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Three Dialogues

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i. [The Marschallin's Bedroom]

"Now that we are alone, sir, I hope you will do me the courtesy of telling me why you are here, and dressed so inappropriately."

"How, is this dress not modest? I put it on in haste, it is true, eager as I was to secure your favor."

"My favor?"

"(Ah. It is no good, she knows, she knows. 'Sir', she said.) Merciful lady, I beg thee, have mercy."

"If I am full of it, how can I not?"

"Thou mockst. Thou laughst. True, I suppose it is a silly enough tale, although tragic for me, were thee to withhold from me thine kindness."

"First you wish for my favor, now, my kindness. You enter, dressed as a woman, and so, I imagine, you will leave. Even so, sir, you try my patience. Speak, and plainly, whether or not it pleases you."

"If thou would have me speak, I will speak. I must speak."


"Well, I found myself mistaken for a dallyer."

"Mistaken? You did not dally in truth, then. Would it not have served you better to say so at once?"

"I feared for my life. And, thou perceivest, had the accusation been true, I should not have hesitated to stand firm and defend myself. Only, as it was not, I judged it best to leave at once."

"You mean, after changing your dress?"

"Changing? Hardly. I assure thee."

"You were, then, already attired as you are now?"

"Not at all. Ah. Again, it pleases thee to make light of my misfortune. I am humbled."

"Perhaps. So, then, you were found in an unfortunate location at an unfortunate time - well enough."

"Say rather: ill."

"Wishing to spare the bodies of your accusers, you fled, and, having disguised yourself in a way that would not fool even a child, you entered my room, pretending to be one of those wishing to ask me for money or patronage."

"It is so. Only ... "


"Well, I am embarrassed."

"Well, do you not think you should be? Had I any to spare, I might offer you a mother's kindness and clothes more fitting your gender, but, you perceive, I am a woman."

"Oh, I am not embarrassed of my dress. Rather, a feeling has stolen over me."

"And this feeling embarrasses you?"

"Not in the least. It is a bright and joyous feeling, kindling in my heart the courage of a lion."

"Or of a lioness, perhaps? But we digress, again."


"Say rather: ill. For, you see, I dislike wasting time."

"Thou woundst me. See, I bleed."

"A small cut only, already half-healed. Speak, sir, and quickly."

"The truth? Would that I dared."

"Did you not claim to feel the courage of a lion?"

"I did. Only, well."

"You are embarrassed."

"I told thee that I dally not, yet, as I stand here, I know it for a lie. For willingly, gladly, would I dally, if only it were thee I dallied with and no other."

"You are young, and silly. (And I am old, and wary. Yet, if this story of his is true, ah. Would it not be sweet, to be adored? To be loved and cherished? To feel my heart flutter at the quiet knock on the door, indicating that he is there? To be kissed out of love, rather than duty?)"

"Wouldst thou reject me so cruelly? So coldly? I cannot help my age. It was thrust upon me by the moment of my birth."

"Go. Leave me."

"Forever? Thou wouldst kill me, I swear it."

"You may return, if you wish it, wearing a dress more appropriate for the occasion and your gender."

"I fly, I float. I shall return. No power on this earth could stop me."


ii. ]The Marschallin's Bedroom]

"My dear Count Rofrano."

"(Ah! She knows who I am.) Does this dress please?"

"It is too modest to please, I think."

"(Ah! She teases. She may be pleased, then. I may hope, and breathe, and live.)"

"Still, it sits on you handsomely enough. But of course, all young men must look handsome to one as old as I am."

"How, old? Should people say of the sun that it is old? Should people look up at the moon and call it grey-haired?"

"The sun burns, and the moon merely reflects the light of another, waxing and waning with the seasons, inconstant as the love of men."

"The sun brings warmth, and joy, and life."

"And burns incautious young men, who fly too close to it."

"If I feel that I have wings, it is only because you smiled at me."


"Ah! You did it again."

"Sir, you are mistaken. Love has made you delirious."

"Only put your cool hands on my brow, and I shall recover."

"From love?"


"Such arduous words you speak, sir. Such foolish oaths you swear."

"If there is aught you share with the moon, it must be your distance."

"Yet I am right here, in this room, with you, whereas the moon cannot even be seen."

"Were she visible in the night's sky, the light she reflected would be yours, and a pale imitation it would be."

"You flatter, sir."

"Had I not known the joy of it would kill me, I would ask you to use my name."


"(So quickly!) I die of joy."

"You seem hardly ill, and well enough."



"(She smiles!) May I kiss your hand?"

"Are you sure your body will be able to withstand the ecstasy of it, rather than be blown apart? For, you see, I would not wish to put out my servants by making them clean pieces of you from every nook and cranny. Besides, my dress is new, and expensive."

"(Did she wear it for me? Well, for whom else?) It pleases you to tease me."

"You are easily teased, but I am hardly pleased."

"I am justly teased, yet you are unjustly displeased."

"How, unjustly? Have you kissed my hand, then? I think it may be you who teases, sir."

"Then permit me to become the one who pleases, instead."

"Merely by kissing my hand?"



iii. [The Marschallin's Bedroom]

"My dear Octavian."

"My dear Maria Therese. It has been too long."

"Hours, merely."

"Hours are like days, when I am not near you. Besides, you were not alone. In public, how may I kneel at your feet and worship you? How may I see your smile and know it is because I have pleased you?"

"My husband is gone now, and will be for several days."

"The words wound."

"Which words?"

"The ones you have not yet spoken. And the ones you have. Would that I were your husband."

"Fat, and old, and unloved? Not here? How strange and fickle your desires."


"Whereas you, my dear Octavian, are young yet, and in good health, and here."

"And loved?"


"By you?"

"Can you doubt it?"

"Then I am satisfied."



"So quickly you change your song."

"It is only because you play me as one would a flute, or a harp, plucking at whichever strings please you to draw from me the notes you wish."

"A flute with strings? I have never seen such a marvel."

"And yet, untouched, I would pine away, silent and forgotten."

"You wish, then, for me to touch you and draw sounds from you?"

"Oh! Not at all."

"How, you do not?"

"That is, I would as soon be the one doing the touching. I, too, have hands, you perceive."

"And you would use them to draw from me a song?"

"If it pleases you, my dear Maria Therese."

"My dear Octavian, are you teasing me?"


"Say rather: ill."

"Then permit me to make amends."