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- The Life of the Fly - 49/49 -

tell me, a most distinguished honor. I am quite ready to believe them, but I never had a desire to repeat it.

The reception came to an end, bows were exchanged and we were dismissed. A luncheon awaited us at the minister's house. I sat on his right, not a little embarrassed by the privilege; on his left was a physiologist of great renown. Like the others, I spoke of all manner of things, including even Avignon Bridge. Duruy's son, sitting opposite me, chaffed me pleasantly about the famous bridge on which everybody dances; he smiled at my impatience to get back to the thyme-scented hills and the gray olive yards rich in Grasshoppers.

'What!' said his father. 'Won't you visit our museums, our collections? There are some very interesting things there.'

'I know, monsieur le ministre, but I shall find better things, things more to my taste, in the incomparable museum of the fields.'

'Then what do you propose to do? '

'I propose to go back tomorrow.

I did go back, I had had enough of Paris: never had I felt such tortures of loneliness as in that immense whirl of humanity. To get away, to get away was my one idea.

Once home among my family, I felt a mighty load off my mind and a great joy in my heart, where rang a peal of bells proclaiming the delights of my approaching emancipation. Little by little, the factory that was to set me free rose skywards, full of promises. Yes, I should possess the modest income which would crown my ambition by allowing me to descant on animals and plants in a university chair.

'Well, no,' said Fate, 'you shall not acquire the freedman's peculium; you shall remain a slave, dragging your chain behind you; your peal of bells rings false!'

Hardly was the factory in full swing when a piece of news was bruited, at first a vague rumor, an echo of probabilities rather than certainties, and then a positive statement leaving no room for doubt. Chemistry had obtained the madder dye by artificial means; thanks to a laboratory concoction, it was utterly overthrowing the agriculture and industries of my district. This result, while destroying my work and my hopes, did not surprise me unduly. I myself had toyed with the problem of artificial alizarin and I knew enough about it to foresee that, in no very distant future, the work of the chemist's retort would take the place of the work of the fields.

It was finished; my hopes were dashed to the ground. What to do next? Let us change our lever and begin to roll Sisyphus' stone once more. Let us try to draw from the ink pot what the madder vat declines to yield. Laboremus!

The Life of the Fly - 49/49

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