Less Christian-like forgiveness mellows us Than Continental souls! [They drink.]
[A band is heard in a distant street, with shouting. Enter third and fourth citizens, followed by others.]
More news afloat?
THIRD AND FOURTH CITIZENS
Yea; an announcement that the Archduke Charles Is given the chief command.
FIRST, SECOND, ETC., CITIZENS
Huzza! Right so!
[A clinking of glasses, rising from seats, and general enthusiasm.]
If war had not so patly been declared, Our howitzers and firelocks of themselves Would have gone off to shame us! This forenoon Some of the Landwehr met me; they are hot For setting out, though but few months enrolled.
That moves reflection somewhat. They are young For measuring with the veteran file of France!
Napoleon's army swarms with tender youth, His last conscription besomed into it Thousands of merest boys. But he contrives To mix them in the field with seasoned frames.
The sadly-seen mistake this country made Was that of grounding hostile arms at all. We should have fought irreconcilably— Have been consistent as the English are. The French are our hereditary foes, And this adventurer of the saucy sword, This sacrilegious slighter of our shrines, Stands author of all our ills... Our harvest fields and fruits he trample on, Accumulating ruin in our land. Think of what mournings in the last sad war 'Twas his to instigate and answer for! Time never can efface the glint of tears In palaces, in shops, in fields, in cots, From women widowed, sonless, fatherless, That then oppressed our eyes. There is no salve For such deep harrowings but to fight again; The enfranchisement of Europe hangs thereon, And long she has lingered for the sign to crush him: That signal we have given; the time is come! [Thumping on the table.]
FIFTH CITIZEN [at another table, looking up from his paper and speaking across]
I see that Russia has declined to aid us, And says she knows that Prussia likewise must; So that the mission of Prince Schwarzenberg To Alexander's Court has closed in failure.
Ay—through his being honest—fatal sin!— Probing too plainly for the Emperor's ears His ominous friendship with Napoleon.
Some say he was more than honest with the Tsar; Hinting that his becoming an ally Makes him accomplice of the Corsican In the unprincipled dark overthrow Of his poor trusting childish Spanish friends— Which gave the Tsar offence.
And our best bid— The last, most delicate dish—a tastelessness.
What was Prince Schwarzenberg's best bid, I pray?
The offer of the heir of Austria's hand For Alexander's sister the Grand-Duchess.
He could not have accepted, if or no: She is inscribed as wife for Bonaparte.
I doubt that text!
Time's context soon will show.
The Russian Cabinet can not for long Resist the ardour of the Russian ranks To march with us the moment we achieve Our first loud victory!
[A band is heard playing afar, and shouting. People are seen hurrying past in the direction of the sounds. Enter sixth citizen.]
The Archduke Charles Is passing the Ringstrasse just by now, His regiment at his heels!
[The younger sitters jump up with animation, and go out, the elder mostly remaining.]
Realm never faced The grin of a more fierce necessity For horrid war, than ours at this tense time!
[The sounds of band-playing and huzzaing wane away. Citizens return.]
More news, my friends, of swiftly swelling zeal?
Ere passing down the Ring, the Archduke paused And gave the soldiers speech, enkindling them As sunrise a confronting throng of panes That glaze a many-windowed east facade: Hot volunteers vamp in from vill and plain— More than we need in the furthest sacrifice!
FIRST, SECOND, ETC., CITIZENS
Huzza! Right so! Good! Forwards! God be praised!
[They stand up, and a clinking of glasses follows, till they subside to quietude and a reperusal of newspapers. Nightfall succeeds. Dancing-rooms are lit up in an opposite street, and dancing begins. The figures are seen gracefully moving round to the throbbing strains of a string-band, which plays a new waltzing movement with a warlike name, soon to spread over Europe. The dancers sing patriotic words as they whirl. The night closes over.]
A ROAD OUT OF VIENNA
[It is morning in early May. Rain descends in torrents, accompanied by peals of thunder. The tepid downpour has caused the trees to assume as by magic a clothing of limp green leafage, and has turned the ruts of the uneven highway into little canals.
A drenched travelling-chariot is passing, with a meagre escort. In the interior are seated four women: the ARCHDUCHESS MARIA LOUISA, in age about eighteen; her stepmother the EMPRESS OF AUSTRIA, third wife of FRANCIS, only four years older than the ARCHDUCHESS; and two ladies of the Austrian Court. Behind come attendant carriages bearing servants and luggage.
The inmates remain for the most part silent, and appear to be in a gloomy frame of mind. From time to time they glance at the moist spring scenes which pass without in a perspective distorted by the rain-drops that slide down the panes, and by the blurring effect of the travellers' breathings. Of the four the one who keeps in the best spirits is the ARCHDUCHESS, a fair, blue-eyed, full- figured, round-lipped maiden.]
Whether the rain comes in or not I must open the window. Please allow me. [She straightway opens it.]
Yes—open or shut it—I don't care. I am too ill to care for anything! [The carriage jolts into a hole.] O woe! To think that I am driven away from my husband's home in such a miserable conveyance, along such a road, and in such weather as this. [Peal of thunder.] There are his guns!
No, my dear one. It cannot be his guns. They told us when we started that he was only half-way from Ratisbon hither, so that he must be nearly a hundred miles off as yet; and a large army cannot move fast.
He should never have been let come nearer than Ratisbon! The victory at Echmuhl was fatal for us. O Echmuhl, Echmuhl! I believe he will overtake us before we get to Buda.
If so, your Majesty, shall we be claimed as prisoners and marched to Paris?
Undoubtedly. But I shouldn't much care. It would not be worse than this.... I feel sodden all through me, and frowzy, and broken! [She closes her eyes as if to doze.]
It is dreadful to see her suffer so! [Shutting the window.] If the roads were not so bad I should not mind. I almost wish we had stayed; though when he arrives the cannonade will be terrible.
I wonder if he will get into Vienna. Will his men knock down all the houses, madam?
If he do get in, I am sure his triumph will not be for long. My uncle the Archduke Charles is at his heels! I have been told many important prophecies about Bonaparte's end, which is fast nearing, it is asserted. It is he, they say, who is referred to in the Apocalypse. He is doomed to die this year at Cologne, in an inn called "The Red Crab." I don't attach too much importance to all these predictions, but O, how glad I should be to see them come true!
So should we all, madam. What would become of his divorce-scheme then?
Perhaps there is nothing in that report. One can hardly believe such gossip.
But they say, your Imperial Highness, that he certainly has decided to sacrifice the Empress Josephine, and that at the meeting last October with the Emperor Alexander at Erfurt, it was even settled that he should marry as his second wife the Grand-Duchess Anne.
I am sure that the Empress her mother will never allow one of the house of Romanoff to marry with a bourgeois Corsican. I wouldn't if I were she!
Perhaps, your Highness, they are not so particular in Russia, where they are rather new themselves, as we in Austria, with your ancient dynasty, are in such matters.
Perhaps not. Though the Empress-mother is a pompous old thing, as I have been told by Prince Schwarzenberg, who was negotiating there last winter. My father says it would be a dreadful misfortune for our country if they were to marry. Though if we are to be exiled I don't see how anything of that sort can matter much.... I hope my father is safe!
[An officer of the escort rides up to the carriage window, which is opened.]
EMPRESS [unclosing her eyes]
Any more misfortunes?
A rumour is a-wind, your Majesty, That the French host, the Emperor in its midst, Lannes, Massena, and Bessieres in its van, Advancing hither along the Ratisbon road, Has seized the castle and town of Ebersberg, And burnt all down, with frightful massacre, Vast heaps of dead and wounded being consumed, So that the streets stink strong with frizzled flesh.— The enemy, ere this, has crossed the Traun, Hurling brave Hiller's army back on us, And marches on Amstetten—thirty miles Less distant from Vienna from before!
The Lord show mercy to us! But O why Did not the Archdukes intercept the foe?
His Highness Archduke Charles, your Majesty, After his sore repulse Bohemia-wards, Could not proceed with strength and speed enough To close in junction with the Archduke John And Archduke Louis, as was their intent. So Marshall Lannes swings swiftly on Vienna, With Oudinot's and Demont's might of foot; Then Massena and all his mounted men, And then Napoleon, Guards, Cuirassiers, And the main body of the Imperial Force.
Alas for poor Vienna!
Even so! Your Majesty has fled it none too soon.
[The window is shut, and the procession disappears behind the sheets of rain.]
THE ISLAND OF LOBAU, WITH WAGRAM BEYOND
[The northern horizon at the back of the bird's-eye prospect is the high ground stretching from the Bisamberg on the left to the plateau of Wagram on the right. In front of these elevations spreads the wide plain of the Marchfeld, open, treeless, and with scarcely a house upon it.
In the foreground the Danube crosses the scene with a graceful slowness, looping itself round the numerous wooded islands therein. The largest of these, immediately under the eye, is the Lobau, which stands like a knot in the gnarled grain represented by the running river.
