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Title: Plays of Near & Far
Author: Dunsany, Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, Baron, 1878-1957
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Plays of Near & Far

_By_

LORD DUNSANY


G. P. Putnam's Sons
London & New York

MADE IN GREAT BRITAIN

_First printed December, 1922_

_Limited Edition: Five Hundred Copies only_


_Printed by the_
BOTOLPH PRINTING WORKS
GATE ST., KINGSWAY, W.C.2



_By_ LORD DUNSANY

THE GODS OF PEGANA
TIME AND THE GODS
THE SWORD OF WELLERAN
A DREAMER'S TALES
THE BOOK OF WONDER
FIVE PLAYS
FIFTY-ONE TALES
TALES OF WONDER
PLAYS OF GODS AND MEN
TALES OF WAR
UNHAPPY FAR-OFF THINGS
TALES OF THREE HEMISPHERES
IF
THE CHRONICLES OF RODRIGUEZ



PREFACE


Believing plays to be solely for the stage, I have never before allowed
any of mine to be printed until they had first faced from a stage the
judgment of an audience, to see if they were entitled to be called plays
at all. A successful production also has been sometimes a moral support
to me when some critic has said, as for instance of "A Night at an Inn,"
that though it reads passably it could never act.

But in this book I have made an exception to this good rule (as it seems
to me), and that exception is "The Flight of the Queen." I know too
little of managers and theatres to know what to do with it, and have a
feeling that it will be long before it is ever acted, and am too fond of
this play to leave it in obscurity. This beautiful story has been lying
about the world for countless centuries, without ever having been
dramatized. It is the story of a royal court, which I have merely
adapted to the stage. The date that I have given is accurate; it
happened in June; and happens every June; perhaps in some corner of the
reader's garden. It is the story of the bees.

As for "The Compromise of the King of the Golden Isles," it is just the
sort of play through which those that hunt for allegories might hunt
merrily, unless I mention that there are no allegories in any of my
plays.

An allegory I take to be a dig at something local and limited, such as
politics, while outwardly appearing to tell of things on some higher
plane. But, far from being the _chef d'œuvre_ of some ponderously
profound thinker, I look on the allegory, if I have rightly defined it,
as being the one form of art that is narrowly limited in its application
to life. When the man whose cause it championed has been elected
alderman, when the esplanade has been widened, or the town better
lighted or drained, the allegory's work must necessarily be over; but
the truth of all other works of art is manifold and should be eternal.

Though there is no such land as the Golden Isles and was never any such
king as Hamaran, yet all that we write with sincerity is true, for we
can reflect nothing that we have not seen, and this we interpret with
our idiosyncracies when we attempt any form of art.

I set some store by the way in which the three lines about Zarabardes
are recited, though it is hard to explain in writing a matter of rhythm.
But the heartlessness of it can be indicated by a clear pronunciation of
the syllables, as though the people that utter these words had long been
drilled in a formula.

The third play, "Cheezo," tells of one of those rare occasions when it
is permissible for an artist, and may be a duty, to leave his wider art
in order to attack a definite evil. And the invention of "great new
foods" is often a huge evil.

"Cheezo" is a play of Right and Wrong, and Wrong triumphs. Were not this
particular Wrong triumphing at this particular date I should not have
thought it a duty to attack it, and were it easily defeated it would not
have been worth attacking.

I have seen it acted with a Stage Curate, rather weak and a little
comic; obviously such a man could be no match for Sladder. Hippanthigh
should be of stronger stuff than that: he is defeated because that
particular evil is, as I have said, defeating its enemies at present.
Nor could there be any drama in a contest between the brutal Sladder and
a Stage Curate; for the spark that we call humour, by whose light we see
much of life, comes as it were of two flints, and not of a flint and
cheese.

The three little plays that follow I will leave to speak for themselves,
as ultimately all plays have to do.

                                                               DUNSANY



CONTENTS

                                                  PAGE

THE COMPROMISE OF THE KING OF THE GOLDEN ISLES       1
THE FLIGHT OF THE QUEEN                             21
CHEEZO                                              65
A GOOD BARGAIN                                     103
IF SHAKESPEARE LIVED TO-DAY                        117
FAME AND THE POET                                  135



THE COMPROMISE OF THE KING OF THE GOLDEN ISLES


_DRAMATIS PERSONÆ_

THE KING OF THE GOLDEN ISLES: KING HAMARAN.
THE KING'S POLITICIAN.
THE AMBASSADOR OF THE EMPEROR.
THE EMPEROR'S SEEKER.
TWO PRIESTS OF THE ORDER OF THE SUN.
THE KING'S QUESTIONERS.
THE AMBASSADOR'S NUBIAN.
THE HERALD OF THE AMBASSADOR.
THE EMPEROR'S DWARF.
THE DEPUTY CUP-BEARER.
THE KING'S DOOM-BEARER.



THE KING'S POLITICIAN: A man has fled from the Emperor, and has taken
refuge in your Majesty's Court in that part of it called holy.

THE KING: We must give him up to the Emperor.

POLITICIAN: To-day a spearsman came running from Eng-Bathai seeking the
man who fled. He carries the barbed spear of one of the Emperor's
seekers.

KING: We must give him up.

POLITICIAN: Moreover he has an edict from the Emperor demanding that the
head of the man who fled be sent back to Eng-Bathai.

KING: Let it be sent.

POLITICIAN: Yet your Majesty is no vassal of the Emperor, who dwells at
Eng-Bathai.

KING: We may not disobey the Imperial edict.

POLITICIAN: Yet----

KING: None hath dared to do it.

POLITICIAN: It is so long since any dared to do it that the Emperor
mocks at kings. If your Majesty disobeyed him the Emperor would
tremble.

KING: Ah.

POLITICIAN: The Emperor would say, "There is a great king. He defies
me." And he would tremble strangely.

KING: Yet--if----

POLITICIAN: The Emperor would fear you.

KING: I would fain be a great king--yet----

POLITICIAN: You would win honour in his eyes.

KING: Yet is the Emperor terrible in his wrath. He was terrible in his
wrath in the olden time.

POLITICIAN: The Emperor is old.

KING: This is a great affront that he places upon a king, to demand a
man who has come to sanctuary in that part of my Court called holy.

POLITICIAN: It is a great affront.

[_Enter the_ SEEKER. _He abases himself._

SEEKER: O King, I have come with my spear, seeking for one that fled the
Emperor and has found sanctuary in your Court in that part called holy.

KING: It has not been the wont of the kings of my line to turn men from
our sanctuary.

SEEKER: It is the Emperor's will.

KING: It is not _my_ will.

SEEKER: Behold the Emperor's edict.

[_The_ KING _takes it. The_ SEEKER _goes towards the door._

SEEKER: I go to sit with my spear by the door of the place called holy.

[_Exit_ SEEKER.

KING: The edict, the edict. We must obey the edict.

POLITICIAN: The Emperor is old.

KING: True, we will defy him.

POLITICIAN: He will do nothing.

KING: And yet the edict.

POLITICIAN: It is of no importance.

KING: Hark. I will not disobey the Emperor. Yet will I not permit him to
abuse the sanctuary of my Court. We will banish the man who fled from
Eng-Bathai. [_To his_ DOOM-BEARER.] Hither, the Doom-Bearer; take the
black ivory spear, the wand of banishment, that lies on the left of my
throne, and point it at the man that shelters in the holy place of my
Court. Then show him the privy door behind the horns of the altar, so
that he go safely hence and meet not the Emperor's seeker.

[_The_ DOOM-BEARER _bows and takes the spear on the flat of both his
hands. The shaft is all black, but the head is of white ivory. It is
blunt and clearly ceremonial. Exit._]

[_To_ POLITICIAN.

Thus we shall be safe from the wrath of the Emperor, and the holy place
of my Court will not be violate.

POLITICIAN: Had your Majesty scorned the Emperor it were better. He is
old and durst not take vengeance.

KING: I have decided, and the man is banished.

[_A_ HERALD _marches in and blows his trumpet._

HERALD: The Ambassador of the Emperor.

[_Enter the_ AMBASSADOR. _He bows to the King from his place near the
door._

KING: For what purpose to my Court from Eng-Bathai comes thus the
Ambassador of the Emperor?

AMBASSADOR: I bring to the King's Majesty a gift from the great Emperor,
[AMBASSADOR _and his men bow_] who reigns in Eng-Bathai, the reward of
obedience to his edict, a goblet of inestimable wine.

[_He signs and there enters a page bearing a goblet of glass. He has a
pretty complexion and yellow hair falling as low as his chin and curling
inwards. He wears a cerise belt round his tunic exactly matching the
wine in the goblet he carries._

He prays you drink it, and to know that it was made by vintners whose
skill is lost, and stored in secret cellars over a hundred years; and
that the vineyards whence it came have been long since whelmed by war,
and only live now in legend and this wine.

KING: A gift, you say, for obedience.

AMBASSADOR: A gift from the old wine-gardens of the sun.

KING: How knew the Emperor that I had thus obeyed him?

AMBASSADOR: It has not been men's wont to disobey the Emperor.

KING: Yet if I have sheltered this man in the holy place of my Court?

AMBASSADOR: If that be so the Emperor bids you drink out of this golden
goblet. [_He signs and it is brought on by a bent and ugly dwarf_] and
wishes you farewell.

KING: Farewell, you say?

AMBASSADOR: Farewell.

KING: What have you in the goblet?

AMBASSADOR: It is no common poison, but a thing so strange and deadly
that the serpents of Lebutharna go in fear of it. Yea travellers there
hold high a goblet of this poison, at arm's length as they go. The
serpents hide their heads for fear of it. Even so the travellers pass
the desert safely, and come to Eng-Bathai.

KING: I have not sheltered this man.

AMBASSADOR: There is no need then for this Imperial gift.

[_He throws the liquid out of the goblet through the doorway on to the
marble. A great steam goes up._

KING: Neither have I ordered that his head be sent back to Eng-Bathai.

AMBASSADOR: Alas, for so rare a wine.

[_He pours it away._

KING: I have banished him and he is safe. I have neither obeyed nor
disobeyed.

AMBASSADOR: The Emperor therefore bids you choose the gift that he
honours himself by sending to your Court.

[_He signs. Enter a massive_ NUBIAN _with two cups._

The Emperor bids you drink one of these cups.

[_The huge_ NUBIAN _moves up close to the_ KING _holding up the two cups
on a tray._

[_The_ POLITICIAN _slinks off. Exit L._

KING: The cups are strangely alike.

AMBASSADOR: Only one craftsman in the City of Smiths ever discerned a
difference. The Emperor killed him, and now no one knows.

KING: The potions also are alike.

AMBASSADOR: Strangely alike. [_The_ KING _hesitates._] The Emperor bids
you choose his gift and drink.

KING: The Emperor has poisoned the cups!

AMBASSADOR: You greatly wrong the Emperor. Only one cup is poisoned.

KING: You say that one is poisoned?

AMBASSADOR: Only one, O King! Who may say which?

KING: And what if I refuse to do this thing?

AMBASSADOR: There are tortures that the Emperor never names. They are
not spoken of where the Emperor is. Yet the Emperor makes a sign and
they are accomplished. He makes the sign with a certain one of his
fingers.

KING (_half to himself_): How wonderfully they have the look of wine.

AMBASSADOR: One is a wine scarcely less rare, scarcely less jubilant in
the wits of man, than that which alas is lost.

[_He glances towards the spot where he threw the other._

KING: And the other?

AMBASSADOR: Who may say? It is the most treasured secret that the
Emperor's poisoners guard.

KING: I will send for my butlers that are wise in wine and they shall
smell the cups.

AMBASSADOR: Alas, but the Emperor's poisoners have added so wine-like a
flavour to their most secret draught, that no man may tell by this means
which is their work and which that inestimable wine.

KING: I will send for my tasters and they shall taste of the cups.

AMBASSADOR: Alas, so great a risk may not be run.

KING: Risks are the duty of a king's tasters.

AMBASSADOR: If they chanced to taste of the treasure of the Emperor's
poisoners--well. But if they, or _any_ man of common birth, were to
taste of the wine that the Emperor sends only to kings, and even to
kings but rarely, that were an affront to the Emperor's ancient wine
that could not be permitted.

KING: It is surely permitted that I send for my priests, who tell by
divination, having burnt strange herbs to the gods that guard the Golden
Isles.

AMBASSADOR: It is permitted.

KING: Send for the priests.

KING (_mainly to himself_): They shall discern. The priests shall make
for me this dreadful choice. They shall burn herbs and discern it. (_To_
AMBASSADOR.) My priests are very subtle. They worship the gods that
guard the Golden Isles.

AMBASSADOR: The Emperor has other gods.

[_Enter L. two priests of the Order of the Sun. Two acolytes follow. One
carries a tripod and the other a gong._

[_The priests abase themselves and the acolytes bow. The_ AMBASSADOR
_stands with almost Mongolian calm by the door from which he has not
moved since he entered._

[_The impassive_ NUBIAN _stands motionless near the_ KING, _holding up
the cups on a tray._

KING: The Emperor has honoured me with these two cups of wine that I may
drink one of them to the grandeur of his throne. I bid you importune the
gods that they may surely tell me which it were well to drink.

FIRST PRIEST: We will importune the gods with the savour of rarest
spices. We will send up to them the odour of herbs they love. We will
commune with them in silence and they shall answer our thoughts, when
they snuff the savour of the smoke of the burning on the tripod that is
sacred to the Sun.

[_The calm of the_ AMBASSADOR _and the impassivity of the_ NUBIAN _grow
ominous. The two priests hang over the tripod. They cast herbs upon it.
They pass their hands over it. The herbs begin to smoulder. A smoke
goes up. The priests bend over the smoke. Presently they step back from
it._

FIRST PRIEST: The gods sleep.

KING: They sleep! The gods that guard the Golden Isles?

FIRST PRIEST: The gods sleep.

KING: Importune them as never before. I will make sacrifice of many
sheep. I will give emeralds to the Monks of the Sun.

[_The second acolyte moves nearer to the tripod and beats listlessly on
his great gong at about the pace of a great clock striking slowly._

FIRST PRIEST: We will importune the gods as never before.

[_They heap up more herbs and spices. The smoke grows thicker and
thicker. It streams upwards. They hover about it as before. At a sign
the gong ceases._

The gods have spoken.

KING: What is their message?

FIRST PRIEST: Drink of the cup upon the Nubian's left.

KING: Ah. My gods defend me.

[_He seizes the cup boldly. He looks straight at the_ AMBASSADOR, _whose
face remains expressionless, merely watching. He lifts the cup upon the
Nubian's left a little up from the tray._

[_He glances towards the priests._

[_Suddenly he starts. He has seen a strange expression upon the face of
the priest. He puts the cup down. He strides a step nearer and looks at
his face._

PRIEST!--Priest!---- What is that look in your eyes?

FIRST PRIEST: O King, I know not. I have given the message of the gods.

[_The_ KING _continues to search out his face._

KING: I mistrust it.

FIRST PRIEST: It is the message of the gods.

KING: I will drink of the other cup!

[_The_ KING _steps back to his place in the front of his throne where
the Nubian stands beside him. He takes the cup upon the Nubian's right.
He gazes at the priest. He looks round at the Ambassador, but sees
nothing in that watchful, expressionless face._

[_He glances sidelong at the priest, then drinks, draining the cup at
some length. He puts it down in silence. The face of the Ambassador and
the whole bulk of the Nubian remain motionless._

KING: An inestimable wine!

AMBASSADOR: It is the Emperor's joy.

KING: Send for my Questioners.

[_There are weird whistles. Two dark men run on in loin clothes._

Ask these two priests the Seven Questions.

[_The_ QUESTIONERS _run nimbly up to the two priests and lead them away
by the arm._

THE TWO ACOLYTES: O, O, O. Oh, oh.

[_They show extreme horror. The_ AMBASSADOR _bows to the King._

KING: You do not leave us at once?

AMBASSADOR: I go back to the Emperor, whom it is happiness to obey, and
length of days.

[_He bows and walks away. The_ HERALD _marches out, then the_
AMBASSADOR; _the_ PAGE, _the_ DWARF _and the_ NUBIAN _follow._

[_Exeunt._

[_The_ HERALD _is heard blowing upon his trumpet the same notes as when
he entered, one merry bar of music._

[_The tray and two precious cups, one empty and the other full, are left
glittering near the_ KING.

KING (_looking at cups_): Those are rare emeralds that glisten there!
Yet an evil gift. (_To the moaning acolytes._) Be silent! Your priests
sinned strangely.

[_The acolytes continue to moan._

[_Enter one of the_ QUESTIONERS. _He has sweat on his face and his hair
has become damp and unkempt._

QUESTIONER: We have asked the Seven Questions.

KING: Well?

QUESTIONER: They have not answered.

KING: Not answered!

QUESTIONER: Neither man has confessed.

KING: Oho! Do I keep Questioners that bring me no answers?

QUESTIONERS: We questioned them to the uttermost.

KING: And neither man confessed?

QUESTIONER: They would not confess.

KING: Ask them the Supreme Question.

[_The acolytes break out into renewed moaning._

QUESTIONER: It shall be asked, O King.

[_Exit_ QUESTIONER. _The acolytes moan on._

KING: They would have made me drink of a poisoned cup. I say there is
poison in that cup. Your priests would have had me drink it. (_The
acolytes only answer by moans._) Bid them confess. Bid them confess
their crime and why it was done, and the Supreme Question shall be
spared them. (_The acolytes only answer by moans._) Strange! They have
done strangely. (_To acolytes._) Why has your priest spoken falsely?
(_The acolytes only moan._) Why has he spoken falsely in the name of the
gods? (_The acolytes moan on._) Be silent! Be silent! May I not question
whom I will? (_To himself_). They prophesied falsely in the name of the
gods.

[_Enter the_ QUESTIONERS.

FIRST QUESTIONER: The Supreme Question is asked.

