William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

La Femme Peintre (“The Paintress”) - English Version

(Original La Femme Peintre - in French)

La Femme Peintre (“The Paintress”*) – English Version
A very short story by William Matheson

Ther was oon tyme** a beautiful paintress, and also a boy. (And also an author who could write with only the old clichés, because he was in the process of learning French.) One late afternoon, they met on the beach. The boy said to the woman, “What are you doing?” The woman replied, “I am painting the sea and the clouds. They’re very beautiful, aren’t they?”

The boy looked out over the sea. “Yes, it’s very beautiful. But your painting is more beautiful.”

“Really? Why? It’s just a painting? It’s not comparable with nature.”

“Yes, and normally, you would be correct – a painting cannot rival nature. But here you have something special. In your painting, the blue of the sky is more blue! The clouds are fluffy in both cases, but in your painting I want to play and live in them. And the sea…”

“Stop! Don’t say more. I don’t want to grow a big head! But merci, monsieur… I thank you.”

“It’s nothing! It’s just the truth!”

They spoke for a long time, but soon the sun went to bed. He said to her, “It was a very nice evening, wasn’t it?”

“Oh, truly.”

“Can I come back tomorrow evening?”

“Yes, but only if you bring me something.”


“I need some black paint. Can you bring me that?”

“I’ll try.”

And with that, they parted, she to her bed, and he to his bed. Did he dream of her? It is too soon to say.

The next evening, he saw her again.

Salut!” he said.

Salut!” she replied.

(Sometimes, Tivo is a good thing.)

“I have your black paint. Do you want it now?”

“Yes, yes. I would like to use it for…”


“No, I will tell you tomorrow or soon after. But thanks!”

He was perplexed. What was this?

“I will probably never understand you,” he smiled. “And it’s tragic, because I must leave in three days.”

“Three days?! Oh, no! To where are you going?”

“The city, like always.”

“Oh… oh, ok.*** What for? Your work? You know, I have friends in the city…”

They spoke more, long into the night. The moon rose. Still, they talked, until the moon stopped at the top of the sky. It was then they had to go to their beds. But before he left, he said to her, “It was a very nice night, wasn’t it?”

“Oh, truly, you’re right; it was!”

“Can I come back tomorrow evening?”

“Yes, but only if you bring me something.”


“I need a canvas. Can you bring me that?”

“I’ll try.”

And with that, they parted, she to her bed, and he to his bed. Did he dream of her? It’s a possibility, yes. But – and this isn’t a reflection of her – the dreams were probably bizarre. “Why did she want another canvas? Yes, madam, I would like five more cookies, please.”

The third evening, he saw her again.

“Hello!” he said.

“Hello, my friend!” she replied.

(Okay, now we are going to hit the button on our Tivo…)

“I have your canvas. Do you want it now?”

“Oh, yes! Thanks!”

“Are you going to tell me why you had need of it?” he smiled.

“No, not now!” she laughed.

He looked at the painting, “You paint the moon and the black clouds! Is that the reason for the black paint?”

“Ha-ha, no, but that’s a good guess!”

“It’s very beautiful – most people do not paint at night or of the night – it’s difficult, and most people are in their beds!”

“Yes, but I am not most people!”

“Ha-ha, yes, I think you’re right! I like that.”

And like that, they spoke long into the night. The moon rose. The moon set. The sun almost rose, but it was then that they had to go to their beds. But before he left, he said to her, “It was a very nice morning, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, yes… are you not tired?”

“Oh, yes, a little bit. … I hope I will never forget you.”

“No, me too… I hope we will never forget.”

“But… can I come back tomorrow evening?”

Tomorrow evening?”

“Okay, this evening?”

“Ha-ha, yes, but only if you bring me something.”


“I need a mirror. Can you bring me that?”

“I’ll try, like always!” he said with a wink.

And with that, they parted, she to her bed, and he to his bed. Did he dream of her? Non, because it was morning! He didn’t have enough time asleep to have any R.E.M. sleep, and he had a lot of things he had to do.

He had a difficult next day – he was very tired. But, still, he saw her again.

“Hello!” he said.

“Hi, hon!” she replied.

(Tivo! Take us ahead! Now!)

“I have your mirror.”

“Oh, yes! Thanks! O-la-la! It’s great! … OW!”

“A thousand pardons. In my room, I just have this mirror, on my door. Is it too big?”

“No, no, I think it’s ok.”

“You think, or you hope?”

“I know.”

“Ok. Good luck!”

“Thanks. Maybe I am going to need good luck.”

“No, not you! You have a lot of talent! How is it that you have made your beautiful paintings before now? Not with chance, with your talent and know-how!”

She looked at him. Did he know? No, it wasn’t possible.

“Thanks. But, actually, I must leave now. I’m sorry, but I have a very important painting, and I must finish it this evening.”

“Oh, truly?”

“Yes, truly. But, meet me here tomorrow.”

“Ok, I will.”

And with that, they parted, she to her very important painting, and he to his bed. Did he dream of her? Yes, and it was beautiful (and she was lovely!), but he was also sad.

The new day arrived. It was his last day being close to the beach. He packed his suitcases, and double-checked his ticket. The city. Today. How is it possible? Must he leave, in actuality?

And finally, he saw her again.

“Salut!” she cried enthusiastically.

“Salut.” He found it difficult to walk or speak with confidence.

“Why are you walking like that? Are you not happy?”

“Oh, yes… but, I am leaving… leaving you.”

“Oh, yes… but, it will not be so bad as you think.”

“No? Ha-ha, I guess not, you are probably right.”

“Yes, you will be better, and also… (here is your mirror, thanks!) … just so you won’t forget me… voila!

And on the canvas, there was a fine portrait of… her!

“Wow… it’s very beautiful, like you… I’m speechless!”

“And now, you cannot forget me!”

They embraced. And he never, ever, forgot her.

* - Just as waitresses and stewardesses have become waiters and flight attendants; paintresses have long since become painters. In French it’s a little different (for example, a male student is un étudiant, a female is une étudiante), and gender distinctions apply to professions, nouns (especially) and even adjectives. Since the title in French had to be “the (woman) painter,” the English title should reflect that.

It should be noted again that this was much more valuable to me as a language exercise than as a story (although it’s the first story I’ve completed in a very long time). I hope it comes off as being simple rather than just simplistic.

** - One thing this story loses entirely in English is the transition from formal to informal methods of address. In French, this was a useful storytelling device, and could be used to great atmospheric effect. You will have to imagine the characters using “vous” towards the beginning and “tu” creeping in towards the end. You’ll also have to imagine most of the first paragraph being written with forms of be (être) and have (avoir), the passé simple, that are not used in everyday speech. The best I could do was write “There was one time” in Middle English.

*** - This phrase unwittingly emulates most of my French expression at Sainte-Anne. You can also tell I was getting lazy at the keyboard; in English, I would probably not write, “Oh… oh, ok,” – I would probably write, “She nodded with understanding.” But that would mean I’d have to look up ‘nodded,’ et ça ne marche pas de tout! Je suis un auteur vitesse.
Tags: french, french writing, language, short stories, stories, translation, writing

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