SCENE I.——HARPAGON, CLÉANTE, ÉLISE, VALÈRE, DAME CLAUDE (holding a broom), MASTER JACQUES, LA MERLUCHE, BRINDAVOINE.
Har. Here, come here, all of you; I must give you orders for by and by, and arrange what each one will have to do. Come nearer, Dame Claude; let us begin with you. (Looking at her broom.) Good; you are ready armed, I see. To you I commit the care of cleaning up everywhere; but, above all, be very careful not to rub the furniture too hard, for fear of wearing it out. Besides this, I put the bottles under your care during supper, and if any one of them is missing, or if anything gets broken, you will be responsible for it, and pay it out of your wages.
Jac. (aside). A shrewd punishment that.
Har. (to Dame Claude.) Now you may go.
SCENE II.——HARPAGON, CLÉANTE, ÉLISE, VALÈRE, MASTER JACQUES, BRINDAVOINE, LA MERLUCHE.
Har. To you, Brindavoine, and to you, La Merluche, belongs the duty of washing the glasses, and of giving to drink, but only when people are thirsty, and not according to the custom of certain impertinent lackeys, who urge them to drink, and put the idea into their heads when they are not thinking about it. Wait until you have been asked several times, and remember always to have plenty of water.
Jac. (aside). Yes; wine without water gets into one's head.
La Mer. Shall we take off our smocks, Sir?
Har. Yes, when you see the guests coming; but be very careful not to spoil your clothes.
Brind. You know, Sir, that one of the fronts of my doublet is covered with a large stain of oil from the lamp.
La Mer. And I, Sir, that my breeches are all torn behind, and that, saving your presence …
Har. (to La Merluche). Peace! Turn carefully towards the wall, and always face the company. (To Brindavoine, showing him how he is to hold his hat before his doublet, to hide the stain of oil) And you, always hold your hat in this fashion when you wait on the guests.
SCENE III.——HARPAGON, CLÉANTE, ÉLISE, VALÈRE, MASTER JACQUES.
Har. As for you, my daughter, you will look after all that is cleared off the table, and see that nothing is wasted: this care is very becoming to young girls. Meanwhile get ready to welcome my lady-love, who is coming this afternoon to pay you a visit, and will take you off to the fair with her. Do you understand what I say?
Eli. Yes, father.
SCENE IV.——HARPAGON, CLÉANTE, VALÈRE, MASTER JACQUES.
Har. And you, my young dandy of a son to whom I have the kindness of forgiving what happened this morning, mind you don't receive her coldly, or show her a sour face.
Cle. Receive her coldly! And why should I?
Har. Why? why? We know pretty well the ways of children whose fathers marry again, and the looks they give to those we call stepmothers. But if you wish me to forget your last offence, I advise you, above all things, to receive her kindly, and, in short, to give her the heartiest welcome you can.
Cle. To speak the truth, father, I cannot promise you that I am very happy to see her become my stepmother; but as to receiving her properly, and as to giving her a kind welcome, I promise to obey you in that to the very letter.
Har. Be careful you do, at least.
Cle. You will see that you have no cause to complain.
Har. You will do wisely.
SCENE V.——HARPAGON, VALÈRE, MASTER JACQUES.
Har. Valère, you will have to give me your help in this business. Now, Master Jacques, I kept you for the last.
Jac. Is it to your coachman, Sir, or to your cook you want to speak, for I am both the one and the other?
Har. To both.
Jac. But to which of the two first?
Har. To the cook.
Jac. Then wait a minute, if you please.
(Jacques takes off his stable-coat and appears dressed as a cook.)
Har. What the deuce is the meaning of this ceremony?
Jac. Now I am at your service.
Har. I have engaged myself, Master Jacques, to give a supper to-night.
Jac. (aside). Wonderful!
Har. Tell me, can you give us a good supper?
Jac. Yes, if you give me plenty of money.
Har. The deuce! Always money! I think they have nothing else to say except money, money, money! Always that same word in their mouth, money! They always speak of money! It's their pillow companion, money!
Val. Never did I hear such an impertinent answer! Would you call it wonderful to provide good cheer with plenty of money? Is it not the easiest thing in the world? The most stupid could do as much. But a clever man should talk of a good supper with little money.
Jac. A good supper with little money?
