A room in Robert’s home; doors to the right and left at the back; in the middle a chimney, a grandfather clock, vases of flowers, lighted candles; to the left a door, a round table; mid-stage a table, a bell, armchairs on each side, to the spectator’s right, a door, a sofa.
AT RISE, Baptiste comes through the door at the left, then listens at the door.
BAPTISTE: You can hear them from here. (coming forward) My word! It’s my opinion that when the masters are fighting at dinner, the servants are wise to get out. (Ringing. Shrugging his shoulders he sits on the sofa) It’s true that complicates the service; you don’t know if they are speaking seriously or joking. (More ringing) and you don’t know what expression to wear, if you should smile or take on a grave manner.
ROBERT: (entering) Ah! so this is the way you come when you are called?
BAPTISTE: Sir, it’s that—
ROBERT: That’ll do—Bring me my overcoat and my hat.
(Laurence enters, dismisses Baptiste with a gesture; he bows slightly and leaves.)
LAURENCE: So, Robert, you’ve really decided to give yourself over this evening to bachelors? (coming towards the right)
ROBERT: Again! Ah, indeed, we’re going to start all over again! Isn’t it a matter that’s agreed to?
LAURENCE: On the contrary, I was hoping that my remarks—
ROBERT: But your remarks are childish my dear friend; I don’t intend, by taking them seriously, to makes us as ridiculous as they are !
LAURENCE: Ridiculous! Because you would have made a small sacrifice to me?
ROBERT: Eh! My God! ask me something reasonable! But, I remind you, look!—to prevent me from going out this evening, going to this meeting—such a fantasy! a whim so puerile!
LAURENCE: I’ve seen time when you wouldn’t even have dreamed of arguing.
ROBERT: Ah! That was really my fault, by God! It’s from having, from the beginning, such an abnegation of my authority, that from concession to concession, you enjoy tyranny and my humiliation.
ROBERT: (dwelling on it) Yes! Humiliation! Truly, if I let you do it, I won’t be a man, but a child led by the apron strings. I can neither leave nor return without consulting your good pleasure! And I would never go to see good friends at night, except stealthily, and by sliding along the wall like a man about to commit a crime.
LAURENCE: Oh! it’s not a crime!
ROBERT: You’re too good!
LAURENCE: But it’s a fault!
ROBERT: Well, my darling Laurence, the wise sin seven times a day; so, I am within the limits of wisdom, because since this morning I’ve as yet committed only two faults!
LAURENCE: You are so modest! Which ones?
ROBERT: The first is to have spoken to you of this announced party, instead of dreaming up some pretext; the second is having debated with you my right to go there! I will therefor permit myself to commit a third, which will be to deliver myself to this soiree when the hour comes.
LAURENCE: You are making me understand a bit cruelly that you are the absolute master of your actions.
ROBERT: Look, Laurence, it’s not serious is it? And this nasty quarrel is too harsh. Give me your little hand, and let’s not speak of it any more! I’m excitable and I get carried away—I’m wrong,—but be reasonable also, and don’t sulk at me like a child! You have enough confidence in me so that ideas of independence shouldn’t bear umbrage to you; I grant you the same rights, because I have the same confidence. And with all, the result is, in thinking it over carefully, we’ve been crazy right now and rather clumsy towards each other.(going to embrace her)
LAURENCE: (rising) Speak for yourself.
ROBERT: (a bit annoyed) So be it! as you like! Baptiste! (Baptiste enters with coat and hat and leaves)
LAURENCE: I thought this little debauch wasn’t beginning until nine o’clock, and it’s hardly—
ROBERT: It’s the hour at which husbands decamp when wives want to cage them up.
LAURENCE: Very witty!
ROBERT: The spirit of Freedom, that’s all! I would have had pleasure in keeping you company still, if you’d wanted to be more amiable; but I prefer to leave you than to continue the conversation in this tone; I’m leaving then; I’m going to my club, because my friend Maxime Duvernet gave me a rendez-vous there, because I must present him to my other friend, Horace. I don’t know when I’ll be back, because I don’t know at what time this Roman orgy will end, and now my dear Laurence, after having responded to my inquisitor, my “because” has the honor of bowing to your “why”! (he leaves by the back.)
