(La casa del tahur)

Antonio Mira de Amescua

This text is based on Vern Williamsen's edition of the autograph (Estudios de Hispanófila, 1975). It was originally prepared for a production of the play by students at Texas A & M University.



The scene is at Alejandro's home in Madrid. Enter MARCELO and ALEJANDRO
MARCELO: Alejandro, you are my only heir. My property and honor are there for you alone. I could claim love, but words are not enough to describe the way I feel. My feeling for you is unique. I didn't say that as well as I should... You know I raised you as best I could with good example and wise advice. Still, you insistently spend your time at cards and seeking sexual pleasure. You have lost beyond all measure: all your money, some that wasn't yours, good women, loose women, even whores. Cards and sex often have opposing effects, but not in your case that I can detect. In your battle to choose between these two, like Alcides, you stand with one foot at sea and the other on land. I've tried a thousand different ways to cure those habits. Now let me say... I think I found a method at last to put an end to your sinful past by marrying you to my ward Isabel. Unlike you, she has done very well and learned the lessons I taught. In her beauty and behavior you ought find the evidence of her great virtue, the glory of a soul in bloom. You were married one week ago and, as a guest here in your home, I've seen you happy; but that, they say, lasts in a gambler's house a few sweet days. I am getting old and I have felt death encroaching on my doorstep... Already it seems I can taste the bite of his steadily advancing scythe. I beg you, son, let me die in peace! You know a man marries for eternity, I pray your happiness lasts as long. I hope to God nothing goes wrong now that I've retired to my own home. I was right, I'm sure, to give you control over the fortune you were to inherit. All I had is now yours, except the bit I need to live and rest in peace. Look to others for help, not to me, if you should lose what you have now. You have a wife and enough to allow you to live comfortably and do it well if you care for both as wisely as I expect. Your youthful errors must cease now that you've taken on mature duties. I say all this, even though I'm sure the present state of your affairs has given you reason to change your life, because good advice never goes awry. ALEJANDRO:I'll always be grateful to you, father, for your love, a thousand times over. I'm doubly bound by my love for Isabel. No power known casts a greater spell. No game, no feminine wile, can ever free a prisoner bound as she binds me. I'm glad to hear your good advice; it proves you to be loving and kind. Children often complain of the nuisance that their parents speak of as prudence; but you can be sure, when it comes to me, that I've turned over a brand new leaf. Although at times they weren't heeded and, certainly, now they're not needed, I'll not complain of your admonitions. After all, they're meant for my salvation. From off stage, we hear ROQUE and two musicians ROQUE: To your health, you musicians, you! 1ST MUS: In return, long life to you! Salud! ROQUE: If we only had a wedding every day... MARCELO: I see your friends are coming this way and your servants are having a good time. I'll leave now, son. I hope your life is long and happy. You have my blessing. Exit MARCELO. Don DIEGO, Don LUIS, and CARLOS enter DIEGO: This house still smells like a wedding. ALEJANDRO:Don Diego, Don Luis! It's been so long since you came to visit. LUIS: But it'd be wrong to come sooner and disturb the family. ALEJANDRO:Real friends like you never trouble me. Who's this? DIEGO: Carlos, he's a good friend now. ALEJANDRO:I'll make him mine as well. So, how...? LUIS: He introduced us to a woman from Seville... No woman, no! She's more like an angel. She and her mother have come to Madrid on a legal matter...some sort of bid. DIEGO: And you know all about girls from Seville! LUIS: As friends of Carlos, she let's us visit at her place in the afternoon where we flirt and play cards for drinks and dessert. ALEJANDRO:Carlos, you must let me in on the fun! CARLOS: I'll introduce you if you want to come. ALEJANDRO:My house is yours, let yours be mine. Enter the two musicians and ROQUE with glasses and a bottle ROQUE: No man would marry if he were in his right mind! DIEGO: Who's that? What's going on over there? ALEJANDRO:It's just my man Roque and a rather odd pair of musicians celebrating the wedding, more with drinking than with singing. LUIS: That's the right thing to do, though, as long as the music isn't too foul. If it is, let them drink. They can't do that and sing at the same time. ALEJANDRO: But they're so