The Jewel Merchants
James Branch Cabell

Produced by Suzanne Shell, Clare Boothby and PG Distributed Proofreaders

_The Jewel Merchants_
_A Comedy in One Act_


James Branch Cabell

_"Io non posso ritrar di tutti appieno:
pero chi si mi caccia il lungo tema,
che molte volte al fatto il dir vieti meno."_



_This latest avatar of so many notions
which were originally hers._


Prudence urges me here to forestall detection, by conceding that this
brief play has no pretension to "literary" quality. It is a piece in
its inception designed for, and in its making swayed by, the requirements
of the little theatre stage. The one virtue which anybody anywhere could
claim for _The Jewel Merchants_ is the fact that it "acts" easily and
rather effectively.

And candor compels the admission forthwith that the presence of this
anchoritic merit in the wilderness is hardly due to me. When circumstances
and the Little Theatre League of Richmond combined to bully me into
contriving the dramatization of a short story called _Balthazar's
Daughter_, I docilely converted this tale into a one-act play of which
you will find hereinafter no sentence. The comedy I wrote is now at one
with the lost dramaturgy of Pollio and of Posidippus, and is even less
likely ever to be resurrected for mortal auditors.

It read, I still think, well enough: I am certain that, when we came to
rehearse, the thing did not "act" at all, and that its dialogue, whatever
its other graces, had the defect of being unspeakable. So at each
rehearsal we--by which inclusive pronoun I would embrace the actors and
the producing staff at large, and with especial (metaphorical) ardor Miss
Louise Burleigh, who directed all--changed here a little, and there a
little more; and shifted this bit, and deleted the other, and "tried out"
everybody's suggestions generally, until we got at least the relief of
witnessing at each rehearsal a different play. And steadily my manuscript
was enriched with interlineations, to and beyond the verge of legibility,
as steadily I substituted, for the speeches I had rewritten yesterday,
the speeches which the actor (having perfectly in mind the gist but not
the phrasing of what was meant) delivered naturally.

This process made, at all events, for what we in particular wanted,
which was a play that the League could stage for half an evening's
entertainment; but it left existent not a shred of the rhetorical
fripperies which I had in the beginning concocted, and it made of the
actual first public performance a collaboration with almost as many
contributing authors as though the production had been a musical comedy.

And if only fate had gifted me with an exigent conscience and a turn for
oratory, I would, I like to think, have publicly confessed, at that first
public performance, to all those tributary clarifying rills to the play's
progress: but, as it was, vainglory combined with an aversion to
"speech-making" to compel a taciturn if smirking acceptance of the
curtain-call with which an indulgent audience flustered the nominal author
of _The Jewel Merchants_.... Now, in any case, it is due my collaborators
to tell you that _The Jewel Merchants_ has amply fulfilled the purpose
of its makers by being enacted to considerable applause,--and is a
pleasure to add that this _succès d'estime_ was very little chargeable to
anything which I contributed to the play.

For another matter, I would here confess that _The Jewel Merchants_,
in addition to its "literary" deficiencies, lacks moral fervor. It will,
I trust, corrupt no reader irretrievably, to untraversable leagues beyond
the last hope of redemption: but, even so, it is a frankly unethical
performance. You must accept this resuscitated trio, if at all, very much
as they actually went about Tuscany, in long ago discarded young flesh,
when the one trait everywhere common to their milieu was the absence of
any moral excitement over such-and-such an action's being or not being
"wicked." This phenomenon of Renaissance life, as lived in Italy in
particular, has elsewhere been discussed time and again, and I lack here
the space, and the desire, either to explain or to apologize for the era's
delinquencies. I would merely indicate that this point of conduct is the
fulcrum of _The Jewel Merchants_.

The play presents three persons, to any one of whom the committing of
murder or theft or adultery or any other suchlike interdicted feat, is
just the risking of the penalty provided against the breaking of that
especial law if you have the vile luck to be caught at it: and this to
them is all that "wickedness" can mean. We nowadays are encouraged to
think differently: but such dear privileges do not entitle us to ignore
the truth that had any of these three advanced a dissenting code of
conduct, it would, in the time and locality, have been in radical
irreverence of the best-thought-of tenets. There was no generally
recognized criminality in crime, but only a perceptible risk. So must
this trio thriftily adhere to the accepted customs of their era, and
regard an infraction of the Decalogue (for an instance) very much as we
today look on a violation of our prohibition enactments.

In fact, we have accorded to the Eighteenth Amendment almost exactly the
status then reserved for Omnipotence. You found yourself confronted by
occasionally enforced if obviously unreasonable supernal statutory
decrees, which every one broke now and then as a matter of convenience:
and every now and then, also, somebody was caught and punished, either in
this world or in the next, without his ill-fortune's involving any
disgrace or particular reprehension. As has been finely said,
righteousness and sinfulness were for the while "in strange and dreadful
peace with each other. The wicked man did not dislike virtue, nor the good
man vice: the villain could admire a saint, and the saint could excuse a
villain, in things which we often shrink from repeating, and sometimes
recoil from believing."

Such was the sixteenth-century Tuscan view of "wickedness." I have
endeavored to reproduce it without comment.

