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Judith - Act 3 Scene 1 Post by :wileycoyote Category :Plays Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :1317

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Judith - Act 3 Scene 1

ACT III SCENE I

(SCENE: _Same as Act I_.)

(TIME: _A few hours later than Act II, Scene III, the same night. The sole light is that of torches, and watchfires (off)._)

(_The gatemen are at the gates_.)

(_There is a knocking on the outside of the gates_.)

(_Enter First Soldier, running_.)


FIRST SOLDIER (_to a gateman, who is climbing up in order to look over the top of the gates_). Look not over, booby. Thy fool's face might meet the point of an Assyrian spear. (_The gateman slips down quickly_.)

(_Renewed knocking_.)

FIRST SOLDIER (_shouting_). None can enter the city till sunrise. And not then if I like not the aspect of his phiz.

HAGGITH (_off_). It is Haggith, servant of the lady Judith. Open the gates quickly, for I am become a woman of much consequence.

FIRST SOLDIER. Haggith? It is the voice of Haggith; yet it may also be devils. (_To another soldier who has entered_.) Run! Rouse the lord Ozias. (_Exit soldier_.)

HAGGITH. I have water with me. Many gourds! Fresh water! Cool water!

(_The gatemen begin to work the gate-chains_.)

FIRST SOLDIER. What do ye, dogs? Stop, and await the order of the lord Ozias.

GATEMEN (_continuing to work the chains_). Water! Water!

FIRST SOLDIER. Pull, then, dogs. If there is water and it is wet I will taste it. But if there is not water, I will slay the first soul that enters. (_As the gates begin to open a little_.) Hold! No wider!

(_Enter Haggith _with two gourds_.)

(_The gourds are snatched from her, and the men, including the First Soldier, drink_.)

FIRST SOLDIER (_as he drinks_). Yea, it is indeed Haggith. Where is thy mistress, and whence comest thou, my beloved water-carrier, for thou art my beloved? (Haggith _slaps his face_.)

(_Enter Ozias, _L_.)

OZIAS (_furious_). Why are the gates opened? What is this?

FIRST SOLDIER. Haggith, lord, with water that is stronger than wine. (_Handing a gourd to Ozias _to soothe him_.)

OZIAS. Where is thy mistress, wench? (_Drinks_.)

HAGGITH (_stiffly_). I am the forerunner of my mistress, who has sent me, and before many hours are passed the lady Judith will come also. (_She goes to the gates and beckons_.)

OZIAS. What art thou doing?

(_Enter Ingur, _bearing a sack_.)

VOICES. An Assyrian! An Assyrian! (_Men spring at Ingur.)

HAGGITH. Let him alone; he is my bondman and I have tamed him.

OZIAS. Shut the gates, for I will enquire into this matter.

HAGGITH. There are yet ten other Assyrians outside the gates, carrying gourds for me.

OZIAS. Ten other Assyrians! It is a trick!

HAGGITH (_proudly_). By my command they are chained by their necks, neck to neck. Fetch in the gourds, men, and give the people to drink.

(_The gourds are brought in amid cries and excitement. They are taken off, L_.)

OZIAS. Shut the gates, I say.

FIRST SOLDIER. And the ten Assyrians, great lord?

OZIAS. Let them await my enquiry where they stand.

FIRST SOLDIER. Lord Ozias, if they flee?

HAGGITH. Hold thy mouth, gaby! Wouldst _thou flee with thy neck chained to nine necks? Moreover, where will they flee? For the camps of the Assyrians are broken, and in their terrible confusion the Assyrians fall one upon another.

(_The gatemen talk among themselves and stare at the Assyrians outside, who cannot be seen by those within the city. The gates remain open a little_.)

OZIAS (_impatiently_). What is thy tale, Haggith?

HAGGITH. My mistress has slain Holofernes in his tent in the night, and the power of Assyria is undone.

OZIAS (_astounded_). Slain Holofernes! Thou art mad in thy raving.

HAGGITH (_to Ingur). Open the mouth of the sack, and let my lord behold the head of Holofernes and see that I am mad. (_To soldier_.) A torch, that the Lord Ozias may discover the manner of my raving.

(Ozias _looks into the sack and sees the head of Holofernes.)

OZIAS. Great is the Lord of Israel!

HAGGITH. And my mistress is the right hand of the Lord.

OZIAS. Great is the Lord of Israel!

VOICES (_deeply moved_). His name shall live for ever.

OZIAS. How did thy mistress accomplish this mighty deed?

HAGGITH. AS for that, she will tell it to my lord with her own voice when she shall come. And now will my lord give ear to the commands of the lady Judith, which she doth lay upon my lord by me, Haggith? First, the head of Holofernes shall be set upon a spear on the highest wall in the great square before the temple. So shall all the Israelites know that God yet watcheth over Israel. (_To the soldiers_.) Take the sack and do as my lady hath ordained by me, Haggith.

