An homage to:
THE BALD SOPRANO
by Eugène Ionesco
MARY, the maid
THE FIRE CHIEF
SCENE: A middle-class English interior, with English armchairs. An English evening. Mr. Smith, an Englishman, seated in his English armchair and wearing English slippers, is smoking his English pipe and reading an English newspaper, near an English fire. He is wearing English spectacles and a small gray English mustache. Beside him, in another English armchair, Mrs. Smith, an Englishwoman, is daring some English socks. A long moment of English silence. The English clock strikes 17 English strokes.
MR. SMITH: A conscientious doctor must die with his patient if they can’t get well together. The captain of a ship goes down with his ship into the briny deep, he does not survive alone.
MRS. SMITH: A curious story. Almost unbelievable.
MR. SMITH: A, e, i, o, u, a, e, i, o, u, a, e, i, o, u, i!
MR. MARTIN: A fly by night?
MR. SMITH: À la mode de Caen.
MR. SMITH: . . . A little too exhibitionistic . . .
MRS. SMITH: A schoolmaster teaches his pupils to read, but the cat suckles her young when they are small.
FIRE CHIEF: A young calf had eaten too much ground glass. As a result, it was obliged to give birth. It brought forth a cow into the world. However, since the calf was male, the cow could not call him Mamma. Nor could she call him Papa, because the calf was too little. The calf was then obliged to get married and the registry office carried out all the details completely à la mode.
FIRE CHIEF: Ah, I don’t know whether I’ll be able to. I’m on official business. It depends on what time it is.
MRS. SMITH: Ah! I hadn’t thought of that… Perhaps it is true… And then, what conclusion do you draw from this?
MRS. MARTIN [opening her mouth very wide]: Ah! Oh! Ah! Oh! Let me gnash my teeth.
FIRE CHIEF: Ah! Then goodbye, ladies and gentlemen.
MRS. SMITH: Ah! Three days a week? And what does Bobby Watson do on those days?
MRS. MARTIN: All?
MR. SMITH: All doctors are quacks. And all patients too. Only the Royal Navy is honest in England.
MRS. MARTIN: All that is human is honorable.
MR. SMITH: All the Bobby Watsons are commercial travelers.
MARY: All the same, I could, perhaps, recite a little poem for you.
MRS. SMITH: All the same . . .
FIRE CHIEF: All the same, there’s an occasional asphyxiation by gas, but that’s unusual too. For instance, a young woman asphyxiated herself last week–she had left the gas on.
[All together, completely infuriated, screaming in each others’ ears. The light is extinguished. In the darkness we hear, in an increasingly rapid rhythm:]
MR. SMITH: Always someone.
MR. MARTIN: An Englishman’s home is truly his castle.
MRS. SMITH: An odd family!
MR. SMITH: And?
MRS. MARTIN: And did you hear the bell when it rang the second time?
FIRE CHIEF: And had married an oyster woman, whose father had a brother, mayor of a small town, who had taken as his wife a blonde schoolteacher, whose cousin, a fly fisherman . . .
FIRE CHIEF: And how!
MRS. SMITH: And I was saying that each time the doorbell rings there is never anyone there.
MR. SMITH: And the newspaper.
FIRE CHIEF [to the Martins]: And there’s nothing burning at your house either?
MRS. SMITH: And what can we do for you, Mr. Fire Chief?
MR. SMITH: And what is even more interesting is the fact that fireman’s stories are all true, and they’re based on experience.
MRS. SMITH: And when do they plan to be married, those two?
MRS. SMITH: And when is there no competition?
MRS. MARTIN: And when the doorbell rang the first time, it was you?
FIRE CHIEF: . . . And whose father had been reared in Canada by an old woman who was the niece of a priest whose gradmother, occasionally in the winter, like everyone else, caught a cold.
MR. MARTIN: And yet there’s a certain warmth in those lines . . .
MR. SMITH: And you?
MR. SMITH: And you saw no one?
[Another moment of silence. The clock strikes seven times. Silence. The clock strikes three times. Silence. The clock doesn’t strike.]
MRS. SMITH: Are you referring to Bobby Watson the commercial traveler?
MR. SMITH: As for me, when I go to visit someone, I ring in order to be admitted. I think that everyone does the same thing and that each time there is a ring there must be someone there.
FIRE CHIEF: As I was saying . . . whose third wife was the daughter of the best midwife in the region and who, early left a widow . . .
MRS. SMITH: At last.
MRS. MARTIN: B, c, d, f, g, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, x, z!
MRS. MARTIN: Bazaar, Balzac, bazooka!
MRS. MARTIN: Be quiet, he is beginning.
MR. SMITH: Because someone has rung!
MRS. SMITH: Because the operation was successful in the doctor’s case and it was not in Parker’s.
MRS. SMITH: Begin!
MR. MARTIN: Begin!
MRS. SMITH: Benjamin Franklin was right; you are more nervous than he.
MR. MARTIN: Bizarre, beaux-arts, brassieres!
MR. SMITH: Bobby and Bobby like their parents. Bobby Watson’s uncle, old Bobby Watson, is a rich man and very fond of the boy. He might very well pay for Bobby’s education.
MR. MARTIN: Bread is a staff, whereas bread is also a staff, and an oak springs from an oak every morning at dawn.
MR. SMITH: Browning!
MR. SMITH: But how does it happen that the doctor pulled through while Parker died?
MRS. MARTIN: But if we don’t listen to you we won’t hear you.
MRS. SMITH: But it has been proved, not by theoretical demonstrations, but by facts.
MARY: But it was you who gave me permission.
MRS. SMITH: But it wasn’t even true.
MR. MARTIN: But just now.
MRS. SMITH: But not sailors.
MRS. MARTIN: But of course, that must have been I, sir. How curious it is, how curious it is, and what a bizarre coincidence!
MRS. SMITH: But still, the soup was perhaps a little too salt. It was saltier than you. Ha, ha, ha. It also had too many leeks and not enough onions. I regret I didn’t advise Mary to add some aniseed stars. The next time I’ll know better.
FIRE CHIEF: But the clock?
MR. MARTIN [to the Fire Chief]: But the third time–it was not you who rang?
MRS. SMITH: But there is some sugar.
MR. SMITH: But what would you say if you saw men acting like women do, smoking all day long, powdering, rouging their lips, drinking whisky?
MR. SMITH: But when the door was opened nobody was in sight.
MRS. SMITH: But who would take care of the children? You know very well that they have a boy and a girl. What are their names?
MRS. SMITH: But why doesn’t he work those three days if there’s no competition?
MRS. MARTIN: Cacao trees on cacao farms don’t bear coconuts, they yield cocoa! Cacao trees on cacao farms don’t bear coconuts, they yield cocoa! Cacao trees on cacao farms don’t bear coconuts, they yield cocoa.
MRS. MARTIN: Cactus, coccyx! Crocus! Cockaded! Cockroach!
