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    Act III

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    Chapter 4
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    [Footnote: Compare Launcelot Gobbo's speech about his conscience in Shakspeare's Merchant of Venice (ii. 2).]

    Silence, my good nature, and plead no more; you are a fool, and I am determined not to do it. Yes, my anger, you are right, I confess it! To be for ever doing what a meddler undoes, is showing too much patience, and I ought to give it up after the glorious attempts he has marred. But let us argue the matter a little without passion; if I should now give way to my just impatience the world will say I sank under difficulties, that my cunning was completely exhausted. What then becomes of that public esteem, which extols you everywhere as a first-rate rogue, and which you have acquired upon so many occasions, because you never yet were found wanting in inventions? Honour, Mascarille, is a fine thing; do not pause in your noble labours; and whatever a master may have done to incense you, complete your work, for your own glory, and not to oblige him. But what success can you expect, if you are thus continually crossed by your evil genius? You see he compels you every moment to change your tone; you may as well hold water in a sieve as try to stop that resistless torrent, which in a moment overturns the most beautiful structures raised by your art. Well, once more, out of kindness, and whatever may happen, let us take some pains, even if they are in vain; yet, if he still persists in baffling my designs, then I shall withdraw all assistance. After all, our affairs are not going on badly, if we could but supplant our rival, and if Leander, at last weary of his pursuit, would leave us one whole day for my intended operations. Yes, I have a most ingenious plot in my head, from which I expect a glorious success, if I had no longer that obstacle in my way. Well, let us see if he still persists in his love.


    MASC. Sir, I have lost my labour; Trufaldin will not keep his word.

    LEAND. He himself has told me the whole affair; but, what is more, I have discovered that all this pretty rigmarole about Celia being carried off by gypsies, and having a great nobleman for her father, who is setting out from Spain to come hither, is nothing but a mere stratagem, a merry trick, a made-up story, a tale raised by Lelio to prevent my buying Celia.

    MASC. Here is roguery for you!

    LEAND. And yet this ridiculous story has produced such an impression on Trufaldin, and he has swallowed the bait of this shallow device so greedily, that he will not allow himself to be undeceived.

    MASC. So that henceforth he will watch her carefully. I do not see we can do anything more.

    LEAND. If at first I thought this girl amiable, I now find her absolutely adorable, and I am in doubt whether I ought not to employ extreme measures to make her my own, thwart her ill fortune by plighting her my troth, and turn her present chains into matrimonial ones.

    MASC. Would you marry her?

    LEAND. I am not yet determined, but if her origin is somewhat obscure, her charms and her virtue are gentle attractions, which have incredible force to allure every heart.

    MASC. Did you not mention her virtue?

    LEAND. Ha! what is that you mutter? Out with it; explain what you mean by repeating that word "virtue."

    MASC. Sir, your countenance changes all of a sudden; perhaps I had much better hold my tongue.

    LEAND. No, no, speak out.

    MASC. Well, then, out of charity I will cure you of your blindness. That girl....

    LEAND. Proceed.

    MASC. So far from being merciless, makes no difficulty in obliging some people in private; you may believe me, after all she is not stony-hearted, to any one who knows how to take her in the right mood. She looks demure, and would fain pass for a prude; but I can speak of her on sure grounds. You know I understand something of the craft, and ought to know that kind of cattle.

    LEAND. What! Celia?...

    MASC. Yes, her modesty is nothing but a mere sham, the semblance of a virtue which will never hold out, but vanishes, as any one may discover, before the shining rays emitted from a purse.

    [Footnote: This is an allusion to the rays of the sun, placed above the crown, and stamped on all golden crown-pieces, struck in France from Louis XI. (November 2, 1475) until the end of the reign of Louis XIII. These crowns were called écus au soleil. Louis XIV. took much later for his device the sun shining in full, with the motto, Nec pluribus impar.]

    LEAND. Heavens! What do you tell me? Can I believe such words?

