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Title: Andromache - A Play in Three Acts
Author: Murray, Gilbert, 1866-1957
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Andromache - A Play in Three Acts" ***

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Canada Team (http://www.pgdpcanada.net)



ANDROMACHE


      *      *      *      *      *      *

_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_
UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME
Paper, 1s. 6d.; Cloth, 2s. 6d.
CARLYON SAHIB
A Drama in Four Acts


LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN
21 Bedford Street, W.C.

      *      *      *      *      *      *


ANDROMACHE

A Play in Three Acts

by

GILBERT MURRAY



London: William Heinemann
MDCCCC

_All rights, including Acting rights in the English Language, reserved_



_PREFATORY LETTER._


_My Dear ARCHER_,

_The germ of this play sprang into existence on a certain April day in
1896 which you and I spent chiefly in dragging our reluctant bicycles up
the great hills that surround Riveaulx Abbey, and discussing, so far as
the blinding rain allowed us, the questions whether all sincere comedies
are of necessity cynical, and how often we had had tea since the
morning, and how far it would be possible to treat a historical subject
loyally and unconventionally on a modern stage. Then we struck (as, I
fear, is too often the fate of those who converse with me) on the
subject of the lost plays of the Greek tragedians. We talked of the
extraordinary variety of plot that the Greek dramatist found in his
historical tradition, the force, the fire, the depth and richness of
character-play. We thought of the marvellous dramatic possibilities of
an age in which actual and living heroes and sages were to be seen
moving against a background of primitive superstition and blank
savagery; in which the soul of man walked more free from trappings than
seems ever to have been permitted to it since. But I must stop; I see
that I am approaching the common pitfall of playwrights who venture upon
prefaces, and am beginning to prove how good my play ought to be!_

_What I want to remind you of is this: that we agreed that a simple
historical play, with as little convention as possible, placed in the
Greek Heroic Age, and dealing with one of the ordinary heroic stories,
ought to be, well, an interesting experiment. Beyond this point, I know,
we began to differ. You wanted verse and the Greece of the English
poets. I wanted, above all things, a nearer approach to my conception of
the real Greece, the Greece of history and even--dare I say it?--of
anthropology! I recognise your full right to disapprove of every word
and every sentiment of this play from the first to the last, but I hope
you will not grudge me the pleasure of associating your name with at
least the inception of the experiment, and thanking you at the same time
for the many gifts of friendly encouragement and stimulating objurgation
which you have bestowed upon_

_Yours sincerely_,
_GILBERT MURRAY_.

_January 1900._



_DRAMATIS PERSONÆ_


PYRRHUS                 _Son of Achilles; King of Phthia._

ANDROMACHE              _Once wife of Hector, Prince of Troy; now slave to
                           Pyrrhus._

HERMIONE                _Daughter of Helen, Queen of Sparta; wife to
                           Pyrrhus._

MOLOSSUS                _Child of Pyrrhus and Andromache._

ALCIMEDON _or_ ALCIMUS  _An old Captain of Achilles' Myrmidons._

ORESTES                 _Son of Agamemnon, King of Mycenæ; now banished
                           for the slaying of his mother, Clytæmnestra._

PYLADES                 _A Prince of Phocis, friend to Orestes._

A PRIEST OF THETIS

TWO MAIDS OF HERMIONE

_Certain Maidens, Myrmidons, Men-at-Arms._

_The Action takes place in Phthia, on the Southern borders of Thessaly,
about fifteen years after the Fall of Troy._



ANDROMACHE



THE FIRST ACT


SCENE: _The coast of Phthia. Rocks at the back, with the sea visible
behind them. One of the rocks is a shrine, having niches cut in it for
receiving offerings. On the right in front is the Altar of Thetis,
shrouded in trees; to the left, a well. A path to the left leads to_
PYRRHUS' _castle; another, far back to the right, leads to the house of
the_ PRIEST. _It is the morning twilight, with a faint glimmer of dawn._

_At the foot of the rock_ ORESTES _is seated in meditation; he carries
two spears, and wears the garb of a traveller. An_ ARMED MAN _is moving
off the stage at the back, as though going towards the sea; he stops
suddenly, listens, and hides behind a rock._

_Enter, coming up from the sea_, PYLADES, _armed. The_ MAN _steps out_.

MAN.

My lord Pylades.

PYLADES.

Where have you left him?

MAN.

Yonder, by the shrine. He bade me go back to the ship.

PYLADES.

[_Crossing to_ ORESTES.] Is it too late to turn your purpose?

ORESTES.

[_As though half roused from his reverie._] I seek only to see if she is
indeed so passing beautiful. She was; I am sure she was, until----
[_He pauses._

PYLADES.

Let me go first and spy out a way for you.

ORESTES.

[_With sudden resentment._] You think I am still mad!

PYLADES.

Nay, no more mad than I, but more quick to anger. It would be safer for
me to go.

ORESTES.

You think I am still mad because I dared not say it! I will say it here
by the altar. [_Doggedly._] I will see if she is still as she used to be
before the day when--[_with effort_]--I shed my mother's blood, and
first saw----

PYLADES.

Speak not Their name, brother. You did nought but the gods' plain
bidding. You see them no more now that you are healed.

ORESTES.

'Twas you that feared to name them, not I!

PYLADES.

Nay, you fear nothing; that is why I must fear for you.

ORESTES.

What is there to fear for me? Most like I shall come back just as I am.

PYLADES.

That is the one thing that cannot be!

ORESTES.

[_Musingly._] If she is changed as all the world else is changed since
that time---- [_Abruptly._] I care not for the woman. I will come back.
If not---- [_Smiles ambiguously._

PYLADES.

But why go alone, and why venture so much? We two could lie hid in the
thickets by the shrine yonder, and see her when the women come to pray
at sunrise. And then----

ORESTES.

[_With determination, interrupting him._] I will go alone, and see her
and speak with her alone! Hinder me not, friend! Leave no man to watch
over me. Keep the ship well hidden, and have twoscore men ambushed above
the cliff, to hold the path if need comes.

PYLADES.

There shall be fourscore ever ready to your call, night or day.

MAN.

[_Coming down from path at back._] My chief, the dawn is drawing close.

ORESTES.

Ay, get you gone before any worshippers come.

PYLADES.

As you will, then. And Apollo be your guard!

     [_Exeunt_ PYLADES _and_ ARMED MAN. ORESTES _wraps his mantle round
     him and sits in silence._

     _Enter from the right_, PRIEST _of Thetis, with a bowl in his
     hands. He climbs a rock at the back and watches the sunrise._

PRIEST.

Not yet. Not quite yet. Ah, there it catches the crag-top: now the
trees:--yes, there is the glint far off upon the sea! [_Comes down
towards the shrine and prays._] Hail, Thetis! Accept this wine and honey
I bring thee at first touch of dawn. Keep thy Priest in wealth and
honour, even as I keep thy worship. And, as the sunlight drives the
Things of darkness from thy waters---- [_Seeing_ ORESTES.] Averter of
evil! Who is this that has sat through the darkness under the Holy Rock?
Stranger, whence come you here?

ORESTES.

From Acarnania. Have I sinned in resting here?

PRIEST.

No man of Phthia, for his life, would stay here in darkness! Saw you not
anything?

ORESTES.

What should I see?

PRIEST.

No changing manifold shapes, as of women or winged things?

ORESTES.

[_Harshly._] I saw nought but what I have seen on a thousand nights.
Enough! If I have offended any goddess I will make amends.

     [_He begins to wring off a pendant from a gold chain that he wears,
     and moves towards the altar._

PRIEST.

Stay! There is no blood upon your hands?

ORESTES.

I have slain a man.

PRIEST.

How long since? Is the stain washed off?

ORESTES.

Oh, I have been purified and purified!

PRIEST.

Duly and fully--with hyssop and the blood of swine?

ORESTES.

With better sacrifices than swine! I am clean enough to make amends to
your goddess. [_Coming across to the shrine._] Where shall I lay it? For
I may need her favour. [_Holds out the gold pendant._

PRIEST.

[_Surprised._] Gold! Stranger, it is well to give gold to Thetis,
but----

ORESTES.

Well, I give it to Thetis!

PRIEST.

Scarce a man in Phthia has ever touched gold, save Pyrrhus himself and
the servants of Hermione. Nor many, I should guess, in Acarnania.

ORESTES.

A banished man must have his wealth in little compass.

PRIEST.

A chain like that should buy an exile's return.

ORESTES.

I care not to return.

PRIEST.

Are the friends of the dead so bitter against you?

ORESTES.

The friends of the dead are dead, and my friends are dead. I have none
to fear; but I have been wronged, my house taken from me, and my
father's wealth, and the woman that was vowed me to wife. No more, old
man! I am an exile, and I live in happier lands than mine own.

PRIEST.

Is it in Phthia you seek for a happy land? No matter; affliction comes
to the good as to the evil.

ORESTES.

Why, what ails your city, if a stranger may know?

PRIEST.

See you that shrine, and the footprint of Thetis in the rock? Once it
was all covered with offerings!

ORESTES.

It is not so well loaded, nor yet so ill. Is there no worse than that?

PRIEST.

Worse? Barren fields and a barren queen, and hatred in the house of
Achilles!

ORESTES.

Is it some sin the King has done?

PRIEST.

The King and a woman.

ORESTES.

[_Starting._] Has _that_ sin met its punishment? Speak plainly, Priest.

PRIEST.

Long years ago, Pyrrhus brought back from Troy a slave woman to share
his bed.

ORESTES.

[_As though reassured._] Hector's wife, Andromache, men say.

PRIEST.

The wife of his father's bitterest enemy! Ay, and she was his enemy too,
and loathed her life with Pyrrhus.

ORESTES.

They all struggle, these women captives. But what harm came of it?

PRIEST.

She is a foe to the land and to Thetis!

ORESTES.

But has he not cast her off? [_With constraint._] Men say he has wedded
a new Queen, the daughter of Helen.

PRIEST.

Oh, the Trojan has not dwelt in the King's house these ten years back.
She begged him for a hut in the mountain, and he gave it her.

ORESTES.

She begged to be sent away! How was that?

PRIEST.

Why should a woman wish to live in secret, and not be seen? [_Slight
pause._] There be wise women among the barbarians.

ORESTES.

Wise in bad drugs and magic; I know no other wisdom in them.

PRIEST.

You have said it! There is a prophet here who knows of counter-charms--I
gave him three ewes for this that I wear--[_showing a charm made of
wolves' teeth_]--else I durst not face her!

ORESTES.

Whom has she chiefly hurt?

PRIEST.

Men say she has waked the dead Hector to come to her across the seas!
[_He shudders._] But for the King, we should have judged her long ago.

ORESTES.

Does the new Queen hate her?

