The Madwoman of Chaillot: Written in French by Jean Giraudoux. English Adaptation by Maurice Valency, now in the public domain (2017).
Subject: rights of the poor
Setting: The fashionable Chaillot quarter of Paris
Premiered 19 December 1945, Théâtre de l’Athénée, Paris, produced by Louis Jouvet. First presented in English by Alfred de Liagre, Jr., at the Belasco Theatre, New York, on 27 December 1948. Directed by Alfred de Liagre, Jr. Settings and costumes designed by Christian Berard. Mendocino production of The Madwoman of Chaillot, Nichols Studio, Mendocino Art Center, Mendocino California (1967).
Madwoman of Chaillot: Summary: The play is set in the cafe “chez Francis” in the Place de l’Alma in the Chaillot district of Paris. A group of corrupt corporate executives are meeting. They include the Prospector, the President, the Broker and the Baron, and they are planning to dig up Paris to get at the oil which they believe lies beneath its streets. Their nefarious plans come to the attention of Countess Aurelia, the benignly eccentric madwoman of the title. She is an aging idealist who sees the world as happy and beautiful. But, advised by her associate, the Ragpicker, who is a bit more worldly than the Countess, she soon comes to realize that the world might well be ruined by these evil men—men who seek only wealth and power. These people have taken over Paris. “They run everything, they corrupt everything,” says the Ragpicker. Already things have gotten so bad that the pigeons do not bother to fly any more. One of the businessmen says in all seriousness, “What would you rather have in your backyard: an almond tree or an oil well?”
Aurelia resolves to fight back and rescue humanity from the scheming and corrupt developers. She enlists the help of her fellow outcasts: the Street Singer, The Ragpicker, The Sewer Man, The Flower Girl, The Sergeant, and various other oddballs and dreamers. These include her fellow madwomen: the acidic Constance, the girlish Gabrielle, and the ethereal Josephine. In a tea party every bit as mad as a scene from Alice in Wonderland, they put the “wreckers of the world’s joy” on trial and in the end condemn them to banishment—or perhaps, death. One by one the greedy businessmen are lured by the smell of oil to a bottomless pit from which they will (presumably) never return. Peace, love, and joy return to the world. Even the earthbound pigeons are flying again.
Criticism: Theatre Arts magazine described the play as “one part fantasy, two parts reason.” The New York Drama Critics’ Circle hailed the 1948–50 production as “one of the most interesting and rewarding plays to have been written within the last twenty years…”
THE LITTLE MAN
THE STREET SINGER
THE FLOWER GIRL
THE SHOE-LACE PEDDLER
THE STREET JUGGLER
COUNTESS AURELIA, The Madwoman of Chaillot
MME. CONSTANCE, The Madwoman of Passy
MLLE. GABRIELLE, The Madwoman of St. Sulpice
MME. JOSEPHINE, The Madwoman of La Concorde
THE PRESS AGENTS
THE ADOLPHE BERTAUTS
THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT
ACT ONE — The Cafe Terrace of Chez Francis.
Scene : The cafe terrace at ” Chez Francis,” on the Place de l’Alma in Paris. The Alma is in the stately quarter of Paris known as Chaillot, between the Champs Elysees and the Seine, across the river from the Eiffel Tower.
“Chez Francis” has several rows of tables
set out under its awning, and, as it is lunch
time, a good many of them are occupied. At
a table, downstage, a somewhat obvious Blonde
with ravishing legs is sipping a vermouth-
cassis and trying hard to engage the attention
of the Prospector, who sits at an adjacent table
taking little sips of water and rolling them
over his tongue with the air of a connoisseur.
Downstage right, in front of the tables on the
sidewalk, is the usual Paris bench, a stout
and uncomfortable affair provided by the
municipality for the benefit of those who prefer
to sit without drinking. A Policeman lounges
about, keeping the peace without unnecessary
TIME : It is a little before noon in the Spring of next year.
AT RISE : The President and the Baron enter with importance, and are ushered to a front table by the Waiter.
THE PRESIDENT. Waiter! Get rid of that man.
WAITER. He is singing La Belle Polonaise.
THE PRESIDENT. I didn’t ask for the program. I asked you to get rid of him. (The Waiter doesn’t budge. The Singer goes by himself) As you were saying, Baron . . . ?
THE BARON. Well, Until I was fifty . . . (The Flower Girl enters through the cafe door, center) my life was relatively uncomplicated. It consisted of selling off one by one the various estates left me by my father. Three years ago, I parted with my last farm. Two years ago, I lost my last mistress. And now — all that is left
THE PRESIDENT. (to the Baron) Baron, sit down. This is a historic occasion. It must be properly celebrated. The waiter is going to bring out my special port.
THE BARON. Splendid.
THE PRESIDENT (offers his cigar case). Cigar? My private brand.
THE BARON. Thank you. You know,
this all gives me the feeling of one of
those enchanted mornings in the Arabian
Nights when thieves foregather in the
market place. Thieves — pashas . . .
(He sniffs the cigar judiciously, and begins
THE PRESIDENT (chuckles). Tell me
THE BARON. Well, where shall I begin?
(The Street Singer enters. He takes off a
battered black felt with a flourish and begins
singing an ancient mazurka.)
STREET SINGER (sings)
Do you hear. Mademoiselle, Those musicians of hell ?
me IS . . .
THE FLOWER GIRL Violets, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. Run along.
(The Flower Girl moves on.)
THE BARON (staring after her) . So that,
in short, all I have left now is my name.
THE PRESIDENT. Your name is precisely
the name we need on our board of
THE BARON (with an inclination of his
head). Very flattering.
THE PRESIDENT. You wiU Understand
when I tell you that mine has been a very
different experience. I came up from the
bottom. My mother spent most of her
life bent over a washtub in order to send
me to school. I’m eternally grateful to
her, of course, but I must confess that I
no longer remember her face. It was no
doubt beautiful — but when I try to recall
it, I see only the part she invariably
showed me — her rear.
THE BARON. Very touching.
THE PRESIDENT. When I was thrown
out of school for the fifth and last time,
I decided to find out for myself what
makes the world go round. I ran errands
for an editor, a movie star, a financier . . .
I began to understand a little what life is.
Then, one day, in the subway, I saw a
face . . . My rise in life dates from that
THE BARON. Really?
THE PRESIDENT. One look at that face,
and I knew. One look at mine, and he
knew. And so I made my first thousand —
243 THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT
passing a boxful of counterfeit notes. A year later, I saw another such face. It got me a nice berth in the narcotics business. Since then, all I do is to look out for such faces. And now here I am — president of eleven corporations, director of fifty-two companies, and, beginning today, chairman of the board of the international combine in which you have been so good as to accept a post.
fThe Ragpicker passes y sees something under the President’s table^ and stoops to pick it up.)
Looking for something?
THE RAGPICKER. Did you drop this?
THE PRESIDENT. I never drop anything.
THE RAGPICKER. Then this hundred-franc note isn’t yours?
THE PRESIDENT. Givc it here.
(The Ragpicker gives him the note, and goes out.)
THE BARON. Are you sure it’s yours?
THE PRESIDENT. All huudred-franc notes, Baron, are mine.
THE BARON. Mr. President, there’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you. What exactly is the purpose of our new company? Or is that an indiscreet question . . . ?
THE PRESIDENT. Indiscreet? Not a bit. Merely unusual. As far as I know, you’re the first member of a board of directors ever to ask such a question.
THE BARON. Do we plan to exploit a commodity? A utility?
THE PRESIDENT. My dear sir, I haven’t the faintest idea.
THE BARON. But if you don’t know — who does?
THE PRESIDENT. Nobody. And at the moment, it’s becoming just a trifle embarrassing. Yes, my dear Baron, since we are now close business associates, I must confess that for the time being we’re in a little trouble.
THE BARON. I was afraid of that. The stock issue isn’t going well?
THE PRESIDENT. No, no — on the con-
trary. The stock issue is going beautifully.
Yesterday morning at ten o’clock we
offered 5^00,000 shares to the general
public. By 10:05^ they were all snapped
up at par. By 10: 20, when the police
finally arrived, our offices were a sham-
bles . . . Windows smashed — doors torn off their hinges — you never saw anything
so beautiful in your life ! And this morning
our stock is being quoted over the
counter at 124 with no sellers, and the
orders are still pouring in.
THE BARON. But in that case — ^what is
THE PRESIDENT. The trouble is we
have a tremendous capital, and not the
slightest idea of what to do with it.
THE BARON. You mean all those people
are fighting to buy stock in a company
that has no object?
THE PRESIDENT. My dear Baron, do
you imagine that when a subscriber buys
a share of stock, he has any idea of getting
behind a counter or digging a ditch? A
stock certificate is not a tool, like a
shovel, or a commodity, like a pound of
cheese. What we sell a customer is not a
share in a business, but a view of the
Elysian Fields. A financier is a creative
artist. Our function is to stimulate the
imagination. We are poets !
THE BARON. But in Order to stimulate
the imagination, don’t you need some
field of activity?
THE PRESIDENT. Not at all. What you
need for that is a name. A name that will
stir the pulse like a trumpet call, set the
brain awhirl like a movie star, inspire
reverence like a cathedral. United General
International Consolidated ! Of course “that’s
been used. That’s what a corporation
THE BARON. And do we have such a
THE PRESIDENT. So far we have only a
blank space. In that blank space a name
must be printed. This name must be a
masterpiece. And if I seem a little nervous
today, it’s because — somehow — I’ve
racked my brains, but it hasn’t come to
me. Oho! Look at that! Just like the
answer to a prayer . . . ! (The Baron turns
and stares in the direction of the Prospector)
You see? There’s one. And what a
THE BARON. You mean that girl?
THE PRESIDENT. No, no, not the girl.
That face. You see . . . ? The one that’s
THE BARON. You call that a face?
That’s a tombstone.
THE PRESIDENT. It’s a milestone. It’s a
signpost. But is it pointing the way to
steel, or wheat, or phosphates? That’s
what we have to find out. Ah ! He sees me.
He understands. He will be over.
THE BARON. And when he comes . . .?
THE PRESIDENT. He will tell me what
THE BARON. You mean business is
done this way? You mean, you would
trust a stranger with a matter of this
THE PRESIDENT. Baron, I trust neither
my wife, nor my daughter, nor my closest
friend. My confidential secretary has no
idea where I live. But a face like that I
would trust with my inmost secrets.
Though we have never laid eyes on each
other before, that man and I know each
other to the depths of our souls. He’s no
stranger — he’s my brother, he’s myself.
You’ll see. He’ll be over in a minute.
fThe Deaf-Mute enters and passes slowly
among the tables, placing a small envelope
before each customer. He comes to the
President’s table) What is this anyway? A
conspiracy? We don’t want your en-
velopes. Take them away. (The Deaf-Mute
makes a short but pointed speech in sign
language) Waiter, what the devil’s he
WAITER. Only Irma understands him.
THE PRESIDENT. Irma? Who’s Irma?
WAITER (calls). Irma! It’s the waitress
inside, sir. Irma!
(Irma comes out. She is twenty. She has the
face and figure of an angel.)
WAITER. These gentlemen would . . .
THE PRESIDENT. Tell this fellow to get
out of here, for God’s sake! (The Deaf
Mute makes another manual oration) What’s
he trying to say, anyway?
IRMA. He says it’s an exceptionally
beautiful morning, sir . . .
THE PRESIDENT. Who asked him?
IRMA. But, he says, it was nicer before
the gentleman stuck his face in it.
THE PRESIDENT. Call the manager!
(Irma shrugs. She goes back into the restaurant.
The Deaf-Mute walks ojf. Left. Meanwhile a
Shoelace Peddler has arrived.)
PEDDLER. Shoelaces? Postcards?
THE BARON. I think I could use a
THE PRESIDENT. No, nO . . .
PEDDLER. Black? Tan?
THE BARON (showing his shoes) . What
would you recommend?
PEDDLER. Anybody’s guess.
THE BARON. Well, give me one of
THE PRESIDENT (putting a hand on the
Baron’s arm). Baron, although I am your
chairman, I have no authority over your
personal life — none, that is, except to fix
the amount of your director’s fees, and
eventually to assign a motor car for your
use. Therefore, I am asking you, as a
personal favor to me, not to purchase
anything from this fellow.
THE BARON. How Can I resist so
gracious a request? (The Peddler shrugs,
and passes on) But I really don’t under-
stand …. What difference would it
THE PRESIDENT. Look here. Baron.
Now that you’re with us, you must
understand that between this irresponsible
riff-raff and us there is an impenetrable
barrier. We have no dealings whatever
THE BARON. But without US, the poor
devil will starve.
THE PRESIDENT. No, he won’t. He
expects nothing from us. He has a clien-
tele of his own. He sells shoelaces ex-
clusively to those who have no shoes. Just
as the necktie peddler sells only to those
who wear no shirts. And that’s why these
street hawkers can afford to be insolent,
disrespectful and independent. They
don’t need us. They have a world of their
own. Ah! My broker. Splendid. He’s
beaming. (The Broker walks up and grasps
the President’s hand with enthusiasm)
BROKER. Mr. President! My heartiest
congratulations ! What a day ! What a day !
(The Street Juggler appears. Right. He
removes his coat, folds it carefully, and puts
it on the bench. Then he opens a suitcase,
from which he extracts a number of colored
THE PRESIDENT (presenting the Broker).
Baron Tommard, of our Board of
Directors. My broker. (The Broker bows.
So does the Juggler. The Broker sits down and
signals Jor a drink. The Juggler prepares to
juggle) What’s happened?
BROKER. Listen to this. Ten o’clock
this morning. The market opens. (As he
speaks^ the Juggler provides a visual counter-
part to the Broker’s lineSy his clubs rising and
falling in rhythm to the words) Half million
shares issued at par, par value a hundred,
quoted on the curb at 124 and we start
buying at 126, 127, 129 — and it’s going
up — up — up — (The Juggler’s clubs rise
higher and higher) — 132 — 133 — 138 —
141 — 141 — 141 — 141 . . .
THE BARON. May I ask . . . ?
THE PRESIDENT. No, no — any explana-
tion would only confuse you.
BROKER. Ten forty-five we start
selling short on rumors of a Communist
plot, market bearish . . . 141 — 138 — 133
— 132 — and it’s downn — down — down —
102 — and we start buying back at 93.
Eleven o’clock, rumors denied — 95^ — 98
— loi — 106 — 124 — 141 — and by 11:30
we’ve got it all back — net profit three
and a half million francs.
THE PRESIDENT. Classical. Pure. (The
Juggler bows again. A Little Man leans over
from a near-by table, listening intently, and
trembling with excitement) And how many
shares do we reserve to each member of
BROKER. Fifty, as agreed.
THE PRESIDENT. Bit Stingy, don’t you
BROKER. All right — three thousand.
THE PRESIDENT. That’s a little better.
(To the Baron) You get the idea?
THE BARON. I’m beginning to get it.
BROKER. And now we come to the
exciting part – . . ( The Juggler prepares to
juggle with balls of jire) Listen carefully :
With i£ percent of our funded capital
under Section 32 I buy ^0,000 United at
36 which I immediately reconvert into
32,000 National Amalgamated two’s
preferred which I set up as collateral on
1^0,000 General Consols which I deposit
against a credit of fifteen billion to buy
Eastern Hennequin which I immediately
turn into Argentine wheat realizing 136
percent of the original investment which
naturally accrues as capital gain and not as
corporate income thus saving twelve
millions in taxes, and at once convert the
2^ percent cotton reserve into lignite,
and as our people swing into action in
London and New York, I beat up the
price on raw silk from 26 to 92 — 114
— 203 — 306 — (The Juggler by now is
juggling hisjireballs in the sky. The balls no
longer return to his hands) 404 . . . (The
Little Man can stand no more. He rushes over
and dumps a sackful oj money on the table)
LITTLE MAN. Here — take it — please,
BROKER (frigidly). Who is this man?
What is this money?
LITTLE MAN. It’s my life’s savings.
Every cent. I put it all in your hands.
BROKER. Can’t you see we’re busy?