    MASC. Sir, there is no compulsion; what does it matter to me? No, pray do not believe me, follow your own inclination, take the sly girl and marry her; the whole city, in a body, will acknowledge this favour; you marry the public good in her.

    LEAND. What a strange surprise!

    MASC. (Aside). He has taken the bait. Courage, my lad; if he does but swallow it in good earnest, we shall have got rid of a very awkward obstruction on our path.

    LEAND. This astonishing account nearly kills me.

    MASC. What! Can you...

    LEAND. Go to the post-office, and see if there is a letter for me. (Alone, and for a while lost in thought). Who would not have been imposed upon? If what he says be true then there never was any countenance more deceiving.


    LEL. What may be the cause of your looking so sad?

    LEAND. Who, I?

    LEL. Yes, yourself.

    LEAND. I have, however, no occasion to be so.

    LEL. I see well enough what it is; Celia is the cause of it.

    LEAND. My mind does not run upon such trifles.

    LEL. And yet you had formed some grand scheme to get her into your hands; but you must speak thus, as your stratagem has miscarried.

    LEAND. Were I fool enough to be enamoured of her, I should laugh at all your finesse.

    LEL. What finesse, pray?

    LEAND. Good Heavens! sir, we know all.

    LEL. All what?

    LEAND. All your actions, from beginning to end.

    LEL. This is all Greek to me; I do not understand one word of it.

    LEAND. Pretend, if you please, not to understand me; but believe me, do not apprehend that I shall take a property which I should be sorry to dispute with you. I adore a beauty who has not been sullied, and do not wish to love a depraved woman.

    LEL. Gently, gently, Leander.

    LEAND. Oh! how credulous you are! I tell you once more, you may attend on her now without suspecting anybody. You may call yourself a lady-killer. It is true, her beauty is very uncommon, but, to make amends for that, the rest is common enough.

    LEL. Leander, no more of this provoking language. Strive against me as much as you like in order to obtain her; but, above all things, do not traduce her so vilely. I should consider myself a great coward if I could tamely submit to hear my earthly deity slandered. I can much better bear your rivalry than listen to any speech that touches her character.

    LEAND. What I state here I have from very good authority.

    LEL. Whoever told you so is a scoundrel and a rascal. Nobody can discover the least blemish in this young lady; I know her heart well.

    LEAND. But yet Mascarille is a very competent judge in such a cause; he thinks her guilty.

    LEL. He?

    LEAND. He himself.

    LEL. Does he pretend impudently to slander a most respectable young lady, thinking, perhaps, I should only laugh at it? I will lay you a wager he eats his words.

    LEAND. I will lay you a wager he does not.

    LEL. 'Sdeath! I would break every bone in his body should he dare to assert such lies to me,

    LEAND. And I will crop his ears, if he does not prove every syllable he has told me.


    LEL. Oh! that's lucky; there he is. Come hither, cursed hangdog!

    MASC. What is the matter?

    LEL. You serpent's tongue! so full of lies! dare you fasten your stings on Celia, and slander the most consummate virtue that ever added lustre to misfortune?

    MASC. (In a whisper to Lelio). Gently; I told him so on purpose.

    LEL. No, no; none of your winking, and none of your jokes. I am blind and deaf to all you do or say. If it were my own brother he should pay dear for it; for to dare defame her whom I adore is to wound me in the most tender part. You make all these signs in vain. What was it you said to him?

    MASC. Good Heavens! do not quarrel, or I shall leave you.

    LEL. You shall not stir a step.

    MASC. Oh!

    LEL. Speak then; confess.

    MASC. (Whispering to Lelio). Let me alone. I tell you it is a stratagem.

    LEL. Make haste; what was it you said? Clear up this dispute between us.

    MASC. (In a whisper to Lelio). I said what I said. Pray do not put yourself in a passion.

    LEL. (Drawing his sword). I shall make you talk in another strain.

