A room in the house of M. Deschappelles,
at Lyons. Pauline reclining on a sofa; Marian,
her maid, fanning her Flowers and notes
on a table beside the sofa madame
Deschappelles seated The gardens are
seen from the open window.
Mme. Deschap. Marian, put
that rose a little more to the left. [Marian
alters the position of a rose in PAULINE’s hair.] Ah,
so! that improves the hair, the
tournure, the j’e ne saïs quoi! You
are certainly very handsome, child! quite
my style; I don’t wonder that you
make such a sensation! Old, young, rich,
and poor, do homage to the Beauty of Lyons! Ah,
we live again in our children, especially
when they have our eyes and complexion!
Pauline [languidly]. Dear mother,
you spoil your Pauline! [Aside.] I wish
I knew who sent me these flowers!
Mme. Deschap. No, child! If
I praise you, it is only to inspire you with a proper
ambition. You are born to make a great marriage. Beauty
is valuable or worthless according as you invest the
property to the best advantage. Marian, go and
order the carriage! [Exit Marian.
Pauline. Who can it be that sends
me, every day, these beautiful flowers? how
sweet they are!
Servant. Monsieur Beauseant, Madam.
Mme. Deschap. Let him enter.
Pauline, this is another offer! I know
it is! Your father should engage an additional
clerk to keep the account-book of your conquests.
Beau. Ah, ladies how fortunate
I am to find you at home! [Aside.] How
lovely she looks! It is a great sacrifice
I make in marrying into a family in trade! they
will be eternally grateful! [Aloud.] Madam,
you will permit me a word with your charming daughter. [Approaches
Pauline, who rises disdainfully.] Mademoiselle,
I have ventured to wait upon you, in a hope that you
must long since have divined. Last night, when
you outshone all the beauty of Lyons, you completed
your conquest over me! You know that my fortune
is not exceeded by any estate in the province, you
know that, but for the Revolution, which has defrauded
me of my titles, I should be noble. May I, then,
trust that you will not reject my alliance? I
offer you my hand and heart.
Pauline [aside.] He has the air of
a man who confers a favor! [Aloud.] Sir,
you are very condescending I thank you humbly;
but, being duly sensible of my own demerits, you must
allow me to decline the honor you propose. [Curtsies,
and turns away.
Beau. Decline! Impossible! you
are not serious! Madam, suffer me to appeal
to you. I am a suitor for your daughter’s
hand the settlements shall be worthy of
her beauty and my station. May I wait on M. Deschappelles?
Mme. Deschap. M. Deschappelles
never interferes in the domestic arrangements, you
are very obliging. If you were still a marquis,
or if my daughter were intended to marry a commoner, why,
perhaps, we might give you the preference.
Beau. A commoner! we are all commoners
in France now.
Mme. Deschap. In France,
yes; but there is a nobility still left in the other
countries in Europe. We are quite aware of your
good qualities, and don’t doubt that you will
find some lady more suitable to your pretensions.
We shall be always happy to see you as an acquaintance,
M. Beauseant! My dear child, the carriage
will be here presently.
Beau. Say no more, madam! say
no more! [Aside.] Refused! and by a merchant’s
daughter! refused! It will be all over
Lyons before sunset! I will go and bury
myself in my chateau, study philosophy, and turn woman-hater.
Refused! they ought to be sent to a madhouse!
Ladies, I have the honor to wish you a very good morning.
Mme. Deschap. How forward
these men are! I think, child, we kept up
our dignity. Any girl, however inexperienced,
knows how to accept an offer, but it requires a vast
deal of address to refuse one with proper condescension
and disdain. I used to practise it at school with
Damas. Good morning, cousin Deschappelles. Well,
Pauline, are you recovered from last night’s
ball? So many triumphs must be very fatiguing.
Even M. Glavis sighed most piteously when you departed;
but that might be the effect of the supper.
Pauline. M. Glavis, indeed!
Mme. Deschap. M. Glavis? as if
my daughter would think of M. Glavis!
Damas. Hey-day! why
not? His father left him a very pretty fortune,
and his birth is higher than yours, cousin Deschappelles.
But perhaps you are looking to M. Beauseant, his
father was a marquis before the Revolution.
Pauline. M. Beauseant! Cousin, you
delight in tormenting me!
Mme. Deschap. Don’t
mind him, Pauline! Cousin Damas, you have
no susceptibility of feeling, there is
a certain indelicacy in all your ideas. M.
Beauseant knows already that he is no match for my
Damas. Pooh! pooh! one would
think you intended your daughter to marry a prince!
Mme. Deschap. Well, and
if I did? what then? Many a foreign
Damas [interrupting her]. Foreign
prince! foreign fiddlestick! you
ought to be ashamed of such nonsense at your time of
Mme. Deschap. My time of
life! That is an expression never applied
to any lady till she is sixty-nine and three-quarters; and
only then by the clergyman of the parish.
