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(1) La Vénitienne ["The Venetian Lady"] is loosely based on James Fenimore Cooper's 1831 novel, The Bravo. Although it does not seem to have had a distinguished history, I recently ran across a review of it in the June 15, 1902 issue of the New York Times, describing (in humorous vein) an amateur Italian-language performance in New York's Bowery Theatre, under the title of The Bravo of Venice; or, The Dread-inspiring Council of Ten.
(2) The Playwright. Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois (1806-1871) was a prolific and popular playwright, but never achieved much literary distinction. Beginning at the age of 19, he wrote over 200 melodramas and vaudeville shows, as well as several musical pieces. Nevertheless, he was made a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur in 1869, and is buried in Paris' famous Père-Lachaise Cemetery. Some of his plays, including La Vénitienne, are said to have been written in collaboration with Alexander Dumas, though this is contested.
(3) La Vénitienne served as the primary textual basis for Saverio Mercadante's opera, Il Bravo (1839).
(4) The Basic Plot: La Vénitienne takes place in sixteenth century Venice, a city of dark oppression and lurid licentiousness, ruled over by the infamous Council of Ten. The story revolves about the gradual discovery of each other's identity by a family long separated by events: husband (The Bravo); wife (Théodora), daughter (Violetta), and Violetta's lover (Salfiéri). The confusion is complicated by the temporary exchange of identities between The Bravo and Salfiéri.
(5) Anicet-Bourgeois and Cooper: The play takes from Cooper the basis situation of a "bravo" whose aged father is kept hostage in prison, though unlike Cooper's "bravo," Anicet-Bourgeois' hero really does assassinate people. The two young lovers vaguely resemble Cooper's Don Camillo Monforte and Violetta Tiepolo, and no one will be surprised to learn that they too escape to freedom and a happy marriage. But Cooper's political and social messages are missing, along with his Senator Gradenigo about whom they revolve, and Anicet-Bourgeois' Théodora is a wholly new creation. The names and imagined biographies of all the characters are different.
First Stage Setting
The Interior of The Bravo's home, in a quiet part of Venice.-A window open on the moon-lit bay.
THE BRAVO, masked, half-reclining on a sofa, THE COUNT OF BELLAMONTE standing before him.
THE BRAVO: Thus, My Lord, your visit this evening is to discuss your personal affairs, and not those of the Republic?
BELLAMONTE: I must ask a favor of you, and I don't doubt for a moment that....
THE BRAVO: ...that I will follow your orders? Is that not so? As I follow those of the Council of Ten.
BELLAMONTE: Of which I am a member, do not forget.
THE BRAVO: What can I do for Your Excellency?
BELLAMONTE: A great deal.
THE BRAVO: I am listening.
BELLAMONTE: I am in love....
THE BRAVO: With the courtesan Théodora.... I know it.
BELLAMONTE: How so?
THE BRAVO: A week ago, from the base of the Lion's Column where I usually stand, I saw you pass in the retinue that usually accompanies the Venetian Lady to church.
BELLAMONTE: That is so. Like all that are noble and elegant in Venice I fall to my knees before this lady, who is so strange and so beautiful. A modern Aspasia who wishes to see all the celebrities of our time at her feet, so she can then display her lovers as other women display their jewels.... Théodora has overwhelmed me with her favors... but this easy happiness bores me...and I have discovered a true diamond, behind the Bridge of Paglia, opposite the house of the gondolier Luigi.
THE BRAVO: There are few diamonds in Venice that are not for sale. Your Excellency is rich, and can buy what he desires.
BELLAMONTE: All my offers have been refused.
THE BRAVO: Double them.
BELLAMONTE: It is useless... I am dealing with an old man who looks after her, who acts as her father... He speaks of honor, of delicacy, of strict virtue.
THE BRAVO: (ironically) Poor fellow!
BELLAMONTE: He has gone so far as to tell me that if I show myself in the street, although he is an old man and I am a commoner, and that I am young and of the nobility, he will find a way to push me aside.
THE BRAVO: (ironically) What insolence!
BELLAMONTE: I cannot risk myself with this man; you understand?
THE BRAVO: Certainly... people like that should be only too happy when a Nobleman by family and birth, like yourself, deigns to covet their wife or daughter; it will dishonor them... but it will also ennoble them.
BELLAMONTE: Well, that is what he refuses to see.
THE BRAVO: The fool!
BELLAMONTE: I therefore thought of you to get rid of this man for me. He arrived in Venice only a few days ago, he knows no one, and rumor has it that he has raised this delicious creature out of charity, and that except for this old man she has neither relatives nor friends. Once the young girl becomes an orphan, the Republic, who is a good mother, adopts abandoned children... A powerful man, a member of the Council of Ten, myself for example... I undertake, for love of humanity, to place her in a convent... I pay her entrance fee... I make a gift of a Raphael or a Titian to the monastery chapel, and the girl is mine.
THE BRAVO: It is a wonderful series of events, My Lord, and I see nothing to prevent the plan from succeeding, since no doubt you have an order for me from the Council.
THE BRAVO: Which requires me to rid Venice of an old man who is suspected of virtue, inclined to delicacy, and insistent on religiously protecting the honor of a young girl.
BELLAMONTE: Have you not understood me?
THE BRAVO: On the contrary, My Lord, I Have understood you, perfectly. But you were began by telling me what you wanted; it is now my turn to tell you what I want-an order from the Council.
BELLAMONTE: (showing a purse full of gold) Very well, here it is.
THE BRAVO: (rejecting it) The Republic is magnificent, My Lord; she richly rewards those who serve her; she regilds the weapon each time it is stained with blood... She is a jealous mistress to whom I do not wish to be unfaithful... I want an order from her.
BELLAMONTE: Such scruples on your part astonish me, confound me...
THE BRAVO: I have a pact of blood with the Republic... it's true, Count Bellamonte... your father was a member of the Council of Ten when the bargain was forced on me... He knew why I have taken this dagger in hand and placed this mask on my face. Your father would not have come to me with a demand like yours. I insist on an order.
BELLAMONTE: But if I obtain such an order, you will have still committed an assassination.
THE BRAVO: For which I will respond before men, but for which the Council of Ten will respond before God.
BELLAMONTE: Very well! Since you insist on an order, you shall have one. The old man came from Genoa. Genoa is at war with the Republic, and this man whom nobody knows is no doubt a spy for the Dorias. I will get the order and nail it to this door, as the tribunal usually does. Consider now that it is no longer to me, but to the Council, that you must give your obedience.
THE BRAVO: Very well.
BELLAMONTE: Farewell... do not forget... behind the Bridge of Paglia, opposite the house of the gondolier Luigi.
THE BRAVO: Farewell, Count.
THE BRAVO, alone.
THE BRAVO: It seems the day is not yet done, as it had seemed to be. The Republic is hard to serve... Never mind, let me profit from the hour which she leaves me. (He takes off his mask and hangs it on a nail.) Infernal mask... (He unfastens his dagger and places it on the table.) Damned dagger!... which today are a part of me... as if the hand of God had printed the one on my face and nailed the other to my belt... Oh! let my mouth breathe... let my heart beat... for a moment I am a man like all other men... Ah!
[Exhausted, he stretches himself out on the bed.]
SALFIÉRI, THE BRAVO.
[Salfiéri appears outside the window and leaps lightly into the room.]
THE BRAVO: Who is that?
SALFIÉRI: Greetings to Your Lordship!
THE BRAVO: (seizing his dagger) Who are you?
SALFIÉRI: A man against whom you need not draw your dagger... because you can kill him with a word... an outlaw!
THE BRAVO: And why do you thus enter by this window?...
SALFIÉRI: Because you would probably not have opened your door.
THE BRAVO: What do you want?
SALFIÉRI: Shelter for the night.
THE BRAVO: And if I refuse it... what will happen?
SALFIÉRI: It's very simple... Six years ago I left Venice, under pain of a death warrant. A reason motive than my life has brings me back... A boat that I own landed me on the beach and will pick me up... I no longer have a single friend in Venice, but all my enemies still know me. Your protection means my life... your refusal will be my death... If you refuse me... Well, there are two of us... Both young men, both courageous, I believe... you have a dagger... I have one... the odds are thus equal... If you kill me, I will no longer have need of shelter for the night. If I kill you, my shelter is already found. I no more fear sleeping next to a dead enemy than to a living friend.
THE BRAVO: And if, on the other hand, I protect you?
SALFIÉRI: You will have rendered an immense service to a man who will remember it forever.
THE BRAVO: (extending his hand) Shake my hand.
SALFIÉRI: Thank you.
THE BRAVO: Now, I am going to close this window, because I am no longer alone... (Returning) Well?
SALFIÉRI: Well? My host...I am at your orders... If you wish to stay up, I will stay up... If you wish to sleep, throw yourself on the bed and I will throw myself on this cloak... Are you willing to do even more for me than you have already?... I will tell you what has brought me to Venice... why I came here... what woman I follow... what man I seek here... since if you make it possible for me to speak with this man, or to recover this woman, you will be more for me than a protector, more than a friend, you will be a God.
THE BRAVO: Speak, I shall do what I can.
SALFIÉRI: I was exiled for political reasons, and there is only one thing that can make an exile forget his homeland; it is love... Outlawed by the Republic of Venice, I found asylum in the Republic of Genoa... By chance I met a girl, I loved her, she loved me, I forgot everything.
THE BRAVO: This is truly a young head and a young heart, was it really love?
SALFIÉRI: Yes, yes, for six months... I had but one thought, it was she... All my days were spent in awaiting nightfall, because, protected by an old man who never left her, it was only at night that I could see her... Then I climbed over the garden wall... As trusting and pure as a Madonna, she came to let me in... And I, timid and loving as a child... I lay down at her feet, seeking my life in her eyes, forgetting the past that I had lived without her, happy for the present that I was living... confident of a future that I believed belonged to us...
THE BRAVO: Thus does one pass the rash hours of youth... I remember them.
SALFIÉRI: One night, I came as usual... The door through which Violetta usually let me in stood open.
THE BRAVO: (shuddering.) Violetta!...
SALFIÉRI: That was her name... does it remind you of something?
THE BRAVO: I also loved a woman named Violetta.
THE BRAVO: For her I left Venice... Venice that I never expected to see again and which, to my misery, I have seen once more... Oh!... but that was sixteen years ago... and the woman is dead... it is the first time in sixteen years that I have heard her name pronounced... and this has gripped my heart... continue...
SALFIÉRI: I climbed the stairs... I entered her room, I called out in vain... I ran to the old man's room, at the risk of meeting him, but it was as empty as that of Violetta... fragments of torn up letters, half burned, littered the floor... I gathered them up. I found an order...given by I know not whom... to this man... to immediately take away the girl confided to him... Where?... the name of the city was not given... She had gone... The old man had taken her away... I returned to Violetta's room, angry, despairing... crying out aloud for some hint, some trace... suddenly my eyes noticed a mirror, and, in Violetta's handwriting, scratched with a diamond, I read this word, one word only: Venice.... I forgot everything... outlawry, sentence of death... the scaffold... I departed, and here I am.
THE BRAVO: An now what do you plan to do with the bits of information you have... in a great city... where you cannot show yourself by day... surrounded by an ever-active police... whose eyes are always open... of whom some agent may perhaps already know of your arrival...
SALFIÉRI: Yes, yes, I know all that... and my plan is like my situation... it is just as desperate... Listen... I have only told you half of my secret... because I told you I had come to Venice to follow a woman and to seek out a man. The woman whom I followed here... is Violetta...
THE BRAVO: And the man whom you seek?
SALFIÉRI: Is the Bravo.
THE BRAVO: What!
SALFIÉRI: Do you know him?
THE BRAVO: Who in Venice does not know him?
SALFIÉRI: Where does he live?
THE BRAVO: Only the Council of Ten can answer that question?
SALFIÉRI: Where can he be found?...
THE BRAVO: On the Piazzetta... every day... at the base of the Lion's Column... sad, dark and motionless, a sort of living scaffold... standing forever on the public square of Venice.
SALFIÉRI: And what do they say of this man?...
THE BRAVO: A thousand different things.
SALFIÉRI: But what is the truth about him!...
THE BRAVO: Only God and he can say... everyone else is mistaken.
SALFIÉRI: But what is your opinion of him?...
THE BRAVO: I have none.
SALFIÉRI: That is what I am going to find out... I always have three ways of making a man do what I want...
THE BRAVO: Which are?...
SALFIÉRI: Prayer...an appeal to his humanity. Money...an appeal to his greed. Threats...an appeal to his weakness.
THE BRAVO: Prayer...the Bravo has heard as many prayers as St. Ambrose who is the patron of this city...and I have never known that a single one moved him... Money...the Bravo has received enough from the Republic to buy a palace, if he wished to sleep in a marble chamber... Threats... by making them the Bravo has lost the habit of listening to them...
SALFIÉRI: Is there then nothing human in the heart of this man!
THE BRAVO: Nothing.
SALFIÉRI: He has not a mother?
THE BRAVO: He had one, and God took her from him in a moment of anger...
SALFIÉRI: No mistress?...
THE BRAVO: He had one, but he killed her in a moment of jealousy.
