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The great Galeoto; a play in three acts online

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MERCEDES. All of you.

TEODORA. All of us?

MERCEDES. Julian, Ernest, and you.

TEODORA. All three?

MERCEDES. Yes, all three. [Short pause. Both
women stare at each other.]

TEODORA. Then make haste.

MERCEDES [Aside], I should like to but, no ;

I must go gently in this unsavoury affair. [Aloud.]
Listen, Teodora. My husband is, after all, your
husband's brother, and in life and death our for-
tunes are one. So that we owe one another in all
things protection, help, and advice is it not so?
To-day it may be I who offer assistance, and to-
morrow, should I need it, I unblushingly claim it of
you.

TEODORA. You may count upon it, Mercedes.
But come to the end of the matter now.
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MERCEDES. Up to to-day, Teodora, I shrank
from this step, but Severo urges me. "It can't go
on," he insists. "My brother's honour and my own
self-esteem forbid me to witness that which fills me
with shame and sorrow. On all sides am I assailed
with innuendoes, with the smiles, and covert glances,
and the reproaches of my friends. There must be
an end to this low gossip about us."

TEODORA. Continue, pray.

MERCEDES. Then heed me. [They exchange a
prolonged gaze.]

TEODORA. Tell me, what is the gossip?

MERCEDES. The murmuring of the river tells us
that its waters are swollen.

TEODORA. I understand nothing of your river
and its swollen waters, but do not drive me wild.

MERCEDES [Aside]. Poor child! My heart
grieves for her. [Aloud.] So you do not understand
me?

TEODORA. I? Not in the least.

MERCEDES [Aside]. How stupid she is! [Aloud,
energetically.] You make a laughing-stock of him.

TEODORA. Of whom?

MERCEDES. Why, of your husband, of course.

TEODORA [Impetuously, rising], Julian! what a
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falsehood! What wretch could say so? Julian
would strike him!

MERCEDES [Endeavouring to soothe her and make
her sit down]. He would need a good many hands,
then; for, if report speak truly, he would have to
strike the entire town.

TEODORA. But what does it all mean? What is
the mystery, and what is this talk of the town?

MERCEDES. So you're sorry?

TEODORA. I am sorry. But what is it?

MERCEDES. You see, Teodora, you are quite a
child. At your age one is so often thoughtless and
light, and then such bitter tears are afterward shed.
You still don't understand me?

TEODORA. No, what has such a case to do with
me?

MERCEDES. It is the story of a scoundrel and the
story of a lady

TEODORA [Eagerly]. Whose name ?

MERCEDES. Her name

TEODORA. Oh, what does it matter?

[TEODORA moves away from MERCEDES.
who shifts her seat on the sofa to follow
her. The double movement of repug-
nance and aloofness on TEODORA'S
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part, and of insistence and protection
on MERCEDES', is very marked.]
MERCEDES. The man is a shabby-hearted be-
trayer, who, for one hour of pleasure, would thrust
upon the woman a life of sorrow: the husband's dis-
honour, the ruin of a family, and she left shamed and
condemned to social penitence in the world's dis-
dain, and to keener punishment still at the whip of
her own conscience.

[Here TEODORA, avoiding MERCEDES,

reaches the edge of the sofa, bows her

head and covers her face with both

hands. At last she understands.]

MERCEDES [Aside]. Poor little thing! She

touches me. [Aloud.] This man is not worthy of

you, Teodora.

TEODORA. But, madam, what is the drift of all
this blind emotion? Do not imagine that my eyes
are dimmed with fear or horror or tears. They burn
with the flame of anger. To whom can such words
be addressed? What man do you mean? Is it,

perchance ?

MERCEDES. Ernest.

