RUD. Ah! love’s a stove consuming a deal of fuel!
MAR. Too quickly.
RUD. Where the man does the burning.
MAR. And the woman the lighting.
RUD. While the one turns to ashes.
MAR. So the other stands and watches.
RUD. Meanwhile, in here we’re frozen.
MAR. And we’re dying of hunger.
RUD. A fire must be lighted.
MAR. (seizing a chair and about to break it up)
I have it,
This crazy chair shall save us!
(RUDOLPH energetically resists MARCEL’S project.)
RUD. (joyous at an idea that has seized him)
(Runs to the table and from below it lifts a bulky manuscript.)
MAR. You’ve found it?
RUD. Yes. When genius is roused ideas come fast in flashes.
MAR. (pointing to his picture)
Let’s burn up the “Red Sea.”
RUD. No: think what a stench ’twould
But my drama, my beautiful drama shall give us warmth.
MAR. (with comic terror)
Intend you to read it?
Twill chill us!
RUD. No. The paper in flame shall be burning,
The soul to its heaven returning. (with tragic emphasis)
Great loss! but the world yet must bear it,
When Rome is in peril!
MAR. Great soul!
RUD. (giving MARCEL_ a portion of the MS._)
Here, take the first act.
RUD. Tear it.
MAR. And light it.
(RUDOLPH strikes a flint on steel, lights a candle, and goes to the stove with MARCEL; together they set fire to a part of the MS. thrown into the fireplace; then both draw up their chairs and sit down, delightedly warming themselves.)
RUD. How joyous the rays!
MAR. How cheerful the blaze!
(The door at the back opens violently, and COLLINE enters frozen and nipped up, stamping his feet, and throwing angrily on the table a bundle of books tied up in a handkerchief.)
COL. Surely miracles apocalyptic are dawning!
For Christmas eve they honor by allowing no pawning!
(Checks himself, seeing a fire in the stove.)
See I a fire here?
RUD. (to COLLINE) Gently, it is my drama.
COL. In blazes!
I find it very sparkling.
RUD. Brilliant! (the fire languishes)
COL. Too short its phrases.
RUD. Brevity’s deemed a treasure.
COL. (taking the chair from RUDOLPH)
Your chair pray give me, author.
MAR. These foolish entr’actes merely make us shiver. Quickly!
RUD. (taking another portion of the MS.) Here is the next act.
MAR. (to COLLINE) Hush! not a whisper.
(RUDOLPH tears up the MS. and throws it into the fireplace; the flames revive. COLLINE moves his chair nearer and warms his hands. RUDOLPH is standing near the two with the rest of the MS.)