David Bruce: John Ford’s THE FANCIES, CHASTE AND NOBLE: A Retelling — Act 4, Scene 2

— 4.2 —

No longer in disguise, Romanello stood alone in a room in his house.

He said to himself, “I will converse with beasts. There is in mankind no sound society. But in woman — bless me! — there is neither faith nor reason. I may justly wonder what trust was in my mother.”

A servant entered the room and said, “A caroche, sir, stands at the gate.”

A caroche is a luxurious coach.

Romanello said, “Let it stand still and freeze there! Make sure the locks —”

The servant said, “Too late; you have been forestalled.”

Flavia, Romanello’s sister, entered the room, followed by Camillo and Vespucci, who stood to the side.

Flavia said, “Brother, I have come —”

Romanello interrupted, “— unlooked for; I only sojourn myself.”

He meant that he was staying there only temporarily.

He continued, “I keep neither house nor entertainments. French cooks’ elaborate meals, Italian repasts, rich Persian feasts, with a train of servants performing services befitting exquisite ladies such as you are, do not perfume our low roofs.”

His home did not smell of the odors of rich meals prepared for exquisite ladies; his was a temporary home, and he did not entertain in it.

Romanello continued, “The way for your exit lies open.”

He pointed to the door and said, “That, there.”

He then said, “Goodbye, great madam!”

“Why do you slight me?” Flavia, his sister, asked. “For what one act of mine, even from my childhood, which may deliver my deserts inferior either to our births or family, has natural affection become, in your contempt of me, a monster? What have I done for you to reject me like this?”

Vespucci whispered, “What is this, Camillo?”

Camillo whispered back, “It’s not the usual style of conversation.”

Romanello said, “I’m out of tune to chop discourse — to argue with you. You are, however, a woman.”

Flavia said, “I am pensive and unfortunate, wanting and lacking a brother’s bosom to disburden more griefs than female weakness can keep league with. Let the worst malice, voiced in loud report, spit what it dares invent against my actions, and it shall never find a power to blemish my reputation other than beseems a patient, longsuffering person. I do not complain at lowness, and the fortunes that I attend on now are, as I value them, no new creation to a looser liberty.”

She was saying that her morals had not changed.

She added, “Your strangeness may beget only a change in unreasonable opinion.”

The very fact that he, her brother, was avoiding her was something that might cause an unfavorable opinion about her.

Camillo whispered, “Here’s another tang — taste — of sense, Vespucci.”

Vespucci whispered back, “Listen, and observe.”

Romanello asked, “Aren’t you, I ask you — nay, we’ll be contented, in the presence of your ushers, once to prattle for some idle minutes — aren’t you enthroned the lady-regent by whose special influence Julio, the Count of Camerine, is ordered?”

Flavia said, “It is known I am his wife, and in that title I am obedient to a service; else, the quiet of my wish was never ambitious of greatness.”

She would have preferred staying married to her first husband.

“He loves you?” Romanello asked about Julio.

“As worthily as dearly,” Flavia answered.

Romanello said, “And it is believed how practice quickly fashioned a port of humorous grotesqueness in carriage, discourse, demeanor, gestures.”

He was saying that she was behaving grotesquely as the wife of Julio.

Camillo whispered, “That was put home roundly.”

Vespucci whispered back, “What can be a ward for that blow?”

Flavia said, “Regard for the safety of my honor instructed me to practice such deceit.”

Romanello asked, “The safety of your honor?”

Flavia pointed to Camillo and Vespucci and said, “Witness this brace — pair — of sprightly gallants, whose confederacy presumed to plot a siege.”

She knew that they had plotted to seduce and share her.

Camillo and Vespucci said, “We, madam!”

Romanello said to his sister, “Go on. Go on. Some leisure serves us now.”

Flavia said, “Always as Lord Julio pursued his contract with the man — oh, pardon me, if I forget to name him! — by whose poverty I was renounced of honest truth in marriage, these two, entrusted for a secret courtship, by tokens, letters, message, in their turns, offered their own devotions, as they termed them, almost to an impudence, regardless of him on whose support they relied.”

As Julio was making arrangements with Flavia’s husband to sell her to him, Julio had entrusted Camillo and Vespucci to secretly court Flavia for him. But both Camillo and Vespucci had courted her for themselves.

Romanello said to Camillo and Vespucci, “Don’t dare for both your lives to interrupt her.”

Flavia said, “Tormented thus to vexation, I assumed a dullness of simplicity; until afterwards, lost to my city-freedom, and now entered into this present state of my condition — marriage to Julio — concluding henceforth absolute security from their lascivious villainies, I continued my former custom of ridiculous lightness, as they continued their pursuit of me.