SALFIÉRI: No father?...
[The Bravo bows his head on his breast, and his face takes on an expression of sadness and somber melancholy.]
SALFIÉRI: (continuing.) Well!... this night I shall invoke the name of his father... this very night, I must see this man.
THE BRAVO: And when you see him, what will you ask of him?
SALFIÉRI: That, my host... is my secret...
THE BRAVO: Nothing can dissuade you from seeking out this man?
SALFIÉRI: Nothing... because he is my only hope.
THE BRAVO: Then you will see him.
SALFIÉRI: Who will arrange for me to see him?
THE BRAVO: I will.
SALFIÉRI: And when?...
[Three knocks on the door.]
THE BRAVO: Wait, I will tell you.
[He goes to the door and finds the order of the Council that has just been nailed to it. He returns with the order in his hand; he examines it, then takes his cloak and hides under it his mask and his dagger.]
THE BRAVO (aside): They have signed it.
THE BRAVO: In an hour...
SALFIÉRI: And where will I find him?...
THE BRAVO: Behind the Bridge of Paglia, opposite the house of the gondolier Luigi.
SALFIÉRI: In an hour.
THE BRAVO: Yes, in an hour.
SALFIÉRI: That is good... I shall be there.
[The Bravo leaves, Salfiéri follows him with his eyes.]
End of the First Stage Setting
Second Stage Setting
In front and on each side, two arched doorways, vaulted and opening on the street. Behind, two alleys, facing each other. Behind them, the Bridge of Paglia. Behind that, a glimpse of the Grand Canal.
It is night.
THE BRAVO, LUIGI
[The Bravo is leaning against Luigi's doorway. Luigi appears at its back with his gondola.]
[He lands, ties his gondola to a mooring ring, and continues to sing]
THE BRAVO: Silence! Luigi.
LUIGI: The Bravo!... My Lord!... My Lord!... I have done nothing against the Republic!
THE BRAVO: Listen to me.
LUIGI: I am listening.
THE BRAVO: You will go inside your house.
LUIGI: I will do so.
THE BRAVO: If someone knocks at your door, you will not open it.
THE BRAVO: If you hear shouting you will not come out.
THE BRAVO: And if by chance, in your house, there is some lamp shining on the street, you will put it out.
THE BRAVO: The door is open. Good. Go inside!
[Luigi goes inside. We hear the door closing from within. The Bravo goes down one of the alleys. The door opposite Luigi's opens. Mafféo leaves first, then Théodora and Violetta.]
MAFFÉO, THÉODORA, VIOLETTA
MAFFÉO: Pardon, Madame. I think I heard someone speak.
THÉODORA: Go and look.
MAFFÉO: I was mistaken. There is no one.
VIOLETTA: And when will I see you again, Madame?
THÉODORA: My visits please you, my child?
VIOLETTA: Yes. I am happy when you come. You seem to like me so much, Madame. me, a poor abandoned orphan... Pardon, Mafféo, I am speaking of my mother, and not of you...
THÉODORA: Your mother! My child, never accuse her without knowing the reasons that have separated you from her. Perhaps she is suffering more than you from your absence, and remember that, to God, the accusation of a child against her mother is a terrible one!
VIOLETTA: Oh! I do not accuse her of abandonment, Madame. I bewail her absence...
THÉODORA: (taking her in her arms with rapture.) Embrace me!
MAFFÉO (whispering): You forget, Madame, that it would be dangerous for the Lady Violetta...
THÉODORA: Yes... yes, you are right... Go back in, my child... The night air in Venice is fatal to young, fresh faces like yours. Go back in.
VIOLETTA: And when shall I see you again, Madame?
THÉODORA: Tomorrow I cannot come. The day after.
VIOLETTA: (kissing her hand.) You are so good to like me.
[She goes back in and shuts the door.]
THÉODORA: Oh! Mafféo! what a sweet and radiant creature! and I blame myself now for having kept her away from me for so long.
MAFFÉO: I said as much in my letters, Madame, that you were depriving yourself of a great happiness.
THÉODORA: Yes; but I feared, you know, that my dark notoriety, of which I was so proud before I saw my daughter again, would attach itself to her! it is a terrible thing that a pure young girl should have a mother like me!... Call Luigi, Mafféo.
MAFFÉO (knocking on Luigi's door): But this secret, will you reveal it to her someday?
THÉODORA: Yes,... yes!... in six months. in a year... I will take her to Naples, to Rome, perhaps to France, anywhere so long as it is far enough from Venice that the name of Théodora never reaches it... I will then tell her everything... and if you are still with us, Mafféo, you will support me, you will say that I have been as pure as she is, that you knew me when I was loved and worthy of being loved; you will tell her that the man I was going to marry, in a moment of jealousy, oh! what unjust jealousy! Oh! but for that child I carried in my womb, that child who is today my only hope for the future, how often have I regretted that Giovanni's dagger had not penetrated deeper!
MAFFÉO: Yes, you say that here, Madame, in a dark and quiet street of Venice, alone with me, still moved by the embrace of your daughter. But in your palace on the Piazzetta, in the midst of the flaming torches, the glittering diamonds, the intoxicating praise, the youth who lie at your feet, and cry out day and night with a thousand voices: Théodora!... Théodora! How beautiful you are!... Oh! There! do you not congratulate yourself that Giovanni's hand was so hesitant, and the wound everyone believed to be fatal was so quickly healed and left so slight a trace?
THÉODORA: Yes, yes... I admit it... this life has its delights. It is pleasure, but it is not happiness... Well! Your Luigi does not come!... (Mafféo knocks again.) Do you know, Mafféo, so that such a thing will not happen again, I shall take this man into my service. I am too well known in Venice for the gondolier in front of my house not to guess who the disguised woman who comes to your house every night, is. It is better to pay for his silence, I think, than to fear his indiscretion. But what is to be done, if he does not come?
MAFFÉO: I will take you home myself, Madame. Luigi's gondola is fastened by a secret which I know, and if you are willing to accept me as your gondolier...
THÉODORA: Certainly... Only, you should have thought of that plan right away. The air from the bay is cold and dangerous in the evening. Tomorrow I shall look pale.
MAFFÉO (going away): Ah! How deadly, Madame, is this beauty of which you take so much care!
THÉODORA: As well as I take care of it, and as jealous as I am of it, it will one day go away; and then it will be time...
MAFFÉO: To think of God... is that not right? But will it not be too late for God to think of you?...
[He steps into the gondola; Théodora follows him.]
THE BRAVO, then SALFIÉRI.
THE BRAVO (entering by the alley on the right): That's it! There is the old man at my mercy... It is what I have always noticed in the admirable order of Providence: it is as if everything conspires to facilitate a bad deed, and to prevent a good one. Is there then a God of murder?
SALFIÉRI (entering, and who has heard the last words): Yes. Men call him Satan.
THE BRAVO: You are no doubt one of his apostles, since you know his name so well?
SALFIÉRI: Not yet. But I have come to Venice to study under him.
THE BRAVO: What teacher have you chosen?
THE BRAVO: You know who I am?
SALFIÉRI: You are the Bravo.
THE BRAVO: And you come thus to me, at night, without fear?
SALFIÉRI: I had only one; that of not finding you.
THE BRAVO: Very well! Here I am.
SALFIÉRI (aside): That voice! (Aloud.) Let me look at you first...
THE BRAVO: Then look.
SALFIÉRI: Yes... you are indeed the man of the black mask, the strange specter that has been described to me. Therefore you are the man before whom all doors open, before whom all lawmen look the other way, before whom all veils fall. You can take anyone you like by the arm, lead him where you please, enter and leave Venice at any hour of the day or night. You can do this...
THE BRAVO: I can.
SALFIÉRI: And you owe this privilege?...
THE BRAVO: To my mask and my dagger.
SALFIÉRI: And he who carries them would have the same power?
THE BRAVO: Yes, if he had the same courage.
SALFIÉRI: Will you lend them to me?
THE BRAVO: What do you say!
SALFIÉRI: I say that for two days, at any price, I must have your mask and your dagger; because it is necessary that for me also all doors open, all lawmen turn the other way, all veils fall. It is necessary that I can take anyone I like by the arm, lead him where I please, enter and leave Venice freely at any hour of the night or day, and for that, you can see, I must have your mask and your dagger.
THE BRAVO: But, during these two days, you would be what I have been for so long; the terror and the abomination of Venice!
SALFIÉRI: That is true.
THE BRAVO: For these two days, you will do what I myself do?
SALFIÉRI: I shall.
THE BRAVO: And if an order arrives from the Council of Ten?
SALFIÉRI: I shall execute it.
THE BRAVO: And if this order requires a murder?...
SALFIÉRI: Enough... Only your mask can hide the face of an outlaw in Venice. Only your dagger can protect him or avenge him... at any price... I want them.
THE BRAVO: But do you know what it is to look at the world through this mask? Do you know that it darkens everything, that no air will reach your breast, that no ray of sun will warm you face? Do you know that you can only remove it when you are alone, and that every time you do remove it, you will find your eyes more hollow and your face more pale. Do you know this?
SALFIÉRI: I know it.
THE BRAVO: Do you know that on the day of last judgment, if you wear the mask for even one hour, if it be a bloody hour, the angel of death will come to fasten it to your face, and that you will only gaze on God through it.
SALFIÉRI (stamping his foot): Then give me the mask and the dagger.
THE BRAVO: My dagger!... Do you perhaps think it is a loyal weapons, that strikes by day, face to face, and bravely? No, no, it is a weapon of the night, a weapon of betrayal...
SALFIÉRI: No matter!
THE BRAVO: No sooner than you have it by your side, you will have to draw it from its scabbard and strike... (Noticing the gondola bringing Mafféo back.) Strike an old man! perhaps... an old man of the same age as your father... his hair as white as that of your father! (Salfiéri shudders.) Are you weakening?
SALFIÉRI: Ah! Remember then that at every step I take in this city, I might be recognized... Once again, and for the last time, can you and will you give me what I ask?
THE BRAVO: Madman!... (After a silence.) Yes, I can and I shall... because only two men in Venice know the face of the Bravo. Two men only can say, looking at him without his mask, that it is he. One of these men is the head of the Council of Ten, and he is away for a week... The other (Aside.) It is perhaps a way of saving him. (Aloud.) Listen... you are an outlaw, and if I refuse you... I kill you... For how long do you want this horrible borrowing?
SALFIÉRI: For two days.
THE BRAVO: Swear to me then that for two days you will not return this mask and this dagger; that for two days you will not say who I am or who you are. Swear this to me on that which you hold most sacred.
SALFIÉRI: On the wounds of Christ, I swear it.
THE BRAVO: I accept your oath; listen, midnight is striking.
SALFIÉRI: Well then! In two days, and when midnight strikes...
THE BRAVO: Not an hour, not a minute, not a second before...
SALFIÉRI: Not before the last stroke has sounded, as this one has sounded, and has died away as has this one.
THE BRAVO: Then wait.
[The Bravo goes to the back of the theatre, descends the steps of the wharf, and disappears from the view of the audience; then, an instant later, is heard a groan and the sound of a body falling into the water. Salfiéri meanwhile remains motionless at the front of the stage.]
THE BRAVO (returning, his naked and bloody dagger in his hand): Do you still want them?... (Taking off his mask.) Here they are...
SALFIÉRI (taking his hand): Thank you, my host.
THE BRAVO (starting to leave, then stopping): In two days, at midnight!
SALFIÉRI: In two days at midnight!
End of the First Act
First Stage Setting
The Piazzetta.-Down front, on the left, the gate way of St. Mark's Church. In the third plane, one sees part of the Giant's Staircase, which can be climbed. Almost opposite, the Lion's Column. On the right, in the fourth plane, the Palace of Théodora. The backdrop represents a view of the Great Square of St. Mark.
THE BRAVO (alone, in the elaborate costume of a Dalmatian nobleman): Oh! I recognize you, fresh breeze from the Apennines, and the scent of orange trees that you bring from Florence, and which I had long forgotten, because since my fatal return to Venice you have blown on my mask and not on my face. Oh! I recognize you, Venice of my young and happy years, there is your Ducal Palace, your Giants' Staircase, your Lion of St. Mark, its sword sharp, its wings spread. I feel like an exile who sets foot again on his native soil, a son who returns to his paternal home. (Men begin to walk to and fro.) Venice! oh! I shall walk your streets without leaving a trace of blood... I shall mingle in your crowd without being cursed by it... because if I recognize you, you do not recognize me, Venice, because I know all your secrets and you are ignorant of mine... Oh! I shall for two days live the life of happy men... Future! Past!... Bloody demons who march before and behind me... Get away from me!... Get away from me!... Let me breathe a little... Since the horrid mask no longer weighs on my face... I can even ask for pity... I can make gold glitter... Yes, since yesterday, a hope has come to me... and tomorrow! this very night I will perhaps know if God finally wants to show me mercy. A madman has taken my place... As I am used to doing, he awaits the orders of the Council at the Ducal Palace. For these two days, I hope, there will be none to give him... and I, for these two days, with a carefree face and laughter on my lips, I will attempt everything... yes, everything... to take from the prisons of the palace the pledge that holds the Bravo.
