Henri Rousseau


A Visit to the 1889 Fair — a play by Henri Rousseau

Excerpt from A Visit to the 1889 Fair
Comedy in 3 acts and 10 scenes

(M. and Mme Lebozeck have come from Brittany, with their maid Mari-ette, to see the World's Fair.)

From Act III, scene 3

A corner of the Fair at the Champ de Mars, including the Eiffel Tower, etc.

MARIETTE (noticing the Eiffel Tower) : Ah, Holy Mother of God, ain't it lovely, ain't it beautiful and what's that big ladder over there; it's surely taller than our church steeple! Ah, that's funny, but how can you climb up there? The bars ain't round at all, and they're all askew ! Just look, people are climbing up anyway, some of them are all the way up to the top, and, by golly, they're no bigger than plant lice. How did they get there? You know, the inventors of this thing had a funny idea, it's all right, but I could have thought of something better. M. Lebozeck, won't you explain it to me I can't make head or tail of it. How can you climb all the way up there, where the big flag is, you see? You know, if it's all right with you, we could climb up too. I'd find out what's inside that big ladder, I'm all stirred up and I want to learn about things.

MME LEBOZECK : Benjamin dear, Mariette's right, that Eiffel Tower is worth seeing. We could surely do like the others and take a look at it. It must be fun to go to the top, there must be quite a breeze up there lots of air, and I don't mean music. So if it's all right with you, let's go over this way, we'll find out what you have to do to go up. Come on don't you want to—surely you won't say no to your little wife?

LEBOZECK (noticing the guard): Hey, Mister, may I ask you something? Would you please tell me what you have to do to get to the top of that big ladder.

GUARD (slightly peeved) : What d'you mean, that big ladder? Let me tell you, Monsieur, that's the Eiffel Tower, the tallest in the world, and mind you, it's 300 meters high. Where do you come from? Haven't you ever heard of it before?

LEBOZECK : You call it a tower? I always thought a tower was round, that looks like a ladder with rungs! But that isn't what I want to know. How do you get up on that tower, if that's what you call it all the way to the top? What do we have to do?

GUARD (showing him the entrance): There, just go straight ahead to the ticket office; you'll see how much you have to pay and then you'll go up by the staircase or the elevator it's the same price.

MME LEBOZECK : Well, let's go, dear, it can't cost a hundred francs. Don't be afraid, and please don't lose your temper and spoil our fun. After all, it isn't every day we come to Paris and good heavens, since we've seen all these lovely things at the Fair, there's no point worrying about a few francs. Let's go, make up your mind, times flies, let's not waste it.

LEBOZECK : All right, woman, all right, we'll go up to the top of this famous Eiffel Tower. Here's the ticket office, and I can see from here it's five francs to go up to the top. How about it? We're going, aren't we it's all settled?

MME LEBOZECK : Oh, how wonderful. Sure, we're going.

MARIETTE : Oh, that's real nice. Thank you, sir, thank you too, ma'am. I'm lucky to work for two nice people like you.

(They go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and then continue their visit to the Fair, walking in the direction of the Trocadero.)

LEBOZECK : That was some climb, you really get hot. You'd think there'd be some way to get a glass of water, just a plain glass of water. There were restaurants on the second floor of the tower, but they looked too expensive and so we passed them by. Oh, if I could only find a drinking fountain, but I guess there's not much chance of that. I wish there was one, though ; I can't go on much longer. I tell you, my tongue's hanging out.

MME LEBOZECK : Now, now, Benjamin dear, be patient. We're in the mood for a nice walk today. If it's all the same to you, I say we should go across this bridge. There seem to be lots of interesting things over there—beehives, for instance, and an aquarium full of fishes, and then the Trocadero, that beautiful monument you see right ahead of you. Let's go over there—what do you say?

MARIETTE : But ma'am, there's also the Invalides. They say you mustn't miss it. Someone back home told me there's a man there with a wooden head, that ought to be fun, I'd like to see that. If it's not too far, we might go there. And then there are also the Arabisques or Amarmites, I don't know what you call 'em, but it always ends with that word. We're not going to miss all that, are we? It'll be lots of fun, I'm sure, 0-ooh, I'm excited already.

LEBOZECK : Well, now we're here, we ought to make the most of it. As Zephyrine suggested, let's take a look at that beautiful monument in front of us. Then we'll go take a ride on one of those little boats going by right now. That big river is called the Seine we must see that too.

MARIETTE : 0-ooh, Monsieur, that's a good idea now we're here we mustn't miss any of it. But there's so many things, I don't see how we can get it all in, in the little time we've got left in the capital.

