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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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[The scene thickens to mist and obscures the scene.]



SCENE VII

PETERSBURG. THE PALACE OF THE EMPRESS-MOTHER

[One of the private apartments is disclosed, in which the Empress- mother and Alexander are seated.]

EMPRESS-MOTHER

So one of Austrian blood his pomp selects To be his bride and bulwark—not our own. Thus are you coolly shelved!

ALEXANDER

Me, mother dear? You, faith, if I may say it dutifully! Had all been left to me, some time ere now He would have wedded Kate.

EMPRESS-MOTHER

How so, my son? Catharine was plighted, and it could not be.

ALEXANDER

Rather you swiftly pledged and married her, To let Napoleon have no chance that way. But Anne remained.

EMPRESS-MOTHER

How Anne?—so young a girl! Sane Nature would have cried indecency At such a troth.

ALEXANDER

Time would have tinkered that, And he was well-disposed to wait awhile; But the one test he had no temper for Was the apparent slight of unresponse Accorded his impatient overtures By our suspensive poise of policy.

EMPRESS-MOTHER

A backward answer is our country's card— The special style and mode of Muscovy. We have grown great upon it, my dear son, And may such practice rule our centuries through! The necks of those who rate themselves our peers Are cured of stiffness by its potency.

ALEXANDER

The principle in this case, anyhow, Is shattered by the facts: since none can doubt Your policy was counted an affront, And drove my long ally to Austria's arms, With what result to us must yet be seen!

EMPRESS-MOTHER

May Austria win much joy of the alliance! Marrying Napoleon is a midnight leap For any Court in Europe, credit me, If ever such there were! What he may carve Upon the coming years, what murderous bolt Hurl at the rocking Constitutions round, On what dark planet he may land himself In his career through space, no sage can say.

ALEXANDER

Well—possibly!... And maybe all is best That he engrafts his lineage not on us.— But, honestly, Napoleon none the less Has been my friend, and I regret the dream And fleeting fancy of a closer tie!

EMPRESS-MOTHER

Ay; your regrets are sentimental ever. That he'll be writ no son-in-law of mine Is no regret to me! But an affront There is, no less, in his evasion on't, Wherein the bourgeois quality of him Veraciously peeps out. I would be sworn He set his minions parleying with the twain— Yourself and Francis—simultaneously, Else no betrothal could have speeded so!

ALEXANDER

Despite the hazard of offence to one?

EMPRESS-MOTHER

More than the hazard; the necessity.

ALEXANDER

There's no offence to me.

EMPRESS-MOTHER

There should be, then. I am a Romanoff by marriage merely, But I do feel a rare belittlement And loud laconic brow-beating herein!

ALEXANDER

No, mother, no! I am the Tsar—not you, And I am only piqued in moderateness. Marriage with France was near my heart—I own it— What then? It has been otherwise ordained.

[A silence.]

EMPRESS-MOTHER

Here comes dear Anne Speak not of it before her.

[Enter the GRAND-DUCHESS, a girl of sixteen.]

ANNE

Alas! the news is that poor Prussia's queen, Spirited Queen Louisa, once so fair, Is slowly dying, mother! Did you know?

ALEXANDER [betraying emotion]

Ah!—such I dreaded from the earlier hints. Poor soul—her heart was slain some time ago.

ANNE

What do you mean by that, my brother dear?

EMPRESS-MOTHER

He means, my child, that he as usual spends Much sentiment upon the foreign fair, And hence leaves little for his folk at home.

ALEXANDER

I mean, Anne, that her country's overthrow Let death into her heart. The Tilsit days Taught me to know her well, and honour her. She was a lovely woman even then!... Strangely, the present English Prince of Wales Was wished to husband her. Had wishes won, They might have varied Europe's history.

ANNE

Napoleon, I have heard, admired her once; How he must grieve that soon she'll be no more!

EMPRESS-MOTHER

Napoleon and your brother loved her both.

[Alexander shows embarrassment.]

But whatsoever grief be Alexander's, His will be none who feels but for himself.

ANNE

O mother, how can you mistake him so! He worships her who is to be his wife, The fair Archduchess Marie.

EMPRESS-MOTHER

Simple child, As yet he has never seen her, or but barely. That is a tactic suit, with love to match!

ALEXANDER [with vainly veiled tenderness]

High-souled Louisa;—when shall I forget Those Tilsit gatherings in the long-sunned June! Napoleon's gallantries deceived her quite, Who fondly felt her pleas for Magdeburg Had won him to its cause; the while, alas! His cynic sense but posed in cruel play!

EMPRESS-MOTHER

Bitterly mourned she her civilities When time unlocked the truth, that she had choked Her indignation at his former slights And slanderous sayings for a baseless hope, And wrought no tittle for her country's gain. I marvel why you mourn a frustrate tie With one whose wiles could wring a woman so!

ALEXANDER [uneasily]

I marvel also, when I think of it!

EMPRESS-MOTHER

Don't listen to us longer, dearest Anne.

[Exit Anne.]

—You will uphold my judging by and by, That as a suitor we are quit of him, And that blind Austria will rue the hour Wherein she plucks for him her fairest flower!

[The scene shuts.]



SCENE VIII

PARIS. THE GRAND GALLERY OF THE LOUVRE AND THE SALON-CARRE ADJOINING

[The view is up the middle of the Gallery, which is now a spectacle of much magnificence. Backed by the large paintings on the walls are double rows on each side of brightly dressed ladies, the pick of Imperial society, to the number of four thousand, one thousand in each row; and behind these standing up are two rows on each side of men of privilege and fashion. Officers of the Imperial Guard are dotted about as marshals.

Temporary barriers form a wide passage up the midst, leading to the Salon-Carre, which is seen through the opening to be fitted up as a chapel, with a gorgeous altar, tall candles, and cross. In front of the altar is a platform with a canopy over it. On the platform are two gilt chairs and a prie-dieu.

The expectant assembly does not continuously remain in the seats, but promenades and talks, the voices at times rising to a din amid the strains of the orchestra, conducted by the EMPEROR'S Director of Music. Refreshments in profusion are handed round, and the extemporized cathedral resolves itself into a gigantic cafe of persons of distinction under the Empire.]

SPIRIT SINISTER

All day have they been waiting for their galanty-show, and now the hour of performance is on the strike. It may be seasonable to muse on the sixteenth Louis and the bride's great-aunt, as the nearing procession is, I see, appositely crossing the track of the tumbril which was the last coach of that respected lady.... It is now passing over the site of the scaffold on which she lost her head. ... Now it will soon be here.

[Suddenly the heralds enter the Gallery at the end towards the Tuileries, the spectators ranging themselves in their places. In a moment the wedding procession of the EMPEROR and EMPRESS becomes visible. The civil marriage having already been performed, Napoleon and Marie Louise advance together along the vacant pathway towards the Salon-Carre, followed by the long suite of illustrious personages, and acclamations burst from all parts of the Grand Gallery.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Whose are those forms that pair in pompous train Behind the hand-in-hand half-wedded ones, With faces speaking sense of an adventure Which may close well, or not so?

RECORDING ANGEL [reciting]

First there walks The Emperor's brother Louis, Holland's King; Then Jerome of Westphalia with his spouse; The mother-queen, and Julie Queen of Spain, The Prince Borghese and the Princess Pauline, Beauharnais the Vice-King of Italy, And Murat King of Naples, with their Queens; Baden's Grand-Duke, Arch-Chancellor Cambaceres, Berthier, Lebrun, and, not least, Talleyrand. Then the Grand Marshal and the Chamberlain, The Lords-in-Waiting, the Grand Equerry, With waiting-ladies, women of the chamber, An others called by office, rank, or fame.

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

New, many, to Imperial dignities; Which, won by character and quality In those who now enjoy them, will become The birthright of their sons in aftertime.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

It fits thee not to augur, quick-eared Shade. Ephemeral at the best all honours be, These even more ephemeral than their kind, So random-fashioned, swift, perturbable!

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Napoleon looks content—nay, shines with joy.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Yet see it pass, as by a conjuror's wand.

[Thereupon Napoleon's face blackens as if the shadow of a winter night had fallen upon it. Resentful and threatening, he stops the procession and looks up and down the benches.]

SPIRIT SINISTER

This is sound artistry of the Immanent Will: it relieves the monotony of so much good-humour.

NAPOLEON [to the Chapel-master]

Where are the Cardinals? And why not here? [He speaks so loud that he is heard throughout the Gallery.]

ABBE DE PRADT [trembling]

Many are present here, your Majesty; But some are feebled by infirmities Too common to their age, and cannot come.

NAPOLEON

Tell me no nonsense! Half absent themselves Because they WILL not come. The factious fools! Well, be it so. But they shall flinch for it!

[MARIE LOUISE looks frightened. The procession moves on.]

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

I seem to see the thin and headless ghost Of the yet earlier Austrian, here, too, queen, Walking beside the bride, with frail attempts To pluck her by the arm!

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Nay, think not so. No trump unseals earth's sepulchre's to-day: We are the only phantoms now abroad On this mud-moulded ball! Through sixteen years She has decayed in a back-garden yonder, Dust all the showance time retains of her, Senseless of hustlings in her former house, Lost to all count of crowns and bridalry— Even of her Austrian blood. No: what thou seest Springs of the quavering fancy, stirred to dreams By yon tart phantom's phrase.

MARIE LOUISE [sadly to Napoleon]

I know not why, I love not this day's doings half so well As our quaint meeting-time at Compiegne. A clammy air creeps round me, as from vaults Peopled with looming spectres, chilling me And angering you withal!

NAPOLEON

O, it is nought To trouble you: merely, my cherished one, Those devils of Italian Cardinals!— Now I'll be bright as ever—you must, too.

MARIE LOUISE

I'll try.

[Reaching the entrance to the Salon-Carre amid strains of music the EMPEROR and EMPRESS are received and incensed by the CARDINAL GRAND ALMONERS. They take their seats under the canopy, and the train of notabilities seat themselves further back, the persons- in-waiting stopping behind the Imperial chairs.

The ceremony of the religious marriage now begins. The choir intones a hymn, the EMPEROR and EMPRESS go to the altar, remove their gloves, and make their vows.]

SPIRIT IRONIC

The English Church should return thanks for this wedding, seeing how it will purge of coarseness the picture-sheets of that artistic nation, which will hardly be able to caricature the new wife as it did poor plebeian Josephine. Such starched and ironed monarchists cannot sneer at a woman of such a divinely dry and crusted line like the Hapsburgs!

