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Title: Karma - A Re-incarnation Play
Author: Blackwood, Algernon, Pearn, Violet
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Libraries.)



KARMA



                                  KARMA

                          A RE-INCARNATION PLAY
                                   IN
                     PROLOGUE, EPILOGUE & THREE ACTS

                                   BY
                           ALGERNON BLACKWOOD
             AUTHOR OF “JULIUS LE VALLON,” “THE WAVE,” ETC.
                                   AND
                              VIOLET PEARN

                             [Illustration]

                                NEW YORK
                         E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
                            681 FIFTH AVENUE

                            COPYRIGHT, 1918,
                        BY E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY

                 Printed in the United States of America



CONTENTS


                                         PAGE
    PROLOGUE. PRESENT DAY                   3

    ACT I. THEIR FIRST LIFE TOGETHER.
      TIME--2000 B.C. EGYPT                38

    ACT II. THEIR SECOND LIFE TOGETHER.
      TIME--325 B.C. GREECE                81

    ACT III. THEIR THIRD LIFE TOGETHER.
      TIME--FIFTEENTH CENTURY. ITALY      123

    EPILOGUE. PRESENT DAY                 189



PROLOGUE

PRESENT DAY


CHARACTERS

    PHILLIP LATTIN (45), British Agent in Egypt.
    MRS. LATTIN, his wife (40), mentally and physically ill; a woman
        of strong personality and exacting.
    THE DOCTOR, unpretentious, simple in bearing, gentle in manner.
    NURSE.


PROLOGUE

    SCENE--_Room in LATTIN’S London house. MRS. LATTIN lies on sofa.
    A picture of Ancient Egypt, showing the Nile, palms and temples
    on wall easily visible to her._

    TIME--_Present day, evening._

_Mrs. Lattin_

What time is it, nurse--_now_?

_Nurse_

Close on half-past five.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_With irritability of a sick woman._) Not later? Are you sure? It’s so
dark.

_Nurse_

(_Soothingly._) The dusk is closing in; I’ll light your lamp.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Half-past five, you said? My husband expected to be back before this.
Hasn’t he come? The appointment was for half-past two.

_Nurse_

The Foreign Office takes its time. Mr. Lattin will come to you the moment
he gets in.

_Mrs. Lattin_

You’re sure? I thought I heard his step.

_Nurse_

I’ll go and see the moment the lamp is lit. But he never forgets. He
always comes in here first.

_Mrs. Lattin_

But he’s so long to-day, longer than usual. And he looked so grave,
nurse, when he left. He looked worried, I thought. You noticed it?

_Nurse_

He _is_ taken up with these politics just now. It’s only natural,
considering the crisis in Egypt. But he’s always so in earnest, isn’t he?
I noticed nothing unusual. The Government is lucky to have him at such a
time. No one could fill _his_ place. (_Brings lamp._) There’s the lamp.
Is the shading right?

_Mrs. Lattin_

Fill his place! No, indeed. Phillip understands the natives better than
anybody in the world. And the country too (_wistfully_). If only I could
bring myself to go back to Egypt with him. (_Irritably._) The light
catches my eye there. To the left a little. Now to the right. Thank you.

_Nurse_

The doctors all agree it’s best not, don’t they? The dry climate----

_Mrs. Lattin_

It’s not that, nurse. Dryness is what I _need_--warmth and dryness. It’s
something else. Egypt frightens me. I can’t sleep there. Dreams come to
me.

_Nurse_

The doctors said it was the effect of the climate on the nerves.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Oh, I know. I’d face it if I could--another winter. It means so much to
Mr. Lattin, doesn’t it? Nurse! It’s curious--it’s strange, don’t you
think--that Mr. Lattin feels nothing of that _I_ feel there? I mean----

_Nurse_

Hark! I think that’s Mr. Lattin’s step. I’ll go and see.

_Mrs. Lattin_

It can’t be the new doctor, can it?

_Nurse_

Dr. Ogilvie? Not yet. Six o’clock he was to come. He won’t be here before
his time. These great specialists are busy men.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Wearily._) I’ve seen so many doctors. I hardly feel as if I had the
strength for a new examination. Dr. Ogilvie will do me no good.

_Nurse_

Still you will see him. For your husband’s sake.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Ah, yes, for Phillip’s sake. I think my husband’s coming, nurse.

(_Enter PHILLIP._)

_Nurse_

Good-evening, Mr. Lattin. Mrs. Lattin is a trifle better. I’ll leave you
for a little, but she must not tire herself. We are expecting Dr. Ogilvie
at six.

_Phillip_

I’ll be very careful.

    [_NURSE exit._

(_PHILLIP comes to his wife._)

_Mrs. Lattin_

At last, Phillip. I’m so glad you’ve come, dear. I’ve been waiting and
longing so. They kept you--but you belong to me, don’t you? You’re tired,
poor old thing. Come to me, Phillip--closer. (_Stretches out hand._)

_Phillip_

I _am_ a bit late. I’m sorry, Little Child. They kept me, yes. But
_you_----?

_Mrs. Lattin_

I’m well enough to listen. You’re back; I forgive you. And it’s all
arranged as you wished--as you hoped?

_Phillip_

Sir George was kindness itself----

_Mrs. Lattin_

You saw the Foreign Secretary!

_Phillip_

You didn’t know I was such a big-wig, did you? It is important, you see,
dear. The situation out there is complicated. I’ve left them in the lurch
a little, and my advice--er--my knowledge, Sir George was good enough to
say--at such a time----

_Mrs. Lattin_

In the lurch, Phillip! How in the lurch? You’re only asking a longer
leave than usual.

_Phillip_

There, there. I don’t want you to worry your dear head with politics. The
new doctor will be here any minute now. That’s far more important.

_Mrs. Lattin_

I would rather know exactly. It doesn’t worry me.

_Phillip_

It’s all been arranged most satisfactorily, dear; and I’m very pleased.
So _you’re_ pleased with me--eh?

_Mrs. Lattin_

Phillip--what has been arranged?

_Phillip_

Sir George was most complimentary. The Government would recognise
my services--my long services, he called it. He even discussed with
me--asked my advice, if you _must_ know the full weight of honour placed
upon me!--as to my successor----

_Mrs. Lattin_

Successor!

_Phillip_

But, darling, _some one_ must fill my place. There must be a _locum
tenens_, as they say in the church.

_Mrs. Lattin_

You’ve--resigned!

_Phillip_

Dear one, there was no other way. It’s a formality, you see. I can always
take it up again where I left it off. Our man in Egypt--just now--must be
_there_. He must be on the spot, of course----

_Mrs. Lattin_

But six months’ leave! Surely, six months’ leave----

_Phillip_

Means the entire winter. There, there, Little Child, it’s nothing. You
must not exaggerate like this. What is my work in Egypt compared to being
with you. The doctors forbid you to go out. It’s quite simple: I prefer
to stay with you. _My_ world lies in your heart. I--I can always take up
the work again when--when you’re better.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Resigned, resigned! You have actually resigned. Your career--I have
broken your career--at last--completely. Is it wrong, then, that I need
you so?

_Phillip_

Hush, dearest----

_Mrs. Lattin_

You have paid this tremendous price--and I have made you pay it.

_Phillip_

I wish to be always with you. That is my only wish, my only happiness.

_Mrs. Lattin_

For my sake you have sacrificed----

_Phillip_

It’s I who am selfish to tire you with all this stupid Government
business. There, now; you’ve talked too much and I have done you
harm. There’s only happiness in my heart. No more nonsense-talk about
sacrifice. You must lie quiet and rest again. I can be always with you.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Yes, to the end--my end and yours. O God! Why did I not understand before?

_Phillip_

You must not speak like that. Love--our love--knows no end.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Oh, I am miserable, Phillip, miserable, miserable.

_Phillip_

_Please_, do not say such things.

_Mrs. Lattin_

But I must, I must. My selfishness has brought you to this last
renouncement. Egypt has meant so much to you.

_Phillip_

Too much, Mary, too much. Egypt was coming between us.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Your work there, the great work I have ruined…! Egypt meant home to you.

_Phillip_

Home is where you are, dearest, and nowhere else. You have taught me
this--in time. (_To himself._) Egypt! Ah, Egypt!

_Mrs. Lattin_

I hate it. It terrifies me. There is pain for me in Egypt. An instinctive
dread comes over me always--something from very far away. I _have_
struggled against it, for your sake, but--oh, it’s so, so strong. If only
you could forgive me----!

_Phillip_

Hush, dearest!

_Mrs. Lattin_

But it _has_ come between us. You love it so. And it’s my fault that you
can’t--your career, I mean----

_Phillip_

Dear one, whatever is, is right. There is nothing to regret. Egypt,
indeed, has drawn me strangely. There is some power out there--a
spiritual power--that has cast a glamour over me. It has been a passion
with me.

_Mrs. Lattin_

My instinctive terror!

_Phillip_

And my instinctive love!

    [_They glance together in silence at a great picture above the
    bed--an Egyptian night-scene, with stars and Nile._

Yes … yes … strange indeed! From my earliest days it drew me. Those palms
and temples, that majestic desert----!

_Mrs. Lattin_

Phillip, don’t! Those stars, that river bring me sadness--immense regret.
I feel them always rising over me. They watch me!

_Phillip_

Forgive me. It was the marvellous beauty took me. I----

_Mrs. Lattin_

But it’s an unearthly beauty. And something in it--lost. It’s lost
to you. And I--oh, but I do love you so; for ever and ever you are
_mine_--aren’t you?

    [_He stoops and kisses her. She half rises, whispering_:

Phillip, dearest--something strange comes over me. I see a lifting of
this heavy English sky. I have been through this before--I have done this
very thing before--long, long ago--injured you somehow! Oh, Phillip,
can it be that we have lived before--pre-existence--is it true? (_Sinks
back._) I think … I think I must be near to … death!

_Phillip_

Hush, hush, my darling. These are sick fancies only. Your brain is tired.
We must not talk like this.

_Mrs. Lattin_

I _am_ tired, yes; but it is my soul that aches and not my body. Phillip,
I want your forgiveness.

_Phillip_

There is nothing to forgive. I love you.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Spiritually tortured and perplexed._) I want your real
forgiveness--before I go. I have been suffering deeply, deeply. Curtains
have been rising. I almost see. Something seems growing clearer to me.
I’ve done wrong somewhere! Why have I pulled against you all these
years--against your work? It cannot be my love that is at fault. You’re
wholly mine--and yet I want your forgiveness somehow----

_Phillip_

(_Deep patience._) All the love and forgiveness in the world I give you,
Little Child. But you ask for what was always yours.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Your broken mission. You alone have the strength and patience Egypt
needs. I have ruined all, all, all!

_Phillip_

There! I forgive you, then. (_Kisses her._) I forgive you all, all, all.
But please calm yourself. This excitement does you harm. You torment
yourself for nothing. It is I who have been, and am, the egoist. All men
who think their work is a mission are shameless egoists.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Thank you, Phillip, for this great gift of your forgiveness. But it is
not enough. I want to understand--and so forgive _myself_.

_Phillip_

You must rest now a little. It was criminal of me to let you talk so
much. No, not another word. I’ll leave you for a bit. You must be calm to
see the Doctor. It’s nearly six----

_Mrs. Lattin_

Dr. Ogilvie can’t help me.

_Phillip_

What! The first man of the day! His wonderful cures----

_Mrs. Lattin_

He cures the body only. _I_ need a soul physician. Oh, Phillip, I believe
sometimes my yearning _must_ bring him to me.

_Phillip_

My darling, it is your body alone that is ill. Your suffering gives you
these strange fancies.

_Mrs. Lattin_

You love me too well to understand. (_Sighs._) My illness is not only of
the body. Now, leave me, dearest. I wish to see him quite alone.

_Phillip_

Little Child, you shall. You can dismiss the nurse. (_Glances at clock._)
It is close on six.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Kiss me. (_He kisses her softly and goes out._) If only--ah, if only my
great yearning.…

    [_She lies back exhausted. Sighs. Covers her face with her hands.
    After a moment she uncovers her face and half sits up again. She
    stares hard at Egyptian picture on the wall._

The fault lies in my soul, and it comes first from there--from Egypt.
The river is rising, rising once again. The stars are rising too. They
watch me, and they wait. They’re always watching us. O God! If only some
one could make me understand! If some great doctor of the soul…! (_Sinks
back. Her eyes close. She lies very still._)

    [_A big clock on the mantelpiece strikes the first three strokes
    of six o’clock, then stops. The door opens slowly and a man
    enters quietly. He looks round the room, sees her on the sofa
    apparently asleep, and stands still, a few feet inside the door.
    He looks steadily at her a moment, then glances at the picture of
    Egypt on the wall. He smiles gently. His figure is a little bent,
    perhaps. He is not a big man with any marked presence. As he
    smiles, she opens her eyes and sees him. She shows surprise and
    slight embarrassment. She raises herself on one arm. Her voice
    is hushed rather when she speaks. He remains near the open door._

I beg your pardon. Is it--Dr. Ogilvie?

_Doctor_

I am the Doctor.

_Mrs. Lattin_

I must apologise. Did no one----?

_Doctor_

I found my way.

    [_Both pause, gazing._

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_With relief._) Ah! Thank you.

    [_She makes an unfinished gesture towards a seat. Her eyes remain
    fixed on his. She smiles faintly._

_Doctor_

You called for me. (_He makes one step nearer._)

_Mrs. Lattin_

My husband, I believe, did write. We--expected you.

_Doctor_

I am come.

_Mrs. Lattin_

It is exceedingly--it is more than kind of you. You are so good. I
mean--(_stammers; sinks back upon the cushions, unable to maintain the
effort_). I am very ill.

_Doctor_

I know.

_Mrs. Lattin_

You know! Ah yes--you know.

_Doctor_

That is why you called me. That is why I am here now.

_Mrs. Lattin_

I can tell you very briefly what----

_Doctor_

It is unnecessary.

_Mrs. Lattin_

But----

_Doctor_

I have been watching you.

    [_He straightens up a little; a new dignity is in him. She
    gazes intently. She stretches out a hand, then withdraws it,
    hesitatingly, again._

_Mrs. Lattin_

You mean----?

_Doctor_

I knew--that you would send for me.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Ah! The medical journals! My case, of course--its peculiar--er--its
hopelessness.

_Doctor_

There are no hopeless cases. (_He smiles. His voice is very gentle._)

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Bewildered._) You are very ki--good. I thank you, already.

_Doctor_

(_Shaking his head quietly._) And you already--I see--are on the way to
your recovery.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Recovery!

_Doctor_

Since you realise that you are very ill.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Oh--in that sense.

_Doctor_

In every sense.

