Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
A Conversation with a Purpose
By Émile Augier (1820–1889)
From ‘Giboyer’s Boy’

MARQUIS—Well, dear Baroness, what has an old bachelor like me done to deserve so charming a visit?  1
  Baroness—That’s what I wonder myself, Marquis. Now I see you I don’t know why I’ve come, and I’ve a great mind to go straight back.  2
  Marquis—Sit down, vexatious one!  3
  Baroness—No. So you close your door for a week; your servants all look tragic; your friends put on mourning in anticipation; I, disconsolate, come to inquire—and behold, I find you at table!  4
  Marquis—I’m an old flirt, and wouldn’t show myself for an empire when I’m in a bad temper. You wouldn’t recognize your agreeable friend when he has the gout;—that’s why I hide.  5
  Baroness—I shall rush off to reassure your friend.  6
  Marquis—They are not so anxious as all that. Tell me something of them.  7
  Baroness—But somebody’s waiting in my carriage.  8
  Marquis—I’ll send to ask him up.  9
  Baroness—But I’m not sure that you know him.  10
  Marquis—His name?  11
  Baroness—I met him by chance.  12
  Marquis—And you brought him by chance.  [He rings.]  You are a mother to me.  [To Dubois.]  You will find an ecclesiastic in Madame’s carriage. Tell him I’m much obliged for his kind alacrity, but I think I won’t die this morning.  13
  Baroness—O Marquis! what would our friends say if they heard you?  14
  Marquis—Bah! I’m the black sheep of the party, its spoiled child; that’s taken for granted. Dubois, you may say also that Madame begs the Abbé to drive home, and to send her carriage back for her.  15
  Baroness—Allow me—  16
  Marquis—Go along, Dubois.—Now you are my prisoner.  17
  Baroness—But, Marquis, this is very unconventional.  18
  Marquis  [kissing her hand]—Flatterer! Now sit down, and let’s talk about serious things.  [Taking a newspaper from the table.]  The gout hasn’t kept me from reading the news. Do you know that poor Déodat’s death is a serious mishap?  19
  Baroness—What a loss to our cause!  20
  Marquis—I have wept for him.  21
  Baroness—Such talent! Such spirit! Such sarcasm!  22
  Marquis—He was the hussar of orthodoxy. He will live in history as the angelic pamphleteer. And now that we have settled his noble ghost—  23
  Baroness—You speak very lightly about it, Marquis.  24
  Marquis—I tell you I’ve wept for him.—Now let’s think of some one to replace him.  25
  Baroness—Say to succeed him. Heaven doesn’t create two such men at the same time.  26
  Marquis—What if I tell you that I have found such another? Yes, Baroness, I’ve unearthed a wicked, cynical, virulent pen, that spits and splashes; a fellow who would lard his own father with epigrams for a consideration, and who would eat him with salt for five francs more.  27
  Baroness—Déodat had sincere convictions.  28
  Marquis—That’s because he fought for them. There are no more mercenaries. The blows they get convince them. I’ll give this fellow a week to belong to us body and soul.  29
  Baroness—If you haven’t any other proofs of his faithfulness—  30
  Marquis—But I have.  31
  Baroness—Where from?  32
  Marquis—Never mind. I have it.  33
  Baroness—And why do you wait before presenting him?  34
  Marquis—For him in the first place, and then for his consent. He lives in Lyons, and I expect him to-day or to-morrow. As soon as he is presentable, I’ll introduce him.  35
  Baroness—Meanwhile, I’ll tell the committee of your find.  36
  Marquis—I beg you, no. With regard to the committee, dear Baroness, I wish you’d use your influence in a matter which touches me.  37
  Baroness—I have not much influence—  38
  Marquis—Is that modesty, or the exordium of a refusal?  39
  Baroness—If either, it’s modesty.  40
  Marquis—Very well, my charming friend. Don’t you know that these gentlemen owe you too much to refuse you anything?  41
  Baroness—Because they meet in my parlor?  42
  Marquis—That, yes; but the true, great, inestimable service you render every day is to possess such superb eyes.  43
  Baroness—It’s well for you to pay attention to such things!  44
  Marquis—Well for me, but better for these Solons whose compliments don’t exceed a certain romantic intensity.  45
  Baroness—You are dreaming.  46
  Marquis—What I say is true. That’s why serious societies always rally in the parlor of a woman, sometimes clever, sometimes beautiful. You are both, Madame: judge then of your power!  47
  Baroness—You are too complimentary: your cause must be detestable.  48
  Marquis—If it was good I could win it for myself.  49
  Baroness—Come, tell me, tell me.  50
  Marquis—Well, then: we must choose an orator to the Chamber for our Campaign against the University. I want them to choose—  51
  Baroness—Monsieur Maréchal?  52
  Marquis—You are right.  53
  Baroness—Do you really think so, Marquis? Monsieur Maréchal?  54