bad, they positively stink! ROQUE: Hey, you barflies! Don't just sit there buzzing, make some noise. You sing while I dance. Come, come on, boys! ALEJANDRO:Step lively, you dolt! ROQUE: Only my mouth is alive; the rest of me seems dead enough tonight. ALEJANDRO:What are you doing here? ROQUE: We came to dance at your wedding. ALEJANDRO: Are your feet up to that? Can they feel the beat? Are you ready? LUIS: He is as long as the rhythm's not too steady. ROQUE: Have you ever noticed dancers on the stage? They dance and move, they express and indicate. One big difference between us is obvious: they only look like sots; we're... inebrious! They seem to fall; they twist and trip in place; they make their bodies fly across the stage. A good dancer seems bewitched or insane. There's no human action he can't imitate. There's no emotion he won't make you feel. I once saw a dance on a mathematical theme. In Italy they dance a lively enough step to cure the bite of a spider that's red. And you'd better believe the man who said tarantulas can also be found here in Spain. ALEJANDRO:I'm glad you said that! I've heard complaints that even here you can see dances performed in the lascivious style that was once reformed. ROQUE: Sing, you musical asses. My bones will move. 1ST MUS: We'll split a gut. ROQUE: Well, see that you do. They sing and ROQUE dances MUSICIANS: "Any wedding makes a house come alive, but never mix water and wine. Enjoy your life and your new bride, the toast of the land and times. Any wedding makes a house come alive, but never mix water and wine." ALEJANDRO:Stop! You're absolutely worthless tonight. DIEGO: Your pleasure has filled them with wine. I hope your wife will make you as happy. May you never see the face of worry nor the backside of endless pleasure. Live in peace with your wife forever, as long as old Priam, or older Nestor, or even Egisto, or ancient Evander. May the march of time slow its pace and may you die with a smile on your face. ALEJANDRO:Enough of that now. Bring me my things; I'll be going out now to join my friends. LUIS: We're glad that you decided to come along. 2ND MUS: If you get a new wife, we'll make a new song. ALEJANDRO:That makes me hope my wife lives forever. Exit the musicians and ROQUE LUIS: God grant that your children equal in number the stars in the sky or grains of desert sand, flowers in the field or waves on the strand. May your first be granted an oak-leaf crown as reward for winning a mighty battle. May the second, for scholarly renown, wear on his head the symbolic laurel. May God grant that one earn his fame fighting in some Christian campaign, and may still another serve his Lord wearing the crimson of the Papal court. Enter ROQUE dressed in cape and feathered hat ALEJANDRO:The blessings you hear as a newlywed! ROQUE puts his own ragged cape and hat on ALEJANDRO ROQUE: These should make you feel well dressed if you want to go out on the street. LUIS: What are you doing, you silly beast? ALEJANDRO:You sot, stop trying to make me look bad. ROQUE: Now two of us here look quite mad. ALEJANDRO:Do you mean I'm drunk? ROQUE: No, but... ALEJANDRO:What? ROQUE: You're married. I've often thought: Women can be compared to strong wine. Either will drive a man out of his mind. I once heard a man who was very wise say that women and wine were comparable: both get results: fearsome or laughable. Have you ever noticed how wine so sweetly crosses your lips and rolls over the tongue. but once it reaches down in your belly, it feels not only wicked but strong? A newly married woman seems just as sweet, giving pleasure and keeping the house neat, she begins her new life tame as fine wine, but then turns into the bane of your life. Like any strong wine taken straight she enters gently and full of grace but quickly becomes head of the house jumping on the back of her unlucky spouse. There is one difference I can unveil, a good wine only improves with age; a woman as she ages only gets drier and like an old stick belongs in the fire. To the flames with her!..... But then again there was once a quite mellifluous fellow who claimed women were more like a bottle: he'd rather have one that was new and clean. So...I don't care if she's ugly or pretty. Since wine and woman are really comparable, I'll take one that lives in a bottle and even then I want the first taste. Enter ISABEL and FABIAN. They bring clothing for ALEJANDRO ISABEL: Where is he going in such great haste? FABIAN: He wants to go out with some friends. ISABEL: Are you going out? ALEJANDRO: Yes I am, my pet, if you give me permission to go. I should accompany my friends, you know. DIEGO: We only came here to serve you two. ISABEL: And for my part, I'm here to serve you.
