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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
A Contented Idler
By Émile Augier (1820–1889)
 
From ‘M. Poirier’s Son-in-Law’

[The party are leaving the dining-room.]
GASTON—Well, Hector! What do you think of it? The house is just as you see it now, every day in the year. Do you believe there is a happier man in the world than I?
  1
  Duke—Faith! I envy you; you reconcile me to marriage.  2
  Antoinette  [in a low voice to Verdelet]—Monsieur de Montmeyran is a charming young man!  3
  Verdelet  [in a low voice]—He pleases me.  4
  Gaston  [to Poirier, who comes in last]—Monsieur Poirier, I must tell you once for all how much I esteem you. Don’t think I’m ungrateful.  5
  Poirier—Oh! Monsieur!  6
  Gaston—Why the devil don’t you call me Gaston? And you, too, dear Monsieur Verdelet, I’m very glad to see you.  7
  Antoinette—He is one of the family, Gaston.  8
  Gaston—Shake hands then, Uncle.  9
  Verdelet  [aside, giving him his hand]—He’s not a bad fellow.  10
  Gaston—Agree, Hector, that I’ve been lucky. Monsieur Poirier, I feel guilty. You make my life one long fête and never give me a chance in return. Try to think of something I can do for you.  11
  Poirier—Very well, if that’s the way you feel, give me a quarter of an hour. I should like to have a serious talk with you.  12
  Duke—I’ll withdraw.  13
  Poirier—No, stay, Monsieur. We are going to hold a kind of family council. Neither you nor Verdelet will be in the way.  14
  Gaston—The deuce, my dear father-in-law. A family council! You embarrass me!  15
  Poirier—Not at all, dear Gaston. Let us sit down.  16
[They seat themselves around the fireplace.]
  Gaston—Begin, Monsieur Poirier.
  17
  Poirier—You say you are happy, dear Gaston, and that is my greatest recompense.  18
  Gaston—I’m willing to double your gratification.  19
  Poirier—But now that three months have been given to the joys of the honeymoon, I think that there has been romance enough, and that it’s time to think about history.  20
  Gaston—You talk like a book. Certainly, we’ll think about history if you wish. I’m willing.  21
  Poirier—What do you intend to do?  22
  Gaston—To-day?  23
  Poirier—And to-morrow, and in the future. You must have some idea.  24
  Gaston—True, my plans are made. I expect to do to-day what I did yesterday, and to-morrow what I shall do to-day. I’m not versatile, in spite of my light air; and if the future is only like the present I’ll be satisfied.  25
  Poirier—But you are too sensible to think that the honeymoon can last forever.  26
  Gaston—Too sensible, and too good an astronomer. But you’ve probably read Heine?  27
  Poirier—You must have read that, Verdelet?  28
  Verdelet—Yes; I’ve read him.  29
  Poirier—Perhaps he spent his life at playing truant.  30
  Gaston—Well, Heine, when he was asked what became of the old full moons, said that they were broken up to make the stars.  31
  Poirier—I don’t understand.  32
  Gaston—When our honeymoon is old, we’ll break it up and there’ll be enough to make a whole Milky Way.  33
  Poirier—That is a clever idea, of course.  34
  Gaston—Its only merit is simplicity.  35
  Poirier—But seriously, don’t you think that the idle life you lead may jeopardize the happiness of a young household?  36
  Gaston—Not at all.  37
  Verdelet—A man of your capacity can’t mean to idle all his life.  38
  Gaston—With resignation.  39
  Antoinette—Don’t you think you’ll find it dull after a time, Gaston?  40
  Gaston—You calumniate yourself, my dear.  41
  Antoinette—I’m not vain enough to suppose that I can fill your whole existence, and I admit that I’d like to see you follow the example of Monsieur de Montmeyran.  42
  Gaston  [rising and leaning against the mantelpiece]—Perhaps you want me to fight?  43
  Antoinette—No, of course not.  44
  Gaston—What then?  45
  Poirier—We want you to take a position worthy of your name.  46
  Gaston—There are only three positions which my name permits me: soldier, bishop, or husbandman. Choose.  47
  Poirier—We owe everything to France. France is our mother.  48
  Verdelet—I understand the vexation of a son whose mother remarries; I understand why he doesn’t go to the wedding: but if he has the right kind of heart he won’t turn sulky. If the second husband makes her happy, he’ll soon offer him a friendly hand.  49
  Poirier—The nobility cannot always hold itself aloof, as it begins to perceive. More than one illustrious name has set the example: Monsieur de Valcherrière, Monsieur de Chazerolles, Monsieur de Mont Louis—  50
  Gaston—These men have done as they thought best. I don’t judge them, but I cannot imitate them.  51
  Antoinette—Why not, Gaston?  52
  Gaston—Ask Montmeyran.  53
  Verdelet—The Duke’s uniform answers for him.  54
  Duke—Excuse me, a soldier has but one opinion—his duty; but one adversary—the enemy.  55
  Poirier—However, Monsieur—  56
  Gaston—Enough, it isn’t a matter of politics, Monsieur Poirier. One may discuss opinions, but not sentiments. I am bound by gratitude. My fidelity is that of a servant and of a friend. Not another word.  [To the Duke.]  I beg your pardon, my dear fellow. This is the first time we’ve talked politics here, and I promise you it shall be the last.  57
  The Duke  [in a low voice to Antoinette]—You’ve been forced into making a mistake, Madame.  58
  Antoinette—I know it, now that it’s too late.  59
  Verdelet  [softly, to Poirier]—Now you’re in a fine fix.  60
  Poirier  [in same tone]—He’s repulsed the first assault, but I don’t raise the siege.  61
  Gaston—I’m not resentful, Monsieur Poirier. Perhaps I spoke a little too strongly, but this is a tender point with me, and unintentionally you wounded me. Shake hands.  62
  Poirier—You are very kind.  63
  A Servant—There are some people in the little parlor who say they have an appointment with Monsieur Poirier.  64
  Poirier—Very well, ask them to wait a moment.  [The servant goes out.]  Your creditors, son-in-law.  65
  Gaston—Yours, my dear father-in-law. I’ve turned them over to you.  66
  Duke—As a wedding present.  67
 
 
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