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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Love and Necessity
By Eugène Brieux (1858–1932)
 
From ‘Woman on Her Own’ (La Femme Seule): Translation of Charlotte Frances Payne-Townshend Shaw

THÉRÈSE—René!  1
  René—Thérèse, it can’t be true! It’s not possible! It’s not all over—our love?  2
  Thérèse—We must be brave.  3
  René—But I can’t give you up.  4
  Thérèse—I’ve lost every penny, René dear.  5
  René—But I don’t love you any the less for that. I can’t give you up, Thérèse. I can’t give you up. I love you, I love you.  6
  Thérèse—Oh, René, don’t! I need all my courage to face this. Help me. Don’t you see, your people will never consent now.  7
  René—My uncle told me so. But I’ll see them. I’ll persuade them. I’ll explain to them.  8
  Thérèse—You know very well they never really liked me, and that they’ll be glad of this opportunity of breaking it off.  9
  René—I don’t know what to do. But I cannot give you up. What would become of me without you? You’re everything to me, everything. And suddenly—because of this dreadful thing—I must give up my whole life’s happiness.  10
  Thérèse—Your people are quite right, René.  11
  René—And you, you say that!
[He hides his face in his hands.  A silence.]
  12
  Thérèse  [gently removing his hands]—Look at me, René. You’re crying. Oh, my dear love!  13
  René  [taking her in his arms]—I love you, I love you!  14
  Thérèse—And I love you. Oh, please don’t cry any more!  [She kisses him.]  René, dear, don’t cry any more! You break my heart. I can’t bear it. I’m forgetting all I ought to say to you.  [Breaking down.]  Oh, how dreadful this is!  [They cry together.  Then she draws herself away from him, saying]  This is madness.  15
  René—Ah, stay, Thérèse.  16
  Thérèse—No. We mustn’t do this; we must be brave. Oh, why did you come here? I was going to write to you. We’re quite helpless against this dreadful misfortune.  17
  René—I don’t know what to do! But I can’t give you up.  18
  Thérèse  [to herself]—I must do the right thing.  [To him.]  René, stop crying. Listen to me.  19
  René—I love you.  20
  Thérèse—Yes; there’s our love. But besides that there’s life, and life is cruel and too strong for our love. There is your future, my dearest.  21
  René—My future is to love you. My future is nothing if I lose you.  [He buries his face in his hands.]  22
  Thérèse—You can’t marry a girl without any money. That’s a dreadful fact, like a stone wall. We shall only break ourselves to pieces if we dash ourselves against it. Listen, oh, please listen to me. Don’t you hear what I’m saying? René—dear.  23
  René—I’m listening.  24
  Thérèse—I give you your freedom without any bitterness or hardness.  25
  René—I don’t want it!  26
  Thérèse—Now listen. You mustn’t sacrifice your whole life for a love affair, no matter how great the love is.  27
  René—It’s by losing you I shall sacrifice my life.  28
  Thérèse—Try and be brave; control yourself. Let us face this quietly. Suppose we do without your people’s consent. What will become of us? Try to look the thing in the face. How should we live? René, it’s horrible to bring our love down to the level of these miserable realities, but facts are facts. You know very well that if you marry me without your father and mother’s consent, they won’t give you any money. Isn’t that so?  29
  René—Oh! father is hard.  30
  Thérèse—He’s quite right, my dear, quite right. If I was your sister, I should advise you not to give up the position you have been brought up in and the profession you’ve been educated for.  31
  René—But I love you.  32
  Thérèse  [moved]—And I love you. Well, we’ve got to forget one another.  33
  René—That’s impossible.  34
  Thérèse—We must be wise enough to—  [She stops, her voice breaks.]  35
  René—Oh! how unhappy I am.  36
  Thérèse  [controlling herself]—Don’t let yourself go. We’re not in dreamland. If you keep on saying “I am unhappy,” you’ll be unhappy.  37