On this island can be discerned, closely packed, an enormous dark multitude of foot, horse, and artillery in French uniforms, the numbers reaching to a hundred and seventy thousand.
Lifting our eyes to discover what may be opposed to them we perceive on the Wagram plateau aforesaid, and right and left in front of it, extended lines of Austrians, whitish and glittering, to the number of a hundred and forty thousand.
The July afternoon turns to evening, the evening to twilight. A species of simmer which pervades the living spectacle raises expectation till the very air itself seems strained with suspense. A huge event of some kind is awaiting birth.]
The first change under the cloak of night is that the tightly packed regiments on the island are got under arms. The soldiery are like a thicket of reeds in which every reed should be a man.
A large bridge connects the island with the further shore, as well as some smaller bridges. Opposite are high redoubts and ravelins that the Austrians have constructed for opposing the passage across, which the French ostentatiously set themselves to attempt by the large bridge, amid heavy cannonading.
But the movement is a feint, though this is not perceived by the Austrians as yet. The real movement is on the right hand of the foreground, behind a spur of the isle, and out of sight of the enemy; where several large rafts and flat boats, each capable of carrying three hundred men, are floated out from a screened creek.
Chosen battalions enter upon these, which immediately begin to cross with their burden. Simultaneously from other screened nooks secretly prepared floating bridges, in sections, are moved forth, joined together, and defended by those who crossed on the rafts.
At two o'clock in the morning the thousands of cooped soldiers begin to cross the bridges, producing a scene which, on such a scale, was never before witnessed in the history of war. A great discharge from the batteries accompanies this manoeuvre, arousing the Austrians to a like cannonade.
The night has been obscure for summer-time, and there is no moon. The storm now breaks in a tempestuous downpour, with lightning and thunder. The tumult of nature mingles so fantastically with the tumult of projectiles that flaming bombs and forked flashes cut the air in company, and the noise from the mortars alternates with the noise from the clouds.
From bridge to bridge and back again a gloomy-eyed figure stalks, as it has stalked the whole night long, with the restlessness of a wild animal. Plastered with mud, and dribbling with rain-water, it bears no resemblance to anything dignified or official. The figure is that of NAPOLEON, urging his multitudes over.
By daylight the great mass of the men is across the water. At six the rain ceases, the mist uncovers the face of the sun, which bristles on the helmets and bayonets of the French. A hum of amazement rises from the Austrian hosts, who turn staring faces southward and perceive what has happened, and the columns of their enemies standing to arms on the same side of the stream with themselves, and preparing to turn their left wing.
NAPOLEON rides along the front of his forces, which now spread out upon the plain, and are ranged in order of battle.
Dumb Show ends, and the point of view changes.
THE FIELD OF WAGRAM
[The battlefield is now viewed reversely, from the windows of a mansion at Wolkersdorf, to the rear of the Austrian position. The aspect of the windows is nearly south, and the prospect includes the plain of the Marchfeld, with the isled Danube and Lobau in the extreme distance. Ten miles to the south-west, rightwards, the faint summit of the tower of St. Stephen's, Vienna, appears. On the middle-left stands the compact plateau of Wagram, so regularly shaped as to seem as if constructed by art. On the extreme left the July sun has lately risen.
Inside the room are discovered the EMPEROR FRANCIS and some house- hold officers in attendance; with the War-Minister and Secretaries at a table at the back. Through open doors can be seen in an outer apartment adjutants, equerries, aides, and other military men. An officer in waiting enters.]
During the night the French have shifted, sire, And much revised their stations of the eve By thwart and wheeling moves upon our left, And on our centre—projects unforeseen Till near accomplished.
But I am advised By oral message that the Archduke Charles, Since the sharp strife last night, has mended, too, His earlier dispositions, and has sped Strong orders to the Archduke John, to bring In swiftest marches all the force he holds, And fall with heavy impact on the French From nigh their rear?
'Tis good, sire; such a swoop Will raise an obstacle to their retreat And refuge in the fastness of the isle; And show this victory-gorged adventurer That striking with a river in his rear Is not the safest tactic to be played Against an Austrian front equipt like ours!
[The EMPEROR FRANCIS and others scrutinize through their glasses the positions and movements of the Austrian divisions, which appear on the plain as pale masses, emitting flashes from arms and helmets under the July rays, and reaching from the Tower of Neusiedel on the left, past Wagram, into the village of Stammersdorf on the right. Beyond their lines are spread out the darker-hued French, almost parallel to the Austrians.]
Those moving masses toward the right I deem The forces of Klenau and Kollowrath, Sent to support Prince John of Lichtenstein I his attack that way?
Now that they've gained The right there, why is not the attack begun?
They are beginning on the left wing, sire.
[The EMPEROR resumes his glass and beholds bodies of men descending from the hills by Neusiedel, and crossing the Russbach river towards the French—a movement which has been going on for some time.]
FRANCIS [turning thither]
Where we are weakest! It surpasses me To understand why was our centre thinned To pillar up our right already strong, Where nought is doing, while our left assault Stands ill-supported?
[Time passes in silence.]
Yes, it is so. See, The enemy strikes Rossenberg in flank, Compelling him to fall behind the Russbach!
[The EMPEROR gets excited, and his face perspires. At length he cannot watch through his glass, and walks up and down.]
Penned useless here my nerves annoy my sight! Inform me what you note.—I should opine The Wagram height behind impregnable?
[Another silence, broken by the distant roar of the guns.]
Klenau and Kollowrath are pounding on! To turn the enemy's left with our strong right Is, after all, a plan that works out well. Hiller and Lichtenstein conjoin therein.
I hear from thence appalling cannonades.
'Tis their, your Majesty. Now we shall see If the French read that there the danger lies.
I only pray that Bonaparte refrain From spying danger there till all too late!
OFFICER [involuntarily, after a pause]
FRANCIS [turning sharply]
Well, well? What changes figure now?
They pierce our centre, sire! We are, despite, Not centrally so weak as I supposed. Well done, Bellegarde!
FRANCIS [glancing to the centre]
And what has he well done?
The French in fierce fume broke through Aderklaa; But Bellegarde, pricking along the plain behind, Has charged and driven them back disorderly. The Archduke Charles bounds thither, as I shape, In person to support him!
[The EMPEROR returns to his spyglass; and they and others watch in silence, sometimes the right of their front, sometimes the centre.]
It is so! That the right attack of ours spells victory, And Austria's grand salvation!... [Times passes.] Turn your glass, And closely scan Napoleon and his aides Hand-galloping towards his centre-left To strengthen it against the brave Bellegarde. Does your eye reach him?—That white horse, alone In front of those that move so rapidly.
It does, sire; though my glass can conjure not So cunningly as yours.... that horse must be The famed Euphrates—him the Persian king Sent Bonaparte as gift.
[A silence. NAPOLEON reaches a carriage that is moving across. It bears MASSENA, who, having received a recent wound, in unable to ride.]
See, the white horse and horseman pause beside A coach for some strange reason rolling there.... That white-horsed rider—yes!—is Bonaparte, By the aides hovering round.... New war-wiles have been worded; we shall spell Their purport soon enough! [An interval.] The French take heart To stand to our battalions steadfastly, And hold their ground, having the Emperor near!
[Time passes. An aide-de-camp enters.]
The Archduke Charles is pierced in the shoulder, sire; He strove too far in beating back the French At Aderklaa, and was nearly ta'en. The wound's not serious.—On our right we win, And deem the battle ours.
[Enter another aide-de-camp.]
Your Majesty, We have borne them back through Aspern village-street And Essling is recovered. What counts more, Their bridges to the rear we have nearly grasped, And panic-struck they crowd the few left free, Choking the track, with cries of "All is lost!"
Then is the land delivered. God be praised!
[Exeunt aides. An interval, during which the EMPEROR and his companions again remain anxiously at their glasses.]
There is a curious feature I discern To have come upon the battle. On our right We gain ground rapidly; towards the left We lose it; and the unjudged consequence Is that the armies; whole commingling mass Moves like a monstrous wheel. I like it not!
[Enter another aide-de-camp.]
Our left wing, sire, recedes before Davout, Whom nothing can withstand! Two corps he threw Across the Russbach up to Neusiedel, While he himself assailed the place in front. Of the divisions one pressed on and on, Till lodged atop. They would have been hurled back—-
But how goes it with us in sum? pray say!
We have been battered off the eastern side Of Wagram plateau.
Where's the Archduke John? Why comes he not? One man of his here now Were worth a host anon. And yet he tarries!
[Exit third aide. Time passes, while they reconnoitre the field with strained eyes.]
Our centre-right, it seems, round Neusiedel, Is being repulsed! May the kind Heaven forbid That Hesse Homberg should be yielding there!
[The Minister in attendance comes forward, and the EMPEROR consults him; then walking up and down in silence. Another aide-de-camp enters.]
Sire, Neusiedel has just been wrenched from us, And the French right is on the Wagram crest; Nordmann has fallen, and Veczay: Hesse Homberg, Warteachben, Muger—almost all our best— Bleed more or less profusely!
