The Lamp and the Bell

Language: English
Published: 6 days ago
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Scene 1

[Scene: A garden of the palace at Fiori; four years later.]

[Discovered seated Laura, Francesca and Fidelio, Laura embroidering,
Fidelio strumming his flute, Francesca lost in thought.]

LAURA. You,—Fool! If there be two chords to your lute,
Give us the other for a time!

FRANCESCA. And yet, Laura,
I somewhat fancied that soft sound he made.
'Twas all on the same tone,—but 'twas a sweet tone.

LAURA. 'Tis like you. As for myself, let music change
From time to time, or have done altogether.
Sing us the song, Fidelio, that you made
Last night,—a song of flowers, and fair skies,
And nightingales, and love.

FIDELIO. I know the song.
It is a song of winter.

LAURA. How is that?

FIDELIO. Because it is a song of summer set
To a sad tune.

FRANCESCA. [Sadly] Ah, well,—so that it be not
A song of autumn, I can bear to hear it.

LAURA. In any case, music. I am in a mood for music.
I am in a mood where if something be not done
To startle me, I shall confess my sins.

[Enter Carlotta.]

CARLOTTA. Ha! I will have that woman yet by the hair!

LAURA. What woman, pray, Carlotta?

CAR. Ho! What woman!
Who but that scullery-wench, that onion-monger,
That slatternly, pale bakress, that foul witch,
The coroneted Fish-Wife of Fiori,
Her Majesty, the Queen!

FRA. Hush—hush—Carlotta!
You could be put to death for less than that!

CAR. Not I, my duck. When I am put to death
'Twill be for more! Oh, I will have her yet
By the hair! [For the first time noticing Fidelio.]
Fidelio, if you breathe one word
Of this, I will scratch the Princess into ribbons,
Whom you love better than your wit.

FID. I' faith,
I did but hear you say you are a fish-wife,
And all the world knows that.

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....