LAURENCE: No—he’s distancing himself—(listening) He’s gone! It’s the first time that he didn’t return to kiss me and to ask my pardon. Perhaps I was too severe, too? If I were to call him? He’s too far away. And then, in the end, he’s the one who’s wrong, not me! To leave me alone! a whole evening! Oh! if he’d told me this that it would only take a year! And yet I ought to have suspected that the third year of marriage would be difficult to get through, the other two were so sweet—it couldn’t last! (hearing the door open) What’s that?I’m not at home to anybody!
ROQUEFEUILLE: (entering) Not even to your old friend Roquefeuille?
LAURENCE: Ah! except for him! (she offers him here hand)
ROQUEFEUILLE: Thanks for the favor! But allow the elect to protest for the damned: a pretty girl has no right to flee the world like this and to deprive herself of the admiration of all. Here’s for me! (he extends his hand to her) And here’s for the others. (he kisses her other hand several times)
LAURENCE: (withdrawing her hand) Well, well, again!
ROQUEFEUILLE: (continuing) Hell! There’s a crowd of ’em!
LAURENCE: You are gallant this evening, my dear notary!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah! now there’s a word which has the effect of ice on me! Don’t call me notary if you appreciate my gallantry some little bit. Do I resemble a notary? Maxime ought to be here, where is he?
LAURENCE: He’s not here.
ROQUEFEUILLE: And Robert?
LAURENCE: He’s isn’t here any more.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Oh! oh! The way you say that!
LAURENCE: Ah! my dear Roquefeuille, try to distract me, and be gay for the two of us, for I am very sad.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Is it possible? Tell me about this right away! What’s the matter with you?
LAURENCE: Nothing—not even—my husband!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Robert the devil?
LAURENCE: Now there you are joking!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah! ah! the situation’s serious. You are saying to me: Be gay, without informing yourself if it’s my time for it! I am making every effort, and you are not satisfied. There is something—
ROQUEFEUILLE: Well, are you going to confess? I know more than one ear that would be eager to hear the pretty sins of a woman! I am loaning you mine. Admit that your husband left as the result of a little discussion.
ROQUEFEUILLE: I suspected as much. And this discussion just came because you’ve never really understood the respective roles of spouses. Wait, look at the first carriage passing by. There’s a man in the seat and a horse in the harness.
LAURENCE: That’s their place!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Agreed! But why? The horse is stronger, and if it wanted to, it could carry away the man and the carriage, and it’s he who leads it. So the man who knows it, bewares of irritating the horse, he flatters it, he caresses it with his voice, with his hand, and thanks to this mutual agreement, the carriage runs without accident. Well, dear lady, you leaned on the bridle too much and your husband is kicking.
LAURENCE: I fear it!
ROQUEFEUILLE: I was sure of it! Robert didn’t leave—he escaped—he has the bit in his teeth.
LAURENCE: You think so?
ROQUEFEUILLE: It’s evident! Ah! how right a great moralist was to say: Marriage is a battle to end, before which spouses ask heaven for its blessing.!
LAURENCE: Thanks, my dear notary!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Again! No more notary or I won’t laugh any more ! And don’t remind me of a profession that horrifies me!
LAURENCE: That horrifies you!
ROQUEFEUILLE: That horrifies me! A notary is serious, bureaucratic, earnest, zealous, one who enscribes, who makes contracts and who heaps frightful dossiers in boxes in his horrifying study, he’s a public calamity!I denounce him to the hatred of his fellow citizens, to whom he loans his ministry to all the disasters of life.Mortgages, testaments, and marriages! The good, the true, the perfect notary, that’s me! I don’t take myself serious, not me! Never! When a client consults me about the acquisition of real estate, I prove to him by A plus B that the land is in a mediocre location, or he’ll reap less wheat than the law suit, and the client takes away his money. Let another one call me to receive his will and I demonstrate to him he’s getting ready to make ingrates, and he decides to cure them. All profit ! Finally, a third asks me to draw up a marriage contract, I escort him to the solicitor, my neighbor, whose specialty is separations, and from there to the Cafe Anglais, where I demonstrate the joys of bachelorhood through the fumes of champagne! And he gets married all the same—But in the end, he gets married!
