José Echegaray.

The great Galeoto; a play in three acts online

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TEODORA [Startled]. Ernest!

ERNEST [Terrified by his own words]. What!

TEODORA [Moving farther away]. Nothing.

ERNEST [Also moving away and looking nervously
down]. I told you a little while ago I was half
mad. Do not heed me. [Pause. Both remain
silent and pensive, at some distance, not looking at
each other.]

TEODORA [Starting and glancing anxiously down
the stage]. Again!

ERNEST [Following her movement]. Somebody
has come.

TEODORA. They are trying to get in.

ERNEST [Listening]. There can be no doubt of
it. There, Teodora! [Points to the bedroom door.]
[91]



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TEODORA. My honour is my shield.

ERNEST. But it is not your husband.

TEODORA. Not Julian?

ERNEST [Leading her to the door]. No.

TEODORA. I hoped [Detains him with an air

of supplication.] Will you give up this duel?

Ernest. Give it up? When I've struck him !

TEODORA. I didn't know that. [Despairingly,
but understands that- nothing can be done.] Then fly!

ERNEST. I fly!

TEODORA. For my sake, for his sake for God's
sake!

ERNEST [Despairingly]. You must loathe me to
propose such a thing to me. Never!

TEODORA. One word only. Are they coming for
you now?

ERNEST. It is not yet time.

TEODORA. Swear it to me.

ERNEST. Yes, Teodora. And you say you
don't hate me.

TEODORA. Never.

PEPITO [Outside]. Nothing. I must see him.

ERNEST. Quickly.

TEODORA. Yes. [Hides in the bedroom.]

PEPITO. Why do you prevent me?
[92]



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ERNEST. Ah, calumny is working to make the
lie truth.

SCENE VIII

ERNEST and PEPITO, vnihout his hat, exhibiting
strong excitement.

PEPITO. Go to the devil I will go in Ernest!

ERNEST. What has happened?

PEPITO. I hardly know how to tell you yet I
must

ERNEST. Speak.

PEPITO. My head is in a whirl. Christ above,
who would think

ERNEST. Quickly. A clear account of what has
happened.

PEPITO. What has happened? A great misfor-
tune. Don Julian heard of the duel. He came here
to look for you, and you were out. He went away
to find the seconds, and marched them off to Neb-
reda's house.

ERNEST. Nebreda's! How?

PEPITO. The Lord send you sense. Don Julian's
way, of course, who makes short work of convention
and the will of others.

[93]



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ERNEST. Go on



PEPITO [Going to the door]. They're coming, I
believe.

ERNEST. Who?

PEPITO. They they're carrying Don Julian.

ERNEST. You terrify me. Explain at once.
[Catches his arm violently, and drags him forward.]

PEPITO. He compelled him to fight. There was
no way out of it. The viscount cried: "Very well,
between us two." It was settled it should take place
here. Don Julian came upstairs. Your servant
sent him away, protesting you were engaged with a
lady, and swearing nobody could enter.

ERNEST. And then?

PEPITO. Don Julian went downstairs muttering
"better so. I have the day's work for myself." And
he, my father, Nebreda, and the seconds came back
together, and went upstairs.

ERNEST. They fought?

PEPITO. Furiously, as men fight when their intent
is deadly, and their enemy's heart is within reach
of the sword's point.

ERNEST. And Don Julian! No it must be a
lie.

PEPITO. Here they are.
[94]



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ERNEST. Silence. Tell me who it is, but speak
softly.

PEPITO. There. [Enter DON JULIAN, DON SEV-
ERO, and RUEDA. The two men support DON JULIAN,
who is badly wounded.]

ERNEST. Heaven preserve us !

SCENE IX

ERNEST, PEPITO, DON JULIAN, DON SEVERO, and
RUEDA.

ERNEST. Don Julian! my friend, my father, my
benefactor ! [Hurries excitedly toward him, and speaks
brokenly.]

D. JULIAN [Weakly]. Ernest!

ERNEST. Oh, wretched I!

D. SEVERO. Quick, come away.

ERNEST. Father!

D. SEVERO. He is fainting with pain.

ERNEST. For my sake!