PRIEST.

Has she not blighted the womb of the Queen? There is no heir to Achilles
in Achilles' land!

ORESTES.

And does Pyrrhus sit still while his Queen is thus wronged?

PRIEST.

Cannot a witch blind the eyes? He can see nothing, and will hearken to
nothing. Even now he has taken the Trojan woman's bastard with him.

ORESTES.

Is Pyrrhus away from the land? Where?

PRIEST.

He has gone hunting in the hills yonder--[_pointing_]--and down to the
fields of the Napæans.

ORESTES.

When should he return?

PRIEST.

To-day, it may be--it is the fifth day of the hunt; or perchance the
game may keep him some time yet.

     [_Enter_ ALCIMEDON, L., _an old man with spears but no armour; he
     carries a bunch of violets for Thetis_.] The witch woman is mad
     lest any hurt come to the boy!

ALCIMEDON.

Health to you, Priest, and discretion to your tongue!

PRIEST.

Health I accept, Alcimedon,--discretion to them that need it!

ORESTES.

[_To the_ PRIEST.] Why, what should bring hurt to the lad?

ALCIMEDON.

[_Carelessly, passing on._] Jealousy stranger. Priests and barren women!

     [_He passes on to the altar, and then to the rock, where he puts
     his violets._

PRIEST.

Jealousy!

ORESTES.

[_Involuntarily._] Hermione would never plot against the boy!

     [_He makes an angry movement after_ ALCIMEDON.

PRIEST.

What jealousy? What need to be jealous of him? He is no true heir. We
have a King, and we have a Queen, both of the blood of Zeus, both our
true rulers, but heir there is none.

ALCIMEDON.

[_Seeing and handling the gold link._] Ye golden gods, have the sons of
Pactôlus us come to Phthia?

ORESTES.

[_In sudden anger._] The curse of the crawling lichen on the man who
moves that gold!

ALCIMEDON.

On your own head! [_Throws gold quickly down._] Who are you, stranger,
to curse one that has done you no wrong?

ORESTES.

I check the wrong before it is done. And I tell not my name save to my
host after I have eaten and slept.

ALCIMEDON.

If you come to teach your manners to the Myrmidons, by Thetis! you shall
learn theirs first. Is the stranger yours, O Priest?

ORESTES.

I have broken no man's bread nor touched his hand. [_Defiantly._] What
see you more?

ALCIMEDON.

Why is he so bold? Has he sanctuary with Thetis?

ORESTES.

[_Lifting his two spears._] This is my sanctuary. And there is more gold
for the man that will break through it.

PRIEST.

Stay! Slay not the stranger so fast, Alcimedon. Reason with him. He will
give up the chain, and we will let him go in peace.

ALCIMEDON.

Go in peace, when he has lifted his spear against Alcimedon! How shall I
look my grandchildren in the face? By Thetis! I will wash the chain with
his blood!

PRIEST.

Beware; he has spears! It is man to man.

     [_Noise of footsteps._ ORESTES _puts his back towards a rock, so
     that neither he nor_ ALCIMEDON _sees_ ANDROMACHE, _the_ MAID, _and
     two other damsels, who enter with pitchers on their heads_.

ALCIMEDON.

[_With his eye on_ ORESTES.] Ha! who comes there? [_Calling to the
newcomers without looking at them._] A stranger in arms, and with gold!
Ho! Myrmidons!

ANDROMACHE.

Shame on you, Alcimedon, robber of strangers!

ALCIMEDON.

Is it you? [_Yielding reluctantly._] Nay, he is no man's guest; it is
lawful to slay him.

ANDROMACHE.

He is mine. [_To_ ORESTES.] Stranger, give me your right hand. [_To_
ALCIMEDON.] He is my guest.

ORESTES.

[_Still stormy and excited._] Shall I take a woman's hand for fear of
this old loon? My spear-blade is dry and has not drunk.

PRIEST.

Stranger, you are alone; a wise man chooses peace, and not war.

ORESTES.

Alone? As a wolf among sheep is alone. When he slays first the
dog--[_pointing spear at_ ALCIMEDON]--and bleeds the sheep as he will!

ANDROMACHE.

And who will be the better when he has bled them? Nay, old friend--[_to_
ALCIMEDON, _who wants to break in; then to_ ORESTES _again_]--though you
slay us all, you have but lost the food and shelter we had given you;
and the shedder of blood escapes not the Dread Watchers.

ORESTES.

[_Who had been cooling, starts and threatens her._] What know _you_ of
the Dread Watchers?

ANDROMACHE.

And there is little glory in the slaying of a woman, and little gain.

ORESTES.

[_Wildly._] What woman? Who are you that taunt me? Priest, is this your
witch?

ALCIMEDON.

[_Angrily._] She is no witch! You lie, both stranger and priest!

ANDROMACHE.

I am a bondwoman of the King.

ALCIMEDON.

Andromache, once wife of Hector, Prince of Troy.

ORESTES.

And am I to be the guest of a bondwoman?

ANDROMACHE.

There are others of free estate who will take you in. I only sought to
save men's lives.

ORESTES.

What worth are men's lives? I will be guest to none but the King.

ANDROMACHE.

One of these will guide you, when you will, to Pyrrhus' castle.

ORESTES.

[_Relaxing suddenly._] Oh, let me be.

     [_He sits down on a rock, and buries his face in his hands._

ANDROMACHE.

[_To_ ALCIMEDON.] The man is very weary and sore at heart, Alcimedon.

PRIEST.

It may be he is mad. It is well we hurt him not.

ALCIMEDON.

Banishment may make a man well-nigh mad. I remember the year of my own
manslaying.

ANDROMACHE.

Perchance he has been long alone in the forests. Take him and give him
food and drink.

ALCIMEDON.

The priest can take him. I want no more of the man.

ORESTES.

[_Wearily._] Nay, touch me not. Leave me awhile.

PRIEST.

[_To the others._] It is well. Make your prayers.

ANDROMACHE.

[_Approaching the altar, and praying with upstretched hands._] Greeting
to thee and joy, Thetis, mother of all Phthia. Give us peace in this
land; and grant that my son Molossus return safe, and grow to give joy
to thee and all this house!

ALCIMEDON.

[_In the same way._] Joy to thee, Thetis! Accept my offerings, and grant
that my arms keep strong, and that I find the man whose swine have
trampled my barley field.

MAID.

It will be a long day before Thetis grants you that, old man.

ALCIMEDON.

[_Grumbling._] If I only knew of any one that knew!

PRIEST.

[_To_ FIRST MAID.] Have you a prayer to make?

MAID.

[_Taking offerings from other_ MAIDS _to add to her own_.] Hail, Thetis!
and may joy be ever with thee! Accept these offerings from the
bondmaidens Aithra, and Pholoe, and Deianassa; and grant all good things
to them and theirs. [_A pause._

ALCIMEDON.

The jade! She is praying in silence! Ho, stop her, Priest! [_The others
giggle._

MAID.

'Tis as good as a witch's prayer, at the worst!

ALCIMEDON.

[_Taking hold of her and threatening her with the shaft of his spear._]
Say it aloud, now! Say what it was!

MAID.

I won't! I won't! Let me be. It was no harm.

ANDROMACHE.

Let her be.

ALCIMEDON.

Swear it was nothing touching me, nor my crops, nor those swine!

MAID.

By Thetis! I think not of you, nor your crops nor your swine!

ORESTES.

[_Recovering from his reverie._] Well, lead me in. I will be the guest
of any that will take me.

PRIEST.

You have given an offering, stranger; you may pray if you will.

ORESTES.

I--to Thetis! No! Yet perhaps---- [_Going up to altar._] Hail, Thetis! I
have given thee an offering of many oxen's price, and many more will I
give if thou hinder me not of my desires.

ALCIMEDON.

A vile prayer, a very dangerous prayer! He might as well have prayed
silently. I will not take the man; the Priest may take him.

     [_The_ PRIEST _goes towards_ ORESTES.

ORESTES.

[_Looking about and scanning the faces._] I will be this bondwoman's
guest.

ANDROMACHE.

So be it, stranger. [_The_ PRIEST _moves anxiously towards_ ORESTES.]
And perchance the Priest will give you shelter till my work is done.

PRIEST.

Ay, come with me. When the King returns, it were meeter that he should
take you. [_Aside to_ ORESTES.] Beware, stranger! It is the Phrygian
woman.

ORESTES.

[_Apart to_ PRIEST.] She is over-wise, methinks; but not evil. I fear
her not. [_Coming back as though on impulse._] I give you my hand, wife
of Hector!

ANDROMACHE.

It is well, my guest. [_Taking his hand._

PRIEST.

Till the King returns!

     [_Exeunt_ PRIEST _and_ ORESTES R.

ALCIMEDON.

[_As_ ANDROMACHE _and the women draw water at the well_.] Lazy hounds,
to let Hector's wife draw water! Fill her pails for her, little foxes!

FIRST MAID.

Better _she_ fill mine! Perhaps she knows charms for filling them.

ANDROMACHE.

It is well, fellow slave. Let our work be even.

     _Enter, by the path from the Castle_, HERMIONE, _with two
     attendants carrying libations. She does not notice the slaves._

ALCIMEDON.

Greeting, O Queen.

HERMIONE.

Greeting, old man. [_Going up to the altar._] Hail, Thetis, and have
joy! Accept this wine and the blood of an ewe with two lambs that I
bring to thee; and take off from me, I beseech---- [_She stops, looks
round, and sees_ ANDROMACHE, _on whom she turns with vehemence_.] You?

     [_Flings out the blood on the ground._

ALCIMEDON.

Queen, you have flung out the blood upon the ground!

HERMIONE.

What would my sacrifice profit, with that woman's eyes upon me? [_To_
ANDROMACHE.] Get you back to the castle! Is the water not drawn yet?

ANDROMACHE.

I go, O Queen!

ALCIMEDON.

You are over-proud, my Queen, over-proud.

HERMIONE.

May a Queen in Phthia not give commands to her own slaves?

MAID.

[_At the shrine._] Holy Aphrodite! some one has put gold upon the
shrine!

ALCIMEDON.

'Twas a stranger that the Priest has taken in. Have a care: the dog laid
a curse on any who should move it.

HERMIONE.

A stranger! He comes from the South, then; from Athens, or Argos, or
Mycenæ----

ALCIMEDON.

No, Queen, he is only an Acarnanian. But belike he has journeyed to the
South.

HERMIONE.

That is no Acarnanian gold! [_Taking it up._] See you the sea-beast
wrought on it, with many feet?

     [_To_ MAID.

MAID.

Yes, but the curse, Queen----

HERMIONE.

[_Not heeding her._] It brings my home back to me. In Lacedæmon we all
wore chains of gold about our necks.

