FRANÇOISE' LUCK

A Comedy

By Georges de Porto-Riche
(La Chance de Françoise.)
Translated by Barrett H. Clark.


Copyright, 1917, by Stewart & Kidd Company.
All rights reserved.

 

PERSONS REPRESENTED
Marcel Desroches.
Guérin.
Jean.
Françoise.
Madeleine.
    Scene: Auteuil.
    Time: Present.

Presented for the first time December 10,1888, in Paris, at the Théâtre Libre.

 

Françoise' Luck is reprinted from "Four Plays of the Free Theatre," translated by
Barrett H. Clark by permission of Messrs. Stewart & Kidd
Company, Cincinnati, Ohio.


FRANÇOISE' LUCK

A Comedy

By Georges de Porto-Riche

 

[A studio. At the back is a door opening upon a garden; doors to the right and left; likewise a small inconspicuous door to the left. There are a few pictures on easels. The table is littered with papers, books, weapons, bric-a-brac. Chairs and sofas. It is eleven o'clock in the morning.]

 

Françoise [a small, frail woman, with a melancholy look, at times rather mocking. As the curtain rises she is alone. She raises and lowers the window-blind from time to time]. A little more! There! Oh, the sunlight! How blinding! [Glancing at the studio with satisfaction.] How neat everything is! [In attempting to take something from the table, she knocks some papers to the floor.] Well! [Seeing a letter, among the papers she is picking up.] A letter! From Monsieur Guérin—[Reading.] "My dear friend, why do you persist in keeping silence? You say very little of the imprudent woman who has dared to become the companion of the handsome Marcel! Do you recompense her for her confidence in you, for her courage? You are not at all like other men: your frivolity, if you will permit the term, your—" [Interrupting herself.] He writes the word! [Continuing.] "Your cynicism makes me tremble for you. Absent for a year! How much friendship gone to waste! Why were we thrust apart the moment you were married? Why did my wife's health make sunlight an absolute necessity for her? We are now leaving Rome; in a month I'll drop in on you at Auteuil—" [Interrupting herself again.] Very soon!

[Marcel appears at the back.]

"I am very impatient to see you, and Very anxious to see Madame Desroches. I wonder whether she will take to me? I hope she will. Take care, you villain, I shall cross-question her carefully, and if I find the slightest shadow upon her happiness, her friend-to-be will be an angry man." [She stops reading and says to herself, sadly.] A friend—I should like that!

Marcel [carelessly dressed. He is of the type that appeals to women]. Ah, inquisitive, you read my letters?

Françoise. Oh, it's an old one—

Marcel [chaffing her]. From Guérin?

Françoise. I found it there, when I was putting the studio in order.

Marcel [tenderly]. The little romantic child is looking for a friend?

Françoise. I have so much to tell, so much about my recent happiness!

Marcel. Am I not that friend?

Françoise. You are the man I love. Should I consult with you, where your happiness is concerned?

Marcel. Too deep for me! [Yawning.] Oh, I'm tired!

Françoise. Did you come in late last night?

Marcel. Three o'clock.

Françoise. You were very quiet, you naughty man!

Marcel. Were you jealous?

Françoise. The idea! I am morally certain that you love no one except your wife.

Marcel [sadly]. It's true, I love no one except my wife.

Françoise [chaffing him in turn]. Poor Marcel!

Marcel. I was bored to death at that supper; I can't imagine why.—They all tell me I'm getting stout.

Françoise. That's no reason why you shouldn't please.

Marcel. God is very unjust.

Françoise. So they say!

Marcel [stretching out on a sofa]. Excuse my appearance, won't you, Françoise? [Making himself comfortable.] I can't keep my eyes open any longer nowadays. The days of my youth—Why, I was—[He stops.]

Françoise. You were just the right age for marriage.

Marcel [as if to banish the idea]. Oh! [A pause.] I'm sure you will get along well with Guérin. Yours are kindred spirits—you're alike—not in looks, however.

Françoise. Morally, you mean?

Marcel. Yes, The comparison flatters him.

Françoise. He's like this, then; sentimental, a good friend, and a man of honor. Yes, I think I shall get along nicely with him.

Marcel. What a sympathetic nature you have! You've never seen him, and you know him already.

Françoise. How long has he been married?

Marcel. He was born married!

Françoise. Tell me.

Marcel. Ten years, I think.

Françoise. He's happy.

Marcel. Very.

Françoise. What sort of woman is she?

Marcel. Lively.

Françoise. Though virtuous?

Marcel. So they say.

Françoise. Then Madame Guérin and the handsome Martel—eh?

Marcel. A friend's wife?

Françoise. It's very tempting—[Marcel seems to take this with ill-humor; he is about to put on his hat.] Are you going out?

Marcel. I lunch at the club.

Françoise. Very well.

Marcel. I'm—a little nervous; I need a breath of air.

Françoise. Paris air!

