WOMAN ON HER OWN, FALSE GODS AND THE RED ROBE:
THREE PLAYS BY BRIEUX.
THE ENGLISH VERSIONS BY MRS. BERNARD SHAW, J. F. FAGAN, AND A. BERNARD MIALL. WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY BRIEUX
BRENTANO'S NEW YORK MCMXVI
Copyright, 1916, by Brentano's
THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.
Woman On Her Own 1
False Gods 127
The Red Robe 219
We are confronted at the present time by the woman who is anxious to lay by means for her own support irrespective of the protection of her husband. In this play I have indicated the tendency of this difficulty and the consequent troubles which the older civilizations will bring upon themselves when the woman's standing as a worker is generally acknowledged. My conclusion, namely, that all these complications and troubles are, at present at any rate, owing to the education of the man, points to the remedy, as far as I can see it.
I must inform my readers that the version of LA FEMME SEULE, a translation of which is now published in this volume, has, so far, not appeared in France and is unknown there; at least as regards the larger part of the third act. I might, did I think it advisable, reproduce in its entirety a text which certain timidities have led me to emasculate.
As between the man and the woman the ideal situation would, no doubt, be a rehabilitation of the old custom—the man at the workshop and the woman in the home; thus reserving for her the holiest and most important of all missions—the one which insures the future of the race by her enlightened care of the moral and physical health of her children.
Unfortunately it happens that the wages of the working-man are insufficient for the support of a family, and the poor woman is therefore compelled to go to the factory. The results are deplorable. The child is either entirely abandoned, or given to the State, and the solidarity of the family suffers in consequence.
Then again a generation of women with new ideas has arisen, who think they should have, if they wish it, the right to live alone and by themselves, without a husband's protection. However much some of us may regret this attitude, it is one which must be accepted, since I cannot believe that the worst tyrants would dare to make marriage obligatory. These women have a right to live, and consequently a right to work. Also there are the widows and the abandoned women.
Women first took places which seemed best fit for them, and which the men turned over to them because the work appeared to be of a character suitable to the feminine sex. But the modern woman has had enough of the meagre salary which is to be obtained by means of needle-work, and she has invaded the shop, the office, the desks of the banks and post office. In industry also she has taken her place by the side of the working-man, who has made room for her first with ironical grace, then with grumbling, and sometimes with anger. I believe that in Europe at least this kind of difficulty will have to be faced in the future.
As to the rich woman (and in LA FEMME SEULE I have treated this subject only slightly because it is one to which I expect to come back), they have been driven from the home where the progress of domestic science has left them very little to do. We have reached a kind of hypocritical form of State Socialism, or perhaps it would be better to say Collectivism, and this will profoundly change the moral outlook. All, or nearly all, of the work of the home seems to be done by people from the outside—from the cleaning of the windows to the education of the children. The modern home is but a fireside around which one hardly sees the family gathered for intimate talk.
It has thus happened that the woman who finds herself without work, and with several children, looks out of the windows of her home away from it for the employment of her activities. The future will tell us whether or no this is good. In my opinion I believe it will be good, and I believe that man will gain, through this new intelligence, in the direction of the larger life which has come to women from this necessity of theirs. Unquestionably there will have to be a new education, and this will certainly come.
LA FOI.—This play is, without doubt, of all my plays the one which has cost me the most labor and the one upon which I have expended the most thought and time. The impulse to write it came to me at Lourdes in view of the excited, suffering, and praying crowds of people. When the thought of writing it came to me I hesitated, but during many years I added notes upon notes. And it was while on a trip to Egypt that I saw the possibility for discussing such questions in the theatre without giving offence to various consciences. My true and illustrious friend, Camille Saint-Saens, has been kind enough to underline my prose with his admirable music. In this way LA FOI has been produced on the stage at Monte Carlo for the first time under the auspices of His Royal Highness the Prince of Monaco, whom I now beg to thank.
English readers of LA ROBE ROUGE would, I think, be somewhat misled, if they did not understand the difference between the procedure in criminal cases in France and in Great Britain. My purpose in this preface is to attempt to show that difference in a few words.
With you, a criminal trial is conducted publicly and before a jury; with us in France it is carried on in the Chambers of the Judge with only the lawyer present. There sometimes result from this latter method dramas of the kind of which my play LA ROBE ROUGE is one. The judge, too directly interested and free of the criticism which might fall on him from the general public, is liable to the danger of forming for himself an opinion as to the guilt of the accused. He may do this in perfect good faith, but sometimes runs the risk of falling into grave error. It thus occasionally happens that he is anxious not so much to know the truth as to prove that he was right in his own, often rash, opinion.
LA ROBE ROUGE is a criticism of certain judicial proceedings which obtain in France; but it is also a study of an individual case of professional crookedness. We should be greatly mistaken were we to draw the dangerous conclusion that all French judges resemble Mouzon, and we should be equally wrong were we to condemn too hastily the French code relating to criminal trials.
In the struggle of society with the criminal it is very difficult, perhaps impossible, for the legislator to hold in equal balance the rights of the individual as against the interests of society. The balance sometimes leans one way and sometimes the other; and had I been an English citizen, instead of writing a play against the abuse of justice by a judge, I might have had to illustrate the same abuse by the lawyer.
I wish most sincerely that these three plays may interest the people of England and America. The problems which I have studied I am sure I have not brought to their final solutions. My ambition was to draw and keep the attention of honest people on them by means of the theatre.
WOMAN ON HER OWN
[LA FEMME SEULE]
TRANSLATED BY MRS. BERNARD SHAW
THERESE MADAME NERISSE MADAME GUERET MOTHER BOUGNE CAROLINE LEGRAND MADAME CHANTEUIL LUCIENNE MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE MADEMOISELLE BARON MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT ANTOINETTE BERTHE CONSTANCe MAID WORKWOMEN NERISSE FELIAT RENE CHARTON GUERET MAFFLU VINCENT A DELEGATE PAGE BOY GIRARD CHARPIN DESCHAUME WORKMEN
WOMAN ON HER OWN
SCENE:—A Louis XV sitting-room. To the right a large recessed window with small panes of glass which forms a partition dividing the sitting-room from an inner room. A heavy curtain on the further side shuts out this other room. There are a table and piano and doors to the right and at the back. The place is in disorder. One of the panes in the large window has been taken out and replaced by a movable panel. It is October.
Madame Gueret is sitting at a table. She is a woman of forty-five, dressed for the afternoon, cold and distinguished looking. Monsieur Gueret, who is with her, is about fifty-five and is wearing a frock coat. He is standing beside his wife.
GUERET. Then you really don't want me to go and hear the third act?
MADAME GUERET [dryly] I think as I've been let in for these theatricals solely to please your goddaughter you may very well keep me company. Besides, my brother is coming back and he has something to say to you.
GUERET [resignedly] Very well, my dear.
MADAME GUERET. I can't get over it.
GUERET. Over what?
MADAME GUERET. What we're doing. What are we doing?
GUERET. We're giving a performance of Barberine for the amusement of our friends. There's nothing very extraordinary in that.
MADAME GUERET. Don't make fun of me, please. What we are doing is simply madness. Madness, do you hear? And it was the day before yesterday—only the day before yesterday—we heard the news.
MADAME GUERET [Who has seen Lucienne come in] Hush!
Lucienne comes in, a girl of twenty, dressed as Barberine from Musset's play; then Maud, Nadia, and Antoinette [eighteen to twenty-two], dressed as followers of the queen. Lucienne goes to the piano, takes a piece of music, and comes to Madame Gueret.
LUCIENNE. You'll help me along, won't you, dear Madame Gueret? You'll give me my note when it comes to "Voyez vous pas que la nuit est profonde"?
MADAME GUERET. Now don't be nervous.
MAUD [coming in] We're ready.
ANTOINETTE. If the third act only goes as well as the first two—
MAUD. We'll listen until we have to go on.
ANTOINETTE. Won't you come with us, Madame?
MADAME GUERET. No, I can't. I've had to undertake the noises behind the scenes. That job might have been given to someone else, I think.
LUCIENNE. Oh, Madame, please don't be angry with us. Madame Chain let us know too late. And you're helping us so much.
MADAME GUERET. Well, I've invited the people, and I suppose I must entertain them. As I gave in to Therese about getting up this play, I don't want to do anything to spoil the evening.
LUCIENNE. How pretty she is as Kalekairi.
MADAME GUERET. You don't think people are shocked by her frock?
LUCIENNE. Oh, Madame!
MADAME GUERET. Well!
LUCIENNE. I shall have to go in a moment. Therese has come out; I can hear her sequins rattling.
MADAME GUERET. Yes; so can I. But Rene will let us know. Never mind.
She goes to the piano. Rene appears at the door at the back.
RENE. Are you ready, Lucienne?
RENE. You've only two lines to say.
LUCIENNE. Only one. [She speaks low to Rene] No end of a success, wasn't it, for your Therese?
RENE [low] Wasn't it? I am so happy, Lucienne. I love her so.
LUCIENNE. Listen. That's for me, I think.
RENE. Yes, that's for you. Wait. [He goes to the door at the back, listens, and returns] Come. Turn this way so as to make it sound as if you were at a distance. Now then.
Madame Gueret accompanies Lucienne on the piano.
Beau chevalier qui partez pour la guerre, Qu'allez vous faire Si loin d'ici?
Voyez-vous pas que la nuit est profonde Et que le monde N'est que souci.
MADAME GUERET [civilly] You have a delightful voice, Mademoiselle Lucienne.
Lucienne places her music on the piano with a smile to Madame Gueret.