JULIAN. It is not so.

ERNEST. Through me pardon! [Takes DON
JULIAN'S hand, bends on one knee before him.]

JULIAN. No need to ask it, lad. You did your
duty, and I did mine.

[95]



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D. SEVERO. A couch. [Loosens his hold of DON
JULIAN, and PEPITO takes his place.]

PEPITO [Pointing to the bedroom]. Let us carry
him in there.

ERNEST [Shouting terribly]. Nebreda!

D. SEVERO. Let there be an end to folly. Is it
your intention to kill him outright?

ERNEST [With frenzy]. Folly, oh, we'll see. 7
have two to aVenge now. It is my right. [Rushes
down the stage.]

D. SEVERO [Moving to the right]. We'll take him
into your room and lay him on the bed. [ERNEST
wheels round in terror.]

ERNEST. Where?

D. SEVERO. In here.

PEPITO. Yes.

ERNEST. No. [Strides back, and stands before the
door. The group are on the point of lifting DON JULIAN,
desist, and stare at ERNEST in indignant surprise.]

D. SEVERO. You forbid it?

PEPITO. Are you mad?

D. SEVERO. Back! Can't you see he is dying?

D. JULIAN. What is it? He doesn't wish it?
[Raises himself and looks at ERNEST in distrust and
fear.]

[96]



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RUDEA. I don't understand it.

PEPITO. Nor I.

ERNEST. He is dying and implores me and
doubts me father!

D. SEVERO. Come, we must. [Pushes open the door
above ERNEST'S shoulder. TEODORA is discovered.]

ERNEST. My God!

D. SEVERO and PEPITO. She!

RUEDA. A woman!

TEODORA [Coming forward to her husband and
embracing him.] Julian!

D. JULIAN. Who is it? [Pushes her away to stare
at her, drags himself to his feet with a violent effort, and
shakes himself free of all aid.] Teodora! [Falls life-
less to the ground.]



[97]



ACT III



ACT III

The same decoration as first act: an armchair instead of
a sofa. It is night; a lighted lamp stands on the table.

SCENE I

PEPITO listening at the door on the right, then comes
back into the middle of the stage.

PEPITO. The crisis is past at last. I hear nothing.
Poor Don Julian. He's in a sad way. His life
hangs in the balance: on one side death awaits him,
and on the other another death, that of the soul, of
honour either abyss deeper than hopeless love. The
devil ! All this tragedy is making me more sentimen-
tal than that fellow with his plays and verses. The
tune of disaster, scandal, death, treason, and dis-
grace hums in my brain. By Jove, what a day,
and what a night! and the worst is yet to come.
Well, it certainly was madness to move him in his
condition; but when once my uncle gets an idea into
his head, there's no reasoning with him. And, after
[101]



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all, he was right. No honourable man, in his place,
could have stayed, and he is a man of spirit. Who is
coming? my mother, I believe yes.

[Enter DONA MERCEDES.

SCENE II
PEPITO and DONA MERCEDES.

MERCEDES. Where's Severe?

PEPITO. He has not left my uncle for a moment.
I had no idea he was so attached to him. If what I
fear should happen

MERCEDES. How is your uncle?

PEPITO. He suffers greatly, but says nothing.
Sometimes he calls out "Teodora" in a low, harsh,
voice, and sometimes "Ernest"; and then he tugs
violently at the sheets, and lies quiet again as a
statue, staring vacantly into space. Now his brow
is bathed in the cold sweat of death, and then fever
seizes him. He sits up in bed, listens attentively,
and shouts that he and she are waiting for him. He
tries to jump out of bed to rush at them, and all
my father's entreaties and commands barely suffice
to restrain him or soothe him. There's no quiet-
ing him. Anger races hot through his veins and
[102]



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thought is a flame. It is shocking, mother, to see
the bitter way his lips contract, and how his fingers
close in a vise, with head all wild, and pupils dilated
as though they drank in with yearning and despair
every shadow that floats around the chamber.

MERCEDES. How does your father bear it?

PEPITO. He groans and breathes of vengeance.
He, too, mutters the names of Teodora and Ernest.
I hope to God he will not meet either, for if he should,
small chance there is of restraining his fury.