SCENE II. THE BRAVO, LUIGI, Gondoliers.
A GONDOLIER: And that is how it was, on the land... on the pier...
LUIGI: Oh! my God yes... like a dog.
A MAN: Dead?
LUIGI: Oh! Killed dead. The blow was struck as if for a young man with sixty years left to live.
A MAN: Poor old man, it is a filthy murder... a Turkish murder and not a Christian one.
ANOTHER: And are you sure that it was the once again the accursed Bravo?
LUIGI: Am I sure! I certainly think so, since one instant sooner and I would have saved Mafféo myself.
ALL: Is that so?
LUIGI: I got there first... and when the Bravo saw me...
A MAN: He fled.
LUIGI: Not exactly... no... no... I must say he displayed a certain courage... but, all the same, he must certainly be angry with me.
THE BRAVO (laughing): Not at all, Luigi, you are mistaken.
LUIGI: If you please, Excellency.
THE BRAVO: I say that, far from being angry with you, the Bravo owes you a reward, and I doubt not that he will give it to you at the first opportunity.
LUIGI: Why is that?
THE BRAVO: Every effort deserves its wages, and you blindly followed his orders.
LUIGI: I did?
THE BRAVO: Certainly. You went inside because he told you to go in; you did not leave because he said not to leave; and you hastened to extinguish the only light in the house that shone onto the street, so that the night would be darker, and no indiscreet window would look out on the murder...
LUIGI (jumping back): If you are not Satan... who are you?
THE BRAVO: I am a Dalmatian nobleman...born on the hills of Kotor, whose inhabitants are, as everyone knows, given to magic.
LUIGI: (crossing himself) Holy Mother of God, protect us!
The Preceding, MICHELEMMA, then The Marquis of RUFFO.
MICHELEMMA (entering): Luigi! Luigi! Good news!...
LUIGI: Ah! There you are, little one... who makes you so joyful?
MICHELEMMA: The news that I bring you. I come to tell you that as from today you are employed by the household of the Lady Théodora... as a private gondolier.
LUIGI: By Jove!
MICHELEMMA: Well? Are you pleased?
LUIGI: Yes, certainly, for my body... which finds the position very agreeable... but I admit that I am deucedly worried about my soul.
MICHELEMMA: Oh! Poor man!... My God! Here is the Marquis again.
LUIGI: What Marquis?
MICHELEMMA: The Marquis of Ruffo. He is looking for me.
LUIGI: What, he is looking for you, you say?
MICHELEMMA: Oh! Relax, jealous one... it is not because of me that he seeks me.
LUIGI: He does well...
LUIGI: Because if he allowed himself to cast eyes on you...
LUIGI: He would have a quarrel with a man who has long sought the opportunity...
MICHELEMMA: Very well! My friend, it is coming...
MICHELEMMA: And you will also give your new mistress proof of your devotion... for which she will be very grateful.
LUIGI: Explain yourself.
MICHELEMMA: The young lord pursues the Lady Théodora at all hours, and everywhere.
LUIGI: And what does he want of her?
MICHELEMMA: Her love.
LUIGI: Is he rich?
LUIGI: Then let him buy her.
MICHELEMMA: Yes, but it's not just that... Quiet, here he is...
[The Marquis of Ruffo enters with the air of seeking someone.]
LUIGI: Ah! I find he is very handsome, this young Lord.
LUIGI: He has a very noble air, and your mistress is very wrong to disdain him.
MICHELEMMA: But that is not our affair, and from the moment she orders us... because I tell you, now that you are in her service... from the moment she orders us to rid her of an importunate...
LUIGI: Your mistress has no right to prevent a gentleman from such a noble family as that from which the Marquis of Ruffo comes...
MICHELEMMA: Do you want me to tell you something, Luigi?
LUIGI: Go on.
MICHELEMMA: And may I speak freely?
MICHELEMMA: You are a coward...
MICHELEMMA: Yes, you... and if someone should offer me his arm and rid me of this young man, I will give him that which I should have given you.
LUIGI: And what would you have given me?
MICHELEMMA: A kiss... so if someone gives me his arm, you will see whether I keep my word.
THE BRAVO (going to her and offering her his arm): Here is what you ask, my child.
MICHELEMMA: What! would your Lordship consent...
THE BRAVO: Certainly.
MICHELEMMA: Thank you.
LUIGI (moving away): Again this devil of a man.
RUFFO (noticing Michelemma): Ah! I see you at last.
MICHELEMMA: He is coming towards us.
THE BRAVO: We shall leave him half the roadway.
RUFFO: Ah! I finally see you, my charming...
MICHELEMMA: My God! Sir Marquis... Must you torment me always?
RUFFO: Always, until you undertake to deliver this letter to the Lady.
MICHELEMMA: But, Sir Marquis, I cannot, you know very well...
MICHELEMMA: I have already told you that my mistress had forbidden me to do it.
RUFFO: And why has she forbidden you?
MICHELEMMA: Because she does not love you.
RUFFO: And why does she not love me?
THE BRAVO: Because you are a coxcomb.
RUFFO (stepping back a pace): Sir...
THE BRAVO (advancing a pace): Marquis...
MICHELEMMA (dropping the Bravo's arm): Oh My God!
RUFFO (half drawing his sword): You have spoken words which make a sword leave its scabbard.
THE BRAVO: And I shall speak others which will make it return. Marquis of Ruffo, your uncle the Senator, who was so rich, and of whom you were the sole heir, has suddenly died, and was immediately buried...
RUFFO: What are you saying?
THE BRAVO: I say that the gravediggers looked under his left breast...
RUFFO: Silence!... in the name of heaven...
[He resheathes his sword.]
THE BRAVO: I told you so...
RUFFO: But who are you to know such secrets, my master?
THE BRAVO: A rich merchant from the Persian Gulf, who has come to Venice by Baghdad and Jerusalem, and who during his nights of travel amused himself by reading the stars... (Turning) Michelemma!
MICHELEMMA: My Lord...
THE BRAVO: Be at ease. You have nothing more to fear from this young man.
MICHELEMMA: Here is my mistress, permit me...
THE BRAVO: Ah! the beautiful Théodora... The Aspasia of our time, who mistakes the century of Julius II for that of Pericles; Venice for Athens; and Bellamonte for Alcibiades.
The Preceding, THÉODORA, BELLAMONTE, Young Lords.
THÉODORA (with a carefree and joking air): But your love is truly a chivalrous one... Sir Count...
BELLAMONTE: You laugh at me, Madame. It is very cruel... to laugh at a love that drives me insane.
THÉODORA (leaning on her arm): In that case, my dear Count, we will ask Ariosto, who is our friend, to saddle his winged horse and give you a passport to the moon. But I warn you, Count, that I can be difficult in tests of madness.
BELLAMONTE: Why so?
THÉODORA: Because I have been spoiled... You see this ring.
BELLAMONTE: It is a simple wedding ring.
THÉODORA: Yes, but it is the ring of the wedding between the Doge and the Sea... Three years ago, I was in the gondola nearest the Bucentaur, when the Doge threw this ring into the Adriatic... I had happened to say that if anyone brought me that ring I would grant them anything they wanted. Just then I heard a shout. A young Frenchman whose boat collided with mine had just fallen in the sea... Twice I saw him reappear and sink, then the third time he returned to the surface of the water, swimming with one hand and showing me with the other the ring I had asked for.
BELLAMONTE: And this ring.
THÉODORA: I kept my word... I no longer remember what he wanted when he brought it to me that evening... but whatever he asked, I know that he got it.
BELLAMONTE: Well! Madame, put my love to some test of the same sort.
THÉODORA (indicating the Bravo): Here is a Dalmatian nobleman who carries around his neck a very beautiful chain from Mexico...
BELLAMONTE (approaching the Bravo): Greetings to Your Excellency!
THE BRAVO: Greetings!
BELLAMONTE (Touching the chain): Your Excellency has there a precious jewel...
THE BRAVO: Yes, it is a golden chain I bought in Seville... It came from Christopher Columbus, who gave it to his jailer to get whiter bread and purer water.
BELLAMONTE: Christopher Columbus doesn't interest me... but I must have this chain. Can it be bought with gold or with steel... with money or with the sword?
THE BRAVO: With neither one nor the other, My Lord. This chain was ordered by the Count of Bellamonte.
BELLAMONTE: What do you say?
THE BRAVO: I say that he had me get it to give to a girl who lives behind the Bridge of the Paglia, opposite the house of the gondolier Luigi, whom he hopes to seduce with the gift.
THÉODORA (whispering): Violetta... this is he, this unknown man of whom Mafféo spoke.
BELLAMONTE: What demon are you?
THE BRAVO: I am an alchemist from Ferrara who seeks the philosopher's stone, and who, while waiting for it to be found, amuses himself by telling fortunes for young knights and pretty girls.
THÉODORA (going to Bellamonte, and taking his arm): Count Bellamonte, I believe that in the place of the young Frenchman, instead of diving thirty feet down to seek this ring... you should have waited for the death of the Doge, in order to wed the sea in a second marriage... that have been more prudent... Let us go to the church, and as we are people of reason, we will pray for the insane.
BELLAMONTE: Let us go, Madame... but I hope that you do not believe a word of what this miserable magician has said?
THÉODORA: Oh! We will speak of that at the ball I am giving for you tonight... I don't acquit you of the accusation. But let us leave behind profane things; gentlemen, we are entering Saint Mark's.
[They enter Saint Mark's]
LUIGI (to Michelemma): Listen.
MICHELEMMA: What is that noise?
THE CROWD (crowding behind the theatre): Justice! Justice!
MICHELEMMA: It is some riot among the people. I am going home.
LUIGI: And I shall remain. I will find out what is going on.
The Same, VIOLETTA, Men of the People
SHOUTS: To the Ducal Palace! To the Ducal Palace!
THE BRAVO: What is that?
LUIGI: Ah! It is the young girl and the people who come to demand justice for the murder of the old man.
THE BRAVO: It is something new to hear cries for justice for a murder in the streets of Venice...
VIOLETTA: Oh! Leave me, my friends... my good friends...
SHOUTS: Justice, justice!
VIOLETTA: Yes, yes, justice! I demand it as you do... but you scare me; your shouts frighten me... My God! My God!
A MAN OF THE PEOPLE: No, no... Justice must be done for the people, when the people demand justice. We will carry you in our arms, we will carry you before the tribunal, up to the feet of the Doge, and we will make him do justice.
VIOLETTA: You will make me die, that is all. Have pity, have pity!
[She falls to her knees.]
THE BRAVO (extending his hand to Violetta): Let this young girl alone... The caresses of the people are like those of the lion: they suffocate... (He takes Violetta by the hand.) Come, child, and breathe easy.
VIOLETTA: Thank you, thank you! You are my guardian angel!
[She lowers her veil over her face.]
THE BRAVO (to the people): Well! What do you want now?... Speak...
A MAN OF THE PEOPLE: They have killed old Mafféo... A man of the people who had done nothing against the Republic... They killed him in the name of the Republic... It is some private vengeance, some infamous scheme hidden under this name. They killed him as a traitor, and we demand justice.
THE BRAVO: And you, what do you want, my child.
VIOLETTA (clasping her hands): I, I want nothing... nothing... except to cry for my father, because he was my father, because I have no family!... I was at home... everyone came... this whole crowd forced its way in carrying a bloody corpse. It was that of Mafféo!... Then, without pity for my cries, for my tears, they took me, surrounded me, led me... without my knowing where I went... talking of blood and death, and demanding justice.
THE BRAVO (to the crowd): Justice against whom?
A MAN OF THE PEOPLE: Against the Bravo.
THE BRAVO: You are very daring... and in the name of whom do you demand justice... when the nobility, the Senate, dare not demand it?
THE MAN: We demand it in the name of the people!
THE BRAVO: And if they refuse!
THE MAN: We shall make them.
THE BRAVO: The time is not yet come, and the wind carries away your words... (To Violetta.) And you, young lady, do you also want justice?... Do you also want the death of the Bravo?
VIOLETTA: I want a convent where I can serve God... a cell where I can cry.
THE BRAVO (aside): Cry! cry! poor child! why have I met you on my way... Oh! in saving you from Bellamonte, I will perhaps recompense you for the injury I have done you. (Aloud.) Yes... for you... a convent is needed, a cell... because you are an angel, you are too beautiful and too pure for the world of men...
THE MAN: But someone must receive the orphan, and if no one presents himself... the Doge must act as father and Venice as mother.
THE BRAVO: The Doge is a hard and rigid father to his children... Venice is a debauched and abandoned mother. Neither one nor the other are worthy to have such a girl... My child...
VIOLETTA (raising her head): My Lord.
THE BRAVO: You have no relative in the world?
THE BRAVO: You know nobody in this city?
THE BRAVO: Nobody... except for a woman who is still young and very beautiful, who used to come and see me from time to time... and who seemed to like me a lot... But I do not even know her name... Only Mafféo knew that secret, and he has taken it with him.
THE BRAVO: You want only a convent and a cell?
VIOLETTA: That is all I want.
THE BRAVO: And you cannot pay your entrance fee?
VIOLETTA: I have nothing.
