Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  Private Theatricals

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

Ludovic Halévy (1834–1908) and Henri Meilhac (1831–1897)

Private Theatricals

From “Frou-Frou”


Paul.Are you from the theater?

Pit.Yes. My name is Pitou. I am the assistant prompter, and I am bringing something at the request of Count de Valréas.

Paul.Will you wait a moment?

Pit.Oh, certainly I will wait—as long as ever you please!(Aside.)Good place this; not quite so fine as Mlle. Charlotte’s, but more select. Evident that fashionable people live here.

Gil.Pauline, send at once to the Rue de la Paix. I am dining out to-night, and shall want that dress. I must have it here before six.(Exit PAULINE.)You have lost no time.

Pit.No; for as soon as I knew whom I was to have the honor of obliging, I——

Gil.Then you know me?

Pit.Quite well, madame.

Gil.How is that?

Pit.One evening Mlle. Charlotte was peeping through the hole in the curtain, between the acts. She called M. Greluche, and said, as she pointed out a proscenium-box, “There’s Mme. de Sartorys.”


Pit.And then I—after M. Greluche had done—took my turn, and that is how I know you, madame. I also have the honor of knowing your father. I have often seen him by the porter’s lodge at the theater, waiting for——

Gil.Yes, that will do! What did you say you had brought for me?

Pit.Indiana and Charlemagne, and the part of Indiana written out separately by my own hand. Knowing the play only through the ordinary text, one can’t possibly get the right idea. Here is your part alone, with all the traditions noted in the margin.


Pit.Well, I might say the jokes, as it were, which the original actors of the piece added to their parts.

Gil.Yes—to be sure—very nice! And then there’s the music.

Pit.I have had it copied—as you see.

Gil.(scanning part).Here is a song called “Whirlwind Toes.” What sort of song may that be?

Pit.It goes like this, madame.(Hums a few bars.)

Gil.Shall I be able to sing it, do you suppose?

Pit.Oh, you couldn’t possibly sing worse than Mlle. Charlotte, and yet you see——

Gil.But, my good man, I don’t sing badly at all!

Pit.Beg your pardon, I’m sure! Perhaps you might like to try the song now?(Goes to piano.)

Gil.What! do you play?

Pit.Oh! yes, madame; I strum a little. One may have all sorts of different talents in our profession without ever coming to anything.

Gil.Well, then, supposing we begin?

(PITOU opens piano, and begins to play air. A faint knock is heard on the door.)
Gil.Who’s there? What is it? You can’t come in!

Sar.(outside).But it’s I, my dear!

Gil.Oh! it’s you, is it? Come in, then—you!

Gil.My dear, this is M. Pitou.(To PITOU.)Go on!


Gil.For the performance, you know, which I am to take part in: Indiana and Charlemagne—burlesque. You gave your consent, you remember, because it is for a charitable object. M. Pitou has been kind enough to come here to rehearse the——

Sar.I beg your pardon, but I had something particular to talk with you about. However, I am sorry if——

Gil.Oh, that’s quite a different thing! M. Pitou, you can come another time. Yes, you will come another time—won’t you, M. Pitou?

Pit.Just as you wish, madame; you have only to send me word. I live at 22 Rue des Dames, Batignolles. At your service, madame. Good afternoon.

Sar.Good day.(Exit PITOU.)

Gil.Yes, you know, it’s for that splendid entertainment which Mme. de Cambri is organizing for the benefit of the poor.

Sar.And Mme. de Cambri—what part is she going to play in this splendid entertainment for the benefit of the poor?


Sar.What! none at all?

Gil.No. How can she act a part when she is doing the organizing?

Sar.Of course not! Just like her!

Gil.What do you mean?

Sar.She’s very good at making other people act, is your friend Mme. de Cambri; but as for doing anything herself——


Sar.Well, while you are up there on the stage, exerting yourself, she will be sitting comfortably down below, watching you and criticizing your work.

Gil.You don’t like Mme. de Cambri?

Sar.I neither like her, nor do I dislike her. I merely desire to record the fact that she is a woman who knows what she is about.

Gil.And I?

Sar.You? You are the sweetest little actress in the whole world!

Gil.Thanks, ever so much! But, my dear, you said you wanted to talk with me about something.(Studies her part brought by PITOU.)

Sar.I did.

Gil.Go on, then.

Sar.What I have to talk about will take you miles and miles away from M. Pitou.

Gil.Really? Then it must be something serious.


Gil.So much the better.(Continues studying her part.)

Sar.My love! I was going to——

Gil.Tell me, Henri, what is a stevedore’s costume?


Gil.Yes, I know you are very dignified, and all that; but you needn’t pretend——

Sar.A stevedore—let me see—a stevedore wears a loose silk blouse tucked into a pair of velvet breeches.

Gil.And what else?

Sar.A red scarf.

Gil.What else?

Sar.A nautical cap.

Gil.And then?

Sar.And then that’s all.

Gil.Never will I wear such a costume as that; no, not even for the benefit of the poor! I must find another. Yes, I must think of another. You may begin now, my dear! I am listening.

