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Title: The Princess of Bagdad - a play in three acts
Author: Dumas, Alexandre, 1824-1895
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE
PRINCESS OF BAGDAD,

A PLAY IN THREE ACTS,

BY
ALEXANDRE DUMAS, JUN.,
_Of the "Académie Française."_

(TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH.)

UNDER THE SANCTION OF THE AUTHOR.

London:

MARCHANT SINGER & CO.,

INGRAM COURT, FENCHURCH STREET.

1881.

_N.B.--All rights reserved._



   _DRAMATIS PERSONÆ._

    JOHN DE HUN.
    NOURVADY.
    GODLER.
    RICHARD.
    TRÉVELÉ.
    A COMMISSARY OF POLICE.
    LIONNETTE.
    RAOUL DE HUN (six years).
    A LADY'S-MAID.
    A NURSE.
    ANTHONY.
    A FOOTMAN.
    A SECRETARY OF THE COMMISSARY OF POLICE.
    TWO AGENTS.

    IN PARIS.



THE PRINCESS OF BAGDAD.



ACT I.

     _A large and very elegant drawing-room, looking out on a garden.
     French window with balcony at the lower extremity to the right. To
     the left a conservatory. To the right a door opening into the
     apartment of_ LIONNETTE. _To the left a door opening into the
     apartment of_ JOHN.


SCENE I.

RICHARD, THE FOOTMAN; afterwards JOHN and LIONNETTE.

THE FOOTMAN (_to_ RICHARD, _who waits sitting near a table, turning over
some papers_.)

The Count de Hun is here.

JOHN _enters_; _the_ FOOTMAN _goes out_.

JOHN.

I am quite at your service, Master Richard, but I regret that you have
inconvenienced yourself to come.

RICHARD.

Not at all; I live about two steps from here, and every evening, after
my dinner, I take a short walk. Only, I am in a frock-coat, and you have
friends.

JOHN.

Men only, some club friends. Lionnette is with them in the conservatory.

RICHARD.

Muster all the courage of which you are master.

JOHN.

We are ruined?

RICHARD.

Yes.

JOHN.

Poor Lionnette!

RICHARD.

Alas! It is a little her fault.

JOHN.

It is the fault of her mother, who reared her in luxury and without
order. It is my fault, too, who was not as rich as my love; who not only
never knew how to refuse her anything, but who did not even allow her
time to wish for it; who told her to buy whatever she might wish for.

RICHARD.

And who also gave her by power of attorney--serious imprudence!--the
right of buying, selling, of disposing of her property, and, in
consequence, of yours, as it seemed fit to her. You owe one million, a
hundred and seven thousand, one hundred and twenty-seven francs,
fifty-two centimes. When I say, you owe, that is a figure of speech;
your wife owes. In that amount there are only thirty-eight thousand
francs of your own personal debts, and for which personally you have to
be responsible, as you were married under the system of "separation of
property."

JOHN.

I authorised my wife to make debts, these debts then are mine. In other
words, as she has no money, it is I who have to pay. What are my assets?

RICHARD.

There is this house in which we are, which is worth eight hundred
thousand francs when one does not want to sell it, but which would be
worth from five hundred and fifty to five hundred and eighty thousand,
the moment one is obliged to part with it; it is mortgaged for four
hundred and fifty thousand francs.... Then there are the horses, the
furniture, the laces, the jewels....

JOHN.

Very few jewels. A year ago Lionnette sold every jewel she had, with
that heedlessness, that lightness of disposition, and that want of
consideration, which are the basis of her character, and which you so
well know.

RICHARD.

Ah! well, when you have sold all that you can possibly sell, there will
remain about four hundred thousand francs.

JOHN.

Of capital?

RICHARD.

Of debts.

JOHN.

And the entail of my property?

RICHARD.

Ten thousand pounds income, inalienable, and all in your own power,
fortunately.

JOHN.

Is it impossible to realize the capital?

RICHARD.

Utterly impossible. Your uncle foresaw what has happened, and, with the
knowledge of your habits and the wishes of your mother, he was anxious
to preserve to you always a crust of bread. There remains your sister.

JOHN (_with a doubtful tone_).

Yes, my sister!

RICHARD.

When you were married seven years ago, you know under what conditions,
you had nothing more than what remained to you of the fortune of your
father, about eight or nine hundred thousand francs. You made some legal
interpellations against your mother in order to marry Lionnette--I call
your wife Lionnette quite unceremoniously, as I knew her from her
birth,--and your mother, even in her dying hour, did not pardon you. She
has looked well after your sister's interest, and out of the 6,000,000
that she had she has left you only two, of which half went to pay the
debts that you had already incurred. Your mother was a woman of clear
perception....

JOHN.

Yes; but she ought to have understood....

RICHARD.

It is not easy to understand or to excuse that which wounds us in our
tenderest feelings and in our most sacred traditions. The Countess of
Hun, your mother, was entirely against the marriage you made. She knew
you to be a man led by a first impression, incapable of resisting the
first impulse. These tendencies are dangerous, not only for him who has
them, but also for those who surround him. My age authorizes me to speak
in this way to you. Your mother has only done, then, what every prudent
judicious mother, loving her son, would have done in her place. In spite
of everything, you married Mademoiselle de Quansas. I do not say that
you were wrong; I simply make, as a lawyer and friend, the summary of a
moral and legal position, and, in face of the present difficulties, I
try to find out what we can obtain from it. Your sister is married, and
to a husband who is head of the community. She has five children; an
inheritance invested at interest, the portion which ought to come back
to you having been left and allotted by your mother to the minor
children; your mother made your sister swear never to alter her
disposition of the property. These are all excellent reasons for keeping
her brother's money. I am a lawyer; I understand these legitimate
scruples of conscience!

JOHN.

I start to-morrow for Rennes. I shall go to see my sister; she will
yield, perhaps, for the honour of our name.

RICHARD.

That name is no longer her's.

JOHN.

Nevertheless, I will try.

RICHARD.

Let us hope, but do not rely upon it. Your wife also had hope to the
last, and has made a last effort among the family of ... her father: she
has failed.

JOHN.

Yes.

RICHARD.

There is still another plan.

JOHN.

And that is?

RICHARD.

Call your creditors together, and offer them so much per cent.

JOHN.

Never.

LIONNETTE (_who enters during these last words_).

Never! If we have a sum larger than or equal to our debts, we must pay
them fully; if we have only a smaller amount, we must give it to them on
account, and look for means to procure the remainder; if we are not able
to do it, then we have robbed all these confiding tradesmen, and there
is but one thing left for my husband and me to do, that is, to shut
ourselves up in a room hermetically sealed, set light to a pan of
charcoal, and die together.

JOHN (_kissing her hands_).

I adore you.

RICHARD.

Yes, it is very fine, but like a drama or a romance, it is not reality.

LIONNETTE.

On the contrary, it is the most simple thing in the world--for me, at
least. Either life, with all it is able to bestow, or death, with all it
can promise; I understand nothing else. Do you think that after living
as I have done, at my age I am going to allow myself to live in a
garret, to go to market, and to reckon accounts with the laundress and
general servant? It is unnecessary to try, I could never do it.
Hunting-hound, shepherd-dog, if you like; blind-beggar's dog, never!

RICHARD.

And your son?

LIONNETTE.

My son, I would not have him die with us, it is very evident. But my son
is six years old; he could still be brought up otherwise than I was. One
could instil in him habits of work, and ordinary tastes, that I never
had. There are 10,000 francs income from his father and the heirship
inalienable; it would be misery for us, but independence for him. Men
have no want of money, they only want it for their wives. It will be his
duty not to love a prodigal like myself, and perhaps our example will be
a warning for him.

RICHARD.

Very well. Now that we have well talked over, or rather you have well
talked over, the useless and senseless, let us speak about the possible.
Is it long since you have seen the Baroness de Spadetta?

LIONNETTE.

I see women as little as possible, my dear Richard, as you know well.
Those who would come to me, I do not wish to see; others have had an air
of making me feel their visits too great an honour. Let them stay at
home; every one is free. Women, besides, are for other women nothing but
enemies or accomplices. As to enemies, I have enough of them
out-of-doors, without attracting them to my house; as to accomplices, I
have not yet required any, and I hope to continue so. I content myself
with the society of men; at least with them one knows what to adhere to,
one knows quite well what they desire. But as to Madame Spadetta, that
speaks for itself: she robbed me, and I turned her out, or nearly so. In
any case, I want to see her no more.

RICHARD.

She robbed you! In what way?

LIONNETTE.

She knew my mother from my infancy: she was sometimes the mediator of my
mother and myself with my father on matters of business, as she occupied
an important place about him. A short time before his death my father
said to me, "If I should die, Madame de Spadetta will remit you
1,500,000 francs." My father could leave me nothing in an official and
public will, but he was incapable of telling me a thing like that if it
were not true. There was left to Madame de Spadetta 2,000,000, with this
note: "I am sure that Madame de Spadetta will make good use of that
sum." It is clear. She kept the whole; it was easy to do.

JOHN.

You have never spoken to me of that.

LIONNETTE.

What good would it have done?

JOHN.

Have you claimed that amount from her?

LIONNETTE.

Certainly. She denied it.

JOHN (_to_ RICHARD).

You might follow it up.

RICHARD.

No; it is trust-money. The law does not recognize it, and besides....

LIONNETTE.

I have only my word to support what I say. Madame de Spadetta replied to
me that what my father had left her was in remuneration for services
that her husband and she had rendered my father for thirty years. The
truth is, that out of these two millions there were five hundred
thousand francs for what she calls her services, and fifteen hundred
thousand francs for me. It is for that that I turned her out of doors.

RICHARD.

Knowing that I have the care of your affairs, she came to find me
out....

LIONNETTE.

To....

RICHARD.

To offer you five hundred thousand francs.

LIONNETTE.

On the part of whom? for she is a person equal to any kind of embassy.

RICHARD.

On the part of your father's family.

LIONNETTE.

What does she demand in return?...

RICHARD.

The giving up....

LIONNETTE.

Of all my father's letters.

RICHARD.

Yes; you knew it?

LIONNETTE.

I suspected it, from a few words she said to me. I refuse to do so.

RICHARD.

Your mother, before she died, handed over, for a much less important
amount, all the letters that she also possessed from your father.

LIONNETTE.

My mother did as she pleased; I, too, shall do as I please; and, as my
mother is dead, I refrain from saying all I think.

RICHARD.

Why do you care so much about those letters?

LIONNETTE.

You ask me that, Mr. Richard? Why do I care so much for the letters of a
father whom I loved, who loved me, the man who was my father, and who is
dead?

RICHARD.

What do you intend to do with them?

LIONNETTE.

To keep them, to read them over again, as I do now from time to time,
when the living trouble or disgust me; and when I die, carry them with
me and give them back to him--to him--if it be true that one meets again
in death those one has loved in life. Who knows? Perhaps, after being so
powerful on earth, he will have no one but me in heaven. So I must keep
something by which he may know me--up there--since he was not able to
recognize me here below.

JOHN (_to_ RICHARD).

How can one help worshipping that woman? (_He takes her head between his
hands and kisses her hair._) There.

RICHARD (_taking the hand of_ LIONNETTE).

The fact is that she has the blood of a good race in her, and that they
named you very appropriately, calling you Lionnette--little lioness; but
unfortunately it is not with that that creditors are paid, and I offer
you the only way which is open to you.

LIONNETTE.

God has hitherto given, God will give again; if He forget us, then
chance must take us.


SCENE II.

GODLER, NOURVADY, TRÉVELÉ.

TRÉVELÉ (_going towards_ LIONNETTE.)

