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The great Galeoto; a play in three acts online

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and the departure. [DON JULIAN makes it evident
that he is only sounding Pepito's knowledge of facts, and
that he is only aware of the pending departure.]

D. SEVERO. What duel?

D. JULIAN [Aside to SEVERO]. I know nothing
about it, but I shall presently.

PEPITO [Aside]. Come, I haven't been such a
duffer after all.

D. JULIAN [Speaking with an air of certainty].
We know there is a viscount


D. JULIAN. With whom Ernest proposes to fight

a certain trustworthy person has informed us,
who was at once apprised of it. They say 'tis a
serious matter [PEPITO nods], a disgraceful quarrel, in
the presence of several witnesses [PEPITO nods again]

the lie direct, and a deluge of bad language! -
PEPITO [Interrupts excitedly, glad of his more ac-
curate information]. Language indeed! a blow
bigger than a monument.

D. SEVERO. On which side?

PEPITO. Ernest struck the viscount.

D. JULIAN. Of course Ernest struck the viscount.
I thought you knew that, Severe. The viscount in-
sulted him. Patience is not the lad's strong point

hence the blow.
PEPITO. Exactly.

D. JULIAN [Confidently], I told you we knew
the whole story. [Then anxiously,] The affair is

PEPITO. Most serious. I don't like discussing it,
but since you know so much, there is no need for
further mystery.

D. JULIAN. None whatever. [He approaches
PEPITO eagerly,]

PEPITO [After a pause, adopts an ominous air to
announce bad news]. It is a matter of life and death.


[Looks around triumphantly. DON JULIAN and DON
SEVERO start.] The viscount is neither a chicken nor
a skulk. He can handle a sword.

D. JULIAN. And the quarrel? What was it?
Nebreda is supposed to be

PEPITO. It was hardly a quarrel. I'll tell you
the facts. [Both men draw near eagerly.] Ernest,
you know, means to leave Madrid to-morrow, and
take passage in the Cid lying in Cadiz. Luiz Al-
caraz had promised him a letter of introduction, and
the poor fellow went off to meet him at the cafe and
get it, with the best of intentions. Luiz wasn't there
so he waited. Some of the frequenters of Alcaraz's
table, who did not know him, were in the full swing
of glorious slander, and did not notice his clenched
teeth. A name mentioned meant a reputation
blasted. Broad-handed, ready-tongued, every liv-
ing soul passed in their review. In this asylum of
charity, in the midst of more smoke than an express
train emits, between lifted glass and dropped cigar-
ette ashes, with here and there a lump of sugar, the
marble was converted for the nonce into a dissecting-
table: each woman was dishonoured, another glass
of the old tap: a shout of laughter for each tippler's
cut. In four clippings these lads left reputations


ragged and the ladies rent to tatters. Yet what did
it all come to? They but echoed society at a cafe-
table. I don't say all this for myself, nor think it,
but 'twas how Ernest spoke when he recounted the
quarrel to me.

D. JULIAN. Well, make an end of it.

PEPITO. The end of it is, that between name and
name, there was mention of one that Ernest could
not endure. "Who dares to ridicule an honourable
man?" he shouts. Somebody retorts: "a lady," and
names a woman. His head was instantly on fire,
and he flings himself upon Nebreda. The poor vis-
count fell like a ninepin, and there you have an
Agramante's camp. The day's business is now a
duel in a room somewhere I don't know where.

D. JULIAN [Seizing his arms]. The man was I!


D. JULIAN. And Teodora the woman? How
have we fallen she, myself, our love? [Sits down
and covers his face with both hands.]

D. SEVERO. What have you done, you block-

PEPITO. Didn't he say he knew all about it? and
I naturally believed him.

