

COL. About the decline of the population?

BRIGNAC. Yes, colonel. This is an important official document. It
came to-day, and I have been carefully considering what can be done
to advance this movement in my own humble sphere of influence.
[_To Chevillot_] As I said to you a short time ago, M. le maire
of Châteauneuf, the Minister desires to see the whole of France
covered with associations having the increase of the population for
their object; I am certain that you will desire that this town of
Châteauneuf, of which you are the chief magistrate and in which I am
the representative of the Republic, should have the honor of being
among the first to set out upon the road indicated to us.

CHEV. I’m with you. I am a manufacturer: I am all for large populations.

BRIGNAC. You are the very man to be president of the Châteauneuf
association.

COL. I am a soldier: I also am for large populations.

LUCIE. And you, M. l’intendant?

SOUS-IN. I, madame, am a bachelor.

COL [_joking_] More shame for you!

BRIGNAC [_also joking_] It’s a scandal, monsieur, a perfect scandal.

MME. CHEV. You don’t regret it?

SOUS-IN. Ah, I don’t say that, madame.

BRIGNAC [_to the three mayors_] You have heard, messieurs les maires:
commerce and the army require the increase of the population, and the
Government commands you, therefore, to further this end to the best of
your ability, each one of you in his own commune.

  _The three mayors seem annoyed. They look at one another._

PIERRE [_nervelessly_] All right, M. le sous-préfet.

LAUR [_in the same tone_] I’ll mention it.

JACQUES [_the same_] I’ll think it over.

BRIGNAC. Oh, but gentlemen, I want something more definite than that.
I am a man of action: I am not to be put off with words. ‘Acta non
verba.’ May I depend on you to set to work?

LAUR. You see, M. le sous-préfet, this’ll take a bit of thinking over.

JACQUES. Don’t be in a hurry.

BRIGNAC. We must be men of action. M. Pierre Poiret, now is your
chance, won’t you give them a lead?

PIERRE. _Me_—M. le sous-préfet?

BRIGNAC. Yes, _you_, M. le maire!

PIERRE. No—oh, no—not _me_. If you knew—no—not me. [_Pointing to his
neighbor_] My brother, Jacques Poiret: he’s your man. Ask Jacques, M.
le sous-préfet, he can’t refuse. But _me_—not me!

BRIGNAC. Then it is to be you, M. Jacques Poiret?

JACQUES. If they want to start an association in my commune, M. le
sous-préfet, they must get Thierry to see to it.

BRIGNAC. Who is Thierry?

JACQUES. My opponent at the next election.

BRIGNAC. Why?

JACQUES. Why—if he goes in for this I’m certain to get in. But about
the next commune, I can’t understand why my brother Pierre won’t.

PIERRE. Me?

JACQUES. Yes, you’re the very man.

BRIGNAC. Why?

JACQUES. Why? Because he has eight children.

BRIGNAC. You, M. Pierre Poiret, you have eight children, and you said
nothing about it! Let these ladies congratulate you.

PIERRE [_resisting_] It’s not civil, M. le sous-préfet, it’s not civil.

BRIGNAC. What d’you mean?

PIERRE. When you ask people to dinner it’s not to make fun of them.

BRIGNAC. But I’m not making fun of you.

PIERRE. You’d be the first that didn’t. _I_ can’t help it! It’s real
bad luck, that’s what it is. But it’s no reason why I should always be
made fun of.

BRIGNAC. But—

PIERRE. Yes, it’s always the same. In my commune—

BRIGNAC [_interrupting_] But I assure you—

PIERRE. In my commune they’re always joking about me. They say ‘Hey,
Pierre Poiret, there’s a prize for the twelfth!’ Or they say ‘Pierre
Poiret’—and there isn’t a single day they don’t say it, and everyone
thinks it’s funny, and they split with laughing—they say ‘Pierre
Poiret’—only—hum—not before the ladies. [_Jacques Poiret is holding his
sides_] Just look at that fool! I’m sure he brought the talk round to
that a’ purpose.

BRIGNAC. No, no.

PIERRE. I bet you he did. Whenever we’re in company it’s the same
thing. I won’t go about with him any more.

BRIGNAC. But your position is most honorable.

PIERRE. And the worst of it is that he’s right. I call myself a fool
myself when I’m alone. [_Jacques Poiret goes on laughing_] Look at
him—grinning—look!—because he’s only got two. [_To his brother_] You
puppy!

COL [_to Pierre Poiret_] You deserve the greatest credit, M. Pierre
Poiret.

BRIGNAC. You do.

CHEV. You do, indeed, monsieur.

COL [_to Pierre Poiret_] In comparing your conduct with your brother’s
all men of real worth will blame him and congratulate you, as I do,
most sincerely. [_He shakes him by the hand_].

CHEV [_to Pierre Poiret_] Bravo, monsieur! You are helping us in our
great work. [_He shakes him by the hand_].

JACQUES [_looking at his brother_] They _seem_ as if they meant it!

BRIGNAC [_to Jacques Poiret_] You, monsieur, have chosen the easier and
more agreeable life; don’t be surprised if we look upon your brother as
the more meritorious, though you may be cleverer.

PIERRE [_striking his thigh_] That’s the talk. [_To his brother_] Put
that in your pipe, M. Jacques.

JACQUES. All right. You are the most meritorious. Is that what you’re
going to pay your baker with?

PIERRE. Shut up! I’m the best citizen! I’m the most meritorious!

JACQUES. H’m—yes. What does that bring you in?

SOUS-IN. _I_ will tell you that, monsieur. It brings in to your
brother, as the poet says, ‘The joy of duty done.’

JACQUES. H’m. _That_ won’t put butter on his bread.

SOUS-IN. That is true. But one can’t have everything.

PIERRE [_to Brignac, pointing to his brother_] He’s right, monsieur.
For the once that I’ve been complimented, I’ve had to go through some
bad times.

BRIGNAC. You mustn’t think of that.

PIERRE. Oh—mustn’t I? Go along! _He’s_ right.

BRIGNAC. He’s not.

PIERRE. Yes, he is.

CHEV. and COL. No, no.

PIERRE. Yes, he is.

BRIGNAC. No. It’s possible that some people might think so now; but in
ten years the tables will be turned. He may die lonely, while you will
have a happy old age with your children and your grandchildren.

PIERRE. Perhaps it was like that once; but nowadays as soon as the
children can get along by themselves, off they go!

CHEV. Even so they will send you help if you need it.

JACQUES. They couldn’t help him, even if they wanted to.

COL. Why not?

JACQUES. Because as there were eight he couldn’t do anything for them,
so they’ll only be struggling, hand-to-mouth creatures; not earning
enough to keep themselves, much less help him.

PIERRE. And he’s been able to bring up his well. He’s only one girl:
he gave her a fortune and she made a fine marriage. He’s only one
boy: he was able to send him to Grignon and he’ll earn big money like
his father. No: it’s no use your talking. They’re right when they say
’Well, Poiret,’—h’m—not before the ladies.

  _He goes to the table, pours himself out a glass of cognac and drinks
  it._

COL. I regret to say we have become too far-seeing a nation. Everyone
thinks of his own future: no one thinks of the good of the community.

BRIGNAC. In former times people troubled less about the future. They
had faith, and remembered the words of the Scriptures, ‘Consider the
lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they
spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was
not arrayed like one of these.’

LUCIE. And yet there are little children going about in rags.

SOUS-IN. God must be less interested in them than in the lilies of the
field.

COL [_to Jacques Poiret_] But, monsieur, you need hands, too, in
harvest-time.

JACQUES. I have a cutting-and-binding machine. It does the work of
twelve men, and only cost a thousand francs. A child costs more.

CHEV. We must have workmen to make machines.

JACQUES. We buy the machines ready-made in America much cheaper than we
can make them in France.

CHEV. If there were a greater number of workmen we might cut down wages
and produce at lower prices.

JACQUES. Cut down wages! The workmen are complaining already that they
can’t live on their wages.

CHEV. Bah! give them twenty francs a day, and they’ll still complain.

SOUS-IN. You have not tried that yet.

COL. My dear fellow, remember that, as a bachelor, you are out of this
discussion.

SOUS-IN. I withdraw.

CHEV. I didn’t mean that for you, Laurent. [_To the Colonel_] M.
Laurent, the mayor of Ste. Geneviève, was formerly a workman of mine,
but he came into a little money, and went back to his native place.
[_To Laurent_] No—I didn’t mean it for you; but they’re not all like
you, you know.

BRIGNAC [_to Laurent_] So you refuse to form an association too?

LAUR. Refuse, M. le sous-préfet? No.

BRIGNAC. At last! Here’s a mayor who understands his duties. He’ll
start the thing among his people, and before long we shall have the
commune of Ste. Geneviève setting an example to the whole of France.

LAUR. Don’t get that into your head, monsieur; you’ll be disappointed.

BRIGNAC. No, no.

LAUR. Whether you form your association or don’t form your association,
the people at home are too sensible to have more children than they’ve
cradles for. They know too well they must put a bit by.

BRIGNAC. If you think that an association will make no difference why
do you agree to form one?

LAUR. Because I want you to get me what you promised me.

BRIGNAC. What was that?

LAUR. You know.

BRIGNAC. No, I don’t.

  _Laurent touches his buttonhole._

BRIGNAC [_angrily_] Is that what we’ve come to? We were speaking of the
good of the community.

CHEV [_the same_] It’s most discouraging. We point out to you that the
trade of the country is in danger.

BRIGNAC. And you only think of yourself.

CHEV. You only think of yourself.

BRIGNAC. What a want of public spirit!

CHEV. Bad citizenship!

LAUR [_getting excited_] Oh, yes! Making the poor do everything! Go
and talk to the middle classes, who’ve money enough to rear children by
the dozen, and who’ve fewer than the workmen. Here’s M. Chevillot: he
has twenty thousand francs a year, I have two thousand. When he has ten
children, then I’ll have one. That’ll be fair and square, won’t it now?

CHEV. These personalities—

LAUR. Is it true that you’ve only one son?

CHEV. It’s true. But if I had several my works would have to be sold at
my death, and—

LAUR. There we are. These gentlemen are too precious careful about the
fortunes they leave their own children; but when it’s a question of the
workmen’s children, they think it don’t matter if there ain’t enough
victuals to go round.

CHEV. It is to the interest of the workmen that my works should be
prosperous.

LAUR. But you only take unmarried men.

CHEV. I beg your pardon—I—

LAUR. Is it true?

CHEV. It’s because of the Employers’ Liability Bill. Let me
explain—[_Laurent turns his back on him. He addresses himself
to Brignac_] Allow me to—[_Brignac does not listen. To the
sous-intendant_] If I was allowed to explain you would understand. I’m
perfectly consistent.

LAUR. Are we to do as you say, or are we to do as you do? If you
believed what you say you’d act accordingly.

CHEV. But—

BRIGNAC. We shouldn’t indulge in these personalities. We must look
higher. Lift up your hearts. Sursum corda. You have just heard,
gentlemen, that commerce and the army protest against the decline of
the population. And I, the representative of the Government of this
country, tell you, in concert with commerce and the army, that there
must be more births.

LAUR. And what’s the Government doing?

BRIGNAC. What is it doing!—well—and this circular?

SOUS-IN. We must be just. Besides this circular, the Government has
appointed a Commission to enquire into the matter.

BRIGNAC. Various measures are being brought up.

LAUR. When they’re passed—we’ll see.

BRIGNAC. Those who have a large family will be exempted from taxation.

LAUR. From what taxes?

BRIGNAC. What taxes! The taxes you pay to the collector, of course.

LAUR. Listen, M. le sous-préfet. The poor pay next to nothing of those
taxes. They pay the _real_ taxes: the taxes upon bread, wine, salt,
tobacco: and they’ll go on paying them. The more children you have, the
more money the State takes from you.

SOUS-IN. Pray do not forget that the State proposes to confer a
decoration upon every mother of seven children.

PIERRE [_to Laurent_] There you are!

JACQUES. M. le sous-préfet, we must be off. We’ve a long way to go.

BRIGNAC [_to Jacques_] Good night, M. le maire.

PIERRE [_tipsy_] I’m all right here. Why go ’way?

LAUR. I’m a fool, M. Brignac. I’m afraid I’ve been setting you against
me. I’ll start an association—trust me. Good night. Good night, madame.

JACQUES. Good night, madame.

LUCIE. Good night, good night.

PIERRE. Good night, ladies, gents, and—hic—the company.

  _They go out, accompanied by Brignac._

COL [_to Lucie and Madame Chevillot_] I’m afraid we’ve bored you,
ladies, with our discussion.

LUCIE. Not at all.

COL. I notice that women are usually a little impatient if we talk of
these questions.

SOUS-IN. As impatient as we should be if they discussed the recruiting
laws without consulting us.

MME. CHEV. Precisely.

COL [_to Lucie_] Perhaps, too, you don’t agree with us.

LUCIE. You’ll never make women understand why children must be created
to be killed in your battles.

COL [_to the sous-intendant_] There, that’s how the military ruin of a
country is brought about.

SOUS-IN. You’re right, colonel, if it be true that power is a function
of number.

COL. Well, isn’t it?

SOUS-IN. Those who believe the contrary say ‘There is no evidence in
history that supremacy, even military supremacy, has ever belonged to
the most numerous peoples.’ I quote M. de Varigny. General von der
Gotz shares this opinion, and our own General Serval says, ’All great
military operations have been performed by small armies.’

  _Brignac comes in._

COL. Oh, ho, Mr. Bachelor, you’ve got all the arguments on your side at
your finger-ends.

BRIGNAC. We shall make laws against you and your like, M. le
sous-intendant. We shall make it impossible for you to receive money
by will, as the Romans did. We shall make you pay fines, as the Greeks
did. And we’ll invent something new, if necessary.

SOUS-IN. Compulsory paternity!

COL. One may fairly ask whether people have the right to shirk these
obligations.

SOUS-IN. Some people think it is their duty.

BRIGNAC. Their duty!

SOUS-IN. Are you sure that all men who don’t marry are bachelors from
pure selfishness?

COL. Of course, we’re not speaking of you personally.

SOUS-IN. Do so, by all means. It was not out of mere lightness of heart
that I deprived myself of the tenderness of a wife and the caresses of
a child. When I was young I was poor and sickly. I did not choose to
bring children into the world when I had nothing to leave them but my
bad constitution. I said, in the words of a great poet:

                            Remain
  In the elusive realm of might-have-been,
  O son more loved than any ever born!

I thought it better to be lonely than let the stock go from bad to
worse. I believe it is a crime to bring a child into the world if
one cannot give it health and bring it up well. We saw one hundred
conscripts this morning, colonel, and we passed sixty. Would it not
have been better if there had only been eighty and we could have passed
them all?

COL. Perhaps you are right. I said what I said because I’ve heard it so
constantly repeated.

SOUS-IN. When there are healthy houses and food and clothing for
everyone it will be time to think of adding to the number.

LUCIE. That is very true.

CHEV. You evidently don’t share M. Brignac’s ideas, madame.

BRIGNAC. Oh, indeed she does. Madame Brignac and I have three children,
and we don’t mean to stop there: so my wife may qualify for that
decoration some day.

LUCIE [_to Chevillot_] As far as I can see, M. le maire, when children
are born now society does not always make them welcome.

BRIGNAC. I think, my dear, that you had better leave the discussion of
this important question to the gentlemen.

LUCIE. But surely it has some interest for us women! I hear everyone
else consulted about it—political people and business people—but nobody
ever thinks of consulting us.

BRIGNAC. Far from not welcoming the children that are born, society—

LUCIE [_to Brignac_] Stop! Do you remember what happened lately, not a
hundred miles from here? I mean about the servant who was turned out
into the street because she was going to have a baby. She will have
to go to some hospital for her confinement. And after that what will
happen to her and her child?

BRIGNAC [_to the others_] Madame Brignac speaks of something which
took place recently in a most respectable family. The incident has
nothing whatever to do with the principles we are defending. It is
clear that one cannot have a servant in that condition in a well-kept
house. And there are higher considerations which will always prevent
a respectable citizen from even appearing to condone immorality by
sheltering it. One must not offer a premium to evil-doing.

CHEV. Very true.

LUCIE. And the unfortunate girl, who is very likely only the victim of
another person, is condemned by everyone.

BRIGNAC [_timidly_] No, no, I don’t say that. I myself am very liberal,
and I confess that in—exceptional circumstances—one should be indulgent
to her.

LUCIE. Very well. Don’t forget you have said that.

COL. Good night, madame. I must be going. Thank you for a charming
evening.

CHEV. I also, madame—charming.

BRIGNAC [_pointing to the door into his office_] This way. As you go
out I want to shew you a diagram I have had done, by which you can make
yourself acquainted at a single glance with the political conditions of
the division. There is an arrangement of pins—[_They hesitate_]. One
minute. It will only take a minute. You can go out through the office.
One minute—while you are putting on your coats. The coats are in there.
I’m going out with you to a reception at the club. You’ll see—it’s
rather curious. [_To Lucie, aside_] You come too. [_Aloud_] I think the
idea is ingenious.

  _He talks them all off. When they are gone there is a short pause,
  and then Catherine opens the door at the back and steps forward._

CATHERINE [_to Annette, who has come into the anteroom_] Yes,
mademoiselle, they are all gone.

  _Annette comes in. She takes off her hat and cloak and hands them to
  Catherine, who takes them into the anteroom and comes back to turn
  out the principal electric lights and to take away the tray. Annette,
  with fixed, staring eyes, sits rigidly upon the couch. Lucie comes
  in._

LUCIE. Annette! Where have you been?

ANNETTE. I have been to see Jacques Bernin.

LUCIE. You have seen him? You have spoken to him?

ANNETTE. I went to his father’s house.

LUCIE. Well?

ANNETTE. There is no hope.

LUCIE. What did they say to you?

ANNETTE. I oughtn’t ever to tell anyone about the two hours I have just
lived through. It’s too shameful. Too vile. What I can’t believe is
that all that really happened to _me_, and that I am alive still.

LUCIE [_tenderly_] Tell me all about it.

ANNETTE. What’s the good of my telling you? It’s all over. There’s
nothing left. He didn’t love me: he never loved me. He’s gone. He’s
going to marry another woman.

LUCIE. He’s _gone_?

ANNETTE. He went this evening. They all went. M. and Madame Bernin and
Gabrielle dined at the station; Jacques dined at a restaurant with some
friends. I went there. I sent up for him. From where I was standing, in
the vestibule, I heard their jokes when the waiter gave him my message.

LUCIE [_in gentle reproach_] Annette!

ANNETTE. I wanted to know. I was certain his people were taking him
away by force, and I was making excuses for him. I was certain he
loved me. I should have laughed if anyone had told me he wouldn’t be
horrified when he heard what had happened to me. I thought that when he
knew, he’d take my hand, and go with me to his people, and say ‘Whether
you wish it or not, here is my wife.’ As I was sure it would end like
that, I thought it was better it should be over at once. I expected to
come back here to beg your pardon—to kiss you and comfort you.

LUCIE. And what did he say?

ANNETTE [_without listening_] I think I’ve gone mad. All _that_
happened, and I’m here. I’m quiet: I’m not crying: it’s as if I was
paralysed.

LUCIE. You said you sent a message to him at the restaurant?

ANNETTE. Yes.

LUCIE. Did he come?

ANNETTE. Yes. He said he thought some chorus-girl wanted him.

LUCIE. Oh! And when he found it was you?

ANNETTE. He took me out into the street for fear I should be
recognized, and I had to explain it to him in the street. [_A pause_].
People passing by stared at us, and some of them laughed. [_With
passion and pain_] Oh! if I only had no memory!

LUCIE. Tell me, darling, tell me.

ANNETTE [_with violence_] Oh, I’ll tell you. You’ll despise me a
little more; but what can that matter to me now? First he pretended not
to understand me: he forced me to say it quite plainly: he did it on
purpose—either to torture me, or to give himself time to think. You’ll
never guess what he said—that it wasn’t true.

LUCIE. Oh!

ANNETTE. Yes, that it wasn’t true. He got angry, and he began to
abuse me. He said he guessed what I was up to; that I wanted to make
a scandal to force him to marry me—oh, he spared me nothing—to force
him to marry me because he was rich. And when that made me furious,
he threatened to call the police! I ought to have left him, run away,
come home, oughtn’t I? But I couldn’t believe it of him all at once,
like that! And I couldn’t go away while I had any hope. You see, as
long as I was with him, nothing was settled: as long as I was holding
to his arm it was as if I was engaged. When he was gone I should
only be a miserable ruined girl, like dozens of others. Then—I was
afraid of making him angry: my life was at stake: and to save myself
I went down into the very lowest depths of vileness and cowardice. I
cried, I implored. I lost all shame and I offered to go with him to a
doctor to-morrow to prove that what I told him was true. And what he
said then I cannot tell you—not even you—it was too much—_too_ much—I
didn’t understand at first. It was only afterwards, coming back, going
over all his words, that I made out what he meant. He didn’t believe
what he said. He _couldn’t_ have believed what he said. At any rate he
knows that I am not a girl out of the streets. But at first I didn’t
understand. Then—where was I? I don’t remember—At last he looked at
his watch and said he had only just time to catch the train. He said
good-bye and started off at a great pace to the station. I followed
him imploring and crying. I was so ashamed of my cowardice. It was
horrible and absurd! I couldn’t believe it was the end of everything.
I was all out of breath—almost running—and I prayed him for the sake
of his child, for the sake of my love, of my misery, of my very life;
and I took hold of his arm to keep him back. My God! what must I have
looked like! At the station entrance he said, ‘Let go your hold of
me.’ I said, ‘You shall _not_ go.’ Then he rushed to the train, and
jumped into a carriage, and almost crushed my fingers in the door;
and he went and hid behind his mother, and she threatened too to have
me arrested. And Gabrielle sat there looking white and pretending not
to know me. I came back. I haven’t had courage enough to kill myself,
but I wish I was dead! [_Breaking into sobs, and in a voice of earnest
supplication_] Lucie, dear, I don’t want to go through all that’s
coming—I’m too little, I’m too weak, I’m too young to bear it. Really,
I haven’t the strength.

LUCIE. Annette—don’t say that. Hush, my darling, hush. In the first
place, everything hasn’t been tried. You have entreated these people;
now we must threaten.

ANNETTE. It’ll be no use.

LUCIE. It _will_ be of use. The way they’re hurrying away shews how
afraid they are of scandal. As soon as my husband comes in I will tell
him all about it.

ANNETTE. Oh, my God!

LUCIE. He will go down and see them. He will threaten them with an
action. They will give in.

ANNETTE. We can’t bring an action against them. He told me so.

LUCIE. Then there are other ways of defending you. Believe me, I’m sure
of it.

ANNETTE. There are _not_.

LUCIE. There are. And even if there weren’t, you mustn’t talk of dying
at your age. Am I not here? Annette, Annette, my little one, I will
help you through this trouble! You believe me, don’t you? You know how
I love you? You know that mother left you in my care? I’ll help you and
comfort you and love you so well that you’ll forget.

ANNETTE. Forget!

LUCIE. Yes, yes; people forget. If it weren’t for that no one would be
alive.

ANNETTE. I feel as if I had lived a hundred years. Life is hard, hard;
too hard.

LUCIE. Life is hard for all women.

ANNETTE. It’s worse for me than for anyone else.

LUCIE. Oh, Annette! If you only knew!

ANNETTE. When I’ve seen mothers with their little children I’ve had
such dreams.

LUCIE. If you only knew! Those mothers had their own troubles. Nearly
every woman carries about with her the corpse of the woman she might
have been.

ANNETTE. Ah, Lucie, dear, it’s easy for you to talk.

LUCIE. Darling, you mustn’t think you’re alone in your sorrow. I seem
to you to be happy with my children and my husband, and you think my
happiness makes light of your distress. But you’re wrong. Your misery
makes me so weak, I must tell you what I wanted always to hide from
you. My husband does not love me. I don’t love him. Can you realize the
loneliness of that? If you knew what it means to live with an enemy and
to have to endure his caresses!

ANNETTE. My poor dear!

LUCIE. So you see, Annette, you mustn’t think about dying, because
perhaps I shall want your help as much as you want mine. I heard the
door shut. It’s Julien.

ANNETTE. Don’t tell him: please don’t. Spare me the shame.

LUCIE. Go away, now.

ANNETTE. You’ve given me back a little hope. Dearest sister help me, I
have nobody else.

LUCIE. Go!

  _She goes: Brignac comes in._

BRIGNAC [_making for the door of his office_] Not gone to bed yet? I
had a stroke of luck at the club. I met the editor of the ‘Independent’
and I promised to write him an article about the minister’s circular
for to-morrow’s paper. An official’s day is sometimes pretty full, eh?

LUCIE. Julien, I have something very important to tell you. A great
misfortune has happened to us.

BRIGNAC. Good heavens, what is it? The children?

LUCIE. No, it has to do with Annette.

BRIGNAC. You said she didn’t come to dinner because of a headache. Have
you been concealing something?

LUCIE. She is not ill, but she is cruelly and grievously unhappy.

BRIGNAC. Nonsense! Unhappiness at her age! A love affair. Some marriage
she had set her heart on.

LUCIE. Yes, a marriage she had set her heart on.

BRIGNAC. Ouf! I breathe again. What a fright you gave me! _That’s_ not
of much consequence.

LUCIE. Yes, it’s of the greatest consequence. Julien, I appeal to your
heart, to your kindliness, to your best feelings.

BRIGNAC. But what’s the matter?

LUCIE. Annette made the mistake of trusting entirely to the man she
loved, who had promised to marry her. He took advantage of the child’s
innocent love. She has been seduced. [_In a low voice_] Understand me,
Julien, she’s going to have a baby in six months.

BRIGNAC. Annette!

LUCIE. Annette.

BRIGNAC. It’s impossible. It’s—

LUCIE. She is certain of it. She told me about it herself.

BRIGNAC [_after a silence_] Who is it?

LUCIE. Jacques Bernin.

BRIGNAC [_furious_] Jacques Bernin! Well, _this_ is a nice piece of
work! She goes it, this little sister of yours, with her innocent airs!

LUCIE. Don’t accuse her. Don’t.

BRIGNAC. I really cannot compliment her! I’m nicely repaid for all I’ve
done for her, and you may thank her from me for her gratitude.

LUCIE. Oh, don’t be angry.

BRIGNAC. Well, if you are able to hear news like this perfectly calmly,
you are certainly endowed with unusual self-control.

LUCIE. It was the child’s innocence that made the thing possible.

BRIGNAC. I daresay. Go and tell that to the Châteauneuf people!
Besides, if she was so innocent, why didn’t you look after her better?

LUCIE. But it was _you_ who were always urging her to go to the Bernins.

BRIGNAC. In another minute it’s going to be all my fault! I was glad
she should go to their house because I thought old Bernin might be
useful to us. How should I know that the girl couldn’t behave herself?

LUCIE [_indignantly_] Oh, hush! I tell you Annette is the victim of
this wretch. If you are going to do nothing but insult her, we had
better stop discussing the matter.

BRIGNAC. I’m in a nice fix now! There’s nothing left for us but to pack
our trunks and be off. I’m done for, ruined! smashed!

LUCIE. You exaggerate.

BRIGNAC. I exaggerate! I tell you if she was caught red-handed
_stealing_, the wreck wouldn’t be more complete. I even think that
would have been better. I should be less definitely compromized, and
less disqualified.

LUCIE. You can abuse her by and by: the business now is to save her.
The Bernins have gone away this evening; find them to-morrow; and,
if you speak to them as you ought, they’ll understand that their son
_must_ marry Annette.

BRIGNAC. But Jacques Bernin is engaged.

LUCIE. He must break it off, that’s all.

BRIGNAC. He won’t break it off, because it means lots and lots of
money, and because he is the most ferocious little fortune-hunter I
ever met. Yes, he is; I know him, I see him at the club. I’ve heard him
holding forth about women and money; his opinions are edifying. By the
way, has Annette any letters from him connecting him with this business?

LUCIE. No.

BRIGNAC. He’s not such a fool as to compromize himself. He’ll deny
everything.

LUCIE. You must threaten them with a scandal.

BRIGNAC. We should be the first to suffer from that.

LUCIE. But we must do something. We must bring an action.

BRIGNAC. There is no affiliation law in France.

LUCIE. You refuse to go and see what can be done with the Bernins?

BRIGNAC. Not at all. I say that it would be a useless journey.

LUCIE. Then what are we to do?

BRIGNAC. Not a soul in Châteauneuf must know what has happened.
Fortunately we have a little time.

LUCIE. What are you going to do?

BRIGNAC. We’ll see. We’ll think it over. One doesn’t come to a decision
of this importance in ten minutes.

LUCIE. I want to know what you are going to do. Your point of view
surprises me so much that I wish to understand it completely.

BRIGNAC. Understand this, then: if the matter is kept secret, it is
only our misfortune; if it becomes public, it will be a scandal.

LUCIE. How can it be kept secret?

BRIGNAC. We must pack Annette off before anyone suspects.

LUCIE. Where is she to go?

BRIGNAC. Ah! that’s the devil. Where—where? If only we had some friends
we could trust, in some out-of-the-way place, far away. But we haven’t.
Still, we _must_ send her somewhere.

LUCIE. Oh, my God! [_She sobs_].

BRIGNAC [_irritated_] For Heaven’s sake don’t cry like that. That
doesn’t mend matters. We must make some excuse. We’ll invent an aunt or
a cousin who’s invited her to stay. I will find a decent house in Paris
for her to go to. She’ll be all right there. When the time comes she
can put the child out to nurse in the country, and come back to us. I
shall certainly have got my promotion by that time: we shall have left
this place, and the situation will be saved—as far as it can be saved.

LUCIE. You propose that to me and you think I shall consent to it!

BRIGNAC. Why not?

LUCIE. You’ve not stopped to think. That’s your only excuse.

BRIGNAC. I must say, I don’t see—

LUCIE. You seriously propose to send that poor child to Paris, where
she doesn’t know a soul?

BRIGNAC. What do you mean by that? I will go to Paris myself, if
necessary. There are special boarding-houses: very respectable ones.
I’ll inquire: of course without letting out that it is for anyone I
know. And I’ll pay what is necessary. What more can you want? We shall
be sure of keeping the thing quiet that way. I believe there are houses
in Paris subsidized by the State, and the people who stay in them need
not even give their names.

LUCIE. I tell you, you’ve not stopped to think. Just when the child is
most in need of every care, you propose to send her off alone; _alone_,
do you understand, alone! To tear her away from here, put her into a
train, and send her off to Paris, like a sick animal you want to get
rid of. It would be enough to make her kill herself.

BRIGNAC. Can you think of anything better?

LUCIE. Everything is better than that. If I consented to that I should
feel that I was as bad as the man who seduced her. Be honest, Julien:
remember it is in our interest you propose to sacrifice her. We shall
gain peace and quiet at the price of her loneliness and despair. To
save ourselves trouble—serious trouble, I admit—we are to abandon this
child to strangers. She does not know the meaning of harshness or
unkindness; and we are to drive her away now—now, of all times! Away
from all love and care and comfort, without a friend to put kind arms
round her and let her sob her grief away. I implore you, Julien, I
entreat you, for our children’s sake, don’t keep me from her, don’t ask
me to do this shameful thing. I will _not_ do it! We must do something
else. Make _me_ suffer if you like, but don’t add abandonment and
loneliness to the misery of my poor little helpless sister.

BRIGNAC. There would have been no question of misery if she had behaved
herself.

LUCIE. She is this man’s victim! But she won’t go. You’ll have to
drive her out as you drove out the servant. Have you the courage?
Just think of what her life will be. Try to realize the long months
of waiting in that dreadful house: the slow development of the poor
little creature that she will know beforehand is condemned to all the
risks children run when they are separated from their mothers. And
when she is torn with tortures, and cries out in that fearful anguish
I know so well, and jealous death seems to be hovering over the bed of
martyrdom, waiting for mother and child; just when one is overcome by
the terror and amazement of the mystery accomplished in oneself; then,
then—there’ll be only strangers with her. And if her poor anguished
eyes look round for an answering look, perhaps the last; if she feels
for a hand to cling to; she will see round her bed only men doing a
duty, and women going through a routine. And then—after _that_—she’s to
let her child go; to stifle her strongest instinct; to silence the cry
of love that consoles us all for the tortures we have to go through; to
turn away her eyes and say ’Take him away, I don’t want him.’ And at
_that_ price she’s to be forgiven for another person’s crime!

BRIGNAC. But what can I do? I can’t alter the world, can I? The world
is made like that. If Annette was ten times more innocent she couldn’t
stay here.

LUCIE. I—

BRIGNAC [_violently_] And I don’t choose that she shall stay here. Do
you understand? I’m sorry she has to go by herself to Paris. But once
more, if she had behaved respectably she wouldn’t be obliged to do it.

LUCIE. Oh!

BRIGNAC. Can’t you understand that she would suffer much more here,
surrounded by people who know her, than she would there, where she
would be unknown? Here she couldn’t so much as go down the street
without exposing herself to insult. Why, if she even went to mass or
to a concert after her condition became evident, it would be a kind of
provocation; people would avoid her as if she had the plague. Mothers
would sneer and tell their daughters not to look at her, and men would
smile in a way that would be an outrage.

LUCIE. If necessary she can stay at home.

BRIGNAC. Stay at home! Rubbish! What would be the good of that?
Servants would talk, and the scandal would be all the greater. And
you haven’t reflected that the consequences would fall upon me. You
haven’t troubled to consider me, or to remember the drawback this will
be to me. I am not alluding to the imbecile jokes people are sure to
make about the apostle of repopulation. But our respectability will
be called in question. People will remark that there are families in
which such things don’t happen. Political hatred and social prejudice
will help them to invent all sorts of tales. And the allusions, the
suggestions, the pretended pity! There would be nothing left for me but
to send in my resignation!

LUCIE. Send it in.

BRIGNAC. Yes, and what should we live upon then?

LUCIE [_after a silence_] Then _that_ is society’s welcome to the
newborn child!

BRIGNAC. To the child born outside marriage, yes. If it wasn’t for that
there would soon be nothing but illegitimate births. It is to preserve
the family that society condemns the natural child.

LUCIE. If there is guilt two people are guilty. Why do you only punish
the mother?

BRIGNAC. What am I to say to you? Because it’s easier.

LUCIE. And that’s your justice! The truth is, you all uphold the
conventions of society. You do. And the proof is that if Annette stayed
here in the town to have her baby, you’d all cry shame upon her; but
if she goes to Paris and has it secretly and gets rid of it, nobody
will blame her. Let’s be honest, and call things by their names: it
is not immorality that is condemned, but motherhood. You say you want
a larger number of births, and at the same time you say to women ‘No
motherhood without marriage, and no marriage without money.’ As long as
you’ve not changed _that_ all your circulars will be met with shouts of
derision—half from hate, half from pity!

BRIGNAC. Possibly. Good night. I’m going to work.

LUCIE. Listen—Then you drive Annette from your house?

BRIGNAC. I don’t drive her from my house. I beg her to go elsewhere.

LUCIE. I shall go with her.

BRIGNAC. You mean, leave me?

LUCIE. Yes.

BRIGNAC. Then you don’t love me.

LUCIE. No.

BRIGNAC. Ah! Here’s another story. Since when?

LUCIE. I never loved you.

BRIGNAC. You married me.

LUCIE. Not for love.

BRIGNAC. This is most interesting. Go on.

LUCIE. You’re another victim of the state of society you are defending.

BRIGNAC. I don’t understand.

LUCIE. I was a penniless girl, and so I had no offers of marriage. When
you proposed to me I was tired of waiting, and I didn’t want to be an
old maid. I accepted you, but I knew you only came to me because the
women with money wouldn’t have you. I made up my mind to love you and
be loyal.

BRIGNAC. Well?

LUCIE. But when my first baby came you deceived me. Since then I
have only endured you, and you owe my submission to my cowardice. It
was only my first child I wanted, the others you forced upon me, and
when each was coming you left me. It’s true I was unattractive, but
that was not my fault. You left me day after day in my ugliness and
loneliness, and when you came back to me from those other women, you
were full of false solicitude about my health. I begged for a rest
after nursing. I asked to be allowed to live a little for myself, to
be a mother only with my own consent. You laughed at me in a vain,
foolish way. You did not consider the future of your children or the
life of your wife, but you forced upon me the danger and the suffering
of bringing another child into the world. What was it to you? Just the
satisfaction of your vanity. You could jest with your friends and make
coarse witticisms about it. Fool!

BRIGNAC. That’s enough, thank you. You’re my wife—

LUCIE. I’ll not be your wife any longer, and I won’t have another child.

BRIGNAC. Why?

LUCIE. Because I’ve just found out what the future of my poor,
penniless little girls is to be. It’s to be Annette’s fate, or mine.
Oh, to think I’ve been cruel enough to bring three of them into the
world already!

BRIGNAC. You’re mad. And be good enough not to put on these independent
airs. They’re perfectly useless.

LUCIE. You think so?

BRIGNAC. I am sure of it. If you have had enough of me, get a divorce.

LUCIE. But you would keep the children?

BRIGNAC. Naturally. And let me tell you that as long as you are my wife
before the world, you’ll be my wife really.

LUCIE. And you will force me to have a child whenever you please?

BRIGNAC. Most certainly.

LUCIE. My God! They think a woman’s body is like the clay of the
fields; they want to drag harvest after harvest from it until it is
worn out and done for! I refuse this slavery, and I shall leave you if
you turn out my sister.

BRIGNAC. And your children?

LUCIE. I will take them with me.

BRIGNAC. And their food?

LUCIE. I will work.

BRIGNAC. Don’t talk nonsense. You couldn’t earn enough to keep them
from starving. It’s late: go to bed.

LUCIE [_her teeth clenched_] And wait for you?

BRIGNAC. And wait for me. Precisely. [_He goes out_].

LUCIE [_rushing to the door on the left_] Annette! Oh, Annette! There’s
nobody to help us!



ACT III


  _A court house, of which only two sides are visible. The footlights
  would almost correspond with a line drawn from one angle to the
  opposite one. On the left to the front is the raised seat of the
  public Minister. Further back, to the left, the court. Facing the
  audience, successively, counsels’ bench; the defendants’ bench, a
  little raised; and the police bench._

  _In the centre, facing the table on which lie the ‘pièces à
  conviction,’ is the witness-box._

  _To the extreme right are three or four benches, of which a part only
  is visible, reserved for the public. The jury, which is not visible,
  would be in the prompter’s place._

  _There are present the advocate-general: the president of the court
  and his assessors; also the counsel for the defence and some junior
  barristers. In the dock are Madame Thomas, Marie Caubert, Tupin,
  Madame Tupin and several policemen. Madame Chevillot is among the
  public._

PRESIDENT [_authoritatively, to the counsel for the defence_] Maître
Verdier, you cannot speak now. I see what line you propose to take for
the defence, and I give you fair warning that I shall use my whole
power and authority to prevent you from making light of the criminal
acts attributed to the defendants.

COUNSEL FOR THE DEFENCE. You are mistaken, M. le président. I have
no intention of making light of them. On the contrary, I declare
definitely that in my eyes abortion is a crime, because it deprives
of life a creature already living; and to condone it would lead to
condoning infanticide also. But what I propose to demonstrate is that
in not permitting affiliation and in not respecting all motherhood,
whatever its origin may be, society has lost its right to condemn
a crime rendered excusable by the hypocrisy of custom and the
indifference of the laws.

PRES. This is not the time for your address. Let the woman Thomas stand
up. [_To Madame Thomas_] So you hunted up your clients in the provinces?

MME. THOMAS. No, M. le président. They came and found me.

PRES. We shall see. Usher, bring forward the witness—[_he hunts for the
name in his notes_]—Madame Lucie Brignac.

MME. CHEV [_among the audience, to her neighbor_] Mustn’t Brignac be
in a hurry to get his divorce!

  _Lucie has approached the witness-bar. She is thinner and older._

PRES [_to the usher_] Has the witness been sworn?

USHER. Yes, M. le président.

PRES [_to Lucie_] Was it of her own free will that your sister,
the unfortunate Annette Jarras, in consequence of whose death the
defendants have been arrested, came to Paris and placed herself in the
hands of this woman?

LUCIE. Yes, M. le président.

PRES. Very well. Go and sit down. I will call you again presently.
[_Lucie retires to her place, sobbing_]. Marie Caubert, come forward.
[_A small, thin woman rises_]. Your name is Marie Caubert? How old are
you?

SCHOOLMISTRESS. Twenty-seven.

PRES. Profession?

SCH. Schoolmistress.

PRES. You have come from the country, too: do you know what you are
accused of?

SCH. Yes, M. le président.

PRES. What have you to say in your defence?

SCH. I did not know I was doing wrong.

PRES. Your levity amazes me. You are a schoolmistress, and you do not
realize that the sacred mission with which you are entrusted, the
mission of preparing citizens and citizenesses for the glories of the
future, demands that your life should be exemplary. You are appointed
to give the elementary course of lessons in civic morality: is it thus
that you practise that morality? You have no answer? According to the
notes I have here you insisted upon nursing your two children yourself.
Do you love them?

SCH. It was just because I love them.

PRES. But you decided that two were enough. You ventured to limit the
work of the Creator.

SCH. I should have liked nothing better than to have four or five
children.

PRES. Indeed! Then allow me to inform you that you’ve not taken the
best means for arriving at that desirable result. [_He laughs, turning
to his assessor on the right, who laughs also_].

SCH. One must have money enough to bring them up.

PRES. Ah! Stop a moment. If some people were to make that bad excuse I
might understand it. But from you, who enjoy the inestimable advantage
of being under the protection of the State, I do not understand it. You
are never out of work.

SCH. I earn 83 francs a month, and my husband, who teaches too, earns
the same. That makes 166 francs a month to live on and to rear two
children. When there were four of us we could just scrape along, but
with five we couldn’t have managed it.

PRES. You forget to mention that when your children are coming you have
a right to a month’s holiday on full salary.

SCH. Yes, at one time, M. le président, but not now. In 1900 a
ministerial circular announced to us that there was not enough money,
and we could practically only have holidays at half salary. To get the
whole salary we must have a certificate from the inspector, giving
reasons. One has to petition for it.

PRES. Well, then one petitions.

SCH. It’s hard to seem like a beggar simply because one has children.

PRES. Oho! You’re proud.

SCH. That’s not illegal.

PRES. And that’s why you went to the woman Thomas?

SCH. Yes, monsieur. My husband and I had arranged our expenses
carefully. On the evening of the day we were paid our salary we used
to divide the money into little portions and put them away. So much
for rent, so much for food, so much for clothing. We just managed
to get along by being most careful; and several times we cut down
expenses it didn’t seem possible to cut down. A third child coming
upset everything. We couldn’t have lived. We should all have starved.
Besides, the inspectors and directresses don’t like us to have many
children, especially if we nurse them ourselves. They told me to hide
myself when I was suckling the last one. I only had ten minutes to do
it in, at the recreations at ten o’clock and at two o’clock; and when
my mother brought baby to me I had to shut myself up with him in a dark
closet.

PRES. All that’s irrelevant.

COUN. DEF. No, M. le président, it ought to be known here how the
State, which preaches increase of the population, treats its employés
when they have children.

PRES [_furious_] You have no right to speak. [_To the schoolmistress_]
Have you anything more to say?

SCH. No, M. le président.

PRES. Then sit down. Tupin, stand up.

TUPIN [_a working man, mean and wretched_] After you, Calvon.

PRES. What! _What_ did you say?

TUPIN. I said ‘After you, Calvon.’ Calvon’s your name, isn’t it?

PRES. I warn you I shall not stand any insolence from you.

TUPIN. I say to you ‘After you, Calvon,’ as you say to me ‘Tupin, stand
up.’ If that’s insolence, I didn’t begin it.

PRES. I shall have you turned out of the court. Stand up.

TUPIN [_standing_] There: I’m very glad to. It’ll take the stiffness
out of my legs.

PRES. Your profession?

TUPIN. Electrician.

PRES. You were once. It is a long time since you worked regularly.

TUPIN. I can’t get work.

PRES. Because you look for it in the public house. The police reports
about you are most unfavorable.

TUPIN. I never liked the police: I’m not surprised they don’t like me.
[_Laughter from the audience_].

PRES. Silence! or I shall clear the court. [_To Tupin_] The name of
your wife, Eugénie Tupin, has been found in the papers of the woman
Thomas. Where is the woman Tupin? Stand up. [_To Tupin_] That will do,
sit down. You attempted to conceal her from the police.

TUPIN. I thought they were not good company for her.

PRES [_pretending not to hear and consulting his notes_] You gave
yourself up and declared that you yourself took her to this woman’s
house.

TUPIN. You speak like a book.

PRES. You persistently accused yourself. Did you want to go to prison?

TUPIN. It’s not a bad place. One’s warm, and there’s food at every
meal.

PRES. It is true that prison diet is better than your everyday fare.

TUPIN. Now you’re talking.

PRES [_consulting his notes_] When you were arrested you were both
completely destitute. What remained of your furniture had been sold,
and you were entering upon a state of complete vagabondage. No doubt
you also will accuse society. You are an unruly person. You frequent
Socialist clubs; and when you don’t affect a cynical carelessness in
your language, as you are doing now, you like to repeat the empty
phrases you have picked up from the propagandist pamphlets which are
poisoning the minds of the working classes. But we know all about you;
and if you are a victim, you are the victim of your vices. You drink.

TUPIN. I have taken to it lately. That’s true.

PRES. You confess it. Most extraordinary.

MME. TUPIN. What does that prove?

PRES. Your eldest daughter is on the streets and one of your sons has
been sent to prison for a year for theft. Is that true?

TUPIN. Possibly.

PRES. Not quite so insolent now. I congratulate you. We will proceed.
You took your wife to an abortionist. Why?

TUPIN. Because I considered that bringing seven miserable little devils
into the world was enough.

PRES. If you had continued to be the honest and laborious workman that
you once were you might have had another child, without that child
being necessarily a miserable little devil.

MME. TUPIN. That isn’t true.

TUPIN. No, monsieur. After four it’s impossible.

PRES. I don’t understand you.

TUPIN. What I say is that a workman’s family, however hard they work
and screw, can’t get along when there are five children.

PRES. If that is true there are—and this society you despise may be
proud of it—there are, I say, many charities on the watch, so to speak,
for the destitute; and they make it a point of honor to leave none
without relief.

TUPIN [_indignant_] Oh, and that seems all right to you, does it? You
say it’s a workman’s duty to work and to have a lot of children, and
when he does it, fair and square, and it makes a beggar of him, it
seems to you all right!

PRES. Ah, ha! Here’s the orator of the public house parlor. In the
first place, we have only your assertion that a workman’s family cannot
live when there are five children. But, thank God, there are more than
one or two in that condition who have recourse neither to charity nor
to an abortionist.

MME. TUPIN. That’s not true.

TUPIN. Shall I prove to you that you’re wrong?

PRES. That has nothing to do with the charge against you.

MME. TUPIN. Yes, it has.

TUPIN. I beg your pardon. If I prove it that will explain how I came to
do what I did.

MME. TUPIN. I should think so!

PRES. Very well, but cut it short.

TUPIN. I gave my lawyer the month’s account. Please let him read it to
you.

PRES. Very well.

  _The counsel for the defence rises._

COUN. Here it is.

PRES. Stop. You’re not Tupin’s counsel.

COUN. No, M. le président. But my learned friends, with a confidence
which honors me, and for which I thank them, have begged me to take
over the conduct of the case as a whole, reserving to themselves the
right to discuss important matters affecting their several clients.

PRES. Then I give you permission just to read this document. But do not
attempt to address the court. This is not the time. You can read the
paper and that is all. Do you understand?

COUN. I perfectly understand, M. le président. [_He reads_].[B]

[Footnote B: A shorter version of this document, for the theatre, will
be found in a note at the end.]

DAILY EXPENSES.

  FOR THE MOTHER AND CHILDREN.
        _Breakfast._                     f. c.
      Milk, 20c., bread, 10c             0  30
        _Dinner._
      Bread                              0  70
      Wine                               0  20
      Vegetables and dripping for soup   0  20
      Meat                               0  60
      A relish for the children          0  25

  SUPPER FOR ALL THE FAMILY.
      Stew                               0  90
      Potatoes, etc.                     0  20
      Wine                               0  40

  FOR THE HUSBAND.
      Tramway return fare                0  30
      Tobacco                            0  15
      Dinner (out)                       1  25
                                         —————
  TOTAL FOR THE DAY.                     5  45
      Comes to 1989f. 25c. per annum.

YEARLY EXPENSES.

  Rent, 300f.

  Dress.—Three skirts at 5f.; three bodices at 3f.; sixteen pairs of
  boots for the children at 4f. 50c. the pair; four for the parents at
  8f. Two hats at 2f. Underclothes for the mother, 5f.; for the father,
  15f.; for the children, 30f. Bedding and linen, 10f. Clothes of the
  father, 120f. Total, 312f.

The expenses are therefore 2,600f. a year. Tupin, who was a capable
workman, earned 175f. a month, or 2,100f. a year. There was therefore
an annual deficit of 500f. As I promised, I abstain from comment. [_He
sits down_].

MME. CHEV [_to her neighbor_] There were three sous a day for tobacco
that he might very well have saved.

COUN. Perhaps this document might be formally put in evidence.

PRES. It is quite useless. [_To Tupin_] I am not going to dispute your
figures. I admit them, and I repeat there are charities.

TUPIN. And I repeat that I’m not a beggar.

PRES. You prefer to commit what is almost infanticide. A man who has a
daughter on the streets and a son a thief may accept charity without
degradation.

MME. TUPIN [_outraged_] Oh!

TUPIN [_indignant_] In those days they were not what they are now. If
they fell so low it was because I had too many children and I couldn’t
look after my boy; and because my girl was deserted and starving. But
you must be made of stone to throw that in my teeth.

PRES. And if you took to drinking it’s not your fault either, I suppose?

TUPIN. I want to explain about that. When we began to get short in the
house my wife and I started to quarrel. Every time a child came we
were mad at making it worse for the others. And so—I needn’t make a
long story of it—I ended up in the pub. It’s warm there, and you can’t
hear the children crying nor the mother complaining. And besides, when
you’ve drink in you forget.

MME. TUPIN. It’s the sort of thing that it’s good to forget.

TUPIN. And that’s how we got poorer and poorer. My fault if you like.

PRES. And the last child, what about that?

MME. TUPIN. Oh, the last.

TUPIN. The last? _He_ cost us nothing.

PRES [_carelessly_] Eh?

MME. TUPIN. No.

TUPIN. No, he was a cripple. He was born in starvation, and his mother
was worn out.

PRES. And his father was a drunkard.

TUPIN. Maybe. Anyway that one, the sickly fellow, wanted for nothing.
They took him into the hospital. They wouldn’t let me take him away.

MME. TUPIN. He was a curiosity for the doctors.

TUPIN. And they nursed him and they nursed him and they nursed him.
They didn’t leave him a minute. They made him live in spite of himself.
And they let the other children—the strong ones—go to the bad. With
half the money and the fuss they wasted on the cripple they could have
made fine fellows of all the others.

PRES. And was that the reason you did away with the next?

MME. TUPIN. For all the good he’d have got out of this world he might
thank me for not letting him come into it.

PRES. He should never have been created.

TUPIN. That’s true.

PRES. If everyone was like you the country would soon go to the dogs.
But you don’t trouble yourself much about the country, I expect.

TUPIN. Someone said ‘A man’s country is the place where he’s well off.’
I’m badly off everywhere.

PRES. You are perfectly indifferent to the good of humanity.

TUPIN. Humanity had better come to an end if it can’t get on without a
set of miserable wretches like me.

PRES. The jury thoroughly appreciate your moral sense. You can sit down.

  _Evening has come. The ushers bring lamps._

PRES [_to Madame Tupin_] Have you anything more to say?

MME. TUPIN. I have to say that all this is not my fault. My husband and
I worked like beasts; we did without every kind of pleasure to try and
bring up our children. If we had wanted to slave more I declare to you
we couldn’t have done it. And now that we’ve given our lives for them,
the oldest is in hospital ruined and done for because he worked in a
‘dangerous trade’ as they call it!

PRES. Why didn’t you put him into something else?

MME. TUPIN. Because there’s no work anywhere else. They’re full up
everywhere else. There are too many people in the world. My little girl
is a woman now like lots of others in Paris. She had to choose between
that and starving. She chose that. I’m only a poor woman, and I know
what it means to have nothing to eat, so I forgave her. The worst of it
is that sometimes she’s hungry all the same.

TUPIN. And they say God blesses large families!

PRES [_from his notes_] Two others of your children are dead. The two
youngest are out at nurse.

MME. TUPIN. Yes. They were taken away as soon as they were born. All
I know about them is the post-office order I send every month to the
woman who’s bringing them up. Oh, it’s cruel! It’s cruel! It’s cruel!
[_She sits down_].

PRES. We have now only to examine the case of Annette Jarras. Let the
woman Thomas stand up. [_To Madame Thomas_] This was your victim. She
was nineteen, quite young and in perfect health. Now she is in her
grave. What have you to say?

MME. THOMAS [_quietly_] Nothing.

PRES. You don’t excite yourself. Oh, we know you are not easily moved.

MME. THOMAS. If I told you that it was pity made me do it, you wouldn’t
believe me.

PRES. Probably not. But at any rate you might try. Every accused person
has a right to say whatever he can in his own defence: of course under
the control of the president of the court.

MME. THOMAS. It isn’t worth while.

PRES. Oh, yes. Let us hear. The gentlemen of the jury are listening.

MME. THOMAS [_after a sign from her counsel_] A girl came to me one
day; she was a servant. She had been seduced by her master. I refused
to do what she asked me to do: she went and drowned herself. Another I
refused to help was brought up before you here for infanticide. Then
when the others came, I said Yes. I’ve prevented many a suicide and
many a crime.

PRES. So that’s your line of defence. It is in pity, in charity, that
you have acted. The prosecution will answer that you have never failed
to exact payment for your services, and a high payment.

MME. THOMAS. And you? Don’t they pay you for condemning other people?

PRES. Those you condemn to death and execute yourself are all innocent.

MME. THOMAS. You prosecute _me_, but you decorate the surgeons who
trade in sterility.

PRES. Be silent. Sit down. Madame Lucie Brignac. [_Lucie comes forward,
in great emotion_]. Calm yourself, madame, and tell us what you know.
You are called for the defence.

LUCIE. It was I, monsieur, who asked to be heard.

PRES. Speak up, madame, I cannot hear what you say.

LUCIE [_louder_] It was I, monsieur, who asked to be heard. I wanted
to defend the memory of my little one. I fear now I shall not have the
strength. [_She controls herself_]. Annette was seduced by a man who
had promised to marry her. She lived with us. When my husband knew that
my sister was in a certain condition, he wished to send her away. I was
indignant, and I left his house with her and my children. We went to
Bordeaux. We had a few hundred francs, and we thought we could work for
our living. [_She stops_].

PRES. Well?

LUCIE. Our money was soon spent. Annette was giving some music
lessons; they guessed her condition and they sent her away. I did some
sewing.

PRES. And earned some money?

LUCIE. I couldn’t always get work. When I got it, I was paid
sevenpence-halfpenny for twelve hours. I was not a skilled worker. Some
people get a shilling and a halfpenny. We were in despair, thinking of
the child that was coming.

PRES. That was not a reason for leading your sister and her child to
their deaths! [_Lucie is seized with a nervous trembling and does not
answer_]. Answer!

COUN. DEF. Give her a moment to recover, M. le président.

LUCIE [_controlling herself_] I wanted to get her into a hospital, but
they only take them at the end. It seems there are homes one can go to
in Paris, but not in the provinces.

PRES. You could have applied for charity.

LUCIE. Six months residence was necessary. And then, what should we
have done with the child?

PRES. As it was impossible for you to bring it up, your sister could
have taken it to a foundling hospital.

LUCIE. Abandon it—yes, we thought of that. We made inquiries.

COUN. DEF. It is necessary to get a certificate of indigence, and then
make an application to the board of admission. They inquire into the
case and admit or reject. The child may die meanwhile.

LUCIE. And they make a condition that the mother shall not know where
her child is. That she shall never see it or hear of it again. Only
once a month she will be told if it is alive or dead. Nothing more.

PRES. Proceed, madame.

LUCIE. Then I brought my children back to my husband, because we had
nothing left. I went to see the parents of the young man, who is the
cause of everything. They practically turned me out of doors. The
young man is going to be married.

COUN. DEF. May I say a word, M. le président?

PRES. You are sure it is only a word?