So much of ink and paper and typography may be needed, I fear, to remind
you, in a more exhortatory civilization, that Graciosa is really, by all
the standards of her day, a well reared girl. To the prostitution of her
body, whether with or without the assistance of an ecclesiastically
acquired husband, she looks forward as unconcernedly as you must by
ordinary glance out of your front window, to face a vista so familiar
that the discovery of any change therein would be troubling. Meanwhile
she wishes this sorrow-bringing Eglamore assassinated, as the obvious,
the most convenient, and indeed the only way of getting rid of him: and
toward the end of the play, alike for her and Guido, the presence of a
corpse in her garden is merely an inconvenience without any touch of the
gruesome. Precautions have, of course, to be taken to meet the emergency
which has arisen: but in the dead body of a man _per se_, the lovers can
detect nothing more appalling, or more to be shrunk from, than would be
apparent if the lifeless object in the walkway were a dead flower. The
thing ought to be removed, if only in the interest of tidiness, but there
is no call to make a pother over it.

As for our Guido, he is best kept conformable to modern tastes, I suspect,
by nobody's prying too closely into the earlier relations between the
Duke and his handsome minion. The insistently curious may resort to
history to learn at what price the favors of Duke Alessandro were secured
and retained: it is no part of the play.

Above all, though, I must remind you that the Duke is unspurred by
malevolence. A twinge of jealousy there may be, just at first, to find his
pampered Eglamore so far advanced in the good graces of this pretty girl,
but that is hardly important. Thereafter the Duke is breaking no law,
for the large reason that his preference in any matter is the only law
thus far divulged to him. As concerns the man and the girl he discovers on
this hill-top, they, in common with all else in Tuscany, are possessions
of Duke Alessandro's. They can raise no question as to how he "ought" to
deal with them, for to your chattels, whether they be your finger rings or
your subjects or your pomatum pots or the fair quires whereon you indite
your verses, you cannot rationally he said to "owe" anything.... No, the
Duke is but a spirited lad in quest of amusement: and Guido and Graciosa
are the playthings with which, on this fine sunlit morning, he attempts to
divert himself.

This much being granted--and confessed,--we let the play begin.

_Dumbarton Grange,_
_June, 1921_

* * * * *

["Alessandro de Medici is generally styled by the Italian authors the
first duke of Florence; but in this they are not strictly accurate. His
title of duke was derived from Città, or Cività di Penna, and had been
assumed by him several years before he obtained the direction of the
Florentine state. It must also be observed, that, after the evasion of
Eglamore, Duke Alessandro did not, as Robertson observes, 'enjoy the
same absolute dominion as his family have retained to the present times,'
(Hist. Charles V. book v.) he being only declared chief or prince of the
republic, and his authority being in some measure counteracted or
restrained by two councils chosen from the citizens, for life, one of
which consisted of forty-eight, and the other of two hundred members.
(Varchi, Storia Fior. p. 497: Nerli, Com. lib. xi. pp. 257, 264.)"]

* * * * *


_"Diamente nè smeraldo nè zaffino."_

Originally produced by the Little Theatre League of Richmond, Virginia,
at the Binford High School Auditorium, 22 February, 1921.

_Original Cast_

GRACIOSA...........................Elinor Fry
Daughter of Balthazar Valori

GUIDO........................Roderick Maybee
A jewel merchant

ALESSANDRO DE MEDICI.........Francis F. Bierne
Duke of Florence

Produced under the direction of Louise Burleigh.

* * * * *


_The play begins with the sound of a woman's voice singing a song
(adapted from Rossetti's version) which is delivered to the accompaniment
of a lute._


Let me have dames and damsels richly clad
To feed and tend my mirth,
Singing by day and night to make me glad.

Let me have fruitful gardens of great girth
Filled with the strife of birds,
With water-springs and beasts that house i' the earth.

Let me seem Solomon for lore of words,
Samson for strength, for beauty Absalom.

Knights as my serfs be given;
And as I will, let music go and come,
Till, when I will, I will to enter Heaven.

_As the singing ends, the curtain rises upon a corner of Balthazar
Valori's garden near the northern border of Tuscany. The garden is walled.
There is a shrine in the wall: the tortured figure upon the crucifix is
conspicuous. To the right stands a rather high-backed stone bench: by
mounting from the seat to the top of the bench it is possible to scale
the wall. To the left a crimson pennant on a pole shows against the sky.
The period is 1533, and a few miles southward the Florentines, after three
years of formally recognizing Jesus Christ as the sole lord and king of
Florence, have lately altered matters as profoundly as was possible by
electing Alessandro de Medici to be their Duke._

_GRACIOSA is seated upon the bench, with a lute. The girl is, to our
modern taste, very quaintly dressed in gold-colored satin, with a short
tight bodice, cut square and low at the neck, and with long full skirts.
When she stands erect, her preposterous "flowing" sleeves, lined with
sky blue, reach to the ground. Her blonde hair, of which she has a great
deal, is braided, in the intricate early sixteenth fashion, under a
jeweled cap and a veil the exact color of this hair._

_There is a call. Smiling, GRACIOSA answers this call by striking her
lute. She pats straight her hair and gown, and puts aside the instrument.
GUIDO appears at the top of the wall. All you can see of the handsome
young fellow, in this posture, is that he wears a green skull-cap and a
dark blue smock, the slashed sleeves of which are lined with green._

Ah, madonna....

Welcome, Ser Guido. Your journey has been brief.

It has not seemed brief to me.

Why, it was only three days ago you told me it would be a fortnight
before you came this way again.

Yes, but I did not then know that each day spent apart from you, Madonna
Graciosa, would be a century in passing.

