The One-Armed, Blind Deaf-Mute
This parade, attributed to Thomas Gueulette, first appeared in print in 1756 in Théâtre des Boulevards, ou Recueil de Parades. In it we see plot elements that reappear in the parades of Bobèche and Galimafré (chapter 6) and in the 1880 clown entrée, The Candied Walnuts. Gilles, a variation on Pierrot, plays the stupid comic butt, while the thief is the clever rogue. The name of Gilles’s sister (Catin) also means “prostitute”; the name of his master’s attorney (Vuidegousset) can mean “empty pockets.” THE MASTER GILLES THE THIEF THE MASTER: (Enters.) Hey, Gilles! Gilles! You have to yell your head off whenever you want that rascal. Gilles! Gilles! GILLES: (Entering very quickly and then yelling in his master’s ear.) Right here, monsieur! THE MASTER: A plague upon you, rogue, for trying to scare me to death! GILLES: Well, monsieur, you were shouting like a cane that had lost its blind man. THE MASTER: And why didn’t you come when I called you? GILLES: Monsieur, we all have our own affairs to tend to. I was in conference with the postman; he just brought me a letter, and I was asking him to read it to me when you called. THE MASTER: Did he read it to you? GILLES: You didn’t give me enough time. THE MASTER: Where is the letter from? GILLES: I told you I don’t know anything. I hardly had time to break the seal. THE MASTER: Let’s see it. GILLES: Here it is, monsieur. THE MASTER: (Reads.) From the country? Where in the country? GILLES: From Limoges, I think. THE MASTER: Then it should say so. GILLES: Oh, they don’t know any better in Limoges. Keep reading, please. THE MASTER: (Reads.) “My cousin Gilles, I bring you the news that my aunt, your mother, is dead.” GILLES: (Weeping.) My mother dead! Ah! Monsieur, I am an orphan. Who will take care of me now?
THE MASTER: Come on, you’re a big boy now. I’m moved by your feelings for your mother, but we are all mortal. Let us go on with the letter. (Reads.) “She has left you one hundred and fifty francs.” GILLES: My mother left me one hundred and fifty francs! Now there’s a wonderful woman for you. Monsieur, can this really be true? THE MASTER: Quite true; but it seems to me you’re quickly consoled about the loss of your mother. GILLES: Well, she was quite old! THE MASTER: Very well. (Reads.) “I must inform you that your little sister Catin has become a woman of pleasure.” GILLES: My sister Catin a woman of pleasure! (He weeps.) Monsieur, I shall tear that hussy limb from limb; I love honor a hundred times more than reputation. THE MASTER: There, there, cheer up. GILLES: No, Monsieur, I shall do no such thing. THE MASTER: Listen. (Reads.) “In the four months that she has been leading this loose life, she has saved up six hundred francs.” GILLES: (Starting to laugh.) Six hundred francs! That’s wonderful. My sister Catin was economical, and she was apparently well paid. THE MASTER: It would seem so. (Reads.) “I must tell you, cousin, that two weeks ago she got into a quarrel with a wild customer. Her face was slashed and she was horribly disfigured.” GILLES: Ah! Poor little Catin, I feel so sorry for you. She will no longer be able to make a living so easily. Alas! such is often the fate of her kind. THE MASTER: Wait a minute, my friend. (Reads.) “Because the injury was serious, she made out her will, and you are the chief beneficiary.” GILLES: What a warm-hearted girl, THE MASTER: (Reads.) “And then she passed away.” GILLES: Ah! Monsieur, my heart is breaking. THE MASTER: (Reads.) “In her will she leaves you a beautifully furnished house.” GILLES: (Laughing loudly.) A beautifully furnished house! That is very good of her. My God, such an admirable tart, and a very honest woman, too. THE MASTER: An honest woman! GILLES: Of course, Monsieur — from my point of view. At least I’m getting rich from it. One hundred and fifty, francs from my mother, a furnished house from my sister.
