(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Maître Blazius, with his three chins and round stomach, is proudly awaiting the arrival of Perdican, whom he tutored. Perdican recently received a doctorate at Paris, and Maître Blazius feels that the credit is due to his tutoring. Gulping a huge bowl of wine presented by the chorus of listening peasants, he announces that Camille, niece of the Baron, is also expected home from the convent. The Baron is anxious to see his son Perdican married to Camille; he knows they have been in love since childhood.

Dame Pluche, Camille’s chaperon, arrives out of breath. After drinking some vinegar and water, she announces that Camille is on her way. She tells of Camille’s education in the best convent in France and of the inheritance she is to get that day from her mother’s estate. She does not mention the projected marriage.

The Baron brings Maître Bridaine to the house. Since he expects the marriage to take place that day, he wants the priest to perform the ceremony. To impress Camille, he arranges with Maître Bridaine to speak some Latin to Perdican at dinner; no matter if neither one understands it. Maître Bridaine is agreeable to the plan, but he is hostile at once to Maître Blazius, for he smells wine on his breath.

When Perdican and Camille meet, something seems amiss. Perdican wants to embrace his pretty cousin, but Camille speaks formally to her childhood sweetheart and refuses a kiss. She is chiefly interested in looking at a portrait of her great-aunt, who was a nun. At dinner, the two priests, Maître Bridaine and Maître Blazius, vie jealously with each other. Both are gourmets as well as gourmands, and they are apprehensive that there is no place for two priests in the luxurious household. After dinner, Camille again refuses a friendly talk with Perdican and even excuses herself from walking in the garden. The Baron, upset at her coldness, grows even more indignant when Dame Pluche upholds Camille in her refusals. Perdican, with relief, renews his acquaintance with Rosette, a pretty peasant who was Camille’s foster sister.

Maître Blazius, attempting to discredit his rival, tells the Baron that Maître Bridaine drank three bottles of wine at dinner and is now walking about on unsteady feet. The Baron can scarcely listen because Maître Blazius’s breath is so strong. Maître Bridaine hurries up to tell the Baron that Perdican is walking with Rosette on his arm and throwing pebbles about wildly.

Perdican is puzzled by Camille’s coldness toward him. When Maître Blazius reminds him that the marriage is a project dear to the Baron’s heart, the young man is willing to try again, but Camille is resolute. She will not let him hold her hand and refuses to talk to him about their childhood. She came back only to receive her inheritance; the next day, she will return to the convent. After Perdican leaves her, Camille asks the scandalized Dame Pluche to take a note to him.

Maître Bridaine is very unhappy. His rival is seated next to the Baron at...

(The entire section is 1239 words.)