|Sullivan > Major Works > The Beauty Stone > Web Opera > Act I
LAINE (opening the shutters and looking out). Who knocks?
A VOICE (without). PAX HUIC DOMUI ET OMNIBUS HABITANTIBUS IN EA!
The room is now light again. She unbolts the door and admits the
DEVIL. He is in the guise of a friar. He limps slightly, has a
forked, red beard and long finger-nails, but is
DEVIL. Good morrow, daughter.
LAINE. I was bid to open to none, father; but we did not look for a holy visitor.
DEVIL. Nay, I would not have thee disregard an injunction. Always obey those placed above thee. Yet, hearing there is adversity and heaviness of heart beneath this roof, I would fain leave behind me a few words of blessed consolation.
LAINE. I thank thee, father.
DEVIL (smacking his lips). But first give me a cup of water.
LAINE. We have no water till my father and mother return from the well. (Showing him the broken pitcher.) I grieve more than ever I have broken my pitcher. See, 'tis bottom-less.
DEVIL. Nay, 'twill content me. (He puts the mouth of the pitcher to his lips, and takes a deep draught.)
LAINE. Father! do you mock me, as others do?
DEVIL. Mock thee, my daughter! (He turns the mouth of the pitcher downwards; a stream of water flows from it.)
LAINE. Oh, Holy Saints!
DEVIL (replacing the pitcher upon the table). Yea, we cannot be too thankful to them.
LAINE. Father, thou'rt a stranger in Mirlemont, I trow. We have no such good man here as you must be, for the Saints to give thee water from a bottomless pot.
DEVIL. Alack, I am but a sinner, my daughter, or they would make it wine. (Sitting.) But truly I am a stranger, as you remark. I have travelled a great distance, having some curiosity to examine the fine cities of Flanders and Brabant. Though, sooth, a little town like thy Mirlemont amuses me more.
LAINE. We call not Mirlemont little.
DEVIL. That is one of the things that amuse me in Mirlemont. (With enjoyment.) Another, that they chase their cripples here at holiday time.
LAINE (hiding her face). Oh, father!
DEVIL. Ha, ha! I did perceive them hunting thee as I entered at the North Gate. (In an altered tone.) And so, out of tender sympathy for thee, I begged to know thy dwelling-place. (Rising.) You and thy worthy parents are named the Ugly Family by the good folk of Mirlemont, I learn?
LAINE. Yea, and answer to it aptly.
DEVIL (limping towards her). Well, there is much virtue among the ugly.
LAINE. Truly, we are virtuous, Heaven take count of it.
DEVIL. That should make you all vastly content.
LAINE. I would be more content, father, but for my lameness.
DEVIL. I limp a little also, daughter, as you have observed. How came you to halt?
LAINE. I had a fall when I was a baby.
DEVIL. Strange; I had a nasty fall, too, in early manhood. (Slyly.) Ahem! thou wert at thy devotions, my daughter, when I struck upon the door?
LAINE. How know'st thou that?
DEVIL. I heard the pious murmur as I stood without. That's right; pray, pray, pray. There's nothing like it.
LAINE. Father, thy knocking fell upon my ears as though it were in answer to my prayer.
DEVIL. H'm! thou wert praying for some special dispensation, wert thou not?
LAINE. Why, did my words reach thee?
DEVIL. But faintly.
LAINE. I confess, father; I do desire to die; pleaseth God to take me.
DEVIL. To die! before thou hast lived!
LAINE. I have lived long enough.
DEVIL. Nay, thou hast never been beautiful.
LAINE. Father — !
DEVIL. Therefore thou hast never been loved, as young maids should be loved. Therefore, being ugly and unloved, I say thou hast not lived.
LAINE. Father, these are my own wicked thoughts!
LAINE. Are they not so?
LAINE (unsteadily). Oh — !
DEVIL. H'm, well mayst thou regard my visit as an answer to thy prayer. For look! (taking from his pouch a little bag.) I chance to carry this upon me —
LAINE. What is't?
DEVIL. My daughter, the little pebble lying within this bag is the instrument by which a strange miracle may be wrought.
LAINE. What fashion of miracle?
DEVIL. One that maketh an ugly item of humanity most beauteous.
DEVIL. Surpassingly beauteous.
LAINE (after a pause, frightened). Nay, I will not believe that! (He seizes her by the wrist.) Oh! Father, thy nails are long and sharp; they cut into me! father — ! Ah, here come my parents! tell them not of my prayer —
JOAN and SIMON appear without.
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