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Robert Browning (1812–1889). A Blot in the ’Scutcheon.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Act V Scene III

What’s this? I hear of fearful mysteries!

Strange things indeed, for my own eyes to witness;

You see how I’m requited for my kindness,

I zealously receive a wretched beggar,

I lodge him, entertain him like my brother,

Load him with benefactions every day,

Give him my daughter, give him all my fortune:

And he meanwhile, the villain, rascal, wretch,

Tries with black treason to suborn my wife,

And not content with such a foul design,

He dares to menace me with my own favours,

And would make use of those advantages

Which my too foolish kindness armed him with,

To ruin me, to take my fortune from me,

And leave me in the state I saved him from.

Poor man!

Madame Pernelle
My son, I cannot possibly

Believe he could intend so black a deed.


Madame Pernelle
Worthy men are still the sport of envy.

Mother, what do you mean by such a speech?

Madame Pernelle
There are strange goings-on about your house,

And everybody knows your people hate him.

What’s that to do with what I tell you now?

Madame Pernelle
I always said, my son, when you were little:

That virtue here below is hated ever;

The envious may die, but envy never.

What’s that fine speech to do with present facts?

Madame Pernelle
Be sure, they’ve forged a hundred silly lies…

I’ve told you once, I saw it all myself.

Madame Pernelle
For slanderers abound in calumnies…

Mother, you’d make me damn my soul. I tell you

I saw with my own eyes his shamelessness.

Madame Pernelle
Their tongues for spitting venom never lack,

There’s nothing here below they’ll not attack.

Your speech has not a single grain of sense.

I saw it, harkee, saw it, with these eyes

I saw—d’ye know what saw means?—must I say it

A hundred times, and din it in your ears?

Madame Pernelle
My dear, appearances are oft deceiving,

And seeing shouldn’t always be believing.

I’ll go mad.

Madame Pernelle
False suspicions may delude,

And good to evil oft is misconstrued.

Must I construe as Christian charity

The wish to kiss my wife!

Madame Pernelle
You must, at least,

Have just foundation for accusing people,

And wait until you see a thing for sure.

The devil! How could I see any surer?

Should I have waited till, before my eyes,

He… No, you’ll make me say things quite improper.

Madame Pernelle
In short, ’tis known too pure a zeal inflames him;

And so, I cannot possibly conceive

That he should try to do what’s charged against him.

If you were not my mother, I should say

Such things!… I know not what, I’m so enraged!

Dorine(to ORGON)
Fortune has paid you fair, to be so doubted;

You flouted our report, now yours is flouted.

We’re wasting time here in the merest trifling,

Which we should rather use in taking measures

To guard ourselves against the scoundrel’s threats.

You think his impudence could go far?

For one, I can’t believe it possible;

Why, his ingratitude would be too patent.

Don’t trust to that; he’ll find abundant warrant

To give good colour to his acts against you;

And for less cause than this, a strong cabal

Can make one’s life a labyrinth of troubles.

I tell you once again: armed as he is

You never should have pushed him quite so far.

True; yet what could I do? The rascal’s pride

Made me lose all control of my resentment.

I wish with all my heart that some pretence

Of peace could be patched up between you two

If I had known what weapons he was armed with,

I never should have raised such an alarm,

And my…

Orgon(to DORINE, seeing MR. LOYAL come in)
Who’s coming now? Go quick, find out.

I’m in a fine state to receive a visit!