[Mass is next celebrated, after which the TE DEUM is chanted in harmonies that whirl round the walls of the Salon-Carre and quiver down the long Gallery. The procession then re-forms and returns, amid the flutterings and applause of the dense assembly. But Napoleon's face has not lost the sombre expression which settled on it. The pair and their train pass out by the west door, and the congregation disperses in the other direction, the cloud- curtain closing over the scene as they disappear.



ACT SIXTH

SCENE I

THE LINES OF TORRES VEDRAS

[A bird's-eye perspective is revealed of the peninsular tract of Portuguese territory lying between the shining pool of the Tagus on the east, and the white-frilled Atlantic lifting rhythmically on the west. As thus beheld the tract features itself somewhat like a late-Gothic shield, the upper edge from the dexter to the sinister chief being the lines of Torres Vedras, stretching across from the mouth of the Zezambre on the left to Alhandra on the right, and the south or base point being Fort S. Julian. The roofs of Lisbon appear at the sinister base, and in a corresponding spot on the opposite side Cape Roca.

It is perceived in a moment that the northern verge of this nearly coast-hemmed region is the only one through which access can be gained to it by land, and a close scrutiny of the boundary there reveals that means are being adopted to effectually prevent such access.

From east to west along it runs a chain of defences, dotted at intervals by dozens of circular and square redoubts, either made or in the making, two of the latter being of enormous size. Between these stretch unclimbable escarpments, stone walls, and other breastworks, and in front of all a double row of abatis, formed of the limbs of trees.

Within the outer line of defence is a second, constructed on the same shield-shaped tract of country; and is not more than a twelfth of the length of the others. It is a continuous entrenchment of ditches and ramparts, and its object—that of covering a forced embarkation—is rendered apparent by some rocking English transports off the shore hard by.]

DUMB SHOW

Innumerable human figures are busying themselves like cheese-mites all along the northernmost frontage, undercutting easy slopes into steep ones, digging ditches, piling stones, felling trees, dragging them, and interlacing them along the front as required.

On the second breastwork, which is completed, only a few figures move.

On the third breastwork, which is fully matured and equipped, minute red sentinels creep backwards and forwards noiselessly.

As time passes three reddish-grey streams of marching men loom out to the north, advancing southward along three roads towards three diverse points in the first defence. These form the English army, entering the lines for shelter. Looked down upon, their motion seems peristaltic and vermicular, like that of three caterpillars. The division on the left is under Picton, in the centre under Leith and Cole, and on the extreme right, by Alhandra, under Hill. Beside one of the roads two or three of the soldiers are dangling from a tree by the neck, probably for plundering.

The Dumb Show ends, and the point of view sinks to the earth.



SCENE II

THE SAME. OUTSIDE THE LINES

[The winter day has gloomed to a stormful evening, and the road outside the first line of defence forms the foreground of the stage.

Enter in the dusk from the hills to the north of the entrenchment, near Calandrix, a group of horsemen, which includes MASSENA in command of the French forces, FOY, LOISON, and other officers of his staff.

They ride forward in the twilight and tempest, and reconnoitre, till they see against the sky the ramparts blocking the road they pursue. They halt silently. MASSENA, puzzled, endeavours with his glass to make out the obstacle.]

MASSENA

Something stands here to peril our advance, Or even prevent it!

FOY

These are the English lines— Their outer horns and tusks—whereof I spoke, Constructed by Lord Wellington of late To keep his foothold firm in Portugal.

MASSENA

Thrusts he his burly, bossed disfigurements So far to north as this? I had pictured me The lay much nearer Lisbon. Little strange Lord Wellington rode placid at Busaco With this behind his back! Well, it is hard But that we turn them somewhere, I assume? They scarce can close up every southward gap Between the Tagus and the Atlantic Sea.

FOY

I hold they can, and do; although, no doubt, By searching we shall spy some raggedness Which customed skill may force.

MASSENA

Plain 'tis, no less, We may heap corpses vainly hereabout, And crack good bones in waste. By human power This passes mounting! What say you's behind?

LOISON

Another line exactly like the first, But more matured. Behind its back a third.

MASSENA

How long have these prim ponderosities Been rearing up their foreheads to the moon?

LOISON

Some months in all. I know not quite how long. They are Lord Wellington's select device, And, like him, heavy, slow, laborious, sure.

MASSENA

May he enjoy their sureness. He deserves to. I had no inkling of such barriers here. A good road runs along their front, it seems, Which offers us advantage.... What a night!

[The tempest cries dismally about the earthworks above them, as the reconnoitrers linger in the slight shelter the lower ground affords. They are about to turn back.

Enter from the cross-road to the right JUNOT and some more officers. They come up at a signal that the others are those they lately parted from.]

JUNOT

We have ridden along as far as Calandrix, Favoured therein by this disordered night, Which tongues its language to the disguise of ours; And find amid the vale an open route That, well manoeuvred, may be practicable.

MASSENA

I'll look now at it, while the weather aids. If it may serve our end when all's prepared So good. If not, some other to the west.

[Exeunt MASSENA, JUNOT, LOISON, FOY, and the rest by the paved crossway to the right.

The wind continues to prevail as the spot is left desolate, the darkness increases, rain descends more heavily, and the scene is blotted out.]



SCENE III

PARIS. THE TUILERIES

[The anteroom to the EMPRESS MARIE LOUISE'S bed-chamber, in which are discovered NAPOLEON in his dressing-gown, the DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO, and other ladies-in-waiting. CORVISART the first physician, and the second physician BOURDIER.

The time is before dawn. The EMPEROR walks up and down, throws himself on a sofa, or stands at the window. A cry of anguish comes occasionally from within.

NAPOLEON opens the door and speaks into the bed-chamber.]

NAPOLEON

How now, Dubois?

VOICE OF DUBOIS THE ACCOUCHEUR [nervously]

Less well, sire, than I hoped; I fear no skill can save them both.

NAPOLEON [agitated]

Good god!

[Exit CORVISART into the bed-room. Enter DUBOIS.]

DUBOIS [with hesitation]

Which life is to be saved? The Empress, sire, Lies in great jeopardy. I have not known In my long years of many-featured practice An instance in a thousand fall out so.

NAPOLEON

Then save the mother, pray! Think but of her; It is her privilege, and my command.— Don't lose you head, Dubois, at this tight time: Your furthest skill can work but what it may. Fancy that you are merely standing by A shop-wife's couch, say, in the Rue Saint Denis; Show the aplomb and phlegm that you would show Did such a bed receive your ministry.

[Exit DUBOIS.]

VOICE OF MARIE LOUISE [within]

O pray, pray don't! Those ugly things terrify me! Why should I be tortured even if I am but a means to an end! Let me die! It was cruel of him to bring this upon me!

[Exit NAPOLEON impatiently to the bed-room.]

VOICE OF MADAME DE MONTESQUIOU [within]

Keep up your spirits, madame! I have been through it myself and I assure you there is no danger to you. It is going on all right, and I am holding you.

VOICE OF NAPOLEON [within]

Heaven above! Why did you not deep those cursed sugar-tongs out of her sight? How is she going to get through it if you frighten her like this?

VOICE OF DUBOIS [within]

If you will pardon me, your Majesty, I must implore you not to interfere! I'll not be scapegoat for the consequence If, sire, you do! Better for her sake far Would you withdraw. The sight of your concern But agitates and weakens her endurance. I will inform you all, and call you back If things should worsen here.

[Re-enter NAPOLEON from the bed-chamber. He half shuts the door, and remains close to it listening, pale and nervous.]

BOURDIER

I ask you, sire, To harass yourself less with this event, Which may amend anon: I much regret The honoured mother of your Majesty, And sister too, should both have left ere now, Whose solace would have bridged these anxious hours.

NAPOLEON [absently]

As we were not expecting it so soon I begged they would sit up no longer here.... She ought to get along; she has help enough With that half-dozen of them at hand within— Skilled Madame Blaise the nurse, and two besides, Madame de Montesquiou and Madame Ballant—-

DUBOIS [speaking through the doorway]

Past is the question, sire, of which to save! The child is dead; the while her Majesty Is getting through it well.

NAPOLEON

Praise Heaven for that! I'll not grieve overmuch about the child.... Never shall She go through this strain again To lay down a dynastic line for me.

DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO [aside to the second lady]

He only says that now. In cold blood it would be far otherwise. That's how men are.

VOICE OF MADAME BLAISE [within]

Doctor, the child's alive! [The cry of an infant is heard.]

VOICE OF DUBOIS [calling from within]

Sire, both are saved.

[NAPOLEON rushes into the chamber, and is heard kissing MARIE LOUISE.]

VOICE OF MADAME BLAISE [within]

A vigorous boy, your Imperial Majesty. The brandy and hot napkins brought him to.

DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO

It is as I expected. A healthy young woman of her build had every chance of doing well, despite the doctors.

[An interval.]

NAPOLEON [re-entering radiantly]

We have achieved a healthy heir, good dames, And in the feat the Empress was most brave, Although she suffered much—so much, indeed, That I would sooner father no more sons Than have so fair a fruit-tree undergo Another wrenching of such magnitude.

[He walks to the window, pulls aside the curtains, and looks out. It is a joyful spring morning. The Tuileries' gardens are thronged with an immense crowd, kept at a little distance off the Palace by a cord. The windows of the neighbouring houses are full of gazers, and the streets are thronged with halting carriages, their inmates awaiting the event.]

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS [whispering to Napoleon]

At this high hour there broods a woman nigh, Ay, here in Paris, with her child and thine, Who might have played this part with truer eye To thee and to thy contemplated line!

NAPOLEON [soliloquizing]

Strange that just now there flashes on my soul That little one I loved in Warsaw days, Marie Walewska, and my boy by her!— She was shown faithless by a foul intrigue Till fate sealed up her opportunity.... But what's one woman's fortune more or less Beside the schemes of kings!—Ah, there's the new!

[A gun is heard from the Invalides.]

CROWD [excitedly]

One!

[Another report of the gun, and another, succeed.]

Two! Three! Four!

[The firing and counting proceed to twenty-one, when there is great suspense. The gun fires again, and the excitement is doubled.]

Twenty-two! A boy!

[The remainder of the counting up to a hundred-and-one is drowned in the huzzas. Bells begin ringing, and from the Champ de Mars a balloon ascends, from which the tidings are scattered in hand-bills as it floats away from France.

Enter the PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, CAMBACERES, BERTHIER, LEBRUN, and other officers of state. NAPOLEON turns from the window.]

CAMBACERES

Unstinted gratulations and goodwill We bring to your Imperial Majesty, While still resounds the superflux of joy With which your people welcome this live star Upon the horizon of history!

PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

All blessings at their goodliest will grace The advent of this New Messiah, sire, Of fairer prospects than the former one, Whose coming at so apt an hour endues The widening glory of your high exploits With permanence, and flings the dimness far That cloaked the future of our chronicle!

NAPOLEON

My thanks; though, gentlemen, upon my soul You might have drawn the line at the Messiah. But I excuse you.—Yes, the boy has come; He took some coaxing, but he's here at last.— And what news brings the morning from without? I know of none but this the Empress now Trumps to the world from the adjoining room.

PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

Nothing in Europe, sire, that can compare In magnitude therewith to more effect Than with an eagle some frail finch or wren. To wit: the ban on English trade prevailing, Subjects our merchant-houses to such strain That many of the best see bankruptcy Like a grim ghost ahead. Next week, they say In secret here, six of the largest close.

NAPOLEON

It shall not be! Our burst of natal joy Must not be sullied by so mean a thing: Aid shall be rendered. Much as we may suffer, England must suffer more, and I am content. What has come in from Spain and Portugal?

BERTHIER

Vaguely-voiced rumours, sire, but nothing more, Which travel countries quick as earthquake thrills, No mortal knowing how.

NAPOLEON

Of Massena?

BERTHIER

Yea. He retreats for prudence' sake, it seems, Before Lord Wellington. Dispatches soon Must reach your Majesty, explaining all.

NAPOLEON

Ever retreating! Why declines he so From all his olden prowess? Why, again, Did he give battle at Busaco lately, When Lisbon could be marched on without strain? Why has he dallied by the Tagus bank And shunned the obvious course? I gave him Ney, Soult, and Junot, and eighty thousand men, And he does nothing. Really it might seem As though we meant to let this Wellington Be even with us there!

BERTHIER

His mighty forts At Torres Vedras hamper Massena, And quite preclude advance.

NAPOLEON

O well—no matter: Why should I linger on these haps of war Now that I have a son!

[Exeunt NAPOLEON by one door and by another the PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, CAMBACERES, LEBRUN, BERTHIER, and officials.]

CHORUS OF IRONIC SPIRITS [aerial music]

The Will Itself is slave to him, And holds it blissful to obey!— He said, "Go to; it is my whim

"To bed a bride without delay, Who shall unite my dull new name With one that shone in Caesar's day.

"She must conceive—you hear my claim?— And bear a son—no daughter, mind— Who shall hand on my form and fame

"To future times as I have designed; And at the birth throughout the land Must cannon roar and alp-horns wind!"

The Will grew conscious at command, And ordered issue as he planned.

[The interior of the Palace is veiled.]



SCENE IV

SPAIN. ALBUERA

[The dawn of a mid-May day in the same spring shows the village of Albuera with the country around it, as viewed from the summit of a line of hills on which the English and their allies are ranged under Beresford. The landscape swept by the eye includes to the right foreground a hill loftier than any, and somewhat detached from the range. The green slopes behind and around this hill are untrodden—though in a few hours to be the sanguinary scene of the most murderous struggle of the whole war.

The village itself lies to the left foreground, with its stream flowing behind it in the distance on the right. A creeping brook at the bottom of the heights held by the English joins the stream by the village. Behind the stream some of the French forces are visible. Away behind these stretches a great wood several miles in area, out of which the Albuera stream emerges, and behind the furthest verge of the wood the morning sky lightens momently. The birds in the wood, unaware that this day is to be different from every other day they have known there, are heard singing their overtures with their usual serenity.]

DUMB SHOW

As objects grow more distinct it can be perceived that some strategic dispositions of the night are being completed by the French forces, which the evening before lay in the woodland to the front of the English army. They have emerged during the darkness, and large sections of them—infantry, cuirassiers, and artillery—have crept round to BERESFORD'S right without his suspecting the movement, where they lie hidden by the great hill aforesaid, though not more than half-a-mile from his right wing.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

A hot ado goes forward here to-day, If I may read the Immanent Intent From signs and tokens blent With weird unrest along the firmament Of causal coils in passionate display. —Look narrowly, and what you witness say.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

I see red smears upon the sickly dawn, And seeming drops of gore. On earth below Are men—unnatural and mechanic-drawn— Mixt nationalities in row and row, Wheeling them to and fro In moves dissociate from their souls' demand, For dynasts' ends that few even understand!

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Speak more materially, and less in dream.

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

I'll do it.... The stir of strife grows well defined Around the hamlet and the church thereby: Till, from the wood, the ponderous columns wind, Guided by Godinot, with Werle nigh. They bear upon the vill. But the gruff guns Of Dickson's Portuguese Punch spectral vistas through the maze of these!... More Frenchmen press, and roaring antiphons Of cannonry contuse the roofs and walls and trees.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Wrecked are the ancient bridge, the green spring plot, the blooming fruit-tree, the fair flower-knot!

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

Yet the true mischief to the English might Is meant to fall not there. Look to the right, And read the shaping scheme by yon hill-side, Where cannon, foot, and brisk dragoons you see, With Werle and Latour-Maubourg to guide, Waiting to breast the hill-brow bloodily.

BERESFORD now becomes aware of this project on his flank, and sends orders to throw back his right to face the attack. The order is not obeyed. Almost at the same moment the French rush is made, the Spanish and Portuguese allies of the English are beaten beck, and the hill is won. But two English divisions bear from the centre of their front, and plod desperately up the hill to retake it.

SPIRIT SINISTER

Now he among us who may wish to be A skilled practitioner in slaughtery, Should watch this hour's fruition yonder there, And he will know, if knowing ever were, How mortals may be freed their fleshly cells, And quaint red doors set ope in sweating fells, By methods swift and slow and foul and fair!

The English, who have plunged up the hill, are caught in a heavy mist, that hides from them an advance in their rear of the lancers and hussars of the enemy. The lines of the Buffs, the Sixty-sixth, and those of the Forty-eighth, who were with them, in a chaos of smoke, steel, sweat, curses, and blood, are beheld melting down like wax from an erect position to confused heaps. Their forms lie rigid, or twitch and turn, as they are trampled over by the hoofs of the enemy's horse. Those that have not fallen are taken.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

It works as you, uncanny Phantom, wist!... Whose is that towering form That tears across the mist To where the shocks are sorest?—his with arm Outstretched, and grimy face, and bloodshot eye, Like one who, having done his deeds, will die?

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

He is one Beresford, who heads the fight For England here to-day.

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

He calls the sight Despite itself!—parries yon lancer's thrust, And with his own sword renders dust to dust!

The ghastly climax of the strife is reached; the combatants are seen to be firing grape and canister at speaking distance, and discharging musketry in each other's faces when so close that their complexions may be recognized. Hot corpses, their mouths blackened by cartridge-biting, and surrounded by cast-away knapsacks, firelocks, hats, stocks, flint-boxes, and priming horns, together with red and blue rags of clothing, gaiters, epaulettes, limbs and viscera accumulate on the slopes, increasing from twos and threes to half-dozens, and from half-dozens to heaps, which steam with their own warmth as the spring rain falls gently upon them.

The critical instant has come, and the English break. But a comparatively fresh division, with fusileers, is brought into the turmoil by HARDINGE and COLE, and these make one last strain to save the day, and their names and lives. The fusileers mount the incline, and issuing from the smoke and mist startle the enemy by their arrival on a spot deemed won.

SEMICHORUS I OF THE PITIES [aerial music]

They come, beset by riddling hail; They sway like sedges is a gale; The fail, and win, and win, and fail. Albuera!

SEMICHORUS II

They gain the ground there, yard by yard, Their brows and hair and lashes charred, Their blackened teeth set firm and hard.

SEMICHORUS I

Their mad assailants rave and reel, And face, as men who scorn to feel, The close-lined, three-edged prongs of steel.

SEMICHORUS II

Till faintness follows closing-in, When, faltering headlong down, they spin Like leaves. But those pay well who win Albuera.

SEMICHORUS I

Out of six thousand souls that sware To hold the mount, or pass elsewhere, But eighteen hundred muster there.

SEMICHORUS II

Pale Colonels, Captains, ranksmen lie, Facing the earth or facing sky;— They strove to live, they stretch to die.

SEMICHORUS I

Friends, foemen, mingle; heap and heap.— Hide their hacked bones, Earth!—deep, deep, deep, Where harmless worms caress and creep.

CHORUS

Hide their hacked bones, Earth!—deep, deep, deep, Where harmless worms caress and creep.— What man can grieve? what woman weep? Better than waking is to sleep! Albuera!

The night comes on, and darkness covers the battle-field.



SCENE V

WINDSOR CASTLE. A ROOM IN THE KING'S APARTMENT

[The walls of the room are padded, and also the articles of furniture, the stuffing being overlaid with satin and velvet, on which are worked in gold thread monograms and crowns. The windows are guarded, and the floor covered with thick cork, carpeted. The time is shortly after the last scene.

The KING is seated by a window, and two of Dr. WILLIS'S attendants are in the room. His MAJESTY is now seventy-two; his sight is very defective, but he does not look ill. He appears to be lost in melancholy thought, and talks to himself reproachfully, hurried manner on occasion being the only irregular symptom that he betrays.]

KING

In my lifetime I did not look after her enough—enough—enough! And now she is lost to me, and I shall never see her more. Had I but known, had I but thought of it! Gentlemen, when did I lose the Princess Amelia?

FIRST ATTENDANT

The second of last November, your Majesty.

KING

And what is it now?

FIRST ATTENDANT

Now, sir, it is the beginning of June.

KING

Ah, June, I remember!... The June flowers are not for me. I shall never see them; nor will she. So fond of them as she was. ... Even if I were living I would never go where there are flowers any more! No: I would go to the bleak, barren places that she never would walk in, and never knew, so that nothing might remind me of her, and make my heart ache more than I can bear!... Why, the beginning of June?—that's when they are coming to examine me! [He grows excited.]

FIRST ATTENDANT [to second attendant, aside]

Dr. Reynolds ought not have reminded him of their visit. It only disquiets him and makes him less fit to see them.

KING

How long have I been confined here?

FIRST ATTENDANT

Since November, sir; for your health's sake entirely, as your Majesty knows.

KING

What, what? So long? Ah, yes. I must bear it. This is the fourth great black gulf in my poor life, is it not? The fourth.

[A signal from the door. The second attendant opens it and whispers. Enter softly SIR HENRY HALFORD, DR. WILLIAM HEBERDEN, DR. ROBERT WILLIS, DR. MATTHEW BAILLIE, the KING'S APOTHECARY, and one or two other gentlemen.]

