Act I. Scene 3
The same, all but Ligniere. De Guiche, Valvert, then Montfleury.
A marquis (watching De Guiche, who comes down from Roxane's box, and crosses the pit surrounded by obsequious noblemen, among them the Viscount de Valvert): He pays a fine court, your De Guiche!
ANOTHER: Faugh! . . . Another Gascon!
THE FIRST: Ay, but the cold, supple Gascon — that is the stuff success is made of! Believe me, we had best make our bow to him.
(They go toward De Guiche.)
SECOND MARQUIS: What fine ribbons! How call you the color, Count de Guiche? 'Kiss me, my darling,' or 'Timid Fawn?'
DE GUICHE: 'Tis the color called 'Sick Spaniard.'
FIRST MARQUIS: 'Faith! The color speaks truth, for, thanks to your valor, things will soon go ill for Spain in Flanders.
DE GUICHE: I go on the stage! Will you come? (He goes toward the stage, followed by the marquises and gentlemen. Turning, he calls): Come you Valvert!
CHRISTIAN (who is watching and listening, starts on hearing this name): The Viscount! Ah! I will throw full in his face my . . . (He puts his hand in his pocket, and finds there the hand of a pickpocket who is about to rob him. He turns round): Hey?
THE PICKPOCKET: Oh!
CHRISTIAN (holding him tightly): I was looking for a glove.
THE PICKPOCKET (smiling piteously): And you find a hand. (Changing his tone, quickly and in a whisper): Let me but go, and I will deliver you a secret.
CHRISTIAN (still holding him): What is it?
THE PICKPOCKET: Ligniere . . . he who has just left you . . .
CHRISTIAN (same play): Well?
THE PICKPOCKET: His life is in peril. A song writ by him has given offense in high places — and a hundred men — I am of them — are posted to-night . . .
CHRISTIAN: A hundred men! By whom posted?
THE PICKPOCKET: I may not say — a secret . . .
CHRISTIAN (shrugging his shoulders): Oh!
THE PICKPOCKET (with great dignity): . . . Of the profession.
CHRISTIAN: Where are they posted?
THE PICKPOCKET: At the Porte de Nesle. On his way homeward. Warn him.
CHRISTIAN (letting go of his wrists): But where can I find him?
THE PICKPOCKET: Run round to all the taverns — The Golden Wine Press, the Pine Cone, The Belt that Bursts, The Two Torches, The Three Funnels, and at each leave a word that shall put him on his guard.
CHRISTIAN: Good — I fly! Ah, the scoundrels! A hundred men 'gainst one! (Looking lovingly at Roxane): Ah, to leave her! . . . (looking with rage at Valvert): and him! . . . But save Ligniere I must!
(He hurries out. De Guiche, the viscount, the marquises, have all disappeared behind the curtain to take their places on the benches placed on the stage. The pit is quite full; the galleries and boxes are also crowded.)
THE AUDIENCE: Begin!
A BURGHER (whose wig is drawn up on the end of a string by a page in the upper gallery): My wig!
CRIES OF DELIGHT: He is bald! Bravo, pages — ha! ha! ha! . . .
THE BURGHER (furious, shaking his fist): Young villain!
LAUGHTER AND CRIES (beginning very loud, and dying gradually away): Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!
LE BRET (astonished): What means this sudden silence? . . . (A spectator says something to him in a low voice): Is't true?
THE SPECTATOR: I have just heard it on good authority.
MURMURS (spreading through the hall): Hush! Is it he? No! Ay, I say! In the box with the bars in front! The Cardinal! The Cardinal! The Cardinal!
A PAGE: The devil! We shall have to behave ourselves . . .
(A knock is heard upon the stage. Every one is motionless. A pause.)
THE VOICE OF A MARQUIS (in the silence, behind the curtain): Snuff that candle!
ANOTHER MARQUIS (putting his head through the opening in the curtain): A chair!
(A chair is passed from hand to hand, over the heads of the spectators. The marquis takes it and disappears, after blowing some kisses to the boxes.)
A SPECTATOR: Silence!
(Three knocks are heard on the stage. The curtain opens in the centre Tableau. The marquises in insolent attitudes seated on each side of the stage. The scene represents a pastoral landscape. Four little lusters light the stage; the violins play softly.)