Marcel. Precisely.

Françoise. And your work?

Marcel. I'm not in the mood.

Françoise. It's only ten days before the Salon: you'll never be ready.

Marcel. What chance have I, with my talent?

Françoise. You have a great deal of talent—it's recognized everywhere.

Marcel. I did have.

[A pause.]

Françoise. Will you be home for dinner?

Marcel [tenderly]. Of course! And don't allow any black suspicion to get the better of you: I'm not lunching with anybody!

Françoise. I suspect you!

Marcel [gratefully]. 'Til later, then! [A pause. Frankly.] Of course, I don't always go where I tell you I'm going. Why should I worry you? But if you think I—do what I ought not to do, you are mistaken. I'm no longer a bachelor, you know.

Françoise. Just a trifle, aren't you?

Marcel. No jealousy, dear! The day of adventures is dead and buried. Thirty-five mortal years, a scarcity of hair, a noticeable rotundity—and married! Opportunities are fewer now!

Françoise [playfully]. Don't lose courage, your luck may return. A minute would suffice.

Marcel [mournfully]. I don't dare hope.

Françoise. Married! It was never your destiny to be a proprietor, you are doomed to be a tenant.

Marcel [as he is about to leave, sees a letter on the table]. Oh, a letter, and you said nothing to me about it!

Françoise. I didn't see it. Jean must have brought it while you were asleep.

Marcel. From Passy! I know that hand! [Aside, with surprise.] Madame Guérin—Madeleine! Well! [Reading.] "My dear friend I lunch to-day with my aunt Madame de Monglat, at La Muette—as I used to. Come and see me before noon, I have serious things to discuss with you." [He stops reading; aside, much pleased.] A rendezvous! And after three years! Poor Guérin! No! It wouldn't be decent now! No!

Françoise [aside]. He seems to be waking up!

Marcel [aside]. They must have returned! Françoise was right—a minute would suffice! The dear girl!

Françoise. No bad news?

Marcel [in spite of himself]. On the contrary!

Françoise. Oh!

Marcel [embarrassed]. It's from that American woman who saw my picture the other day—at Goupil's, you remember? She insists that I give it to her for ten thousand francs. I really think I'll let her have it. Nowadays you never can tell—

Françoise. I think you would be very wise to sell.

Marcel [handing her the letter]. Don't you believe me?

Françoise. Absolutely.

[Marcel puts the letter in his pocket. A pause.]

Marcel [hesitating before he leaves; aside]. She's a darling; a perfect little darling.

Françoise. Then you're not going out?

Marcel [surprised]. Do you want to send me away?

Françoise. If you're going out to lunch, you had better hurry—the train leaves in a few minutes.

Marcel [suddenly affectionate]. How can I hurry when you are so charming? You're adorable this morning!

Françoise. D'you think so?

[A pause.]

Marcel [aside]. Curious, but every time I have a rendezvous, she is like that!

Françoise. Good-by, then; I've had enough of you! If you stay you'll upset all my plans. I'd quite made up my mind to be melancholy and lonely. It's impossible to be either gay or sad with you! Run along!

Marcel [taking off his hat, which he had put on some moments before]. I tell you this is my house, and this my studio. Your house is there by the garden.

Françoise. Yes, it's only there that you are my husband.

Marcel. Oh! [Reproachfully, and with tenderness.] Tell me, Françoise, why don't you ever want to go out with me?

Françoise. You know I don't like society.

Marcel. I'm seen so much alone!

Françoise. So much the better for you; you will be taken for a bachelor!

Marcel. One might think the way you talk, that husband and wife ought never to live together.

Françoise. Perhaps I'd see you oftener if we weren't married!

Marcel. Isn't it a pleasure to you, Madame, to be in the arms of your husband?

Françoise. Isn't it likewise a pleasure to be able to say, "He is free, I am not his wife, he is not my husband; I am not his duty, a millstone around his neck; I am his avocation, his love? If he leaves me, I know he is tired of me, but if he comes back, then I know he loves me"?

Marcel. Françoise, you are an extremist!

Françoise. You think so?

Marcel. You are.

Françoise. Well?

Marcel. I know your philosophy is nothing but love. [A pause.] You cry sometimes, don't you? When I'm not here?

Françoise. Just a little.

Marcel. I make you very unhappy! When you are sad, don't conceal it from me, Françoise; one of your tears would make me do anything in the world for you.

Françoise. One, yes! But, many?

Marcel. Don't make fun of me: I am serious. If I told you that my affection for you is as great as yours, I—

Françoise. You would be lying.

Marcel. Perhaps! But I think I adore you! Every time I leave you, I feel so lonely; I wander about like a lost soul! I think something must be happening to you. And when I come home at midnight, and open the door, I feel an exquisite sensation—Is that love? You ought to know—you are an adept!

Françoise. Perhaps.

Marcel [unthinkingly]. You know, Françoise, one can never be sure of one's self.