Tell me, Countess, are we, yes or no, Godler the ever youthful, Nourvady
the ever grave, and I, Trévelé, the ever jesting--are we, yes or no,
invited by you, Countess, the ever beautiful, and by your husband, the
ever blissful (it would be difficult for him to be otherwise)--are we,
yes or no, invited to dine at your table and to spend the evening with
you afterwards?

LIONNETTE.

Yes.

TRÉVELÉ.

Then, lovely countess, permit me to observe that you are never where we
are. Kindly give us information. When one sees you one loves you; but
when one loves you where does one see you?

LIONNETTE (_smiling_).

Here.

TRÉVELÉ.

We supposed so, but it is now two hours since....

LIONNETTE.

Oh! not two hours!

TRÉVELÉ.

Three hours ago you forsook us in the middle of the conservatory. First,
a domestic came to look for the count; we accepted that affliction: but,
in your turn, you disappeared without even troubling any one to come and
look for you. Well, we are all three charming--Godler, Nourvady, and I;
it is difficult to find three more delightful and witty men, but we have
such a habit of seeing each other that we do not enjoy ourselves at all
when we are by ourselves. So if, after having us for seven hours, you
discover you have had enough of us, tell us so without ceremony. We are
going to drive back to the club, where we shall have a good game of
baccarat; we will try, Godler and I, to win a hundred thousand francs
from that millionaire Nourvady;--that will make him cheerful, perhaps.

LIONNETTE.

Gentlemen, I offer you every excuse. It was on account of a most
important and unforeseen affair. (_She presents_ RICHARD.) Master
Richard, solicitor, an old friend of mine. (_She introduces the
gentlemen._) Mr. de Trévelé, Mr. Godler, Mr. Nourvady. (_The gentlemen
bow._) And now, to strengthen you after all your fatigue and trouble, I
am going to offer you a cup of tea, iced coffee, or chocolate.

(_She approaches the table, upon which, during this discourse, the
servants have put the articles mentioned._)

RAOUL (_entering with his nurse, who remains near the door, and going to
his mother_).

Mamma!

LIONNETTE.

Gentlemen, here is my son, whom I beg to present to you. Bow, Raoul.

(RAOUL _bows already like a man of the world, putting his heels together
and bending his head_; TRÉVELÉ _and_ GODLER _kiss him_; NOURVADY _kisses
his hand, after hesitating a moment_; RAOUL _goes back to his mother,
who kisses him, putting her arm round his neck_.)

RAOUL.

Take care, you will crumple my collar.

LIONNETTE.

I beg your pardon, I wanted to kiss you. You don't love me, then?

RAOUL.

Oh, yes, I love you very much.

LIONNETTE.

Then you are going to help me pour out the tea?

RAOUL.

No; I came to ask not to go to bed yet. I should prefer to play with
Jane's little nephew, who has come with his mother to see her, but she
will not let me without your permission.

LIONNETTE.

Very well, I give you leave. Run away now, my child.

RAOUL.

Good bye. (_He goes away running._)

LIONNETTE.

And you go away like that? (RAOUL _bows again, and wants to go away_.
LIONNETTE _shows him_ RICHARD.) And Mr. Richard? And your father, too?

(_At each name mentioned_ RAOUL _passes to the person, who kisses him.
One can see he is in a great hurry to run away. When he gets to_ JOHN,
_the latter takes him in his arms and kisses him very warmly_.)

JOHN.

Don't be afraid, I am not going to crumple your collar. (_He puts the
child on the ground again, who tries afresh to escape._)

LIONNETTE (_who during this time is serving the tea_).

And me, Raoul.

(RAOUL _runs back again and kisses his mother_.)

LIONNETTE (_with a sigh_).

Go and play, my child, go; and amuse yourself well.

(LIONNETTE, _a cup in each hand, presents one to_ GODLER, _the other to_
TRÉVELÉ.)

GODLER (_touching_ LIONNETTE's _hand with his lips_).

Dare I be so bold?

LIONNETTE.

If you wish it.

TRÉVELÉ.

And I?

LIONNETTE.

And you, too. Only, take the cups, or you will burn my hands with the
tea.

GODLER.

And you, Nourvady?

NOURVADY.

Thank you, I ask for nothing, not even a cup of tea.

(JOHN _chats with_ RICHARD _in a corner_.)

TRÉVELÉ.

And the Countess will be right never to give you anything. People who
ask nothing are often those who wish too much. Under cover of forty
millions....

NOURVADY.

My money has nothing to do with this.

TRÉVELÉ.

Certainly not; but all the same, when one has forty millions one finds a
great many things easier than when one has, like me, only one. Ah, well,
I must say, to the credit of Nourvady, it is in vain that he has two
millions income at least--because he is a man who makes the best of his
capital. He is, after all, the most sentimental of us three, and who
takes love most seriously. He is a millionaire Anthony, and in our time
it is remarkable.

GODLER.

And useful.

(RICHARD _and_ JOHN, _who have chatted in a corner of the drawing-room,
make their way to the terrace, where they chat in sight of the public_.)

NOURVADY.

I do not know why Trévelé always assails me on the score of my fortune,
of which I talk as little as possible. I am rich, but it is through no
fault of mine. If that had depended on me alone, it certainly would
never have happened. I am not clever enough to make forty millions.
Fortunately, I had a father who was very intelligent, and, at the same
time, very honourable. This father had a large bank at Vienna, which was
very prosperous. He died, leaving me forty millions. It was, therefore,
necessary to resign myself to accept them.

LIONNETTE.

Easy resignation, I think, and that I should have had like you.

NOURVADY.

Ah! Madam, a fortune is a burden like anything else, at least for a man,
for women have more grace and intelligence in spending money than we.
But with much simplicity, a few efforts of the intellect, a little
ingenuity in the way of rendering services--there is sometimes a way to
get out of the difficulty--for a man.

TRÉVELÉ.

And you get out of it remarkably well, my dear fellow! If we tease you
about your millions, it is because it is the only subject we can joke
you upon.

NOURVADY (_holding out his hand to him_).

Rest assured, my dear Trévelé, that I am never offended at your jokes.

GODLER (_to_ TRÉVELÉ).

It is very fortunate for you, for if Nourvady were at all susceptible
you would have a nice time.

TRÉVELÉ.

Why?

GODLER.

Because he kills a bird at every shot.

TRÉVELÉ.

But I am not a bird.

GODLER.

And he hits the mark eleven times out of twelve, and barely escapes the
twelfth.

NOURVADY.

Fortunately I have an easy temper, which I have acquired by
self-control, for I was naturally violent and irritable.

GODLER.

That poor Marnepont discovered something of that.

NOURVADY.

Don't let us speak of that.

LIONNETTE.

Oh, yes, please let us speak of it. I knew Mr. de Marnepont very well,
and I have heard in fact that he was killed. By you, then?

NOURVADY.

Alas! yes, madam.

LIONNETTE.

In a duel?

NOURVADY.

Certainly. I did not assassinate him.

LIONNETTE.

He was very annoying.

NOURVADY.

That was not the only reason of his death. He had other defects. He was
insolent, and, above all, a liar.

LIONNETTE.

What insolence was he guilty of? What lie did he tell? I will wager
there was a woman in the case.

(RICHARD _is gone_. JOHN _hears all that is said, leaning upon the back
of the couch where his wife is sitting_.)

NOURVADY.

No, madam, it concerned me pitifully. Mr. de Marnepont calumniated me.
He said I was hump-backed, which is not true. I have only the left
shoulder a little higher than the right.

LIONNETTE.

That is not seen at all.

NOURVADY.

It is not seen any longer, especially since that duel. In any case, no
one says any more about it. My father, it is true, had a round back--at
the close of his life principally. He had worked hard, stooping over a
desk. That makes one round-shouldered in the end. Poor father! he said
to me: "You have one shoulder higher than the other, the left; you get
that from me; I ask your pardon for it, and I will endeavour to leave
you what will make you forget it. But there are some people who will
mock much more willingly at you as you will be very rich. Be strong in
all sword-play, then; that will equalize everything." I followed the
advice of my father, and I am astonished at the result. Then, as Mr. de
Marnepont was a very good shot, I chose the pistol as our weapon. I was
affronted, so wished to show him what good play was. We were allowed to
fire at will; he fired first, and lodged a ball in my right shoulder,
which naturally made me make this movement (_he raises his right
shoulder a little_), for it was very painful, and I suffer from it often
still. There are some days when my right arm is as if paralyzed. Whoever
would get the better of me if I affronted him, has only to choose the
sword; I should probably be killed at the second thrust.

TRÉVELÉ.

And Marnepont?

NOURVADY.

Ah, well! In making the movement occasioned by the pain, this shoulder
was for the moment higher than that. (_He raises the right arm a
little._) "Ah, said my opponent, laughing, I made a mistake, it is the
right which is highest." It was not bad--for him, but it was bad taste.
Then I fired. It was the first time that poor fellow showed any wit; he
wasn't used to it; it killed him.

GODLER (_quite low to_ TRÉVELÉ).

He wants to rise in the estimation of our hostess; he is a clever
fellow.

LIONNETTE (_looking at_ NOURVADY, _who is going towards_ GODLER _and_
TRÉVELÉ, _one sitting and the other standing at the other side of the
room_).

He is peculiar, that man.

JOHN.

Do you find him odd?

LIONNETTE.

Yes, he is so unlike any one else.

JOHN.

Indeed?

LIONNETTE.

What is the matter with you? What are you thinking about?

JOHN.

I am thinking that that odd man is very happy.

LIONNETTE.

In having the left shoulder higher than the right, and a ball in the
latter?

JOHN.

In having what I have not, in having forty millions.

LIONNETTE.

Ah, yes, that would help us out of our difficulties.

JOHN.

My poor Lionnette, I am very unhappy.

LIONNETTE.

Why?

JOHN.

Because I am not able to give you any longer what I formerly gave you.

LIONNETTE.

I shall do very well without it.

JOHN.

You are incapable of it; you said it yourself just now.

LIONNETTE.

There are moments when I no longer know what I say; you must not pay
attention to it. Chance has done much for me in my life; it may still
find a way.

JOHN.

And if chance gets tired, and if you also get as tired? I shall never
say--"if you love me no more;" in your heart you have never loved me.

LIONNETTE.

Why did I marry you, then?

JOHN.

Because your mother advised you to do it.

LIONNETTE.

It is perhaps the only good advice she ever gave me, and I assure you I
have been very grateful for what you have done for me.

JOHN.

Gratitude is not love.

LIONNETTE.

Love comes afterwards.

JOHN.

A long time afterwards, for it has not come yet.

LIONNETTE.

The most beautiful creature in the world could not give more than she
has. I have given all I had to give. Is it love? Is it not love? I know
not. I have no line of comparison, never having given to any one but
you.

(_She hesitates a moment before continuing._)

JOHN.

You were going to say something else.

LIONNETTE.

No.

JOHN.

Yes. Say it, whatever it was.

(_He draws_ LIONNETTE _by the hand, close to him_.)

GODLER.

There are the plots beginning again. An odd kind of a house this.

(_The three persons go out on the terrace, and from there into the
garden, where one sees no more of them._)

LIONNETTE.

I was going to say that perhaps you find that I do not love you enough,
because you love me too much. Then you have been much too good to me;
you have done whatever I wished; you did wrong. You should have been
more my master, in order to counterbalance the bad influence of my
mother, to change my habits, to offer more resistance, and to save me
from myself.

JOHN.

To save you? What have you done then?

LIONNETTE.

I have ruined you.

JOHN.

That is all.

LIONNETTE.

