The Rooster Brothers

Translator's note:
I've tried to be as faithful as I could to the orignal script. I also had to satisfy a demand for colloquial American English, shorter speeches in some instances, and geographical references that would be familiar to an audience in Central Texas. I've added a chase scene toward the end that is not in the original. Chase scenes would not have existed in Mourguet's pre-cinematic theatrical vocabulary. But it seems to fit the context well. Oscar has a motive to catch up with Billy and Billy has a motive to misundnerstand the reason. That is, after unintentionally breaking Oscar's window, Billy does. – Don

The original French, Les Frères Côqs, can be found in Théatre Lyonnais de Guignol, by J. Onofrio

The cast in order of appearance
Billy a poor shoemaker
Oscar his rich brother
Louise Billy's daughter
Jerome third brother, gone for thirty years
Victor friend of Jerome
Joey friend of Billy

The action takes place in the street between Oscar's wealthy house and Billy's humble Shoe Shop and home.

Billy:  Oh boy, for once in my life I'm the lucky guy. Got a letter from my friend Ralph. Ralph say,
(Billy speaks with a slight dialect)
(reading) Come to Fort Hood. You can get the job of chief bootmaker to a whole regiment.
(aside) Chief bootmaker to a whole regiment! That's a step up from mending old shoes.
(reading) Except, in order to start you've got to put down five hundred dollars se..
Five hundred dollars security! Where am I going to get five hundred dollars? Unless, my rich brother, Mr. Oscar Rooster, comes thru for me again. I'll go ask him. I used to be Mr. Rooster, too. But now I'm just plain Billy. My brother gave me three hundred dollars not to use the same last name. If losing my name was worth three hundred (knocks on Oscar's door) leaving town ought to be worth five.

Oscar: (off) I'll be right there. (enters) Oh, it's you. I didn't think I'd see you here, again.

Billy:  Good morning, Oscar, my brother.

Oscar:  Brother! You agreed not to call me that.

Billy:  Nobody's watching. Listen, Brother...

Oscar:  I gave you three hundred dollars not to call me that!

Billy:  But, listen to this. How would you like to see me leave town?

Oscar:  Sounds to me like someone's thinking of asking for money.

Billy:  But for that last time. Look at this. I got a great job offer. I'm going to be chief bootmaker to a whole regiment. This is my chance. This is a great opportunity. I'm out'a here. You'll never see me again.

Oscar:  Good-bye.

Billy:  But, first I gotta put down five hundred dollars security.

Oscar: Five hundred dollars?

Billy: Just five hundred.

Oscar:(laughs) He thinks money grows on trees. Where's the three hundred I gave you three months ago?

Billy:  Well, I owed the grocer a hundred.

Oscar:  As often as I've warned you about debt.

Billy: I owed the bartender a hundred.

Oscar:  As often a I've warned you about drinking.

Billy:  Louise got a new hat. I gave something to the Red Cross.

Oscar:  No sir, I wouldn't lend you five pennies. With your bad habits they'll fire you. You'll be right back here with your hand out.

Billy:  Oscar!

Oscar:  It wasn't by living like you that I got to where I am. It took sobriety, economy, and good order. No more talk about borrowing money.

Billy:  But, Oscar, Mr. Rooster, let me explain.

Oscar:  Get five hundred dollars from your drinking buddies. Come back here and my men will throw you in the gutter.
(exit, slamming door)

Billy:  Just let 'em touch me your men. I'll mop up the street with 'em. You weren't so proud when you used to borrow my marbles. And you never gave 'em back. Rooster? You just a turkey. Come on out here and let's see who's who.
(enter Louise)

Louise: Papa, papa, what's the matter? You're yelling in the street.

Billy:  Get me outta here, Louise. Get me outta here before I make a big mistake.

Louise:  Papa, get back to work.

Billy:  I'm too mad to work. I'd kill the shoes. Louise, go buy me a bottle of wine.

Louise:  There's no money to buy anything.

Billy:  You lie. I gave you five dollars yesterday. Where's the change?

Louise:  You had supper with Joey.

Billy:  Well, change this.
(slaps her)

Louise:  Papa, you hit me. And you had no reason.

Billy:  I'm sorry, Louise. That was wrong.
(yells toward Oscar's house) See what you made me do? Louise, take the grocers' boots to the pawn shop.

Louise:  And if he comes for them?

Billy:  Tell him they're being stretched.

Enter Jerome and Victor
(Don had them on horseback.)

Jerome:  Victor, I've been away for thirty years. Coming home brings back so many memories.

Victor:  But, my dear benefactor, won't you tell me why you got dressed in these apalling clothes this morning?

