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Title: Will Shakespeare - An Invention in Four Acts
Author: Dane, Clemence
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Will Shakespeare - An Invention in Four Acts" ***

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Transcriber's Notes:
  Underscores "_" before and after a word or phrase indicate _italics_
    in the original text.
  Equals signs "=" before and after a word or phrase indicate =bold=
    in the original text.
  Small capitals have been converted to BLOCK capitals.
  The play is in both prose and poetry. It alternates between the two
    unpredictably, (sometimes in mid-sentence).


         _FIRST THE BLADE_




            CLEMENCE DANE

        [Illustration: 1921]

    ‘_There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
      Rough-hew them how we will._’


   _As they appear._

     A CHILD.
     A BOY.
     A MAN.
     A GIRL.
     A PAGE.


            _Scene 1_. A ROOM IN THE PALACE.
                       “ROMEO AND JULIET.”

     ACT III.--
               _Scene 1_. A MONTH LATER--SHAKESPEARE’S LODGING.
               _Scene 2_. THE SAME NIGHT--A ROOM AT AN INN.


The Play was first acted at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, on
November 17th, 1921, by the Reandean Company, with the following

  WILL SHAKESPEARE      Mr. Philip Merivale
  ANNE                   Miss Moyna Macgill
  Mrs. HATHAWAY             Miss Mary Rorke
  HENSLOWE                Mr. Arthur Whitby
  QUEEN ELIZABETH        Miss Haidee Wright
  MARY FITTON               Miss Mary Clare
  KIT MARLOWE              Mr. Claude Rains

  A CHILD ACTOR           Master Eric Spear
  A SECRETARY            Mr. Arthur Bawtree
  A STAGE HAND          Mr. Gilbert Ritchie
  A BOY                        Master Spear
  A LANDLORD               Mr. Ivor Barnard
  A LADY-IN-WAITING       Miss Joan Maclean

        _Shadows in Act I._

  Ophelia                Miss Lennie Pride
  Desdemona             Miss Gladys Jessel
  Othello                Mr. Herbert Young
  Queen Margaret         Miss Flora Robson
  Prince Arthur           Mr. Eric Crosbie
  Rosalind             Miss Phyllis Fabian
  Shylock              Mr. Gilbert Ritchie
  Clown                   Mr. Ivor Barnard
  Hamlet                   Mr. Neil Curtis
  Caesar                Mr. Arthur Bawtree
  Cleopatra                Miss Mai Ashley
  King Lear                Mr. Fred Morgan
                      { Miss Nora Robinson
  The Three Fates     {   Miss Gladys Gray
                      {Miss Beatrice Smith

_Strolling Players, Beefeaters, Stage Hands, Drinkers, Court
Attendants, etc._

                  The Production by BASIL DEAN.
                  The Music by THOMAS WOOD.
  Designs for the Scenery and Dresses by GEORGE HARRIS.


     _The curtain rises on the living room of a sixteenth
          century cottage. The walls and ceiling are of
          black beams and white-washed plaster. On the left
          is a large oven fireplace with logs burning.
          Beyond it is a door. At the back is another door
          and a mullioned window half open giving a glimpse
          of bare garden hedge and winter sky. On the right
          wall is a staircase running down from the ceiling
          into the room, a dresser and a light shelf
          holding a book or two. Under the shelf is a small
          table piled with papers, ink-stand, sand box and
          so on. At it sits_ SHAKESPEARE, _his elbows on
          his papers, his head in his hands, absorbed. He
          is a boy of twenty but looks older. He is dark
          and slight. His voice is low, but, he speaks very
          clearly. Behind him_ ANNE HATHAWAY _moves to and
          fro from dresser to the central table, laying a
          meal. She is a slender, pale woman with reddish
          hair. Her movements are quick and furtive and she
          has a high sweet voice that shrills too easily._

    ANNE [_hesitating, with little pauses between the sentences_].
                 Supper is ready, Will! Will, did you hear?
                 A farm-bird--Mother brought it. Won’t you come?
                 She’s crying in for the basket presently.
                 First primroses! Here, smell! Sweet, aren’t
                     they? Bread?
                 Are the snow wreaths gone from the fields? Did you
                     go far?
                 Are you wet? Was it cold? There’s black frost in
                     the air,
                 My mother says, and spring hangs dead on the boughs--
                 Oh, you might answer when I speak to you!
                           SHAKESPEARE _gets up quickly._
                 Where are you going?

    SHAKESPEARE.                     Out!

    ANNE.                               Where?

    SHAKESPEARE.                              Anywhere--

    ANNE. --away from me! Yes! Say it!

    SHAKESPEARE [_under his breath_]. Patience! Patience!

    ANNE. Come back! Come back! I’m sorry. Oh, come back!
          I talk too much. I crossed you. You must eat.
          Oh! Oh! I meant no harm--I meant no harm I--
          You know?

    SHAKESPEARE.     I know.

    ANNE.                   Why then, come back and eat,
          And talk to me. Aren’t you a boy to lose
          All day in the woods?

    SHAKESPEARE.               The town!

    ANNE.                               Ah! In the town?
          Ah then, you’ve talked and eaten. Yes, you can talk
          In the town!
                     _He goes back to his desk._
          More writing? What’s the dream to-day?
                     _He winces._
          Oh, tell me, tell me!

    SHAKESPEARE.               No!

    ANNE.                          I want your dreams.

    SHAKESPEARE. A dream’s a bubble, Anne, and yet a world,
                 Unsailed, uncharted, mine. But stretch your hand
                 To touch it--gone! And you have wet your fingers,
                 Whilst I, like Alexander, want my world--
                 And so I scold my wife.

    ANNE.                    Oh, let me sail
          Your world with you.

    SHAKESPEARE.              One day, when all is mapped
                 On paper--

    ANNE.                  Now!

    SHAKESPEARE.               Not yet.

    ANNE.                               Now, now!

    SHAKESPEARE.                                I cannot!

    ANNE. Because you will not. Ever you shut me out.

    SHAKESPEARE. How many are there in the listening room?

    ANNE. We two.

    SHAKESPEARE. We three.

    ANNE.                  Will!

    SHAKESPEARE.                    Are there not three? Yet swift,
                 Because it is too soon, you shrink from me,
                 Guarding your mystery still; so must I guard
                 My dreams from any touch till they are born.

    ANNE. What! Do you make our bond our barrier now?

    SHAKESPEARE. See, you’re a child that clamours--“Let me taste!”
                 But laugh and let it sip your wine, it cries--
                 “I like it not. It is not sweet!”--and blames you.
                 See! even when I give you cannot take.

    ANNE. Try me!

    SHAKESPEARE.   Too late.

    ANNE.                   I will not think I know
          What cruelty you mean. What is’t you mean?
          What is’t?

    SHAKESPEARE. How long since we two married?

    ANNE.                                      Why,
          Four months.

    SHAKESPEARE.      And are you happy?

    ANNE.                              Will, aren’t you?

    SHAKESPEARE. I asked my wife.

    ANNE.                       I am! I am! I am!
          Oh, how can I be happy when I read
          Your eyes, and read--what is it that I read?

    SHAKESPEARE. God knows!

    ANNE. Yes, God He knows, but He’s so far away--
          Tell Anne!

    SHAKESPEARE. Touch not these cellar thoughts, half worm, half weed:
                 Give them no light, no air: be warned in time:
                 Break not the seal nor roll away the stone,
                 Lest the blind evil writhe itself heart-high
                 And its breath stale us!

    ANNE.                               Oh, what evil?

    SHAKESPEARE.                                     Know you not?
                 Why then I’ll say “Thank God!” and never tell you--
                 And yet I think you know?

    ANNE.                                  Am I your wife,
          Wiser than your own mother in your ways
          (For she was wise for many, I’ve but you)
          Ways in my heart stored, and with them the unborn
          I feed, that he may grow a second you--
          Am I your wife, so close to you all day,
          So close to you all night, that oft I lie
          Counting your heart-beats--do I watch you stir
          And cry out suddenly and clench your hand
          Till the bone shows white, and then you sigh and turn,
          And sometimes smile, but never ope your eyes,
          Nor know me with a seeking touch of hands
          That bids me share the dream--am I your wife,
          Can I be woman and your very wife
          And know not you are burdened? You lock me out,
          Yet at the door I wait, wringing my hands
          To help you.

    SHAKESPEARE.       You could help me; but--I know you!
                 You’d help me, in your way, to go--your way!

    ANNE. The right way.

    SHAKESPEARE.         Said I not, sweetheart--your way?
                 So--leave it!
             _He begins to write_. ANNE _goes to the window_
                _and leans against it looking out._

    ANNE [_softly_].        Give me words! God, give me words.

    SHAKESPEARE. Sweetheart, you stay the light.

    ANNE.                                       The pane is cool.
                       _She moves to one side._
          Can you see now?

    SHAKESPEARE.            That’s better.
                   _The twang of a lute is heard._

    ANNE.                                 The road dances.

    A VOICE [_singing_]. Come with me to London,
                           Folly, come away!
                          I’ll make your fortune
                            On a fine day--

    ANNE. A stranger with my mother at the gate!

           _She opens the door to_ MRS. HATHAWAY, _who enters._

    THE VOICE [_nearer_]. Daisy leave and buttercup!
                           Pick your gold and silver up,
                              In London, in London,
                              Oh, London Town!

    ANNE. What have you brought us, Mother, unawares?

    MRS. HATHAWAY. Why, I met the man in the lane and he asked his
    way here. He wants Will.

    ANNE. Does he, and does he?

    SHAKESPEARE [_at the window_].
                 One of the players. In the town I met him
                 And had some talk, and told him of my play.

    ANNE. You told a stranger and a player? But I--
          I am not told!

    THE VOICE [_close at hand_].
                         For sheep can feed
                         And robins breed
                         Without you, without you,
                      And the world get on without you--
                         Oh, London Town!

                 SHAKESPEARE _goes to the door._

    ANNE [_stopping him_].     What brings him here?

    SHAKESPEARE.                                   I bring him!
                 To my own house. [_He goes out._]

    MRS. HATHAWAY.              Trouble?

    ANNE.                             Why no! No trouble!
          I am not beaten, starved, nor put on the street.

    MRS. HATHAWAY. Be wise, be wise, for the child’s sake, be wiser!

    ANNE. What shall I do? Out of your fifty years,
          What shall I do to hold him?

    MRS. HATHAWAY.                                A low voice
                   And a light heart is best--and not to judge.

    ANNE. Light, Mother, light? Oh, Mother, Mother, Mother!
          I’m battling on the crumble-edge of loss
          Against a seaward wind, that drives his ship
          To fortunate isles, but carries me cliff over,
          Clutching at flint and thistle-hold, to braise me
          Upon the barren benches he has left
          For ever.

         SHAKESPEARE _and the player_, HENSLOWE, _come in talking._

    MRS. HATHAWAY [_at the inner door_].
                   Come, find my basket for me. Let them be!

    ANNE. Look at him, how his face lights up!

    MRS. HATHAWAY.                            Come now,
                  And leave them to it!

    ANNE.                          I dare not, Mother, I dare not.

    MRS. HATHAWAY. It’s not the way--a little trust--

    ANNE.                                            I dare not.
          MRS. HATHAWAY _goes out at the door by the fire._

    HENSLOWE [_in talk. He is a stout, good-humoured, elderly man,
    with bright eyes and a dancing step. He wears ear-rings, is
    dressed shabby-handsome, and is splashed with mud. A lute is
    slung at his shoulder_]. Played? It shall be played. That’s why
    I’m here.

    ANNE [_behind them_]. Will!

    SHAKESPEARE [_turning_]. This is my wife.

    ANNE [_curtseys. Then, half aside_]. Who is the man?
          Where from? What is his name?

    HENSLOWE [_overhearing_]. Proteus, Madonna! A poor son of the god.

               SHAKESPEARE _laughs._

    ANNE. A foreigner?

    HENSLOWE. Why, yes and no! I’m from Spain at the moment--I have
    castles there; but my bed-sitting room (a green room, Madonna) is
    in Blackfriars. As to my means, for I see your eye on my travel
    stains, I have a bank account, also in Spain, a box-office,
    and the best of references. The world and his wife employ me,
    the Queen comes to see me, and all the men of genius run to be
    my servants. But as to who I am--O Madonna, who am I not? I’ve
    played every card in the pack, beginning as the least in the
    company, the mere unit, the innocent ace, running up my number
    with each change of hand to Jack, Queen, King, and so to myself
    again, the same mere One, but grown to my hopes. For Queen may
    blow kisses, King of Hearts command all hands at court, but Ace
    in his shirt-sleeves is manager and trumps them off the board at
    will. You may learn from this Ace; for I think, sir, you will end
    as he does, the master of your suit.

    ANNE. A fortune-teller too!

    HENSLOWE. Will you cross my palm with a sixpence, Madonna?

    ANNE. With nothing.

    HENSLOWE. Beware lest I tell you for nothing that you--fear
    your fortune!

    SHAKESPEARE [_spreading his hand_]. Is mine worth fearing?

    HENSLOWE. Here’s an actor’s hand, and a bad one. You’ll lose your
    words, King o’ Hearts. Your great scenes will break down.

    SHAKESPEARE. Then I’ll be ’prenticed direct to the Ace.

    HENSLOWE. Too fast. You must come to cues like the rest of us,
    and play out your part, before you can be God Almighty in the
    wings--as God himself found out when the world was youngish.

    ANNE. We’re plain people, sir, and my husband works his farm.

    HENSLOWE. And sings songs? I’ve been trying out a new play in the
    provinces before we risk London and Gloriana--

    ANNE. What! the Queen! the Queen?

    HENSLOWE. Oh, she keeps her eye on poor players as well as on
    Burleigh and the fleet. _There’s_ God Almighty in the wings if
    you like! But as I say--
                   Whatever barn we storm, here in the west,
                   We’re marching to the echo of new songs,
                   Jigged out in taverns, trolled along the street,
                   Loosed under sweetheart windows, whistled and sighed
                   Wherever a farmer’s boy in Lover’s Lane
                   Shifts from the right foot to the left and waits--
                   “Where did you hear it?” say I, beating time:
                   And always comes the answer--“Stratford way!”
                   A green parish, Stratford!

    SHAKESPEARE. Too flat, though I love it. Give me hills to climb!

    HENSLOWE. Flat? You should see Norfolk, where I was a boy. From
    sky to sky there’s no break in the levels but shock-head willows
    and reed tussocks where a singing bird may nest. But in which?
    Oh, for that you must sit unstirring in your boat, between still
    water and still sky, while the drips run off your blade until, a
    yard away, uprises the song. Then, flash! part the rushes--the
    nest is bare and the bird your own! Oh, I know the ways of the
    water birds! And so, hearing of a cygnet on the banks of Avon--

    ANNE. Ah!

    HENSLOWE. You’re right, Madonna, the poetical vein runs dry. So
    I’ll end with a plain question--“Is not Thames broader than Avon?”

    SHAKESPEARE. Muddier--

    HENSLOWE. But a magical water to hasten the moult, to wash white
    a young swan’s feathers.

    SHAKESPEARE. Or black, Mephisto!

    HENSLOWE. Black swans are rarest. I saw one when I was last in
    London. London’s a great city! Madonna, you should send your
    husband to market in London, and in a twelvemonth he’ll bring you
    home the world in his pocket as it might be a russet apple.

    ANNE. What should we do with the world, sir, here in Stratford?

    HENSLOWE. Why, seed it and sow it, and plant it in your garden,
    and it’ll grow into the tree of knowledge.

    ANNE [_turning away_]. My garden is planted already.

    HENSLOWE [_in a low voice_],
                 The black swan seeks a mate, black swan.

    SHAKESPEARE.                                        A woman?

    ANNE [_turning sharply_]. What did he say to you?

    HENSLOWE. Why, that a woman can make her fortune in London as
    well as a man. There’s one came lately to court, but sixteen and
    a mere knight’s daughter, without a penny piece, and you should
    see her now! The men at her feet--

    ANNE. And the women--?

    HENSLOWE. Under her heel.

    ANNE. What does the Queen say?

    HENSLOWE.                      Winks and lets her be,
              A fashion out of fashion--gipsy-black
              Among the ladies with their bracken hair,
              (The Queen, you know, is red!)

    SHAKESPEARE.                        A vixen, eh?

    HENSLOWE. Treason, my son!

    ANNE. God made us anyway and coloured us!

    SHAKESPEARE. And is he less the artist if at will
                 He strings a black pearl, hangs between the camps
                 Of day and day the banner of His dark?
                 Or that He leaves, when with His autumn breath
                 He fans the bonfire of the woods, a pine

    HENSLOWE.             True; and such a black is she
              Among the golden women.

    SHAKESPEARE.                             I see your pine,
                 Your branching solitude, your evening tree,
                 With high, untroubled head, that meets the eye
                 As lips meet unseen kisses in the night--
                 A perfumed dusk, a canopy of dreams
                 And chapel of ease, a harp for summer airs
                 To tremble in--

    ANNE.                     Barren the ground beneath,
          No flowers, no grass, the needles lying thick,
          Spent arrows--

    SHAKESPEARE.             Yes, she knows--we know how women
                 Can prick a man to death with needle stabs.

    ANNE. O God!

    HENSLOWE.    Your wife! She’s ill!

    SHAKESPEARE.                        Anne?

    ANNE.                                      Let me be!

    SHAKESPEARE. Come to your mother--take my arm--

    ANNE.                                           I’ll sit.
          I have no strength.

    SHAKESPEARE.           I’ll call her to you. [_He goes out._]

    ANNE.                                    Quick!
          Before he comes, what is her name? her name?
          Her mood? her mind? In all the town of Stratford
          Was there no door but this to pound at? Quick!
          You know her? Did you see his look? O God!
          The last rope parts. He’s like a boat that strains,
          Strains at her moorings. Why did you praise her so?
          And talk of London? What’s it all to you?
          Tall, is she? Yes, like a tree--a block of wood--
          You said so! (Is he coming?) Tell me quick!
          I’ve never seen a London lady close.
          She’s lovely? So are many! How?

    HENSLOWE.                                      She’s new!
              She’s gallant, like a tall ship setting sail,
              And boasts she fears no man. Say “woman” though--

    ANNE. What woman does this woman fear?

    HENSLOWE.                             The Queen.
             I’ve seen it in her eye.

    ANNE.                            I should not fear.

    HENSLOWE. You never saw the Queen of England smile
              And crook her finger, once--and the fate falls.

    ANNE. I’ve seen her picture. She’s eaten of a worm
          As I am eaten. I’d not fear the Queen.
          Her snake would know its fellow in my heart
          And pass me. But this woman--what’s her name?

    HENSLOWE. Mary--

    ANNE.           That’s “bitter.” I shall find her so.
                SHAKESPEARE _comes in with_ MRS. HATHAWAY.
          Look at him! Fear the Queen? Did not the Queen,
          My sister, meet a Mary long ago
          That bruised her in the heel?

    HENSLOWE.                         Man, your wife’s mad!
             She says the Queen’s her sister.

    ANNE.                                 Mad, noble Festus?
          Not I! But tell him so--he’ll kiss you for it.

    HENSLOWE. I’ll meet you, friend, some other time or place--

    SHAKESPEARE. What’s this? You’re leaving us?

    HENSLOWE.                               Your wife’s too ill--

    SHAKESPEARE. Too ill to stand, yet not too ill to--[_Aside_] Anne!
                 Why does he stare? What have you told my friend?

    ANNE. Your friend!

    SHAKESPEARE.      My friend!

    ANNE.                        This once-met Londoner!
          What does he want of you, in spite of me?
          This bribing tramp, this palpable decoy--

    SHAKESPEARE. Be silent in my house before my friends!
                 Be silent!

    ANNE.                 This your friend!

    SHAKESPEARE.                           Silent, I say!

    ANNE. I _will_ not! Blows? Would you do that to me,

    SHAKESPEARE.    I never touched you!

    ANNE.                               What! No blow?
          Here, where I felt it--here? Is there no wound,
          No black mark?

    MRS. HATHAWAY.               Oh, she’s wild! I’ll take her. Come!
                   Come, Anne! It’s naught! I know the signs.
                           [_To_ SHAKESPEARE].
                                             Stay you!

    ANNE. O Mother, there befell me a strange pang
          Here at my heart--[_The two go out together._]

    SHAKESPEARE.                    O women! women! women!
                 They slink about you, noiseless as a cat,
                 With ready smiles and ready silences.
                 These women are too humble and too wise
                 In pricking needle-ways: they drive you mad
                 With fibs and slips and kisses out of time:
                 And if you do not trip and feign as they
                 And cover all with kisses, do but wince
                 Once in your soul (the soul they shall not touch,
                 Never, I tell you, never! Sooner the smeared,
                 The old-time honey death from a thousand stings,
                 Than let their tongue prick patterns on your soul!)
                 Then, then all’s cat-like clamour and annoy!

    HENSLOWE. Cry, “Shoo!” and clap your hands; for so are all
              Familiar women. These are but interludes
              In the march of the play, and should be taken so,
              Lightly, as food for laughter, not for rage.

    SHAKESPEARE.      My mother--

    HENSLOWE [_shrugging_].    Ah, your mother!

    SHAKESPEARE.                                 She’s not thus,
                But selfless; and I’ve dreamed of others--tall,
                Warm-flushed like pine-woods with their clear red stems,
                With massy hair and voices like the wind
                Stirring the cool dark silence of the pines.
                Know you such women?--beckoning hill-top women,
                That sway to you with lovely gifts of shade
                And slumber, and deep peace, and when at dawn
                You go from them on pilgrimage again,
                They follow not nor weep, but rooted stand
                In their own pride for ever--demi-gods.
                Are there such women? Did you say you knew
                Such women? such a woman?

    HENSLOWE.                    Come to London
              And use your eyes!