MAID.

Queen, the man laid a curse upon it!

HERMIONE.

[_Putting it back._] I meant no evil; and that dear gold of the South
will never hurt me---- In Agamemnon's palace the men had gold in their
armour, and even in the blades of their swords! And the gold was wrought
into lions and wild bulls and trees, and strange sea-beasts like this.

ALCIMEDON.

A plain haft and a plain blade cuts the steadiest.

HERMIONE.

[_Angrily._] Bah! You deem because you are rude you are valiant,
Alcimedon! The soldiers of the South were as brave as you.

ALCIMEDON.

[_Turning away towards the maidens._] Let not Andromache draw the water,
jades!

HERMIONE.

Will you not draw for her yourself, old man?

ALCIMEDON.

_I_ draw water! [_Drawing himself up in indignation._] By Hermes! I care
not for the tongue of a barren woman.

     [_Voices and the loud talk of huntsmen are heard outside._

VOICE OF MOLOSSUS.

Ho! Mother, Mother!

MAID.

[_Looking._] It is Molossus! And the King's huntsmen. They are coming up
the path.

ALCIMEDON.

Already!

HERMIONE.

[_To_ ANDROMACHE, _who has stopped_.] Why do you wait? Have I not bidden
you back to the castle? And when the hall is swept, go to your own
house. Come not up to trouble the King till that web is finished.

ANDROMACHE.

[_Turning again and moving away._] I go, O Queen.

VOICE OF PYRRHUS.

[_Outside._] Ho, wife of Hector, mother of Molossus! Stay, and look at
him.

     MOLOSSUS _and_ PYRRHUS _enter, with some spearmen_; PYRRHUS _has
     his arm on the neck of_ MOLOSSUS.

MOLOSSUS.

[_Running forward._] Mother, look! I have slain a man!

PYRRHUS.

He has slain his first man.

     [MOLOSSUS _holds up his hands, the palms of which are smeared with
     blood_.

MOLOSSUS.

See, mother; they have smeared me with his blood!

HERMIONE.

[_Holding aloof._] Keep away from the altar, with foul hands!

ANDROMACHE.

[_To_ PYRRHUS, _with reproach, while she embraces_ MOLOSSUS.] You said
you would take him to no battles, only to hunting.

PYRRHUS.

[_Cheerily._] By Hermes, it was he who made the battle! I meant nothing
but hunting.

ALCIMEDON.

Well done, boy! A true prince, a true prince!

PYRRHUS.

We had driven the deer down over the mountains and we came on a herd of
the Napæans' cattle grazing, right up on the moors.

ANDROMACHE.

You promised me you would raid no cattle with him.

PYRRHUS.

By Hermes! They _came_ to us! And the herd-boy never saw us; he was
sitting on a stone in the sun, and thinking of nothing. And even then I
would not raid the cattle. When suddenly up jumped the herd-boy and
looked at us, with his mouth open. And before he knew who we were, I
heard a twang!--and there he was with an arrow in his neck!

     [_Laughs._

MOLOSSUS.

Right through his throat, mother! He was looking up. [_Imitating the
attitude._] And I have got a pipe he was plaiting. It wasn't finished,
but it blows.

     [_He shows a pipe made of reeds._

PYRRHUS.

You can play better things than pipes, my boy. So we ran down and cut
off the cattle; and I have given them to Molossus for his own herd.

MOLOSSUS.

And father put the blood on my hands himself.

PYRRHUS.

I will do more for you than that, my firstborn.

HERMIONE.

[_Who has kept back, by the altar._] Take up your pitcher, and begone,
woman!

PYRRHUS.

[_Turning upon_ HERMIONE.] Now, by Peleus, daughter of Helen, what would
you?

HERMIONE.

That when my slave is gone you may give me greeting.

PYRRHUS.

I give you greeting. But I praise not your greeting to me.

HERMIONE.

If I send my women to draw water at sunrise, shall the water not be back
when the shadows are thus?

     [_Pointing to shadows._

PYRRHUS.

There be other women meeter to draw water than Hector's wife. I tell you
there is no man on this earth I should so joy to have slain as Hector.

HERMIONE.

If he had witchwork to help him, he may have been a deadly fighter.

ANDROMACHE.

[_To_ PYRRHUS, _who has laid his hand on her shoulder_.] Nay, master,
the hall must be made ready.

PYRRHUS.

Well, take our boy, and be with him at the castle when I come. Stay,
think of a boon to ask of me in return for the day's good work. And
make it a rich boon; I shall not stint you.

ANDROMACHE.

I know it now; but I fear to anger my lord.

PYRRHUS.

Ask on; yet I would not have you ask for freedom from me.

ANDROMACHE.

My master, what could I do now with freedom? Only suffer Molossus to
make atonement to the Napæans for the man he slew. He may give back the
oxen, and I will add of my own.

PYRRHUS.

[_Displeased._] Atonement! Who are the Napæans to seek atonement from
me?

ANDROMACHE.

Nay, my lord, it was scarce a righteous slaying.

PYRRHUS.

Not righteous! [_Scornfully._] Then perchance you would have me cut off
the herd-boy's hands and feet, for fear his ghost should come after us?
Not righteous! What is it you fear?

ANDROMACHE.

[_Putting her hand on_ MOLOSSUS' _shoulder_.] He is but a boy, my lord!
And if there is no atonement, they will watch day and night to slay him.

MOLOSSUS.

Mother, I fear them not!

ANDROMACHE.

They will raid us again----

PYRRHUS.

I can do them twice and four times the hurt they can do me.

ANDROMACHE.

They cannot hurt _us_ in our castle, but they can burn the villages in
the plain and make dearth and famine.

MOLOSSUS.

Oh, Mother, why should I make atonement for my first man?

PYRRHUS.

It was only a boy, too. I cannot ask forgiveness for one boy!

ANDROMACHE.

It will cost little. I have three carpets of Sidon work----

PYRRHUS.

And the oxen! I have given them to the lad; and one is already eaten.
Well, well, it is for the lad to say if he will give back his oxen and
ask for pardon.

HERMIONE.

[_With a ring of emotion in her voice._] Shall my chests be made empty
because your slave's child is afraid?

MOLOSSUS.

I am not afraid. I will never atone!

PYRRHUS.

[_To_ HERMIONE.] Peace, O Queen! [_To_ ANDROMACHE.] Go! If Molossus
wills, he can make his atonement. On to the castle, men!

     [_Exeunt spearmen._

ANDROMACHE.

[_Turning as she goes off._] Be not wroth, my King. Your hall would be
very desolate if the boy were slain. [_Exeunt_ ANDROMACHE _and_
MOLOSSUS.

HERMIONE.

There is another atonement should come first, if you must humble
yourself.

PYRRHUS.

[_Stopping as he is going off._] What other?

HERMIONE.

Atone to Orestes, Agamemnon's son, that you stole away his bride!

PYRRHUS.

[_Firing up and laying his hand on his dagger._] Daughter of a dog! I
stole no man's bride.

HERMIONE.

Was I not vowed and sworn to Orestes?

PYRRHUS.

Your father vowed you, not I. What is it to me if your father broke his
oaths?

HERMIONE.

You helped him and bribed him to break them. The wrath of the Broken
Oath is on both of you!

PYRRHUS.

You are mad, woman. Orestes had murdered his mother, and the Spirits
without Name haunted him day and night----

HERMIONE.

My father knew that when he betrothed me. He could be purified.

PYRRHUS.

[_Scornfully._] Purified? For slaying his mother?

HERMIONE.

And you, you dared not enter the land while Agamemnon's son was there;
you waited till----

PYRRHUS.

'Twas your father cozened Orestes away. How should I fear Agamemnon's
son? Am I not the son of Achilles?

HERMIONE.

And was Achilles a better man than Agamemnon?

PYRRHUS.

All the world knows he was.

HERMIONE.

Then why did all the world choose Agamemnon to be their king?

PYRRHUS.

Bah! Very feeble men may be kings.

HERMIONE.

They may, in Phthia; and beggarly men, and savage, and witch-ridden, and
makers of atonement, and stealers of wives!

PYRRHUS.

By Peleus! if I stole you, you were willing. 'Tis yourself you mark with
a dog's name, Helen's daughter!

HERMIONE.

God be witness, willing I never was! Though I dreamed not then that I
should come to a beggared land and the house of a master who hated me!

     [_Flings herself down by the altar, hidden from the back of the
     stage by the trees._

PYRRHUS.

By Thetis, woman, you are bewitched!

HERMIONE.

[_With a cry._] Bewitched! Have I not said it?

     _Enter from_ R. _back_, PRIEST _and_ ORESTES.

PRIEST.

[_To_ ORESTES.] Here is the King himself! [_To_ PYRRHUS.] Son of
Achilles, I bring you this stranger, whom your handmaid, Andromache,
commended to my care.

PYRRHUS.

Whence comes he, and what seeks he?

PRIEST.

From Acarnania, banished for the slaying of a man.

PYRRHUS.

He seeks not purification?

ORESTES.

The blood is faded long ago from my hand. I seek but to rest a while at
your castle; I will give payment either in battle with your enemies, or
by tidings and songs from beyond Parnassus and the Waters of Pelops.

     [HERMIONE _looks up in amazement at the voice, utters a stifled
     cry, and peers round_.

PYRRHUS.

It is well, stranger. Tidings are good in peace; and if war comes, an
exile for manslaying may well be worth the bread he eats.

ORESTES.

Others know if I am skilled in war. I know only that my life is little
worth to me, and I care not much to save it.

PYRRHUS.

A good word, Sir Guest, and worthy of the roof of Achilles. We give you
greeting, my Queen and I. [_Shakes his hand, and looks round for_
HERMIONE.] Daughter of Helen, have you not seen our guest?

HERMIONE.

[_In a startled tone._] Seen him? What do you mean, my lord?

ORESTES.

Nay, though methinks I have heard the Queen's praises till it is almost
as though I knew her. For the women of the South speak daily of Helen's
daughter, and the bards and kings' sons will never forget her.

HERMIONE.

[_Mastering her agitation with difficulty._] You know the land of
Pelops, stranger? It is a fair land.

ORESTES.

Once it was far the fairest upon earth. But now its pride is brought
down, and that which made it beautiful is departed. [_He looks steadily
at her._

PYRRHUS.

Ay, they have had their troubles in the South. Howbeit, with us you may
stay in peace as long as your pleasure is. Daughter of Helen, give your
hand to our guest, and guide him to the castle.

HERMIONE.

[_Moving her hand forward, then drawing back._] Let another guide him. I
have yet a prayer unspoken, and my offering is poured.

PYRRHUS.

[_Displeased._] Be not vexed, stranger. Who can tell the prayers of a
childless woman, save that they change and are very many? Come with me,
and to-morrow we will ask your name and race.

