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The Dynasts - An Epic-Drama Of The War With Napoleon, In Three Parts, - Nineteen Acts, And One Hundred And Thirty Scenes
by Thomas Hardy
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What are those townspeople talking about so earnestly, I wonder? The lingo of this place has an accent akin to English.

SECOND SUBALTERN

No doubt because the races are both Teutonic.

[The spies observe that they are noticed, and disappear in the crowd. The curtain drops.]



SCENE VIII

THE SAME

[The midsummer sun is low, and a long table in the aforeshown apartment is laid out for a dinner, among the decorations being bunches of the season's roses.

At the vacant end of the room [divided from the dining end by folding-doors, now open] there are discovered the EMPEROR NAPOLEON, the GRAND-DUKE CONSTANTINE, PRINCE HENRY OF PRUSSIA, the PRINCE ROYAL OF BAVARIA, the GRAND DUKE OF BERG, and attendant officers.

Enter the TSAR ALEXANDER. NAPOLEON welcomes him, and the twain move apart from the rest. BONAPARTE placing a chair for his visitor and flinging himself down on another.]

NAPOLEON

The comforts I can offer are not great, Nor is the accommodation more than scant That falls to me for hospitality; But, as it is, accept.

ALEXANDER

It serves well. And to unbrace the bandages of state Is as clear air to incense-stifled souls. What of the Queen?

NAPOLEON

She's coming with the King. We have some quarter-hour to spare or more Before their Majesties are timed for us.

ALEXANDER

Good. I would speak of them. That she should show here After the late events, betokens much! Abasement in so proud a woman's heart [His voice grows tremulous.] Is not without a dash of painfulness. And I beseech you, sire, that you hold out Some soothing hope for her?

NAPOLEON

I have, already!— Now, sire, to those affairs we entered on: Strong friendship, grown secure, bids me repeat That you have been much duped by your allies.

[ALEXANDER shows mortification.]

Prussia's a shuffler, England a self-seeker, Nobility has shone in you alone. Your error grew of over-generous dreams, And misbeliefs by dullard ministers. By treating personally we speed affairs More in an hour than they in blundering months. Between us two, henceforth, must stand no third. There's peril in it, while England's mean ambition Still works to get us skewered by the ears; And in this view your chiefs-of-staff concur.

ALEXANDER

The judgment of my officers I share.

NAPOLEON

To recapitulate. Nothing can greaten you Like this alliance. Providence has flung My good friend Sultan Selim from his throne, Leaving me free in dealings with the Porte; And I discern the hour as one to end A rule that Time no longer lets cohere. If I abstain, its spoils will go to swell The power of this same England, our annoy; That country which enchains the trade of towns With such bold reach as to monopolize, Among the rest, the whole of Petersburg's— Ay!—through her purse, friend, as the lender there!— Shutting that purse, she may incite to—what? Muscovy's fall, its ruler's murdering. Her fleet at any minute can encoop Yours in the Baltic; in the Black Sea, too; And keep you snug as minnows in a glass!

Hence we, fast-fellowed by our mutual foes, Seaward the British, Germany by land, And having compassed, for our common good, The Turkish Empire's due partitioning, As comrades can conjunctly rule the world To its own gain and our eternal fame!

ALEXANDER [stirred and flushed]

I see vast prospects opened!—yet, in truth, Ere you, sire, broached these themes, their outlines loomed Not seldom in my own imaginings; But with less clear a vision than endows So great a captain, statesman, philosoph, As centre in yourself; whom had I known Sooner by some few years, months, even weeks, I had been spared full many a fault of rule. —Now as to Austria. Should we call her in?

NAPOLEON

Two in a bed I have slept, but never three.

ALEXANDER

Ha-ha! Delightful. And, then nextly, Spain?

NAPOLEON

I lighted on some letters at Berlin, Wherein King Carlos offered to attack me. A Bourbon, minded thus, so near as Spain, Is dangerous stuff. He must be seen to soon!... A draft, then, of our treaty being penned, We will peruse it later. If King George Will not, upon the terms there offered him, Conclude a ready peace, he can be forced. Trumpet yourself as France's firm ally, And Austria will fain to do the same: England, left nude to such joint harassment, Must shiver—fall.

ALEXANDER [with naive enthusiasm]

It is a great alliance!

NAPOLEON

Would it were one in blood as well as brain— Of family hopes, and sweet domestic bliss!

ALEXANDER

Ah—is it to my sister you refer?

NAPOLEON

The launching of a lineal progeny Has been much pressed upon me, much, of late, For reasons which I will not dwell on now. Staid counsellors, my brother Joseph, too, Urge that I loose the Empress by divorce, And re-wive promptly for the country's good. Princesses even have been named for me!— However this, to-day, is premature, And 'twixt ourselves alone....

The Queen of Prussia must ere long be here: Berthier escorts her. And the King, too, comes. She's one whom you admire?

ALEXANDER [reddening ingenuously]

Yes.... Formerly I had—did feel that some faint fascination Vaguely adorned her form. And, to be plain, Certain reports have been calumnious, And wronged an honest woman.

NAPOLEON

As I knew! But she is wearing thready: why, her years Must be full one-and-thirty, if she's one.

ALEXANDER [quickly]

No, sire. She's twenty-nine. If traits teach more It means that cruel memory gnaws at her As fair inciter to that fatal war Which broke her to the dust!... I do confess [Since now we speak on't] that this sacrifice Prussia is doomed to, still disquiets me. Unhappy King! When I recall the oaths Sworn him upon great Frederick's sepulchre, And—and my promises to his sad Queen, It pricks me that his realm and revenues Should be stript down to the mere half they were!

NAPOLEON [cooly]

Believe me, 'tis but my regard for you Which lets me leave him that! Far easier 'twere To leave him none at all.

[He rises and goes to the window.]

But here they are. No; it's the Queen alone, with Berthier As I directed. Then the King will follow.

ALEXANDER

Let me, sire, urge your courtesy to bestow Some gentle words on her?

NAPOLEON

Ay, ay; I will.

[Enter QUEEN LOUISA OF PRUSSIA on the arm of BERTHIER. She appears in majestic garments and with a smile on her lips, so that her still great beauty is impressive. But her eyes bear traces of tears. She accepts NAPOLEON'S attentions with the stormily sad air of a wounded beauty. Whilst she is being received the KING arrives. He is a plain, shy, honest-faced, awkward man, with a wrecked and solitary look. His manner to NAPOLEON is, nevertheless, dignified, and even stiff.

The company move into the inner half of the room, where the tables are, and the folding-doors being shut, they seat themselves at dinner, the QUEEN taking a place between NAPOLEON and ALEXANDER.]

NAPOLEON

Madame, I love magnificent attire; But in the present instance can but note That each bright knot and jewel less adorns The brighter wearer than the wearer it!

QUEEN [with a sigh]

You praise one, sire, whom now the wanton world Has learnt to cease from praising! But such words From such a quarter are of worth no less.

NAPOLEON

Of worth as candour, madame; not as gauge. Your reach in rarity outsoars my scope. Yet, do you know, a troop of my hussars, That last October day, nigh captured you?

QUEEN

Nay! Never a single Frenchman did I see.

NAPOLEON

Not less it was that you exposed yourself, And should have been protected. But at Weimar, Had you but sought me, 'twould have bettered you.

QUEEN

I had no zeal to meet you, sire, alas!

NAPOLEON [after a silence]

And how at Memel do you sport with time?

QUEEN

Sport? I!—I pore on musty chronicles, And muse on usurpations long forgot, And other historied dramas of high wrong!

NAPOLEON

Why con not annals of your own rich age? They treasure acts well fit for pondering.

QUEEN

I am reminded too much of my age By having had to live in it. May Heaven Defend me now, and my wan ghost anon, From conning it again!

NAPOLEON

Alas, alas! Too grievous, this, for one who is yet a queen!

QUEEN

No; I have cause for vials more of grief.— Prussia was blind in blazoning her power Against the Mage of Earth!... The embers of great Frederick's deeds inflamed her: His glories swelled her to her ruining. Too well has she been punished! [Emotion stops her.]

ALEXANDER [in a low voice, looking anxiously at her]

Say not so. You speak as all were lost. Things are not thus! Such desperation has unreason in it, And bleeds the hearts that crave to comfort you.

NAPOLEON [to the King]

I trust the treaty, further pondered, sire, Has consolations?

KING [curtly]

I am a luckless man; And muster strength to bear my lucklessness Without vain hope of consolations now. One thing, at least, I trust I have shown you, sire That I provoked not this calamity! At Anspach first my feud with you began— Anspach, my Eden, violated and shamed By blushless tramplings of your legions there!

NAPOLEON

It's rather late, methinks, to talk thus now.

KING [with more choler]

Never too late for truth and plainspeaking!

NAPOLEON [blandly]

To your ally, the Tsar, I must refer you. He was it, and not I, who tempted you To push for war, when Eylau must have shown Your every profit to have lain in peace.— He can indemn; yes, much or small; and may.

KING [with a head-shake]

I would make up, would well make up, my mind To half my kingdom's loss, could in such limb But Magdeburg not lie. Dear Magdeburg, Place of my heart-hold; THAT I would retain!

NAPOLEON

Our words take not such pattern as is wont To grace occasions of festivity.

[He turns brusquely from the King. The banquet proceeds with a more general conversation. When finished a toast is proposed: "The Freedom of the Seas," and drunk with enthusiasm.]

SPIRIT SINISTER

Another hit at England and her tubs! I hear harsh echoes from her chalky chines.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

O heed not England now! Still read the Queen. One grieves to see her spend her pretty spells Upon the man who has so injured her.

[They rise from table, and the folding-doors being opened they pass into the adjoining room.

Here are now assembled MURAT, TALLEYRAND, KOURAKIN, KALKREUTH, BERTHIER, BESSIERES, CAULAINCOURT, LABANOFF, BENNIGSEN, and others. NAPOLEON having spoken a few words here and there resumes his conversation with QUEEN LOUISA, and parenthetically offers snuff to the COUNTESS VOSS, her lady-in-waiting. TALLEYRAND, who has observed NAPOLEON'S growing interest in the QUEEN, contrives to get near him.]

TALLEYRAND [in a whisper]

Sire, is it possible that you can bend To let one woman's fairness filch from you All the resplendent fortune that attends The grandest victory of your grand career?