MERCEDES. Your father is a good man.

PEPITO. Yes, but with a temper

MERCEDES. It is not easily aroused, however.
But when he has cause

PEPITO. With all due respect, he's then a very
tiger.

MERCEDES. Only when provoked.

PEPITO. I don't know about other occasions,
but this time he certainly has provocation enough.
And Teodora?

MERCEDES. She is upstairs. She wanted to come
down and cried like a Magdalen.

PEPITO. Already! Repentant or erring?

MERCEDES. Don't speak so. Unhappy girl, she
is but a child.

[103]



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PEPITO. Who, innocent and candid, sweet and
pure and meek, kills Don Julian. So that, if I am
to accept your word, and regard her as a child, and
such is her work on the edge of infancy, we may pray
God in his mercy to guard us from her when she shall
have put on years.

MERCEDES. She is hardly to be blamed. The in-
famy lies with your fine friend he of the drama,
the poet and dreamer. He it is who is the culprit.

PEPITO. I don't deny it.

MERCEDES. Where is he?

PEPITO. Where is he? At this moment racing
about the streets and public places, flying from his
conscience, and unable to get away from it.

MERCEDES. He has a conscience?

PEPITO. So it would seem.

MERCEDES. Oh, what a tragedy!

PEPITO. A misfortune!

MERCEDES. Such a deception!

PEPITO. A cruel one.

MERCEDES. What shocking treason!

PEPITO. Unparalleled.

MERCEDES. Poor Julian !

PEPITO. Melancholy fate!

[Enter servant.
[104]



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SCENE III
DONA MERCEDES, PEPITO, and servant.

SERVANT. Don Ernest.
MERCEDES. He dares



PEPITO. This is too much.

SERVANT. I thought

PEPITO. You had no business to think anything.
SERVANT. He is only passing. There is a cab

waiting, so

PEPITO. What are we to do?
MERCEDES. Let him come in.

[Exit servant.

PEPITO. I'll give him his dismissal.
MERCEDES. Do it cleverly.

SCENE IV

DONA MERCEDES, PEPITO, and ERNEST. DONA MER-
CEDES seated in the armchair, PEPITO standing, and
ERNEST behind, whom neither salute nor look at.

ERNEST [A side]. Hostile silence, anger, and con-
tempt. Through no fault of my own, I now ap-
pear to them a prodigy of evil and insolence, and
they all despise me.

[105]



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PEPITO. Listen to me, Ernest. [Turns round to
him and speaks in a hard voice.]

ERNEST. Well?

PEPITO. I have to tell you

ERNEST. To go away, perhaps.

PEPITO [Changing his tone]. Good heavens!
What a notion! I only wanted to ask you if
it is true [hunts for something to say] that you
afterward the viscount, you know?

ERNEST [Gloomily looking away]. Yes.

PEPITO. How did it happen?

ERNEST. I ran downstairs half mad I found
them we went upstairs again locked the door.
Two men two witnesses two swords and after-
ward I hardly know what happened. Swords clashed
there was a cry a thrust blood spouted an as-
sassin stood and a man lay stretched on the ground

PEPITO. The devil! Sharp work. Did you hear,
mother?

MERCEDES. More bloodshed.

PEPITO. Nebreda deserved it.

ERNEST [Approaching her]. Mercedes, for pity's
sake one word Don Julian? How is he? If
you could know what my anguish is my sorrow
what do they say?

[106]



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MERCEDES. That the wound, since his removal,
is mortal, and it would be worse for him if you went
near the bed of suffering and death. Leave this house.

ERNEST. I must see him.

MERCEDES. Go instantly.

ERNEST. I will not.

PEPITO. What insolence!

ERNEST. It is befitting. [To PEPITO.] Pardon
me, madam [turning respectfully to MERCEDES] you
see I am achieving the general opinion of me.

MERCEDES. For pity's sake, Ernest

ERNEST. Listen, Mercedes. When a man such
as I am is abused, and for no reason on earth treated
as a blackguard, and finds himself snared, with
crime thrust upon him, 'tis indeed a perilous case
for others rather than for himself. I, in this fierce
struggle with miserable fate, have lost honour, friend-
ship, and love, and have now nothing more to
lose but the shabby shreds of an insipid and dreary
existence. I have come here solely to know if there
is any hope only for that and then but you
cannot deny me so slight a consolation? [Pleading.]
One word!