“To tell my lord about their actions would have ruined their best certainty of making a living. But that might yield suspicion in my nature. Women may be virtuous without mischief to such as tempt them.”

She could have told Julio about the attempted seduction of her by both Camillo and Vespucci, but that would have lost them their jobs and might also have made Julio suspicious of her and made him wonder whether she was chaste.

By not telling Julio about Camillo and Vespucci, she had done them a kindness without being unvirtuous.

Romanello said to Camillo and Vespucci, “You are much to blame, sirs, should all that is truth be uttered.”

Flavia said, “For that justice I did command them hither; for a privacy in conversation between Flavia and her brother needed no secretaries such as these are.

“Now, Romanello, thou are every refuge I fly for justice to; if I am thy sister, and not a bastard, answer their confession, or threaten vengeance, with perpetual silence.”

In other words: Punish them if and as you wish, but don’t talk about it later.

Camillo said, “My follies are acknowledged; you’re a lady who has outdone the model of chastity. When I trespass in anything except duty and respects of service, may hopes of joys forsake me!”

Vespucci said, “To like penance I join a constant votary.”

Both men were vowing to reform.

A votary is bound by a vow to live a religious life.

Romanello said, “Peace, then, is ratified.”

He accepted their vows to reform, and so he would not mete out punishment to them.

He continued, “My sister, thou have wakened entranced affection from its sleep to knowledge of once more who thou are. No jealous frenzy shall hazard a distrust: Reign in thy sweetness, thou only-worthy woman. These two converts record our hearty union. I have shaken off my thralldom, lady, and I have made discoveries of famous innovations and novelties, but of those I will speak later. Thus we seal love: you shall know all, and wonder.”

Romanello and Flavia were now reconciled as brother and sister.

Livio entered the room and said, “Health and his heart’s desire to Romanello! I bring my welcome with me.”

He was bringing what he considered good news: That was his welcome.

Livio then said to Flavia, “Noblest lady, excuse an ignorance of your fair presence; this may be held to be an intrusion.”

“Not by me, sir,” Flavia said.

Romanello said, “You are not frequently a guest here, as I remember. But since you bring your welcome with you, Livio, be bold to use it: Get to the point.”

Livio said, “This lady, with both these gentlemen, in happy hour may be partakers of the long-lived amity our souls must link in.”

Romanello said, “So; it is likely that the Marquis Octavio stores some new grace, some special secret employment, for whom your kind commendations, by deputation, it pleases you to think to oblige; and Livio’s charity descends on Romanello liberally, above my means to thank!”

Livio said, “Octavio, the Marquis of Siena, at some past time has been informed how gladly there did pass a treaty of chaste loves with Castamela.”

He meant a chaste love between Romanello and Castamela.

Livio continued, “From this good heart, I say that it was in me an error, willful and without cause, it is confessed, that hindered such honorable prosecution, even and equal: Better thoughts consider how much I wronged the gentle course that led you to vows of true affection, as of friendship.”

In a way, Livio had prevented Castamela from agreeing to marry Romanello. Livio had brought her to Octavio’s palace. He had worried about finances and had communicated that worry to her.

Romanello thought, Sits the wind there, boy!

He was scenting a trick.

Romanello said, “Setting formal circumstances aside, proceed; you dally yet.”

In other words: Get to the point.

Livio said, “Then, without plea, for countenancing what has been injurious on my part, I have come to really tender my sister as a loved wife to you; freely take her, you very honest man; and as you live together, may your increase of years prove just one spring — one lasting flourishing youth! She is your own. My hands shall accomplish what’s required for the ceremony.”

Couples could join hands and vow to marry each other. This was a binding agreement.

“Brother, this day was meant to be a holiday for feasting on every side,” Flavia said.

Romanello said, “The newly become courtier offers most frankly, but indeed he leaves out a due consideration of the narrowness our short estate is bounded in: My wealth is meager.

“Some politicians, as they rise up, like Livio, to perfection, in their own sufficiency for living well, gather also a grave supplement of foresight and wisdom, yet Livio falls short in his.

“You triumph and exult in your advantages; it smells of politics.

“We know you are no fool.”

Flavia said, “Indeed, I believe him.”

Camillo said, “Else it would be willful deception — willful fraud.”

Vespucci said, “It would be rank and senseless folly.”

Livio said, “Ask me to swear an oath at large. I will swear it.”

Romanello said, “Since you are in earnest, receive this in satisfaction: I’m resolved to live a single life. There was a time, Livio, when indiscretion blinded foresight in me, but recollection of my lack of wealth, and your rules of thriftiness, prevailed against all passion.”