ISABEL continues helping ALEJANDRO put on cape and sword, getting ready to go out
CARLOS: (What a divine creature! A real beauty! Aside Angela may be an angel, but Isabel truly ranks among the archangels of heaven. I'm glad I came to see this vision.) ISABEL: Alejandro, you ought to wear more finery so people will know that you are married. I want every woman to envy me my place. Here, you wear this diamond necklace. ALEJANDRO:How can I repay you? ISABEL: I want people to say there are women who love their men these days. CARLOS: (What honor, charm, and self composure! Aside I've never in my life seen anyone sweeter.) ALEJANDRO and LUIS move to one side ALEJANDRO:You've made me curious about this girl. Angela? LUIS: Soon enough, you'll get to see her. ALEJANDRO:Is she easy to talk to or is she skittish? Is she affected? LUIS: Don't move too quickly and you'll find she can make it easy. ALEJANDRO:What about her mother? LUIS: She's quite saintly. She keeps an eagle eye on Angela while she reads her devotions. You should know she's deaf. ALEJANDRO:Now that's a handicap! CARLOS: (How glorious I feel Aside just seeing her! It makes my mind reel! Looking at her is such a delight I hope I'm able to control my eyes.) Exit everyone but ISABEL and ROQUE ISABEL: Roque, who are Alejandro's friends? ROQUE: The usual! Just what you'd expect. Close enough when things go well but quickly gone when life's a hell. Like swallows, they come in Spring to eat our crumbs and let us hear them sing. They fly from far across the sea in search of Springtime's lively green but, before December brings the biting cold, they take their song and leave us alone. In the sunshine, they are our shadow; when darkness falls, they're quick to go. They wax and wane along with the tides: absent when they're out, when full they arrive. These friends will lead him outdoors to shuffle a deck or to deal with whores. ISABEL: Roque, if you want to help... ROQUE: What can I do? ISABEL: See if you can get him to come home soon. ROQUE: I'll try. ISABEL: Follow him now; stay on his tail. ROQUE: Like a good bloodhound I'll follow his trail.
Exit ISABEL and ROQUE. [The scene changes to Angela's house.] Enter ANGELA and her MOTHER who is carrying a book
MOTHER: Angela! ANGELA: Yes, mother. MOTHER: Pay attention now. As your mother, I want you to know how to be happy and enjoy a full life. At this age you are in your flower and prime. Nature has endowed you with beauty not only of spirit but of earthly body. In spite of your merit, Dame Fortune has denied you her attentions. You have to learn to use your wits to supply the wealth you have missed. You must work diligently to replace what the stars decided was to be your fate. We have come to live near the court, a place best compared to a sea of sorts, where the industrious are free to fish, the lucky triumph and unfortunate perish. Your beauty is what you have for bait to hook any man who joins the chase. Lower your net now but you must remember the very first rule: you have to preserve your reputation for being chaste, virtuous and honest just to be safe. Hidden in the shadow of good repute you'll find the two words you pursue. It won't hurt to accept small gifts offered with grace and in good spirit. When a suitor comes calling, you must keep him unsure about what it is you feel. A pleasant appearance is enough to fool any who want you, but leave some room for him to hope. Keep him off balance. If a rich, young man, wounded by love seems to have fallen in with your plans carefully but deeply set your hook by mentioning marriage. If he backs away, let him go quickly. He'll return to play. You'll find that giving a cold shoulder will turn him off or make him bolder. But you can never fall in love yourself. If you do, things become more complex. Instead of keeping your own hand free, you are blinded to things you should see. There are many men who would like to catch some poor young girl in love's gentle trap and leave her to suffer the consequence alone. As to that Carlos who's hanging around claiming that love and hope fill his soul, he hasn't a cent in this world. Watch out! Just the thought makes my blood run cold! Don't listen to him! Leave him alone! Love for a poor man is a treacherous thing. It's safer to listen to the Lorelei sing. As long as we live here, you should know that I'll fake being deaf and why that's so. There's no mystery. If a girl's mother carefully and zealously guards her daughter, and never allows the young men who approach like drones circling about a honeycomb to whisper sweet nothings into her ear, they claim before others with an open sneer, "That treacherous snake is just being sly. If she saw gold, she'd close her eyes." They tire of the game and then they stop. If a mother is easy and isn't shocked when they close in to say what they want, they cry, "Now that's a mother! What a sham! She ought to be wearing a witch's hat!" No matter what, her honor is forfeit if she gives them room to speculate about finding room in which to operate. As a deaf mother, I'll stay right here and smile, no matter what I hear. Let them talk, beg, suffer and die. I won't hear a thing. They'll think that I am busy with the prayers for that day. We hypocrites get our way in this blessed age. Occasionally, I'll look up from my book to give your suitors a sour look. There'll be no reason to attack my actions nor to give up on paying you attention. I'll fake deafness to all they say but whenever it seems appropriate, I'll hear enough of what is said to make me seem cautious and prudent. The world today is one big trap. Who doesn't lie or fabricate facts to suit his purpose or bring him profit? Only those who do can ever get rich. Modest humility never wins you a prize. ANGELA: I've listened carefully to your advice but, Mother, the lesson you preach is so monstrous that the savage beasts in the forest know better than that. When you tell me