Dear me, but your search must have been desperate!

(_Who speaks, as almost always hereinafter, with sober enjoyment of the
fact that he is stating the exact truth unintelligibly._) Yes, my search
is desperate.

Did you find gems worthy of your search?

Very certainly, since at my journey's end I find Madonna Graciosa, the
chief jewel of Tuscany.

Such compliments, Guido, make your speech less like a merchant's than a

Ah, well, to balance that, you will presently find courtiers in Florence
who will barter for you like merchants. May I descend?

Yes, if you have something of interest to show me.

Am I to be welcomed merely for the sake of my gems? You were more
gracious, you were more beautifully like your lovely name, on the
fortunate day that I first encountered you ... only six weeks ago, and
only yonder, where the path crosses the highway. But now that I esteem
myself your friend, you greet me like a stranger. You do not even invite
me into your garden. I much prefer the manner in which you told me the
way to the inn when I was an unknown passer-by. And yet your pennant
promised greeting.

(_With the smile of an exceptionally candid angel._) Ah, Guido, I flew
it the very minute the boy from the inn brought me your message!

Now, there is the greeting I had hoped for! But how do you escape your
father's watch so easily?

My father has no need to watch me in this lonely hill castle. Ever since
I can remember I have wandered at will in the forest. My father knows that
to me every path is as familiar as one of the corridors in his house; and
in no one of them did I ever meet anybody except charcoal-burners, and
sometimes a nun from the convent, and--oh, yes!--you. But descend, friend

_Thus encouraged, GUIDO descends from the top of the wall to the top of
the bench, and thence, via its seat, to the ground. You are thereby
enabled to discover that his nether portions are clad in dark blue tights
and soft leather shoes with pointed turned-up toes. It is also noticeable
that he carries a jewel pack of purple, which, when opened, reveals an
orange lining._

(_With as much irony as the pleasure he takes in being again with this
dear child permits._) That "Oh, yes, you!" is a very fitting reward for
my devotion. For I find that nowadays I travel about the kingdom buying
jewels less for my patrons at court than for the pleasure of having your
eyes appraise them, and smile at me.

(_With the condescension of a great lady._) Guido, you have in point of
fact been very kind to me, and very amusing, too, in my loneliness on
the top of this hill. (_Drawing back the sleeve from her left arm, she
reveals the trinket there._) See, here is the turquoise bracelet I had
from you the second time you passed. I wear it always--secretly.

That is wise, for the turquoise is a talisman. They say that the woman
who wears a turquoise is thereby assured of marrying the person whom she

I do not know about that, nor do I expect to have much choice as to what
rich nobleman marries me, but I know that I love this bracelet--

In fact, they are handsome stones.

Because it reminds me constantly of the hours which I have spent here
with my lute--

Oh, with your lute!

And with your pack of lovely jewels--

Yes, to be sure! with my jewels.

And with you.

There is again my gracious lady. Now, in reward for that, you shall
feast your eyes.

(_All eagerness._) And what have you to-day?

_GUIDO opens his pack. She bends above it with hands outstretched._

(_Taking out a necklace._) For one thing, pearls, black pearls, set with
a clasp of emeralds. See! They will become you.

(_Taking them, pressing them to her cheek._) How cool! But I--poor child
of a poor noble--I cannot afford such.

Oh, I did not mean to offer them to you to-day. No, this string is
intended for the Duke's favorite, Count Eglamore.

(_Stiffening._) Count Eglamore! These are for him?

For Count Eglamore.

Has the upstart such taste?

If it be taste to appreciate pearls, then the Duke's chief officer has
excellent taste. He seeks them far and wide. He will be very generous in
paying for this string.

_GRACIOSA drops the pearls, in which she no longer delights. She returns
to the bench, and sits down and speaks with a sort of disappointment._

I am sorry to learn that this Eglamore is among your patrons.

(_Still half engrossed by the contents of his pack. The man loves jewels
equally for their value and their beauty._) Oh, the nobles complain of
him, but we merchants have no quarrel with Eglamore. He buys too lavishly.

Do you think only of buying and selling, Guido?

It is a pursuit not limited to us who frankly live by sale and purchase.
Count Eglamore, for example, knows that men may be bought as readily as
merchandise. It is one reason why he is so hated--by the unbought.

(_Irritated by the title._) Count Eglamore, indeed! I ask in my prayers
every night that some honest gentleman may contrive to cut the throat of
this abominable creature.

(_His hand going to his throat._) You pray too much, madonna. Even very
pious people ought to be reasonable.

(_Rising from the bench._) Have I not reason to hate the man who killed
my kinsman?

(_Rising from his gems._) The Marquis of Cibo conspired, or so the court

I know nothing of the judgment. But it was this Eglamore who discovered
the plot, if there indeed was any plot, and who sent my cousin Cibo to
a death--(_pointing to the shrine_)--oh, to a death as horrible as that.
So I hate him.

Yet you have never even seen him, I believe?

And it would be better for him never to see me or any of my kin. My
father, my uncles and my cousins have all sworn to kill him--

So I have gathered. They remain among the unbought.

(_Returning, sits upon the bench, and speaks regretfully._) But they
have never any luck. Cousin Pietro contrived to have a beam dropped on
Eglamore's head, and it missed him by not half a foot--

Ah, yes, I remember.

And Cousin Georgio stabbed him in the back one night, but the coward had
on chain-armor under his finery--

I remember that also.