THE MASTER: So the poor orphan is no longer to be pitied? GILLES: On the contrary, he is quite happy. Let’s hear the rest; perhaps there will be yet more good news for me. THE MASTER: We shall see. (Reads.) “But my dear cousin, there has been a terrible calamity. A fire swept through the house, burning it to the ground along with all the furniture. The ruins were ransacked and everything that wasn’t burned, including your one hundred and fifty francs, was stolen.” GILLES: A fire! Thieves! Monsieur, I am ruined. Quick, write home and tell everybody in the town to throw as many buckets of water as possible on the fire. THE MASTER: Ah, my poor Gilles, you’ve lost your head. By the time the letter could arrive, the fire would have engulfed the entire town. GILLES: Ah! Monsieur, then it is too late now. I do not wish to outlive such misfortune. My mother is dead, my poor sister Catin is dead: I too must die. THE MASTER: Now, now, Gilles, you must be brave. Let’s go home and have a drink, then I’ll have you take thirty gold coins to my attorney. GILLES: Ah! Monsieur, my strength has failed me. (His master leads him away.) THE THIEF: (Enters.) His master’s plan suits me just fine, because if he is so stupid as to give his valet Gilles the thirty gold coins that he just mentioned, it won’t be long before I lay my hands on them, which is exactly why I brought this soldier’s uniform with me. Therein lies my plan. (He exits.) THE MASTER: (Enters.) I feel so sorry for poor unhappy Gilles; he cries like a baby, but it is less for his mother and sister than for the inheritance he had counted on. A few glasses of wine will ease his sorrow. Here he comes now. (Gilles enters.) Come on now, my friend, cheer up a little; you are tormenting yourself over nothing. GILLES: Oh! Monsieur, the matter is finished, and I have made my decision. THE MASTER: Your decision? What are you talking about? GILLES: I mean, monsieur, that since I love you, I wish to die in your arms. THE MASTER: Die in my arms! GILLES: Yes, monsieur, I have less than two hour to live. THE MASTER: My friend, you are out of your mind. GILLES: No, monsieur, I have just poisoned myself. THE MASTER: Merciful heavens! GILLES: Yes, monsieur; you surely remember that last year you received six white earthenware jars from
Rouen that I thought contained jam. THE MASTER: Yes, I remember it ever so well. GILLES: And you told me that it was poison, and that I should be careful not to touch it; and that if I ate so much as a spoonful, my fate would be sealed, I would be a dead man. THE MASTER: Yes, I remember all that. GILLES: Well, monsieur, so as to quickly be reunited with my mother and my little sister Catin, I have just swallowed two jars’ worth of jam. THE MASTER: Ah, you wretch, it was apple jelly! GILLES: I know, monsieur, and the poison was not at all disagreeable going down; but I can already feel it taking effect. Ah! monsieur, I am dying. THE MASTER: Oh, heavens! Could it be? GILLES: Do not pity me, monsieur. But I do beg of you to hear my final mortal words. THE MASTER: Your final mortal words! GILLES: Yes, monsieur, give my regards to Jacqueline. THE MASTER: You are such a fool. GILLES: Ah! Monsieur, it is inhuman to treat me thus. I burn... THE MASTER: I can certainly believe that, since you ate two jars of jam. GILLES: Poisoned, there’s the rub. Hold me up, monsieur, my dear master. Adieu; you are losing a valet who loves you well. THE MASTER: I must confess that this character has once again gotten the better of me. I knew of his gluttony, so to keep him from eating my jam, I made him believe it was poison, when it was actually the finest apple jelly in Rouen. And now this idiot has eaten two jars of it thinking he’s going to kill himself! GILLES: What, monsieur, it wasn’t poison? THE MASTER No, you clod, and since you have no other reason to fear death, You can rest assured; and again I have gotten off cheaply. GILLES: My goodness, I came so close to death; but since you assure me that I’m not going to die — long live Gilles! I don’t regret eating it, for I did find the poison very tasty. THE MASTER: That I can believe! Now that you are reassured, do you feel up to taking the thirty gold coins in this purse to my attorney, Monsieur Vuidegousset? GILLES: Monsieur, you can trust me.
THE MASTER: I know I can trust you, but all your blundering makes me fear that my thirty gold coins will be filched. GILLES: Monsieur, you have nothing to fear. THE MASTER: Okay, here they are in this purse. While You are gone, I’m going to take a stroll around town. GILLES: Well, my God, if there ever was a time when I thought I was going to die, that was it. But it’s my master’s fault; Why did he have to pretend it was poison? (The Thief enters.) But I wonder what ails this knave? THE THIEF: Have pity, your lordship, on an unfortunate gentleman in extreme poverty, who can’t even beg for a living. GILLES: And why, my friend, can’t you beg for a living? THE THIEF: You see, monsieur, I have been a mute for the past three years. GILLES: You have been mute for three years? THE THIEF: Yes, your lordship. GILLES: And how did this happen? THE THIEF: You see, to earn some extra money at my job I was carrying a pile of bricks up a ladder. The rung I was standing on broke, and so I hit my chin on the rung above it, slicing my tongue right off. GILLES: You had your tongue cut off? THE THIEF: Yes, monsieur, this is all that’s left. GILLES: My God, then it must have been quite long to start with. THE THIEF: Yes, monsieur, I was always told that I had a very long tongue. GILLES: And how much is still left? THE THIEF: About that much. GILLES: Tell me about it. THE THIEF: Here is my tale, monsieur. A fat woman in our village had a boil on her buttocks. The only remedy was to blow a very hot corrosive powder into the wound, using a hollow straw. No one wanted to do this, for fear of breathing in and swallowing the powder. I volunteered out of charity, asking for a mere six francs. I blew the powder; but as I was doing so, the woman started to laugh, and broke wind with such force that it blew some of the powder into my eyes, and I was immediately blinded. GILLES: That certainly is a peculiar tale; and since then you can no longer see? THE THIEF: No, monsieur.