[_The acolytes suddenly cease moaning._

KING: Well?

FIRST QUESTIONER: They would not answer.

KING: They would not answer the Supreme Question?

FIRST QUESTIONER: They spoke at last, but they would not answer the
question. They would not confess.

KING: What said they at last?

FIRST QUESTIONER: O, the King's Majesty, they but spake idly.

KING: What said they?

FIRST QUESTIONER: O, the King's Majesty, they said nought fitting.

KING: They muttered so that no man heard them clearly?

FIRST QUESTIONER: They spake. But it was not fitting.

KING: Did they speak of small things happening long ago?

FIRST QUESTIONER: O, the King's Majesty, it was not fitting.

KING: What said they? Speak!

FIRST QUESTIONER: The man you gave to me, O King, said: "No man that
knew the counsels of the gods, who alone see future things, would say
the gods advised King Hamaran ill when they bade him drink out of a
poisoned cup." Then I put the question straightly and he died.

KING: The gods! He said it was the gods!... And the other?

SECOND QUESTIONER: He also said the same, O the King's Majesty.

KING: Both said the same. They were questioned in different chambers?

FIRST QUESTIONER: In different chambers, O King. I questioned mine in
the Red Chamber.

KING (_to_ SECOND QUESTIONER): And yours?

SECOND QUESTIONER: In the Chamber of Rats.

KING: Begone!

[_Exeunt_ QUESTIONERS.

So ... It _was_ the gods.

[_The acolytes are crouched upon the floor. He does not notice them
since they ceased to moan._

The gods! With what dark and dreadful thing have they clouded the
future?

Well, I will face it! But what is it? Is it one of those things a strong
man can bear? Or is it----?

The future is more terrible than the grave, that has its one secret
only.

No man, he said, could say that the gods had advised me ill when they
bade me drink out of a poisoned cup.

What have the gods seen? What dreadful work have they overlooked where
Destiny sits alone, making evil years? The gods, he said, who alone see
future things.

Yes, I have known men who never were warned by the gods, and did not
drink poison, and came upon evil days, suddenly like a ship upon rocks
no mariner knows. Yes, poison to some of _them_ would have been very
precious.

The gods have warned me and I have not hearkened, and must go on alone:
must enter that strange country of the future whose paths are so dark to
man ... to meet a doom there that the gods have seen.

The gods have seen it! How shall I thwart the gods? How fight against
the shapers of the hills?

Would that I had been warned. Would I had heeded when they bade me drink
of the cup the Ambassador said was poisoned.

[_Far off is heard that merry bar of music blown by the_ AMBASSADOR'S
HERALD _on his horn._]

_Is it too late?_

There it stands yet with its green emeralds winking.

[_He clutches it and looks down into it._

How like to wine it is, which is full of dreams. It is silent and dreamy
like the gods, whose dreams we are.

Only a moment in their deathless minds: then the dream passes.

[_He lifts up his arm and drinks it seated upon his throne with his head
back and the great cup before his face. The audience begin to wonder
when he will put it down. Still he remains in the attitude of a drinker.
The acolytes begin to peer eagerly. Still he remains upright with the
great cup to his lips. The acolytes patter away and the_ KING _is left
alone._

[_Enter the_ KING'S POLITICIAN _hurriedly._ _He goes up to the_ KING
_and seizes his right arm and tries to drag the cup away from his lips,
but the_ KING _is rigid and his arm cannot be moved. He steps back
lifting up his hands._

POLITICIAN: Oh-h!

[_Exit. You hear him announcing solemnly_

King Hamaran ... is dead!

[_A murmur is heard of men, at first mournful. It grows louder and
louder and then breaks into these clear words._

Zarabardes is King! Zarabardes is King! Rejoice! Rejoice! Zarabardes is
King! Zarabardes! Zarabardes! Zarabardes!

CURTAIN.



THE FLIGHT OF THE QUEEN


_DRAMATIS PERSONÆ_

THE PRINCE OF ZOON.
PRINCE MELIFLOR.
QUEEN ZOOMZOOMARMA.
LADY OOZIZI.
OOMUZ, _a Common Soldier._
THE GLORY OF XIMENUNG.
THE OVERLORD OF MOOMOOMON.
PRINCE HUZ.



SCENE I

_Time: June._

_Scene: In the Palace of Zoorm; the Hall of the Hundred Princes._

_The Princes sit at plain oaken tables with pewter mugs before them.
They wear bright grass-green cloaks of silk; they might wear circlets of
narrow silver with one large hyacinth petal rising from it at intervals
of an inch._

OOMUZ, _a Common Soldier, huge and squat, with brown skin and dense
black beard, stands just inside the doorway, holding a pike, guarding
the golden treasure._

_The golden treasure lies in a heap three or four feet high near the
right back corner._

SENTRIES, _also brown-skinned and bearded, carrying pikes, pass and
repass outside the great doorway._

THE GLORY OF XIMENUNG: Heigho, Moomoomon.

THE OVERLORD OF MOOMOOMON: Heigho, Glory of Ximenung.

XIMENUNG: Weary?

MOOMOOMON: Aye, weary.

ANOTHER: Heigho.

PRINCE MELIFLOR (_sympathetically_): What wearies you?

MOOMOOMON: The idle hours and the idle days. Heigho.

OTHERS: Heigho.

MELIFLOR: Speak not against the idle hours, Moomoomon.

MOOMOOMON: Why then, lord of the sweet lands?

MELIFLOR: Because in idleness are all things, all things good.

XIMENUNG: Heigho, I am weary of the idle hours.

MOOMOOMON: You would work then?

XIMENUNG: No-o. That is not our destiny.

MELIFLOR: Let us be well contented with our lot. The idle hours are our
sacred treasure.

XIMENUNG: Yes, I am well contented, and yet ...

MOOMOOMON (_contemplatively_): And yet ...

XIMENUNG: I sometimes dream that were it not for our glorious state, and
this tradition of exalted ease, it might, it might be pleasant ...

MOOMOOMON: To toil, to labour, to raid the golden hoards.

XIMENUNG: Yes, Moomoomon.

MELIFLOR: Never! Never!

OTHERS: No. No. No.

ANOTHER: And yet ...

MELIFLOR: No, never. We should lose our glorious ease, the heritage that
none may question.

XIMENUNG: What heritage is that, Prince Meliflor?

MELIFLOR: It is all the earth. To labour is to lose it.

MOOMOOMON: If we could toil we should gain some spot of earth that our
labour would seem to make our own. How happily the workers come home at
evening.

MELIFLOR: It would be to lose all.

PRINCE OF ZOON: How lose it, Meliflor?

MELIFLOR: To us alone the idle hours are given. The sky, the fields, the
woods, the summer winds are for us alone. All others put the earth to
uses. This or that field has this or that use; here one may go and
another may not. They have each their bit of earth and become slaves to
its purpose. But for us, ah! for us, is all; the gift of the idle hours.

SOME: Hurrah! Hurrah for the idle hours.

ZOON: Heigho. The idle hours weary me.

MELIFLOR: They give us all the earth and sky to contemplate. Both are
for us.

MOOMOOMON: True. Let us drink, and speak of the blue sky.

MELIFLOR (_lifting mug_): And all our glorious heritage.

XIMENUNG (_putting hand to mug_): Aye, it is glorious, and yet ...

[_Enter the_ RAIDERS _of the Golden Hoard with spears and, in the other
hand, leather wallets the size of your fist; these they cast on the
heap. Nuggets the size of big filberts escape from some so that the heap
is partly leather and partly gold. These wallets should be filled with
nuggets of lead, about the size described, not one lump of lead and not
sawdust or rags. Nothing destroys illusion on the stage more than a
cannon ball falling with a soft pat. They look scowlingly at the
Princes._

[_Exeunt the_ RAIDERS. _The Princes have scarcely noticed them._

MELIFLOR: See how they waste the hours.

XIMENUNG: They have brought treasure from the Golden Hoard.

ZOON: Yes, from the Golden Hoard beyond the marshes. I went there once
with old brown Oomuz there.

MELIFLOR: Of what avail is it to come back burdened thus? Has not the
Queen more wealth than she'll ever need?

MOOMOOMON: Aye, the Queen needs nothing more.

ZOON: How can we know that?

MOMOOMON: Why not?

ZOON: The Queen obeys old impulses. Her sires are dead. Who knows whence
those impulses come? How can we say what they are?

MOOMOOMON: She cannot need more wealth than what is here.

MELIFLOR: No, no, she cannot.

ZOON: She needs more, for she has bidden them go again to the Golden
Hoards. Her impulses have demanded it.

MOOMOOMON: Then there is no reason in her impulses.

ZOON: They do not come from reason.

MOOMOOMON: So I said.

ZOON: They come from Fate.

MOOMOOMON: From Fate!

[_There is a hush at this._ OOMUZ _comes nearer and kneels down._

OOMUZ: Oh, Masters, Masters. If there be anything greater, greater than
the Queen, speak not of it, Masters, speak not its name.

ZOON: No, Oomuz. We need nothing greater.

OOMUZ: The name frightened me, Mighty Highness.

ZOON: Yes, yes, Oomuz; there is only the Queen.

MOOMOOMON: No, there is nothing greater than the Queen, and she has no
need of anything more than the treasure that he guards there.

OOMUZ: There is one thing more.

MOOMOOMON: More? What is that?

OOMUZ: There is one thing more. The Queen needs one thing more. This has
been told us and we know.

MOOMOOMON: What is it?

OOMUZ: How should we know that? None knows the need of the Queen.

[OOMUZ _returns to guard his heap._

ZOON: What think you, Oomuz? What think you is this need of the Queen?

[OOMUZ _shakes his head about three times._ PRINCE OF ZOON _sighs._

SEVERAL PRINCES (_together wearily_): Heigho.

MELIFOR: Take comfort in our heritage, illustrious comrades. Come! We
will drink to the sun.

SOME: To the sun! To the sun! (_They drink._)

MELIFLOR: To the golden idle hours! (_He drinks._) Let us be worthy,
glorious companions, of our exalted calling. Let us enjoy the days of
idleness. Sing to us, mighty one of Zoon, as the idle hours go by. Sing
us a song.

MOOMOOMON (_idly_): Yes, sing to us.

ZOON: As you all know, I can but hum. But I will hum you a song that I
heard yesterday; very strange it was; sung in the meadows by two that
were not of our people; sung in the evening. I heard it as I loitered
home from the meadows beyond the marshes. There is no ease in the song,
and yet ...

MOOMOOMON: Hum it to us.

ZOON: They sang it together, the two that were not of our people.

[_He hums a song. They all lift up their heads from their listlessness._

MELIFLOR (_wonderingly_): That is a song that is new.

ZOON: Yes, it is new to me.

MELIFLOR: It is like an old song.

ZOON: Yes, perhaps it is old.

MELIFLOR: What is the song?

ZOON: It tells of love.

THE PRINCES: Ah-h!

[_They seem to wake as though young and strong out of sleep. There is a
great commotion among them. The sentries outside are utterly unmoved._
OOMUZ, _without sharing any of the excitement of the Princes, now nods
his head solemnly as he had once shaken it._

MOOMOOMON: Love! It must have been that that I felt that day in the
twilight as I came back round the peak of Zing-gee Mountain.

XIMENUNG: You felt it, Moomoomon? Tell us.

MOOMOOMON: All the air seemed gold, seemed gold of a sudden. Through it
I saw fair fields, glittering green far down, glimpsed between clumps of
the heather. The gold was all about them, yet they shone with their own
fair colours. Ah, how can I tell you all I saw? My feet seemed scarce to
touch the slope of the mountain; I too seemed one with the golden air in
which all things were shining.

XIMENUNG: And this was Love?

MOOMOOMON: I know not. It was some strange new thing. It was strange and
new like this song.

MELIFLOR: Perhaps, it was some other strange new thing.

MOOMOOMON: Perhaps. I know not.

ZOON: No. It was Love.

MOOMOOMON: And then that evening in the golden light I knew the purpose
of Earth and why all things are.

XIMENUNG: What is the purpose, Moomoomon?

MOOMOOMON: I know not. I was content. I troubled not to remember.

ZOON: It was love.

XIMENUNG: Let us love.

OTHERS: Aye.

HUZ: Aye, that is best of all.

MELIFLOR: No, Princes. The best is idleness. Out of the idle hours all
good things come.

HUZ: I will love. That is best.

MELIFLOR: It is like all things, the gift of the idle hours. The workers
never love. Their fancies are fastened to the work they do, and do not
roam towards love.

ALL: Love! Let us love.

MELIFLOR: We will love in idleness and praise the idle hours.

XIMENUNG: Whom will you love, lord of the shimmering fields?

MELIFLOR: I have but to show myself loitering by lanes in the evening.

XIMENUNG: I too will be there.

MELIFLOR: And when they see me ...

XIMENUNG: They will see me too ...

MELIFLOR (_rising_): Behold me.

XIMENUNG: So I do.

MELIFLOR: Will they look towards you when this is there?

XIMENUNG: Are birch-trees seen at dawn fairer than I?

MELIFLOR: Behold me; not a poplar is straighter, not a flower is
fairer. I will loiter along the lanes at evening.

[_He draws his sword._ XIMENUNG _does the same._ MOOMOOMON _draws his
too and places it between them._

MOOMOOMON: Be at peace. _I_ will go to the lanes, and there need be no
quarrel between you, for _I_....

OTHERS: No, no, no....

HUZ: We will all go.

ANOTHER: We will all love. Hurrah for love.

[_They have all risen. They wave their swords on high, not threatening
each other. Zoon alone has not risen._

MOOMOOMON (_to_ ZOON): You do not speak, Prince of Zoon. Will you not
love along the idle hours?

ZOON: Yes, yes. I love.

MOOMOOMON: Come then to the lanes to loiter. It draws towards evening.
Let us all come to the lanes, where the honeysuckle is hanging.

ZOON: I love not in the lanes.

MOOMOOMON: Not in the lanes? Then...!

OTHERS: Not in the lanes?

ZOON: I love her than whom there is no greater on earth--(_Some_
PRINCES: Ah!) unless it be that name that frightens Oomuz.

MOOMOOMON: He loves the...!

XIMENUNG: The ...

MELIFLOR: The Queen!

[OOMUZ _nods his head again._

ZOON: The Queen.

MOOMOOMON: If the Queen knew such a thing she would flee from the
palace.

ZOON: I would pursue.

MOOMOOMON: She would go by Aether Mountain, where her mother went once
before her.

ZOON: I would follow.

HUZ: We would all follow.

MELIFLOR: I would follow too. I would dance after her down the little
street: the bright heels of my shoes would twinkle: my cloak would float
out behind me: I would pursue her and call her name, beyond the street
and over the moor as far as Aether Mountain: but I would not come up
with her: that would be _too_ daring.

ZOON: Love is not a toy, Prince Meliflor. Love is no less than a mood of
Destiny.

MELIFLOR: Pooh! We must enjoy the idle hours that are for us alone.

ZOON: There will be no idle hours on Aether Mountain, following from
crag to crag; if it be true that she would go that way.

MOOMOOMON: It is true. They know it. They say her mother went that way
before. It is one of the royal impulses.

ZOON: Oomuz, did the mother of the Queen go once up Aether Mountain?

OOMUZ: Aye, and _her_ mother.

ZOON: It is true.

XIMENUNG: You are sure of this?

OOMUZ: We know it. It has been said.

HUZ: We will all follow her up Aether Mountain.

MELIFLOR: We will follow merrily.

XIMENUNG: If we did this what would they do when we returned?

MELIFLOR: Who?

XIMENUNG: They.

MELIFLOR: They? They would not dare to speak to _us_.

XIMENUNG: Who knows what they would dare if we dared go after the Queen?

MOOMOOMON: They would dare nothing, knowing whence we come.

XIMENUNG: They care not whence we come.

MOOMOOMON: But they care for the event that is in our hands. They dare
never touch us because of the event.

MELIFLOR: We are the heirs of the idle hours. For them is work. Surely
they dare not leave their work to touch us.

MOOMOOMON: They care only for the event. Because it is prophesied that
we are needed for the event we are sacred. Were it not for the event,
why ...

MELIFLOR: Were it not for the event we might not dare to do it; but,
being sacred, let us enjoy our idle hours.

XIMENUNG: What if the event should one day befall?

MELIFLOR: It was prophesied long ago and has not come. It will not come
for a long time.

MOOMOOMON: No, not for a long time.

[_A sentry passes._

MELIFLOR: So we will follow the Queen.

HUZ: Yes, we will follow.

MOOMOOMON: We shall be a merry company.

MELIFLOR: Splendid to see.

ZOON: I would follow though I were not guarded for the event. Though the
event should befall and we be immune no longer, still I should dare it.

MELIFLOR: I would dare it if I knew what they would do. But knowing
not ...

MOOMOOMON: What matter? We are guarded by the event.

ZOON: I say I care not.

MELIFLOR: Let us drum with our heels and beat with our scabbards against
the benches so that we frighten the Queen. She will run from the palace
then, and we will go after her with all our merry company.

MOOMOOMON: Yes, let us drum all together. I will give the word. All
together and she will run from the palace. We will go after and our
cloaks will stream behind us.

HUZ: Brave! And our scabbards will show bright beneath them.

MELIFLOR: No, I will give the word. When she flees from the palace I
will follow her first. Crowd not about my cloak as it streams in the
wind. We must throw up our heels as we run to make our shoes twinkle. We
must show gaily in the little street. Afterwards we can run more easily.

HUZ: Aye, in the street we must run beautifully.

MOOMOOMON: I think that I should give the word when we rattle our
scabbards and all drum with our heels; but I waive the point. But I do
not think that the Queen can run far. She has never left the palace. How
could she run over the moor as far as Aether Mountain. She will faint at
the end of the street and we shall come up with her and bow and offer
her our assistance.

MELIFLOR: Good, good. It would be cold and rocky on Aether Mountain.