RENE [to Lucienne, drawing her to the partition window and showing her where a pane has been removed] And your little window! Have you seen your little window? It was not there at the dress rehearsal. You lift it like this. It's supposed to be an opening in the wall. It ought to have been different; we were obliged to take out a pane. May I show her, Madame Gueret?
MADAME GUERET [resigned] Yes, yes, of course.
RENE. You lift it like this; and to speak you'll lean forward, won't you, so that they may see you?
LUCIENNE. I will, yes.
RENE. Don't touch it now. [To Madame Gueret] You won't forget the bell, will you, Madame? There's plenty of time—ten minutes at least. I'll let you know. Mademoiselle Lucienne, now, time to go on.
LUCIENNE. Yes, yes. [She goes out]
MADAME GUERET [with a sigh] To have a play being acted in the circumstances we're in—it's beyond everything! I cannot think how I came to allow it.
GUERET. You see they'd been rehearsing for a week. And Therese—
MADAME GUERET. And I not only allowed it, but I'm almost taking part in it.
GUERET. We couldn't put off all these people at twenty-four hours' notice. And it's our last party. It's really a farewell party. Besides, we should have had to tell Therese everything.
MADAME GUERET. Well, you asked me to keep it all from her until to-morrow—though it concerns her as much as it does us. [Monsieur Feliat comes in, a man of sixty, correct without being elegant] Here's my brother.
FELIAT. I've something to tell you. Shall we be interrupted?
MADAME GUERET. Yes, constantly.
FELIAT. Let's go into another room.
MADAME GUERET. I can't. And all the rooms are full of people.
GUERET. Marguerite has been good enough to help here by taking the place of Madame Chain, who's ill.
MADAME GUERET [angrily] Yes, I've got to do the noises heard off! At my age! [A sigh] Tell us, Etienne, what is it?
GUERET. We can wait until the play is over.
MADAME GUERET. So like you! You don't care a bit about what my brother has to tell us. Who'd ever believe this is all your fault! [To her brother] What is it?
FELIAT. I have seen the lawyer. Your goddaughter will have to sign this power of attorney so that it may get to Lyons to-morrow morning.
GUERET [who has glanced at the paper] But we can't get her to sign that without telling her all about it.
MADAME GUERET. Well, goodness me, she'll have to know sometime! I must say I cannot understand the way you've kept this dreadful thing from her. It's pure sentimentality.
GUERET. The poor child!
MADAME GUERET. You really are ridiculous. One would think that it was only her money the lawyer took. It's gone, of course; but so is ours.
GUERET. We still have La Tremblaye.
MADAME GUERET. Yes, thank goodness, because La Tremblaye belongs to me.
Rene comes in in great excitement.
RENE. Where is Mademoiselle Therese? She'll keep the stage waiting! [Listening] No, she's coming, I hear her. Nice fright she's given me! [To Madame Gueret] Above all, Madame, don't forget the bell, almost the moment that Mademoiselle Therese comes off the stage.
MADAME GUERET. Yes, yes.
RENE. And my properties! [He runs out]
FELIAT. Now we can talk for a minute.
MADAME GUERET. Yes.
FELIAT. You've quite made up your minds to come to Evreux?
FELIAT. Are you sure you won't regret Paris?
MADAME GUERET. Oh, no.
GUERET. For the last two years I've hated Paris.
MADAME GUERET. Since you began to play cards.
GUERET. For the last two years we've had the greatest difficulty in keeping up appearances. This lawyer absconding is the last blow.
FELIAT. Aren't you afraid you will be horribly bored at La Tremblaye?
GUERET [rising] What are we to do?
FELIAT. Well, now listen to me. I told you—
Rene comes in and takes something off a table. Feliat stops suddenly.
RENE. Good-morning, uncle. [He hurries out]
FELIAT. Good-morning, Rene.
GUERET. He knows nothing about it yet?
FELIAT. No; and my sister-in-law asked me to tell him.
MADAME GUERET. Well, why shouldn't you? If they are engaged, we know nothing about it.
MADAME GUERET. We know nothing officially, because in these days young people don't condescend to consult their parents.
FELIAT. Rene told his people and they gave their consent.
MADAME GUERET. Unwillingly.
FELIAT. Oh certainly, unwillingly. Then I'm to tell him?
MADAME GUERET. The sooner the better.
FELIAT. I'll tell him to-night.
GUERET. I'm afraid it'll be an awful blow to the poor chap.
MADAME GUERET. Oh, he's young. He'll get over it.
FELIAT. What was I saying when he came in? Ah, yes; you know I've decided to add a bindery to my printing works at Evreux; you saw the building started when you were down there. If things go as I want them to, I shall try to do some cheap artistic binding. I want to get hold of a man who won't rob me to manage this new branch and look after it; a man who won't be too set in his ideas, because I want him to adopt mine; and, at the same time, I'd like him to be not altogether a stranger. I thought I'd found him; but I saw the man yesterday and I don't like him. Now will you take on the job? Would it suit you?
GUERET. Would it suit me! Oh, my dear Feliat, how can I possibly thank you? To tell you the truth, I've been wondering what in the world I should do with myself now; and I was dreading the future. What you offer me is better than anything I could have dreamt of. What do you say, Marguerite?
MADAME GUERET. I am delighted.
FELIAT. Then that's all right.
GUERET [to his brother-in-law] I think you won't regret having confidence in me.
FELIAT. And your goddaughter?
MADAME GUERET. Therese?
FELIAT. Yes; how is she going to face this double news of her ruin and the breaking off of her engagement?
MADAME GUERET. I think she ought to have sense enough to understand that one is the consequence of the other. She can hardly expect Rene's parents to give their son to a girl without money.
FELIAT. I suppose not. But what's to become of her?
GUERET. She will live with us, of course.
MADAME GUERET. "Of course"! I like that.
GUERET. She has no other relations, and her father left her in my care.
MADAME GUERET. He left her in your care, and it's I who have been rushed into all the trouble of a child who is nothing to me.
GUERET. Child! She was nineteen when her father died.
FELIAT. To look after a young girl of nineteen is a very great responsibility.
MADAME GUERET [laughing bitterly] Ho! Ho! Look after! Look after Mademoiselle Therese! You think she's a person who allows herself to be looked after! And yet you've seen her more or less every holidays.
GUERET. You've not had to look after her; she has been at the Lycee.
Therese comes in dressed as Kalekairi from "Barberine." She is a pretty girl of twenty-three, healthy, and bright.
THERESE. The bell, the bell, godmother! You're forgetting the bell! Good-evening, Monsieur Feliat.
Therese takes up the bell, which is on the table.
MADAME GUERET. I was going to forget it! Oh, what a nuisance! All this is so new to me.
FELIAT. Excuse me! I really didn't recognize you for the moment.
THERESE [laughing] Ah, my dress. Startling, isn't it?
MADAME GUERET [with meaning] Startling is the right word.
RENE [appearing at the back, disappearing again immediately, and calling] The bell! And you, on the stage, Mademoiselle Therese!
THERESE. I'm coming. [She rings] Here I am!
She goes out.
MADAME GUERET [with a sigh] And I had it let down!
MADAME GUERET. Her dress. [To her husband] What I see most clearly in all this is that she must stay with us.
Rene comes fussing in.
RENE. Where's the queen? Where's Madame Nerisse?
MADAME GUERET. I've not seen her.
RENE. But goodness gracious—! [He goes to the door on the left and calls] Madame Nerisse!
MADAME NERISSE [from outside] Yes, yes, I'm ready.
Madame Nerisse comes in. She is about forty, flighty, and a little affected.
RENE. I wanted to warn you that Ulric will be on your right, and if he plays the fool—
MADAME NERISSE. Very well. Is it time?
RENE. Yes, come. [To Madame Gueret] You won't forget the trumpets?
MADAME GUERET. No, no. All the same, you'd better help me.
RENE. I will, I will.
He goes out with Madame Nerisse.
FELIAT. You know, if she wants one, she'll find a husband at Evreux.
MADAME GUERET. Without a penny!
FELIAT. Without a penny! She made a sensation at the ball at the sous-prefecture. She's extremely pretty.
MADAME GUERET. She's young.
FELIAT. Monsieur Gambard sounded me about her.
MADAME GUERET. Monsieur Gambard! The Monsieur Gambard who has the house with the big garden?
MADAME GUERET. But he's very rich.
FELIAT. He's forty-nine.
MADAME GUERET. She'll have to take what she can get now.
FELIAT. And I think that Monsieur Beaudoin——
GUERET. But he's almost a cripple!
MADAME GUERET. She wouldn't do so well in Paris.
GUERET. She wouldn't look at either of them.
FELIAT. We must try and make her see reason.
Rene enters busily. Lucienne follows him. Feliat is standing across the guichet through which Barberine is to speak. Rene pulls him away without ceremony.
RENE. Excuse me, Uncle; don't stand there before the little window.
FELIAT. Beg pardon. I didn't know.
RENE. I haven't a moment.
FELIAT. I've never seen you so busy. At your office they say you're a lazy dog.
MADAME GUERET. Probably Rene has more taste for the stage than for business.
RENE [laughing] Rather! [To Lucienne] Now, it's time. Come. Lift it. Not yet! There! Now!
LUCIENNE [speaking through the guichet] "If you want food and drink, you must do like those old women you despise—you must spin."
LUCIENNE [to Feliat] Please forgive me, Monsieur, I've not had time to speak to you.
FELIAT. Why, it's Mademoiselle Lucienne, Therese's friend, who came and stayed in the holidays! Fancy my not recognizing you!
LUCIENNE. It's my dress. I do like playing this part. I have to say that lovely bit—you know—the bit that describes the day of the ideal wife. [She recites, sentimentally] "I rise and go to prayers, to the farmyard, to the kitchen. I prepare your meal; I go with you to church; I read a page or two; I sew a while; and then I fall asleep happy upon your breast."