THE BRAVO: You have heard her, my masters... This child wants nothing in the world but a convent... but she has nothing with which to pay the entrance fee... I will pay it... This child is an orphan... alone... without support... she has no father... I will act as one. You wanted a rich man to adopt her. I am rich and I adopt her. Have you anything else to say?
THE MAN: No, if she accepts...
THE BRAVO: Do you accept, my daughter?
VIOLETTA: Yes, because heaven, no doubt, has sent you to the poor orphan to protect her and defend her.
THE MAN: Then God protect you both!
THE BRAVO (carrying Violetta in his arms) (aside): Bellamonte, you will go too far. (Aloud.) Make way for the father and his daughter!
THE PEOPLE: Long live the stranger!... death to the Bravo! Long live the foreigner!... the rich Lord! Death to the Bravo! Death!
[At this moment Salfiéri appears dressed in black, his face covered with his black mask, at the head of the Giants' Staircase. The people turn silent when they see him, falling back as he descends the steps, fleeing before him and letting him take his place quietly at the base of the Lion Column.]
End of the First Stage Setting.
Second Stage Setting
The oratory of Théodora
MICHELEMMA, then LUIGI
[A knock at the door; Michelemma opens it.]
MICHELEMMA: Is that you, Luigi?
LUIGI: In person.
MICHELEMMA: And what chance brings you here?
LUIGI: Am I not the Lady's private gondolier?
MICHELEMMA: Of course!... but... the place of a gondolier...
LUIGI: Is in his gondola... very logical logic... but I said to myself: if I take advantage of a moment when the Lady Théodora is away to come and see this oratory, about which there is so much talk in Venice that the chapel of Saint Ambrose is jealous of it, it would be better than staying on the Piazzetta, where at this hour one would be worn out with work. By Jove! it merits its reputation. When I think of the number of souls who have lost their way passing by her, and who, instead of honestly following the road to paradise, have come through this door which seems to resemble a vestibule of hell.
MICHELEMMA: Silence! Her Ladyship.
The preceding, THÉODORA, followed by BELLAMONTE
THÉODORA: Who is this man?
MICHELEMMA: The gondolier whom your Ladyship has hired for her household.
THÉODORA (to Michelemma and Luigi): Leave us.
THÉODORA: Count, you are certainly the most obstinate man in Venice. I am happy to give you that much justice.
BELLAMONTE: Say the most loving, Madame. That is an avowal that I am happy to make to you.
THÉODORA: It is sad, then, that this obstinate love or this loving obstinacy, as you want to call your everlasting pursuit, has thrown itself at a will as resolute as mine... I believe, God pardon me, that if you had thought of becoming a great man, you would be half there with half as much persistence.
BELLAMONTE: That, Madame, is the business of my elders, who have charged themselves with making a name for me.
THÉODORA: Which you have charged yourself with destroying. You are from a successful family, Count.
BELLAMONTE: But, Madame, I would have thought that a noble name was of some importance to you?
THÉODORA: When one bears it, yes. When it bears you, no.
BELLAMONTE: The name of the Bellamontes is inscribed on the marble tablet and in the book of gold, and will remain there so long as Venice is counted among the cities of the world and bears its crown as Queen of the Adriatic.
THÉODORA: If Venice is the Queen of the Adriatic, then I am the Queen of Venice, like her I have my tablets of marble and my books of gold, and like her I have had them inscribed by famous names... but these will still live when she is no more... Cast an eye on these frescoes, and read: here is the name of Michelangelo under a Holy Family; that of Raphael written on a stone of the Virgin Mary of the Ruins; this Saint Cecilia for which I posed, and which is signed Jules Romain; this Christ at his tomb, of which I have the original and God has only a copy, is by Titian; these are my tablets of marble. (She opens a book.) Now, look here, this sonnet is by Guichardin, that poem by Ariosto, this maxim by Machiavelli, this popular song by Trissino. Here is my book of gold, because everything in it was inscribed for me by those who wrote them. I told you I was a Queen; this crown is worth as much as that of the Doge, I hope. And see, Count Bellamonte, there are still empty panels, there are blank pages; take a pen, take a brush, add another jewel.
BELLAMONTE: There are men who were born to create books and paintings, and others who were born to buy them. Is there a painting in the palace of the Doge that would please you? I will cover it with gold coins. Do you want the original manuscript of Orlando Furioso or The Prince, I will find Ariosto or Machiavelli, and will trade them for the clasp on my hat, which will make them so rich that they will never again have to engage in the miserable trade of poet to live... But a paintbrush in pale or crossed quills would stain the escutcheon of a Bellamonte.
THÉODORA: Very well! Then, Sir Count, take the sword of Trivulce, or of Doria, place in your belt the dagger of Fiesque or of Rienzi, fight for the Republic or against the Republic, become a general or a conspirator, instead of Count Bellamonte, call yourself Bellamonte the Victorious or Bellamonte the Outlaw, come to me with a fame that suits you... and then tell me: Théodora, I want you! (Laughing.) You will have me...
BELLAMONTE: And until then?
THÉODORA: Until then, you must content yourself with buying gold chains for girls who live behind the Bridge of Paglia, opposite the house of the gondolier Luigi.
BELLAMONTE: Very well, Madame. I will follow your advice, and bring her to you at once.
THÉODORA: Oh! I will be there before you, Count Bellamonte, and I swear to you that I will find her a retreat so deep that you will not find her... Michelemma! Luigi!... Michelemma!
THÉODORA, MICHELEMMA, LUIGI.
MICHELEMMA: My Lady!...
THÉODORA: Quickly! Quickly! Luigi and his gondola!
LUIGI: My Lady!
THÉODORA: Luigi, you will take me to the house of old Mafféo, opposite your own, behind the Bridge of Paglia.
LUIGI: Is Your Ladyship going to his funeral?
THÉODORA: What did you say?
LUIGI: Mafféo was assassinated yesterday.
THÉODORA: Mafféo!... the old man... and the child... the girl who lived with him?
LUIGI: The Lady.
THÉODORA: Violetta, where is she? What has become of her?
LUIGI: A foreigner took her away this morning.
THÉODORA: Oh My God! Explain yourself. Is everything you say insane?... I don't understand at all!
LUIGI: Mafféo is dead... The girl, brought this morning to the public square by the people demanding justice for the orphan, was adopted by a foreigner whom nobody in Venice knows, and who knows everybody.
THÉODORA: And this foreigner...
LUIGI: Took her away.
THÉODORA: Ah! This racks my brain and breaks my heart! While I was in church, and praying to God... At that very time... At the very time that Mafféo was being killed and Violetta carried off!... And it all happened there, on this square, two steps from me!... To whom can I go in Venice in order to see this child again? my gold, my diamonds, this palace, to him who tells me where Violetta is, where my daughter is!
MICHELEMMA and LUIGI: Your daughter!
THÉODORA: Yes, my daughter... she is my daughter!... I want my daughter!... Let my daughter be returned to me!
LUIGI: There is only one man who can do so, Madame.
THÉODORA: Who! Take me to him; I will beg at his knees!
LUIGI, (pointing to the Bravo). He who stands there, at the foot of that column!
THÉODORA: The Bravo!
LUIGI: The Bravo.
THÉODORA: Run, Luigi, tell him it is a mother... bring him here, he will come, he must come. Tell him I am rich, go find him, bring him to me! There, there, Michelemma, my mantle, my veil, my mask! Poor child! poor Violetta!... Good! There is Luigi. He has reached him... he is talking to him... (Making a signal at the window.) Come! come!... Come here! But see! he refuses... (Extending her arms towards him.) I beg you! oh! I will run to him myself!
MICHELEMMA: Madame, Madame!... you... speak to that man, in the public square, in broad daylight, in the sight of Venice... impossible... impossible!.. give me a note, a few lines for him, and I will go and find him.
THÉODORA (writing): "My life, my fortune, are yours, if you come." Take this letter... Take it!...
[Michelemma leaves, running.]
THÉODORA (falling on her knees before an image of Christ): My God! My Lord! My God! Oh! oh! how miserable I am. (Rising and running to the window). Go, Michelemma... Go!... She is speaking to him... she gives him the letter... he asks her if it is I who wrote it. (Opening the Venetian blind.) Yes... yes, it is I... I, I. Here he is... he comes... Ah! My God! my God!... He is here!
SALFIÉRI (rushing into the room): Is this letter from you, Madame?
THÉODORA: From me.
SALFIÉRI: You wrote it?
SALFIÉRI (aside): The writing on the torn up letter, left behind in Genoa! (Aloud.) Speak, what do you want from me?
THÉODORA: My daughter!
SALFIÉRI: You have a daughter? ah!...
THÉODORA: I had one...
THÉODORA: Oh! a treasure!... unequalled under heaven! whom I hid from everyone. Two weeks ago I had her brought to Venice.
SALFIÉRI: From Genoa?
THÉODORA: Yes, with...
SALFIÉRI: Mafféo... And she was called?
THÉODORA: And now! Mafféo is assassinated and Violetta lost!
SALFIÉRI: Lost! lost! Violetta lost! I will bring her back to you, woman!
THÉODORA: Understand, if you bring her back to me, anything you want, my fortune, my blood, my life. A crime. You can demand everything.
SALFIÉRI: You swear it!
THÉODORA: Yes, I swear it! I came to you, because you must know everything. A man took her away this morning... there, in this square, before the eyes of Venice! You must find me this man. He is unknown, they say, but nothing is unknown to you. He is a foreigner, but no one enters or leaves Venice without your knowing where he goes or from whence he came.
SALFIÉRI: Calm yourself, everything that can be done I shall do. But, will you really grant me all that I ask?
THÉODORA: Yes, everything, everything, everything... I take an oath on it, and this oath, it is a mother who takes it; a mother, that is to say the most sacred thing in the world after God!... And it is made not by the Madonna, not by a Saint, not by the Christ, but by the life of her daughter!...
SALFIÉRI: Very well.
THÉODORA: Lose not an instant! Search Venice like a miser whose treasure has been stolen!... like a lover whose mistress has been raped!... Palace and hovels, ships and gondolas, wharfs and streets, visit everywhere. Go in the name of heaven, go, go, go? and do not return without her!...
SALFIÉRI: You will see us together, or you will never see either of us.
THÉODORA (falling to her knees): My God, My Lord! you who saw your son die! return me my daughter!
End of the Second Act.
First Stage Setting
Same set as the first act.
THE BRAVO, VIOLETTA
THE BRAVO (gazing on the sleeping Violetta): How sweet and holy is a sleeping child, and how wonderful is this angel's face from which the hand of men has not yet erased the finger of God!... Poor child! lost and abandoned! Oh! I must shelter you, I who have made you an orphan!... God conducts the affairs of the world in ways that men cannot see... God is great and merciful, because I neither expected nor deserved this happiness...
VIOLETTA (waking): Ah! My God!...
THE BRAVO: My child!
VIOLETTA: Where am I? Where have they taken me?
THE BRAVO: Have no fear!...
VIOLETTA (calling out): Mafféo! Mafféo!
THE BRAVO: Do not call out to the old man in that piteous tone, because I fear he may come back from his tomb in answer to it...
VIOLETTA: It is true, it is true... Dead, dead, dead!
THE BRAVO (aside): How many voices will cry out around me, on the day of the last judgment: Dead, dead, dead!...
VIOLETTA: Forgive me... Oh! I recognize everything I owe you: you have gathered me up, crying and broken at your feet where I had fallen for lack of help! The hour at which the doors of the Convent of Saint Mary usually open was past, you said to me: Child, do you wish, only until tomorrow, to accept the shelter that your second father offers you? and, until tomorrow, I agreed to remain under your protection, because you are good, I am sure, but when I awakened alone like this, with an unknown man, I, a young girl... I trembled.
THE BRAVO: For your life?
VIOLETTA: Oh! no...
THE BRAVO: Come, child, and look at me... I am barely thirty-five years old, it is true, but have you ever seen, on men of my age, many foreheads as furrowed as mine, many faces as pale... I am like the trees on the Lido, you see, around which have roared so many tempests, that their trunks are dried out, and they bear neither flowers nor fruits. (Striking his forehead.) There is no longer anything here but one dark, incessant, eternal thought!... (Striking his breast.) There is no longer anything there, but a bottomless abyss, where men have planted crime and God remorse!
VIOLETTA: Crime and remorse!
THE BRAVO: Yes... these are two words of a foreign language that you do not know.
VIOLETTA: You know them, you... my God!
THE BRAVO: You will make me forget them. Yes, in return for what I have been able to do for you, I will ask only one favor.
THE BRAVO (in a tone of prayer): You will allow me to visit the convent that you choose... there to see you happy, and calm and content... That is the only piece of happiness I can still hope for in this world, and I will owe it to you, child... Will you give it to me?
VIOLETTA: The poor orphan whom you have sheltered, adopted, can she refuse you.
THE BRAVO: I thank you.
VIOLETTA: But... why have you just spoken to me... of crimes, of remorse?... You, so good, so generous... oh! can there have been in your past days whose memory weighs on you.
THE BRAVO: At the moment of birth, fate writes the history of men in a golden book; each day time turns a page, and man does what is written.
VIOLETTA: Oh! What are you saying?