MRS. SMITH: Certainly not. I repeat to you that I was speaking of only the first three times, since the fourth time does not count.
MR. MARTIN: Charity begins at home.
MRS. MARTIN: Chin up!
MRS. SMITH [imitating a train]: Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo, choo, choo, choo, choo, choo, choo!
MR. SMITH: [clicks his tongue.]
MR. SMITH: Cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos, cockatoos.
MR. SMITH: [continues to read, clicks his tongue.]
MR. SMITH: [continues to read, clicks his tongue.]
MR. SMITH: [continues to read, clicks his tongue.]
MR. SMITH: [continues to read, clicks his tongue.]
MR. SMITH: [continues to read, clicks his tongue.]
MR. SMITH: [continues to read, clicks his tongue.]
MR. SMITH: [continues to read, clicks his tongue.]
MR. SMITH: Crocodile!
MR. MARTIN: Darling, let’s forget all that has not passed between us, and, now that we have found each other again, let’s try not to lose each other any more, and live as before.
MR. MARTIN: Dear madam, were you not the lady who asked me to place her suitcase in the luggage rack and who thanked me and gave me permission to smoke?
MRS. SMITH: Did you go to see the match dealer?
MR. SMITH: Dogs have fleas, dogs have fleas.
MRS. MARTIN: Donald, it’s you, darling!
MR. SMITH: Don’t be turkeys; rather kiss the conspirator.
MARY: Don’t be upset! . . . They’re not so bad really.
FIRE CHIEF: Don’t get excited. You tell me, Mrs. Smith.
MR. SMITH [to his wife]: Don’t interrupt, my dear, you’re disgusting.
MRS. SMITH: Don’t make jokes, Mr. Fire Chief. This business is too sad.
MRS. MARTIN: Don’t ruche my brooch!
MRS. SMITH [in a fit of anger]: Don’t send me to open the door again. You’ve seen that it was useless. Experience teaches us that when one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is never anyone there.
MR. MARTIN: Don’t smooch the brooch!
MR. MARTIN: Don’t you feel well? [Silence.]
MR. SMITH: Don’t tell us anything . . .
[Doorbell rings again.]
[Doorbell rings again.]
MR. MARTIN: Edward is a clerk; his sister Nancy is a typist, and his brother William a shop-assistant.
FIRE CHIEF: Eh, well–is there a fire here?
MARY: Elizabeth and Donald are now too happy to be able to hear me. I can therefore let you in on a secret. Elizabeth is not Elizabeth, Donald is not Donald. And here is the proof: the child that Donald spoke of is not Elizabeth’s daughter, they are not the same person. Donald’s daughter has one white eye and one red eye like Elizabeth’s daughter. Whereas Donald’s child has a white right eye and a red left eye, Elizabeth’s child has a red right eye and a white left eye! Thus all of Donald’s system of deduction collapses when it comes up against this last obstacle which destroys his whole theory. In spite of the extraordinary coincidences which seem to be definitive proofs, Donald and Elizabeth, not being the parents of the same child, are not Donald and Elizabeth. It is in vain that he thinks he is Donald, it is in vain that she thinks she is Elizabeth. He believes in vain that she is Elizabeth. She believes in vain that he is Donald–they are sadly deceived. But who is the true Donald? Who is the true Elizabeth? Who has any interest in prolonging this confusion? I don’t know. Let’s not try to know. Let’s leave things as they are. [She takes several steps toward the door, then returns and says to the audience:] My real name is Sherlock Holmes. [She exits.]
MR. MARTIN: Even if she can sometimes be a rather good detective.
MRS. SMITH: Even so, I don’t like to see it . . . here among us . . .
FIRE CHIEF: Excuse me, but I can’t stay long. I should like to remove my helmet, but I haven’t time to sit down. [He sits down, without removing his helmet.] I must admit that I have come to see you for another reason. I am on official business.
FIRE CHIEF [coughs slightly several times]: Excuse me, don’t look at me that way. You embarrass me. You know that I am shy.
MR. MARTIN: Excuse me, madam, but it seems to me, unless I’m mistaken, that I’ve met you somewhere before.
MRS. MARTIN: Excuse me, Mr. Fire Chief, but I did not follow your story very well. At the end, when we got to the grandmother of the priest, I got mixed up.
MR. MARTIN, MR. SMITH, MRS. SMITH: Fantastic!
[Fire Chief exits. All accompany him to the door and then return to their seats.]
[Following this last speech of Mr. Smith’s, the others are silent for a moment, stupefied. We sense that there is a certain nervous irritation. The strokes of the clock are more nervous too. The speeches which follow must be said, at first, in a glacial, hostile tone. The hostility and the nervousness increase. At the end of this scene, the four characters must be standing very close to each other, screaming their speeches, raising their fists, ready to throw themselves upon each other.]
MR. SMITH: Fortunately, they had no children.
MR. MARTIN: From sage to stooge, from stage to serge!
MRS. SMITH: Go, my little Mary, go quietly to the kitchen and read your poems before the mirror . . .
FIRE CHIEF: Go right ahead.
MR. SMITH: Go see the Durands.
MR. MARTIN: Go take a douche.
MRS. SMITH: Good evening, dear friends! Please forgive us for having made you wait so long. We thought that we should extend you the courtesy to which you are entitled and as soon as we learned that you had been kind enough to give us the pleasure of coming to see us without prior notice we hurried to dress for the occasion.
FIRE CHIEF [he is of course in uniform and is wearing an enormous shining helmet]: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. [The Smiths and the Martins are still slightly astonished. Mrs. Smith turns her head away, in a temper, and does not reply to his greeting.] Good evening Mr. Smith. You appear to be angry.
MR. MARTIN: Good God, how curious that is and what a coincidence! We were then seated facing each other, my dear lady! It is there that we must have seen each other!
MR. MARTIN: Good God, that’s curious! I, too, am originally from the city of Manchester, madam!
MR. MARTIN: Good Lord, how curious! Perhaps then, madam, it was on the train that I saw you?
MR. MARTIN: Good luck, and a good fire!
MR. SMITH: Goodness, someone is ringing.
MR. SMITH: Goodness, someone is ringing.
MR. SMITH: Goodness, someone is ringing.
MR. SMITH: Goodness, someone is ringing. There must be someone there.
MR. MARTIN: Groom the bridegroom, groom the bridegroom.
MR. SMITH: Groom the goose, don’t goose the groom.
MRS. SMITH: Groom your tooth.
FIRE CHIEF: . . . Had married a glazier who was full of life and who had had, by the daughter of a station master, a child who had burned his bridges . . .
FIRE CHIEF: . . . Had married another blonde schoolteacher, named Marie, too, whose brother was married to another Marie, also a blonde schoolteacher . . .
MRS. MARTIN: Had she forgotten it?
MR. SMITH [in Mrs. Martin’s ear]: He agrees! He’s going to bore us again.