     [_Exeunt_ PYRRHUS _and_ ORESTES, L. _The_ PRIEST _looks to the
     niches in the rock to see the offerings_. HERMIONE _falls on her
     knees at the altar, and prays silently_.


END OF THE FIRST ACT.



THE SECOND ACT


SCENE: _The Hall of_ PYRRHUS' _Castle, a rude stone building, with
spears, swords, and armour hanging on the walls. A doorway in the back
wall leads to the courtyard. At the extreme right is a fire burning;
near it are two high seats for the King and Queen._

_On a bench near the door are_ ANDROMACHE _and_ MOLOSSUS _seated; on the
floor near them is a small pile of carpets and tapestries, and a bowl
with some metal ornaments and small weapons in it_.

ANDROMACHE.

But when you saw him fall, and saw the pain in his face, did it give you
no grief?

MOLOSSUS.

A little, it may be. Not more than when I struck my first deer. A child
might cry over the ox they are flaying now in the yard.

ANDROMACHE.

And a grown man, too, if it availed anything.

MOLOSSUS.

Mother, you are but a woman, and I am getting to be a man; I must grow
past all that and throw it behind me.

     _Enter_ ORESTES _unnoticed: he stands in the doorway, leaning
     against a pillar_.

ANDROMACHE.

May your eyes never see half the pain mine have seen! I grew past
feeling for it, too, long, long ago. I saw men writhe and bite the dust,
without caring for them or counting them. They were so many that they
were all confused, and the noise of their anguish was like the crying of
cranes far off; there was no one voice in it, and no meaning. And then,
as it went on growing, and the sons of Priam died about me and the folk
starved, and my husband, Hector, was slain with torment, all the voices
gathered again together and seemed as one voice, that cried to my heart
so that it understood.

MOLOSSUS.

What did it say, mother?

ANDROMACHE.

It spoke in a language that you know not, my son.

MOLOSSUS.

Did it speak Phrygian?

ANDROMACHE.

It spoke the language of old, old men, and those whose gods have
deserted them.

     [ORESTES _moves forward as though to speak, but checks himself_.

MOLOSSUS.

But you could tell me what it said.

ANDROMACHE.

[_Looking at him, and not answering._] Why did you ever _wish_ to kill
that herd-boy?

MOLOSSUS.

We had taken their cattle before. They always fight us.

ANDROMACHE.

Would it not be better that they should live at peace with you?

MOLOSSUS.

Why should I fear their blood-feud? I would sooner be slain than ask
favours of them. My father would avenge me well!

ANDROMACHE.

And who will be the happier? Listen. Can you hear that little beating
sound--down seaward, away from the sun?

MOLOSSUS.

It is the water lapping against the rocks.

ANDROMACHE.

There is a sound like that in the language I told you of. Old, old men,
and those whose gods have deserted them, hear it in their hearts--the
sound of all the blood that men have spilt and the tears they have shed,
lapping against great rocks, in shadow, away from the sun.

MOLOSSUS.

But, mother, no warrior hears any sound like that.

ANDROMACHE.

Hector learnt to hear it before he died.

ORESTES.

[_Coming forward._] Before he died! Is that its meaning?

ANDROMACHE.

The stranger! [_Turning._

ORESTES.

Does it mean death, that sound?

ANDROMACHE.

Nay, methinks a man hears it when he has suffered enough, if he has the
right ear to hear it.

ORESTES.

But it is then that death should come, when a man has suffered enough.

ANDROMACHE.

Nay, death should not come for suffering. Death should come when there
is no hope left for any one thing in the world.

ORESTES.

[_Broodingly._] One thing!

MOLOSSUS.

But, Mother, they called Hector "Slayer of Men." I want first to slay
many, many men, and many wild beasts, and burn a town, that people may
fear me, and call me "Slayer of Men." And after that--after that, I will
be merciful, and slay only those I hate.

ANDROMACHE.

Shall you hate men still?

MOLOSSUS.

If they wrong me! [ANDROMACHE _smiles_.] Shall I not hate them that
wrong me? Do you not yourself?

ANDROMACHE.

Light of my age, if I hated, how should I live? There are three living
souls that I love--you and your father and old Alcimus. And if I hated,
whom should I hate more bitterly?

MOLOSSUS.

I know my father was your enemy once. But what did old Alcimus?

ANDROMACHE.

He was one of the three who slew my little child.

MOLOSSUS.

Astyanax? [_She nods._] I wish Astyanax were alive, mother. I would take
him hunting.--He would have no share, would he, in my heritage?

ANDROMACHE.

I know nothing of that.

MOLOSSUS.

And did you never hate them--not at the time?

ANDROMACHE.

[_Looking at him, then passing her hand across her face._] Oh yes, I
hated them!

MOLOSSUS.

But not me! I never did much harm to you.

ANDROMACHE.

Some day perhaps you will hurt me worse than any of them; but I shall
not hate you.

MOLOSSUS.

[_After a pause, handling the objects in the bowl._] Well, I give you my
oath this time, Mother; but I will not atone for my next slaying.

     _Enter_ ALCIMEDON _and Attendants_.

ALCIMEDON.

The bull is finished, and a fine beast he was. [_Seeing the bowl._] What
is this?

MOLOSSUS.

[_Shamefaced._] Nothing. Some pieces of mother's old stores.

ANDROMACHE.

The price for the blood of the herd-boy.

MOLOSSUS.

She made me vow it!

ALCIMEDON.

The atonement? That is right. I feared that Pyrrhus would be too proud
to pay it.

MOLOSSUS.

You need not think that _I_ wanted him to pay it!

ALCIMEDON.

H'm! That was how _I_ talked once, before I knew what a blood-feud was.
And now I would pay a dead man's weight in silver to be clear of one.
Of course, with a stranger it is different, or a man who has no kin.
[_Examining the stores._] No need to pay too much, though. It was a
little boy, they tell me, and poorly clad.

MOLOSSUS.

[_Almost crying._] He was a big boy!--I hate the Napæans, and I will
slay more of them!

ALCIMEDON.

There are the oxen as well. We have killed two; but sorry beasts, both,
sorry beasts. Any two calves will more than make up for them.

MOLOSSUS.

But I hate them!

ALCIMEDON.

Hate them your fill; but make up the feud: we must not have Pyrrhus left
childless.

MOLOSSUS.

What is it to me if Pyrrhus is childless? He can avenge his children.

ALCIMEDON.

Peace is better.

MOLOSSUS.

[_Contemptuously._] Peace!

ORESTES.

And what is the road to peace? The hate must eat itself out, till it
stays for weariness.

ALCIMEDON.

A long road, stranger, too long and too rough to the feet. We want peace
_now_!

ORESTES.

How can you get peace now, when the blood is still wet? He may give all
his silver and his kine, but he will hate the men whose blood he has
drunk; and though they swear by all the gods of their valley, they will
hate him. And hate will out, in time, one way or another.

MOLOSSUS.

If ever they swerve a hair's breadth from their oaths----

ALCIMEDON.

And is there to be no peace at all?

ORESTES.

Peace for this one--[_touching_ MOLOSSUS]--when Pyrrhus is childless, or
when----

ALCIMEDON.

Your words on your own head!

ORESTES.

----when the last of the Napæans has gone from the earth.

ANDROMACHE.

Nay; no peace then.

ORESTES.

Not for the dead?

ANDROMACHE.

Do not men see the dead roaming the world, and hear them call for blood?

ORESTES.

[_Excitedly._] How know _you_, woman, that the Dead call for blood?
[_Gloomily again._] When the whole of a race is gone there may perhaps
be peace.

ANDROMACHE.

But the whole of a race is never gone. Even from Troy there are men
escaped who may make cities and seek for vengeance again. And if you
blot out all the Napæans, there are those beyond the Napæans who will
hate you for that very thing. Make peace, swiftly, before you die, my
son, lest there be no peace for ever and ever.

     _Enter_ HERMIONE, _with_ PRIEST _of Thetis and Attendants; she is
     richly dressed, and her eyes bright and anxious. She passes up to
     the two high seats, and takes one. She talks with her_ MAIDS, _and_
     ALCIMEDON _goes over to her_.

ORESTES.

[_Detaching another pendant from his chain._] Woman, you can see men's
hearts, and you talk not as these talk. Behold, there is no peace, for
peace is nothing; there is either Love or Hate. [_Throwing pendant into
the bowl._] If gold can buy love where hate is, put that to the
blood-gift!

HERMIONE.

[_To_ ORESTES, _across the hall_.] Sir Stranger, this Priest tells me
you are skilled as a bard.

ORESTES.

I have little skill in music, but I have journeyed much.

HERMIONE.

You can tell us strange tales of your voyages?

ORESTES.

Not of my own. But I was telling this boy a tale even now.

HERMIONE.

Nay, no boys' tales! Andromache, take your son and help with the ox
flesh. [_To_ ORESTES.] And sit not so far off, among the slaves' seats.
Tell us some _man's_ story.

ORESTES.

[_Approaching, but bringing_ MOLOSSUS _with him, while_ ANDROMACHE _goes
out_.] Nay, I will keep the boy. It is a boy's tale, this, and of little
meaning. But seeing I have begun---- [_To_ MOLOSSUS.] Have you heard of
a man that once had a great feud--Orestes, Agamemnon's son?

MOLOSSUS.

Who slew his mother, and was driven by----

PRIEST.

Nay, name them not, child, name not those Holy Ones.

ALCIMEDON.

We love not his name in this house, stranger. Have you no other tale?

HERMIONE.

[_Controlling her excitement._] Nay, what hurt is his name? It is only
some boy's tale.

ORESTES.

He took on him a great feud, greater than he knew. For his father called
from the dead for vengeance on the woman who had murdered him. And the
gods called, too, and put voices always about him calling for blood. And
then they betrayed him!

MOLOSSUS.

Did his father betray him, too?

ORESTES.

Nay, it may be that the voice was not his father's, after all. But the
gods----

PRIEST.

See that your tongue offend not, stranger!

ORESTES.

So be it. Well, in the end he recked not of the gods. He cared not how
sore they hated him, and cared not if he lived or died.

MOLOSSUS.

And what did he do?

ORESTES.

This is the last story I heard of him, from a Chalcidian man who had
been in Sicily.

HERMIONE.

Had he gone so far away?

ORESTES.

Beyond the end of Sicily to a kingdom of the Iberians. For he vowed that
he would be like Paris, and win the most beautiful of all women for his
wife; for, you must know, the gods had marred all the world for him, and
made it all as ashes in his mouth, except beauty. For beauty is
immortal, like themselves; and they cannot hurt it. So he sought and
questioned where that woman might be; and men said she was queen of a
land among the Iberians.