Françoise. Of course!

Marcel. No one can say, "I love to-day, and I shall love to-morrow." You or any one else.

Françoise [offended]. I?

Marcel. How can you tell, whether in fifteen years—?

Françoise. Oh, I'm a little child—I'm different from the others: I shall always love the same man all his life. But go on, you were saying?

Marcel. Nothing. I want you to be happy, in spite of everything, no matter what may happen—no matter what I may do.

Françoise. Even if you should deceive me?

Marcel [tenderly]. Deceive you? Never! I care nothing about other women! You are my happiness—not a mere pastime.

Françoise. Alas!

Marcel. Why alas?

Françoise. Because it is easier to do without happiness than pleasure.

Marcel [tenderly]. Oh, you are all that is highest and best in my life. I prefer you to everything else! Let a woman come between us, and she shall have me to deal with! Call it selfishness, if you will, or egotism—but your peace of mind is an absolute necessity to me!

Françoise. You need not prepare me for the future, you bad boy: I resigned myself to "possibilities" some time ago. I'm inexperienced and young in years, but I'm older than you.

Marcel. Shall I tell you something? I never deserved you!

Françoise. That's true.

Marcel. When I think how happy you might have made some good and worthy man, and that—

Françoise. Who then would have made me happy?

Marcel. You are not happy now.

Françoise. I didn't marry for happiness; I married in order to have you.

Marcel. I'm a fool! It would be nice, wouldn't it, if I were an unfaithful husband!

Françoise. I'm sure you will never be that.

Marcel. Do you really think so?

Françoise. I am positive. What would be the use in deceiving me? I should be so unhappy, and you wouldn't be a bit happier.

Marcel. You are right.

Françoise. No, you will not deceive me. To begin with, I have great luck.

Marcel [gayly]. Of course, you have; you don't know how much!

Françoise [coquettishly]. Tell me!

Marcel. What a child you are!

Marcel. I should think so! Sometimes I imagine that my happiness does not lie altogether in those sparkling eyes of yours and I try to fall in love with another woman; I fall in deeper and deeper for a week or two, and think I am terribly infatuated. But just as I am about to take the fatal leap, I fail: Françoise' luck, you see! At bottom, I'm a commencer; I can't imagine what it is that saves me—and you. Sometimes she has done something to displease me, sometimes a divine word from your lips—and a mere nothing, something quite insignificant! For instance, Wednesday, I missed the train, and came back and had dinner with you. You see, Françoise' luck!

Françoise. Then you're not going out to-day, are you?

Marcel. Nor to-morrow; the whole day is yours. We'll close the door.

Françoise. Aren't you happy?

Marcel [kissing her behind the ear]. Hurry up, you lazy child!

Françoise. I'm not pretty, but I have my good points.

Marcel. Not pretty?

Françoise. No, but I deserve to be.

[Madeleine appears at the back.]

Madeleine. I beg your pardon!

[Françoise gives an exclamation of surprise and escapes through the door to the right without looking again at the visitor.]

Marcel [surprised]. Madeleine!

[A pause.]

Madeleine [stylishly dressed. With an air of bravura]. So this is the way you deceive me!

Marcel [gayly]. My dear, if you think that during these three years—

Madeleine. I beg your pardon for interrupting your little tête-à-tête, Marcel, but your door was open, and there was no servant to announce me.

Marcel. You know you are always welcome here.

Madeleine. Your wife is very attractive.

Marcel. Isn't she? Shall I introduce you?

Madeleine. Later—I've come to see you.

Marcel. I must confess your visit is a little surprising.

Madeleine. Especially after my sending that note this morning. I thought I should prefer not to trouble you.

Marcel [uncertain]. Ah!

Madeleine. Yes.

Marcel. Well?

Madeleine. Well, no!

Marcel. I'm sorry. [Kissing her hand.] Glad to see you, at any rate.

Madeleine. Same studio as always, eh?

Marcel. You are still as charming as ever.

Madeleine. You are as handsome as ever.

Marcel. I can say no less for you.

Madeleine. I'm only twenty-eight.

Marcel. But your husband is fifty: that keeps you young. How long have you been back?

Madeleine. A week.

Marcel. And I haven't seen Guérin yet!

Madeleine. There's no hurry.

Marcel. What's the matter?

Madeleine. He's a bit worried: you know how jealous he is! Well, yesterday, when I was out, he went through all my private papers—

Marcel. Naturally he came across some letters.

Madeleine. The letters, my dear!

Marcel. Mine?

Madeleine. Yes. [Gesture from Marcel.] Old letters.

Marcel. You kept them?

Madeleine. From a celebrity? Of course!

Marcel. The devil!

Madeleine. Ungrateful!

Marcel. I beg your pardon.

Madeleine. You can imagine my explanation following the discovery. My dear Marcel, there's going to be a divorce.

Marcel. A—! A divorce?

