PERRON: Alexandre! Alexandre!
ALEXANDRE: Good day, my friend. You seem distraught.
PERRON: Distraught! It was the strangest thing! But sit here with me. Do. I have something to tell you.
ALEXANDRE: I regret exceedingly, but a stupid engagement.... Later, perhaps
PERRON: No! No! I insist! Only a great mind like yours can explain the strange thing which has happened.
ALEXANDRE: Ah, in that casewhat is a mere business affair compared with divine philosophy? Far from being pressé, friend Perron, I have an eternity at your service.
PERRON: First of all, tell me the exact date!
ALEXANDRE: That I can do, and not on my own authority, which in such details is often unreliable. This morning my concierge announced with great delicacy and feeling that to-day is Friday, the fifteenth July, and my rent is once more due. My rent, which
PERRON: Friday the fifteenth! Impossible!
ALEXANDRE: Alas. My concierge is of a precision the most meticulous. For all legal, financial and military affairs, throughout the French Republic at least, to-day is Friday the fifteenth. But why should this seem impossible to you, a scientist and a watchmaker?
PERRON: Only listen, and you will understand why I am tempted to doubt the calendar of the Church itself. Two weeks ago my wife announced to me that she had reason to expect the due arrival of a son. She said there could be no question it will be a son because in her mother's family for three generations it has been the same, three daughters followed by a son. Eh bien, although I have always desired a son to follow me in this honorable and scientific profession, nevertheless I received the news with a certain consternation. In short, my affairs have not gone too well of late, and without my wife's assistance by her needle.... That evening I thought much how I might increase my funds, and so for two weekstwo weeks, mon amiI have omitted my customary café after dejeuner, which all these years I have not failed to take with a serious group of friends at the Trois Arts, and even have I smoked no cigarettes. True, this has not added much to our wealth, though it has been some satisfaction to realize I have done my possible. My health has suffered somewhatI have grown absent-minded, and in the morning my head feels strange. However, that may not be due entirely to my unnatural abstinence. However, on Friday the fifteenth July, at three o'clock precisely, as I sat here in meditation having finished a small work, I saw a telegraph boy hurry toward me down the street. Then had I a premonition. My heart beat as it has not these twenty years. In an instant I was reading the message: my brother, who long ago ran away on adventure to Indo-China, had just died and left me a fortune in tea. That was on Friday the fifteenth. And do you know what has happened since? I have lived two separate lives. Yes, two existences have unrolled before me. In one I saw myself as I would have been without the telegram. My business fell away; my son was born a daughter, to my wife's indignation and my own dismay; and having sold my little shop I sought work in a cursed factory. Ah me, it was terrible! But the other picture. With my brother's fortune I made aggrandisements and eventually moved to the Rue de la Paix. My scientific genius was at last appreciated, and my watches and clocks became the pride of the haute monde. My son grew into a fine man, much resembling myself, and after learning the profession opened a branch office at Buenos Ayres. I won the ribbon. In short, nothing lacked to make life agreeable and meritorious. But then it was, just at that point, I came to myself and looking up recognized my friend the philosopher. Years seemed to have passedtwo separate life timesand startled at finding myself seated in the same chair and wearing the same clothes, I demanded of you what day it was. And you answered Friday the fifteenth. How can such a thing be possible?
ALEXANDRE: To think that you, a watchmaker and a petit bourgeois, should experience what many a saint has died without realizing! I salute you, mystic, descendent of prophets and seers!
PERRON: But what was it then?
ALEXANDRE: What was it? A mystical experience, an experience of the highest order, like unto Saint Therese, though in symbols of mundane things. But that is the fault of the age more than yourself. With more practise your mind will exhibit even greater power. You must continue in the path. Who knows what you could do after years of self-denial, when a mere two weeks without cigarettes have brought you this vision?
PERRON: And without coffee. Don't forget the café! And now that I am rich I shall never go without it again. No, on the contrary, I shall have at least two, and on a silver tray.
ALEXANDRE: Do you mean to say you really believe?But it doesn't matter. Whether or not the telegram came, the important fact is that you had the vision. It is for this you must be grateful.
PERRON: Can a philosopher really be such a fool? Of course the telegram came! And I am grateful!
ALEXANDRE: No. You are the most ungrateful of men. But why mention the telegram? What matters is whether your vision arose from seeing the telegram or seeing the telegraph boy? The philosophic truth is the same.
PERRON: Mon dieu! What difference does it make? But I swear I have the telegram, and it reads just as I told you!
ALEXANDRE: But no! You are ungrateful, and for that I despise you!
PERRON: But yes! And after reading it four times I locked it in my safe. Do I not know I entered my shop and locked it up?
ALEXANDRE: Yes, and do you not know also that you moved to the Rue de la Paix?
PERRON: Oh! Could it have beenThen I am ruined, and my brother is the most selfish of men!
ALEXANDRE: But it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter. In the path shall you grow steadfast and contented.
PERRON: It doesn't matter!
ALEXANDRE: Not at all. And when you have become reasonable and grateful, I shall return and speak further with you. I shall devise for you such sacrifice as shall make the saints but as little children. Au revoir.
[He turns away. The clock of St. Sulpice tones the half hour. The watchmaker listens to it with open mouth, and trembling violently, darts through the door of his shop.]