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Title: The Art of being Bored - A Comedy in Three Acts
Author: Pailleron, Edouard
Language: English
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                        The Art of Being Bored
                        a Comedy in Three Acts:
                         by Edouard Pailleron:
                         Translated by Barrett
                               H. Clark

                       Samuel French: Publisher
                   25 West Forty-Fifth St.: New York
                          Samuel French, Ltd.
                                London
                     26 Southampton Street, Strand

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 =The Art of Being Bored.= (Le Monde ou l’on s’ennuie). A comedy in 3
 acts. By Edouard Pailleron. 11 men, 9 women. Probably the best-known
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                                  The
                          ART OF BEING BORED

                       _A COMEDY IN THREE ACTS_

                                  BY
                           EDOUARD PAILLERON

                            _Translated by_
                           BARRETT H. CLARK

                   COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY SAMUEL FRENCH

                               NEW YORK
                             SAMUEL FRENCH
                               PUBLISHER
                          25 WEST 45TH STREET

                                LONDON
                          SAMUEL FRENCH, LTD.
                         26 SOUTHAMPTON STREET
                                STRAND



                           EDOUARD PAILLERON


The author of “Le Monde où l’on s’ennuie” was born at Paris in 1834.
Besides this, his masterpiece, he wrote numerous comedies, sentimental
and satirical. Pailleron is in no way concerned with problems or
“ideas”; he is content to depict the foibles and affectations of
society, framing his observations into a harmonious and unified whole.
This play was first produced, at Paris, in 1881, and has since held the
stage.

       *       *       *       *       *

The scenery and costumes are modern.

Owing to the large number of characters, some attention must be paid
to the grouping of stage pictures. The stage-directions, if carefully
followed, will supply sufficient information to enable the director to
group the actors without difficulty.



THE ART OF BEING BORED


PERSONS IN THE PLAY

  BELLAC
  ROGER DE CÉRAN
  PAUL RAYMOND
  TOULONNIER
  GENERAL DE BRIAIS
  VIROT
  FRANCOIS
  SAINT-RÉAULT
  GAIAC
  MELCHIOR DE BOINES
  DES MILLETS
  DUCHESSE DE RÉVILLE
  MADAME DE LOUDAN
  JEANNE RAYMOND
  LUCY WATSON
  SUZANNE DE VILLIERS
  COUNTESS DE CÉRAN
  MADAME ARRIÉGO
  MADAME DE BOINES
  MADAME DE SAINT-RÉAULT

 SCENE: _A drawing-room in_ MADAME DE CÉRAN’S _château at_ SAINT
 GERMAIN.



                        The Art of Being Bored


                                 ACT I


 _A drawing-room, with a large entrance at the back, opening upon
 another room. Entrances up and down stage. To the left, between the
 two doors, a piano. Right, an entrance down-stage; farther up, a large
 alcove with a glazed door leading into the garden, left; a table, on
 either side of which is a chair; to the right, a small table and a
 sofa, armchairs, etc._

FRANCOIS. (_Looking among the papers which litter the table_) It
couldn’t be on top here—nor here. _Revue Matérialiste_ ... _Revue des
Cours_—_Journal des Savants_——

                            (_Enter_ LUCY.)

LUCY. Well, Francois, have you found the letter?

FRANCOIS. No, Miss Lucy, not yet.

LUCY. Pink paper—opened—no envelope?

FRANCOIS. Is it addressed to Miss Watson?

LUCY. Didn’t I tell you it was addressed to me?

FRANCOIS. But——

LUCY. The point is, have you found it?

FRANCOIS. Not yet, but I shall look everywhere, and ask——

LUCY. Don’t ask; there’s no need. But it must be found, so look
carefully. Go over every foot of ground from where you gave us our
letters this morning, to this room. It couldn’t have fallen anywhere
else. Please, please hunt for it! (_She goes out_)

FRANCOIS. (_Alone, as he returns to the table_) “Hunt, hunt?” _Revue
Coloniale_—_Revue Diplomatique_—_Revue Archéologique_——

                     (_Enter_ JEANNE _and_ PAUL.)

JEANNE. (_Gaily_) Someone here! (_To_ FRANCOIS) Madame de Céran——

PAUL. (_Taking her hand_) Sh! (_To_ FRANCOIS, _gravely_) Is Madame la
comtesse de Céran in the château at present?

FRANCOIS. Yes, Monsieur.

JEANNE. (_Gaily_) Very well, tell her that Monsieur and Madame Paul——

PAUL. (_As before, coldly_) Be good enough to announce to her that M.
Raymond, Sub-prefect[1] of Agenis, and Mme. Raymond, have arrived from
Paris, and await her pleasure in the drawing-room.

 [1] A prefect is the officer in charge of the administrative affairs
 of the Department, one of the ninety-six divisions of France.

JEANNE. And that——

PAUL. (_As before_) Sh! That’s all, please.

FRANCOIS. Very well, M. le sous-préfet. (_Aside_) Newlyweds!— Shall I
take Monsieur’s—? (_He takes their bags and rugs, and goes out_)

JEANNE. Now, Paul——

PAUL. No “Paul” here: “M. Raymond!”

JEANNE. What, d’you want me to——?

PAUL. Not here, I tell you.

JEANNE. (_Laughing_) What a scowl!

PAUL. Please, you mustn’t laugh out loud.

JEANNE. How is this, Monsieur, you are scolding me? (_She throws
herself into his arms, but he disengages himself, terrified_)

PAUL. Silly! That’s enough to spoil everything!

JEANNE. Oh! What a bore!

PAUL. Precisely! That time you struck exactly the right note. You
surely haven’t forgotten all I told you in the train?

JEANNE. Why, I thought you were joking!

PAUL. Joking? So you don’t want to be a Prefect’s wife?—Tell me?

JEANNE. Yes, if it would please you.

PAUL. Very well, dear. I call you dear, as we are alone, but later on,
before the guests, it must be merely Jeanne. The Comtesse de Céran has
done me the honor of asking me to introduce my young wife to her, and
of spending a few days here at her château. Mme. de Céran’s circle is
one of the three or four most influential in Paris. We are not here to
amuse ourselves. I come here merely a Sub-prefect; I am determined to
leave a Prefect. Everything depends on her—upon us—upon you!

JEANNE. Upon me? What do you mean?

PAUL. Of course, on you! Society judges a man by his wife, and society
is right. Therefore be on your guard.—Dignity without pride: a knowing
smile—ears and eyes open, lips closed! Oh, compliments, as many as
you like, and quotations, short and authoritative: for philosophy try
Hegel; for literature, Jean Paul; politics——

JEANNE. But I don’t understand politics.

PAUL. Here all the women talk politics.

JEANNE. Well, I know nothing whatever about it.

PAUL. Neither do they, but that doesn’t make any difference. Cite
Pufendorff and Machiavelli as if they were your own relatives, and talk
about the Council of Trent as if you had presided over it. As for
your amusements: music, strolls in the garden, and whist—that’s all
I can allow. Your clothes must be chosen with great care, and as for
Latin—use the few words I’ve taught you. In a week’s time I want it to
be said of you: “Ah, that little Mme. Raymond will be the wife of a
Cabinet Minister some day!” And in this circle, you know, when they say
that a woman will be a Cabinet Minister’s wife, her husband is not very
far from a portfolio.

JEANNE. What? Do you want to be Minister?—Why?

PAUL. In order to keep from becoming famous.

JEANNE. But Mme. de Céran belongs to the opposition; what can you
expect from her?

PAUL. How simple you are! In the matter of political positions, there
is only the slightest shade of difference between the Conservatives and
their opponents: the Conservatives ask for places and their opponents
accept them. No, no, my child, this is the place where reputations
are made and unmade and made over again; where, under the appearance
of talking literature and art, Machiavellian conspirators hatch
their schemes: this is the private entrance to the ministries, the
antechamber of the Academies, the laboratory of success!

JEANNE. Heavens! What sort of circle is this?

PAUL. It is the 1881 edition of the Hotel de Rambouillet: a section of
society where everybody talks and poses, where pedantry masquerades
as knowledge, sentimentality as sentiment, and preciosity as delicacy
and refinement;—here no one ever dreams of saying what one thinks, and
never believes what one says, where friendship is a matter of cold
calculation, and chivalry and manners merely means to an end. It is
where one swallows one’s tongue in the drawing-room just as one leaves
one’s cane in the hallway: in short, Society where one learns the art
of being serious!

JEANNE. I should say, the art of being bored!

PAUL. Precisely!

JEANNE. But if everyone bores everyone else, what possible influence
can it all have?

PAUL. What influence? How simple you are! You ask what influence
can boredom exert, here in this country? A great deal, I tell you.
You see, the Frenchman has a horror of boredom amounting almost
to veneration. _Ennui_ is for him a terrible god whose worship is
celebrated by good form. He recognizes nothing as serious unless
it is in regulation dress. I don’t say that he practises what he
preaches, but that is only a further reason for believing more firmly:
he prefers believing to finding out for himself. I tell you, this
nation, which is at bottom gay, despises itself for being so; it has
forgotten its faith in the good common sense of its generous laughter;
this sceptical and talkative nation believes in those who have little
to say, this whole-hearted and amiable people allows itself to be
imposed upon by pedantic false pride and the pretentious asininity of
the pontiffs of the white dress necktie: in politics, in science, in
art, in literature, in everything! These they scoff at, hate, flee
as from a pestilence, yet they alone preserve for these things a
secret admiration and perfect confidence! And you ask what influence
has boredom? Ah, my dear girl, there are just two kinds of people
in the world: those who don’t know how to bore themselves, and who
are nobodies; and those who know how to bore themselves, and who are
somebody—besides those who know how to bore others!

JEANNE. And this is the place you’ve brought me to!

PAUL. Do you want to be a Prefect’s wife? Tell me?

JEANNE. Oh, to begin with, I could never——

PAUL. Oh, never mind! It’s only for a week!

JEANNE. A week! Without speaking, without laughing, without being
kissed by you!

PAUL. That’s before company; but when we are alone—in the dark, oh,
then! Why, it will be delightful; we’ll arrange secret meetings, in
the garden, everywhere—just as we did before we were married—at your
father’s, do you remember?

JEANNE. Very well, very well! (_She opens the piano and plays an air
from La Fille de Madame Angot_)

PAUL. (_Terrified_) Very well, then! What are you doing there?

JEANNE. It’s from the opera we saw last night!

PAUL. My poor child, so this is the way you follow my advice!

JEANNE. We sat in a box together—wasn’t it lovely, Paul!

PAUL. Jeanne! Jeanne!—What if someone should come in! Please!

                   (FRANCOIS _appears at the back_.)

PAUL. Too late! (JEANNE _changes the air she was playing into a
Beethoven Symphony. Aside_) Beethoven,—Bravo! (_He listens to the music
with profound satisfaction_) Ah, it’s a fact that the only place for
music is the _Conservatoire_!

FRANCOIS. Madame la Comtesse requests Monsieur le sous-préfet to wait
five minutes for her: she is in consultation with Monsieur le baron
Eriel de Saint-Réault.

PAUL. The Orientalist?

FRANCOIS. I do not know, Monsieur, he is the son of the scientist whose
father was so talented.

PAUL. (_Aside_) Who has so many positions to dispose of! He’s
the one!—Ah, M. de Saint-Réault is here, then. I presume Mme. de
Saint-Réault is with him?

FRANCOIS. Yes, M. le sous-préfet; likewise the Marquise de Loudan and
Mme. Arriégo, but these ladies are at present in Paris, following M.
Bellac’s course—with Mlle. Suzanne de Villiers.

PAUL. There are no other guests here?

FRANCOIS. There is Madame la duchesse de Réville, Madame’s aunt.

PAUL. I don’t refer to the Duchess or to Miss Watson; or to Mlle. de
Villiers: they are the family! I mean guests, like ourselves.

FRANCOIS. No, M. le sous-préfet, there are no others.

PAUL. And no one else is expected?

FRANCOIS. Oh, yes, M. le sous-préfet; M. Roger, the son of Mme. la
comtesse, has just arrived to-day from his scientific investigations
in the Orient. He is expected any moment.—Ah, and then M. Bellac, the
professor, who is to spend a few days here when his lecture course is
over—at least we hope so.

PAUL. (_Aside_) Ah, that’s why there are so many ladies!—Very well,
thank you.

FRANCOIS. Then M. le sous-préfet will be good enough to wait?

PAUL. Yes, and tell Mme. la comtesse not to hurry. (FRANCOIS _goes
out_) Whew! You gave me a turn with that music! But you got out of it
beautifully, changing Lecocq to Beethoven! Rather good, that!

JEANNE. Stupid, am I not?

PAUL. I know better now! We still have five minutes; I’ll tell you a
little about these people: it’s best to be on the safe side.

JEANNE. Oh, never mind!

PAUL. Come, Jeanne, five minutes! You _must_ know something about them!

JEANNE. After each “something” you must kiss me!

PAUL. All right, then; what a child you are! I won’t be long: mother,
son, friend, and guest,—everyone of them very serious!

JEANNE. How amusing that will be!

PAUL. Don’t worry, there are two who are not so serious. I have kept
them for the last.

JEANNE. One moment, please, pay me first! (_She counts on her fingers_)
Madame de Céran, one; her son Roger, two; Miss Lucy, three; the two
Saint-Réault; one Bellac, one Loudan and one Arriégo, that makes eight!
(_She puts her cheek up to be kissed_)

PAUL. Eight what?

JEANNE. Eight “somethings“—pay.

PAUL. _What_ a child! There, there, there! (_He kisses her_)

JEANNE. Not so fast: retail, if you please.

PAUL. (_After having kissed her more slowly_) There, does that satisfy
you?

JEANNE. For the present. Now, let’s have the two who are not serious!

PAUL. First, the Duchesse de Réville, the aunt, a handsome old lady who
was a beauty in her day——

JEANNE. (_Questioningly_) Hmm?

PAUL. So they say! A bit brusque and direct—but an excellent lady and
very sensible—as you’ll see. But last and best, Suzanne de Villiers!
She, is not at all serious—it’s a fault with her.

JEANNE. At last, somebody who’s frivolous, thank Heaven!

PAUL. Girl of eighteen, a tom-boy, chatter-box, free with her tongue
and her manners—with a life-history that reads like a novel.

JEANNE. Umm! Lovely, let’s hear it!

PAUL. She’s the daughter of a certain widow—

JEANNE. Yes?

PAUL. Well? Daughter of a widow—and that ass Georges de Villiers,
another nephew of the Duchess; she adored him. A natural child.

JEANNE. Natural? How lovely!

PAUL. The mother and father are dead. The child was left an orphan at
the age of twelve with a princely heritage and an education to match.
Georges taught her Javanese. The Duchess, who adores her, brought her
into the home of Madame de Céran, who detests her, and gave her Roger
for a tutor. They tried their best to keep her in a convent, but she
ran away twice; they sent her back a third time and—here she is again!
Imagine that state of affairs! And that’s the end of the story—good,
isn’t it?

JEANNE. So good that you needn’t pay me the two kisses you owe me.

PAUL. (_Disappointed_) Ohh!

JEANNE. But I’ll pay you! (_She kisses him_)

PAUL. Silly! (_The door at the back opens_) Oh! Saint-Réault and Madame
de Céran! No, she didn’t see us. Now—ahem—ready!

 (_Enter_ MME. DE CÉRAN _and_ SAINT-RÉAULT. _They pause in the doorway,
    not seeing_ PAUL _and_ JEANNE.)

MME. DE CÉRAN. No, no, no, my friend, not the first poll! Listen to
me, 15-8-15 the first poll—— There was a secret ballot on that one and
therefore on the second: it’s very simple!

SAINT-RÉAULT. Simple? Simple? Now the second poll, since I have only
four votes on the second poll, with our nine votes on the first
poll—that leaves us only thirteen on the second!

MME. DE CÉRAN. And our seven on the first—that makes twenty on the
second! Don’t you see?

SAINT-RÉAULT. (_Enlightened_) Ahhh!

PAUL. (_To_ JEANNE) Very simple!

MME. DE CÉRAN. I repeat, beware of Dalibert and his Liberals. At
present the Academy is Liberal—at present—at present! (_They come
down-stage, talking_)

SAINT-RÉAULT. Isn’t Revel also the leader of the New School?

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Looking at him_) Ohh! Revel isn’t dead yet, is he?

SAINT-RÉAULT. Oh, no!

MME. DE CÉRAN. He isn’t ill?

SAINT-RÉAULT. (_Slightly embarrassed_) Oh, he’s always in poor health.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Well, then?

SAINT-RÉAULT. We must always be prepared, mustn’t we?—I’ll keep my eyes
open.

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Aside_) There’s something at the bottom of all this!
(_Seeing_ RAYMOND, _and going toward him_) Ah, my dear Monsieur
Raymond, I was forgetting all about you; pardon me!

PAUL. My dear Countess! (_Presenting_ JEANNE) Madame Paul Raymond!

MME. DE CÉRAN. You are most welcome here, Madame! Consider yourself in
the home of a friend. (_Presenting them to_ SAINT-RÉAULT) Monsieur Paul
Raymond, Sub-prefect of Agenis, Madame Paul Raymond, Monsieur le baron
Eriel de Saint-Réault.

