Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘La Métromanie’
By Alexis Piron (1689–1773)
        [Damis, a visionary young man devoted to writing verse, has escaped from his creditors in Paris, and under an assumed name is enjoying himself in the country, where Mondor, his valet, discovers and reasons with him.]

MONDOR  [handing Damis a letter]—Ah! Thank Heaven, I’ve unearthed you at last!  [Damis takes the letter and reads it to himself.]  Monsieur, I’ve been hunting for you a whole week. I’ve been all over Paris a hundred times. I was afraid of the river; lest in your extravagant visions, hunting some rhyme and reading in the clouds, Pegasus with loose bridle should have boldly borne your Muse to the nets of Saint Cloud.  1
  Damis  [aside, indicating the letter he has read]—Oh! Oh! Shall I, shall I? Here’s what keeps me back.  2
  Mondor—Listen, monsieur: my conscience, be careful! Some fine day—  3
  Damis  [interrupting]—Some fine day will you hold your tongue?  4
  Mondor—As you please. Speech is free, anyway. Well, some one told me you might be here, but no one seemed to know you. I’ve been all over this great place, but if you hadn’t appeared I’d have missed you again.  5
  Damis—This whole inclosure is swarming with my admirers. But didn’t you ask for me by my family name?  6
  Mondor—Of course. How should I have asked?  7
  Damis—That is no longer my name.  8
  Mondor—You’ve changed it?  9
  Damis—Yes. For a week I’ve been imitating my confrères. They rarely distinguish themselves under their true names, and it is the common custom of such people to adopt or invent a new name.  10
  Mondor—Your name then is?  11
  Damis—De l’Empirée. And I’ll vouch it shall live!  12
  Mondor—De l’Empirée? Ah! As there is nothing under heaven to make your name longer, as you don’t possess anything under the heavenly vault, you have nothing left but the name of the envelope. So your mind has become a great land-owner? Space is vast, so it has plenty of room. But when it ascends alone to its domain, will your body allow you to go too?  13
  Damis—Do you think that a man of my talents can rule his own course and dispose of himself? The destiny of people like me is like that of drawing-room belles: all the world wants them. I allowed myself to be brought here to Monsieur Francalen’s by an impudent fellow whom I scarcely know. He presents me, and, dupe of the household, I serve as passport to the puppy who protects me. They were still at table, and made room for us. I grew joyful, and so did we all. I became excited and took fire. Uttered lightnings and thunders. My flight was so rapid and prodigious that those who tried to follow me were lost in the heavens. Then the company with acclamations bestowed upon me the name which descending from Pindus shall enrich the archives.  14
  Mondor—And impoverish us both!  15
  Damis—Then a comfortable sumptuous carriage rolled me in a quarter of an hour to this delightful spot, where I laugh, sing, and drink; and all from complaisance!  16
  Mondor—From complaisance—so be it. But don’t you know—  17
  Damis—Eh, what?  18
  Mondor—While you are sporting in the fields, Fortune in the city is a little jealous: Monsieur Balirois,—  19
  Damis  [interrupting]—What?  20
  Mondor—Your uncle from Toulouse,—  21
  Damis—Well?  22
  Mondor—Is at Paris.  23
  Damis—Let him stay there!  24
  Mondor—Very well. Without thinking or wishing that you should know anything about it.  25
  Damis—Why do you tell me, then?  26
  Mondor—Ah! what indifference! Well, is nothing of any consequence to you any more? A rich old uncle upon whom your lot depends, who is continually repenting of the good he means to do you, who is trying to regulate your genius according to his own taste, who detests your devilish verses, and who has kept us for five good years, thank God, for you to study! You may expect some horrible storms! He is coming incognito to find out what you’re about. Perhaps he has already discovered that in your soaring you have not taken any license yet except those he feared,—what you call in your rubrics poetical licenses. Dread his indignation, I tell you! You will be disinherited. That word ought to move you if you’re not very hardened!  27
  Damis  [calmly offering Mondor a paper]—Mondor, take these verses to the Mercury.  28
  Mondor  [refusing the paper]—Fine fruits of my sermon!  29
  Damis—Worthy of the preacher!  30
  Mondor—What? How much is this paper worth to us?  31
  Damis—Honor!  32
  Mondor  [shaking his head]—Hum! honor!  33
  Damis—Do you think I’m telling fictions?  34
  Mondor—There’s no honor in not paying one’s debts; and with honor alone you pay them very ill.  35
  Damis—What a silly beast is an argumentative valet! Well, do what I tell you.  36