MOOMOOMON: The Queen could never go there over the moor.

HUZ: No, she is too dainty.

XIMENUNG: They say she could.

MELIFLOR: They; what do they know? Common workers. What should they
know of queens?

XIMENUNG: They have the old prophesies that came over the fields from
the dawn.

MELIFLOR: Yet they cannot understand the Queen.

XIMENUNG: They say her mother went there.

MELIFLOR: That was long ago. Women are quite different now.

XIMENUNG: Well, give the word.

MELIFLOR: Nay. You shall give the word, Moomoomon. When you raise your
hand we will all drum with our heels together and rattle our scabbards
together, and frighten the Queen.

MOOMOOMON: I honour your courtesy, lord of the deep meadows.

MELIFLOR: We are ready then. When you raise your hand----

[_A gust of laughter is heard off, from a far part of the palace._

MOOMOOMON: Hark! Hark!

MELIFLOR: It is the Queen! She laughed.

HUZ: Could she have guessed...?

MOOMOOMON: I trust not.

MELIFLOR: She--she--cannot have been thinking of _us_.

MOOMOOMON: She--she--seldom laughs.

HUZ: What can it be?

MOOMOOMON: Perhaps it was nothing and yet ...

MELIFLOR: Yet it makes me uneasy.

MOOMOOMON: It is not that I fear, but, when a queen laughs--it makes a
feeling in the palace--as though all were not well.

HUZ: It makes one have forebodings. One cannot help it.

MELIFLOR: Perhaps; perhaps later we could return to our gallant scheme;
for the present I think I'll hide a while.

MOOMOOMON: Yes, let us hide.

MELIFLOR: So that if there be anything wrong in the palace it will not
find us.

[_Exeunt_ MOOMOOMON _and_ MELIFLOR.

HUZ: Let us hide.

[_Exeunt all but_ ZOON _and_ OOMUZ.

[ZOON _has sat always with bent head at table. He sits so, still._

ZOON (_bitterly_): They would follow the Queen.

OOMUZ: Mighty Highness----

ZOON (_still to himself_): They will come back boasting that they dared
follow the Queen.

OOMUZ: Mighty Highness.

ZOON: Yes, good Oomuz.

OOMUZ: In other times once princes followed a queen and came back
boasting. Master, the workers were angry. Be warned, Master, because you
and I went together once to the hoard beyond the marshes. Be warned.
They were angry, Master.

ZOON: I care not for the workers.

OOMUZ: Master, be warned. It was long ago and they say they were very
angry.

ZOON: I care not, Oomuz. I come not boasting back from the hills under
Aether Mountain. I shall not halt till I have told the Queen my love. I
shall wed with her who is less only than Fate, if less she be. I am not
as those, Oomuz. Who weds the Queen is more than the servant of Fate.

OOMUZ: Master----

[_He stretches out his hands towards_ ZOON _imploringly._

ZOON: Well, Oomuz?

OOMUZ: Master. There is a doom about the Queen.

ZOON: What doom, Oomuz?

OOMUZ: We know not, Master. We are simple people and we know not that.
But we know from of old there is a doom about her. We know it, Master;
we have been told from of old.

ZOON: Yes, there could well be a doom about the Queen.

OOMUZ: Follow not after, Master, when she goes to Aether Mountain. There
is surely a doom about her. A doom was with her mother upon that very
peak.

ZOON: Yes, Oomuz, a doom well becomes her.

OOMUZ: Doubt it not, Master; there is a doom about her.

ZOON: Oomuz, I doubt not. For there is something wonderful about the
Queen, beyond all earthly wonders. Something like thunder beyond far
clouds or hail hurling from heaven; there should be indeed a terrible
doom about her.

OOMUZ: Master, I have warned you for the sake of the days when we raided
the golden hoard beyond the marshes.

ZOON (_taking his hand_): Thank you, good Oomuz.

[_He goes towards door after the others._

OOMUZ: But where go you, Master?

ZOON: I wait to follow the Queen when she goes to Aether Mountain.

[_Exit._ OOMUZ _weeps silently on to the Queen's Treasure._

CURTAIN.



SCENE II


_The Palace of Zoorm: the Hall of Queen Zoomzoomarma._

_Time: Same as Scene I._

THE QUEEN: Is none worthy to kiss my hand, Oozizi; none?

LADY OOZIZI: Lady, none.

[_The_ QUEEN _sighs._

You should not sigh, great lady.

QUEEN: Why should I not sigh, Oozizi?

OOZIZI: Great lady, because such things as sighs pertain only to love.

QUEEN: Love is a joy, Oozizi; love is a glow. Love makes them dance so
lightly along rays of the sunlight. It is made of sunlight and gladness.
It is like flowers in twilight. How should they sigh?

OOZIZI: Lady! Great lady! Say not such things of love!

QUEEN: Say not such things, Oozizi? Are they not true?

OOZIZI: True? Yes, great lady, true. But love is a toy of the humble;
love is a common thing that the lowly use; love is ... Great lady, had
any overheard you speaking then they might have thought, they might
have madly dreamed ...

QUEEN: Dreamed what, Oozizi?

OOZIZI: Incredible things.

QUEEN (_meditatively_): I must not love, Oozizi.

OOZIZI: Lady! The common people love.

[_She points to door._

Lady, the green fields going from here to the blueness, and bending
towards it, and going wandering on, and the rivers they meet and the
woods that shade the rivers, all own you for their sovereign. Lady, a
million lime-trees mellow your realm. The golden hoards are yours. Yours
are the deep fields and the iris marshes. Yours are the roads of
wandering and all ways home. The common delights of love your mere
soldiers know. Lady, you may not love.

[_The_ QUEEN _sighs._ OOZIZI _continues her knitting._

QUEEN: My mother loved, Oozizi.

OOZIZI: Lady, for a day. For one day, mighty lady, As one might stoop in
idleness to a broken toy and pick it up and throw it again away, so she
loved for a day. That idle fancy of an afternoon tarnished no pinnacle
that shone from her exalted station. But to love for more than a
day--(QUEEN'S _face lights up_)--that were to place your high
unequalled glory below a vulgar pastime. One alone may sit in the golden
palace to reign over the green fields; but all may love.

QUEEN: Do all love but I, Oozizi?

OOZIZI: Wondrous many, lady.

QUEEN: How know you, Oozizi?

OOZIZI: The common shouts that come up at evening, the clamour of the
lanes; they are but from love.

QUEEN: What is love, Oozizi?

OOZIZI: Love is a foolish thing.

QUEEN: How know you, Oozizi?

OOZIZI: They came tittering to me once; but I saw the foolishness of it.

QUEEN (_a little sadly_): And they came no more?

OOZIZI (_a little sadly too_): No more.

[_Both look thoughtfully out into dreams, the_ QUEEN _on her throne,
chin on hand._

[_Suddenly a stir is heard from the Hall of the Hundred Princes._

QUEEN (_alarmed_): Hark! What was that?

OOZIZI (_rises, listening anxiously_): It sounded ... to come from the
Hall ... of the Hundred Princes.

QUEEN: They were never heard here before.

OOZIZI: Lady, never.

QUEEN (_anxiously_): What can it mean?

OOZIZI: I know not, lady.

QUEEN: Sound never troubled our inner chamber before.

OOZIZI: All is quiet now.

QUEEN: Hark! (_They listen._)

OOZIZI: All is quiet.

QUEEN: Sound from beyond our wall, Oozizi. How it disturbs. I could not
rule over the green fields if sounds came up to me from the further
halls full of their strange thoughts. Why do sounds come to me, Oozizi?

OOZIZI: Great lady, it has never been before. It will never be again.
You must forget it, lady. You must not let it disturb your reign.

QUEEN: It brought strange thoughts with it, Oozizi.

OOZIZI: All is quiet now.

QUEEN: If it came again....

OOZIZI: Lady, it will not come again. It will come no more. It is quiet.

QUEEN: If it came again ... Is the door open, Oozizi? Yes ... If it came
again I should almost flee from the palace.

OOZIZI: Lady! Think not of leaving the golden palace!

QUEEN: If it came again.

OOZIZI: It will not come again.

[_The heels of the Princes drum louder, off._

QUEEN: Again, Oozizi:

[OOZIZI _pants._ _The_ QUEEN _waits, listening, in fear. Again the heels
are heard._

[_The_ QUEEN _runs to the small door. She looks out._

OOZIZI: Lady! Lady!

QUEEN: Oozizi.

OOZIZI: Lady! Lady! You must never leave the palace. You must never
leave it. You must not.

QUEEN: Hark, it is quiet now.

OOZIZI: Lady, it would be terrible to leave the golden palace. Who would
reign? What would happen?

QUEEN: It is quiet now. What would happen, Oozizi?

OOZIZI: The world would end.

QUEEN: It is quiet now; perhaps I need not fly.

OOZIZI: Lady, you must not.

QUEEN: And yet I would fain go over those green fields all gleaming with
summer, and see the golden hoards that no man guards, glittering with
such a light as glows this June.

OOZIZI: O, speak not, great lady, of the green fields and June. It is
these that have intoxicated the Princes so that they do this unrecorded
thing, letting sound of them be heard in your sacred room.

QUEEN: Has June intoxicated them, Oozizi?

OOZIZI: Oh, lady, speak not of June.

QUEEN: Is June so terrible?

[_She returns towards_ OOZIZI.

OOZIZI: It does strange things.

[_The noise breaks out again._

Hark!

[_The_ QUEEN _runs to the door again._ OOZIZI _stretches out her arms to
the_ QUEEN.

O, lady, never leave the golden palace.

[_The_ QUEEN _listens; all is silent; she looks outside._

QUEEN: I see the green fields gleaming. Strange flowers are standing
among them, like princes I have not known.

OOZIZI: Oh, lady, speak not of the bewildering fields. They are all
enchanted with Summer, and they have maddened the Princes. It is
dangerous to look at them, lady.

[_The_ QUEEN _gazes on over the fields._

And yet you look.

QUEEN: I would fain go far over the strange soft fields; far and far to
the high heathery lands----

OOZIZI: Lady, all is quiet; there is no danger; you must not leave the
palace.

QUEEN: Yes, all is quiet.

[_The_ QUEEN _returns._

OOZIZI: It was a passing madness seized the Princes.

QUEEN: Oozizi, when I hear the sound of all their feet it is dreadful,
and I must fly. And when I see the wonderful fields in the sunlight
sloping away to lands I have never known, then I long to fly away and
away for ever, passing from field to field and land to land.

OOZIZI: Lady, no, no!

QUEEN: Oozizi.

OOZIZI: Yes, great lady.

QUEEN: There is a mountain there that towers above the earth. It goes up
into a calm of which our world knows nothing. Heaven, like a cloak, is
draped about its shoulders. Why have none told me of this mountain,
Oozizi?

OOZIZI (_awed_): Aether Mountain.

QUEEN: Why has none told me?

OOZIZI: When your glorious mother, lady, loved for a day ...

QUEEN: Yes, Oozizi ...

OOZIZI: She went, as all songs tell, to Aether Mountain.

QUEEN (_entranced_): To Aether Mountain?

OOZIZI: So they sing at evening, when they throw down their loads of
gold and rest.

QUEEN: To Aether Mountain.

OOZIZI: Lady, Destiny sent her; but you must not go. You must not leave
your throne to go to Aether Mountain.

QUEEN: There is a calm upon it not of earth.

OOZIZI: You must not go, lady, you must not go.

QUEEN: I will not go.

[_The Princes drum again, still louder with their heels._

Hark!

[OOZIZI _is frightened, The_ QUEEN _runs to the door._

It is louder! They are nearer! They are coming here!

OOZIZI: No, lady. They would not dare!

QUEEN: I must go, Oozizi; I must go.

OOZIZI: No, lady. They will never dare. You must not. Hark! They come no
nearer. June has maddened them, but they come no nearer. They are quiet
now. Come back, lady. Leave the door, they come no nearer. See, it is
all quiet now. They come no nearer, lady. (OOZIZI _catches her by the
sleeve._) Lady, you must not.

QUEEN (_much calmer, gazing away_): Oozizi, I must go.

OOZIZI: No, no, lady! All is quiet; you must not go.

QUEEN (_calmly_): It is calling for me, Oozizi.

OOZIZI: What is calling, lady? Nothing calls.

QUEEN: It is calling, Oozizi.

OOZIZI: Oh, lady, all is silent. No one calls.

QUEEN: It is calling for me now, Oozizi.

OOZIZI: No, no, lady. What calls?

QUEEN: Aether Mountain is calling. I know now who called my mother. It
was Aether Mountain, Oozizi; he is calling.

OOZIZI: I--I scarce dare look out of the golden palace, lady, to where
we must not go. Yet, yet I will look. (_She peers._) Yes, yes, indeed;
there stands old Aether Mountain. But he does not call. Indeed he does
not call. He is all silent in Heaven.

QUEEN: It is his voice, Oozizi.

OOZIZI: What, lady? I hear no voice.

QUEEN: That great, great silence is his voice, Oozizi. He is calling me
out of that blue waste of Heaven.

OOZIZI: Lady, I cannot understand.

QUEEN: He calls, Oozizi.

OOZIZI: Come away, lady. It is bad to look so long. Oh, if the Princes
had not made their clamour heard! Oh, if they had not you had not gone
to the door and seen Aether Mountain, and this trouble had not come.
Oh! Oh! Oh!

QUEEN: There is no trouble upon Aether Mountain.

OOZIZI: Oh, lady, it is terrible that you should leave the palace.

QUEEN: There is no trouble there. Aether Mountain goes all calm into
Heaven. His grey-blue slopes are calm as the sky about him. There he
stands calling. He is calling to me, Oozizi.

OOZIZI (_reflecting_): Can it be?

QUEEN: What would you ask, Oozizi?

Oozizi: Can it be that it is with you, great lady, as it was with the
Queen, your mother, when Destiny sent her hence to Aether Mountain?

QUEEN: Aether Mountain calls.

OOZIZI: Lady, for a moment hear me. Come with me but a little while.

[_She leads the_ QUEEN _slowly by the arm back to the throne._

Lady, be seated here once more and take up the orb and sceptre in your
small hands as of old.

[_The_ QUEEN _patiently does as she is told._

Now, if Destiny calls you, let him call to you as to a Queen. Now, if it
be for no whim of those that pass, that you would go so far from here to
that great mountain, say, seated upon your throne in the golden palace
with sceptre and orb in hand, say would you go forth, lady?

QUEEN (_almost dreaming_): Aether Mountain calls.

[OOZIZI _bursts into tears. She helps the_ QUEEN _by the arm from her
throne and leads her part of the way to the door. There she stops. The_
QUEEN _goes on to the door alone._

OOZIZI: Farewell, lady.

[_The_ QUEEN _gazes out rapturously towards Aether Mountain. Then she
walks back and embraces Oozizi._

QUEEN: Farewell, Oozizi.

OOZIZI: Farewell, great lady.

[_The_ QUEEN _turns, then suddenly she runs swiftly and nimbly through
the door and disappears._

[_At once there is a murmur of voices from the Hall of the Hundred
Princes._

VOICES (_off_): Ah, ah, ah.

[OOZIZI _stands still weeping._

[_Enter the Princes, exquisite and frivolous. They crowd past each
other._

MELIFLOR: And where is our little Queen?

[OOZIZI _answers with a defiant look through her tears, which has its
effect on them._

MOOMOOMON (_foppishly_): There, there.

XIMENUNG: Gone!

MELIFLOR: Come! Let us follow.

MOOMOOMON: Shall we?

SEVERAL: Yes.

MOOMOOMON: Come.

[_They stream across from the side door R to the door in back_, OOZIZI
_regarding them haughtily._

OOZIZI (_menacingly_): It is Aether Mountain.

[_Entranced, silent, last of all_ ZOON _follows. Exeunt all the Princes.
Sounds as of rough protest heard from the workers off. The grim brown
heads of two or three peer round the door by which the Princes entered.
Many come on, dumb, puzzled, turning their brown heads, searching. At
last they cluster round_ OOZIZI. "Er"? _they say._

OOZIZI: Aether Mountain has called her.

[_They nod dumb heads gravely._


CURTAIN.



SCENE III


_On the base of Aether Mountain._

_Right, heather sloping up to left, which is rugged with tumbled grey
rocks._

_Further left all the scene is filled with the rising bulk of Aether
Mountain._

_Low down, far off and small in the background to the right appears a
little palace of pure gold._

_Enter right the_ QUEEN _running untired and nimble, unchecked by those
grey rocks._

_Following her the tired_ PRINCES _come._

ZOON _is no longer last, but about fourth, and gaining._

MELIFLOR _leads._

MELIFLOR: Permit me, great lady. My hand over the rocks. Permit ...

[_He falls and cannot rise._

MOOMOOMON: Permit me. (_He falls too._) These rocks; it is these rocks.

XIMENUNG (_going wearily_): Great lady. A moment. One moment, great
lady. Allow me.

[_But_ ZOON _does not speak. Exeunt L. the Queen and those Princes that
have not fallen. The curtain falls on stragglers crossing the stage._


CURTAIN.



SCENE IV


_The Summit._

_On the snow on the pinnacle of Aether Mountain, with only bright blue
sky all round and everywhere, recline_ QUEEN ZOOMZOOMARMA _and the_
PRINCE OF ZOON.

THE QUEEN: You had known no love before, First of a Hundred?

PRINCE OF ZOON: There is no love on earth, O Queen of all.

QUEEN: Only here.

ZOON: Pure love is only here on this peak lonely in heaven.

QUEEN: Would you love me elsewhere if we went from here?

ZOON: But we will never go from here.

QUEEN: No, we will never leave it.

ZOON: Lady, look down. (_She looks._) The earth is sorrowful. (_She
sighs._) Cares. Cares. All over the wide surface we can see are
troubles; troubles far off and grey, that harm not Aether Mountain.