PAUL. I am especially happy to make your acquaintance since, as a young
man, it was my privilege to know your illustrious father. (_Aside_) He
stuck me on my final examinations!

SAINT-RÉAULT. (_Bowing_) What a pleasant coincidence, M. le Préfet!

PAUL. Especially pleasant for me, M. le Baron!

            (SAINT-RÉAULT _goes to the table and writes_.)

MME. DE CÉRAN. You will find my house a trifle austere for a person of
your youth, Madame. You have only your husband to blame for your stay
here.—It has its moments of monotony, but you may console yourself with
the thought that resignation means obedience, and that in coming here
you had no choice.

JEANNE. (_Gravely_) As regards that, Mme. la comtesse, “To be free
is not to do what one wishes, but what one judges to be best”—as the
philosopher Joubert has said.

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Looking approvingly at_ PAUL) That is quite
reassuring, my dear. But I think you will find that no matter how
intellectual our circle may be, it is not lacking in _esprit_. Indeed
this very evening you will find the _soirée_ particularly interesting.
Monsieur de Saint-Réault has been kind enough to offer to read to us
from his unpublished work on Rama-Ravana and the Sanscrit Legends.

PAUL. Really! Oh, Jeanne!

JEANNE. How fortunate we are!

MME. DE CÉRAN. After which I believe I can promise you something from
Monsieur Bellac.

JEANNE. The Professor?

MME. DE CÉRAN. Do you know him?

JEANNE. What woman doesn’t? How delightful that will be!

MME. DE CÉRAN. An informal talk—_ad usum mundi_—a few words, gems of
wisdom; and finally, the reading of an unpublished play.

PAUL. Oh! In verse?

MME. DE CÉRAN. The first work of a young man —an unknown poet, who
is to be introduced to me this evening and whose play has just been
accepted by the Théâtre-Francais.

PAUL. How fortunate we are to be able to enjoy among these charming
people another of these wonderful opportunities that one finds nowhere
except beneath your roof.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Doesn’t this literary atmosphere frighten you, Madame?
Your charms will be wasted at a _soirée_ like this.

JEANNE. (_Seriously_) “What appears a waste to the vulgar is often a
gain”—as M. de Tocqueville has said.

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Looking at her in astonishment—aside to_ PAUL)
She is charming! (SAINT-RÉAULT _rises, and goes toward the door_)
Saint-Réault, where are you going?

SAINT-RÉAULT. (_As he goes_) To the station—a telegram. Excuse me—I’ll
be back in ten minutes. (_He goes out_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. There is certainly something at the bottom of all this!
(_She looks among the papers on the table—to_ JEANNE _and_ PAUL) I beg
your pardon! (_She rings, and after a moment_ FRANCOIS _appears_) The
papers?

FRANCOIS. M. de Saint-Réault took them away this morning. They are in
his room.

PAUL. (_Drawing Le Journal Amusant from his pocket_) If you wish the——

JEANNE. (_Quickly checking him and at the same time producing the
Journal des Debats[2] from her pocket and offering it to_ MME. DE
CÉRAN) This is to-day’s paper, Countess.

[2] The “Journal Amusant” is a comic paper, the “Journal des Debats” a
very old and conservative organ.

MME. DE CÉRAN. With pleasure—I am curious about—please pardon me
again! (_She opens the paper and reads_)

PAUL. (_To his wife_) Bravo! Keep it up! The Joubert was excellent and
the de Tocqueville—I say!

JEANNE. It wasn’t de Tocqueville—it was _I_.

PAUL. Oh!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Reading_) “Revel very ill.” Just what I thought.
Saint-Réault isn’t losing much time. (_Handing the paper to_ PAUL) I
found out what I wanted to know, thank you. But I shan’t keep you,
you shall be shown to your rooms. We dine sharp at six; you know the
Duchess is very punctual. At four tea is served; at five we take
a stroll and at six have dinner. (_The clock strikes four_) Ah,
four already, and here she is! (_The_ DUCHESS _enters, followed by_
FRANCOIS, _who brings her chair and her work-basket. A maid brings tea.
The_ DUCHESS _sits in the chair placed for her_) My dear Aunt, allow me
to present——

DUCHESS. (_Settling herself_) Wait a minute—wait a minute. There!
Present whom? (_She looks through her lorgnette_) It isn’t Raymond that
you want to present, is it? I’ve known him for a long time.

PAUL. (_Advancing with_ JEANNE) No, Duchess, but Madame Paul Raymond,
his wife,—if you please!

DUCHESS. (_Gazing at_ JEANNE, _who bows_) She’s pretty—very pretty!
With my Suzanne, and Lucy, despite her glasses, that makes three pretty
women in my house—and heaven knows that’s not too many! (_She drinks_)
And how on earth did a charming girl like you happen to marry that
awful Republican?

PAUL. (_Chaffingly_) Oh, Duchess, I a Republican!

DUCHESS. Well, you were one, at least! (_She drinks again_)

PAUL. Oh, well, like everyone else, when I was little. That is the
measles of politics, Duchess, everybody has to have it.

DUCHESS. (_Laughing_) Ah, oh, ah, the measles! Isn’t he funny! (_To_
JEANNE) And you, my dear, you like a joke once in a while, too?

JEANNE. Oh, Duchess, I have no objection to a little frivolity—in
moderation.

DUCHESS. That isn’t very frivolous, but it’s better than nothing. Well,
well—I like a little frivolity myself, especially in a person of your
age. (_To the maid_) Here, take this away. (_She hands her cup to the
maid_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_To the maid_) Will you show Madame Raymond to her
room, Mademoiselle? (_To_ JEANNE) Your room is this way, just next to
mine——

JEANNE. Thank you, Madame. (_To_ PAUL) Come, dear.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Oh, no, I have put your husband over there on the other
side, among the workers: my son, the Count and Monsieur Bellac, in the
Pavilion, which we call—a little pretentiously, perhaps—the Pavillion
of the Muses. (_To_ PAUL) Francois will show you the way. I thought you
would be able to work better there.

PAUL. Admirable arrangement, Countess; I thank you. (JEANNE _pinches
him_) Oh!

JEANNE. (_Sweetly_) Go, my dear.

PAUL. (_Aside to her_) You’ll come at least and help me unpack my
trunks?

JEANNE. How can I?

PAUL. Through the upper corridor.

DUCHESS. (_To_ MME. DE CÉRAN) If you think it pleases those two to
separate them like that——

JEANNE. (_Aside_) I’ve gone too far!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_To_ JEANNE) Aren’t you pleased with this arrangement?

JEANNE. Perfectly, Madame la comtesse; and you know better than anyone
else _quid deceat, quid non_. (_She bows_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_To_ PAUL) She is perfectly charming!

             (_They go out_; PAUL _right_, JEANNE _left_.)

DUCHESS. (_Seated near the table at the left, working at her
fancy-work_) Ah, she knows Latin! She ought to be congenial to the
company!

MME. DE CÉRAN. You know Revel is very ill.

DUCHESS. He is never anything else,—what’s that to me?

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Sitting down_) What do you mean, Aunt? Revel is a
second Saint-Réault. He holds at least fifteen positions: leader of
the New School, for instance—a position which leads to any number of
others! Just the thing for Roger. He returns to-day, and I’ve asked the
Minister’s secretary to dinner this evening, you know.

DUCHESS. Yes, a new one: Toulonnier.

MME. DE CÉRAN. I take away his position from him to-night.

DUCHESS. So you want to make your son the leader of a school?

MME. DE CÉRAN. It’ll be another stepping-stone, you know, Aunt.

DUCHESS. You have brought him up to be a mere chess-pawn, haven’t you?

MME. DE CÉRAN. I have made of him a serious-minded man, Aunt.

DUCHESS. Yes, I should think so! A man of twenty-eight, who has
never—done a foolish thing in his life, I’ll wager! It’s a perfect
shame!

MME. DE CÉRAN. At thirty he will enter the Institute, and at
thirty-five the Chamber of Deputies.

DUCHESS. So you want to begin again with your son, and do with him as
you did with his father?

MME. DE CÉRAN. Did I make so miserable a failure of him?

DUCHESS. I say nothing about your husband: a dryasdust creature, with a
mediocre intellect—!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Aunt!

DUCHESS. Of course, your husband was a fool!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Duchess!

DUCHESS. A fool who happened to know how to behave himself! You forced
him into politics, you’ll admit that. And then, all you could make of
him was Minister of Agriculture and Commerce. That isn’t much to boast
about. But enough of him; Roger’s another matter: he has brains and
spirit enough—or will have, God willing—or he’s no nephew of mine. That
never occurred to you, did it?

MME. DE CÉRAN. I am thinking of his career.

DUCHESS. And his happiness?

MME. DE CÉRAN. I have thought of that, too.

DUCHESS. Ah, yes! Lucy, eh? They correspond, I know that. That’s fine!
A young girl who wears glasses and has a neck like a——! And you call
that thinking of his happiness!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Duchess, you are quite incorrigible!

DUCHESS. A sort of meteorite, who fell among us, intending to stop two
weeks, and remained two years: a blue-stocking who writes letters to
scholars and translates Schopenhauer!

MME. DE CÉRAN. A rich, intellectual, highly-educated and well-born
orphan, niece of the Lord-Chancellor, who recommended her: she would be
a splendid wife for Roger, and——

DUCHESS. That English iceberg? Brrrr! Just to kiss her would freeze
the nose off his face! But you’re on a false scent. In the first place
Bellac has his eye on her—yes, the Professor! He’s asked me too many
questions about her to leave any doubt in my mind. And what is more,
she seems fond of _him_.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Lucy?

DUCHESS. Yes, Lucy,—like all the rest of you! You’re all mad over him.
I know more about this than you do.—No, no! Lucy is not the woman for
your son!

MME. DE CÉRAN. I know your schemes: Suzanne is the woman!

DUCHESS. I don’t deny it. I have brought Suzanne here for that very
purpose. I arranged that he should be her tutor and her master, so to
speak, in order that he might marry her,—and marry her he shall!

MME. DE CÉRAN. You have counted without me, Duchess; I shall never
consent.

DUCHESS. And why not? A girl who——

MME. DE CÉRAN. Is of questionable origin, questionable attraction,
without education and manners.

DUCHESS. (_Bursting into laughter_) My living image at her age!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Without fortune! Without family!

DUCHESS. Without family? The daughter of my poor Georges? My handsome,
good, kind Georges!—And she’s your cousin after all!

MME. DE CÉRAN. A natural child!

DUCHESS. Natural? Aren’t all children natural? You amuse me! She’s been
legally recognized! And good heavens, when the devil’s put his finger
in the pie why shouldn’t the rest of us? Me, too, eh?

MME. DE CÉRAN. The devil has put his finger in the pie, but not the way
you think. _You_ are on the false scent.

DUCHESS. Oh, the Professor! Yes, Bellac. You told me that. You think no
woman can follow his lectures without falling in love with him?

MME. DE CÉRAN. But Suzanne hasn’t missed a single lecture, Aunt, and
she takes notes and corrects them and copies them—I tell you Suzanne is
in earnest. And while he is speaking she never takes her eyes off him;
she drinks in every word. And you think that is all for the sake of
science! Nonsense, it isn’t the science she loves, it’s the scientist.
That is as plain as day. You have only to watch her when she’s with
Lucy. She is dreadfully jealous. And this recently acquired coquetry
in a girl of her disposition—! She sighs, sulks, blushes, turns pale,
laughs, cries——

DUCHESS. April showers! She’s just coming into bloom. She’s bored, poor
child!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Here?

DUCHESS. Here? Do you think it’s amusing here? Do you suppose that if
_I_ were eighteen, I should be here, among all your old ladies and your
old gentlemen? I should say not! I’d associate with young people all
the time; the younger the better, the handsomer the better, the more
admirers I had the better! There are only two things that women never
grow weary of: loving and being loved! And the older I grow the more I
realize that there is no other happiness in the world!

MME. DE CÉRAN. There are more serious things in life than that, Duchess.

DUCHESS. More serious than love? Nonsense! Do you mean to say that when
that is gone, there is any other happiness left? When we are old, we
have false pleasures, just as we have false teeth, but there is only
one true happiness, and that is love, love!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Oh, Aunt, you are too romantic!

DUCHESS. The fault of my years! Women find romance but twice in their
lives: at sixteen in their own hearts, at sixty in the hearts of
others. Well, you want your son to marry Lucy; I want him to marry
Suzanne. You say Suzanne is in love with Bellac; I say, LUCY. Perhaps
we are both wrong; it is for Roger to decide.

MME. DE CÉRAN. How?

DUCHESS. I shall explain the whole situation to him the moment he
arrives.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Do you intend——?

DUCHESS. He is her tutor! (_Aside_) He must know.

                            (_Enter_ LUCY.)

LUCY. (_In a low-cut evening gown_) I believe your son has arrived,
Madame.

MME. DE CÉRAN. The Count!

DUCHESS. Roger!

LUCY. His carriage has just come into the court.

MME. DE CÉRAN. At last!

DUCHESS. Were you afraid he wouldn’t return?

MME. DE CÉRAN. I feared he would not return in time. I was anxious
about that place for him.

LUCY. Oh, he wrote me this morning that he would return to-day,
Thursday.

DUCHESS. And you missed one of the Professor’s lectures in order to see
him that much sooner. Hm, that’s lovely!

LUCY. That wasn’t the reason, Madame.

DUCHESS. (_Aside to_ MME. DE CÉRAN) You see?—No? Why then?

LUCY. No, I was looking for—I—it was another matter.

DUCHESS. I don’t suppose it is for that Schopenhauer gentleman you are
all dressed up like that, is it?

LUCY. Is there not to be company this evening, Madame?

DUCHESS. (_Aside to_ MME. DE CÉRAN) Bellac, that’s as plain as day!
(_To_ LUCY) Let me congratulate you, then. I have nothing to complain
of, except those frightful glasses. Why do you wear such awful things?

LUCY. Because I cannot see without them, Madame.

DUCHESS. A nice reason! (_Aside_) Isn’t she practical! I detest
practical people! She’ll pass, she’s not as thin as I thought she was!
These English occasionally disappoint one pleasantly!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Ah, here’s my son!

                           (_Enter_ ROGER.)

ROGER. Mother! Mother! How good it is to see you again!

MME. DE CÉRAN. How good it is to see you, my dear! (_She holds out her
hand, which he kisses_)

ROGER. What a long while it is since I’ve seen you!—Once more! (_He
kisses her hand again_)

DUCHESS. (_Aside_) That embrace wouldn’t smother anyone!

MME. DE CÉRAN. The Duchess, my dear!

ROGER. (_Approaching the_ DUCHESS) Duchess!

DUCHESS. Call me Aunt, and give me a kiss!

ROGER. My dear Aunt! (_He starts to kiss her hand_)

DUCHESS. No! No! On the cheek! You must kiss me on the cheek! That is
one of the privileges of age—Look at him now! Same little fellow as
ever! Oh, you’ve let your moustache grow; isn’t he charming!

MME. DE CÉRAN. I hope, Roger, you will shave that off!

ROGER. Don’t let it disturb you, Mother, I shall do it at once!—Ah, how
do you do, Lucy?

LUCY. How do you do, Roger? (_They shake hands_) Have you had a
pleasant trip?

ROGER. Oh, most interesting. Think of it, an almost unexplored country,
a veritable paradise for the scholar, the poet, and the artist—but I
wrote you all about that!

DUCHESS. (_Sitting down_) Tell me about the women.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Duchess!

ROGER. (_Astonished_) What women do you mean, Aunt?

DUCHESS. Why, the Oriental women they say are so beautiful. Ah, you
villain!

ROGER. Let me assure you, Aunt, I had no time to investigate
that—detail!

DUCHESS. (_Indignantly_) Detail, indeed!

ROGER. (_Smiling_) Besides, the Government did not send me there for
that!

DUCHESS. What did you see, then?

ROGER. You will find that in the _Revue Archéologique_.

LUCY. _Tombs of Eastern Asia_; isn’t that the subject, Roger?

ROGER. Yes, Lucy; now among those mounds—

LUCY. Ah, the mounds—those _Tumuli_——

DUCHESS. Come, come, you can chatter when you two are alone! Tell me,
aren’t you tired? Did you just arrive?

ROGER. Oh, no, Aunt. I’ve been in Paris since yesterday.

DUCHESS. Did you go to the theater last night, Roger?

ROGER. No, I went at once to see the Minister.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Good! And what did he have to say to you?

LUCY. I’ll leave you alone!

MME. DE CÉRAN. You needn’t go, LUCY.

LUCY. Oh, I think I ought to go. I shall return in a few minutes. I’ll
see you later.

ROGER. (_Taking her hand_) Until later, Lucy.

DUCHESS. (_Aside_) There’s a grand passion indeed!

 (LUCY _goes out_. ROGER _accompanies her as far as the door to the
    left, while_ MME. DE CÉRAN _takes her place in the arm-chair, at the
    other side of the table_.)

MME. DE CÉRAN. Now, let’s hear what the Minister had to say!

DUCHESS. Ah, yes! Let’s hear. We’re anxious to know.