COUN. DEF. Yes, M. le président. All the guilty are not in court. I
look in vain for the seducer of this poor girl. He is waiting anxiously
in the provinces to hear the result of this trial, fearing his name may
come out. I have received from him and from his family an imploring
letter, entreating me to spare him and not to mention him by name
during the proceedings. Until now, as a matter of fact his name has not
been mentioned, and we are at the end of the trial. Well, I am going
to make it known at once. I shall have no more pity for the family
and the intended wife of this criminal, than he had for the woman who
is dead, and for the woman whose life he has ruined. If there is no
law in the Code of this country which can reach him, there will be at
least indignation enough in the hearts of all honest people to prevent
Jacques Bernin from enjoying in peace the happiness he has stolen!
[_Prolonged applause_].

PRES [_to Lucie_] Proceed, madame. [_Pause_]. Kindly conclude your
evidence.

LUCIE. I implored my husband to take us back, Annette and me. He
wouldn’t. We came to Paris with a little money he gave me. It was too
soon for them to take Annette into one hospital: in another, where they
would have taken her, there was no room. My husband filed a petition
for divorce.

PRES. Kindly tell us about what concerns the woman Thomas.

LUCIE [_with growing emotion_] Yes, monsieur. Annette was always
reproaching herself with having accepted what she called my sacrifice.
She kept saying she was the cause of all my troubles. [_A silence_].
One day they came to fetch me and I found her dead at this woman’s
house. [_In a burst of sobs, which become hysterical, she cries out_]
My little sister, my poor little sister!

PRES [_kindly, to the usher_] Take her back to her place, or, if
necessary, take her outside and do all you can for her. [_To the
defendants_] Then none of you has any more to say in your defence!

TUPIN [_excited_] Oh, if we said all we’ve got to say we should be here
until to-morrow morning!

MME. TUPIN [_the same_] _That_ we should!

TUPIN [_shouting_] We should never stop!

PRES. I call upon the counsel for the prosecution for his speech.

SCH. But, monsieur, you are not going to condemn me? It’s not possible.
I haven’t said everything.

TUPIN. _We’re_ not the guilty ones.

SCH. I’m afraid of getting a bad name. And we hadn’t the means to bring
up another.

MME. TUPIN [_violently, much excited_] Shut up! As it’s like that—as
that’s what they do to our children—as men have found nothing to change
that—we must do it—the women must do it. We must start the great
strike—_the_ strike—the strike of the mothers.

  _Cries in the audience, ‘Yes, yes.’_

PRES. Silence.

MME. TUPIN [_shouting_] Why should we kill ourselves to get wage-slaves
and harlots for other people?

TUPIN. _We’re_ not the guilty ones.

PRES. I did not—

MME. THOMAS. And all the men that seduced the girls I saved—have you
punished _them_?

PRES. Sit down.

TUPIN. The guilty ones are the people that tell us to have more
children when the ones we have are starving.

COUN. DEF. The seducers are the guilty ones; and social hypocrisy.

  _During the proceedings, anger, which rapidly becomes fury, has taken
  possession of the defendants. They are all on their feet except
  the schoolmistress, who goes on sobbing and murmuring to herself
  unintelligibly. The president, also standing, strikes his desk with
  a paper-knife, trying to impose silence. He shouts, but cannot make
  himself heard. The tumult increases until the curtain falls. The
  voices of the counsel for the defence and the defendants drown those
  of the president and the counsel for the prosecution._

MME. THOMAS. The fine gentlemen that get hold of them and humbug them!

PRES. I will have you taken back to prison.

MME. THOMAS. And the rich young man, and the old satyrs—and the men!
The men! All the men!

COUNSEL FOR THE PROSECUTION. Police, can’t you silence these lunatics?

COUN. DEF. You have no right to insult the defendants.

TUPIN. They’ve been doing nothing else the whole time.

COUN. PROS. Keep this rabble quiet! The defendants must respect the law.

COUN. DEF. And you, sir, must respect justice.

COUN. PROS. You sympathize with their crime. I am outraged by it.

COUN. DEF. They are right. They are not guilty. You must respect—

COUN. PROS. I demand—

COUN. DEF. Our customs are guilty, which denounce the unmarried mother!

AUDIENCE. Bravo! Hear, hear!

COUN. PROS. I demand that the counsel for the defence—

COUN. DEF. Every woman with child should be respected, no matter what
the circumstances are. [_Applause_].

PRES. Maître Verdier, by article forty-three of the regulations—

COUN. DEF. Their crime is not an individual crime, it is a social
crime.

COUN. PROS. It is a crime against nature.

COUN. DEF. It is _not_ a crime against nature. It is a revolt against
nature.

PRES. Police, remove the defendants. [_The police do not understand or
do not hear_]. Maître Verdier, must we employ force? [_Tumult in the
whole court_].

COUN. DEF [_rhetorically_] It _is_ a revolt against nature! And with
all the warmth of a heart melted by pity, with all the indignation
of my outraged reason, I look for that glorious hour of liberation
when some master mind shall discover for us the means of having only
the children we need and desire, release us for ever from the prison
of hypocrisy and absolve us from the profanation of love. That would
indeed be a conquest of nature—savage nature—which pours out life with
culpable profusion, and sees it disappear with indifference. But, until
then—

  _The tumult recommences._

PRES. Police, clear the court! Police—police, remove the defendants.
The sitting is suspended. [_The magistrates cover their heads and
rise_].

MME. THOMAS. It’s not I who massacre the innocents! _I’m_ not the
guilty one!

SCH. Mercy, monsieur, mercy!

MME. TUPIN. _She’s_ not the guilty one!

TUPIN. She’s right. She’s _not_!

MME. THOMAS. It’s the men! the men! _all_ the men!

  _The magistrates go out by the narrow door reserved for them, the
  backs of their red robes disappearing slowly during the last words._


TUPIN’S BUDGET (CONDENSED).

  The daily food of the mother and the five children consists of a loaf
  of bread, soup made of dripping and vegetables, and a stew. Total
  cost, 3f. 75c.

  The husband’s expenses are: tramway fare, 30c.; tobacco, 15c.; lunch,
  1f. 25c.

  General expenses of the family: rent, 300f.; clothing, linen, boots
  (sixteen pairs for the children at 4f. 50c. the pair, four for the
  parents at 8f.), are again 300f.

  Annual total, 2,600f.



  The Three Daughters
  of M. Dupont

  [Les Trois Filles de M. Dupont]

  Translated by St. John Hankin

Cast of the original production before the Stage Society at the King’s
Hall, London, on March 12, 13 and 14, 1905.

  Mme. Dupont                KATE BISHOP

  Courthezon                LEON M. LION

  Caroline                  ITALIA CONTI

  Julie                     ETHEL IRVING

  M. Dupont               O. B. CLARENCE

  Justine                  LOIS CRAMPTON

  M. Mairaut              ARTHUR CHESNEY

  Mme. Mairaut              AGNES THOMAS

  Antonin Mairaut      CHARLES V. FRANCE

  Lignol                    LEWIS CASSON

  M. Pouchelet              G. M. GRAHAM

  Mme. Pouchelet             DORA BARTON

  Françoise               FLORENCE ADALE

  Angèle                GERTRUDE BURNETT



ACT I


  _A very undistinguished room in a house in a French country town. The
  time is February. There is in the centre of the room a table, with
  chairs round it; a fireplace on the left, and window on the right; a
  piano; lamps; a bronze statuette of Gutenberg; holland covers on the
  furniture. There are doors to right and left and at the back._

  _Madame Dupont is discovered alone, darning stockings. After a moment
  or two Courthezon comes in, with some papers in his hand._

COURTHEZON. Why, you’re all alone, Madame Dupont?

MME. DUPONT. Yes, M. Courthezon.

COURTHEZON. Your young ladies are listening to the band?

MME. DUPONT. No: Julie has gone to pay a call, and Caroline is at
Benediction. She goes every Sunday.

COURTHEZON. Oh, yes, of course.

MME. DUPONT. On Sunday we never see her, except at déjeûner. The rest
of the day she’s at church. I believe she never misses a service. And
now she is one of the Enfants de Marie. At her age, too!

COURTHEZON. How old is she?

MME. DUPONT. Thirty-three.

COURTHEZON. And still very religious?

MME. DUPONT. Very.

COURTHEZON [_nodding_] Her mother was just the same.

MME. DUPONT. You remember my husband’s first wife?

COURTHEZON. Yes. I came to the printing office two years before she
died. [_Pause_] M. Dupont is at his game at the Café du Commerce, no
doubt? I should be there myself if I could afford it.

MME. DUPONT. You have your savings.

COURTHEZON. Precisely; and I don’t want to lose them. But you are
working, Madame Dupont?

MME. DUPONT. Mending some stockings. One must find something to do.

COURTHEZON. I’ve been hard at it, too, all day.

MME. DUPONT. Still at your invention?

COURTHEZON. Yes. I tell you it’s splendid. I’ve been downstairs to the
printing office to see if there were any orders.

MME. DUPONT. Were there any?

COURTHEZON [_looking through papers in his hand_] Three hundred
visiting cards, a price list, and an announcement.

MME. DUPONT [_stopping her work_] Death? Birth?

COURTHEZON. Neither. A marriage.

MME. DUPONT. Give it me. [_Reads paper which Courthezon gives her_] M.
Jacquemin. M. Jacquemin! And who is this Mlle. Martha Violet whom he is
marrying?

COURTHEZON. One of the Violets of the Rue du Pré.

MME. DUPONT. Oh, yes: of course. [_To Courthezon, who makes as if to
take back the paper_] Leave it with me. I will send it down to you. I
want to show it to Julie. So you are pleased with your invention?

COURTHEZON [_sitting down_] I am delighted with it. Delighted! I’ve
been working at it twenty years! And now it’s finished. What do you
think of that?

  _Enter Caroline. She is tall, stringy, not pretty, not attractive,
  but not absurd. She has a prayer-book in her hand._

MME. DUPONT [_carelessly, to Courthezon, who has stopped_] Go on. It’s
only Caroline. [_Interested_] And you still won’t tell us what it is?

COURTHEZON. Not yet. [_Rising, bowing to Caroline_] Good day, Mlle.
Caroline.

CAROLINE [_half-returning his bow_] Good day, M. Courthezon.

MME. DUPONT. I can imagine how pleased you are.

COURTHEZON. Of course I am.

CAROLINE. You have finished your invention!

COURTHEZON. Yes. How did you guess?

CAROLINE [_a little confused_] Oh, only—

COURTHEZON. Only?

CAROLINE [_in a lower voice_] Only that I knew it.

COURTHEZON. You knew it?

CAROLINE [_confused_] Yes. But never mind about that.

MME. DUPONT [_to Courthezon_] And now you will become a rich man, eh,
M. Courthezon?

COURTHEZON. Not all at once. I must first find someone who will buy
my invention, or who will advance me money to push it for myself. But
there’s plenty of time to think of all that: and whether I succeed
or not, I am glad to have given twenty years of my life to inventing
something that will make life a little easier for those who will come
after me. And now I am going downstairs to the office to do a little
work. You’ll send down that announcement, won’t you?

MME. DUPONT. I won’t forget.

COURTHEZON. Good evening, Madame Dupont. Good evening, Mlle. Caroline.

CAROLINE & MME. DUPONT. Good evening, M. Courthezon.

  _Courthezon goes out._

MME. DUPONT. Why were you so sure he had completed his invention?

CAROLINE [_confused, after a moment’s silence_] You won’t tell anyone,
mother?

MME. DUPONT. No.

CAROLINE. Because I prayed for it.

MME. DUPONT [_not spitefully, but with a slight shrug of the
shoulders_] I see.

  _Julie comes in._

JULIE. Here I am, maman [_she kisses her_]. You here, Caro? [_She does
not kiss her_].

MME. DUPONT. Ah, Julie! Sit down, dear, and tell me what you have been
doing and whom you have seen.

  [_Her warm greeting to Julie contrasts markedly with the cold
  reception she previously gave to Caroline_].

JULIE. I went to see Madame Leseigneur.

MME. DUPONT. I might have guessed that.

JULIE. Why?

MME. DUPONT. You only go to houses where there are children. And as
Madame Leseigneur has six—

JULIE. I wish I were in her place. Only think: André, the youngest, you
know, the one who is only six months old?

MME. DUPONT. Yes.

JULIE. He _recognised_ me. There never _was_ such a baby for taking
notice.

MME. DUPONT. You talk as if you were a mother yourself.

JULIE. Jean laughed till he cried when he saw what I had brought him.
Charles and Pierre were in disgrace because they’d been fighting. But
I got their mother to forgive them, so that was all right. To-morrow I
shall go to Madame Durand to hear how Jacques is going on. I hear he
has the whooping-cough.

MME. DUPONT [_laughing_] You ought to have been a nurse.

JULIE [_seriously_] No, no. I should have died when I had to leave the
first child I had nursed.

MME. DUPONT. Then you should marry.

JULIE. Yes. [_Pause_].

MME. DUPONT [_to Caroline_] Well, Caroline, what are you doing there
with your mouth open?

CAROLINE. I was listening.

MME. DUPONT. Have you finished your painting?

CAROLINE. No. I still have six of the Marie Antoinette figures to do,
and a dozen china Cupids to finish.

JULIE. How funny it is to think of Caro painting Cupids!

CAROLINE. Why?

MME. DUPONT [_to Caroline_] And you have to send all those off by
twelve o’clock to-morrow?

CAROLINE. Yes.

MME. DUPONT. You will never have them ready.

CAROLINE. I shall manage.

MME. DUPONT. You might do a little at them now, before dinner, instead
of sitting there twiddling your fingers.

CAROLINE. I shall get up early to-morrow.

MME. DUPONT. Even if you _do_ get up early—

CAROLINE. I shall begin at six, as soon as it is light.

MME. DUPONT. Still, you might do some work on them now.

CAROLINE. I would rather not.

MME. DUPONT. Because it’s Sunday, I suppose; and one mustn’t work on
Sunday.

CAROLINE. Yes. [_Pause_] Why should _you_ mind, mother, if I—

MME. DUPONT. I? Not the least in the world. Do as you please. You are
old enough to decide for yourself.

JULIE [_who has been reading one of the papers_] Is Courthezon down in
the office? I should like the next part of this.

MME. DUPONT. You know quite well your father doesn’t like you to read
the proofs of the stories he has to print.

JULIE. I have no others. Listen to this: isn’t it too bad to have to
stop there? [_Reads_] ‘Solange was still in Robert’s arms. At this
moment the Count entered, menacing, terrible, his revolver in his
hand.’ I do so want to know what happened next!

CAROLINE. The Count will kill them, of course. It is his right.

JULIE. I wonder.

CAROLINE. According to law.

JULIE. That’s no reason. I want to read over again where Robert comes
in. It’s lovely. And the meeting with Solange in Italy, one evening
in May. Where is it? Ah, here! [_Reads_] ‘Under the deep blue of the
sky, picked out by stars, by the shore of the calm sea that a perfumed
breeze just ruffled, and in which were reflected with the stars above
the many distant lights of Mentone and of Monte Carlo—’

MME. DUPONT [_smiling_] And your father imagines he has cured you of
all such foolishness!

JULIE. I am doing no harm.

MME. DUPONT. No matter. I would rather you didn’t read any more novels.

JULIE. Why? Berthe Paillant reads all the stories that come out, and
she’s younger than I am.

MME. DUPONT. Berthe Paillant is married.

JULIE. There it is! If one is not to remain a child to the end of one’s
days one must marry. I am twenty-four, and I may’nt read the books
which Berthe can read at eighteen.

MME. DUPONT. There’s my thread broken again. I believe you bought it at
Lagnier’s, Caroline.

CAROLINE. Yes.

MME. DUPONT. Why didn’t you go to Laurent’s?

CAROLINE. I thought we ought to deal with those who believe as we do.

MME. DUPONT. If only one could find a good Catholic who sold good wool!

CAROLINE. There isn’t one in the town.

JULIE [_with a sigh_] Heigho! You don’t know of a husband for me, do
you, Caro?

CAROLINE. What sort of one do you want?

JULIE [_seriously_] I am getting to the time of life when a woman
accepts the first man who offers himself. Choose whatever sort you
think best for me [_laughing_]. What would be your ideal? Someone in
business? A captain in the army? Tell me.

CAROLINE. No.

JULIE. Why not?

CAROLINE. If I were to marry, I should choose a worker, a man with a
noble aim, a man who would be ready to sacrifice himself to make life a
little easier for those who will come after him.

MME. DUPONT. Oh, don’t talk like a sentimental novel, Caroline.

CAROLINE. I was not.

MME. DUPONT. Well, I’m sure I’ve read that somewhere. Besides, at your
age one doesn’t speak of those things any longer.

JULIE. Talking of that, you know Henriette Longuet?

MME. DUPONT. Yes.

JULIE. She is going to be married.

MME. DUPONT. Indeed?

JULIE. Yes. [_Thoughtfully_] I’m the last to go.

MME. DUPONT. The last go off best. What a week this is for marriages!
Courthezon brought me an announcement just now which I kept to show
you. Where is it? Ah, here it is. [_Hands it to her_].

JULIE [_after looking at it, sadly_] That finishes it!

MME. DUPONT. What do you mean?

CAROLINE. What is it, Julie?

JULIE. Nothing.

MME. DUPONT. Were you thinking of M. Jacquemin?

JULIE. How do I know? He has never said anything to me, of course, but
I fancied he had noticed me. I didn’t care much about him, but he was
better than nothing. Better than nothing! [_Sighs_] It’s a stupid sort
of world for girls nowadays.

  _Dupont comes in._

DUPONT [_brimming over with excitement and importance_] Ah! Here are
the children. Run away, my dears, for a few minutes. I’ll call you when
I want you.

JULIE [_going with Caroline_] Caroline! Do you think it is—?

CAROLINE [_thoughtfully_] It does look like it.

  _They go out together._

MME. DUPONT. Well, what is it?

DUPONT [_with an air of importance_] M. and Madame Mairaut will be here
in an hour, at six o’clock.

MME. DUPONT. Yes?

DUPONT [_craftily_] And do you know why they are coming?

MME. DUPONT. No.

DUPONT. To ask for Julie’s hand in marriage. That’s all!

MME. DUPONT. For their son?

DUPONT. Well, my dear, it’s not for the Sultan of Turkey.

MME. DUPONT. M. Mairaut, the banker.

DUPONT. M. Mairaut, head of the Banque de l’Univers, 14 Rue des
Trois-Chapeaux, second floor.

MME. DUPONT. Yes; but—

DUPONT. Now, now, don’t excite yourself. Don’t lose your head. The
thing isn’t done yet. Listen. For the last fortnight, at the Merchants’
Club, Mairaut has been taking me aside and talking about Julie—asking
me this, that, and the other. As you may suppose, I let him run on.
To-day we were talking together about the difficulty of marrying one’s
children. ‘I know something of that,’ said he. ‘So do I,’ I said. Then
he grinned at me and said: ‘Supposing Madame Mairaut and I were to
come in one of these days to discuss the question with you and Madame
Dupont?’ You may imagine my delight. I simply let myself go. But no,
when I say I let myself go, I do myself an injustice. I kept a hand
over myself all the time. ‘One of these days. Next week, perhaps?’ I
said, carelessly, just like that. ‘Why not to-day?’ said he. ‘As you
please,’ said I. ‘Six o’clock?’ ’Six o’clock.’ What do you think of
that?

MME. DUPONT. But M. Mairaut—the son, I mean—Monsieur—what is his
Christian name?

DUPONT. Antonin, Antonin Mairaut.

MME. DUPONT. Antonin, of course. I was wondering. Is M. Antonin Mairaut
quite the husband we should choose for Julie?

DUPONT. I know what you mean. His life isn’t all that it should be.
There’s that woman—

MME. DUPONT. So people say.

DUPONT. But we needn’t bother about that. There’s another matter,
however, that _is_ worth considering—though, of course, you haven’t
thought of it. Women never do think of the really important things.

MME. DUPONT. You mean money? The Mairauts haven’t any. They only keep a
couple of clerks altogether in their bank. They may have to put up the
shutters any day.

DUPONT. Yes: but there’s someone else who may put his shutters up
first. Antonin’s uncle. The old buffer may die. And he has two hundred
thousand francs, and never spends a penny.

MME. DUPONT. True. But—

DUPONT. But. But. There you go. You’re determined never to see anything
that is more than an inch before your nose. I don’t blame you for it.
Women are like that.

MME. DUPONT. But suppose he disinherits Antonin?

DUPONT. You forget I shall be there. I flatter myself I shall know how
to prevent Uncle Maréchal from disinheriting his nephew. Besides, what
is Uncle Maréchal?

MME. DUPONT. Antonin’s uncle.

DUPONT. You don’t understand. I ask you what he _is_. What is his
position, I mean.

MME. DUPONT. He’s head clerk at the Prefecture.

DUPONT. Exactly. And he could get me the contract for all the printing
work at his office. Thirty thousand francs a year! How much profit does
that mean?

MME. DUPONT. Five thousand francs.

DUPONT. Five thousand? Ten thousand! If one is only to make the
ordinary trade profit, what’s the good of Government contracts?

MME. DUPONT. I’m afraid young M. Mairaut’s character—

DUPONT. His character! We know nothing about his character. He has one
virtue which nothing can take away from him: he is his uncle’s nephew.
And his uncle can get me work that will bring in ten thousand francs a
year, besides being as rich as Crœsus.

MME. DUPONT. Still, are you sure that he is the right sort of husband
for Julie?

DUPONT. He is the right sort of husband for Julie, and the right sort
of son-in-law for me.

MME. DUPONT [_dubiously_] Well, you know more of these things than I do.

DUPONT [_looks at his watch_] Ten minutes past five. Now listen to me.
We have very little time, but I feel the ideas surging through my brain
with extraordinary clearness. It’s only in moments of emergency that
I feel myself master of all my faculties, though I flatter myself I’m
not altogether a fool at the worst of times. [_He sits upon a chair,
his hands leaning upon the back of it_]. I will explain everything to
you, so that you may make as few blunders as possible. We must get old
Mairaut to agree that all the money, Julie’s and Antonin’s, shall be
the joint property of them both.

MME. DUPONT. But there will be Julie’s dot.

DUPONT [_pettishly_] If you keep interrupting we shall never be done.
The joint property of them both, on account of Uncle Maréchal’s money.
Do you understand?

MME. DUPONT. Yes.

DUPONT. That’s a blessing. Well, then we shall ask for—

MME. DUPONT. No settlements. I understand.

DUPONT. On the contrary, we shall ask for the strictest settlements on
both sides.

MME. DUPONT. But—

DUPONT. You are out of your depth. Better simply listen without trying
to understand. [_He rises, replaces his chair, and taps her knowingly
on the shoulder_]. In these cases one should never ask for the thing
one wants. One must know how to get the other side to offer it, and be
quite pleased to get it accepted. Well, then, I am giving Julie fifty
thousand francs as her dot.

MME. DUPONT. Fifty thousand! But Julie has only twenty-five thousand.

DUPONT. That is so. I shall give her twenty-five thousand down and
promise the rest for next year.

MME. DUPONT. You can’t mean that. You will never be able to keep such a
promise. [_She rises_].

DUPONT. Who knows? If I get the contract from the Prefecture.

MME. DUPONT. We ought to ask Julie what she thinks of this marriage.

DUPONT. We haven’t much time, then. Still, call her: and take off these
covers [_pointing to the chairs_].

MME. DUPONT [_she goes towards the door on the right; then returns_]
But have you thought—

DUPONT. I have thought of everything.

MME. DUPONT. Of everything? What about Angèle and her story?

DUPONT [_pompously_] Angèle is no longer my daughter.

MME. DUPONT. Still, we shall have to tell them.

DUPONT. Naturally. Since they know it already.

MME. DUPONT. I am nearly sure it was she I met last time I was in Paris.

DUPONT. You were mistaken.

MME. DUPONT. I don’t think so.

DUPONT. In any case, in acting as I did I was doing my duty. I can hold
my head up and fear nothing. Call Julie. She will help you to put the
room tidy. [_Madame Dupont goes out_].

DUPONT [_rubbing his hands_] I think I’ve managed things pretty well
this time! I _think_ so!

  _Julie and Madame Dupont come in._

JULIE. Father, is it someone who wants to marry me?

DUPONT. It is. [_To Madame Dupont, pointing to the chairs_] Take
off those covers. [_To Julie_] You know young M. Mairaut—M. Antonin
Mairaut? [_He sits down_]. You have danced together several times.

JULIE. Yes.

DUPONT. What do you think of him?

JULIE. As a husband?

DUPONT. As a husband. Don’t answer in a hurry. Take off that cover from
the chair you are sitting on and give it to your mother.

JULIE [_obeying_] Have his parents formally proposed for him?

MME. DUPONT. No. But if they should do so your father and I wish to
know—

DUPONT [_to Madame Dupont, giving her the last chair cover, which he
has taken off himself_] Take all these away. [_Madame Dupont goes
out_]. The formal offer has not been made, but it will be soon, in less
than an hour.

JULIE. Is that why you are taking all this trouble? [_She points to the
chairs_].

DUPONT. Precisely. We mustn’t appear to be paupers or people without
social position. [_He seizes a bowl in which there are some visiting
cards_]. Very old, these cards. Very yellow. And the names, too, common
rather. I must put that right. [_To his wife, who returns_] Go down
to the printing office and ask Courthezon to give you some printed
specimens of our new visiting cards at three francs—no, three francs
fifty. And then put that Wagner opera on the piano which someone left
to be bound. [_Madame Dupont goes. To Julie_] I have no desire to
influence you, my dear.

JULIE. Still—

DUPONT [_going to the mantelpiece_] Still what? Wait while I light the
lamp [_He strikes a match_].

JULIE. Why, it’s still quite light.

DUPONT. When one receives visitors one doesn’t wait till it is dark
before—You are old enough to know—what the deuce is the matter with
the oil?—old enough to know what you are about. Damn the lamps! When
they are never lighted it is the devil’s own job to make them burn.
Yes, as I was saying, it is for you to weigh the pros and the cons.
Marriage—— There! [_He looks round him_] Is there anything else to be
done to make things look better? What is that over there? That great
stupid Caroline’s hat!

MME. DUPONT [_coming in and bringing visiting cards and a piano score
of an opera_] Here are the cards and the music book.

DUPONT. Thanks. [_He gives Caroline’s hat to Madame Dupont_] Take this
thing away. And these stockings. Hide them somewhere. You don’t want
to appear to do your own darning, confound it! It’s extraordinary you
shouldn’t have thought of that. [_Madame Dupont goes out, returning
in a moment. Dupont continues mechanically to Julie_] It is for you
to weigh the pros and cons. This is better. Vicomte de Liverolles; M.
L’Abbé Candar, Honorary Canon; Ange Nitron, Ex-Municipal Councillor.
That will look well enough. The Wagner score on the piano, open, of
course. That’s right. There’s something else I want, though. Julie,
the box of cigars which M. Gueroult sent me when he was elected to the
Chamber.

JULIE [_bringing a box_] Here it is.

DUPONT. Give it me.

JULIE. You haven’t begun it yet.

DUPONT. Wait. [_He rummages in his pocket and takes out a knife, which
he opens_] We must show them that other people besides deputies smoke
cigars at five sous. [_He opens the box_] Without being proud, one has
one’s dignity to keep up. There! [_He takes a handful of cigars and
gives them to his daughter_] Put those in the drawer so that the box
mayn’t seem to have been opened on purpose for them. [_He arranges the
box on the table_]. A fashion paper? Excellent! And for myself [to
_Mme. Dupont_] Léontine, give me a fresh ribbon of my Order of Christ.
This one is faded. [_To his daughter_] He is twenty-eight. He is good
looking and distinguished. He passed his law examination at Bordeaux.
[_He puts a fresh ribbon in his coat and looks at himself for a
considerable time in the glass_]. In a town where I was not known this
would be as good as the Legion of Honour. [_He turns round_]. Well?
Have you made up your mind?

JULIE. I should like more time to think it over.

DUPONT. You have still a quarter of an hour.

MME. DUPONT. She would like a few days, perhaps.

DUPONT. That’s it. Shilly shally! We are to have the story of that
great stupid Caroline over again, are we? No! Your sister, whom you see
now an old maid, who will never be married, unless her aunt in Calcutta
leaves her some money—your sister, too, had her chance one day. She
hum’d and ha’d; she wanted to think it over. And you see the result.
That’s what thinking it over leads to. Here she is, still on my hands!

MME. DUPONT. You mustn’t say that. She earns her own living.

DUPONT. She earns her own living, perhaps; but she remains on my
hands all the same. By the way, we had better not say anything to the
Mairauts about Caroline’s working for money.

MME. DUPONT. They are sure to know.

DUPONT. Not they. What was I saying? Oh, yes. She remains on my hands
all the same. And one old maid is quite enough in the family. Two would
be intolerable. Remember, my child, you have no dot—at least, none
worth mentioning. And as things go nowadays, when one has no dot, one
mustn’t be too particular.

JULIE. To marry nowadays, then, a girl has to buy her husband?

DUPONT [_shrugs_] Well—

JULIE. And there’s nothing but misery for girls who have no money.

DUPONT. It’s not quite as bad as that. But obviously there is a better
choice for those who have a good fortune.

JULIE [_bitterly_] And the others must be content with damaged goods,
much reduced in price!

DUPONT. There are exceptions, of course. But, as a rule, husbands are
like anything else. If you want a good article, you must be prepared to
pay for it.

MME. DUPONT. And, even so, one is often cheated.

DUPONT. Possibly. But M. Antonin Mairaut is a very eligible young man.
No? What do you want, then, in Heaven’s name? If you are waiting for a
royal prince, say so. Are you waiting for a prince? Answer me. Come,
my child, this is an opportunity you may never see again: a young man,
well brought up, with an uncle who is head clerk at the Prefecture and
can double my profits by putting the contract for printing in my way,
not to speak of other things. And you raise difficulties!

MME. DUPONT. Think, dear. You are four-and-twenty.

DUPONT. And you have had the astonishing good luck to captivate this
young fellow—at a ball, it seems.

JULIE. I believe so. He wanted to kiss me in one of the passages. I had
to put him in his place.

MME. DUPONT. You were quite right.

DUPONT. I don’t say she wasn’t—that is, if she didn’t overdo it. In his
case I’m sure it was only playfulness.

MME. DUPONT. Oh, of course.

JULIE. I only half like him, father.

DUPONT. Well, if you half like him, that’s always something. Plenty of
people marry without even that.

MME. DUPONT. You don’t dislike him, do you, Julie?

JULIE. No.

DUPONT [_triumphantly_] Well, then!

JULIE. That’s hardly enough, is it?

DUPONT. Come, come, my dear, we must talk seriously. As a child you
were full of romantic notions. Thank Heaven, I cured you of that
weakness. You know well enough that unhappy marriages are, more often
than not, love marriages.

JULIE [_unconvinced_] I know, I know. Still, I want to have a husband
who loves me.

DUPONT. But he _does_ love you, doesn’t he, since you’ve only just told
us that he wanted to kiss you at a ball.

JULIE. I want to be something more than my husband’s plaything.

DUPONT. You’ll lead your husband by the nose, never fear.

JULIE. How do you know?

DUPONT. Never you mind. I know it. And now really we have had enough of
this. You think that a whim of yours is to upset all my plans, prevent
me from increasing my printing business and retiring next year, as we
intended, your mother and I. You think we haven’t—I haven’t—worked
enough, I suppose. You don’t wish us to have a little rest before we
die? You think I have not earned that rest, perhaps? Answer me! You
think I have not earned it?

JULIE. Of course you have, father.

DUPONT [_mollified_] Very well, then. Still, I don’t want to make you
uncomfortable. I don’t press you for a definite answer to-day. All I
ask is that you won’t be obstinate, or refuse to let us present Antonin
to you as a possible husband, if his parents make any advances. That is
all. You will, then, talk with him, ask him questions. Naturally, you
must get to know each other.

MME. DUPONT. Think carefully, my child.

DUPONT. Make up your mind whether you wish to follow the example of
that great stupid Caroline.

MME. DUPONT. You are quite old enough to be married. [_A pause_].

DUPONT. Answer. Aren’t you old enough to be married?

JULIE. Quite, father.

DUPONT. Have you any other offers?

MME. DUPONT. Have you any choice?

JULIE. No.

DUPONT. You see!

MME. DUPONT. You see!

DUPONT. Well, then, it’s all settled. [_He looks at his watch_] And
only just in time! M. Mairaut is punctuality itself. It’s five minutes
to six. In five minutes he will be here. [_Julie is silent, gazing
through the open window. The laughter of children is heard outside. To
Madame Dupont, irritably_] What’s she looking out of that window for?

MME. DUPONT. It’s Madame Brichot. She is just going in with her
children.

JULIE [_to herself, with a smile of great sweetness, recalling a word
which she has just caught while dreaming_] Maman!

DUPONT. Well?

JULIE. I will do as you wish.

DUPONT. Ouf! Now go and change your dress.

JULIE. Change my dress?

MME. DUPONT. Of course. You will be supposed to know nothing; but you
must be tidy.

JULIE. What am I to put on?

MME. DUPONT [_reflecting_] Let me see. [_A sudden inspiration_] I know.
Isn’t there a dance at the Gontiers’ to-night?

JULIE. But we said we wouldn’t go.

MME. DUPONT [_rising, briskly_] We are going all the same. Put on your
ball dress.

JULIE. Before dinner? Is he marrying my clothes?

MME DUPONT. No. But you look best in your ball dress. Do as I tell you,
dear.

JULIE. Very well. [_She goes out_].

DUPONT. Are you really going to this ball?

MME. DUPONT. Certainly not.

DUPONT. Well, then?

MME. DUPONT. M. Antonin is coming.

DUPONT [_understanding_] And Julie looks far better when she is—you are
quite right. [_A bell rings_]. There they are! Come into the next room,
quick!

MME. DUPONT. Why?

DUPONT. We must keep them waiting a little. It creates an impression.
[_To the maid, who passes to go to open the door, in an undertone_] Ask
them to wait a moment.

MAID. Yes, monsieur.

DUPONT. Now, then. [_He bustles Madame Dupont out of the room. After a
moment M. and Madame Mairaut enter, followed by the maid. Their faces
wear a genial smile, which freezes as soon as they see that the room is
empty_].

MAIRAUT. They are not here?

MAID. I will tell madame. [_She goes out_].

MME. MAIRAUT. Tell madame! [_To her husband_] They saw us coming.

MAIRAUT. You think so?

MME. MAIRAUT. Of course. Why was that lamp lighted? Not for an empty
room, I imagine! I don’t think much of their furniture. Very poor. Very
poor. [_Lifts up a piece of stuff from the back of an armchair_] This
chair has been re-covered.

MAIRAUT [_at the bowl with the visiting cards_] They know some good
people.

MME. MAIRAUT. Let me see. [_She looks at the bowl_]. Those cards were
put there expressly for us not an hour ago.

MAIRAUT. Oh, come!

MME. MAIRAUT. Look! The top ones are all new. The underneath ones are
quite yellow.

MAIRAUT. Because the underneath ones are older.

MME. MAIRAUT. Because the underneath ones have been left out ever since
New Year’s Day, while these are just printed. We must be careful. Above
all things, don’t _you_ make a fool of yourself.

MAIRAUT. All right.

MME. MAIRAUT. Don’t let them think you’re set on this marriage.

MAIRAUT. I understand.

MME. MAIRAUT. Get them to offer that all moneys shall be held jointly.

MAIRAUT. Yes.

MME. MAIRAUT. And to work this, insist on separate settlements.

MAIRAUT. Yes.

MME. MAIRAUT. For the rest, do as you usually do. Say as little as
possible.

MAIRAUT. But—

MME. MAIRAUT. You know well enough that’s the only way you ever do
succeed with things.

MAIRAUT. But there’s something I want to say to you.

MME. MAIRAUT. Then it’s sure to be something stupid. However, we have
nothing better to do. Go on.

MAIRAUT. It’s what I spoke to you about before. It’s been worrying me
a good deal. If the Duponts give us their daughter, who has probably a
dot of twenty-five thousand francs—

MME. MAIRAUT. Twenty or twentyfive thousand, I expect.

MAIRAUT. Well, if they give her to us, who have nothing but the bank,
it must be because they don’t know that Uncle Maréchal is ruined.

MME. MAIRAUT. Obviously. Nobody knows.

MAIRAUT. It isn’t honest not to tell them.

MME. MAIRAUT. Why?

MAIRAUT. Surely, my dear—

MME. MAIRAUT. If you’re going to tell them that, we may as well be off
at once.

MAIRAUT. You see!

MME. MAIRAUT. I see that we ought to hold our tongues. Oh, yes: we
ought. For if you have scruples about injuring the Duponts, I have
scruples about injuring Uncle Maréchal.

MAIRAUT. What do you mean?

MME. MAIRAUT. We have no right to betray a secret. I’m sorry you
shouldn’t have seen that I am quite as particular as you are; only I
put my duty to my family before my duty to strangers. If I am wrong,
say so.

MAIRAUT. But if they ask us point blank?

MME. MAIRAUT. Then we must consult Uncle Maréchal, since he is the
principal person concerned.

MAIRAUT. In spite of all you say it seems to me—[_He hesitates. A
pause_].

MME. MAIRAUT. Well, my dear, which is it to be? If you want us to go,
let us go. You are the master. I have never forgotten it. Shall we go?

MAIRAUT [_giving in, after a moment of painful indecision_] Now that we
are here, what would the Duponts think of us?

MME. MAIRAUT. And then we must remember that the eldest Dupont girl got
into trouble and is now living a disreputable life in Paris. That will
make them less difficult.

MAIRAUT. Hush!

  _Madame Dupont and Dupont enter the room. General greetings. ‘How do
  you do, dear madame? How are you? How good of you to call! Sit down,’
  etc. All sit. Silence._

MME. MAIRAUT. My dear Madame Dupont, I will come straight to the
point. The object of our visit is this. M. Mairaut and I think we have
observed that mademoiselle, your daughter, has made an impression—how
shall I put it? A certain impression on our son.

MAIRAUT. A certain impression. Yes.

MME. MAIRAUT. Antonin will join us here immediately, but of course we
have said nothing to him about this.

DUPONT. Julie, of course, has not the least idea—

MME. DUPONT. She is dressing. We are going to the ball at the Gontiers’
to-night, and the dear child asked if she might dress before dinner.

DUPONT. Not that she is vain.

MME. DUPONT. Not the least in the world.

DUPONT [_to his wife, in an off-hand tone_] She makes her own dresses,
doesn’t she?

MME. DUPONT. Of course. In this house we don’t know what it is to have
a bill from the dressmaker.

DUPONT. Yet with all her other occupations she’s an excellent musician.

MME. DUPONT. Quite excellent. She has a passion for really good music.
She knows Wagner thoroughly.

MME. MAIRAUT. Wagner! Good heavens!

MME. DUPONT. To talk about, I mean.

MME. MAIRAUT. I know your daughter is charming.

MME. DUPONT. And good, too. You would never believe how responsive that
poor child is to affection!

DUPONT [_to Mairaut, offering the box_] Have a cigar?

MAIRAUT. No, thanks. I never smoke before dinner.

DUPONT. Take one, all the same. You can smoke it afterwards. They are
my usual brand, but pretty fair.

MAIRAUT [_taking one_] Thank you.

MME. MAIRAUT. If Antonin is not married already it is because his
father and I wished him to find a wife who is worthy of him. The
question of money, with us, is of secondary importance.

MME. DUPONT. And with us. I’m so glad we agree about that.

MME. MAIRAUT. Antonin might have made quite a number of good matches.

DUPONT. It is just the same with Julie. In spite of that unfortunate
affair in the family.

MAIRAUT. Yes, we know.

MME. MAIRAUT. Unfortunate affair? We have heard nothing of any
unfortunate affair. What are you saying, my dear?

MAIRAUT [_mumbling confusedly_] I was saying—nothing—I was saying—No, I
wasn’t saying anything.

MME. MAIRAUT [_to Madame Dupont_] Then there has been some unfortunate
affair in your family?

DUPONT. Yes. By my first marriage I had two daughters. One, that great
fool of a Caroline whom you know.

MME. MAIRAUT. Quite well. She remains unmarried, does she not?

DUPONT. She prefers it. That’s the only reason. The other was called
Angèle. When she was seventeen she was guilty of an indiscretion which
it became impossible to hide. I turned her out of my house. [_Quite
sincerely_] I was deeply distressed at having to do it.

MME. DUPONT. For three days he refused to eat anything.

DUPONT. Yes, I was terribly distressed. But I knew my duty as a man of
honor, and I did it.

MME. MAIRAUT. It was noble of you! [_She shakes him warmly by the
hand_].

MAIRAUT. Since you were so fond of her, perhaps it would have been
better to keep her with you.

MME. MAIRAUT. My dear, you are speaking without thinking. [_To Dupont_]
And what has become of her?

DUPONT [_lying fluently_] She’s in India.

MME. DUPONT. In India?

DUPONT [_to Madame Dupont_] Yes, with her aunt, a sister of my first
wife’s. I have had news of her from time to time. [_To Madame Mairaut_]
Indirectly, of course.

MME. MAIRAUT. I repeat, M. Dupont, all this does you honor.
[_Thoughtfully_] Still, some people might feel—However, I don’t think
this discovery need make us abandon our project at once. Not at once.
[_To Mairaut_] What do you think, my dear?

MAIRAUT. I?

MME. MAIRAUT. You think, as I do, that we must take time to consider,
do you not? [_A pause_]. Without any definite promise on either side,
but merely in order to get rid of all money questions, which are most
distasteful to me, will you allow me to ask you one question, M. Dupont?

DUPONT. Certainly, Madame Mairaut.

MME. MAIRAUT. Have you ever considered [_she hesitates_] what you
would give your daughter?

DUPONT. Oh, yes—roughly, you know.

MAIRAUT. Just so.

MME. MAIRAUT. And the sum is—roughly?

DUPONT. Fifty thousand francs.

MME. MAIRAUT. Fifty thousand francs. [_To her husband_] You hear, dear,
M. Dupont will give his daughter only fifty thousand francs.

MAIRAUT. Yes. [_A pause_].

MME. MAIRAUT. In cash, of course.

DUPONT. Twentyfive thousand at once. Twentyfive thousand in six months.

MME. MAIRAUT [_to Mairaut_] You hear?

MAIRAUT. Yes.

MME. MAIRAUT. For practical purposes that is only twentyfive thousand
francs and a promise.

DUPONT [_with dignity_]. Twentyfive thousand francs and my word.

MME. MAIRAUT. Precisely. That is what I said [_looking at her
husband_]. Under these circumstances, we regret very much, but M.
Mairaut must decline. It really is not enough.

DUPONT. How much are you giving M. Antonin?

MME. MAIRAUT. Not a sou! On that point we are quite decided and quite
frank. As soon as he marries his father will take him into partnership,
and his wife’s dot will be the capital which he will put into the
business.

MAIRAUT. That is the exact position.

MME. MAIRAUT. Antonin will have nothing except what may come to him
after our death.

MME. DUPONT. And I am glad to think you are both in excellent health.

MME. MAIRAUT [_modestly_] That is so.

MME. DUPONT [_meditatively_]. Hasn’t your son an uncle, by the way?

MME. MAIRAUT. Yes, madame.

MAIRAUT. Uncle Maréchal.

DUPONT. People say M. Maréchal has a great affection for M. Antonin.

MME. MAIRAUT. Yes.

MAIRAUT. Very great.

DUPONT. He is rich, too, people say.

MME. MAIRAUT. So they say.

MAIRAUT. However, we haven’t taken him into account, have we?

MME. DUPONT. Still, M. Maréchal would naturally leave everything to his
nephew.

MAIRAUT & MME. MAIRAUT [_together_] Oh, certainly. We can promise that.
He will leave him everything he has.

MME. DUPONT. M. Maréchal has considerable influence at the Prefecture,
has he not?

MME. MAIRAUT. No doubt. But all this is really beside the mark. At
twentyfive thousand francs we could not—

DUPONT. I am sorry.

MME. MAIRAUT. We are sorry, too. [_She rises, saying to her husband_]
Come, my dear, we must be taking our leave.

DUPONT. I might, perhaps, go to thirty thousand.

MME. MAIRAUT. I am afraid fifty thousand is the lowest.

DUPONT. Let us split the difference. Thirty thousand and my country
house at St. Laurent.

MME. MAIRAUT. But it is flooded two months out of the twelve.

DUPONT. Flooded! Never.

MME. MAIRAUT [_to her husband_] Well, my dear, what do you think?

MAIRAUT. Antonin is much attached to Mlle. Julie.

MME. MAIRAUT. Ah, yes, if it were not for that! [_Seats herself_] My
poor boy! [_She weeps_].

MME. DUPONT. My poor little Julie! [_She weeps_].

MAIRAUT [_to Dupont_] You must excuse her. After all, it is her son.

DUPONT. My dear sir, I quite understand.

MME. MAIRAUT [_wiping her eyes_] And, of course, there would be the
other twentyfive thousand in six months.

MME. DUPONT. Of course.

MME. MAIRAUT. Have you any views as to settlements?

DUPONT. On that point I have very definite ideas.

MAIRAUT. So have I.

DUPONT. The money on each side must be strictly settled.

MAIRAUT. Strictly settled? [_A silence of astonishment_].

DUPONT. Yes.

MAIRAUT. His and hers?

DUPONT. Certainly. You agree?

MAIRAUT. Oh, yes, I agree, I agree. Unless you preferred—

DUPONT. That all moneys should be held jointly?

MAIRAUT. Perhaps that would be—

DUPONT. Perhaps so. There is something distasteful, I might almost say
sordid, about strict settlements.

MAIRAUT. That’s it. Something sordid.

DUPONT. They imply a certain distrust.

MAIRAUT. Yes, don’t they? Well, that’s agreed, then?

DUPONT. Quite. The moneys to be held jointly. All moneys, that is,
that may come to them in the future. The first twentyfive thousand, of
course, will be settled on Julie. They will form the dot.

MME. MAIRAUT. The second twentyfive thousand, which you will pay over
in six months, to be held jointly.

DUPONT. Yes. We will draw up a little agreement.

MAIRAUT. Quite so.

  _Antonin Mairaut comes in. He is a handsome youth of twenty-eight,
  very correct in manner. Greetings are exchanged._

MME. MAIRAUT. Antonin. [_To Dupont and Madame Dupont_] You allow me?

MME. DUPONT. By all means.

MME. MAIRAUT [_She draws Antonin aside and says to him in a low voice_]
It’s settled.

ANTONIN. How much?

MME. MAIRAUT. Thirty thousand, the house, and twentyfive thousand in
six months.

ANTONIN. Good.

MME. MAIRAUT. Now you’ve only the girl to deal with.

ANTONIN. Is she romantic or matter of fact? I don’t quite know.

MME. MAIRAUT. Romantic. Raves about Wagner.

ANTONIN. Good heavens!

MME. MAIRAUT. So I said. But once she’s married and has children to
look after—

ANTONIN. Children! Don’t go too fast. Children come pretty expensive
nowadays. Troublesome, too.

MME. MAIRAUT. Never mind. Don’t cross her now. Later on, of course,
you’ll be master.

ANTONIN. I rather think so.

MME. MAIRAUT [_returning to Madame Dupont_] My dear madame—

MME. DUPONT. Yes?

MME. MAIRAUT. He is afraid he may not please Mlle. Julie.

DUPONT. Absurd!

MME. MAIRAUT. The amount of the dot, too—

DUPONT. It is my last word. [_To his wife_] But what is Julie about?
[_He rings_].

MME. DUPONT [_rises_] I will go and find her.

  _A maid enters._

DUPONT. Wait! [_To the maid_] Ask Mlle. Julie to come here if she is
ready.

  _The maid goes out._

ANTONIN. I must tell you, monsieur and madame, how flattered I am
to find that the preliminaries have been settled between you and my
parents on this important question. I do not know what will be the
issue, but—

MME. DUPONT. It is we, monsieur, who are flattered. But you’ll see
Julie in a moment. Of course she knows nothing.

MME. MAIRAUT. We might leave them to talk a little together, perhaps?

MME. DUPONT. By all means. We are going to the ball at the Gontiers’.
She asked to be allowed—Here she is. [_Julie comes in. Madame Mairaut
advances to meet her_] There is a crease in your dress, dear. [_She
takes her apart, saying to the Mairauts_] Will you excuse me?

JULIE [_in a low tone_] Well?

MME. DUPONT. It rests entirely with you. We are going to leave you to
talk together. Remember, it may be your last chance. Don’t throw it
away.

JULIE. I have thought it over and I don’t intend to do as Caroline did.
So if, after we have had a talk—

MME. DUPONT. You’ll have to manage him a little. He has a great eye for
business. If you could make him think you would be useful in the bank.

JULIE. But I hate figures.

MME. DUPONT. Once married you will do as you please. Tuck in that
lace a bit. It’s a little soiled. [_She tucks in the lace of Julie’s
corsage_]. And remember, between lovers there may be little things
which he considers himself entitled to.

JULIE. I understand. They can see you whispering. Go to them. [_Madame
Dupont goes back to Madame Mairaut_].

MME. MAIRAUT. What did she say?

MME. DUPONT. She has not the least suspicion at present.

MME. MAIRAUT. Let us leave them together. [_Aloud_] My dear M. Dupont,
I have long wished to go over a printing office. May we?

DUPONT [_delighted_] If you will kindly come this way.

MAIRAUT. Thank you.

MME. MAIRAUT. But there really are too many of us. [_Carelessly_] The
children might stay here, don’t you think, madame?

MME. DUPONT. By all means.

  _They go out._

ANTONIN [_looking at the music on the piano_] You are fond of Wagner,
mademoiselle.

JULIE. I adore him.

ANTONIN. So do I.

JULIE. What a genius he is.

ANTONIN. Wonderful.

JULIE. For me he is the only composer.

ANTONIN. The greatest, certainly.

JULIE. No: the only one.

ANTONIN. Perhaps so. How nice it is we should have the same tastes in
art! [_Pause_] Er—they have told you nothing, I understand?

JULIE. About what?

ANTONIN. Your parents, I mean. Mine have said nothing either.

JULIE. They have said nothing, of course, but I guessed.

ANTONIN. So did I. Then I may consider myself engaged to you?

JULIE. Oh, not yet. We must know each other better first.

ANTONIN. We have often danced together.

JULIE. Yes. But that’s hardly enough.

ANTONIN. It’s enough for me. Ever since the first time I saw you at the
ball at the Prefecture.

JULIE. No. It was at the band, one Sunday, that your mother first
introduced you to me.

ANTONIN. Was it? I forgot.

JULIE. I should like to know more about you. Will you—will you let me
ask you some questions? It is not usual, perhaps, but—

ANTONIN. Certainly. Pray ask them.

JULIE. Are you fond of children?

ANTONIN. Passionately.

JULIE. Really and truly?

ANTONIN. Really and truly.

JULIE. I am quite crazy about them. For me children mean happiness.
They are the one thing worth living for [_wistfully_]. But I think I
have a higher idea of marriage than most girls. I want to have my mind
satisfied as well as my heart.

ANTONIN. So do I.

JULIE. A marriage that is a mere business partnership seems to me
horrible.

ANTONIN. Horrible! That’s just the word.

JULIE. And tell me, are you very fond of society?

ANTONIN. Not particularly. Are you?

JULIE. No.

ANTONIN. I am delighted to hear it. The fact is I am sick to death of
parties and balls. Still, if it were necessary for business reasons: if
it would help to get business for the bank, you wouldn’t mind?

JULIE. Of course not. What kind of business do you do at your bank?

ANTONIN. Oh, the usual kind.

JULIE. I have often read what is put up on the wall, Current Accounts,
Bourse Quotations.

ANTONIN. Coupons cashed.

JULIE. That must be very interesting.

ANTONIN. Would you take an interest in all that?

JULIE. Of course. When I was little my father used to make me help him
with his books.

ANTONIN. But now?

JULIE. Now, unfortunately, he has a clerk. I am sorry.

ANTONIN. Do you know that you are charming?

JULIE. So you told me once before.

ANTONIN. Yes: at that ball. You had on a dress just like this one. You
are beautiful. Beautiful. [_He seizes her hand_].

JULIE [_a little troubled_] Please.

ANTONIN. Come. We are engaged, as good as married. Give me one kiss.

JULIE. No. No.

ANTONIN. Won’t you?

JULIE [_frightened_] No, I tell you.

ANTONIN. What beautiful arms you have. [_He draws her towards him_].
You remember how I adored you when we were dancing.

JULIE. Let me go.

ANTONIN [_greatly excited, in a low voice_] Don’t move. You are
entrancing. [_He kisses her upon the arm; she pulls it away sharply_].

JULIE. Monsieur!

ANTONIN [_angry_] I beg your pardon, mademoiselle.

  _A very long silence._

JULIE [_after looking at him for some time_] I have vexed you?

ANTONIN. Well, when I see that you positively dislike me. [_Julie,
after a short inward struggle, goes to him_].

JULIE [_putting her arm to his lips with a resigned sadness, which she
hides from him_] Antonin.

ANTONIN [_kissing her arm_] Oh, I love you. I love you.

JULIE. Hush. They are coming back.

  _The Mairauts and Duponts come in again._

DUPONT. And when I have the contract from the Prefecture I shall double
my business.

MAIRAUT. Excellent. Excellent.

MME. MAIRAUT. We must be going, dear madame. We have stayed far too
long already. Are you coming, Antonin?

ANTONIN [_to Julie, aloud, bowing profoundly_] Mademoiselle. [_In a
low voice_] My beloved Julie. [_To his mother_] She’s charming. I was
charming, too, by the way. Wagner, children, every kind of romantic
idiocy. And she believed me. [_Aloud to Dupont_] M. and Madame Dupont,
my parents will have the honor of calling upon you to-morrow to ask on
my behalf for the hand of Mlle. Julie.

DUPONT. Till to-morrow, then. Till to-morrow. [_To Antonin_] All sorts
of messages to your uncle, if you see him.

ANTONIN. I shall not fail. [_He bows. The Mairauts take their leave_].

DUPONT [_to Julie_] That’s all right, then?

JULIE. Yes. I really do like him. I think I managed him pretty well
too. Wagner. The bank. He thinks I’ve a perfect passion for banking.

DUPONT [_laughing_] Good. You’re my own daughter. Kiss me. And your
father? He managed pretty well, I think. I have arranged that all
moneys except your dot shall be held by you both jointly; so that if
you are divorced, or if you die after Uncle Maréchal, your dot will
come back to us, and half whatever he leaves. I call that a good day’s
work. And at dessert we’ll drink a bottle of the best to the health of
Madame Antonin Mairaut.

MME. DUPONT [_embracing her_] My poor little daughter.

DUPONT. Poor, indeed! She’s a very lucky girl. I wonder where that
great stupid Caroline has got to. [_He calls_] Caroline. She is never
here when one wants her. [_He calls again_] Caroline. She is hard at
work painting Cupids on plates, I bet. [_Caroline appears_] Here she
is. Great news. Your sister is engaged to be married.

CAROLINE. Julie. Is it true?

JULIE. Yes.

CAROLINE. Ah!

DUPONT. Is that all you have to say?

CAROLINE. I am very glad, very glad. [_She bursts into tears_].

DUPONT [_astonished_] What’s wrong with her? Crying! And she’s not
even asked who he is. She’s to marry M. Antonin Mairaut, nephew of M.
Maréchal.

MME. DUPONT. Don’t cry like that, my dear.

JULIE. Caroline.

CAROLINE [_trying to restrain her sobs_] Don’t mind me. It is only
because I love you, dear. Now you at least will be happy.

JULIE [_musing_] Yes.

DUPONT [_to himself_] The moral of all this is that that little affair
of Angèle’s is costing me an extra five thousand francs and my house at
St. Laurent.



ACT II


  _The salon of a house in the country. A July night. At the back
  through glass doors you see the garden brilliantly lighted by the
  moon. As you look out you have two doors on your right-hand side, and
  to your left, in a cross-wall, the door of the bedroom, inside which
  part of the bed is visible. The fireplace is to your right. When the
  curtain rises Antonin, Courthezon and Caroline are on the stage;
  Caroline is doing up a parcel._

ANTONIN. That’s settled, then, M. Courthezon. I’ll write to the
Bordeaux people about your invention this evening.

COURTHEZON. I am greatly obliged to you, M. Antonin. You’ll write this
evening without fail, won’t you? M. Smith is leaving tomorrow.

ANTONIN. Without fail.

COURTHEZON. Shall I post the letter for you on my way through the town?

ANTONIN. Well—it’s rather a difficult letter to write. It’ll take a
little time. Lignol, whom you met at dinner out in the garden, has to
go back tonight. He’ll take it.

COURTHEZON. It’s very good of you.

ANTONIN. And now let’s go and have our coffee.

COURTHEZON. Not for me, thanks. I’m afraid I ought to go by the 8.9
train. I shall be taking some china for Mdlle. Caroline and the
drawings.

ANTONIN. As you please. Good-bye, then.

COURTHEZON. Good-bye, M. Antonin. Thank you again. [_Antonin goes out_].

CAROLINE. I shall not keep you a moment. The parcel is just ready.

