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A Comedy of Marriage & Other Tales by Guy De Maupassant

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LEON [_aside_]

Ahem! ahem!

JEAN

Yes; I was just saying that I had not made you a present on the occasion
of my nuptials, because the choosing of it demanded a great deal of
reflection.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_dryly_]

But Gilberte made me a very pretty one for you both, Monsieur.

JEAN

But that is not enough. I have been looking for something which I
thought would be particularly acceptable to you; and do you know what I
found? It is a very small thing, but I ask you, Madame, to be so good as
to accept this little pocketbook, which holds some bank-notes, for the
benefit of your dear little deserted pets. You can add to your home for
these little pets some additional kennels on the sole condition that you
will allow me from time to time to come and pet your little pensioners,
and on the additional condition that you will not pick out the most
vicious among them to greet me.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_greatly impressed_]

With all my heart, I thank you. How good of you to think of my poor
little orphans!

LEON [_whispers to_ Jean]

You diplomat, you!

JEAN

There is nothing extraordinary about it, Madame. I am very fond of dumb
animals. They are really the foster-brothers of man, sacrificed for
them, slaves to them, and in many cases their food. They are the true
martyrs of the world.

MME. DE RONCHARD

What you say is very true, Monsieur, and I have often thought of it in
that way. For instance, take those poor horses, scourged and beaten by
coachmen in the streets.

LEON [_with sarcastic emphasis_]

And the pheasants, Auntie, and the partridges and the blackcock falling
on all sides under a hail of lead, flying panic-stricken before the
horrible massacre of the guns.

MME. DE RONCHARD

Oh, don't talk like that, it makes me shudder; it is horrible!

JEAN [_turns to_ Gilberte]

Horrible, indeed!

LEON [_after a pause, in light tone_]

Perhaps so, but they are good eating.

MME. DE RONCHARD

You are pitiless.

LEON [_aside to his aunt_]

Pitiless, perhaps, toward animals, but not pitiless, like you, toward
people.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_in the same tone_]

What do you mean by that?

LEON [_in the same tone pointing to_ Jean _and_ Gilberte, _who are
seated on a sofa_ R.]

Do you think that your presence here can be acceptable to those two
lovers? [_Takes her arm_.] My father has certainly finished smoking;
come into the billiard-room for a little while.

MME. DE RONCHARD

And what are you going to do?

LEON

I am going down into my study on the ground floor, and I shall come up
here after a little while.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_sarcastically_]

Your study, indeed--your studio--you mean, you rascal, where your
clients are--models--

LEON [_with mock modesty_]

Oh, Auntie. My clients, at least, don't unrobe--alas! [_Exit_ Leon R.,
_giving a mock benediction to the lovers_.] Children, receive my
benediction!

[_Exit_ Madame de Ronchard C.]

SCENE V.

(Jean _and_ Gilberte _seated on the sofa at right_.)

JEAN

At last, you are my wife, Mademoiselle.

GILBERTE

Mademoiselle?

JEAN

Forgive me. I hardly know how to address you.

GILBERTE

Call me Gilberte. There is nothing shocking about that, is there?

JEAN

Gilberte, at last, at last, at last, you are my wife!

GILBERTE

And truly, not without a good deal of trouble.

JEAN

And what a dainty, energetic little creature you are! How you fought
with your father, and with your aunt, for it is only through you, and
thanks to you, that we are married, for which I thank you with all my
heart--the heart which belongs to you.

GILBERTE

But it is only because I trusted you, and that is all.

JEAN

And have you only trust for me?

GILBERTE

Stupid boy! You know that you pleased me. If you had only pleased me, my
confidence in you would have been useless. One must love first. Without
that, Monsieur, nothing can come.

JEAN

Call me Jean, just as I have called you Gilberte.

GILBERTE [_hesitates_]

But that is not altogether the same thing. It seems to me--that--that--I
cannot do it. [_Rises and crosses_ L.]

JEAN [_rises_]

But I love you. I am no trifler, believe me; I love you. I am the man
who loves you because he has found in you qualities that are
inestimable. You are one of those perfect creatures who have as much
brains as sentiment; and the sentimentality that permeates you is not
the sickly sentimentality of ordinary women. It is that gloriously
beautiful faculty of tenderness which characterizes great souls, and
which one never meets elsewhere in the world. And then, you are so
beautiful, so graceful, with a grace that is all your own, and I, who am
a painter, you know how I adore the beautiful. Then, above everything,
you drew me to you, but not only that, you wiped out the traces of the
world from my mind and eyes.

GILBERTE

I like to hear you say that. But, don't talk any more just now in that
way, because it embarrasses me. However, I know, for I try to foresee
everything, that to enjoy these things I must listen to them to-day, for
your words breathe the passion of a lover. Perhaps in the future your
words will be as sweet, for they could not help being so when a man
speaks as you spoke and loves as you appear to love, but at the same
time, they will be different.

JEAN

Oh!

GILBERTE [_sits on stool near the table_]

Tell me it over again.

JEAN

What drew me to you was the mysterious harmony between your natural form
and the soul within it. Do you recollect my first visit to this house?

GILBERTE

Oh, yes, very well. My brother brought you to dinner, and I believe that
you did not wish to come.

JEAN [_laughs_]

If that were true, it was very indiscreet of your brother to tell you.
And he told you that? I am annoyed that he did so, and I confess I did
hesitate somewhat, for you know I was an artist accustomed to the
society of artists, which is lively, witty, and sometimes rather free,
and I felt somewhat disturbed at the idea of entering a house so serious
as yours--a house peopled by dignified lawyers and young ladies. But I
was so fond of your brother, I found him so full of novelty, so gay, so
wittily sarcastic and discerning, under his assumed levity, that not
only did I go everywhere with him, but I followed him to the extent of
meeting you. And I never cease to thank him for it. Do you remember when
I entered the drawing-room where you and your family were sitting, you
were arranging in a china vase some flowers that had just been sent to
you?

GILBERTE

I do.

JEAN

Your father spoke to me of my Uncle Martinel, whom he had formerly
known. This at once formed a link between us, for all the time that I
was talking to him I was watching you arrange your flowers.

GILBERTE [_smiles_]

You looked far too long and too steadfastly for a first introduction.