LAURENCE: You must have a pretty clientele.
ROQUEFEUILLE: The most pretty clientele in Paris. An honest man always makes his way.
LAURENCE: You will end by converting me—and if my contract was to do over—
ROQUEFEUILLE: You would hurl the pen in the fire?
LAURENCE: I would sign it with both hands! I love my poor Robert so much!
ROQUEFEUILLE: He loves you, too, by God!
LAURENCE: No question, but not like he used to.
ROQUEFEUILLE: He’s right to seek variety. Boredom is born the same day as uniformity.
LAURENCE: It’s a long way from Paris to Mauritius, where we met each other, where we loved each other!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Three thousand leagues if you consult the Atlas .
LAURENCE: An immensity, if I consult his heart!
ROQUEFEUILLE: That’s the rule! You are telling me about Mauritius. Consider Paul and Virginie, if Paul had married Virginie, where would Virginie be tonight? Beside the fireplace—and Paul at his club!
LAURENCE: Still, if it were just his club. But after the club, Paul and his friend Maxine must finish their evening with a bachelor reunion.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Well, so much the better.
LAURENCE: So much the better for whom?
ROQUEFEUILLE: For you. Your husband’s reverting to bachelorhood, and you, you are reverting to being a young miss. On his return their will be a new marriage, that the two of you will contract.
LAURENCE: My dear Roquefeuille, I don’t like to remarry so often.
ROQUEFEUILLE: It’s still the best thing to do if you’ve been clumsy enough to marry the first time.
LAURENCE: (laughing) Heavens! you are impossible!
ROQUEFEUILLE: There you go! There’s a smile!
LAURENCE: Ah! if you could only give me a way of preventing Robert from going to that party!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Get a warrant for his arrest.
LAURENCE: I would like something less violent.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Let’s see if we can find one!
BAPTISTE: Madam—I beg madame’s pardon—does madame know if monsieur will return soon?
LAURENCE: I am unaware—Why this question?
BAPTISTE: It’s that—there’s a very urgent letter for him.
BAPTISTE: They brought it this morning; but I don’t know how it happened
ROQUEFEUILLE: You forgot it in your pocket?
BAPTISTE: Yes, sir.
ROQUEFEUILLE: What a race!—All the same!
LAURENCE: Give me that letter. (Baptiste leaves—to Roquefeuille) This rush to leave—If it was a rendez-vous? A letter—
ROQUEFEUILLE: Come on, calm down, calm down, calm down—
LAURENCE: I don’t have the strength. Here, look for yourself.
ROQUEFEUILLE: (taking the letter and opening it) A letter!
LAURENCE: (excitedly) A letter?
ROQUEFEUILLE: Of warning!
LAURENCE: (joyfully) Of warning?
ROQUEFEUILLE: And for tonight, even—It’s not a drum, it’s Fortune, in the guise of a police officer that brought this letter.
LAURENCE: What do you mean?
ROQUEFEUILLE: Allow me to give orders in your name. (Calling) Baptiste! (Baptiste appears) You are going to take this letter to your master at his club and you will deliver it to his own hands.
BAPTISTE: He is going to receive me very ill.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah! that’s your affair, isn’t it?
LAURENCE: Go! (Baptiste takes a few steps.)
BAPTISTE: (returning) Ah! Doctor Duvernet is asking if Mr. Roquefeuille is here.
LAURENCE: Maxine? Show him in!
LAURENCE: Now, my friend, what is your plan?
ROQUEFEUILLE: You haven’t understood: your husband is in a relapsed state; it’s prison for him. He cannot fail to obey, and my word, if he doesn’t spend the night with his wife, he won’t be spending it at his club, nor in the company of bachelors.
LAURENCE: Ah! it’s true!—Is he going to be in a bad mood! Well, so much the better, let him be enraged.
(Laurence leaves by the right.)
