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Title: The Daughter of Heaven
Author: Loti, Pierre, Gautier, Judith
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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THE DAUGHTER OF HEAVEN

BY

PIERRE LOTI AND JUDITH GAUTIER

Translated by RUTH HELEN DAVIS

CONSTABLE & COMPANY LTD.

10, ORANGE STREET

LEICESTER SQUARE, W. C.

1913



Preface


Thoroughly to understand China, one must realize that it has for three
hundred years cherished in its heart a deep and continually bleeding
wound. When the country was conquered by the Manchus of Tartary, the
ancient dynasty of the Mings was forced to yield the throne to the Tzin
invaders, but the Chinese nation never ceased to mourn the ancient
dynasty nor to hope for its restoration. Revolution is therefore a
permanent thing in China--a fire which smoulders eternally, breaking
into flame in one province only to be smothered and blaze out again
presently in another.

No doubt the Yellow Empire is too immense to permit of complete
understanding among the revolutionaries, or of collective effort to
break off the Tartar yoke. Several times, nevertheless, the Chinese
race has been near to victory. When, some twenty years ago, certain
events, which Europe never really understood, brought about an upheaval
in China, the revolutionaries, victorious for a time, proclaimed at
Nang-King an emperor of Chinese blood and of the dynasty of the Mings.
His name was Ron-Tsin-Tse, which means: The Final Flowering, and by
the faithful his era was called Tai-Ping-Tien-Ko, which is as much as
to say: The Empire of the Great Celestial Peace. He reigned seventeen
years, concurrently with the Tartar Emperor at Pekin and almost within
the shadow of that city.

Later, the authorities forced a complete suppression of his history:
all records of it were confiscated and burned, and men were forbidden,
under penalty of death, even to utter his name. Here, however, is the
translation of a passage relating to him which occurs in a voluminous
report addressed by the Tartar general Tsen-Konan-Wei, to the Emperor
at Pekin:

"When the revolutionaries rose in the province of Chan-Tung (he
says) they possessed themselves of sixteen provinces and six hundred
cities. Their guilty chief and his criminal friends had become really
formidable. All their generals fortified themselves in the places they
had taken, and not until they had stood three years of siege were we
again Masters in Nang-King. At this time the rebel army numbered more
than two hundred thousand men, but not one of them would surrender.
The moment they perceived themselves lost they set fire to the palace
and burned themselves alive. Many of the women hanged or strangled
themselves, or threw themselves into the lakes in the gardens. However,
I succeeded in making one young woman prisoner, and pressed her to tell
me where the Emperor was. 'He is dead,' she replied; 'vanquished, he
poisoned himself.' But immediately the new Emperor was proclaimed in
the person of his son, Hon-Fo-Tsen. She led me to the old Emperor's
tomb, which I ordered broken open. In it was found in fact the
Emperor's body, enveloped in a shroud of yellow silk embroidered with
dragons. He was old, bald, and had a white mustache. I caused his body
to be burned and his ashes to be thrown to the winds. Our soldiers
destroyed all that remained within the walls: there were three days and
nights of killing and pillage. However, one troop of several thousands
of rebels, very well-armed, succeeded in escaping from the city,
dressed in the costumes of our dead, and it is to be feared that the
new Emperor was able to escape with them."

This Emperor, Hon-Fo-Tsen, who, in fact, did succeed in fleeing from
Nang-King, was looked upon by the real Chinese as their legitimate
sovereign, and his descendants in secret no doubt reigned after him
uninterruptedly.

Several years ago a very remarkable man, who seemed to incarnate in
himself the new China, dreamed of a pacific and genuine reconciliation
of the two inimical races. (He had many dreams indeed: one of them,
for instance, that of founding the United States of the World.) He
conceived the almost unrealizable project of converting to his ideas
the Emperor at Pekin himself and of securing his help to reform China
without the spilling of any blood. His name was Kan-You-Wey. To get
near the Emperor he opened a school at Pekin in 1889.

Many rumors, though very conflicting ones, were in circulation
concerning the personality of this invisible Emperor Kwang-Su, kept as
he was under strict guardianship, like a captive in the heart of his
palace and so unknown to everyone. Some versions declared him alert,
well-read, interested in modern things; others represented him as
feeble in body and spirit, given to excesses and incapable of action.

Kan-You-Wey would believe only in the favorable version: he knew
besides What the ministers of the Dowager Regent were worth, masters
with her of the Imperial power. He pitied the Imperial victim. His
whole heart turned toward his sovereign because he was unhappy. How
could he reach him in his quadrupled walls? How win the attention of
his melancholy idol? Kan-You-Wey ten times renewed his attempts, with
the zeal of an apostle, and succeeded finally, in 1898, thanks to one
of his disciples, in putting before the Emperor a memorial that he had
prepared for him.

Then the phantom-sovereign roused himself. Much struck with these
insurgent ideas, he wanted them explained to him in detail, and gave an
audience to the reformer. He surrendered at once to the influence of
this great spirit, made him his minister, intimate and confidant; and,
sustained by his counsel, achieved at last the control of his affairs.

It is at this moment of the reign of Kwang-Su that our play takes
place. The Emperor himself is the hero, and Kan-You-Wey figures in it
under the name of Fount-in-the-Forest.

Judith Gautier and Pierre Loti.



  Act   I--First Tableau.
           The Gardens of the Palace at Nang-King.

           Second Tableau.
           The Throne Room of the Palace at Nang-King.

  Act  II--The Pavilion of the Empress.

  Act III--Interior of the Imperial Citadel at Nang-King.

  Act  IV--First Tableau.
           The Place of Execution at the Base of the Ramparts, Pekin.

           Second Tableau
           The Grand Throne Room in the Palace at Pekin.



DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

THE EMPEROR OF PEKING, a Tartar of the Tsing (Pure) Dynasty (aged 30)
FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST, Councillor to the Tartar Emperor
ARROW-BEARER    }
FAITHFUL PRINCE } Chinese dignitaries of the Court of Nanking
WINGED PRINCE   }
THE SON OF SPRINGTIME, the little Chinese Emperor at Nanking
                           (aged seven or eight)
VEILED-LIGHT, the Empress's Councillor
CHIEF ASTROLOGER
A TARTAR GENERAL
POPLAR, A HIGH MANDARIN
ROCK            }
FIR-SAPLING     } Gardeners at the Nanking Palace
HUMPBACK        }
STRONG-ARM      }
TWO TARTAR SPIES
TWO TARTAR EXECUTIONERS
AN EUNUCH
THE DAUGHTER OF HEAVEN, Chinese Empress of the Ming (Bright) Dynasty
                           (aged twenty-four or twenty-five)
GOLDEN LOTUS     }
CINNAMON         } Ladies-in-waiting to the
TRANQUIL BEAUTY  } Empress
PEARL            }
GOVERNESS OF THE PALACE AT NANKING
GOVERNESS OF THE PALACE AT PEKING STREET
VENDORS OF SWEETMEATS AND FLOWERS AT PEKING
HIGH MANDARINS, COMMON PEOPLE, CHINESE AND TARTAR SOLDIERS

Time: China at the Present Day



ACT I



First Tableau


THE GARDEN OF THE PALACE AT NAN-KING.

            _To the left, the pavilion of the
            ladies-in-waiting, in front of which is a
            flower-wreathed verandah, Through the trees
            and the bushes in full bloom, roofs of yellow
            earthenware, with upturned gable-ends and
            decorated with monsters, can be seen. Great
            twisted cedars, pools, rivulets, curved bridges
            of marble and red lacquer. Preparations are on
            foot for a fête. In the background servants
            are setting up banners, lances, and emblems of
            every shape. In the foreground, gardeners are
            putting the garden in order and sweeping away
            the rain of flowers which has fallen from the
            trees. The sun is rising._



THE DAUGHTER OF HEAVEN



SCENE I


ROCK, FIR-SAPLING, STRONG-ARM, HUMPBACK, _gardeners. In the
distance a bell and a drum can be heard._

ROCK

[_Stopping his work and listening._] _Do you hear_ the
great bronze bell and the drum? Another Prince is passing
through the Gateway of State and making his entrance into
our Palace of Nanking.

FIR-SAPLING

Yes, I hear----but I would rather see.

STRONG-ARM

Beautiful sights are not for us to see.

ROCK

The great ceremonies do not need the gaze of such as us.

FIR-SAPLING

Yes! we know that. Our duty is to work on in
silence,--patiently to prepare the beauty of the festival
which is not for our eyes.

STRONG-ARM

Are you complaining?----Every creature must accept the
place in life which falls to its lot.

ROCK

That law governs all. There are some animals that are proud
and splendid, birds with magnificent plumage, and there are
also rats and horrible insects, which inspire loathing.

STRONG-ARM

Among trees there are kings, and among flowers princesses.

ROCK

And many poor plants have neither beauty nor perfume.

FIR-SAPLING

The rain refreshes them just the same, and the sun warms
them.

HUMPBACK

It sometimes happens that chance favours the most humble.
Listen to me. Though I was in no way to blame, I have
witnessed a sight which I was forbidden to see.

STRONG-ARM

You? You have witnessed such a sight?

FIR-SAPLING

What was it? Tell us.

HUMPBACK

Well, it was yesterday, after sundown. The other gardeners
had just gone away; I had not yet finished my task, but
remained to polish one of those great marble lions, at the
Gateway of State. I was working all unsuspicious, when
suddenly I heard the great drum and the clanging of the
bell, and I saw the watchers descend from their tower to
open the great gate. The guards and generals and ministers
were all running. I heard it said that the new arrival
was the most important of all the invited guests, the
Viceroy of the Southern Provinces. How could I make my
escape in the midst of all these wonderful personages? It
was impossible! I hid behind one of the huge paws of the
lion and made myself very small. No one took any notice of
me----and I saw, I saw through the pierced globe, you know,
which the lion holds in his clutch----.

FIR-SAPLING

You saw the Viceroy of the South enter with his retinue?----

HUMPBACK

Yes, I saw! Oh! such costumes of silk and gold! Such horses
shining with gems! Such banners! And some terrible faces,
too, some glances awful in their pride!----But when he
came, oh! then I understood that besides him all the others
counted for naught. He was pale, with a very weary air, on
a horse led by two attendants----His costume was simple,
but seemed richer than all the others----He was so imposing
that my heart would no longer beat in my breast, and it
seemed to me that if only he turned his unseeing eyes
towards me, I should drop dead.

FIR-SAPLING

Ah, was it like that? If one feels like that for no more
than a Viceroy, how would it be if one were gazed upon by
the Emperor himself?

HUMPBACK

But I assure you, no one who has not seen him can----

FIR-SAPLING

Hush! Hush! Here comes a Palace official.



SCENE II


ROCK, FIR-SAPLING, STRONG-ARM, HUMPBACK, ARROW-BEARER, a
Palace official.


ARROW-BEARER

So this is the way you do your work? You fritter away in
foolish chatter the few precious moments which are left.

HUMPBACK

The work will be finished, my Lord.

ARROW-BEARER

Will be finished! What, when I see the ground still strewn
with petals and dead flower----and here, of all places,
around the Pavilion of the Ladies-in-Waiting. [_Aside_]
where blooms that living flower whom I adore.

HUMPBACK

No sooner have we put all straight than the spiteful wind
shakes the branches and we have to begin all over again.

ARROW-BEARER

Remove them from the moss, at all events----Those faded
flowers look like so many stains.



SCENE III


ROCK, FIR-SAPLING, STRONG-ARM, HUMPBACK, ARROW-BEARER,
GOLDEN LOTUS, CINNAMON, PEARL, TRANQUIL BEAUTY--LADIES IN
WAITING.

_The ladies appear hesitatingly on the verandah of the
Pavilion._ GOLDEN LOTUS _advances and rests her elbows on
the balustrade._ ARROW-BEARER _gazes upon her with evident
emotion._

CINNAMON [_in a whisper_]

I thought I recognised the voice of my lord Arrow-Bearer.

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

Golden Lotus recognised it before you.

PEARL

That young man is always stealing about here.

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

We all know the reason.

CINNAMON

See, he greets our companion as if she were a Queen.

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

Is she not the Queen of his heart?

ARROW-BEARER

The breeze of spring time caresses me gently and
intoxicates me with the perfume of the lotus.

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

The allusion is evident.

CINNAMON

It is well known that The breeze of springtime signifies
love.

PEARL

And her name is Golden Lotus.

GOLDEN LOTUS [_to_ ARROW-BEARER]

My lord, I heard that you ordered the flowers to be
removed----Was I misinformed?

ARROW-BEARER

I dared to raise my voice to give that order----Can I have
displeased you?

GOLDEN LOTUS

Oh! no----But I desire to ask your indulgence for the
lovely dead flowers. Permit them to remain there as a
carpet at the foot of our pavilion. Though broken from
their stems, they are still beautiful and keep their
perfume.

ARROW-BEARER

What glory for me to obey you! I envy those flowers which
will be trod by your little feet.

            [_He makes a sign for the gardeners to
            withdraw._]

TRANQUIL BEAUTY [_Pulling at the sleeve of_ GOLDEN LOTUS]

Enough, Golden Lotus. It is not proper for us to listen to
such remarks.

ARROW-BEARER

Have you nothing more to say to me?

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

Let us go. Come, we must return to the Pavilion.

GOLDEN LOTUS [_to_ TRANQUIL BEAUTY]

No, stay a moment.

[_to_ ARROW-BEARER]

My lord, you know news travels slowly to the quarters of
the Ladies-in-Waiting, and my curiosity is eager on this
most solemn day, when our Empress is to restore the throne
of the bright dynasty of the Mings and to take on her
the regency of the Empire. At what precise hour will the
festival begin? Do you know the order of the ceremonies?

ARROW-BEARER

What great pleasure for me to be able to inform you. The
Criers Of the Minister of Rites proclaimed last night the
order of the ceremonies. I have taken note of what I heard.
[_He takes from his sleeve a small scroll_] I hope to write
several poems about this later. It is a date quite unique
in the annals of China.

GOLDEN LOTUS

Oh! read it to us, my lord.

            [The young girls eagerly gather about
            ARROW-BEARER.]

ARROW-BEARER [_reading_] On this holy day on which our
Empress, laying aside her mourning for her illustrious
Husband, is about to take up the power in the name Of Her
son, in defiance of that usurper who for three hundred
years has held all China under his yoke: An order to all
high Dignitaries of the Palace, to the Masters of the
Ceremonies, to the Grand Secretaries of State, to the
Ministers, Warriors, and Princes, to the Guardians of the
Imperial Seal! Let them hold themselves in readiness
before the last watch of night and gather together all
the precious objects which they have in their keeping
so as to place them, according to the due rites, on the
six golden tables in the Palace of Great Purity. Let the
Master-in-Chief of the Music place orchestras and singers
in the galleries and in the Throne-room. As soon as the
last watch shall have sounded, let the Astrologer go to
inform Her Majesty the Empress that the chosen hour has
come when she must repair to the Temple of her Ancestors
to offer the prescribed sacrifices to the August Shades.
Her Majesty will be attended only by the Princesses and Her
Ladies-in-Waiting.

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

By us!----Then let us return to the Pavilion, we must
prepare at once.

GOLDEN LOTUS

We shall be told when it is time.

ARROW-BEARER [_continuing to read_]

From the Temple of Ancestors to the Palace of Great Purity,
let all Dignitaries, Officers, Guards, Secretaries form
up in a line on either side of the road along which the
Empress will pass in a palanquin, ornamented with dragons
and phoenixes, to the foot of the staircase leading to the
throne-room, where the grand ceremony of investiture will
take place.

GOLDEN LOTUS

Will women be present at that?

ARROW-BEARER

Yes, the Princesses and the Ladies-in-Waiting will form the
retinue of the Empress and group themselves about her.

GOLDEN LOTUS

Ah! I was not sure----It was that particularly which I
wished to know.

ARROW-BEARER

The young Emperor will be close to the brave mother
who is to reign in his name. Reign, you know how!
Reign in mystery, in anguish, faced by insurmountable
difficulties----

GOLDEN LOTUS

How many hearts beat for Her, how many strong arms are
ready to defend Her!

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

Have all the invited guests arrived at the Palace?

ARROW-BEARER

I believe so. The most powerful of all, the Viceroy of the
South, has been lodged not far from here, in the Pavilion
of Limpid Fountains. If the bushes were not so leafy you
would be able to see the roof of his residence from your
Pavilion.

CINNAMON [_In a whisper_]

I should love to get a look at the Prince.

GOLDEN LOTUS

One question more, my Lord. Does not some new danger
threaten us? Dark rumours have reached us----Are our
reconquered Provinces well garrisoned?

ARROW-BEARER

Alas! even during the hours of joy, anxiety assails us.
Alas that, when the delicious perfume of a flower caresses
us, we must watch with dread the storm which is always
threatening on the horizon. The gazelle had a little
respite because the tiger was wounded. If he recovers, he
will immediately begin again the pursuit of his prey.

GOLDEN LOTUS

What is the meaning of that allusion?

ARROW-BEARER

That the Tartar Emperor, who reigns at Peking and considers
us, the dispossessed Chinese, as rebels, has just been
vanquished in the war which the dangerous Western
Barbarians made against him. With great difficulty he has
obtained peace, and he has not yet recovered from the
effects of his defeat.

GOLDEN LOTUS

Ah! yes, the rumor of that war came to us. But what was the
cause of it?

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

How politics interest her!

PEARL

Yes! when that young man is her teacher.

ARROW-BEARER

The cause of it was peculiar. A Prince, kinsman to the
Tartar usurper, conceived the foolish idea of mustering
an army of bandits to hurl upon the hated Christians in
the north of China. But the horde, once let loose, got
out of hand. It rushed against the barbarian strangers,
whose presence has for a long time been tolerated in the
neighbourhood of the Palace. Then the armies of the Western
nations came to sack Peking, whence the Tartar Emperor fled
with his entire Court.

GOLDEN LOTUS

Doubtless it is unhappy for us that the usurper has made
peace----

ARROW-BEARER

Who knows? Perhaps China might have fallen under a more
evil dominion still.

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

Is the lesson not finished yet?

GOLDEN LOTUS [_withdrawing_]

It is time, my lord, for us to prepare for the festival.

ARROW-BEARER

It is you who will beautify the setting.

GOLDEN LOTUS

Ah, do not make sport of me----until we meet again, my lord.

ARROW-BEARER

            [_Seeing someone come from the right._]

Go into the house quickly! Your illustrious neighbour, the
Viceroy of the South, is walking in the garden and comes
this way.

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

            [_Lowering a bamboo blind_]

If we could only see him through the blind!

ARROW-BEARER

Farewell! I must give place to a nobler visitor.

            [_The young girls go in, and_ ARROW-BEARER
            _hurries off._]



SCENE IV


_The_ TARTAR EMPEROR, _disguised as the Viceroy of the
South, with_ FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST, _his minister._

FOUNT

I see no one----Your Majesty may come forward.

EMPEROR

Your Majesty! Do you wish to ruin me?

FOUNT

Oh! Sire.

EMPEROR

Again!

FOUNT

When we are alone, I cannot refrain----

EMPEROR

You must----Behind those blinds, probably spies are
watching us.

FOUNT

Eaves-droppers, rather. That is the Pavilion of
Ladies-in-Waiting.

EMPEROR

The Pavilion of the Ladies-in-Waiting----So there are also
Ladies-in-Waiting here? In very truth, it seems to me that
I am dreaming. Yet I knew what I came hither to find that
after three centuries of reign the Emperors of my dynasty
had never succeeded in subduing the secret resistance of
the conquered--I knew that. That in the Southern Provinces
the rebels had never yet bowed the head, aye, I knew that.
That Nanking was their capital and that here a descendant
of the Mings had even reigned. For more than seventeen
years before being crushed by our armies, of all that I
was aware----But I thought this phantom empire was more
mysterious, more hidden in the dark, and here I find a
palace as beautiful as mine, with guards, dignitaries,
ministers, a ceremonial regulated as at my own Court----Our
Empire is too large it seems, to be governed by one head
alone----I wished to see with my own eyes. I was prepared
for all surprises, yet this is beyond me.

            [_He sits down on a bench under a tree in full
            bloom._]

FOUNT

What is more surprising still is that you are here unknown
to all; here in the midst of your implacable enemies, and
clad in the fashion of three hundred years ago.

EMPEROR

It is a happy coincidence that this Viceroy of the South
whose place I have taken is of my build----What can he be
thinking of this adventure, in the ship where he is now
held a prisoner for me? What can he imagine, do you suppose?

FOUNT

Anything--except the truth.

EMPEROR

Yet if he should escape, would I not be lost indeed?

FOUNT

My heart feels as though in a vice. Are you not lost in any
case?

EMPEROR

Silence! After all, what have I to risk? My life? Under the
shadow of that throne from which they would banish me, is
not life an unending agony? With what crushing weight do
the slow hours fall upon me. Who can describe the horror
of that indolent stagnation, of that idle solitude? Oh!
the rage which consumes the soul, when one is the Master
and yet has no power! If I find death here, I shall be a
thousand times happier for having come. All my unhappy
existence down to the present has not been worth as much
to me as these last few days of flight and travel, this
rapture of escape, for a time, from that grey, silky web
wherein I am a prisoner. Oh! to work, to work in the
sunshine, to work like a man, to attempt some daring act,
which, if I die, will at least remain behind to honour my
memory.

