BLUNTSCHLI (rising). It's all right, Major. I'm the chocolate cream soldier. (Petkoff and Sergius are equally astonished.) The gracious young lady saved my life by giving me chocolate creams when I was starving — shall I ever forget their flavour! My late friend Stolz told you the story at Peerot. I was the fugitive.
PETKOFF. You! (He gasps.) Sergius: do you remember how those two women went on this morning when we mentioned it? (Sergius smiles cynically. Petkoff confronts Raina severely.) You're a nice young woman, aren't you?
RAINA (bitterly). Major Saranoff has changed his mind. And when I wrote that on the photograph, I did not know that Captain Bluntschli was married.
BLUNTSCHLI (much startled protesting vehemently). I'm not married.
RAINA (with deep reproach). You said you were.
BLUNTSCHLI. I did not. I positively did not. I never was married in my life.
PETKOFF (exasperated). Raina: will you kindly inform me, if I am not asking too much, which gentleman you are engaged to?
RAINA. To neither of them. This young lady (introducing Louka, who faces them all proudly) is the object of Major Saranoff's affections at present.
PETKOFF. Louka! Are you mad, Sergius? Why, this girl's engaged to Nicola.
NICOLA (coming forward ). I beg your pardon, sir. There is a mistake. Louka is not engaged to me.
PETKOFF. Not engaged to you, you scoundrel! Why, you had twenty-five levas from me on the day of your betrothal; and she had that gilt bracelet from Miss Raina.
NICOLA (with cool unction). We gave it out so, sir. But it was only to give Louka protection. She had a soul above her station; and I have been no more than her confidential servant. I intend, as you know, sir, to set up a shop later on in Sofea; and I look forward to her custom and recommendation should she marry into the nobility. (He goes out with impressive discretion, leaving them all staring after him.)
PETKOFF (breaking the silence). Well, I am — -hm!
SERGIUS. This is either the finest heroism or the most crawling baseness. Which is it, Bluntschli?
BLUNTSCHLI. Never mind whether it's heroism or baseness. Nicola's the ablest man I've met in Bulgaria. I'll make him manager of a hotel if he can speak French and German.
LOUKA (suddenly breaking out at Sergius). I have been insulted by everyone here. You set them the example. You owe me an apology. (Sergius immediately, like a repeating clock of which the spring has been touched, begins to fold his arms.)
BLUNTSCHLI (before he can speak). It's no use. He never apologizes.
LOUKA. Not to you, his equal and his enemy. To me, his poor servant, he will not refuse to apologize.
SERGIUS (approvingly). You are right. (He bends his knee in his grandest manner.) Forgive me!
LOUKA. I forgive you. (She timidly gives him her hand, which he kisses.) That touch makes me your affianced wife.
SERGIUS (springing up). Ah, I forgot that!
LOUKA (coldly). You can withdraw if you like.
SERGIUS. Withdraw! Never! You belong to me! (He puts his arm about her and draws her to him.) (Catherine comes in and finds Louka in Sergius's arms, and all the rest gazing at them in bewildered astonishment.)
CATHERINE. What does this mean? (Sergius releases Louka.)
PETKOFF. Well, my dear, it appears that Sergius is going to marry Louka instead of Raina. (She is about to break out indignantly at him: he stops her by exclaiming testily.) Don't blame me: I've nothing to do with it. (He retreats to the stove.)
CATHERINE. Marry Louka! Sergius: you are bound by your word to us!
SERGIUS (folding his arms). Nothing binds me.
BLUNTSCHLI (much pleased by this piece of common sense). Saranoff: your hand. My congratulations. These heroics of yours have their practical side after all. (To Louka.) Gracious young lady: the best wishes of a good Republican! (He kisses her hand, to Raina's great disgust.)
CATHERINE (threateningly). Louka: you have been telling stories.
LOUKA. I have done Raina no harm.
CATHERINE (haughtily). Raina! (Raina is equally indignant at the liberty.)
LOUKA. I have a right to call her Raina: she calls me Louka. I told Major Saranoff she would never marry him if the Swiss gentleman came back.