FIRE CHIEF: He did that all by himself. Clandestinely. But it’s not I who would report him.
MR. SMITH: He rests, he sleeps.
MR. SMITH: He was the handsomest corpse in Great Britain. He didn’t look his age. Poor Bobby, he’d been dead for four years and he was still warm. A veritable living corpse. And how cheerful he was!
MRS. MARTIN: He was tying his shoe lace which had come undone.
MR. MARTIN: He who sells an ox today, will have an egg tomorrow.
MRS. SMITH: He won’t admit he’s wrong.
MRS. SMITH: Here!
MRS. SMITH: Here it is: Once upon a time, a fiancé gave a bouquet of flowers to his fiancée, who said, “Thanks”; but before she had said, “Thanks,” he, without saying a single word, took back the flowers he had given her in order to teach her a good lesson, and he said, “I take them back.” He said, “Goodbye,” and took them back and went off in all directions.
MR. SMITH: He’s right.
MRS. SMITH: His britches?
MR. SMITH: Hm. [Silence.]
MRS. SMITH: Hm, hm. [Silence.]
MRS. MARTIN: Hm, hm, hm. [Silence.]
MR. MARTIN: Hm, hm, hm, hm. [Silence.]
MR. SMITH: Hm . . . hm . . . you two are very touching, but at the same time, a little . . . a little . . .
MR. MARTIN: How bizarre, curious, strange! Then, madam, we live in the same room and we sleep in the same bed, dear lady. It is perhaps there that we have met!
MR. MARTIN [in the same drawling, monotonous voice]: How curious it is and what a coincidence! And bizarre! Perhaps they are the same, dear lady!
MRS. MARTIN: How curious it is and what a coincidence! It is indeed possible, my dear sir! However, I do not believe that I recall it.
MRS. MARTIN: How curious it is and what a coincidence! It is indeed possible that we have met there, and perhaps even last night. But I do not recall it, dear sir!
MRS. MARTIN: How curious it is, good Lord, how bizarre! And what a coincidence! I too reside on the fifth floor, in flat No. 8, dear sir!
MR. MARTIN: How curious it is, how bizarre, what a coincidence! And well, well, it was perhaps at that moment that we came to know each other, madam?
MR. MARTIN [musing]: How curious it is, how curious it is, how curious it is, and what a coincidence! You know, in my bedroom there is a bed, and it is covered with a green eiderdown. This room, with the bed and the green eiderdown, is at the end of the corridor between the w.c. and the bookcase, dear lady!
MR. MARTIN: How curious it is! I had seat No. 3, next to the window, my dear lady.
MRS. MARTIN: How curious it is! It is indeed possible, dear sir. [A rather long moment of silence. The clock strikes 29 times.]
MRS. MARTIN: How curious it is! It is possible, but I do not recall it, sir!
MR. MARTIN: How curious that is and what a bizarre coincidence! Perhaps we met in compartment 6, my dear lady?
MRS. MARTIN: How curious that is, how bizarre! I, too, since coming to London, I have resided in Bromfield Street, my dear sir.
MRS. MARTIN: How curious that is, how bizarre! It is indeed possible, after all! But I do not recall it, my dear sir.
MRS. MARTIN: How curious that is. I also reside at No. 19, my dear sir.
MRS. MARTIN: How curious that is! My seat was also in coach No. 8, compartment 6, my dear sir!
MR. MARTIN: How curious that is! Perhaps we did meet in second class, my dear lady!
MR. MARTIN: How curious that is, well then, well then, perhaps we have seen each other in Bromfield Street, my dear lady.
MRS. SMITH: How sad for her to be left a widow so young.
MRS. SMITH: However, the oil from the grocer at the corner is still the best.
MR. SMITH [to his wife]: Hush. [To Mrs. Martin:] What was this man doing?
FIRE CHIEF: I am going to reconcile you. You both are partly right. When the doorbell rings, sometimes there is someone, other times there is no one.
MRS. SMITH: I am sorry to disappoint you but I do not believe there’s anything here at the moment. I promise that I will notify you when we do have something.
MR. MARTIN: I beg you.
MR. MARTIN: I believe that our friends’ maid is going crazy . . . she wants to tells us a story, too.
MARY [bursts into laughter, then she bursts into tears. Then she smiles]: I bought me a chamber pot.
MRS. MARTIN: I can buy a pocketknife for my brother, but you can’t buy Ireland for your grandfather.
FIRE CHIEF: I can’t do that either. He’s not English. He’s only been naturalized. And naturalized citizens have the right to have houses, but not the right to have them put out if they’re burning.
FIRE CHIEF: I didn’t think of that!
FIRE CHIEF: I do not deny it.
FIRE CHIEF: I don’t have the right to extinguish clergymen’s fires. The Bishop would get angry. Besides they extinguish their fires themselves, or else they have them put out by vestal virgins.
MRS. SMITH: I don’t know enough Spanish to make myself understood.
MR. SMITH: I don’t know everything. I can’t answer all your idiotic questions!
MRS. SMITH [confused]: I don’t know . . . I don’t think so. Do you want me to go and look?
MR. MARTIN: I have a little girl, my little daughter, she lives with me, dear lady. She is two years old, she’s blonde, she has a white eye and a red eye, she is very pretty, her name is Alice, dear lady.
MARY: I hope, madam and sir will excuse me . . . and these ladies and gentlemen too . . . I would like . . . I would like . . . to tell you a story, myself.
MRS. SMITH: I hope that you’ve spent a pleasant afternoon, that you went to the cinema with a man and that you drank some brandy and milk.
MRS. SMITH [falls on her knees sobbing, or else she does not do this]: I implore you!
MR. MARTIN: I knew that third wife, if I’m not mistaken. She ate chicken sitting on a hornet’s nest.
FIRE CHIEF: I must beg you to excuse my indiscretion [terribly embarassed] . . . uhm [He points a finger at the Martins] . . . you don’t mind . . . in front of them . . .
MRS. SMITH: I never thought of that!
MRS. SMITH: I only know one. I’m going to tell it to you. It’s called “The Bouquet.”
MR. SMITH: I only met her once, by chance, at Bobby’s burial.
MRS. MARTIN: I prefer a bird in the bush to a sparrow in a barrow.
MR. MARTIN: I reside at No. 19, my dear lady.
FIRE CHIEF: I speak from my own experience. Truth, nothing but the truth. No fiction.
MRS. SMITH: I tell you no. In any case you are not going to disturb me again for nothing. If you wish to know, go and look yourself!
MRS. MARTIN: I think so too.
FIRE CHIEF: I thought it was marvelous.
MRS. SMITH: I told you, he’s just a boy.
MRS. MARTIN: I, too, sir. It seems to me that I’ve met you somewhere before.
MR. MARTIN: I traveled second class, madam. There is no second class in England, but I always travel second class.
MARY: I was going to tell you . . .