FOUNT

You are wonderful, you are noble, you are fearless. But I,
who am as nothing, I have the right to tremble.

EMPEROR

It is you, however, who have awakened my spirit, who have
aroused it from its deadly torpor; it is you who have
inspired me with will and strength. Have you not approved
of my project? Have you not found noble, and worthy of a
sage, the dream which carried me away.

FOUNT [_kneeling before the_ EMPEROR]

I cried aloud with enthusiasm, I wept with emotion when I
grasped your sublime thought----But it is an impossible
dream, and the wish to realise it is a madness as generous
as it is vain. I fear for you, Sire, my well beloved
Master, I fear!

EMPEROR

You fear what? Up to to-day has not my plan worked out as
if by magic.

FOUNT

Up to to-day, yes, I cannot deny it.

EMPEROR

My departure from the Palace, which seemed so perilous--not
an obstacle! You, my dear minister, enter your official
palanquin, I was at your side in the costume of your
Secretary! I smiled, you remember, like a schoolboy playing
truant. My manner was so gay as to frighten you.----And
your poor little secretary, your pupil, as dear to you
as a son, consented to take my place in my bed with its
funereal silk draperies, in that sepulchral chamber, railed
and walled in again and again, where one stifles with the
perfumes which are too sweet. If I come through safe, what
can I do in recognition of this boy's tremendous devotion,
who acted as substitute for the martyr which I was, who
entered into the mummied body of an Emperor of China?

FOUNT

Will he know how to play the part which he assumed?

EMPEROR

Oh! it is an easy part, that of sovereign in my sad, closed
room. One sleeps, reads, meditates, and keeps one's self
from doing more. I have made use of the weapon which is so
often used against me. I have been accused of being ill
when I am not so. This time it is I that pretend. Who will
dare to doubt?

FOUNT

And the doctor who is taking care of the mock Emperor--are
you sure of his fidelity?

EMPEROR

My doctor? What interest would he have in betraying me? He
thinks I am engaged in some affair of gallantry and I have
promised him a province if my absence is not discovered.
He is watching his patient carefully and has strictly
forbidden anyone to go near him.

FOUNT

That is capital!

EMPEROR

Even in my city of Peking there is no risk of my being
recognised, since none of my subjects have even seen my
face. Flight is made easy for an invisible emperor! And
once on the ship--so freighted with your anxiety, do you
remember? what rapture it was to fly through space, light
as the cloudlets of smoke which followed in our track!

FOUNT

It is true, the kidnapping of the Viceroy and his
companions was the more dangerous feat, but our sailors
managed it marvellously. The immortals are with us, your
Majesty.

EMPEROR

Poor little Viceroy! As the escort who came to greet him
had never seen him, nothing was simpler than that I should
be taken for him. I told you, Fount-in-the-Forest, that all
must be as simple as child's-play!

FOUNT

Sire! Did you compose novels of adventure they would
be more interesting even than those of the famous Lo
Kwan-chung.

EMPEROR

Well, you see, they left me but two things in my splendid
solitude; love and opium. Opium exalts the imagination, and
I have had plenty of leisure to dream about my plans.

FOUNT

I plan out the future in my writings--prophetically,
perhaps, but then I leave to the generations that are to
come the duty of fulfilling my prophesies. You, Sire,
are offering your own blood as a sacrifice to assuage
unconquerable hate. The Immortal gods shall bow to you as
to their equal: but those on whom you wish to heap your
kindness will destroy you.

EMPEROR

Who knows? Hatred often yields to love.

FOUNT

Not such immemorial hatred as this. Nothing has softened
it, and for these three hundred years it has not even
known the weakness of a love affair. Never has a Tartar
married a Chinese woman, never has a Chinese loved a Tartar
woman. During the three years since you issued the decree
authorising marriages between the two races, none have
availed themselves of the permission.

EMPEROR

Yes, there has been one marriage----

FOUNT

One marriage! One of your courtiers, to please you, married
the daughter of one of your ministers; and do you recall
the number of favours by which you have had to repay that
act of sacrifice?

EMPEROR

You are, however, a Chinese, and I believe that you love me
a little.

FOUNT

On me alone you have shed the light of your soul; and I,
moreover, have cast away the prejudices which fetter life.
I love you and I admire you.

EMPEROR

Well, that is my recompense----

FOUNT

Someone is coming! We must take care----



SCENE V


_Light Palanquins, each carried by two men, stop before
the Pavilion. Two attendants accompany them and mount the
steps._


FOUNT

Some eunuchs, come, no doubt, to fetch the
Ladies-in-Waiting.

EMPEROR

I thought it was forbidden to employ eunuchs outside of my
Palace of Peking!

FOUNT

All privileges are allowed in the Palace of Nan-king.

            [_They step aside until the Ladies-in-Waiting
            shall have passed._]



SCENE VI


_The_ EMPEROR, FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST, _the_
Ladies-in-Waiting, _and the_ Eunuchs.


TRANQUIL BEAUTY [_In a whisper to_ GOLDEN LOTUS]

Those lords are still there.

GOLDEN LOTUS

They have a noble mien.

PEARL

They are secretly watching us.

CINNAMON

Let us pretend that we do not see them.

EUNUCH

The Empress is about to leave Her Palace. You must continue
your gossip to-morrow.

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

If we are late, the fault is yours.

PEARL

You should have informed us sooner.

EUNUCH

Quick, quick, the last watch of night is about to sound.

            [_They enter their palanquins, and go on their
            way in a single file preceded and followed by
            an_ EUNUCH.]



SCENE VII


_The_ EMPEROR _and_ FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST


FOUNT

They are pretty.

EMPEROR

And so gracefully dressed! It makes me regret the fact that
my victorious ancestors imposed the Tartar costume on the
people. These Chinese robes are so much more beautiful.

FOUNT

They make the women appear more slender and delicate.

EMPEROR

Do all the inhabitants of the city garb themselves in the
old way?

FOUNT

In their homes, no doubt, they do. Out of doors, in the
streets, they still keep up a pretence of wearing the new.

EMPEROR

The Viceroy whom I sent to Nanking is certainly not
ignorant of all this. Why has he not informed us?

FOUNT

Your Viceroy, Sire, is not a Tartar, but a Chinese, which
means that he espouses the cause of the rebels. Yet at
Peking, outside the walls of your Palace of Eternal
Silence, what goes on is fairly well known. While you are
dreaming of ultimate peace, they are preparing for war.


EMPEROR

Alas!----

            [_Trumpets, xylophones and gongs are heard in
            turn, each five times. Then the watchmen pass
            slowly._]

FOUNT

The fifth watch.

EMPEROR

Must we go in?

FOUNT

Not yet. The Empress is going to the Temple of her
Ancestors. That will give us a little time.

EMPEROR

The Empress!----In a few moments I shall see Her! The
beautiful vision I have dreamed of is to be destroyed
by the actuality----Ah! this woman, who must have the
uttermost horror for me, can have no idea that for months
past she has filled all my thoughts, has haunted my
solitary hours. If She only knew that the phantom Emperor,
isolated in his palace at Peking, wrote poems in her honour
night after night!----

FOUNT

She is said to be beautiful and charming, but that is
perhaps only a courtier's tale.

EMPEROR

If She is not, then my sacrifice will be only the more
meritorious.

FOUNT

Ah! see, there she comes. She is crossing the garden, and,
as no one is here, her palanquin is wide open.

EMPEROR

Ah!

            [_Through the flowering bushes he gazes
            ardently at her. The sound of a march is
            heard._]

But I recognise Her, my friend, that woman so beautiful and
tender, so noble and delicate, that rare, that imperial
flower!----Friend, what do you think of this omen? It is
She, absolutely She--She whom I have seen reflected in the
mirror of my dreams----

FOUNT

The eyes of the dragon traverse all space.

            [_The_ EMPEROR _seats himself again on the
            bench, leaning on_ FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST, _almost
            fainting._]

EMPEROR

See how this emotion shatters my strength!

FOUNT

You are like the sacred lyre, whose strings vibrate at the
slightest inspiration.



SCENE VIII


_The_ EMPEROR _and_ FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST, _the little_
EMPEROR _of Nanking,--a child of seven or eight years, who
enters playing with a shuttlecock in the Chinese fashion,
with graceful movements. Some Royal nurses follow him, two
serving-men remain at the back._


FIRST NURSE [_trying to take the shuttlecock away_]

Sire, take care not to overheat yourself.

CHILD

No! no! give it back to me; I want to play some more.

SECOND NURSE [_Respectfully approaching the_ TARTAR EMPEROR]

Sir, no one is permitted to remain in the presence of our
Majesty, the young Emperor.

EMPEROR

It is he!

            [_The shuttlecock with which the little_
            EMPEROR _of Nanking is playing falls on the
            knees of the big_ EMPEROR, _who takes it in his
            hands._]

CHILD [_To the_ Second Nurse]

Leave him there, I want him to stay. You see that he is ill.

[_To the_ EMPEROR]

Why are you so pale? Are you ill?

EMPEROR

No, Sire! It is emotion which has made me pale.

CHILD

What about?

EMPEROR

At seeing you, perhaps.

CHILD

That is queer. Do you think I play shuttlecock so well?

EMPEROR

With infinite grace.

CHILD

Soon, during the ceremony, I shall have to be perfectly
quiet. So I am running about now, to have more patience
later----Do you understand?

EMPEROR

            [_Handing the child the shuttlecock_]

Do you wish to go on with your game?

CHILD

No! keep it as a gift from me to your son.

EMPEROR

I have no son.

CHILD

Oh, how sad that is! Very well then, keep it just the same,
in memory of a child who has no father.

EMPEROR

            [_Detaching a jewel from his girdle_]

Thank you! Take this in exchange as a remembrance from a
man whose greatest desire is to have you for his son.

CHILD

Oh! thank you----

FIRST NURSE

Sire, it is time----

CHILD

It is a little dragon--an Imperial Dragon! I recognise it!
But how do you come to have it? You have not the right to
wear it! Do not be afraid, I will tell nobody. Good-bye
till next time.

EMPEROR

Till next time!

            [_The child runs away, followed by his nurses.
            The_ EMPEROR _gases after him until he is out
            of sight._]



SCENE IX


_The_ EMPEROR _and_ FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST


FOUNT

You are still all of a tremble.

EMPEROR

My trouble is mixed with sweetness----Would it not seem
that Heaven approves of me and will be my ally? This child
comes to me, defends me, is uneasy because of my pallor,
and gives me his plaything----Ah! how precious to me is
this little gift.

FOUNT

Yes! I felt with you the emotion of that chance
encounter----But let calm descend upon your soul. You will
need all your composure not to betray yourself during the
ceremony of the robing, for this time you are not playing
the leading part. Do not forget the three obeisances, the
nine complete prostrations. You cannot accustom yourself to
bend the knee to another.

EMPEROR

But I know all these fine points of etiquette better than
anyone, for am I not condemned always to see men prostrated
at my feet, touching the ground with their foreheads?

            [OFFICERS, GUARDS _and_ HERALDS _enter at the
            back of the stage and begin to form into lines.
            Some unfurling banners. The_ CHIEFS _give out
            orders_].

FOUNT

Let us return! It is time, since you must rehearse your
speech. Above all, Sire, change nothing in it. I so much
fear that you will betray: yourself by some imprudent words.

EMPEROR

It seems too commonplace, that speech of mine-----Since I
have seen her, Her, I must compose another----

FOUNT

Oh! no, I beg you. You might distract yourself, break off
short, or, more likely, let yourself be carried away beyond
measure.

EMPEROR

You may prepare an opium-pipe for me. Then my mind will
work with more ease and clearness.

FOUNT

Oh! you promised me to give up that poison. You know full
well that it is the complete destruction of your energies
and your will. The exaltation which results from--it, you
know very well with what depression you must pay for that
later on.

EMPEROR

Come! come! only one puff. I swear to you this shall be the
last.

            [_They leave. Trumpet-calls are heard and
            shouts of command as the curtain falls._]



Second Tableau


_The throne-room in the palace of Nanking, seen from the
side. The_ EMPRESS _and the throne upon which she is
seated appear in profile. The_ LITTLE EMPEROR _is seated
near her. The throne is raised on a number of steps; the_
LADIES-IN-WAITING _are behind the_ EMPRESS, _fanning her
with large, feathered fans. The bodyguard is placed on
the steps of the throne, and each man is holding a censer
containing Tibetan incense. All the dignitaries and
officials are standing, in order of rank. At the back,
across a colonnade, open-air galleries may be seen, in
which are musicians and singers. The palanquin of the_
EMPRESS, _with its dragons of gold, is also visible.
Outside the crowd can be vaguely seen and heard. Opposite
the throne, on a platform, are some dancers costumed as
armed warriors, standing motionless. Everyone is standing,
with the sole exception of the_ EMPRESS _and her little
son._



SCENE I


_The crowd, the_ EMPEROR _and_ FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST (_the
two latter still disguised, but in full official costume_),
_the_ FAITHFUL PRINCE.

THE CROWD [_crying rhythmically_]

Ten thousand years!

Ten thousand years!

A happy life to our King! A happy and a long life to our
King.

Ten thousand years! Ten thousand years.

            [_The music continues at the back._]

TARTAR EMPEROR [_In a whisper to_ FOUNT-IN-THE FOREST]

This old palace is infinitely more beautiful than mine. Its
art is purer and more exquisite.

FOUNT [_Also in a whisper_]

Our Chinese art, Sire, in all its ancient purity.

EMPEROR [_Smiling_]

You have remained our masters in all things. In comparison
with you we shall always be barbarians, we the invaders and
the conquerors. Oh! may it be the unique glory of my reign
to restore the noble Chinese tradition by fusing the two
peoples for all time to come.

FOUNT

Let us not speak so much, well beloved master. We are being
watched! And do not forget that soon you must prostrate
yourself!----

EMPEROR

Before Her! Oh! that will be an easy task.

FOUNT

And your speech, I pray, let it be altogether correct and
commonplace----The fascination which She seems to exercise
over you terrifies me already.

[_Chorus, singing at the back_]

Forefathers of my race, from Heaven look down
  Upon this palace with benignant eye!
Your son, the chosen of the immortal gods,
  See now I mount the glorious throne on high.

            [_The dancers execute three evolutions of the
            ritual dance known as the Dance of the Feather
            and of the Flute_]

CHORUS [_At the back_]

Let but your spirit and your bravery,
  Your virtues be the guidance of my life;
Then shall I triumph over evil foes
  And fear no fortune in the fiercest strife.

            [_The dancers execute three more figures._]

CHORUS [_Again_]

The Dragon, on my standard there unfurled,
Bathes his gold scales in Heaven's azure pure.
My reign shall famous be all times to come
'Neath his protection, powerful and sure.

            [_The dancers complete the three last figures_]

MUSIC

[_The master of ceremonies approaches, the guardian of the
seals salutes him, and with a gesture indicates that he
is to follow him. He conducts him to a golden table at the
back of the stage. The guardian of the Seals, after having
bent the knee, takes from that table the great seal of the
Empire, which lies on a large salver. The master of the
ceremonies then conducts him to the foot of the throne and
withdraws. The guardian of the seals bends the knee and
offers the seal to the FAITHFUL PRINCE. When the FAITHFUL
PRINCE has taken it, the guardian kneels before the throne,
makes three prostrations, rises, and withdraws backwards.
The FAITHFUL PRINCE bends the knee, and holding the salver
with both hands, offers it to the_ Empress, _then he
rises._]

[_The music stops_]

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_To the_ EMPRESS]

In the name of all the princes here assembled, in the name
of the faithful people and of the army ready to die for
the Bright Dynasty, I present to Your Majesty the most
sacred treasure, the priceless trust which your ancestors
have transmitted to us from generation to generation--the
Great Seal of State. In giving You this, we recognise you
as the Sovereign of the Empire during the minority of your
beloved Son. Accept the decree of Heaven with composure and
reverence.

[_Two_ LADIES-IN-WAITING _descend the steps of the Throne,
take the salver and place it on a table very near the_
Empress.]

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Oh! Daughter of Heaven, whom we swear to serve faithfully!
To the end that you may accomplish the work of your deified
ancestors, never forget the ten precepts which are the rule
of conduct of all sovereigns. As they are engraved here on
the precious jade, it is my privilege to read them to you
this day in the hearing of all.

            [_Reading from a block of jade, which is handed
            to him._]

    Fear Heaven.
    Love the people.
    Exalt the soul.
    Cultivate the sciences.
    Honour merit.
    Listen to wise counsels.
    Lessen taxes.
    Mitigate the laws.
    Spare the treasury.
    Avoid the allurements of the senses!

Obeying these commands, one is sure to follow in the right
path. But one must advance along this road without turnings
aside or falterings. Oh! our Sovereign, be attentive and
anxious, as though each hour of the day you carried a
chalice filled to the brim with water not one drop must be
spilled. Act thus, and then your conduct will be just and
your dynasty endure eternally----

ALL

Ten thousand years!

Ten thousand years!

[_The orchestra plays,_ FAITHFUL PRINCE _bends the knee,
prostrates himself three times, stands, and retires to his
place. The music ceases, complete silence reigns, the_
EMPRESS _rises._]



SCENE II


THE EMPRESS, THE CROWD


EMPRESS

Enlighten me, Oh, Divine Reason! Spirits of my ancestors,
enter into my spirit, strengthen my weakness, embolden
my heart!----Will these womanly hands have the power to
carry on high this sceptre, which is still too heavy for
the frail hands of my little son? At least they shall not
tremble! They shall hold it with an unrelaxing grasp, which
death alone will have the power to unlock. And you will aid
me, all of you, my faithful ones, you will aid me with your
advice, with your wisdom and your courage.

The name allotted by the Book of Centuries to the last
descendant of the Bright Dynasty is: Perfect Harmony
Realised. But alas! it seems a faraway dream, this harmony
announced in the ancient days of our history, and longed
for with many a prayer by our bruised hearts. Instead of
this dream of the future, we have the terrible present with
its uncertainty, instability, and war! And that Empire, of
which you have proclaimed me sovereign, we must reconquer
day by day, tearing it fragment by fragment from the grasp
of the ravisher.

Ah, how much bloodshed have we seen in the past three
centuries! It is a stream purple with blood, on which
floats the vessel freighted with our noble hopes! It tosses
about, it battles with the tempest, this vessel with the
reddened timbers, but it cannot suffer shipwreck, for
it stands for justice and right. Some day it shall drop
anchor in a peaceful port, the Bright Dynasty shall be
re-established for ever--and all our beloved dead, whose
bodies are scattered throughout the length and breadth of
the land, whose spirits abide in the clouds above, all our
unnumbered dead shall then have their magnificent revenge
and receive the reward of their martyrdom.

Like everyone of you here assembled, I dedicate my life
to that sacred cause; but it suffices not to die without
regret, we must fight to the last, we must defend ourselves
with our final breath, that our death may be fruitful. To
reconquer our country, to break the yoke which dishonours
it, let us make our hearts fearless, our souls implacable.
No pity nor mercy for the Tartar! May our heroic wrath
never lessen, nor our holy hate be appeased.

Toward all other living men we know our duties: good will,
compassion, charity. Whoever these men may be, whether they
come from the north or the south, or from the covetous
west, to all who shall call themselves our friends, let us
extend a brotherly hand in accordance with that immemorial
tradition, which only our invaders have violated.

I swear to you, oh, shades of my ancestors, and to you,
all my well beloved subjects, I swear to keep severe watch
upon myself, to take good care that I am not remiss in
any of my duties, I swear to be attentive and anxious, as
though I carried in my hands a chalice filled to the brim
with water, of which not one drop must be spilled. I swear
to hold my head high against the threats of the future, to
submit with resignation to cruel fate, and not even to move
an eye-lash if the sword be lifted against me.

            [_She resumes her seat upon the Throne._]

ALL

Ten thousand years!

Ten thousand years!

[_The music recommences at the back. At a sign from the
Master of Ceremonies, the Mandarins leave their places and
arrange themselves in several lines at the foot of the
Throne._]

TWO HERALDS

Bend the knee.

            [_Other_ Heralds _at the doors repeat the order
            to the crowd on the terrace and in the Court
            yards._]

Bend the knee.

            [_All the mandarins bend the knee at the same
            time_]

THE HERALDS

Prostrate yourselves.

HERALDS AT THE DOORS

Prostrate yourselves.

            [_All the mandarins prostrate themselves three
            times, touching the ground with their foreheads
            three times at each prostration._]

THE HERALDS

Arise.

HERALDS [_At the doors_]

Arise.

            [_All the mandarins rise and resume their
            places._]

A HERALD

Let the Viceroy of the South, in the name of all, make
reply to Her Majesty.

