Scene I


Who goes there? Eh? My fear grows with every step. Gentlemen, I am a friend to all the world. Ah! What unparalleled boldness, to be out at this hour! My master is crowned with fame, but what a villainous trick he plays me here! What? If he had any love for his neighbour, would he have sent me out in such a black night? Could he not just as well have waited until it was day before sending me to announce his return and the details of his victory? To what servitude are thy days subjected, Sosie! Our lot is far more hard with the great than with the mean. They insist that everything in nature should be compelled to sacrifice itself for them. Night and day, hail, wind, peril, heat, cold, as soon as they speak we must fly. Twenty years of assiduous service do not gain us any consideration from them. The least little whim draws down upon us their anger.

Notwithstanding this, our infatuated hearts cling to the empty honour of remaining near them, contented with the false idea, which every one holds, that we are happy. In vain reason bids us retire; in vain our spite sometimes consents to this; to be near them is too powerful an influence on our zeal, and the least favour of a caressing glance immediately re-engages us. But at last, I see our house through the darkness, and my fear vanishes.

I must prepare some thought-out speech for my mission. I must give Alcmene warlike description of the fierce combat which put our enemies to flight. But how the deuce can I do this since I was not there? Never mind; let us talk of cut and thrust, as though I were an eyewitness. How many people describe battles from which they remained far away! In order to act my part without discredit, I will rehearse it a little.

This is the chamber into which I am ushered as the messenger: this lantern is Alcmene, to whom I have to speak. (He sets his lantern on the ground and salutes it.) 'Madam, Amphitryon, my master and your husband, ... (Good! that is a fine beginning!) whose mind is ever full of your charms, has chosen me from amongst all to bring tidings of the success of his arms, and of his desire to be near you.' 'Ah! Really, my poor Sosie, I am delighted to see you back again.' 'Madam, you do me too much honour: my lot is an enviable one.' (Well answered!)

'How is Amphitryon?' 'Madam, as a man of courage should be, when glory leads him.' (Very good! A capital idea!) 'When will my heart be charmed and satisfied by his return?' 'As soon as possible, assuredly, Madam, but his heart desires a speedier return.' (Ah!) 'In what state has the war left him? What says he? What does he? Ease my anxiety.' He says less than he does, Madam, and makes his enemies tremble.' (Plague! where do I get all these fine speeches?) 'What are the rebels doing? Tell me, what is their condition?' 'They could not resist our efforts, Madam; we cut them to pieces, put their chief, Pterelas, to death, took Telebos by assault; and now the port rings with our prowess.' 'Ah! What a success! Ye Gods! Who could ever have imagined it? Tell me, Sosie, how it happened.' 'I will, gladly, Madam; and, without boasting, I can tell you, with the greatest accuracy, the details of this victory. Imagine, therefore, Madam, that Telebos is on this side. (He marks the places on his hand, or on the ground.) It is a city really almost as large as Thebes. The river is, say, there. Here, our people encamped; and that space was occupied by our enemies. On a height, somewhere about here, was their infantry; and, lower down, on the right side, was their cavalry. After having addressed prayers to the Gods, and issued all the orders, the signal was given. The enemy, thinking to turn our flank, divided their horse soldiers into three platoons; but we soon chilled their warmth, and you shall see how. Here is our vanguard ready to begin work; there, were the archers of our king, Creon; and here, the main army (some one makes a slight noise), which was just going to . . . Stay; the main body is afraid'; I think I hear some noise.