MR. MARTIN: I’d rather kill a rabbit than sing in the garden.
MR. MARTIN: I’d rather lay an egg in a box than go and steal an ox.
MR. SMITH: If someone else had told me this, I’d not believe it.
MR. MARTIN: If that is the case . . . dear friends . . . these emotions are understandable, human, honorable . . .
MR. MARTIN: If you catch a cold, you should get yourself a colt.
MRS. MARTIN: I’ll give you my mother-in-law’s slippers if you’ll give me your husband’s coffin.
MR. SMITH: I’ll go.
FIRE CHIEF: I’ll tell you another: “The Cock.” Once upon a time, a cock wished to play the dog. But he had no luck because everyone recognized him right away.
MR. SMITH: I’ll tell you one: “The Snake and the Fox.” Once upon a time, a snake came up to a fox and said: “It seems to me that I know you!” The fox replied to him: “Me too.” “Then,” said the snake, “give me some money.” “A fox doesn’t give money,” replied the tricky animal, who, in order to escape, jumped down into a deep ravine full of strawberries and chicken honey. But the snake was there waiting for him with a Mephistophelean laugh. The fox pulled out his knife, shouting: “I’m going to teach you how to live!” Then he took to flight, turning his back. But he had no luck. The snake was quicker. With a well-chosen blow of his fist, he struck the fox in the middle of his forehead, which broke into a thousand pieces, while he cried: “No! No! Four times no! I’m not your daughter.”
MR. MARTIN: I’m going to give you another example . . .
MR. SMITH: I’m going to live in my cabana among my cacao trees.
MARY: I’m going to recite a poem, then, is that agreed? It is a poem entitled “The Fire” in honor of the Fire Chief:
The polypoids were burning in the wood
A stone caught fire
The castle caught fire
The forest caught fire
The men caught fire
The women caught fire
The birds caught fire
The fish caught fire
The water caught fire
The sky caught fire
The ashes caught fire
The smoke caught fire
The fire caught fire
Everything caught fire
Caught fire, caught fire.
FIRE CHIEF: I’m going to try to begin anyhow. But promise me that you won’t listen.
MR. SMITH: I’m looking for a monophysite priest to marry to our maid.
MRS. SMITH: I’m not going to open the door again.
MARY: I’m so glad to see you again . . . at last!
MARY[entering]: I’m the maid. I have spent a very pleasant afternoon. I’ve been to the cinema with a man and I’ve seen a film with some women. After the cinema, we went to drink some brandy and milk and then read the newspaper.
FIRE CHIEF: I’m too tired.
MRS. SMITH: I’m waiting for the aqueduct to come and see me at my windmill.
MARY: I’m your little firehose.
MR. SMITH: In fact it’s false. When one hears the doorbell ring it is because there is someone there.
MR. MARTIN: In most cases, yes.
MRS. SMITH: In real life, one must look out of the window.
MR. MARTIN: In short, we still do not know whether, when the doorbell rings, there is someone there or not!
MRS. MARTIN: In the street, near a café, I saw a man, properly dressed, about fifty years old, or not even that, who…
MARY: Incredible! Here!
MRS. SMITH: Incasker, you incask us.
MRS. SMITH: Isn’t he charming! [She kisses him.]
MR. MARTIN: Isn’t that curious! Only, I, madam, I left the city of Manchester about five weeks ago.
MRS. MARTIN: It happened not far from our house.
MRS. SMITH: It is his wife that I mean. She is called Bobby too, Bobby Watson. Since they both had the same name, you could never tell one from the other when you saw them together. It was only after his death that you could really tell which was which. And there are still people today who confuse her with the deceased and offer their condolences to him. Do you know her?
MRS. MARTIN: It is indeed possible, after all! But I do not recall it, my dear sir!
MRS. MARTIN: It is indeed possible but I do not recall it, dear sir.
MRS. MARTIN: It is indeed possible; that is, not unlikely. It is plausible and, after all, why not–But I don’t recall it, sir!
MR. MARTIN: It is plausible.
MRS. MARTIN: It is true, but I am not at all sure of it, sir.
MRS. MARTIN: It might seem strange.
MR. SMITH: It runs badly. It is contradictory, and always indicates the opposite of what the hour really is.
MRS. SMITH: It was in all the papers.
FIRE CHIEF: It was she who extinguished my first fires.
MR. SMITH: It wasn’t in the paper. It’s been three years since his death was announced. I remembered it through an association of ideas.
MR. SMITH: It’s!
MR. SMITH: It’s!
MR. SMITH: It’s a useless precaution, but absolutely necessary.
FIRE CHIEF: It’s because–pardon me–I have orders to extinguish all the fires in the city.
MRS. MARTIN: It’s harder in the case of fires. The tariffs are too high!
MRS. MARTIN: It’s interesting.
MRS. SMITH: It’s not bad.
MRS. SMITH: It’s not proper! . . .
ALL TOGETHER: It’s not that way, it’s over here, it’s not that way, it’s over here, it’s not that way, it’s over here, it’s not that way, it’s over here!
FIRE CHIEF: It’s not the same one.
MRS. SMITH: It’s nothing to me! But if you’re only saying that to annoy me… I don’t care for that kind of joking, you know that very well!
MRS. MARTIN: It’s scarcely worth the trouble, for no one would believe me.
MR. SMITH: It’s terrible.
MR. SMITH: It’s true. My wife is intelligence personified. She’s even more intelligent than I. In any case, she is much more feminine, everyone says so.
MR. MARTIN [to Mrs. Smith]: It’s your turn, dear lady.
MR. SMITH: I’ve been goosed.
MRS. SMITH: I’ve never seen her. Is she pretty?
FIRE CHIEF: Just a minute . . . I admit . . . all this is very subjective . . . but this is my conception of the world. My world. My dream. My ideal . . . And now this reminds me that I must leave. Since you don’t have the time here, I must tell you that in exactly three-quarters of an hour and sixteen minutes, I’m having a fire at the other end of the city. Consequently, I must hurry. Even though it will be quite unimportant.
MRS. SMITH, MR. MARTIN: Kipling.
MRS. SMITH: Krishnamurti, Krishnamurti, Krishnamurti!
FIRE CHIEF: Let me go.
MRS. SMITH [to the Fire Chief]: Let’s have another, Mr. Fire Chief.
MR. MARTIN: Let’s go and slap Ulysses.
FIRE CHIEF: Let’s hope so. For everybody.
FIRE CHIEF: Life is very simple, really. [To the Smiths:] Go on and kiss each other.
MR. SMITH: Like my wife.
MR. MARTIN: Like tripes.
MR. MARTIN: Madam, I took the 8:30 morning train which arrives in London at 4:45.
MARY: Madam . . . sir . . .
MR. MARTIN: Marietta, spot the pot!
MRS. SMITH: Mary did the potatoes very well, this evening. The last time she did not do them well. I do not like them when they are well done.
[Mary throws herself on the neck of the Fire Chief.]