D. JULIAN. Dishonoured, dishonoured!


D. SEVERO [Approaching him], Julian, my dear

D. JULIAN. It is true. I ought to be calm, I
know. But what heart can I have when faith is
gone? [Seizes his brother's hand.] Just heaven!
Why are we so disgraced? What reason have they
to turn and throw mud at us? No matter. I know
my duty as a gentleman. I can count on you,

D. SEVERO. On me? Till death, Julian. [They
shake hands cordially.]

D. JULIAN [To PEPITO]. The duel?

PEPITO. For three o'clock.

D.JULIAN [A side]. I'll kill him yes, kill him.
Come. [To SEVERO.]

D. SEVERO. Whither?

D. JULIAN. To look for this viscount.

D. SEVERO. Do you mean ?

D. JULIAN. I mean to do what I ought and can
to avenge myself and save Don Juan of Acedo's son.
Who are the seconds? [To PEPITO.]

PEPITO. Alcaraz and Rueda.

D. JULIAN. I know them both. Let him stay
here [pointing to PEPITO], so that in the event of

Ernest's return



D. SEVERO. Of course.

D. JULIAN [To PEPITO]. Without arousing his
suspicion, find out where the duel takes place.

D. SEVERO. You hear.

D. JULIAN [To his brother]. Come.

SEVERO. What's the matter with you, Julian?

D. JULIAN. 'Tis a long while since I've felt so
overjoyed. [Catches SEVERO'S arm feverishly.]

D. SEVERO. The deuce! overjoyed! You're be-
side yourself.

D. JULIAN. I shall meet that fellow.

D. SEVERO. Nebreda?

D. JULIAN. Yes. Observe, until to-day cal-
umny was impalpable. There was no seizing its
shape. I have now discovered it, and it has taken a
human form. There it is at hand, in the person of a
viscount. Swallowing blood and gall for the past
three months the devil! and now fancy, face
to face he and I !



PEPITO. Well, here we are in a nice fix, and all for
nothing! However, in spite of my uncle's belief, it
was little short of madness to leave a resplendent



creature under the same roof, and in continual con-
tact with a handsome fellow like Ernest, with a soul
on fire, or given to romanticism. He swears there's
nothing in it, and that his feeling for her is pure
affection, that he loves her like a sister, and that my
uncle is a father to him. But I am a sly fox, and,
young as I am, I know a thing or two of this work.
I've no faith in this sort of relations, when the
brother is young and the sister is beautiful, and
brotherhood between them is fiction. But suppose it
were as he says, all square. What do outsiders
know about that? Nobody is under any obligation
to think the best of his fellows. The pair are seen
everywhere together, and, seeing them, haven't their
neighbours a right to talk? No, swears Ernest. We
hardly ever went out alone. Once, perhaps? That's
enough. If a hundred persons saw them on that
occasion, it is quite the same as if they had been seen
in public a hundred times. Good Lord! How are
you going to confront all the witnesses to prove
whether it was once or often they chose to give an
airing to this pure sympathy and brotherly love?
'Tis absurd neither just nor reasonable. What
we see we may mention 'tis no lie to say it.
"I saw them once," says one, "and I," another.


One and one make two. "And I also" that
makes three. And then a fourth, and a fifth, and
so, summing which, you soon enough reach infinity.
We see because we look, and our senses are there to
help us to pass the time, without any thought of our
neighbour. He must look out for himself, and
remember that, if he shuns the occasion, calumny and
peril will shun him. [Pause.] And take notice that
I admit the purity of the affection, and this makes it
so serious a matter. Now, in my opinion, the man
who could be near Teodora, and not fall in love with
her, must be a stone. He may be learned and philo-
sophical, and know physics and mathematics, but
he has a body like another, and she's there with a
divine one, and, body of Bacchus! that's sufficient
to found an accusation on. Ah! if these walls
could speak. If Ernest's private thoughts, scattered
here, could take tangible form! By Jove! what's
this? An empty frame, and beside it Don Julian's
likeness in its fellow. Teodora was there, the pen-
dant of my respected uncle. Why has she dis-
appeared? To avoid temptation? [Sits down at the
table.] If that's the reason it's bad. And still
worse if the portrait has left its frame for a more
honourable place near his heart. Come forth, sus-