  René—I love you so. Oh, Thérèse, how I love you!  38
  Thérèse  [softly]—You’ll forget me.  39
  René—Never.  40
  Thérèse—Yes. You’ll remember me in a way, of course. But you’re young. Very soon you’ll be able to live, to laugh, to love, to work.  41
  René—My dearest! I don’t know what to say. I can’t talk of it. I only know one thing—I can’t let you go.  42
  Thérèse—But we should be miserable, René.  43
  René—Miserable together!  44
  Thérèse—Think, dear, think. It will be years before you can earn your own living, won’t it?  45
  René—But I——  46
  Thérèse—Now you know you’ve tried already. Only last year you wanted to leave home and be independent, and you had to go back because you were starving. Isn’t that true?  47
  René—It’s dreadful, dreadful!  [He is overcome, terrified.]  48
  Thérèse—So we must look at life as it is, practically, mustn’t we? We have to have lodging and furniture and clothes. How are we to manage?  49
  René—It’s dreadful!  50
  Thérèse—How would you bear to see me going about in rags?  [He is silent.  She waits, looking at him, hoping for a word of strength or courage.  It does not come.  She draws herself up slowly, her face hardening.]  You can’t face that, can you? Tell me. Can you face that?  51
  René—No.  52
  Thérèse  [humiliated by his want of courage and infected by his weakness]—So you see, I’m right.  53
  René  [sobbing]—Oh! Oh!  54
  Thérèse  [setting her teeth]—Oh, can you do nothing but cry?  55
  René—What a useless creature I am.  56
  Thérèse—There, now, you see you’re better!  57
  René—I’m ashamed of being so good-for-nothing.  58
  Thérèse  [hopeless]—You’re just like all the others. Now, don’t be miserable. I’m not angry with you; you are doing what I told you we must do, and you agree. Go, René. Say good-bye. Good-bye, René.  59
  René—Thérèse!  60
  Thérèse  [her nerves on edge]—Everything we can say is useless, and it’ll only torture and humiliate us. We must end this—now—at once.  61
  René—I shall always love you, Thérèse.  62
  Thérèse—Yes—exactly—now go.  63
  René—Oh, my God!  64
  Thérèse—Go.  65
  René—I’ll go and see my people. They’ll never be so cruel——  66
  Thérèse—Yes, yes, all right.  67
  René—I’ll write you.  68
  Thérèse—Yes—that’s it—you’ll write.  69
  René—I shall see you again, Thérèse?  [He goes slowly to the door.]  70
  Thérèse  [ashamed for him, covers her face with her hands.  Then, all of a sudden, she bursts out into passionate sobs, having lost all control of herself, and cries wildly.]  René!  71
  René  [returning, shocked]—Thérèse! Oh, what is it?  72
  Thérèse  [completely at the mercy of her feelings]—Suppose—suppose after all, we did it? Listen. I love you far more than you know, more than I have ever let you know. A foolish feeling of self-respect made me hide a lot from you. Trust me. Trust your future to me. Marry me all the same. Believe in me. Marry me. You don’t know how strong I am and all the things I can do. I will work, and you will work. You didn’t get on when you were alone, but you will when you have me with you. I’ll keep you brave when things go badly, and I’ll be happy with you when they go right. René, I’ll be content with so little! The simplest, humblest, hardest life, until we’ve made our way together—together, René, and conquered a place in the world for ourselves, that we’ll owe to no one but ourselves. Let us have courage—  [At this point she looks at him, and having looked she ceases to speak.]  73
  René—Thérèse, I’m sure my people will give in.  74
  Thérèse  [after a very long silence, inarticulately]—Go, go; poor René. Forget what I said. Good-bye.  75
  René—Oh, no! not good-bye. I’ll make my father help us.  76
  Thérèse  [sharply]—Too late, my friend. I don’t want you now.
[She leaves the room.  René sinks into a chair and covers his face with his hands.]
  77
 
 
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