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- The Lamp and the Bell - 4/16 -


And have your eyelids kissed to make you dream Of fairies! Come, dear, come.

BIA. Oh, I do love you, Rose-Red! You are so sweet! Oh, I do love you So much!--so much! I never loved anyone The way that I love you! There is nobody In all the world so wonderful as you!

[She throws her arms about Beatrice and clings to her.]

Scene 3

[A room in the palace at Fiori. Lorenzo and Beatrice playing chess. Twilight.]

LOR. You'll not be able to get out of that, I think, my girl, with both your castles gone.

BEA. Be not so sure!--I have a horse still, father, And in a strong position: if I move him here, You lose your bishop; and if you take my bishop, You lose your queen.

LOR. True, but with my two rooks Set here, where I can push them back and forth, My king is safe till worms come in and eat him.

BEA. What say you then to this?--Will you take this pawn, Or will you not?

LOR. [Studying the board.] Od's bones!--where did that come from?

[Enter Octavia.]

OCT. La, would you lose your eyesight, both of you?-- Fumbling about those chessmen in the dark? You, Beatrice, at least, should have more wit!

LOR. "At least"--hm!--Did you hear her say, "at least," Bice, my daughter?

BEA. Ay. But it is true The twilight comes before one knows it.

LOR. Ay. 'Tis true, but unimportant. Nevertheless, I am a tractable old fellow.--Look you, I will but stay to map the lay of the pieces Upon this bit of letter. 'Tis from a king Who could not tell the bishop from the board,-- And yet went blind at forty.--A little chess By twilight, mark you, and all might have been well.

[Enter Bianca.]

BIA. Oh,--I've been looking everywhere for you?

OCT. [Drily.] For me?

BIA. Nay, mother,--for Beatrice. Bice, The rose is out at last upon that bush That never blossomed before,--and it is white As linen, just as I said 'twould be!

BEA. Why, the bud Was redder than a radish!

BIA. Ay, I know. But the blossom's white, pure white. Come out and see! [Politely.] Would you like to see it, mother?

OCT. Nay, not now, child. Some other time.

BEA. Father, we'll end the game Tomorrow; and do you not be scheming at it All night!

LOR. Nay, I will not unfold the chart.

BEA. But you remember well enough without; Promise me not to think of it.

LOR. I' faith, You are a desperate woman. Ay, I promise.

[Exeunt Bianca and Beatrice. Octavia seats herself. Pause.]

OCT. I tell you, as I've told you often before, Lorenzo, 'tis not good for two young girls To be so much together!

LOR. As you say, Octavia. For myself, I must confess It seems a natural thing, enough, that youth Should seek out youth. And if they are better pleased Talking together than listening to us, I find it not unnatural. What have we To say to children?--They are as different From older folk as fairies are from them.

OCT. "Talking together," Lorenzo! What have they To talk about, save things they might much better Leave undiscussed?--you know what I mean,--lovers, And marriage, and all that--if that is all! One never knows--it is impossible To hear what they are saying; they either speak In whispers, or burst out in fits of laughter At some incredible nonsense. There is nothing So silly as young girls at just that age.-- At just Bianca's age, that is to say. As for the other,--as for Beatrice, She's older than Bianca, and I'll not have her Putting ideas into my daughter's head!

LOR. Fear not, my love. Your daughter's head will doubtless, In its good time, put up its pretty hair, Chatter, fall dumb, go moping in the rain, Be turned by flattery, be bowed with weeping, Grow grey, and shake with palsy over a staff,-- All this, my love, as empty of ideas As even the fondest mother's heart could wish.

OCT. You mock me, sir?

LOR. I am but musing aloud, As is my fashion.--And indeed, my dear, What is the harm in lovers-and-all-that That virtuous maidens may not pass the time With pretty tales about them?--After all, Were it not for the years of looking forward to it And looking back upon it, love would be Only the commonest bird-song in the hedge,-- And men would have more time to think,--and less To think about.

OCT. That may be. But young girls Should not be left alone too much together. They grow too much attached. They grow to feel They cannot breathe apart. It is unhealthy.

LOR. It may be true. But as for me, whom youth Abandoned long ago, I look on youth As something fresh and sweet, like a young green tree, Though the wind bend it double.--'Tis you, 'tis I, 'Tis middle age the fungus settles on.

OCT. Your head is full of images. You have No answers. I shall do as I spoke of doing, And separate them for a little while, Six months, maybe a year. I shall send Bianca Away within a fortnight. That will cure them. I know. I know. Such friendships do not last.

CURTAIN

ACT II

Scene 1--Four months later.

[Scene: A garden, near the palace at Fiori. The young Duke Guido is discovered standing with one foot resting on a garden-bench, looking off, lost in thought. Enter Giovanni.]

GIO. That is a merry face you wear, my Guido! Now that the young King Mario visits the court And walks all morning in the woods with the Princess, Or gives her fencing lessons,--upon my word, You are as gay as a gallows!

GUI. She is never Alone with him. Laura--Carlotta--someone Is always there.

GIO. Ah--ah--but even so, No matter who is there, I tell you, lovers Are always alone!

GUI. Why do you say these things, Giovanni?

GIO. Because I love you, you lean wolf, And love to watch you snuff the air. My friend, There was a time I thought it all ambition With you, a secret itching to be king-- And not so secret, either--an open plot To marry a girl who will be Queen some morning. But now at times I wonder. You have a look As of a man that's nightly gnawed by rats, The very visage of a man in love. Is it not so?

GUI. I do not know, Giovanni. I know I have a passion in my stomach


The Lamp and the Bell - 4/16

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