THE BRAVO: And even if he were virtuous and good, as you believe me, he must obey his destiny, even if it demands a murder!
VIOLETTA: Oh! but you are blaspheming... because God has said "Thou shalt not kill."
THE BRAVO: God! Keep your belief, child.... For myself, I often doubt it.
THE BRAVO: After a story has been told me which has frozen my faith... oh! it is a strange story... Violetta!... I have yet a few minutes to remain with you... let me tell it to you... After having heard it, you may understand how doubt comes to men: Will you hear me.
VIOLETTA: Oh! yes, speak.
THE BRAVO: Very well, sit you down.
There was in Venice... I no longer know just when... a young man of twenty-six, rich, brave, and who had lived happily without the stain of any crime. Perhaps that is why God wanted to punish him.
This young man had a father whom he loved with holy and filial affection.
One day, under pretext of a conspiracy, of which they had not even any knowledge, the young man and his father, who lived outside Venice, were arrested. They were brought before the Council of Ten, and there... wrongly, without proof, without witnesses, by a law which neither from God nor from men, but which it has assumed for itself... there... the tribunal condemned the old man, and acquitted the young man. They took the old man back to prison, and put the young man at liberty... Listen, my child!
VIOLETTA: But what did the young man do?
THE BRAVO: The young man threw himself at their feet, offered his life in exchange for the life of his father. The tribunal... oh! it was a mockery deserving to be struck by lightening from heaven... the tribunal replied that it was a tribunal of justice... yes, in its justice, it had condemned the father and acquitted the son... So that the son should live, the father die.
VIOLETTA: Oh! that is terrible!
THE BRAVO: But wait... wait, girl. Because I have told you nothing... Returning home, the son encountered the President of the tribunal.
THE BRAVO: He also was an old man.
VIOLETTA: And he brought the son a pardon for the father.
THE BRAVO (laughing): That's right... Listen. The Republic of Venice had need of a faithful and devoted man... whose arm was blind and his dagger fatal... of a man who, at any hour of the night, on an order from the tribunal, would without hesitation execute the sentence it had given... it had need, in short, of an auxiliary to the executioner, who only kills during the daytime... and the young man was offered the life of his father, on condition that he would become the murderer of which the tribunal had need... It is true that they let him put a mask on his face, so as to remain unknown.
VIOLETTA: He refused?
THE BRAVO: With horror! That evening, the young man received permission to see his father the next day...
VIOLETTA: Oh! The tribunal had softened.
THE BRAVO: Yes... The next day he hastened to find the old man, whom he had not expected ever to embrace again... There was a terrible scene with a father giving blessings and a son who blasphemed... Meanwhile, a herald stopped beneath the windows of the prison... he read aloud the old man's sentence... and neither the father nor the son missed a word... The blessings and the blasphemies ceased: the old man collapsed on the floor, and the son was told it was time to leave... Returning home, he again found the President of the tribunal, who again proposed the pact of blood!
VIOLETTA: And he again refused?
THE BRAVO: Yes, again. The next day, the young man received another permit to see his father, and he hastened to the prison. They had given the condemned man a new cell, which looked out on the Piazzetta!... The son and the father threw themselves crying into each others' arms...
Soon there was a great noise in the square, and the two unfortunates glanced out the window... There was in the midst of the square a headsman's block, and near this block a man clothed in red, holding a long sword in his had, and around the block and this man, was a large crowd... waiting...
They were going to execute the old man!...
THE BRAVO: That white and venerable head which the son clasped to his breast, it was to fall... before his eyes... there, there, there.
VIOLETTA: Oh, the son accepted the pact proposed by the tribunal?
THE BRAVO: Thank you, young lady... thank you... The son placed a mask on his face... a dagger in his belt... and went to tell the Council of Ten: Here I am!
VIOLETTA: And then?
THE BRAVO: Then... the son was sold body and soul... but the father lived... He became the terror and the curse of Venice... but the father lived... Every day he received orders for new murders... but the father lived... He could no longer sleep at night... or rest during the day... he no longer believed in anything that had been sacred to him before... neither in providence or in God... but every night... he had permission to see the old man... (Seven o'clock is struck.) Listen.
VIOLETTA: Seven o'clock.
THE BRAVO: Farewell, my child. I must leave...
VIOLETTA: Then you leave me all alone?
THE BRAVO: You have nothing to fear... no one will come... But do not open the door except to one who knocks three times; it will be me.
VIOLETTA (alone): Oh! yes... he is right... it is a terrible story, which would make anyone doubt, were it not that God has mysterious ways and hidden purposes! What would have become of me, when I was thus alone, had I not known how to kneel before some holy image? (Glancing around.) But I seek in vain... no Madonna... no crucifix in this room... O my God!... It matters little to you, does it not?... from wherever it comes, and before whatever altar, the prayers of the weak always reach you!...
My God!... you have taken my father and mother before I knew them... a man had replaced them... and you have recalled him to you... There is then under heaven but one being for whom I can pray: watch over the life of Salfiéri!... (Three knocks at the door.) Is it my protector? returned already! Oh! it's not possible... but he said that he would knock like that... Let us open it...
VIOLETTA: Ah! It is not he!
SALFIÉRI: A young girl here... Violetta.
VIOLETTA: My God! my God! how do you know my name?
SALFIÉRI: Violetta, there! near to me... Violetta lost and rediscovered... ah! despite my oath... Violetta, before you alone will I remove my mask.
SALFIÉRI: Yes, Salfiéri who sought you in order to return you to your mother.
VIOLETTA: My mother... I have no mother!
SALFIÉRI: Yes, yes, Violetta... oh! but this is a dream! delirium... oh! speak to me... look at me... Violetta... your voice, your eyes... you have not forgotten me?
VIOLETTA: I prayed for you, and God has heard me... oh! how happy am I now!... But why this mask?
SALFIÉRI: This mask!... am I not outlawed in Venice, and lost if I am discovered!...
SALFIÉRI: What matters the danger I run!... Violetta, I have seen you again!... And your mother, your mother found again!... Do you understand? your mother... your mother, to whom I shall return you, and who has sworn, on her life, to grant me what I shall ask of her...
VIOLETTA: And what will you ask?
SALFIÉRI: My happiness and yours... your life and mine!...
VIOLETTA: You read the message on the mirror?
SALFIÉRI: Yes... the word Venice.
VIOLETTA: And you left to follow me?
SALFIÉRI: On the first ship to set sail.
VIOLETTA: Outlawed as you were?
SALFIÉRI: I would have faced a thousand deaths to reach you... but let us go... let us go!...
VIOLETTA: Leave... oh! Can I, without thanking my benefactor, without telling him that I have rediscovered my mother... Does she love me, my mother?
SALFIÉRI: Oh! yes, yes... but you speak of a benefactor?
VIOLETTA: He who lives in this house... It is he who sheltered me...
SALFIÉRI: What!... that man?... The Bra...
[Three knocks at the door.]
VIOLETTA (running to the door): Here he is!
SALFIÉRI: Silence, Violetta... Go back into your room... oh! leave me alone with him... go back in...
VIOLETTA: Oh! my God! you are leaving... Shall I lose you again!...
SALFIÉRI: Have no fear... have no fear... I shall look after you now.
[Another knocking at the door. Violetta goes inside her room. Salfiéri goes to the door and opens it.]
SALFIÉRI, THE BRAVO.
THE BRAVO (backing away): Curses! A man here!...
SALFIÉRI: What is so astonishing about that, when I am that man?
THE BRAVO: That is true... I had forgotten that you knew how to have this door opened, but where is the girl?
SALFIÉRI: She is there...
THE BRAVO (his hand on his dagger): Did you tell her who I am?
SALFIÉRI: If she knew, would she still be here?
THE BRAVO: Very well... now, what do you want?
SALFIÉRI: Now... I want the girl who is here.
THE BRAVO: What are you saying, wretch?
SALFIÉRI: Listen... If I had wanted to take her away during your absence, I could have done it... but that would ill repay your trust and hospitality... I awaited your return...
THE BRAVO: Hoping that I would grant this insane demand?
THE BRAVO: You are wrong... This girl is mine, and I will give her to no one.
SALFIÉRI: Not even to her mother...
THE BRAVO: What do you say? to her mother!... she has none...
SALFIÉRI: She has one, I have left her... and I come, in her name, to ask for her... I did not know that she was here... I came to tell you: Help me... you who know everything that happens in Venice, help me to return a daughter to her mother... I found the child here... She told me of the death of Mafféo... she told me how you had adopted her... and now I have discovered that she is the girl for whom I was searching...
THE BRAVO: And you ask me in the name of her mother!...
SALFIÉRI: In the name of her weeping mother, who threw herself at my feet crying: Thank God!...
THE BRAVO: A mother is indeed sacred...
SALFIÉRI: Yes, yes... she is sacred... a mother has rights to her child from which no one can deprive her, because her child has been given to her by God... And above all, she seems to love her daughter so much!...
THE BRAVO: And who is she... where does she live?...
SALFIÉRI: In the palace at the corner of the Piazzetta, opposite the Lion's Column.
THE BRAVO: But that is the palace of Théodora!
SALFIÉRI: Yes, that is it... that is it... that is the name at the foot of the letter she wrote to me... Her mother is named Théodora...
THE BRAVO: And she wants her daughter returned to her?
SALFIÉRI: She begs it on her knees...
THE BRAVO: Ah! that no longer surprises me: Théodora demands her daughter back... the courtesan wants a pupil... she must leave to Venice an heir to take her place... in her fame and in her infamy...
SALFIÉRI: What are you saying?
THE BRAVO: And you have undertaken to take back so pure a child to such an abandoned mother?
SALFIÉRI: But I know nothing of this.
THE BRAVO: You do not know that there are only two reputations in Venice, one of which can balance the other, and that one is that of the courtesan and the other that of the Bravo?...
SALFIÉRI: My God!
THE BRAVO: Ah! Théodora!.. a lost soul... a damned soul!... ah! you want your daughter in order to drag her with you into the abyss!... you want this angel in order to tear away her halo, to plunge her into your hell!... and when God, in a moment of pity for such a beautiful and sweet creature... takes her from your hands... instead of blessing this God... even once... you ask that she be brought back to you!... Has she not asked that which you told me?...
THE BRAVO: Very well! That is good... I myself will bring her back.
SALFIÉRI: It was not to you, but to me that she said...
THE BRAVO: She told you to find her daughter... go tell her that she is found... go tell her that she will be brought back before tomorrow morning... and that, if this child wishes to remain with her, no one will oppose it...
SALFIÉRI: But if, against all the odds, this child does not wish to remain with her mother... what will become of her...
THE BRAVO: There are three hundred convents in Venice... She will choose the one she wants, and I will pay for her a regal entrance fee...
SALFIÉRI: Eh! what if I do not accept all these plans... if I want to see her myself immediately... because this girl is Violetta... Violetta whom I love and for whom I sought.
THE BRAVO: To make her your mistress, is that not true? would the noble Salfiéri want to give his name to the daughter of a courtesan?
SALFIÉRI: After her mother, I alone have rights to this child, and should I wish to use them?...
THE BRAVO: Then I will tell you what you told me yesterday, at a similar time: We are two... two young men... both strong... both brave, I believe... and each of us has a dagger in his belt... Listen: I trust you... trust me... I have extended my hand to you... extend me yours.
SALFIÉRI: First of all, may I myself, when I wish, consult this child as to what she wants...
THE BRAVO: Certainly.
SALFIRI: And the will of this child will be respected?
THE BRAVO: On all points...
SALFIÉRI: Here is my hand...
THE BRAVO: Now, return to Théodora: does she not give a ball tonight?
SALFIÉRI: Yes... but the loss of her daughter...
THE BRAVO: Very well! Go tell her that she can give her ball... because her daughter has been found...
SALFIÉRI: I trust you... but consider...
THE BRAVO: When you came here yesterday, at this very time... you told me that I could kill you with a word... Very well! One word about me could also be fatal... If I betray you... take this mask and dagger to the Council of Ten... accuse me of having once deserted them... and that will be that...
SALFIÉRI: Very well...
THE BRAVO: Farewell!
THE BRAVO, VIOLETTA.
THE BRAVO (opening Violetta's door): Come, my child...
VIOLETTA (coming out): Where is he?
THE BRAVO: The young man?...
VIOLETTA: He who came to seek me in the name of my mother...
THE BRAVO: He has left.
VIOLETTA: And everything has been arranged with him.
THE BRAVO: Everything.
VIOLETTA: And he will return me to my mother?
THE BRAVO: I shall take you to her.
VIOLETTA: Oh! You are right: it from you that she should receive me.
THE BRAVO: Put on your veil and your mantle, my child.
[He hands her her mantle.]
VIOLETTA (placing it on her shoulders): Then we are going...
THE BRAVO: To find a ball dress for you...
VIOLETTA: For a ball!
THE BRAVO (slowly): Yes... we are going tonight to a masked ball.
End of the First Stage Setting.
Second Stage Setting
The palace of Théodora.Packed rooms, resplendent with light. Fantastic architecture, combining three principles: Greek, Gothic, Moorish. Masks of all kinds.