LITTLE MAN. But I beg you . . . It’s my
only chance . . . Please don’t turn me
BROKER. Oh, all right. (He sweeps the
money into his pocket) Well?
LITTLE MAN. I thought — perhaps you’d
give me a little receipt . . .
THE PRESIDENT. My dear man, people
like us don’t give receipts for money. We
LITTLE MAN. Oh, pardon. Of course.
I was confused. Here it is. (Scribbles a
receipt) Thank you — thank you — thank
you. (He rushes off joyfully . The Street Singer
STREET SINGER (sings)
Do you hear, Mademoiselle,
Those musicians of hell ?
THE PRESIDENT. What, again? Why
does he keep repeating those two lines
like a parrot?
WAITER. What else can he do? He
doesn’t know any more and the song’s
been out of print for years .
THE BARON. Couldn’t he sing a song
WAITER. He likes this one. He hopes
if he keeps singing the beginning someone
will turn up to teach him the end.
THE PRESIDENT. Tell him to move on.
We don’t know the song.
(The Professor strolls by, swinging his cane.
PROFESSOR (stops and addresses the
President politely) . Nor do I, my dear sir.
Nor do I. And yet, I’m in exactly the
same predicament. I remember just two
lines of my favorite song, as a child. A
mazurka also, in case you’re interested . . .
THE PRESIDENT. I’m not.
PROFESSOR. Why is it, I wonder, that one always forgets the words of a mazurka? I suppose they just get lost in that damnable rhythm. All I remember is:
(He sings) From England to Spain
I have drunk, it was bliss . . .
STREET SINGER (walks over, and picks up
Red wine and champagne
And many a kiss.
PROFESSOR. Oh, God! It all comes back to me . . . ! (He sings) Red lips and white hands I have [known
Where the nightingales dwell . . .
THE PRESIDENT (holding his hands to his
ears) . Please — please . . .
STREET SINGER And to each one I’ve whispered, [“My own,”
And to each one, I’ve murmured: [“Farewell.”
THE PRESIDENT. Farewell. Farewell.
STREET SINGER and PROFESSOR (duo) .
But there’s one I shall never forget . .
THE PRESIDENT. This isn’t a cafe. It’s a
(The two go off^ still singing: ^^ There is one
that’s engraved in my heart.” The Prospector
gets up slowly and walks toward the President’s table. He looks down without a word. There is a tense silence. J
THE PRESIDENT. I need a name.
PROSPECTOR (nods, with complete compre-
hension) . I need fifty thousand.
THE PRESIDENT. For a Corporation.
PROSPECTOR. For a woman.
THE PRESIDENT. Immediately.
PROSPECTOR. Before evening.
THE PRESIDENT. Something . . .
THE PRESIDENT. Something . . .
THE PRESIDENT. Something . . .
THE PRESIDENT. YeS.
PROSPECTOR. Fifty thousand. Cash.
THE PRESIDENT. I’m listening.
PROSPECTOR. International Substrate of
THE PRESIDENT ( snaps his fingers ) . That’s
it! (To the Broker) Pay him off. (The
Broker pays with the Little Man’s money)
Now — what does it mean?
PROSPECTOR. It means what it says. I’m a prospector.
THE PRESIDENT (rises). A prospector !
Allow me to shake your hand. Baron. You
are in the presence of one of nature’s
noblemen. Shake his hand. This is Baron
Tommard. (They shake hands) It is this
man, my dear Baron, who smells out in
the bowels of the earth those deposits of
metal or liquid on which can be founded
the only social unit of which our age is
capable — the corporation. Sit down,
please. (They all sit) And now that we
have a name . . .
PROSPECTOR. You need a property.
THE PRESIDENT. Precisely.
PROSPECTOR. I have one.
THE PRESIDENT. A claim?
THE PRESIDENT. Foreign?
THE BARON. In Indo- China?
THE PRESIDENT. In France?
PROSPECTOR (matter of fact). In Paris.
THE PRESIDENT. In Paris ? You’ve been
prospecting in Paris?
THE BARON. FoT women, no doubt.
THE PRESIDENT. FOT art?
BROKER. For gold?
BROKER. He’s crazy.
THE PRESIDENT. Sh ! He’s inspired.
PROSPECTOR. You think I’m crazy.
Well, they thought Columbus was crazy.
THE BARON. Oil in Paris?
BROKER. But how is it possible?
PROSPECTOR. It’s not Only possible.
THE PRESIDENT. Tell US.
PROSPECTOR. You don’t know, my
dear sir, what treasures Paris conceals.
Paris is the least prospected place in the
world. We’ve gone over the rest of the
planet with a fine-tooth comb. But has
anyone ever thought of looking for oil in
Paris? Nobody. Before me, that is.
THE PRESIDENT. Genius !
PROSPECTOR. No. Just a practical man.
I use my head.
THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT
THE BARON. But why has nobody ever thought of this before ?
PROSPECTOR. The treasures of the
earth, my dear sir, are not easy to find nor
to get at. They are invariably guarded by
dragons. Doubtless there is some reason
for this. For once vv^e’ve dug out and
consumed the internal ballast of the
planet, the chances are it w^ill shoot off on
some irresponsible tangent and smash
itself up in the sky. Well, that’s the risk
we take. Anyway, that’s not my business.
A prospector has enough to worry about.
THE BARON. I know — snakes — taran-
tulas — fleas . . .
PROSPECTOR. Worse than that, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. Does that annoy you?
PROSPECTOR. Civilization gets in our
way all the time. In the first place, it
covers the earth with cities and towns
which are damned awkward to dig up
when you want to see what’s underneath.
It’s not only the real-estate people — you
can always do business with them — it’s
human sentimentality. How do you do
business with that ?
THE PRESIDENT. I see what you mean.
PROSPECTOR. They say that where we
pass, nothing ever grows again. What of
it ? Is a park any better than a coal mine ?
What’s a mountain got that a slag pile
hasn’t? What would you rather have in
your garden — an almond tree or an oil
THE PRESIDENT. Well . . .
PROSPECTOR. Exactly. But what’s the
use of arguing with these fools ? Imagine
the choicest place you ever saw for an
excavation, and what do they put there?
A playground for children ! Civilization !
THE PRESIDENT. Just show US the point
where you want to start digging. We’ll do
the rest. Even if it’s in the middle of the
Louvre. Where’s the oil?
PROSPECTOR. Perhaps you think it’s
easy to make an accurate fix in an area
like Paris where everything conspires to
put you off the scent? Women — perfume
— flowers — history. You can talk all you
like about geology, but an oil deposit,
gentlemen, has to be smelled out. I have a
good nose. I go further. I have a phe-
nomenal nose. But the minute I get the right whiff — the minute I’m on the scent
— a fragrance rises from what I take to be
the spiritual deposits of the past — and
I’m completely at sea. Now take this very
point, for example, this very spot.
THE BARON. You mean — right here in Chaillot?
PROSPECTOR. Right under here.
THE PRESIDENT. Good heavens !
(He looks under his chair. J
PROSPECTOR. It’s taken me months to locate this spot.
THE BARON. But what in the world makes you think . . . ?
PROSPECTOR. Do you know this place, Baron ?
THE BARON. Well, I’ve been sitting here for thirty years.
PROSPECTOR. Did you ever taste the water ?
THE BARON. The Water ? Good God, no !
PROSPECTOR. It’s plain to see that you
are no prospector! A prospector. Baron,
is addicted to water as a drunkard to wine.
Water, gentlemen, is the one substance
from which the earth can conceal nothing.
It sucks out its innermost secrets and
brings them to our very lips. Well —
beginning at Notre Dame, where I first
caught the scent of oil three months ago,
I worked my way across Paris, glassful by
glassful, sampling the water, until at last
I came to this cafe. And here — ^just two
days ago — I took a sip. My heart began to
thump. Was it possible that I was
deceived ? I took another, a third, a fourth,
a fifth. I was trembling like a leaf. But
there was no mistake. Each time that I
drank, my taste-buds thrilled to the most
exquisite flavor known to a prospector —
the flavor of — (With utmost lyricism)
THE PRESIDENT. Waiter! Some water
and four glasses. Hurry. This round,
gentlemen, is on me. And as a toast — I
shall propose International Substrate of
Paris, Incorporated. (The Waiter brings
a decanter and the glasses. The President pours
out the water amid profound silence. They
taste it with the air of connoisseurs savoring
something that has never before passed human
lips. Then they look at each other doubtfully.
The Prospector pours himself a second glass and drinks it off) Well . . .
BROKER. Ye-es . . .
THE BARON. Mm . . .
PROSPECTOR. Get it?
THE BARON. Tastcs quecr.
PROSPECTOR. That’s it. To the un-
practiced palate it tastes queer. But to the
taste-buds of the expert — ah !
THE BARON. Still, there’s one thing I
don’t quite understand . . .
THE BARON. This cafe doesn’t have its
own well, does it?
PROSPECTOR. Of course not. This is Paris water.
BROKER. Then why should it taste
different here than anywhere else?
PROSPECTOR. Because, my dear sir,
the pipes that carry this water pass deep
through the earth, and the earth just here
is soaked with oil, and this oil permeates
the pores of the iron and flavors the water
it carries. Ever so little, yes — but quite
enough to betray its presence to the
sensitive tongue of the specialist.
THE BARON. 1 SeC.
PROSPECTOR. I don’t say everyone is
capable of tasting it. No. But I — I can
detect the presence of oil in water that
has passed within fifteen miles of a
deposit. Under special circumstances,
THE PRESIDENT. Phenomenal !
PROSPECTOR. And so here I am with
the greatest discovery of the age on my
hands— but the blasted authorities won’t
let me drill a single well unless I show
them the oil ! Now how can I show them
the oil unless they let me dig? Completely
THE PRESIDENT. What? A man like
PROSPECTOR. That’s what they think.
That’s what they want. Have you noticed
the strange glamor of the women this
morning? And the quality of the sun-
shine? And this extraordinary convo-
cation of vagabonds buzzing about pro-
tectively like bees around a hive? Do you
know why it is? Because they know. It’s
a plot to distract us, to turn us from our
purpose. Well, let them try. I know
there’s oil here. And I’m going to dig it
up, even if I . . . (He smiles) Shall I tell
you my little plan?
THE PRESIDENT. By all mcans.
PROSPECTOR. Well . . . For heaven’s
sake, what’s that?
(At this pointy the Madwoman enters. She is
dressed in the grand Jashion of l886 in a
taffeta skirt with an immense train — which she has gathered up by means of a clothespin — ancient button shoes, and a hat in the style of Marie Antoinette. She wears a lorgnette on a
chain, and an enormous cameo pin at her
throat. In her hand she carries a small basket.
She walks in with great dignity, extracts a
dinner bell from the bosom of her dress, and
rings it sharply. Irma appears. J
COUNTESS. Are my bones ready, Irma?
IRMA. There won’t be much today,
Countess. We had broilers. Can you
wait? While the gentleman inside finishes
COUNTESS. And my gizzard ?
IRMA. I’ll try to get it away from him.
COUNTESS. If he eats my gizzard, save
me the giblets. They will do for the
tomcat that lives under the bridge. He
likes a few giblets now and again.
IRMA. Yes, Countess.
(Irma goes back into the cafe. The Countess
takes a few steps and stops in front of the
President’s table. She examines him with
undisguised disapproval. J
THE PRESIDENT. Waiter. Ask that
woman to move on.
WAITER. Sorry, sir. This is her cafe.
THE PRESIDENT. Is shc the manager of
WAITER. She’s the Madwoman of
THE PRESIDENT. A Madwoman ? She’s
WAITER. Who says she’s mad?
THE PRESIDENT. You just Said SO your-
WAITER. Look, sir. You asked me who
she was. And I told you. What’s mad
about her? She’s the Madwoman of
THE PRESIDENT. Call a policcman.
(The Countess whistles through her fingers.
At once, the Doorman runs out of the cafe. He
has three scarves in his hands.)
COUNTESS. Have you found it? My
DOORMAN. Not yet, Countess. Three
scarves. But no boa.
COUNTESS. It’s five years since I lost it.
Surely you’ve had time to find it.
DOORMAN. Take one of these, Count-
ess. Nobody’s claimed them.
COUNTESS. A boa like that doesn’t
vanish, you know. A feather boa nine feet
DOORMAN. Hovs^ about this blue one?
COUNTESS. With my pink ruffle and
my green veil? You’re joking ! Let me see
the yellow^. (She tries it on) How does it
(With a magnificent gesture, she flings the
scarf about her, upsetting the president’ s glass and drenching his trousers with water. She stalks off without a glance at him.)
THE PRESIDENT. Waiter! I’m making a
WAITER. Against whom?
THE PRESIDENT. Against her! Against
you ! The whole gang of you ! That singer !
That shoelace peddler! That female
lunatic ! Or whatever you call her !
THE BARON. Calm yourself, Mr.
President . . .
THE PRESIDENT. I’ll do nothing of the
sort! Baron, the first thing we have to do
is to get rid of these people ! Good
heavens, look at them ! Every size, shape,
color and period of history imaginable.
It’s utter anarchy ! I tell you, sir, the only
safeguard of order and discipline in the
modern world is a standardized worker
with interchangeable parts. That would
solve the entire problem of management.
Here, the manager . . . And there — one
composite drudge grunting and sweating
all over the world. Just we two. Ah, how
beautiful ! How easy on the eyes ! How
restful for the conscience !
THE BARON. Yes, ycs — of course.
THE PRESIDENT. Order. Symmetry.
Balance. But instead of that, what? Here
in Chaillot, the very citadel of manage-
ment, these insolent phantoms of the past
come to beard us with their raffish in-
dividualism — with the right of the
voiceless to sing, of the dumb to make
speeches, of trousers to have no seats and
bosoms to have dinner bells !
THE BARON. But, after all, do these
THE PRESIDENT. My dear sir, wherever the poor are happy, and the servants are proud, and the mad are respected, our power is at an end. Look at that! That
waiter! That madwoman! That flower girl! Do I get that sort of service? And suppose that I — president of twelve
corporations and ten times a millionaire — were to stick a gladiolus in my button-hole and start yelling — (He tinkles his spoon in a glass violently, yelling) Are my bones ready, Irma?
THE BARON (reprovingly). Mr. President . . .
(People at the adjoining tables turn and stare
with raised eyebrows. The Waiter starts to
THE PRESIDENT. YoU SCC? Now.
PROSPECTOR. We were discussing my
THE PRESIDENT. Ah ycs, youT plan.
(He glances in the direction of the Mad-
woman s table) Careful — she’s looking at
PROSPECTOR. Do you know what a
THE PRESIDENT. I’m told they cxplodc.
PROSPECTOR. Exactly. You see that
white building across the river. Do you
happen to know what that is ?
THE PRESIDENT. I do not.
PROSPECTOR. That’s the office of the
City Architect. That man has stubbornly
refused to give me a permit to drill for
oil anywhere within the limits of the city
of Paris. I’ve tried everything with him —
influence, bribes, threats. He says I’m
crazy. And now . . .
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, my God ! What is
this one trying to sell us ?
(A little Old Man enters left, and doffs his hat
politely. He is somewhat ostentatiously
respectable — gloved, pomaded, and carefully
dressed, with a white handkerchief peeping out
oj his breast pocket.)
DR. JADIN. Nothing but health, sir. Or
rather the health of the feet. But
remember — as the foot goes, so goes the
man. May I present myself . . . ? Dr.
Gaspard Jadin, French Navy, retired.
Former specialist in the extraction of
ticks and chiggers. At present special-
izing in the extraction of bunions and
corns. In case of sudden emergency.
Martial the waiter will furnish my home
address. My office is here, second row,
third table, week days, twelve to five.
Thank you very much.
(^He sits at his table. J
WAITER. Your vermouth, Doctor?
DR. JADIN. My vermouth. My ver-
mouths. How are your gallstones today,
WAITER. Fine. Fine. They rattle like
DR. JADIN. Splendid. (He spies the
Countess) Good morning, Countess. How’s
the floating kidney? Still afloat? (She nods
graciously) Splendid. Splendid. So long as
it floats, it can’t sink.
THE PRESIDENT. This is impossible !
Let’s go somewhere else.
