|C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the Worlds Best Literature.|
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.
|The Dumb Wife Cured|
|By Anatole France (18441924)|
From The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife: Translation of Curtis Hidden Page
The scene is the room of Judge Leonard Botal, whose wife Catherine has just been cured of her dumbness by a surgical operation.
| [Catherine is heard of stage singing; Leonard starts, shakes his head, hurries to his writing-table, and sits down to work. Catherine, still singing, enters gaily, and goes to him at the table.]|
|LEONARD [reading]Statement on behalf of Ermeline-Jacinthe-Marthe de la Garandière, gentlewoman.|| 1|
| Catherine [standing behind his chair, and first finishing her song: La dee ra, dee ra, day, then speaking with great volubility]What are you doing, my dear? You seem busy. You work too much. [She goes to the window-seat and takes up her embroidery.] Arent you afraid it will make you ill? You must rest once in a while. Why dont you tell me what you are doing, dear?|| 2|
| LeonardMy love, I
| CatherineIs it such a great secret? Cant I know about it?|| 4|
| LeonardMy love, I
| CatherineIf its a secret, dont tell me.|| 6|
| LeonardWont you give me a chance to answer? I am examining a case and preparing to draw up a verdict on it.|| 7|
| CatherineIs drawing up a verdict so very important?|| 8|
| LeonardMost certainly it is. [Catherine sits at the window singing and humming to herself, and looking out.] In the first place, peoples honor, their liberty, and sometimes even their life, may depend on it; and furthermore, the Judge must show therein both the depth of his thought and the finish of his style.|| 9|
| CatherineThen examine your case and prepare your verdict, my dear. Ill be silent.|| 10|
| LeonardThats right
. Ermeline-Jacinthe-Marthe de la Garandière, gentlewoman
| CatherineMy dear, which do you think would be more becoming to me, a damask gown, or a velvet suit with a Turkish skirt?|| 12|
| LeonardI dont know, I
| CatherineI think a flowered satin would suit my age best, especially a light-colored one, with a small flower pattern.|| 14|
| LeonardPerhaps so. But
| CatherineAnd dont you think, my dear, that it is quite improper to have a hoop-skirt very full? Of course, a skirt must have some fullness
or else you dont seem dressed at all; so, we mustnt let it be scanty. But, my dear, you wouldnt want me to have room enough to hide a pair of lovers under my hoops, now would you? That fashion wont last, Im sure; some say the court ladies will give it up, and then every woman in town will make haste to follow their example. Dont you think so?|| 16|
| LeonardYes! Yes! But
| CatherineNow, about high heels
. They must be made just right. A woman is judged by her foot-gearyou can always tell a real fine lady by her shoes. You agree with me, dont you, dear?|| 18|
| LeonardYes, yes, yes, but
| CatherineThen write out your verdict. I shant say another word.|| 20|
| LeonardThats right.|| 21|
[Reading, and making notes.] Now, the guardian of the said young lady, namely, Hugo Thomas of Piédeloup, gentleman, stole from the said young lady her
| CatherineMy dear, if one were to believe the wife of the Chief Justice of Montbadon, the world has grown very corrupt; it is going to the bad; young men nowadays dont marry; they prefer to hang about rich old ladies; and meanwhile the poor girls are left to wither on their maiden stalks. Do you think its as bad as all that? Do answer me, dear.|| 23|
| LeonardMy darling, wont you please be silent one moment? Or go and talk somewhere else? Im all at sea.|| 24|
| CatherineThere, there, dear; dont worry. I shant say another word! Not a word!|| 25|
| LeonardGood!|| 26|
[Writing.] The said Piédeloup, gentleman, counting both hay crops and apple crops
| CatherineMy dear, we shall have for supper to-night some minced mutton and whats left of that goose one of your suitors gave us. Tell me, is that enough? Shall you be satisfied with it? I hate being mean, and like to set a good table, but whats the use of serving courses which will only be sent back to the pantry untouched? The cost of living is getting higher all the time. Chickens, and salads, and meats, and fruit have all gone up so, it will soon be cheaper to order dinner sent in by a caterer.|| 28|
| LeonardI beg you
[Writing.] An orphan by birth
| CatherineYes, thats what were coming to. No home life any more. Youll see. Why, a capon, or a partridge, or a hare, cost less all stuffed and roasted than if you buy them alive at the market. That is because the cook-shops buy in large quantities and get a big discount; so they can sell to us at a profit. I dont say we ought to get our regular meals from the cook-shop. We can do our everyday plain cooking at home, and its better to; but when we invite people in, or give a formal dinner party, then it saves time and money to have the dinner sent in. Why, at less than an hours notice, the cook-shops and cake-shops will get you up a dinner for a dozen, or twenty, or fifty people; the cook-shop will send in meat and poultry, the caterer will send galantines and sauces and relishes, the pastry-cook will send pies and tarts and sweets and desserts; and its all so convenient. Now, dont you think so yourself, Leonard?|| 31|
| LeonardPlease, please!|| 32|
[Leonard tries to write through the following speech, murmuring: An orphan by birth, a capon by birth, an olla podrida, etc.] CatherineIts no wonder everything goes up. People are getting more extravagant every day. If they are entertaining a friend, or even a relative, they dont think they can do with only three courses, soup, meat, and dessert. No, they have to have meats in five or six different styles, with so many sauces, or dressings, or pastries, that its a regular olla podrida. Now, dont you think that is going too far, my dear? For my part I just cannot understand how people can take pleasure in stuffing themselves with so many kinds of food. Not that I despise a good table; why, Im even a bit of an epicure myself. Not too plenty, but dainty, suits my taste. Now, what I like best of all is capons kidneys with artichoke hearts. But you, Leonard, I suspect you have a weakness for tripe and sausages. Oh, fie! Oh, fie! How can anyone enjoy sausages?