MME LEBOZECK : Let's go inside the Trocadero since we're here let's follow the crowds that are going up to the second floor. Look, Benjamin dear, you see it was a good idea we came here it's just like being back in Ploermel. Oh look! Over there ! There's the bride getting ready for the big moment. See the groom with his bouquet and then the mother and father all dressed up. You'd think they were real, wouldn't you, Benjamin, wouldn't you, Mariette? And the table with the hollows for the plates, and the big fireplace with the buckwheat pancakes on the stove ! Really, it's just like home. Ah, there are men and women, too, but they're not like the ones at home!

LEBOZECK Zephyrine, my sweet, that's because they're from other places.

MARIETTE : But those poor people must be awful tired standing around like that all day long. I sure wouldn't like to have to stand here like that, perfectly still.

LEBOZECK : You silly goose, those people aren't alive ! What a silly girl! They're made out of wax--just take a good look. You don't think they could stand like that without ever moving if they were real, do you? Keep your eyes open, for you'll find more of them wherever we go. But nowhere tog et a drink of water! That's one thing they sure haven't been lavish with. Why, we haven't even been to see the big boulevards yet, and I'm dying of thirst.

MME LEBOZECK : But darling, just a minute ago by the bridge I saw a man selling some kind of yellowish liquid in glasses, and there was some kind of reddish. liquid, too. I forget what he was calling it. If you like, we could all go back and have some. Why don't we?

LEBOZECK : Oh, it's not worth going back for. Anyway, I bet it isn't very good. Let's keep on going and maybe we'll find a public fountain.

MARIETTE : Yes, yes, let's keep on going. I want to see some more. How about the Invalides I was just telling you about? Let's cross back over the river, it isn't far. At the same time we can see everything on the other bank, there, along the boulevard. There's a little train, isn't that sweet, a tiny baby train? See the engine and the coaches, a teeny-weeny train.

MME LEBOZECK : Oh yes, Mariette, let's go over there. Doesn't it look lovely! Oh, but look over there. The barrel! What a big one! Hurry up, everyone, maybe they're selling cider! If it isn't too expensive, I'd be glad to drink a glass or two.

MARIETTE : Oh ma'am, wouldn't that be nice? Can't you just taste our good Brittany cider! I'm very much afraid we won't find any of that here. But I'm ready for whatever you decide.

LEBOZECK : Patience, patience, we'll be back in our dear Brittany soon enough and then we'll have a real treat, pancakes and everything.

MARIETTE : What's that over there? All shiny and it looks pretty big. Oh, I want to see what that is.

LEBOZECK : What are you talking about? I don't see nothing like that over there. Not shiny, anyway. There are women with hats like umbrellas, and they're dragging little carts behind them. What can these people be?

MME LEBOZECK : Look at those women. Why, their hair is braided, just like the girls at home, and it goes way down their backs. No, their skin isn't white. Funny, they must be cannibals.

A VOICE : They're Annamites!

MARIETTE : Oh, that's it! I didn't hear right before : Dynamites or Amarmites I thought it was. Anyhow, I sure wouldn't like to be as ugly as those women, I'd never dare go out if I looked liked that.

MME LEBOZECK : They sure are ugly. How can their husbands love them ? It's just not possible they could have husbands.

A VOICE : Those aren't women, they're men, so be careful.

MARIETTE : Oh no! Isn't that a scream! I sure wouldn't want to marry a man like that. Dear me, no ! They're sure not very handsome, are they, those Aramites?

LEBOZECK : And how about you, Zephyrine? Wouldn't you like me to wear a big tail like that down my back and shave off my mustache? Wouldn't you like that?

MME LEBOZECK : No, Benjamin dear, I wouldn't like that. I wouldn't like you at all if you looked like those fellows. You're not so handsome, it's true, but you're better looking than they are.

MARIETTE : Oh, come on ! There's that shiny thing I saw in the distance. Come on, let's see what it is.

LEBOZECK : So that's what it is. Just a piece of cannon like on warships and around seaports. Haven't you ever seen one before, my girl? Haven't you ever been to Brest and seen one of those big ships that go on long voyages and fight battles? Whew! A thing like that's no joke, you know. One of those things could kill you.

MME LEBOZECK : That's probably how my brother died, fighting some battle out there in Tonkin, poor boy. Why did he have to go out there and get himself killed like that—after all the sacrifices our poor parents made for him? Such a sad thing, the military profession, though I don't know why they call it a profession. Oh dear, all that killing. Nobody deserves to be killed like that. My poor brother! (She sobs.)

MARIETTE : O-ooh, yes. That's cannon, all right, big ones, too. They sure look like they could kill people, I bet if you filled those big openings with powder and shot, they'd destroy anything that got in their way. Oh, war, war, what a terrible thing!

Painting dreams with a child's brush.

More work by Henri Rousseau