MERCEDES. Very well. They say that he is
better.

[107]



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ERNEST. True? You are not deceiving me?
You are sure quite sure? Oh! you are merciful,
you are kind. It is true, quite true! May God
spare him! Not his death. Let him live and be
happy once more; let him forgive me and embrace me
once again! Only let me see him. [Falls into the
armchair beside the table sobbing, and covers his face
with his hands. Pause.}

MERCEDES. If your father should hear if he
should come out. Courage, Ernest, be sensible.
[DONA MERCEDES and PEPITO endeavour to screen
ERNEST.]

PEPITO. These nervous creatures are terrible.
They sob and kill in the same breath.

ERNEST. If you see me crying, while sobs shake
my throat in an hysterical convulsion, and I seem
as weak as a child, or a woman, believe me, it is not
for myself, but for him for her for their lost
happiness, for this indelible blot upon their name
for the affront I am the cause of, in return for all their
love and kindness. It is not my fault, but my utter
misfortune. That is why I weep. My God, if I
could wipe out this wretched past with tears, I would
gladly weep away my blood to the last drop.

MERCEDES. Silence, I implore!
[108]



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PEPITO. There, we will discuss tears and sorrows
another time.

ERNEST. If everybody else is discussing them to-
day, why should we, too, not speak of them? The
whole town is astir and on tiptoe with excitement.
It has swallowed up, devoured, and blighted three
reputations, three names, three persons, and floated
them on the froth of laughter, and a wave of de-
grading chatter down the straits of human misery,
into the social abyss of shame, where forever lie en-
gulfed the conscience, and fame, and future of the
unfortunates.

MERCEDES. Not so loud, Ernest.

ERNEST. Why, since the others are not mur-
murs, but voices that thunder through the air? The
tragic event is known all over the town, and each
one has his own way of telling it. Wonderful!
everything is known except the truth. Tis fatality.
[DONA MERCEDES and PEPITO exhibit keen interest
in hearing the reports.] Some say that Don Julian
discovered Teodora in my rooms, and that I attacked
him in blind fury and killed him on the spot. Others
and these would seem to be my friends, since they
raise me from the rank of vulgar assassin to the noble
level of duellist aver that we fought loyally like
[109]



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gentlemen. And there are others, again, who have
the tale more accurately, and recount how Don
Julian took my place in the avenged meeting with
Nebreda that I arrived late on the scene either

from design or fear, or because I was in the arms

But no, it would burn my lips to give this version
the thought of it sets my brain on fire. Seek the
basest, the vilest, that which most blackens the
filth of the mind, the mire of the soul, the dross of
degraded consciences; cast it to the wind as it whis-
tles along the streets upon bespattering tongues, and
you will have the tale, and may see what reputation
remains for an innocent woman and two honest men
when the town takes to jabbering about them.

MERCEDES. It is sad, I admit; but perhaps pub-
lic opinion is not altogether to blame.

PEPITO. Teodora did go to your rooms she
was there

ERNEST. To prevent the duel with Nebreda.

PEPITO. Then why did she hide herself

ERNEST. Because we feared her presence would
be misconstrued.

PEPITO. The explanation is easy and simple.
The difficult thing, Ernest, is to get us to believe it,
for there is another still more easy and simple.
[110]



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ERNEST. Which dishonours more, and that's the
beauty of it.

PEPITO. Well, at least, admit that Teodora was
giddy, if not really culpable.

ERNEST. Guilt is prudent and cautious. On the
other hand, how imprudent is innocence !

PEPITO. Look here, if your rule holds good for
everybody, the worst of us is an angel or a saint.

ERNEST. You are right. What does it matter?
What is the weight or value of such calumny? The
worst of it is that thought is degraded by mean con-
tact with a mean idea. From force of dwelling
upon a crime, the conscience becomes familiar with
it. It shows itself terrible and repellent but it
shows itself at night, in dark solitude! Yes
[aside] but what! why are they listening to me so
strangely, almost in suspense? [Aloud.] I am my-
self; my name is an honourable one. If I killed
Nebreda solely because of a lie, what would I not
do to myself if guilt threatened to give the truth to
calumny?