to avoid love's trap, you ask me to go against nature. If Nature herself doesn't have the power to conquer the force of a love that's true, if love can tame the wildest brute, if pure, white doves show us how it's done robbing a mate's soul with beak and tongue, if turtle doves speak in the softest tones of love and jealousy, or mourn a lost love, how can a mere human avoid his fate? What, if not love, makes a nightingale sing of passion in his chromatic motet? In this world even inanimate objects are capable of expressing affection: the ivy climbs the ash for its protection and the opulent grape embraces the oak; joining their fronds, the palm trees bend to form their fruit the darkened recess. MOTHER: That's nothing but nonsense heard in a play. I'll forbid you to go to the theater again if it makes you so stupid and presumptuous. Love gold! Love your mother! Love the virtuous things in this world! ANGELA: (I can't possibly Aside stop loving Carlos unless death stops me.) Enter ALEJANDRO, Don LUIS, Don DIEGO and CARLOS LUIS: You have been so nice and made us feel so much at home, that we felt free to let ourselves in when you didn't answer our knock at the door. ANGELA: If you hadn't, sir, you'd have seemed ungrateful. Mother, and I, are at your service. MOTHER: Haven't you heard: "The devil always comes knocking at your gate to bring his help when you mention his name?" Angela and I were just talking about you. DIEGO: Just tell us what it is that we can do. MOTHER: I was arguing with her about this ring. The stone's a diamond and isn't a thing a young and innocent child should wear. It's a symbol only married women dare wear in public. I just this minute said that if you three came, I'd ask, instead, if you would like to play a game of cards, the ring going to the winner as his reward. Angela, show them the ring. The MOTHER takes the ring from her CARLOS: We'd be glad to play for any ring that was on her hand. ALEJANDRO:And I most of all! CARLOS: This is a friend who has decided to come join us men in serving you as best we can. Alejandro... ALEJANDRO:Pleased to meet you. MOTHER: His name is Leandro? He must be a lover with a name like that. ANGELA: It's Alejandro, not Leandro. MOTHER: Well, a man with that name should be generous to a fault. CARLOS: Bring on the cards! ANGELA: You, get the cards out. DIEGO: What value should we place on the ring? MOTHER: What can you offer for such a pretty thing? Whoever wins could name his own price. ANGELA: That's not what he asked. LUIS: Its value, since I... MOTHER: It cost... How much, Angela? Was it fourteen? DIEGO: Well then, we'll play at a value of fifteen. MOTHER: Fifty is plenty! DIEGO: (The deaf have ears Aside that only hear what they want to hear.) We said fifteen! Aloud MOTHER: Just as you please. ALEJANDRO:(Beautiful woman! What eyes, what teeth! Aside She has won my heart. How easy to fall in love when we hear nature's call! I know I'm weak and not too smart but she could melt the hardest heart, not to mention one as soft as mine. Her loveliness could change the mind of a celibate and make him seek pleasure. When I think of what I could do with her...) CARLOS: (God help me for thinking this way, amen! Aside But I can't get her out of my mind. I thought Angela a creature from heaven but seeing her here before my eyes I have to admit that I was misled. Isabel is more so. Hers is the prize. My soul has been won by Isabel though she's at home and out of sight. God help me for thinking this way, amen!) GOMEZ enters bringing cards with him. GOMEZ: Gentlemen, the missal, so you can pray at the devil's mass. Just let me say I used to worship at that church, too until I had to give the demon his due and lost a thousand in one short week. DIEGO: The damage wasn't mortal, at least. LUIS: How'll we do this? CARLOS: Loser pays the cost. They sit down at a card table to play ALEJANDRO:I never win. My hands have always lost. DIEGO: If I win, it will be the first time. ANGELA and her MOTHER go off to the other side of the stage and sit there MOTHER: Carlos is like a magnet for your eyes. Wake up, child, fear for your life. It is said that love is tender and weak in the beginning, like a young tree, but that once it grows large and potent, birds seek its shelter in the wildest tempest. It's still small. Pull it out by the roots. ANGELA: Do you mean, mother, that I can't even look? MOTHER: We older women know well what can result. DIEGO: Three of a kind! LUIS: A straight flush! CARLOS: And here a full house! ALEJANDRO: A pair of nines! As usual, I have to pay every time we play for something worth while. MOTHER: Who won the ring? LUIS: One whose only desire is to return the brilliant prize to an owner whose beauty glistens even brighter. (How lucky I would be if this is a way Aside for me to win her heart and mind today.) Return the ring to its place on your finger. When you took it off, the stone lost its luster. ANGELA: But I couldn't! MOTHER: Behave yourself, child. Don't you see that you're being impolite? Its the custom for gentlemen to return what they win. You can't possibly refuse such a tempting gift. Be good now! ANGELA: Well, if that's the custom.... She takes it ALEJANDRO:Ma'am, here's the price that we agreed on. I hope it proves luckier for you than for me. ANGELA: Alejandro, I'm sorry you lost your money. Keep it, I have the ring. MOTHER: Behave yourself, child. Don't you see that you're being impolite? It's the custom for gentlemen to pay their debts. You can't possibly refuse this liberal bequest. ANGELA: Well, if that's the custom... She takes the money DIEGO: (Now that makes me wish I'd lost one.)Aside GOMEZ: Cards! ALEJANDRO: Let's play! GOMEZ: Ante up. LUIS: Let's play. GOMEZ: How do you want them? DIEGO: Any old way. MOTHER: Now pay attention to how it turns out. Angela, watch how the play comes about, and learn how a woman can get rich though it may leave the loser out on a limb.
