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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Story of Grigneux
By Édouard Pailleron (1834–1899)
 
        
From ‘Cabotins’: Translation of Edward Irenæus Prime-Stevenson
  
  [The following dialogue occurs between a young sculptor, Pierre Cardevent, who has had the misfortune to fall in love apparently outside of his sphere, and Grigneux, an old painter, whose life has been a failure. Grigneux takes an affectionate interest in the young man’s career. The scene is a drawing-room, where the two are for a few moments alone by themselves; the episode occurring in the second act of the play.]

PIERRE  [to Grigneux, who looks anxiously at him on entering the room]—Ah! it is you, is it? Well, you can reassure yourself, my old Grigneux. It is finished. It is finished.  1
  Grigneux—What? What is finished?  2
  Pierre—My romance—as you called it a while ago.  3
  Grigneux  [incredulously]—Finished?  4
  Pierre—Yes, Mademoiselle Valentine tells me that she does not wish to see me, that I must forget her, because—well, I don’t know just why, but I do know that she doesn’t wish to see me again. Oh, my romance has not been a long one, eh?  [with a forced laugh]  and you were so afraid of its having another winding-up: well, here is its winding-up; I hope you are satisfied with it. Would you like me to say that I am satisfied too?  5
  Grigneux  [gravely]—How you love her!  6
  Pierre—So then this is what people call loving anybody.  [Sarcastically.]  Well, well, it is a lively business! Think of it! During ten days I have been expecting that girl at the studio—to go on with her portrait—as if I were waiting for the good God himself! This very evening I have left my mother alone to come to this house, and here I am: obliged to make myself agreeable to a lot of people who bore me to death, in a drawing-room, in fashionable society! I, Cardevent the sculptor! Look at me, in a coat that worries me, a cravat that strangles me, with pomade on my hair! Yes, with pomade! I put it on my hair, on my honor!  [laughing]  and all that so that I could hear this young lady tell me that I must forget her, and that “everything is finished”! Really, it is all very stupid! I have never been so stupid about anything in all my life. But then it’s done now. So much the better. I have had enough, thank you!  7
  Grigneux—O my poor Pierre, you are hard hit.  8
  Pierre—Very well then, I must get over it. It is simply a matter of resolution.  9
  Grigneux—Yes; but you must resolve to be resolved.  10
  Pierre—Don’t be afraid; you shall see.  11
  Grigneux—It is because I have “seen” that I am afraid.  12
  Pierre—Oh, come now! There is no such thing as a love which one cannot kill with one stroke of his own will.  13
  Grigneux—Do you think so? Listen to me. Pierre, I knew, a long time ago, an artist far less gifted than you, but having just as you have a real passion for his art, and a strong faith in his own youth: he was a man who would have been somebody for all I know; only—a woman came into his life, a woman who shattered all these promises, and who made of that man’s life the most lamentable thing in the world.  14
  Pierre—And how did that happen?  15
  Grigneux—Oh, always the same story! He had as a neighbor a young girl, a pianist, who got along as well as she could in life, earning her bread by giving lessons. She was intelligent, she was proud, she was a little impulsive. She believed that this poor fellow possessed genius. You see that a charm for him hung about her. And besides all this, she was as pretty—as pretty—well, as this Valentine here whom you love; and what is more, she had the same name.  [Grigneux pauses as if becoming lost in remembrances.]  16
  Pierre—Well, what happened?  17
  Grigneux—What happened? He loved her and he married her! It had to be so; it was written in the book of fate. To fall in love—for an artist that is a danger to begin with; but for an artist to marry, to bring a woman into the secret of your work,—that is to say, all your efforts, doubts, pangs of artistic creation,—a woman who has begun by believing in you as in God, and who imagines that it is enough for you to make a gesture as God might, in order to create something,—oh, that is an irreparable mistake! I tell you, Pierre, women do not understand anything except success. Now this poor creator of whom I am speaking, tried in vain to be a creator all the week long, without even taking time to rest himself on the seventh day; but he got nothing out of his chaos. Success never came; but on the contrary, failures succeeded failures. Little by little, everybody ceased to expect anything from him, to hope anything for him,—except the man himself, whose hope was of the kind that becomes grotesque by its persistence. People laughed at him all around him. From the time that the laughing began he was judged and condemned. The young woman whom he had loved and married, she joined the laughers. I leave out the details. It is enough to say that when there was only one sort of treason that could be committed against him, the thing which was sure to happen happened: one evening his wife fled from the house of this creature whom fate had vanquished,—the ridicule of whom was in everybody’s mouth. She fled, to go heaven knows whither, in company with nobody knew whom.  18
  Pierre—And he? What did he do then?  19
  Grigneux—Well, during a whole week, out of his senses with grief and rage, he hunted all around the town after her; but of course he could find out nothing. Then he fled in his turn; and he went down and shut himself up in Italy in a little village near Naples. There it was that eight months later the news of his wife’s death met him while he was reading one day a French newspaper. But for all that he stayed down there, an exile, for twenty years; even to the time when, an old man, worn out, unrecognizable, he came back to Paris, the place where every one can lose himself and forget himself: and there he ended up by living under a false name; concealed, miserable, and alone.  20
  Pierre—So! The worse for him then. A man who cannot recover himself under an insult is a coward.  21
  Grigneux—Yes: well then, that man of whom I have been telling you, he was—myself!  22
  Pierre  [greatly shocked]—You, Grigneux! You!  23
  Grigneux  [becoming more and more carried away from himself]—Yes, I am more of a coward than you would believe—for I love her still; and, afraid lest I love her less, I have done no searching into her story since I came back here. I wish to know nothing more than I know of her guilty past. Yes, I have been determined that so far as I am concerned she shall have no existence from the day when I ceased to see her. I have been resolved that she shall dwell in my mind only as she was before her sin: that death shall bury her forever, pure in its pardoning mystery. Oh, I am a coward in more than that, if you care to know it: for I love her for always; yes, for always!  [He speaks in a constantly increasing excitement.]  And since I have lost her in reality, I bring her back to me in my dreams; and it is for that that I take that poison which gives a man dreams. And with them, oh then she comes back—I can hear her—she speaks to me—I answer her—she draws near to me—I can feel her hand upon my shoulders again—she is there—I see her!  [He breaks off and remains in a sort of ecstatic silence.]  24
  Pierre  [terrified]—Grigneux! Grigneux!  25
  Grigneux  [as if awakening]—And then, little by little, her voice dies away, the vision effaces itself, and so she leaves me alone,—and so miserable that I must try to go through it all again. Oh, I know perfectly well that my reason is going, that my body is wearing out. So much the better! Only my body separates me from her where she is now. So let it perish as soon as it can, and my soul will take its wings to join hers!  26
  Pierre  [much affected]—My friend, my poor friend!  27
  Grigneux  [passing his hand over his forehead and returning to himself]—Pierre, see what love makes of an old man like me; what it can do to a young man like you. Oh, you see now why it is that I tell you, “Fly from it.” My dear boy, I have nobody in the world to love except you. I have nothing to expect in life except what will come through you in your future. And your future is so bright. Oh, I beg of you, I beseech you, do not be a traitor to me, to yourself; do not at least rob me of what should be your glory!  28
 
 
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