pected imps that float about, and weave invisible
meshes. Ruthlessly denounce this mystic philo-
sopher. [Looks about the table and sees the open Dante.]
Here's another. I never come here but I find this
divine book open on Ernest's table. The Divine
Comedy! His favourite poem, and I note that he
seems never to get beyond the Francesca page. I
conceive two explanations of the fact. Either the
fellow never reads it, or he never reads any other. But
there's a stain, like a tear-drop. My faith! what
mysteries and abysses! And what a difficult thing
it is to be married and live tranquilly. A paper
half burnt [picks it up] there's still a morsel

[Goes over to the balcony trying to read it.
At this moment ERNEST enters, and
stands watching him.]


ERNEST. What are you looking at?

PEPITO. Hulloa! Ernest. Only a paper I caught
on the wing. The wind blew it away.

ERNEST [Takes it and returns it after a short in-
spection]. I don't remember what it is.


PEPITO. Verses. You may remember [reads with
difficulty]. "The flame that consumes me." [Aside.]
Devora rhymes with Teodora.

ERNEST. It is nothing important.

PEPITO. No, nothing. [Throws away the paper.]

ERNEST. That worthless bit of paper is a symbol
of our life a few sobs of sorrow, and a little flake
of ashes.

PEPITO. Then they were verses?

ERNEST. Yes. When I've nothing better to do,
sometimes my pen runs away with me I write
them at night.

PEPITO. And to prick enthusiasm, and get into
harness, you seek inspiration in the master's book.

ERNEST. It would seem

PEPITO. Say no more. Tis truly a gigantic work.
The episode of Francesca. [Pointing to the page.]

ERNEST [Ironically and impatiently]. You can't
guess wrong to-day.

PEPITO. Not entirely, by Jove! Here, where the
book is open, I find something I can't guess, and
you must explain it to me. Reading a love-tale
together to pass the time, we are told that Fran-
cesca and Paolo reached that part where the gallant
author, proving himself no amateur in the busi-


ness, sings the loves of Launcelot and Guinevere.
The match fell pat. The kiss in the book was re-
peated by the passionate youth on the girl's mouth.
And at this point of the story, with rare skill and
sublime truth, the Florentine poet tells us what
happens. [Points to the line.] But this is what I do
not understand. "Galeoto" was the book they were
reading, and they read no more. They stopped
reading? That's easy enough to understand. But
this Galeoto, tell me where he comes in, and who was
he? You ought to know, since he has given his
name to the play that is to make you famous. Let
me see. [Takes up the MS. and examines it.]

ERNEST. Galeoto was the go-between for the
Queen and Launcelot, and in all loves the third may
be truthfully nicknamed Galeoto, above all when
we wish to suggest an ugly word without shocking
the audience.

PEPITO. I see, but have we no Spanish word to
express it?

ERNEST. We have one, quite suitable and ex-
pressive enough. 'Tis an office that converts de-
sires into ducats, overcomes scruples, and is fed upon
the affections. It has a name, but to use it would be
putting a fetter upon myself, forcing myself to ex-


press what, after all, I would leave unsaid. [Takes
the MS. from PEPITO and flings it upon the table.]
Each especial case, I have remarked, has its own
especial go-between. Sometimes it is the entire
social mass that is Galeoto. It then unconsciously
exercises the office under the influence of a vice of
quite another aspect, but so dexterously does it work
against honour and modesty that no greater Galeoto
can ever be found. Let a man and woman live
happily, in tranquil and earnest fulfilment of their
separate duties. Nobody minds them, and they
float along at ease. But God be praised, this is a
state of things that does not last long in Madrid.
One morning somebody takes the trouble to notice
them, and from that moment, behold society en-
gaged in the business, without aim or object, on the
hunt for hidden frailty and impurity. Then it pro-
nounces and judges, and there is no logic that can
convince it, nor living man who can hope to per-
suade it, and the honestest has not a rag of honour
left. And the terrible thing is, that while it begins
in error it generally ends in truth. The atmosphere
is so dense, misery so envelops the pair, such is
the press and torrent of slander, that they uncon-
sciously seek one another, unite lovelessly, drift


toward their fall, and adore each other until death.
The word was the stumbling-stone of virtue, and
made clear the way for shame was Galeoto and
[aside] stay ! what mad thought inflames me !

