(Sitting room. Dresses are strewn around. LEA sits in dressing gown idly throwing dice and scooping them up. DIANA and ELISABETH, in fine dresses, enter stage left.)
DIANA: I have never seen so many people!
ELISABETH: Eligible male people, at that.
DIANA: I can’t believe Markus planned all this. I was beginning to suspect he liked being in mourning.
ELISABETH: He would like seeing Lea engaged even better.
DIANA: Lea engaged? (Turns to Lea.) Lea, you’re not keeping secrets?
LEA: (Rises, stretches.) As Elisabeth said, Markus wants to see me engaged. And when have I ever given my brother what he wanted?
DIANA: (Starts to speak. Stops. Hesitates. Starts again.) Why should Markus want you engaged.
ELISABETH: It’s Katrina’s idea.
DIANA: Why should Katrina want Lea engaged.
LEA: It might have something to do with me saying she belched like a sick hunting dog.
ELISABETH: (Frowns.) Lea, you didn’t?
LEA: But I did. And I can’t wait to tell her that she is getting so slender that she reminds me of a starving walrus.
ELISABETH: (Laughs in spite of herself). Don’t. She’s going to be lady of Ritter House. .
LEA: Well, I’m sick of hearing Barbara Allen. I don’t care if it’s her favorite song. You think Markus would have some mercy for the rest of us.
ELISABETH: Katrina is really very sweet and…
LEA: Do not start. It’s always how sweet Katrina is. How lovely she is. How considerate she is. Well, if you look like a starving walrus and want to marry a rich man, you had better be sweet and considerate—even if you’re willing to settle for a stingy dullard like Markus.
DIANA: But Markus spent a fortune on this ball. Such food! I don’t know the names of half of it.
LEA: (Walks back to chair. Sits down.) I (pause) am not going.
ELISABETH: But you must go!
DIANA: But everyone important is here!
LEA: (Plays with dice.) I’m far too busy tonight.
DIANA: But we can’t go without you!
ELISABETH: (Serious.) But we must…if only so Markus can’t blame us.
(DIANA and ELISABETH exit stage left. LEA rises and paces nervously, biting her lip and glancing toward the door. There’s a rap at the door and she sits hurriedly sits and picks up the dice. MARKUS enters stage left.)
MARKUS: So it is true. You have not dressed for the ball.
LEA: And I’m not going to. Not unless you promise a decent dowry.
MARKUS: I’m offering an immense dowry. Ulrich is just playing for more. It is time you considered marrying someone else.
LEA: (Stands) One of your friends. (Waves toward ballroom.) That perpetually smirking Gerold? Or that antique—what is his name?—Randulf?
MARKUS: Karl of Grunwald is…
LEA: A prattling popinjay! And it is always, “Momma this” and “Momma that.”
MARKUS: (Tense). Odo of Brandt is…
LEA: A spindly miser. Dear brother, I don’t plan to go through life eating beans and cabbage every night.
MARKUS: And Bertram of Adler?
LEA: Is a solemn ass. Have you ever seen him smile? He disapproves of music, jewelry and laughter. I suspect he disapproves of women entirely.
MARKUS: So no one is worthy of your great beauty and wit? You—the most spoiled, the most inconsiderate—sling insults at the world. Well, I’m sorry that Father spoiled you. I’m sorry that he died. But insulting everyone we know won’t make things better.
LEA: I don’t insult them. I describe them.
MARKUS: All but your precious Ulrich? You must have the unreachable toy or none?
LEA: He wouldn’t be unreachable if you’d offer a decent dowry.
MARKUS: And I suppose you have insults ready for Stefan?
MARKUS: The son of the Duke of Trommler.
LEA: And he’s here?
MARKUS: He’s come all this way to meet you. I guess I’ll tell him you are too busy.
LEA: Is he taller than Ulrich? Does he dress as fine?
MARKUS: You’ll have to come to the ball to find out. (Starts toward door stage left. Turns back.) I’ll have you announced after two more songs. (Exits.)
(LEA is thoughtful. Hums. Begans gathering her things. Lights dim.)