Madeleine. Don't feel too sorry for me. After all, I shall be free and almost happy.

Marcel. What resignation!

Madeleine. Only—

Marcel. Only what?

Madeleine. He is going to send you his seconds.

Marcel [gayly]. A duel? To-day? You're not serious?

Madeleine. I think he wants to kill you.

Marcel. But that affair was three years ago! Why, to begin with, he hasn't the right!

Madeleine. Because it was so long ago?

Marcel. Three years is three years.

Madeleine. You're right: now you are not in love with his wife: you love your own. Time has changed everything. Now your own happiness is all-sufficient. I can easily understand your indignation against my husband.

Marcel. Oh, I—

Madeleine. My husband is slow, but he's sure, isn't he?

Marcel. You're cruel, Madeleine.

Madeleine. If it's ancient history for you, it's only too recent for him!

Marcel. Let's not speak about him!

Madeleine. But he ought to be a very interesting topic of conversation just now!

Marcel. I hadn't foreseen his feeling so keenly.

Madeleine. You must tell him how sorry you are when you see him.

Marcel. At the duel?

Madeleine. Elsewhere!

Marcel. Where? Here, in my house?

Madeleine. My dear, he may want to tell you how he feels.

[A pause.]

Marcel [aside, troubled]. The devil! And Françoise? [Another pause.] Oh, a duel! Well, I ought to risk my life for you; you have done the same thing for me many times.

Madeleine. Oh, I was not so careful as you were then.

Marcel. You are not telling me everything, Madeleine. What put it into your husband's head to look through your papers?

Madeleine. Ah!

Marcel. Well, evidently I couldn't have excited his jealousy. For a long time he has had no reason to suspect me! Were they my letters he was looking for?

Madeleine. That is my affair!

Marcel. Then I am expiating for some one else?

Madeleine. I'm afraid so.

Marcel. Perfect!

Madeleine. Forgive me!

Marcel [reproachfully]. So you are deceiving him?

Madeleine. You are a perfect friend to-day!

Marcel. Then you really have a lover?

Madeleine. A second lover! That would be disgraceful, wouldn't it?

Marcel. The first step always brings the worst consequences.

Madeleine. What are you smiling at?

Marcel. Oh, the happiness of others! Well, let's have no bitterness.

Madeleine. No, you might feel remorse!

Marcel. Oh, Madeleine, why am I not the guilty one this time? You are always so beautiful!

Madeleine. Your fault! You should have kept what you had!

Marcel. I thought you were tired of me.

Madeleine. You will never know what I suffered; I cried like an abandoned shopgirl!

Marcel. Not for long, though?

Madeleine. Three months. When I think I once loved you so much, and here I am before you so calm and indifferent! You look like anybody else now. How funny, how disgusting life is! You meet some one, do no end of foolish and wicked and mean things in order to belong to him, and the day comes when you don't know one another. Each takes his turn! I think it would have been better—[Gesture from Marcel.] Yes—I ought to try to forget everything.

Marcel. That's all buried in the past! Wasn't it worth the trouble, and the suffering we have to undergo now?

Madeleine. You, too! You have to recall—!

Marcel. I'm sorry, but I didn't begin this conversation.

Madeleine. Never mind! It's all over, let's say no more about it!

Marcel. No, please! Let's—curse me, Madeleine say anything you like about me: I deserve it all!

Madeleine. Stop! Behave yourself, married man! What if your wife heard you!

Marcel. She? Dear child! She is much too afraid of what I might say to listen.

Madeleine. Dear child! You cynic! I'll wager you have not been a model husband since your marriage!

Marcel. You are mistaken this time, my dear.

Madeleine. You are lying!

Marcel. Seriously; and I'm more surprised than you at the fact—but it's true.

Madeleine. Poor Marcel!

Marcel. I do suffer!

Madeleine. Then you are a faithful husband?

Marcel. I am frivolous and—compromising—that is all.

Madeleine. It's rather funny: you seem somehow to be ready to belong to some one!

Marcel. Madeleine, you are the first who has come near tempting me.

Madeleine. Is it possible?

Marcel. I feel myself weakening.

Madeleine. Thank you so much for thinking of me, dear; I appreciate it, but for the time being, I'll—consider.

Marcel. Have you made up your mind?

Madeleine. We shall see later; I'll think it over—perhaps! Yet, I rather doubt if—. You haven't been nice to me to-day, your open honest face hasn't pleased me at all. You're so carelessly dressed! I don't think you're interesting any more. No, I hardly think so!

Marcel. But, Madeleine—

Madeleine. Don't call me Madeleine.

Marcel. Madame Guérin! Madame Guérin! if I told you how much your note meant to me! How excited I was! I trembled when I read it!

Madeleine. I'll warrant you read it before your wife?

Marcel. It was so charming of you!

Madeleine. How depraved you are!

Marcel. How well you know me!

