MOLLY: [She speaks very bad French with an English accent and English with French gestures and some sort of affected accent; with enthusiasm.] Oooo! Bon Jour mamsell, bon jour. Setzen sich. [Shakes hands; starts.] What have I said? Oh, I mean sit down. That's it, isn't it? Setzen sich. Oh, Lord, I--I beg your pardon. I'm getting my German mixed with my French. It's awfully hard to keep them separate. [Boastingly.] I speak so many tongues. Yesterday, I said, "come sta." [Patronizingly.] That's Italian, perhaps you know--to my French teacher, and "Guten Morgen" to my dancing master, and he's French! [Laughs.]
You're French, aren't you, Miss Valier? I thought you were. You look French. You're so thin and you wear such short skirts. It's awfully sweet of you. Oh, oui, oui [shrugs shoulders Frenchily], I insist it is--to answer my 'phone call this way. I want to ask a favor. Si si fraulein. [Bends forward eagerly.] You know, I think it would be lovely if you would talk only French to me and I would speak only French to you. It's the only way to learn. Of course I know my accent is all right. [Holds nose with fingers and says ong-ong through nostrils, making peculiar nasal sounds.] See, right through the nostrils. I do that splendidly.
Now, I'll say something to you and you say something back to me. Let me think--oh, yes. [Says cautiously.] Comment vous portez vous? [Pauses.] Don't you understand? [Scowls.] Why, don't you know what I said? [Repeats slowly.] Comment vous portez vous. [Surprised.] Don't you know that? Dear me. [Sighs.] Well, we'll try something else. Now--ah--"Parlate Italiano?" [Hastily.] Oh, excuse me, I forgot we weren't speaking Italian. [Thinks, scowling and muttering to herself; ventures.] J'ai grand faim. [Smiles and waits for MISS VALIER to answer. Looks blank and murmurs it over with satisfaction. Shaking head attempts.] J'ai grand faim. [Stares at MISS VALIER.] Don't you get it? [Slowly.] J'ai-grand-faim. I'm very hungry. [Hastily.] No, not really. That's what I said, didn't you know? [Suspiciously.] You speak French, don't you? All your life. How nice. I should think you would understand me better then. Perhaps you haven't talked it for some time?
[Suddenly.] You know it is pure French I'm speaking. Parisenne. Signor--I mean Monsieur, of course--"grazia," Madame--Monsieur Chenet comes from there. He is the most patient man. There are fifty-three in our class, and he is always smiling at us and some of the girls are so stupid.
[Hopefully.] Well, don't be discouraged, Miss Valier, we'll try again. [Ponders.] Je suis tres fatigue. [Pauses hopefully; sighs; yawns, closes eyes and attempts by pantomime to tell what she has said in French.] Dear me, you don't know that? I said I was tired.
[Puzzled.] You must speak a dialect or something. But, my dear--é-é, that's an acute accent. You see, you speak with your teeth like this, é-é. [Repeats through teeth in a high voice.] Isn't that right?
Now in German--you don't know German, do you? [Surprised.] Oh, but, my dear, I think that's so silly. If you are French why take a foolish vow never to speak a thing in German again. I'm neither French nor German and I've vowed to speak everything. A knowledge of tongues is really essential nowadays.
I said, "tair im mo broga," that's Gaelic, to our cook and she understood me at once. I learned it from a former cook. It means, throw me my shoes and [triumphantly] she did!
Idioms of languages are fascinating to me. I can't understand why you look so blank when I speak to you. In French every syllable is audible, isn't it? [Slowly and jerkily.] Com ment vous por tez vous. Yes, I'm sure that is right.
It broudens your mind to speak more than one language. I wish you could understand better. There isn't any trouble with your hearing, is there? You know some people, possibly most people, have one bad ear. I've noticed it so often when I've been speaking in some tongue not perfectly familiar to them.
[Startled.] What did you say? [Smiles weakly.] Will you please repeat that? Is it French? I--I never heard any one speak quite so fast. Of course I've heard they are a--well--a swift race, but it doesn't seem possible they swallow their nose sounds the way you do. Monsier Chenet speaks slowly and carefully. Would you mind repeating?
[Repeats slowly.] Merci--that's thank you, of course. De votre. [Surprised.] Isn't that Spanish? [Bewildered.] Oh, it sounds just like it. Ospeetahle-tay-- [Wondering.] Hospital! Is any one sick? I'm so sorry. Am I keeping you? [Trying to laugh.] Oh--hospitality--oh, yes. I thought you said hospital. You speak so indistinctly I didn't catch what you said. Don't thank me for that. I'm very glad to entertain you. We haven't been able to say much, have we? If you would allow me to speak German, "Sprechen sie----" [Breaks off quickly.]
[Hastily.] I won't use it again, though there is nothing in the language to offend. Italian is so pretty--so melodious. [Half singing.] Si, si, signore. I think that is prettier than oui-oui. Of course you won't agree with me. It's Yah in German.
No, I don't speak Chinese. It must be awfully interesting. You sing it, don't you? [In sing-song voice.] Hi-yi-ti-my-oi-joy-joy ----- [Laughs.] Have you heard this? It's French, beautiful, you'll enjoy it. [Rises to speak.] I'm learning it to speak at a---- [Breaks off.] Are you going? Won't you wait to hear it? That's too bad, though I doubt if you could understand a word of it. You see [smiles patronizingly], you haven't known what I have already said, have you? And I want you to do me a favor, Miss Valier, for your own good. You must have been wrongly taught. It doesn't matter where you were born. I want you to promise me--I ask you because I so love the French, and we must all speak it fluently and correctly. Promise me, dear Senorita, you will come with me to-morrow to class!