The stage represents a hotel arranged in the manner of a Spanish posada. Side doors. Door at the rear; wooden gallery reached by a stairway which descends to the right. Doors on the gallery which open on various rooms. Chimney to the left. Tables, wooden armchairs.
Forster: Well, what news, Ayrton?
Ayrton: I’m coming from the coast where I left some of our companions. There I saw crossing and running tacking—a superb ship, a steam yacht of more than eight hundred tons, which would have no trouble making 12 miles an hour! It’s named the Duncan. It has four comrades on its bridge. It must be a pleasure yacht which defy the fastest runners of the English fleet. Ah, if we had such a boat under our feet, comrades, we would be kings of the sea.
Dick: Is there no way for us to seize it?
Ayrton: Oh! if this Duncan instead of being on the roadstead of Valparaiso were on the Australian coast!
Forster: Yes, but this ship is not in Australia, it’s in Valparaiso and we can do nothing!
Ayrton: Nothing? Perhaps!
Dick: What do you mean?
Ayrton: Listen to me carefully. The Gold feasts the Chilean miners are giving today will take place in the grand square of Valparaiso, across from the governor’s palace. All the people of the town, all the sailors in the port, run in crowds to these celebrations. Like all the other ships the Duncan will be almost abandoned for an hour at least, and then some few determined and clever men would suffice to seize it and make it reach the sea!
Forster: And the Duncan will be ours!
Ayrton: Oh! The success of this plan will be more certain if I were able to get myself admitted on that ship, like a castaway demanding to be repatriated, or as a second mate! I could then receive you aboard during the tumult of the celebration and we would voyage to Australia, where Ayrton would become Ben Jayce, again, supreme leader of convicts, and form his crew of his bravest companions.
Dick: We could then sail as masters of the ocean.
Ayrton: All the merchant ships would become our tributaries!
Forster: And I wouldn’t be annoyed, for my part, to push a point even to Baker Island.
Ayrton: Are you mad?
Forster: No! I would like to know what the end was of those we abandoned there, Captain Grant, his son James, and—
Ayrton: And Burch, that ferocious beast we left with them! If he didn’t kill them straight off—two winters in that desert of ice would have finished them all off.
Dick: All the same, I, too, would like to know—
Bob: (off) Innkeeper?
Bob: Hey! Innkeeper! Innkeeper.
(Bob is still dressed as a woman.)
Innkeeper: (entering) Here! Here, sir.
Bob: (resuming his feminine voice) What do you mean, "sir"? Insolent!
Innkeeper: Excuse me, Miss, but every time I hear you without seeing you, I take you for a man.
Bob: (coyly) But, when you see me—
Innkeeper: Oh! when I see you. (looks at him)
Bob: (turning away) The devil! I mustn’t let myself be looked at this morning! I lost my razor—and for two days it’s been growing—growing.
Innkeeper: What is it you wish, miss?
Bob: The tea for Lord Glenorvan and his company.
Ayrton: (low) Glenorvan! Eh, why, he’s the owner of the Duncan! Pay attention!
Innkeeper: (who’s gone to inspect the table) Well, you see, everything is ready! All that has to be done is to serve it when the order is given.
Bob: (aside) If I don’t find a way to shave, I am lost! I cannot go to a barber in the town like— How to get my razor cleverly replaced? (aloud) Ah! My friend!
Bob: My good friend, couldn’t you loan me—for a moment, something—whatever it might be?
Innkeeper: Something, miss?
Bob: Something that cuts—
Innkeeper: A knife?
Bob: No, something sharper. Something very sharp.
Innkeeper: Very sharp. Ah, hold on, I have the thing for you. (goes to the back) I have the thing for you!
Bob: Bravo, I am saved!
Innkeeper: (returning with a scythe which he finds in a corner and plants before Bob) Here!
Bob: (with terror) Huh! A scythe! What do you want me to do with that?
Innkeeper: Why, it’s very sharp! Won’t it serve for the work in question?
Bob: For the work in? Never! (aside) So the wretch wants to decapitate me!
(Glenorvan, giving his arm to Mary, and Paganel, respectfully escorting Arabella, enter.)
Glenorvan: Have us served, Mr. Innkeeper.