    SHAKESPEARE.                How can I come to London?
                You see me what I am, a man tied down.
                My wife--you saw! How can I come to London?
                Say to a sick man “Take your bed and walk!”
                Say to a prisoner “Release your chain!”
                Say to a tongue-slit blackbird “Pipe again
                As in the free, the spring-time!” You maybe
                Have spells to help them, but for me no help.
                I think sometimes that I shall never see
                This lady in whose lap the weed-hung ships
                From ocean-end returning pour their gold,
                Myrrh, frankincense. What colour’s frankincense?
                And how will a man’s eye move and how his hand,
                Who sailed the flat world round and home again
                To London, London of the mazy streets,
                Where ever the shifting people flash and fade
                Like my own thoughts? You’re smiling--why?

    HENSLOWE.                                  I live there.

    SHAKESPEARE. Oh, to be you!
                 To read the faces and to write the dreams,
                 To hear the voices and record the songs,
                 To grave upon the metal of my mind
                 All great men, lordlier than they know themselves,
                 And fowler-like to fling my net o’er London,
                 And some let fly, and clip the wings of some
                 Fit for my notes; till one fine day I catch
                 The Governess of England as she goes
                 To solemn service with her gentlemen:
                 (What thoughts behind the mask, beneath the crown?)
                 Queen! The crowd’s eyes are yours, but not my eyes!
                 Queen! To my piping you shall unawares
                 Strut on my stage for me! You laugh? I swear
                 I’ll make that thrice-wrapped, politic, vain heart
                 My horn-book (as you all are) whence I’ll learn
                 How Julius frowned, and Elinor rode her way
                 Rough-shod, and Egypt met ill-news. I’ll do it,
                 Though I hold horses in the streets for hire,
                 Once I am come to London.

    HENSLOWE.                            Come with us
              And there’s no holding horses! Part and pay
              Are ready, and we start to-night.

    SHAKESPEARE.                                I cannot.
                I’m Whittington at cross-roads, but the bells
                Ring “Turn again to Stratford!” not to London.

    HENSLOWE. Well--as you choose!

    SHAKESPEARE.                    As I choose? _I! I_ choose?
                I’m married to a woman near her time
                That needs me! Choose? I am not twenty, sir!
                What devil sped you here to bid me choose?
                I knew a boy went wandering in a wood,
                Drunken with common dew and beauty-mad
                And moonstruck. Then there came a nightshade witch,
                Locked hands with him, small hands, hot hands,
                       down drew him,
                Sighing--“Love me, love me!” as a ring-dove sighs,
                (How white a woman is, under the moon!)
                She was scarce human. Yet he took her home,
                And now she’s turned in the gross light of day
                To a haggard scold, and he handfasted sits
                Breaking his heart--and yet the spell constrains him.
                This is not I, not I, for I am bound
                To a good wife and true, that loves me; but--
                I tell you I could write of such a man,
                And make you laugh and weep at such a man,
                For your own manhood’s sake, so bound, so bound.

    HENSLOWE. Laugh? Weep? No, I’d be a friend to such a man! Go to
    him now and tell him from me--or no! Go rather to this wife of
    his that loves him well, you say--?

    SHAKESPEARE. Too well!

    HENSLOWE. Why, man, it’s common! Or too light, too low,
              Not once in a golden age love’s scale trims level.

    SHAKESPEARE. I read of lovers once in Italy--

    HENSLOWE. You’ll write of lovers too, not once nor twice.

    SHAKESPEARE. Their scales were level ere they died of love,
                 In Italy--

    HENSLOWE. But if instead they had lived--in Stratford--there’d
    have been such a see-saw in six months as--

    SHAKESPEARE. As what?

    HENSLOWE. As there has been, eh?
                   “See-saw! Margery Daw!
                    She sold her bed to lie upon straw.”
    And so--poor Margery! Though she counts me an enemy--poor Margery!

    SHAKESPEARE. What help for Margery--and her Jack?

    HENSLOWE. None, friend, in Stratford.

    SHAKESPEARE. Do I not know it?

    HENSLOWE. Then--tell Margery!

    SHAKESPEARE. Deaf, deaf!

    HENSLOWE. Not if you tell her how all heels in London
              (And the Queen dances!)
              So trip to the Stratford tune that I hot-haste
              Am sent to fetch the fiddler--

    SHAKESPEARE.                        Man, is it true?
                 True that the Queen--?

    HENSLOWE.                           I say--tell Margery!
    What! is she a woman, a wife, and will not further her man? I say
    to you--tell Margery, as I tell you--

    SHAKESPEARE. You do?

    HENSLOWE. I do. I do tell you that if you can come away with us
    now with your ‘Dream’ in your pocket, and teach it to us and
    learn of us while you teach, and strike London in time for the
    Queen’s birthday--I tell you and I tell her, Jack’s a made man.
    See what Margery says to that, and give me the answer, stay or
    come, as I pass here to-night! And now let me go; for if I do not
    soon whip my company clear of apple-juice and apple-bloom, clear,
    that is to say, of Stratford wine and Stratford women, we shall
    not pass here to-night. [_He goes out._]

    SHAKESPEARE. To-night! [_Calling_] Anne! Anne! [_He walks up and
    down._] Oh, to be one of them to-night on the silver road--to
    smell the steaming frost and listen to men’s voices and the ring
    of iron on the London road! [_Calling_] Anne!

    ANNE [_entering_]. You called? He’s gone? You’re angry?
                              Oh, not now,
                        No anger now; for, Will, to-night in the sky,
                        Our sky, a new star shines.

    SHAKESPEARE.                         What’s that? You know?

    ANNE. I know, and oh, my heart sings.

    SHAKESPEARE.                         Anne, dear Anne,
                You know? No frets? You wish it? Oh, dear Anne,
                How did you guess and know?

    ANNE.                                My mother told me.

    SHAKESPEARE. She heard us? Did she hear--they’ve read the play,
                 And the Queen’s asked for me! London, Anne! London!
                 I’ll send you London home, my lass, by the post--
                 Such frocks and fancies! London! London, Anne!
                 And you, you know? and speed me hence? By God,
                 That’s my own wife at last, all gold to me
                 And goodness! Anne, be better to me still
                 And help me hence to-night!

    ANNE.                                 It dips, it dies,
          A night-light, Mother, and no star. I grope
          Giddily in the dark.

    SHAKESPEARE.              What did she tell you?

    ANNE. No matter. Oh, it earns not that black look.
          London? the Queen? I’ll help you, oh, be sure!
          Too glad to see you glad.

    SHAKESPEARE.                   Anne, it’s good-bye
                To Stratford till the game’s won.

    ANNE.                                    What care I
          So you are satisfied? The farm must go--
          That’s little--

    SHAKESPEARE.         Must it go?

    ANNE.                           Dreamer, how else
          Shall we two live in London?

    SHAKESPEARE.                     _We_, do you say?
                They’d have me travel with them--a rough life--

    ANNE. I care not!

    SHAKESPEARE.      --and you’re ailing.

    ANNE.                                 Better soon.

    SHAKESPEARE. You’ll miss your mother.

    ANNE.                            Mothers everywhere
          Will help a girl. I’m strong.

    SHAKESPEARE.                     It will not do!
                I have my world to learn, and learn alone.
                I will not dangle at your apron-strings.

    ANNE. I’ll be no tie. I’ll be your follower
          And scarce your wife; but let me go with you!

    SHAKESPEARE. If you could see but once, once, with my eyes!

    ANNE. Will! let me go with you!

    SHAKESPEARE.                    I tell you--no!
                Leave me to go my way and rule my life
                After my fashion! I’ll not lean on you
                Because you’re seven years wiser.

    ANNE.                              That too, O God!

    SHAKESPEARE. And if I hurt you--for I know I do,
                 I’m not so rapt--think of me, if you can,
                 As a man stifled that wildly throws his arms,
                 Raking the air for room--for room to breathe,
                 And so strikes unaware, unwillingly,
                 His lover!

    ANNE.                   I could sooner think of you
          Asleep, and I beside you with the child,
          And all this passion ended, as it must,
          In quiet graves; for we have been such lovers
          As there’s no room for in the human air
          And daylight side of the grass. What shall I do?
          And how live on? Why did you marry me?

    SHAKESPEARE. You know the why of that.

    ANNE.                                Too well we know it,
          I and the child. You have well taught this fool
          That thought a heart of dreams, a loving heart,
          A soul, a self resigned, could better please
          Than the blind flesh of a woman; for God knows
          Your self drew me, the folded man in you,
          Not, not the boy-husk.

    SHAKESPEARE.                     Yet the same God knows
                 When folly was, you willed it first, not I.

    ANNE. Old! Old as Adam! and untrue, untrue!
          Why did you come to me at Shottery,
          Out of your way, so often? laugh with me
          Apart, and answer for me as of right,
          As if you knew me better (ah, it was sweet!)
          Than my own brothers? And on Sunday eves
          You’d wait and walk with me the long way home
          From church, with me alone, the foot-path way,
          Across the fields where wild convolvulus
          Strangles the corn--

    SHAKESPEARE.              Strangles the corn indeed!

    ANNE. --and still delay me talking at the stile,
          Long after curfew, under the risen moon.
          Why did you come? Why did you stay with me,
          To make me love, to make me think you loved me?

    SHAKESPEARE. Oh, you were easy, cheap, you flattered me.

    ANNE [_crying out_]. I did not.

    SHAKESPEARE.                    Why, did you not look at me
                 As I were God? And for a while I liked it.
                 It fed some weed in me that since has withered;
                 For now I like it not, nor like you for it!

    ANNE. That is your fate, you change, you must ever be changing,
          You climb from a boy to a man, from a man to a god,
          And the god looks back on the man with a smile,
                   and the man on the boy with wonder;
          But I, I am woman for ever: I change not at all.
          You hold out your hands to me--heaven: you turn
                   from me--hell;
          But neither the hell nor the heaven can change me:
                   I love you: I change not at all.

    SHAKESPEARE. All this leads not to London, and for London
                 I am resolved: if not to-night--

    ANNE.                                           To-night?

    SHAKESPEARE. As soon as maybe. When the child is born--
                 When will the child be born?

    ANNE.                           Soon, soon--

    SHAKESPEARE.                                How soon?

    ANNE. I think--I do not know--

    SHAKESPEARE.                  In March?

    ANNE.                                   Who knows?

    SHAKESPEARE. Did you not tell me March?

    ANNE.                             Easter--

    SHAKESPEARE.                            That’s May!
                It should be March.

    ANNE.                     It--should be--March--

    SHAKESPEARE.                                Why, Anne?

    ANNE. Stay with me longer! Wait till Whitsuntide,
          Till June, till summer comes, and if, when you see
          Your own son, still you’ll leave us, why, go then!
          But sure, you will not go.

    SHAKESPEARE.                   Summer? Why summer?
                It should be spring, not summer--

    ANNE.                                    I’ll not bear
          These questions, like coarse fingers, prying out
          My secrets.

    SHAKESPEARE.      Secrets?

    ANNE.                      Secrets? I? I’ve none--
          I never meant--I know not why the word
          Came to me, “secret.” Yet you’re all secret thoughts
          And plans you do not share. Why should not I
          Be secret, if I choose? But see, I’ll tell you
          All, all--some other time--were there indeed
          A thing to tell--

    SHAKESPEARE.         When will the child be born?

    ANNE. If it were--June? My mother said to-day
          It might be June--July--This woman’s talk
          Is not for you--

    SHAKESPEARE.           July?

    ANNE.                       Oh, I must laugh
          Because you look and look--don’t look at me!
          June! May! I swear it’s May! I said the spring,
          And May is still the girlhood of the year.

    SHAKESPEARE. July! A round year since you came to me!
                 Then--when you came to me, in haste, afraid,
                 All tears, and clung to me, and white-lipped swore
                 You had no friend but Avon if I failed you,
                 It was a lie?

    ANNE.                    Don’t look at me!

    SHAKESPEARE.                               No need?
                You forced me with a lie?

    ANNE.                             Now there is--now!

    SHAKESPEARE. You locked me in this prison with a lie?

    ANNE. I loved you.

    SHAKESPEARE.       And you lied to me--

    ANNE.                                 To hold you.
          I couldn’t lose you. I was mad with pain.

    SHAKESPEARE. Are you so weak,
                 So candle-wavering, that a gust of pain
                 Could snuff out honour?

    ANNE.                               ’Ware this hurricane
          Of pain! The deserts heed it not, nor rocks,
          Nor the perpetual sea; but oh, the fields
          Where barley grows and small beasts hide, they fear--
          And haggard woods that feel its violent hand
          Entangled in their hair and wrestling, shriek
          Crashing to ruin. What shall their pensioners
          Do now, the rustling mice, the anemones,
          The whisking squirrels, ivies, nightingales,
          The hermit bee whose summer goods were stored
          In a south bank? How shall the small things stand
          Against the tempest, against the cruel sun
          That stares them, homeless, out of countenance,
          Through the day’s heats?

    SHAKESPEARE.                  Coward! They see the sun
                 Though they die seeing, and the wider view,
                 The vast horizons, the amazing skies
                 Undreamed before.

    ANNE.                         I cannot see so far.
          I want my little loves, I want my home.
          My life is rooted up, my prop is gone,
          And like a vine I lie upon the ground,
          Muddied and broken.

    SHAKESPEARE.               I could be sorry for you
                 Under the heavy hand of God or man
                 But your own hand has slain yourself and me.
                 Woman, the shame of it, to trap me thus,
                 Knowing I never loved you!

    ANNE.                                  Oh, for a month--
          In the spring, in the long grass, under the apple-trees--

    SHAKESPEARE. I never loved you.

    ANNE.                           Think, when I hurt my hand
          With the wild rose, it was then you said “Dear Anne!”

    SHAKESPEARE. I have forgotten.

    ANNE.                           On Midsummer Eve--
          There was a dream about a wood you told me,
          Me--not another--

    SHAKESPEARE.              I was drunk with dreams
                 That night.

    ANNE.        That night, that night you loved me, Will!
          Oh, never look at me and say--that night,
          Under the holy moon, there was no love!

    SHAKESPEARE. You knew it was not love.

    ANNE.                                O God, I knew,
          And would not know! You never came again.
          I hoped, I prayed. I hoped. I loved you so.
          You never came.
          And must I go to you? I was ashamed.
          Yet in the wood I waited, waited, Will,
          Night after night I waited, waited, Will,
          Till shame itself was swallowed up in pain,
          In pain of waiting, and--I went to you.

    SHAKESPEARE. That lie upon those loving lips?

    ANNE.                                      That lie.

    SHAKESPEARE. There was no child?

    ANNE.                 The hope, the hope of children,
          To bind you to me--a true hope to hold you--
          No lie--a little lie--I loved you so--
          Scarcely a lie--a promise to come true
          Of gifts between us and a love to come.

    SHAKESPEARE. You’re mad! You’re mad!

    ANNE.                             I was mad. I am sane.
          I am blind Samson, shaking down the house
          Of torment on myself as well as you.

    SHAKESPEARE. What gain was there? What gain?

    ANNE.                                What gain but you?
          The sight of your face and the sound of your foot
                  on the stair,
          And your casual word to a stranger--“This is my wife!”
          For the touch of my hand on your arm, as a
                  right, when we walked with the neighbours:
          For the son, for the son on my heart, with your
                  smile and your frown:
          For the loss of my name in the name that you gave when
                  you said to him--“Mother! your mother!”
          For your glance at me over his head when he brought
                  us his toys or his tears:
          Have pity! Have pity! Have pity! for these things
                  I did it.

    SHAKESPEARE. Words! Words! You lied to me. Go your own road!
                 I know you not.

    ANNE.                       But I, but I know you.
          Have I not learned my god’s face? Have I not seen
          The great dreams cloud it, as the ships of the sky
          Darken the river? Has not the wind struck home,
          The following chill wind that stirs all straws
          Of omen? You’re to be great, God pity you!
          I’m your poor village woman; but I know
          What you must learn and learn, and shriek to God
          To spare you learning, if you will be great,
          Singing to men and women across fields
          Of years, and hearing answer as they reap,
          Afar, the centuried fields, “He knew, he knew!”
          How will they listen to you--voice that cries
          “Right’s right! Wrong’s wrong! For every sin a stone!
          “Ye shall not plead to any god or man--
          “‘I flinched because the pain was very great,’
          “‘I fell because the burden bore me down,’
          “‘Hungry, I stole.’” O boy, ungrown, at judgment,
          How will they listen? What? I lied? Oh, blind!
          When I, your own, show you my heart of hearts,
          A book for you to read all women by,
          Blindly you turn my page with--“Here are lies!”

    SHAKESPEARE. Subtle enough--and glitter may be gold
                 In women’s eyes--you say so--though to a man,
                 Boy rather (boy, you called me) lies are lies,
                 Base money, though you rub ’em till they shine,
                 Ill money to buy love with; but--I care not!
                 So be at ease! My love’s not confiscate,
                 For none was yours to forfeit. Faith indeed,
                 A weakling trust is gone, for though you irked me
                 I thought you honest and so bore much from you--
                 Your jealous-glancing eye, officious hand
                 Meddling my papers, fool’s opinion given
                 Unasked when strangers spoke with me, and laughter
                 Suddenly checked as if you feared a blow
                 As a dog does--it made me mad!

    ANNE.                                    Go on!

    SHAKESPEARE. For when did I use you ill?

    ANNE.                                    Go on!

    SHAKESPEARE.                                  What need?
                All’s in a word--your ever-presence here
                As if you’d naught in life to do but watch me--

    ANNE. Go on!

    SHAKESPEARE. All this, I say, I bore, because at heart
                 I did believe you loved me. Well--it’s gone!
                 And I go with it--free, a free man, free!
                 Anne! for that word I could forgive you all
                 And go from you in peace.

    ANNE [_catching at his arm_].          You shall not go!

    SHAKESPEARE. Shall not? This burr--how impudent it clings!

    ANNE. You have not heard me--

    SHAKESPEARE.                  Let me go, I say!
                 My purse, my papers--

    ANNE.                           Will!

    SHAKESPEARE.                    Talk to the walls,
                 For I hear nothing!

    ANNE.                           Why, a murderess
          Has respite in my case--and I--and I--
          What have I done but love you, when all’s said?
          You will not leave me now, now when that lie
          Is certain truth at last, and in me sleeps
          Like God’s forgiveness? For I felt it stir
          When you were angry--I was angry too,
          My fault, all mine--but I was sick and faint
          And frightened, so I railed, because no word
          Matched with the strong need in me suddenly
          For gentlest looks and your beloved arms
          About this body changed and shaking so;
          But why I knew not. But my mother knew
          And told me.

    SHAKESPEARE.      O wise mother!

    ANNE.                           Will, it’s true!

    SHAKESPEARE. Practice makes perfect, as we wrote at school!

    ANNE. I swear to you--

    SHAKESPEARE.           As then you swore to me.
                 Not twice, not twice, my girl!

    ANNE.                                     O God, God Son!
          Pitiful God! If there be other lives,
          As I have heard him say, as his books say,
          In other bodies, for Your Mother’s sake
          And all she knows (God, ask her what she knows!)
          Let me not be a woman! Let me be
          Some twisting worm on a hook, or fish they catch
          And fling again to catch another year,
          Or otter trapped and broiled in the sun three days,
          Or lovely bird whose living wing men tear
          From its live body, or of Italy
          Some peasant’s drudge-horse whipped upon its eyes,
          Or let me as a heart-burst, screaming hare
          Be wrenched in two by slavering deaths for sport;
          But let me not again be cursed a woman
          Surrendered to the mercy of her man!

    _She sinks down in a crouching heap by the hearth. There has
    been a sound of many voices drawing nearer, and as she ceases
    speaking, the words of a song become clear._

    THE PLAYERS [_singing_].  Come with us to London,
                               Folly, come away!
                              We’ll make your fortune
                               On a summer day.
                            Leave your sloes and mulberries!
                            There are riper fruits than these,
                               In London, in London,
                               Oh, London Town!
                               For winds will blow
                               And barley grow
                               Without you, without you,
                            And the world get on without you--
                               Oh, London Town!

    _The voices drop to a low hum_. HENSLOWE _thrusts his head in at
    the window._

    HENSLOWE. The sun’s down. The sky’s as yellow as a London fog.
    Well, what’s it to be?

    SHAKESPEARE. London! The future in a golden fog!

    HENSLOWE. Come then!

    SHAKESPEARE. I’ll fetch my bundle. Wait for me! What voices?

    HENSLOWE. The rest of us, the people of the plays.
              We’re all here waiting for you.

    SHAKESPEARE.                            Come in, all! all!

    HENSLOWE. Does your wife say to us--“Come in!”?

    SHAKESPEARE.                                   What wife?

                 _He hurries up the stairs and disappears._

    HENSLOWE [_opening the outer door_].
                    May we come in?

    ANNE.                          You heard him.

    HENSLOWE.                                     We ask you.

    ANNE. It’s his house.

    HENSLOWE [_humming_].     While fortune waits
                               Within the gates
                               Of London, of London--
                    He must be quick!

    ANNE.                            Am _I_ to tell him so?

    HENSLOWE. The new moon’s up and reaping in a sky
              Like corn--that’s frost! A bitter travelling night
              Before us--

    ANNE [_going to the window_].
                  So it is.

    HENSLOWE.               Not through the glass!
              You’ll buy ill luck of the moon.

    ANNE.                            I bought ill fortune
          Long months ago under the shifty moon,
          I saw her through the midnight glass of the air,
          Milky with light, when trees my casement were,
          And little twigs the leads that held my pane.
          I’m out of luck for ever.

    HENSLOWE. Did I not tell you you feared your fortune? But there
    are some in the company can tell you a better, if you’ll let ’em

    THREE PLAYERS IN MASKS [_tapping at the window_].
                        Let us in! Let us in! Let us in!