MRS. SMITH: Men are all alike! You sit there all day long, a cigarette in your mouth, or you powder your nose and rouge your lips, fiftly times a day, or else you drink like a fish.
MRS. SMITH: Mice have lice, lice haven’t mice.
MR. SMITH: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
MARY: Mr. and Mrs. Martin, your guests, are at the door. They were waiting for me. They didn’t dare come in by themselves. They were supposed to have dinner with you this evening.
[Mr. and Mrs. Smith enter from the right, wearing the same clothes.]
[Mr. and Mrs. Smith exit right. Mary opens the door at the left by which Mr. and Mrs. Martin enter.]
[Mr. and Mrs. Smith sit facing their guests. The striking of the clock underlines the speeches, more or less strongly, according to the case. The Martins, particularly Mrs. Martin, seem embarrassed and timid. For this reason the conversation begins with difficulty and the words are uttered, at the beginning, awkwardly. A long embarrassed silence at first, then other silences and hesitations follow.]
MR. SMITH: Mr. Fire Chief, permit me in my turn to ask you several questions.
MRS. SMITH: Mr. Fire Chief, since you are not too pressed, stay a little while longer. You would be doing us a favor.
MRS. SMITH: Mr. Fire Chief, since you have helped us settle this, please make yourself comfortable, take off your helmet and sit down for a moment.
[Mrs. Martin approaches Mr. Martin without haste. They embrace without expression. The clock strikes once, very loud. This striking of the clock must be so loud that it makes the audience jump. The Martins do not hear it.]
[Mrs. Smith shrugs her shoulders. Mrs. Martin tosses her head.]
MRS. SMITH: Mrs. Parker knows a Rumanian grocer by the name of Popesco Rosenfeld, who has just come frome Constantinople. He is a great specialist in yogurt. He has a diploma from the school of yogurt-making in Adrianople. Tomorrow I shall buy a large pot of native Rumanian yogurt from him. One doesn’t often find such things here in the suburbs of London.
MR. MARTIN [shaking Mr. Smith’s hand]: My congratulations.
MRS. SMITH: My dear, it is you who interrupted first, you boor.
MRS. SMITH: My dear Mary, please open the door and ask Mr. and Mrs. Martin to step in. We will change quickly.
MR. MARTIN [to his wife]: My dear, tell us what you’ve seen today.
MR. MARTIN: My flat is on the fifth floor, No. 8, my dear lady.
MRS. SMITH: My God, the poor man! When did he die?
MRS. MARTIN: My husband is very obstinate, too.
MRS. SMITH: My husband was claiming . . .
MRS. SMITH: My little Mary, you are frightfully obstinate.
MR. MARTIN: My seat was in coach No. 8, compartment 6, my dear lady.
MRS. SMITH: My uncle lives in the country, but that’s none of the midwife’s business.
MR. SMITH: My wife has always been romantic.
MR. SMITH: Naturally. [A pause. Still reading his paper:] Here’s a thing I don’t understand. In the newspaper they always give the age of deceased persons but never the age of the newly born. That doesn’t make sense.
MR. SMITH: Neither would I.
MRS. MARTIN: Never.
MRS. SMITH: Never anyone.
MRS. MARTIN: Never. It is only the first three times that count.
MRS. MARTIN: Nevertheless, it was the cow that gave us tails.
MR. SMITH: Nevertheless, it’s not chilly. [Silence.]
MRS. SMITH: Nevertheless, when they set fire to it last year, it was put out just the same.
MR. SMITH: Next spring, at the latest.
MRS. SMITH [to her husband]: No.
FIRE CHIEF: No.
FIRE CHIEF: No, but she thought it was her comb.
FIRE CHIEF: No floods either.
MRS. SMITH: No, he’s wet his pants. [Silence.]
MR. MARTIN: No his bridge game.
MRS. MARTIN: No, it was he.
FIRE CHIEF: No, it was not I.
MR. SMITH: No, it was you who was claiming.
MR. SMITH: No, it’s not that one, it’s someone else. It’s Bobby Watson, the son of old Bobby Watson, the late Bobby Watson’s aunt.
MRS. SMITH: No luck. I was too polite.
FIRE CHIEF: No one. I am sure of that.
MRS. MARTIN: No, unfortunately.
MR. MARTIN: No wheat, no fires.
FIRE CHIEF [aggrieved]: None at all? You don’t have a little fire in the chimney, something burning in the attic or in the cellar? A little fire just starting, at least?
MR. MARTIN: Nor do I, madam. [A moment of silence. Tha clock strikes twice, then once.] Since coming to London, I have resided in Bromfield Street, my dear lady.
MRS. MARTIN: Not!
MRS. MARTIN: Not always. You’ve just seen otherwise!
MR. SMITH: Not possible.
MR. SMITH [to his wife]: Not so fast. [To the Fire Chief:] And what were you doing at the door?
FIRE CHIEF [jealous]: Not so good. And anyway, I’ve heard it before.
FIRE CHIEF: Nothing. I was just standing there. I was thinking of many things.
MRS. MARTIN: O!
MR. MARTIN, MR. SMITH, MRS. SMITH: Oh!
MRS. SMITH: Oh!
MR. AND MRS. SMITH: Oh!
MRS. SMITH [offended]: Oh! Are you trying to humiliate me?
MRS. MARTIN: Oh, but definitely. [Silence.]
FIRE CHIEF: Oh! But it is she! Incredible!
MRS. SMITH: Oh, by all means, how charming of you. [She kisses him.]
MR. MARTIN: Oh, charming! [He either kisses or does not kiss Mrs. Smith.]
MR. SMITH: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. [Silence.]
MRS. MARTIN: Oh, good Lord, how curious and bizarre! I had seat No. 6, next to the window, across from you, my dear sir.
MR. SMITH [opening the door]: Oh! how do you do. [He glances at Mrs. Smith and the Martins, who are all surprise.] It’s the Fire Chief!
MR. SMITH: Oh, my dear, this is not so serious. The Fire Chief is an old friend of the family. His mother courted me, and I knew his father. He asked me to give him my daughter in marriage if ever I had one. And he died in waiting.
MR. SMITH [also getting up and going towards his wife, tenderly]: Oh, my little ducky daddles, what a little spitfire you are! You know that I only said it as a joke! [He takes her by the waist and kisses her.] What a ridiculous pair of old lovers we are! Come, let’s put out the lights and go bye-byes.
MR. MARTIN: Oh no, fortunately. [Silence.]
FIRE CHIEF: Oh, no, it’s too late.
FIRE CHIEF: Oh, not even that. A straw fire and a little heartburn.
MRS. MARTIN: Oh, sir, at your age, you shouldn’t. [Silence.]
MR. MARTIN, MR. SMITH: Oh, the sweet child! [They kiss him.]
MRS. SMITH: Oh, these men sho always think they’re right and who’re always wrong!
