Plays of Near & Far
G. P. Putnam's Sons London & New York
MADE IN GREAT BRITAIN
First printed December, 1922
Limited Edition: Five Hundred Copies only
Printed by the BOTOLPH PRINTING WORKS GATE ST., KINGSWAY, W.C.2
By LORD DUNSANY
THE GODS OF PEGANA TIME AND THE GODS THE SWORD OF WELLERAN A DREAMER'S TALES THE BOOK OF WONDER FIVE PLAYS FIFTY-ONE TALES TALES OF WONDER PLAYS OF GODS AND MEN TALES OF WAR UNHAPPY FAR-OFF THINGS TALES OF THREE HEMISPHERES IF THE CHRONICLES OF RODRIGUEZ
Believing plays to be solely for the stage, I have never before allowed any of mine to be printed until they had first faced from a stage the judgment of an audience, to see if they were entitled to be called plays at all. A successful production also has been sometimes a moral support to me when some critic has said, as for instance of "A Night at an Inn," that though it reads passably it could never act.
But in this book I have made an exception to this good rule (as it seems to me), and that exception is "The Flight of the Queen." I know too little of managers and theatres to know what to do with it, and have a feeling that it will be long before it is ever acted, and am too fond of this play to leave it in obscurity. This beautiful story has been lying about the world for countless centuries, without ever having been dramatized. It is the story of a royal court, which I have merely adapted to the stage. The date that I have given is accurate; it happened in June; and happens every June; perhaps in some corner of the reader's garden. It is the story of the bees.
As for "The Compromise of the King of the Golden Isles," it is just the sort of play through which those that hunt for allegories might hunt merrily, unless I mention that there are no allegories in any of my plays.
An allegory I take to be a dig at something local and limited, such as politics, while outwardly appearing to tell of things on some higher plane. But, far from being the chef d'oeuvre of some ponderously profound thinker, I look on the allegory, if I have rightly defined it, as being the one form of art that is narrowly limited in its application to life. When the man whose cause it championed has been elected alderman, when the esplanade has been widened, or the town better lighted or drained, the allegory's work must necessarily be over; but the truth of all other works of art is manifold and should be eternal.
Though there is no such land as the Golden Isles and was never any such king as Hamaran, yet all that we write with sincerity is true, for we can reflect nothing that we have not seen, and this we interpret with our idiosyncracies when we attempt any form of art.
I set some store by the way in which the three lines about Zarabardes are recited, though it is hard to explain in writing a matter of rhythm. But the heartlessness of it can be indicated by a clear pronunciation of the syllables, as though the people that utter these words had long been drilled in a formula.
The third play, "Cheezo," tells of one of those rare occasions when it is permissible for an artist, and may be a duty, to leave his wider art in order to attack a definite evil. And the invention of "great new foods" is often a huge evil.
"Cheezo" is a play of Right and Wrong, and Wrong triumphs. Were not this particular Wrong triumphing at this particular date I should not have thought it a duty to attack it, and were it easily defeated it would not have been worth attacking.
I have seen it acted with a Stage Curate, rather weak and a little comic; obviously such a man could be no match for Sladder. Hippanthigh should be of stronger stuff than that: he is defeated because that particular evil is, as I have said, defeating its enemies at present. Nor could there be any drama in a contest between the brutal Sladder and a Stage Curate; for the spark that we call humour, by whose light we see much of life, comes as it were of two flints, and not of a flint and cheese.
The three little plays that follow I will leave to speak for themselves, as ultimately all plays have to do.
THE COMPROMISE OF THE KING OF THE GOLDEN ISLES 1 THE FLIGHT OF THE QUEEN 21 CHEEZO 65 A GOOD BARGAIN 103 IF SHAKESPEARE LIVED TO-DAY 117 FAME AND THE POET 135
THE COMPROMISE OF THE KING OF THE GOLDEN ISLES
THE KING OF THE GOLDEN ISLES: KING HAMARAN. THE KING'S POLITICIAN. THE AMBASSADOR OF THE EMPEROR. THE EMPEROR'S SEEKER. TWO PRIESTS OF THE ORDER OF THE SUN. THE KING'S QUESTIONERS. THE AMBASSADOR'S NUBIAN. THE HERALD OF THE AMBASSADOR. THE EMPEROR'S DWARF. THE DEPUTY CUP-BEARER. THE KING'S DOOM-BEARER.
THE KING'S POLITICIAN: A man has fled from the Emperor, and has taken refuge in your Majesty's Court in that part of it called holy.
THE KING: We must give him up to the Emperor.
POLITICIAN: To-day a spearsman came running from Eng-Bathai seeking the man who fled. He carries the barbed spear of one of the Emperor's seekers.
KING: We must give him up.
POLITICIAN: Moreover he has an edict from the Emperor demanding that the head of the man who fled be sent back to Eng-Bathai.
KING: Let it be sent.
POLITICIAN: Yet your Majesty is no vassal of the Emperor, who dwells at Eng-Bathai.
KING: We may not disobey the Imperial edict.
KING: None hath dared to do it.
POLITICIAN: It is so long since any dared to do it that the Emperor mocks at kings. If your Majesty disobeyed him the Emperor would tremble.
POLITICIAN: The Emperor would say, "There is a great king. He defies me." And he would tremble strangely.
POLITICIAN: The Emperor would fear you.
KING: I would fain be a great king—yet——
POLITICIAN: You would win honour in his eyes.
KING: Yet is the Emperor terrible in his wrath. He was terrible in his wrath in the olden time.
POLITICIAN: The Emperor is old.
KING: This is a great affront that he places upon a king, to demand a man who has come to sanctuary in that part of my Court called holy.
POLITICIAN: It is a great affront.
[Enter the SEEKER. He abases himself.
SEEKER: O King, I have come with my spear, seeking for one that fled the Emperor and has found sanctuary in your Court in that part called holy.
KING: It has not been the wont of the kings of my line to turn men from our sanctuary.
SEEKER: It is the Emperor's will.
KING: It is not my will.
SEEKER: Behold the Emperor's edict.
[The KING takes it. The SEEKER goes towards the door.
SEEKER: I go to sit with my spear by the door of the place called holy.
KING: The edict, the edict. We must obey the edict.
POLITICIAN: The Emperor is old.
KING: True, we will defy him.
POLITICIAN: He will do nothing.
KING: And yet the edict.
POLITICIAN: It is of no importance.
KING: Hark. I will not disobey the Emperor. Yet will I not permit him to abuse the sanctuary of my Court. We will banish the man who fled from Eng-Bathai. [To his DOOM-BEARER.] Hither, the Doom-Bearer; take the black ivory spear, the wand of banishment, that lies on the left of my throne, and point it at the man that shelters in the holy place of my Court. Then show him the privy door behind the horns of the altar, so that he go safely hence and meet not the Emperor's seeker.
[The DOOM-BEARER bows and takes the spear on the flat of both his hands. The shaft is all black, but the head is of white ivory. It is blunt and clearly ceremonial. Exit.]
Thus we shall be safe from the wrath of the Emperor, and the holy place of my Court will not be violate.
POLITICIAN: Had your Majesty scorned the Emperor it were better. He is old and durst not take vengeance.
KING: I have decided, and the man is banished.
[A HERALD marches in and blows his trumpet.
HERALD: The Ambassador of the Emperor.
[Enter the AMBASSADOR. He bows to the King from his place near the door.
KING: For what purpose to my Court from Eng-Bathai comes thus the Ambassador of the Emperor?
AMBASSADOR: I bring to the King's Majesty a gift from the great Emperor, [AMBASSADOR and his men bow] who reigns in Eng-Bathai, the reward of obedience to his edict, a goblet of inestimable wine.
[He signs and there enters a page bearing a goblet of glass. He has a pretty complexion and yellow hair falling as low as his chin and curling inwards. He wears a cerise belt round his tunic exactly matching the wine in the goblet he carries.
He prays you drink it, and to know that it was made by vintners whose skill is lost, and stored in secret cellars over a hundred years; and that the vineyards whence it came have been long since whelmed by war, and only live now in legend and this wine.
KING: A gift, you say, for obedience.
AMBASSADOR: A gift from the old wine-gardens of the sun.
KING: How knew the Emperor that I had thus obeyed him?
AMBASSADOR: It has not been men's wont to disobey the Emperor.
KING: Yet if I have sheltered this man in the holy place of my Court?
AMBASSADOR: If that be so the Emperor bids you drink out of this golden goblet. [He signs and it is brought on by a bent and ugly dwarf] and wishes you farewell.
KING: Farewell, you say?
KING: What have you in the goblet?
AMBASSADOR: It is no common poison, but a thing so strange and deadly that the serpents of Lebutharna go in fear of it. Yea travellers there hold high a goblet of this poison, at arm's length as they go. The serpents hide their heads for fear of it. Even so the travellers pass the desert safely, and come to Eng-Bathai.
KING: I have not sheltered this man.
AMBASSADOR: There is no need then for this Imperial gift.
[He throws the liquid out of the goblet through the doorway on to the marble. A great steam goes up.
KING: Neither have I ordered that his head be sent back to Eng-Bathai.
AMBASSADOR: Alas, for so rare a wine.
[He pours it away.
KING: I have banished him and he is safe. I have neither obeyed nor disobeyed.
AMBASSADOR: The Emperor therefore bids you choose the gift that he honours himself by sending to your Court.
[He signs. Enter a massive NUBIAN with two cups.
The Emperor bids you drink one of these cups.
[The huge NUBIAN moves up close to the KING holding up the two cups on a tray.
[The POLITICIAN slinks off. Exit L.
KING: The cups are strangely alike.
AMBASSADOR: Only one craftsman in the City of Smiths ever discerned a difference. The Emperor killed him, and now no one knows.
KING: The potions also are alike.
AMBASSADOR: Strangely alike. [The KING hesitates.] The Emperor bids you choose his gift and drink.
KING: The Emperor has poisoned the cups!
AMBASSADOR: You greatly wrong the Emperor. Only one cup is poisoned.
KING: You say that one is poisoned?
AMBASSADOR: Only one, O King! Who may say which?
KING: And what if I refuse to do this thing?
AMBASSADOR: There are tortures that the Emperor never names. They are not spoken of where the Emperor is. Yet the Emperor makes a sign and they are accomplished. He makes the sign with a certain one of his fingers.
KING (half to himself): How wonderfully they have the look of wine.
AMBASSADOR: One is a wine scarcely less rare, scarcely less jubilant in the wits of man, than that which alas is lost.
[He glances towards the spot where he threw the other.
KING: And the other?