The gentlemen settle into their game. The ladies take their seats on the other side of the stage and leave a vacant chair between them, and the MOTHER goes back to reading her book
ANGELA: (I'm afraid Carlos's love has turned cool. Aside I must find out if he thinks I'm a fool. We women can be like that, you know: sometimes timid and sometimes bold. Sometimes we hate those that we love and then we love those whom we loathe.) Carlos! CARLOS: Yes? ANGELA: Sit in this chair, please do. CARLOS: Thank you for asking me to sit here near you.
CARLOS sits in the middle chair, as will the others who are called later
ANGELA: Carlos, you've been so cool towards me. I'm upset by that change, as you see. I used to see the love in your eyes; now I can't. Is it something that I have done, or is there someone else? CARLOS: What are you up to now, my pet? Since I first began to love you, truly I've been the one who has had to worry about your fidelity. You've kept me in doubt. How can you doubt my love for you now? The MOTHER speaks as if she were commenting on the book MOTHER: Stupid girl! Why not take the advice of your parents and teacher, the lights that should guide your way? Why persist in chasing a love that's impoverished? Find the real wealth of a good life; find a man who'll make you his wife. To ANGELA and CARLOS What a fine book! What lessons it contains! I'll have to turn the corner on this page. CARLOS: Who is that your mother is talking to? ANGELA: When she sees something she thinks is good, something not to be missed, she reads it aloud. CARLOS: What if she heard....? ANGELA: She'd kill me here and now. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, be my guards! ALEJANDRO:Weren't you paying attention to your cards? CARLOS: Alejandro must have won a hand at last! ANGELA: Just who is he? CARLOS: A friend, a man who's married to a woman from heaven. ANGELA: That's it! That's why you're behaving like this. "A woman from heaven!" Every word you say is just so much talk. You have changed! You don't love me any more. I know it's true. CARLOS: There's nobody I care for more than you. LUIS: A hit! CARLOS: I don't love anybody more! DIEGO: More! LUIS: And another! CARLOS: You're being a terror! When you say love,... ALEJANDRO: You stopped! CARLOS: Just how has my love for you changed? Tell me now. ALEJANDRO:Give me another! ANGELA: Didn't you hear what they said? Well, that's my answer. CARLOS: If the game means more to you than I do, I'll take my hand over there away from you so I won't have to hear more of your nonsense. With your permission, I'll leave your presence. CARLOS gets up and goes to play MOTHER: I hope that's the end of that! ANGELA: Next time, I'll try to do better. ALEJANDRO: These cards of mine have given me nothing! My money is gone. GOMEZ: Well, we can play for whatever you have on. Don LUIS leaves the game with a gold chain that he has won MOTHER: Don Luis won that game! Wake up, child! Oh, Don Luis, come and sit for a while. We worried so about how you were doing but it seems, after all, you weren't losing. LUIS: (I've loved Angela since giving her the ring. Aside To make a man fall in love there's nothing works faster than giving a girl a gift unless it's for her to show jealousy for him. I've been asked to sit with them here. Maybe she is interested in me, the dear.) Don LUIS sits between the women ANGELA: As I watched you play, I was so upset at the thought you might lose the bet that I set this ring and money aside in case you might need them tonight. LUIS: Instead, I've won this. ANGELA: It's very pretty! LUIS: Since we first met and I saw your beauty I've wanted to offer you all I own, along with myself. The MOTHER talks as if she were commenting on her reading MOTHER: A good point! So! Girl, don't let this chance pass you by! LUIS: I've never known true love until now, so I... I was meant for you from the day I was born. ANGELA: What? You've never been in love before? MOTHER: You missed the point! Pay attention! Get back to business. What's his intention? LUIS: That book seems to have quite an effect. She reads with such expression! ANGELA: Do you expect me to believe that a man with your experience, one so generous and with such fine bearing, has never before felt love ripping and tearing at his heart? How can I refuse such a swain, especially one who offered his golden chain after having given me this diamond ring? MOTHER: That's the point you should be making! LUIS: If you are worth it, why shouldn't I?