  Mondor—Now, not wishing to offend, you are a little too much at your ease, monsieur. You have all the pleasure, and I have all the annoyance. I have you and your creditors both on my back. I have to hear them and get rid of them. I’m tired of playing the comedy for you, of shielding you, of putting off till another day so as brazenly to borrow again. This way of living is repugnant to my honesty. I am tired of trying to deliver you from this barking crew. I give it up. I repent. I won’t lie any more. Let them all come,—the bath-keeper, the merchant, the tailor, your landlord. Let them nose you out and pursue you. Get yourself out of it if you can; and let’s see—  37
  Damis  [interrupting, and again holding out the paper]—You may get me the last Mercury. Do you hear?  38
  Mondor  [still refusing the paper]—Will it suit you to have me come back with all the people I’ve just named?  39
  Damis—Bring them.  40
  Mondor—You jest?  41
  Damis—No.  42
  Mondor—You’ll see.  43
  Damis—I will wait for you.  44
  Mondor  [taking a few steps toward the door]—Oh, well, they’ll give you diversion.  45
  Damis—And you that of seeing them overcome with joy.  46
  Mondor  [coming back]—Will you pay them?  47
  Damis—Certainly.  48
  Mondor—With what money?  49
  Damis—Don’t trouble yourself.  50
  Mondor  [aside]—Heyday! Can he be in funds?  51
  Damis—Let us settle now how much we owe each other.  52
  Mondor  [aside]—Zounds! he’d teach me to weigh my words!  53
  Damis—To the tutor?  54
  Mondor  [in a gentler voice]—Thirty or forty pistoles.  55
  Damis—To the draper, the hair-dresser, the landlord?  56
  Mondor—As much.  57
  Damis—To the tailor?  58
  Mondor—Eighty.  59
  Damis—To the innkeeper?  60
  Mondor—A hundred.  61
  Damis—To you?  62
  Mondor  [drawing back and bowing]—Monsieur—  63
  Damis—How much?  64
  Mondor—Monsieur—  65
  Damis—Speak!  66
  Mondor—I abuse—  67
  Damis—My patience!  68
  Mondor—Yes: I beg pardon. It is true that in my zeal I have failed in respect; but the past made me suspicious of the future.  69
  Damis—A hundred crowns? Guess! More or less, it does not matter. We’ll share the prizes I shall soon win.  70
  Mondor—The prizes?  71
  Damis—Yes: the silver or gold which France distributes in different places to whoever composes the best verses. I have competed everywhere,—at Paris, Rouen, Toulouse, Marseilles: everywhere I’ve done wonders!  72
  Mondor—Ah! so well that Paris will pay the board, Toulouse the barber, Marseilles the draper, and the Devil my wages!  73
  Damis—You doubt that I will win everywhere?  74
  Mondor—No, doubt nothing; but haven’t you a better security for the tailor and the landlord?  75
  Damis—Yes, indeed: the noblest kind of security. The Théâtre Français is to give my play to-day. My secret is safe. Except one actor and yourself, no one in the world knows it is mine.  [Showing the letter which Mondor brought him.]  This very evening they play it—this says so. To-day my talents are revealed to Europe. I have taken the first steps toward immortality. Dear friend, how much this great day means to me! Another hope—  76
  Mondor—Chimerical!  77
  Damis—An adorable girl, only daughter, rare, famous, clever, incomparable!  78
  Mondor—What do you hope from this rare girl?  79
  Damis—If I triumph to-day, to-morrow I can be her husband.  [Mondor wants to go.]  To-morrow— Where are you going, Mondor?  80
  Mondor—To seek a master.  81
  Damis—Eh! Why am I so suddenly judged unworthy?  82
  Mondor—Monsieur, air is very poor nourishment.  83
  Damis—Who wants you to live on air? Are you mad?  84
  Mondor—Not at all.  85
  Damis—Faith, you’re not wise! What, you revolt on the eve—at the very moment of harvest? Since you force me to details unworthy of me, let us take a clear view of the state of my fortunes, past and present. The payment of your wages is already sure: one part to-night and the rest the day after to-morrow. I will succeed; I will marry a scholarly woman. That is the beautiful future before me. Generous young eaglets, worthy their race, will fly after us. If we have three, we will bequeath one to comedy, one to tragedy, and the third to lyricism. These three possess the whole stage. And my spouse and I, if we uttered each year, I but a half-poem, she but a single novel, would draw crowds from all sides. Behold gold and silver rolling through the house, and our united intellects levying from theatre and press!  86
  Mondor—In self-esteem you are a rare man, and on that pillow you nap soundly. But the noise of hissing may wake you.  87
  Damis  [forcing him to take the paper]—Go! My embarrassments merit some consideration. One play announced, another in my head; one in which I am playing, and another all ready to read! This is having the mind occupied.  88
  Mondor—An inheritance and lots of time thrown away.
[He goes, and Damis returns to the house.]

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