    ANNE. I will not let you in. Wait for your fellow
          On the high road! He’ll come to you soon enough.

          _She turns from them and seats herself by the fire._

    A PLAYER [_dressed as a king, over_ HENSLOWE’S _shoulder_]. Are
    we never to come in? It’s as cold as charity since the sun set.

    ANNE. It’s no warmer here.

    A CHILD [_poking his head under the_ PLAYER’S _arm_]. I can’t
    feel my fingers. [ANNE _looks at him. Her face changes._]

    ANNE. If the fire warms you, you may warm yourselves.
                    THE PLAYERS _stream in._
          It does not warm me. Look! It cannot warm me.
                   _She thrusts her hand into the flame._

    HENSLOWE. God’s sake!
                          _He pulls her back._ THE PLAYERS
                          _stare and whisper together._

    ANNE. Eyes! Needle eyes! Why do you stare and point?
          Like you I would have warmed myself. Vain, vain!
          It’s a strange hearth. You players are the first
          It ever warmed or welcomed. Charity?
          Who said it--“Cold as charity”? That’s love!
          But there’s no love here. Baby, stay away!
          You’ll freeze less out in churchyard night than here,
          For here’s not even charity.

    THE CHILD [_warming his hands_]. I’m not a baby. I’m nearly
    eleven. I’ve played children’s parts for years. I’m getting
    warmer. Are you?

    ANNE. No.

    CHILD. I like this house. I’d like to stay here. I suppose there
    are things in that cupboard?

    THE KING [_overhearing_]. Now, now!

    CHILD. That’s my father. He’s a king this week. He’s only a duke
    as a rule. Are there apples in that cupboard? Will you give me

          ANNE _goes to the cupboard and takes out an apple._

    ANNE. Will you give me a kiss?

    CHILD. For my apple?

    ANNE. No, for love.

    CHILD. I don’t love you.

    ANNE. For luck, then.

    CHILD. You told him you’d got no luck.

    ANNE. Won’t you give me a kiss?

    CHILD. If you like. Don’t hold me so tight. Is it true you’ve no
    luck? Shall I tell your fortune?

    ANNE. Can you?

    CHILD. O yes! I’ve watched the Fates do it in the new play. It’s
    Orpheus and--it’s a long name. But she’s his lost wife. Give me
    a handkerchief! That’s for a grey veil. [_Posing._] Now say to
    me--“Who are you?”

    ANNE. Who are you?

    CHILD [_posing_]. Fate! Now you must say--“Whose fate?”

    ANNE. Whose?

    CHILD. Oh, then I lift the veil and you scream. [_Stamping his
    foot._] Scream!

    ANNE. Why, baby?

    CHILD [_frowning_]. At my dreadful face. [_But he begins to
    laugh in spite of himself._]

    ANNE [_her face hidden_]. Oh, child! Oh, child!

    CHILD. That’s right! That’s the way she cries in the play. You
    see the man goes down to hell to find his wife, and the Fates
    show her what’s going to happen while she’s waiting for him.
    She’s in hell already, waiting and waiting. It takes years to
    travel through hell. That’s her talking to the old man in rags
    and a crown.

    ANNE. Who’s he?

    CHILD. Oh, he’s a poor old king whose daughters beat him. He
    isn’t in this play. Well, when Orpheus gets to hell--I lead him
    there, you know--

    ANNE. A babe in hell--a babe in hell--

    CHILD. I’m the little god of love. I wear a crown of roses and
    wings. They do tickle. Soon I’ll be too big. So he and I go to
    the three Fates to get back his wife. She isn’t pretty in that
    act. She’s all white and dead round her eyes--like you.

    ANNE. Does he find her?

    CHILD. After he sings his beautiful song he does. Everybody has
    to listen when he sings. Even the big dog lies down. Your husband
    made us a nice catch about it yesterday. I like your husband. I’m
    glad he’s coming with us. Are you coming with us?

    ANNE. No.

    CHILD. It’s a pity. If you were a man you could act in the
    company. But women can’t act. Even Orpheus’ wife is a boy really.
    So are the three Fates. They’re friends of mine. Would you like
    to talk to them, the way we do in the play? Come on! I go first,
    you see. You must say just what I tell you.

          _He takes her hands and pulls her to her feet.
          She stares, bewildered, for the room has grown
          dim. The dying fire shines upon the shifting,
          shadowy figures of the_ PLAYERS. _The crowd grows
          larger every moment and is thickest at the foot
          of the stairs_. SHAKESPEARE _is seen coming down

    ANNE. The room’s so full. I’m frightened. Who are all these

    CHILD. Hush! We’re in hell. These are all the dead people. We
    bring ’em to life.

    ANNE. Who? We?

    CHILD. I and the singer. Look, there’s your husband coming down
    the stairs! That’s just the way Orpheus comes down into hell.

    ANNE. Will! Will!

    CHILD. Hush! You mustn’t talk.

    ANNE. But it’s all dreams--it’s all dreams.

    CHILD. It’s the players.

    SHAKESPEARE [_among the shadows_].
                      Let me pass!

    THE SHADOWS.             Pay toll!

    SHAKESPEARE.                  How, pay it?

    A SHADOW.                         Tell my story?

    ANOTHER.    And mine!

    ANOTHER.         And mine!

    ANOTHER.               And mine!

    A ROMAN WOMAN. Pluck back my dagger first and tell my story!

    A DROWNED GIRL. Oh, listen, listen, listen, I’ve forgotten my own
    story. It’s a very sad one. Remember for me!

    SHAKESPEARE. I will remember. Let me pass!

    A TROJAN WOMAN [_kissing him_].           Here’s pay!

    A VENETIAN. I died of love.

    THE TROJAN WOMAN.            Kiss me and tell my story!

    A MOOR. Dead lips, dead lips!

    A YOUNG MAN.                 This is how Judas kissed.

    A QUEEN. My son was taken from me. Tell my story!

    ANOTHER. And mine!

    ANOTHER.           And mine!

    A YOUNG MAN.                That son am I!

    TWO CHILDREN.                             I--I--

    A SOLDIER. I killed a king.

    A CROWNED SHADOW.          He killed me while I slept.

    THE SHADOWS. You shall not pass until you tell our story!

    A GIRL DRESSED AS A BOY. I lived in a wood and laughed.
                             Sing you my laughter
                             When the sun shone!

    SHAKESPEARE.                      I’ll sing it. Singing I go,
                 What shall I find after the song is over?
                 What shall I find after the way is clear?

    AN OLD MAN, A JEW. Gold and gold and gold--

    A CLOWN.                           And a grave untended--

    A MAN IN BLACK. Heartbreak--

    TWO COUSINS.              A friend or two--

    A ROMAN WITH LAURELS.                      Oh, sing my story
                       Before I had half-way climbed to the nearest star
                       My ladder broke.

    SHAKESPEARE.                      I’ll tell all time that story.

    THE ROMAN. The stars are dark, seen close.

    SHAKESPEARE.                             I’ll say it.

    THE ROMAN.                                            Pass!

    AN EGYPTIAN [_holding a goblet_].
                 He shall not pass. Drink! There are pearls in the cup.

    A GIRL, A VERONESE [_taking it from her_].

    A MAN [_with a wand_]. Dreams!

    THE KING IN RAGS.            Frenzy!

    A NUN.                               Sacrament!

    A DRUNKARD.                                    A jest!

    A ROMAN WIFE. Here’s coals for bread.

    THE EGYPTIAN [_A man in armour has flung his arm about her neck_].
                                      Eat, drink and pass again
                       To the lost sunshine and the passionate nights,
                       And tell the world our story!

    SHAKESPEARE.                                   Let me go!

    ALL THE SHADOWS. Never, never, never! To the end of time we
                     Follow, follow, follow!

    SHAKESPEARE.                          Threads and floating wisps
                 Of being, how they fasten like a cloud
                 Of gnats upon me, not to be shaken off

    THE SHADOWS.                Sing! Sing!

    _There is a strain of music: the crowd hides_ SHAKESPEARE: _the
    three masked players have drifted free of the turmoil._

    CHILD [_delighted_]. He does it quite as well as Orpheus.

    ANNE. Who are these dreams?

    CHILD. The people of the plays. And there are the Fates at last!
    That’s the end of my part. Now you must talk to them till your
    husband comes. He comes when you scream.

             _He picks up his bow and runs away._

    ANNE.         Come back! Stay by me!

    CHILD [_laughing_].               Play your part alone.

          _He is lost in the crowd_. THE MASKS _have drawn
          near. The first is small and closely veiled and
          carries the distaff. The second is tall: part
          of her face shows white: her hands are empty.
          The third is bowed and crowned: she carries the

ANNE. These are all dreams or I am mad. Who are you?

FIRST MASK. His fate. I hold the thread.

    ANNE.                          I’ll see you!

    FIRST MASK.                                 No!

          _As she retreats the_ SECOND MASK _takes the
          distaff from her._

    SECOND MASK. I tangle it.

    ANNE.                  Who are you?

    SECOND MASK.                        Fate! his fate!

    ANNE. Drop the bright mask and let me see!

                _The_ SECOND MASK _drops her veil and_
                 _shows the face of a dark lady._
                                                It needs not!
          I knew, I knew! Barren the ground beneath,
          No flowers, no fruit, spent arrows--
              _The_ SECOND MASK _makes way for the_
             THIRD _who takes the tangle from her. The_
             SECOND MASK _glides away._
                                             Not the shears!
    THIRD MASK [_winding the thread_].
                    Not yet!

    ANNE.                 Who are you?

    THIRD MASK.                       Fate! his fate!

    ANNE.                                          A crown!
          My snake should know its fellow--is it so?
              _The mask is lifted and reveals the face of_ ELIZABETH.
          I do not fear the Queen--

    THIRD MASK.                    Take back the thread!
         _She gives the distaff to the_ FIRST MASK _who_
              _has reappeared beside her and glides away._

    ANNE. But you I fear, O shrinking fate! what fate?
          What first and last fate? Show me your face, I say!
                       _She tears off the mask. The face revealed_
                   _is the face of_ ANNE. _She screams._
                   Myself! I saw myself! Will! Will!

          THE CHILD. _kneeling at the hearth stirs the fire
          and a bright flame shoots up that lights the
          whole room. It is empty save for the few players
          gathering together their bundles and_ SHAKESPEARE
          _who has hurried to_ ANNE. _His hand, gripping
          her shoulder, steadies her as she sways._

    SHAKESPEARE.                            Still railing?

    CHILD [_to his father_].She’s a poor frightened lady and she
    cried. I like her.

    ANNE. Gone! Gone! Where are they? Call them back! I saw--

    SHAKESPEARE. What folly! These are players and my friends;
                You could have given them food at least and served them.

    ANNE. I saw--I saw--

    HENSLOWE [_coming up to them_]. So, are you ready? The moon is
    high: we must be going.

    SHAKESPEARE. I’ll follow instantly.

          THE PLAYERS _trail out by twos and threes. They
          pass the window and repass it on the further side
          of the hedge. They are a black, fantastic frieze,
          upon the yellow, winter sky._ HENSLOWE _goes
          first: the king’s crown is crooked, and the child
          is riding on his back: the masks come last._

    THE PLAYERS [_singing_].
                Come away to London,
                  Folly, come away!
                You’ll make your fortune
                  Thrice in a day.
              Paddocks leave and winter byres,
              London has a thousand spires,
                  A-chiming, a-rhyming,
                  Oh, London Town!
                  The snow will fall
                  And cover all
                  Without you, without you,
              And the world get on without you--
                  Oh, London Town!
            SHAKESPEARE _goes hurriedly to the table_
          _and picks up his books._

    ANNE.                      Will!

    SHAKESPEARE.                      For your needs
                 You have the farm. Farewell!

    ANNE [_catching at his arm_]        For pity’s sake!
          I’m so beset with terrors not my own--
          What have you loosed upon me? I’ll not be left
          In this black house, this kennel of chained grief,
          This ghost-run. Take me with you! No, stay by me!
          These are but dreams of evil. Shall we not wake
          Drowsily in a minute? Oh, bless’d waking
          To peace and sunshine and no evil done!
          Count out the minute--

    SHAKESPEARE.                          If ever I forget
                 The evil done me, I’ll forget the spring,
                 And Avon, and the blue ways of the sky,
                 And my own mother’s face.

    ANNE.                            Do I say “forget”?
          I say “remember”! When you’ve staked all, all,
          Upon your one throw--when you’ve lost--remember!
          And done the evilest thing you would not do,
          Self-forced to the vile wrong you would not do,
          Me in that hour remember!

    SHAKESPEARE.                  Let me go!

    ANNE [_she is on the ground, clinging to him_].
          Remember! See, I do not pray “forgive”!
          Forgive? Forgiving is forgetting--no,
          Remember me! Remember, when your sun
          Blazes the noon down, that my sun is set,
          Extinct and cindered in a bitter sea,
          And warm me with a thought. For we are bound
          Closer than love or chains or marriage binds:
          We went by night and each in other’s heart
          Sowed tares, sowed tears. Husband, when harvest comes,
          Of all your men and women I alone
          Can give you comfort, for you’ll reap my pain
          As I your loss. What other knows our need?
          Dear hands, remember, when you hold her, thus,
          Close, close--

    SHAKESPEARE.         Let go my hands!

    ANNE.                            --and when she turns
          To stone, to a stone, to an unvouchsafing stone
          Under your clutch--

    SHAKESPEARE.             You rave!

    ANNE.                             --loved hands, remember
          Me unloved then, and how my hands held you!
          And when her face--for I am prophecy--
          When her lost face, the woman I am not,
          Stares from the page you toil upon, thus, thus,
          In a glass of tears, remember then that thus,
          No other way,
          I see your face between my work and me,

    SHAKESPEARE.     Make end and let me go!

    ANNE [_she has risen_].                Why, go!
          But mock me not with any “Let me go”!
          I do not hold you. Ah, but when you’re old
          (You will be old one day, as I am old
          Already in my heart), too weary-old
          For love, hate, pity, anything but peace,
          When the long race, O straining breast! is won,
          And the bright victory drops to your outstretched hand,
          A windfall apple, not worth eating, then
          Come back to me--

    SHAKESPEARE [_at the door_].   Farewell!

    ANNE.                                --when all your need
          Is hands to serve you and a breast to die on,
          Come back to me--

    SHAKESPEARE.           Never in any world!

               _He goes out as the last figure passes the window,
                       and disappears._

    THE PLAYERS’ VOICES [_dying away_].
                                 For snow will fall
                                 And cover all
                                 Without you, without you--
                          _The words are lost._

    SHAKESPEARE [_joyfully._]      Ah! London Town

          _He is seen an instant, a silhouette with
          outstretched arms. Then he, too, disappears and
          there is a long silence. A cold wind blows in
          through the open door. The room is quite dark and
          the fire has fallen to ashes._

    ANNE [_crying out suddenly_]. The years--the years before me!

    MRS. HATHAWAY [_calling_].               Anne! Where’s Anne?
                            _She comes in at the side door._
                  Anne! Anne! Where are you? Why, what do you here,
                  In the cold, in the dark, and all alone?

    ANNE.                                                 I wait.

                                THE CURTAIN FALLS.



     _A room at the Palace_. ELIZABETH _sits at a working
          table. She is upright, vigorous, with an ivory
          white skin and piercing eyes. Her hair is dark
          red and stiffly dressed. She is old, as an oak
          or a cliff or a cathedral is old--there is no
          frailty of age in her. Her gestures are measured,
          she moves very little, and frowns oftener than
          she smiles, but her smile, when it does come,
          is kindly. Her voice is strong, rather harsh,
          but clear. She speaks her words like a scholar,
          but her manner is that of a woman of the world,
          shrewd and easy. Her dress is a black-green
          brocade, stiff with gold and embroidered with
          coloured stones. Beside her stands_ HENSLOWE,
          _ten years older, stouter and more prosperous.
          In the background_ MARY FITTON, _a woman of
          twenty-six, sits at the virginals, fingering
          out a tune very faintly and lightly. She is
          taller than_ ELIZABETH, _pale, with black hair,
          a smiling mouth and brilliant eyes. She is
          quick and graceful as a cat, and her voice is
          the voice of a singer, low and full. She wears
          a magnificent black and white dress with many
          pearls. A red rose is tucked behind her ear._

    ELIZABETH. Money, money! Always more money! Henslowe, you’re a
    leech! And I’m a Gammer Gurton to let myself be bled. Let the
    public pay!

    HENSLOWE. Madam, they’ll do that fast enough if we may call
    ourselves Your Majesty’s Players.

    ELIZABETH. No, no, you’re not yet proven. What do you give me?
    Good plays enough, but what great play? What has England, what
    have I, to match against them when they talk to me of their
    Tasso, their Petrarch, their Rabelais--of Divine Comedies and the
    plays of Spain? Are we to climb no higher than the Germans with
    their ‘Ship of Fools’?

    HENSLOWE. ‘The Faery Queen’?

    ELIZABETH. Unfinished.

    HENSLOWE. Green--Peele--Kyd--Webster--

    ELIZABETH. Stout English names--not names for all the world. I
    will pay you no more good English pounds a year and fib to my
    treasurer to account for them. You head a deputation, do you? You
    would call yourselves the Queen’s Players, and mount a crown on
    your curtains? Give me a great play then--a royal play--a play
    to set against France and Italy and Spain, and you can have your

    HENSLOWE. There’s ‘Tamburlaine’!

    ELIZABETH. A boy’s glory, not a man’s.

    HENSLOWE. ‘Faust’ and ‘The Jew of Malta’!

    ELIZABETH. I know them.

    HENSLOWE. He’ll do greater things yet.

    ELIZABETH. Do you believe that, Henslowe?

    HENSLOWE. No, Madam.

    ELIZABETH. Then why do you lie to me?

    HENSLOWE. Madam, I mark time. I have my man; but he is not yet

    ELIZABETH. How long have you served me, Henslowe?

    HENSLOWE. Twelve years.

    ELIZABETH. How often have you come to me in those twelve years?

    HENSLOWE. Four times, Madam!

    ELIZABETH. Have I helped or hindered?

    HENSLOWE. I confess it, Madam, I have lived on your wits.

    ELIZABETH. Then who’s your man?

    HENSLOWE. You’ll not trust me. He has done little before the

    ELIZABETH. Shakespeare?

    HENSLOWE. Madam, you know everything. Will you see him? He and
    Marlowe are among our petitioners.

    ELIZABETH. H’m! the Stratford boy! I have not forgotten.

    HENSLOWE. Who could have promised better? He came to town like a
    conqueror. He took us all with his laughter. You yourself, Madam--

    ELIZABETH. Yes, make us laugh and you may pick all pockets! He
    helped you to pick mine.

    HENSLOWE. So far good. But he aims no higher. Yet what he could
    do if he would! I have a sort of love of him, Madam. I found him:
    I taught him: I have daughters enough but no son. I have wrestled
    with him like Jacob at Peniel, but when I think to conquer he
    tickles my rib and I laugh. That’s his weapon, Madam! With his
    laughter he locks the door of his heart against every man.

    ELIZABETH. And every woman?

    HENSLOWE. They say--no, Madam!

    ELIZABETH. Then we must find her.

    HENSLOWE [_with a glance at_ MARY FITTON]. They say she is found
    already. But a court lady--and a player! It’s folly, Madam!
    Now Marlowe would shrug his shoulder and go elsewhere; but
    Shakespeare--there is about him in little and great a certain
    dogged and damnable constancy that wrecks all. If he cannot have
    the moon for his supper, he will starve, Madam, whatever an old
    fool says to him.

    ELIZABETH. Then, Henslowe, we must serve him up the moon. Mary!

    MARY [_rising and coming down to them_]. Madam?

    ELIZABETH. Could you hear us?

    MARY. I was playing the new song that the Earl set for you.

    ELIZABETH. For me? But you heard?

    MARY. Something of the talk, Madam!

    ELIZABETH. You go to all the plays, do you not? Which is the
    coming man, Mary, Shakespeare or Marlowe.

    MARY. If you ask me, Madam, I’m all for the cobbler’s son.

    HENSLOWE. Mistress Fitton should give us a sound reason if she
    have it, but she has none.

    MARY. Only that I don’t know Mr. Marlowe, and I know my little
    Shakespeare by heart. I’m an Athenian--I’m always asking for new

    ELIZABETH. Which is Shakespeare? The youngster like a smoking
    lamp, all aflare?

    MARY. No, Madam! That’s Marlowe. Shakespeare’s a lesser man.

    HENSLOWE. A lesser man? Marlowe the lamp, say you?
              He’s conflagration, he’s “Armada!” flashed
              From Kent to Cornwall! But this lesser man,
              He’s the far world the beacons can out flare
              One little hour, but, when their flame dies down,
              High o’er the embers in the deep of night
              Behold the star!

    ELIZABETH. I forget if ever I saw him.

    HENSLOWE. Madam, if ever you saw him, you would not forget--
                  A small, a proud head, like an Arab Christ,
                  And noble, madman’s fingers, never still--
                  The face still though, mouth hid, the nostril wide,
                  And eyes like voices calling, shrill and sad,
                  Borne on hot winds from fairyland or hell;
                  Yet round the heavy lids a score of lines
                  All criss-cross crinkle like a score of laughs
                  That he has scribbled hastily down himself
                  With his quick fingers. No, not tall--

    ELIZABETH.                                      But a man!

    MARY.         Like other men.

    ELIZABETH.             Ah?

    MARY.                       It was easy.

    ELIZABETH.                             Tell!

    MARY. He came like a boy to apples. Marlowe now--

    ELIZABETH. More than a man, less than a man, but not
              As yet a man then? Well, I’ll see your Shakespeare:
              Marlowe--some other time.

    HENSLOWE.                          I’ll fetch him to you.

               HENSLOWE _goes out._

    ELIZABETH. To you, Mary--to you!