AMBASSADOR: Who may say? It is the most treasured secret that the Emperor's poisoners guard.
KING: I will send for my butlers that are wise in wine and they shall smell the cups.
AMBASSADOR: Alas, but the Emperor's poisoners have added so wine-like a flavour to their most secret draught, that no man may tell by this means which is their work and which that inestimable wine.
KING: I will send for my tasters and they shall taste of the cups.
AMBASSADOR: Alas, so great a risk may not be run.
KING: Risks are the duty of a king's tasters.
AMBASSADOR: If they chanced to taste of the treasure of the Emperor's poisoners—well. But if they, or any man of common birth, were to taste of the wine that the Emperor sends only to kings, and even to kings but rarely, that were an affront to the Emperor's ancient wine that could not be permitted.
KING: It is surely permitted that I send for my priests, who tell by divination, having burnt strange herbs to the gods that guard the Golden Isles.
AMBASSADOR: It is permitted.
KING: Send for the priests.
KING (mainly to himself): They shall discern. The priests shall make for me this dreadful choice. They shall burn herbs and discern it. (To AMBASSADOR.) My priests are very subtle. They worship the gods that guard the Golden Isles.
AMBASSADOR: The Emperor has other gods.
[Enter L. two priests of the Order of the Sun. Two acolytes follow. One carries a tripod and the other a gong.
[The priests abase themselves and the acolytes bow. The AMBASSADOR stands with almost Mongolian calm by the door from which he has not moved since he entered.
[The impassive NUBIAN stands motionless near the KING, holding up the cups on a tray.
KING: The Emperor has honoured me with these two cups of wine that I may drink one of them to the grandeur of his throne. I bid you importune the gods that they may surely tell me which it were well to drink.
FIRST PRIEST: We will importune the gods with the savour of rarest spices. We will send up to them the odour of herbs they love. We will commune with them in silence and they shall answer our thoughts, when they snuff the savour of the smoke of the burning on the tripod that is sacred to the Sun.
[The calm of the AMBASSADOR and the impassivity of the NUBIAN grow ominous. The two priests hang over the tripod. They cast herbs upon it. They pass their hands over it. The herbs begin to smoulder. A smoke goes up. The priests bend over the smoke. Presently they step back from it.
FIRST PRIEST: The gods sleep.
KING: They sleep! The gods that guard the Golden Isles?
FIRST PRIEST: The gods sleep.
KING: Importune them as never before. I will make sacrifice of many sheep. I will give emeralds to the Monks of the Sun.
[The second acolyte moves nearer to the tripod and beats listlessly on his great gong at about the pace of a great clock striking slowly.
FIRST PRIEST: We will importune the gods as never before.
[They heap up more herbs and spices. The smoke grows thicker and thicker. It streams upwards. They hover about it as before. At a sign the gong ceases.
The gods have spoken.
KING: What is their message?
FIRST PRIEST: Drink of the cup upon the Nubian's left.
KING: Ah. My gods defend me.
[He seizes the cup boldly. He looks straight at the AMBASSADOR, whose face remains expressionless, merely watching. He lifts the cup upon the Nubian's left a little up from the tray.
[He glances towards the priests.
[Suddenly he starts. He has seen a strange expression upon the face of the priest. He puts the cup down. He strides a step nearer and looks at his face.
PRIEST!—Priest!—— What is that look in your eyes?
FIRST PRIEST: O King, I know not. I have given the message of the gods.
[The KING continues to search out his face.
KING: I mistrust it.
FIRST PRIEST: It is the message of the gods.
KING: I will drink of the other cup!
[The KING steps back to his place in the front of his throne where the Nubian stands beside him. He takes the cup upon the Nubian's right. He gazes at the priest. He looks round at the Ambassador, but sees nothing in that watchful, expressionless face.
[He glances sidelong at the priest, then drinks, draining the cup at some length. He puts it down in silence. The face of the Ambassador and the whole bulk of the Nubian remain motionless.
KING: An inestimable wine!
AMBASSADOR: It is the Emperor's joy.
KING: Send for my Questioners.
[There are weird whistles. Two dark men run on in loin clothes.
Ask these two priests the Seven Questions.
[The QUESTIONERS run nimbly up to the two priests and lead them away by the arm.
THE TWO ACOLYTES: O, O, O. Oh, oh.
[They show extreme horror. The AMBASSADOR bows to the King.
KING: You do not leave us at once?
AMBASSADOR: I go back to the Emperor, whom it is happiness to obey, and length of days.
[He bows and walks away. The HERALD marches out, then the AMBASSADOR; the PAGE, the DWARF and the NUBIAN follow.
[The HERALD is heard blowing upon his trumpet the same notes as when he entered, one merry bar of music.
[The tray and two precious cups, one empty and the other full, are left glittering near the KING.
KING (looking at cups): Those are rare emeralds that glisten there! Yet an evil gift. (To the moaning acolytes.) Be silent! Your priests sinned strangely.
[The acolytes continue to moan.
[Enter one of the QUESTIONERS. He has sweat on his face and his hair has become damp and unkempt.
QUESTIONER: We have asked the Seven Questions.
QUESTIONER: They have not answered.
KING: Not answered!
QUESTIONER: Neither man has confessed.
KING: Oho! Do I keep Questioners that bring me no answers?
QUESTIONERS: We questioned them to the uttermost.
KING: And neither man confessed?
QUESTIONER: They would not confess.
KING: Ask them the Supreme Question.
[The acolytes break out into renewed moaning.
QUESTIONER: It shall be asked, O King.
[Exit QUESTIONER. The acolytes moan on.
KING: They would have made me drink of a poisoned cup. I say there is poison in that cup. Your priests would have had me drink it. (The acolytes only answer by moans.) Bid them confess. Bid them confess their crime and why it was done, and the Supreme Question shall be spared them. (The acolytes only answer by moans.) Strange! They have done strangely. (To acolytes.) Why has your priest spoken falsely? (The acolytes only moan.) Why has he spoken falsely in the name of the gods? (The acolytes moan on.) Be silent! Be silent! May I not question whom I will? (To himself). They prophesied falsely in the name of the gods.
[Enter the QUESTIONERS.
FIRST QUESTIONER: The Supreme Question is asked.
[The acolytes suddenly cease moaning.
FIRST QUESTIONER: They would not answer.
KING: They would not answer the Supreme Question?
FIRST QUESTIONER: They spoke at last, but they would not answer the question. They would not confess.
KING: What said they at last?
FIRST QUESTIONER: O, the King's Majesty, they but spake idly.
KING: What said they?
FIRST QUESTIONER: O, the King's Majesty, they said nought fitting.
KING: They muttered so that no man heard them clearly?
FIRST QUESTIONER: They spake. But it was not fitting.
KING: Did they speak of small things happening long ago?
FIRST QUESTIONER: O, the King's Majesty, it was not fitting.
KING: What said they? Speak!
FIRST QUESTIONER: The man you gave to me, O King, said: "No man that knew the counsels of the gods, who alone see future things, would say the gods advised King Hamaran ill when they bade him drink out of a poisoned cup." Then I put the question straightly and he died.
KING: The gods! He said it was the gods!... And the other?
SECOND QUESTIONER: He also said the same, O the King's Majesty.
KING: Both said the same. They were questioned in different chambers?
FIRST QUESTIONER: In different chambers, O King. I questioned mine in the Red Chamber.
KING (to SECOND QUESTIONER): And yours?
SECOND QUESTIONER: In the Chamber of Rats.
So ... It was the gods.
[The acolytes are crouched upon the floor. He does not notice them since they ceased to moan.
The gods! With what dark and dreadful thing have they clouded the future?
Well, I will face it! But what is it? Is it one of those things a strong man can bear? Or is it——?
The future is more terrible than the grave, that has its one secret only.
No man, he said, could say that the gods had advised me ill when they bade me drink out of a poisoned cup.
What have the gods seen? What dreadful work have they overlooked where Destiny sits alone, making evil years? The gods, he said, who alone see future things.
Yes, I have known men who never were warned by the gods, and did not drink poison, and came upon evil days, suddenly like a ship upon rocks no mariner knows. Yes, poison to some of them would have been very precious.
The gods have warned me and I have not hearkened, and must go on alone: must enter that strange country of the future whose paths are so dark to man ... to meet a doom there that the gods have seen.
The gods have seen it! How shall I thwart the gods? How fight against the shapers of the hills?
Would that I had been warned. Would I had heeded when they bade me drink of the cup the Ambassador said was poisoned.
[Far off is heard that merry bar of music blown by the AMBASSADOR'S HERALD on his horn.]
Is it too late?
There it stands yet with its green emeralds winking.
[He clutches it and looks down into it.
How like to wine it is, which is full of dreams. It is silent and dreamy like the gods, whose dreams we are.
Only a moment in their deathless minds: then the dream passes.
[He lifts up his arm and drinks it seated upon his throne with his head back and the great cup before his face. The audience begin to wonder when he will put it down. Still he remains in the attitude of a drinker. The acolytes begin to peer eagerly. Still he remains upright with the great cup to his lips. The acolytes patter away and the KING is left alone.
[Enter the KING'S POLITICIAN hurriedly. He goes up to the KING and seizes his right arm and tries to drag the cup away from his lips, but the KING is rigid and his arm cannot be moved. He steps back lifting up his hands.
[Exit. You hear him announcing solemnly
King Hamaran ... is dead!
[A murmur is heard of men, at first mournful. It grows louder and louder and then breaks into these clear words.
Zarabardes is King! Zarabardes is King! Rejoice! Rejoice! Zarabardes is King! Zarabardes! Zarabardes! Zarabardes!
THE FLIGHT OF THE QUEEN
THE PRINCE OF ZOON. PRINCE MELIFLOR. QUEEN ZOOMZOOMARMA. LADY OOZIZI. OOMUZ, a Common Soldier. THE GLORY OF XIMENUNG. THE OVERLORD OF MOOMOOMON. PRINCE HUZ.
Scene: In the Palace of Zoorm; the Hall of the Hundred Princes.
The Princes sit at plain oaken tables with pewter mugs before them. They wear bright grass-green cloaks of silk; they might wear circlets of narrow silver with one large hyacinth petal rising from it at intervals of an inch.
OOMUZ, a Common Soldier, huge and squat, with brown skin and dense black beard, stands just inside the doorway, holding a pike, guarding the golden treasure.
The golden treasure lies in a heap three or four feet high near the right back corner.
SENTRIES, also brown-skinned and bearded, carrying pikes, pass and repass outside the great doorway.
THE GLORY OF XIMENUNG: Heigho, Moomoomon.
