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A Comedy of Marriage & Other Tales by Guy De Maupassant

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You mean to say--

MME. DE SALLUS

Flight.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Alone?

MME. DE SALLUS

No--with you.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

With me! Are you dreaming?

MME. DE SALLUS

No; so much the better. The scandal of it will prevent him from taking
me back. I have gained courage now. Since he forces me to dishonor, I
shall see that that dishonor is complete and overwhelming--even though
it be the worse for him and for me.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Oh! Beware, beware, my darling! You are in one of those moments of
exaltation and nervous excitement in which a woman sometimes commits a
folly that is irreparable.

MME. DE SALLUS

Well, I would rather commit such a folly and ruin myself--if that be
ruin--than expose myself to the infamous struggle with which each day I
am threatened.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Madeline, hear me. You are in a terrible situation, but for God's sake
do not throw yourself into one that is irretrievable. Be calm, I implore
you.

MME. DE SALLUS

Well, what do you advise?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

I do not know; we shall see. But I do not, I cannot, advise you to
venture on a scandal which will put you outside the pale of society.

MME. DE SALLUS

Well, yes, there is another law, an unwritten law which permits one to
have lovers, even though it be shameful, because [_sarcastically_] it
does not outrage society.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

That is not the question. The thing is to avoid taking up a wrong
position in your quarrel with your husband. Have you decided to leave
him?

MME. DE SALLUS

Yes.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Finally and forever?

MME. DE SALLUS

Yes.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Do you mean for _all_ time?

MME. DE SALLUS

For _all_ time.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Well, now, be cautious; be careful and cunning; guard your reputation
and your name. Make neither commotion nor scandal, and await your
opportunity.

MME. DE SALLUS [_ironically_]

And must I continue to be very charming when he returns to me, and be
ready for all his fancies?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Oh, Madeline, I speak to you in the truest friendship.

MME. DE SALLUS [_bitterly_]

In the truest friendship!

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Yea, as a friend who loves you far too dearly to advise you to commit
any folly.

MME. DE SALLUS

And loves me just enough to advise me to be complaisant to a man I
despise.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

I! Never, never. My most ardent desire is to be with you forever. Get a
divorce, and then if you still love me, let us wed.

MME. DE SALLUS

Oh, yes, yes--two years from now. Certainly, you _are_ a patient lover!

JACQUES DE RANDOL

But supposing I were to carry you off, he would take you back to-morrow;
would shut you up in his house, and would never get a divorce lest you
should become my wife.

MME. DE SALLUS

Well, do you mean to say I could fly nowhere but to your house, that I
could not hide myself in such fashion that he would never find me?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Yes, you could hide yourself, but it would be necessary for you to live
abroad under another name, or buried in the country, till death. That is
the curse of our love. In three months you would hate me. I never will
let you commit such a folly.

MME. DE SALLUS

I thought you loved me enough to fly with me, but it seems that I am
mistaken. Adieu!

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Madeline, listen to me for God's--

MME. DE SALLUS Jacques, take me, or leave me--answer!

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Madeline, I implore you!

MME. DE SALLUS

Never! Adieu! [_Rises and goes to the door_.]

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Once more I implore you, Madeline, listen to me.

MME. DE SALLUS

Oh, no, no; adieu! [De Randol _takes her by the arms; she frees herself
angrily_.] Unhand me! Let me go, or I shall call for help!

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Call if you will, but listen to me. I would not that you should ever be
able to reproach me for the madness that you meditate. God forbid that
you should hate me, but, bound to me by this flight that you propose,
you would carry with you forever a keen and unavailing regret that I
allowed you to do it.

MME. DE SALLUS

Let me go! I despise you! Let me go!

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Well, if you wish to fly, why, let us fly.

MME. DE SALLUS

Oh, no, not now. I know you now. It is too late. Let me go.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

I have done exactly what I ought to have done; I have said exactly what
I ought to have said; consequently, I am no longer responsible for you,
and you have no right to reproach me with the consequences. So let us
fly.

MME. DE SALLUS

Oh, no, it is too late, and I do not care to accept sacrifices.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

There is no more any question of sacrifice. To fly with you is my most
ardent desire.

MME. DE SALLUS [_astonished_]

You are mad.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Well, suppose I am mad. That is only natural, since I love you.

MME. DE SALLUS

What do you mean?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

I mean what I say. I love you; I have nothing else to say. Let us fly.

MME. DE SALLUS

Ah, you were altogether too cautious just now to become so brave all at
once.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Will you ever understand me? Listen to me. When I first realized that I
adored you, I made a solemn vow concerning what might happen between you
and me. The man who falls in love with a woman such as you, a woman
married yet deserted; a slave in fact yet morally free, institutes
between her and himself a bond which only she can break. The woman risks
everything. Ay, it is just because she does this, because she gives
everything--her heart, her body, her soul, her honor, her life, because
she has foreseen all the miseries, all the dangers, all the misfortunes
that can happen, because she dares to take so bold, and fearless a step,
and because she is ready and determined to hazard everything--a husband
who could kill her, and a world that would scorn her--it is for all this
and for the heroism of her conjugal infidelity, that her lover, in
taking her, ought to foresee all, to guard her against every ill that
can possibly happen. I have nothing more to say. I spoke at first as a
calm and foreseeing man who wished to protect you against
everything--now I am simply and only the man who loves you. Order me as
you please.

MME. DE SALLUS

That is all very prettily said; but is it true?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

I swear it!

