Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > French
The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. X–XI: French
Private Theatricals
By Ludovic Halévy (1834–1908) and Henri Meilhac (1831–1897)
From “Frou-Frou”


Paul.  Are you from the theater?
  Pit.  Yes. My name is Pitou. I am the assistant prompter, and I am bringing something at the request of Count de Valréas.  2
  Paul.  Will you wait a moment?  3
  Pit.  Oh, certainly I will wait—as long as ever you please!  (Aside.)  Good place this; not quite so fine as Mlle. Charlotte’s, but more select. Evident that fashionable people live here.  4
  Gil.  Pauline, send at once to the Rue de la Paix. I am dining out to-night, and shall want that dress. I must have it here before six.  (Exit PAULINE.)  You have lost no time.
  Pit.  No; for as soon as I knew whom I was to have the honor of obliging, I——  6
  Gil.  Then you know me?  7
  Pit.  Quite well, madame.  8
  Gil.  How is that?  9
  Pit.  One evening Mlle. Charlotte was peeping through the hole in the curtain, between the acts. She called M. Greluche, and said, as she pointed out a proscenium-box, “There’s Mme. de Sartorys.”  10
  Gil.  Indeed?  11
  Pit.  And then I—after M. Greluche had done—took my turn, and that is how I know you, madame. I also have the honor of knowing your father. I have often seen him by the porter’s lodge at the theater, waiting for——  12
  Gil.  Yes, that will do! What did you say you had brought for me?  13
  Pit.  Indiana and Charlemagne, and the part of Indiana written out separately by my own hand. Knowing the play only through the ordinary text, one can’t possibly get the right idea. Here is your part alone, with all the traditions noted in the margin.  14
  Gil.  Traditions?  15
  Pit.  Well, I might say the jokes, as it were, which the original actors of the piece added to their parts.  16
  Gil.  Yes—to be sure—very nice! And then there’s the music.  17
  Pit.  I have had it copied—as you see.  18
  Gil.  (scanning part).  Here is a song called “Whirlwind Toes.” What sort of song may that be?  19
  Pit.  It goes like this, madame.  (Hums a few bars.)  20
  Gil.  Shall I be able to sing it, do you suppose?  21
  Pit.  Oh, you couldn’t possibly sing worse than Mlle. Charlotte, and yet you see——  22
  Gil.  But, my good man, I don’t sing badly at all!  23
  Pit.  Beg your pardon, I’m sure! Perhaps you might like to try the song now?  (Goes to piano.)  24
  Gil.  What! do you play?  25
  Pit.  Oh! yes, madame; I strum a little. One may have all sorts of different talents in our profession without ever coming to anything.  26
  Gil.  Well, then, supposing we begin?  27
(PITOU opens piano, and begins to play air. A faint knock is heard on the door.)
  Gil.  Who’s there? What is it? You can’t come in!
  Sar.  (outside).  But it’s I, my dear!  29
  Gil.  Oh! it’s you, is it? Come in, then—you!  30
  Gil.  My dear, this is M. Pitou.  (To PITOU.)  Go on!
  Sar.  Oh!  32
  Gil.  For the performance, you know, which I am to take part in: Indiana and Charlemagne—burlesque. You gave your consent, you remember, because it is for a charitable object. M. Pitou has been kind enough to come here to rehearse the——  33
  Sar.  I beg your pardon, but I had something particular to talk with you about. However, I am sorry if——  34
  Gil.  Oh, that’s quite a different thing! M. Pitou, you can come another time. Yes, you will come another time—won’t you, M. Pitou?  35
  Pit.  Just as you wish, madame; you have only to send me word. I live at 22 Rue des Dames, Batignolles. At your service, madame. Good afternoon.  36
  Sar.  Good day.  (Exit PITOU.)  37
  Gil.  Yes, you know, it’s for that splendid entertainment which Mme. de Cambri is organizing for the benefit of the poor.  38
  Sar.  And Mme. de Cambri—what part is she going to play in this splendid entertainment for the benefit of the poor?  39
  Gil.  None.  40
  Sar.  What! none at all?  41
  Gil.  No. How can she act a part when she is doing the organizing?  42
  Sar.  Of course not! Just like her!  43
  Gil.  What do you mean?  44
  Sar.  She’s very good at making other people act, is your friend Mme. de Cambri; but as for doing anything herself——  45
  Gil.  Well?  46
  Sar.  Well, while you are up there on the stage, exerting yourself, she will be sitting comfortably down below, watching you and criticizing your work.  47
  Gil.  You don’t like Mme. de Cambri?  48
  Sar.  I neither like her, nor do I dislike her. I merely desire to record the fact that she is a woman who knows what she is about.  49
  Gil.  And I?  50
  Sar.  You? You are the sweetest little actress in the whole world!  51
  Gil.  Thanks, ever so much! But, my dear, you said you wanted to talk with me about something.  (Studies her part brought by PITOU.)  52