THE MARQUIS OF RUFFO, THE COUNT OF BELLAMONTE, MICHELEMMA, Young Lords, Masks. Two masked women, who seem to be fleeing the attentions of the marquis of Ruffo, leave the crowd.
FIRST LADY: There he is again.
SECOND LADY: For the last time, Sir, I forbid you to follow us like this.
RUFFO (aside): Not at all. (Aloud.) My sweet Venetian Lady, I need to hear your voice again. It matters little that you press a mask to your face, I know you.
FIRST LADY: Oh! my God.
RUFFO: And you also... because one of you wears a ring that I saw yesterday on the finger of the charming wife of the Inspector Ordénego... the other...
FIRST LADY: Oh! for pity! Sir, do not name me here.
RUFFO (lowering his voice): Are you here with the permission of the worthy Senator Zeno, Madame?
SECOND LADY: Oh! speak lower and promise us on your honor to keep our secret... For a week Venice has talked only of Théodora's brilliant ball. Thanks to this disguise, under cover of this mask, we wanted to see this palace of the new Armida, we wanted to be present at her enchantments... you have recognized us, Marquis; with one word you can destroy us; but you will not speak that word.
RUFFO: I shall be silent, whatever it cost me, but you will allow me to be your escort throughout the evening?...
FIRST LADY: Oh! it is useless... we leave in a few minutes, do not cause us to be noticed... leave us.
RUFFO: If you wish... I obey... farewell, Madame... you may count on my discretion.
FIRST LADY: You may count on our gratitude.
[They lose themselves in the crowd.]
RUFFO (watching them move away): Prudish nobles, this is a secret for which I shall make you pay dear! Ah! Michelemma!... Michelemma.
MICHELEMMA: My Lord...
RUFFO: Do you still have orders to avoid me?
MICHELEMMA: Do you still have the courage to speak to me?
RUFFO: Will you tell me from what unholy revels you brought the sorcerer who gave you his arm...
MICHELEMMA: I know him no more than you do.
MICHELEMMA: My Lord...
BELLAMONTE: Does your mistress make a habit of not appearing at the balls she gives?
MICHELEMMA: Do you have the habit of coming to balls to which you have not been invited?
BELLAMONTE: But all the young people in Venice of note and of nobility are invited here as of right.
RUFFO (approaching him): From the replies of the servant one would guess that Count Bellamonte's affairs with his mistress are going badly.
BELLAMONTE: And that is a misfortune for which the Marquis of Ruffo should feel great sympathy.
The Preceding, THE BRAVO, VIOLETTA.
[The Bravo with his face uncovered. Violetta is veiled. They arrive behind Bellamonte and Ruffo, and stop to listen to their conversation.]
RUFFO: I was seeking you so that we could console each other together...
BELLAMONTE: Look after yourself, Marquis. With me it is accomplished...
RUFFO: You are very happy, Count. As for me, I admit that it has cost me to abandon hope of being loved by Théodora.
BELLAMONTE: Very well! we will make an exception: that is always honorable in a time of generalities.
RUFFO: When I think that miserable rascals of poets and painters have succeeded in pleasing this woman...
BELLAMONTE: That is what has disgusted her with people of nobility and family...
VIOLETTA (in a low voice): Oh! my God! of what woman are they speaking thus?...
THE BRAVO: Of the queen of this ball.
VIOLETTA: And you are taking me to this woman?
THE BRAVO: You can be sure that I would not have done so, my child, without a strong reason.
RUFFO: Bellamonte! here is the only man among us without a mask!
BELLAMONTE (looking): Here!
RUFFO: Do you know him?
BELLAMONTE: Rather he knows me... as for me, I would die the death of a villain if I have ever seen his face before this morning... but, after what he told me, I must believe him a sorcerer or a demon.
RUFFO: He has with him a graceful companion...
VIOLETTA (afraid): Those masked men are watching us...
THE BRAVO: Have no fear, they will not speak to us...
VIOLETTA: Even so, let us go into another room, I beg you...
The Preceding, THÉODORA.
[Great commotion in the rear. The masked figures are restless. One can hear the name of Théodora passed around; she appears surrounded by several young men, all masked.]
BELLAMONTE (going to meet her): Ah! Madame, you are like the planet Venus, which rises the last and the most beautiful...
THÉODORA: Ah! it is you, count... without rancor... I am so happy this evening that I want everyone to be happy.
RUFFO: You have said to Bellamonte... without rancor. Will you again tell me to be without hope?
THÉODORA: It is you, Marquis....Hope is one of the theological virtues... Keep it as I keep its sister, charity...
RUFFO: I lack the faith...
THÉODORA (holding out her hand to him): I give it to you...
RUFFO (kissing the hand): Oh! Madame...
BELLAMONTE: Only I, then, remain unhappy!...
THÉODORA: You, Count... oh! dangerous as you are... you would be the last man I should love.
BELLAMONTE: I await my turn.
THÉODORA (looking at the Bravo): Well!... who is this Lord who comes to my house with his face exposed?
BELLAMONTE: You who know all Venice... relieve our anxiety, and tell us who it is.
THÉODORA: I do not know him... Your Lordship does us honor to come to our ball, and we thank you.
THE BRAVO: Without being invited...
THÉODORA: Then we thank you twice over... and he brings us a compatriot...
THE BRAVO: Who comes from the land of Laïs to have Aspasia...
THÉODORA: But it is a rival whom you announce to us.
THE BRAVO: No, it is a pupil... who has need of experience and advice, and who comes to ask for light from the sun...
THÉODORA: I am sorry that we do not have here the two Cypriot dancers, to perform for her the dance of love called the Pyrrhic, which would recalled memories of her country... but we have brought here from Spain, from Seville and Andalusia, two marvelous creatures... who dance the bolero wonderfully, they say... the dance of voluptuousness...
VIOLETTA: What language! my God!... where am I?
THE BRAVO: Silence...
THÉODORA: Stop! my gypsies... we are folk of pleasure and love like you... we have a hot sun like yours... which renders our heads fiery and our hearts scorching... Let's go, your Andalusian dances, which are the envy of the Teutonic waltz, the Polish mazurka, and the Napolitanian tarantella...
[Everyone forms a circle: the Spanish dancers perform the bolero in the midst of shouts and bravos from the young Lords. Violetta hides her head on the Bravo's breast.]
THE BRAVO: Tell this timid child to watch the dance... tell her that if she wishes to follow in your steps... she must get used to these open stares...
THÉODORA: Come on, my beautiful barefoot Athenian, look at this dance...
VIOLETTA: Then give me your mask, Madame; because soon my veil will no longer suffice to hide my blushes.
THE BRAVO: I told you that we came in search of lessons, Madame, and you have begun with examples... let the voice repair the fault of the sight... Aspasia preached the art that she practiced... the gardens and palace of Academus were less rich and resplendent than yours... Go ahead, Aspasia, go ahead, Alcibiades, Pericles is listening and Socrates is, I hope, surpassed.
BELLAMONTE: Théodora, Théodora, do you hear?
RUFFO: It is a challenge, Madame.
THÉODORA: Which I accept, gentlemen.
ALL: Go ahead, go ahead, Aspasia!
THÉODORA: Aspasia can only speak in the language of Sappho. Michelemma, my harp.
THE BRAVO: Have you nothing more to say?
THÉODORA: Nothing. I have finished.
THE BRAVO: Demon of the Abyss! have you spread all your nets... so that this stainless and open soul cannot escape you?
THE BRAVO: Then it is time to end the lesson. God, I hope, will make it bear fruit... Violetta (Tearing off Théodora's mask), there is your mother... Théodora (He removes Violetta's veil), there is your daughter!
THÉODORA: Great God!
THE BRAVO: Yes... that which claims you, my child...
VIOLETTA: Oh! no, no, it is not possible.
THE BRAVO: Tell her then that you are her mother... you can see she does not believe it.
BELLAMONTE: The girl from the Bridge of Paglia; By Jove, she will be less cruel here, I hope.
RUFFO: This is truly marvelous; where have you been hiding this diamond, Théodora?
THÉODORA: My God! my God!
BELLAMONTE: Now, girl... now you have had your lesson.
THÉODORA (with feeling): Gentlemen... let not one of you soil this child in word or look... this child is my daughter, it is true... yes, I am her mother.
THÉODORA: Gentlemen, in the name of your mothers and your sisters, respect this child.
BELLAMONTE: Everyone hears you: respect for Théodora's daughter.
THÉODORA (throwing herself on Violetta): Violetta, my child, my daughter... oh! come here... come here, it is the heart of a mother, come into my arms, that these insolent youths dare not follow you.
BELLAMONTE: Look, enough, enough, Théodora, everyone is sad, the music has gone silent, the lamps themselves seem to dim... Go ahead, tell the musicians to play, the dance to leap... Take the hand of the Marquis of Ruffo, and leave me that of your daughter.
THÉODORA (recovering): Count Bellamonte, I have begged you, pleaded with you, asked for pardon... God in your place would have pardoned me, and you pardon me not. You continue to insult me, to insult a weeping woman... Count Bellamonte, you are a coward. Count Bellamonte, I would give my life, my eternity, everything, but my daughter, to be a man. Because then I should throw my mask in your face, as I do!
THÉODORA: Leave, gentlemen, everybody leave! To some I beg it, to others I demand it... Here there is no longer ball nor party... Leave a mother to weep with her daughter, a daughter with her mother.
BELLAMONTE (laughing): Marquis, a word.
[He whispers to Ruffo and seems to consult with him.]
THE BRAVO: Violetta, there is your mother, there is your protector! Do you remain with her, or do you return with me: speak.
THÉODORA: Oh! you can see that she is dying; leave her to me, leave her to me, if only until tomorrow; and tomorrow, if she wishes to quit me, why, you shall take her, but tomorrow... tomorrow my child will love me.
THE BRAVO: Leave her here, in the midst of these wretches!
THÉODORA: They are still here... Gentlemen, what are you doing here?
BELLAMONTE (laughing): We are organizing the Violetta quadrille.
THÉODORA: Enough, Bellamonte, enough, Gentlemen, I have begged you to leave, and you have not done so... I order you, leave... and Count, you leave first, you are in my house.
BELLAMONTE: We are in your house, Théodora: we are in an elegant hotel, where every traveler is welcomed so long as he pays... We are in your house, Théodora, (Tossing his purse in the air.) and wrong you... Do as I do, gentlemen, we are at home.
RUFFO: Bellamonte is right, we are at home.
THÉODORA: Oh! my God, my God! This is too outrageous! (In a low voice.) Violetta, my daughter, remain near this door, we are going to leave the palace.
THE BRAVO: Where do you want to take this child?
THÉODORA (in a low voice): To Mafféo's house, you will serve us as a guide... but first...
THE BRAVO: What do you want to do?
BELLAMONTE and RUFFO: Go ahead, Théodora. The signal for the dance.
THÉODORA: I shall give it... A moment ago you were demanding the gayest tunes, the orchestra obeys you; the wildest dances, begin them; you wish the lamps brighter, you shall have a royal illumination... Places!
[She goes into one of the rooms, sets it on fire, and returns to the stage casting her torch into another room.-Cries of fright.]BELLAMONTE: What have you done?
THÉODORA: Nothing, I have relit the lamps that were beginning to go out.
CRIES: Fire! fire!
THÉODORA: Now, remain here, gentlemen, you are at home.
End of the Third Act
A bedroom in the house of Mafféo.
[Théodora on her knees in front of a prie-dieu; a simple dress, colored brown. Michelemma enters.]
MICHELEMMA: Madame, Madame.
THÉODORA: Ah! it is you.
MICHELEMMA: Here is the casket you asked for.
THÉODORA: Open it, dear Michelemma, and take what you want of these ornaments; the least precious will be enough to insure you a happy life.
MICHELEMMA: Then you are leaving me, Madame.
THÉODORA: I am leaving everything, Michelemma...
MICHELEMMA: But this rich and joyous life?
THÉODORA: I curse it.
MICHELEMMA: This world which adored you.
THÉODORA: It has lost me.
MICHELEMMA: These jewels, these diamonds, these necklaces, which are the pride of a woman's heart.
THÉODORA: Are the chains which link my soul to hell, I break them.
MICHELEMMA: Your palace on the Piazzetta.
THÉODORA: Was in flames yesterday... in ruins today. I began it, the people have completed it.
MICHELEMMA: The people!
THÉODORA: Yes, the people... a strange lion that growls at its master, and defends it... because no doubt it counts on devouring it someday...
MICHELEMMA: Eh! Then what will remain to you?...
THÉODORA: In this world, penitence, and in the other, hope... my daughter... and God!
MICHELEMMA: But I... I, Madame!...
THÉODORA: Tomorrow, Luigi and you, you are free... You love each other?
THÉODORA: Leave me, Michelemma.
VIOLETTA (entering): My mother!
THÉODORA (rising): You said my mother, did you not?
VIOLETTA: Yes... I said my mother... it is a sacred title that the hand of God engraves on the heart, and which the hands of men cannot erase...
THÉODORA: Thank you.
VIOLETTA: And then these men have slandered you, have they not?