GILLES: I’m going to see if he is deceiving me. Luckily I happen to have a 24- penny coin and a few halfpennies. Here, my friend. (He holds the 24-penny piece in one hand and a half-penny in the other hand; THE THIEF examines both coins and then takes the more valuable one.) THE THIEF: Monsieur, I thank you. GILLES: But you chose the 24-penny coin. THE THIEF: Yes, monsieur, I saw clearly that it was worth more than a half-penny. That’s all my eyesight is good for. GILLES: You seem to me to be a rogue and a swindler! THE THIEF: Ah! Monsieur, you are wrong to insult me. It’s lucky for you that I’m deaf, because if I had heard what you just said . . . GILLES: What? THE THIEF: That I’m a rogue and a swindler! GILLES: You heard that? Then you’re not deaf! THE THIEF: Excuse me, monsieur, but I can hear only when someone insults me. GILLES: This is incredible. THE THIEF: True, but all this wouldn’t matter if only I had the use of my left arm, which is all shriveled up, and if a cannonball had not shot off my other arm. GILLES: But it seems to me that you do okay with your left arm. (He offers him some money). THE THIEF extends his arm and grabs the money.) You certainly had no problem reaching your arm out for that! THE THIEF: Yes, monsieur, but only when someone is giving me something. GILLES: And where did you lose your other arm? THE THIEF: At Port-Mahon. GILLES: Were you wearing that uniform at the time? THE THIEF: Yes, monsieur, it’s my soldier’s outfit. GILLES: (Aside.) Now I’ve got him. (Aloud.) But how did the cannonball blow off your arm and yet leave the sleeve? THE THIEF: (Aside.) How will I get out of this one? (Aloud.) Monsieur, have you never heard how lightning can melt a sword in its scabbard without damaging the scabbard? GILLES: No.
THE THIEF: It is nevertheless true. Anyway, it’s almost the same thing: the cannonball passed right through the pores of the cloth. GILLES: Without damaging it? THE THIEF: That is correct, monsieur. GILLES: My God, this is really astonishing! Let me examine that sleeve. THE THIEF: See for yourself, monsieur. (While GILLES inspects the sleeve, THE THIEF rummages in GILLES’s pocket. GILLES grabs THE THIEF’S hand.) GILLES: Aha! You rogue, you said that you lost your arm, but here it is. THE THIEF: What, monsieur? GILLES: Your arm. THE THIEF: My arm? That’s not possible. GILLES: And I’m holding it. THE THIEF: You’re holding it! Ah, monsieur, I am much obliged to you. GILLES: And for what? THE THIEF: That rogue of a doctor who treated me for three months assured me that I had lost it! What a scoundrel! GILLES: You act innocent, but I’m not going to fall for it. THE THIEF: But I am quite sincere, and I am much obliged to you for finding my arm. GILLES: I’m not going to fall for it. You are a rogue, I tell you — a thief . . . THE THIEF: A rogue? It’s you who is the rogue! GILLES: Me? THE THIEF: Yes, a rogue, a thief; you must be the one who stole my arm and my hand! GILLES: Well, here’s something new! THE THIEF: Wasn’t my hand in your pocket? GILLES: Why yes, it certainly was. THE THIEF: Wasn’t the hand attached to the arm?
GILLES: No doubt about it. THE THIEF: Well, then, you must have put it there. You hid my hand and arm from me for such a long time that I am going to make a complaint. I’ll see you hanged for it, do you understand? GILLES: The devil! This is becoming serious. THE THIEF: Quite serious. The army is pursued by an infinite number of rogues like you, who run off with our arms and legs. Our general had twelve of them hanged during the last campaign, and now it seems you will be the thirteenth. Let’s go, off to prison with you! GILLES: To prison? THE THIEF: Yes, to prison, and in twenty-four hours your fate will be decided. GILLES: But I can prove that I’ve never been to Berg-op-zoom. THE THIEF: And I’ll come up with twenty witnesses who will swear to the contrary. Let’s go! Off to prison! GILLES: Wait a minute! Isn’t there some way to settle this matter? THE THIEF: How can we possibly settle it? Since the last campaign, when you stole my arm, I have not been able to work. I could have earned more than fifty gold coins. GILLES: Well, I don’t have fifty gold coins, but there are thirty in this purse that I was taking to my master’s attorney. Would that be enough? THE THIEF: It’s not much, and I would lose on the deal; but I’m not an evil man, and so I shall be content with a moderate sum. But don’t let it happen again. Stealing an arm like that can get you into a lot of trouble. GILLES: Of course. But I’m really not the one who took it from you. THE THIEF: Then how did it happen to be in your pocket? GILLES: Believe me, I don’t have the slightest idea. THE THIEF: Goodbye, until we meet again; the next time, I’ll buy you a drink. GILLES: With pleasure. (Alone.) My God, I’m lucky to have gotten off so easily. My master can get angry if he likes, but I would rather give away his thirty gold coins than be hauled off to prison. (His master returns from his work and asks GILLES if he found the attorney. GILLES tells him what just happened to him, getting the story all mixed up. His master, impatient, beats him and chases him off.) Translated by Diane L. Goodman