[A gloomy silence. Exit fourth side. Ten minutes pass. Enter an officer in waiting.]
What guns are those that groan from Wagram height?
Alas, Davout's! I have climbed the roof-top, sire, And there discerned the truth.
[Cannonade continues. A long interval of suspense. The EMPEROR returns to his glass.]
A part of it! There seems to be a grim, concerted lunge By the whole strength of France upon our right, Centre, and left wing simultaneously!
Most viciously upon the centre, sire, If I mistook not, hard by Sussenbrunn; The assault is led by Bonaparte in person, Who shows himself with marvellous recklessness, Yet like a phantom-fiend receives no hurt.
FRANCIS [still gazing]
Ha! Now the Archduke Charles has seen the intent, And taken steps against it. Sussenbrunn Must be the threatened thing. [Silence.] What an advance!— Straight hitherward. Our centre girdles them.— Surely they'll not persist? Who heads that charge?
They say Macdonald, sire.
Meagrest remains Will there be soon of those in that advance! We are burning them to bones by our hot fire. They are almost circumscribed: if fully so The battle's ours! What's that behind them, eh?
Their last reserves, that they may feed the front, And sterilize our hope!
Yes, their reserve— Dragoons and cuirassiers—charge in support. You see their metal gleaming as they come. Well, it is neck or nothing for them now!
It's nothing, sire. Their charge of cavalry Has desperately failed.
Their foot press on, However, with a battery in front Which deals the foulest damage done us yet. [Time passes.] They ARE effecting lodgment, after all. Who would have reckoned on't—our men so firm!
[Re-enter first aide-de-camp.]
The Archduke Charles retreats, your majesty; And the issue wears a dirty look just now.
Yes: I have seen the signs for some good while. But he retreats with blows, and orderly.
[Time passes, till the sun has rounded far towards the west. The features of the battle now materially change. The French have regained Aspern and Essling; the Austrian army is doubled back from the Danube and from the heights of Wagram, which, as viewed from Wolkersdorf, face the afternoon shine, the French established thereon glittering in the rays.
FRANCIS [choking a sigh]
The turn has passed. We are worsted, but not overwhelmed!... The French advance is laboured, and but slow. —This might have been another-coloured day If but the Archduke John had joined up promptly; Yet still he lags!
ANOTHER OFFICER [lately entered]
He's just now coming, sire. His columns glimmer in the Frenchmen's rear. Past Siebenbrunn's and Loebensdorf's smoked hills.
Ay—coming NOW! Why could he not be COME!
[They watch intently.]
We can see nothing of that side from here.
[Enter a general officer, who speaks to the Minister at the back of the room.]
MINISTER [coming forward]
Your Majesty, I now have to suggest, Pursuant to conclusions reached this morn, That since the front and flower of all our force Is seen receding to the Bisamberg, These walls no longer yield safe shade for you, Or facile outlook. Scouts returning say Either Davout, or Bonaparte himself, With the mid-columns of his forward corps, Will bear up hitherward in fierce pursuit, And may intrude beneath this very roof. Not yet, I think; it may not be to-night; But we should stand prepared.
If we must go We'll go with a good grace, unfeignedly! Who knows to-morrow may not see regained What we have lost to-day?
[Re-enter fourth aide-de-camp.]
FOURTH AIDE [breathlessly]
The Archduke John, Discerning our main musters in retreat, Abandons an advance that throws on him The enemy's whole brunt if he bear on.
Alas for his devotion! Let us go. Such weight of sadness as we shoulder now Will wring us down to sleep in stall or stye, If even that be found!... Think! Bonaparte, By reckless riskings of his life and limb, Has turned the steelyard of our strength to-day Whilst I have idled here!... May brighter times Attend the cause of Europe far in Spain, And British blood flow not, as ours, in vain!
[Exeunt the EMPEROR FRANCIS, minister, officers, and attendants. The night comes, and the scene is obscured.]
THE FIELD OF TALAVERA
[It is the same month and weather as in the preceding scene.
Talavera town, on the river Tagus, is at the extreme right of the foreground; a mountain range on the extreme left.
The allied army under SIR ARTHUR WELLESLEY stretches between—the English on the left, the Spanish on the right—part holding a hill to the left-centre of the scene, divided from the mountains by a valley, and part holding a redoubt to the right-centre. This army of more than fifty thousand all told, of which twenty-two thousand only are English, has its back to the spectator.
Beyond, in a wood of olive, oak, and cork, are the fifty to sixty thousand French, facing the spectator and the allies. Their right includes a strong battery upon a hill which fronts the one on the English left.
Behind all, the heights of Salinas close the prospect, the small river Alberche flowing at their foot from left to right into the Tagus, which advances in foreshortened perspective to the town at the right front corner of the scene as aforesaid.]
The hot and dusty July afternoon having turned to twilight, shady masses of men start into motion from the French position, come towards the foreground, silently ascend the hill on the left of the English, and assail the latter in a violent outburst of fire and lead. They nearly gain possession of the hill ascended.
CHORUS OF RUMOURS [aerial music]
Talavera tongues it as ten o' the night-time: Now come Ruffin's slaughterers surging upward, Backed by bold Vilatte's! From the vale Lapisse, too, Darkly outswells there!
Down the vague veiled incline the English fling them, Bended bayonets prodding opponents backward: So the first fierce charge of the ardent Frenchmen England repels there!
Having fallen back into the darkness the French presently reascend in yet larger masses. The high square knapsack which every English foot-soldier carries, and his shako, and its tuft, outline themselves against the dim light as the ranks stand awaiting the shock.
CHORUS OF RUMOURS
Pushing spread they!—shout as they reach the summit!— Strength and stir new-primed in their plump battalions: Puffs of barbed flame blown on the lines opposing Higher and higher.
There those hold them mute, though at speaking distance— Mute, while clicking flints, and the crash of volleys Whelm the weighted gloom with immense distraction Pending their fire.
Fronting heads, helms, brows can each ranksman read there, Epaulettes, hot cheeks, and the shining eyeball, [Called a trice from gloom by the fleeting pan-flash] Pressing them nigher!
The French again fall back in disorder into the hollow, and LAPISSE draws off on the right. As the sinking sound of the muskets tells what has happened the English raise a shout.
CHORUS OF PITIES
Thus the dim nocturnal embroil of conflict Closes with the roar of receding gun-fire. Harness loosened then, and their day-long strenuous Temper unbending,
Worn-out lines lie down where they late stood staunchly— Cloaks around them rolled—by the bivouac embers: There at dawn to stake in the dynasts' death-game All, till the ending!
DUMB SHOW [continued]
The morning breaks. There is another murderous attempt to dislodge the English from the hill, the assault being pressed with a determination that excites the admiration of the English themselves.
The French are seen descending into the valley, crossing it, and climbing it on the English side under the fire of HILL'S whole division, all to no purpose. In their retreat they leave behind them on the slopes nearly two thousand lying.
The day advances to noon, and the air trembles in the intense heat. The combat flags, and is suspended.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
What do I see but thirsty, throbbing bands From these inimic hosts defiling down In homely need towards the little stream That parts their enmities, and drinking there! They get to grasping hands across the rill, Sealing their sameness as earth's sojourners.— What more could plead the wryness of the time Than such unstudied piteous pantomimes!
It is only that Life's queer mechanics chance to work out in this grotesque shape just now. The groping tentativeness of an Immanent Will [as grey old Years describes it] cannot be asked to learn logic at this time of day! The spectacle of Its instruments, set to riddle one another through, and then to drink together in peace and concord, is where the humour comes in, and makes the play worth seeing!
Come, Sprite, don't carry your ironies too far, or you may wake up the Unconscious Itself, and tempt It to let all the gory clock-work of the show run down to spite me!
DUMB SHOW [continuing]
The drums roll, and the men of the two nations part from their comradeship at the Alberche brook, the dark masses of the French army assembling anew. SIR ARTHUR WELLESLEY has seated himself on a mound that commands a full view of the contested hill, and remains there motionless a long time. When the French form for battle he is seen to have come to a conclusion. He mounts, gives his orders, and the aides ride off.
The French advance steadily through the sultry atmosphere, the skirmishers in front, and the columns after, moving, yet seemingly motionless. Their eighty cannon peal out and their shots mow every space in the line of them. Up the great valley and the terraces of the hill whose fame is at that moment being woven, comes VILLATE, boring his way with foot and horse, and RUFFIN'S men following behind.
According to the order given, the Twenty-third Light Dragoons and the German Hussars advance at a chosen moment against the head of these columns. On the way they disappear.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
Why this bedevilment? What can have chanced?
SPIRIT OF RUMOUR
It so befalls that as their chargers near The inimical wall of flesh with its iron frise, A treacherous chasm uptrips them: zealous men And docile horses roll to dismal death And horrid mutilation.
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
Those who live Even now advance! I'll see no more. Relate.
SPIRIT OF RUMOUR
Yes, those pant on. Then further Frenchmen cross, And Polish Lancers, and Westphalian Horse, Who ring around these luckless Islanders, And sweep them down like reeds by the river-bank In scouring floods; till scarce a man remains.