Servant. Madame, the carriage is at the door.
Mme. Deschap. Come, child,
put on your bonnet you really have a very
thorough-bred air not at all like your poor
father. [Fondly]. Ah, you little coquette!
when a young lady is always making mischief, it is
a sure sign that she takes after her mother!
Pauline. Good day, cousin Damas and
a better humor to you. [Going back to the
table and taking the flowers]. Who could have
sent me these flowers? [Exeunt Pauline and madame
Damas. That would be an excellent
girl if her head had not been turned. I fear
she is now become incorrigible! Zounds, what a
lucky fellow I am to be still a bachelor! They
may talk of the devotion of the sex but
the most faithful attachment in life is that of a woman
in love with herself. [Exit.
The exterior of a small Village Inn sign,
the Golden Lion A few leagues from Lyons,
which is seen at a distance.
Beau. [behind the scenes.] Yes, you
may bait the horses; we shall rest here an hour.
Enter Beauseant and Glavis.
Gla. Really, my dear Beauseant,
consider that I have promised to spend a day or two
with you at your chateau, that I am quite at your mercy
for my entertainment, and yet you are as
silent and as gloomy as a mute at a funeral, or an
Englishman at a party of pleasure.
Beau. Bear with me! the fact is that
I am miserable.
Gla. You the richest and gayest bachelor
Beau. It is because I am a bachelor that I am
miserable. Thou knowest
Pauline the only daughter of the rich merchant,
Gla. Know her? who does not? as
pretty as Venus, and as proud as Juno.
Beau. Her taste is worse than her pride. [Drawing
himself up.] Know,
Glavis, she has actually refused me!
Gla. [aside]. So she has me! very
consoling! In all cases of heart-ache, the application
of another man’s disappointment draws out the
pain and allays the irritation. [Aloud.]
Refused you! and wherefore?
Beau. I know not, unless it be
because the Revolution swept away my father’s
title of Marquis, and she will not marry
a commoner. Now, as we have no noblemen left
in France, as we are all citizens and equals,
she can only hope that, in spite of the war, some English
Milord or German Count will risk his life, by coming
to Lyons, that this fille du Roturier may condescend
to accept him. Refused me, and with scorn! By
Heaven, I’ll not submit to it tamely: I’m
in a perfect fever of mortification and rage. Refuse
Gla. Be comforted, my dear fellow, I
will tell you a secret. For the same reason she
Beau. You! that’s
a very different matter! But give me your hand,
Glavis, we’ll think of some plan to
humble her. Mille diables! I should
like to see her married to a strolling player!
Enter Landlord and his Daughter from the Inn.
Land. Your servant, citizen Beauseant, servant,
Sir. Perhaps you will take dinner before you
proceed to your chateau; our larder is most plentifully
Beau. I have no appetite.
Gla. Nor I. Still it is bad travelling
on an empty stomach. What have you got? [Takes
and looks over the bill of fare.]
[Shout without.] “Long live
the Prince! Long live the Prince!”
Beau. The Prince! what
Prince is that? I thought we had no princes left
Land. Ha, ha! the lads always
call him Prince. He has just won the prize in
the shooting-match, and they are taking him home in
Beau. Him! and who’s Mr. Him?
Land. Who should he be but the pride of the village,
Melnotte? Of course you have heard of Claude
Gla. [giving back the bill of fare.]
Never had that honor. Soup ragout
of hare roast chicken, and, in short, all
Beau. The son of old Alelnotte, the gardener?
Land. Exactly so a wonderful young
Beau. How, wonderful? Are his cabbages
better than other people’s
Land. Nay, he don’t garden
any more; his father left him well off. He’s
only a genus.
Gla. A what?
Land. A genus! a man
who can do everything in life except anything that’s
useful that’s a genus.
Beau. You raise my curiosity; proceed.
Land. Well, then, about four
years ago, old Melnotte died, and left his son well
to do in the world. We then all observed that
a great change came over young Claude: he took
to reading and Latin, and hired a professor from Lyons,
who had so much in his head that he was forced to
wear a great full-bottom wig to cover it. Then
he took a fencing-master, and a dancing-master, and
a music-master; and then he learned to paint; and
at last it was said that young Claude was to go to
Paris, and set up for a painter. The lads laughed
at him at first; but he is a stout fellow, is Claude,
and as brave as a lion, and soon taught them to laugh
the wrong side of their mouths; and now all the boys
swear by him, and all the girls pray for him.
Beau. A promising youth, certainly! And
why do they call him Prince?
Land. Partly because he is at
the head of them all, and partly because he has such
a proud way with him, and wears such fine clothes and,
in short, looks like a prince.
Beau. And what could have turned the foolish
fellow’s brain? The
Revolution, I suppose?