MR. SMITH: Oh, this is going to be amusing.
MRS. MARTIN: Oh! truly, of course, truly, sir!
MRS. MARTIN [graciously]: Oh well, today I witnessed something extraordinary. Something really incredible.
MR. MARTIN: Oh, yes . . .
MARY: Oh yes!
MRS. SMITH: Oh yes, Mr. Fire Chief, begin again. Everyone wants to hear.
MRS. SMITH: Oh yes, of course I do remember. I remembered it right away, but I don’t understand why you yourself were so surprised to see it in the paper.
MRS. SMITH: Oh, yes. We were expecting them. And we were hungry. Since they didn’t put in an appearance, we were going to start dinner without them. We’ve had nothning to eat all day. You should not have gone out!
FIRE CHIEF: Oh, you have too many prejudices.
MR. MARTIN: Oh! You women! You always stand up for each other.
MRS. SMITH: On the other hand, the dog that wished to play cock was never recognized.
MR. SMITH: On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Tuesdays.
MR. SMITH: One always gets mixed up in the hands of a priest.
MR. MARTIN: One can prove that social progress is definitely better with sugar.
MRS. MARTIN: One can sit down on a chair, when the chair doesn’t have any.
MRS. SMITH: One cannot compare a patient with a ship.
MR. MARTIN: One doesn’t polish spectacles with black wax.
MR. SMITH: One must always think of everything.
MR. SMITH: One walks on his feet, but one heats with electricity or coal.
MRS. SMITH: Our little boy wanted to drink some beer; he’s going to love getting tiddly. He’s like you. At table did you notice how he stared at the bottle? But I poured some water from the jug into his glass. He was thirsty and he drank it. Helen is like me: she’s a good manager, thrifty, plays the piano. She never asks to drink English beer. She’s like our little daughter who drinks only milk and eats only porridge. It’s obvious that she’s only two. She’s named Peggy. The quince and bean pie was marvelous. It would have been nice, perhaps, to have had a small glass of Australian Burgundy with the sweet, but I did not bring the bottle to the table because I did not wish to set the children a bad example of gluttony. They must learn to be sober and temperate.
MR. MARTIN: Paper is for writing, the cat’s for the rat. Cheese is for scratching.
MR. MARTIN: Perhaps it was someone else?
MR. SMITH: Perhaps it was the same man!
MR. SMITH: Please do us a favor.
FIRE CHIEF: Please don’t forget, it would be a great help.
MRS. SMITH: Poor Bobby.
MRS. SMITH: Potatoes are very good fried in fat; the salad oil was not rancid. The oil from the grocer at the corner is better quality than the oil from the grocer across the street. It is even better than the oil from the grocer at the bottom of the street. However, I prefer not to tell them that their oil is bad.
MR. SMITH: Rather a steak in a chalet than gristle in a castle.
FIRE CHIEF: Righto.
MR. MARTIN: Robert!
MRS. MARTIN, MR. SMITH: Robert Kipling!
MRS. MARTIN, MR. SMITH: Rudyard.
MRS. SMITH, MR. MARTIN: Rudyard Browning.
MRS. SMITH: Sainte-Nitouche!
MRS. MARTIN: Sainte-Nitouche stoops to my cartouche.
MRS. MARTIN: Say whatever you like.
MRS. MARTIN: Scaramouche!
MR. SMITH: Seducer seduced!
FIRE CHIEF: Shall I tell you some stories?
MRS. SMITH: She always wears her hair in the same style.
[She exits. Mr. and Mrs. Martin sit facing each other, without speaking. They smile timidly at each other. The dialogue which follows must be spoken in voices that are drawling, monotonous, a little singsound, without nuances.]
MR. SMITH: She has regular features and yet one cannot say that she is pretty. She is too big and stout. Her features are not regular but still one can say that she is very pretty. She is a little too small and too thin. She’s a voice teacher.
[She hurls the socks across the stage and shows her teeth. She gets up.]
[She recites the poem while the Smiths are pushing her off-stage.]
MR. MARTIN: She’s a true Engishwoman.
MR. SMITH: She’s not been properly brought up . . .
MR. SMITH: She’s still young. She might very well remarry. She looks so well in mourning.
MRS. MARTIN: Shh.
MRS. SMITH: Shh!
MRS. MARTIN: Silly gobblegobblers, silly gobblegobblers.
MR. SMITH: Since she’s blonde, she must be Marie.
MRS. SMITH [to the Martins]: Since you travel so much, you must have many interesting things to tell us.
MRS. SMITH: So they say. [Silence.]
MR. SMITH: Speak.
FIRE CHIEF [moving towards the door, then stopping]: Speaking of that–the bald soprano? [General silence, embarrassment.]
MRS. SMITH: Such caca, such caca, such caca, such caca, such caca, such caca, such caca, such caca, such caca.
MR. MARTIN: Such cascades of cacas, such cascades of cacas, such cascades of cacas, such cascades of cacas, such cascades of cacas, such cascades of cacas, such cascades of cacas, such cascades of cacas.
MR. SMITH: Take a circle, caress it, and it will turn vicious.
MRS. SMITH [furious]: Tell us another.
MR. MARTIN: Tell us one, anyway.
MR. MARTIN: Tell us quickly, my dear.
MRS. MARTIN: Thanks to you, we have passed a truly Cartesian quarter of an hour.
MR. MARTIN: That!
MRS. MARTIN: That is certainly possible, and it is not at all unlikely. But I do not remember very well, my dear sir!
MRS. MARTIN: That is curious!
MRS. MARTIN: That is curious! How very bizarre! And what a coincidence! I, too, sir, I traveled second class.
MRS. MARTIN: That is curious! How very bizarre! And what a coincidence! I took the same train, sir, I too.
MRS. MARTIN: That is curious! What a bizarre coincidence! I, too, sir, I left the city of Manchester about five weeks ago.
MRS. SMITH: That is true in theory. But in reality things happen differently. You have just seen otherwise.
MRS. MARTIN: That is very possible. I am originally from the city of Manchester. But I do not have a good memory, sir. I cannot say whether it was there that I caught a glimpse of you or not!
MRS. MARTIN: That sent chills up my spine . . .
MRS. SMITH: That was all they needed! Children! Poor woman, how could she have managed!
FIRE CHIEF: That was because I had hidden myself–as a joke.
MRS. SMITH: That would be proper. And Bobby Watson’s aunt, old Bobby Watson, might very well, in her turn, pay for the education of Bobby Watson, Bobby Watson’s daughter. That way Bobby, Bobby Watson’s mother, could remarry. Has she anyone in mind?
MRS. SMITH: That’s a promise.
MR. MARTIN: That’s because I wasn’t there yet . . .
MR. SMITH: That’s because it is imported.
MR. SMITH: That’s false, since the Fire Chief is here. He rang the bell, I opened the door, and there he was.
FIRE CHIEF: That’s for you to find out.