[The QUEEN'S quick eye observes and flashes at the whisper, and she obtains a word with the minister.]

QUEEN [sarcastically]

I should infer, dear Monsieur Talleyrand, Only two persons in the world regret My having come to Tilsit.

TALLEYRAND

Madame, two? Can any!—who may such sad rascals be?

QUEEN

You, and myself, Prince. [Gravely.] Yes! myself and you.

[TALLEYRAND'S face becomes impassive, and he does not reply. Soon the QUEEN prepares to leave, and NAPOLEON rejoins her.]

NAPOLEON [taking a rose from a vase]

Dear Queen, do pray accept this little token As souvenir of me before you go?

[He offers her the rose, with his hand on his heart. She hesitates, but accepts it.]

QUEEN [impulsively, with waiting tears]

Let Magdeburg come with it, sire! O yes!

NAPOLEON [with sudden frigidity]

It is for you to take what I can give. And I give this—no more.[15]

[She turns her head to hide her emotion, and withdraws. NAPOLEON steps up to her, and offers his arm. She takes it silently, and he perceives the tears on her cheeks. They cross towards the ante- room, away from the other guests.]

NAPOLEON [softly]

Still weeping, dearest lady! Why is this?

QUEEN [seizing his hand and pressing it]

Your speeches darn the tearings of your sword!— Between us two, as man and woman now, Is't even possible you question why! O why did not the Greatest of the Age— Of future ages—of the ages past, This one time win a woman's worship—yea, For all her little life!

NAPOLEON [gravely]

Know you, my Fair That I—ay, I—in this deserve your pity.— Some force within me, baffling mine intent, Harries me onward, whether I will or no. My star, my star is what's to blame—not I. It is unswervable!

QUEEN

Then now, alas! My duty's done as mother, wife, and queen.— I'll say no more—but that my heart is broken!

[Exeunt NAPOLEON, QUEEN, and LADY-IN-WAITING.]

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

He spoke thus at the Bridge of Lodi. Strange, He's of the few in Europe who discern The working of the Will.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

If that be so, Better for Europe lacked he such discerning!

[NAPOLEON returns to the room and joins TALLEYRAND.]

NAPOLEON [aside to his minister]

My God, it was touch-and-go that time, Talleyrand! She was within an ace of getting over me. As she stepped into the carriage she said in her pretty way, "O I have been cruelly deceived by you!" And when she sank down inside, not knowing I heard, she burst into sobs fit to move a statue. The Devil take me if I hadn't a good mind to stop the horses, jump in, give her a good kissing, and agree to all she wanted. Ha-ha, well; a miss is as good as a mile. Had she come sooner with those sweet, beseeching blue eyes of hers, who knows what might not have happened! But she didn't come sooner, and I have kept in my right mind.

[The RUSSIAN EMPEROR, the KING OF PRUSSIA, and other guests advance to bid adieu. They depart severally. When they are gone NAPOLEON turns to TALLEYRAND.]

Adhere, then, to the treaty as it stands: Change not therein a single article, But write it fair forthwith.

[Exeunt NAPOLEON, TALLEYRAND, and other ministers and officers in waiting.[

SHADE OF THE EARTH

Some surly voice afar I heard now Of an enisled Britannic quality; Wots any of the cause?

SPIRIT IRONIC

Perchance I do! Britain is roused, in her slow, stolid style, By Bonaparte's pronouncement at Berlin Against her cargoes, commerce, life itself; And now from out her water citadel Blows counterblasting "Orders." Rumours tell.

RUMOUR I

"From havens of fierce France and her allies, With poor or precious freight of merchandize Whoso adventures, England pounds as prize!"

RUMOUR II

Thereat Napoleon names her, furiously, Curst Oligarch, Arch-pirate of the sea, Who shall lack room to live while liveth he!

CHORUS OF THE PITIES [aerial music]

And peoples are enmeshed in new calamity!

[Curtain of Evening Shades.]



ACT SECOND

SCENE I

THE PYRENEES AND VALLEYS ADJOINING

[The view is from upper air, immediately over the region that lies between Bayonne on the north, Pampeluna on the south, and San Sebastian on the west, including a portion of the Cantabrian mountains. The month is February, and snow covers not only the peaks but the lower slopes. The roads over the passes are well beaten.]

DUMB SHOW

At various elevations multitudes of NAPOLEON'S soldiery, to the number of about thirty thousand, are discerned in a creeping progress across the frontier from the French to the Spanish side. The thin long columns serpentine along the roads, but are sometimes broken, while at others they disappear altogether behind vertical rocks and overhanging woods. The heavy guns and the whitey-brown tilts of the baggage-waggons seem the largest objects in the procession, which are dragged laboriously up the incline to the watershed, their lumbering being audible as high as the clouds.

Simultaneously the river Bidassoa, in a valley to the west, is being crossed by a train of artillery and another thirty thousand men, all forming part of the same systematic advance.

Along the great highway through Biscay the wondering native carters draw their sheep-skinned ox-teams aside, to let the regiments pass, and stray groups of peaceable field-workers in Navarre look inquiringly at the marching and prancing progress.

Time passes, and the various northern strongholds are approached by these legions. Their governors emerge at a summons, and when seeming explanations have been given the unwelcome comers are doubtfully admitted.

The chief places to which entrance is thus obtained are Pampeluna and San Sebastian at the front of the scene, and far away towards the shining horizon of the Mediterranean, Figueras, and Barcelona.

Dumb Show concludes as the mountain mists close over.



SCENE II

ARANJUEZ, NEAR MADRID. A ROOM IN THE PALACE OF GODOY, THE "PRINCE OF PEACE"

[A private chamber is disclosed, richly furnished with paintings, vases, mirrors, silk hangings, gilded lounges, and several lutes of rare workmanship. The hour is midnight, the room being lit by screened candelabra. In the centre at the back of the scene is a large window heavily curtained.

GODOY and the QUEEN MARIA LUISA are dallying on a sofa. THE PRINCE OF PEACE is a fine handsome man in middle life, with curled hair and a mien of easy good-nature. The QUEEN is older, but looks younger in the dim light, from the lavish use of beautifying arts. She has pronounced features, dark eyes, low brows, black hair bound by a jewelled bandeau, and brought forward in curls over her forehead and temples, long heavy ear-rings, an open bodice, and sleeves puffed at the shoulders. A cloak and other mufflers lie on a chair beside her.]

GODOY

The life-guards still insist, Love, that the King Shall not leave Aranjuez.

QUEEN

Let them insist. Whether we stay, or whether we depart, Napoleon soon draws hither with his host!

GODOY

He says he comes pacifically.... But no!

QUEEN

Dearest, we must away to Andalusia, Thence to America when time shall serve.

GODOY

I hold seven thousand men to cover us, And ships in Cadiz port. But then—the Prince Flatly declines to go. He lauds the French As true deliverers.

QUEEN

Go Fernando MUST!... O my sweet friend, that we—our sole two selves— Could but escape and leave the rest to fate, And in a western bower dream out our days!— For the King's glass can run but briefly now, Shattered and shaken as his vigour is.— But ah—your love burns not in singleness! Why, dear, caress Josefa Tudo still? She does not solve her soul in yours as I. And why those others even more than her?... How little own I in thee!

GODOY

Such must be. I cannot quite forsake them. Don't forget The same scope has been yours in former years.

QUEEN

Yes, Love; I know. I yield! You cannot leave them; But if you ever would bethink yourself How long I have been yours, how truly all Those other pleasures were my desperate shifts To soften sorrow at your absences, You would be faithful to me!

GODOY

True, my dear.— Yet I do passably keep troth with you, And fond you with fair regularity;— A week beside you, and a week away. Such is not schemed without some risk and strain.— And you agreed Josefa should be mine, And, too, Thereza without jealousy! [A noise is heard without.] Ah, what means that?

[He jumps up from her side and crosses the room to a window, where he lifts the curtain cautiously. The Queen follows him with a scared look.

QUEEN

A riot can it be?

GODOY

Let me put these out ere they notice them; They think me at the Royal Palace yonder.

[He hastily extinguishes the candles except one taper, which he places in a recess, so that the room is in shade. He then draws back the curtains, and she joins him at the window, where, enclosing her with his arm, he and she look out together.

In front of the house a guard of hussars is stationed, beyond them spreading the Plaza or Square. On the other side rises in the lamplight the white front of the Royal Palace. On the flank of the Palace is a wall enclosing gardens, bowered alleys, and orange groves, and in the wall a small door.

A mixed multitude of soldiery and populace fills the space in front of the King's Palace, and they shout and address each other vehemently. During a lull in their vociferations is heard the peaceful purl of the Tagus over a cascade in the Palace grounds.]

QUEEN

Lingering, we've risked too long our chance of flight! The Paris Terror will repeat it here. Not for myself I fear. No, no; for thee! [She clings to him.] If they should hurt you, it would murder me By heart-bleedings and stabs intolerable!

GODOY [kissing her]

The first thought now is how to get you back Within the Palace walls. Why would you risk To come here on a night so critical?

QUEEN [passionately]

I could not help it—nay, I WOULD not help! Rather than starve my soul I venture all.— Our last love-night—last, maybe, of long years, Why do you chide me now?

GODOY

Dear Queen, I do not: I shape these sharp regrets but for your sake. Hence you must go, somehow, and quickly too. They think not yet of you in threatening thus, But of me solely.... Where does your lady wait?

QUEEN

Below. One servant with her. They are true, And can be let know all. But you—but you! [Uproar continues.]

GODOY

I can escape. Now call them. All three cloak And veil as when you came.

[They retreat into the room. QUEEN MARIA LUISA'S lady-in-waiting and servant are summoned. Enter both. All three then muffle themselves up, and GODOY prepares to conduct the QUEEN downstairs.]

QUEEN

Nay, now! I will not have it. We are safe; Think of yourself. Can you get out behind?

GODOY

I judge so—when I have done what's needful here.— The mob knows not the bye-door—slip across; Thence around sideways.—All's clear there as yet.

[The QUEEN, her lady-in-waiting, and the servant go out hurriedly.

GODOY looks again from the window. The mob is some way off, the immediate front being for the moment nearly free of loiterers; and the three muffled figures are visible, crossing without hindrance towards the door in the wall of the Palace Gardens. The instant they reach it a sentinel springs up, challenging them.]

GODOY

Ah—now they are doomed! My God, why did she come!