Innkeeper: Right away, your Lordship. (leaves)
Ayrton: (low) The lord in question.
Mary: (sadly) Milord hasn’t received any information since our arrival in Valparaiso?
Glenorvan: None, alas!
Arabella: So many wearisome things, so much violent emotions, and all this to no purpose on the chimerical direction of Mr. Geographer.
(They sit down to eat. Two waiters enter and serve the tea.)
Paganel: Don’t overwhelm me, milady, I am ceaselessly torturing myself to find a meaning in this document.
Arabella: And nothing?
Paganel: Nothing. (reading) "Captain Grant and his son."
(Ayrton and the others are startled.)
Ayrton: (low) What’s he saying?
Paganel: (still reading) "Bal—Austral—Britannia—"
Ayrton: It’s really a question of him! Let’s listen!
Paganel: (still reading) "Britannia—Austral—Bal—"
(Wilson, Thalcare and Robert enter.)
Glenorvan: Well, my friends?
Wilson: Nothing, milord, no clue!
Wilson: I have perused all the marine registers with the greatest care.
Robert: I’ve questioned all the employees, all the sailors.
Thalcare: I’ve seen all those of my brothers who have left our forests and pampas to come trade in this country.
Robert: And no one has been able to give us a single word of hope!
Mary: My father! My poor brother!
Forster: (aside) The daughter of Captain Grant?
Mary: Alas, all is over!
Glenorvan: Don’t despair, Miss Mary, I will search all the shores of the Australian Ocean, I will visit each island, each sand bar, I will restore your father to you, or I will die trying.
Dick: (low) It’s not good here for us. Let’s leave!
Ayrton: Stay put!
Paganel: (reading aside) Bal—what’s that word mane, bal? And agon—agon—If it’s not Patagonia, then what is it?
Robert: Well, Milord, since we no longer have any hope of finding our beloved castaways here—let’s not stay here any longer—I entreat you!
Robert: Think of their suffering, of their despair, and this long, cruel agony which is killing them.
Paganel: (leaping up and rapping on the document) Agony—yes, that’s it. Agony, it’s the end of the word agon—, and the country, the shore, the island where they are to be found must be the beginning of the world which begins by that syllable Bal—bal.
Dick: (low) Balher! He’s going to find it.
Forster: All is lost.
Ayrton: Silence. (aloud, rising and coming forward) Milord, praise God and thank him for leading me here and who made me hear you! If Captain Harry Grant is still living, he’s living on Australian earth.
(General consternation. Thalcare rises and comes forward.)
Paganel: Austral—that means Australia.
Glenorvan: Who are you to speak like this?
Ayrton: Who am I? The second of the Britannia.
All: The second of the Britannia?
Ayrton: I, who was able to escape from the hands of the Australian tribes.
Robert: Whose prisoners my brother and father are?
Ayrton: Yes, Robert Grant.
Glenorvan: And you left them?
Ayrton: Less than three months ago.
Mary: Living, living, right?
Ayrton: Yes, Mary Grant, living.
All: Ah! ah!
Robert: Ah! Mr. Ayrton, it’s you who will restore to us our father and our beloved brother James!
(Ayrton remains cold under Robert’s caresses.)
Bob: Brave lad! I’d like to be his father.
Arabella: (astonished) His father?
Bob: (catching himself) No—his—his aunt, milady, his aunt.
Ayrton: Robert Grant, let me find our captain again and I will be content.
Glenorvan: Look, speak, Ayrton! Tell us truly all that you know.
Ayrton: Milord, after making a lucky crossing around Cape Horn, the Britannia experienced a rough storm which half disabled it. It was necessary to flee across the Pacific to the Australian coast. There a new blast of wind, a cyclone, caused it the most serious damage, and it was cast on the rocks, where it was totally lost.
Paganel: On what part of the Australian coast?
Ayrton: On the southern part, 200 miles from Melbourne. Several of our unlucky companions perished in the shipwreck, but the Captain, his son and I reached land. There, some Australians, belonging to nomadic tribes, made us prisoners and they dragged us to the mouth of the Murray River.
Dick: (low to Forster) Bravo! That’s where our gang is!
