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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Justice and the Law
By Eugène Brieux (1858–1932)
The last scene of ‘The Red Robe’: Translation of Arthur Bernard Miall

MOUZON—Well—in consideration of the time you have been in custody, I am willing that you should be set at liberty—provisional liberty. I may, perhaps, even withdraw my complaint if you express regret for having insulted me.  1
  Yanetta  [calmly]—I do not regret having insulted you.  2
  Mouzon—Do you want to go back to prison?  3
  Yanetta—My poor man, if you only knew how little it matters to me whether I go to prison or not!  4
  Mouzon—Why?  5
  Yanetta—Because I have nothing left, neither house, nor home, nor husband, nor children.  [She looks at him.]  And—I think—I think—  6
  Mouzon—You think?  7
  Yanetta—I think it is you who are the cause of all the trouble.  8
  Mouzon—You are both acquitted, aren’t you? What more do you ask?  9
  Yanetta—We have been acquitted, it is true. But all the same, I am no longer an honest woman—neither to my husband, nor to my children, nor to the world.  10
  Mouzon—If anyone reproaches you with the penalty inflicted upon you formerly, if anyone makes any allusion to the time you have spent in custody under remand, you have the right to prosecute the offender in the courts. He will be punished.  11
  Yanetta—Well! It is because someone reproached me with that old conviction that my husband has taken my children from me. That someone is a magistrate. Can I have him punished?  12
  Mouzon—No.  13
  Yanetta—Why not? Because he is a magistrate?  14
  Mouzon—No. Because he is the law.  15
  Yanetta—The law!  [Violently.]  Then the law is wicked, wicked!  16
  Mouzon—Come, no shouting, no insults, please.  [To the recorder.]  Have you finished? Then go to the office and have an order made out for her discharge.  17
  Yanetta—I’m no scholar; I’ve not studied the law in books, like you, and perhaps for that very reason I know better than you what is just and what is not. And I want to ask you a plain question: How is the law going to give me back my children and make up to me for the harm it’s done me?  18
  Mouzon—The law owes you nothing.  19
  Yanetta—The law owes me nothing! Then what are you going to do—you, the judge?  20
  Mouzon—A magistrate is not responsible.  21
  Yanetta—Ah, you are not responsible! So you can arrest people just as you like, just when you fancy, on a suspicion or even without a suspicion; you can bring shame and dishonor on their families; you can torture the unhappy, ferret into their past lives, expose their misfortunes, dig up forgotten offenses, offenses which have been atoned for and which go back to ten years ago; you can make use of your skill, your tricks and lies, and your cruelty to send a man to the foot of the scaffold, and worse still, you can drive people into taking a mother’s children away from her—and after that you say, like Pontius Pilate, that you aren’t responsible! Not responsible! Perhaps you aren’t responsible in the eyes of this law of yours, since you tell me you aren’t, but in the eyes of pure and simple justice, the justice of decent people, the justice of God, before that I swear you are responsible, and that is why I am going to call you to account!
[She sees on Mouzon’s desk the dagger which he uses as a paper knife.  He turns his back on her.  She seizes the knife and puts it down again.]
  Mouzon—I order you to get out of here.  23
  Yanetta—Listen to me. For the last time I ask you—what do you think you can do to make up to me—to give me back all I’ve lost through your fault; what are you going to do to lessen my misery, and how do you propose to give me back my children?  24
  Mouzon—I have nothing to say to you. I owe you nothing.  25
  Yanetta—You owe me nothing! You owe me more than life—more than everything. My children I shall never see again. What you’ve taken from me is the happiness of every moment of the day—their kisses at night—the pride I felt in watching them grow up. Never, never again shall I hear them call me “mother.” It’s as though they were dead—it’s as though you had killed them.  [She seizes the knife.]  Yes! That’s your work; it’s you bad judges have done it; you have nearly made a criminal of an innocent man, and you force an honest woman, a mother—to become a criminal!
[She stabs him.  He falls.]

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