ROGER. He questioned me as to the results of my trip and asked me to
submit my report as soon as possible, promising me a reward on the day
it was handed in. You can guess what that reward will be. (_He touches
the lapel of his coat, as if to show the ribbon of the Legion of Honor_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. Officer? That’s all very well, but I have something
better. And then?

ROGER. Then he asked me to convey to you his kindest regards, and
begged you keep him in mind when that law came up for consideration by
the Senate.

MME. DE CÉRAN. I shall keep him in mind if he keeps me in mind.—You
must set to work on your report at once.

ROGER. Immediately!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Did you leave cards for the Speaker of the House?

ROGER. Yes, this morning, and for General de Briais and Mme. de
Vielfond.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Good! It must be known that you have returned. I’ll have
a paragraph sent to the papers.—And one thing more: those articles you
sent back from the East were very good. But I noticed with astonishment
a tendency toward—what shall I say?—imagination, “fine” writing;
descriptions, irrelevancies—even poetry—(_Reproachfully_) Alfred de
Musset, my son!

DUCHESS. Yes, the article was most interesting: you must be more
careful.

MME. DE CÉRAN. The Duchess is joking, my dear. But be careful about
poetry; never do it again! You are concerned with serious subjects; you
must be serious yourself.

ROGER. But I had no idea, Mother!—How can you tell when an article is
serious?

DUCHESS. (_Holding up a pamphlet_) When the pages aren’t cut!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Your Aunt exaggerates, but take my advice: no more
poetry!—And now, dinner at six. You have an hour to work on your
report. I shan’t keep you any longer. Go to work, my dear.

DUCHESS. Just a moment! Now that this tender and affecting scene is
over let us talk business, if you please. What about Suzanne?

ROGER. Oh, the dear child! Where is she?

DUCHESS. Attending a course of lectures on Comparative Literature.

ROGER. Suzanne?!

DUCHESS. Yes, Bellac’s course.

ROGER. Bellac, who is he?

DUCHESS. One of this winter’s crop! The season’s fad in scholars. A
gallant knight from the Normal School, who makes love to the ladies,
is made love to by them—and consequently makes a comfortable living.
The Princess Okolitch, who is mad about him, like all the old ladies,
conceived the idea of having him deliver a course of lectures in her
salon, with literature as an excuse, and gossip as a result. It appears
that your pupil, having seen all these grand ladies smitten with this
young, amiable, and loquacious genius, has followed in the footsteps of
her elders.

MME. DE CÉRAN. It is no use, Duchess——

DUCHESS. I beg your pardon; Roger is her tutor and he ought to know
everything!

ROGER. But what does all this mean, Aunt?

DUCHESS. It means that Suzanne is in love with this gentleman; now do
you understand?

ROGER. Suzanne! That child! Nonsense!

DUCHESS. It doesn’t take so long for a child to change into a woman,
you know.

ROGER. Suzanne!

DUCHESS. Well, at least that is what your mother says.

MME. DE CÉRAN. I say that that young lady is openly courting favor with
a man much too serious to marry her, but gallant enough to amuse her,
and to have this going on under my own roof,—though it isn’t as yet
scandalous—is decidedly improper.

DUCHESS. (_To_ ROGER) Do you hear that?

ROGER. But, Mother, you surprise me! Suzanne, a little child I left
in short dresses, climbing trees, a child I used to punish with extra
lessons, who used to jump on my knee and call me Daddy—— Come, come! It
is impossible! Such demoralization at her age!

DUCHESS. Demoralization? Because she is in love! You are a true son of
your mother, if there ever was one! At “her age”! You ought to have
seen me when I was that old! There was a hussar, in a blue and silver
uniform! He was superb! His brains were all in his sword-hilt! But at
my age—! A young heart is like a new land: the discoverer is seldom
the ruler. Now it seems—this Bellac—oh, it doesn’t seem possible,
and yet—young girls, you know—- We must take care! (_Aside_) I don’t
believe a word of it, but I’ll be on my guard!—And that is why I
want you to do me the favor of burying your _Tumuli_ and giving your
attention to her, and her alone.

                          (_Enter_ SUZANNE.)

SUZANNE. (_Stealing up behind_ ROGER, _puts her hands over his eyes_)
Who is it?

ROGER. (_Rising_) Ehh?

SUZANNE. (_Stepping in front of him_) Here I am!

ROGER. (_Surprised_) But,—Mademoiselle!

SUZANNE. Naughty man! Not to recognize your own daughter!

ROGER. Suzanne!

DUCHESS. (_Aside_) He’s blushing!

SUZANNE. Well, aren’t you going to kiss me?

MME. DE CÉRAN. Suzanne, that’s not quite the thing——

SUZANNE. To kiss your father? The idea!

DUCHESS. (_To_ ROGER) Kiss her, why don’t you!

                     (SUZANNE _and_ ROGER _kiss_.)

SUZANNE. How happy I am! Just think, I had no idea you were coming
home to-day! Mme. de Saint-Réault told me just now at the lecture; so,
without saying a word—I was right near the door—I whisked out and ran
to the station!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Alone?

SUZANNE. Yes, all alone! Oh, it was fun! The funniest part—wait till I
tell you! When I got to the ticket office I found I didn’t have a sou,
and, what do you think?—a gentleman who was buying his ticket offered
to buy one for me. Oh, he was a very nice young man! He happened to
be going to St. Germain, too, and when he offered to buy my ticket,
another man offered, too: a respectable-looking old gentleman,—and
then another—and after him, any number of others, who were standing
there. They were all going to St. Germain. “But, Mademoiselle, I beg
you—I really cannot allow you to——” “Allow me—no, me,—I beg you,
Mademoiselle!” I let the old respectable gentleman buy the ticket—for
the sake of appearances.

MME. DE CÉRAN. You allowed him to——?

SUZANNE. I couldn’t very well stay where I was, could I?

MME. DE CÉRAN. From a perfect stranger?

SUZANNE. But he was such a respectable old gentleman! And he was very
nice to me! He helped me into the train. So nice of him! Of course, all
the rest were, too; _they_ all got into the compartment with us.—And
it was so jolly! Such fun! They offered me their places, every one!
They opened the window for me, and then fell all over themselves being
nice to me! “This way, Mademoiselle! Not there, you’ll be in the sun!”
And they pulled down their cuffs, and twirled their moustaches, and
bowed and scraped as if I’d been some grand lady—Oh, it’s fun to go by
yourself! And the respectable old gentleman kept talking all the time
about his immense estates, but what did I care about that?

MME. DE CÉRAN. Why, this is outrageous!

SUZANNE. But the funniest thing of all was when we arrived, I found
my purse in my pocket; I paid the respectable old gentleman for the
ticket, made a pretty curtsey to the other gentlemen, and then I ran
off. Oh, you should have seen how they all looked at me! (_To_ ROGER)
Just as you do now! Why, what’s the matter? Kiss me again!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_To the_ DUCHESS) There’s an impropriety even worse
than the rest!

SUZANNE. Impropriety!

DUCHESS. You see, she’s perfectly innocent!

MME. DE CÉRAN. A young girl traveling alone in a train!

SUZANNE. Doesn’t Lucy go out alone?

MME. DE CÉRAN. Lucy is not a girl of sixteen!

SUZANNE. No: she’ll never see twenty-four again!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Lucy is able to take care of herself.

SUZANNE. Why? Because of those glasses of hers?

DUCHESS. (_Laughing_) Now, Suzanne! (_Aside_) I adore that girl!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Lucy wasn’t expelled from the convent!

SUZANNE. That isn’t fair, and you know it! I was so bored—!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Your tutor knows——

SUZANNE. But he doesn’t know why—you’ll see if it wasn’t unfair. When
I used to get bored in class, I sat near the door leading into the
garden. Oh, it was so easy! I had a clever plan! When everything was
as quiet as could be, I shouted at the top of my voice, “Long live
the great Voltaire!” Sister Séraphine at once ordered me to leave the
room. It was perfectly simple, and it only took a moment. One day when
the sun was shining beautifully, I was looking out of the window,
and all at once I shouted, “Long live Voltaire!” I listened, there
was no answer. I shouted again, “Voltaire!” Silence again! Very much
surprised, I turned around: the Mother Superior was there: I hadn’t
heard her come in! Tableau! But she didn’t send me into the garden, oh,
no! She sent me here! I didn’t care! I had had enough of that convent
life.—I’m a woman now!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Your conduct fails to reveal the fact.—Mme. de
Saint-Réault must be very anxious about you.

SUZANNE. Oh, the lecture was almost over: she will be here in a moment,
with M. Bellac and the others. Oh, his lecture to-day——!

DUCHESS. (_Looking at_ ROGER) Hm!

SUZANNE. And the way those women applauded! And the crowd! And
what wonderful gowns! It was like a wedding at Ste. Clotilde! It
was—(_Throwing a kiss_) superb!

DUCHESS. (_Looking at_ ROGER) Hm!

SUZANNE. Superb! You ought to have heard those women! “Charming,
charming!” Madame de Loudan was squeaking like a Guinea-pig. Ugh, ugh!
I detest that woman!

DUCHESS. (_Looking at_ ROGER) Hm! (_To_ SUZANNE) Are those the notes
you took at the lectures?

SUZANNE. Oh, I take others besides. (_To_ ROGER) You’ll see!

DUCHESS. (_To_ ROGER, _picking up the notebook from the table, where_
SUZANNE _had left it on entering_) Well, let’s see—(_The clock strikes
five_) Oh, and my walk! (_Aside to_ ROGER) Now you understand Bellac’s
role in this matter?

ROGER. No, I——

DUCHESS. Examine it, study it,—it’s a manuscript worth your while
deciphering; that’s your profession.

ROGER. I don’t understand anything about this?

DUCHESS. It is your duty, you know, as her tutor.

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Aside_) That’s a waste of time!

DUCHESS. (_Aside, looking at_ ROGER) That has waked him up!

SUZANNE. (_Aside, looking at all of them_) What are they all up to?

             (_The_ DUCHESS _and_ MME. DE CÉRAN _go out_.)

SUZANNE. Why do you stare at me? Because I went out alone? Are you
angry?

ROGER. No, Suzanne, but you ought to know better than to——

SUZANNE. Are you angry with me?

ROGER. No, only——

SUZANNE. Then it’s because you consider me a woman now, is it? Do you?
Tell me, I want so much to know!

ROGER. Yes, you are a woman now, and it is for that very reason that we
must respect the conventions.

SUZANNE. (_Snuggling up to him_) Scold me, I love to hear you, dear!

ROGER. (_Gently pushing her away_) There now, stay over there.

SUZANNE. So you don’t want me to call you “dear,” either?

ROGER. It would be better not to.

SUZANNE. That isn’t easy.

ROGER. And there are other questions of propriety which you must
consider. That is exactly what I was objecting to——

SUZANNE. Oh, yes, I know, I have no manners. M. Bellac is never tired
of telling me so!

ROGER. Ah, Monsieur——?

SUZANNE. But what can you expect? There is no help for it! It’s not my
fault, I tell you, it’s not my fault. It is not so easy as you think;
I made a vow with myself that when you came back you would find me
just as formal as Lucy, that I would wear myself out learning!—Here
I’ve been studying six months—and then all of a sudden you appear and,
whist—there goes six months’ work for nothing!

ROGER. (_Reproachfully_) For nothing?

SUZANNE. Oh, how glad I am you’ve come! Oh, how I love you! I adore you!

ROGER. Suzanne, Suzanne! I beg of you not to use words that you cannot
possibly understand.

SUZANNE. What? That I don’t understand? I tell you I adore you! You,
you funny old thing, don’t you love me, too? Why are you so funny? Do
you love me better than Lucy?

ROGER. Suzanne!

SUZANNE. Are you sure? You’re not going to marry her?

ROGER. Suzanne!

SUZANNE. They told me you were.

ROGER. Nonsense!

SUZANNE. Then why do you write to her?—Oh, I know; you’ve written
twenty-seven letters to her—I’ve counted them, twenty-seven!

ROGER. Those were nothing but——

SUZANNE. And one more this morning. Were they all “nothing buts”? What
was in that letter that came this morning?

ROGER. I merely wrote that I should arrive on Thursday.

SUZANNE. That you would arrive on Thursday? Was that all, really? But
why didn’t you write to me? Then I’d have been the first to see you.

ROGER. But haven’t I written to you—often?

SUZANNE. Often? Ten times. And then nothing but little insignificant
notes at the bottom of someone else’s letter—the kind you’d write to a
baby. I’m not a baby any longer: I’ve been thinking a lot these last
six months; I’ve learned a heap of things.

ROGER. What have you learned? (SUZANNE _leans against his shoulder and
cries_) Why, Suzanne, what’s wrong?

SUZANNE. (_Wiping her eyes and trying to laugh_) And then I’ve worked—!
Oh, how I worked! Piano, that horrid piano—I’m up to Schumann now,
that’s proper enough, isn’t it?

ROGER. Oh!

SUZANNE. Shall I play you something of his?

ROGER. Not now, later!

SUZANNE. All right.—And I’ve learned so much!

ROGER. You are attending Professor Bellac’s lectures, aren’t you? So
he’s taken my place!

SUZANNE. Yes, he’s been so nice! I love him, too.

ROGER. Indeed!

SUZANNE. Are you jealous of him?

ROGER. I?

SUZANNE. Tell me if you are; I’ll understand. I’m so jealous! But why
should _you_ be? You’re my father, aren’t you?

ROGER. Oh, your father——

SUZANNE. What’s wrong? Be nice to me, the way you used to!

ROGER. The way I used to? Oh, no!

SUZANNE. Yes, the way you used to! (_She attempts to embrace him_)

ROGER. No, no, no, Suzanne, don’t do that!

SUZANNE. Why not?

ROGER. Come now, that’s enough! Run away now! (_Sits on the sofa_)

SUZANNE. I like you that way!

ROGER. Be a little bit reasonable.

SUZANNE. Oh, we’ve had enough reasonableness for to-day. (_She ruffles
his hair, laughing_)

ROGER. Run away, now! A big girl like you!

SUZANNE. (_Jealously_) If I were only Lucy——

ROGER. Now, now! Please, dear!

SUZANNE. There, you said “dear.” Forfeit! (_She sits on his knee and
kisses him_)

ROGER. Again!

SUZANNE. All right, again! (_She kisses him_)

ROGER. (_Repulsing her as he rises_) This is too much!

SUZANNE. I’m an awful tease, am I not? Well, I’ll get my notebooks for
you: they’ll calm us down a little. (_She stops in the doorway and
looks at him_) Oh, here are the ladies and M. Bellac! What! Lucy in an
evening gown? Wait one moment! (_She runs out_)

ROGER. (_Agitated_) This is decidedly too much!

                        (_Enter the_ DUCHESS.)

DUCHESS. Well?

ROGER. Well——

DUCHESS. How excited you look!

ROGER. You see, she was so affectionate—too affectionate!

DUCHESS. Yes, I advise you to complain! See what I have found! (_She
takes a mounted photograph from between the leaves of_ SUZANNE’S
_notebook_)

ROGER. A picture——

DUCHESS. Of the Professor, yes——

ROGER. In her notebook.

DUCHESS. But look here——

ROGER. May I——?

THE LADIES. (_Outside_) What a lovely lesson! Magnificent!

DUCHESS. There’s the beautiful object! Surrounded by his bodyguard!

 (_Enter_ BELLAC, MADAME ARRIÉGO, MADAME DE LOUDAN, MADAME DE
     SAINT-RÉAULT, MADAME DE CÉRAN, _and_ LUCY.)

MME. DE SAINT-RÉAULT. Superb! Simply superb!

BELLAC. Oh, spare me, Madame de Saint-Réault!

MME. DE LOUDAN. Ideal! I call it ideal!

BELLAC. Marquise!

MME. ARRIÉGO. Beautiful! It stirred me to the depths of my being!

BELLAC. Oh, Madame Arriégo!

MME. DE LOUDAN. Ladies, there is only one thing to say about it all! M.
Bellac was so eloquent that he was positively dangerous! But then—isn’t
he always a little dangerous?

BELLAC. Please, Madame de Loudan!

MME. DE LOUDAN. I’m simply mad about your genius! Yes, indeed, mad!
And about you, too! Oh, I don’t hide it. I tell everyone about it!
Brazenly! You are one of the gods on my Olympus! You have become a
fetish to me!

MME. ARRIÉGO. You know, I have his autograph in my pocket! (_Displays
locket_) There!

MME. DE LOUDAN. (_Shows a pen which she carries in the bosom of her
gown_) And I carry one of his pens!

DUCHESS. (_Aside to_ ROGER) Silly sheep!

MME. DE LOUDAN. (_To_ MME. DE CÉRAN) Ah, Countess, I didn’t see you at
the lecture to-day?

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Introducing_ ROGER) Here is my excuse! Ladies, my son!

LADIES. Ah, Count!

MME. DE LOUDAN. The exile has returned!

ROGER. (_Bowing_) Ladies!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Introduces_ BELLAC _to her son_) Monsieur Bellac—Count
Roger de Céran!

MME. DE LOUDAN. I see that your excuse was a good one—but Lucy?

LUCY. I was busy here.

MME. DE LOUDAN. How could _you_ stay away, his Muse?

BELLAC. (_Gallantly_) Ah, Marquise, I can only say that _you_ were
there!

MME. DE LOUDAN. He is charming! (_To_ LUCY) You don’t know what you
missed.