PEPITO [Aside to MERCEDES]. He denied it!
Why, it is as clear as daylight.

MERCEDES [Aside to PEPITO]. He's wandering.

PEPITO. 'Tis only his confession he's making.
[Ill]



THE GREAT GALEOTO



MERCEDES [Aloud]. That will do, Ernest. Go
now.

ERNEST. Impossible, madam. I should go mad
if I had to spend to-night away from this sick-room
out of my mind.

MERCEDES. But if Severe came and found
you?

ERNEST. What do I care? He is a loyal gentle-
man. Better still, let him come. We fly from fear,
and only the guilty are afraid. Nothing will make
me run away, or acknowledge fear.

PEPITO [Listening]. Somebody is coming.

MERCEDES. Is it he?

PEPITO [Going down the stage]. No, 'tis Teodora.

ERNEST. Teodora! Teodora! I want to see
her.

MERCEDES [Sternly], Ernest!

ERNEST. Yes, I must ask her to forgive me.

MERCEDES. You don't remember

ERNEST. I remember everything and understand.
We two together! Ah, no. Enough! You need not
fear. For her would I shed my blood, lay down my
life, sacrifice my future, honour all ! But see
her? never! 'Tis no longer possible. The mist of
blood has risen between us. [Goes out on the left.
[1121



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SCENE V
DONA MERCEDES and PEPITO.

MERCEDES. Leave me alone with her. Go in-
side to your father. I want to see into her heart, and
shall be able to probe its depths with my tongue.

PEPITO. Then I will leave you together.

MERCEDES. Good-bye.

PEPITO. Good-bye. [Goes out on the right.

MERCEDES. Now to put my plan into work.

SCENE VI

TEODORA and DONA MERCEDES. TEODORA enters
timidly and stands near DON JULIAN'S door on the
right, listening anxiously, and muffling her sobs with
her handkerchief.

MERCEDES. Teodora.
TEODORA. It is you. [Advances to her.}
MERCEDES. Courage! what good does crying do?
TEODORA. How is he? how is he? the truth !
MERCEDES. Much better.
TEODORA. Will he recover?
MERCEDES. I think so.
TEODORA. My God! My life for his!
[113]



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MERCEDES [Draws her affectionately forward].
And then I have faith in your good sense. I can
measure your remorse by your tears and anxiety.

TEODORA. Yes [DONA MERCEDES sits down
with a satisfied air] I did wrong, I know, in going
to see him [DONA MERCEDES looks disappointed
the confession is no worse] but last night you told
me about the outrage and the duel. I was grateful
to you for doing so, although I did not then suspect
the harm you did me, nor could I now explain it to
you. Oh, what a night! [Crosses her hands and
glances upward.] I have cried and raved, thinking
of Julian's plight, of the scandal, of the violent quar-
rel, and the bloodshed. Everything passed before
my eyes and then poor Ernest dying, perhaps,
for my sake ! But why do you look at me so strangely ?
there can be no harm in it, surely! Or are you un-
convinced, and do you think as the rest do?

MERCEDES [Drily]. I think your fear for that
fellow's life altogether superfluous.

TEODORA. Why? with so skilled an antagonist!
You have seen it Julian

MERCEDES. Julian has been avenged. The man who
killed him no longer lives, so that you have been wasting
your fears and your tears. [With deliberate hardness.]
[114]



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TEODORA [Eagerly], It was Ernest

MERCEDES. Yes, Ernest.

TEODORA. He met the viscount?

MERCEDES. Face to face.

TEODORA [Unable to restrain herself]. How noble
and brave!

MERCEDES. Teodora!

TEODORA. What do you mean? Tell me.

MERCEDES [Sternly], I can read your thought.

TEODORA. My thought?

MERCEDES. Yes.

TEODORA. Which?

MERCEDES. You know very well.

TEODORA. Have I no right to be glad because
Julian is avenged? Is that an impulse I could be
expected to repress?