  Sar.  I did.  53
  Gil.  Go on, then.  54
  Sar.  What I have to talk about will take you miles and miles away from M. Pitou.  55
  Gil.  Really? Then it must be something serious.  56
  Sar.  Very!  57
  Gil.  So much the better.  (Continues studying her part.)  58
  Sar.  My love! I was going to——  59
  Gil.  Tell me, Henri, what is a stevedore’s costume?  60
  Sar.  Why——  61
  Gil.  Yes, I know you are very dignified, and all that; but you needn’t pretend——  62
  Sar.  A stevedore—let me see—a stevedore wears a loose silk blouse tucked into a pair of velvet breeches.  63
  Gil.  And what else?  64
  Sar.  A red scarf.  65
  Gil.  What else?  66
  Sar.  A nautical cap.  67
  Gil.  And then?  68
  Sar.  And then that’s all.  69
  Gil.  Never will I wear such a costume as that; no, not even for the benefit of the poor! I must find another. Yes, I must think of another. You may begin now, my dear! I am listening.  70
  Sar.  I saw the foreign secretary this morning.  71
  Gil.  Of course you told him to come!  72
  Sar.  Come where?  73
  Gil.  Why, to the entertainment!  74
  Sar.  No, I did not; but I will. This morning the topic of conversation was myself. He very much wants me to accept a post abroad.  75
  Gil.  Abroad!  76
  Sar.  You see, there is no chance for me in Paris.  77
  Gil.  What are you offered—abroad?  78
  Sar.  Carlsruhe—French minister at Carlsruhe.  79
  Gil.  Oh, French minister at Carlsruhe! Is it a good thing to be French minister at Carlsruhe?  80
  Sar.  An excellent thing!  81
  Gil.  Ah! And how far did you say it was from Paris to Carlsruhe?  82
  Sar.  I am not quite sure of the distance; a couple of hundred miles, possibly; a dozen hours by rail.  83
  Gil.  The same as going to Baden-Baden.  84
  Sar.  Which is quite near Carlsruhe.  85
  Gil.  Quite near Carlsruhe—Baden-Baden? Why didn’t you say so at once? You said abroad!  86
  Sar.  Yes, Baden-Baden is not many miles from there.  87
  Gil.  That’s settled, then. I’ll spend the summer with you at Baden-Baden, and the rest of the year you will come and visit me in Paris as often as you can.  88
  Sar.  Really!  89
  Gil.  And possibly—now mind, I’m not making definite promises—I might take it into my head to give you a surprise some day. But remember, I don’t promise.  90
  Sar.  All very fine, my dear! But——  91
  Gil.  Good heavens! You surely did not expect to carry me off with you to Carlsruhe?  92
  Sar.  I did.  93
  Gil.  What—the two of us—alone together down there—all the year round?  94
  Sar.  Well?  95
  Gil.  Oh, my dearest Henri! I should die—of happiness, true enough; but still I should die! No, you can’t mean it! Just try to imagine Paris without Frou-Frou, and Frou-Frou without Paris!  96
  Sar.  I confess that I might imagine Paris without Frou-Frou, but——  97
  Gil.  But?  98
  Sar.  Hardly Frou-Frou without Paris.  99
  Gil.  And therefore?  100
  Sar.  Therefore I see that I have only two alternatives to choose between: I must go to Carlsruhe by myself or refuse the mission.  101
  Gil.  Well?  102
  Sar.  My mind is already made up.  103
  Gil.  Do you mean to say you intend to go without me?  104
  Sar.  No; I shall decline the post.  105
  Gil.  Ah, well done!  106
  Sar.  Is it really well done, though? I am not quite sure that it is. But I am sure of one thing, that I could not have found the heart to do otherwise.  107
  Gil.  So you still love me after four years of marriage?  108
  Sar.  Indeed I love you very fondly, but fear my way of showing it is not the right one.  109
  Gil.  Oh, yes, it is; you know perfectly well it is! The proper way to love your wife is to let her do anything she likes, because that puts the wife on her honor to do everything her husband likes.  110
  Sar.  Ah! Then supposing I should take you at your word, and ask you——  111
  Gil.  After what you have just done for me, how could you doubt that I should agree?  112
  Sar.  Really and truly?  113
  Gil.  Really and truly!  114
  Sar.  Then, what if I asked you to give up taking part in this performance?  115
  Gil.  Oh, my dear!  116
  Sar.  Why, what’s the matter?  117
  Gil.  I thought you were going to make some reasonable request! How can I draw back from the entertainment now? Oh, no, Henri, I couldn’t possibly! Besides, you’ll see how pretty I look in the stevedore costume, if I must wear one, or in any other. I shall be a great success, and you will be pleased, because I’m your wife, you know.  118
  Sar.  Fancy, as a little stevedore!  119
  Gil.  In fact, you will be very proud of me!  120
  Sar.  Well, I must be off now.  121
  Gil.  You are going?  122
  Sar.  Yes, to the foreign secretary to take him that answer you approve of so much.