    LEAND. (Stopping him). Stay your hand a little; moderate your ardour.

    MASC. (Aside). Was there ever in the world a creature so dull of understanding?

    LEL. Allow me to wreak my just vengeance on him.

    LEAND. It is rather too much to wish to chastise him in my presence.

    LEL. What! have I no right, then, to chastise my own servant?

    LEAND. What do you mean by saying "your servant?"

    MASC. (Aside). He is at it again! He will discover all.

    LEL. Suppose I had a mind to thrash him within an inch of his life, what then? He is my own servant.

    LEAND. At present he is mine.

    LEL. That is an admirable joke. How comes he to be yours? Surely...

    MASC. (In a whisper). Gently.

    LEL. What are you whispering?

    MASC. (Aside). Oh! the confounded blockhead. He is going to spoil everything, He understands not one of my signs.

    LEL. You are dreaming, Leander. You are telling me a pretty story! Is he not my servant?

    LEAND. Did you not discharge him from your service for some fault?

    LEL. I do not know what this means.

    LEAND. And did you not, in the violence of your passion, make his back smart most unmercifully?

    LEL. No such thing. I discharge him! cudgel him! Either you make a jest of me, Leander, or he has been making a jest of you.

    MASC. (Aside). Go on, go on, numskull; you will do your own business effectually.

    LEAND. (To Mascarille). Then all this cudgelling is purely imaginary?

    MASC. He does not know what he says; his memory...

    LEAND. No, no; all these signs do not look well for you. I suspect some prettily contrived trick here; but for the ingenuity of the invention, go your ways, I forgive you. It is quite enough that I am undeceived, and see now why you imposed upon me. I come off cheap, because I trusted myself to your hypocritical zeal. A word to the wise is enough. Farewell, Lelio, farewell; your most obedient servant.


    MASC. Take courage, my boy, may fortune ever attend us I Let us draw and bravely take the field; let us act Olibrius, the slayer of the innocents.

    [Footnote: Olibrius was, according to ancient legends, a Roman governor of Gaul, in the time of the Emperor Decius, very cruel, and a great boaster.]

    LEL. He accused you of slandering...

    MASC. And you could not let the artifice pass, nor let him remain in his error, which did you good service, and which pretty nearly extinguished his passion. No, honest soul, he cannot bear dissimulation. I cunningly get a footing at his rival's, who, like a dolt, was going to place his mistress in my hands, but he, Lelio, prevents me getting hold of her by a fictitious letter; I try to abate the passion of his rival, my hero presently comes and undeceives him. In vain I make signs to him, and show him it was all a contrivance of mine; it signifies nothing; he continues to the end, and never rests satisfied till he has discovered all. Grand and sublime effect of a mind which is not inferior to any man living! It is an exquisite piece, and worthy, in troth, to be made a present of to the king's private museum.

    LEL. I am not surprised that I do not come up to your expectations; if I am not acquainted with the designs you are setting on foot, I shall be for ever making mistakes.

    MASC. So much the worse.

    LEL. At least, if you would be justly angry with me, give me a little insight into your plan; but if I am kept ignorant of every contrivance, I must always be caught napping.

    [Footnote: The original is, je suis pris sans vert, "I am taken without green," because in the month of May, in some parts of France, there is a game which binds him or her who is taken without a green leaf about them to pay a forfeit.]

    MASC. I believe you would make a very good fencing-master, because you are so skilful at making feints, and at parrying of a thrust.

    [Footnote: In the original we find prendre les contretemps, and rompre les mesures. In a little and very curious book, "The Scots Fencing Master, or Compleat Smal-Sword Man," printed in Edinburgh 1687, and written by Sir William Hope of Kirkliston, the contre-temps is said to be: "When a man thrusts without having a good opportunity, or when he thrusts at the same time his adversarie thrusts, and that each of them at that time receive a thrust." Breaking of measure is, according to the same booklet, done thus: "When you perceive your adversary thrusting at you, and you are not very certain of the parade, then break his measure, or make his thrust short of you, by either stepping a foot or half a foot back, with the single stepp, for if you judge your adversary's distance or measure well, half a foot will break his measure as well as ten ells."]

