Cyrano act IV
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…
- 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?
- Henry of Navarre
- Being outnumbered, never flung away
- His white plume.
(Silent enjoyment. The cards flutter, the dice roll, the smoke puffs out.)
- My device was a success,
- However !
(Same attentive pause, interrupting the games and the smoking.)
- 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.
- Boasting again !
- Boasting ? Lend it to me
- To-night; I'll lead the first charge, with your scarf
- Over my shoulder !
- 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.