SCENE I.——CLÉANTE, MARIANNE, ÉLISE, FROSINE.
Cle. Let us come in here; we shall be much better. There is no one about us that we need be afraid of, and we can speak openly.
Eli. Yes, Madam, my brother has told me of the love he has for you. I know what sorrow and anxiety such trials as these may cause, and I assure you that I have the greatest sympathy for you.
Mar. I feel it a great comfort in my trouble to have the sympathy of a person like you, and I entreat you, Madam, ever to retain for me a friendship so capable of softening the cruelty of my fate.
Fro. You really are both very unfortunate not to have told me of all this before. I might certainly have warded off the blow, and not have carried things so far.
Cle. What could I do? It is my evil destiny which has willed it so. But you, fair Marianne, what have you resolved to do? What resolution have you taken?
Mar. Alas! Is it in my power to take any resolution? And, dependent as I am, can I do anything else except form wishes?
Cle. No other support for me in your heart? Nothing but mere wishes? No pitying energy? No kindly relief? No active affection?
Mar. What am I to say to you? Put yourself in my place, and judge what I can possibly do. Advise me, dispose of me, I trust myself entirely to you, for I am sure that you will never ask of me anything but what is modest and seemly.
Cle. Alas! to what do you reduce me when you wish me to be guided entirely by feelings of strict duty and of scrupulous propriety.
Mar. But what would you have me do? Even if I were, for you, to divest myself of the many scruples which our sex imposes on us, I have too much regard for my mother, who has brought me up with great tenderness, for me to give her any cause of sorrow. Do all you can with her. Strive to win her. I give you leave to say and do all you wish; and if anything depends upon her knowing the true state of my feelings, by all means tell her what they are; indeed I will do it myself if necessary.
Cle. Frosine, dear Frosine, will you not help us?
Fro. Indeed, I should like to do so, as you know. I am not naturally unkind. Heaven has not given me a heart of flint, and I feel but too ready to help when I see young people loving each other in all earnestness and honesty. What can we do in this case?
Cle. Try and think a little.
Mar. Advise us.
Eli. Invent something to undo what you have done.
Fro. Rather a difficult piece of business. (To Marianne) As far as your mother is concerned, she is not altogether unreasonable and we might succeed in making her give to the son the gift she reserved for the father. (To Cléante) But the most disheartening part of it all is that your father is your father.
Cle. Yes, so it is.
Fro. I mean that he will bear malice if he sees that he is refused, and he will be in no way disposed afterwards to give his consent to your marriage. It would be well if the refusal could be made to come from him, and you ought to try by some means or other to make him dislike you, Marianne.
Cle. You are quite right.
Fro. Yes, right enough, no doubt. That is what ought to be done; but how in the world are we to set about it? Wait a moment. Suppose we had a somewhat elderly woman with a little of the ability which I possess, and able sufficiently well to represent a lady of rank, by means of a retinue made up in haste, and of some whimsical title of a marchioness or viscountess, whom we would suppose to come from Lower Brittany. I should have enough power over your father to persuade him that she is a rich woman, in possession, besides her houses, of a hundred thousand crowns in ready money; that she is deeply in love with him, and that she would marry him at any cost, were she even to give him all her money by the marriage contract. I have no doubt he would listen to the proposal. For certainly he loves you very much, my dear, but he loves money still better. When once he has consented to your marriage, it does not signify much how he finds out the true state of affairs about our marchioness.
Cle. All that is very well made up.
Fro. Leave it to me; I just remember one of my friends who will do beautifully.
Cle. Depend on my gratitude, Frosine, if you succeed. But, dear Marianne, let us begin, I beg of you, by gaining over your mother; it would be a great deal accomplished if this marriage were once broken off. Make use, I beseech you, of all the power that her tenderness for you gives you over her. Display without hesitation those eloquent graces, those all-powerful charms, with which Heaven has endowed your eyes and lips; forget not, I beseech you, those sweet persuasions, those tender entreaties, those loving caresses to which, I feel, nothing could be refused.
Mar. I will do all I can, and will forget nothing.
SCENE II.——HARPAGON, MARIANNE, ÉLISE, FROSINE.
Har. (aside, and without being seen). Ah! ah! my son is kissing the hand of his intended stepmother, and his intended stepmother does not seem much averse to it! Can there be any mystery in all this?
Eli. Here comes my father.
Har. The carriage is quite ready, and you can start when you like.
Cle. Since you are not going, father, allow me to take care of them.
Har. No, stop here; they can easily take care of themselves, and I want you.
SCENE III.——HARPAGON, CLÉANTE.
Har. Well, now, all consideration of stepmother aside, tell me what do you think of this lady?
Cle. What I think of her?
Har. Yes, what do you think of her appearance, her figure, her beauty and intelligence?
Cle. So, so.
Har. But still?
Cle. To tell you the truth, I did not find her such as I expected. Her manner is that of a thorough coquette, her figure is rather awkward, her beauty very middling, and her intelligence of the meanest order. Do not suppose that I say this to make you dislike her; for if I must have a stepmother, I like the idea of this one as well as of any other.
