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- The Lamp and the Bell - 2/16 -

LAU. Fear not, Carlotta, He is as dumb as a prophet. Every second word He utters, eats the one before it. Speak, But softly.

CAR. Nay,'tis nothing.--Nay, by my head, It is a townful! 'Tis the way she has Of saying "that should be done like this, and this Like that"! The woman stirs me to that point I feel like a carrot in a stew,--I boil so I bump the kettle on all sides!

LAU. My dear, Were you as plump as I you would not dare Become so angry. It would make your stays creak.

CAR. Well, I am done. Fidelio, play me a dirge To put me in good spirits. Merry music Is sure to make me sad.

[Fidelio plays. Pause.]

CAR. 'Tis curious A woman like her should have a child like that-- So gentle and so pretty-mannered. Faith,--

FID. Hush! Hush! Here come the prettiest pair of birds That ever sat together on a bough so close You could not see the sky between. How now, Snow-White and Rose-Red! Are you reconciled One to another?

[Enter Beatrice and Bianca, with their arms about one another.]

BIA. Reconciled, Fidelio? We had not quarrelled! [Laughter from Fidelio and the ladies.]

BEA. Do not listen to him, Bianca, 'tis but the jingling of his bells.

FIDELIO. Do you make a better jest than that At once, or have the clappers cut from them.

FID. Alas, alas,--all the good jests are made. I made them yesterday.

CAR. If that be true, You would best become a wise man for a time, My friend,--there are plenty of wise words not yet said!

FID. I shall say them all tomorrow.

LAU. If you do, You will be stoned to death.

FID. Not I. No one Will hear me.--Well, I am off.--I know an old man Who does not know the road runs past his house; And yet his bees make honey. [Exit Fidelio.]

CAR. [Looking after him.] 'Tis the one wise fool We have among us.

[Enter Grazia.]

GRA. Oh, here you are, my ducklings! Always together, like a beggar and a flea! I looked for you at lunch-time; I forget now What for; but then 'twas a matter of more weight Than laying siege to a city,--la, how time Does carry one on! An hour is like an ocean, The way it separates you from yourself!-- [To Bianca and Beatrice.] What do you find to talk about all day?

BEA. We do not talk all day.

CAR. Nay, tis you, Grazia, That talk all day.

BEA. We ride, and play at tennis, And row on the lake--

GRA. I know who does the rowing!

BEA. Nay, not by any means! Bianca rows Nearly as well as I.

CAR. And do you ride Nearly as well as she, Bianca? [All smile.]

BIA. [Ruefully.] Nay.

GRA. 'Tis an unkind question. There be few in Fiori Might answer, "Aye." Her Highness rides like a centaur.

BIA. I'd never dare to mount the horse she rides.

BEA. What, Harlequin?--La, he's gentle as a kitten! Though he's a little young, 'tis true, not settled yet In his mind.

LAU. As to his mind, 'twere a small matter, Were he a bit more settled in his legs!

BIA. I'm afraid of horses, anyway, they are so much Bigger than I am.

BEA. Oh, Bianca, horses Are just like people! Are you afraid of father?-- He is bigger than you.

BIA. Nay. But I'd never dare Prod him which way to go!

BEA. Oh, la, I would! Father, this ditch! This four-foot wall now, father! And swim the brook beyond!

FRA. And is there naught In which Bianca carries off the trophies?

BEA. [Ruefully.] Ay, there is tennis.

LAU. She wins from you at tennis?

BEA. She flays me, Laura. She drags me at her racket Nine times around the court!

CAR. Why, how is that?-- She is not quicker.

BEA. Nay, but she grows cool Whilst I grow hot, Carlotta, and freezes me Ere I can melt her!

FRA. Is it true, Bianca?

BIA. 'Tis true I win from her.--Although not always.

GRA. What did I come here for?--I must go back To where I started, and think of it again! [Exit Grazia.]

CAR. [Calling after her.] Are you sure that you remember where you started? -- -- The woman hath a head like a sieve.

LAU. And yet, You may be sure 'tis nothing more than the thimble Of the matter she's forgotten. I never knew her Mislay the thread or the needle of a thing.

BIA. We must study now, Beatrice, we really must. We have not opened a book since yesterday.

LAU. La, as for me, I have not opened a book Since yesteryear,--I'd rather open a vein!

CAR. Lessons,--troth, I remember well those lessons. As for what I learned,--troth, that's a different matter,

FRA. 'Tis curious; the things that one remembers Are foolish things. One does not know at all Why one remembers them. There was a blackbird With a broken foot somebody found and tamed And named Euripides!--I can see it now.

CAR. Some of the silly rhymes we used to write In the margins of our books, I still remember!

LAU. And eating sweets behind the covers of them!

FRA. And faces--faces--faces--and a little game We used to play, all marching in a row And singing!--I wish I were a child again.

BEA. You are not old, Francesca. You are very young. And very beautiful!

FRA. I have been beautiful Too many years to be so very young.

CAR. How now, Francesca! Would you have it said You are enamoured of some beardless youth, That so you see the wrinkles suddenly? Have done! Have done!

BIA. Where shall we study, Bice?

BEA. Indoors. I cannot study out of doors.

[Exeunt Beatrice and Bianca.]

LAU. I vow I never knew a pair of lovers More constant than those two.

CAR. A pair of lovers? Marry, I find your figure lacking force! Since when were lovers true?

The Lamp and the Bell - 2/16

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