Read ACT II: SCENE II of Representative Plays by American Dramatists: 1856-1911: Francesca da Rimini, free online book, by George Henry Boker, on ReadCentral.com.

The Same. Before the Gates of the City. The walls hung with banners, flowers, etc., and crowded with citizens. At the side of the scene is a canopied dais, with chairs of state upon it. Music, bells, shouts, and other sounds of rejoicing, are occasionally heard. Enter GUIDO, the CARDINAL, NOBLEMEN, KNIGHTS, GUARDS, etc., with banners, arms, etc.

GUIDO. My lord, I’ll have it so. You talk in vain.
Paolo is a marvel in his way:
I’ve seen him often. If Francesca take
A fancy to his beauty, all the better;
For she may think that he and Lanciotto
Are like as blossoms of one parent branch.
In truth, they are, so far as features go
Heaven help the rest! Get her to Rimini,
By any means, and I shall be content.
The fraud cannot last long; but long enough
To win her favour to the family.

CARDINAL. Tis a dull trick. Thou hast not dealt with her
Wisely nor kindly, and I dread the end.
If, when this marriage was enjoined on thee,
Thou hadst informed Francesca of the truth,
And said, Now daughter, choose between
Thy peace and all Ravenna’s; who that knows
The constant nature of her noble heart
Could doubt the issue? There’d have been some tears,
Some frightful fancies of her husband’s looks;
And then she’d calmly walk up to her fate,
And bear it bravely. Afterwards, perchance,
Lanciotto might prove better than her fears,
No one denies him many an excellence,
And all go happily. But, as thou wouldst plot,
She’ll be prepared to see a paragon,
And find a satyr. It is dangerous.
Treachery with enemies is bad enough,
With friends ’tis fatal.

GUIDO. Has your lordship done?

CARDINAL. Never, Count Guido, with so good a text.
Do not stand looking sideways at the truth;
Craft has become thy nature. Go to her.

GUIDO. I have not heart.

CARDINAL. I have. [Going.

GUIDO. Hold, Cardinal!
My plan is better. Get her off my hands,
And I care not.

CARDINAL. What will she say of thee,
In Rimini, when she detects the cheat?

GUIDO. I’ll stop my ears up.

CARDINAL. Guido, thou art weak,
And lack the common fortitude of man.

GUIDO. And you abuse the license of your garb,
To lesson me. My lord, I do not dare
To move a finger in these marriage-rites.
Francesca is a sacrifice, I know,
A limb delivered to the surgeon’s knife,
To save our general health. A truce to this.
Paolo has the business in his hands:
Let him arrange it as he will; for I
Will give Count Malatesta no pretext
To recommence the war.

CARDINAL. Farewell, my lord.
I’ll neither help nor countenance a fraud.
You crafty men take comfort to yourselves,
Saying, deceit dies with discovery.
’Tis false; each wicked action spawns a brood,
And lives in its succession. You, who shake
Man’s moral nature into storm, should know
That the last wave which passes from your sight
Rolls in and breaks upon eternity! [Exit.

GUIDO. Why, that’s a very grand and solemn thought:
I’ll mention it to Dante. Gentlemen,
What see they from the wall?

NOBLEMAN. The train, my lord.

GUIDO. Inform my daughter.

NOBLEMAN. She is here, my lord.

Enter FRANCESCA, RITTA, LADIES, ATTENDANTS, etc.

FRANCESCA. See, father, what a merry face I have,
And how my ladies glisten! I will try
To do my utmost, in my love for you
And the good people of Ravenna. Now,
As the first shock is over, I expect
To feel quite happy. I will wed the Count,
Be he whate’er he may. I do not speak
In giddy recklessness. I’ve weighed it all,
’Twixt hope and fear, knowledge and ignorance,
And reasoned out my duty to your wish.
I have no yearnings towards another love:
So, if I show my husband a desire
To fill the place with which he honours me,
According to its duties, even he
Were he less noble than Count Lanciotto
Must smile upon my efforts, and reward
Good will with willing grace. One pang remains.
Parting from home and kindred is a thing
None but the heartless, or the miserable,
Can do without a tear. This home of mine
Has filled my heart with two-fold happiness,
Taking and giving love abundantly.
Farewell, Ravenna! If I bless thee not,
Tis that thou seem’st too blessed; and ’twere strange
In me to offer what thou’st always given.

GUIDO. [Aside.] This is too much! If she would rail a while
At me and fortune, it could be endured. [Shouts, music, etc., within.

FRANCESCA. Ha! there’s the van just breaking through the wood!
Music! that’s well; a welcome forerunner.
Now, Ritta here come talk to me. Alas!
How my heart trembles! What a world to me
Lies ’neath the glitter of yon cavalcade!
Is that the Count?

RITTA. Upon the dapple-gray?

FRANCESCA. Yes, yes.

RITTA. No; that’s his

GUIDO. [Apart to her.] Ritta!