And Uncle Lorenzo poisoned his soup, but a pet dog got at it first. That
was very unfortunate.

Yes, the dog seemed to think so, I remember.

However, perseverance is always rewarded. So I still hope that one or
another of my kinsmen will contrive to kill this Eglamore before I go to

(_Sits at her feet._) Has my Lord Balthazar yet set a day for that

Not yet.

I wish to have this Eglamore's accounts all settled by that date.

But in three months, Guido, I shall be sixteen. My sisters went to court
when they were sixteen.

In fact, a noble who is not rich cannot afford to continue supporting a
daughter who is salable in marriage.

No, of course not. (_She speaks in the most matter-of-fact tone possible.
Then, more impulsively, the girl slips down from the bench, and sits by
him on the around._) Do you think I shall make as good a match as my
sisters, Guido? Do you think some great rich nobleman will marry me very
soon? And shall I like the court! What shall I see there?

Marvels. I think--yes, I am afraid that you will like them.

And Duke Alessandro--shall I like him?

Few courtiers have expressed dislike of him in my presence.

Do you like him? Does he too buy lavishly?

Eh, madonna! some day, when you have seen his jewels--

Oh! I shall see them when I go to court?

Yes, he will show them to you, I think, without fail, for the Duke loves
beauty in all its forms. So he will take pleasure in confronting the
brightness of your eyes with the brightness of the four kinds of sapphires,
of the twelve kinds of rubies, and of many extraordinary pearls--

(_With eyes shining, and lips parted._) Oh!

And you will see his famous emerald necklace, and all his diamonds, and
his huge turquoises, which will make you ashamed of your poor talisman--

He will show all these jewels to me!

(_Looking at her, and still smiling thoughtfully._) He will show you the
very finest of his gems, assuredly. And then, worse still, he will be
making verses in your honor.

It would be droll to have a great duke making songs about me!

It is a preposterous feature of Duke Alessandro's character that he is
always making songs about some beautiful thing or another.

Such strange songs, Guido! I was singing over one of them just before
you came,--

Let me have dames and damsels richly clad
To feed and tend my mirth,
Singing by day and night to make me glad--

But I could not quite understand it. Are his songs thought good?

The songs of a reigning duke are always good.

And is he as handsome as people report?

Tastes differ, of course--

And is he--?

I have a portrait of the Duke. It does not, I think, unduly flatter him.
Will you look at it?

Yes, yes!

(_Drawing out a miniature on a chain._) Here is the likeness.

But how should you--?

(_Seeing her surprise._) Oh, it was a gift to me from his highness for a
special service I did him, and as such must be treasured.

Perhaps, then, I shall see yon at court, Messer Guido, who are the friend
of princes?

If you do, I ask only that in noisy Florence you remember this quiet

(_Looks at him silently, then glances at the portrait. She speaks with
evident disappointment._) Is this the Duke?

You may see his arms on it, and on the back his inscription.

Yes, but--(_looking at the portrait again_)--but ... he is ... so ...

You are astonished at his highness' coloring? That he inherits from his
mother. She was, you know, a blackamoor.

And my sisters wrote me he was like a god!

Such observations are court etiquette.

(_With an outburst of disgust._) Take it back! Though how can you bear to
look at it, far less to have it touching you! And only yesterday I was
angry because I had not seen the Duke riding past!

Seen him! here! riding past!

Old Ursula told me that the Duke had gone by with twenty men, riding down
toward the convent at the border. And I flung my sewing-bag straight at
her head because she had not called me.

That was idle gossip, I fancy. The Duke rarely rides abroad without
my--(_he stops_)--without my lavish patron Eglamore, the friend of all
honest merchants.

But that abominable Eglamore may have been with him. I heard nothing to
the contrary.

True, madonna, true. I had forgotten you did not see them.

No. What is he like, this Eglamore? Is he as appalling to look at as the

Madonna! but wise persons do not apply such adjectives to dukes. And wise
persons do not criticize Count Eglamore's appearance, either, now that
Eglamore is indispensable to the all-powerful Duke of Florence.


It is thanks to the Eglamore whom you hate that the Duke has ample leisure
to indulge in recreations which are reputed to be--curious.

I do not understand you, Guido.

That is perhaps quite as well. (_Attempting to explain as much as is
decently expressible._) To be brief, madonna, business annoys the Duke.


It interferes with the pursuit of all the beautiful things he asks for
in that song.

But how does that make Eglamore indispensable?

Eglamore is an industrious person who affixes seals, and signs treaties,
and musters armies, and collects revenues, upon the whole, quite as
efficiently as Alessandro would be capable of doing these things.

So Duke Alessandro merely makes verses?

And otherwise amuses himself as his inclinations prompt, while Eglamore
rules Tuscany--and the Tuscans are none the worse off on account of it.
(_He rises, and his hand goes to the dagger at his belt._) But is not
that a horseman?

(_She too has risen, and is now standing on the bench, looking over the
wall._) A solitary rider, far down by the convent, so far away that he
seems hardly larger than a scarlet dragon-fly.

I confess I wish to run no risk of being found here, by your respected
father or by your ingenious cousins and uncles.

(_She turns, but remains standing upon the bench._) I think your Duke is
much more dangerous looking than any of them. Heigho! I can quite foresee
that I shall never fall in love with this Duke.

A prince has means to overcome all obstacles.

No. It is unbefitting and a little cowardly for Duke Alessandro to shirk
the duties of his station for verse-making and eternal pleasure-seeking.
Now if I were Duke--

What would you do?