PROSPECTOR. No. It’s nearly noon.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. It IS. Five to
PROSPECTOR. In five minutes’ time
you’re going to see that City Architect
blown up, building and all — boom !
BROKER. Are you serious?
PROSPECTOR. That imbecile has no
one to blame but himself. Yesterday noon,
he got my ultimatum — he’s had twenty-
four hours to think it over. No permit?
All right. Within two minutes my agent
is going to drop a little package in his
coal bin. And three minutes after that,
precisely at noon . . .
THE BARON. You prospectors certainly
use modern methods.
PROSPECTOR. The method may be
modern. But the idea is old. To get at the
treasure, it has always been necessary to
slay the dragon. I guarantee that after
this, the City Architect will be more
reasonable. The new one, I mean.
THE PRESIDENT. Don’t you think we’re
sitting a little close for comfort?
PROSPECTOR. Oh no, no. Don’t worry.
And, above all, don’t stare. We may be
watched. (A clock strikes) Why, that’s
noon. Something’s wrong! Good God!
What’s this? (A Policeman staggers in
bearing a lijeless body on his shoulders in the
manner prescribed as ^^The Fireman s Lijt^^ )
It’s Pierre! My agent! (He walks over with
affected nonchalance) I say. Officer, what’s
that you’ve got?
POLICEMAN. Drowned man.
(He puts him down on the bench.)
WAITER . He ‘snot drowned . His clothes
are dry. He’s been slugged.
POLICEMAN. Slugged is also correct.
He was just jumping off the bridge when
1 came along and pulled him back. I
slugged him, naturally, so he wouldn’t
drag me under. Life Saving Manual,
Rule £: “In cases where there is danger
of being dragged under, it is necessary to
render the subject unconscious by means
of a sharp blow.” He’s had that.
(He loosens the clothes and begins applying
PROSPECTOR. The stupid idiot! What
the devil did he do with the bomb?
That’s what comes of employing
THE PRESIDENT. You don’t think he’ll
give you away ?
PROSPECTOR. Don’t worry. (He walks
over to the policeman) Say, what do you
think you’re doing?
POLICEMAN. Lifesaving. Artificial
respiration. First aid to the drowning.
PROSPECTOR. But he’s not drowning.
POLICEMAN. But he thinks he is.
PROSPECTOR. You’ll never bring him
round that way, my friend. That’s meant
for people who drown in water. It’s no
good at all for those who drown without
POLICEMAN. What am I supposed do?
I’ve just been sworn in. It’s my first day
on the beat. I can’t afford to get in
trouble. I’ve got to go by the book.
PROSPECTOR. Perfectly simple. Take
him back to the bridge where you found
him and throw him in. Then you can save
his life and you’ll get a medal. This way,
you’ll only get fined for slugging an
POLICEMAN. What do you mean,
innocent? He was just going to jump
when I grabbed him.
PROSPECTOR. Have you any proof of
POLICEMAN. Well, I saw him.
PROSPECTOR. Written proof? Wit-
POLICEMAN. No, but . . .
PROSPECTOR. Then don’t waste time
arguing. You’re in trouble. Quick —
before anybody notices — throw him in
and dive after him. It’s the only way out.
POLICEMAN. But I don’t swim.
THE PRESIDENT. You’ll Icam how on
the way down. Before you were bom, did
you know how to breathe ?
POLICEMAN (convinced) . All right.
Here we go.
(He starts lifting the body.)
DR. JADIN. One moment, please. I
don’t like to interfere, but it’s my
professional duty to point out that medical
science has definitely established the fact
of intra-uterine respiration. Conse-
quently, this policeman, even before he
was bom, knew not only how to breathe
but also how to cough, hiccup and belch.
THE PRESIDENT. Supposc he did — how
does it concern you?
DR. JADIN. On the other hand, medical
science has never established the fact of
intra-uterine swimming or diving. Under
the circumstances, we are forced to the
opinion, Officer, that if you dive in you
will probably drown.
POLICEMAN. You think so?
PROSPECTOR, who asked you for an
THE PRESIDENT. Pay no attention to
that quack, Officer.
DR. JADIN. Quack, sir?
PROSPECTOR. This is not a medical
matter. It’s a legal problem. The officer
has made a grave error. He’s new. We’re
trying to help him.
BROKER. He’s probably afraid of the
POLICEMAN. Nothing of the sort.
Officially, I’m afraid of nothing. But I
always follow doctor’s orders.
DR. JADIN. You see. Officer, when a
child is born . . .
PROSPECTOR. Now, what does he care
about when a child is born? He’s got a
dying man on his hands . . . Officer, if
you want my advice . . .
POLICEMAN. It so happens, I care a lot
about when a child is bom. It’s part of
my duty to aid and assist any woman in
childbirth or labor.
THE PRESIDENT. Can you imagine !
POLICEMAN. Is it true. Doctor, what
they say, that when you have twins, the
first bom is considered to be the
DR. JADIN. Quite correct. And what’s more, if the twins happen to be bom at midnight on December 31st, the older is a whole year younger. He does his military service a year later. That’s why you have to keep your eyes open. And that’s the reason why a queen always gives birth before witness . . .
POLICEMAN. God ! The things a police-
man is supposed to know! Doctor, what
does it mean if, when I get up in the
morning sometimes . . .
PROSPECTOR (nudging the President
meaning juUj ) . The old woman . . .
BROKER. Come on. Baron.
THE PRESIDENT. I think wc’d better all
PROSPECTOR. Leave him to me.
THE PRESIDENT. I’ll scc you later.
(The President steals off with the Broker and
POLICEMAN (still in conference with Dr.
Jadin). But what’s really worrying me,
Doctor, is this — don’t you think it’s a bit
risky for a man to marry after forty-five?
(The Broker runs in breathlessly . )
BROKER. Officer! Officer!
POLICEMAN, what’s the trouble?
BROKER. Quick! Two women are
calling for help — on the sidewalk —
POLICEMAN. Two womcn at once?
Standing up or lying down?
BROKER. You’d better go and see.
PROSPECTOR. You’d better take the
Doctor with you.
POLICEMAN. Come along, Doctor,
come along . . . (Pointing to Pierre) Tell
him to wait till I get back. Come along.
(He runs out^ the Doctor following. The
Prospector moves over toward Pierre^ but Irma
crosses in front of him and takes the boj^s
IRMA. How beautiful he is ! Is he dead,
WAITER (handing her a pocket mirror).
Hold this mirror to his mouth. If it clouds
over . . .
IRMA. It clouds over.
WAITER . He ‘ s alive .
(He holds out his hand for the mirror.)
IRMA. Just a sec — (She rubs it clean and
looks at herself intently. Before handing it
back, she fixes her hair and applies her lip-
stick. Meanwhile the Prospector tries to get
around the other side, hut the Countess eagle
eye drives him off. He shrugs his shoulders and
exits with the Baron) Oh, look — he’s
opened his eyes !
(Pierre opens his eyes, stares intently at Irma
and closes them again with the expression oj a
man who is among the angels.)
PIERRE (murmurs) . Oh ! How beautiful !
VOICE (from within the cafe) . Irma !
IRMA. Coming. Coming. (She goes in,
not without a certain reluctance. The Countess
at once takes her place on the bench, and also
the young man s hand. Pierre sits up suddenly,
and fnds himself staring, not at Irma, but
into the very peculiar face of the Countess.
His expression changes.)
COUNTESS. You’re looking at my iris?
Isn’t it beautiful?
PIERRE. Very. (He drops back, ex-
COUNTESS. The Sergeant was good
enough to say it becomes me. But I no
longer trust his taste. Yesterday, the
flower girl gave me a lily, and he said it
didn’t suit me.
viEBJR.’E (weakly) . It’s beautiful.
COUNTESS. He’ll be very happy to
know that you agree with him. He’s really
quite sensitive. (She calls) Sergeant!
PIERRE. No, please — don’t call the
COUNTESS. But I must. I think I hurt
PIERRE. Let me go, Madame.
COUNTESS. No, no. Stay where you are.
(Pierre struggles weakly to get up.)
PIERRE. Please let me go.
COUNTESS. I’ll do nothing of the sort.
When you let someone go, you never see
him agam. I let Charlotte Mazumet go.
I never saw her again.
PIERRE. Oh, my head.
COUNTESS. I let Adolphe Bertaut go.
And I was holding him. And I never saw
PIERRE. Oh, God!
COUNTESS. Except once. Thirty years later. In the market. He had changed a great deal — he didn’t know me. He sneaked a melon from right under my nose, the only good one of the year. Ah, here we are. Sergeant!
(The Police Sergeant comes in with importance.)
SERGEANT. I’m in a hurry. Countess.
COUNTESS. With regard to the iris.
This young man agrees with you. He says
it suits me.
SERGEANT (going). There’s a man
drowning in the Seine.
COUNTESS. He’s not drowning in the
Seine. He’s drowning here.* Because I’m
holding him tight — as I should have held
Adolphe Bertaut. But if I let him go, I’m
sure he will go and drown in the Seine.
He’s a lot better looking than Adolphe
Bertaut, wouldn’t you say?
(Pierre sighs deeply.)
SERGEANT. How would I know?
COUNTESS. I’ve shown you his photo-
graph. The one with the bicycle.
SERGEANT. Oh, yes. The one with the
COUNTESS. I’ve told you a hundred
times! Adolphe Bertaut had no harelip.
That was a scratch in the negative. (The
Sergeant takes out his notebook and pencil)
What are you doing?
SERGEANT. I am taking down the
drowned man’s name, given name and
date of birth.
COUNTESS. You think that’s going to
stop him from jumping in the river?
Don’t be silly. Sergeant. Put that book
away and try to console him.
SERGEANT. I should try and console
COUNTESS. When people want to die,
it is your job as a guardian of the state to
speak out in praise of life. Not mine.
SERGEANT. I should spcak out in praise
COUNTESS. I assume you have some motive for interfering with people’s attempts to kill each other, and rob each other, and run each other over? If you believe that life has some value, tell him what it is. Go on.
SERGEANT. Well, all right. Now look, young man . . .
COUNTESS. His name is Roderick.
PIERRE. My name is not Roderick.
COUNTESS. Yes, it is. It’s noon. At
noon all men become Roderick.
THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT H3
SERGEANT. Except Adolphe Bertaut.
COUNTESS. In the days of Adolphe
Bertaut, we were forced to change the
men when we got tired of their names.
Nowadays, we’re more practical — each
hour on the hour all names are auto-
matically changed. The men remain the
same. But you’re not here to discuss
Adolphe Bertaut, Sergeant. You’re here
to convince the young man that life is
PIERRE. It isn’t.
SERGEANT. Quict. Now then — what
was the idea of jumping off the bridge,
COUNTESS. The idea was to land in the
river. Roderick doesn’t seem to be at all
confused about that.
SERGEANT. Now how Can I convince
anybody that life is worth living if you
keep interrupting all the time ?
COUNTESS. I’ll be quiet.
SERGEANT. First of all, Mr. Roderick,
you have to realize that suicide is a crime
against the state. And why is it a crime
against the state ? Because every time any-
body commits suicide, that means one
soldier less for the army, one taxpayer
less for the . . .
COUNTESS. Sergeant, isn’t there some-
thing about life that you really enjoy?
SERGEANT. That I enjoy?
COUNTESS. Well, surely, in all these
years, you must have found something
worth living for. Some secret pleasure,
or passion. Don’t blush. Tell him about it.
SERGEANT. Who’s blushing? Well,
naturally, yes — I have my passions — like
everybody else. The fact is, since you
ask me — I love — to play — casino. And if
the gentleman would like to join me, by
and by when I go off duty, we can sit
down to a nice little game in the back
room with a nice cold glass of beer. If he
wants to kill an hour, that is.
COUNTESS. He doesn’t want to kill an
hour. He wants to kill himself. Well? Is
that all the police force has to offer by
way of earthly bliss ?
SERGEANT. Huh? You mean — (He jerks
a thumb in the direction of the pretty Blonde^
who has just been joined by a Brunette of the
same stamp) Paulette? (The young man
COUNTESS. You’re not earning your
salary, Sergeant. I defy anybody to stop
dying on your account.
SERGEANT. Go ahead, if you can do any
better. But you won’t find it easy.
COUNTESS. Oh, this is not a desperate
case at all. A young man who has just
fallen in love with someone who has
fallen in love with him !
PIERRE. She hasn’t. How could she?
COUNTESS. Oh, yes, she has. She was
holding your hand, just as I’m holding it,
when all of a sudden . . . Did you ever
know Marshal Canrobert’s niece?
SERGEANT. How could he know
Marshal Canrobert’s niece?
COUNTESS. Lots of people knew her —
when she was alive. (Pierre begins to struggle
energetically) No, no, Roderick — stop —
SERGEANT. You scc ? You won’t do
any better than I did.
COUNTESS. No? Let’s bet. I’ll bet my
iris against one of your gold buttons.
Right? — Roderick, I know very well why
you tried to drown yourself in the river.
PIERRE. You don’t at all.
COUNTESS. It’s because that Prospector
wanted you to commit a horrible crime.
PIERRE. How did you know that?
COUNTESS. He stole my boa, and now
he wants you to kill me.
PIERRE. Not exactly.
COUNTESS. It wouldn’t be the first
time they’ve tried it. But I’m not so easy
to get rid of, my boy, oh, no . . .
Because . . .
(The Doorman rides in on his bicycle. He
winks at the Sergeant, who has now seated
himself while the Waiter serves him a beer.)
DOORMAN. Take it easy. Sergeant.
SERGEANT. I’m busy saving a drowning
COUNTESS. They can’t kill me because — I have no desire to die.
PIERRE. You’re fortunate.
COUNTESS. To be alive is to be
fortunate, Roderick. Of course, in the
morning, when you first awake, it does
not always seem so very gay. When you
take your hair out of the drawer, and your
teeth out of the glass, you are apt to feel
a little out of place in this world.
Especially if you’ve just been dreaming that you’re a little girl on a pony looking
for strawberries in the woods. But all you
need to feel the call of life once more is a
letter in your mail giving you your
schedule for the day — your mending,
your shopping, that letter to your grand-
mother that you never seem to get around
to. And so, when you’ve washed your
face in rosewater, and powdered it — not
with this awful rice-powder they sell
nowadays, which does nothing for the
skin, but with a cake of pure white
starch — and put on your pins, your rings,
your brooches, bracelets, earrings and
pearls — in short, when you are dressed
for your morning coffee — and have had a
good look at yourself — not in the glass,
naturally — it lies — but in the side of the
brass gong that once belonged to Admiral
Courbet — then, Roderick, then you’re
armed, you’re strong, you’re ready — you
can begin again.
(Pierre is listening now intently. There are
tears in his ejes.J
PIERRE. Oh, Madame . . . ! Oh, Ma-
dame . . . !
COUNTESS. After that, everything is
pure delight. First the morning paper.
Not, of course, these current sheets full
of lies and vulgarity. I always read the
Gaulois, the issue of March 2 2, 1903. It’s
by far the best. It has some delightful
scandal, some excellent fashion notes, and,
of course, the last-minute bulletin on the
death of Leonide Leblanc. She used to
live next door, poor woman, and when I
learn of her death every morning, it gives
me quite a shock. I’d gladly lend you my
copy, but it’s in tatters.
SERGEANT. Couldn’t we find him a
copy in some library?
COUNTESS. I doubt it. And so, when
you’ve taken your fruit salts — not in
water, naturally — no matter what they
say, it’s water that gives you gas — but
with a bit of spiced cake — then in sunlight
or rain, Chaillot calls. It is time to dress
for your morning walk. This takes much
longer, of course — without a maid, im-
possible to do it under an hour, what with
your corset, corset-cover and drawers all
of which lace or button in the back. I
asked Madame Lanvin, a while ago, to fit
the drawers with zippers. She was quite charming, but she declined. She thought it would spoil the style.
(The Deaf- Mute comes in.)
WAITER. I know a place where they put zippers on anything.
(The Ragpicker enters. J
COUNTESS. I think Lanvin knows best.
But I really manage very well. Martial.
