Cyrano act IV

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Background: Every night during the siege of Arras, Cyrano has been smuggling letters through enemy lines, to be sent to his friend Christian’s wife. The action takes place shortly after Cyrano has returned from his nightly jaunt. The Duke De Guiche is one of the commanders of the French forces, and an enemy of Cyrano’s. He is in the French camp, speaking to the Cadets of Carbon de Castel-Jaloux, of whom Cyrano is a member…


DE GUICHE

I can afford
Your little hates. My conduct under fire
Is well known. It was only yesterday
I drove the Count de Bucquoi from Bapaume,
Pouring my men down like an avalanche,
I myself led the charge—


CYRANO (Without looking up from his book.)

And your white scarf ?


DE GUICHE (Surprised and gratified)

You heard that episode ? Yes—rallying
My men for the third time, I found myself
Carried among a crowd of fugitives
Into the enemy's lines. I was in danger
Of being shot or captured ; but I thought
Quickly—took off and flung away the scarf
That marked my military rank—and so
Being inconspicuous, escaped among
My own force, rallied them, returned again
And won the day ! . . .

(The Cadets do not appear to be listening, but here and there the cards and the dice boxes remain motionless, the smoke is retained in their cheeks.)

What do you say to that?
Presence of mind—yes?


CYRANO

Henry of Navarre
Being outnumbered, never flung away
His white plume.

(Silent enjoyment. The cards flutter, the dice roll, the smoke puffs out.)


DE GUICHE

My device was a success,
However !

(Same attentive pause, interrupting the games and the smoking.)


CYRANO

Possibly . . . An officer
Does not lightly resign the privilege
Of being a target.

(Cards, dice, and smoke fall, roll, and float away with increasing satisfaction.)

Now, if I had been there—
Your courage and my own differ in this—
When your scarf fell, I should have put it on.

DE GUICHE

Boasting again !


CYRANO

Boasting ? Lend it to me
To-night; I'll lead the first charge, with your scarf
Over my shoulder !


DE GUICHE

Gasconnade once more!
You are safe making that offer, and you know it--
My scarf lies on the river bank between
The lines, a spot swept by artillery
Impossible to reach alive!


CYRANO (Produces the scarf from his pocket.)

Yes. Here . . .


Excerpt from the Brian Hooker translation of “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmond Rostand.