ROQUEFEUILLE: Now there’s a nasty wife, for goodness sake! And they want me to get married? Oh, no!
MAXIME: (entering) I just came from your place.
ROQUEFEUILLE: I was counting on finding you here.
MAXIME: I was hastening to announce my happiness to you! She’s come, my friend.
ROQUEFEUILLE: She’s come! Ah, bah! Who’s She?
MAXIME: Why Leonie! The friend of Madame Maubray!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Madame de Vanvres! She! Leonie! A pronoun! A baptismal name! Why what sort of manners are these?
MAXIME: Eh! what better word than that of She! It says everything! it sums it all up! She! that means beauty, grace, wit—beloved, adored, venerated wife. She, the sole, the unique, the ideal—perfection itself!She! she, at last!
ROQUEFEUILLE: And him—brains blown out!—him—evaporated, him, senseless, the deranged, the mad, him at last!
MAXIME: Yes, yes, make fun of me! I am happy and I permit you to do it. I am young, I am rich, I’m neither hunchbacked, nor bandy-legged, nor twisted. I am a doctor, esteemed, loved, and I have only one passion in the world: voyaging! It seems to forbid me love and especially marriage; how to hope that a woman would want to join her fate to that of a being so restless, so inconstant, so nomadic? Well, no! fortune or rather heaven made me meet in Madame de Vanvres, a widow more passionate than myself for continual displacements, a frantic, irrepressible traveler! And, my friend, I hope to obtain the hand of this woman, to possess her and to take a world tour with her!
ROQUEFEUILLE: It’s bewitching!
MAXIME: She’s coming! I can publish the banns, prepare the contract, buy gloves and order the wedding presents.
ROQUEFEUILLE: And how do you know?
MAXIME: Ah! from a letter written to Madame Maubray which I got this morning—and here it is!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Covered with stamps of every color and all shapes, dirty, yellow with the dust of every chancellery! In your place I would put vinegar on it; I’d only hold it with pincers!
MAXIME: Cold and vulgar soul, read, read!
ROQUEFEUILLE: It’s dated?
MAXIME: Last month. She’s wandered on her way coming through Seville.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah, bah! Seville! I thought it existed only in
Do you know in Barcelona?
(resuming) No! And this letter?
MAXIME: Ah! only two lines, but two lines that, without mentioning my name, still reveal the most tender passion, the most true love.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Let’s have a look at it. (reading) After leaving Seville, I am returning immediately to Paris by way of Naples and Switzerland.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah, that’s the most tender passion, the most true love! An itinerary!
MAXIME: What! you don’t find this adorable? Returning to Paris—she—for me! and returning directly, even!
ROQUEFEUILLE: With quite a little detour—
MAXIME: To get here more quickly! to get here more quickly!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah! the two of you will make two pretty wackos.
MAXIME: Not at all, two comets, quite simply two comets, as for me that of 1828, she, that of 1832. We are describing immense angles through the whole world, but sometimes our orbits cross, and—
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah!, really, no, no! you are becoming too flighty.
ROBERT: It’s the work of misfortune! Don’t they understand what’s happening to me?—Hello, Maxime! At the moment in which I’m going to leave—Hello, Roquefeuille
MAXIME: What’s wrong with you?
ROQUEFEUILLE: (aside) I’ve got a shrewd idea—
ROBERT: What’s wrong with me? I just got a letter at my club!
MAXIME: A billet doux?
ROQUEFEUILLE: A bill to pay?
ROBERT: A letter of notice!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah, the devil!
ROBERT: And the worst is I’ve exhausted all warnings prior to discipline! Now it’s impossible to go to that soiree!
ROQUEFEUILLE: (aside) Come on now!
MAXIME: Oh! as for me, I renounce it very willingly!
ROBERT: It’s not that I cling to it unreasonably; for the prospect of a night spent side by side with my tailor and my bookmaker truly wasn’t amusing.
ROQUEFEUILLE: All the same a camp bed is uncomfortable!
ROBERT: The devil take them! I won’t go!
ROQUEFEUILLE: And prison?