Jerome:  I'll get to that. My father had three sons, and we each had to learn a trade. But I didn't want to become a policeman. So I asked if I could go to Galveston to get a job onboard a ship as a cabin boy.

Victor: You were a cabin boy?

Jerome:  On a ship sailing to Brazil. But once onboard the ship the captain didn't make me clean the cabin. Instead he taught me. He taught me how to add, subtract, how to keep records, how to speak Portugese. And when we got to Brazil, he placed me with a rich farmer who had a hugh plantation. And because I knew arithmetic and was honest, the farmer made me the manager of all his property. Finally I had the good fortune to calm down a slave rebellion, in which he would have not only lost his property, but his life. So, five years ago when he died, having no children, he left me his fortune of three million dollars. And I trippled it to over nine million. But, it was lonely for me there. I missed my brothers. So, I sold everything. And here we are.

Victor:  But sir, when I met you in Galveston, you were dressed like a man of your fortune.

Jerome:  You are young, Victor. And you still don't really know people. I left my family thirty years ago. A lot can happen in thirty years. My parents are gone. But my friends and relatives, how will they receive me? Obviously they will open with welcome arms Jerome three times a millionaire. But how will they receive Jerome poor, Jerome laborer, Jerome coming home after thirty years with nothing but poor health? I would like to know. And so I put on these clothes.

Victor:  Ah, now I understand you.

Jerome: Well, hasn't much changed. Still looks the same. Victor, you saved my life when those three bandits in Galveston jumped me. Now you are like my only son. But I do want to know what has become of my two brothers. Please help me find them. Let's spread out through the neighborhood. If we're lucky we'll run into someone who knows them. I'll go this way. Meet me back here in an hour.

Victor:  Don't be gone too long. Golly, I hope he never thinks I want to separate him from his brothers just to keep the inheritance to myself.

(singing offstage) Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony...

Victor:  Here comes a jolly fellow.

Joey:(enter singing) Stuck a feather in his cap, and called it macaroni.

Victor:  Excuse me sir, sorry to interrupt your song.

Joey:  No problem. I can start it over.

Victor:  I'm a stranger here.

Joey:  Papa Joey, at your service.

Victor:  Thank you Joey. I'm Victor.

Joey: Vicker! Pretty name. Rhymes with liqour.

Victor:  Ha ha ha. Sir, you might know some old friends I'm looking for.

Joey:  You've asked the right person. I've never been out of this neighborhood.

Victor: Have you heard of the Rooster family?

Joey:  Mrs. Rooster! Bless her soul. She used to make clothes for me. I grew up with her three boys.

Victor:  Are they still alive?

Joey:  One of them went to the islands where they said he was eaten by savages. It was the king who ate him, because he was fat. The other two are still around. One lives over there. His name is Oscar. But I don't see much of him now. Kind of snooty. You know what I mean.

Victor:  And the other brother?

Joey:  Oh, Billy. If he gets a penny he gives me half. He lives right there. He and I are colleagues.

Victor: What is you all's profession?

Joey:  We profess keeping your feet off the ground.

Victor: Oh, a shoemaker.

Joey:  That's smart of you.

Victor:  And how's business?

Joey:  Very bad. Leather is so expensive now. I give most of my work to Billy. My eyesight's getting a little woosey.

Victor:  Thank you for all this information. May I give you something?

Joey:  Sir, I wouldn't think of it.

Victor:  But I took a lot of your time. Please, accept this. Have a drink to my health.

Joey:  Goldpiece! I've never seen one of these. If you don't mind my asking, how much is this worth?

Victor: Sixty dollars.

Joey:  God save the foundation! Sixty dollars! Can I show you around town?

Victor:  Thanks, but I need to rest now.

Joey:(exit singing) Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water...

Victor: Now I've got the information. This Joey was a whole newspaper.

Jerome:(enters) Here you are. Sorry to be late. But I've succeeded in finding out both my brothers are still alive. One is a notary; the other a shoemaker. Now I just have to find out where they live.

Victor:  I'm way ahead of you. The notary lives right over there. And the shoemaker here.

Jerome:  Really?

Victor:  See the notary's sign.

Jerome:  Right you are. I'll start with him. All honor to the great. Victor, go back to the hotel and order dinner for the whole family. We should be there by noon.
(exit Victor) Thirty years.
(knocks) He'll still recognize me.

Oscar:(off) What is it?
(enters) Oh, another beggar. My good fellow, I don't give here. There's a poor house downtown. Each year I give them something. Apply there. They'll look into your case.

Jerome: Sir, you mistake me. I'm not asking you for money.

Oscar:  What is it you want? Speak, I'm a busy man.

Jerome:  You have a brother Jerome.

