Act II. Scene 1
Ragueneau, pastry-cooks, then Lise. Ragueneau is writing, with an inspired air, at a small table, and counting on his fingers.
FIRST PASTRY-COOK (bringing in an elaborate fancy dish): Fruits in nougat!
SECOND PASTRY-COOK (bringing another dish): Custard!
THIRD PASTRY-COOK (bringing a roast, decorated with feathers): Peacock!
FOURTH PASTRY-COOK (bringing a batch of cakes on a slab): Rissoles!
FIFTH PASTRY-COOK (bringing a sort of pie-dish): Beef jelly!
RAGUENEAU (ceasing to write, and raising his head): Aurora's silver rays begin to glint e'en now on the copper pans, and thou, O Ragueneau! must perforce stifle in thy breast the God of Song! Anon shall come the hour of the lute! — now 'tis the hour of the oven! (He rises. To a cook): You, make that sauce longer, 'tis too short!
THE COOK: How much too short?
RAGUENEAU: Three feet.
(He passes on farther.)
THE COOK: What means he?
FIRST PASTRY-COOK (showing a dish to Ragueneau): The tart!
SECOND PASTRY-COOK: The pie!
RAGUENEAU (before the fire): My muse, retire, lest thy bright eyes be reddened by the fagot's blaze! (To a cook, showing him some loaves): You have put the cleft o' th' loaves in the wrong place; know you not that the coesura should be between the hemistiches? (To another, showing him an unfinished pasty): To this palace of paste you must add the roof . . . (To a young apprentice, who, seated on the ground, is spitting the fowls): And you, as you put on your lengthy spit the modest fowl and the superb turkey, my son, alternate them, as the old Malherbe loved well to alternate his long lines of verse with the short ones; thus shall your roasts, in strophes, turn before the flame!
ANOTHER APPRENTICE (also coming up with a tray covered by a napkin): Master, I bethought me erewhile of your tastes, and made this, which will please you, I hope.
(He uncovers the tray, and shows a large lyre made of pastry.)
RAGUENEAU (enchanted): A lyre!
THE APPRENTICE: 'Tis of brioche pastry.
RAGUENEAU (touched): With conserved fruits.
THE APPRENTICE: The strings, see, are of sugar.
RAGUENEAU (giving him a coin): Go, drink my health! (Seeing Lise enter): Hush! My wife. Bustle, pass on, and hide that money! (To Lise, showing her the lyre, with a conscious look): Is it not beautiful?
LISE: 'Tis passing silly!
(She puts a pile of papers on the counter.)
RAGUENEAU: Bags? Good. I thank you. (He looks at them): Heavens! my cherished leaves! The poems of my friends! Torn, dismembered, to make bags for holding biscuits and cakes! . . . Ah, 'tis the old tale again . . . Orpheus and the Bacchantes!
LISE (dryly): And am I not free to turn at last to some use the sole thing that your wretched scribblers of halting lines leave behind them by way of payment?
RAGUENEAU: Groveling ant! . . . Insult not the divine grasshoppers, the sweet singers!
LISE: Before you were the sworn comrade of all that crew, my friend, you did not call your wife ant and Bacchante!
RAGUENEAU: To turn fair verse to such a use!
LISE: 'Faith, 'tis all it's good for.
RAGUENEAU: Pray then, madam, to what use would you degrade prose?