KING [straining his eye to discern them]

What! Are they come? What will they do to me? How dare they! I am Elector of Hanover! [Finding Dr. Willis is among them he shrieks.] O, they are going to bleed me—yes, to bleed me! [Piteously.] My friends, don't bleed me—pray don't! It makes me so weak to take my blood. And the leeches do, too, when you put so many. You will not be so unkind, I am sure!

WILLIS [to Baillie]

It is extraordinary what a vast aversion he has to bleeding—that most salutary remedy, fearlessly practised. He submits to leeches as yet but I won't say that he will for long without being strait- jacketed.

KING [catching some of the words]

You will strait-jacket me? O no, no!

WILLIS

Leeches are not effective, really. Dr. Home, when I mentioned it to him yesterday, said he would bleed him till he fainted if he had charge of him!

KING

O will you do it, sir, against my will, And put me, once your king, in needless pain? I do assure you truly, my good friends, That I have done no harm! In sunnier years Ere I was throneless, withered to a shade, Deprived of my divine authority— When I was hale, and ruled the English land— I ever did my utmost to promote The welfare of my people, body and soul! Right many a morn and night I have prayed and mused How I could bring them to a better way. So much of me you surely know, my friends, And will not hurt me in my weakness here! [He trembles.]

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

The tears that lie about this plightful scene Of heavy travail in a suffering soul, Mocked with the forms and feints of royalty While scarified by briery Circumstance, Might drive Compassion past her patiency To hold that some mean, monstrous ironist Had built this mistimed fabric of the Spheres To watch the throbbings of its captive lives, [The which may Truth forfend], and not thy said Unmaliced, unimpassioned, nescient Will!

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Mild one, be not touched with human fate. Such is the Drama: such the Mortal state: No sigh of thine can null the Plan Predestinate!

HALFORD

We have come to do your Majesty no harm. Here's Dr. Heberden, whom I am sure you like, And this is Dr. Baillie. We arrive But to inquire and gather how you are, Thereon to let the Privy Council know, And give assurances for you people's good.

[A brass band is heard playing in the distant part of Windsor.]

KING

Ah—what does that band play for here to-day? She has been dead and I so short a time!... Her little hands are hardly cold as yet; But they can show such cruel indecency As to let trumpets play!

HALFORD

They guess not, sir, That you can hear them, or their chords would cease. Their boisterous music fetches back to me That, of our errands to your Majesty, One was congratulation most sincere Upon this glorious victory you have won. The news is just in port; the band booms out To celebrate it, and to honour you.

KING

A victory? I? Pray where?

HALFORD

Indeed so, sir: Hard by Albuera—far in harried Spain— Yes, sir; you have achieved a victory Of dash unmatched and feats unparalleled!

KING

He says I have won a battle? But I thought I was a poor afflicted captive here, In darkness lingering out my lonely days, Beset with terror of these myrmidons That suck my blood like vampires! Ay, ay, ay!— No aims left to me but to quicken death To quicklier please my son!—And yet he says That I have won a battle! O God, curse, damn! When will the speech of the world accord with truth, And men's tongues roll sincerely!

GENTLEMAN [aside]

Faith, 'twould seem As if the madman were the sanest here!

[The KING'S face has flushed, and he becomes violent. The attendants rush forward to him.]

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Something within me aches to pray To some Great Heart, to take away This evil day, this evil day!

CHORUS IRONIC

Ha-ha! That's good. Thou'lt pray to It:— But where do Its compassions sit? Yea, where abides the heart of it?

Is it where sky-fires flame and flit, Or solar craters spew and spit, Or ultra-stellar night-webs knit?

What is Its shape? Man's counterfeit? That turns in some far sphere unlit The Wheel which drives the Infinite?

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Mock on, mock on! Yet I'll go pray To some Great Heart, who haply may Charm mortal miseries away!

[The KING'S paroxysm continues. The attendants hold him.]

HALFORD

This is distressing. One can never tell How he will take things now. I thought Albuera A subject that would surely solace him. These paroxysms—have they been bad this week? [To Attendants.]

FIRST ATTENDANT

Sir Henry, no. He has quite often named The late Princess, as gently as a child A little bird found starved.

WILLIS [aside to apothecary]

I must increase the opium to-night, and lower him by a double set of leeches since he won't stand the lancet quietly.

APOTHECARY

You should take twenty ounces, doctor, if a drop—indeed, go on blooding till he's unconscious. He is too robust by half. And the watering-pot would do good again—not less than six feet above his head. See how heated he is.

WILLIS

Curse that town band. It will have to be stopped.

HEBERDEN

The same thing is going on all over England, no doubt, on account of this victory.

HALFORD

When he is in a more domineering mood he likes such allusions to his rank as king.... If he could resume his walks on the terrace he might improve slightly. But it is too soon yet. We must consider what we shall report to the Council. There is little hope of his being much better. What do you think, Willis?

WILLIS

None. He is done for this time!

HALFORD

Well, we must soften it down a little, so as not to upset the Queen too much, poor woman, and distract the Council unnecessarily. Eldon will go pumping up bucketfuls, and the Archbishops are so easily shocked that a certain conventional reserve is almost forced upon us.

WILLIS [returning from the King]

He is already better. The paroxysm has nearly passed. Your opinion will be far more favourable before you leave.

[The KING soon grows calm, and the expression of his face changes to one of dejection. The attendants leave his side: he bends his head, and covers his face with his hand, while his lips move as if in prayer. He then turns to them.]

KING [meekly]

I am most truly sorry, gentlemen, If I have used language that would seem to show Discourtesy to you for your good help In this unhappy malady of mine! My nerves unstring, my friend; my flesh grows weak: "The good that I do I leave undone, The evil which I would not, that I do!" Shame, shame on me!

WILLIS [aside to the others]

Now he will be as low as before he was in the other extreme.

KING

A king should bear him kingly; I of all, One of so long a line. O shame on me!... —This battle that you speak of?—Spain, of course? Ah—Albuera! And many fall—eh? Yes?

HALFORD

Many hot hearts, sir, cold, I grieve to say. There's Major-General Houghton, Captain Bourke, And Herbert of the Third, Lieutenant Fox, And Captains Erck and Montague, and more. With Majors-General Cole and Stewart wounded, And Quartermaster-General Wallace too: A total of three generals, colonels five, Five majors, fifty captains; and to these Add ensigns and lieutenants sixscore odd, Who went out, but returned not. Heavily tithed Were the attenuate battalions there Who stood and bearded Death by the hour that day!

KING

O fearful price for victory! Add thereto All those I lost at Walchere.—A crime Lay there!... I stood on Chatham's being sent: It wears on me, till I am unfit to live!

WILLIS [aside to the others]

Don't let him get on that Walcheren business. There will be another outbreak. Heberden, please ye talk to him. He fancies you most.

HEBERDEN

I'll tell him some of the brilliant feats of the battle. [He goes and talks to the KING.]

WILLIS [to the rest]

Well, my inside begins to cry cupboard. I had breakfast early. We have enough particulars now to face the Queen's Council with, I should say, Sir Henry?

HALFORD

Yes.—I want to get back to town as soon as possible to-day. Mrs Siddons has a party at her house at Westbourne to-night, and all the world is going to be there.

BAILLIE

Well, I am not. But I have promised to take some friends to Vauxhall, as it is a grand gala and fireworks night. Miss Farren is going to sing "The Canary Bird."—The Regent's fete, by the way, is postponed till the nineteenth, on account of this relapse. Pretty grumpy he was at having to do it. All the world will be THERE, sure!

WILLIS

And some from the Shades, too, of the fair, sex.—Well, here comes Heberden. He has pacified his Majesty nicely. Now we can get away.

[The physicians withdraw softly, and the scene is covered.]



SCENE VI

LONDON. CARLTON HOUSE AND THE STREETS ADJOINING

[It is a cloudless midsummer evening, and as the west fades the stars beam down upon the city, the evening-star hanging like a jonquil blossom. They are dimmed by the unwonted radiance which spreads around and above Carlton House. As viewed from aloft the glare rises through the skylights, floods the forecourt towards Pall Mall, and kindles with a diaphanous glow the huge tents in the gardens that overlook the Mall. The hour has arrived of the Prince Regent's festivity.

A stream of carriages and sedan-chairs, moving slowly, stretches from the building along Pall Mall into Piccadilly and Bond Street, and crowds fill the pavements watching the bejewelled and feathered occupants. In addition to the grand entrance inside the Pall Mall colonnade there is a covert little "chair-door" in Warwick Street for sedans only, by which arrivals are perceived to be slipping in almost unobserved.]

SPIRIT IRONIC

What domiciles are those, of singular expression, Whence no guest comes to join the gemmed procession; That, west of Hyde, this, in the Park-side Lane, Each front beclouded like a mask of pain?

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

Therein the princely host's two spouses dwell; A wife in each. Let me inspect and tell.

[The walls of the two houses—one in Park Lane, the other at Kensington—become transparent.]

I see within the first his latter wife— That Caroline of Brunswick whose brave sire Yielded his breath on Jena's reeking plain, And of whose kindred other yet may fall Ere long, if character indeed be fate.— She idles feasting, and is full of jest As each gay chariot rumbles to the rout. "I rank like your Archbishops' wives," laughs she; "Denied my husband's honours. Funny me!"

[Suddenly a Beau on his way to the Carlton House festival halts at her house, calls, and is shown in.]

He brings her news that a fresh favourite rules Her husband's ready heart; likewise of those Obscure and unmissed courtiers late deceased, Who have in name been bidden to the feast By blundering scribes.

[The Princess is seen to jump up from table at some words from her visitor, and clap her hands.]

These tidings, juxtaposed, Have fired her hot with curiosity, And lit her quick invention with a plan.

PRINCESS OF WALES

Mine God, I'll go disguised—in some dead name And enter by the leetle, sly, chair-door Designed for those not welcomed openly. There unobserved I'll note mine new supplanter! 'Tis indiscreet? Let indiscretion rule, Since caution pensions me so scurvily!

SPIRIT IRONIC

Good. Now for the other sweet and slighted spouse.

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

The second roof shades the Fitzherbert Fair; Reserved, perverse. As coach and coach roll by She mopes within her lattice; lampless, lone, As if she grieved at her ungracious fate, And yet were loth to kill the sting of it By frankly forfeiting the Prince and town. "Bidden," says she, "but as one low of rank, And go I will not so unworthily, To sit with common dames!"—A flippant friend Writes then that a new planet sways to-night The sense of her erratic lord; whereon The fair Fitzherbert muses hankeringly.