    [_She is more and more aware of something unusual in him. She
    keeps her gaze steadily on his face. She makes a gesture
    towards him, then hesitates. She seems on the point of saying
    more--speaking more freely._

_Mrs. Lattin_

I think--there must be a mistake somewhere. I don’t quite understand how
you----

_Doctor_

There are no mistakes.

_Mrs. Lattin_

But you are sure it is _me_ you have come to see?

_Doctor_

It is you.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Mrs. Lattin?

    [_He bows his head._

In this street and house--13 Bristol Square?

_Doctor_

This street, this square (_moves nearer and puts his hand upon her
head_), this very house you occupy--for the moment.

    [_She stares at him. They smile. She is aware of another meaning
    in his words. A touch of awe shows in her manner._

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Low._) This--body?

_Doctor_

Which, for the moment, _you_--are occupying, Little Child.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Awed._) You know that name! My husband’s secret name!

_Doctor_

It is--_your_ name.

    [_He moves back a step so that she can see the picture. One hand
    he stretches towards her as in blessing. Her eyes turn from the
    Egyptian night-scene to his face again._

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Softly, to herself._) My little secret love-name. It is too
marvellous--this. I am completely at a loss to--(_breaks off, as he looks
down and smiles at her_).

_Doctor_

Love names truly always.

_Mrs. Lattin_

He … has … always … called me so.

_Doctor_

He has loved you truly--always.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Sitting up._) But you know everything in the world! Who are
you--really? (_Awe increases in her._)

_Doctor_

I am the Doctor.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Doctor! The greatest calling in world! A doctor’s powers----

_Doctor_

Are, by rights, divine.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Life or death----

_Doctor_

Life _and_ death.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Hushed._) But--you are more than doctor; you are also--Priest.

_Doctor_

I am at your service.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Light breaking on her face. She stretches out a hand to him. He takes
it._) To heal me. I feel great power pouring from you--into me. It is
like wind and fire.

_Doctor_

Life is a wind and fire. It is life you feel. Your claim is great,
because of your great wish, your true desire. You deserve. And I have
come.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Puzzled._) Deserve! My great desire! My claim…!

_Doctor_

Your sickness is not of the heart, but of the soul. Your desire was
prayer.

_Mrs. Lattin_

You have read my heart.

_Doctor_

Little Child, it is in your eyes.

_Mrs. Lattin_

And you know my very soul.

_Doctor_

Little Child, I am come to heal it.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Recovery! You said recovery. While I lie dying here by inches!

_Doctor_

You love.

_Mrs. Lattin_

With all my heart.

_Doctor_

And--soul?

    [_He looks questioningly down at her with great tenderness. Her
    expression shows the dawn of comprehension._

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Very low._) I love--wrongly--somewhere. I forgot--my soul. And I have
wrecked him, wrecked his life, his work.

_Doctor_

(_To himself._) Again.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Not catching his word._) Is there recovery for _that_? Can you heal
that?

_Doctor_

He does not question your love for him?

_Mrs. Lattin_

He is too big-hearted. He has sacrificed all for me. It is regret and
remorse that kill me now--they bring death more quickly. If only I could
understand!

_Doctor_

You shall.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Bitterly._) When it is too late. Can you give recovery for that? Can
the forgiveness that I crave--his forgiveness--undo what has been?
(_Hides her face and sobs._) I must die without forgiveness.

_Doctor_

Recovery begins with understanding.

_Mrs. Lattin_

I want _his_ forgiveness.

_Doctor_

You must--forgive yourself.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Oh, oh, I do not understand. My remorse goes with me even into the grave.

_Doctor_

Remorse brings weakness. The forgiveness of another affects that other
only.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Looking up._) Yes?

_Doctor_

Understand. Then, without regret, go forward. To forgive yourself
is--true forgiveness.

_Mrs. Lattin_

I feel something wonderful in you. Your words bring life again.… I.…
There seems something I remember--remember almost--very dim and far
away.… (_Her eye falls upon the Egyptian picture. She gazes fascinated at
it._) The stars … the river … are rising, surely.…

_Doctor_

You remember--life. And life shall teach you this.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Life! My life! Oh, what is it rising in me? A curtain lifts. I see …
myself. Ah, now it goes again.… The pain … the pain is awful! It all has
been before somewhere, I know.… Have I done this before, then? If only I
could see, I might understand.

_Doctor_

You shall see. Understanding shall bring recovery.

    [_As he speaks he retires slowly backwards towards the open door.
    Her eyes remain fixed upon the picture._

_Mrs. Lattin_

Recovery! I half remember.… I begin to … understand…!

_Doctor_

The soul reaps ever its own harvest, for the soul is linked to all its
past.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Faintly._) The past! _My_ past…! _Our_ past together.…

_Doctor_

Your pain and prayer may lift for once the curtain. Remembering, you
shall understand. And, understanding, you shall learn to--forgive
yourself.

    [_A light falls on his face and figure by the door. Just before
    he disappears she tears her gaze away from the picture, and turns
    to him with outstretched hands. He raises his hands as though he
    were lifting a curtain and holding it up._

_Mrs. Lattin_

It lifts, it lifts! I hear wind among the palms, and lapping waters. A
voice is whispering … “Little Child” … yet in another tongue.…

    [_From beyond the door his last words reach her with a distant,
    half-chanting sound._

_Doctor_

Egypt! Where you began--with him. Your earliest life. Then other lives as
well. See--and understand.

    [_She sinks back exhausted. Her face is radiant through her
    tears. She has just strength enough to touch the pneumatic bell
    beside the bed._


CURTAIN



ACT I

THEIR FIRST LIFE TOGETHER.

TIME--2000 B.C.

EGYPT


CHARACTERS

    MENOPHIS, a young Egyptian, well born, about 30.
    NEFERTITI, an Egyptian dancing-girl.
    SETHOS, Egyptian youth.
    RAMES, High Priest in Temple of Aton.


ACT I

    SCENE--_Banks of the Nile. White temple visible in distance.
    Kephren’s Pyramid seen very far away._

    _Late evening, sunset._

    (_NEFERTITI and SETHOS enter and pause._)

_Nefertiti_

Now leave me, Sethos. And go swiftly. (_With gesture of pushing him
off._) I must be alone. You follow me as wind follows a bird.

_Sethos_

Yet never touch you as wind does the bird. And when you dance your feet
dance on my heart. No other dancing-girl compares with you.

_Nefertiti_

Last moon Pharaoh himself told me that. I know it. But now leave me. I am
here to worship.

_Sethos_

(_Supplicating._) May I not stay a moment--at least, until Menophis----?

_Nefertiti_

Sethos, you heard me. It is the sacred night. The tear of Isis falls into
our River when the dusk has passed to darkness. And I must worship.

_Sethos_

Menophis comes also with the dusk. You meet here every evening; and when
he comes I am forgotten. May I not stay and be remembered--till he comes?
(_Implores._) Your beauty makes me slavish. Out of his plenty he will not
miss so little, and I--starve.

_Nefertiti_

Not now. Sethos, I tell you, go! His coming, as you know, makes the
dry desert live for me. I would not have him troubled for so little.
He hardly is aware of your existence--as yet. But, should I ever need
you--slave----!

_Sethos_

(_Eagerly._) As yet! Need me! Oh, Nefertiti, if you could use me I should
die of happiness.

_Nefertiti_

Then prepare to die, for the time _may_ come.

_Sethos_

Oh, may it happen soon!

_Nefertiti_

(_Teasing._) The Gods alone know what may happen, and when. You are my
slave. Then, vanish!

_Sethos_

(_Bowing._) Your slave obeys. (_Rising._) But your lover will wait among
the palm-trees yonder. Menophis may not come. The Gods know what will
happen, and it is said the Gods have claimed him for themselves. He is a
prize, it seems, that earth and heaven both desire. I have heard rumours.
(_Moves off lingeringly._) If you need escort back to Memphis your
lightest call will reach me.

_Nefertiti_

Go! I shall not need your escort. My happiness and his are in the keeping
of the Gods. Leave me to worship.

_Sethos_

(_With boy’s passion._) Oh, Nefertiti, the wild sweetness of the desert
is in your breath! To me you are holy as our sacred River! May the Gods
grant you all your heart’s desire. Sethos is your slave for ever--even
though his heart should break.

    [_Exit, slowly, looking back._

_Nefertiti_

(_Smiling to herself._) A slave is always useful--for slavish purposes. I
may put you to the test some day!

    [_She watches him out of sight behind the palms, then goes to the
    water’s edge and splashes idly with her bare foot several times
    in succession, accompanying each splash with a remark._

He’ll bury himself in the Temple.… He’ll bury himself in my arms.… He’ll
become a monk at Rames’ bidding.… He’ll become mine. (_Makes biggest
splash of all._) I’ve got him … under this very foot! (_Hears his
footstep._)

_Menophis_

(_Entering._) You here! Nefertiti! (_She pretends not to hear. She is
worshipping._) Nefertiti!

_Nefertiti_

(_Startled._) Menophis!

_Menophis_

You worship here at dusk … beside the Nile!

_Nefertiti_

I often come at sunset--as you know.

_Menophis_

I … had … forgotten.

_Nefertiti_

Forgotten! Has some Afreet blinded you? Only last night, too, you passed
me by without a glance--on your way to Aton’s new Temple.

_Menophis_

It was moonless and I did not see you. No Afreet power could hide you in
the sunshine.

_Nefertiti_

(_Mocking._) Oh, thank you, Menophis. I thought your heart was too full
perhaps to see me.

_Menophis_

You have been worshipping alone--and you were lonely. Forgive me, Little
Child, I----

_Nefertiti_

I forgive you, O handsome Menophis. But I was not lonely. Sethos kept me
company awhile.

_Menophis_

Sethos! The Syrian banker’s son! You can find pleasure in such company?

_Nefertiti_

(_Softly._) You did not come here to talk with me of Sethos. You came,
like me, to worship----!

_Menophis_

He is rich.

_Nefertiti_

He is forgotten too. When you call me “Little Child” the whole world is
forgotten. There is only--You.

_Menophis_

Little … Child.

_Nefertiti_

(_Goes closer._) Your eyes seem strange to me to-night: they look far
away into space. Your voice sounds distant like the desert jackal’s cry.
(_She puts a hand on his and looks searchingly into his eyes._) Yet you
call me Little Child, as of old, when we met here every evening in the
dusk … to play and talk and dream together … of the future. Menophis
(_taking his other hand and drawing her body closer to him_), will you
not tell me--your Little Child--this sacred night when the Tear of Isis
bids our river rise--tell me what wonderful new dream has crept into this
faithful heart? (_Lowers her head as though to hear its beating._) I
hear another music in your blood. (_Lifts her face to his._) And it is …
beautiful. (_Waits for his reply._)

_Menophis_

It is the Sacred Night. That means--Had you forgotten?

_Nefertiti_

(_Alarmed, but half teasing._) Oh, you Solemnity! Forgotten what?

_Menophis_

(_Gravely._) A choice--a decision--made to-night is made for ever.

_Nefertiti_

(_Low._) I know.

_Menophis_

Little Child, it is for me a crisis, and I must choose between great
issues. My life, too, is rising. I must decide in what direction it shall
flow.

_Nefertiti_

You mean … with whom?

_Menophis_

_For_ whom.

    [_He turns his head a moment towards the distant Temple of Aton,
    just visible still in the last sunset light. Its whiteness
    gleams. She notices the gesture._

_Nefertiti_

How cold it has grown. Menophis.… I feel the desert-wind’s fingers at
my heart. It is the North wind from the sea. You, too, seem distant
suddenly. (_Lowering voice._) I fear for you. Why is it? I fear something
… for myself … as well----

_Menophis_

There is no fear this sacred night. There is courage only. Life increases
everywhere. The river rises. The Tear of Isis falls into the Nile and----

_Nefertiti_

Hark! (_She listens._) There are awful things about in Egypt when----

_Menophis_

She is alive, that’s all.

_Nefertiti_

Listen!

_Menophis_

It is the lapping waves. It is the wind among the palms.

_Nefertiti_

(_Whispering._) The waters! That cold desert wind! It blows between
us--between you and me. There is a shadow! (_Shudders closer to him._)
Surely great Kephren bowed this way!

_Menophis_

The stars shine over us. They cast no shadow. The pyramid stands fast.

_Nefertiti_

Yet something passed between us, for I felt it. (_Grips him._) You are
all _mine_?

_Menophis_

(_Holds her close._) There is no room. A shadow cannot separate us.
Anything _real_ would bind us closer only.

_Nefertiti_

Then why are you so solemn, your eyes so far away, your voice so distant?
This crisis that you speak of--it could not take you from _me_?

_Menophis_

Nothing can take you from me, or me from you--for long. The chain of our
past and future lives is bound together beyond all breaking.

_Nefertiti_

What is it, then, that frightens me?

_Menophis_

(_With grave tenderness._) Ah, Nefertiti, Little Child, to-night I
stand--_we_ stand together--at the very gates of life. The choice is
difficult, for it involves you too. Since first, three years ago, I saw
you flitting, like a swallow, down the river bank at Memphis--since those
enchanted days I have had no other human love but you----

_Nefertiti_

(_Startled._) No other _human_ love!

_Menophis_

(_Slowly._) There _is_ another love, my Nefertiti--a greater; not more
enduring, perhaps, but nobler. For it demands the greater sacrifice. And,
cold though it seem to your warm, passionate heart--_if_ it should call
me----

_Nefertiti_

(_Catching him by the arm._) Greater! Yet would take you from me! But you
_are_ mine!

_Menophis_

Your beauty troubles me; my blood rebels. I cannot look at you and hear
the call this sacred night may bring me. I must make a still place for
my soul to listen. (_Slowly._) Oh, Nefertiti, you must leave me--for a
little.

_Nefertiti_

Not knowing what is in your troubled heart! Not hearing from your own
lips if we shall meet again!

_Menophis_

(_Sees RAMES approaching._) You should know all. If not from my lips,
then from----

_Nefertiti_

(_Sees RAMES too._) Rames, the great Priest! I understand. He would steal
you from me for his dismal Temple, steal you away from life.

_Menophis_

He is among the wisest and noblest of our land, the Great One of Vision,
Aton’s servant.

_Nefertiti_

(_Pouting, alarmed._) Aton!

_Menophis_

Hush! Be careful! Even if Aton takes me, the chain of lives _must_ bring
us again together. It were but a brief separation--a sacrifice of pain
and joy we both may offer as one being. And when, in our next life, we
meet again, what ecstasy of strengthened, purified love would be ours--to
know each had been faithful to the other--for His sake.

_Nefertiti_

(_Roused._) Me grow old in loneliness while you satisfy your soul with
selfish worship! _Our_ sacrifice!

_Menophis_

In dreams we still----

_Nefertiti_

We should never meet; a dream’s a dream. No children would come to me.