PEPITO [Aside], If that's the way he discourses
to Teodora, heaven help poor Don Julian. [Aloud.]
I suppose last night's verses dealt with the subject.

ERNEST. Yes, they did.

PEPITO. How can you waste your time so coolly,
and sit there so calm, doing nothing, when in another
hour you will be measuring swords with Nebreda,
who, for all his dandy's cane, is a man when put
upon his mettle? Wouldn't it be saner and wiser
to practise fencing instead of expounding questions of
verse and rhyme? You look so mighty cool that I
almost doubt if you regard your meeting with the
viscount as serious.

ERNEST. No for a good reason. If I kill him,
the world gains; if he kill me, I gain.

PEPITO. Well, that's good.

ERNEST. Don't say any more about it.

PEPITO [Aside], Now I must warily find out.
[Approaches him and speaks in a low voice.] Is it for

ERNEST. Yes, to-day.



PEPITO. Outside the town?

ERNEST. No, there's no time for that. Besides,
we wish to keep it quiet.

PEPITO. In a house, then?

ERNEST. So I proposed.

PEPITO. Where?

ERNEST. Upstairs. [S peaks vrith cold indifference.]
There's a room unlet upstairs, with a side window,
through which nobody can look. Under the cir-
cumstances it's better than a field, and will be had
for a handful of silver.

PEPITO. And now all you need

ERNEST. The swords!

PEPITO. I hear voices outside. Somebody is
coming the seconds?

ERNEST. May be.

PEPITO. It sounds like a woman's voice. [Ap-
proaches door.]

ERNEST [Approaches also]. But who's keeping

ERNEST, PEPITO, and servant.

SERVANT [Mysteriously]. Somebody wants to
see you, sir.




SERVANT. A lady.

ERNEST. How extraordinary!

PEPITO [A side to servant]. What does she want?

SERVANT [To PEPITO]. She is crying.

PEPITO [Aloud]. Is she young?

SERVANT. Really, sir, I can't say. It's very
dark outside, and the lady's face is so thickly veiled
that the devil himself couldn't tell what she's like,
and she speaks so low you can't even hear her.

ERNEST. Who can she be?

PEPITO. Who could want to see you?

ERNEST. I cannot think.

PEPITO [Aside], This is startling. [Takes up
his hat and holds out his hand.] Well, I'll leave you in
peace. Good-bye and good luck. [To the servant.]
What are you waiting for, you booby?

SERVANT. For orders to show the lady in.

PEPITO. In such a case 'tis your business to antici-
pate them. And afterward, until the veiled one has
departed, you mustn't let any one in unless the sky
were falling.

SERVANT. Then I am to show her in?

ERNEST. Yes. [To PEPITO at the door.] Good-



PEPITO. Good-bye, Ernest.

[Exeunt servant and PEPITO.

ERNEST. A lady? on what pretext? What does
this mean? [Enter TEODORA, thickly veiled; she
stands without approaching.] Ah, there she is!


TEODORA and ERNEST, she behind not daring to ad-
vance, he turned toward her.

ERNEST. You desire to speak to me, madam?
Kindly be seated. [Offers her a chair.] .

TEODORA [Unveiling]. Forgive me, Ernest.


TEODORA. I am wrong to come am I not?

