To Robert de Flers


FRANÇOISE: Since you are alone in Paris, perhaps we could dine somewhere together. (A silence.) (Quietly.) We could go back to my house afterwards. Is there a place you particularly like?

HENRI: There is a charming restaurant in the Bois where I had lunch the other day. Long before you reach it you are greeted by trees which move aside to let you pass, forestall you and escort you, smiling, silent and hesitant, leaning one against the other as if to take countenance. Then you come to a little lawn, in the middle of which stand a group of beeches. The position they occupy seems to have been chosen deliberately. They seem happy there. At the bottom stands a rather crazy elm which, to the most insignificant news brought to it on the wind, makes enthusiastic mimicry with its branches, which it never stops. So the others leave it alone. It stands in total isolation. And in front is the lake in whose waters a willow stirs its branches unceasingly. It is as if it has a malady, like those people who can never stop trembling.

FRANÇOISE, (Distractedly.): It all sounds very nice.

HENRI: Yes, and we haven't even been there yet. But that would be satisfactory for you would it not?

FRANÇOISE: It's a poetic place.

HENRI: More than that, it's a romantic place.

FRANÇOISE: Well then... (a silence) that would be perfect for us.

HENRI: A little too perfect. There are places that seem prepared as a dwelling place for happiness. Everything seems ready to receive it, their beauty awaits it, their silence listens for it, their solitude promises to keep it secret, their friendship to watch over it. When one comes into such places, bringing so much less of it, one feels sadder than in other places because it would be so sweet to have it, happiness. Nowhere is one so wretched.

FRANÇOISE: From what you have just said it sounds as though it is not very nice, you know.

HENRI: Yes I know. But you do not doubt the pleasure I feel by being with you, my little friend - and if I am unable to find great happiness with you, it is because I can't - perhaps for a long time -find it with anyone. And then, you see, there is this too: I know that she went to this lovely place.

FRANÇOISE: With you?

HENRI:  No, with one person, with another. (Silence.) But that doesn't matter, we shall go. Come and pick me up at half past eight.

FRANÇOISE: Half past eight, that's a bit late you know, because we will not be able to go back to my house until after midnight, and at that time there are no other tenants there but me, the concierge leaves early.

HENRI: We don't need to go back to your house. There is never anybody in the little pavilion in the Bois. We shall dine in a room that looks out over the water. Before it gets dark you will see how the hydrangeas on the banks take on a sweet and gallant hue, as if they have decided to struggle against the darkness. And when darkness has fallen you will just be able to make out the swans silently making their own slightly lesser darkness move over the anxious, sombre water. So we can do whatever we wish. Nobody will disturb us.

FRANÇOISE: What you say is very pretty, I'm sure you could write something if you weren't so ragged, my darling.

HENRI (sadly): It's pretty? Don't say that! Anyway I know it isn't.

FRANÇOISE: There's nothing wrong with what I said. Why does it annoy you that it might be pretty?

HENRI: Because I was never able to say anything pretty to her. So, you see, I prefer rather to be stupid with others, so as to have no regrets.

FRANÇOISE: Why did you never say fine things to her?

HENRI: Because I loved her and because she was not intelligent.

FRANÇOISE: I myself am not intelligent either.

HENRI: But with you I don't pay any heed to that.

FRANÇOISE: You could be polite, speak then.

HENRI: I could if you want me to.

FRANÇOISE (a silence): I don't want you to.



FRANÇOISE: What's the matter? Aren't you enjoying yourself?

HENRI, (sadly): Yes.

FRANÇOISE: When we arrived you said gaily: "Oh! how bored I am going to be!" and you seemed delighted. And now that you are enjoying yourself you look sad. And all the while, you know, you were looking sad. And yet you won't tell me that you are bored.

HENRI: I won't tell you that.

FRANÇOISE: You were in so much of a hurry that you couldn't wait any longer, and when the waiter brought the vegetable salad you said: "Waiter, we are not having the salad, take it away and don't come back until I call you." He wanted to insist that you tasted it. You were furious. It's like when one is in a hurry to dine in town and one gets into a rage about the congestion. Isn't what I say true?

HENRI: Completely true.


HENRI: I can't explain. Or rather, yes, I can. She enjoyed herself you know. So, when I am enjoying myself and yet that bores me, I say to myself: It's not as wonderful as all that to enjoy oneself. I know she came here often. If I was so bored as to swear never to come back here again, I would tell myself: There is no risk in going to the little pavilion in the Bois. I have no need to torture myself by thinking that she used to come here often. It is not so beguiling as all that, it is not the pain of being jealous. But I have had a great deal of pleasure with you just now, Françoise, a great deal of pleasure, alas! And immediately I imagine this same strong sensation being felt by her, being given to her by others. And that gives me much more pain still, because I can take no pleasure in it.

FRANÇOISE: Much more? Be honest.

HENRI: No, as much; no, a bit less since I shall start start over again. But that does it to me again. Do you see, Françoise, that we ourselves determine our own sorrows, by choosing our pleasures, because one is merely the reverse of the other. If we have never known pleasure, we can never know jealousy, because to be jealous is to imagine the pleasure of the woman we love. To imagine theirs we ascribe our own life to others. And saints are not unhappy, because they are good. But console yourself, Françoise, if my sorrow is so great as to bore you, even the greatest of sufferings come to an end. Have I not made progress since last year when I wasn't even able to approach you?

FRANÇOISE: A great deal of progress, I am very pleased. But you never want to embrace me.

HENRI: Oh! that's the very last thing. When I am able to do that it will be because I am completely cured.

FRANÇOISE: Why the last?

HENRI: Perhaps because when one embraces one is calmer, one can think. A kiss, that is a sensation in which one can mix too many memories. The rest happens more blindly. And the rest, with her, I can't even remember any more. And it was over for a long time, yet I was still embracing her. (He looks heart-broken.)

FRANÇOISE: But who told you she was in love with others? All that is just gossip. No, I don't believe it.

HENRI: You are very kind.

FRANÇOISE: She loved you. She loves you.

HENRI: You are so good. (Henri walks over to the window and looks out at the moonlight.)

FRANÇOISE: You understand moonlight, you have written some beautiful things about it.

HENRI: I fancy that it understands me a little too. There have been many occasions when it has witnessed my sorrows. (His eyes fill with tears.)

FRANÇOISE: Don't stay there if it troubles you.

HENRI: It doesn't trouble me. Malice troubles me. But friendship, even from things, moves me. Often, when I had spent the night waiting for her, I would go out onto the balcony when the sun was already up, I was chilled like those who have too much sorrow, and when the sun set its mantle of warmth around my shoulders, when it passed its hand of light across my eyes that I had half closed in order to feel it more delicately, it was only through my tears that I was able to respond to its gifts.

FRANÇOISE: Listen, let's go now, it's getting late. When do you think you will stop loving her?

HENRI: When I fall in love with somebody else. Until there is a new sovereign there is still a previous name that one is obedient to, often quite in spite of oneself.

FRANÇOISE: When do you think you will fall in love with somebody else?

HENRI: I am ready now. But that doesn't depend on me alone, it also depends upon her.

FRANÇOISE, (misunderstanding): On me?

HENRI: No, no!

FRANÇOISE: On whom then?

HENRI: I can't tell you her name. I don't think I know it yet.



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