_Menophis_

You would not pine. It would be, for both of us, a preparation for our
meeting in a future life----

_Nefertiti_

(_Playing on his feelings._) You are right, Menophis. I should not pine,
for I should marry and know joy. Your sacrifice, if you choose it, you
may bear alone, for Nefertiti will not certainly be lonely. There is no
lack of those who offer life to her in place of the dream that Rames sets
before you----

_Menophis_

Others! Is there another? Nefertiti----! (_Approaches._)

_Nefertiti_

(_Withdraws._) Rames is coming. I hear his cautious step. Make your
choice with him. I will not influence you. You wished to be alone; I’ll
leave you. (_Makes to move away._)

_Menophis_

(_With passion and regret._) One moment more. Will you not say farewell?
And if--and if--until you hear from my own lips----

_Nefertiti_

(_Softly._) If you decide to leave me, Menophis, you will not quite
forget----

_Menophis_

Little Child, you know. Always I shall think of you----

_Nefertiti_

(_Mocking._) As happy and light-hearted--with another. I am no “dream” to
Sethos.

_Menophis_

Your beauty tortures me.

_Nefertiti_

You do not torture _me_; you cannot. If you loved me you could not give
me up so lightly. You may think of me--of _us_--walking along this
river bank at sunset with laughter and without regret, talking maybe of
Menophis, and his passing dream. The echo of our laughter may reach into
your little cell.

_Menophis_

(_Advancing._) Unsay those haunting words.

_Nefertiti_

It is but impulse that betrays you. You have a “greater love” than me.
I have one too! Farewell. I shall not come again unless you call me.

    [_Exit._

    [_MENOPHIS paces to and fro, hides his face in his hands, sighs,
    looks after the girl, pauses, then bows his head and waits while
    RAMES comes up to him._

_Rames_

Your eyes are troubled, although I cannot see them. (_Looks down at the
young man’s footsteps._) And your steps leave an uneven pattern on the
sands.

_Menophis_

(_Looking up._) There are too many voices in my ears; and all are sweet.
I know not which is true. I am unhappy and afraid. My peace of yesterday
is gone.

_Rames_

These stars that watch you now shall watch your future lives as well.
Before they pale at dawn they shall have marked your choice. They are
rising in the east. They watch you--and they wait.

_Menophis_

(_Turning his look away from the sky._) I came here to find
peace--between the sunset and the sunrise.

_Rames_

Sunrise and sunset--the two great moments of the day. Death and
resurrection--the two great moments of our life. (_Watches him closely._)

_Menophis_

Not death--a disappearance only (_smiles_) for a little time.

_Rames_

(_Pleased._) To return again and again, each new life linked to those
that went before; and each determined by opportunities left or taken.

_Menophis_

The choice! Oh, Rames, there are two calls in me. I hear two voices
always. My future life hangs upon the decision that I make.

_Rames_

_You_ will not make it. It will make itself. The stronger call must
win (_points across the Nile towards the sinking sun_). It is whether
you shall live unto yourself alone, or consecrate your powers to Aton.
(_Points towards the Temple._) It is not alone your future life that
hangs upon the choice; it is your future lives.

    [_They spread their arms and bow towards the West. The sun sinks
    below the Libyan horizon of the desert. The dusk creeps up._

_Menophis_

(_Rising._) If only the whole of me could choose. I should then know that
I am worthy.

_Rames_

(_Approving._) There can be no half-heartedness in the service of our
Deity.

_Menophis_

(_With enthusiasm._) Our Deity--the sun!

    [_Turns and gazes at the great Temple of Aton whose white columns
    still gleam in the golden after-glow some distance across the
    desert._

_Rames_

(_Moving closer, with hand on his shoulder._) Egypt, our great land, now
witnesses the climax of her splendour. A change, which is divine, steals
over her. It is no longer the mere disc of the sun we worship; it is the
power behind.

_Menophis_

(_Reverently._) The heat and glory that are in Aton, eternal and
all-loving Deity.

_Rames_

(_Smiling._) Who calls you for the offering of--yourself. (_Pauses._) The
Temples of our regenerated Egypt demand the best.

_Menophis_

(_Eagerly._) And I might help towards this great uplifting?

_Rames_

(_Gravely._) Menophis, Aton calls you to himself.

_Menophis_

(_Enthusiasm and awe on his face._) I hear the call!

_Rames_

(_Slowly._) But other, lesser, calls as well?

_Menophis_

There can be no turning back!

_Rames_

No turning back.

_Menophis_

I must be sure!

_Rames_

It is for ever.

_Menophis_

(_Very low._) I know which call is highest, yet I hear that sweeter
voice. If only I could smother it.

_Rames_

(_Understanding._) It is the lust of life--of woman!

_Menophis_

It is love.

    [_The dusk is turning into darkness. The stars begin to peep._

_Rames_

I may not influence you. Years ago I heard these two calls, as you do,
singing in my soul.

_Menophis_

(_Looking eagerly, with respect, into the old man’s face._) And you have
never known regret?

_Rames_

(_Gravely._) I have known perfect joy.

_Menophis_

To yield what is most dear to another is very hard. Oh, Rames, I am so
young, the choice is difficult. If I had some sign that Aton accepts
me----! (_With rising passion._) Aton, guide my decision and grant my
choice be wise!

    [_NEFERTITI is seen returning. SETHOS is with her. They are
    laughing together. SETHOS’ arm is about NEFERTITI. MENOPHIS does
    not see them._

_Rames_

Weigh carefully. Hear every call with honesty. Aton, indeed, does call
you, but it is all or nothing. (_Withdraws slowly down river bank towards
the Temple. Waves his hand solemnly._) I leave you--to yourself.

    [_Exit._

_Menophis_

Great Aton, guide me.

    [_Stretches arms to the sky; looks up at stars. Then bows his
    head upon his hands in prayer. NEFERTITI draws near with SETHOS._

_Sethos_

My head spins, Nefertiti. Then it was in play that you dismissed me? I
can hardly believe my happiness is real.

    [_Tries to embrace her._

_Nefertiti_

(_Escaping gaily._) Everything’s real--at the moment when--you’ve got it.

    [_MENOPHIS hears their voices. Turns and sees them._

_Menophis_

With … Sethos…! (_To her._) You’ve come back…!

_Nefertiti_

(_Pretending she has just noticed him._) The river bank is public,
I believe. All Memphis will be here presently--this sacred night.
(_Mocking._) Forgive me--forgive _us_--if we disturbed your meditations.
(_Glancing at SETHOS._) We enjoy the starlight like the other lovers!

_Menophis_

Together!

_Sethos_

A young girl does not come out unattended. I am proud that Nefertiti
accepts my protection--as before.

_Menophis_

Little Child!

_Nefertiti_

(_To SETHOS, laughing._) Menophis, you know, is half a priest already. He
has put aside all common things--youth, dancing, laughter--love.

_Sethos_

(_Half insolently._) Wise Menophis! I envy a man grown old before his
time. He has had some bitter disappointment probably.

_Menophis_

(_Suffering keenly._) If you _really_ love each other, I----

_Sethos_

Come this way, Nefertiti. I hear a pipe. (_Melody on pipe heard
faintly._) Let’s go and dance. This atmosphere is too holy. (_Tries to
draw her away._)

_Menophis_

(_Pain._) Can this be a sign from Aton--that you are worthless?

_Nefertiti_

(_Stung._) We’ll dance, yes, as we did at Memphis when the harvest
ripened. And then we’ll bathe together, Sethos. It all is worship, and my
blood this sacred night is burning----

_Sethos_

(_Wild._) And to-morrow I may see your father----?

    [_NEFERTITI whispers in his ear. They laugh. He tries again to
    kiss her. She escapes again, and dances seductively, taking care
    to go close past MENOPHIS, who makes several half movements
    towards her, but controls himself._

_Nefertiti_

(_Singing mischievously to the tune of the distant pipe, and holding
SETHOS by the hand. As she goes past MENOPHIS she holds out her free hand
to him temptingly._)

    “Come, dance together. Take my hand
      Beside the rising river;
    We’ll dance upon the starlit sand,
      And then through life--for ever!”

_Menophis_

(_Catching at her hand as she flits past._) Nefertiti!

_Nefertiti_

(_Escaping his touch. Still hand in hand with SETHOS._) I heard a dead
voice calling from a Tomb. (_To SETHOS._) It’s not for us. _We_ are
alive!

    [_Sings as before, glancing mockingly at MENOPHIS, who again
    would seize her as she goes by._

    “The rising river takes our feet,
      And life flows full of laughter;
    Come, dance with me while youth is sweet----”

_Menophis_

(_Touching her._) Little Child!

_Nefertiti_

(_Slowing down. Sings last line lingeringly._)

    “The wedding follows after!”

_Menophis_

_My_ Little Child.

_Sethos_

(_Trying to draw her away._) Come, Nefertiti. Come with me, lest the
Temple snatch you, too.

_Menophis_

Listen! The waters wait the sign! (_Warningly._) A few brief moments and
the Tear of Isis falls--and the choice is made, not for this life only,
but for ever. (_Solemnly to NEFERTITI._) You would bind your soul to his
… for all future lives … for ever?

_Nefertiti_

(_Drawing back._) “For ever”! “For all future lives”! For an hour--a few
hours, perhaps----

_Sethos_

You swore to me that you----

_Nefertiti_

I danced and played and sang with you. You dance lightly and your voice
is sweet. But--if it is true that vows taken to-night can bind me to your
soul for ever----

_Menophis_

It is true.

_Nefertiti_

… the journey would tire me.

_Sethos_

Nefertiti!

_Menophis_

(_Steps between them. NEFERTITI hesitates._) Let her alone. Since
her eyes first opened to the sun she has been mine. A hundred future
lives shall take our feet together. And she knows it. She plays with
you--this singing, dancing. She _lives_ with me. (_Seizes her, all else
forgotten._) Leave us together, Sethos. Go!

_Nefertiti_

I played with you. You know it. (_To MENOPHIS._) You had forgotten our
appointment! I did it--for my love’s sake.

    [_SETHOS shrinks from his sudden violence, startled, but keeps
    her hand._

_Menophis_

She has finished with you. Go!

_Sethos_

(_Sneers._) Finished! You are mistaken, Menophis. Only a while ago she
said my love was precious to her--(_Realising._) You (_to her_) have
strange ideas of play. You’re a----

_Menophis_

(_Threateningly._) Enough, Sethos. You knew, at least, that we belonged
to one another. You have yourself to blame.

_Nefertiti_

(_Proud of him._) Of course. Sethos says the same sweet things to many
another maiden too.

_Sethos_

(_Bitterly._) The Gods have set me free of you, and I am glad. When next
we meet, Menophis, you shall hear the soft promises she made me (_turns
his back to go_), and how she spoke of _you_! (_Moves faster, as MENOPHIS
advances threateningly._) She called you half woman and half monk--no
man at all (_runs_), fit … only … for … the Temples!

    [_Exit._

_Nefertiti_

(_A last shot at him._) Yet if I raised my little finger you’d come
tumbling back--a helpless slave! (_Turns to MENOPHIS._) I am ashamed.
(_Demurely._) I did pretend he pleased me.

_Menophis_

Little Child.…

_Nefertiti_

(_Happy._) I was a little jealous of--of--your Aton.

_Menophis_

And I, perhaps, of your … Sethos.

    [_They smile and embrace. The pipe is heard. She breaks away and
    dances before him happily._

_Nefertiti_

(_sings_)

    “Come, dance with me, and take my hand
      Beside the rising river;
    We’ll dance upon the starlit sand,
      And then through life--for ever.”

_Menophis_

You are a daughter of the sun!

_Nefertiti_

Isis and Aton both are in our blood!

_Menophis_

Your beauty blinds me. I hear no other voice than your dear singing. I
see no stars, your twinkling feet are everywhere.

_Nefertiti_

(_Triumphantly._) It is the call of Life.

    [_A sound is heard, like wind in an Eolian harp, faint._

_Menophis_

(_Startled._) Listen! The moment comes.

    [_With the sound is mingled the lapping of water._

_Nefertiti_

(_Awed._) It is here.

    [_A star falls from the sky._

_Both together_

The Tear of Isis!

_Menophis_

Our river takes it.

_Nefertiti_

The waters rise.

_Menophis_

Our choice is made--for ever.

_Nefertiti_

My beloved. (_Embrace._) Mine … for ever and ever … all our future lives.

_Menophis_

The Temple was a dream. Your beauty makes me see it. (_Breaks off as he
sees RAMES and SETHOS approaching through the palms._) Rames comes.
(_Makes to hide._) Great One of Visions!

_Nefertiti_

(_Triumphantly._) And Sethos with him. Let them see us both. (_Catches
his arm._) Do not hide, but tell them boldly of your glorious choice.

    [_RAMES and SETHOS have been talking together. SETHOS now turns
    and goes off towards the Temple, walking slowly with bowed head,
    but looking back over his shoulder sometimes. Disappears. RAMES
    comes slowly forward. Holds up his hands to bless them._

_Rames_

(_Smiling gravely._) May Aton bless you both--now--and in all lives to
come.

_Nefertiti_

(_Confidently._) Aton _has_ blessed us--both.

_Menophis_

(_Dazed, troubled._) Rames--you come to know my choice. (_Very gravely._)
The Tear has fallen. The river is rising, and I--(_lowers head_) I have
heard the call.

_Rames_

The choice is yours--(_solemnly_) and _hers_.

    _Menophis._  I have } chosen. The rising waters and the risen stars
    _Nefertiti._ He has } bear witness.

_Rames_

They … bear … witness.

_Menophis_

(_Half sadly to RAMES._) I have weighed both voices. Another--a worthier
than I--must replace me in the Temple.

_Rames_

Aton does not compel. The call will come to you again--in following
lives, until----

_Nefertiti_

(_Interrupting._) Our love comes from Aton. He has given Menophis to me
for my own.

_Rames_

All gifts are his.

_Menophis_

Holy Rames, I cannot let her go from me.

_Rames_

(_Solemnly._) The choice is made. The future lives will bring again, and
yet again (_turning to NEFERTITI_), this same deep opportunity, when
you--again--shall lead his soul higher, or (_with emphasis_) delay and
hinder by vain selfish love.

_Nefertiti_

(_Defiant, yet frightened._) He is mine--for ever. No priest or god shall
rob me of him. I keep him for myself. (_Clutches him._)

_Rames_

The rising water bears witness to your vow. (_With prophetic and intense
gravity._) Where the Temple gleams white in the sunlight, and where
the palaces run down to the sea, you shall hear the waters in your
soul--_and--shall--remember_.

_Nefertiti_

(_Alarmed._) Listen! He prophesies!

_Menophis_

(_Awed._) Great One of Visions!


CURTAIN



ACT II

THEIR SECOND LIFE TOGETHER.

TIME--325 B.C.