MERCEDES. That was not your feeling.

TEODORA. You know so much more about it
than I do!

MERCEDES [Pointedly]. Believe me, admiration
is not far from love.

TEODORA. What do I admire?

MERCEDES. This youth's courage.

TEODORA. His nobility !

MERCEDES. Quite so, but that's the beginning.
[115]



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TEODORA. What folly !

MERCEDES. It is folly but on your side.

TEODORA. You persist! Ever this accursed idea!
while it is with immense, with infinite pity that
I am filled.

MERCEDES. For whom?

TEODORA. For whom else but Julian?

MERCEDES. Have you never learnt, Teodora
that in a woman's heart pity and forgetfulness may
mean one and the same thing?

TEODORA. I beseech you Mercedes silence!

MERCEDES. I wish to let light in upon the state
of your mind to turn upon it the lamp of truth,
lit by my experience.

TEODORA. I hear you, but while I listen, it
seems no longer a sister, a friend, a mother that
speaks to me, so hateful are your words. Your lips
seem to speak at inspiration of the devil's prompting.
Why should you strive to convince me that little by
little I am ceasing to love my husband, and that
more and more I am imbued with an impure tender-
ness, with a feeling that burns and stains? I who
love Julian as dearly as ever, who would give the
last drop of blood in my body for a single breath of
life for him for him, from whom I am now sepa-
[116]



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rated [points to his room] why, I should like to
go in there this moment, if your husband did not bar
my way, and press Julian once more in my arms. I
would so inundate him with my tears, and so close
him round with the passion of my love, that its
warmth would melt his doubts, and his soul would
respond to the fervour of mine. But it is not be-
cause I adore my husband that I am bound to abhor
the faithful and generous friend who so nobly risked
his life for me. And if I don't hate him, is that a
reason to conclude that I love him? The world can
think such things. I hear such strange stories, and
such sad events have happened, and calumny has
so embittered me, that I find myself wondering if
public opinion can be true in doubt of myself.
Can it be that I really am the victim of a hideous
passion, unconsciously influenced by it? and in some
sad and weak moment shall I yield to the senses, and
be subjugated by this tyrannous fire?

MERCEDES. You are speaking the truth?

TEODORA. Can you doubt it?

MERCEDES. You really do not love him?

TEODORA. Mercedes, what words have I that
will convince you? At another time, such a question
would drive the blood of anger to my brow, and to-

[raj



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day, you see, I am discussing with you whether I am
honest or not. Yes, am I really so? To the depth
of the soul? No, for endurance of this humiliation
proves me worthy of it. [Hides her face in her hands
and flings herself down in the armchair.]

MERCEDES. Do not cry so, Teodora. I believe in
you. Enough ! No more tears. Let me but add one
more word, and there's an end to the matter. Ernest
is not what you believe him to be. He is not worthy
of your trust.

TEODORA. He is good, Mercedes.

MERCEDES. No !

TEODORA. He is fond of Julian.

MERCEDES. He would betray him.

TEODORA. Again! My God!

MERCEDES. I no longer accuse you of responding
to his passion, but I only assert I would warn you
that he loves you.

TEODORA [Rising in anger]. Loves me!

MERCEDES. It is known to everybody. In this
very room, a moment ago, before Pepito and me
you understand?

TEODORA. No, explain at once what?

MERCEDES. He openly confessed it. He made a
violent declaration, swore that he was ready to sac-
[118]



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rifice life, honour, soul, and conscience for you. And
when you came, he wanted to see you. He only
yielded to the force of my entreaties and went away.
I tremble lest he should meet Severe and their en-
counter lead to an explosion. And you what
have you to say now?

TEODORA [Who has listened to MERCEDES in-
tently, held in an indefinable, gloomy terror]. Heavens
above! Can it be true? and I who felt who pro-
fessed so sincere an affection for him!

MERCEDES. There, you are on the point of cry-
ing again.

TEODORA. The heart has no tears for the mani-
fold deceptions of this miserable life. A lad so pure


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Online LibraryJosé EchegarayThe great Galeoto; a play in three acts → online text (page 5 of 6)