            [_The Master of Ceremonies approaches the_
            TARTAR EMPEROR _and leads him towards the
            Throne. The little_ EMPEROR _of Nanking
            exchanges glances of recognition with the_
            TARTAR EMPEROR. _He shows him a Golden
            Dragon, which is hanging on a chain round
            his neck, while the_ TARTAR EMPEROR _shows
            him the shuttlecock hidden under his robe.
            The_ EMPRESS, _surprised, questions her son
            with a look. The child smiles mysteriously
            and moves closer to her. The_ TARTAR EMPEROR
            _contemplates the_ EMPRESS _for a few moments,
            then slowly prostrates himself. He rises, and
            the music ceases._]

EMPEROR

Oh, Divine Majesty! I, your slave, and at this moment
one of the first dignitaries of your Court, why am I so
insignificant a thing? Why is my will barren, when it
is so eager to make a path both smooth and glorious for
your feet? Oh! at my powerlessness to crush the menace of
fate, what a tumult of desire and righteous rage disturbs
my soul! And yet the celestial radiance of Your presence
illumines and inspires me. The dazzling light which
emanates from Your Majesty's presence seems to colour the
clouds on the far horizon, to pierce the shadows, and I
see You there, in the great city of the Tsings. I see you
seated and all powerful, on the very Throne of the TARTAR
EMPEROR; the immense empire, undivided and at peace,
extending under your feet like a carpet of honour.

No! destiny cannot be cruel to you; before Your sacred
presence, its weapons will be dashed to pieces. Do not
the laws of Heaven and earth seem always to yield to
certain superior beings? Do you remember the beautiful
favourite, who formerly captivated one of your sovereign
ancestors? When the day arrived on which, having forfeited
the Imperial favour, she was given into the keeping of
the executioners, she gazed upon them calmly, and as
they brandished their swords against her, she smiled
sweetly--her only defence. Then they threw their weapons
at her feet, for no one had the courage to extinguish that
radiant smile----

            [_A murmur of astonishment makes itself felt
            throughout the crowd._]

And so you will disarm destiny, and your most deadly
enemies will bend the knee before you----

            [_So saying, he bends his knee_]

The EMPRESS

            [_After a moment of astounded silence, without
            rising from the Throne_]

Thank you, my noble subject! Your bold words have surprised
us, but have also charmed us. Moreover, the tragic
circumstances of our investiture make excuse for passionate
thoughts and exceptional speech. Your prophetic vision has
touched us very deeply----Thanks to you! Thanks to all!

            [_The_ TARTAR EMPEROR _rises and resumes his
            place. Music March. The_ EMPRESS _descends
            slowly from her throne; her retinue forms up to
            follow her and crosses the stage. She reaches
            the terrace where She enters her palanquin
            decked with gold dragons. The whole assemblage,
            without leaving their places, bend the knee
            and then prostrate themselves._]

CHORUS [_At back of stage_]

    Let all happiness and peace
    Rule here now and never cease!
    Heaven, grant our humble prayer,
    Give us blessings mild and fair,
    Gentle rain and balmy air!
    Let our pious voices rise
    To the gods above the skies!

ALL [_Interrupting the Choruses_]

Ten thousand years!

Ten thousand years!

            [_The great drum and bell are sounded
            alternately._]


CURTAIN



ACT TWO


[_The stage setting is all of white marble, glistening in
the moonlight. At the centre back is seen the_ EMPRESS'S
_Pavilion rising upon several terraces of white marble. Its
curved roofs are ornamented with monsters and small bells.
Leading to the terraces, in the middle of the stage, is an
"imperial stair," an inclined plane of white marble, on
which an immense dragon is carved in bas-relief; and also,
on either side of this, two identical marble staircases
bordered by bronze and jade animals and huge censers on
marble brackets. Numerous symmetrical kiosks flank the
pavilion on this side and that with curved roofs similar
to those of the pavilion, ornamented with small bells and
monsters._

_As the Curtain rises, no one is on the stage. A gentle
breeze causes the small bells to tinkle at the angles of
the roofs._]



SCENE I

The EMPRESS _and_ FOUR ATTENDANTS.


[_The_ EMPRESS _comes out of the pavilion and advances
slowly to the edge of the terrace, her eyes raised to the
moon._ FOUR ATTENDANTS _follow her, but remain in the
background._]

EMPRESS

[_Halting at the top of the Imperial stair_] Oh, Night
of enchantment! Pure light and silence cool!----Oh,
scintillating stars, envelope me in your rays! And thou,
pale moon, shroud me in thy blue light; calm my soul,
cool my fever! [_She commences her descent down the
"Imperial Stair," two of her attendants following, one by
the staircase on the right, the other by the staircase on
the left, regulating their steps according to those of
the_ EMPRESS _in the middle._] That dream, that strange
dream which has aroused me from my sleep, I still feel
the terror of it----[_Lowering her voice_] The terror and
the charm. [_To her attendants_] Let the astrologer be
called at once, that he may discover the meaning of this
dream and explain it without dissembling. Listen carefully
to my words. I was about to become the prey of a serpent
with shining scales,--already he was twining about me
and slowly choking me with his chilly coils. Fascinated
by his steady gaze, I had not the force to struggle;
enervated, inert, I surrendered myself, with no repugnance
against death. With fear and suffering a languor that was
almost a delight was mingled----A supreme effort of the
will, however, extricated me from his grasp, and suddenly
aroused from sleep and dreams I found myself regretting
those deadly coils which had imprisoned me----What can this
dream portend? [_To the women_] Report what I have told
you to the astrologer. Let him question the Unknown, and
give me his response here without delay. Go at once! [_Two
of the Attendants depart at this command. The_ EMPRESS
_continues to descend slowly. She is alone in the middle
of the Imperial stair, which is very long, and whose white
surface seems sown with tiny glistering spangles._] How
the dew sparkles on the marble footpath! It seems like a
carpet of stars. But as I walk I put out their light, and
my trailing gown changes the little glistening drops into
a pool of water, which soaks the hem of my robe. [_She
continues to descend._] Why is there ever before my eyes
the image of that man whom I saw this morning for the
first time? Why, on this day, when so many heavy duties
have devolved upon my weakness, can I recall only that
deep and ardent gaze, which met mine with such sovereign
audacity? Why was I no more offended by that gaze than by
the rays of the kindly sun that beat upon my palace? He
found me beautiful, and his admiration for me shone like
an ornament more precious than the Imperial Phoenix of
my head-dress. How well I understood, when he prostrated
himself before me, with what feelings he threw himself at
my feet----And my son exchanged glances of recognition with
him! How came he to know him? Why did I not even dare to
ask him, as though to speak of that man to my own child
were criminal? Oh, kindly powers of the night, spirits of
my deified ancestors who are about me in the air, august
shades to whom I have rendered homage in your golden
temples, come to my aid, gather about your unworthy and
feeble daughter! That man, that stranger in my path, on
such a day! Oh, divinities from whom I am descended, take
from my soul the very remembrance of him. In a solemn vow
I have renounced my earthly personality. Nothing of myself
belongs to me. Daughter of Heaven, Empress and Regent, I
am claimed entirely by my more than human mission----Help
me to triumph over the weaknesses which were the charm of
life. Aid me to forget that there are flowers and pearls
and perfumes, grant that I may lose consciousness of the
fact that love is the only realm of woman, and beauty her
true power. May my breast from henceforth be only the
marble prison of my frozen heart! Should it revolt and
wish to beat again, may my will become its stern gaoler!
Aid me, oh, come down, pure spirits of the air! Make me as
unyielding as the goddesses of jade, who keep their eyes
lowered that they may not see the things of this world!

            [_The two attendants return and prostrate
            themselves._]

FIRST ATTENDANT

The astrologer is ready to give your Majesty his answer.

EMPRESS

Let him come!

            [_The attendants leave._]

That serpent which entwined me, Ah! that cannot be he. His
commanding gaze, riveted to mine, was noble and open. Why
should he appear to me in that hostile and terrible form?
No, no! in a soul that has eyes like that treachery cannot
flourish----It cannot be he----and yet I was carried away
by that icy embrace. Who else then, in the world could it
be?



SCENE II


_The same_, THE ASTROLOGER


[_He is one hundred years old. He has a white beard, stiff
and rough. He is blind, and is led by a young boy. He tries
to prostrate himself, but the_ EMPRESS _stops him._]

EMPRESS

Remain standing, noble old man. Your age and your sightless
eyes excuse you from formalities.

ASTROLOGER

My sightless eyes see into the invisible. My spirit,
meditating through so many days of darkness, is clairvoyant
and prophetic.

EMPRESS

How do you explain the mystery of that dream which obsesses
me?

ASTROLOGER

In the guise of a serpent, the dragon has come to the
phoenix to carry her off and to heap on her his treasures.
But the phoenix has not understood. He flapped his wings
and made his escape. Let her take shelter at present from
the terrible storm which, all unwillingly, the dragon
brings in his train.

EMPRESS

These words are more unfathomable than the dream.

ASTROLOGER

Yet thus the magic numbers have replied.

EMPRESS

Can you not illumine the darkness?

ASTROLOGER

The veil which covers the future may not be torn away. To
raise one corner at the utmost is all that is allowed to us.

EMPRESS

And by that means should one not at least see a faint
glimmer?

ASTROLOGER

Take shelter from the terrible storm! Let the precious
torch which shall illumine the future be placed far beyond
the reach of the wind. That is the decree. There is nothing
more.

EMPRESS

It is well. I will meditate upon these enigmas. Go in
peace, noble old man.

ASTROLOGER

May propitious Heaven shower all its blessings on the
Bright Dynasty!

            [_He retires. Day breaks, and flower-beds in
            the foreground, near the incline, come to view.
            They are flowers of Imperial yellow._]

EMPRESS [_To her attendants_]

For mercy's sake, for once in my life, leave me alone. I
need no further attention. Go!

            [_The attendants leave and re-enter the
            Pavilion._]



SCENE III


THE EMPRESS [_alone_]


The EMPRESS [_at the foot of the imperial stair, leaning on
the marble banisters._] The storm, said the old man----The
storm, it will come from the north as always!----Black
clouds on the horizon, the armies which are marching
against my phantom empire. Black clouds, the armies of
the Tartar Emperor----But this torch which shall illumine
the future, what it is? All! My son, it must be----Ah,
yes, that it is; my son!----To shelter him, he said, to
hide him, to send him far away, perhaps, from this palace
that is threatened on all sides; to separate myself from
him in this grave danger--that is what is now demanded of
me?----Still more agony and sacrifice! And it is I who am
expected to guide a whole people, when I lack the force
to guide myself----Oh you women who can lean on a strong
supporting arm, who can depend for help upon the advice
of a manly and farseeing mind! Oh you wives who find in
the heart of your husbands a refuge in your weakness!
But I am the Empress, and the widowed Empress, all alone
and so high that I have no equal to whom I may confide
my anxieties and my weaknesses----[_She advances to the
middle of the flower-plot_] Come, listen to the confession
which is overpowering me, oh you flowers of early morning,
moist with fresh dew! Oh airy spirits which hover over
flower-beds at the dawn of springtime, hear me, since I
must speak and someone must listen. That man you know, who
came yesterday, whose gaze tyrannical and yet caressing
is like none other's, he has troubled the sad Empress's
heart, and now in the hour of great peril she is no longer
mistress of herself----He is only one of her subjects, and
yet she would love to obey him----



SCENE IV


_The same_, THE GRAND MISTRESS OF THE CEREMONIES, TWO
ATTENDANTS.


THE GRAND MISTRESS

[_Prostrating herself_] I have to inform your Majesty that
it is almost the hour of morn, fixed for the farewell
audiences.

EMPRESS

It is well. I come.

THE GRAND MISTRESS

All is in readiness for the toilette of the Empress. What
are her orders?

EMPRESS

I shall give audience here, and let the wearisome ceremony
be made as simple as may be.

THE GRAND MISTRESS [_Still prostrating herself_]

My duties as Grand Mistress make it necessary for me to
call your Majesty's attention to the fact that this is
contrary to the rites. Audiences must take place in the
Throne Room, and be conducted in accordance with all the
rules of immemorial etiquette.

EMPRESS

We are above all rites and rules. I have spoken my will.

THE GRAND MISTRESS

The orders of your Majesty shall be transmitted to the
officials of the palace, who will inform the princes and
the dignitaries.

EMPRESS

It is well.

            [_The_ GRAND MISTRESS _rises and goes out._]



SCENE V


THE EMPRESS


[_Leaving the flower-garden, she halts before ascending
the marble stair and turns again to the flowers._] Guard
well, oh, flowers of the morning, the secret which I have
confided to you. Now it has escaped from my soul! That
it may never return, lock it up, oh, flowers, in your
blossoms. [She mounts several steps] And you, ancestral
shades, to whom I make this last prayer, Oh! lend your
aid to your daughter, powerless to triumph over herself.
Make my heart invulnerable, since you have called me to
this sovereign mission. Give me the force to thrust aside
all but my noble duty. Oh, help me to remember only "the
brimming cup of which not a drop must be spilled!"

[_She mounts the stair._]



SCENE VI


ARROW-BEARER, ATTENDANTS


[_They enter hastily along the path at the foot of the
steps._ ARROW-BEARER, _raising his head, recognises the_
EMPRESS, _on her way along the Imperial stair. He makes a
sign of warning to those who follow him, and all terrified
throw themselves prostrate, their faces to the ground. As
soon as she has disappeared,_ ARROW-BEARER _makes a sign to
the_ ATTENDANTS _to rise._]

ARROW-BEARER [_To the_ ATTENDANTS]

Put the throne here and set this bench very near, in case
the Empress should accord to some privileged one the honour
of being seated in her presence. Place these perfumes in
the censers that the ladies-in-waiting will only have to
light them.

            [_Enter the guards, whom he draws up at the
            foot of the stairs._]


SCENE VII


_The same_ FAITHFUL PRINCE, MINISTER _and_ COMMANDER IN
CHIEF. WINGED PRINCE, GENERAL _and_ GRAND SECRETARY;
POPLAR, _a minister_; VEILED-LIGHT, COUNCILLOR;
CHAMBERLAINS, COUNCILLORS, MANDARINS, _etc. They enter in
turn. Lastly the_ TARTAR EMPEROR _and_ FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST.


POPLAR [_To_ FAITHFUL PRINCE]

If your Excellency would say a word for me to the Empress,
my desires would be fulfilled and I should obtain the red
button, which I have earned by my services.

FAITHFUL

I know your merits and I realise what you deserve. But
believe me, true greatness is above titles. We are
devoting our lives to a noble cause, for the joy of seeing
it triumph, and not in the hope of a reward. If we die in
the service, our name will shine with a brightness, more
enduring I assure you, than that of a ruby in the crown of
your hat----However, rest assured I shall do my utmost to
obtain it for you, since you aspire to it.

POPLAR

I shall be grateful to you to my dying day.

            [_He bows and goes out._]

WINGED PRINCE [_To_ FAITHFUL PRINCE]

May I enquire after your precious health?

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Bowing_]

How kind of you to trouble about so trifling a matter!
My health is good, thank you. I dare to hope that yours,
infinitely more precious, is also excellent to the joy of
us all.

WINGED PRINCE [_Bowing again_]

You see me overwhelmed by a solicitude of which I am
unworthy. Thank you, I am very well. Without excessive
pain I am reaching the allotted span--a poor thing, it is
true--of my days.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Did you succeed in seeing the representative of our
enemies, the Viceroy of Nanking?

WINGED PRINCE

I saw him and I dictated a report, which he agreed to send
to Peking, but I have had to pay dearly for his discretion.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

If only we gain thereby a few days' respite, we shall not
need to regret the bait thrown into the mouth of the Tiger.
The treasures of the Mings, happily, are far from exhausted
and the secret vaults, all unknown to the Tartars, still
contain more than is necessary to defray the expenses of
war.

            [_They go out in conversation_]

VEILED-LIGHT [_Talking with a_ COUNCILLOR]

There is a method of obtaining calabashes of a magnificent
red. You graft the young plant with cockscombs----

COUNCILLOR

With cockscombs?----Can it be done?

VEILED-LIGHT

Yes, you bury them alongside the roots and pass the stems
through the flesh.

A SECRETARY

I know another process for obtaining gourds of celestial
blue.

COUNCILLOR [_To_ Veiled Light]

Where did you get your information?

VEILED LIGHT

I read it in the Tu Tien Shan, a work in 20 volumes,
containing the most curious secrets of horticulture.

            [_They pass on._]

AN OFFICER

How kind of our Empress to give us audience in the open
air, among the flowers!

A STOUT MANDARIN

And to dispense with prostration. At my age and with my
figure, the performance is very difficult, and, as you
know, one is so easily made to appear ridiculous!

WINGED PRINCE [_To_ FAITHFUL PRINCE, _watching the approach
of the_ TARTAR EMPEROR _and_ FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST]

I once met the Governor of the South, but I must be
confusing him with someone else, for I recollect a person
very different from this one. Yet, if I had ever seen those
eyes, it seems to me that their expression would have
remained in my memory.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Indeed he has most uncommon expression and an extraordinary
dignity.

EMPEROR [To FOUNT]

What makes you so uneasy?

FOUNT [_In a whisper_]

I am certain that I recognised here in the palace two
officers from Peking, disguised, like ourselves.

EMPEROR

Yes? No doubt they were spies sent out in pursuit of me.

FOUNT

I do not think so. More likely the leaders of a conspiracy,
against Nanking, perhaps to take it by surprise. We must
leave here as soon as possible. All is in readiness, the
horses are saddled, the vessel under steam----You wished to
see this palace with your own eyes. You have succeeded, now
let us depart.

EMPEROR

Depart before having seen her for a last time? Oh, no.
Nothing could make me give up that happiness, which has
come to be for me the most desirable thing in the world.

FOUNT

Every minute here we are risking our heads----At least as
soon as you have had your audience, I beg you not to delay
another instant.

EMPEROR

You have my promise.

FOUNT

The Faithful Prince has looked toward you several times and
you cannot do otherwise now than greet him. He is Prime
Minister and Commander-in-Chief, the most important person
here; a great heart and a fine character. His rank places
him above a viceroy.

EMPEROR

What shall I say to him?

FOUNT

A few polite commonplaces.

EMPEROR

Can I do so? [_He approaches the_ FAITHFUL PRINCE _and
salutes him._] Illustrious Prince, may a long and happy
life be yours! It is a blessing of Heaven to be permitted
to gaze upon your noble countenance and to meet the light
of your eyes.

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Returning the bow_]

In truth I might say the same to you----But I beg of you
let us dispense with compliments. Are you satisfied with
your government of the South?

EMPEROR

That region is the most faithfully rebellious of the
whole Empire, and is so far away that the orders for its
repression are lost before they reach it. The inhabitants
refuse to pay the tax levied by the Tartars and of their
own accord deposit the money in our coffers.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

You do not fail to accept only half of it, and to refuse it
altogether during bad years?----

EMPEROR

I have done so, which accounts for our popularity.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Perhaps you would like to be near the throne, in order to
obtain a higher rank, more in accordance with your merits.
Make use of my influence to support your request----

EMPEROR

I am the slave of her Majesty, ready to serve her in any
position in which she may wish to employ me, but I ask for
nothing, and the good opinion which Your Excellence has of
my merits is to me the most acceptable recompense.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

I congratulate you on being without ambition and not fixing
a prize on your devotion----Our Sovereign will appear soon.

EMPEROR [_To_ FOUNT]

Did I acquit myself creditably?

FOUNT

In very dangerous words. Ah, how I wish I saw you safely
away from here!

EMPEROR

Oh, that I might remain always!----She is coming!



SCENE VIII


_The same,_ THE EMPRESS, _in Costume of State_


[_As soon as she appears at the top of the terrace the
perfumes begin to burn in the censers. The guards unfurl
the banners which they are holding in their hands.
Chamberlains and grand equerries form a line on either
side of the staircase, bending the knee. Before her is
carried the yellow umbrella with three flounces, mounted
on a handle bent in the form of a swan's neck. Behind
two_ ATTENDANTS _carry tall feather screens, emblems of
sovereignty._]

ALL THE ATTENDANTS [_in a low voice, with eyes lowered_]

Ten thousand years! Ten thousand years! ten times ten
thousand years!

EMPRESS

Happiness be with you, my faithful ones! May you live very
long days!----[_She descends. The_ FAITHFUL PRINCE _and
the_ WINGED PRINCE _receive her at the foot of the steps._]

WINGED PRINCE

The flowers grow pale with envy at the approach of our
Sovereign.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Her presence doubles the brilliancy of the day.

FOUNT [_In a whisper to the_ EMPEROR]

In truth, she is as beautiful as the pink peony.

EMPEROR

Say rather that the flower is all but as lovely as she.

EMPRESS [_Stopping on the last steps, between_ PRINCES]
There are some hours when nature appears more splendid,
the light of Heaven more radiant, when all things of the
world seem transfigured and new, and the soul then expands
in the joy of living----Oh, my faithful ones despite our
threatening to-morrows, the present is for your Sovereign
one of those rare hours. [_In an aside_] It seems as though
I had suddenly become two personalities, a new rapture and
unknown hopes fill my bewildered heart.

EMPEROR [_To_ FOUNT]

Her words express what I feel in myself. Before this
glorious hour I knew not what it meant to live----

_The_ EMPRESS _advances slowly, stopping to speak a few
words to persons bowing before her. To_ VEILED-LIGHT _she
says_]

You desired the government of the fortress of Tang-Men. The
Emperor accords you that title and the appanages which go
with it.

VEILED-LIGHT

[_Bending the knee_] I shall redouble my zeal to be worthy
of such an honour.