Har. You spoke to her just now, nevertheless….
Cle. I paid her several compliments in your name, but it was to please you.
Har. So then you don't care for her?
Cle. Who? I? Not in the least.
Har. I am sorry for it, for that puts an end to a scheme which had occurred to me. Since I have seen her here, I have been thinking of my own age; and I feel that people would find fault with me for marrying so young a girl. This consideration had made me determine to abandon the project, and as I had demanded her in marriage, and had given her my promise, I would have given her to you if it were not for the dislike you have for her.
Cle. To me?
Har. To you.
Cle. In marriage?
Har. In marriage.
Cle. It is true she is not at all to my taste; but, to please you, father, I will bring myself to marry her, if you please.
Har. If I please! I am more reasonable than you think. I don't wish to compel you.
Cle. Excuse me! I will make an attempt to love her.
Har. No, no; a marriage cannot be happy where there is no love.
Cle. That, my father, will, perhaps, come by and by, and it is said that love is often the fruit of marriage.
Har. No, it is not right to risk it on the side of the man, and there are some troublesome things I don't care to run the chance of. If you had felt any inclination for her, you should have married her instead of me, but as it is, I will return to my first intention and marry her myself.
Cle. Well, father, since things are so, I had better be frank with you, and reveal our secret to you. The truth is that I have loved her ever since I saw her one day on the promenade. I intended to ask you today to let me marry her, and I was only deterred from it because you spoke of marrying her, and because I feared to displease you.
Har. Have you ever paid her any visits?
Cle. Yes, father.
Cle. Yes; considering how long we have been acquainted.
Har. You were well received.
Cle. Very well, but without her knowing who I was; and that is why Marianne was so surprised when she saw me today.
Har. Have you told her of your love, and of your intention of marrying her?
Cle. Certainly, and I also spoke a little to the mother on the subject.
Har. Did she kindly receive your proposal for her daughter?
Cle. Yes, very kindly.
Har. And does the daughter return your love?
Cle. If I can believe appearances, she is certainly well disposed towards me.
Har. (aside). Well! I am very glad to have found out this secret; it is the very thing I wanted to know. (To his son) Now, look here, my son, I tell you what. You will have, if you please, to get rid of your love for Marianne, to cease to pay your attentions to a person I intend for myself, and to marry very soon the wife I have chosen for you.
Cle. So, father, it is thus you deceive me! Very well, since things are come to such a pass, I openly declare to you that I shall not give up my love for Marianne. No! understand that henceforth there is nothing from which I shall shrink in order to dispute her with you; and if you have on your side the consent of the mother, perhaps I shall have some other resources left to aid me.
Har. What, rascal! You dare to trespass on my grounds?
Cle. It is you who trespass on mine. I was the first.
Har. Am I not your father, and do you not owe me respect?
Cle. There are things in which children are not called upon to pay deference to their fathers; and love is no respector of persons.
Har. My stick will make you know me better.
Cle. All your threatenings are nothing to me.
Har. You will give up Marianne?
Har. Bring me my stick. Quick, I say! my stick!
SCENE IV.——HARPAGON, CLÉANTE, MASTER JACQUES.
Jac. Hold! hold! Gentlemen, what does this mean? What are you thinking of?
Cle. I don't care a bit for it.
Jac. (to Cléante). Ah! Sir, gently.
Har. He dares to speak to me with such impudence as that!
Jac. (to Harpagon). Ah! Sir, I beg of you.
Cle. I shall keep to it.
Jac. (to Cléante). What! to your father?
Har. Let me do it.
Jac. (to Harpagon). What! to your son? To me it's different.
Har. I will make you judge between us, Master Jacques, so that you may see that I have right on my side.
Jac. Willingly. (To Cléante) Go a little farther back.
Har. There is a young girl I love and want to marry, and the scoundrel has the impudence to love her also, and wants to marry her in spite of me.
Jac. Oh! he is wrong.
Har. Is it not an abominable thing to see a son who does not shrink from becoming the rival of his father? And is it not his bounden duty to refrain from interfering with my love?
Jac. You are quite right; stop here, and let me go and speak to him.
Cle. (to Master Jacques, who comes near him). Very well; if he wants to make you a judge between us, I have no objection. I care little who it is, and I don't mind referring our quarrel to you.
Jac. You do me great honour.
Cle. I am in love with a young girl who returns my affection, and who receives kindly the offer of my heart; but my father takes it into his head to disturb our love by asking her in marriage.
Jac. He certainly is wrong.
Cle. Is it not shameful for a man of his age to think of marrying? I ask you if it is right for him to fall in love? and ought he not now to leave that to younger men?
Jac. You are quite right; he is not serious; let me speak a word or two to him. (To Harpagon) Really, your son is not so extravagant as you think, and is amenable to reason. He says that he is conscious of the respect he owes you, and that he only got angry in the heat of the moment. He will willingly submit to all you wish if you will only promise to treat him more kindly than you do, and will give him in marriage a person to his taste.