GREECE


CHARACTERS

    PHOCION (40), Athenian General.
    LYDIA (35), his wife.
    LYSANDER, a youth, PHOCION’S brother.
    ALEXANDER THE GREAT.
    ATHENIAN CITIZENS.


ACT II

    SCENE--_Room in PHOCION’S house in Athens. Simple. Altar to Zeus
    with brazier burning. Colonnade with pillars and view towards
    Acropolis._

    _Late evening._

    (_LYDIA is half-kneeling, half-leaning over the marble
    balustrade, gazing into the distance. Enter PHOCION. He comes
    near and touches her._)

_Lydia_

How you startled me!

_Phocion_

Were your thoughts so far away, Little Child?

_Lydia_

I was thinking.

_Phocion_

And gazing across the sea as usual. What is there so attractive beyond
that dim horizon? The future or----?

_Lydia_

Perhaps its dimness only. That’s southwards, is it not? There Egypt lies,
and--Alexandria--you said--the great, new city.

_Phocion_

(_Searchingly._) Distance still haunts your eyes. Little wonder that I
startled you. (_Kisses her._) But do not speak of Alexander’s city. Our
thoughts lie nearer home--in Athens.

_Lydia_

Where have you been, Phocion? All day I’ve missed you.

_Phocion_

On the hills--alone. I have been thinking.

_Lydia_

Thinking--you too!

_Phocion_

I came home by way of Theseus’ Temple, saying a prayer for our loved city
and for ourselves.

_Lydia_

But you are weary, and your feet are splashed with mud.

_Phocion_

I crossed the Ilissus to be sooner home, and found it rising--in flood
almost. Yesterday’s rains on Mount Hymettus--(_breaks off as she makes a
sudden gesture_). Why, what ails you, Lydia? Do I startle you a second
time?

_Lydia_

Forgive me, Phocion; do not notice my little weaknesses. It was
merely--there, I’ve often told you--a rising river is an omen that causes
me strange uneasiness.

_Phocion_

Little Child, I understand. I know your feelings. Athens herself is on
edge these days--and little wonder.

_Lydia_

Phocion, let me tell you honestly--I am afraid.

_Phocion_

Anxious, perhaps, but not afraid. The mood of our beloved city takes you
with it, as it takes us all. We all are patriots to-day. But the wife of
Phocion has proved herself no coward.

_Lydia_

(_Low voice._) Alexander is so powerful. Some say the Macedonian is a God.

_Phocion_

Pshaw! In his own land, perhaps. But Athens has her own Gods. He is a
conqueror, yes; but a conqueror can only take a city, not the souls who
dwell in it.

_Lydia_

(_Softly._) Phocion, when I hear your words my fear melts away. Yet
Athens _is_ conquered. Our city trembles----

_Phocion_

Hush, Lydia. I do not like to hear you say such things.

_Lydia_

Who can stand against him, then? Who is there can oppose this conqueror
of the Persians?

_Phocion_

Every Athenian--every Greek who loves our city more than he fears the
Macedonian.

_Lydia_

All Athens, then!

_Phocion_

All the best in Athens.

    [_LYDIA looks nervously over her shoulder towards the city and
    Acropolis. The dusk deepens. The first star shows._

_Lydia_

(_Shudders._) Your speech is often mysterious like this now--dark with
meaning. Each night as twilight gathers from the sea about our city,
there are footsteps on the causeway that make me tremble. No sooner has
Hymettus darkened than shadows move silently over the courtyard and
between the pillars. (_Turns and flings her arms about him._) Oh, my
Phocion, it is for you, not for myself, I am afraid.

_Phocion_

Calm yourself, beloved. I am an Athenian who obeys his unconquerable
Gods. I do no more than accept the destiny they lay upon him who loves
his country----

_Lydia_

But if Alexander discovered you--if----!

_Phocion_

Discovered me! What thought is this?

_Lydia_

If he discovered you were true to Athens, I was about to say. If he took
you from me! Oh, Phocion! In dreams I have seen you lying dead at his
feet--lost to me for ever.

_Phocion_

Not lost, most loving woman. If the Gods take me--if I die for Athens----

_Lydia_

Am I, then, less than Athens?

_Phocion_

Athens is great because of women like you, Lydia. You would not see her
less?

_Lydia_

How less?

_Phocion_

Less free. Liberty is the breath of life.

_Lydia_

What is my liberty if I lose you? Your voice, your touch, your living
presence here beside me (_embraces him_)--I want you alive and loving----

_Phocion_

Our love has grown with Athens. On the green Cephissian banks we first
discovered it, and that evening on Hymettus when the honey--ah, I see
it in your eyes, dear heart--you remember even as I remember. If Athens
live----

_Lydia_

But if _you_ die! If Alexander crush you, kill you! Oh, my Phocion, this
struggle against the conqueror is vain. You tempt the Gods. I fear for
you and for your hopeless schemes----

_Phocion_

My schemes! Lydia, what do you know?

_Lydia_

I suspect only. I feel you planning dangerous things that must take you
from me. Those silent footsteps on our causeway in the dusk, the shadows
that pass between the pillars, the rising waters--Phocion! your strange
deep love of Athens takes no account of me, your little, suffering wife.

_Phocion_

The love of Athens is _ours_. It is the love of country that the Gods
call sacred. (_Looks out across the fading city._) Hellas, your valleys
and mountains, streams and happy groves … beautiful, beloved … who would
not die for you…!

_Lydia_

I love _you_. If you live for me, you live for Hellas even more. Athens
lives in our hearts, not otherwise.

_Phocion_

(_Sternly._) If a barbarian rule our dear city, our hearts are dead. It
is better for my heart to mingle with the soil of Hellas than beat as the
slave of Alexander.

_Lydia_

I love you too much to see you run on death. Your wild plot to save our
city is but the Fates’ way of taking you away from me.

_Phocion_

Try, Lydia, to love me as I love Athens.

_Lydia_

You ask too much of me. I love Hellas, but I love you more.

_Phocion_

Then--not enough. (_Looks away._) You make it hard for me. I see the
right so clearly, but your clinging love makes me weak.

_Lydia_

There is nothing in the world for a woman but her love. If you were lost
to me, Phocion, these lips could kiss one other only--the rising flood
(_shudders_) of our little Athenian river--or the sea.

_Phocion_

What comes, sweet wife, comes to both of us together. You are overwrought
with sleeplessness and watching. Trust me and love me--more I cannot tell
you now. Your love shall give me strength. (_He embraces her and moves
slowly off towards the colonnade._) And if there is a greater love than
yours, some day we shall find it--know it both together. What comes to me
to do now--I must do.

    [_Goes slowly off._

_Lydia_

(_At him._) A greater love! Ah, Phocion--you’re going from me--going
towards death. I know not what you mean. There is no greater love.
(_Watches him disappear._) Then I must save you, since you will not save
yourself. I cannot lose you. My love, I cannot let you--(_Covers her face
with her hands_). My love shall save you from yourself. If I do wrong the
Gods forgive----

    [_Knocking is heard. She starts and looks round. A MESSENGER is
    seen in the courtyard._

(_Cautiously._) You would see--whom?

_Messenger_

The wife of Phocion.

_Lydia_

(_Frightened._) Hush! Come softly, I am she. (_MESSENGER enters
stealthily._) You bring a message for me? You bring a token?

_Messenger_

(_With respect._) She who sends me bids me say as token this: From one
who loves her Lord more than his earthly glory--to her who loves as
greatly.

_Lydia_

(_Faintly._) To her who loves as greatly. (_Hesitates, shows agitation,
a distraught expression on her face._) It is to save him that I do
it--to save his life for--both of us. (_Turns to MESSENGER._) Your great
mistress bid you bring an answer back to her?

_Messenger_

Without delay--my orders are.

_Lydia_

Have you no more to say? No further message? Do you bring only the token
that you come from her?

_Messenger_

She bid me say that you should feel perfect confidence.

_Lydia_

The word of Alexander----?

_Messenger_

Has been given, and cannot change.

_Lydia_

Though it concern the life of one who was his enemy?

_Messenger_

The Queen bid me assure you. He has given her his promise. It will not
alter.

_Lydia_

(_Whispers._) Then take this message back to her who sent you: To one
who comes hither to-night when the moon is high enough to cast a shadow
I will reveal what I have promised to reveal. In return I claim the boon
the conqueror has sworn--through her--to give me.

_Messenger_

Her word and his are both securely given. I take back yours.

_Lydia_

Go swiftly, silently. I shall await fulfilment here--when the moon is
high enough to cast a shadow on the marble causeway. Behind that pillar I
shall wait. Go swiftly!

    [_Exit MESSENGER. LYDIA, looking anxiously at the sky, withdraws
    into the shadow of the pillars. PHOCION enters, his arm upon the
    shoulder of LYSANDER, his youthful brother. LYDIA overhears their
    talk._

_Lysander_

(_With enthusiasm._) Our last meeting now, and then to action. Oh,
Phocion, I feel the Gods are with us. Your daring shall save Athens, and
Hellas will live--even if we die.

_Phocion_

We all stand or fall together. They are picked men, and heroes; no one
among them thinks of self. The risk, of course, is great, but it is
nothing when the stake is considered.

_Lysander_

Everything favours us. The best troops of Alexander’s army are still in
Egypt. The entire city is behind us. All Athens will rise when it sees
you are our leader. (_Vehemently._) We shall drive the proud Macedonian
out. Oh, I’m glad the talk is over soon! I burn for action.

_Phocion_

I, too, want action. I am not made for stealth and for conspiracy.
Plotting and hesitation weary me. (_Sighs._)

_Lysander_

Phocion, you feel no doubt, though--? I heard you sigh. Are you less sure
of--of anything?

_Phocion_

For myself, boy, I have no doubt. For Athens I am sure and strong. Did
I sigh perhaps? If so--if so, it was for others whose lives I hold in
trust. For others--the truest, best, and bravest men in all Athens.

_Lysander_

The Gods will bear that burden for you, Phocion.

_Phocion_

Yes, yes; the Gods will bear it--partly.

_Lysander_

No one can lead but you. We are of one accord.

_Phocion_

I _will_ lead, Lysander. Have no fear. Of myself I do not think. (_Looks
out._) The moon is up. I see the evening star o’er Salamis. They will be
here very shortly.

_Lysander_

We are quite safe here. I took the password round myself at noon.

_Phocion_

We cannot be too cautious. Alexander’s spies are more numerous than the
bees upon Hymettus. They can sting as sharply too.

_Lysander_

Oh, our secret is well guarded. Yet the least whisper or thoughtless word
could so easily betray us. (_Looks round with a moment’s hesitation, then
continues in a lower voice._) I only would--that Lydia----

_Phocion_

Lydia!

_Lysander_

She is in great favour with Alexander’s queen, Statira.

_Phocion_

So much the better! Since she knows nothing there is nothing she can
reveal. Alexander seeks to play the generous conqueror. That the wife
of Phocion accepts favours that Phocion spurns can only save us from
suspicion. The Persian woman helps us without knowing it. And so does
Lydia!

_Lysander_

You are right, Phocion. The Gods show their will in little things like
this. We are under their protection. Yet if word reached Alexander of our
gathering in your house to-night----

_Phocion_

Keep your words for later, boy; you waste your strength. How can you hold
such idle thoughts? Hellas a Macedonian province! Her ancient liberties
crushed! Our last hope dead as soon as born, and no blow struck!

_Lysander_

Phocion, forgive me! And, Selene, in yonder rising moon, forgive me too.
The Gods protect and help us!

_Phocion_

Pallas Athena, give us wisdom to plan and strength to strike.

    [_LYDIA comes forward from her hiding-place among the columns.
    The moonlight falls on her. As she moves she notices that it
    casts a shadow. She hurries. LYSANDER watches her somewhat
    closely._

Ah, Lydia.

_Lydia_

_You_ did not call me, Phocion? It seemed----

_Phocion_

(_Smiling._) Your maidens called you to the bath. It is your bathing hour.

_Lydia_

(_To LYSANDER._) Lysander, good-evening! You are fortunate. (_Half
laughing, half jealous._) Phocion has more time for his brother than for
his wife.

_Lysander_

Had I a wife as brave and faithful as my brother has, I should be more
fortunate still! These are grave times, good Lydia, for true Athenian
men.

_Phocion_

Ah, Lydia knows too well, Lysander. But do not detain her now. (_To
LYDIA._) I will come later for you, Little Child--an hour at the most.

_Lydia_

I am always ready for you, Phocion, and always true. I, too, am an
Athenian.

_Phocion_

The Gods watch over you!

_Lydia_

And over you!

    [_PHOCION moves to the balustrade and leans over, watching the
    night. He waits for her to go. LYDIA turns to LYSANDER and speaks
    low and hurriedly._

You love him, I know, Lysander, and he loves you.

_Lysander_

Before he even knew your name, I loved Phocion, (_sternly_) and more than
Phocion I love Phocion’s honour.

_Lydia_

And so loving him you would urge him--to his death. (_With passion._) You
shall not, Lysander; Phocion is mine and he belongs to me. I will hold
him fast to this life. A glorious career now lies at Phocion’s feet.

_Lysander_

I love Phocion’s honour too well to tempt him to dishonour.

_Lydia_

Tush, boy! You do not understand. I would not tempt him. Fate does not
tempt, it commands. The high Gods bid us to accept fate bravely. The weak
resist it; the strong accept and make it glorious. And a glorious career
now lies at Phocion’s feet.

_Lysander_

You speak with knowledge, Lydia? If so, how come you by such knowledge?

_Lydia_

Hush, not so loud. Lysander, you faithful brother, I tell you it is
common knowledge. The Military Governorship of Alexandria--once offered
to Phocion already and refused by him--is open to him still. Alexander
knows his worth----

_Lysander_

His incorruptibility too. But how know _you_ this, Lydia?

_Lydia_

I only know that Alexander is generous and will raise him to even greater
honour. He places Phocion above all men in Athens----

_Lysander_

(_Coldly._) Has Alexander’s queen informed you thus. (_Louder._) It
seems strange to me, Lydia, that the wife of--an Athenian patriot----

_Phocion_

How loud your voices grow. Lydia, Little Child, you had best leave us
now, for Lysander and I have grave business to transact together--and we
expect others too.

    [_There is a low knocking at the door._

_Lydia_

Lysander chides me that I accept kindness from the queen of Athens’
conqueror.

_Phocion_

I see no harm in that, and possibly much good. Your love will ever guide
you. Farewell, now, for a little while. And happiness go with you!

_Lydia_

I leave you. It is your friends who come to you at twilight now so often.
The Fates protect you, my Phocion! (_Whispers to LYSANDER as she goes._)
Oh, save him, Lysander! Save him from himself--for me, his wife!