MRS. FITZHERBERT [soliloquizing]

The guest-card which I publicly refused Might, as a fancy, privately be used!... Yes—one last look—a wordless, wan farewell To this false life which glooms me like a knell, And him, the cause; from some hid nook survey His new magnificence;—then go for aye!

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

She cloaks and veils, and in her private chair Passes the Princess also stealing there— Two honest wives, and yet a differing pair!

SPIRIT IRONIC

With dames of strange repute, who bear a ticket For screened admission by the private wicket.

CHORUS OF IRONIC SPIRITS [aerial music]

A wife of the body, a wife of the mind, A wife somewhat frowsy, a wife too refined: Could the twain but grow one, and no other dames be, No husband in Europe more steadfast than he!

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Cease fooling on weak waifs who love and wed But as the unweeting Urger may bestead!— See them withinside, douce and diamonded.

[The walls of Carlton House open, and the spectator finds himself confronting the revel.]



SCENE VII

THE SAME. THE INTERIOR OF CARLTON HOUSE

[A central hall is disclosed, radiant with constellations of candles, lamps, and lanterns, and decorated with flowering shrubs. An opening on the left reveals the Grand Council-chamber prepared for dancing, the floor being chalked with arabesques having in the centre "G. III. R.," with a crown, arms, and supporters. Orange- trees and rose-bushes in bloom stand against the walls. On the right hand extends a glittering vista of the supper-rooms and tables, now crowded with guests. This display reaches as far as the conservatory westward, and branches into long tents on the lawn.

On a dais at the chief table, laid with gold and silver plate, the Prince Regent sits like a lay figure, in a state chair of crimson and gold, with six servants at his back. He swelters in a gorgeous uniform of scarlet and gold lace which represents him as Field Marshal, and he is surrounded by a hundred-and-forty of his particular friends.

Down the middle of this state-table runs a purling brook crossed by quaint bridges, in which gold and silver fish frisk about between banks of moss and flowers. The whole scene is lit with wax candles in chandeliers, and in countless candelabra on the tables.

The people at the upper tables include the Duchess of York, looking tired from having just received as hostess most of the ladies present, except those who have come informally, Louis XVIII. of France, the Duchess of Angouleme, all the English Royal Dukes, nearly all the ordinary Dukes and Duchesses; also the Lord Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Ministers, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, all the more fashionable of the other Peers, Peeresses, and Members of Parliament, Generals, Admirals, and Mayors, with their wives. The ladies of position wear, almost to the extent of a uniform, a nodding head-dress of ostrich feathers with diamonds, and gowns of white satin embroidered in gold or silver, on which, owing to the heat, dribbles of wax from the chandeliers occasionally fall.

The Guards' bands play, and attendants rush about in blue and gold lace.]

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

The Queen, the Regent's mother, sits not here; Wanting, too, are his sisters, I perceive; And it is well. With the distempered King Immured at Windsor, sore distraught or dying, It borders nigh on indecency In their regard, that this loud feast is kept, A thought not strange to many, as I read, Even of those gathered here.

SPIRIT IRONIC

My dear phantom and crony, the gloom upon their faces is due rather to their having borrowed those diamonds at eleven per cent than to their loyalty to a suffering monarch! But let us test the feeling. I'll spread a report.

[He calls up the SPIRIT OF RUMOUR, who scatters whispers through the assemblage.]

A GUEST [to his neighbour]

Have you heard this report—that the King is dead?

ANOTHER GUEST

It has just reached me from the other side. Can it be true?

THIRD GUEST

I think it probable. He has been very ill all week.

PRINCE REGENT

Dead? Then my fete is spoilt, by God!

SHERIDAN

Long live the King! [He holds up his glass and bows to the Regent.]

MARCHIONESS OF HERTFORD [the new favourite, to the Regent]

The news is more natural than the moment of it! It is too cruel to you that it should happen now!

PRINCE REGENT

Damn me, though; can it be true? [He provisionally throws a regal air into his countenance.]

DUCHESS OF YORK [on the Regent's left]

I hardly can believe it. This forenoon He was reported mending.

DUCHESS OF ANGOULEME [on the Regent's right]

On this side They are asserting that the news is false— That Buonaparte's child, the "King of Rome," Is dead, and not your royal father, sire.

PRINCE REGENT

That's mighty fortunate! Had it been true, I should have been abused by all the world— The Queen the keenest of the chorus, too— Though I have been postponing this pledged feast Through days and weeks, in hopes the King would mend, Till expectation fusted with delay. But give a dog a bad name—or a Prince! So, then, it is new-come King of Rome Who has passed or ever the world has welcomed him!... Call him a king—that pompous upstart's son— Beside us scions of the ancient lines!

DUKE OF BEDFORD

I think that rumour untrue also, sir. I heard it as I drove up from Woburn this evening, and it was contradicted then.

PRINCE REGENT

Drove up this evening, did ye, Duke. Why did you cut it so close?

DUKE OF BEDFORD

Well, it so happened that my sheep-sheering dinner was fixed for this very day, and I couldn't put it off. So I dined with them there at one o'clock, discussed the sheep, rushed off, drove the two-and-forty miles, jumped into my clothes at my house here, and reached your Royal Highness's door in no very bad time.

PRINCE REGENT

Capital, capital. But, 'pon my soul, 'twas a close shave!

[Soon the babbling and glittering company rise from supper, and begin promenading through the rooms and tents, the REGENT setting the example, and mixing up and talking unceremoniously with his guests of every degree. He and the group round him disappear into the remoter chambers; but may concentrate in the Grecian Hall, which forms the foreground of the scene, whence a glance can be obtained into the ball-room, now filled with dancers.

The band is playing the tune of the season, "The Regency Hornpipe," which is danced as a country-dance by some thirty couples; so that by the time the top couple have danced down the figure they are quite breathless. Two young lords talk desultorily as they survey the scene.]

FIRST LORD

Are the rumours of the King of Rome's death confirmed?

SECOND LORD

No. But they are probably true. He was a feeble brat from the first. I believe they had to baptize him on the day he was born. What can one expect after such presumption—calling him the New Messiah, and God knows what all. Ours is the only country which did not write fulsome poems about him. "Wise English!" the Tsar Alexander said drily when he heard it.

FIRST LORD

Ay! The affection between that Pompey and Caesar has begun to cool. Alexander's soreness at having his sister thrown over so cavalierly is not salved yet.

SECOND LORD

There is much beside. I'd lay a guinea there will be war between Russia and France before another year has flown.

FIRST LORD

Prinny looks a little worried to-night.

SECOND LORD

Yes. The Queen don't like the fete being held, considering the King's condition. She and her friends say it should have been put off altogether. But the Princess of Wales is not troubled that way. Though she was not asked herself she went wildly off and bought her people new gowns to come in. Poor maladroit woman!....

[Another new dance of the year is started, and another long line of couples begin to foot it.]

That's a pretty thing they are doing now. What d'ye call it?

FIRST LORD

"Speed the Plough." It is just out. They are having it everywhere. The next is to be one of those foreign things in three-eight time they call Waltzes. I question if anybody is up to dancing 'em here yet.

["Speed the Plough" is danced to its conclusion, and the band strikes up "The Copenhagen Waltz."]

SPIRIT IRONIC

Now for the wives. They both were tearing hither, Unless reflection sped them back again; But dignity that nothing else may bend Succumbs to woman's curiosity, So deem them here. Messengers, call them nigh!

[The PRINCE REGENT, having gone the round of the other rooms, now appears at the ball-room door, and stands looking at the dancers. Suddenly he turns, and gazes about with a ruffled face. He sees a tall, red-faced man near him—LORD MOIRA, one of his friends.]

PRINCE REGENT

Damned hot here, Moira. Hottest of all for me!

MOIRA

Yes, it is warm, sir. Hence I do not dance.

PRINCE REGENT

H'm. What I meant was of another order; I spoke figuratively.

MOIRA

O indeed, sir?

PRINCE REGENT

She's here. I heard her voice. I'll swear I did!

MOIRA

Who, sir?

PRINCE REGENT

Why, the Princess of Wales. Do you think I could mistake those beastly German Ps and Bs of hers?—She asked to come, and was denied; but she's got here, I'll wager ye, through the chair-door in Warwick Street, which I arranged for a few ladies whom I wished to come privately. [He looks about again, and moves till he is by a door which affords a peep up the grand staircase.] By God, Moira, I see TWO figures up there who shouldn't be here—leaning over the balustrade of the gallery!

MOIRA

Two figures, sir. Whose are they?

PRINCE REGENT

She is one. The Fitzherbert in t'other! O I am almost sure it is! I would have welcomed her, but she bridled and said she wouldn't sit down at my table as a plain "Mrs." to please anybody. As I had sworn that on this occasion people should sit strictly according to their rank, I wouldn't give way. Why the devil did she come like this? 'Pon my soul, these women will be the death o' me!

MOIRA [looking cautiously up the stairs]

I can see nothing of her, sir, nor of the Princess either. There is a crowd of idlers up there leaning over the bannisters, and you may have mistaken some others for them.

PRINCE REGENT

O no. They have drawn back their heads. There have been such damned mistakes made in sending out the cards that the biggest w—- in London might be here. She's watching Lady Hertford, that's what she's doing. For all their indifference, both of them are as jealous as two cats over the tom.

[Somebody whispers that a lady has fainted up-stairs.]

That's Maria, I'll swear! She's always doing it. Whenever I hear of some lady fainting about upon the furniture at my presence, and sending for a glass of water, I say to myself, There's Maria at it again, by God!

SPIRIT IRONIC

Now let him hear their voices once again.

[The REGENT starts as he seems to hear from the stairs the tongues of the two ladies growing louder and nearer, the PRINCESS pouring reproaches into one ear, and MRS. FITZHERBERT into the other.]

PRINCE REGENT

'Od seize 'em, Moira; this will drive me mad! If men of blood must mate with only one Of those dear damned deluders called the Sex, Why has Heaven teased us with the taste for change?— God, I begin to loathe the whole curst show! How hot it is! Get me a glass of brandy, Or I shall swoon off too. Now let's go out, And find some fresher air upon the lawn.

[Exit the PRINCE REGENT, with LORDS MOIRA and YARMOUTH. The band strikes up "La Belle Catarina" and a new figure is formed.]

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

Phantoms, ye strain your powers unduly here, Making faint fancies as they were indeed The Mighty Will's firm work.

SPIRIT IRONIC

Nay, Father, nay; The wives prepared to hasten hitherward Under the names of some gone down to death, Who yet were bidden. Must they not by here?