FELIAT. That's good, oh, that's very good! Barberine—now, who wrote that?
LUCIENNE. Alfred de Musset.
FELIAT. Ah, yes; to be sure, Alfred de Musset. I read him when I was young. You often find his works lying about in pretty bindings.
RENE. Uncle, Uncle; I beg your pardon, but don't speak so loud. We can hardly hear what they're saying on the stage.
FELIAT [very politely] Sorry, I'm sure.
RENE [to Lucienne] You. Now.
LUCIENNE [speaking through the guichet] "My lord, these cries are useless. It grows late. If you wish to sup—you must spin." [turning to the others] There! Now I must go over the rest with Ulric.
She runs out, with a little wave of adieu to Feliat.
RENE [to Madame Gueret] The trumpets, Madame. Don't forget.
MADAME GUERET. No, no. Don't worry.
Rene goes out.
FELIAT. You blow trumpets?
MADAME GUERET. Yes; on the piano.
FELIAT. I don't know what to do with myself. I don't want to be in the way. I'm not accustomed to being behind the scenes.
MADAME GUERET. Nor am I.
Therese comes in in the Kalekairi dress, followed by Rene.
THERESE. It's time for me now.
FELIAT [to Madame Gueret] She really looks like a professional actress.
RENE [to Therese] Now!
THERESE [speaking through the little window] "My lady says, as you will not spin, you cannot sup. She thinks you are not hungry, and I wish you good-night." [She closes the little window and says gayly] Good-evening, Monsieur Feliat.
RENE. Now then, come along. You go on in one minute.
THERESE [to Feliat] I'll come back soon.
She goes out.
RENE [to Madame Gueret] Now, Madame, you, Quick, Madame!
MADAME GUERET. Yes, yes. All right.
She plays a flourish of trumpets on the piano.
MADAME GUERET. Ouf! It's over. At last we can have peace! If she's such a fool as to refuse both these men—
GUERET [interrupting] She won't refuse, you may be sure.
MADAME GUERET [continuing]—we shall have to keep her with us. But I shall insist upon certain conditions.
GUERET. What conditions?
MADAME GUERET. I won't have any scandals at Evreux.
GUERET. There won't be any scandals.
MADAME GUERET. No; because she'll have to behave very differently, I can tell you. She'll have to leave all these fine airs of independence behind her in Paris.
GUERET. What airs?
MADAME GUERET. Well, for instance, getting letters and answering them without any sort of supervision! [To her brother] She manages in such a way that I don't even see the envelopes! [To her husband] I object very much, too, to her student ways.
GUERET. She goes to classes and lectures with her girl friends.
MADAME GUERET. Well, she won't go to any more. And she will have to give up going out alone.
GUERET. She's of age.
MADAME GUERET. A properly brought up young lady is never of age.
FELIAT. Perfectly true.
MADAME GUERET. And there must be a change in her way of dressing.
GUERET. There will. She'll have to dress simply, for she won't have a rap.
MADAME GUERET. That has nothing to do with it. I shall make her understand that she will have to behave like the other girls in good society.
FELIAT. Of course.
MADAME GUERET. I shall also put a veto on certain books she reads. [To her brother] It's really dreadful, Etienne. You've no idea! One day I found a shocking book upon her table—a horror! What do you suppose she said when I remonstrated? That that disgraceful book was necessary in preparing for her examination. And the worst of it is, it was true. She showed me the syllabus.
FELIAT. I'm afraid they're bringing up our girls in a way that'll make unhappy women of them.
MADAME GUERET. Don't let's talk about it; you'll start on politics, and then you and Henri will begin to argue. All the same I mean to be very good to her. As soon as she knows what's happened her poor little pretensions will come tumbling about her ears. I won't leave her in uncertainty, and even before she asks I'll tell her she may stay with us; but I shall tell her, too, what I expect from her in return.
GUERET. Wouldn't it be better—
MADAME GUERET. My dear, I shall go my own way. See what we're suffering now in consequence of going yours. Here's Madame Nerisse. Then the play is over. [To her husband] You must go and look after the people at the supper table. I'll join you in a minute.
GUERET. All right.
He goes out.
MADAME NERISSE. I've hardly ever been at such a successful party. I wanted to congratulate dear Therese, but she's gone to change her dress.
MADAME GUERET [absently] So glad. Were you speaking of having a notice of it in your paper?
MADAME NERISSE. Of your play! If I was going to notice it! I should think so! The photographs we had taken at the dress rehearsal are being developed. We shall have a wonderful description.
MADAME GUERET [imploring] Could it be stopped?
MADAME NERISSE. It's not possible! Just think how amazed the subscribers to Feminine Art would be if they found nothing in their paper about your lovely performance of Barberine, even if the editress of the paper hadn't taken a part in the play. If it only depended on me, perhaps I could find some way out—explain it in some way, just to please you. But then there's your charming Therese—one of our contributors. I can't tell you what a wonderful success she's had with her two stories, illustrated by herself. People adore her.
MADAME GUERET. Nobody would know anything about it—
MADAME NERISSE. Nobody know! There are at least ten people among your guests who will send descriptions of this party to the biggest morning papers, simply for the sake of getting their own names into print. If Feminine Art had nothing about it, it would be thought extremely odd, I assure you. [She turns to Feliat] Wouldn't it, Monsieur?
FELIAT. Pardon me, Madame, I know nothing about these things.
MADAME GUERET. Well, we'll say no more about it.
MADAME NERISSE. But what's the matter? You must have some very good reason for not wanting me to put in anything about your delightful party.
MADAME GUERET. No——only——[Hesitating] Some of our family are country people, you know. It would take me too long to explain it all to you. It doesn't matter. [With a change of tone] Then honestly you think Therese has some little talent?
MADAME NERISSE. Little talent! No, but very great talent. Haven't you read her two articles?
MADAME GUERET. Oh, I? I belong to another century. In my days it would have been considered a very curious thing if a young girl wrote novels. My brother feels this too. By the way, I have not introduced my brother to you. Monsieur Feliat, of Evreux—Madame Nerisse, editress of Feminine Art. Madame Nerisse has been kind enough to help us with our little party. [To Madame Nerisse] Yes—you were speaking about—what was it—this story that Therese has written. No doubt your readers were indulgent to the work of a little amateur.
MADAME NERISSE. I wish I could find professionals who'd do half as well. I'm perfectly certain the number her photograph is going to be in will have a good sale.
FELIAT. You'll publish her photograph?
MADAME NERISSE. In her dress as Kalekairi.
MADAME GUERET. In her dress as Kalekairi!
MADAME NERISSE. On the front page. They tell me it's a first-rate likeness. I'll bring you one of them before long, and your country relations will be delighted. If you'll excuse me, I'll hurry away and change my dress.
MADAME GUERET. Oh, please excuse me for keeping you.
MADAME NERISSE. Good-bye for the present. [She goes to the door] I was looking for Maud and Nadia to take them away with me. I see them over there having a little flirtation. [She looks through the door and speaks pleasantly to Maud and Nadia, who are just outside] All right, all right; I won't interrupt. [To Madame Gueret] They'd much rather come home alone. Good-bye. [She bows to Feliat] Good-bye, Monsieur. [Turning again to Madame Gueret] Don't look so upset because you have a goddaughter who can be a great writer or a great painter if she chooses; just as she would have been a great actress if she had taken a fancy for that. Good-bye again and many congratulations.
She goes out.
MADAME GUERET. Well! Anyway, she's not my daughter! I must go and say good-bye to everybody. When I've got rid of them, I'll come back and see Therese. Will you wait for me? You'll find some papers on that little table. Oh, goodness, what times we live in!
Madame Gueret goes out. Feliat, left alone, strolls to the door and looks in the direction in which Madame Nerisse had seen Maud and Nadia. After a moment he shows signs of indignation.
FELIAT [shocked] Oh, I say, this is really—I must cough or something, and let them know I'm here. [He coughs] They've seen me. They're waving their hands—and—they 're going on just the same!
Lucienne and Therese in ordinary dress come in and notice what Feliat is doing.
THERESE [to Lucienne] What is he doing?
LUCIENNE. What's the matter?
They advance to see what has caused his perturbation. He hears them and turns.
FELIAT. It is incredible!
THERESE. You seem rather upset. What's the matter?
FELIAT. What's the matter? Those girls are behaving in such a scandalous way with those young men.
LUCIENNE. Let's see.
FELIAT. Oh, don't look! [Suddenly stopping, half to himself] Though I must say—
THERESE [laughing] What must you say?
LUCIENNE. I know. You mean that we're just as bad.
FELIAT. No, no, not as bad.
LUCIENNE. Yes, yes; well—almost. [Feliat makes a sign of protest] I saw you watching us yesterday after the rehearsal! You saw I was flirting, and I know you imagined all sorts of horrid things. Our little flirtations are not what you think. When we flirt we play at love-making with our best boys, just as once upon a time we played at mothering with our dolls.
FELIAT. But that doesn't justify—
THERESE. You don't understand. People spoil us while we're children, and then look after us so tremendously carefully when we grow up that we guess there must be delightful and dangerous possibilities about us. Flirting is our way of feeling for these possibilities.
LUCIENNE. We're sharpening our weapons.
THERESE. But the foils have buttons on them, and the pistols are only loaded with powder.
LUCIENNE. And it's extremely amusing and does no harm to anybody.
THERESE. Monsieur Feliat, you've read bad books. Nowadays girls like us are neither bread-and-butter misses nor demi-vierges. We're perfectly respectable young people. Quite capable and self-possessed and, at the same time, quite straight and very happy.
