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The Carp
WEB OPERA

Dialogue following No. 4


AMANDA. Is this your ultimatum?
PISCATOR.   Yes, it is!
(Looking towards pond) I think I have a nibble. Yes! Good-evening!

(He goes out at right. Amandus and Amanda are left alone together.)

AMANDA (angrily). Hard-hearted creature!
(She becomes conscious for the first time of the presence of Amandus, who has been standing at the back of the scene.)
    Ah! who have we here?
  Some meditative idler, I suppose!
How little he imagines my intent!
AMANDUS (looking at his watch). How long will she remain, I wonder?
AMANDA (coughing). Hem!
  I wish he'd go!
AMANDUS. Why does she linger here?
AMANDA. He doesn't seem inclined to move just yet!
AMANDUS. She seems come here to stop.
AMANDA (pettishly). How sad it is
  That ladies cannot even drown themselves
Without annoyance from the other sex!
AMANDUS. I'll try to draw her into conversation,
And find out her intent. (Aloud) A lovely evening!
    [He goes towards her.
AMANDA (rising, stiffly). I beg your pardon?
AMANDUS (timidly). I remarked the weather
  Was very fine.
AMANDA. I can't deny the truth
  Of what you say —
AMANDUS. Especially so,
  For this time of the year?
AMANDA. As you remark,
  For this time of the year the day is fine.
(A pause. They both appear embarrassed.)
AMANDA (taking a step towards him). You were about to speak?
AMANDUS. Yes, after you.
(He takes a step towards her.)
  I was about to ask you if you meant
To stay hear long?
AMANDA. How curious! The question
  I meant to put to you!
AMANDUS (with reserve). As mine came first,
  Perhaps you'll answer —
AMANDA. First? Why, certainly!
  I merely mean to stay here (with meaning) all my life!
AMANDUS. Indeed! Then you're a fixture?
AMANDA (impulsively, going to him). Promise me
  You'll keep my secret?
AMANDUS. Faithfully, I swear!
AMANDA. I'm crossed in love, and mean to end it all
In one quick splash in younder slimy pool!
AMANDUS (aside). What a remarkable coincidence!
  (Aloud) Excuse me, but the pool's bespoke!
AMANDA. By whom?
AMANDUS (bowing). By me!
AMANDA. Indeed; and for what purpose, pray?
AMANDUS. I, like yourself, desire to drown myself.
The ancient fisherman who guards the spot
Has promised me —
AMANDA (smiling sadly).