  Marquis—Yes, I know. But we don’t need a bolt of eloquence, since we’ll furnish the address. Maréchal reads well enough, I assure you.  55
  Baroness—We made him deputy on your recommendation. That was a good deal.  56
  Marquis—Maréchal is an excellent recruit.  57
  Baroness—So you say.  58
  Marquis—How disgusted you are! An old subscriber to the Constitutionnel, a liberal, a Voltairean, who comes over to the enemy bag and baggage. What would you have? Monsieur Maréchal is not a man, my dear: it’s the stout bourgeoisie itself coming over to us. I love this honest bourgeoisie, which hates the revolution, since there is no more to be gotten out of it; which wants to stem the tide which brought it, and make over a little feudal France to its own profit. Let it draw our chestnuts from the fire if it wants to. This pleasant sight makes me enjoy politics. Long live Monsieur Maréchal and his likes, bourgeois of the right divine. Let us heap these precious allies with honor and glory until our triumph ships them off to their mills again.  59
  Baroness—Several of our deputies are birds of the same feather. Why choose the least capable for orator?  60
  Marquis—It’s not a question of capacity.  61
  Baroness—You’re a warm patron of Monsieur Maréchal!  62
  Marquis—I regard him as a kind of family protégé. His grandfather was farmer to mine. I’m his daughter’s guardian. These are bonds.  63
  Baroness—You don’t tell everything.  64
  Marquis—All that I know.  65
  Baroness—Then let me complete your information. They say that in old times you fell in love with the first Madame Maréchal.  66
  Marquis—I hope you don’t believe this silly story?  67
  Baroness—Faith, you do so much to please Monsieur Maréchal—  68
  Marquis—That it seems as if I must have injured him? Good heavens! Who is safe from malice? Nobody. Not even you, dear Baroness.  69
  Baroness—I’d like to know what they can say of me.  70
  Marquis—Foolish things that I certainly won’t repeat.  71
  Baroness—Then you believe them?  72
  Marquis—God forbid! That your dead husband married his mother’s companion? It made me so angry!  73
  Baroness—Too much honor for such wretched gossip.  74
  Marquis—I answered strongly enough, I can tell you.  75
  Baroness—I don’t doubt it.  76
  Marquis—But you are right in wanting to marry again.  77
  Baroness—Who says I want to?  78
  Marquis—Ah! you don’t treat me as a friend. I deserve your confidence all the more for understanding you as if you had given it. The aid of a sorcerer is not to be despised, Baroness.  79
  Baroness  [sitting down by the table]—Prove your sorcery.  80
  Marquis  [sitting down opposite]—Willingly! Give me your hand.  81
  Baroness  [removing her glove]—You’ll give it back again.  82
  Marquis—And help you dispose of it, which is more.  [Examining her hand.]  You are beautiful, rich, and a widow.  83
  Baroness—I could believe myself at Mademoiselle Lenormand’s!  84
  Marquis—While it is so easy, not to say tempting, for you to lead a brilliant, frivolous life, you have chosen a rôle almost austere with its irreproachable morals.  85
  Baroness—If it was a rôle, you’ll admit that it was much like a penitence.  86
  Marquis—Not for you.  87
  Baroness—What do you know about it?  88
  Marquis—I read it in your hand. I even see that the contrary would cost you more, for nature has gifted your heart with unalterable calmness.  89
  Baroness  [drawing away her hand]—Say at once that I’m a monster.  90
  Marquis—Time enough! The credulous think you a saint; the skeptics say you desire power; I, Guy François Condorier, Marquis d’Auberive, think you a clever little German, trying to build a throne for yourself in the Faubourg Saint-Germain. You have conquered the men, but the women resist you: your reputation offends them; and for want of a better weapon they use this miserable rumor I’ve just repeated. In short, your flag’s inadequate and you’re looking for a larger one. Henry IV. said that Paris was worth a mass. You think so too.  91
  Baroness—They say sleep-walkers shouldn’t be contradicted. However, do let me say that if I really wanted a husband—with my money and my social position, I might already have found twenty.  92
  Marquis—Twenty, yes; but not one. You forget this little devil of a rumor.  93
  Baroness  [rising]—Only fools believe that.  94
  Marquis  [rising]—There’s the hic. It’s only very clever men, too clever, who court you, and you want a fool.  95
  Baroness—Why?  96
  Marquis—Because you don’t want a master. You want a husband whom you can keep in your parlor, like a family portrait, nothing more.  97
  Baroness—Have you finished, dear diviner? What you have just said lacks common-sense, but you are amusing, and I can refuse you nothing.  98
  Marquis—Maréchal shall have the oration?  99
  Baroness—Or I’ll lose my name.  100
  Marquis—And you shall lose your name—I promise you.  101

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