[A parley takes place. Something, apparently a bribe, is handed to the sentinel, and the three are allowed to slip in, the QUEEN having obviously been unrecognized. He breathes his relief.]

Now for the others. Then—ah, then Heaven knows!

[He sounds a bell and a servant enters.

Where is the Countess of Castillofiel?

SERVANT

She's looking for you, Prince.

GODOY

Find her at once. Ah—here she is.—That's well.—Go watch the Plaza [to servant].

[GODOY'S mistress, the DONA JOSEFA TUDO, enters. She is a young and beautiful woman, the vivacity of whose large dark eyes is now clouded. She is wrapped up for flight. The servant goes out.]

JOSEFA [breathlessly]

I should have joined you sooner, but I knew The Queen was fondling with you. She must needs Come hampering you this night of all the rest, As if not gorged with you at other times!

GODOY

Don't, pretty one! needless it is in you, Being so well aware who holds my love.— I could not check her coming, since she would. You well know how the old thing is, and how I am compelled to let her have her mind!

[He kisses her repeatedly.]

JOSEFA

But look, the mob is swelling! Pouring in By thousands from Madrid—and all afoot. Will they not come on hither from the King's?

GODOY

Not just yet, maybe. You should have sooner fled! The coach is waiting and the baggage packed. [He again peers out.] Yes, there the coach is; and the clamourers near, Led by Montijo, if I see aright. Yes, they cry "Uncle Peter!"—that means him. There will be time yet. Now I'll take you down So far as I may venture.

[They leave the room. In a few minutes GODOY, having taken her down, re-enters and again looks out. JOSEFA'S coach is moving off with a small escort of GODOY'S guards of honour. A sudden yelling begins, and the crowd rushes up and stops the vehicle. An altercation ensues.]

CROWD

Uncle Peter, it is the Favourite carrying off Prince Fernando. Stop him!

JOSEFA [putting her head out of the coach]

Silence their uproar, please, Senor Count of Montijo! It is a lady only, the Countess of Castillofiel.

MONTIJO

Let her pass, let her pass, friends! It is only that pretty wench of his, Pepa Tudo, who calls herself a Countess. Our titles are put to comical uses these days. We shall catch the cock-bird presently!

[The DONA JOSEFA'S carriage is allowed to pass on, as a shout from some who have remained before the Royal Palace attracts the attention of the multitude, which surges back thither.]

CROWD [nearing the Palace]

Call out the King and the Prince. Long live the King! He shall not go. Hola! He is gone! Let us see him! He shall abandon Godoy!

[The clamour before the Royal Palace still increasing, a figure emerges upon a balcony, whom GODOY recognizes by the lamplight to be FERNANDO, Prince of Asturias. He can be seen waving his hand. The mob grows suddenly silent.]

FERNANDO [in a shaken voice]

Citizens! the King my father is in the palace with the Queen. He has been much tried to-day.

CROWD

Promise, Prince, that he shall not leave us. Promise!

FERNANDO

I do. I promise in his name. He has mistaken you, thinking you wanted his head. He knows better now.

CROWD

The villain Godoy misrepresented us to him! Throw out the Prince of Peace!

FERNANDO

He is not here, my friends.

CROWD

Then the King shall announce to us that he has dismissed him! Let us see him. The King; the King!

[FERNANDO goes in. KING CARLOS comes out reluctantly, and bows to their cheering. He produces a paper with a trembling hand.

KING [reading]

"As it is the wish of the people—-"

CROWD

Speak up, your Majesty!

KING [more loudly]

"As it is the wish of the people, I release Don Manuel Godoy, Prince of Peace, from the posts of Generalissimo of the Army and Grand Admiral of the Fleet, and give him leave to withdraw whither he pleases."

CROWD

Huzza!

KING

Citizens, to-morrow the decree is to be posted in Madrid.

CROWD

Huzza! Long life to the King, and death to Godoy!

[KING CARLOS disappears from the balcony, and the populace, still increasing in numbers, look towards GODOY'S mansion, as if deliberating how to attack it. GODOY retreats from the window into the room, and gazing round him starts. A pale, worn, but placid lady, in a sombre though elegant robe, stands here in the gloom. She is THEREZA OF BOURBON, the Princess of Peace.]

PRINCESS

It is only your unhappy wife, Manuel. She will not hurt you!

GODOY [shrugging his shoulders]

Nor with THEY hurt YOU! Why did you not stay in the Royal Palace? You would have been more comfortable there.

PRINCESS

I don't recognize why you should specially value my comfort. You have saved you real wives. How can it matter what happens to your titular one?

GODOY

Much, dear. I always play fair. But it being your blest privilege not to need my saving I was left free to practise it on those who did. [Mob heard approaching.] Would that I were in no more danger than you!

PRINCESS

Puf!

[He again peers out. His guard of hussars stands firmly in front of the mansion; but the life-guards from the adjoining barracks, who have joined the people, endeavour to break the hussars of GODOY. A shot is fired, GODOY'S guard yields, and the gate and door are battered in.

CROWD [without]

Murder him! murder him! Death to Manuel Godoy!

[They are heard rushing onto the court and house.]

PRINCESS

Go, I beseech you! You can do nothing for me, and I pray you to save yourself! The heap of mats in the lumber-room will hide you!

[GODOY hastes to a jib-door concealed by sham bookshelves, presses the spring of it, returns, kisses her, and then slips out.

His wife sits down with her back against the jib-door, and fans herself. She hears the crowd trampling up the stairs, but she does not move, and in a moment people burst in. The leaders are armed with stakes, daggers, and various improvised weapons, and some guards in undress appear with halberds.]

FIRST CITIZEN [peering into the dim light]

Where is he? Murder him! [Noticing the Princess.] Come, where is he?

PRINCESS

The Prince of Peace is gone. I know not wither.

SECOND CITIZEN

Who is this lady?

LIFE-GUARDSMAN

Manuel Godoy's Princess.

CITIZENS [uncovering]

Princess, a thousand pardons grant us!—you An injured wife—an injured people we! Common misfortune makes us more than kin. No single hair of yours shall suffer harm.

[The PRINCESS bows.]

FIRST CITIZEN

But this, Senora, is no place for you, For we mean mischief here! Yet first will grant Safe conduct for you to the Palace gates, Or elsewhere, as you wish

PRINCESS

My wish is nought. Do what you will with me. But he's not here.

[Several of them form an escort, and accompany her from the room and out of the house. Those remaining, now a great throng, begin searching the room, and in bands invade other parts of the mansion.]

SOME CITIZENS [returning]

It is no use searching. She said he was not here, and she's a woman of honour.

FIRST CITIZEN [drily]

She's his wife.

[They begin knocking the furniture to pieces, tearing down the hangings, trampling on the musical instruments, and kicking holes through the paintings they have unhung from the walls. These, with clocks, vases, carvings, and other movables, they throw out of the window, till the chamber is a scene of utter wreck and desolation. In the rout a musical box is swept off a table, and starts playing a serenade as it falls on the floor. Enter the COUNT OF MONTIJO.]

MONTIJO

Stop, friends; stop this! There is no sense in it— It shows but useless spite! I have much to say: The French Ambassador, de Beauharnais, Has come, and sought the King. And next Murat, With thirty thousand men, half cavalry, Is closing in upon our doomed Madrid! I know not what he means, this Bonaparte; He makes pretence to gain us Portugal, But what want we with her? 'Tis like as not His aim's to noose us vassals all to him! The King will abdicate, and shortly too, As those will live to see who live not long.— We have saved our nation from the Favourite, But who is going to save us from our Friend?

[The mob desists dubiously and goes out; the musical box upon the floor plays on, the taper burns to its socket, and the room becomes wrapt in the shades of night.]



SCENE III

LONDON: THE MARCHIONESS OF SALISBURY'S

[A large reception-room is disclosed, arranged for a conversazione. It is an evening in summer following, and at present the chamber is empty and in gloom. At one end is an elaborate device, representing Britannia offering her assistance to Spain, and at the other a figure of Time crowning the Spanish Patriots' flag with laurel.]

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

O clarionists of human welterings, Relate how Europe's madding movement brings This easeful haunt into the path of palpitating things!

RUMOURS [chanting]

The Spanish King has bowed unto the Fate Which bade him abdicate: The sensual Queen, whose passionate caprice Has held her chambering with "the Prince of Peace," And wrought the Bourbon's fall, Holds to her Love in all; And Bonaparte has ruled that his and he Henceforth displace the Bourbon dynasty.

II

The Spanish people, handled in such sort, As chattels of a Court, Dream dreams of England. Messengers are sent In secret to the assembled Parliament, In faith that England's hand Will stouten them to stand, And crown a cause which, hold they, bond and free Must advocate enthusiastically.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

So the Will heaves through Space, and moulds the times, With mortals for Its fingers! We shall see Again men's passions, virtues, visions, crimes, Obey resistlessly The purposive, unmotived, dominant Thing Which sways in brooding dark their wayfaring!

[The reception room is lighted up, and the hostess comes in. There arrive Ambassadors and their wives, the Dukes and Duchesses of RUTLAND and SOMERSET, the Marquis and Marchioness of STAFFORD, the Earls of STAIR, WESTMORELAND, GOWER, ESSEX, Viscounts and Viscountesses CRANLEY and MORPETH, Viscount MELBOURNE, Lord and Lady KINNAIRD, Baron de ROLLE, Lady CHARLES GRENVILLE, the Ladies CAVENDISH, Mr. and Mrs. THOMAS HOPE, MR. GUNNING, MRS. FITZHERBERT, and many other notable personages. Lastly, she goes to the door to welcome severally the PRINCE OF WALES, the PRINCES OF FRANCE, and the PRINCESS CASTELCICALA.]

LADY SALISBURY [to the Prince of Wales]

I am sorry to say, sir, that the Spanish Patriots are not yet arrived. I doubt not but that they have been delayed by their ignorance of the town, and will soon be here.

PRINCE OF WALES

No hurry whatever, my dear hostess. Gad, we've enough to talk about! I understand that the arrangement between our ministers and these noblemen will include the liberation of Spanish prisoners in this country, and the providing 'em with arms, to go back and fight for their independence.

LADY SALISBURY

It will be a blessed event if they do check the career of this infamous Corsican. I have just heard that that poor foreigner Guillet de la Gevrilliere, who proposed to Mr. Fox to assassinate him, died a miserable death a few days ago the Bicetre—probably by torture, though nobody knows. Really one almost wishes Mr. Fox had—-. O here they are!