LUCY. Oh, I know——

MME. ARRIÉGO. No, she can have no idea! It was a burning flame, a fire
of passion!

MME. DE LOUDAN. What flowing eloquence! What delicacy of imagination!

BELLAC. With such an audience, who could not be eloquent?

DUCHESS. And what was the subject to-day?

LADIES. LOVE!

DUCHESS. (_To_ ROGER) Of course!

MME. ARRIÉGO. So poetic!

MME. DE LOUDAN. And so scientific! He is half psychologist, half
dreamer; he plays with the scalpel as well as the lyre! It was—there
was only one thing I couldn’t agree with: that the basis of love is
instinct.

BELLAC. But, Marquise, I was speaking of——

MME. DE LOUDAN. Oh, no, no!

BELLAC. I was speaking of love in Nature!

MME. DE LOUDAN. Instinct! The idea! Ladies, come, we must defend
ourselves! Help me. Come to the rescue, Lucy!

BELLAC. She will not help you, Marquise; she agrees with me.

MME. DE SAINT-RÉAULT. Is it possible, Lucy?

LUCY. Instinct?

MME. DE SAINT-RÉAULT. In love?

MME. DE LOUDAN. That would be robbing the soul of its most precious
possession: according to you, then, Lucy, nothing is good, or bad.

LUCY. (_Coldly_) There is no question about good or bad, Madame, it is
merely a question of the existence of the species.

LADIES. (_Protesting_) Oh!

DUCHESS. (_Aside_) She’s prosaic enough about it!

MME. DE LOUDAN. (_Indignantly_) Why, you’re stripping love of all its
romance!

LUCY. Hunter and Darwin——

MME. DE LOUDAN. No one better than I knows the weaknesses of the flesh.
Matter dominates and masters us! I know it, I feel it! But leave us at
least the psychic refuge of pure ecstasy!

BELLAC. But, Marquise——

MME. DE LOUDAN. Be quiet, you’re a villain! I will not deny my god;
that would be sacrilege. I’m very angry with you!

DUCHESS. (_Aside_) Little fool!

BELLAC. I hope we shall be reconciled, after you read my book.

MME. DE LOUDAN. But when will that be? The entire world is waiting for
that book! And you don’t say a word about it! You won’t even tell us
the title!

LADIES. Tell us the title! At least the title!

MME. ARRIÉGO. Lucy, you make him tell us.

LUCY. Well, what is the title?

BELLAC. (_To_ LUCY, _after a moment’s hesitation_) “Miscellanies.”

MME. DE LOUDAN. Oh, how lovely! But when does it appear?

BELLAC. I am hurrying it through the press, and I count on its helping
me to the honor to which I aspire.

MME. DE CÉRAN. To which you aspire?

MME. ARRIÉGO. What more can he wish?

MME. DE LOUDAN. What more can the child of Fortune wish?

BELLAC. Poor Revel is on his last legs, you know. In the event of
anything happening to him, I have announced myself as candidate for the
position of director of the New School.

DUCHESS. (_To_ MME. DE CÉRAN) Number three!

BELLAC. Ladies, if Revel should die—which God forbid!—I recommend
myself to your good graces, and your influence.

LADIES. You may count on us, Bellac!

BELLAC. (_Approaching the_ DUCHESS) And you, Duchess, may I hope——?

DUCHESS. You mustn’t ask me anything before dinner. The weakness of the
flesh “dominates me,” as Madame de Loudan says. (_The clock strikes_)
There, you have only fifteen minutes! Get dressed at once, and we’ll
talk the matter over at table.

MME. DE CÉRAN. At table? But M. Toulonnier hasn’t arrived yet, Duchess.

DUCHESS. That makes no difference to me. We dine sharp at six, whether
he is here or not.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Dine without him, a General Secretary?

DUCHESS. Oh, under the Republic!

 (_Enter_ SUZANNE, _with her notebooks under her arm; she puts them on
     the table, right_.)

MME. DE CÉRAN. I am going to meet him. (_To_ BELLAC) My dear Professor,
you will be shown to your room. (_She rings and, a moment later, enter_
FRANCOIS)

BELLAC. Pray don’t trouble, Countess, I have the good fortune to know
the way. (_Aside to_ LUCY) Did you get my letter?

LUCY. Yes, but——

(BELLAC _makes a sign for her to be silent, bows and goes out, right_.)

MME. DE LOUDAN. And now, ladies, let us adjourn and make ourselves
beautiful!

MME. ARRIÉGO. Come!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Come with me, Lucy.

LUCY. With pleasure, Madame!

MME. DE LOUDAN. In that gown? Are you not afraid of the seductive charm
of this spring evening, my dear?

LUCY. Oh, I shan’t be cold!

MME. DE LOUDAN. You are a true daughter of the Land of Fogs! I am very
much afraid of the night air!

 (MADAME DE LOUDAN _goes out with_ MADAME ARRIÉGO, _left_. _As_
    LUCY _starts to follow_ MADAME DE CÉRAN _into the garden, she is
    intercepted by_ FRANCOIS.)

FRANCOIS. I still can’t find the pink paper, Mademoiselle.

SUZANNE. (_Picking up a pink paper which she has knocked off the table,
while putting her notebooks on it. Aside_) A pink paper! (_She looks at
the paper_)

LUCY. Ah, yes, the letter we were looking for this morning!

SUZANNE. (_Aside, quickly hiding the letter behind her back_) That you
were looking for this morning!

LUCY. (_As she is leaving the room_) Never mind looking for it now.
(_She goes out into the garden_; FRANCOIS _follows her_)

SUZANNE. (_Looking at_ LUCY _as_ ROGER _enters_) The letter this
morning!

                        (_Enter the_ DUCHESS.)

DUCHESS. How’s this? You’re not ready yet? Nor you? What are you doing
here?

            (SUZANNE _looks at_ ROGER _without answering_.)

ROGER. (_To the_ DUCHESS) Ah, these are the notebooks! Give them to me,
Suzanne. (_He goes to her, she hands them to him, looking at him in
silence_) What’s the matter with her?

DUCHESS. Let me look at those notebooks!

 (ROGER _goes to the_ DUCHESS, _who is seated left_. SUZANNE, _to the
    right of the table, tries without being seen to open the paper which
    she holds in her left hand_.)

ROGER. (_Looking at_ SUZANNE—_astonished_) That’s strange!

DUCHESS. (_To_ ROGER, _drawing him toward her_) Come here, closer—my
eyes are bad——

ROGER. (_Lowering the notebooks, as he steals a glance at_ SUZANNE.
_Suddenly he seizes the_ DUCHESS _by the arm, and whispers_) Aunt!

DUCHESS. (_To_ ROGER, _aside_) What’s the matter now?

ROGER. Look! But don’t turn your head! She’s trying to read something!
A letter, you see! She’s trying to hide it, don’t you see?

DUCHESS. Yes!

SUZANNE. (_Who has opened the letter; reading_) “I shall arrive
Thursday.” (_Astonished_) From Roger! The one Lucy got this morning!
(_She looks at the letter_) But why is it written that way, without
any signature? (_Continues reading_) “This evening at ten; in the
conservatory. Say you have a headache.” Ah!

DUCHESS. What can it be? (_Calling_) Suzanne!

SUZANNE. (_Surprised; puts the letter behind her back, and goes toward
the_ DUCHESS) Yes, Aunt?

DUCHESS. What are you reading there?

SUZANNE. I, Aunt? Nothing.

DUCHESS. I thought that—come here!

SUZANNE. (_Slipping the letter under the books on the table, as she
goes toward the_ DUCHESS) Yes, Aunt?

DUCHESS. (_Aside_) This is curious!

SUZANNE. (_Near the_ DUCHESS) What is it, Aunt?

DUCHESS. Get my mantle for me.

SUZANNE. (_Hesitating_) But——

DUCHESS. You don’t care to?

SUZANNE. Oh, certainly, Aunt!

DUCHESS. It’s in my room; hurry! (SUZANNE _goes out. To_ ROGER) Quick!
On the table!

ROGER. What?

DUCHESS. The letter! She’s hidden it! I saw her!

ROGER. Hidden it? (_He goes to the table and looks for the letter_)

DUCHESS. On the corner, there! Under the black book. Don’t you see
anything?

ROGER. No—oh, yes!—a pink paper. (_He takes the letter and brings it to
the_ DUCHESS, _reading it as he walks_) Oh!

DUCHESS. What is it?

ROGER. (_Reading_) “I shall arrive Thursday.” From Bellac!

DUCHESS. (_Snatching the letter from him and reading it_) From—? But it
isn’t signed. And the handwriting——?

ROGER. Yes, disguised. Oh, he’s a crafty one! But “I shall arrive
Thursday” applies to me as well as to him!

DUCHESS. (_Reading_) “This evening at ten in the conservatory. Say you
have a headache.” A rendezvous! (_Giving him the letter_) Quick, put it
back, I hear her coming!

ROGER. (_Agitated_) All right. (_Puts letter back in place_)

DUCHESS. Come now.

ROGER. Very well.

DUCHESS. Hurry up! (ROGER _resumes his position by the side of the_
DUCHESS) And be calm! Here she is. (SUZANNE _re-enters. The_ DUCHESS
_turns over the leaves in the notebook_) Well, these are very good,
very good!

SUZANNE. Here’s your mantle, Aunt.

DUCHESS. Thank you, dear. (_Aside to_ ROGER) Speak up.

 (SUZANNE _goes to the table, takes the letter, glances through it,
    turning away as before_.)

ROGER. (_Agitated_) There are—well—er—certain—you have made wonderful
progress—er—I am astonished—(_Aside to_ DUCHESS, _pointing to_ SUZANNE)
Aunt!

DUCHESS. (_Aside_) Yes, she’s picked it up again; I saw her. (_The
dinner-gong sounds_) The second bell! Hurry and get dressed, Suzanne!
You’ll never be ready in time.

SUZANNE. (_Aside as she looks at_ ROGER) A rendezvous! With Lucy! Oh!

 (_She goes up to_ ROGER _without saying a word and, looking him
    straight in the eye, takes her notebooks out of his hand, tears them
    and throws the pieces angrily to the floor; then she goes out_.)

ROGER. (_Astonished; turning to the_ DUCHESS) Aunt!

DUCHESS. A rendezvous!

ROGER. With Bellac!

DUCHESS. Nonsense!

ROGER. (_Falling into a chair_) Who could have imagined such a thing!

         (_Voices heard outside. The door at the back opens._)

DUCHESS. (_Looking out_) Ah, here comes Toulonnier! And everybody,
_and_ dinner, too! Quick, go and dress! It will calm your nerves;
you’re very pale.

ROGER. Suzanne! It’s not possible! (_He goes out_)

DUCHESS. No, it’s not possible! And yet——!

 (_Enter_ MADAME DE CÉRAN, TOULONNIER, M. _and_ MME. DE SAINT-RÉAULT
    _and a moment later_, LUCY, MADAME DE LOUDAN, MADAME ARRIÉGO, _with_
    BELLAC _in their midst_.)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Introducing_ TOULONNIER _to the_ DUCHESS) The
Secretary General, Aunt.

TOULONNIER. (_Bowing_) Madame la duchesse!

DUCHESS. My dear Monsieur Toulonnier, we were just going to sit down
without you.

TOULONNIER. I hope you will pardon me, my dear Duchess, but—business,
you know! We are literally up to the ears in work. You’ll permit me to
leave early, I trust?

DUCHESS. With pleasure!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Embarrassed_) Ah, Monsieur Bellac!

TOULONNIER. (_To whom_ MME. DE CÉRAN _introduces_ BELLAC) Monsieur!
(_He and_ BELLAC _shake hands and talk_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Coming to the_ DUCHESS) Be nice to him, Aunt; please.

DUCHESS. Your Republican friend? Nonsense! A man who gives us twenty
minutes of his time as if he were a king! The idea!

MME. DE CÉRAN. You will at least allow him to escort you to the table?

DUCHESS. I should think not! Keep him yourself! I’ll take little
Raymond. He’s much more amusing.

                (_Enter_ ROGER, _dressed for dinner_.)

ROGER. (_To the_ DUCHESS, _frightened_) Aunt!

DUCHESS. Well, what is it now?

ROGER. Oh, something—I just overheard something in the corridor
upstairs. It’s unbelievable.

DUCHESS. Well, what?

ROGER. I didn’t see who was speaking, but I’m sure I heard——

               (RAYMOND _and_ JEANNE _enter furtively_.)

DUCHESS. Well, what?

ROGER. The sound of a kiss! What do you think of that?

DUCHESS. Of a what?

ROGER. Yes, I’m sure I heard it!

DUCHESS. Well, who——

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Introducing to_ TOULONNIER) Monsieur Paul Raymond,
Sub-prefect of Agenis.

RAYMOND. Monsieur le Secrétaire-Géneral! (_Introducing_ JEANNE) Madame
Paul Raymond.

             (SUZANNE _enters, wearing an evening gown._)

MME. DE LOUDAN. (_Seeing_ SUZANNE) Ohh!

BELLAC. Ah, my young pupil!

                     (_Murmurs of astonishment._)

ROGER. (_To the_ DUCHESS) Look, Aunt! _Décolletée!_ It’s disgraceful!

DUCHESS. I don’t think so. (_Aside_) She’s been crying.

FRANCOIS. (_Announcing_) Dinner is served.

ROGER. (_Approaching_ SUZANNE, _who is conversing with_ BELLAC) I must
know! (_Offering her his arm_) Suzanne! (SUZANNE _looks at him coldly
and takes the arm of_ BELLAC, _who is speaking with_ LUCY)

BELLAC. (_To_ SUZANNE) How the rest will envy me, Mademoiselle!

ROGER. (_Aside_) This is too much! (_He offers his arm to_ LUCY)

DUCHESS. What does this mean?—Come, Raymond, give me your arm. (RAYMOND
_approaches her_) My friend, one must suffer much before one becomes a
Prefect!

PAUL. The suffering is by no means unpleasant, Duchess.

DUCHESS. You’re going to sit next to me at the table. We’ll slander the
Government!

PAUL. Oh, Duchess! And I one of her servants! Oh, no!—But there is
nothing to prevent my listening to you!


                              _Curtain._



                                ACT II


                       (_Same scene as_ ACT I.)

 (BELLAC, TOULONNIER, ROGER, PAUL RAYMOND, MADAME DE CÉRAN, MADAME
    DE LOUDAN, _the_ DUCHESS, SUZANNE, LUCY, JEANNE, _seated in a
    semi-circle, listening to_ SAINT-RÉAULT, _who is finishing his
    lecture_.)

SAINT-RÉAULT. And make no mistake about it! Profound as these legends
may appear because of their baffling exoticism, they are merely—my
illustrious father wrote in 1834—elemental, primitive imaginings, in
comparison with the transcendental conceptions of Brahmin lore gathered
together in the Upanishads, or indeed in the eighteen Paranas of Vyasa,
the compiler of the Veda.

JEANNE. (_Aside to_ PAUL) Are you asleep?

PAUL. No, no—I hear some kind of gibberish.

SAINT-RÉAULT. Such, in simple terminology, is the _concretum_ of the
doctrine of Buddha.—And at this point I shall close my remarks.

                (_Murmurs. Some of the audience rise._)

SEVERAL VOICES. (_Weakly_) Very good! Good!

SAINT-RÉAULT. And now—(_He coughs_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Eagerly_) You must be tired, Saint-Réault?

SAINT-RÉAULT. Not at all, Countess!

MME. ARRIÉGO. Oh, yes, you must be; rest yourself. We can wait.

_Several Voices._ You must rest!

MME. DE LOUDAN. You can’t always remain in the clouds. Come down to
earth, Baron.

SAINT-RÉAULT. Thank you, but—well, you see, I had already finished.

                         (_Everybody rises._)

SEVERAL VOICES. So interesting!—A little obscure!—Excellent!—Too long!

BELLAC. (_To the ladies_) Too materialistic!

PAUL. (_To_ JEANNE) He’s bungled it.

SUZANNE. (_Calling_) Monsieur Bellac!

BELLAC. Mademoiselle?

SUZANNE. Come here, near me.

                        (BELLAC _goes to her_.)

ROGER. (_Aside to the_ DUCHESS) Aunt!

DUCHESS. (_Aside to_ ROGER) She’s doing it on purpose!

SAINT-RÉAULT. (_Coming to table_) One word more! (_General surprise.
The audience sits down in silence and consternation_) Or, rather a
favor!—This study of mine, of which, in spite of the narrow limits and
popular character made necessary by my audience——

DUCHESS. He is polite, isn’t he?

SAINT-RÉAULT. The importance will perhaps have been realised,—this
study, I say, was in 1821, sixty years ago, begun, or—I will go so far
as to say, discovered by the genius whose son I have the honor to be——

PAUL. (_To_ JEANNE) He’s standing in a dead man’s shoes!