    LEL. Since the thing is done, let us think no more about it. My rival, however, will not have it in his power to cross me, and provided you will but exert your skill, in which I trust...

    MASC. Let us drop this discourse, and talk of something else; I am not so easily pacified, not I; I am in too great a passion for that. In the first place, you must do me a service, and then we shall see whether I ought to undertake the management of your amours.

    LEL. If it only depends on that, I will do it! Tell me, have you need of my blood, of my sword?

    MASC. How crack-brained he is! You are just like those swashbucklers who are always more ready to draw their sword than to produce a tester, if it were necessary to give it.

    LEL. What can I do, then, for you?

    MASC. You must, without delay, endeavour to appease your father's anger.

    LEL. We have become reconciled already.

    MASC. Yes, but I am not; I killed him this morning for your sake; the very idea of it shocks him. Those sorts of jokes are severely felt by such old fellows as he, which, much against their will, make them reflect sadly on the near approach of death. The good sire, notwithstanding his age, is very fond of life, and cannot bear jesting upon that subject; he is alarmed at the prognostication, and so very angry that I hear he has lodged a complaint against me. I am afraid that if I am once housed at the expense of the king, I may like it so well after the first quarter of an hour, that I shall find it very difficult afterwards to get away. There have been several warrants out against me this good while; for virtue is always envied and persecuted in this abominable age. Therefore go and make my peace with your father.

    LEL. Yes, I shall soften his anger, but you must promise me then...

    MASC. We shall see what there is to be done. (Exit Lelio). Now, let us take a little breath after so many fatigues; let us stop for a while the current of our intrigues, and not move about hither and thither as if we were hobgoblins. Leander cannot hurt us now, and Celia cannot be removed, through the contrivance of...


    ERG. I was looking for you everywhere to render you a service. I have a secret of importance to disclose.

    MASC. What may that be?

    ERG. Can no one overhear us?

    MASC. Not a soul.

    ERG. We are as intimate as two people can be; I am acquainted with all your projects, and the love of your master. Mind what you are about by and by; Leander has formed a plot to carry off Celia; I have been told he has arranged everything, and designs to get into Trufaldin's house in disguise, having heard that at this time of the year some ladies of the neighbourhood often visit him in the evening in masks.

    MASC. Ay, well! He has not yet reached the height of his happiness; I may perhaps be beforehand with him; and as to this thrust, I know how to give him a counter-thrust, by which he may run himself through. He is not aware with what gifts I am endowed. Farewell, we shall take a cup together next time we meet.


    We must, we must reap all possible benefit from this amorous scheme, and by a dexterous and uncommon counterplot endeavour to make the success our own, without any danger. If I put on a mask and be beforehand with Leander, he will certainly not laugh at us; if we take the prize ere he comes up, he will have paid for us the expenses of the expedition; for, as his project has already become known, suspicion will fall upon him; and we, being safe from all pursuit, need not fear the consequences of that dangerous enterprise. Thus we shall not show ourselves, but use a cat's paw to take the chesnuts out of the fire. Now, then, let us go and disguise ourselves with some good fellows; we must not delay if we wish to be beforehand with our gentry. I love to strike while the iron is hot, and can, without much difficulty, provide in one moment men and dresses. Depend upon it, I do not let my skill lie dormant. If Heaven has endowed me with the gift of knavery, I am not one of those degenerate minds who hide the talents they have received.


    LEL. He intends to carry her off during a masquerade!

    ERG. There is nothing more certain; one of his band informed me of his design, upon which I instantly ran to Mascarille and told him the whole affair; he said he would spoil their sport by some counter-scheme which he planned in an instant; so meeting with you by chance, I thought I ought to let you know the whole.