    MARY. O Madam, spare me! It’s a stiff instrument and once, I
    think, has been ill-tuned.

    ELIZABETH. Tune it afresh!

    MARY. You wish that, Madam?

    ELIZABETH. I wish it. Marlowe can wait--and Pembroke.

    MARY. Madam?

    ELIZABETH. I am blind, deaf, dumb, so long as you practise your
    new tune. But the Earl of Pembroke goes to Ireland.

    MARY. He’s an old glove, Madam.

    ELIZABETH. Young or old, not for your wearing. Strip your hand
    and finger your new tune!

    MARY. Now, Madam?

    ELIZABETH. Why not? Why do I dress you and keep you at court?
    Here’s Spain in the ante-room and France on the stairs--am I to
    keep them waiting while I humour a parcel of players?

    MARY. Indeed, Madam, I wonder that you have spared half an hour.

    ELIZABETH. Wonder, Mary! Wonder! And when you know why I do
    what I do you shall be Queen instead of me. In the meantime you
    may learn the trade, if you choose. I give you a kingdom to rule
    in the likeness of a poor player. Let me see how you do it! Yet
    mark this--though with fair cheeks and black hair you may come
    by a coronet (but the Earl goes to Ireland) yet if you rule your
    kingdom by the glance of your eyes, you will lose it as other
    Maries have done.

    MARY. I must reign in my own way--forgive me, Madam!--not yours.

    ELIZABETH. Girl, do you think you could ever rule in mine? Well,
    try your way! But--between queens, Mary--one kingdom at a time!

          ELIZABETH _goes out._

    MARY [_she sits on the table edge, swinging her pretty foot_].
    So Pembroke goes to Ireland! Ay, and comes back, old winter! I
    can wait. And while I wait--Shakespeare! Will Shakespeare! O
    charity--I wish it were Marlowe! What did the old woman say?
    A kingdom in the likeness of a player. I wonder. Well, we’ll
    explore. Yet I wish it were Marlowe. [SHAKESPEARE _enters._]
    Ah! here comes poor Mr. Shakespeare looking for the Queen and

    SHAKESPEARE. The Queen!

    MARY. Hush! Palace walls! Well, Mr. Shakespeare, what’s the news?

    SHAKESPEARE. Good, bad and indifferent.

    MARY. Take the bad first.

    SHAKESPEARE. The bad?--that I have not seen you some five weeks!
    The good--that I have now seen you some five seconds! The
    indifferent--that you do not care one pin whether I see you or
    not for the next five years!

    MARY. Who told you that, Solomon?

    SHAKESPEARE. I have had no answer to--

    MARY. Five letters, seven sonnets, two catches and a roundelay!

    SHAKESPEARE. Love’s Labour Lost!

    MARY. Ah, Mr. Shakespeare, you were not a Solomon then! There was
    too much Rosaline and too little Queen in that labour.

    SHAKESPEARE. You’re right! Solomon would have drawn all Rosaline
    and no Queen at all. I’ll write another play!

    MARY. It might pay you better than your sonnets.

    SHAKESPEARE. Do you read them--Rosaline?

    MARY. Most carefully, Mr. Shakespeare--on Saturday nights! Then I
    make up my accounts and empty my purse, and wonder--must I pawn
    my jewels? Then I cry. And then I read your latest sonnet and
    laugh again.

    SHAKESPEARE. You should not laugh.

    MARY. Why, is it not meant to move me?

    SHAKESPEARE. You should not laugh. I tell you such a thought,
                 Such fiery lava welling from a heart,
                 So crystalled in the wonder-working brain,
                 Mined by the soul and rough-cut into words
                 Fit for a poet’s faceting and, last,
                 Strung on a string of gold by a golden tongue--
                 Why, such a thought is an immortal jewel
                 To gild you, living, in men’s eyes, and after
                 To make you queen of all the unjewelled dead
                 Who bear not their least bracelet hence. For I,
                 Eternally I’d deck you, were you my own,
                 Would you but wear my necklaces divine,
                 My rings of sorcery, my crowns of song.
                 What chains of emeralds--did you but know!
                 My rubies, O my rubies--could you but see!
                 And this one gem of wonder, pearl of pearls,
                 Hid in my heart for you, could you but take,
                 Would you but take--

    MARY.                        Open your heart!

    SHAKESPEARE.                                 Not so.
                 The god who made it hath forgot the key,
                 Or lost or lent it.

    MARY.                  Heartless god! Poor heart!
          Yet if this key--(is there indeed a key?)

    SHAKESPEARE. No lock without a key, nor heart, nor heart.

    MARY. --were found one day and strung with other keys
          Upon my ring?

    SHAKESPEARE.       With other--?

    MARY.                             Keys of hearts!
          What else?
          Tucked in the casket where my mortals lie--
          Sick pearl, flawed emerald, brooch or coronet--


    MARY.            Why, Jeweller?

    SHAKESPEARE.                 Then what they say--

    MARY.                                    They say?
          What do they say? And what care I? They say Pembroke?

    SHAKESPEARE.         They lie! You shall not speak. They lie!

    MARY. So little doubt--and you a man! It’s new.
          It’s sweet. It will not last. We spoke of keys--
          This heart-key, had I found it, would you buy?
          Come, tempt me with immortal necklaces!
          Come, purchase me with ornaments divine!

    SHAKESPEARE. I love you--

    MARY.                Well?

    SHAKESPEARE.              I love you--

    MARY.                               Is that all?

    SHAKESPEARE. I love you so.

    MARY.                     Why, that’s a common cry,
          I hear it daily, like the London cries,
          “Old chairs to mend!” or “Sweet, sweet lavender!”
          Is this your string of pearls, sixteen a penny?

    SHAKESPEARE. D’you laugh at me? I mean it.

    MARY.                         So do they all.
          Buy! Buy my lavender! Lady, it’s cheap--
          It’s sweet--new cut--I starve--for Christ’s sake, buy!
          They mean it, all the hoarse-throat, hungry men
          That sell me lavender, that sell me love.

    SHAKESPEARE. I put my wares away. I do not sell.

    MARY. O pedlar! I had half a mind to buy.

    SHAKESPEARE. Too late.

    MARY.              Open your pack again! What haste!
          What--not a trinket left me, not a pin
          For a poor lady? Does not the offer hold?

    SHAKESPEARE. You did not close.

    MARY.                         I will.

    SHAKESPEARE.                         Withdrawn! Withdrawn!

    MARY.    Renew!

    SHAKESPEARE.   Too late.

    MARY.                   You know your business best;
          Yet--what care I?

    SHAKESPEARE.           Or I? Yet--never again
                 To buy and sell with you!

    MARY.                                 Never again.
          Heigh-ho! I sighed, sir.

    SHAKESPEARE.                  Yes, I heard you sigh.

    MARY. And smiled. At court, sir--

    SHAKESPEARE.                  Yes, they buy and sell
                 At court. But I know better--give and take!

    MARY [_evading him_].
                        What will you give me if I let you take?

    SHAKESPEARE. If you will come with me into my mind--
                 How shall I say it? Still you’ll laugh at me!

    MARY.        Maybe!

    SHAKESPEARE.      My mind’s not one room stored, but many,
                 A house of windows that o’erlook far gardens,
                 The hanging gardens of more Babylons
                 Than there are bees in a linden tree in June.
                 I’m the king-prisoner in his capital,
                 Ruling strange peoples of a world unknown,
                 Yet there come envoys from the untravelled lands
                 That fill my corridors with miracles
                 As it were tribute, secretly, by night;
                 And I wake in the dawn like Solomon,
                 To stare at peacocks, apes and ivory,
                 And a closed door.
                 And all these stores I give you for your own,
                 You shall be mistress of my fairy-lands,
                 I’ll ride you round the world on the back of a dream,
                 I’ll give you all the stars that ever danced
                 In the sea o’ nights,
                 If you will come into my mind with me,
                 If you will learn me--know me.

    MARY.                                      I do know you.
    You are the quizzical Mr. Shakespeare of the ‘Rose,’ who never
    means a word he says. I’ve heard of you. All trades hate you
    because you are not of their union, and yet know the tricks
    of each trade; but your own trade loves you, because you are
    content with a crook in the lower branches when you might be top
    of the tree. You write comedies, all wit and no wisdom, like a
    flower-bed raked but not dug; but the high stuff of the others,
    their tragedies and lamentable ends, these you will not essay.
    Why not, Mr. Shakespeare of the fairy-lands?

    SHAKESPEARE. Queen Wasp, I do not know.

    MARY. King Drone, then I will tell you. You are the little boy
    at Christmas who would not play snap-dragon till the flames
    died down, and so was left at the end with a cold raisin in an
    empty dish. That’s you, that’s you, with the careful fingers and
    no good word in your plays for any woman. Run home, run home,
    there’s no more to you!

    SHAKESPEARE. D’you think so?

    MARY. I think that I think so.

    SHAKESPEARE. I’ll show you.

    MARY. What will you show me, Will?

    SHAKESPEARE. Fairyland, and you and me in it. Will you believe in
    me then?

    MARY. Not I, not I! I’m a woman of this world. Give me flesh and
    blood, not gossamer,
          Honey and heart-ache, and a lovers’ moon.

    SHAKESPEARE. I read of lovers once in Italy--
                 She was like you, such eyes of night, such hair.
                 God took a week to make his world, but these
                 In four short days made heaven to burn on earth
                 Like a great torch; and when they died--

    MARY.                                               They died?

    SHAKESPEARE. Like torches quenched in water, suddenly,
                 Because they loved too well.

    MARY.                                    Oh, write it down!
          Ah, could you, Will? I think you could not write it.

    SHAKESPEARE. I can write Romeo. Teach me Juliet!

    MARY. I could if I would. Was that her name--Juliet?

    SHAKESPEARE. Poor Juliet!

    MARY. Not so poor if I know her. Oh, make that plain--she was not
    poor! And tell them, Will, tell all men and women--

    SHAKESPEARE. What, my heart?

    MARY. I will whisper it to you one day when I know you better.
    Oh, it’ll be a play! Will you do it for me, Will? Will you write
    it for you and for me? Where do they live?

    SHAKESPEARE. Verona. Italy.

    MARY. Come to me daily! Read it to me scene by scene, line by
    line! How many acts?

    SHAKESPEARE. The old five-branched candlestick.

    MARY.        But a new flame! Will it take long to write?
                 It must not.

    SHAKESPEARE.             Shall not.

    MARY.                               What shall we call it, Will?
          The Tragical Discourse? The Famous End?
          The Lovers of Verona?

    SHAKESPEARE.               No, no! Plain.
                 Their two names married--Romeo and Juliet.

                  _As they lean towards each other still talking_

                             THE CURTAIN FALLS.



     _The first performance of Romeo and Juliet: the end
          of the fourth act. The curtain rises on a small
          bare dusty office, littered with stage properties
          and dresses. When the door at the back of the
          stage is open there is a glimpse of passage and
          curtains, and moving figures, with now and then
          a flare of torchlight. There is a continuous
          far-away murmur of voices and, once in a while,
          applause. As the curtain goes up_ MARY FITTON _is
          opening the door to go out_. SHAKESPEARE _holds
          her back_.

    MARY. Let go! Let me go! I must be in front at the end of that
    act. I must hear what the Queen will say to it.

    SHAKESPEARE. But you’ll come back?

    MARY. That depends on what the Queen says. I’ve promised you
    nothing if she damns it.

                     _The applause breaks out again._

    SHAKESPEARE. Listen! Is it damned?

    MARY. Sugar-sweet, isn’t it? But that’s nothing. That’s the mob.
    That’s your friends. They’ll clap you. But the Queen, if she
    claps, claps your play.

    SHAKESPEARE. Your play!

    MARY. Is it mine? Earnest?

    SHAKESPEARE. My earnest, but your play.

    MARY. Well, good luck to my play!

    SHAKESPEARE. Give me--

    MARY. Oh, so it’s not a free gift?

    SHAKESPEARE. Give me a finger-tip of thanks!

    MARY. In advance? Not I! But if the Queen likes it--I’m her
    obedient servant. If the Queen opens her hand I shan’t shut mine.
    Where she claps once I’ll clap twice. Where she gives you a hand
    to kiss, I’ll give you--There! Curtain’s down! I must go.


    MARY. Listen to it! Listen! Listen! This is better than any poor

  _She goes out. The door is left open. The applause breaks out again._

    SHAKESPEARE. Is this the golden apple in my hand
                 At last?
                 How tastes it, heart, and is it sweet, is it sweet?
                 Sweeter than common apples? So many years
                 Of days I watched it grow and propped and pruned,
                 Besought the sun and watered. O my tree
                 When the green broke! That was a morning hour.
                 Fool, so to long for fruit! Now the fruit’s ripe.
                 The tree in spring was fairest, when it flowered,
                 And every petal held a drink of dew.
                 The bloom went long ago. Well, the fruit’s here!
                     _The applause breaks out again._
                        It goes well. Eat up your apple, man!
                 This is the hour, the hour! I’m the same man--
                 No better for it. When Marlowe praised me so
                 He meant it--meant it. I thought he laughed at me
                 In his sleeve. Will Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet!
                 I made it--I! Indeed, indeed, at heart--
                 (I would not for the world they read my heart:
                 I’d scarce tell Mary) but indeed, at heart,
                 I know no song was ever sung before
                 Like this my lovely song. _I_ made it--I!
                 It has not changed me. I’m the same small man,
                 And yet I made it! Strange!        [_A knock._]

    STAGE HAND [_putting in his head at the door_]. You’ll not see
    anyone, sir, will you?

    SHAKESPEARE. I told you already I’ll come to the green-room when
    the show’s over. I can see no stranger before.

    STAGE HAND. So I’ve told her, sir, many times. But she says you
    will know her when you see her and she can’t wait.

    SHAKESPEARE. A lady?

    STAGE HAND. No, no, sir, just a woman. I’ll tell her to go away

    SHAKESPEARE. Wait! Did she give no name?

    STAGE HAND. Name of Hathaway, sir, from Stratford.

    SHAKESPEARE. Anne! Bring her here! Bring her here quickly,
    privately! You should have told me sooner. Where does she wait?
    Did any see her? Did any speak with her? If anyone asks for me
    save Henslowe or Mr. Marlowe, I am gone, I am not in the theatre.
    What are you staring at? What are you waiting for? Bring her here!

    STAGE HAND. Glad to be rid of her, sir! She has sat in the
    passage this hour to be tripped over, and nothing budges her.
    [_Calling_] Will you come this way--this way! [_He disappears._]

    SHAKESPEARE. Anne? Anne in London? What does Anne in London?

    STAGE HAND [_returning_]. This way, this way! It’s a dark
    passage. This way!

                      MRS. HATHAWAY _comes in._

    SHAKESPEARE. Not Anne!

    MRS. HATHAWAY. Is Mr. Shakespeare--? Will! Is it Will? Oh, how
    you’re changed!

    SHAKESPEARE. Ten years change a young man.

    MRS. HATHAWAY. But not an old woman. I’m Anne’s mother still.

    SHAKESPEARE. I’m not so changed that I forget it. What do you
    want of me, Mrs. Hathaway?

    MRS. HATHAWAY. I bring you news.

    SHAKESPEARE. Good news?

    MRS. HATHAWAY. It’s as you take it.


    MRS. HATHAWAY. Is that good news, my half son? She is not so

    SHAKESPEARE. I did not say it so. Is she with you?


    SHAKESPEARE. Did she send you? Oh, so she has heard of this
    business! It’s like her to send you now. She is to take her toll
    of it, is she?

    MRS. HATHAWAY. You are bitter, you are bitter! You are the east
    wind of your own spring sunshine. She has heard nothing of this
    business or of that--dark lady.

    SHAKESPEARE. Take care!

    MRS. HATHAWAY. I saw her come from this room--off her guard. I
    know how a woman looks when a man has pleased her. Oh, please her
    if you must! I am old. I do not judge. And I think you will not
    always. But that’s not my news.

    SHAKESPEARE. I can’t hear it now. I am pressed. This is not every
    night. I’ll see you to-morrow, not now.

    MRS. HATHAWAY. My news may be dead to-morrow.

    SHAKESPEARE. So much the better. I needn’t hear it.

    MRS. HATHAWAY. Son, son, son! You don’t know what you say.

    SHAKESPEARE. That is not my name. And I know well what I say.
    You are my wife’s mother and I’ll not share anything of hers. But
    if she needs money, I’ll send it. To-night makes me a rich man.

    MRS. HATHAWAY. Richer than you think--and to-morrow poorer, if
    you do not listen to me.

                  _There is a roar of applause._

    SHAKESPEARE. Listen to you? Why should I listen to you? Can you
    give me anything to better that?

    MRS. HATHAWAY. But if she can? Sixty years I have learned lessons
    in the world; but I never learned that a city was better than
    green fields, friends better than a house-mate, or the works of a
    man’s hand more to him than the child of his own flesh.

    SHAKESPEARE. And have I learned it, I? Do I not know
                 That when I left her I left all behind
                 That was my right? See how I live my life--
                 Married nor single, neither bond nor free,
                 My future mortgaged for a roofless home!
                 For though I love I must not say “I love you,
                 Come to my hearth!” A child? I have no child:
                 I hear no voice crying to me o’ nights
                 Out of the frost-bound dark. How can it cry
                 Or smile at me until I give it lips?
                 How can it clutch me till I give it hands?
                 How can it be, until I give it leave?
                 Small sparrow at the window-pane, a’cold,
                 Begging your crumb of life from me, indeed
                 I cannot let you in. Small love, small sweet,
                 Look not so trustfully! You are not mine,
                 Not mine, not anyone’s. Away, unborn!
                 Back to the womb of dreams, and never stir,
                 Never again! How meek the small ghost fades,
                 Reject and fatherless, that might have been
                 My son!

    MRS. HATHAWAY.           Is it possible? Anne knew you best.
                   She said you did not know. Dear son, too soon
                   By two last months, yet by these months too late.
                   After you left her, Hamnet, the boy, was born.

    SHAKESPEARE. It is not true!

    MRS. HATHAWAY.               Ah, ah, she knew you best.
                  She said always, weeping she said always
                  You would not listen, though she sent you word;
                  But when the boy was grown she’d send the boy,
                  Then you would listen and come home, come home.
                  But now that web is tattered in its turn
                  By a cold wind, an out-of-season wind,
                  Tearing the silver webs, blacking the leaves
                  And shaking the first blossoms down too soon,
                  Too soon, too soon. He shivered and lay down
                  Among pinched violets and the wrack of spring;
                  But when the sky drew breath and April came,
                  And summer with tanned fingers, beckoning up
                  New flowers from the ground, still our flower drooped:
                  The sunlight hurt his eyes, his bed’s too hot,
                  He drinks and will not eat: since Saturday
                  There’s but one end.

    SHAKESPEARE.                What end?

    MRS. HATHAWAY.                      You’re stubborn as she.
                  She will not bow to it. Yet she sent me hither
                  To bring you home.

    SHAKESPEARE.             New witch-work!

    MRS. HATHAWAY.                    Will you not come?

    SHAKESPEARE. I will not.

    MRS. HATHAWAY.           Will you not come? She bade me say
                  That the boy cries for you--

    SHAKESPEARE.                         A lie! A gross lie!
                He never called me father.

    MRS. HATHAWAY.                          That he does!
                You are his Merlin and his Arthur too,
                And God-Almighty Sundays. Thus it goes--
                “My Father says--” and “When my Father comes--”
                “I’ll tell my Father!” To his mother’s hand
                He clings and whispers in his fever now,
                With bright eyes wide--your eyes, son, your quick eyes--
                That she shall fetch you (she? she cannot speak)
                To bring him wonders home like Whittington,
                (And where’s your cat?) and tell the tales you know
                Of Puck and witches, and the English kings,
                To whistle down the birds as Orpheus did,
                And for a silver penny pick the moon
                From the sky’s pocket, and buy him gingerbread--
                And so he rambles on, breaking her heart
                A second time, God help her!

    SHAKESPEARE.                            I will come.

    A MAN’S VOICE [_off the stage_].
                  Shakespeare! Will Shakespeare! Call Will Shakespeare!

    SHAKESPEARE [_to_ MRS. HATHAWAY].                   Here!
                      When do we start?

    MRS. HATHAWAY.                 The horses wait at the inn.

    VOICE.    Will Shakespeare!

    SHAKESPEARE.      Give me an hour. The bridge is nearer.
                 On London Bridge at midnight! I’ll be there!

    MRS. HATHAWAY. Not later, I warn you, if you’d see the child

    SHAKESPEARE. Fear not, I’ll be there. D’you think so ill of me? I
    could have been a good father to my own son--if I had known. If
    I had known! This is a woman’s way of enduring a wrong. Oh, dumb
    beast! Could she not send for me--send to me? Am I a monster that
    she could not come to me? “Buy him gingerbread”! To send me no
    word till he’s dying! Would any she-devil in hell do so to a man?
    Dying? I tell you he shall live and not die. There was a man once
    fought death for a friend and held him. Can I not fight death for
    my own son? Can I not beat death off for an hour, for a little
    hour, till I have kissed my only son?

    MARLOWE’S VOICE. Shakespeare! The Queen--the Queen has asked
                        for you,
                     And sent her woman twice. Will Shakespeare!

    SHAKESPEARE.     At midnight then.

                           MRS. HATHAWAY _goes out._

    VOICE.                        Will Shakespeare!

    SHAKESPEARE.                            Coming! Coming!

    MARY [_in the doorway, followed by_ MARLOWE].
                      Is Shakespeare--?

    SHAKESPEARE.                      Oh, not now, not now, not now!

    MARY. Are you mad to keep her waiting? She has favours up her
    sleeve. You are to write her a play for the summer revels. Quick
    now, ere the last act begins! Off with you! [SHAKESPEARE _goes
    out._] Look how he drags away! What’s come to the man to fling
    aside his luck?