TEODORA. Ah! [Pause.] And the woman I?
Not so? [MERCEDES nods and TEODORA rises again.]
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Then listen to me, though I may offend you. I
know not who is the viler, the inventor of this tale
or you who repeat it. Shame upon the meanness that
formed the idea, and shame upon the villainy that
spreads it! It is so abominable, so fatal, that I al-
most feel myself criminal because I cannot instantly
reject the thought and forget it. Heavens! Could
I suppose or credit such baseness? Because of his
misfortunes I loved him. He was like a brother to
me, and Julian was his providence. And he so noble
and thorough a gentleman! [Stands staring at MER-
CEDES, then turns away her face. Aside.] How she
inspects me! I scarcely like to say a good word for
him to her. My God! I am compelled already to
act a part.

MERCEDES. Be calm, child.

TEODORA [Raising her voice]. Oh, what anguish!
I feel cold and inconsolable. Stained in this way
by public opinion! Oh, my dearest mother, and
you, Julian, my heart's beloved. [She falls sobbing
into a chair on the left, and MERCEDES strives to console
her.]

MERCEDES. I did not imagine forgive me
don't cry. There, I didn't really believe it was seri-
ous. I knew your past exonerated you. But as
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the case stands, you must admit that out of every
hundred a hundred would accuse you and Julian of
excessive rashness, or say you had led the world to
conclude the worst. You a girl of twenty, Julian a
man of forty, and Ernest between you, with his head
full of romantic thoughts. On the one hand, a hus-
band given up to business, on the other a youth to
dreams, every day bringing its opportunity, and you
there, unoccupied, in the flush of romance. It was
wrong for people to conclude the worst because they
saw you walking with him, and saw him so often at
the theatre with you. But, Teodora, in reason and
justice I think that, if the world was bent on seeing
evil, you furnished the occasion. Permit me to point
out to you that the fault which society most fiercely
chastises, pursues most relentlessly and cruelly, and
in every varied imaginable way, both in man and
woman is don't frown so, Teodora is temerity.

TEODORA [Turning to MERCEDES without having
heard her}. And you say that Julian

MERCEDES. Is the laughing-stock of the town,
and you

TEODORA. Oh, I! That's no matter. But
Julian! Oh, oh, so good, so chivalrous! If he
only knew

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MERCEDES. He will know, for at this very mo-
ment Severe is telling him.

TEODORA. What!

JULIAN [Inside]. That will do.

TEODORA. Oh, goodness!

JULIAN. Let me alone.

TEODORA. Come away, quickly.

MERCEDES [Rushing with TEODORA toward first
door on the right]. Yes, yes, quickly. What folly!
[TEODORA and MERCEDES go to the right.}

TEODORA [Stopping suddenly]. But wherefore,
since I am not guilty? Not only does miserable
calumny stain us, but it degrades us. It is so steeped
in evil, that, against all evidence, its very breath
takes the bloom off our consciences. Why should
an idle terror cast its mean influence over me?

[At this moment DON JULIAN appears on
the threshold of the first door on the right
hand side, and behind him stands DON
SEVERO.]

TEODORA. Julian!

D. JULIAN. Teodora! [She runs over to him, and
he folds her in a passionate embrace.] Here in my
arms, dearest. It is the home of your honour.

[48]



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SCENE VII

TEODORA, DONA MERCEDES, DON JULIAN, and DON
SEVERO. DON JULIAN and DONA MERCEDES
form the centre group.

D. JULIAN. Let it pass for this once, but, please
God! there's an end of it. Whoever in future shall
stain this face with tears [pointing to TEODORA], I
swear, and mean it, will never again cross the thresh-
old of my house though he should be my own
brother. [Pause. DON JULIAN soothes and comforts
TEODORA.]

D. SEVERO. I only mentioned common report.

D. JULIAN. Infamous!

D. SEVERO. It may be so.

D. JULIAN. It is.

D. SEVERO. Well, let me tell you what every one
says.

D. JULIAN. Filth! abominable lies.

D. SEVERO. Then repeating them

D. JULIAN. 'Tis not the way to put an end to
them. [Pause.]

D. SEVERO. You are wrong.

D. JULIAN. Right more than right. A fine
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thing it would be if I let you carry the mire of the
street into my drawing-room !