MME. DE SALLUS

You wish to fly with me?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Yes.

MME. DE SALLUS

From the bottom of your heart?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

From the bottom of my heart.

MME. DE SALLUS

To-day?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Yes, and whenever you please.

MME. DE SALLUS

It is now a quarter to eight. My husband will be coming in directly, for
we dine at eight. I shall be free at half past nine or ten o'clock.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Where shall I wait for you?

MME. DE SALLUS

At the end of the street in a _coupe_. [_The bell rings_.] There he is,
and for the last time, thank God!

SCENE II.

(_The same characters, and_ M. de Sallus.)

M. DE SALLUS [_enters. To_ Jacques de Randol, _who has risen to take his
leave_]

Well, you are not going again, are you? Why, it seems that I need only
come in to make you take your leave.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

No, no, my dear fellow; you don't make me go, but I must.

M. DE SALLUS

That is just what I say. You always go the very moment I come in. Of
course, I understand that a husband is less attractive than a wife. But,
at least, let me believe that _I_ am not objectionable to you.
[_Laughs_.]

JACQUES DE RANDOL

On the contrary, my dear fellow, you know I like you. And if you would
acquire the habit of coming into your own house without ringing the
bell, you would never find me taking my leave when you come.

M. DE SALLUS

How is that? Is it not natural to ring the door bell?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Oh, yes; but a ring of the bell always makes me feel that I must go, and
surely, coming into your own house, you can dispense with that habit.

M. DE SALLUS

I don't understand you.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Why, it is very simple. When I visit people whom I like, such as Madame
de Sallus and yourself, I do not expect to meet the Paris that flutters
from house to house in the evening, gossiping and scandalizing. I have
had my experience of gossip and tittle-tattle. It needs only one of
these talkative dames or men to take away all the pleasure there is for
me in visiting the lady on whom I happen to have called. Sometimes when
I am anchored perforce upon my seat, I feel lost; I do not know how to
get away. I have to take part in the whirlpool of foolish chatter. I
know all the set questions and answers better than I do the catechism
itself, and it bores me to have to remain until the very end and hear
the very last opinion of some fool upon the comedy, or the book, or the
divorce, or the marriage, or the death that is being discussed. Now, do
you understand why I always get up and go at the sound of a bell?

M. DE SALLUS [_laughs_]

What you say is very true. Drawing-rooms now are not habitable from four
o'clock to seven, and our wives have no right to complain if we leave
them to go to the club.

MME. DE SALLUS [_sarcastically_]

Nevertheless, I do not see my way to receiving ballet girls, or chorus
girls, or actresses, or so-called painters, poets, musicians, and
others--in order to keep you near me.

M. DE SALLUS

I do not ask so much as that. All I desire is a few witty fellows, some
charming women, and by no means a crowd.

MME. DE SALLUS

You talk nonsense; you cannot pick and choose.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

No, truly, you cannot sift and strain the flow of idiocy that you meet
in the drawing-rooms of to-day.

M. DE SALLUS

Why?

MME. DE SALLUS

Simply because it is as it is--to-day.

M. DE SALLUS

What a pity! How I should love the intimacy of a small and carefully
selected circle of men and women.

MME. DE SALLUS

You?

M. DE SALLUS

Yes, why not?

MME. DE SALLUS [_laughs_]

Ha, ha, ha! What a charming little intimate circle you would bring to
me! Ha, ha, ha! The fascinating men, and the fashionable women that you
would invite! My dear sir, it is I who would leave the house then.

M. DE SALLUS

My dear girl, I only asked for three or four women like yourself.

MME. DE SALLUS

Pray repeat that.

M. DE SALLUS

Three or four such women as you.

MME. DE SALLUS

If you need four, I can understand how you found your house lonesome.

M. DE SALLUS

You understand very well what I wish to say, and it is not necessary for
me to explain myself. And you know that you need only be alone to please
me better than I could possibly be pleased elsewhere.

MME. DE SALLUS

Really, I do not recognize you. I am afraid you must be ill--very ill.
You are not going to die, are you?

M. DE SALLUS

Oh, chaff me as much as you like, you won't worry me.

MME. DE SALLUS

And is this mood of yours going to last?

M. DE SALLUS

Forever.

MME. DE SALLUS

Men often change.

M. DE SALLUS [_turns to_ Jacques de Randol]

My dear Randol, will you give us the pleasure of your company at dinner
to-night? You may help me to turn aside the epigrams that my wife seems
to have barbed and ready for me.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

A thousand thanks, my dear Sallus! You are very, very good, but
unfortunately, I am not free.

M. DE SALLUS

But, my dear fellow, send your excuses.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

I cannot.

M. DE SALLUS

Are you dining in town?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Yes, well--not altogether. I have an appointment at nine o'clock.

M. DE SALLUS

Is it very important?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Very important

M. DE SALLUS

With a lady?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

My dear fellow, what a question!

M. DE SALLUS

Oh, I am discreet! But that need not prevent you from dining with us.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Thank you, my dear fellow, I cannot.

M. DE SALLUS

You know you can go away when you wish.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

But I am not in evening dress.

M. DE SALLUS

I can easily send for your things.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

No, truly, thank you; I cannot.

M. DE SALLUS [_to_ Mme. de Sallus]

My dear girl, won't you keep Randol?

MME. DE SALLUS

Why ask me? You know that I have no influence over him.

M. DE SALLUS

You are charming enough to influence the world this evening, so why
can't you make him stay?