THÉODORA: No, my child... no, those men told the truth... and I can admit it, because it is the woman of today who speaks of the woman of yesterday... because in seeing myself again in my daughter, a pure and sacred mirror, I yesterday threw off the vices of my heart,, as today the ornaments of my body... Yes, for you and through you, I have left everything, my child, pleasure and vanity... Rich and glittering as I was, I made myself poor and humble... For you and through you, I have said farewell to the world, and this farewell, I said it with a flaming torch in my hand... defying the utmost power of the Venetian aristocracy... Finally, I have trampled under foot a past of emptiness and the devil!... and I have stretched out my arms towards a future which belongs to me and God!
VIOLETTA: In this future, you forget me, my mother... Can I then do nothing for your happiness!
THÉODORA: You can forgive me... and then... made rich by your pardon... I will dare to ask that of heaven!
VIOLETTA: Oh my God! you who see this strange spectacle of a mother at the feet of her daughter... My God, gather into your breast the tears of the one and the prayers of the other... and since she says she has need of my pardon and of yours... Pardon her, my God! as I pardon her.
THÉODORA (on her knees again): My daughter!...
VIOLETTA (extending her arms to her): Oh! in your arms... in your arms; my mother.
MICHELEMMA (entering): Madame, yesterday's stranger is here.
THÉODORA: He has come to take you back.
VIOLETTA: Never... never!... My mother, let him come to us thus, and let him dare to separate us.
THÉODORA (taking her daughter in her arms): Tell him that he may enter, Michelemma... that he may enter.
THE BRAVO, THÉODORA, VIOLETTA.
THE BRAVO: Have you told her who you are?
THÉODORA: I have told her.
THE BRAVO: You have hidden nothing of your life from her?
THE BRAVO: And she agrees to remain with you?
THÉODORA: Ask her.
THE BRAVO: My child... your wish is as free as a bird in the air... you can go where you want.
THÉODORA: Where my mother goes... I will go...
THE BRAVO: Here is an order from the Council which authorizes you, even against the will of your mother, to enter any convent which you please to choose... A second time, my child... this order in hand, you are free...
VIOLETTA (handing the order to Théodora): Take it, my mother...
THE BRAVO (with a sigh): Very well...
THÉODORA: I have kept my word... you must now fulfill yours... You have promised to leave me my child, if my child wished to remain with me... Do not abuse this order that you have inveigled from the Council. Leave me my child!...
THE BRAVO: Yes, but now a final question, and consider that with your answer I will need proof... Is Violetta really your daughter?
THÉODORA: He asks this... he has seen my despair and my joy... he has seen us embrace... he asks me if you are my daughter... oh! wretch! Has she asked whether I were her mother?
THE BRAVO: Youth is credulous and full of illusions; ripe old age disenchanted with everything is hard to persuade... The proof that Violetta is your daughter... Let us see it.
THÉODORA: Proof!... Mafféo alone could give it, not proof, but testimony, and Mafféo is dead.
THE BRAVO: I know it.
THÉODORA: Mafféo could say that she was my daughter, because he gathered me up bloody and unconscious.
VIOLETTA: Oh my mother!... what an event...
THÉODORA: Oh! it was a terrible drama that began sixteen years ago with a murder, and which ended yesterday with an assassination.
THE BRAVO (gazing at her): God will that the two were not committed by the same hand...
VIOLETTA: Oh! my mother!... and who is the man who dared...
THÉODORA: Silence! silence!... child, it was your father...
VIOLETTA: My father!...
THÉODORA: He had placed all his hope, all his future, in me... he believed that I had betrayed him!... on your soul, my daughter, it was not true.
THE BRAVO: Violetta was not guilty!...
THÉODORA: How do you know that my name was Violetta?...
THE BRAVO: Continue... what difference does it make how I knew it?...
THÉODORA: There was an ardent and impetuous young man...
THE BRAVO: Giovanni, was it not?...
THÉODORA: How do you know that his name was Giovanni?...
THE BRAVO: Continue, continue.
THÉODORA: It was on a stormy night, during a terrible night... he came in with a tempest in his heart, more terrible than the tempest in the sky... when I saw him pale, bewildered, a dagger in his hand, I was so terrified that I spoke not a word, that I did not try to enlighten him, to convince him. I fell on my knees crying: Mercy, mercy for my child!
VIOLETTA: And then!...
THE BRAVO: Then I believed her guilty, and I stabbed her... that is all...
THE BRAVO: Violetta!...
THÉODORA (with feeling): Giovanni. I was innocent and there is your daughter.
THE BRAVO: My daughter!...
VIOLETTA: Oh! my mother!... my father!... names so dear to utter... my mother!... my father!
BOTH: My child!...
VIOLETTA: We are now reunited, nothing can separate us again, is that not so?
THE BRAVO and THÉODORA. Oh! no, no... nothing.
[Three knocks on the door. The three people on stage start up in fright.]
THE BRAVO: There is only one man who can knock thus.
THÉODORA: It is he!...
[There is knocking again.]
THE BRAVO: It is he.
THÉODORA: Giovanni, this man has something to say to me alone.
THE BRAVO: Nevertheless, I must listen to what he has to say.
THÉODORA: Violetta, go back into the bedroom; and you, Giovanni, hide behind this door curtain.
[She opens the door; Salfiéri appears.]
THÉODORA, SALFIÉRI, THE BRAVO (in hiding).
SALFIÉRI: Théodora, it is I.
THÉODORA: I was expecting you.
SALFIÉRI: Have I faithfully fulfilled on my part all the conditions of our pact?
SALFIÉRI: I have I returned your daughter?
SALFIÉRI: Have I returned her as pure and safe as when she was taken from you?
SALFIÉRI: Was that indeed all you asked, and nothing else?
THÉODORA: That was all...
SALFIÉRI: Do you remember the oath you gave me?
THÉODORA: I swore on my daughter to give you everything you asked if you returned my daughter...
SALFIÉRI: And are you disposed to do so...
THÉODORA: This gold, these jewels are yours, at a word!
SALFIÉRI: I want something more precious than all these riches.
THÉODORA: Oh! you make me shudder; what do you want then?
SALFIÉRI: I want your daughter.
THÉODORA: My Violetta, returned to me yesterday, you want her today, you are mad.
SALFIÉRI: I want your daughter.
THÉODORA: But you know that you can ask me for anything else, that I have offered you all, that I will give you all.
SALFIÉRI: You have sworn on your daughter to give me everything I asked of you... Théodora, I ask for your daughter.
THÉODORA: Oh! my God! but, if I beg you, if I throw myself at your feet, if I embrace your knees, will you not have pity on a mother... Oh! my daughter, my daughter, she has cost me enough for you to leave her with me.
SALFIÉRI: Is it the case that I have kept my word and you have broken yours?
THÉODORA: Listen... you have a dagger at your belt, kill me, and take my daughter afterwards if you will, but for me to give her to you, never! never!...
THÉODORA: But you are mad, to believe that a woman could love you... because if you take her, it is to make her your wife or your mistress. She, completely pure; you, covered with blood. She, Violetta; you the Bravo.
SALFIÉRI: And if I were not!...
THE BRAVO (emerging, and laying his hand on Salfiéri's shoulder): It is not midnight, my master... and, to have the right to demand that others keep their word, you must begin by keeping yours.
[During the words which follow, Théodora has placed herself in front of her daughter's door.]
THÉODORA: What do I hear, he knows this man!
SALFIÉRI: You are right, but time goes slowly today.
THE BRAVO: Perhaps you will find, when midnight arrives, that the day has passed very quickly.
SALFIÉRI: Very well! be it so... At midnight we shall meet again... But until then, Théodora, swear to me.
THE BRAVO: Nothing!... no oath.
SALFIÉRI: Théodora, I give you until midnight... but at midnight you will see me again... and then, you will not say to me: Do you want gold, diamonds, palaces?... there will be no prayers, there will be no tears... there will be a perjured oath... and heaven strike me if I leave to God the task of punishing it.
THÉODORA: Oh my God! my God!... we are lost!
THE BRAVO: Not yet... Théodora... I need your gold.
THÉODORA: There it is.
THE BRAVO: Your jewels.
THÉODORA: Take them.
THE BRAVO: Now everything I possess together with this.
THÉODORA: To do what?
THE BRAVO: A jailer appointed yesterday, whom I can bribe today.
THÉODORA: A jailer!
THE BRAVO: Yes... Tell Luigi to prepare your gondola.
THÉODORA: In five minutes it will be moored at the doorway.
THE BRAVO: And I, in one hour I will be here.
THÉODORA: Oh Giovanni, Giovanni, save my daughter!
End of the Fourth Act.
A doorway opening on the Grand Canal. On the left, in the third plane,, the door of Théodora's bedroom. On the same side, in the first plane, a marble pedestal supporting a lamp and an hourglass. In the first plane, on the right, a stone bench. It is night.
THE BRAVO (Giovanni) (leaning against a column next to the canal), THÉODORA (opening the interior door).
THÉODORA: Giovanni, Giovanni, what are you waiting for?
THE BRAVO: Luigi.
THÉODORA: But come with us, and when Luigi arrives, he will tell us.
THE BRAVO: No, no, I must be certain of it, without losing an instant, because I have not an instant to lose. I must be certain that he has faithfully followed all my instructions. I told him the place where he could expect me, so that I would be sure he could find me, and we could leave immediately.
THÉODORA: And where are we going.
THE BRAVO: I don't know... to the end of the world, if necessary... you must be as anxious as I am to leave Venice... Besides, for us to remain in Venice would no longer be without danger for you.
THÉODORA: But why have you asked from Luigi a gondola big enough to carry five people, when we number only three.
THE BRAVO: Théodora, I must carry with me the rings of the chain which binds me to Venice.
THÉODORA: Must you always answer me in this mysterious language which I cannot understand?... You are hiding some horrible secret from me.
THE BRAVO: Return to your daughter, Théodora, to your daughter... Have her tell you a story that I told her, the story of the Bravo of Venice.
THÉODORA: Oh! you have just pronounced the name of the Bravo... Let me ask you what you have in common with this terrible man.
THE BRAVO: Myself.
THÉODORA: Are you burdened with some outlawry?
THE BRAVO: Go inside, Théodora!
THÉODORA: I do not know why... it seems that I am chained here, and that I will never leave Venice; Venice the accursed city.
THE BRAVO: It will soon be eleven o'clock... Go inside, I beg you, and be ready to leave when I give you the signal... because then one instant's delay could undo us all.
THÉODORA: Calm yourself, we will be ready.
THE BRAVO (pushing her): Very well, very well.
THE BRAVO (Giovanni) (Alone. He goes to the back of the stage.)
THE BRAVO: I don't yet see Luigi. Will the jailer be faithful to his promise, will he risk his place for gold. It is true that his fortune will be made with what I give him, and that I will take him with us. Oh! so long as, during this long night of corridors, we can get there without being seen, without being heard, right to my father's cell; enter and leave, without a door squeaking, without a bolt grinding... it will be nothing but a miracle from heaven! Oh my God! Have pity for the man, and give me strength.
But Violetta, Salfiéri, these young people who love each other and whom I am going to separate... Oh! would Salfiéri still love the poor child, if he knew she was the daughter of Théodora and Giovanni, of the courtesan and the Bravo? No... He might deign to make her his mistress, perhaps, but his wife... At last, there is Luigi.
[Going to Luigi.]
THE BRAVO, LUIGI.
THE BRAVO: Is it ready?
LUIGI: Yes, Excellency.
THE BRAVO: The gondola can hold?...
LUIGI: Five people.
THE BRAVO: Very well... no noise, and above all no light; put out your lantern...
LUIGI: And the fine from the police?
THE BRAVO: I shall pay it... Good... Now, do not stir from this place... Remember that I must find you here, and that at my first signal...
LUIGI: Rest easy, Excellency.
THE BRAVO: Let us go. My God, protect us.
LUIGI, then MICHELEMMA, and SALIÉRI.
LUIGI (alone): It was a good idea to put out the lantern... perhaps the gondola what has followed me since I left home will lose my trail... because it was certainly me it seemed to want, but when I got to a corner in the canal, I tried to lose you, my spy, and now I am certain of it... (The gondola following that of Luigi is seen; it lands and sets ashore a man, while Luigi knocks on Théodora's door.) Michelemma, Michelemma!
MICHELEMMA (on the other side of the door): Well!
LUIGI: It is I, here I am... tell your mistress that I have come, that she can calm herself...
MICHELEMMA: Very well, stay at your post, and do not breathe a word.
LUIGI: Oh! there is no danger of my leaving here, or that I tell anyone whom this boat is for... they can cut me into pieces... (Turning around, and noticing Salfiéri's gondola.) Ah!
LUIGI: The Bravo.
SALFIÉRI: This boat is for the Lady Théodora?
LUIGI: Yes, My Lord.
SALFIÉRI: The Lady has to leave Venice with her daughter?
LUIGI: Yes, My Lord.
SALFIÉRI: Before midnight.
LUIGI: Yes, My Lord.
SALFIÉRI: And you are the discreet gondolier who has to take them outside the lagoons?
LUIGI: Yes, My Lord.
SALFIÉRI: Very well, I will take over your responsibility.
LUIGI: And I, My Lord?