SAINT-RÉAULT. This trail which he has blazed, I, too, have followed,
and not without distinction, if I may be permitted to say so. Another,
coming after us, has tried to snatch a few words of wisdom from
the eternal Verity of the Sphinx, until our time unfathomed in any
theogony. I speak of Revel, highly esteemed both as scholar and
gentleman. My illustrious father is dead, and Revel is not long for
this earth—if he has not already passed away. Therefore I alone am left
monarch of this new domain of science of which my father, Guillaume
Eriel de Saint-Réault, was the discoverer. I, alone! (_Looking at_
TOULONNIER) May those who govern us, those who are invested with power
and authority, those upon whom will devolve the delicate task of
choosing a successor to our lamented colleague—whom perhaps we shall
mourn to-morrow—may these eminent men (_Looking at_ BELLAC, _who is
speaking with_ TOULONNIER) in spite of the more or less legitimate
solicitations to which they are prey, make an impartial, enlightened
choice, determined solely by the threefold requirements of age,
aptitude and acquired experience—a choice of a successor worthy to my
illustrious father, and of the great work which is his,—and of which, I
repeat, I am the sole living representative.

 (_Everyone rises. Applause and general confusion. Meanwhile servants
    enter with refreshments._)

SEVERAL VOICES. Splendid! Bravo!

PAUL. At last I understand what he’s driving at!

MME. DE CÉRAN. A candidate for Revel’s place!

BELLAC. In the Academy, the New School, in everything!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Aside_) I might have expected it!

SERVANT. (_Announcing_) The General! Comte de Briais!—Monsieur Virot!

                 (_Enter the_ GENERAL _and_ M. VIROT.)

GENERAL. (_Kissing_ MADAME DE CÉRAN’S _hand_) Countess!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Ah, Senator——

VIROT. (_Kissing_ MADAME DE CÉRAN’S _hand_) Madame la comtesse!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_To_ VIROT) Too late! my dear Deputy, too late!

GENERAL. (_Gallantly_) One cannot come too early to your salon,
Countess!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Monsieur de Saint-Réault was speaking; can one say more?

GENERAL. (_Bowing to_ SAINT-RÉAULT) My loss!

VIROT. (_Taking the_ GENERAL _to the left_) Well, Senator, if the House
passes the law, will you vote it down?

GENERAL. Of course—at least the first time! The Senate must do that
much.

VIROT. Ah! Duchess!

 (_Together with the_ GENERAL, _they go to greet the_ DUCHESS. PAUL
    RAYMOND _and_ JEANNE _slip out of the room into the garden_.)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_To_ SAINT-RÉAULT) You surpassed yourself this evening,
Saint-Réault!

MME. ARRIÉGO. Yes, you surpassed yourself. There is no other word for
it.

MME. DE LOUDAN. Ah, Baron, Baron, what a world you have opened up to
us! How captivating are these first stammering professions of primitive
faith! And that Buddhist Trinity, oh, I’m quite mad about it!

LUCY. (_To_ SAINT-RÉAULT) Pardon my boldness, Monsieur, but in your
enumeration of the Sacred Books, it seemed to me that you omitted
something.

SAINT RÉAULT. (_Piqued_) Ah, you think so, Mademoiselle?

LUCY. I did not hear you mention either the _Mahabharata_ or the
_Ramayana_.

SAINT RÉAULT. But those are not the Sacred Books, they are merely
poems whose ancient origin rendered them objects of veneration to the
Hindoos. They are works of literature, merely.

LUCY. But nevertheless, the Academy of Calcutta——

SAINT-RÉAULT. I merely give you the opinion of the Brahmins! You have
another of your own?

SUZANNE. (_Loudly_) Monsieur Bellac!

BELLAC. Mademoiselle?

SUZANNE. Give me your arm; let’s take a little walk. I want the air!

BELLAC. But, Mademoiselle——

SUZANNE. Don’t you wish to?

BELLAC. But just at this time——?

SUZANNE. Do come! (_She almost drags him out_)

ROGER. (_To the_ DUCHESS) She’s going out with him!

DUCHESS. Follow them!—Wait, I’ll go with you—I need a breath of air
myself; he’s put me to sleep with his Brahmins, the old fakir! (_They
go out_)

TOULONNIER. (_To_ SAINT-RÉAULT) Very learned and full of new ideas—(_In
an undertone_) I caught that hint of yours, my dear Baron. There was
really no need. We are all on your side. (_They shake hands_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_To_ SAINT-RÉAULT) I beg your pardon! (_Aside to_
TOULONNIER) You won’t forget my boy?

TOULONNIER. I shall no more forget my promise than—I will yours.

MME. DE CÉRAN. You understand, you will receive your six votes in the
Senate. You understand also that on the publication of his report——

TOULONNIER. You are well aware, Countess, that we are all on your side.

PAUL. (_To_ JEANNE, _as they come in from the garden_) That time they
_did_ see us!

JEANNE. It was too dark to see anything under the trees.

PAUL. We were almost caught before dinner. Twice would be too much! I
don’t want to risk it.

JEANNE. Didn’t you promise to kiss me every time we were in the dark?
Yes or no?

PAUL. (_Excitedly_) Do you want to be the wife of a Prefect? Yes or no?

JEANNE. (_Equally excited_) Yes, but meanwhile I’m not going to be his
widow!

                   (MADAME DE CÉRAN _goes to them_.)

PAUL. (_Aside to_ JEANNE) The Countess! (_Aloud_) Really, Jeanne, you
prefer the _Bhagavata_?

JEANNE. Oh, the _Bhagavata_, my dear——

MME. DE CÉRAN. Did you understand any of that mass of erudition,
Madame? Poor Saint-Réault seemed particularly wordy and obscure this
evening!

PAUL. (_Aside_) The jealous rival!

JEANNE. But towards the end, Countess, he was clear enough.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Ah, yes, about his candidacy; you understand?

JEANNE. Well, after all, if faith requires science to support it, has
not science some need of faith?—as Monsieur de Maistre has said.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Very good indeed! I must introduce you to a gentleman
who will be very useful to you: General de Briais, the Senator.

JEANNE. And how about the Deputy, Countess?

MME. DE CÉRAN. Oh, the Senator is more powerful!

JEANNE. But the Deputy is more active!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Really, my dear Raymond, you are very fortunate.
(_Pressing_ JEANNE’S _hand_) And so am I! (_To_ JEANNE) Good—I’ll
introduce you to both!

PAUL. (_Following_ JEANNE, _who follows_ MME. DE CÉRAN) Angel!

JEANNE. Aren’t we going where it’s dark pretty soon?

PAUL. Yes, my angel, but wait until the rest are gone! I’ll tell you:
while the tragedy is being read!

SERVANT. (_Announcing_) Madame la baronne de Boines—Monsieur Melchior
de Boines!

               (_Enter_ MME. DE BOINES _and_ MELCHIOR.)

BARONESS. (_To_ MADAME DE CÉRAN, _who is about to receive her_) Ah, my
dear, am I in time?

MME. DE CÉRAN. You are too late for Science, too early for Poetry! I am
waiting for my poet.

BARONESS. Who is he?

MME. DE CÉRAN. An unknown.

BARONESS. Young?

MME. DE CÉRAN. I know nothing whatsoever about him, but I am assured
that this is his first work. Gaiac is bringing him—you know Gaiac, of
the _Conservateur_? They should have been here at nine. I can’t imagine
what keeps them.

BARONESS. I shall profit by the circumstance, for I came to see neither
scholar nor poet. I came to see _him_, my dear: Bellac! Think of
it, I’ve never met him! He is so attractive, they tell me! Princess
Okolitch is quite mad about him, you know. Where is he? Oh, show him to
me, Countess!

MME. DE CÉRAN. I was just looking for him, and I—(_Seeing_ BELLAC
_enter with_ SUZANNE) There!

BARONESS. Is that he, coming in with Mlle. de Villiers?

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Astonished_) Yes!

BARONESS. How lovely he is, dear! Isn’t he handsome! And you let him go
about with that young girl!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Aside—looking at_ SUZANNE _and_ BELLAC) That’s
strange——

MELCHIOR. And may I shake hands with Roger?

MME. DE CÉRAN. I doubt if you can at this moment. He must be hard
at work. (_Enter the_ DUCHESS _and_ ROGER. _Aside, looking at these
latter_) What’s this—and with the Duchess?

ROGER. (_To the_ DUCHESS, _greatly agitated_) Well, did you hear, Aunt?

DUCHESS. Yes, but I saw nothing.

ROGER. It was certainly a kiss, that time!

DUCHESS. And a good smack! Who is there here who would kiss like that?

ROGER. Who, indeed?

DUCHESS. (_Seeing_ MADAME DE CÉRAN, _as she approaches them_) Your
mother!

MME. DE CÉRAN. How is this, Roger, aren’t you supposed to be at work?

ROGER. No, Mother, I——

MME. DE CÉRAN. Well, well, what about your _Tumuli_?

ROGER. I have plenty of time: I can work on it to-night, and later in
the week.

MME. DE CÉRAN. The idea! The Minister is waiting!

ROGER. Let him wait, Mother! (_He goes away_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Stupefied_) Duchess, what does this mean?

DUCHESS. Tell me, isn’t someone going to read us some sort of nonsense
this evening? Some tragedy——?

MME. DE CÉRAN. Yes.

DUCHESS. Your reading is to be in the next room, isn’t it? Get the
people out of here, will you? I shall need this room at once.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Why?

DUCHESS. I’ll tell you during the tragedy.

SERVANT. (_Announcing_) Monsieur le vicomte de Gaiac! Monsieur des
Millets!

                 (_Enter_ DE GAIAC _and_ DES MILLETS.)

DUCHESS. Well—I—look at your poet! There he is!

SEVERAL VOICES. The poet!—The young poet!—Where?—Where is he?

GAIAC. Will you ever forgive me, Countess? I was kept at the office.
(_Aside_) I was writing up your _soirée_!—Monsieur des Millets, my
friend the tragic poet, whose talent you will soon have an opportunity
of appreciating.

DES MILLETS. (_Bowing_) Madame la comtesse!

DUCHESS. (_To_ ROGER) So that is the young poet! He’s an odd one!

MME. ARRIÉGO. (_Aside to the other ladies_) How awful!

BARONESS. He’s gray!

MME. DE SAINT-RÉAULT. Bald!

MME. DE LOUDAN. He has no talent: he’s much too ugly, my dear!

MME. DE CÉRAN. We are very happy, Monsieur, my guests and I, to be
favored with your presence!

MME. DE LOUDAN. (_Approaching him_) A virgin triumph, Monsieur! How
grateful we are!

DES MILLETS. (_Confused_) Ah, Madame!

MME. DE CÉRAN. And it is really your first work, Monsieur?

DES MILLETS. Oh, but I have written several poems!

GAIAC. Crowned by the Academy, Madame la comtesse.

JEANNE. (_To_ PAUL, _admiringly_) Crowned!

PAUL. (_To_ JEANNE) _Mediocritas!_

MME. DE CÉRAN. And this is your first attempt in the realm of the
drama? Ah, well, maturity of years guarantees maturity of talent!

DES MILLETS. Alas, Madame la comtesse, the play was written fifteen
years ago!

LADIES. Fifteen years!—Is it possible?! Really?

GAIAC. Ah, Des Millets has faith in his work! We must encourage those
who have faith, should we not, ladies?

MME. DE LOUDAN. Of course! We must encourage the tragic form, must we
not, General? Tragedy——

GENERAL. (_Interrupting himself in his conversation with_ VIROT) Eh?
Oh, yes, tragedy! _Horace!_ _Cinna!_ Of course, we must! Tragedy is
necessary for the masses—(_To_ DES MILLETS) May we have the title?

DES. MILLETS. _Philippe-Auguste!_

GENERAL. Fine subject! Good military subject!—In verse, isn’t it?

DES MILLETS. Oh, General! A tragedy——!

GENERAL. A good many acts, I suppose?

DES MILLETS. Five.

GENERAL. Ha! Ha! Good! Good!

JEANNE. (_Aside to_ PAUL) Five acts! How lovely! We’ll have plenty of
time——!

PAUL. Sh-h!

MME. DE LOUDAN. The road to Parnassus is long!

MME. DE SAINT-RÉAULT. What a mighty effort!

MME. ARRIÉGO. It must be encouraged!

  (SUZANNE’S _laugh is heard above the murmur of the conversation_.)

MME. DE CÉRAN. Suzanne!

DUCHESS. (_To_ MADAME DE CÉRAN) Lead out young Euripides and his press
agent! Get rid of the lot of them!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Now ladies, shall we go into the large drawing-room and
hear the reading? (_To_ DES MILLETS) Are you ready, Monsieur?

DES MILLETS. As you please, Madame la comtesse.

PAUL. (_Aside to_ JEANNE) Age before beauty!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Come, ladies!

MME. DE LOUDAN. (_Intercepting her_) Oh, but first, Countess, let
us—the ladies and me—carry out our little plot! (_Going to_ BELLAC,
_and saying with an air of supplication_) Monsieur Bellac?

BELLAC. Marquise?

MME. DE LOUDAN. I want to ask a great favor of you.

BELLAC. (_Graciously_) The favor which you ask me becomes as nothing in
comparison with the favor you do me in asking it so charmingly.

LADIES. Oh, how lovely!

MME. DE LOUDAN. This poetic tragedy will doubtless occupy the remainder
of the evening; it will certainly prove a fitting climax!—Please say a
few words beforehand—as few as you like! Of course, Genius must not be
overtaxed! But, please just a few words. They will be received like the
Manna of old!

SUZANNE. Please, Monsieur Bellac!

MME. ARRIÉGO. Be generous!

BARONESS. We throw ourselves at your feet!

BELLAC. (_Defending himself_) Oh, ladies!

MME. DE LOUDAN. Come to our assistance, Lucy—you, his Muse! _You_ plead
with him!

LUCY. Of course; I ask him now.

SUZANNE. And I, I want him too!

VOICES. Oh, oh!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Suzanne!

BELLAC. Well, since you force me——

MME. DE LOUDAN. Oh, he will! Quick, a chair!

                      (_Commotion about_ BELLAC.)

MME. ARRIÉGO. A table.

MME. DE LOUDAN. Shall we make a circle?

MME. DE CÉRAN. Give him a little room, ladies.

BELLAC. Pray, no formality!

VIROT. (_To the_ GENERAL) You must be careful, the law is very popular.

LADIES. Sh-h!

BELLAC. Please, no stage-setting—nothing that—

VIROT. Well, yes—but the voters?

GENERAL. My position is perfectly safe!

LADIES. Sh-h! Oh, General!

BELLAC. Nothing to suggest the school-room, the platform, or pedantry.
Please, ladies, let it be an informal chat: ask me no questions.

MME. DE LOUDAN. (_With clasped hands_) Oh, Monsieur Bellac, tell us
about your book!

MME. ARRIÉGO. (_With clasped hands_) Yes the book!

BARONESS. (_With clasped hands_) Your book, yes!

SUZANNE. (_With clasped hands_) Oh, Monsieur Bellac!

BELLAC. Irresistible supplications! And yet I must protect myself;
until everyone shall have the opportunity of seeing my book, no one
shall.

MME. DE LOUDAN. (_With meaning_) Mm—_no_ one?

BELLAC. Ah, Marquise, “Take care! There may be a secret!” as Fontenelle
said to Mme. de Coulanges.

LADIES. Charming! Charming!

BARONESS. (_Aside to_ MME. DE LOUDAN) How clever!

MME. DE LOUDAN. He is more than clever.

BARONESS. What then?

MME. DE LOUDAN. His wit has wings; you’ll see.

BELLAC. This is neither the time nor the place, you will admit, ladies,
to plumb the depths of certain of those eternal problems and mysterious
enigmas of life and the Beyond which harass and torment noble souls,
like your own!

LADIES. Ah, the “Beyond,” my dear, the “Beyond!”

BELLAC. But, aside from this, I am quite at your service. There is one
point, however, which comes to my mind, a point eternally discussed and
never settled, upon which I ask your leave to say a few words.

LADIES. DO, do!

BELLAC. I shall speak, then with a threefold purpose:—first, to fulfill
your request, ladies; (_Looking at_ MME DE LOUDAN) to bring back a
friend who has been led away.——

BARONESS. (_Aside to_ MME. DE LOUDAN, _who modestly drops her eyes_)
That is you, my dear!

BELLAC. (_Looking at_ LUCY) And to combat an adversary who has proved
exceedingly dangerous—in more ways than one.

LADIES. That means Lucy!—It is Lucy!—Lucy!

BELLAC. My subject is—Love!

LADIES. (_Approving_) Ahh!—Ahh!

DUCHESS. For a change!

SUZANNE. Bravo!

                           (_Low murmurs._)

JEANNE. (_To_ PAUL) That young lady is feeling very fit, it seems!

BELLAC. Concerning love!—The weakness which is a strength!—The
sentiment which is a faith! The only religion, perhaps, which knows no
scoffers!

LADIES. Ah!—Charming!—Charming!

MME. DE LOUDAN. (_To the_ BARONESS) Ah, the wings, my dear—the wings!

BELLAC. I spoke this morning—in the course of my lecture on German
Literature at the Princess’s—of a certain philosopher who made instinct
the basis and the rule of all our actions and all our thoughts.

LADIES. (_Protesting_) Oh!—Oh!—Oh!

BELLAC. And now, ladies, I take occasion emphatically to declare that
that opinion is not my opinion, and that I deny the theory with every
fiber of my soul and being!

LADIES. Good! Excellent!

BARONESS. (_Aside to_ MME. DE LOUDAN) What pretty hands!