MME. DE SALLUS

Good gracious! I cannot make my friends stay in order to please you, and
keep them in your house against their wish. Bring _your_ friends.

M. DE SALLUS

Well, I shall remain at home this evening in any case, and we shall then
be _tete-a-tete_.

MME. DE SALLUS

Really?

M. DE SALLUS

Yes.

MME. DE SALLUS

You will be at home all the evening?

M. DE SALLUS

All the evening.

MME. DE SALLUS [_sarcastically_]

Good gracious! How you surprise me--and how you honor me!

M. DE SALLUS

No, it is a pleasure to be with you.

MME. DE SALLUS

What a charming mood you are in to-night!

M. DE SALLUS

Now ask Randol to remain.

MME. DE SALLUS

My dear sir, Monsieur de Randol will do as he pleases. He knows that I
am always glad to see him. [_Rises, and after reflecting for a second_.]
Will you dine with us, Monsieur de Randol? You know you can go directly
after dinner.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

With the greatest pleasure, Madame.

MME. DE SALLUS

Excuse my absence for a minute. It is eight o'clock, and I must give
some new directions for dinner.

[_Exit_ Mme. de Sallus.]

SCENE III.

(M. de Sallus _and_ M. Jacques de Randol.)

M. DE SALLUS

My dear fellow, you will do me the greatest service if you will pass the
whole evening here.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

But I have told you that I cannot.

M. DE SALLUS

Is it altogether--absolutely--impossible?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Absolutely.

M. DE SALLUS

I most earnestly ask you to remain.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

And why?

M. DE SALLUS

For the best of reasons--because--because I want to make peace with my
wife.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Peace? Is there a rupture between you?

M. DE SALLUS

Not a very great one, but you know what you have seen this evening.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Is it your fault or hers?

M. DE SALLUS

Oh, mine, I suppose.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

The devil!

M. DE SALLUS

I have had annoyances outside, serious annoyances, and they have made me
bad-tempered, so much so that I have been unpleasant and aggressive in
my behavior toward her.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

But I don't see how a third party can contribute toward peace between
you.

M. DE SALLUS

My dear fellow, you will enable me to make her understand in an indirect
manner, while avoiding all indelicate and wounding explanations, that my
ideas concerning life have altogether changed.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Then you wish to be--to be--reconciled to her altogether?

M. DE SALLUS

Oh, no, no, no--on the contrary--

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Pardon me, I do not understand you.

M. DE SALLUS

Listen: I wish to establish and maintain a _status quo_ of a pacific
neutrality--a sort of Platonic peace. [_Laughs_.] But I am going into
details that cannot interest you.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Pardon me again. From the moment that you ask me to play a part in this
very interesting affair, I must know exactly what part I am to play.

M. DE SALLUS

Why, just a conciliatory role.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Then you wish to conclude a peace without restrictions for yourself?

M. DE SALLUS

Now you have it.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

That is to say, that, after the disappointments and annoyances of which
you have just told me, and which I presume are ended, you wish to have
peace at home and yet be free to enjoy any happiness that you may
acquire outside.

M. DE SALLUS

Let me go farther. My dear fellow, the present situation between my wife
and myself is very much strained, and I never care to find myself alone
with her altogether, because my position is a false one.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Oh, in that case, my dear fellow, I will remain.

M. DE SALLUS

All the evening?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

All the evening.

M. DE SALLUS

My dear De Randol, you are indeed a friend! I shall never forget it.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Oh, never mind that. [_A short silence_.] Were you at the Opera last
night?

M. DE SALLUS

As usual.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

So it is a good performance?

M. DE SALLUS

Admirable.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

The Santelli scored a great success, didn't she?

M. DE SALLUS

Not only a success, but a veritable triumph. She was recalled six times.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

She _is_ good, isn't she?

M. DE SALLUS

More than admirable. She never sang better. In the first act she has a
long recitative: "O God of all believers, hear my prayer," which made
the body of the house rise to their feet. And in the third act, after
that phrase, "Bright heaven of beauty," I never saw such enthusiasm.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

She was pleased?

M. DE SALLUS

Pleased? She was enchanted.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

You know her well, don't you?

M. DE SALLUS

Oh, yes, for some time back. I had supper with her and some of her
friends after the performance.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Were there many of you?

M. DE SALLUS

No, about a dozen. You know she is rather particular.

JACQUES DE RANDOL.

It is pleasant to be intimate with her, is it not?

M. DE SALLUS

Exquisite! And then, you know, she is a woman in a million. I do not
know whether you agree with me, but I find there are so few women that
are really women.

JACQUES DE RANDOL [_laughs_]

I have found that out.

M. DE SALLUS

Yes, and you have found out that there are women who have a feminine
air, but who are not women.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Explain yourself.

M. DE SALLUS

Good gracious! Our society women, with very rare exceptions, are simply
pictures; they are pretty; they are distinguished; but they charm you
only in their drawing-rooms. The part they play consists entirely in
making men admire their dress, their dainty ways, all of which are
assumed.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Men love them, nevertheless.

M. DE SALLUS

Oh, very rarely, my dear fellow.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Pardon me!