It is quite enough.

JOHN.

You have never thought of....

LIONNETTE.

Of what?

JOHN.

Of another?

LIONNETTE (_laughing_).

You are mad. You have always been a little inclined that way. It is true
that if you had not been silly you would never have married me.

JOHN.

Whether I am mad or not, answer my question.

LIONNETTE.

No, you can be assured on that point. I have never thought of any one
else.

JOHN.

And if I were to die; if I killed myself; if you, in the end, became a
widow, and that man who is there--that strange man, that
millionaire--made you an offer, would you marry him?

LIONNETTE.

We have not arrived at that yet.

JOHN.

Who can tell? In the meantime that man loves you, and wishes to go so
far as to make you love him without waiting for my death. You have
remarked it as well as I.

LIONNETTE.

Where is the woman who does not discover such things? Ask those who have
never, by anyone, been told or allowed to see that they were loved,
what they think of life. Our dream is to hear such declarations; our art
is to listen to them; and our genius and power not to believe in them.

JOHN.

Has he declared himself?

LIONNETTE.

Never.

JOHN.

Your word for it.

LIONNETTE.

My word of honour.

JOHN.

It will come to that.

LIONNETTE.

He will not be the last, I hope. What do you want to make of it?

JOHN.

He will declare himself, perhaps, at the moment when nothing remains for
you but misery or suicide: both are equally hard for a young and
beautiful woman.

LIONNETTE (_seriously and haughtily_).

You are confounding me with some other woman whom you loved before me.
Do I expose myself to these suppositions by my ways of living? Ah! no,
no. I have many defects but no vices, I believe; and, in spite of my
anxiety for the future, I have never yet dreamed of these ways of
escape. I trust never to think for a moment of them.

JOHN.

How much I love you! You have in you all that is most strange and noble
in this world. You have a power over me almost superhuman. I think of no
one but you; I want nothing but you; I dream only of you. If I suspect,
it is because I love you. When you are not here, I do not exist: when I
find you again, I tremble like a child. I implore you never to trifle
with that love,--so deep, and, yet, so troubled. I do not ask you to
love me beyond your power of loving; but love none other more than me.
You know not--I do not know myself--what the result might be. When I
think of the future, I grow giddy. (_In a low, eager voice_) I adore
you! I adore you!

(_During the last words_ NOURVADY _has come on to the stage again. He
has looked at_ JOHN _and_ LIONNETTE. _He takes his hat_; GODLER _and_
TRÉVELÉ _follow him_.)

LIONNETTE.

Do not speak so low; you could be heard.

JOHN.

Kiss me, then.

LIONNETTE.

You wish me to kiss you. Here?

JOHN.

Here.

LIONNETTE.

Before everybody?

JOHN.

Before him.

LIONNETTE.

The same subject. Take care! You are doing him a great honour.

JOHN.

It is an idea that I have.

LIONNETTE.

You would like it?

JOHN.

Yes.

LIONNETTE.

You know well you must not dare me to anything.

JOHN.

I implore you.

LIONNETTE.

Once, twice, three times (_kissing him on both cheeks_). So much the
worse for you. There!

GODLER (_laughing_.)

Ah! my friends, ah! You have decidedly a manner of your own of
receiving.

THE SERVANT (_entering_).

Some one wants to see the Count.

GODLER.

Too late, my man, too late! He ought to have come a minute earlier.

THE SERVANT.

I beg your pardon, Sir?

GODLER.

Go, go! It would be too long to explain.

JOHN (_to the Servant_).

Who wants to see me?

THE SERVANT.

It is a clerk of Mr. Richard.

JOHN.

Very well, I will go to him. (_To_ GODLER _and to_ TRÉVELÉ) I am coming
back immediately.

GODLER.

Don't study us.

(GODLER _and_ TRÉVELÉ _accompany_ JOHN _to the room at the end, where
they remain some moments talking in sight of the public; and, when_ JOHN
_is gone away, they remain there, walking up and down, during the scene
between_ LIONNETTE _and_ NOURVADY.)

NOURVADY (_goes towards_ LIONNETTE, _hat in hand_).

Adieu, Countess.

LIONNETTE.

Are you going to leave us?

NOURVADY.

Yes, your house is in a visible agitation. There is less indiscretion in
perceiving it than in remaining.

LIONNETTE.

When shall we see you again?

NOURVADY.

Never!

LIONNETTE.

You are going away?

NOURVADY.

No; but I shall come here no more.

LIONNETTE (_laughing_).

You did not enjoy your dinner?

NOURVADY.

Do me the honour of listening to me to the end.

GODLER (_to_ TRÉVELÉ, _on seeing_ LIONNETTE _seat herself again, and_
NOURVADY _approach her_.)

That's well! With the other now.

NOURVADY.

I love you (LIONNETTE _makes a movement_). You know it; and you ought to
have foreseen that I should one day tell you so.

LIONNETTE.

Yes; it is only five minutes ago that my husband and I were speaking
about it.

NOURVADY.

Do not laugh. You may tell by the tone of my voice that I am very
serious. I love you passionately. You do not love me; you do not even
think of me. It is probable that you will never love me. I possess
nothing of all the essentials to tempt a woman like yourself--except a
fortune.

LIONNETTE (_rising to retire_).

Sir!

NOURVADY.

Have patience! I am not capable of failing in respect towards you, as I
love you. You are ruined--irreparably ruined. You can accept, it is
true, the proposals that Madame Spadetta has had made to you, and free
yourself in that manner. There would be no longer debt, but there would
be straitened circumstances, and, perhaps, misery. Without counting
that, it would be a great grief for you to give up, for ever, certain
letters; a grief that whoever loves you ought to spare you.

LIONNETTE (_re-seating herself_).

How do you know that?

NOURVADY.

With money one knows all one wants to know, especially when Madame
Spadetta is able to furnish all the information one requires. Do you
remember, Countess, that one day, some months ago, passing through the
Champs Elysées with your husband and me, you remarked at No. 20 a
private house that was nearly finished.

LIONNETTE.

Yes.

NOURVADY.

You admired then the exterior elegance of that house. That was
sufficient to induce me to resolve that no man should inhabit
it;--another time you might have looked mechanically in passing on that
side, and the proprietor at his window might have imagined that it was
at him the lovely Countess of Hun was looking. I have bought that house,
and I have had it furnished as elegantly as possible. If, in a year, in
two years, in ten years, if--to-morrow--circumstances force you to sell
this house where we are at this moment, think of that house in the
Champs Elysées that no one has ever yet inhabited. The carriages are
waiting in the coach-houses, the horses in the stables, the footmen in
the ante-rooms. The little door that this key opens is only for you.
(_He shows a little key._) That door you will easily recognize: your
monogram is on it. From the moment you cross it, if you cross the
threshold one day, you will not even have the trouble of opening another
with it; all the doors will be open in the way that leads to your
apartment. In the drawing-room is an Arabian coffer of marvellous
workmanship; this coffer contains a million in gold, struck on purpose
for you: it is virgin gold, such as gold ought to be that your little
hands deign to touch. You can make use of all in this coffer; when it is
empty it will fill itself again--it is a secret. The deeds which confer
upon you the ownership of this house are deposited in one of the
cabinets in the drawing-room. You will have only to sign them whenever
you may like legally to be the owner. Is it necessary to add that you
owe nothing to anyone for all that, and that you will remain absolute
mistress of your actions? To-morrow I shall pass the day in that house,
to assure myself that all there is in a fit state to receive you; and I
shall never appear there again until you tell me yourself to come--or to
remain there.

(LIONNETTE _takes the key that_ NOURVADY _has laid upon the table while
talking; rises, and goes to throw it out of the open window; passes
before_ NOURVADY _in going to rejoin_ GODLER _and_ TRÉVELÉ.)

NOURVADY (_while she passes in front of him_).

That window looks upon your garden, Countess, not upon the street. In a
garden a key can be picked up again.

(_He bows, and leaves her, to take his departure._)

LIONNETTE (_in a low voice_).

The insolent fellow!

JANE (_entering, to_ LIONNETTE).

Master Raoul will not go to bed, Madam.

LIONNETTE.

Very well; I am coming.

(_She goes out by the door from which_ JANE _has spoken to her_.)

TRÉVELÉ (_to_ GODLER).

Again running away! that is too strong. This time, let us go too.

NOURVADY.

No, remain; I think you will be wanted here. Good bye. (_He goes away._)


SCENE III.

GODLER, TRÉVELÉ.

TRÉVELÉ (_to_ GODLER, _while eating a cake_).

I assure you that Nourvady is a personage apart. Listen now; let us eat
all the cakes, drink all the lemonade, and during that time you can
solve the enigma, for at length you ought to know what is going on in
this house, you who have always been a friend of the Marchioness of
Quansas. It is said even....

GODLER (_after looking around him_).

In 1853.

TRÉVELÉ.

You are decided?

GODLER.

In 1853.

TRÉVELÉ.

Why did you never tell it?

GODLER.

In 1853 there was a Madam Duranton, who kept a shop in the rue
Traversière.

TRÉVELÉ.

Where may the rue Traversière be?

GODLER.

It was a little cross street, of compromised fame, leading from the rue
St. Honoré to the rue Richelieu. Madame Duranton, a widow--one could not
be more a widow--sold left-off clothes. You can imagine the rest....

TRÉVELÉ.

Yes, I see, I see; make haste.

GODLER.

Madame Duranton, at whose house two or three friends and I went
sometimes to pass the evening, and who gave us sometimes cider and
chesnuts in her little back shop....

TRÉVELÉ.

In 1853?

GODLER.

In 1853.

TRÉVELÉ.

How old were you?

GODLER.

I was 39 years old.

TRÉVELÉ.

You are old, then?

GODLER.

I am 66.

TRÉVELÉ.

You don't look that age.

GODLER.

Because I get myself up very well.

TRÉVELÉ.

What a good fellow! Go on.

GODLER.

Would you like us to make a bet?

TRÉVELÉ.

No, you would gain it; Florimond has told it to me.

GODLER (_who is sitting down_).

Very well; go and shut the window, and give me something to drink.

TRÉVELÉ.

Go on.

GODLER.

Madame Duranton had a daughter.

TRÉVELÉ.

To whom you made love?

GODLER.

To whom we all made love, without any good intention--you can
understand. The young girl, then between 18 and 19 years old, was a
beautiful creature, with naturally golden hair, like women have
artificially now-a-days, with violet-blue eyes, cheeks like a rose of
Bengal, and teeth and lips resembling almonds between two halves of a
cherry.

(_During this time_ GODLER _from time to time arranges his whiskers, and
a lock of hair which falls over his forehead, with a little comb that he
takes out of his pocket_.)

TRÉVELÉ.

One could almost wish to taste thereof. You are a poet!

GODLER.

That I had from my youth. At that time....

TRÉVELÉ.

In your youth?

GODLER.

No, in 1853, there were a king and queen....

TRÉVELÉ.

Who reigned....

GODLER.

Exactly.

TRÉVELÉ.

Happy time! Where did they reign?

GODLER.

At Bagdad.

TRÉVELÉ.

Thank you.

GODLER.

This king and this queen had an only son, who was to succeed them. This
son, 23 years old, took much too seriously his part of heir-presumptive.
But what was the use of having a crown, if, in his turn, he was not to
have an heir to leave it to? However, nothing in the young prince
indicated the least inclination towards love, legitimate or otherwise.

TRÉVELÉ.

He was not like you.

GODLER.

No, he was not like me.

TRÉVELÉ.

Go on.

GODLER.

Always study; always reflection; always indifference.

TRÉVELÉ.

A strange prince!

GODLER.