Ayrton: For six months we suffered cruelly, but, by a lucky chance from which our captain and his son were not able, I was able to escape and reach a passenger ship which brought me here, where I am waiting to be repatriated.
Glenorvan: (shaking Ayrton’s hand) I will take care of you! Come aboard the Duncan, help us in our search, since you know the country.
Robert: Yes, yes, Mr. Ayrton.
Ayrton: I was going to request it of you, Milord. Like you, I no longer want to rest until we’ve found our captain.
Glenorvan: (to Ayrton) Finally, Ayrton, what do you advise us to do?
Ayrton: Milord, is the Duncan in shape to cross the Pacific?
Glenorvan: Yes, and by tomorrow it can leave Valparaiso.
Ayrton: Fine! We’ll head towards Australia and we’ll debark at Melbourne. The Duncan will wait in that port until it receives the order to come meet us, while we will go in search of the Australian tribe that must be encamped on the shores of the Murray River.
Glenorvan: Fine! It’s all settled! Tomorrow we will set en routes.
Ayrton: (to Forster, aside) And in a month, I Ben Jayce, will command the Duncan.
Glenorvan: Now, Thalcare, it remains for me to thank you and reward you for yours services.
Thalcare: I repeat to you, I don’t want any—
Glenorvan: But still!
Thalcare: Allow me to accompany you until the moment in which you find those you are seeking.
Glenorvan: But how will I be able to thank you for this new service?
Thalcare: Your friendship.
Ayrton: (aside) What’s this savage meddling in for? (to Thalcare) Thalcare, I am the friend of all here!
Thalcare: Of all? No!
Ayrton: What do you mean?
Thalcare: (looking him in the face) You are not mine.
Mulray: (entering and announcing) A messenger from the Governor of Valparaiso requests to speak to you, milord.
Glenorvan: Show him in. What can he want with us?
Ayrton: (to his comrades) I’ve succeeded. Tomorrow, during the tumult of the celebration, present yourselves aboard and the Duncan is ours!
Glenorvan: Till later, Ayrton, till later!
(Exit Ayrton, Dick and Forster.)
Mulray: (to officer) Here’s his Lordship.
Officer: Milord, I’ve been sent to you by his honor the Admiral-Governor of Valparaiso, who begs you to be present at a banquet and ball which will take place at the conclusion of the Festival that is being celebrated tonight by the Chilean milers.
Glenorvan: We accept this gracious invitation with great pleasure, and I beg you to transmit our thanks to the Governor. My friends, go make yours preparations. (the officer bows) Mulray, please see to it that the Duncan is decked out with flags like the other ships in the roadstead.
Mulray: Your Lordship’s orders will be executed.
(Mulray leaves, followed by the officer; Glenorvan leaves by the right. Then Elmira, disguised as a cabin boy, quickly approaches Paganel after making sure Glenorvan and the officer have left.)
Paganel: (to himself) On the south coast?
Elmira: Sir, sir!
Paganel: Huh! What do you want with me, young man?
Elmira: I know you, you are Mr. Paganel, the friend of Lord Glenorvan.
Paganel: Yes—and so what?
Elmira: You seem like a very brave man, sir, and I want you to obtain from milord—that he take me on board.
Paganel: As a cabin boy?
Elmira: No, sir, no! As a chamber maid.
Paganel: Chamber—ma—? What do you mean, young man—you want to become a chamber may—
Elmira: It’s that—I am not a young man, sir!
Paganel: Ah, bah! You are a—
Elmira: Yes, sir, born in Scotland, and I really want to return to my country.
Paganel: How, then, does it come about that you find yourself in Chile? And in these clothes?
Elmira: I am going to tell you! I had the misfortune of drowning my husband.
Paganel: You had? Sit down, then!
Elmira: I drowned my husband, yes, sir.
Paganel: Why, wretch, explain to me.
Elmira: (sweetly) Here it is! You must know first of all that I am jealous.
Elmira: (even more sweetly) Oh very jealous—enough to knife a person.
Elmira: (still sweetly) And that person—was my husband—a big—very good-looking—My Bob. I called him Bobbie! He was charming and I loved him; I adored him. That’s what made me drown him!
