Jacques the Fatalist: And His Master

Jacques the Fatalist: And His Master by Denis Diderot Read Free Book Online

Book: Jacques the Fatalist: And His Master by Denis Diderot Read Free Book Online
Authors: Denis Diderot
situation which is almost impossible to get out of. It’s a bad year and we’ve only just got enough for ourselves and the children. Grain is so dear! There’s no wine! Even that wouldn’t be so bad if there were work to be found. But the rich are cutting back and the poor are idling. For every day’s work there are four without. Nobody pays what they owe. Creditors are so rapacious it makes one despair and this is the moment you choose to give shelter to someone we’ve never set eyes on before, a stranger who will stay here as long as it pleases God and the surgeon who will be in no hurry to cure him because these surgeons make illnesses last as long as they can. And a man who hasn’t got even a sou and who will double, triple our expenses. Now, woman, how are you going to get rid of this man? Well, speak, woman, give me an explanation.’
    ‘How can anyone talk to you?’
    ‘You say that I’m bad-tempered, that I scold you? Well, who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t scold? There was still a little wine left in the cellar. God knows the rate it’s going! Those surgeons drank more this evening than ourselves and the children would have done in a week. And who will pay the surgeon, who isn’t going to come for nothing as you might think?’
    ‘Oh, that is all nicely put. And because we’re in extreme poverty, you’re going to give me another child, as if we don’t have enough already.’
    ‘Oh no, I’m not.’
    ‘Oh yes, you are. I’m sure I’m going to become pregnant.’
    ‘That’s what you say every time.’
    ‘And I’ve never been wrong yet when my ear plays me up afterwards and I can feel it itching worse than ever.’
    ‘Your ear doesn’t know what it’s talking about.’
    ‘Don’t touch me! Leave my ear alone! Leave it, man, have you gone mad? You’ll regret it.’
    ‘No, no. I haven’t done it with you since midsummer day.’
    ‘And you’ll do it and the result will be that… and then in a month’s time you’ll be cross with me as if it were all my fault.’
    ‘No, no.’
    ‘And in nine months from now it’ll be even worse.’
    ‘No, no.’
    ‘Well you’ve asked for it.’
    ‘Yes, yes.’
    ‘And you’ll remember this time. You won’t say the things you said all the other times.’
    ‘Yes, yes.’
    And so he changed from ‘No, no’ to ‘Yes, yes’, this man furious with his wife for having given way to a feeling of humanity.
    MASTER : That’s what I was thinking.
    JACQUES : It is certain that the husband wasn’t very logical but he was young and his wife was pretty. People never make so many children as when times are hard.
    MASTER : Nothing breeds like paupers.
    JACQUES : One child more is nothing to them. It’s charity that feeds them. What’s more it’s the only pleasure which doesn’t cost anything. At night they console themselves without expense for the troubles of the day…
    However, the man’s reflections were none the less true. While I was thinking this to myself I felt a violent pain in my knee and I cried out: ‘Ah! My knee!’
    And the husband cried out: ‘Ah! My wife!’
    And the wife cried out: ‘Ah! My husband! But what about that man who is here?’
    ‘Well? What about him?’
    ‘Perhaps he heard us.’
    ‘What if he has?’
    ‘Tomorrow I won’t be able to look at him.’
    ‘Well, why not? Aren’t you my wife? Am I not your husband? Does a husband have a wife or a wife have a husband for nothing?’
    ‘Ah! Ah!’
    ‘What’s wrong with you?’
    ‘My ear…’
    ‘What’s wrong with your ear?’
    ‘It’s worse than ever.’
    ‘Go to sleep. It’ll wear off.’
    ‘I can’t. Ah! My ear! Ah! My ear!’
    ‘Your ear, your ear, that’s easily said…’
    I won’t tell you what happened between them next, but after the wife had repeated the words ‘My ear, my ear’ several times in a low hushed voice she finished up babbling in interrupted syllables ‘ee… ee… aaah’ and after ‘ee… ee… aah’, I don’t know what, which

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