MR. MARTIN: That’s neither his fault, nor yours.
MRS. MARTIN: That’s no reason.
MR. MARTIN: That’s not entirely accurate.
MR. MARTIN: That’s not impossible.
MR. MARTIN: That’s right. Truth is never found in books, only in life.
MR. MARTIN: That’s true. [Silence.]
MR. MARTIN: That’s true. [Silence.]
MRS. SMITH: The car goes very fast, but the cook beats batter better.
MR. MARTIN: The ceiling is above, the floor is below.
[The clock strikes as much as it likes. After several seconds, Mr. and Mrs. Martin separate and take the chairs they had at the beginning.]
[The clock strikes five times. A long silence.]
[The doorbell rings.]
[The doorbell rings again.]
MRS. SMITH: The first time there was no one. The second time, no one. Why do you think that there is someone there now?
MRS. SMITH: The fish was fresh. It made my mouth water. I had two helpings. No, three helpings. That made me go to the w.c. You also had three helpings. However, the third time you took less than the first two times, while as for me, I took a great deal more. I eat better than you this evening. Why is that? Usually, it is you who eats more. It is not appetite you lack.
MRS. MARTIN: The goose grooms.
FIRE CHIEF: “The Headcold.” My brother-in-law had, on the paternal side, a first cousin whose maternal uncle had a father-in-law whose paternal grandfather had married as his second wife a young native whose brother he had met on one of his travels, a girl of whom he was enamored and by whom he had a son who married an intrepid lady pharmacist who was none other than the niece of an unkown fourth-class petty officer of the Royal Navy and whose adopted father had an aunt who spoke Spanish fluently and who was, perhaps, one of the granddaughters of an engineer who died young, himself the gradson of the owner of a vineyard which produced mediocre wine, but who had a second cousin, a stay-at-home, a sergeant-major, whose son had married a very pretty young woman, a divorcée, whose first husband was the son of a loyal patriot who, in the hope of making his fortune, had managed to bring up one of his daughters so that she could marry a footman who had known Rothschild, and whose brother, after having changed his trade several times, married and had a daughter whose stunted great-grandfather wore spectacles which had been given him by a cousin of his, the brother-in-law of a man from Portugal, natural son of a miller, not too badly off, whose foster-brother had married the daughter of a former country doctor, who was himself a foster-brother of the son of a forrester, himself the natural son of another country doctor, married three times in a row, whose third wife . . .
MR. SMITH: The heart is ageless. [Silence.]
MR. SMITH: The pope elopes! The pope’s got no horoscope. The horoscope’s bespoke.
MR. SMITH: The truth lies somewhere between the two. [Silence.]
[The words cease abruptly. Again, the lights come on. Mr. and Mrs. Martin are seated like the Smiths at the beginning of the play. The play begins again with the Martins, who say exactly the same lines as the Smiths in the first scene, while the curtain softly falls.]
MR. MARTIN [after having reflected at length, gets up slowly and, unhurriedly, moves toward Mrs. Martin, who, surprised by his solemn air, has also gotten up very quietly. Mr. Martin, in the same flat, monotonous voice, slightly singsong]: Then, dear lady, I believe that here can be no doubt about it, we have seen each other before and you are my own wife… Elizabeth, I have found you again!
MR. SMITH: Then Mackenzie is not a good doctor. The operation should have succeeded with both of them or else both should have died.
MR. SMITH [sniffing]: There can’t be one here. There’s no smell of anything burning.
MR. MARTIN: There is a native British modesty–forgive me for attempting, yet again, to define my thought–not understood by foreigners, even by specialists, thanks to which, if I thus express myself . . . of course, I don’t mean to refer to you . . .
MRS. SMITH: There, it’s nine o’clock. We’ve drunk the soup, and eaten the fish and chips, and the English salad. The children have drunk English water. We’ve eaten well this evening. That’s because we live in the suburbs of London and because our name is Smith.
MRS. SMITH: There must be somebody there. I’ll go and see. [She goes to see, opens the door, and comes back.] No one. [She sits down again.]
MRS. SMITH: There must be somebody there. I’ll go and see. [She goes to see, she opens the door and closes it, and comes back. ] Nobody. [She sits down again.]
MR. MARTIN: There’s been an argument between Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Mr. Fire Chief.
MRS. SMITH: There’s no draft. [Silence.]
FIRE CHIEF: There’s nothing doing there. He is insured against fires.
MR. SMITH: There’s someone there.
MR. SMITH: These confusions are always dangerous!
MRS. MARTIN: They also say the opposite. [Silence.]
[They sit together in the same armchair, their arms around each other, and fall asleep. The clock strikes several more times. Mary, on tiptoe, a finger to her lips, enters quietly and addresses the audience.]
MR. MARTIN: They’ll kiss each other tomorrow. They have plenty of time.
MR. MARTIN [to the Fire Chief]: Things aren’t going so well just now.
MRS. SMITH [to Mr. Martin]: This is no business of yours! [To Mr. Smith:] I beg you not to involve outsiders in our family arguments.
MR. SMITH: This is really uncalled for, Mary . . .
MR. SMITH: This is too much, here, in our home, in the suburbs of London.
MRS. MARTIN: This morning when you looked at yourself in the mirror you didn’t see yourself.
MR. MARTIN: This seems logical to me.
FIRE CHIEF: Three-quarters of an hour.
MR. SMITH: Times are bad. That’s true all over. It’s the same this year with business and agriculture as it is with fires, nothing is prospering.
MRS. MARTIN: To each his own.
MR. SMITH: To hell with polishing!
MR. MARTIN: To tell the truth, my dear lady, I do not remember it either, but it is possible that we caught a glimpse of each other there, and as I think of it, it seems to me even very likely.
MR. MARTIN: To tell the truth, my dear lady, I do not remember it either. However, it is very possible that we saw each other on that occasion.
MR. SMITH [still reading his paper]: Tsk, it says here that Bobby Watson died.
MR. MARTIN [who has forgotten where he was]: Uh . . .
MR. MARTIN: Ver!
FIRE CHIEF: Very poorly. There’s been almost nothing, a few trifles–a chimney, a barn. Nothing important. It doesn’t bring in much. And since there are no returns, the profits on output are very meager.
MRS. SMITH: Victory! I was right.
MR. MARTIN: Was it, by any chance, at Manchester that I cought a glimpse of you, madam?
MRS. SMITH: Way!
MR. MARTIN: We all have colds. [Silence.]
MR. SMITH: We didn’t do it on purpose.
MRS. SMITH: We don’t have the time, here.
MRS. SMITH: We just kissed each other a little while ago.
MR. SMITH: We shall have to give them a wedding present. I wander what?
MRS. SMITH: We shall have to go to their wedding, I suppose.
MRS. SMITH: We were arguing because my husband said that each time the doorbell rings there is always someone there.