*        *        *        *        *
  Bar.  I hear you are going to Carlsruhe?
  Gil.  I?  125
  Bar.  Yes; is it not the case that your husband has been offered the legation?  126
  Gil.  I am not going to Carlsruhe.  127
  Bar.  Does he go alone?  128
  Gil.  He is not going at all. He has declined the post.  129
  Bar.  Oh, I congratulate you, dear! That’s something like being loved! I suppose it’s hardly necessary to ask you now whether he consents to your appearing in this performance?  130
  Gil.  Of course he consents!  131
  Bar.  Do you know your part?  132
  Gil.  Not very well yet, especially the last scene.  133
  Bar.  We’ll rehearse it. But first let me tell you a delightful piece of news. It’s about our receipts; they will be simply enormous!  134
  Gil.  Yes, do tell me!  135
  Bar.  Well—just imagine—an hour ago, while I was quietly sitting at home, a gentleman was announced whom I had never heard of, and he sent up word to say that he had come to buy tickets. It’s being for charity, you know, I ordered the gentleman to be shown up-stairs. He informed me that he was from a ticket agency. He said, if I would let him have a certain number of tickets, he would pay me the money for them, and—listen—would give me five hundred francs as premium besides! What was I to do? It was for the poor, and so I took the five hundred francs, and here they are.  136
  Gil.  Oh, my dear!  137
  Bar.  Yes, here is the money; you must take it.  (Gives her bank-notes.)  138
  Gil.  Gracious me! The first money I ever earned in my life. It shall go to our dear rector this very day.  139
  Bar.  Yes, with a little note.  140
  Gil.  Why, do you think we ought to let him know where the money comes from?  141
  Bar.  Hm——  142
  Gil.  Perhaps it would be best not to tell him, at first.  143
  Bar.  We might wait until the rector dines here or at my house——  144
  Gil.  And then explain the whole thing very nicely——  145
  Bar.  At dessert.  146
  Gil.  Yes, that will do beautifully.  147
  Bar.  The affair will be a great success, I’m sure, as M. de Valréas is to play Charlemagne.  148
  Gil.  Yes, after he has made up his mind to learn his part.  149
  Bar.  Oh, he’ll act well enough! At any rate, you will acknowledge he has one incentive to make him act well.  150
  Gil.  What might that be?  151
  Bar.  He is madly in love with the lady he is going to act with.  152
  Gil.  What do you say? Madly in love?  153
  Bar.  Certainly!  154
  Gil.  What, you, who know him so well, can pretend to believe such a thing?  155
  Bar.  It’s just because I do know M. de Valréas so thoroughly that I foresee how well he will act when he is seriously in love—this being the first time in his life.  156
  Gil.  Oh, my dear, you are absurdly mistaken!  157
  Bar.  Do you think so?  158
  Bar.  We shall see!
