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

The Same. Interior of the Cathedral. LANCIOTTO, FRANCESCA, PAOLO, MALATESTA, GUIDO, RITTA, PEPE, LORDS, KNIGHTS, PRIESTS, PAGES, a bridal-train of LADIES, SOLDIERS, CITIZENS, ATTENDANTS, etc., discovered before the High Altar. Organ music. The rites being over, they advance.

MALATESTA. By heaven

PEPE. O! uncle, uncle, you’re in church!

MALATESTA. I’ll break your head, knave!

PEPE. I claim sanctuary.

MALATESTA. Why, bridegroom, will you never kiss the bride?
We all are mad to follow you.

PEPE. Yes, yes;
Here was Paolo wetting his red lips
For the last minute. Kiss, and give him room.

MALATESTA. You heaven-forsaken imp, be quiet now!

PEPE. Then there’d be naught worth hearing.

MALATESTA. Bridegroom, come!

PEPE. Lord! he don’t like it! Hey! I told you so
He backs at the first step. Does he not know
His trouble’s just begun?

LANCIOTTO. Gentle Francesca,
Custom imposes somewhat on thy lips:
I’ll make my levy. [Kisses her. The others follow.]
[Aside.] Ha! she shrank! I felt
Her body tremble, and her quivering lips
Seemed dying under mine! I heard a sigh,
Such as breaks hearts O! no, a very groan;
And then she turned a sickly, miserable look
On pale Paolo, and he shivered too!
There is a mystery hangs around her, ay,
Paolo knows it, too. By all the saints,
I’ll make him tell it, at the dagger’s point!
Paolo! here! I do adjure you, brother,
By the great love I bear you, to reveal
The secret of Francesca’s grief.

PAOLO. I cannot.

LANCIOTTO. She told you nothing?

PAOLO. Nothing.

LANCIOTTO. Not a word?

PAOLO. Not one.

LANCIOTTO. What heard you at Ravenna, then?

PAOLO. Nothing.

LANCIOTTO. Here?

PAOLO. Nothing.

LANCIOTTO. Not the slightest hint?
Don’t stammer, man! Speak quick! I am in haste.

PAOLO. Never.

LANCIOTTO. What know you?

PAOLO. Nothing that concerns
Your happiness, Lanciotto. If I did,
Would I not tell unquestioned?

LANCIOTTO. Would you not?
You ask a question for me: answer it.

PAOLO. I have.

LANCIOTTO. You juggle, you turn deadly pale,
Fumble your dagger, stand with head half round,
Tapping your feet. You dare not look at me!
By Satan! Count Paolo, let me say,
You look much like a full-convicted thief!

PAOLO. Brother!

LANCIOTTO. Pshaw! brother! You deceive me, sir:
You and that lady have a devil’s league,
To keep a devil’s secret. Is it thus
You deal with me? Now, by the light above
I’d give a dukedom for some fair pretext
To fly you all! She does not love me? Well,
I could bear that, and live away from her.
Love would be sweet, but want of it becomes
An early habit to such men as I.
But you ah! there’s the sorrow whom I loved
An infant in your cradle; you who grew
Up in my heart, with every inch you gained;
You whom I loved for every quality,
Good, bad, and common, in your natural stock;
Ay, for your very beauty! It is strange, you’ll say,
For such a crippled horror to do that,
Against the custom of his kind! O! yes,
I love, and you betray me!

PAOLO. Lanciotto,
This is sheer frenzy. Join your bride.

LANCIOTTO. I’ll not!
What, go to her, to feel her very flesh
Crawl from my touch? to hear her sigh and moan,
As if God plagued her? Must I come to that?
Must I endure your hellish mystery
With my own wife, and roll my eyes away
In sentimental bliss? No, no! until
I go to her, with confident belief
In her integrity and candid love,
I’ll shun her as a leper. [Alarm-bells toll.

MALATESTA. What is that?

Enter, hastily, a MESSENGER in disorder.

MESSENGER. My lord, the Ghibelins are up

LANCIOTTO. And I
Will put them down again! I thank thee, Heaven,
For this unlooked-for aid! [Aside.

MALATESTA. What force have they?

LANCIOTTO. It matters not, nor yet the time, place, cause,
Of their rebellion. I would throttle it,
Were it a riot, or a drunken brawl!

MALATESTA. Nay, son, your bride

LANCIOTTO. My bride will pardon me;
Bless me, perhaps, as I am going forth;
Thank me, perhaps, if I should ne’er return. [Aside.]
A soldier’s duty has no bridals in it.

PAOLO. Lanciotto, this is folly. Let me take
Your usual place of honour.

LANCIOTTO. [Laughing.] Ha! ha! ha!
What! thou, a tilt-yard soldier, lead my troops!
My wife will ask it shortly. Not a word
Of opposition from the new-made bride?
Nay, she looks happier. O! accursed day,
That I was mated to an empty heart! [Aside.

MALATESTA. But, son

LANCIOTTO. Well, father?

PEPE. Uncle, let him go.
He’ll find it cooler on a battle-field
Than in his

LANCIOTTO. Hark! the fool speaks oracles.
You, soldiers, who are used to follow me,
And front our charges, emulous to bear
The shock of battle on your forward arms,
Why stand ye in amazement? Do your swords
Stick to their scabbards with inglorious rust?
Or has repose so weakened your big hearts,
That you can dream with trumpets at your ears?
Out with your steel! It shames me to behold
Such tardy welcome to my war-worn blade! [Draws.]
[The KNIGHTS and SOLDIERS draw.]
Ho! draw our forces out! Strike camp, sound drums,
And set us on our marches! As I live,
I pity the next foeman who relies
On me for mercy! Farewell! to you all
To all alike a soldier’s short farewell! [Going.]

[PAOLO stands before him.]

Out of my way, thou juggler! [Exit.

PAOLO. He is gone!