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A play based on the Menechemes of Regnard

Translated and adapted by F. J. Morlock C 1986 by F. J. Morlock


McNaughten Captain McNaughten Mr. Hastings, Flavella's father Flavella, his daughter Urania, Hastings' older sister Jenny, Urania's maid Spruce, the Captain's valet Mr. Torrington, a solicitor Squire Mr. Bronlow, a merchant


Scene I. A street in London. Captain McNaughten comes in, looking for his valet.

Captain I am quite beside myself. A curse on Spruce! I think he was born for the sole purpose of enraging me. I am not going to put up with him any longer. The scoundrel always tries my patience to the limits. He knows very well that I am waiting for him on tenterhooks-- But now I see him coming. Where have you been, rogue? Tell me.

(Spruce enters, carrying a heavy trunk which he first puts down and then sits on, without responding to the Captain.)

Captain Speak, reply!

Spruce For the moment, sir, I have nothing to say. Let me get my breath a moment, please--I'm totally winded.

Captain Do you always intend to put me in a fury and then play with me? I don't know what prevents me from giving you a beating. What, you rogue, just to go off to the custom house to get my trunk, takes you all day?

Spruce Oh, sir, customs inspectors are terrible men. All the savages in the world are less barbarous. They can only talk in monosyllables. "yes, no, what, sir? I have no time. But, sir-- Would you kindly open up--" They need maybe a hundred words in their vocabulary. They give me a headache. Finally, when you need them for something, they're more proud and stuck up than an archbishop.

Captain What! Do you mean to pretend you stayed at the customs house until just now?

Spruce Oh, no. Seeing the customs inspector was about to take more than an hour--besides, he had a disagreeable phiz--I preferred to wait at a tavern.

Captain Your yen for brew always gets the best of you. Does wine command you always?

Spruce Everyone has his weakness, sir.-- As you are well aware. It's the bad example more than the brew that puts me down the wrong road. I'd really like to live a clean life--

Captain Why do you always keep bad company, then?

Spruce I've made several efforts to avoid it--all in vain. I like you a lot and I don't want to leave you.

Captain What's that, scoundrel?

Spruce Sir, an ancient custom of speaking my mind gives me the right. My case is like your own. I've seen you drunk more than once in a tavern, and many's the time I had to help you home to bed. I've never scolded you much about these little escapades--we ought not to mention other people's infirmities-- Forget them, since they forget ours.

Captain I'll forgive you for liking your bottle--if I thought that was your only vice--but your penchant for one sin carries you on to a thousand others. You have a strange passion for gambling.

Spruce Oh, if I gamble a little it's only to spend the time while you are spending the night in certain black gambling dens. I hear you swearing right up to the door. I swear, too, when luck is against me. And who can tell us apart? You swear in your room, and I swear on the stairs. I imitate you in every respect. You drink, gamble, and love with extreme passion, and I drink, gamble--and love a little, too. And if I am a flirt, it's because you are one, too. Consummate in the art, I might add. You go every day with a vagabond ardor, raffling off all the ladies--from blond to brunette. Today, Flavella dominates you--you say you love her--but I don't know why.

Captain You don't know why! Is it possible you refuse to render homage to her charms, to her divine eyes? I saw her at her aunt's, where I was quite enchanted. She wounded me to the heart.

Spruce Yet you have an attentive soul for her crazy Aunt--Urania. Now I approve of Urania. Perfect choice. Without her money we'd be in an awful fix. Meanwhile, I profit, too. You cajole the Aunt, and I corrupt Jenny, her maid-- Thus, you see--

Captain Yes, I see--in a word you think you know everything. You are nothing but a near sighted fool! To prevent yourself from uttering some new stupidity, shut up, and take my trunk to the hotel.

Spruce (picking up the trunk) I obey. But if I should want to speak on this vain subject again, believe me, I can hold forth at some length.

Captain Oh, be quiet!

Spruce When I have a mind to, I can speak better than anybody--

Captain Wait! Whose trunk is this?

Spruce Huh! By George, it's yours.

Captain It doesn't in the least look like mine.

Spruce For a while, I had the same suspicion as you. But it's got your name and address on it--and that relieved my mind of any doubt. (puts the trunk down) Here, read the words very plainly written. To McNaughten, London.

Captain True, but wait a bit,--what do you say to this? It's not my handwriting. Therefore, it is not my trunk.

Spruce You're right. But it resembles your handwriting a great deal.

Captain You acted impulsively in taking this trunk.

Spruce But, sir, do you take me for a fool? In returning from Flanders, where you had an abrupt discharge from your regiment, did I not put the trunk, at your instruction, on a stage coach bound for London, so that we might travel more quickly. And didn't I obey you? I've done everything right in this whole business. No reproaches, please.

Captain We'll soon see whether this was your fault or not. Open it up and let's try to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Spruce (taking out a ring of keys) Sir, in a second, I am going to satisfy you. (trying a key) My goodness! The key doesn't fit.

Captain Break it open.

Spruce If you want me to, I won't object. Let's begin proceedings. (after some efforts, Spruce manages to open the trunk) (Spruce looks in and stares)

Captain What's wrong with you? Look at me.

Spruce (bewildered) I don't see any of your clothes in here!

Captain What the--wretch?

Spruce Sir, there's no need to be testy. The swap we've made may be better for us. I don't believe you had clothes like these in your trunk.


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