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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Café
By Carlo Goldoni (1707–1793)
 
        
Translation of William Cranston Lawton
  
  [A few of the opening scenes from one of the popular Venetian comedies are here given with occasional abridgment. They illustrate the entirely practical theatrical skill of Goldoni’s plots, his rapid development of his characters, and the sound morality which prevails without being aggressively prominent.
  The permanent scene represents a small open square in Venice, or a rather wide street, with three shops. The middle one is in use as a café. To the right is a barber’s. The one on the left is a gambling-house. Beyond the barber’s, across a street, is seen the dancers’ house, and beyond the gamblers’ a hotel with practicable doors and windows.]

Ridolfo, master of the café, Trappolo, a waiter, and other waiters

RIDOLFO—Come, children, look alive, be wide awake, ready to serve the guests civilly and properly.  1
  Trappolo—Master dear, to tell you the truth, this early rising doesn’t suit my complexion a bit. There’s no one in sight. We could have slept another hour yet.  2
  Ridolfo—They’ll be coming presently. Besides, ’tis not so very early. Don’t you see? The barber is open, he’s in his shop working on hair. And look! the playing-house is open too.  3
  Trappolo—Oh, yes, indeed. The gambling-house has been open a good bit. They’ve made a night of it.  4
  Ridolfo—Good. Master Pandolfo will have had a good profit.  5
  Trappolo—That dog always has good profit. He wins on the cards, he profits by usury, he shares with the sharpers. He is sure of all the money of whoever enters there. That poor Signor Eugenio—he has taken a header!  6
  Ridolfo—Just look at him, how little sense he has! With a wife, a young woman of grace and sense,—but he runs after every petticoat; and then he plays like a madman. But come, go roast the coffee and make a fresh supply.  7
  Trappolo—Shan’t I warm over yesterday’s supply?  8
  Ridolfo—No, make it good.  9
  Trappolo—Master has a short memory. How long since this shop opened?  10
  Ridolfo—You know very well. ’Tis about eight months.  11
  Trappolo—Then ’tis time for a change.  12
  Ridolfo—What do you mean by that?  13
  Trappolo—When a new shop opens, they make perfect coffee. After six months,—hot water, thin broth.  [Exit.]  14
  Ridolfo—He’s a wit. I’m in hopes he’ll help the shop. To a shop where there’s a fun-maker every one goes.  15
Pandolfo, keeper of the gambling-house, comes in, rubbing his eyes sleepily
  Ridolfo—Master Pandolfo, will you have coffee?
  16
  Pandolfo—Yes, if you please.  17
  Ridolfo—Boys, serve coffee for Master Pandolfo. Be seated. Make yourself comfortable.  18
  Pandolfo—No, no, I must drink it at once and get back to work.  19
  Ridolfo—Are they playing yet in the shop?  20
  Pandolfo—They are busy at two tables.  21
  Ridolfo—So early?  22
  Pandolfo—They are at it since yesterday.  23
  Ridolfo—What game?  24
  Pandolfo—An innocent game: “first and second” [i.e., faro].  25
  Ridolfo—And how does it go?  26
  Pandolfo—For me it goes well.  27
  Ridolfo—Have you amused yourself playing too?  28
  Pandolfo—Yes, I took a little hand also.  29
  Ridolfo—Excuse me, my friend; I’ve no business to meddle in your affairs, but—it doesn’t look well when the master of the shop plays; because if he loses he’s laughed at, and if he wins he’s suspected.  30
  Pandolfo—I am content if they haven’t the laugh on me. As for the rest, let them suspect as they please; I pay no attention.  31
  Ridolfo—Dear friend, we are neighbors; I shouldn’t want you to get into trouble. You know, by your play before you have brought up in the court.  32
  Pandolfo—I’m easily satisfied. I won a pair of sequins, and wanted no more.  33
  Ridolfo—That’s right. Pluck the quail without making it cry out. From whom did you win them?  34
  Pandolfo—A jeweler’s boy.  35
  Ridolfo—Bad. Very bad. That tempts the boys to rob their masters.  36
  Pandolfo—Oh, don’t moralize to me. Let the greenhorns stay at home. I keep open for any one who wants to play.  37
  Ridolfo—And has Signor Eugenio been playing this past night?  38
  Pandolfo—He’s playing yet. He hasn’t dined, he hasn’t slept, and he’s lost all his money.  39
  Ridolfo  [aside]—Poor young man!  [Aloud.]  And how much has he lost?  40
  Pandolfo—A hundred sequins in cash: and now he is playing on credit.  41
  Ridolfo—With whom is he playing?  42
  Pandolfo—With the count.  43
  Ridolfo—And whom else?  44
  Pandolfo—With him alone.  45
  Ridolfo—It seems to me an honest man shouldn’t stand by and see people assassinated.  46
  Pandolfo—Oho, my friend, if you’re going to be so thin-skinned you’ll make little money.  47
  Ridolfo—I don’t care for that. Till now I have been in service, and did my duty honestly. I saved a few pennies, and with the help of my old master, who was Signor Eugenio’s father, you know, I have opened this shop. With it I mean to live honorably and not disgrace my profession.  48
