The American in the Classroom
Excerpted from Act IV
(Re-enter Mme. de Cintré left in a long black mantle, with its hood thrown back, adding to her perceptibly nun-like appearance, as if just prepared for her flight.)
Claire: What are you doing, Mr. Newman -- and what have you already done?
Newman: (with his letter unopened in hand.) How do you know I've done anything?
Claire: Mrs. Bread has just been to me, in intense excitement; she tells me she's leaving us forever.
Newman: Oh, you'll see her again!
Claire: When I asked her what had happened she told me you were still here, and that I must come to you and learn it from your lips.
Newman: She never gave you happier advice!
Claire: Why then has she gone?
Newman: Because she's a woman of tact. But she has left behind her (holding up the letter) something that's almost as good as herself.
Claire: What is it? What is it?
Newman: A little scrap of paper that frightens your mother.
Claire: And what are you doing with it?
Newman: I'm raising the interdict!
Claire: I don't understand -- you torment me!
Newman: I torment your mother -- that's more to the purpose. She'll come back here in a moment and entreat you to forgive the life she has always led you and the injury she has tried to do me.
Claire: That won't help you now, Mr. Newman -- for I'm utterly irrecoverable now! I shall never see her again -- the carriage that's to take me away is at the door.
Newman: Well, why don't you go down to it?
Claire: Mr. Newman -- don't be hard! Be merciful if you're strong!
Newman: You plead for mercy for them? -- But I know you are an angel!
Claire: You say you torment them. Don't torment them!... Give me your paper!
Newman: (Heedless of her request.) I'm expecting your brother from one moment to another, so if you wish to escape you have no time to lose.
Claire: ... I appeal to you to give me your letter!
Newman: (putting the letter behind him) Ah, don't ask me that -- don't ask me that!
Claire: You speak as if it gave you a power -- but what power does it give you?
Newman: God forbid I should denounce a mother to her child -- however wronged the child may have been, and however iniquitous the mother. I can't tell you what power it gives me, unless I know how much you know.
Claire: I know nothing -- I know nothing!
Newman: Well, I know everything, and now they know that I know!
Claire: Isn't that enough, then? Give me your letter -- give me your letter!
Newman: To destroy it, to spare them, to save them, to deprive me of my immense advantage? You say I'm generous, but don't put my generosity on the rack!
Claire: Don't put my terrors and my sorrows -- whatever survives of any piety!
Newman: If I keep my advantage we're free, we're strong, we're happy! You're liberated by your mother's hand, you're reprieved from the death you're bent on! The world's all before us again, and we go forth into it again together! Listen to that -- think of that -- and ask for the sacrifice!
Claire: I can't listen and I can't think! You torture me! Only give it to me? (with clasped hands in entreaty) Give it to me -- give it to me!
Newman: (holding the letter out of her reach.) Be mine -- be mine -- be mine!
Claire: Pity me -- how can I choose?
Newman: If I give you this thing, I give up everything forever!
Claire: I hear them coming, and if you keep me till they come you betray me!
Newman: Why, if I don't speak of your intention?
Claire: They'll see me dressed to go -- they'll stop the carriage!
Newman: Go, go, then -- if you like that better!
Claire: And leave you to destroy them? I can't -- it's too horrible! (Re-enter the Marquis) Urbain, don't come in!
Newman: (to Claire, while the Marquis, perceptibly pale, stands looking from one of them to the other.) Now do you see what I mean by my frightening them? But they've frightened each other even more!
Marquis: (to Claire) Why are you dressed to go out?
Claire: Mrs. Bread has gone away -- I'm going to overtake her! (Then, hurriedly, feverishly.) Mr. Newman has something in his hand -- I'm trying to get it from him!
Newman: (to Claire) I'll give it to you if you'll promise me on your sacred honor to give it back to me and not to another creature.
Claire: I promise -- I promise!
Newman: Then take it! (he holds it out to her, at the sight of which, before she can take it, the Marquis makes an unexpected desperate spring for it. Newman recovers it and, moving to centre, jerks it behind him, smiling.) You see how badly they want it! It is a loaded pistol, Marquis -- and dangerous to play with! You can easily understand I don't want to waste the charge!
Claire: (to the Marquis, imploringly.) Let me take it -- I beseech you! (to Newman.) Give it to me now -- he'll let you. Give it to me!
Marquis: (to Newman.) I forbid you -- don't, don't!
Newman: (Compassionately.) How foolish you are! Do you think she'll read it? (to Claire) How little they know you, after all!
Claire: Give it to him, then -- give it to him! You've offered me innumerable services -- so how can you refuse the only one I ever asked you? (Falls on her knees before him.)
Newman: Refuse it? I love it too much! Hang it all, Monsieur de Bellegarde, I let you off! I let your mother off. (Looking at Claire.) I let every one off.
Claire: A-ah! (Newman hands the letter to the Marquis. Claire continues, to Newman.) Oh, you're perfect!
Marquis: (puts the letter into his breast pocket.) That's more than can be said of you, Madame! Your mother will say a word to you, first, on the subject of your overtaking Mrs. Bread (Exit the Marquis.)
Newman: He's gone to tell her -- on the other side of the door he'll skip! That shows they feel saved from death!
Claire: Their satisfaction will last but an instant.
Newman: That's better than to have none -- like me!
Claire: I was right, I was right -- you're magnanimous!
Newman: Ah, Claire -- don't say such things now!
Claire: Now is just the time -- as the carriage is there!
Newman: (Eagerly.) The carriage? (Re-enter the Marquis.)
Marquis: (to Newman.) You had really better leave the family to itself. My mother's coming.
Claire: (Giving her hand to Newman.) Tell her when she comes that I shall marry Mr. Newman.
Newman: Ah, my beloved! (Kisses her hand.)
Claire: You've done it -- you've brought me back -- you've vanquished me!
Newman: That's just what I wanted to see! (He has caught her with one arm, and gives her a long kiss. He hurries up with her - exeunt rapidly. At the same moment re-enter Mme. de Bellegarde, breaking in with the letter, open in her hand.)
Marquis: He's gone -- but she's gone with him!
Mme. de Bellegarde: (Crossing swiftly to one of the lighted candles that stand on a table and thrusting her paper straight into the flame.) May they never come back -- may they never come back!
Marquis: (watching the papers burn while the Curtain falls.) Any more than that thing, eh?
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