(_Posturing a little as she stands upon the bench._) If I were duke?
Oh ... I would grant my father a pension ... and I would have Eglamore
hanged ... and I would purchase a new gown of silvery green--

In which you would be very ravishingly beautiful.

_His tone has become rather ardent, and he is now standing nearer to her
than the size of the garden necessitates. So GRACIOSA demurely steps
down from the bench, and sits at the far end._

And that is all I can think of. What would you do if you were duke,
Messer Guido?

(_Who is now sitting beside her at closer quarters than the length of the
bench quite strictly demands._) I? What would I do if I were a great lord
instead of a tradesman! (_Softly._) I think you know the answer, madonna.

Oh, you would make me your duchess, of course. That is quite understood.
But I was speaking seriously, Guido.

And is it not a serious matter that a pedler of crystals should have dared
to love a nobleman's daughter?

(_Delighted._) This is the first I have heard of it.

But you are perfectly right. It is not a serious matter. That I worship
you is an affair which does not seriously concern any person save me in
any way whatsoever. Yet I think that knowledge of the fact would put your
father to the trouble of sharpening his dagger.

Ye-es. But not even Father would deny that you were showing excellent

Indeed, I am not certain that I do worship you; for in order to adore
whole-heartedly the idolater must believe his idol to be perfect.
(_Taking her hand._) Now your nails are of an ugly shape, like that of
little fans. Your nose is nothing to boast of. And your mouth is too
large. I do not admire these faults, for faults they are undoubtedly--

Do they make me very ugly? I know that I have not a really good mouth,
Guido, but do you think it is positively repulsive?

No.... Then, too, I know that you are vain and self-seeking, and look
forward contentedly to the time when your father will transfer his
ownership of your physical attractions to that nobleman who offers the
highest price for them.

But we daughters of the poor Valori are compelled to marry--suitably. We
have only the choice between that and the convent yonder.

That is true, and nobody disputes it. Still, you participate in a
monstrous bargain, and I would prefer to have you exhibit distaste for it.

_Bending forward, GUIDO draws from his jewel pack the string of pearls,
and this he moodily contemplates, in order to evince his complete
disinterestedness. The pose has its effect. GRACIOSA looks at him for a
moment, rises, draws a deep breath, and speaks with a sort of humility._

And to what end, Guido? What good would weeping do?

(_Smiling whimsically._) I am afraid that men do not always love
according to the strict laws of logic. (_He drops the pearls, and,
rising, follows her._) I desire your happiness above all things, yet to
see you so abysmally untroubled by anything which troubles me is--another

But I am not untroubled, Guido.


No. (_Rather tremulously._) Sometimes I sit here dreading my life at
court. I want never to leave my father's bleak house. I fear that I may
not like the man who offers the highest price for me. And it seems as
if the court were a horrible painted animal, dressed in bright silks, and
shining with jewels, and waiting to devour me.

_Beyond the wall appears a hat of scarlet satin with a divided brim,
which, rising, is revealed to surmount the head of an extraordinarily
swarthy person, to whose dark skin much powder has only loaned the hue of
death: his cheeks, however, are vividly carmined. This is all that the
audience can now see of the young DUKE of FLORENCE, whose proximity the
two in the garden are just now too much engrossed to notice._

_The DUKE looks from one to the other. His eyes narrow, his teeth are
displayed in a wide grin; he now understands the situation. He lowers his
head as GRACIOSA moves._

No, I am not untroubled. For I cannot fathom you, and that troubles me. I
am very fond of you--and yet I do not trust you.

You know that I love you.

You tell me so. It pleases me to have you say it--

Madonna is candid this morning.

Yes, I am candid. It does please me. And I know that for the sake of
seeing me you endanger your life, for if my father heard of our meetings
here he would have you killed.

Would I incur such risks without caring?

No,--and yet, somehow, I do not believe it is altogether for me that you

_The DUKE laughs. GUIDO starts, half drawing his dagger. GRACIOSA turns
with an instinctive gesture of seeking protection. The DUKE'S head and
shoulders appear above the wall._

And you will find, my friend, that the most charming women have just these
awkward intuitions.

_The DUKE ascends the wall, while the two stand motionless and silent.
When he is on top of the wall, GUIDO, who now remembers that omnipotence
perches there, makes haste to serve it, and obsequiously assists the DUKE
to descend. The DUKE then comes well forward, in smiling meditation, and
hands first his gloves, then his scarlet cloak (which you now perceive to
be lined with ermine and sable in four stripes) to GUIDO, who takes them
as a servant would attend his master._

_The removal of this cloak reveals the DUKE to be clad in a scarlet satin
doublet, which has a high military collar and sleeves puffed with black.
His tights also are of scarlet, and he wears shining soft black
riding-boots. Jewels glisten at his neck. About his middle, too, there is
a metallic gleaming, for he is equipped with a noticeably long sword and
a dagger. Such is the personage who now addresses himself more explicitly

(_Sitting upon the bench, very much at his ease while the others stand
uncomfortably before him._) Yes, madonna, I suspect that Eglamore here
cares greatly for the fact that you are Balthazar Valori's daughter, and
cousin to the late Marquis of Cibo.

(_Just in bewilderment._) Eglamore!