Oscar:  Oh yes, a good for nothing who gave my father a lot of trouble. He went to Australia. They say he died from yellow fever.

Jerome:  No sir. Jerome is alive.

Oscar:  Still the same? Lazy, penniless?

Jerome:  Wrong again. He made a fortune of over nine million.

Oscar:  I beg your pardon?

Jerome:  I said he made a fortune of over nine million. And because he has no children he wishes to return to his brothers. He's coming by train. He'll be here any minute.

(aside) Nine million dollars! No children!
(to Jerome) I'm sorry, I didn't understand. Jerome you say? How well I remember him. A great adventurer. But a genius. Excuse me, but I must welcome him. Everything here will be so new to him. Geoffrey! Francis! Hitch the horses to the carriage. We're going to the railroad station. My brother is arriving.

Jerome:  He'll be so glad to see you. Ah, there's one thing I should add. I said he made a fortune of over nine million. But, the boat bringing him here was shipwrecked. Thank God his life was saved. But of course his fortune was drowned.

Oscar:  Francis, Geoffrey, don't hitch up yet. Sir, I congratulate you. You do know how to tell a story. But now I understand you. Jerome has heard about my success. And he wants to stick his finger in the cookie jar. He sends you to see what he might get. Tell him I already have enough brothers to be ashamed of. Tell him I'll send him fifty dollars if he leaves on the next train.

Jerome:  Sir, he's your brother.

Oscar:  If he comes, I'll have him thrown out.

Jerome:  So this is what it's like to come home. I should pack my bags and keep moving. A shoemaker would have even less reason to welcome an extra mouth to feed. But, I've come this far. Let's see it to the bitter end.

Billy:(off) I'll be right there.
(enter) Hi, how you feeling? Need yours shoes fixed? I can do it right away.
(aside) This fellow doesn't have a penny.

Jerome:  Thank you, I don't need new soles.

Billy:  Maybe the tops leak?

Jerome:  Neither. But is your name Rooster?

Billy:  Used to be. But now I'm just Billy.

Jerome:  Why so?

Billy:  My brother gave me three hundred dollars not to use the same last name.

Jerome:(aside) Our father's name!

Billy:  And, I took the money. So, I keep my word.

Jerome:  You had a brother, Jerome.

Billy:  Poor Jerome. He went to Brazil. They said a crocodile ate him.

Jerome: I saw him a while ago.

Billy:  You wouldn't be kidding?

Jerome:  He said to say hello, and that he'd be here soon.

Billy:  Wow! Has he changed?

Jerome:  If he was standing in front of you, you wouldn't recognize him.

Billy:  Good heavens, Jerome. You fooled me. Let me look at you. Oh, Jerome. I didn't recognize you. Look at you. Same eyes, same nose. Jerome, you rascal.

Jerome:  My good brother.

Billy:  What'd you bring me from Brazil? Seems like you didn't get rich there.

Jerome:  Actually, I did pile up a small fortune.

Billy:  Ahh

Jerome:  But, I lost it.

Billy:  That's no problem. You stay here with us until you have time to find a job.

Jerome:  I didn't come alone.

Billy:  Don't tell me, let me guess. You married a hula hula dancer and you'all got a bunch of naked kids. Well, they can sleep in the laundry room.

Jerome: No, I'm here with a friend who saved my life.

Billy:  We'll find space for him, too. I'm a widower now. I lost Madelaine three years ago. But you gotta meet my daughter, Louise. Louise, come out here. Your uncle has come home.
(enter Louise) Jerome, this is your niece, Louise. Louise, this is your uncle Jerome.

Louise:  Uncle Jerome. Papa has talked so much about you.
(they embrace)

Jerome:  Billy, I congratulate you on such a fine daughter.

Billy:(aside to Louise) Louise, make enough soup for four people.

Louise:  There's no butter.

Billy:  Use glue, that has flavor.

Jerome:  Billy, Louise, I must leave you for now. I'll go get my bags from the station, and come back here with Victor.

Billy: Don't be gone long. That's my brother. Louise, put a linen on the table.

Louise:  Where will I find one?

Billy:  Use that white shirt I took off Saturday.

Louise:  Papa, it's dirty.

Billy:  Turn it inside out, and tuck the sleeves in. Tell Joey he's invited.

Louise:  He's been drinking since early morning.

Billy:  All the more fun. He sings better. Add some meat to the soup.

Louise:  With what money?

Billy:  Take the mailman's boots to the pawnshop. Come on, hurry.

Oscar enters in a state of shock and despair.