ROBERT: That’s right, prison! Ah, if I’d kept it, this drum!
ROQUEFEUILLE: You would beat the drum?
ROBERT: And, what’s still more irritating, for this cursed soiree to which I cannot go any more, I almost quarrelled with my wife!
MAXIME: What! you’ve already had discussions about it with Madame Maubray?
ROQUEFEUILLE: If it’s already gone that far, by Jove! Where do you expect to find yourself? You are married, that’s what it is! Big kids who won’t jump in the water without knowing how to swim, and who hurl themselves head first into the abyss of marriage! You study ten years to be an engineer of bridges and highways, doctor or pianist, and you expect to divine, without learning it, this quite difficult art of being happy in living together—! happy living together!
MAXIME: Always the same song!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Why, ignoramuses! obstinate donkeys that you are—do you know that a German physiologist has published a work just on conjugal duties and that it runs to twelve volumes?
MAXIME: A real dictionary!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Yes, a dictionary from A amour! to Z zero! All of marriage is there!
ROBERT: Look, I’m married, isn’t that true? It’s not the condition of marriage that worries me tonight, it’s the condition of being a citizen.
MAXIME: Hold on, I am considering!
MAXIME: Ah, indeed! so you are in the National Guard, are you?
ROBERT: That’s what you call a consideration?
MAXIME: You’ve been naturalised as French since your marriage?
ROBERT: What’s the good? What are you getting at?
MAXIME: At this: The French alone are admitted to the honor of serving in this institution: if Robert is not French; he can’t be in the National Guard.
ROBERT: You would really please me by proving that paradox, for goodness sake; I was brought up in Mauritius, that’s true, but I was born in the Faubourg Saint Germaine; my mother and father were French.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Indeed! The case seems settled to me. You are French, my dear fellow, go stand guard!
MAXIME: One moment!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Aesclapius demands the floor.
MAXIME: What Robert said is perfectly correct; but what he didn’t say is that born in Paris, Faubourg Saint Germain, if his mother was French, he had a perfectly English father, a pure blooded Englishman.
ROBERT: Agreed! But my father was naturalised as French,
ROQUEFEUILLE: Just a minute! This is becoming serious. Was your father naturalized before or after your birth?
MAXIME: It was after.
ROBERT: That’s possible, by a year or two, perhaps! I think I recall it was in the year that preceded our departure for Mauritius.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Then, my dear chap, don’t go stand guard, you are not French.
ROBERT: What a joke! Am I Parisian?
ROQUEFEUILLE: You are Parisian, because you were born in Paris, that’s evident; but you are English because your father was English at the moment of your birth. You are an English-Parisian, that’s all, or a Parisian-English, as you like, it all the same to me!
MAXIME: You see, you consult the law and the law replies to you.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah! I understand you! It seems strange that a kid of two years would have a definite personality; but your father who had a right to whip you, didn’t have the right to confer nationality—That’s all!
ROBERT: Goodness, goodness! This seems comical to me! I am English—Here I am English!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Perfectly right, sir.
ROBERT: That doesn’t change me.
MAXIME: Want to see?
ROQUEFEUILLE: Want to see? You have absolutely the same head; only you are no longer a voter in France, nor fit for jury, nor the national guard.
MAXIME: (emphasizing) Nor that National Guard!
ROBERT: I am no longer in The National Guard! I no longer mount my guard! Long Live John Bull! A cheer for John Bull!
ROQUEFEUILLE: I don’t know your John Bull.
ROBERT: That doesn’t signify—Hurrah! hurrah! (all three shout)
MAXIME: Stop! stop!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah, husband, go! If you are not French you are really worthy of being so!
ROBERT: (noticing Laurence) My wife! Heavens, indeed, now that I am English—Is she English, too?
MAXIME: Ah, madame, we have a curious thing to impart to you.
ROBERT: (low to Maxime) Well, you aren’t going—and my soiree?
MAXIME: Don’t worry, I will stop in time.
LAURENCE: And me, I’ve got big news to announce to you.
ROBERT: I suspect yours is better than ours.
LAURENCE: You are going to judge.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Guess that your husband is?