Madeleine. Fool!

Marcel. I adore you!

Madeleine. That's merely a notion of yours! You imagine, since you haven't seen me for so long—I've just come back from a long trip!

Marcel. Don't shake my faith in you!

Madeleine. Think of your duties, my dear; don't forget—

Marcel. My children? I have none.

Madeleine. Your wife.

Marcel [in desperation]. You always speak of her!

Madeleine. Love her, my friend, and if my husband doesn't kill you to-morrow, continue to love her in peace and quiet. You are made for a virtuous life now—any one can see that. I flatter you when I consider you a libertine. You've been spoiled by too much happiness, that's the trouble with you!

Marcel [trying to kiss her]. Madeleine, if you only—!

Madeleine [evading him]. Are you out of your wits?

Marcel. Forgive me: I haven't quite forgotten! Well, if I am killed it will be for a good reason.

Madeleine. Poor dear!

Marcel. It will! This duel is going to compromise you fearfully. Come now, every one will accuse you to-morrow; what difference does it make to you?

Madeleine. I'm not in the mood!

Marcel. Now you are lying!

Madeleine. I don't love you.

Marcel. Nonsense! You're sulking!

Madeleine. How childish! Don't touch me! You want me to be unfaithful to everybody! Never! [Changing.] Yet—! No; it would be too foolish! Good-by.

Marcel [kissing her as she tries to pass him]. Not before—

Madeleine. Oh, you've mussed my hat; how awkward of you! [Trying to escape from Marcel's embrace.] Let me go!

Marcel [jokingly]. Let you go? In a few days!

Madeleine. Good-by. My husband may come any moment.

Marcel. Are you afraid?

Madeleine. Yes, I'm afraid he might forgive me!

Marcel. One minute more!

Madeleine. No! I have just time. I'm going away this evening—

Marcel. Going away?

Madeleine. To London.

Marcel. With—him, the other?

Madeleine. I hope so.

Marcel. Who knows? He may be waiting for you this moment at Madame de Montglat's, your aunt's—

Madeleine. They are playing cards together.

Marcel. The way we are! What a family!

Madeleine. Impudent!

Marcel. That's why you came.

Madeleine [about to leave]. Shall I go out through the models' door, as I used to?

Marcel. If I were still a bachelor you wouldn't leave me this way! You would miss your train this evening, I'll tell you that!

Madeleine. You may very well look at that long sofa! No, no, my dear: not to-day, thanks!

Marcel. In an hour, then, at Madame de Montglat's!

Madeleine. Take care, or I'll make you meet your successor!

Marcel. Then I can see whether you are still a woman of taste.

Madeleine. Ah, men are very—I'll say the word after I leave. [She goes out through the little door.]

Marcel [alone]. "Men are very—!" If we were, the women would have a very stupid time of it!

[He is about to follow Madeleine.]

[Enter Françoise.]

Françoise. Who was that stylish looking woman who just left, Marcel?

Marcel [embarrassed]. Madame Jackson, my American friend.

Françoise. Well?

Marcel. My picture? Sold!

Françoise. Ten thousand? Splendid! Don't you think so? You don't seem very happy!

Marcel. The idea!

[He picks up his hat.]

Françoise [jealously]. Are you going to leave me?

Marcel. I am just going to Goupil's and tell him.

Françoise. Then I'll have to lunch all by myself! [Marcel stops an instant before the mirror.] You look lovely.

Marcel [turning round]. I—

Françoise. Oh, you'll succeed!

[A pause.]

Marcel [enchanted, in spite of himself]. What can you be thinking of! [Aside.] What if she were after all my happiness? [Reproachfully.] Now, Françoise—

Françoise. I was only joking.

Marcel [ready to leave]. No moping, remember? I can't have that!

Françoise. I know!

Marcel [tenderly. He stands at the threshold. Aside]. Poor child! Well I may fail!

[He goes out, left.]

Françoise [sadly]. Where is he going? Probably to a rendezvous. Oh, if he is! Will my luck fail me to-day? Soon he'll come back again, so well satisfied with himself! I talk to him so much about my resignation, I wonder whether he believes in it? Why must I be tormented this way forever?

[Enter Jean, with a visiting-card.]

Jean. Is Monsieur here?

Françoise. Let me see!

[She takes the card.]

Jean. The gentleman is waiting, Madame.

Françoise. Ask him to come in. Quick, now!

[Jean goes out.]

[Enter Guérin, at the back. As he sees Françoise he hesitates before coming to her.]

Françoise [cordially]. Come in, Monsieur. I have never seen you, but I already know you very well.

Guérin [a large, strong man, with grayish hair]. Thank you, Madame. I thought I should find Monsieur Desroches at home. If you will excuse me—

Françoise. I beg you!

Guérin. I fear I am intruding: it's so early.

Françoise. You intruding in Marcel's home?

Guérin. Madame—

Françoise. My husband will return soon, Monsieur.