ERNEST [Abruptly and stammering], I can't say
since I don't know to what I owe this honour.
But what am I saying? Alas! Here, in my rooms,
madam, reverence attends you, than which you can-
not find a greater [with devotion] . But what wrong
can you possibly fear here, lady?

TEODORA. None and there was a time but

that once is forever past. No thought of doubt

or fear was then. I might have crossed any room on

your arm without blush or fluttering pulse. But



now ! They tell me that you are starting for Amer-
ica to-morrow and I yes like those who go
away perhaps not to return it is so sad to lose
a friend! before Julian before the whole world
thinking only of our affection I myself, Ernest,
would have held out my arms to you in farewell.

ERNEST [Starts and quickly restrains himself].
Oh, Teodora!

TEODORA. But now I suppose it is not the same
thing. There is a gulf between us.

ERNEST. You are right, madam. We may no
longer care for one another, be no longer brother and
sister. The mutual touch of palm would leave our
hands unclean. 'Tis all forever past. What we
have now to learn is to hate one another.

TEODORA [In naive consternation]. Hate! surely

ERNEST. Have I used that word and to you!
poor child!


ERNEST. Don't heed me. If you needed my
life, and the occasion offered itself, claim it, Teodora,
for, to give my life for you would be [with passion]
it would be my duty. [With a sudden change of
voice. Pause.] Hate! If my lips pronounced the


word, I was thinking of the misery I was thinking
of the injury I have unwittingly wrought one to
whom I owe so much. Yes, you, Teodora, must
hate me but I ah, no!

TEODORA [Sadly]. They have made me shed
tears enough; yes, you are right in that, Ernest
[with tenderness], but you I do not accuse. Who
could condemn or blame you for all this talk? You
have nothing to do with the venomous solicitude with
which evil minds honour us, nor with poor Julian's
clouded temper. It is sorrow that makes him res-
tive, and his suffering wounds me, for I know that it
springs from doubt of my devotion.

ERNEST. That is what I cannot understand
[angrily], and in him less than in another. It is what
drives me wild : by the living God, I protest it is not
worthy of pity, and there is no excuse for it. That the
man should exist who could doubt a woman like you !

TEODORA. Poor fellow, he pays a heavy price
for his savage distrust.

ERNEST [Horrified to find he has been blaming
DON JULIAN to TEODORA]. What have I said? I

don't accuse him no I meant [He hastens

to exculpate DON JULIAN and modify his former

words.] Anybody might feel the same, that is, if he



were very much in love. In our earthly egoism, don't
we doubt the very God in heaven? And the owner
of a treasure jealously watches it as gold, and cannot
but fear for it. I, too, in his place, would be full
of doubt, yes even of my own brother. [Speaks
with increasing fervour, and again restrains himself,
perceiving that he is on the brink of a peril he would
avoid. TEODORA hears voices outside and rushes to

ERNEST. Whither are you leading me, rebel heart ?
What depth have I stirred? I accuse the world of
calumny, and would now prove it right.

TEODORA. Do you hear? Somebody is coming.

ERNEST [Following her]. It is hardly two o'clock.
Can it be ?

TEODORA [With terror]. It is Julian's voice.
He is coming in!

ERNEST. No, they have prevented him.

TEODORA [Turns to ERNEST, still frightened].
If it were Julian? [Moves toward the bedroom door.
ERNEST detains her respectfully.]

ERNEST. Should it be he, stay here. Loyalty is
our shield. Were it one of those who distrust us
then there, Teodora. [Points to the door.] Ah, no-
body. [Listening.]



TEODORA. How my heart throbs!

ERNEST. You need not be afraid. The person
who wanted to come in has gone away or it was
an illusion. For God's sake, Teodora ! [Ad-
vances up the stage.]

TEODORA. I have so much to say to you, Ernest,
and the time has passed so quickly.

ERNEST. The time has flown!

TEODORA. I wanted

ERNEST. Teodora, pray forgive me but is it
prudent? If any one came in and, indeed, I fear
some one will.