BELLAC. No, ladies, no! Love is not, as the German philosopher has it,
a purely specific passion; a deceitful illusion shackling mankind in
order to work its own ends! No, a hundred times no! if we have souls!

LADIES. Yes!—Yes—

SUZANNE. Bravo!

DUCHESS. (_Aside to_ ROGER) She is certainly doing that on purpose!

BELLAC. Leave to the Sophists and to vulgar natures such soul-stunting
theories; do not even consider them; answer them with silence, the
language of the outcast!

LADIES. Charming!—Charming!——

BELLAC. God forbid I should go so far as to deny the sovereign
influence of beauty over the uncertain wills of men! (_Looking about
him_) I see too much about me by way of refutation to that argument!

LADIES. Ah!—Ah!

ROGER. (_To the_ DUCHESS) He looked at _her_!

DUCHESS. Yes.

BELLAC. But above this material and mortal beauty, there is another,
time-defying, invisible to the naked eye, which the soul of purity
serenely contemplates and cherishes with an unearthly love. That love,
ladies, is the true Love, the mingling of two spirits, their flight far
from the terrestrial mire—into the infinite blue of the ideal!

LADIES. Bravo!

DUCHESS. (_To herself, rather loudly_) Nonsense!

BELLAC. (_Looking at her_) That love, mocked at by some, unknown to
most,—I declare, my hand on my heart, that it does exist! In the souls
of the elect, as Proudhon says——

VOICES. (_Protesting_) Oh, Proudhon——!

MME. DE LOUDAN. Oh, Bellac!

BELLAC. A writer whom I am astonished to find myself quoting—I beg your
pardons! In the souls of the elect, there is nothing of earth.

LADIES. How delicate! Charming!

DUCHESS. (_Bursting forth_) Nonsense!

LADIES. Oh, Duchess!

BELLAC. (_Bowing to the_ DUCHESS) And yet, it exists. Noble spirits
have felt it, great poets sung its praises, and in the seats of Heaven,
the apotheosis of our dreams, we see, enshrined about with haloes of
ethereal brightness, those immortal figures, everlasting proof of an
undying and psychic love: Beatrice, Laura——

DUCHESS. Laura, the mother of eleven, my dear Monsieur!

LADIES. Duchess!

DUCHESS. Eleven! And you call her love psychic!

MME. DE LOUDAN. They were not Petrarch’s, Duchess; let’s have fair play.

BELLAC. Héloise——

DUCHESS. Oh, she!

BELLAC. And their sisters of more recent date: Elvira, Eloa, and many
others, known and unknown. That cohort of pure and unknown loves, is
growing from day to day—I call all womankind to witness!

LADIES. Ah, my dear, how true!

BELLAC. The soul has a language all its own; its aspirations, its
pleasures and its tortures belong to it: are its very existence. And if
it be chained to the body, it is like the wing of a bird: in order to
raise it to the heights!

LADIES. Ah, bravo!

BELLAC. (_Rising_) This is what modern science ought to take into
consideration—(_Looking at_ SAINT-RÉAULT) that science which a leaden
materialism drags down to earth—I shall add, since our venerable
master and friend made an allusion not long since—perhaps a trifle
over-hasty—to a loss which science, I hope, will not have to complain
of—I shall add—(_Looking at_ TOULONNIER, _to whom_ SAINT-RÉAULT _is
speaking_) in fine, this is what _he_ should teach to the youth who
have been under the guidance of Revel, he—whoever he may be—who will
be chosen to carry on the work; and not only (asking the pardon of our
illustrious colleague) upon the insufficient authority vested in those
who have “acquired the right,” or erudition, or age—ought he to base
his claim, but upon the irresistible power of a mind imbued with the
spirit of youth and of a fiery ardor which is not to be extinguished!

VOICES. Bravo!—Charming!—Exquisite!—Delicious!

 (_Everyone rises. Confused murmurs of conversation. The ladies
    surround_ BELLAC.)

DUCHESS. (_Aside_) That for you, Saint-Réault!

PAUL. (_Aside_) Candidate number two!

MME. DE LOUDAN. Ah, Monsieur Bellac!

SUZANNE. Dear Professor!

BARONESS. A veritable banquet of the soul!

MME. ARRIÉGO. Beautiful!

BELLAC. Oh, ladies, I have but given words to your ideas.

MME. DE LOUDAN. Flatterer! Charmer!

BELLAC. Are we reconciled yet, Marquise?

MME. DE LOUDAN. How can one be angry with you? (_Introducing the_
BARONESS) Madame la baronne de Boines—another conquest! She is at your
feet already!

BARONESS. You made me weep, Monsieur.

BELLAC. Oh, Madame la baronne!

MME. ARRIÉGO. Isn’t it superb!

BARONESS. Superb!

SUZANNE. And how warm he is! (BELLAC _looks for his handkerchief_) You
haven’t one? Here! (_She gives him her handkerchief_)

BELLAC. Oh, Mademoiselle!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Suzanne! The idea!

SUZANNE. (_To_ BELLAC, _as he returns her handkerchief_) Oh, keep it,
I’m going to get you a drink.

MME. DE LOUDAN. (_Going toward the table before which_ SAINT-RÉAULT
_spoke, upon which is a tray and glasses of sugar-and-water_) Here,
drink!

ROGER. (_Aside to the_ DUCHESS) Look, Aunt!

DUCHESS. She’s too brazen about it to be in earnest.

BELLAC. (_Aside to_ LUCY) And are you convinced?

LUCY. Oh, for my part, the concept of love—No, I’ll tell you later!

BELLAC. In a little while?

LUCY. Yes—would you like a glass of water? (_She goes up-stage_)

MME. DE LOUDAN. (_Arriving with a glass of water_) No! Let me! The
god must pardon me: I can offer you only water, as the secret of
Nectar-making is lost!

MME. ARRIÉGO. (_Arriving with a glass of water_) A glass of water,
Monsieur Bellac?

MME. DE LOUDAN. No, no—take mine! Mine!

MME. ARRIÉGO. No, mine!

BELLAC. (_Embarrassed_) Well, I——

LUCY. (_Handing him a glass of water_) Here!

MME. DE LOUDAN. Oh, he’ll choose Lucy, I know!—I’m so jealous!—No,
mine! mine!

SUZANNE. (_Arriving with another glass of water and forcing it upon_
BELLAC) No, no, he’ll take mine! Ha, ha! the fourth thief!

LUCY. But, Mademoiselle—!

MME. DE LOUDAN. (_Aside_) That little girl has impudence!

ROGER. (_To the_ DUCHESS, _indicating_ SUZANNE) Aunt!

DUCHESS. What’s the matter with her?

ROGER. It’s just since Bellac has come!

 (_The doors are opened and the large drawing-room is seen, lighted._)

DUCHESS. At last! (_To_ MADAME DE CÉRAN) Take away your company—now is
your chance!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Come, ladies, our tragedy is about to be read! In
the large drawing-room! After the reading we shall take tea in the
conservatory.

LUCY, BELLAC _and_ SUZANNE. (_Aside_) In the conservatory!

ROGER. (_Aside to the_ DUCHESS) Did you notice Suzanne? She started!

DUCHESS. And so did Bellac!

MME. DE LOUDAN. Come, ladies, the Muse is calling us.

        (_The guests pass slowly into the large drawing-room._)

GENERAL. (_To_ PAUL) What is that, my dear Sub-prefect—three years!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Come, General!

GENERAL. (_Still talking with_ PAUL) Ah, yes, Countess, the
tragedy!—You are right, one must encourage Art!—Five acts! Oh!

JEANNE. (_To_ PAUL) It’s settled then, about—later?

PAUL. Yes, yes, it’s settled.

GENERAL. (_Returning to_ PAUL) Three years, you say, as Sub-prefect in
the same place? And they say the government isn’t conservative!

PAUL. That’s pretty good, Senator; excellent!

GENERAL. Oh!

TOULONNIER. (_To_ MADAME DE LOUDAN) That’s understood, Marquise! (_To_
MADAME ARRIÉGO) At your service, my dear madame!

BELLAC. (_To_ TOULONNIER) Well, General Secretary, may I hope——?

TOULONNIER. (_Giving him his hand_) It is merely what is due you; you
may count on us! (_He goes off_)

GENERAL. (_As he comes down to_ PAUL) And what is the spirit of your
_Department_,[3] my dear Sub-prefect? By Jove, you ought to know it,
after three years!

[3] Modern France is divided into ninety-seven “Departments” which
roughly correspond to the states in the United States.

PAUL. Well, General, its spirit—why, it—the—its spirit—it hasn’t any!!
(_They go out at the back. As_ SUZANNE _passes the piano she runs her
hand across the keys, making a terrible noise_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Severely to_ SUZANNE) But, Su-zanne! What——!

SUZANNE. (_As if astonished_) What is it, cousin?

DUCHESS. (_Stopping her and looking into her face_) What is the matter
with you?

SUZANNE. (_With a nervous smile_) Me? Oh, I am just amusing myself!

DUCHESS. What is the matter?

SUZANNE. Nothing, Aunt, I tell you I am just amusing myself!

DUCHESS. What is the matter with you?

SUZANNE. (_Stifling a sob_) Oh, I feel so badly! (_She goes into the
large dining-room and slams the door violently after her_)

DUCHESS. She’s in love, or I’m no judge—and I _am_ a judge!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_To the_ DUCHESS) But what is the matter? (_To_ ROGER)
Why aren’t you at work on your report? What has happened? Please?!

ROGER. You were right all the while!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Suzanne——?

ROGER. Suzanne—and that man!!

DUCHESS. Stop! You’re going to say something foolish!

ROGER. But I——

DUCHESS. (_To_ MADAME DE CÉRAN) We discovered a letter in her
possession.

MME. DE CÉRAN. From Bellac?

DUCHESS. I haven’t the slightest idea.

ROGER. What?

DUCHESS. Disguised handwriting—unsigned—not the slightest idea!

ROGER. Oh, you must have! He’s not running any risks.—I say——

DUCHESS. (_To_ ROGER) Keep still! (_To_ MADAME DE CÉRAN) Listen to
this: “I shall arrive Thursday——”

ROGER. To-day!—Therefore either he or I wrote that letter!

DUCHESS. Will you be still? “This evening at ten, in the Conservatory.”

ROGER. “Say you have a headache.”

DUCHESS. Oh, yes, I forgot: “Say you have a headache.”

MME. DE CÉRAN. Why, it is a rendezvous!

DUCHESS. There’s no doubt about it.

MME. DE CÉRAN. With _her_!

DUCHESS. I don’t know about that!

ROGER. But I think——

DUCHESS. You think! You think!—When it comes to accusing a woman,—it’s
not enough to “think,” you must _see_, and when you have seen, and seen
and seen again—then, well then, it’s not true anyway! (_Aside_) It’s
good to say these things to the young!

MME. DE CÉRAN. A rendezvous, what did I tell you?! Well, well, what
more could be expected of her, after all? And in my house! Like a girl
of the streets! Now, Duchess, what are you going to do, tell me that?
I asked them to begin in there without me, but I can’t wait here all
evening! I hear the poet; they’ve begun. Please, what are you going to
do?

DUCHESS. Do? Stay here.—Quarter to ten; if she keeps the appointment
she must come through here, and then I’ll see him.

ROGER. But if she goes, Aunt?

DUCHESS. If she goes, my dear nephew? Well! I shall go too! And without
saying a word, I’ll see where they go. And when I see how matters
stand, then and then only, will it be time to act.

ROGER. (_Sitting down_) I’ll wait.

MME. DE CÉRAN. It’s useless for you to wait, my dear, we are here. You
have your _Tumuli_, run along! (_She urges him to the door_)

ROGER. Please, mother! It’s a matter that——

MME. DE CÉRAN. It concerns your position. Go now, run away!

ROGER. (_Resisting_.) I should be very sorry to disobey you, but——

MME. DE CÉRAN. Now, Roger!

ROGER. Please, mother!—I couldn’t write a line this evening, I am too—I
don’t know what—I am very disturbed. My conscience tells me that I have
not acted toward that young girl as I ought. I’m very—Think of it,
Mother—Suzanne!—It would be awful—! I am in a fearful position.

DUCHESS. Surely you exaggerate!

ROGER. (_Flaring up_) Really!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Roger! Roger! What do you mean!

ROGER. I am her tutor; it is my duty to look after her moral
welfare!—Think of my responsibility; that child’s honor is in my hands!
It is a sacred charge placed in my keeping; if I violate my trust
I should be worse than a criminal. And then you talk to me about
_Tumuli! Tumuli! Tumuli!_ The devil take the _Tumuli_!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Terrified_) Oh!

DUCHESS. Well, well!

ROGER. And I say, if this is true, if that cad has dared take advantage
of our hospitality and her innocence, I’m going straight to him and
demand a public apology, do you hear?

MME. DE CÉRAN. My son!

ROGER. Before everyone!

MME. DE CÉRAN. This is madness!—Duchess, forgive him, he’s——

DUCHESS. Oho! I like to see him like that, you know!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Roger!

ROGER. No, mother, this is my affair. I’ll wait here. (_He sits down_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. Very well, then, I’ll wait, too.

ROGER. You?

MME. DE CÉRAN. Yes, and I’ll talk to him.

DUCHESS. But be careful!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Oh, I’ll be careful enough; but if she persists, I shall
give her my opinion on the subject! I’ll wait. (_She sits down_)

DUCHESS. Not long! Five minutes to ten! If she is going to have her
headache, it is due about now. (_The door at the back swings open
slowly_) Shhh——

ROGER. There she is!

   (_As the door opens, the voice of the poet is heard declaiming._)

  POET. (_Outside_) “Then let me cleanse the earth of this vile brood!
  Death’s portal shall not check my vengeance, nor
  Shall I retreat before the yawning grave——”

                 (JEANNE _appears; closes the door_.)

DUCHESS. The Sub-prefect’s wife!

JEANNE. (_Astonished at seeing them_) Oh!

DUCHESS. Come in, don’t be afraid. It would seem that you have had
enough?

JEANNE. Oh, no, Duchess, but you see, I——

DUCHESS. You don’t care for tragedy?

JEANNE. Oh, yes, I do!

DUCHESS. Oh, you needn’t say so to be polite; there are seventeen
others who feel as you do! (_Aside_) What can she be up to?—It wasn’t
interesting, was it?

JEANNE. Quite the contrary!

DUCHESS. “Quite the contrary,” as you say to the person who asks you
whether it hurt when he stepped on your foot?

JEANNE. Oh, not at all! There were some very interesting things—there
was one beautiful line.

DUCHESS. A whole line?

JEANNE. And the applause was great. (_Aside_) What shall I do?

DUCHESS. Ha! Ha! What was the beautiful line?

JEANNE. “Honor is like a god, a god which—” I’m afraid I misquote it,
and spoil the effect.

DUCHESS. Keep it, my child, keep it! And now you’re running away like
this in spite of the beautiful line?

JEANNE. I very much regret having to leave. (_Aside_) What shall I say?
(_Brightening_) Oh!—it was either that I was so uncomfortable where I
was sitting, or because it was so warm—I don’t feel very well!

DUCHESS. Ah!

JEANNE. My eyes are—I can’t see straight—I have a headache——

MME. DE CÉRAN, DUCHESS, ROGER. (_Rising_) A headache?!

JEANNE. (_Alarmed—aside_) What’s the matter with them?

DUCHESS. (_After a short pause_) That’s not surprising: there is an
epidemic of headaches.

JEANNE. You have one too?

DUCHESS. I? No! One doesn’t have them at my age! You must do something
for it, my child.

JEANNE. I’m going to take a little walk. You’ll excuse me, won’t you?

DUCHESS. Of course; by all means!

JEANNE. (_Holding her head between her hands, and going toward the
door_) Oh, how it aches! Ah! (_Aside_) Paul will find an excuse to get
away! (_She goes out through the door leading to the garden_)

DUCHESS. (_To_ ROGER) Do you think so? Do you think so?

ROGER. Oh, Aunt, it’s only a coincidence!

DUCHESS. Possibly; you know how easily one may be mistaken, and one
must never—(_The door of the drawing-room opens_) Ahh, _this_ time!

VOICE OF THE POET. (_Heard through the partially opened door as before_)

  “And though there were a hundred, nay a thousand——”

DUCHESS. Euripides is still at it!

VOICE OF THE POET.

  “Unarmed, unaided, would I brave their threats,
  And make the cowards own their cowardice!”

                           (LUCY _appears_.)

MME. DE CÉRAN _and_ ROGER. Lucy!

          (LUCY _goes to the door leading into the garden_.)

DUCHESS. What, Lucy! Why did you leave the reading?

LUCY. (_Stopping_) I beg your pardon; I didn’t see you!

DUCHESS. And yet they say there was a beautiful line:

  “Honor is like a god——”

LUCY. (_Starting to go_) “Like a god which——”

DUCHESS. Yes, that’s the one. (_The clock strikes ten._ LUCY _is now at
the door_) And in spite of that, you are determined to go?

LUCY. Yes, I want a breath of fresh air: I have a headache. (_She goes
out_)

DUCHESS, ROGER, _and_ MME. DE CÈRAN. (_Sitting down_) Oh!

DUCHESS. Well, well! This is getting interesting!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Another coincidence!