Paganel: Drowned—from love. I don’t understand.
Elmira: You are going to understand. One day we took a trip in a canoe together. And as, that very morning my good-looking little husband had been flirting with the women who passed by, I reproached him.
Elmira: Bit by bit the quarrel envenomed and became so violent that I seized him a bit roughly by the throat! I pushed him, he pushed me! I pushed him back! He pushed me back—and we both fell into the sea.
Paganel: And you were able to swim?
Elmira: Oh, luckily the wind rushed up my skirts and supported me on the waves—and the rising tide deposited me on the beach.
Paganel: And you survived?
Elmira: I was saved sir.
Paganel: Bravo! But Bobbie, that unlucky Bobbie! Gulp, gulp, gulp—
Elmira: Gulp, gulp! Yes, sir—
Paganel: And then?
Elmira: Pursued by remorse and fear of being arrested—I went to our lodgings, and dressed myself in a suit and clothes of my poor husband. It looked very becoming on me. Then the idea came to me of expatriating myself, and I left aboard a ship.
Paganel: As a cabin boy?
Elmira: Yes, sir—and that’s how I find myself in Chili! But remorse is pursuing me, alas! and I want to return to Scotland to get myself judged! I intend to expiate my crime, if I am convicted—or marry somebody else if I’m acquitted.
Paganel: The Duncan is not ready to return to Scotland, but I can get you a letter from Lord Glenorvan to the Captain of an English ship in this port, and at his request he will agree to repatriate you.
Elmira: Ah! sir, how kind.
Paganel: Wait here. I am going to send you this letter.
Elmira: A thousand thanks, sir.
Paganel: (looking at her) She’s sweet! Young cabin boy, you are nice!
Elmira: You are saying?
Paganel: I think that your judges will absolve you! As for poor Bobby— Gulp—gulp—gulp—! (leaves)
Elmira: Me too, I think they will absolve me! But for that, I would stay here alone. Oh! I am finally going to leave this frightful male attire! I will no longer be forced to clamber like a squirrel in the masts, to smoke this horrible pipe, to put the sailors on board off the track! (pulling a pipe from her pocket) Oh, this pipe! This abominable pipe! It’s been useless to break it a hundred times, one after the other, there’s always a shipmate quite ready to give me a new one! How amusing for them it would be to see that this disgusts me and they would force me to smoke! Ah, my Bob, you are well avenged.
Bob: (entering) Ah, there’s the little sailor in question.
Elmira: Someone’s coming! Let’s dissimulate some more.
Bob: (in a feminine voice) Young man—here’s a letter that— (looking at Elmira) a letter which— Ah! God of heaven!
Bob: (aside) What a funny resemblance to my wife!
Elmira: (aside) How this girl resembles my husband! (aloud) You were saying, Miss?
Bob: I was saying, young man! You mean—would you have a sister?
Elmira: Young lady—would you have a brother?
Bob: (trembling) A brother—me? no, no brother at all—but I have—I had—a wife.
Elmira: (moved) A wife! What do you mean, miss—you had a—?
Bob: A pretty little wife!
Elmira: Just like me, a pretty little husband.
Bob: Who you resemble enough to be mistaken for.
Elmira: Who you resemble feature for feature.
Bob: She had on her right side, near her ear, a birthmark—a very small birthmark— (passing to the left)
Elmira: One day, in a moment of rage he broke a tooth against my fist.
Bob: (looking at her closely) Ah! Great God! But there it is—the birthmark! It’s to be found there!
Elmira: (looking him in the mouth) Oh—heaven, why it’s not there! The tooth is no longer there!
Bob: (falling to his knees) Shade of my wife—is it you that I see under this masculine attire?
Elmira: (on her knees, too) Shade of my husband! Is it you who are appearing to me in this feminine dress?
Bob: You know, dearly beloved that I had no intention of making you drink as much as that!
Elmira: You know, o my adored, that I didn’t want to drown you completely! I loved you.
Bob: I cherished you!
Elmira: My Bob— My Bobbie!
Bob: My darling Elmira! (pinching her arms and face) O heaven! Why it resists. No—she’s not a ghost.
Elmira: (prodding him) He’s not a phantom!