M. DE SALLUS

Oh, yes, dreamers do. But men--real men--men who are passionate, men who
are positive, men who are tender, do not love the society woman of
to-day, since she is incapable of love. My dear fellow, look around you.
You see intrigues--everyone sees them; but can you lay your finger upon
a single real love affair--a love that is disinterested, such a love as
there used to be--inspired by a single woman of our acquaintance? Don't
I speak the truth? It flatters a man to have a mistress--it flatters
him, it amuses him, and then it tires him. But turn to the other picture
and look at the woman of the stage. There is not one who has not at
least five or six love affairs on the carpet; idiotic follies, causing
bankruptcy, scandal, and suicides. Men love them; yes, they love these
women because these women know how to inspire love, and because they are
loving women. Yes, indeed, _they_ know how to conquer men; they
understand the seduction of a smile; they know how to attract, seize,
and wrap us up in their hearts, how to enslave us with a look, and they
need not be beautiful at that. They have a conquering power that we
never find in our wives.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

And the Santelli is a seductress of this kind?

M. DE SALLUS

She is first among the first! Ah, the cunning little coquette! _She_
knows how to make men run after her.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Does she do only that?

M. DE SALLUS

A woman of that sort does not give herself the trouble of making men run
after her unless she has some further object in view.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

The devil! You make me believe you attend two first nights in the same
evening.

M. DE SALLUS

My dear boy, don't imagine such a thing.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Great heavens! you have such a satisfied and triumphant air--an air so
desirous of calm at home. If I am deceived I am sorry--for your sake.

M. DE SALLUS

Well, we will assume that you are deceived and--

SCENE IV.

(_The same, and_ Mme. de Sallus.)

M. DE SALLUS [_gaily_]

Well, my dear, Jacques remains. He has consented for my sake.

MME. DE SALLUS

I congratulate you. And how did you achieve that miracle?

M. DE SALLUS

Oh, easily enough, in the course of conversation.

MME. DE SALLUS

And of what have you been talking?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Of the happiness that comes to a man who remains quietly at home.

MME. DE SALLUS

That sort of happiness has but little attraction for me. I like the
excitement of travel.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

There is a time for everything; and travel is very often inopportune and
very inconvenient.

MME. DE SALLUS

But how about that important appointment of yours at nine o'clock? Have
you given it up altogether, Monsieur de Randol?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

I have, Madame.

MME. DE SALLUS

You are very changeable.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

No, no, I am simply adapting myself to circumstances.

M. DE SALLUS

Will you pardon me if I write a note? [_Sits at desk at the other end of
the drawing-room._]

MME. DE SALLUS [_to_ Jacques de Randol]

What has happened?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Oh, nothing; everything is all right.

MME, DE SALLUS

When do we go?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Not at all.

MME. DE SALLUS

Are you mad? Why?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Please don't ask me now about it.

MME. DE SALLUS

I am sure that he is laying a trap for us.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Not at all. He is very quiet, very contented, and has absolutely no
suspicion.

MME. DE SALLUS

Then what does it all mean?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Now, be calm. He is happy, I tell you.

MME. DE SALLUS

That is not true.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

I tell you it is. He has made me the confidant of all his happiness.

MME. DE SALLUS

It is just a trick; he wishes to watch us.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Oh, no; he is confiding and conciliatory. The only fear he has is of
you.

MME. DE SALLUS

Of me?

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Yes; in the same way that you are, all the time, afraid of him.

MME. DE SALLUS

Great heavens! You have lost your head. You are talking at random.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Listen--I am sure that he intends to go out this evening.

MME. DE SALLUS

Well, in that case, let us go out too.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

No, no,--I tell you there is nothing more for us to fear.

MME. DE SALLUS

What nonsense! You will end by maddening me with your blindness.

M. DE SALLUS [_from the other end of the drawing-room_]

My dear, I have some good news for you. I have been able to get another
night at the Opera for you every week.

MME. DE SALLUS

Really, it is very good of you to afford me the opportunity of
applauding Madame Santelli so often.

M. DE SALLUS [_from the same place_]

Well, she is very clever.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

And everybody says she is charming.

MME. DE SALLUS [_irritably_]

Yes; it is only such women who please men.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

You are unjust.

MME. DE SALLUS

Oh, my dear Randol; it is only for such women that men commit follies,
and [_sarcastically_], understand me, the measure of a man's folly is
often the measure of his love.

M. DE SALLUS [_from the same place_]

Oh, no, my dear girl,--men do not marry them, and marriage is the only
real folly that a man can commit with a woman.

MME. DE SALLUS

A beautiful idea, truly, when a woman has to endure all man's caprices.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Oh, no, not having anything to lose, they have nothing to risk.

MME. DE SALLUS

Ah, men are sad creatures! They marry a young girl because she is demure
and self-contained, and they leave her on the morrow to dangle after a
girl who is not young and who certainly is not demure, her chief
attraction being that all the rich and well-known men about town have at
one time been in her favor. The more danglers she has after her, the
more she is esteemed, the more she is sought after, and the more she is
respected; that is to say, with that kind of Parisian respect which
accrues to a woman in the degree of her notoriety--a notoriety due
either to the scandal she creates, or the scandal men create about her.
Ah, yes, you men are so nice in these things!

M. DE SALLUS [_laughs gently_]

Take care! One would think you were jealous.

MME. DE SALLUS

I? Jealous? For whom do you take me? [_The butler announces_.] Madame is
served. [_Hands a letter to_ M. de Sallus.]

MME. DE SALLUS [_to_ Jacques de Randol]

Your arm, M. Jacques de Randol.

JACQUES DE RANDOL [_in a low tone_]

How I love you!

MME. DE SALLUS [_indifferently_]

Just a little, I suppose.