Guérin [brightening]. Good!

Françoise. Will you wait for him here in the studio?

Guérin [advancing]. Really, Madame, it would be most ungrateful of me to refuse your kindness.

Françoise. Here are magazines and newspapers—I shall ask to be excused. [As she is about to leave.] It was rather difficult to make you stay!

Guérin. Forgive me, Madame. [Aside ironically.] Too bad! She's decidedly charming!

[Having gone up-stage, Françoise suddenly returns.]

Françoise. It seems a little strange to you, Monsieur—doesn't it?—to see a woman in this bachelor studio—quite at home?

Guérin. Why, Madame—

Françoise. Before leaving you—which I shall do in a moment—you must know that there is one woman who is very glad to know you have returned to Paris!

Guérin. We just arrived this week.

Françoise. Good!

Guérin [ironically]. It's so long since I've seen Marcel.

Françoise. Three years.

Guérin. So many things have happened since!

Françoise. You find him a married man, for one thing—

Guérin. Happily married!

Françoise. Yes, happily!

Guérin. Dear old Marcel! I'll be so glad to see him!

Françoise. I see you haven't forgotten my husband, Monsieur. Thank you!

Guérin. How can I help admiring so stout and loyal a heart as his!

Françoise. You'll have to like me, too!

Guérin. I already do.

Françoise. Really? Then you believe everything you write?

Guérin. Yes, Madame.

Françoise. Take care! This morning I was re-reading one of your letters, in which you promised me your heartiest support. [Offering him her hand.] Then we're friends, are we not?

Guérin [after hesitating, takes her hand]. Good friends, Madame!

Françoise. Word of honor?

Guérin. Word of honor!

Françoise [sitting]. Then I'll stay. Sit down, and let's talk. [Guérin is uncertain.] We have so much to say to each other! Let's talk about you first.

Guérin [forced to sit down]. About me? But I—

Françoise. Yes, about you.

Guérin [quickly]. No, about your happiness, your welfare.

Françoise. About my great happiness!

Guérin [ironically]. Let us speak about your—existence—with which you are so content. I must know all the happiness of this house!

Françoise. Happy people never have anything to say.

Guérin. You never have troubles, I presume?

Françoise. None, so far.

Guérin. But what might happen? To-day you are living peacefully with Marcel, a man whose marriage was, it seems, strongly opposed. Life owes you no more than it has already given you.

Françoise. My happiness is complete. I had never imagined that a man's goodness could make a woman so happy!

Guérin. Goodness?

Françoise. Of course!

Guérin. Love, you mean Madame!

Françoise. Oh, Marcel's love for me—!

Guérin. Something lacking?

Françoise. No!

Guérin [interested]. Tell me. Am I not your friend?

Françoise. Seriously, Monsieur, you know him very well: how could he be in love with me? Is it even possible? He allows one to love him, and I ask nothing more.

Guérin. Nothing?

Françoise. Only to be allowed to continue. [Gesture from Guérin.] I am not like other women. I don't ask for rights; but I do demand tenderness, and consideration. He is free, I am not—I'll admit that. But I don't mind, I only hope that we may continue as we are!

Guérin. Have you some presentiment, Madame?

Françoise. I am afraid, Monsieur. My happiness is not of the proud, demonstrative variety, it is a kind of happiness that is continually trembling for its safety. If I told you—

Guérin. Do tell me!

Françoise. Later! How I pity any one who loves and has to suffer for it!

Guérin [surprised]. You—!

Françoise. I am not on the side of the jealous, of the betrayed—

Guérin [aside, sympathetically]. Poor little woman! [With great sincerity.] Then you are not sure of him?

Françoise [more and more excited]. He is Marcel! Admit for a moment that he loves me to-day—I want so to believe it! To-morrow will he love me? Does he himself know whether he will love me then? Isn't he at the mercy of a whim, a passing fancy—of the weather, or the appearance of the first woman he happens to meet? I am only twenty, and I am not always as careful as I might be. Happiness is so difficult!

Guérin. Yes, it is. [To himself.] It is! [To Françoise.] Perhaps you are conscientious, too sincere?

Françoise. I feel that; yes, I think I am, but every time I try to hide my affection from him, he becomes indifferent, almost mean—as if he were glad to be relieved of a duty—of being good!

Guérin. So it's come to that!

Françoise. You see, Marcel can't get used to the idea that his other life is over, dead and buried, that he's married for good—that he must do as others do. I do my best and tell him, but my very presence only reminds him of his duties as a husband. For instance [interrupting herself]. Here I am telling you all this—

Guérin. Oh!—Please.

