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The Age For Love
by [?]

When I submitted the plan of my Inquiry Upon the Age for Love to the editor-in-chief of the Boulevard, the highest type of French literary paper, he seemed astonished that an idea so journalistic–that was his word–should have been evolved from the brain of his most recent acquisition. I had been with him two weeks and it was my first contribution. “Give me some details, my dear Labarthe,” he said, in a somewhat less insolent manner than was his wont. After listening to me for a few moments he continued: “That is good. You will go and interview certain men and women, first upon the age at which one loves the most, next upon the age when one is most loved? Is that your idea? And now to whom will you go first?”

“I have prepared a list,” I replied, and took from my pocket a sheet of paper. I had jotted down the names of a number of celebrities whom I proposed to interview on this all-important question, and I began to read over my list. It contained two ex-government officials, a general, a Dominican father, four actresses, two cafe-concert singers, four actors, two financiers, two lawyers, a surgeon and a lot of literary celebrities. At some of the names my chief would nod his approval, at others he would say curtly, with an affectation of American manners, “Bad; strike it off,” until I came to the name I had kept for the last, that of Pierre Fauchery, the famous novelist.

“Strike that off,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “He is not on good terms with us.”

“And yet,” I suggested, “is there any one whose opinion would be of greater interest to reading men as well as to women? I had even thought of beginning with him.”

“The devil you had!” interrupted the editor-in-chief. “It is one of Fauchery’s principles not to see any reporters. I have sent him ten if I have one, and he has shown them all the door. The Boulevard does not relish such treatment, so we have given him some pretty hard hits.”

“Nevertheless, I will have an interview with Fauchery for the Boulevard,” was my reply. “I am sure of it.”

“If you succeed,” he replied, “I’ll raise your salary. That man makes me tired with his scorn of newspaper notoriety. He must take his share of it, like the rest. But you will not succeed. What makes you think you can?”

“Permit me to tell you my reason later. In forty-eight hours you will see whether I have succeeded or not.”

“Go and do not spare the fellow.”

Decidedly. I had made some progress as a journalist, even in my two weeks’ apprenticeship, if I could permit Pascal to speak in this way of the man I most admired among living writers. Since that not far-distant time when, tired of being poor, I had made up my mind to cast my lot with the multitude in Paris, I had tried to lay aside my old self, as lizards do their skins, and I had almost succeeded. In a former time, a former time that was but yesterday, I knew–for in a drawer full of poems, dramas and half-finished tales I had proof of it–that there had once existed a certain Jules Labarthe who had come to Paris with the hope of becoming a great man. That person believed in Literature with a capital “L;” in the Ideal, another capital; in Glory, a third capital. He was now dead and buried. Would he some day, his position assured, begin to write once more from pure love of his art? Possibly, but for the moment I knew only the energetic, practical Labarthe, who had joined the procession with the idea of getting into the front rank, and of obtaining as soon as possible an income of thirty thousand francs a year. What would it matter to this second individual if that vile Pascal should boast of having stolen a march on the most delicate, the most powerful of the heirs of Balzac, since I, the new Labarthe, was capable of looking forward to an operation which required about as much delicacy as some of the performances of my editor-in-chief? I had, as a matter of fact, a sure means of obtaining the interview. It was this: When I was young and simple I had sent some verses and stories to Pierre Fauchery, the same verses and stories the refusal of which by four editors had finally made me decide to enter the field of journalism. The great writer was traveling at this time, but he had replied to me. I had responded by a letter to which he again replied, this time with an invitation to call upon him. I went I did not find him. I went again. I did not find him that time. Then a sort of timidity prevented my returning to the charge. So I had never met him. He knew me only as the young Elia of my two epistles. This is what I counted upon to extort from him the favor of an interview which he certainly would refuse to a mere newspaper man. My plan was simple; to present myself at his house, to be received, to conceal my real occupation, to sketch vaguely a subject for a novel in which there should occur a discussion upon the Age for Love, to make him talk and then when he should discover his conversation in print–here I began to feel some remorse. But I stifled it with the terrible phrase, “the struggle for life,” and also by the recollection of numerous examples culled from the firm with which I now had the honor of being connected.