DUCHESS. Another? No, not this time! Don’t you think so? Then all of
them are—! Except Suzanne’s case! Come, now, there’s something in the
air. She will not come! I’m willing to wager she won’t come. (_The
drawing-room door opens suddenly, and through it is heard a voice in
the throes of tragic agony_) There she is!

      (_Enter_ SUZANNE _hastily, as though looking for someone_.)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Rising_) You are leaving the reading, Mademoiselle!

SUZANNE. (_Impatiently_) Yes, cousin!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Stay here!

SUZANNE. But, cousin——

MME. DE CÉRAN. Stay! Sit down!

SUZANNE. (_Dropping on to a piano-stool, and abruptly turning to each
person who addresses her_) Well?

MME. DE CÉRAN. And why, may I ask, did you leave the reading?

SUZANNE. Why should I let myself be bored by that old gentleman?

ROGER. Is that the true reason?

SUZANNE. I went out because Lucy went out, if you must know!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Miss Watson, Mademoiselle?

SUZANNE. Yes, indeed: Miss Watson, the pink of perfection, the _rara
avis_—she may do as she likes, but I——!

ROGER. You, Suzanne?

MME. DE CÉRAN. Let me speak to her! But you Mademoiselle, run about the
streets alone!

SUZANNE. The way Lucy does!

MME. DE CÉRAN. And you dress most outrageously.

SUZANNE. The way Lucy does!

MME. DE CÉRAN. You monopolise M. Bellac and talk to him affectedly——

SUZANNE. The way Lucy does! I suppose she doesn’t speak to him, does
she? And to Monsieur, too! (_Indicating_ ROGER)

MME. DE CÉRAN. Oh, but in private! You understand me perfectly.

SUZANNE. Let’s not talk about “in private!” When anyone has a secret,
he _writes_ it—(_Aside to_ ROGER _between her teeth_) in a disguised
hand!

MME. DE CÉRAN. What?

ROGER. (_Aside_) Aunt!

DUCHESS. (_Aside_) Shh!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Well?

SUZANNE. Well, Lucy speaks to whomever she likes; Lucy goes out
whenever she wants to; Lucy dresses just as she likes. I want to do
just like Lucy, because every one loves her!

MME. DE CÉRAN. And do you know why everyone loves her, Mademoiselle?
Because, in spite of her plainness—a necessary consequence of her
nationality—she is serious, dignified and cultured—

SUZANNE. (_Rising_) And what about me? Haven’t I been all that? For
the last six months up to this very evening at five o’clock, I worked
hard without resting, and I studied as much as she did; and I learned
as much as she did: “objective” and “subjective” and all that! And
what good did it all do me? Does anyone love me better for it? Doesn’t
everyone always treat me just as if I were a little girl? Everyone!!
Everyone!! (_Looking sidewise at_ ROGER) Who pays any attention to me?
Suzanne, Suzanne!! What does Suzanne count for! And all because I’m not
an old English woman!

ROGER. Suzanne!

SUZANNE. Yes, defend her! Oh, I know what to do in order to please
you! Here! (_Taking the_ DUCHESS’S _lorgnette and putting it up to her
eyes and looking through it_) How esthetic! Schopenhauer! The Ego, the
non-Ego! Et Cetera, nyah! nyah!

MME. DE CÉRAN. We can dispense with your impertinence, Mademoiselle!

SUZANNE. (_Bowing ceremoniously_) Thank you, cousin!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Yes, impertinence! and your absurd pranks——

SUZANNE. Well, what can you expect from a “street gamin” like me! No
wonder I don’t behave any better! (_A little excited_) Of course I
misbehave! I do it on purpose and I’ll continue to do it!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Not under my roof!

SUZANNE. I did go out with Monsieur Bellac, and I spoke with Monsieur
Bellac, and I have a secret with Monsieur Bellac!

ROGER. You dare——!

SUZANNE. And he knows more than you do! And he’s more of a man than you
are! And I like him better than you! I love him! I love him! I love him!

MME. DE CÉRAN. I sincerely hope that you do not realize the gravity of
what you are saying!

SUZANNE. I _do_ realize it!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Then listen to me! Before you commit any more of the
follies you are threatening us with, think the matter over! You,
least of all, Mademoiselle de Villiers, can afford to have a scandal
connected with _your_ name!

DUCHESS. Take care, take care!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Well, Duchess, she ought to know, at least——

SUZANNE. (_Holding back her tears_) I do know!

DUCHESS. You know? What?

SUZANNE. (_Throwing herself into the_ DUCHESS’S _arms and crying_)
Aunt! Aunt!

DUCHESS. There, there, Suzanne, my child! (_To_ MME. DE CÉRAN) That was
considerate of you—to start that here! (_To_ SUZANNE) There, there,
what is it you know? (_She takes_ SUZANNE _on her knees_)

SUZANNE. (_Weeping and talking at the same time_) W-what? I—I don’t
know! But I do know there is something against me—and there has been
for a long time!

DUCHESS. Why, what makes you think——?

SUZANNE. Nobody, everybody. People look at you and whisper and stop
talking when you come into the room and kiss you, and call you poor
little thing!—If you think children don’t notice those things!

DUCHESS. (_Wiping her eyes_) Now, dear, dear!

SUZANNE. And it was just the same at the convent! I knew I wasn’t
like the other girls. Oh, I could see that. They always talked to me
about my father and my mother, and why? Because I didn’t have any!
And once, during recess, I was playing with a girl!—I don’t remember
what I’d done to her—She was furious—and all of a sudden she called me
“Miss Foundling!” She didn’t know what it meant, neither did I! Her
mother had used the word in speaking about me. She told me afterward,
after we had made up.—Oh, I was so unhappy! (_Sobbing_) We looked the
word up in the dictionary, but we didn’t find anything—or we didn’t
understand—(_Angrily_) What did they mean? What have I done that makes
me any different from anybody else? That everything I do is bad? Is it
my fault?

DUCHESS. (_Kissing her_) No, my child, no my dear!

MME. DE CÉRAN. I am sorry——

SUZANNE. (_Sobbing_) Well, then, why does everybody blame me if it
isn’t my fault? Here I seem to be in the way! I know I don’t want to
stay any longer. I am going! Nobody loves me!

ROGER. (_Deeply moved_) Why do you say that, Suzanne? It’s not so.
Everybody here—I——

SUZANNE. (_Angrily as she rises_) You!

ROGER. Yes, I? And I swear——

SUZANNE. You!—Go away from me! I hate you and I never want to see you
again! Never! Do you hear! (_She goes toward the door leading into the
garden_)

ROGER. Suzanne! Suzanne! Where are you going?

SUZANNE. I’m going for a walk! For that matter, I am going where I
please!

ROGER. But why now? Why are you going out?

SUZANNE. Why? (_She comes down to him_) Why?? (_Looking him in the
eye_) Why? I have a headache! (_All rise_. SUZANNE _goes out_)

ROGER. (_Agitated_) Well, Aunt, it’s clear now, isn’t it?

DUCHESS. Less and less!

ROGER. I shall see him at once!

MME. DE CÉRAN. What are you going to do?

ROGER. Merely to do as my aunt has suggested: get to the bottom of the
affair. And I swear if that man—that if it’s true—if he has dared—!

MME. DE CÉRAN. If he has I shall show him to the door!

DUCHESS. If he has, I’ll see that he marries her! (_Following_ SUZANNE)
Only, if it isn’t true—well, we’ll see! Come! (_She tries to make_
MME. DE CÉRAN _go out. Loud applause is heard from the adjoining room;
indistinct murmurs of conversation and moving of chairs_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. Well!

DUCHESS. What’s that I hear? Another beautiful line? No, it’s the end
of the act. Quick, before they come in!!

MME. DE CÉRAN. But my guests?

DUCHESS. They’ll go to sleep again without your help! Come, come!

 (_They go out. The door at the back opens. Through it are seen guests
    in groups, with_ DES MILLETS _in the centre of one_.)

LADIES. Beautiful!—Great Art!—Very noble!

PAUL. (_On the threshold of the door_) That act is charming! Don’t you
think so, General?

GENERAL. (_Yawning cavernously_) Charming! Four to come!

 (PAUL _skilfully maneuvers so that he reaches the door leading to the
    garden and disappears through it_.)


                              _Curtain._



                                ACT III


 SCENE: _A large conservatory lighted by gas. A tiny fountain playing
    in the center of a basin; furniture, chairs, clumps of shrubbery;
    large plants behind which one might easily slip and hide._

 (_The_ DUCHESS _and_ MME. DE CÉRAN _enter, right. They look about
    stealthily and consult together in low tones._)

DUCHESS. No one?

MME. DE CÉRAN. No one.

DUCHESS. Good! (_She walks toward the center of the stage, then
pauses_) Three headaches!

MME. DE CÉRAN. It’s atrocious that I should be forced to leave the poet
to——

DUCHESS. Oh, well, your poet is reading his poetry! A poet who can read
his poems is happy enough!

MME. DE CÉRAN. But Roger’s conduct has disturbed me! I have never seen
him act that way. What are you doing there, Aunt?

DUCHESS. I’m stopping the water so that I can hear better, my dear.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Why?

DUCHESS. So that I can hear better, my dear!

MME. DE CÉRAN. He is in the garden somewhere—following her, watching
for her. What will happen?—Oh, the poor little thing!—Why, Duchess! You
are putting out the gas!

DUCHESS. No, I’m only turning it down.

MME. DE CÉRAN. Why?

DUCHESS. So that I can see better, my dear!

MME. DE CÉRAN. So—?

DUCHESS. Heavens, the less we are seen the more we’ll see. Three
headaches,—and only one rendezvous! Aren’t you beginning to see, my
dear?

MME. DE CÉRAN. But what I can’t understand is that Monsieur Bellac——

DUCHESS. And what I can’t understand is that Suzanne——

MME. DE CÉRAN. Oh, she!

DUCHESS. She? Well, you’ll see! They may come now as soon as they wish:
everything’s ready.

MME. DE CÉRAN. If Roger finds them here together, he might——

DUCHESS. Bah! Wait till you see! Wait until you _see_!

MME. DE CÉRAN. But——

DUCHESS. Shh! Didn’t you hear something?

MME. DE CÉRAN. Yes!

DUCHESS. (_Pushing_ MADAME DE CÉRAN _toward the plant at the right,
down-stage_) Just in time!—Come!

MME. DE CÉRAN. What, you are going to listen?

DUCHESS. (_Hidden_) I should think so! There is nothing else to be done
but to listen! There! In that corner we’ll be snug as weasels. If it
becomes necessary, we can come out, rest assured of that! Has somebody
come in?

                      (JEANNE _enters quietly_.)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Looking through the branches which hide her_) Yes!

DUCHESS. Which of the two?

MME. DE CÉRAN. _It is she!_

DUCHESS. Suzanne?

MME. DE CÉRAN. No! She’s not in _décolletée_. It’s someone else!

DUCHESS. Someone else? Who?

MME. DE CÉRAN. I can’t distinguish!

JEANNE. But come on, Paul!

MME. DE CÉRAN. The little Sub-prefect’s wife!

DUCHESS. Again!

                 (PAUL _enters, right, at the back_.)

JEANNE. What on earth are you doing to that door?

PAUL. (_Still in the corner, busied with something_) Necessity is the
mother of invention!—I’m just inventing a little necessity.

JEANNE. What?

PAUL. That!

JEANNE. Eh? (_Nervously_)

PAUL. (_Coming in_) A great success!

JEANNE. What do you mean?

PAUL. That! A little burglar alarm I’ve just installed. Yes, a piece
of wood in the door-hinge. By this means, if anyone should come—oh,
not any one in love,—that would be hardly likely in this place!—but
someone who was trying to take refuge here and avoid the tragedy—there
wouldn’t be any danger. He gives the door a push, there is a squeak and
we—whht!—by the other door, eh? Isn’t that a clever invention? I tell
you, we statesmen—! And now, Madame, since we are at last sheltered
from the eyes of the world, I shed the responsibilities of the public
man; the private citizen reappears, and is ready for the flight of
sentiment too long concealed; I now permit you to call me Paul!

JEANNE. Oh, what bliss! You are too good, P A U L!

PAUL. I am good because I am at peace; but, kissing me in the
corridors, you know—the way you did when you came to unpack my trunk,
that——

DUCHESS. (_Aside_) So it was they!

PAUL. And in the garden, this evening, too——

DUCHESS. Again!

PAUL. Never again, please! It’s entirely too imprudent for this
house!—And what a place! Didn’t I tell you? It’s a shame that in order
to become a Prefect one has to yawn himself to death in this palace of
boredom!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Eh?

DUCHESS. (_To_ _Madame de Céran_) Listen to that! Listen to that!

JEANNE. (_Drawing_ PAUL _down beside her_) Come, dear!

PAUL. (_Sits down, then gets up and walks about, agitated_) What a
house! And the hosts, and the guests, and everybody else! And Madame
Arriégo! And that poet! And the Marquise! And that English iceberg! And
Roger the wooden man! The Duchess is the only one with any common-sense!

DUCHESS. That for me!

PAUL. (_With conviction_) But the rest, oh, my, oh, my!

DUCHESS. And that for you!

JEANNE. Oh, come, dear, sit by me!

PAUL. (_Seating himself, and rising again as before_) And the lectures
and the Literature! And Revel’s candidacy! Clever old fox who keeps
dying every evening and coming back to life every morning! (_He starts
to sit down, then he pauses_) And Saint-Réault! Ah! Saint-Réault! And
the _Ramas-Ravanas_ and all the clap-trap about Buddha!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Indignantly_) Oh!

DUCHESS. (_Laughing to herself_) Oh, he’s so funny!

PAUL. And the other one, he’s a wonder! Bellac of the many conquests,
with his Platonic love!!

JEANNE. (_Dropping her eyes_) He’s silly!

PAUL. (_Sitting_) Don’t you think so? And that tragedy! Oh, that
tragedy!

JEANNE. But, Paul, what is it?

PAUL. And old Phillippe-Auguste with his beautiful verse! Why,
everybody has written verse! That’s no reason why he should read it!
I’ve done it myself!

JEANNE. You, dear?

PAUL. Yes, I! When I was a poor student I even used to sell it!

JEANNE. To a publisher?

PAUL. No, to a dentist! “Fill-iad, Or the Art of Filling Teeth.”—Poem
in three hundred lines!—Thirty Francs—Listen!

JEANNE. Oh, no!

  PAUL. “O Muse, be there an ill, to man the greatest curse,
  Which Heaven in its wrath spreads o’er the universe,
  And sorely, you’ll admit, O Muse, good taste offends,
  It is that one which oftentimes upon the teeth descends!—

JEANNE. Oh, Paul!

  PAUL. “Ah, to tear out that tooth, my cup of joy were full!
  Nay, friend, it can be cured, stop! do not let them pull!
  Oh, never pull a tooth, e’en when it rots—you’ll rue it!
  Let it be filled; but choose a clever man to do it!
  Protect that little tooth, bi-cuspéd or incisor,
  ’Twill sweeten every meal—’twill make your smile seem nicer!”

DUCHESS. (_Laughing_) Isn’t he amusing!

JEANNE. What nonsense you talk! Who would ever believe it to see you
in the drawing-room! (_Imitating him_) Ah, yes, Monsieur le sénateur,
the tide of democracy—the treaties of 1815—Oh! Oh! OH!

PAUL. And you, dear! You certainly have made an impression on the
hostess!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Hmmm?

PAUL. My compliments!

JEANNE. But, dearie, I only did what you suggested!

PAUL. (_Imitating her_) “I only did what you suggested!”—Ah, little
Miss Saintliness with her little voice! Oh, you filled the Countess
full—of Joubert and Latin and Tocqueville—your own manufacture, too!

MME. DE CÉRAN. What, her own manufacture?

DUCHESS. She is lovely! I like her all the more!

JEANNE. Well, I don’t feel any remorse—A woman who puts us in separate
rooms!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Rising_) And suppose I tell her to leave!

DUCHESS. Be still!

JEANNE. And it’s just horrid of her! Yes, she does it on purpose! A
woman knows very well that new-married people always—have things to say
to each other.

PAUL. (_Tenderly_) Yes, always!

JEANNE. Always? Really?—Always like this?

PAUL. What a sweet voice you have! I heard it a little while
ago—talking about the treaties of 1815! Soft, sweet, all-enveloping.
Ah, the voice is the music of the heart—as Monsieur de Tocqueville says!

JEANNE. Oh, Paul! I don’t like you to laugh at such serious things!

PAUL. Oh, let me be a little nonsensical, please, dear! I’m so happy
here! By Jove, just now I don’t care a rap whether I’m Prefect of
Carcassonne or not!

JEANNE. It’s always “just now” with me, Monsieur! That’s the difference!

PAUL. Dear little wife! (_He kisses her hands_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. But such impropriety, I nev—

DUCHESS. I can’t say that I object to that!

PAUL. I have a lot of back accounts to settle before I even begin to
collect for the present! When can we get away? Dear little girl, you
don’t know how I adore you!

JEANNE. Yes, I know—I can judge for myself!

PAUL. My Jeanne!

JEANNE. Oh, Paul, say it like that always! Always!

PAUL. Always! (_Close to her, and very tenderly_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. But, Duchess!!