JEAN

I was looking at you as an artist looks, and was admiring you, for I
found your figure, your movements, and your entire self attractive. And
then for the last six months I have often come to this house, to which
your brother invited me and whither your presence attracted me, and
finally I felt your sway as a lover feels the sway of the one he adores.
There was an inexplicable, unseen attraction calling me to you. [_Sits
beside her_ R. _of table_.] Then a dim idea entered my brain,--an idea
that one day you might become my wife. It gained possession of my soul,
and I immediately took steps to renew the friendship between your father
and my uncle. The two men again became friends. Did you never divine my
maneuvers?

GILBERTE

Divine your maneuvers? No, I suspected a little at times, but I was so
astounded that a man like you--in the full flush of success, so well
known, so sought after--should concern himself with such a little,
unimportant girl as I, that, really, I could place no faith in the
sincerity of your attention.

JEAN

Nevertheless, we quickly knew how to understand each other, did we not?

GILBERTE

Your character pleased me. I felt that you were loyal, and then you
entertained me greatly, for you brought into our house that artistic air
which gave my fancies life. I ought to tell you that my brother had
already warned me that I should like you. You know that Leon loves you.

JEAN

I know it, and I think it was in _his_ brain that the first idea of our
marriage had birth. [_After a short silence_] You remember our return
from Saint-Germain after we had dined in the Henri IV. Pavilion?

GILBERTE

I remember it well.

JEAN

My uncle and your aunt were in the front of the landau, and you and I on
the rear seat, and in another carriage were your father and Leon. What a
glorious spring night! But how coldly you treated me!

GILBERTE

I was so embarrassed!

JEAN

You ought to recall that I put to you that day a question which I had
already asked you, because you cannot deny that I had paid you very
tender attention and that you had captured my heart.

GILBERTE

True. Nevertheless it surprised and upset me. Oh, how often have I
remembered it since! But I have never been able to recall the very words
you used. Do you remember them?

JEAN

No; they came from my lips, issuing from the bottom of my heart like a
prayer for mercy. I only know that I told you that I should never
re-enter your house if you did not give me some little hope that there
should be a day when you would know me better. You pondered a long time
before you answered me, but you spoke in such a low tone that I was
anxious to make you repeat it.

GILBERTE [_takes up his sentence and speaks as if in a dream_]

I said that it would pain me greatly if I should see you no more.

JEAN

Yes, that is what you said.

GILBERTE

You have forgotten nothing!

JEAN

Could anyone forget that? [_With deep emotion._] Do you know what I
think? As we look at each other and examine our hearts, our souls, our
mutual understanding, our love, I verily believe that we have set out on
the true road to happiness. [_Kisses her. For a moment they are
silent._]

GILBERTE [_rises_]

But I must leave you. [_Goes toward door_ L.] I must prepare for our
journey. Meanwhile, go and find my father.

JEAN [_follows her_]

Yes, but tell me before you go that you love me.

GILBERTE

Yes--I love you.

JEAN [_kisses her forehead_]

My only one.

[_Exit_ Gilberte L., _a second after. Enter_ M. Martinel C. _with a very
agitated air, and a letter in his hand_.]

MARTINEL [_perceives_ Jean, _quickly slips the letter into his pocket;
then, recollecting himself_]

Have you seen Leon?

JEAN

No, are you looking for him?

MARTINEL

No, no, I have just a word to say to him concerning an engagement of
small importance.

JEAN [_perceives_ Leon]

Wait a moment. Here he comes.

[_Enter_ Leon R. _Exit_ Jean. C.]

SCENE VI.

(Martinel _and_ Leon.)

MARTINEL [_goes quickly up to_ Leon]

I must have five minutes with you. Something terrible has happened.
Never in the course of my life have I been placed in so awkward and so
embarrassing a situation.

LEON

Quick! What is it?

MARTINEL

I had just finished my game at billiards when a servant brought me a
letter addressed to M. Martinel, without any Christian name by which to
identify it, but with these words on the letter "Exceedingly urgent." I
thought it was addressed to me, so I tore open the envelope, and I read
words intended for Jean--words which have well-nigh taken away my
reason. I came to find you in order to ask advice, for this is a thing
which must be decided upon the moment.

LEON

Tell me, what is it?

MARTINEL

I am responsible for my own actions, M. Leon, and I would ask advice of
no one if the matter concerned myself only, but unfortunately it
concerns Jean; therefore, I hesitate--the matter is so grave, and then
the secret is not mine--I came upon it accidentally.

LEON

Tell me quickly, and do not doubt my faith.

MARTINEL

I do not doubt your faith. Here is the letter. It is from Dr. Pellerin,
who is Jean's physician, who is his friend, our friend, a good fellow, a
free liver, and a physician to many women of the world, and one who
would not write such things unless necessity compelled him. [_Hands the
letter to_ Leon, _who holds it close to his eyes._]

LEON [_reads_]

"MY DEAR FRIEND:

"I am more than annoyed at having to communicate with you upon this
evening, above every other evening, upon such a subject as this. But I
am sure that if I did otherwise you would never forgive me. Your former
mistress, Henriette Leveque, is dying and would bid you farewell.
[_Throws a glance at_ Martinel _who signs to him to continue._] She will
not live through the night. She dies after bringing into the world, some
fifteen days ago, a child who on her deathbed she swears is yours. So
long as she was in no danger, she determined to leave you in ignorance
of this child's existence. But, to-day, doomed to death, she calls to
you. I know how you have loved her in the past. But you must do as you
think fit. She lives in the Rue Chaptal at Number 31. Let me know how I
can serve you, my dear fellow, and believe me,

"Always yours,

"PELLERIN."

MARTINEL

There you are. That letter came this evening. That is to say, at the one
moment above all others when such a misfortune could threaten the whole
future--the whole life of your sister and of Jean. What would you do if
you were I? Would you keep this confounded letter, or would you give it
to him? If I keep it, we may save appearances, but such an act would be
unworthy of me.

LEON [_energetically_]

I should say so. You must give the letter to Jean.

MARTINEL

Well, what will he do?

LEON

He alone is the judge of his own actions. We have no right to hide
anything from him.

MARTINEL

Supposing he consults me?

LEON

He will not do it. In such situations a man consults only his
conscience.

MARTINEL

But he treats me like a father. If he hesitates a moment between his
attention to his wife and the effacement of his happiness, what shall I
tell him to do?