[People from the gambling-shop call “Cards!”]
  Pandolfo  [answering]—At your service.
  49
  Ridolfo—For mercy’s sake, get poor Signor Eugenio away from the table.  50
  Pandolfo—For all me, he may lose his shirt: I don’t care.  [Starts out.]  51
  Ridolfo—And the coffee—shall I charge it?  52
  Pandolfo—Not at all: we’ll deal a card for it.  53
  Ridolfo—I’m no greenhorn, my friend.  54
  Pandolfo—Oh well, what does it matter? You know my visitors make trade for you. I am surprised that you trouble yourself about these little matters.  [Exit.]…  55
A gentleman, Don Marzio, enters
  Ridolfo  [aside]—Here is the man who never stops talking, and always must have it his own way.
  56
  Marzio—Coffee.  57
  Ridolfo—At once, sir.  58
  Marzio—What’s the news, Ridolfo?  59
  Ridolfo—I couldn’t say, sir.  60
  Marzio—Has no one appeared here at your café yet?  61
  Ridolfo—’Tis quite early still.  62
  Marzio—Early? It has struck nine already.  63
  Ridolfo—Oh no, honored sir, ’tis not seven yet.  64
  Marzio—Get away with your nonsense.  65
  Ridolfo—I assure you, it hasn’t struck seven yet.  66
  Marzio—Get out, stupid.  67
  Ridolfo—You abuse me without reason, sir.  68
  Marzio—I counted the strokes just now, and I tell you it is nine. Besides, look at my watch: it never goes wrong.  [Shows it.]  69
  Ridolfo—Very well, then; if your watch is never wrong,—it says a quarter to seven.  70
  Marzio—What? That can’t be.  [Takes out his eye-glass and looks.]  71
  Ridolfo—What do you say?  72
  Marzio—My watch is wrong. It is nine o’clock. I heard it.  73
  Ridolfo—Where did you buy that watch?  74
  Marzio—I ordered it from London.  75
  Ridolfo—They cheated you.  76
  Marzio—Cheated me? How so? It is the very first quality.  77
  Ridolfo—If it were a good one, it wouldn’t be two hours wrong.  78
  Marzio—It is always exactly right.  79
  Ridolfo—But the watch says a quarter to seven, and you say it is nine.  80
  Marzio—My watch is right.  81
  Ridolfo—Then it really is a little before seven, as I said.  82
  Marzio—You’re an insolent fellow. My watch is right: you talk foolishly, and I’ve half a mind to box your ears.  [His coffee is brought.]  83
  Ridolfo  [aside]—Oh, what a beast!  84
  Marzio—Have you seen Signor Eugenio?  85
  Ridolfo—No, honored sir.  86
  Marzio—At home, of course, petting his wife. What an uxorious fellow! Always a wife! Always a wife!  [Drinks his coffee.]  87
  Ridolfo—Anything but his wife. He’s been gambling all night at Pandolfo’s.  88
  Marzio—Just as I tell you. Always gambling.  89
  Ridolfo  [aside]—“Always gambling,” “Always his wife,” “Always” the Devil; I hope he’ll catch him!  90
  Marzio—He came to me the other day in all secrecy, to beg me to lend him ten sequins on a pair of earrings of his wife’s.  91
  Ridolfo—Well, you know, every man is liable to have these little difficulties; but they don’t care to have them known, and that is doubtless why he came to you, certain that you would tell no one.  92
  Marzio—Oh, I say nothing. I help all, and take no credit for it. See! Here are his wife’s earrings. I lent him ten sequins on them. Do you think I am secured?  93
  Ridolfo—I’m no judge, but I think so.  94
  Marzio—Halloa, Trappolo.  [Trappolo enters.]  Here; go to the jeweler’s yonder, show him these earrings of Signor Eugenio’s wife, and ask him for me if they are security for ten sequins that I lent him.  95
  Trappolo—And it doesn’t harm Signor Eugenio to make his affairs public?  96
  Marzio—I am a person with whom a secret is safe.  [Exit Trappolo.]  Say, Ridolfo, what do you know of that dancer over there?  97
  Ridolfo—I really know nothing about her.  98
  Marzio—I’ve been told the Count Leandro is her protector.  99
  Ridolfo—To be frank, I don’t care much for other people’s affairs.  100
  Marzio—But ’tis well to know things, to govern one’s self accordingly. She has been under his protection for some time now, and the dancer’s earnings have paid the price of the protection. Instead of spending anything, he devours all the poor wretch has. Indeed, he forces her to do what she should not. Oh, what a villain!  101
  Ridolfo—But I am here all day, and I can swear that no one goes to her house except Leandro.  102
  Marzio—It has a back door. Fool! Fool! Always the back door. Fool!  103
  Ridolfo—I attend to my shop: if she has a back door, what is it to me? I put my nose into no one’s affairs.  104
  Marzio—Beast! Do you speak like that to a gentleman of my station?  105
 
  [This character of Don Marzio the slanderer is the most effective one in the comedy. He finally brings upon himself the bitterest ill-will of all the other characters, and feels himself driven out of Venice, “a land in which all men live at ease, all enjoy liberty, peace, and amusement, if only they know how to be prudent, discreet, honorable.”]  106
 
 
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READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
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