Françoise [bitterly]. He likes to go out alone at night, without me. He knows me well enough to understand that his being away makes me very unhappy, and as a matter of form, of common courtesy, he asks me to go with him. I try to reason and convince myself that he doesn't mean what he says, but I can't help feeling sincerely happy when once in a while I do accept his invitation. But the moment we leave the house I realize my mistake. Then he pretends to be in high spirits, but I know all the time he is acting a part; and when we come home again he lets drop without fail some hint about having lost his liberty; he says he took me out in a moment of weakness, that he really wanted to be alone.

Guérin [interrupting]. And when he does go out alone?

Françoise. Then I am most unhappy; I'm in torment for hours and hours. I wonder where he can be, and then I'm afraid he won't come back at all. When the door opens, when I hear him come in, I'm so happy I pay no attention to what he tells me. But I made a solemn vow never to show the least sign of jealousy. My face is always tranquil, and what I say to him never betrays what I feel. I never knowingly betray myself, but his taking way, his tenderness, soon make me confess every fear; then he turns round and, using my own confession as a weapon, shows me how wrong I am to be afraid and suspicious. And when sometimes I say nothing to him, even when he tries to make me confess, he punishes me most severely by telling me stories of his affairs, narrow escapes, and all his temptations. He once told me about an old mistress of his, whom he had just seen, a very clever woman, who was never jealous! Or else he comes in so late that I must be glad, for if he came in later, it would have been all night! He tells me he had some splendid opportunity, and had to give it up! A thousand things like that! He seems to delight in making me suspect and doubt him!

Guérin. Poor little woman!

Françoise. That's my life; as for my happiness, it exists from day to day. [With determination.] If I only had the right to be unhappy! But I must always smile, I must be happy, not only in his presence, but to the very depths of my soul! So that he may deceive me without the least remorse! It is his pleasure!

[She bursts into tears.]

Guérin [rising]. The selfish brute!

Françoise. Isn't my suffering a reproach to him?

Guérin. I pity you, Madame, and I think I understand you better than any one else. I have trouble not unlike your own; perhaps greater, troubles for which there is no consolation.

Françoise. If you understand me, Monsieur, advise me! I need you!

Guérin [startled back into reality]. Me, help you? I? [Aside.] No!

Françoise. You spoke of your friendship. The time has come, prove that it is genuine!

Guérin. Madame, why did I ever see you? Why did I listen to you?

Françoise. What have you to regret?

Guérin. Nothing, Madame, nothing.

Françoise. Explain yourself, Monsieur. You—you make me afraid!

Guérin [trying to calm her suspicions]. Don't cry like that! There is no reason why you should behave that way! Your husband doesn't love you as he ought, but he does love you. You are jealous, that's what's troubling you. But for that matter, why should he deceive you? That would be too unjust.

Françoise [excited]. Too unjust! You are right, Monsieur! No matter how cynical, how blasé a man may be, isn't it his duty, his sacred duty, to say to himself, "I have found a good and true woman in this world of deceptions; she is a woman who adores me, who is only too ready to invent any excuse for me! She bears my name and honors it; no matter what I do, she is always true, of that I am positive. I am always foremost in her thoughts, and I shall be her only love." When a man can say all that, Monsieur, isn't that real, true happiness?

Guérin [sobbing]. Yes—that is happiness!

Françoise. You are crying! [A pause.]

Guérin. My wife—deceived me!

Françoise. Oh! [A pause.] Marcel—

Guérin. Your happiness is in no danger! Yesterday I found some old letters, in a desk—old letters—that was all! You weren't his wife at the time. It's ancient history.

Françoise [aside]. Who knows?

Guérin. Forgive me, Madame; your troubles remind me of my own. When you told of the happiness you still have to give, I couldn't help thinking of what I had lost!

Françoise. So you have come to fight a duel with my husband?

Guérin. Madame—

Françoise. You are going to fight him? Answer me.

Guérin. My life is a wreck now—I must—

Françoise. I don't ask you to forget; Monsieur—

Guérin. Don't you think I have a right?

Françoise. Stop!

Guérin. I shall not try to kill him. You love him too much! I couldn't do it now. In striking him I should be injuring you, and you don't deserve to suffer; you have betrayed no one. The happiness you have just taught me to know is as sacred and inviolable as my honor, my unhappiness. I shall not seek revenge.

Françoise [gratefully]. Oh, Monsieur.

Guérin. I am willing he should live, because he is so dear, so necessary to you. Keep him. If he wants to spoil your happiness, his be the blame! I shall not do it. It would be sacrilege. Good-by, Madame, good-by.

[Guérin goes out, back, Françoise falls into a chair, sobbing.]

[Enter Marcel by the little door.]

Marcel [aside, with a melancholy air]. Refused to see me!

Françoise [distinctly]. Oh, it's you!

Marcel [good-humoredly]. Yes, it's I. [A pause. He goes toward her.] You have been crying! Have you seen Guérin? He's been here!

Françoise. Marcel!

Marcel. Did he dare tell you!

Françoise. You won't see any more of him.

Marcel [astounded]. He's not going to fight?

Françoise. He refuses.