ROQUE enters and, standing on something, puts himself into position to watch them play
ROQUE: (I followed Alejandro here this time sticking to his trail like the hound I am. It was easy enough to find his track now that they've been bleeding him again. There he is playing with might and main his back to wall and his sword unsheathed. He's wearing the diamond necklace, I see and it's his turn to deal. His suit is clubs. Oh, oh! Those are spades! Now that's a dud! Dig deeper into the pile! Don't do that! Don't let him win. Now that you've got a jack, keep it in the hole. Spit in his face! Good God! He just dealt that guy an ace!) Troy has certainly gone down to defeat. He speak this last line aloud DIEGO: Who's that? ALEJANDRO: You ass, why are you following me? You bring bad luck when you watch me play. ROQUE: Who brings it when I'm not in on the game? GOMEZ: What's that clown doing here? ROQUE: You're a real card! GOMEZ: Call me an ass and a joker as your reward if I show in any way that you've upset me. ROQUE: A good fifth is one way we can make peace. GOMEZ: I'd be only too glad to take you up on that! Gentlemen, you have the cards till I get back. Exit GOMEZ and ROQUE ANGELA: Well, at last it seems you told the truth. You say it's fate and I agree with you when in comes to love. As a sign that I am yours, I would like to buy a necklace exactly like that golden chain to remind me that I am your humble slave. The MOTHER speaks as if commenting upon her reading MOTHER: How nice! LUIS: If I gave you this to be that sign, I could be quite certain that you were mine. ANGELA: I'll gladly wear it, but you'll have to see my mother doesn't find out or she'll kill me! MOTHER: (With kindness.) Aside LUIS: For the first time ever, a slave is putting a chain on his master.
He gives her the chain, getting up as if he were going to rejoin the game
ANGELA: He who gives is the master. Isn't that clear? My mother must not see what's going on here. Why not pretend more interest in the game? LUIS: I've heard say that "Love, like an open flame, is hard to cover up." This is my lucky day: I won the diamond, gold, and your love and faith.
He gets up and goes back to the game and don DIEGO leaves the table with Alejandro's diamond necklace
ANGELA: Look, Mother, I got it! ALEJANDRO: Not so quick! God damn it if that not some vile trick! Leaving a game just after you have won! DIEGO: I'd like to leave as a winner, just once. CARLOS: We'll go ahead and play without you, then. The MOTHER and ANGELA speak aside MOTHER: It seems Don Diego just won the necklace. That's a prize worth having! ANGELA: I'll do it! I'll play a couple more little tricks. The MOTHER speaks now to Don DIEGO MOTHER: I've read two chapters that were interesting, but this one seems even more fascinating, pleasant but puzzling at the same time. Don Diego, come entertain Angela for a while. Don DIEGO sits between them as the others have DIEGO: All the gods are smiling at me today. It seems that everything is going my way. First, Lady Luck let me win this, now you've honored me by asking me to sit here with you. ANGELA: I was disturbed and anxious. You'll never know how I feared you would lose. DIEGO: You were upset about whether I won or I lost? You were worried about me? ANGELA: Don't take it wrong, but I said to my mother, "If Don Diego loses I want to give him all of these jewels so he can get even and not hate me." But God in His kindness sent me relief. DIEGO: (She's hinting now for a piece of the lot. Aside I wonder if these few coins from the pot will do.) Your prayers made me thrive, and God once declared that we pay tithes, so please accept this purse from me. ANGELA: Did you think I wanted part of the pot? Don Diego, I only live to care for you! You can't think much of me. Don't be fooled. I've always been good. My mother, you see, is the only one ever to have been jealous of me. Love is all I have, all I will accept. But heaven knows how much I want to present you with all I have, even that secret treasure to make your rich, not with gold but pleasure. DIEGO: Angela, such an offer has only one answer. Brand me now! I'm your slave forever. But, before I forget