TEODORA. That is why I came to prevent it.

ERNEST. So that ?

TEODORA. I know everything, and I am stricken
with horror at the thought that blood should be shed
on my account. My head is on fire, my heart is
bursting. [Strikes her breast.]

ERNEST. It is the affront that burns and shames
you until my hand has struck at Nebreda's life. He
wanted mud! Well, let him have it stained with

TEODORA. You would kill him?

ERNEST. Certainly. [Represses TEODORA'S move-
ment of supplication.] You can dispose of me in all


else but in this one thing. Do not ask me to feel
compassion for a man whose insult I remember.

TEODORA [Prayerfully, with a sob]. For my sake!

ERNEST. For your sake?

TEODORA. It would be such a horrible scandal.

ERNEST. That is possible.

TEODORA. You can say it so coolly, and not
endeavour to avoid it, not even when it is I who
implore you!

ERNEST. I cannot avoid it, but I can chastise it:
so I think and say, and this is my business. Others
will look for the insult, I for the punishment.

TEODORA [Coming nearer and speaking softly, as
if afraid of her own voice]. And Julian?


TEODORA. If he were to know about it?

ERNEST. He will know about it.

TEODORA. What will he say?


TEODORA. That only my husband, the man who
loves me, has a right to defend me.

ERNEST. Every honourable man has the right to

defend a lady. He may not even know her, be

neither a friend, nor a relative, nor a lover. It is

enough for him to hear a woman insulted. Why do



I fight this duel? Why do I defend her? Because
I heard the calumny. Because I am myself. Who is
so base as to give his protection by scale and meas-
ure? Was I not there? Then whoever it was I
or another who was first on the scene

TEODORA [Listens eagerly, dominated by him, and
holds out her hand to him]. This is noble and hon-
ourable, and worthy of you, Ernest. [Then restrains
herself and moves backward.] But it leaves Julian
humiliated. [With conviction.]

ERNEST. He? humiliated!

TEODORA. Most surely.


TEODORA. For no reason whatever.

ERNEST. Who will say so?

TEODORA. Everybody.

ERNEST. But wherefore?

TEODORA. When the world hears of the affront,
and learns that it was not my husband who avenged
me, and above all [drops her eyes ashamed] that
it was you who took his place have we not then
a new scandal topping the old?

ERNEST [Convinced but protests]. If one had
always to think of what people will say, by Heaven!
there would be no manner or means of living then !


TEODORA. It is so, nevertheless.

ERNEST. Just so. 'Tis horrible.

TEODORA. Then yield.

ERNEST. Impossible.

TEODORA. I beseech you.

ERNEST. No. Looking into the matter, as
nobody can know what will happen, it is better
that I should face Nebreda. For, after all, if
the fellow lack a sense of honour, he can use a

TEODORA [Wounded and humiliated in the protec-
tion ERNEST seems to offer DON JULIAN]. My hus-
band is not lacking in courage.

ERNEST. Fatality again! Either I have ex-
pressed myself ill, or you do not understand me. I
know his worth. But when a desperate injury lies
between men of courage, who knows what may hap-
pen? which of them may fall, and which may kill?
And if this man's sword must strike Don Julian or
Ernest, can you doubt which it ought to be? [Ques-
tions her with sad sincerity.]

TEODORA [In anguish]. You! oh, no not
that, either.

ERNEST. Why? If it is my fate? Nobody loses
by my death, and I lose still less.


TEODORA. For Heaven's sake, do not say that!
[Barely able to repress her sobs.]

ERNEST. What do I leave behind me? Neither
friendship nor strong love. What woman is there
to follow my corpse shedding a lover's tears?

TEODORA. Last night I prayed for you and

you say that nobody I could not bear you to die.


ERNEST. Ah, we pray for any one; we only weep
for one. [With passion.]

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Online LibraryJosé EchegarayThe great Galeoto; a play in three acts → online text (page 4 of 6)