For Cibo left many kinsmen. These still resent the circumstance that
the matching of his wits against Eglamore's wits earned for Cibo an
unpleasantly public death-bed. So they pursue their feud against Eglamore
with vexatious industry. And Eglamore goes about in hourly apprehension
of another falling beam, another knife-thrust in the back, or another
plate of poison.

(_She comprehends now._) Eglamore!

(_Who is pleased alike by Eglamore's neat plan and by his own cleverness
in unriddling it._) But if rich Eglamore should make a stolen match with
you, your father--good thrifty man!--could be appeased without much
trouble. Your cousins, those very angry but penniless Valori, would not
stay over-obdurate to a kinsman who had at his disposal so many pensions
and public offices. Honor would permit a truce with their new cousin
Eglamore, a truce very profitable to everybody.

He said they must be bought somehow!

Yes, Eglamore could bind them all to his interest within ten days. All
could be bought at a stroke by marrying you. And Eglamore would be rid
of the necessity of sleeping in chain-armor. Have I not unraveled the
scheme correctly, Eglamore?

(_Smiling and deferential._) Your highness was never lacking in

_GRACIOSA, at this, turns puzzled from one man to the other._

Are you--?

I am Alessandro de Medici, madonna.

The Duke!

A sadly neglected prince, who wondered over the frequent absences of his
chief counselor, and secretly set spies upon him. Eglamore here will
attest as much--(_As GRACIOSA draws away from GUIDO_)--or if you cannot
believe Eglamore any longer in anything, I shall have other witnesses
within the half-hour. Yes, my twenty cut-throats are fetching back for me
a brace of nuns from the convent yonder. I can imagine that, just now, my
cut-throats will be in your opinion more trustworthy witnesses than is
poor Eglamore. And my stout knaves will presently assure you that I am
the Duke.

(_Suavely._) It happens that not a moment ago we were admiring your
highness' portrait.

And so you are Count Eglamore. That is very strange. So it was the hand
of Eglamore (_rubbing her hands as if to clean them_) that I touched just
now. I thought it was the hand of my friend Guido. But I forget. There is
no Guido. You are Eglamore. It is strange you should have been capable of
so much wickedness, for to me you seem only a smirking and harmless

_The DUKE is watching as if at a play. He is aesthetically pleased by the
girl's anguish. GUIDO winces. As GRACIOSA begins again to speak, they turn
facing her, so that to the audience the faces of both men are invisible._

And it was you who detected--so you said--the Marquis of Cibo's
conspiracy. Tebaldeo was my cousin, Count Eglamore. I loved him. We were
reared together. We used to play here in this garden. I remember how
Tebaldeo once fetched me a wren's nest from that maple yonder. I stood
just here. I was weeping, because I was afraid he would fall. If he had
fallen, if he had been killed then, it would have been the luckier for
him. They say that he conspired. I do not know. I only know that by your
orders, Count Eglamore, my playmate Tebaldeo was fastened to a cross, like
that (_pointing to the shrine_). I know that his arms and legs were each
broken in two places with an iron bar. I know that this cross was then set
upon a pivot, so that it turned slowly. I know that my dear Tebaldeo died
very slowly in the sunlit marketplace, while the cross turned, and turned,
and turned. I know this was a public holiday; the shopkeepers took holiday
to watch him die, the boy who fetched me a wren's nest from yonder maple.
And I know that you are Eglamore, who ordered these things done.

I gave orders for the Marquis of Cibo's execution, as was the duty of my
office. I did not devise the manner of his punishment. The punishment for
Cibo's crime was long ago fixed by our laws. All who attack the Duke's
person must die thus.

(_Waves his excuses aside._) And then you plan this masquerade. You plan
to make me care for you so greatly that even when I know you to be Count
Eglamore I must still care for you. You plan to marry me, so as to placate
Tebaldeo's kinsmen, so as to leave them--in your huckster's phrase--no
longer unbought. It was a fine bold stroke of policy, I know, to use me
as a stepping-stone to safety. But was it fair to me?

Graciosa ... you shame me--

Look you, Count Eglamore, I was only a child, playing here, alone, and
not unhappy. Oh, was it fair, was it worth while to match your skill
against my ignorance?

Fie, Donna Graciosa, you must not be too harsh with Eglamore--

Think how unhappy I would be if even now I loved you, and how I would
loathe myself!

It is his nature to scheme, and he weaves his plots as inevitably as the
spider does her web--

But I am getting angry over nothing. Nothing has happened except that
I have dreamed--of a Guido. And there is no Guido. There is only an
Eglamore, a lackey in attendance upon his master.

Believe me, it is wiser to forget this clever lackey--as I do--except when
there is need of his services. I think that you have no more need to
consider him--

_He takes the girl's hand. GRACIOSA now looks at him as though seeing him
for the first time. She is vaguely frightened by this predatory beast, but
in the main her emotion is as yet bewilderment._

For you are very beautiful, Graciosa. You are as slim as a lily, and
more white. Your eyes are two purple mirrors in each of which I see a
tiny image of Duke Alessandro. (_GUIDO takes a step forward, and the DUKE
now addresses him affably._) Those nuns they are fetching me are big
high-colored wenches with cheeks like apples. It is not desirable that
women should be so large. Such women do not inspire a poet. Women should
be little creatures that fear you. They should have thin plaintive voices,
and in shrinking from you should be as slight to the touch as a cobweb.
It is not possible to draw inspiration from a woman's beauty unless you
comprehend how easy it would be to murder her.

(_Softly, without expression._) God, God!