Marcel. Thank you!

Françoise. I took good care of your dignity, you may be sure of that. Here we were together; I told him the story of my life during the last year—how I loved you—and then he broke down. When I learned the truth, he said he would go away for my happiness' sake.

Marcel. I was a coward to deceive that man! Is this a final sentence that you pass on me?

Françoise. Marcel!

Marcel. Both of you are big! You have big hearts. I admire you both more than I can say.

Françoise [incredulously]. Where are you going? To get him to fight with you?

Marcel [returning to her; angrily]. How can I, now? After what you have done, it would be absurd. Why the devil did you have to mix yourself up in something that doesn't concern you? I was only looking for a chance to fight that duel!

Françoise. Looking for a chance?

Marcel. Oh, I—

Françoise. Why?

Marcel [between his teeth]. That's my affair! Everybody has his enemies—his insults to avenge. It was a very good thing that gentleman didn't happen across my path!

Françoise. How dare you recall what he has been generous enough to forget?

Marcel. How do you know that I haven't a special reason for fighting this duel? A legitimate reason, that must be concealed from you?

Françoise. You are mistaken, dear: I guess that reason perfectly.

Marcel. Really?

Françoise. I know it.

Marcel [bursting forth]. Oh! Good! You haven't always been so frightfully profound.

Françoise. Yes, I have, and your irony only proves that I have not been so much mistaken in what I felt by intuition.

Marcel. Ah, marriage.

Françoise. Ah, duty!

Marcel. I love Madame Guérin, don't I?

Françoise. I don't say that.

Marcel. You think it.

Françoise. And if I do? Would it be a crime to think it? You once loved her—perhaps you have seen her again, recently? Do I know where you go? You never tell me.

Marcel. I tell you too much!

Françoise. I think you do.

Marcel. You're jealous!

Françoise. Common, if you like. Come, you must admit, Marcel, Madame Guérin is in some way responsible for your excitement now?

Marcel. Very well then, I love her, I adore her! Are you satisfied?

Françoise. You should have told me that first, my dear; I should never have tried to keep you away from her.

[She breaks into tears.]

Marcel. She's crying! Good, there's liberty for you!

Françoise [bitterly]. Liberty? I did not suffer when I promised you your liberty.

Marcel. That was your "resignation."

Françoise. You knew life, I did not. You ought never to have accepted it!

Marcel. You're like all the rest!

Françoise [more excited]. Doesn't unhappiness level us all?

Marcel. I see it does!

Françoise. What can you ask for, then? So long as you have no great happiness like mine you are ready enough to make any sacrifice, but when once you have it, you never resign yourself to losing it.

Marcel. That's just the difficulty.

Françoise. Be a little patient, dear: I have not yet reached that state of cynicism and subtlety which you seem to want in your wife—I thought I came near to your ideal once! Perhaps there's some hope for me yet: I have promised myself to do my best to satisfy your ideal.

Marcel [moved]. I don't ask that.

Françoise. You are right, I am very foolish to try to struggle. What is the good? It will suffice when I have lost the dearest creature on earth—through my foolishness, my blunders!

Marcel. The dearest creature?

Françoise. I can't help it if he seems so to me!

Marcel [disarmed]. You—you're trying to appeal to my vanity!

Françoise. I am hardly in the mood for joking.

Marcel [tenderly, as he kneels at her feet]. But you make me say things like that—I don't know what! I am not bad—really bad! No, I have not deceived you! I love you, and only you! You! You know that, Françoise! Ask—ask any woman! All women!

[A pause.]

Françoise [smiling through her tears]. Best of husbands! You're not going out then? You'll stay?

Marcel [in Françoise's arms]. Can I go now, now that I'm here? You are so pretty that I—

Françoise. Not when I'm in trouble.

Marcel. Don't cry!

Françoise. I forgive you!

Marcel. Wait, I haven't confessed everything.

Françoise. Not another word!

Marcel. I want to be sincere.

Françoise. I prefer you to lie to me!

Marcel. First, read this note—the one I received this morning.

Françoise [surprised]. From Madame Guérin?

Marcel. You saw her not long ago. Yes, she calmly told me—

Françoise. That her husband had found some letters!

Marcel. And that she was about to leave for England with her lover.

Françoise. Then she is quite consoled?

Marcel. Perfectly.

Françoise. Poor Marcel! And you went to see her and try to prevent her going away with him?

Marcel. My foolishness was well punished. She wouldn't receive me.

Françoise. Then I am the only one left who loves you? How happy I am!

Marcel. I'll kill that love some day with my ridiculous philandering!

Françoise [gravely]. I defy you!

Marcel [playfully]. Then I no longer have the right to provoke Monsieur Guérin? Now?

Françoise [gayly]. You are growing old, Lovelace, his wife has deceived you!

Marcel [lovingly]. Françoise' luck! [Sadly.] Married!

 

[Curtain.]