PIKE [coolly]. You’re anxious about that, are you?
HAWCASTLE. So deeply that I ascertained the penalty for it. You may confirm my information by appealing to the nearest carabiniere—strange to say, many of them are very near. The minimum penalty for one whose kind heart has thus betrayed him—[he turns up sharply toward the lighted windows of hotel, then sharply again to PIKE, his voice lifting]—is two years’ imprisonment, and Italian prisons, I am credibly informed, are quite ferociously unpleasant.
PIKE [gently]. Well, being in jail any place ain’t much like an Elks’ carnival.
HAWCASTLE. There would be no escape, even for a citizen of your admirable country, if his complicity were established, especially if he happened to be—as it were—caught in the act!
PIKE [grimly]. Talk plain; talk plain.
HAWCASTLE. My dear young friend, imagine that a badly wanted man appears upon the pergola here and makes an appeal of I know not what nature to one of your fellow-countrymen, who—for the purposes of argument—is at work upon this car. Say that the too-amiable American conceals the fugitive under the automobile, and afterward, with the connivance of a friend, deceives the officers of the law and shelters the criminal, say in a room of that lower suite yonder.
[His voice shows growing excitement as a man’s shadow appears on the shade of the window nearest the door.]
Imagine, for instance, that the shadow which at this moment appears on the curtain were that of the wanted man—then, would you not agree that a moderate and reasonable request of your fellow-countryman might be acceded to?
PIKE [swallowing painfully]. What would be the nature of that request?
HAWCASTLE. It would concern a certain alliance; might concern a certain settlement.
PIKE. If the request were refused, what would the consequences be?
HAWCASTLE. Two years, at least, for the American, and the friend who had been his accessory. Altogether I should consider it a disastrous situation.
PIKE [thoughtfully]. Yes; looks like it.
HAWCASTLE [with sharp significance]. If this fellow-countryman of yours were assured that the law would be made to take its course if a favorable answer were not received—say, by ten o’clock to-night—what, in your opinion, would his answer be?
PIKE [plaintively]. Well, it would all depend upon which of my countrymen you caught. If it depended on the one I know best, he’d tell you he’d see you in hell first!
[The two remain staring fixedly at each other as the curtain slowly descends.]
THE THIRD ACT
SCENE: A handsome private salon in the hotel the same evening. There are cabinets against the walls, buhl tables, luxurious tapestried chairs, etc. At back, double doors, wide open, disclose a brilliantly lit conservatory and hall with palms and oleanders in bloom. On the left a heavily curtained window looks out upon the garden; on the right is a closed door. Unseen, an orchestra is playing an aria from “Pagliacci.”