Jac. (to Valère). Indeed, Mr. Steward, you will oblige me greatly by telling me your secret, and also, if you like, by filling my place as cook; for you keep on meddling here, and want to be everything.
Har. Hold your tongue. What shall we want?
Jac. Ask that of Mr. Steward, who will give you good cheer with little money.
Har. Do you hear? I am speaking to you, and expect you to answer me.
Jac. How many will there be at your table?
Har. Eight or ten; but you must only reckon for eight. When there is enough for eight, there is enough for ten.
Val. That is evident.
Jac. Very well, then; you must have four tureens of soup and five side dishes; soups, entrées …
Har. What! do you mean to feed a whole town?
Jac. Roast …
Har. (clapping his hand on Master Jacques' mouth). Ah! Wretch! you are eating up all my substance.
Jac. Entremêts …
Har. (again putting his hand on Jacques' mouth). More still?
Val. (to Jacques). Do you mean to kill everybody? And has your master invited people in order to destroy them with over-feeding? Go and read a little the precepts of health, and ask the doctors if there is anything so hurtful to man as excess in eating.
Har. He is perfectly right.
Val. Know, Master Jacques, you and people like you, that a table overloaded with eatables is a real cut-throat; that, to be the true friends of those we invite, frugality should reign throughout the repast we give, and that according to the saying of one of the ancients, "We must eat to live, and not live to eat."
Har. Ah! How well the man speaks! Come near, let me embrace you for this last saying. It is the finest sentence that I have ever heard in my life: "We must live to eat, and not eat to live." No; that isn't it. How do you say it?
Val. That we must eat to live, and not live to eat.
Har. (to Master Jacques). Yes. Do you hear that? (To Valère) Who is the great man who said that?
Val. I do not exactly recollect his name just now.
Har. Remember to write down those words for me. I will have them engraved in letters of gold over the mantel-piece of my dining-room.
Val. I will not fail. As for your supper, you had better let me manage it. I will see that it is all as it should be.
Har. Do so.
Jac. So much the better; all the less work for me.
Har. (to Valère). We must have some of those things of which it is not possible to eat much, and that satisfy directly. Some good fat beans, and a pâté well stuffed with chestnuts.
Val. Trust to me.
Har. Now, Master Jacques, you must clean my carriage.
Jac. Wait a moment; this is to the coachman. (Jacques puts on his coat.) You say …
Har. That you must clean my carriage, and have my horses ready to drive to the fair.
Jac. Your horses! Upon my word, Sir, they are not at all in a condition to stir. I won't tell you that they are laid up, for the poor things have got nothing to lie upon, and it would not be telling the truth. But you make them keep such rigid fasts that they are nothing but phantoms, ideas, and mere shadows of horses.
Har. They are much to be pitied. They have nothing to do.
Jac. And because they have nothing to do, must they have nothing to eat? It would be much better for them, poor things, to work much and eat to correspond. It breaks my heart to see them so reduced; for, in short, I love my horses; and when I see them suffer, it seems as if it were myself. Every day I take the bread out of my own mouth to feed them; and it is being too hard-hearted, Sir, to have no compassion upon one's neighbour.
Har. It won't be very hard work to go to the fair.
Jac. No, Sir. I haven't the heart to drive them; it would go too much against my conscience to use the whip to them in the state they are in. How could you expect them to drag a carriage? They have not even strength enough to drag themselves along.
Val. Sir, I will ask our neighbour, Picard, to drive them; particularly as we shall want his help to get the supper ready.
Jac. Be it so. I had much rather they should die under another's hand than under mine.
Val. Master Jacques is mightily considerate.
Jac. Mr. Steward is mightily indispensable.
Jac. Sir, I can't bear these flatteries, and I can see that, whatever this man does, his continual watching after the bread, wine, wood, salt, and candles, is done but to curry favour and to make his court to you. I am indignant to see it all; and I am sorry to hear every day what is said of you; for, after all, I have a certain tenderness for you; and, except my horses, you are the person I like most in the world.
Har. And I would know from you, Master Jacques, what it is that is said of me.
Jac. Yes, certainly, Sir, if I were sure you would not get angry with me.
Har. No, no; never fear.
Jac. Excuse me, but I am sure you will be angry.
Har. No, on the contrary, you will oblige me. I should be glad to know what people say of me.