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

There lie long leagues between a woman's word— "She will, indeed she will!"—and acting on't. Whether those came or no, thy antics cease, And let the revel wear it out in peace.

[Enter SPENCER PERCEVAL the Prime Minister, a small, pale, grave- looking man, and an Under-Secretary of State, meeting.]

UNDER-SECRETARY

Is the King of Rome really dead, and the gorgeous gold cradle wasted?

PERCEVAL

O no, he is alive and waxing strong: That tale has been set travelling more than once. But touching it, booms echo to our ear Of graver import, unimpeachable.

UNDER-SECRETARY

Your speech is dark.

PERCEVAL

Well, a new war in Europe. Before the year is out there may arise A red campaign outscaling any seen. Russia and France the parties to the strife— Ay, to the death!

UNDER-SECRETARY

By Heaven, sir, do you say so?

[Enter CASTLEREAGH, a tall, handsome man with a Roman nose, who, seeing them, approaches.]

PERCEVAL

Ha, Castlereagh. Till now I have missed you here. This news is startling for us all, I say!

CASTLEREAGH

My mind is blank on it! Since I left office I know no more what villainy's afoot, Or virtue either, than an anchoret Who mortifies the flesh in some lone cave.

PERCEVAL

Well, happily that may not last for long. But this grave pother that's just now agog May reach such radius in its consequence As to outspan our lives! Yes, Bonaparte And Alexander—late such bosom-friends— Are closing to a mutual murder-bout At which the lips of Europe will wax wan. Bonaparte says the fault is not with him, And so says Alexander. But we know The Austrian knot began their severance, And that the Polish question largens it. Nothing but time is needed for the clash. And if so be that Wellington but keep His foot in the Peninsula awhile, Between the pestle and the mortar-stone Of Russia and of Spain, Napoleon's brayed.

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR [to the Spirit of the Years]

Permit me now to join them and confirm, By what I bring from far, their forecasting?

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

I'll go. Thou knowest not greatly more than they.

[The SPIRIT OF THE YEARS enters the apartment in the shape of a pale, hollow-eye gentleman wearing an embroidered suit. At the same time re-enter the REGENT, LORDS MOIRA, YARMOUTH, KEITH, LADY HERTFORD, SHERIDAN, the DUKE OF BEDFORD, with many more notables. The band changes into the popular dance, "Down with the French," and the characters aforesaid look on at the dancers.]

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS [to Perceval]

Yes, sir; your text is true. In closest touch With European courts and cabinets, The imminence of dire and deadly war Betwixt these east and western emperies Is lipped by special pathways to mine ear. You may not see the impact: ere it come The tomb-worm may caress thee [Perceval shrinks]; but believe Before five more have joined the shotten years Whose useless films infest the foggy Past, Traced thick with teachings glimpsed unheedingly, The rawest Dynast of the group concerned Will, for the good or ill of mute mankind, Down-topple to the dust like soldier Saul, And Europe's mouldy-minded oligarchs Be propped anew; while garments roll in blood To confused noise, with burning, and fuel of fire. Nations shall lose their noblest in the strife, And tremble at the tidings of an hour!

[He passes into the crowd and vanishes.]

PRINCE REGENT [who has heard with parted lips]

Who the devil is he?

PERCEVAL

One in the suite of the French princes, perhaps, sir?—though his tone was not monarchical. He seems to be a foreigner.

CASTLEREAGH

His manner was that of an old prophet, and his features had a Jewish cast, which accounted for his Hebraic style.

PRINCE REGENT

He could not have known me, to speak so freely in my presence!

SHERIDAN

I expected to see him write on the wall, like the gentleman with the Hand at Belshazzar's Feast.

PRINCE REGENT [recovering]

He seemed to know a damn sight more about what's going on in Europe, sir [to Perceval], than your Government does, with all its secret information.

PERCEVAL

He is recently over, I conjecture, your royal Highness, and brings the latest impressions.

PRINCE REGENT

By Gad, sir, I shall have a comfortable time of it in my regency, or reign, if what he foresees be true! But I was born for war; it is my destiny!

[He draws himself up inside his uniform and stalks away. The group dissolves, the band continuing stridently, "Down with the French," as dawn glimmers in. Soon the REGENT'S guests begin severally and in groups to take leave.]

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Behold To-morrow riddles the curtains through, And labouring life without shoulders its cross anew!

CHORUS OF THE YEARS [aerial music]

Why watch we here? Look all around Where Europe spreads her crinkled ground, From Osmanlee to Hekla's mound, Look all around!

Hark at the cloud-combed Ural pines; See how each, wailful-wise, inclines; Mark the mist's labyrinthine lines;

Behold the tumbling Biscay Bay; The Midland main in silent sway; As urged to move them, so move they.

No less through regal puppet-shows The rapt Determinator throes, That neither good nor evil knows!

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Yet I may wake and understand Ere Earth unshape, know all things, and With knowledge use a painless hand, A painless hand!

[Solitude reigns in the chambers, and the scene shuts up.]



PART THIRD



CHARACTERS

I. PHANTOM INTELLIGENCES

THE ANCIENT SPIRIT OF THE YEARS/CHORUS OF THE YEARS.

THE SPIRIT OF THE PITIES/CHORUS OF THE PITIES.

SPIRITS SINISTER AND IRONIC/CHORUSES OF SINISTER AND IRONIC SPIRITS.

THE SPIRIT OF RUMOUR/CHORUS OF RUMOURS.

THE SHADE OF THE EARTH.

SPIRIT MESSENGERS.

RECORDING ANGELS.

II. PERSONS

MEN [The names in lower case are mute figures.]

THE PRINCE REGENT. The Royal Dukes. THE DUKE OF RICHMOND. The Duke of Beaufort. CASTLEREAGH, Prime Minister. Palmerston, War Secretary. PONSONBY, of the Opposition. BURDETT, of the Opposition. WHITBREAD, of the Opposition. Tierney, Romilly, of the Opposition Other Members of Parliament. TWO ATTACHES. A DIPLOMATIST. Ambassadors, Ministers, Peers, and other persons of Quality and Office.

..........

WELLINGTON. UXBRIDGE. PICTON. HILL. CLINTON. Colville. COLE. BERESFORD. Pack and Kempt. Byng. Vivian. W. Ponsonby, Vandeleur, Colquhoun-Grant, Maitland, Adam, and C. Halkett. Graham, Le Marchant, Pakenham, and Sir Stapleton Cotton. SIR W. DE LANCEY. FITZROY SOMERSET. COLONELS FRASER, H. HALKETT, COLBORNE, Cameron, Hepburn, LORD SALTOUN, C. Campbell. SIR NEIL CAMPBELL. Sir Alexander Gordon, BRIGDEMAN, TYLER, and other AIDES. CAPTAIN MERCER. Other Generals, Colonels, and Military Officers. Couriers.

A SERGEANT OF DRAGOONS. Another SERGEANT. A SERGEANT of the 15th HUSSARS. A SENTINEL. Batmen. AN OFFICER'S SERVANT. Other non-Commissioned Officers and Privates of the British Army. English Forces.

..........

SIR W. GELL, Chamberlain to the Princess of Wales. MR. LEGH, a Wessex Gentleman. Another GENTLEMAN. THE VICAR OF DURNOVER. Signor Tramezzini and other members of the Opera Company. M. Rozier, a dancer.

LONDON CITIZENS. A RUSTIC and a YEOMAN. A MAIL-GUARD. TOWNSPEOPLE, Musicians, Villagers, etc.

..........

THE DUKE OF BRUNSWICK. THE PRINCE OF ORANGE. Count Alten. Von Ompteda, Baring, Duplat, and other Officers of the King's- German Legion. Perponcher, Best, Kielmansegge, Wincke, and other Hanoverian Officers. Bylandt and other Officers of the Dutch-Belgian troops. SOME HUSSARS. King's-German, Hanoverian, Brunswick, and Dutch-Belgian Forces.

..........

BARON VAN CAPELLEN, Belgian Secretary of State. The Dukes of Arenberg and d'Ursel. THE MAYOR OF BRUSSELS. CITIZENS AND IDLERS of Brussels.

..........

NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. JOSEPH BONAPARTE. Jerome Bonaparte. THE KING OF ROME. Eugene de Beauharnais. Cambaceres, Arch-Chancellor to Napoleon. TALLEYRAND. CAULAINCOURT. DE BAUSSET.

..........

MURAT, King of Naples. SOULT, Napoleon's Chief of Staff. NEY. DAVOUT. MARMONT. BERTHIER. BERTRAND. BESSIERES. AUGEREAU, MACDONALD, LAURISTON, CAMBRONNE. Oudinot, Friant, Reille, d'Erlon, Drouot, Victor, Poniatowski, Jourdan, and other Marshals, and General and Regimental Officers of Napoleon's Army. RAPP, MORTIER, LARIBOISIERE. Kellermann and Milhaud. COLONELS FABVRIER, MARBOT, MALLET, HEYMES, and others. French AIDES and COURIERS. DE CANISY, Equerry to the King of Rome. COMMANDANT LESSARD. Another COMMANDANT. BUSSY, an Orderly Officer. SOLDIERS of the Imperial Guard and others. STRAGGLERS; A MAD SOLDIER. French Forces.

..........

HOUREAU, BOURDOIS, and Ivan, physicians. MENEVAL, Private Secretary to Napoleon. DE MONTROND, an emissary of Napoleon's. Other Secretaries to Napoleon. CONSTANT, Napoleon's Valet. ROUSTAN, Napoleon's Mameluke. TWO POSTILLIONS. A TRAVELLER. CHAMBERLAINS and Attendants. SERVANTS at the Tuileries. FRENCH CITIZENS and Townspeople.

..........

THE KING OF PRUSSIA. BLUCHER. MUFFLING, Wellington's Prussian Attache. GNEISENAU. Zieten. Bulow. Kleist, Steinmetz, Thielemann, Falkenhausen. Other Prussian General and Regimental Officers. A PRUSSIAN PRISONER of the French. Prussian Forces.

..........

FRANCIS, Emperor of Austria. METTERNICH, Chancellor and Foreign Minister. Hardenberg. NEIPPERG Schwarzenberg, Kleinau, Hesse-Homburg, and other Austrian Generals. Viennese Personages of rank and fashion. Austrian Forces.

..........

THE EMPEROR ALEXANDER of Russia. Nesselrode. KUTUZOF. Bennigsen. Barclay de Tolly, Dokhtorof, Bagration, Platoff, Tchichagoff, Miloradovitch, and other Russian Generals. Rostopchin, Governor of Moscow. SCHUVALOFF, a Commissioner. A RUSSIAN OFFICER under Kutuzof. Russian Forces. Moscow Citizens.