What I do now is, I lace them up in front,
then twist them around to the back. It’s
quite simple, really. Then you choose a
lorgnette, and then the usual fruitless
search for the feather boa that the
prospector stole — I know it was he : he
didn’t dare look me in the eye — and then
all you need is a rubber band to slip
around your parasol — I lost the catch the
day I struck the cat that was stalking the
pigeon — it was worth it — ah, that day I
earned my wages !
THE RAGPICKER. Countess, if you can
use it, I found a nice umbrella catch the
other day with a cat’s eye in it.
COUNTESS. Thank you. Ragpicker.
They say these eyes sometimes come to
life and fill with tears. I’d be afraid . . .
PIERRE. Go on, Madame, go on . . .
COUNTESS. Ah! So life is beginning to
interest you, is it? You see how beautiful
PIERRE. What a fool I’ve been !
COUNTESS. Then, Roderick, I begin
my rounds. I have my cats to feed, my
dogs to pet, my plants to water. I have to
see what the evil ones are up to in the
district — those who hate people, those
who hate plants, those who hate animals.
I watch them sneaking off in the morning
to put on their disguises — to the baths,
to the beauty parlors, to the barbers. But
they can’t deceive me. And when they
come out again with blonde hair and false
whiskers, to pull up my flowers and
poison my dogs, I’m there, and I’m ready.
All you have to do to break their power is
to cut across their path from the left.
That isn’t always easy. Vice moves swiftly.
But I have a good long stride and I
generally manage . . . Right, my friends ?
(The Waiter and the Ragpicker nod their
heads with evident approval) Yes, the
flowers have been marvelous this year.
And the butcher’s dog on the Rue Bizet,
THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT ^55
Iin spite of that wretch that tried to poison
him, is friskier than ever . . .
SERGEANT. That dog had better look
out. He has no Hcense.
COUNTESS. He doesn’t seem to feel the
need for one.
THE RAGPICKER. The Duchess de la
Rochefoucauld’s whippet is getting aw-
fully thin …
COUNTESS. What can I do? She bought
that dog full grown from a kennel where
they didn’t know his right name. A dog
without his right name is bound to get thin .
THE RAGPICKER. I’ve got a friend who
knows a lot about dogs — an Arab . . .
COUNTESS. Ask him to call on the
Duchess. She receives Thursdays, five to
seven. You see, then, Roderick. That’s
life. Does it appeal to you now?
PIERRE. It seems marvelous.
COUNTESS. Ah! Sergeant. My button.
(The Sergeant gives her his button and goes
off. At this point the Prospector enters) That’s
only the morning. Wait till I tell you
about the afternoon !
PROSPECTOR. All right, Pierre. Come
PIERRE. I’m perfectly all right here.
PROSPECTOR. I said, come along now,
PIERRE (to the Countess) . I’d better go.
PIERRE. It’s no use. Please let go my
PROSPECTOR. Madame, will you oblige
me by letting my friend go ?
COUNTESS. I will not oblige you in any
PROSPECTOR. All right. Then I’ll
oblige you . . . !
(He tries to push her away. She catches up a
soda water siphon and squirts it in his face.)
PIERRE. Countess . . .
COUNTESS. Stay where you are. This
man isn’t going to take you away. In the
first place, I shall need you in a few
minutes to take me home. I’m all alone
here and I’m very easily frightened.
(The Prospector makes a second attempt to drag
Pierre away . The Countess cracks him over the
skull with the siphon. They join battle. The
Countess whistles. The Doorman comes^ then
the other Vagabonds, and lastly the Police
PROSPECTOR. Officer! Arrest this
SERGEANT. What’s the trouble here?
PROSPECTOR. She refuses to let this
SERGEANT. Why should she ?
PROSPECTOR. It’s against the law for a
woman to detain a man on the street.
IRMA. Suppose it’s her son whom she’s
found again after twenty years ?
THE RAGPICKER (gallantly). Or her
long-lost brother? The Countess is not
PROSPECTOR. Officer, this is a clear
case of disorderly conduct.
(The DeaJ-Mute interrupts with frantic
COUNTESS. Irma, what is the Deaf-
IRMA (interpreting) . The young man is
in danger of his life. He mustn’t go with
PROSPECTOR. What does he know ?
IRMA. He knows everything.
PROSPECTOR. Officer, I’ll have to take
COUNTESS. Take his number. It’s 2133.
It adds up to nine. It will bring you luck.
SERGEANT. Countess, between our-
selves, what are you holding him for,
COUNTESS. I’m holding him because
it’s very pleasant to hold him. I’ve never
really held anybody before, and I’m
making the most of it. And because so
long as / hold him, he’s free.
PROSPECTOR. Pierre, I’m giving you
fair warning . . .
COUNTESS. And I’m holding him be-
cause Irma wants me to hold him. Be-
cause if I let him go, it will break her
IRMA. Oh, Countess !
SERGEANT (to the Prospector) . All right,
you — move on. Nobody’s holding you.
You’re blocking traffic. Move on.
PROSPECTOR (menacingly) . I have your
number. (And murderously, to Pierre) You’ll
regret this, Pierre.
PIERRE. Thank you. Countess.
COUNTESS. They’re blackmailing you,
are they? (Pierre nods) What have you
done? Murdered somebody?
256 JEAN GIRAUDOUX
COUNTESS. Stolen something?
COUNTESS. What then?
PIERRE. I forged a signature.
COUNTESS. Whose signature?
PIERRE. My father’s. To a note.
COUNTESS. And this man has the paper,
PIERRE. He promised to tear it up, if I
did what he wanted. But I couldn’t do it.
COUNTESS. But the man is mad! Does
he really want to destroy the whole
PIERRE. He wants to destroy the whole
COUNTESS (laughs). Fantastic.
PIERRE. It’s not funny, Countess. He
can do it. He’s mad, but he’s powerful,
and he has friends. Their machines are
already drawn up and waiting. In three
months’ time you may see the city
covered by a forest of derricks and drills.
COUNTESS. But what are they looking
for? Have they lost something?
PIERRE. They’re looking for oil.
They’re convinced that Paris is sitting on
a lake of oil.
COUNTESS. Suppose it is. What harm
does it do?
PIERRE. They want to bring the oil to
the surface, Countess.
COUNTESS (laughs). How silly! Is that
a reason to destroy a city? What do they
want with this oil ?
PIERRE. They want to make war.
COUNTESS. Oh, dear, let’s forget about
these horrible men. The world is
beautiful. It’s happy. That’s how God
made it. No man can change it.
WAITER. Ah, Countess, if you only
COUNTESS. If I only knew what?
WAITER. Shall we tell her now? Shall
we tell her?
COUNTESS. What is it you are hiding
THE RAGPICKER. Nothing, Countess.
It’s you who are hiding.
WAITER. You tell her. You’ve been a
pitchman. You can talk.
ALL. Tell her. Tell her. Tell her.
COUNTESS. You’re frightening me, my
friends. Go on. I’m listening.
THE RAGPICKER. Countcss, there was a
time when old clothes were as good as
new — in fact, they were better. Because
when people wore clothes, they gave
something to them. You may not believe
it, but right this minute, the highest-
priced shops in Paris are selling clothes
that were thrown away thirty years ago.
They’re selling them for new. That’s how
good they were.
THE RAGPICKER. Countcss, there was
a time when garbage was a pleasure. A
garbage can was not what it is now. If it
smelled a little strange, it was because it
was a little confused — there was every-
thing there — sardines, cologne, iodine,
roses. An amateur might jump to a wrong
conclusion. But to a professional — it was
the smell of God’s plenty.
THE RAGPICKER. Countcss, the world
COUNTESS. Nonsense. How could it
change? People are the same, I hope.
THE RAGPICKER. No, Countcss. The
people are not the same. The people are
different. There’s been an invasion. An
infiltration. From another planet. The
world is not beautiful any more. It’s not
COUNTESS. Not happy? Is that true?
Why didn’t you tell me this before?
THE RAGPICKER. Bccausc you livc in a
dream, Countess. And we don’t like to
COUNTESS. But how could it have
THE RAGPICKER. Countcss, there was
a time when you could walk around
Paris, and all the people you met were
just like yourself. A little cleaner, maybe,
or dirtier, perhaps, or angry, or smiling
— but you knew them. They were you.
Well, Countess, twenty years ago, one
day, on the street, I saw a face in the
crowd. A face, you might say, without a
face. The eyes — empty. The expression —
not human. Not a human face. It saw me
staring, and when it looked back at me
with its gelatine eyes, I shuddered.
Because I knew that to make room for this
THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT 2^7
one, one of us must have left the earth. A
while after, 1 saw another. And another.
And since then, I’ve seen hundreds come
in — yes — thousands .
COUNTESS. Describe them to me.
THE RAGPICKER. You’ve Seen them
yourself. Countess. Their clothes don’t
wrinkle. Their hats don’t come off. When
they talk, they don’t look at you. They
COUNTESS. Have they wives? Have
THE RAGPICKER. They buy the models
out of shop windows, furs and all. They
animate them by a secret process. Then
they marry them. Naturally, they don’t
COUNTESS. What work do they do?
THE RAGPICKER. They don’t do any
work. Whenever they meet, they
whisper, and then they pass each other
thousand-franc notes. You see them
standing on the corner by the Stock Ex-
change. You see them at auctions — in the
back. They never raise a finger — they just
stand there. In theater lobbies, by the
box office — they never go inside. They
don’t do anything, but wherever you see
them, things are not the same. I remember
well the time when a cabbage could sell
itself just by being a cabbage. Nowadays
it’s no good being a cabbage — unless you
have an agent and pay him a commission.
Nothing is free any more to sell itself or
give itself away. These days. Countess,
every cabbage has its pimp.
COUNTESS. I can’t believe that.
THE RAGPICKER. Countess, little by
little, the pimps have taken over the
world. They don’t do anything, they don’t
make anything — they just stand there and
take their cut. It makes a difference.
Look at the shopkeepers. Do you ever
see one smiling at a customer any more?
Certainly not. Their smiles are strictly
for the pimps. The butcher has to smile
at the meat-pimp, the florist at the rose-
pimp, the grocer at the fresh-fruit-and-
vegetable pimp. It’s all organized down to
the slightest detail. A pimp for bird-seed.
A pimp for fishfood. That’s why the cost
of living keeps going up all the time. You
buy a glass of beer — it costs twice as
much as it used to. Why? lo percent for the glass-pimp, lo percent for the beer-pimp, 2o percent for the glass-of-beer-pimp — that’s where our money goes. Personally, I prefer the old-fashioned type. Some of those men at least were loved by the women they sold. But what feelings can a pimp arouse in a leg of lamb? Pardon my language, Irma.
COUNTESS. It’s all right. She doesn’t
THE RAGPICKER. So now you know.
Countess, why the world is no longer
happy. We are the last of the free people
of the earth. You saw them looking us
over today. Tomorrow, the street-singer
will start paying the song-pimp, and the
garbage-pimp will be after me. I tell you,
Countess, we’re finished. It’s the end of
free enterprise in this world !
COUNTESS. Is this true, Roderick?
PIERRE. I’m afraid it’s true.
COUNTESS. Did you know about this,
IRMA. All I know is the doorman says
that faith is dead.
DOORMAN. I’ve stopped taking bets
over the phone.
JUGGLER. The very air is different,
Countess. You can’t trust it any more.
If I throw my torches up too high, they
THE RAGPICKER. The sky-pimp puts
FLOWER GIRL. My flowcrs don’t last
overnight now. They wilt.
JUGGLER. Have you noticed, the
pigeons don’t fly any more?
THE RAGPICKER. They Can’t afford to.
COUNTESS. They’re a lot of fools and
so are you! You should have told me at
once ! How can you bear to live in a world
where there is unhappiness? Where a
man is not his own master? Are you
cowards? All we have to do is to get rid
of these men.
PIERRE. How can we get rid of them?
They’re too strong.
(The Sergeant walks up again. J
COUNTESS (smiling J . The Sergeant will
SERGEANT. Who ? Me?
IRMA. There are a great many of them,
Countess. The Deaf-Mute knows them
2^8 JEAN GIRAUDOUX
all. They employed him once, years ago,
because he was deaf. (The Deaf -Mute
wigwags a short speech) They fired him
because he wasn’t blind. (Another Jiash of
sign language) They’re all connected like
the parts of a machine.
COUNTESS. So much the better. We
shall drive the whole machine into a
SERGEANT. It’s not that easy, Countess.
You never catch these birds napping.
They change before your very eyes. I
remember when I was in the detectives . . .
You catch a president, pfft ! He turns into
a trustee. You catch him as trustee, and
pfft ! he’s not a trustee — ^he’s an honorary
vice-chairman. You catch a Senator dead
to rights : he becomes Minister of Justice.
You get after the Minister of Justice — he
is Chief of Police. And there you are — no
longer in the detectives.
PIERRE. He’s right, Countess. They
have all the power. And all the money.
And they’re greedy for more.
COUNTESS. They’re greedy? Ah, then,
my friends, they’re lost. If they’re greedy,
they’re stupid. If they’re greedy — don’t
worry, I know exactly what to do.
Roderick, by tonight you will be an
honest man. And, Juggler, your torches
will stay lit. And your beer will flow
freely again. Martial. And the world will
be saved. Let’s get to work.
THE RAGPICKER. What are you going
COUNTESS. Have you any kerosene in
the house, Irma?
IRMA. Yes. Would you like some?
COUNTESS. I want just a little. In a
dirty bottle. With a little mud. And some
mange-cure, if you have it. (To the Deaf-
Mute) Deaf-Mute ! Take a letter. (Irma
interprets in sign language. To the Singer)
Singer, go and find Madame Constance.
(Irma and the Waiter go into the cafe.)
SINGER. Yes, Countess.
COUNTESS. Ask her to be at my house
by two o’clock. I’ll be waiting for her in
the cellar. You may tell her we have to
discuss the future of humanity. That’s
sure to bring her.
SINGER. Yes, Countess.
COUNTESS. And ask her to bring Mademoiselle Gabrielle and Madame Josephine with her. Do you know how to get in to speak to Madame Constance? You ring twice, and then meow three times like a cat. Do you know how to meow?
SINGER. I’m better at barking.
COUNTESS . Better practice meowing on
the way. Incidentally, I think Madame
Constance knows all the verses of your
mazurka. Remind me to ask her.
SINGER. Yes, Countess.
(Irma comes in. She is shaking the oily
concoction in a little perfume vial, which she
now hands the Countess.)
IRMA. Here you are, Countess.
COUNTESS. Thanks, Irma. (She assumes
a presidential manner) Deaf-Mute! Ready?
(Irma interprets in sign language. The Waiter
has brought out a portfolio of letter paper and
placed it on a table. The Deaf-Mute sits down
before it, and prepares to write.)
IRMA (speaking for the Deaf-Mute) . I’m
COUNTESS. My dear Mr. — What’s his
(Irma wigwags the question to the Deaf-Mute,
who answers in the same manner. It is all done
so deftly that it is as if the Deaf-Mute were
IRMA. They are all called Mr. President.
COUNTESS. My dear Mr. President: I
have personally verified the existence of a
spontaneous outcrop of oil in the cellar of
Number 2 1 Rue de Chaillot, which is at
present occupied by a dignified person of
unstable mentality. (The Countess grins
knowingly) This explains why, fortunately
for us, the discovery has so long been kept
secret. If you should wish to verify the
existence of this outcrop for yourself, you
may call at the above address at three
p.m. today. I am herewith enclosing a
sample so that you may judge the quality
and consistency of the crude. Yours very
truly. Roderick, can you sign the
PIERRE. You wish me to?
COUNTESS. One forgery wipes out the
(Pierre signs the letter. The Deaf-Mute types
the address on an envelope.)
IRMA. Who is to deliver this?
COUNTESS. The Doorman, of course.
On his bicycle. And as soon as you have
THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT 2^9
delivered it, run over to the prospector’s
office. Leave word that the President
expects to see him at my house at three.
DOORMAN. Yes, Countess.
COUNTESS. I shall leave you now. I
have many pressing things to do. Among
others, I must press my red gown.
THE RAGPICKER. But this Only takes
care of two of them, Countess.