    LEL. I am very much obliged to you for this piece of news; go, I shall not forget this faithful service.

    [Exit Ergaste.]

    SCENE IX.--LELIO, alone.

    My rascal will certainly play them some trick or other; but I, too, have a mind to assist him in his project. It shall never be said that, in a business which so nearly concerns me, I stirred no more than a post; this is the time; they will be surprised at the sight of me. Why did I not take my blunderbuss with me? But let anybody attack me who likes, I have two good pistols and a trusty sword. So ho! within there; a word with you.

    SCENE X.--TRUFALDIN at his window, LELIO.

    TRUF. What is the matter? Who comes to pay me a visit?

    LEL. Keep your door carefully shut to-night.

    TRUF. Why?

    LEL. There are certain people coming masked to give you a sorry kind of serenade; they intend to carry off Celia.

    TRUF. Good Heavens!

    LEL. No doubt they will soon be here. Keep where you are, you may see everything from your window. Hey! Did I not tell you so? Do you not see them already? Hist! I will affront them before your face. We shall see some fine fun, if they do not give way.

    [Footnote: This is one of the passages of Molière about which commentators do not agree; the original is, nous allons voir beau jeu, si la corde ne rompt. Some maintain that corde refers to the tight rope of a rope dancer; others that corde means the string of a bow, as in the phrase avoir deux cordes a son arc, to have two strings (resources) to one's bow. Mons. Eugène Despois, in his carefully edited edition of Molière, (i., 187), defends the latter reading, and I agree with him.]

    SCENE XI.--LELIO, TRUFALDIN, MASCARILLE, and his company masked.

    TRUF. Oh, the funny blades, who think to surprise me.

    LEL. Maskers, whither so fast? Will you let me into the secret? Trufaldin, pray open the door to these gentry, that they may challenge us for a throw with the dice.

    [Footnote: The original has jouer un momon. Guy Miege, in his Dictionary of barbarous French. London, 1679 has "Mommon, a mummer, also a company of mummers; also a visard, or mask; also a let by a mummer at dice."]

    (To Mascarille, disguised as a woman). Good Heavens! What a pretty creature! What a darling she looks! How now! What are you mumbling? Without offence, may I remove your mask and see your face.

    TRUF. Hence! ye wicked rogues; begone, ye ragamuffins! And you, sir, good night, and many thanks.


    LEL. (After having taken the mask from Mascarille's face). Mascarille, is it you?

    MASC. No, not at all; it is somebody else.

    LEL. Alas! How astonished I am! How adverse is our fate! Could I possibly have guessed this, as you did not secretly inform me that you were going to disguise yourself? Wretch that I am, thoughtlessly to play you such a trick, while you wore this mask. I am in an awful passion with myself, and have a good mind to give myself a sound beating.

    MASC. Farewell, most refined wit, unparalleled inventive genius.

    LEL. Alas! If your anger deprives me of your assistance, what saint shall I invoke?

    MASC. Beelzebub.

    LEL. Ah! If your heart is not made of stone or iron, do once more at least forgive my imprudence; if it is necessary to be pardoned that I should kneel before you, behold...

    MASC. Fiddlesticks! Come, my boys, let us away; I hear some other people coming closely behind us.

    SCENE XIII.--LEANDER and his company masked; TRUFALDIN at the window.

    LEAND. Softly, let us do nothing but in the gentlest manner.

    TRUF. (At the window). How is this? What! mummers besieging my door all night. Gentlemen, do not catch a cold gratuitously; every one who is catching it here must have plenty of time to lose. It is rather a little too late to take Celia along with you; she begs you will excuse her to-night; the girl is in bed and cannot speak to you; I am very sorry; but to repay you for all the trouble you have taken for her sake, she begs you will be pleased to accept this pot of perfume.

    LEAND. Faugh! That does not smell nicely. My clothes are all spoiled; we are discovered; let us be gone this way.
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