JACQUES DE RANDOL

Ah, no; with all my soul!

M. DE SALLUS [_after reading his letter_]

Come along, then, let us go to dinner. I have to go out this evening.

_Curtain._

MUSOTTE

OR

A CRITICAL SITUATION

A COMEDY IN THREE ACTS

MUSOTTE

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

JEAN MARTINEL

Nephew of M. Martinel, a painter; not yet thirty years of age, but
already well known and the recipient of various honors.

LEON DE PETITPRE

Brother to Gilberts Martinel, a young lawyer about thirty years of age.

M. MARTINEL

An old gunmaker of Havre, aged fifty-five.

M. DE PETITPRE

An old magistrate, officer of the Legion of Honor. Aged sixty.

DR. PELLERIN

A fashionable physician of about thirty-five.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Sister to M. de Petitpre, about fifty-five years of age.

HENRIETTE LEVEQUE

Nicknamed Musotte; a little model, formerly Jean Martinel's mistress.
Twenty-two years of age.

MME. FLACHE

A midwife. Formerly a ballet-dancer at the Opera. About thirty-five
years of age.

GILBERTE MARTINEL

Daughter of M. and Mme. de Petitpre, married in the morning to Jean
Martinel. About twenty years old.

LISE BABIN

A nurse, about twenty-six.

SERVANTS

_Time: Paris of to-day. The first and third acts take place in_ M. de
Petitpre's _drawing-room.

The second act takes place in_ Musotte's _bedchamber_.

Act I

SCENE I.

(_A richly yet classically furnished drawing-room in_ M. de Petitpre's
house. _A table_, C.; _sofas_, R.; _chairs and armchairs_, L. _Wide
doors_, C., _opening upon a terrace or gallery. Doors_ R. _and_ L. _of_
C. _Lighted lamps_.)

_Enter from_ R. M. de Petitpre, Monsieur Martinel, Madame de Ronchard,
Leon de Petitpre, Jean _and_ Gilberte. Gilberte _is in her bridal
attire, but without wreath and veil_.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_after bowing to_ M. Martinel, _whose arm she
relinquishes, seats herself_ R.]

Gilberte, Gilberte!

GILBERTE [_leaves Jean's arm_]

What is it, Auntie?

MME. DE RONCHARD

The coffee, my dear child.

GILBERTE [_goes to the table_]

I will give you some, Auntie.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Don't soil your gown.

LEON [_comes up_]

No, no, not to-day shall my sister serve coffee. The day of her
marriage! No, indeed, I will take care of that. [_To_ Mme. de Ronchard.]
You know that I am a lawyer, my dear Aunt, and therefore can do
everything.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Oh, I know your abilities, Leon, and I appreciate them--

LEON [_smiles, and gives his Aunt a cup of coffee_]

You are too good.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_taking cup, dryly_]

For what they are worth.

LEON [_aside, turns to the table_]

There she goes again--another little slap at me! That is never wanting.
[_offers a cup to_ Martinel.] You will take a small cup, won't you, M.
Martinel, and a nip of old brandy with it? I know your tastes. We will
take good care of you.

MARTINEL

Thank you, Leon.

LEON [_to_ Petitpre]

Will you have a cup, father?

PETITPRE

I will, my son.

LEON [_to the newly married couple, seated L. and talking aside_]

And you, you bridal pair there? [_The couple, absorbed in each other, do
not answer._] Oh, I suppose we must not bother you. [_He sets cup down
on the table_].

PETITPRE [_to_ Martinel]

You don't smoke, I believe?

MARTINEL

Never, thank you.

MME. DE RONCHARD

You astonish me! My brother and Leon would not miss smoking each day for
anything in the world. But what an abomination a cigar is!

PETITPRE

A delicious abomination, Clarisse.

LEON [_turns to_ Mme. de Ronchard]

Almost all abominations are delicious, Auntie; in fact many of them, to
my personal knowledge, are exquisite.

MME. DE RONCHARD

You naughty fellow!

PETITPRE [_takes_ Leon's _arm_]

Come and smoke in the billiard-room, since your aunt objects to it here.

LEON [_to_ Petitpre]

The day when she will love anything except her spaniels--

PETITPRE

Hold your tongue and come along. [_Exit_ C.]

MARTINEL [_to_ Mme. de Ronchard]

This is the sort of marriage that I like--a marriage that, in this Paris
of yours, you don't have very often. After the wedding breakfast, which
takes place directly after you come from the church, all the guests go
home, even the maids of honor and the ushers. The married couple remain
at home and dine with their parents or relatives. In the evening they
play billiards or cards, just as on an ordinary night; the newly married
couple entertain each other. [Gilberte _and_ Jean _rise, and hand in
hand slowly retire_ C.] Then, before midnight, good night!

MME. DE RONCHARD [_aside_]

Which is altogether very _bourgeois_!

MARTINEL [_sits_ R. _upon the sofa beside_ Mme. de Ronchard]

As to newly married couples--instead of going on that absurd and
traditional thing you call a honeymoon, it is far better for them to go
at once to the apartment or house prepared for them. I dare say you will
think my plan lacking in fashion and display, but I cannot help that.
For myself, I must say that I like absence of all ostentation.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Your plan is not according to the customs of polite society, Monsieur.

MARTINEL

Polite society, indeed! Why, there are thirty-six different kinds of
polite society. For instance, take Havre.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_interrupts_]

I know only ours. [_Corrects herself._] That is, I mean to say, mine,
which is the correct one.