Land. Yes the revolution
that turns us all topsy-turvy the revolution
Beau. Romantic young Corydon! And with whom
is he in love?
Land. Why but it is a secret, gentlemen.
Beau. Oh! certainly.
Land. Why, then, I hear from
his mother, good soul! that it is no less a person
than the Beauty of Lyons, Pauline Deschappelles.
Beau. and Glavis. Ha, ha! Capital!
Land. You may laugh, but it is as true as I stand
Beau. And what does the Beauty of Lyons say to
Land. Lord, sir, she never even
condescended to look at him, though when he was a
boy he worked in her father’s garden.
Beau. Are you sure of that?
Land. His mother says that Mademoiselle does
not know him by sight.
Beau. [taking Glavis aside].
I have hit it, I have it; here is our revenge!
Here is a prince for our haughty damsel. Do you
Gla. Deuce take me if I do!
Beau. Blockhead! it’s
as clear as a map. What if we could make this
elegant clown pass himself off as a foreign prince? lend
him money, clothes, equipage for the purpose? make
him propose to Pauline? marry Pauline?
Would it not be delicious?
Gla. Ha, ha! Excellent!
But how shall we support the necessary expenses of
Beau. Pshaw! Revenge is
worth a much larger sacrifice than a few hundred louis; as
for details, my valet is the trustiest fellow, in the
world, and shall have the appointment of his highness’s
establishment. Let’s go to him at once,
and see if he be really this Admirable Crichton.
Gla. With all my heart; but the dinner?
Beau. Always thinking of dinner!
Hark ye, landlord; how far is it to young Melnotte’s
cottage? I should like to see such a prodigy.
Land. Turn down the lane, then
strike across the common, and you will
see his mother’s cottage.
Beau. True, he lives with his
mother. [Aside.] We will not trust to an
old woman’s discretion; better send for him hither.
I’ll just step in and write a note. Come,
Gla. Yes, Beauseant,
Glavis, and Co., manufacturers of princes, wholesale
and retail, an uncommonly genteel line of
business. But why so grave?
Beau. You think only of the sport, I
of the revenge. [Exeunt within the Inn.
The interior of Melnotte’s
cottage; flowers placed here and there; a guitar on
an oaken table, with a portfolio, etc.; a picture
on an easel, covered by a curtain; fencing foils crossed
over the mantelpiece; an attempt at refinement in
site of the homeliness of the furniture, etc.;
a staircase to the right conducts to the upper story.
[Shout without]. “Long
live Claude Melnotte!” “Long live the Prince!”
The Widow Mel. Hark! there’s
my dear son; carried off the prize, I’m
sure; and now he’ll want to treat them all.
Claude Mel. [opening the door].
What! you will not come in, my friends! Well,
well, there’s a trifle to make merry elsewhere.
Good day to you all, good day!
[Shout]. “Hurrah! Long live Prince
Enter Claude Melnotte, with a rifle in his
Mel. Give me joy, dear mother! I’ve
won the prize! never missed one shot!
Is it not handsome, this gun?
Widow. Humph! Well, what is it worth,
Mel. Worth! What is a riband worth to a
soldier? Worth! everything!
Glory is priceless!
Widow. Leave glory to great folks.
Ah! Claude, Claude, castles in the air cost a
vast deal to keep up! How is all this to end?
What good does it do thee to learn Latin, and sing
songs, and play on the guitar, and fence, and dance,
and paint pictures? All very fine; but what does
it bring in?
Mel. Wealth! wealth, my mother!
Wealth to the mind wealth to the heart high
thoughts bright dreams the hope
of fame the ambition to be worthier to
Widow. My poor son! The
young lady will never think of thee.
Mel. Do the stars think of us?
Yet if the prisoner see them shine into his dungeon,
wouldst thou bid him turn away from their lustre?
Even so from this low cell, poverty, I lift my eyes
to Pauline and forget my chains. [Goes
to the picture and draws aside the curtain.]
See, this is her image painted
from memory. Oh, how the canvas wrongs her! [Takes
up the brush and throws it aside.] I shall never be
a painter! I can paint no likeness but one, and
that is above all art. I would turn soldier France
needs soldiers! But to leave the air that Pauline
breathes! What is the hour? so late?
I will tell thee a secret, mother. Thou knowest
that for the last six weeks I have sent every day
the rarest flowers to Pauline? she wears
them. I have seen them on her breast. Ah,
and then the whole universe seemed filled with odors!
I have now grown more bold I have poured
my worship into poetry I have sent the
verses to Pauline I have signed them with
my own name. My messenger ought to be
back by this time. I bade him wait for the answer.
Widow. And what answer do you expect, Claude?
Mel. That which the Queen of
Navarre sent to the poor troubadour: “Let
me see the Oracle that can tell nations I am beautiful!”