[Enter the Spanish Viscount de MATEROSA, and DON DIEGO de la VEGA. They are introduced by CAPTAIN HILL and MR. BAGOT, who escort them. LADY SALISBURY presents them to the PRINCE and others.]

PRINCE OF WALES

By gad, Viscount, we were just talking of 'ee. You had some adventures in getting to this country?

MATEROSA [assisted by Bagot as interpreter]

Sir, it has indeed been a trying experience for us. But here we are, impressed by a deep sense of gratitude for the signal marks of attachment your country has shown us.

PRINCE OF WALES

You represent, practically, the Spanish people?

MATEROSA

We are immediately deputed, sir, By the Assembly of Asturias, More sailing soon from other provinces. We bring official writings, charging us To clinch and solder Treaties with this realm That may promote our cause against the foe. Nextly a letter to your gracious King; Also a Proclamation, soon to sound And swell the pulse of the Peninsula, Declaring that the act by which King Carlos And his son Prince Fernando cede the throne To whomsoever Napoleon may appoint, Being an act of cheatery, not of choice, Unfetters us from our allegiant oath.

MRS. FITZHERBERT

The usurpation began, I suppose, with the divisions in the Royal Family?

MATEROSA

Yes, madam, and the protection they foolishly requested from the Emperor; and their timid intent of flying secretly helped it on. It was an opportunity he had been awaiting for years.

MRS. FITZHERBERT

All brought about by this man Godoy, Prince of Peace!

PRINCE OF WALES

Dash my wig, mighty much you know about it, Maria! Why, sure, Boney thought to himself, "This Spain is a pretty place; 'twill just suit me as an extra acre or two; so here goes."

DON DIEGO [aside to Bagot]

This lady is the Princess of Wales?

BAGOT

Hsh! no, Senor. The Princess lives at large at Kensington and other places, and has parties of her own, and doesn't keep house with her husband. This lady is—well, really his wife, you know, in the opinion of many; but—-

DON DIEGO

Ah! Ladies a little mixed, as they were at our Court! She's the Pepa Tudo to THIS Prince of Peace?

BAGOT

O no—not exactly that, Senor.

DON DIEGO

Ya, ya. Good. I'll be careful, my friend. You are not saints in England more than we are in Spain!

BAGOT

We are not. Only you sin with naked faces, and we with masks on.

DON DIEGO

Virtuous country!

DUCHESS OF RUTLAND

It was understood that Ferdinand, Prince of Asturias, was to marry a French princess, and so unite the countries peacefully?

MATEROSA

It was. And our credulous prince was tempted to meet Napoleon at Bayonne. Also the poor simple King, and the infatuated Queen, and Manuel Godoy.

DUCHESS OF RUTLAND

Then Godoy escaped from Aranjuez?

MATEROSA

Yes, by hiding in the garret. Then they all threw themselves upon Napoleon's protection. In his presence the Queen swore that the King was not Fernando's father! Altogether they form a queer little menagerie. What will happen to them nobody knows.

PRINCE OF WALES

And do you wish us to send an army at once?

MATEROSA

What we most want, sir, are arms and ammunition. But we leave the English Ministry to co-operate in its own wise way, anyhow, so as to sustain us in resenting these insults from the Tyrant of the Earth.

DUCHESS OF RUTLAND [to the Prince of Wales]

What sort of aid shall we send, sir?

PRINCE OF WALES

We are going to vote fifty millions, I hear. We'll whack him, and preserve your noble country for 'ee, Senor Viscount. The debate thereon is to come off to-morrow. It will be the finest thing the Commons have had since Pitt's time. Sheridan, who is open to it, says he and Canning are to be absolutely unanimous; and, by God, like the parties in his "Critic," when Government and Opposition do agree, their unanimity is wonderful! Viscount Materosa, you and your friends must be in the Gallery. O, dammy, you must!

MATEROSA

Sir, we are already pledged to be there.

PRINCE OF WALES

And hark ye, Senor Viscount. You will then learn what a mighty fine thing a debate in the English Parliament is! No Continental humbug there. Not but that the Court has a trouble to keep 'em in their places sometimes; and I would it had been one in the Lords instead. However, Sheridan says he has been learning his speech these two days, and has hunted his father's dictionary through for some stunning long words.—Now, Maria [to Mrs. Fitzherbert], I am going home.

LADY SALISBURY

At last, then, England will take her place in the forefront of this mortal struggle, and in pure disinterestedness fight with all her strength for the European deliverance. God defend the right!

[The Prince of Wales leaves, and the other guests begin to depart.]

SEMICHORUS I OF THE YEARS [aerial music]

Leave this glib throng to its conjecturing, And let four burdened weeks uncover what they bring!

SEMICHORUS II

The said Debate, to wit; its close in deed; Till England stands enlisted for the Patriots' needs.

SEMICHORUS I

And transports in the docks gulp down their freight Of buckled fighting-flesh, and gale-bound, watch and wait.

SEMICHORUS II

Till gracious zephyrs shoulder on their sails To where the brine of Biscay moans its tragic tales.

CHORUS

Bear we, too, south, as we were swallow-vanned, And mark the game now played there by the Master-hand!

[The reception-chamber is shut over by the night without, and the point of view rapidly recedes south, London and its streets and lights diminishing till they are lost in the distance, and its noises being succeeded by the babble of the Channel and Biscay waves.]



SCENE IV

MADRID AND ITS ENVIRONS

[The view is from the housetops of the city on a dusty evening in this July, following a day of suffocating heat. The sunburnt roofs, warm ochreous walls, and blue shadows of the capital, wear their usual aspect except for a few feeble attempts at decoration.]

DUMB SHOW

Gazers gather in the central streets, and particularly in the Puerta del Sol. They show curiosity, but no enthusiasm. Patrols of French soldiery move up and down in front of the people, and seem to awe them into quietude.

There is a discharge of artillery in the outskirts, and the church bells begin ringing; but the peals dwindle away to a melancholy jangle, and then to silence. Simultaneously, on the northern horizon of the arid, unenclosed, and treeless plain swept by the eye around the city, a cloud of dust arises, and a Royal procession is seen nearing. It means the new king, JOSEPH BONAPARTE.

He comes on, escorted by a clanking guard of four thousand Italian troops, and the brilliant royal carriage is followed by a hundred coaches bearing his suite. As the procession enters the city many houses reveal themselves to be closed, many citizens leave the route and walk elsewhere, while may of those who remain turn their backs upon the spectacle.

KING JOSEPH proceeds thus through the Plaza Oriente to the granite- walled Royal Palace, where he alights and is received by some of the nobility, the French generals who are in occupation there, and some clergy. Heralds emerge from the Palace, and hasten to divers points in the city, where trumpets are blown and the Proclamation of JOSEPH as KING OF SPAIN is read in a loud voice. It is received in silence.

The sunsets, and the curtain falls.



SCENE V

THE OPEN SEA BETWEEN THE ENGLISH COASTS AND THE SPANISH PENINSULA

[From high aloft, in the same July weather, and facing east, the vision swoops over the ocean and its coast-lines, from Cork Harbour on the extreme left, to Mondego Bay, Portugal, on the extreme right. Land's End and the Scilly Isles, Ushant and Cape Finisterre, are projecting features along the middle distance of the picture, and the English Channel recedes endwise as a tapering avenue near the centre.]

DUMB SHOW

Four groups of moth-like transport ships are discovered silently skimming this wide liquid plain. The first group, to the right, is just vanishing behind Cape Mondego to enter Mondego Bay; the second, in the midst, has come out from Plymouth Sound, and is preparing to stand down Channel; the third is clearing St. Helen's point for the same course; and the fourth, much further up Channel, is obviously to follow on considerably in the rear of the two preceding. A south-east wind is blowing strong, and, according to the part of their course reached, they either sail direct with the wind on their larboard quarter, or labour forward by tacking in zigzags.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

What are these fleets that cross the sea From British ports and bays To coasts that glister southwardly Behind the dog-day haze?

RUMOURS [chanting]

SEMICHORUS I

They are the shipped battalions sent To bar the bold Belligerent Who stalks the Dancers' Land. Within these hulls, like sheep a-pen, Are packed in thousands fighting-men And colonels in command.

SEMICHORUS II

The fleet that leans each aery fin Far south, where Mondego mouths in, Bears Wellesley and his aides therein, And Hill, and Crauford too; With Torrens, Ferguson, and Fane, And majors, captains, clerks, in train, And those grim needs that appertain— The surgeons—not a few! To them add twelve thousand souls In linesmen that the list enrolls, Borne onward by those sheeted poles As war's red retinue!

SEMICHORUS I

The fleet that clears St. Helen's shore Holds Burrard, Hope, ill-omened Moore, Clinton and Paget; while The transports that pertain to those Count six-score sail, whose planks enclose Ten thousand rank and file.

SEMICHORUS II

The third-sent ships, from Plymouth Sound, With Acland, Anstruther, impound Souls to six thousand strong. While those, the fourth fleet, that we see Far back, are lined with cavalry, And guns of girth, wheeled heavily To roll the routes along.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Enough, and more, of inventories and names! Many will fail; many earn doubtful fames. Await the fruitage of their acts and aims.

DUMB SHOW [continuing]

In the spacious scene visible the far-separated groups of transports, convoyed by battleships, float on before the wind almost imperceptibly, like preened duck-feathers across a pond. The southernmost expedition, under SIR ARTHUR WELLESLEY, soon comes to anchor within the Bay of Mondego aforesaid, and the soldiery are indefinitely discernible landing upon the beach from boats. Simultaneously the division commanded by MOORE, as yet in the Chops of the channel, is seen to be beaten back by contrary winds. It gallantly puts to sea again, and being joined by the division under ANSTRUTHER that has set out from Plymouth, labours round Ushant, and stands to the south in the track of WELLESLEY. The rearward transports do the same.

A moving stratum of summer cloud beneath the point of view covers up the spectacle like an awning.



SCENE VI

ST. CLOUD. THE BOUDOIR OF JOSEPHINE

[It is the dusk of evening in the latter summer of this year, and from the windows at the back of the stage, which are still uncurtained, can be seen the EMPRESS with NAPOLEON and some ladies and officers of the Court playing Catch-me-if-you-can by torchlight on the lawn. The moving torches throw bizarre lights and shadows into the apartment, where only a remote candle or two are burning.