LEON

Just what you would do yourself in like case.

MARTINEL

My impulse would be to go to the woman. What would be yours?

LEON [_resolutely_]

I should go.

MARTINEL

But how about your sister?

LEON [_sadly, seating himself by the table_]

Yes, my poor little sister! What an awakening for her!

MARTINEL [_after a few seconds' hesitation, crosses abruptly from_ L.
_to_ R.]

No; it is too hard a thing to do. I shall not give him this letter. I
shall be blamed perhaps, but so much the worse. In any case, I save him.

LEON

You cannot do such a thing, sir. We both know my sister, poor little
girl, and I am sure that if this marriage is annulled, she will die.
[_Rises_.] When a man has for three years enjoyed the love of such a
woman as the one who sends for him, he cannot refuse to see her on her
deathbed whatever may happen.

MARTINEL

What will Gilberte do?

LEON

She worships Jean--but you know how proud she is.

MARTINEL

Will she accept the situation? Will she forgive it?

LEON

Of that I am very doubtful, especially after all that has been said
about this poor girl in the family circle. But what does that matter?
Jean must be warned at once. I am going to find him and bring him to
you. [_Rises as if to go out_ C.]

MARTINEL

Well, how would you like me to tell him?

LEON Simply give him the letter. [_Exit_ Leon C.]

SCENE VII.

MARTINEL [_alone_]

Poor children! in the midst of their happiness and at the zenith of joy!
And that other poor girl, who is now suffering and slowly dying!
Heavens! How unjust and how cruel life is at times.

SCENE VIII.

(_Re-enter_ Leon _with_ Jean)

JEAN [_walks briskly to_ C. _of stage_]

What is it all about?

MARTINEL

One minute, my poor boy; read this, and forgive me for having opened
your letter. I opened it because I thought it was intended for me.
[_Gives letter to_ Jean, _and watches him read it._ Leon _also watches
him, standing_ L.]

JEAN [_after reading the letter, speaks to himself in a low tone,
touched with deep but contained emotion_]

I must do it! I owe it to her! [_To Martinel._] Uncle, I leave my wife
in your charge. Say nothing until I return, and remain here till I come
back. Wait for me. [_Turns to_ Leon.] I know you well enough to realize
that you do not disapprove of what I am doing. To you I confide my
future. I am going. [_Turns to the door_ R., _but after casting a glance
at the door_ L., _which leads to his wife's chamber, says to_ Leon.] To
you I owe the love your sister has bestowed upon me. Help me now to
preserve it.

[_Exit quickly_ R.]

SCENE IX.

(Martinel _and_ Leon.)

MARTINEL [_seated_ R.]

What shall we do now? What are we going to say? What explanations can we
give?

LEON

Let me manage it. It is only right that I should do it since I brought
about this marriage.

MARTINEL [_rises_]

Well, I'd dearly love to be forty-eight hours older. [_Rising_.] I
confess I do not like these love tragedies, and moreover the fact of the
child entering into the case is awful. What is going to become of that
poor little mortal? We cannot send him to the foundling asylum. [_Enter_
Gilberte L.] Gilberte!

SCENE X.

Gilberte _has removed her marriage robes, and now wears a handsome house
gown. She carries an opera cloak, which she throws over a chair neat the
door_.

GILBERTE

Where is Jean?

LEON

Do not be disturbed, he will be back directly.

GILBERTE [_in astonishment_]

Has he gone out?

LEON

Yes.

GILBERTE

Gone out? And on this evening, above all others!

LEON

A sudden and grave circumstance compelled him to go out for an hour.

GILBERTE [_excitedly_]

What is going on? What is it that you are hiding from me? Your story is
impossible. Some awful misfortune must have happened.

LEON AND MARTINEL [_together_]

Oh, no, no!

GILBERTE

Then, what is it? Tell me! Speak!

LEON

I cannot tell you anything. Be patient for an hour. It is Jean's duty to
tell you of the sudden and unexpected call which has summoned him hence
at such a time.

GILBERTE

What curious words you use! A sudden and unexpected call? He is an
orphan--his uncle is his only relative,--then what? Who? Why? Oh, God,
how you frighten me!

LEON

There are duties of many kinds, my dear; friendship, pity, sympathy can
impose many of them. But I must not say any more. Be patient for an
hour, I implore you.

GILBERTE [_to_ Martinel]

And you, Uncle? Speak! I implore you! What is he doing? Where has he
gone? I feel--oh, I feel the shadow of a terrible misfortune hovering
over us; speak, I entreat.

MARTINEL [_with tears in his eyes_]

But I cannot tell you any more, my dear child. I cannot. Like your
brother, I promised to say nothing, and I would have done just as Jean
has done. Wait for an hour, I beseech you--just an hour.

GILBERTE

And you, too, are upset. It must be a catastrophe.

MARTINEL

No, no! The fact that you are so distressed agitates me, because you
know I love you with my whole heart. [_Embraces her_.]

GILBERTE [_to_ Leon]

You have spoken of friendship, of pity, and of sympathy, but if it were
any of these reasons you could tell me so; meanwhile, as I look at you
two, I feel that here is some unspoken reason, some mystery which
appalls me.

LEON [_resolutely_]

My dear little sister, won't you trust in me?

GILBERTE

Yes, you ought to know all.

LEON

Will you trust me absolutely?

GILBERTE

Absolutely.

LEON

I swear to you, on my faith as a gentleman, that I would have done just
as Jean has done; that his absolute fidelity to you, his fidelity, which
perhaps is even exaggerated by love for you, is the only reason which
had led him to forget at this very moment the very thing that he has
gone to learn anew.

GILBERTE [_looks_ Leon _straight in the eyes_]

I believe you, Leon, and I thank you. Nevertheless, I tremble yet and I
shall tremble until he returns. If you swear to me that my husband was
entirely ignorant of the cause which has made him leave me at this
supreme moment, I will content myself as well as I can, trusting in you
two. [_She stretches both hands to the two men_.]

SCENE XI.

(_The same, with_ M. de Petitpre _and_ Mme. de Ronchard, _who enters
quickly_ C.)

PETITPRE

What is this I hear? Jean Martinel gone out?

MARTINEL

He is coming back very soon, sir.