QUEEN: It looks a long way off and long ago.

ZOON (_wonderingly_): Only to-day we came to Aether Mountain.

QUEEN: Only to-day?

ZOON: We crossed a gulf of time.

QUEEN: It lies below us, all drowsy with years.

ZOON: Lady, here is your home, this peak that has entered heaven. Let us
never leave your home.

QUEEN: I knew not until to-day of Aether Mountain. None had told me.

ZOON: Knew you never, lady, of love?

QUEEN: None had told me.

ZOON: This is your home; not Earth; no golden palace. Reign here alone,
not knowing the cares of men, without yesterday or to-morrow, untroubled
by history or council.

QUEEN: Yes, yes, we will return no more.

ZOON: See, lady, see the Earth. Is it not as a dream just faded?

QUEEN: It is dim indeed, grey and dream-like.

ZOON: It is the Earth we knew.

QUEEN: It is all dream-like.

ZOON: It is gone; we can dimly see it.

QUEEN: Was it a dream?

ZOON: Perhaps. It is gone now and does not matter.

QUEEN: Poor Earth. I hope it was real.

ZOON (_seizing her hand_): Oh, Zoomzoomarma, say not you hope that Earth
was real. It is gone now. See; it is so far away. Sigh not for Earth, oh
lady, sigh not for Earth.

QUEEN: Why not, King of Aether Mountain?

ZOON: Because when you sigh for tiny things I tremble for your love. See
how faint and small it is and how far away.

QUEEN: I do not sigh for Earth, King of the Mountain. I only wish it
well.

ZOON: Oh, wish it not well, lady.

QUEEN: Let us wish the poor Earth well.

ZOON: No, lady, no. Be with me always wholly, living not partly in
dreams. There is no Earth. It is but a dream that left us. See, see
(_pointing down_) it is a dim dream.

QUEEN (_looking down_): The people move there still. See, there is
Prince Ximenung. Something down there seems almost unlike dreams.

ZOON: No, lady, it cannot be.

QUEEN: How know you, Lord of the Mountain?

ZOON: It was too unreal for life. Love was not there. Surely it was a
dream.

QUEEN: Yes, I knew not love in the golden palace of Zoorm.

ZOON: Then indeed it was unreal, Golden Lady. Forget the dream of
Earth.

QUEEN: If love be real ...

ZOON: Can you doubt it?

QUEEN: No. It was a dream. Just now I dreamt it. Are dreams bad, my
Prince?

ZOON: No. They are just dreams.

QUEEN: We will think of dreams no more.

ZOON: This is where love is, and here only. We should not dream too much
or think of dreams, because the place is holy.

QUEEN: Is love here only, darling?

ZOON: Here only, Golden Queen. Do any others elsewhere love as we.

QUEEN: No, I think not.

ZOON: Then how can pure love be elsewhere?

QUEEN: It is true.

ZOON: On this clear peak that just enters Heaven love is and only here.
The rest is dreams.

QUEEN: Could we awake from love and find Earth true?

ZOON: No, no, no. Sweet Lady, let not such fancies alarm you.

QUEEN: And yet folks wake from dreams. It would be terrible.

ZOON: No, no, there are things too real for dreams. You cannot waken
from love. Dreams are of fantastic things, things fanciful and weak, and
things confused and intricate like Earth. When you think of them in
your dreams you see their unreality. But if love were not real what
could there be to wake to.

QUEEN: True. How wise you are. It was but a fancy that troubled me.
(_Looking down._) It was one of those dreams at dawn. It is faint and
far-off now.

ZOON: Will you love me for ever, Golden Queen?

QUEEN: For ever. Why not? You will love me for ever?

ZOON: For ever. I cannot help it.

QUEEN: Let us look at the dream far off, in the dimness our thoughts
have forsaken.

ZOON: Aye, let us look. It was a sad dream somewhat; and yet upon this
peak where all is love all that we see seems happy.

QUEEN: See the dream there. Look at those. They seem to walk dreamily as
they walk in the dream.

ZOON: It is because they have not love, which is only here.

QUEEN: Look! Look at those dreamers in the dream.

ZOON: They are running.

QUEEN: Oh! Look!

ZOON: They are pursued.

QUEEN: The brown ones are pursuing them with spears.

ZOON: It is Prince Meliflor, Prince Moomoomon, Prince Ximenung that run
in the dream. And the Prince of Huz. The brown men are close.

QUEEN: The brown ones are overtaking them.

ZOON: Yes, they are closer.

QUEEN: Look! Prince Ximenung!

ZOON: Yes, he is dead in the dream.

QUEEN: The Prince of Huz?

ZOON: Speared.

QUEEN: Still, still they are killing them.

ZOON: It is all the Hundred Princes.

QUEEN: They are killing them all.

ZOON: A sad sight once.

QUEEN: Once?

ZOON: I should have wept once.

QUEEN: It is so far off now.

ZOON: It is so far, far off. We can only feel joy upon this holy
mountain.

QUEEN: Only joy. (_He sighs as he looks._) Look! (_He sighs again._)

ZOON: There falls the poor Prince Meliflor.

QUEEN: How huge a thrust it was with the great spear.

ZOON: He is dead.

QUEEN: Are you not happy?

ZOON: Yes.

QUEEN: In your voice there seemed to sound some far-off thing. Some
strange thing. Was it sorrow?

ZOON: No; we are too high; sorrow cannot come. No grief can touch us
here, no woe drift up to us from the woes of Earth.

QUEEN: I thought there was some strange thing in your voice, like
sorrows we have dreamed.

ZOON: No, Golden Queen. Those fancied sorrows of dreams cannot touch
reality.

QUEEN: You will never be sorry we have woken and left the dream of
Earth?

ZOON: No, glorious lady; nothing can bring me trouble ever again.

QUEEN: Not even I?

ZOON: Never you, my Golden Zoomzoomarma, for on this sacred peak where
there is only love you cannot.

QUEEN: We will dwell here for ever in endless joy.

ZOON (_looking down_): All dead now, all the Princes.

QUEEN: Turn, my Prince, from the dream of Earth, lest trouble come up
from it.

ZOON: It cannot drift up here; yet we will turn from the dream.

QUEEN: Let us think of endless joy upon the edge of heaven.

ZOON: Yes, Queen; for ever in reality while all else dream away.

QUEEN: It is the years that make them drowsy. They dream to dream the
years away. Time cannot reach so high as here, the years are far below
us.

ZOON: Far below us, making a dream and troubling it.

QUEEN: They do not know in the dream that only love is real.

ZOON: If time could reach us here we should pass, too. Nothing is real
where time is.

QUEEN: How shall we spend the calm that time does not vex, together here
for ever?

ZOON: Holding your hand. (_She gives it._) And kissing it often in the
calm of eternity. Sometimes watching, a moment, the dream go by; then
kissing your hand again all in eternity.

QUEEN: And never wearying?

ZOON: Not while eternity lingers here in heaven.

QUEEN: Thus we will live until the dream goes by and Earth has faded
under Aether Mountain.

ZOON: And then we shall watch the calm of Eternity.

QUEEN: And you will still kiss my hand at times.

ZOON: Yes, while eternity wiles Heaven away.

QUEEN: The silence is like music on Aether Mountain.

ZOON: It is because all is real. In the dream nothing was real. Music
had to be made and then soon passed trembling away. Here all things
always are as the desire of Earth, Earth's desire that groped among
fantasies finding them false.

QUEEN: Let us forget the dream.

ZOON (_kissing her hand_): I have forgotten for ever.

QUEEN: Ah!

ZOON: What trouble has drifted up to you from Earth?

QUEEN: An old saying.

ZOON: It was said in the dream.

QUEEN: It was true!

[_She snatches her hand away._

Ah, I remember it. It was true.

ZOON: All is unreal but love, my crownéd Zoomzoomarma. Where there was
not love it cannot have been true.

[_He tries to take her hand again._

QUEEN: Touch not my hand. It was true.

ZOON: What was the saying heard in the dream of Earth that was true?

QUEEN: None is worthy to touch my hand; no, none.

ZOON: By Aether Mountain, I will kiss your hand again! What is this
saying out of a dream that dares deny reality?

QUEEN: It is true! Oh, it is true!

ZOON: Out of that hurried, aimless dream, that knows not its own end
even, you have brought me a saying and say it against love.

QUEEN: I say it is true!

ZOON: Nothing is true against love. Fate only is greater.

QUEEN: Then it is Fate.

ZOON: Against Fate I will kiss your hand again.

QUEEN: None are worthy. No, none.

[_She draws her rapier._

ZOON: I will kiss your hand again.

QUEEN: It must be this (_pointing with rapier_) for none are worthy.

ZOON: Though it be death I kiss your hand again.

QUEEN: It is certain death.

ZOON: Oh, Zoomzoomarma, forget that troubled dream, and things said by
dreamers, while I kiss your hand in heaven if only once again.

QUEEN: None are worthy. It is death. None are worthy. None.

ZOON: Though it be death, yet once again upon Aether Mountain in heaven
I kiss your hand.

QUEEN: Away! It is death. Upon the word of a Queen.

ZOON: I kiss your h ...

[_She standing kills him kneeling. He falls off Aether Mountain, behind
it out of sight._

[_As he falls he calls her name after intervals. She kneels upon the
summit and watches him falling, falling, falling._

[_Fainter and fainter as he falls from that tremendous height comes up
her name as he calls it._

Zoomzoomarma! Zoomzoomarma! Zoomzoomarma!

[_Still she is watching and he is falling still._

[_At last when his cry of_ ZOOMZOOMARMA _comes almost unheard to that
incredible height and then is heard no more, she turns, and with
infinite neatness picking up her skirts steps down daintily over the
snow._

[_She is going Earthward as the curtain falls._


CURTAIN.



CHEEZO


_DRAMATIS PERSONÆ_

SLADDER, _a successful man_.
SPLURGE, _his secretary and publicity agent_.
THE REV. CHARLES HIPPANTHIGH.
BUTLER.
MRS. SLADDER.
ERMYNTRUDE SLADDER.



SCENE

_The big house that_ SLADDER _has bought in the country._ SLADDER'S
_study. Large French window opening on to a lawn._

_Time: Now._

SLADDER'S _daughter is seated in an armchair tapping on the arm of it a
little impatiently._

_The door opens very cautiously, and the head of_ MRS. SLADDER _is put
round it._

MRS. SLADDER: O, Ermyntrude. Whatever are you doing here?

ERMYNTRUDE: I wanted to speak to father, mother.

MRS. SLADDER: But you mustn't come in here. We mustn't disturb father.

ERMYNTRUDE: I want to speak to father.

MRS. SLADDER: Whatever about, Ermyntrude?

ERMYNTRUDE (_taps the arm of the chair_): O, nothing, mother. Only about
that idea of his.

MRS. SLADDER: What idea, child?

ERMYNTRUDE: O, that idea he had, that--er--I was some day to marry a
duke.

MRS. SLADDER: And why shouldn't you marry a duke, child? I am sure
father would make it worth his while.

ERMYNTRUDE: O well, I don't think I want to, mother.

MRS. SLADDER: But why not, Ermyntrude?

ERMYNTRUDE: O well, you know Mr. Jones----

MRS. SLADDER: That good man!

ERMYNTRUDE: ----did say that dukes were no good, mother. They oppress
the poor, I think he said.

MRS. SLADDER: Very true.

ERMYNTRUDE: Well, there you are.

MRS. SLADDER: Yes, yes, of course. At the same time, father had rather
set his heart on it. You wouldn't have any other reason now, child,
would you?

ERMYNTRUDE: What more do you want, mother? Mr. Jones is a Cabinet
Minister; he must know what he's talking about.

MRS. SLADDER: Yes, yes.

ERMYNTRUDE: And I hear he's going to get a peerage.

MRS. SLADDER (_with enthusiasm_): Well, I'm sure he deserves it. But
child, you mustn't talk to father to-day. You mustn't stay here any
longer.

ERMYNTRUDE: But why not, mother?

MRS. SLADDER: Well, child, he's been smoking one of those big cigars
again, and he's absent-like. And he's been talking a good deal with Mr.
Splurge. It's one of his great days, I think, Ermyntrude. I feel sure it
is. One of those days that has given us all this money, and all these
fine houses, with all those little birds that his gentlemen friends
shoot. He has an idea!

ERMYNTRUDE: O, mother, do you really think so?

MRS. SLADDER: I'm sure of it, child. (_Looking out._) There! There he
is! Walking along that path that they made. I can see he's got an idea.
How like Napoleon.[*] He's walking with Mr. Splurge. They're coming in
now. Come along, Ermyntrude, we mustn't disturb him to-day. He has some
great idea, some great idea.

[Footnote *: (N.B.--SLADDER _is not in the very least like Napoleon._)]

ERMYNTRUDE: How splendid, mother! What do you think it is?

MRS. SLADDER: Ah. I could never explain it to you, even if I knew. It is
business, child, business. It isn't everybody that can understand
business.

ERMYNTRUDE: I hear them coming, mother.

MRS. SLADDER: There must be things we can never understand: things too
deep for us like. And business is the most wonderful of them all.

[_Exeunt R._

[_Enter_ SLADDER _and_ SPLURGE _through the window, which opens on to
the lawn, down a step or two._

SLADDER: Now, Splurge, we must do some business.

SPLURGE: Yes, sir.

SLADDER: Sit down, Splurge.

SPLURGE: Thank you, sir.

SLADDER: Splurge, I am going to say to you now, what I couldn't talk
about with all those gardeners hanging about. And, by the way, Splurge,
haven't we bought rather too many gardeners?

SPLURGE: No, sir. The Earl of Etheldune has seven; we had to go one
better than him, sir.

SLADDER: Certainly, Splurge, certainly.

SPLURGE: So I bought ten for you, sir, to be on the safe side.

SLADDER: Ah, quite right, Splurge, quite right. There seemed to be
rather a lot, but that's quite right. Well, now to business.

SPLURGE: Yes, sir.

SLADDER: I told you I'd invented a new name for a food.

SPLURGE: Yes, sir. Cheezo.

SLADDER: Well, what have you been able to do about it?

SPLURGE: I've had some nice little posters done, sir. I'm having it well
written up. I've got some samples here, and it looks like doing very
well indeed.

SLADDER: Ah!

SPLURGE: It's a grand name, if I may say so, sir. It sounds so
classical-like with that "O" at the end; and yet anyone can see what
it's derived from, even if he's never learnt anything. It suggests
cheese to them every time.

SLADDER: Let's see your samples.

SPLURGE: Well, sir, here's one. (_Brings paper from pocket. Reads._)
"What is Cheezo? Go where you may, speak with whom you will, the same
question confronts you. Cheezo is the great new----"

SLADDER: No, Splurge. Cut that question bit. We must have no admission
on our part that there's anyone who doesn't know what Cheezo is. Cut it.

SPLURGE: You're quite right, sir; you're quite right. That's a weak bit.
I'll cut it. (_He scratches it out. Reads._) "Cheezo is the great new
food. It builds up body and brain."

SLADDER: That's good.

SPLURGE: "There is a hundred times more lactic fluid in an ounce of
Cheezo than in a gallon of milk."

SLADDER: What's lactic fluid, Splurge?

SPLURGE: I don't know, sir, but it's good stuff all right. It's the
right thing to have in it. It's a good man that I got to write this.

SLADDER: All right. Go on.

SPLURGE: "Cheezo makes darling baby grow."

SLADDER: Good. Very good. Very good indeed, Splurge.

SPLURGE: Yes, I think that catches them, sir.

SLADDER: Go on.

SPLURGE: "Cheezo. The only food."

SLADDER: "The only food"? I don't like that.

SPLURGE: It will go down all right, sir, so long as the posters are big
enough.

SLADDER: Go down all right! I wasn't fool enough to suppose that it
wouldn't go _down_ all right. What are posters for if the public doesn't
believe them? Of course it will go _down_ all right.

SPLURGE: O, I beg your pardon, sir. Then what don't you quite like about
it?

SLADDER: I might invent another food one of these days, and then where
should we be?

SPLURGE: I hadn't thought of that, sir.

SLADDER: Out with it.

SPLURGE: (_Scratches with pencil_). "Cheezo is made out of the purest
milk from purest English cows."

SLADDER: Y-e-s, y-e-s. I don't say you're wrong. I don't say you're
exactly wrong. But in business, Splurge, you want to keep more to
generalities. Talk about the bonds that bind the Empire, talk about the
Union Jack, talk by all means about the purity of the English cow; but
definite statements you know, definite statements----

SPLURGE: O, yes, I know, sir; but the police never interfere with
anything one puts on a poster. It would be bad for business, a jury
would never convict, and----

SLADDER: I didn't say they would; but if some interfering ass were to
write to the papers to say that Cheezo wasn't made from milk, we should
have to go to the expense of buying a dozen cows, and photographing
them, and one thing and another. (_He gets up and goes to cupboard._)
Now, look here. I quite understand what you say, purity and all that,
and a very good point too, but you look at this.

[_He unrolls a huge poster representing a dairymaid smirking in deadly
earnest. On it is printed: "WON'T YOU HAVE SOME?" and on another part of
the poster "CHEEZO FOR PURITY."_

You see. Your whole point's there. We state nothing and we can make the
dairymaid as suggestive as we like.

SPLURGE: Yes, sir, that is excellent. Quite splendid.

SLADDER: They shall look at that on every road and railway, where it
enters every town in England. I'll have it on the cliffs of Dover. It
shall be the first thing they see when they come back home, and the last
thing for them to remember when they leave England. I'll have it
everywhere. I'll rub their noses in it. And then, Splurge, they'll ask
for Cheezo when they want cheese, and that will mean I shall have the
monopoly of all the cheese in the world.

SPLURGE: You're a great man, sir.

SLADDER: I'll be a greater one, Splurge. I'm not past work yet. What
more have you got?

