Time: The Present.
Published by special arrangement with Mrs. Lucretia Xavier Floyd and Mr. John Garrett Underhill, the Society of Spanish Authors. Applications for permission to produce this play must be made to the Society of Spanish Authors, Room 62, 20 Nassau Street, New York.
A SUNNY MORNING
By Serafin and Joaquin Alvarez Quintero
[Scene laid in a retired part of a park in Madrid, Spain. A bench at right. Bright, sunny morning in autumn. Doña Laura, a handsome old lady of about 70, with white hair and of very refined appearance, although elderly, her bright eyes and entire manner prove her mental facilities are unimpaired. She enters accompanied by her maid Petra, upon whose arm she leans with one hand, while the other holds a parasol which she uses as a cane.]
Doña Laura. I am so glad we have arrived. I feared my seat would be occupied. What a beautiful morning!
Petra. The sun is rather hot.
Doña Laura. Yes, to you who are only 20 years old. [She sits down on the bench.] Oh, I feel more tired to-day than usual. [Noticing Petra, who seems impatient.] Go, if you wish to chat with your guard.
Petra. He is not my guard, Señora; he belongs to the park.
Doña Laura. He belongs more to you than to the park. Go seek him, but remain within calling distance.
Petra. I see him over there waiting for me.
Doña Laura. Do not remain away more than ten minutes.
Petra. Very well, Señora. [Walks toward right, but is detained.]
Doña Laura. Wait a moment.
Petra. What does the Señora wish?
Doña Laura. You are carrying away the bread crumbs.
Petra. Very true. I don't know where my head is.
Doña Laura [smiling]. I do. It is where your heart is—with your guard.
Petra. Here, Señora. [She hands Doña Laura a small bag. Exit Petra.]
Doña Laura. Adios. [Glancing toward trees.] Here come the rogues. They know just when to expect me. [She rises, walks toward right, throws three handfuls of bread crumbs.] These are for the most daring, these for the gluttons, and these for the little ones which are the biggest rogues. Ha, ha. [She returns to her seat and watches with a pleased expression, the pigeons feeding.] There, that big one is always the first. That little fellow is the least timid. I believe he would eat from my hand. That one takes his piece and flies to that branch. He is a philosopher. But from where do they all come? It seems as if the news had been carried. Ha, ha. Don't quarrel. There is enough for all. To-morrow I'll bring more.
[Enter Don Gonzalo and Juanito. Don Gonzalo is an old gentleman over 70, gouty and impatient. He leans upon Juanito's arm and drags his feet along as he walks. He displays ill temper.]
Don Gonzalo. Idling their time away. They should be saying Mass.
Juanito. You can sit here, Señor. There is only a lady.
[Doña Laura turns her head and listens to the dialogue.]
Don Gonzalo. I won't, Juanito. I want a bench to myself.
Juanito. But there is none.
Don Gonzalo. But that one over there is mine.
Juanito. But there are three priests sitting there.
Don Gonzalo. Let them get up. Have they gone, Juanito?
Juanito. No, indeed. They are in animated conversation.
Don Gonzalo. Just as if they were glued to the seat. No hope of their leaving. Come this way, Juanito. [They walk toward birds.]
Doña Laura [indignantly]. Look out!
Don Gonzalo [turning his head]. Are you talking to me, Señora?
Doña Laura. Yes, to you.
Don Gonzalo. What do you wish?
Doña Laura. You have scared away the birds who were feeding on bread crumbs.
Don Gonzalo. What do I care about the birds.
Doña Laura. But I do.
Don Gonzalo. This is a public park.
Doña Laura. Then why do you complain that the priests have taken your bench?
Don Gonzalo. Señora, we have not been introduced to each other. I do not know why you take the liberty of addressing me. Come, Juanito. [Both exit.]
Doña Laura. What an ill-natured old man. Why must some people get so fussy and cross when they reach a certain age? I am glad. He lost that bench, too. Serves him right for scaring the birds. He is furious. Yes, yes; find a seat if you can. Poor fellow! He is wiping the perspiration from his face. Here he comes. A carriage would not raise more dust than he does with his feet.
[Enter Don Gonzalo and Juanito.]
Don Gonzalo. Have the priests gone yet, Juanito?
Juanito. No, indeed, Señor. They are still there.
Don Gonzalo. The authorities should place more benches here for these sunny mornings. Well, I suppose I must resign myself and sit on the same bench with the old lady. [Muttering to himself, he sits at the extreme end of Doña Laura's bench and looks at her indignantly. Touches his hat as he greets her.] Good morning.
Doña Laura. What, you here again?
Don Gonzalo. I repeat that we have not been introduced.
Doña Laura. I am responding to your greeting.