D. SEVERO. But I will do so.

D. JULIAN. You shall not.

D. SEVERO. You bear my name.

D. JULIAN. Enough.

D. SEVERO. And your honour

D. JULIAN. Remember that you are in my wife's
presence. [Pause.]

D. SEVERO [In a low voice to DON JULIAN]. If
our father saw you

D. JULIAN. What do you mean, Severe?

MERCEDES. Hush! Here is Ernest.

TEODORA [Aside], How dreadful! If he should

know

[TEODORA turns away her face, and
holds her head bent. DON JULIAN
looks at her questioningly.]

SCENE VIII

TEODORA, DONA MERCEDES, DON JULIAN, DON SEV-
ERO, ERNEST and PEPITO, grouped from left to
right. On entering, PEPITO stands on DON JULIAN'S
side and ERNEST walks over to TEODORA.

ERNEST [Looking at DON JULIAN and TEODORA.
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Aside]. He and she! It is no illusion. Can it be
what I feared? what that fool told me. [Referring to
PEPITO, who at that moment enters behind.] It was
not his invention.

PEPITO [Staring strangely about]. My saluta-
tions to all, and good appetite as it is dinner-time.
Here are the tickets, Teodora. Don Julian

TEODORA. Thanks, Pepito. [Accepts them me-
chanically.]

ERNEST [To DON JULIAN in a low voice]. What's
the matter with TEODORA.

D. JULIAN. Nothing.

ERNEST [In same tone]. She is pale, and has
been crying.

D. JULIAN [Angrily]. Don't busy yourself about
my wife. [Pause. DON JULIAN and ERNEST ex-
change glances.]

ERNEST [Aside]. The wretches! They've com-
pleted their work.

PEPITO [In a low voice to his mother, pointing to
ERNEST]. He ought to have a strait-jacket. I
quizzed him about Teodora. Poof ! Ton my word,
I thought he'd kill me.

ERNEST [Aloud, with resolution and sadness].
Don Julian, I have thought over your generous offer,
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and much as I've already abused your kindness, it
goes sorely against me to refuse it now. But, sir, I
feel that I ought to reject this post you offer me.

D. JULIAN. Why?

ERNEST. Because I am so fashioned a poet
and a dreamer. My father, sir, trained me for no
career. I want to travel; I am restless and liable to
revolt. I am not capable of settling down like an-
other. Like a new Columbus, I am bitten by the
spirit of adventure. But we will appeal to Don
Severo. He will decide if I am right.

D. SEVERO. You speak like the book of wisdom
and like a man of sense. I have been thinking as
you do for a long while.

D. JULIAN. Since when have you felt this itch
for new worlds and travel? When did you make up
your mind to leave us? And the means? where
are they?

D. SEVERO. He wants to go away to some
place more to his taste than here. To be just, Julian,
the rest is your affair. Give him as much as he
wants, too, for this is no time for economy.

ERNEST [To DON SEVERO]. I don't traffic with
dishonour, nor receive alms. [Pause.] Well, it
must be so; and as our parting would be a sad one
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for in this life, who knows? I may never come back,
and may not see them again it is better that we
should shake hands now, here, Don Julian, and have
it over. Thus we snap the tie, and you forgive my
selfishness. [Deeply moved.]

D. SEVERO [Aside], How they stare at one
another!

TEODORA [Aside], What a noble fellow!

ERNEST [To DON JULIAN]. Why do you with-
hold your hand? It is our last adieu, Don Julian.
[Goes toward him with outstretched hands. DON
JULIAN embraces him.]

D. JULIAN. No, lad. The question well con-
sidered, this is neither the first nor the last. It is
the cordial embrace of two honourable men. You
must not mention your mad project again.

D. SEVERO. Then he is not going away ?

D. JULIAN. Never! I have not the habit of
changing my mind or the plans I have matured be-
cause of a boy's caprice or a madman's folly. And I
have still less intention of weakly subjecting my ac-
tions to the town's idle gossip.

D. SEVERO. Julian!

D. JULIAN. Enough. Dinner is served.

ERNEST. Father, I cannot

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D. JULIAN. But what if I believe you can? Or
does my authority begin to bore you?