The ambassadors opened negotiation upon negotiation uselessly with
foreign courts in view of a political alliance. Several young
princesses of surrounding countries, of Hindostan, of Persia, and even
of Europe....

TRÉVELÉ.

How well you relate a thing!

GODLER.

Were waiting full-dressed, their hair well-dressed and splendidly
perfumed, for the king of Bagdad to ask their hand for his son. The
telegraph replied always: Wait! Wait!

TRÉVELÉ.

Go on quickly.

GODLER.

A chamberlain had a very simple idea.

TRÉVELÉ.

In general the ideas of chamberlains are very simple.

GODLER.

This was, to let the prince travel, in order that he might see other
women than those of Bagdad, since they were acknowledged to be
insufficient, and to send him at once to Paris.

TRÉVELÉ.

Bad complaints require strong remedies.

GODLER.

But this was not all; beauty was necessary, and it must be stock of a
particular kind: also those that he did not marry must differ only in
rank from the one he did marry. In fact, it was not a Lycoenion, but
a perfect Chloe, that was sought for the instruction of this Daphnis,
and it was not to be child's play.

TRÉVELÉ.

I see the young Lionnette dawning. But how did everything come about?

GODLER.

That will make the subject of the following chapter. The ambassador of
Bagdad came with us sometimes in the evening, to eat chesnuts and drink
cider at Madame Duranton's.

TRÉVELÉ.

And he discovered a way of leading the prince to eat the cherries and
almonds?

GODLER.

Who acquired such a taste for these delicious fruits, that he wanted to
eat nothing else, had no wish to go away, had no inclination whatever
for study, no longer wished to reign--he wanted to marry. However, the
king, informed and satisfied on the subject, recalled his son. He must
go back to Bagdad. Daphnis wept, and Chloe also.

TRÉVELÉ.

You are king, you cry, and I depart.

GODLER.

And that is how the beautiful Lionnette came into the world; having for
legal father a Marquis de Quansas, a ruined gentleman, rather a bad
character, who turned up just at the right moment to lay his hand on a
marriage portion, give his name to the mother and daughter, and die a
short time after, without falling into the hands of the correctional
police, as every one expected to see him do.

TRÉVELÉ.

Then the countess is daughter of a prince?

GODLER.

Daughter of a king, even--for the prince succeeded his father.

TRÉVELÉ.

What a strange country!

GODLER.

Daughter of a king and of an adventuress; daughter herself of no one
knows who. From that comes, no doubt, the strangeness in the nature of
Lionnette, whom we, who know the circumstances, named, when she was very
young, the Princess of Bagdad. People never knew what it meant, but it
is useless for all the world to know what some things mean.

TRÉVELÉ.

And the mother, the Marchioness of Quansas, has she seen the king again
since that adventure?

GODLER.

Often, and for several years. Thence comes the great luxury and style of
the house. But she became so badly-conducted, and abused so much the
goodness of the king to her, that he--himself now become father of a
large family, as everything led to hope after his return from Paris,
and the marchioness no longer being young--lost all patience, and gave
no more money, except to his daughter, whom he adored, and whom he saw
in secret. But he died quite suddenly.

TRÉVELÉ.

I know whom you mean.

GODLER.

Then we both know it, that is sufficient. After the death of the king
all the resources disappeared. Fortunately, the love and marriage of our
friend John de Hun were found in the nick of time, to maintain for some
time the importance of the house; but at this moment I think the
downfall is not far off, and all these comings and goings of to-day may
very well be the last signs of it. All the legitimate ways are
exhausted; there remains nothing now but the others.

TRÉVELÉ.

Which are happily the most numerous. It costs too much for us, my poor
old Godler. For the present it is just the affair of the gloomy
millionaire: we shall see later on. There is nothing more to drink; they
have quite forgotten us. Put your comb in your pocket again, your lock
of hair is very well like that; now let us go away. A peculiar kind of a
house. Where is my hat?

(_While they both look for their hats, their backs turned to the bottom
of the room_, JOHN _enters, very pale, and visibly affected_.)


SCENE IV.

THE SAME PERSONS, JOHN.

JOHN.

I beg your pardon, gentlemen, for having left you so long alone in my
house, but I have been suddenly called away. I reckoned upon being back
sooner. And....

(_He draws his hand across his forehead._)

GODLER.

You are suffering much?

JOHN.

It is nothing.... A little fatigue, it is very warm.

TRÉVELÉ.

We are going away.

JOHN.

However, it may be that I shall stand in need of two sure friends. Can I
count upon you?

TRÉVELÉ (_aside_).

Nourvady was right.

GODLER.

Certainly; we shall breakfast, Trévelé and I, to-morrow at 12 o'clock at
the club. If you have anything to say to us.

JOHN.

Thank you. Till to-morrow then.

GODLER (_aside, as he goes out_).

Poor fellow.

TRÉVELÉ (_aside, as he goes out_).

The weather is getting stormy, as the sailors say.


SCENE V.

JOHN _alone at first, afterwards_ LIONNETTE.

JOHN, _standing alone, lays his hand on the top of a chair; then he
pulls off his cravat and loosens the collar of his shirt, as if he were
suffocating and wished to breathe more freely. He goes at length to the
window, breathes the air strongly two or three times, and walks towards
the door by which_ LIONNETTE _went out_: LIONNETTE _enters by the same
door when he is half-way towards it_.

JOHN (_standing still_).

Where have you come from?

LIONNETTE.

I have just come from putting the child to bed, who was very disobedient
this evening, and I came back to find the gentlemen again.

JOHN.

They are all three gone.

LIONNETTE.

What is the matter with you? You are quite pale.... What has happened
again?

JOHN.

You want to know?

LIONNETTE.

Yes, certainly. I ask you to tell me.

JOHN (_walking up to her and putting his fist towards her face_).

When I think how I failed in respect for my mother, who died cursing me,
and all for this creature.

LIONNETTE (_coming up to him_).

I do not understand.

JOHN.

You do not understand!

LIONNETTE.

No; I believe, I hope, that you are still madder than usual. What is it?

JOHN (_drawing some papers from his pocket_).

What is all this? It is this, that Mr. Nourvady has had all your debts
paid. He had no wish to do me the honour of paying mine; but you, you
owe nothing any more. That is what it is. Now do you understand?

LIONNETTE (_stupified_).

Mr. Nourvady!

JOHN.

Yes, Mr. Nourvady, your lover!

LIONNETTE (_indignantly_).

My lover!

JOHN.

Yes, your lover, to whom you have sold yourself and my name, your honour
and mine, for some hundreds of thousands of francs. For your own honour
it is too much, but for mine it is too little.

LIONNETTE.

Perhaps you will tell me what all this means?

JOHN.

Mr. Richard has just sent some one for me; on his return home this
evening he found all the bills of your creditors sent back to him
receipted, at the same time writing that they were all fully paid. By
whom? You know well.

(_He throws the papers on the table._)

LIONNETTE.

I swear to you....

JOHN (_mad with rage_).

'Tis false? 'Tis false! There was a way, painful for you, to free
yourself; it was proposed to you at first; you obstinately rejected
it.... You had your own reasons, it was useless! The contract was
concluded and carried out. Since when, may I ask?

LIONNETTE.

Ah! when will you have finished insulting me! I tell you that of which
you accuse me is not true. At present, if you do not believe me, do
whatever you like.

JOHN (_exasperated_).

I turn you out of doors.

LIONNETTE.

Unfortunately, this house is mine, and I remain in it.

JOHN.

It is true; I beg your pardon! I forgot that your mother had foreseen
all. This house, paid for by me, is yours, but the debts incurred by you
are paid by some one else. It is a compensation. It is I who will leave
this house, you may rest contented. I am going at once.... I am going to
look for some money--at my sister's--it signifies not where. I must find
some, even if I have to steal in my turn. And after that we shall see.
Adieu!

(_He goes away with a menacing gesture._)

LIONNETTE (_alone_).

Adieu! (_Shrugging her shoulders, and going towards her apartment._)
The idiot! (_She goes into her room._)



ACT II.

     _A small drawing-room, in great taste, combined with much luxury.
     General arrangements of the room rather adapted for repose and
     sleep--for tête-à-tête--than for general conversation and
     reception. A closed iron coffer, containing the million which has
     been spoken of in the First Act, placed on a table._

     _At the rising of the curtain, the drawing-room is empty. The stage
     remains thus unoccupied for about a moment. A curtain screen
     lowered at the left of the spectator, also one equally lowered at
     the right. A large screen lowered at the back, and concealing, like
     the other two, a door that can be locked._


SCENE I.

     LIONNETTE_, veiled, enters at the left; draws back the screen,
     stops, looks around her; goes slowly to the door at the back, which
     she opens and shuts again, after having looked in. Ten o'clock
     strikes. She goes and looks through the door at the right, then
     through the glass between the two rooms over the mantel-piece, and
     presses the knob of the electric bell, which is by the side of the
     chimney-piece. Silence reigns for a few seconds._ LIONNETTE,
     _astonished, looks around her_. NOURVADY _appears at the back of
     the room_.


SCENE II.

LIONNETTE, NOURVADY.

(NOURVADY _stops, after having let fall the screen, and salutes_
LIONNETTE _very respectfully. He is hat in hand._)

LIONNETTE (_troubled_).

Is it you?

NOURVADY.

You rang.

LIONNETTE.

I thought a footman would answer.

NOURVADY.

Your most grateful and humble slave has come.

LIONNETTE (_severely_).

You were waiting for me?

NOURVADY.

Yes.

LIONNETTE.

That is the reason you said yesterday that you would be in this house
to-day.

NOURVADY.

Yes.

LIONNETTE.

You were sure that I should come.

NOURVADY (_a little ironically_).

Sure. I only regret that you have had to take the trouble to go and look
in your garden for the key that you threw there.

LIONNETTE.

The fact is that you have discovered the only way to compel me,--an
infamous way, Sir. (_While speaking she has taken off the veils that
covered her face, and thrown them on the table._) You acknowledge, Sir,
do you not, the infamous means you have adopted. Answer me!

NOURVADY.

I have no answer. You are in your own house; I could if I wished
withdraw myself from your insult and anger: but, apart from the fact
that my courage to do so forsook me from the moment you came here, I am
sure you have something else to say to me, and I remain to hear it.

LIONNETTE.

Truly, Sir, an explanation between you and me is necessary; and, as you
did not wish to return to my house, I am come to seek it in yours.
Besides, I like plain and open situations; and I do not fear, especially
at this moment in my life, categorical explanations and undisguised
expressions,--blunt even, if we can understand each other better in that
way. I heard such things yesterday that my ears now can lend themselves
to anything. An act such as yours--a step such as I have taken--an
interview like this that we are having, and which may lead to results so
positive and so serious--are so exceptional that words of double meaning
could not explain them. (_Seating herself._) I have not long known you;
I have never attempted to attract you by the least coquetry; I have
never asked anything of you; and you have just dishonoured me morally
and socially without my being able to defend myself. It is remarkably
clever. Whatever I may say, no one will believe me. My husband, who
loves me, will not believe me; and he has treated me accordingly. What
have I done to you that you should think yourself authorized to inflict
such a public affront on me, for, if it isn't public yet, it will be
to-morrow.

NOURVADY.

I have already told you: I love you.

LIONNETTE.

And this, then, is your fashion of proving your love?

NOURVADY.