to show my gratitude, I want to give your mother this. Ma'am, you... MOTHER: What's that? DIEGO: Pardon me, ma'am, please take this purse. MOTHER: Take what? Never! Not me! ANGELA: Don't you see that you're being impolite? Its the custom for gentlemen, as their right, to make gifts when they've won a game. MOTHER: Well, if that's the custom... She takes it ALEJANDRO: For shame, you damned old witch! You lying thief! Damn your black heart, you one-eyed queen! Every time you show up, I lose the hand! MOTHER: (What a shock! I thought that man Aside was talking to me.) ANGELA: What will you do now, you apprentice lover, take the necklace around to someone else and say you got it for her? DIEGO: I don't have another woman, I swear. ANGELA: If that's the truth, a girl who could say she loves you ought to be happy and gay. Her mother reads the following aloud MOTHER: "Diligence conquers all. A mountain peak is made of rock, yet the claws of a beast eventually scratch it away to nothing." You should read this book. What fine things it has to say! What lessons to teach ANGELA: That necklace is more a woman's piece than something a man should wear. Some woman will pretend to love you and you, you innocent child --generous too-- will think of it as something you won at cards and give it away as a proof of love. She'll be in your debt, you'll have a "lady," and I'll be alone. Don Diego, as for me , I wish that I never came to live in Madrid. DIEGO: It is not a thing I could easily give someone else too freely or quickly. ANGELA: But it cost you nothing, really, and you are the soul of generosity. MOTHER: "I can't believe this is happening!" DIEGO: It's yours. I hope, as you can see, you and the diamonds are happy together. ANGELA: How coldly you said that! I could never accept a present given in that spirit. But please, for your own good, do one thing. Give me your word, swear on your life, to save it for the one who'll be your wife. DIEGO: I promise. ANGELA: You are too soft and malleable. I'll take it now to keep with my valuables. Then you won't have it to give away, to back a bet, or hide in some dark place where it will languish for lack of light. DIEGO: (This is my lucky day. She all mine.) Aside She goes about the business of taking the necklace from him ANGELA: Until you marry, I'll guard this piece. The stones will be an altar of memories. May the lady who gives you her heart reflect its value, if only in part. DIEGO: If you love me as you say you do, the necklace is certainly safe with you. ANGELA: You can be sure of that. MOTHER: (He should be sure!) Aside LUIS: You can't bet with words unless they're secured. ALEJANDRO:My word's better than that of some I could name. LUIS: You're so angry you can't see straight. ALEJANDRO:Whether I'm angry or not, my word alone is worth more than everything you own. If you don't agree, you're a real fool!
ALEJANDRO leaves the game having lost the decoration from around his shoulder. He exits
CARLOS: All I win is a ribbon to decorate my suit! LUIS: Ladies, your house is a place sacred to me. I can't use my sword here. Pardon me, please. I'll be right back. CARLOS: What's going on? You two have no reason to fight. Don LUIS leaves, following ALEJANDRO ANGELA: Wait, Carlos. Don Diego is his best friend. Let him go. Hurry and follow them, please, Don Diego. DIEGO: Losing so much may give Alejandro an excuse. Don DIEGO leaves ANGELA: Isn't his wife the one so attractive to you? CARLOS: You're making a mistake. Why insist on going back over all that again? ANGELA: I can see how your heart must yearn to have the ribbon others have spurned. It belonged to the husband of that "heavenly woman." CARLOS: You're just jealous! ANGELA: (No, greedy.) Aside CARLOS throws the ribbon on the floor and leaves CARLOS: That's what I think that ribbon is worth! That and all the gold in the world! ANGELA: Carlos, listen... MOTHER: Now, things seem right to me. The MOTHER picks up the ribbon while ANGELA calls after CARLOS ANGELA: Stop, listen... MOTHER: Girl, how stupid can you be? Leave him alone! ANGELA: You gave me your word... MOTHER: You're crazy! ANGELA: How awful! MOTHER: How ignorant you are!
