The Stepmother, A Drama in Five Acts by Honoré de Balzac


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Page 1


(A richly decorated drawing-room; on the walls are portraits of
Napoleon I. and his son. The entry is by a large double glass door,
which opens on a roofed veranda and leads by a short stairway to a
park. The door of Pauline's apartments are on the right; those of the
General and his wife are on the left. On the left side of the central
doorway is a table, and on the right is a cabinet. A vase full of
flowers stands by the entrance to Pauline's room. A richly carved
marble mantel, with a bronze clock and candelabras, faces these
apartments. In the front of the stage are two sofas, one on the left,
the other on the right. Gertrude enters, carrying the flowers which
she has just plucked, and puts them in the vase.)

Gertrude and the General.

I assure you, my dear, that it would be unwise to defer any longer
giving your daughter in marriage. She is now twenty-two. Pauline has
been very slow in making her choice; and, in such a case, it is the
duty of parents to see that their children are settled. Moreover, I am
very much interested in her.

The General
In what way?

The position of stepmother is always open to suspicion; and for some
time it has been rumored in Louviers that I am the person who throws
obstacles in the way of Pauline's marriage.

The General
That is merely the idle gossip of little towns. I should like to cut
out some of those silly tongues. And to think that they should attack
you of all people, Gertrude, who have been a real mother to
Pauline--whom you have educated most excellently!

It is the way of the world! They will never forgive us for living so
close to the town, yet never entering it. The society of the place
revenges itself upon us for slighting it. Do you think that our
happiness can escape envy? Even our doctor--

The General
Do you mean Vernon?

Yes, Vernon is very envious of you; he is vexed to think that he has
never been able to inspire any woman with such affection as I have for
you. Moreover, he pretends that I am merely playing a part,--as if I
could do it for twelve years! Rather unlikely, I should think.

The General
No woman could keep up the pretence for twelve years without being
found out. The idea is absurd! And Vernon also is--

Oh, he is only joking! And so, as I told you before, you had better
see Godard. I am astonished that he has not yet arrived. He is so rich
that it would be folly to refuse him. He is in love with Pauline, and
although he has his faults, and is somewhat provincial, he is quite
able to make her happy.

The General
I have left Pauline quite free to choose a husband for herself.

There is no cause for anxiety. A girl so gentle, so well brought up,
so well behaved, is sure to do right.

The General
Gentle, did you say? She is headstrong, like her father.

She, headstrong? And you, come now, do you not always act as I wish?

The General
You are no angel, and always wish what pleases me! By the bye, Vernon
takes dinner with us after his autopsy.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 10th Jul 2020, 11:33