SPLURGE: I've rather a nice little poster being done, sir. A boy and a
girl looking at one another with a rather knowing look. There's a large
query mark all over the girl's dress. Then over the top in big letters
I've put: "What is the secret?" and in smaller letters: "I've got a bit
of Cheezo." It _makes_ people look at it, the children's faces are so
wicked.

SLADDER: Good, Splurge. Very good. I'll have that one. I'll rub their
noses in that one.

SPLURGE: Then I've got some things for the Press. (_Reads._) "She:
'Darling.' He: 'Yes, wifey.' She: 'You won't forget, darling.' He: 'No,
wifey.' She: 'You won't forget to bring me some of that excellent
Cheezo, so nutritious, so nice for darling baby, to be had at all
grocers; but be sure that you find the name of Sladder on their
well-known pink wrappers.' He: 'Certainly, wifey.'" Just the usual
thing, sir, of course; only I have a very good little picture to go with
it, very suggestive indeed; I've made all the arrangements with the
Press and the bill-posters, sir. I think we'll make a big thing of it,
sir.

SLADDER: Well, Splurge, nothing remains to be done now, except to make
the Cheezo.

SPLURGE: How do you think of doing it, sir?

SLADDER: Do you know how they kill pigs in Chicago? No, you've not
travelled yet. Well, they get their pigs on a slide, one man cuts their
throats as fast as they go by, another shaves their bristles, and so on,
and so on; one man for each job, and all at it at once; they do it very
expeditiously. Well, there's an interfering fellow sent there by the
Government (we wouldn't stand him in England), and if a pig has a sign
of tuberculosis on him he won't let that pig go down. Now you'd think
that pig was wasted. He isn't. He goes into soap. Now, Splurge, how many
cakes of soap were used in the world last year?

SPLURGE (_getting up_): Last year? I don't think we have the figures in
for last year yet, sir.

[_He goes to bookshelf._

SLADDER: Well, the year before will do.

SPLURGE: (_taking book and turning pages_): The figures are given, I
think, sir, from the 1st of March to the 1st of March.

SLADDER: That will do.

SPLURGE: Ah, here it is, sir. Soap statistics for the twelve months
ending 1st of March this year. A hundred and four million users, using
on an average twenty cakes each per year. Then there are partial users,
and occasional users. The total would be about twenty-one hundred
million, sir.

SLADDER: Pure waste, Splurge, all pure waste.

SPLURGE: Waste, sir?

SLADDER: Pure waste. What do you suppose becomes of all that soap, all
that good fat? Proteids, I think they call 'em. And proteids are _good_
for you, Splurge.

SPLURGE: What _becomes_ of them, sir? They're used up.

SLADDER: No, Splurge. They disappear, I grant you. They float away. But
they're still there Splurge, they're still there. All that good fat is
somewhere.

SPLURGE: But--but, sir--but--In the drains, sir?

SLADDER: All those million of cakes of soap. There must be tons of it,
Splurge. And we'll _get_ it.

SPLURGE: You are a wonderful man, sir.

SLADDER: O, I've a few brains, Splurge. That anyone might have. But I
use mine, that's all. There's cleverer people than me in the world----

SPLURGE: No, sir.

SLADDER: O, yes, there are. Lots of them. But they're damned fools. And
why? 'Cause they don't use their brains. They mess about learning Greek.
Greek! Can you believe it? What good does Greek ever do them?... But the
money's not made yet, Splurge.

SPLURGE: I'm having it well advertised, sir.

SLADDER: Not so fast. What if they won't eat it?

SPLURGE: O, they'll eat it all right when it's advertised, sir. They eat
everything that's advertised.

SLADDER: What if they can't eat it, Splurge?

SPLURGE: Can't, sir?

SLADDER: Send for my daughter.

SPLURGE: Yes, sir. (_He rises and goes to the door._)

SLADDER: The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of some
damned place. A million of money will be won or lost in this house in
five minutes.

SPLURGE: In this house, sir?

SLADDER: Yes, in Ermyntrude's sitting-room. Send for her.

SPLURGE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Miss Sladder! Miss Sladder!

ERMYNTRUDE (_off_): Yes, Mr. Splurge.

SPLURGE: Would you come to the study, miss, Mr. Sladder wants to speak
to you.

ERMYNTRUDE: O, yes, Mr. Splurge.

SLADDER: The test! The test!

[_Re-enter_ SPLURGE.

SPLURGE: Miss Sladder is coming, sir.

SLADDER: The test!

[_Enter_ ERMYNTRUDE.

ERMYNTRUDE: What is it, father?

SLADDER: How are your white mice, child?

ERMYNTRUDE: Quite well, father, both of them.

Sladder (_draws a box from his pocket, takes out a little bit of
cheese_): Give them that, Ermyntrude.

ERMYNTRUDE: That, father. What is it?

SLADDER: Cheese.

ERMYNTRUDE: May I have a bit?

SLADDER: No, don't touch it!

ERMYNTRUDE: Very well, father.

SLADDER: If they eat it, you shall have----

ERMYNTRUDE: What, father?

SLADDER: Anything, everything. Only go and give them the cheese.

ERMYNTRUDE: All right, father.

[_She moves to the door R., she looks round, then goes out by the French
window instead._

SLADDER: Why are you going that way, child?

ERMYNTRUDE: O--er--I thought it would be nice to go round over the lawn,
father. I can get in by the drawing-room.

SLADDER: O, very well. Be quick, dear.

ERMYNTRUDE: All right, father.

[_The magnet that has attracted_ ERMYNTRUDE _to the lawn now appears in
the form of_ MR. HIPPANTHIGH, _passing the window on his way to the
hall-door._ SLADDER _and_ SPLURGE _do not see him, having their backs to
the window._ ERMYNTRUDE _looks round now and then to be sure of this.
They hold hands longer than is laid down as necessary in books upon
etiquette under the head of visiting. She gives him a look of glad and
hopeful interrogation but he shakes his head solemnly, and passes
gravely on, as one whose errand is no cheerful duty. She looks after
him, then goes her way._

SLADDER: Well, Splurge, we can only wait. (_With emphasis._) If these
mice eat it----

SPLURGE: Yes, sir?

SLADDER: The public will eat it.

SPLURGE: Ah!

SLADDER: Any other business to-day?

SPLURGE: O, only the cook, sir. He's complaining about the vegetables,
sir. He says he's never been anywhere before where they didn't buy them.
We get them out of the kitchen garden here, and it seems he doesn't
understand it. Says he won't serve a greengrocer, sir.

SLADDER: A kitchen garden is the wrong thing, is it?

SPLURGE: He says so, sir.

SLADDER: But there was one here when we came.

SPLURGE: O, only country people, sir. I suppose they didn't know any
better.

SLADDER: Well, where do people grow vegetables, then?

SPLURGE: I asked the cook that, sir, and he said they don't grow them,
they buy them.

SLADDER: O, all right, then. Let him buy them, then. We must do the
right thing.

[_The hall-door bell rings._

SLADDER: Hullo! Who's ringing my bell?

SPLURGE: That was the hall-door, wasn't it, sir?

SLADDER: Yes. What are they ringing it for?

[_Enter_ BUTLER.

BUTLER: Mr. Hippanthigh has called to see you, sir.

SLADDER: Called to see me! What about?

BUTLER: He didn't inform me, sir.

SLADDER: I say, Splurge, have I got to see him?

SPLURGE: I think so, sir. I think they call on one another like that in
the country.

SLADDER: Good lord, whatever for? (_To_ BUTLER.) O, yes. I'll see him,
I'll see him.

BUTLER: Very good, sir, I'll inform him so, sir.

[_Exit._

SLADDER: I say, Splurge, I suppose I've got to have a butler, and all
that, eh?

SPLURGE: O, yes, sir. One at least. It's quite necessary.

SLADDER: You--you couldn't have bought me a cheerfuller one now, could
you?

SPLURGE: I'm afraid not, sir. If you were to take all this too
lightheartedly, the other landowners would hardly like it, you know.

SLADDER: O, well! O, well! What kind of man is this Hippanthigh that's
coming?

SPLURGE: He's the man that quarrels with the bishop, sir.

SLADDER: O, the curate. O, yes. I've heard about him. He's been here
before, I think. Lawn tennis.

[_Enter_ BUTLER.

BUTLER: Mr. Hippanthigh, sir.

[_Enter_ HIPPANTHIGH. _Exit_ BUTLER.

SLADDER: How do you do, Mr. Hippanthigh? How do you do? Pleased to see
you.

HIPPANTHIGH: I wished to speak with you, Mr. Sladder, if you will permit
me.

SLADDER: Certainly, Mr. Hippanthigh, certainly. Take a chair.

HIPPANTHIGH: Thank you, sir. I think I would sooner stand.

SLADDER: Please yourself. Please yourself.

HIPPANTHIGH: I wished to speak with you alone, sir.

SLADDER: Alone, eh? Alone? (_Aside to_ SPLURGE.) It's usual, eh? (_To_
HIPPANTHIGH.) Alone, of course, yes. You've come to call, haven't you.
(_Exit_ SPLURGE.) Can I offer you--er, er--calling's not much in my
line, you know--but what I mean is--will you have a bottle of champagne?

HIPPANTHIGH: Mr. Sladder, I've come to speak with you because I believe
it to be my duty to do so. I have hesitated to come, but when for
particular reasons it became most painful to me to do so, then I knew
that it was my clear duty, and I have come.

SLADDER: O, yes, what they call a duty call. O, yes, quite so. Yes,
exactly.

HIPPANTHIGH: Mr. Sladder, many of my parishioners are acquainted with
the thing that you sell as bread. (_From the moment of_ HIPPANTHIGH'S
_entry till now_ SLADDER, _over-cheerful and anxious, has been
struggling to do and say the right thing through all the complications
of a visit; but now that the note of Business has been sounded he
suddenly knows where he is and becomes alert and stern, and all there._)

SLADDER: What? Virilo?

HIPPANTHIGH: Yes. They pay more for it than they pay for bread, because
they've been taught somehow, poor fools, that "they must have the best."
They've been made to believe that it makes them, what they call virile,
poor fools, and they're growing ill on it. Not so ill that I can prove
anything, and the doctor daren't help me.

SLADDER: Are you aware, Mr. Hippanthigh, that if you said in public what
you're saying to me, you would go to prison for it, unless you can run
to the very heavy fine--damages would be enormous.

HIPPANTHIGH: I know that, Mr. Sladder, and so I have come to you as the
last hope for my people.

SLADDER: Are you aware, Mr. Hippanthigh, that you are making an attack
upon business? I don't say that business is as pure as a surplice. But I
do say that in business it is--as you may not understand--get on or go
under; and without my business, or the business of the next man, who is
doing his best to beat me, what would happen to trade? I don't know
what's going to happen to England if you get rid of her trade, Mr.
Hippanthigh.... Well?... When we're broke because we've been doing
business with surplices on, what are the other countries going to do,
Mr. Hippanthigh? Can you answer me that?

HIPPANTHIGH: No, Mr. Sladder.

SLADDER: Ah! So I've got the best of you?

HIPPANTHIGH: Yes, Mr. Sladder. I'm not so clever as you.

SLADDER: Glad you admit the point. As for cleverness it isn't that I've
so much of that, but I use what I've got. Well, have you anything more
to say?

HIPPANTHIGH: Only to appeal to you, Mr. Sladder, on behalf of these poor
people.

SLADDER: Why. But you admitted one must have business, and that it can't
be run like a tea-party. What more do you want?

HIPPANTHIGH: I want you to spare them, Mr. Sladder.

SLADDER: Spare them? Spare them? Why, what's the matter with them? I'm
not killing them.

HIPPANTHIGH: No, Mr. Sladder, you're not killing them. The mortality
among children's a bit on the high side, but I wouldn't say that was
entirely due to your bread. There's a good many minor ailments among the
grown-up people, it seems to attack their digestion mostly, one can't
trace each case to its source; but their health and their teeth aren't
what they were when they had the pure wheaten bread.

SLADDER: But there _is_ wheat in my bread, prepared by a special
process.

HIPPANTHIGH: Ah! It's that special process that does it, I expect.

SLADDER: Well, they needn't buy it if it isn't good.

HIPPANTHIGH: Ah, they can't help themselves, poor fools; they've been
taught to do it from their childhood up. Virilo, Bredo and Weeto, that
are all so much better than bread, it's a choice between these three.
Bread is never advertised, or God's good wheat.

SLADDER: Mr. Hippanthigh, if I'm too much of a fool to sell my goods I
suffer for it; if they're such fools as to buy my Virilo, they suffer
for it--that is to say, you say they do--that is a natural law that may
be new to you. But why should I suffer more than them? Besides, if I
take my Virilo off the market just to oblige you, Mr. Hippanthigh, a
little matter of £30,000 a year----

HIPPANTHIGH: I--er----

SLADDER: O, don't mention it. Any little trifle to oblige! But if I did,
up would go the sales of Bredo and Weeto (which have nothing to do with
my firm), and your friends wouldn't be any better for that let me tell
you, for I happen to know how _they're_ made.

HIPPANTHIGH: I am not speaking of the wickedness of others. I come to
appeal to you, Mr. Sladder, that for nothing that _you_ do, our English
race shall lose anything of its ancient strength, in its young men in
their prime, or that they should grow infirm a day sooner than God
intended, when He planned his course for man.

ERMYNTRUDE (_off_): Father! Father!

[SLADDER _draws himself up, and stands erect to meet the decisive news
that he has expected._

[_Enter_ ERMYNTRUDE.

ERMYNTRUDE: Father! The mice have eaten the cheese.

SLADDER: Ah! The public will---- O! (_He has suddenly seen_
HIPPANTHIGH).

HIPPANTHIGH (_solemnly_): What new wickedness is this, Mr. Sladder?
(_All stand silent._) Good-bye, Mr. Sladder.

[_He goes to the door, passing_ ERMYNTRUDE. _He looks at her and sighs
as he goes. He passes_ MRS. SLADDER _near the door, and bows in
silence._

[_Exit._

ERMYNTRUDE: What have you been saying to Mr. Hippanthigh, father?

SLADDER: Saying! He's been doing all the saying. He doesn't let you do
much saying, does Hippanthigh.

ERMYNTRUDE: But, father. What did he come to see you about?

SLADDER: He came to call your poor old father all kinds of bad names, he
did. It seems your old father is a wicked fellow, Ermyntrude.

ERMYNTRUDE: O, father, I'm sure he never meant it.

[HIPPANTHIGH _goes by the window with a mournful face._ ERMYNTRUDE _runs
to the window and watches him till he is out of sight. She quietly waves
her hand to_ HIPPANTHIGH, _unseen by her father._

SLADDER: O, he meant it all right. He meant it. I'm sorry for that
bishop of his that he quarrels with, if he lets him have it the way he
went for your poor old father. O, dear me; dear me.

ERMYNTRUDE: I don't think he quarrels with him, father. I think he only
insists that there can be no such thing as eternal punishment. I think
that's rather nice of him.

SLADDER: I don't care a damn about eternal punishment one way or the
other. But a man who quarrels with the head of his firm's a fool. If his
bishop's keen on hell, he should push hell for all it's worth.

ERMYNTRUDE: Y-e-s, I suppose he should. But, father, aren't you glad
that my mice have eaten the new cheese? I thought you'd be glad, father.

SLADDER: So I am, child. So I am. Only I don't feel quite so glad as I
thought I was going to, now. I don't know why. He seems to have stroked
me the wrong way somehow.

ERMYNTRUDE: You said you'd give me whatever I liked.

SLADDER: And so I will, child. So I will. A motor if you like, with
chauffeur and footman complete. We can buy anything now, and I wouldn't
grudge----

ERMYNTRUDE: I don't want a motor, father.

SLADDER: What would you like to have?

ERMYNTRUDE: O, nothing, father, nothing. Only about that duke,
father----

SLADDER: What duke, Ermyntrude?

ERMYNTRUDE: Mother said you wanted me to marry a duke some day, father.

SLADDER: Well?

ERMYNTRUDE: Well I--er--I don't think I quite want to, father.

SLADDER: Ah! Quite so. Quite so. Quite so. And who _did_ you think of
marrying?

ERMYNTRUDE: O, father.

SLADDER: Well? (ERMYNTRUDE _is silent._) When I was his age, I had to
work hard for my living.

ERMYNTRUDE: O, father. How do you know what age he is?

SLADDER: O, I guessed he was 82, going to be 83 next birthday. But I
daresay I know nothing of the world. I daresay I may have been wrong.

ERMYNTRUDE: O, father, he's young.

SLADDER: Dear me, you don't say so. Dear me, you do surprise me. Well,
well, well, well. We do live and learn. Don't we? And what might his
name be now?

ERMYNTRUDE: It's Mr. Hippanthigh, father.

SLADDER: O-o-o! It's Mr. Hippanthigh, is it? O-ho, O-ho! (_He touches a
movable bell, shouting_ "SPLURGE!" _To his daughter or rather to
himself._) We'll see Mr. Hippanthigh.

ERMYNTRUDE: What are you going to do, father?

SLADDER: We'll see Mr. Hippanthigh. (_Enter_ SPLURGE.) Splurge, run
after Mr. Hippanthigh and bring him back. Say I've got something to say
to him. He's gone that way. Quick!

SPLURGE: Yes, sir. [_Exit._

SLADDER: I've got something to say to _him_ this time.

ERMYNTRUDE: Father! What are you going to do?

SLADDER: I'm going to give him What For.

ERMYNTRUDE: But why, father?

SLADDER: Because he's been giving it to your poor old father.

ERMYNTRUDE: Father----

SLADDER: Well?

ERMYNTRUDE: Be kind to him, father.

SLADDER: O, _I'll_ be kind to him. I'll be _kind_ to him. Just you wait.
I'll be _kind_ to him!

ERMYNTRUDE: But you wouldn't send him away, father. Father, for my sake
you wouldn't do that?

SLADDER: O, we haven't _come_ to that yet.