COUNTESS. Didn’t the Deaf-Mute say
they are all connected like the works of a
COUNTESS. Then, if one comes, the
rest will follow. And we shall have them
all. My boa, please.
DOORMAN. The one that’s stolen.
COUNTESS. Naturally. The one the
DOORMAN. It hasn’t turned up yet.
Countess. But someone has left an ermine
COUNTESS. Real ermine?
DOORMAN. Looks like it.
COUNTESS. Ermine and iris were made for each other. Let me see it.
DOORMAN. Yes, Countess. (Exit Doorman)
COUNTESS. Roderick, you shall escort me. You still look pale. I have some old Chartreuse at home. I always take a glass each year. Last year I forgot. You shall have it.
PIERRE. If there is anything I can do. Countess . . . ?
COUNTESS. There is a great deal you
can do. There are all the things that need
to be done in a room that no man has
been in for twenty years. You can untwist
the cord on the blind and let in a little
sunshine for a change. You can take the
mirror off the wardrobe door, and deliver
me once and for all from the old harpy
that lives in the mirror. You can let the
mouse out of the trap. I’m tired of feeding
it. (To her friends) Each man to his post.
See you later, my friends. (The Doorman
puts the ermine collar around her shoulders)
Thank you, my boy. It’s rabbit. (One
o’clock strikes) Your arm, Valentine.
COUNTESS. It’s just struck one. At one,
all men become Valentine.
PIERRE (he offers his arm). Permit me.
COUNTESS. Or Valentino. It’s obvi-
ously far from the same, isn’t it, Irma?
But they have that much choice.
(She sweeps out majestically with Pierre. The
others disperse. All but Irma.)
IRMA (clearing off the table). I hate
ugliness. I love beauty. I hate meanness.
I adore kindness. It may not seem so grand
to some to be a waitress in Paris. I love it.
A waitress meets all sorts of people. She
observes life. I hate to be alone. I love
people. But I have never said I love you
to a man. Men try to make me say it.
They put their arms around me — I
pretend I don’t see it. They pinch me — I
pretend I don’t feel it. They kiss me — I
pretend I don’t know it. They take me out
in the evening and make me drink — but
I’m careful, I never say it. If they don’t
like it, they can leave me alone. Because
when I say I love you to Him, He will
know just by looking in my eyes that
many have held me and pinched me and
kissed me, but I have never said I love you
to anyone in the world before. Never.
No. (Looking off in the direction in which
Pierre has gone^ she whispers softly:) I love
VOICE (from within the cafe) . Irma !
ACT TWO — The Countess’ Cellar — 21 Rue de Chaillot.
Scene : The cellar of the Countess’s house.
An ancient vault set deep in the ground^ with
walls of solid masonry^ part brick and part
great ashlars y mossy and sweating. A staircase
of medieval pattern is built into the thickness
of the wally and leads up to the street level
from a landing halfway down. In the corners
of the cellar are piled casks, packing cases,
birdcages, and other odds and ends — the
accumulation of centuries — the whole effect
In the center of the vast underground room,
some furniture has been arranged to give an
impression of a sitting-room of the 1 890’s.
There is a venerable chaise-longue piled with
cushions that once were gay, three armchairs,
a table with an oil lamp and a bowl of
flowers y a shaggy rug. It is two p.m., the
AT RISE : The Countess is sitting over a bit
of mending., in one of the armchairs. Irma
appears on the landing and calls down.
IRMA. Countess! The Sewer Man is here.
COUNTESS. Thank goodness, Irma.
Send him down. (The Sewer Man enters. He
carries his hip-boots in his hand) How do
you do, Mr. Sewer Man? (The Sewer Man
bows) But why do you have your boots in
your hand instead of on your feet?
SEWER MAN. Etiquette, Countess. Eti-
COUNTESS. How very American! I’m
told that Americans nowadays apologize
for their gloves if they happen to take
one’s hand. As if the skin of a human were
nicer to touch than the skin of a sheep !
And particularly if they have sweaty
hands . . . !
SEWER MAN. My feet never sweat,
COUNTESS. How very nice! But please
don’t stand on ceremony here. Put your
boots on. Put them on.
SEWER MAN (complying) . Thanks very
COUNTESS (while he draws on his boots) .
I’m sure you must have a very poor
opinion of the upper world, from what
you see of it. The way people throw their
filth into your territory is absolutely
scandalous! I bum all my refuse, and I
scatter the ashes. All I ever throw in the
drain is flowers. Did you happen to see a
lily float by this morning? Mine. But
perhaps you didn’t notice?
SEWER MAN. We noticc a lot more
down there. Countess, than you might
think. You’d be surprised the things we
notice. There’s lots of things come along
that were obviously intended for us —
little gifts, you might call them — some-
times a brand-new shaving brush — some-
times. The Brothers Karamazov . . . Thanks
for the lily, Countess. A very sweet
COUNTESS. Tomorrow you shall have this iris. But now, let’s come to the point. I have two questions to ask you.
SEWER MAN. Yes, Countess ?
COUNTESS. First — and this has nothing
to do with our problem — it’s just
something that has been troubling me , . .
Tell me, is it true that the sewer men of
Paris have a king?
SEWER MAN. Oh, now. Countess,
that’s another of those fairy tales out of
the Sunday supplements. It just seems
those writers can’t keep their minds off
the sewers ! It fascinates them. They keep
thinking of us moving around in our
underground canals like gondoliers in
Venice, and it sends them into a fever of
romance ! The things they say about us !
They say we have a race of girls down
there who never see the light of day ! It’s
completely fantastic ! The girls naturally
come out — every Christmas and Easter.
And orgies by torchlight with gondolas
and guitars ! With troops of rats that
dance as they follow the piper ! What
nonsense ! The rats are not allowed to
dance. No, no, no. Of course we have no
king. Dowm in the sewers, you’ll find
nothing but good Republicans.
COUNTESS. And no queen?
SEWER MAN. No. We may run a
beauty contest down there once in a
while. Or crown a mermaid Queen of the
May. But no queen what you’d call a
queen. And, as for these swimming races
they talk so much about . . . possibly
once in a while — in the summer — in the
dog days …
COUNTESS. I believe you. I believe you.
And now tell me. Do you remember that
night I found you here in my cellar —
looking very pale and strange — you were
half-dead as a matter of fact — and I gave
you some brandy . . .
SEWER MAN. Yes, Countcss.
COUNTESS. That night you promised if
ever I should need it — you would tell me
the secret of this room.
SEWER MAN. The sccrct of the moving
COUNTESS. I need it now.
SEWER MAN. Only the King of the
Sewer Men knows this secret.
COUNTESS. I’m sure of it. I know most
secrets, of course. As a matter of fact, I
have three magic words that will open
any door that words can open. I have tried
them all — in various tones of voice. They
don’t seem to w^ork. And this is a matter
of life and death.
SEWER MAN. Look, Countess. (He locates a brick in the masonry and pushes it. A huge block of stone slowly pivots and uncovers a trapjrom which a circular staircase winds into the bowels of the earth.)
COUNTESS. Good heavens! Where do those stairs lead?
SEWER MAN. Nowhere.
COUNTESS. But they must go somewhere.
SEWER MAN. They just go down.
couNT£SS. Let’s go and see.
SEWER MAN. No, Countess. Never again. That time you found me, I had a pretty close shave. I kept going dovsoi and around, and down and around for an hour, a year — I don’t know. There’s no end to it. Countess. Once you start you can’t stop . . . Your head begins to turn — you’re lost. No — once you start down, there’s no coming up.
COUNTESS. You came up.
SEWER MAN. I — I am a special case. Besides, I had my tools, my ropes. And I stopped in time.
COUNTESS. You could have screamed — shouted.
SEWER MAN. You could fire off a cannon.
COUNTESS. Who could have built a thing like this?
SEWER MAN. Paris is old, you know. Paris is very old.
COUNTESS. You don’t suppose, by any chance, there is oil down there?
SEWER MAN. There’s only death down there.
COUNTESS. I should have preferred a little oil too — or a vein of gold — or emeralds. You’re quite sure there is nothing ?
SEWER MAN. Not even rats.
COUNTESS. How does one lower this stone ?
SEWER MAN. Simple. To open, you press here. And to close it, you push
there. (He presses the brick. The stone
descends) Now there’s two of us in the
world that knows it.
COUNTESS. I won’t remember long. Is it all right if I repeat my magic words while I press it?
SEWER MAN. It’s bound to help.
IRMA. Countess, Madame Constance and Mademoiselle Gabrielle are here.
COUNTESS. Show them down, Irma. Thank you very much, Mr. Sewer Man.
SEWER MAN. Like that story about the Steam laundry that’s supposed to be running day and night in my sewer … I can assure you . . .
COUNTESS (edging him toward the door). Thank you very much.
SEWER MAN. Pure imagination! They never work nights.
(He goes off, bowing graciously.)
(Constance, the Madwoman of Passj, and Gabrielle, the Madwoman of St. Sulpice, come down daintily. Constance is all in white. She wears an enormous hat graced with ostrich plumes, and a lavender veil. Gabrielle is costumed with the affected simplicity of the l88o s. She is atrociously made up in a
remorseless parody of blushing innocence, and she minces down the stairs with macabre coyness.)
CONSTANCE. Aurelia ! Don’t tell us they’ve found your feather boa?
GABRIELLE. You don’t mean Adolphe Bertaut has proposed at last! I knew he would.
COUNTESS. How are you, Constance?
(She shouts) How are you, Gabrielle?
GABRIELLE. You needn’t shout today, my dear. It’s Wednesday. Wednesdays, I hear perfectly.
CONSTANCE. It’s Thursday.
GABRIELLE. Oh, dear. Well, never mind. I’m going to make an exception just this once.
CONSTANCE (to an imaginary dog who has stopped on the landing) . Come along, Dickie. Come along. And stop barking.
What a racket you’re making! Come on, darling — we’ve come to see the longest boa and the handsomest man in Paris. Come on.
COUNTESS. Constance, it’s not a question of my boa today. Nor of poor Adolphe. It’s a question of the future of the human race.
CONSTANCE. You think it has a future ?
COUNTESS. Please don’t make silly
jokes. Sit down and listen to me. Today we must make a decision which may alter the fate of the world.
CONSTANCE. Couldn’t we do it tomorrow? I want to wash my slippers. Now, Dickie — please !
COUNTESS. We haven’t a moment to waste. Where is Josephine? Well, we’d best have our tea, and the moment Josephine comes . . .
GABRiELLE. Joscphine is sitting on her bench in front of the palace waiting for President Wilson to come out. She says she’s sorry, but she positively must see him today.
CONSTANCE. Dickie !
COUNTESS, what a pity! (She gets the tea things from the side table, pours tea and serves cake and honey) I wish she were here to help us. She has a first-class brain.
CONSTANCE. Go ahead, dear. We’re listening. (To Dickie) What is it, Dickie? You want to sit in Aunt Aurelia’s lap. All right, darling. Go on. Jump, Dickie.
COUNTESS. Constance, we love you, as you know. And we love Dickie. But this is a serious matter. So let’s stop being childish for once.
CONSTANCE. And what does that mean, if you please?
COUNTESS. It means Dickie. You know perfectly well that we love him and fuss over him just as if he were still alive. He’s a sacred memory and we wouldn’t hurt his feelings for the world. But please don’t plump him in my lap when I’m settling the future of mankind. His basket is in the corner — he knows where it is,
and he can just go and sit in it.
CONSTANCE. So you’re against Dickie too ! You too !
COUNTESS. Constance! I’m not in the least against Dickie! I adore Dickie. But you know as well as I that Dickie is only a convention with us. It’s a beautiful convention — but it doesn’t have to bark all the time. Besides, it’s you that spoil him. The time you went to visit your niece and left him with me, we got on
marvelously together. He didn’t bark, he didn’t tear things, he didn’t even eat. But when you’re with him, one can pay
attention to nothing else. I’m not going to take Dickie in my lap at a solemn moment like this, no, not for anything in the world. And that’s that!
GABRIELLE (verj sweetlj ) . Constance, dear, I don’t mind taking him in my lap. He loves to sit in my lap, don’t you, darling ?
CONSTANCE. Kindly stop putting on angelic airs, Gabrielle. I know you very well. You’re much too sweet to be sincere. There’s plenty of times that I make believe that Dickie is here, when really I’ve left him home, and you cuddle and pet him just the same.
GABRIELLE. I adore animals.
CONSTANCE. If you adore animals, you shouldn’t pet them when they’re not there. It’s a form of hypocrisy.
COUNTESS. Now, Constance, Gabrielle has as much right as you .
CONSTANCE. Gabrielle has no right to do what she does. Do you know what she does? She invites people to come to tea with us. People whom we know nothing about. People who exist only in her imagination.
COUNTESS. You think that’s not an existence ?
GABRIELLE. I don’t invite them at all. They come by themselves. What can I do ?
CONSTANCE. You might introduce us.
COUNTESS. If you think they’re only imaginary, there’s no point in your meeting them, is there?
CONSTANCE. Of course they’re imaginary. But who likes to have imaginary people staring at one? Especially strangers.
GABRIELLE. Oh, they’re really very nice . . .
CONSTANCE. Tell me just one thing, Gabrielle — are they here now?
COUNTESS. Am I to be allowed to
speak? Or is this going to be the
same as the argument about inoculating
Josephine’s cat, when we didn’t get
to the subject at all?
CONSTANCE. Never! Never! Never! I’ll never give my consent to that. (To Dickie) I’d never do a thing like that to you, Dickie sweet . . . Oh, no ! Oh, no ! (She begins to weep softly.)
COUNTESS. Good heavens! Now we have her in tears. What an impossible creature! With the fate of humanity
hanging in the balance ! All right, all right, stop crying. I’ll take him in my lap. Come, Dickie, Dickie.
CONSTANCE. No. He won’t go now. Oh, how can you be so cruel? Don’t you suppose I know about Dickie? Don’t you think I’d rather have him here alive and woolly and frisking around the way he used to ? You have your Adolphe. Gabrielle has her birds. But I have only Dickie. Do you think I’d be so silly about him if it
wasn’t that it’s only by pretending that he’s here all the time that I get him to come sometimes, really? Next time I won’t bring him !
COUNTESS. Now let’s not get ourselves
worked up over nothing. Come here,
Dickie . . . Irma is going to take you for
a nice walk. (She rings her hell) Irma !
(Irma appears on the landing.)
CONSTANCE. No. He doesn’t want to
go. Besides, I didn’t bring him today.
So there !
COUNTESS. Very well, then. Irma,
make sure the door is locked.
IRMA. Yes, Countess.
CONSTANCE. What do you mean? Why
locked? Who’s coming?
COUNTESS. If you’d let me get a word
in, you’d know by now. A terrible thing
has happened. This morning, this very
morning, exactly at noon . . .
CONSTANCE (thrilled). Oh, how ex-
COUNTESS. Be quiet. This morning,
exactly at noon, thanks to a young man
who drowned himself in the Seine . . .
Oh, yes, while I think of it — do you
know a mazurka called La Belle Polonaise?
CONSTANCE. Yes, Aurelia.
COUNTESS. Could you sing it now?
This very minute ?
CONSTANCE. Yes, Aurelia.
COUNTESS. All of it?
CONSTANCE. Yes, AuTclia. But who’s
interrupting now, Aurelia?
COUNTESS. You’re right. Well, this
morning, exactly at noon, I discovered a
horrible plot. There is a group of men
who intend to tear down the whole city !
CONSTANCE. Is that all?
GABRIELLE. But I don’t understand, Aurelia. Why should men want to tear down the city? It was they themselves who put it up.
COUNTESS. You are so innocent, my
poor Gabrielle. There are people in the
world who want to destroy everything.
They have the fever of destruction. Even
when they pretend that they’re building,
it is only in order to destroy. When they
put up a new building, they quietly knock
down two old ones. They build cities so
that they can destroy the countryside.
They destroy space with telephones and
time with airplanes. Humanity is now
dedicated to the task of universal destruc-
tion. I am speaking, of course, primarily
of the male sex.
GABRIELLE (shockcd) . Oh . . . !