HERMIONE.

[_Half divining his meaning._] Had he seen her himself?

ORESTES.

Ay, long ago, they said.

HERMIONE.

And did he too deem her so fair?

ORESTES.

[_Looking full at her._] More beautiful than the flowers and the
sunlight, so that in dreams her eyes haunted him.

MOLOSSUS.

Well, and what did he do?

ORESTES.

He took his ship, with a hundred men well armed, and hid them in a bay
of Iberia. And he went up alone to the king's castle and saw the woman.
For he was not sure if she was really so beautiful, and wanted to see
her again very close. So he stayed in the king's house and made a plot
to bear her away.

MOLOSSUS.

But what happened?

ORESTES.

I said it was but a boy's story. The Chalcidian knew not what had
happened. Some said he won the queen to his ship, and fled away,
wandering; and some said she told the king of his plotting, and they
slew him there in the banquet hall. [_A slight pause._] So perchance
even Orestes has found his peace; or, perchance he is still an outcast
man, with a new feud following him.

MOLOSSUS.

But I wish I knew.

ORESTES.

Oh, 'tis a foolish story, without an ending.

HERMIONE.

[_Breaking out from her suspense; recklessly._] And a poor fool, your
Orestes, whatever befell!

ORESTES.

How so? What if he won the woman?

HERMIONE.

He only fled on the seas with her, an exiled man, with no comfort. Could
he not get him a kingdom?

ORESTES.

Belike he cared not for a little kingdom, being once robbed of his own
great kingdom.

HERMIONE.

If a high seat is empty, shall not a great king's son be bold to sit on
it? Were his men good soldiers of Mycenæ?

ORESTES.

Some, of Mycenæ, who had sacked Troy; some, pirates he had got in his
voyaging; all good fighters!

HERMIONE.

Could he not slay that Iberian in his halls, and sit upon his seat?

ALCIMEDON.

By Thetis! that would have been a gallant deed.

PRIEST.

Unrighteous, very unrighteous; but doubtless the Iberian would have
sinned against some god!

ORESTES.

The Iberians may be brave fighters; I know not. And he knew of none to
help him.

ALCIMEDON.

A hundred good Phthians might have tried it.

HERMIONE.

The queen might have had her own friends who would fight for her.

ALCIMEDON.

A very foul deed, very foul; but a gallant one! And if she would leave
her lord--the hound!--she might well help to slay him!

ORESTES.

He did not seek her for her righteousness; he sought her because her
beauty spoke like a god to him!

     [_A moment's pause. A shout of several voices heard in the Court._

ALCIMEDON.

What is that shouting?

     [_Moves towards door, with_ MOLOSSUS; _the_ PRIEST _follows_.

HERMIONE.

I heard the King's voice in it. [_To her_ MAIDS.] Go, quick. See what
has happened. [_They also go towards the door, leaving_ HERMIONE _and_
ORESTES _alone. An instant of silence; then she makes a quick movement
to him._] Oh, speak!

ORESTES.

Either I will take you this night or I will be slain here in the hall!

HERMIONE.

Oh, take me, take me! I am half dead with wearying!

ORESTES.

You shall weary no more. Go forth alone at midnight to the altar of
Thetis----

HERMIONE.

The altar of Thetis--by night! [_She shows fear._

ORESTES.

What do you fear? [HERMIONE _shudders, but does not answer_.] You dare
not? Then, let it end the other way!

HERMIONE.

Dare you slay _him_?

ORESTES.

That is no great thing!

HERMIONE.

And the witch, and the witch-child?

     [_With frightened ferocity._

ORESTES.

Slay _her_?

HERMIONE.

You will not? You will not? Oh, then, I dare not go to you!

     [ORESTES _looks at her with surprise and some repulsion; the women
     and_ ALCIMUS _return, followed by_ PYRRHUS _and_ MOLOSSUS, _with
     some armour: after them_ ANDROMACHE _and some retainers_.

MAID.

A gift for Molossus! The King has given him a helmet and shield and
spear!

MOLOSSUS.

And greaves, too, with bronze rims!

PYRRHUS.

Not yet, my boy! [_As_ MOLOSSUS _would fit a greave on_.] Bad luck
before a banquet.

ALCIMUS.

Wait till the morning, my lad!

PYRRHUS.

[_With sudden displeasure, seeing the blood-gifts._] What mean all these
carpets, and the bowl yonder?

ANDROMACHE.

They are gifts for the atonement.

PYRRHUS.

Atonement--to those dogs!

ANDROMACHE.

My King, it was the boon you granted me.

PYRRHUS.

[_Turning towards_ MOLOSSUS.] The boy never consented!

MOLOSSUS.

I--verily I liked it not--but I gave my word. Mother made me.

PYRRHUS.

You have just slain a man, and a woman can frighten you to promising
your own dishonour?

MOLOSSUS.

She did not frighten me; she--I know not how she did it!

HERMIONE.

[_With a laugh._] Others can guess well enough how she did it!

FIRST MAID.

[_Muttering._] Sorceress!

SECOND MAID.

[_The same._] Phrygian witch!

ALCIMUS.

Hold your peace, little prating foxes!

FIRST MAID.

Oh, we all know she has witched old Alcimedon, long ago.

MOLOSSUS.

[_Half crying, as_ PYRRHUS _stands gloomily silent_.] I would not make
atonement to them, Father, for all the world!

PYRRHUS.

She has your word now, little fool; and mine likewise.--By the gods,
woman, you have got your will, and shamed me in the eyes of all men.

ANDROMACHE.

Master, your honour is more to me than mine own. This thing shames you
not; even Alcimedon deemed it wise and honourable.

ALCIMUS.

The boy is very young; if he were a man, belike----

HERMIONE.

Is Alcimedon the judge of his lord's honour?

ANDROMACHE.

But how should I ever seek to hurt your honour? Why should I wish it?

PRIEST.

[_As_ PYRRHUS _goes silently back to the throne_.] A barbarian woman
never forgets a hurt.

FIRST MAID.

'Tis the spite of a conquered Phrygian.

HERMIONE.

Let her be, King! She is thinking ever of her Hector, and Astyanax whom
you slew!

ANDROMACHE.

My lord----

PYRRHUS.

Peace, peace! She knows well enough that Hector is dead--and beyond the
seas too. Though I were shamed to the dirt in mine own hall, Hector
would not hear of it!

HERMIONE.

Are you sure?

PRIEST.

Hector himself is buried beyond the seas, but his ghost may have
followed your ships to Phthia. [_Coming up to the throne._] Yea, son of
Achilles, though you like not my counsel, there be witches in Phrygia
that can wake the dead, and tell them of shame come to their enemies, or
of----

ALCIMUS.

There be none such in Phthia, old man! And if the dead _should_ wake,
your prating would even set them to sleep again.

     [_Laughter, in which_ PYRRHUS _slightly joins_.

PYRRHUS.

'Tis well said, Alcimedon! These women and priests!

PRIEST.

Nay, but I _will_ speak!

     [_Talks to_ PYRRHUS, _round whom a group gathers, leaving_
     ANDROMACHE _alone, and_ ORESTES _near_ ALCIMEDON.

ORESTES.

[_Apart to_ ALCIMEDON.] Old man, you have seen Helen. Was she more
beautiful than your Queen?

ALCIMUS.

[_Looking towards_ HERMIONE, _then brightening_.] Nay, this is a woman
like another; Helen was goddesslike, deathless and ageless for ever!

ORESTES.

[_To himself._] For Helen I could have done it! Alcimedon, did yonder
woman ever do Helen any great wrong, anything meet for vengeance?

ALCIMUS.

Andromache? Why, 'twas Helen did _her_ all the wrong!

ORESTES.

Even so; and therefore she must have hated her. Did she never seek,
think you, to have Helen slain?

ALCIMUS.

I trow not! Why, she gave her home and shelter when the folk of Troy
sought to stone her.

ORESTES.

[_Brooding._] If she had ever plotted against Helen, I could have done
it.

PYRRHUS.

[_Shaking off the_ PRIEST.] Enough, enough!--Is your stranger in the
hall, Andromache?

ANDROMACHE.

He is here, my lord; a man of good counsel, methinks, and like to be
faithful to his guest-oath.

PYRRHUS.

He is happily come to a night of festival.--Stranger, you stand far from
the fire.

     [ORESTES _and_ HERMIONE _have been trying to read one another's
     faces. Here_ ORESTES _turns bitterly, looks to the suits of armour
     on the wall, and chooses a seat near one_.

ORESTES.

Nay, I have a good seat.

PYRRHUS.

We will call the bard and be merry.

ORESTES.

[_Gloomily._] I have heard your bard but now.

PRIEST.

The stranger makes minstrelsy himself, as many chieftains may.

ORESTES.

Ay, give me a goblet, and I will sing. I am but a rude singer, but my
songs may perchance be new.

PYRRHUS.

Take him the wine. [_They bring wine and a lyre._

ORESTES.

There are two songs running in my ears this hour past; and I know not
fully even yet which of the two is better.

PYRRHUS.

Let it be something joyful, meet for a feast-day.

ORESTES.

I fancied before that one of my songs was very joyful; but now methinks
there is no joy at all in either.

PYRRHUS.

[_After looking at him questioningly for a moment._] Then give us a good
straight battle-piece, with no cowards in it, and no slaying by stealth.

ORESTES.

[_Excitedly._] That it shall be! No cowards, no slaying by stealth, and
a clean, hard fight! Ay, and it is the easier too!

PRIEST.

You will call first upon the god, stranger.

ORESTES.

Assuredly; and the god can choose the end of the lay. [_Chanting._

    "Lord of Man's hope, whom no man worshippeth,
     Heart of his fears, and burthen of his breath,
       Queller of hate and love, hear, O Most Strong,
     Most Wrathful and Unrighteous, hear, O Death!"

MEN-AT-ARMS.

Good words! Good words!

PRIEST.

God avert the omen!

     [_He goes and does purifications at the fire._

ALCIMEDON.

On his own head! By Thetis! this stranger has run over with evil words
ever since he came.

PYRRHUS.

Choose another song, Sir Stranger! Men like not the name of Death.

ORESTES.

Not death! Shall I sing of women, then? They come nearest. [_Chants._

    "O Light and Shadow of all things that be,
     O Beauty, wild with wreckage like the sea,
       Say who shall win thee, thou without a name?
     O Helen, Helen, who shall die for thee?"

ALCIMEDON.

[_Starting up._] Now, by Thetis, stranger, in shape God has made you
kinglike, but within a very fool!

HERMIONE.

[_Piteously._] My mother Helen never _wished_ the men to die!

ORESTES.

My singing mislikes you, old man? Or is it women that like you not?

PYRRHUS.