| Leonard [his head in his hands]I shall go mad! I know I shall go mad.|| 34|
| Catherine [running to the table behind him]My dear, I just shant say another wordnot a single word. For I can see that my chattering might possibly disturb your work.|| 35|
| LeonardIf you would only do as you say!|| 36|
| Catherine [returning to her place]I shant even open my lips.|| 37|
| LeonardSplendid!|| 38|
| Catherine [busily embroidering]You see, dear, Im not saying another word.|| 39|
| LeonardYes.|| 40|
| CatherineIm letting you work in perfect peace and quiet.|| 41|
| LeonardYes.|| 42|
| CatherineAnd write out your verdict quite undisturbed. Is it almost done?|| 43|
| LeonardIt never will beif you dont keep still.|| 44|
[Writing.] Item, One hundred twenty pounds a year, which the said unworthy guardian stole from the poor orphan girl
| CatherineListen! Ssh-sh! Listen! Didnt you hear a cry of fire? [Leonard runs to the window, looks out, and then shakes his head at Catherine.] I thought I did. But perhaps I may have been mistaken. Is there anything so terrifying as a fire? Fire is even worse than water. Last year I saw the houses on Exchange Bridge burn up. What confusion! What havoc! The people threw their furniture into the river, and jumped out of the windows. They didnt know what they were about; you see, fear drove them out of their senses.|| 46|
| LeonardLord, have mercy upon me!|| 47|
| CatherineOh! What makes you groan so, dear? Tell me, tell me what is the matter?|| 48|
| LeonardI cant endure it another minute.|| 49|
| CatherineYou must rest, Leonard. You mustnt work so hard. It isnt reasonable. You have no right to
| LeonardWill you never be still?|| 51|
| CatherineNow, dont be cross, dear. Im not saying a word.|| 52|
| LeonardWould to Heaven!|| 53|
[Madame de la Bruine, followed by her footman, crosses the stage during the following speech.] Catherine [looking out of the window]Oh! Here comes Madame de la Bruine, the attorneys wife! Shes got on a silk-lined hood and a heavy puce-colored cape over her brocade gown. And she has a lackey with a face like a smoked herring. Leonard, shes looking this way; I believe shes coming to call. Hurry and arrange the chairs and bring up an armchair for her; we must show people proper respect according to their rank and station. She is stopping at our door. No, shes going on. Shes gone on. Perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps it was somebody else. You cant be sure about recognizing people. But if it wasnt she, it was somebody like her, and even very much like her. Now I think of it, Im sure it was she, there simply couldnt be another woman in Paris so like Madame de la Bruine. My dear
Would you have liked to have Madame de la Bruine call on us?
[She sits down on his table.] I know you dont like rattle-tongued women; its lucky for you that you didnt marry her; she jabbers like a magpie; she does nothing but gabble from morning to night. What a chatterbox! And sometimes she tells stories which are not to her credit.
[Leonard, driven beyond endurance, climbs up on his step-ladder and sits down on one of the middle steps, and tries to write there.] In the first place, she always gives you a list of all the presents her husband has received. Its a dreadful bore to hear her tell them over.
[She climbs up on the other side of the double step-ladder and sits down opposite Leonard.] What is it to us, if the Attorney de la Bruine receives presents of game, or flour, or fresh fish, or even a sugar-loaf? But Madame de la Bruine takes good care not to tell you that one day her husband received a great Amiens pastry, and when he opened it he found nothing but an enormous pair of horns.
| LeonardMy head will burst!|| 58|
[He takes refuge on top of one of the cabinets, with his writing-case and papers.] Catherine [at the top of the ladder]And did you see my fine lady, whos really no lady at all, wearing an embroidered cape, just like any princess? Dont you think it is ridiculous! But there! Nowadays everybody dresses above his station, men as well as women. Your court secretaries try to pass for gentlemen; they wear gold chains and jewelry, and feathers in their hats; all the same, anyone can tell what they are.
| Leonard [on top of his cupboard]Ive got to the point where I cant answer for the consequences; I feel capable of committing any crime.|| 60|
[Calling.] Giles! Giles! Giles! The scoundrel! Giles! Alison! Giles! Giles!
[Enter Giles.] Go quick and find the famous Doctor in Buci Square, Master Simon Colline, and tell him to come back here at once for a matter far more needful and urgent than before.
| GilesYes, your Honor.|| 63|
[Exit.] CatherineWhats the matter, my dear? You seem excited. Perhaps the air is close. No? Its the east wind, then, dont you think?or the fish you ate for dinner?
| Leonard [frantically gesticulating on top of his cupboard]Non omnia possumus omnes. It is the office of servants to clean crockery, of mercers to measure ribbon, of monks to beg, of birds to drop dirt around everywhere, and of women to cackle and chatter like mad. Oh! How I regret, you saucy baggage, that I had your tongue loosed. Dont you worry, thoughthe famous doctor shall soon make you more dumb than ever you were.|| 65|
[He catches up armfuls of the brief-bags which are piled on his cupboard of refuge, and throws them at Catherines head; she jumps nimbly down from the ladder and runs off in terror, crying:] CatherineHelp! Murder! My husbands gone mad! Help! help!
| LeonardAlison! Alison!|| 67|
[Enter Alison.] AlisonWhat a life! Sir, have you turned murderer?
| LeonardAlison, follow her, stay by her, and dont let her come down. As you value your life, Alison, dont let her come down. For if I hear another word from her, I shall go raving mad, and God knows what I might do to herand to you. Go! Off with you!|
[Alison goes upstairs.]