EMPRESS

Do so. [_She passes on, while_ GRAND EQUERRY _places a
scroll of yellow satin in the hand of_ VEILED-LIGHT, _who
receives it on his knees. To an officer._]

The Emperor appoints you to that higher rank which you have
so deservedly earned.

THE OFFICER

My life belongs to your Majesties, and my sole desire is to
be able to sacrifice it in a good cause.

EMPRESS

Keep it for our service.

[_A yellow scroll is given to the officer_]

I offer to each of you a slight gift in assurance of my
protection and as a memento of my accession----

ALL

Ten thousand years, ten thousand times ten thousand years.

            [_Pages distribute the gifts._]

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Presenting_ POPLAR]

Your devoted servant is ambitious to see the coral button
of his hat changed to a ruby. I venture to support his
request to your Majesty.

EMPRESS

Recommended by you, his merit is certain. I accord the rank
with pleasure.

POPLAR

My heart overflows with gratitude.

The EMPRESS [_To the_ TARTAR EMPEROR]

And you, Prince, do you desire nothing? Are you too proud
to name the favour which would please you?

POPLAR

Nay, I ask one of Heaven, one only, that it will stay the
flight of time and prolong this rapturous hour.

EMPRESS [_At once surprised and somewhat offended, she
looks at him a long time, but her gaze becomes tender and
she finally smiles._] Does that depend on Heaven alone?
[_She takes her place on the throne._]

HERALD [Announcing]

The Empress commands tea to be served.

ALL

Ten thousand years!----

            [_The cup-bearers serve tea, fruit and cakes.
            Each one bends the knee as he takes his cup._]

The EMPRESS [_Making a sign to the_ TARTAR EMPEROR, _to be
seated on the tabouret, near the throne_]

Come here Prince. There is also a present for you.

A GRAND SECRETARY [_In a whisper to a_ COUNCILLOR] With one
word she has made him Prince, and now she permits him to be
seated in her presence!

COUNCILLOR

He does not seem at all surprised at the honour.

GRAND SECRETARY

He is the favourite of to-morrow. We shall have to reckon
with him.

EMPRESS

You gave my son a jewel marvellously cut, a dragon, emblem
of the Imperial Power. He is delighted with it, and wishes
me to offer you in his name, the emblem of the Empresses, a
phoenix, with wings of sapphires and rubies.

            [GOLDEN LOTUS _approaches and presents a
            jewel-case on a salver_]

EMPEROR

I wish to receive it on bended knee, and to assure you that
it will be with me always. [_He bends the knee._]

EMPRESS [_To_ GOLDEN LOTUS]

Golden Lotus, did you, as I command, attach a ring on which
to hang it?

GOLDEN LOTUS

Yes, Your Majesty.

EMPEROR

Until to-day I had seen but the nests of ordinary birds,
and I did not believe in that incomparable bird the
Phoenix. It is only to-day that its existence was disclosed
to me by the evidence of my enchanted eyes. [_He hangs the
jewel on his belt._]

EMPRESS

Alas, the phoenix and the dragon are dragged down by chains
to-day, and cannot reach the heights to which they aspire
in the clouds.

EMPEROR

Ah, how ardently I wish I were the Tartar Emperor reigning
at Peking!

EMPRESS

What a strange and dismal idea! You wish you were my mortal
enemy? Why?

EMPEROR

That I might attempt to set all China at your feet, to
bring to you your own, and then to be your most faithful
subject.

EMPRESS [_Smiling_]

What a dream!----But from that Emperor I could accept
nothing----nothing, but death. Do not desire to be anyone
else than you are for no one has ever inspired in me
so sudden and deep a sympathy. Do not leave the palace
yet----Await my commands. Since you have no ambition I must
have it in your place, and keep you perhaps more near to
me----Farewell until we meet!

EMPEROR [_Rising and bowing_]

Whether near or far, my thoughts will ever be prostrated at
the feet of your Majesty.

[_He goes, on his way saying in a whisper to_ FOUNT]
Friend, in my disguise, I triumph! For the first time for
three hundred years a Chinese woman has given her love to a
Tartar!

FOUNT

Carry away with you your glorious joy; but I beg you, let
us depart at once.

            [_Tea is offered to the_ EMPEROR. _Gradually he
            slips away, led by his_ MINISTERS]

THE COUNCILLOR [_To a_ SECRETARY]

He did not even bend the knee to receive the Imperial tea.

SECRETARY

He understands that to him already all is permitted.

EMPRESS. [_In an aside, dreamily_]

I am no longer mistress of my will----The words fly from
my lips, like captive birds escaped and making for the
sky----I have betrayed myself----with happiness.

            [_Uproar and cries, all the attendants in
            alarm. Officials of the Palace enter hurriedly,
            their hands on their sabres._ FAITHFUL PRINCE
            _and_ WINGED PRINCE _approach to defend the
            EMPRESS, who has risen from her throne._]



SCENE IX


_The same except the_ EMPEROR _and_ FOUNT. PALACE
OFFICIALS, ARROW-BEARER.

EMPRESS


What has happened?

OFFICER

A conspiracy.

ANOTHER

It has failed!

ARROW-BEARER [_Kneeling_]

Our young Emperor is safe.

EMPRESS [_Crying aloud_]

My son!----It was against my son!----Where is my son?



SCENE X


_The same_. THE CHILD _with his_ NURSES _and_ GUARDS.


THE CHILD [_Running to his mother and kneeling before her_]

Here I am, mother.

EMPRESS

Ah! [_She arises and embraces him._] Now I can control
myself to listen----Speak!

ARROW-BEARER

Divine Sovereign, two Tartar spies entered the palace with
the monstrous design of kidnapping our young Emperor. Like
tigers they lay in wait, hidden in the bushes. They came
out all unawares and dared to lay a hand on the sacred
person of your son.

THE CHILD

Mother they threw a cloth over my head and tightened it
round my throat.

EMPRESS

Oh!

THE CHILD

I could not cry out, but I struggled hard. Oh! I am very
strong, I am----

ARROW-BEARER

We were on guard. The nurses with cries of horror called
for our aid. We ran to them and seized the criminals.

EMPRESS

Ah, you have them? Let them be brought here at once.

            [ARROW-BEARER _rises and goes out. The_ EMPRESS
            _seats herself again._]

WINGED PRINCE

Their trial will not take long.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Heaven was watching over its young son and saved him.

ALL

Ten thousand years, ten thousand times ten thousand years.



SCENE XI.


_The same._ TWO SPIES, _their hands tied, each one held by
two guards. They are thrown on to their knees at the foot
of the throne._


WINGED PRINCE

Who are you?

FIRST SPY

Faithful servants of the dynasty of the Tsing.

WINGED PRINCE

Where do you come from?

SECOND SPY

From the only capital of our great and pure Empire.

WINGED PRINCE

Your crime is flagrant and needs no further proof, what
have you to say?

FIRST SPY

Nothing.

SECOND SPY

Yes! We wished to kidnap the child, to hold him as a
hostage and thus to have you at our mercy. We have nothing
further to say. Our lips are sealed.

WINGED PRINCE

Name your accomplices.

SECOND SPY

We shall say nothing.

WINGED PRINCE

Ha! ha! We have made others speak. [_To the_ EMPRESS] The
torture at once, is it not?

EMPRESS

Torture, no! Death, instant death.

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_To the_ EMPRESS]

I venture to suggest to your Majesty that it might be
better perhaps to imprison these men in a dungeon. We do
not know who they are, nor of how great importance in the
eyes of the enemy. What secrets might we not indeed extract
from these two!----

EMPRESS

What! After what they have done, you would have them see
the light of another day?----remember that they have
dared to lay a hand on the sacred person of him in whom
lives all our hope; they have bruised his neck, frail as a
stem of a flower. To kidnap him as hostage, they said! How
do I know that they did not rather mean to kill my child.

ALL

Death! Death!

EMPRESS

Yes, death! And have them thrown to the beasts that eat
dead bodies. Their graves will be the maws of crows and
dogs. At once!

            [_The_ FAITHFUL PRINCE _gives a signal, and the
            condemned prisoners are lifted to their feet._]

FIRST SPY

We have risked our lives. We have lost and we accept death.

SECOND SPY

We shall be soon avenged by the great army which is
marching against you. To-morrow it will be before your
walls.

ALL

Death! Death!

            [_The condemned men are led away._]



SCENE XII


_The same, except the_ SPIES, _A. B., and_ THE GUARDS.


EMPRESS [_To the_ CHILD]

Oh, my best beloved! Oh, you, who bear the sweet name of
Son of Springtime, how near was I to losing you!

THE CHILD

Tell me, mother are those men to be put to death?

EMPRESS

That is the lightest punishment which their crime deserves.

THE CHILD

No, it is too much, as they did not kill me.

EMPRESS

But they desired your death. The sentence is too lenient.
And see, I spared them the torture-chamber----Now, I shall
never again dare to be away from you. No, not even for a
minute, my priceless jewel, shall you again be out of my
sight.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

My Sovereign, how it pains me to be forced to tear your
heart by telling you what we believe to be your painful
duty, we to whose advice your Majesty deigns to listen.
For many days, we have been resolved to speak, and yet we
shrank from the ungrateful task. But to-day the danger is
too pressing.

EMPRESS

Oh, what are you going to say? [_She descends from her
throne._]

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Alas, that my words shall be like the cold north wind which
kills the flowers.

EMPRESS

I already feel the chill in my very soul.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

You must for a time be separated from your son.

EMPRESS

[_With drooping head_] I knew too well!

FAITHFUL PRINCE

The hope of all, THE VICTORY to come, our Young
Emperor!--He should be protected from the dangers of war,
in safety, far from here, in some inaccessible province.

EMPRESS

"Let the precious torch which shall illumine the future
be placed beyond the reach of the wind." Thus spoke the
astrologer. Yes, the blind man did see into the invisible.
Thus is the mystery of his words explained----!

FAITHFUL PRINCE

We must obey the oracle. Misfortune foreseen can often
be avoided. Winged Prince, and you Veiled-Light, sage
councillors, does your opinion coincide with mine.

WINGED PRINCE

It is the same in every point.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

And all you, noble chiefs, wise men of letters,
dignitaries, are you too of the opinion that we must send
the young Emperor away. [_All nod their heads affirmatively
without speaking._] And not to-morrow, not even this
evening alas--for each moment the danger increases----We
must act at once, if your Majesty consents to the sacrifice.

EMPRESS

Oh! You place me in a circle of fire, which you narrow
again and again, far too quickly. But where are the Tartar
armies, now? Not yet beneath our walls, surely. We are not
besieged! The roads are still open----[_She presses her son
to her breast._] Leave him with me just another day, at
least give me time to find the necessary strength to bear
this new affliction----I am the Empress, yes, but I am
also a mother----One does not take a child from its mother
as one plucks a flower from its stem----Wait!----

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Wait, my Sovereign! But will not your despair be infinitely
more intense should harm come to his Majesty because of
a weak tenderness? Think of the turmoil of a siege, the
horror and the risk of battle! Let us thank Heaven for
giving us time to place our young Master in safety. As soon
as the danger is over, he will return to you.

EMPRESS

Oh, do not speak of return to lessen my distress, as you
would comfort a child!----Let us not talk of the future,
which is black and cloudy----But Wisdom has spoken, and
my rebellion is over. I shall have the strength to submit.
[_To the child, whom she holds still pressed close against
her._] My son, you must go away from me for a little
while----Ah, tears fill my eyes at the idea. But when I
think of keeping you in this palace, in the midst of such
terrible dangers, anguish crushes my heart----My best
beloved, you must go.

THE CHILD [_Embracing her_]

What? I must go on account of the Tartars? Well, I am not
afraid, I am not really. Do you think that I am afraid?
You remain here, my mother, and where you remain there I
must be too.-----Leave my mother on account of the Tartars?
I do not want to! You all hear me. I do not want to.

EMPRESS

My son! You will show greater courage in saying good-bye to
me. And you must prove yourself worthy of your noble, your
more than human lot. Remember that you are not an ordinary
child. Under your delicate flesh, in the fine network of
your veins, flows the blood of divinity. The Bright Dynasty
has no representative but you alone. Oh, my best beloved!
You are the son of Heaven!

[_THE CHILD, very thoughtful, lets his head sink_]

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Raise up your face, do not turn it down, dazzled by the
bright name of your ancestors. Already you must be master
of your feelings. You owe your heart as a debt to this
people unnumbered, which is conquered and oppressed and
looks to you for its deliverance. To this people alone
belong your thoughts, your actions, your very life.

THE CHILD [_Sad and grave_]

I will go----I will not cry.

EMPRESS

To whom shall we entrust this greatest of our treasures?
You have no doubt thought about it. I feel that your plans
are made.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Our young Emperor has shown without knowing him, a sympathy
for the Viceroy of the South. Now he is precisely the best
situated to offer him an inviolable refuge. My advice is
that we entrust him to him.

EMPRESS [_To_ THE CHILD]

Will that please you?

THE CHILD

Yes.

EMPRESS

It was also my idea. The Viceroy is certainly still at the
palace awaiting my orders. [_To_ ARROW-BEARER] Call him
here.

[ARROW-BEARER _goes out._]

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_To the_ NURSES] Prepare for an immediate
departure. You will not leave your young master.

EMPRESS [_To_ THE CHILD]

I envy them. Would that I were to-day only your servant.

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_To the_ GUARDS]

An escort of five hundred men, well chosen and fully armed.

            [_Exit_ The GUARD]

            [_To_ WINGED PRINCE.]

Prince, you will accompany the Emperor, and as soon as he
is in safety you will return to take your place here among
us.

WINGED PRINCE

I shall prove myself worthy of your trust, my preparations
will be brief. [_He goes out._]

To your posts now, noble defenders of the Son of Heaven.
We are always ready for war, I know it But let us make
ourselves still stronger. Let us brace up our courage, let
us prepare our hearts----Let messengers be sent out at
once to discover exactly the position and importance of the
army which is marching against us. [_The_ EMPRESS _gives a
signal_] You may take your leave.

            [_The_ SOLDIERS _go out one after another, with
            a genuflection._]

EMPRESS [_To_ THE CHILD]

I gaze upon you to engrave on my memory your adorable
features. I fill my eyes with them, just as if I did not
already know every detail, every line; but they are going
from me----I would wish to have them carved in marble, and
memory is as unstable as water.



SCENE XIII


_The same_, WINGED PRINCE _returns hurriedly._


WINGED PRINCE [_To_ FAITHFUL PRINCE.]

A courier has just arrived and brings strange news.

EMPRESS

What is it now?

WINGED PRINCE

The Viceroy of the South sends to explain to your Majesty
that the reason that he was unable to reach the palace for
the ceremony to which he was invited was because he was
taken prisoner at the moment when he was about to enter
Nanking.

EMPRESS

But the Viceroy came here!

WINGED PRINCE

That was not the real Viceroy.

EMPRESS

Not the real Viceroy?

WINGED PRINCE

He was imprisoned on a ship, but no harm came to him, and
he was treated with every consideration-----His letter
explains how he escaped.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Treated with every consideration! What does that imply? The
spies of the Tsings are less generous.

WINGED PRINCE

The Viceroy sent this courier in all haste; he awaits
orders to come and prostrate himself at the foot of the
throne and sue for pardon.

EMPRESS

Then that man who was here?----Oh, in what frightful web
are we now caught?----And I was about to entrust my son to
that unknown man!-----I ordered him to remain here. Run,
perhaps he has not yet gone.

ARROW-BEARER [_Returning_]

The pavilion is empty. This silk scroll was placed so as to
attract immediate attention.

EMPRESS [_excitedly_]

Give it to me!----[ARROW-BEARER _gives the scroll to_
FAITHFUL PRINCE, _who gives it to the_ EMPRESS. _Aside._]
In my dream----The serpent that coiled about me----Ah!
It was he! [_She steps aside to read._] Verses!----In my
trouble, I shall scarce be able to read them. And then the
meaning seems so mysterious. [_To_ THE OFFICERS _standing
nearest to her._] Let twenty horsemen be sent out at once
in all directions, pursue him. Let the neighbouring towns
be searched as well. A hundred thousand taels to him who
brings that man back to me. Go!----[_To_ FAITHFUL PRINCE
_handing him the silken scroll._] Read it to me Faithful
Prince.

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_reading_]

    Beneath my mask I kept a secret watch on you.
      You saw my face, but not my features true;
    You heard my words, but not my secret heart.
      The day will come when I shall throw away the mask,
      Play your good angel's part,
    And all shall bow beneath the conquering dragon's task.

The traitor is a fine scholar, but he does not unmask his
identity.

WINGED PRINCE [_To_ THE CHILD]

Your Majesty must no longer keep about your neck like a
relic a present given you by an impostor.

THE CHILD [_Excitedly_]

But I will keep it. I thought of my dead father when I saw
that man, and when he told me that he would like to have me
for a son, he was keeping back his tears.

EMPRESS

The instinct of children does not mislead them-----nor
can I believe, either, that the unknown visitor meant us
harm----Let us wait awhile before we begin to hate him.

            [_She stretches out her hand and takes the poem
            which she places next to her heart._]



SCENE XIV


_The Same_. THE WOMEN, _and_ ARROW-BEARER


FIRST NURSE

All the preparations are completed.

ARROW-BEARER

The escort is ready.

EMPRESS [_Embracing her son_]

Yes, but to whom will you now entrust your Emperor? Let
us take time to think at least----Or perhaps, since there
is such immediate need, you have deceived me, and we are
surrounded? Where is the Tartar army? I am not an idol shut
up in a shrine. Let me be told the truth!----Where is this
army?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Very near and in great force----The messengers will bring
us details this evening----In order not to cloud the
brow of your Majesty during the glorious days of your
investiture we have deceived you it is true. Forgive us!

EMPRESS

I understand----but now my son, to whom is he to be
entrusted?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Still to the Viceroy of the South, to the real, one we
may trust him. His devotion of ten years has stood all
tests. So we must now march to meet him, and without
losing an hour he must re-trace his steps toward Yunnan
with his precious charge. To this end the start must
be made instantly, so that the two escorts may meet
before nightfall. [_To_ WINGED PRINCE] Prince, until
further orders, remain with the Emperor. Keep up constant
communication with the frontier, and on the first alarm
take the child out of the Empire.

EMPRESS

And every day a courier must bring me news, as long as the
roads are free about our walls and our gates are open.

WINGED PRINCE

I shall attend to all, relying on none other than myself.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

And we all know the value of your watchfulness.

            [_One of the officers who left previously at
            the command of the_ EMPRESS _returns hastily._]

OFFICER

The horsemen have returned----The fugitives have been seen,
the man and his accomplice. They were riding horses which
devoured the ground. One of those swift ships such as are
used by the Western Barbarian was awaiting them at the
water's edge. It is bearing them along at present with the
speed of lightning. All pursuit would be futile.

EMPRESS

I was prepared for that----He would not permit himself
to be captured like an ordinary fugitive!----No, I knew
that he would carry away with him the mystery which he was
pleased to keep up here.

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_To The_ EMPRESS.]

Your Majesty, the time has come, we must hasten.

EMPRESS

Yes, I am ready----Only one instant, one last minute! [_She
conducts the little_ Emperor _to the throne, on which she
seats him._] Permit me to render to the Son of Heaven the
homage which is his due. [_She kneels._] May your life be
happy and long, your reign peaceful and prosperous! [_She
bows three times._] May your dynasty endure eternally.

            [_The men and the nurses prostrate themselves._]

THE CHILD [_on the verge of tears_]

I promised that I would not cry.

EMPRESS

In triumph and glory may you come back to us soon! [_She
rises._ THE CHILD _descends from the throne, approaches
the_ EMPRESS, _and kneels in turn_]

THE CHILD

Mother, tell me, I am not going for long, am I?

EMPRESS

            [_Stooping and embracing her son passionately_]

No, my best beloved, no----only for a few days if the gods
whom I implore will it so!-----Have courage sweet little
flower----[_To the_ NURSES] Now go!

            [_The_ NURSES _lead away the little_ EMPEROR.
            _He keeps his gaze fixed on his mother until
            he is out of sight._]



SCENE XV


_The_ EMPRESS, _the_ FAITHFUL PRINCE, _and several_
LADIES-IN-WAITING.

            [THE EMPRESS _watches him disappear, and then
            mounts the steps of the terrace to get a last
            glimpse of him, and when he is out of sight
            she cries aloud in her anguish, wringing her
            hands._]

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Noble Sovereign, have courage.

EMPRESS

Ah, no, leave me. I am at the end of my strength!-----I
played the Empress, did I not, as long as my child was
here?----Now that he is gone, let me be a woman, let me
be his mother!----I shall never again see him whom you
have just taken away from me. Never, do you hear? I feel
it, I know it! Since we are above ordinary beings, may
Heaven be just to us and give us superhuman strength! Why
have we hearts like other people, and anguish which breaks
them?----Ah, the very beggar-women in rags in the street
are less miserable! No handsome spy comes to them, to make
their souls falter, and then flees-and after that their
children are not taken away from them!----Your Empress
would rather be a beggar, hungry and cold, but clasping
her little one to her breast-----Yes, a beggar I tell you,
who holds out her hand to passers-by as she sits on the
steps of a temple!----[_Sobbing, she throws herself on the
terrace steps._]

CURTAIN



ACT THREE.