ERNEST. I beg you

D. JULIAN. Come, dinner is ready. Give your
arm to Teodora, and take her in.

ERNEST [Looking at her, but holding back]. To
Teodora!

TEODORA [With a similar emotion], Ernest!
D. JULIAN. Yes, as usual.

[There is a movement of uncertainty on

both sides; finally ERNEST approaches

and TEODORA takes his arm, but

neither dares to look at the other, and

both are abrupt and violently agitated.]

D. JULIAN [ToPEprro]. And you! The deuce,

why don't you offer your arm to your mother? My

good brother Severo will take mine. So, quite a

family party, and now let pleasure flow with the wine

in our glasses. So there are gossips about? Well, let

them chatter and scream. A farthing for all they can

say. I shouldn't object to a glass house, that they

might have the pleasure of staring in at Teodora and

Ernest together, and learn how little I care for their

spite and their calumnies. Each man to his fancy.

[Enter servant in black suit and white tie.

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SERVANT. Dinner is served.

[The dining-room door opens and dis-
plays a well-appointed table.]
D. JULIAN. Let us look after our life, since it will
be the affair of others to look after our death. Come.
[Invites the others to pass.]
TEODORA. Mercedes.
MERCEDES. Teodora.
TEODORA. I pray you, Mercedes.

[DONA MERCEDES passes in with PEPITO
and takes her place at the table.
ERNEST and TEODORA stand plunged
in thought, ERNEST looking anx-
iously at her.]

D. JULIAN [Aside]. He is looking at her, and
there are tears in her eyes.

[TEODORA, walking unsteadily and
struggling with emotion, slowly follows
the others inside.]

D. JULIAN [To SEVERO]. Are they talking to-
gether?

D. SEVERO. I don't know, but I think it very
probable.

D. JULIAN. Why are they looking back at us?
Both! Did you notice? I wonder why.
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D. SEVERO. You see, you are growing reasonable
at last!

D. JULIAN. No, I've caught your madness. Ah,
how sure a thing is calumny ! It pierces straight to
the heart.



[56]



ACT II



ACT II

SCENE represents a small room almost poorly furnished.
Door at the end, on the right another door, and on the
left a balcony. A bookcase, a table, an armchair,
on the table DON JULIAN'S portrait in a frame, beside
it an empty frame; both small and alike; on the table an
unlighted lamp, the "Divina Commedia," open at
the Francesca episode, and close to a morsel of burnt
paper. Papers scattered about, and the MS. of a
play. A few chairs. Time, day.

SCENE I
Enter DON JULIAN, DON SEVERO and servant below.

D. SEVERO. Don Ernest is out?

SERVANT. Yes, sir. He went out early.

D. SEVERO. No matter. We'll wait. I suppose
he will be in sooner or later.

SERVANT. I should think so. Nobody could be
more punctual than he.

D. SEVERO. That will do.
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SERVANT. Certainly, sir. If you want anything,
you'll find me downstairs. [Exit servant.

SCENE II
DON JULIAN and DON SEVERO.

D. SEVERO [Looking round]. How modest!

D. JULIAN. Poor is a better word.

D. SEVERO. What a lodging! [Opens the door
and peeps in.] An alcove, this study, and an outer
room and that's all.

D. JULIAN. And thereby hangs the devil's own
tale of human ingratitude, of bastard sentiment, of
miserable passions, and of blackguard calumny.
And whether you tell it quickly or at length, there's
never an end to it.

D. SEVERO. It is the work of chance.

D. JULIAN. Not so, my dear fellow. It was
the work of well, I know whom.

D. SEVERO. Meaning me?

D. JULIAN. Yes, you as well. And before you
the empty pated idlers whom it behoved to busy
themselves shamelessly about my honour and my
wife's. And I, coward, mean, and jealous, I let
the poor fellow go, despite my evidence of his up-
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right nature. I responded to his nobler conduct by
black ingratitude. Yes, ingratitude. You see my
ostentatious wealth, the luxury of my surroundings,
and equipages, and the credit of my firm. Well, do
you know where all that comes from?