Livio said, “You’d be courted. Courtship’s the child of coyness, Romanello, and as for the rules, it is possible to name them.”

By “name them,” he may have meant that it was possible to create and name new rules.

Romanello quoted some words that Livio had said earlier when Romanello wanted to marry Castamela: “A single life’s no burden; but to draw in yokes is chargeable, and will require a double maintenance.”

He then said, “Those are Livio’s exact words. And he said this: ‘Why, I can live without a wife and purchase.’”

“Purchase” is annual income from property. Such property may make up a wife’s dowry.

Or maybe Romanello quoted Livio as saying, “Why, I can live without a wife, and purchase.”

If that is what he said, then he meant that he could live without a wife and could purchase an estate.

Romanello continued, “By our lady the Virgin Mary, so you do, sir; may God send you joy for it! These rules, you see, are possible, and answered.”

He meant that Livio had made some rules — the ones that Romanello had just quoted — that were feasible and that Romanello was returning in answer to him.

Livio said, “A full answer was recently made to this already: My sister’s only thine.”

Why would Livio be so anxious to have Romanello marry his sister? Romanello was still as lacking in wealth as he had been before when Livio was opposed to the marriage.

One answer could be that Castamela had become unchaste and needed to be married to save her reputation.

Romanello replied, “Where lives the creature — Castamela — your pity stoops to pin upon your servant — me?

“Not in a nunnery for a year’s probation. No such coldness for her!

“There are Bowers of Fancies ravished from troops of fairy nymphs, and virgins culled from the downy breasts of queens their mothers, in the empire of the Titans, far from mortals.

“But these are tales: Truly, I have quite abandoned all loving humor.”

“Here is scorn in riddles,” Livio said.

Romanello said, “If there were another Marquis in Siena more powerful than the same who is vicegerent to the Great Duke of Florence, our grand master …

“If the Great Duke himself were here, and would lift up my head to fellow-pomp among his nobles by falsehood to the honor of a sister, urging me to be an instrument in his seraglio …

“I’d tear the wardrobe of an outside from him, rather than live as a pander to his bribery.”

“Seraglio” is the name of the women’s apartments in a palace of the Ottomans. Another name for the women’s apartments is a harem.

Romanello was accusing Livio of selling his sister to Octavio.

Livio said, “So would the man you are talking to, Romanello, without making such a singular noise as you are now making.”

Anticipating that Livio would now criticize his — Romanello’s — sister, Romanello said, “Flavia is a countess, she is; but she has an Earl as her husband, though he is far from our procurement.”

Romanello had not procured Julio to be his sister’s husband; he had had nothing to do with the marriage.

A procurer is a pimp.

Livio asked, “Castamela is refused, then? You will not marry her?”

Romanello said, “She was never appointed as my choice.”

He had previously wanted to marry her, but she had never been officially made his choice, as she would have been if she had agreed to marry him.

He continued, “You know, and I know, Livio — more, I tell thee, a noble honesty ought to make allowances when reason intercedes. By all that’s manly, I say these words not in derision, but in compassion.”

Livio said, “Intelligence flies swiftly.”

The intelligence was gossip that Castamela had become a Fancy.

Romanello said, “Pretty swiftly. We have compared the copy with the original, and find no disagreement.”

The original was Castamela then when Romanello wanted to marry her, and the copy was Castamela now when Romanello did not want to marry her. Back then Castamela had been concerned about wealth, and now Castamela was concerned about wealth. For all Romanello knew, she had become a Fancy out of concern about material prosperity.

Livio said, “So my sister can be no wife for Romanello?”

Romanello said, “No, no. One no, once more and forever.

“This courtesy of yours deceived me for a second.

“Sir, you brought a welcome. You must not depart without it. Scan with pity my plainness: I intend neither anger nor quarrel.”

Livio replied, “Far be it from me to press a blame.”

He then said to Flavia, “Great lady, I kiss your noble hands, and to these gentlemen” — he meant Camillo and Vespucci — “I present a civil parting.”

He then said, ‘Romanello, by the next foot-messenger thou will hear some news of alteration.”

The alteration could be a change in his circumstances and in his relationships to others.

Livio added, “If I send for you, come to me.”

Romanello said, “Without question, I will.”

Livio said, “My thanks may requite the favor.”

He exited.

Flavia said, “Brother, his exchange of conversation appears at once perplexed, but yet sensible.”

Romanello said, “These doubts are easily resolved.

“Upon your virtues the whole foundation of my peace is grounded. I’ll escort you to your home. Lost in one comfort, here I have found another.”

He had lost a possible marriage to Castamela, but he had been reconciled with his sister.

Flavia said, “May Goodness prosper it!”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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