Stranger, some gayer song would better suit a day of rejoicing. Are the
songs of Acarnania all sad?

ORESTES.

Do the men of Phthia wince at the name of death?

ALCIMEDON.

We have our own bard, who can sing to our liking; and his lays will tell
whether we fear death.

ORESTES.

Your own bard will sing your own valour, belike? That I can ill do; for
I have heard but little of the deeds of Pyrrhus.

ALCIMEDON.

The name of Troy has been heard, perchance, even in Acarnania?

ORESTES.

But the praise of your ancestors I could make into something--something
gayer, you said? Was Æacus the first of your house?

ALCIMEDON.

Æacus, son of Zeus.

ORESTES.

     [_Twanging the lyre carelessly and improvising._

    "Great were our sires, and feeble folk are we!
     A strong king and a wise was Æacus,
     And Zeus his father helped him in his need,
     And Pelops, Lord of Hellas, loved him well!"

ALCIMEDON.

[_Grumbling._] Æacus was no vassal of Pelops!

ORESTES.

    "The son is weaker, weaker than the sire!
     And Peleus he begat, a goodly king;
     Albeit he stabbed his brother on the sand,
     And wandered from his house, and begged, and lied,
     And vowed a goddess held him to her breast."

     [_Murmurs in the hall._ ORESTES _pauses and drinks_.

PYRRHUS.

[_Under his breath._] Does the man seek for strife?

ORESTES.

"The son is falser, falser than the sire!"----

HERMIONE.

Perchance his wine likes him not. [_Goes down to_ ORESTES, _pours him
fresh wine, and whispers_.] Are you mad?

ORESTES.

[_In the same tone, looking in her face._] Knew you not that, long ago?

     [_Continuing, while she goes back to the throne._

    "Achilles, Peleus' son, was swift of foot,
     And slew by guile great Hector, and was slain.
     And, though he hid from war in woman's weeds,
     And though he kept his tent while others fought,
     Yet gat he from his loins one son true born,
     And craved not mercy, gave not gifts for blood!"

PYRRHUS.

What does the dog mean?

ORESTES.

"The son is viler, viler than the sire!"

PYRRHUS.

[_Starting up._] By all my fathers together, this is the end! Ho,
Myrmidons!

     [_He snatches up the spear and shield of_ MOLOSSUS. _The other men
     take arms and growl._ HERMIONE _starts up, clasping her head with
     both hands, and staring in terror before her_. ORESTES _stays
     quietly seated_.

ANDROMACHE.

[_Rushing before_ PYRRHUS.] Your oath, O King! Your pledged hand! He is
our guest!

PYRRHUS.

[_Checking himself suddenly, then turning upon her._] Whose guest? You
brought him here--you gave the barb to his mocking! [_To the men._]
Back, men! [_To_ ANDROMACHE.] Who taught him to revile my house?

ANDROMACHE.

Nay, I have told him nothing.

MAID OF HERMIONE.

He has been talking hours and hours with the Lady Andromache.

ANDROMACHE.

I know him not. I think he is mad.

BOTH MAIDS OF HERMIONE.

Bewitched, perchance!

     [_Murmurs of assent and dissent._

PYRRHUS.

Peace, hounds! [_To_ ORESTES.] Sir Guest, this woman has saved you,
else, oath or no oath, had I slain you where you stand!

HERMIONE.

[_Starting from her stupefaction._] What is that in the bowl?

PYRRHUS.

What bowl?

HERMIONE.

The bowl of your blood-gifts. [_Pointing to it._

PYRRHUS.

_My_ blood-gifts! [_Goes to the bowl; then turns furiously on_
ANDROMACHE.] Woman, who gave you this gold?

ANDROMACHE.

No man gave me gold. The stranger cast a pendant of his chain to add to
the blood-gifts, for pity, lest the boy should be slain.

PYRRHUS.

Pity of the boy!--'Tis a plot--a plot to shame me past all enduring!

FIRST MAID.

She witched the gold out of him!

PRIEST.

King, King, hear me! She has witched the Queen's womb long ago, and
witched the whole harvest. She has this day witched your own boy to
consent to your dishonour; she has witched this mad stranger to give her
gold worth twenty oxen; yea, she has witched both him and you, so that
he stands up and flouts you in your hall. You are stripped naked, O
King, for men and dogs to walk upon, that Hector in his grave may be
merry!--Judgment, O son of Achilles, judgment!

ANDROMACHE.

Yea, judgment, my King! I, too, crave judgment. Only let not these be my
judges.

PRIEST.

Who is she to say how she shall be judged?

ANDROMACHE.

Judge me yourself, O Pyrrhus, son of Achilles! even now, in your anger;
and I fear not. Oh, my King, you who know me, say if I have hated you!

PRIEST.

A witch has no right to speak. Let her be bound outside at the gate till
she is judged.

ALCIMEDON.

Not speak? What law is this, Priest?

PRIEST.

Not a witch! She will bind the King's heart, so that he cannot judge
her.

PYRRHUS.

[_After a moment's hesitation._] By Zeus in heaven, it is the truth! I
cannot judge her while she stands looking at me. Begone, woman!--Nay,
touch her not!--Let her go to her own house.

ANDROMACHE.

I go, my King. Yet if you slay me and to-morrow wake sorrowful, bethink
you there is no cure for that sorrow! [_Exit_ ANDROMACHE.

MOLOSSUS.

Mother, I will come too!

ALCIMEDON.

[_Stopping_ MOLOSSUS _at the door_.] To sanctuary! Not to your own
house! Take sanctuary, both, at the altar of Thetis, till his fury is
over.

     [_Exit_ MOLOSSUS.

ORESTES.

     [_Who during the interruption has mounted on the bench, taken the
     suit of arms from the wall, and armed himself, here leaps down,
     picks up the lyre, and sings again--_

"The son is viler, viler than the sire!"

ALCIMEDON.

The man is armed!

ORESTES.

     [_Continuing amid general confusion._

    "Achilles' son slew women and slew babes,
     But quailed before the blood-wrath of a churl;
     And stole another's bride; and fled, fled, fled!"

     [_Tumult in hall._

ALCIMEDON.

Down with him!

PYRRHUS.

Slay him not! Break his spear and thrust him out!

ORESTES.

Will nothing sting you? Lo, mine was the bride he stole, and from me he
fled! For he dared not face the wrath of Orestes, nor the spear of
Agamemnon's son.

PYRRHUS.

Orestes!

PRIEST.

Is it Orestes?

ALCIMEDON.

He must have men behind him! To the watch-tower quick! [_Two retainers
run out_, R.

HERMIONE.

He lies, he lies! Do I not know Orestes?

PYRRHUS.

Is it not Orestes? Who is it?

HERMIONE.

This is some poor half-mad, wandering minstrel-man. I know him not. He
is not Orestes!

A VOICE FROM THE WATCH-TOWER.

There are no men near the castle.

ALCIMEDON.

Well, strike him down!

HERMIONE.

What profit to break the guest-oath for such as he? He is not Orestes!

PYRRHUS.

Now the Furies that haunt Orestes dog you, woman, if you lie! [ORESTES
_gives a cry_.

PRIEST.

If he be mad, it were a great sin to slay him. And the god has been
strong in him to-day.

HERMIONE.

[_After gazing at_ ORESTES _steadily_.] May the Furies that haunt
Orestes be ever with me if I lie. [_Recklessly._] Is that enough? If you
would have another oath, behold, I will go this night to the altar of
Thetis----

PYRRHUS.

Hush, Queen, lest the goddess hear!

HERMIONE.

[_Continuing._] And there by the altar I will swear oaths, and Thetis
may work upon me what she will!

PYRRHUS.

Nay, daughter of Helen, no such wild words! I mistrust you not.--Guest,
get you gone in peace.

ORESTES.

[_Subdued by mention of the Furies._] I go, not fearing you, but lest I
see Them. I am no guest of yours. [_Throwing down armour._] Take back
your shield and helmet. Aught else I have had from your hands, my gold
will more than repay [_With horror._] Apollo, Averter of Evil! keep them
back!--Oh, why did you not slay me while you might?

     [_Exit_ ORESTES.

A RETAINER.

Shall we not stone him from the Court?

PRIEST.

He is possessed! Stricken of God! Touch him not if you fear the gods'
anger.

HERMIONE.

[_Terrified, staring in front of her._] No, no, I see nothing!


END OF THE SECOND ACT.



THE THIRD ACT


SCENE: _As in Act I. Night._ ANDROMACHE _on the steps of the altar of
Thetis, with_ MOLOSSUS _asleep. Enter from the back, one after another,
three armed men, with bows and arrows as well as spears; they pass
silently behind rocks or bushes and disappear. Enter_ ORESTES, _armed,
by path at back: a_ MAN _comes from behind a rock to meet him_.

ORESTES.

Is the watch set?

MAN-AT-ARMS.

Everywhere.

ORESTES.

And the path to the ship safe?

MAN-AT-ARMS.

Yes. We have but to wait till they are drawn off from the castle.

ORESTES.

Which way will Pylades lure them?

MAN-AT-ARMS.

He will feign flight northwards, to leave our way clear to the ship.

ORESTES.

Good. One thing more. If I be stricken here, waste no men's lives for
me. Make your way back to the ship.

MAN-AT-ARMS.

Prince, we have our orders for this night's work from Pylades. We leave
you not.

ORESTES.

Nay, what worth is a dead body, or who can hurt it?

MAN-AT-ARMS.

Hush! What was that?

     [_Steals back to his ambush._ ANDROMACHE _has made some movement_.
     ORESTES _peers towards Castle_, L., _in darkness; then, turning,
     sees that there is a woman at the altar_.

ORESTES.

Daughter of Helen, why at the altar? Whom do you fear so sore? [_No
answer. He comes nearer and sees_ MOLOSSUS _lying_.] What does the boy
here?

ANDROMACHE.

It is the stranger! Come you to seek _me_, or what more has chanced?

ORESTES.

Is it you? You?--Is the boy asleep?

ANDROMACHE.

We have waited here so long, and have heard no word, good or evil.

ORESTES.

But why hide you here?

ANDROMACHE.

We have taken sanctuary from the wrath of the King and Queen, my guest.

ORESTES.

Call you me still your guest?

ANDROMACHE.

Nay, you are still my guest till you leave the land; and the King's
wrath will perchance be cooled to-morrow.

ORESTES.

Why did you not let them slay me in the hall? 'Twas your own folly. I
sought no hurt to you. Speak, think you an altar will hold me back, or
your blood stain deeper than my mother's blood?

ANDROMACHE.

Who are you that speak like this? And what will my death profit you?

ORESTES.

Spoke I not loud enough in my enemy's hall? I am Orestes.

ANDROMACHE.