    MARLOWE. He has left it behind him.

    MARY. Here’s a proxy silver-tongue! Are you Mr. Marlowe?

    MARLOWE. Are you Mistress Fitton?

    MARY. So we’ve heard of each other!

    MARLOWE. What have you heard of me?

    MARY. That you were somebody’s brother-in-art! What have you
    heard of me?

    MARLOWE. That you were his sister-in-art.

    MARY. A man’s sister! I’d as soon be a cold pudding! What did he
    say of his sister, brother?

    MARLOWE. That you brought him luck.

    MARY. That he leaves behind him!

    MARLOWE. Like the blind man’s lucky sixpence that the Jew stole
    when he put a penny in his plate.

    MARY. A Jew of Malta?

    MARLOWE. What, do _you_ read me? You?

    A STAGE HAND [_in the passage_]. Last act, please!
    Last act! Last act!

    MARY. I must go watch it.

    MARLOWE. Don’t you know it?

    MARY. Oh, by heart! Yet I must sisterly watch it.

    MARLOWE. Stay a little.

    MARY. Till he comes? Then I shall miss all, for he’ll keep me.

    MARLOWE. Against your will?

    MARY. No, with my Will.

    MARLOWE. Is it he or his plays?

    MARY. Not sure.

    MARLOWE. If I were he I’d make you sure.

    MARY. I wonder if you could! I wonder--how?

    MARLOWE. Too long to tell you here, and--curtain’s up!

    MARY. Come to my house one lazy day and tell me!

    MARLOWE. Hark! That’s more noise than curtain!

    HENSLOWE’S VOICE. Shakespeare! Shakespeare! [_Entering._] Here’s
    a calamity! Where’s Shakespeare? He should be in the green-room!
    Why does he tuck away in this rat-hole when he’s wanted? And
    what’s to be done? Where in God’s name is Shakespeare?

    MARY. With the Queen.

    MARLOWE. The curtain’s up; he’ll be here in a minute.

    MARY. What’s wrong?

    HENSLOWE. Everything! Juliet! The clumsy beasts! They let him
    fall from the bier: they let him fall on his arm! Now he’s
    moaning and wincing and swears he can’t go on, though he has
    but to speak his death scene. I’ve bid them cut the afterwards.

    MARLOWE. Broken?

    HENSLOWE. I fear so.

    MARY.           Let it be broken! Say he must go on!
                    What? Spoil the play? These baby-men!

    HENSLOWE.                                 He will not.

    MARLOWE.  The understudy?

    HENSLOWE. Playing Paris. Where’s Shakespeare? What’s to be done?
    The play’s spoiled.

    MARLOWE. He’ll break his heart.

    MARY.                     He shall not break his heart!
          This is our play! Back to your Juliet-boy,
          Strip off his wear and never heed his arm!
          Bid them play on and bring me Juliet’s robes!
          I’ll put them on and put on Juliet too.
          Quick, Henslowe!

    HENSLOWE.             What! a woman play on the stage?

    MARY. Ay, when the men fail! Quick! I say I’ll do it!

    SHAKESPEARE [_entering_].
                   Here still? You’ve heard?

    MARY [_on the threshold_].           And heeded. Never stop me!
               You shall have Juliet. You shall have your play.

                    _She and_ HENSLOWE _hurry out._

    MARLOWE. There goes a man’s master! But does she know the part?

    SHAKESPEARE. She knows each line, she knows each word, she
                     breathed them
                 Into my heart long ere I wrote them down.

    MARLOWE. But to act! Can you trust her?

    SHAKESPEARE. She? Go and watch! I need not.

    MARLOWE. But is it in her? She’s Julia not Juliet, not your young
    Juliet, not your June morning--or is she?

    SHAKESPEARE. You talk! You talk! You talk! What do you know of

    MARLOWE. Or you, old Will?

    SHAKESPEARE. I dream her.

    MARLOWE. Well, pleasant dreams!

    SHAKESPEARE. No more. I’m black awake.

    MARLOWE. What’s wrong? Ill news?

    SHAKESPEARE. From Stratford. Yes, yes, yes, Kit! And it must come
    now, just now, after ten dumb years!

    MARLOWE. Stratford? Whew! I’d forgotten your nettle-bed. What
    does she want of you?

    SHAKESPEARE. Hark! Mary’s on.

    MARLOWE. It’s a voice like the drip of a honey-comb.

    SHAKESPEARE.    Can she play Juliet, man? Can she play Juliet?
                    I think she can. Kit?

    MARLOWE.                            Ay?

    SHAKESPEARE.                           Oh, is there peace
                Anywhere, Kit, in any, any world?

    MARLOWE.    What is it, peace?

    SHAKESPEARE.                    It passeth understanding.
                 They round the sermon off on Sunday with it,
                 Laugh in their sleeves and send us parching home.
                 This is a dew that dries ere Monday comes,
                 And oh, the heat of the seven days!

    MARLOWE.                                    I like it!
            The smell of dust, the shouting, and the glare
            Of crowded noon in cities, and such nights
            As this night, crowning labour. What is--peace?

    STAGE HAND [_entering_]. Sir, sir, sir, will you come down, sir,
    says Mr. Henslowe. The end’s near and the house half mad. We’ve
    not seen a night like this since--since _your_ night, sir! Your
    first night, sir, your roaring Tamburlaine night! Never anything
    like it and I’ve seen many. Will you come, sirs?

    SHAKESPEARE. You go, Marlowe!

    STAGE HAND. There’s nothing to fear, sir! It runs like clockwork.
    The lady died well, sir! Lord, who’d think she was a woman!
    There, there, it breaks out. Listen to ’em! Come, sir, come, come!

    MARLOWE. We’ll come! We’ll come!

                  _The man goes out._

    SHAKESPEARE. Not I! Oh, if you love me, Marlowe, swear I’m ill,
    gone away, dead, what you please, but keep them away! I can stand
    no more.

    MARLOWE. It’s as she said--mad--mad--to fling your luck away.

    SHAKESPEARE. A frost has touched me, Marlowe, my fruit’s black.
    Help me now! Go, go! Say I’m gone, as I shall be when I’ve seen

    MARLOWE. A back stairs? Now I understand.

    SHAKESPEARE. Oh, stop your laughter! I’m to leave London in half
    an hour.

    MARLOWE. Earnest? For long?

    SHAKESPEARE. Little or long, what matter? I’ve missed the moment.
    Who has his moment twice?

    MARLOWE. Shall you tell her why you go?

    SHAKESPEARE. Mary? God forbid!

    VOICES. Shakespeare! Call Shakespeare!

    SHAKESPEARE. D’you hear them? Help me! Say I am gone! Oh, go, go!

    MARLOWE. Well, if you wish it!

          _He goes out leaving the door ajar. As_ SHAKESPEARE _goes on
          speaking the murmurs and claps die away and the noises of the
          stage are heard, the shouts of the scene-shifters, directions
          being given, and so on. Finally there is silence._

    SHAKESPEARE. Wish it? I wish it? Have you no more for me
                 Of comfort, Marlowe?
                 Oh, what a dumb and measureless gulf divides
                 Star from twin star, and friend from closest friend!
                 Women, they say, can bridge it when they will:
                 As seamen rope a ship with grappling irons
                 These spinners of strong cords invisible
                 Make fast and draw the drifting glory home
                 In the name of love. I know not. Better go!
                 I am not for this harbour--

       _There is a sound of hasty footsteps and_ MARY FITTON _enters
       in Juliet’s robes. She stands in the doorway, panting, exalted,
       with arms outstretched. The door swings to behind her, shutting
       out all sound._

    MARY.                                Oh, I faced
          The peacock of the world, the arch of eyes
          That watched me love a god, the eyes, eyes, eyes,
          That watched me die of love. Wake me again,
          O soul that did inhabit me, O husband
          Whose mind I uttered, to whose will I swayed,
          Whose self of love I was! Wake me again
          To die of love in earnest!

    SHAKESPEARE.                      Mary! Mary!

    MARY. I cannot ride this hurricane. I spin
          Like a leaf in the air. Die down and let me lie
          Close to the earth I am! O stir me not
          With rosy breathings from the south, the south
          Of sun and wine and peaks that flame to God
          Suddenly in the dark! O wind, let be
          And drive me not; for speech lies on my lips
          Like a strange finger hushing back my soul
          With words not mine, and thoughts not mine arise
          Like marsh-flame dancing! As a leaf to a tree
          Upblown, O wind that whirls me, I return.
          Master and quickener, give me love indeed!

    SHAKESPEARE. These are the hands I never held till now:
                 These are the lips I never felt on mine:
                 This is the hour I dreamed of, many an hour:
                 This is the spirit awake. God in your sky,
                 Did your heart beat so on the seventh dawn?

    MARY.        ’Ware thunder!

    SHAKESPEARE.               Sweet, He envies and is dumb,
                 Dumb as His dark. He was our audience.
                 Now to His blinding centrum home He hies,
                 Omnipotent drudge, to wind the clocks of Time
                 And tend His ’plaining universes all--
                 To us, to us, His empty theatre of night
                 Abandoning. But we too steal away;
                 For the play’s done,
                 Lights out--all over--and here we stand alone,
                 Holding each other in a little room,
                 Like two souls in one grave. We are such lovers--

    ANNE’S VOICE. As there’s no room for in the human air
                  And green side of the grass--

    SHAKESPEARE.                          A voice! A voice!

    MARY.         No voice here!

    SHAKESPEARE.                In my heart I heard it cry
                 Like a sick child waked suddenly at night.
                            [_Crying out_]
                 A child--a sick child! Unlink your arms that hold me!

    MARY.        Never till I choose!

    SHAKESPEARE. Put back your hair! I am lost
                 Unless I lose all gain. O moonless night,
                 In your hot darkness I have lost my way!
                 But kiss me, summer, once! On London Bridge
                 At midnight--I’ll be there! Has the clock struck?

    MARY.        Midnight long since.

    SHAKESPEARE.                Oh, I am damned and lost
                 In hell for ever!

    MARY.                     Fool, dear fool, what harm?
          If this be hell indeed, is not hell kind?
          Is not hell lovely, if this love be hell?
          Is not damnation sweet?

    SHAKESPEARE.                    God does not know
                 How sweet, how sweet!

    MARY.               Were they not wise, those two
          Whose same blood beats again in you and me,
          That chose the desert and the fall and went
          Exultant from their garden and their God?
          Long shall the sworded angels stand at ease
          And idly guard the undesired delight:
          Long shall the grasses grow and tall the briars,
          And bent the branches of the ancient trees:
          And many a year the wilding flowers shall blaze
          Under a lonely sun, and fruited sweets
          Shall drop and rot, and feed the roots that feed,
          And bud again and ripen: long and long
          Silent the watchman-lark in heaven shall hang
          High over Eden, e’er they come again
          Those two, whose blood is our blood, and their love
          Our love, our own, that no god gave us, ours,
          The venture ours, the glory ours, the shame
          A price worth paying, then, now, ever--

    SHAKESPEARE.                                       Eve,
                 Eve, Eve, the snake has been with you! You draw,
                 You drink my soul as I your body--

    MARY.                                            Kiss!

                                 THE CURTAIN FALLS.



     SHAKESPEARE’S _lodging. It is the plain but
          well-arranged room of a man of fair means and
          fine taste. The walls are panelled: on them hang
          a couple of unframed engravings, a painting,
          tapestry, and a map of the known world. There is
          a four-post bed with a coverlet and hangings of
          needlework, and on the window-sill a pot of early
          summer flowers. There is a chair or two of oak
          and a table littered with papers_. SHAKESPEARE
          _is sitting at it, a manuscript in his hand. On
          the arm of the chair lolls_ MARLOWE, _one arm
          flung round_ SHAKESPEARE’S _neck, reading over
          his shoulder._

    SHAKESPEARE. Man, how you’ve worked! A whole act to my ten lines!
    You dice all day and dance all night and yet--how do you do it?

    MARLOWE. Like it?

    SHAKESPEARE. Like it? What a word for a word-master! Consider,
    Kit! When the sun rises like a battle song over the sea: when the
    wind’s feet visibly race along the tree-tops of a ten-mile wood:
    when they shout “Amen!” in the Abbey, praying for the Queen on
    Armada Day: when the sky is a brass gong and the rain steel rods,
    and across all suddenly arch the seven colours of the promise--do
    I _like_ these wonders when I stammer and weep, and know that God
    lives? Like, Marlowe!

    MARLOWE. Yes, yes, old Will! But do you like the new act?

    SHAKESPEARE. I like it, Kit! [_They look at each other and

    MARLOWE. And now for your scene, ere I go.

    SHAKESPEARE. My scene! I give you what I’ve done. Finish it
    alone, Kit, and take what it brings! I’m sucked dry.

    MARLOWE. I’ve heard that before.

    SHAKESPEARE. I wish I had never come to London.

    MARLOWE. Henslowe’s back. Seen him?

    SHAKESPEARE. I’ve seen no-one. Did the tour go well?

    MARLOWE. He says so. He left them at Stratford. Well, I must go.

    SHAKESPEARE. Where? To Mary?

    MARLOWE. Why should I go to your Mary?

    SHAKESPEARE. Because I’ve asked you to, often enough. Why else?
    You’ve grown to be friends. You could help me if you would.

    MARLOWE. Never step between a man and a woman!

    SHAKESPEARE. But you’re our friend! And they say you know women.

    MARLOWE. They say many things. They say we’re rivals, Will--that
    I shall end by having you hissed.

    SHAKESPEARE. Let them say! But have you seen Mary? When did you
    last see Mary?

    MARLOWE. I forget. Saturday.

    SHAKESPEARE. Did you speak of me, Kit? Kit, does she speak of me?

    MARLOWE. If you must have it--seldom. New songs, new books, new
    music--of plays and players and the Queen’s tantrums--not of you.

    SHAKESPEARE. I have not seen her three days.

    MARLOWE. Why, go then and see her!

    SHAKESPEARE. She has company. She is waiting on the Queen. She
    gives me a smile and a white cool finger-tip, and--“Farewell, Mr.
    Shakespeare!” Yet a month ago, ay and less than a month--! Did
    you give her my message? What did she say?

    MARLOWE. She laughed and says you dream. She never liked you

    SHAKESPEARE. Did she say that?

    MARLOWE. She says you cool to her, not she to you.

    SHAKESPEARE. Did she say that?

    MARLOWE. Swore it, with tears in her eyes.

    SHAKESPEARE. Is it so? I wish it were so. Well, you’re my good
    friend, Marlowe!

    MARLOWE. Oh, leave that!

    SHAKESPEARE. Kit, do you blame me so much?

    MARLOWE. Why should I blame you?

    SHAKESPEARE. That I’m here and not in Warwickshire.

    MARLOWE. I throw no stones. Why? Have you heard aught?

    SHAKESPEARE. No, nor dared ask--nor dared ask, Marlowe. The
    boy’s dead. I know it. But I will not hear it. Marlowe, Marlowe,
    Marlowe, do you judge me?

    MARLOWE. Ay, that putting your hand to the plough you look back.
    Would I comb out my conscience daily as a woman combs out her
    hair? I do what I choose, though it damn me! Blame you? The round
    world has not such another Mary--or so, had I your eyes, I should
    hold. For this prize, if I loved her, I would pay away all I had.

    SHAKESPEARE. Honour, Kit?

    MARLOWE. Honour, Will!

    SHAKESPEARE. Faith and conscience and an only son?

    MARLOWE. It’s my own life. What are children to me?

    SHAKESPEARE. Well, I have paid.

    MARLOWE. But you grudge--you grudge! Look at you! If you go to
    her with those eyes it’s little wonder that she tires of you.

    SHAKESPEARE. Tires? Who says that she tires? Who says it?

    MARLOWE. Not I, old Will! Not I! Why, Shakespeare?

    SHAKESPEARE [_shaken_]. I can’t sleep, Kit! has come to me? I
    think I go mad. [_He starts._] Was that the I can’t write. What
    boy on the stairs? I sent him to her. I wrote. I have waited her
    will long enough. She shall see me to-night. I’ll know what it
    means. She plays with me, Kit. Are you going?

    MARLOWE. I shall scarce reach Deptford ere dark.

    SHAKESPEARE. How long do you lodge in Deptford?

    MARLOWE. All summer.

    HENSLOWE [_pounding at the door_]. Who’s at home? Who’s at home?

    MARLOWE. That’s Henslowe.

    SHAKESPEARE. Why does the boy stay so long?

    HENSLOWE [_in the doorway_]. Gentlemen, the traveller returns!
    For the last time, I tell you! My bones grow too old for
    barnstorming. Do you go as I come, Kit? Thank you for nothing!

    MARLOWE. Be civil, Henslowe! ‘The Curtain’ ’s on its knees to me
    for my next play.

    HENSLOWE. Pooh! This man can serve my turn.

    MARLOWE. You see, they’ll make rivals of us, Will, before they’ve
    done. I’ll see you soon again. [_He goes out._]

    HENSLOWE. Well, what’s the news?

    SHAKESPEARE. I sit at home. You roam England. You can do the
    talking. How did the tour go?

    HENSLOWE. You’re thin, man! What’s the matter? Success doesn’t
    suit you?

    SHAKESPEARE. How did the tour go?

    HENSLOWE. By way of Oxford, Warwick, Kenilworth--

    SHAKESPEARE. I said “how” not “where.”

    HENSLOWE. --and Leamington and Stratford. We played ‘Romeo’ every
    other night--and to full houses, my son! I’ve a pocketful of
    money for you. They liked you everywhere. As for your townsfolk,
    they went mad. You can safely go home, boy! You’ll find Sir
    Thomas in the front row, splitting his gloves. He’ll ask you to

    SHAKESPEARE. Were you there long?

    HENSLOWE. Two nights.

    SHAKESPEARE. Did you see--anyone?

    HENSLOWE. Why not say--

    SHAKESPEARE. I say, did you pass my house?

    HENSLOWE.         I had forgot the way.

    SHAKESPEARE.               As I have, Henslowe!

    HENSLOWE. Should I have sought her?

    SHAKESPEARE.               No.

    HENSLOWE.                       Yet I did see her.
             Making for London, not a week ago,
             Alone on horseback, sudden the long grey road
             Grew friendly, like a stranger in a dream
             Nodding “I know you!” and behold, a love
             Long dead, that smiles and says, “I never died!”
             Then in the turn of the lane I saw your thatch.
             Summer not winter, else was all unchanged.
             Still in the dream I left my horse to graze,
             And let ten years slip from me at your gate.

    SHAKESPEARE. Is it ten years?

    HENSLOWE.                    The little garden lay
              Enchanted in the Sunday sloth of noon:
              In th’ aspen tree the wind hung, fast asleep,
              Yet the air danced a foot above the flowers
              And gnats danced in it. I saw a poppy-head
              Spilling great petals, noiseless, one by one:
              I heard the honeysuckle breathe--sweet, sweet:
              The briar was sweeter--a long hedge, pink-starred--

    SHAKESPEARE. I know.

    HENSLOWE.          There was a bush of lavender,
              And roses, and a bee in every rose,
              Drowning the lark that fluted, fields away,
              Up in the marvel blue.

    SHAKESPEARE.                  Did you go in?

    HENSLOWE. Why, scarce I dared, for as I latched the gate
              The wind stirred drowsily, and “Hush!” it said,
              And slept again; but all the garden waked
              Upon the sound. I swear, as I play Prologue,
              It watched me, waiting. Down the path I crept,
              Tip-toe, and reached the window, and looked in.

    SHAKESPEARE. You saw--?

    HENSLOWE.             I saw her; though the place was gloom
              After the sunshine; but I saw her--

    SHAKESPEARE.                               Changed?

    HENSLOWE. I knew her.

    SHAKESPEARE.         Who was with her?

    HENSLOWE.                             She was alone,
             Beside the hearth unkindled, sitting alone.
             A child’s chair was beside her, but no child.
             Her hands were sleepless, and beneath her breath
             She tuned a thread of song--your song of ‘Willow.’
             But when I tapped upon the window-pane,
             Oh, how she turned, and how leaped up! Her face
             Glowed white as iron new lifted from the forge:
             Her hair fled out behind her in one flame
             As to the door she ran, with little cries
             Scarce human, tearing at the bolt, the key,
             And flung it crashing back: ran out, wide-armed,
             Calling your name: then--saw me, and stood still,
             So still you’d think she died there, standing up,
             As a sapling will in frost, so desolate
             She stood, with summer round her, staring--

    SHAKESPEARE.                                     Well?

    HENSLOWE. I asked her, did she know me? Yes, she said,
              And would I rest and eat? So much she said
              To the lawn behind me--oh, to the hollyhock
              Stiff at my elbow--to a something--nothing--
              But not to me. I could not eat her food.
              I told her so. She nodded. Oh, she knows
              How thoughts run in a man. No fool, no fool!
              I spoke of you. She listened.

    SHAKESPEARE.                         Questioned you?

    HENSLOWE. Never a question.

    SHAKESPEARE.             She said nothing?

    HENSLOWE.                               Nothing.

    SHAKESPEARE. Not like her.

    HENSLOWE.                 But her eyes spoke, as I came
              By way of London, Juliet, ‘The Rose,’
              And the Queen’s great favour (“And why not?” they said)
              Again to silence; so, as I turned to go
              I asked her--“Any greeting?” Then she said,
              Lifting her chin as if she sped her words
              Far, far, like pigeons flung upon the air,
              And soft her voice as bird-wings--then she said,
              “Tell him the woods are green at Shottery,
              Fuller of flowers than any wood in the world.”
              “What else?” said I. She said--“The wind still blows
              Fresh between park and river. Tell him that!”
              Said I--“No message, letter?” Then she said,
              Twisting her hands--“Tell him the days are long.
              Tell him--” and suddenly ceased. Then, with good-bye
              Pleasantly spoken, and another look
              At some wraith standing by me, not at me,
              Went back into the house and shut the door.