ERMYNTRUDE: But, but--you've sent for him.

SLADDER: O, I've sent for him to give him What For. We'll come to the
rest later.

ERMYNTRUDE: But, when you do come to it, father.

SLADDER: Why, when we do come to it, if the young man's any good, I'll
not stand in my daughter's way----

ERMYNTRUDE: O, thank you, father.

SLADDER: And if he's no good (_firmly_) I'll protect my child from him.

ERMYNTRUDE: But, father, I don't want to be protected.

SLADDER: If a man's a man, he must be some good at something. Well, this
man's chosen the clergyman job. I've nothing against the job, it's well
enough paid at the top, but is this young man ever going to get there?
Is he ever going to get off the bottom rung? How long has he been a
curate?

ERMYNTRUDE: Eight years, father.

SLADDER: It's a long time.

ERMYNTRUDE: But, father, he would get a vicarage if it wasn't for the
bishop. The bishop stands in his way. It isn't nice of him.

SLADDER: If I'd quarrelled with the head of my firm when I was his age,
you wouldn't be getting proposals from a curate; no such luck. The
dustman would have been more in your line.

ERMYNTRUDE: But, father, he doesn't quarrel with the bishop. His
conscience doesn't let him believe in eternal punishment, and so he
speaks straight out. I do admire him so for it. He knows that if he was
silent he'd have had a good living long ago.

SLADDER: The wife of the head of my firm believed in spirit rapping. Did
I go and tell her what an old fool she was? No, I brought her messages
from another world as regular as a postman.

[_Steps are heard outside the window._

SLADDER: Run along, my dear, now.

ERMYNTRUDE: Very well, father.

SLADDER: The man that's going to look after my daughter must be able to
look after himself. Otherwise _I_ will, till a better man comes.

[_Exit_ ERMYNTRUDE. HIPPANTHIGH _and_ SPLURGE _appear at the window._
HIPPANTHIGH _enters and_ SPLURGE _moves away._

HIPPANTHIGH: You sent for me, Mr. Sladder?

SLADDER: Y-e-s--y-e-s. Take a chair. Now, Mr. Hippanthigh, I haven't
often been told off the way you told me off.

HIPPANTHIGH: I felt it to be my duty, Mr. Sladder.

SLADDER: Yes, quite so. Exactly. Well, it seems I'm a thoroughly bad old
man, only fit to rob the poor, an out-and-out old ruffian.

HIPPANTHIGH: I never said that.

SLADDER: No. But you made me feel it. I never felt so bad about myself
before, not as bad as that. But you, Mr. Hippanthigh, you were the
high-falutin' angel with a new brass halo, out on its bank holiday. Now,
how would clandestine love-making strike you, Mr. Hippanthigh? Would
that be all right to your way of thinking?

HIPPANTHIGH: Clandestine, Mr. Sladder? I hardly understand you.

SLADDER: I understand that you have been making love to my daughter.

HIPPANTHIGH: I admit it.

SLADDER: Well, I haven't heard you say anything about it to me before.
Did you tell her mother?

HIPPANTHIGH: Er--no.

SLADDER: Perhaps you told me. Very likely I've forgotten it.

HIPPANTHIGH: No.

SLADDER: Well, who _did_ you tell?

HIPPANTHIGH: We--we hadn't told anyone yet.

SLADDER: Well, I think clandestine's the word for it, Mr. Hippanthigh. I
haven't had time in my life to bother about the exact[1] meanings of
words or any nonsense of that sort, but I think clandestine's about the
word for it.

HIPPANTHIGH: It's a hard word, Mr. Sladder.

SLADDER: May be. And who began using hard words? You came here and made
me out a pickpocket, just because I use a few tasty little posters which
sell my goods, and all the while you're trying on the sly to take a poor
old man's daughter away from him. Well, Mr. Hippanthigh?

HIPPANTHIGH: I--I never looked at it in that light before, Mr. Sladder.
I never thought of it in that way. You have made me feel ashamed (_he
lowers his head_), ashamed.

SLADDER: Aha! Aha! I thought I would. Now you know what it's like when
you make people ashamed of themselves. You don't like it when they do it
to you. Aha! (SLADDER _is immensely pleased with himself._)

HIPPANTHIGH: Mr. Sladder, I spoke to you as my conscience demanded, and
you have shown me that I have done wrong in not speaking sooner about
our engagement. I would have spoken to you, but I could not say that and
the other thing in the same day. I meant to tell you soon;--well, I
didn't, and I know it looks bad. I've done wrong and I admit it.

SLADDER: Aha! (_Still hugely pleased._)

HIPPANTHIGH: But, Mr. Sladder, you would not on that account perhaps
spoil your daughter's happiness, and take a terrible revenge on me. You
would not withhold your consent to our----

SLADDER: Wait a moment; we're coming to that. There's some bad animal
that I've heard of that lives in France, and when folks attack it it
defends itself. I've just been defending myself. I think I've shown you
that you're no brand-new extra-gilt angel on the top of a spire.

HIPPANTHIGH: O--I--er--never----

SLADDER: Quite so. Well, now we come on to the other part. Very well.
Those lords and people, they marry one another's daughters, because they
know they're all no good. They're afraid it will get out like, and
spread some of their damned mediæval ideas where they'll do harm. So
they keep it in the family like. But we people who have had the sense to
look after ourselves, we don't throw our daughters away to any young man
that can't look after himself. See?

HIPPANTHIGH: I assure you, Mr. Sladder, I should--er----

SLADDER: She's my only daughter, and if any of my grandchildren are
going to the work-house, they'll go to one where the master's salary is
high, and they'll go there as master.

HIPPANTHIGH: I am aware, Mr. Sladder, that I have very little money; as
you would look at it, very little.

SLADDER: It isn't the amount of money you've got as matters. The
question is this: are you a young man as money is any good to? If I died
and left you a million, would you know what to do with it? I've met men
what wouldn't last more than six weeks on a million. Then they'd starve
if nobody gave them another million. I'm not going to give my daughter
to one of that sort.

HIPPANTHIGH: I was third in the classical tripos at Cambridge, Mr.
Sladder.

SLADDER: I don't give a damn for classics; and I don't give a damn for
Cambridge; and I don't know what a tripos is. But all I can tell you is
that if I was fool enough to waste my time with classics, third
wouldn't[2] be good enough for me. No, Mr. Hippanthigh, you've chosen
the church as your job, and I've nothing to say against your choice; its
a free country, and I've nothing to say against your job; it's well
enough paid at the top, only you don't look like getting there. I chose
business as my job, there seemed more sense in it; but if I'd chosen the
Church, I shouldn't have stuck as a curate. No, nor a bishop either. I
wouldn't have had an archbishop ballyragging me and ordering me about.
No. I'd have got to the top, and drawn big pay, and _spent_ it.

HIPPANTHIGH: But, Mr. Sladder, I could be a vicar to-morrow if my
conscience would allow me to cease protesting against a certain point
which the bishop holds to be----

SLADDER: I know all about that. I don't care what it is that keeps you
on the bottom rung of the ladder. Conscience, you say. Well, it's a
different thing with every man. It's conscience with some, drink with
others, sheer stupidity with most. It's pretty crowded already, that
bottom rung, without me going and putting my daughter on it. Where do
you suppose I'd be now if I'd let my conscience get in my way? Eh?

HIPPANTHIGH: Mr. Sladder, I cannot alter my beliefs.

SLADDER: Nobody asks you to. I only ask you to leave the bishop alone.
He says one thing and you preach another whenever you get half a chance;
it's enough to break up any firm.

HIPPANTHIGH: Believing as I do that eternal punishment is incompatible
with----

SLADDER: Now, Mr. Hippanthigh, that's got to stop. I don't mind saying,
now that I've given you What For, that you don't seem a bad young
fellow: but my daughter's not going to marry on the bottom rung, and
there's an end of that.

HIPPANTHIGH: But, Mr. Sladder, can you bring yourself to believe in
anything so terrible as eternal punishment, so contrary to----

SLADDER: Me? No.

HIPPANTHIGH: Then, how can you ask me to?

SLADDER: That particular belief never happened to stand between me and
the top of the tree. Many things did, but they're all down below me now,
Mr. Hippanthigh, way down there (_pointing_) where I can hardly see
them. You get off that bottom rung as I did years ago.

HIPPANTHIGH: I cannot go back on all I've said.

SLADDER: I don't want to make it hard for you. Only just say you believe
in eternal punishment, and then give up talking about it. You may say it
to me if you like. We'll have one other person present so that there's
no going back on it, my daughter if you like. I'll let the bishop know,
and he won't stand in your way any longer, but at present you force his
hand. It's you or the rules of the firm.

HIPPANTHIGH: I cannot.

SLADDER: You can't just say to me and my daughter that you believe in
eternal punishment, and leave me to go over to Axminster and put it
right with the bishop?

HIPPANTHIGH: I cannot say what I do not believe.

SLADDER: Think. The bishop probably doesn't believe it himself. But
you've been forcing his hand,--going out of your way to.

HIPPANTHIGH: I cannot say it.

SLADDER (_rising_): Mr. Hippanthigh, there's two kinds of men, those
that succeed, those that don't. I know no other kind. You ...

HIPPANTHIGH: I cannot go against my conscience.

SLADDER: I don't care what your reason is. You are the second kind. I am
sorry my daughter ever loved a man of that sort. I am sorry a man of
that sort ever entered my house. I was a little, dirty, ragged boy. You
make me see what I would be to-day if I had been a man of your kind. I
would be dirty and ragged still. (_His voice has been rising during this
speech._)

[_Enter_ ERMYNTRUDE.

ERMYNTRUDE: Father! What are you saying, father? I heard such loud
voices.

[HIPPANTHIGH _stands silent and mournful._

SLADDER: My child, I had foolish ideas for you once, but now I say that
you are to marry a man, not a wretched, miserable little curate, who
will be a wretched, miserable little curate all his life.

ERMYNTRUDE: Father, I will not hear such words.

SLADDER: I've given him every chance. I've given him more than every
chance, but he prefers the bottom rung of the ladder; there we will
leave him.

ERMYNTRUDE: O, father! How can you be so cruel?

SLADDER: It's not my fault, and it's not the bishop's fault. It's his
own silly pig-headedness.

[_He goes back to his chair._

ERMYNTRUDE (_going up to_ HIPPANTHIGH): O, Charlie, couldn't you do what
father wants?

HIPPANTHIGH: No, no, I cannot. He wants me to go back on things I've
said.

[_Enter_ MRS. SLADDER _carrying a wire cage, with two dead white mice in
it. Also_ SPLURGE.

MRS. SLADDER[3]: O, the mice have died, John. The mice have died. O,
Ermyntrude's poor mice! And father's great idea! Whatever shall we do?

SLADDER: Er? (_Almost a groan_) Eh? Died have they?

[SLADDER _ages in his chair. You would say he was beaten. Suddenly he
tautens up his muscles and stands up straight with shoulders back and
clenched hands._

So they would beat Sladder, would they? They would beat Sladder. No,
that has yet to be done. We'll go on, Splurge. The public shall eat
Cheezo. It's a bit strong perhaps. We'll tone it down with bad nuts that
they use for the other cheeses. We'll advertise it, and they'll eat it.
See to it, Splurge. They don't beat Sladder.

MRS. SLADDER: O, I'm so glad. I'm so glad, John.

HIPPANTHIGH (_suddenly with clear emphasis_): I THINK I _DO_ BELIEVE IN
ETERNAL PUNISHMENT.

SLADDER: Ah. At last. Well, Ermyntrude, is your cruel old parent's
blessing any use to you?

[_He places one hand on her shoulder and one on_ HIPPANTHIGH'S.

MRS. SLADDER: Why, Ermyntrude! Well, I never! And to think of all this
happening in one day!

[HIPPANTHIGH _is completely beaten._ ERMYNTRUDE _is smiling at him. He
puts an arm round her shoulder in dead silence._

CURTAIN.



A GOOD BARGAIN


_DRAMATIS PERSONÆ_

BROTHER ANTONINUS.
BROTHER LUCULLUS SEVERUS.
BROTHER GREGORIUS PEDRO.
SATAN.
SMOGGS.



SCENE

_A Crypt of a Monastery._ BROTHER GREGORIUS PEDRO _is seated on a stone
bench reading. Behind him is a window._

_Enter_ BROTHER LUCULLUS SEVERUS.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Brother, we may doubt no longer.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Well?

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: It is certain. Certain.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: I too had thought so.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: It is clear now, clear as ... It is certain.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Well, why not? After all, why not?

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: You mean...?

GREGORIUS PEDRO: 'Tis but a miracle.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Yes, but ...

GREGORIUS PEDRO: But you did not think to see one?

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: No, no, not that; but Brother Antoninus ...

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Well, why not he? He is holy as any, fasts as often as
any, wears coarser clothing than most of us, and once scourged a woman
because she looked at our youngest--scourged her right willingly.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Yet, Brother Antoninus!

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Yet, why not?

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: We knew him, somehow. One does not know the blessed
saints of heaven.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: No, no indeed. I never thought to see such a thing on
earth; and now, now ... you say it is certain?

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Certain.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Ah, well. It seemed like it, it seemed like it for some
days. At first I thought I had looked too long through our eastern
window, I thought it was the sun that had dazzled my eyes; and then,
then it was clearly something else.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: It is certain now.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Ah, well.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS (_sitting beside him, sighs_): I grudge him nothing.

GREGORIUS PEDRO (_a little heavily_): No, nor I.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: You are sad, brother.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: No, not sad.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Ah, but I see it.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Ah, well.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: What grieves you, brother?

GREGORIUS PEDRO: (_Sighs_) We shall water the roses no more, he and I.
We shall roll the lawns no more. We shall tend the young tulips together
never again.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Oh, why not? Why not? There is not all that
difference.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: There is.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: It is our cross, brother. We must bear it.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Ah, yes. Yes, yes.

[_A bell rings noisily._

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: The gate bell, brother! Be of good cheer, it is the
gate bell ringing!

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Why should I be of good cheer because the gate bell
rings?

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Why, brother, the world is at the gate. We shall see
someone. It is an event. Someone will come and speak of the great world.
Oh, be of good cheer, be of good cheer, brother.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: I think that I am heavy at heart to-day.

[_Enter_ JOHN SMOGGS.

SMOGGS: Ullo, Governor. Is either o' yer the chief monk?

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: The Reverend Abbot is not here.

SMOGGS: 'Ain't, ain't 'e?

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: But what do you seek, friend?

SMOGGS: Want to know what you blokes are getting up to.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: We do not understand your angry zeal.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Tell us, friend.

SMOGGS: One o' yer is playing games no end, and we won't 'ave it.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Games?

SMOGGS: Well, miracles if you like it better, and we won't 'ave it, nor
any of your 'igh church games nor devices.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: What does he say, brother?

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Friend, you perplex us. We hoped you would speak to us
of the great world, its gauds, its wickedness, its----

SMOGGS: We won't 'ave it. We won't 'ave none of it, that's all.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Tell us, friend, tell us what you mean. Then we will
do whatever you ask. And then you shall speak to us of the world.

SMOGGS: There 'e is, there 'e is, the blighter. There 'e is. 'E's
coming. O Lord...!

[_He turns and runs. Exit._

GREGORIUS PEDRO: It's Antoninus!

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Why, yes; yes, of course!

GREGORIUS PEDRO: He must have seen him over the garden wall.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: We must hush it up.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Hush it up?

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: There must be no scandal in the monastery.

[_Enter_ BROTHER ANTONINUS _wearing a halo. He walks across and exits._

[GREGORIUS _is gazing with wide eyes._

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: There must be no scandal in the monastery.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: It has grown indeed!

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Yes, it has grown since yesterday.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: I noticed it dimly just three days ago. I noticed it
dimly. But I did not---- I could not guess ... I never dreamed that it
would come to this.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Yes, it has grown for three days.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: It was just a dim light over his head, but now...!

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: It flamed up last night.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: There is no mistaking it now.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: There must be _no scandal_.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: No scandal, brother?

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Look how unusual it is. People will talk. You heard
what that man said. They will all talk.

GREGORIUS PEDRO (_sadly_): Ah, well.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: How could we face it.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: It is, yes, yes,--it is unusual.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Nothing like it has happened for many centuries.

GREGORIUS PEDRO (_sadly_): No, no. I suppose not. Poor Antoninus.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Why could he not have waited?

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Waited? What? Three--three hundred years?

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: Or even five or ten. He is long past sixty.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Yes, yes, it would have been better.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: You saw how ashamed he was.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Poor Antoninus. Yes, yes. Brother, I think if we had
not been here he would have come and sat on this bench.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: I think he would. But he was ashamed to come, looking,
looking like that.

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Brother, let us go. It is the hour at which he loves to
come and sit here, and read in the Little Book of Lesser Devices. Let us
go so that he may come here and be alone.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS: As you will, brother; we must help him when we can.

[_They rise and go._

GREGORIUS PEDRO: Poor Antoninus.

LUCULLUS SEVERUS (_glancing_): I think he will come back now.

[_Exeunt. The bare, sandaled foot of_ ANTONINUS _appears as the last
heel lifts in the other doorway._

[_Enter_ ANTONINUS _rather timidly. He goes to bench and sits. He sighs.
He shakes his head to loosen the halo, but in vain. He sighs. Then he
opens his book and reads in silence. Silence gives way to mumbles,
mumbles to words._[4]

ANTONINUS: ... and finally beat down Satan under our feet.

[_Enter_ SATAN. _He has the horns and long hair and beard of a he-goat.
His face and voice are such as could have been once in heaven._

ANTONINUS (_standing, lifting arm_): In the name of ...

SATAN: Banish me not.

ANTONINUS: In the name ...

SATAN: Say nothing you may regret, until I have spoken.

ANTONINUS: In the ...

SATAN: Hear me.

ANTONINUS: Well?