If I had had any other at my disposal, I should have employed it. I love
you (_changing his tone, and approaching her_). I have loved you madly
for years. (_She recoils involuntarily from the movement of_ NOURVADY.)
Fear nothing: I dishonour you, perhaps, in the eyes of others, but I
respect you; and you are sacred to me. If ever you are mine, it will
only be with your consent; that is, when you will have said, "I return
your love." I know well all the kinds of love one can buy! It is not for
a love such as that I ask: you would not give it to me, and I do not
wish for it from you. You are beautiful; I love you; and you have a
great grief, a trouble, a common-place preoccupation, beneath your
consideration, that one of your race and character ought never to know.
On account of what? On account of some bank notes; of a few hundred
pounds that you are in want of; and that I have in such profusion that I
know not what to do with them. This grief--this annoyance--may cause you
to lose your repose; may cost you your beauty--even your life; for you
are a woman who would die in the face of an obstacle that you could not
conquer. I have what is wanted to dispel this grief and care. I do it,
therefore. Was it necessary to ask your permission? If I had seen your
horse running away with you, should I have asked your permission to help
you? I should have rushed to your horse's head and saved you, or he
would have passed over my body. If I had saved your life, and survived,
you would, perhaps, have loved me for that heroic act: if I had been
killed, you would certainly have been sorry, and have wept for me. I
have not exposed my life in saving you as I have done: I have not
accomplished an act of heroism, I have only done a thing that was very
easy for me; but I could not control the circumstances.

LIONNETTE.

Ah! Well, your devotion led you astray, Sir; and if I am in your house,
it is to call upon you to repair--before it be irremediable--the harm
you have done.

NOURVADY.

It is out of my power to do anything myself. I have expressly employed
this method because I knew it to be the only one, and irremediable. It
would be now necessary that your creditors should consent to take back
their bills, and give back their money. Do you think they would consent
to that?

LIONNETTE.

This, then, is what you said to yourself: This woman that I respect,
esteem, and love, I am going first to compromise and dishonour her in
the eyes of everybody; I am going to make her despised, insulted, and
turned out of doors by her husband; and, the first emotion over, she
will have nothing left to choose; she will take up her part, and will
then be mine.

NOURVADY.

I did not reflect at all. It did not please me at all that the
tradespeople should have the power of hunting and humiliating you. I
paid them. I did not wish you to be sorrowful; I could not endure to see
you poor. It is a fancy, like any other, and I am willing to take the
consequences of my fancy. If you had been in my place you would have
done what I have done.

LIONNETTE.

No! If I were a man and pretended to love an honest woman, whatever
might come of it, I would respect her dignity and the proprieties of the
society in which she moves.

NOURVADY.

Is it really a woman of your superiority who speaks of the proprieties
of society? Are not women like you above all that? Was I to come
delicately and hypocritically to offer your husband the sum he stood in
need of? "Arrange your affairs, my dear friend; you can give me back
that trifle when you are able." I should certainly have acted like that
if I had not loved you; loving you, ought I to do it, that is to say, to
speculate upon your gratitude, upon the impossibility of your husband
discharging his debt, and upon fresh and unavoidable necessities? That
is a course that would have been unworthy of him, of me, and of you. No,
you know it well, the proprieties and dignity are nothing any longer,
when passion or necessity predominates. Did your grandmother respect the
dignity of her daughter when she gave her up to a prince?

LIONNETTE.

Sir!...

NOURVADY.

You do not fear words! There they are, those words, saying quite well
all they have to say. Why do you rebel against them? Did your husband
respect the dignity of his mother, the traditions of his family, the
proprieties of the society in which he moved, when he issued a public
summons to that irreproachable mother, to enable him to marry you? And
you, yourself, while following your mother's counsel, did you say to
that man: "My dignity is entirely opposed to marrying you under those
circumstances, disowned, repulsed, disgraced by your mother"? Ah! well,
I too, if I had met you when you were a young girl, I should have loved
you as I love you now; and if my father had wished to prevent my
marrying you, I should have acted like the Count. I envy him the
sacrifice he was able to make for you, and that I can never make now.

LIONNETTE (_half mockingly, half sincerely_).

It may be so, but now it is too late. I am no longer open to marriage,
and, unfortunately for you, I have no longer a mother.

NOURVADY.

But you may become a widow.

LIONNETTE.

Then, you really hate the Count?

NOURVADY.

Yes, almost as much as I love you.

LIONNETTE.

And you would like to prove it to him?

NOURVADY.

That is the second of my dreams. In the service that I rendered you, I
knew perfectly well the insult I should inflict upon him, and much as I
counted on your visit here, I was waiting in my house first for that of
Mr. Godler and Mr. Trévelé, whom I had left expressly at your house
yesterday until the Count returned home.

LIONNETTE.

How agreeable and convenient it is to be open and sincere and to play
your cards so openly. Ah, well, sir, if my husband has not yet sent his
two friends, it is because he wishes first to send you your money. He is
gone in search of it.

NOURVADY.

He will not find it.

LIONNETTE.

I shall find it myself, without the ignominy which you anticipated. The
Count will make a public restitution of the sum that you advanced in
private, and will add to that restitution all that is required to make
you justify your hatred.

NOURVADY.

He will strike me?

LIONNETTE.

That is not at all doubtful.

NOURVADY.

And I will kill him.

LIONNETTE.

That is not quite certain; he is courageous. A man who has no fear of
death for himself, has a steadier hand to give it to another.

NOURVADY.

Pray for him; in the first place, it is your duty as a wife, and in the
next, my death will be a fortunate event for you, indeed--a very good
thing.

LIONNETTE.

In what way?

NOURVADY.

Because, having no relations, not a single true friend in this world, as
is only to be expected in a millionaire like me; because, loving you as
you deserve to be loved, in life and in death, I have made my will, in
which I have said that you are the loveliest and purest woman I have
ever met; that your husband, who will kill me, has unjustly suspected
you, and that I entreat you, in compensation for the suspicion of which,
my admiration and my esteem have involuntarily been the cause, to
graciously accept for your son all that I possess, notwithstanding that
I also detest that son.

LIONNETTE.

Why?

NOURVADY.

Because that child is the living proof of your love for your husband.

LIONNETTE (_aside_).

Alas! The child proves nothing. (_Aloud_) Never mind, all that is not
ordinary, and you would, perhaps, finish by convincing me--with your
death--provided that all this be true. If it be not true, it is well
concocted.

NOURVADY.

Why should I deceive you? And what would you like me to do with my
fortune if I die? What good would it be to me without my life, and in
life what should I do with it without you? Whereas, if I die, my will is
there by the side of the title deeds of proprietorship of this house,
which you would only have had to sign if you had consented to be its
owner during my life (_he points to a cabinet at the bottom of the
room_), and your pocket money is here (_he shows the coffer_).

LIONNETTE.

Ah! yes, it is true. The famous million! There lies the temptation of
the present hour. The tabernacle of the golden calf. Ah! well, let me
look at it.... After all you have told me, who knows? perhaps, your god
will convert me.

(_She walks towards the coffer, of which she opens the principal side.
The gold contained in it is scattered all over the open panel._)

LIONNETTE (_looking at the gold_).

It is certainly grand; like all which has power. There is contained
ambition, hope, dreams, honour, and dishonour; the perdition and the
salvation of hundreds--of thousands--of creatures, perhaps: it has no
power for me. If I had loved my husband, I should, probably, take this
million to save him: that would be one of the thousand base acts that
one is called upon to commit in the name of true love. But, decidedly, I
love no one and nothing. (_Shutting the coffer violently._) Fight each
other; kill each other; live or die, I am indifferent towards you both.
You have both insulted me--each in your own way, and, always, in the
name of love! Ah! if you only knew how what you call love becomes more
and more odious to me. But, to make me believe in love, show me the man
who respects that which he loves! I love you; that is to say, you are
beautiful, and your flesh tempts me. It is to that temptation that I
owed the husband who outrages me; it is to that temptation that I owe
the insult that you have inflicted on me. A prince was not able to
resist what he, too, called his love for a pretty girl; and I owe my
existence to that so-called love! I must suffer on account of that; and,
perhaps, in my turn, sell myself always on account of that! And that
father dared not love me openly; me, his daughter; himself, a king! But,
at least, he sometimes pressed me to his heart in secret: he wept; for
he, too, suffered! Holding my head between his hands, he said to me,--he
is the only one who ever said it to me,--"Be a virtuous woman always; it
is the foundation of all good. Do you understand me?" And I believed
him, and wished to be a virtuous woman, as he asked me to be; and it
leads me to what? To be treated like one of the worst of creatures by
him to whom I have remained faithful. And there is that man who insults
me by his offer! His father made many millions by his bank; and he, the
son, would like to buy me with them while I am yet young, be it
understood. Why not? But, dear Sir, I am born of desire and corruption:
they gave me no heart. With what, then, do you expect me to love you? I
had no esteem for my mother: you do not know what it is not to esteem
one's mother! My husband is an inexperienced, an idle, an
unsophisticated man, who ought to have guided me; who did not know how;
and whom I will never see any more. That is what I have come to. As to
my son, I needed help, I took him in my arms yesterday, and he said to
me, "I like better to go and play." Ah, well! let him get on without
maternal dishonour. It will be a novelty in the family, and that will be
my last luxury. It matters not. Amongst all this impurity and all these
errors, there came on the scene, all of a sudden, one of the first
gentlemen in the world; and his coming changed everything. I have royal
blood in my veins. I shall never belong to you. Adieu! (_She goes
towards the door at the back. Two violent and quick rings are heard at
the bell of the entrance._) What can that be?

NOURVADY.

A visitor who has made a mistake (_ringing_). Wait a moment! (_The
Footman appears._) Who is that?

THE FOOTMAN.

There are several men ringing at the door, but we have not opened it.

(_During this time_ LIONNETTE _has covered herself with her veils_.)

NOURVADY.

Very well! Do not open it.

(_Two blows of a hammer are given on the hall door; after a little
while, two more._)

A VOICE (_from outside_).

For the third time, open.

LIONNETTE (_who has gone to look through the curtains of the window_).

My husband! With these men. Ah! this is complete.

NOURVADY.

Conceal yourself here. (_He shoves the door at the right._)

LIONNETTE (_beyond herself with passion_).

I conceal myself! What do you mean? Who do you take me for? I have done
no harm. All those people there are mad, decidedly. I want to see them
quite close. (NOURVADY _goes to lock the door at the back_. LIONNETTE
_has pulled off her veils, torn the fichu that was on her shoulders, and
unrolled her hair by shaking her head_.) It was when I was like this
that my husband thought me most beautiful! It is well, at least, that he
should see me once more as he used to like to see me. Am I really
beautiful like this?

NOURVADY.

Ah! yes; beautiful indeed.

LIONNETTE.

And you love me?

NOURVADY.

Very deeply.

LIONNETTE.

And all your life will be devoted to me?

NOURVADY.

All my life.

LIONNETTE.

You swear it to me?

NOURVADY.

On my word of honour.

(_He approaches her quickly. At that moment she stretches out her
uncovered arms, and crosses them on her face; that she turns away._
NOURVADY _covers her arms with kisses_.)

A VOICE (_outside the door that_ NOURVADY _has shut_).

Open!

NOURVADY.

Who are you?

THE VOICE.

In the name of the law.

NOURVADY.

I am in my own house. I refuse.

JOHN (_from outside_).

Break open that door.

LIONNETTE.

The coward!

THE VOICE.

It is I who give orders here, and I only. For the last time, will you
open the door?

NOURVADY.

No!

THE VOICE.

Force that door.

NOURVADY (_to_ LIONNETTE).

Tell me that you love me.

LIONNETTE.

Ah! yes, I love you; as he has driven me to it.

(_During these words the door was violently shaken, and it opens with a
great noise._)


SCENE III.