COURTHEZON. There is no hurry, mademoiselle. I can take the next train.
It’s of no importance. Indeed I prefer it. It carries third-class
passengers. The fact is I didn’t want to go back to the others. M. and
Madame. Mairaut, M. Lignol, all those people frighten me. Besides, I’m
so happy just now I can think of nothing else.

CAROLINE. M. Antonin is going to do something about your invention?

COURTHEZON. Yes. I have begun negotiations with a business house at
Bordeaux. M. Antonin knows the heads of the firm, and he has been kind
enough to say he will write to them about me. But M. Smith goes away
to-morrow. That was why I was so anxious the letter should go tonight.

CAROLINE [_giving him the parcel which she has just finished_] It’s
very kind of you to take charge of this. I have put the china in it and
the drawings they asked for. You will make my apologies to the firm,
won’t you? I have not been very well.

COURTHEZON. Not well?

CAROLINE. Nothing serious. But the doctor said a little country air
would be good for me, so Julie and her husband asked me here. They have
been very kind. I have been with them a week, and I’m feeling ever so
much better.

COURTHEZON. They would hardly have left you in your lodgings with no
one to look after you. [_Pause_]. What a strange idea it was of yours
to go off and live by yourself like that!

CAROLINE. I thought it better. After Julie’s marriage I preferred it.

COURTHEZON. It must cost more.

CAROLINE [_shrugs_] I daresay. [_Pause_]. You are going to have a
lovely night for your journey. How bright the moon is! One can see as
clearly as if it were broad daylight.

COURTHEZON [_suddenly remembering_] There now! I was just going to
forget! I brought a letter for M. Dupont from the office. It came after
he left. It’s about the printing contract for the Prefecture.

CAROLINE. For the Prefecture. He’ll want to see that directly he comes
in.

COURTHEZON. And now I really must be off. Good-bye, Mlle. Caro.

CAROLINE. Good-bye, M. Courthezon. [_He goes out_].

  _After Courthezon’s departure Caroline returns to her seat. She makes
  a slight sign of the cross, closes her eyes and sits motionless,
  praying silently. After a few seconds she again crosses herself, but
  does all this very quietly. Lignol comes in through the glass doors,
  giving his arm to Julie. Antonin and M. and Madame Mairaut follow._

ANTONIN. We shall be more comfortable here than in the garden. It’s
getting rather chilly. [_To Lignol_] You can smoke.

LIGNOL. We really could have stayed out quite well.

ANTONIN. And given Julie cold, eh?

JULIE. My dear, I assure you—

ANTONIN. Oh, yes, I know. But you aren’t wrapped up enough. [_He
touches her arm_] In that thin dress you’ve simply nothing on. Just
feel, Lignol, feel.

JULIE [_protesting_] My dear!

MME. MAIRAUT. What a charming frock you have on, my dear. Quite
delightful.

JULIE. It came from Madame Raimond.

MME. MAIRAUT [_to Mairaut_] From Madame Raimond? I thought she made all
her own dresses.

LIGNOL [_to Julie_] You know, madame, that you have not convinced me
yet.

JULIE. Admitting that I am wrong—[_They go towards the garden door with
Antonin, talking_].

MME. MAIRAUT [_to Mairaut_] And _you_ urged on that marriage.

MAIRAUT. I!

MME. MAIRAUT. When she was at home she never went to a dressmaker. And
now! It’s too much. And we shall have the river in here before long.
That wall is bound to go.

MAIRAUT. Do you think so?

MME. MAIRAUT. We shall have the whole house about our ears. And that
fool—

MAIRAUT. What fool?

MME. MAIRAUT. Your son, of course, who has put in electric light.

ANTONIN [_from the garden door, to Lignol_] You didn’t know I’d had
electric light put in. We have lots of water power, you see. I ought to
have turned it on before. Look. [_He touches a button and turns up the
light_].

LIGNOL. That’s better. [_They talk on_].

MME. MAIRAUT. If the river rises another couple of inches down will
come four hundred feet of that wall.

MAIRAUT. It’s not as bad as that.

MME. MAIRAUT. Oh, you have let yourself be nicely done.

MAIRAUT. Come, come.

MME. MAIRAUT. The girl is utterly useless. She can do nothing. And the
house will cost more in repairs than it is worth. When I think I was
idiot enough to listen to you. [_She listens_]. What was that?

MAIRAUT. I hear nothing.

MME. MAIRAUT. The wall! Listen! [_They listen intently_].

JULIE [_coming forward with Lignol and Antonin_] Oh, yes, we’re
comfortable enough here, as you see.

MME. MAIRAUT. Comfortable enough! [_To Mairaut_] Come with me. This
way. I am certain the wall has fallen. If it has we must have a little
talk with the Duponts; and I, for one, shan’t mince matters. [_Turning
to the others_] My husband finds the heat a little too much for him.
We are going for another turn in the garden. Oh, it’s nothing, nothing
at all.

MAIRAUT [_mumbling_] Nothing. Giddy, that’s all.

ANTONIN. Quite right. Get all the fresh air you can while you are in
the country. Don’t be long. We’re expecting visitors, you know.

MME. MAIRAUT. We’ll be back in time. [_Madame Mairaut and Mairaut go
out into the garden_].

ANTONIN. Here, you see, is the staircase which leads to the upstairs
rooms and down to the garden. [_He goes to the door on his left_]. Here
is our bedroom.

JULIE [_in a low voice, so as not to be noticed by Lignol_] Antonin!

ANTONIN [_aloud_] Nonsense, dear. Why not? [_He opens the door. To
Lignol_] Look.

LIGNOL. Charming.

ANTONIN. A real nest, eh? A nest for love-birds. That’s what I call it.
[_To his wife_] Kiss me, dear.

JULIE. But—

ANTONIN. Kiss me. Come.

JULIE [_gently_] But we’re not alone.

ANTONIN. Lignol won’t mind. Eh, Lignol?

LIGNOL [_laughs_] Don’t mention it. You weren’t so shy at dinner.

ANTONIN [_to Julie, smiling_] Come. Wives must obey, you know. [_She
kisses him_]. And now go and see about that beer.

JULIE. Mayn’t I send the servant?

ANTONIN. She doesn’t know where it is. It’s not unpacked yet. [_To
Lignol_] It’s a wedding present. We are going to broach it tonight.

LIGNOL. Not for me. I must go in a moment.

ANTONIN. I wasn’t thinking of you, my dear fellow. You’re a friend.
These formal entertainments are reserved for acquaintances. For the
Pouchelets, in fact. M. Pouchelet has just been elected a Departmental
Councillor. He and his wife are paying their first visit here tonight.

LIGNOL. So late?

ANTONIN. On their way back from the Préfet’s. They are dining there,
and we are near neighbors. They are very well off, very influential.
Useful people altogether. What was I saying? [_To Julie_] Oh yes, the
beer: that girl will never be able to find it. Besides, I’d rather you
went. She would only break the bottles. [_Julie pouts_]. Wives must
obey, you know.

JULIE. Very well. I shall be back before you go, M. Lignol. [_She goes
out_].

CAROLINE [_to Antonin_] You won’t forget the letter for M. Courthezon,
will you, M. Antonin.

ANTONIN. Of course not.

CAROLINE. If you write I feel sure he will succeed.

ANTONIN. Yes, yes, I know.

CAROLINE. I will go to Julie.

ANTONIN. You’d much better go and put on another dress or something.
Just to smarten yourself up. The Pouchelets are coming. We must all
look our best.

CAROLINE [_rather aghast, looking at her clothes_] But—[_A pause_].
Very well. [_She goes out_].

LIGNOL. Who is that lady? She never spoke a word all through dinner.

ANTONIN [_carelessly_] A poor relation. The usual thing, an old
maid, always at church. Awfully prim and proper, you know. [_Rather
shamefaced_] In fact—I don’t mind telling _you_—she really works for
her living.

LIGNOL. Well, why not? There’s nothing dishonorable about that, is
there?

ANTONIN. I know. But still—She paints little Cupids and that kind of
thing, on china. [_He laughs loudly_]. Enough to make you split! You
don’t see it? The other day someone offered her some work far better
paid than what she’s doing at present. She refused. Guess why.

LIGNOL [_bored_] Why?

ANTONIN [_giggling_] Because the woman who kept the shop was divorced.
[_He laughs_]. But it is good to see you again, my dear chap. [_He
claps Lignol on the shoulder_]. Awfully good.

LIGNOL. I’ve enjoyed coming immensely. [_A pause_]. Your wife is
charming.

ANTONIN [_fatuously_] Not bad, eh!

LIGNOL. And she’s clever, too.

ANTONIN. Get out!

LIGNOL. I’m quite serious.

ANTONIN. Oh, yes, I dare say. I know all about _that_. No use denying
it. Julie’s stupid. It was partly for that very reason I married her.

LIGNOL. I don’t think so. She has read a lot.

ANTONIN. Read! Oh, yes, she’s _read_! She reads everything she comes
across. Before her marriage she read the proofs of everything her
father printed. Here she has unearthed a lot of books left behind by an
old fool M. Dupont bought the house from. She’s read them all.

LIGNOL. But then—

ANTONIN. But she doesn’t understand a word of what she reads. Not a
word! The other day I looked at the author’s name on the book in her
hand. It was Mill. You know, John Stuart Mill.

LIGNOL [_nods_] Yes, I know.

ANTONIN. So do I, by name. But I’ve never read him, thank goodness. No,
I tell you Julie’s stupid. But she’s pretty and she knows how to put on
her clothes. I knew what I was about when I married her. With a little
instruction from me she’ll learn to manage the house well enough. And
that’s all I ask of a woman.

LIGNOL. Indeed. Well, my dear chap, if you imagine you’ve married a
stupid woman you’re mistaken.

ANTONIN. How do you know?

LIGNOL. She and I have been talking while you were entertaining your
inventor.

ANTONIN. You got her to talk, did you?

LIGNOL. Certainly.

ANTONIN. Wonders will never cease. When we’re alone she never has a
word to say.

LIGNOL. And you?

ANTONIN. I haven’t either.

LIGNOL. That’s awkward.

ANTONIN. I’m always afraid of putting my foot in it. The fact is I
don’t understand Julie.

LIGNOL. And you’ve been married five months.

ANTONIN. Four months and a week over. But then I’m at business all the
week. Every Saturday her parents and mine come down to spend Sunday
with us. M. and Madame Dupont couldn’t get here in time for dinner
tonight, but they’ll be here soon. When we are alone I try to find some
subject of conversation, but I tell you it’s like walking on eggshells.
Whew! And so—

LIGNOL. Well?

ANTONIN. And so I stop. And then I kiss her.

LIGNOL. You’re tremendously in love with her.

ANTONIN. Yes.

LIGNOL. And she?

ANTONIN. She’s just the same.

LIGNOL. Happy man!

ANTONIN. For the rest we can only wait and see how things turn out. She
knows nothing of my tastes. I know nothing of hers.

LIGNOL. And what did you talk about while you were engaged?

ANTONIN. We were only engaged three weeks. Just long enough to get the
money matters settled.

LIGNOL. You took good care about them, I bet.

ANTONIN. Rather. In fact it was a precious good stroke of business.
[_He laughs_]. If you only knew how we did the Duponts, maman and I!
[_He laughs again_].

LIGNOL. Hush. Here’s your wife. [_Julie comes in, and Lignol rises to
go_]. I am afraid I must be going, madame.

ANTONIN. But my letter for Courthezon. [_He looks at his watch_].
You’ve twenty minutes still.

LIGNOL. You’re sure?

ANTONIN. Certain. Wait a second. I’ll go and write it, and then I’ll
see you to the station. It’s only a step. [_He goes out_].

JULIE. Thanks to you, M. Lignol, we have had a delightful evening.

LIGNOL. You flatter me, dear madame. I know quite well I have been in
the way.

JULIE. On the contrary. I have not had such an evening’s conversation
since I married.

LIGNOL. Antonin isn’t a great talker.

JULIE. You are old friends, aren’t you?

LIGNOL. Yes. I’ve known him fifteen years. We are almost like brothers.

JULIE. Tell me. Is he what you would call a religious man?

LIGNOL. Antonin! [_Bursts out laughing_]. Why, he’s a materialist. Not
much idealism about him.

JULIE. Indeed! Not much idealism! But he’s fond of music? Good music I
mean: Wagner?

LIGNOL. He likes a brass band or a comic opera. [_Julie shows
surprise_]. You are astonished? Oh, I forgot. He plays a little on
the concertina. My dear madame, Antonin is a good chap but thoroughly
matter of fact. Prosaic.

JULIE [_laughing_] You are not very complimentary to your friends.

LIGNOL. What annoys me is that he should possess a treasure like you
and should seem quite unconscious of its value. Ah, when _I_ marry—

JULIE. You are going to marry soon?

LIGNOL. I don’t know. [_Musingly_] If I were to meet a woman like you,
a woman with whom I could discuss everything in heaven and earth,
everything that raises us, makes us higher, then—

JULIE. Look for her. You’ll find her easily enough.

LIGNOL. And beautiful, too. Beautiful as you are. For you _are_
beautiful, you know.

JULIE [_still rallying him_] Are you making love to me by any chance,
M. Lignol?

LIGNOL. If making love to you means yielding to an overmastering
attraction—to a fascination—

JULIE [_laughing_] You certainly make the most of your time as friend
of the family. But I shouldn’t hurry if I were you. You will only be
wasting a lot of pretty speeches which you could employ to greater
advantage elsewhere. I have old-fashioned views on the subject of
marriage.

LIGNOL. Whatever they are I am sure they will be lofty and noble.

JULIE. You are too good. But you are mistaken. My view is commonplace
enough. All I ask of life is that I may love my children and love my
husband.

LIGNOL. Your children?

JULIE [_quite simply, with a touch of emotion_] Above everything my
children. What I am going to say will sound absurd to you, but the day
my first child is born will be the happiest day of my life. So you see,
M. Lignol—

LIGNOL [_insinuatingly_] Dear madame, we shall meet again.

JULIE [_smiling_] As soon as you please.

  _Antonin comes in._

ANTONIN. Here’s the letter. You’ll slip it into the post-box, won’t
you? And now we’ve only just time.

LIGNOL. I’m ready [_rising briskly_]. But don’t let me drag you to the
station. You’ll be leaving madame alone.

ANTONIN. That’s all right. Come along. I can see if M. and Madame
Dupont have arrived at the same time.

LIGNOL [_to Julie_] Au revoir, madame. [_To Antonin_] I am sorry not to
say good-bye to mademoiselle. [_Antonin is puzzled_]. To the lady who
dined with us.

ANTONIN. Oh, Caro. I’ll say it for you. No, here she is. [_Caroline
comes in; and, as Lignol is saying good-bye to her, M. and Madame
Dupont appear. Antonin hurriedly introduces_] My friend Lignol. He has
to catch this train.

LIGNOL. So sorry. [_He goes out with Antonin_].

DUPONT. Ah, Caroline. There you are. I have good news for you. Your
aunt is dead. Your aunt in India. She has left all her money to you and
Angèle. Not much. Sixty thousand francs between you. I get nothing, of
course. She never could endure me. My dear girl, what’s the matter?
Come, come, you’re not going to cry because your aunt is dead! You’ve
not seen her for five and twenty years. It’s the greatest stroke of
luck for you. And I shall have all the trouble, as usual! [_A gesture
of dissent from Caroline_]. Oh, yes, I shall. Your sister will have to
come down from Paris.

MME. DUPONT. I thought you said she was in India.

DUPONT. In India! What are you talking about? She is in Paris. She has
never been anywhere except in Paris. What should take her to India?
[_To Caroline_] Your sister Angèle will have to come down from Paris
because part of the money is in land. It will be sold, of course, but
still I shall have to see Angèle. And that will set people talking.
Lots of people don’t even know that I have three daughters. [_To
Julie_] It’s lucky for you this didn’t happen before your marriage,
Julie.

CAROLINE. _Must_ she come, father?

DUPONT. Certainly she must. You must both be present at the lawyer’s
together to sign the documents.

CAROLINE. I will not go the lawyer’s.

DUPONT. If you refuse to go Angèle will not be able to get her legacy,
and she needs it.

CAROLINE. Well, perhaps I will go. I will think it over and consult
someone. I will give you my answer tomorrow.

DUPONT. As you please. And not a word about this, remember, either of
you.

JULIE. Very well, father.

CAROLINE [_taking a letter from the mantelpiece_] Courthezon brought
this letter for you. It is about the printing work for the Prefecture.

DUPONT [_He reads the letter_]. Done, by Jove! Dumoulin gets the
contract! Dumoulin! I expected this. I expected it. Uncle Maréchal
has done it on purpose, curse him! [_To Julie_] How long have I been
telling you you ought to pay him a visit. Have you been? No. And
Antonin? Not he! Nor his father and mother! The old fool is offended,
and this is his revenge. And if this goes on we shall never get a
halfpenny of his money. Why haven’t you been to see him?

JULIE. Antonin’s parents didn’t wish it.

DUPONT. Ah! They didn’t wish it! Well, I have a word or two to say
to Antonin’s parents, you’ll see. _I_ do my duty, _I_ go and call on
Uncle Maréchal myself. _I_ amuse the old idiot, though it’s not the
pleasantest sort of job to have to do. They didn’t wish it! I’ll show
them the kind of man I am! And you—you were fool enough to do what they
told you! I find a husband for you, a far better match than you could
ever have hoped for. I _do_ the Mairauts—

MME. DUPONT [_alarmed, looking round her_] Hush!

DUPONT. Well, haven’t I _done_ the Mairauts?

MME. DUPONT. Yes, yes. But don’t say it so loud.

DUPONT. They aren’t here. And if they were, Julie’s married now.
[_Speaking lower, but with the same fury_] I _do_ the Mairauts—

MME. DUPONT. Are you quite sure?

DUPONT. Am I quite sure? Haven’t I _done_ them? I tell you I’ve done
them _brown_!

  _The maid-servant comes in._

SERVANT [_to Julie_] It’s about the beer, madame.

JULIE. I’m coming. Will you come, too, Caro? [_Julie and Caroline go
out_].

DUPONT [_fuming_] Brown, by jove!

MME. DUPONT. Hush. Here they are.

DUPONT. I’m glad to hear it. Now you’ll see.

  _M. and Madame Mairaut come in._

MME. MAIRAUT. Ah, you are here. Well, the wall has come down.

DUPONT. I’m not thinking about the wall.

MME. MAIRAUT. Very likely. You haven’t to pay for putting it up again.

DUPONT. I’m not thinking about the wall. I’m thinking of something far
more important. M. and Madame Mairaut, I regret to have to inform you
that you are either deplorably unintelligent or else devoid of all
sense of parental duty.

MME. MAIRAUT. Indeed! So it’s you who propose to insult us just when—

DUPONT. I am a father and I love my children. When their interests are
at stake I have the sense to keep on good terms with those who may be
useful to them later on.

MME. MAIRAUT [_after a moment’s thought_] I see. Uncle Maréchal?

DUPONT. You knew it. You did it on purpose!

MME. MAIRAUT. Uncle Maréchal! [_She bursts out laughing uproariously_].

MAIRAUT. Charlotte. My dear. Don’t laugh like that.

MME. MAIRAUT. Why shouldn’t I laugh? You aren’t going to forbid me, I
suppose, [_looking full at Dupont and laughing more_] nor monsieur.

DUPONT. Well, since you take it like that, I propose to give you _my_
view of the situation. Either you are hopelessly selfish or else you
are hopelessly stupid.

MAIRAUT. Monsieur Dupont!

MME. MAIRAUT. You hold your tongue. Leave me to deal with him.

MME. DUPONT. My dear—

DUPONT. Be silent. Selfish or stupid? Which? [_Madame Mairaut shrugs
her shoulders_]. Is Uncle Maréchal a man with money to leave, or is he
not?

MME. MAIRAUT [_decisively, after a moment’s thought_] He is _not_!

DUPONT [_staggered_] He is not? But—

MME. MAIRAUT. I quite understand, and you have your answer. He is not.

DUPONT. He has not two hundred thousand francs?

MME. MAIRAUT. He had them. Somebody else has them now. He has lost them.

DUPONT. Lost them! If this is true—

MME. MAIRAUT. That is why we don’t waste our time in going to see him.

DUPONT. But—I don’t understand. [_A pause. He controls himself_]. How
long ago did this happen?

MME. MAIRAUT. More than six months ago.

DUPONT. More than six months? Then you knew.

MME. MAIRAUT. Yes, we knew.

DUPONT. And you never told me.

MME. MAIRAUT. You didn’t ask us.

DUPONT. You ought to have informed me. It was dishonest.

MME. MAIRAUT. Monsieur!

DUPONT. You have swindled me.

MME. MAIRAUT. Swindled!

DUPONT. Yes. Swindled.

MME. MAIRAUT. Nonsense. We are as well off as you are, I hope. Our bank
is worth as much as your printing business.

DUPONT. Most people wouldn’t say so. As to that, by the way, I should
like to ask you—

MME. MAIRAUT. No, monsieur. I have nothing further to say to you. And I
am now going to inform my son how you have treated us.

MME. DUPONT. Madame Mairaut!

MME. MAIRAUT. Are you coming, Alfred?

  _Mairaut makes a gesture of regret and distress behind his wife’s
  back, and then follows her out._

MME. DUPONT. This is terrible.

DUPONT. Eh! [_Pulling himself together_]. No! On reflection I’m
inclined to think it’s the best thing that could have happened. I
regret nothing. Rather the contrary.

MME. DUPONT. I don’t understand.

DUPONT. Naturally! You don’t understand. You will later. [_Julie comes
in_]. We were just speaking of you. I hear your husband’s business is
shaky. Is it?

JULIE. I know nothing about it.

DUPONT. You know, I suppose, whether it is true that he got let in by
the Bourdin failure?

JULIE. No.

DUPONT. Good Heavens! What on earth do you talk about, at meals, and so
on?

JULIE. We don’t talk at all.

DUPONT. Still you must have noticed whether he was anxious and
preoccupied, or whether he was in his usual spirits.

JULIE. I’ve no idea what his usual spirits are. I’ve only known him six
months.

DUPONT. You’d better ask him how things are going at once.

JULIE. What’s the good?

DUPONT. You must ask him. You will have children some day, I suppose?

JULIE [_with a sigh_] If it weren’t for that, I think I should go and
drown myself.

DUPONT. That would be absurd. But we needn’t discuss that now. Only,
if you don’t wish your children to be beggars, keep an eye on your
husband’s business affairs.

JULIE. Very well. I will.

  _Antonin comes in._

ANTONIN [_in a tone of mild reproach_] M. Dupont, this is very
annoying. Here are my parents coming to me to complain that you have
called them swindlers. I must say it’s pretty hard on me if I can’t
even spend a Sunday in the country in peace. From the moment you arrive
on Saturday night you begin quarrelling. And now—swindlers! Come, come,
M. Dupont, that’s not the sort of name one calls people, is it? They
are very angry, and I don’t blame them.

DUPONT. Oh, it was really nothing.

ANTONIN. Maman is furious.

DUPONT. That’s absurd of her. You know what it is when people begin
disputing; one word leads to another, and one says things one only half
believes. However, to show how reasonable I am, I will go and make my
apologies to Madame Mairaut. [_To Madame Dupont_] Come, my dear: you
must do the talking.

ANTONIN. If you put yourself in my place, you will see how unpleasant
this kind of thing is.

DUPONT [_with dignity_] Quite so. [_He and Madame Dupont turn towards
the door_].

ANTONIN [_calling them back_] Here are M. and Madame Pouchelet. Wait.
[_He goes to the door and calls to his parents_] Maman! They’re here,
and M. Dupont wants to apologize. It was a misunderstanding, and please
don’t let’s have any quarrelling before visitors. [_To Julie_] Go and
help them to get their things off.

  _Julie goes out to welcome the arrivals. M. and Madame Mairaut come
  in at the same moment as M. and Madame Pouchelet, Julie helping the
  latter to take off their wraps. M. Pouchelet is in evening dress,
  Madame Pouchelet in a ball dress._

JULIE. How good of you to come. My husband and I are so delighted.

POUCHELET. I promised your husband we would look in. Otherwise we
should have gone straight home. The Préfet kept us longer than we
wished, and we neither of us like late hours. We can only stay a moment.

MME. MAIRAUT [_pushing forward a chair for Madame Pouchelet_] Won’t you
sit down?

ANTONIN [_to Pouchelet_] Naturally the Préfet was only too glad to get
you to come.

POUCHELET. Yes. There is a scheme on foot for reclassifying the roads
in the Department.

ANTONIN [_with an assumption of great interest_] Really!

MME. MAIRAUT [_following suit_] Reclassifying the roads. Most
interesting.

ANTONIN. It is a matter of the greatest importance. And you, of course,
are the very man to give him the necessary information.

POUCHELET [_pompously_] I flatter myself I do know something of the
subject.

DUPONT. It is a question I have also had a great deal to do with.
Twelve years ago I printed—

POUCHELET. I intend to make—

DUPONT. No; it was thirteen—

MME. MAIRAUT [_to her husband_] Listen, dear: M. Pouchelet is speaking.

MAIRAUT. Yes, yes; I am listening.

POUCHELET. I intend to make an important speech on the subject at the
Council. But you will read the report in the papers.

ANTONIN. I should think so. We must not miss that, Julie, must we?

POUCHELET. Oh, madame, I’m afraid my speech is not likely to interest
you.

ANTONIN. On the contrary. My wife only likes reading about serious
subjects. Why the other day I found her reading—who was it? that
English writer: what was his name, dearest?

JULIE. Never mind.

ANTONIN [_going over to Julie, summing up her points_] She’s a
wonderful little woman, my wife. Aren’t you, dearest? You aren’t
cold, are you? I am always telling you you don’t wrap up enough. [_To
Pouchelet_] She is charming, isn’t she? And the most devoted wife! [_To
Julie_] Aren’t you a devoted wife, dear?

MME. MAIRAUT. Antonin, aren’t you going to offer M. and Madame
Pouchelet a little refreshment?

ANTONIN. Of course. [_To his wife_] Will you ring?

  _Julie rings the bell. The maid comes in almost at once with bottles
  of beer on a tray, and glasses._

JULIE [_to the maid_] Put it there.

ANTONIN [_to Madame Pouchelet_] My wife is a wonderful manager. We are
really hardly settled in here. Yet everything is always ready directly
one wants it. May I give you a glass of beer?

  _The glasses which Julie has poured out are handed round. Caroline
  comes in._

DUPONT. M. Pouchelet, allow me to present to you my second daughter,
Caroline.

POUCHELET [_bows_] Madame.

ANTONIN [_correcting him_] Mademoiselle. Mlle. Caroline has always
refused to marry. She prefers to devote her life to her art.

MME. POUCHELET. You are an artist, mademoiselle? How delightful. I
adore artists.

CAROLINE. I only paint a little on china.

ANTONIN. And she does it most beautifully.

POUCHELET. You must send something to our local exhibition.

ANTONIN. Excellent! M. Pouchelet is right. Why have you never sent
anything?

CAROLINE. I only paint china plates, knick-knacks and so on.

ANTONIN. Just for your own amusement. [_To Pouchelet_] My sister-in-law
just does it to amuse herself. But I am sure if she took the trouble—

CAROLINE. But I don’t do it to amuse myself.

MME. MAIRAUT. Oh, yes, you do.

ANTONIN. Merely to amuse yourself.

DUPONT. Just for your own amusement.

ANTONIN. And the artist can put just as much of his art into small
subjects. Look at Meissonier.

MME. POUCHELET. Of course. They give just as great scope for the
imagination.

CAROLINE. But I only copy what the people at the shop send me.

MME. MAIRAUT. Another glass of beer, Madame Pouchelet? It is French
beer and can’t—

MME. POUCHELET. Not just now, thank you. [_To Caroline_] The shop
people, mademoiselle?

CAROLINE. Yes, madame, the people who keep the shop I work for. They
pay me quite good wages for what I do.

MME. POUCHELET. I see. [_A silence_].

ANTONIN [_sotto voce, taking Caroline a glass of beer_] Be silent,
can’t you?

CAROLINE [_to him, puzzled_] What is it?

ANTONIN [_to Madame Pouchelet, leading her up to a picture_] Madame
Pouchelet, you understand pictures, I know. What do you think of this?
I paid a long price for it. [_They go on talking_].

CAROLINE [_to Madame Mairaut, in a low voice_] Have I done anything I
shouldn’t?

MME. MAIRAUT [_drily_] Oh no! Far from it! [_She rises and goes over to
Madame Pouchelet_].

MME. POUCHELET [_coming down stage with Antonin_] I don’t care much
about pictures unless they tell a story. What is that one about?

JULIE. It is an engraving of a picture by Gerard Dow.

MME. POUCHELET. Never heard of him.

JULIE. He was a Dutch painter. Seventeenth century.

MME. POUCHELET. Really. But of course you know more about these things
than I do. A propos, M. Dupont, did you go to the lecture the other day
on women’s rights?

POUCHELET [_laughing_] Oh, yes, ha! ha!

MME. POUCHELET [_to Julie_] I shouldn’t be surprised if you, madame,
had some sympathy with such opinions?

JULIE [_evasively_] I don’t know.

ANTONIN [_laughing_] Come, confess, my dear. Just a little, perhaps?

MME. MAIRAUT. Woman the equal of man!

JULIE [_mildly_] Why not?

MAIRAUT. There are some women who wouldn’t gain much by that.

MME. DUPONT. But not all.

DUPONT. Women lawyers!

MME. POUCHELET. Women doctors!

POUCHELET. Women with votes!

ANTONIN [_laughing_] What a joke.

DUPONT [_laughing_] Women with votes!

POUCHELET. I call that rich. [_All three are convulsed with merriment_].

DUPONT. Think of it. Women in the Chamber of Deputies!

ANTONIN. Women Senators!

POUCHELET. Women in the Ministry!

DUPONT. In the Chamber they would want to keep their hats on.

POUCHELET. Yes [_to Julie_]. Eh, Madame Mairaut? They’d insist on
keeping on their hats as they do at the theatres.

MME. POUCHELET. And at election times they’d go from house to house
asking for votes. The modern women would enjoy that.

POUCHELET. And this parliament elected by women, what would it be like?
[_More laughter_]. A Chamber of Deputies chosen by women!

JULIE [_a little annoyed_] Really, gentlemen, judging by the results
you’ve achieved so far by keeping the government to yourselves I don’t
think you need fear that women will do much worse. [_The laughter dies
down uneasily_].

POUCHELET [_with pompous solemnity_] I know it is the fashion nowadays
to decry all our elective assemblies. But, as I am myself, in my humble
way, one of the people’s representatives, I cannot allow such views to
pass without protest. [_An awful silence_].

JULIE [_apologizing_] I had no intention of saying anything that could
wound you, M. Pouchelet.

MME. POUCHELET. We are sure of that, dear madame.

POUCHELET [_to his wife_] And now, my dear, it is time for us to be
going.

ANTONIN. You must forgive my wife’s little slip, dear monsieur.

POUCHELET. It is nothing—nothing at all.

ANTONIN. You mustn’t go like this. Another glass of beer?

MME. POUCHELET. You are very good. It has been so close to-day.

ANTONIN. Julie, a glass of beer for Madame Pouchelet. [_To her_] Yes;
the heat this afternoon has been quite oppressive. [_To Julie_] Where’s
that beer?

JULIE [_who has tried the various bottles, confused_] I will send for
some more. These are empty.

ANTONIN. Really!

MME. POUCHELET. Oh, please don’t trouble. Please. No; you really must
not. We can have something when we get home. [_Going_] Our things are
here, I think.

JULIE. Let me help you.

ANTONIN. I will come and put you on your way.

POUCHELET [_declining_] Thank you, monsieur. We know the way.

  _M. and Madame Pouchelet bow formally and coldly to each in turn and
  go out: Julie goes with them. There is a silence. Antonin paces the
  room irritably. Madame Mairaut grins._

DUPONT [_to his wife, in a low voice, after glancing at the others_] I
think it’s time we went to bed.

MME. DUPONT. Very well, dear.

  _Formal bows, Monsieur, Madame, are exchanged. The Duponts go out and
  Julie returns._

ANTONIN [_his arms folded, sternly_] So there was no more beer.

JULIE. No, dear.

ANTONIN. It’s intolerable.

JULIE. Here are the three bottles. You told me to buy three bottles.
There they are.

ANTONIN. Nonsense. You make me ridiculous. I press Madame Pouchelet to
have another glass and there isn’t one. It’s preposterous.

JULIE. It is not my fault.

ANTONIN. I suppose you think it’s mine.

MME. MAIRAUT. Evidently.

ANTONIN. Besides, I have no recollection of saying three bottles.

JULIE. I assure you.

ANTONIN. I have no recollection whatever of it. On the contrary, I am
certain I said buy four or five.

JULIE. No. Three.

ANTONIN. You make me look like a fool. These people will think I was
laughing at them. You make me look like a fool, and that is a thing I
won’t have.

CAROLINE. M. Antonin, I was there when you spoke to Julie. You did say
three bottles.

ANTONIN. My dear Caroline, I love you very much, but I can’t help
pointing out to you that the best possible way to aggravate a dispute
between husband and wife is to interfere in it either on one side or on
the other. If you don’t realize that already, you may take it from me.

MME. MAIRAUT. If you spoke less, mademoiselle, it would certainly be
better for all parties.

CAROLINE. Why? What have I said?

ANTONIN. Among other things you might refrain from proclaiming on the
housetops that you are reduced to working for your living.

CAROLINE. There is nothing dishonorable in that.

MME. MAIRAUT. Very likely. But one doesn’t talk about it.

ANTONIN. I thought every moment you were going to ask M. Pouchelet for
an order. Not very pleasant for us, that.

CAROLINE. I am sorry. I didn’t mean to do anything wrong. [_She begins
to cry_]. But I’m so unfortunate. I always make mistakes.

ANTONIN [_irritably_] Oh, for goodness sake, my dear Caroline, don’t
begin to cry. There’s no earthly good in that.

MME. MAIRAUT. There’s really nothing to cry about.

JULIE [_going to her_] Caroline. Don’t cry, dear. [_She takes her
away_].

MME. MAIRAUT. Now, my son, we are going to say good-night.

ANTONIN. Good-night. [_He kisses her absently_].

MME. MAIRAUT. You’re not angry with us, dear, are you? You wanted to
marry Julie, you know. Good-night.

  _M. and Madame Mairaut go out. Antonin, left alone, goes to the bell
  and rings it. The maid comes in._

ANTONIN [_to the servant_] Put out the lights. You can leave the two on
the mantelpiece. Close those shutters. [_The maid does so and goes out.
Julie returns_]. I have something to say to you.

JULIE. I am listening.

ANTONIN. I do not wish Caroline to remain with us any longer.

JULIE. Why? What has she done?

ANTONIN. You know well enough.

JULIE. No, I do not.

ANTONIN. She gets on my nerves.

JULIE. Explain, please.

ANTONIN. It is not my business to give explanations. I am the master in
my own house. I shall be obliged if you will arrange with Caroline to
bring her visit to a close on Monday.

JULIE. But she was to stay till the end of the month. She will want to
know why. What am I to say to her?

ANTONIN. Whatever you please.

JULIE. She will be hurt.

ANTONIN. I don’t care about that.

JULIE. But I do care.

ANTONIN. If you won’t tell her I will, in a way which won’t admit of
any misunderstanding.

JULIE. She will be angry.

ANTONIN. Let her.

JULIE. But if you two quarrel where shall I be able to see her? Here?

ANTONIN. No. I forbid you to do so.

JULIE. Have you the right to forbid me?

ANTONIN. Certainly.

JULIE. Why?

ANTONIN. Once more, because I am master here: because the husband is
the master in his own house.

JULIE. That was not what you told me while we were engaged.

ANTONIN. I dare say.

JULIE. You have nothing more to say to me?

ANTONIN. Yes; I have.

JULIE. Well?

ANTONIN. When you have opinions of the outrageous description you gave
vent to this evening, please keep them to yourself.

JULIE. Haven’t I the right to have opinions?

ANTONIN. Nonsense. Once for all, I have made up my mind that you shall
obey me and not spoil my prospects. M. and Madame Pouchelet are people
of importance. They might be useful to me, and if you offend them
with your absurdities you will be wanting in your duty. Marriage is a
business partnership.

JULIE. Then I want to see the accounts. They say you are doing badly at
the bank. Is that true?

ANTONIN. Women know nothing about such things. You look after your
household and leave the rest to me. Under the terms of our marriage the
management of our affairs is in my hands. I manage them to the best of
my ability. That is all I have to say to you.

JULIE. In other words, I am a business partner who has to keep her eyes
shut and say nothing.

ANTONIN. My dear, it’s quite useless starting the lecture about women’s
rights all over again. I heard it the other evening. Leave that sort
of thing to old maids with beards. If I were willing to listen to you,
you’d reel off the whole catalogue of grievances against the laws which
make women slaves. I know.

JULIE. No: it is not a question of law. It is a question of social
usage. [_A pause_]. What is wrong is not that there is such and such a
provision in the Code. The real evil is that our parents married us as
they did marry us.

ANTONIN. They did as most parents do.

JULIE. And so most marriages are unhappy.

ANTONIN. If you really loved me—

JULIE. But I don’t love you. That is just the point. And you don’t love
me. And here we are chained to one another.

ANTONIN. Nonsense. I not love you?

JULIE. No, indeed. You don’t love me.

ANTONIN. Come, come, you are talking foolishly. It’s late. Let’s go to
bed. Things will be all right to-morrow morning. [_He goes into the
bedroom_].

JULIE [_sits staring in front of her for awhile: then she says to
herself_] No: things will never be all right. Never. Never.

ANTONIN [_calls_] Are you coming, Julie? [_Julie starts as if she had
been dreaming. She looks round her in a dazed way_]. Come along.

JULIE [_with a deep sigh, her face showing a mingled expression of
profound disgust and sorrowful resignation_] I am coming. [_She goes
slowly towards the door of the bedroom_].



ACT III


  _The scene is the same as in the first Act. It is September. Dupont
  and his wife are sitting together. There is a pile of account books
  on the table between them._

DUPONT [_to his wife, who is holding a paper_] You see what the
accounts say. They aren’t brilliant. [_To the maid who enters_] As soon
as Mlle. Caroline comes in ask her to come here.

SERVANT. Yes, sir. [_The maid goes out_].

MME. DUPONT. The turnover is smaller than last year.

DUPONT. The profits are down to nothing. I’m wrong. 112 francs 17.
Splendid things accounts!

MME. DUPONT. What’s to happen next?

DUPONT. I don’t know. One thing is certain. Things can’t go on like
this.

MME. DUPONT. What are we to do, then?

DUPONT. Next year it will be worse, unless—

MME. DUPONT. Unless?

DUPONT. The fact is the business wants new plant. At present we are
using an old machine worked by hand, which I inherited from my father.
We have a gas engine not worth twopence. In fact, there’s only one hope
for us.

MME. DUPONT. What is that?

DUPONT. To get fresh capital somehow.

MME. DUPONT. That’s not very likely.

DUPONT. Who knows? It’s lucky for you your husband is no fool, my dear.
I am going to see if I can get you out of this mess. [_Caroline comes
in_]. Here is Caroline. Go and find Julie. I shall want you both in a
moment. I will call you.

  _Madame Dupont goes out._

DUPONT [_to Caroline_] My dear child, I have asked you to come here
because I want to have a serious talk with you. After our long
arguments you have at last come to see that it is your duty to accept
the legacy from your aunt. Your sister Angèle is coming here.

CAROLINE. Coming here?

DUPONT. But that is another matter. We will discuss that in a moment
with Julie and her mother. They are in the next room. At present I am
speaking only of you. All difficulties are removed now—I had a lot of
trouble over it, by the way—and to-morrow at four at the lawyer’s you
will receive the sum of thirty one thousand three hundred and eighteen
francs and a few centimes. Ahem. My dear Caroline, you are old enough
to know what you are about. Still you are not one of those undutiful
children who throw aside all obedience to their fathers as soon as they
are of age. You continue, I am sure, to recognize my right at least to
give you advice. I have lived longer than you, I am a man of business,
and I can clearly be of use to you when you want to invest your money.
Have you any plans as to this so far?

CAROLINE. I had some idea—

DUPONT. May I know what it is?

CAROLINE. I would rather not say.

DUPONT. Not say!

CAROLINE. Yes.

DUPONT. Indeed. Oh, in that case—[_shrug_]

CAROLINE. You don’t mind, father?

DUPONT [_much put out, but endeavoring to control himself_] Not at
all. By no means. Then there’s nothing more to be said. I am a little
surprised, of course; hurt even; greatly hurt, in fact.

CAROLINE. I am sorry, father.

DUPONT. No matter. No matter.

CAROLINE. You understand—

DUPONT. I understand that you do not trust your father. That is what I
understand. But have your own way. I ask nothing.

CAROLINE. Are you vexed with me?

DUPONT. Oh no. Not the least in the world. Only when you have given
everything you possess to some religious community or other, I should
like to know what you will have to live upon when you are old. I
assume, of course, that it is some community you are thinking of.
[_Caroline is silent_]. You admit it?

CAROLINE. No. I would rather say nothing about it.

DUPONT. It is so, all the same?

CAROLINE. Please, father!

DUPONT. You won’t give me any idea?

CAROLINE. No.

DUPONT. You refuse, then? You refuse absolutely?

CAROLINE. I have the right to do so, have I not?

DUPONT. Clearly. You are old enough.

CAROLINE. Don’t let us talk about it any more.

DUPONT. Very well. [_After a moment, breaking into a passion_] So this
is my reward! This is the result of having sacrificed my whole life for
my daughters. You do not even trust me as much as you would trust any
little attorney you consulted.

CAROLINE. Father! Of course I trust you.

DUPONT [_furiously_] Hold your tongue. You are heartless and undutiful.
I did not expect this.

CAROLINE. Please don’t be angry, father.

DUPONT. Angry? Yes; I am angry, and I have good reason. [_Striking the
table_] Damnation! This is too much! To have lived to be sixtytwo and
be insulted like this. [_He strides up and down the room_].

CAROLINE. I thought I could—I have only disposed of part of the money.

DUPONT [_stopping short_] What?

CAROLINE. I have only disposed of part of the money.

DUPONT [_mollified, becoming tenderly reproachful and coming to sit by
her_] My dear child, why didn’t you say so at once?

CAROLINE. You gave me no time.

DUPONT. How much is gone?

CAROLINE. Fifteen thousand francs.

DUPONT. Um. That is a large sum. But the sixteen thousand that remain?

CAROLINE. I meant to ask your advice about that.

DUPONT [_rising_] Ah, well, my dear, I have been thinking this over.
Let’s consider what openings there are for capital. Suppose you invest
it? Gilt edged securities bring in two and a half per cent. If you take
something rather more speculative, you may get four. Then there are the
big industrial companies. But with them, too, there are risks to be
faced. Foreign competition is more and more threatening. The struggles
between labor and capital are reaching an acute phase.

CAROLINE. M. Antonin Mairaut has been to see me.

DUPONT. The scoundrel! I’ll bet he wanted you to invest the money in
his bank.

CAROLINE. He did suggest it.

DUPONT. You see. I guessed as much. You sent him about his business, I
hope?

CAROLINE. I said I would think about it.

DUPONT. That’s right. But what a fright you gave me. To invest your
money in a bank. Nothing could be more risky. Well, as we were saying.
No public companies, no industrials, no shares in banks. What remains?

CAROLINE. I don’t know.

DUPONT. There remains commercial enterprize, trade. But do you know
anyone engaged in trade who will let you put capital into his business?

CAROLINE. I think not.

DUPONT. We must put our heads together. I confess I can think of no
one. Madame Grandjean?

CAROLINE. Father! Madame Grandjean is divorced. You know quite well I
refused even to accept employment from her.

DUPONT. That is true. More fool you, by the way. Still—M. Darbout?

CAROLINE. He is a Protestant.

DUPONT. Well, then, I don’t see. There is no one, in fact.

CAROLINE. But you, father. If you would do it.

DUPONT. If I would do what? Manage it for you?

CAROLINE. Yes.

DUPONT. It is a great responsibility. I don’t know whether—What
interest would you expect?

CAROLINE. Whatever you thought right, father.

DUPONT. Well, I will speak to your mother about it. [_As if suddenly
making up his mind_] No: I won’t. I’ll do it. No one shall say I
hesitated to do all I could for my daughter. Kiss me, my dear. I’ll do
it.

CAROLINE. Thank you, father.

DUPONT. And you would still rather not tell me what you are doing with
the other fifteen thousand.

CAROLINE. Please, father.

DUPONT. Very well. You are your own mistress. I’ll have the necessary
documents prepared. Don’t you worry about it. I will arrange everything
beforehand. You will have nothing to do but sign. [_He looks at his
watch_] Three o’clock. Now there is that other matter we have to talk
of. [_He goes to the door and calls_] Come in, both of you. [_Julie and
Madame Dupont enter_]. Sit down. [_When they are all seated, he says_]
My dears, I wanted you all to come here that we may decide how we are
to receive Angèle. It is rather a difficult question. You know her life
in Paris is—ahem—highly reprehensible. Ought we to let her come here?
Ought we to meet her, for instance, at the station?

JULIE. Papa, what has Angèle done? Now that I am married surely I may
know? People always stop talking about her when I come in. I remember
her quite well.

MME. DUPONT. But you were only five when she went away.

DUPONT. You understand, my children, how painful this subject is both
for you and for me. I will spare you the details as far as possible. It
is enough that you should know, Julie, that when Angèle was seventeen
she was obliged to leave her home because—because—

MME. DUPONT [_simply_] Because she was about to become a mother.

JULIE. She went away?

DUPONT. Yes.

JULIE. Of her own free will?

DUPONT. I sent her away.

JULIE. Ah!

DUPONT. As I said, the subject is a very painful one. Let us get it
over as quickly as possible. She is coming here to-day. [_He looks at
his watch_] She is on her way now. Her train arrived five minutes ago.
Now I hope you will all of you behave with dignity, and neither be too
affectionate, which would be out of the question, nor too cold, which
would be unkind.

JULIE. Have you heard anything of her since she left home?

DUPONT. Yes.

JULIE. And her behavior?

DUPONT. Far from what it should be, I’m afraid. Still—

CAROLINE. Father, you make too light of all this. We have heard of her
three times. First when her baby died. Next we were told that she was
singing at a music hall and was almost penniless. The third time we
heard that she was rich, rich without working. When I think of it all I
am sorry I consented to meet her.

JULIE. But she couldn’t get her share of the legacy unless you did. You
couldn’t rob her of this money however you feel towards her.

CAROLINE. That was what decided me. But there is no reason why I should
see her here.

DUPONT. I shall see her. Julie will see her. So will your mother. Why
should you do differently from us?

MME. DUPONT. She was very fond of you, Caroline; and you were fond of
her. Come, come, you must not be so hard. One should have compassion
for those who have suffered as she has done.

CAROLINE [_after a pause_] Very well. I will do as you wish.

DUPONT. That’s right. At the same time, I have no intention of going
from one extreme to the other. There will be no question of asking her
to stay, or even of inviting her to dinner. That is agreed, is it not?

CAROLINE. Yes. And now I am going downstairs to the office. [_She goes
out_].

DUPONT. You, Julie, had better go to your room. [_She goes_]. In ten
minutes she will be here.

MME. DUPONT. Well, I must say if she were my daughter, I should have
been at the station long ago.

DUPONT. Do you suppose I haven’t wanted to go?

MME. DUPONT. Why didn’t you, then?

DUPONT. What would people say? Everyone knows me here. On the platform
I should have met a dozen people who would have asked me whom I was
meeting. And, besides, all things considered, it looks more dignified
to receive her here. [_Pondering_] I’ve been asking myself for the last
fortnight what I should say when we do meet.

MME. DUPONT. Give her a kiss. The rest will come easily.

DUPONT. You think I should kiss her?

MME. DUPONT. Yes.

DUPONT. I think so, too. At the same time we must remember—how shall I
put it? Her way of life. It is a difficult question. And then what am
I to say to her? Ought I to refer to the past? I must not seem to be
forgiving her, of course. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t possibly. On
the other hand, since she is coming, I can hardly—Confound it, it’s all
extremely awkward. Eh?

MME. DUPONT. I can’t advise you.

DUPONT [_still thinking it out_] Of course, she is my daughter. Still,
I have not seen her for eighteen years. [_Peevishly_] I thought I
should never set eyes on her again. In the early days, when she
first went away, I was terribly distressed. But that couldn’t last,
could it? And then, you understand—Well, well, you must advise me. I
have prepared something to say, so as not to leave everything to the
inspiration of the moment. If one doesn’t think things out beforehand,
one always says too much or too little. So, as I said, I have prepared
something. I even wrote it out, but I know it by heart. You can imagine
how upset I am with all this. Here it is: ‘My child’—I think it best to
say ‘my child.’ ‘Angèle’ would be too familiar and ‘my daughter’ too
formal. ‘My child’—[_breaking off_]. And what makes it all the harder
is that I’ve no idea what she will say to me. Her letters are very
properly expressed, very properly. Still, will she cry? Will she break
down? Will she faint? I don’t know. It’s impossible to know. Dear me, I
wish the next half hour were over. However: ‘My child, I thank you for
having come.’ The fact is I ought to tell you I haven’t given Caroline
quite a true account of how things stood. I thought it wiser not.

MME. DUPONT. What do you mean?

DUPONT. It’s this way. Caroline is the one who could not get her legacy
without Angèle’s signature. Not the other way about.

MME. DUPONT. But you said—

DUPONT. Yes; I did misrepresent matters a little. You see Caroline
would never have agreed to meet Angèle if she had known that it was she
who needed Angèle’s presence, not Angèle hers. Angèle is the executor
under the will. In fact, it is she who is doing us a service. But if we
go into all that we shall never be done. Well, I say to her: ’My child,
I thank you for having come. Let us not speak of the past. I only wish
to remember one thing, that you have not visited upon your sister
Caroline the resentment which doubtless I inspire in you. I am grateful
to you.’ What do you think of that? [_The maid comes in_]. Good
heavens, here she is! [_Pointing to the papers, account books, etc.,
which lie on the table_] And that fool Courthezon has never taken away
the books. [_To the maid_] Wait a minute. [_To Madame Dupont_] Come,
come this way. You can tell me whether I ought to make any change. [_In
a low voice to the maid_] Ask her to wait a moment. Say I am engaged.
[_He goes out with Madame Dupont. The maid shows in Angèle. She is a
woman of thirtyfive, dressed in black, very quietly, but fashionably_].

MAID. Monsieur is engaged, but I don’t think he will be long. Whom
shall I say, madame?

ANGÈLE. Madame Angèle Dupont.

MAID. Madame has the same name as monsieur?

ANGÈLE. The same.

MAID. Will madame please be seated? [_She takes some books off a chair
and goes out_].

ANGÈLE [_with a gesture of despondency, to herself_] Nothing is as it
used to be. Nothing.

  _Courthezon comes in._

COURTHEZON. M. Dupont asks you to be good enough to wait five minutes,
madame.

ANGÈLE. Certainly, monsieur. [_Courthezon collects the books and
papers, looking at Angèle the while out of the corner of his eye. He
makes as if to go_]. You are M. Courthezon, are you not?

COURTHEZON [_much embarrassed_] Yes, madame—Mlle. Angèle. You remember
me? You have a good memory. Especially as I am not quite myself just
now. I have many things to worry me. But that is a long story. [_He
stands facing her, the books and papers under his arm_]. I recognized
you at once. M. Dupont told me.

ANGÈLE. My father is well in health?

COURTHEZON [_embarrassed_] Quite well. They are all quite well. You,
too, if I may judge by your looks?

ANGÈLE. Quite. Thank you.

COURTHEZON. And you have come about this legacy?

ANGÈLE. Yes. [_A silence_].

COURTHEZON. You must find some changes down here?

ANGÈLE. Very many. I hardly know the place.

COURTHEZON. We have moved since you went away. The house where the
press used to be was pulled down when the Rue de l’Arbre-à-Poires was
rebuilt.

ANGÈLE [_looking round her_] They have altered the furniture in the
drawing room.

COURTHEZON. That was ten years ago.

ANGÈLE [_sadly_] If I had come here without warning, I shouldn’t have
known I was in my father’s house.

COURTHEZON. It is so long since you left. You must feel it very much,
the idea that you are to see him again?

ANGÈLE [_very slowly_] Yes. But less than I expected. When I got my
father’s letter, I felt as if I should faint. That was two months ago.
Since then I have thought of this moment every day. I have wondered
so often what my father would say to me and what I should answer that
now I no longer feel anything. That is strange, is it not? Strange
and sad. [_She sighs_]. After all, M. Courthezon, life is always more
commonplace than we expect; simpler, but less beautiful. [_A pause.
Sadly_] And besides, I have seen so much.

COURTHEZON. You have suffered, too?

ANGÈLE. A little.

COURTHEZON. Eighteen years, is it not?

ANGÈLE. Yes. Eighteen years.

COURTHEZON. I hear M. Dupont. I must be going. Au revoir, madame.

  _Courthezon goes out. A moment later the voice of Dupont is heard
  without through the half open door, saying: ’Yes, yes; I want you to
  come with me.’ Then M. and Madame Dupont come in. There is a long
  pause, and finally Dupont says, with apparent calm_

DUPONT. Good morning Angèle.

ANGÈLE. Good morning, father.

  _They hesitate for a moment as to whether they should kiss one
  another, then make up their minds to do so. Dupont places a chill
  salute on either cheek of Angèle. Still silent, Angèle goes up to
  Madame Dupont and kisses her with the same frigidity._

MME. DUPONT. Good morning, Angèle.

ANGÈLE. Good morning, mother. [_They look at one another without a
word_].

DUPONT [_overcoming a momentary emotion_] Let us sit down. [_They sit.
Then he addresses Angèle in the tone he might have used if she had only
gone away the previous evening_] Thank you for coming.

ANGÈLE. I came for my sister’s sake. For Caroline. I was very fond of
her. [_A pause_]. Is she married?

DUPONT. No. She has never wished to marry.

ANGÈLE. Yet she is thirty-three.

DUPONT [_to his wife_] Thirty-three or thirtyfour?

MME. DUPONT. Thirty-three.

ANGÈLE. I shall see her?

DUPONT. Yes. We will let her know you are here.

ANGÈLE. And my half-sister?

DUPONT. Julie?

ANGÈLE. Yes; Julie.

DUPONT. Your half-sister is married. She has made a good match. The son
of a banker. The Mairauts. You remember M. Mairaut, the grandfather?

ANGÈLE. No.

DUPONT. Oh, yes; an old man with a long white beard.

ANGÈLE. No.

DUPONT. Anyhow, he was the grandfather of M. Antonin Mairaut, Julie’s
husband. [_He points to the door_] She is in there.

ANGÈLE. There?

DUPONT [_speaking rapidly to hide his mingled emotion and
embarrassment_] Yes. She has come back with her husband to live with us
for a time. Their house at St. Laurent is flooded. You remember the
house at St. Laurent?

ANGÈLE. Yes.

DUPONT [_as before, his embarrassment growing_] I told them they ought
to build a little wall along the river bank or their house would be
flooded. They wouldn’t listen to me and this is the consequence.
Happily the water is going down, and they’ll be able to go home
to-morrow. But they should have built a wall like their neighbors.
Their neighbors built a wall and—and that’s how it was.

ANGÈLE [_after a pause_] How is the business doing? Well?

DUPONT. Oh, yes.

ANGÈLE. And you are all quite well?

DUPONT. All of us. I had a touch of bronchitis last year, but it passed
off.

ANGÈLE. I am glad. [_A silence_].

DUPONT [_to Angèle, who is gazing at him_] You find me looking older,
eh?

ANGÈLE. On the contrary. I was just thinking—

DUPONT. And you? You are well?

ANGÈLE. Quite, thank you. [_Another silence. Then Angèle rises and the
Duponts rise too_].

DUPONT. You can’t stay any longer?

ANGÈLE. No. I’m afraid I must—[_Another silence_].

DUPONT. You came straight from the station?

ANGÈLE. No. I had my things taken to the Lion d’Or.

DUPONT. You are staying at the Lion d’Or?

ANGÈLE. Yes.

DUPONT. Just so. Well, until to-morrow. Four o’clock at the lawyer’s.
His house is just opposite. [_He points through the window_]. You can
see his door from here. You can’t miss it.

ANGÈLE. I understand. [_A pause_]. Julie—she is there? [_She points to
the door_].

DUPONT. Tut, tut, what am I thinking of? I had forgotten. Yes; she is
there. They will take you to her. [_To Madame Dupont_] Go and see
if—I’ll tell someone to go and find Caroline. [_He rings_].

MME. DUPONT [_opening a door and calling through it_] Julie: your
sister Angèle is here.

JULIE [_from her room_] Angèle? Ask her to come in.

MME. DUPONT. You can go in to her.