    [_Exit slowly, looking back fondly at PHOCION as she goes.
    LYSANDER watches her with an expression that betrays doubt,
    anxiety and disapproval. He shakes his head. The knocking is
    repeated. It is a definite knock that has been pre-arranged._

_Phocion_

Open, Lysander. It is the Citizens.

    [_A dozen CITIZENS enter quietly. Their leader holds a scroll in
    his hand. In turn they greet PHOCION with obvious respect, each
    giving the password, while PHOCION replies with the countersign_:

_Citizen_

The Gods deliver Athens!

_Phocion_

They will deliver her!

    [_When all are in, they group themselves. An elderly CITIZEN,
    holding the scroll, acts as spokesman._

It is safest our meeting should be brief, and no words wasted.

_First Citizen_

We stand for action.

_Second Citizen_

Immediate action.

_Third Citizen_

Each day that passes consolidates the barbarian power that would ruin
Athens.

_Lysander_

Citizens, we need two conditions for success--to strike hard, and to
surprise.

_Phocion_

We must move warily. The Macedonian’s spies hide everywhere, and money
has been flowing.

_Lysander_

There are ten thousand hearts in Athens above gold----!

_Phocion_

(_Gravely._) Our preparations must be sure. You bring to-night the list
of patriots?

_First Citizen_

It is drawn up (_holds out scroll_). Twenty names stand written here,
each signed by his own hand, each guaranteeing three hundred men of
arms----

_Phocion_

Whom we can trust?

_First Citizen_

The names are guarantee, as you will see--the best in Athens.

_Second Citizen_

Ready to live or die as our beloved city lives--or dies.

_Lysander_

And thousands more will follow once we show the way.

_Phocion_

Our forlorn hope (_takes the scroll_) is favoured of the Gods, and will
be led by them.

    [_Begins to read names._

_Citizen_

Upon great leadership hangs success or failure. There can be one leader
only.

_Citizens_

Phocion! Phocion!

_Lysander_

Phocion is our leader.

    [_PHOCION reads silently. LYSANDER suddenly turns his head
    towards the moon-lit courtyard._

(_Low._) I saw a figure pass.

_Citizen_

A few moments ago I saw one too--between the pillars.

_Another Citizen_

Are we alone here?

_Phocion_

(_Looking up._) My wife--and her maidens--are about. We are alone.

_First Citizen_

Once read, Phocion, the list must be instantly destroyed. Each signature
is a warrant for the writer’s death.

_Lysander_

(_Nervously._) I counsel haste. The very stones move as with footsteps.
The sky has eyes.

    [_Turns towards a burning brazier close behind him._

_Phocion_

(_Calmly._) I have read. The names are--what Athens would expect.

_Lysander_

Then let me burn it.

_First Citizen_

(_Rising._) Phocion, in the names you read, and in the names of all
assembled here, we offer you the leadership--the military leadership.
We ask you to lead our beloved city back to liberty again. (_Muffled
applause._)

    [_While PHOCION has been reading, a woman’s figure is seen
    creeping from pillar to pillar where the shadows are deepest.
    She is followed closely by a second figure--a man swathed in a
    head-dress such as that worn by the Persian warrior in the Elgin
    Marbles. Unnoticed in the dimness they reach the colonnades
    where they can hear all that passes._

_Phocion_

(_Slowly._) Citizens, in the name of Athens, and with the approval of the
deathless Gods of Athens--I accept the leadership.

    [_He hands the scroll to LYSANDER, who has stepped forward
    eagerly to seize it. LYSANDER turns towards the fire._

_First Citizen_

Then we are half-way to success already. (_Applause._) The sooner we
disband, the better. Three of us may stay with Phocion to decide the
final----

    [_At this moment the cloaked figure steps out into the centre
    of the courtyard. He is plainly visible in the moonlight.
    Consternation reigns. PHOCION reaches for his sword. LYSANDER
    fumbles over the brazier, thrusting the scroll into the flames.
    The CITIZENS stand firm, not trying to hide, but visibly
    startled._

_Citizen_

We are betrayed!

_Citizen_

A spy! We have been overheard!

_Citizen_

A Persian!

_Phocion_

(_Self-possessed._) No stranger is unwelcome in my house, even though he
enter--without permission. (_Louder to stranger._) You would see Phocion?
I am he.

    [_LYDIA remains hidden in the shadows._

_Stranger_

(_Advancing._) I ask forgiveness for my unannounced intrusion. I disturb
you. But my need is urgent. This is my warrant: I am a messenger from
Alexander.

    [_Stands erect and waits._

_Others_

From Alexander!

_Phocion_

(_Calmly._) You bring Phocion a message from Alexander?

_Stranger_

Of first importance.

_Phocion_

You may deliver it.

    [_LYSANDER pauses to listen too._

_Stranger_

A gift I am bid offer first--a gift from Egypt, where Phocion fought so
bravely and so well. (_Holds out an object of gold._) From the Temple of
Ammon himself in Lybia.

_Phocion_

(_Coldly._) Phocion fights not for gifts; nor can he accept anything from
the barbarian conqueror of Athens.

_Stranger_

I am bid to urge reflection on you. First words are not the truest
always, nor the wisest. (_Pauses._)

_Phocion_

(_Simply, with scorn._) I am an Athenian.

_Stranger_

(_Lays gift on a marble table beside PHOCION._) Alexander commands me say
further--that, with this gift, he would honour Phocion by yet another
one. He bids me call you the Military Governor of his new city in Egypt.

_Phocion_

The two gifts are one. I have one answer only.

_Stranger_

(_Smoothly._) Then, with your answer, I ask permission to take back some
trifle--such as that parchment the youth there would destroy--as proof to
Alexander that the House of Phocion is loyal.

    [_LYSANDER, startled, desists a moment. PHOCION takes a sudden
    step forwards._

_Phocion_

(_Alarmed._) Loyal----!

_Stranger_

(_Throws off disguise._) The parchment.

    [_Voice of command. Holds hand out._

_Phocion_

Alexander!

    [_All recognise ALEXANDER. Confusion, consternation, and murmurs:
    “Alexander!” “Alexander!”_

_Alexander_

Hand it to me, boy, before another name is burned. (_Laughs._)

    [_ALEXANDER strides towards him. LYSANDER defies him. ALEXANDER
    seizes him._

_He_ shall be surety, Phocion, for your loyalty.

    [_PHOCION, holding his sword, rushes on ALEXANDER to aid
    LYSANDER, and above all to rescue the scroll. The CITIZENS stand
    their ground and are about to interfere, when LYDIA rushes in and
    throws herself on PHOCION, checking his violent attack. At the
    same moment ALEXANDER stamps on the marble floor. SOLDIERS enter.
    PHOCION and ALEXANDER stand facing one another in silence for a
    moment._

I hold you the bravest man in Athens, Phocion, and such men as you I
need. (_Holds out the scroll, as yet unread._) But lesser men than you I
do not--need!

_Lydia_

Phocion! Great Alexander!… Statira promised me.… Oh, he is too brave to
die…!

_Alexander_

(_To SOLDIERS._) Three of you take the boy away. The rest withdraw. No,
let these greybeards go.

    [_A few CITIZENS creep out, following LYSANDER and SOLDIERS._

_Lysander_

(_Calling back to PHOCION._) The Gods will not desert us…!

_Phocion_

(_With dignity._) You are the conqueror of Athens.

_Alexander_

Lesser men than you I do not need. Give me your allegiance (_pointing
significantly to the scroll_) and I give you--these lives!

_Lydia_

(_Whispering._) Phocion, you cannot sacrifice such men!

_Citizen_

Do not think of us! What is life to the conquered? Gladly would we die
for Athens.

_Alexander_

I wait your decision, Phocion.

_Phocion_

(_Bitterly._) Phocion, Military Governor of Alexandria, is Alexander’s
host.

_Alexander_

The word of Phocion is enough. (_Burns the scroll unread._) Lysander,
the boy, shall be Captain of your Bodyguard in Egypt. The Gods--your
Gods--are witness to what I say.

    [_ALEXANDER salutes PHOCION and goes out. PHOCION is alone with
    LYDIA. There is a moment’s silence._

_Phocion_

(_Brokenly._) Athens! I have failed you! My life is broken in pieces.

    [_Hides face in hands._

_Lydia_

But I meant to save you, Phocion. My love would save you. Have I done
wrong? Oh, tell me.

_Phocion_

(_Low._) You have done--your--best. No one--no woman--can do more.

_Lydia_

I could not face life without you. I could not see you die. My love made
the desperate plan. I bargained with Alexander’s queen--life with honour
and glory for you in Egypt, the land you love. Oh, Phocion, beloved, do
not judge me hardly. You do not speak.

_Phocion_

(_Patiently._) There is something here I cannot understand.

    [_His hand touches the gift from Egypt. He looks at it curiously,
    then looks out away from her._

_Lydia_

I love you too much. Is that hard to understand?

_Phocion_

(_Sadly._) Yet the love the Gods bring is otherwise … I think.


CURTAIN



ACT III

THEIR THIRD LIFE TOGETHER.

TIME--FIFTEENTH CENTURY ITALY


CHARACTERS

    PAULO SALVIATI, a painter, age about 25.
    LUCIA, his wife, a beautiful Florentine.
    PRINCE DAMIANO DI MEDICI, art patron.


ACT III

    SCENE--_PAULO’S studio in Venice. A bare room of obvious poverty.
    PAULO painting at a large canvas._

    (_Enter Lucia._)

_Paulo_

(_Turning happily._) Lucia! At last you return. My love, how I have
missed you. (_Kisses her._) It seemed so long. (_Examining her._) You are
excited! Then my uneasiness was not for nothing. Tell me. An adventure,
perhaps? An admirer, _of course_! This flush…! (_Laughs._) Little Child…!
(_Teasingly._)

_Lucia_

I’ve been but a short hour, my Paulo. And, as for adventures and
admirers, they have but one name--Paulo. (_Looks embarrassed slightly._)
How quick you are!

_Paulo_

Love makes me quick. I think I guess.

_Lucia_

(_Ashamed a little._) Listen! (_They listen. The waves of the sea are
audible beating against the outer walls._) You hear?

_Paulo_

(_Patiently._) I hear, but I do not understand. It is the water only----

_Lucia_

(_Lower._) The rising water. (_Pauses, while passing hand over her
forehead._) Nor do _I_ understand. It is my weakness, I suppose. All
women have something that makes them fear without a reason, and this is
mine----

_Paulo_

(_Protectively._) For which I love you all the more. For had you reasoned
you would not have married me. (_To himself._) Strange, strange.…
(_Recovers gaiety and turns to picture._) See how it grows, Lucia.
All that I scraped out yesterday I have repainted. Long before the
Competition Day I shall have finished it. (_Enthusiastically._) Look!

_Lucia_

The glow, the warmth, the colour--you’ve caught it all?

_Paulo_

I hope so. But when my model _and_ my critic desert me both at once like
this----

_Lucia_

Dear Paulo. (_Sighs._) And it’s so difficult for me to make five scudi do
the work of ten. (_Shows agitation._) I know, oh, I know. (_Excitement._)
Yet somehow, somehow we shall find a way. And it will be wonderful----

_Paulo_

(_Noticing her mood and wondering._) It is you who are
wonderful--(_shakes finger at her_) intriguing with Fate as ever----

_Lucia_

(_Quickly._) No, not intriguing. I am but your wife--and model.
(_Laughs._)

_Paulo_

And inspiration----

_Lucia_

And critic----

_Paulo_

And manager! That is the wonder--that you who fled with a painter to
learn poverty like this (_shows bare room_) and this (_shows clothes_)
and this (_touches heart_) should bargain so cleverly in the market-place
and carry home our fish and vegetables in your coloured apron--the Lady
Lucia, a house-wife of the people!

_Lucia_

Forgetting the wine as usual, and dropping half the fish on my way!
(_Seriously._) Love makes it beautiful. It is for love’s sake, Paulo.

_Paulo_

(_Emphatically._) And the work’s sake.

_Lucia_

(_Quickly._) The work, ah yes, the work’s sake. (_Excitedly._) Oh,
my Paulo, what would I not do--what would I not sacrifice for your
advancement--I mean, for your art, your wonderful great art. (_Confused._)

_Paulo_

(_Quietly._) This shall be our love’s first-fruits (_pointing to canvas_).

_Lucia_

(_Repeats low to herself._) Our love’s first-fruits.

_Paulo_

(_Rapt._) When you and I float over the lagoons as dust upon the
wind--(_turns to her from picture, and lowers voice_) when you and I are
gone--remembered, perhaps, only as Paulo the painter, and Lucia his
inspiration--this beauty--ah, that is my dream--this beauty shall still
shine out for the world.

    [_They watch the picture for a moment._

_Lucia_

I fear one thing only for you--poverty. You should have _everything_.

_Paulo_

I have. Everything that matters to an artist, and its name is inspiration.

    [_Looks with passionate admiration at her._

_Lucia_

(_With growing agitation._) You left Florence for my sake. But for me,
the great Princes--(_with an effort_) the Medici--would have helped.

_Paulo_

(_Brusquely._) We agreed--(_pretended severity_)--solemnly, you
remember--never to mention your princely lover’s name. Nothing stops
good painting like jealousy, and at _that_ name I see blood.

_Lucia_

(_Smiling._) Our Palace is too poor to house even that thin ghost. You
have no need to think of jealousy.

_Paulo_

No need now, Lucia. In Venice we are safe from Damiano di Medici. Now,
will you sit for me? I burn to work. Come! You must have roses in your
hands. I will go to the flower-sellers by the bridge.

_Lucia_

I would have brought them with me from the market-place--one scudi each!
I hesitated----

_Paulo_

And bought ten sprats instead! My wonderful, clever house-wife. Without
sprats to eat I never could paint roses! But I must have them. I shall
be but a moment away, my love--a single moment (_throwing kisses from the
door_) that will seem like years! Farewell … Little Child.

_Lucia_

Little Child! Ah, how I love that name, given to me with our first kiss.
I love it better than my own. (_Thinks a moment, puzzled._) For somehow
it seems my _very_ own----

_Paulo_

It is your own. The little love-name that seems to travel like memory up
the ages. I shall be back as soon as you are ready.

    [_Exit_

    [_Knocking at the door startles her._

    (_Enter DAMIANO DI MEDICI._)

_Lucia_

You! And so soon. It is _too_ soon. I’ve had no time to prepare him
yet----

_Medici_

A painter receives his patron without preparation surely----

_Lucia_

Patron! You must not use that word to him, or all is ruined before it is
even begun. You must remember----

_Medici_

(_Bows ironically._) “Must” to me! And “must” again! My gracious Lady
Lucia forgets----

_Lucia_

Nothing. She remembers that her husband, first of all, is proud, as I
have already warned you. He does not yet know that I have been to see
you--you, of all men in the world.