But to oblige a lady —

AMANDUS. Of course, if you insist on it, I yield.
But say we compromise, and jump together?
AMANDA (holding out her hand). We will. Your hand?
  (They shake hands.) Now that we've settled that —
  Excuse me if I seem inquisitive —
Tell me what brought you to this fatal step?
(AMANDUS motions AMANDA to be seated. Both bow and sit on seat.)
AMANDUS. The fairest and the falsest of her sex!
AMANDA. The falsest, very likely, but the fairest?
AMANDUS. She cares not for me; she is heartless, quite!
So, for Clorinda's sake —
AMANDA (starting). Clorinda?
AMANDUS.   Yes.
  Ah! if you only knew her!  
AMANDA.   If? I do!
  She is my dearest friend!
AMANDUS.   Ah! then you know
  How good, how fair, she is!
AMANDA (without enthusiasm). Oh yes, of course.
AMANDUS. Say, is she not perfection?  
AMANDA.   Well, you know,
  We're none of us quite perfect.
AMANDUS.   She, at least,
  Comes closest up to absolute perfection!
AMANDA. You think so?  
AMANDUS.   No, I don't! I'm sure of it!
AMANDA (meaningly). Ah!
AMANDUS. You say, "Ah!" What mean you by that "ah"?
AMANDA. Nothing; an interjection — nothing more.
AMANDUS (interested). Explain yourself! I really must insist —
AMANDA. I'd really rather not. We all of us
Have our small faults, our innocent deceptions.
It's true, she wouldn't mind exposing me!
But still, I'll show myself superior.
Don't ask me to say more — pray don't!
AMANDUS.   Excuse me;
  But after what you said —  
AMANDA. I? I said nothing!
AMANDUS. Perhaps not; but, uttered in a certain way,
Nothing means everything.
AMANDA.   Excuse me, pray;
  You really mustn't press me. There is nothing
I hate so much as a scandal!
AMANDUS.   Scandal, madam?
  Who couples scandal and Clorinda's name?
AMANDA. No one, I hope; that's why I hold my tongue.
AMANDUS (changing tone). Pardon me; but it really looks as if
  You envied her her peerless excellences,
And would insidiously detract from them.
AMANDA (scornfully, yet amused). I? Envious of Clorinda! How absurd!
AMANDUS. If so, you've missed your aim (with conviction). I love
  Clorinda,
  And I shall love her ever!
AMANDA (pityingly). Poor young man!
AMANDUS. Perhaps you'd deny her beauty?
AMANDA. I? Oh no!
  I'd ne'er deny the needy what they lack!
AMANDUS (enthusiastically). Her eyes are bright as sapphires, and her
  lashes
  Are black as Indian wood!
AMANDA. Say India ink!
AMANDUS. Her hair's so long that she can sit upon it.
AMANDA (thoughtfully). Ah! yes; I sat upon it once myself.
AMANDUS. You sat upon it? How could that be, pray?
AMANDA. Oh, very simply. When I called one day,
Her maid had left it lying on a chair!
AMANDUS. But these exterior beauties are as nought
Compared with the beauties of her mind,
Her temper — perhaps you will deny her that?
AMANDA. Oh no! She has a temper — most decidedly!
AMANDUS. You speak with confidence. May I ask how
You know all this?
AMANDA.   I am her dearest friend!
  See! here's a letter from her (gives it). No; I ought not
To show you that.
AMANDUS. Why not?
AMANDA.   Why, it is private;
  And in it she describes a silly swain —
His name's Amandus.
AMANDUS.   Ah! that is my name,
  And I've a right to read it.
AMANDA.   Oh, please don't!
  Some passages, perhaps, might hurt your feelings.
AMANDUS. My feelings? Ha! My feelings? Let me read.
    [He takes the letter.
AMANDA. The passage I refer to's on the top
Of page the second; kindly pass it o'er.
AMANDUS. On page the second? Good! Ah! here it is. (Reads)
"You ask me to describe him. Well, imagine
A lanky, melancholy sort of youth,
With lantern jaws, figure ridiculous,
And with a kind of face, something between
An amorous monkey and an undertaker!"
AMANDA (jumping up and taking letter). Stay! you shall read no more!
AMANDUS.   I've read enough!
  "An amorous monkey," eh?
AMANDA.   You seem annoyed.
AMANDUS. Oh! not at all; she always was satirical.
(Aside) "An undertaker!" Humph!
AMANDA. I'm sure you're hurt.
AMANDUS. Hurt? Not a jot. Lantern-jawed, am I? Ah!
AMANDA (smiling). She doesn't flatter you, though, does she now?
AMANDUS. Scoff on, scoff on! I see you've never loved!
AMANDA. He says "I've never loved!" Oh, Corydon!
AMANDUS. "Corydon," eh? Did you say Corydon?
AMANDA. That is the name that's graven on my heart!
AMANDUS. Corydon? Oh, impossible! Not Corydon.
AMANDA. And why impossible? (She rises.)
AMANDUS.   Oh, never mind;
  The word slipped out!
AMANDA (firing up). What do you know against him?
AMANDUS. Nothing! Nothing!  
AMANDA.   I charge you, be explicit!
AMANDUS. Ask anything but that. Meanwhile, allow me
To hand you back this ring, since you're the lady.
  [Shows her ring, with portrait set in rubies.
AMANDA. "Since I'm the lady"? Why, what do you mean?
This ring? Why, 'tis the one I gave to him
When we did plight our troth! And when we parted
I sent him back his presents, and he told me
He'd lost this ring. Tell me, how you came by it?
AMANDUS. Corydon and I were friends. That is to say,
We often dined together: on a day
We played at cards. He'd drunk too much, and lost.
To raise the funds for "jush another game,"
Said he — (excuse my slightly imitating
His half-intoxicated, drunken speech) —
"I'll go and pawn this ruby ring of mine.
There's a plain chit — a silly love-sick goose —
That hangs upon my arm, and gave it me."
I, of course, objecting,
Showed him the meanness of the act; but no!
Half-tipsey as he was, he staggered out,
Pawned the poor ring, and then we played again.
He lost the money, and the ticket too!
AMANDA. "The ticket!" Horrid, vulgar, low idea!
AMANDUS. Half-sad, half-curious, next day I went,
Redeemed the ring, and looked upon the portrait.
Thought I, "This lady loved this pimpled knave,
Fancies him something more than chivalrous;
And when I find her, by the likeness here
That's set in precious stones, I'll give it her."
I've found her now; and thus I keep my vow.
  [Gives her the ring.
AMANDA. Sir, you are very kind. (Breaking down.) I "a plain chit!"
How could you say such things? Corydon! Corydon!
  [She weeps.

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