  _Angèle goes. Dupont has rung and says a few words to the maid, who
  goes out at once._

DUPONT. Ouf! [_To Madame Dupont_] Ah well, it has all gone off
excellently. I didn’t say a word of what I had got ready, but still it
was all right. Don’t you think so?

MME. DUPONT. Quite. Poor girl! I felt sorry for her.

DUPONT. She is quite happy. She was very well dressed, quite like a
lady in fact. Who would think to see her—Eh? [_Madame Dupont nods_].
And yet—But when one has had a good education it always comes out. It
is curious. I thought I should be quite upset when I saw her. Instead
of which—Of course I don’t mean that I didn’t feel it. Still it wasn’t
so bad as I expected. But now she’s no longer there I feel—I feel my
legs giving way under me! [_He sits down. A silence_]. If I were not so
sure it was my duty to do as I did—for it was my duty? [_Pause_] You
don’t answer. Wasn’t it my duty?

MME. DUPONT. I don’t know.

  _Caroline comes in._

DUPONT. Angèle—

CAROLINE. Yes. Courthezon told me.

DUPONT [_with assumed carelessness after a pause_] You understand,
Caroline, no reproaches. Don’t make any allusion to what you are doing
for her sake.

CAROLINE. I understand.

DUPONT [_to his wife_] Tell her that Caroline is waiting for her.

  _The maid comes in._

MAID. M. and Madame Mairaut, monsieur. They wish to speak to you.

DUPONT. Good. Where are they? In the office?

MAID. Yes, monsieur.

DUPONT [_to his wife_] I know what they want. [_To the maid_] I will
come down with you. [_He and the maid go out_].

MME. DUPONT [_speaking at the door of Julie’s room_] Caroline is here.

  _Angèle comes in and makes a quick movement towards Caroline but
  pulls herself up before the coldness of the other’s demeanor._

ANGÈLE. Caroline.

CAROLINE. Angèle. [_They stand looking fixedly at one another for some
moments_].

ANGÈLE [_sadly_] How changed you are!

CAROLINE. You are changed too.

ANGÈLE. That is because life has not always gone smoothly with me.
[_Caroline makes a gesture of incredulity_]. You don’t believe me?

CAROLINE. Yes, if you say so.

ANGÈLE. I have just seen Julie. She was kinder than you are. And she
was only five when I left home and she is only my half-sister. You and
I have the same father and the same mother. We are almost of an age and
we used to love one another.

CAROLINE [_coldly_] That is true.

ANGÈLE. If you knew all about it you would forgive me.

CAROLINE. Are the things that were said about you untrue?

ANGÈLE. No. However bad they were they are true.

CAROLINE. Since that is so—

ANGÈLE [_without anger_] Since that is so—I still think your virtue
very proud and very hard. That is all. [_Changing her tone_] You
understand what has brought me here?

CAROLINE. I understand that we are to meet at the lawyer’s.

ANGÈLE. Very well. To-morrow at four.

CAROLINE. To-morrow at four at the lawyer’s.

ANGÈLE [_turning at the door, greatly moved_] You have nothing else to
say to me?

  _Caroline shakes her head. Angèle goes out. A moment after Dupont
  comes in._

DUPONT [_beaming_] She has gone?

CAROLINE. Yes.

DUPONT [_chuckling_] Where is your mother? Where is she? [_He calls
Madame Dupont_].

MME. DUPONT. What is it?

DUPONT. I want you.

CAROLINE. I will go.

DUPONT. There’s no need.

CAROLINE. I have some work to do.

DUPONT. Very well. Go, my child. Go. [_Calling after her_] To-morrow,
remember. [_She goes out as M. Dupont rubs his hands, chuckling_] Guess
what M. and Madame Mairaut came to ask me. You can’t guess?

MME. DUPONT. No.

DUPONT. No wonder. They came to ask for the twentyfive thousand francs,
the twentyfive thousand francs of Julie’s dot, you remember, which I
was to pay six months after her marriage.

MME. DUPONT. Well?

DUPONT. Well. It is six months to-day since Julie was married.

MME. DUPONT. Good heavens! What did you do?

DUPONT. Gave them nothing, of course.

MME. DUPONT. You couldn’t do otherwise.

DUPONT. As you say, I couldn’t.

MME. DUPONT. But they will make us bankrupt.

DUPONT [_still smiling broadly_] They can’t. They have nothing but my
word.

MME. DUPONT. Luckily.

DUPONT. However, I haven’t refused the twentyfive thousand francs. Nor
have I disputed the debt.

MME. DUPONT. What did you do then?

DUPONT. I wish you had been there. You would have laughed.

MME. DUPONT. Well?

DUPONT. I think I managed pretty well, though I say it who shouldn’t.
If you had seen the long faces they pulled. Especially Mother Mairaut.
[_He bursts out laughing_]. I should have liked a photograph of them.
It would have cheered me in moments of depression. Ha! Ha! Ha!

MME. DUPONT [_smiling_] Tell me about it.

DUPONT. Well—I’d have given anything for a photograph. I said to them
[_solemnly_] ‘Dear monsieur and dear madame, I admit that I promised
to pay you to-day twentyfive thousand francs. Only I am not in a
position to pay them.’ Explosion! Rage! Dignified reproaches! Insults!
Smiling, I let the storm to pass by. Mother Mairaut sat there, her
husband here, I here. All the time they were speaking I looked at
them like this [_grins_]. As soon as they had finished I took up
the tale again. ‘I do not deny the debt,’ said I, ’only I ask to be
allowed to postpone the payment. And this time I am ready to sign an
undertaking, a binding undertaking, to pay.’ Complete change of front!
Smiles. Apologies. Oh, they were devilish civil. Called me a man of
honor, etc., etc. I let them run on, still smiling. Then, in the midst
of an almost religious silence, I sat down at my desk, I took pen
and paper, I wrote, I blotted, so, taking my time about it. Madame
Mairaut positively slobbered with delight. I tell you she slobbered. I
handed her the paper. On it was written simply: ‘Good for the sum of
twentyfive thousand francs to be paid out of the money to be left by
Uncle Maréchal.’ Ha! Ha! Ha!

MME. DUPONT [_laughing_] Splendid!

DUPONT. Funny, eh? Deuced funny!

MME. DUPONT. Yes.

DUPONT. You don’t think so? You don’t! Eh? Wasn’t it funny?

MME. DUPONT. Yes. Yes.

DUPONT. When Mother Mairaut took it in I thought she was going to have
a fit. ‘It’s an insult!’ she shrieked. I believe she actually even
called me a cad! As for me, I was almost dying with laughter. They went
away swearing they were going straight to the bank to tell Antonin. By
Jove I haven’t enjoyed myself so much for ever so long.

MME. DUPONT [_becoming serious again_] I hope this won’t make any
difference to Julie.

DUPONT. Bah!

MME. DUPONT. Things are not going very well with her, I’m afraid.
Antonin is exacting and tyrannical, and she often locks herself into
her room to cry.

DUPONT. That always happens in the early days of marriage. People’s
angles need rubbing off. That sort of marriage turns out best in the
end. [_Julie comes in_] Here she is. Speak to her. Tell her these
things aren’t serious. Make her understand her duty. I must go back to
my accounts. [_To Julie_] Well? What did your sister Angèle say to you?

JULIE. Hardly anything. She didn’t know me, and I shouldn’t have known
her.

DUPONT. I told you so. Well, I must be off. Back soon. [_He goes out_].

MME. DUPONT. My dear—your husband may be rather put out when he comes
in.

JULIE. I am getting used to that.

MME. DUPONT. More so than usual, I mean.

JULIE. Why?

MME. DUPONT. Your father has been unable to keep his promise.

JULIE. About the twentyfive thousand francs?

MME. DUPONT. Yes. Antonin will have just heard about it.

JULIE [_depressed_] No matter. [_Suddenly, alarmed_] I do believe I
forgot to tell them to get out his grey suit. No: I remember. I did
tell them. How angry he would have been if I hadn’t!

MME. DUPONT. Of course. He is your husband.

JULIE. You think it quite natural that he should fly into a rage as he
did two days ago because something or other had been forgotten? And
that it is only reasonable he should order me to go to Mass merely that
Madame So-and-so may see me there! Well, he may order as much as he
likes. I shall not go. I _will_ not go!

MME. DUPONT. You make too much of it. My child, aren’t you happy?

JULIE [_ironically_] Of course.

MME. DUPONT. Your husband is fond of you, isn’t he?

JULIE. That depends on what you mean by fond.

MME. DUPONT. I mean he’s very much in love with you.

JULIE. I suppose so.

MME. DUPONT. You’re angry with him for that?

JULIE. No, I’m angry with myself.

MME. DUPONT. My dear! What do you mean?

JULIE. I am ashamed of myself.

MME. DUPONT. I don’t understand.

JULIE. Nor do I. Don’t let us talk about it.

MME. DUPONT. Please, dear.

JULIE [_breaking out_] Well, I _detest_ him. There!

MME. DUPONT. Tell me why.

JULIE. There is no why in that sort of dislike. It is born and grows
with every moment we are together. Every moment there comes some little
point on which we clash. We haven’t the same ideas on a single subject.
He and I are strangers. We are apart utterly, miserably. We are as far
from one another as two human beings can be. [_With a deep sigh_] Oh,
to realize that slowly, hopelessly. To feel that every fresh glimpse
into each other’s character only reveals a fresh source of offence.
Till at last it has come to this, that I am certain the more we know
each other the deeper will be our mutual loathing. Every day, every
hour will add a fresh hatred to the accumulated hatreds of the others.
Great Heavens! And unless we are divorced this will go on all our
lives. [_A pause_]. Why, there are moments when he is sitting there in
that chair, and I look at him fixedly, and it seems as if I had never
seen him before. And why not? After all, it is only six months since
I hardly recognized him when we passed in the street. And then I ask
myself what am I doing here? I, in my dressing-gown, with my hair down,
shut in with that man. And I long to run away screaming. And we are
husband and wife. Oh, mother, I am _ashamed_.

MME. DUPONT. You must try to be reasonable. Antonin is a fine fellow.
Many girls would have been glad to get him.

JULIE. Why didn’t they then, in Heaven’s name? Oh, if you knew how I
long to have a child to console me for all this. If I should never have
one. If I should never have one. [_Shudders_]. But I mustn’t even think
of that.

MME. DUPONT. My dear child, you must look at things more calmly. All
this will gradually settle down until at last it passes away altogether.

JULIE. Yes. When I am an old woman.

MME. DUPONT. Exactly, when you are an old woman.

JULIE. Thank you.

MME. DUPONT. In any case, you should try to control yourself a little.
If only for your father’s sake and mine.

JULIE. I will try. [_Antonin comes in_]. Hush. Here he is. Go away,
mother. You will only make things worse. [_Madame Dupont goes out_].

ANTONIN [_furious_] Well! This is the last straw. Your father won’t
keep his word. You have heard?

JULIE [_sitting on the sofa_] Yes.

ANTONIN. It doesn’t disturb you apparently.

JULIE. He cannot do otherwise.

ANTONIN. It will be the ruin of me. But you seem to be all in league
together, the whole lot of you. Oh, you’re a pretty family! Your
father owes us twenty-five thousand francs. He won’t pay them. The
other day your sister promised us fifteen thousand francs. To-day she
has changed her mind. As for you, you do everything in your power to
compromise my position.

JULIE. I?

ANTONIN. You. You disobey me.

JULIE. In what?

ANTONIN. Were you at Mass this morning?

JULIE. No.

ANTONIN. Why not?

JULIE. It is not my fault if I no longer believe.

ANTONIN. I don’t ask you to believe. I ask you to go to Mass. The two
things are totally different. A woman ought to go to Mass. If she
doesn’t believe she should appear to do so. It is usual among people of
good position. I wish you to do as others do. Do you understand? I wish
it. I have no desire to pass for a Freethinker when all my clients are
Catholics, confound them!

JULIE. I have not been and I do not intend to go.

ANTONIN. What do you say?

JULIE. You heard what I said. If you were a believer, if you asked me
to do this out of respect for your faith, I would do it. But it is a
piece of commercial trickery that you want from me. I refuse.

ANTONIN. You wish to do as you like, you mean?

JULIE [_breaking out_] Yes. You are quite right. I wish to do as I
like. That is it. That is just it. For once in my life I wish to do as
I like! All the time I was a girl I had to obey; to submit to authority
that was often unreasonable. Now I am to go on obeying, obeying. I have
had enough of this everlasting obedience.

ANTONIN. Then you shouldn’t have married.

JULIE. So that’s it, is it. The sole business of your wife’s life is to
be your slave, to help the servant to make you comfortable, brush your
clothes, taste your soup, and look up to you with admiring homage.

ANTONIN. That’s all nonsense.

JULIE. What is nonsense?

ANTONIN. What you have been saying. You know quite well that you have
other duties. You know quite well that it only rests with you to be a
happy wife. You know that I love you.

JULIE. Yes, yes. I forgot. You _love_ me! Which means that I am to
submit to your caresses when the fancy takes you. They used to say
of us women, ‘housekeeper or mistress.’ But we have moved with the
times. Now you want the same woman to play both parts. Housekeeper and
mistress. That is the only difference between us and the women you love
before you marry us. A wife is a mistress who minds the house. That is
not enough for me, thank you. No. No. No. I will not pass my whole life
between cooking your dinner and accepting your kisses.

ANTONIN. That’s right. Off we go on the old story of the wife who is
not understood; the poor woman who is a slave and a martyr. If you
really love me, if you thought a little more instead of cramming your
head with ideas which you don’t understand, you would be content with
the part, modest no doubt but not dishonorable, with which plenty of
women as good as you have contented themselves.

JULIE. Perhaps you are right. If I loved you, as you say, if we loved
one another nothing would matter. But I say again I do not love you.

ANTONIN. Be silent.

JULIE. I do not love you.

ANTONIN. Julie, I shall end by losing my temper. You will force me to
say things.

JULIE. To say things?

ANTONIN. Never mind.

JULIE. Oh, you may speak out. A little shame more or less doesn’t
matter. We are alone. Let us speak out and clear up the matter once and
for all. We _must_. It has been weighing on my mind for a long time.
Say what you have to say.

ANTONIN. No.

JULIE. Then _I_ will speak. I tell you that I do not love you and you
shrug your shoulders with a smile of self-complacency. But it’s no
laughing matter, Heaven knows; and I don’t imagine I am the only woman
for whom this subject, amusing enough for you men, has meant a whole
tragedy of sorrow and disgust.

ANTONIN. I don’t understand you.

JULIE. Yes, you _do!_! Your vanity makes you try to escape, but you
shall understand. You think I daren’t speak, but I will. Do you suppose
I will stay dumb and bear the kisses you give me, kisses which I end
by returning. My lips when you kiss them draw back in repulsion and
yet in the end they yield and go out to meet yours. Shall I go on? [_A
pause. She looks him full in the face_]. No. You understand now. You
can never again imagine the tears I shed are tears of love. They are
tears of remorse and misery. I hate you after your kisses. Our love is
a duel in which I am worsted because what is best in me turns traitor.
I blush at your victories because you could never have gained them
without the help of what is base in me, without the baseness you know
how to excite. It is not I who yield. It is the animal in me. It is all
that is vile. I hate you for the crime of our loveless marriage, the
crime you force me to share. I admit you are not the only guilty one,
you are not the only one worthy of contempt. But I have had enough of
it. Enough of it. I will no longer spend my days weeping over the shame
of my nights. Every evening I have said I will regain my freedom. Till
now I have not dared to say the words that would release me. Now I have
done it. I am free.

ANTONIN [_shrugging his shoulders_] You are nothing of the sort.

JULIE. What do you mean?

ANTONIN. I mean that I have more common sense than you. I mean that it
is my duty to guard you from these exaggerated fancies of yours. The
bonds that join us are not to be broken by a whim. You are my wife and
my wife you will remain. A divorce is impossible. I have given you no
cause. You may leave me, of course, but you know the life of the woman
who lives apart from her husband, a life without respect and without
social position. No: you will stay with me.

JULIE. And it is this prison that we call marriage. [_A pause_]. And
when I think that I looked forward with longing to this: that I sighed
for it: that all my girlhood I was hoping for it, dreaming of it. When
I think that at this very moment there are girls kneeling by their
bedsides, young girls whose hearts are yearning for this. [_She begins
to cry_]. Ah, poor girls! Poor girls! If they only knew. [_She wipes
her eyes, after a moment_] Just Heaven, what a fool I am. Here am I
crying when I should be laughing. The thing is ludicrous. Why, if one
dared, one would shake with laughter at it all. You may be tyrants, all
of you, but you are so absurd that, when one thinks, one can scarcely
hate you for it. What you have made of marriage! From start to finish:
from the wedding morning, with its monkey tricks, its vanity, and
its folly. When I think that there are still people who respect such
mummery! [_She bursts out laughing_].

ANTONIN. Julie. Don’t laugh like that.

JULIE. Oh, my dear sir, leave me alone. It’s well for you I take it
laughing. If I took it seriously, what sort of figure would you cut?
Everything about a wedding is absurd, just because it is so detestable.
Yes; everything. From the moment when you set it before us as a duty to
hand ourselves over to our lords on such and such a day, at such and
such an hour, at a date and a minute fixed beforehand. How is it that
brides do not die of shame under the curious eyes of the wedding guests
and the thoughts they hide? To think that they are passing the day
among people who know. Pah! Oh, yes; I am quite aware how ridiculous
the bride looks. [_She puts her hand familiarly on his shoulder_].
But don’t imagine the bridegroom cuts a very brilliant figure. [_She
laughs_]. You all wear a look of stupid complacency, like a contented
animal sure of its prey. And there must be a dot, and you must be
bought, and a price must be paid you in order that you may marry us.
Oh, yes. You have arranged things finely among you; with your Deputies’
scarves and your music and incense. And you need them. But do you think
they impose on anyone nowadays? No.

ANTONIN. You make out too good a case for yourself. And it’s not fair
to make me responsible. All this is as much the result of your acts as
of mine.

JULIE. Indeed! I am curious to hear what those acts are.

ANTONIN. I’ll tell you.

JULIE. Have I ever failed in my duty? Haven’t I been—

ANTONIN [_sternly_] Be silent. I’m going to have my say. It’s no good
your trying to play the injured victim. You did exactly the same as I
did. When I proposed for you, I was not in love with you. I admit it. I
didn’t love you as you want to be loved. Yet you accepted me.

JULIE. Do you suppose I knew? What did I understand about life? How
could I have guessed—

ANTONIN. You knew perfectly well the sort of love I felt for you, a
sort of love every mother tries to rouse in any young man she wants to
catch for her daughter. And the daughters take a hand in the game, too,
bless their little hearts!

JULIE. Do you mean to say _I_ did such a thing?

ANTONIN. Yes: I do. You began this plain speaking: I’m going on with
it. You wanted the cards on the table and you shall have them. Let
us both own up. We know now what marriage is, our own and everybody
else’s. We know all the tricks, all the humbug of it. Let’s look it in
the face. Your parents deceived mine.

JULIE. And yours?

ANTONIN. They did the same. I’m not denying it. But did you help them?
Yes or no?

JULIE. No.

ANTONIN. Yes: you did. I remember well enough how you helped them to
cajole me, trap me, dupe me. Oh I know it sounds ridiculous. I know
each petty incident taken by itself amounts to nothing. But these
deceptions of yours have their importance, for you only made use of
them to catch me. You played on my weaknesses. You knew I was fond of
money—we’re talking straight to each other, remember—you knew I was
fond of money and you represented yourself as a model young woman who
always made her own dresses. You remember that? And Wagner! Wagner,
whose music you professed to admire so much, when you knew as little
about him as I do. According to your own account lots of men had wanted
to marry you. That was a lie. You had helped your father in keeping his
books and were interested in my banking business. _That_ was a lie, too.

JULIE. If that is all you have to reproach me with—

ANTONIN. It is not all. There was another lie to which you
condescended. And that was a serious one, because you sacrificed your
womanly dignity to your interest. You have forgotten it? I have not.
Why it was here, here in this very room where we are at this moment,
that you sat dressed for a ball. You were not going to a ball. I knew
that later. But they told you to put on that dress, and you know why.
Well, that trick came off all right. [_Julie, confused, hides her face
in her hands_]. I behaved as most men behave. I wanted to take your
arm and kiss it. You objected as any decent woman would. But when
you saw I was annoyed you said to yourself that a husband was well
worth the sacrifice of a little modesty, and you came deliberately
and let me kiss you as I wished. Isn’t it true? Isn’t it? I tried to
deceive you, I admit it. But if I lied you lied, too. Marriages like
ours may be shameful. I don’t know. But don’t try to thrust the whole
responsibility on me when you’re equally guilty. [_Julie’s head sinks
lower. A pause_]. The other things you say about me I dare say I
deserve. I’m ambitious. I want to succeed. Is it my fault that success
is the only road to social consideration nowadays? In order to succeed
I must truckle to people who can be useful to me and I ask you to help
me. I’m not a hero. I’m like the rest of the world. I didn’t make
either myself or them. We are to be pitied, both of us. But I’m more to
be pitied than you are, for you don’t love me and I can’t help loving
you. What shall I do if you leave me? My position will be compromised,
my business ruined. And more than all that I shall have lost you. I
don’t speak as I ought, I am a fool, a dolt. I ought to have told you
this at first instead of going over all that wretched business. But
it’s true, it’s far worse for me than for you [_much moved_] for I
love you in spite of all you can say, and the idea of losing you is
like being told that I am going to die. [_He sobs_]. And what have I
done after all? I’ve only done as other men do. Why should _I_ be the
only one to be punished? Ah, Julie, my little Julie, pity me. I’m very
unhappy. [_He weeps, bowed over the table, his head in his hands_].

JULIE [_putting her hand upon his head and speaking in a low
expressionless voice_] Poor fellow.

ANTONIN [_still weeping_] You _are_ sorry for me, aren’t you. Say you
are.

JULIE. Yes, we are both of us victims.

ANTONIN. That’s it. Ever since I was born my parents have taught me
that the great thing in life was to be rich.

JULIE [_nodding sadly_] Mine too.

ANTONIN. Unless one gets on nobody thinks anything of one.

JULIE. And marriage is one of the ways of getting on.

ANTONIN. That’s what ruined us.

JULIE. Yes. It has ruined our lives as it has ruined so many others.

ANTONIN [_recovering his composure_] You understand, then? You _do_
understand, don’t you?

JULIE [_dully_] Yes.

ANTONIN [_taking her hand, which she does not draw away_] You’re not
angry? [_Julie says nothing_]. It is all over, isn’t it? [_patting her
hand_] All quite over and done with. [_She is still silent_]. You see
that I mustn’t do anything that might damage the business? You see that?

JULIE. Yes.

ANTONIN. And that it’s better not to offend people who may be useful to
us. Isn’t it?

JULIE. Yes.

ANTONIN. After all, why shouldn’t one go to Mass? Come, come. [_He
smiles_]. We have been silly, haven’t we, to say all that. It’s
forgotten now, isn’t it? Say it’s forgotten.

JULIE [_reluctantly_] Yes.

ANTONIN [_recovering his spirits_] That’s a good little woman. There,
there. One disputes, one flies into a passion, one runs on and on, one
says terrible things [_laughing_]. What things you said to me. Oh, it
was shocking. But there, we’ll never speak of it again. Never. Never.
Let’s make it up. [_He takes her in his arms: hesitating, she lets
him do so_]. We’re friends again, eh? And now go and wash your face,
or people will see you’ve been crying. Are my eyes red, too? No, I
expect not. Shall I tell you something? You won’t believe it. You’ll be
shocked. Do you know, I almost think perhaps it’s as well we’ve said
all these things to each other. You see, now we know each other better.
You understand about some of my worries. The business isn’t going as
I should wish. That makes my temper rather quick at times. No: things
might be better. If you would say a word to Caroline, perhaps she would
change her mind about that money.

JULIE [_still on her guard_] I will try.

ANTONIN. That’s a good girl. And it’s only for a little while that we
shall have to be careful. We are only two and we shall pull through it.
Luckily we’ve only ourselves to think of. Imagine what it would be if
we were expecting a baby!

JULIE. That would give me courage.

ANTONIN. Nonsense, my dear. We can do very well without that.

JULIE [_alarmed_] But we are going to have children, aren’t we?

ANTONIN [_after a moment’s hesitation, firmly_] No.

JULIE. Why not?

ANTONIN. How absurd you are. Because I don’t choose, of course.

JULIE. But we’ve often talked of having children. You’ve made plans
with me about what we should do with them.

ANTONIN [_laughing_] I know. You liked it, and it was something to
talk about. But for the future we’re to be perfectly straight with one
another.

JULIE. Do you mean that we are _never_ to have any children?

ANTONIN [_nods_] We can’t afford them, my dear, at present. And if we
wait till we’re forty [_shrugs_], people would laugh.

JULIE. Don’t you know what it was that made me willing to marry? Don’t
you know that it was this thought of having children, this and this
alone, that decided me? And you refuse me this. To be a wife, to be
a mother, is the natural end of life for me. And something will be
wanting and my life will be incomplete, and I shall not have _lived_
if my arms have never clasped a baby born of my flesh; if I have never
suckled it, cried over it, felt all the cares and all the joys that
mothers feel. And you would rob me of this. Merely because you love
money, because you are self-seeking and ambitious. Great Heavens, to
think that you should have such power over my life! People talk of
tyranny; they make revolts against Governments; there are women who
clamor for a vote; who demand that the marriage law should be the same
for women as for men; and they don’t understand that it is marriage
itself they should attack, that they should attack with fury, since it
allows such an infamy.

ANTONIN. For goodness sake don’t begin again. Remember, we made it up.

JULIE. Made it up! Just God, what name is there vile enough for me
to fling in your face? Are you so utterly base that you think _now_
there can be any thought of reconciliation between us? After what you
have just told me, do you suppose that I would submit to—Think what it
means. Think what the thing you men call love means to women if it has
neither affection nor children for its justification.

ANTONIN. I won’t answer you. You don’t know what you’re saying. You’re
mad, and I shall treat you accordingly. To begin with, go to your room
and try to calm yourself. Go. [_He tries to take her by the arm_].

JULIE [_shrieking_] Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me! [_She pushes him
violently away_].

ANTONIN [_furious_] Look here, Julie; I’m not going to stand this. I
tell you to go to your room at once.

JULIE. Don’t touch me.

ANTONIN. I shall touch you if I please. Oh, you may scream if you like.
You’re my wife, and I’ve the right to do as I choose with you.

JULIE. Take your hands off me. I hate you, I say. I hate you.

ANTONIN. You hate me. I dare say. But if you suppose that I’m a genteel
husband out of a book, who lets his wife lock her door against him,
you’re vastly mistaken. I’ve married you, I love you, and I intend to
keep you. Hate me, do you? Very well. Escape from me if you can. [_He
takes her in his arms. There is a struggle. Furniture is overturned. No
word is spoken, but you can hear their deep breathing. Suddenly Antonin
cries out_] Curse you, you’ve bitten me!

JULIE. Yes. And I will _kill_ you if you don’t let me go!

ANTONIN [_transported with rage_] We shall see which of us is master.

JULIE. We shall see!

ANTONIN. We _shall_! [_Antonin goes out in a violent passion_].

  _Julie, left alone, straightens her hair and dress mechanically,
  muttering to herself inaudibly. Suddenly she falls upon a couch, and
  then upon the ground, where she lies sobbing in an agony of misery._



ACT IV


  _The same scene. M. and Madame Dupont are sitting together._

DUPONT. She’s determined to leave him, then?

MME. DUPONT. Quite determined.

DUPONT. And he?

MME. DUPONT. After the scene I told you of he went straight out of the
house and he hasn’t come back since.

DUPONT. He didn’t sleep at home last night?

MME. DUPONT. No.

DUPONT [_scornfully_] He has gone back to ‘maman,’ no doubt. [_He goes
to the window_].

MME. DUPONT [_after a pause_] Why do you keep looking out of that
window?

DUPONT. I’m watching the lawyer’s opposite. Caroline went in five
minutes ago. I’m terribly afraid Angèle won’t come. [_To himself_]
Confound Caroline. Who the Dickens can have got hold of that other
fifteen thousand francs? [_Joyfully_] There’s Angèle. Look. She’s going
in now. What did you say? Bless my soul, my daughters give me worry
enough. Yes: he has gone back to ‘maman.’ And you think this won’t blow
over, eh?

MME. DUPONT. I’m certain it won’t. Julie will never forgive him.

DUPONT [_almost with triumph_] That means a divorce then, eh?

MME. DUPONT. Yes. A divorce.

DUPONT. Ah! And who was the clever one this time, too, eh? Who was it?

MME. DUPONT. I don’t know.

DUPONT. Of course not. Well, _I_ was.

MME. DUPONT. In what way?

DUPONT. You say she’ll ask for a divorce?

MME. DUPONT. Unless he does.

DUPONT. Very well, then. Whichever way it is her money was settled
on herself, and our good Antonin will have to give back the thirty
thousand francs and my house. Thanks to me. Thanks to me. [_He rubs his
hands_].

  _The maid comes in._

MAID. M. and Madame Mairaut.

DUPONT. Show them in. [_The maid goes out. To his wife_] Don’t go.

  _M. and Madame Mairaut come in._

MME. MAIRAUT [_turning to the door and speaking to her husband, who
hangs back_] Are you coming in or are you not?

MAIRAUT. I’m coming. [_He closes the door_].

  _Formal greetings are exchanged._

MME. MAIRAUT [_sitting down_] After what passed between us yesterday—

DUPONT [_with dangerous sweetness_] About Uncle Maréchal’s money?

MME. MAIRAUT [_appearing not to have heard_] After what passed between
us yesterday, I intended never to set foot in this house again.

DUPONT [_bowing_] It rested entirely with you, madame.

MME. MAIRAUT. Since then, however, grave differences have arisen
between our children.

DUPONT. Very grave.

MME. MAIRAUT. You know, then?

DUPONT. Yes.

MME. MAIRAUT. We are come therefore, my husband and I, in the name of
our son, formally to request your daughter, Madame Antonin Mairaut, to
return to her husband’s roof.

DUPONT. _His_ roof?

MME. MAIRAUT. To St. Laurent. My son awaits her there.

DUPONT. He’ll have to wait some time. My daughter will not return to
her husband. You are welcome to bring an officer of the Court to bear
witness to the fact. It will provide your son with a ground for his
divorce.

MME. MAIRAUT [_sweetly_] There is no question of a divorce.

DUPONT [_astonished_] What? No question of a divorce?

MME. MAIRAUT. None, monsieur.

DUPONT. In spite of my daughter’s refusal—

MME. MAIRAUT. In spite of her refusal.

DUPONT. In spite of what she has said to her husband?

MME. MAIRAUT. In spite of that, too.

DUPONT. In spite of anything she may do in the future?

MME. MAIRAUT. In spite of anything she may do. There is no question of
a divorce and there never will be.

DUPONT. On your part, you mean?

MME. MAIRAUT. On yours also. We shall give you no grounds. My son is
waiting for his wife to return to him. He is ready to receive her
whenever she sees fit to present herself.

DUPONT. Whatever she does?

MME. MAIRAUT. Whatever she does.

DUPONT. Even if—

MME. MAIRAUT. Even in that case. [_Movement of Mairaut_]. What is it,
my dear?

MAIRAUT. Nothing.

DUPONT. The truth is you would rather risk your son’s honor than give
back the thirty thousand francs.

MME. MAIRAUT [_still very sweetly_] After all, thirty thousand francs
is a considerable sum. [_Mairaut fidgets uneasily_].

DUPONT. Yesterday, when he went away, your son uttered certain threats.

MME. MAIRAUT [_still sweetly_] He has decided not to put them into
execution.

MME. DUPONT. You know, of course, that Julie will never agree—

MME. MAIRAUT. I can’t help that.

MME. DUPONT. All their lives they will be chained to one another. Young
as they are, they must give up the idea of having a home.

MME. MAIRAUT. Your daughter has only to return to her duty. Antonin
will receive her.

MAIRAUT [_breaking out_] No. I won’t have it. I have a word to say on
this.

MME. MAIRAUT. What’s the matter now? Pray speak if you have anything to
say.

MAIRAUT [_loudly_] What we are doing is an infamy.

MME. MAIRAUT. Hold your tongue.

MAIRAUT. I won’t.

MME. MAIRAUT. Hold your tongue, I tell you.

MAIRAUT. No. And don’t you try to shout me down. Do you hear?

MME. MAIRAUT. What’s taken the man? I’ve never seen him like this
before.

MAIRAUT. I tell you this is infamous! Infamous! I’ve thought so for a
long time, ever since the day you wouldn’t let me speak out about Uncle
Maréchal. I said nothing because I was afraid of you. For thirty years
I have said nothing. But now this is too much, and I say what I think.
It’s an infamy. Come what may, I will say it. Sit down. I tell you it’s
an infamy. Rogues have been meddling with these children’s lives too
long; it’s time for honest men to take a hand in them. I’m going to do
it.

MME. MAIRAUT. Pay no attention to him. He’s out of his senses.

MAIRAUT. Be silent, you. M. and Madame Dupont, this is what I have to
say to you. An effort must be made to reconcile Julie and Antonin. If
this is impossible, _I_ will pay you back the thirty thousand francs.

MME. MAIRAUT [_with a scream_] Good Heavens, what is he saying?

MAIRAUT. I will return the thirty thousand francs, and you’ll see after
that if my precious son won’t be the first to talk of a divorce.

MME. MAIRAUT [_to her husband_] You shall pay for this when we get home.

MAIRAUT. As you please. And now be off, and be quick about it. [_Madame
Mairaut goes out_]. Au revoir, M. and Madame Dupont. Do what you can
on your side, and I will try and make Antonin come and beg his wife’s
pardon.

DUPONT. Good evening, M. Mairaut.

MME. DUPONT. Count on me, M. Mairaut, and give me your hand. You’re a
good man.

MAIRAUT [_as he goes_] That’s all right. [_He goes_].

DUPONT. Are you really going to try?

MME. DUPONT. Yes.

DUPONT. But since old Mairaut is willing to give back the money.

MME. DUPONT. I won’t make up my mind to a divorce until I’m absolutely
convinced there’s no other way.

DUPONT. But there is no other way. You said so yourself.

MME. DUPONT. Are you sure you aren’t thinking more of your money than
of the happiness of your child?

DUPONT. I! Well, I declare! Are you taking a leaf out of old Mairaut’s
book?

MME. DUPONT [_gravely_] Perhaps so.

  _Madame Mairaut returns._

MME. MAIRAUT. I have come back for two things. First, to advise you not
to count too much on my husband’s promise. Next, to thank you for the
fresh insult you have put upon us.

DUPONT. What insult?

MME. MAIRAUT. You don’t know, I suppose, to whom Mlle. Caroline has
given half her legacy?

DUPONT. No. But I shall be glad to learn.

MME. MAIRAUT. To your clerk, Courthezon.

DUPONT. Courthezon? It’s a lie!

MME. DUPONT. Courthezon!

MME. MAIRAUT. She has just told me so herself.

  _Caroline comes in._

  MME. DUPONT.  { Caroline, is it really to Courthezon that
                { you’ve given the fifteen thousand
                { francs?
                {
  DUPONT.       { You have given fifteen thousand francs
                { to Courthezon!
                {
  MME. MAIRAUT. { Isn’t it to Courthezon that you have
                { given the fifteen thousand francs?

CAROLINE. Yes.

DUPONT. You are crazy!

MME. DUPONT. What possessed you to do that?

MME. MAIRAUT. For his invention! An invention not worth twopence,
Antonin says.

MME. DUPONT. You think more of strangers than your own flesh and blood.

DUPONT. Just at the very time when my plant needed renewing.

MME. MAIRAUT. And when her brother-in-law is on the verge of
bankruptcy. Yes, mademoiselle, yes! And this money, which you give to a
crack-brained inventor who is nothing to you, might perhaps have saved
your sister from penury. That is all I have to say to you. Good bye.
[_She goes_].

DUPONT. Well! Perhaps now you’ll tell us why you have done this?

MME. DUPONT. What has taken you? How did such an idea come into your
head?

DUPONT. Do you imagine his invention will make your fortune?

CAROLINE. No.

DUPONT. Do you know anything at all about it?

CAROLINE. No.

MME. DUPONT. Did he ask you to lend him money?

CAROLINE. No.

DUPONT. Then you ought to be put in an asylum. You’re out of your
senses.

MME. DUPONT. I still can’t make out how you came to have such an idea.

CAROLINE [_beginning to cry_] I was unhappy.

DUPONT. What! You give away fifteen thousand francs to the first comer
because you are unhappy!

CAROLINE. I hope he will be grateful for what I have done for him, and
that—

DUPONT. Well?

CAROLINE. I am no longer young, I know; but he is not young either.

DUPONT. You think he will _marry_ you!

CAROLINE. Yes.

DUPONT. Then you don’t know—

MME. DUPONT. Hush.

CAROLINE. I can’t go on living alone. I am too wretched. For a long
time I have thought—when I saw M. Courthezon, so steady and careful and
quiet—I thought I could be happy with him. But I knew he would never
marry me without money, and there was only enough for Julie. The time
when I was most unhappy was when M. Antonin was here. He used to talk
to Julie. They took no notice of me. They used to kiss one another.
And though I don’t think I’m jealous, it made me very wretched. So
when this legacy came, and I knew M. Courthezon needed money for his
invention, I thought I would give him some.

MME. DUPONT. You should at least have given him some idea of what you
meant. It would have saved you from disappointment, my poor child.

DUPONT. You should have spoken to me. I could have told you why you had
nothing to hope in that quarter.

CAROLINE. Nothing to hope? But why? Why?

DUPONT. Because for twenty years Courthezon has been living with a
married woman. He does not speak of it, of course, but they have two
children.

CAROLINE [_faintly_] God have pity on me! [_She almost falls_].

MME. DUPONT. Caroline! My child!

DUPONT. My child. Come, come. You must be reasonable.

MME. DUPONT. You mustn’t cry like that.

CAROLINE [_sobbing_] No.

DUPONT [_to his wife_] This is your fault. We should have told her that
Courthezon—But you always said no.

MME. DUPONT. One can’t tell things like that to a young girl. And
afterwards, when she was grown up, it didn’t seem worth while. [_To
Caroline_] Don’t cry any more, dear.

CAROLINE [_stifling her sobs by a great effort_] I am not crying any
more.

DUPONT. There is only one thing to be done. We must try and get the
money back from Courthezon.

CAROLINE. No! No!

DUPONT. We shall see. [_He hurries out_].

CAROLINE. Stop him. Stop him, mother. Go at once. Stop him, I beg of
you.

MME. DUPONT. Very well, dear. [_She follows her husband_].

  _Caroline is left alone for a moment. Then Angèle comes in._

ANGÈLE [_very tenderly_] Caroline, are you in trouble?

CAROLINE [_in a low voice_] Yes.

ANGÈLE. What about? Tell me.

CAROLINE [_in an expressionless voice, but not angrily_]. No. It is
over now.

ANGÈLE. You won’t tell me?

CAROLINE [_coldly_] It would be useless.

ANGÈLE. Who knows? Come. I can see you have been crying.

CAROLINE. Yes. We are very unfortunate, Julie and I.

ANGÈLE. Julie?

CAROLINE. She is leaving her husband.

ANGÈLE. Why?

CAROLINE. They cannot go on living together any longer.

ANGÈLE. And you?

CAROLINE. I? [_She makes a gesture of hopelessness_].

  _Julie comes in._

JULIE. I was looking for you, Caroline. I am going away sooner than I
expected. They say my husband is coming here. I do not wish ever to see
him again. So I am going.

CAROLINE. What will you do?

JULIE. I shall do as you do; hire a room somewhere and get work.

CAROLINE. What kind of work?

JULIE. I don’t know. Anything I can get.

CAROLINE. Don’t do that, Julie. Don’t! [_Deeply distressed_] If you
only knew!

JULIE. What?

CAROLINE. The wretchedness of living alone.

JULIE. I’m not afraid. I shall work so hard that I shall have no time
for moping.

CAROLINE. You will work. [_She sighs_]. It isn’t easy for a woman who
is alone to earn her living.

JULIE. Nonsense.

CAROLINE. I know what I’m talking about. Sometimes when I take my work
to the shop they refuse it with an insolent contempt they would never
dare to show to a man. It’s true. For I am doubly unprotected since I
am a woman and I need work.

JULIE. But in your own room, at least, you are free.

CAROLINE. Free! [_With a mirthless laugh_]. If that is freedom, give me
slavery.

JULIE. I shall have friends.

CAROLINE. Do you think so? The women will have nothing to do with you
because you’ll be a wife living apart from her husband, and because
you will be dull. And the men? What will people say if they visit you?

JULIE. Little I care what people will say.

CAROLINE. Still for your own sake you will have to send them away.

JULIE. What do you advise, then? That I should remain with my husband?

CAROLINE. Ah, Julie dear, you complain of not being loved as you wish
to be. What can _I_ say to that, I whom no man will ever take in his
arms? I who feel myself a thing apart, useless, absurd, incomplete.
You don’t know what a void that means for a woman: to have no one to
forgive, no one to devote herself to. And the world sneers at women for
remaining single. It makes their loneliness a reproach. Look at me,
hardly allowed to dispose of my own property, black looks all round me
because I have dared to use my own money in my own way.

JULIE. Poor Caroline.

CAROLINE. Yes. You may well pity me. And if I told you all. I turned to
religion for consolation. For a while it cheated my craving for love;
but it couldn’t give me peace, and it has only left me more bitter and
more disillusioned. For months I buoyed myself up on one last hope.
I was a fool. [_Weeping_] Ah, no one need tell me how absurd it was.
I know it well enough. I, at my age and in these clothes, much like
everyone else’s clothes, only everything looks ridiculous on me. _I_ to
fall in love! I must be crazy. Don’t laugh at me. I have suffered so
much. I knew he couldn’t love me, but I hoped he would be grateful for
what I—I only wanted his gratitude and his pity, no more, I swear to
you. And now it seems there is some other woman. [_A pause_]. Oh, what
good was it to guard my good name as a miser guards his gold if this
is all? No, Julie; don’t spoil your life a second time. If you cannot
resign yourself to living with your husband, at least don’t follow my
example. Don’t try to live my life. One of us is enough. Don’t try to
earn your bread. It is too hard, and men have made it too humiliating.

JULIE. But, Caroline, if people see me accepting hardship with courage,
living alone deliberately, because I choose, surely the dignity of my
life will make them respect me?

CAROLINE. No one will believe in the dignity of your life.

JULIE. Then it is monstrous! That is all I can say. Monstrous! And
since to pay for bread to eat and clothes to wear and a roof to cover
me I must either give myself to a husband I hate or to a lover whom,
perhaps, I may love, I choose the lover. If I must sell myself to
someone, I prefer to choose the buyer.

ANGÈLE. You are mad! Mad! Be reconciled to your husband. That is the
best thing you can do.

JULIE. So everybody says. Well, I tell you I will not. I will not.

ANGÈLE. You would soon be glad enough to have your married life back
again, bad as it may be; or even Caroline’s poverty.

JULIE [_scornfully_] You think so.

ANGÈLE [_passionately_] You don’t know what you are saying. You don’t
understand, Julie. You to talk like that! You to wish—Oh, you don’t
understand.

JULIE. You did it yourself.

ANGÈLE [_with great emotion_] Yes. I did it. But I would strangle
myself rather than begin it again. Julie, I entreat you. What am I to
say? How am I to stop you? I can’t tell you and Caroline all the shame
I have endured. Oh, don’t make me do that.

JULIE. Well, you’re happy _now_, at least.

ANGÈLE. Happy! When I went off with Georges—they told you, didn’t they?
Well, his people got him away from me. His mother was dying of grief.
Yes: I know that is not what you wish to hear, but I must tell you,
that you may understand how I came to fall as low as I did. I was left
alone with the child. I had to feed it, hadn’t I? You can understand
that, at least. But how? Work? I tried to get work. But they told me to
wait. How was I to wait? And then—my God! that I should have to tell
you all this—then I let myself go. [_She sobs_]. And afterwards—No:
I can’t speak of it. But you understand, Julie. You can guess. You
can imagine what my life was when you see that even now I can’t
bring myself to tell you about it. [_Mastering herself_]. You think
women—women like me—are happy because you see us laugh. But to laugh is
our trade. We are paid for that. And I swear to you often we would ask
nothing better than just to sit and cry. And you talk of _choosing_!
You poor child. Do you suppose we women _choose_? Oh, if you could but
know how one comes to loathe the whole world, to be wicked, _wicked_!
They despise us so. We have no friends, no pity, no justice. We are
robbed, exploited. I tell you all this anyhow, just as it comes, but
you understand, don’t you? And once you start downhill you can’t stop.
That is our life, the life of women like me. That is the slough in
which I have struggled ten years. No, no, Julie! No, little sister.
I implore you don’t do as I did. It is too horrible, too abject, too
degraded.

JULIE. Poor Angèle.

ANGÈLE. You understand, don’t you?

JULIE. Yes.

ANGÈLE [_rising_] I must go. Good-bye. I dare not look either of you in
the face again now that you know everything, now that I remember what I
once was. I knew you could never have anything more to do with me. But
I felt such a craving to be loved that I half fancied you, at least,
Caroline—I see I was wrong. Well, good-bye. 1 am going away. Forgive
me, both of you, for what I have done. Goodbye. [_She turns to the
door_].

CAROLINE. Angèle! [_A pause. Angèle turns at the door_]. I pity you
with all my heart. [_Another pause_]. May I kiss you? [_Angèle throws
herself into her arms_].

ANGÈLE. Caroline! My kind, good Caroline!

  _The three sisters embrace with tears._

  _Dupont, Antonin, and Mairaut come in._

ANTONIN [_pushed forward by his father. To Julie_] My dear wife, I have
come to ask you to forgive me.

JULIE. It is I who ask _you_ to forgive _me_. I was full of romantic
ideas. I thought marriage something quite different from what it is.
Now that I understand I will be reasonable. One must make allowances. I
will make some—to myself.

DUPONT. That’s right.

ANTONIN. That’s right. You can’t imagine how glad I am that you
understand me at last. It seems to me it’s only from today that our
marriage really begins.

JULIE. Perhaps.

ANTONIN. To celebrate our reconciliation I will give a grand dinner. I
will invite the Pouchelets, the Rambourgs, Lignol—

JULIE [_sadly, and with meaning_] Exactly—Lignol.

DUPONT. Ah, my children, everything comes right when once you make up
your mind to be like the rest of the world.

JULIE [_slowly_] Yes: like the rest of the world. I dreamed of
something better. But it seems it was impossible.



  Damaged Goods

  [Les Avariés]

  Translated by John Pollock

  _Before the play begins the manager appears upon the stage and says:—_

  Ladies and gentlemen,

I beg leave to inform you, on behalf of the author and of the
management, that the object of this play is a study of the disease of
syphilis in its bearing on marriage.

It contains no scene to provoke scandal or arouse disgust, nor is there
in it any obscene word; and it may be witnessed by everyone, unless
we must believe that folly and ignorance are necessary conditions of
female virtue.



ACT I


  _The doctor’s consulting room. To the right a large stained glass
  window representing a religious subject. In front of this, on
  pedestals, bronzes and statues. Parallel to it a large Louis XIV
  writing table littered with papers and statuettes. Between the desk
  and the window the doctor’s chair. On the other side an armchair
  nearly facing the footlights and a stool. To the left the entrance
  door, which, when opened, reveals a corridor lined with tapestries,
  statues, and paintings. Beyond the door a large glass bookcase,
  above which hang portraits of Wallace, Dupuytren, and Ricord. Busts
  of celebrated physicians. A small table and two chairs. At the
  back a small door. The room is sumptuously furnished and literally
  encumbered with works of art._

  _George Dupont, in great distress and ill at ease, enters by the door
  at the back, takes his stick, gloves, and hat from the stool, and
  sits down on the sofa before the writing table. He is a big fellow
  of twentysix, with large, round eyes, and simple, but not ludicrous
  appearance. A heavy sigh escapes him. The doctor, a man of forty,
  with the ribbon of the Legion of Honor in the buttonhole of his frock
  coat, follows and takes his seat. He gives the impression of a man of
  strength and intellect._

GEORGE. Well, doctor?

DOCTOR. Well! There is no doubt about your case.

GEORGE [_wiping his forehead_] No doubt—How do you mean no doubt?

DOCTOR. I mean it in the bad sense. [_He writes. George turns pale, and
stays silent for a moment in terror. He sighs again_]. Come, come, you
must have thought as much.

GEORGE. No, no.

DOCTOR. All the same!

GEORGE [_utterly prostrated_] Good God!

DOCTOR [_stops writing and observes him_] Don’t be frightened. Out
of every seven men you meet in the street, or in society, or at the
theatre, there is at least one who is or has been in your condition.
One in seven, fifteen per cent.

GEORGE [_quietly, as if to himself_] Anyhow, I know what to do.

DOCTOR. Certainly. Here is your prescription. You will take it to the
chemist’s and have it made up.

GEORGE [_taking the prescription_] No.

DOCTOR. Yes: you will do just what everyone else does.

GEORGE. Everyone else is not in my position. I know what to do. [_He
raises his hand to his temple_].

DOCTOR. Five times out of six the men who sit in that chair before me
do that, perfectly sincerely. Everyone thinks himself more unfortunate
than the rest. On second thoughts, and after I have talked to them,
they realize that this disease is a companion with which one can live;
only, as in all households, domestic peace is to be had at the price of
mutual concessions. Come now, I repeat, there is nothing in all this
beyond the ordinary. It is simply an accident that might happen to
anybody. I assure you it is far too common to merit the name ‘French
disease.’ There is, in fact, none that is more universal. If you wanted
to find a motto for the creatures who make a trade of selling their
love, you could almost take the famous lines, ‘There is your master....
It is, it was, or it must be.’

GEORGE [_putting the prescription in the outer pocket of his coat_] But
I at least ought to have been spared.

DOCTOR. Why? Because you are a man of good position? Because you are
rich? Look round you. Look at these works of art; five are copies of
John of Bologna’s Mercury, six of Pigallo’s, three are reproductions—in
wax, to be sure—of the lost Wounded Love by Paccini; do you think that
all these have been presented to me by beggars?

GEORGE [_groaning_] I’m not a rake, doctor. My life might be held up as
an example to all young men. I assure you, no one could possibly have
been more prudent, no one. See here; supposing I told you that in all
my life I have only had two mistresses, what would you say to that?

DOCTOR. That one would have been enough to bring you here.

GEORGE. No, doctor, not one of those two. No one in the world has
dreaded this so much as I have; no one has ever taken such infinite
precautions to avoid it. My first mistress was the wife of my best
friend. I chose her on account of him; and him, not because I cared
most for him, but because I knew he was a man of the most rigid morals,
who watched his wife jealously and didn’t let her go about forming
imprudent connections. As for her, I kept her in absolute terror of
this disease. I told her that almost all men were taken with it, so
that she mightn’t dream of being false to me. My friend died in my
arms: that was the only thing that could have separated me from her.
Then I took up with a young seamstress.

DOCTOR. None of your other friends had sufficiently reassuring morals?

GEORGE. No. You know what morals are nowadays.

DOCTOR. Better than anyone.

GEORGE. Well, this was a decent girl with a family in needy
circumstances to support. Her grandmother was an invalid, and there was
an ailing father and three little brothers. It was by my means that
they all lived. They used to call me Uncle Raoul—I was not so green as
to give my real name, you see.

DOCTOR. Oh! Your Christian name, well—besides, it is always safer.

GEORGE. Why, of course. I told her and I let the others know that
if she played me false I should leave her at once. So then they all
watched her for me. It became a regular thing that I should spend
Sunday with them, and in that sort of way I was able to give her a lift
up. Church-going was a respectable kind of outing for her. I rented
a pew for them and her mother used to go with her to church; they
liked seeing their name engraved on the card. She never left the house
alone. Three months ago, when the question of my marriage came up, I
had to leave her. They all cried over my going. I’m not inventing or
exaggerating: they all cried. You see, I’m not a bad sort. People do
regret me.

DOCTOR. You were very happy. Why did you want to change?

GEORGE [_surprised at the question_] I wanted to settle down. My
father was a notary, and before his death he expressed the wish that
I should marry my cousin. It was a good match; her dowry will help to
get me a practice. Besides, I simply adore her. She’s fond of me too.
I had everything one could want to make life happy. My acquaintances
all envied me. [_Miserably_] And then a lot of idiots must give me a
farewell dinner and make me gad about with them. See what has come of
it! I haven’t any luck, I’ve never had any luck! I know fellows who
lead the most racketty lives: nothing happens to them, the beasts! But
I—for a wretched lark—What is there left for a leper like me? My future
is ruined, my whole life poisoned. Well then, isn’t it better for me
to clear out of it? Anyway I shan’t suffer any more. You see now, no
one could be more wretched than I am. [_Crying_] No one, doctor, I tell
you, no one! [_He buries his face in his handkerchief_] Oh, oh, oh!

DOCTOR [_rising and going to him with a smile_] You must be a man, and
not cry like a child.

GEORGE [_still in tears_] If I had led a wild life and spent my time in
bars and going about with women, I should understand: I should say I
deserved it.

DOCTOR. No.

GEORGE. No?

DOCTOR. No. You would not say so: but it doesn’t matter. Go on.

GEORGE. Yes, I know I should. I should say I deserved it. But for
nothing! nothing! I have cut myself off from all pleasures. I have
resisted attractions as you would the devil. I wouldn’t go with my
friends to places of amusement: ladies I knew actually pointed me out
to their boys as an example. I stuck to my work: I forced myself to be
more regular in my habits. Why, my two friends helped me to prepare
for my law exams. I taught them to make me cram, and it’s thanks to
them that I got through. Oh, I should have liked to come home at four
o’clock in the morning with my coat-collar turned up, smoking a cigar
lit in some ballet-girl’s rooms! I’ve longed as much as anyone for the
taste of rouged lips and the glitter of blacked eyes and pale faces! I
should have liked larks and jolly suppers and champagne and the rustle
of lace and all the rest of it! I’ve sacrificed all that to my health,
and see what I’ve got for it. Ah, if I had known! If I had only known!
Then I should have let myself go; yes, altogether! That would have been
something to the good, anyway! When I think of it! When I think of the
beastliness, the frightful horrors in store for me!

DOCTOR. What’s all that nonsense?

GEORGE. Yes, yes, I know—hair falling out, camomile for a cocktail,
and a bath chair for a motor car with a little handle for the steering
wheel and a fellow shoving behind instead of the engine; and I shall
go, Gug, gug, gug, gug! [_Crying_] That’s what will be left of handsome
Raoul—that’s what they called me, handsome Raoul!

DOCTOR. My dear sir, kindly dry your eyes for the last time, blow your
nose, put your handkerchief in your pocket, and listen to me without
blubbering.

GEORGE [_doing so_] Yes, doctor; but I warn you, you are wasting your
time.

DOCTOR. I assure you—

GEORGE. I know what you are going to tell me.

DOCTOR. In that case you have no business here. Be off with you!

GEORGE. As I am here, I’ll listen, doctor. It’s awfully good of you.

DOCTOR. If you have the will and the perseverance, none of the things
you are dreading will happen to you.

GEORGE. Of course. You are bound to tell me that.

DOCTOR. I tell you that there are a hundred thousand men in Paris like
you, sound and in good health, I give you my word. Come now. Bath
chairs! You don’t see quite so many as that.

GEORGE [_struck_] Nor you do.

DOCTOR. Besides, those who are in them are not all there for the reason
you think. Come, come! You will not be the victim of a catastrophe any
more than the other hundred thousand. The thing is serious: nothing
more.

GEORGE. There, you see. It is a serious disease.

DOCTOR. Yes.

GEORGE. One of the most serious.

DOCTOR. Yes; but you have the good luck—

GEORGE. Good luck?

DOCTOR. Relatively, if you like; but you have the good luck to have
contracted just that one among serious diseases which we have the most
effective means of combating.

GEORGE. I know; remedies worse than the disease.

DOCTOR. You are mistaken.

GEORGE. You’re not going to tell me that it can be cured?

DOCTOR. It can.

GEORGE. And that I am not condemned to—

DOCTOR. I give you my word on it.

GEORGE. You’re not—you’re not making some mistake? I have been told—

DOCTOR [_shrugging his shoulders_] You have been told! You have been
told! No doubt you know all the ins and outs of the law of property.

GEORGE. Yes, certainly; but I don’t see what connection—

DOCTOR. Instead of being taught that, it would have been much better
if you had been told the nature of the disease from which you are
suffering. Then, perhaps, you would have been sufficiently afraid to
avoid contracting it.

GEORGE. But this woman was so—well, who could have thought such a thing
of her? I didn’t take a woman off the streets, you know. She lives in
the Rue de Berne—not exactly a low part of the town, is it?

DOCTOR. The part of the town has nothing to do with it. This disease
differs from many others; it has no preference for the unfortunate.