LAURENCE: Is what?
ROBERT: (low to Laurence) The most repentant of men.
LAURENCE: The most certain of my forgiveness.
MAXIME: Why, no, why, no!
LAURENCE: Why, yes!
MAXIME: I mean to say that Robert has been deceived as to his nationality which is English. You’ve married an Englishman!
LAURENCE: Ah! an Englishman! What folly!
MAXIME: What do you think of my news?
LAURENCE: And you of mine: Leonie is in France!
MAXIME: Can it be true?
LAURENCE: Better still! she is here, and (Leonie appears) here she is! MAXIME AND ROBERT: Madame de Vanvres!
ROQUEFEUILLE: As friend Maxime say: It’s she.
LEONIE: Myself (to Robert) My dear Maubray! My dear Roquefeuille.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah, for goodness sake, now there’s a pleasant surprise!
ROBERT: Be welcome, Madame.
LEONIE: I got in from Geneva just now, and, you see, my first visit is for my best friend.
LAURENCE: (embracing her) And your best friends thank you for it!
MAXIME: Not a word for me, madame?
LEONIE: Mr. Maxime, my intrepid traveler!
MAXIME: You didn’t expect to see me again?
LEONIE: Why no, I assure you, and even—
MAXIME: What! those words you deigned to pronounce one day? that promise of marriage?
LEONIE: Me marry, when I am free, independent? Oh! no, no!
ROQUEFEUILLE: (to Maxime) What was that you were telling me, you with your world tour?
MAXIME: But I thought—
ROQUEFEUILLE: A widow! A pussy cat—a scalded pussy cat!
LEONIE: What do you mean! he told you—Ha, ha, ha—Imagine, that the first time chance threw us together was in Lisbon. We met as compatriots, and far from France, a compatriot is a bit of the country, and then at the first words exchanged, we suddenly found ourselves in the country of familiarity, we talked of you, of your husband, of natary, of Roquefeuille, I tell you—The next day
ROBERT: The next day—
LEONIE: We shook hands like old friends, then the steamship took Mr. Duvernet to Rotterdam, and I took the flight to Algiers.
ROQUEFEUILLE: And that’s all. A novel that stops after the first chapter?
MAXIME: No, indeed, that’s not all! A year later, a new meeting at Vesuvius!
ROQUEFEUILLE: The Devil!
MAXIME: This time, I expressed to Madame all the passionate feelings that her sight gave birth to in me. I spoke to her of love, passion, fires, flames—She replied to me—
MAXIME: And the next day, a new departure, new separation!
LEONIE: Yes, but instead of taking the hand I offered him in friendship, didn’t he have the audacity to ask for it?
LAURENCE: And you replied—?
MAXIME: Oh, an unheard of, strange, incredible thing! Madame replies that she has no time; but if chance reunited us somewhere for eleven days in Paris, she would give me the right to run around the world with her.
ALL: Eleven days!
MAXIME: You did say it?
LEONIE: Assuredly! Don’t you know it takes eleven days to get married?
ROQUEFEUILLE: The fact is that if men were wise it would take eleven years.
MAXIME: Well, here we are in Paris, and—
LEONIE: Yes, but I’m leaving tomorrow.
(Baptiste brings in a platter with tea on it, places it on the table and leaves.)
LAURENCE: (aside) We will see about that.
LEONIE: My place is reserved at Havre, on the Panama, headed for Mauritius.
MAXIME: And you believe that I will let you leave? No, madame; must I, in my capacity as doctor, poison the mate and the Captain of the Panama, it shall not leave!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Yes, madam; it’s been decided to quarantine all boats leaving France before eleven days have passed! like the Duke of Buckingham!
MAXIME: And I will leave with you! like it or not!
ROQUEFEUILLE: He’s in his role! an absurd role, but he knows his part.
LEONIE: So as not to respond, I shall accept a cup of tea.
LAURENCE: Here it is, my dear Leonie.
MAXIME: For in the end your promises—Would you like some sugar?
ROBERT: (to Roquefeuille, offering tea) Marry!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Don’t marry! Maxime: Your promises?