CONSTANCE. Aurelia ! Must you talk
sex in front of Gabrielle ?
COUNTESS. There are two sexes.
CONSTANCE. Gabrielle is a virgin,
COUNTESS. Oh, she can’t be as
innocent as all that. She keeps canaries.
GABRIELLE. I think you’re being very
cruel about men, Aurelia. Men are big
and beautiful, and as loyal as dogs. I
preferred not to marry, it’s true. But I
hear excellent reports from friends who
have had an opportunity to observe them
COUNTESS. My poor darling! You are
still living in a dream. But one day, you
will wake up as 1 have, and then you will
see what is happening in the world. The
tide has turned, my dear. Men are
changing back into beasts. They know it.
They no longer try to hide it. There was
once such a thing as manners. I remember
a time when the hungriest was the one
who took the longest to pick up his fork.
The one with the broadest grin was the
one who needed most to go to the . . .
It was such fun to keep them grinning like
that for hours. But now they no longer
pretend. Just look at them — snuffling
their soup like pigs, tearing their meat
like tigers, crunching their lettuce like
crocodiles ! A man doesn’t take your hand
nowadays. He gives you his paw.
CONSTANCE. Would that trouble you
so much if they turned into animals?
Personally, I think it’s a good idea.
GABRIELLE. Oh, I’d love to see them
like that. They’d be sweet.
CONSTANCE. It might be the salvation
of the human race.
COUNTESS (to Constance). You’d make
a fine rabbit, wouldn’t you?
COUNTESS. Naturally. You don’t think
it’s only the men who are changing? You
change along with them. Husbands and
wives together. We’re all one race, you
CONSTANCE. You think so? And why
would my poor husband have to be a
rabbit if he were alive?
COUNTESS. Remember his front teeth?
When he nibbled his celery?
CONSTANCE. I’m happy to say, I
remember absolutely nothing about him.
All I remember on that subject is the time
that Father Lacordaire tried to kiss me in
COUNTESS. Yes, yes, of course.
CONSTANCE. And what does that
mean, if you please, “Yes, yes, of
COUNTESS. Constance, just this once,
look us in the eye and tell us truly — did
that really happen or did you read about
it in a book ?
CONSTANCE. Now I’m being insultcd !
COUNTESS. We promise you faithfully
that we’ll believe it all over again after-
wards, won’t we, Gabrielle? But tell us
the truth this once.
CONSTANCE. How dare you question
my memories? Suppose 1 said your pearls
were false !
COUNTESS. They were.
CONSTANCE. I’m not asking what they
were. I’m asking what they are. Are they
false or are they real ?
COUNTESS. Everyone knows that little
by little, as one wears pearls, they
CONSTANCE. And isn’t it exactly the
same with memories?
COUNTESS. Now do not let us waste
time. I must go on.
CONSTANCE. I think Gabrielle is
perfectly right about men. There are still
plenty who haven’t changed a bit. There’s
an old Senator who bows to Gabrielle
every day when he passes her in front of the palace. And he takes off his hat each
GABRIELLE. That’s perfectly true,
Aurelia. He’s always pushing an empty
baby carriage, and he always stops and
COUNTESS. Don’t be taken in,
Gabrielle. It’s all make-believe. And all
we can expect from these make-believe
men is itself make-believe. They give
us face-powder made of stones, sausages
made of sawdust, shirts made of glass,
stockings made of milk. It’s all a vulgar
pretence. And if that is the case, imagine
what passes, these days, for virtue,
sincerity, generosity and love ! I warn
you, Gabrielle, don’t let this Senator with
the empty baby carriage pull the wool
over your eyes.
GABRIELLE. He’s really the soul of
courtesy. He seems very correct.
COUNTESS. Those are the worst.
Gabrielle, beware ! He’ll make you put on
black riding boots, while he dances the
can-can around you, singing God knows
what filth at the top of his voice. The
very thought makes one’s blood run cold !
GABRIELLE. You think that’s what he
has in mind?
COUNTESS. Of course. Men have lost
all sense of decency. They are all equally
disgusting. Just look at them in the
evening, sitting at their tables in the cafe,
working away in unison with their tooth-
picks, hour after hour, digging up roast
beef, veal, onion . . .
CONSTANCE. They don’t harm anyone
COUNTESS. Then why do you barricade
your door, and make your friends meow
before you let them come up ? Incidentally,
we must make an interesting sight,
Gabrielle and I, yowling together on
your doorstep like a couple of tomcats !
CONSTANCE. There’s no need at all for
you to yowl together. One would be
quite enough. And you know perfectly
well why I have to do it. It’s because there
COUNTESS. I don’t quite see what
prevents murderers from meowing like
anybody else. But why are there murder-
CONSTANCE. Why? Because there are
COUNTESS. And why are there thieves ?
Why is there almost nothing but thieves ?
CONSTANCE. Because they w^orship
money. Because money is king.
COUNTESS. Ah — now^ we’ve come to it.
Because we live in the reign of the Golden
Calf. Did you realize that, Gabrielle?
Men now publicly worship the Golden
GABRIELLE. How awful ! Have the
authorities been notified?
COUNTESS. The authorities do it them-
GABRIELLE. Oh! Has anyone talked to
COUNTESS. Nowadays only money
talks to the bishop. And so you see why
I asked you to come here today. The world
has gone out of its mind. Unless we
do something, humanity is doomed!
Constance, have you any suggestions?
CONSTANCE. I know what I always do
in a case like this . . .
COUNTESS. You write to the Prime
CONSTANCE. He always does what I
COUNTESS. Does he ever answer your
CONSTANCE. He knows I prefer him not to. It might excite gossip. Besides, I don’t always write. Sometimes I wire. The time I told him about the Archbishop’s frigidaire, it was by wire. And they sent a new one the very next day.
COUNTESS. There was probably a com-
mission in it for someone. And what do
you suggest, Gabrielle ?
CONSTANCE. Now, how can she tell
you until she’s consulted her voices?
GABRIELLE. I could go right homc and
consult them, and we could meet again
COUNTESS. There’s no time for that.
Besides, your voices are not real voices.
GABRIELLE (furious) . How dare you
say a thing like that?
COUNTESS. Where do your voices
come from? Still from your sewing-
GABRIELLE. Not at all. They’ve passed
into my hot- water bottle. And it’s much nicer that way. They don’t chati-er any
more. They gurgle. But they haven’t been
a bit nice to me lately. Last night they
kept telling me to let my canaries out.
“Let them out. Let them out. Let them
CONSTANCE. Did you?
GABRIELLE. I Opened the cage. They
COUNTESS. I don’t call that voices.
Objects talk — everyone knows that. It’s
the principle of the phonograph. But to
ask a hot- water bottle for advice is silly.
What does a hot- water bottle know? No,
all we have to consult here is our own
CONSTANCE. Very well then, tell us
what you have decided. Since you’re
asking our opinion, you’ve doubtless
made up your mind.
COUNTESS. Yes, I’ve thought the whole
thing out. All 1 really needed to discover
was the source of the infection. Today I
COUNTESS. You’ll see soon enough.
I’ve baited a trap. In just a few minutes,
the rats will be here.
GABRIELLE (in alarm) . Rats !
COUNTESS. Don’t be alarmed. They’re
still in human form.
GABRIELLE. Hcavens ! What are you
going to do with them?
COUNTESS. That’s just the question.
Suppose I get these wicked men all here
at once — in my cellar — have I the right
to exterminate them?
GABRIELLE. To kill them?
CONSTANCE. That’s not a question for
us. You’ll have to ask Father Bridet.
COUNTESS. I have asked him. Yes. One
day, in confession, I told him frankly
that I had a secret desire to destroy all
wicked people. He said: “By all means,
my child. And when you’re ready to go
into action, I’ll lend you the jawbone of
CONSTANCE. That’s just talk. You get
him to put that in writing.
GABRIELLE. What’s your scheme,
COUNTESS. That’s a secret.
CONSTANCE. It’s not so easy to kill
them. Let’s say you had a tank full of
vitriol all ready for them. You could
never get them to vs^alk into it. There’s
nothing so stubborn as a man w^hen you
w^ant him to do something.
COUNTESS. Leave that to me.
CONSTANCE. But if they’re killed,
they’re bound to be missed, and then
w^e’ll be fined. They fine you for every
little thing these days.
COUNTESS. They won’t be missed.
GABRIELLE. I wish Josephine w^ere
here. Her sister’s husband was a lawyer.
She knows all about these things.
COUNTESS. Do you miss a cold when
it’s gone? Or the germs that caused it?
When the world feels well again, do you
think it will regret its illness? No, it will
stretch itself joyfully, and it will smile —
CONSTANCE. Just a moment! Gabrielle,
are they here now ? Yes or no ?
COUNTESS. What’s the matter with
CONSTANCE. I’m simply asking
Gabrielle if her friends are in the room
or not. I have a right to know.
GABRIELLE. I’m not allowed to say.
CONSTANCE. I kuow Very well they
are. I’m sure of it. Otherwise you
wouldn’t be making faces.
COUNTESS. May I ask what difference
it makes to you if her friends are in the
CONSTANCE. Just this : If they’re here,
I’m not going to say another word! I’m
certainly not going to commit myself in a
matter involving the death sentence in
the presence of third parties, whether
they exist or not.
GABRIELLE. That’s not being very nice
to my guests, is it?
COUNTESS. Constance, you must be
mad ! Or are you so stupid as to think that
just because we’re alone, there’s nobody
with us ? Do you consider us so boring or
repulsive that of all the millions of beings,
imaginary or otherwise, who are prowling
about in space, there’s not one who
might possibly enjoy spending a little time
with us? On the contrary, my dear — my
house is full of guests always. They know
that here they have a place in the universe
where they can come, when they’re lonely and be sure of a welcome. For my
part, I’m delighted to have them.
GABRIELLE. Thank you, Aurelia.
CONSTANCE. You kuow perfectly well,
Aurelia . . .
COUNTESS. I know perfectly well that
at this moment the whole universe is
listening to us — and that every word we
say echoes to the remotest star. To
pretend otherwise is the sheerest hypoc-
CONSTANCE. Then why do you insult
me in front of everybody? I’m not mean.
I’m shy. 1 feel timid about giving an
opinion in front of such a crowd.
Furthermore, if you think I’m so bad and
so stupid, why did you invite me, in the
COUNTESS. I’ll tell you. And I’ll tell
you why, disagreeable as you are, I
always give you the biggest piece of cake
and my best honey. It’s because when you
come there’s always someone with you —
and I don’t mean Dickie — I mean some-
one who resembles you like a sister, only
she’s young and lovely, and she sits
modestly to one side and smiles at me
tenderly all the time you’re bickering
and quarreling, and never says a word.
That’s the Constance to whom I give the
cake that you gobble, and it’s because
of her that you’re here today, and it’s her
vote that I’m asking you to cast in this
crucial moment. And not yours, which is
of no importance whatever.
CONSTANCE. I’m leaving.
COUNTESS. Be so good as to sit down.
I can’t let her go yet.
CONSTANCE (crossing toward the stairs).
No. This is too much. I’m taking her
IRMA. Madame Josephine.
COUNTESS. Thank heaven!
GABRIELLE. We’re saved.
( Josephine y the Madwoman of La Concorde,
sweeps in majestically in a get-up somewhere
between the regal and the priestly.)
JOSEPHINE. My dear friends, today once again, -I waited for President Wilson — but he didn’t come out.
COUNTESS. You’ll have to wait quite a while longer before he does. He’s been dead since 1924.
267 THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT
JOSEPHINE. I have plenty of time.
COUNTESS. In anyone else, Josephine,
these extravagances might seem a little
childish. But a person of your judgment
doubtless has her reasons for wanting to
talk to a man to whom no one would
listen when he was alive. We have a legal
problem for you. Suppose you had all the
world’s criminals here in this room. And
suppose you had a way of getting rid of
them forever. Would you have the right to do it?
JOSEPHINE. Why not?
GABRIELLE. But, Josephine, so many people !
JOSEPHINE. Exactly my point. De minimis non curat lex! The more there are, the more legal it is. It’s impersonal. It’s even military. It’s the
cardinal principle of battle — you get all
your enemies in one place, and you kill
them all together at one time. Because if
you had to track them down one by one
in their houses and offices, you’d get
tired, and sooner or later you’d stop. I
believe your idea is very practical,
Aurelia. I can’t imagine why we never
thought of it before.
GABRIELLE. Well, if you think it’s all
right to do it . . .
JOSEPHINE. By all means. Your crimi-
nals have had a fair trial, I suppose?
JOSEPHINE. Certainly. You can’t kill
anybody without a trial. That’s ele-
mentary. “No man shall be deprived of
his life, liberty and property without due
process of law.”
COUNTESS. They deprive us of ours.
JOSEPHINE. That’s not the point.
You’re not accused of anything. Every
accused — man, woman or child — has the
right to defend himself at the bar of
justice. Even animals. Before the Deluge,
you will recall, the Lord permitted Noah
to speak in defense of his fellow mortals.
He evidently stuttered. You know the
result. On the other hand. Captain
Dreyfus was not only innocent — he was
defended by a marvelous orator. The
result was precisely the same. So you see,
in having a trial, you run no risk whatever.
COUNTESS. But if I give them the slight-
est cause for suspicion — I’ll lose them.
JOSEPHINE . There ‘s a simple procedure
prescribed in such cases. You can summon
the defendants by calling them three
times — mentally, if you like. If they don’t
appear, the court may designate an attor-
ney who will represent them. This attor-
ney can then argue their case to the court,
in absentia, and a judgment can then be
rendered, in contumacio.
COUNTESS. But I don’t know any
attorneys. And we have only ten minutes.
GABRIELLE. Hurry, Josephine, hurry !
JOSEPHINE. In case of emergency, it is
permissible for the court to order the
first passer-by to act as attorney for the
defense. A defense is like a baptism.
Absolutely indispensable, but you don’t
have to know anything to do it. Ask Irma
to get you somebody. Anybody.
COUNTESS. The Deaf-Mute ?
JOSEPHINE. Well — that’s getting it
down a bit fine. That might be question-
able on appeal.
COUNTESS (calls). Irma! What about
the Police Sergeant?
JOSEPHINE. He won’t do. He’s under
oath to the state.
IRMA. Yes, Countess?
COUNTESS. Who’s out there, Irma?
IRMA. All our friends. Countess.
There’s the Ragpicker and . . .
COUNTESS. Send down the Ragpicker.
CONSTANCE. Do you think it’s wise to
have all those millionaires represented by
JOSEPHINE. It’s a first-rate choice.
Criminals are always represented by their
opposites. Murderers, by someone who
obviously wouldn’t hurt a fly. Rapists, by
a member of the League for Decency.
Experience shows it’s the only way to get
COUNTESS. But we must not have an
acquittal. That would mean the end of the
JOSEPHINE. Justice is justice, my dear.
(The Ragpicker comes down, with a stately air.
Behind him, on the landing, appear the other
THE RAGPICKER. Greetings, Countess.
Greetings, ladies. My most sincere
COUNTESS. Has Irma told you . . . ?
THE RAGPICKER. She Said something
about a trial.
COUNTESS. You have been appointed
attorney for the defense.
THE RAGPICKER. Terribly flattered,
COUNTESS. You realize, don’t you,
how much depends on the outcome of
JOSEPHINE. Do you know the de-
fendants well enough to undertake the
THE RAGPICKER. I know them to the
bottom of their souls. I go through their
garbage every day.
CONSTANCE. And what do you find
THE RAGPICKER. Mostly flowers.
GABRIELLE. It’s truc, you know, the
rich are always surrounded with flowers.
CONSTANCE. How beautiful !
COUNTESS. Are you trying to prejudice
THE RAGPICKER. Oh no, Countcss, no.
COUNTESS. We want a completely
THE RAGPICKER. Of COUTSC, Countess, of course. Permit me to make a suggestion.
COUNTESS. Will you preside,
THE RAGPICKER. Instead of speaking as
attorney, suppose you let me speak
directly as defendant. It will be more
convincing, and I can get into it more.
JOSEPHINE. Excellent idea. Motion
COUNTESS. We don’t want you to be
too convincing, remember.
