Page:Colas breugnon.djvu/9

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TO THE READER

The readers of "Jean-Christophe" certainly never expected this new volume, but they cannot be more surprised than I am myself. I had sketched out other works, — a play and a novel on subjects of the day, in somewhat the same tragic key as "Jean-Christophe," but I had to break off abruptly, throwing aside all my notes and well-planned scenes, for this trifling work which only came into my head the day before. This book is a reaction from the constraint of "Jean-Christophe," which, like an outgrown cuirass, fitted well enough at first, but had become too tight for me; I felt an absolute need of something gay, in the true Gallic spirit — even perhaps verging on impropriety.

On returning to my native place for the first time since my youth, the renewed contact with the soil of Burgundy woke a past within me which I had believed silent forever; and roused all the Colas Breugnons under my skin, so that I was forced to speak for them — as if their tongues had not wagged enough in their lifetime!

They took advantage of the circumstance that one of their descendants chanced to have the pen of a ready writer (something that they had always coveted) and turned me into their secretary. To my protestations, "Now, Grandad, you had your day, it is my turn to speak now," they only answered: "Young one, you can talk when we have finished. In the first place you have nothing more interesting to say, so sit down, and listen with all your ears: you might do that much for the old