SATAN: There fell with me from heaven a rare, rare spirit, the light of
whose limbs far outshone dawn and evening.

ANTONINUS: Well?

SATAN: We dwell in darkness.

ANTONINUS: What is that to me?

SATAN: For that rare spirit I would have the gaud you wear, that
emblem, that bright ornament. In return I offer you----

ANTONINUS: Begone----

SATAN: I offer you----

ANTONINUS: Begone.

SATAN: I offer you--Youth.

ANTONINUS: I will not traffic with you in damnation.

SATAN: I do not ask your soul, _only that shining gaud_.

ANTONINUS: Such things are not for hell.

SATAN: I offer you Youth.

ANTONINUS: I do not need it. Life is a penance and ordained as a
tribulation. I have come through by striving. Why should I care to
strive again?

SATAN (_smiles_): Why?

ANTONINUS: Why should I?

SATAN (_laughs, looking through window_): It's spring, brother, is it
not?

ANTONINUS: A time for meditation.

SATAN (_laughs_): There are girls coming over the hills, brother.
Through the green leaves and the May.

[ANTONINUS _draws his scourge from his robe._

ANTONINUS: Up! Let me scourge them from our holy place.

SATAN: Wait, brother, they are far off yet. But you would not scourge
them, you would not scourge them, they are so ... Ah! one has torn her
dress!

ANTONINUS: Ah, let me scourge her!

SATAN: No, no, brother. See, I can see her ankle through the rent. You
would not scourge her. Your great scourge would break that little ankle.

ANTONINUS: I will have my scourge ready, if she comes near our holy
place.

SATAN: She is with her comrades. They are maying. Seven girls.
(ANTONINUS _grips his scourge._) Her arms are full of may.

ANTONINUS: Speak not of such things. Speak not, I say.

[SATAN _is leaning leisurely against the wall, smiling through the
window._

SATAN: How the leaves are shining. Now she is seated on the grass. They
have gathered small flowers, Antoninus, and put them in her hair, a row
of primroses.

ANTONINUS (_his eyes go for a moment on to far, far places.
Unintentionally_): What colour?

SATAN: Black.

ANTONINUS: No, no, no! I did not mean her hair. No, no. I meant the
flowers.

SATAN: Yellow, Antoninus.

ANTONINUS (_flurried_): Ah, of course, yes, yes.

SATAN: Sixteen and seventeen and fifteen, and another of sixteen. All
young girls. The age for you, Antoninus, if I make you twenty. Just the
age for you.

ANTONINUS: You--you cannot.

SATAN: All things are possible unto me except salvation.

ANTONINUS: How?

SATAN: Give me your gaud. Then meet me at any hour between star-shining
and cock-crow under the big cherry tree, when the moon is waning.

ANTONINUS: Never.

SATAN: Ah, Spring, Spring. They are dancing. Such nimble ankles.

[ANTONINUS _raises his scourge._

SATAN (_more gravely_): Think, Antoninus, forty or fifty more Springs.

ANTONINUS: Never, never, never.

SATAN: And no more striving next time. See Antoninus, see them as they
dance, there with the may behind them under the hill.

ANTONINUS: Never! I will not look.

SATAN: Ah, look at them, Antoninus. Their sweet figures. And the warm
wind blowing in Spring.

ANTONINUS: Never! My scourge is for such.

[SATAN _sighs. The girls laugh from the hill._ ANTONINUS _hears the
laughter._

_A look of fear comes over him._

ANTONINUS: Which ... (_a little peal of girlish laughter off_). Which
cherry tree did you speak of?

SATAN: This one over the window.

ANTONINUS (_with an effort_): It shall be held accursed. I will warn the
brethren. It shall be cut down and hewn asunder and they shall burn it
utterly.

SATAN (_rather sorrowfully_): Ah, Antoninus.

ANTONINUS: You shall not tempt a monk of our blessed order.

SATAN: They are coming this way, Antoninus.

ANTONINUS: What! What!

SATAN: Have your scourge ready, Antoninus.

ANTONINUS: Perhaps, perhaps they have not merited extreme chastisement.

SATAN: They have made a garland of may, a long white garland drooped
from their little hands. Ah, if you were young, Antoninus.

ANTONINUS: Tempt me not, Satan. I say, tempt me not!

[_The girls sing_, SATAN _smiles, the girls sing on._ ANTONINUS
_tip-toes to seat, back to window, and sits listening. The girls sing
on. They pass the window and shake the branch of a cherry tree. The
petals fall in sheets past the window. The girls sing on and_ ANTONINUS
_sits listening._

ANTONINUS (_hand to forehead_): My head aches. I think it is that
song.... Perhaps, perhaps it is the halo. Too heavy, too heavy for _us_.

[SATAN _walks gently up and removes it and walks away with the gold
disc._ ANTONINUS _sits silent._

SATAN: When the moon is waning.

[_Exit. More petals fall past the window. The song rings on._ ANTONINUS
_sits quite still, on his face a new ecstacy._

CURTAIN.



IF SHAKESPEARE LIVED TO-DAY


_DRAMATIS PERSONÆ_

SIR WEBLEY WOOTHERY-JURNIP} _Members of the_
MR. NEEKS                 } _Olympus_.

JERGINS, _an old waiter_.

MR. TRUNDLEBEN, _Secretary of the Club_.

MR. GLEEK, _Editor of the "Banner and Evening
Gazette" and member of the Olympus_.



SCENE

_A room in the Olympus Club._

_Time: After luncheon._

SIR WEBLEY WOOTHERY-JURNIP _and_ MR. NEEKS _sit by a small table.
Further away sits_ MR. GLEEK, _the Editor of the "Banner and Evening
Gazette."_ SIR WEBLEY JURNIP _rises and rings the bell by the
fire-place. He returns to his seat._

MR. NEEKS: I see there's a man called Mr. William Shakespeare putting up
for the Club.

SIR WEBLEY: Shakespeare? Shakespeare? Shakespeare? I once knew a man
called Shaker.

NEEKS: No, it's Shakespeare--Mr. William Shakespeare.

SIR WEBLEY: Shakespeare? Shakespeare? Do _you_ know anything about him?

NEEKS: Well, I don't exactly recall--I made sure that you----

SIR WEBLEY: The Secretary ought to be more careful. Waiter!

JERGINS: Yes, Sir Webley. [_He comes._

SIR WEBLEY: Coffee, Jergins. Same as usual.

JERGINS: Yes, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: And, Jergins--there's a man called Mr. William Shakespeare
putting up for the Club.

JERGINS: I'm sorry to hear that, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: Yes, Jergins. Well, there it is, you see; and I want you to
go up and ask Mr. Trundleben if he'd come down.

JERGINS: Certainly, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: And then get my coffee.

JERGINS: Yes, Sir Webley.

[_He goes slowly away._

NEEKS: He'll be able to tell us all about him.

SIR WEBLEY: At the same time he should be more careful.

NEEKS: I'm afraid--I'm afraid he's getting rather, rather old.

SIR WEBLEY: Oh, I don't know, he was seventy only the other day. I don't
call that too old--nowadays. He can't be now, he can't be more than, let
me see, seventy-eight. Where does this Mr. Shaker live?

NEEKS: Shakespeare. Somewhere down in Warwickshire. A village called
Bradford, I think, is the address he gives in the Candidates' Book.

SIR WEBLEY: Warwickshire! I do seem to remember something about him now.
If he's the same man I certainly do. William Shakespeare, you said.

NEEKS: Yes, that's the name.

SIR WEBLEY: Well, I certainly have heard about him now you mention it.

NEEKS: Really! And what does he do?

SIR WEBLEY: Do? Well, from what I heard he poaches.

NEEKS: Poaches!

SIR WEBLEY: Yes, a poacher. Trundleben deserves to get the sack for
this. A poacher from the wilds of Warwickshire. I heard all about him.
He got after the deer at Charlecote.

NEEKS: A poacher!

SIR WEBLEY: That's all he is, a poacher. A member of the Olympus! He'll
be dropping in here one fine day with other people's rabbits in his
pockets.

[_Enter_ JERGINS.

JERGINS: Your coffee, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: My coffee. I should think so. (_He sips it._) One needs it.

JERGINS: Mr. Trundleben will be down at once, Sir Webley. I telephoned
up to him.

SIR WEBLEY: Telephoned! Telephoned! The Club's getting more full of
new-fangled devices every day. I remember the time when---- Thank you,
Jergins.

[JERGINS _retires._

This is a pretty state of things, Neeks.

NEEKS: A pretty state of things indeed, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: Ah, here's Trundleben.

NEEKS: He'll tell us all about it, Sir Webley. I'm sure he'll----

SIR WEBLEY: Ah, Trundleben. Come and sit down here. Come and----

TRUNDLEBEN: Thank you, Sir Webley. I think I will. I don't walk quite as
well as I used, and what with----

SIR WEBLEY: What's all this we hear about this Mr. Shakespeare,
Trundleben?

TRUNDLEBEN: Oh, ah, well yes, yes indeed. Well, you see, Sir Webley, he
was put up for the Club. Mr. Henry put him up.

SIR WEBLEY (_disapprovingly_): Oh, Mr. Henry.

NEEKS: Yes, yes, yes. Long hair and all that.

SIR WEBLEY: I'm afraid so.

NEEKS: Writes poetry, I believe.

SIR WEBLEY: I'm afraid so.

TRUNDLEBEN: Well then, what does Mr. Newton do but go and second him,
and there you are, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: Yes, a pretty state of things. Has he ... Does he ... What
is he?

TRUNDLEBEN: He seems to write, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: Oh, he does, does he? What does he write?

TRUNDLEBEN: Well, I wrote and asked him that, Sir Webley, and _he_ said
plays.

SIR WEBLEY: Plays? Plays? Plays? I'm sure I never heard ... What plays?

TRUNDLEBEN: I asked him that, Sir Webley, and he said ... he sent me a
list (_fumbling_). Ah, here it is.

[_He holds it high, far from his face, tilts his head back and looks
down his nose through his glasses._

He says--let me see--"Hamelt," or "Hamlet," I don't know how he
pronounces it. "Hamelt, Hamlet"; he spells it "H-a-m-l-e-t." If you
pronounce it the way one pronounces handle, it would be "Hamelt," but
if----

SIR WEBLEY: What's it all about?

TRUNDLEBEN: Well, I gathered the scene was in Denmark.

NEEKS: Denmark! H'm! another of those neutrals!

SIR WEBLEY: Well, I wouldn't so much mind where the scene of the play
was put, if only it was a play one ever had heard of.

NEEKS: But those men who have much to do with neutrals are rather the
men--don't you think, Sir Webley?--who ...

SIR WEBLEY: Who want watching. I believe you're right, Neeks. And that
type of unsuccessful play-wright is just the kind of man I always
rather ...

NEEKS: That's rather what I feel, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: It wouldn't be a bad plan if we told somebody about him.

NEEKS: I think I know just the man, Sir Webley. I'll just drop him a
line.

SIR WEBLEY: Yes, and if he's all right there's no harm done, but I
always suspect that kind of fellow. Well, what else, Trundleben? This is
getting interesting.

TRUNDLEBEN: Well, Sir Webley, it's really very funny, but he sent me a
list of the characters in this play of his, "Hamelt," and, and it's
really rather delicious----

NEEKS: Yes?

SIR WEBLEY: Yes? What is it?

TRUNDLEBEN: He's got a _ghost_ in his play. (_He-he-he-he-he_) A ghost!
He really has.

SIR WEBLEY: What! Not on the stage?

TRUNDLEBEN: Yes, on the stage!

NEEKS: Well, well, well.

SIR WEBLEY: But that's absurd.

TRUNDLEBEN: I met Mr. Vass the other day--it was his four hundredth
presentation of "The Nighty"--and I told him about it. He said that
bringing a ghost on the stage was, of course--er--ludicrous.

SIR WEBLEY: What else does he say he's done?

TRUNDLEBEN: Er--er--there's an absurdly long list--er--"Macbeth."

SIR WEBLEY: "Macbeth." That's Irish.

NEEKS: Ah, yes. Abbey Theatre style of thing.

TRUNDLEBEN: I think I heard he offered it them. But of course----

SIR WEBLEY: No, quite so.

TRUNDLEBEN: I gathered it was all rather a--rather a sordid story.

SIR WEBLEY (_solemnly_): Ah!

[NEEKS[5] _with equal solemnity wags his head._

TRUNDLEBEN (_focussing his list again_): Here's a very funny one. This
is funnier than "Hamlet." "The Tempest." And the stage directions are
"The sea, with a ship."

SIR WEBLEY (_laughs_): Oh, that's lovely! That's really too good. The
sea with a ship! And what's it all about?

TRUNDLEBEN: Well, I rather gathered that it was about a magician, and
he--he makes a storm.

SIR WEBLEY: He makes a storm. Splendid! On the stage, I suppose.

TRUNDLEBEN: Oh yes, on the stage.

[SIR WEBLEY _and_ NEEKS[6] _laugh heartily._

NEEKS: He'd ... He'd have to be a magician for that, wouldn't he?

SIR WEBLEY: Ha, ha! Very good! He'd have to be a magician to do that,
Trundleben.

TRUNDLEBEN: Yes, indeed, Sir Webley; indeed he would, Mr. Neeks.

SIR WEBLEY: But that stage direction is priceless. I'd really like to
copy that down if you'd let me. What is it? "The sea with a ship"? It's
the funniest bit of the lot.

TRUNDLEBEN: Yes, that's it, Sir Webley. Wait a moment, I have it here.
The--the whole thing is "the sea with a ship, afterwards an island."
Very funny indeed.

SIR WEBLEY: "Afterwards an island"! That's very good, too. "Afterwards
an island." I'll put that down also. (_He writes._) And what else,
Trundleben? What else?

[TRUNDLEBEN _holds out his list again._

TRUNDLEBEN: "The Tragedy of--of King Richard the--the Second."

SIR WEBLEY: But _was_ his life a tragedy? _Was_ it a tragedy, Neeks?

NEEKS: I--I--well I'm not quite sure; I really don't think so. But I'll
look it up.

SIR WEBLEY: Yes, we can look it up.

TRUNDLEBEN: I think it was rather--perhaps _rather_ tragic, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: Oh, I don't say it wasn't. No doubt. No doubt at all. That's
one thing. But to call his whole life a tragedy is--is quite another.
What, Neeks?

NEEKS: Oh, quite another.

TRUNDLEBEN: Oh, certainly, Sir Webley. Tragedy is--er--is a very strong
term indeed, to--to apply to such a case.

SIR WEBLEY: He was probably out poaching when he should have been
learning his history.

TRUNDLEBEN: I'm afraid so, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: And what else, eh? Anything more?

TRUNDLEBEN: Well, there are some poems, he says.

[_Holds up a list._

SIR WEBLEY: And what are they about?

TRUNDLEBEN: Well, there's one called ... Oh. I'd really rather not
mention that one; perhaps that had better be left out altogether.

NEEKS: Not...?

SIR WEBLEY: Not quite...?

TRUNDLEBEN: No, not at all.

SIR WEBLEY and NEEKS: H'm.

TRUNDLEBEN: Left out altogether. And then there are "Sonnets," and--and
"Venus and Adonis," and--and "The Phœnix and the Turtle."

SIR WEBLEY: The Phœnix and the what?

TRUNDLEBEN: The Turtle.

SIR WEBLEY: Oh. Go on ...

TRUNDLEBEN: One called "The Passionate Pilgrim," another "A Lover's
Complaint."

SIR WEBLEY: I think the whole thing's very regrettable.

NEEKS: I think so too, Sir Webley.

TRUNDLEBEN (_mournfully_): And there've been no poets since poor
Browning died, none at all. It's absurd for him to call himself a poet.

NEEKS: Quite so, Trundleben, quite so.

SIR WEBLEY: And all these plays. What does he mean by calling them
plays? They've never been acted.

TRUNDLEBEN: Well--er--no, not exactly acted, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: What do you mean by not exactly, Trundleben?

TRUNDLEBEN: Well, I believe they were acted in America, though of course
not in London.

SIR WEBLEY: In America? What's that got to do with it. America? Why,
that's the other side of the Atlantic.

TRUNDLEBEN: Oh, yes, Sir Webley, I--I quite agree with you.

SIR WEBLEY: America! I daresay they did. I daresay they did act them.
But that doesn't make him a suitable member for the Olympus. Quite the
contrary.

NEEKS: Oh, quite the contrary.

TRUNDLEBEN: Oh, certainly, Sir Webley, certainly.

SIR WEBLEY: I daresay "Macbeth" would be the sort of thing that would
appeal to Irish Americans. _Just_ the sort of thing.

TRUNDLEBEN: Very likely, Sir Webley, I'm sure.

SIR WEBLEY: Their game laws are very lax, I believe, over there; they
probably took to him on account of his being a poacher.

TRUNDLEBEN: I've no doubt of it, Sir Webley. Very likely.

NEEKS: I expect that was just it.

SIR WEBLEY: Well now, Trundleben; are we to ask the Olympus to elect a
man who'll come in here with his pockets bulging with rabbits.

NEEKS: Rabbits, and hares too.

SIR WEBLEY: And venison even, if you come to that.

TRUNDLEBEN: Yes indeed, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: Thank God the Olympus can get its haunch of venison without
having to go to a man like that for it.

NEEKS: Yes indeed.

TRUNDLEBEN: Indeed I hope so.

SIR WEBLEY: Well now, about those plays. I don't say we've absolute
proof that the man's entirely hopeless. We must be sure of our ground.

NEEKS: Yes, quite so.

TRUNDLEBEN: Oh, I'm afraid Sir Webley, they're very bad indeed. There
are some quite unfortunate--er--references in them.

SIR WEBLEY: So I should have supposed. So I should have supposed.

NEEKS: Yes, yes, of course.