MRS. SMITH: Well, I’ll go and see. You can’t say that I am obstinate, but you will see that there’s no one there! [She goes to look, opens the door and closes it.] You see, there’s no one there. [She returns to her seat.]
MRS. MARTIN: Well, I’m sure you’ll say that I’m making it up–he was down on one knee and he was bent over.
FIRE CHIEF: Well then?
FIRE CHIEF: Well, then! [He coughs again in a voice shaken by emotion:] “The Dog and the Cow,” an experimental fable. Once upon a time another cow asked another dog: “Why have you not swallowed your trunk?” “Pardon me,” replied the dog, “it is because I thought that I was an elephant.”
MR. MARTIN: Well then, well then, well then, well then, perhaps we have seen each other in that house, dear lady?
MRS. SMITH: Well, this is how it was. It is difficult for me to speak openly to you, but a fireman is also a confessor.
MRS. MARTIN: Well, today, when I went shopping to buy some vegetables, which are getting to be dearer and dearer…
MR. SMITH: Well, we’re sorry to see you go.
FIRE CHIEF: Well, what is it all about?
MR. SMITH: We’re not going to question your sincerity!
MR. MARTIN: We’re old friends. They tell us everything.
MR. SMITH: Were you standing at the door for a long time?
MR. SMITH [furious]: We’ve had nothing to eat all day. And we’ve been waiting four whole hours for you. Why have you come so late?
MRS. MARTIN: What a bizarre coincidence! I, too, have a little girl. She is two years old, has a white eye and a red eye, she is pretty, and her name is Alice, too, dear sir!
MRS. SMITH: What a character!
MRS. MARTIN: What a coincidence, good Lord, what a coincidence! My bedroom, too, has a bed with a green eiderdown and is at the end of the corridor, between the w.c., dear sir, and the bookcase!
MRS. SMITH: What a difficult trade! However, they do well at it.
MRS. SMITH: What a pity! He was so well preserved.
MRS. MARTIN: What are the seven days of the week?
MRS. SMITH: What do you want?
MRS. SMITH: What does all this mean?
MR. SMITH: What have you come in here for?
MRS. MARTIN: What I think is that a maid, after all–even though it’s none of my business–is never anything but a maid . . .
MRS. MARTIN: What is she saying?
MRS. MARTIN: What is the moral?
MR. MARTIN: What? When one hears the doorbell ring, that means someone is at the door ringing to have the door opened.
MRS. SMITH: What will it be? A little chimney fire?
MRS. MARTIN: When?
MR. SMITH: When I opened the door and saw you, it was really you who had rung the bell?
MRS. SMITH: When I say yes, it’s only in a manner of speaking.
MR. SMITH: When I’m in the country, I love the solitude and the quiet.
MRS. SMITH: Where is it all going to end!
MR. SMITH: Which Bobby Watson do you mean?
MR. SMITH: Which poor Bobby do you mean?
MRS. SMITH: Who? Bobby Watson?
FIRE CHIEF: Who does she think she is? [He looks at her.] Oh!
MR. SMITH: Who, what?
MRS. SMITH: Who, what?
MRS. SMITH: “Who’d stoop to blame? . . . and I never choose to stoop.”
MRS. SMITH: Why?
MRS. SMITH: Why are you butting in?
MRS. SMITH: Why, Bobby Watson, the son of old Bobby Watson, the late Bobby Watson’s other uncle.
MRS. SMITH: Why do you ask us that?
MR. SMITH: Why do you pretend to be astonished? You know very well that he’s been dead these past two years. Surely you remember that we attended his funeral a year and a half ago.
MRS. SMITH: Why don’t we give them one of the seven silver salvers that were given us for our wedding and which have never been of any use to us? [Silence.]
MR. MARTIN: Why don’t you go see the Vicar of Wakefield, and use my name?
MARY: Why have you come so late! You are not very polite. People should be punctual. Do you understand? But sit down there, anyway, and wait now that you’re here.
MR. SMITH: Why not? A ship has its diseases too; moreover, your doctor is as hale as a ship; that’s why he should have perished at the same time as his patient, like the captain and his ship.
MR. MARTIN: Why not? One sees things even more extraordinary every day, when one walks around. For instance, today in the Underground I myself saw a man, quietly sitting on a seat, reading his newspaper.
MR. SMITH: Yes.
MR. SMITH: Yes, a cousin of Bobby Watson’s.
FIRE CHIEF: Yes, all.
FIRE CHIEF: Yes, and that wasn’t I either. And there was still no one there.
MRS. MARTIN: Yes, bent over.
MRS. MARTIN: Yes, bent over. I went near him to see what he was doing . . .
MRS. SMITH: Yes, but it was only when you heard the doorbell ring the fourth time that there was someone there. And the fourth time does not count.
MR. SMITH: Yes, but there must be someone there!
MRS. SMITH: Yes, but with money one can buy anything.
MRS. MARTIN: Yes, darling.
FIRE CHIEF: Yes, it was I.
FIRE CHIEF: Yes, it was I.
MR. MARTIN: Yes, it was she.
MR. MARTIN: Yes, that’s exactly the word.
MRS. MARTIN: Yes, unfortunately.
MR. SMITH: Yes, when there’s no competition.
MR. SMITH, MRS. MARTIN, MR. MARTIN: Yes, yes, some stories, hurrah!
MRS. SMITH: Yogurt is excellent for the stomach, the kidneys, the appendicitis, and apotheosis. It was Doctor Mackenzie-King who told me that, he’s the one who takes care of the children of our neighbors, the Johns. He’s a good doctor. One can trust him. He never prescribes any medicine that he’s not tried out on himself first. Before operating on Parker, he had his own liver operated on first, although he was not the least bit ill.
MR. MARTIN: You are not old enough yet for that.
MRS. MARTIN: You have a heart of ice. We’re sitting on hot coals.
MRS. MARTIN: You have a wife, Mr. Smith, of whom all the world is jealous.
MRS. SMITH: You have been very entertaining.
MR. SMITH: You know each other?
MR. MARTIN: You know, even though I’m not a maid, I also read poems before the mirror.
MR. SMITH [all smiles]: You know very well that I’m not.
MR. SMITH [to his wife, triumphantly]: You see? I was right. When you hear the doorbell ring, that means someone rang it. You certainly cannot say that the Fire Chief is not someone.
MR. SMITH: You see it’s because my wife is a little chagrined at having been proved wrong.
MRS. MARTIN: You see? The doorbell rang and there was no one there.
MR. SMITH: You shouldn’t interrupt, my dear, it’s very rude.
MR. MARTIN: You were at the door? And you rang in order to be admitted?
MRS. MARTIN: You were saying that you were going to give us another example.
MR. MARTIN [to his wife]: You will offend them, my dear, if you think that…
MRS. SMITH: You will offend us if you think that.
MRS. MARTIN: Your wife is right.
MR. SMITH: You’re exaggerating . . .
FIRE CHIEF: You’ve heard that one?