PETITPRE

But why on earth did he go out on such an evening as this without a word
of explanation to his wife? [_Turns to_ Gilberte] You know nothing about
it, do you?

GILBERTE [_seated_ L. _of table_]

Father, I know nothing at all about it.

MME. DE RONCHARD

And without a word of explanation to the family! That is indeed a lack
of courtesy.

PETITPRE [_to_ Martinel]

And why has he acted in this way, sir?

MARTINEL

Your son knows as much as I do, sir; but neither of us can reveal it to
you. Moreover, your daughter has consented to wait until she can learn
all about it from her husband on his return.

PETITPRE

My daughter has consented--but I do not consent! Besides, it seems that
you alone were forewarned of this sudden departure.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_in agitation to_ Martinel]

It was to you they brought the letter, and you were the one who read it
first.

MARTINEL

You are correctly informed, Madame; a letter was delivered here, but I
would not shoulder the responsibility of this matter, and I showed the
letter to your son, sir [_turns to_ Petitpre], and asked his advice with
the intention of following it.

LEON

The advice that I gave is exactly what my brother-in-law has done of his
own volition, and I esteem him all the more for it.

PETITPRE [_turns to_ Leon]

It is I who should have been consulted, not you. If Jean's action is
indeed excusable, his want of courtesy is absolutely unpardonable.

MME. DE RONCHARD

It is scandalous!

LEON [_to_ M. Petitpre]

Yes, it would have been better to consult you, but the urgency of the
matter did not allow it. You would have discussed the matter; my aunt
would have discussed the matter; we should all have discussed the matter
the whole night long, and you know there are times when one cannot
afford to lose even seconds. Silence was necessary until Jean's return.
When he does return he will hide nothing from you, and I feel sure that
you will judge him as I myself have judged him.

MME. DE RONCHARD [_turns to_ Martinel]

But this letter, from whom did it come?

MARTINEL

Oh, I can tell you that. It came from a physician.

MME. DE RONCHARD

From a physician--a physician--then he must have a sick patient--and it
is on account of this patient that he made Jean come to him. But who is
the patient? Oh, ho! I surmise that it is a woman--that woman--his
former mistress, who has played this card today. Sick! I suppose she has
made a pretense of poisoning herself in order to show him that she loves
him still and will always love him. Oh, the little wretch! [_To_ Leon.]
This is the kind of people you stand up for! Yes, you!

LEON

It would be only reasonable, my dear Aunt, not to air all these
revolting theories of yours in Gilberte's presence, especially when you
really know nothing at all.

GILBERTE [_rises_]

Do not speak any more about it, I pray you. Everything that I have heard
just now distresses me beyond measure. I will wait for my husband; I do
not wish to know anything except from his lips, as I have absolute
confidence in him. If misfortune has threatened us, I will not hear such
things talked of. [_Exit_ L, _accompanied by_ Petitpre. _Short
silence_.]

MME. DE RONCHARD [_turns to_ Leon]

Well, Leon, do you always win? You see what charming fellows these
husbands are--every one of them!

ACT II.

SCENE I.

Musotte's _bedroom, neatly furnished, but without luxury. Disordered bed
stands_ L. _A screen stands_ L. I. E., _almost hiding_ Musotte, _who
lies stretched at length upon a steamer-chair. Beside the bed is a
cradle, the head of which is turned up stage. On the mantelpiece and on
small tables at_ R. _and_ L. _are vials of medicine, cups, chafing-dish,
etc. A table stands_, R. I. E. Musotte _is sleeping_. La Babin _and_
Mme. Flache _stand_ C. _looking at her_.

LA BABIN [_in low tones_]

How she sleeps!

MME. FLACHE [_in the same voice_]

But she will not sleep long now, unless she is going into her last
sleep.

LA BABIN

Oh, there is no chance of that. That is enough to give one the horrors.
Fancy losing one's life for a child!

MME. FLACHE

But how can you prevent it? Death is as necessary as birth, or the world
would become too small for us all.

LA BABIN [_sits_ R. _of table_]

All people ought to die in the same way and at the same age--every one
of us; then one would know what to expect.

MME. FLACHE [_pours out some tea_]

What simple ideas you have, Madame Babin! Personally, I would rather not
know the hour of my death. I would sooner finish my life while sleeping
in the middle of the night--during slumber--without suffering--by a
sudden failure of the heart.

LA BABIN

Look at the sick woman. How silly of her to wish to rest upon that
steamer-chair as she has done. The doctor told her plainly that such an
effort would probably finish her.

MME. FLACHE [_sits_ L. _of table_]

Oh, I understand her motive. When a girl like her has a lover she
commits every kind of folly, and more especially, nurse, when they are
at all coquettish; but you country people do not know anything about
such things. They are coquettish through and through. That is the reason
she wished to look her prettiest. She was afraid of being thought ugly,
don't you understand? So I had to put on her _peignoir_, and tidy her
up, and arrange her hair just as I have done.

LA BABIN

Oh, these Parisians! It is necessary that they should have a hairdresser
even to the last gasp! [_A short silence_.] But will this gentleman of
hers come?

MME. FLACHE

I do not think so. Men are not overfond of obeying the calls of their
former mistresses at such times, and then, this lover of hers was
married to-day, poor fellow!

LA BABIN

Well, that is a joke.

MME. FLACHE

I should say so.

LA BABIN

Certainly, then, he won't come. In such a case would _you_ go to see a
man?

MME. FLACHE

Oh, if I loved him very much I should go.

LA BABIN

Even if you were marrying another the same day?

MME. FLACHE

Just the same. For such a combination of circumstances would pierce my
heart; would penetrate me with a strong emotion,--and, oh, I am so fond
of such emotions!

LA BABIN

Well, so far as I am concerned, I certainly would not go. I should be
too much afraid of the shock.

MME. FLACHE

But Doctor Pellerin asserts that the man will come.

LA BABIN

Do you know this physician well?

MME. FLACHE

Who, Doctor Pellerin?

LA BABIN

Yes; he has the air of a charming man of the world.

MME. FLACHE

Oh, yes; he is all that, but he is also a good physician. Then he is
such good company, and has such a smooth tongue. And you know he is not
physician to the Opera for nothing.