FELIAT. I'm perfectly sure of it, my dear young ladies. But you know I've had a great deal of experience.
THERESE. Oh, experience! Well, you know—
LUCIENNE. Oh, experience!
THERESE. You say you have experience; that only means you know about the past better than we do. But we know much better than you do about the present.
FELIAT. I think those girls there are playing a dangerous game.
THERESE. You needn't have the smallest anxiety about them.
FELIAT. That way of going on might get them into great trouble.
THERESE. It won't, I assure you. Monsieur Feliat, believe me, you know nothing about it.
LUCIENNE. We're clever enough to be able to take care of ourselves.
FELIAT. But there are certain things that take you by storm.
LUCIENNE. Not us. Flirting is an amusement, a distraction, a game.
THERESE. Shall we say a safety valve?
LUCIENNE. There's not a single one of us who doesn't understand the importance of running straight. And, to do them justice, these boys have no idea of tempting us to do anything else. What they want, what we all really want, is a quite conventional, satisfactory marriage.
FELIAT. I most heartily approve; but in my days so much wisdom didn't usually come from such fascinating little mouths.
THERESE. Now how can you blame us when you see that really we think exactly as you do yourself?
FELIAT. In my days girls went neither to the Lycee nor to have gymnastic lessons, and they were none the less straight.
LUCIENNE [reflectively] And yet they grew up into the women of to-day. I get educated and try to keep myself healthy, with exercises and things, because I want to develop morally and physically, and be fit to marry a man a little bit out of the ordinary either in fortune or brains.
THERESE. You see our whole lives depend upon the man we marry.
FELIAT. I seem to have heard that before.
LUCIENNE. Yes; so've I. But it's none the less true for that.
THERESE. Isn't it funny that we seem to be saying the most shocking things when we're only repeating what our grandfathers and grandmothers preached to their children?
LUCIENNE. They were quite right. Love doesn't make happiness by itself. One has to consider the future. We do consider it; in fact we do nothing else but consider it. We want to get the best position for ourselves in the future that we possibly can. We're not giddy little fools, and we're not selfish egotists. We want our children to grow up happy and capable as we've done ourselves. We're really quite reasonable.
FELIAT [hardly able to contain himself] You are; indeed you are. It makes one shudder. Excuse me, I'm going to supper.
LUCIENNE. Let's all go together.
FELIAT. Thanks, I can find my way.
LUCIENNE. It's down that passage to the right.
FELIAT. Yes, I shall find it, thank you.
He goes out.
THERESE. You shocked the poor old boy.
LUCIENNE. I only flavored the truth just enough to make it tasty. But I've something frightfully important to tell you. It's settled.
THERESE. What's settled?
LUCIENNE. I'm engaged.
THERESE. You don't say so.
LUCIENNE. It's done. Armand has been to his people and they've come to see mine. So I needn't play any more piano, nor sing any more sentimental songs; I needn't be clever any more, nor flirt any more, nor languish at young men any more. And how do you suppose it was settled? Just what one wouldn't have ever expected. You know my people were doing all they could to dress me up, and show me off, and seem to be richer than they are, so as to attract the men. On my side I was giving myself the smartest of airs and pretending to despise money and to think of nothing but making a splash. Everything went quite differently from what I expected. I wanted to attract Armand, and I was only frightening him off. He thought such a woman as I was pretending to be too expensive. It was just through a chance conversation, some sudden confidence on my part, that he found out that I really like quite simple things. He was delighted, and he proposed at once.
THERESE. Dear Lucienne, I'm so glad. I hope you'll be very, very happy.
LUCIENNE. Ah, that's another story. Armand is not by any means perfect. But what can one do? The important thing is to marry, isn't it?
THERESE. Of course. Well, if your engagement is on, mine's off.
LUCIENNE. Therese! Why I've just been talking to Rene. I never saw him so happy, nor so much in love.
THERESE. He doesn't know yet. Or perhaps they're telling him now.
LUCIENNE. Telling him what?
THERESE. I've lost all my money, my dear.
LUCIENNE. Lost all your money!
THERESE. Yes. The lawyer who had my securities has gone off with them.
THERESE. I heard about it the day before yesterday. Godpapa and godmamma were so awfully good they never said anything to me about it, though they're losing a lot of money too. They thought I hadn't heard, and I expect they wanted me to have this last evening's fun. I said nothing, and so nobody knows anything except you, now, and probably Rene.
LUCIENNE. What will you do?
THERESE. What can I do? It's impossible for him to marry me without a penny. Of course I shall release him from his promise.
LUCIENNE. You think he'll give you up?
THERESE. His people will make him. If they cut off his allowance, he'll be at their mercy. He earns about twenty dollars a month in that lawyer's office. So, you see—
LUCIENNE. Oh! poor Therese! And you could play Barberine with a secret like that!
THERESE [sadly] I've had a real bad time since I heard. It's awful at night!
LUCIENNE. My dearest! And you love him so!
THERESE [much moved] Yes—oh! don't make me cry.
LUCIENNE. It might do you good!
THERESE. You know—[She breaks down a little]
LUCIENNE [tenderly] Yes—I know that you're good and brave.
THERESE. I shall have to be.
LUCIENNE. Then you'll break off the engagement?
THERESE. Yes. I shall never see him again.
LUCIENNE. Never see him again!
THERESE. I shall write to him. If I saw him I should probably break down. If I write I shall be more likely to be able to make him feel that we must resign ourselves to the inevitable.
LUCIENNE. He'll be horribly unhappy.
THERESE. So shall I. [Low and urgently] Oh, if he only understood me! If he was able to believe that I can earn my own living and that he could earn his. If he would dare to do without his people's consent!
LUCIENNE. Persuade him to!
THERESE. It's quite impossible. His people are rich. Only just think what they'd suspect me of. No; I shall tell him all the things his father will tell him. But oh! Lucienne, if he had an answer for them! If he had an answer! [She cries a little] But, my poor Rene, he won't make any stand.
LUCIENNE. How you love him!
THERESE. Oh, yes; I love him. He's rather weak, but he's so loyal and good and [in a very low voice] loving.
LUCIENNE. Oh, my dear, I do pity you so.
THERESE. I am to be pitied, really. [Pulling herself together] There's one thing. I shall take advantage of this business to separate from godpapa and godmamma.
LUCIENNE. But you have no money—
THERESE. I've not been any too happy here. You know they're—[She sees Madame Gueret and whispers to Lucienne] Go now. I'll tell you all about it to-morrow. [Louder and gayly] Well, good-night, my dear. See you to-morrow at the Palais de Glace or at the Sorbonne! Good-night.
LUCIENNE. Good-night, Therese.
She goes out.
MADAME GUERET [speaking through the door] Yes, she's here. Come in. [Gueret and Feliat come in] Therese, we have something to say to you.
THERESE. Yes, godmamma.
MADAME GUERET. It's about something important; something very serious. Let us sit down.
GUERET. You'll have to be brave, Therese.
MADAME GUERET. We are ruined, and you are ruined too.
MADAME GUERET. Is that all you have to say?
THERESE. I knew it already.
MADAME GUERET. You knew it? Who told you?
THERESE. The lawyer told me himself. I had a long letter from him yesterday. He begs me to forgive him.
MADAME GUERET. Well, I declare!
THERESE. I'll show it to you. He's been gambling. To get a bigger fortune for his girls, he says.
MADAME GUERET. You knew it! And you've had the strength, the—duplicity?
THERESE [smiling] Just as you had yourself, godmamma. And I'm so much obliged to both of you for saying nothing to me, because I'm sure you wanted me to have my play to-night and enjoy myself; and that was why you tried to keep the news from me.
MADAME GUERET. And you were able to laugh and to act!
THERESE. I've always tried to keep myself in hand.
MADAME GUERET. Oh, I know. All the same—And I was so careful about breaking this news to you, and you knew it all the time!
THERESE. I'm very sorry. But you—
MADAME GUERET. All right, all right. Well, then, we have nothing to tell. But do you understand that you've not a penny left?
GUERET. You're to go on living with us, of course.
MADAME GUERET [to her husband] You really might have given her time to ask us. [To Therese] We take it that you have asked us, and we answer that we will keep you with us.
GUERET. We are going to Evreux. My brother-in-law is giving me work in his factory.
MADAME GUERET. We will keep you with us, but on certain conditions.
THERESE. Thank you very much, godmamma, but I mean to stay in Paris.
GUERET. You don't understand. We are going to live at Evreux.
THERESE. But I am going to live in Paris.
GUERET. Then it is I who do not understand.
THERESE. All the same—[A silence]
MADAME GUERET. I can hardly believe that you propose to live in Paris by yourself.
THERESE [simply] I do, godmamma.
GUERET. Alone! I repeat, I don't understand.
FELIAT. Nor do I. But no doubt you have reasons to give to your godfather and godmother. [He moves to go]
THERESE. There's no secret about my reasons. All the world may know them. When I've explained you'll see that it's all right.
MADAME GUERET. I must confess to being extremely curious to hear these reasons.
THERESE. I do hope my decision won't make you angry with me.
MADAME GUERET. Angry! When have I ever been angry with you?
THERESE [protesting] You've both been—you've all three been—most good and kind to me, and I shall always remember it and be grateful. You may be sure I shan't love you any the less because I shall live in Paris and you at Evreux. And I do beg of you to feel the same to me. I shall never forget what I owe to you. Father was only your friend; we're not related in any way: but you took me in, and for four years you've treated me as if I was your daughter. From my very heart I'm grateful to you.