Bob: No, no, I am really me!
Elmira: And I’m me! And I’m me!
Elmira: He’s alive!
(They hug each other several times and very fast.)
Bob: (shouting) Ah! how nice this is!
Elmira: (shouting) Ah! how nice this is!
Bob: (rising) No more frightful terrors
Elmira: (rising) No more horrible remorse!
Bob: (gravely) Ah! if folks knew what remorse is— They would hesitate sometimes to kill their wife.
Elmira: You’ve been faithful to me, right?
Bob: By Jove! I was passing for a woman. And you?
Elmira: I was passing for a man.
Bob: It’s over! I am retaking my sex and my sailor’s attire! No more feminine ribbons. (tearing off his wig) Give me my hat back! (takes it from her and puts it on his head) And I will be able to smoke my pipe. (taking the pipe which Elmira was carrying in the pocket of her vest) She has one of ’em. Oh joy! Got a light?
Elmira: (scratching a match) Yes, indeed, yes, indeed! Wait here!
Bob: She’s got a light. Ah! it’s so long since I’ve had the happiness of fuming as the French say.
Elmira: Well, fume, my little Bob, fume as much as you like!
Bob: (smoking) Hum! What joy, what delight, my wife, my sex and my pipe. I am getting them back all at once!
On the forecastle
Go smell the breeze
On the forecastle
Go smell the wind
Bob and Elmira: (together)
On the forecastle
Go smell the breeze
On the forecastle
Go smell the wind
(They dance a jig together.)
Arabella: (appearing at the back) Ah! Heavens! (Bob and Elmira separate) Horror! Horror! Abomination!
Bob: Yikes! It’s the nervous wreck.
Paganel: What’s wrong?
Arabella: My chamber maid is doing the tango with a young man.
Paganel: Why no, that young man is—
Bob: (yelling out) There’s no more chamber maid.
Elmira: There’s no more young man!
Arabella: And she’s smoking. She’s smoking a pipe.
Bob: Well, yes, I am smoking! Yes, I’m laughing, I’m singing and I’m dancing, with this gentleman—who is my wife.
Arabella: His wife?
Paganel: His wife is “hep”?
Bob: There’s no more Rebecca, and I am Bob, Bob the sailor, a thousand posts, a thousand starboards, a thousand comrades.
Arabella: A man! my chamber maid was a young man! (forcefully) Oh! what a shame, I won’t survive it!
Paganel: Calm down, milady, calm down. Arabella No. I: don’t wish to see such abominations any longer! I want to go back on board, alone, in my cabin! My purse? Where is my purse?
Paganel: Here it is, milady.
Arabella: Fine. Put in there my fan, my flask, and this little muff—and my parakeet in her cage! Then, my shawl! Hurry up, will you hurry up!
Elmira: Hurry up, sir.
(Paganel puts the fan and the flask of smelling salts in the bag, then he places the muff into the cage, and the parakeet into the bag—and finally over it, the shawl, which he squeezes in with punches.)
Paganel: It’s done, milady, it’s done.
Arabella: Give my your arm and let’s leave.
Arabella: Away, wretched woman! And I was thinking of getting her a husband! Let’s get going! (to Paganel) Your arm.
Paganel: Milady, I’ve only got two of ’em.
(Paganel holds the cage in one hand and the sack in the other.)
Arabella: (taking the cage) Come, my adored parakeet! Come on—ah— (looking at the cage) Come on—what’s this?
Paganel: (sweetly) The parakeet, Louisa! The pretty parakeet!
Arabella: (holding the cage under her eyes) This, this, this!
Paganel: That’s the muff! What’s the muff doing in there?
Arabella: (forcefully) Louisa? Where is Louisa? Ah, my God! Could he have possibly? (opens the bag and pulls out the suffocated parakeet) Dead! She’s dead!
Paganel: Really, what a funny idea to stuff a parakeet in an overnight bag!
Arabella: Why, it was you, sir! You are an assassin!
(Arabella falls swooning into a chair.)
Arabella: Louisa, my poor Louisa!
Paganel: (aside) Could it really be that I am a bit distracted?
The Stage represents a large, very ornate square in Valparaiso.