_Medici_

(_Frowning._) When you say “proud” you mean, I take it, jealous.

_Lucia_

I mean both. (_Manner changing._) Oh, Prince, you promised--I have your
word that you would be guided in this by me.

_Medici_

(_Unbending._) I was in haste to see the picture----

_Lucia_

But too great haste----

_Medici_

(_Ignoring her interruption._) For he is, I swear truly, the man I
need--his work, that is to say. (_Threateningly._) As once, my Lady, you
were the woman that I needed. But needs do not last for ever, nor is any
indispensable--perhaps.

_Lucia_

(_More control._) Oh, give me time, Prince, please. You do not want to
lose him. I have your word and trust it. (_Anxiously._) Will you not
take your gondola to the islands--the sun is sweet upon the water--and
return in half an hour? I--by that time I----

_Medici_

The light is sweet upon your face as well. What do you offer me in return
for so great a favour?

_Lucia_

I am the wife of Paulo Salviati.

_Medici_

And have, as I see, married poverty as well as genius! I was too slow
for once, as now, it seems, I am too hasty. I should have asked--and
taken--all before this fellow----

_Lucia_

(_Scorn._) Poverty with Salviati is beauty for _eternity_. The wealth of
a Florentine princess belongs to _time_.

_Medici_

And, therefore, you come humbly to ask _me_ a favour.

_Lucia_

One it should be an honour for you to grant (_with earnest
persuasion_)--that you may share in giving eternal beauty to the world.
Had I asked the Collona or the Calviere to see the work of a great
painter whom poverty----

_Medici_

You came, instead, to me.

_Lucia_

You have bought the palace on the Grand Canal and need a great--the
greatest--painter for your ceiling-----

_Medici_

Enthusiasm becomes you. You look divine with that passion in your eyes.

_Lucia_

(_Cunningly._) I am his model too, you see.

_Medici_

And that delicious gesture. (_Steps nearer._) A little more fire, a touch
more of abandon, and I swear that--on certain conditions--oh, very small
ones!--I would grant everything you ask.

_Lucia_

(_Icily._) An hour ago, when we talked together, you passed me your word.
I appealed to you as lover of the beautiful--the best, the noblest in
you. I was, it seems, mistaken, and our interview now had better end.
(_Moves to window._) I will call my husband.

_Medici_

This change from fire to ice is exquisite! (_Admiringly._) But why so
proud, fair Lady Lucia? (_She stands listening._) You hear him coming?
(_She hears the water lapping. Hides her face a moment._) It is only the
waves. The tide is rising still. That’s all.

_Lucia_

(_Distraught._) Yes, rising, rising. Please leave me, Prince. No,
no--please stay--a moment longer. (_Frightened._) Forgive me.
Something--a vision-flashed upon me out of darkness. I am confused. I
fear. (_To herself._) Oh, I have done this very thing before----

_Medici_

But not with me, alas!

_Lucia_

(_Goes to his side._) Forgive me. I thought only of myself. For a moment
I forgot the work, the beauty that is his divine, his holy mission. Now
I’m myself again. The water, the rising water--somehow--in some strange
way--reminds me. Oh, I will be wise and loving in the noblest way.
(_Looks into his eyes. Imploringly._) It is his need, his poverty, that
drive me to ask a favour of you who once aspired to be my lover. Have you
no pity? We fled from Florence to escape you--it is true. I would rather
ask favours of any in the world but you---- (_Confused._)

_Medici_

And yet--(_To himself._) And you are his model. You could live for ever
on my ceiling! (_To her._) You are, indeed, a Goddess belonging to
eternity! (_Admiringly._)

_Lucia_

And yet--yes, I came to you an hour ago--as patron. It is true. It was
for his sake and for his great art I came. (_Voice singing outside._) Oh,
I ask no favour now more than a little time to talk with him. That is his
voice. I will persuade him. I will gain his consent, and he will do the
picture for you--for your palace. Leave me, I beg, a few moments with him
alone, and then return--to find--I promise it--the greatest painter in
all Italy----

_Medici_

In all the world.

_Lucia_

Prepared to give you of his best.

    [_Clasps her hands and stares into his face._

_Medici_

To have you in my palace so (_admiringly_) is, perhaps, the next best
thing to--have you in my----

_Lucia_

Oh, I implore you. Leave me with him. (_Singing comes very close._) I
promise.

_Medici_

(_Shrugging._) You have chosen the one spell that moves me. Even more
strong than the love of a fair woman is my love of art--its wonder, its
beauty, and its triumph. His picture will outlive even your loveliness.
(_Sighs._) My name and my great palace will remind a later world of me,
and of what I did for beauty. Well, well, my Lady Lucia, you win me
over--for the moment, at any rate. I will stand behind this screen and
listen. I must hear how you persuade genius to abjure its principles!

_Lucia_

(_Firmly._) Then I do nothing. You must first go.

_Medici_

Another “must.” Your self-will is adorable. Upon my word! But I, too,
have a “must”--his work, with yourself as model, on my palace ceiling!
(_Yields with a sarcastic bow._)

    [_Exit._

    [_LUCIA mounts the model’s throne and stands, arranging her
    drapery, as PAULO enters._

_Paulo_

(_Breathless; carries roses._) Only two! They were so dear. I have not
your skill in bargains. (_Holds out roses._) We must make them do.
(_Kisses her._) Have I been very long? I had to go nearly to the Zucca.

_Lucia_

Two roses added to our love makes a whole garden. And one day soon you
shall lack nothing the work needs. (_Tenderly._) Oh, Paulo, beloved, by
rights everything should be yours now. There is not a painter in Italy
who comes near you.

_Paulo_

(_Quietly._) I shall win the Competition. We shall have plenty then.

_Lucia_

(_Lower._) Your art needs it _now_. (_Sighs._) I am so useless to
you--and yet----

_Paulo_

(_Looking._) And yet--? Lucia, this anxiety, this nervousness is strange
to you. You use unaccustomed words. “Useless”! What can you mean?

_Lucia_

You would never be angry--you would not scold me, no matter what I might
do--for your work’s sake?

_Paulo_

(_Passionately._) You have such darling moods. I love you. The work
is ours, not mine. (_Caresses her._) I understand so well. It is your
love that makes you tremble for the work’s sake: the picture grows, the
Competition Day comes nearer. It’s like the sea-tides rising--it affects
you--_I_ understand!

_Lucia_

Yes, yes. You always know. You’re always right. An inner tide seems
rising in me as the time draws near. You understand my woman’s moods, and
so forgive them.

_Paulo_

(_Painting._) Picture the scene, as we used to do when scudi were very
scarce. It always makes us happy--the brilliant forecast.

_Lucia_

Tell me again. I love to hear it all.

_Paulo_

The judging will be in the Council Hall where the Doge holds high state,
crowded with the noblest and loveliest of all Venice. The pictures chosen
for the final verdict--that’s Vernio’s and Marco Gagliano’s, and mine--I
mean ours--of course--will stand apart on easels. And on a pillar in
front of them shines the jewelled casket with the thousand gold pieces
that Venice bestows--a mere trifle--upon him she decrees the greatest
artist----

_Lucia_

And the pillar is garlanded with roses--more than these two, but not more
lovely, Paulo.

_Paulo_

Of course. And the competitors waiting in a hungry, anxious group----

_Lucia_

_You_ won’t be hungry. I’ll have so many sprats the night before----

_Paulo_

I shan’t be anxious either.

_Lucia_

(_Happier._) You will be dressed in a new doublet of purple cloth. If we
can buy no golden thread for the embroidery I shall weave this across it.
(_Holds out her hair._) You’ll look magnificent----

_Paulo_

The picture----

_Lucia_

Still more magnificent. They won’t know which to look at----

_Paulo_

(_Merry._) Then they’ll squint.

_Lucia_

The judge will call aloud your name: Paulo Salviati. You will be victor,
and all the Assembly will rise to honour you----

_Paulo_

(_Correcting her again._) The work. My art, not me. My art, my work----

    [_LUCIA stands up to show the judge’s gestures. She hears the
    water lapping. Her face changes._

What is it, Little Child?

_Lucia_

N--nothing, Paulo. I--I merely thought a moment of those other painters,
of Vernio, of Gagliano, the favoured ones who have wealthy patrons, so
that they can work in ease and comfort, lacking nothing----

_Paulo_

(_Grandly._) Except my inspiration--and my liberty. Think what that
means. My work is done in freedom, and _must_ surpass their best since it
is bought of luxury. (_Earnest and contemptuous._) What artist, no matter
his genius, that can see truth while a patron jogs his brush, bidding him
do this and that, set here a touch of gold and there of scarlet, put here
a flower, a bird, and there a--a (_explodes_)--a sprat--! Why not? It is
the soul alone that sees truth, and such men have sold their souls. They
will be paid accordingly.

_Lucia_

(_Agitated._) There are some patrons who--it is said--give freedom,
liberty too.

_Paulo_

I never heard their names.

_Lucia_

There are some who know, who understand better. (_Confused and rapidly._)
They say the Medicis----

_Paulo_

(_Stops painting._) Such painters and their patrons live for time,
not for eternity, my Little Child. And among them the worst--the very
worst--is that Florentine whose best claim to merit is that he dared to
aspire to your love.

_Lucia_

I hate and despise him. Yet I dread his help--for others. He is as great
in influence almost as his elder brother, Cosimo.

_Paulo_

Bah!

_Lucia_

Forgive me, Paulo--I reproach myself often that we fled from him--from
Florence--where he might--(_lower_) oh, he _could_ have done so much for
you--his patronage.

_Paulo_

(_Staring._) The mere name, as you see, stops me painting. You must
not speak of it, here least of all in our place of work, of worship.
Patronage--bah! My fire would go out, my inspiration leave me, my soul
die in bondage. I must have (_loudly_) liberty.

_Lucia_

(_Frightened._) The Madonna help me! Paulo, beloved, see what I have
brought you--something your picture needs. My present and my surprise. No
questions, now!

    [_Holds out richly-coloured silk._

_Paulo_

(_Delighted, amazed._) That very broidery we saw together! Lucia--Little
Child! How did you pay for it, or--or did you steal it? The merchant
asked ten lira, I remember--and we had but three. (_Examines it._) The
colour of wine and pomegranate! Gorgeous! How did you pay for it? Quick,
tell me. (_LUCIA turns her head from side to side._) The long gold
earrings! Your last jewel! Lucia! (_Takes her in his arms._) I’ll kiss
your ears (_softly_) till they leave blushes you cannot sell, fairer than
any jewels, for they are the kisses of my soul which sees eternal beauty.

_Lucia_

Would that I had a whole casket of both kinds, my Paulo! Of one kind
I would sell all. You should have a studio with north light, the best
paints that can be bought, the choicest hangings, the fairest models,
and--and, oh, everything these others possess who have not risked all
for Love and brought a wife from Florence---- (_Voice breaks and stops._)

_Paulo_

Hush, hush, Little Child! You have given all you had--and that is
everything. My art, if it is inspired as we dream, is stronger than
circumstances, and will conquer. And I have liberty--love, beauty,
liberty! What more can I ask of Heaven? Come, see the picture with me a
moment. (_Draws her to it._) Let us look at it together. (_They stand
before it._)

_Lucia_

(_Low._) The Gods painted it.

_Paulo_

(_Moved._) Your soul and mine, say rather. The hand is nothing. It is
the inspiration. (_They look a moment._) It was conceived, at least, in
liberty--(_Starts and looks at her._) You whispered something? I did not
catch it. Tell me, Little Child. You feel--? Why, I declare, you tremble.

_Lucia_

(_Very low._) One thing, I fear, one thing alone! The golden bloom, the
warmth, the joyous laughter and the richness all Venetians love. It will
be judged with the work of--of others whom plenty and comfort and--and
all that help which money can provide----

_Paulo_

Men who feed from their patron’s hands like obedient lap-dogs----

_Lucia_

Madonna, help me! They have never to calculate if their blue paint can
last till the sky is finished. (_Impetuously._) Why, in Florence, the
Medici gives his painters----

_Paulo_

That name again!

_Lucia_

I chose it at random--by mistake. It slipped out, I mean. (_Losing
control more._) Oh, my too proud Paulo, if you only knew how I love your
pride and worship it. I only thought--for a moment only--the merest
foolish moment--that this young Medici--oh, he loves beauty too, he
worships art and beauty--_perhaps_--I wondered--he _might_ have helped in
a way that even you could have accepted without losing your liberty. I
reproach myself so----

_Paulo_

(_Sternly._) Lucia, I need no man’s help. I have told you. You doubt
my art, my power, when you show this fear. It is fear that makes you
reproach yourself. Our love knows no fear. (_Soothes her._)

_Lucia_

It is, perhaps, myself I fear, Paulo. A strange dread haunts me like a
dream. I fear lest I injure your great work, your mission----

_Paulo_

You tremble still. You are excited. Tell me, Little Child--do you know
something that you hide from me--that you cannot tell me?

    [_Pause._

_Lucia_

Nothing, nothing, but my woman’s mood. My passion to help you is so great
I sometimes fear lest I guide it wrongly--(_breaks off_). See, Paulo, the
light is good, and we have this broidery you need (_replaces old drapery
with the new silk piece_)--the very thing--exactly the tint and texture.
I’ll sit for you. (_Shows hurry._) There is no time to lose. Some one
might disturb us.

_Paulo_

(_A look of suspicion comes and goes. He watches her puzzled, while
mixing his paints._) Your mood is _new_. That is what disquiets me. You
seem expectant almost. And this strange haste, Lucia? We never hurry!

_Lucia_

(_Laughing gaily._) Only that I long to see this colour (_touches silk_)
in your picture--on the very canvas, alive and burning--before it is seen
by--by others.

_Paulo_

(_Absorbed._) Yet who should see it before the Competition Day?

_Lucia_

Of course, of course. Still I am anxious. Time is precious. (_Poses._)
Oh, how lovely the silk lies on me! Look! And am _I_ right? (_Whispers._)
Paulo, I feel your brushes on my heart. Paint swiftly, beloved, swiftly.

_Paulo_

Beautiful! Perfect! Divine! There--just as you are now. Don’t move! Even
your heart must stop!

_Lucia_

Madonna, help me!

_Paulo_

She does. Have no fear for the result. (_Paints hard._) Now, talk to me
while I work--no movement, mind! Just words. I love the music of your
voice. It soothes and blesses me. The gossip of the market-place, for
instance?

_Lucia_

(_Quickly._) Ah, well, then the Eros will interest you--the one we
coveted so.… It’s gone from the merchant’s booth at last.

_Paulo_

Our Grecian Eros! Our little statue! I shall miss it. I wonder who bought
it. Or has it flown back to Samos, starved with yearning, on our summer
wind? Some day we’ll follow it. Greece! Glorious mother of artists! My
heart lies there--sometimes, I almost think, my memory too. (_Pause._)
Who bought our Eros? Did you hear that as well?