Oscar:  Ohhhh I am lost, dishonored, ruined. The Ajax mines have gone under. I had all my money tied up in them. Who would have thought it? The Ajax mines. So well spoken of. Such a high rating. And now I don't have the three hundred thousands dollars I owe the bank today.
(he crouches down) Where shall I go? What shall I do?

Joey:(enter singing) 'Tis the same the whole world over, ain't it all a blooming shame. 'Tis the rich what gets the pleasure. 'Tis the poor what gets the blame.
(falls on top of Oscar)

Oscar:  Drunkard, watch where you're going.

Joey:  Excuse me. I don't see where very well. It's foggy today.

Oscar:  Get off me.

Joey:  Sounds like Mr. Rooster.

Oscar:  You are squashing me.

Joey:  Where are you, Mr. Rooster?

Oscar:  You are on top of me.

Joey:  Oh, what are you doing on the ground?

Oscar:  Imbecile.

Joey:  Mr. Rooster, you shouldn't be so rude with poor folk. Your brother Jerome isn't like you.

Oscar:  Jerome? He's here?

Joey: Joey You'd better believe it. And has he got the money. He's richer than you. His friend gave me a gold piece just to drink to his health. And I'm not letting that gold gather any moss.

Oscar:  That was Jerome himself this morning. He could save me now. How can I make up...

Joey: Saw your brother Billy. They kissed one another.

Oscar:  Where is Jerome now?

Joey:  I've got some money. Do you want a drink

Oscar:  No. Thank you. I've got to find Billy. I'll get Francis and Geoffrey to help me find him.

Joey:  Good-bye, Mr. Rooster. I'll drink to your health. I'll drink to everybody's health.
(exit singing) She was poor, but she was honest.

Billy:  Now I got Jerome back, I can forget about you, Mr. Oscar Rooster.
(throws a shoe at Oscar's house) Oh, it hit the window.

Oscar:(off) Billy, Billy.

Billy:  He saw me do it. I'd better get outta here. He'll send his men after me.

Oscar:(enter) Wait a minute, don't run away.
(Chase scene follows. Eventually Oscar catches up with Billy.) Billy, I need to talk to you.

Billy:  I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'll pay you for the window.

Oscar:  Don't worry about the window, brother Billy.

Billy:  Brother? Billy? You ok Mr. Rooster?

Oscar:  I was in the wrong and I apologize. Have you seen Jerome?

Billy:  I've seen him. He's gonna have soup with us. You want to join us?

Oscar:  Thanks, I'm a little rushed. Where is he?

Billy: He went to get his bag. Can't be very heavy. There's empty room in his stomach. He's poorer than me.

Oscar:  No, Jerome is rich. Maybe a millionaire.

Billy:  Not true.

Oscar:  I just found out. I'm certain of it.

Billy:  Somebody lied to you. If he was rich he wouldn't have called me brother. He would have told me to keep away, like you did. He would have told me not to use the same name. I say he's poor. He put his arms around me, and he cried. You don't do that. You're rich.

Jerome:(enters in his fine clothes) No, Billy. Riches only harden the heart already hard. If heaven blesses a good man with riches, he becomes a blessing to others. I'm three times a millionaire. But I want you to be happy with me.

Billy:  Where'd you get that hat? And that coat?

Jerome:  So, Mr. Oscar Rooster. Will you let me use the same last name?

Oscar:  Have pity on me, brother. I'm ruined except for your forgiveness.

Jerome:  Did you have pity on me when you saw me poor? Did you have pity on Billy when he needed a little money to get out of misery.

Billy:  Jerome, he's our brother. He was nice when he was little. He had blue britches with a yellow patch on his behind. You don't lack the green stuff. Lend him a little.
(Jerome pauses) Jerome.

Jerome:  You gave him three hundred dollars not to use our father's name. I'll give you three hundred thousand never gain to dishonor it.

Oscar:  Thank you, brother.
(exit ashamed)

Louise:(off) Papa, dinner's ready.

Jerome:  Oh, I've got an idea. Let's go out to eat at a nice restaurant. Your house is a little small for an engagement party. That is, if Louise is as fond of Victor as he is of her.

Victor:  Louise, I would be the happiest of men if you are of the same opinion as Mr. Jerome.

Louise:  I am a simple girl, uncle Jerome. Without education.

Jerome:  Six months of tutoring will take care of that.

Billy:  Come on, children. How about a kiss? Young man, will you make her happy?
(they kiss)

Jerome:  Ahem, we'll settle everything while we're eating. Billy, you'll live with us.
(all except Billy have left the stage)

Billy:  I'm not good for nothing but shoes.

Jerome:(off) Sixty thousand a year to shoe all the poor folk in town.

Billy:  Let me think about it!

they return, danse, and bow