THE OVERLORD OF MOOMOOMON: Heigho, Glory of Ximenung.
MOOMOOMON: Aye, weary.
PRINCE MELIFLOR (sympathetically): What wearies you?
MOOMOOMON: The idle hours and the idle days. Heigho.
MELIFLOR: Speak not against the idle hours, Moomoomon.
MOOMOOMON: Why then, lord of the sweet lands?
MELIFLOR: Because in idleness are all things, all things good.
XIMENUNG: Heigho, I am weary of the idle hours.
MOOMOOMON: You would work then?
XIMENUNG: No-o. That is not our destiny.
MELIFLOR: Let us be well contented with our lot. The idle hours are our sacred treasure.
XIMENUNG: Yes, I am well contented, and yet ...
MOOMOOMON (contemplatively): And yet ...
XIMENUNG: I sometimes dream that were it not for our glorious state, and this tradition of exalted ease, it might, it might be pleasant ...
MOOMOOMON: To toil, to labour, to raid the golden hoards.
XIMENUNG: Yes, Moomoomon.
MELIFLOR: Never! Never!
OTHERS: No. No. No.
ANOTHER: And yet ...
MELIFLOR: No, never. We should lose our glorious ease, the heritage that none may question.
XIMENUNG: What heritage is that, Prince Meliflor?
MELIFLOR: It is all the earth. To labour is to lose it.
MOOMOOMON: If we could toil we should gain some spot of earth that our labour would seem to make our own. How happily the workers come home at evening.
MELIFLOR: It would be to lose all.
PRINCE OF ZOON: How lose it, Meliflor?
MELIFLOR: To us alone the idle hours are given. The sky, the fields, the woods, the summer winds are for us alone. All others put the earth to uses. This or that field has this or that use; here one may go and another may not. They have each their bit of earth and become slaves to its purpose. But for us, ah! for us, is all; the gift of the idle hours.
SOME: Hurrah! Hurrah for the idle hours.
ZOON: Heigho. The idle hours weary me.
MELIFLOR: They give us all the earth and sky to contemplate. Both are for us.
MOOMOOMON: True. Let us drink, and speak of the blue sky.
MELIFLOR (lifting mug): And all our glorious heritage.
XIMENUNG (putting hand to mug): Aye, it is glorious, and yet ...
[Enter the RAIDERS of the Golden Hoard with spears and, in the other hand, leather wallets the size of your fist; these they cast on the heap. Nuggets the size of big filberts escape from some so that the heap is partly leather and partly gold. These wallets should be filled with nuggets of lead, about the size described, not one lump of lead and not sawdust or rags. Nothing destroys illusion on the stage more than a cannon ball falling with a soft pat. They look scowlingly at the Princes.
[Exeunt the RAIDERS. The Princes have scarcely noticed them.
MELIFLOR: See how they waste the hours.
XIMENUNG: They have brought treasure from the Golden Hoard.
ZOON: Yes, from the Golden Hoard beyond the marshes. I went there once with old brown Oomuz there.
MELIFLOR: Of what avail is it to come back burdened thus? Has not the Queen more wealth than she'll ever need?
MOOMOOMON: Aye, the Queen needs nothing more.
ZOON: How can we know that?
MOMOOMON: Why not?
ZOON: The Queen obeys old impulses. Her sires are dead. Who knows whence those impulses come? How can we say what they are?
MOOMOOMON: She cannot need more wealth than what is here.
MELIFLOR: No, no, she cannot.
ZOON: She needs more, for she has bidden them go again to the Golden Hoards. Her impulses have demanded it.
MOOMOOMON: Then there is no reason in her impulses.
ZOON: They do not come from reason.
MOOMOOMON: So I said.
ZOON: They come from Fate.
MOOMOOMON: From Fate!
[There is a hush at this. OOMUZ comes nearer and kneels down.
OOMUZ: Oh, Masters, Masters. If there be anything greater, greater than the Queen, speak not of it, Masters, speak not its name.
ZOON: No, Oomuz. We need nothing greater.
OOMUZ: The name frightened me, Mighty Highness.
ZOON: Yes, yes, Oomuz; there is only the Queen.
MOOMOOMON: No, there is nothing greater than the Queen, and she has no need of anything more than the treasure that he guards there.
OOMUZ: There is one thing more.
MOOMOOMON: More? What is that?
OOMUZ: There is one thing more. The Queen needs one thing more. This has been told us and we know.
MOOMOOMON: What is it?
OOMUZ: How should we know that? None knows the need of the Queen.
[OOMUZ returns to guard his heap.
ZOON: What think you, Oomuz? What think you is this need of the Queen?
[OOMUZ shakes his head about three times. PRINCE OF ZOON sighs.
SEVERAL PRINCES (together wearily): Heigho.
MELIFOR: Take comfort in our heritage, illustrious comrades. Come! We will drink to the sun.
SOME: To the sun! To the sun! (They drink.)
MELIFLOR: To the golden idle hours! (He drinks.) Let us be worthy, glorious companions, of our exalted calling. Let us enjoy the days of idleness. Sing to us, mighty one of Zoon, as the idle hours go by. Sing us a song.
MOOMOOMON (idly): Yes, sing to us.
ZOON: As you all know, I can but hum. But I will hum you a song that I heard yesterday; very strange it was; sung in the meadows by two that were not of our people; sung in the evening. I heard it as I loitered home from the meadows beyond the marshes. There is no ease in the song, and yet ...
MOOMOOMON: Hum it to us.
ZOON: They sang it together, the two that were not of our people.
[He hums a song. They all lift up their heads from their listlessness.
MELIFLOR (wonderingly): That is a song that is new.
ZOON: Yes, it is new to me.
MELIFLOR: It is like an old song.
ZOON: Yes, perhaps it is old.
MELIFLOR: What is the song?
ZOON: It tells of love.
THE PRINCES: Ah-h!
[They seem to wake as though young and strong out of sleep. There is a great commotion among them. The sentries outside are utterly unmoved. OOMUZ, without sharing any of the excitement of the Princes, now nods his head solemnly as he had once shaken it.
MOOMOOMON: Love! It must have been that that I felt that day in the twilight as I came back round the peak of Zing-gee Mountain.
XIMENUNG: You felt it, Moomoomon? Tell us.
MOOMOOMON: All the air seemed gold, seemed gold of a sudden. Through it I saw fair fields, glittering green far down, glimpsed between clumps of the heather. The gold was all about them, yet they shone with their own fair colours. Ah, how can I tell you all I saw? My feet seemed scarce to touch the slope of the mountain; I too seemed one with the golden air in which all things were shining.
XIMENUNG: And this was Love?
MOOMOOMON: I know not. It was some strange new thing. It was strange and new like this song.
MELIFLOR: Perhaps, it was some other strange new thing.
MOOMOOMON: Perhaps. I know not.
ZOON: No. It was Love.
MOOMOOMON: And then that evening in the golden light I knew the purpose of Earth and why all things are.
XIMENUNG: What is the purpose, Moomoomon?
MOOMOOMON: I know not. I was content. I troubled not to remember.
ZOON: It was love.
XIMENUNG: Let us love.
HUZ: Aye, that is best of all.
MELIFLOR: No, Princes. The best is idleness. Out of the idle hours all good things come.
HUZ: I will love. That is best.
MELIFLOR: It is like all things, the gift of the idle hours. The workers never love. Their fancies are fastened to the work they do, and do not roam towards love.
ALL: Love! Let us love.
MELIFLOR: We will love in idleness and praise the idle hours.
XIMENUNG: Whom will you love, lord of the shimmering fields?
MELIFLOR: I have but to show myself loitering by lanes in the evening.
XIMENUNG: I too will be there.
MELIFLOR: And when they see me ...
XIMENUNG: They will see me too ...
MELIFLOR (rising): Behold me.
XIMENUNG: So I do.
MELIFLOR: Will they look towards you when this is there?
XIMENUNG: Are birch-trees seen at dawn fairer than I?
MELIFLOR: Behold me; not a poplar is straighter, not a flower is fairer. I will loiter along the lanes at evening.
[He draws his sword. XIMENUNG does the same. MOOMOOMON draws his too and places it between them.
MOOMOOMON: Be at peace. I will go to the lanes, and there need be no quarrel between you, for I....
OTHERS: No, no, no....
HUZ: We will all go.
ANOTHER: We will all love. Hurrah for love.
[They have all risen. They wave their swords on high, not threatening each other. Zoon alone has not risen.
MOOMOOMON (to ZOON): You do not speak, Prince of Zoon. Will you not love along the idle hours?
ZOON: Yes, yes. I love.
MOOMOOMON: Come then to the lanes to loiter. It draws towards evening. Let us all come to the lanes, where the honeysuckle is hanging.
ZOON: I love not in the lanes.
MOOMOOMON: Not in the lanes? Then...!
OTHERS: Not in the lanes?
ZOON: I love her than whom there is no greater on earth—(Some PRINCES: Ah!) unless it be that name that frightens Oomuz.
MOOMOOMON: He loves the...!
XIMENUNG: The ...
MELIFLOR: The Queen!
[OOMUZ nods his head again.
ZOON: The Queen.
MOOMOOMON: If the Queen knew such a thing she would flee from the palace.
ZOON: I would pursue.
MOOMOOMON: She would go by Aether Mountain, where her mother went once before her.
ZOON: I would follow.
HUZ: We would all follow.
MELIFLOR: I would follow too. I would dance after her down the little street: the bright heels of my shoes would twinkle: my cloak would float out behind me: I would pursue her and call her name, beyond the street and over the moor as far as Aether Mountain: but I would not come up with her: that would be too daring.
ZOON: Love is not a toy, Prince Meliflor. Love is no less than a mood of Destiny.
MELIFLOR: Pooh! We must enjoy the idle hours that are for us alone.
ZOON: There will be no idle hours on Aether Mountain, following from crag to crag; if it be true that she would go that way.
MOOMOOMON: It is true. They know it. They say her mother went that way before. It is one of the royal impulses.
ZOON: Oomuz, did the mother of the Queen go once up Aether Mountain?
OOMUZ: Aye, and her mother.
ZOON: It is true.
XIMENUNG: You are sure of this?
OOMUZ: We know it. It has been said.
HUZ: We will all follow her up Aether Mountain.
MELIFLOR: We will follow merrily.
XIMENUNG: If we did this what would they do when we returned?
MELIFLOR: They? They would not dare to speak to us.
XIMENUNG: Who knows what they would dare if we dared go after the Queen?
MOOMOOMON: They would dare nothing, knowing whence we come.
XIMENUNG: They care not whence we come.