THE SAME PERSONS, JOHN, THE COMMISSARY OF POLICE, his SECRETARY, TWO
AGENTS.

_By an involuntary movement_ LIONNETTE _places herself on the side
opposite to that on which she was with_ NOURVADY. _In this way they
become separated._ NOURVADY _walks in front of the_ COMMISSARY OF
POLICE. LIONNETTE _seats herself upon the couch, one arm half supported
on the back of the couch, the other upon the little table which is
there. Her three-quarters' profile is turned towards the audience in an
attitude of anger and defiance at what is going on._ JOHN _points her
out to the_ COMMISSARY, _and wants to run towards her. The_ COMMISSARY
_stops him_.

THE COMMISSARY.

By virtue of an official mandate, I am required to come at the request
of Count Victor Charles John de Hun, who is here, to prove the
clandestine presence of the Countess Lionnette de Hun, wife of the said
Count Victor Charles John de Hun, in the house of Mr. Nourvady, and to
establish according to law the offence of adultery.

NOURVADY.

Sir!

THE COMMISSARY.

You will please be silent, sir, and reply only to my questions, if I
have any to put to you. (_To_ JOHN.) This gentleman is, I believe, Mr.
Nourvady, whom you accuse of being an accomplice with your wife?

JOHN.

Yes.

THE COMMISSARY (_to_ LIONNETTE).

Do you deny that, madam?

LIONNETTE.

No. I am, indeed, the legitimate wife of that gentleman, and Countess de
Hun, alas!

THE COMMISSARY (_to an Agent_).

See that no one enters here! (_To the Secretary._) Sit down and write.
(_The Secretary sits down and prepares to write._)

NOURVADY (_to_ THE COMMISSARY).

But really, sir?

THE COMMISSARY.

I am Commissary of Police in your district; here are my insignia, sir.
(_He shows one end of his scarf; dictating to his Secretary_). Having
betaken ourselves to one of the residences of Mr. Nourvady....

LIONNETTE.

That is not correct, sir! Mr. Nourvady is not here in his own house, but
in mine; this house and all that is in it belongs to me. Be kind enough
to open this cabinet at your left and you will find there my title-deeds
of ownership, which prove what I am stating.

THE COMMISSARY (_to one of his Agents_).

Open it. (_The Agent gives him all the papers that he finds in the
cabinet._ THE COMMISSARY _reads them over_.) These papers are not quite
according to law; it is a purchase made in your name but you have not
ratified it, and your signature is wanting. (_While he is speaking he
carries the papers to_ LIONNETTE.)

LIONNETTE (_taking the papers and signing_).

There it is, and as the Count de Hun and I were married under the act of
separation of property, and, as he legally gave me the right of
acquiring and disposing of my property, I do not know what he wants
here, in my house.

JOHN (_menacing her_).

Madam!

THE COMMISSARY.

Silence, sir, I beg of you. (_Dictating._) We presented ourselves at the
house which was indicated to us as one of the residences of Mr.
Nourvady. Our visit was foreseen, and an order had been given to the
servants to open the door to no one. After three legal summonses on our
part, and three refusals on the part of the persons shut up in a room on
the first floor, we broke open the door, and found in this room a man
and woman, recognized to be Mr. Nourvady and the Countess Lionnette de
Hun. The said lady, when we attributed to Mr. Nourvady the ownership of
the house, formally declared to us that she was the owner of the house
in which we found her, and furnished proofs of the same; also, she
affirmed that Mr. Nourvady was paying her a visit there.

JOHN.

Add, if you please, sir, that I have disowned all participation in the
ownership of this house, acquired without my consent, and by
illegitimate means, which will be proofs of the charge of guilt.

THE COMMISSARY (_to the Secretary_).

Record the declaration of the Count de Hun. (_Dictating._) After the
refusal that was given to us, first by the servants of the house and
then by Mr. Nourvady.... You were the one, sir, were you not, who
refused to open this door? (_He turns towards_ NOURVADY.)

NOURVADY.

Yes, sir.

THE COMMISSARY.

After the refusal given and repeated three separate times by Mr.
Nourvady, to open the door of the room where he was shut up with the
Countess de Hun, although, according to the declaration of this lady, he
was not in his own house, but her's, and, therefore, under the
circumstances, she alone had a right to command there--after these
repeated refusals, we found nothing to furnish us with convincing proofs
of the charge that the complainant wished us to establish.

(_While speaking_, THE COMMISSARY _has run his eye over the stage,
looking at the furniture, and lifting up the screens that separated the
drawing room from other rooms_.)

JOHN.

The presence of my wife in this house is sufficient to prove the crime.

THE COMMISSARY.

No, sir.

JOHN.

In a case like this the intention is enough.

THE COMMISSARY.

We are not here to judge according to intentions, but to state according
to facts.

JOHN (_picking up_ LIONNETTE'S _veils_).

What more do you require than this triple veil, which proves that my
wife has come here concealing her face, as I saw, in short, for I
followed her? A strange manner to enter her own house, since she
maintains it to be her's. (_Pointing to_ LIONNETTE.) Look at this, sir;
what more do you require?

THE COMMISSARY.

Be as calm as possible, sir; the law will do its duty, however painful
it may be. (_He dictates._) Still, the attitude and bearing of the Lady
de Hun, at the moment of our entrance, was at least suspicious. Her hair
was half falling on her shoulders.

NOURVADY (_to_ THE COMMISSARY).

Be good enough to note, sir, that at this point of your accusation I
interrupted you, and that I affirmed most emphatically and on my word of
honour the complete and perfect innocence of the Countess Lionnette de
Hun, whose honour, whatever the appearances may be, should not be
doubted for a moment.

LIONNETTE (_very calm at first, but gradually exciting herself to
frenzy_).

And I, in the face of the scandal that my husband wished to create, and,
though appreciating the motive of Mr. Nourvady's affirmation, which it
is every honourable man's duty to make who wishes to save a woman's
honour, I declare it false; and the facts that the law cannot prove I
declare absolutely true. Mr. Nourvady was shut up here with me, by my
wish, because he was, because he is, my lover.

JOHN (_running towards her_. THE COMMISSARY _puts himself between
them_.)

Madam!

LIONNETTE.

Whatever may be the punishment of the adulteress, I merit it. (_To the
Secretary, who hesitates._) Write, sir, I have not finished. Write.
(_She rises, and walks to the table where the Secretary is writing._) So
that there may not, by any possibility, be any mistake in the scandalous
trials that will follow this scene, and in order that my husband may not
have to accuse himself of casting upon me an unjust and hasty suspicion,
I declare that not only have I given myself to Mr. Nourvady because I
loved him, but because he is rich and I am poor; that after having
ruined my husband I sold myself, so incapable was I of bearing poverty.
The price of my fall is there: a million in gold struck expressly for
me! My husband, there, was right yesterday, when he treated me like a
prostitute. I am one, and very happy to be so. And if what I have told
you does not convince you; if proofs are necessary, there they are!
(_She steeps her bare arms in the gold, and throws handfuls of it all
round her._ _To_ JOHN.) And you, sir, if you are in want of money, take
some; after the baseness that you commit at this moment, there remains
only this for you to do.

JOHN (_going towards her; she looks in his face_; JOHN _falls on a
chair_.)

Madam!... Ah!

LIONNETTE (_to_ NOURVADY.)

And now do you believe that I am entirely yours?

JOHN.

In the face of the insolence and audacity of the accused, I require her
immediate arrest.

THE COMMISSARY.

I know the rights that the law gives me, and the duties that I have to
fulfil. All that has been said has been recorded in the accusation; I
limit my office to that. (_To_ NOURVADY.) As you are not in your own
house, sir, you can retire; only as the avenue is full of people in
front of the principal entrance, leave the house by this exit: one of my
agents will join you, in order that the policeman may allow you to pass.
(_He points to the left._ NOURVADY _bows to_ LIONNETTE _and goes out by
the left, passing in front of_ JOHN, _who, standing with his arms
folded, pretends not to see the provoking salute_ NOURVADY _gives him_.)

THE COMMISSARY (_to_ LIONNETTE).

With regard to you, Madam, as you are in your own house, enter, I beg of
you, into your apartment, and if you wish to go out, do not go till some
time after our departure, when there will be no longer inquisitive
persons outside, and you will be sure not to be insulted.

LIONNETTE.

Thank you, sir.

(_She goes out by the door at the right_).

THE COMMISSARY (_to_ JOHN).

I am going to deliver my report to the Judge. You have ten days to
withdraw your complaint, sir--a complaint that perhaps you were very
wrong to bring. That woman accuses herself too much. I believe her to be
innocent. Go out of this house before me, sir; the people saw us come in
together, and if we go out in the same way they will recognise you as
the husband, and they might say disagreeable things to you. The French
people do not approve of husbands who surprise their wives by the
appearance of a Commissary of Police. I have the honour to wish you good
morning.

(JOHN _bows to him and goes away_. THE COMMISSARY _comes back and sits
down near his Secretary, to complete the last formalities_.)



ACT III.

_The same decorations as in the first Act._


SCENE I.

JOHN, GODLER, TRÉVELÉ.

(GODLER _is sitting down_, TRÉVELÉ _standing_. JOHN _is walking about in
great agitation_.)

GODLER.

And then?

JOHN (_sitting down_).

Then, just as I was going to start for my sister's house, and everybody
thought me gone, for I had no wish to sleep in this house, suddenly I
was seized with the idea of concealing myself, and following my wife if
she went out, so as to convince myself, and if she deceived me to
disgrace her publicly. This morning I saw her go out veiled, take a cab,
and alight at that house in the Champs Elysées. It was very clear. I
went to fetch a Commissary of Police, who lives close by that house. He
hesitated at first, but the fear of a greater misfortune, of a crime
that I was resolved to commit, decided him to go; and on the refusal of
Mr. Nourvady to open the door, they forced it open.

TRÉVELÉ.

And the Countess was there?

JOHN.

Yes.

TRÉVELÉ.

With Nourvady?

JOHN.

Yes.

GODLER (_after a little while_).

And you are convinced?...

JOHN.

Her hair undone, her arms bare, her dress-body opened! And such
effrontery! such impudence! (_Rising, and putting his head in his
hands._) I witnessed it, I witnessed it. That man has done all in his
power to exonerate her, to save her. He has given his word of honour
that there has never been anything between them. It was not through any
gentlemanly feeling, for he who comes to your house, takes you warmly by
the hand, and appropriates, steals, and buys your wife, such a one has
nothing of the true gentleman in him. But I do not know why I mention
that man! After all, it is not he who is guilty; he has done his work as
a man, as we have all done, and as we all do. He has met a beautiful
creature, coquettish, fond of luxury, ruined, heartless, destitute of
womanly feeling; heedless of her good name, her husband, or her child;
without the least gratitude, or the least remembrance, even, of all I
have done for her. He has offered to buy her, and she has consented. He
has paid her a million; that is dear;--for what is a woman who sells
herself really worth? As to me, I paid her with my name, with my
mother's death and curse, that is still dearer. My mother saw clearly:
she is avenged. I have no right to complain.

(_He sits down weeping, his head in his hands._)

GODLER (_much moved_).

My poor old friend!

JOHN.