D. SEVERO. I have quite forgotten.

D. JULIAN. Justly said forgotten! Such is the
natural reward of every generous action, of every
unusual impulse that prompts one man to help an-
other quietly, without a flourish of trumpet or self-
advertisement just for friendship's or for honesty's
sake.

D. SEVERO. You are unjust to yourself. To
such an excess have you pushed gratitude, that you
have almost sacrificed honour and fortune to it.
What more could be expected even of a saint?
There's a limit to all things, go^d and evil. He is
proud and obstinate, and, however much you may
oppose him, 'tis none the less a fact that he's his own
master. If he chooses to leave your palace in a fit
of despair, for this shanty 'tis his right. I admit,
my dear boy, that it's very sad but then, who
could have prevented it?

D. JULIAN. The world in general, if it would
mind its own business instead of tearing and rending
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reputations by the movement of its tongue and the
sign of its hand. What did it matter to the public
if we, fulfilling a sacred duty, treated Ernest, I as a
son, and Teodora as a brother? Is it reason enough
to assume the worst, and trumpet scandal because a
fine lad sits at my table, walks out with my wife, and
has his seat in my opera-box? Is by chance impure
love the sole supreme bond between man and woman
in this world of clay? Is there no friendship, grati-
tude, sympathy, esteem, that youth and beauty
should only meet in the mire? And even supposing
that the conclusion of the fools was the right one, is
it their business to avenge me? I have my own eyes to
look after my own affairs, and to avenge my wrongs
have I not courage, steel, and my own right hand?

D. SEVERO. Well, accepting that outsiders were
wrong to talk, did you expect me, who am of your
blood and bear your name, to hold my tongue?

D. JULIAN. By heavens, no! But you should
have been more careful. You might have told me
alone of this sorry business, and not have set flame
to a conflagration under my very roof.

D. SEVERO. I erred through excess of affection,
I admit. But while I confess that the world and I
have done the mischief it by inventing the situa-
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tion, and I by weakly crediting, and by giving voice
to the shabby innuendoes you, Julian [approaches
him and speaks vyith tender interest], have nothing to
reproach yourself with. You have the consolation
of having acted throughout as a gentleman.

D. JULIAN. I cannot so easily console myself,
while my heart gives shelter to that same story which
my lips and my intelligence reject. I indignantly
turn away from the world's calumny, and to myself
I say: "What if it should be no lie: if perchance the
world should be right? " So I stand in strife between
two impulses, sometimes judge, sometimes accom-
plice. This inward battle wears me out, Severe.
Doubt increases and expands, and my heart groans,
while before my bloodshot vision stretches a red-
dened field.

D. SEVERO. Delirium!

D. JULIAN. No, 'tis not raving. You see, I bare
myself to you as a brother. Think you Ernest
would have left my house if I had firmly stood in his
way and opposed his crossing the threshold? If so,
why does a traitorous voice keep muttering in my
disturbed consciousness: " 'twere wise to leave the
door open to his exit, and lock it well afterward, for
the confiding man is but a poor guardian of honour's
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fortress." In my heart I wish what my lips deny.
"Come back, Ernest," aloud, and to myself "do not
come back," and while I show him a frank front, I am
a hypocrite and a coward, watchful and worn with
mistrust. No, Severe, this is not to act like an hon-
est man. [He drops into the armchair beside the table
in deep dejection.]

D. SEVERO. It is how any husband would act
who had a beautiful young wife to look after, espec-
ially one with a romantic temperament.

D. JULIAN. Don't speak so of Teodora. She is
a mirror that our breath tarnishes by any imprudent
effort to bring it to our level. It gave back the
sun's pure light before the million vipers of the earth
gathered to stare at it. To-day they crawl within
the glass in its divine frame, but they are insub-
stantial shadows. My hand can wave them away,
and once more you will see the clear blue of heaven.