RITTA. Ay; that’s that’s

GUIDO. Ritta, the pot! [Apart to her.

RITTA. O! but this lying chokes! [Aside.]
Ay, that’s Count Somebody, from Rimini.

FRANCESCA. I knew it was. Is that not glorious?

RITTA. My lady, what?

FRANCESCA. To see a cavalier
Sit on his steed with such familiar grace.

RITTA. To see a man astraddle on a horse!
It don’t seem much to me.

FRANCESCA. Fie! stupid girl!
But mark the minstrels thronging round the Count!
Ah! that is more than gallant horsemanship.
The soul that feeds itself on poesy,
Is of a quality more fine and rare
Than Heaven allows the ruder multitude.
I tell you, Ritta, when you see a man
Beloved by poets, made the theme of song,
And chaunted down to ages, as a gift
Fit for the rich embalmment of their verse,
There’s more about him than the patron’s gold.
If that’s the gentleman my father chose,
He must have picked him out from all the world.
The Count alights. Why, what a noble grace
Runs through his slightest action! Are you sad?
You, too, my father? Have I given you cause?
I am content. If Lanciotto’s mind
Bear any impress of his fair outside,
We shall not quarrel ere our marriage-day.
Can I say more? My blushes speak for me:
Interpret them as modesty’s excuse
For the short-comings of a maiden’s speech.

RITTA. Alas! dear lady! [Aside.

GUIDO. [Aside.] ’Sdeath! my plot has failed,
By overworking its design. Come, come;
Get to your places. See, the Count draws nigh.

GUIDO and FRANCESCA seat themselves upon the dais, surrounded by RITTA, LADIES, ATTENDANTS, GUARDS, etc. Music, shouts, ringing of bells, etc. Enter MEN-AT-ARMS, with banners, etc.; PAGES bearing costly presents on cushions; then PAOLO, surrounded by NOBLEMEN, KNIGHTS, MINSTRELS, etc., and followed by other MEN-AT-ARMS. They range themselves opposite the dais.

GUIDO. Ravenna welcomes you, my lord, and I
Add my best greeting to the general voice.
This peaceful show of arms from Rimini
Is a new pleasure, stranger to our sense
Than if the East blew zéphyrs, or the balm
Of Summer loaded rough December’s gales,
And turned his snows to roses.

PAOLO. Noble sir,
We looked for welcome from your courtesy,
Not from your love; but this unhoped for sight
Of smiling faces, and the gentle tone
In which you greet us, leave us naught to win
Within your hearts. I need not ask, my lord,
Where bides the precious object of my search;
For I was sent to find the fairest maid
Ravenna boasts, among her many fair.
I might extend my travel many a league,
And yet return, to take her from your side.
I blush to bear so rich a treasure home,
As pledge and hostage of a sluggish peace;
For beauty such as hers was meant by Heaven
To spur our race to gallant enterprise,
And draw contending deities around
The dubious battles of a second Troy.

GUIDO. Sir Count, you please to lavish on my child
The high-strained courtesy of chivalry;
Yet she has homely virtues that, I hope,
May take a deeper hold in Rimini,
After the fleeting beauty of her face
Is spoiled by time, or faded to the eye
By its familiar usage.

PAOLO. As a man
Who ever sees Heaven’s purpose in its works,
I must suppose so rare a tabernacle
Was framed for rarest virtues. Pardon me
My public admiration. If my praise
Clash with propriety, and bare my words
To cooler judgment, ’tis not that I wish
To win a flatterer’s grudged recompense,
And gain by falsehood what I’d win through love.
When I have brushed my travel from my garb,
I’ll pay my court in more befitting style.

Music. Exit with his train.

GUIDO. [Advancing.] Now, by the saints, Lanciotto’s deputy
Stands in this business with a proper grace,
Stretching his lord’s instructions till they crack.
A zealous envoy! Not a word said he
Of Lanciotto not a single word:
But stood there, staring in Francesca’s face
With his devouring eyes. By Jupiter,
I but half like it!

FRANCESCA. [Advancing.] Father?

GUIDO. Well, my child.

FRANCESCA. How do you like

GUIDO. The coxcomb! I’ve done well!

FRANCESCA. No, no; Count Lanciotto?

GUIDO. Well enough.
But hang this fellow hang your deputies!
I’ll never woo by proxy.

FRANCESCA. Deputies!
And woo by proxy!

GUIDO. Come to me anon.
I’ll strip this cuckoo of his gallantry!
[Exit with GUARDS, etc.

FRANCESCA. Ritta, my father has strange ways of late.

RITTA. I wonder not.

FRANCESCA. You wonder not?