MARTINEL

Oh, naturally, naturally! Nevertheless, simple as it may be, this
marriage is an acknowledged fact, and I hope that you have taken into
your good books my dear nephew, who, until now--

MME. DE RONCHARD

I can hardly help doing so since he is my brother's son-in-law, and my
niece's husband.

MARTINEL

Well, that is not the only thing, is it? I am very happy that the affair
is over--although my life has been spent in the midst of difficulties.

MME. DE RONCHARD

What! Your life?

MARTINEL

I mean commercial difficulties, not matrimonial.

MME. DE RONCHARD

What commercial difficulties can you have--you, a Croesus who has just
given five hundred thousand francs in dowry to his nephew. [_With a
sigh._] Five hundred thousand francs! Just what my late husband
squandered.

MARTINEL

Oh! Yes, I know that, Madame de Ronchard.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_sighs again_]

I was ruined and deserted after just one year of married life,
Monsieur--one year. I just had time to realize how happy I could be, for
the scoundrel, the wretch, knew how to make me love him.

MARTINEL

Then he was a scoundrel?

MME. DE RONCHARD

Oh! Monsieur, he was a man of fashion.

MARTINEL

Well, that did not prevent him from--

MME. DE RONCHARD

Oh, don't let us talk any more about my misfortunes. It would be too
long and too sad, and everybody else is so happy here just now.

MARTINEL

And I am happier than anybody else, I assure you. My nephew is such a
good fellow. I love him as I would a son. Now, as for myself, I made my
fortune in trade--

MME. DE RONCHARD [_aside_]

That is very evident.

MARTINEL [_resumes_]

In the sea-going trade. But my nephew will gain fame for our name by his
renown as an artist; the only difference between us is that he makes his
fortune with his brushes, and I have made mine with ships. Art, to-day,
Madame, may be as important as trade, but it is less profitable. Take my
nephew. Although he has made a very early success, it is I who have
enabled him to. When my poor brother died, his wife following him almost
immediately, I found myself, while quite a young man, left alone with
this baby. Well, I made him learn everything that I could. He studied
chemistry, music, and literature, but he had a leaning toward art more
than to the other things. I assure you that I encouraged him in it, and
you see how he has succeeded. He is only just thirty, is well known, and
has just been decorated.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_dryly_]

Thirty years old, and only just decorated; that is slow for an artist.

MARTINEL

Pshaw! He will make up for lost time. [_Rises_] But I am afraid I am
getting boastful. You must pardon me, I am a plain man, and just now a
little exhilarated by dining. It is all Petitpre's fault. His Burgundy
is excellent. It is a wine that you may say is a friend to wisdom. And
we are accustomed to drink a good deal at Havre. [_Takes up his glass of
brandy and finishes it._]

MME. DE RONCHARD [_aside_]

Surely that is enough about Havre.

MARTINEL [_turns to_ Mme. de Ronchard]

Well, there is a treaty between us--a treaty which will last--which no
foolishness can break, such as that which has failed to break this
marriage.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_rises and crosses_ L.]

Foolishness! You speak very lightly about it. But now that the marriage
is a thing accomplished, it is all right. I had destined my niece for
another sphere than a painter's world. However, when you can't get a
thrush, eat a blackbird, as the proverb says.

MARTINEL

But a white blackbird, Madame, for your niece is a pearl. Let me tell
you, the happiness of these children will be the happiness of my
declining years.

MME. DE RONCHARD

I wish that it may be, Monsieur, without daring to hope for it.

MARTINEL

Never mind. There are two things on which I am an expert--the merits of
women and of wine.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_aside_]

Especially upon the latter.

MARTINEL

They are the only two things worth knowing in life.

SCENE II.

(_The same characters and_ Petitpre _who enters_ C, _with_ Leon.)

PETITPRE

Now that this red-letter day has gone by as any other day goes, will you
play a game of billiards with me, Monsieur Martinel?

MARTINEL

Most certainly, I am very fond of billiards.

LEON [_comes down stage_]

You are like my father. It seems to me that when anyone begins to like
billiards at all, they become infatuated with the game; and you two
people are two of a kind.

MARTINEL

My son, when a man grows old, and has no family, he has to take refuge
in such pleasures as these. If you take bait-fishing as your diversion
in the morning and billiards for the afternoon and evening, you have two
kinds of amusement that are both worthy and attractive.

LEON

Oh, ho! Bait-fishing, indeed! That means to say, getting up early and
sitting with your feet in the water through wind and rain in the hope of
catching, perhaps each quarter of an hour, a fish about the size of a
match. And you call that an attractive pastime?

MARTINEL

I do, without a doubt. But do you believe that there is a single lover
in the world capable of doing as much for his mistress throughout ten,
twelve, or fifteen years of life? If you asked my opinion, I think he
would give it up at the end of a fortnight.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Of a truth; he would.

LEON [_interrupts_]

Pardon me, I should give it up at the end of a week.

MARTINEL

You speak sensibly.

PETITPRE

Come along, my dear fellow.

MARTINEL

Shall we play fifty up?

PETITPRE

Fifty up will do.

MARTINEL [_turns to_ Mme. de Ronchard]

We shall see you again shortly, Madame.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Well, I have had enough of Havre for the present.

[_Exit_ Martinel _and_ Petitpre C.]

SCENE III.

(Leon _and_ Mme. de Ronchard.)