LEONIE: Yes, give me some cream.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Don’t marry!
LEONIE: Ah! while I’m thinking of it, my dear Maubray, I have a service to demand of you, a letter of recommendation! You probably know our French Counsel in Mauritius?
ROBERT: Perfectly! Monsieur de La Salle.
LEONIE: That’s him indeed!
ROBERT: Do I know him! It was he who married us.
ROQUEFEUILLE: (swallowing and choking) Huh?
ROBERT: Well, what’s the matter with him?
MAXIME: He’s plotting mischief.
ROQUEFEUILLE: It was the French Consul who married you?
ROBERT: Yes. What of it?
ROQUEFEUILLE: Nothing to me? Oh! nothing! less than nothing!
LEONIE: What’s wrong with him?
LAURENCE: He cannot hear of marriage with out choking.
LEONIE: And now will you allow a little rest to a traveler who hasn’t shut her eye all night?
LAURENCE: It’s not late! Eleven o’clock!
ROBERT: Eleven o’clock—and honor calls me to the flag! Let’s go dress up in uniform, and wake to the Hail to the Empire.
MAXIME: Will you allow me, madame, to offer you my arm to your carriage?
LEONIE: At the moment it’s only the arm that I accept. (to Laurence) Bye! (hugging her)
LAURENCE: Bye! Till tomorrow, right?
LEONIE: Till tomorrow! Well, Roquefeuille has become mute. Watch out! he’s got some needle concealed under that rock.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Me, I—
LEONIE: We won’t ask your secrets of you. Goodbye! (She offers him her hand, Roquefeuille with a distracted air, gives her his tea-cup and notices her mirth. He confounds himself with excuses; Leonie, laughs goes to Maxime.)
MAXIME: (low to Robert) Decidedly, I am not going to Horace’s place.
(Maxime leaves with Leonie.)
ROBERT: Goodnight, Roquefeuille. (he speaks to his wife) My darling Laurence, how bored I’m going to be far away from you!
(Robert kisses Laurence; she escorts him to the door. Roquefeuille who had taken a few steps, profits by the moment Laurence accompanies Robert to go into the other room to return and place his cane on the couch, and leaves on tip toe.)
LAURENCE: (alone) If my husband is bored on guard duty there will be sympathy between us at least.
ROQUEFEUILLE: (entering at the back) Where’d I put my cane?
LAURENCE: (pointing the cane out to him) There it is!
ROQUEFEUILLE: (in a low voice) I know that well enough!
LAURENCE: What do you mean?
ROQUEFEUILLE: Hush! (he listens) You cannot imagine the services this cane has rendered me in analogous circumstances.
LAURENCE: Ah, indeed! explain to me—
ROQUEFEUILLE: Yes, I am going to explain the most singular fact, the most incredible, the most incomprehensible—the most—
LAURENCE: Hurry up indeed! Mr. de Sevigne!
ROQUEFEUILLE: First of all assure me that I am not deceiving myself. Allow me a question: we are alone?
LAURENCE: Absolutely alone! Speak quickly—You are beginning to frighten me.
ROQUEFEUILLE: You know what Mr. Duvernet told you as to the nationality of your husband? of Robert, I mean?
LAURENCE: Why do you hesitate? Robert and my husband are one in the same!
ROQUEFEUILLE: A notary—allow me to resume my notary capacity for a moment—is held to the greatest rigor in the choice of his terms. So, I repeat, do you have Robert’s birth certificate?
LAURENCE: It must be in his desk in his room.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Then would you go find it for me?
LAURENCE: But yet once more—
ROQUEFEUILLE: Do it, I beg you, my dear lady, what I ask of you; after that I will answer all your questions. Ah! would you bring me your marriage certificate. (Laurence leaves) On honor! this will be very funny. But it’s impossible; if Robert is unaware of it, the Consul must know the law.