Enter JOSEPHINE and NAPOLEON together, somewhat out of breath. With careless suppleness she slides down on a couch and fans herself. Now that the candle-rays reach her they show her mellow complexion, her velvety eyes with long lashes, mouth with pointed corners and excessive mobility beneath its duvet, and curls of dark hair pressed down upon the temples by a gold band.

The EMPEROR drops into a seat near her, and they remain in silence till he jumps up, knocks over some nicknacks with his elbow, and begins walking about the boudoir.]

NAPOLEON [with sudden gloom]

These mindless games are very well, my friend; But ours to-night marks, not improbably, The last we play together.

JOSEPHINE [starting]

Can you say it! Why raise that ghastly nightmare on me now, When, for a moment, my poor brain had dreams Denied it all the earlier anxious day?

NAPOLEON

Things that verge nigh, my simple Josephine, Are not shoved off by wilful winking at. Better quiz evils with too strained an eye Than have them leap from disregarded lairs.

JOSEPHINE

Maybe 'tis true, and you shall have it so!— Yet there's no joy save sorrow waived awhile.

NAPOLEON

Ha, ha! That's like you. Well, each day by day I get sour news. Each hour since we returned From this queer Spanish business at Bayonne, I have had nothing else; and hence by brooding.

JOSEPHINE

But all went well throughout our touring-time?

NAPOLEON

Not so—behind the scenes. Our arms a Baylen Have been smirched badly. Twenty thousand shamed All through Dupont's ill-luck! The selfsame day My brother Joseph's progress to Madrid Was glorious as a sodden rocket's fizz! Since when his letters creak with querulousness. "Napoleon el chico" 'tis they call him— "Napoleon the Little," so he says. Then notice Austria. Much looks louring there, And her sly new regard for England grows. The English, next, have shipped an army down To Mondego, under one Wellesley, A man from India, and his march is south To Lisbon, by Vimiero. On he'll go And do the devil's mischief ere he is met By unaware Junot, and chevyed back To English fogs and fumes!

JOSEPHINE

My dearest one, You have mused on worse reports with better grace Full many and many a time. Ah—there is more!... I know; I know!

NAPOLEON [kicking away a stool]

There is, of course; that worm Time ever keeps in hand for gnawing me!— The question of my dynasty—which bites Closer and closer as the years wheel on.

JOSEPHINE

Of course it's that! For nothing else could hang My lord on tenterhooks through nights and days;— Or rather, not the question, but the tongues That keep the question stirring. Nought recked you Of throne-succession or dynastic lines When gloriously engaged in Italy! I was your fairy then: they labelled me Your Lady of Victories; and much I joyed, Till dangerous ones drew near and daily sowed These choking tares within your fecund brain,— Making me tremble if a panel crack, Or mouse but cheep, or silent leaf sail down, And murdering my melodious hours with dreads That my late happiness, and my late hope, Will oversoon be knelled!

NAPOLEON [genially nearing her]

But years have passed since first we talked of it, And now, with loss of dear Hortense's son Who won me as my own, it looms forth more. And selfish 'tis in my good Josephine To blind her vision to the weal of France, And this great Empire's solidarity. The grandeur of your sacrifice would gild Your life's whole shape.

JOSEPHINE

Were I as coarse a wife As I am limned in English caricature— [Those cruel effigies they draw of me!]— You could not speak more aridly.

NAPOLEON

Nay, nay! You know, my comrade, how I love you still Were there a long-notorious dislike Betwixt us, reason might be in your dreads But all earth knows our conjugality. There's not a bourgeois couple in the land Who, should dire duty rule their severance, Could part with scanter scandal than could we.

JOSEPHINE [pouting]

Nevertheless there's one.

NAPOLEON

A scandal? What?

JOSEPHINE

Madame Walewska! How could you pretend When, after Jena, I'd have come to you, "The weather was so wild, the roads so rough, That no one of my sex and delicate nerve Could hope to face the dangers and fatigues." Yes—so you wrote me, dear. They hurt not her!

NAPOLEON [blandly]

She was a week's adventure—not worth words! I say 'tis France.—I have held out for years Against the constant pressure brought on me To null this sterile marriage.

JOSEPHINE [bursting into sobs]

Me you blame! But how know you that you are not the culprit?

NAPOLEON

I have reason so to know—if I must say. The Polish lady you have chosen to name Has proved the fault not mine. [JOSEPHINE sobs more violently.] Don't cry, my cherished; It is not really amiable of you, Or prudent, my good little Josephine, With so much in the balance.

JOSEPHINE

How—know you— What may not happen! Wait a—little longer!

NAPOLEON [playfully pinching her arm]

O come, now, my adored! Haven't I already! Nature's a dial whose shade no hand puts back, Trick as we may! My friend, you are forty-three This very year in the world— [JOSEPHINE breaks out sobbing again.] And in vain it is To think of waiting longer; pitiful To dream of coaxing shy fecundity To an unlikely freak by physicking With superstitious drugs and quackeries That work you harm, not good. The fact being so, I have looked it squarely down—against my heart! Solicitations voiced repeatedly At length have shown the soundness of their shape, And left me no denial. You, at times, My dear one, have been used to handle it. My brother Joseph, years back, frankly gave His honest view that something should be done; And he, you well know, shows no ill tinct In his regard of you.

JOSEPHINE

And what princess?

NAPOLEON

For wiving with? No thought was given to that, She shapes as vaguely as the Veiled—

JOSEPHINE

No, no; It's Alexander's sister, I'm full sure!— But why this craze for home-made manikins And lineage mere of flesh? You have said yourself It mattered not. Great Caesar, you declared, Sank sonless to his rest; was greater deemed Even for the isolation. Frederick Saw, too, no heir. It is the fate of such, Often, to be denied the common hope As fine for fulness in the rarer gifts That Nature yields them. O my husband long, Will you not purge your soul to value best That high heredity from brain to brain Which supersedes mere sequence of blood, That often vary more from sire to son Than between furthest strangers!... Napoleon's offspring in his like must lie; The second of his line be he who shows Napoleon's soul in later bodiment, The household father happening as he may!

NAPOLEON [smilingly wiping her eyes]

Little guessed I my dear would prove her rammed With such a charge of apt philosophy When tutoring me gay arts in earlier times! She who at home coquetted through the years In which I vainly penned her wishful words To come and comfort me in Italy, Might, faith, have urged it then effectually! But never would you stir from Paris joys, [With some bitterness.] And so, when arguments like this could move me, I heard them not; and get them only now When their weight dully falls. But I have said 'Tis not for me, but France—Good-bye an hour. [Kissing her.] I must dictate some letters. This new move Of England on Madrid may mean some trouble. Come, dwell not gloomily on this cold need Of waiving private joy for policy. We are but thistle-globes on Heaven's high gales, And whither blown, or when, or how, or why, Can choose us not at all!... I'll come to you anon, dear: staunch Roustan Will light me in.

[Exit NAPOLEON. The scene shuts in shadow.]



SCENE VII

VIMIERO

[A village among the hills of Portugal, about fifty miles north of Lisbon. Around it are disclosed, as ten on Sunday morning strikes, a blue army of fourteen thousand men in isolated columns, and red army of eighteen thousand in line formation, drawn up in order of battle. The blue army is a French one under JUNOT; the other an English one under SIR ARTHUR WELLESLEY—portion of that recently landed.

The August sun glares on the shaven faces, white gaiters, and white cross-belts of the English, who are to fight for their lives while sweating under a quarter-hundredweight in knapsack and pouches, and with firelocks heavy as putlogs. They occupy a group of heights, but their position is one of great danger, the land abruptly terminating two miles behind their backs in lofty cliffs overhanging the Atlantic. The French occupy the valleys in the English front, and this distinction between the two forces strikes the eye—the red army is accompanied by scarce any cavalry, while the blue is strong in that area.]

DUMB SHOW

The battle is begun with alternate moves that match each other like those of a chess opening. JUNOT makes an oblique attack by moving a division to his right; WELLESLEY moves several brigades to his left to balance it.

A column of six thousand French then climbs the hill against the English centre, and drives in those who are planted there. The English artillery checks its adversaries, and the infantry recover and charge the baffled French down the slopes. Meanwhile the latter's cavalry and artillery are attacking the village itself, and, rushing on a few squadrons of English dragoons stationed there, cut them to pieces. A dust is raised by this ado, and moans of men and shrieks of horses are heard. Close by the carnage the little Maceira stream continues to trickle unconcernedly to the sea.

On the English left five thousand French infantry, having ascended to the ridge and maintained a stinging musket-fire as sharply returned, are driven down by the bayonets of six English regiments. Thereafter a brigade of the French, the northernmost, finding that the others have pursued to the bottom and are resting after the effort, surprise them and bayonet them back to their original summit. The see-saw is continued by the recovery of the English, who again drive their assailants down.

The French army pauses stultified, till, the columns uniting, they fall back toward the opposite hills. The English, seeing that their chance has come, are about to pursue and settle the fortunes of the day. But a messenger dispatched from a distant group is marked riding up to the large-nosed man with a telescope and an Indian sword who, his staff around him, has been directing the English movements. He seems astonished at the message, appears to resent it, and pauses with a gloomy look. But he sends countermands to his generals, and the pursuit ends abortively.

The French retreat without further molestation by a circuitous march into the great road to Torres Vedras by which they came, leaving nearly two thousand dead and wounded on the slopes they have quitted.

Dumb Show ends and the curtain draws.



ACT THIRD

SCENE I

SPAIN. A ROAD NEAR ASTORGA

[The eye of the spectator rakes the road from the interior of a cellar which opens upon it, and forms the basement of a deserted house, the roof doors, and shutters of which have been pulled down and burnt for bivouac fires. The season is the beginning of January, and the country is covered with a sticky snow. The road itself is intermittently encumbered with heavy traffic, the surface being churned to a yellow mud that lies half knee-deep, and at the numerous holes in the track forming still deeper quagmires.

In the gloom of the cellar are heaps of damp straw, in which ragged figures are lying half-buried, many of the men in the uniform of English regiments, and the women and children in clouts of all descriptions, some being nearly naked. At the back of the cellar is revealed, through a burst door, an inner vault, where are discernible some wooden-hooped wine-casks; in one sticks a gimlet, and the broaching-cork of another has been driven in. The wine runs into pitchers, washing-basins, shards, chamber- vessels, and other extemporized receptacles. Most of the inmates are drunk; some to insensibility.