LEON

Martinel is a good fellow. Not a man of culture, but bright as sunshine
and straight as a rule.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_seated_ L.]

He is lacking in distinction of manner.

LEON [_inadvertently_]

How about yourself, Aunt?

MME. DE RONCHARD

What do you mean?

LEON [_corrects himself and approaches_ Mme. de Ronchard]

I said, how about yourself? You know what I mean--you have such an
intimate knowledge of the world that you are a better judge of human
nature than anyone I know.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Indeed, I am. You were too small a boy to recollect it, but
nevertheless, I went a great deal into society before my husband spent
all my money, and let me tell you that I was a great success. For
instance, at a grand ball given by the Turkish ambassador, at which I
was dressed as Salammbo--

LEON [_interrupts_]

What, you, the Carthaginian princess?

MME. DE RONCHARD

Certainly. Why not? Let me tell you that I was greatly admired, for my
appearance was exquisite. My dear, that was in eighteen hundred and
sixty--

LEON [_sits near_ Mme. de Ronchard]

Oh, no dates! for goodness sake, no dates!

MME. DE RONCHARD

It is not necessary to be sarcastic.

LEON

What! I, sarcastic? God forbid! It is simply this: in view of the fact
that you did not wish this marriage to take place, and that I did, and
that the marriage has taken place, I feel very happy. Do you understand
me? It is a triumph for me, and I must confess that I feel very
triumphant this evening. Tomorrow, however, vanish the triumpher, and
there will remain only your affectionate little nephew. Come, smile,
Auntie. At heart you are not as ill-natured as you pretend to be, and
that is proved by the generosity of soul you have evinced in founding at
Neuilly, despite your modest means, a hospital for--lost dogs!

MME. DE RONCHARD

What else could I do. When a woman is alone and has no children--and I
was married such a short time--do you know what I am, after all? Simply
an old maid, and like all old maids--

LEON [_finishes the sentence for her_]

You love toy dogs.

MME. DE RONCHARD

As much as I hate men.

LEON

You mean to say one man. Well, I could hardly blame you for hating him.

MME. DE RONCHARD

And you know for what kind of girl he abandoned and ruined me. You never
saw her, did you?

LEON

Pardon me, I did see her once in the Champs-Elysees. I was walking with
you and my father. A gentleman and lady came toward us; you became
excited, quickened your steps, and clutched nervously at my father's
arm, and I heard you say in a low voice, "Don't look at them; it is
she!"

MME. DE RONCHARD

And what were you doing?

LEON

I?--I was looking at him.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_rises_]

And you thought her horrible, didn't you?

LEON

I really don't know. You know I was only eleven years old.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_crosses_ R.]

You are insufferable! Go away, or I shall strike you.

LEON [_soothingly, and rising_]

There, there, Aunt, I won't do it again. I will be good, I promise you,
if you will forgive me.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_rises, as if to go out_ C.]

I will not!

LEON

Please do!

MME. DE RONCHARD [_returns_]

I will not! If it were simply a case of teasing me, I could let it pass,
for I can take care of myself; but you have done your sister a wrong,
and that is unforgivable.

LEON

How?

MME. DE RONCHARD [_stands_ R. _of table and drums on it with her
fingers_]

Why, this marriage! You brought it about.

LEON [_imitates her action at_ L. _of table_]

That is true, and I did right. Moreover, I shall never be tired
asserting that what I did was right.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_still tapping on the table_]

And for my part I shall never be tired of saying that Gilberte has not
married the right man.

LEON [_still tapping_]

Well, what kind of man do you think Gilberte ought to have married?

MME. DE RONCHARD

A man of position, a public official, or an eminent physician, or--an
engineer.

LEON

Do you mean a theatrical engineer?

MME. DE RONCHARD

There are other kinds of engineers. Then, above all, she should not have
married a handsome man.

LEON

Do you reproach Jean for his good looks? If you do, my dear Aunt, there
are a good many men in the world who must plead guilty. Suppose, even,
that a man has no need of good looks, it does not follow that he ought
to be ugly.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_sits on a little stool by the table, clasps her
hands, and looks upward_]

My husband was handsome, nay, superb, a veritable guardsman--and I know
how much it cost me.

LEON

It might have cost you a great deal more if he had been ugly! [Mme. de
Ronchard _rises to go away_.] Besides Jean is not only good-looking but
he is good. He is not vain, but modest; and he has genius, which is
manifesting itself more and more every day. He will certainly attain
membership in the Institute. That would please you, would it not? That
would be worth more than a simple engineer; and, moreover, every woman
finds him charming, except you.

MME. DE RONCHARD

That's the very thing for which I blame him. He is too good and too
honest. He has already painted the portraits of a crowd of women, and he
will continue to do that. They will be alone with him in his studio for
hours at a time, and everybody knows what goes on in those studios.

LEON

You have been accustomed to go there, my dear Aunt?

MME. DE RONCHARD [_dreamily_]

Oh, yes. [_Corrects herself_.] I mean to say, once I went to Horace
Vernet's studio.

LEON

The painter of battle scenes!

MME. DE RONCHARD

Well, what I say of Jean, I say of all artists--that they ought not to
be allowed to marry into a family of lawyers and magistrates, such as
ours. Such doings always bring trouble. I ask you as a man, is it
possible to be a good husband under such conditions--among a crowd of
women continually around you who do nothing but unrobe and re-dress
themselves, whether they be clients or models (_pointedly_), especially
models? [Mme. de Ronchard _rises and_ Leon _is silent_.] I said
_models_, Leon.