            [_Before the curtain rises, shots are heard.
            It is nightfall in the Imperial Citadel at
            Nanking, half battered-down by the_ TARTARS.
            _Behind a huge wall with battlements are
            heard the sound of trumpets and the shouts
            of soldiers in the distance. At the back, to
            the left is a bronze gate, heavily boarded
            and surmounted by a black turret with a
            three-tiered angular roof. In the middle of
            the stage is a funeral pile of scaffolding
            and fagots. At the back, to the right, the
            crenellated wall continues; terraces are
            visible and in the far distance the outline of
            the palace stands out in relief against the
            sky, yellow in the setting sun. On the top of
            the wall, and over the gateway are Chinese
            soldiers, who are firing their last shots at
            the invisible besiegers._]



SCENE I


THE EMPRESS, _the_ FAITHFUL PRINCE, ARROW-BEARER, _the_
LADIES-IN-WAITING, CHINESE SOLDIERS.


[_Wounded men are lying in their own blood here and there
among the ruins. The_ EMPRESS _is in the middle of the
stage, accoutred like a warrior, helmeted, holding a weapon
in her bleeding hand. The_ FAITHFUL PRINCE _is on the top
of the rampart with the_ SOLDIERS. ARROW-BEARER, _mortally
wounded, lies in the foreground to the left._]

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_From the height of the ramparts giving
orders to cease fire_] Enough, my brave friends!----Stop
shooting down the fugitives----Let us keep our powder for
the final attack.

        [_The soldiers cease firing._]

They have fled, once again we are saved!----

EMPRESS

Ah! Saved, yes!----Saved for a few minutes at least. We
have time to meditate before death. [_She sits on a stone.
To the_ LADIES-IN-WAITING _who flock about her._] Look now
to those who are suffering. I need nothing, only my hand is
bleeding, that does not matter----See what they need, go
to their aid; you have the poison in the tiny flasks, have
you not?

LADIES-IN-WAITING

[_Showing her the golden flasks which they carry in the
folds of their dress, on to each of which is attached a
little cup of jade._] We have them, noble Sovereign.

EMPRESS

That which they most desire, no doubt, is death----Pour
out the draught of the Great Deliverance for those who
are suffering the most----Be sparing with it, however,
for, alas! we have not enough for all. The contents of
the little cup of jade chained to the flask is sufficient
for one man, it is the proper dose. Go, my devoted maids,
bring them sleep. That is your duty in this hour. [_To_
CINNAMON.] And you, Cinnamon, remain near me, you shall
pour out my portion----Place your flask on the stone, very
near me, with my Imperial cup.

[CINNAMON _obeys. The other_ Ladies-in-Waiting _go among
the wounded, leaning over them and offering them the potion
in a low voice. In the distance firing is still heard._]

GOLDEN LOTUS

[_Very gently to_ ARROW-BEARER, _whom she approaches at
once_]

My lord, do you wish to die? Then I shall empty the cup
also soon after you----Do you wish to die?

ARROW-BEARER [_After a silence and as if in a trance_]

No, my fair trembling flower, my fair flower of the
lake!----Before you came to me, I wished it----Now I wish
it no longer. Let me remain for a little while among the
living, to cherish in my heart that word of love which you
have just spoken. Help those who are suffering more than I,
without a friend----and then you will return and I shall
rest my head on your knees before going to the Land of the
Shades.

GOLDEN LOTUS

It shall be as you command, dear lord----Be sure I will
return to you.

            [_She goes to the assistance of the other
            wounded, followed by the gaze of the dying_
            ARROW-BEARER. _The soldiers in the foreground
            add beams, fagots, and branches to the funeral
            pile. A tumult is heard to the right, in the
            wings, where more soldiers come on._]

EMPRESS

Who is there?

CAPTAIN OF SOLDIERS

It is our envoy Wan-tsi who has succeeded in approaching
our walls and will bring us the news from without. We have
thrown down the rope-ladder to him, and here he is.

EMPRESS

Ah!----Let him come. [_To the soldiers who stand behind her
and are adding to the fire._] Rest awhile my friends! There
is more than enough now to consume my body----Why do you
make the fire so large?

CAPTAIN

Why do we want so large a fire?----Faithful Prince will
tell your Majesty, when he presents our last request.



SCENE II


_The same, with the_ ENVOY WAN-TSI, _who approaches
the_ EMPRESS. _His shoes and the hem of his robe are
blood-stained. He prostrates himself._

EMPRESS

Arise, we have no further need of prostrations. We
are all equal here. There is but one rank now, that
which is conferred on all alike by the nobility of
sacrifice. [WAN-TSI _rises._] Now, speak----spare me
nothing----Besides I guess----

WAN-TSI

Ah, yes, all is over, Oh, my Sovereign. Only your Palace
still stands.

EMPRESS

But not for long!

WAN-TSI

The approaches to the walls have been abandoned. Perchance
they may permit us to live until to-night has ended.

EMPRESS

And the rest of the city, the western citadels?

WAN-TSI

Are in the hands of the Tartars. All alike!----This cast
off uniform of some enemy saved me----In the streets they
are burning, killing, and murdering. Several thousand women
have succeeded in throwing themselves into the river----The
others have been outraged, and strangled at the same time.
Blood flows along the pavement in streams like the water
of Heaven after a storm. Every gutter discharges itself
in the river like a great red fan. Down the whole length
of the street corpses are to be seen, their bodies still
warm, pouring blood through the gashes in their throats----
Noble Sovereign, on my way I climbed over thousands of
dead bodies, my feet became entangled in their long hair
trailing from the several heads----Oh Majesty, it is the
end. [_He kneels again._] And now forgive me for being the
messenger of misfortune.

EMPRESS

My brave and faithful messenger, I thank you! Arise, I
told you, and take your place among my last remaining
soldiers----

            [WAN-TSI _rises and takes his place among the
            soldiers, who still continue to add fuel to the
            fire. To_ CINNAMON, _pointing to the flask and
            the golden cup._]

Cinnamon, the hour has come.

CINNAMON

Oh Majesty, not yet. [_The other_ LADIES-IN-WAITING,
_scattered among the wounded, have heard the command and
silently come and take their places about their Sovereign._]

EMPRESS

Would you wish to have them take me alive? That man who has
seen, you have heard what he has just said.

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

But the palace is still standing.

PEARL

The army of the South may come to save us.

EMPRESS

To avenge us perhaps----later. But to save us-----child,
who think you could save us? [_To herself._] Ah, that
mysterious aid for which I have so foolishly hoped!----"The
Star," said the handsome lying spy, "the star which shall
watch over me so well when all shall bow before the triumph
of the Dragon." Child, who think you could save us?-----We
have no more powder, no more men, no water, nothing. We
have hurled down the stones of our ramparts; the gates give
way, the walls are crumbling----[_To_ CINNAMON] Give it to
me, the hour has come.

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

Sometimes when one believes all lost, fortune changes.

PEARL

Beloved sovereign, hasten not the irretrievable.

EMPRESS

The irretrievable would be to wait too long!

            [_She makes an imperious sign to_ CINNAMON,
            _who pours the poison into the cup. But an
            uproar is heard from the summit of the rampart
            to which the_ FAITHFUL PRINCE _has just
            mounted again above the barricaded gate. Night
            continues to fall_]

What is it now?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

A small body of Tartars has boldly come unarmed to the
very foot of the walls. One of them, whose manner is calm
and noble, says that he has been sent by the Emperor with
a last communication to your Majesty. He showed us, under
the light of a torch which we lit, the Imperial seal of the
Tsings, of a scroll of yellow silk.

EMPRESS

A communication? From the usurper to your Sovereign, a
communication? Is not the very idea an insult? Let these
bold men go away unharmed, but tell them to go at once.

[CINNAMON _gradually retires with her cup of poison._]

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Descending again from the ramparts and
approaching the_ EMPRESS _with an air of mystery._] The one
whose bearing is so dignified, I seem to have seen before.

EMPRESS

To have seen him. Where?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

[_Coming nearer and lowering his voice_] My sovereign,
I think----that unknown, who came the day of the
investiture----I am sure of it--It is he!

EMPRESS

[_Arising bewildered_] Why do you whisper?-----Prince,
you almost insult me with that tone of confidence, when
it concerns that man. You mean him who presented himself
fraudulently as our Viceroy of the South?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Yes.

EMPRESS

Very well then, have him brought here. Throw the
rope-ladder to him that he may appear before me. [_The
ladder is thrown from the top of the wall._]

Hide the poison, Cinnamon, and the golden flask as well. He
who is coming need not know.... Has the fire darkened my
face?

            [_The newcomers appear at the top of the
            rampart, the_ TARTAR EMPEROR _first, followed
            by_ FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST _and three other
            persons in Tartar soldiers' uniform, but
            unarmed._]



SCENE III


_The_ TARTAR EMPEROR _and The_ EMPRESS


[_The_ EMPEROR _advances while the four men of his suite
remain in the rear. At a signal from the_ EMPRESS, _the_
LADIES-IN-WAITING _and all others on the stage retire to
the back._]

EMPEROR

[_Bending the knee before her, as on the Coronation day_]
Oh, Sovereign, oh, brave warrior, may the day dawn which
will brighten your dark destiny! [_He rises._]

EMPRESS [_Trembling_]

Oh, dispense with all vain formalities. The minutes
left to us are sparingly numbered----Drop the mask and
speak quickly. Who are you? A Tartar, alas! are you not?
Otherwise you would have been unable to break through their
ring of steel----A Tartar, say?

EMPEROR

Yes.

EMPRESS

A spy, then, when you came on my Coronation day? Nothing
but a spy, alas!

EMPEROR

No! One who risked his life that day, as he does again, to
save yours.

EMPRESS

My life is no longer of any importance, and the right to
save it belongs to none. At the Court of the Usurper who
reigns at Peking what position is I yours?----Secret agent
for venturesome missions? No, a great dignitary, then? Tell
me.

EMPEROR

Yes.

EMPRESS

And a Prince?

EMPEROR

What matters it what I am? Your Majesty is the chief
concern. Deign to listen to what the Emperor----

EMPRESS [_Interrupting_]

Where is your Emperor? At the head of his troops?

EMPEROR [_Embarrassed_]

Well----No, in his place over yonder. The rites, I need
scarcely tell you, do not permit him to leave it.

            [_Throughout this dialogue the cannon is heard
            incessantly in distant parts of the city._]

EMPRESS

The rites, ah, the rites! You see what attention I have
paid to the rites, I, the daughter of the Mings, the
daughter of Heaven and the Invisible----I am here in the
midst of my soldiers. I am fighting like them!----And it is
he, your phantom Emperor, who dares to send me a message?

EMPEROR

With a message of pardon one always dares----

EMPRESS

Say rather that a message of pardon is the last message
which may be sent when it is from him and concerns
me!----So the Tartars dare to offer pardon!----You have
just passed through my city of Nanking and you have seen?
It is glorious, is it not, their work?----

EMPEROR

Alas! yes, I have seen with horror,----but I can swear to
you by my life that such were not the orders which were
given by my Sovereign.

EMPRESS

Ah! a Sovereign then, who has not the force wherewith
to command obedience!----So others have told me that
before----I still hate him with that ineradicable
race-hatred which you know, to which now contempt is
added. Oh, that Emperor who smokes opium in his mummy's
palace, while his hordes of soldiers at their own free will
go through the provinces, leaving red tracks behind and
charnel-houses for the vultures!

And if the impossible were to happen and I were to
humiliate myself sufficiently to accept his pardon, who
would warrant me after all--since he is not obeyed? Amid
that army of wild beasts which was here awhile ago and will
return soon to shout for our death, who could enforce the
order of pardon of your phantom Emperor?----Who, I ask?

EMPEROR

I!

EMPRESS

You! [_More gently and in some agitation._] You! Perhaps in
very truth you might, for you seem to be one of those whom
one dare not disobey. Moreover you have the superb audacity
to reappear at this moment! But if the loyalty which I read
in your eyes does not deceive me, cease the game which you
are playing, and this time answer-----Who are you?

EMPEROR

Who am I? Up to now nothing! Inexistent as a vaporous
cloud! Nothing! But to-morrow perhaps everything, if you so
wish it. To-morrow everything and radiating at your side
like a sun in the blue ether----

EMPRESS [_Drawing back_]

Ah, you remember all too well my recent indulgence toward
your enigmas. Amid the perfume of incense, amid pomp and
luxury, I betrayed the weakness of a woman. To-day, no; you
find me stronger and more stern, precisely because I am
defeated, and know that I must die.

EMPEROR [_Bowing before her_]

Oh, Sovereign, never were you more sacred to me Do not be
offended by my words and for a short time still allow me my
mask and my mystery. Hear only this: A fortnight ago, when
I left that palace where I saw you in all your Imperial
splendour, I hastened to Peking to request of that Emperor
whom you hate that he would stop this horrible war. On the
way I learned that our Tartar armies were marching with
lightning speed, and I turned back as quick as my ship and
horses could take me, to give to them myself the order for
peace. I have the right to do so. See, here is the seal
which gives me full power in the name of Tsings. As you
have said, I am one of those whom men dare not disobey; at
least, not face to face, when I speak----I have learned now
how to give orders and to enforce them. Deign only to allow
your soldiers to give the signal for a truce, just to hoist
the flag on the tower, and not one of their heads shall
fall, I swear it----

EMPRESS

To make that offer to me, Prince, you must not be of the
Imperial blood----The Daughter of Heaven can never accept
the mercy of a Tartar!----



SCENE IV.


_The same,_ FAITHFUL PRINCE, A WATCHMAN, _the_ CAPTAIN _of
the_ SOLDIERS, _and the_ SOLDIERS.


WATCHMAN

[_Announcing from the height of a turret at the summit of
the ramparts_] An army, see, over there. The Tartars are
returning! Thousands and thousands of them. In the distance
they appear in the twilight like a long black trail----

FAITHFUL PRINCE

How far?

WATCHMAN

At the bend of the river, I can see their vanguard-----They
are marching along the avenue of Sitche-Men.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Let them come----It will be their last attack-----Only at
the bend of the river. Then we have still half an hour----

WATCHMAN

They are lighting their torches, and now I hear their
war-trumpets.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Be it so!----We shall be ready.

EMPEROR [_Imploring her with clasped hands_]

Sovereign!

_The_ EMPRESS [_As though ready to yield_]

For myself, no!----I have declared my intentions, that is
my last word!----[_Pointing to her_ SOLDIERS.] But all
these brave men, who are ready to drop with exhaustion,
with hunger and thirst----[_To_ FAITHFUL PRINCE] Ah, well,
for their sakes, yes, let us raise the flag of truce.

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Incredulously_]

The flag of truce!

EMPRESS

Yes, I have said so, oh, noble subject! I have said it!-My
death alone must be sufficient satisfaction for the enemy.
Since there is no more hope, of what avail is this final
slaughter? Let the signal be raised.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Not one of the warriors will yield.

EMPRESS

But if I command them!----Am I no longer their Empress?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Submissive to your every command, they refuse to obey that
one order.

EMPRESS [_To her_ SOLDIERS]

Can it be true----My friends, this instant I command it,
do you hear me?----Oh, spare me this excess of anguish,
my dear rebels!----You cannot wish that I should be
transported into the other world along the stream of your
blood----

            [_The_ SOLDIERS _drop their heads and stand
            motionless, holding their weapons._]

CAPTAIN OF SOLDIERS. [_After a silence_] Majesty, the
Prince has already answered for all of us! We emphatically
refuse to ask for a truce.

EMPRESS [_Turning towards the_ EMPEROR _in a sudden
exultation of triumph._] Ah, you see I am like your TARTAR
EMPEROR; I am not obeyed. Go tell him, report to your
master----and at the same time you may tell him that we
know how to die nobly in the palace of the Mings. Go, my
lord, you may take your leave.

EMPEROR [_Imploring more insistently_]

Sovereign, what if I now were to implore your pardon----the
right to remain here and die at your side?

EMPRESS

I grant the honour of dying at the side of the Empress,
only to those brave men--who are of my race, do you
understand?----and who have spilled their blood to defend
me. Go, my lord, I have commanded you.

[_Coming toward him, speaking very low and quickly, like a
desperate woman._] One more word, however----My son, who
is still in the keeping of the army of the South----My
son----since you seem to dare all and to have all power
will you try to save him?----But no----when it is the
mother who speaks in me I can no longer reason-----To
attempt that would mean to be a traitor to the master whom
you serve----

EMPEROR

I serve no master, I am above treason, free as the gods,
and answerable to my own conscience only. I will try----I
will live to try.

EMPRESS

Do so, and be this your reward----Later, among the clouds,
where all the dead meet and are at peace----my shades
shall not be hostile to yours-----Now go, my lord, our
last moments are necessary to us----[_To_ FAITHFUL PRINCE,
_making a sign to him to conduct the_ TARTAR EMPEROR.]
Prince, the audience is at an end.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

[_To the_ EMPEROR, _who hesitates, as if on the point of
making a decisive revelation_] Go, my lord. You have heard
our sovereign dismiss you.

            [_He wants to lead him to that part of the wall
            where he ascended_]

EMPRESS. [_Indicating the bronze gate, barricaded by
boards_] No, open that gate. We still have time. For the
last time, I desire that my palace be left as if I still
had liberty and power----Open it. [_The_ SOLDIERS _hasten
to take away the boards and open the two doors of the
gateway._] All honour must be accorded the messenger of
peace.

            [_The_ SOLDIERS _kneel, the gong and the
            trumpets are sounded._]

EMPEROR

Yes, messenger of peace, in spite of you yourself and in
all circumstance. [_Turning about, facing her and speaking
like one inspired._] The dragon will descend from the
height of the dark storm clouds----and in his claws he will
gently pick up, in her own despite, the beautiful phoenix
who wished to die----

            [_He goes out, followed by the four_ TARTAR
            _warriors. The_ Soldiers _barricade the gate
            again with planks and stones._]



SCENE V.


_The same, without the_ EMPEROR _and the_ TARTARS.


The EMPRESS, [_as the_ LADIES-IN-WAITING _gather about
her._] Who is that man----who is so like a god?

PEARL

All of a tremble, we watched him from afar----

TRANQUIL BEAUTY

His eyes radiated noble love.

CINNAMON

Yet your Majesty, always so gentle to us, seemed very
haughty towards him.

EMPRESS. [_Without replying, dreamily repeats the
Coronation admonition._] Be attentive and anxious as if you
carried a vase filled to the brim with water, of which not
a drop must be spilled.

The WATCHMAN [_From the height of the turret over the
gate_] The torches of their vanguard can be seen at the
corner of the Avenue of the East-----The sound of their
artillery-wagons can be faintly heard----

EMPRESS

Already at the corner of the Avenue of the East!-----Death
is flying to us on wings [_She takes the cup full of poison
which_ CINNAMON _had hidden behind a stone_] The hour has
come!----[_To the_ LADIES-IN-WAITING _around her, pointing
to the pyre._] As soon as the potion has accomplished its
work, you will place me there, and when the flame mounts
higher and clearer, then your service to your Empress will
be terminated, you will empty the golden flask, to follow
me. [_She puts down the cup of poison which she was about
to raise to her lips._] Faithful Prince, I wish to say
good-bye to him----Call him.

            [_During the preceding dialogue, the_ FAITHFUL
            PRINCE, _at the back of the stage, a torch in
            his hand, superintends a group of_ SOLDIERS,
            _who are using crowbars and pickaxes._]

CINNAMON

Over yonder, is that not he?

            [FAITHFUL PRINCE _orders the_ SOLDIERS _to
            remove a rock, which hides a small bronze
            door._]

EMPRESS

Ah, I knew----

PEARL

What is he doing?

EMPRESS

What must be done! He too, realising that the hour has come
for me to go to my last sleep, is preparing my couch. These
galleries beneath the earth lead to my tomb.

            [_The bronze door opens._ PEARL _kneels and
            hides her face._ GOLDEN LOTUS, _a little apart
            from the group, is kneeling near_ ARROW-BEARER,
            _and speaks tenderly to him, as she smooths his
            forehead._]

This proud tomb, long ago hewn out secretly, is of no
use now. There rather, there in the beautiful flame
and the eddying smoke, my spirit will ascend to the
clouds----Nothing of me shall remain for the hands of the
Tartar to profane. In vain they will have surrounded me. I
shall escape them, in the air----

TRANQUIL BEAUTY [_Also kneeling_]

But Sovereign, since this tomb is secret and is
inviolable, at least permit your attendants to bury you
there, in magnificence.----Permit that, oh, well beloved
Sovereign;----That flame, oh, why that flame? No, no, it is
too horrible.

EMPRESS

Child, do you not know the history of our race? My
ancestor, defeated in this same place, defeated as I am,
killed himself----An hour later his tomb was violated, his
body was thrown into the street as food for the dogs and
the vultures----I have declared my will. Go call Faithful
Prince. He wastes his strength in a vain task, when he is
bleeding. See, the blood covers his robe. His wound has
reopened, he pays no heed to it. At least let him spare
time to bid me farewell----Go, it is my wish. [TRANQUIL
BEAUTY _rises and goes over to the PRINCE. During the
preceding dialogue, he has been ordering the_ SOLDIERS _to
light more torches and to carry them into the vault._]

TRANQUIL BEAUTY [_Advancing to_ FAITHFUL PRINCE]

Prince!----The Empress----

            [FAITHFUL PRINCE _approaches the_ EMPRESS.]