..........

Alava, Wellington's Spanish Attache. Spanish and Portuguese Officers. Spanish and Portuguese Forces. Spanish Citizens.

..........

Minor Sovereigns and Princes of Europe. LEIPZIG CITIZENS.

WOMEN

CAROLINE, PRINCESS OF WALES. The Duchess of York. THE DUCHESS OF RICHMOND. The Duchess of Beaufort. LADY H. DARYMPLE Lady de Lancey. LADY CHARLOTTE CAMPBELL. Lady Anne Hamilton. A YOUNG LADY AND HER MOTHER. MRS. DALBIAC, a Colonel's wife. MRS. PRESCOTT, a Captain's wife. Other English ladies of note and rank. Madame Grassini and other Ladies of the Opera. Madame Angiolini, a dancer. VILLAGE WOMEN. SOLDIERS' WIVES AND SWEETHEARTS. A SOLDIER'S DAUGHTER.

..........

THE EMPRESS MARIE LOUISE. The Empress of Austria. MARIA CAROLINA of Naples. Queen Hortense. Laetitia, Madame Bonaparte. The Princess Pauline. THE DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO. THE COUNTESS OF MONTESQUIOU. THE COUNTESS OF BRIGNOLE. Other Ladies-in-Waiting on Marie Louise.

THE EX-EMPRESS JOSEPHINE. LADIES-IN-WAITING on Josephine. Another French Lady. FRENCH MARKET-WOMEN. A SPANISH LADY. French and Spanish Women of pleasure. Continental Citizens' Wives. Camp-followers.



ACT FIRST

SCENE I

THE BANKS OF THE NIEMEN, NEAR KOWNO

[The foreground is a hillock on a broken upland, seen in evening twilight. On the left, further back, are the dusky forests of Wilkowsky; on the right is the vague shine of a large river.

Emerging from the wood below the eminence appears a shadowy amorphous thing in motion, the central or Imperial column of NAPOLEON'S Grand Army for the invasion of Russia, comprising the corps of OUDINOT, NEY, and DAVOUT, with the Imperial Guard. This, with the right and left columns, makes up the host of nearly half a million, all starting on their march to Moscow.

While the rearmost regiments are arriving, NAPOLEON rides ahead with GENERAL HAXEL and one or two others to reconnoitre the river. NAPOLEON'S horse stumbles and throws him. He picks himself up before he can be helped.]

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS [to Napoleon]

The portent is an ill one, Emperor; An ancient Roman would retire thereat!

NAPOLEON

Whose voice was that, jarring upon my thought So insolently?

HAXEL AND OTHERS

Sire, we spoke no word.

NAPOLEON

Then, whoso spake, such portents I defy!

[He remounts. When the reconnoitrers again came back to the foreground of the scene the huge array of columns is standing quite still, in circles of companies, the captain of each in the middle with a paper in his hand. He reads from it a proclamation. They quiver emotionally, like leaves stirred by the wind. NAPOLEON and his staff reascend the hillock, and his own words as repeated to the ranks reach his ears, while he himself delivers the same address to those about him.

NAPOLEON

Soldiers, wild war is on the board again; The lifetime-long alliance Russia swore At Tilsit, for the English realm's undoing, Is violate beyond refurbishment, And she intractable and unashamed. Russia is forced on by fatality: She cries her destiny must be outwrought, Meaning at our expense. Does she then dream We are no more the men of Austerlitz, With nothing left of our old featfulness?

She offers us the choice of sword or shame; We have made that choice unhesitatingly! Then let us forthwith stride the Niemen flood, Let us bear war into her great gaunt land, And spread our glory there as otherwhere, So that a stable peace shall stultify The evil seed-bearing that Russian wiles Have nourished upon Europe's choked affairs These fifty years!

[The midsummer night darkens. They all make their bivouacs and sleep.]

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Something is tongued afar.

DISTANT VOICE IN THE WIND

The hostile hatchings of Napoleon's brain Against our Empire, long have harassed us, And mangled all our mild amenities. So, since the hunger for embranglement That gnaws this man, has left us optionless, And haled us recklessly to horrid war, We have promptly mustered our well-hardened hosts, And, counting on our call to the most High, Have forthwith set our puissance face to face Against Napoleon's.—Ranksmen! officers! You fend your lives, your land, your liberty. I am with you. Heaven frowns on the aggressor.

SPIRIT IRONIC

Ha! "Liberty" is quaint, and pleases me, Sounding from such a soil!

[Midsummer-day breaks, and the sun rises on the right, revealing the position clearly. The eminence overlooks for miles the river Niemen, now mirroring the morning rays. Across the river three temporary bridges have been thrown, and towards them the French masses streaming out of the forest descend in three columns.

They sing, shout, fling their shakos in the air and repeat words from the proclamation, their steel and brass flashing in the sun. They narrow their columns as they gain the three bridges, and begin to cross—horse, foot, and artillery.

NAPOLEON has come from the tent in which he has passed the night to the high ground in front, where he stands watching through his glass the committal of his army to the enterprise. DAVOUT, NEY, MURAT, OUDINOT, Generals HAXEL and EBLE, NARBONNE, and others surround him.

It is a day of drowsing heat, and the Emperor draws a deep breath as he shifts his weight from one puffed calf to the other. The light cavalry, the foot, the artillery having passed, the heavy horse now crosses, their glitter outshining the ripples on the stream.

A messenger enters. NAPOLEON reads papers that are brought, and frowns.]

NAPOLEON

The English heads decline to recognize The government of Joseph, King of Spain, As that of "the now-ruling dynast"; But only Ferdinand's!—I'll get to Moscow, And send thence my rejoinder. France shall wage Another fifty years of wasting war Before a Bourbon shall remount the throne Of restless Spain!... [A flash lights his eyes.]

But this long journey now just set a-trip Is my choice way to India; and 'tis there That I shall next bombard the British rule. With Moscow taken, Russia prone and crushed, To attain the Ganges is simplicity— Auxiliaries from Tiflis backing me. Once ripped by a French sword, the scaffolding Of English merchant-mastership in Ind Will fall a wreck.... Vast, it is true, must bulk An Eastern scheme so planned; but I could work it.... Man has, worse fortune, but scant years for war; I am good for another five!

SPIRIT OF THE PITIES

Why doth he go?— I see returning in a chattering flock Bleached skeletons, instead of this array Invincibly equipped.

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

I'll show you why.

[The unnatural light before seen usurps that of the sun, bringing into view, like breezes made visible, the films or brain-tissues of the Immanent Will, that pervade all things, ramifying through the whole army, NAPOLEON included, and moving them to Its inexplicable artistries.]

NAPOLEON [with sudden despondency]

That which has worked will work!—Since Lodi Bridge The force I then felt move me moves me on Whether I will or no; and oftentimes Against my better mind.... Why am I here? —By laws imposed on me inexorably! History makes use of me to weave her web To her long while aforetime-figured mesh And contemplated charactery: no more. Well, war's my trade; and whencesoever springs This one in hand, they'll label it with my name!

[The natural light returns and the anatomy of the Will disappears. NAPOLEON mounts his horse and descends in the rear of his host to the banks of the Niemen. His face puts on a saturnine humour, and he hums an air.]

Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre, Mironton, mironton, mirontaine; Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre, Ne sait quand reviendra!

[Exeunt NAPOLEON and his staff.]

SPIRIT SINISTER

It is kind of his Imperial Majesty to give me a lead. [Sings.]

Monsieur d'Malbrough est mort, Mironton, mironton, mirontaine; Monsieur d'Malbrough est mort, Est mort et enterre!

[Anon the figure of NAPOLEON, diminished to the aspect of a doll, reappears in front of his suite on the plain below. He rides across the swaying bridge. Since the morning the sky has grown overcast, and its blackness seems now to envelope the retreating array on the other side of the stream. The storm bursts with thunder and lightning, the river turns leaden, and the scene is blotted out by the torrents of rain.]



SCENE II

THE FORD OF SANTA MARTA, SALAMANCA

[We are in Spain, on a July night of the same summer, the air being hot and heavy. In the darkness the ripple of the river Tormes can be heard over the ford, which is near the foreground of the scene.

Against the gloomy north sky to the left, lightnings flash revealing rugged heights in that quarter. From the heights comes to the ear the tramp of soldiery, broke and irregular, as by obstacles in their descent; as yet they are some distance off. On heights to the right hand, on the other side of the river, glimmer the bivouac fires of the French under MARMONT. The lightning quickens, with rolls of thunder, and a few large drops of rain fall.

A sentinel stands close to the ford, and beyond him is the ford- house, a shed open towards the roadway and the spectator. It is lit by a single lantern, and occupied by some half-dozen English dragoons with a sergeant and corporal, who form part of a mounted patrol, their horses being picketed at the entrance. They are seated on a bench, and appear to be waiting with some deep intent, speaking in murmurs only.

The thunderstorm increases till it drowns the noise of the ford and of the descending battalions, making them seem further off than before. The sentinel is about to retreat to the shed when he discerns two female figures in the gloom. Enter MRS. DALBIAC and MRS. PRESCOTT, English officers wives.]

SENTINEL

Where there's war there's women, and where there's women there's trouble! [Aloud] Who goes there?

MRS. DALBIAC

We must reveal who we are, I fear [to her companion]. Friends! [to sentinel].

SENTINEL

Advance and give the countersign.

MRS. DALBIAC

Oh, but we can't!

SENTINEL

Consequent which, you must retreat. By Lord Wellington's strict regulations, women of loose character are to be excluded from the lines for moral reasons, namely, that they are often employed by the enemy as spies.

MRS. PRESCOTT

Dear good soldier, we are English ladies benighted, having mistaken our way back to Salamanca, and we want shelter from the storm.

MRS. DALBIAC

If it is necessary I will say who we are.—I am Mrs. Dalbiac, wife of the Lieutenant-Colonel of the Fourth Light Dragoons, and this lady is the wife of Captain Prescott of the Seventh Fusileers. We went out to Christoval to look for our husbands, but found the army had moved.

SENTINEL [incredulously]

"Wives!" Oh, not to-day! I have heard such titles of courtesy afore; but they never shake me. "W" begins other female words than "wives!"—You'll have trouble, good dames, to get into Salamanca to-night. You'll be challenged all the way down, and shot without clergy if you can't give the countersign.

MRS. PRESCOTT

Then surely you'll tell us what it is, good kind man!