The two women leave. [The scene changes back to Alejandro's house]. ALEJANDRO and ROQUE enter
ALEJANDRO:Did they follow us? ROQUE: Nobody's come this way, and we are almost home. What a day! ALEJANDRO:Roque, have you ever seen such luck? Why do I want insist on gambling so much? ROQUE: You inherited it from the inventor of cards, from old Vilhán himself. Any gambler, no matter how smart, --in this I know I'm correct-- undoubtedly is the most obstinate brute that ever brayed at night. Was there ever a monkey who fell into a pool, --just imagine his plight-- so big and deep that he might drown would go near water again? Was there ever a mule who stepped into a hole, that made him stumble or trip, would ever again pass that same way unless he watched his feet? Was there ever an ass who carelessly ate poisonous oleander leaves and suffered revolutions deep in his gut would taste that plant again? Was there ever a fox, any sly old cuss, who sneaked in among the hens, to be scared stiff by some alert farmer would dare return to the coop? The dumbest beast learns from one misadventure but a gambler's the real fool. ALEJANDRO:You're right, but I'm so obstinate that all I hate is leaving the game. ROQUE: Well, go on back and play. ALEJANDRO: How can I if I have nothing left to bet tonight? ROQUE: If, instead of just making a face, you had taken a role in some play, you'd at least have the costume left as something of value you could bet. You're like the fresh water sailor who came home to his family and girl, stamping about and gaily dressed, shouting, "To war, to war," as he left. How proud and glorious it all seemed. The battle was lost and he was wiped clean so he sneaked quietly back into town. When they asked him what had gone on, he answered softly, "I was away at war." That just what you have done. Good Lord! You left home all covered with jewels, pretty as Narcissus or the lover Virenus, dressed in starched collar and lace cuffs, your diamonds reflecting the daytime sun. How proudly you shouted "To games and dames!" Now you return having lost at the game. When they ask you what you have done, you can shyly whisper, "I gambled and lost." ALEJANDRO:That's enough, Roque, I'm not made of stone. ISABEL enters ROQUE: Here comes your wife. ALEJANDRO: Who is more alone or feels more ashamed than I do now? ISABEL: Not a word for me when you enter the house? Why so quiet? Are you feeling all right? Why are looking so sad? ALEJANDRO: Really, I am fine. ISABEL: Are you sure? ALEJANDRO: I'm as well as ever. ISABEL: Alejandro, you look like death warmed over. Tell me what happened to upset you so. ALEJANDRO:I lost your diamonds and all my gold. ISABEL: It's not that important. Don't be upset. Believe me, I have some valuables left. ISABEL speaks to ROQUE Go and bring my jewel case here to me. Exit ROQUE Alejandro, return to the game, if you please. I want you to be happy, no matter the cost. ALEJANDRO:Your love and generosity have me at a loss, Isabel. Your kindness is a real consolation in this time of sadness and desperation. ISABEL: I'm not Midas and don't have his wealth but all I have is yours, my love as well. ALEJANDRO:Live and love me forever, dear Isabel. Enter ROQUE with the jewel case ISABEL: Take these buckles and the diamond brooch, and these pins as bright as my love for you. This belt, too, and anything else you see. ALEJANDRO:Every man in the world should envy me. ROQUE and ALEJANDRO speak off to one side ROQUE: How can you accept those things from your wife? ALEJANDRO:Once the bug bites, you're a gambler for life. ROQUE: (Is there any moral law a gambler won't defy?) Aside ALEJANDRO:Take this brooch to Angela and tell her I, even though I gambled and lost at her house, still feel attracted to her beauty now and I'm sorry for having left so rudely. ROQUE: (I can't believe this!) Aside ALEJANDRO: And say it was truly a pleasure to have lost in her presence. Tell her this reflects her beauty. ROQUE: (Nonsense!) Aside ALEJANDRO:And don't let Isabel see what I gave you. ALEJANDRO speaks to ISABEL Goodbye. I'll be back in an hour or two. I can hardly wait to return to you. Indeed, I feel lucky to know how much you love me. Exit ALEJANDRO ISABEL: Was what I just did --tell me the truth, Roque-- a sign of true love or sheer stupidity? ROQUE: An asinine blunder worthy of any jenny who ever made one in pasture or field. ISABEL: But I want him to be happy. ROQUE: Is that any reason to give your jewels to a gambler in season? ISABEL: I did it for love. ROQUE: Well, I saved half the spilled milk. Keep this brooch, ma'am, but don't let him know I returned it to you. It could well cost me my life if he knew. Exit ROQUE ISABEL: One happy sailor sets sail in his craft seeking his fortune on a peaceful sea in spite of waves and winds blowing free he returns to port with triumphal flags aloft. Another dares to brave the mighty ocean but immediately feels the rigor of the main and goes to his death below billowed waves. Marriage is like that for every woman. She has peace and love while Fortune reigns but, when Fate demands payment on account, she finds help neither in virtue nor beauty. I don't know what my fate is to be but they say that in a gambler's house happiness lasts but a few sweet days. END OF ACT ONE

Gambler's House, Act II

Electronic text by Vern G. Williamsen and J T Abraham
Additional formatting by Matthew D. Stroud

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Association for Hispanic Classical Theater, Inc.

Latest update: 28 Jun 2002