    SHAKESPEARE. Ay, shut the door, Henslowe; for had she been this she
                 Ten years ago and I this other I--
                 Well, I have friends to love! Heard Marlowe’s news?
                 He’s three-part through Leander! Oh, this Marlowe!
                 I mine for coal but he digs diamonds.

    HENSLOWE. Yet fill your scuttle lest the world grow chill! Is the
    new play done?


    HENSLOWE. Much written?

    SHAKESPEARE. Not a line.

    HENSLOWE. Are you mad? We’re contracted. What shall I say to the

    SHAKESPEARE. What you please.

    HENSLOWE. Are you well?

    SHAKESPEARE. Well enough.

    HENSLOWE. Ill enough, I think!

    SHAKESPEARE. Write your own plays--bid Marlowe, any man
                 That writes as nettles grow or rain comes down!
                 I am not born to it. I write not so.
                 Romeo and Juliet--I am dead of them!
                 The pay’s too small, good clappers! These ghosts
                         need blood
                 To make ’em plump and lively and they know it,
                 And seek their altar. Threads and floating wisps
                 Of being, how they fasten like a cloud
                 Of gnats upon me, not to be shoo’d off
                 Unsatisfied--and they drink deep, drink deep;
                 For like a pelican these motes I feed,
                 And with old griefs’ remembrance and old joys’
                 Sharper remembrance daily scourge myself,
                 And still they crowd to suck my scars and live.

    HENSLOWE. Now, now, now--do I ask another ‘Juliet’ of you? God
    forbid! A fine play, your ‘Juliet,’ but--

    SHAKESPEARE. Now come the “buts.”

    HENSLOWE. Man, we must live! Can we fill the theatre on love and
    longing, and high words? Ay, when Marlowe does it to the sound
    of trumpets. But you--you’re not Marlowe. You know too much.
    Your gods are too much men and women. Who’ll pay sixpence for a
    heart-ache? and in advance too! Give us but two more ‘Romeo and
    Juliet’'s and you may be a great poet, but we close down. Another
    tragedy? No, no, no, we don’t ask that of you! We want light
    stuff, easy stuff. Oh, who knows as well as you what’s wanted?
    It’s a court play, my man! The French Embassy’s to be there and
    the two Counts from Italy, and always Essex and his gang, and you
    know _their_ fancy. Get down to it now, there’s a good lad! Oh,
    you can do it in your sleep! Lovers and lasses, and quarrels and
    kisses, like the two halves of a sandwich! But court lovers, you
    know, that talk verse--and between them a green cress of country
    folk and country song, daffodils and valentines, and brown
    bowls of ale--season all with a pepper of wit--and there’s your
    sandwich, there’s your play, as the Queen likes it, as we all
    like it!

    SHAKESPEARE. Ay, as you like it! There’s your title pat!
                 But I’ll not serve you. I’m to live, not write.
                 Tell that to the Queen!
                  _A boy enters whistling and stops as he_
                          _sees_ SHAKESPEARE.
                       Well, Hugh, what answer?

    BOY.                                     None, sir!

    SHAKESPEARE. What? No answer?

    HENSLOWE. See here, Will! If you do not write me this play you
    have thrice promised, I’ll to the Queen--sick or mad I’ll to the
    Queen this very day for your physic--and so I warn you.

    SHAKESPEARE [_to the boy_]. Did you see--?

    BOY. The maid, sir!

    HENSLOWE. I’ll not see ‘The Rose’ in ruins for a mad--

    SHAKESPEARE [_to the boy_]. But what did I bid you?

    BOY. Wait on the doorstep till Mistress Fitton came out, though
    I waited all night. But indeed, sir, she’s gone; for I saw her,
    though she did not see me.

    HENSLOWE. Oh, the Fitton! Now I see light through the wood!

    SHAKESPEARE. What’s that you say?

    HENSLOWE. I say that the Queen shall know where the blame lies.

    SHAKESPEARE. You lie. _I_ heard you. _I_ saw you twist your lips
    round a white name.

    HENSLOWE. Will! Will! Will!

    SHAKESPEARE. Did you not?

    HENSLOWE. Why, Will, you have friends, though you fray ’em to the
    parting of endurance.

    SHAKESPEARE. What’s this?

    HENSLOWE. I say you have friends that see what they see, and are

    SHAKESPEARE. Yes, I am blessed in one man and woman who do not
    use me as a beast to be milked dry. I have Marlowe and--

    HENSLOWE. Marlowe? And I said, God forgive me, that you knew men
    and women! Marlowe!

    SHAKESPEARE. You speak of my friend.

    HENSLOWE. Ay, Jonathan--of David, the singer, of him that took
    Bathsheba, all men know how. [SHAKESPEARE _makes a threatening
    movement._] No, no, Will! I am too old a man to give and take
    with you--too old a man and too old a friend.

    SHAKESPEARE. So you’re to lie and I’m to listen because you’re an
    old man!

    HENSLOWE. Lie? Ask any in the town. I’m but a day returned and
    already I’ve heard the talk. Why, man, they make songs of it in
    the street!

    SHAKESPEARE. It?   It?   It?

    HENSLOWE. Boy?

    BOY. Here, sir?

    HENSLOWE. What was that song you whistled as you came up the

    BOY. ‘Weathercock,’ sir?

    HENSLOWE. That’s it!

    BOY. Lord, sir, I know but the one verse I heard a drayman sing.

    HENSLOWE. How does it go?

    BOY. It goes--[_singing._]
                 Two birds settle on a weathercock--
                   How’s the wind to-day--O?
                 One shall nest and one shall knock--
                   How’s the wind to-day--O?
                      Turn about and turn about,
                      Kit pops in as Will pops out!
                 Winds that whistle round the weathercock,
                   Who’s her love to-day--O?

    It’s a good tune, sir!

    HENSLOWE. Eh, Will? A good tune! A rousing tune!

    SHAKESPEARE [_softly_]. “For this prize, if I loved her, I would
    pay all I had! I do what I choose though it damn me!”

    BOY. May I go, sir?

    SHAKESPEARE. Go, go!

    BOY. And my pay, sir? Indeed I’d have stopped the lady if I
    could. But she made as if she were not herself, and rode out of
    the yard. But I knew her, for all her riding-coat and breeches.

    HENSLOWE. What’s all this?

    SHAKESPEARE [_to the boy_]. You’re dreaming--

    BOY. No, sir, there was your ring on her finger--

    SHAKESPEARE. Be still! Take this and forget your dreams!
    [_He gives him money._] Henslowe, farewell! If you’ve lied to me
    I’ll pay you for it, and if you’ve spoken truth to me I’ll pay you
    for it no less.

    HENSLOWE. Pay? I want no pay. I want the play that the Queen
    ordered, and will have in the end, mark that! You have not yet
    served the Queen.

    SHAKESPEARE. Boy! Hugh!

    BOY. Sir?

    SHAKESPEARE. Which way did she ride?

    BOY. Am I asleep or awake, sir?

    SHAKESPEARE. Which way did she ride?

    BOY. Across the bridge, sir, as I dreamt it, along the Deptford

    SHAKESPEARE. Marlowe! The Deptford road! The Deptford road!
    [_He rushes out._]

    BOY [_showing his money_]. Dreaming pays, sir! It’s gold.

    HENSLOWE. Boy, boy! Never trust a man! Never kiss a woman! Work
    all day and sleep all night! Love yourself and never ask God for
    the moon! So you may live to be old. This business grows beyond
    me. I’ll to the Queen.

            _He trots out, shaking his head. The boy skips after him,
           whistling his tune._

                        THE CURTAIN FALLS.



     _A private room at an inn late at night. Through
          the door in the right wall is seen the outer
          public room, with men sitting drinking. There
          is a window at the back, set so low in the wall
          that, above the window-sill, the heads of summer
          flowers glisten in the moonlight. On the left
          wall is the hearth and between it and the window
          a low bed. In the centre is a table with candle,
          glasses and mugs, and two or three men sitting
          round it drinking_. MARLOWE _stands with his back
          to the window, one foot on a chair, shouting out
          a song as the curtain rises._

    MARLOWE [_singing_].
                     If Luck and I should meet
                        I’ll catch her to me crying,
                     ‘To trip with you were sweet,
                        Have done with your denying!’
                             Hey, lass! Ho, lass!
                             Heel and toe, lass!
                        Who’ll have a dance with me?

    ALL TOGETHER.            Hey, Luck! Ho, Luck!
                             Ne’er say no, Luck!
                        I’ll have a dance with thee!

    A MAN [_hammering the table_]. Again! Again!

    LANDLORD [_at the door_]. Sir, sir, there’s without a young
    gentleman hot with riding--

    MARLOWE. Does the hot young gentleman give no name?

    LANDLORD. Why yes, sir, Archer, Francis Archer! He said you would
    know him.

    MARLOWE. I knew an Archer, but he died in Flanders.

    LANDLORD. He may well come from Flanders, sir, for he’s muddy.

    MARLOWE. Are Flanders’ graves so shallow? Tell him if he’s alive
    I don’t know him, and if he’s dead I won’t know him, and so
    either way let him go where he belongs.

                    _The_ LANDLORD _goes out._

    THE MAN. What, Kit! send him to hell with a dry throat?

    MARLOWE. And all impostors with him!

    THE MAN. But what if it were a true ghost? Have a heart! You’ll
    be one yourself some day, and watch old friends run away from you
    when you come to haunt them in pure good fellowship.

    LANDLORD [_at the door_]. Sir, he says indeed he knows you. His
    business is private.

    MARLOWE. Well, let him come in. No, friends, sit still! If he’s
    the death he pretends we’ll face him together as the song teaches.
         [_Singing._] When Death at last arrives,
                        I’ll greet him with a chuckle,
                      I’ll ask him how he thrives
                        And press his bony knuckle,
                           With--Ho, boy! Hey, boy!
                           Come this way, boy!
                        Who’ll have a drink with me?

    MARY’S VOICE [_on the stairs_].
                           Hey, Sir! Ho, Sir!
                           No, no, no, Sir!
                        Why should he drink with thee?

    ALL TOGETHER.          Hey, Death! Ho, Death!
                           Let me go, Death!
                        I’ll never drink with thee!

    MARLOWE. What voice is that?

    MARY _stands in the doorway. She is dressed as a boy, with cloak,
    riding boots, and slouch cap._

    MARY [_singing_]. If Love should pass me by,
                         I’ll follow till I find him,
                       And when I hear him sigh,
                         I’ll tear the veils that blind him.
                               Up, man! Dance, man!
                               Take your chance, man!
                         Who’ll get a kiss from me?

    ALL TOGETHER.             Hey, Love! Ho, Love!
                              None shall know, Love!
                           Keep but a kiss for me!      [_They clap._]

    THE MAN [_to_ MARLOWE]. Ghost of a nightingale! D’you know him?

    MARLOWE. I think I do. [_To_ MARY, _aside_] What April freak is

    THE MAN [_with a glass_]. Spirits to spirit, young sir! Have a

    MARY. I should choke, sir! We drink nectar in my country.

    THE MAN. Where’s that, ghost?

    MARY. Oh, somewhere on the soft side of heaven where the poppies

    THE MAN. He swore you were dead and buried.

    MARY. And so I was. But there’s a witch in London so sighs for
    him and so cries for him, that in the end she whistled me out of
    my gravity and sent me here to fetch him home to her.

    THE MAN. Her name, transparency, her name?

    MARY. Why, sir, I rode in such haste that my memory could not
    keep up with me. It’ll not be here this half hour.

    MARLOWE. Landlord, pour ale for a dozen, and these friends will
    drink to her, name or no name--in the next room.

    THE MAN. Kit, you’re a man of tact! I’m a man of tact. We’re all
    men of tact!

          Ho, boys! Hey, boys!
          Come this way, boys!
        Who’ll have a drink with me?

               _The door closes on them._

    MARY. Well, did you ever see a better boy? My hair was the only

    MARLOWE. Madcap! What does this mean?

    MARY. What I said! [_singing_].
                       Moth, where are you flown?
                         To burn in a flame!
                       Moth, I lie alone--
    You’ve not been near me these four days.

    MARLOWE. Uneasy days--I could not.

    MARY. Are you burned, moth? Are the poor wings a-frizzle?

    MARLOWE. Not mine, dear candle, but a king of moths,
             But a great hawk-moth, velvet as the night
             He beats with twilight wings, he, he is singed,
             Fallen to earth and pitiful.

    MARY.                              Oh, Shakespeare!
          My dear, I’ve run away because I hate
          The smell of burning.

    He was to come to me to-night to tell me his tragedies and his
    comedies and--oh, I yawn! And I played her so well too at the

    MARLOWE. Who?

    MARY. The cool nymph under Tiber stairs--what’s her
    name?--Egeria. Am I your Egeria, Marlowe?

    MARLOWE. Something less slippery.

    MARY. Oh, she was fun to play--first to please the Queen and
    then to please myself. For I was caught, you know. It’s something
    to be hung among the stars, something to say--“I was his Juliet!”

    MARLOWE. What, you--you Comedy-Kate?

    MARY. Why, I’m a woman! that is--fifty women!
          While he played Romeo to my Juliet
          I could be anything he chose. O Kit!
          I sucked his great soul out. You never lit the blaze
          I was for half an hour: then--out I went!

    MARLOWE. He stoops o’er the embers yet.

    MARY.                                But ashes fanned
          Fly from their centre, lighter than a kiss,
          And settle--where they please!    [_She kisses him._]
    D’you love me?

    MARLOWE. More than I wish.

    MARY. Would you be cured?

    MARLOWE. Not possible.

    MARY [_singing_].       Go to church, sweetheart,
                              A flower in your coat!
                            Your wedding bells shall prove
                      The death of love! The death of love!
                              Ding-dong! Ding-dong!
                              The death of love!
    Or so Will says.

    MARLOWE. He should know.

    MARY. What’s that?

    MARLOWE. Nothing.

    MARY. He’s married?

    MARLOWE. I do not tell you so.

    MARY. Married! He shall pay me. Married! I guessed it--but he
    shall pay me. A country girl?

    MARLOWE. If you must know! He has not seen her these ten years.
    She sent for him the night of ‘Juliet.’

    MARY. Why now all’s plain.
          So she’s the canker that hath drooped our rose!
          If I had loved him--I do not love him, Marlowe--
          This would have fanned a flame. Well, we’re all cheats!
          But now I cheat with better conscience. Married!
          Lord, I could laugh! He must not know I know it.

    MARLOWE. I shan’t boast I told you. O Mary, when I first came to
    you, it was he sent me. He came like a child and asked me to see
    you, to say what good of him I could,
             Because I was his friend. And now, see, see,
             How I have friended him!

    MARY.                              I love you for it.
          He shall not know. Why talk of him? Forget him!

    MARLOWE. Can you?

    MARY. Why, that I cannot makes me mad--

    MARLOWE.                            Forget him?
             As soon forget myself! I am his courage,
             His worldly wisdom--Mary, I think I am
             The youth he lost in Stratford. Yet we’re one age,
             And now we write one play. If I died of a sudden,
             It seems he’d breathe me as I left my body,
             And I should live in him as sunshine lies
             Forgotten in a forest, and be found
             In slants and pools and patterns, golden still
             In all he writes.

    MARY. O dull Kit! have I adventured here to hear you talk of

    MARLOWE. You borrowed Archer’s name.

    MARY. I wanted one that would startle you out to me, and you told
    me the tale of him once, how young he died.

    MARLOWE. And how unwilling! You’ve set him running in my head
    like a spider in a skull,
             Spinning across the hollows of mine eyes
             A web of dusty thought. Sweet, brush him off!
             Death’s a vile dreg in this intoxicant,
             This liquor of the gods, this seven-hued life.
             Sometimes I pinch myself, say--“Can you die?
             Is it possible? Will you be winter-nipped
             One day like other flies?” I’m glad you came.
             Stay with me, stay, till the last minute of life!
             Let the court go, the world go, stay with me!

    MARY [_her arms round him_].
             So--quiet till the dawn comes, quiet! Hark!
             Who called? Did you hear it?

    MARLOWE.                       Birds in the ivy.

    MARY.                                     No.
          Twice in the road I stopped and turned about
          Because I heard my name called. There was nothing;
          Yet I had heard it--Mary--Mary--Mary!

    MARLOWE. You heard your own heart pound from riding.

    MARY.                                   Again!
          Open the window!   [MARLOWE _rises and goes to the window._]
                    Do you see anything?

    MARLOWE. All’s sinister. The moon fled out of the sky
             Long since, and the black trees of midnight quake.

    MARY. And the wind! What a wind! It tugs at the window-frame
          Like jealousy, mad to break in and part us.
          Could you be jealous?

    MARLOWE.                   If I were a fool
             I’d let you guess it.

    MARY.                  Wise, you’re wise, but--jealous?
          Too many men in the world! I’d lift no finger
          To beckon back the fool that tired of me,
          Would you? But he, he glooms and says no word,
          But follows with his eyes whene’er I stir.
          I hate those asking eyes. Look thus at me
          But once and--ended, Marlowe! I’ll not give
          But when I choose.        [_He sits beside her._]

    MARLOWE.             But when _I_ choose.

               _Behind them the blur of the window is darkened._

    MARY [_in his arms_].                Why yes!
          Had he your key-word--! Sometimes I like him yet,
          When anger comes in a white lightning flash,
          Then he’s the man of men still, then with shut eyes
          I think him you and shiver and I like him,
          Held roughly in his arms, thinking of you.
          The Warwick burr is like an afterwards
          Of thunder when he’s angry, in his speech.

    MARLOWE. What does he say?

    MARY.                   He says he is not jealous!
          He would not wrong me so, nor wrong himself.
          Then the sky lightens and we kiss--or kiss not!
          Who cares?
          Then in come you. It’s well he thinks you his
          In friendship--

    MARLOWE.              So I was.

               SHAKESPEARE _swings himself noiselessly over the sill._

    MARY.                             And so you are,
          And have all things in common as friends should.
          Eh, friend?
          Oh, stir not! Frowning? If you were a fool--
          (How did it run?) you’d let me guess you--jealous!
          But you’re no fool.

    MARLOWE.               Let’s have no more! You know
             I loved--I love the man.

    MARY.                           Why, so do I.

    MARLOWE. You shall not!

    MARY.                 Then I will not. Not to-night.

    SHAKESPEARE [_standing by the window_].
                Why not to-night, my lover and my friend?
                       _He comes down into the room as they start up._
                Will you not give me wine and welcome me?
                Sit down, sit down--we three have much to say!
                But tell me first, what does that hand of yours
                Upon her neck, as there were custom in it?
                Part! Part, I say! Part! lest I couple you
                Once and for all!

    MARY.                     He’s armed!

    MARLOWE.                           He shall not touch you!

    SHAKESPEARE. You, Marlowe! You!

    MARLOWE.                     Stand out of her way!

    SHAKESPEARE.                              You! You!

    MARLOWE. Why then--

    MARLOWE _darts at_ SHAKESPEARE _and is thrown off. He staggers
    against the table, knocking over the candle. As he strikes the
    second time his arm is knocked up, striking his own forehead.
    He falls across the bed. There is an instant’s pause, then_
    SHAKESPEARE _rushes to him, slipping an arm under his shoulder._

    MARY.          Dead? Is he dead? Oh, what an end!
          I never saw a dead man. Will--to me!

    SHAKESPEARE. Get help!

    MARY.               I dare not.

    MARLOWE.                      Oh!

    SHAKESPEARE.                    What is it?

    MARLOWE.                                Oh!
             My life, my lovely life, and cast away
             Untasted, wasted--
             Death, let me go!             [_He dies._]

    MARY.               What now? Rouse up! Delay
          Is dangerous. Wake! Wake! What shall we do?

    SHAKESPEARE. O trumpet of the angels lent to a boy,
                 Could I not spare you for the golden blast,
                 For the great sound’s sake? What have I done?

    ANNE’S VOICE.                              Ah! Done
                  The thing you would not do--

    MARY.                Rouse! Rouse yourself!
             What now?

    ANNE’S VOICE.    Remember--

    SHAKESPEARE.              Hark! A sigh!

    MARY.                              The wind
             Keening the night--

    SHAKESPEARE.               A sound of weeping--

    MARY.                                             Rain.
             Is this a time for visions? White-cheeked day
             Stares through the pane. Each minute is an eye
             Opening upon us. What shall we do now?

    SHAKESPEARE. Weep, clamorous harlot! We have given him death,
                 And shall we dock his rights of death, his peace
                 Upon his bed, his sun of hair smoothed, hands
                 Crossed decently by me, his friend? Close you
                 His eyes with kisses, lest I kill you too!
                 Give him his due, I say! his woman’s tears!
                 You were his woman--oh, deny it not!
                 You were his woman. Pay him what you owe!

    MARY. What? Do you glove my clean hand with your stain,
          Red fingers? Soft! This is your kill, not mine!
          My free soul is not sticky with your sins.
         _You_ pinch your lips? _You_ singe me with your tongue?
          Your country lilac that you left for me
          Taught you strange names for a woman. Harlot? I?
          Sweep your own stable, trickster, married man!
          Lie, cheat, break faith, until you end a man
          That bettered you as roses better weeds--

    SHAKESPEARE. That is well known.

    MARY.                 --and now you’ll stare and weep
          Until the watch comes and the Queen hears all.
          Then--ends all!
          And I caught with you! She’s a devil of ice
          Since Leicester died. No man or woman stirs her;
          But she must have her toys! London’s her doll’s house,
          Its marts, its theatres. This death was half her pride,
          And you the other. Was I not set to mould you?
          What will she do to me now her doll’s broken,
          Broken in my hand? I fear her, oh, I fear her,
          The green eyes of her justice and her smile.
          Will, if you love me--you who have had my lips,
          And more, and more, and shall have all again,
          All that you choose, and gladly given--awake!
          Fly while there’s time to save yourself and me!
          Look not on him--he’s blind--he cannot speak,
          Nor stretch a hand to stay you--he’s cold nothing!
          But we, we live! Here on my throat, here, here,
          (Give me your fingers!) feel the hot pulse live!
          Yet I’ll die sooner than be pent. You know me!
          Must I lie still for ever at his side
          Because you will not rouse yourself?