GEORGE. But this woman lives almost straight. One of my chums has a
mistress who’s a married woman. Well, it was a friend of hers. Her
mother—she lives with her mother—was abroad at the time. At first
she wouldn’t listen to me; then, finally, after I had spent a whole
half-hour persuading her I had to promise her a ring like one of her
friend’s before she would give way. She even made me take off my boots
before going upstairs so that the porter mightn’t hear.

DOCTOR. Well; if you had been taught, you would have known that these
circumstances are no guarantee.

GEORGE. That’s true; we ought to be taught.

DOCTOR. Yes.

GEORGE. At the same time it’s not a subject that can be broached in the
papers.

DOCTOR. Why not?

GEORGE. I can speak of my own knowledge, for my father used to own
a small provincial paper. If we had ever printed that word, the
circulation would have dropped like a stone.

DOCTOR. Yet you publish novels about adultery.

GEORGE. Of course. That’s what the public wants.

DOCTOR. You are right; it is the public that needs to be educated. A
respectable man will take his wife and daughters to a music-hall, where
they hear things to make a doctor blush. His modesty is only alarmed by
serious words.

GEORGE. And then, after all, what would one gain by being posted up
about this disease?

DOCTOR. If it were better understood it would be more often avoided.

GEORGE. What one wants is some means of avoiding it altogether.

DOCTOR. Oh! That is quite simple.

GEORGE. Tell me.

DOCTOR. It is no longer any concern of yours; but when you have a son
you will be able to tell him what to do.

GEORGE. What’s that?

DOCTOR. To love only one woman, to be her first lover, and to love her
so well that she will never be false to you.

GEORGE. That’s easy, isn’t it! And if my son does not marry till he is
twenty-eight, what then?

DOCTOR. Then, that he may run the least risk, you will tell him to go
to the licensed dealers—

GEORGE. With a guarantee from the government.

DOCTOR. And to choose them a little stale.

GEORGE. Why so?

DOCTOR. Because at a certain age they have all paid their toll. The
prettiest girl in the world can give all she has, not what she has no
longer. That is what you will tell your sons.

GEORGE. But do you mean that I can have children?

DOCTOR. Certainly.

GEORGE. Healthy ones?

DOCTOR. Perfectly healthy. I repeat: if you take proper and reasonable
care of yourself for the necessary length of time, you have little to
fear.

GEORGE. Is that certain?

DOCTOR. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred.

GEORGE. Then I shall be able to marry?

DOCTOR. You will be able to marry.

GEORGE. You’re not deceiving me, are you? You wouldn’t give me false
hopes? You wouldn’t—How soon shall I be able to marry?

DOCTOR. In three or four years.

GEORGE. What, three or four years? Not before?

DOCTOR. Not before.

GEORGE. Why? Am I going to be ill all that time? You said just now—

DOCTOR. The disease will no longer be dangerous to you yourself, but
you will be dangerous to others.

GEORGE. But, doctor, I am going to be married in a month!

DOCTOR. Impossible.

GEORGE. I can’t help it. The contract is all ready; the banns have been
published. I have given my word.

DOCTOR. Here’s a pretty patient! A moment ago you were feeling for your
pistol: now you want to be married in a month!

GEORGE. But I must!

DOCTOR. I forbid you.

GEORGE. You can’t mean that seriously. If this disease is not what I
imagined and if I can be cured, I shan’t commit suicide. If I don’t
kill myself, I must take up the ordinary course of my life. I must
fulfill my engagements: I must be married.

DOCTOR. No.

GEORGE. If my engagement were broken off it would be absolutely
disastrous. You talk of it like that because you don’t know. I didn’t
want to get married. I have told you—I had almost a second family;
the children adored me. It is my old aunt, who owns all the property,
who has pushed on the match. Then my mother wants to see me ‘settled’
as she says. The only thing in the world she wants is to see her baby
grandchildren, and she wonders twenty times a day whether she will live
long enough. Since the question first came up she simply hasn’t thought
of anything else; it’s the dream of her life. And then I tell you I
have begun to adore Henriette. If I draw back now my mother would die
of grief and I should be disinherited by my aunt. Even that isn’t all.
You don’t know my father-in-law’s character! He is a man of regular
high old principles; and he has a temper like the devil. What’s more,
he simply worships his daughter. It would cost me dear, I can assure
you. He would call me to account—I don’t know what would happen. So
there are my mother’s health, my aunt’s fortune, my future, my honor,
perhaps my life, all at stake. Besides, I tell you I have given my word.

DOCTOR. You must take it back.

GEORGE. Well, since you stick to it, even if that were possible, I
could not take back my signature to the contract for the purchase of a
notary’s practice in two months time.

DOCTOR. All these—

GEORGE. You won’t tell me that I have been imprudent because I have not
disposed of my wife’s dowry till after the honeymoon—

DOCTOR. All these considerations are foreign to me. I am a physician,
nothing but a physician. I can only tell you this: if you marry before
three or four years have elapsed you will be a criminal.

GEORGE. No, no, you are more than a physician: you are a confessor as
well. You are not only a man of science. You can’t observe me as you
would something in your laboratory and then simply say: ‘You have this,
science says that. Now be off with you.’ My whole life depends upon
you. You must listen to me; because when you know everything you will
understand the situation and will find the means to cure me in a month.

DOCTOR. I can only tell you over and over again that no such means
exist. It is impossible to be certain of your cure—as far as one can be
certain—under three or four years.

GEORGE. I tell you that you must find one. Listen to me: if I am not
married, I shall not get the dowry. Will you kindly tell me how I am to
carry out the contract I have signed?

DOCTOR. Oh, if that is the question, it is very simple. I can easily
shew you the way out of the difficulty. Get into touch with some rich
man, do everything you can to gain his confidence, and when you have
succeeded, rook him of all he has.

GEORGE. I’m not in the mood for joking.

DOCTOR. I am not joking. To rob that man, or even to murder him, would
not be a greater crime than you would commit in marrying a young girl
in good health to get hold of her dowry, if to do so you exposed her to
the terrible consequences of the disease you would give her.

GEORGE. Terrible?

DOCTOR. Terrible; and death is not the worst of them.

GEORGE. But you told me just now—

DOCTOR. Just now I did not tell you everything. This disease, even
when it is all but suppressed, still lies below the surface ready to
break out again. Taken all round, it is serious enough to make it an
infamy to expose a woman to it in order to avoid even the greatest
inconvenience.

GEORGE. But is it certain that she would catch it?

DOCTOR. Even with the best intentions, I won’t tell you lies. No; it is
not absolutely certain. It is probable. And there is something else I
will tell you. Our remedies are not infallible. In a certain number of
cases—a very small number, scarcely five per cent.—they have no effect.
You may be one of these exceptions or your wife may be. In that case—I
will use an expression you used just now—in that case the result would
be the most frightful horrors.

GEORGE. Give me your advice.

DOCTOR. The only advice I can give you is not to marry. To put it in
this way, you owe a debt. Perhaps its repayment will not be exacted;
but at the same time your creditor may come down on you suddenly, after
a long interval, with the most pitiless brutality. Come, come! You are
a man of business. Marriage is a contract. If you marry without saying
anything, you will be giving an implied warranty for goods which you
know to be bad. That is the term, isn’t it? It would be a fraud which
ought to be punishable by law.

GEORGE. But what can I do?

DOCTOR. Go to your father-in-law and tell him the unvarnished truth.

GEORGE. If I do that, it will not be a delay of three or four years
that he will impose on me. He will refuse his consent for good.

DOCTOR. In that case, tell him nothing.

GEORGE. If I don’t give him a reason, I don’t know what he won’t do. He
is a man of the most violent temper. Besides, it will be still worse
for Henriette than for me. Look here, doctor; from what I have said
to you, no doubt you think I simply care for the money. Well, I do
think it is one’s primary duty to make certain of a reasonable amount
of comfort. From my youth upwards I have always been taught that.
Nowadays one must think of it, and I should never have engaged myself
to a girl without money. It’s perfectly natural. [_With emotion_] But
she is so splendid, she is so much better than I am that I love her—as
people love one another in books. Of course it would be a frightful
disappointment not to have the practice that I have bought, but that
would not be the worst for me. The worst would be losing her. If you
could see her, if you knew her, you would understand. [_Taking out
his pocket book_] Look here, here’s her photograph. Just look at it.
[_The doctor gently refuses it_]. Oh, my darling, to think that I must
lose you or else—Ah! [_He kisses the photograph, then puts it back in
his pocket_]. I beg your pardon. I am being ridiculous. I know I am
sometimes. Only put yourself in my place. I love her so.

DOCTOR. It is on that account that you must not marry her.

GEORGE. But how can I get out of it? If I draw back without saying
anything the truth will leak out and I shall be dishonored.

DOCTOR. There is nothing dishonorable about being ill.

GEORGE. Ah, yes. But people are such idiots. Even yesterday I myself
should have laughed at anyone I knew who was in the position that I am
in now. Why, I should have avoided him as if he had the plague. Oh, if
I were the only one to suffer! But she—she loves me, I swear she does,
she is so good. It will be dreadful for her.

DOCTOR. Less so than it would be later.

GEORGE. There’ll be a scandal.

DOCTOR. You will avoid a bigger one.

  _George quietly puts two twenty-franc pieces on the desk, takes his
  gloves, hat and stick, and gets up._

GEORGE. I will think it over. Thank you, doctor. I shall come back next
week as you told me to—probably. [_He goes towards the door_].

DOCTOR [_rising_] No: I shall not see you next week, and what is more
you will not think it over. You came here knowing what you had, with
the express intention of not acting by my advice unless it agreed
with your wishes. A flimsy honesty made you take this chance of
pacifying your conscience. You wanted to have someone on whom you could
afterwards throw the responsibility of an act you knew to be culpable.
Don’t protest. Many who come here think as you think and do what you
want to do. But when they have married in opposition to my advice the
results have been for the most part so calamitous that now I am almost
afraid of not having been persuasive enough. I feel as though in spite
of everything I were in some sort the cause of their misery. I ought
to be able to prevent such misery. If only the people who are the cause
of it knew what I know and had seen what I have seen, it would be
impossible. Give me your word that you will break off your engagement.

GEORGE. I can’t give you my word. I can only repeat: I will think it
over.

DOCTOR. Think over what?

GEORGE. What you have told me.

DOCTOR. But what I have told you is true. You cannot make any fresh
objections. I have answered those you have made. You must be convinced.

GEORGE. Well, of course you are right in thinking that I posted myself
up a bit before coming to see you. In the first place, is it certain
that I have the disease you think? You say so, and perhaps it is true.
But even the greatest doctors are sometimes deceived. Haven’t I heard
that Ricord, your master, used to maintain that this disease was not
always contagious? He produced cases to prove his point. Now you
produce fresh cases to disprove it. Very well. But I have the right
to think it over. And when I think it over, I realize the results you
threaten me with are only probable. In spite of your desire to frighten
me, you have been compelled to admit that my marriage will quite
possibly produce no ill results for my wife.

DOCTOR [_restraining himself with difficulty_] Go on. I will answer you.

GEORGE. You tell me that your drugs are powerful, and that for
the catastrophes you speak of to happen I must be one of the five
exceptions per cent. you allow, and that my wife must be an exception
too. Now, if a mathematician calculated the probabilities of the case,
the chance of a catastrophe would prove so small that, when the slight
probability of a disaster was set against the certainty of all the
disappointments and the unhappiness and perhaps the tragedies which my
breaking off the match would cause, he would undoubtedly come to the
conclusion that I was right and you were wrong. After all, mathematics
is more scientific than medicine.

DOCTOR. Ah, you think so! Well, you are wrong. Twenty cases identical
with yours have been carefully observed—from the beginning to the
end. Nineteen times—you hear, nineteen times in twenty—the woman was
contaminated by her husband. You think that the danger is negligeable:
you think you have the right to make your wife take her chance, as
you said, of being one of the exceptions for which we can do nothing!
Very well: then you shall know what you are doing. You shall know what
sort of disease it is that your wife will have five chances per cent.
of contracting without so much as having her leave asked. Take this
book—it is my master’s work—here, read for yourself, I have marked the
passage. You won’t read it? Then I will. [_He reads passionately_] ‘I
have seen an unfortunate young woman changed by this disease into the
likeness of a beast. The face, or I should rather say, what remained of
it, was nothing but a flat surface seamed with scars.’

GEORGE. Stop, for pity’s sake, stop!

DOCTOR. I shall not stop. I shall read to the end. I shall not refrain
from doing right merely for fear of upsetting your nerves. [_He goes
on_] ‘Of the upper lip, which had been completely eaten away, not a
trace remained.’ There, that will do. And you are willing to run the
risk of inflicting that disease on a woman whom you say you love,
though you cannot support even the description of it yourself? And
pray, from whom did that woman catch syphilis? It is not I who say
all this: it is this book. ‘From a man whose criminal folly was such
that he was not afraid to enter into marriage in an eruption, as was
afterwards established, of marked secondary symptoms, and who had
further thought fit not to have his wife treated for fear of arousing
suspicion.’ What that man did is what you want to do.

GEORGE. I should deserve all those names and worse still, if I were to
be married with the knowledge that my marriage would bring about such
horrors. But I do not believe that it would. You and your masters are
specialists. Consequently you fix the whole of your attention on the
subject of your studies, and you think that these dreadful, exceptional
cases never have enough light thrown on them. They exercise a sort of
fascination over you.

DOCTOR. I know that argument.

GEORGE. Let me go on, I beg. You have told me that one man in every
seven is a syphilitic, and further that there are a hundred thousand
such men going about the streets of Paris in perfect health.

DOCTOR. It is the fact that there are a hundred thousand who are not
for the moment visibly affected by their complaint. But thousands have
passed through our hospitals, victims to the most frightful ravages
that our poor bodies can endure. You do not see them: they do not exist
for you. Again, if it were only yourself who was in question, you might
take that line well enough. But what I affirm, and repeat with all the
strength of my conviction, is that you have no right to expose a human
being to this appalling chance. The chance is rare, I know: I know
still better how terrible it is. What have you to say now?

GEORGE. Nothing. I suppose you are right. I don’t know what to think.

DOCTOR. Is it as if I were forbidding you ever to marry when I forbid
you to marry now? Is it as if I were telling you that you will never be
cured? On the contrary, I give you every hope. Only I ask a delay of
three or four years, because in that time I shall be able to ascertain
whether you are one of those unhappy wretches for whom there is no
hope, and because during that time you will be a source of danger to
your wife and children. The children: I have not spoken to you about
them. [_Very gently and persuasively_] Come, my dear sir, you are too
young and too generous to be insensible to pity. There are things that
cannot fail to move you: it is incredible that I should not be able to
touch or to convince you. Indeed, I feel most deeply for you; but on
that account I implore you all the more earnestly to consider what I
say. You have admitted you have no right to expose your wife to such
torture: but there is not only your wife—there are her children, your
children, whom you may contaminate too. For the moment I will not think
of you or of her: it is in the name of those innocent little ones that
I appeal to you; it is the future of the race that I am defending.
Listen to me. Of the twenty marriages I spoke of only fifteen produced
children. They produced twenty-eight. Do you know how many of them
survived? Three: three out of twenty-eight. Above all else syphilis is
a child-murderer. Ah, yes! Every year produces a fresh massacre of the
innocents: Herod still reigns in France and all the world over. And
though it is my business to preserve life, I tell you that those who
die are the lucky ones. If you want to see the children of syphilitic
parents, go round the children’s hospitals. We know the type: it has
become classical. Any doctor can pick them out from the rest; little
creatures old from their birth, stamped with the marks of every
human infirmity and decay. You will find children with every kind of
affliction: hump-backed, deformed, club-footed, hare-lipped, ricketty,
with heads too big and bodies too small, with congenital hip-disease.
A large proportion of all these are the victims of parents who were
married in ignorance of what you now know. If I could, I would cry it
aloud from the housetops. [_A slight pause_] I have told you all this
without the slightest exaggeration. Think it over. Weigh the pro and
the con: tot up the sum of possible suffering and certain misery. But
remember that on the one side is your own suffering—and on the other
the suffering of other people. Remember that. Distrust yourself.

GEORGE. Very well. I give in. I will not be married. I will invent
some excuse. I will get it put off for six months. More than that is
impossible.

DOCTOR. I must have three years at least, if not four.

GEORGE. No, no. For pity’s sake! You can cure me before that.

DOCTOR. No, no, no!

GEORGE. Yes, you can. I implore you. Science can do everything.

DOCTOR. Science is not God Almighty. The day of miracles is past.

GEORGE. Oh, you could, if you wanted to. I know you could. Invent
something, discover something! Try some new treatment on me. Double the
doses! Give me ten times the ordinary ones, if you like! I’ll stand
anything, absolutely. Only there must be some way of curing me in six
months. Look here, I can’t be responsible for myself after that. For
the sake of my wife and her children, do something.

DOCTOR. Nonsense.

GEORGE. If only you’ll cure me, I don’t know what I won’t do for you.
I’ll be grateful to you all my life. I’ll give you half my fortune. For
God’s sake, do something for me!

DOCTOR. You want me to do more for you than for all the rest?

GEORGE. Yes.

DOCTOR. Let me tell you, sir, that everyone of our patients, whether he
is the richest man in the land or the poorest, has everything done for
him that we can do. We have no secrets in reserve for the rich or for
people who are in a hurry to be cured.

GEORGE. Good-bye, doctor.

DOCTOR. Good-day.



ACT II


  _George’s study. To the left a window. In front of the window a desk
  of moderate size, facing away from the audience, and a writing chair.
  On the desk a telephone. To the right of the desk an arm chair, a
  small table with a work box and embroidery, and between the window
  and the footlights a deep easy chair. At the back a dainty bookcase,
  and in front of it a pretty table with flowers. At the back to the
  right a door, and, nearer, a piano and a music stool. To the left
  another door. Two small chairs._

  _Henriette is sitting by the small table and working at a baby’s cap.
  After a moment she holds it up on her hand._

HENRIETTE. Another little cap to send to nurse. How sweet my little
Germaine will look in it! Come, sweetheart, laugh at mother! Oh, my
love! [_She kisses the cap and goes on working_].

  _George enters at the back._

GEORGE [_opening the door and taking off his coat in the hall_] Hullo!
Are you there? Are you there? Ha, ha, ha!

HENRIETTE [_rising gaily_] Oh, you know I recognized your voice.

GEORGE. What a story! [_Kissing her_] Poor little darling, was she
taken in, poor little woman! Ha, ha, ha!

HENRIETTE [_laughing too_] Don’t laugh like that!

GEORGE. ‘Hullo! Hullo! Madame George Dupont?’ [_Imitating a woman’s
timid voice_] ‘Yes, yes. I am here.’ I could feel you blushing at the
end of the wire.

HENRIETTE [_laughing_] I didn’t say ‘I am here’ in that voice. I simply
answered ‘Yes.’

GEORGE. ‘Hullo, Madame George Dupont. Is George there?’ [_Laughing_]
You were taken in! You can’t say you weren’t. [_In the woman’s voice_]
‘George is out. Who is it speaking to me?’ I could hardly keep it up.
‘Me, Gustave.’ You thought it was, too.

HENRIETTE. What is there astonishing in your friend Gustave telephoning?

GEORGE. And when I added [_imitating Gustave’s voice_] ‘How are you
this morning, dearest?’ you gave a ’What?’ all flustered, like that:
‘What?’

HENRIETTE. Yes, but then I guessed it was you.

GEORGE. I went into fits. What a lark! [_He sits down in front of
her on the arm of the chair close to the fireplace and watches her
happily_].

HENRIETTE [_sitting down and returning his glance_] What a funny little
fellow you are!

GEORGE. Me?

HENRIETTE [_gaily_] Do you think I don’t understand you, after knowing
you for fifteen years and being married to you a twelvemonth?

GEORGE [_curious_] Ah! well, go on. Say what you think of me.

HENRIETTE. To begin with, you’re anxious. Then you’re jealous. And
suspicious. You spend all your time in making a tangle of things and
then inventing ingenious ways of getting out of it.

GEORGE [_happy to hear himself talked about_] So that’s what you think
of me? Go on, let us have some more.

HENRIETTE. Isn’t it true?

GEORGE [_admitting it with a laugh_] Well?

HENRIETTE. Wasn’t it a trap that you set for me this morning?

GEORGE [_in the same tone_] No.

HENRIETTE. Yes; you wanted to be sure that I had not gone out. You
asked me not to go to the Louvre to-day.

GEORGE [_innocently_] So I did.

HENRIETTE. See how suspicious you are, even of me.

GEORGE. No; not of you.

HENRIETTE. Yes, you are. But you have always been, so I don’t mind. And
then I know at the bottom you feel things so keenly that it makes you
rather afraid.

GEORGE [_seriously_] I was laughed at so much when I was a boy.

HENRIETTE [_gaily_] Besides, perhaps you have reasons for not having
too much confidence in men’s friendships with their friends’ wives. Gay
deceiver!

GEORGE [_laughing_] I should like to know what you mean by that.

HENRIETTE. Suppose I had thought it was Gustave and answered: ‘Very
well, thanks. How are you, darling?’

GEORGE [_laughing_] Well, it is a trick that I shouldn’t like to try on
everyone. [_Changing the conversation_] By the way, as I came in Justin
spoke to me.

HENRIETTE. Well?

GEORGE. He says he wants a rise.

HENRIETTE. He has chosen a likely moment.

GEORGE. Hasn’t he? I asked him if the sale of my cigars was not enough
for him.

HENRIETTE. How did he take that?

GEORGE. He lost his temper and gave warning. This time I took him at
his word. He’s simply furious.

HENRIETTE. Good.

GEORGE. He’ll go at the end of the month and we shall be well rid of
him. Mother will be delighted. I say, she hasn’t wired, has she?

HENRIETTE. No.

GEORGE. Then she’s not coming back till to-morrow.

HENRIETTE. If she had her way, she would never leave our little girl.

GEORGE. You’re not going to be jealous, are you?

HENRIETTE. I’m a little anxious. Still, if there had been anything the
matter, I know your mother would have telegraphed to us.

GEORGE. We agreed that she should, if there was anything since
yesterday.

HENRIETTE. Perhaps after all we should have done better to keep baby
with us.

GEORGE. Oh, are you going to begin again?

HENRIETTE. No, no. Don’t scold. I know the air of Paris didn’t suit her.

GEORGE. You still think that the dust of my papers was better for her
than the air of the country.

HENRIETTE [_laughing_] No; I don’t.

GEORGE. Of course, there is the square, with the smell of fried fish
and all the soldiers.

HENRIETTE. Don’t tease. I know you are right.

GEORGE. Aha! I’m glad you admit that for once in a way.

HENRIETTE. Besides, nurse takes good care of her. She is a good girl.

GEORGE. And how proud she is to nurse the grand-daughter of her deputy.

HENRIETTE. Father is not deputy for that district. All the same—

GEORGE. All the same he is deputy for the department.

HENRIETTE. Yes; he is.

GEORGE. Can’t you hear her talking to her friends? [_Imitating the
nurse’s voice_] ‘Haven’t I had a bit of luck, neither? Yes, ma’am;
she’s our deputy’s daughter’s daughter, she is. She’s as fat as a calf,
the little duck; and that clever with it, she understands everything.
That’s not a bit of luck neither, isn’t it?’

HENRIETTE [_laughing_] You great silly! She doesn’t talk like that at
all.

GEORGE. Why not say at once that I can’t do imitations?

HENRIETTE. Now I didn’t say that.

GEORGE. As if mother would have engaged nurse for us if she had not
been absolutely certain that baby would be well looked after. Besides,
she goes down to see her every week, and she would have brought her
back already—

HENRIETTE. Twice a week sometimes.

GEORGE. Yes.

HENRIETTE. Ah, our little Germaine knows what it is to have a granny
who dotes on her.

GEORGE. Doesn’t she, though?

HENRIETTE. Your mother is so good. You know I adore her, too.

GEORGE. Runs in the family!

HENRIETTE. Do you know, the last time we went down there with her—you
had gone out somewhere or other—

GEORGE. To see that old sixteenth century chest.

HENRIETTE [_laughing_] Of course, your wonderful chest.

GEORGE. Well, what were you going to say?

HENRIETTE. You were out, and nurse had gone to mass, I think.

GEORGE. Or to have a drink. Go on.

HENRIETTE. I was in the little room, and your mother thought she was
alone with Germaine. But I could hear her: she was telling baby all
sorts of sweet little things—silly little things, but so sweet that I
felt laughing and crying at the same moment.

GEORGE. Didn’t she call her ‘my own little Saviour’?

HENRIETTE. Why, were you listening?

GEORGE. No; but that’s what she used to call me once on a time.

HENRIETTE. It was that day she said she was sure baby had recognized
her and laughed at her.

GEORGE. One day, too, I went into mother’s room here. The door was
ajar, so that she didn’t hear me come in; and I found her looking at
one of the little christening slippers she wanted baby to have, you
know.

HENRIETTE. Oh, yes.

GEORGE. And then she took it up and kissed it.

HENRIETTE. What did you say to her?

GEORGE. Nothing. I went out as softly as I could and blew a kiss to her
from the other side of the door.

HENRIETTE. When nurse’s letter came the other day, it didn’t take her
long to get ready and catch the 8.59.

GEORGE. However, there wasn’t anything the matter.

HENRIETTE. No; but still perhaps she was right. Perhaps I should have
gone with her.

GEORGE. Poor innocent little Henriette! You believe everything you are
told. Now I saw at once what was up. The nurse simply wanted to humbug
us into raising her screw. I bet she did. Look here, will you bet me
she didn’t? Come, what will you have? Look here. I bet you that lovely
necklace—you know, the one with the big pearl.

HENRIETTE. No; I should be too much afraid of winning.

GEORGE [_laughing_] Silly! I believe you think I don’t care for baby
as much as you do. Why, you don’t even know how old she is! No, no,
exactly! Let’s see. Aha! Ninety-one days and eight hours, there! [_He
laughs_]. Ah, when she can get on by herself, then we’ll have her back
with us. Six months more to wait.

HENRIETTE. Six months is a long time to wait. When I think that if you
had not put off our marriage for six months, we should have her back
now!

GEORGE. I have told you over and over again that I only did what was
right. Just consider; how could I marry when the doctor told me I had
traces of consumption?

HENRIETTE. Your doctor is a donkey. As if you looked like a consumptive!

GEORGE. Generally speaking, doctors are a bit that way, I grant.

HENRIETTE. And you actually wanted to wait three or four years.

GEORGE. Yes; to be quite certain I had nothing wrong with my lungs.

HENRIETTE. You call me innocent, me! And here were you, just because a
doctor—

GEORGE. But you know it seems that I really had the beginning of some
bronchial trouble. I used to feel something when I breathed rather
hard—like that, only a little harder. There, that’s it. There was a
sort of heaviness each side of my chest.

HENRIETTE. It wasn’t anything to put off our marriage for.

GEORGE [_getting up_] Yes, yes; I assure you I was right. I should
have been wrong to expose you to the chance of having a consumptive
husband. No; I’m not at all sorry we waited. Still, those specialists—I
can afford to laugh at them now. If I knew someone now who was ill,
I should tell him: ‘My dear chap, those bigwigs at forty francs a
consultation—well, just don’t you consult them, you know!’

HENRIETTE. That one wanted four years to cure you!

GEORGE. Hang it, doctors are only men. After all they must live; and
when their consultations are forty francs apiece, why, the more the
merrier.

HENRIETTE. And some quite unknown little doctor cured you in three
months!

GEORGE. Yes; he was quite unknown. The odd thing is I have absolutely
forgotten his address. I found it in the paper, I remember. I know
vaguely that it was somewhere near the Halles; but if I was to have my
head chopped off for it, I couldn’t find it again. Idiotic, isn’t it?

HENRIETTE. Consequently, Germaine is six months less old than she ought
to be.

GEORGE. What of that? We shall keep her so much the longer. She will be
married six months later, that’s all.

HENRIETTE. Oh, don’t speak of it. It’s odious to think even now that we
shall lose her some day.

GEORGE. Ah! I can see myself going up the steps of the Madeleine with
her on my arm.

HENRIETTE. Why the Madeleine?

GEORGE. I don’t know. She’ll have on a great white veil and I shall
have an order in my buttonhole.

HENRIETTE. Indeed! Pray what will you have done to get an order?

GEORGE. I don’t know, but I shall have one. Say what you like, I
shall. What a glorious crowd there’ll be!

HENRIETTE. That’s all in the dim, distant future.

GEORGE. Ah, yes.

HENRIETTE. Yes, happily. [_Getting up_] Well, do you mind if I go and
pay my visits now?

GEORGE. Run along, run along. I shall work hard while you are out. Look
at all these papers! I shall be up to my eyes in them before you’re
downstairs. Good-bye.

HENRIETTE. Good-bye. [_She kisses him and goes out at the back by the
right_].

  _George lights a cigarette, looks at himself in the glass, and throws
  himself into the easy chair to the left, humming a tune. By way of
  being more comfortable, he moves away the writing chair and puts his
  feet on the desk, smoking and humming in perfect contentment. Madame
  Dupont comes in by the door on the left._

GEORGE [_getting up_] Hullo! Why, mother! We had no wire, so we didn’t
expect you till to-morrow. Henriette has just gone out. I can call her
back.

MME. DUPONT. No; I did not want Henriette to be here when I came.

GEORGE. What’s the matter?

  _The conversation that follows is broken by long silences._

MME. DUPONT. I have brought back the child and the nurse.

GEORGE. Is baby ill?

MME. DUPONT. Yes.

GEORGE. What’s wrong with her?

MME. DUPONT. Nothing serious; at least for the moment.

GEORGE. We must send for the doctor.

MME. DUPONT. I have just come from the doctor’s.

GEORGE. Good. I’m not going out. I’ll wait for him.

MME. DUPONT. I have seen him.

GEORGE. Ah, you found him in?

MME. DUPONT. I telegraphed to him from the country, took the child to
see him.

GEORGE. It was so urgent as that?

MME. DUPONT. After what the nurse’s doctor had told me, I wished to be
reassured immediately.

GEORGE. And after all there is nothing serious.

MME. DUPONT. For the moment.

GEORGE. When you got down there, how did you find baby?

MME. DUPONT Fairly well, but I sent for the doctor at once.

GEORGE. What did he say?

MME. DUPONT. That you must make a change; that the child must be
brought up on the bottle.

GEORGE. What an extraordinary idea.

MME. DUPONT. He told me that what she was suffering from might become
very serious. So without saying anything to nurse, I made her come with
me and we took the train back.

GEORGE. Well, what is the matter with the child?

MME. DUPONT [_after a thoughtful pause_] I do not know.

GEORGE. Didn’t you ask him?

MME. DUPONT. Yes.

GEORGE [_beginning to be anxious_] Well?

  _A silence._

MME. DUPONT. He replied evasively.

GEORGE [_tonelessly_] He probably did not know himself.

MME. DUPONT [_after a silence_] Probably.

  _During what follows they avoid looking at one another._

GEORGE. But our own doctor, didn’t he say—?

MME. DUPONT. It was not to him that I went.

GEORGE. Ah! [_A very long silence. Then lower_] Why?

MME. DUPONT. The nurse’s doctor had so terrified me.

GEORGE. Seriously?

MME. DUPONT. Yes: it is a disease—[_Silence_]

GEORGE [_in anguish_] Well?

MME. DUPONT. I asked him if the matter was too serious for our own
doctor to deal with.

GEORGE. What did he answer?

MME. DUPONT. That if we had the means it would be preferable to see a
specialist.

GEORGE [_trying to pull himself together_] And—where did he send you?

MME. DUPONT [_handing him a visiting card_] There.

GEORGE. He sent you to that doctor?

MME. DUPONT. Yes. Do you know him?

GEORGE. No—Yes—I think I have met him—I don’t know. [_Very low_] My God!

MME. DUPONT [_after a silence_] He is coming to speak to you.

GEORGE [_scarcely daring to pronounce the words_] Then is he anxious?

MME. DUPONT. NO. HE WANTS TO SPEAK TO YOU.

GEORGE. He wants to speak to me?

MME. DUPONT. Yes.

GEORGE [_resigning himself_] Very well.

MME. DUPONT. When he saw the nurse, whom I had left in the waiting
room, he called me back and said: ‘It is impossible for me to continue
attending on this child unless I can see its father and speak to him at
once.’ I answered ’Very well,’ and gave him your address. He will not
be long.

GEORGE [_to himself in a low voice_] My poor little child!

MME. DUPONT [_looking at him_] Yes, she is a poor little child.

GEORGE [_after a long silence_] Mother—

MME. DUPONT [_hearing the door opened_] Hush! [_A maid comes in and
speaks to her. To George_] It is he! [_To the maid_] Show him in. [_To
George_] I shall be there if you want me.

  _She goes out by the left. The doctor enters by the right._

DOCTOR [_to the maid_] You will let me know here when the child wakes
up, will you not?

MAID. Yes, sir.

  _She goes out._

GEORGE [_with the greatest emotion_] Good day, doctor: you don’t
recognize me?

DOCTOR [_simply: more discouraged than angry_] You—it is you. You
married and had a child after all I said to you. [_Almost to himself_]
Scoundrel.

GEORGE. Let me explain.

DOCTOR. I can listen to no explanation of what you have done.

  _A silence._

GEORGE [_imploring him_] You will look after my little girl all the
same, won’t you?

DOCTOR [_shrugging his shoulders. Low_] Fool!

GEORGE [_not hearing_] I could only get my marriage put off six months.

DOCTOR. Enough, enough. That is not my business. I was wrong even to
show you my indignation. I should have left you to judge yourself. I am
here only concerned with the present and the future, with the child and
with the nurse.

GEORGE. She is not in danger?

DOCTOR. The nurse is in danger of being contaminated.

GEORGE. No, but—my child?

DOCTOR. For the moment the symptoms are not disquieting.

GEORGE. Thank you. [_More easily_] About the nurse—you were saying—Do
you mind if I call my mother? She knows more about these things than I
do.

DOCTOR. As you please.

GEORGE [_going to the door and coming back much moved_] There is one
thing I should like to ask you. Could you contrive that no one—my
wife—should know what has happened? If my poor wife knew that it was
I who was the cause—it is for her sake that I beg you. She is not to
blame.

DOCTOR. I promise you that I will do everything in my power to save her
from learning the real nature of the child’s illness.

GEORGE. Oh, thank you, thank you.

DOCTOR. You need not. If I tell lies, it will be for her sake and not
for yours.

GEORGE. And my mother?

DOCTOR. Your mother knows the truth.

GEORGE. But—

DOCTOR. Please, please. We have many very serious matters to discuss.

  _George goes to the door and brings in his mother. She bows to the
  doctor, makes a sign to him to be seated in the armchair near the
  fireplace, and sits down herself on the chair near the little table.
  George takes a seat to the left in front of the desk._

DOCTOR. I have written a prescription for the child which will, I hope,
improve its condition and prevent any fresh disorders. But my duty, and
yours, does not stop there. If it is not too late, the health of the
nurse must be protected.

MME. DUPONT. Tell us what we must do.

DOCTOR. She must stop giving milk to the child.

MME. DUPONT. You mean that we must change the nurse?

DOCTOR. No. I mean that the child cannot continue to be fed at the
breast either by this nurse or by any healthy nurse.

MME. DUPONT. Why?

DOCTOR. Because the child would communicate its complaint to the person
who gave it milk.

MME. DUPONT. But, doctor, if the baby is brought up on the bottle it
will die.

GEORGE [_breaking into sobs_] Oh, my poor little girl! Oh, my God, it’s
me! Oh! Oh!

DOCTOR. Careful treatment, with sterilized milk—

MME. DUPONT. That may succeed with healthy children, but at the age of
three months a sickly child such as ours cannot be fed by hand. Such a
child has all the more need of being fed at the breast. That is true?

DOCTOR. Yes; but—

MME. DUPONT. In that case you will realize that between the life of the
child and the health of a nurse I have no choice.

GEORGE [_sobbing_] Oh! Oh! Oh!

DOCTOR. Your affection leads you to express an incredible sentiment.
But it is not for you to choose. I shall forbid the child to be brought
up at the breast. The health of this woman does not belong to you.

MME. DUPONT. Nor the life of our child to you. If there is one way
to save its life, it is to give it every possible attention, and you
want me to treat it in a way that you doctors condemn even for healthy
children. My little one! You think I will let her die like that! Oh, I
shall take good care she does not. Neglect the one single thing that
can save her! It would be criminal. As for the nurse, we will indemnify
her. We will do everything in our power, everything but that. No, no,
no! Whatever can be done for our baby shall be done, cost what it may.
But that—You don’t consider what you are asking. It would be as if I
killed my child. [_Bursting into tears_] Oh, my little angel, my own
little Saviour!

  _George has not stopped sobbing since he first began. At his mother’s
  last words his sobs become almost cries. His anguish is pitiable to
  see._

GEORGE. Oh, oh, oh! My little child! My little child! Oh, oh! [_In an
undertone_] Oh, what a scoundrel I am! What a criminal!

DOCTOR. Calm yourself, madam, I beg. You will not improve matters in
this way. Try to consider them coolly.

MME. DUPONT. You are right. I beg your pardon. But if you knew how much
this child is to me. I lost one at the same age. I am old and widowed—I
did not expect to live to see my grandchildren. You are right. George,
be calm—we will show our love by being calm. Now then, we will talk
seriously and coldly. But I warn you that you will not succeed in
making me consent to any but the very best conditions for the child. I
shall not let her be killed by being taken from the breast!

DOCTOR. This is not the first time I have found myself in this
situation, and I must begin by telling you that parents who have
refused to be guided by my advice have invariably repented of it most
bitterly.

MME. DUPONT. The only thing of which I shall repent—

DOCTOR. You are evidently unaware of what the rapacity and malice of
peasants such as this nurse are capable, especially against those
of superior station. In this case, moreover, her enmity would be
legitimate.

MME. DUPONT. Oh! What can she do?

DOCTOR. She can bring an action against you.

MME. DUPONT. She is far too stupid to think of such a thing.

DOCTOR. Others will put it into her head.

MME. DUPONT. She is too poor to pay the expenses of going to law.

DOCTOR. Then you propose to profit by her ignorance and her poverty?
Besides, she could obtain the assistance of the court.

MME. DUPONT. Never! Surely, never.

DOCTOR. Indeed? For my part I know at least ten such cases. In every
case where the fact was proved, judgment was given against the parents.

MME. DUPONT. Not in a case like this! Not where the life of a poor
innocent little child was at stake. You must be mistaken.

DOCTOR. Many of the facts have been identical. I can give you the dates.

GEORGE [_rising_] I have the law reports here. [_He takes a volume and
hands it to the doctor_].

MME. DUPONT. It is needless.

DOCTOR [_to George_] You can convince yourself. In one or two cases the
parents have been ordered to pay a yearly pension to the nurse; in the
others sums of money varying from three to eight thousand francs.

MME. DUPONT. If we had to fight an action, we should retain the very
best lawyer on our side. Thank heaven we are rich enough. No doubt he
would make it appear doubtful whether the child had not caught this
disease from the nurse, rather than the nurse from the child.

DOCTOR. Allow me to point out that such conduct would be atrocious.

MME. DUPONT. Oh, it is a lawyer’s business to do such things. I should
not have to say anything. In any case you may be sure that he would win
our suit.

DOCTOR. And have you considered the scandal that would ensue.

GEORGE [_turning to a page in the reports_] Here is the judgment you
were speaking of—six thousand francs.

DOCTOR. You can make Madame Dupont read it afterwards. Since you have
the reports there, kindly give me the volume before this. [_George
goes again to the bookcase. To Madame Dupont_] Have you thought of the
scandal?

GEORGE [_coming back_] But, doctor, allow me to point out: in reports
of this kind the names are suppressed.

DOCTOR. They are not suppressed in court.

GEORGE. True.

DOCTOR. Are you sure that no paper would publish a full account of the
case?

MME. DUPONT. Oh, how infamous!

DOCTOR. You see what a horrible scandal it would be for you. [_George
nods_] A catastrophe, absolutely.

GEORGE. Particularly for a notary like me. [_He goes to get the other
volume_].

MME. DUPONT. We will prevent her from bringing an action. We will give
her what she wants.

DOCTOR. Then you will expose yourself to be indefinitely blackmailed. I
know one family which has paid hush-money of this kind for twelve years.

GEORGE. We could make her sign a receipt.

DOCTOR. In full settlement of all claims?

GEORGE. Exactly so. Here is the volume.

MME. DUPONT. She would be only too glad to go back to her people with
enough money to buy a little house and a plot of land. To a woman of
her position it would be wealth.

  _The nurse comes in._

NURSE. Baby’s waked up, sir.

DOCTOR. I will come and see her. [_To Madame Dupont_] We will finish
what we were saying presently.

MME. DUPONT. Very well. Do you want the nurse?

DOCTOR. No, thank you.

  _The doctor goes out._

MME. DUPONT. Nurse, just wait a minute. I want to speak to you. [_In an
undertone to her son_] I know how we can manage. If we warn her and she
agrees to stay, the doctor will have nothing more to say, will he?

GEORGE. I suppose not.

MME. DUPONT. I will promise her two thousand francs when she goes if
she consents to stay on as wet-nurse.

GEORGE. Is that enough, do you think?

MME. DUPONT. At any rate I will try. If she hesitates I will make it
more.

GEORGE. All right.

MME. DUPONT [_turning to the nurse_] Nurse, you know that baby is a
little ill.

NURSE. Oh no, ma’am.

MME. DUPONT. Indeed she is.

NURSE. I’ve looked after her as well as possible, I know I have, ma’am.

MME. DUPONT. I do not say you have not. But she is ill: the doctors say
so.

NURSE. That’s a fine story! As if doctors weren’t always finding
something, so that you mayn’t think they don’t know their business!

MME. DUPONT. But our doctor is a great doctor; and you have seen
yourself that baby has little pimples.

NURSE. Oh ma’am, that’s nothing but the heat of her blood. Don’t you
worry about it, I tell you it’s only the strength of her blood. It
isn’t my fault. I’ve always done everything for her and kept her that
clean and proper.

MME. DUPONT. No one says that it is your fault.

NURSE. Then what are you finding fault with me about? Ah, there isn’t
anything the matter with her. The pretty little darling, she’s a
regular town baby she is, just a bit poorly; but she’s all right, I
promise you.

MME. DUPONT. I tell you she is ill: she has a cold in her head and
there are sores at the back of her throat.

NURSE. Then that’s because the doctor scratched her with the spoon he
put into her mouth by the wrong end. And if she has a little cold, I
don’t know when she caught it, I’m sure I don’t: I always keep her that
well wrapped up, she has three thicknesses of things on. It must have
been when you came the time before last and opened all the windows in
the house.

MME. DUPONT. But I tell you that nobody is finding fault with you at
all.

NURSE. Oh yes, I know. That’s all very well. I’m only a poor country
girl.

MME. DUPONT. What do you mean?

NURSE. Oh, that’s all very well, it is.

MME. DUPONT. But I have told you over and over again that we have no
fault to find.

NURSE [_sticking to her idea_] I never expected any unpleasantness when
I came here. [_She begins to whimper_].

MME. DUPONT. We have no fault to find with you. Only we want to warn
you, you may catch the baby’s illness—

NURSE [_sulkily_] Well, if I do catch a cold, it won’t be the first
time I’ve had to blow my nose, I suppose.

MME. DUPONT. Perhaps you may get her pimples.

NURSE [_sneering_] Oh ma’am, we country folks haven’t got nice,
delicate, white skins like Paris ladies have. When you have to work in
the fields all day, rain or shine, you don’t need to plaster your face
all over with cream, I can tell you. No offence meant, but if you want
to find an excuse, that isn’t much of a one.

MME. DUPONT. What do you mean? What excuse?

NURSE. Oh yes, I know.

MME. DUPONT. What do you know?

NURSE. I’m only a poor country girl, I am.

MME. DUPONT. I have not the slightest idea what you mean.

NURSE. Oh, I know what I mean.

MME. DUPONT. Then tell me what you mean.

NURSE. Oh, what’s the good?

MME. DUPONT. Tell me, please? I insist.

NURSE. Oh, very well—

MME. DUPONT. Go on.

NURSE. Oh, all right. I may be only a poor country girl, but I’m not
quite so stupid as that. I know what it is you want. Just because
master’s cross at your having promised me thirty francs a month more if
I came to Paris. [_Turning to George_] Well, and what do you expect?
Mustn’t I have my own little boy looked after? And hasn’t his father
got to eat and drink? We’re only poor country folks, we are.

GEORGE. You’re making a mistake, nurse. There’s nothing at all the
matter. My mother was quite right to promise you the thirty francs
extra, and the only thing in my mind is that she did not promise you
enough. Now I have decided when baby is old enough to have a dry-nurse
and you leave us, just to show how grateful we are, to give you, er—

MME. DUPONT. We shall make you a present, you understand, over and
above your wages. We shall give you five hundred francs, or perhaps a
thousand. That is, of course, if baby is in perfectly good health.

NURSE [_stupefied_] You’ll give me five hundred francs—for
myself—[_Struggling to understand_] But you haven’t got to. We didn’t
agree to that.

MME. DUPONT. No.

NURSE [_to herself_] What’s up, then?

MME. DUPONT. It is simply because baby will require more attention. You
will have rather more trouble with her. You will have to give her her
medicine and so on. It may be a little difficult for you.

NURSE. Ah, I see. So that you may be sure I shall look after her well.
You say to yourself: ‘Nurse has an interest in her.’ I see.

MME. DUPONT. That is understood, then?

NURSE. Yes, ma’am.

MME. DUPONT. Very good. You will not come afterwards and complain of
the way we have treated you. We have warned you that the child is ill
and that you may catch her illness. To make up for that, and because
you will have more trouble with her, we will give you five hundred
francs when your time here is over. That is understood?

NURSE. But you said a thousand francs, ma’am.

MME. DUPONT. Very well; a thousand francs, then.

GEORGE [_passing to the right behind the other two and drawing his
mother aside_] It’s a pity that we can’t get her to sign that.

MME. DUPONT [_to the nurse_] So that there may be no misunderstanding
about the sum—you see I forgot just now that I said a thousand
francs—we will draw up a little paper which we shall sign on our side
and you will sign on your side.

NURSE. Very good, ma’am; I understand.

  _The doctor comes back._

MME. DUPONT. Here is the doctor. You may go, nurse; that is all right.

NURSE. Yes, ma’am. [_To herself_] What’s up, then? A thousand francs?
What’s the matter with the baby? Has she got something bad, I wonder?
[_She passes to the left, between the desk and window, and goes out_].

DOCTOR. The condition is unchanged. There is no need for anxiety. [_He
sits down at the desk to write a prescription_].

MME. DUPONT. I am glad to tell you, doctor, that you can now devote
yourself to the baby and the nurse without misgiving. While you have
been away we have informed the nurse of the circumstances, and agreed
with her that she shall stay with us in return for a certain sum of
money.

DOCTOR. The disease which the nurse will almost infallibly contract in
giving her milk to the child is, I fear, too serious to be made the
subject of a bargain, however large the sum of money. She might be
completely crippled, even if she did not die of it.

MME. DUPONT. But she accepts.

DOCTOR. It is not only that she would be rendered incapable of serving
in future as wet nurse without danger to the infants she suckled. The
results of the disease to herself might be inconsiderable; but at the
same time, I repeat, they might, in spite of everything we could do,
cast a terrible blight upon her life.

MME. DUPONT. But I tell you she accepts. She has the right to do what
she pleases.

DOCTOR. I am not sure that she has the right to sell her own health,
but I am sure that she has not the right to sell the health of her
husband and of her children. If she contracts this disease, she will
almost certainly communicate it to both of them; and, further, the life
and health of any children she might afterwards have would be gravely
endangered. You understand now that it is impossible for her to make a
bargain of this kind. If the mischief is not already done, every effort
must be made to prevent it.

MME. DUPONT. You say: ‘If the mischief is not done.’ Can you not be
certain?

DOCTOR. Not as yet. There is a period of five or six weeks between
the moment of contracting the disease and the appearance of its first
symptoms.

MME. DUPONT. You think of nothing but the nurse. You do not think of
our poor little baby. What can we do? We cannot let her die.

GEORGE. We can’t, we can’t!

DOCTOR. Neither can you endanger the life of this woman.

MME. DUPONT. You are not defending our interests!

DOCTOR. I am defending those of the weakest.

MME. DUPONT. If we had called in our own doctor, he would have taken
our side.

DOCTOR. I doubt it. [_Rising_] But there is still time to send for him.

GEORGE. Mother! I beg you not to go, doctor.

MME. DUPONT [_supplicating him_] Oh, don’t abandon us! You can make
allowances—If you only knew what this child was to me! I feel as if I
had staved off death to wait for it. Have pity on us! Our poor little
girl—she is the weakest, surely. Have pity on her! When you saw her
tiny, suffering body, did you not feel any pity for her? Oh, I beseech
you!

GEORGE. Doctor, we implore you!

DOCTOR. Indeed I pity her and I will do everything in my power to save
her. But you must not ask me to sacrifice the health of a young and
strong woman to that of a sickly infant. I will be no party to giving
this woman a disease that would embitter the lives of her whole family,
and almost certainly render her sterile.

MME. DUPONT [_in a stifled voice_] Oh, are there not enough of these
peasants in the world!

DOCTOR. I beg your pardon?

MME. DUPONT [_in the same tone_] I said that if she had no more
children, there would only be the fewer to be unhappy.

DOCTOR. It is useless for us to continue this discussion.

MME. DUPONT [_rousing herself_] I shall not take your advice! I shall
not listen to you!

DOCTOR. There is one here already who regrets not having done so.

GEORGE. Yes, O God, yes!

MME. DUPONT [_more and more exalted_] I do not care! I do not care if
I am punished for it in this world and the next! If it is a crime, if
it is a sin, I accept all the responsibility, however heavy it may be!
Yes, yes! If it must be, I will lose my soul to save our child’s life,
our little one’s! I know that hell exists for the wicked: that is one
of my profoundest convictions. Then let God judge me—if I am damned, so
much the worse for me!

DOCTOR. I shall not allow you to take that responsibility. To enable
you to do so, my consent would be necessary, and I refuse it.

MME. DUPONT. What do you mean?

DOCTOR. I shall speak to the nurse and give her the fullest
particulars, which I am convinced you have not done.

MME. DUPONT. What! You, a doctor, would betray family secrets entrusted
to you in the strictest confidence! Secrets of this kind!

DOCTOR. The betrayal, if it is one, is forced on me by the law.

MME. DUPONT. The law! I thought you were bound to secrecy?

DOCTOR [_turning the pages of the volume of reports_] Not in this case.
Here is a judgment given by the court at Dijon: I thought that I might
have to read it to you. [_Reading_] ‘A doctor who knowingly omits to
inform a nurse of the dangers incurred by her in giving milk to a
syphilitic child may be held responsible in damages for the results
caused by her ignorance.’ You see that the law is against you, as well
as your conscience; and I may add that, even were it not so, I should
not allow you to be led by your feelings into committing such a crime.
If you do not consent to have the child fed by hand, I shall either
speak to the nurse or give up the case.

MME. DUPONT. You dare to threaten us! Oh, you know the power that your
knowledge gives you! You know what need we are in of your services and
that if you abandon us perhaps our child will die! And if we give way
to you, she will die all the same! [_Wildly_] O my God, my God, why
cannot I sacrifice myself? Oh, if only my aged body could take the
place of this woman’s young flesh, and my poor dry breasts give to our
child the milk that would save her life! With what joy I would give
myself up to this disease! With what rapture I would suffer the most
horrible ravages that it could inflict on me! Oh, if I could but offer
myself, without fear and without regret!

GEORGE [_flings himself into her arms with sobs and cries of_] Mother!
Mother! Mother!

  _They weep._

DOCTOR [_to himself, moved_] Poor people! Poor people!

MME. DUPONT [_sitting down with an air of resignation_] Tell us what we
must do.

DOCTOR. Keep the nurse here as dry-nurse so that she may not carry the
infection elsewhere. We will feed the child by hand, and I beg you
in all sincerity not to exaggerate the danger that will result from
the change. I have every hope of restoring the baby to health in a
short space of time; and I assure you that I will use every possible
effort to bring about a happy conclusion. I will call again to-morrow.
Good-day.

MME. DUPONT [_without moving_] Thank you, doctor.

GEORGE [_going to the door and shaking hands_] Thank you, thank you.
[_The doctor goes out. George comes back and goes to his mother with
outstretched arms_] Mother!

MME. DUPONT [_repulsing him_] Let me be.

GEORGE [_checking himself_] Are we not unhappy enough, without hating
one another?

MME. DUPONT. It is God who visits upon your child the sins of its
father.

GEORGE [_raising his shoulders gloomily_] You believe that: when there
is not a man alive so wicked and unjust as to commit such an act!

MME. DUPONT. Oh, I know you believe in nothing.

GEORGE. Not in that kind of God.

  _The nurse, who comes in by the left soon after the doctor has
  gone out, appears._

NURSE. If you please, ma’am, I’ve been thinking: I would rather go away
at once and only have the five hundred francs.

MME. DUPONT. What do you say? You want to leave us?

NURSE. Yes, ma’am.

GEORGE. But ten minutes ago you didn’t want to.

MME. DUPONT. What has happened?

NURSE. I’ve been thinking.

MME. DUPONT. Thinking! About what?

NURSE. Well, I want to go back to my baby and my husband.

GEORGE. But ten minutes ago—there must be something else.

MME. DUPONT. Evidently there is something else.

NURSE. No, ma’am.

MME. DUPONT. But there must be!

NURSE. Well then, I’m afraid that Paris doesn’t suit me.

MME. DUPONT. How can you tell without waiting to try?

NURSE. I’d rather go back home at once.

MME. DUPONT. At least tell us why.

NURSE. I have told you. I’ve been thinking.

MME. DUPONT. What about?

NURSE. I’ve been thinking.

MME. DUPONT. Oh, don’t say that over and over again! ’I’ve been
thinking, I’ve been thinking.’ What have you been thinking about?

NURSE. About everything.

MME. DUPONT. Can’t you tell us about what?

NURSE. I tell you: about everything.

MME. DUPONT. Idiot!

GEORGE [_stepping in front of his mother_] Let me speak to her.

NURSE. I know we’re only poor country folk.

GEORGE. Listen to me, nurse. Just now you were not only satisfied
with your wages, but you were afraid we were going to send you away.
In addition to your wages we have promised to give you a large sum
of money at the end of your time here—and now you want to leave us,
at once! Come now, you must have some sort of reason. Has anyone been
doing anything to you?

NURSE. No, sir.

GEORGE. Well then?

NURSE. I’ve been thinking.

GEORGE [_exasperated_] Don’t go on repeating that silly thing! What do
you mean by it? [_Gently_] Come, come, tell me why you want to go away.
[_Silence_] Eh?

NURSE. I have told you.

GEORGE. One might as well talk to a block of wood.

MME. DUPONT [_coming forward_] But you have no right to leave us.

NURSE. Yes, I want to go away.

MME. DUPONT. I shall not allow you to go!

GEORGE. Oh well, let her go; after all we can’t keep her by force. [_To
the nurse_] Since you want to go, you shall go: but I can only say that
you’re as stupid as a cow.

NURSE. I don’t mind if I am.

GEORGE. I shall not pay you for the month that has just begun, and you
will pay for your own railway ticket.

NURSE. We’ll see about that.

GEORGE. Yes, you will see. You’ll see this moment, too! Be off with
you, I don’t want you any longer. Now then!

MME. DUPONT. Don’t fly into a rage, George. [_To the nurse_] You don’t
mean it seriously, nurse, surely?

NURSE. I would rather go back home at once and only have my five
hundred francs.

GEORGE. What’s that?

MME. DUPONT. What are you talking about?

GEORGE. Five hundred francs?

MME. DUPONT. What five hundred francs?

NURSE. The five hundred francs you promised me, to be sure!

GEORGE. We never promised you anything of the sort!

NURSE. Yes, you did.

MME. DUPONT. Yes, when you had finished nursing the baby and if we were
satisfied with you.

NURSE. No, you said you would give me five hundred francs when I left.
Now I’m going away, so I want them.

MME. DUPONT. You will please not address me in that tone, you
understand.

NURSE. You’ve only got to give me my money and I shan’t say a word more.

GEORGE. Oh, that’s it, is it? Very well, I discharge you on the spot.
Now, then, be off with you.

MME. DUPONT. I should think so, indeed.

GEORGE. Off you go!

NURSE. Give me my five hundred francs.

GEORGE [_pointing furiously at the door_] Take your blasted carcase out
of this. Do you hear?

NURSE. Hullo, hullo! You speak to me a bit more politely, can’t you?

GEORGE. Will you get out of this, or have I got to send for the police?

NURSE. The police! What for, eh, what for?

GEORGE. To chuck you out, you—

NURSE. Well, and what am I? I’m only a country girl, I am. I may be a
bit stupid—

MME. DUPONT. Stupid! I should think you were. You have no more brains
than a mule.