SENTINEL

Well—have ye earned enough to pay for knowing? Government wage is poor pickings for watching here in the rain. How much can ye stand?

MRS. DALBIAC

Half-a-dozen pesetas.

SENTINEL

Very well, my dear. I was always tender-hearted. Come along. [They advance and hand the money.] The pass to-night is "Melchester Steeple." That will take you into the town when the weather clears. You won't have to cross the ford. You can get temporary shelter in the shed there.

[As the ladies move towards the shed the tramp of the infantry draws near the ford, which the downfall has made to purl more boisterously. The twain enter the shed, and the dragoons look up inquiringly.]

MRS. DALBIAC [to dragoons]

The French are luckier than you are, men. You'll have a wet advance across this ford, but they have a dry retreat by the bridge at Alba.

SERGEANT OF PATROL [starting from a doze]

The moustachies a dry retreat? Not they, my dear. A Spanish garrison is in the castle that commands the bridge at Alba.

MRS. DALBIAC

A peasant told us, if we understood rightly, that he saw the Spanish withdraw, and the enemy place a garrison there themselves.

[The sergeant hastily calls up two troopers, who mount and ride off with the intelligence.]

SERGEANT

You've done us a good turn, it is true, darlin'. Not that Lord Wellington will believe it when he gets the news.... Why, if my eyes don't deceive me, ma'am, that's Colonel Dalbiac's lady!

MRS. DALBIAC

Yes, sergeant. I am over here with him, as you have heard, no doubt, and lodging in Salamanca. We lost our way, and got caught in the storm, and want shelter awhile.

SERGEANT

Certainly, ma'am. I'll give you an escort back as soon as the division has crossed and the weather clears.

MRS. PRESCOTT [anxiously]

Have you heard, sergeant, if there's to be a battle to-morrow?

SERGEANT

Yes, ma'am. Everything shows it.

MRS. DAlBIAC [to MRS. PRESCOTT]

Our news would have passed us in. We have wasted six pesetas.

MRS. PRESCOTT [mournfully]

I don't mind that so much as that I have brought the children from Ireland. This coming battle frightens me!

SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

This is her prescient pang of widowhood. Ere Salamanca clang to-morrow's close She'll find her consort stiff among the slain!

[The infantry regiments now reach the ford. The storm increases in strength, the stream flows more furiously; yet the columns of foot enter it and begin crossing. The lightning is continuous; the faint lantern in the ford-house is paled by the sheets of fire without, which flap round the bayonets of the crossing men and reflect upon the foaming torrent.]

CHORUS OF THE PITIES [aerial music]

The skies fling flame on this ancient land! And drenched and drowned is the burnt blown sand That spreads its mantle of yellow-grey Round old Salmantica to-day; While marching men come, band on band, Who read not as a reprimand To mortal moils that, as 'twere planned In mockery of their mimic fray, The skies fling flame.

Since sad Coruna's desperate stand Horrors unsummed, with heavy hand, Have smitten such as these! But they Still headily pursue their way, Though flood and foe confront them, and The skies fling flame.

[The whole of the English division gets across by degrees, and their invisible tramp is heard ascending the opposite heights as the lightnings dwindle and the spectacle disappears.]



SCENE III

THE FIELD OF SALAMANCA

[The battlefield—an undulating and sandy expanse—is lying under the sultry sun of a July afternoon. In the immediate left foreground rises boldly a detached dome-like hill known as the Lesser Arapeile, now held by English troops. Further back, and more to the right, rises another and larger hill of the kind—the Greater Arapeile; this is crowned with French artillery in loud action, and the French marshal, MARMONT, Duke of RAGUSA, stands there. Further to the right, in the same plane, stretch the divisions of the French army. Still further to the right, in the distance, on the Ciudad Rodrigo highway, a cloud of dust denotes the English baggage-train seeking security in that direction. The city of Salamanca itself, and the river Tormes on which it stands, are behind the back of the spectator.

On the summit of the lesser hill, close at hand, WELLINGTON, glass at eye, watches the French division under THOMIERE, which has become separated from the centre of the French army. Round and near him are aides and other officers, in animated conjecture on MARMONT'S intent, which appears to be a move on the Ciudad Rodrigo road aforesaid, under the impression that the English are about to retreat that way.

The English commander descends from where he was standing to a nook under a wall, where a meal is roughly laid out. Some of his staff are already eating there. WELLINGTON takes a few mouthfuls without sitting down, walks back again, and looks through his glass at the battle as before. Balls from the French artillery fall around. Enter his aide-de-camp, FITZROY SOMERSET.]

FITZROY SOMERSET [hurriedly]

The French make movements of grave consequence— Extending to the left in mass, my lord.

WELLINGTON

I have just perceived as much; but not the cause. [He regards longer.] Marmont's good genius is deserting him!

[Shutting up his glass with a snap, WELLINGTON calls several aides and despatches them down the hill. He goes back behind the wall and takes some more mouthfuls.]

By God, Fitzroy, if we shan't do it now! [to SOMERSET]. Mon cher Alava, Marmont est perdu! [to his SPANISH ATTACHE].

FITZROY SOMERSET

Thinking we mean to attack on him, He schemes to swoop on our retreating-line.

WELLINGTON

Ay; and to cloak it by this cannonade. With that in eye he has bundled leftwardly Thomiere's division; mindless that thereby His wing and centre's mutual maintenance Has gone, and left a yawning vacancy. So be it. Good. His laxness is our luck!

[As a result of the orders sent off by the aides, several British divisions advance across the French front on the Greater Arapeile and elsewhere. The French shower bullets into them; but an English brigade under PACK assails the nearer French on the Arapeile, now beginning to cannonade the English in the hollows beneath.

Light breezes blow toward the French, and they get in their faces the dust-clouds and smoke from the masses of English in motion, and a powerful sun in their eyes.

MARMONT and his staff are sitting on the top of the Greater Arapeile only half a cannon-shot from WELLINGTON on the Lesser; and, like WELLINGTON, he is gazing through his glass.

SPIRIT OF RUMOUR

Appearing to behold the full-mapped mind Of his opponent, Marmont arrows forth Aide after aide towards the forest's rim, To spirit on his troops emerging thence, And prop the lone division Thomiere, For whose recall his voice has rung in vain. Wellington mounts and seeks out Pakenham, Who pushes to the arena from the right, And, spurting to the left of Marmont's line, Shakes Thomiere with lunges leonine.

When the manoeuvre's meaning hits his sense, Marmont hies hotly to the imperilled place, Where see him fall, sore smitten.—Bonnet rides And dons the burden of the chief command, Marking dismayed the Thomiere column there Shut up by Pakenham like bellows-folds Against the English Fourth and Fifth hard by; And while thus crushed, Dragoon-Guards and Dragoons, Under Le Marchant's hands [of Guernsey he], Are launched upon them by Sir Stapleton, And their scathed files are double-scathed anon.

Cotton falls wounded. Pakenham's bayoneteers Shape for the charge from column into rank; And Thomiere finds death thereat point-blank!

SEMICHORUS I OF THE PITIES [aerial music]

In fogs of dust the cavalries hoof the ground; Their prancing squadrons shake the hills around: Le Marchant's heavies bear with ominous bound Against their opposites!

SEMICHORUS II

A bullet crying along the cloven air Gouges Le Marchant's groin and rankles there; In Death's white sleep he soon joins Thomiere, And all he has fought for, quits!

[In the meantime the battle has become concentrated in the middle hollow, and WELLINGTON descends thither from the English Arapeile.

The fight grows fiercer. COLE and LEITH now fall wounded; then BERESFORD, who directs the Portuguese, is struck down and borne away. On the French side fall BONNET who succeeded MARMONT in command, MANNE, CLAUSEL, and FEREY, the last hit mortally.

Their disordered main body retreats into the forest and disappears; and just as darkness sets in, the English stand alone on the crest, the distant plain being lighted only by musket-flashes from the vanquishing enemy. In the close foreground vague figures on horseback are audible in the gloom.

VOICE OF WELLINGTON

I thought they looked as they'd be scurrying soon!

VOICE OF AN AIDE

Foy bears into the wood in middling trim; Maucune strikes out for Alba-Castle bridge.

VOICE OF WELLINGTON

Speed the pursuit, then, towards the Huerta ford; Their only scantling of escape lies there; The river coops them semicircle-wise, And we shall have them like a swathe of grass Within a sickle's curve!

VOICE OF AIDE

Too late, my lord. They are crossing by the aforesaid bridge at Alba.

VOICE OF WELLINGTON

Impossible. The guns of Carlos rake it Sheer from the castle walls.

VOICE OF AIDE

Tidings have sped Just now therefrom, to this undreamed effect: That Carlos has withdrawn the garrison: The French command the Alba bridge themselves!

VOICE OF WELLINGTON

Blast him, he's disobeyed his orders, then! How happened this? How long has it been known?

VOICE OF AIDE

Some ladies some few hours have rumoured it, But unbelieved.

VOICE OF WELLINGTON

Well, what's done can't be undone.... By God, though, they've just saved themselves thereby From capture to a man!

VOICE OF A GENERAL

We've not struck ill, Despite this slip, my lord.... And have you heard That Colonel Dalbiac's wife rode in the charge Behind her spouse to-day?

VOICE OF WELLINGTON

Did she though: did she! Why that must be Susanna, whom I know— A Wessex woman, blithe, and somewhat fair.... Not but great irregularities Arise from such exploits.—And was it she I noticed wandering to and fro below here, Just as the French retired?

VOICE OF ANOTHER OFFICER

Ah no, my lord. That was the wife of Prescott of the Seventh, Hoping beneath the heel of hopelessness, As these young women will!—Just about sunset She found him lying dead and bloody there, And in the dusk we bore them both away.[18]

VOICE OF WELLINGTON

Well, I'm damned sorry for her. Though I wish The women-folk would keep them to the rear: Much awkwardness attends their pottering round!

[The talking shapes disappear, and as the features of the field grow undistinguishable the comparative quiet is broken by gay notes from guitars and castanets in the direction of the city, and other sounds of popular rejoicing at Wellington's victory. People come dancing out from the town, and the merry-making continues till midnight, when it ceases, and darkness and silence prevail everywhere.]

SEMICHORUS I OF THE YEARS [aerial music]

What are Space and Time? A fancy!— Lo, by Vision's necromancy Muscovy will now unroll; Where for cork and olive-tree Starveling firs and birches be.

SEMICHORUS II

Though such features lie afar From events Peninsular, These, amid their dust and thunder, Form with those, as scarce asunder, Parts of one compacted whole.

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