    SHAKESPEARE.                             Who speaks?
                 O vanished dew, O summer sweetness gone,
                 O perfume staled in a night, that yesterday
                 Was fresh as morning roses--do you live?
                 Are you still Mary? O my shining lamp
                 Of love put out, how dark the world has grown!
                 Did you want him so? Did it come on you suddenly,
                 And shake you from your north--

    MARY.                              The dawn! the dawn!

    SHAKESPEARE. Or did you never love me--where do you point?

    MARY.        To save ourselves comes first!

    SHAKESPEARE. To answer me!

    MARY.        Fool! Fool! Will you hang? Let go, fool!

    SHAKESPEARE. Answer me!

    MARY.        Will, for the love of living--

    SHAKESPEARE.                              Answer me!

    MARY.        I never loved you. Are you answered?

    ANNE’S VOICE.                                Oh--
                  For a month--in the spring--

    SHAKESPEARE.                             Is it a month ago?
                 The trees are not yet metalled with the dust
                 Of summer, that were greening when we two--

    MARY.        Oh, peace!

    SHAKESPEARE.            --in a night of spring--

    MARY.                                         Ah, was it love?

    SHAKESPEARE. Remember, Beauty, when you came to me,
                 As came the beggar to Cophetua,
                 As queens came conquered to the Macedon,
                 As Cressid came by night to Diomed,
                 As night comes queenly to the bed of day
                 Enmantled in her hair, so you to me,
                 Juliet, and all your night of hair was mine
                 To curtain me and you--

    MARY.                              Forgotten, forgotten--

    SHAKESPEARE. That night you loved me--

    ANNE’S VOICE.               I was drunk with dreams
                  That night.

    SHAKESPEARE.             That night of victory you loved me!
                 I have my witnesses. O watching stars--

    MARY.        The eyes, the eyes, the arch of eyes!

    SHAKESPEARE.                               --speak for me!
                 Once was a taper that outshone you all,
                 It burned so bright. Oh, how you winked and pried!
                 I saw you through the tatters of the dark
                 And mocked you in my hour. Yet speak for me,
                 Eternal lights, for now my candle’s blown
                 Past envy! But she loved me then!

    MARY.                                       I know not.

    SHAKESPEARE. Though god and devil deny--you loved me then!

    MARY. But was it love?
          I could have loved if you had taught me loving.
          Something I sought and found not; so I turned
          From searching. I have clean forgotten now
          That ever I sought--and so live merrily--
          And so will live! Why wreck myself for you?

    SHAKESPEARE. O heart’s desire, and eyes’, desire of hands,
                 Self of myself, have pity!

    MARY.                                 What had you?
          If I had borne you children (but I was wise,
          Knowing my man, as men have taught me men)
          What name had you to give them, to give me?
          No, no, I wrong you, for you christened me
          But now, first having slain him who had struck
          The rankness from your mouth.

    SHAKESPEARE.                       What I have done--

    MARY.       Lied, lied to me!
                                 --and if I did--

    ANNE’S VOICE.                              To hold you!
                  I couldn’t lose you. I was mad with pain.

    MARY.         Tricked me--

    SHAKESPEARE.            To hold--listen to me--to hold you!
                 Lest I should lose you. I was mad with pain.

    MARY.        Are you so womanish that a breath of pain--

    SHAKESPEARE. A breath! God, listen! A breath, a summer breath!

    MARY.        --could blow away your honour?

    SHAKESPEARE.                             Once it was mine.
                 I laid it up with you. Where is it now?
                 I’m stripped of honour like an oak in June
                 Whose leaves a curse of caterpillars eat,
                 That stands a mockery to flowers and men,
                 With naked arms praying the lightning down.

    ANNE’S VOICE. At Shottery the woods are green--

    SHAKESPEARE.                                 My God!

    ANNE’S VOICE. And full of flowers--

    SHAKESPEARE.                       Let be, let be! My honour?
                 I bought it with a woman--not like you,
                 A faithless-faithful woman--not like you;
                 But weak as I’m weak, loving as I love,
                 God help her! not like you--no black-eyed Spain
                 Whose cheeks hang out their red to match the red
                 When bull meets man--no luxury that wears
                 A lover like new clothes, and all the while
                 Eyes other women’s fashions; but a woman
                 That should have loved me less, poor fool, and less--

    MARY.        You should have loved me less, my fool, and less!

    SHAKESPEARE. Yet from this folly all the music springs
                 That is in the world, and all my hopes that ranged
                 Lark-high in heaven! Yet murder comes of it.
                 Look where he lies! He was true friend to me,
                 And I to him, until you came, you came.

    MARY.        I came and I can go.

    SHAKESPEARE.            Mary!    [_There is a clatter of hoofs._]

    MARY.                            D’you hear?
                 Horses! What do they seek? You, Marlowe, me?

    SHAKESPEARE. This they call conscience.

    MARY.                                   Take your hand away!
                I’ll slip through yet; nor shall you follow me;
                You had your chance. Listen! A boy was here;
                One Francis Archer. Say it after me--
                No woman, but a boy, a stranger to you!

    SHAKESPEARE. Strange to me, Mary.

                    _There is a sound of voices in the yard._

    MARY.                                If you hold me now
                I’ll scream and swear you stabbed him as he slept,
                They’re drinking still.    [_She opens the door._]

    VOICES [_in the outer room_].
                                 Hey, boy! Ho, boy!
                                 Heel and toe, boy!
                             Who’ll have a drink with me?

    MARY.                             If you should get away.
                Send me no message, come not near me! Now!

                   _She slips into the room_. SHAKESPEARE _stands at
                           the half open door watching._

    A MAN. Sing another verse!

    ANOTHER. There’s the boy back. Make him sing it!

    MARY. I’m to fetch more wine first.

    THE MAN. Sing another verse!

    ANOTHER.           If Love and I should meet,
                          I’ll catch her to me--

    ANOTHER. Luck, you fool, not love!

    ANOTHER. Where’s the difference? If you’re in love you’re in luck.

    ANOTHER. Here, stop the boy!

    MARY. Let me pass, gentlemen!

    THE MAN. Sing another verse!

    ANOTHER. If Love and I--

    ANOTHER. Shut up now and let the kid sing it!

    MARY. Why yes, if you’ll let me pass afterwards, sir, like love
    in the song.

    THE MAN. Sing another verse! Sing twenty other verses!

    MARY [_singing_].     If Love should pass me by,
                             I’ll follow till I find him,
                          And when I hear him cry,
                             I’ll tear the veils that blind him!

    THE MAN. Now then, chorus!

    ALL TOGETHER.             Hey, Love! Ho, Love!
                              None shall know, Love!
                          Keep but a kiss for me!

                 MARY _disappears in the crowd. The door swings to as_
                           SHAKESPEARE _turns back into the room_.

    SHAKESPEARE. Marlowe! Marlowe!
                 She is gone, Marlowe, that was a fume of wine
                 Between us. Marlowe, Marlowe, speak to me!
                 Never a sound. We have seen many a dawn
                 Creep like a house-wife on the drunken night,
                 And tumble him from heaven with work-day hand
                 And bird-shrill railing; but such a waking up
                 As this we never knew. Sorry and cold
                 I look on you. Kit, Kit, this mark of the knife
                 Is the first blot I ever saw in you,
                 The first ill-writing. Kit, for your own sake,
                 You should have wronged a stranger, not your friend;
                 For like a looking-glass my heart still served you
                 To see yourself, and when you struck at me,
                 You struck yourself, and broke this mirror too.
                        _A knock._
                 Mary? Is it Mary? Lie you quiet, Marlowe!
                 We will not let her in.

    HENSLOWE. Within, who’s within there?

    SHAKESPEARE.                          Two dead men.

    HENSLOWE.                             Is it Marlowe?
              Is Shakespeare there?

    SHAKESPEARE.                 Come in, come in, come in!

                      HENSLOWE _comes in hurriedly. He leaves the
                           door half open behind him._

    VOICES [_singing_].     Ho, boy! Hey, boy!
                            Come this way, boy!
                        Who’ll have a drink with me?

    HENSLOWE. Why, here’s a bird of wisdom sitting in the dark! Shut
    your eyes, man, and use candles or you’ll scorch out your own
    sockets! What’s wrong now? But tell me that as we ride; for the
    Queen wants you in a hurry, and what’s more an angry Queen. I’d
    not be you! Here I’ve hunted London for you from tavern to lady’s
    lodging till I ferreted out that Marlowe was here, and so I
    followed him for news.

    SHAKESPEARE. Here’s news enough. Henslowe, look here!

    HENSLOWE.                                    Who did it?

    SHAKESPEARE. We--he and I. There was another in it.

    HENSLOWE. Was it the youngster passed me in the yard,
              Caught at his horse and rode like fear away?

    SHAKESPEARE. Was’t a pale horse?

    HENSLOWE.                    I saw not. In the dark
              A voice cried “Hurry!”

    SHAKESPEARE.                    That was she.

    HENSLOWE.                              Who? Who?

    SHAKESPEARE. Death. She has fled and left her catch behind.
                 Can you do anything?

    HENSLOWE.                      For the living scarce--
              You must be got away. Are you known here?

    SHAKESPEARE. As men know Cain. All, all is finished, Henslowe!

    LANDLORD [_putting his head in at the door_].
    Is anything wrong sir?

    HENSLOWE. Wrong? What should be wrong? But we’re in haste.
    Call the ostler! We want a second horse.

            _He slips his arm through_ SHAKESPEARE’S _and tries
                      to lead him to the door._

    LANDLORD. Is the gentleman ill, sir? He sways.

    HENSLOWE. Your good wine, host.

    A MAN [_over the_ LANDLORD’S _shoulder_].
    The best on the Surrey side!

    HENSLOWE. He’ll tell the Queen so in an hour if you’ll make way.

    MEN [_crowding into the doorway_]. The Queen!
    Did you hear?
    He’s been sent by the Queen!

    HENSLOWE. Keep your people back, landlord!

    THE MAN [_staggering into the room_].
    I say, three cheers for the Queen!

    ANOTHER. The Queen! The Queen! Three cheers for Bess!
                    [_Singing_].    Hey, Bess! Ho, Bess!
                                    Heel and toe, Bess!
    Ladies and gentlemen, here’s a man on the bed.

    HENSLOWE. Ay!   My friend!   Let him be!

    THE MAN. Is he drunk too?

    THE OTHER. If I were a judge I’d say “Very drunk”! He’s spilled
    his wine on his clothes. What I say is “Waste not, want not!”

    LANDLORD. Come now, come away! You hear what the gentleman says.

    THE MAN [_throwing him off_].
                              Hey, Death! Ho, Death!
                              Let me go, Death!
    Shall I wake him?

    SHAKESPEARE [_turning in the doorway_]. Ay, wake him, wake him,
    old trump of judgment! Wake him if you can,
                         And if you cannot let him sleep his sleep
                         And envy him that he can sleep so sound!

    THE MAN. Ay sir, he shall sleep till he wakes. But we, sir, we’ll
    sing you off the premises, for the love of Bess.
                                    Hey, Bess? Ho, Bess!

    ANOTHER [_hammering the table_]. Death, not Bess!  Death!  Death!
    Death! Come along chorus!

    TWO OR THREE [_as they lurch out of the room_].
                             Ho, boy! Hey, boy!
                             Come this way, boy!
                          Who’ll have a drink with me?

    ALL [_following_].       Hey, Death! Ho, Death!
                             Out you go, Death!
                          We’ll never drink with thee!

      _The door swings to and quiet settles on the lightening room.
       The first ray of sunlight touches the bed. Outside the birds
       are beginning to sing._

                           THE CURTAIN FALLS.


     _A room in the palace, hung with tapestries. On the
          right wall is a heavy, studded door: on the left,
          a great raised seat on a low platform. On the
          back wall is a small curtained door and a large
          window. A girl in a primrose-coloured gown stands
          at it holding back its curtain. Set slantwise in
          front of it, nearer the centre of the stage, is a
          writing table with scattered papers. At it sits_
          ELIZABETH, _a secretary beside her. The Queen’s
          dress is of dull grey brocade with transparent
          lawn and jewels of aquamarine; but as the evening
          deepens its colour becomes one with the dusk and
          only her white face and hands are clearly seen._

    A HAWKER [_chanting in the street far away_].
                        Cress! Buy cress!
                        Who’ll buy my cress-es?

             ELIZABETH _lays down her pen._

    ELIZABETH. These three are signed. Take them to Burleigh. This
    I’ll not grant. Tell him so! [_The man bows and goes out._]

    HAWKER [_nearer_].    Cress! Buy cress!

    ELIZABETH. There!    Put the papers by!

        _The girl at the window comes down to the table and
             begins to sort them._

    ANOTHER HAWKER. Strawberries! Ripe strawberries!

    THE GIRL. I wonder, Madam, that you choose this room
              Here on the noisy street.

    ELIZABETH.                        Child, when you marry
               Who’ll rule your nursery, you or your maids?

    GIRL. Why, that I will!

    ELIZABETH. Then you must sit in it daily. Where’s Mary Fitton?

    GIRL. In waiting, Madam, and half asleep. She was up early
    to-day. I saw her from my window by the little garden door and
    called to her. She had been out to pick roses, as you bade her,
    ere the dew dried on them.

    ELIZABETH. As I bade her?

    GIRL. Yes, Madam, she said so.

    HAWKER [_close at hand_].    Cress! Buy cress!
                                 Fit for Queen Bess!

    ELIZABETH. Open the window! [_The girl opens it._]

    HAWKER.                      Cress! Buy cress!
                                 Who’ll buy my cress-es?

    ELIZABETH. Fetch me my purse!

         _The girl goes out by the little door. As she does so_,
          ELIZABETH _takes her purse from a drawer and going to
          the window, throws out a coin._

    HAWKER.                      Cress! Buy cress!
    Are you there, lady? [ELIZABETH _throws out another coin._]
                               I plucked my riches
                               From Deptford ditches,
                           I came by a Deptford Inn;
                               Where a young man lies,
                               With pennies on his eyes--
    Murdered, lady, and none saw who did it!
                                 Cress! Buy cress!

                 ELIZABETH _flings out another coin._

    There was a boy that ran away, and Henslowe the Queen’s man,
    and a third--                Cress! Buy cress!
                                 A supper for Queen Bess!

               ELIZABETH _lays down the purse on the table as the
                     girl comes back._

    GIRL [_distressed_]. Madam--

    ELIZABETH. It was here. That cress seller has a sweet voice.
    Fling her a coin and ask her where she lives!

    GIRL [_going to the window_]. Hey, beggar!

    HAWKER. Bless you, lady!

    GIRL. Where do you come from with your green stuff?

    HAWKER. Marlow, lady, Marlow!
                        Down by the river where the cresses grow,
                        And buttercups like guineas.
                                 Cress! Buy cress!
                                 Who’ll buy my cress-es?

                   _Her voice dies away in the distance._

    GIRL. She has come a long way.
                       Marlow’s across the river, far from us.

    ELIZABETH.         Marlowe’s across the river, far from us.
    If any ask to speak with me, let me know it!

    GIRL. Why, Madam, Henslowe, the old player, has been waiting
    since noon, and Mr. Shakespeare with him.

    ELIZABETH. The name’s not written here. Whose duty?

    GIRL. Mary Fitton’s.

    ELIZABETH. Send Henslowe! And when I ring let Mary Fitton answer!

    GIRL.           I’ll tell her, Madam.

               _She goes out_. ELIZABETH _rises and goes slowly
                across the room to the dais and seats herself.
                There is a pause. Then a page throws open the big
                door facing the dais and_ HENSLOWE _enters._

    ELIZABETH.                  Henslowe, you’re not welcome
               For the news you bring.

    HENSLOWE.                  Madam, that Marlowe’s dead
              I know because I found him--I am new come from Deptford--
              But how you know I know not.

    ELIZABETH.                                Why, not a keel
              Grounds on the Cornish pebbles, but the jar
              Thrills through all English earth home to my feet.
              No riderless horse snuffs blood and gallops home
              To a girl widowed, but I the sparking hoofs
              Hear pound as her heart pounds, waiting; for my spies
              Are everywhere. Do not my English swifts
              Report to me at dusk, eavesdropping low,
              The number of my English primroses
              In English woods all spring? The gulls on Thames
              Scream past the Tower “Storm in Channel! Storm!”
              And if I hear not, sudden my drinking glass
              Rings out “Send help, lest English sailors drown!”
              The lantern moon swings o’er unvisited towns
              Signalling “Peace!” or a star shoots out of the west
              Across my window, flashing “Danger here!”
              And is it Ireland rising, or a child
              On chalk-pit roof after the blackberries,
              I’m warned, and bid my human servants haste.
              The flat-worn stones, the echoes of the streets
              At night when drunkards tumble, citizens
              In the half silence and half light trot home,
              Reveal the well, the ill in my own land.
              I am its eyes, its pulse, its finger-tips,
              The wakeful partner of its married soul.
              I know what darkness does, what dawn discovers
              In all the English country. I am the Queen.
    You have done my errand? Shakespeare the player is with you?

    HENSLOWE. He waits without.

    ELIZABETH. Then he too was at Deptford last night.

    HENSLOWE. None knows it.

    ELIZABETH. That’s well! But was it he, Henslowe--he?

    HENSLOWE. No, no, no! I’ll swear it.

    ELIZABETH. But will he swear it?

    HENSLOWE. He’s dazed, he will say anything--yes--no--
              Just as you prompt him, as if one blow had struck
              His soul and Marlowe’s body. Madam, he’s not his witness!
              Yet, if t’were true, if he has lost us Marlowe,
              Must we lose him? Then has the English stage
              Lost both her hands and cannot feed herself,
              Starves, Madam!

    ELIZABETH. You’re honest, Henslowe! Your son’s son one day
               May help a king to thread a needle’s eye.
               But do you think he did it?

    HENSLOWE.                 No, though he says it,
              For he loved him.

    ELIZABETH.                Loved him, but a woman better.

    HENSLOWE. There was no woman with them.

    ELIZABETH. So I hear; but a boy!

    HENSLOWE. Unknown.

    ELIZABETH. Did you see him?

    HENSLOWE. Not his face. He was past me in a flash, crying “Hurry!”

    ELIZABETH. Well, I’ll see Shakespeare.

    HENSLOWE. Madam--

    ELIZABETH. I thread my own needles, Henslowe, being a woman.
    [MARY FITTON _enters._]  Send Mr. Shakespeare to me!
    [_Then, as_ MARY _turns to go_--]   Mary!

    MARY. Madam?

    ELIZABETH. Bid him hurry! [MARY _turns to the door._]   Mary!

    MARY. Madam?

    ELIZABETH. What did I tell you but now?

    MARY. Madam, to bid him hurry.

    HENSLOWE [_recognising the voice_]. “Hurry!”

    ELIZABETH. Wait. Daylight, Henslowe? Girl, you’re slow. You go
    heavily. Have you not slept? Let Henslowe do your errand!
    [_To_ HENSLOWE.] Let him wait at hand!

    MARY. Madam, I can well go.

    ELIZABETH. No hurry now. [HENSLOWE _goes out._] D’you guess why I
    send for your teller of tales?

    MARY. No, Madam.

    ELIZABETH. He has told a tale, it seems, that I’d hear told again.

    MARY. Told?

    ELIZABETH. Why are you not in black, Mary?

    MARY. I, Madam?

    ELIZABETH. Marlowe is dead.

    MARY. I grieve to hear it.

    ELIZABETH. When did you hear?

    MARY. Why, Madam, now--you tell me!

    ELIZABETH. Then I tell you wrong. He is alive and has told all.

    MARY. Alive? They lie to you, Madam! What has he told?
    Who says it?

    ELIZABETH. You, Mary Fitton! For by your dark-ringed eyes
               Your dreaming service and those blind hands of yours
               Seeking a hold, I think you saw him die,
               Ere you passed Henslowe in the dark, crying “Hurry!”

    MARY.      Madam, it was your errand. For this Shakespeare,
               This quill you thrust on me to sharpen up,
               Jealous of Marlowe, though he had no cause
               (What! must I live his nun, his stay-at-home?
               Your servant and a lady of the court!),
               Sent me a letter--

    ELIZABETH.                 Let me read!

    MARY.                                 I tore it!
               --so inked in threat that I post-haste for Deptford--

    ELIZABETH. Ill judged!

    MARY.                I know! I followed my first fear.
              --rode to warn Marlowe. Shakespeare following,
              Spying upon us, spying upon us, Madam!
              Found us in counsel. Then, with a hail of words
              That Marlowe would not bear, with “stale” and “harlot,”
              He beat me down, till Marlowe flung ’em back;
              Then like two dogs they struggled. Marlowe fell.

    ELIZABETH. Struck down?

    MARY.                Struck down, but blindly, not to kill--
               I will not think to kill--and as he fell
               His own knife caught him, here.

    ELIZABETH. What did you then?

    MARY.      I, Madam?

    ELIZABETH.          You, Madam? Did you fold your hands
               And watch this business as you’d watch a play,
               And clap them on? Or, as a short month since
               You played a part I think, did you strike in
               And play a part? Why did you call for help?

    MARY.      I did not, Madam!

    ELIZABETH.                     Why did not Mary Fitton
               Cry help against--which lover?

    MARY.                                    Lover, Madam?

    ELIZABETH. There’s tinker, tailor, soldier--the old rhyme--
               There’s Pembroke, Marlowe, Shakespeare--

    MARY.                                Madam! Madam!
               I’ll not bear this!