LAURENCE: (returning with a bunch of papers.) Here’s what I found.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Thanks! (leafing through them) Birth certificate. Naturalisation papers. Maxime told the truth. Robert was two when his father was naturalized as French. Therefore, Robert is English. The marriage certificate! It really took place before the French Consul in Mauritius. But why didn’t the Consul demand production of the birth certificate? Ah! here it is! Robert appeared in the character of a French person, and the birth certificate, being in France was replaced by an affidavit of citizenship. (aside) Now I understand.
LAURENCE: Well! Am I to have the key to this enigma?
ROQUEFEUILLE: The key! You promise me you won’t cry?
LAURENCE: Why no, my God!
ROQUEFEUILLE: And that you aren’t going to faint?
LAURENCE: Ah! you are making me impatient! Speak quickly, I insist!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Well, miss—
ROQUEFEUILLE: You are not married.
LAURENCE: I am not married!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Your marriage is nul and void. Article 170—
LAURENCE: Nul and void!
ROQUEFEUILLE: (shutting her mouth) Hush! you promised not to scream!
LAURENCE: (shaking) Ah! my God!
ROQUEFEUILLE: You promised not to faint!
LAURENCE: It’s not possible! you are playing with me. It’s a shameful joke!
ROQUEFEUILLE: I never joke after midnight.
LAURENCE: Well then, don’t tell me this! I am crazy to have listened to you for a single moment. You’ve got the proof of my marriage in your hands.
ROQUEFEUILLE: It’s precisely because I have this proof in hand, that I repeat to you: “You are not married.”
LAURENCE: Ah! for the last time!
ROQUEFEUILLE: The public officer was incompetent. It’s as if you were married before a Forest Guard!
LAURENCE: (losing her head) Why, this is horrible! Why it’s not my fault! But it’s frightful! But, how was he able to do it?
ROQUEFEUILLE: Eh! my God! quite simply! Robert thought he was French and he wasn’t!
LAURENCE: Oh! my God, my god! Why what’s going to become of me then? But I am not Robert’s wife; I am only his—
ROQUEFEUILLE: Come on! courage, calm down we will consider how to repair this. Happily, you have the entire night to consider.
LAURENCE: Yes, you are right; I’m going—(Robert’s voice is heard)
LAURENCE: (terrified) Robert’s voice!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Already! Get hold of yourself and receive him!
LAURENCE: Oh! no.
LAURENCE: Speak to him now! Why, am I able?
ROQUEFEUILLE: But, still—
LAURENCE: No, I don’t wish to see him! My head is gone! I won’t know what to say to him! He will guess everything. Oh! why, no, I don’t wish to see him!
ROQUEFEUILLE: But a husband—
LAURENCE: But is he my husband now? And think that—Ah, no indeed. (She escapes to the right)
ROQUEFEUILLE: (perplexed) Ah! that’s right!
ROBERT: (outside) That’s fine, that’s fine—you can go to bed—(Entering) Heavens! you are still here, you?
ROQUEFEUILLE: Eh! damn it! yes—I’ve been looking for my cane for the last half hour. Where the devil did I hide my cane?
ROBERT: Why, there it is.
ROQUEFEUILLE: Heavens! it’s true, there it is! Thanks! Goodnight!
ROBERT: Listen then!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah!! yes, I really have time!
ROBERT: Two words!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ta, ta, a rendez-vous. Someone’s waiting for me, a romantic rendez-vous!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Eh, you understand, I’m keeping my cane; a romantic rendez-vous, you never know what will happen; I’m keeping my cane. (Roquefeuille goes to take his hat from the chimney.)
ROBERT: That’s my hat!
ROQUEFEUILLE: Ah! (he puts it back and takes his own)
ROBERT: And your cane?
ROQUEFEUILLE: I know where it is, that’s all I need. Goodnight, and you, too! Thanks—Ouf! (he escapes)
ROBERT: Is he mad? Still, not as much as I am. How absurd we are! I told a lie to my wife, I deceived her for an hour of freedom, and no sooner was I at Horace’s place than boredom took me by the throat and suffocated me. It’s truly stupid, these bachelor meetings, and I don’t understand how I was able. But repentance always follows sin, and I’ve come to confess everything. Laurence must be in her room and I—(goes to open the door; it is locked; he raps, no response, astonished) Ah! locked!