Meanwhile on the British right SEBASTIANI'S corps has precipitated itself in column against GENERAL CAMPBELL'S division, the division of LAPISSE against the centre, and at the same time the hill on the English left is again assaulted. The English and their allies are pressed sorely here, the bellowing battery tearing lanes through their masses.
SPIRIT OF RUMOUR [continuing]
The French reserves of foot and horse now on, Smiting the Islanders in breast and brain Till their mid-lines are shattered.... Now there ticks The moment of the crisis; now the next, Which brings the turning stroke.
SIR ARTHUR WELLESLEY sends down the Forty-eighth regiment under COLONEL DONELLAN to support the wasting troops. It advances amid those retreating, opening to let them pass.
SPIRIT OF THE RUMOUR [continuing]
The pales, enerved, The hitherto unflinching enemy! Lapisse is pierced to death; the flagging French Decline into the hollows whence they came. The too exhausted English and reduced Lack strength to follow.—Now the western sun, Conning with unmoved visage quick and dead, Gilds horsemen slackening, and footmen stilled, Till all around breathes drowsed hostility.
Last, the swealed herbage lifts a leering light, And flames traverse the field; and hurt and slain Opposed, opposers, in a common plight Are scorched together on the dusk champaign.
The fire dies down, and darkness enwraps the scene.
BRIGHTON. THE ROYAL PAVILION
[It is the birthday dinner-party of the PRINCE OF WALES. In the floridly decorated banqueting-room stretch tables spread with gold and silver plate, and having artificial fountains in their midst.
Seated at the tables are the PRINCE himself as host—rosy, well curled, and affable—the DUKES OF YORK, CLARENCE, KENT, SUSSEX, CUMBERLAND, and CAMBRIDGE, with many noblemen, including LORDS HEADFORT, BERKELEY, EGREMONT, CHICHESTER, DUDLEY, SAY AND SELE, SOUTHAMPTON, HEATHFIELD, ERSKINE, KEITH, C. SOMERSET, G. CAVENDISH, R. SEYMOUR, and others; SIR C. POLE, SIR E.G. DE CRESPIGNY, MR. SHERIDAN; Generals, Colonels, and Admirals, and the REV. MR. SCOTT.
The PRINCE'S band plays in the adjoining room. The banquet is drawing to its close, and a boisterous conversation is in progress.
Enter COLONEL BLOOMFIELD with a dispatch for the PRINCE, who looks it over amid great excitement in the company. In a few moments silence is called.]
PRINCE OF WALES
I have the joy, my lords and gentlemen, To rouse you with the just imported tidings From General Wellesley through Lord Castlereagh Of a vast victory [noisy cheers] over the French in Spain. The place—called Talavera de la Reyna [If I pronounce it rightly]—long unknown, Wears not the crest and blazonry of fame! [Cheers.] The heads and chief contents of the dispatch I read you as succinctly as I can. [Cheers.]
SHERIDAN [singing sotto voce]
"Now foreign foemen die and fly, Dammy, we'll drink little England dry!"
[The PRINCE reads the parts of the dispatch that describe the battle, amid intermittent cheers.]
PRINCE OF WALES [continuing]
Such is the substance of the news received, Which, after Wagram, strikes us genially As sudden sunrise through befogged night shades!
By God, that's good, sir! You are a poet born, while the rest of us are but made, and bad at that.
[The health of the army in Spain is drunk with acclamations.]
PRINCE OF WALES [continuing]
In this achievement we, alas! have lost Too many! Yet suck blanks must ever be.— Mackenzie, Langworth, Beckett of the Guards, Have fallen of ours; while of the enemy Generals Lapisse and Morlot are laid low.— Drink to their memories!
[They drink in silence.]
Other news, my friends, Received to-day is of like hopeful kind. The Great War-Expedition to the Scheldt [Cheers.] Which lately sailed, has found a favouring wind, And by this hour has touched its destined shores. The enterprise will soon be hot aglow, The invaders making first the Cadsand coast, And then descending on Walcheren Isle. But items of the next step are withheld Till later days, from obvious policy. [Cheers.]
[Faint throbbing sounds, like the notes of violincellos and contrabassos, reach the ear from some building without as the speaker pauses.
In worthy emulation of us here The county holds to-night a birthday ball, Which flames with all the fashion of the town. I have been asked to patronize their revel, And sup with them, and likewise you, my guests. We have good reason, with such news to bear! Thither we haste and join our loyal friends, And stir them with this live intelligence Of our staunch regiments on the Spanish plains. [Applause.] With them we'll now knit hands and beat the ground, And bring in dawn as we whirl round and round! There are some fair ones in their set to-night, And such we need here in our bachelor-plight. [Applause.]
[The PRINCE, his brothers, and a large proportion of the other Pavilion guests, swagger out in the direction of the Castle assembly-rooms adjoining, and the deserted banqueting-hall grows dark. In a few moments the back of the scene opens, revealing the assembly-rooms behind.]
THE SAME. THE ASSEMBLY ROOMS
[The rooms are lighted with candles in brass chandeliers, and a dance is in full movement to the strains of a string-band. A signal is given, shortly after the clock has struck eleven, by MR. FORTH, Master of Ceremonies.]
His Royal Highness comes, though somewhat late, But never too late for welcome! [Applause.] Dancers, stand, That we may do fit homage to the Prince Who soon may shine our country's gracious king.
[After a brief stillness a commotion is heard at the door, the band strikes up the National air, and the PRINCE enters, accompanied by the rest of the visitors from the Pavilion. The guests who have been temporarily absent now crowd in, till there is hardly space to stand.]
PRINCE OF WALES [wiping his face and whispering to Sheridan]
What shall I say to fit their feeling here? Damn me, that other speech has stumped me quite!
If heat be evidence of loy—-
PRINCE OF WALES
If heat be evidence of loyalty, Et caetera—something quaint like that might please 'em.
PRINCE OF WALES [to the company]
If heat be evidence of loyalty, This room affords it truly without question; If heat be not, then its accompaniment Most surely 'tis to-night. The news I bring, Good ladies, friends, and gentlemen, perchance You have divined already? That our arms— Engaged to thwart Napoleon's tyranny Over the jaunty, jocund land of Spain Even to the highest apex of our strength— Are rayed with victory! [Cheers.] Lengthy was the strife And fierce, and hot; and sore the suffering; But proudly we endured it; and shall hear, No doubt, of its far consequence Ere many days. I'll read the details sent. [Cheers.]
[He reads again from the dispatch amid more cheering, the ball- room guests crowding round. When he has done he answers questions; then continuing:
Meanwhile our interest is, if possible, As keenly waked elsewhere. Into the Scheldt Some forty thousand bayonets and swords, And twoscore ships o' the line, with frigates, sloops, And gunboats sixty more, make headway now, Bleaching the waters with their bellying sails; Or maybe they already anchor there, And that level ooze of Walcheren shore Ring with the voices of that landing host In every twang of British dialect, Clamorous to loosen fettered Europe's chain! [Cheers.]
A NOBLE LORD [aside to Sheridan]
Prinny's outpouring tastes suspiciously like your brew, Sheridan. I'll be damned if it is his own concoction. How d'ye sell it a gallon?
I don't deal that way nowadays. I give the recipe, and charge a duty on the gauging. It is more artistic, and saves trouble.
[The company proceed to the supper-rooms, and the ball-room sinks into solitude.]
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
So they pass on. Let be!—But what is this— A moan?—all frailly floating from the east To usward, even from the forenamed isle?... Would I had not broke nescience, to inspect A world so ill-contrived!
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
But since thou hast We'll hasten to the isle; and thou'lt behold— Such as it is—the scene its coasts enfold.
[A marshy island at the mouth of the Scheldt, lit by the low sunshine of an evening in late summer. The horizontal rays from the west lie in yellow sheaves across the vapours that the day's heat has drawn from the sweating soil. Sour grasses grow in places, and strange fishy smells, now warm, now cold, pass along. Brass-hued and opalescent bubbles, compounded of many gases, rise where passing feet have trodden the damper spots. At night the place is the haunt of the Jack-lantern.]
A vast army is encamped here, and in the open spaces are infantry on parade—skeletoned men, some flushed, some shivering, who are kept moving because it is dangerous to stay still. Every now and then one falls down, and is carried away to a hospital with no roof, where he is laid, bedless, on the ground.
In the distance soldiers are digging graves for the funerals which are to take place after dark, delayed till then that the sight of so many may not drive the living melancholy-mad. Faint noises are heard in the air.
SHADE OF THE EARTH
What storm is this of souls dissolved in sighs, And what the dingy doom it signifies?
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
We catch a lamentation shaped thuswise:
CHORUS OF THE PITIES [aerial music]
"We who withstood the blasting blaze of war When marshalled by the gallant Moore awhile, Beheld the grazing death-bolt with a smile, Closed combat edge to edge and bore to bore, Now rot upon this Isle!