NURSE. I may be stupid, but I’m not—

MME. DUPONT [_interrupting_] You have no more heart than a stone. You
are a wicked woman.

GEORGE. You’re no better than a thief.

NURSE. Oh, a thief am I? I should like to know why.

GEORGE. Because you’re trying to get money that isn’t yours.

MME. DUPONT. Because you are deserting our baby. You are a wicked woman.

GEORGE. Do you want me to put you out? [_He takes her by the arm_].

NURSE. Oh, that’s it, is it? So you want me to tell you why I’m going?

GEORGE. Now then, out with it.

MME. DUPONT. Well, why is it?

  _Henriette enters at the back. In the noise of the quarrel no one
  perceives her._

NURSE. Very well, then. I’m going away because I don’t want to catch
your beastly diseases here.

MME. DUPONT. Be quiet, will you?

GEORGE. Shut up, can’t you?

NURSE. Oh, you needn’t be afraid; everyone knows about it. Justin
listened at the door to what your doctor was saying and told me what
was up. Oh, I may be stupid, but I’m not so stupid as that. I’m going
to have my money and get out of this.

GEORGE. Shut up!

MME. DUPONT [_taking her by the arm_] Hold your tongue, I tell you.

NURSE. Let me go! Let me go! I know your brat’s not going to live. I
know it’s rotten through and through because its father’s got a beastly
disease that he caught from some woman of the streets.

  _Henriette, with two hoarse cries, falls to the ground in a fit of
  nervous sobbing._

GEORGE [_rushing towards her_] My God!

  _Henriette eludes him and pulls herself up with disgust, hatred, and
  horror depicted all over her._

HENRIETTE [_shrieking like a mad woman_] Don’t touch me! Don’t touch
me!

ACT III


  _The doctor’s room in the hospital where he is chief physician. The
  doctor enters with a medical student, both in their hospital clothes,
  and takes off his apron while talking._

DOCTOR. By the way, my dear fellow, is the gentleman we passed in the
passage waiting for you?

STUDENT. No, not for me.

DOCTOR. Then it’s my deputy. Do you know this name? Where did I put his
card? [_He looks on his desk_] Ah, here. ‘Loches, deputy for Sarthes’?

STUDENT. That’s the famous Loches.

DOCTOR. Ah, yes, deputy for Sarthes. A regular orator, isn’t he?

STUDENT. Tremendous, I believe.

DOCTOR. That’s the man we want then. He busies himself a great deal
with social questions?

STUDENT. Just so.

DOCTOR. I suppose he wants to start an agitation in the Chamber in
favor of the laws for which we have been clamoring so long. No doubt he
means to post himself up first. This is what he writes: ‘Loches, deputy
for Sarthes, presents his compliments’ etc. ... would be much obliged if
I would see him to-morrow, Sunday: not for a consultation.

STUDENT. It’s very likely he has some idea of the sort.

DOCTOR. Now that I have a deputy I will post him up, I can assure you.
That’s why I have had the case from St. Charles’ ward and number 28
brought here.

STUDENT. Shall you want me?

DOCTOR. Not at all, my dear fellow. Good-bye.

STUDENT. Good-bye, sir.

DOCTOR [_calling to the other as he goes out_] Would you mind telling
them to show in M. Loches? Thanks very much. Good-bye.

  _The student goes out._

  _Loches enters and bows. The doctor motions him to be seated._

LOCHES. I must thank you for being so kind as to receive me out of
your regular hours. The business that brings me here is peculiarly
distressing. I am the father-in-law of M. George Dupont. After the
terrible revelation of yesterday, my daughter has returned to me with
her child and I have come to ask you to be so good as to continue
attending on the infant, but at my house.

DOCTOR. Very good.

LOCHES. Thank you. Now, as to the scoundrel who is the cause of all
these misfortunes.

DOCTOR [_very gently_] You must excuse me, but that is a subject on
which I cannot enter. My functions are only those of a physician.

LOCHES [_in a thick voice_] I ask your pardon, but I think when you
have heard me for a moment, you will agree with me. I shall not trouble
you with the plans of vengeance I formed yesterday, when my poor
daughter fled to me with her child in her arms after the revelation
that you know. You will excuse me if I speak to you in this state—oh,
I can scarcely contain my indignation! I had intended to talk of this
calmly: but when I think of that man and of his infamous conduct—the
brutal, cowardly blow he has struck at me and mine—I cannot control
myself—I, I—. It is abominable! My daughter! A girl of twenty-two!
Twenty-two!

  _A silence._

DOCTOR. I understand and respect your feelings; but, believe me, you
are not in a fit state to form any decision at this moment.

LOCHES [_with an effort_] Yes, yes: I will command myself. All last
night I spent in profound reflection, and after rejecting the ideas I
mentioned, this is the conclusion to which I have come in conjunction
with my daughter: we desire to obtain a divorce as soon as possible.
Consequently I have come to ask you for the certificate which will be
the basis of our action.

DOCTOR. What certificate?

LOCHES. A certificate attesting the nature of the disease which this
man has contracted.

DOCTOR. I regret that I am unable to furnish you with such a
certificate.

LOCHES. How is that?

DOCTOR. The rule of professional secrecy is absolute.

LOCHES. It is impossible that it should be your duty to take sides with
a criminal against his innocent victims.

DOCTOR. To avoid all discussion, I may add that even were I free, I
should refuse your request.

LOCHES. May I ask why?

DOCTOR. I should regret having helped you to obtain a divorce.

LOCHES. Then just because you hold this or that theory, because your
profession has rendered you sceptical or insensible to the sight of
misery like ours, my daughter must bear this man’s name to the end of
her life!

DOCTOR. It would be in your daughter’s own interest that I should
refuse.

LOCHES. Indeed! You have a strange conception of her interest.

DOCTOR [_very gently_] In your present state of excitement you will
probably begin to abuse me before five minutes are over. That will not
disturb a man of my experience, but you see why I refused to discuss
these subjects. However, since I have let myself in for it, I may as
well explain my position. You ask me for a certificate in order to
prove to the court that your son-in-law has contracted syphilis?

LOCHES. Yes.

DOCTOR. You do not consider that in doing so you will publicly
acknowledge that your daughter has been exposed to the infection. The
statement will be officially registered in the papers of the case. Do
you suppose that after that your daughter is likely to find a second
husband?

LOCHES. She will never marry again.

DOCTOR. She says so now. Can you be sure that she will say so in five
or in ten years time? Besides, you will not obtain a divorce, because I
shall not furnish you with the necessary proof.

LOCHES. I shall find other ways to establish it. I shall have the child
examined by another doctor.

DOCTOR. Indeed! You think that this poor little thing has not been
unlucky enough in her start in life? She has been blighted physically:
you wish besides to stamp her indelibly with the legal proof of
congenital syphilis?

LOCHES. So when the victims seek to defend themselves they are struck
still lower! So the law provides no arms against the man who takes
an innocent, confiding young girl in sound health, knowingly befouls
her with the heritage of his debauchery, and makes her mother of a
wretched mite whose future is such that those who love it most do not
know whether they had better pray for its life or for its immediate
deliverance! This man has inflicted on his wife the supreme insult, the
most odious degradation. He has, as it were, thrust her into contact
with the streetwalker with whose vice he is stained, and created
between her and that common thing a bond of blood to poison herself and
her child. Thanks to him, this abject creature, this prostitute, lives
our life, makes one of our family, sits down with us at table. He has
smirched my daughter’s imagination as he has tarnished her body, and
bound up for ever in her mind the ideal of love that she placed so
high with heaven knows what horrors of the hospital. He has struck her
physically and morally, in her dignity and her modesty, in her love and
in her child. He has hurled her into the depths of shame. And the state
of law and opinion is such that this woman cannot be separated from
this man save at the cost of a scandal which will overwhelm herself and
her child. Very well, then, I shall not ask the aid of the law. Last
night I wondered if it was not my duty to go and shoot down that brute
like a mad dog. It was cowardice that prevented me. Weakly I proposed
to invoke the law. Well, since the law will not do justice, I will take
it into my own hands. Perhaps his death will serve as a warning to
others.

DOCTOR [_putting aside his hat_] You will be tried for your life.

LOCHES. And I shall be acquitted.

DOCTOR. Yes; but after the public narration of all your troubles. The
scandal and the misfortune will be so much the greater, that is all.
And how do you know that the day after your acquittal you will not find
yourself before another and less lenient judge? When your daughter,
realizing that you have rendered her unhappiness irreparable, and
seized with pity for your victim, demands by what right you have killed
the father of her child, what will you say? What will you say when that
child one day asks the same question?

LOCHES [_speaking before the other has done_] Then what can I do?

DOCTOR [_immediately_] Forgive.

  _A silence._

LOCHES [_without energy_] Never.

DOCTOR. Are you quite sure that you have the right to be so inflexible?
Was it not within your power at a certain moment to spare your daughter
the possibility of this misery?

LOCHES. Within my power! Do you imply that I am responsible?

DOCTOR. Yes; I do. When the marriage was proposed you doubtless made
enquiries concerning your future son-in-law’s income; you investigated
his securities; you satisfied yourself as to his character. You only
omitted one point, but it was the most important of all: you made no
enquiries concerning his health.

LOCHES. No.

DOCTOR. And why?

LOCHES. Because it is not the custom.

DOCTOR. Well, it ought to be made the custom. Before giving his
daughter in marriage a father ought to take as much care with regard to
her husband as a house of business takes in engaging an employee.

LOCHES. You are right, a law should be passed.

DOCTOR. No, no. We want no new laws: there are too many already. All
that is needed is for people to understand the nature of this disease
rather better. It would soon become the custom for a man who proposed
for a girl’s hand to add to the other things for which he is asked
a medical statement of bodily fitness, which would make it certain
that he did not bring this plague into the family with him. It would
be perfectly simple. Once it was the custom, the man would go to his
doctor for a certificate of health before he could sign the register,
just as now, before he can be married in church, he goes to his priest
for a certificate that he has confessed. As things are, before a
marriage is concluded the family lawyers meet to discuss matters: a
meeting between the two doctors would be at least as useful and would
prevent many misfortunes. Your enquiry, you see, was incomplete. Your
daughter might well ask you, who are a man and a father, and ought
to know these things, why you did not take as much trouble about her
health as about her fortune. I tell you that you must forgive.

LOCHES. Never.

DOCTOR. Well: there is one last argument which, since I must, I will
put to you. Are you yourself without sin, that you are so relentless
to others?

LOCHES. I have never had any shameful disease, sir!

DOCTOR. I was not asking you that. I was asking you if you had never
exposed yourself to catching one. [_He pauses. Loches does not reply_]
Ah, you see! Then it is not virtue that has saved you: it is luck. Few
things exasperate me more than that term ‘shameful disease,’ which
you used just now. This disease is like all other diseases: it is one
of our afflictions. There is no shame in being wretched—even if one
deserves to be so. [_Hotly_] Come, come: let us have a little plain
speaking! I should like to know how many of these rigid moralists,
who are so choked with their middle-class prudery that they dare not
mention the name syphilis, or when they bring themselves to speak of it
do so with expressions of every sort of disgust, and treat its victims
as criminals, have never run the risk of contracting it themselves. It
is those alone who have the right to talk. How many do you think there
are? Four out of a thousand? Well, leave those four aside; between all
the rest and those who catch the disease there is no difference but
chance. [_Bursting out_] And by heavens, those who escape won’t get
much sympathy from me: the others at least have paid their fine of
suffering and remorse, while they have gone scot-free! [_Recovering
himself_] Let’s have done, if you please, once for all with this sort
of hypocrisy. Your son-in-law, like yourself and like the immense
majority of men, has had mistresses before he married. He has had the
ill-luck to catch syphilis, and married supposing that the disease
was no longer dangerous when in fact it still was. It is a misfortune
that we must do our best to remedy, and not to aggravate. Perhaps in
your youth you deserved what he has got even more than he; at any rate
your position towards him is as that of the culprit who has escaped
punishment towards his less fortunate comrade. That is a reflection
that should, I think, touch you.

LOCHES. You put it in such a way—

DOCTOR. Am I not right?

LOCHES. Perhaps: but I can’t tell my daughter all this to persuade her
to return to her husband.

DOCTOR. There are other arguments that you can use.

LOCHES. What, then, good heavens?

DOCTOR. Any number. You can tell her that a separation will be a
calamity for all parties and that her husband is the only person
interested in helping her at any price to save her child. You can tell
her that out of the ruins of her first happiness she can construct a
life of solid affection that will have every chance of being lasting
and most sincerely enviable. There is much truth in the saying that
reformed rakes make the best husbands. Take your son-in-law. If your
daughter consents to forgive and forget, he will not only respect her;
he will be eternally grateful. You can tell her all this and you will
find much else to say besides. As for the future, we will make sure
that when they are re-united their next child shall be healthy and
vigorous.

LOCHES. Is that possible?

DOCTOR. Yes, yes! A thousand times yes. I have one thing that I always
tell my patients: if I could I would paste it up at every street
corner. ‘Syphilis is like a woman whose temper is roused by the feeling
that her power is disdained. It is terrible only to those who think it
insignificant, not to those who know its dangers.’ Repeat that to your
daughter. Give her back to her husband—she has nothing more to fear
from him—and in two years time I guarantee that you will be a happy
grand-father.

LOCHES. Thank you, doctor. I do not know if I can ever forget. But you
have made me so uneasy on the score of these responsibilities that I
have ignored and given me back so much hope, that I will promise you to
do nothing rash. If my poor child can, after a time bring herself to
forgive her husband, I shall not stand in the way.

DOCTOR. Good! But if you have another daughter, take care not to make
the same mistake that you made over the marriage of your first.

LOCHES. How was I to know?

DOCTOR. Ah, there it is. You didn’t know! You are a father and you
didn’t know! You are a deputy and have the honor and the burden
of making laws for us, and you didn’t know! You didn’t know about
syphilis, just as you probably do not know about alcoholism and
tuberculosis.

LOCHES. Really, I—

DOCTOR. Well, if you like I will except you. But there are five hundred
others, are there not, who sit in the Chamber and style themselves
Representatives of the people? Here are the three unspeakable gods
to whom every day thousands of human sacrifices are offered up. What
single hour do your colleagues find for the organization of our forces
against these insatiable monsters? Take alcoholism. The manufacture of
poisonous liquors should be prohibited and the number of licences cut
down. But we are afraid of the power of the great distillers and of the
voting strength of the trade: consequently we deplore the immorality
of the working classes and quiet our conscience by writing pamphlets
and preaching sermons. Pah! Then take tuberculosis: everyone knows
that the real remedy is to pay sufficient wages and have insanitary
workmen’s dwellings knocked down. But no one will do it, although the
working class is the most useful we have as well as the worst rewarded.
Instead, workmen are recommended not to spit. Admirable, isn’t it?
Finally, syphilis. Why do you not concern yourselves with that? You
create offices of state for all sorts of things: why do you not one day
set about creating an office of public health?

LOCHES. My dear doctor, you are falling into the common French mistake
of attributing all the ills in the world to the government. In this
case it is for you to shew us the way. These are matters for scientific
experts. You must begin by pointing out the necessary measures, and
then—

DOCTOR. And then,—what? Ha! It is fifteen years since a scheme of this
kind, worked out and approved _unanimously_ by the Academy of Medicine,
was submitted to the proper authorities. Since that day it has never
been heard of again.

LOCHES. Then you think that there really are measures to be taken?

DOCTOR. You shall answer that question yourself. I must tell you that
when I received your card yesterday I imagined that it was in your
public capacity that you were about to interest yourself in these
matters. Consequently, after naming the hour of your visit, I told off
two of my hospital patients to show to you. You need not be alarmed, I
shall not shock your nerves. To outward appearance they have nothing
the matter with them. They are not bad cases; they are simply the
damaged goods of our great human cargo. I merely wished to give you
food for reflection, not a lesson in pathology. You came on another
matter. So much the worse for you. I have you and I shall not let you
go. [_A slight pause_]. I will ask you, therefore, to raise your mind
above your personal sorrow and to conceive in the mass the thousands
of beings who suffer from similar causes. Thousands, mark you, from
every rank of society. The disease jumps from the hovel into the
home, frequently with few intermediate steps; so that to cleanse the
gutter, where preventive measures can be taken, means practically to
safeguard the family life. Our greatest enemy of all, as you shall see
for yourself, is ignorance. Ignorance, I repeat. The refrain is always
the same: ‘I didn’t know.’ Patients, whom we might have saved had they
come in time, come too late, in a desperate condition, and after having
spread the evil far and wide. And why? ‘I didn’t know.’ [_Going towards
the door_] What can we do? We can’t hunt them out from the highways
and hedges. [_To a woman in the passage_] Come in, please. [_The
woman enters. She is of the working class. The doctor turns again to
Loches_] Here is a case. This woman is very seriously ill. I have told
her so, and I told her to come here once a week. [_To the woman_] Is
that so?

WOMAN. Yes, sir.

DOCTOR [_angrily_] And how long is it since you came last?

WOMAN. Three months.

DOCTOR. Three months! How do you suppose I can cure you like that? It
is hopeless, do you hear, hopeless! Well, why didn’t you come? Don’t
you know that you have a very serious disease?

WOMAN. Oh yes, sir. I know it is. My husband died of it.

DOCTOR [_more gently_] Your husband died of it?

WOMAN. Yes, sir.

DOCTOR. Did he not go to the doctor?

WOMAN. No, sir.

DOCTOR. And isn’t that a warning to you?

WOMAN. Oh sir, I’d come as often as you told me to, only I can’t afford
it.

DOCTOR. How do you mean, you can’t afford it?

LOCHES. The consultations are gratis, are they not?

WOMAN. Yes, sir. But they’re during working hours, and then, it’s a
long way to come. One has to wait one’s turn with all the others and
sometimes it takes the best part of the day, and I’m afraid of losing
my place if I stop away so much. So I wait till I can’t help coming
again. And then—

DOCTOR. Well?

WOMAN. Oh, it’s nothing, sir. You’re too kind to me.

DOCTOR. Go on, go on.

WOMAN. I know I oughtn’t to mind, but I haven’t always been so poor. We
were well off before my husband fell ill, and I’ve always lived by my
own work. It’s not as it is for a woman who hasn’t any self-respect. I
know it’s wrong, but having to wait like that with everyone else and to
tell all about myself before everyone—I know I’m wrong, but it’s hard
all the same, it’s very hard.

DOCTOR. Poor woman. [_A pause. Then very gently_] So it was from your
husband that you caught this disease?

WOMAN. Yes, sir. We used to live in the country and then my husband
caught it and went half mad. He didn’t know what he was doing, and used
to order all kinds of things we couldn’t pay for.

DOCTOR. Why did he not get himself looked after?

WOMAN. He didn’t know. We were sold up and came to Paris: we hadn’t any
more money. Then he went to the hospital.

DOCTOR. Well?

WOMAN. He got looked after there, but they wouldn’t give him any
medicines.

DOCTOR. How was that?

WOMAN. Because we had only been three months in Paris. They only give
you the medicines free if you have lived here six months.

LOCHES. Is that so?

DOCTOR. Yes, that is the rule.

WOMAN. You see it isn’t our fault.

DOCTOR. You have no children, have you?

WOMAN. I couldn’t ever bring one to birth, sir. My husband was taken at
the very beginning of our marriage, while he was doing his time as a
reservist. There are women that hang about the barracks.

  _A silence._

DOCTOR. Ah! Well, this is my private address; you come to see me there
every Sunday morning. [_At the door he slips a piece of money into her
hand. Roughly_] There, just take that and run along. What’s that? Tut,
tut! Nonsense! Nonsense! I haven’t time to listen to you. Run along,
now. [_He pushes her out. To someone who is invisible to the audience_]
What can I do for you?

MAN [_outside_] I am the father of the young man you saw this morning.
I asked leave to speak to you after the consultation was over.

DOCTOR. Ah yes, just so, I recognize you. Your son is at college,
isn’t he?

MAN [_in the doorway_] Yes, sir.

DOCTOR. Come in, come in. You can talk before this gentleman.

MAN [_entering_] You know, sir, the disaster that has befallen us. My
son is eighteen; as the result of this disease he is half paralyzed. We
are small tradespeople; we have regularly bled ourselves in order to
send him to college, and now—! I only wish the same thing mayn’t happen
to others. It was at the very college gates that my poor boy was got
hold of by one of these women. Is it right, sir, that that should be
allowed? Aren’t there enough police to prevent children of fifteen from
being seduced like that? I ask, is it right?

DOCTOR. No.

MAN. Why don’t they stop it, then?

DOCTOR. I don’t know.

MAN. Look at my son. He’d be better in his grave. He was such a fine,
good looking chap. We were that proud of him.

DOCTOR. Never despair. We’ll do our best to cure him. [_Sadly_] But why
did you wait so long before bringing him to me?

MAN. How was I to know what he had? He was afraid to tell me, so he
let the thing go on. Then when he felt he was really bad with it, he
went, without letting me know, to quacks, who robbed him without curing
him. Ah, that, too, is that right? What’s the government about that it
allows that? Isn’t that more important than what they spend their time
over?

DOCTOR. You are right. Their only excuse is that they do not know.
You must take courage. We have cured worse cases than your son’s. As
for the others, perhaps some day they will have a little attention
paid them. [_He goes with the man to the door. Turning to Loches_] You
see, the true remedy lies in a change of our ways. Syphilis must cease
to be treated like a mysterious evil the very name of which cannot
be pronounced. The ignorance in which the public is kept of the real
nature and of the consequences of this disease helps to aggravate and
to spread it. Generally it is contracted because ‘I didn’t know’; it
becomes dangerous for want of proper care because ’I didn’t know’; it
is passed on from person to person because ‘I didn’t know.’ People
ought to know. Young men ought to be taught the responsibilities they
assume and the misfortunes they may bring on themselves.

LOCHES. At the same time these things cannot be taught to children at
school.

DOCTOR. Why not, pray?

LOCHES. There are curiosities which it would be imprudent to arouse.

DOCTOR [_hotly_] So you think that by ignoring those curiosities you
stifle them? Why, every boy and girl who has been to a boarding
school or through college knows you do not! So far from stifling them,
you drive them to satisfy themselves in secret by any vile means they
can. There is nothing immoral in the act that reproduces life by the
means of love. But for the benefit of our children we organize round
about it a gigantic conspiracy of silence. A respectable man will take
his son and daughter to one of these grand music halls, where they will
hear things of the most loathsome description; but he won’t let them
hear a word spoken seriously on the subject of the great act of love.
No, no! Not a word about that without blushing: only, as many barrack
room jokes, as many of the foulest music hall suggestions as you like!
Pornography, as much as you please: science, never! That is what we
ought to change. The mystery and humbug in which physical facts are
enveloped ought to be swept away and young men be given some pride in
the creative power with which each one of us is endowed. They ought to
be made to understand that the future of the race is in their hands and
to be taught to transmit the great heritage they have received from
their ancestors intact with all its possibilities to their descendants.

LOCHES. Ah, but we should go beyond that! I realize now that what
is needed is to attack this evil at its source and to suppress
prostitution. We ought to hound out these vile women who poison the
very life of society.

DOCTOR. You forget that they themselves have first been poisoned. I am
going to show you one of them. I warn you, not that it matters much,
that she won’t express herself like a duchess. I can make her talk by
playing on her vanity; she wants to be a ballet-dancer.

  _He opens the door and admits a pretty girl of some twenty years: she
  is very gay and cheerful._

DOCTOR. Getting on all right? [_Without waiting for an answer_] You
still want to go on the stage, don’t you?

GIRL. Rather.

DOCTOR. Well, this gentleman’s a friend of the manager of the opera. He
can give you a line to him, will that do?

GIRL. Why, of course. But if they want a character, I’m done, you know.

DOCTOR. They won’t. You just tell the gentleman about yourself, what
you want to do and what you’ve done. Talk to him a bit.

GIRL. My parents were people of good position. They sent me to a
boarding school—

DOCTOR [_interrupting_] You needn’t tell him all that; he won’t believe
a word of it.

GIRL. Eh? Well, but if I tell him the truth, it’s all up with me.

DOCTOR. No, no; he won’t mind. Now then, you came to Paris—

GIRL. Yes.

DOCTOR. You got a place as maid-servant?

GIRL. Well, yes.

DOCTOR. How old were you then?

GIRL. Why, I was turned seventeen.

DOCTOR. And then you had a baby?

GIRL [_astonished at the question_] Of course I did, next year.

DOCTOR. Well, who was its father?

GIRL [_treating it as a matter of course_] Why, it was my master, of
course.

DOCTOR. Go on, go on. Tell us about it. Your mistress found out. What
happened then?

GIRL [_in the same tone_] She sent me packing. I’d have done the same,
if I’d been her.

DOCTOR. Go on, what are you stopping for? Talk away. The gentleman’s
from the country; he doesn’t understand about these things.

GIRL [_gaily_] Right oh! I’ll tell you all about it. One night the boss
comes up to my room in his socks and says: ’If you shriek out, off you
go!’ Then—

DOCTOR. No, no. Begin after you lost your place.

GIRL. All right, if you think he’ll think it funny.

DOCTOR. Never mind that. Say what you’re doing now.

GIRL. Why, I come here every day.

DOCTOR. But before you come here?

GIRL. Oh, I do my five hours on the streets.

DOCTOR. Well, how’s that? The gentleman’s from the country, I tell you.
He wants to know. Go on.

GIRL. There now, I wouldn’t have thought there was anyone didn’t know
that. Why, I rig myself out as a work-girl, with a little bag on my
arm—they make togs special for that, y’ know—and then I trot along by
the shop windows. Pretty hard work, too, ‘cause to do it real well you
have to walk fast. Then I stops in front of some shop or other. Nine
times out of ten that does the trick. It just makes me laugh, I tell
you, but you’d think all the men had learnt what to say out of a book.
There’s only two things they say, that’s all. It’s either: ‘You walk
very fast’ or else: ‘Aren’t you afraid, all alone?’ One knows what that
means, eh? Or else I do the ‘young widow’ fake. You’ve got to go a bit
fast like that, too. I don’t know why, but it makes ’em catch on. They
find out precious soon I’m not a young widow, but that doesn’t make any
odds. [_Seriously_] There’re things like that I don’t understand.

DOCTOR. What sort are they, then? Shopwalkers, commercial travellers?

GIRL. I like that! Why, I only take real gentlemen.

DOCTOR. They say that’s what they are.

GIRL. Oh, I can see well enough. Besides, a whole lot of ’em have
orders on. That makes me laugh, too. When they meet you, they’ve got
their little bits of ribbon stuck in their buttonhole. Then they follow
you and they haven’t anything. I wanted to find out, so I looked over
my shoulder in a glass and saw my man snap the ribbon out with his
finger and thumb just as you do when you’re shelling peas. You know?

DOCTOR. Yes, I know. Tell us about your child. What became of it?

GIRL. Oh, I left it at that place in the Rue Denfer.

DOCTOR [_to Loches_] The foundlings’ hospital.

LOCHES. Did you not mind doing that?

GIRL. It was better than dragging it about with me to starve.

LOCHES. Still, it was your child.

GIRL. Well, what about its father? It was his child, too, wasn’t it?
See here, I’m not going to talk about that again. Anyway, just tell me
what I could have done, you two there. Put it out to nurse? Well, of
course, I would have, if I’d been sure of having the money for it. But
then I wanted to get another place; and how was I to pay for nursing it
with the twentyfive or thirty francs a month I should have got, eh? If
I wanted to keep straight, I couldn’t keep the kid. See?

LOCHES. It’s too horrible.

  _The doctor stops him with a gesture._

GIRL [_angrily_] It’s just as I tell you. What else could I have
done, eh? If you’d been in my place you’d have done just the same.
[_Quieting down_] See here, what’s the good of making a fuss about it?
You’ll say: ‘But you haven’t been living straight.’ No more I have,
but how could I help it? I couldn’t stay in my places; and then, when
you’re hungry and a jolly young chap offers you a dinner, my word, I’d
like to see the girl who’d say no. I never learnt any trade, you see.
So that the end of it all is that I found myself in St. Lazare because
I was ill. That’s pretty low down, too. These beastly men give you
their foul diseases and it’s me they stick in prison. It’s a bit thick,
that is.

DOCTOR. You gave them as good as you got, didn’t you, though?

GIRL [_gaily_] Oh, I had my tit for tat! [_To Loches_] I suppose you’d
like to have that too? Before they carted me off there, the day I
found out I was in for it, I was going home in a pretty temper when
who do you think I met in the street but my old boss! I was that glad
to see him! Now, thinks I to myself, you’re going to pay me what you
owe me—with interest too! I just winked at him: oh, it didn’t take
long, I can tell you. [_Tragically_] Then when I left him, I don’t know
what came over me—I felt half mad. I took on everyone I could, for
anything or for nothing! As many as I could, all the youngest and the
best looking—well, I only gave ’em back what they gave me! Now somehow
I don’t care any more: where’s the use in pulling long faces about
things? It only makes me laugh. Other women, they do just the same; but
then they do it for their bread and butter, d’you see. A girl must live
even if she is ill, eh? [_A pause_] Well, you’ll give my name to the
chap at the theatre, won’t you? The doc here’ll tell you my address.

LOCHES. I promise you I will.

GIRL. Thank ye, sir.

  _She goes out._

DOCTOR. Was I not right to keep that confession for the end? This poor
girl is typical. The whole problem is summed up in her: she is at once
the product and the cause. We set the ball rolling, others keep it up,
and it runs back to bruise our own shins. I have nothing more to say.
[_He shakes hands with Loches as he conducts him to the door, and adds
in a lighter tone_] But if you give a thought or two to what you have
just seen when you are sitting in the Chamber, we shall not have wasted
our time.



  Maternity

  [New Version]

  Translated by John Pollock

A second version of Maternity was lately undertaken by M. Brieux. It
differs in so many respects from the original one performed in England
by the Stage Society, that it has been decided to include both versions
in this volume. That which follows is the later one, and is presented
by its author as the final form of the play.



ACT I


  _Brignac’s drawing room. An octagonal room, five sides of which
  are visible. Right, the door of Brignac’s study, and beyond it the
  mantelpiece, in front of which are armchairs and a marquetry table
  with seats round it. At the back the door of the bedroom, which,
  being opened, shews the bed. Left, the door into the hall, then that
  of Annette’s room, and beyond, a large window with a piano and music
  stool in front of it. In the corners at the back, on both sides,
  flowers in stands. The room is pretty and comfortable, without being
  luxurious. At the rise of the curtain the stage is empty. The door,
  left, opens, and Josephine, the maid, shews in Madeleine, a woman of
  twentyeight._

JOSEPHINE. Madame Brignac must be there. I’ll tell her.

  _She goes across to the door at the back and disappears. After a
  moment Lucie enters. She is twentyfive years old, and her simple,
  but becoming, dress contrasts with her elder sister’s exquisite and
  fashionable appearance._

LUCIE [_going gaily to Madeleine and kissing her_] My dear, how are you?

MADELEINE. Lucie, sweet!

LUCIE. How ravishing you look!

MADELEINE. One must, to please one’s husband. Tell me—but first, how
are the children?

LUCIE. About as usual.

MADELEINE. I’ve a piece of good news. You know Dr. Hourtin?

LUCIE. No, no; I don’t think so.

MADELEINE. Yes; you do. The famous Hourtin, you know. The man they call
Providence for nervous diseases.

LUCIE. Oh yes, yes.

MADELEINE. Dr. Bar wanted to have a consultation with him about your
children, didn’t he?

LUCIE. Of course; I know.

MADELEINE. I’ve just met him at the Parmillets’.

LUCIE. What, he’s at Chartres!

MADELEINE. He’s going to see his brother somewhere or other not far
off, and so he came through Chartres to visit the wonderful cave. In
the one week since they found it he must be at least the twentieth man
of science to come and pore over these old prehistoric bones.

LUCIE. But I thought he was a specialist for—

MADELEINE. Yes; the skeletons are just a relaxation.

LUCIE. Oh! Well—

MADELEINE. He’s a great friend of the Parmillets. So as I had the
chance, I asked him to come here, and he said he would.

LUCIE. But the children are with their granny in the country.

MADELEINE. Oh, dear. Couldn’t you send for them?

LUCIE. Yes, certainly. But when is Dr. Hourtin going?

MADELEINE. At five o’clock. He wanted to go to his brother first.

LUCIE. There’d hardly be time.

MADELEINE. No. Suppose we were to ask him to come this evening on his
way back?

LUCIE. Do you think he would?

MADELEINE. Oh, yes; he’s a charming man.

LUCIE. What a piece of luck! If he could only cure my poor babies!

MADELEINE. They say he works wonders. And where is our little Annette?

LUCIE. Annette is with the Bernins. Tuesday is her day for going there.

MADELEINE. And your husband?

LUCIE. My husband? Why, he’s at his meeting, of course.

MADELEINE. What, is it this afternoon?

LUCIE. You naughty woman! Not even to know the date of your brother
in-law’s meeting!

MADELEINE [_making a face_] No. To me, you know, all these
questions—birth-rate, repopulation—ugh!

LUCIE. France has need of it.

MADELEINE. I suppose so. [_A pause_] How is it you’re not at the
meeting?

LUCIE. It’s only for working-men.

MADELEINE. M. de Forgeau’s constituents?

LUCIE. Yes, but some day they may be Julien’s constituents.

MADELEINE. How do you mean?

LUCIE. Listen. It’s a secret, but I can’t help telling you. M. de
Forgeau has promised Julien to get him adopted by his committee at the
election to the Chamber two months from now.

MADELEINE. Do you find the idea of being wife of a deputy fascinating?

LUCIE [_laughing_] He didn’t ask my opinion. [_Seriously_] It seems
that if he were in the Chamber, Julien might look forward to going very
far.

MADELEINE. It was he who said that?

LUCIE. He, and M. de Forgeau. You know we’re not rich. My husband’s
professional income would hardly be enough to secure the future of our
two little girls, even if one were not, alas, an invalid.

MADELEINE. Aren’t you afraid that Julien may be once again letting his
imagination run away with him?

LUCIE [_melancholy_] What would be the good of my trying to dissuade
him? I must make myself try to share his illusions—for instance, in the
success of his meeting this afternoon.

MADELEINE. But what can he find to say to working-men about all that?
That they ought to have large families?

LUCIE. That’s it.

MADELEINE. Of course, I know nothing about it, but I should think
the best way to encourage them was not to let the children they have
already perish of want.

LUCIE. Just what I tell Julien. It’s the rich who ought to have
children.

MADELEINE. So I think.

LUCIE. You’re rich—why have you only got one, then?

MADELEINE. That’s another question. Don’t let’s talk about that. Talk
of something cheery.

JOSEPHINE [_entering_] If you please, ma’am, Catherine is here.

LUCIE. Ask her to come in. [_To Madeleine_] It’s ever so long since
I’ve seen nursie.

  _Josephine shews in Catherine, a working-woman of forty, dressed
  simply and very neatly in a black cloak and bonnet._

CATHERINE [_to Lucie and Madeleine_] Good-day, ma’am. Good-day.

LUCIE and MADELEINE [_shaking hands_] How do you do, Catherine?

CATHERINE. And your sister, ma’am, how’s she?

LUCIE. Annette? Your darling’s very well.

CATHERINE. That’s good to hear. I thought I’d just look in to say
good-day.

LUCIE. I’m glad you came.

CATHERINE. And to ask if you haven’t any errands for me in Paris.

MADELEINE [_teasing her good humouredly_] Ah! So Catherine’s off to
Paris—quite the lady!

LUCIE. Shall you stay there long?

CATHERINE. Oh, no. I expect to be back to-morrow. My big boy there
isn’t very well. So I’m going to see him, too.

MADELEINE [_in order to say something_] This early heat, no doubt.

CATHERINE. May be. Then you haven’t any errands for me?

LUCIE and MADELEINE. No, no. No, thank you.

CATHERINE. You don’t know what I’m going for?

LUCIE. I have no idea.

CATHERINE. I’m going to see my eldest girl.

MADELEINE. You know where she’s living, then?

CATHERINE. Yes, I’ve seen someone who met her.

LUCIE. And why didn’t she write to you?

CATHERINE. We’d got angry with one another.

MADELEINE. Ah!

CATHERINE. After she was turned off from the sewing-place she couldn’t
get any work. And what must she do but want money from me? As if we had
so much to spare!

LUCIE. What’s she doing now?

CATHERINE. She’s in work again. It seems she’s got a good place.

LUCIE. Come and tell us about her, won’t you?

CATHERINE. Yes, indeed I will.

MADELEINE. And when you’re my way come in to see me, too. I’ll have a
little packet of things for your youngsters.

CATHERINE. Ah, there it is! My husband won’t let me take anything more
from you or Mme. Brignac.

LUCIE. Why?

CATHERINE. Because of his politics. He says he’s not going to vote for
M. Brignac, so he doesn’t want to owe him anything.

MADELEINE. But why not from me? I don’t ask him to vote for me!

CATHERINE. That’s all one. You see, when you’re in want, it turns a
body sulky.

LUCIE. In want? He’s still at the electric works, isn’t he? He makes a
good living.

CATHERINE. So he does. If there were just the two of us, we’d live like
lords. But it’s the little ones, that’s what it is: there are too many
of us.

MADELEINE. Oh, come, come, Catherine!

CATHERINE. Well, ma’am, I ask you. We don’t go spending our money at
the theatre—

  _Brignac enters. He is a dark, good looking fellow of
  five-and-thirty, rather stout, with a strong, vibrating voice, and a
  southern accent._

BRIGNAC [_to Josephine_] And bring me the biscuits and the bottle I
told you to bring up this morning. The one with the green seal.

JOSEPHINE. Yes, sir.

BRIGNAC. Aha, Lucie! A kiss, quick! Congratulate me!

LUCIE. It went well?

BRIGNAC. Splendidly. How are you, Madeleine? Immensely! Ah, Catherine,
it’s you. How are you?

CATHERINE. I was just going, sir.

BRIGNAC. I didn’t see your husband at the meeting.

CATHERINE. He wasn’t there, sir.

BRIGNAC. Ah, yes, yes. A regular fire-eater now, isn’t he? Well, I hope
his Socialism is profitable.

CATHERINE. Well, we might—

BRIGNAC. Get along better? I thought so. [_In a changed tone_] Ah,
Catherine, I used to know you and your family when your husband went
more to church than to his club. You had faith then to help you bear
up against your troubles! You put your trust in Providence! Yes, you
brought up your children according to the Scriptures: ‘Consider the
lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they
spin, and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was
not arrayed like one of these.’

MADELEINE [_shrugging her shoulders, low_] Don’t, Julien.

CATHERINE. Good bye, ma’am. Good bye, sir. [_She goes out_].

BRIGNAC [_to Madeleine_] What is it?

MADELEINE. You should have more tact.

LUCIE [_interposing_] Come now, don’t quarrel, you two. [_To
Madeleine_] You’re not to get cross again. Tell us about your meeting.

BRIGNAC. First just to get back my strength!—[_he drinks a glass of
the wine that Josephine has brought_]. My meeting? Well, it was a huge
success. On the battle-field Napoleon used to say: ‘One night of Paris
will make up for all this.’ If he lived now, he’d say: ‘One night of
Paris—after an address from Brignac!’ I tell you, I did magnificently.
And the audience was by no means only my friends. I know that, because
when I said—when I was inspired to say—’God blesses large families—’

MADELEINE. Someone answered: ‘But he doesn’t support them.’

BRIGNAC. Were you there?

MADELEINE. No, but the retort is so well known that nowadays people
don’t allude to blessings from above. There’s too much suffering here
below. It looks like a bad joke.

BRIGNAC. Ah, that spirit of Voltaire! [_He pours out another glass of
wine_].

LUCIE. Don’t you think you’ve had enough, dear?

BRIGNAC [_holding up the glass_] What, of this wine? From a vineyard
that my father planted—!

LUCIE. That makes no difference.

BRIGNAC. Have you ever seen me drunk?

LUCIE. No.

BRIGNAC. Well then! [_He drinks_] Ah! Pure sunshine. It brightens my
heart to drink it! M. de Forgeau was enchanted. Have you told Madeleine
that I’m going to stand?

LUCIE. Everyone knows about it.

BRIGNAC. So much the better. After today, I have reason to think that
there’s every chance of my being elected. At last, we’ll have done
with this narrow life of a provincial lawyer! You’ll see! And who
knows—between ourselves, of course—who knows that some day I shan’t
have men on the bench coming to beg favors of the Minister that they
used to refuse to the simple lawyer! Aha, and why not? Stranger things
have happened. [_Walking about and rubbing his hands_] Ah, there’ll
be some who’ll cut a queer figure then. [_He pulls himself up_] Well,
well. In the meantime the essential thing is the deputation.

LUCIE. Yes.

BRIGNAC. We’re working at it. And what could be finer than to advance
one’s own interests in the very act of defending one’s country? That
is the best defence of it, to help in the production of the human race
itself, for it means true morality within and the respect of other
countries from without.

MADELEINE. You didn’t forget that in your speech, I hope?

BRIGNAC [_simply_] No, no; that was part of my peroration. All
Frenchmen ought to do like old Féchain.

LUCIE. Who’s he?

BRIGNAC. Old Féchain—he was one of the audience. You’ll see him
presently. He came to shake hands with me after the meeting. He has
twelve children—magnificent! Magnificent, I repeat. I told him to come
round here.

MADELEINE. What for?

BRIGNAC. I don’t know, he was so worked up, I wanted to show him a mark
of my sympathy. He’ll tell you how it went off; you don’t believe me,
Madeleine.

MADELEINE. Indeed I do.

BRIGNAC. I saw you smiling. Yes, he’ll tell you. [_Josephine brings a
card in_] Dr. Hourtin? I know that name.

LUCIE. Oh yes, I forgot. It’s Dr. Hourtin, the professor at Paris.

MADELEINE. I’ll see him, and explain.

LUCIE. Yes, do. [_Madeleine goes out_] It’s the doctor we wanted to
consult about the children, you know. He happens to be at Chartres, and
Madeleine met him at some friends’.

  _Madeleine returns with Dr. Hourtin. He is a man of
  thirtyfive, with short hair and a pointed beard._

HOURTIN [_to Madeleine, as they come in_] No apology is needed.

MADELEINE [_introducing him_] My sister, Madame Brignac; Monsieur
Brignac. Professor Hourtin. [_Greetings_].

HOURTIN. I hear that your babies are in the country. If you like, I
could come in to see them tomorrow on my way back. But only after
dinner, I fear—my train gets in late.

LUCIE. Of course! We shall be extremely grateful.

MADELEINE [_to Lucie_] I shall arrange to come as soon as possible to
hear what the doctor says.

BRIGNAC. Sit down, won’t you? I’m really delighted. [_Ringing_] Let me
offer you a biscuit and a glass of Alicante.

HOURTIN. No, thank you.

BRIGNAC [_speaking first in an undertone to Josephine, who answers the
bell_] Just for the sake of company! And so, here you are at Chartres—a
stroke of luck for the town and for us.

HOURTIN. I was going to see my brother at Châteaudun and thought that I
would visit the town on the way.

BRIGNAC. And see our famous cave—these prehistoric remains?

HOURTIN. Anthropology interests me.

BRIGNAC. A thoroughly genuine discovery, too.

HOURTIN. Oh yes, there is no doubt.

LUCIE. I saw a photograph of some of the remains. It was horrible.

HOURTIN. Don’t say that!

LUCIE. I dreamed of it all night. Were they really human beings?

HOURTIN. The remains are undoubtedly those of a household of the stone
age. The man’s skeleton is intact, the woman’s skull is fractured.

LUCIE. Poor woman! By a falling rock?

HOURTIN. Oh, no. The human fist of that date was well able to give such
a blow.

BRIGNAC. In fact, a little domestic difference?

HOURTIN [_laughing_] I can’t diagnose at such an interval. But it is
easy to imagine the man trying to drag the woman into his den. She
refuses. He raises his fist—a blow to stun her, only he hits rather too
hard.

LUCIE. How terrible!

HOURTIN. Those were the manners of our ancestor, the cave man.

BRIGNAC. The world has changed.

MADELEINE. Yes. Since the cave man hypocrisy has been invented.

HOURTIN. And we can imagine further. A rival springs on the ravisher,
strangles him, and leaves the two corpses in the midst of the flint
weapons and the kitchen utensils of polished stone.

LUCIE. It’s enough to give one a nightmare.

HOURTIN [_rising, to Lucie_] Forgive me. [_To Brignac_] I should have
begun instead of ended by congratulating you on the success of your
meeting.

  _Josephine enters with a bottle and glasses on a tray._

BRIGNAC. You must not go without drinking to it, then. Aha, I’m not
from Chartres! Montpellier is my native town; close by Montpellier, at
least. Palavas—Palavas-les-Flots. In my part of the country an honest
man isn’t afraid of a glass of wine. Alicante, you know!

HOURTIN. No, thank you, really.

BRIGNAC [_filling his glass_] I see. You’re afraid that my Alicante
comes from the grocer’s? No, no. My dear sir, I am the son of a wine
grower and I can answer for my cellar, I assure you.

HOURTIN. I only drink water.

BRIGNAC. Ah! You belong to that school of doctors to whom wine is
anathema. Let me tell you you’re ruining at one stroke the stomach of
the north and the purse of the south. Pessimists, that’s what you are.
It’s nothing short of treason to slander the good wine of France.
Here’s to your health, and to mine, and to France! [_He drinks_].

HOURTIN [_laughing_] Allow me to point out that it’s Spanish wine you
are drinking.

BRIGNAC [_laughing too_] Yes; but I only drink this in a small glass.
Look here, I’ll prove to you that you’re wrong. My father—you see, I
don’t need to go far—died at seventy five, as strong as an oak. He kept
his vines and his vines kept him. I can promise you he didn’t only
drink water. I don’t say that now and then—market day and so on—he
didn’t get a bit lively, a bit too lively, perhaps. Well, did he suffer
for it? On the contrary, it gave him strength to support life and made
him charitable to other people’s little failings. A good glass of wine
never hurt anybody—there’s my witness you see—and my dear father didn’t
drink by the thimbleful, I can tell you. But nowadays you think you see
drunkards everywhere.

HOURTIN. With good reason.

BRIGNAC. Well, take me. Do I look healthy? Fit?

HOURTIN. I don’t judge people by their looks.

BRIGNAC. Well, then, I am fit. Ask my wife if I’ve ever been ill.
That’s the result of following my father’s example. Never once ill at
thirtyfive. Only, only—mark my words—I drink nothing but good wine. You
must admit I’m right, for I’ve never been—I won’t say drunk, but even
ordinarily elevated. No, never. Isn’t that so, Lucie? I’ll hold my own
with anyone. I’ve often won bets about it.

LUCIE. But you know you sometimes have fits of passion.

BRIGNAC. That has nothing to do with it. That’s my temperament. I’m
built nervously.

HOURTIN. Never having been drunk proves nothing.

BRIGNAC. Oh, come!

HOURTIN. No. There are a large number of men who drink, perhaps, a
glass of vermouth before lunch, a bottle of wine at lunch, and two or
three glasses of liqueur after. The same at dinner, after an absinthe
and a glass or two of beer in the afternoon. They would be much
astonished to learn that they are thoroughly alcoholized.

BRIGNAC. Well, I do all that, and I’m as well as can be. What is more,
as a baby I was very delicate. I couldn’t walk till I was eighteen
months old or talk before two years. And I’m from the south. Ha, ha!
You’ll say I’m making up for lost time?

HOURTIN [_laughing_] I shan’t try to convince you. Time will do that.

BRIGNAC [_glass in hand_] In one way I’m of your mind. I firmly believe
that drink is a social evil, and I fight against it. For poor people,
who are underfed and drink adulterated stuff. That’s different. There
you’re right. But alcohol is only bad on an empty stomach.

HOURTIN. Poor empty stomachs. But why don’t you preach sobriety to
them, instead of inciting them to have children?

BRIGNAC. Don’t you approve of that?

HOURTIN. My own opinion is that the poor and the sick have too many
children and the rich not enough.

BRIGNAC. But—[_To Josephine, who enters_] What is it?

HOURTIN. Then I’ll be going. [_To Lucie_] Till tomorrow.

BRIGNAC [_to Josephine_] Shew him in. [_To Hourtin_] Wait a moment—five
minutes—two minutes only. I’ll shew you a workman who has twelve
children. Let’s see what you say to that. [_To Féchain_] Come in, my
friend, come in.

  _Enter Féchain, a man of fifty, dressed in a workman’s Sunday
  clothes. Where he stands on coming in he is unable to see Hourtin._

FÉCHAIN. Good day, ladies and gentlemen.

LUCIE [_to Madeleine_] What a gay old thing!

MADELEINE. Ha, ha!

BRIGNAC. I am glad to see you here in my house and in the midst of my
family, and I congratulate you as a living example of the fulfilment of
duty. Give me your hand.

FÉCHAIN. Here you are, sir. [_They shake hands_].

BRIGNAC. What’s your name?

FÉCHAIN. Féchain.

BRIGNAC. Do you live at Chartres?

FÉCHAIN. Yes, sir, close by, in the valley.

BRIGNAC. What are you by trade?

FÉCHAIN. I do a job here and a job there.

BRIGNAC. And you have twelve children?

FÉCHAIN. The thirteenth coming, too.

BRIGNAC. What! My best congratulations.

MADELEINE. Your wife might have some of the congratulations as well.

FÉCHAIN. Thank you, ma’am. I’ll tell her what you say.

MADELEINE. Is she in good health?

FÉCHAIN. Perfect.

BRIGNAC. That’s fine. You’re a grand fellow, a real example of public
virtue.

FÉCHAIN. It’s just the way I’m made, so I can’t help it. [_Laughing
with stupid vanity_] Aha, if only everyone were like you or me! The way
you talked, you know! Why, number thirteen had to be on the way after
that. How many have you?

BRIGNAC. Two.

FÉCHAIN [_making a face_] What! what! Oh, you must make up for lost
time.

MADELEINE [_to Lucie, low_] Nasty old beast!

BRIGNAC [_a little awkwardly_] There, splendid. You’re the right sort.
Come and see me again some day. If you want a recommendation— [_He
takes him to the door_].

FÉCHAIN. Thank you kindly.

BRIGNAC. Goodbye.

FÉCHAIN. If I might make bold, sir, could you lend me twentyeight
francs? I’m a bit behind with my rent.

BRIGNAC. I’ll lay your request before the town authority and second it
warmly, I promise you.

MADELEINE. But perhaps he’s in need of it at once. [_To Féchain_] Give
me your address and I’ll bring you the money. I shall be glad to pay my
respects to that fine wife of yours.

FÉCHAIN. Oh, ma’am; but you’d be likely to miss her. She’s often out of
the house.

MADELEINE. That doesn’t matter. I shall see the children anyway. Where
do you live?

FÉCHAIN. You’re very kind, but I shouldn’t like a lady like you to come
to our sort of place. My landlord’ll wait so long as he knows that M.
Brignac is going to help me. Thank you all the same.

HOURTIN [_to Brignac_] Let me say a word to this fellow. I feel sure
I’ve seen him somewhere. [_Brignac nods. To Féchain_] Pardon me—

FÉCHAIN [_starting_] Oh! Good day, doctor.

HOURTIN. Ah, I thought so. I was sure I knew you. You were working at
the hospital once?

FÉCHAIN. Yes, sir.

HOURTIN. Quite so. No; you do _not_ live at Chartres.

FÉCHAIN [_after a silence_] No, sir. I live at Paris. Only when I see
there’s to be a meeting like this not far away, I go to it. I’m a poor
man, and then—

HOURTIN. Then you get a loan from the chairman?

FÉCHAIN. If I can. Sometimes I’m asked to a dinner.

HOURTIN. Is it true you have twelve children?

FÉCHAIN [_smiling_] That? Oh, yes; I’ve got the proofs. [_He takes some
papers from his pocket_] Here are their birth certificates, all twelve.
I always have them about me—never go without them—so as I can shew
them. You can count them.

HOURTIN [_taking the papers_] Do all your children live with you?

FÉCHAIN. Oh, no. Why there aren’t more than seven left.

HOURTIN. The others are dead?

FÉCHAIN. Poor folks can’t hope to keep all they have.

HOURTIN. When you had had five, you must have seen that you couldn’t
support them?

FÉCHAIN. Of course.

HOURTIN. And you had more all the same?

FÉCHAIN. We couldn’t have been worse off than we were. One more or less
makes no odds; and then, after seven, things are easier.

HOURTIN. How’s that?

FÉCHAIN. This way. If you have three or four children, no one bothers
about you, you’re like everyone else; but with seven or eight, then
they have to help you. Relief charities, or the authorities, or just
people, that’s all one. They daren’t say no. If you have ten, then it’s
first class. Only you mustn’t mind moving. But there, there’s nothing
to be had for nothing, is there?

HOURTIN. How many of your children are living with you?

FÉCHAIN. Two.

HOURTIN. And the other five?

FÉCHAIN. The two girls are big enough to do for themselves. The other
three are in hospital. [_A silence_].

HOURTIN [_looking at the papers_] All your children are not of the same
mother, I see.

FÉCHAIN. No; I’ve been a widower twice. Oh, yes; I’ve had my troubles.
This is my third. It’s her fourth she’s expecting.

MADELEINE [_after a pause, to Lucie_] A man like that ought to be shut
up.

HOURTIN [_giving him back the papers_] Thank you.

FÉCHAIN. Good day, sir. Good day, ladies. [_To Brignac_] You couldn’t
just let me have the money for the railway and my ticket to the
meeting? It’s only just a trifle.

HOURTIN [_giving him some money_] There.

FÉCHAIN. Thank you kindly, sir. [_He goes out_].

HOURTIN [_taking leave_] You see! Children who cannot be kept ought
not to be born. And I would add that those who are born ought to be
properly kept.

BRIGNAC. A pretext that would justify the shirking of all duty. It’s
impossible to see ahead like that.

HOURTIN. You don’t ask more people to dinner than you have room for,
nor before dinner is ready. It will be time to think of increasing our
population when our housing and means of livelihood are up to the mark
of our existing needs.

BRIGNAC. But each new generation is itself a means of production.

HOURTIN. Certainly. I only ask that the poor should have few children
and the degenerate none. No child ought to be brought into the world
handicapped by illness or want.

BRIGNAC. And as the result of your precautions our country would fall
in point of population to a fifth or a tenth rate power.

HOURTIN [_at the door_] History teaches us that not even military
supremacy belongs to the largest nations. M. de Marigny’s reflection,
not mine. [_Bowing to the ladies_] Till tomorrow. [_Shaking Brignac’s
hand_] And when you have a moment, just consider how society behaves
to the mothers of whom it demands children. You’ll find that an
entertaining subject—unless it makes you cry. Goodbye.

LUCIE [_shewing him out_] Then you will really come to see my babies?

HOURTIN. Most certainly. [_Lucie goes out with him_].

MADELEINE. Well, my dear brother-in-law, what do you say to that?

BRIGNAC [_shrugging his shoulders_] Oh, if I had wanted to answer him—

MADELEINE. Why didn’t you?

BRIGNAC. Surely you can see that I was not going to annoy a man whom
we want to consult professionally. [_A pause. He looks at his watch.
Lucie returns_] Well, five o’clock. I’m off to the club for my game of
dominoes. Ta, ta. You dine here, Madeleine, of course?

MADELEINE. No; I can’t. We’ve some official people to go to in the
evening. But I’ll look in for news of the chicks.

BRIGNAC. Very well. I’ll upset all Dr. Hourtin’s theories for you in
five seconds. You wait and see.

MADELEINE. All right.

BRIGNAC. Good bye. [_He goes out_].

MADELEINE. Annette not back yet?

LUCIE. She won’t be long now.

MADELEINE. Lucie, don’t you think perhaps she goes rather too often to
the Bernins?

LUCIE. Gabrielle’s her best friend.

MADELEINE. Hm, yes.

LUCIE. They’re both so keen on music. Besides, the poor little dear
doesn’t get too much fun. It’s dull for her here. I can see she feels
it, particularly lately. She only brightens up when she goes to see
Gabrielle.

MADELEINE. Yes; but that girl has a brother.

LUCIE. Jacques.

MADELEINE. Just so; Jacques.

LUCIE. Have you heard people talking about Annette in connection with
him?

MADELEINE. No. Well, then, yes; I have. Listen, dear. We’re rather
peculiarly placed, aren’t we? Three orphan girls. I’m married; twice,
though I’m only twenty-eight, and you’re married, for the first time.

LUCIE. And for the last, I should hope.

MADELEINE [_laughing_] Tut, tut!

LUCIE [_laughing too_] Monster!

MADELEINE. Then you took our youngest sister to live with you. A
perfect arrangement, so long as you look after her as you would after
your own girl, or as mother would have done.

LUCIE. She’s eighteen.

MADELEINE. That’s just it.