MOOMOOMON: But they care for the event that is in our hands. They dare never touch us because of the event.
MELIFLOR: We are the heirs of the idle hours. For them is work. Surely they dare not leave their work to touch us.
MOOMOOMON: They care only for the event. Because it is prophesied that we are needed for the event we are sacred. Were it not for the event, why ...
MELIFLOR: Were it not for the event we might not dare to do it; but, being sacred, let us enjoy our idle hours.
XIMENUNG: What if the event should one day befall?
MELIFLOR: It was prophesied long ago and has not come. It will not come for a long time.
MOOMOOMON: No, not for a long time.
[A sentry passes.
MELIFLOR: So we will follow the Queen.
HUZ: Yes, we will follow.
MOOMOOMON: We shall be a merry company.
MELIFLOR: Splendid to see.
ZOON: I would follow though I were not guarded for the event. Though the event should befall and we be immune no longer, still I should dare it.
MELIFLOR: I would dare it if I knew what they would do. But knowing not ...
MOOMOOMON: What matter? We are guarded by the event.
ZOON: I say I care not.
MELIFLOR: Let us drum with our heels and beat with our scabbards against the benches so that we frighten the Queen. She will run from the palace then, and we will go after her with all our merry company.
MOOMOOMON: Yes, let us drum all together. I will give the word. All together and she will run from the palace. We will go after and our cloaks will stream behind us.
HUZ: Brave! And our scabbards will show bright beneath them.
MELIFLOR: No, I will give the word. When she flees from the palace I will follow her first. Crowd not about my cloak as it streams in the wind. We must throw up our heels as we run to make our shoes twinkle. We must show gaily in the little street. Afterwards we can run more easily.
HUZ: Aye, in the street we must run beautifully.
MOOMOOMON: I think that I should give the word when we rattle our scabbards and all drum with our heels; but I waive the point. But I do not think that the Queen can run far. She has never left the palace. How could she run over the moor as far as Aether Mountain. She will faint at the end of the street and we shall come up with her and bow and offer her our assistance.
MELIFLOR: Good, good. It would be cold and rocky on Aether Mountain.
MOOMOOMON: The Queen could never go there over the moor.
HUZ: No, she is too dainty.
XIMENUNG: They say she could.
MELIFLOR: They; what do they know? Common workers. What should they know of queens?
XIMENUNG: They have the old prophesies that came over the fields from the dawn.
MELIFLOR: Yet they cannot understand the Queen.
XIMENUNG: They say her mother went there.
MELIFLOR: That was long ago. Women are quite different now.
XIMENUNG: Well, give the word.
MELIFLOR: Nay. You shall give the word, Moomoomon. When you raise your hand we will all drum with our heels together and rattle our scabbards together, and frighten the Queen.
MOOMOOMON: I honour your courtesy, lord of the deep meadows.
MELIFLOR: We are ready then. When you raise your hand——
[A gust of laughter is heard off, from a far part of the palace.
MOOMOOMON: Hark! Hark!
MELIFLOR: It is the Queen! She laughed.
HUZ: Could she have guessed...?
MOOMOOMON: I trust not.
MELIFLOR: She—she—cannot have been thinking of us.
MOOMOOMON: She—she—seldom laughs.
HUZ: What can it be?
MOOMOOMON: Perhaps it was nothing and yet ...
MELIFLOR: Yet it makes me uneasy.
MOOMOOMON: It is not that I fear, but, when a queen laughs—it makes a feeling in the palace—as though all were not well.
HUZ: It makes one have forebodings. One cannot help it.
MELIFLOR: Perhaps; perhaps later we could return to our gallant scheme; for the present I think I'll hide a while.
MOOMOOMON: Yes, let us hide.
MELIFLOR: So that if there be anything wrong in the palace it will not find us.
[Exeunt MOOMOOMON and MELIFLOR.
HUZ: Let us hide.
[Exeunt all but ZOON and OOMUZ.
[ZOON has sat always with bent head at table. He sits so, still.
ZOON (bitterly): They would follow the Queen.
OOMUZ: Mighty Highness——
ZOON (still to himself): They will come back boasting that they dared follow the Queen.
OOMUZ: Mighty Highness.
ZOON: Yes, good Oomuz.
OOMUZ: In other times once princes followed a queen and came back boasting. Master, the workers were angry. Be warned, Master, because you and I went together once to the hoard beyond the marshes. Be warned. They were angry, Master.
ZOON: I care not for the workers.
OOMUZ: Master, be warned. It was long ago and they say they were very angry.
ZOON: I care not, Oomuz. I come not boasting back from the hills under Aether Mountain. I shall not halt till I have told the Queen my love. I shall wed with her who is less only than Fate, if less she be. I am not as those, Oomuz. Who weds the Queen is more than the servant of Fate.
[He stretches out his hands towards ZOON imploringly.
ZOON: Well, Oomuz?
OOMUZ: Master. There is a doom about the Queen.
ZOON: What doom, Oomuz?
OOMUZ: We know not, Master. We are simple people and we know not that. But we know from of old there is a doom about her. We know it, Master; we have been told from of old.
ZOON: Yes, there could well be a doom about the Queen.
OOMUZ: Follow not after, Master, when she goes to Aether Mountain. There is surely a doom about her. A doom was with her mother upon that very peak.
ZOON: Yes, Oomuz, a doom well becomes her.
OOMUZ: Doubt it not, Master; there is a doom about her.
ZOON: Oomuz, I doubt not. For there is something wonderful about the Queen, beyond all earthly wonders. Something like thunder beyond far clouds or hail hurling from heaven; there should be indeed a terrible doom about her.
OOMUZ: Master, I have warned you for the sake of the days when we raided the golden hoard beyond the marshes.
ZOON (taking his hand): Thank you, good Oomuz.
[He goes towards door after the others.
OOMUZ: But where go you, Master?
ZOON: I wait to follow the Queen when she goes to Aether Mountain.
[Exit. OOMUZ weeps silently on to the Queen's Treasure.
The Palace of Zoorm: the Hall of Queen Zoomzoomarma.
Time: Same as Scene I.
THE QUEEN: Is none worthy to kiss my hand, Oozizi; none?
LADY OOZIZI: Lady, none.
[The QUEEN sighs.
You should not sigh, great lady.
QUEEN: Why should I not sigh, Oozizi?
OOZIZI: Great lady, because such things as sighs pertain only to love.
QUEEN: Love is a joy, Oozizi; love is a glow. Love makes them dance so lightly along rays of the sunlight. It is made of sunlight and gladness. It is like flowers in twilight. How should they sigh?
OOZIZI: Lady! Great lady! Say not such things of love!
QUEEN: Say not such things, Oozizi? Are they not true?
OOZIZI: True? Yes, great lady, true. But love is a toy of the humble; love is a common thing that the lowly use; love is ... Great lady, had any overheard you speaking then they might have thought, they might have madly dreamed ...
QUEEN: Dreamed what, Oozizi?
OOZIZI: Incredible things.
QUEEN (meditatively): I must not love, Oozizi.
OOZIZI: Lady! The common people love.
[She points to door.
Lady, the green fields going from here to the blueness, and bending towards it, and going wandering on, and the rivers they meet and the woods that shade the rivers, all own you for their sovereign. Lady, a million lime-trees mellow your realm. The golden hoards are yours. Yours are the deep fields and the iris marshes. Yours are the roads of wandering and all ways home. The common delights of love your mere soldiers know. Lady, you may not love.
[The QUEEN sighs. OOZIZI continues her knitting.
QUEEN: My mother loved, Oozizi.
OOZIZI: Lady, for a day. For one day, mighty lady, As one might stoop in idleness to a broken toy and pick it up and throw it again away, so she loved for a day. That idle fancy of an afternoon tarnished no pinnacle that shone from her exalted station. But to love for more than a day—(QUEEN'S face lights up)—that were to place your high unequalled glory below a vulgar pastime. One alone may sit in the golden palace to reign over the green fields; but all may love.
QUEEN: Do all love but I, Oozizi?
OOZIZI: Wondrous many, lady.
QUEEN: How know you, Oozizi?
OOZIZI: The common shouts that come up at evening, the clamour of the lanes; they are but from love.
QUEEN: What is love, Oozizi?
OOZIZI: Love is a foolish thing.
QUEEN: How know you, Oozizi?
OOZIZI: They came tittering to me once; but I saw the foolishness of it.
QUEEN (a little sadly): And they came no more?
OOZIZI (a little sadly too): No more.
[Both look thoughtfully out into dreams, the QUEEN on her throne, chin on hand.
[Suddenly a stir is heard from the Hall of the Hundred Princes.
QUEEN (alarmed): Hark! What was that?
OOZIZI (rises, listening anxiously): It sounded ... to come from the Hall ... of the Hundred Princes.
QUEEN: They were never heard here before.
OOZIZI: Lady, never.
QUEEN (anxiously): What can it mean?
OOZIZI: I know not, lady.
QUEEN: Sound never troubled our inner chamber before.
OOZIZI: All is quiet now.
QUEEN: Hark! (They listen.)
OOZIZI: All is quiet.
QUEEN: Sound from beyond our wall, Oozizi. How it disturbs. I could not rule over the green fields if sounds came up to me from the further halls full of their strange thoughts. Why do sounds come to me, Oozizi?
OOZIZI: Great lady, it has never been before. It will never be again. You must forget it, lady. You must not let it disturb your reign.
QUEEN: It brought strange thoughts with it, Oozizi.
OOZIZI: All is quiet now.
QUEEN: If it came again....
OOZIZI: Lady, it will not come again. It will come no more. It is quiet.
QUEEN: If it came again ... Is the door open, Oozizi? Yes ... If it came again I should almost flee from the palace.
OOZIZI: Lady! Think not of leaving the golden palace!
QUEEN: If it came again.
OOZIZI: It will not come again.
[The heels of the Princes drum louder, off.
QUEEN: Again, Oozizi:
[OOZIZI pants. The QUEEN waits, listening, in fear. Again the heels are heard.
[The QUEEN runs to the small door. She looks out.
OOZIZI: Lady! Lady!
OOZIZI: Lady! Lady! You must never leave the palace. You must never leave it. You must not.
QUEEN: Hark, it is quiet now.
OOZIZI: Lady, it would be terrible to leave the golden palace. Who would reign? What would happen?
QUEEN: It is quiet now. What would happen, Oozizi?
OOZIZI: The world would end.
QUEEN: It is quiet now; perhaps I need not fly.
OOZIZI: Lady, you must not.
QUEEN: And yet I would fain go over those green fields all gleaming with summer, and see the golden hoards that no man guards, glittering with such a light as glows this June.