SCENE VI.


_The_ EMPRESS, FAITHFUL PRINCE, TRANQUIL BEAUTY, _The_
CAPTAIN _of the_ SOLDIERS, _A_ WATCHMAN.


EMPRESS [_To_ FAITHFUL PRINCE]

Prince, I wish to bid you farewell. My last spoken word
must be to you, with my everlasting gratitude.

            [_She raises the poison-cup to her lips._]

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_With a gesture as though to stop her._]

No, my Divine Empress, no. The hour of rest, alas! has
not come for you or for me. No, your hard task is not yet
completed!----

EMPRESS

My task, you say, is not yet completed? But the palace
is only a ruin. The gates are giving way, the walls are
crumbling----This time we can withstand the attack only ten
minutes----it is the end!----

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Alas, I know it all too well. There is no hope.

EMPRESS

Then let me go----the Tartars are returning. Listen, I too
begin to hear their war-trumpets. You would not have that
they should take your Empress alive, or even find her body
to throw to the crows.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Hear me, I entreat you!----[_He motions to_ VEILED-LIGHT,
_who has just appeared at the back. The_ EMPRESS _has set
down the cup on a stone._] We have deferred making known to
you the last heroic service which we purpose to demand----
Permit your Councillor to convey to you our unanimous
opinion.

VEILED-LIGHT [_Bending the knee_]

Oh, Majesty, 200,000 soldiers have died for you. The few
hundred, also, who remain here within our walls, are about
to sacrifice their lives at once. Do you wish them to
die for a lost cause. [_He motions to the_ CHIEF _of the
Soldiers to approach._] Deign to permit their chief to add
his prayers to ours.

_The_ CAPTAIN _of the_ SOLDIERS, [_After bending the knee._]

Proudly and without regret we give up our lives for our
Sovereign----May she too do what we have learned to expect
of her marvellous courage, a thousand times greater than
that of her humble defenders.

VEILED-LIGHT

Oh, Majesty, we must envy these men who are about to die so
gloriously. Our duty is otherwise; it is longer, it is more
terrible.

EMPRESS

Our duty longer and more terrible?----Then what do you
expect of me? Speak, what would you say. Your Empress will
obey you, but speak at once, I do not understand. [_She
takes again the golden cup._]

FAITHFUL PRINCE

What we must do, my beloved Sovereign, is to flee and live.

EMPRESS [_Violently_]

Ah, no! All that you have demanded of me I have done, but I
refuse to take flight like a coward.

VEILED-LIGHT

To flee, alas! yes. But to escape from the enemy, to
deprive them of the prize of war----and thus their success
will be but failure. Soon the blood of our heroes will
inspire other heroes. A new army will rally to the cause of
the Daughter of Heaven, and the war will begin again.

EMPRESS

And more blood will be spilt----and the ravaged country
will people the realm of the shades----No, no, enough of
death's----I fear to have my reign handed down as that of
a fatal and murderous Sovereign. All this blood! All this
blood spilled for me! It seems to me that my very hands are
red with it!

FAITHFUL PRINCE

The blood of your subjects is inexhaustible, and their
devotion is limitless.

EMPRESS [_Suddenly becoming very calm and as though
beseeching_]

But my courage is exhausted. [_Pointing to the Soldiers,
who are piling wood upon the fire._] I want to die with
them.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Live, that their death may not have been in vain. Live to
bring back our young Emperor, whom the Army of the South is
protecting for us. Live for us all and for him.

EMPRESS

My son! Oh, speak not that name. Do not, to influence me,
do not try to touch upon that string, that alone I forbid
you touch. At the very moment when you tore him from me,
I had an intuition that I should never see him again,
never again gaze upon his dear little face, his beautiful
eyes----I have courage to listen to all except when you
speak to me of him,----for then, do you not see, I become
again a mother, nothing but a mother, like other women,
and I have no longer, no longer the strength.-[_She turns
her head and begins to sob._] Oh, not to belong to one's
self, not even to be allowed to lay down on the roadside
the burden of one's life!----To be the impersonal idol of
a whole people, to be dealt with in accordance with their
will! To be a wretched fetish, whom all watch as carefully
as the tablets of their ancestors on the family altar!----

FAITHFUL PRINCE

You are the shining standard, the ever-radiant goddess,
toward whom we turn in our supreme distress----and you will
do what millions of your subjects demand of you, through
the mouths of these few brave men who are about to die.

THE WATCHMAN [_from the height of the turret,_] He hurls
himself against their vanguard, the man who was here just
now, the Messenger of peace----with the three others who
accompanied him. He hurls himself against their vanguard
as though to make them halt. Yes, he wishes them to stop,
that is it. And he seems to command like a master, and to
inspire them with fear.

EMPRESS [_To the_ Watchman]

So! Let not that man's name be mentioned again to me. And
you, poor Watchman, whose task is finished, you may come
down and join your brothers in arms, to die with them. Of
what concern to us now are the movements of the Tartars?
We are no longer of this world. [_To_ Faithful Prince] But
how, then, is what you asked of me possible?----Surrounded
on all sides, how and whither can we flee. Where can we
hide? Where?

            [_The_ Soldiers, _having loosened the rock, are
            standing in front of the bronze door, still
            holding their crowbars and pickaxes. They have
            an air of expectancy._]

FAITHFUL PRINCE

There in the tomb. On the cement lying all ready now to
seal the rocks we shall throw dust----as soon you shall
have entered.----

The EMPRESS [_After a silence, speaking slowly, submissive
and very melancholy_] In my grave entombed alive! Be it so!
And after that?----

FAITHFUL PRINCE

There is a subterranean passage, which passes through the
vaults where your father and your husband sleep. You know,
as I do, that its end opens out upon brushwood in the
country, at the foot of the Hill of Tortures.

EMPRESS

[_Quickly and breathlessly_] If it is not already
obstructed by the soil, yes! And all about the Hill of
Tortures the Tartars are encamped.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

We will wait until they are no longer there.

EMPRESS

And shall we have sufficient air in this vault, where sleep
our dead?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Yes, I believe so----but let us take this potion with us
which you wished to drink a while ago.

EMPRESS [_Very excitedly_]

And if the Tartars take us there, if they track us like
beasts of the night, hunted into their burrows? Remember
how they violated the tomb of my ancestor.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

It was not secret, like yours.

EMPRESS [_Still in great excitement_]

And, clothes wherewith to escape through the country where
the enemy roams at large? [_Pointing to her uniform._] Not
these, for sure?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Some taken from the enemy will serve admirably----The
ground must be covered with them.

EMPRESS

Rags torn from some festering corpse, is it thus you
would clothe your Empress!----So be it, even to that I
consent----But how can we live in the depths of that tomb?
Since we are not yet of the Shades, we must eat, you know
that. I divided my last grains of rice this morning with
you and my soldiers!----What then?

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Pointing to the tomb._]

The consecrated cakes there on the table of the dead.

EMPRESS

Horror and sacrilege!

VEILED-LIGHT

There is no sacrilege, when the safety of the Bright
Dynasty is at stake. The August Shades will come in person
to invite us to eat. Our sacrifice will make them indulgent
and favourable.

EMPRESS [_Slowly_]

And so I must be the one to live in the chill gloom with
no certainty of ever coming forth. I must be the one to
creep about like a ghost in the vaults peopled by phantoms,
groping my hands over the pious offerings shrivelling on
the altars of the dead----Aye, it is indeed more terrible
than dying here. But I accept it. Lead me on, I am resigned.

THE WATCHMAN [_From the top of the wall_]

The Tartars have stopped their march, a small group is
running toward us, unarmed, but carrying signs on long
poles. In spite of the darkness, it looks like a message
which grants pardon.

EMPRESS

Ha, a forced pardon----that would be more insulting still.
Bury me in my tomb, Prince, before they come.

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Pointing to_ VEILED-LIGHT]

Your Councillor and I will follow you into the tomb, and
perhaps two of these young girls if they feel brave enough
for the ordeal.



SCENE VII.


_The same, the_ LADIES-IN-WAITING.


EMPRESS

So here are my household, my court of death, and doubtless
my last retinue of mourners; just four persons! [_To the_
LADIES-IN-WAITING] Which two of you, my maidens, will have
the courage to follow me down those gloomy paths below?

LADIES-IN-WAITING [_Bowing_]

All of us, we are all ready. Your Majesty has but to deign
to name two of us.

EMPRESS [_After a pause_]

Tranquil Beauty, Cinnamon!

[TRANQUIL BEAUTY _and_ CINNAMON _approach the_ EMPRESS.]

All of you are dear to me, but I have called those who in
adversity have shown the bravest hearts. [_To the others._]
And you, my sweet flowers, so untimely faded, may the Water
of the Great Deliverance convey you easily beyond this
world through the peace of sleep.

PEARL

We have given it all to the wounded.

ANOTHER LADY

Our flasks are empty.

PEARL

The flames terrify us----but we know how to die, noble
Sovereign.

ANOTHER LADY

The Lake in the garden is deep, around the Isle of Jade.

PEARL

As soon as we have conducted your Majesty to the threshold
of the tomb we shall repair to the lake-side.

ANOTHER LADY

Deep in the mud, where we shall sleep tranquilly, The Lotus
will entwine us in her roots and we shall live again in her
flowers.

EMPRESS

[_To_ GOLDEN LOTUS, _who is seated to the left, holding in
her lap the dying_ ARROW-BEARER'S _head._] And you, Golden
Lotus?

GOLDEN LOTUS

Oh, Majesty, receive from here my last greeting-----To
leave him, to set down his head, forgive me if I have not
the courage----

            [_The trumpets and gongs of the_ Tartars _are
            heard without, with a shouting which grows
            nearer and nearer._]

EMPRESS [_To_ ARROW-BEARER _and_ GOLDEN LOTUS]

Alas, poor lovers without a to-morrow, here is the marriage
gift from your Empress. [_She pours out some poison into
her golden cup and gives it to them._] Farewell, may you
be united in the clouds. [_To_ FAITHFUL PRINCE] Let us go,
Prince, show me the way. I am ready.

_The_ CHIEF _of the_ SOLDIERS [_advancing to_ FAITHFUL
PRINCE.]

Prince, speak for us.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Your Majesty, your soldiers ask one more favour of you.

EMPRESS

Is it then in my power still to do aught for them? All, all
that they ask I will give.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

You desired to know why they were piling so much wood on
the fire. It was for themselves. They want to die before
the entrance of the Tartars, and this is the last request
that they make, that you will set the torch to their
funeral pile.

            [_The_ CHIEF _of the_ SOLDIERS _kneels, and
            hands a lighted torch to the_ EMPRESS.]

EMPRESS [_Taking the torch and addressing the_ SOLDIERS.]
My well beloved soldiers, be assured that your Empress will
soon follow you into the land of the Shades. She accepts
your request that she should flee, only that she may try
to avenge you. But if happier days smile upon the Bright
Dynasty she will refuse to live them. Before you all, she
takes this solemn vow; When once her relentless task is
at an end, she will hasten to join you in the land of the
Shades----Oh, victims that are more than men, oh, conquered
ones that wear the halo of glory! Oh, my heroic army!----A
day shall come when the story of your sublime death shall
be engraved in letters of gold on the Imperial Jade, that
posterity may weep for you. [_She sets the torch to the
pile_] and that the brightness of your funeral pile may
dazzle the world for ever!----

            [_The pile takes fire. The_ SOLDIERS _throw
            themselves into the flame as they sing._]

_The_ SOLDIERS

Long live our King! Long and happy life to our King!

            [_A cloud of black smoke envelopes them. The
            sound of an approaching gong is heard at
            regular intervals, and then the voice of a_
            TARTAR HERALD.]

THE TARTAR HERALD [_outside, in the distance._] The Command
of the Emperor! Tremble and obey!

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Hastily to the_ CAPTAIN _of the
soldiers._] Let the rock be replaced as I told you. Block
it up quick and throw earth upon the cement, and a pile of
dust. [_The_ Captain _rejoins the few men who are standing
before the tomb, still holding their crowbars and pickaxes.
The_ EMPRESS, FAITHFUL PRINCE, VEILED-LIGHT, TRANQUIL
BEAUTY, _and_ CINNAMON _go towards the bronze door. The
other_ LADIES-IN-WAITING _follow, and kneel as they
approach the door._]

EMPRESS [_At the threshold of the tomb, addressing the four
who are to enter with her._] Go in before me. I will be
the last to pass through. My funeral is this!----And then
I wish to gaze for the last time upon my heroes and my
beautiful palace yonder, still standing out in relief. [_To
the kneeling_ LADIES] Arise, my cherished maidens. Do not
delay. The lake to which you go is not near by.

            [_The_ LADIES-IN-WAITING _go out, hand-in-hand,
            and as they disappear their sobs are heard.
            The_ EMPRESS _sets foot on the threshold of the
            door and then turns round like one inspired,
            watching the flames of the pyre, which rises
            higher and higher. She raises her arms as
            though in an ecstasy._]

EMPRESS

See the glorious red flame! See the beautiful eddying
smoke. It is bright within my palace for the last time. And
I see them too, those noble souls, mounting ever higher and
higher in the dark whirling spirals of smoke!

SOLDIERS [_Singing in the flames_]

Ten thousand years! Ten thousand years.

EMPRESS [_To the_ SOLDIERS]

Go, my brave men!----Soar up on high, fly to the heaven of
your ancestors, ascend to the god of the clouds.

SOLDIERS [_More feebly_]

Ten thousand years, ten thousand years!

[_The_ TARTAR'S _gong is heard ever closer and closer._]

EMPRESS [_To the_ SOLDIERS]

I too am doomed like you, be sure of that! Only a little
later my soul will take flight. But already I am dead,
dead to all save vengeance, save the fury of battle, save
merciless hate. And now I must shut my door of bronze. [_To
the_ SOLDIERS _who hold the crowbars._] Cement it well, my
friends, to hide your Empress! Replace the heavy boulder.
Immure this living corpse in her tomb. [_She closes the
bronze door after her. The_ CAPTAIN _and the few men who
remain replace the rock, hastily piling cement and dust
upon it._]

_The Voice of the_ TARTAR HERALD [_now at the foot of the
wall_] The command of the Emperor! Tremble and obey! To all
without condition, pardon and liberty! Open your gates and
have no fear, the Emperor grants pardon to all.

_One of the_ SOLDIERS [_who is cementing the rock_] The
insult of your pardon comes too late. Before you can break
down our walls, we shall all be dead.

_Voice of_ TARTAR HERALD

Open and have no fear, our Emperor grants life to all.

ANOTHER SOLDIER

Nay, there shall not even be dead to receive your pardon,
nought but ashes!

Captain _of_ Soldiers [_as he finishes cementing the rock
against the door of the Imperial tomb_] Our beautiful
Phoenix, for want of power to spread her wings, has
vanished under the earth.

_The voices of the_ Soldiers [_becoming feebler in the
flames and smoke_] Ten thousand years to the Bright
Dynasty! Ten thousand years!

            [_The flames and smoke envelope the entire
            scene._]


CURTAIN



ACT FOUR.



First Tableau.


[_Before the curtain rises the shouts of the crowd
are heard, mingled with sound of gongs and bells. The
execution-ground under the ramparts of Peking. A colossal
grey wall with battlements, occupies the back of the stage,
and, on the left, disappears from view in the distance.
Chinese prisoners are attached to stakes all along the
wall, others are in the cangue, under a huge red signboard.
Here and there decapitated heads hang dripping from spikes.
There are bloodstains all over the ground. A noisy crowd
hurries along the front of the scene. The men wearing
modern Peking costume, long queues, blue cotton robes and
goat-skin tunics. The_ TARTAR _women, of lower-class,
wear a horn-like coiffure with large artificial flowers
in it. In the foreground, to the left, is the large tent
of the_ TARTAR GENERAL; _of greenish leather, with a
yellow roofing, surmounted by a silver bell-turret. It
is wide open. The interior is carpeted with the skins of
wild beasts; a circular table surrounds the central pole;
carpets, camp-stools, a little table, and a square banner
bearing the name of the_ GENERAL. _Guards and Soldiers,
with naked sabres. Camels are lying all around, among bales
of goods and arms. Carriages, palanquins._

_As the curtain rises, the crowd continues to shout wildly.
Vendors of hot drinks are walking about with copper
urns on their backs; barbers are ringing their bells;
blind conjurers are playing the flute, sweetmeat-pedlars
are striking gongs. The executioners in the immediate
foreground are wiping the dripping blades of their swords._]



SCENE I.


_The_ EXECUTIONERS, _the_ CROWD.

FIRST EXECUTIONER [_As he wipes his sword, speaking to two
young women standing near him_] Our arms are pretty tired,
my little beauties.

ONE WOMAN

Ah! But your arms look very strong, Master Executioner.

THE EXECUTIONER

Strong, well I don't say they are not. But all the same----

A FLOWER-PEDLAR

Imperial peonies, lotus of all kinds, every flower of the
season.

A FRUIT PEDLAR

Sweet as honey, red fruit of the mountains.

A TARTAR CHILD [_Approaching the_ EXECUTIONER.] Mr.
Executioner, do you have to strike very hard to cut off
their heads?

            [_Some men carrying a bucket full of water
            suspended on their shoulders, begin to swill
            the ground with a large wooden ladle._]

EXECUTIONER

It requires skill, my little lamb----to find just the right
place----skill and force too, of course-----Ah! I can tell
you, our business is not learnt in a day----

A SWEETMEAT-PEDLAR

[_Ringing a small bell_] They have the flavour of
sugar-cane, the sweets that I have for sale.

FRUIT-VENDOR

Ay, ay! White as tallow, white as jade, my fresh melons.

TWO BEGGARS [_Playing guitars_]

Come listen to the legend of the King of the Dragons.

[_They sing in a very shrill voice._]

Near the Bamboo Lake,
  Three owls, three owls.

SECOND EXECUTIONER

[_To some other women as he points to the prisoners tied
to stakes._] What, the second group there? Their turn will
come very soon. The Chief Executioner has given us a few
minutes' rest, and we've earned it well, haven't we? [_He
hails a pedlar of drinks and orders one for himself._]

HABERDASHER [_Striking a small bell_]

All the latest styles in my stock!----Look, young women,
look, young girls!

ONE TARTAR WOMAN [_To Another_]

Oh, I'm not one of those who take pleasure in seeing heads
cut off----and, besides, the sight is always the same. No,
it is their goddess whom I wish to see.

SECOND TARTAR WOMAN.

Their goddess?----their Empress?----Ah, and so do I. All of
us want to see their goddess. She is the one who interests
us the most.

THIRD TARTAR WOMAN

And do you suppose they will show her to you?

SECOND WOMAN

Why not? They are showing us all their generals and
princes, and all the rest of them----Prisoners are made to
be seen, that is why they were brought here to Peking.

THIRD WOMAN

Oh, yes, but she----it seems that while she was being
brought here, she was treated with every consideration
that could be shown to a queen. And the Emperor has had her
placed in the Forbidden City, you know; in his very Palace
indeed.

SECOND WOMAN

It is said that her eyes are so wonderful that ordinary
people like us cannot meet their gaze.

JASMINE-FLOWER

Yes, and I should be afraid to look at her! A woman who has
been dead--for she was dead for at least two moons, you
know!

SECOND WOMAN

Jasmine Flower believes everything that is told her.

JASMINE

Why, every one knows that she was dead----For two moons, I
tell you! She spent two moons in her grave.

FRUIT-VENDOR

Ay, ay, white as tallow, white as jade, new melon!

FIRST WOMAN

It is well known that bullets and grapeshot passed through
her as through a ghost. [_Seeing a_ CAPTAIN _of the_
SOLDIERS, _who is standing near._] There, ask Lee-Phuang,
who was there when she was taken. Isn't it true,
Lee-Phuang?

LEE-PHUANG

Oh, yes, I was a witness myself. The bullets could not
touch this goddess of theirs!

_Two subordinate_ OFFICERS

            [_leading to the execution-ground a new group
            of Chinese prisoners, with hands tied behind
            them, among whom bringing up the rear, is the_
            FAITHFUL PRINCE, _his garments all stained and
            torn._]

Make room, make room!

            [_The prisoners pass along to join the others
            who are awaiting their turn to be beheaded at
            the foot of the wall._]

LEE-PHUANG. [_To the_ WOMEN _who questioned him_] You see
the last one in the line, look at him, the one who walks
with so haughty an air? He is the greatest chief of the
Nanking rebels. His name is the Faithful Prince, he was the
right hand of the Goddess in battle, he was always at her
side.

HABERDASHER [_Striking his bell_]

All the latest styles in my stock! Look young women, have a
look, young girls!



SCENE II.


FAITHFUL PRINCE. _The_ TARTAR GENERAL


_The_ TARTAR GENERAL [_coming out of his tent and
saluting_ FAITHFUL PRINCE, _who brings up the rear of the
last group of condemned men._]

Enter here, noble captive. Look not over yonder. Each man
should die but once, and you would die each time you saw a
head fall. Is it not punishment enough for you to be the
last of all the victims?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Perhaps my presence may strengthen my poor soldiers, so
simple in their heroism.