LUCIE. I don’t see what danger there is for Annette.

MADELEINE. Nor do I. But we’re not alone in the world. As it is, people
look astonished—of course it’s a silly little provincial place—at her
going out alone.

LUCIE. Oh, to see Gabrielle, five minutes off!

MADELEINE. I know, I know. Tell me, do you think that the Bernin boy
would be a possible match for Annette?

LUCIE. I never thought about it. Well, why not?

MADELEINE. Hm, hm!

LUCIE. He’s about the right age. He seems to be a good fellow.

MADELEINE. Oh, yes.

LUCIE. His family is well enough.

MADELEINE. And—the money?

LUCIE. Yes; that’s true. The Bernins are rich and Annette has nothing.
Yes; you’re right. She was going to spend a week with them in the
country. I’ll find an excuse for her not going. Perhaps I had better
say something to her about it.

MADELEINE. There’s no hurry; but we must see that no harm happens to
our little pet.

LUCIE. Good heavens! I should never forgive myself.

  _Annette, fair, eighteen years old, runs in, overflowing with joy._

ANNETTE. What luck! Madeleine, too! Here, Josephine! [_She throws her
hat to Josephine, who drops it on the floor_] Oh, stupid! [_Recovering
herself_] All right, there. Don’t be cross, Fifine. [_She kisses
Josephine and shoves her out_].

LUCIE. What’s the matter?

MADELEINE. Why so radiant?

ANNETTE. Yes, I am! I am! Oh, I’m so happy!

LUCIE. Is that why you kissed Josephine?

ANNETTE. Josephine! Why, I could have kissed the passers by in the
street!

MADELEINE [_laughing_] Our little girl’s gone cracked.

ANNETTE. No, no; only—oh, I’m so happy. [_She bursts into a fit of
sobbing_].

LUCIE. Annette, what’s the matter?

MADELEINE. Annette!

ANNETTE [_through her tears_] Oh, I am happy, happy!

LUCIE. She’ll make herself ill. Madeleine, call someone.

ANNETTE. No, no; don’t worry. Don’t say anything. It’s only my nerves.
[_Laughing and crying at the same time_] Oh, I am happy, only—how
silly to cry like that! But I can’t help it. [_She puts her arm round
Lucie’s neck, who is kneeling beside her, and draws Madeleine’s head
towards her_] Lucie, darling! Madeleine, dearest! [_She kisses them,
then sobs again_] How silly! It’s no good; I must. There [_she dries
her eyes_], there. Now I can tell you. [_With a pure look of deeply
felt happiness_] I’m going to be married. M. and Mme. Bernin are coming.

LUCIE. Why?

ANNETTE. Because they’re going to the country to-morrow.

MADELEINE. They’re going away?

ANNETTE. Yes; Jacques has told them.

LUCIE. Jacques?

ANNETTE [_in a sudden rush_] Yes. It all happened like that, with our
music—Gabrielle and me. That was how, and he guessed everything. He
sings tenor—oh, not very well. Once [_with a laugh_]—but I’ll tell
you later. That was how it came about; and we’re to be married soon.
[_Crying again, then gravely pressing Lucie to her_] I love him so!
Oh, if you only knew! If he hadn’t married me, it would have been so
dreadful. You don’t understand?

MADELEINE [_smiling_] Perhaps we can guess.

ANNETTE. Shall I tell you everything, everything from the beginning?

LUCIE. Yes.

ANNETTE. I should love to tell you. You won’t mind?

MADELEINE. Go on.

ANNETTE. It was like that, when Gabrielle and I were playing duets. At
first I hated him because he always laughs at everything, but at bottom
he’s good. Do you know what he once—

LUCIE. Never mind that. Go on about the music.

ANNETTE. Well, as I was saying, Gabrielle and I used to play duets.
He used to come and listen to us. He stood behind and turned over the
pages. Then once he put his hand on my shoulder—

MADELEINE. And you didn’t say anything?

ANNETTE. He had his other hand on Gabrielle’s. I should have looked so
idiotic.

LUCIE. Gabrielle’s not the same thing.

ANNETTE. Just what I was going to say. My heart beat so hard and I
felt my face all scarlet, that I hardly knew what I was playing. Then
another time, when he couldn’t follow, he bent right over. Oh, but
I can’t tell you everything, little by little. We love one another,
that’s all.

MADELEINE. And he has told you that he loves you?

ANNETTE [_gravely_] Yes.

LUCIE. And you kept all that from me! That wasn’t right, Annette.

ANNETTE. Oh, forgive me; but it came about so gradually, I could hardly
say when it began. I said to myself that it couldn’t be true, and
when—when we did tell one another what we hadn’t ever said, though we
knew it ourselves, then I knew I’d done wrong, only I was so ashamed
that I couldn’t tell you about it.

LUCIE [_gently_] But it was wrong, my little pet.

ANNETTE. Oh, don’t scold me! Please, please, don’t! If you knew how
I’ve been feeling—oh, how dreadfully badly! You didn’t notice.

LUCIE. Yes, I did.

MADELEINE. Has he spoken to his parents?

ANNETTE. Oh, a long time ago.

LUCIE. They consent?

ANNETTE. They’re coming here this afternoon.

MADELEINE. Why didn’t they come sooner?

ANNETTE. Because—Jacques told them you see; but they didn’t want it
talked about. They wanted Gabrielle to get married first. So we agreed
that I should seem not to think they knew anything about it. Then today
I met Jacques in the street—

LUCIE. In the street!

ANNETTE. Yes. He’s given up coming to the music, so I meet him—

LUCIE. In the street!

ANNETTE. As a rule, we only bow to each other; but to-day, as he passed
me he said: ‘My parents are going to your sister’s today.’ He was quite
pale. Don’t scold me, please! I’m so happy. Do forgive me!

MADELEINE [_to Lucie, who looks silently at Annette_] Come, forgive her.

LUCIE [_kissing her_] Oh, yes, I forgive her. So you want to leave us,
bad girl?

ANNETTE. Yes. I am bad and ungrateful, I know.

LUCIE. Hush, hush! Nonsense!

MADELEINE. Marriage is a serious thing, Annette. Are you sure that your
characters agree together?

ANNETTE. Oh, yes, yes. Why, we’ve quarrelled already!

LUCIE. What about?

ANNETTE. About a book he lent me.

MADELEINE. What book?

ANNETTE. Anna Karenina. He liked Vronsky better than Levine. He said
such silly things. And he couldn’t understand Anna Karenina killing
herself—you know—when she throws herself underneath the train that he’s
in. You remember, don’t you?

LUCIE. And then?

ANNETTE. Then—there’s the bell. Perhaps it’s them.

  _A pause. Josephine enters with a card._

LUCIE. Yes.

ANNETTE. Oh, heavens!

LUCIE. Madeleine, take Annette. Go through her room.

MADELEINE. All right.

LUCIE [_to Josephine_] Shew Madame Bernin in.

ANNETTE [_to Lucie_] Don’t be long.

  _Annette goes out with Madeleine. Lucie arranges herself before a
  glass. Josephine shews in Madame Bernin._

LUCIE. How do you do?

MME. BERNIN. How are you?

LUCIE. Very well, thank you. And you?

MME. BERNIN. I need not ask news of M. Brignac. I know he is busy
fighting the good fight.

LUCIE. And M. Bernin?

MME. BERNIN. He’s very well, thanks. I hope your children—

LUCIE. About the same. But won’t you sit down?

MME. BERNIN. Thank you. What lovely weather!

LUCIE. Yes; isn’t it?

MME. BERNIN. I hear there was a large audience at M. Brignac’s meeting.

LUCIE. Yes, indeed.

MME. BERNIN. In spite of the heat.

LUCIE. You are happy to be able to go to the country. Annette was so
delighted to get your kind invitation.

MME. BERNIN. That was precisely my object in calling here today—apart
from the pleasure of seeing you—to talk about that plan of ours.

LUCIE. And about another one, I think?

MME. BERNIN. Another?

LUCIE. No?

MME. BERNIN. No; I don’t know what you are referring to.

LUCIE. Oh, I beg your pardon, then. Please go on. About Annette?

MME. BERNIN. My daughter has had an invitation to join our cousins,
the Guibals, for some time, and we absolutely cannot refuse to send
Gabrielle to them. So I came to ask you to excuse us, as Gabrielle will
not be there.

LUCIE. Will you forgive me for being indiscreet?

MME. BERNIN. I am sure you couldn’t be.

LUCIE. I wanted to ask you, is it long since Gabrielle received this
invitation?

MME. BERNIN. About a week.

LUCIE. Indeed!

MME. BERNIN. Why should that surprise you?

LUCIE. She said nothing about it to Annette.

MME. BERNIN. She was probably afraid of disappointing her.

LUCIE. Only yesterday Annette was telling me of all the excursions that
your daughter had planned to make with her. Please, please, tell me the
truth. This invitation is merely an excuse; I feel convinced it is.
Please tell me. Annette is only my sister, but I love her as though she
were my child. Think it’s her mother who is speaking to you. I won’t
try to be clever. I’m not going to stand on my dignity. This is what
has happened. Annette believes that your son loves her, and when your
card was brought in she imagined that you had come to ask her for him.
Now you know everything that I know, and I beg you to talk as candidly
to me, so that we may avoid as much unhappiness as possible.

MME. BERNIN. You have spoken to me so simply and feelingly that I
can’t help answering openly—from the bottom of my heart. Yes, then,
this invitation to Gabrielle is only an excuse. We have invented it to
prevent Jacques and Annette from meeting again.

LUCIE. You don’t want them to meet again?

MME. BERNIN. No; because I don’t want them to marry.

LUCIE. Because Annette is poor?

MME. BERNIN [_hesitates, then_] Well, since we have agreed to be
perfectly candid, that is the reason.

LUCIE. You would not consent to the idea of their marrying?

MME. BERNIN. No.

LUCIE. Is that absolutely final?

MME. BERNIN. Absolutely final.

LUCIE. Because Annette has no dowry?

MME. BERNIN. Yes.

LUCIE. But your son knew that she was poor. It’s monstrous of him to
have made her love him.

MME. BERNIN. If he had acted as you describe, I admit it would be
monstrous. But he had no intention of engaging her affections. Annette
was a friend of his sister’s. I am sure he had no idea in meeting her
beyond that of simple good comradeship. Very likely he went on to pay
her some attention; indeed he might well have been attracted by her.
Your sweet little Annette, who is the most innocent of creatures, has
fallen more easily and more deeply, perhaps, in love. Innocence like
hers is closely akin to ignorance. But that my son has more to reproach
himself with! You can easily see that he has not, because it was he who
told me about it himself.

LUCIE. How long ago?

MME. BERNIN. Just now. He told me that he was in love with Annette, as
she, no doubt, thinks herself with him; and, in fact, he begged me to
come and ask for her hand.

LUCIE. Only today?

MME. BERNIN. A couple of hours since.

LUCIE. Annette implored him to tell you. He said he had already done so
and that you had given your consent.

MME. BERNIN. Never.

LUCIE. A month ago.

MME. BERNIN. Until today he never said anything to me.

LUCIE. Annette told me so herself!

MME. BERNIN. He never said anything to me.

LUCIE. Do you mean that she lied?

MME. BERNIN. He never said anything to me.

LUCIE. Do you think her truthful?

MME. BERNIN. Yes.

LUCIE. Candid, honest?

MME. BERNIN. Yes.

LUCIE. Well, then?

MME. BERNIN. Well, it is possible that he did not tell her the truth.
After all, he’s a man.

LUCIE. And in love, men have the right to lie?

MME. BERNIN. They think so.

LUCIE. And when you told him to give up Annette, he agreed?

MME. BERNIN. Yes, he did. He is a sensible, practical fellow, and
he could not help seeing the force of what I said. He realizes that
however hard it may be for him to break with Annette, it is necessary.
I need hardly say he feels it keenly, but at these children’s age
feelings change.

LUCIE. I see. A week hence your son won’t think of her. But she?

MME. BERNIN. She will forget him, too.

LUCIE. I don’t know about that. Oh, my poor darling! If you could have
seen her here just now when she came to tell us! She cried with joy!
It’s not for joy that she’ll cry now. Oh, my God! [_She breaks into
tears_].

MME. BERNIN [_moved_] Oh, don’t! Please, please! I understand your
grief; indeed I do. Ah, if it were possible, how happy it would make me
for Annette to marry my boy. I tell you I have had to stop myself from
loving her. What a contrast to the girl he will have to marry—tiresome,
affected creature.

LUCIE. If what you say is true, aren’t you rich enough to let your son
marry a poor girl?

MME. BERNIN. No; we are not so well off as people suppose. And then we
must give Gabrielle a dowry.

LUCIE. You’ll find her a husband who will want her for herself.

MME. BERNIN. Even if we did, which I doubt, I would not desire a man
like that for her, because he would be blind to the realities of the
situation. Gabrielle has not been brought up to poverty, but to a life
of luxurious surroundings.

LUCIE. Give your children an equal amount, then.

MME. BERNIN. All that we can give Gabrielle will not be too much. Life
is hard, and becomes a harder struggle every day. Young men tend to ask
more with their wives, because they know the power of money in the keen
competition of modern existence.

LUCIE. Oh, yes; they know it! Their creed is to have enjoyment as soon
as possible, without making the least sacrifice for it, and a fig for
gentleness or emotion!

MME. BERNIN. You may be right. I want Gabrielle to be rich because
riches will attract more bidders for her hand, so that she will have
more choice.

LUCIE. You have to speak of it even like a business transaction.

MME. BERNIN. Consequently there will be little or nothing for Jacques.

LUCIE. People who have no money work.

MME. BERNIN. He was not brought up to work.

LUCIE. Then he ought to have been.

MME. BERNIN. The professions are already overstocked. Do you propose
that he should become a clerk at two hundred francs a month? He and his
wife wouldn’t be able to keep a servant.

LUCIE. There are clerks who get more than that.

MME. BERNIN. Even if he got five hundred, would that enable him to
keep up his social position? Of course it would not. He would owe his
inferiority to his wife, and would soon begin to reproach her with it.
And have you thought about their children? They would have just enough
to send their son to the primary school and make their daughter a post
office clerk. Even for that they would be terribly pinched.

LUCIE. Yes.

MME. BERNIN. You see I’m right. I can’t say I’m proud to confess so
much, but what are we to do? Life is ordered by things as they are, not
like a novel. We live in a shrewd, vain, selfish world.

LUCIE. You despise it and yet sacrifice everything to it.

MME. BERNIN. I know that everybody’s happiness practically depends on
the consideration he has in it. Only exceptional people can disregard
social conventions, and Jacques is not an exception.

LUCIE. If I were you, I don’t think I should be proud of it. If he were
a little more than commonplace, his love would give him strength to
stand up against the jeers of the crowd.

MME. BERNIN. His love! Love passes, poverty stays; you know the
proverb. Beauty fades; want grows.

LUCIE. But you yourself—you and your husband are the living proof that
one can marry poor and make money! Everyone knows how your husband
began as a small clerk, then started in a small business of his own,
then won success. If that spells happiness, you and he must be happy.

MME. BERNIN. No; we have not been happy, because we have used ourselves
up with hunting for happiness. We meant to ‘get there’; we have ‘got
there,’ but at what a price! Oh, I know the road to fortune. At first
miserable, sordid economy, passionate greed; then the fierce struggle
of trickery and deceit, always flattering your customers, always
living in terror of failure. Tears, lies, envy, contempt. Suffering
for yourself and for everyone round you. I’ve been through it, and a
bitter experience it was. We’re determined that our children shan’t.
Our children! We have had only two, but we meant to have only one. That
extra one meant double toil and hardship. Instead of being a husband
and wife helping one another, we have been two business partners,
watching each other like enemies, perpetually quarrelling, even on
our very pillow, over our expenditure or our mistakes. Finally we
succeeded; and now we can’t enjoy our wealth because we don’t know how
to use it, and because our later years are poisoned by memories of
the hateful past of suffering and rancor. No; I shall never expose my
children to that struggle. I only stood it to preserve them from it.
Good bye.

LUCIE. Good bye.

  _Madame Bernin goes out. After a moment Lucie goes slowly to
  Annette’s door and opens it._

ANNETTE [_coming in_] You’ve been crying! It’s because I’m going away,
isn’t it? There’s nothing to prevent us, is there? [_With rising
emotion_] Lucie, tell me there’s nothing!

LUCIE. You love him so much?

ANNETTE. If we were not to be married, I should die.

LUCIE. No; you wouldn’t. Have all the little girls who said that died?

ANNETTE. But there is nothing to prevent us, is there?

LUCIE. No, no.

ANNETTE. And when is it to be? Did you talk of that?

LUCIE. My dear, my dear, what a state you’re in! You really must be
less nervous.

ANNETTE [_restraining herself_] Yes, sweet, yes; I’m a little crazy.

LUCIE. I think you are.

ANNETTE. Tell me, then, everything. How did she begin?

LUCIE. Are you in such a hurry to leave me? You don’t love me any more?

ANNETTE [_gravely_] Oh, if I hadn’t got you, what would become of
me? [_A silence_]. But you’re not telling me anything. There must be
something. You’re keeping the truth from me. If there wasn’t something,
you’d say there wasn’t—you wouldn’t try to put me off—you’d tell me
just what Madame Bernin said.

LUCIE. Well, then, there is something.

ANNETTE [_breaking into tears_] Oh, heavens!

LUCIE. You’re both very young. You must wait. A year, perhaps longer.

ANNETTE [_crying_] Wait! A year!

LUCIE. Come, come, you must not be so uncontrolled, Annette. You’ll
make me displeased with you. Why, you are barely nineteen. If you wait
to be married till you are twenty, there’ll be no great harm.

ANNETTE. It isn’t possible.

LUCIE. Not possible? [_With a long look at her_] Annette, you frighten
me. If it were not you— [_With tender gravity_] I can’t have been wrong
to trust you?

ANNETTE. No, no. What can you be thinking of? I promise you—

LUCIE. What is it, then?

ANNETTE. Well, I’ve been foolish enough to tell some of my friends that
I was engaged.

LUCIE. Before telling me about it?

ANNETTE [_confused_] Don’t ask me any more questions. Please, please
don’t!

LUCIE. Indeed, I must scold you. You deserve it. You have hurt me very
much by not letting me know what was going on. I could never have
believed that you would keep me so in the dark, whoever had said it of
you. I thought you were too fond of me. I was wrong. We see each other
every day, all the time, and you could still hide from me what was in
your heart. It was very, very wrong of you. Not only because I am your
elder sister, but because I am in mother’s place towards you. And then,
if only that, because I am your friend. A little more, and I should
have heard of your engagement from strangers. Well, my dear, you’ve
made a bad choice, and now you’ll need all your courage. These people
aren’t worth your tears. I’m going to tell you everything. They don’t
want you, my poor dear; you’re too poor for them.

ANNETTE [_staring_] They don’t want me! They don’t want me! But
he—Jacques—he knows they don’t?

LUCIE. Yes; he knows.

ANNETTE. He’ll do what they say, if they tell him to give me up?

LUCIE. Yes.

ANNETTE [_madly_] I must see him. I’ll write to him. I must see him! If
they don’t want me, I’ve nothing but to kill myself!

LUCIE [_forcing Annette to look at her_] Look at me, Annette.
[_Silence. Then in the same grave, tender voice_] Have you not a secret
to trust me with?

ANNETTE [_disengaging herself_] Don’t ask me anything [_very low_] or I
shall die of shame at your feet.

  _Lucie forces her to sit down at her side and takes her in her arms._

LUCIE. Come, come here, in my arms. So. Put your head on my shoulder,
as you used when you were tiny. Tell me, what is it? [_Quite low_] My
sweet, my little darling, are you terribly, terribly unhappy? Speak
out, from your heart, as you would to our poor mother.

ANNETTE [_very low, in tears of shame_] Oh, mother, if you knew what
your little girl had done!

LUCIE [_almost nursing her_] Tell me; whisper, quite low, in my ear.
[_She rises and breaks loose, then hides her face in her hands_]. Oh,
you, Annette, you!

ANNETTE [_on her knees, her arms stretched out_] Forgive me! Forgive
me! My dear one, forgive me! Oh, I deserve it all, everything you can
say; but, oh, I am so unhappy!

LUCIE. You, Annette, you!

ANNETTE. Forgive me! Do you want me to be sorry I didn’t kill myself
without telling you? Forgive me!

LUCIE [_raising her_] My dear, my dear! You’ve suffered too much not to
be forgiven.



ACT II


  _The same scene. Evening. Electric light._

LUCIE. Now you know. I sent for you as soon as possible.

MADELEINE [_who is in evening dress_] There is only one thing to do.
Tell your husband everything and make him go to the Bernins.

LUCIE. My God!

MADELEINE. The doctor is a long time with him. I absolutely must go to
this party.

LUCIE. Yes, go. But you’ll come back?

MADELEINE. As soon as I can. Don’t despair. Poor little Annette!

LUCIE. Do you think—?

MADELEINE. Good bye for the moment. Don’t move.

  _Madeleine goes out, and the servant is seen giving her her cloak.
  Lucie, alone, walks restlessly to and fro. As she comes to the door
  of Brignac’s study, she stops to listen._

LUCIE [_aloud, to herself_] How loud the doctor’s speaking. One would
think they had quarrelled.

  _Fresh pause. The study door opens. Enter Hourtin and Brignac._

BRIGNAC. I can assure you, Dr. Hourtin, that I have reached years of
discretion.

HOURTIN. It was my duty, sir, to speak to you as I have done.

BRIGNAC [_shewing him to the door, drily_] I am obliged to you.

HOURTIN. I have something else to say to Madame Brignac.

BRIGNAC. About me?

HOURTIN. About herself and the children; but if you object—

BRIGNAC. I hardly imagine it is indispensable.

LUCIE. What is it? Dr. Hourtin, I beg you will tell me what you think I
ought to know.

BRIGNAC. I haven’t time to waste over this subject. I repeat I am
exceedingly busy, and I have to make a speech this evening. You must
excuse my leaving you. Good bye.

  _Hourtin bows. Brignac goes out, slamming the door of his study._

LUCIE. I trust you will forgive my husband if he has annoyed you.

HOURTIN. A doctor cannot be annoyed at the symptoms of a disease. I
would no more be indignant at M. Brignac’s temper than bear malice
against him for having fever in an attack of pneumonia.

LUCIE. You wanted to speak to him. Is there something about the
children?

HOURTIN. If you see that the children are treated as your own doctor
and I have prescribed in our consultation, I am confident that their
condition will improve. But I have something more to say to you
yourself. Not long ago I was called in to a married couple, one of
whom was a victim to morphia and refused to give up the use of the
poison. The children of the marriage were degenerate, and there was
every reason to think that should others be born they would be even
less healthy than the first. I had to inform the other parent concerned
of the facts, in order, if possible, to discover some means of cure.
Towards you I have the same duty. With the difference that here the
poison is alcohol instead of morphia, the cases are identical. Like my
other patient, M. Brignac refused to listen to me; and although his
obstinacy is due to his poisoned condition, I confess I was unable, in
spite of a physician’s philosophy, to see without irritation the way in
which he is rushing to ruin, intellectual and physical. Now your nerves
are strong. I was unwilling to go away without speaking to you.

LUCIE. My children?

HOURTIN. Your children are suffering from a nervous complaint which was
born with them.

LUCIE. As the result, you mean, of their father’s intemperance? Our own
doctor and another besides have already told me the same thing.

HOURTIN. They should have begun by telling M. Brignac.

LUCIE. They did.

HOURTIN. Well?

LUCIE. He listened no more to them than he did to you.

HOURTIN. Is he not fond of the children?

LUCIE. In his own way he is. But he will never change his way of living.

HOURTIN. So much the worse for him.

LUCIE. He did try once. He was incapable of work and became sad, weak,
restless.

HOURTIN. Like a morphinomaniac deprived of his drug.

LUCIE. To his mind the experiment was decisive. He simply cannot study
a brief or speak in court without the help of his usual stimulant. He
thinks it does him no harm.

HOURTIN. He has only to look at the children.

LUCIE. What he says is that at their age he had nervous convulsions,
and that now he is perfectly well.

HOURTIN. Precisely. He received from his father a legacy that he has
transmitted to them in a graver degree. His father drank, but his life
was the healthy, active, open air life of a peasant, and his power
of resistance greater because he probably did not inherit a morbid
tendency. Your husband’s life is sedentary and feverish. Moreover,
he does inherit the tendency. You tell me that he had convulsions
in infancy; yesterday he said he was a backward child. These are
symptoms just as much as his desire for drink and his irritability. He
had a taint at birth that he has increased. His children suffer from
a cumulative degeneracy. The grandfather drank, the son suffers from
alcoholism, the children are nervous invalids.

LUCIE. Horrible.

HOURTIN. You must use all your influence with your husband to cure him.

LUCIE. He won’t listen to me.

HOURTIN. You must insist. You must make him see his duty as a father.

LUCIE. It would be so useless that I shall not even try.

HOURTIN [_rising_] Then I have only one further piece of advice for you
both: don’t have any more children.

LUCIE. No more children?

HOURTIN. No.

LUCIE. Why not?

HOURTIN. Because it is to be feared that any you might now have would
be more diseased than the first.

LUCIE. Is that certain?

HOURTIN. In medicine there are no certainties; only probabilities. The
chances are, perhaps, five to one that I am right. Would you venture to
give any creature so doubtful an existence?

LUCIE. I! No, indeed. Most likely you have said as much to my husband.
Won’t he believe you?

HOURTIN. You must make him realize that the responsibility of having a
child, great as it always is, becomes terrible when, so far from its
being born into normal circumstances, it runs the risk of going into
the world worse equipped than usual. To give birth to a child doomed
to unhappiness or likely to be an invalid or incapable of growing up
is like crippling someone. It is as much a crime as robbery or murder.
Children ought to be deliberately and soberly brought into the world
by parents healthy enough to give them health and of sufficient means
to ensure their complete development. You must forgive me. When I get
on this subject I hardly know how to stop. But really there is so much
unavoidable misery and distress that we ought not to add to the sum of
general suffering for which there is no remedy.

  _Enter Madeleine. She wears an opera cloak and a mantilla over her
  evening dress. During the following scene Josephine helps her off
  with her things._

MADELEINE. How do you do, Dr. Hourtin? I’m so glad to find you still
here. I’ve only just been able to get away from the party. I had to go.
There’s nothing serious the matter with the children, I hope?

HOURTIN. Nothing serious. With the care of a mother like theirs, I have
every confidence. Now I was just going. Good bye.

MADELEINE. Good bye. Thank you.

LUCIE. I’m extremely grateful to you, Dr. Hourtin.

HOURTIN. Don’t mention it. Good bye, good bye. [_He goes out_].

LUCIE. Oh, Madeleine!

MADELEINE. What is it?

LUCIE. Do you know why the children are ill? Because of Julien’s
intemperance.

MADELEINE. My poor darling! But you knew that before. Our doctor said
so; and when they went to Paris with me, the man there said the same.

LUCIE. I tried to make myself believe it wasn’t true.

MADELEINE. And Annette?

LUCIE. Has anything fresh happened?

MADELEINE. Yes; the Bernins have announced Jacques’ engagement to his
cousin. They want to put an end to the business. People were talking of
the engagement this evening.

LUCIE. Ah! And they’re still going away this evening.

MADELEINE. At ten o’clock. How does she take it?

LUCIE. She is in her room, waiting as though she expected something.
She said just now she knew the Bernins would not go this evening. What
can she hope?

MADELEINE. We must tell her about the engagement. She mustn’t be left
to hear of it from strangers.

LUCIE. No, no.

MADELEINE. And your husband?

LUCIE. He’s working in there. There’s to be a political meeting, a
smoking concert or something, after the dinner at the Prefecture
to-night. He heard at the last moment that he was expected to speak, on
the budget of the Department, I think. I don’t know exactly. Anyway,
he’s there.

MADELEINE. Fetch Annette, then.

LUCIE. Yes. [_She goes out. A short silence. Then she calls outside_]
Madeleine! Madeleine!

MADELEINE [_running to the door_] What is it?

LUCIE [_returning_] She isn’t there.

MADELEINE. Where is she?

LUCIE. Gone! She’s left a note. She’s gone to look for him. Quick! Your
carriage is here. Go and find her. Help her!

MADELEINE. Gone!

LUCIE. Yes. Quick! Go!

  _Madeleine goes out. Enter Brignac._

BRIGNAC. What is all this noise about?

LUCIE. Julien, I’ve something very serious to say to you. A disaster
has fallen on us.

BRIGNAC. The children!

LUCIE. No; it’s about Annette.

BRIGNAC. Is she ill?

LUCIE. Not ill, but in cruel, horrible grief.

BRIGNAC. Grief at her age! A love affair, eh? She’s been jilted?

LUCIE. That’s it.

BRIGNAC. Whew! I breathe again. You frightened me. Not so very serious.

LUCIE. Yes; it is. My dear, you must listen with all your heart and
with all your mind—and be kind.

BRIGNAC. But what’s the matter?

LUCIE. Annette has fallen in love with a scoundrel who has deceived
her. The poor child committed the mistake of trusting him completely.
He promised to marry her and took advantage of her innocence to seduce
her. [_Low_] Understand me, Julien: she is going to have a baby in six
months.

BRIGNAC. Annette?

LUCIE. Annette.

BRIGNAC. Impossible. It’s—

LUCIE. It was she who confessed to me. She is sure of it.

BRIGNAC [_after a silence_] Who’s the man?

LUCIE. Jacques Bernin.

BRIGNAC. Jacques Bernin!

LUCIE. Yes.

BRIGNAC [_furious_] Here’s a fine piece of business! Ha, at the moment
of my election, too! Magnificent! Oh, she’s done me to rights, your
sister has! All’s up with me now. We may as well pack our trunks and be
off.

LUCIE. You exaggerate.

BRIGNAC. Do I? I tell you if she had been caught stealing—stealing, do
you hear?—it wouldn’t have been worse. Even that would have compromised
me less—thrown me less absolutely out of the running.

LUCIE. Leave that till later. Now the thing is to save her. You’ll go
tomorrow morning, won’t you, Julien, and find this fellow? Make him see
what an abominable crime it would be for him to desert our poor little
girl.

BRIGNAC. Much you know him, M. Jacques Bernin. But I do! He’ll laugh in
my face. His one idea is to get on in the world. Why, he was talking of
his engagement to Mademoiselle Dormance two months ago and chortling
over her shekels. Good lord, what a man for your sister to hit upon!

LUCIE. But you won’t abandon her?

BRIGNAC. Yes; I’m in a nice place. Who’d have thought it? So this is
the thanks I get for all I’ve done for her!

LUCIE. Don’t fly into a rage!

BRIGNAC. Her! her! A child brought up in the strictest principles,
brought up at home here by you and me, not allowed to read novels or go
to the theatre! She hasn’t even the excuse of having been to a boarding
school. Why, sometimes we could hardly help laughing at her ignorance
of life.

LUCIE. Perhaps if she had been less ignorant, she would have run less
risk.

BRIGNAC [_breaking out_] That’s right! Now it’s all my fault!

LUCIE. Don’t get into a passion!

BRIGNAC. I shall if I like! And I think there’s some reason, too!
Annette!

LUCIE. Annette is only a victim.

BRIGNAC [_shouting_] A victim! I tell you there’s only one victim here!
Only one! And do you know who?

LUCIE. You, I suppose.

BRIGNAC. Yes; it is. Look here. Can’t you see the jokes that will
be made about me, the ironical congratulations—me, the apostle of
repopulation? Ha, they’ll say that if I don’t give an example myself,
my family does!

LUCIE. Julien, Julien, please!

BRIGNAC. Just when I thought I had done with vegetating as a provincial
lawyer, when my patience and ability had got me accepted as candidate!

LUCIE. You might not have been elected.

BRIGNAC. I should have been! Even if it were not me, our side would
win. Once in the Chamber, I should have done with this wretched obscure
existence.

LUCIE. And then?

BRIGNAC. Then? A deputy gets any amount of work, and wins his cases,
too! Judges listen very differently to a man who any day may become
Minister of Justice. It means something to them. And now this
catastrophe! I tell you that here, at Chartres, it spells ruin.

LUCIE. How you exaggerate! Who’s to know?

BRIGNAC. Who’s to know? Next Sunday every person in the town’ll
be talking of it. And my political opponents, do you think they’ll
scruple? Not only them either. M. de Forgeau and his committee won’t
give the electors the chance to turn me down. Within a week I shall be
shewn the door. You see! It’ll be lucky if no one insinuates that I
seduced the girl myself!

LUCIE. Oh!

BRIGNAC. This is a provincial town! This is Chartres!

LUCIE. So when an unhappy woman is seduced by a scoundrel, her shame,
if shame there is, falls on her whole family! Is that the system you
uphold?

BRIGNAC. Society must defend itself against immorality. Without the
guarantee of social punishment, there would soon be hardly any except
illegitimate children.

LUCIE. If anyone is guilty, two are. Why do you only punish the mother?

BRIGNAC. How should I know? Because it’s easier.

LUCIE. But you can’t sit still and do nothing. You must do something!
You’re the head of the family.

BRIGNAC. Something! Something! What? The only logical thing I know is
to take a pistol—

LUCIE. Julien!

BRIGNAC. And go coolly and put a bullet through the man’s head. No? A
crime, is it? Ah, if we lived in an age with a little more guts! [_As
if to himself_] No; I’m not sure it’s not my duty to go and do justice
myself

LUCIE. Julien, you’re not dreaming of that!

BRIGNAC. And why not?

LUCIE. Think of the scandal, and then—

BRIGNAC. And then I should be tried for murder? Well, do you think I’m
afraid of that? What then? I should defend myself, and I can tell you
not many people have heard such a speech as I should make! Think of the
effect on the jury! I should be acquitted, and the public would cheer
till the court had to be cleared. [_A pause_]. He’s in luck’s way, the
brute, that I’ve too much respect for human life. If I weren’t a bit
old fashioned—ha, so much for him. [_A pause_]. No, no; the weak point
in these folk is their pocket. That’s what I’ll go for. That’s it.
We’ll bring an action, an action for the seduction of an infant.

LUCIE. Publish her shame like that!

BRIGNAC. He’ll have his share of it. I’ll make him sing another tune,
so I will. We’ll ask twenty, fifty, a hundred thousand francs damages!
It’ll be a dowry for Annette. Yes; we can do that, an ordinary civil
action, or else, if we like, prosecute him criminally. I could shew you
the law about it; it’s all in the reports. And besides, the way I’ll
conduct the case, the papers will boom it sky high.

LUCIE. You can’t surely want to have the papers talking about us,
printing poor Annette’s story, discussing her honor?

BRIGNAC. Reflecting on me, too. If only we weren’t related!

LUCIE. We should be just as much dishonored.

BRIGNAC. If you hadn’t made me take Annette to live with us when your
parents died, none of this would have happened.

LUCIE. It was you who suggested it to me!

BRIGNAC. I know I did. All the stupid things I’ve done in my life—not
that there have been many—come from my having too good a heart. All
people from the South have; we can’t think twice before doing a
kindness. So much the more reason why you should have looked after her
carefully.

LUCIE. Oh, it’s too much! When you yourself wanted her to make friends
with the Bernins!

BRIGNAC. Because I hoped that old Bernin would be useful to us!

LUCIE. You always kept urging Annette to go to them.

BRIGNAC. So it’s all my fault, is it?

LUCIE. I don’t say that, but I must shew you that I’m not so culpable
as you make out. What are we going to do?

BRIGNAC. In any case Annette can’t stay here.

LUCIE. Good heavens, where can she go? Madeleine can’t have her.
Perhaps our old nurse, Catherine—

BRIGNAC. If she went to Madeleine or Catherine, it would be exactly as
if we kept her here. The important thing is that no one should know
anything about it. She must go to Paris, to some big town, till the
birth of her child.

LUCIE. It’s not possible.

BRIGNAC. The only thing not possible is to let it be known, to keep her
at Chartres. Can’t you imagine what it would be like for her if we did?
Think of her going to a concert or to Mass when her condition became
evident! She wouldn’t be able to go out of the house without being
exposed to insult and insolence. And the way our acquaintances would
look at her! Why, it would be purgatory.

LUCIE. And everyone will welcome M. Jacques Bernin.

BRIGNAC. Of course they will. And when the child is born, what then?
I’m not thinking of the expense: fortunately for her she has us to fall
back on, so she wouldn’t starve. Suppose she put the baby out to nurse?
Afterwards she’d have to keep it with her—imagine what people would
say! She might pay for it to be brought up elsewhere, but that’s only a
way of deserting it. She would never be able to marry. All her life she
would be a pariah. No; the only thing is to send her away.

LUCIE. Send her away—where to?

BRIGNAC. How should I know? We’ll find some place. There are places for
that at Paris. Yes; I remember now, special places. We’ll pay whatever
is necessary. Establishments where you’re not required to give your
name at all. The difficulty will be to find a plausible reason of
Annette’s absence. However, we’ll find one.

LUCIE. And the child?

BRIGNAC. The child? She can do what she likes with that. You don’t
suppose I’ll have it back here with her, do you?

LUCIE. Then that’s what you’re proposing to do?

BRIGNAC. That’s what we must do.

LUCIE. How does one get into these places you were speaking of?

BRIGNAC. I don’t know exactly. I’ll find out. Don’t worry. If
necessary, I’ll go to Paris and take the proper steps. Of course
without saying that it’s to do with anyone I know.

LUCIE. Of course.

BRIGNAC. Of course.

LUCIE [_rising and touching him on the shoulder as she passes_] You are
a fine fellow.

BRIGNAC [_modestly_] Oh, come; only a little thought was wanted.

LUCIE. I think you have no conscience at all.

BRIGNAC. What do you mean? You speak as if I were a monster.

LUCIE. Nothing but respect for public opinion.

BRIGNAC. Respect for public opinion is one form of conscience.

LUCIE. The conscience of people who haven’t got any!

BRIGNAC. Anyway, one can’t do anything else.

LUCIE. Can’t you imagine what my poor darling’s life would be like if
we did what you said? Turned out of here—

BRIGNAC. No, no; not turned out.

LUCIE. Sent away unwillingly, if you like, coming to this place,
suddenly thrust into contact with all the sadness and the misery and
the vice of Paris! Think of her waiting all those months, in the midst
of the women there, while a poor little creature is growing into life
that she knows beforehand is condemned to all the risks and cruelty
suffered by children whom their mothers abandon! And when she is
torn with the torturing pain that I know so well, at that moment of
martyrdom when a woman feels death hovering over her bed and watching
jealously for mother and child, when the full horror of the sacred
mystery she has accomplished is on her, then she’ll only have strangers
round her! And if her poor eyes look round, like a victim’s, perhaps
for the last time, for a friendly glance, if she feels for a hand to
press, she will only see round her bed unknown men performing a duty
and women carrying on their trade. And then? Then she must resist her
highest instincts, stifle the cry of love that consoles all women for
what they have gone through, and say she doesn’t want her child—look
aside, and say: ‘Take him away! I don’t want to see him.’ That’s the
price for which she will be pardoned the crime of someone else! That’s
your justice! Justice! Social hypocrisy rather—that’s what you stand up
for. Nothing but that. And that’s why, if Annette stayed to bring up
her child here, she would be an object of reproach; whereas, if she is
confined secretly in Paris and gets rid of the baby, nobody will say
anything. Let’s be frank about it. If she had a lover, but no child,
she would be let off. It isn’t immorality that’s condemned, but having
children! You cry out for a higher birth rate, and at the same time you
say to women: ‘No children without marriage, and no marriage without a
dowry.’ Well, so long as you don’t change that, all your circulars and
your speeches will only succeed in arousing laughter of pity and of
rage!

BRIGNAC. Well, is it my fault?

LUCIE. No; it’s not your fault. It’s the fault of all of us, of our
prejudice, our silly vanity, our hypocrisy. But you stand up for it
all and justify it. You have the typical window dressing, middle class
virtues. You publicly preach the repopulation of France, and then find
it in your conscience to get rid of a child whose only fault is that
its parents had it without first going through a stupid ceremony, and
without the whole town being told that Monsieur X and Mademoiselle Y
were going to bed together! [_A pause_]. Go and make your speech. Go
and defend the morals of society. That’s about what you’re worth.

  _Enter Madeleine._

MADELEINE. She’s not come back?

LUCIE. No. Haven’t you seen her?

MADELEINE. No.

BRIGNAC. Since you take it like that, then, you will kindly find
another home than my house for your sister from now onwards.

LUCIE. Ah, yes; say it outright! You long to get rid of her!

BRIGNAC [_talking all the time while he goes into his study and comes
back with his portfolio, hat, and coat_] I’m off. It’s too much! Yes;
I’m off! And for my part, I refuse to be the victim of your sister’s
pranks!

LUCIE [_to herself_] Wretch! wretch!

BRIGNAC. Do what you like, but I won’t have that sort of thing here.
[_He goes out_].

MADELEINE. I don’t know which way she went nor where she is.

LUCIE. You’ve been to the Bernins?

MADELEINE. They were dining out.

LUCIE. Did they leave the town by an afternoon train?

MADELEINE. I don’t know.

LUCIE. Oh, I’m afraid.

MADELEINE. Annette must have known where they were dining, because I
got to their door before she had time to get there herself.

LUCIE. You should have gone to the station.

MADELEINE. I made up my mind to, but then I saw that I shouldn’t have
time before the train went. So I thought she must have come back.

LUCIE. Here she is! Thank God!

  _Enter Catherine and Annette._

CATHERINE. I will! I will tell! So as they may stop you trying again.

  _Annette, her teeth clenched, her eyes fixed, shrugs her shoulders.
  Throughout the ensuing scene no tear comes to her eyes._

MADELEINE. In heaven’s name what has happened?

LUCIE. You’re here, you’re here! [_She tries to take Annette in her
arms_].

ANNETTE. Let me go! Let me go! [_She picks up her hat and coat, which
she has thrown on to a chair, and sits down, hard and reticent_]

LUCIE. What is the matter? What have you done?

ANNETTE [_in a broken voice_] I wanted to put an end to myself.
Catherine stopped me.

LUCIE. To kill—

MADELEINE. Annette!

LUCIE. And us, had you forgotten us?

ANNETTE. My death would have brought less trouble on you than my life
will.

MADELEINE. Catherine, what has happened?

CATHERINE. I was getting out of the train. I saw her start to throw
herself under the wheels.

MADELEINE and LUCIE [_terrified_] Oh!

ANNETTE. You’ll be sorry one day you stopped me.

CATHERINE. You hear her! That’s the way she’s been going on as we came
back, all the time she was telling me her story.

LUCIE. Swear you’ll never try again, Annette.

ANNETTE. How can I tell?

MADELEINE. Was she alone?

CATHERINE. No. When I saw her, she seemed to be having a dispute with
M. Bernin’s family. I stopped to watch. Then M. Jacques got into the
train and Annette stood there crying; and just as the train went away,
she gave a cry and ran to try and throw herself under the wheels. I
caught her by her dress and brought her away; and I wouldn’t leave her
till I knew she was back here and I had told you what she’d done.

ANNETTE. All right. Don’t let’s speak about it. I tried to kill myself
and I failed. If they saw me, no doubt they shrugged their shoulders.

MADELEINE. You went to wait for them at the train?

ANNETTE. No. I knew where Jacques was dining—at a restaurant—a farewell
party. His parents were having dinner at the station. I went to the
restaurant and asked for him, like a girl off the streets. I could hear
his friends laughing and joking from where I was, when the waiter took
my message.

LUCIE. Did he come?

ANNETTE. Yes. He told me afterwards he thought it was some woman from a
café chantant who sent for him. Oh!

MADELEINE. And when he saw that it was you?

ANNETTE. He took me into the street, so that I shouldn’t be recognized.
That’s where we had our talk. The passers-by laughed and made horrible
jokes.

MADELEINE. And then you told him?

ANNETTE. Yes.

LUCIE. Well?

ANNETTE. You couldn’t guess what he answered: that it wasn’t true.

LUCIE. Oh!

ANNETTE [_still tearlessly_] Then he lost his temper and said he saw
through my game; that I wanted to force him to marry me because he
was rich. Much he spared me! I tried to put my arms round him: he
threatened to call the police. Then I cried, I implored him—I asked
him to come with me tomorrow to a doctor to prove I wasn’t lying. He
answered quite coldly that, even if it was true, there was nothing to
prove that it was him. Ah, you can’t believe it, can you? It’s too
much! I couldn’t have, unless I had heard it with my own ears; and
how I could without dying I don’t know. You don’t know what depths of
shame and cowardice I sunk to. Then he looked at his watch, saying he
only had time to catch the train. He said good bye and dashed off to
the station. I had to half run to keep up, crying, and begging him not
to desert me—for the sake of his child, of my happiness, my love, my
very life! Horrible! Horrible! Loathsome! And how ridiculous! I had
him by the arm. I couldn’t believe _that_ was the end. At the entrance
to the station he said, brutally: ‘Let me go, will you?’ I said: ‘You
shan’t go.’ Then he rushed to the train and got into the carriage,
nearly crushing my fingers in the door, and hid behind his mother; and
she threatened, too, to have me arrested. Gabrielle sat there, looking
white, and pretending not to notice and not to know me. Catherine’s
told you the rest.

  _A silence._

LUCIE. You must swear, Annette, never to think again of suicide.

ANNETTE. I couldn’t swear sincerely.

MADELEINE. You must be brave, now that you know what life is, brutally
as it has been revealed to you. Almost all the women you think happy
have gone through an inner catastrophe. They make themselves forget
it because their very tears give out. Suffering is reticent, and they
conceal theirs. But there are few women whose lives have not been
broken, few who don’t carry within them the corpse of the woman they
would have wished to be.

ANNETTE. You say that to console me. I don’t believe it.

MADELEINE. It’s the truth; and I’ve learnt it by experience.

ANNETTE. I’m tired of life. I feel as if I were a hundred.

LUCIE. Keep up your heart. We won’t desert you.

ANNETTE. What can you do? I shall be turned away from here.

LUCIE. If you are, I’ll go with you.

ANNETTE. And your children?

LUCIE. I’ll take them, too.

ANNETTE. He’ll fetch them back. Besides, what should we live on?

LUCIE. Ah!

ANNETTE. You see. You can’t do anything either, Madeleine, for all
your love. Your husband wouldn’t let you take me in. Nor you either,
Catherine. You couldn’t afford to. Well, then?

CATHERINE. Eh! eh!

  _Fresh silence._

ANNETTE. What a terrible thing life is!

MADELEINE. For all women.

ANNETTE. Not for anyone as much as for me.

MADELEINE. You think so, and that’s why you think of dying. Well, I’m
alive. You see me laughing now and then. If you only knew!

CATHERINE. And what about about me, Annette?

ANNETTE. You have your children to console you.

CATHERINE. It’s they that make it hard for me.

ANNETTE. For other women it’s a refuge to have children. What will it
be for me?

MADELEINE. You think that I am happy, Annette?

ANNETTE. You have a husband who loves you, you’re rich, you can afford
to dress beautifully, you go everywhere, and everyone wants to have
you. That’s some happiness, isn’t it?

MADELEINE. That’s all you see. If you only knew what you don’t see!

CATHERINE. Do you think being a mother has made me happy?

ANNETTE. I know you’re poor. You have to work, to work hard, to bring
up your children; but you can look the world in the face and love them.

CATHERINE. If you knew!

MADELEINE. Then you must know! Even Lucie doesn’t know what I’m going
to say. You think I’m happy because the money my godmother left me
enabled me to marry the man of my choice, a man who was well off.
Listen, then. My husband married me because I was good looking. He
wanted a son. I gave him one, but my child cost me his love. You can’t
be a wife and a mother at the same time. I lost my elegant figure, I
was ill, I suffered the woes that woman’s flesh is heir to and—he
left me for another woman! Don’t be too quick to condemn worldly women
who shrink from motherhood, Annette. Man’s baseness is such that they
must often choose between their husbands and their children. And if
some choose their husband, let those who have never loved throw the
first stone at them! I felt that if I nursed my baby I should lose my
husband for good, and to win him back I put my child out to nurse. He
died, Annette; and I have the agony of thinking that if I had kept him
with me he would be alive. Do you understand? It’s as if I had killed
him. Now I don’t mean to have another child. I lead a worldly life,
laughing, dining out, going to parties, because that’s what my husband
wants, and that’s how he loves me. I shall have a lonely old age. My
arms are empty—mine, whose joy would have been to rock my children to
sleep in them—and I’m ashamed of what I’m doing. I despise myself.
You’d think I’d paid enough for my husband’s love, wouldn’t you? Oh,
no. He’s gone to Paris, ostensibly on business, really to another
woman. I know it. I pretend not to know because I’m afraid of forcing
him to choose between her and me. That’s my life, Annette. Many women
whom you think happy live like that.

ANNETTE. Poor Madeleine!

LUCIE. And I. One of my little girls is an invalid, the other is
ailing. Perhaps she’ll die.

CATHERINE. Two of mine died of want.

MADELEINE. I don’t want to have another child for fear that my husband
would leave me altogether. A divorce, if I got one, would leave me a
kind of half-widow and make my girl an orphan.

CATHERINE. If I had any more, it would only mean taking away food from
those who haven’t enough as it is.

LUCIE. I’m guilty enough already. Two children of suffering owe their
existence to me.

MADELEINE. Think of my torture! I adore my husband: when he comes back
I long to feel myself in his arms and I dread the consequences.

CATHERINE. Mine will leave me if I have another. And then what would
become of me, all alone with all my children?

LUCIE. Your children who are grown up will support you, Catherine.

CATHERINE. Those who are grown up! Grown up! I’ve just been hearing
about them. Edmond is in hospital, ruined for life by going into what
they call ‘a dangerous trade’ because he couldn’t get work in any
other. There are too many workmen. My daughter, she’s on the streets.
[_Sobbing_] Oh, it’s too much! There’s too much misery in the world!

MADELEINE. Yes, there’s too much misery!

ANNETTE. And I thought I was the most miserable!

LUCIE. There’s too much unhappiness!

CATHERINE. The children of poor folk are unhappy, all of them, all.

ANNETTE. The child of an unmarried woman, too, is born only to
suffering.

LUCIE. Children who are born sickly or ill ought not to be born at all.

CATHERINE. You see, Annette, we must bear it. God’s given us eyes; it’s
to cry with.

ANNETTE. To cry with!

  _The four women cry silently. Catherine is in Madeleine’s arms. Lucie
  has her head on Annette’s lap._

CATHERINE [_making ready to leave_] Please to forgive me.

MADELEINE. We have the same troubles.

ANNETTE. Yes; we have the same troubles.

CATHERINE. Yes; whether one’s rich or poor, when one’s a woman—

  _Annette kisses Catherine. Catherine goes out._

MADELEINE. I must go, too. Your husband will be coming back.

LUCIE [_to herself, terrified_] My husband coming back—coming back!

ANNETTE. I won’t see him. Madeleine, you’re alone; take me with you!

MADELEINE. Yes. You can come tomorrow, Lucie. We’ll talk then.

LUCIE. Yes. [_Suddenly_] Here he is. Go out that way.

  _She pushes them out through Annette’s room. After a moment Brignac
  comes in, flushed and happy._

BRIGNAC. What, still up! Aha, my dear, I’m going to be elected!
Absolutely certain, I tell you. Here, I’ve brought you a bunch of roses.

LUCIE [_without listening_] Thank you. So you’re going to turn Annette
out?

BRIGNAC. I’m not turning her out. I simply ask her to go somewhere else.

LUCIE. I shall go with her.

BRIGNAC. You’re going to leave me?

LUCIE. Yes.

BRIGNAC. You don’t love me any more, then?

LUCIE. No.

BRIGNAC. Ha. Another story beginning. Since when?

LUCIE. I’ve never loved you.

BRIGNAC. All the same you married me.

LUCIE. I didn’t love you.

BRIGNAC. This is nice news. Go on.

LUCIE. You’re only another victim of the morals you were championing
just now.

BRIGNAC. I don’t know what you mean.

LUCIE. When you asked me to marry you I was tired of waiting in poverty
for the man I could have loved. I didn’t want to become an old maid.
I took you, but I knew you came to me because the girls with money
wouldn’t have you. You were on the shelf, too. I made up my mind to try
and love you loyally.

BRIGNAC. Well, then?

LUCIE. The first time I was going to have a child you left me for other
women. Since then I have only put up with you. I was too cowardly not
to. You may as well know it. I wanted my first child; the others I’ve
had only because you made me. Each time you left me—I was so ugly!
Yes; ugly through you! You left me at home, alone, dreary, repulsive,
to come back from the arms of some prostitute, full of hypocritical
solicitude for my health! After the fatigue of nursing I begged for
a rest, to have a breathing space, so that I might have some life of
my own; and when I demanded only to have children at my own wish, you
laughed like a self-satisfied fool. Oh, your fatuous pride, your base
egoism, your utter want of thought for the future of your children and
the life of your wife! So you forced on me the labor and the agony
and the danger of having another child. What did it matter to you? It
flattered your vanity to make merry with your friends and give yourself
the airs of a fine fellow. Idiot!

BRIGNAC. I’ve had enough of this. You’re my wife!

LUCIE. I won’t be your wife any more. I won’t have any more children.

BRIGNAC. Pray why?

LUCIE. Didn’t Dr. Hourtin tell you anything?

BRIGNAC. Yes. All right. I’ll do what he said. There, does that content
you? Come to bed.

LUCIE. No.

BRIGNAC. You haven’t looked at my roses. Come, isn’t he a loving
husband, your little Julien?

LUCIE. Leave me alone. You’re drunk.

BRIGNAC. You know I’m not. Come and give me a kiss!

LUCIE. You stink of alcohol. Let me go.

BRIGNAC [_low_] I want you. [_He kisses her_].

LUCIE [_tearing herself away_] Faugh! [_She wipes her mouth furiously_].

BRIGNAC. Enough of that, do you hear? [_He seizes her brutally_].
That’s enough.

LUCIE. You hurt me! Let me go.

BRIGNAC. Be kind now. How well you look when your temper’s up! Pretty
pet. Mustn’t be naughty. Come.

LUCIE. I won’t.

BRIGNAC. Then I’ll make you! [_They struggle, with low cries, panting_].

LUCIE [_at the end of her strength_] I can’t! I can’t!

  _He puts her on a chair; then goes to open the door of the bedroom
  and turns on the electric light. The bed is seen, a vision of white
  sheets. Brignac comes to his wife._

LUCIE [_mad with terror_] The cave man! The cave man!

  _He seizes her. She gives a cry and faints. He carries her towards
  the bedroom._



ACT III


  _The Cour d’Assises. Only two of the four sides of the hall are
  visible. The footlights nearly correspond with a line drawn
  diagonally across it. To the left and in front is the seat of the
  Ministry of State. Further back, to the left, the Court._

  _Facing the audience, successively, are seated counsel, above them
  the defendants and, lastly, the gendarmes. In the middle, in front of
  a table placed for exhibits in the case, the witness stand._

  _To the right three or four benches for the accommodation of the
  audience, but only a small part is visible. The jury, which is
  unseen, is supposed to occupy the place of the prompter’s box._

  _There are present the Advocate General, the President of the Court
  and his assessors, counsel for the defence and his learned friends.
  In the dock are Madame Thomas, Marie Gaubert, Tupin (Catherine’s
  husband), Lucie, guarded by gendarmes. Among the public Madame
  d’Amergueux, Brignac, the clerk._

  _At the rise of the curtain Madame Thomas is standing in the dock._

PRESIDENT [_authoritatively, to counsel for the defence_] Maître
Verdier, this is not the moment for you to address the Court. And I
take this occasion to warn you: I tell you plainly I will use all the
authority in my power to prevent you from attempting to set up a theory
of justification, as I see you are about to do, for the crimes with
which the defendants are charged.

COUNSEL FOR THE DEFENCE. You are mistaken, President. I have no
intention of the sort. On the contrary, I declare publicly that in
my eyes abortion is a crime because it destroys the existence of a
creature virtually in being. To allow it would infallibly lead to
allowing infanticide. But what I shall try to shew is that by not
permitting affiliation, and by not respecting all motherhood, however
it is caused, Society has lost the right to condemn a crime rendered
excusable by the hypocrisy of its morals and the indifference of the
law.

PRESIDENT. This is not the moment for your speech. The defendant
Thomas: we shall now pass to the second part of your examination. [_He
hunts in his notes, says a word or two in an undertone to the assessor
on his right, then to Madame Thomas_] So you admit the abominable
crimes with which you are charged?

MME. THOMAS. I must admit them, as you have the proofs.

PRESIDENT. And you feel no remorse for the lives of human beings you
have destroyed from the sole motive of gain! The jury will appreciate
your attitude.

COUNSEL. Except that you have spared them the trouble!

PRESIDENT. Maître Verdier, I cannot hear you now. [_To Madame Thomas_]
You have crippled the work of nature, you have offended against the
principle of life, and you never said to yourself that among the
beings you stifled before their birth might be one destined to benefit
humanity by his greatness. Did you? Well?

