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The Choice of Life   By: (1869-1941)

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Translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos

[Illustration: Georgette Leblanc]

New York Dodd, Mead and Company 1914

Copyright, 1914, by Dodd, Mead and Company Published, March, 1914

Women are ever divided by a miserable distrust, whereas all their weaknesses intertwined might make for their lives a crown of love and strength and beauty....

How one of them strove to deliver her unhappy friend, the words which she spoke to her, the examples which she set before her, the joys which she offered her: these are what I have tried to record in this book.





Here in the garden, close to the quiet house, I sit thinking of that strange meeting in the village. A blackbird at regular intervals sings the same refrain, which is taken up by others in the distance. The lily's chalice gleams under the blazing sun; and the humbler flowers meekly droop their heads. White butterflies are everywhere, flitting restlessly hither and thither. So fierce is the splendour of the day that I cannot raise my eyes to the summit of the trees; and my quivering lids show me the whole sky through my lashes.

Thereupon it seems to me that the emotion which bursts from my heart, like a too brilliant light, compels me to close the shutters of my brain as well. In my mind, even as before my eyes, distances are lessened and I see stretched before me that more or less illusive goal which we would all fain reach in the desires of our finer selves.

This idea is soothing to me, for, in my eagerness to act, I am tired of demanding from my reason reasons which it cannot vouchsafe me.

Is there anything definite amid the uncertainty of these blind efforts, these unaccountable impulses, which have so often, ever since the first awakening of my unconsciousness, urged me towards other women? What have I wanted hitherto? What was it that I hoped when I stretched out my hands to them, when I looked upon their lives, when I searched their hearts, when at times I changed the very nature of their strivings? I did not know then; and even now I do not succeed in explaining to myself the fever that makes my thoughts tingle and burn. I do not understand, I do not know. How did that dream stand firm amid the total annihilation of unprofitable illusions? Is there then an element of reality, a definite truth that encourages me, though I do not discern it?

I see myself going forward recklessly, like a traveller who knows that there is somewhere a goal and who makes for it blindly, with the same assurance as though the goal stood bright and luminous on a mountain top.

My only apology for these continual excursions is that I lay claim to no rigidity of purpose; and I should almost be ashamed to come with principles and axioms to those whom I am carrying away. Then why alter the course of their destiny? Why appeal to their sympathy and their confidence? What better lot have I to offer them and what can I hope for even if they respond? Certainly I wish them fairer and more perfect, freed from their childish dread of criticism, armed with a prouder and more personal conception of honour than the code which is laid upon them, respectful of their life and also encompassing it with infinite indulgence and kindness. But is not that a wild ideal? In my memory, I still see them smiling at it, those radiant faces which all my sermons could not cloud, or which, vainly striving to understand them, never reflected anything but their crudest and most extravagant features!

The newcomer with the grave countenance, the new soul divined beneath a beauty that pleases me, will she at long last teach me how much is possible and realisable in the vague ideal to which I pay homage, without as yet being able to define it?

I dare not hope.

Hitherto, events have not justified me any more than my reason... Continue reading book >>

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