LA BABIN

That little puppy of a--

MME. FLACHE

A puppy! You don't very often find puppies among men of his caliber, and
then,-oh, how he used to love the girls! Oh, oh! Although, for the
matter of that, there are many physicians who are like him. It was at
the Opera that I first met him.

LA BABIN

At the Opera!

MME. FLACHE

Yes, at the Opera. You know, I was a dancer there for eight years. Yes,
indeed, even I--just as you see me, a dancer at the Opera.

LA BABIN

You, Madame Flache!

MME. FLACHE

Yes, my mother was a midwife, and taught me the business at the same
time that she taught me dancing, because she always said it was well to
have two strings to your bow. Dancing, you see, is all very well,
provided you are not too ambitious of appearing on first nights, but,
unhappily, that was the case with me. I was as slender as a thread when
I was twenty, and very agile, but I grew fat and scant of breath, and
became rather heavy in my steps; so when my mother died, as I had my
diploma as a midwife, I took her apartment and her business, and I added
the title of "Midwife to the Opera," for all their business comes to me.
They like me very much there. When I was dancing, they used to call me
Mademoiselle Flacchi the premiere.

LA BABIN

Then you have been married since then?

MME. FLACHE

No, but a woman in my profession should always assume the title of
Madame for the sake of its dignity. You know, it gives confidence. But,
how about you, nurse, from what place do you come? You know, you have
only just come here, and nobody consulted me about engaging you.

LA BABIN

I am from Yvetot.

MME. FLACHE

Is this your first engagement as a nurse?

LA BABIN

No, my third. I have had two daughters and a little boy.

MME. FLACHE

And your husband, is he a farmer or a gardener?

LA BABIN [_Simply_]

I am not married.

MME. FLACHE [_laughing_]

Not married, and with three children! Upon my word, let me compliment
you; you are indeed precocious.

LA BABIN

Don't talk about it; it was not my will. It is the good God who does
these things. One cannot prevent it.

MME. FLACHE

How simple you are! Now you will probably have a fourth child.

LA BABIN

That's very possible.

MME. FLACHE

Well, what does your lover do? What is his business? Or perhaps you have
more than one?

LA BABIN [_with indignation_]

There has never been more than one. I give you my word, upon my hope of
salvation. He is a lemonade-seller at Yvetot.

MME. FLACHE

Is he a handsome fellow?

LA BABIN

I believe you, indeed! He is handsome! [_Confidentially_.] If I tell you
all this, it is only because you are a midwife, and a midwife in such
affairs as this is like a priest in the confessional. But you, Madame
Flache, you, who have been a dancer at the Opera, you must also have
had, surely--little love affairs--little intrigues?

MME. FLACHE [_evidently flattered, and in a dreamy tone_]

Oh, yes, one or two!

LA BABIN [_laughs_]

And have you never had--this sort of accident? [_Points to the cradle_.]

MME. FLACHE

No.

LA BABIN

How did that come?

MME. FLACHE [_rises and approaches the mantelpiece_]

Probably because I was a midwife.

LA BABIN

Well, I know one in your profession who has had five.

MME. FLACHE [_with contempt_]

She evidently did not come from Paris.

LA BABIN

That's true; she came from Courbevoie.

MUSOTTE [_in a feeble voice_] Is no one there?

MME. FLACHE

She is awakening. There, there! [_Folds up the screen which hides the
long steamer-chair_.]

MUSOTTE

Hasn't he come yet?

MME. FLACHE

No.

MUSOTTE

He will arrive too late--my God! My God!

MME. FLACHE

What an idea! He will come.

MUSOTTE

And my little darling--my child?

MME. FLACHE

He is sleeping like an angel.

MUSOTTE [_after looking at herself in a hand-mirror_]

I must not look like this when he comes. Oh, God! Bring my child--I want
to see him.

MME. FLACHE

But if I show him to you he will wake up, and who knows if he will go to
sleep again.

MUSOTTE

Bring the cradle here. [_A gesture of refusal from_ Mme Flache.] Yes,
yes! I insist, [Mme. Flache _and the nurse gently bring the cradle to
her_.] Nearer, nearer, so that I can see him well--the darling! My
child, my child! And I am going to leave him! Soon I shall disappear
into the unknown. Oh. God, what agony!

MME. FLACHE

Now don't go worrying yourself like that; you are not as ill as you
think. I have seen lots worse than you. Come, come! you are going to
recover. Take away the cradle, nurse. [_They put the cradle again in its
place; then to the nurse_.] That will do, that will do. Watch me. You
know very well that it is only I who can quiet it. [_Sits near the
cradle, and sings a lullaby while rocking it_.]

"A little gray fowl
Came into the barn,
To lay a big egg
For the good boy that sleeps.
Go to sleep, go to sleep,
My little chicken!
Go to sleep, sleep, my chick!"

LA BABIN [_stands near the end of the mantelpiece, drinks the sugared
water, and slips loaf sugar into her pocket; aside_]

I must not forget the main thing. I have just seen in the kitchen the
remains of a leg of mutton, to which I should like to go and say a few
words. I am breaking in two with hunger just now.

MME. FLACHE [_sings softly_]

"A little black fowl
Came into the room,
To lay a big egg
For the good boy that sleeps.
Sleep, sleep, my little chicken,
Sleep, oh, sleep, my chick!"

MUSOTTE [_from the long chair, after moaning several times_]

Has he gone to sleep again?

MME. FLACHE [_goes toward_ Musotte]

Yes, Mademoiselle, just as if he were a little Jesus. Do you wish to
know what I think about him, this young man lying here? You will lead
him to the altar for his marriage. He is a jewel, like yourself, my
dear.

MUSOTTE

Do you really think him pretty?

MME. FLACHE

On the honor of a midwife, I have seldom brought into the world one so
pretty. It is a pleasure to know that one has brought to the light such
a little Cupid as he is.

MUSOTTE

And to think that in a few hours, perhaps, I shall see him no more; look
at him no more; love him no more!

MME. FLACHE

Oh, no, no! You are talking unreasonably.

MUSOTTE

Ah, I know it too well! I heard you talking with the nurse. I know that
the end is very near; this night, perhaps. Would the doctor have written
to Jean to come and see me on this evening--the evening of his
marriage--if I were not at the point of death? [_The bell rings_.
Musotte _utters a cry_.] Ah, there he is! it is he! Quick! quick! Oh,
God, how I suffer! [_Exit_ Mme. Flache C. Musotte _gazes after her.
Enter_ Dr. Pellerin, _in evening clothes_.]