_The DUKE looks with delight at GRACIOSA, who stands bewildered and

You fear me, do you not, Graciosa? Your hand is soft and cold as the skin
of a viper. When I touch it you shudder. I am very tired of women who
love me, of women who are infatuated by my beauty. You, I can see, are not
infatuated. To you my touch will always be a martyrdom, you will always
loathe me. And therefore I shall not weary of you for a long while,
because the misery and the helplessness of my lovely victim will incite
me to make very lovely verses.

_He draws her to the bench, sitting beside her._

Yes, Graciosa, you will inspire me. Your father shall have all the wealth
and state that even his greedy imaginings can devise, so long as you can
contrive to loathe me. We will find you a suitable husband--say, in
Eglamore here. You shall have flattery and titles, gold and fine glass,
soft stuffs and superb palaces and many lovely jewels--

_The DUKE glances down at the pedler's pack._

But Eglamore also has been wooing you with jewels. You must see mine,
dear Graciosa.

(_Without expression._) Count Eglamore said that I must.

(_Raises the necklace, and lets it drop contemptuously._) Oh, not such
trumpery as this. I have in Florence gems which have not their fellows
anywhere, gems which have not even a name, and the value of which is
incalculable. I have jewels engendered by the thunder, jewels taken from
the heart of the Arabian deer. I have jewels cut from the brain of a toad,
and from the eyes of serpents. I have jewels which are authentically known
to have fallen from the moon. Well, we will select the rarest, and have a
pair of slippers encrusted with them, and in these slippers you shall
dance for me, in a room that I know of--

(_Without moving._) Highness--!

It will all be very amusing, for I think that she is now quite innocent,
as pure as the high angels. Yes, it will be diverting to make her as I am.
It will be an atrocious action that will inspire me to write lovelier
verses than even I have ever written.

She is a child--

Yes, yes, a frightened child who cannot speak, who stays as still as a
lark that has been taken in a snare. Why, neither of her sisters can
compare with this, and, besides, the elder one had a quite ugly mole upon
her thigh--But that old rogue Balthazar Valori has a real jewel to offer,
this time. Well, I will buy it.

Highness, I love this child--

Ah, then you cannot ever be her husband. You would have suited otherwise.
But we will find some other person of discretion--

_For a moment the two men regard each other in silence. The DUKE becomes
aware that he is being opposed. His brows contract a little, but he rises
from the bench rather as if in meditation than in anger. Then GUIDO drops
the cloak and gloves he has been holding until this. His lackeyship is


My friend, some long-faced people say you made a beast of me--

No, I will not have it.

So do you beware lest the beast turn and rend you.

I have never been too nice to profit by your vices. I have taken my
thrifty toll of abomination. I have stood by contentedly, not urging you
on, yet never trying to stay you as you waded deeper and ever deeper into
the filth of your debaucheries, because meanwhile you left me so much

Would you reshape your handiwork more piously? Come, come, man, be content
with it as I am. And be content with the kingdom I leave you to play with.

It was not altogether I who made of you a brainsick beast. But what you
are is in part my handiwork. Nevertheless, you shall not harm this child.

"Shall not" is a delightfully quaint expression. I only regret that you
are not likely ever to use it to me again.

I know this means my ruin.

Indeed, I must venture to remind you, Count Eglamore, that I am still a
ruling prince--

That is nothing to me.

And that, where you are master of very admirable sentiments, I happen to
be master of all Tuscany.

At court you are the master. At your court in Florence I have seen many
mothers raise the veil from their daughters' faces because you were
passing. But here upon this hill-top I can see only the woman I love and
the man who has insulted her.

So all the world is changed, and Pandarus is transformed into Hector!
Your words are very sonorous words, dear Eglamore, but by what deeds
do you propose to back them?

By killing you, your highness.

But in what manner? By stifling me with virtuous rhetoric? Hah, it is
rather awkward for you--is it not--that our sumptuary laws forbid you
merchants to carry swords?

(_Draws his dagger._) I think this knife will serve me, highness, to make
earth a cleaner place.

(_Drawing his long sword._) It would save trouble now to split you like a
chicken for roasting.... (_He shrugs, and sheathes his sword. He unbuckles
his sword-belt, and lays it aside._) No, no, this farce ascends in
interest. So let us play it fairly to the end. I risk nothing, since from
this moment you are useless to me, my rebellious lackey--

You risk your life, for very certainly I mean to kill you.

Two go to every bargain, my friend. Now, if I kill you, it is always
diverting to kill; and if by any chance you should kill me, I shall at
least be rid of the intolerable knowledge that to-morrow will be just like

_He draws his dagger. The two men engage warily but with determination,
the DUKE presently advancing. GUIDO steps backward, and in the act trips
over the pedler's pack, and falls prostrate. His dagger flies from his
hand. GRACIOSA, with a little cry, has covered her face. Nobody strikes
an attitude, because nobody is conscious of any need to be heroic, but
there is a perceptible silence, which is broken by the DUKE'S quiet

Well! am I to be kept waiting forever? You were quicker in obeying my
caprices yesterday. Get up, you muddy lout, and let us kill each other
with some pretension of adroitness.

(_Rising, with a sob._) Ah!