_Lucia_

The critics say that in your art Greece has come back to life again.

_Paulo_

Who bought it, Lucia? Your head to the right a little--so.

_Lucia_

A great Prince, a stranger to Venice, they said, who has bought the
Cavaliere Palazzo on the Grand Canal. Gossip is full of it. He has sworn
to make it more beautiful than Cosimo Medici’s in Florence----

_Paulo_

That odious name again! (_Smiling._) It haunts you, Little Child! (_She
starts._) Don’t move! don’t move! The pose is perfect.

_Lucia_

Haunts the gossip of the town, rather--for which you asked me, Signor!
The ceilings are to be painted with classical scenes alone--the loves of
Apollo, and Athena’s triumph.

_Paulo_

What subjects! And I know that Palazzo. Its ceilings are superb,
enormous! Painting the very sky! (_Steps back to examine his work._) It’s
coming, it’s coming, the very colour I wanted. Yes, yes, they are the
biggest in all Venice, so I’m told. (_Turns to her._) Now, just suppose,
Lucia--just suppose that one day----

_Lucia_

(_Nervous._) Paulo, beloved, do not stop. Paint on quickly. You are in
your best vein. Paint on before--before the light changes. Yes, and I
heard one other thing.

_Paulo_

(_Painting._) Ah!

_Lucia_

That this Prince will commission the winner of the Competition----

_Paulo_

(_Looking up._) To paint those ceilings! Not unlikely, Lucia! There are
menial fellows enough with talent who would do it. _I_--win or lose--_I_
accept no commission tainted by patronage. And I _shall_ win. What was
this Prince’s name?

_Lucia_

(_Excited._) And those ceilings might be yours!

_Paulo_

Who is he?

_Lucia_

S--some said one thing, some another. I----

_Paulo_

The merchant must have delivered his Eros--to somebody--somewhere.

    [_Watches her._

_Lucia_

He didn’t say. I didn’t ask _him_. It was the gondolier as I came home.
Oh, Paulo, I cannot sit well for you if you cross-question me like this!
You’re like a judge. I love you so. Why should you suspect----?

    [_Rises agitated._

_Paulo_

Suspect! _You!_ Clear water cannot hide the reflections in it.
(_Expression of comprehension dawns on his face._) Even if your love
guided you amiss, I--I could never think, and far less use--that ugly
word! Lucia! Little Child! You tremble---- (_Starts forward._)

    [_Enter OLD WOMAN, flustered. LUCIA’S hand flies to her heart._

_Woman_

Signor! Signora! A great gentleman comes for you. His gondola is already
at the steps. I heard him give orders to wait. I ran on to warn you.

_Lucia_

(_Cry._) Already!

_Paulo_

(_Half incredulous still._) Great gentleman! (_Looking at LUCIA._) Asking
for--us!

    [_LUCIA silent, face in hands._

_Woman_

He is no Venetian. By his liveries he must be a Prince at least, and a
great one. Your dress, Signora! (_Arranges it._) He’s come to buy the
Signor’s pictures! Your fortune’s made. Oh, happy day! _I_ will open the
gate for him, so he will not know you have no servant.

    [_Exit._

_Paulo_

(_Grim._) I do not understand. (_Makes to fasten door, hesitates, then
turns to LUCIA._) _You_ can explain this to me--Little Child--perhaps?

_Lucia_

Paulo, Paulo, do not be angry. Oh, forgive me, I implore. For your dear
sake--for your work, your art--for you, I did it. It is not _me_ he comes
to see. It is your work, your picture. I went this very day--but an hour
ago--to make him come. Oh, tell me, tell me I have not done wrong!

    (_OLD WOMAN opens door. Enter MEDICI._)

_Paulo_

(_Aghast._) Damiano di Medici! Here!

_Lucia_

(_Hand on his arm._) Paulo! Paulo!

_Medici_

At your service, Signor Salviati. (_To LUCIA._) Signora bellissima! Am I
too early still? My promise--you remember--I was impatient to fulfil it.

_Paulo_

Promise! What can a Prince of the Medici promise to my wife?

_Medici_

(_Gravely._) That which only the proudest painter may receive gladly from
a humble prince: appreciation of his work.

_Paulo_

(_Coldly._) My work is not done for the appreciation of princes. I have
no work to show.

_Medici_

Your wife, Signor, said otherwise. And she is a rare judge of values.
(_Bows._) A faultless critic! (_Bows to her._)

_Paulo_

The Prince di Medici knows.

_Lucia_

(_To Paulo._) Oh, do not anger him. And think a little of _me_. You
forget the risk--for your sake--that I ran--(_imploring_) your career----

_Paulo_

(_Watches her thoughtfully, weighing things that perplex him._) Love led
you a strange errand.

_Lucia_

For the work’s sake, my Paulo.

_Medici_

The Medici have short memories for their failures. (_Laughs._) Her
courage--in coming to visit me--was even more rare than her (_glances at
the picture_)--her judgment.

_Paulo_

(_With effort._) She went to see you--yes. It was a mistaken courage that
earned you a favour of that kind.

_Medici_

(_Suave._) Even in Venice a Medici does not receive strangers--without
a name--or, shall I say, whose name is yet to win. Your wife, Signor,
had the courage to get her way to me past half a hundred lacqueys. But
more! She had the eloquence and wit to persuade my return visit--here.
She assured me your picture was worthy of my personal, my immediate
inspection.

    [_Goes to it. PAULO starts forward to prevent him._

_Lucia_

(_Catches his arm._) Paulo, beloved--by our love, by little Eros
(_frantic_), by everything!

    [_MEDICI moves the picture into better light._

_Medici_

(_Watching them out of corner of his eye._) With your permission.
(_Bows._) You will, perhaps, forgive the liberty. The light fails
suddenly a little. So--(_examines critically, with signs of pleasure_).

_Paulo_

(_Back turned._) For your sake, Little Child, I endure this cruelty.

_Lucia_

I yearned to help----

_Paulo_

So it was he who bought the Eros too? (_To himself._) This is an evil
omen. (_To her._) I thought us safe in Venice.

_Lucia_

You are so calm, so quiet. You terrify. I would fear your anger less.
Oh, my great Paulo, my dear, listen to me one moment. This family--this
man--vile though he be--loves art and beauty, and in so far is not--Oh, I
mean--oh, Paulo, it is his ceilings, his palace, his help to your career
that have betrayed me! You could bring Greece to life in Venice--and for
ever. Think not of him. Think only of your beauty--lighting the world
when he is dust----

_Paulo_

(_Quietly._) Is my art so poor a thing--have you so misunderstood
it--that you think it is for sale?

_Lucia_

(_Distraught._) Have I done _that_!

    [_MEDICI turns from the picture to PAULO._

_Medici_

(_With reverence._) You have been taught of the Gods--the Gods of Greece.

_Paulo_

(_Frigidly._) Your praise----

_Lucia_

Hush, oh, I beg you--for _my_ sake.

_Medici_

The drawing is the equal of del Sarto’s and the composition no poorer
than da Vinci’s. I swear it. Yet--the colour--hmm--I miss Titian’s glory.
Those shadows (_pointing_) are out of tone a little----

_Lucia_

(_Quickly._) We ran out of blue that day, alas----

_Medici_

Your model was, certainly, perfect. But why have you painted the nymphs
from her as well as their divine mistress?

_Lucia_

Models demand impossible prices----

    [_PAULO puts his hand on her mouth angrily._

_Medici_

(_Reflecting._) So little more, and it were a masterpiece. Even now it
should win the Competition, by rights. Yet Vernio’s is just a shade more
rich, more splendid. I have seen it. And Gagliano has a purer colour. But
then, of course, Gagliano buys his paint from that fellow by the Zucca
who has a secret method--and charges accordingly, the scoundrel!

_Paulo_

(_Unable to contain himself longer._) I paint as I desire, and as I can.
The picture is mine. And not for sale!

_Medici_

(_Kindly._) I admire your spirit, Signor. It has the independence of
ancient Greece herself. Yet at what price? You may be satisfied with
yourself, but your art thereby suffers. It becomes a slave of your
conditions--if you will allow the language.

_Lucia_

Oh, it must be so! Paulo, it must be so! You see?

_Paulo_

(_Proudly._) Conditions that leave the spirit free, at least. The spirit
of beauty owns no master----

_Medici_

The husband of such beauty should be more gracious. (_Frankly._) Ah,
Salviati, you speak to a Medici, indeed, but also to one who loves beauty
as you yourself do. I might--had I persisted--have taken your golden bird
in my own net. (_Pauses._) It is my pleasure now to set you free from the
hard conditions that enslave you. In this way can a Medici reward good
for evil. Signor, I forgive all for the sake of your genius. I admire
your picture--its true classic spirit. Yet it has not quite the warmth,
the fire, the bounteous splendour we Italians ask. Give but your sky a
deeper hue, add to that robe the undertone of scarlet it needs to make it
felt, flood our prodigal Italian sunshine over it all--and I will buy
your picture at your price.

_Lucia_

Yes, yes. Oh, Paulo, what an offer! Think!

_Paulo_

It is not for sale.

_Medici_

While you may still enter it for the Competition. The judges--er--may
hear that Damiano di Medici has bought it for his new
Palazzo--and--judge--accordingly.

_Paulo_

(_Low._) The gold, the blue, the scarlet you desire--I mean, suggest--are
not in my scheme.

_Medici_

Yet they would add the perfect touch now lacking--in my judgment, Signor.
Come, now, I will go further. I have sworn that my Palazzo shall surpass
even that of Cosimo, my ambitious brother, in Florence. I will have a
Gorgione for his Lippo Lippi, and--if you will--a Salviati for his da
Vinci. I offer you, further, the painting of my ceilings, Signor--seven
years’ inspired and happy labour.

_Paulo_

Seven years of bondage to another’s taste and purse.

_Lucia_

(_To PAULO._) You could do your own work too.

    [_Looking at MEDICI._

_Medici_

Why not?

_Paulo_

To add this gold and blue and scarlet is--for me--a lie.

_Lucia_

Oh, my beloved, think, think a little, and weigh your words!

_Medici_

My offer stands--but not against unreasonable resistance. I repeat it:
this picture at your figure, and seven years to paint the ceilings,
with a certain freedom in design and subject, and permission to do
your own work in your leisure. It is a matter to conclude now quickly.
(_Ominously._) It is not amusing, though it may be novel, for a Medici to
be thwarted of his will--his deep design. (_Bows._)

_Paulo_

A poor painter dares the novelty.

_Lucia_

(_Cries._) You forget everything, Paulo--me you forget even--when you say
such words!

_Medici_

(_Impatient, half-threatening._) Beauty has turned your head, maybe.
Excess, I have heard it said, (_significantly_) can affect the reason.
You have (_glancing towards LUCIA_) _too_ much beauty. But there are
remedies----

_Paulo_

(_Startled._) I do not understand you.

_Medici_

As a great patron, I have my duties too. (_Slowly._) If the possession
of too much beauty threaten your great gift, I owe it to the world to
(_sinister tone and look_) help--to save you.

_Paulo_

(_Facing him._) I prefer plain spoken language from a man--even though he
be patron.

_Lucia_

Oh, guard your tongue at least! The Prince is patient with us.

_Medici_

(_Softly._) You robbed me once of beauty I desired. You fled from
Florence. I accepted with a smile, and did not bestir myself to follow
and prevent--as I could well have done. I was too kind, perhaps----

_Lucia_

(_Breaks in._) But, great Prince, you--you have forgotten all that. You
swore----

_Medici_

(_To her._) The sight of beauty stirs my memory again. (_Suggestively._)
For beauty grows, it seems. (_Smiles admiringly._)

    [_He moves a little towards her. PAULO, with clenched hands, is
    held back by LUCIA._

_Lucia_

(_To MEDICI._) My Lord! (_To PAULO._) Oh, Paulo, hold yourself! Am I so
little to you?

_Medici_

And this increase of beauty makes me remember something I had--(_to
LUCIA_) as you say--forgotten. To see him who robbed me become my
dependant--would have the true Grecian touch of comedy. (_Turns abruptly
to PAULO with changed tone._) Salviati--before the light fails, will you
now dip your brush in the gold and scarlet _we_ suggested?

_Paulo_

Never! Even in fading light I see only truth.

_Lucia_

Ah! Oh!

_Medici_

(_Looking from one to the other, then to the picture._) There are many
flowers in my gardens, but Italy holds one Salviati only. (_Reflects._)
My ceilings need him. I swore, besides, to Cosimo----

_Lucia_

(_Distraught._) My Lord, my Lord, you promised----!

_Medici_

(_Brusquely._) That I would see the work and offer my patronage--if
it pleased me. That offer still holds good. But your husband is
obstinate----

_Paulo_

I am true. I claim only liberty.

_Medici_

(_Darkly._) So I must remember my duties as a patron--and apply remedies
that may save his unreason--and his--art.

_Lucia_

(_Alarmed._) What can you mean----?

    [_MEDICI claps his hands._

_Medici_

Ho! Ho! Without there! (_Four MEN in livery rush in._) Take the woman,
but do not hurt her.

    [_MEN seize her._

_Lucia_

(_Struggling._) Ah, Dios! Madonna, help me! Alive--never! Paulo! Paulo!

_Paulo_

(_Tries to fight his way to her._) Never while I live either.

    [_Draws a dagger._

_Medici_

(_To MEN._) Disarm him--gently, gently. No injury. Who bruises that
right hand of his answers with his life, remember! Strike up the dagger
instantly.

_Men_

(_Struggling._) For a painter he fights well.

Careful there! His hand--your sword’s point!

His right hand, yes. Be wary.

This is rare sport.

Have you got the arm? Hold fast.

I’ve got the dagger.

He’s safe, my Lord.

    [_They hold him, disarmed._

_Lucia_

(_Held._) Paulo, my Paulo! (_Moans._) Oh, that I were dead, to have done
this thing!

_Paulo_

(_Firmly._) My soul stands by yours. I know you true. Fear nothing!

_Medici_

(_Quietly._) Signor Salviati, I regret that my sense of duty--my deep
desire that you shall achieve your greatest--force me to this unpleasant
remedy. But poverty is not helpful to your work, and I must--as patron of
unreasonable genius--protect your art and yourself. I offer, therefore,
the best help in my power. If you accept--then I need take nothing
(_glancing at LUCIA_) from your store of beauty.

_Paulo_

Dios! This cruelty--this treachery!

_Lucia_

No, no, no. Paulo, do not think of _me_----

_Paulo_

It is too late. (_To MEDICI, with effort._) Your vile scheme means this,
then: that I submit my art to your paid dictation, become your creature,
or you will--(_struggles violently_). Let me free! (_to MEN_). This
bastard is not fit to live.