SCENE II.

MUSOTTE [_despairingly_]

Ah! it is not he!

PELLERIN [_approaches_ Musotte]

Has he not come yet?

MUSOTTE

He will not come.

DR. PELLERIN

He will! I am certain of it; I know it.

MUSOTTE

No!

DR. PELLERIN

I swear it! [_Turns toward_ Mme. Flache.] Hasn't he answered the note
yet?

MME. FLACHE

No, Doctor.

DR. PELLERIN

Well, he will come. How is my patient?

MME. FLACHE

She has rested a little.

MUSOTTE [_in an agitated voice_]

All is over! I feel that I shall not rest any more until he comes, or
until I depart without having seen him.

DR. PELLERIN

He will come if you will go to sleep immediately and sleep until
to-morrow morning.

MUSOTTE

You would not have written to him to come this evening if I had been
able to wait until to-morrow morning. [_The bell rings_.] If that is not
he, I am lost--lost! [Mme. Flache _runs to open the door_. Musotte
_listens intently, and hears from below a man's voice; then murmurs
despairingly_.] It is not he!

MME. FLACHE [_re-enters with a vial in her hand_]

It is the medicine from the chemist.

MUSOTTE [_agitated_]

Oh, God! how horrible! He is not coming; what have I done? Doctor, show
me my child. I will see him once more.

DR. PELLERIN

But he sleeps, my little Musotte.

MUSOTTE

Well, he has plenty of time in the future for sleep.

DR. PELLERIN

Come, come, calm yourself.

MUSOTTE

If Jean does not come, who will take care of my child?--for it is Jean's
child, I swear to you. Do you believe me? Oh, how I loved him!

DR. PELLERIN

Yes, my dear little child, we believe you. But please be calm.

MUSOTTE [_with increasing agitation_]

Tell me, when you went away just now where did you go?

DR. PELLERIN

To see a patient.

MUSOTTE

That is not true. You went to see Jean, and he would not come with you,
or he would be here now.

DR. PELLERIN

On my word of honor, no.

MUSOTTE

Yes, I feel it. You have seen him, and you do not dare to tell me for
fear it would kill me.

DR. PELLERIN

Ah, the fever is coming back again. This must not go on. I don't wish
you to be delirious when he comes. [_Turns to_ Mme. Flache.] We must
give her a hypodermic injection. Give me the morphia. [Mme. Flache
_brings the needle and morphia, from the mantelpiece and gives it to_
Dr. Pellerin.]

MUSOTTE [_uncovers her own arm_]

But for this relief, I do not know how I should have borne up during the
last few days. [Dr. Pellerin _administers the hypodermic_.]

DR. PELLERIN

Now, you must go to sleep; I forbid you to speak. I won't answer you,
and I tell you of a certainty that in a quarter of an hour Jean will be
here. [Musotte _stretches herself out obediently upon the couch and goes
to sleep_.]

LA BABIN [_silently replaces the screen which hides_ Musotte]

How she sleeps! What a benediction that drug is! But I don't want any of
it. It scares me; it is a devil's potion. [_Sits near the cradle and
reads a newspaper_.]

MME. FLACHE [_in a low voice to_ Dr. Pellerin]

Oh, the poor girl, what misery!

DR. PELLERIN [_in the same tone_]

Yes, she is a brave girl. It is some time since I first met her with
Jean Martinel, who gave her three years of complete happiness. She has a
pure and simple soul.

MME. FLACHE

Well, will this Monsieur Martinel come?

DR. PELLERIN

I think so. He is a man of feeling, but it is a difficult thing for him
to leave his wife and his people on such a day as this.

MME. FLACHE

It certainly is a most extraordinary case. A veritable _fiasco_.

DR. PELLERIN

It is, indeed.

MME. FLACHE [_changes her tone_]

Where have you been just now? You did not put on evening dress and a
white cravat to go and see a patient?

DR. PELLERIN

I went to see the first part of the Montargy ballet danced.

MME. FLACHE [_interested, and leaning upon the edge of the table_]

And was it good? Tell me.

DR. PELLERIN [_sits_ L. _of table_]

It was very well danced.

MME. FLACHE

The new directors do things in style, don't they?

DR. PELLERIN

Jeanne Merali and Gabrielle Poivrier are first class.

MME. FLACHE

Poivrier--the little Poivrier--is it possible! As to Merali I am not so
much astonished; although she is distinctly ugly, she has her good
points. And how about Mauri?

DR. PELLERIN

Oh, a marvel--an absolute marvel, who dances as no one else can. A human
bird with limbs for wings. It was absolute perfection.

MME. FLACHE

Are you in love with her?

DR. PELLERIN

Oh, no; merely an admirer. You know how I worship the dance.

MME. FLACHE

And the _danseuses_ also, at times. [_Lowering her eyes._] Come, have
you forgotten?

DR. PELLERIN

One can never forget artists of your worth, my dear.

MME. FLACHE

You are simply teasing me.

DR. PELLERIN

I only do you justice. You know that formerly, when I was a young
doctor, I had for you a very ardent passion which lasted six weeks. Tell
me, don't you regret the time of the grand _fete_?

MME. FLACHE

A little. But reason comes when one is young no longer, and I have
nothing to complain of. My business is very prosperous.

DR. PELLERIN

You are making money, then? They tell me that you are giving dainty
little dinners.

MME. FLACHE

I believe you, and I have a particularly good _chef_. Won't you give me
the pleasure of entertaining you at dinner one of these days, my dear
Doctor?

DR. PELLERIN

Very willingly, my dear.

MME. FLACHE

Shall I have any other physicians, or do you prefer to come alone?

DR. PELLERIN

Alone, if you please. I am not fond of a third party. [_The bell
rings._]

MUSOTTE [_awakens_]

Ah, some one rang, run and see. [_Exit_ Mme. Flache. _A short silence._]

A VOICE [_without_]

Madame Henriette Leveque?

MUSOTTE [_emitting an anguished cry_]

Ah, it is he! There he is! [_Makes an effort to rise. Enter_ Jean
Martinel.] Jean! Jean! At last! [_Springs up and stretches her arms to
him._]

SCENE III.