"The ever wan morass, the dune, the blear Sandweed, and tepid pool, and putrid smell, Emaciate purpose to a fractious fear, Beckon the body to its last low cell— A chink no chart will tell.
"O ancient Delta, where the fen-lights flit! Ignoble sediment of loftier lands, Thy humour clings about our hearts and hands And solves us to its softness, till we sit As we were part of it.
"Such force as fever leaves maddened now, With tidings trickling in from day to day Of others' differing fortunes, wording how They yield their lives to baulk a tyrant's sway— Yield them not vainly, they!
"In champaigns green and purple, far and near, In town and thorpe where quiet spire-cocks turn, Through vales, by rocks, beside the brooding burn Echoes the aggressor's arrogant career; And we pent pithless here!
"Here, where each creeping day the creeping file Draws past with shouldered comrades score on score, Bearing them to their lightless last asile, Where weary wave-wails from the clammy shore Will reach their ears no more.
"We might have fought, and had we died, died well, Even if in dynasts' discords not our own; Our death-spot some sad haunter might have shown, Some tongue have asked our sires or sons to tell The tale of how we fell;
"But such be chanced not. Like the mist we fade, No lustrous lines engrave in story we, Our country's chiefs, for their own fames afraid, Will leave our names and fates by this pale sea, To perish silently!"
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Why must ye echo as mechanic mimes These mortal minion's bootless cadences, Played on the stops of their anatomy As is the mewling music on the strings Of yonder ship-masts by the unweeting wind, Or the frail tune upon this withering sedge That holds its papery blades against the gale? —Men pass to dark corruption, at the best, Ere I can count five score: these why not now?— The Immanent Shaper builds Its beings so Whether ye sigh their sighs with them or no!
The night fog enwraps the isle and the dying English army.
PARIS. A BALLROOM IN THE HOUSE OF CAMBACERES
[The many-candled saloon at the ARCH-CHANCELLOR'S is visible through a draped opening, and a crowd of masked dancers in fantastic costumes revolve, sway, and intermingle to the music that proceeds from an alcove at the further end of the same apartment. The front of the scene is a withdrawing-room of smaller size, now vacant, save for the presence of one sombre figure, that of NAPOLEON, seated and apparently watching the moving masquerade.]
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES
Napoleon even now embraces not From stress of state affairs, which hold him grave Through revels that might win the King of Spleen To toe a measure! I would speak with him.
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
Speak if thou wilt whose speech nor mars nor mends!
SPIRIT OF THE PITIES [into Napoleon's ear]
Why thus and thus Napoleon? Can it be That Wagram with its glories, shocks, and shames, Still leaves athirst the palate of thy pride?
NAPOLEON [answering as in soliloquy]
The trustless, timorous lease of human life Warns me to hedge in my diplomacy. The sooner, then, the safer! Ay, this eve, This very night, will I take steps to rid My morrows of the weird contingencies That vision round and make one hollow-eyed.... The unexpected, lurid death of Lannes— Rigid as iron, reaped down like a straw— Tiptoed Assassination haunting round In unthought thoroughfares, the near success Of Staps the madman, argue to forbid The riskful blood of my previsioned line And potence for dynastic empery To linger vialled in my veins alone. Perhaps within this very house and hour, Under an innocent mask of Love or Hope, Some enemy queues my ways to coffin me.... When at the first clash of the late campaign, A bold belief in Austria's star prevailed, There pulsed quick pants of expectation round Among the cowering kings, that too well told What would have fared had I been overthrown! So; I must send down shoots to future time Who'll plant my standard and my story there; And a way opens.—Better I had not Bespoke a wife from Alexander's house. Not there now lies my look. But done is done!
[The dance ends and masks enter, BERTHIER among them. NAPOLEON beckons to him, and he comes forward.]
God send you find amid this motley crew Frivolities enough, friend Berthier—eh? My thoughts have worn oppressive shades despite such! What scandals of me do they bandy here? These close disguises render women bold— Their shames being of the light, not of the thing— And your sagacity has garnered much, I make no doubt, of ill and good report, That marked our absence from the capital?
Methinks, your Majesty, the enormous tale Of your campaign, like Aaron's serpent-rod, Has swallowed up the smaller of its kind. Some speak, 'tis true, in counterpoise thereto, Of English deeds by Talavera town, Though blurred by their exploit at Walcheren, And all its crazy, crass futilities.
Yet was the exploit well featured in design, Large in idea, and imaginative; I had not deemed the blinkered English folk So capable of view. Their fate contrived To place an idiot at the helm of it, Who marred its working, else it had been hard If things had not gone seriously for us. —But see, a lady saunters hitherward Whose gait proclaims her Madame Metternich, One that I fain would speak with.
[NAPOLEON rises and crosses the room toward a lady-masker who has just appeared in the opening. BERTHIER draws off, and the EMPEROR, unceremoniously taking the lady's arm, brings her forward to a chair, and sits down beside her as dancing is resumed.]
In a flash I recognized you, sire; as who would not The bearer of such deep-delved charactery?
The devil, madame, take your piercing eyes! It's hard I cannot prosper in a game That every coxcomb plays successfully. —So here you are still, though your loving lord Disports him at Vienna?
Paris, true, Still holds me; though in quiet, save to-night, When I have been expressly prayed come hither, Or I had not left home.
I sped that Prayer!— I have a wish to put a case to you, Wherein a woman's judgment, such as yours, May be of signal service. [He lapses into reverie.]
Well? The case—
It is beyond me, sire!
You glean that I have decided to dissolve [Pursuant to monitions murmured long] My union with the present Empress—formed Without the Church's due authority?
Vaguely. And that light tentatives have winged Betwixt your Majesty and Russia's court, To moot that one of their Grand Duchesses Should be your Empress-wife. Nought else I know.
There have been such approachings; more, worse luck. Last week Champagny wrote to Alexander Asking him for his sister—yes or no.
What "worse luck" lies in that, your Majesty, If severance from the Empress Josephine Be fixed unalterably?
This worse luck lies there: If your Archduchess, Marie Louise the fair, Would straight accept my hand, I'd offer it, And throw the other over. Faith, the Tsar Has shown such backwardness in answering me, Time meanwhile trotting, that I have ample ground For such withdrawal.—Madame, now, again, Will your Archduchess marry me of no?
Your sudden questions quite confound my sense! It is impossible to answer them.
Well, madame, now I'll put it to you thus: Were you in the Archduchess Marie's place Would you accept my hand—and heart therewith?
I should refuse you—most assuredly!
NAPOLEON [laughing roughly]
Ha-ha! That's frank. And devilish cruel too! —Well, write to your husband. Ask him what he thinks, And let me know.
Indeed, sire, why should I? There goes the Ambassador, Prince Schwarzenberg, Successor to my spouse. He's now the groove And proper conduit of diplomacy Through whom to broach this matter to his Court.
Do you, then, broach it through him, madame, pray; Now, here, to-night.
I will, informally, To humour you, on this recognizance, That you leave not the business in my hands, But clothe your project in official guise Through him to-morrow; so safeguarding me From foolish seeming, as the babbler forth Of a fantastic and unheard of dream.
I'll send Eugene to him, as you suggest. Meanwhile prepare him. Make your stand-point this: Children are needful to my dynasty, And if one woman cannot mould them for me, Why, then, another must.
[Exit NAPOLEON abruptly. Dancing continues. MADAME METTERNICH sits on, musing. Enter SCHWARZENBERG.]
The Emperor has just left me. We have tapped This theme and that; his empress and—his next. Ay, so! Now, guess you anything?
Of her? No more than that the stock of Romanoff Will not supply the spruce commodity.
And that the would-be customer turns toe To our shop in Vienna.
Marvellous; And comprehensible but as the dream Of Delaborde, of which I have lately heard. It will not work!—What think you, madame, on't?
That it will work, and is as good as wrought!— I break it to you thus, at his request. In brief time Prince Eugene will wait on you, And make the formal offer in his name.
Which I can but receive ad referendum, And shall initially make clear as much, Disclosing not a glimpse of my own mind! Meanwhile you make good Metternich aware?
I write this midnight, that amaze may pitch To coolness ere your messenger arrives.
This radiant revelation flicks a gleam On many circling things!—the courtesies Which graced his bearing toward our officer Amid the tumults of the late campaign, His wish for peace with England, his affront At Alexander's tedious-timed reply... Well, it will thrust a thorn in Russia's side, If I err not, whatever else betide!
[Exeunt. The maskers surge into the foreground of the scene, and their motions become more and more fantastic. A strange gloom begins and intensifies, until only the high lights of their grinning figures are visible. These also, with the whole ball- room, gradually darken, and the music softens to silence.]
PARIS. THE TUILERIES
[The evening of the next day. A saloon of the Palace, with folding-doors communicating with a dining-room. The doors are flung open, revealing on the dining-table an untouched dinner, NAPOLEON and JOSEPHINE rising from it, and DE BAUSSET, chamberlain- in-waiting, pacing up and down. The EMPEROR and EMPRESS come forward into the saloon, the latter pale and distressed, and patting her eyes with her handkerchief.