  Val.  Allow me——  160
  Bar.  Come, sir, and present your congratulations.  161
  Val.  Congratulations?  162
  Bar.  The news is true: your friend has been appointed to Carlsruhe, and Mme. de Sartorys will be starting in a week’s time.  163
  Val.  What!  164
  Bar.  Directly after the performance.  165
  Val.  (excited, to GILBERTE).  You are going away?  166
  Bar.  (aside, to GILBERTE).  Well, what do you say to that?  167
  Gil.  (embarrassed).  Hadn’t we better rehearse?  168
  Bar.  (to VALRÉAS).  No, she is not going away. How could she?  169
  Gil.  Oh, do let us rehearse!  170
  Val.  Yes, yes; by all means let us rehearse! By the way, what are we going to rehearse?  171
  Gil.  I should like to do the last scene; we have not had that yet.  172
  Val.  All right, on with the last scene!  173
  Gil.  Oh, of course it’s all the same to you, who know neither the last nor the first!  174
  Val.  What, I not know? How can you say such a thing! I, who have been sitting up all night? Now you shall just see how I repeat my lines without the part in my hand; yes, without the part!  (To BARONESS.)  But you’ll prompt me?  175
  Bar.  You needn’t be anxious about that!  176
  Gil.  The scenery——  177
  Val.  We will attend to the scenery at once.  (Placing two chairs in the middle of the room.)  Here is the wall separating the two apartments, and here, between the two chairs, is the door.  (Gets a third chair.)  Now, Indiana is in her room, and Charlemagne in his.  178
  Gil.  No, that’s not right. In the last scene——  179
  Bar.  Indiana is in Charlemagne’s room——  180
  Val.  And Charlemagne is in Indiana’s. Quite so! Now, then, are we ready?  181
  Gil.  Yes. And what about you, my dear?  182
  Bar.  Oh! I’ll be stage-manager, as usual. Give me the book. There, now you can begin.  183
  Gil.  We start after the bailiff has gone——  184
  Val.  To call in the police commissary.  185
  Gil.  Yes, that’s it.  186
  Val.  And then you say I don’t know my part!  187
  Gil.  Now—“He is gone!”  188
  Val.  “Bravo! Hurrah!”  189
  Gil.  “But he will be back with the commissary, and they will break the door open. This is no laughing matter!”  190
  Bar.  Very good!  191
  Gil.  Yes, isn’t it? “This is no laughing matter!” But I shall say it better in the performance.  192
  Bar.  (to VALRÉAS).  Your turn. “Ah, a bright idea!”  193
  Val.  Yes, yes; I know. “Ah, a bright idea! I’ll empty my apartment; I’ll take all my furniture into yours.”  194
  Gil.  “Oh, will you, indeed?”  195
  Val.  “Considering I am going to marry you!”  196
  Gil.  “Before the mayor?”  197
  Bar.  The directions in the book are that it has to be said impressively.  198
  Gil.  What has?  199
  Bar.  You must say “Before the mayor” impressively.  200
  Gil.  Well, let’s go back, then.  201
  Val.  With pleasure!  202
  Gil.  You begin.  203
  Val.  “Considering I am going to marry you!”  204
  Gil.  “Before the mayor?” Was that better?  205
  Bar.  Much better!  206
  Gil.  Very well. “Before the mayor?”  207
  Val.  “Heavens! Quick!”  208
  Gil.  Now, what do I do?  209
  Bar.  You look out of the window.  210
  Gil.  True! “Ah, there’s the commissary, with his sash on! Lord, what a long nose he has!”  211
  Val.  “It’ll soon be longer. Open the door!”  212
  Bar.  (to GILBERTE).  Now you open the door.  213
  Gil.  All right—I open the door. Now what do I say?  214
  Bar.  You say, “Very well; so much the worse, then!”  215
  Gil.  (upsetting the chair which represents the door).  “Very well; so much the worse, then! Come along! Quick!”  216
  Val.  “Well done! And to begin with—”  (Tries to kiss GILBERTE.)  217
  Gil.  (evading the kiss).  Yes, and what comes next?  218
  Val.  Mme. de Sartorys won’t let me kiss her.  219
  Bar.  It says here in the book, “Kisses her after crossing over.”  220
  Gil.  Is that really in the book?  (Takes book from BARONESS, and examines it.)  Well, this bit we’ll pass over.  221
  Val.  What, pass over it! And after my taking the part because of that very bit!  222
  Gil.  Hm! On the evening of the performance, I don’t say but what——  223
  Val.  That’s just the point! The evening of the performance I sha’n’t be able to do it properly, simply because I’ve not been allowed to rehearse it!  224
  Gil.  Come, let’s go on!  225
  Val.  No; I’ll not rehearse another line!  226
  Gil.  (to BARONESS).  I appeal to the stage-manager.  227
  Bar.  What do you expect me to do? He is quite within his rights.  228
  Gil.  Quite—within—his rights?  229
  Bar.  Entirely!  230
  Gil.  Oh! then I am obliged to——  231
  Bar.  It’s for charity, my dear!  232
  Gil.  (to VALRÉAS).  Well, as the stage-manager is on your side, and as it’s for charity——  233

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