TARTAR GENERAL

No, no, your suffering only adds to their pain-----Grant a
loyal enemy the great honour of passing the last minutes of
your glorious life in his tent. You are now above worldly
trivialities and implacable hates.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

The sword is not responsible, not even the executioner.

TARTAR GENERAL

Nor yet even the General!

            [_The new prisoners are tied to the stake._]

FAITHFUL PRINCE

I bear no malice.

            [_He enters the tent with the Tartar General._]

TARTAR GENERAL

And I make no boast. I know that the sages disapprove of
war and hold that the work of the conqueror amounts to no
more than the dust of ten thousand skeletons----

FAITHFUL PRINCE

And that those who triumph deserve no more than the honour
of a funeral.

TARTAR GENERAL

Yes, the glory of arms is indeed but the smoke of a fire!
[_They seat themselves on camp-stools, and rice wine
is served to them. Throughout the following dialogue
executions are in progress in the foreground, amid
the shouts of the crowd. Every minute the sword of an
executioner describes a circle in the air, and as each head
falls, it is hung up on the great wall of Peking. Deafening
shrieks and cries accompany the conversation of the two men
in the tent.]_

TARTAR GENERAL

Before passing from this world, have you not some mission
for your dear ones which you might desire carried out? I
would undertake it respectfully.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Beyond a doubt all who were dear to me have perished. I
thank you for your considerate offer.

TARTAR GENERAL

Have you no last desire?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

One only. To know the fate of our Empress. She was fighting
too in that dreadful battle where I was taken prisoner. Is
she alive or dead, free or captive?

TARTAR GENERAL

She is living, a captive only a fortnight since, and
yesterday was brought to Peking, not far from here in the
Forbidden City.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

She is not far from here, my Sovereign! Ah, if only the
gods, wearied with afflicting us, would permit----To know
that she is so near!----

TARTAR GENERAL

At the end of that battle which was so great an honour to
the defeated, she succeeded in escaping with a thousand
soldiers. But her retreat was cut off, and the Warrior
Empress would have been captured long before had not
contradictory orders hindering our movements, enabled
her to delay her capture from day to day. You would have
thought someone in great authority was watching over her
with wonderful solicitude, warning her of dangers or
endeavouring to turn them aside from her.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

May he live long happy days, and may his fame be
imperishable!

TARTAR GENERAL

Oh, when will this dreadful war cease, which is renewed and
has already soaked the soil of our country in the blood of
her sons?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

I fear it will never end until one of the two races has
been exterminated----Yet perhaps the hatred would be less
intense if the conquerors after their victory would treat
the defeated with more clemency. Let there not be so many
executions, so much bloodshed. Each soldier who can no
longer defend his life should be sacred.

TARTAR GENERAL

Pardon was offered to your soldiers if they would yield.
All refused.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Their heroism should be only an additional reason for
sparing them.

TARTAR GENERAL

What can be done? Our duty is to obey.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Not to the extent of a crime. A little stone can ofttimes
retard the course of a heavy chariot. We, the chieftains,
by sacrificing only our own lives could thereby save the
crowds.

TARTAR GENERAL

How could that be?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

By opposing unrighteousness. Do you remember? There was
once another war similar in every way to this. The city
was sacked, the command was given to the executioners to
cut off all heads as now. But a young officer, maddened by
grief at the thought of such carnage, found words wherewith
to beseech the general to be merciful, or at least to
restrict the number of executions, with the result that
he consented to limit the massacre to the length of time
which is required to burn a stick of incense. The incense
was lighted and the first head was about to fall, when the
young officer trembling with horror seized the stick,
reduced it to powder and ran to the executioner, crying
aloud "It is finished, it is finished. Pardon has been
declared." Then, since he had disobeyed, he immediately
dashed his head against a rock. The people erected a temple
in memory of this hero, which is still to be seen on a
high hill and whose steps have for many centuries been
constantly covered with fresh flowers.

TARTAR GENERAL [_Pensively_]

In memory of this hero the people erected a temple!----



SCENE III.


_The same, the_ CROWD, _then an_ OFFICER.


            [_For the last few minutes the_ Crowd _has
            been protesting more violently against the
            slaughter. As a new group of prisoners is
            brought to the place, the protest becomes more
            insistent._]

THE CROWD

Enough! enough!

A VOICE

The Ministers of the Empire are a set of butchers!

A MAN [_Raising himself on the shoulders of his neighbours_]

Enough, enough! Death to the tigers!

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_In the tent, seeing the_ TARTAR GENERAL
_rise._] No doubt my time has come.

TARTAR GENERAL

No! No! Remain where you are, we shall be told.

ANOTHER MAN

Yes, death to the tigers!

            [_He leans over and dips the end of his girdle
            into the blood_] I am going to write it on this
            wall. Death to the tigers!

            [_He gets up on a stone, and begins to trace
            some characters with the end of his girdle.
            The_ GENERAL _comes out of the tent._]

AN OFFICER

Some men here at once!----Disperse this insolent
crowd!----Arrest the man who is writing.

TARTAR GENERAL [_Advancing quickly_]

Who dares to give orders without my consent?

THE OFFICER

My lord, when a riot is beginning, is it not my duty?

TARTAR GENERAL

You have no other duty than to obey. [_With a gesture he
dismisses the_ SOLDIERS, _who have advanced to seize the
man._] The executioners must be tired. Let their chief
give them leave to rest again.

OFFICER

For how many minutes?

TARTAR GENERAL

As long as my sword shall remain fixed here.

            [_He plunges his sword into the ground._]

FAITHFUL PRINCE

[_In a whisper to the General._] Take care, my generous
enemy. Perhaps it may be thought that you are afraid.

TARTAR GENERAL

Of the living, no!----But of spectres, yes, it is true; I
am afraid of spectres.

            [_They enter the tent together. The crowd,
            whose excitement is increasing, moves away from
            the execution-ground, thereby giving a full
            view of the headless bodies which are lying
            on the ground, and of the pools of blood. The
            street-sellers re-commence their cries and
            their music._]

FLOWER-VENDOR

Royal peonies, lotus of all kinds, every flower of the
season.

TARTAR GENERAL [_In his tent, to_ FAITHFUL PRINCE]

You see, I am compromising myself like the hero of your
legend, and yet no temple will be raised in my honour.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

But you do not hope to save those of my men who are still
alive?

General

Who knows, as long as their heads are on their
shoulders?----You heard the noise outside?-----The angry
crowd grew greater and greater. A short riot has often
delivered many victims. I may be compelled to yield. Heaven
grant it!

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Your noble generosity encourages me to ask a favour of you.

TARTAR GENERAL

It will be a great joy to me to grant it.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Before taking my place against that bloody wall, I would
greatly desire to have one hour's freedom, on my word of
honour----

TARTAR GENERAL

The word of a man such as you are is stronger than a chain
of iron on his feet, or a canque of cedar wood about his
shoulders----an hour, yes! Even an hour and a half, we
can wait----The use which you wish to make of it perhaps
I can imagine. You dream of seeing again your adored
Empress----There, alas! I am unable to aid you. May the
gods come to your assistance!----[_Offering him a robe
embroidered in gold, which is hanging from the tent-pole._]
One thing alone I can do for you. Consent to wear one of my
robes. It will be a safeguard for you.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

How could I dare?

TARTAR GENERAL

I beseech you----This garment will be to me the more
precious because it has protected you [_He passes the robe
to_ FAITHFUL PRINCE, _who no longer protests, then he
raises a curtain at the back to the tent._] Go that way,
Prince!----

[FAITHFUL PRINCE _goes out._]



SCENE IV.


_The_ GENERAL, _A_ Courier _from the_ EMPEROR, _An_
OFFICER, _The_ PRISONERS, _The_ CROWD.


[_There is a great stir in the crowd, which is shouting
wildly. In the distance trumpets are heard. The_ TARTAR
GENERAL, _coming out of his tent, speaks to an_ OFFICER.]

TARTAR GENERAL

What is that? The ceremonial salute. What is happening now?

_The_ OFFICER

A courier from the Emperor. [_The_ SOLDIERS _stand in
file on either side and bend the knee. The_ COURIER _is
on horseback, and is carrying over his shoulder a small
packet, wrapped in yellow silk._]

COURIER [_As he dismounts_]

An order from the Emperor! [_Two_ SOLDIERS _place a table
on which the letter is deposited, then the incense-sticks
are lighted. The_ TARTAR GENERAL _quickly dons his
ceremonial robe, salutes the message three times, and at
last takes it._]

TARTAR GENERAL [_To the_ COURIER, _after he has examined
the envelope_] Why does that order arrive so late? It was
sent at daybreak from the Forbidden City, and the distance
is not long.

COURIER

That is true, my lord. But ill-intentioned men were
posted at several places along my route. I had to take a
roundabout course, and my horse knocked over many people
before surmounting the obstacles.

TARTAR GENERAL [_In a low voice_]

May Heaven deliver our Emperor from the evil ones who
oppose his will!

COURIER [_also speaking low_]

May Heaven hear your prayer, for the well-being of the
people!

TARTAR GENERAL [_Opens the letter. In an aside after having
read it_] This saves many lives, without counting my
own----[_To the_ CROWD.] Order of the Emperor. All listen!
"This is my express will. I grant unconditional pardon to
all the captives of war, chiefs and soldiers, and give them
their entire liberty. Respect this."

            [_He shows the Imperial seal._]

THE CROWD

Ten thousand years, ten thousand years to our Emperor.

            [_The Soldiers at once set the prisoners free._]

TARTAR GENERAL [_To the_ CROWD]

Listen again. This order should have arrived in time to
save all the condemned. The obstacles set in the path of
the messenger are the cause of a misfortune which cannot be
repaired. Our master was disobeyed and is not responsible.

CROWD

Curse upon the unfaithful ministers! Death to the tigers!

            [_The women also hasten to unchain the
            prisoners, who draw near the General._]

ONE OFFICER [_In a whisper to another_]

What seditious cries our General permits!

SECOND OFFICER

Say rather he encourages them.

TARTAR GENERAL [_To the_ PRISONERS]

My friends, listen to wise advice. Do not remain long in
this accursed place. All around the mighty Dragon who has
freed you, wild beasts are shrieking, exasperated because
they have lost their prey.-----Go at once, do not lose a
moment. But do not escape by way of the country, you would
be too easily found. Disperse and wander through the great
city. In the Chinese Quarter the crowd will not betray you.

PRISONERS

We will follow your advice. May Heaven bestow its choicest
blessings upon you!

            [_They bow and disperse. The_ GENERAL _takes
            his sword, which he had stuck into the ground
            and slowly replaces it in its scabbard._]

THE CROWD

Death to the tigers! Ten thousand years to our Emperor!

            [_As the curtain is lowered the shouts of_
            PEDLARS _are heard._]

THE FLOWER-SELLER

Royal peonies, Lotus of all kinds, every flower of the
season!

HABERDASHER

All the latest styles in my stock! Look, young women; have
a look, young girls!



Second Tableau


[_The great throne-room in the palace at Peking, entirely
decorated in red and gold. The throne is in the middle
of a dais, to which lead three staircases flanked by
incense-burners and emblems. Pillars of red laquer support
a lofty ceiling, on which are enormous writhing dragons
among red clouds; the largest standing out so clearly that
it looks ready to fall from heaven, holds in its jaws a
golden orb, just above the throne. The floor is covered
by a yellow carpet, with dragons more than fifty feet in
length woven into the design. On one side of the stage is a
marble chime, suspended by golden chains from a huge frame
work, whose feet are of gold and represent monsters and
whose upper angles are ornamented with golden phoenixes
spreading their wings toward the ceiling. Near the
principal entrance two EUNUCHS are holding dust-dispellers
of rhinoceros-hide. Preparations are being made for a
solemn audience, to commemorate the triumph of the_ TARTAR
ARMY. _Large blocks of porcelain, representing monsters,
are arranged in line on the carpet. They mark the places
where the various bodies of dignitaries are to stand and
to prostrate themselves. Persons in gala robes come and
go hurriedly. They are speaking in whispers, and walk
noiselessly, in respectful attitudes. They bow as they pass
the throne._]



SCENE I.


_Palace_, OFFICIALS, DIGNITARIES, _and_ MASTERS _of the_
CEREMONIES.

FIRST MASTER OF CEREMONIES

[_Placing in line one of the last blocks of porcelain_]
There, the eighteenth group of high literates will stand
there, facing the throne, but somewhat obliquely.

SECOND MASTER OF CEREMONIES

Everything seems to me in perfect order. We shall soon be
ready.

AN OFFICIAL

So they say, indeed. He has been downcast and melancholy
for several days, it seems as though each fresh victory of
his army affected him like a disaster.

THIRD OFFICER

Yes, no one would have supposed that he would demand so
elaborate a ceremony to celebrate his triumph.

FOURTH OFFICER

And have you heard the news? The prisoner is to make her
appearance here.

THIRD OFFICER

Who?

FOURTH OFFICER

Who? How can you ask? The great, the only one. She of whom
everyone speaks--the Ex-Empress of the rebels.

FIFTH OFFICER

Ah, the goddess! So now we are going to see her.

SIXTH OFFICER

And we can judge of her supernatural power----unless she
has lost it.

FOURTH OFFICER

Oh, power she still has. Yesterday evening, by order of the
Emperor, two eunuchs were decapitated simply for having
announced to her the death of her son without preliminary
forms.

THIRD OFFICER

And I know something, too, from the Governess of the
Palace----To-day the goddess deigned to speak, to request
mourning garments----So they searched the wardrobes of the
late Empress Regent for all that was most magnificent in
the way of white robes and shoes!



SCENE II.


_The same. The_ GRAND CHAMBERLAIN


GRAND CHAMBERLAIN [_Entering by a door at back_]

An order from the Emperor! [_All listen with bowed heads._]
Let the members of the Privy Council, Ministers, and
Dignitaries, robed in their costumes of state, meet in
silence in the galleries near the throne-room, ready to
enter when his Majesty strikes this gong three times. [_He
points to the large gong at the foot of the steps of the
throne._] Let no one be here, and guards at all the doors!

            [_All bow and prepare to go out._]



SCENE III.


_The Same,_ A HERALD, _and the_ GRAND MASTER _of_
CEREMONIES.


The HERALD [_Appearing at the door and holding in his hand
a large lacquer signboard mounted on a golden handle._]
Silence!

_The_ GRAND MASTER.

            [_Entering with_ FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST]

Let all depart! Close the doors. Here comes the Emperor.

            [_All skurry out except the_ GRAND MASTER _and_
            FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST, _who prostrate themselves
            as the EMPEROR appears._]



SCENE IV.


_The_ EMPEROR, FOUNT, _the_ GRAND MASTER _of_ CEREMONIES.


EMPEROR [_In full regalia, his expression sombre_]

How many heads did you say had already fallen?

GRAND MASTER

Barely fifty, sire. Your General, as though with a
presentiment of the clemency of your Majesty, had proceeded
with audacious lack of energy.

EMPEROR

He shall be rewarded by Heaven and by me. As for the
grandees of my court who dared to stop my Courier, have
them found at once and dealt with by the executioner
to-morrow. Why do the gods permit that in my lofty
position, happiness should be almost unrealisable,
when murder is so easy? Now go! [_Indicating_
FOUNT-IN-THE-FOREST] I wish to speak with my councillor.

            [_The_ Grand Master _goes out._]



SCENE V.


EMPEROR, FOUNT.


EMPEROR [_To_ FOUNT, _who is still prostrate_]

Arise, friend, we are alone. You have already guessed my
project, have you not? I want her to come here, near me.
[_Pointing to the throne._] Pale and in the white of her
deep mourning as she is, I want her to come here, to sit
beside me on my throne----To-day, I am going to present her
to my people as my affianced bride. Let the Dignitaries of
my Court prostrate themselves before their Empress, at the
same time as before their Emperor----without her there is
neither Empire nor triumph for me----

FOUNT

She has consented?

EMPEROR

Alas, I do not know if she will agree. I have postponed
till now that meeting so full at once of charm and terror.
It is to-day and here that we shall see each other again
for the first time----May Heaven help me! You will say
that I am still a child; I wished to invest our supreme
moment with all magnificence. Ah, if only there were not
between us the death of her son, I should tremble less.

FOUNT

But you did all in your power to save him. Since your
conscience cannot reproach you, sire, it is better for your
plans that the child should be resting in peace among the
shades. To impose him upon your Tartars would have been
dangerous indeed-----Whereas now, the two Dynasties may
blend, another son be born, of your blood and hers.

EMPEROR

A son born to me by her! Oh, friend, be silent. The dreams
that are too beautiful, one must not speak of. [_He strikes
the gong lightly._] But come, the dreaded moment of seeing
her again has arrived. Come! [_To an_ Official _who enters
in response to the gong._] Let the prisoner be brought
here, with all the respect which I have commanded. Go!
[_Recalling the_ Official _as he is leaving._] Wait a
moment! [_To_ FOUNT, _who is going too._] No, her pride
would be offended at being ushered into my presence.
Rather, let her be the first to arrive, and I will follow,
appearing before her with the air of one vanquished,
begging pardon. [_To the waiting_ OFFICIAL.] As soon as I
leave, bring the Empress here and leave her alone. Now you
may go!

            [_Exit the_ OFFICIAL _at the back._]

FOUNT [_as he goes out with the_ EMPRESS]

She loves you, sire. Have confidence. Who is the woman,
even though she be almost a goddess, who would not yield?

EMPEROR

She! Only she!----

FOUNT

But, as she loved you once----

EMPEROR

And to-day must she not hate me? How much blood has been
spilt by traitors despite my command! How has my decree of
pardon been intercepted or changed to a death warrant!----
The hate, the implacable hate of our two peoples ever
triumphs.

FOUNT

But how many lives you have saved!----And she must too know
that.

EMPEROR [_as he goes out_]

Oh, that hour whose memory still enchants my heart! That
hour there, in the garden of her palace, in the midst of
that crowd where we were so alone, when she gazed upon me,
when our souls were united in one supreme rapture----But
now at the thought of seeing her again, I tremble like a
guilty man.

            [_Exit the_ EMPEROR, _with his councillor,
            through a side door. Two eunuchs and two women
            attendants conduct the_ EMPRESS _to the foot
            of the throne, and after having prostrated
            themselves retire, leaving her alone. She is in
            white robes of mourning, her hands are tied by
            a silken cord._]



SCENE VI


_The_ EMPRESS, _then_ FAITHFUL PRINCE


EMPRESS [_Soliloquising_]

Such consideration has been shown me that I am terrified,
more terrified than at torture and death. Why am I in his
palace, instead of in a prison?----What can he, what dares
he hope? What does he desire of me?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

[_In the dress of the_ TARTAR GENERAL, _running into the
room and prostrating himself at the feet of the EMPRESS_]
Oh! Heaven is merciful to grant me the opportunity once
again before my death to prostrate myself at the feet of my
adored Empress.

EMPRESS [_Calm but bewildered_]

You? You here?----Dear Prince----Have we then departed this
life? Is this our reunion beyond the grave? If not, whence
have you come, how, by what witchcraft have you passed
these dreadful walls?

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Still prostrated_] Boldness does not
count the cost, when there is no longer anything to
lose----And, beyond all doubt, the gods were with me----
Yes, I entered as if by witchcraft as you say, I passed
the walls and the guarded gates----One of his soldiers
acted as my guide----I gave him all the gold I had left.
Forgive me, I am weeping, I know not whether for joy or
grief. For joy it must be--since my only wish was for this
one privilege--to see Your Majesty for the last time, to
tell her on my knees of my passionate adoration----which
at the gates of death cannot be an offence----and above
all to offer her the wondrous gift, which will deliver her
from the conqueror's worst outrages. My mission as faithful
subject is now concluded by this last service, by the
glorious present which I have brought to my Empress.

EMPRESS

Poison! [_With a triumphant cry of deliverance._] Ah!----

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Offering her a dagger_] Poison, alas! I
was unable to bring. This is the best I can offer.

EMPRESS

Ah, well, that will answer the purpose. Kill me before He
comes!

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Rising and drawing back in horror_]

My well beloved sovereign!----Ask not that of your faithful
servant, who has always obeyed you. Do not command him to
do what is beyond his strength.

EMPRESS

You will not?----Then give it to me! I will strike myself.
I will make the attempt. I shall succeed.

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Noticing that her hands are tied_]

But your hands----To think that I had not seen!

EMPRESS

Ah! That is true.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

I May I untie them? Have we time?

EMPRESS

No, it will take too long. Hide the weapon in the fold of
my gown.

            [_The Prince still hesitates._]

You do not dare? It is forbidden to touch your Sovereign!
Nay, but you may do so, your Empress now is as one already
dead.

FAITHFUL PRINCE [_Hiding weapon in her gown_]

But how will you be able to use it?

EMPRESS

_He_ will have them unbound, he before whom I shall soon
appear. And then is not one permitted to change one's mind
so near to death? I desired you to kill me before he came.
Now I prefer to see him again, the Emperor.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

To see him again? You know then who he is?

EMPRESS

Yes. Stay with me until he comes.

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Oh, no! I must not be found here.

EMPRESS

What matters it now, at the point we have reached?