LEON

I understand you, Aunt. You make a very pointed and delicate allusion to
Jean's past. Well, what of it? If he did have one of his models for a
mistress, he loved her, and loved her sincerely for three years--

MME. DE RONCHARD

You mean to tell me a man can love such women?

LEON

Every woman can be loved, my dear Aunt; and this woman certainly
deserved to be loved more than most women.

MME. DE RONCHARD

A great thing, truly, for a model to be pretty! That is the essential
thing, I should think.

LEON

Whether it be essential or not, it is nevertheless very nice to be
pretty. But this girl was better than pretty, for she had a nature which
was exceptionally tender, good, and sincere.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Well, then, why did he leave her?

LEON

What! Can you ask me such a question?--you, who know so much about the
world and the world's opinions? [_Folds his arms_.] Would you advocate
free love?

MME. DE RONCHARD [_indignantly_]

You know I would not.

LEON [_seriously_]

Listen. The truth is, that it happened to Jean as it has happened to
many others besides him--that is to say, there was a pretty little
nineteen-year-old girl whom he met, whom he loved, and with whom he
established an intimacy little by little--an intimacy which lasted one,
two, three years--the usual duration of that sort of thing. Then, as
usually happens, there came a rupture--a rupture which is sometimes
violent, sometimes gentle, but which is never altogether good-natured.
Then also, as usual in such cases, each went a separate way--the eternal
ending, which is always prosaic, because it is true to life. But the one
thing that distinguishes Jean's _liaison_ from the usual affair is the
truly admirable character of the girl in the case.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Oh, admirable character! Mademoiselle--tell me, what is the name of this
young lady? If you mentioned it I have forgotten it. Mademoiselle Mus--
Mus--

LEON

Musotte, Auntie; little Musotte.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Musette! Pshaw, that's a very common name. It reminds me of the Latin
quarter and of Bohemian life. [_With disgust._] Musette!

LEON

No, no; not Musette. Musotte, with an O instead of an E. She is named
Musotte because of her pretty little nose; can't you understand?
Musotte, the name explains itself.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_with contempt_]

Oh, yes; a _fin-de-siecle_ Musotte, which is still worse. Musotte is not
a name.

LEON

My dear Aunt, it is only a nickname. The nick-name of a model. Her true
name is Henriette Leveque.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_puzzled_]

Leveque?

LEON

Yes, Leveque. What does this questioning mean? It is just as I told you,
or else I know nothing about it. Now, Henriette Leveque, or Musotte, if
you prefer that term, has not only been faithful to Jean during the
course of her love affair with him; has not only been devoted and
adoring, and full of a tenderness which was ever watchful, but at the
very hour of her rupture with him, she gave proof of her greatness of
soul. She accepted everything without reproach, without recrimination;
the poor little girl understood everything--understood that all was
finished and finished forever. With the intuition of a woman, she felt
that Jean's love for my sister was real and deep, she bowed her head to
circumstances and she departed, accepting, without a murmur, the
loneliness that Jean's action brought upon her. She carried her fidelity
to the end, for she would have slain herself sooner than become
[_hesitating out of respect for_ Mme. de Ronchard] a courtesan. And this
I _know_.

MME. DE RONCHARD

And has Jean never seen her since?

LEON

Not once; and that is more than eight months ago. He wished for news of
her, and he gave me the task of getting it. I never found her and I have
never been able to gain any knowledge of her, so cunningly did she
arrange this flight of hers--this flight which was so noble and so
self-sacrificing. [_Changing his tone._] But I don't know why I repeat
all this. You know it just as well as I do, for I have told it to you a
dozen times.

MME. DE RONCHARD

It is just as incredible at the twentieth time as at the first.

LEON

It is nevertheless the truth.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_sarcastically_]

Well, if it is really the truth, you were terribly wrong in helping Jean
to break his connection with such an admirable woman.

LEON

Oh, no, Aunt, I only did my duty. You have even called me hairbrained,
and perhaps you were right; but you know that I can be very serious when
I wish. If this three-year-old _liaison_ had lasted until now, Jean
would have been ruined.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Well, how could we help that?

LEON

Well, these things are frightful--these entanglements--I can't help
using the word. It was my duty as a friend--and I wish to impress it
upon you--to rescue Jean; and as a brother, it was my duty to marry my
sister to such a man as he. The future will tell you whether I was right
or not. [_Coaxingly._] And then, my dear Aunt, when later you have a
little nephew or a little niece to take care of, to dandle in your arms,
you will banish all these little spaniels that you are taking care of at
Neuilly.

MME. DE RONCHARD

The poor little darlings! I, abandon them! Don't you know that I love
them as a mother loves her children?

LEON

Oh, yes; you can become an aunt to them, then, because you will have to
become a mother to your little nephew.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Oh, hold your tongue; you irritate me. (Jean _appears with_ Gilberte
_for a moment at C._)

JEAN [_to servant entering_ R.]

Joseph, have you forgotten nothing, especially the flowers?

SERVANT

Monsieur and Madame may rest assured that everything has been done.

[_Exit servant_ L.]

LEON [_to_ Mme. de Ronchard]

Look at them; aren't they a bonny couple?

SCENE IV.

(_The same with_ Jean _and_ Gilberte.)

JEAN [_approaches_ Mme. de Ronchard _and speaks to her_]

Do you know of whom we were talking just now? We were talking of you.

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