The doors are closed behind them; a page brings in coffee; NAPOLEON signals to him to leave. JOSEPHINE goes to pour out the coffee, but NAPOLEON pushes her aside and pours it out himself, looking at her in a way which causes her to sink cowering into a chair like a frightened animal.]
I see my doom, my friend, upon your face!
You see me bored by Cambaceres' ball.
It means divorce!—a thing more terrible Than carrying elsewhere the dalliances That formerly were mine. I kicked at that; But now agree, as I for long have done, To any infidelities of act May I be yours in name!
My mind must bend To other things than our domestic petting: The Empire orbs above our happiness, And 'tis the Empire dictates this divorce. I reckon on your courage and calm sense To breast with me the law's formalities, And get it through before the year has flown.
But are you REALLY going to part from me? O no, no, my dear husband; no, in truth, It cannot be my Love will serve me so!
I mean but mere divorcement, as I said, On simple grounds of sapient sovereignty.
But nothing have I done save good to you:— Since the fond day we wedded into one I never even have THOUGHT you jot of harm! Many the happy junctures when you have said I stood as guardian-angel over you, As your Dame Fortune, too, and endless things Of such-like pretty tenour—yes, you have! Then how can you so gird against me now? You had not pricked upon it much of late, And so I hoped and hoped the ugly spectre Had been laid dead and still.
I tell you, dear, The thing's decreed, and even the princess chosen.
Ah—so—the princess chosen!... I surmise It is none else than the Grand-Duchess Anne: Gossip was right—though I would not believe. She's young; but no great beauty!—Yes, I see Her silly, soulless eyes and horrid hair; In which new gauderies you'll forget sad me!
Upon my soul you are childish, Josephine: A woman of your years to pout it so!— I say it's not the Tsar's Grand-Duchess Anne.
Some other Fair, then. You whose name can nod The flower of all the world's virginity Into your bed, will well take care of that! [Spitefully.] She may not have a child, friend, after all.
You hope she won't, I know!—But don't forget Madame Walewska did, and had she shown Such cleverness as yours, poor little fool, Her withered husband might have been displaced, And her boy made my heir.—Well, let that be. The severing parchments will be signed by us Upon the fifteenth, prompt.
What—I have to sign My putting away upon the fifteenth next?
Ay—both of us.
JOSEPHINE [falling on her knees]
So far advanced—so far! Fixed?—for the fifteenth? O I do implore you, My very dear one, by our old, old love, By my devotion, don't cast me off Now, after these long years!
Heavens, how you jade me! Must I repeat that I don't cast you off; We merely formally arrange divorce— We live and love, but call ourselves divided.
JOSEPHINE [with sudden calm]
Very well. Let it be. I must submit! [Rises.]
And this much likewise you must promise me, To act in the formalities thereof As if you shaped them of your own free will.
How can I—when no freewill's left in me?
You are a willing party—do you hear?
I hardly—can—bear this!—It is—too much For a poor weak and broken woman's strength! But—but I yield!—I am so helpless now: I give up all—ay, kill me if you will, I won't cry out!
And one thing further still, You'll help me in my marriage overtures To win the Duchess—Austrian Marie she,— Concentrating all your force to forward them.
It is the—last humiliating blow!— I cannot—O, I will not!
But you SHALL! And from your past experience you may know That what I say I mean!
JOSEPHINE [breaking into sobs]
O my dear husband—do not make me—don't! If you but cared for me—the hundredth part Of how—I care for you, you could not be So cruel as to lay this torture on me. It hurts me so!—it cuts me like a sword. Don't make me, dear! Don't, will you! O,O,O! [She sinks down in a hysterical fit.]
[Enter DE BAUSSET, Chamberlain-in-waiting.]
Bausset, come in and shut the door. Assist me here. The Empress has fallen ill. Don't call for help. We two can carry her By the small private staircase to her rooms. Here—I will take her feet.
[They lift JOSEPHINE between them and carry her out. Her moans die away as they recede towards the stairs. Enter two servants, who remove coffee-service, readjust chairs, etc.]
So, poor old girl, she's wailed her Missere Mei, as Mother Church says. I knew she was to get the sack ever since he came back.
Well, there will be a little civil huzzaing, a little crowing and cackling among the Bonapartes at the downfall of the Beauharnais family at last, mark me there will! They've had their little hour, as the poets say, and now 'twill be somebody else's turn. O it is droll! Well, Father Time is a great philosopher, if you take him right. Who is to be the new woman?
She that contains in her own corporation the necessary particular.
And what may they be?
She must be young.
Good. She must. The country must see to that.
And she must be strong.
Good again. She must be strong. The doctors will see to that.
FIRST SERVANT And she must be fruitful as the vine.
Ay, by God. She must be fruitful as the vine. That, Heaven help him, he must see to himself, like the meanest multiplying man in Paris.
[Exeunt servant. Re-enter NAPOLEON with his stepdaughter, Queen Hortense.]
NAPOLEON Your mother is too rash and reasonless— Wailing and fainting over statesmanship Which is no personal caprice of mine, But policy most painful—forced on me By the necessities of this country's charge. Go to her; see if she be saner now; Explain it to her once and once again, And bring me word what impress you may make.
[HORTENSE goes out. CHAMPAGNY is shown in.]
Champagny, I have something clear to say Now, on our process after the divorce. The question of the Russian Duchess Anne Was quite inept for further toying with. The years rush on, and I grow nothing younger. So I have made up my mind—committed me To Austria and the Hapsburgs—good or ill! It was the best, most practicable plunge, And I have plunged it.
Austria say you, sire? I reckoned that but a scurrying dream!
Well, so it was. But such a pretty dream That its own charm transfixed it to a notion, That showed itself in time a sanity, Which hardened in its turn to a resolve As firm as any built by mortal mind.— The Emperor's consent must needs be won; But I foresee no difficulty there. The young Archduchess is a bright blond thing By general story; and considering, too, That her good mother childed seventeen times, It will be hard if she can not produce The modest one or two that I require.
[Enter DE BAUSSET with dispatches.]
The courier, sire, from Petersburg is here, And brings these letters for your Majesty.
[Exit DE BAUSSET.]
NAPOLEON [after silently reading]
Ha-ha! It never rains unless it pours: Now I can have the other readily. The proverb hits me aptly: "Well they do Who doff the old love ere they don the new!" [He glances again over the letter.] Yes, Caulaincourt now writes he has every hope Of quick success in settling the alliance! The Tsar is willing—even anxious for it, His sister's youth the single obstacle. The Empress-mother, hitherto against me, Ambition-fired, verges on suave consent, Likewise the whole Imperial family. What irony is all this to me now! Time lately was when I had leapt thereat.
You might, of course, sire, give th' Archduchess up, Seeing she looms uncertainly as yet, While this does so no longer.
No—not I. My sense of my own dignity forbids My watching the slow clocks of Muscovy! Why have they dallied with my tentatives In pompous silence since the Erfurt day? —And Austria, too, affords a safer hope. The young Archduchess is much less a child Than is the other, who, Caulaincourt says, Will be incapable of motherhood For six months yet or more—a grave delay.
Your Majesty appears to have trimmed your sail For Austria; and no more is to be said!
Except that there's the house of Saxony If Austria fail.—then, very well, Champagny, Write you to Caulaincourt accordingly.
I will, your Majesty.
[Exit CHAMPAGNY. Re-enter QUEEN HORTENSE.]
Ah, dear Hortense, How is your mother now?
Calm; quite calm, sire. I pledge me you need have no further fret From her entreating tears. She bids me say That now, as always, she submits herself With chastened dignity to circumstance, And will descend, at notice, from your throne— As in days earlier she ascended it— In questionless obedience to your will. It was your hand that crowned her; let it be Likewise your hand that takes her crown away. As for her children, we shall be but glad To follow and withdraw ourselves with her, The tenderest mother children ever knew, From grandeurs that have brought no happiness!
NAPOLEON [taking her hand]
But, Hortense, dear, it is not to be so! You must stay with me, as I said before. Your mother, too, must keep her royal state, Since no repudiation stains this need. Equal magnificence will orb her round In aftertime as now. A palace here, A palace in the country, wealth to match, A rank in order next my future wife's, And conference with me as my truest friend. Now we will seek her—Eugene, you, and I— And make the project clear.
[Exeunt NAPOLEON and HORTENSE. The scene darkens and shuts.]
VIENNA. A PRIVATE APARTMENT IN THE IMPERIAL PALACE
[The EMPEROR FRANCIS discovered, paler than usual, and somewhat flurried. Enter METTERNICH the Prime Minister—a thin-lipped, long-nosed man with inquisitive eyes.]
I have been expecting you some minutes here, The thing that fronts us brooking brief delay.— Well, what say you by now on this strange offer?
My views remain the same, your Majesty: The policy of peace that I have upheld, Both while in Paris and of late time here, Points to this step as heralding sweet balm And bandaged veins for our late crimsoned realm.
