Act IV

Scene I.—Cléante, Tartuffe.

Cléante. Yes, everyone talks about it, and you may believe me. The stir which this rumour makes is not at all to your credit; and I have just met you, Sir, opportunely, to tell you my opinion in two words. I will not sift these reports to the bottom; I refrain, and take the thing at its worst. Let us suppose that Damis has not acted well, and that you have been wrongly accused; would it not be like a Christian to pardon the offence, and to smother all desire of vengeance in your heart? And ought you, on account of a dispute with you, to allow a son to be driven from his father’s home? I tell you once more, and candidly, that great and small are scandalized at it; and, if you will take my advice, you will try to make peace, and not push matters to extremes. Make a sacrifice to God of your resentment, and restore a son to his father’s favour.

Tartuffe. Alas! for my own part, I would do so with all my heart. I do not bear him, Sir, the slightest ill- will; I forgive him everything; I blame him for nothing; and would serve him to the best of my power. But Heaven’s interest is opposed to it; and if he comes back, I must leave the house. After his unparalleled behaviour, communication with him would give rise to scandal: Heaven knows what all the world would immediately think of it! They would impute it to sheer policy on my part; and they would say everywhere, that knowing myself to be guilty, I pretend a charitable zeal for my accuser; that I am afraid, and wish to conciliate him, in order to bribe him, in an underhand manner, into silence.

Cléante. You try to put forward pretended excuses, and all your reasons, Sir, are too far-fetched. Why do you charge yourself with Heaven’s interests? Has it any need of us to punish the guilty? Allow it to take its own course; think only of the pardon which it enjoins for offences, and do not trouble yourself about men’s judgments, when you are following the sovereign edicts of Heaven. What! shall the trivial regard for what men may think prevent the glory of a good action? No, no; let us always do what Heaven prescribes, and not trouble our heads with other cares.

Tartuffe. I have already told you that from my heart I forgive him; and that, Sir, is doing what Heaven commands us to do: but after the scandal and the insult of to-day, Heaven does not require me to live with him.

Cléante. And does it require you, Sir, to lend your ear to what a mere whim dictates to his father, and to accept the gift of a property to which in justice you have no claim whatever?

Tartuffe. Those who know me will not think that this proceeds from self-interest. All the world’s goods have but few charms for me; I am not dazzled by their deceptive glare: and should I determine to accept from his father that donation which he wishes to make to me, it is only, in truth, because I fear that all that property might fall into wicked hands; lest it might be divided amongst those who would make a bad use of it in this world, and would not employ it, as I intend, for the glory of Heaven and the well-being of my fellow men.

Cléante. Oh, Sir, you need not entertain those delicate scruples, which may give cause for the rightful heir to complain. Allow him at his peril to enjoy his own, without troubling yourself in any way; and consider that it is better even that he should make a bad use of it, than that you should be accused of defrauding him of it. My only wonder is, that you could have received such a proposal unblushingly. For after all, has true piety any maxim showing how a legitimate heir may be stripped of his property? And if Heaven has put into your head an invincible obstacle to your living with Damis, would it not be better that as a prudent man you should make a civil retreat from this, than to allow that, contrary to all reason, the son should be turned out of the house for you. Believe me, Sir, this would be giving a proof of your probity …

Tartuffe. Sir, it is half past three: certain religious duties call me upstairs, and you will excuse my leaving you so soon.

Cléante (alone). Ah!

  By PanEris using Melati.

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