Sar.I saw the foreign secretary this morning.

Gil.Of course you told him to come!

Sar.Come where?

Gil.Why, to the entertainment!

Sar.No, I did not; but I will. This morning the topic of conversation was myself. He very much wants me to accept a post abroad.


Sar.You see, there is no chance for me in Paris.

Gil.What are you offered—abroad?

Sar.Carlsruhe—French minister at Carlsruhe.

Gil.Oh, French minister at Carlsruhe! Is it a good thing to be French minister at Carlsruhe?

Sar.An excellent thing!

Gil.Ah! And how far did you say it was from Paris to Carlsruhe?

Sar.I am not quite sure of the distance; a couple of hundred miles, possibly; a dozen hours by rail.

Gil.The same as going to Baden-Baden.

Sar.Which is quite near Carlsruhe.

Gil.Quite near Carlsruhe—Baden-Baden? Why didn’t you say so at once? You said abroad!

Sar.Yes, Baden-Baden is not many miles from there.

Gil.That’s settled, then. I’ll spend the summer with you at Baden-Baden, and the rest of the year you will come and visit me in Paris as often as you can.


Gil.And possibly—now mind, I’m not making definite promises—I might take it into my head to give you a surprise some day. But remember, I don’t promise.

Sar.All very fine, my dear! But——

Gil.Good heavens! You surely did not expect to carry me off with you to Carlsruhe?

Sar.I did.

Gil.What—the two of us—alone together down there—all the year round?


Gil.Oh, my dearest Henri! I should die—of happiness, true enough; but still I should die! No, you can’t mean it! Just try to imagine Paris without Frou-Frou, and Frou-Frou without Paris!

Sar.I confess that I might imagine Paris without Frou-Frou, but——


Sar.Hardly Frou-Frou without Paris.

Gil.And therefore?

Sar.Therefore I see that I have only two alternatives to choose between: I must go to Carlsruhe by myself or refuse the mission.


Sar.My mind is already made up.

Gil.Do you mean to say you intend to go without me?

Sar.No; I shall decline the post.

Gil.Ah, well done!

Sar.Is it really well done, though? I am not quite sure that it is. But I am sure of one thing, that I could not have found the heart to do otherwise.

Gil.So you still love me after four years of marriage?

Sar.Indeed I love you very fondly, but fear my way of showing it is not the right one.

Gil.Oh, yes, it is; you know perfectly well it is! The proper way to love your wife is to let her do anything she likes, because that puts the wife on her honor to do everything her husband likes.

Sar.Ah! Then supposing I should take you at your word, and ask you——

Gil.After what you have just done for me, how could you doubt that I should agree?

Sar.Really and truly?

Gil.Really and truly!

Sar.Then, what if I asked you to give up taking part in this performance?

Gil.Oh, my dear!

Sar.Why, what’s the matter?

Gil.I thought you were going to make some reasonable request! How can I draw back from the entertainment now? Oh, no, Henri, I couldn’t possibly! Besides, you’ll see how pretty I look in the stevedore costume, if I must wear one, or in any other. I shall be a great success, and you will be pleased, because I’m your wife, you know.

Sar.Fancy, as a little stevedore!

Gil.In fact, you will be very proud of me!

Sar.Well, I must be off now.

Gil.You are going?

Sar.Yes, to the foreign secretary to take him that answer you approve of so much.


Bar.I hear you are going to Carlsruhe?


Bar.Yes; is it not the case that your husband has been offered the legation?

Gil.I am not going to Carlsruhe.

Bar.Does he go alone?

Gil.He is not going at all. He has declined the post.

Bar.Oh, I congratulate you, dear! That’s something like being loved! I suppose it’s hardly necessary to ask you now whether he consents to your appearing in this performance?

Gil.Of course he consents!

Bar.Do you know your part?

Gil.Not very well yet, especially the last scene.

Bar.We’ll rehearse it. But first let me tell you a delightful piece of news. It’s about our receipts; they will be simply enormous!

Gil.Yes, do tell me!

Bar.Well—just imagine—an hour ago, while I was quietly sitting at home, a gentleman was announced whom I had never heard of, and he sent up word to say that he had come to buy tickets. It’s being for charity, you know, I ordered the gentleman to be shown up-stairs. He informed me that he was from a ticket agency. He said, if I would let him have a certain number of tickets, he would pay me the money for them, and—listen—would give me five hundred francs as premium besides! What was I to do? It was for the poor, and so I took the five hundred francs, and here they are.

Gil.Oh, my dear!

Bar.Yes, here is the money; you must take it.(Gives her bank-notes.)

Gil.Gracious me! The first money I ever earned in my life. It shall go to our dear rector this very day.

Bar.Yes, with a little note.

Gil.Why, do you think we ought to let him know where the money comes from?


Gil.Perhaps it would be best not to tell him, at first.

Bar.We might wait until the rector dines here or at my house——

Gil.And then explain the whole thing very nicely——

Bar.At dessert.

Gil.Yes, that will do beautifully.