Agreed. As monarch I perceive therein A happy doorway for my purposings. It seems to guarantee the Hapsburg crown A quittance of distractions such as those That leave their shade on many a backward year!— There is, forsooth, a suddenness about it, And it would aid us had we clearly keyed The cryptologues of which the world has heard Between Napoleon and the Russian Court— Begun there with the selfsame motiving.
I would not, sire, one second ponder it. It was an obvious first crude cast-about In the important reckoning of means For his great end, a strong monarchic line. The more advanced the more it profits us; For sharper, then, the quashing of such views, And wreck of that conjunction in the aims Of France and Russia, marked so much of late As jeopardizing quiet neighbours' thrones.
If that be so, on the domestic side There seems no bar. Speaking as father solely, I see secured to her the proudest fate That woman can daydream. And I could hope That private bliss would not be wanting her!
A hope well seated, sire. The Emperor, Imperious and determined in his rule, Is easy-natured in domestic life, As my long time in Paris amply proved. Moreover, the accessories of his glory Have been, and will be, admirably designed To fire the fancy of a young princess.
Thus far you satisfy me.... So, to close, Or not to close with him, is now the thing.
Your Majesty commands the issue quite: The father of his people can alone In such a case give answer—yes or no. Vagueness and doubt have ruined Russia's chance; Let not, then, such be ours.
You mean, if I, You'd answer straight. What would that answer be?
In state affairs, sire, as in private life, Times will arise when even the faithfullest squire Finds him unfit to jog his chieftain's choice, On whom responsibility must lastly rest. And such times are pre-eminently, sire, Those wherein thought alone is not enough To serve the head as guide. As Emperor, As father, both, to you, to you in sole Must appertain the privilege to pronounce Which track stern duty bids you tread herein.
Affection is my duty, heart my guide.— Without constraint or prompting I shall leave The big decision in my daughter's hands. Before my obligations to my people Must stand her wish. Go, find her, Metternich, Take her the tidings. She is free with you, And will speak out. [Looking forth from the terrace.] She's here at hand, I see: I'll call her in. Then tell me what's her mind.
[He beckons from the window, and goes out in another direction.]
So much for form's sake! Can the river-flower The current drags, direct its face up-stream? What she must do she will; nought else at all.
[Enter through one of the windows MARIA LOUISA in garden-costume, fresh-coloured, girlish, and smiling. METTERNICH bends.]
O how, dear Chancellor, you startled me! Please pardon my so brusquely bursting in. I saw you not.—Those five poor little birds That haunt out there beneath the pediment, Snugly defended from the north-east wind, Have lately disappeared. I sought a trace Of scattered feathers, which I dread to find!
They are gone, I ween, the way of tender flesh At the assaults of winter, want, and foes.
It is too melancholy thinking, that! Don't say it.—But I saw the Emperor here? Surely he beckoned me?
Sure, he did, Your gracious Highness; and he has left me here To break vast news that will make good his call.
Then do. I'll listen. News from near or far?
[She seats herself.]
From far—though of such distance-dwarfing might That far may read as near eventually. But, dear Archduchess, with your kindly leave I'll speak straight out. The Emperor of the French Has sent to-day to make, through Schwarzenberg, A formal offer of his heart and hand, His honours, dignities, imperial throne, To you, whom he admires above all those The world can show elsewhere.
MARIA LOUISA [frightened]
My husband—he? What, an old man like him!
He's scarcely old, Dear lady. True, deeds densely crowd in him; Turn months to years calendaring his span; Yet by Time's common clockwork he's but young.
So wicked, too!
Well-that's a point of view.
But, Chancellor, think what things I have said to him! Can women marry where they have taunted so?
Things? Nothing inexpungeable, I deem, By time and true good humour.
O I have! Horrible things. Why—ay, a hundred times— I have said I wished him dead! At that strained hour When the first voicings of the late war came, Thrilling out how the French were smitten sore And Bonaparte retreating, I clapped hands And answered that I hoped he'd lose his head As well as lose the battle!
Words. But words! Born like the bubbles of a spring that come Of zest for springing—aimless in their shape.
It seems indecent, mean, to wed a man Whom one has held such fierce opinions of!
My much beloved Archduchess, and revered, Such things have been! In Spain and Portugal Like enmities have led to intermarriage. In England, after warring thirty years The Red and White Rose wedded.
MARIA LOUISA [after a silence]
Tell me, now, What does my father wish?
His wish is yours. Whatever your Imperial Highness feels On this grave verdict of your destiny, Home, title, future sphere, he bids you think Not of himself, but of your own desire.
MARIA LOUISA [reflecting]
My wish is what my duty bids me wish. Where a wide Empire's welfare is in poise, That welfare must be pondered, not my will. I ask of you, then, Chancellor Metternich, Straightway to beg the Emperor my father That he fulfil his duty to the realm, And quite subordinate thereto all thought Of how it personally impinge on me.
[A slight noise as of something falling is heard in the room. They glance momentarily, and see that a small enamel portrait of MARIE ANTOINETTE, which was standing on a console-table, has slipped down on its face.]
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
What mischief's this? The Will must have its way.
Perhaps Earth shivered at the lady's say?
SHADE OF THE EARTH
I own hereto. When France and Austria wed My echoes are men's groans, my dews are red; So I have reason for a passing dread!
Right nobly phrased, Archduchess; wisely too. I will acquaint your sire the Emperor With these your views. He waits them anxiously. [Going.]
Let me go first. It much confuses me To think—But I would fain let thinking be!
[She goes out trembling. Enter FRANCIS by another door.]
I was about to seek your Majesty. The good Archduchess luminously holds That in this weighty question you regard The Empire. Best for it is best for her.
My daughter's views thereon do not surprise me. She is too staunch to pit a private whim Against the fortunes of a commonwealth. During your speech with her I have taken thought To shape decision sagely. An assent Would yield the Empire many years of peace, And leave me scope to heal those still green sores Which linger from our late unhappy moils. Therefore, my daughter not being disinclined, I know no basis for a negative. Send, then, a courier prompt to Paris: say The offer made for the Archduchess' hand I do accept—with this defined reserve, That no condition, treaty, bond, attach To such alliance save the tie itself. There are some sacrifices whose grave rites No bargain must contaminate. This is one— This personal gift of a beloved child!
I'll see to it this hour, your Majesty, And cant the words in keeping with your wish. To himself as he goes.] Decently done!... He slipped out "sacrifice," And scarce could hide his heartache for his girl. Well ached it!—But when these things have to be It is as well to breast them stoically.
[Exit METTERNICH. The clouds draw over.]
LONDON. A CLUB IN ST. JAMES'S STREET
[A winter midnight. Two members are conversing by the fire, and others are seen lolling in the background, some of them snoring.]
I learn from a private letter that it was carried out in the Emperor's Cabinet at the Tuileries—just off the throne-room, where they all assembled in the evening,—Boney and the wife of his bosom [In pure white muslin from head to foot, they say], the Kings and Queens of Holland, Whestphalia, and Naples, the Princess Pauline, and one or two more; the officials present being Cambaceres the Chancellor, and Count Regnaud. Quite a small party. It was over in minutes—short and sweet, like a donkey's gallop.
Anything but sweet for her. How did she stand it?
Serenely, I believe, while the Emperor was making his speech renouncing her; but when it came to her turn to say she renounced him she began sobbing mightily, and was so completely choked up that she couldn't get out a word.
Poor old dame! I pity her, by God; though she had a rattling good spell while it lasted.
They say he was a bit upset, too, at sight of her tears But I dare vow that was put on. Fancy Boney caring a curse what a woman feels. She had learnt her speech by heart, but that did not help her: Regnaud had to finish it for her, the ditch that overturned her being where she was made to say that she no longer preserved any hope of having children, and that she was pleased to show her attachment by enabling him to obtain them by another woman. She was led off fainting. A turning of the tables, considering how madly jealous she used to make him by her flirtations!
[Enter a third member.]
How is the debate going? Still braying the Government in a mortar?
They are. Though one thing every body admits: young Peel has made a wonderful first speech in seconding the address. There has been nothing like it since Pitt. He spoke rousingly of Austria's misfortunes—went on about Spain, of course, showing that we must still go on supporting her, winding up with a brilliant peroration about—what were the words—"the fiery eyes of the British soldier!"—Oh, well: it was all learnt before-hand, of course.
I wish I had gone down. But the wind soon blew the other way.
Then Gower rapped out his amendment. That was good, too, by God.
Well, the war must go on. And that being the general conviction this censure and that censure are only so many blank cartridges.
Blank? Damn me, were they! Gower's was a palpable hit when he said that Parliament had placed unheard-of resources in the hands of the Ministers last year, to make this year's results to the country worse than if they had been afforded no resources at all. Every single enterprise of theirs had been a beggarly failure.
Anybody could have said it, come to that.