THE RAGPICKER. Impartial, Countess,
JOSEPHINE. Well? Have you prepared
THE RAGPICKER. How Hch am I?
JOSEPHINE. Millions. Billions.
THE RAGPICKER. How did I get them?
Theft? Murder? Embezzlement?
COUNTESS. Most likely.
THE RAGPICKER. Do I havc a wife? A
THE RAGPICKER. All right. I’m ready.
GABRIELLE. Will you have some tea ?
THE RAGPICKER. Is that gOod?
CONSTANCE. Very good for the voice.
The Russians drink nothing but tea. And
they talk like anything.
THE RAGPICKER. All right. Tea.
JOSEPHINE (to the Vagabonds). Come
in. Come in. All of you. You may take
places. The trial is public. fThe Vagabonds
dispose themselves on the steps and elsewhere)
Your bell, if you please, Aurelia.
COUNTESS. But what if I should need
to ring for Irma?
JOSEPHINE. Irma will sit here, next to
me. If you need her, she can ring for her-
self. (To the Police Sergeant and the Police-
man) Conduct the accused to the bar.
(The oncers conduct the Ragpicker to a bar
improvised with a rocking chair and a packing
case marked Fragile. The Ragpicker mounts
the box. She rings the bell) The court is now
in session. (All sit) Counsel for the
defense, you may take the oath.
THE RAGPICKER. I swear to tell the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but
the truth, so help me God.
JOSEPHINE. Nonsense! You’re not a
witness. You’re an attorney. It’s your
duty to lie, conceal and distort everything,
and slander everybody.
THE RAGPICKER. All right. I swear to
lie, conceal and distort everything, and
(Josephine rings stridently . )
JOSEPHINE. Quiet! Begin.
THE RAGPICKER. May it please the
honorable, august and elegant Court . . .
JOSEPHINE. Flattery will get you no-
where. That will do. The defense has
been heard. Cross-examination.
COUNTESS. Mr. President . . .
THE RAGPICKER (bowing with dignity).
COUNTESS. Do you know what you are
THE RAGPICKER. I Can’t for the life of
me imagine. My life is an open book. My
ways are known to all. I am a pillar of the
church and the sole support of the Opera.
My hands are spotless.
COUNTESS. What an atrocious lie!
Just look at them !
CONSTANCE. You don’t have to insult
the man. He’s only lying to please you.
COUNTESS. Be quiet, Constance! You
don’t get the idea at all. (To the Ragpicker)
You are charged with the crime of
THE RAGPICKER. Worshipping money ?
JOSEPHINE. Do you plead guilty or
not guilty? Which is it?
THE RAGPICKER. Why, Your Honor. . .
JOSEPHINE. Yes or no?
THE RAGPICKER. Yes or no ? No! I
don’t worship money, Countess. Heavens,
no! Money worships me. It adores me.
It won’t let me alone. It’s damned
embarrassing, I can tell you.
JOSEPHINE. Kindly watch your
COUNTESS. Defendant, tell the Court
how you came by your money.
THE RAGPICKER. The first time money
came to me, I was a mere boy, a little
golden-haired child in the bosom of my
dear family. It came to me suddenly in
the guise of a gold brick which, in my
innocence, I picked out of a garbage can
one day while playing. I was horrified,
as you can imagine. I immediately tried to
get rid of it by swapping it for a little
run-down one-track railroad which, to my
consternation, at once sold itself for a
hundred times its value. In a desperate
effort to get rid of this money, I began to
buy things. I bought the Northern
Refineries, the Galeries Lafayette, and
the Schneider- Creusot Munition Works.
And now I’m stuck with them. It’s a hor-
rible fate — but I’m resigned to it. I don’t
ask for your sympathy, I don’t ask for
your pity — all I ask for is a little common
human understanding . . .
(He begins to cry.)
COUNTESS. I object. This wretch is
trying to play on the emotions of the
JOSEPHINE. The Court has no
THE RAGPICKER. Everyone knows that
the poor have no one but themselves to
blame for their poverty. It’s only just that
they should suffer the consequences. But
how is it the fault of the rich if they’re
COUNTESS. Dry your tears. You’re
deceiving nobody. If, as you say, you’re
ashamed of your money, why is it you
hold onto it with such a death-grip ?
THE RAGPICKER. Me?
STREET PEDDLER. You never part with
a franc !
JUGGLER. You wouldn’t even give the
poor Deaf-Mute a sou !
THE RAGPICKER. Me, hold onto
money? What slander! What injustice!
What a thing to say to me in the presence
of this honorable, august and elegant
Court! I spend all my time trying to
spend my money. If I have tan shoes, I
buy black ones. If I have a bicycle, I buy
a motor car. If I have a wife, I buy . . .
JOSEPHINE (rings). Order!
THE RAGPICKER. I dispatch a plane to
Java for a bouquet of flowers. I send a
steamer to Egypt for a basket of figs. I
send a special representative to New York
to fetch me an ice-cream cone. And if
it’s not just exactly right, back it goes.
But no matter what I do, I can’t get rid
of my money ! If I play a hundred to one
shot, the horse comes in by twenty
lengths. If I throw a diamond in the Seine,
it turns up in the trout they serve me for
lunch. Ten diamonds — ten trout. Well,
now, do you suppose I can get rid of forty
millions by giving a sou to a deaf-mute?
Is it even worth the effort ?
CONSTANCE. He’s right.
THE RAGPICKER. Ah! You scc, my
dear? At last, there is somebody who
understands me ! Somebody who is not
only beautiful, but extraordinarily sensi-
tive and intelligent.
COUNTESS. I object!
THE RAGPICKER. I should be delighted
to send you some flowers, Miss — directly
I’m acquitted. What flowers do you
THE RAGPICKER. You shall have a bale
every morning for the next five years.
Money means nothing to me.
CONSTANCE. And amaryllis.
THE RAGPICKER. I’ll make a note of the
name. (In his best lyrical style) The lady
understands, ladies and gentlemen. The
lady is no fool. She’s been around and she
knows what’s what. If I gave the Deaf-
Mute a franc, twenty francs, twenty
million francs — I still wouldn’t make a
dent in the forty times a thousand million
francs that I’m afflicted with ! Right, little lady?
THE RAGPICKER. Like on the Stock Exchange. You buy a stock, it sinks at once like a plummet. But if I buy a stock,
it turns around and soars like an eagle. If I buy it at 33 . . .
PEDDLER. It goes up to a thousand.
THE RAGPICKER. It goes to twenty
thousand ! That’s how I bought my twelve
chateaux, my twenty villas, my 234 farms.
That’s how 1 endow the Opera and keep
my twelve ballerinas.
FLOWER GIRL. I hope every one of
them deceives you every moment of the
THE RAGPICKER. How Can they deccive
me ? Suppose they try to deceive me with
the male chorus, the general director,
the assistant electrician or the English
horn — I own them all, body and soul. It
would be like deceiving me with my big
CONSTANCE. Don’t listen, Gabrielle.
GABRIELLE. Listen to what?
THE RAGPICKER. No. I am incapable of
jealousy. I have all the women — or I can
have them, which is the same thing. I get
the thin ones with caviar — the fat ones
with pearls . , .
COUNTESS. So you think there are no
women with morals?
THE RAGPICKER. I mix morals with
mink — delicious combination. I drip
pearls into protests. I adorn resistance
with rubies. My touch is jeweled; my
smile, a motor car. What woman can
withstand me? I lift my little finger — and
do they fall? — Like leaves in autumn —
like tin cans from a second-story window.
CONSTANCE. That’s going a little too
COUNTESS. You see where money
THE RAGPICKER. Ofcourse. When you
have no money, nobody trusts you,
nobody believes you, nobody likes you.
Because to have money is to be virtuous,
honest, beautiful and witty. And to be
without is to be ugly and boring and
stupid and useless.
COUNTESS. One last question. Suppose you find this oil you’re looking for. What do you propose to do with it?
THE RAGPICKER. I propose to make
war! I propose to conquer the world!
COUNTESS. You have heard the de-
fense, such as it is. I demand a verdict of
THE RAGPICKER. What are you talking
about? Guilty? I? I am never guilty!
JOSEPHINE. I order you to keep quiet.
THE RAGPICKER. I am never quiet!
JOSEPHINE. Quiet, in the name of the
THE RAGPICKER. I am the law. When I
speak, that is the law. When I present my
backside, it is etiquette to smile and to
apply the lips respectfully. It is more than
etiquette — it is a cherished national
privilege, guaranteed by the Constitution.
JOSEPHINE. That’s contempt of court.
The trial is over.
COUNTESS. And the verdict ?
ALL. Guilty !
JOSEPHINE. Guilty as charged.
COUNTESS. Then I have full authority
to carry out the sentence ?
COUNTESS. I can do what I like with
ALL. Yes !
COUNTESS. I have the right to ex-
ALL. Yes !
JOSEPHINE. Court adjourned!
COUNTESS (to the Ragpicker). Con-
gratulations, Ragpicker. A marvelous
defense. Absolutely impartial.
THE RAGPICKER. Had I known a little
before, I could have done better. 1 could
have prepared a little speech, like the
time I used to sell the Miracle Spot
Remover . . .
JOSEPHINE. No need for that. You did
very well, extempore. The likeness was
striking and the style reminiscent of
Clemenceau. I predict a brilliant future
for you. Good-bye, Aurelia. I’ll take our
little Gabrielle home.
CONSTANCE. I’m going to walk along
the river. (To Dickie) Oh! So here you
are. And your ear all bloody! Dickie!
Have you been fighting again? Oh,
dear . . . !
COUNTESS (to the Ragpicker). See that
she gets home all right, won’t you? She
loses everything on the way. And in the
queerest places. Her prayer book in the
butcher shop. And her corset in church.
THE RAGPICKER (howing and offering his
arm). Permit me, Madame.
STREET SINGER. Oh, Countess — my
COUNTESS. Oh, yes. Constance, wait a
moment. (To the Singer) Well? Begin.
Do you hear. Mademoiselle,
Those musicians of hell ?
CONSTANCE. Why, of course, it’s La
Belle Polonaise . . .
From Poland to France
Comes this marvelous dance.
Will you foot it, perchance?
SINGER. I’m saved!
JOSEPHINE, (reappearing at the head oj
the stairs) .
Now my arm I entwine
Round these contours divine.
So pure, so impassioned.
Which Cupid has fashioned . . .
GABRIELLE (reappearing also – she sings a quartet with the others) . Come, let’s dance the mazurka, that [devilish measure, ‘Tis a joy that’s reserved to the gods [for their pleasure — Let’s gallop, let’s hop, With never a stop.
My blonde Polish miss, Let our heads spin and turn
As the dance-floor we spurn —
There was never such pleasure as this !
(They all exit dancing.)
IRMA. It’s time for your afternoon nap.
COUNTESS. But suppose they come, Irma !
IRMA. I’ll watch out for them.
COUNTESS. Thank you, Irma. I am tired. (She smiles) Did you ever see a trial end more happily in your life ?
IRMA. Lie down and close your eyes a moment.
(The Countess stretches out on the chaise-
longue and shuts her eyes. Irma tiptoes out.
In a moment^ Pierre comes down softly^ the
feather boa in his hands. He stands over the
chaise-longue J looking tenderly down at the
sleeping woman, then kneels beside her and
takes her hand.)
COUNTESS (without opening her eyes) . Is
it you, Adolphe Bertaut?
PIERRE. It’s only Pierre.
COUNTESS. Don’t lie to me, Adolphe
Bertaut. These are your hands. Why do
you complicate things always? Say that
PIERRE. Yes. It is I.
COUNTESS. Would it cost you so much
to call me Aurelia?
PIERRE. It’s I, Aurelia.
COUNTESS, why did you leave me,
Adolphe Bertaut? Was she so very lovely,
this Georgette of yours ?
PIERRE. No. You are a thousand times
COUNTESS. But she was clever.
PIERRE. She was stupid.
COUNTESS. It was her soul, then, that
drew you? When you looked into her
eyes, you saw a vision of heaven, perhaps?
PIERRE. I saw nothing.
COUNTESS. That’s how it is with men.
They love you because you are beautiful
and clever and soulful — and at the first
opportunity they leave you for someone
who is plain and dull and soulless. But
why does it have to be like that, Adolphe
PIERRE. Why, Aurelia?
COUNTESS. I know very well she wasn’t
rich. Because when I saw you that time at
the grocer’s, and you snatched the only
good melon from right under my nose,
your cuffs, my poor friend, were badly
frayed . . .
PIERRE. Yes. She was poor.
COUNTESS. “Was” poor? Is she dead
then? If it’s because she’s dead that you’ve
come back to me — then no. Go away. I
will not take their leavings from the
dead. I refuse to inherit you . . .
PIERRE. She’s quite well.
COUNTESS. Your hands are still the
same, Adolphe Bertaut. Your touch is
young and firm. Because it’s the only part
of you that has stayed with me. The rest
of you is pretty far gone, I’m afraid. I can
see why you’d rather not come near me
when my eyes are open. It’s thoughtful
PIERRE. Yes. I’ve aged.
COUNTESS. Not I. I am young because
I haven’t had to live dowoi my youth, like
you. I have it with me still, as fresh and
beautiful as ever. But when you walk now
in the park at Colombes with Georgette,
I’m sure . . .
PIERRE. There is no longer a park at
COUNTESS. Is there a park still at St.
Cloud? Is there a park at Versailles? I’ve
never gone back to see. But I think, if they
could move, those trees would have
walked away in disgust the day you went
there with Georgette . . .
PIERRE. They did. Not many are left.
COUNTESS. You take her also, I suppose,
to hear Denise?
PIERRE. No one hears Denise any more.
COUNTESS. It was on the way home
from Denise, Adolphe Bertaut, that I first
took your arm. Because it was windy and
it was late. I have never set foot in that
street again. I go the other way round.
It’s not easy, in the winter, when there’s
ice. One is quite apt to fall. I often do.
PIERRE. Oh, my darling — forgive me.
COUNTESS. No, never. I will never
forgive you. It was very bad taste to take
her to the very places where we’d been
PIERRE. All the same, I swear,
Aurelia . . ,
COUNTESS. Don’t swear. I know what
you did. You gave her the same flowers.
You bought her the same chocolates. But
has she any left? No. I have all your
flowers still. I have twelve chocolates.
No, I will never forgive you as long as I
PIERRE. I always loved you, Aurelia.
COUNTESS. You “loved” me? Then
you too are dead, Adolphe Bertaut?
PIERRE. No. I love you. I shall always
love you, Aurelia.
COUNTESS. Yes. I know. That much I’ve
always known. I knew it the moment you
went away, Adolphe, and I knew that
nothing could ever change it. Georgette
is in his arms now — yes. But he loves me.
Tonight he’s taken Georgette to hear
Denise — yes. But he loves me … I know it. You never loved her. Do you think I
believed for one moment that absurd
story about her running off with the
osteopath? Of course not. Since you
didn’t love her, obviously she stayed with
you. And, after that, when she came
back, and I heard about her going off with
the surveyor — I knew that couldn’t be
true, either. You’ll never get rid of her,
Adolphe Bertaut — ^never. Because you
don’t love her.
PIERRE. I need your pity, Aurelia. I
need your love. Don’t forget me . . .
COUNTESS. Farewell, Adolphe Bertaut.
Farewell. Let go my hand, and give it to
little Pierre. (Pierre lets go her hand, and
after a moment takes it again. The Countess
opens her eyes) Pierre? Ah, it’s you. Has he
PIERRE. Yes, Countess.
COUNTESS. I didn’t hear him go. Oh,
he knows how to make a quick exit, that
one. (She sees the boa) Good heavens!
Wherever did you find it?
PIERRE. In the wardrobe, Countess.
When I took off the mirror.
COUNTESS. Was there a purple felt
shopping bag with it?
PIERRE. Yes, Countess.
COUNTESS. And a little child’s sewing
PIERRE. No, Countess.
COUNTESS. Oh, they’re frightened
now. They’re trembling for their lives.
You see what they’re up to? They’re
quietly putting back all the things they
have stolen. I never open that wardrobe,
of course, on account of the old woman
in the mirror. But I have sharp eyes. I
don’t need to open it to see what’s in it.