GUERET [affectionately] You don't owe us much, you know. For two years you were a boarder at the Lycee Maintenon, and we saw nothing of you but your letters. You've only actually lived with us for two years, and you've been like sunshine in the house.
MADAME GUERET. Yes, indeed.
THERESE. I've thought this carefully over. I'm twenty-three. I won't be a burden to you any longer.
GUERET. Is that because you are too proud and independent?
THERESE. If I thought I could really be of use to you, I would stay with you. If I could help you to face your troubles, I would stay with you. But I can't, and I mean to shift for myself.
MADAME GUERET. And you think you can "shift for yourself," as you call it, all alone?
THERESE. Yes, godmamma.
MADAME GUERET. A young girl, all alone, in Paris! The thing is inconceivable.
GUERET. But, my poor child, how do you propose to live?
THERESE. I'll work.
MADAME GUERET. You don't mean that seriously?
THERESE. Yes, godmamma.
GUERET. You think you have only to ask for work and it will fall from the skies!
THERESE. I have a few dollars in my purse which will keep me until I have found something.
FELIAT. Your purse will be empty before you've made a cent.
THERESE. I'm sure it won't.
GUERET. Now, my dear, you're tired, and nervous, and upset. You can't look at things calmly. We can talk about this again to-morrow.
THERESE. Yes, godpapa. But I shan't have changed my mind.
MADAME GUERET. I know you have a strong will of your own.
FELIAT. Let us talk sensibly and reasonably. You propose to live all alone in Paris. Good. Where will you live?
THERESE. I shall hire a little flat—or a room somewhere.
MADAME GUERET. Like a workgirl.
THERESE. Like a workgirl. There's nothing to be ashamed of in that.
FELIAT. And you are going to earn your own living. How?
THERESE. I shall work. There's nothing to be ashamed of in that, either.
GUERET. I see. But a properly brought up young lady doesn't work for her living if she can possibly avoid it.
MADAME GUERET. And above all, a properly brought up young lady doesn't live all alone.
THERESE. All the same—
MADAME GUERET. You are perfectly free. There's no doubt about that. We have no power to prevent you from doing exactly as you choose.
GUERET. But your father left you in my care.
THERESE. Please, godmamma, don't be hard upon me. I feel you think I'm ungrateful, though you don't say so. I know that often and often I shall long for your kindness and for the home where you've given me a place. I've shocked you. Do please forgive me. I'm made like that, and made differently from you. I don't say you're not right; I only say I'm different. Certain ideas have come to me from being educated at the Lycee and from all these books I've read. I think I'm able to earn my own living, and so I look upon it as my bounden duty not to trespass upon your charity. It's a question of personal dignity. Don't you think that I'm right, godfather? [With a change of tone] Besides, if I did go to Evreux with you, what should I do there?
GUERET. It's pretty easy to guess.
MADAME GUERET. Yes, indeed.
GUERET. You would live with us.
MADAME GUERET [not very kindly] You would have a home.
THERESE. Yes, yes, I know all that; and it would be a great happiness. But what should I do?
GUERET. You would do what all well brought up young girls in your position do.
THERESE. You mean I should do nothing.
GUERET. Nothing! No, not nothing.
THERESE. Pay visits, practise a bit; some crochet and a little photography? That's to say, nothing.
GUERET. You were brought up to that.
THERESE. I should never have dared to put it into words. But afterwards?
THERESE. How long would that last?
GUERET. Until you marry.
THERESE. I shall never marry.
GUERET. Why not?
THERESE [very gently] Oh, godfather, you know why not. I have no money. [A silence] So I'm going to try and get work.
FELIAT. Work! Now, Therese, you know what women are like who try to earn their own living. You think you can support yourself. How?
THERESE. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I think I can support myself by my pen.
FELIAT. Be a bluestocking?
MADAME GUERET. That means a Bohemian life, with everything upside down, and a cigarette always between your lips.
THERESE [laughing] Neither Bohemia, nor the upside down, nor the cigarette are indispensable, godmother. Your information is neither firsthand nor up-to-date.
FELIAT. In a month's time you'll want to give it up.
THERESE. Under those circumstances there's no harm in letting me make the experiment.
GUERET. Now, my dear child, don't you know that even with your cleverness you may have to wait years before you make a penny. I've been an editor. I know what I'm talking about.
MADAME GUERET. She's made up her mind, there's no use saying any more.
FELIAT. But I want to talk to her now. Will you be so good as to listen to me, Mademoiselle Therese? [To Madame Gueret] I wonder if I might be allowed to have a few minutes with her alone.
MADAME GUERET. Most willingly.
GUERET [to his wife] Come, Marguerite.
MADAME GUERET. It's no use making up your mind to the worst in these days; life always keeps a surprise for you. Let's go. [She goes out with her husband]
FELIAT. My child, I have undertaken to say something to you that I fear will hurt you, and it's very difficult. You know that I'm only Rene's uncle by marriage. So it's not on my own account that I speak. I speak for his parents.
THERESE. Don't say another word, Monsieur Feliat. I perfectly understand. I'm going to release him from his engagement. I shall write to him this very night.
FELIAT. My sister-in-law and her husband are most unhappy about all this.
THERESE. I'm grateful to you all.
FELIAT. Their affection for you is not in any way diminished.
THERESE. I know.
THERESE [imploringly] Please, please, Monsieur Feliat, don't say any more; what's the good of it?
FELIAT. I beg your pardon, my dear. I am a little upset. I was expecting—er, er—
THERESE. Expecting what?
FELIAT. I expected some resistance on your part, perhaps indignation. It must be very hard for you; you were very fond of Rene.
THERESE. What's the good of talking about that? Of course he can't marry me now that I've not got a penny.
FELIAT. You know—as a matter of fact—I—my old-fashioned ideas—well, you go on surprising me. But this time my surprise is accompanied by—shall I say respect?—and by sympathy. I expected tears, which would have been very natural, because I know that your affection for Rene was very great.
THERESE. I can keep my tears to myself.
FELIAT. Yes——Oh, I——at least——
THERESE. Let's consider it settled. Please don't talk to me about it any more.
FELIAT. Very well. Now will you allow me to say one word to you about your future?
THERESE. I shan't change my mind.
FELIAT. Perhaps not; all the same I want to advise you like—well, like an old uncle. For several years you have been spending your holidays with me at La Tremblaye. And I have a real affection for you. So you'll listen to me?
THERESE. With all my heart.
FELIAT. You're making a mistake. Your ideas do you credit, but believe me, you're laying up trouble for yourself in the future. [She makes a movement to interrupt him] Wait. I don't want to argue. I want you to listen to me, and I want to persuade you to follow my advice. Come to Evreux and you may be perfectly certain that you won't be left an old maid all your life. Even without money you'll find a husband there. You're too pretty, too charming, too well educated not to turn the head of some worthy gentleman. You made a sensation at the reception at the Prefecture. If you don't know that already, I tell you so.
THERESE. I'm extremely flattered.
FELIAT. Do you know that if—well, if you decide to marry—I might—
THERESE. But I've not decided to marry.
FELIAT. All right, all right, I am speaking about later on. Well, you've seen Monsieur Baudoin and Monsieur Gambard—
THERESE. I haven't the slightest intention of—
FELIAT [interrupting] There's no question of anything immediate. But for a person as wise and sensible as you are, the position of both the one and the other deserves—
THERESE. I know them both.
FELIAT. Yes; but—
THERESE. Now look here. If I had two hundred thousand francs, would you suggest that I should marry either of them?
FELIAT. Certainly not.
THERESE. There, you see.
FELIAT. But you've not got two hundred thousand francs.
THERESE [without showing any anger or annoyance] The last thing I want is to be exacting. But really, Monsieur Feliat, think for a minute. If I were to marry a man I could not possibly love, I should marry him for his money. [Looking straight at him] And in that case the only difference between me and the women I am not supposed to know anything about would be that a little ceremony had been performed over me and not over them. Don't you agree with me?
FELIAT. But, my dear, you say such extraordinary things.
THERESE. Well, do you consider that less dishonoring than working? Honestly now, do you? I think that the best thing about women earning their living is that it'll save them from being put into exactly that position.
FELIAT. The right thing for woman is marriage. That's her proper position.
THERESE. It's sometimes an unhappy one. [A maid comes in bringing a card to Therese, who says] Ask the lady kindly to wait a moment.
MAID. Yes, Mademoiselle. [The maid goes out]
FELIAT. Well, I'm off. I shall go and see Rene. Then you'll write to him?
THERESE. This very evening.
FELIAT. He'll want to see you. My child, will you have the courage to resist him?
THERESE. You needn't trouble about that.
FELIAT. If he was mad enough to want to do without his parents' consent, they wish me to tell you that they would never speak to him again.
THERESE. I see.
FELIAT. That he would be a stranger to them. You understand all that that means?
THERESE [discouraged] Yes, yes; oh yes.
FELIAT. If you are not strong enough to stand out against his entreaties, you will be his ruin.
THERESE. I quite understand.
FELIAT. People would think very badly of you.
THERESE. Please don't say any more, I quite understand.
FELIAT. Then I may trust you?
THERESE. You may trust me.
FELIAT [fatherly and approving] Thank you. [He holds out his hand] Therese, you're—well—you're splendid. I like courage. I wish you success with all my heart. I really wish you success. But if, in the future, you should want a friend—the very strongest may find themselves in that position—let me be that friend.
THERESE [taking the hand which Feliat holds out to her] I'm grateful, very grateful, Monsieur. Thank you. But I hope I shall be able to earn my own living. That is all I want.
FELIAT. I wish you every success. Good-bye, Mademoiselle.