_A Man_

Hush! He is a Medici--Cosimo’s own brother.

_Medici_

My gondola waits. My new Palazzo lies but half an hour distant--ready to
welcome its first fair ornament.

_Paulo_

(_Wild._) To be broken and thrown away when done with! Death is better
now.

    [_Tries to injure his right hand against a sword._

_Medici_

(_To MEN._) Careful. Hold him. Or your lives----

_Lucia_

(_Frantic._) Beloved, it is _not_ too late. Forget that I live--oh,
forget me--for your work’s sake! Remember beauty only----

_Paulo_

(_Tender patience._) Little Child! My work and beauty live with liberty.
(_Very softly._) Had you forgotten? Did belief in me waver, or did love
guide you strangely--misconceiving----?

_Medici_

(_Impatient._) The light fails rapidly. The gold and scarlet should be
laid on now, before dusk falls. (_To MEN._) One of you go and prepare my
gondola--for a lady. (_MAN goes to door._) Lay a soft silken scarf upon
the cushion--there must be no screams in Venice. (_To PAULO._) Oh, I will
do it gently, Signor, with my own two hands. There shall be no roughness,
no unkindness. (_MAN gives scarf._) Oh, here is the very thing. (_Goes
towards LUCIA._) You will take this small attention from me, I beg, if
nothing else.

_Lucia_

I hate you! Your touch is poison.

    [_Struggles._

_Medici_

You should not ask favours, then, of those who poison you. (_Puts scarf
round her arms._) For the mouth I have a yet softer silk, as you shall
see. Ah, the Medici, they say, are fortunate in love, and I shall find a
way to win you. These arms I am forced to bind shall yet twine willingly
about my neck----

_Paulo_

(_Shouts._) All I possess to him who kills him!

_Medici_

All you possess!

_Paulo_

(_Yields._) And more--my liberty. Let her go!

_Medici_

So reason returns, at last. The remedy works already towards a cure.

_Paulo_

Set her free. I give my word.

_Medici_

Though I trust no man, I trust _your_ word, Salviati.

_Paulo_

(_Stammering._) Unfasten me. Give me my palette.

_Medici_

(_To MEN._) Release him. Release the lady too. But watch him closely,
lest he hide a weapon.

_Paulo_

(_Free._) This is my only weapon (_takes brushes, etc._). With it I put
chains upon my soul. So--and so.

    [_Dabs on paint. LUCIA silent. Collapses to her knees and hides
    her face._

_Medici_

Improved already! So swiftly! You are, indeed, the greatest of them all.
We shall beat Verio out of court, and Gagliano will die of envy on the
spot. (_To MEN._) Begone with you! No, stay a moment--take the picture
with you and lay it carefully in the gondola. It shall be finished under
my own eye--before the ceilings are begun. (_MEN obey._) Carefully! One
smear and your lives are forfeit. (_Turns to LUCIA and raises her._) You
are not quick to thank me, Signora, yet I have fulfilled my promise to
you. All that you begged of me is accomplished. Henceforth Salviati, your
husband, shall work in comfort and lack nothing.

_Lucia_

(_Faint._) How--how could I have done this thing? What ancient deep
perversity--what lack of faith--what hidden destiny in me? (_To PAULO._)
Paulo, look, look at me! (_He keeps his back to her. MEDICI watches them
quietly._) Hark!

    [_Sound of water lapping heard outside._

_Medici_

So you will not thank me--either one of you? No matter. I like a little
spirit. (_Goes to door._) Carefully, now! The edges safe. No flick of
dust, mind.

    [_Stands looking down steps._

_Lucia_

(_Low._) Hark! (_To PAULO._) It is another sound I hear. (_Whispers._)
Paulo! It is water. (_Stands listening intently to the lap of the
sea. Distress increases. Passes hand over forehead, as if trying to
remember something._) The rising water! (_She turns her head slowly
to look at PAULO. He turns slowly too. Their eyes meet. Very low._)
You hear? (_Whispers._) That sound is in my soul. Paulo--I half
remember--something--that hides behind it, yet comes with it. (_Goes up
and clings to him._) I have done this thing before--destroyed you--with
my selfish love.

_Paulo_

Hush, hush!

_Lucia_

You look so strangely at me. Your face changes. Dios! (_Frantic._) Speak
to me, beloved! If you cannot forgive--say that you understand. Oh, what
is it in your eyes? (_Fear._)

    [_Dusk increases._

_Paulo_

(_Tender whisper._) The night is coming--with her stars. In my eyes is
only love. (_Patiently._) There is nothing to forgive. (_Embraces her for
several moments. Then breaks suddenly away._) Where is the gold--the
scarlet? (_Bewildered. To MEDICI._) What is my Lord’s desire?

_Lucia_

(_Screams._) Oh, I have killed--killed _again_.

    [_Falls._

_Paulo_

(_Catching her._) Little Child!

_Medici_

(_Turning at the scream._) She is even more beautiful than I
first thought. Well, well, the picture is mine at any rate, and
she--(_smiles_). A good evening’s work. How dark it grows. And the rising
tide is at the full. Ho! Without there! My gondola!

    [_Exit._

    [_PAULO and LUCIA in each other’s arms._


CURTAIN



EPILOGUE

PRESENT DAY


CHARACTERS

    PHILLIP LATTIN.
    MRS. LATTIN.
    THE DOCTOR.


EPILOGUE

    SCENE--SAME AS PROLOGUE.

    TIME--PRESENT.

    (_MRS. LATTIN opens her eyes slowly. The DOCTOR, near the bed,
    is seen making a gesture with his arms as if lowering a curtain.
    MRS. LATTIN shows bewilderment._)

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Dreamily._) Where am I? Florence … Greece … Egypt … where are they? I
am back again. But _who_ am I?

_Doctor_

You are your Past.

_Mrs. Lattin_

I slept? But yet I lived it. I understand at last. I have found life.

_Doctor_

_You_ cannot die, nor can _you_ sleep.

_Mrs. Lattin_

But time.…

_Doctor_

Is the body’s measuring.

    [_She looks round the room, and finally into his face. He moves
    slowly backwards towards the door._

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Thinking._) It was not a dream. I was in Greece with Phocion … with
Paulo in Italy … with.… Oh, it is too long ago, too far away. It’s
fading. (_Eagerly._) Oh, I would not forget!

_Doctor_

The results lie in you. That is memory.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Each time I injured … thwarted the highest in him by my selfish love. How
small my love! Oh, tell me it is not now too late.…

_Doctor_

(_By door._) There is no “too late.” What he could do without was added
to him. You have taught Menophis, Phocion and Paulo to become … Phillip.

    [_He begins to fade._

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Joyfully._) I understand at last, and I am healed. I delayed Menophis.
I shall inspire Phillip. I shall go with him … back to … Egypt. Phocion,
Paulo, how happy _they_ will be!

_Doctor_

(_Almost invisible._) _He_ is coming now. I leave you.

_Mrs. Lattin_

But _he_ must see you too.…

_Doctor_

(_Invisible, only a voice heard._) He cannot.

    [_Door opens. PHILLIP enters quietly. He shows surprise at
    finding her sitting up. Her hands are stretched out towards the
    door where the DOCTOR has vanished. As he enters, the clock
    strikes the last three strokes of six o’clock._

_Phillip_

You rang. I just slipped back to see----

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Low._) Phocion … my faithful.…

_Phillip_

Eh? Are you all right? I mustn’t stay. Doctor Ogilvie will be here any
minute.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Low._) Paulo … my dear one.… I----

_Phillip_

(_Puzzled._) You slept a moment probably. Good! (_Startled by her happy
expression._) You look … so much better!

_Mrs. Lattin_

He came. And I am healed.

    [_NURSE enters hurriedly._

_Nurse_

(_Whispering to PHILLIP so that MRS. LATTIN does not hear._) Dr. Ogilvie
has just telephoned. He is detained. He cannot get here till seven
o’clock.

_Phillip_

All right. Hush!

    [_Exit NURSE._

_Mrs. Lattin_

He told me … showed me … everything.

_Phillip_

(_Humouring her._) He gave you hope--the best? I see it in your eyes.

_Mrs. Lattin_

It’s not--_I_ am not--too late. That’s all.

_Phillip_

Hush! Hush! Lie quiet a little longer. (_Goes on to ask, still humouring
her._) You mean the doctor says----?

_Mrs. Lattin_

I am so happy. I know and understand now. It’s glorious.

_Phillip_

My darling! Gently, gently! Do not excite yourself. Lie still and sleep,
if you can, again. He has given you something? Later, you shall tell
me----

_Mrs. Lattin_

Ah, your great patient strength! It is too wonderful. And to think that
my weakness helped, my selfish----!

    [_Sits up and peers closely at him, shading her eyes with one
    hand._

_Phillip_

(_Anxious, puzzled._) The lamp is in your eyes. I’ll move it. Do not
stir. There, is that better?

_Mrs. Lattin_

Thank you, but I do not mind the light. I mind nothing. Thank you (_the
name comes back suddenly_), Phillip. Ah, it _is_ Phillip! I know you
again--as you are--to-day!

    [_Passes hand over forehead. Sighs and leans back. But face happy
    and at peace._

_Phillip_

Mary!

_Mrs. Lattin_

Not Mary: Little Child.

_Phillip_

My--Little Child. (_Doubting and perplexed._)

_Mrs. Lattin_

Phillip, dear heart, I’ve seen--I’ve seen my past--with you.

_Phillip_

(_Soothingly._) Yes, yes. When you’re more rested you shall tell me
everything. Your dreams----

_Mrs. Lattin_

I must speak now. I’ve seen _our_ past.

_Phillip_

(_Bewildered._) Tell me, then, dearest, tell me. Then you must lie
still----

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Firmly._) Life!

_Phillip_

(_Impressed._) Life!

_Mrs. Lattin_

I have recovered. I love you more--but differently. I can forgive myself
at last.

_Phillip_

Recovery! Forgiveness! I do not understand.

_Mrs. Lattin_

You have not _seen_. I understand for both of us.

_Phillip_

You have had dreams that troubled you. I implore you, dearest----

_Mrs. Lattin_

Look in my face. There is no trouble there--but only joy and life.

_Phillip_

Yes, yes, but--my darling, what _can_ you mean?

_Mrs. Lattin_

He came--and went.

_Phillip_

And left one word behind him only----?

_Mrs. Lattin_

One word--Life.

_Phillip_

(_Almost convinced._) Then----?

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Radiant, rising from couch._) I shall go back with you.

_Phillip_

To Egypt!

_Mrs. Lattin_

I shall never delay or thwart again. Ah, so many times I have--by my
selfish love--(_breaks off_). Your work _is_ a mission--always. It is
your soul’s career. I understand at last.

_Phillip_

Hush, hush, Little Child! You say wild things. I could never hear of it.
I know your dread, your shrinking fear of Egypt. It would make you ill
again. All the doctors agreed----

_Mrs. Lattin_

I have _no_ dread! My shrinking was--a memory. It was instinctive--a
cowardice that shirked sweet expiation--_there_, where it is due. (_In
spite of him, she rises to her feet. Vigorous._) I am well again. I shall
go back with you. Your work--_my_ work--lies out there--in Egypt. Oh,
Phillip, be glad with me, for I am forgiven, I am healed!

_Phillip_

(_Stirred._) Dear heart! Your soul is too grand for this frail, precious
body. You injure yourself. Such sacrifice from you I could never,
never----

    [_Breaks off, as he notes the radiant expression in her face.
    They stand close together beneath the picture._

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Inflexibly._) It is no sacrifice. It is love, love, love!

_Phillip_

(_Tenderly._) That deep love I never doubted. But--the ingrained dread,
the fear, the shrinking that have undermined your willing strength. How
can you----?

_Mrs. Lattin_

They are gone for ever. Phillip, how often must I tell you? I am healed.
I go back with you. We go together. Our life is there, in Egypt.

_Phillip_

(_Almost convinced._) I feel some great new reality in you. You are
most wonderfully changed. Some star of life is rising over us--again.
(_He gazes into her radiant face with a touch of respect and wonder._)
If--if----

_Mrs. Lattin_

You must at once withdraw your resignation. There is no “too late”!
(_Laughs a little._) You promise me!

    [_Amazement in him gives place to dawning belief at last. Yet he
    still hesitates._

_Phillip_

I will see the doctor myself. I promise that if he----

_Mrs. Lattin_

_You_ cannot.

_Phillip_

Cannot! (_Awe._) You mean--you have had a vision?

_Mrs. Lattin_

He has--gone.

_Phillip_

(_Convinced._) It _was_ a vision…?

    [_She turns slowly and looks up at the picture on the wall above
    them. He turns with her. He is speechless. He holds her very
    close. They stare together at the palms, the river, the stars,
    the temples._

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Softly._) Egypt--where I first delayed and thwarted him, loving him
for myself alone--Egypt, beneath your risen stars, beside your rising
river--I _shall undo--at last_.

    [_A new expression steals into his face. He gazes at the picture
    with her. He holds her still closer to him._

_Phillip_

(_Moved and wondering._) Little Child! It is very strange. Almost, it
seems, some dream, some memory of long, long ago stirs in me.

    [_A slight pause, as they gaze side by side at the picture._

(_With effort._) It is beyond me somewhere, but there is great
beauty--that deep, unearthly Egyptian beauty in it. (_Lowers voice._)
Those palms are rustling, those stars seem to move, the Nile flows down
towards the sea. Perhaps.… The Tear of Isis falls.…

_Mrs. Lattin_

Listen … yes…!

_Phillip_

(_Turns to her._) Something about you, something new and--and familiar
almost--steals upon me. I half believe.…

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Whispering._) Phillip, my faithful one, I heard another name as you
said that. I heard an ancient name--was it Menophis?

_Phillip_

(_Hushed voice._) _I_ thought a name came to me too. It floated
past--Nefertiti. It must have been the beating of your heart against my
own.

    [_They stand motionless, gazing, listening._

_Mrs. Lattin_

Dear, ancient names. How sweet they sound!

_Phillip_

(_Smiling._) I think we are bewitched!

_Mrs. Lattin_

Egypt! (_Pause. Adds softly._) I understand--at last.

    [_He draws her head back and looks tenderly into her eyes._

_Phillip_

All but one thing.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Which is----?

_Phillip_

That what you call delay has helped and taught me.

_Mrs. Lattin_

(_Low._) Perhaps I understand that too. That which the soul can do
without is added to it. (_Whispers._) Is it not that?

_Phillip_

Ah, you put it so. Perhaps you put it better. I only know that you have
given me the thing I needed most--perspective, the longer sight. My
vision clears. (_Bends down and kisses her._) I feel new power for my
work. I see it whole.

_Mrs. Lattin_

Then my forgiveness is complete.


CURTAIN





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