The Message and Jehanne
Cast of Characters
CHARLES, the goldsmith
TULLIO, the apprentice
LADY JEHANNE, a beauty
A goldsmith’s shop in Renaissance Paris.
(The tops of the shop windows are just above the level of the street, and through them we see the procession of shoes, any one of them a novel or a play or a poem. In the workshop one finds not only medals and salad forks for prelates, but unexpected things, a viola d’amore and folios ruled for music.)
(TULLIO enters from the street and confronts his master, CHARLE S OF BENICET. TULLIO stands with his back to the door and lets his breath out slowly, as one who has just accomplished a great work.)
CHARLES. (Rubbing his hands) So you delivered the rings?
TULLIO. Yes, master.
CHARLES. And what did my little brown Jacquenetta say?
TULLIO. She twice read the verse you had written in the ring. Then she looked at me. Then she looked at the ring. “It is too cold,” she said.
CHARLES. Too cold?
TULLIO. She said: “But…but I suppose it’s what must go inside a ring!” Then she kissed the ring and bade me tell you she loved it.
CHARLES. (Arrested and puzzled) Too cold, the verse! —But I’ll make her another. We forget how they love us. And the other ring? Did you deliver the Graf’s ring to the Lady Jehanne herself?
TULLIO. Yes, master. Into her very own hand. Her house is very old and in a bad part of the city. As I crossed the court and stood in the hall a great German, with fierce eyebrows, came in from the street with me.
CHARLES. Yes, that’s the one she’s to marry.
TULLIO. He asked me loudly what I had there. And I said, a box for the Lady Jehanne, and that it was for her hand alone, and I ran to the landing on the stairs. Then she came out herself. He cried out upon her: What gift was she receiving? And was it from a certain English student at Padua? And she said: “No, Baron, it is the wedding ring you have sent me.” And when I gave it to her she went in, very white, and without speaking to him. Then I went to Jacquenetta’s with the other ring, and she gave me some supper.
CHARLES. Too cold, the verse! Start putting up the shutters; I must go and see her.
(It has been growing darker. Suddenly a pair of shoes, a poem these, descends from the crowd, and TULLIO opens the door to a knock. A beautiful lady gives Christian greeting, and a seat is made for her among the littered chairs. She sits in silence until TULLIO has lighted the candles and retired.)
JEHANNE. You are Charles of Benicet, master in precious metals?
CHARLES. Carolus Benizentius auro argentoque magister, and composer of music to God and to such men whose ears He chooses to open.
JEHANNE. You are a composer too?
CHARLES. They are callings like two sisters who have ever their arms about the other’s neck. When I have made a wedding ring I compose a motet thereto. The boy who calls to see if the candlesticks are done takes back with him a Mass.
JEHANNE. (Without a breath) Oh!
CHARLES. Can I serve you with music or with metals?
JEHANNE. You have served me today. I am the Lady Jehanne.
CHARLES. Ah, yes! The ring was unsatisfactory? I can make another tonight. I shall set about it at once.
JEHANNE. No, master. The ring is very beautiful.
CHARLES. (After a pause, pretending to be embarrassed) I am overjoyed that it pleases you.
JEHANNE. (Suddenly) The verses that you put in the rings—where do you find them?
CHARLES. Unless there is a special request, my lady, I put in nothing but the traditional legend: fidelitas carior vita.
JEHANNE. (Without reproach) But there are liberties you allow yourself? Master, what meant you when you wrote within my ring?
CHARLES. My lady!
JEHANNE. (Giving him the ring) Graf Klaus addresses me thus.
CHARLES. (Reading around the inside of the ring:) “As the hermit his twilight, the countryman his holiday, the worshiper his peace, so do I love thee.” It was the wrong ring that was delivered to you, my lady.
JEHANNE. It has broken my will. I am in flight for Padua. My family are truly become nothing but sparrows and God will feed them.
End of Play