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Dialogue following No. 21.
ALFREDO (to ARROSTINO). May I ask if you are the Prior of this monastery?
ARROSTINO. Well, I am and I am not. That is, I am now, but I wasn't an hour ago.
ALFREDO. I see — a recent appointment.
ARROSTINO. Yes, for an hour. Present tense, I am a Prior. Imperfect tense, I was a rollicking young rantipole. Future tense, I shall be a rollicking young rantipole — in an hour. I hope I make myself clear?
ALFREDO. Perfectly. (Aside.) Very like my own case. (Aloud.) I found this poor old lady almost insensible at the foot of the mountain. She had just strength enough to beg me to bring her here to you.
ARROSTINO. Exactly. You call her an old lady. Well, she is an old lady, and she isn't an old lady. Present tense, she is an old lady. Imperfect tense, she was a young lady.
ALFREDO.Of course she was.
ARROSTINO. Ah! but, Future tense, she will be a young lady again — in an hour. That's the curious part of it. (To MINESTRA.) Go in, my dear — is should say my aged sister — and we will take every care of you.
LUIGI carries MINESTRA into monastery.
ALFREDO. You are very good.
ARROSTINO. Well, I am, and I am not. Present tense, I am very good. Imperfect tense, I was confoundedly bad. Future tense, I shall be confoundedly bad again — in an hour.
ALFREDO. We are fortunate in having dropped in upon you during your virtuous phase.
ARROSTINO. Particularly so. It's altogether a curious state of things. I'm such a creature of habit that I find it difficult to remember that I am no longer a rantipole. For instance, I see you have a watch. Perhaps it is a valuable watch. Don't tell me it is; I would rather not know. Now, you can't imagine how difficult I find it not to take that watch. Oh, I know it's wrong; but then I always knew that. (Adopting a clerical manner.) By the way, I am collecting a few gold watches to send out to the poor naked savages of — (Aside.) No, hang it all, let the man alone; you ought to be ashamed of yourself! (Aloud.) Pardon me, your handkerchief's hanging out. Will you oblige me by putting it out of sight? (ALFREDO does so.) Thank you, thank you so much! Temptation, you know, temptation! We are all weak, and it is sometimes difficult to resist.
ALFREDO (aside). Singular character, this Prior. (Aloud.) Of course I am prepared to give a donation to this monastery in consideration of your taking charge of the old lady. (Feeling for his purse.) By-the-by, where's my purse?
ARROSTINO, GIORGIO, and LUIGI (falling on their knees). Not guilty, your worship!
ALFREDO. Of course not! Ha! ha! (Finds it.) Oh, here it is!
ALL. Ha! ha! ha!
ARROSTINO. Yes, but you frightened us!
ALFREDO. Allow me to present this sum to the funds of the monastery.
ARROSTINO. No, thank ye; I'd rather not. Here, give it to Father Luigi. (Exit ARROSTINO into monastery.)
LUIGI. No, thank ye; not for me. Father Giorgio will take it (Exit into monastery.)
GIORGIO. Oh, no; Father Giorgio won't. Father Giorgio's a good little boy now — for an hour. (Exeunt GIORGIO and monks into monastery.)
ALFREDO. This is an unaccountable state of things! To please Elvino I pretended to be a Duke, and I selected Ultrice as my Duchess. We drank the wine and we became a Duke and Duchess in real earnest, and, what is odder still, that unpleasant young person exercises an extraordinary fascination over me; while Teresa, whom I used to love so passionately, has completely faded out of my recollection.