OOZIZI: O, speak not, great lady, of the green fields and June. It is these that have intoxicated the Princes so that they do this unrecorded thing, letting sound of them be heard in your sacred room.
QUEEN: Has June intoxicated them, Oozizi?
OOZIZI: Oh, lady, speak not of June.
QUEEN: Is June so terrible?
[She returns towards OOZIZI.
OOZIZI: It does strange things.
[The noise breaks out again.
[The QUEEN runs to the door again. OOZIZI stretches out her arms to the QUEEN.
O, lady, never leave the golden palace.
[The QUEEN listens; all is silent; she looks outside.
QUEEN: I see the green fields gleaming. Strange flowers are standing among them, like princes I have not known.
OOZIZI: Oh, lady, speak not of the bewildering fields. They are all enchanted with Summer, and they have maddened the Princes. It is dangerous to look at them, lady.
[The QUEEN gazes on over the fields.
And yet you look.
QUEEN: I would fain go far over the strange soft fields; far and far to the high heathery lands——
OOZIZI: Lady, all is quiet; there is no danger; you must not leave the palace.
QUEEN: Yes, all is quiet.
[The QUEEN returns.
OOZIZI: It was a passing madness seized the Princes.
QUEEN: Oozizi, when I hear the sound of all their feet it is dreadful, and I must fly. And when I see the wonderful fields in the sunlight sloping away to lands I have never known, then I long to fly away and away for ever, passing from field to field and land to land.
OOZIZI: Lady, no, no!
OOZIZI: Yes, great lady.
QUEEN: There is a mountain there that towers above the earth. It goes up into a calm of which our world knows nothing. Heaven, like a cloak, is draped about its shoulders. Why have none told me of this mountain, Oozizi?
OOZIZI (awed): Aether Mountain.
QUEEN: Why has none told me?
OOZIZI: When your glorious mother, lady, loved for a day ...
QUEEN: Yes, Oozizi ...
OOZIZI: She went, as all songs tell, to Aether Mountain.
QUEEN (entranced): To Aether Mountain?
OOZIZI: So they sing at evening, when they throw down their loads of gold and rest.
QUEEN: To Aether Mountain.
OOZIZI: Lady, Destiny sent her; but you must not go. You must not leave your throne to go to Aether Mountain.
QUEEN: There is a calm upon it not of earth.
OOZIZI: You must not go, lady, you must not go.
QUEEN: I will not go.
[The Princes drum again, still louder with their heels.
[OOZIZI is frightened, The QUEEN runs to the door.
It is louder! They are nearer! They are coming here!
OOZIZI: No, lady. They would not dare!
QUEEN: I must go, Oozizi; I must go.
OOZIZI: No, lady. They will never dare. You must not. Hark! They come no nearer. June has maddened them, but they come no nearer. They are quiet now. Come back, lady. Leave the door, they come no nearer. See, it is all quiet now. They come no nearer, lady. (OOZIZI catches her by the sleeve.) Lady, you must not.
QUEEN (much calmer, gazing away): Oozizi, I must go.
OOZIZI: No, no, lady! All is quiet; you must not go.
QUEEN (calmly): It is calling for me, Oozizi.
OOZIZI: What is calling, lady? Nothing calls.
QUEEN: It is calling, Oozizi.
OOZIZI: Oh, lady, all is silent. No one calls.
QUEEN: It is calling for me now, Oozizi.
OOZIZI: No, no, lady. What calls?
QUEEN: Aether Mountain is calling. I know now who called my mother. It was Aether Mountain, Oozizi; he is calling.
OOZIZI: I—I scarce dare look out of the golden palace, lady, to where we must not go. Yet, yet I will look. (She peers.) Yes, yes, indeed; there stands old Aether Mountain. But he does not call. Indeed he does not call. He is all silent in Heaven.
QUEEN: It is his voice, Oozizi.
OOZIZI: What, lady? I hear no voice.
QUEEN: That great, great silence is his voice, Oozizi. He is calling me out of that blue waste of Heaven.
OOZIZI: Lady, I cannot understand.
QUEEN: He calls, Oozizi.
OOZIZI: Come away, lady. It is bad to look so long. Oh, if the Princes had not made their clamour heard! Oh, if they had not you had not gone to the door and seen Aether Mountain, and this trouble had not come. Oh! Oh! Oh!
QUEEN: There is no trouble upon Aether Mountain.
OOZIZI: Oh, lady, it is terrible that you should leave the palace.
QUEEN: There is no trouble there. Aether Mountain goes all calm into Heaven. His grey-blue slopes are calm as the sky about him. There he stands calling. He is calling to me, Oozizi.
OOZIZI (reflecting): Can it be?
QUEEN: What would you ask, Oozizi?
Oozizi: Can it be that it is with you, great lady, as it was with the Queen, your mother, when Destiny sent her hence to Aether Mountain?
QUEEN: Aether Mountain calls.
OOZIZI: Lady, for a moment hear me. Come with me but a little while.
[She leads the QUEEN slowly by the arm back to the throne.
Lady, be seated here once more and take up the orb and sceptre in your small hands as of old.
[The QUEEN patiently does as she is told.
Now, if Destiny calls you, let him call to you as to a Queen. Now, if it be for no whim of those that pass, that you would go so far from here to that great mountain, say, seated upon your throne in the golden palace with sceptre and orb in hand, say would you go forth, lady?
QUEEN (almost dreaming): Aether Mountain calls.
[OOZIZI bursts into tears. She helps the QUEEN by the arm from her throne and leads her part of the way to the door. There she stops. The QUEEN goes on to the door alone.
OOZIZI: Farewell, lady.
[The QUEEN gazes out rapturously towards Aether Mountain. Then she walks back and embraces Oozizi.
QUEEN: Farewell, Oozizi.
OOZIZI: Farewell, great lady.
[The QUEEN turns, then suddenly she runs swiftly and nimbly through the door and disappears.
[At once there is a murmur of voices from the Hall of the Hundred Princes.
VOICES (off): Ah, ah, ah.
[OOZIZI stands still weeping.
[Enter the Princes, exquisite and frivolous. They crowd past each other.
MELIFLOR: And where is our little Queen?
[OOZIZI answers with a defiant look through her tears, which has its effect on them.
MOOMOOMON (foppishly): There, there.
MELIFLOR: Come! Let us follow.
MOOMOOMON: Shall we?
[They stream across from the side door R to the door in back, OOZIZI regarding them haughtily.
OOZIZI (menacingly): It is Aether Mountain.
[Entranced, silent, last of all ZOON follows. Exeunt all the Princes. Sounds as of rough protest heard from the workers off. The grim brown heads of two or three peer round the door by which the Princes entered. Many come on, dumb, puzzled, turning their brown heads, searching. At last they cluster round OOZIZI. "Er"? they say.
OOZIZI: Aether Mountain has called her.
[They nod dumb heads gravely.
On the base of Aether Mountain.
Right, heather sloping up to left, which is rugged with tumbled grey rocks.
Further left all the scene is filled with the rising bulk of Aether Mountain.
Low down, far off and small in the background to the right appears a little palace of pure gold.
Enter right the QUEEN running untired and nimble, unchecked by those grey rocks.
Following her the tired PRINCES come.
ZOON is no longer last, but about fourth, and gaining.
MELIFLOR: Permit me, great lady. My hand over the rocks. Permit ...
[He falls and cannot rise.
MOOMOOMON: Permit me. (He falls too.) These rocks; it is these rocks.
XIMENUNG (going wearily): Great lady. A moment. One moment, great lady. Allow me.
[But ZOON does not speak. Exeunt L. the Queen and those Princes that have not fallen. The curtain falls on stragglers crossing the stage.
On the snow on the pinnacle of Aether Mountain, with only bright blue sky all round and everywhere, recline QUEEN ZOOMZOOMARMA and the PRINCE OF ZOON.
THE QUEEN: You had known no love before, First of a Hundred?
PRINCE OF ZOON: There is no love on earth, O Queen of all.
QUEEN: Only here.
ZOON: Pure love is only here on this peak lonely in heaven.
QUEEN: Would you love me elsewhere if we went from here?
ZOON: But we will never go from here.
QUEEN: No, we will never leave it.
ZOON: Lady, look down. (She looks.) The earth is sorrowful. (She sighs.) Cares. Cares. All over the wide surface we can see are troubles; troubles far off and grey, that harm not Aether Mountain.
QUEEN: It looks a long way off and long ago.
ZOON (wonderingly): Only to-day we came to Aether Mountain.
QUEEN: Only to-day?
ZOON: We crossed a gulf of time.
QUEEN: It lies below us, all drowsy with years.
ZOON: Lady, here is your home, this peak that has entered heaven. Let us never leave your home.
QUEEN: I knew not until to-day of Aether Mountain. None had told me.
ZOON: Knew you never, lady, of love?
QUEEN: None had told me.
ZOON: This is your home; not Earth; no golden palace. Reign here alone, not knowing the cares of men, without yesterday or to-morrow, untroubled by history or council.
QUEEN: Yes, yes, we will return no more.
ZOON: See, lady, see the Earth. Is it not as a dream just faded?
QUEEN: It is dim indeed, grey and dream-like.
ZOON: It is the Earth we knew.
QUEEN: It is all dream-like.
ZOON: It is gone; we can dimly see it.
QUEEN: Was it a dream?
ZOON: Perhaps. It is gone now and does not matter.
QUEEN: Poor Earth. I hope it was real.
ZOON (seizing her hand): Oh, Zoomzoomarma, say not you hope that Earth was real. It is gone now. See; it is so far away. Sigh not for Earth, oh lady, sigh not for Earth.
QUEEN: Why not, King of Aether Mountain?
ZOON: Because when you sigh for tiny things I tremble for your love. See how faint and small it is and how far away.
QUEEN: I do not sigh for Earth, King of the Mountain. I only wish it well.
ZOON: Oh, wish it not well, lady.
QUEEN: Let us wish the poor Earth well.
ZOON: No, lady, no. Be with me always wholly, living not partly in dreams. There is no Earth. It is but a dream that left us. See, see (pointing down) it is a dim dream.
QUEEN (looking down): The people move there still. See, there is Prince Ximenung. Something down there seems almost unlike dreams.
ZOON: No, lady, it cannot be.
QUEEN: How know you, Lord of the Mountain?
ZOON: It was too unreal for life. Love was not there. Surely it was a dream.
QUEEN: Yes, I knew not love in the golden palace of Zoorm.
ZOON: Then indeed it was unreal, Golden Lady. Forget the dream of Earth.
QUEEN: If love be real ...