DUCHESS. Oh! They’re married, aren’t they!

    (_The door squeaks_; PAUL _and_ JEANNE _spring up, startled_.)

JEANNE _and_ PAUL. Eh?

JEANNE. Somebody’s coming!

PAUL. We must flee—as they say in the tragedy!

JEANNE. Quick! Quick!

PAUL. You see? My little invention!

JEANNE. So soon! What luck! (_They go out, right_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Going left_) Well, it is a fortunate thing that they
were interrupted.

DUCHESS. (_Following her_) I’m sorry they went—but the funny part is
over now!

 (BELLAC _enters right, at the back_; MADAME DE CÉRAN _and the_ DUCHESS
    _hide themselves, left_.)

BELLAC. What a noise that door makes!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_To the_ DUCHESS, _as before_) Bellac!

DUCHESS. Bellac!

BELLAC. One can’t see very well here!

MME. DE CÉRAN. You see, it’s true!—Everything is true!

DUCHESS. Everything? No!—Only a little bit.

MME. DE CÉRAN. The rest is far away.

DUCHESS. In any case, it’s only a lark, a schoolgirl’s frolic! It can’t
be that—(_The door squeaks_) There she is! Oh, my, how my heart beats!
In cases like this, it’s better to be sure; one can never tell. Can you
see her?

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Peering out_) Yes, it’s she; Roger will be here in
a moment, on the lookout for them. Hadn’t we better show ourselves,
Duchess?

DUCHESS. No, no. I want to see where they stand. I want to catch them
red-handed.

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Still looking_) I’m dying of
suspense—_Décolletée_—It’s certainly she.

DUCHESS. Oh, the little coquette! Let me see! (_She looks through the
leaves_) What’s that?

MME. DE CÉRAN. What?

DUCHESS. Look!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Lucy!

DUCHESS. Lucy!

MME. DE CÉRAN. What does that mean?

DUCHESS. I don’t know, but I like that better!

 (PAUL _and_ JEANNE _re-enter, and_ BELLAC _and_ LUCY _conceal
    themselves, right_. JEANNE _is behind_ PAUL, _holding him back_.)

JEANNE. (_To_ PAUL) No, no, Paul, no!

PAUL. Yes, yes! Let me go a second! I want to see! Nobody could be here
but lovers, at this hour;—and yet, in this house! No, that would be too
much!

JEANNE. Take care!

PAUL. Shhh!

LUCY. Are you there, Monsieur Bellac?

PAUL. The English girl!

BELLAC. Yes, Mademoiselle!

PAUL. And the Professor—the English girl and the Professor! It’s
impossible! Scandal! Would you believe it! An intrigue—a rendezvous!
We’ll stay right here and see what happens!

JEANNE. What?

PAUL. After this, you don’t mean to say you want to go?

JEANNE. Oh, no! (_They hide themselves behind the plants, at the back,
left_)

LUCY. Are you on this side?

BELLAC. Here!—I beg your pardon! The conservatory is usually better
lighted—I don’t know why, this evening—(_He walks toward her_)

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Aside to the_ DUCHESS) Lucy!—But what about Suzanne?
I’m sure I can’t make it out!

DUCHESS. Wait a while; we’ll soon see.

LUCY. But, M. Bellac, what do you mean by this? And your letter this
morning? Why did you write me?

BELLAC. Because I wanted to talk with you, my dear Miss Lucy. Is this
the first time we have left the others and talked, and exchanged ideas?

PAUL. (_Struggling to control his laughter_) Oh, exchange ideas! I
never heard it called that before!

BELLAC. Surrounded as I am here, what other means had I of speaking
with you, alone?

LUCY. What other means? You might simply offer me your arm and leave
the room with me. I’m no French girl!

BELLAC. But you are in France.

LUCY. I may be in France, but I still do as I please. I have no use
for secrets, much less such mysteries as this! You disguise your
handwriting, you did not sign your name, you even wrote on pink
paper—how French you are!

PAUL. (_Aside to_ JEANNE) He’s a born villain!

BELLAC. How wonderful you are, austere Muse of Knowledge, superb
Polymnia, proud nymph of the cold Pierian Spring—please sit down!

LUCY. No, no! Now see what all your precautions have come to; I have
lost that letter!

DUCHESS. (_Rather loudly_) I see!

                           (LUCY _starts_.)

BELLAC. What is it?

LUCY. Didn’t you hear——?

BELLAC. No.—You say you lost——?

LUCY. What do you suppose the finder of that letter will think?

DUCHESS. (_Aside to_ MME. DE CÉRAN) Now do you understand?

LUCY. Of course; there was no envelope or address——

BELLAC. Nor my handwriting, nor my signature. You see I wasn’t so
stupid after all! In any case, my intentions were good, my dear Miss
Lucy. Forgive your Professor, your friend, and—and—Sit down, please!

LUCY. No! Tell me what you have to tell me with so much secrecy, and
we’ll return to the drawing-room!

BELLAC. (_Detaining her_) Wait! Why didn’t you come to my lecture this
afternoon?

LUCY. Simply because I spent my time looking for that letter. What have
you to say to me now?

BELLAC. Are you very anxious to leave me? (_He gives her a packet of
papers tied with a red ribbon_) There!

LUCY. The proofs!

BELLAC. (_Agitated_) Of my book!

LUCY. (_Also moved_) Of your—? Oh, M. Bellac!

BELLAC. It was my wish to have you see it before anyone else! You only!

LUCY. (_Taking his hand—effusively_) Oh, my dear friend! My dear friend!

PAUL. (_As before_) Oh, my, what a gift of love!

                (BELLAC _moves a little to the left_.)

LUCY. What is it?

BELLAC. Nothing—nothing.—I thought—Read this book in which I have put
my inmost thoughts, and you will find that we are in perfect accord, I
am sure—except upon one point—Oh, that question——!

LUCY. Which?

BELLAC. (_Tenderly_) Is it possible that you really do not believe in
Platonic love?

LUCY. I? Not in the least!

BELLAC. (_Graciously_) Very well, but what of our relations?

LUCY. (_Simply_) Our relations? Friendship!

BELLAC. (_Playing with the idea_) I beg your pardon! More than
friendship, better than love!

LUCY. Well, if it’s more than the one and better than the other, then
it’s neither! And now, thank you once more; thank you a thousand times!
But let us go back, shan’t we? (_She starts to go_)

BELLAC. (_Detaining her_) Wait a moment!

LUCY. No, no, let us go back!

PAUL. (_To_ JEANNE) She won’t take the bait!

BELLAC. (_Always holding her back_) Please wait, I beg you!—Two words!
Two words! Explain to me, tell me—it’s worth the trouble! Come, Lucy!

LUCY. Come, Bellac! (_Becoming animated, as she passes to the right_)
But see, my friend, listen, M. Bellac—your Platonic love has absolutely
no philosophical basis——

BELLAC. Pardon me, that love is a kind of friendship——

LUCY. If it’s friendship it is no longer love.

BELLAC. But it’s a double concept!

LUCY. If it’s double, it cannot be a unit!

BELLAC. But there is a fusion! (_He seats himself_)

LUCY. If it is a fusion, it has no longer an individuality. I’ll
explain my meaning! (_She seats herself_)

PAUL. (_To_ JEANNE) She’s swallowed the hook!

LUCY. I deny that any fusion is possible between love, which is based
upon indivisibility, and friendship, which is largely composed of
sympathy; that is to say, that in which the Ego becomes, in a way, the
Non-Ego. I deny absolutely, absolutely——!

DUCHESS. (_To_ MME. DE CÉRAN) I have often heard people talk about
love, but never that way!

BELLAC. But, Lucy——

LUCY. But, Bellac—Yes or no, the principal factor——

BELLAC. But, Lucy—Here’s an example: suppose two beings, two
abstractions, two entities—any man, any woman,—who love each other, but
with an ordinary physiological love—you follow me?

LUCY. Perfectly!

BELLAC. Let us suppose these two in the following circumstances; they
are alone at night, together—what would happen?

DUCHESS. (_To_ MADAME DE CÉRAN) I don’t know, do you?

BELLAC. Without fail—now pay close attention—without fail, this
phenomenon will take place.

JEANNE. (_To_ PAUL) It’s so funny!

PAUL. Do you think so, Madame?

BELLAC. Both of them, or more probably, one of them, the man——

PAUL. (_To_ JEANNE) The male entity!

BELLAC. Would approach her whom he believes he loves—(_He approaches
her_)

LUCY. (_Drawing back a little_) But——

BELLAC. (_Gently holding her_) No, no, you’ll see! They gaze fixedly
into each other’s eyes, she feels his breath on her cheek, her hair
brushes against his face——

LUCY. But, M. Bellac——

BELLAC. And then—and then, their Egoes mingle, independently of the Ego
itself, an uninterrupted series of involuntary acts which, by a natural
succession, progressing slowly and inevitably, hurls them, if I may be
permitted the expression, into the maelstrom which, though foreseen,
cannot be avoided—in which Reason and Soul are powerless!

LUCY. One moment! This process——

BELLAC. Listen, listen! Suppose now another couple and another love: a
psychological, not a physiological love—an exception; you still follow
me?

LUCY. Yes.

BELLAC. These two, seated side by side, come nearer to each other——

LUCY. (_Drawing away_) But that’s the very same thing.

BELLAC. (_Bringing her back_) Listen to me; there is the slightest
shade of difference. Let me illustrate: they too gaze into each other’s
eyes and they too——

LUCY. Well? (_She rises_)

BELLAC. (_Making her sit down_) But—but—They are oblivious of physical
beauty: it is their souls which commune. They no longer hear each
other’s voices, but rather the palpitation of their thoughts! And then,
finally, by an entirely different process—though springing from the
same source—they too arrive at that obscure and turbulent state of mind
in which the being is ignorant even of its own existence—a delicious
atrophy of the Will which seems the _summum_ and the _terminus_ of
human happiness; they leave the earth to awaken in a free Heaven, for
_their_ love transports them far above the murky clouds of earthly
passion into the pure Ether of the sublimely Ideal! (_A pause_)

PAUL. (_To_ JEANNE) They’re going to kiss!

BELLAC. Lucy!! Dear Lucy, don’t you understand? Say that you understand
me!

LUCY. (_Troubled_) But—it seems to me that these two concepts——

PAUL. Oh, the concepts! That’s too much!

LUCY. The two concepts are identical.

BELLAC. (_Passionately_) Identical?! Oh, Lucy, you are cruel!
Identical! You must understand that in this case it is entirely
subjective.

PAUL. Subjective! Oh, I say!

BELLAC. (_Growing more excited_) Subjective! Lucy! You must understand
me!

LUCY. (_Greatly moved_) But, Bellac—subjective!

JEANNE. (_To_ PAUL) He’ll never kiss her!

PAUL. Then I’ll kiss you!

JEANNE. (_Defending herself_) Paul! Paul!

                         (_Kisses are heard._)

BELLAC _and_ LUCY. (_Getting up, frightened_) What——?

DUCHESS. (_Astonished; rising_) What’s this? Are they kissing?

LUCY. Someone—someone’s there!

BELLAC. Come, take my hand!

LUCY. There’s someone listening! I’m sure!

BELLAC. Come!

LUCY. I’m fearfully compromised! (_She goes out at the back, left_)

BELLAC. (_Following her_) I’ll do all in my power—(_He follows her out_)

PAUL. (_Who, with_ JEANNE, _comes out from the hiding-place_) Platonic
love! Ha! Ha!

DUCHESS. (_Aside_) Raymond!

JEANNE. The Ego! The process! The _terminus_! Ha! Ha!

DUCHESS. (_Leaving her hiding-place; aside_) Naughty children! Just
wait! (_Quietly approaching them_)

PAUL. Oh, he’s a regular Tartufe,[4] with his double-meanings!
(_Imitating_ BELLAC) “My dear Mademoiselle; Love is a double concept”——

[4] The principal character in Moliere’s famous comedy, “Tartufe,” a
hypocrite, whose name has become proverbial.

JEANNE. (_Imitating_ LUCY) “But the principal factor”——

PAUL. “But, Lucy”——

JEANNE. “But, Bellac”——

PAUL. “But there is the slightest shade of a difference—Let me
illustrate”——

JEANNE. “But they are identical.”

PAUL. “Identical! You are cruel! It is entirely subjective.”

JEANNE. “Oh, Bellac, subjective.”

 (_The_ DUCHESS _imitates the sound of kisses by clapping her hands_.)

PAUL _and_ JEANNE. (_Rising in alarm_) What——?

JEANNE. Someone!

PAUL. Caught!

JEANNE. Someone has been listening!

PAUL. (_Trying to take her away_) Come, come!

JEANNE. (_As they go out_) Perhaps they heard what we said before!

PAUL. “I’ll do all in my power”—! (_They go out left_)

DUCHESS. (_Laughing_) Ha! Ha! Those ridiculous children! They’re nice,
but they deserve a lesson! I have to laugh! Oh—Lucy—think of it!—She’s
all right! Ah, well, now do you see how matters stand! Suzanne—the
rendezvous—the letter——

MME. DE CÉRAN. Oh, it was Bellac’s letter to Lucy that Suzanne found!

DUCHESS. She thought it was Roger’s letter to Lucy; that is why she was
so jealous, so furious!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Jealous? You don’t mean to tell me she loves my son?

DUCHESS. Do you still want him to marry the other girl?

MME. DE CÉRAN. The other girl? Certainly not! But never Suzanne, Aunt,
never!

DUCHESS. We haven’t come to that yet! Meanwhile, go and take care of
your tragic poet, and Revel’s successor! I’ll find your son for you,
and see that he gets back his honor! All’s well that ends well! I’m not
nervous now, after all this ado about nothing! But now it’s over; let’s
go!

 (_They are about to go out, left, when the door at the right opens._)

DUCHESS _and_ MME. DE CÉRAN. What’s this?

DUCHESS. Again!? Your Conservatory is thick with them! This is lovely!

MME. DE CÉRAN. Who else can it be?

DUCHESS. Who? (_Struck with an idea_) Oh! (_To_ MME. DE CÉRAN, _placing
her in a corner, left_) Go back to the drawing-room; I’ll tell you
later.

MME. DE CÉRAN. But, I——

DUCHESS. You can’t leave your guests all evening!

MME. DE CÉRAN. (_Trying to see the newcomers_) Who can it be?

DUCHESS. (_Still urging her out_) I’ll tell you everything. Quick now,
before—— You can’t——

MME. DE CÉRAN. That’s so. I’ll come back for the tea.

DUCHESS. Yes, do that! Quick, quick, now!

                   (MME. DE CÉRAN _goes out, left_.)

DUCHESS. Who can it be? Roger, who is spying on Suzanne, or Suzanne,
who is spying on Roger? (_Looking to the right_) Yes, it’s he, my
Bartolo—(_Looking to the left_) And my little jealous girl, who thinks
Roger is with Lucy, and who would like to see how things are coming
on. That’s it. Headache number three: total quite correct! Oh, if
Fortune doesn’t make something out of this, she is insufferably stupid!
(_Carefully turning down the gas_) We need a little added effect!

                          (_Enter_ SUZANNE.)

SUZANNE. (_Hiding_) I knew very well when he had finished walking
around the garden he would end here in the conservatory; he couldn’t
miss it!

                           (ROGER _enters_.)

ROGER. (_As he hides_) She’s here, I saw her come in! I knew very well
when she had finished walking around the garden she would end here in
the conservatory!—Now I know what to expect!

DUCHESS. Hide-and-seek!

SUZANNE. (_Listening_) It seems that—his English lady is late!

ROGER. (_Listening_) Ahh! Bellac isn’t here yet!

DUCHESS. They’ll keep this up forever unless I stop it!—Sst!

ROGER. She’s giving him a signal! Oh, if I only dared, I’d take his
place, since he hasn’t come. That’s the way to find out how they feel
toward one another!

DUCHESS. (_Aside_) Come, come!—Sst!

ROGER. Well, I might as well learn what I can!—Ssst!

DUCHESS. Well!

SUZANNE. He thinks I’m Lucy!—Oh, I should like to know what he’d say to
her!

ROGER. (_In an undertone_) Is it you?

SUZANNE. (_Softly_) Yes! (_Aside; resolutely_) I’ll do it!

ROGER. She thinks I’m Bellac!

DUCHESS. Ahh!—Good! They’re off! (_She disappears behind the plants at
the back, left_)

ROGER. Did you get my letter?

SUZANNE. (_Aside—angrily_) Yes, I got your letter! I got it! And you
had no idea that I did, either! (_To_ ROGER; _sweetly_) How else should
I have come to meet you?

ROGER. (_Aside_) “Meet you”—! This is plain enough!—Oh, the poor
child—Now we’ll see!—(_To_ SUZANNE) I was so afraid you wouldn’t come,
my dear——

SUZANNE. (_Aside_) “My dear!” Oh! (_To_ ROGER) And yet you saw me leave
the drawing-room a moment ago, my dear!

ROGER. (_Aside_) They’re on very familiar terms, aren’t they? There’s
no denying that! I’ve got to know! (_To_ SUZANNE) Why don’t you come
nearer? (_He approaches her_)

SUZANNE. (_Aside_) Oh, he’ll notice that I’m smaller than 




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