Up to this morning, that wardrobe was
empty. And now — you see ? But, dear me,
how stupid they are ! The one thing I
really miss is my little sewing box. It’s
something they stole from me when I was
a child. They haven’t put it back? You’re
PIERRE. What was it like?
COUNTESS. Green cardboard with
paper lace and gold stamping. I got it for
Christmas when I was seven. They stole
it the very next day. I cried my eyes out
every time I thought of it — until I was
PIERRE. It’s not there, Countess.
COUNTESS. The thimble was gilt. I
swore I’d never use any other. Look at my
poor fingers . . .
PIERRE. They’ve kept the thimble too.
COUNTESS. Splendid! Then I’m under
no obligation to be merciful. Put the boa
around my neck, Pierre. I want them to
see me wearing it. They’ll think it’s a
(Irma runs in excitedly.)
IRMA. Here they come. Countess ! You
were right — it’s a procession. The street
is full of limousines and taxis !
COUNTESS. I will receive them. (As
Pierre hesitates to leave her) Don’t worry.
There’s nothing to be frightened of.
(Pierre goes out) Irma, did you remember
to stir the kerosene into the water?
IRMA. Yes, Countess. Here it is.
COUNTESS (looking critically at the bottle) .
You might as well pour in what’s left of
the tea. (Irma shakes up the liquid) Don’t
forget, I’m supposed to be deaf. I want to
hear what they’re thinking.
IRMA. Yes, Countess.
COUNTESS (putting thejinishing touches to
her make-up) . I don’t have to be merciful
— but, after all, I do want to be just . . .
(Irma goes up to the landing and exits. As
soon as she is alone, the Countess presses the
brick, and the trap door opens. There is a
confused sound oj auto horns in the street
above, and the noise of an approaching
IRMA (offstage). Yes, Mr. President.
Come in, Mr. President. You’re ex-
pected, Mr. President. This way, Mr.
President. (The Presidents come down, led
by the President. They all look alike, are
dressed alike, and all have long cigars) The
Countess is quite deaf, gentlemen. You’ll
have to shout. (She announces) The
presidents of the boards of directors !
THE PRESIDENT. I had a premonition,
Madame, when I saw you this morning,
that we should meet again. (The Countess
smiles vaguely. He continues, a tone louder)
I want to thank you for your trust. You
may place yourself in our hands with
SECOND PRESIDENT. Louder. The old
trot can’t hear you.
THE PRESIDENT. I have a letter here,
Madame, in which . . .
SECOND PRESIDENT. Loudcr. Louder.
THIRD PRESIDENT (shouting) . Is it true
that you’ve located . . . ? (The Countess
stares at him blankly. He shouts at the top of
his voice) Oil? (The Countess nods with a
smile, and points down. The President produces
a legal paper and a fountain pen) Sign here.
COUNTESS. What is it? I haven’t my
THE PRESIDENT. Your contract.
(He offers the pen.)
COUNTESS. Thank you.
SECOND PRESIDENT (normal voice).
What is it?
THIRD PRESIDENT. WaivcT of all rights.
(He takes it back signed) Thank you. (He
hands it to the Second President) Witness.
(The Second President witnesses it. The
President passes it on to the Third President)
Notarize. (The paper is notarized. The
President turns to the Countess and shouts)
My congratulations. And now, Madame —
(He produces a gold brick wrapped in tissue
paper) If you’ll show us the well, this
package is yours.
COUNTESS. What is it?
THE PRESIDENT. PuTC gold. Twcnty-
four karat. For you.
COUNTESS. Thank you very much. (^5/je
takes it) It’s heavy.
SECOND PRESIDENT. Are you going to
give her that?
THE PRESIDENT. Don’t worry. We’ll
pick it up again on the way out. (He
shouts at the Countess, pointing at the trap
door) Is this the way?
COUNTESS. That’s the way.
(The Second President tries to slip in frst.
The President pulls him back.)
THE PRESIDENT. Just a minute, Mr.
President. After me, if you don’t mind.
And watch those cigars. It’s oil, you
(But as he is about to descend, the Countess
COUNTESS. Just one moment . . .
THE PRESIDENT. YeS ?
COUNTESS. Did any of you happen to
bring along a little sewing box?
THE PRESIDENT. Sewing box? (He pulls
back another impatient President) Take it
easy. 2 74
COUNTESS. Or a little gold thimble ?
THE PRESIDENT. Not me.
THE PRESIDENTS. Not US.
COUNTESS. What a pity!
THE PRESIDENT. Can we go down now?
COUNTESS. Yes. You may go down
now. Watch your step !
(They hurry down eagerly. When they have
quite disappeared^ Irma appears on the landing
and announces the next echelon. J
IRMA. Countess, the Prospectors.
COUNTESS. Heavens! Are there more
IRMA. There’s a whole delegation.
COUNTESS. Send them down.
(The Prospector comes in^ following his
IRMA. Come in, please.
THE PROSPECTOR (snijffing the air like a
bloodhound) . I smell something . . .
IRMA. The Countess. She is very deaf.
THE PROSPECTOR. Good.
(The Prospectors also look alike. Sharp clothes,
Western hats and long noses. They crowd down
the stairs after the Prospector, snijffing in
unison. The Prospector is especially talented.
He casts about on the scent until it leads him to
the decanter on the table. He pours himself a
glass, drinks it off, and belches with much
sati faction. The others join him at once, and
follow his example. They all belch in unison.)
THE PROSPECTORS. Oil?
THE PROSPECTOR. Oil!
THE PROSPECTOR. Traces ? Puddles?
COUNTESS. Pools. Gushcrs.
SECOND PROSPECTOR. Characteristic
odor? (He sniffs)
THE PROSPECTOR. Chanel Number ^.
Nectar ! Undoubtedly — the finest —
rarest ! (He drinks) Sixty gravity crude :
Straight gasoline! (To the Countess) How
found? By blast? Drill?
COUNTESS. By finger.
THE PROSPECTOR (whipping out a docu-
ment) . Sign here, please.
COUNTESS. What is it?
THE PROSPECTOR. Agreement for di-
viding the profits . . .
(The Countess signs.)
SECOND PROSPECTOR (to First Prospec-
tor). What is it?
THE PROSPECTOR (pocketing the paper). Application to enter a lunatic asylum.
COUNTESS. Down there.
(The Prospectors go down, sniffing.)
IRMA. The gentlemen of the press are
COUNTESS. The rest of the machine!
Show them in.
IRMA. The Public Relations Counsel-
lors ! (They enter, all shapes and sizes, all in
blue pin-striped suits and black homburg hats)
The Countess is very deaf, gentlemen.
You’ll have to shout!
FIRST PRESS AGENT. You don’t Say —
Delighted to make the acquaintance of so
charming and beautiful a lady . . .
SECOND PRESS AGENT. LoudcT. She
can’t hear you.
FIRST PRESS AGENT. What a face !
(Shouts) Madame, we are the press. You
know our power. We fix all values. We
set all standards. Your entire future
depends on us.
COUNTESS. How do you do?
FIRST PRESS AGENT. What will we
charge the old trull ? The usual thirty ?
SECOND PRESS AGENT. Forty.
THIRD PRESS AGENT. Sixty.
FIRST PRESS AGENT. All right — seventy-
five. (HefUs in a form and offers it to the
Countess) Sign here, Countess. This
contract really gives you a break
COUNTESS. That is the entrance.
FIRST PRESS AGENT. Entrance to what?
COUNTESS. The oil well.
FIRST PRESS AGENT. Oh, wc don’t need
to see that. Madame.
COUNTESS. Don’t need to see it?
FIRST PRESS AGENT. No, no — we don’t
have to see it to write about it. We can
imagine it. An oil well is an oil well.
“That’s oil we know on earth, and oil we
need to know. ‘ ‘ (He bows)
COUNTESS. But if you don’t see it, how
can you be sure the oil is there ?
FIRST PRESS AGENT. If it’s there, well
and good. If it’s not, by the time we get
through, it will be. You underestimate
the creative aspect of our profession,
Madame. (The Countess shakes her head,
handing back the papers) 1 warn you, if you
insist on rubbing our noses in this oil, it
will cost you lo percent extra.
THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT 27
COUNTESS. It’s worth it.
(She signs. They cross toward the trapdoor.)
SECOND PRESS AGENT (descending) . You
see, Madame, we of the press can refuse a
THIRD PRESS AGENT. Especially, such a
(Third Press Agent starts going down.)
SECOND PRESS AGENT (going down.
Gallantly) . It’s plain to see, Madame, that
even fountains of oil have their nymphs . . .
I can use that somewhere. That’s copy !
(The Press Agents go down. As he disappears ^
the First Press Agent steals the gold brick and
blows a kiss gallantly to the Countess^ who
blows one back.)
(There is a high-pitched chatter offstage y and
Irma comes in, trying hard to hold back Three
Women who pay no attention to her whatever.
These Women are tall, slender, and as soulless
as if they were molded of wax. They march
down the steps, erect and abstracted like
animated window models, but chattering
IRMA. But, ladies, please — you have no
business here — you are not expected. (To
the Countess) There are some strange ladies
coming . . .
COUNTESS. Show them in, Irma. (The
Women come down, without taking the slightest
interest in their surroundings) Who are you?
FIRST WOMAN. Madame, we are the
most powerful pressure group in the
SECOND v/OMAN. We are the ultimate
THIRD WOMAN. The mainspring of all
FIRST WOMAN. Nothing succeeds
without our assistance. Is that the well,
COUNTESS. That is the well.
FIRST WOMAN. Put out youT cigarcttes,
girls. We don’t want any explosions. Not
with my brand-new eyelashes.
(They go down, still chattering. The Countess
crosses to the wall to close the trap . As she does
so, there is a commotion on the landing.)
IRMA. Countess . . .
(A Man rushes in breathlessly.)
MAN. Just a minute ! Just a minute !
(He rushes for the trap door.)
COUNTESS. Wait! Who are you?
MAN. I’m in a hurry. Excuse me. It’s my only chance ! (He rushes down.)
COUNTESS. But . . . (But he is gone. She
shrugs her shoulders, and presses the brick.
The trap closes. She rings the bell for Irma)
My gold brick! Why, they’ve stolen my
gold brick! (She moves toward the trap. It is
now closed) Well, let them take their god
(Irma enters and sees with astonishment that
the stage is empty of all but the Countess.
Little by little, the scene is suffused with light,
faint at frst, but increasing as if the very
walls were glowing with the quiet radiance of
universal joy. Only around the closed trap a
IRMA. But what’s happened? They’ve
gone ! They’ve vanished !
COUNTESS. They’ve evaporated, Irma.
They were wicked. Wickedness evapo-
(Pierre enters. He is followed by the Vaga-
bonds, all of them. The new radiance of the
world is now very perceptible. It glows from
PIERRE. Oh, Countess . . .
WAITER. Countess, everything’s changed. Now you can breathe again. Now you can see.
PIERRE. The air is pure ! The sky is clear !
IRMA. Life is beautiful again.
THE RAGPICKER (rushesin). Countess — the pigeons ! The pigeons are flying !
FLOWER GIRL. They don’t have to walk any more.
THE RAGPICKER. They’re flying . . . The air is like crystal. And young grass is sprouting on the pavements.
COUNTESS. Is it possible?
IRMA (interpreting for the Deaf-Mute).
Now, Juggler, you can throw your fireballs up as high as you please — they won’t go out.
SERGEANT. On the street, utter strangers are shaking hands, they don’t know why, and offering each other almond bars !
COUNTESS. Oh, my friends . . .
WAITER. Countess, we thank you . . .
(They go on talking with happy and animated
gestures, but we no longer hear them, for their
words blend into a strain of unearthly music
which seems to thrill Jrom the uttermost confines
oj the universe. And out oj this music comes
a voice. J
FIRST VOICE. Countess . . .
(Only the Countess hears it. She turns Jrom the
group oJ Vagabonds in wonder.)
SECOND VOICE. Couiitess . . .
THIRD VOICE. Countess . . .
(As she looks up in rapture, the First Voice
FIRST VOICE. Countess, we thank you.
We are the friends of animals.
SECOND VOICE. We are the friends of people.
THIRD VOICE. We are the friends of friendship.
FIRST VOICE. You have freed us !
SECOND VOICE. From now on, there will be no hungry cats . . .
THIRD VOICE. And we shall tell the Duchess her dog’s right name !
(The Voices Jade oj^. And now another group
oJ voices is heard.)
FIRST VOICE. Countess, we thank you. We are the friends of flowers .
SECOND VOICE. From now on, every plant in Paris will be watered . . .
THIRD VOICE. And the sewers will be fragrant with jasmine !
(These voices, too, are silent. For an instant, the stage is vibrant with music. Then the DeaJ-Mute speaks, and his voice is the most beautiful of all.)
DEAF-MUTE. Sadness flies on the wings of the morning, and out of the heart of darkness comes the light.
(Suddenly a group of figures detaches itself from the shadows. These are exactly similar in face and figure and in dress. They are shabby in the fashion of igoo and their cuffs are badly frayed. Each bears in his hand a ripe melon.)
FIRST ADOLPHE BERTAUT. Countess, We thank you. We, too, are freed at last. We are the Adolphe Bertauts of the world.
SECOND ADOLPHE BERTAUT. We are no longer timid.
THIRD ADOLPHE BERTAUT. We are no longer weak.
FIRST ADOLPHE BERTAUT. From this day on, we shall hold fast to what we love. For your sake, henceforth, we shall be handsome, and our cuffs forever immaculate and new. Countess, we bring you this melon and with it our hearts . . . ! (They all kneel) Will you do us the honor to be our wife ?
COUNTESS (sadly) . Too late ! Too late!
(She waves them aside. They take up their melons sadly and vanish. The voices oJ the
Vagabonds are heard again, and the music
dies) Too late! Too late!
PIERRE. Too late. Countess?
IRMA. Too late for what?
COUNTESS. I say that it’s too late for them. On the twenty-fourth of May, 1881, the most beautiful Easter in the memory of man, it was not too late. And on the fifth of September, 1887, the day they caught the trout and broiled it on the open fire by the brook at Villeneuve, it was not too late. And it was even not too late for them on the twenty-first of August, 1897, the day the Czar visited Paris with his guard. But they did nothing and they said nothing, and now — kiss each other, you two, this very instant!
IRMA. You mean . . . ?
PIERRE. You mean . . . ?
IRMA. But, Countess . . .
COUNTESS. It’s three hours since you’ve met and known and loved each other. Kiss each other quickly. (Pierre hesitates)
Look at him. He hesitates. He trembles.
Happiness frightens him. . . . How like
a man ! Oh, Irma, kiss him, kiss him ! If two people who love each other let a single instant wedge itself between them, it grows — it becomes a month, a year, a century; it becomes too late. Kiss him, Irma, kiss him while there is time, or in a moment his hair will be white and there will be another madwoman in Paris ! Oh, make her kiss him, all of you! (They kiss) Bravo ! Oh, if only you’d had the courage to do that thirty years ago, how different I would be today! Dear Deaf-Mute, be still — your words dazzle our eyes ! And Irma is too busy to translate for you. (They kiss once more) Well, there we are. The world is saved. And you see how simple it all was? Nothing is ever so wrong in this world that a sensible woman can’t set it right in the course of an afternoon. Only, the next time, don’t
wait until things begin to look black. countess. Good. (She puts the bones into her basket and starts for the stairs) The minute you notice anything, tell me at once. Well, let’s get on to more important things.
THE RAGPICKER. We will, Countess. We will.
COUNTESS (puts on her hat. Her tone becomes businesslike) Four o’clock. My poor cats must be starved. What a bore for them if humanity had to be saved every afternoon. They don’t think much of it, as it is. Irma. My bones. My gizzard.
IRMA. I have them ready, Countess.
Source: Twenty best European plays on the American stage by John Gassner (1957). New York: Crown Publishers. Digitizing sponsor University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries with support from LYRASIS and the Sloan Foundation.
Plot Summary and Criticism: The Madwoman of Chaillot. Wikipedia.