Jac. Since you wish it, Sir, I will tell you frankly that you are the laughing-stock of everybody; that they taunt us everywhere by a thousand jokes on your account, and that nothing delights people more than to make sport of you, and to tell stories without end about your stinginess. One says that you have special almanacks printed, where you double the ember days and vigils, so that you may profit by the fasts to which you bind all your house; another, that you always have a ready-made quarrel for your servants at Christmas time or when they leave you, so that you may give them nothing. One tells a story how not long since you prosecuted a neighbour's cat because it had eaten up the remainder of a leg of mutton; another says that one night you were caught stealing your horses' oats, and that your coachman,—that is the man who was before me,—gave you, in the dark, a good sound drubbing, of which you said nothing. In short, what is the use of going on? We can go nowhere but we are sure to hear you pulled to pieces. You are the butt and jest and byword of everybody; and never does anyone mention you but under the names of miser, stingy, mean, niggardly fellow and usurer.
Har. (beating Jacques). You are a fool, a rascal, a scoundrel, and an impertinent wretch.
Jac. There, there! Did not I know how it would be? You would not believe me. I told you I should make you angry if I spoke the truth?
Har. Learn how to speak.
SCENE VI.——VALÈRE, MASTER JACQUES.
Val. (laughing). Well, Master Jacques, your frankness is badly rewarded, I fear.
Jac. S'death! Mr. Upstart, you who assume the man of consequence, it is no business of yours as far as I can see. Laugh at your own cudgelling when you get it, and don't come here and laugh at mine.
Val. Ah! Master Jacques, don't get into a passion, I beg of you.
Jac. (aside). He is drawing in his horns. I will put on a bold face, and if he is fool enough to be afraid of me, I will pay him back somewhat. (To Valère) Do you know, Mr. Grinner, that I am not exactly in a laughing humour, and that if you provoke me too much, I shall make you laugh after another fashion. (Jacques pushes Valère to the farther end of the stage, threatening him.)
Val. Gently, gently.
Jac. How gently? And if it does not please me to go gently?
Val. Come, come! What are you about?
Jac. You are an impudent rascal.
Val. Master Jacques …
Jac. None of your Master Jacques here! If I take up a stick, I shall soon make you feel it.
Val. What do you mean by a stick? (Drives back Jacques in his turn.)
Jac. No; I don't say anything about that.
Val. Do you know, Mr. Conceit, that I am a man to give you a drubbing in good earnest?
Jac. I have no doubt of it.
Val. That, after all, you are nothing but a scrub of a cook?
Jac. I know it very well.
Val. And that you don't know me yet?
Jac. I beg your pardon.
Val. You will beat me, you say?
Jac. I only spoke in jest.
Val. I don't like your jesting, and (beating Jacques) remember that you are but a sorry hand at it.
Jac. (alone). Plague take all sincerity; it is a bad trade. I give it up for the future, and will cease to tell the truth. It is all very well for my master to beat me; but as for that Mr. Steward, what right has he to do it? I will be revenged on him if I can.
SCENE VII.——MARIANNE, FROSINE, MASTER JACQUES.
Fro. Do you know if your master is at home?
Jac. Yes, he is indeed; I know it but too well.
Fro. Tell him, please, that we are here.
SCENE VIII.——MARIANNE, FROSINE.
Mar. Ah! Frosine, how strange I feel, and how I dread this interview!
Fro. Why should you? What can you possibly dread?
Mar. Alas! can you ask me? Can you not understand the alarms of a person about to see the instrument of torture to which she is to be tied.
Fro. I see very well that to die agreeably, Harpagon is not the torture you would embrace; and I can judge by your looks that the fair young man you spoke of to me is still in your thoughts.
Mar. Yes, Frosine; it is a thing I do not wish to deny. The respectful visits he has paid at our house have left, I confess, a great impression on my heart.
Fro. But do you know who he is?
Mar. No, I do not. All I know is that he is made to be loved; that if things were left to my choice, I would much rather marry him than any other, and that he adds not a little to the horrible dread that I have of the husband they want to force upon me.
Fro. Oh yes! All those dandies are very pleasant, and can talk agreeably enough, but most of them are as poor as church mice; and it is much better for you to marry an old husband, who gives you plenty of money. I fully acknowledge that the senses somewhat clash with the end I propose, and that there are certain little inconveniences to be endured with such a husband; but all that won't last; and his death, believe me, will soon put you in a position to take a more pleasant husband, who will make amends for all.