(_The same,--with_ Jean Martinel.)

JEAN [_comes rapidly forward, kneels near the long steamer-chair, and
kisses_ Musotte's _hands_]

My poor little Musotte! [_They begin to weep and dry their eyes; then
they remain silent and motionless. At last_ Jean _rises and holds up his
hand to_ Dr. Pellerin.]

PELLERIN

Did I do well?

JEAN

You did indeed, and I thank you.

PELLERIN [_introduces them_]

Madame Flache, the midwife--the nurse--[_indicates the cradle with a
grave gesture_] and there!

JEAN [_approaches the cradle and lifts the little curtain, takes up the
child and kisses it on the mouth; then lays it down again_]

He is a splendid boy!

DR. PELLERIN

A very pretty child.

MME. FLACHE

A superb morsel--one of my prettiest.

JEAN [_in a low voice_]

And Musotte, how is she?

MUSOTTE [_who has heard him_]

I,--I am almost lost. I know surely that all is over. [_To_ Jean.] Take
that little chair, dear, and seat yourself near me, and let us talk as
long as I am able to speak. I have so many things to say to you, for we
shall never be together any more. I am so glad to see you again that
nothing else now seems of any importance.

JEAN [_approaching her_] Don't agitate yourself. Don't get excited.

MUSOTTE

How can I help being agitated at seeing you again?

JEAN [_sits on the low chair, takes_ Musotte's _hand_]

My poor Musotte, I cannot tell you what a shock it was to me when I
learned just now that you were so ill.

MUSOTTE

And on this day of all days! It must have shocked you greatly.

JEAN

What! Do you know of it then?

MUSOTTE

Yes, since I felt so ill, I kept myself informed about you every day, in
order that I might not pass away without having seen you and spoken to
you again, for I have so much to say to you. [_At a sign from_ Jean,
Mme. Flache, Pellerin, _and_ La Babin _exit_ R.]

SCENE IV.

(Musotte _and_ Jean.)

MUSOTTE

Then you received the letter?

JEAN

Yes.

MUSOTTE

And you came immediately?

JEAN

Certainly.

MUSOTTE

Thanks--ah! thanks. I hesitated a long time before warning
you--hesitated even this morning, but I heard the midwife talking with
the nurse and learned that to-morrow perhaps it might be too late, so I
sent Doctor Pellerin to call you immediately.

JEAN

Why didn't you call me sooner?

MUSOTTE

I never thought that my illness would become so serious. I did not wish
to trouble your life.

JEAN [_points to the cradle_]

But that child! How is it that I was not told of this sooner?

MUSOTTE

You would never have known it, if his birth had not killed me. I would
have spared you this pain--this cloud upon your life. When you left me,
you gave me enough to live upon. Everything was over between us; and
besides, at any other moment than this, would you believe me if I said
to you: "This is your child?"

JEAN

Yes, I have never doubted you.

MUSOTTE

You are as good as ever, my Jean. No, no, I am not lying to you; he is
yours, that little one there. I swear it to you on my deathbed; I swear
it to you before God!

JEAN

I have already told you that I believed you. I have always believed you.

MUSOTTE

Listen, this is all that has happened. As soon as you left me, I became
very ill. I suffered so much that I thought I was going to die. The
doctor ordered a change of air. You remember, it was in the spring. I
went to Saint-Malo--to that old relative, of whom I have often talked to
you.

JEAN

Yes, yes.

MUSOTTE

It was in Saint-Malo, after some days, that I realized that you had left
me a pledge of your affection. My first desire was to tell you
everything, for I knew that you were an honest man--that you would have
recognized this child, perhaps even have given up your marriage; but I
would not have had you do that. All was over; was it not?--and it was
better that it should be so. I knew that I could never be your wife
[_smiles_], Musotte, me, Madame Martinel--oh, no!

JEAN

My poor, dear girl. How brutal and hard we men are, without thinking of
it and without wishing to be so!

MUSOTTE

Don't say that. I was not made for you. I was only a little model; and
you, you were a rising artist, and I never thought that you would belong
to me forever. [Jean _sheds tears_.] No, no, don't cry; you have nothing
to reproach yourself with. You have always been so good to me. It is
only God who has been cruel to me.

JEAN

Musotte!

MUSOTTE

Let me go on. I remained at Saint-Malo without revealing my condition.
Then I came back to Paris, and here some months afterward the little one
was born--the child! When I fully understood what had happened to me, I
experienced at first such fear; yes, such fear! Then I remembered that
he was bone of your bone, and flesh of your flesh; that you had given
him life, and that he was a pledge from you. But one is so stupid when
one knows nothing. One's ideas change just as one's moods change, and I
became contented all at once; contented with the thought that I would
bring him up, that he would grow to be a man, that he would call me
mother. [_Weeps._] Now, he will never call me mother. He will never put
his little arms around my neck, because I am going to leave him; because
I am going away--I don't know where; but there, where everybody goes.
Oh, God! My God!

JEAN

Calm yourself, my little Musotte. Would you be able to speak as you do
speak if you were as ill as you think you are?

MUSOTTE

You do not see that the fever is burning within me; that I am losing my
head, and don't know longer what I say.

JEAN

No, no; please calm yourself.

MUSOTTE

Pet me; pet me, Jean, and you will calm me.

JEAN [_kisses her hair; then resumes_]

There, there; don't speak any more for a minute or two. Let us remain
quietly here near each other.

MUSOTTE

But I must speak to you; I have so many things to say to you yet, and do
not know how to say them. My head is beyond my control. Oh, my God! how
shall I do it? [_Raises herself, looks around her and sees the cradle._]
Ah, yes, I know; I recollect, it is he, my child. Tell me, Jean, what
will you do with him? You know that I am an orphan, and when I am gone
he will be here all alone--alone in the world! Poor little thing! Listen,
Jean, my head is quite clear now. I shall understand very well what you
answer me now, and the peace of my closing moments depends upon it. I
have no one to leave the little one to but you.

JEAN

I promise you that I will take him, look after him, and bring him up.

MUSOTTE

As a father?

JEAN

As a father.

MUSOTTE

You have already seen him?

JEAN

Yes.

MUSOTTE

Go and look at him again. [Jean _goes over to the cradle._]

JEAN

He is pretty, isn't he?