BLUNTSCHLI (surprised). Hallo!
LOUKA (turning to Raina). I thought you were fonder of him than of Sergius. You know best whether I was right.
BLUNTSCHLI. What nonsense! I assure you, my dear Major, my dear Madame, the gracious young lady simply saved my life, nothing else. She never cared two straws for me. Why, bless my heart and soul, look at the young lady and look at me. She, rich, young, beautiful, with her imagination full of fairy princes and noble natures and cavalry charges and goodness knows what! And I, a common-place Swiss soldier who hardly knows what a decent life is after fifteen years of barracks and battles — a vagabond — a man who has spoiled all his chances in life through an incurably romantic disposition — a man —
SERGIUS (starting as if a needle had pricked him and interrupting Bluntschli in incredulous amazement). Excuse me, Bluntschli: what did you say had spoiled your chances in life?
BLUNTSCHLI (promptly). An incurably romantic disposition. I ran away from home twice when I was a boy. I went into the army instead of into my father's business. I climbed the balcony of this house when a man of sense would have dived into the nearest cellar. I came sneaking back here to have another look at the young lady when any other man of my age would have sent the coat back —
PETKOFF. My coat!
BLUNTSCHLI. — Yes: that's the coat I mean — would have sent it back and gone quietly home. Do you suppose I am the sort of fellow a young girl falls in love with? Why, look at our ages! I'm thirty-four: I don't suppose the young lady is much over seventeen. (This estimate produces a marked sensation, all the rest turning and staring at one another. He proceeds innocently.) All that adventure which was life or death to me, was only a schoolgirl's game to her — chocolate creams and hide and seek. Here's the proof! (He takes the photograph from the table.) Now, I ask you, would a woman who took the affair seriously have sent me this and written on it: "Raina, to her chocolate cream soldier — a souvenir"? (He exhibits the photograph triumphantly, as if it settled the matter beyond all possibility of refutation.)
PETKOFF. That's what I was looking for. How the deuce did it get there?
BLUNTSCHLI (to Raina complacently). I have put everything right, I hope, gracious young lady!
RAINA (in uncontrollable vexation). I quite agree with your account of yourself. You are a romantic idiot. (Bluntschli is unspeakably taken aback.) Next time I hope you will know the difference between a schoolgirl of seventeen and a woman of twenty-three.
BLUNTSCHLI (stupefied). Twenty-three! (She snaps the photograph contemptuously from his hand; tears it across; and throws the pieces at his feet.)
SERGIUS (with grim enjoyment of Bluntschli's discomfiture). Bluntschli: my one last belief is gone. Your sagacity is a fraud, like all the other things. You have less sense than even I have.
BLUNTSCHLI (overwhelmed). Twenty-three! Twenty-three!! (He considers.) Hm! (Swiftly making up his mind.) In that case, Major Petkoff, I beg to propose formally to become a suitor for your daughter's hand, in place of Major Saranoff retired.
RAINA. You dare!
BLUNTSCHLI. If you were twenty-three when you said those things to me this afternoon, I shall take them seriously.
CATHERINE (loftily polite). I doubt, sir, whether you quite realize either my daughter's position or that of Major Sergius Saranoff, whose place you propose to take. The Petkoffs and the Saranoffs are known as the richest and most important families in the country. Our position is almost historical: we can go back for nearly twenty years.
PETKOFF. Oh, never mind that, Catherine. (To Bluntschli.) We should be most happy, Bluntschli, if it were only a question of your position; but hang it, you know, Raina is accustomed to a very comfortable establishment. Sergius keeps twenty horses.
BLUNTSCHLI. But what on earth is the use of twenty horses? Why, it's a circus.
CATHERINE (severely). My daughter, sir, is accustomed to a first-rate stable.
RAINA. Hush, mother, you're making me ridiculous.
BLUNTSCHLI. Oh, well, if it comes to a question of an establishment, here goes! (He goes impetuously to the table and seizes the papers in the blue envelope.) How many horses did you say?