I beg your pardon. It is not to tell you all this that I have asked you
to come here; but, after all, I have no one else now. Here am I, alone
in the world. You are my friends--you have said so at least; and then
again you did not come to my house to take her away, did you? Never
mind, let us try to put my ideas a little in order. I do not know very
well what I am about, you can understand that. However, you are
convinced that I am an honest man? That is the reason I wanted to see
you. You must tell me that you esteem me still. I may have been easily
smitten, very stupid. I was so young then! Alas! I feel a hundred years
old to-day. I may have been foolish to marry a creature unworthy of me;
but you believe me, you know me incapable of all connivance with her;
you feel certain that I have no hand in all this disgusting money
affair? and when I have gone away, when I am dead, for it will certainly
kill me in one way or another, you will take care to say, to affirm
strongly, to swear to it even, that I was ignorant of the whole thing. I
shall have lost my mother, my faith, my fortune, my life, for that
woman; so be it, but at least I have preserved my honour!

GODLER.

Rely on us, my dear friend, and understand that we think you the most
upright man in the world; that we esteem you for your honourableness,
and sympathise with you in your great misfortune.

(TRÉVELÉ, _on his part, takes John warmly by the hand_.)

TRÉVELÉ (_aside_).

Poor fellow!

JOHN.

Then, you understand why I have raised this scandal instead of
provoking the man. If I had been killed, a suspicion would always have
rested on me. Mr. Nourvady paid the debts of my wife; they would have
said that I did not find this enough, that I had asked for more, that he
had refused me, that then I had quarrelled with him, that he had killed
me, and that he had done right. If, on the contrary, I had killed him,
they would have said worse things still; that I had waited until he had
paid all household debts and had given my wife a fortune (for she has a
splendid mansion), a million for her own use; and having arranged all
that, and after all these disgraceful artifices, I had killed this
generous lover; and that this was my way of settling with my creditors,
and setting up my establishment again. This is why I have acted in this
way. I wanted to raise an unmistakable scandal, well-spread abroad, from
which it would be reported that she is a wretch and I an honest man ...
and besides, before doing anything else, I must pay back his money.

GODLER.

According to the light in which you place the situation, I understand
now what, with the habits of our set, I did not take in directly; from
the point of view in which you place the thing, you have nothing else to
do,--whatever may happen.

JOHN.

What do you mean by whatever may happen?

GODLER.

We never know! The human heart....

JOHN.

You believe me so weak, so much in love, and so base as to pardon this
woman after what she has done! You know perfectly well that you despise
me. It is my fault. My past weakness gives you the right to believe
anything of me.

GODLER.

I believe nothing, I suppose nothing, but the whole thing appears to me
very obscure, and passion, perhaps, has made you see things that do not
exist. All I know is, that yesterday, in this house, Nourvady, before
leaving us, spoke a long while in a low tone to the Countess. I heard
nothing, but Trévelé was relating all sorts of nonsense to me, and I was
supposed to be listening to it....

TRÉVELÉ.

Continue.

GODLER.

I looked unperceived at the Countess de Hun. Not only did she not listen
with interest to her interlocutor, but two or three times her attitude
and looks were indicative of anger. She threw something violently out of
this window. I do not know what--a note, a trinket, a ring perhaps; and
when Nourvady took leave of her, she said,--The insolent fellow! (_To_
TRÉVELÉ.) Is it true?

TRÉVELÉ.

It is quite true....

JOHN.

She changed her mind afterwards. Night brings counsel: and she is only
all the more guilty, as she knew very well what she was doing. Do not
speak of her any more, I shall have to think enough about it for the
rest of my life, which fortunately will not be long. At present I am
going away, as I have no money, and must go and look for some.

GODLER.

My dear fellow!...

JOHN.

You understand, without my telling you, that I ask you for none, and
that I should accept none. I confide in you because you are the only
persons that I can consider at all as friends in our station, where one
has so few; and what you do not give me out of friendship, you give me
in esteem and compassion.

(GODLER _and_ TRÉVELÉ _take him warmly by the hand_.)

TRÉVELÉ.

But the Countess, where is she?

JOHN.

She is, no doubt, in her house in the Champs Elysées.

TRÉVELÉ.

Then she will not come here?

JOHN.

Yes, she can come here. The house is hers; she can live here as much as
she likes. It is I who am not at home here, and who come only to make my
last preparations for departure.

TRÉVELÉ.

And Raoul? Your son?

JOHN (_with a bitter laugh_).

Are you quite sure that he is my son?

TRÉVELÉ.

Do not let your anger mislead you.

JOHN.

In any case he is the son of that woman; I do not wish to see him any
more. He can live with her, that she may bring him up in her new life.
He will avenge me one day. When he is twenty years old he will insult
her. Or something else may occur. The tribunal which will pronounce our
separation will order that the child shall be sent to college, or to
boarding school, from which his mother will have no power to take him.

TRÉVELÉ.

At his age! He will be very unhappy.

JOHN.

All the better for him. He will suffer at an earlier age--he will
understand more easily.

A SERVANT (_entering_).

Mr. Richard.

JOHN (_aside_).

It is not I who sent for him? Does he know anything?

GODLER.

Would you like us to leave you?

JOHN.

No. I have nothing to say that you may not hear.... unless you have
something else to do.

TRÉVELÉ.

No, nothing. (_To_ GODLER.) Nor you, have you?

GODLER.

I--no, nothing. (_To_ TRÉVELÉ, _combing his whiskers and pulling forward
his lock of hair_.) Florimonde is waiting for me.

TRÉVELÉ.

She is waiting for you with some one else. Be at ease, she will not be
weary waiting for you.


SCENE II.

THE SAME PERSONS, RICHARD.

RICHARD (_in a low voice to_ JOHN).

I know all, Count.

JOHN (_aloud_).

These gentlemen also....

RICHARD (_bowing_).

Your servant, gentlemen! (_To_ JOHN.) I have received a note from the
Countess, who begged me to go at once to the Commissary of Police and
take a copy of the accusation, as the lawyer watching her interest, in
the law proceedings which will take place. She has appointed an
interview.

JOHN.

In what place?

RICHARD.

Here. She knew very well that I would not go anywhere else.

JOHN.

Then she is here?

RICHARD.

Yes.

JOHN.

Have you seen her?

RICHARD.

No; but the footman told me, and he is gone to inform her. I wanted to
see you in the meantime.

JOHN.

And people already know it?

RICHARD.

Nothing; nothing at all. The Commissary has forbidden all communication
with the newspapers, and it is neither you, nor Mr. Nourvady, nor we--is
it not so, gentlemen? who would reveal the least circumstance in that
sad affair. The servants of the house in the Champs Elysées know what
took place, but they are ignorant of the name of the lady. The scandal
will be great enough at the time of the law proceedings. It is useless
to initiate the public beforehand.

JOHN.

Ah! Well, you can see the affair is very simple. The Countess and I were
separated, or had a separation of property; now we have a separation of
the body, and we shall see each other no more; that is the whole of it.

THE LADY'S MAID (_entering_).

The Countess de Hun sends me to say to Mr. Richard, that when he has
finished speaking to the Count she will be glad to see him....

JOHN (_to the Lady's Maid_).

Say to the Countess that Mr. Richard will be with her in a few minutes.
(_The Lady's Maid goes away._) Ah! she has audacity. When a woman has
once taken up the part of infamy and dishonour it is dreadful. (_To
Richard._) Tell her especially that she has nothing to fear, nothing to
hope from me, of whom she will hear nothing more till we meet before the
tribunal that will try our case. Good bye, my dear Mr. Richard; you are
her lawyer and her friend; you ought, naturally and legally, to act in
her cause. I shall think no less of you for all you will be called upon
to say against me. Gentlemen, we can retire; give me a few minutes more.

(_All three go away._)


SCENE III.

RICHARD, afterwards LIONNETTE.

RICHARD _is about to take up his hat. At the moment that he is thinking
of entering_ LIONNETTE'S _apartment, she appears_.

LIONNETTE.

I prefer to receive you here, my dear Mr. Richard, as we shall be left
alone and uninterrupted. My room, and my private reception-room, are in
disorder; they are packing my trunks--the servants are there, and we
could not talk privately. The reason I called you just now was, that the
Count might be aware that I was here, and that I was in a hurry to see
you. Have you been kind enough to do what I asked you?

RICHARD.

Yes.

LIONNETTE.

Then I have nothing more to tell you?

RICHARD.

No. All that is then quite true?

LIONNETTE.

Nothing on earth can be truer.

RICHARD.

Notwithstanding yesterday?

LIONNETTE.

Events have progressed, and I preferred to have done with it at once. I
was right. I am calmer now than I have ever been in my life. I know at
last what I want, and where I am going. It is a great deal, whatever one
may make of it. I have struggled hard against it, but it seems that I am
doomed to end in being a courtesan. Truly, I do not feel any inclination
that way. Frivolous, extravagant, but never depraved. However, they
willed it; it was inevitable; it was ordained; it was hereditary. My
dear Mr. Richard, I have to ask you for some information, because I am
still a little inexperienced in my new profession; but from the moment
one begins to do those things, they must be done openly, is it not so?
Ah! well, here are the title-deeds of some property I have acquired.

RICHARD.

Dearly?

LIONNETTE.

Yes, very dearly.

RICHARD.

And the price is paid?

LIONNETTE.

It is paid.

RICHARD.

Is it true?

LIONNETTE.

Paid or not paid, here are the title-deeds. (_Putting them on the table,
and beginning to totter._) Then I possess, too, over and above all my
paid debts--for they are paid--I am possessor, also, of a million in
gold, quite new: it is superb to look at.

RICHARD.

Sit down, you look as if you were going to fall. You are quite pale; the
blood has rushed to your heart.

LIONNETTE (_with a great effort_).

Do not be afraid, I am quite strong. I cannot eternally keep a million
in gold ... however beautiful it may be ... it is an incumbrance, and
then it might be stolen from me ... and money ... is everything in this
world! Without reckoning that in cash this million will yield nothing
... and I want it to produce something.... I should like, then, to place
it out in the best way possible. You must place it for me in safety,
where it cannot be touched, like the little income that remains to the
Count; so that I, too, may not want bread in my old age. I am such a
spendthrift. I count entirely on you for that.

RICHARD.

And where is this million?

LIONNETTE.

It is over there, in my house, the house that I ... bought--in a coffer
that I have even forgotten to shut; that is to say ... there are pieces
of gold lying in all directions ... on the table ... on the carpet. The
Commissary of Police opened his eyes!... If the footmen have taken some,
say nothing about it.... I am rich ... for there is also in a cabinet a
will of Mr. Nourvady, who, in the event of his death, leaves me all his
fortune: forty millions. That is worth something! But death is like
everything else in this world, it must not too surely be reckoned on.

RICHARD (_aside_.)

Poor creature!

LIONNETTE.

You already have my power of attorney, from the time that my affairs got
into confusion. It will enable you to take possession of my house and of
my capital during my absence. There ought also to be some jewels, a
great many jewels, in the drawers; I have not the least idea which,
however; I have never opened them--I have not even thought of them! You
will deposit them all in your house I do not want them in travelling ...
and then, I shall have plenty of others given to me--now; I shall have
all I can wish for given to me.

RICHARD.

And you are going away with Mr. Nourvady?

LIONNETTE.

We start this very day.

RICHARD.

It is positively arranged?

LIONNETTE.

I think so; I have not seen him again, but I want absolutely to start
to-day.

RICHARD.

And where will you meet?

LIONNETTE.

I suppose they will come for me here.

RICHARD.

Quite openly?

LIONNETTE.

Quite openly; at least, if they have not already had enough of me ...
that may happen ... anything may come to pass.... That would be strange.

RICHARD.

Do you love Mr. Nourvady, then?

LIONNETTE (_hoping to deceive_ RICHARD).

Madly, and for a long time past. I struggled against it. And then,
candidly, in the position in which I was, it was the only thing to do.

RICHARD.

And your husband?

LIONNETTE (_sincere_).

Oh! he! that is another thing; I hate him ... oh, yes! I hate him
_well_ ... without doubt....

