The Gondoliers

   

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Dialogue following No. 16


Gianetta and Tessa enter unobserved. The two girls, impelled by curiosity, remain listening at the back of the stage.

Don Alhambra. And now I have some important news to communicate. His Grace the Duke of Plaza-Toro, Her Grace the Duchess, and their beautiful daughter Casilda — I say their beautiful daughter Casilda —

Giuseppe. We heard you.

Don Alhambra. Have arrived at Barataria, and may be here at any moment.

Marco. The Duke and Duchess are nothing to us.

Don Alhambra. But the daughter — the beautiful daughter! Aha! Oh, you're a lucky dog, one of you!

Giuseppe. I think you're a very incomprehensible old gentleman.

Don Alhambra. Not a bit — I'll explain. Many years ago when you (whichever you are) were a baby, you (whichever you are) were married to a little girl who has grown up to be the most beautiful young lady in Spain. That beautiful young lady will be here to claim you (whichever you are) in half an hour, and I congratulate that one (whichever it is) with all my heart.

Marco. Married when a baby!

Giuseppe. But we were married three months ago!

Don Alhambra. One of you — only one. The other (whichever it is) is an unintentional bigamist.

Gianetta & Tessa. (coming forward) Well, upon my word!

Don Alhambra. Eh? Who are these young people?

Tessa. Who are we? Why, their wives, of course. We've just arrived.

Don Alhambra. Their wives! Oh dear, this is very unfortunate! Oh dear, this complicates matters! Dear, dear, what will Her Majesty say?

Gianetta. And do you mean to say that one of these Monarchs was already married?

Tessa. And that neither of us will be a Queen?

Don Alhambra. That is the idea I intended to convey. (Tessa and Gianetta begin to cry.)

Giuseppe. (to Tessa) Tessa, my dear, dear child —

Tessa. Get away! perhaps it's you!

Marco. (to Gianetta) My poor, poor little woman!

Gianetta. Don't! Who knows whose husband you are?

Tessa. And pray, why didn't you tell us all about it before they left Venice?

Don Alhambra. Because, if I had, no earthly temptation would have induced these gentlemen to leave two such extremely fascinating and utterly irresistible little ladies!

Tessa. There's something in that.

Don Alhambra. I may mention that you will not be kept long in suspense, as the old lady who nursed the Royal child is at present in the torture chamber, waiting for me to interview her.

Giuseppe. Poor old girl. Hadn't you better go and put her out of her suspense?

Don Alhambra. Oh no — there's no hurry — she's all right. She has all the illustrated papers. However, I'll go and interrogate her, and, in the meantime, may I suggest the absolute propriety of your regarding yourselves as single young ladies. Good evening! (Exit Don Alhambra.)

Gianetta. Well, here's a pleasant state of things!

Marco. Delightful. One of us is married to two young ladies, and nobody knows which; and the other is married to one young lady whom nobody can identify!

Gianetta. And one of us is married to one of you, and the other is married to nobody.

Tessa. But which of you is married to which of us, and what's to become of the other? (About to cry.)

Giuseppe. It's quite simple. Observe. Two husbands have managed to acquire three wives. Three wives — two husbands. (Reckoning up.) That's two-thirds of a husband to each wife.

Tessa. O Mount Vesuvius, here we are in arithmetic! My good sir, one can't marry a vulgar fraction!

Giuseppe. You've no right to call me a vulgar fraction.

Marco.We are getting rather mixed. The situation is entangled. Let's try and comb it out.

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