MUSOTTE

Everybody says so. Look at him, the poor little darling, who has enjoyed
only a few days of life as yet. He belongs to us. You are his father; I
am his mother, but soon he will have a mother no more. [_In anguish._]
Promise me that he shall always have a father.

JEAN [_goes over to her_]

I promise it, my darling!

MUSOTTE

A true father, who will always love him well?

JEAN I promise it.

MUSOTTE

You will be good--very good--to him?

JEAN

I swear it to you!

MUSOTTE

And then, there is something else--but I dare not--

JEAN

Tell it to me.

MUSOTTE

Since I came back to Paris, I have sought to see you without being seen
by you, and I have seen you three times. Each time you were with
her--with your sweetheart, your wife, and with a gentleman--her father,
I think. Oh, how I looked at her! I asked myself: "Will she love him as
I have loved him? Will she make him happy? Is she good?" Tell me, do you
really believe she is very good?

JEAN

Yes, darling, I believe it.

MUSOTTE

You are very certain of it?

JEAN

Yes, indeed.

MUSOTTE

And I thought so, too, simply from seeing her pass by. She is so pretty!
I have been a little jealous, and I wept on coming back. But what are
you going to do now as between her and your son?

JEAN

I shall do my duty.

MUSOTTE

Your duty? Does that mean by her or by him?

JEAN

By him.

MUSOTTE

Listen, Jean: when I am no more, ask your wife from me, from the mouth
of a dead woman, to adopt him, this dear little morsel of humanity-to
love him as I would have loved him; to be a mother to him in my stead.
If she is tender and kind, she will consent. Tell her how you saw me
suffer--that my last prayer, my last supplication on earth was offered
up for her. Will you do this?

JEAN

I promise you that I will.

MUSOTTE

Ah! How good you are! Now I fear nothing; my poor little darling is
safe, and I am happy and calm. Ah, how calm I am! You didn't know, did
you, that I called him Jean, after you? That does not displease you,
does it?

JEAN [_weeps_]

No, no!

MUSOTTE

You weep--so you still love me a little, Jean? Ah, how I thank you for
this! But if I only could live; it must be possible. I feel so much
better since you came here, and since you have promised me all that I
have asked you. Give me your hand. At this moment I can recall all our
life together, and I am content--almost gay; in fact, I can laugh--see,
I can laugh, though I don't know why. [_Laughs._]

JEAN

Oh, calm yourself for my sake, dear little Musotte.

MUSOTTE

If you could only understand how recollections throng upon me. Do you
remember that I posed for your "Mendiante," for your "Violet Seller,"
for your "Guilty Woman," which won for you your first medal? And do you
remember the breakfast at Ledoyen's on Varnishing Day? There were more
than twenty-five at a table intended for ten. What follies we committed,
especially that little, little--what did he call himself--I mean that
little comic fellow, who was always making portraits which resembled no
one? Oh, yes, Tavernier! And you took me home with you to your studio,
where you had two great manikins which frightened me so, and I called to
you, and you came in to reassure me. Oh, how heavenly all that was! Do
you remember? [_Laughs again_.] Oh, if that life could only begin over
again! [_Cries suddenly_.] Ah, what pain! [_To_ Jean, _who is going for
the doctor_.] No, stay, stay! [_Silence. A sudden change comes over her
face_.] See, Jean, what glorious weather! If you like, we will take the
baby for a sail on a river steamboat; that will be so jolly! I love
those little steamboats; they are so pretty. They glide over the water
quickly and without noise. Now that I am your wife, I can assert
myself--I am armed. Darling, I never thought that you would marry me.
And look at our little one--how pretty he is, and how he grows! He is
called Jean after you. And I--I have my two little Jeans--mine--altogether
mine! You don't know how happy I am. And the little one walks to-day for
the first time! [_Laughs aloud, with her arms stretched out, pointing to
the child which she thinks is before her_.]

JEAN [_weeps_]

Musotte! Musotte! Don't you know me?

MUSOTTE

Indeed I know you! Am I not your wife? Kiss me, darling. Kiss me, my
little one.

JEAN [_takes her in his arms, weeping and repeating_]

Musotte! Musotte! [Musotte _rises upon her couch, and with a gesture to_
Jean _points to the cradle, toward which he goes, nodding "Yes, yes,"
with his head. When_ Jean _reaches the cradle,_ Musotte, _who has raised
herself upon her hands, falls lifeless upon the long steamer-chair._
Jean, _frightened, calls out_] Pellerin! Pellerin!

SCENE V.

(_The same:_ Pellerin, Mme. Flache, _and_ La Babin, _enter quickly_ R.)

PELLERIN [_who has gone swiftly to_ Musotte, _feels her pulse and
listens at the heart_]

Her heart is not beating! Give me a mirror, Madame Flache.

JEAN

My God! [Mme. Flache _gives a hand-mirror to_ Pellerin, _who holds it
before the lips of_ Musotte, _Pause_.]

PELLERIN [_in a low voice_]

She is dead!

JEAN [_takes the dead woman's hand and kisses it fondly, his voice
choked with emotion_]

Farewell, my dear little Musotte! To think that a moment ago you were
speaking to me--a moment ago you were looking at me, you saw me, and
now--all is over!

PELLERIN [_goes to_ Jean _and takes him by the shoulder_]

Now, you must go at once. Go! You have nothing more to do here. Your
duty is over.

JEAN [_rises_]

I go. Farewell, poor little Musotte!

PELLERIN

I will take care of everything this evening. But the child, do you wish
me to find an asylum for him?

JEAN

Oh, no, I will take him. I have sworn it to that poor, dead darling.
Come and join me immediately at my house, and bring him with you. Then I
shall have another service to request of you. But how about Musotte, who
is going to remain with her?

MME. FLACHE

I, Monsieur. Have no anxiety; I am acquainted with all that must be
done.

JEAN

Thank you, Madame. [_Approaches the bed; closes_ Musotte's _eyes and
kisses her fondly and for a long time upon her forehead_.] Farewell,
Musotte, forever! [_Goes softly to the cradle, removes the veil, kisses
the child and speaks to it in a firm voice which at the same time is
full of tears_.] I shall see you again directly, my little Jean!

[_Exit quickly_].

ACT III.

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