TRUNDLEBEN: For instance, in that play about that funny ship--I have a
list of the characters here--and I'm afraid, well--er,--er you see for
yourself. (_Hands paper._) You see that is, I am afraid, in very bad
taste, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: Certainly, Trundleben, certainly. Very bad indeed.

NEEKS (_peering_): Er--er, what is it, Sir Webley?

SIR WEBLEY (_pointing_): That, you see.

NEEKS: A--a drunken butler! But most regrettable.

SIR WEBLEY: A very deserving class. A--a quite gratuitous slight. I
don't say you mightn't see one drunken butler ...

TRUNDLEBEN: Quite so.

NEEKS: Yes, of course.

SIR WEBLEY: But to put it boldly on a programme like that is practically
tantamount to implying that all butlers are drunken.

TRUNDLEBEN: Which is by no means true.

SIR WEBLEY: There would naturally be a protest of some sort, and to have
a member of the Olympus mixed up with a controversy like that would
be--er--naturally--er--most ...

TRUNDLEBEN: Yes, of course, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: And then of course, if he does a thing like that once ...

NEEKS: There are probably other lapses just as deplorable.

TRUNDLEBEN: I haven't gone through his whole list, Sir Webley. I often
feel about these modern writers that perhaps the less one looks the less
one will find that might be, er ...

SIR WEBLEY: Yes, quite so.

NEEKS: That is certainly true.

SIR WEBLEY: Well, we can't wade all through his list of characters to
see if they are all suitable to be represented on a stage.

TRUNDLEBEN: Oh no, Sir Webley, quite impossible; there are--there are--I
might say--hundreds of them.

SIR WEBLEY: Good gracious! He must have been wasting his time a great
deal.

TRUNDLEBEN: Oh, a great deal, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: But we shall have to go further into this. We can't have ...

NEEKS: I see Mr. Gleek sitting over there, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: Why, yes, yes, so he is.

NEEKS: The _Banner and Evening Gazette_ would know all about him if
there's anything to know.

SIR WEBLEY: Yes, of course they would.

NEEKS: If we were to ask him.

SIR WEBLEY: Well, Trundleben, you may leave it to us. Mr. Neeks and I
will talk it all over and see what's to be done.

TRUNDLEBEN: Thank you, Sir Webley. I'm really very sorry it all
happened--very sorry indeed.

SIR WEBLEY: Very well, Trundleben, we'll see what's to be done. If
nothing's known of him and his plays, you'll have to write and request
him to withdraw his candidature. But we'll see. We'll see.

TRUNDLEBEN: Thank you, Sir Webley. I'm sure I'm very sorry it all
occurred. Thank you, Mr. Neeks.

[_Exit_ TRUNDLEBEN, _waddling slowly away._

SIR WEBLEY: Well, Neeks, that's what it will have to be. If nothing
whatever's known of him we can't have him putting up for the Olympus.

NEEKS: Quite so, Sir Webley. I'll call Mr. Gleek's attention.

[_He begins to rise, hopefully looking Gleek-wards, when_ JERGINS _comes
between him and_ MR. GLEEK. _He has come to take away the coffee._

SIR WEBLEY: Times are changing, Jergins.

JERGINS: I'm afraid so, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: Changing fast, and new members putting up for the Club.

JERGINS: Yes, I'm afraid so, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: You notice it too, Jergins.

JERGINS: Yes, Sir Webley, it's come all of a sudden. Only last week I
saw ...

SIR WEBLEY: Well, Jergins.

JERGINS: I saw Lord Pondleburrow wearing a ...

SIR WEBLEY: Wearing what, Jergins?

JERGINS: Wearing one of those billycock hats, Sir Webley.

SIR WEBLEY: Well, well. I suppose they've got to change, but not at that
rate.

JERGINS: No, Sir Webley.

[EXIT, _shaking his head as he goes._

SIR WEBLEY: Well, we must find out about this fellow.

NEEKS: Yes. I'll call Mr. Gleek's attention. He knows all about that
sort of thing.

SIR WEBLEY: Yes, yes. Just ...

[NEEKS _rises and goes some of the way towards_ GLEEK'S _chair._

NEEKS: Er--er----

GLEEK (_looking round_): Yes?

SIR WEBLEY: Do you know anything of a man called Mr. William
Shakespeare?

GLEEK (_looking over his pince-nez_): No!

[_He shakes his head several times and returns to his paper._

CURTAIN.



FAME AND THE POET


_DRAMATIS PERSONÆ_

HARRY DE REVES, _a Poet_.

(_This name, though of course of French origin, has
become anglicised and is pronounced_ DE REEVS.)

DICK PRATTLE, _a Lieutenant-Major of the Royal Horse
Marines_.

FAME.



SCENE

_The Poet's rooms in London. Windows in back. A high screen in a
corner._

_Time: February 30th._

_The_ POET _is sitting at a table writing._

[_Enter_ DICK PRATTLE.

PRATTLE: Hullo, Harry.

DE REVES: Hullo, Dick. Good Lord, where are you from?

PRATTLE (_casually_): The ends of the earth.

DE REVES: Well, I'm damned!

PRATTLE: Thought I'd drop in and see how you were getting on.

DE REVES: Well, that's splendid. What are you doing in London?

PRATTLE: Well, I wanted to see if I could get one or two decent ties to
wear--you can get nothing out there--then I thought I'd have a look and
see how London was getting on.

DE REVES: Splendid! How's everybody?

PRATTLE: All going strong.

DE REVES: That's good.

PRATTLE (_seeing paper and ink_): But what are you doing?

DE REVES: Writing.

PRATTLE: Writing? I didn't know you wrote.

DE REVES: Yes, I've taken to it rather.

PRATTLE: I say--writing's no good. What do you write?

DE REVES: Oh, poetry.

PRATTLE: Poetry! Good Lord!

DE REVES: Yes, that sort of thing, you know.

PRATTLE: Good Lord! Do you make any money by it?

DE REVES: No. Hardly any.

PRATTLE: I say--why don't you chuck it?

DE REVES: Oh, I don't know. Some people seem to like my stuff, rather.
That's why I go on.

PRATTLE: I'd chuck it if there's no money in it.

DE REVES: Ah, but then it's hardly in your line, is it? You'd hardly
approve of poetry if there _was_ money in it.

PRATTLE: Oh, I don't say that. If I could make as much by poetry as I
can by betting I don't say I wouldn't try the poetry touch, only----

DE REVES: Only what?

PRATTLE: Oh, I don't know. Only there seems more sense in betting,
somehow.

DE REVES: Well, yes. I suppose it's easier to tell what an earthly horse
is going to do, than to tell what Pegasus----

PRATTLE: What's Pegasus?

DE REVES: Oh, the winged horse of poets.

PRATTLE: I say! You don't believe in a winged horse, do you?

DE REVES: In our trade we believe in all fabulous things. They all
represent some large truth to us. An emblem like Pegasus is as real a
thing to a poet as a Derby winner would be to you.

PRATTLE: I say. (Give me a cigarette. Thanks.) What? Then you'd believe
in nymphs and fauns, and Pan, and all those kind of birds?

DE REVES: Yes. Yes. In all of them.

PRATTLE: Good Lord!

DE REVES: You believe in the Lord Mayor of London, don't you?

PRATTLE: Yes, of course; but what has----

DE REVES: Four million people or so made him Lord Mayor, didn't they?
And he represents to them the wealth and dignity and tradition of----

PRATTLE: Yes; but, I say, what has all this----

DE REVES: Well, he stands for an idea to them, and they made him Lord
Mayor, and so he is one....

PRATTLE: Well, of course he is.

DE REVES: In the same way Pan has been made what he is by millions; by
millions to whom he represents world-old traditions.

PRATTLE (_rising from his chair and stepping backwards, laughing and
looking at the_ POET _in a kind of assumed wonder_): I say ... I say ...
You old heathen ... but Good Lord ...

[_He bumps into the high screen behind, pushing it back a little._

DE REVES: Look out! Look out!

PRATTLE: What? What's the matter?

DE REVES: The screen!

PRATTLE: Oh, sorry, yes. I'll put it right.

[_He is about to go round behind it._

DE REVES: No, don't go round there.

PRATTLE: What? Why not?

DE REVES: Oh, you wouldn't understand.

PRATTLE: Wouldn't understand? Why, what have you got?

DE REVES: Oh, one of those things.... You wouldn't understand.

PRATTLE: Of course I'd understand. Let's have a look.

[_The_ POET _walks towards_ PRATTLE _and the screen. He protests no
further._ PRATTLE _looks round the corner of the screen._

An altar.

DE REVES (_removing the screen altogether_): That is all. What do you
make of it?

[_An altar of Greek design, shaped like a pedestal, is revealed. Papers
litter the floor all about it._

PRATTLE: I say--you always were an untidy devil.

DE REVES: Well, what do you make of it?

PRATTLE: It reminds me of your room at Eton.

DE REVES: My room at Eton?

PRATTLE: Yes, you always had papers all over your floor.

DE REVES: Oh, yes----

PRATTLE: And what are these?

DE REVES: All these are poems; and this is my altar to Fame.

PRATTLE: To Fame?

DE REVES: The same that Homer knew.

PRATTLE: Good Lord!

DE REVES: Keats never saw her. Shelley died too young. She came late at
the best of times, now scarcely ever.

PRATTLE: But, my dear fellow, you don't mean that you think there really
is such a person?

DE REVES: I offer all my songs to her.

PRATTLE: But you don't mean you think you could actually _see_ Fame?

DE REVES: We poets personify abstract things, and not poets only but
sculptors[7] and painters too. All the great things of the world are
those abstract things.

PRATTLE: But what I mean is, they're not really there, like you or me.

DE REVES: To us these things are more real than men, they outlive
generations, they watch the passing of kingdoms: we go by them like
dust; they are still there, unmoved, unsmiling.

PRATTLE: But, but, you can't think that you could _see_ Fame, you don't
expect to _see_ it?

DE REVES: Not to me. Never to me. She of the golden trumpet and Greek
dress will never appear to me.... We all have our dreams.

PRATTLE: I say--what have you been doing all day?

DE REVES: I? Oh, only writing a sonnet.

PRATTLE: Is it a long one?

DE REVES: Not very.

PRATTLE: About how long is it?

DE REVES: About fourteen lines.

PRATTLE (_impressively_): I tell you what it is.

DE REVES: Yes?

PRATTLE: I tell you what. You've been overworking yourself. I once got
like that on board the Sandhurst, working for the passing-out exam. I
got so bad that I could have seen anything.

DE REVES: Seen anything?

PRATTLE: Lord, yes; horned pigs, snakes with wings; anything; one of
your winged horses even. They gave me some stuff called bromide for it.
You take a rest.

DE REVES: But my dear fellow, you don't understand at all. I merely said
that abstract things are to a poet as near and real and visible as one
of your bookmakers or barmaids.

PRATTLE: I know. You take a rest.

DE REVES: Well, perhaps I will. I'd come with you to that musical comedy
you're going to see, only I'm a bit tired after writing this; it's a
tedious job. I'll come another night.

PRATTLE: How do you know I'm going to see a musical comedy?

DE REVES: Well, where would you go? _Hamlet_'s[8] on at the Lord
Chamberlain's. You're not going there.

PRATTLE: Do I look like it?

DE REVES: No.

PRATTLE: Well, you're quite right. I'm going to see "The Girl from
Bedlam." So long. I must push off now. It's getting late. You take a
rest. Don't add another line to that sonnet; fourteen's quite enough.
You take a rest. Don't have any dinner to-night, just rest. I was like
that once myself. So long.

DE REVES: So long.

[_Exit_ PRATTLE. DE REVES _returns to his table and sits down._

Good old Dick! He's the same as ever. Lord, how time passes.

_He takes his pen and his sonnet and makes a few alterations._

Well, that's finished. I can't do any more to it.

[_He rises and goes to the screen; he draws back part of it and goes up
to the altar. He is about to place his sonnet reverently at the foot of
the altar amongst his other verses._

No, I will not put it there. This one is worthy of the altar.

[_He places the sonnet upon the altar itself._

If that sonnet does not give me fame, nothing that I have done before
will give it to me, nothing that I ever will do.

[_He replaces the screen and returns to his chair at the table. Twilight
is coming on. He sits with his elbow on the table, his head on his hand,
or however the actor pleases._

Well, well. Fancy seeing Dick again. Well, Dick enjoys his life, so he's
no fool. What was that he said? "There's no money in poetry. You'd
better chuck it." Ten years' work and what have I to show for it? The
admiration of men who care for poetry, and how many of _them_ are there?
There's a bigger demand for smoked glasses to look at eclipses of the
sun. Why should Fame come to me? Haven't I given up my days for her?
That is enough to keep her away. I am a poet; that is enough reason for
her to slight me. Proud and aloof and cold as marble, what does Fame
care for us? Yes, Dick is right. It's a poor game chasing illusions,
hunting the intangible, pursuing dreams. Dreams? Why, we are ourselves
dreams.

[_He leans back in his chair._

                 We are such stuff
    As dreams are made on, and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep.

[_He is silent for a while. Suddenly he lifts his head._

My room at Eton, Dick said. An untidy mess.

[_As he lifts his head and says these words, twilight gives place to
broad daylight, merely as a hint that the author of the play may have
been mistaken, and the whole thing may have been no more than a poet's
dream._

So it was, and it's an untidy mess there (_looking at screen_) too.
Dick's right. I'll tidy it up. I'll burn the whole damned heap,

[_He advances impetuously towards the screen._

every damned poem that I was ever fool enough to waste my time on.

[_He pushes back the screen._ FAME _in a Greek dress with a long golden
trumpet in her hand is seen standing motionless on the altar like a
marble goddess._

So ... you have come!

[_For a while he stands thunderstruck. Then he approaches the altar._

Divine fair lady, you have come.

[_He holds up his hand to her and leads her down from the altar and into
the centre of the stage. At whatever moment the actor finds it most
convenient, he repossesses himself of the sonnet that he had placed on
the altar. He now offers it to_ FAME.

This is my sonnet. Is it well done?

[FAME _takes it and reads it in silence, while the_ POET _watches her
rapturously._

FAME: You're a bit of all right.

DE REVES: What?

FAME: Some poet.

DE REVES: I--I--scarcely ... understand.

FAME: You're IT.

DE REVES: But ... it is not possible ... are you she that knew Homer?

FAME: Homer? Lord, yes. Blind old bat, 'e couldn't see a yard.

DE REVES: O Heavens!

[FAME _walks beautifully to the window. She opens it and puts her head
out._

FAME (_in a voice with which a woman in an upper storey would cry for
help if the house was well alight_): Hi! Hi! Boys! Hi! Say, folks! Hi!

[_The murmur of a gathering crowd is heard._ FAME _blows her trumpet._

FAME: Hi, he's a poet! (_Quickly, over her shoulder._) What's your name?

DE REVES: De Reves.

FAME: His name's de Reves.

DE REVES: Harry de Reves.

FAME: His pals call him Harry.

THE CROWD: Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

FAME: Say, what's your favourite colour?

DE REVES: I ... I ... I don't quite understand.

FAME: Well, which do you like best, green or blue?

DE REVES: Oh--er--blue.

[_She blows her trumpet out of the window._

No--er--I think green.

FAME: Green is his favourite colour.

THE CROWD: Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

FAME: 'Ere, tell us something. They want to know all about yer.

DE REVES: Wouldn't[9] you perhaps ... would they care to hear my sonnet,
if you would--er ...

FAME (_picking up quill_): Here, what's this?

DE REVES: Oh, that's my pen.

FAME (_after another blast on her trumpet_): He writes with a quill.

[_Cheers from the_ CROWD.

FAME (_going to a cupboard_): Here, what have you got in here?

DE REVES: Oh ... er ... those are my breakfast things.

FAME (_finding a dirty plate_): What have yer had on this one?

DE REVES (_mournfully_): Oh, eggs and bacon.

FAME (_at the window_): He has eggs and bacon for breakfast.

THE CROWD: Hip hip hip, _hooray!_
Hip hip hip, _hooray!_
Hip hip hip, _hooray!_

FAME: Hi, and what's this?

DE REVES (_miserably_): Oh, a golf stick.

FAME: He's a man's man! He's a virile man! He's a manly man!

[_Wild cheers from the_ CROWD, _this time only from women's voices._

DE REVES: Oh, this is terrible. This is terrible. This is terrible.

[FAME _gives another peal on her horn. She is about to speak._


DE REVES (_solemnly and mournfully_): One moment, one moment ...

FAME: Well, out with it.

DE REVES: For ten years, divine lady, I have worshipped you, offering
all my songs ... I find ... I find I am not worthy....

FAME: Oh, you're all right.

DE REVES: No, no, I am not worthy. It cannot be. It cannot possibly be.
Others deserve you more. I must say it! _I cannot possibly love you._
Others are worthy. You will find others. But I, no, no, no. It cannot
be. It cannot be. Oh, pardon me, but it _must_ not.

[_Meanwhile_ FAME _has been lighting one of his cigarettes. She sits in
a comfortable chair, leans right back, and puts her feet right up on the
table amongst the poet's papers._

Oh, I fear I offend you. But--it cannot be.

FAME: Oh, that's all right, old bird; no offence. I ain't going to leave
you.

DE REVES: But--but--but--I do not understand.

FAME: I've come to stay, I have.

[_She blows a puff of smoke through her trumpet_.


CURTAIN.



[Transcriber's Note: Footnotes indicate where typographical errors in
the original edition have been corrected.]

[Footnote 1: Corrected from "eaxct"]

[Footnote 2: Corrected from "wouln't"]

[Footnote 3: Corrected from "MRS. SPLURGE"]

[Footnote 4: An unmatched parenthesis has been deleted]

[Footnote 5: Corrected from "Neek"]

[Footnote 6: Corrected from "Neek"]

[Footnote 7: Corrected from "scuptors"]

[Footnote 8: Corrected from "_Hamlet's_"]

[Footnote 9: Corrected from "Wouln't"]





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