THERESE. Good-bye, Monsieur. [He goes out. She crosses to another door and brings in Madame Nerisse] How good of you to come, dear Madame. Too bad you should have the trouble.
MADAME NERISSE. Nonsense, my dear. I wanted to come. I'm so anxious to show you these two photographs and consult you about which we're to publish. I expected to find you very tired.
THERESE. I am not the least tired, and I'm delighted to see you.
MADAME NERISSE [showing Therese the photographs] This is more brilliant, that's more dreamy. I like this one. What do you think?
THERESE. I like this one too.
MADAME NERISSE. Then that's settled. [Putting down the photographs] What a success you had this evening.
THERESE. Yes; people are very kind. [Seriously] I'm so glad you've come just now, dear Madame, so that we can have a few minutes' quiet talk. I have something most important to say to you.
MADAME NERISSE. Anything I can do for you?
THERESE. Well, I'll explain. And please do talk to me quite openly and frankly.
MADAME NERISSE. I will indeed.
THERESE. You told me that my article was very much liked. I can quite believe that you may have exaggerated a little out of kindness to me. I want to know really whether you think I write well.
MADAME NERISSE. Dear Therese, ask Madame Gueret to tell you what I said to her just now about that very thing.
THERESE. Then you think my collaboration might be really useful to Feminine Art?
MADAME NERISSE. There's nothing more useful to a paper like ours than the collaboration of girls in society.
THERESE. Would you like me to send you some more stories like the first?
MADAME NERISSE. As many as you can.
THERESE. And—[She hesitates a moment] and would you pay me the same price for them as for the one you've just published?
MADAME NERISSE. Yes, exactly the same; and I shall be very glad to get them. I like your work; you have an exceptionally light touch; people won't get tired of reading your stuff.
THERESE. Oh, I hope that's true! I'm going to tell you some bad news. For family reasons my godfather and godmother are going to leave Paris. I shall stay here by myself, and I shall have to live by my pen.
MADAME NERISSE. What an idea!
THERESE. It's not an idea, it's a necessity.
MADAME NERISSE. What do you mean? A necessity? Monsieur Gueret—. But I mustn't be inquisitive.
THERESE. You're not inquisitive, and I'll tell you all about it very soon; we haven't got time now. Can you promise to take a weekly article from me?
MADAME NERISSE [with less confidence] Certainly.
THERESE [joyfully] You can! Oh, thank you, thank you! I can't tell you how you've relieved my mind.
MADAME NERISSE. My dear child. I am glad you've spoken to me plainly. I will do everything I possibly can. I'm extremely fond of you. I don't think the Directors will object.
THERESE. Why should they have anything to do with it?
MADAME NERISSE [doubtfully] Perhaps not, but—the Directors like to give each number a character of its own. It's a thing they're very particular about.
THERESE. I could write about very different subjects.
MADAME NERISSE. I know you could, but it would be always the same signature.
THERESE. Well, every now and then I might sign a fancy name.
MADAME NERISSE. That would be quite easy, and I don't think the Directors would mind. They might say it was a fresh name to make itself known and liked.
THERESE. We'll try and manage it.
MADAME NERISSE. We shall have to fight against some jealousy. The Directors have protegees. The wife of one of them has been waiting to get an innings for more than two months. There are so many girls and women who write nowadays.
THERESE. Yes; but generally speaking their work is not worth much, I think.
MADAME NERISSE. Oh, I don't know that. There are a great many who have real talent. People don't realize what a lot of girls there are who have talent. But, still, if I'm not able to take an article every week, you may rely upon me to take one as often as I possibly can. Oh, I shall make myself some enemies for your sake.
THERESE [in consternation] Enemies? How do you mean enemies?
MADAME NERISSE. My dear, it alters everything if you become a professional. Let me see if I can explain. We have our regular contributors. The editor makes them understand that they must expect to run the gantlet of the occasional competition of society women; because, if these women are allowed to write, it interests them and their families in the paper, and it's an excellent advertisement for us. That'll explain to you, by the way, why we sometimes publish articles not quite up to our standard. But if it's a matter of regular, professional work, we have to be more careful. We have to respect established rights and consider people who've been with us a long time. There is only a limited space in each number, and a lot of people have to live out of that.
THERESE [who has gone quite white] Yes, I see.
MADAME NERISSE [who sees Therese's emotion] How sorry I am for you! If you only knew how I feel for you! Don't look so unhappy. [Therese makes a gesture of despair] You're not an ordinary girl, Therese, and it shall never be said that I didn't do all I could for you. Listen. I told you just now that I had some big projects in my mind. You shall know what they are. My husband and I are going to start an important weekly feminist paper on absolutely new lines. It's going to leave everything that's been done up to now miles behind. My husband shall explain his ideas to you himself. It'll be advanced and superior and all that, and at the same time most practical. Even to think of it has been a touch of genius. When you meet my husband you'll find that he's altogether out of the common. He's so clever, and he'd be in the very first rank in journalism if it wasn't for the envy and jealousy of other men who've intrigued against him and kept him down. I don't believe he has his equal in Paris as a journalist, I'll read you some of his verses, and you'll see that he's a great poet too. But I shall run on forever. Only yesterday he got the last of the capital that's needed for founding the paper; it's been definitely promised. We're ready to set about collecting our staff. We shall have leading articles, of course, and literary articles. Do you want me to talk to him about you?
THERESE. Of course I do. But—
MADAME NERISSE. We want to start a really smart, respectable woman's paper; of course without sacrificing our principles. Our title by itself proves that. It's to be called Woman Free.
THERESE. I'll give you my answer to-morrow—or this evening, if you like.
MADAME NERISSE [hesitatingly] Before I go—as we're to be thrown a good deal together—I must tell you something about myself—a secret. I hope you won't care for me less when you know it. I call myself Madame Nerisse. But I have no legal right to the name. That's why I've always found some reason for not introducing Monsieur Nerisse to you and your people. He's married—married to a woman who's not worthy of him. She lives in an out-of-the-way place in the country and will not consent to a divorce. My dear Therese, it makes me very unhappy. I live only for him. I don't think a woman can be fonder of a man than I am of him. He's so superior to other men. But unfortunately I met him too late. I felt I ought to tell you this.
THERESE. Your telling me has added to my friendship for you. I can guess how unhappy you are. Probably I'll go this very evening to your house and see your husband and hear from him if he thinks I can be of use. Anyway, thank you very much.
MADAME NERISSE. And thank you for the way you take this. Good-bye for the present.
She goes out. Therese stands thinking for a moment, then Rene comes in. He is very much upset.
RENE. Therese, it can't be true! It's not possible! It's not all over—our love?
THERESE. We must be brave.
RENE. But I can't give you up.
THERESE. I've lost every penny, Rene dear.
RENE. But I don't love you any the less for that. I can't give you up, Therese. I can't give you up. I love you, I love you.
THERESE. Oh, Rene, don't! I need all my courage to face this. Help me. Don't you see, your people will never consent now.
RENE. My uncle told me so. But I'll see them. I'll persuade them. I'll explain to them.
THERESE. You know very well they never really liked me, and that they'll be glad of this opportunity of breaking it off.
RENE. I don't know what to do. But I cannot give you up. What would become of me without you? You're everything to me, everything. And suddenly—because of this dreadful thing—I must give up my whole life's happiness.
THERESE. Your people are quite right, Rene.
RENE. And you, you say that!
He hides his face in his hands. A silence.
THERESE [gently removing his hands] Look at me, Rene. You're crying. Oh, my dear love!
RENE [taking her in his arms] I love you, I love you!
THERESE. And I love you. Oh, please don't cry any more! [She kisses him] Rene, dear, don't cry any more! You break my heart. I can't bear it, I'm forgetting all I ought to say to you. [Breaking down] Oh, how dreadful this is! [They cry together. Then she draws herself away from him, saying] This is madness.
RENE. Ah, stay, Therese.
THERESE. No. We mustn't do this; we must be brave. Oh, why did you come here? I was going to write to you. We're quite helpless against this dreadful misfortune.
RENE. I don't know what to do! But I can't give you up.
THERESE [to herself] I must do the right thing. [To him] Rene, stop crying. Listen to me.
RENE. I love you.
THERESE. Yes; there's our love. But besides that there's life, and life is cruel and too strong for our love. There is your future, my dearest.
RENE. My future is to love you. My future is nothing if I lose you. [He buries his face in his hands]
THERESE. You can't marry a girl without any money. That's a dreadful fact, like a stone wall. We shall only break ourselves to pieces if we dash ourselves against it. Listen, oh, please listen to me. Don't you hear what I'm saying? Rene—dear.
RENE. I'm listening.
THERESE. I give you your freedom without any bitterness or hardness.
RENE. I don't want it!
THERESE. Now listen. You mustn't sacrifice your whole life for a love affair, no matter how great the love is.
RENE. It's by losing you I shall sacrifice my life.
THERESE. Try and be brave; control yourself. Let us face this quietly. Suppose we do without your people's consent. What will become of us? Try to look the thing in the face. How should we live? Rene, it's horrible to bring our love down to the level of these miserable realities, but facts are facts. You know very well that if you marry me without your father and mother's consent, they won't give you any money. Isn't that so?
RENE. Oh! father is hard.
THERESE. He's quite right, my dear, quite right. If I was your sister, I should advise you not to give up the position you have been brought up in and the profession you've been educated for.
RENE. But I love you.
THERESE [moved] And I love you. Well, we've got to forget one another.
RENE. That's impossible.
THERESE. We must be wise enough to—[She stops, her voice breaks]
RENE. Oh! how unhappy I am.
THERESE [controlling herself] Don't let yourself go. We're not in dreamland. If you keep on saying "I am unhappy," you'll be unhappy.