Don Gonzalo. Good morning should be answered by good morning, and that is what you should have said.
Doña Laura. And you should have asked permission to sit on this bench which is mine.
Don Gonzalo. The benches here are public property.
Doña Laura. Why, you said the one the priests occupied was yours.
Don Gonzalo. Very well, very well. I have nothing more to say. [Between his teeth.] Doting old woman. She should be at home with her knitting and counting her beads.
Doña Laura. Don't grumble any more. I'm not going to leave here just to please you.
Don Gonzalo [brushing the dust from his shoes with his handkerchief]. If the grounds were sprinkled more freely it would be an improvement.
Doña Laura. What an idea, to brush your shoes with your handkerchief.
Don Gonzalo. What?
Doña Laura. Do you use a shoe brush as a handkerchief?
Don Gonzalo. By what right do you criticize my actions?
Doña Laura. By the rights of a neighbor.
Don Gonzalo. Juanito, give me my book. I do not care to hear any more nonsense.
Doña Laura. You are very polite.
Don Gonzalo. Pardon me, Señora, but if you did not interfere with what does not concern you.
Doña Laura. I generally say what I think.
Don Gonzalo. And say more than you should. Give me the book, Juanito.
Juanito. Here it is, Señor. [Juanito takes book from pocket, hands it to Don Gonzalo; then exits.]
[Don Gonzalo, casting indignant glances at Doña Laura, puts on an enormous pair of glasses, takes from his pocket a reading-glass, adjusts both to suit him, opens his book.]
Doña Laura. I thought you were going to take out a telescope now.
Don Gonzalo. What, again?
Doña Laura. Your sight must be fine.
Don Gonzalo. Many times better than yours.
Doña Laura. Yes, it is very evident.
Don Gonzalo. Many hares and partridges could bear testimony to my words.
Doña Laura. Do you hunt?
Don Gonzalo. I did, and even now—
Doña Laura. Oh, yes, of course.
Don Gonzalo. Yes, Señora. Every Sunday I take my gun and dog, you understand, and go to one of my properties near Aravaca, just to kill time.
Doña Laura. Yes, to kill time. That is all you can kill.
Don Gonzalo. Do you think so? I could show you a wild boar's head in my study—
Doña Laura. Yes, and I could show you a tiger's skin in my boudoir. What an argument!
Don Gonzalo. Very well, Señora, please allow me to read. I do not feel like having more conversation.
Doña Laura. Well, keep quiet then.
Don Gonzalo. But first I shall take a pinch of snuff. [Takes out snuff box.] Will you have some? [Offers box to Doña Laura.]
Doña Laura. If it is good?
Don Gonzalo. It is of the finest. You will like it.
Doña Laura [taking pinch of snuff]. It clears my head.
Don Gonzalo. And mine.
Doña Laura. Do you sneeze?
Don Gonzalo. Yes, Señora, three times.
Doña Laura. And so do I. What a coincidence!
[After taking the snuff, they await the sneezes, making grimaces, and then sneeze alternately three times each.]
Don Gonzalo. There, I feel better.
Doña Laura. So do I. [Aside.] The snuff has made peace between us.
Don Gonzalo. You will excuse me if I read aloud?
Doña Laura. Read as you please; you will not disturb me.
Don Gonzalo [reading]. "All love is sad, but sad and all, it is the best thing that exists." That is from Campoamor.
Doña Laura. Ah!
Don Gonzalo [reading]. "The daughters of the mothers I once loved, kiss me now as they would kiss a wooden image." Those lines are in the humorous vein.
Doña Laura [laughing]. So I see.
Don Gonzalo. There are some beautiful poems in this book. Listen: "Twenty years have passed. He returns."
Doña Laura. You cannot imagine how it affects me to see you reading with all those glasses.
Don Gonzalo. Can it be possible that you read without requiring any?
Doña Laura. Certainly.
Don Gonzalo. At your age? You must be jesting.
Doña Laura. Pass me the book, please. [takes book, reads aloud.] "Twenty years have passed. He returns. And each upon beholding the other exclaims—Can it be possible that this is he? Merciful heavens, can this be she?"
[Doña Laura returns book to Don Gonzalo.]
Don Gonzalo. Indeed, you are to be envied for your wonderful eyesight.
Doña Laura [aside]. I knew the lines from memory.
Don Gonzalo. I am very fond of good verse, very fond. I even composed some in my youth.
Doña Laura. Good ones?
Don Gonzalo. Of all kinds. I was a great friend of Espronceda, Zorrilla, Becquer and others. I first met Zorrilla in America.
Doña Laura. Why, have you been in America?
Don Gonzalo. Several times. The first time I went I was only six years old.
Doña Laura. Columbus must have carried you in one of his caravels.