Mar. Oh, Frosine! What a strange state of things that, in order to be happy, we must look forward to the death of another. Yet death will not fall in with all the projects we make.
Fro. You are joking. You marry him with the express understanding that he will soon leave you a widow; it must be one of the articles of the marriage contract. It would be very wrong in him not to die before three months are over. Here he is himself.
Mar. Ah! dear Frosine, what a face!
SCENE IX.——HARPAGON, MARIANNE, FROSINE.
Har. (to Marianne). Do not be offended, fair one, if I come to you with my glasses on. I know that your beauty is great enough to be seen with the naked eye; but, still, it is with glasses that we look at the stars, and I maintain and uphold that you are a star, the most beautiful and in the land of stars. Frosine, she does not answer, star, it seems to me, shows no joy at the sight of me.
Fro. It is because she is still quite awe-struck, and young girls are always shy at first, and afraid of showing what they feel.
Har. (to Frosine). You are right. (To Marianne) My pretty darling, there is my daughter coming to welcome you.
SCENE X.——HARPAGON, ÉLISE, MARIANNE, FROSINE.
Mar. I am very late in acquitting myself of the visit I owed you.
Eli. You have done what I ought to have done. It was for me to have come and seen you first.
Har. You see what a great girl she is; but ill weeds grow apace.
Mar. (aside to Frosine). Oh, what an unpleasant man!
Har. (to Frosine). What does my fair one say?
Fro. That she thinks you perfect.
Har. You do me too much honour, my adorable darling.
Mar. (aside). What a dreadful creature!
Har. I really feel too grateful to you for these sentiments.
Mar. (aside). I can bear it no longer.
SCENE XI.——HARPAGON, MARIANNE, ÉLISE, CLÉANTE, VALÈRE, FROSINE, BRINDAVOINE.
Har. Here is my son, who also comes to pay his respects to you.
Mar. (aside to Frosine). Oh, Frosine! what a strange meeting! He is the very one of whom I spoke to you.
Fro. (to Marianne). Well, that is extraordinary.
Har. You are surprised to see that my children can be so old; but I shall soon get rid of both of them.
Cle. (to Marianne). Madam, to tell you the truth, I little expected such an event; and my father surprised me not a little when he told me to-day of the decision he had come to.
Mar. I can say the same thing. It is an unexpected meeting; and I certainly was far from being prepared for such an event.
Cle. Madam, my father cannot make a better choice, and it is a great joy to me to have the honour of welcoming you here. At the same time, I cannot say that I should rejoice if it were your intention to become my stepmother. I must confess that I should find it difficult to pay you the compliment; and it is a title, forgive me, that I cannot wish you to have. To some this speech would seem coarse, but I feel that you understand it. This marriage, Madam, is altogether repugnant to me. You are not ignorant, now that you know who I am, how opposed it is to all my own interests, and with my father's permission I hope you will allow me to say that, if things depended on me, it would never take place.
Har. (aside). What a very impertinent speech to make; and what a confession to make to her!
Mar. And as my answer, I must tell you that things are much the same with me, and that, if you have any repugnance in seeing me your stepmother, I shall have no less in seeing you my stepson. Do not believe, I beg of you, that it is of my own will that this trouble has come upon you. I should be deeply grieved to cause you the least sorrow, and unless I am forced to it by a power I must obey, I give you my word that, I will never consent to a marriage which is so painful to you.
Har. She is right. A foolish speech deserves a foolish answer. I beg your pardon, my love, for the impertinence of my son. He is a silly young fellow, who has not yet learnt the value of his own words.
Mar. I assure you that he has not at all offended me. I am thankful, on the contrary, that he has spoken so openly. I care greatly for such a confession from him, and if he had spoken differently, I should feel much less esteem for him.
Har. It is very kind of you to excuse him thus. Time will make him wiser, and you will see that his feelings will change.
Cle. No, father, they will never change; and I earnestly beg of you, Madam, to believe me.
Har. Did ever anybody see such folly? He is becoming worse and worse.
Cle. Would you have me false to my inmost feelings?
Har. Again! Change your manners, if you please.