RENE. I love you so. Oh, Therese, how I love you!
THERESE [softly] You'll forget me.
THERESE. Yes. You'll remember me in a way, of course. But you're young. Very soon you'll be able to live, to laugh, to love, to work.
RENE. My dearest! I don't know what to say. I can't talk of it. I only know one thing—I can't let you go.
THERESE. But we should be miserable, Rene.
RENE. Miserable together!
THERESE. Think, dear, think. It will be years before you can earn your own living, won't it?
RENE. But I—
THERESE. Now you know you've tried already. Only last year you wanted to leave home and be independent, and you had to go back because you were starving. Isn't that true?
RENE. It's dreadful, dreadful! [He is overcome, terrified]
THERESE. So we must look at life as it is, practically, mustn't we? We have to have lodging and furniture and clothes. How are we to manage?
RENE. It's dreadful!
THERESE. How would you bear to see me going about in rags? [He is silent. She waits, looking at him, hoping for a word of strength or courage. It does not come. She draws herself up slowly, her face hardening] You can't face that, can you? Tell me. Can you face that?
THERESE [humiliated by his want of courage and infected by his weakness] So you see, I'm right.
RENE [sobbing] Oh! Oh!
THERESE [setting her teeth] Oh, can you do nothing but cry?
RENE. What a useless creature I am.
THERESE. There, now, you see you're better!
RENE. I'm ashamed of being so good-for-nothing.
THERESE [hopeless] You're just like all the others. Now, don't be miserable. I'm not angry with you; you are doing what I told you we must do, and you agree. Go, Rene. Say good-bye. Good-bye, Rene.
THERESE [her nerves on edge] Everything we can say is useless, and it'll only torture and humiliate us. We must end this—now—at once.
RENE. I shall always love you, Therese.
THERESE. Yes—exactly—now go.
RENE. Oh, my God!
RENE. I'll go and see my people. They'll never be so cruel—
THERESE. Yes, yes, all right.
RENE. I'll write you.
THERESE. Yes—that's it—you'll write.
RENE. I shall see you again, Therese? [He goes slowly to the door]
THERESE [ashamed for him, covers her face with her hands. Then, all of a sudden, she bursts out into passionate sobs, having lost all control of herself, and cries wildly] Rene!
RENE [returning, shocked] Therese! Oh, what is it?
THERESE [completely at the mercy of her feelings] Suppose—suppose after all, we did it? Listen. I love you far more than you know, more than I have ever let you know. A foolish feeling of self-respect made me hide a lot from you. Trust me. Trust your future to me. Marry me all the same. Believe in me. Marry me. You don't know how strong I am and all the things I can do. I will work, and you will work. You didn't get on when you were alone, but you will when you have me with you. I'll keep you brave when things go badly, and I'll be happy with you when they go right. Rene, I'll be content with so little! The simplest, humblest, hardest life, until we've made our way together—together, Rene, and conquered a place in the world for ourselves, that we'll owe to no one but ourselves. Let us have courage—[At this point she looks at him, and having looked she ceases to speak]
RENE. Therese, I'm sure my people will give in.
THERESE [after a very long silence, inarticulately] Go, go; poor Rene. Forget what I said. Good-bye.
RENE. Oh, no! not good-bye. I'll make my father help us.
THERESE [sharply] Too late, my friend, I don't want you now.
She leaves the room. Rene sinks into a chair and covers his face with his hands.
SCENE:—A sitting-room at the offices of "Woman Free." The door at the back opens into an entrance hall. The general editorial office is to the right, Monsieur Nerisse's room to the left. At the back, also to the left, is another door opening into a smaller sitting-room. There are papers and periodicals upon the tables.
The curtain rises upon Monsieur Mafflu. He is a man of about fifty, dressed for ease rather than elegance, and a little vulgar. He turns over the papers on the tables, studies himself in the mirror, and readjusts his tie. Madame Nerisse then comes in. She has Monsieur Mafflu's visiting card in her hand. They bow to each other.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. My card will have informed you that I am Monsieur Mafflu.
MADAME NERISSE. Yes. Won't you sit down?
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. I am your new landlord, Madame. I have just bought this house. I've retired from business. I was afraid I shouldn't have enough to do, so I've bought some houses. I am my own agent. It gives me something to do. If a tenant wants repairs done, I go and see him. I love a bit of a gossip; it passes away an hour or so. In that way I make people's acquaintance—nice people. I didn't buy any of the houses where poor people live, though they're better business. I should never have had the heart to turn out the ones that didn't pay, and I should have been obliged to start an agent, and all my plan would have been upset. [A pause] Now, Madame, for what brought me here. I hope you'll forgive me for the trouble I'm giving you—and I'm sorry—but I've come to give you notice.
MADAME NERISSE. Indeed! May I ask what your reason is?
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. I am just on the point of letting the second floor. My future tenant has young daughters.
MADAME NERISSE. I'm afraid I don't see what that has got to do with it.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Well—he'll live only in a house in which all the tenants are private families.
MADAME NERISSE. But we make no noise. We are not in any way objectionable.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Oh, no, no; not at all.
MADAME NERISSE. Well, then?
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. How shall I explain? I'm certain you're perfectly all right, and all the ladies who are with you here too, but I've had to give in that house property is depreciated by people that work; all the more if the people are ladies, and most of all if they're ladies who write books or bring out a newspaper with such a name as Woman Free. People who know nothing about it think from such a name—oh, bless you, I understand all that's rubbish, but—well—the letting value of the house, you see. [He laughs]
MADAME NERISSE. The sight of women who work for their living offends these people, does it?
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Yes, that's the idea. A woman who works is always a little—hum—well—you know what I mean. Of course I mean nothing to annoy you.
MADAME NERISSE. You mean that your future tenants don't want their young ladies to have our example before them.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. No! That's just what they don't. Having independent sort of people like you about makes 'em uneasy. For me, you know, I wouldn't bother about it—only—of course you don't see it this way, but you're odd—off the common somehow. You make one feel queer.
MADAME NERISSE. But there are plenty of women who work.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Oh, common women, yes; oh, that's all right.
MADAME NERISSE. If you have children, they have nurses and governesses.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Oh, those. They work, of course. They work for me, that's quite different. But you—What bothers these ladies, Madame Mafflu and all the others, is that you're in our own class. As for me I stick to the old saying, "Woman's place is the home."
MADAME NERISSE. But there are women who have got no home.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. That's their own fault.
MADAME NERISSE. Very often it's not at all their own fault. Where are they to go? Into the streets?
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. I know, I know. There's all that. Still women can work without being feminists.
MADAME NERISSE. Have you any idea what you mean by "feminist"?
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Not very clear. I know the people I live among don't know everything. I grant you all that. But Woman Free! Woman Free! Madame Mafflu wants to know what liberty—or what liberties—singular or plural; do you take me?—ha! ha! There might be questions asked.
MADAME NERISSE [laughing] You must do me the honor of introducing me to Madame Mafflu. She must be an interesting woman. I'll go and see her.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Oh, do! But not on a Wednesday.
MADAME NERISSE. Why not?
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. 'Cos Wednesday's her day.
MADAME NERISSE [gayly] I must give it up, then, as I'm free only on Wednesdays.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. I should like her to see for herself how nice you are. Her friends have been talking to her. They thought that you—well—they say feminist women are like the women were in the time of the Commune. They said perhaps you'd even go on a deputation!
MADAME NERISSE. You wouldn't approve of that?
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Oh, talkin' of that, one of my friends has an argument nobody can answer. "Let these women," he says, "let 'em do their military service."
MADAME NERISSE. Well, you tell him that if men make wars, women make soldiers; and get killed at that work too, sometimes.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU [after reflecting for some moments] I'll tell him, but he won't understand.
MADAME NERISSE. Well, no matter. I won't detain you any longer, Monsieur Mafflu.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Oh! Madame. I should like to stay and talk to you for hours.
MADAME NERISSE [laughing] You're too kind.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Then you forgive me?
MADAME NERISSE [going to the door with him] What would one not forgive you?
MONSIEUR MAFFLU [turning back] I say—
MADAME NERISSE. No, no. Good-bye, Monsieur.
MONSIEUR MAFFLU. Good-bye, Madame.
He goes out.
MADAME NERISSE [to herself] One really couldn't be angry!
Therese comes in with a little moleskin bag on her arm. She is in a light dress, is very gay, and looks younger.
THERESE. Good-morning, Madame. I'm so sorry to be late. I met Monsieur Feliat, my godmother's brother.
MADAME NERISSE. How is Madame Gueret?
THERESE. Very well, he says.
MADAME NERISSE. And does Monsieur Gueret like his new home?
THERESE. Yes, very much.
MADAME NERISSE. And Madame Gueret?
THERESE. She seems to be quite happy.
MADAME NERISSE. What a good thing. Here's the letter Monsieur Nerisse has written for you to that editor. [She hands her an unsealed letter]
THERESE. Oh, thank you!
MADAME NERISSE. Did you find out when he could see you?
THERESE. To-morrow at Two O'clock. Can you spare me then?
MADAME NERISSE. Yes, certainly.
THERESE. Thank you.
MADAME NERISSE. Why don't you read your letter? You see it's open.
THERESE. I'll shut it up.
MADAME NERISSE. Read it.
THERESE. Shall I?
MADAME NERISSE. Yes, do.
THERESE [reading] Oh, it's too much. This is too kind. With a letter like this my article is certain to be read. Monsieur Nerisse is kind! Will you tell him how very grateful I am?
MADAME NERISSE [coldly] Yes. [She makes an effort to be kind] I'll tell him, of course. But I dictated the letter myself. Monsieur Nerisse only signed it. [She rings]
THERESE. Then I have one more kindness to thank you for.