MME. THOMAS. No.

PRESIDENT. You did not say so. Very well.

MME. THOMAS. If I had thought about that, I should have perhaps said
that there was as much chance—more, perhaps—that he might be a thief or
a murderer.

PRESIDENT. Indeed! I will not argue with you; I am not going to give
you the chance to expound your criminal ideas here.

MME. THOMAS. My counsel will do it better than me.

PRESIDENT. We’ll see about that.

COUNSEL [_with a smile_] It might, perhaps, be well for you, President,
not to contemn in advance the rights of the defence.

PRESIDENT [_irritated_] Maître Verdier, you have no right to address
me! And you will be good enough to moderate your expressions. I regret
to say that from the opening of this case you have adopted an attitude
that you can, perhaps, carry off at Paris, but that I shall certainly
not countenance here. Pray take notice of that.

COUNSEL. At the Paris bar—

PRESIDENT. I cannot hear you now.

COUNSEL. At the Paris—

PRESIDENT. I cannot hear you now! Kindly be seated.

MME. D’AMERGUEUX [_among the public, to her neighbor, M. de Forgeau_]
What an excellent judge M. Calvon is. He is to dine with us tomorrow: I
shall congratulate him.

M. DE FORGEAU. A judge of the old stamp.

MME. D’AMERGUEUX. He recognizes us. Did you see him give a little nod?
[_She directs her smiles at the President_].

M. DE FORGEAU. Yes. Hush.

PRESIDENT. Marie Gaubert, stand up. [_A thin little woman rises to her
feet_]. Your name is Marie Gaubert. How old are you?

SCHOOLMISTRESS. Twenty-seven.

PRESIDENT. Profession?

SCHOOLMISTRESS. Schoolmistress.

PRESIDENT. Do you admit the facts with which you are charged?

SCHOOLMISTRESS. Yes.

PRESIDENT. What have you to say in your defence?

SCHOOLMISTRESS. I didn’t think I was doing wrong.

PRESIDENT. Your levity astounds me. You are a schoolmistress, and you
do not understand that the sacred mission entrusted to you of preparing
men and women for the glory and responsibility of the future entails
on you the duty of giving an example yourself! It is your business to
conduct the course of elementary instruction in civic morality, and
this is how you practise it! Have you nothing to answer? According to
my notes you undertook the nursing of your two children yourself. Do
you love them?

SCHOOLMISTRESS. It was just because I loved them.

PRESIDENT. But you decided that two were enough. You made up your mind
to limit the work of the Almighty.

SCHOOLMISTRESS. I should have asked nothing better than to have four or
five children.

PRESIDENT. Indeed! Then let me tell you that you did not take the
best means to arrive at that result. [_He laughs and looks at his
assessor on the right, then at Madame d’Amergueux. She signals her
congratulations to him_].

SCHOOLMISTRESS. You have to be able to feed your children.

PRESIDENT. Ah, there! No! At a pinch I could understand that excuse—a
very bad one—being employed in the case of other women; but not in
yours, who enjoy the incomparable advantage of being protected by the
State. You are never out of work.

SCHOOLMISTRESS. I earn eighty-three francs a month. My husband, who is
a teacher, too, gets as much. That makes a hundred and sixty-six francs
a month to live on and bring up two children. When there were four of
us, we could almost do it; with five it would have been impossible.

PRESIDENT. You omit to say that during your confinement you have the
right to a month’s leave with full salary.

SCHOOLMISTRESS. That used to be true, President. It is so no longer.
A departmental circular of 1900 informed us that the funds were
insufficient for more than half salaries to be paid, as a rule, at
such times. To obtain the whole salary, a detailed report from the
inspector is required, and you must petition for it.

PRESIDENT. Then why not petition?

SCHOOLMISTRESS. It’s hard to seem like a beggar simply because you have
feelings.

PRESIDENT. Proud, are you?

SCHOOLMISTRESS. There’s no law against that.

PRESIDENT. So that is why you went to the defendant Thomas?

SCHOOLMISTRESS. Yes, sir. My husband and I arranged our little finances
so: the evening our salaries were paid we used to divide the money
into different parts and put them by; so much for rent, so much for
food, so much for clothing. We just managed to get along by calculating
carefully, and more than once having to cut down expenses that seemed
inevitable. The prospect of a third child upset everything. It made
our existence impossible. We should have all gone hungry. And then
the inspectors and the head mistresses don’t like you to have many
children, especially if you nurse them yourself. The last time I was
nursing I was made to hide myself—I only had ten minutes during the
break at ten o’clock and again at two; and when my mother brought the
baby, I had to take him into a dark closet.

PRESIDENT. That has nothing to do with it.

COUNSEL. Yes, President, it has. It ought to be known how the State,
which preaches the increase of the population, treats its servants when
they have children.

PRESIDENT [_furiously_] I can’t hear you now! _[To the schoolmistress_]
You haven’t anything more to say?

SCHOOLMISTRESS. No, sir.

PRESIDENT. Sit down.

MME. D’AMERGUEUX. I think M. Calvon lets their counsel talk too much.

M. DE FORGEAU. He’s rather afraid of him.

PRESIDENT. Tupin, stand up.

TUPIN [_a man of mean and wretched appearance_] After you, Calvon.

PRESIDENT. What’s that?

TUPIN. I said, ‘After you, Calvon.’ That’s your name, isn’t it?

PRESIDENT. I warn you I shall not stand the least insolence from you.

TUPIN. I said, ‘After you, Calvon,’ just as you said, ’Stand up Tupin.’
If that’s insolence, I didn’t begin it.

PRESIDENT. I will have you removed. Stand up.

TUPIN. All right. It’ll let me stretch my legs a bit.

PRESIDENT. Your profession?

TUPIN. Electrician.

PRESIDENT. You were once. It’s a long time since you worked regularly.

TUPIN. There’s no work to be had.

PRESIDENT. Because you look for it at the wineshop. The police give the
worst account of you.

TUPIN. I am not surprised they don’t like me: I never liked them.
[_Laughter_].

PRESIDENT. Silence there: or I shall have the court cleared. [_To
Tupin_] The name of your wife has been found among the papers of
the defendant Thomas. Catherine Tupin, maiden name Bidois. Where is
Catherine Tupin? Stand up. Very well, sit down again. [_To Tupin_] You
tried to conceal your wife from the police.

TUPIN. I didn’t think they were good company for her.

PRESIDENT [_pretending not to hear_] You then gave yourself up on your
own confession that it was you who took her to this abominable woman’s
house.

TUPIN. You speak like a book.

PRESIDENT. You persisted in the confession of your guilt. Did you want
to go to prison?

TUPIN. Why, that’s an idea! You get fed and sheltered there anyway.

PRESIDENT. The prison conditions are certainly better than those you
are accustomed to.

TUPIN. Now you’re talking.

PRESIDENT. When you were arrested you were completely destitute. The
remains of your furniture had been sold, and you were on the eve of
finding yourself without a roof over your head. Doubtless you will
blame Society, too. Your insubordinate character leads you to frequent
Socialist clubs; and when you do not affect, as you do now, a cynical
carelessness in your speech, you are used to repeat the empty phrases
you have learnt from the propagandist pamphlets that poison the minds
of the working classes. But we know you. If you are a victim, it is to
your own vices. You are a hardened drinker.

TUPIN. Lately, that’s true.

PRESIDENT. You admit it. Extraordinary!

TUPIN. What’s that prove?

PRESIDENT. Your eldest daughter is known to the police of Paris
as a prostitute. One of your sons has been sentenced to a year’s
imprisonment for theft. Is that true?

TUPIN. Possibly.

PRESIDENT. A little less proud now? That’s right. Well, now, you took
your wife to this woman. Why?

TUPIN. Because I thought it was enough to have brought seven wretched
creatures into the world.

PRESIDENT. If you had continued to be the honest and industrious
workman you were once, you might have had another child without its
necessarily growing up wretched.

TUPIN. No, sir. Not with five. It’s impossible.

PRESIDENT. I don’t understand.

TUPIN. I say that a working man’s family, however much they work and
economize, can’t support itself when there are five children.

PRESIDENT. If that is true, there are—and it is to the credit of
the Society that you despise—there are, I say, numerous charitable
organizations which are, so to speak, on the watch for the victims of
misfortune and make it a point of honor to leave none without succor.

TUPIN [_excitedly_] Oh, and that seems all right to you, that a working
man, who hasn’t any vice and does his duty, which is to work and—we’re
told, too—have plenty of children, it seems all right to you that that
should simply lead to beggary.

PRESIDENT. Yes, yes; I recognize the wineshop orator. So you say that a
household can’t exist with five children. Thank God, there is more than
one in that condition which goes neither to ask for charity nor to an
abortionist.

MME. TUPIN. You’re wrong.

TUPIN. Shall I prove that you’re wrong?

PRESIDENT. That doesn’t seem to me to have much to do with the case.

MME. TUPIN. Yes, it has.

TUPIN. Pardon me. If I prove it, people will understand how I came to
do what I did.

PRESIDENT. Very well. But be short.

TUPIN. I’ve given my counsel my accounts for a month. Let him read it
to you.

PRESIDENT. Very well. [_The counsel rises_].

COUNSEL. Here it is.

PRESIDENT. You are not Tupin’s counsel.

COUNSEL. No, President, but my learned friends have done me the
honor—for which I thank them—to confide to me the task of dealing in my
speech with the case as a whole, reserving to themselves to deal with
particular aspects of it as they relate to their clients.

PRESIDENT. I will hear you now solely for the purpose of reading these
accounts. But this is not the time for you to address the court. You
understand: I will hear the accounts and nothing more?

COUNSEL. Certainly, President. [_He reads_] The daily nourishment of
five children consists of a four-pound loaf, soup of vegetables and
dripping, and a stew which costs ninety centimes. Total, 3f. 75c.
This is the expenditure of the father: Return ticket for tram, 30c.
Tobacco, 15c. Dinner, 1f. 25c. The rent is 300f. Clothing for the whole
family, and boots: sixteen pairs of boots for the children at 4f. 50c.
each, four for the parents at 8f.: total again, 300f. Total for the
year: 2,600f. The expenditure then must be set down at 2,600f. Tupin,
who is an exceptional workman, earned 160f. a month, that is to say,
2,100f. a year. There is therefore an annual deficit of 500f. As I have
promised, I will not add a word. [_He sits down_].

MME. D’AMERGUEUX [_to her husband_] He might well have saved the three
sous a day for tobacco.

COUNSEL. Does the Court wish to have this paper put in?

PRESIDENT. There is no object in that. [_To Tupin_] I will not quarrel
with your figures: I accept them. But I repeat: there are charitable
institutions.

TUPIN. And I repeat that I don’t want to beg.

PRESIDENT. You prefer to commit what is almost infanticide? A man whose
daughter is on the streets and whose son is a thief can accept charity
without degradation.

TUPIN [_excited_] They weren’t then. If they’ve fallen to that, it’s
because with so many other children besides, I couldn’t look after
my son as rich people look after theirs, and because my daughter was
seduced and abandoned—because she was hungry! No, but you must have a
heart of stone to bring that up against me!

PRESIDENT. And it’s not your fault either that you’ve become a drunkard?

TUPIN. I’ll tell you. You know the proverb: ‘When there’s no hay in the
manger—.’ Well, when the pinch came at home, I and my wife began to
quarrel over each new baby. Each of us accused the other of having made
things worse for the first ones. Well, I’ll cut it short. If I went to
the wineshop, why, it’s warm there, and you don’t hear the brats crying
and their mother complaining. And the drink helps you to forget, so it
does, to forget!

MME. TUPIN. It’s good to forget, so it is!

TUPIN. It’s my fault if you like, but that’s how we got poorer and
poorer.

PRESIDENT. And when you had your last child, didn’t that serve as a
lesson to you?

TUPIN. The last one didn’t cost anything.

PRESIDENT [_absently_] Ah!

TUPIN. He came into the world deformed and sickly. He was conceived in
misery, in want—his mother was worn out.

PRESIDENT. And his father a drunkard!

TUPIN. If you like. Well, he came badly into the world—he could never
have been anything but a cripple. But he didn’t want for anything! They
took him in at the hospital and begged me to let him stay there.

MME. TUPIN. He was a curiosity for the doctors.

TUPIN. They looked after him, I tell you. They didn’t leave him for a
minute. He was made to live in spite of himself, so to speak. The other
children, who were strong, they let them perish of want. With half the
care and the money that was spent on the sickly one they might have
made fine fellows of all the rest.

PRESIDENT. Then that is why you made away with the next?

TUPIN. For all the good he’d have had in the world, if he could, he’d
say, thank you.

PRESIDENT. You ought not to have had him.

TUPIN. That’s true. But we poor folk, we don’t know the dodges rich
people have so as only to have the children they want, and take their
fun all the same: worse luck!

PRESIDENT. If everyone was of your opinion our country would be in a
bad way. But your country, doubtless, is nothing to you?

TUPIN. I’ve heard say: ‘A man’s country is where he is well off.’ I’m
badly off everywhere.

PRESIDENT. And you are equally lost to any interest in humanity.

TUPIN. If humanity can’t get on without a set of wretches like me, let
it go smash!

PRESIDENT. Well, the jury can estimate your sense of morality. You may
sit down.

  _Night has come. The ushers bring lamps._

MME. D’AMERGUEUX. I shouldn’t like to meet that man of an evening in a
lonely place.

M. DE FORGEAU. Nor I. Now for Madame Brignac—that was. My dear lady,
what a dreadful thing!

MME. D’AMERGUEUX. Dreadful!

PRESIDENT. We have now only to examine the facts concerning Lucie
and Annette Jarras. [_To the defendant Thomas_] Stand up. This girl,
Annette Jarras, was your victim. What have you to say?

MME. THOMAS. Nothing.

PRESIDENT. You don’t trouble yourself about it? Well, we know your
heart is not easy to move.

MME. THOMAS. If I told you that I was led to do what I did by pity, you
wouldn’t believe me.

PRESIDENT. Probably not. But you can try to make us believe. The
defendant has the right to say whatever he thinks fit—always under the
control of the court, of course.

MME. THOMAS. It’s not worth while.

PRESIDENT. Yes, yes; go on. The jury is listening to you.

MME. THOMAS [_on a sign from her counsel_] A girl came to me one day.
She was a servant. Her master had had her. I refused to do what she
asked me: she went away and threw herself into the water. Another, whom
I wouldn’t help, was tried here for infanticide. So, since then, when
others have come to me, I have agreed; I have prevented more than one
suicide and more than one crime.

PRESIDENT. So it was from pity, out of charity that you acted. The
prosecution will reply that you never forgot to exact heavy payment.

MME. THOMAS. And you, aren’t you paid for condemning others?

PRESIDENT. Those whom you condemned to death and executed yourself,
were innocent.

MME. THOMAS. You prosecute me; but the surgeons who guarantee sterility
get decorated!

PRESIDENT. You forget this young girl who died as the result of your
action, Annette Jarras. She was eighteen, in the full enjoyment of
health; now she is in the grave. [_Lucie breaks into sobs_] Look at her
sister by your side; listen to her crying. Ask her now if she does not
curse you.

MME. THOMAS. She would bless me if I had succeeded.

PRESIDENT [_to Lucie_] Defendant Lucie Jarras, stand up.

M. DE FORGEAU [_to his neighbor_] Brignac must think himself lucky to
have got his divorce.

MME. D’AMERGUEUX. Speak lower; he’s behind us. I am against divorce,
but in this case—

PRESIDENT. You have heard the defendant Thomas. What have you to say?

LUCIE [_through her sobs_] Nothing. Nothing. [_She sinks back upon her
bench_].

PRESIDENT. Do you admit—?

LUCIE. Yes, yes; I admit everything. I’ve told you so already.

PRESIDENT. You did not want your child to come into the world?

LUCIE. I didn’t want it to.

PRESIDENT. Why?

LUCIE. Out of pity for him. I knew what sort of a life he would have,
and I risked my own to save him from it. I acted like a good mother.

PRESIDENT. What you say is simply monstrous. [_Silence_]. You, now,
have not the excuse of poverty. Your child would not have suffered from
want.

LUCIE. He would have suffered from disease, and that is as bad as want.

PRESIDENT. No theories, please. Only facts.

LUCIE. Yes; facts, nothing but facts. You can see the theory of it for
yourself. I had two children, two little girls. One is a deaf mute,
the other had convulsions. She is dead now. The doctors told me that
that was due to the alcoholized condition of my husband, whose father
had been in the same state.

PRESIDENT. Most unfortunate.

LUCIE. Be pleased to let me speak!

PRESIDENT. Very good. I will answer you.

LUCIE. One of the doctors is famous—Dr. Hourtin.

PRESIDENT. A specialist who sees alcoholism everywhere!

LUCIE [_more vigorously_] Those doctors told me that if my husband did
not change his mode of life, any further children I had by him would,
perhaps, be worse than the first, nervous degenerates. The very evening
that Professor Hourtin came to see me, my husband came back from some
festivity in a state of excitement—[_She stops_].

PRESIDENT. Well? Is that all?

LUCIE. No; I’ll have the courage to say everything. I have nothing to
lose now.

PRESIDENT. Please take note that it is not I who make you go on.

LUCIE. No; you would probably prefer if I didn’t. [_Controlling her
voice_] During the day something had happened—something serious—that
revealed to me all the hideousness of his moral character. I determined
no longer to be his wife. He came in, gay with drinking. In spite of
my prayers and resistance, my cries of hatred and disgust, he chose
that evening to exercise his rights—his rights! He took me by force; he
outraged me.

PRESIDENT. He was your husband?

LUCIE. Yes.

PRESIDENT. Then—

LUCIE. Of course. The next morning I left his house.

PRESIDENT [_starting_] M. Brignac is not in question.

LUCIE. I bring him in question!

PRESIDENT. I shall not allow you to bring charges against persons
unconnected with the case.

LUCIE. He ought to be in my place.

PRESIDENT. His name does not figure in the indictment.

LUCIE. Because your justice doesn’t want to put responsibility on the
right shoulders!

PRESIDENT. I forbid you to speak like that of M. Brignac.

COUNSEL. Pardon me, President.

PRESIDENT. I cannot hear you now.

COUNSEL. That is why I ask to be heard.

PRESIDENT. What do you want?

COUNSEL. M. Brignac is called as a witness.

PRESIDENT. We have already heard him.

COUNSEL. Allow me to remind you of the terms of Article 319 of the
Criminal Code, which authorizes me to say against him as well as
against his evidence whatever may help the defence.

PRESIDENT. And let me remind you of Article 311 in the same Code, which
enjoins you to express yourself with moderation.

COUNSEL. I ask you, President, kindly to recall M. Brignac to the bar.
I have a question to put to him through you.

PRESIDENT [_after consulting with his assessors_] Usher, ask M. Brignac
kindly to come here.

BRIGNAC [_coming forward to the bar_] Here, President.

PRESIDENT. What is your question, Maître Verdier?

COUNSEL. M. Brignac has heard all that has just been said?

BRIGNAC. Yes.

COUNSEL. Then I beg M. Brignac to review all the factors in his memory.
I make a supreme appeal to his conscience, and I beg you, President, to
put this question to M. Brignac: does M. Brignac not recognize himself
as morally responsible for the crime imputed to Madame Lucie Jarras,
his divorced wife?

PRESIDENT. I shall not put the question. Is that all?

COUNSEL. For the moment, yes.

PRESIDENT [_to Brignac_] You may return to your place, Deputy. But
since the defence, with an assumption of excessive liberty, appears
desirous of incriminating you, the Court may, perhaps, be permitted to
express to you here the high esteem in which it personally holds you.
[_He half rises from his chair, bowing to Brignac_].

BRIGNAC. I thank you, President. [_He goes back to his place_].

MME. D’AMERGUEUX [_to her neighbor_] Then it’s true what they say, that
Brignac is to be Minister of Justice in the next Government?

PRESIDENT [_to Lucie_] Defendant Jarras, have you finished?

LUCIE. No, President.

PRESIDENT [_with a gesture of weariness_] Go on, then; I’m listening.

LUCIE. When I felt a child coming to life within me of a man who was
nothing more to me, whose name even I no longer bore, and whom I
hated with my whole soul, I prevented it from being born to a destiny
of misery. I consider that I had the right to refuse the task of
motherhood when it was forced on me against my will.

PRESIDENT. I shall not allow you to justify an act which is a crime by
law.

LUCIE. I have nothing on my conscience to reproach myself with.

PRESIDENT. Then you have a singularly indulgent conscience. All this
comes from your pride. If you had not entered into a struggle with your
husband, you would still bear a respected name and you would not be
there.

LUCIE. I knew that any child of his would be a degenerate. Had I not
the right to refuse?

PRESIDENT. No.

LUCIE. I loved him no longer. Had I not the right to refuse?

PRESIDENT. No.

LUCIE. Well, then, have the courage to say that woman in the marriage
of today is a slave whom man can reduce to be the instrument of his
pleasure! Just as he likes he can leave her sterile or give her
children—imperil her happiness, her life, or her health, and pledge her
whole future without having to render more account to her than a bull
who is put to a cow! If that’s it, very well! But say so! At least, let
innocent girls know the shameful bargain that men offer them, with love
for a bait and the law for a trap!

PRESIDENT [_coldly_] You were the cause of your young sister’s death.
You took her with you.

LUCIE [_calmer_] Yes. [_She stops_].

PRESIDENT. Well?

LUCIE. Our money was soon spent. Annette got some music lessons to
give, but they sent her away when they found out her condition. I did
sewing.

PRESIDENT. Then you earned some money.

LUCIE. I could not get work every day. When I did, I earned fifteen
sous for twelve hours. It’s true I was not clever; there are women who
earn one franc twenty-five-. We were seized by despair at the thought
of the child that was coming.

PRESIDENT. That was not a reason to take your sister and her child
to their deaths. [_Lucie is seized by a nervous shudder and does not
answer_] Answer me.

COUNSEL. Let her take a minute, President.

LUCIE [_pulling herself together_] I wanted to get her into a hospital,
but they only take you in at the end of pregnancy. At Paris there are
institutions, it seems, but not in the provinces.

PRESIDENT. You might have asked for relief.

LUCIE. We had not been the requisite six months in the town. And
afterwards, what could we have done with the child?

PRESIDENT. If she was unable to bring it up, your sister could have
taken it to the ‘Enfants Assistés.’

LUCIE. Yes, abandoned it. We did think of that. We made inquiries.

COUNSEL. A certificate is required that the applicant to the society is
without means. An inquiry is made and the application may be accepted
or refused. In the meantime the child may die.

LUCIE. They only take in children on condition that the mother shall
not know where the child is, that she shall never see it or have news
of it. Once a month only she is told if it is alive or dead; nothing
more.

PRESIDENT. Go on, madam. But facts, if you please.

LUCIE. Yes. I begged my husband to take Annette and me back. He would
not.

PRESIDENT. Kindly come to the defendant Thomas.

LUCIE [_with constantly rising emotion_] Annette reproached herself for
having accepted what she called my sacrifice. She said that she was the
cause of all my trouble. [_Pause_] One day I was fetched; I found her
dead at this woman’s. [_A fit of sobbing seizes her: her nerves break
down completely. She cries_] My little sister! my poor little sister!

PRESIDENT [_Compassionately, to the usher_] Take her away. Call
the doctor. [_Lucie, still crying out, is led away. Her emotion has
communicated itself to everyone in court. The President continues to
the defendants_] Has no one else among you anything further to say in
his defence?

TUPIN [_excited_] Oh, if we said everything we should be here till
tomorrow!

MME. TUPIN [_equally excited_] Yes, till tomorrow, so we should!

TUPIN. And then we shouldn’t be done, I can tell you!

PRESIDENT. Then I will hear the Advocate-General.

SCHOOLMISTRESS. But you’re not going to condemn us? It isn’t possible.
I haven’t said everything—

TUPIN. It’s not we who are guilty!

SCHOOLMISTRESS. I was afraid of getting a bad name. We hadn’t the
means, either, to bring up another.

MME. TUPIN [_greatly worked up_] So that’s it! So that’s all the
children that we bring up get by it! What’s the use of talking? The men
haven’t thought of changing it—well then, we must do it! We women! We
must strike! We—the mothers! The great strike—the strike of the mothers!

  _Cries among the public, ‘Yes, yes.’_

PRESIDENT. Silence!

MME. TUPIN. What’s the good of using ourselves up to make more wretched
men and gay women! For others to use!

TUPIN. It’s not we that are guilty!

PRESIDENT. Sit down!

TUPIN [_drowning his voice_] It’s the men who’ve not given us enough to
feed our children that are guilty!

PRESIDENT. Sit down!

TUPIN. The men who tell us to have other children, while those we have
are rotting with hunger!

COUNSEL. The criminal is the man who seduced little Annette!

PRESIDENT. Silence!

MME. THOMAS. Yes, where’s he? Where’s he? You haven’t taken him up!
Because he’s a man and your laws—

PRESIDENT. Guards!

MME. THOMAS. And your laws are made by men!

PRESIDENT. Guards!

MME. THOMAS. And all the men who got with child the girls I delivered,
did you prosecute them?

  _During the following, an anger which becomes a fury seizes the
  accused. They are all on their feet, except the schoolmistress, who
  continues to sob and utter words that no one hears. The President
  is also on his feet; he tries vainly to restore silence by knocking
  on his desk with a paper-knife, but he cannot make himself heard.
  The tumult increases till the fall of the curtain, the voices of
  the counsel for the defence and his clients drowning those of the
  President and the Procuror._

PRESIDENT. I will have you removed to prison!

MME.THOMAS. The fine gentlemen who take mistresses! And the young ones
who humbug little work girls!

PRESIDENT. I’ll have you removed to prison.

PROCUROR. Guards, can’t you keep that crowd of fanatics quiet?

COUNSEL. You have no right to insult the defendants!

TUPIN. That’s all they’ve done from the beginning!

PROCUROR. Make that howling mob be quiet! The defendants have no
respect for the Court!

COUNSEL. And you, Advocate General, have no respect for justice!

PROCUROR. If their crime inspires you with sympathy, it only fills me
with indignation.

COUNSEL. They are right. They are not guilty! The respect that you lack—

PROCUROR. I demand—

COUNSEL. The guilt is at the door of the morals that brand the
unmarried mother.

THE PUBLIC. Bravo!

PROCUROR. I ask that counsel for the defence—

COUNSEL. Every woman with child ought to be respected in whatever
circumstances her child has come into being.

  _Applause._

PRESIDENT. Maître Verdier, by virtue of Article 43 of the Rules—

COUNSEL. Their crime is not an individual, but a social, crime.

PROCUROR. It is a crime against nature!

COUNSEL. It is not a crime; it is a revolt against nature!

PRESIDENT. Guards, remove the defendants! [_The guards do not hear or
do not understand_]. Maître Verdier, if I have to employ force—

  _Tumult in court._

COUNSEL [_succeeding by the force of his voice in imposing a short
silence_] It is a revolt against nature! A revolt that fills my
heart with pity, at the cause of which all the force of my mind is
roused to indignation! Yes; I look forward with eagerness to that hour
of freedom when the store-house of science shall give to everyone
the means, without a restraint that is only hypocrisy, without the
profanation of love, to have none but the children he wants! That will
be indeed a victory over nature, that cruel nature which sows with
criminal profusion the life that she watches die with indifference. But
meanwhile—

  _The tumult begins again._

PRESIDENT. Guards, clear the court! Guards! Guards, remove the
defendants. The sitting is adjourned.

  _The judges put on their caps and rise._

MME. THOMAS. It’s not me who kills the innocents! I’m no murderess!

SCHOOLMISTRESS. Mercy! Mercy!

MME. TUPIN. She’s no murderess!

TUPIN. She’s right. She’s no murderess!

MME. THOMAS. It’s the men that are guilty! The men! All the men!

  _The judges leave by the narrow door leading to their room. During
  the last words their red robes are seen gradually disappearing._



PLAYS BY BRIEUX

MEMBER OF THE FRENCH ACADEMY


  MENAGES D’ARTISTES                    3 Acts

  BLANCHETTE                            3  ”

  LA COUVÉE                             1 Act

  L’ENGRENAGE                           3 Acts

  LES BIENFAITEURS                      4  ”

  L’ÉVASION                             3  ”

  LES TROIS FILLES DE M DUPONT          3  ”

  LE RÉSULTAT DES COURSES               5  ”

  LE BERCEAU                            3  ”

  LA ROBE ROUGE                         4  ”

  LES REMPLAÇANTES                      3  ”

  LA PETITE AMIE                        3  ”

  MATERNITÉ                             3  ”

  LES AVARIÉS                           3  ”

  LES HANNETONS                         3  ”

  LA FRANÇAISE                          3  ”

  SIMONE                                3  ”

  LA FOI                                5  ”

  SUZETTE                               3  ”

  LE BOURGEOIS SOCIALISTE               3  ”

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  FABIAN TRACTS (Various), 1d. or 2d. Apply to the Secretary, Fabian
  Society, 3 Clement’s Inn, London, W.C.

  AN EIGHT HOURS WORKING DAY. Verbatim Report of a public debate
  between G. W. FOOTE and BERNARD SHAW. 6d.

  THE COMMON SENSE OF MUNICIPAL TRADING, 1904. Reprinted 1908. 6d.

  SOCIALISM AND SUPERIOR BRAINS. A reply to Mr. W. H. Mallock, 1894.
  Reprinted with _The Times_ correspondence of 1909 and a portrait.
  Paper covers, 6d. In boards, 1s.

Alphabetical Catalogue of the Books Published by A. C. Fifield, 13,
Clifford’s Inn, London, E.C. _April_, 1911

(_Arranged under authors and titles_)

Telephone: 14430 CENTRAL


  +Adams, Francis.+ Songs of the Army of the Night. Cr. 8vo, 128 pp.,
  cloth gilt, 2/-nett, postage 3d. Wrappers, 1/-nett, postage 1-1/2d.

  +Andreieff, Leonid.+ The Seven that were Hanged. Cr. 8vo, 80 pp.,
  wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d. (No. 1 of The Tucker Series.)

  Adventure, The. See Binns.

  +Auchmuty, A. C.+ Gems from Henry George. Fcap. 8vo, 112 pp.,
  wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1-1/2d

  Animals’ Rights. See Salt.

  Arbor Vitæ. See Blount.

  Anarchism. See Eltzbacher.

  Anarchism. See Goldman.

  Anarchism and Socialism. See Tucker Series. (See also
  Non-Governmental Society.)

  Anarchists, The. See Mackay.

  Argemone. See Holden.

  Articles of Faith. See Housman.

  Autobiography of a Super-Tramp. See Davies.

  Authoress of the Odyssey. See Butler.

  Alps and Sanctuaries. See Butler.

  +Barlow, George.+ The Higher Love: a Plea for a Nobler Conception
  of Human Love. Fcap. 8vo, 64 pp., cloth gilt, 1/-nett, postage 2d.
  Wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  +Ball, Sidney.+ See Socialism and Individualism.

  Ballads and Lyrics of Socialism. See Nesbit.

  Ballad of Judas Iscariot. See Buchanan.

  +Basis and Policy of Socialism, The.+ By Sidney Webb and the Fabian
  Society. Cr. 8vo, 96 pp., 1/4 cloth gilt top, 1/-nett, postage 2d.
  Wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d. (No. 4 of Fabian Socialist Series.)

  Beekeeping for Small-Holders. See Morton.

  Belinda, the Backward. See Hocking.

  +Bell, Ernest.+ Christmas Cruelties. Cr. 8vo, 16 pp., wrappers, 1d.,
  postage 1/2d.

  +Bennett, Arnold.+ The Reasonable Life. Cr. 8vo, 64 pp., 1/4 cloth
  gilt top, 1/-nett, postage 2d. Wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  +Bennett, T., LL.D., B.A.+ How are the Clergy Paid? being a Popular
  History of Tithe. Cr. 8vo, 64 pp., wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  Disestablishment, what it means: being a Consideration of the
  Historic Relations between Church and State. Cr. 8vo, 48 pp.,
  wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  Bernard Shaw as Artist-Philosopher. See Deacon.

  Best Beloved. See Rean.

  +Binns, H. B.+ The Great Companions. 96 pp., boards, 2/-nett, postage
  3d.

  Wanderer, The, and other Poems. Sm. Cr. 8vo, 32 pp., wrappers 1/-
  nett, postage 1d.

  Adventure, The. A romantic play. 112 pp, boards, 2/6 nett, postage 3d.

  Bird’s Eye View of History. See Corda.

  Bishops as Legislators. See Clayton.

  +Blount, Godfrey.+ Arbor Vitæ, a Book on the Nature and Development
  of Imaginative Design for the Use of Teachers, Handicraftsmen and
  Others. Medium 4to, 240 pp., cloth 5/-nett, postage 6d.

  The Science of Symbols. Cr. 8vo, 156 pp., cloth gilt, 2/6 nett,
  postage 3d.

  The Rustic Renaissance. Fcap. 8vo, 64 pp., 1/4 cloth gilt, 1/-nett,
  postage 2d. Wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  For our Country’s Sake: an Essay on the Revival of Country Life and
  Crafts. Demy 8vo, 32 pp., wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  The Gospel of Simplicity. Fcap. 8vo, 40 pp., cloth 6d. nett, postage
  1d. Wrappers, 3d., postage 1/2d.

  A New Crusade. An appeal. Cr. 8vo, 16 pp., wrappers, 2d., postage
  1/2d.

  Blunt, Wilfrid. See Rothstein.

  +Bonner, Hypatia Bradlaugh.+ The Death Penalty. Cr. 8vo, 24 pp.,
  wrappers, 2d., postage 1/2d.

  Books that are the Hearts of Men. See Story.

  +Brieux.+ Three plays by. (Maternity, The Three Daughters of Mons.
  Dupont, Damaged Goods; and a new version of Maternity). With 42 pp.
  preface by Bernard Shaw, and a portrait, Cr. 8vo, buckram 376 pp.,
  5/-nett, postage 4d. _May, 1911._

  +Browning, Robert.+ Rabbi Ben Ezra, and Prospice. (Brochure Series
  No. 5.) Demy 16mo, 32 pp., wrappers 4d., postage 1/2d.

  Bridge of Hope. See Folliott.

  +British Blood Sports.+ By Rev. J. Stratton, Rev. A. Harvie, Colonel
  W. L. B. Coulson, Lady Florence Dixie, etc. Cr. 8vo, 64 pp.,
  wrappers, 3d. nett, postage 1d.

  British Aristocracy and the House of Lords. See Carpenter.

  Broadcast. See Crosby.

+Brochure Series, The.+

  1. The Year’s Horoscope. 4d.

  2. Flowers from Upland and Valley. 4d.

  3. Sayings of Tolstoy. 6d. nett, and 1/-nett.

  4. The Everlasting Yea. 4d.

  5. Rabbi Ben Ezra. 4d.

  6. The Influence of Women. 6d. nett and 1/-nett.

  7. Why Your MSS. Return. 6d. nett and 1/-nett.

  8. How to Paint in Oil. 6d. nett and 1/-nett.

  +Buchanan, Robert.+ The Ballad of Judas Iscariot. (Out of print).

  +Buckle, H. T.+ The Influence of Women on the Progress of Knowledge.
  Brochure Series, No. 6. Demy 16mo, 64 pp., 1/4 cloth, gilt top,
  1/-nett, postage 2d. Wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  +Burroughs, John.+ See In Praise of Walking.

  +Burke, Edmund.+ A Vindication of Natural Society. Fcap. 8vo, 64 pp.,
  1/4 cloth, gilt top, 1/-nett, postage 2d. Wrappers, 6d. nett, postage
  1d.

  +Butler, Samuel.+ The Alps and Sanctuaries of Piedmont and the Canton
  Ticino. Pott 4to, 384 pp., cloth gilt, 10/6, postage 6d.

  The Authoress of the Odyssey, where and when she wrote, who she was,
  the use she made of the Iliad, and how the poem grew under her hands.
  Demy 8vo, 294 pp., cloth gilt, 5/-nett, postage 4d.

  Erewhon, or over the Range. New edition, with author’s final
  additions. Cr. 8vo, 352 pp., cloth, 2/6 nett, postage 4d.

  Erewhon Revisited. Twenty years later. New edition. Cr. 8vo, 340 pp.,
  cloth, 2/6 nett, postage 4d.

  Essays on Life, Art, and Science. Cr. 8vo, 340 pp., cloth, 2/6 nett,
  postage 4d.

  Evolution, Old and New; or, the theories of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus
  Darwin, and Lamarck, as compared with that of Mr. Charles Darwin. Cr.
  8vo, 396 pp., cloth, 5/-nett, postage 4d.

  Ex Voto, an account of the Sacro Monte or New Jerusalem at
  Varallo-Sesia. Cr. 8vo, 296 pp., cloth, 5/-nett, postage 4d.

  The Fair Haven. A work in defence of the miraculous element in our
  Lord’s ministry upon earth, both as against Rationalistic impugners
  and certain orthodox defenders. Demy 8vo, cloth gilt, 5/-nett,
  postage 4d. (Out of print).

  God the Known and God the Unknown. Cr. 8vo, cloth gilt, 1/6 nett,
  postage 3d.

  The Iliad of Homer, rendered into English prose for the use of those
  who cannot read the original. Cr. 8vo, 438 pp., cloth, 5/-nett,
  postage 4d.

  Life and Habit. New edition, with Author’s addenda, and preface by R.
  A. Streatfeild. Cr. 8vo, 320 pp., cloth, 5/-nett, postage 4d.

  Luck or Cunning, as the Main Means of Organic Modification? Cr. 8vo,
  340 pp., cloth, 5/-nett, postage 4d.

  The Odyssey rendered into English prose for the use of those who
  cannot read the original. Demy 8vo, 340 pp., cloth gilt, 5/-nett,
  postage 4d.

  Shakespeare’s Sonnets reconsidered, and in part rearranged, with
  introductory chapters, notes, and a reprint of the original 1609
  edition. Demy 8vo, 340 pp., cloth gilt, 5/-nett, postage 4d.

  Unconscious Memory. A comparison between the theories of Dr. Ewald
  Hering and Dr. Edward von Hartmann: with chapters bearing on ‘Life
  and Habit’ and ‘Evolution, Old and New’ and Mr. Charles Darwin. New
  edition, with Introduction by Professor Marcus Hartog. Cr. 8vo,
  5/-nett, postage 4d.

  The Way of all Flesh. A novel. Cr. 8vo, 432 pp., cloth, 6/-. New
  edition.

  Selections from Previous Works, with remarks on Mr. G. J. Romanes’
  “Mental Evolution in Animals,” and “A Psalm of Montreal.” (Out of
  print.)

  +Camden, William.+ Surrey and Sussex. Translated by Philimon Holland.
  Hand printed on hand-made paper, 10-1/2 by 8, 1/4 leather, 10/6 nett;
  1/4 cloth, 7/6 nett, postage 4d.

  Camel and the Needle’s Eye, The. See Ponsonby.

  +Carlyle, Thomas.+ The Everlasting Yea. Brochure Series, No. 4. Demy
  16mo, 32 pp., wrappers, 4d., postage 1d.

  +Carpenter, Edward.+ Poet and Prophet. See Crosby.

  Photogravure Portrait of, by Mattison. 8-1/4 by 5-1/2. On Mount
  12-1/2 by 10. 2/-nett, postage 3d.

  The Man and his Message. See Swan.

  Prisons, Police, and Punishment: An inquiry into the causes and
  treatment of crime and criminals. Cr. 8vo, 160 pp., cloth, 2/-nett,
  postage 3d., wrappers, 1/-nett, postage 2d.

  British Aristocracy and the House of Lords. Cr. 8vo, 40 pp.,
  wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  Empire: In India and Elsewhere. Cr. 8vo, 24 pp., wrappers, 2d.,
  postage 1/2d.

  Non-governmental Society. Cr. 8vo, wrappers, 3d. nett, postage 1/2d.

  Vivisection. Two addresses given before the Humanitarian League. Cr.
  8vo, 32 pp., wrappers, 3d., postage 1/2d.

  Chapters in Democratic Christianity. See Hocking.

  +Clarke, William.+ Walt Whitman. A study. Fcap. 8vo, 140 pp., cloth,
  1/6 nett, postage 3d.

  +Clayton, Joseph.+ The Bishops as Legislators: A record of votes and
  speeches delivered by the Bishops of the Established Church in the
  House of Lords during the Nineteenth Century. Preface by the Rev.
  Stewart D. Headlam. Cr. 8vo, 128 pp., cloth, gilt, 2/-nett, postage
  3d., wrappers, 1/-nett, postage 2d.

  Robert Owen, Pioneer of Social Reforms. Social Reformers’ Series,
  No. 1. Cr. 8vo, 72 pp., 1/4 cloth, gilt top, 1/-nett, postage 2d.,
  wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  The Truth About the Lords. Fifty Years of the New Nobility,
  1857-1907. Cr. 8vo, 128 pp., cloth, gilt, 2/-nett, postage 3d.,
  wrappers, 1/-nett, postage 2d.

  +Clifford, John.+ See Socialism and Religion.

  Closer Union. See Schreiner.

  +Clune, Thomas.+ (Arthur Ponsonby, M.P.) Spiritual Perfection: A
  Discussion. Fcap. 8vo, 64 pp., boards, 1/-nett, postage 2d.


  +Collinson, Joseph.+ Facts About Flogging. Small Cr. 8vo, 64 pp.,
  wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  What it Costs to be Vaccinated: The Pains and Penalties of an Unjust
  Law. Cr. 8vo, 48 pp., wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  +Constable, F. C.+, M.A. Poverty and Hereditary Genius: A Criticism
  of Mr. Francis Galton’s Theory of Hereditary Genius. Cr. 8vo, 156
  pp., cloth, gilt, 2/-nett, postage 3d. Wrappers, 1/-nett, postage 2d.

  +Coulson, Colonel W. Lisle B.+ The Horse: His Life, His Usage, and
  His End. Cr. 8vo, 20 pp. wrappers, 2d., postage 1/2d.

  Commonsense of Municipal Trading, The. See Shaw.

  Concerning Christ. See Dickins.

  Consolations of a Faddist. See Salt.

  The Corn Laws. See Marks.

  +Corda, Sursam.+ A Bird’s Eye View of History. 224 pp., boards, 1/6
  nett, postage 3d.

  +Cottage Farm Series, The.+

  1. My Farm of Two Acres. 6d. and 1/-nett.

  2. Fork and Spade Husbandry. 6d. and 1/-nett.

  3. How I Work My Small Farm. 1/-and 2/-nett. 3rd. edition.

  4. The Simple Life on Four Acres. 6d. and 1/-nett. (Out of print).

  5. Six Acres by Hand Labour. 6d. and 1/-nett.

  6. Winning a Living on Four Acres. 6d. and 1/-nett.

  7. Beekeeping for Small-Holders. 1/-and 2/-nett.

  +Cotterill, C. C.+ The Victory of Love. Cr. 8vo, 144 pp., Cloth gilt,
  2/-nett, postage 3d.

  Count Louis and Other Poems. See Schlœsser.

  +Crosby, Ernest.+ Broadcast. New Poems. Cr. 8vo, 128 pp., cloth gilt,
  1/6 nett, postage 3d.

  Edward Carpenter: Poet and Prophet. Cr. 8vo, 64 pp., wrappers, 6d.
  nett, postage 1d.

  Garrison, the Non-Resistant. Cr. 8vo, 142 pp., cloth, 1/6 nett,
  postage 3d.

  Meat Fetish, The. 3d., postage 1/2d.

  Swords and Ploughshares. Demy 8vo, 126 pp., cloth gilt, gilt top, 2/6
  nett, postage 4d.

  Tolstoy as a Schoolmaster. Fcap. 8vo, 96 pp., cloth, 1/-nett, postage
  2d. Wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  Tolstoy and his Message. Fcap. 8vo, 96 pp., 1/4 cloth, 1/-nett,
  postage 2d. Wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  Cross Purposes and the Carosoyn. See MacDonald.

  +Crouch, E. T.+ A Treasury of South African Poetry and Verse. Cr.
  8vo, 352 pp., cloth gilt, 4/-. Leather, 6/-, postage 4d. (New
  edition, with additional matter.)

  Sonnets of South Africa. Fcap 8vo, 112 pp., 1/4 cloth, gilt top,
  2/-nett, postage 2d.

  Culture. See Emerson.

  Curdled Milk. See Montenuis.

  +Daily Readings from George MacDonald.+ Selected and arranged by
  James Dobson. Fcap. 8vo, 148 pp. White boards, 1/- nett, postage 2d.

  DAVIES, WILLIAM H. The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp. With a preface
  by Bernard Shaw. Cr. 8vo, 328 pp., second edition, cloth, 6/-.

  Nature Poems and Others. Fcap. 8vo, 64 pp., grey boards, 1/-nett,
  postage 2d. (second edition.)

  Farewell to Poesy, and Other Poems. Fcap. 8vo, 64 pp., grey boards,
  1/-nett, postage 2d.

  The Day Boy and Night Girl. See MacDonald.

  +Deacon, R. M.+ Bernard Shaw as Artist-Philosopher. Fcap. 8vo, 104
  pp. cloth, 2/-nett, postage 3d. Wrappers, 1/-nett, postage 1-1/2d.

  +Dearmer, Percy.+ See Socialism and Religion.

  +Defence and Death of Socrates, The.+ Being the “Apology,” and part
  of the “Phaedo: or, the Immortality of the Soul” of Plato. Fcap. 8vo,
  96 pp., 1/4 cloth gilt top, 1/-nett, postage 2d. Wrappers, 6d. nett,
  postage 1d.

  The Diary of an old Soul. See MacDonald.

  +Dickins, Clara Swain.+ Glimmerings. Cr. 8vo, 160 pp., cloth gilt,
  1/-nett, postage 3d.

  Concerning Christ: Sonnet and Song. Cr. 8vo, 140 pp., cloth gilt,
  1/-nett, postage 3d.

  The Dimensional Idea as an Aid to Religion. See Tyler.

  Discovery of the Dead. See Upward.

  Disestablishment, What it Means. See Bennett.

  +Dixie, Lady Florence.+ The Horrors of Sport. Cr. 8vo, 32 pp.,
  wrappers, 3d., postage 1/2d.

  +Dymond, T. S.+ See Socialism and Agriculture.

  Education. See Knowlson.

  Ego and his Own. See Stirner.

  Egypt’s Ruin. See Rothstein.

  +Eiloart, Dr. Arnold.+ No Rheumatism: How to Cure Rheumatism, Gout,
  Lumbago, and Rheumatoid Arthritis by Natural Means. Cr. 8vo, 64 pp.,
  1/4 cloth gilt top, 1/- nett, postage 2d. Wrappers, 6d. nett, postage
  1d.

  +Eltzbacher, Dr. Paul.+ Anarchism. Translated by Stephen T. Byington.
  Small cr. 8vo, 340 pp., cloth gilt, 6/6 nett, postage 4d. With seven
  portraits.

  +Emerson, Ralph Waldo.+ Culture and Education, by Nature, Books, and
  Action. Simple Life Series, No. 13. Fcap. 8vo, 40 pp., cloth, 6d.
  nett, postage 1d. Wrappers, 3d., postage 1/2d.

  Man, the Reformer. Simple Life Series, No. 6. Fcap. 8vo, cloth, 6d.
  nett, postage 1d. Wrappers, 3d., postage 1/2d.

  Enclosed Nun, An. See Life of.

  England’s Need. See Knowlson.

  Erewhon. See Butler.

  Erewhon Revisited. See Butler.

  Essays on Life, Art, and Science. See Butler.

  +Eton Under Hornby.+ By O. E. Some Reminiscences and Reflections.
  Cr. 8vo, 128 pp., cloth gilt, gilt top, 3/6 nett, postage 3d. With a
  frontispiece portrait. Wrappers, 1/-nett, postage 2d.

  Evolution, Old and New. See Butler.

  Even as You and I. See Hall.

  Everlasting Yea, The. See Carlyle.

  Ex Voto. See Butler.

  +Fabian Socialist Series, The.+

  1. Socialism and Religion.

  2. Socialism and Agriculture.

  3. Socialism and Individualism.

  4. The Basis and Policy of Socialism.

  5. The Common Sense of Municipal Trading.

  6. Socialism and National Minimum.

  7. Wastage of Child Life.

  8. Socialism and Superior Brains.

  9. The Theory and Practice of Trade Unionism.

  See under titles.

  Facts About Flogging. See Collinson.

  Faith. See Smith, C. R.

  Fair Haven, The. See Butler.

  Fairy Tales of George MacDonald. See MacDonald.

  Fallacy of Speed, The. See Taylor.

  Farewell to Poesy. See Davies.

  +Feaver, J. W.+ Poems. Fcap 8vo, cloth gilt, 1/6 nett, postage 2d.

  +Fitzgerald, Edward.+ Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, the Astronomer Poet
  of Persia. A reprint of the first edition, with Fitzgerald’s preface
  and Life of Omar and notes. Simple Life Series, No. 3. Fcap. 8vo, 40
  pp., cloth, 6d. nett, postage 1d. Wrappers, 3d., postage 1/2d.

  Flowers from Upland and Valley. See Gibson.

  +Folliott, L.+ Songs and Fantasies. Cr. 8vo, 1/4 cloth gilt top, 128
  pp., 3/6 nett, postage 3d.

  +Folliott, Thomas.+ A Bridge of Hope. Fcap. 8vo, 96 pp., cloth gilt,
  gilt top, 2/-nett, postage 2d.

  Life’s Golden Thread. Poems. Fcap. 8vo, 64 pp., cloth gilt, 1/6 nett,
  postage 2d. Wrappers, 1/-nett, postage 1-1/2d.

  Love’s Metamorphosis. A Study. Fcap. 8vo, 80 pp., cloth gilt, 2/-
  nett, postage 2d.

  The Poetic Spirit. Studies. Fcap. 8vo, 128 pp., cloth gilt, 3/-nett,
  postage 3d.

  The Quantock Hills. Stanzas written in the neighbourhood of Holford.
  Fcap. 8vo, 40 pp., cloth gilt, 1/6 nett, postage 2d.

  The Temple of Man. Fcap. 8vo, 128 pp., cloth gilt, 2/6 nett, postage
  3d.

  +Food and Fashion.+ Some thoughts on what we eat and what we wear.
  Cr. 8vo, 64 pp., wrappers, 3d. nett, postage 1d.

  For our Country’s Sake. See Blount.

  Fork and Spade Husbandry. See Sillett.

  +Froude, James Anthony.+ A Siding at a Railway Station. An allegory.
  Simple Life Series, No 19. Fcap. 8vo, 40 pp., cloth, 6d. nett,
  postage 1d. Wrappers, 3d., postage 1/2d.

  Game of Life, The. See Hall.

  Garrison, The Non-Resistant. See Crosby.

  Henry George and his Gospel. See Pedder.

  Gems from Henry George. See Auchmuty.

  Giant’s Heart, The, and the Golden Key. See MacDonald.


  +Gibson, Elizabeth.+ Flowers from Upland and Valley. Brochure Series,
  No. 2. Demy 16mo, 32 pp., wrappers, 4d., postage 1/2d.

  A Little Book of Saints. 24 pp., wrappers, 4d., postage 1/2d.

  Well by the Way, The. Simple Life Series, No. 7. Fcap. 8vo, 40 pp.,
  cloth, 6d. nett, postage 1d. Wrappers, 3d., postage 1/2d. (O/p.)

  Glimmerings. See Dickins.

  +Godard, J. G.+ Patriotism and Ethics. Cr. 8vo, 380 pp., cloth gilt,
  2/-nett, postage 4d.

  God the Known, and God the Unknown. See Butler.

  +Goldman, Emma.+ Anarchism, and other essays. Crown 8vo, 277 pp.,
  cloth, 4/6 nett, postage 4d. With portrait of Author.

  +Good, Alexander.+ Why Your MSS. Return. Brochure Series, No. 7. Demy
  16mo, 64 pp., 1/4 cloth, gilt top, 1/-nett, postage 2d. Wrappers, 6d.
  nett, postage 1d.

  Gospel of Simplicity, The. See Blount.

  +Gould, Gerald.+ An Essay on the Nature of Lyric. Cr. 8vo, wrappers,
  2/-nett.

  Great Companions, The. See Binns.

  +Gray, Kirkman.+ A Modern Humanist. With prefaces by H. B. Binns,
  and Clementina Black, and a portrait. Cr. 8vo, cloth, gilt, 5/-nett,
  postage 4d.

  +Green, Kathleen Conyngham.+ The Third Road, and other poems. Fcap.
  8vo, boards, 1/-nett, postage 1-1/2d. (second edition.)

  +Green, F. E.+ How I Work My Small Farm. With five illustrations.
  Cottage Farm Series, No. 3. Cr. 8vo, 96 pp., cloth gilt, 2/-nett,
  postage 3d. Wrappers, 1/-nett, postage 1-1/2d. (Third edition.)

  Love and Hunger. Dramatic episodes in the life of the people. 64 pp.,
  Cr. 8vo, wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  +Greenwood, George, M.P.+ The Law of the Steel Trap. Cr. 8vo, 20 pp.,
  wrappers, 1d., postage 1/2d.

  Greenwood, J. H., Barrister-at-law. See Trade Unionism.

  +Hall, Bolton.+ Even as You and I. Fables and parables of the life of
  To-day. Simple Life Series, No. 2. Fcap. 8vo, 96 pp., cloth gilt, 1/-
  nett, postage 2d. (Out of print.)

  The Game of Life. Fcap. 8vo, 140 pp., cloth gilt, 2/-nett, postage 4d.

  +Hankin, St. John.+ The Last of the De Mullins. A Play. Sm. Cr. 8vo,
  128 pp., wrappers 1/6 nett, postage 2d.

  +Hazlitt, William.+ See In Praise of Walking.

  Headlam, Rev. S. D. See Socialism and Religion.

  Hegelian, Holiday with. See Sedlák.

  Higher Love, The. See G. Barlow.

  +Heath, Carl.+ Some Notes on the Punishment of Death. Cr. 8vo, 32
  pp., wrappers, 2d., postage 1/2d.

  +Hervé, Gustave.+ My Country, Right or Wrong. Translated by Guy
  Bowman. Cr. 8vo, 270 pp., with 3 portraits, cloth gilt, 3/6 nett,
  postage 4d.

  +Hickmott, Arthur.+ Songs of a Shopman. Fcap. 8vo, boards, 1/-nett,
  postage 1-1/2d.

  +Hird, Dennis, M.A., J.P.+ Shear My Sheep. Cr. 8vo, 96 pp., wrappers,
  1/-nett, postage 1-1/2d.

  +Hobson, Mrs. J. A.+ Shifting Scenes. Cr. 8vo, 160 pp., 1/4 cloth,
  gilt top, 1/-nett, postage 3d.

  +Hocking, Silas K.+ Chapters in Democratic Christianity. Simple
  Life Series, No. 14. Fcap. 8vo, 96 pp., cloth, 1/-nett, postage 2d.
  Wrappers, 6d. nett, postage 1d.

  +Hocking, Salome+ (Mrs. A. C. Fifield). Belinda the Backward. A Story
  of Tolstoyan Life. Cr. 8vo, 192 pp., cloth gilt, 2/-nett, postage 3d.
  Wrappers, 1/-nett, postage 2-1/2d.

  +Holden, E. M.+ Argemone. Small cr. 8vo, 48 pp., wrappers, 9d. nett,
  postage 1d.

  Israfel. Small cr. 8vo, 72 pp., wrappers, 1/-nett, postage 1d.

  Songs at Dawn. Fcap. 8vo, 80 pp., cloth gilt, 2/-nett, postage 2d.

  Songs of Christine. Small cr. 8vo, 128 pp., cloth, 2/6 nett, postage
  3d. Wrappers, 1/6 nett, postage 2d.

  +Hopps, J. Page.+ The Coming Day. Monthly, 3d., postage 1/2d.; and
  numerous booklets and pamphlets.

  Horrors of Sport, The. See Dixie.

  Horse, The. See Coulson.

  +Housman, Laurence.+ Articles of Faith in the Freedom of Women. Cr.
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  +In Praise of Walking.+ By Thoreau, Whitman, Hazlitt, and Burroughs.
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  Jefferies, Richard. See Salt.

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  +Johnston, Dr. J.+ See Wastage of Child Life.

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  +Kitchin, The Very Rev. Dean G. W.+ A Letter to the Labour Party.
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  +Webb, Sidney.+ See The Basis and Policy of Socialism, Socialism and
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  Whitman, Walt. See Clarke.

  Winning a Living on Four Acres. See Morton.

  Why Your MSS. Return. See Good.

  +Williams, Howard.+ Pioneers of Humanity. Cr. 8vo, 64 pp., wrappers,
  6d. nett, postage 1d.

  Woman’s Calendar, The. See Montifiore.

  Words of a Believer, The. See Lamennais.





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