[_Amazed._] Clytæmnestra's son! [_Coming towards him._] Oh, now I
understand your face! Give me your hand. Whether that old stain be yet
purged or no----

ORESTES.

'Tis hidden and buried, rather, with much new blood over it. [_Keeping
back his hand._

ANDROMACHE.

It is such a one as you I have long prayed for, to be a friend to my
child and me.

ORESTES.

Why should I be your friend? I want no friends.

ANDROMACHE.

Listen. You and I have had more grief than others. We have seen beyond
the glory of battle, beyond the joy of the conqueror and the shame of
the conquered--as Priam and Hector saw before they died.

ORESTES.

I know the battle, and I know the shame. I have seen nought else.

ANDROMACHE.

The King has had but little sorrow; he has conquered always, and taken
glory in his manslaying.

ORESTES.

Belike he will soon taste the other side of glory.

ANDROMACHE.

It may be. But none here, save old Alcimus, know aught of suffering. I
have long prayed that some man should come here who had suffered from
the hurts he had done, and learnt to pity men and women. And if the
King's feet are set fast and cannot be turned, at least there is my son.

ORESTES.

Woman, I am come to slay the King and your son!

ANDROMACHE.

[_Calmly._] Slay them? But why? Why?

ORESTES.

To take their kingdom, as others have taken mine!

ANDROMACHE.

But is all the grief wasted that the gods have sent you? Can you not
forget past evils and live in peace?

ORESTES.

In storm I can forget them. Peace is all anguish to me.

ANDROMACHE.

And what will a kingdom profit you?

ORESTES.

I am a king's son; I must have my kingdom.

ANDROMACHE.

Oh, you kings and kings' sons, you dwell like wolves in your castles. I
have heard many a ploughman at his ploughing sing with gladness, but
seldom, seldom, a king's son.

ORESTES.

Wolves must live in the wolves' way; and they have their own gladness,
too.

ANDROMACHE.

You may know them by the howling of their misery in the night! God grant
my boy may never be a king!

ORESTES.

Shall I slay him, then, as they bid me? Or would you that I should take
him away, where there are no kingdoms? My ship is in the bay, and lacks
not for plunder.

ANDROMACHE.

Better that you should slay him now, where he lies.

ORESTES.

Is he asleep? [_He bends tenderly over_ MOLOSSUS; _then recovers
himself, and speaks in a harsh troubled voice_.] Why is it that you fear
me not?

ANDROMACHE.

Why should I fear you?

ORESTES.

Do you trust to these gods? For I reck little of them.

ANDROMACHE.

Nay, my gods are vanished and powerless long ago, and these are but my
enemies' gods.

ORESTES.

Then what defence have you against me?

ANDROMACHE.

I need no defence. You and I are friends.

ORESTES.

How, friends! I am charged to slay you also.

ANDROMACHE.

You will not slay me.

ORESTES.

How can you know what I myself know not yet?

ANDROMACHE.

You have no peace to see your own heart; but I can see it.

ORESTES.

How have you learnt it?--Woman, they may well speak of your sorceries!

ANDROMACHE.

I have no sorceries. This is a simple thing. We slaves learn to read
men's moods in their eyes and voices, because their moods bring life or
death to us.

ORESTES.

Then why do you not fear me the more? [_Roughly._] You have never seen
my heart!

ANDROMACHE.

He who has seen beyond the glory of bloodshedding may soon see beyond
the hardness of man's heart.

ORESTES.

[_Troubled--roughly._] I know my own heart!

ANDROMACHE.

The gods' hearts may be hard, but man's is tender; only very hungry,
and sore afraid, and wild as a hunted beast on the mountain.

ORESTES.

Know you your Queen's heart?

ANDROMACHE.

Not hard, but starving. And she thinks, perchance, that the grief of
others will feed it.

ORESTES.

[_Absently--bending and touching the boy's hands._] He is very cold.

     _Enter_ HERMIONE, _hooded and wrapped, hurriedly_.

HERMIONE.

[_To herself._] Is there no one?--Oh, I dare not!

     [ORESTES _steps quickly out from behind the trees_. HERMIONE
     _starts in terror_.

ORESTES.

Welcome, daughter of Helen!

     [HERMIONE _does not answer, but stands, breathing hardy with
     relief_.

ORESTES.

Throw back your hood.--Ye gods, she is passing beautiful!

HERMIONE.

Take me quick to the ship. Quick, quick!

ORESTES.

It is not yet time. My men must draw Pyrrhus away from the castle.

HERMIONE.

He has gone. Nay, take me quick--Orestes----

ORESTES.

Why do you tremble so? What is it?

HERMIONE.

That oath I swore----

ORESTES.

You have not heard Them?

HERMIONE.

I know not. There seemed shapes at the edge of the trees.

ORESTES.

Shapes! [_Looks at her close._] No; _you_ have not seen them.

HERMIONE.

[_With horror._] Is the sight of them written on men's faces?

ORESTES.

Speak not of them!--You have neither seen nor heard.

HERMIONE.

It is only now, and here, that I am afraid. Take me to the ship now; and
when once it is over----

ORESTES.

When Pyrrhus is slain?

HERMIONE.

And the other--[_clinging to him_]--oh, then we shall be safe and at
peace.

ORESTES.

The boy? Why do you fear him?

HERMIONE.

[_Absently._] The boy? He is the king's son.

ORESTES.

But why do you _fear_ him?

HERMIONE.

It is not the boy I fear.

ORESTES.

Who, then?

HERMIONE.

It is the woman.

ORESTES.

[_Repelled._] And what fear you from _her_? I care not to slay a woman
and a child.

HERMIONE.

I can never breathe in peace while she is there!

ORESTES.

[_Sternly._] What has she done?

HERMIONE.

[_Speaking in vague, troubled tones._] When she is near me, even if I
know it not, her breath runs in my blood and makes me tremble. [_She is
trembling._

ORESTES.

Be still! Say what she has done. If she has done you a wrong I will slay
her.

HERMIONE.

[_In the same way._] I might have borne her eyes perchance in my own
country, with friends near me; but here, all alone----

ORESTES.

What has she done?

HERMIONE.

[_In the same way._] I meant no hurt to her for her sharing the king's
bed. But when first I saw her and she looked straight into me, there was
something that turned my heart sick and dimmed my eyes.

ORESTES.

How can I slay her for dreams like these? I know nought of your heart,
but I can see your beauty. She has not hurt that.

HERMIONE.

Can you not see a dimness over my face, where it once was bright--and a
radiance in hers?

ORESTES.

[_Reflecting._] There is a radiance, although she is so sad.

HERMIONE.

Where got she that radiance? It is not hers. It is the joy and sunlight
she has sucked out of me!

ORESTES.

[_Looking at her coldly._] I can see no cloud in your face.

HERMIONE.

[_Passionately._] No, no, you cannot see. I am rotting, shrivelling,
dying within; and only she can see how I die!

ORESTES.

All flesh must decay. Tell me one deed of hate she has done, and I will
slay her.

HERMIONE.

She has made me childless, that her child may be king!

ORESTES.

[_To himself._] And Helen never faded at all.

HERMIONE.

Childless, barren--barren of womb and of heart!--I had courage and
strength to bear good sons, till she sapped it from me to feed _her_
son. Nay, there is another thing----

ORESTES.

[_Coldly._] What?

HERMIONE.

No, no, you do not believe me! I cannot say it.

ORESTES.

You speak such wild things.

HERMIONE.

I know not why I am so wild now, and anger you.--When she is near, it
makes me wild and cruel; but now, I know not why this should come over
me.

ORESTES.

Great Zeus! if it should be true!--Andromache, Andromache, speak and
answer her.

HERMIONE.

Is she here? [ANDROMACHE _comes out from the trees by the altar_.]
Averter of Evil, what is that?

ANDROMACHE.

I am but your handmaid, I have done you no hurt.

HERMIONE.

Nay, now you can see it--the thing I dared not say!

ORESTES.

What is it?

HERMIONE.

She is no live woman! See! she is dead and sucks the blood of the
living. Why is she not afraid, like a live woman?

ORESTES.

[_Troubled._] She is deathly white. Why she has no fear I know not.

ANDROMACHE.

What can I answer? The King might slay me, but not this man.

ORESTES.

It was the same but now, when I held death over her.

HERMIONE.

She has passed through death! She has no fear, no anger, as the living
have. Why does she never ask for anything? [_Almost beside herself with
terror._] Faugh! the smell of death clings about all her garments! Kill
her, kill her! [ORESTES _looks at_ HERMIONE _with a shudder_. HERMIONE,
_breaking down, continues_.] Oh, friend, friend, I was not like this in
Sparta.

ANDROMACHE.

Queen, I know my heart is with the dead of Troy. Why should that anger
you?

ORESTES.

[_Looking at_ HERMIONE.] In very truth there is a shadow come over you.
You seem to be shrunken, and scarce so wondrous beautiful.

HERMIONE.

[_In a weary frightened voice._] Kill her, kill her!

ORESTES.

I know not----

HERMIONE.

You have eyes. Can you not see there is a fiend working in me?

ANDROMACHE.

There is no fiend. Queen, Queen, why are you so full of hate?

HERMIONE.

'Tis your spells have done it! Before I came here I never hated any one.

ORESTES.

[_To_ ANDROMACHE.] Know you not any cause why she should hate you?

ANDROMACHE.

Nay, stranger, why _do_ men hate?

HERMIONE.

She has made me feel that I am vile. Slay her, or I go back to the King.

ORESTES.

Pyrrhus most like is dead. If I do slay her will you come away with me?

HERMIONE.

Away? To the ship? Yes; till we come back and take the kingdom!

ORESTES.

I will not take your kingdom!

HERMIONE.

Is it the boy you fear to slay?

ORESTES.

My kingdom must be an ever-changing kingdom. I dreamed for an hour that
I might stay and rest like other men.

HERMIONE.

And why not?

ORESTES.

There be Those watching that will not let me rest.

HERMIONE.

Those watching? But you have not seen them? _I_ have not seen anything!
[_To herself._

ORESTES.

Not now. Few men have ever seen them; but I hear their wings on the
wind. And perchance if I stayed long in one place----

HERMIONE.

I hear nothing. [_Listening._] No, it cannot be wings on the wind! Oh!

ANDROMACHE.

Nay, there is no sound at all. Be not so terrified.

HERMIONE.

I cannot stay here alone! Oh, I care not for the kingdom.

ORESTES.

We are exiles for ever, both!

HERMIONE.

Nay, if you love me I can bear anything; if any one will love me.

ORESTES.

I know not if I love or hate you. It was for your passing beauty I came,
because your eyes beaconed me through the dark of the sea.

HERMIONE.

Oh, take me; that is all the love I want!

ORESTES.