FAITHFUL PRINCE

Because--over yonder--the last heads are falling. They
are calling for those that remain. It is time--my turn
is coming. They gave me one hour's liberty on my word of
honour. I do not want it to be thought that I have fled.

EMPRESS

Ah, yes! Then go, Prince. Farewell! I shall soon join
you--you and all my faithful ones. Tell those who are about
to die that I shall be with them soon----

            [FAITHFUL PRINCE _hurries out._]



SCENE VII


_The_ EMPEROR. _The_ EMPRESS


[_The_ EMPEROR _enters and approaches her. The_ EMPRESS,
_her eyes lowered, stands motionless._]

EMPEROR

Daughter of Heaven, deign to raise your eyes to gaze upon
the heart-broken conqueror who bows before you. Deign to
look and to recognise him. Doubtless you will remember
him. But can you feel anything save utter hatred for him?

EMPRESS

[_Far away, her eyes still lowered._] To recognise him, I
do not need to hear his voice again nor to gaze upon his
face. The light has dawned upon my mind during the hours
of my captivity. Before I was brought in here, I knew full
well into whose presence I was coming.

            [_A silence, during which the EMPEROR remains
            bowed before her._]

EMPRESS

To the Daughter of the Mings, what message can the Tartar
Emperor have?

EMPEROR [_Seeing her hands bound with the silken cord_]

Oh! but your hands are tied! I ordered that to save you
from yourself. But now! [_He approaches, yet hesitates to
touch her hands. The_ EMPRESS _draws back, gazing at him
for the first time._] Oh! pardon----Before you, in the
depth of my grief, I had forgotten. I had almost dared to
touch your bruised hands. And yet you are more sacred to
me here than there in Nanking, in all your splendour. [_He
strikes the gong softly. An_ OFFICIAL _appears._]

EMPEROR [_To the_ OFFICIAL]

Let the Governess of the Palace come here at once! [_To
the_ GOVERNESS, _as she enters and prostrates herself._]
Untie the hands of the Empress, and then go.

            [_The_ GOVERNESS _obeys and goes out. A pause._]

Your voice is no longer yours. Your eyes are no longer
yours. You stand here before me, yet your soul seems to be
at an infinite distance. I did not expect to find you so,
and you frighten me. The Majesty of death is upon you.

EMPRESS

They are calling to me from the Land of the Shades. Allow
me to cross the threshold soon, from you I can accept no
mercy. My faithful ones, my warriors, are wondering at my
delay in rejoining them, and my son is listening to catch
the echo of my footfall behind him on the dark path.

EMPEROR

Your son!----Ah! Your son! Who has mourned him more than
I, excepting only you? Ten of my couriers, my swiftest
horsemen, were sent at once, riding their horses night and
day, spurring them to death, leaving their corpses by the
roadside, in a frantic effort to arrive in time and avert
the evil which could not be repaired----

EMPRESS

What was achieved? Where is the body of my little son?

EMPEROR

It is now in an imperial hearse, making its slow way to the
north, preceded by funeral music, followed by a thousand
dignitaries in costumes of state befitting the rank of a
young sovereign.

EMPRESS

And where are they taking him, my son?

EMPEROR

To those inviolable forests where the Tartar Emperors
repose. There, in a vale, which the spade of men has never
touched, two leagues of dark cedars will envelope in their
silence, his tomb built all of porcelain.

EMPRESS

Will you grant me the favour to sleep near him?

EMPEROR [_Very gently, speaking like a child_]

But----in accordance with the custom of the Empresses, you
will yourself choose the site and scene in the forest and
will have the long marble avenues built----so that all may
be in readiness when your hour strikes.

EMPRESS

My hour _has sounded_--ah! many days ago. I heard it, but
my hands were tied and your guards were ever about me. Now
you will give me my last freedom, will you not? so that I
may join all the dead heroes who are awaiting me. To keep
me back would be unworthy of you, my noble enemy. You would
not do that!----

EMPEROR [_After a pause_]

Keep you back, you?----O! no, not I----But your
duty----Daughter of the Mings, you are incapable of failing
in your duty!

EMPRESS [_Excitedly at last_]

My duty! What duty? Already have I been decoyed by that
word. They urged me thereby to flee like a common woman
beset by fear. While all my brave defenders knew how
to die heroically, my soldiers, my princes, even my
ladies-in-waiting, I like a coward escaped through the
subterranean passages of my palace----to fulfil my duty! It
was the hour when my soldiers were falling by the thousand,
struck down by yours, when my walls were crumbling under
the assault of your armies----the draught of the Great
Deliverance had been brought me in a cup, and I was calm
as I am now--but smiling. I was about to raise the cup
to my lips, to pass beyond the reach of all, proud and
inviolable, in my imperial attire. The vaults beneath
the ground, the sleeping place of my ancestors, unknown
to your Tartars, stood open close at hand, and there was
still time to carry me down into them----But duty! Ah! my
duty, it appeared, was to flee, and I yielded----And until
the day when your soldiers took me captive, I wandered on
and on through the country, at the head of my defeated
troops----I, the Empress, the Invisible, desecrating my
majesty among all those thousands of men----marching before
them like some mad woman!----

EMPEROR

Say rather that you were the sublime heroine, the great
warrior-Empress, the goddess of battle, who braved arrows
and bullets, and will live on eternally in poetry and
history!

EMPRESS

I sought to justify my flight, that was all. I did all
I could, but none can ever atone for a cowardly action.
It was in my own palace that I should have met my death,
in the funeral fire lighted by my own hand, in which so
many heroes were consumed----My ashes should have mixed
with theirs. Duty, do you say? But do you believe that I
still belong to Earth? My cities are in ruins, my armies
annihilated, my son dead. And at this very moment I know
that one by one the heads of my few remaining soldiers
are falling into the dust beneath your high Tartar walls.
Then what duty remains, I ask you? [_She takes the dagger
from the fold of her robe and raises her hand to strike
herself._] Nothing, nothing but this! [_The Emperor rushes
towards her with a cry, seizes her wrist, takes the dagger,
and hurls it to the ground._] Ah! So you dare to touch me
now?

EMPEROR [_Bowing very low_]

Your pardon! Only listen to me. You may die afterwards
if you wish it, I promise you--but in some less terrible
way----without this bloodshed. I will even furnish you the
means, if you still wish it----

EMPRESS [_With sudden gentleness_]

In some less terrible way! Yes, that is what I desire. The
Potion of the Great Deliverance, we sovereigns are never
without it. You have it too, have you not?

EMPEROR

Night and day within easy reach, especially since you
began to risk your life hourly, in the thick of the
battle. I feared that I should be unable to capture alive
my beautiful Phoenix of War! Be assured, we have the
Deliverance. It is in this golden case, among the trinkets
at my girdle.

EMPRESS

And you will give it to me?

EMPEROR

Yes.

EMPRESS

You swear it?

EMPEROR

Yes. After you have listened to me, I shall have this
supreme courage. To refuse you would be unworthy of you and
of myself. But, after you have heard me, only afterwards----

EMPRESS

Well, speak, sire. In return for your promise, take the
last minutes in which my ears can hear, my eyes can see----



SCENE VIII.


_The same. An_ OFFICIAL


EMPEROR [_He strikes the gong gently, an_ OFFICIAL
_appears. To the_ OFFICIAL] Double the number of guards at
the gates. Instant death to any one who, for any reason
whatever, dares to open that door before I sound the gong
_Three Times!_ Is that understood? You may go!

            [_The_ OFFICIAL _turns to go._]

Wait! [_Pointing to the incense-burners on the steps of the
throne._] Incense! Let the sticks be lighted at once! I
must have perfume in the air. [_The OFFICIAL hastily lights
the bundles of sticks and the smoke rises._] It is well, go!

            [_The_ Official _makes his exit backward,
            almost prostrate._]



SCENE IX.


The EMPEROR [_To the_ EMPRESS, _who is leaning against
the balustrade of the throne_] Alas! I can read obstinate
resolution in your eyes! You have determined to die, I know
it! I shall speak without hope. Will you grant me one last
favour?

EMPRESS

No doubt I shall. But what may it be?

EMPEROR [_Pointing to the throne_]

Let our last interview take place there! Once in your life,
though it be on a day which shall know no to-morrow, I wish
to see you seated upon the throne of the Tartar conquerors.

EMPRESS [_Very calmly and indifferently_]

Is it only that? If that will give you pleasure, I consent.
[_She begins to ascend the steps._] I mount but slowly:
I am crushed and fainting. The poison which you promised
lulls one to sleep, does it not? It does not sharpen and
distort the features, I hope. The Phoenix, even in the
agony of death would wish to retain some charm.

EMPEROR [_In the same mood_]

It is even better than you hope. It comes from the Western
Barbarians. Lustrous pearls under a thin leaf of gold.
One passes into space in a sudden sleep, an exquisite
intoxication----

EMPRESS [_Still far away_] Ah!----in a sleep--[_They have
reached the top of the steps. She half reclines across the
throne, which is almost as large as a divan. The_ EMPEROR
_remains standing._] Well, now----delay no longer, speak----

EMPEROR

It was not the prompting of a mere whim which urged me to
see you seated there. What we have to say is so solemn. The
interview of an Emperor and an Empress, power speaking to
power!----

At this height, raised above our earthly personalities, we
shall feel more conscious of our superhuman mission.

EMPRESS

Power speaking to power? I am no longer anything but a
captive, who counts for naught.

EMPEROR

You are sovereign and doubly sovereign now, mistress of the
destiny of China, arbiter of all. [_The_ EMPRESS _looks at
him as though deeply hurt._] Mistress of the destiny of
China, yes! Be not offended. I do not intend to speak of
your power over the Emperor----But, defeated and captive,
what does it matter? Are you not always the Daughter of
the Mings? Hundreds of millions of hearts bear secret
allegiance to you. The rebellion quelled to-day by my
soldiers will break out afresh to-morrow, will always be
renewed. You are the only being in the world who has the
power to still it for ever----and that takes away the right
to die----

EMPRESS [_Interrupting_]

The dead await me----I belong to them now----I hear their
voices calling to me to come----

EMPEROR

I want to tell you in the fewest words. But I feel as
though you were already gone, already cold. I press on
and I am all at a loss. It seems as if I were speaking to
a tombstone. Powers, you and I, I said, ah, yes, great
powers! Two rival lives of fabled emperors, of deified
heroes, growing feebler and feebler by centuries of
slavery to rites and forms, prisoners in an excess of
luxury; two dynasties that seemed doomed to an immortality
of mummyhood, have by some miracle produced you and me,
who are alive and young. As a result of our union, a new
China might arise, living like us, to dominate the world.
Together we might accomplish that holy mission for the
well-being and happiness of our races, and the eternal
glory of our two united names. But without you, no, I can
do nothing. I shall sink again into my gilded solitude, my
sickly idleness, my opium-drugged sleep. If you but knew
my youth, how isolated and lonely, spent in an apartment
decorated in black ebony! In the gloom of this palace, an
imaginative child, I outlined this glorious plan of union
with you. It haunted my brain. Then your son would have
been my son. It was like a child still that I set out on
that adventure to see you in your palace at Nanking. And as
I beheld, my man's will, which still floated in the midst
of dreams, was suddenly concentrated upon one definite
desire. Ah, what obstacles I overcame! First, I had to
escape from your palace; then to return here unhindered
within the terrible walls of the Yellow City; and then
to wrest the power from those grim evil-doers who had so
long tortured my youthful will and my reason. The war was
already at its height, hatred was enchained, the smell of
blood was in the air, and Chinese and Tartars were howling
like wild beasts. All this, you know full well, I was
unable to stop.

EMPRESS

I know.

EMPEROR

That I did all in my power to save your son--you believe
that, do you not?

EMPRESS

Now I believe it.

EMPEROR

My only reason for speaking of these things is that at
least you may not hate me.

EMPRESS [_Still calm and impersonal_]

I have no hate for you.

EMPEROR

The heads of your faithful soldiers which have just fallen
were sacrificed against my will. I had issued an order of
unconditional pardon. As to the Prince who left you a few
minutes ago. [_Smiling_]--for I see all, I the Phantom
Emperor, as you called me--yes, he who was speaking to
you in this very place and went so heroically to meet his
death, will be saved. You shall see him again!

EMPRESS

I thought you before now a great and generous enemy.

EMPEROR

Of my love I have not even dared to speak to you.

EMPRESS

I am grateful to you that you have kept our interview above
that level.

EMPEROR

Every word you utter falls upon me like the icy drops of
slow winter rain, and yet withal I must have the force to
proceed to the end. Listen to what I now shall say; it is
the last word I shall speak, after that you will be free.
Despite that dreadful war to the death between us, despite
that funeral procession which now slowly carries your son
to the forests of the Last Repose, I still indulged in the
beautiful dream of putting an end to ancient hates by means
of our marriage, of making one our two rival dynasties, of
giving to the great empire peace everlasting----

EMPRESS [_Interrupting_]

Ever since you asked me to be seated upon your throne, I
understood.

EMPEROR [_After a pause_]

And your reply?

EMPRESS

My reply is that, neither living nor dead, will I permit
the Emperor of the Tartars even to touch my hand. It is too
late; too many rivers of blood flow between us.

EMPEROR

Still one word, one last word. We are not alone at this
solemn historical hour, in this place which seems so empty
and silent. The shades of warriors and the illustrious
spirits of departed emperors are all about us, listening
anxiously for your decision. Your beloved dead are all
here, at peace with mine in the lofty harmony of heaven.
You are mistaken, they are not calling to you to join them;
they are commanding you to live for years to come, to aid
me in this great work of peace, of which I dream and which,
without you seated at my side on this throne, I shall be
powerless to carry out. You have not the right to decline
this duty! In the name of the thousands of invisible
spirits who surround us, I beg of you, Daughter of Heaven,
to live! [_A silence._] I have said all that I find
possible to say. I await your decision. I have finished.

EMPRESS [_Growing colder and more distant in her attitude,
pointing to the golden jewel-case attached to the Emperor's
girdle_] Then give it to me now!

EMPEROR [_In absolute despair_]

No, no! Give it to you with my own hands I cannot. Have
pity----I cannot! I cannot!

EMPRESS [_Severely_]

But your promise, sire, your imperial word of honour. Give
it to me!

            [_The_ EMPEROR, _after another silence, kneels
            before her, takes the golden box from his
            girdle and hands it to her slowly, his face
            turned downward to the ground._]

EMPRESS [_After opening the box, speaking gently, like
a child in a dream._] Yes, they are tiny, shining
pearls----And they will bring death, peace, nothingness.
[_She puts the pearls in her mouth, then throws the box
to the ground, and rises in exaltation. Triumphant and
dominating the room, she addresses the invisible spirits
of her forefathers._] Oh, my ancestors, behold me! Am I
not glorious? You see me in that place whence you of old
dominated the world, and it is upon your throne, usurped
by the Tartar, that I am about to die! Your daughter has
remained worthy of her race. Despite temptation more than
human, she has kept her word. Open wide before the portals
of death,--to receive her among you. [_Smiling and quite
gentle, she turns to the EMPEROR who is still kneeling._]
And now that my mission is accomplished, approach me,
sire. [_She takes his hand gently, to indicate that he may
rise and be seated._] For the second time in her life, the
Empress invites you to be seated in her presence, as once
before, over there, you remember, one morning in my palace
which is now no more----[_She seats herself on the throne
again._]

EMPEROR [_Dreamily_]

As once before, there in your garden on that
never-to-be-forgotten morning. All about us, the wonderful
flowers of distant lands were unfolding their petals, still
moist with the early dews----and the beautiful Imperial
Phoenix was brilliant in all her glory. [_He seats himself
on the throne near her, his head resting against the back._]

EMPRESS

To-day, the flames have swept away those flowers, and the
Phoenix is in agony, her wings burned in the fire of war.
But, on the threshold of the Great Beyond, she will confide
to you her deepest secret. Now it is your turn to listen.
[_The_ EMPEROR _raises his head and looks at her._] While
you were uttering those noble and magnificent words of
sacrifice----Oh! beneath my impassive mask, what a struggle
was mine on to be deaf to their appeal! And I should have
yielded, if the duty which you presented to me had been
only a painful duty. But it would have been too easy and
too sweet. For I loved you! [_The_ EMPEROR _arises_.] And,
living, I have no more the right to happiness, because it
was I who lighted that great funeral pyre of men's lives in
my palace.

EMPEROR [_Interrupting, exultantly_]

O my sovereign! O my beautiful, fading flower! To hear
that from your lips at the moment when they are about to
grow cold for ever! Oh! To be beloved by you, I could not
believe it possible. And now no aid can come from men or
gods.

EMPRESS

No aid? Do you think I would accept it? I have spoken only
because I know I am going to die. Aid! But did I not tell
you it was I who lighted the pyre, this hand which set to
it the flaming torch. And as they threw themselves into the
glowing furnace, dying for my son and for me, I cried out
my solemn vow: Soon I come to the Land of the Shades, I
come, I follow you. After that, if I were to live, to spend
a happy life with you----I should loathe myself. [_She
remains seated, the_ EMPEROR _kneels at her feet, resting
his head on the cushions of the throne._] In entering your
palace, I was afraid of myself, it was only myself that I
feared----for at no time did I hate that strange impostor
who appeared in my palace one day, never did I hate him
even when I knew not, when I did not understand. And in the
closed litter in which I was brought to Peking, at every
stage of that mournful journey my fears and my anguish
increased, according as the impression became stronger and
stronger, until at last I was convinced that you were the
Emperor! [_Suddenly terrified, she starts up._] You have
not deceived me? Tell me, it is indeed death which you have
given me? Oh, no, you could not have done that. You are too
noble to have led me into a trap----

EMPEROR

No, my sovereign, no, I have not deceived you. Death is
close to you, it is in your heart, inevitable death.

EMPRESS

Will it take long? How many minutes are still left to me?

EMPEROR

Minutes? Oh, scarcely seconds. You are on the point
of slipping away from me into nothingness. The frail
covering of gold leaf still protects you. As soon as that
dissolves----

EMPRESS

I shall suffer?

EMPEROR

No!

EMPRESS

Tell me how I shall pass away.

EMPEROR

You will hear a ringing in your brain as if the great
bell of honour were being sounded for you--and then a
dizziness--and suddenly will come eternal peace! [_He rises
and rends his garments._] O Gods, if you are capable of
compassion, look down upon me----have pity!

EMPRESS [_At first very slowly, pacing the platform of the
throne like one in a dream._] Whither am I going? Who can
tell me whither I am going, where I shall soon be? To the
dead? to the Shades, what can it matter how I use this last
flicker of my life, so soon to be extinguished? Now that
I have kept my word, at least this last moment belongs to
me, which to us is worth Eternity. [_To the_ EMPEROR.] Let
it be mine that I may give it to you! [_She seats herself
on the throne again._] Come close to me, my beloved, my
master, my God-----[_The_ EMPEROR _sits near her, at first
as with religious awe._] Come, I desire to rest my head on
your shoulder while I die----[The EMPEROR takes her in his
arms.] Do you not see that we are like two stars, separated
by a boundless abyss, but withal making desperate efforts
to flash their light to each other?----But now the abyss is
crossed and my mortal enemy is weeping tears for love in my
embrace. Let me rest against your breast, come closer, with
all your being, that I may pass away as though in you.

EMPEROR [_Embracing her more passionately_]

In me and with me, for I shall follow you, my beautiful
Phoenix, that would fly away beyond my reach----

EMPRESS

No! Remain on earth, live on to keep the love which I have
given you. Who else would remember me and pay the honours
to my spirit? In the valley of eternal silence, amid the
marble avenues, under the shade of the dark cedars, who
else would come to dream of my vanished beauty, that was
but for a day? Promise me you will stay. But come still
closer to me. If you do not fear the last breath of one who
is dying, press your lips against mine, my beloved, that I
may at least have known the rapture of your kiss----

EMPEROR [_Pressing his lips to hers desperately_] Oh! Even
your ashes would be lovely to me, even your body in decay.
Fear! you ask if I fear? Respect alone will unlock my
embrace--when I feel that the breath of life is no more.

            EMPRESS [_Wandering, half drawing herself away_]

Ah! Yes--I hear the great bell sounding. It is the signal,
then? I am sinking----Hold me up, my beloved. Keep me from
sinking thus----into the abyss.

            [_During an instant of silence, they remain
            embraced. Then the_ EMPEROR _rouses himself,
            cries aloud in his grief, and the dead body
            falls back on the throne._]



SCENE X.


_The_ EMPEROR, _and then the_ CROWD.


            [_The_ EMPEROR _descends the steps of the
            throne, quickly, runs to the gong and strikes
            three deep strokes. The doors are thrown open._
            Dignitaries _and_ Officials _appear on the
            threshold._]

The EMPEROR [_addressing the_ crowd, _who enter in robes
of state, and pointing to the dead_ Empress.]

Come, all dignitaries and great men of the Empire! Put
perfumes in the censers, keep on amber! Sound the marble
chimes, as for the gods. Pay homage to Your Empress! On
your knees, all, before The Daughter of Heaven!----

            [_He kneels on the steps himself. The marble
            chimes are sounded. The brilliant crowd fills
            the throne-room, prostrating themselves before
            the dead._]


THE END





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