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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Pierre de Marivaux (1688–1763)

Paying One’s Debts

From “The Village Heir”


Fisc.Good-day, Master Blaise.

Blaise.Your servant, good Fiscal; but call me Mister Blaise. That’s my right.

Fisc.Aha! I understand. Your fortune has raised your quality. So be it, Master Blaise. I rejoice at your good fortune, of which your children have just informed me. I congratulate you, and at the same time beg you to return to me the fifty francs which you have owed me for a month.

Blaise.That’s true. I recognize that debt, but I cannot pay it. That would be a source of reproach to me.

Fisc.How? You cannot pay it? Why?

Blaise.Because that would not be worthy of a person of my means. That would turn everything to confusion.

Fisc.You call it confusion! Did not I lend you my money?

Blaise.Assuredly. I have nothing to say against that. You gave it to me; I received it; I owe it to you; I have given you my note for it, which you have only to keep carefully. Come from time to time to demand your due. I won’t prevent you. I’ll put you off. At the worst you come again. I’ll put you off again, and thus, from date to date, our time will pass by properly. That’s the way these things are done.

Fisc.Surely you are making fun of me!

Blaise.By no means. Put yourself in my place. Do you wish me to lose my reputation for the sake of fifty miserable francs? Are they worth the disadvantage of being looked on as a great fellow for paying? One must be reasonable. If it can be done without prejudice to my affairs, I’ll give you the money with the greatest pleasure. I have it; here it is. I can let you have it as a loan—that’s good practise; but in payment—that would never do.

Fisc.(to himself).I see how it’s to be done.(Aloud.)You say that you may lend money, then?


Fisc.It is in itself a noble privilege, and, what is more, suits you better than any other, for I have noticed that you are generous by nature.

Blaise(laughing and bridling up).Yes, true, that’s not bad. You put it well. You must get on the right side of us great folks. I have, in fact, great virtues, and very comfortable virtues, since they cost me nothing. And, at the worst, I need not show them. There you have the whole business.

Fisc.I foresee that you will have many virtues of the latter kind.

Blaise(giving him a little pat on the shoulder).That’s true, Mister Fiscal, that’s true. By Heaven! but you please me!

Fisc.That’s a great honor for me.

Blaise.I don’t say no.

Fisc.We’ll talk no more about what you owe me.

Blaise.Oh, but you must talk of it. I want you to. It’ll be amusing.

Fisc.As you wish. I, for my part, will thus satisfy the dignity of your new condition, and you shall pay me when you please.

Blaise.Good; in a few dozens of years.

Fisc.In a hundred, if you choose. We’ll leave that. But you have a noble heart, and I have a favor to ask of you, namely, that you will be so kind as to lend me fifty francs.

Blaise.Here they are, Fiscal, take them. I am only too pleased to serve you.

Fisc.I am an honest man. Now I tear up your note, and I am paid.

Blaise.You are paid? Oh, but that’s rascally of you! By Heaven! this is no way in which to trick people of my condition out of their honor! This is an affront!

Fisc.What an odd fellow you are. This virtue of yours is costing you nothing!