Yes, because it is so true. However, when he began to lay on with such rhetoric as "the treasures of the nation lavished in wasteful thoughtlessness,"—"thousands of our troops sacrificed wantonly in pestilential swamps of Walcheren," and gave the details we know so well, Ministers wriggled a good one, though 'twas no news to 'em. Castlereagh kept on starting forward as if he were going to jump up and interrupt, taking the strictures entirely as a personal affront.
[Enter a fourth member.]
Who's speaking now?
I don't know. I have heard nobody later than Ward.
The fact is that, as Whitbread said to me to-day, the materials for condemnation are so prodigious that we can scarce marshal them into argument. We are just able to pour 'em out one upon t'other.
Ward said, with the blandest air in the world: "Censure? Do his Majesty's Ministers expect censure? Not a bit. They are going about asking in tremulous tones if anybody has heard when their impeachment is going to begin."
Then he made another point. After enumerating our frightful failures—Spain, Walcheren, and the rest—he said: "But Ministers have not failed in everything. No; in one thing they have been strikingly successful. They have been successful in their attack upon Copenhagen—because it was directed against an ally!" Mighty fine, wasn't it?
How did Castlereagh stomach that?
He replied then. Donning his air of injured innocence he proved the honesty of his intentions—no doubt truly enough. But when he came to Walcheren nothing could be done. The case was hopeless, and he knew it, and foundered. However, at the division, when he saw what a majority was going out on his side he was as frisky as a child. Canning's speech was grave, with bits of shiny ornament stuck on— like the brass nails on a coffin, Sheridan says.
[Fifth and sixth members stagger in, arm-and-arm.]
The 'vision is—-'jority of ninety-six againsht—Gov'ment—I mean— againsht us. Which is it—hey? [To his companion.]
Damn majority of—damn ninety-six—against damn amendment! [They sink down on a sofa.]
Gad, I didn't expect the figure would have been quite so high!
The one conviction is that the war in the Peninsula is to go on, and as we are all agreed upon that, what the hell does it matter what their majority was?
[Enter SHERIDAN. They all look inquiringly.]
Have ye heard the latest?
Ninety-six against us.
O no-that's ancient history. I'd forgot it.
A revolution, because Ministers are not impeached and hanged?
That's in contemplation, when we've got their confessions. But what I meant was from over the water—it is a deuced sight more serious to us than a debate and division that are only like the Liturgy on a Sunday—known beforehand to all the congregation. Why, Bonaparte is going to marry Austria forthwith—the Emperor's daughter Maria Louisa.
The Lord look down! Our late respected crony of Austria! Why, in this very night's debate they have been talking about the laudable principles we have been acting upon in affording assistance to the Emperor Francis in his struggle against the violence and ambition of France!
Boney safe on that side, what may not befall!
We had better make it up with him, and shake hands all round.
Shake heads seems most natural in the case. O House of Hapsburg, how hast thou fallen!
[Enter WHITBREAD, LORD HUTCHINSON, LORD GEORGE CAVENDISH, GEORGE PONSONBY, WINDHAM, LORD GREY, BARING, ELLIOT, and other members, some drunk. The conversation becomes animated and noisy; several move off to the card-room, and the scene closes.]
THE OLD WEST HIGHWAY OUT OF VIENNA
[The spot is where the road passes under the slopes of the Wiener Wald, with its beautiful forest scenery.]
A procession of enormous length, composed of eighty carriages— many of them drawn by six horses and one by eight—and escorted by detachments of cuirassiers, yeomanry, and other cavalry, is quickening its speed along the highway from the city.
The six-horse carriages contain a multitude of Court officials, ladies of the Court, and other Austrian nobility. The eight-horse coach contains a rosy, blue-eyed girl of eighteen, with full red lips, round figure, and pale auburn hair. She is MARIA LOUISA, and her eyes are red from recent weeping. The COUNTESS DE LAZANSKY, Grand Mistress of the Household, in the carriage with her, and the other ladies of the Palace behind, have a pale, proud, yet resigned look, as if conscious that upon their sex had been laid the burden of paying for the peace with France. They have been played out of Vienna with French marches, and the trifling incident has helped on their sadness.
The observer's vision being still bent on the train of vehicles and cavalry, the point of sight is withdrawn high into the air, till the huge procession on the brown road looks no more than a file of ants crawling along a strip of garden-matting. The spacious terrestrial outlook now gained shows this to be the great road across Europe from Vienna to Munich, and from Munich westerly to France.
The puny concatenation of specks being exclusively watched, the surface of the earth seems to move along in an opposite direction, and in infinite variety of hill, dale, woodland, and champaign. Bridges are crossed, ascents are climbed, plains are galloped over, and towns are reached, among them Saint Polten, where night falls.
Morning shines, and the royal crawl is resumed, and continued through Linz, where the Danube is reapproached, and the girl looks pleased to see her own dear Donau still. Presently the tower of Brannau appears, where the animated dots pause for formalities, this being the frontier; and MARIA LOUISA becomes MARIE LOUISE and a Frenchwoman, in the charge of French officials.
After many breaks and halts, during which heavy rains spread their gauzes over the scene, the roofs and houses of Munich disclose themselves, suggesting the tesserae of an irregular mosaic. A long stop is made here.
The tedious advance continues. Vine-circled Stuttgart, flat Carlsruhe, the winding Rhine, storky Strassburg, pass in panorama beneath us as the procession is followed. With Nancy and Bar-le- Duc sliding along, the scenes begin to assume a French character, and soon we perceive Chalons and ancient Rheims. The last day of the journey has dawned. Our vision flits ahead of the cortege to Courcelles, a little place which must be passed through before Soissons is reached. Here the point of sight descends to earth, and the Dumb Show ends.
[It is now seen to be a quiet roadside village, with a humble church in its midst, opposite to which stands an inn, the highway passing between them. Rain is still falling heavily. Not a soul is visible anywhere.
Enter from the west a plain, lonely carriage, traveling in a direction to meet the file of coaches that we have watched. It stops near the inn, and two men muffled in cloaks alight by the door away from the hostel and towards the church, as if they wished to avoid observation. Their faces are those of NAPOLEON and MURAT, his brother-in-law. Crossing the road through the mud and rain they stand in the church porch, and watch the descending drifts.]
NAPOLEON [stamping an impatient tattoo]
One gets more chilly in a wet March than in a dry, however cold, the devil if he don't! What time do you make it now? That clock doesn't go.
MURAT [drily, looking at his watch]
Yes, it does; and it is right. If clocks were to go as fast as your wishes just now it would be awkward for the rest of the world.
NAPOLEON [chuckling good-humouredly]
How we have dished the Soissons folk, with their pavilions, and purple and gold hangings for bride and bridegroom to meet in, and stately ceremonial to match, and their thousands looking on! Here we are where there's nobody. Ha, ha!
But why should they be dished, sire? The pavilions and ceremonies were by your own orders.
Well, as the time got nearer I couldn't stand the idea of dawdling about there.
The Soissons people will be in a deuce of a taking at being made such fools of!
So let 'em. I'll make it up with them somehow.—She can't be far off now, if we have timed her rightly. [He peers out into the rain and listens.]
I don't quite see how you are going to manage when she does come. Do we go before her toward Soissons when you have greeted her here, or follow in her rear? Or what do we do?
Heavens, I know no more than you! Trust to the moment and see what happens. [A silence.] Hark—here she comes! Good little girl; up to time!
[The distant squashing in the mud of a multitude of hoofs and wheels is succeeded by the appearance of outriders and carriages, horses and horsemen, splashed with sample clays of the districts traversed. The vehicles slow down to the inn. NAPOLEON'S face fires up, and, followed by MURAT, he rushes into the rain towards the coach that is drawn by eight horses, containing the blue-eyed girl. He holds off his hat at the carriage-window.]
MARIE LOUISE [shrinking back inside]
Ah, Heaven! Two highwaymen are upon us!
THE EQUERRY D'AUDENARDE [simultaneously]
[The steps of the coach are hastily lowered, NAPOLEON, dripping, jumps in and embraces her. The startled ARCHDUCHESS, with much blushing and confusion recognizes him.]
MARIE LOUISE [tremulously, as she recovers herself]
You are so much—better looking than your portraits—that I hardly knew you! I expected you at Soissons. We are not at Soissons yet?
No, my dearest spouse, but we are together! [Calling out to the equerry.] Drive through Soissons—pass the pavilion of reception without stopping, and don't halt till we reach Compiegne.
[He sits down in the coach and is shut in, MURAT laughing silently at the scene. Exeunt carriages and riders toward Soissons.]
CHORUS OF THE IRONIC SPIRITS [aerial music]
First 'twas a finished coquette, And now it's a raw ingenue.— Blond instead of brunette, An old wife doffed for a new. She'll bring him a baby, As quickly as maybe, And that's what he wants her to do, Hoo-hoo! And that's what he wants her to do!
SPIRIT OF THE YEARS
What lewdness lip those wry-formed phantoms there!
Nay, Showman Years! With holy reverent air We hymn the nuptials of the Imperial pair.