RITTA. No, lady:
He is so used to playing double games,
That even you must come in for your share.
Plague on his boiling! I will out with it. [Aside.]
Lady, the gentleman who passed the gates

FRANCESCA. Count Lanciotto? As I hope for grace,
A gallant gentleman! How well he spoke!
With what sincere and earnest courtesy
The rounded phrases glided from his lips!
He spoke in compliments that seemed like truth.
Methinks I’d listen through a summer’s day,
To hear him woo. And he must woo to me
I’ll have our privilege he must woo a space,
Ere I’ll be won, I promise.

RITTA. But, my lady,
He’ll woo you for another.

FRANCESCA. He? ha! ha! [Laughing.]
I should not think it from the prologue, Ritta.

RITTA. Nor I.

FRANCESCA. Nor any one.

RITTA. ’Tis not the Count
’Tis not Count Lanciotto.

FRANCESCA. Gracious saints!
Have you gone crazy? Ritta, speak again,
Before I chide you.

RITTA. ’Tis the solemn truth.
That gentleman is Count Paolo, lady,
Brother to Lanciotto, and no more
Like him than than

FRANCESCA. Than what?

RITTA. Count Guido’s pot,
For boiling waiting-maids, is like the bath
Of Venus on the arras.

FRANCESCA. Are you mad,
Quite mad, poor Ritta?

RITTA. Yes; perhaps I am.
Perhaps Lanciotto is a proper man
Perhaps I lie perhaps I speak the truth
Perhaps I gabble like a fool. O! heavens,
That dreadful pot!

FRANCESCA. Dear Ritta!

RITTA. By the mass,
They shall not cozen you, my gentle mistress!
If my lord Guido boiled me, do you think
I should be served up to the garrison,
By way of pottage? Surely they would not waste me.

FRANCESCA. You are an idle talker. Pranks like these
Fit your companions. You forget yourself.

RITTA. Not you, though, lady. Boldly I repeat,
That he who looked so fair, and talked so sweet,
Who rode from Rimini upon a horse
Of dapple-gray, and walked through yonder gate,
Is not Count Lanciotto.

FRANCESCA. This you mean?

RITTA. I do, indeed!

FRANCESCA. Then I am more abused
More tricked, more trifled with, more played upon
By him, my father, and by all of you,
Than anything, suspected of a heart,
Was ever yet!

RITTA. In Count Paolo, lady,
Perchance there was no meditated fraud.

FRANCESCA. How, dare you plead for him?

RITTA. I but suppose:
Though in your father O! I dare not say.

FRANCESCA. I dare. It was ill usage, gross abuse,
Treason to duty, meanness, craft dishonour!
What if I’d thrown my heart before the feet
Of this sham husband! cast my love away
Upon a counterfeit! I was prepared
To force affection upon any man
Called Lanciotto. Anything of silk,
Tinsel, and gewgaws, if he bore that name,
Might have received me for the asking. Yes,
I was inclined to venture more than half
In this base business shame upon my thoughts!
All for my father’s peace and poor Ravenna’s.
And this Paolo, with his cavalcade,
His minstrels, music, and his pretty airs,
His showy person, and his fulsome talk,
Almost made me contented with my lot.
O! what a fool in faith, I merit it
Trapped by mere glitter! What an easy fool!
Ha! ha! I’m glad it went no further, girl;
[Laughing.]
I’m glad I kept my heart safe, after all.
There was my cunning. I have paid them back,
I warrant you! I’ll marry Lanciotto;
I’ll seem to shuffle by this treachery. No!
I’ll seek my father, put him face to face
With his own falsehood; and I’ll stand between,
Awful as justice, meting out to him
Heaven’s dreadful canons ’gainst his conscious guilt.
I’ll marry Lanciotto. On my faith,
I would not live another wicked day
Here, in Ravenna, only for the fear
That I should take to lying, with the rest.
Ha! ha! it makes me merry, when I think
How safe I kept this little heart of mine! [Laughing.
[Exit, with ATTENDANTS, etc.

RITTA. So, ’tis all ended all except my boiling,
And that will make a holiday for some.
Perhaps I’m selfish. Fagot, axe, and gallows,
They have their uses, after all. They give
The lookers-on a deal of harmless sport.
Though one may suffer, twenty hundred laugh;
And that’s a point gained. I have seen a man
Poor Dora’s uncle shake himself with glee,
At the bare thought of the ridiculous style
In which some villain died. “Dancing,” quoth he,
“To the poor music of a single string!
Biting,” quoth he, “after his head was off!
What use of that?” Or, “Shivering,” quoth he,
“As from an ague, with his beard afire!”
And then he’d roar until his ugly mouth
Split at the corners. But to see me boil
that will be the queerest thing of all!
I wonder if they’ll put me in a bag,
Like a great suet-ball? I’ll go, and tell
Count Guido, on the instant. How he’ll laugh
To think his pot has got an occupant!
I wonder if he really takes delight
In such amusements? Nay, I have kept faith;
I only said the man was not Lanciotto;
No word of Lanciotto’s ugliness.
I may escape the pot, for all. Pardee!
I wonder if they’ll put me in a bag!
[Exit, laughing.