Bar.The affair will be a great success, I’m sure, as M. de Valréas is to play Charlemagne.

Gil.Yes, after he has made up his mind to learn his part.

Bar.Oh, he’ll act well enough! At any rate, you will acknowledge he has one incentive to make him act well.

Gil.What might that be?

Bar.He is madly in love with the lady he is going to act with.

Gil.What do you say? Madly in love?


Gil.What, you, who know him so well, can pretend to believe such a thing?

Bar.It’s just because I do know M. de Valréas so thoroughly that I foresee how well he will act when he is seriously in love—this being the first time in his life.

Gil.Oh, my dear, you are absurdly mistaken!

Bar.Do you think so?

Bar.We shall see!

Val.Allow me——

Bar.Come, sir, and present your congratulations.


Bar.The news is true: your friend has been appointed to Carlsruhe, and Mme. de Sartorys will be starting in a week’s time.


Bar.Directly after the performance.

Val.(excited, to GILBERTE).You are going away?

Bar.(aside, to GILBERTE).Well, what do you say to that?

Gil.(embarrassed).Hadn’t we better rehearse?

Bar.(to VALRÉAS).No, she is not going away. How could she?

Gil.Oh, do let us rehearse!

Val.Yes, yes; by all means let us rehearse! By the way, what are we going to rehearse?

Gil.I should like to do the last scene; we have not had that yet.

Val.All right, on with the last scene!

Gil.Oh, of course it’s all the same to you, who know neither the last nor the first!

Val.What, I not know? How can you say such a thing! I, who have been sitting up all night? Now you shall just see how I repeat my lines without the part in my hand; yes, without the part!(To BARONESS.)But you’ll prompt me?

Bar.You needn’t be anxious about that!

Gil.The scenery——

Val.We will attend to the scenery at once.(Placing two chairs in the middle of the room.)Here is the wall separating the two apartments, and here, between the two chairs, is the door.(Gets a third chair.)Now, Indiana is in her room, and Charlemagne in his.

Gil.No, that’s not right. In the last scene——

Bar.Indiana is in Charlemagne’s room——

Val.And Charlemagne is in Indiana’s. Quite so! Now, then, are we ready?

Gil.Yes. And what about you, my dear?

Bar.Oh! I’ll be stage-manager, as usual. Give me the book. There, now you can begin.

Gil.We start after the bailiff has gone——

Val.To call in the police commissary.

Gil.Yes, that’s it.

Val.And then you say I don’t know my part!

Gil.Now—“He is gone!”

Val.“Bravo! Hurrah!”

Gil.“But he will be back with the commissary, and they will break the door open. This is no laughing matter!”

Bar.Very good!

Gil.Yes, isn’t it? “This is no laughing matter!” But I shall say it better in the performance.

Bar.(to VALRÉAS).Your turn. “Ah, a bright idea!”

Val.Yes, yes; I know. “Ah, a bright idea! I’ll empty my apartment; I’ll take all my furniture into yours.”

Gil.“Oh, will you, indeed?”

Val.“Considering I am going to marry you!”

Gil.“Before the mayor?”

Bar.The directions in the book are that it has to be said impressively.

Gil.What has?

Bar.You must say “Before the mayor” impressively.

Gil.Well, let’s go back, then.

Val.With pleasure!

Gil.You begin.

Val.“Considering I am going to marry you!”

Gil.“Before the mayor?” Was that better?

Bar.Much better!

Gil.Very well. “Before the mayor?”

Val.“Heavens! Quick!”

Gil.Now, what do I do?

Bar.You look out of the window.

Gil.True! “Ah, there’s the commissary, with his sash on! Lord, what a long nose he has!”

Val.“It’ll soon be longer. Open the door!”

Bar.(to GILBERTE).Now you open the door.

Gil.All right—I open the door. Now what do I say?

Bar.You say, “Very well; so much the worse, then!”

Gil.(upsetting the chair which represents the door).“Very well; so much the worse, then! Come along! Quick!”

Val.“Well done! And to begin with—”(Tries to kiss GILBERTE.)

Gil.(evading the kiss).Yes, and what comes next?

Val.Mme. de Sartorys won’t let me kiss her.

Bar.It says here in the book, “Kisses her after crossing over.”

Gil.Is that really in the book?(Takes book from BARONESS, and examines it.)Well, this bit we’ll pass over.

Val.What, pass over it! And after my taking the part because of that very bit!

Gil.Hm! On the evening of the performance, I don’t say but what——

Val.That’s just the point! The evening of the performance I sha’n’t be able to do it properly, simply because I’ve not been allowed to rehearse it!

Gil.Come, let’s go on!

Val.No; I’ll not rehearse another line!

Gil.(to BARONESS).I appeal to the stage-manager.

Bar.What do you expect me to do? He is quite within his rights.

Gil.Quite—within—his rights?


Gil.Oh! then I am obliged to——

Bar.It’s for charity, my dear!

Gil.(to VALRÉAS).Well, as the stage-manager is on your side, and as it’s for charity——