ZOON: Can you doubt it?
QUEEN: No. It was a dream. Just now I dreamt it. Are dreams bad, my Prince?
ZOON: No. They are just dreams.
QUEEN: We will think of dreams no more.
ZOON: This is where love is, and here only. We should not dream too much or think of dreams, because the place is holy.
QUEEN: Is love here only, darling?
ZOON: Here only, Golden Queen. Do any others elsewhere love as we.
QUEEN: No, I think not.
ZOON: Then how can pure love be elsewhere?
QUEEN: It is true.
ZOON: On this clear peak that just enters Heaven love is and only here. The rest is dreams.
QUEEN: Could we awake from love and find Earth true?
ZOON: No, no, no. Sweet Lady, let not such fancies alarm you.
QUEEN: And yet folks wake from dreams. It would be terrible.
ZOON: No, no, there are things too real for dreams. You cannot waken from love. Dreams are of fantastic things, things fanciful and weak, and things confused and intricate like Earth. When you think of them in your dreams you see their unreality. But if love were not real what could there be to wake to.
QUEEN: True. How wise you are. It was but a fancy that troubled me. (Looking down.) It was one of those dreams at dawn. It is faint and far-off now.
ZOON: Will you love me for ever, Golden Queen?
QUEEN: For ever. Why not? You will love me for ever?
ZOON: For ever. I cannot help it.
QUEEN: Let us look at the dream far off, in the dimness our thoughts have forsaken.
ZOON: Aye, let us look. It was a sad dream somewhat; and yet upon this peak where all is love all that we see seems happy.
QUEEN: See the dream there. Look at those. They seem to walk dreamily as they walk in the dream.
ZOON: It is because they have not love, which is only here.
QUEEN: Look! Look at those dreamers in the dream.
ZOON: They are running.
QUEEN: Oh! Look!
ZOON: They are pursued.
QUEEN: The brown ones are pursuing them with spears.
ZOON: It is Prince Meliflor, Prince Moomoomon, Prince Ximenung that run in the dream. And the Prince of Huz. The brown men are close.
QUEEN: The brown ones are overtaking them.
ZOON: Yes, they are closer.
QUEEN: Look! Prince Ximenung!
ZOON: Yes, he is dead in the dream.
QUEEN: The Prince of Huz?
QUEEN: Still, still they are killing them.
ZOON: It is all the Hundred Princes.
QUEEN: They are killing them all.
ZOON: A sad sight once.
ZOON: I should have wept once.
QUEEN: It is so far off now.
ZOON: It is so far, far off. We can only feel joy upon this holy mountain.
QUEEN: Only joy. (He sighs as he looks.) Look! (He sighs again.)
ZOON: There falls the poor Prince Meliflor.
QUEEN: How huge a thrust it was with the great spear.
ZOON: He is dead.
QUEEN: Are you not happy?
QUEEN: In your voice there seemed to sound some far-off thing. Some strange thing. Was it sorrow?
ZOON: No; we are too high; sorrow cannot come. No grief can touch us here, no woe drift up to us from the woes of Earth.
QUEEN: I thought there was some strange thing in your voice, like sorrows we have dreamed.
ZOON: No, Golden Queen. Those fancied sorrows of dreams cannot touch reality.
QUEEN: You will never be sorry we have woken and left the dream of Earth?
ZOON: No, glorious lady; nothing can bring me trouble ever again.
QUEEN: Not even I?
ZOON: Never you, my Golden Zoomzoomarma, for on this sacred peak where there is only love you cannot.
QUEEN: We will dwell here for ever in endless joy.
ZOON (looking down): All dead now, all the Princes.
QUEEN: Turn, my Prince, from the dream of Earth, lest trouble come up from it.
ZOON: It cannot drift up here; yet we will turn from the dream.
QUEEN: Let us think of endless joy upon the edge of heaven.
ZOON: Yes, Queen; for ever in reality while all else dream away.
QUEEN: It is the years that make them drowsy. They dream to dream the years away. Time cannot reach so high as here, the years are far below us.
ZOON: Far below us, making a dream and troubling it.
QUEEN: They do not know in the dream that only love is real.
ZOON: If time could reach us here we should pass, too. Nothing is real where time is.
QUEEN: How shall we spend the calm that time does not vex, together here for ever?
ZOON: Holding your hand. (She gives it.) And kissing it often in the calm of eternity. Sometimes watching, a moment, the dream go by; then kissing your hand again all in eternity.
QUEEN: And never wearying?
ZOON: Not while eternity lingers here in heaven.
QUEEN: Thus we will live until the dream goes by and Earth has faded under Aether Mountain.
ZOON: And then we shall watch the calm of Eternity.
QUEEN: And you will still kiss my hand at times.
ZOON: Yes, while eternity wiles Heaven away.
QUEEN: The silence is like music on Aether Mountain.
ZOON: It is because all is real. In the dream nothing was real. Music had to be made and then soon passed trembling away. Here all things always are as the desire of Earth, Earth's desire that groped among fantasies finding them false.
QUEEN: Let us forget the dream.
ZOON (kissing her hand): I have forgotten for ever.
ZOON: What trouble has drifted up to you from Earth?
QUEEN: An old saying.
ZOON: It was said in the dream.
QUEEN: It was true!
[She snatches her hand away.
Ah, I remember it. It was true.
ZOON: All is unreal but love, my crowned Zoomzoomarma. Where there was not love it cannot have been true.
[He tries to take her hand again.
QUEEN: Touch not my hand. It was true.
ZOON: What was the saying heard in the dream of Earth that was true?
QUEEN: None is worthy to touch my hand; no, none.
ZOON: By Aether Mountain, I will kiss your hand again! What is this saying out of a dream that dares deny reality?
QUEEN: It is true! Oh, it is true!
ZOON: Out of that hurried, aimless dream, that knows not its own end even, you have brought me a saying and say it against love.
QUEEN: I say it is true!
ZOON: Nothing is true against love. Fate only is greater.
QUEEN: Then it is Fate.
ZOON: Against Fate I will kiss your hand again.
QUEEN: None are worthy. No, none.
[She draws her rapier.
ZOON: I will kiss your hand again.
QUEEN: It must be this (pointing with rapier) for none are worthy.
ZOON: Though it be death I kiss your hand again.
QUEEN: It is certain death.
ZOON: Oh, Zoomzoomarma, forget that troubled dream, and things said by dreamers, while I kiss your hand in heaven if only once again.
QUEEN: None are worthy. It is death. None are worthy. None.
ZOON: Though it be death, yet once again upon Aether Mountain in heaven I kiss your hand.
QUEEN: Away! It is death. Upon the word of a Queen.
ZOON: I kiss your h ...
[She standing kills him kneeling. He falls off Aether Mountain, behind it out of sight.
[As he falls he calls her name after intervals. She kneels upon the summit and watches him falling, falling, falling.
[Fainter and fainter as he falls from that tremendous height comes up her name as he calls it.
Zoomzoomarma! Zoomzoomarma! Zoomzoomarma!
[Still she is watching and he is falling still.
[At last when his cry of ZOOMZOOMARMA comes almost unheard to that incredible height and then is heard no more, she turns, and with infinite neatness picking up her skirts steps down daintily over the snow.
[She is going Earthward as the curtain falls.
SLADDER, a successful man. SPLURGE, his secretary and publicity agent. THE REV. CHARLES HIPPANTHIGH. BUTLER. MRS. SLADDER. ERMYNTRUDE SLADDER.
The big house that SLADDER has bought in the country. SLADDER'S study. Large French window opening on to a lawn.
SLADDER'S daughter is seated in an armchair tapping on the arm of it a little impatiently.
The door opens very cautiously, and the head of MRS. SLADDER is put round it.
MRS. SLADDER: O, Ermyntrude. Whatever are you doing here?
ERMYNTRUDE: I wanted to speak to father, mother.
MRS. SLADDER: But you mustn't come in here. We mustn't disturb father.
ERMYNTRUDE: I want to speak to father.
MRS. SLADDER: Whatever about, Ermyntrude?
ERMYNTRUDE (taps the arm of the chair): O, nothing, mother. Only about that idea of his.
MRS. SLADDER: What idea, child?
ERMYNTRUDE: O, that idea he had, that—er—I was some day to marry a duke.
MRS. SLADDER: And why shouldn't you marry a duke, child? I am sure father would make it worth his while.
ERMYNTRUDE: O well, I don't think I want to, mother.
MRS. SLADDER: But why not, Ermyntrude?
ERMYNTRUDE: O well, you know Mr. Jones——
MRS. SLADDER: That good man!
ERMYNTRUDE: ——did say that dukes were no good, mother. They oppress the poor, I think he said.
MRS. SLADDER: Very true.
ERMYNTRUDE: Well, there you are.
MRS. SLADDER: Yes, yes, of course. At the same time, father had rather set his heart on it. You wouldn't have any other reason now, child, would you?
ERMYNTRUDE: What more do you want, mother? Mr. Jones is a Cabinet Minister; he must know what he's talking about.
MRS. SLADDER: Yes, yes.
ERMYNTRUDE: And I hear he's going to get a peerage.
MRS. SLADDER (with enthusiasm): Well, I'm sure he deserves it. But child, you mustn't talk to father to-day. You mustn't stay here any longer.
ERMYNTRUDE: But why not, mother?
MRS. SLADDER: Well, child, he's been smoking one of those big cigars again, and he's absent-like. And he's been talking a good deal with Mr. Splurge. It's one of his great days, I think, Ermyntrude. I feel sure it is. One of those days that has given us all this money, and all these fine houses, with all those little birds that his gentlemen friends shoot. He has an idea!
ERMYNTRUDE: O, mother, do you really think so?
MRS. SLADDER: I'm sure of it, child. (Looking out.) There! There he is! Walking along that path that they made. I can see he's got an idea. How like Napoleon.[*] He's walking with Mr. Splurge. They're coming in now. Come along, Ermyntrude, we mustn't disturb him to-day. He has some great idea, some great idea.
[Footnote *: (N.B.—SLADDER is not in the very least like Napoleon.)]
ERMYNTRUDE: How splendid, mother! What do you think it is?
MRS. SLADDER: Ah. I could never explain it to you, even if I knew. It is business, child, business. It isn't everybody that can understand business.
ERMYNTRUDE: I hear them coming, mother.
MRS. SLADDER: There must be things we can never understand: things too deep for us like. And business is the most wonderful of them all.
[Enter SLADDER and SPLURGE through the window, which opens on to the lawn, down a step or two.
SLADDER: Now, Splurge, we must do some business.
SPLURGE: Yes, sir.