She will admit me. I shall hear her speak I
shall meet her eyes I shall read upon her
cheek the sweet thoughts that translate themselves
into blushes. Then then, oh, then she
may forget that I am the peasant’s son!.
Widow. Nay, if she will but hear thee talk, Claude?
Mel. I foresee it all. She
will tell me that desert is the true rank. She
will give me a badge a flower a
glove! Oh rapture! I shall join the armies
of the republic I shall rise I
shall win a name that beauty will not blush to hear.
I shall return with the right to say to her “See,
how love does not level the proud, but raise the humble!”
Oh, how my heart swells within me! Oh, what
glorious prophets of the future are youth and hope!
[Knock at the door.]
Widow. Come in.
Mel. Welcome, Gaspar, welcome.
Where is the letter? Why do you turn away, man?
where is the letter? [Gaspar gives him one.] This!
This is mine, the one I intrusted to thee. Didst
thou not leave it?
Gaspar. Yes, I left it.
Mel. My own verses returned to me. Nothing
Gaspar. Thou wilt be proud to
hear how thy messenger was honored. For thy sake,
Melnotte, I have borne that which no Frenchman can
bear without disgrace.
Mel. Disgrace, Gaspar! Disgrace?
Gaspar. I gave thy letter to
the porter, who passed it from lackey to lackey till
it reached the lady it was meant for.
Mel. It reached her, then; you
are sure of that! It reached her, well,
Gaspar. It reached her, and was
returned to me with blows. Dost hear, Melnotte?
with blows! Death! are we slaves still, that we
are to be thus dealt with, we peasants?
Mel. With blows? No, Gaspar, no; not blows!
Gaspar. I could show thee the
marks if it were not so deep a shame to bear them.
The lackey who tossed thy letter into the mire swore
that his lady and her mother never were so insulted.
What could thy letter contain, Claude?
Mel. [looking over the letter].
Not a line that a serf might not have written to an
empress. No, not one.
Gaspar. They promise thee the
same greeting they gave me, if thou wilt pass that
way. Shall we endure this, Claude?
Mel. [wringing GASPAR’s hand].
Forgive me, the fault was mine, I have brought this
on thee; I will not forget it; thou shalt be avenged!
The heartless insolence!
Gaspar. Thou art moved, Melnotte;
think not of me; I would go through fire and water
to serve thee; but, a blow! It is not
the bruise that galls, it is the blush,
Mel. Say, what message? How
insulted! Wherefore? What the
Gaspar. Did you not write to
Pauline Deschappelles, the daughter of the rich merchant?
Gaspar. And are you not a peasant a
gardener’s son? that was the offence.
Sleep on it, Melnotte. Blows to a French citizen,
Widow. Now you are cured, Claude!
Mel. tearing the letter. So do
I scatter her image to the winds I will
stop her in the open streets I will insult
her I will beat her menial ruffians I
will [Turns suddenly to Widow.] Mother,
am I humpbacked deformed hideous?
Mel. A coward a thief a
Mel. Or a dull fool a
vain, drivelling, brainless idiot? Widow.
No, no. Mel. What am I then worse
than all these? Why, I am a peasant! What
has a peasant to do with love? Vain revolutions,
why lavish your cruelty on the great? Oh that
we we, the hewers of wood and drawers of
water had been swept away, so that the
proud might learn what the world would be without
us! [Knock at the door.
Enter Servant from the Inn.
Servant. A letter for Citizen Melnotte.
Mel. A letter! from her perhaps who
Servant. Why, Monsieur I
mean Citizen Beauseant, who stops to dine
at the Golden Lion, on his way to his chateau.
Mel. Beauseant! [Reads].
“Young man, I know thy secret thou
lovest above thy station: if thou hast wit, courage,
and discretion, I can secure to thee the realization
of thy most sanguine hopes; and the sole condition
I ask in return is, that thou shalt be steadfast to
thine own ends. I shall demand from thee a solemn
oath to marry her whom thou lovest; to bear her to
thine home on thy wedding night. I am serious if
thou wouldst learn more, lose not a moment, but follow
the bearer of this letter to thy friend and patron, Charles
Mel. Can I believe my eyes?
Are our own passions the sorcerers that raise up for
us spirits of good or evil? I will go instantly.
Widow. What is this, Claude?
Mel. “Marry her whom thou
lovest,” “bear her to thine
own home.” Oh, revenge and love;
which of you is the stronger? [Gazing on
the picture.] Sweet face, thou smilest on me from
the canvas: weak fool that I am, do I then love
her still? No, it is the vision of my own romance
that I have worshipped: it is the reality to which
I bring scorn for scorn. Adieu, mother:
I will return anon. My brain reels the
earth swims before me. [Looks again at
the letter.] No, it is not a mockery; I do not dream!