    ELIZABETH.                  Ay, you have fierce black eyes--
               What will you do then if you will not bear it?
               You have leave to show.

    MARY.                           I say I did cry out
               To both that they should cease.

    ELIZABETH.                       So you cried out!
               Bring up your witnesses that heard you cry!

    MARY.      I did not stand and watch. I ran upon them.
               I was flung off and bruised.

    ELIZABETH.                            Show me the bruise!

    MARY.      High on my arm--

    ELIZABETH.                  Rip up your sleeve and show me!
               You stand, you stare, you’re white. I think you shake.

    MARY.      Anger not fear, though you were ten times Queen
               Of twenty Englands!

    ELIZABETH.                      Quiet, and quiet, my girl!
               This ill-spent night has left you feverish.
               You are too free for court,
               Too bruised and touzled for my gentlemen.
               You shall go home, I think, to heal this bruise,
               To cleanse your body and soul in country air
               And banished quiet till I send for you.

    MARY.      Upon what count?

    ELIZABETH.                 On none. But I’ve no time,
               No room for butter-fingers. Here’s a man slain
               Upon your lap that England needed. Go!
               Go, blunted tool!    [_She touches a bell._]

    MARY.                        Madam! Madam! You wrong me!

    ELIZABETH. I’ve wronged your betters, Mary, Mary Fitton,
               As tide wrongs pebble, or as wind wrongs chaff
               At threshing time.
                      _A page enters at the great door on the right._
                              Send Mr. Shakespeare to me!

    MARY.      This is the justice of the Queen of England!

    ELIZABETH. My justice.

    MARY.                  Have I not served you?

    ELIZABETH.                               All things serve me.
               They choose their path. I use them in their path.

    MARY.      As once you used, they say--

    ELIZABETH.                            Do not dare! Do not dare!

    MARY.      Dare, Madam? May I not wonder, like another.
               Why you have used me thus?

    ELIZABETH.                          I used you, dirt,
               To show a man how foul the dirt can be;
               But now I brush you from him.
          _The main door opens and_ HENSLOWE _enters followed
           by_ SHAKESPEARE. _She beckons to_ HENSLOWE.

    HENSLOWE.                                         Madam?

            _They speak privately for a moment, then_
            HENSLOWE _goes out by the small door._

                   You come to cue!

    SHAKESPEARE.                  What has fallen?

    MARY.                                    Sent away
               Because of you, because my name is Mary!

    SHAKESPEARE. Go to my lodging! Wait for me! I’ll follow,
                 For where you go I go.

    MARY.                           Ay, bring your wife!
               This act is over! There are other men!

                         _She goes out._

    SHAKESPEARE. Mary! Love, life, the breath I breathe, come back!
                 Mary, you have not heard me! Mary! Mary
                 Come back!   [_The door shuts with a clang._]

    ANNE’S VOICE.          Come back!

    ELIZABETH.                       Never in any world!
               Fasten the door there!

    SHAKESPEARE [_struggling to open it_].    Open!    Open, I say!

    ELIZABETH. Beat, beat your heart out! Let me watch you beat
               Those servants of your soul until they bleed,
               Mash, agonise, against a senseless door!
               Beat, beat your weaker hands than that dead tree,
               Tear, tear your nails upon its nails in vain.
               Beat, beat your heart out--you’ll not pass the door!
               Can you not come at her? She goes--beat, beat!
               The distance widens, like a ship she goes
               Utterly from you. Follow! Beat your hands!
               What? Are you held, you who bow men with words
               Windily down like corn-fields? Is she gone?
               Call up the clouds to carry you who walk
               Sky-high, star-level, eyeing the naked sun.
               Where are your wings? Beat, beat your heart out!   Beat!
               Where is your strength? Will not the wood be moved?
               Cannot your love-call reach her, you who know
               The heart of the lark and how the warm throat thrills
               At mating-time? Is there a living thing
               You do not dwell in, cannot stir, and yet
               You cannot move this door?

    SHAKESPEARE.                        I am not so bound--

    ELIZABETH. Why, yes, there’s the window! You may cast down and be
    done with it all--done with it all! I’ll not stop you. Who am I
    to keep a man from his sweet rest? And yet--what of me, my son,
    before you do it? What of me and this England that I am?

    SHAKESPEARE. Madam, I have not slept these five nights. I do not
    know what you say.

    ELIZABETH.   Or care?

    SHAKESPEARE. Or care, Madam, forgive me! God’s pity, Madam, open
    the door!

    ELIZABETH.   It shall not serve you.

    SHAKESPEARE. I know it.

    ELIZABETH.   She has sold you, man.

    SHAKESPEARE. I know it. Open the door!

    ELIZABETH.   Come here, my son! Why do I hold you here, think you?

    SHAKESPEARE. Marlowe--

    ELIZABETH.   Tell me nothing! I’ll know nothing! Mr. Shakespeare,
    where is the work I should have from you? Where is the new play?
    You sold and I bought. Give me my goods! Then go!

    SHAKESPEARE. A play? You are Queen, Madam, you do not live our
    lives; so I call you not pure devilish to keep me here for so
    little a thing.

    ELIZABETH. Yet I will have it from you! There’s paper, pen--
               I’ll have your roughed-out scene ere Henslowe leaves
               To-night. And ere the ended month this play,
               This English laughter, ringing all her bells,
               Before the pick of Europe at my court
               Performed, shall link our hands with Italy,
               With old immortal Athens. This you’ll do,
               For this you can.

    SHAKESPEARE [_crying out_].       I am to live, not write,
                To love, not write of love, to live my life
                As others do, to live a summer life
                As all the others do!

    ELIZABETH.                   I thought so too
               When I was young. Then, ’mid my state affairs
               And droning voices of my ministers,
               The people’s acclamation and the hiss
               Of treacheries to England and to me,
               Ever I heard the momentary clock
               Ticking away my girlhood as I reigned;
               While she--while she--
               Mary of Scotland, Mary of delight,
               (I know her sweetheart names) Maybird, Mayflower,
               The three times married honeysuckle queen,
               She had her youth. Think you I’d not have changed,
               Sat out her twenty years a prisoner,
               Ridden her road from France to Fotheringay,
               To have her story? Am I less woman, I,
               That I’d not change with her? For the high way
               Is flowerless, and thin the mountain air
               And rends the lungs that breathe it; and the light
               Spreading from hill to everlasting hill,
               Welling across the sky as from a wound,
               A heart of blood between the breasts of the world,
               Is not much nearer, no, nor half as warm
               As the kissing sun of the valleys: and we climb
               (You’ll climb as I do) not because we will,
               Because we must. There is no virtue in it;
               But some pride. Fate can force but not befool me!
               I am not drunken with religious dream
               Like the poor blissful fools of kingdom come:
               I know the flesh is sweetest, when all’s said,
               And summer’s heyday and the love of men:
               I know well what I lose. I’m head of the Church
               And stoop my neck on Sunday--to what Christ?
               The God of little children? I have none.
               The God of love? What love has come to me?
               The God upon His ass? I am not meek,
               Nor is he meek, the stallion that I ride,
               The great white horse of England. I’ll not bow
               To the gentle Jesus of the women, I--
               But to the man who hung ’twixt earth and heaven
               Six mortal hours, and knew the end (as strength
               And custom was) three days away, yet ruled
               His soul and body so, that when the sponge
               Blessed his cracked lips with promise of relief
               And quick oblivion, he would not drink:
               He turned his head away and would not drink:
               Spat out the anodyne and would not drink.
               This was a god for kings and queens of pride,
               And him I follow.

    SHAKESPEARE.               Whither?

    ELIZABETH.                         The alley’s blind.
               For the cross rules us or we rule the cross,
               Yet the cross wins in the end.
               For night is older than the daylight is:
               The slack string will not quiver for the hand
               Of cunningest musician.
               Does the cross care, a chafer on a pin,
               Whether Barabbas writhe, or very God?
               All’s one to the dead wood! Dead wood, dead wood,
               It coffins us in the end. God, you and me
               And everyone--the dead wood baffles all.
               And why I care I know not, but I know
               That I’ll die fighting--and the fight goes on.
               Yet not uncaptained shall the assault go on
               Against dead wood fencing the hearts of men.
               For this I chose you.
               I am a barren woman. Mary’s child
               Reigns after me in England. Yet, to-night,
               I crown my heir. I, England, crown my son.

    SHAKESPEARE. There was a better man but yesterday--
                 To him the crown! King was he of all song.

    ELIZABETH. He’s king now of the silence after song,
               When the last bell-note hovers, like a high
               And starry rocket that dissolves in stars,
               Lost ere they reach us. He is lord of that
               For ever.

    SHAKESPEARE.           He--he had the luck; but I,
                 But England was not lucky.

    ELIZABETH.                             Be assured
               Had England chosen Marlowe, here to-night
               England had crowned him, and you in Surrey ditch
               Had lain where he lies, dead, my dead son, dead.
               Take you the kingship on you!

    SHAKESPEARE.                           A player-king--

    ELIZABETH. As I a player-queen! I play my part
               Not ill, not ill. Judge me, my English peer,
               And witness for me, that I play not ill
               My part! And if by night, unseen, I weep,
               Scourging my spirit down the track of the years,
               Hating the name of Mary, as she said;
               Yet comes and goes my hour, and comes again,
               My hour, when I bear England in my breast
               As God Almighty bears His universe,
               England moves in me, I for England speak,
               As I speak now. It is not the shut door,
               But I, but England, holds you prisoner.

    SHAKESPEARE. But to what service, England, and what end?

    ELIZABETH. I send my ships where never ships have sailed,
               To break the barriers and make wide the ways
               For the after world.
               Send you your ships to the hidden lands of the soul,
               To break the barriers and make plain the ways
               Between man and man. Why else were we two born?

    SHAKESPEARE. What’s the worth of a play?

    ELIZABETH.                         My ships are not so great
               And ride not like firm islands of dry land
               As Philip’s do; yet these my cockle-boats
               Have used the vast world as a village pound,
               And fished for treasure above the planets’ bed
               In the drowned palaces where, water-bleached,
               Atlantis gleams as gleams the skull-white moon,
               Rolled in the overwhelming tides of time
               Hither and down the beaches of the sky.
               Send out your thoughts as I send out my men,
               To earn a world for England!--paying first
               The toll of the pioneer. I do not cheat.
               Here is the bill--reckon it ere you pay!

    SHAKESPEARE. Have I not paid?

    ELIZABETH.                   Nay, hourly, till you die.
               I tell you, you shall toss upon your bed
               Crying “Let me sleep!” as men cry “Let me live!”
               And sleeping you shall still cry “Mary! Mary!”
               This will not pass. Think not the sun that wakes
               The birds in England and the daisy-lawns,
               Draws up the meadow fog like prayer to heaven,
               And curls the smoke in cottage chimney stacks,
               Shall once forget to wake you with a warm
               And kissing breath! The four walls shall repeat
               The name upon your lips, and in your heart
               The name, the one name, like a knife shall turn.
               These are your dawns. _I_ tell you, I who know.
               Nor shall day spare you. All your prospering years,
               The tasteless honours for yourself--not her--
               The envy in men’s voices, (if they knew
               The beggar that they envied!) all this shall stab,
               Stab, stab, and stab again. And little things
               Shall hurt you so: stray words in books you read,
               And jests of strangers never meant to hurt you:
               The lovers in the shadow of your fence,
               Their faces hid, shall thrust a spare hand out,
               The other held, to stab you as you pass:
               And oh, the cry of children when they play!
               You shall put grief in irons and lock it up,
               And at the door set laughter for a guard,
               Yet dance through life on knives and never rest,
               While England knows you for a lucky man.
               These are your days. I tell you, I, a queen,
               Ruling myself and half a world. I know
               What fate is laid upon you. Carry it!
               Or, if you choose, flinch, weaken, and fall down,
               Lie flat and howl, and let the ones that love you
               (Not burdened less) half carry it and you!
                Will you do that? Proud man, will you do that?

    SHAKESPEARE. Because you are all woman--

    ELIZABETH.                              Have you seen it?
               None other sees.

    SHAKESPEARE.              --and not as you’re the Queen,
                 I’ll let you be the tongue to my own soul,
                 Yet not for long I’ll bear it.

    ELIZABETH.                                To each his angel
               For good or ill.
               Women to a man, the man to a woman ever
               Mated or fated. I am this fate to you,
               As to me once a fallen star you knew not.
               It’s long ago. You should have known the man.
               He was the glory of the English night,
               Its red star in decline. For see what came--
               His fires were earthy and he choked himself
               In his own ash. Not good but goodly was he,
               A natural prince of the world: and he had been one
               Had he been other, or I blind, or--Mary.
               Lucifer! Lucifer! He loved me not,
               But would have used me. Well--he used me not.
               He died. I loved him. This between us two.
               Bury it deep!

    SHAKESPEARE.            Deep as my sorrow lies.
                 But Queen, what cometh after?

    ELIZABETH.                          Work.

    SHAKESPEARE.                             And after?

    ELIZABETH.   Sleep comes for me.

    SHAKESPEARE.                   And after?

    ELIZABETH.                               Sleep for you.

    SHAKESPEARE. And after?

    ELIZABETH.             Nothing. Only the blessed sleep.

    SHAKESPEARE. And so ends all?

    ELIZABETH.                  And so all ends.

    SHAKESPEARE.                                 Love ends?

    ELIZABETH. And so love ends.

    SHAKESPEARE.                          I have a word to say.
                 Give me this crown and reach the sceptre here!
                 The end’s not yet, but yet the end is mine;
                 For I know what I am and what I do
                 At last! Give me my pen, ere the spark dies
                 That lights me! And now leave me!

                      _He turns to the table and his work._

    ELIZABETH [_loudly_].              Open the door!

    SHAKESPEARE. Sesame, sesame! A word to say--

               _The door is flung open and the long passage is seen._

                 O darkness, did she pass between your walls,
                 And left no picture on the empty air,
                 No echo of her step that waits for mine
                 To wake it in a message? What do I here?
                 “A word to say”! There’s nothing left but words.

                   ELIZABETH _has descended from her throne and
                   crossing the room, pauses a moment beside him._

    ELIZABETH.  Is the harness heavy--heavy?

    SHAKESPEARE.                           Heavy as lead.
                 Heavy as a heart.

    ELIZABETH.                   It will not lighten.

    SHAKESPEARE.                          Go!    [_She goes out._]
                 I had a word to say.
                 Oh, spark that burned but now--!

    ANNE’S VOICE.                               It dips, it dies--

    SHAKESPEARE. A night-light, fool, and not a star. I grope
                 Giddily in the dark. I shall grow old.
                 What is my sum? I have made seven plays,
                 Two poems and some sonnets. I have friends
                 So long as I write poems, sonnets, plays.
                 Earn then your loves, and as you like it--write!
                 Come, what’s your will?
                 Three sets of lovers and a duke or two,
                 Courtiers and fool--We’ll set it in a wood,
                 Half park, half orchard, like the woods at home.
                 See the house rustle, pit gape, boxes thrill,
                 As through the trees, boyishly, hand on hip,
                 Knee-deep in grass, zone-deep in margarets,
                 Comes to us--Mary!

    ANNE’S VOICE.                         Under the apple-trees,
                  In the spring, in the long grass--Will!

    SHAKESPEARE.                          Still the old shame
                 Hangs round my neck with withered arms and chokes

    ANNE’S VOICE.           Will!

    SHAKESPEARE.                  At right wing enter ghost!
                 It should be Marlowe with his parted mouth
                 And sweep of arm. Why should he wake for me?
                 That would be friendship, and what a friend was I!
                 Well--to the work!

    ANNE’S VOICE.                   Will! Will!

    SHAKESPEARE.                              What, ghost? still there?
                 Must I speak first? That’s manners with the dead;
                 But this haunt lives--at Stratford, by the river.
                 Maggot, come out of my brain! Girl! Echo! Wraith!
                 You’ve had free lodging, like a rat, too long.
                 I need my room. Come, show yourself and go!
                 “Changed?” “But I knew her!”--Say your say and go!
                 You’d a tongue once.

    ANNE’S VOICE.                 You’re to be great--

    SHAKESPEARE.                               Stale! Stale!
                 That’s the Queen’s catch-word.

    ANNE’S VOICE.                             But I know, I know,
                  I’m your poor village woman, but I know
                  What you must learn and learn, and shriek to God
                  To spare you learning--

    SHAKESPEARE.                         Ay, like wheels that shriek,
                 Carting the grain, their dragged unwilling way
                 Over the stones, uphill, at even, thus,
                 Shrieking, I learn--

    ANNE’S VOICE.                  When harvest comes--

    SHAKESPEARE.                                   Is come!
                 Sown, sprouted, scythed and garnered--

    ANNE’S VOICE.                                  I alone
                  Can give you comfort, for you reap my pain,
                  As I your loss--loss--loss--

    SHAKESPEARE.                              Anne, was it thus?

    ANNE’S VOICE.  No other way--

    SHAKESPEARE.                 Such pain?

    ANNE’S VOICE.                          Such pain, such pain!

    SHAKESPEARE. I did not know. O tortured thing, remember,
                 I did not know--I did not know! Forgive--

    ANNE’S VOICE. Forgiving is forgetting--no, come back!
                  I love you. Oh, come back to me, come back!

    SHAKESPEARE. I cannot.

    ANNE’S VOICE.         Oh, come back! I love you so.

    SHAKESPEARE. Be still, poor voice, be still!

    ANNE’S VOICE.                              I love you so.

    SHAKESPEARE. What is this love?
                 What is this awful spirit and unknown,
                 That mates the suns and gives a bird his tune?
                 What is this stirring at the roots of the world?
                 What is this secret child that leaps in the womb
                 Of life? What is this wind, whence does it blow,
                 And why? And falls upon us like the flame
                 Of Pentecost, haphazard. What is this dire
                 And holy ghost that will not let us two
                 For no prayers’ sake nor good deeds’ sake nor pain
                 Nor pity, have peace, and live at ease, and die
                 As the leaves die?

    ANNE’S VOICE.                  I know not. All I know,
                  Is that I love you.

    SHAKESPEARE.                   But I know, having learned--
                 This I believe because I know, I know,
                 Being in hell, paying the price, alone,
                 Licked in the flame unspeakable and torn
                 By devils, as in the old tales that are true--
                 All true, the fires, the red hot branding irons,
                 The thirst, the laughter, and the filth of shame,
                 All true, O fellow men! all true, all true--
                 Down through the circles, like a mangled rat
                 A hawk lets fall from the far towers of the sky,
                 Down through the wakeful æons of the night,
                 Into the Pit of misery they call
                 Bottomless, falling--I believe and know
                 That the Pit’s bottom is the lap of God,
                 And God is love.

    ANNE’S VOICE.               Is love, is love--

    SHAKESPEARE.                                  I know.
                 And knowing I will live my dark days out
                 And wait for His own evening to give light.
                 And though I may not fill the mouth I love,
                 Yet will I sow and reap and bind my sheaves,
                 Glean, garner, mill my corn, and bake, and cast
                 My bread upon the waters of the age.
                 This will I do for love’s sake, lest God’s eyes,
                 That are the Judgment, ask her man of her
                 One day, and she be shamed--as I am shamed
                 Ever, in my heart, by a voice witnessing
                 Against me that I knew not love.

    PAGE [_entering with lights_].             The Queen, sir,
                 Has sent you candles, now the sun is down,
                 That you may see to work.

    SHAKESPEARE.                          I thank the Queen.
                 Tell her the work goes well!

                         _He sits down at the table._

                                              Act one, scene one,
                 Oliver’s house. It _shall_ go well. I have
                 A strength that comes I know not whence. It _shall_
                 Go well. And then I’ll give the Roman tale
                 I heard at school--a tale of men, not women:
                 That easies all. But Antony goes on
                 To Egypt and a gipsy: leaves his pale wife
                 At home to scald her eyes out. Mary--Mary--
                 Will you not let me be? It _shall_ go well.
                 And after Antony some Twelfth Night trick
                 To please our gods and give my pregnancy
                 Its needed peace. How many months for Denmark?
                 And then? A whole man laughs, and so will I.
                 Oh, Smile behind the thunder, teach me laughter,
                 And save my soul!--
                 The knock-about fat man, try him again!
                 He’ll take a month or less--candles are cheap,
                 Cheaper than sleep these dreaming nights. That done,
                 I’ll sink another shaft in Holinshed--
                 Marlowe, your diamonds! your diamonds!
                 The king and his three daughters--he’s been shaped
                 Already. True! But rough-cut only. Wait!
                 Give me that giant cluster in my hand
                 To cut anew, in its own midnight set,
                 It shall outshine Orion! Afterwards,
                 A fairy tale maybe, and after that--
                 And after that--and after--after? God!
                 The years before me! And no Mary! Mary--

    ANNE’S VOICE. When her lost face--

    SHAKESPEARE.                    It shall, it shall go well.

    ANNE’S VOICE. --stares from the page you toil upon, thus, thus,
                  In a glass of tears--

    SHAKESPEARE.                    They scald, they blind my view,
                 No comfort anywhere.

    ANNE’S VOICE.                    I love you so.

    SHAKESPEARE. The work, the work remains.

    ANNE’S VOICE.                           But when you’re old,
                  For work too old, or pity, love or hate,
                  For anything but peace, and in your hand
                  Lies the crowned life victorious at last--

    SHAKESPEARE. Like the crowned Indian fruit, the voyage home
                 Rots while it gilds, not worth the tasting--

    ANNE’S VOICE.                                       Then,
                  Remember me! Then, then, when all your need
                  Is hands to serve you and a breast to die on,
                  Come back to me!

    SHAKESPEARE.                 God knows--some day?

    ANNE’S VOICE.                                   I wait.

                      _As he stoops over his work again_

                              THE CURTAIN FALLS.

    _January, 1920--April, 1921._


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