SALFIÉRI: You... you will get into this gondola, which will take you home... which you will not leave until after midnight...
LUIGI: Yes, My Lord.
SALFIÉRI: You understand?
LUIGI: Perfectly, My Lord.
[He enters the boat, which departs.]
SALFIÉRI, A P0LICEMAN (Sbirra).
SALFIÉRI (watching Luigi depart): Good... and if he escapes me now, Satan or that man will have to find them another route.
P0LICEMAN (entering and looking around, and moving towards Salfiéri, who is still wearing the Bravo's costume): Ah! you are finally found, my master.
SALFIÉRI: Who is that man?
P0LICEMAN: The orders that are now being nailed to your door run a great risk of falling into dust... because you hardly ever go home.
SALFIÉRI: Explain yourself, what do you want of me.
P0LICEMAN (giving him a sealed parchment): You have two hours to obey the Council.
SALFIÉRI: An order from the Council, an order for an assassination, to me! at the very moment that... What would I have become if the order had arrived yesterday? Eleven thirty... God be praised, I have two hours to execute the order of the Council, and in half an hour I shall be free, in a half hour the mask, the dagger, and the murder go to the assassin... Violetta will be mine, love, freedom, life! Life, happy and pure, far from Venice, this queen with a bloodstained mantle, this unnatural mother who devours her children... The door is opening, to our post.
SALFIÉRI, THÉODORA, VIOLETTA, MICHELEMMA.
MICHELEMMA (coming out cautiously): No one, Madame, no one but Luigi, I am sure, since his gondola is moored.
VIOLETTA: Oh! my mother, please, let us breath for a moment the air in the doorway, the night is hot, and the room is stifling.
THÉODORA: It is a very strange story that you have told me.
VIOLETTA: And the hero of the story is a most unfortunate man.
THÉODORA: Yes, but that is Venice, my child... an accursed city, a city of pleasure, of tears, and of blood. Oh! rejoice, my daughter, that we are going to leave it.
VIOLETTA: Never to return, mother?
THÉODORA: Oh! never, never!
VIOLETTA: My God!
THÉODORA: Regrets, tears, but your father and I will accompany you, my child, how can you weep, how can you regret leaving Venice?
VIOLETTA: Oh! my mother... He for whom I weep, he for whom I grieved when we left Genoa.
THÉODORA: The young man of whom Mafféo spoke to me, whom I feared you did not love, when I reminded you of him... but he is in Genoa.
VIOLETTA: He is in Venice, mother.
THÉODORA: And you have seen him?
THÉODORA: What a heedless child you are to give your heart like this...you love him?
VIOLETTA: Oh! yes.
THÉODORA: A man who may not love you, perhaps.
VIOLETTA: He does not love me, mother! Salfiéri does not love me! oh! listen... He was outlawed by the Council of Venice, the tribunal of death that does not pardon, a price was on his head. Well, with a simple hint, a word scratched with a diamond on a mirror, he followed me, mother, he followed me to Venice, where the very air is fatal to him, the dagger of the police, the scaffold in the public square, secret death, infamous death, he braved them all, all for me... Does he love me, mother? Do you believe he loves me?
THÉODORA: Poor child.
VIOLETTA: Do you understand now? I have to leave Venice right now, without telling him, without any means of his knowing where I am! Venice where he will remain, alone, outlawed and desperate, and leave, leave... mother, oh! mother, tell me, why must we leave?
THÉODORA: I do not know myself, it is your father who wishes it, my child. He alone can relate this mystery to you, explain his secret to you... but, it must be a deep mystery, and a terrible secret... because he seems very worried, because he was very pale, because his voice was much changed.
The same, THE BRAVO (Giovanni)
THE BRAVO (dully): Théodora.
THÉODORA: Listen, he is here.
THE BRAVO (pale and defeated): Théodora, my daughter, not a minute, not a second to lose: Go, go.
VIOLETTA: My God!
THE BRAVO: Go, I tell you... every instant that passes is a year... Not a word, not a remark: flee! flee!
THÉODORA: Are you coming with us?
THE BRAVO: I cannot, my God! oh! I am damned.
THÉODORA: But what keeps you in Venice, while we leave it?
THE BRAVO: An iron chain, a circle of blood... Look, women, come...
THE BRAVO (taking Violetta in his arms and carrying her towards the gondola): Théodora, will you follow your daughter?
THÉODORA: Everywhere, everywhere!
THE BRAVO (next to the gondola): Then come. (Calling.) Luigi! Luigi!
SALFIÉRI (appearing): Here I am, master.
THE BRAVO: Salfiéri, damnation! What are you doing here.
SALFIÉRI: I await you.
THE BRAVO (drawing his dagger): Well, here I am!
VIOLETTA: Salfiéri! father! father! mercy... (Throwing herself into the arms of Salfiéri) Mother, mother! oh! but it is Salfiéri! Help me, protect him.
THE BRAVO (letting his dagger fall): Oh!
THÉODORA (pointing at Salfiéri): Him! him! protect him! Do you know who this is, this abominable man?
VIOLETTA: What do you say?
THÉODORA (tearing her from his arms): Wretch, it is the Bravo!
VIOLETTA (hesitating): Him, him, him, oh, no...
THE BRAVO (taking Violetta by the arm): Come, come.
SALFIÉRI (grasping her arm): Stop.
THE BRAVO: It is not midnight.
THE BRAVO: I am lost!
SALFIÉRI: The last stroke has sounded, and died away... Now each to his own name and face... to you this mask and this dagger, to you this order of the Council which you have but one hour to execute.
THÉODORA: What do I hear?
SALFIÉRI: You are mistaken, Théodora, this mask was not made for my face (placing it on the face of the Bravo), but for his.
THÉODORA: Him! You, Giovanni, you are the Bravo!
VIOLETTA: Oh! it was then you who, to save your father...
THE BRAVO: It was I.
VIOLETTA: Oh! father, father!
SALFIÉRI: You, her father!
VIOLETTA: Oh! Salfiéri... Oh! do not condemn him without hearing me.
[She leads Salfiéri away, and speaks to him in a low voice.]
THÉODORA: Poor Giovanni, now I understand everything.
THE BRAVO: Yes... I thought for an instant, I thought that the vengeance of heaven had worn itself out, I was mistaken... The old man, awakened during the night in his cell, did not recognize his son... because he has gone mad, the poor wretch... He thought they had come to take him to the scaffold, to assassinate him, and when I tried to carry him in my arms, he held fast to the bars of his window and cried out... He cried himself senseless, the guard was attracted by his cries, and so I had to leave the old man unconscious, dying, because I might have killed him in trying to save him... I left, almost mad, almost senseless myself, hurried on by the fatal hour. I wanted you both to leave in order to conceal my secret from you, the love of my daughter for Salfiéri made the departure even more urgent, because the daughter of the Bravo...
SALFIÉRI: Violetta has told me all; bless your children, for your children love each other and ask permission to be united with each other.
THÉODORA: What do I hear?
THE BRAVO: You are a young nobleman, Salfiéri.
SALFIÉRI: I love Violetta.
THE BRAVO: And you swear to marry her.
SALFIÉRI: I swear it, my father, and you know that I keep my oaths.
THÉODORA: Oh! Thank you, my God!
THE BRAVO: Listen! They were going to leave, leave with them. Your ship awaits in the bay, you told me. Leave Venice, all three of you. Leave me alone like the accursed, the desperate man, that I am.
THÉODORA: Yes, Giovanni, you are right. Leave, my children, take Violetta to Genoa, or where you will, Salfiéri, so long as we know where you are and that you love us.
VIOLETTA: Oh! You are abandoning me, mother!...
THÉODORA (pointing to the Bravo): And he, must not someone remain with him.. who suffers with him, who cries with him?...
[She extends her hand to Giovanni.]
VIOLETTA: Oh! mother, then we too will remain here.
THÉODORA: Poor child! have you forgotten that your betrothed is an outlaw?...
THE BRAVO (taking up the order of the Council): Oh! Violetta... you have seen Salfiéri return me this mask and this dagger... you have seen me given this order of the Council, saying that I had only a few minutes more to execute it... This order... it is an order of death... I have not yet opened it, I do not yet know what awaits me... but believe me, Violetta, take Salfiéri away... Salfiéri, the outlaw... and who despite his outlawry, dares set his feet on the soil of Venice.
VIOLETTA: You make me tremble. What, this order...
THE BRAVO: Whatever it be, I must execute it, because my father's life will answer for my obedience.
VIOLETTA: Oh! this order...
THE BRAVO: I am going to have to open it...
VIOLETTA: Ah! Let us flee, Salfiéri, let us flee.
[While Violetta is in the arms of Théodora, the Bravo puts his mask back on; Violetta, turning around, cries out.]
The Preceding, LUIGI, slinking into the doorway.
THE BRAVO (going up to Luigi): Luigi?
LUIGI: My Lord, I have obeyed. It is past midnight...
THE BRAVO: These two young people are going to enter your gondola... you will take them outside Venice and leave them aboard a Levantine vessel which awaits them at anchor in the bay.
LUIGI: I will do so, My Lord, if the gondola which I met a minute ago and which I know perfectly well to belong to the Council of Ten does not prevent me.
THE BRAVO: The gondola of the Council... you hear, Salfiéri, there is no doubt that it is you they seek, you whom they have ordered me to strike down... you would have been recognized, denounced, they may know you even in this house.
THÉODORA: Oh! I freeze with fear... Leave, my children, leave...
THE BRAVO: All is ready, farewell...
[Salfiéri and Violetta enter Luigi's gondola, who takes them away while singing.]
THÉODORA, THE BRAVO.
THÉODORA: God grant them happiness!
THE BRAVO: And us courage...
THÉODORA (weeping): Oh! yes... ah! my God!
THE BRAVO: What is it?
THÉODORA: Pardon... this order which is in your belt... and which I touched...
THE BRAVO: Listen, Théodora... Mine is a miserable and bloody existence... Believe me, before I open this order... this order which frightens you... Our children are not yet far away... join them.
THÉODORA: Our children are fulfilling their destiny... Let us fulfill ours.
THE BRAVO: Very well then... (He opens the order.) Ah!
THÉODORA: What is it?
THE BRAVO: Go away, Théodora... go away... perhaps there is still time... Luigi...
[Calling out with despair.]
THÉODORA: Oh! He is too far away now. (Turning around.) And the gondola of the Council is too near.
THE BRAVO: Oh! but, I have read it wrong. (He reads it again.) But this is terrible... Oh! Bellamonte! Bellamonte!
THÉODORA: Once again what is it? What is it?
THE BRAVO: It says you have insulted this man... that you called him a coward and a villain... that you threw your mask in his face, and this man avenges himself like a coward and like a villain.
THÉODORA: And how?
THE BRAVO: Read it.
THÉODORA: The Council condemns to death the arsonist Théodora...
THE BRAVO: I told you to leave, Théodora...
THÉODORA: Oh! mercy, mercy!
[The Bravo and Théodora look at each other dismayed.]
THÉODORA: What have I said?... Mercy... oh! do not listen to this cry of blood, this cry of a woman... Giovanni, Giovanni, think of your father.
THE BRAVO: I?... never! never!
THÉODORA: But your father, they will kill him.
THE BRAVO: Well! if they kill him, I shall die...
THE BRAVO: Let the tribunal of blood do as it wishes... let it kill my father, let it kill me... but I... I, for a second time to raise my dagger against you? Impossible; never! never!
THÉODORA: They approach... Listen, Giovanni... It is better it be me who dies... Look, I am tired of life... worn out by everything!... my existence is needed by no one... God has chosen this expiation, more painful, but shorter... what God has done is well done.
THE BRAVO: This is not the work of God, Théodora, it is the work of demons and of men... Tribunal of murder... oh! you have taken this dagger in your hand and you have told me: strike... I will strike...
THÉODORA: What do you say?
THE BRAVO: I can penetrate into your midst, wretches, strike until my arm grows weary; bathe up to the knees in your odious blood, and then my father will die... I shall die... but at least vengeance! vengeance!
THÉODORA (stopping him in his arms): Be quiet... be quiet, they will hear you, my God! because of this... Giovanni, Giovanni, in the name of heaven... your father... a poor old madman who fears for his life like a child... your father... oh! you want them to drag him to the scaffold by his white hair.
THE BRAVO: Forgive me, Théodora... Pardon! pardon! or you will drive me mad.
THÉODORA: You have had your expiation in this world, leave me mine. God wants my blood to redeem that of an old man and to wash away my sins... leave me, an impure woman, let me offer myself in sacrifice, since God wills it.
THE BRAVO: Despair!...
THÉODORA: The gondola has stopped... They are there... there... Oh! what can I give in exchange for so much love, Giovanni.. in exchange for so much love... which sacrifices all? (She throws himself in his arms.) I can only give you my life. (She seizes his dagger and strikes herself.) Since you did not want to take it...
[A Policeman appears.]
THE BRAVO (crying out): Théodora, what have you done?
The Preceding, a Senator, A Policeman.
P0LICEMAN: There he is, My Lord.
THÉODORA: Ah! do not punish him, he has executed the order of the tribunal...
SENATOR: Giovanni. The Republic releases you from your oath... you are free... your father is dead!
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