D. SEVERO. All the better.

D. JULIAN. No, not so.

D. SEVERO. Then what the deuce do you want?

D. JULIAN. Oh, so much. I told you that this

inward struggle of which I spoke is changing me to

another man. Now my wife finds me always sad,

always distant. I am not the man I was, and no

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effort will ever make me so again. Seeing me so
changed, she must ask, "Where is Julian? this is not
my dear husband; what have I done to forfeit his
confidence, and what shabby feeling causes this
aloofness?" a shadow lies between us, ever deepening,
and slowly, step by step, we move more apart. None
of the old dear confidence, none of the old delightful
talks; smiles frozen, tones embittered, in me through
unjust resentment, in her through tearful grief I,
wounded in my love, and she, by my hand, wounded
in her woman's dignity. There's how we stand.

D. SEVERO. Then you stand upon the verge of
perdition. If you see your position so plainly, why
don't you remedy it?

D. JULIAN. 'Tis of no use. I know I am unjust
to doubt her, nay, worse still. I don't doubt her
now. But who will say that, I losing little by little,
and he gaining as steadily, the lie of to-day will not
to-morrow be truth? [He seizes DON SEVERO by the
arm, and speaks vrith voluble earnestness and increasing
bitterness.] I, jealous, sombre, unjust and hard, he,
noble and generous, resigned and unalterably sweet-
natured, with that halo of martyrdom which, in the
eyes of women, sits so becomingly on the brow of a
brave and handsome youth. Is it not clear that his
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is the better part, and that my loss is his gain? while
I can do nothing to alter the injustice of it. You
see it, too? And if the ignoble talk of the town
should compel those two to treason, though they
may now truthfully assert: "we are not lovers," the
force of repetition of the word may eventually drive
them to the fact.

D. SEVERO. If that's how you feel about it,
Julian, I think the safest thing would be to let Ernest
carry out his project.

D. JULIAN. That I've come to prevent.

D. SEVERO. Then you are insane. He purposes
to go to Buenos Ayres. Nothing could be better.
Let him go in a sailing vessel, fresh wind to his
sail, and good speed.

D. JULIAN. Do you wish me to show myself so
miserably ungrateful and jealous before Teodora?
Don't you know, Severe, that a woman may despise
a lover and love him still, but not so a husband?
Contempt is his dishonour. You would not have
my wife follow the unhappy exile across the ocean
with sad regrets? And I, should I see the trace of
a tear upon her cheek, the mere thought that it
might be for Ernest would drive me to strangle her in
my arms. [Speaks with rancour and rage.]
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D. SEVERO. What is it then you do want?

D. JULIAN. I must suffer. The care of unravel-
ling the knot belongs to the world that conceived the
drama solely by looking at us so fertile is its glance
for good and ill.

D. SEVERO [Moving back], I think somebody is
coming.

SERVANT [From without, not seen on the stage}.
Don Ernest cannot be much later. [Enter PEPITO.

SCENE III
DON JULIAN, DON SEVERO, and PEPITO.

D. SEVERO. You here?

PEPITO [Aside}. By Jove, I see they know all
about it. [Aloud.} We are all here. How do you
do, uncle? How do, father? [Aside.} Easy. They
know what's in the wind. [Aloud.} What brings
you? but I suppose you are looking for Ernest.

D. SEVERO. What else could bring us here?

D. JULIAN. I daresay you know what this mad-
man is up to?

PEPITO. What he's up to! Well, yes rather.
I know as much as another.

D. SEVERO. And it's to-morrow?
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PEPITO. No, to-morrow he is going away, so it
must be to-day.

D. JULIAN [Surprised]. What do you say?

PEPITO. That's what Pepe Uceda told me last
night at the club. He is Nebreda's second, so he
ought to know. But why do you stare so oddly?
Didn't you know

D. JULIAN [Hastily covering his brother's move-
ment]. Everything.

D. SEVEBO. We

D. JULIAN [Aside]. Hold your tongue, Severe.
He starts to-morrow and to-day he stakes his life
and we are here, of course, to prevent both, the duel


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