_He catches up the fallen dagger, and attacks the DUKE, this time with
utter disregard of the rules of fence and his own safety. GUIDO drives the
DUKE back. GUIDO is careless of defence, and desirous only to kill. The
DUKE is wounded, and falls with a cry at the foot of the shrine. GUIDO
utters a sort of strangled growl. He raises his dagger, intending to hack
at and mutilate his antagonist, who is now unconscious. As GUIDO stoops,
GRACIOSA, from behind him, catches his arm._

He gave you your life.

_GUIDO turns. He drops the weapon. He speaks with great gentleness, almost
with weariness._

Madonna, the Duke is not yet dead. That wound is nothing serious.

He spared your life.

It is impossible to let him live.

But I think he only voiced a caprice--

I think so, too, but I know that all this madman's whims are ruthless.

But you have power--

Power! I, who have attacked the Duke's person! I, who have done what your
dead cousin merely planned to do!


Living, this brain-sick beast will make of you his plaything--and, a
little later, his broken, soiled and cast-by plaything. It is therefore
necessary that I kill Duke Alessandro.

_GRACIOSA moves away from him, and GUIDO rises._

And afterward--and afterward you must die just as Tebaldeo died!

That is the law, madonna. But what he said is true. I am useless to him,
a rebellious lackey to be punished. Whether I have his life or no, I am a
lost man.

A moment since you were Count Eglamore, whom all our nobles feared--

Now there is not a beggar in the kingdom who would change lots with me.
But at least I shall first kill this kingdom's lord.

_He picks up his dagger._

You are a friendless and hunted man, in peril of a dreadful death. But
even so, you are not penniless. These jewels here are of great value--

_GUIDO laughs, and hangs the pearls about her neck._

Do you keep them, then.

There is a world outside this kingdom. You have only to make your way
through the forest to be out of Tuscany.

(_Coolly reflective._) Perhaps I might escape, going north to Bologna, and
then to Venice, which is at war with the Duke--

I can tell you the path to Bologna.

But first the Duke must die, because his death saves you.

No, Guido! I would have Eglamore go hence with hands as clean as possible.

Not even Eglamore would leave you at the mercy of this poet.

How does that matter! It is no secret that my father intends to market me
as best suits his interests. And the great Duke of Florence, no less,
would have been my purchaser! You heard him, "I will buy this jewel," he
said. He would have paid thrice what any of my sisters' purchasers have
paid. You know very well that my father would have been delighted.

(_Since the truth of what she has just said is known to him by more
startling proofs than she dreams of, he speaks rather bitterly, as he
sheathes the dagger._) And I must need upset the bargain between these
jewel merchants!

(_Lightly._) "No, I will not have it!" Count Eglamore must cry. (_Her
hand upon his arm._) My dear unthrifty pedler! it cost you a great deal to
speak those words.

I had no choice. I love you. (_A pause. As GRACIOSA does not speak, GUIDO
continues, very quiet at first._) It is a theme on which I shall not
embroider. So long as I thought to use you as an instrument I could woo
fluently enough. Today I saw that you were frightened and helpless--oh,
quite helpless. And something in me changed. I knew for the first time
that I loved you. And I knew I was not clean as you are clean. I knew
that I had more in common with this beast here than I had with you.

(_Who with feminine practicality, while the man talks, has reached her
decision._) We daughters of the Valori are so much merchandise.... Heigho,
since I cannot help it, since bought and sold I must be, one day or
another, at least I will go at a noble price. Yet I do not think I am
quite worth the wealth and power which you have given up because of me. So
it will be necessary to make up the difference, dear, by loving you very

_GUIDO takes her hands, only half-believing that he understands her
meaning. He puts an arm about her shoulder, holding her at a distance, the
better to see her face._

You, who had only scorn to give me when I was a kingdom's master! Would
you go with me now that I am homeless and friendless?

(_Archly._) But to me you do not seem quite friendless.


And I doubt if you could ever find your way through the forest alone.
(_But as she stands there with one hand raised to each of his shoulders
her vindication is self-revealed, and she indicates her bracelet rather
indignantly._) Besides, what else is a poor maid to do, when she is
burdened with a talisman that compels her to marry the man whom she--so
very much--prefers?

(_Drawing her to him._) Ah, you shall not regret that foolish preference.

But come! There is a path--(_They are gathering up the pack and its
contents, as GUIDO pauses by the DUKE._) Is he--?

He will not enter Hell to-day. (_The DUKE stirs._) Already he revives, you
see. So let us begone before his attendants come.

_GUIDO lifts her to the top of the wall. He lifts up the pack._

My lute!

(_Giving it to her._) So we may pass for minstrels on the road to Venice.

Yes, singing the Duke's songs to pay our way. (_GUIDO climbs over the
wall, and stands on the far side, examining the landscape beneath._)

The Duke's attendants fetching him new women--two more of those numerous
damsels that his song demands. They will revive this ruinous songmaker to
rule over Tuscany more foolishly than Eglamore governed when Eglamore was
a great lord. (_He speaks pensively, still looking down._) It is a very
rich and lovely country, this kingdom which a half-hour since lay in the
hollow of my hand. Now I am empty-handed.

(_With mocking reproach._) Empty-handed!

_She extends to him both her hands. GUIDO takes them, and laughs joyously,
saying,_ "Come!" _as he lifts her down._

_There is a moment's silence, then is heard the song and lute-playing with
which the play began, growing ever more distant:..._

"Knights as my serfs be given;
And as I will, let music go and come."

_... The DUKE moves. The DUKE half raises himself at the foot of the

Eglamore! I am hurt. Help me, Eglamore!



Back to Full Books