SLADDER: Sit down, Splurge.
SPLURGE: Thank you, sir.
SLADDER: Splurge, I am going to say to you now, what I couldn't talk about with all those gardeners hanging about. And, by the way, Splurge, haven't we bought rather too many gardeners?
SPLURGE: No, sir. The Earl of Etheldune has seven; we had to go one better than him, sir.
SLADDER: Certainly, Splurge, certainly.
SPLURGE: So I bought ten for you, sir, to be on the safe side.
SLADDER: Ah, quite right, Splurge, quite right. There seemed to be rather a lot, but that's quite right. Well, now to business.
SPLURGE: Yes, sir.
SLADDER: I told you I'd invented a new name for a food.
SPLURGE: Yes, sir. Cheezo.
SLADDER: Well, what have you been able to do about it?
SPLURGE: I've had some nice little posters done, sir. I'm having it well written up. I've got some samples here, and it looks like doing very well indeed.
SPLURGE: It's a grand name, if I may say so, sir. It sounds so classical-like with that "O" at the end; and yet anyone can see what it's derived from, even if he's never learnt anything. It suggests cheese to them every time.
SLADDER: Let's see your samples.
SPLURGE: Well, sir, here's one. (Brings paper from pocket. Reads.) "What is Cheezo? Go where you may, speak with whom you will, the same question confronts you. Cheezo is the great new——"
SLADDER: No, Splurge. Cut that question bit. We must have no admission on our part that there's anyone who doesn't know what Cheezo is. Cut it.
SPLURGE: You're quite right, sir; you're quite right. That's a weak bit. I'll cut it. (He scratches it out. Reads.) "Cheezo is the great new food. It builds up body and brain."
SLADDER: That's good.
SPLURGE: "There is a hundred times more lactic fluid in an ounce of Cheezo than in a gallon of milk."
SLADDER: What's lactic fluid, Splurge?
SPLURGE: I don't know, sir, but it's good stuff all right. It's the right thing to have in it. It's a good man that I got to write this.
SLADDER: All right. Go on.
SPLURGE: "Cheezo makes darling baby grow."
SLADDER: Good. Very good. Very good indeed, Splurge.
SPLURGE: Yes, I think that catches them, sir.
SLADDER: Go on.
SPLURGE: "Cheezo. The only food."
SLADDER: "The only food"? I don't like that.
SPLURGE: It will go down all right, sir, so long as the posters are big enough.
SLADDER: Go down all right! I wasn't fool enough to suppose that it wouldn't go down all right. What are posters for if the public doesn't believe them? Of course it will go down all right.
SPLURGE: O, I beg your pardon, sir. Then what don't you quite like about it?
SLADDER: I might invent another food one of these days, and then where should we be?
SPLURGE: I hadn't thought of that, sir.
SLADDER: Out with it.
SPLURGE: (Scratches with pencil). "Cheezo is made out of the purest milk from purest English cows."
SLADDER: Y-e-s, y-e-s. I don't say you're wrong. I don't say you're exactly wrong. But in business, Splurge, you want to keep more to generalities. Talk about the bonds that bind the Empire, talk about the Union Jack, talk by all means about the purity of the English cow; but definite statements you know, definite statements——
SPLURGE: O, yes, I know, sir; but the police never interfere with anything one puts on a poster. It would be bad for business, a jury would never convict, and——
SLADDER: I didn't say they would; but if some interfering ass were to write to the papers to say that Cheezo wasn't made from milk, we should have to go to the expense of buying a dozen cows, and photographing them, and one thing and another. (He gets up and goes to cupboard.) Now, look here. I quite understand what you say, purity and all that, and a very good point too, but you look at this.
[He unrolls a huge poster representing a dairymaid smirking in deadly earnest. On it is printed: "WON'T YOU HAVE SOME?" and on another part of the poster "CHEEZO FOR PURITY."
You see. Your whole point's there. We state nothing and we can make the dairymaid as suggestive as we like.
SPLURGE: Yes, sir, that is excellent. Quite splendid.
SLADDER: They shall look at that on every road and railway, where it enters every town in England. I'll have it on the cliffs of Dover. It shall be the first thing they see when they come back home, and the last thing for them to remember when they leave England. I'll have it everywhere. I'll rub their noses in it. And then, Splurge, they'll ask for Cheezo when they want cheese, and that will mean I shall have the monopoly of all the cheese in the world.
SPLURGE: You're a great man, sir.
SLADDER: I'll be a greater one, Splurge. I'm not past work yet. What more have you got?
SPLURGE: I've rather a nice little poster being done, sir. A boy and a girl looking at one another with a rather knowing look. There's a large query mark all over the girl's dress. Then over the top in big letters I've put: "What is the secret?" and in smaller letters: "I've got a bit of Cheezo." It makes people look at it, the children's faces are so wicked.
SLADDER: Good, Splurge. Very good. I'll have that one. I'll rub their noses in that one.
SPLURGE: Then I've got some things for the Press. (Reads.) "She: 'Darling.' He: 'Yes, wifey.' She: 'You won't forget, darling.' He: 'No, wifey.' She: 'You won't forget to bring me some of that excellent Cheezo, so nutritious, so nice for darling baby, to be had at all grocers; but be sure that you find the name of Sladder on their well-known pink wrappers.' He: 'Certainly, wifey.'" Just the usual thing, sir, of course; only I have a very good little picture to go with it, very suggestive indeed; I've made all the arrangements with the Press and the bill-posters, sir. I think we'll make a big thing of it, sir.
SLADDER: Well, Splurge, nothing remains to be done now, except to make the Cheezo.
SPLURGE: How do you think of doing it, sir?
SLADDER: Do you know how they kill pigs in Chicago? No, you've not travelled yet. Well, they get their pigs on a slide, one man cuts their throats as fast as they go by, another shaves their bristles, and so on, and so on; one man for each job, and all at it at once; they do it very expeditiously. Well, there's an interfering fellow sent there by the Government (we wouldn't stand him in England), and if a pig has a sign of tuberculosis on him he won't let that pig go down. Now you'd think that pig was wasted. He isn't. He goes into soap. Now, Splurge, how many cakes of soap were used in the world last year?
SPLURGE (getting up): Last year? I don't think we have the figures in for last year yet, sir.
[He goes to bookshelf.
SLADDER: Well, the year before will do.
SPLURGE: (taking book and turning pages): The figures are given, I think, sir, from the 1st of March to the 1st of March.
SLADDER: That will do.
SPLURGE: Ah, here it is, sir. Soap statistics for the twelve months ending 1st of March this year. A hundred and four million users, using on an average twenty cakes each per year. Then there are partial users, and occasional users. The total would be about twenty-one hundred million, sir.
SLADDER: Pure waste, Splurge, all pure waste.
SPLURGE: Waste, sir?
SLADDER: Pure waste. What do you suppose becomes of all that soap, all that good fat? Proteids, I think they call 'em. And proteids are good for you, Splurge.
SPLURGE: What becomes of them, sir? They're used up.
SLADDER: No, Splurge. They disappear, I grant you. They float away. But they're still there Splurge, they're still there. All that good fat is somewhere.
SPLURGE: But—but, sir—but—In the drains, sir?
SLADDER: All those million of cakes of soap. There must be tons of it, Splurge. And we'll get it.
SPLURGE: You are a wonderful man, sir.
SLADDER: O, I've a few brains, Splurge. That anyone might have. But I use mine, that's all. There's cleverer people than me in the world——
SPLURGE: No, sir.
SLADDER: O, yes, there are. Lots of them. But they're damned fools. And why? 'Cause they don't use their brains. They mess about learning Greek. Greek! Can you believe it? What good does Greek ever do them?... But the money's not made yet, Splurge.
SPLURGE: I'm having it well advertised, sir.
SLADDER: Not so fast. What if they won't eat it?
SPLURGE: O, they'll eat it all right when it's advertised, sir. They eat everything that's advertised.
SLADDER: What if they can't eat it, Splurge?
SPLURGE: Can't, sir?
SLADDER: Send for my daughter.
SPLURGE: Yes, sir. (He rises and goes to the door.)
SLADDER: The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of some damned place. A million of money will be won or lost in this house in five minutes.
SPLURGE: In this house, sir?
SLADDER: Yes, in Ermyntrude's sitting-room. Send for her.
SPLURGE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Miss Sladder! Miss Sladder!
ERMYNTRUDE (off): Yes, Mr. Splurge.
SPLURGE: Would you come to the study, miss, Mr. Sladder wants to speak to you.
ERMYNTRUDE: O, yes, Mr. Splurge.
SLADDER: The test! The test!
SPLURGE: Miss Sladder is coming, sir.
SLADDER: The test!
ERMYNTRUDE: What is it, father?
SLADDER: How are your white mice, child?
ERMYNTRUDE: Quite well, father, both of them.
Sladder (draws a box from his pocket, takes out a little bit of cheese): Give them that, Ermyntrude.
ERMYNTRUDE: That, father. What is it?
ERMYNTRUDE: May I have a bit?
SLADDER: No, don't touch it!
ERMYNTRUDE: Very well, father.
SLADDER: If they eat it, you shall have——
ERMYNTRUDE: What, father?
SLADDER: Anything, everything. Only go and give them the cheese.
ERMYNTRUDE: All right, father.
[She moves to the door R., she looks round, then goes out by the French window instead.
SLADDER: Why are you going that way, child?
ERMYNTRUDE: O—er—I thought it would be nice to go round over the lawn, father. I can get in by the drawing-room.
SLADDER: O, very well. Be quick, dear.
ERMYNTRUDE: All right, father.
[The magnet that has attracted ERMYNTRUDE to the lawn now appears in the form of MR. HIPPANTHIGH, passing the window on his way to the hall-door. SLADDER and SPLURGE do not see him, having their backs to the window. ERMYNTRUDE looks round now and then to be sure of this. They hold hands longer than is laid down as necessary in books upon etiquette under the head of visiting. She gives him a look of glad and hopeful interrogation but he shakes his head solemnly, and passes gravely on, as one whose errand is no cheerful duty. She looks after him, then goes her way.
SLADDER: Well, Splurge, we can only wait. (With emphasis.) If these mice eat it——
SPLURGE: Yes, sir?
SLADDER: The public will eat it.
SLADDER: Any other business to-day?
SPLURGE: O, only the cook, sir. He's complaining about the vegetables, sir. He says he's never been anywhere before where they didn't buy them. We get them out of the kitchen garden here, and it seems he doesn't understand it. Says he won't serve a greengrocer, sir.
SLADDER: A kitchen garden is the wrong thing, is it?
SPLURGE: He says so, sir.