So far as the characters are doing anything they are contemplating almost incessant traffic outside, passing in one direction. It includes a medley of stragglers from the Marquis of ROMANA'S Spanish forces and the retreating English army under SIR JOHN MOORE—to which the concealed deserters belong.]

FIRST DESERTER

Now he's one of the Eighty-first, and I'd gladly let that poor blade know that we've all that man can wish for here—good wine and buxom women. But if I do, we shan't have room for ourselves—hey?

[He signifies a man limping past with neither fire-lock nor knapsack. Where the discarded knapsack has rubbed for weeks against his shoulder-blades the jacket and shirt are fretted away, leaving his skin exposed.]

SECOND DESERTER

He may be the Eighty-firsht, or th' Eighty-second; but what I say is, without fear of contradiction, I wish to the Lord I was back in old Bristol again. I'd sooner have a nipperkin of our own real "Bristol milk" than a mash-tub full of this barbarian wine!

THIRD DESERTER

'Tis like thee to be ungrateful, after putting away such a skinful on't. I am as much Bristol as thee, but would as soon be here as there. There ain't near such willing women, that are strict respectable too, there as hereabout, and no open cellars.— As there's many a slip in this country I'll have the rest of my allowance now.

[He crawls on his elbows to one of the barrels, and turning on his back lets the wine run down his throat.]

FORTH DESERTER [to a fifth, who is snoring]

Don't treat us to such a snoaching there, mate. Here's some more coming, and they'll sight us if we don't mind!

[Enter without a straggling flock of military objects, some with fragments of shoes on, others bare-footed, many of the latter's feet bleeding. The arms and waists of some are clutched by women as tattered and bare-footed as themselves. They pass on.

The Retreat continues. More of ROMANA'S Spanish limp along in disorder; then enters a miscellaneous group of English cavalry soldiers, some on foot, some mounted, the rearmost of the latter bestriding a shoeless foundered creature whose neck is vertebrae and mane only. While passing it falls from exhaustion; the trooper extricates himself and pistols the animal through the head. He and the rest pass on.]

FIRST DESERTER [a new plashing of feet being heard]

Here's something more in order, or I am much mistaken. He cranes out.] Yes, a sergeant of the Forty-third, and what's left of their second battalion. And, by God, not far behind I see shining helmets. 'Tis a whole squadron of French dragoons!

[Enter the sergeant. He has a racking cough, but endeavours, by stiffening himself up, to hide how it is wasting away his life. He halts, and looks back, till the remains of the Forty-third are abreast, to the number of some three hundred, about half of whom are crippled invalids, the other half being presentable and armed soldiery.'

SERGEANT

Now show yer nerve, and be men. If you die to-day you won't have to die to-morrow. Fall in! [The miscellany falls in.] All invalids and men without arms march ahead as well as they can. Quick—maw-w-w-ch! [Exeunt invalids, etc.] Now! Tention! Shoulder-r-r—fawlocks! [Order obeyed.]

[The sergeant hastily forms these into platoons, who prime and load, and seem preternaturally changed from what they were into alert soldiers.

Enter French dragoons at the left-back of the scene. The rear platoon of the Forty-third turns, fires, and proceeds. The next platoon covering them does the same. This is repeated several times, staggering the pursuers. Exeunt French dragoons, giving up the pursuit. The coughing sergeant and the remnant of the Forty-third march on.]

FOURTH DESERTER [to a woman lying beside him]

What d'ye think o' that, my honey? It fairly makes me a man again. Come, wake up! We must be getting along somehow. [He regards the woman more closely.] Why—my little chick? Look here, friends. [They look, and the woman is found to be dead.] If I didn't think that her poor knees felt cold!... And only an hour ago I swore to marry her!

[They remain silent. The Retreat continues in the snow without, now in the form of a file of ox-carts, followed by a mixed rabble of English and Spanish, and mules and muleteers hired by English officers to carry their baggage. The muleteers, looking about and seeing that the French dragoons gave been there, cut the bands which hold on the heavy packs, and scamper off with their mules.]

A VOICE [behind]

The Commander-in-Chief is determined to maintain discipline, and they must suffer. No more pillaging here. It is the worst case of brutality and plunder that we have had in this wretched time!

[Enter an English captain of hussars, a lieutenant, a guard of about a dozen, and three men as prisoner.]

CAPTAIN

If they choose to draw lots, only one need be made an example of. But they must be quick about it. The advance-guard of the enemy is not far behind.

[The three prisoners appear to draw lots, and the one on whom the lot falls is blindfolded. Exeunt the hussars behind a wall, with carbines. A volley is heard and something falls. The wretched in the cellar shudder.]

FOURTH DESERTER

'Tis the same for us but for this heap of straw. Ah—my doxy is the only one of us who is safe and sound! [He kisses the dead woman.]

[Retreat continues. A train of six-horse baggage-waggons lumbers past, a mounted sergeant alongside. Among the baggage lie wounded soldiers and sick women.]

SERGEANT OF THE WAGGON-TRAIN

If so be they are dead, ye may as well drop 'em over the tail-board. 'Tis no use straining the horses unnecessary.

[Waggons halt. Two of the wounded who have just died are taken out, laid down by the roadside, and some muddy snow scraped over them. Exeunt waggons and sergeant.

An interval. More English troops pass on horses, mostly shoeless and foundered.

Enter SIR JOHN MOORE and officers. MOORE appears on the pale evening light as a handsome man, far on in the forties, the orbits of his dark eyes showing marks of deep anxiety. He is talking to some of his staff with vehement emphasis and gesture. They cross the scene and go on out of sight, and the squashing of their horses' hoofs in the snowy mud dies away.]

FIFTH DESERTER [incoherently in his sleep]

Poise fawlocks—open pans—right hands to pouch—handle ca'tridge— bring it—quick motion-bite top well off—prime—shut pans—cast about—load—-

FIRST DESERTER [throwing a shoe at the sleeper]

Shut up that! D'ye think you are a 'cruity in the awkward squad still?

SECOND DESERTER

I don't know what he thinks, but I know what I feel! Would that I were at home in England again, where there's old-fashioned tipple, and a proper God A'mighty instead of this eternal 'Ooman and baby; —ay, at home a-leaning against old Bristol Bridge, and no questions asked, and the winter sun slanting friendly over Baldwin Street as 'a used to do! 'Tis my very belief, though I have lost all sure reckoning, that if I were there, and in good health, 'twould be New Year's day about now. What it is over here I don't know. Ay, to- night we should be a-setting in the tap of the "Adam and Eve"— lifting up the tune of "The Light o' the Moon." 'Twer a romantical thing enough. 'A used to go som'at like this [he sings in a nasal tone]:—

"O I thought it had been day, And I stole from here away; But it proved to be the light o' the moon!"

[Retreat continues, with infantry in good order. Hearing the singing, one of the officers looks around, and detaching a patrol enters the ruined house with the file of men, the body of soldiers marching on. The inmates of the cellar bury themselves in the straw. The officer peers about, and seeing no one prods the straw with his sword.

VOICES [under the straw]

Oh! Hell! Stop it! We'll come out! Mercy! Quarter!

[The lurkers are uncovered.]

OFFICER

If you are well enough to sing bawdy songs, you are well enough to march. So out of it—or you'll be shot, here and now!

SEVERAL

You may shoot us, captain, or the French may shoot us, or the devil may take us; we don't care which! Only we can't stir. Pity the women, captain, but do what you will with us!

[The searchers pass over the wounded, and stir out those capable of marching, both men and women, so far as they discover them. They are pricked on by the patrol. Exeunt patrol and deserters in its charge.

Those who remain look stolidly at the highway. The English Rear- guard of cavalry crosses the scene and passes out. An interval. It grows dusk.]

SPIRIT IRONIC

Quaint poesy, and real romance of war!

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Mock on, Shade, if thou wilt! But others find Poesy ever lurk where pit-pats poor mankind!

[The scene is cloaked in darkness.]



SCENE II

THE SAME

[It is nearly midnight. The fugitives who remain in the cellar having slept off the effects of the wine, are awakened by a new tramping of cavalry, which becomes more and more persistent. It is the French, who now fill the road. The advance-guard having passed by, DELABORDE'S division, LORGE'S division, MERLE'S division, and others, successively cross the gloom.

Presently come the outlines of the Imperial Guard, and then, with a start, those in hiding realize their situation, and are wide awake. NAPOLEON enters with his staff. He has just been overtaken by a courier, and orders those round him to halt.]

NAPOLEON

Let there a fire be lit: Ay, here and now. The lines within these letters brook no pause In mastering their purport.

[Some of the French approach the ruined house and, appropriating what wood is still left there, heap it by the roadside and set it alight. A mixed rain and snow falls, and the sputtering flames throw a glare all round.]

SECOND DESERTER [under his voice]

We be shot corpses! Ay, faith, we be! Why didn't I stick to England, and true doxology, and leave foreign doxies and their wine alone!... Mate, can ye squeeze another shardful from the cask there, for I feel my time is come!... O that I had but the barrel of that firelock I throwed away, and that wasted powder to prime and load! This bullet I chaw to squench my hunger would do the rest!... Yes, I could pick him off now!

FIRST DESERTER

You lie low with your picking off, or he may pick off you! Thank God the babies are gone. Maybe we shan't be noticed, if we've but the courage to do nothing, and keep hid.

[NAPOLEON dismounts, approaches the fire, and looks around.]

NAPOLEON

Another of their dead horses here, I see.

OFFICER

Yes, sire. We have counted eighteen hundred odd From Benavente hither, pistoled thus. Some we'd to finish for them: headlong haste Spared them no time for mercy to their brutes. One-half their cavalry now tramps afoot.

NAPOLEON

And what's the tale of waggons we've picked up?

OFFICER

Spanish and all abandoned, some four hundred; Of magazines and firelocks, full ten load; And stragglers and their girls a numerous crew.

NAPOLEON

Ay, devil—plenty those! Licentious ones These English, as all canting peoples are.— And prisoners?

OFFICER

Seven hundred English, sire; Spaniards five thousand more.