RICHARD.

And your child?

LIONNETTE.

I see at what you are aiming, my dear Mr. Richard ... you want to touch
my tender feelings. Feel my hands, they are cold; listen to my voice, it
does not tremble; if you put your hand on my heart, you would feel that
I have not one pulsation more than ordinarily. You still hope there is
some remedy for what has happened ... there is none ... there can never
be any. If there were any I should reject it. Would you like me to open
my heart to you? I merit what has happened. I often condemned my mother,
because the guilty always accuse some one else of the faults that they
commit; but I am no better than she was. There is too great a mixture in
me, and I should be foolish to attempt to discover what I am. I am
simply and logically what I was destined to be. I shall not be the first
woman who was proud of her disgrace, especially in these times; and what
difference will that make to the world? I ought to have been economical
or ugly! These two men who hate each other, and are equally resolved to
be the ruin of me, are yet better than I, for they love, though one
suffers and the other desires; whereas I desire nothing more, I can
suffer no more, and this disclosure of affairs will appear quite natural
to those who knew me. It is horrible; it is monstrous ... it is all
that, and I tell it to you because I have no one now to deceive, thank
God! And, apart from that, I am going into vice that I like no better
than anything else, as I entered into marriage and motherhood, without
considering why. I have no heart! no heart! that is at the bottom of it
all. A creature of luxury and pleasure. You ask me, then, why I do not
kill myself--why I do not put an end to myself--that is the word? That
would be done more quickly, and would simplify everything. Yesterday I
was ready to die to avoid dishonour. To-day, what good would it do? I am
dishonoured. What do you want me to destroy in myself? Nothing has any
more life in me, and it seems that I can still bestow pleasure,
love--happiness may be. You say to yourself that all that is impossible,
because you call to mind your mother, your wife, your children. Yes,
there are, indeed, mothers, wives, children ... and, again, there are
some beings who have the same forms, and bear the same names, but who
are not in any degree the same thing. What do you want still to know?

RICHARD.

I do not dispute; only embrace your child for the last time.

LIONNETTE.

Why disturb him? he is playing no doubt.

RICHARD.

I am going to look for him.

LIONNETTE.

No, I beg of you. (RICHARD _walks towards the room_.) I do not wish it.

(THE FOOTMAN _appears_.)

THE FOOTMAN.

Mr. Nourvady would like to know if the Countess de Hun can receive him.

LIONNETTE (_in a natural tone._)

Certainly! (_To_ RICHARD.) Good bye, my dear Mr. Richard ... I will
write if I have any instructions to give you. My kind regards to your
wife ... if she knows nothing yet.

RICHARD.

Do not remain long here, that will be more prudent.

LIONNETTE.

I am going away directly.

(THE FOOTMAN _lets_ NOURVADY _pass, and goes away_.)

NOURVADY.

You excuse me, Madam?

LIONNETTE.

For what?

NOURVADY.

For coming here to look for you.

LIONNETTE.

Wherever I may be, have you not the right to come there; I was waiting
for you. I said so, a moment ago, to Mr. Richard, who knows all.

RICHARD.

Good-bye, Countess.

LIONNETTE (_giving him her hand with an involuntary and visible
emotion_).

Adieu, my dear Richard.

RICHARD (_bowing coldly to_ NOURVADY).

Sir.... (_He goes away._)


SCENE IV.

LIONNETTE, NOURVADY, afterwards RAOUL.

LIONNETTE.

You appear quite distressed.

NOURVADY.

It is on your account.

LIONNETTE.

I thought nothing ever troubled you! It is the scene of this morning
that has unnerved you.

NOURVADY.

In the first place....

LIONNETTE.

The fact is that you were hurt at the way in which the Commissary
entered; and your millions were powerless. As to me, I am quite myself
again. You love me still?

NOURVADY.

You ask me that?

LIONNETTE.

One never knows. The heart is so changeable. You see, this morning I did
not love you; it is not five o'clock, and I love you. (_She rings twice
violently._)

NOURVADY.

You are feverish; you, too....

LIONNETTE.

That will go off.... (_To the Lady's Maid, who has entered_) Bring me my
things to go out.

NOURVADY.

Is your husband in this house?

LIONNETTE.

Yes.

NOURVADY.

Have you seen him?

LIONNETTE.

No.

NOURVADY.

It is, nevertheless, to see you, that he has come back here.

LIONNETTE.

No more than that I came here to meet him. We were living here; we are
both going away, each his own way. We come to get what we want. It is
evident that he and I would very much prefer, at this moment, to be
somewhere else. It is you who ought not to be here; but, since this
morning, it is strange we are all in places where we ought not to be.
(_To the Lady's Maid, who comes back._) That will do; put them down
there.

(_The maid, puts down a hat, gloves, and a travelling cloak, and goes
away._)

NOURVADY.

I went back to your house, hoping to find you there. You had gone away.
I supposed you were here. The servant who announced me, and who,
evidently, knows nothing of all that has happened....

LIONNETTE.

No one knows anything about it except the parties interested.

NOURVADY.

The servant asked me if he were to announce me to the Count or Countess
de Hun. It was in that way that I knew that your husband was here at the
same time as you. I had a strong inclination to say to the man: Announce
me to your master.

LIONNETTE.

What could you have to say to him now?

NOURVADY.

He came to look for you in my house: I come to look for you in his. You
are a woman; you do not understand certain insults.

LIONNETTE.

Do you think so?

NOURVADY.

That man forced my door; he even broke it. He insulted you before me,
who love you.

LIONNETTE.

You must remember he loves me too: that is his excuse.

NOURVADY.

You defend him.

LIONNETTE (_while putting on her hat, mantle, and gloves_).

Ah! heaven help me, no! Well, what would you have said to him if they
had announced you to him as you said, and he had received you? But I
doubt if he would have received you after what is passed.

NOURVADY.

If he had refused to receive me, I should have burst open his door in my
turn, and....

LIONNETTE.

Ah! I forbid you absolutely to provoke him at present.... If I were a
widow through you ... or if he killed you, you would not be able to
marry me ... and if, one day, we could legitimize the false position we
are going to hold, I should be very glad of it. Let us trust to
Providence, as my mother used to say. Apart from all that, I am
ready.... Let us start!...

(_At the moment that she turns round to go out_ RAOUL _enters, and
throws himself into her arms to kiss her_.)

RAOUL.

Mamma!

LIONNETTE (_surprised and agitated_).

Ah! it is you. You frightened me!

RAOUL.

Kiss me.

LIONNETTE (_kissing him coldly_).

You think then of embracing me to-day. (_With a sigh_) It is rather
late.

RAOUL.

Where are you going?

LIONNETTE.

I am going out.

RAOUL.

When are you coming back?

LIONNETTE.

I don't know.

RAOUL.

To-day?

LIONNETTE.

To-day.

RAOUL.

Take me with you.

LIONNETTE.

It is impossible.

RAOUL.

Why? It is such fine weather.

LIONNETTE.

I am going too far. I shall send you some toys, you may be sure.

RAOUL.

I like better going with you.

LIONNETTE.

Impossible, I tell you. Go now; let me pass.

RAOUL.

No!

LIONNETTE.

You must, my child.

NOURVADY (_very agitated and very impatient during this scene, walks
from right to left to see if any one is coming._)

Some one is coming.

LIONNETTE (_a little more harshly_).

Now, now, let me go.

RAOUL.

No. (_He puts himself in front of his mother._)

NOURVADY (_taking the child by the arm, and throwing him far from him_).

Leave us alone, then!

(_The child totters, falls, and remains motionless._ LIONNETTE _stops,
looks with stupor on what has passed, recoils, covers her face with her
hands, utters a piercing cry, and rushes at_ NOURVADY, _whom she seizes
by the throat as if to strangle him_.)

LIONNETTE.

Miserable wretch!

     NOURVADY (_whom she has struck on the shoulder, who feels himself
     getting exhausted, but who will not defend himself, with a feeble
     voice_).

You are hurting me.

LIONNETTE (_releasing him_).

Go away; go away! I shall strangle you. I shall kill you. My child! My
child!

(_She utters several cries, and throws herself in despair upon the
child._)

RICHARD (_who has entered during this scene, to_ NOURVADY).

Go away, sir, go away, in the name of heaven! Enough of such
misfortunes, without that.

(_He makes_ NOURVADY _go away_.)

RAOUL (_half raising himself up_).

There is nothing the matter ... Mamma.... Nothing, I assure you.

(LIONNETTE _on her knees, with_ RAOUL'S _head on her breast, kissing him
with rapture, sobbing without power to stop herself_).

RICHARD (_near her_).

Saved! You are saved!

LIONNETTE (_with sobs, tremulously accentuating every word_).

Yes, yes, yes, saved! (_To_ RICHARD.) Ah! I was mad.... I was mad....
But when that man laid his hand on my child, it is awful what took
possession of me! I do not know how it was I did not kill him. What is
the use of a man struggling with a mother? For I am a mother. I am....
Oh! I felt it truly, from my heart, that that could never be. Richard,
you guessed rightly; yes. Right-minded people guess rightly!... They
want my father's letters; very well, they shall have them. You shall
sell everything; you shall pay--you must give that man back his
money;--there will be an end to it all. Go, and find my husband.
(RICHARD _goes away_.) I want to see him before I die, for I am going to
die, I feel it.

(_She lets her head fall upon the couch, and half loses consciousness._)

RAOUL (_jumping upon the couch, taking his mother's head in his arms,
and kissing it._)

Mamma, mamma, mamma ... do not die, I beseech you.

LIONNETTE (_recovering consciousness_).

No, no, I shall live, for I love you!...

(_She covers him with kisses, and does not see_ JOHN, _who enters with_
RICHARD, _who is showing him the scene_. JOHN _starts back,
comprehending nothing yet_. GODLER _and_ TRÉVELÉ _look on and rejoin_
JOHN, _who cannot take his eyes off the picture of the mother and her
child_. RICHARD _touches_ LIONNETTE'S _shoulder, who turns round and
sees_ JOHN.)


SCENE V.

LIONNETTE, JOHN, RAOUL, RICHARD, GODLER, TRÉVELÉ.

LIONNETTE _to_ JOHN (_running to him and falling on her knees_).

Do not leave me any more. I will explain all to you. I understand, I see
it all clearly now! I am innocent, I swear to you! I swear to you! I
swear to you! We will live modestly in some quiet place, wherever you
like. What difference does that make now that my child has awakened my
soul in me?

(_She throws herself again on her son's neck_).

JOHN (_in the hands of_ GODLER _and_ TRÉVELÉ).

My friends, my friends, I am losing my senses!

GODLER.

You can, indeed, boast of having a true woman as a wife!

TRÉVELÉ (_touching him_).

Go and kneel at her feet.

(LIONNETTE _is sitting on the couch, supporting her son's head on her
knees, and her head thrown back, in an attitude of weariness and
contentment_. JOHN _throws himself on his knees before her, and kisses
the hand she has free. She holds out the other to_ RICHARD.)

LIONNETTE (_to_ RICHARD).

It was just in time.

RICHARD.

Yes, the cry of a child! that is sufficient. When all is nearly lost,
God's way is all-powerful.

JOHN.

I believe in you, and I love you.

LIONNETTE (_with a long sigh of joy_).

Ah! how happy I am!

GODLER (_wiping his eyes_).

How foolish I am, at my age!

TRÉVELÉ (_to_ GODLER, _wiping his eyes, and trying to conceal his
emotion_).

Bring forward your lock of hair.

CHATEAU DE SALNEUVE, _September_, 1880.


FINIS.





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