SLADDER: But there was one here when we came.
SPLURGE: O, only country people, sir. I suppose they didn't know any better.
SLADDER: Well, where do people grow vegetables, then?
SPLURGE: I asked the cook that, sir, and he said they don't grow them, they buy them.
SLADDER: O, all right, then. Let him buy them, then. We must do the right thing.
[The hall-door bell rings.
SLADDER: Hullo! Who's ringing my bell?
SPLURGE: That was the hall-door, wasn't it, sir?
SLADDER: Yes. What are they ringing it for?
BUTLER: Mr. Hippanthigh has called to see you, sir.
SLADDER: Called to see me! What about?
BUTLER: He didn't inform me, sir.
SLADDER: I say, Splurge, have I got to see him?
SPLURGE: I think so, sir. I think they call on one another like that in the country.
SLADDER: Good lord, whatever for? (To BUTLER.) O, yes. I'll see him, I'll see him.
BUTLER: Very good, sir, I'll inform him so, sir.
SLADDER: I say, Splurge, I suppose I've got to have a butler, and all that, eh?
SPLURGE: O, yes, sir. One at least. It's quite necessary.
SLADDER: You—you couldn't have bought me a cheerfuller one now, could you?
SPLURGE: I'm afraid not, sir. If you were to take all this too lightheartedly, the other landowners would hardly like it, you know.
SLADDER: O, well! O, well! What kind of man is this Hippanthigh that's coming?
SPLURGE: He's the man that quarrels with the bishop, sir.
SLADDER: O, the curate. O, yes. I've heard about him. He's been here before, I think. Lawn tennis.
BUTLER: Mr. Hippanthigh, sir.
[Enter HIPPANTHIGH. Exit BUTLER.
SLADDER: How do you do, Mr. Hippanthigh? How do you do? Pleased to see you.
HIPPANTHIGH: I wished to speak with you, Mr. Sladder, if you will permit me.
SLADDER: Certainly, Mr. Hippanthigh, certainly. Take a chair.
HIPPANTHIGH: Thank you, sir. I think I would sooner stand.
SLADDER: Please yourself. Please yourself.
HIPPANTHIGH: I wished to speak with you alone, sir.
SLADDER: Alone, eh? Alone? (Aside to SPLURGE.) It's usual, eh? (To HIPPANTHIGH.) Alone, of course, yes. You've come to call, haven't you. (Exit SPLURGE.) Can I offer you—er, er—calling's not much in my line, you know—but what I mean is—will you have a bottle of champagne?
HIPPANTHIGH: Mr. Sladder, I've come to speak with you because I believe it to be my duty to do so. I have hesitated to come, but when for particular reasons it became most painful to me to do so, then I knew that it was my clear duty, and I have come.
SLADDER: O, yes, what they call a duty call. O, yes, quite so. Yes, exactly.
HIPPANTHIGH: Mr. Sladder, many of my parishioners are acquainted with the thing that you sell as bread. (From the moment of HIPPANTHIGH'S entry till now SLADDER, over-cheerful and anxious, has been struggling to do and say the right thing through all the complications of a visit; but now that the note of Business has been sounded he suddenly knows where he is and becomes alert and stern, and all there.)
SLADDER: What? Virilo?
HIPPANTHIGH: Yes. They pay more for it than they pay for bread, because they've been taught somehow, poor fools, that "they must have the best." They've been made to believe that it makes them, what they call virile, poor fools, and they're growing ill on it. Not so ill that I can prove anything, and the doctor daren't help me.
SLADDER: Are you aware, Mr. Hippanthigh, that if you said in public what you're saying to me, you would go to prison for it, unless you can run to the very heavy fine—damages would be enormous.
HIPPANTHIGH: I know that, Mr. Sladder, and so I have come to you as the last hope for my people.
SLADDER: Are you aware, Mr. Hippanthigh, that you are making an attack upon business? I don't say that business is as pure as a surplice. But I do say that in business it is—as you may not understand—get on or go under; and without my business, or the business of the next man, who is doing his best to beat me, what would happen to trade? I don't know what's going to happen to England if you get rid of her trade, Mr. Hippanthigh.... Well?... When we're broke because we've been doing business with surplices on, what are the other countries going to do, Mr. Hippanthigh? Can you answer me that?
HIPPANTHIGH: No, Mr. Sladder.
SLADDER: Ah! So I've got the best of you?
HIPPANTHIGH: Yes, Mr. Sladder. I'm not so clever as you.
SLADDER: Glad you admit the point. As for cleverness it isn't that I've so much of that, but I use what I've got. Well, have you anything more to say?
HIPPANTHIGH: Only to appeal to you, Mr. Sladder, on behalf of these poor people.
SLADDER: Why. But you admitted one must have business, and that it can't be run like a tea-party. What more do you want?
HIPPANTHIGH: I want you to spare them, Mr. Sladder.
SLADDER: Spare them? Spare them? Why, what's the matter with them? I'm not killing them.
HIPPANTHIGH: No, Mr. Sladder, you're not killing them. The mortality among children's a bit on the high side, but I wouldn't say that was entirely due to your bread. There's a good many minor ailments among the grown-up people, it seems to attack their digestion mostly, one can't trace each case to its source; but their health and their teeth aren't what they were when they had the pure wheaten bread.
SLADDER: But there is wheat in my bread, prepared by a special process.
HIPPANTHIGH: Ah! It's that special process that does it, I expect.
SLADDER: Well, they needn't buy it if it isn't good.
HIPPANTHIGH: Ah, they can't help themselves, poor fools; they've been taught to do it from their childhood up. Virilo, Bredo and Weeto, that are all so much better than bread, it's a choice between these three. Bread is never advertised, or God's good wheat.
SLADDER: Mr. Hippanthigh, if I'm too much of a fool to sell my goods I suffer for it; if they're such fools as to buy my Virilo, they suffer for it—that is to say, you say they do—that is a natural law that may be new to you. But why should I suffer more than them? Besides, if I take my Virilo off the market just to oblige you, Mr. Hippanthigh, a little matter of L30,000 a year——
SLADDER: O, don't mention it. Any little trifle to oblige! But if I did, up would go the sales of Bredo and Weeto (which have nothing to do with my firm), and your friends wouldn't be any better for that let me tell you, for I happen to know how they're made.
HIPPANTHIGH: I am not speaking of the wickedness of others. I come to appeal to you, Mr. Sladder, that for nothing that you do, our English race shall lose anything of its ancient strength, in its young men in their prime, or that they should grow infirm a day sooner than God intended, when He planned his course for man.
ERMYNTRUDE (off): Father! Father!
[SLADDER draws himself up, and stands erect to meet the decisive news that he has expected.
ERMYNTRUDE: Father! The mice have eaten the cheese.
SLADDER: Ah! The public will—— O! (He has suddenly seen HIPPANTHIGH).
HIPPANTHIGH (solemnly): What new wickedness is this, Mr. Sladder? (All stand silent.) Good-bye, Mr. Sladder.
[He goes to the door, passing ERMYNTRUDE. He looks at her and sighs as he goes. He passes MRS. SLADDER near the door, and bows in silence.
ERMYNTRUDE: What have you been saying to Mr. Hippanthigh, father?
SLADDER: Saying! He's been doing all the saying. He doesn't let you do much saying, does Hippanthigh.
ERMYNTRUDE: But, father. What did he come to see you about?
SLADDER: He came to call your poor old father all kinds of bad names, he did. It seems your old father is a wicked fellow, Ermyntrude.
ERMYNTRUDE: O, father, I'm sure he never meant it.
[HIPPANTHIGH goes by the window with a mournful face. ERMYNTRUDE runs to the window and watches him till he is out of sight. She quietly waves her hand to HIPPANTHIGH, unseen by her father.
SLADDER: O, he meant it all right. He meant it. I'm sorry for that bishop of his that he quarrels with, if he lets him have it the way he went for your poor old father. O, dear me; dear me.
ERMYNTRUDE: I don't think he quarrels with him, father. I think he only insists that there can be no such thing as eternal punishment. I think that's rather nice of him.
SLADDER: I don't care a damn about eternal punishment one way or the other. But a man who quarrels with the head of his firm's a fool. If his bishop's keen on hell, he should push hell for all it's worth.
ERMYNTRUDE: Y-e-s, I suppose he should. But, father, aren't you glad that my mice have eaten the new cheese? I thought you'd be glad, father.
SLADDER: So I am, child. So I am. Only I don't feel quite so glad as I thought I was going to, now. I don't know why. He seems to have stroked me the wrong way somehow.
ERMYNTRUDE: You said you'd give me whatever I liked.
SLADDER: And so I will, child. So I will. A motor if you like, with chauffeur and footman complete. We can buy anything now, and I wouldn't grudge——
ERMYNTRUDE: I don't want a motor, father.
SLADDER: What would you like to have?
ERMYNTRUDE: O, nothing, father, nothing. Only about that duke, father——
SLADDER: What duke, Ermyntrude?
ERMYNTRUDE: Mother said you wanted me to marry a duke some day, father.
ERMYNTRUDE: Well I—er—I don't think I quite want to, father.
SLADDER: Ah! Quite so. Quite so. Quite so. And who did you think of marrying?
ERMYNTRUDE: O, father.
SLADDER: Well? (ERMYNTRUDE is silent.) When I was his age, I had to work hard for my living.
ERMYNTRUDE: O, father. How do you know what age he is?
SLADDER: O, I guessed he was 82, going to be 83 next birthday. But I daresay I know nothing of the world. I daresay I may have been wrong.
ERMYNTRUDE: O, father, he's young.
SLADDER: Dear me, you don't say so. Dear me, you do surprise me. Well, well, well, well. We do live and learn. Don't we? And what might his name be now?
ERMYNTRUDE: It's Mr. Hippanthigh, father.
SLADDER: O-o-o! It's Mr. Hippanthigh, is it? O-ho, O-ho! (He touches a movable bell, shouting "SPLURGE!" To his daughter or rather to himself.) We'll see Mr. Hippanthigh.
ERMYNTRUDE: What are you going to do, father?
SLADDER: We'll see Mr. Hippanthigh. (Enter SPLURGE.) Splurge, run after Mr. Hippanthigh and bring him back. Say I've got something to say to him. He's gone that way. Quick!
SPLURGE: Yes, sir. [Exit.
SLADDER: I've got something to say to him this time.
ERMYNTRUDE: Father! What are you going to do?
SLADDER: I'm going to give him What For.
ERMYNTRUDE: But why, father?
SLADDER: Because he's been giving it to your poor old father.
ERMYNTRUDE: Be kind to him, father.