Act II. Scene 9
Cyrano, Le Bret, the cadets, Christian de Neuvillette.
A CADET (seated at a table, glass in hand): Cyrano! (Cyrano turns round): The story!
CYRANO: In its time!
(He goes up on Le Bret's arm. They talk in low voices.)
THE CADET (rising and coming down): The story of the fray! 'Twill lesson well (He stops before the table where Christian is seated): This timid young apprentice!
CHRISTIAN (raising his head): 'Prentice! Who?
ANOTHER CADET: This sickly Northern greenhorn!
FIRST CADET (mockingly): Hark! Monsieur de Neuvillette, this in your ear: There's somewhat here, one no more dares to name, Than to say 'rope' to one whose sire was hanged!
CHRISTIAN: What may that be?
ANOTHER CADET (in a terrible voice): See here! (He puts his finger three times, mysteriously, on his nose): Do you understand?
CHRISTIAN: Oh! 'tis the . . .
ANOTHER: Hush! oh, never breathe that word, Unless you'd reckon with him yonder!
(He points to Cyrano, who is talking with Le Bret.)
ANOTHER (who has meanwhile come up noiselessly to sit on the table — whispering behind him): Hark! He put two snuffling men to death, in rage, For the sole reason they spoke through their nose!
ANOTHER (in a hollow voice, darting on all-fours from under the table, where he had crept): And if you would not perish in flower o' youth, — Oh, mention not the fatal cartilage!
ANOTHER (clapping him on the shoulder): A word? A gesture! For the indiscreet His handkerchief may prove his winding-sheet!
(Silence. All, with crossed arms, look at Christian. He rises and goes over to Carbon de Castel-Jaloux, who is talking to an officer, and feigns to see nothing.)
CARBON (turning and looking at him from head to foot): Sir!
CHRISTIAN: Pray, what skills it best to do To Southerners who swagger? . . .
CARBON: Give them proof That one may be a Northerner, yet brave!
(He turns his back on him.)
CHRISTIAN: I thank you.
FIRST CADET (to Cyrano): Now the tale!
ALL: The tale!
CYRANO (coming toward them): The tale? . . . (All bring their stools up, and group round him, listening eagerly. Christian is astride a chair): Well! I went all alone to meet the band. The moon was shining, clock-like, full i' th' sky, When, suddenly, some careful clockwright passed A cloud of cotton-wool across the case That held this silver watch. And, presto! heigh! The night was inky black, and all the quays Were hidden in the murky dark. Gadsooks! One could see nothing further . . .
CHRISTIAN: Than one's nose!
(Silence. All slowly rise, looking in terror at Cyrano, who has stopped — dumfounded. Pause.)
CYRANO: Who on God's earth is that?
A CADET (whispering): It is a man Who joined to-day.
CYRANO (making a step toward Christian): To-day?
CARBON (in a low voice): Yes . . . his name is The Baron de Neuvil . . .
CYRANO (checking himself): Good! It is well . . . (He turns pale, flushes, makes as if to fall on Christian): I . . . (He controls himself): What said I? . . . (With a burst of rage): MORDIOUS! . . . (Then continues calmly): That it was dark. (Astonishment. The cadets reseat themselves, staring at him): On I went, thinking, 'For a knavish cause I may provoke some great man, some great prince, Who certainly could break' . . .
CHRISTIAN: My nose! . . .
(Every one starts up. Christian balances on his chair.)
CYRANO (in a choked voice): . . . 'My teeth! Who would break my teeth, and I, imprudent-like, Was poking . . . '
CHRISTIAN: My nose! . . .
CYRANO: 'My finger, . . . in the crack Between the tree and bark! He may prove strong And rap me . . . '
CHRISTIAN: Over the nose . . .