Har. Ah! tell him, Master Jacques, that he will obtain everything from me on those terms, and that, except Marianne, I leave him free to choose for his wife whomsoever he pleases.
Jac. Leave that to me. (To Cléante) Really, your father is not so unreasonable as you make him out to me; and he tells me that it is your violence which irritated him. He only objects to your way of doing things, and is quite ready to grant you all you want, provided you will use gentle means and will give him the deference, respect, and submission that a son owes to his father.
Cle. Ah! Master Jacques, you can assure him that if he grants me Marianne, he will always find me the most submissive of men, and that I shall never do anything contrary to his pleasure.
Jac. (to Harpagon). It's all right; he consents to what you say.
Har. Nothing could be better.
Jac. (to Cléante). It's all settled; he is satisfied with your promises.
Cle. Heaven be praised!
Jac. Gentlemen, you have nothing to do but to talk quietly over the matter together; you are agreed now, and yet you were on the point of quarrelling through want of understanding each other.
Cle. My poor Jacques, I shall be obliged to you all my life.
Jac. Don't mention it, Sir.
Har. You have given me great pleasure, Master Jacques, and deserve a reward. (Harpagon feels in his pocket, Jacques holds out his hand, but Harpagon only pulls out his handkerchief, and says,) Go; I will remember it, I promise you.
Jac. I thank you kindly, Sir.
SCENE V.——HARPAGON, CLÉANTE.
Cle. I beg your pardon, father, for having been angry.
Har. It is nothing.
Cle. I assure you that I feel very sorry about it.
Har. I am very happy to see you reasonable again.
Cle. How very kind of you so soon to forget my fault.
Har. One easily forgets the faults of children when they return to their duty.
Cle. What! you are not angry with me for my extravagant behaviour?
Har. By your submission and respectful conduct you compel me to forget my anger.
Cle. I assure you, father, I shall for ever keep in heart the remembrance of all your kindness.
Har. And I promise you that, in future, you will obtain all you like from me.
Cle. Oh, father! I ask nothing more; it is sufficient for me that you give me Marianne.
Cle. I say, father, that I am only too thankful already for what you have done, and that when you give me Marianne, you give me everything.
Har. Who talks of giving you Marianne?
Cle. You, father.
Har. What! is it not you who promised to give her up?
Cle. I! give her up?
Cle. Certainly not.
Har. Did you not give up all pretensions to her?
Cle. On the contrary, I am more determined than ever to have her.
Har. What, scoundrel! again?
Cle. Nothing can make me change my mind.
Har. Let me get at you again, wretch!
Cle. You can do as you please.
Har. I forbid you ever to come within my sight.
Cle. As you like.
Har. I abandon you.
Cle. Abandon me.
Har. I disown you.
Cle. Disown me.
Har. I disinherit you.
Cle. As you will.
Har. I give you my curse.
Cle. I want none of your gifts.
SCENE VI.——CLÉANTE, LA FLÈCHE.
La Fl. (leaving the garden with a casket). Ah! Sir, you are just in the nick of time. Quick! follow me.
Cle. What is the matter?
La Fl. Follow me, I say. We are saved.
La Fl. Here is all you want.
La Fl. I have watched for this all day.
Cle. What is it?
La Fl. Your father's treasure that I have got hold of.
Cle. How did you manage it?
La Fl. I will tell you all about it. Let us be off. I can hear him calling out.
SCENE VII.——HARPAGON, from the garden, rushing in without his hat, and crying—
Thieves! thieves! assassins! murder! Justice, just heavens! I am undone; I am murdered; they have cut my throat; they have stolen my money! Who can it be? What has become of him? Where is he? Where is he hiding himself? What shall I do to find him? Where shall I run? Where shall I not run? Is he not here? Who is this? Stop! (To himself, taking hold of his own arm) Give me back my money, wretch…. Ah…! it is myself…. My mind is wandering, and I know not where I am, who I am, and what I am doing. Alas! my poor money! my poor money! my dearest friend, they have bereaved me of thee; and since thou art gone, I have lost my support, my consolation, and my joy. All is ended for me, and I have nothing more to do in the world! Without thee it is impossible for me to live. It is all over with me; I can bear it no longer. I am dying; I am dead; I am buried. Is there nobody who will call me from the dead, by restoring my dear money to me, or by telling me who has taken it? Ah! what is it you say? It is no one. Whoever has committed the deed must have watched carefully for his opportunity, and must have chosen the very moment when I was talking with my miscreant of a son. I must go. I will demand justice, and have the whole of my house put to the torture—my maids and my valets, my son, my daughter, and myself too. What a crowd of people are assembled here! Everyone seems to be my thief. I see no one who does not rouse suspicion in me. Ha! what are they speaking of there? Of him who stole my money? What noise is that up yonder? Is it my thief who is there? For pity's sake, if you know anything of my thief, I beseech you to tell me. Is he hiding there among you? They all look at me and laugh. We shall see that they all have a share in the robbery. Quick! magistrates, police, provosts, judges, racks, gibbets, and executioners. I will hang everybody, and if I do not find my money, I will hang myself afterwards.