NAPOLEON

'Tis not amiss. To keep the new year up they run away! [He soliloquizes as he begins tearing open the dispatches.] Nor Pitt nor Fox displayed such blundering As glares in this campaign! It is, indeed, Enlarging Folly to Foolhardiness To combat France by land! But how expect Aught that can claim the name of government From Canning, Castlereagh, and Perceval, Caballers all—poor sorry politicians— To whom has fallen the luck of reaping in The harvestings of Pitt's bold husbandry.

[He unfolds a dispatch, and looks for something to sit on. A cloak is thrown over a log, and he settles to reading by the firelight. The others stand round. The light, crossed by the snow-flakes, flickers on his unhealthy face and stoutening figure. He sinks into the rigidity of profound thought, till his features lour.]

So this is their reply! They have done with me! Britain declines negotiating further— Flouts France and Russia indiscriminately. "Since one dethrones and keeps as prisoners The most legitimate kings"—that means myself— "The other suffers their unworthy treatment For sordid interests"—that's for Alexander!... And what is Georgy made to say besides?— "Pacific overtures to us are wiles Woven to unnerve the generous nations round Lately escaped the galling yoke of France, Or waiting so to do. Such, then, being seen, These tentatives must be regarded now As finally forgone; and crimson war Be faced to its fell worst, unflinchingly." —The devil take their lecture! What am I, That England should return such insolence?

[He jumps up, furious, and walks to and fro beside the fire. By and by cooling he sits down again.]

Now as to hostile signs in Austria.... [He breaks another seal and reads.] Ah,—swords to cross with her some day in spring! Thinking me cornered over here in Spain She speaks without disguise, the covert pact 'Twixt her and England owning now quite frankly, Careless how works its knowledge upon me. She, England, Germany: well—I can front them! That there is no sufficient force of French Between the Elbe and Rhine to prostrate her, Let new and terrible experience Soon disillude her of! Yea; she may arm: The opportunity she late let slip Will not subserve her now!

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Has he no heart-hints that this Austrian court, Whereon his mood takes mould so masterful, Is rearing naively in its nursery-room A future wife for him?

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Thou dost but guess it, And how should his heart know?

NAPOLEON [opening and reading another dispatch]

Now eastward. Ohe!— The Orient likewise looms full somberly.... The Turk declines pacifically to yield What I have promised Alexander. Ah!... As for Constantinople being his prize I'll see him frozen first. His flight's too high! And showing that I think so makes him cool. [Rises.] Is Soult the Duke Dalmatia yet at hand?

OFFICER

He has arrived along the Leon road Just now, your Majesty; and only waits The close of your perusals.

[Enter SOULT, who is greeted by NAPOLEON.]

FIRST DESERTER

Good Lord deliver us from all great men, and take me back again to humble life! That's Marshal Soult the Duke of Dalmatia!

SECOND DESERTER

The Duke of Damnation for our poor rear, by the look on't!

FIRST DESERTER

Yes—he'll make 'em rub their poor rears before he has done with 'em! But we must overtake 'em to-morrow by a cross-cut, please God!

NAPOLEON [pointing to the dispatches]

Here's matter enough for me, Duke, and to spare. The ominous contents are like the threats The ancient prophets dealt rebellious Judah! Austria we soon shall have upon our hands, And England still is fierce for fighting on,— Strange humour in a concord-loving land! So now I must to Paris straight away— At least, to Valladolid; so as to stand More apt for couriers than I do out here In this far western corner, and to mark The veerings of these new developments, And blow a counter-breeze....

Then, too, there's Lannes, still sweating at the siege Of sullen Zaragoza as 'twere hell. Him I must further counsel how to close His twice too tedious battery.—You, then, Soult— Ney is not yet, I gather, quite come up?

SOULT

He's near, sire, on the Benavente road; But some hours to the rear I reckon, still.

NAPOLEON [pointing to the dispatches]

Him I'll direct to come to your support In this pursuit and harassment of Moore Wherein you take my place. You'll follow up And chase the flying English to the sea. Bear hard on them, the bayonet at their loins. With Merle's and Mermet's corps just gone ahead, And Delaborde's, and Heudelet's here at hand. While Lorge's and Lahoussaye's picked dragoons Will follow, and Franceschi's cavalry. To Ney I am writing, in case of need, He will support with Marchand and Mathieu.— Your total thus of seventy thousand odd, Ten thousand horse, and cannon to five score, Should near annihilate this British force, And carve a triumph large in history. [He bends over the fire and makes some notes rapidly.] I move into Astorga; then turn back, [Though only in my person do I turn] And leave to you the destinies of Spain.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

More turning may be here than he design. In this small, sudden, swift turn backward, he Suggests one turning from his apogee!

[The characters disperse, the fire sinks, and snowflakes and darkness blot out all.]



SCENE III

BEFORE CORUNA

[The town, harbour, and hills at the back are viewed from an aerial point to the north, over the lighthouse known as the Tower of Hercules, rising at the extremity of the tongue of land on which La Coruna stands, the open ocean being in the spectator's rear.

In the foreground the most prominent feature is the walled old town, with its white towers and houses, shaping itself aloft over the harbour. The new town, and its painted fronts, show bright below, even on this cloudy winter afternoon. Further off, behind the harbour—now crowded with British transports of all sizes—is a series of low broken hills, intersected by hedges and stone walls.

A mile behind these low inner hills is beheld a rocky chain of outer and loftier heights that completely command the former. Nothing behind them is seen but grey sky.

DUMB SHOW

On the inner hills aforesaid the little English army—a pathetic fourteen thousand of foot only—is just deploying into line: HOPE'S division is on the left, BAIRD'S to the right. PAGET with the reserve is in the hollow to the left behind them; and FRASER'S division still further back shapes out on a slight rise to the right.

This harassed force now appears as if composed of quite other than the men observed in the Retreat insubordinately straggling along like vagabonds. Yet they are the same men, suddenly stiffened and grown amenable to discipline by the satisfaction of standing to the enemy at last. They resemble a double palisade of red stakes, the only gaps being those that the melancholy necessity of scant numbers entails here and there.

Over the heads of these red men is beheld on the outer hills the twenty thousand French that have been pushed along the road at the heels of the English by SOULT. They have an ominous superiority, both in position and in their abundance of cavalry and artillery, over the slender lines of English foot. The left of this background, facing HOPE, is made up of DELABORDE'S and MERLE'S divisions, while in a deadly arc round BAIRD, from whom they are divided only by the village of Elvina, are placed MERMET'S division, LAHOUSSAYE'S and LORGE'S dragoons, FRANCESCHI'S cavalry, and, highest up of all, a formidable battery of eleven great guns that rake the whole British line.

It is now getting on for two o'clock, and a stir of activity has lately been noticed along the French front. Three columns are discerned descending from their position, the first towards the division of SIR DAVID BAIRD, the weakest point in the English line, the next towards the centre, the third towards the left. A heavy cannonade from the battery supports this advance.

The clash ensues, the English being swept down in swathes by the enemy's artillery. The opponents meet face to face at the village in the valley between them, and the fight there grows furious.

SIR JOHN MOORE is seen galloping to the front under the gloomy sky.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

I seem to vision in San Carlos' garden, That rises salient in the upper town, His name, and date, and doing, set within A filmy outline like a monument, Which yet is but the insubstantial air.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Read visions as conjectures; not as more.

When MOORE arrives at the front, FRASER and PAGET move to the right, where the English are most sorely pressed. A grape-shot strikes off BAIRD'S arm. There is a little confusion, and he is borne to the rear; while MAJOR NAPIER disappears, a prisoner.

Intelligence of these misfortunes is brought to SIR JOHN MOORE. He goes further forward, and precedes in person the Forty-second regiment and a battalion of the Guards who, with fixed bayonets, bear the enemy back, MOORE'S gestures in cheering them being notably energetic. Pursuers, pursued, and SIR JOHN himself pass out of sight behind the hill. Dumb Show ends.

[The point of vision descends to the immediate rear of the English position. The early January evening has begun to spread its shades, and shouts of dismay are heard from behind the hill over which MOORE and the advancing lines have vanished.

Straggling soldiers cross in the gloom.]

FIRST STRAGGLER

He's struck by a cannon-ball, that I know; but he's not killed, that I pray God A'mighty.

SECOND STRAGGLER

Better he were. His shoulder is knocked to a bag of splinters. As Sir David was wownded, Sir John was anxious that the right should not give way, and went forward to keep it firm.

FIRST STRAGGLER

He didn't keep YOU firm, howsomever.

SECOND STRAGGLER

Nor you, for that matter.

FIRST STRAGGLER

Well, 'twas a serious place for a man with no priming-horn, and a character to lose, so I judged it best to fall to the rear by lying down. A man can't fight by the regulations without his priming-horn, and I am none of your slovenly anyhow fighters.

SECOND STRAGGLER

'Nation, having dropped my flit-pouch, I was the same. If you'd had your priming-horn, and I my flints, mind ye, we should have been there now? Then, forty-whory, that we are not is the fault o' Government for not supplying new ones from the reserve!

FIRST STRAGGLER

What did he say as he led us on?

SECOND STRAGGLER

"Forty-second, remember Egypt!" I heard it with my own ears. Yes, that was his strict testament.

FIRST STRAGGLER

"Remember Egypt." Ay, and I do, for I was there!... Upon my salvation, here's for back again, whether or no!

SECOND STRAGGLER

But here. "Forty-second, remember Egypt," he said in the very eye of that French battery playing through us. And the next omen was that he was struck off his horse, and fell on his back to the ground. I remembered Egypt, and what had just happened too, so thorough well that I remembered the way over this wall!—Captain Hardinge, who was close to him, jumped off his horse, and he and one in the ranks lifted him, and are now bringing him along.

FIRST STRAGGLER

Nevertheless, here's for back again, come what will. Remember Egypt! Hurrah!

[Exit First straggler. Second straggler ponders, then suddenly follows First. Enter COLONEL ANDERSON and others hastily.]

AN OFFICER

Now fetch a blanker. He must be carried in.

[Shouts heard.]

COLONEL ANDERSON

That means we are gaining ground! Had fate but left This last blow undecreed, the hour had shone A star amid these girdling days of gloom!

[Exit. Enter in the obscurity six soldiers of the Forty-second bearing MOORE on their joined hands. CAPTAIN HARDINGE walks beside and steadies him. He is temporarily laid down in the shelter of a wall, his left shoulder being pounded away, the arm dangling by a shred of flesh.

Enter COLONEL GRAHAM and CAPTAIN WOODFORD.]