Don Gonzalo [laughing]. Not quite as bad as that. I am old, I admit, but I did not know Ferdinand and Isabella. [They both laugh.] I was also a great friend of Campoamor. I met him in Valencia. I am a native of that city.
Doña Laura. You are?
Don Gonzalo. I was brought up there and there I spent my early youth. Have you ever visited that city?
Doña Laura. Yes, Señor. Not far from Valencia there was a mansion that if still there, should retain memories of me. I spent there several seasons. This was many, many years ago. It was near the sea, concealed among lemon and orange trees. They called it—let me see, what did they call it?—"Maricela."
Don Gonzalo [startled]. Maricela?
Doña Laura. Maricela. Is the name familiar to you?
Don Gonzalo. Yes, very familiar. If my memory serves me right, for we forget as we grow old, there lived in that mansion the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and I assure you I have seen a few. Let me see—what was her name? Laura—Laura—Laura Lorente.
Doña Laura [startled]. Laura Lorente?
Don Gonzalo. Yes. [They look at each other strangely.]
Doña Laura [recovering herself]. Nothing. You reminded me of my best friend.
Don Gonzalo. How strange!
Doña Laura. It is strange. She was called "The Silver Maiden."
Don Gonzalo. Precisely, "The Silver Maiden." By that name she was known in that locality. I seem to see her as if she were before me now, at that window of the red roses. Do you remember that window?
Doña Laura. Yes, I remember. It was that of her room.
Don Gonzalo. She spent many hours there. I mean in my days.
Doña Laura [sighing]. And in mine, too.
Don Gonzalo. She was ideal. Fair as a lily, jet black hair and black eyes, with a very sweet expression. She seemed to cast a radiance wherever she was. Her figure was beautiful, perfect. "What forms of sovereign beauty God models in human sculpture!" She was a dream.
Doña Laura [aside]. If you but knew that dream was now by your side, you would realize what dreams are worth. [Aloud.] She was very unfortunate and had a sad love affair.
Don Gonzalo. Very sad. [They look at each other.]
Doña Laura. You know of it?
Don Gonzalo. Yes. Doña Laura [aside]. Strange are the ways of Providence! This man is my early lover.
Don Gonzalo. The gallant lover, if we refer to the same affair—
Doña Laura. To the duel?
Don Gonzalo. Precisely, to the duel. The gallant lover was—my cousin, of whom I was very fond.
Doña Laura. Oh, yes, a cousin. My friend told me in one of her letters the story of that love affair, truly romantic. He, your cousin, passed by on horseback every morning by the rose path under her window, and tossed up to her balcony a bouquet of flowers which she caught.
Don Gonzalo. And later in the afternoon, the gallant horseman would return by the same path, and catch the bouquet of flowers she would toss him. Was it not so?
Doña Laura. Yes. They wanted to marry her to a merchant whom she did not fancy.
Don Gonzalo. And one night, when my cousin watched under her window to hear her sing, this new lover presented himself unexpectedly.
Doña Laura. And insulted your cousin.
Don Gonzalo. There was a quarrel.
Doña Laura. And later a duel.
Don Gonzalo. Yes, at sunrise, on the beach, and the merchant was badly wounded. My cousin had to conceal himself for a few days and later to fly.
Doña Laura. You seem to know the story perfectly.
Don Gonzalo. And so do you.
Doña Laura. I have told you that my friend related it to me.
Don Gonzalo. And my cousin to me. [Aside.] This woman is Laura. What a strange fate has brought us together again.
Doña Laura [aside]. He does not suspect who I am. Why tell him? Let him preserve his illusion.
Don Gonzalo [aside]. She does not suspect she is talking to her old lover. How can she? I will not reveal my identity.
Doña Laura. And was it you, by chance, who advised your cousin to forget Laura?
Don Gonzalo. Why, my cousin never forgot her for one instant.
Doña Laura. How do you account, then, for his conduct?
Don Gonzalo. I will explain. The young man first took refuge in my house, fearful of the consequences of his duel with that man, so much beloved in that locality. From my home he went to Seville, then came to Madrid. He wrote to Laura many letters, some in verse. But, undoubtedly, they were intercepted by her parents, for she never answered them. Gonzalo then, in despair, and believing his loved one lost to him forever, joined the army, went to Africa, and there, in a trench, met a glorious death, grasping the flag of Spain and repeating the name of his beloved—Laura—Laura—Laura.
Doña Laura [aside]. What an atrocious lie!
Don Gonzalo [aside]. I could not have killed myself in a more glorious manner.
Doña Laura. Such a calamity must have caused you the greatest sorrow.