Cle. Very well, since you wish me to speak differently. Allow me, Madam, to take for a moment my father's place; and forgive me if I tell you that I never saw in the world anybody more charming than you are; that I can understand no happiness to equal that of pleasing you, and that to be your husband is a glory, a felicity, I should prefer to the destinies of the greatest princes upon earth. Yes, Madam, to possess you is, in my mind, to possess the best of all treasures; to obtain you is all my ambition. There is nothing I would not do for so precious a conquest, and the most powerful obstacles …
Har. Gently, gently, my son, if you please.
Cle. These are complimentary words which I speak to her in your name.
Har. Bless me! I have a tongue of my own to explain my feelings, and I really don't care for such an advocate as you … Here, bring us some chairs.
Fro. No; I think it is better for us to go at once to the fair, in order to be back earlier, and have plenty of time for talking.
Har. (to Brindavoine). Have the carriage ready at once.
SCENE XII.——HARPAGON, MARIANNE, ÉLISE, CLÉANTE, VALÈRE, FROSINE.
Har. (to Marianne). I hope you will excuse me, my dear, but I forgot to order some refreshments for you, before you went out.
Cle. I have thought of it, father, and have ordered to be brought in here some baskets of China oranges, sweet citrons, and preserves, which I sent for in your name.
Har. (aside, to Valère). Valère!
Val. (aside, to Harpagon). He has lost his senses!
Cle. You are afraid, father, that it will not be enough? I hope, Madam, that you will have the kindness to excuse it.
Mar. It was by no means necessary.
Cle. Did you ever see, Madam, a more brilliant diamond than the one my father has upon his finger?
Mar. It certainly sparkles very much.
Cle. (taking the diamond off his father's finger). You must see it near.
Mar. It is a beautiful one; it possesses great lustre.
Cle. (steps before Marianne, who wants to restore it). No, Madam, it is in hands too beautiful; it is a present my father gives you.
Cle. Is it not true, father, that you wish her to keep it for your sake?
Har. (aside, to his son). What?
Cle. (to Marianne). A strange question indeed! He is making me signs that I am to force you to accept it.
Mar. I would not …
Cle. (to Marianne). I beg of you…. He would not take it back.
Har. (aside). I am bursting with rage!
Mar. It would be …
Cle. (still hindering Marianne from returning it). No; I tell you, you will offend him.
Mar. Pray …
Cle. By no means.
Har. (aside). Plague take …
Cle. He is perfectly shocked at your refusal.
Har. (aside, to his son). Ah! traitor!
Cle. (to Marianne). You see he is in despair.
Har. (aside, to his son, threatening him). You villain!
Cle. Really, father, it is not my fault. I do all I can to persuade her to accept it; but she is obstinate.
Har. (in a rage, aside to his son). Rascal!
Cle. You are the cause, Madam, of my father scolding me.
Har. (aside, with the same looks). Scoundrel!
Cle. (to Marianne). You will make him ill; for goodness' sake, hesitate no longer.
Fro. (to Marianne). Why so much ceremony? Keep the ring, since the gentleman wishes you to.
Mar. (to Harpagon). I will keep it now, Sir, in order not to make you angry, and I shall take another opportunity of returning it to you.
SCENE XIII.——HARPAGON, MARIANNE, ÉLISE, VALÈRE, FROSINE, BRINDAVOINE.
Brind. Sir, there is a gentleman here who wants to speak to you.
Har. Tell him that I am engaged, and that I cannot see him to-day.
Brind. He says he has some money for you.
Har. (to Marianne). Pray, excuse me; I will come back directly.
SCENE XIV.——HARPAGON, MARIANNE, ÉLISE, CLÉANTE, FROSINE, LA MERLUCHE.
La Mer. (comes in running, and throws Harpagon down). Sir …
Har. Oh! he has killed me.
Cle. What's the matter, father? Have you hurt yourself?
Har. The wretch must have been bribed by some of my debtors to break my neck.
Val. (to Harpagon). There is nothing serious.
La Mer. (to Harpagon). I beg your pardon, Sir; I thought I had better run fast to tell you….
La Mer. That your two horses have lost their shoes.
Har. Take them quickly to the smith.
Cle. In the meantime, father, I will do the honours of the house for you, and take this lady into the garden, where lunch will be brought.
SCENE XV.——HARPAGON, VALÈRE.
Har. Valère, look after all this; and take care, I beseech you, to save as much of it as you can, so that we may send it back to the tradesman again.
Val. I will.
Har. (alone). Miscreant! do you mean to ruin me?