GRAHAM

The wound is more than serious, Woodford, far. Ride for a surgeon—one of those, perhaps, Who tend Sir David Baird? [Exit Captain Woodford.] His blood throbs forth so fast, that I have dark fears He'll drain to death ere anything can be done!

HARDINGE

I'll try to staunch it—since no skill's in call.

[He takes off his sash and endeavours to bind the wound with it. MOORE smiles and shakes his head.]

There's not much checking it! Then rent's too gross. A dozen lives could pass that thoroughfare!

[Enter a soldier with a blanket. They lift MOORE into it. During the operation the pommel of his sword, which he still wears, is accidentally thrust into the wound.]

I'll loose the sword—it bruises you, Sir John.

[He begins to unbuckle it.]

MOORE

No. Let it be! One hurt more matters not. I wish it to go off the field with me.

HARDINGE

I like the sound of that. It augurs well For your much-hoped recovery.

MOORE [looking sadly at his wound]

Hardinge, no: Nature is nonplussed there! My shoulder's gone, And this left side laid open to my lungs. There's but a brief breath now for me, at most.... Could you—move me along—that I may glimpse Still how the battle's going?

HARDINGE

Ay, Sir John— A few yard higher up, where we can see.

[He is borne in the blanket a little way onward, and lifted so that he can view the valley and the action.]

MOORE [brightly]

They seem to be advancing. Yes, it is so!

[Enter SIR JOHN HOPE.]

Ah, Hope!—I am doing badly here enough; But they are doing rarely well out there. [Presses HOPE'S hand.] Don't leave! my speech may flag with this fierce pain, But you can talk to me.—Are the French checked?

HOPE

My dear friend, they are borne back steadily.

MOORE [his voice weakening]

I hope England—will be satisfied— I hope my native land—will do me justice!... I shall be blamed for sending Craufurd off Along the Orense road. But had I not, Bonaparte would have headed us that way....

HOPE

O would that Soult had but accepted battle By Lugo town! We should have crushed him there.

MOORE

Yes... yes.—But it has never been my lot To owe much to good luck; nor was it then. Good fortune has been mine, but [bitterly] mostly so By the exhaustion of all shapes of bad!... Well, this does not become a dying man; And others have been chastened more than I By Him who holds us in His hollowed hand!...

I grieve for Zaragoza, if, as said, The siege goes sorely with her, which it must. I heard when at Dahagun that late day That she was holding out heroically. But I must leave such now.—You'll see my friends As early as you can? Tell them the whole; Say to my mother.... [His voice fails.] Hope, Hope, I have so much to charge you with, But weakness clams my tongue!... If I must die Without a word with Stanhope, ask him, Hope, To—name me to his sister. You may know Of what there was between us?... Is Colonel Graham well, and all my aides? My will I have made—it is in Colborne's charge With other papers.

HOPE

He's now coming up.

[Enter MAJOR COLBORNE, principal aide-de-camp.]

MOORE

Are the French beaten, Colborne, or repulsed? Alas! you see what they have done too me!

COLBORNE

I do, Sir John: I am more than sad thereat! In brief time now the surgeon will be here. The French retreat—pushed from Elvina far.

MOORE

That's good! Is Paget anywhere about?

COLBORNE

He's at the front, Sir John.

MOORE

Remembrance to him!

[Enter two surgeons.]

Ah, doctors,—you can scarcely mend up me.— And yet I feel so tough—I have feverish fears My dying will waste a long and tedious while; But not too long, I hope!

SURGEONS [after a hasty examination]

You must be borne In to your lodgings instantly, Sir John. Please strive to stand the motion—if you can; They will keep step, and bear you steadily.

MOORE

Anything.... Surely fainter ebbs that fire?

COLBORNE

Yes: we must be advancing everywhere: Colbert their General, too, they have lost, I learn.

[They lift him by stretching their sashes under the blanket, and begin moving off. A light waggon enters.]

MOORE

Who's in that waggon?

HARDINGE

Colonel Wynch, Sir John. He's wounded, but he urges you to take it.

MOORE

No. I will not. This suits.... Don't come with me; There's more for you to do out here as yet. [Cheerful shouts.] A-ha! 'Tis THIS way I have wished to die!

[Exeunt slowly in the twilight MOORE, bearers, surgeons, etc., towards Coruna. The scene darkens.]



SCENE IV

CORUNA. NEAR THE RAMPARTS

[It is just before dawn on the following morning, objects being still indistinct. The features of the elevated enclosure of San Carlos can be recognized in dim outline, and also those of the Old Town of Coruna around, though scarcely a lamp is shining. The numerous transports in the harbour beneath have still their riding-lights burning.

In a nook of the town walls a lantern glimmers. Some English soldiers of the Ninth regiment are hastily digging a grave there with extemporized tools.]

A VOICE [from the gloom some distance off]

"I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

[The soldiers look up, and see entering at the further end of the patch of ground a slow procession. It advances by the light of lanterns in the hands of some members of it. At moments the fitful rays fall upon bearers carrying a coffinless body rolled in a blanket, with a military cloak roughly thrown over by way of pall. It is brought towards the incomplete grave, and followed by HOPE, GRAHAM, ANDERSON, COLBORNE, HARDINGE, and several aides-de-camp, a chaplain preceding.]

FIRST SOLDIER

They are here, almost as quickly as ourselves. There is no time to dig much deeper now: Level a bottom just as far's we've got. He'll couch as calmly in this scrabbled hole As in a royal vault!

SECOND SOLDIER

Would it had been a foot deeper, here among foreigners, with strange manures manufactured out of no one knows what! Surely we can give him another six inches?

FIRST SOLDIER

There is no time. Just make the bottom true.

[The meagre procession approaches the spot, and waits while the half-dug grave is roughly finished by the men of the Ninth. They step out of it, and another of them holds a lantern to the chaplain's book. The winter day slowly dawns.]

CHAPLAIN

"Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay."

[A gun is fired from the French battery not far off; then another. The ships in the harbour take in their riding lights.]

COLBORNE [in a low voice]

I knew that dawn would see them open fire.

HOPE

We must perforce make swift use of out time. Would we had closed our too sad office sooner!

[As the body is lowered another discharge echoes. They glance gloomily at the heights where the French are ranged, and then into the grave.]

CHAPLAIN

"We therefore commit his body to the ground. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." [Another gun.]

[A spent ball falls not far off. They put out their lanterns. Continued firing, some shot splashing into the harbour below them.]

HOPE

In mercy to the living, who are thrust Upon our care for their deliverance, And run much hazard till they are embarked, We must abridge these duties to the dead, Who will not mind be they abridged or no.

HARDINGE

And could he mind, would be the man to bid it....

HOPE

We shall do well, then, curtly to conclude These mutilated prayers—our hurried best!— And what's left unsaid, feel.

CHAPLAIN [his words broken by the cannonade]

".... We give Thee hearty thanks for that it hath pleased Thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world.... Who also hath taught us not to be sorry, as men without hope, for them that sleep in Him.... Grant this, through Jesus Christ our Mediator and Redeemer."

OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS

Amen!

[The diggers of the Ninth hastily fill in the grave, and the scene shuts as the mournful figures retire.]



SCENE V

VIENNA. A CAFE IN THE STEPHANS-PLATZ

[An evening between light and dark is disclosed, some lamps being lit. The huge body and tower of St. Stephen's rise into the sky some way off, the western gleam still touching the upper stonework. Groups of people are seated at the tables, drinking and reading the newspapers. One very animated group, which includes an Englishman, is talking loudly. A citizen near looks up from his newspaper.]

CITIZEN [to the Englishman]

I read, sir, here, the troubles you discuss Of your so gallant army under Moore. His was a spirit baffled but not quelled, And in his death there shone a stoicism That lent retreat the rays of victory.

ENGLISHMAN

It was so. While men chide they will admire him, And frowning, praise. I could nigh prophesy That the unwonted crosses he has borne In his career of sharp vicissitude Will tinct his story with a tender charm, And grant the memory of his strenuous feats As long a lease within the minds of men As conquerors hold there.—Does the sheet give news Of how the troops reached home?

CITIZEN [looking up again at the paper]

Yes; from your press It quotes that they arrived at Plymouth Sound Mid dreadful weather and much suffering. It states they looked the very ghosts of men, So heavily had hunger told on them, And the fatigues and toils of the retreat. Several were landed dead, and many died As they were borne along. At Portsmouth, too, Sir David Baird, still helpless from his wound, Was carried in a cot, sheet-pale and thin, And Sir John Hope, lank as a skeleton.— Thereto is added, with authority, That a new expedition soon will fit, And start again for Spain.

ENGLISHMAN

I have heard as much.

CITIZEN

You'll do it next time, sir. And so shall we!

SECOND CITIZEN [regarding the church tower opposite]

You witnessed the High Service over there They held this morning? [To the Englishman.]

ENGLISHMAN

Ay; I did get in; Though not without hard striving, such the throng; But travellers roam to waste who shyly roam And I pushed like the rest.

SECOND CITIZEN

Our young Archduchess Maria Louisa was, they tell me, present?

ENGLISHMAN

O yes: the whole Imperial family, And when the Bishop called all blessings down Upon the Landwehr colours there displayed, Enthusiasm touched the sky—she sharing it.

SECOND CITIZEN

Commendable in her, and spirited, After the graceless insults to the Court The Paris journals flaunt—not voluntarily, But by his ordering. Magician-like He holds them in his fist, and at his squeeze They bubble what he wills!... Yes, she's a girl Of patriotic build, and hates the French. Quite lately she was overheard to say She had met with most convincing auguries That this year Bonaparte was starred to die.

ENGLISHMAN

Your arms must render its fulfilment sure.

SECOND CITIZEN

Right! And we have the opportunity, By upping to the war in suddenness, And catching him unaware. The pink and flower Of all his veteran troops are now in Spain Fully engaged with yours; while those he holds In Germany are scattered far and wide.

FIRST CITIZEN [looking up again from his newspaper]

I see here that he vows and guarantees Inviolate bounds to all our territories If we but pledge to carry out forthwith A prompt disarmament. Since that's his price Hell burn his guarantees! Too long he has fooled us. [To the Englishman] I drink, sir, to your land's consistency. While we and all the kindred Europe States Alternately have wooed and warred him, You have not bent to blowing hot and cold, But held you sturdily inimical!

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