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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Dumb Wife Cured
By Anatole France (1844–1924)
 
        
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.]  Aren’t you afraid it will make you ill? You must rest once in a while. Why don’t you tell me what you are doing, dear?  2
  Leonard—My love, I …  3
  Catherine—Is it such a great secret? Can’t I know about it?  4
  Leonard—My love, I …  5
  Catherine—If it’s a secret, don’t tell me.  6
  Leonard—Won’t you give me a chance to answer? I am examining a case and preparing to draw up a verdict on it.  7
  Catherine—Is drawing up a verdict so very important?  8
  Leonard—Most certainly it is.  [Catherine sits at the window singing and humming to herself, and looking out.]  In the first place, people’s 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
  Catherine—Then examine your case and prepare your verdict, my dear. I’ll be silent.  10
  Leonard—That’s right…. “Ermeline-Jacinthe-Marthe de la Garandière, gentlewoman …”  11
  Catherine—My dear, which do you think would be more becoming to me, a damask gown, or a velvet suit with a Turkish skirt?  12
  Leonard—I don’t know, I …  13
  Catherine—I think a flowered satin would suit my age best, especially a light-colored one, with a small flower pattern.  14
  Leonard—Perhaps so. But …  15
  Catherine—And don’t 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 don’t seem dressed at all; so, we mustn’t let it be scanty. But, my dear, you wouldn’t want me to have room enough to hide a pair of lovers under my hoops, now would you? That fashion won’t last, I’m sure; some say the court ladies will give it up, and then every woman in town will make haste to follow their example. Don’t you think so?  16
  Leonard—Yes! Yes! But …  17
  Catherine—Now, about high heels…. They must be made just right. A woman is judged by her foot-gear—you can always tell a real fine lady by her shoes. You agree with me, don’t you, dear?  18
  Leonard—Yes, yes, yes, but …  19
  Catherine—Then write out your verdict. I shan’t say another word.  20
  Leonard—That’s 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——”
  22
  Catherine—My 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 don’t 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 it’s as bad as all that? Do answer me, dear.  23
  Leonard—My darling, won’t you please be silent one moment? Or go and talk somewhere else? I’m all at sea.  24
  Catherine—There, there, dear; don’t worry. I shan’t say another word! Not a word!  25
  Leonard—Good!  26
[Writing.]
  “The said Piédeloup, gentleman, counting both hay crops and apple crops …”
  27
  Catherine—My dear, we shall have for supper to-night some minced mutton and what’s 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 what’s 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
  Leonard—I beg you …  29
[Writing.]
  “An orphan by birth …”
  30
  Catherine—Yes, that’s what we’re coming to. No home life any more. You’ll 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 don’t say we ought to get our regular meals from the cook-shop. We can do our everyday plain cooking at home, and it’s 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 hour’s 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 it’s all so convenient. Now, don’t you think so yourself, Leonard?  31
  Leonard—Please, please!  32
[Leonard tries to write through the following speech, murmuring: “An orphan by birth, a capon by birth, an olla podrida,” etc.]
  Catherine—It’s no wonder everything goes up. People are getting more extravagant every day. If they are entertaining a friend, or even a relative, they don’t 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 it’s a regular olla podrida. Now, don’t 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, I’m 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?
  33
  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 shan’t say another word—not a single word. For I can see that my chattering might possibly disturb your work.  35
  Leonard—If you would only do as you say!  36
  Catherine  [returning to her place]—I shan’t even open my lips.  37
  Leonard—Splendid!  38
  Catherine  [busily embroidering]—You see, dear, I’m not saying another word.  39
  Leonard—Yes.  40
  Catherine—I’m letting you work in perfect peace and quiet.  41
  Leonard—Yes.  42
  Catherine—And write out your verdict quite undisturbed. Is it almost done?  43
  Leonard—It never will be—if you don’t keep still.  44
[Writing.]
  “Item, One hundred twenty pounds a year, which the said unworthy guardian stole from the poor orphan girl …”
  45
  Catherine—Listen! Ssh-sh! Listen! Didn’t 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 didn’t know what they were about; you see, fear drove them out of their senses.  46
  Leonard—Lord, have mercy upon me!  47
  Catherine—Oh! What makes you groan so, dear? Tell me, tell me what is the matter?  48
  Leonard—I can’t endure it another minute.  49
  Catherine—You must rest, Leonard. You mustn’t work so hard. It isn’t reasonable. You have no right to …  50
  Leonard—Will you never be still?  51
  Catherine—Now, don’t be cross, dear. I’m not saying a word.  52
  Leonard—Would 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 attorney’s wife! She’s 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, she’s looking this way; I believe she’s 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, she’s going on. She’s gone on. Perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps it was somebody else. You can’t be sure about recognizing people. But if it wasn’t she, it was somebody like her, and even very much like her. Now I think of it, I’m sure it was she, there simply couldn’t be another woman in Paris so like Madame de la Bruine. My dear … My dear … Would you have liked to have Madame de la Bruine call on us?
  54
[She sits down on his table.]
  I know you don’t like rattle-tongued women; it’s lucky for you that you didn’t 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.
  55
[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. It’s a dreadful bore to hear her tell them over.
  56
[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.
  57
  Leonard—My 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, who’s really no lady at all, wearing an embroidered cape, just like any princess? Don’t 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.
  59
  Leonard  [on top of his cupboard]—I’ve got to the point where I can’t answer for the consequences; I feel capable of committing any crime.  60
[Calling.]
  Giles! Giles! Giles! The scoundrel! Giles! Alison! Giles! Giles!
  61
[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.
  62
  Giles—Yes, your Honor.  63
[Exit.]
  Catherine—What’s the matter, my dear? You seem excited. Perhaps the air is close. No? It’s the east wind, then, don’t you think?—or the fish you ate for dinner?
  64
  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. Don’t you worry, though—the 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 Catherine’s head; she jumps nimbly down from the ladder and runs off in terror, crying:]
  Catherine—Help! Murder! My husband’s gone mad! Help! help!
  66
  Leonard—Alison! Alison!  67
[Enter Alison.]
  Alison—What a life! Sir, have you turned murderer?
  68
  Leonard—Alison, follow her, stay by her, and don’t let her come down. As you value your life, Alison, don’t 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 her—and to you. Go! Off with you!
[Alison goes upstairs.]
  69
 
 
CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY
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