Don Gonzalo. Yes, indeed, Señora. As great as if it were a brother. I presume though, that on the contrary, Laura in a short time was chasing butterflies in her garden, indifferent to everything.
Doña Laura. No, Señor, no indeed.
Don Gonzalo. It is usually a woman's way.
Doña Laura. Even if you consider it a woman's way, the "Silver Maiden" was not of that disposition. My friend awaited news for days, months, a year, and no letter came. One afternoon, just at sunset, and as the first stars were appearing, she was seen to leave the house, and with quick steps, wend her way toward the beach, that beach where her beloved had risked his life. She wrote his name on the sand, then sat upon a rock, her gaze fixed upon the horizon. The waves murmured their eternal monologue and slowly covered the rock where the maiden sat. Shall I tell you the rest?—The tide rose and carried her off to sea.
Don Gonzalo. Good heavens!
Doña Laura. The fishermen of that sea-coast who tell the story, affirm that it was a long time before the waves washed away that name written on the sand. [Aside.] You will not get ahead of me in inventing a romantic death.
Don Gonzalo [aside]. She lies more than I do.
Doña Laura. Poor Laura!
Don Gonzalo. Poor Gonzalo!
Doña Laura [aside]. I will not tell him that in two years I married another.
Don Gonzalo [aside]. I will not tell her that in three months I went to Paris with a ballet dancer.
Doña Laura. What strange pranks Fate plays! Here you and I, complete strangers, met by chance, and in discussing the romance of friends of long ago, we have been conversing as we were old friends.
Don Gonzalo. Yes, it is strange, considering we commenced our conversation quarreling.
Doña Laura. Because you scared away the birds.
Don Gonzalo. I was in a bad temper.
Doña Laura. Yes, that was evident. [Sweetly.] Are you coming to-morrow?
Don Gonzalo. Most certainly, if it is a sunny morning. And not only will I not scare away the birds, but will also bring them bread crumbs.
Doña Laura. Thank you very much. They are very interesting and deserve to be noticed. I wonder where my maid is? [Doña Laura rises; Don Gonzalo also rises.] What time can it be? [Doña Laura walks toward left.]
Don Gonzalo. It is nearly twelve o'clock. Where can that scamp Juanito be? [Walks toward right.]
Doña Laura. There she is talking with her guard. [Signals with her hand for her maid to approach.]
Don Gonzalo [looking at Laura, whose back is turned. Aside]. No, no, I will not reveal my identity. I am a grotesque figure now. Better that she recall the gallant horseman who passed daily under her window and tossed her flowers.
Doña Laura. How reluctant she is to leave him. Here she comes.
Don Gonzalo. But where can Juanito be? He has probably forgotten everything in the society of some nursemaid. [Looks toward right and signals with his hand.]
Doña Laura [looking at Gonzalo, whose back is turned. Aside]. No, I will not tell him I am Laura. I am too sadly altered. It is better he should remember me as the blackeyed girl who tossed him flowers as he passed through the rose path in that garden.
[Juanito enters by right: Petra by left. She has a bunch of violets in her hand.]
Doña Laura. Well, Petra, I thought you were never coming.
Don Gonzalo. But, Juanito, what delayed you so? It is very late.
Petra [handing violets to Doña Laura]. My lover gave me these violets for you, Señora.
Doña Laura. How very nice of him. Thank him for me. They are very fragrant. [As she takes the violets from her maid, a few loose ones drop to the ground.]
Don Gonzalo. My dear Señora, this has been a great honor and pleasure.
Doña Laura. And it has also been a pleasure to me.
Don Gonzalo. Good-by until to-morrow.
Doña Laura. Until to-morrow.
Don Gonzalo. If it is a sunny day.
Doña Laura. If it is a sunny day. Will you go to your bench?
Don Gonzalo. No, Señora, I will come to this, if you do not object?
Doña Laura. This bench is at your disposal. [Both laugh.]
Don Gonzalo. And I will surely bring the bread crumbs. [Both laugh again.]
Doña Laura. Until to-morrow.
Don Gonzalo. Until to-morrow.
[Laura walks away on her maid's arm toward right. Gonzalo, before leaving with Juanito, trembling and with a great effort, stoops to pick up the violets Laura dropped. Just then, Laura turns her head and sees him pick up flowers.]
Juanito. What are you doing, Señor?
Don Gonzalo. Wait, Juanito, wait.
Doña Laura [aside]. There is no doubt. It is he.
Don Gonzalo [walks toward left. Aside]. There can be no mistake. It is she.
[Doña Laura and Don Gonzalo wave farewells to each other from a distance.]
Doña Laura. Merciful heavens! This is Gonzalo.
Don Gonzalo. And to think that this is Laura.
[Before disappearing they give one last smiling look at each other.]