Gorgibus had brought his daughter Magdelon and his niece Cathos from their country home for a stay in Paris. There La Grange and Du Croisy, calling on them to propose marriage, were greatly disgusted by the affectation displayed by the young ladies, for the girls had adopted a manner prevalent everywhere in France, a combination of coquetry and artificiality. With the help of their valets, La Grange and Du Croisy determined to teach the silly young girls a lesson. One of the valets, Mascarille, loved to pass for a wit; he dressed himself as a man of quality and composed songs and verses.
Gorgibus, meeting the two prospective suitors, inquired into their success with his niece and his daughter. The evasive answers he received made him decide to discuss the affair with the two ladies. He had to wait for them while they painted their faces and arranged their hair. When they were finally ready to receive him, he was enraged by their silly conversation.
He had expected them to accept the two young men, who were wealthy and of good family, but the affected young ladies explained that they would spurn suitors who were so direct and sincere. Much to their disgust, the young men had proposed at their first meeting. They wanted lovers to be pensive and sorrowful, not joyful and healthy, as La Grange and Du Croisy had been. In addition, a young lady must refuse her lover’s pleas in order to make him miserable. If possible, there should also be adventures: the presence of rivals, the scorn of fathers, elopements from high windows. Another fault the girls found with the two young men was that they were dressed simply, with no ribbons or feathers on their clothing. Poor Gorgibus thought that his daughter and niece were out of their minds, especially when they asked him to call them by other names, for their own were too vulgar. Cathos was to be called Aminte and Magdelon Polixene. Gorgibus knew only one thing after this foolish conversation—either the two girls would marry quickly or they would both become nuns.
Even their maid could not understand the orders the girls gave her, for they talked in riddles. She announced that a young man was in the parlor, come to call on the two ladies. The caller was the Marquis de Mascarille, in reality La Grange’s valet. The girls were enchanted with Mascarille, for he was a dandy of the greatest and most artificial wit. His bombastic puns were so affected that the girls thought him the very soul of cleverness. He pretended to all sorts of accomplishments and acquaintances. On the spot, he composed terrible verses and songs, which he sang out of key and in a nasal tone. He claimed to have written a play that would be acted at the Royal Theater. He drew their attention to his beautiful dress, complete with ribbons, feathers, and perfume. Not to be outdone, the ladies boasted that although they knew no one in Paris as yet, a friend had promised to make them acquainted with all the fine dandies of the city.
They were a perfect audience for the silly valet. They applauded each verse, each song, each bit of shallow wit.
The Viscount Jodelet, in reality Du Croisy’s valet, joined the group. He claimed to be a hero of the wars, in command of two thousand horsemen, and he let the girls feel the scars left by deadly wounds he had received. The two scoundrels were hard put to outdo each other in telling the foolish girls ridiculous tales. When they talked of their visits with dukes and countesses, the girls were fascinated by their good connections. Running out of conversation, the two valets then asked the girls to arrange a party. They sent for musicians and other young people in order to have a proper dance. Mascarille, not being able to dance, accused the musicians of not keeping proper time, and Jodelet agreed with him.
The dance was in full swing when La Grange and Du Croisy appeared and fell upon the two impostors, raining blows on them and calling them rogues. Mascarille and Jodelet tried to pretend it had all been a joke, but their masters continued to beat them. When other servants appeared and began to strip the clothes from the two pretenders, the girls screamed in horror. La Grange and Du Croisy berated them for receiving servants better than they received their masters. They told the girls that if they loved the two scoundrels so well, they must love them without their masters’ finery. Taking all the outer apparel from the rogues, La Grange and Du Croisy ordered them to continue the dance.
Gorgibus, having heard of the scandal on the streets of Paris, soundly berated the pranksters for the disgrace they had brought on his house. All Paris, all France even, would laugh at the joke, for the young people at the dance were now spreading the news up and down the streets and in the cafés. Gorgibus was furious with La Grange and Du Croisy for their trick, but knew the stupid girls deserved the treatment they had received. He sent the two valets packing and ordered the affected young ladies to hide themselves from the world. Then he cursed folly, affectation, and romantic songs, the causes of his horrible disgrace.