MADAME NERISSE [to the page boy] I expect Monsieur Cazares.
MADAME NERISSE. Our old editor—Monsieur Cazares. You know him very well.
BOY. Oh, yes, Madame, yes!
MADAME NERISSE. He will have another gentleman with him. You must show them straight into Monsieur Nerisse's room and let me know.
BOY. Yes, Madame.
During this conversation Therese has taken off her hat and put it into a cupboard. She has opened a green cardboard box and put her gloves and veil into it—folding the latter carefully—also Monsieur Nerisse's letter. She has taken out a little mirror, given some touches to her hair, and has put it back. Finally she closes the box.
MADAME NERISSE. Monsieur Cazares is bringing us a new backer. We're going to make changes in the paper. I'll tell you all about it presently. [With a change of tone] Tell me, what was there between you and Monsieur Cazares?
THERESE [simply] Nothing at all.
MADAME NERISSE. Isn't he just a wee bit in love with you?
THERESE. I haven't the least idea. He's said nothing to me about it, if he is.
MADAME NERISSE. He's always behaved quite nicely to you?
MADAME NERISSE. And Monsieur Nerisse?
THERESE. Monsieur Nerisse? I don't understand.
MADAME NERISSE. Oh, yes, you do. Has he ever made love to you?
THERESE. [hurt] Oh, Madame!
MADAME NERISSE. [looking closely at her and then taking both her hands affectionately] Forgive me, dear child. I know how good and straight you are. You mustn't mind the things I say. Sometimes I'm horrid I know. I have an idea that Monsieur Nerisse is not as fond of me as he used to be.
THERESE. Oh, indeed that's only your fancy.
MADAME NERISSE. I hope so. I'm a bit nervous I think. I've such a lot of trouble with the paper just now. It's not going well. [Gesture of Therese] We're going to try something fresh. This time I think it'll be all right. You'll see it will. [A pause] What's that? Did he call? I'm sure that idiot of a boy hasn't made up his fire, and he'd never think of it. He's like a great baby. [As she goes towards Monsieur Nerisse's door—the door on the left—the door on the right opens, and Mademoiselle Gregoire comes in. She has taken off her hat. Madame Nerisse turns to her] Why, it's Mademoiselle Gregoire! You know, Dr. Gregoire! [To Mademoiselle Gregoire] This is Mademoiselle Therese. [They shake hands] I spoke to you about her. She'll explain everything to you in no time. I'll come back very soon and introduce you to the others. Excuse me for a minute. [She goes out to the left]
THERESE. [pleasantly] I really don't know what Madame Nerisse wants me to explain to you. You know our paper?
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE. No, I've never seen it.
THERESE. Never seen it! Never seen Woman Free?
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE. Never. I only know it by name.
THERESE. How odd! Well, here's a copy. It's in two parts, you see, and they're quite different from each other. Here the doctrine, there the attractions. Madame Nerisse thought of that.
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE [reading as she turns over the leaves] "Votes for Women."
THERESE [reading with her] "Votes for Women," "An End of Slavery." And then, on here, lighter things.
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE. Frivolities?
THERESE. Frivolities. A story. "Beauty Notes."
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE [reading and laughing a little] "The Doctor's Page."
THERESE. Oh, too bad! But it wasn't I who first said frivolities!
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE [still laughing] I shall bear up. And what comes after "The Doctor's Page"?
THERESE. "Beauty Notes" and "Gleanings."
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE. Gleanings?
THERESE. Yes. It's a column where real and imaginary subscribers exchange notes about cookery receipts, and housekeeping tips, and hair lotions, and that sort of thing.
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE. Quite a good thing.
THERESE. I most confess it's the best read part.
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE. I'm not at all surprised.
THERESE. I'm afraid we can't conceal from ourselves that Monsieur Nerisse has not altogether succeeded. Each of us is inclined to like only her own section. We've a girl here, Caroline Legrand, one of the staff, who's tremendously go-a-head. You should hear her on the subject of "Soap of the Sylphs" and "Oriental Balm."
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE. It makes her furious?
THERESE. She's a sort of rampageous saint; ferocious and affectionate by turns, a bit ridiculous perhaps, but delightful and generous. She's so simple nasty people could easily make a fool of her, but all nice people like her.
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE. Shall I have much to do with her?
THERESE. Not much. You'll be under Mademoiselle de Meuriot, and you'll be lucky. She's a dear. She's been sacrificing herself all her life. She's my great friend—the only one I have.
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE [taking up the paper again] But how's this? Your contributors are all men. Gabriel de—, Camille de—, Claud de—, Rene de—, Marcel de—.
THERESE. Well! I never noticed that before. They're the pen-names of our writers.
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE. All men's names?
THERESE. Yes. People still think more of men as writers. You see they are names that might be either a man's or a woman's. Camille, Rene, Gabriel.
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE. There's only one woman's name—Vicomtesse de Renneville.
THERESE. That's snobbery! It's Madame Nerisse's pen-name.
MADEMOISELLE GREGOIRE. Well, I suppose it's good business.
Mademoiselle de Meuriot comes in at the back, bringing a packet of letters.
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. The post's come, Therese.
THERESE. This is Mademoiselle de Meuriot. [Introducing Mademoiselle Gregoire] Our new contributor.
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. You're welcome, Mademoiselle.
The door on the left opens and Madame Nerisse appears backwards, still talking to Monsieur Nerisse, who is invisible in the inner room.
MADAME NERISSE. Yes, dearest. Yes, dearest. Yes, dearest.
Mademoiselle Gregoire looks up at Madame Nerisse.
Mademoiselle de Meuriot and Therese turn away their heads to hide their smiles; finally Madame Nerisse shuts the door, not having noticed anything, and comes forward. She speaks to Mademoiselle Gregoire.
MADAME NERISSE. Come, my dear. I'll introduce you to the others. [To Mademoiselle de Meuriot] Ah! the post has come. Open the letters, Therese, will you?
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Yes, we will.
MADAME NERISSE [at the door on the right, to Mademoiselle Gregoire] You first. [They go out]
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [smiling] I think our new friend was a bit amused. She's pretty.
THERESE. Yes, and she looks capable.
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Let's get to work.
She sits down, at a desk. Therese sits near her at the end of the same desk. During all that follows Therese opens envelopes with a letter opener and passes them to Mademoiselle de Meuriot, who takes the letters out, glances at them, and makes three or four little piles of them.
THERESE. Here! [Holding out the first letter]
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [as she works] And you? How are you this morning? [Looking closely at her and shaking a finger] You're tired, little girl. You sat up working last night.
THERESE. I wanted to finish copying out my manuscript. It took me ages, because I wanted to make it as clear as print.
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [gravely] You know you mustn't be ill, Therese.
THERESE. How good you are, Mademoiselle, and how lucky I am to have you for a friend. What should I do without you?
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. How about your godmother?
THERESE. I didn't get on with her. She never could hide her dislike for me, and it burst out in the end. When she saw that in spite of everything she could say I was going to leave her, she let herself go and made a dreadful scene. And, what was worse, my good, kind godfather joined in! It seemed as if they thought my wanting to be independent was a direct insult to them. What a lot of letters there are to-day.
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. It's the renewal of the subscriptions.
THERESE. Oh, is that it? So you see we parted, not exactly enemies—but, well—on our dignity. We write little letters to one another now, half cold and half affectionate. I tell you, without you I should be quite alone.
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Not more alone than I am.
THERESE. I have someone to talk to now and tell my little worries to. It's not that, even. One always finds people ready to listen to you and pity you, but what one doesn't find is people one can tell one's most impossible dreams to and feel sure one won't be laughed at. That's real friendship. [She stops working as she continues] To dare to think out loud before another person and let her see the gods of one's secret idolatry, and to be sure one's not exposing one's precious things to blasphemy. How I love you for being like you are and for caring for me a little. [She resumes her work]
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. I don't care for you a little, Therese! I care for you very much indeed. I like you because you're brave and hurl yourself against obstacles like a little battering ram, and because you're straight and honest and one can depend on you.
THERESE [who can't get open the letter she holds] Please pass me the scissors. Thanks. [She cuts open the envelope] I might have been all those things, and it would have been no good at all, if you hadn't been able to see them.
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Remember that in being friends with you I get as much as I give. My people were very religious and very proud of their title. I made up my mind to leave home, but since then I've been quite alone—alone for thirty years. I'm selfish in my love for you now. I've had so little of that sort of happiness.
THERESE. You've done so much for women. You've helped so many.
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [touching her piles of letters] Here's another who won't renew.
THERESE. What will Madame Nerisse say? [Continuing] You know, Mademoiselle, it's not only success that I want. I have a great ambition. I should like to think that because I've lived there might be a little less suffering in the world. That's the sort of thing that I can say to nobody but you.
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT [tenderly] Therese has an ardent soul.
THERESE. Yes, Therese has an ardent soul. It was you who said that about me first, and I think I deserve it. [Changing her tone] Here's the subscriber's book. [She hands the book and continues in her former voice] Like Guyan, I have more tears than I need to spend on my own sufferings, so I can give the spare ones to other people. And not only tears, but courage and consolation that I have no opportunity of using up myself. Do you understand what I mean?
MADEMOISELLE DE MEURIOT. Yes, I understand, my dear. I see my own youth over again. [Sadly] Oh, I hope that you—but I don't want to rouse up those old ghosts; I should only distress you. Perhaps lives like mine are necessary, if it's only to throw into relief lives that are more beautiful than mine. Keep your lovely dreams. [A silence] When I think that instead of being an old maid I might have been the mother of a girl like you!