Like those two stars that men call Helen's brethren, immortal, never
fading----

HERMIONE.

Oh, I am fading fast, but, perchance, if the spell were off me----

ORESTES.

Nay, you shall never fade. There is a blue sunlit island, waterless,
desolate--Hear me, daughter of Helen, ageless and deathless!

HERMIONE.

I hear.

ORESTES.

Some sunset when you are beautiful like a dream I will set you on that
bright island, and fill my eyes full. And then I will go my ways alone,
and the fairest of earthly things shall be mine for ever.

HERMIONE.

What do you mean?

ORESTES.

No man shall ever see you fade from your loveliness. The gods may take
you even as they took Helen.

ANDROMACHE.

Oh, he is mad! Queen, Queen, go back while there is time.

HERMIONE.

[_Shrinking back._] I should die! I am afraid!

ORESTES.

Die? Of that I know not. Only never, never fade; perfect for ever
without age or waning! Daughter of Helen, will you come with me?

     [_A sound of arms outside. They start._

HERMIONE.

Oh, quick! I am yours. Do with me what you will.

ORESTES.

Come. [_Sound again._] What is that?

VOICE OF PYRRHUS.

Andromache! Ho! snake of Phrygia, starve at the altar if you will! Your
plotters are all fled!

     [ORESTES _stands in posture of defence_. HERMIONE _shrinks back_.

ANDROMACHE.

[_To_ MOLOSSUS.] Cling fast! [_Rushing from the altar towards_ PYRRHUS.]
Back, my king! Keep back!

HERMIONE.

[_To_ ORESTES, _with a cry_.] Now, now!

     [_Hides her face._

MOLOSSUS.

[_Waking up slowly._] Is that father coming?

PYRRHUS.

[_Entering and grasping_ ANDROMACHE.] Think you to die so easily? You
shall speak first and tell all!

ANDROMACHE.

There is an ambush! Keep back!

     [PYRRHUS _stands with his sword drawn over her_.

PYRRHUS.

[_Looking up._] More treachery?

ORESTES.

Why is the son of Achilles away from the battle?

PYRRHUS.

You? Pirate! Because your men fled so fast and so far. My servants have
chased them twenty furlongs from here. Yield!

ORESTES.

[_Loud._] No man shoot nor stir! [_As before._] Your Myrmidons may be
twenty furlongs from here; my men are in these thickets to right and
left. What sought you here? Was it to slay Andromache?

PYRRHUS.

I sought that when I came. Now I need more.

     [_He poises his spear._ ANDROMACHE _slips back to_ MOLOSSUS _at the
     altar_.

ORESTES.

[_Not raising his spear._] Nay, it was I that should have slain
Andromache. Go your ways! I only take back my own bride.

     [_Pointing to_ HERMIONE, _whom_ PYRRHUS _now sees for the first
     time_.

PYRRHUS.

It _is_ Orestes!--But the queen vowed---- And that oath! Oh, perjured!
perjured!

HERMIONE.

[_To the rocks and thickets._] O ye in the ambush, strike him down!
Strike him down! Oh, what is that rushing on the wind?

     [_Puts her hands over her ears as though in terror._

ORESTES.

The oath is fulfilled upon her!

ANDROMACHE.

[_Close to_ PYRRHUS.] My lord, my lord, wait and let him speak. It is he
that asks you, so there is no dishonour. [_He glares at her._] Nay, you
may slay me after if I have done wrong. And his men are crowding behind
these bushes and rocks.

PYRRHUS.

[_In a war chant._] The wolves set an ambush, set an ambush for the
lion; and the lion feasted for many days! Ho, Myrmidons!

ORESTES.

They hear you not. Go back!

     [_He grasps his spear for defence_; PYRRHUS _draws his sword and
     starts forward_.

VOICE.

[_From behind the rocks._] Now, men of Mycenæ!

     [_A shower of arrows strikes_ PYRRHUS.

ANDROMACHE.

It is a murder, a coward's murder!

     [PYRRHUS _staggers to the altar and falls_. ANDROMACHE _bends
     over, tending him_. MOLOSSUS, _with a cry, snatches_ PYRRHUS'
     _sword and flies at_ ORESTES, _who disarms him at a blow_.

ORESTES.

Hold the boy! Hurt him not!

HERMIONE.

[_In a stupefied tone._] His blood is running down the steps of the
altar!

PYRRHUS.

Where is Molossus? Boy, if you leave these dogs unpunished----

ANDROMACHE.

Nay, curse him not! Oh, my lord, if you have ever loved him, curse him
not! Let him be free; he will do all that is well.

PYRRHUS.

[_Faintly._] Andromache? Ay, then, so be it. It is the same in the end.
I am glad I did not slay you, Andromache. [_Dies._

HERMIONE.

[_As before._] His blood is trickling into the mark of the footprint of
Thetis! [_Wildly._] Ah, drag him away, or it will be a curse upon us!
He must not die at the altar!

ORESTES.

_I_ never slew him. I will not touch a man dying at an altar.
Andromache, touch him not; he will haunt you.

HERMIONE.

She is not afraid of the haunting of the dead. See, she is whispering in
his ear. She is doing witchwork to bring him back. [_Crossing to_
ANDROMACHE, _who is still bending over_ PYRRHUS' _body, and kneeling to
her_.] Nay, in the goddess's name, Andromache, do not wake him! I have
wronged you much, but I will make amends; I will set you free. _He_
would never have done that. Only, do not whisper to him! Do not call him
back to haunt me!

ANDROMACHE.

Hold your peace, traitor and coward! If I _could_ bring him back, think
you I would stay my voice for you?

HERMIONE.

O God! And the noise on the wind is nearer and nearer!

ORESTES.

[_To_ HERMIONE.] You did not slay him. Even if he does wake, he will
only haunt them that slew him.

HERMIONE.

He saw them not; he knows them not. He has only seen you and me.
[_Rapidly._] Oh, in God's name, it is too much! The sound of Their wings
is all about me, and if I dared look, I know I should see Their faces.
It is more than one woman can bear. If he wakes I shall go mad!

ORESTES.

It is done now. We will fly in the ship quickly; he will never follow us
over the seas.

HERMIONE.

[_As before._] _She_ will show him the way! Oh, she will have no pity! I
have sought so long to slay her. She would not spare me now for all the
treasures of Egypt. I knew well I should have no peace till I saw her
dead.--Oh, woman, woman! bend not over him; whisper to him no more!

ANDROMACHE.

I _will_ whisper no more; I will cry aloud--in dead ears, as I have
cried all my life! [_To_ PYRRHUS.] O thou who hearest me not, who hast
never heard me, I call again to thee, let there at last be peace! If
thou hast found thy sleep, oh, cling to it! Never wake nor stir to
follow these who murdered thee!

HERMIONE.

What does she mean? It is all magic. She means that he _is_ to follow
us!

ANDROMACHE.

The living have never heard me, and the dead cannot hear; but broken and
dying men know the words that I speak. Remember the one moment before
utter death, when thine eyes were opened to see and thine ears to hear.
Remember that, and forget the long waste of days before!

HERMIONE.

She bids him remember!--He will awake. I can feel that he will wake and
follow us!

ANDROMACHE.

By the bitter hate wherewith once I hated thee; by the blood in the
streets of Troy and the death-cry of Hector's child; by the love
wherewith I have loved thee in spite of all--[_the body moves_]--and
love thee still----

HERMIONE.

[_With a shriek._] O God! He is waking! [_Grovelling in terror and
hiding her eyes._] Oh, smite off his feet that he shall not pursue, and
his hands that he may never lay hold of me!

ANDROMACHE.

Before thy soul is fled far away, hearken to me and put away thine
hatred.

HERMIONE.

[_As before._] Smite off his hands and his feet!

ORESTES.

She is not crying him to waken. She is bidding him rest in peace and not
harm us.

HERMIONE.

It cannot be that; it cannot. I have hated her too sore. It is all
witchwork or else madness.

     [_She looks up and sees the sword; suddenly clutches it and moves
     towards_ ANDROMACHE.

ANDROMACHE.

And afterward go and seek Hector, and he will tell thee more, for he
was wiser and greater than other men. And some day this woman, too, will
be broken and dying; and then she will see what thou and I have seen,
and will know what mercy is. [HERMIONE _stabs her_.] Ah!

     [ANDROMACHE _falls over the body of_ PYRRHUS. ORESTES _starts
     forward and grasps_ HERMIONE.

ORESTES.

[_To the men holding_ MOLOSSUS.] Hold this wild beast! Let the boy free.

     [ORESTES _and_ MOLOSSUS _bend together over the body of_
     ANDROMACHE. _The men-at-arms seize_ HERMIONE.

MOLOSSUS.

Mother, speak!--Is she dead?

ORESTES.

No, but there is death in her face.

MOLOSSUS.

Mother, mother, speak!

ORESTES.

[_Standing up._] We know what she would say---- Young King of Phthia, I
never sought to slay your father; and for this woman, I would give all
my wealth to have her alive again.--But I will make atonement: take all
my gold--[_takes off his chain, and throws it at_ MOLOSSUS' _feet_.
MOLOSSUS _stands silent_]--and this dagger likewise. There is a bright
stone in the hilt that keeps off the venom of snakes. [MOLOSSUS _is
still silent_.] And my cloak was woven by women of Sidon. [_Throws down
the cloak._

MOLOSSUS.

[_In a struggling sullen voice._] It was not you that slew her.

ORESTES.

Is it the woman? There is your sword. [_Picks it up and gives it him. To
the men holding_ HERMIONE.] Hold back her arms, men, that the King may
slay her as he will!

     [_The men bring forward_ HERMIONE, _dazed and stupefied; they hold
     her so that either breast or throat may receive the sword_.

MOLOSSUS.

Oh, take her away, or I will verily slay her! Let her never set foot
upon this land again.

ORESTES.

Begone with her to the ship!

     [_The men move off with her._

HERMIONE.

[_Suddenly struggling._] I will not go! Let me free! I will stay and he
shall slay me!

     [_The men drag her off._

ORESTES.

And for mine own atonement. [_He looks round._] Men, get you gone!--If
you would have more, here is my sword; and here is my shield, and my
helmet. [_He lays the arms one by one at_ MOLOSSUS' _feet_.]--My men are
all gone. The rest is for you to take.

MOLOSSUS.

[_Looking at_ ANDROMACHE.] I will take no more. I will have peace.

     [_Kneels down, bending over the body._

ORESTES.

Peace let it be!--Her face seems strangely joyful.

MOLOSSUS.

I never saw her looking so full of happiness.

ANDROMACHE.

[_Half raising herself, with a radiant smile._] Hector! Hector!



Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
London & Edinburgh



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

Original spelling and punctuation has been retained.





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