OZIAS (_to men, who hesitate_). Take the sack. It is my command.

(_Exeunt two men, L., with sack_.)

HAGGITH. Next, ye shall send men for water to the wells beneath the city that all may drink, for already the Assyrians are fled from the wells, knowing that Holofernes is dead. And ye shall send forth all your army into the valley to fall upon the Assyrians, for they are afraid of the judgment of God, and none dare abide in the sight of his neighbour. Neither can they stand against the chosen race of God.

OZIAS (_to First Soldier_). Let every armed man in the city be roused, and publish the order of Ozias that the Captains lead their bands swiftly into the valley by the secret way to fall upon the Assyrians.

(_Exit First Soldier and another, with joyous cries, L_.)

HAGGITH. Thus hath the lady Judith spoken by me, Haggith.

OZIAS. Whither is thy mistress gone, and why does she tarry?

HAGGITH. My mistress is hidden in a sure place in the valley, for there is one among the Assyrians who fears not God. And he is Bagoas, the chief eunuch of Holofernes, and he has sworn an oath to kill my mistress, for that by guile she did cut off the head of Holofernes. And Bagoas searches for my mistress in the folds of the valley. But he will not find her.

OZIAS (_perturbed_). How knowst thou that he will not find her?

HAGGITH. Because the Lord of Israel is a sharp sword and protecteth his servants.... And also because my mistress is most cunningly hidden.

(_Enter Charmis, _L_.)

CHARMIS (_joyously excited_). What is the miracle that I hear, Ozias?

OZIAS (_blandly_). There is no miracle; but that which I had planned with the lady Judith has come to pass. Take women and old men Charmis, and go ye to the wells and bring water to the city, for the wells are delivered into my hands.

CHARMIS (_hesitating_). Women and old men? But the onslaught against the Assyrians of which I hear?

OZIAS (_imperiously_). Go quickly. For who is the governor of this city? Is it thou or is it I?

(_Exit Charmis, _L_.)

(_Men and women have gathered joyously in the street_.)

VOICES (_mockingly, indicating Ingur, _with a tendency to horseplay_). The Assyrian! The Assyrian!

OZIAS. Take him to the guard-house and chain him to Achior.

HAGGITH. He shall not go, lord Ozias. For as my mistress beguiled Holofernes, so did I beguile Ingur, and he is my slave. But I have not cut off his head, and he is dear to me because I have not cut off his head. And he is mine, and let none touch him (_looking at the soldiers_), or my anger, which is the anger of the lady Judith, shall be upon that man. (_Hearing a noise, she glances at the house_.) What do I see? The sluts are in the tent of my mistress, which is forbidden them. Out, sluts! (_Exit angrily into the house_!)

(Ingur _follows her quickly for protection_.)

(_Enter Messenger.)

OZIAS. And you?

MESSENGER (_saluting_). Do my eyes behold the great lord Ozias, governor of Bethulia?

OZIAS. Your eyes behold him.

MESSENGER. It is not yet dawn, nevertheless the streets of the city are full of a great going and coming, but I found none to lead me to the house of the lord Ozias. Yet when I saw my lord's visage my heart said: 'This is he.'

OZIAS. What is your affair with me?

MESSENGER. I am a messenger.

OZIAS (_curtly_). Speak quickly, for the government of this city in this hour is no common matter, and the whole charge of it lies upon me.

MESSENGER. And I am no common messenger. I come with wings through the night from Jerusalem, from Joachim, the high priest.

OZIAS. Ah! (_Changing his tone and beckoning the messenger aside_.) What tidings do you bear?

MESSENGER. I bear the licence from Joachim.

OZIAS. What licence?

MESSENGER. The licence for the people of Bethulia to drink the wine which is sanctified and reserved to the priests which serve the Lord.

OZIAS (_affecting to be puzzled_). Who hath demanded this licence from Joachim?

MESSENGER (_surprised_). The lord Ozias sent a messenger to Jerusalem to beseech that the licence should be granted. And my lord's messenger travelled so swiftly that in the moment when he reached the temple at Jerusalem he fell sick and vomited, and I have come to Bethulia in his place, for after he had vomited he unfolded to me the secret way into the city.

OZIAS (_grandly_). It is true. In the heavy multitude of my cares I had forgotten this matter of the licence.

MESSENGER (_confidentially_). And Joachim hath bidden me to say privily that if any have already in their extremity drunk of the sanctified wine it shall be denied utterly--for the sake of the church.

OZIAS. Ah!

MESSENGER. And here is the licence. (_Offering it_.)

OZIAS. Friend, keep the licence and render it back to Joachim, the high priest in Jerusalem. For I need it not, and I demanded it only by excess of prudence such as becomes the governor of a city besieged and thirsting. But we Bethulians are a faithful and a constant people, and we have trusted in the Most High. And if perchance any have drunk of the sanctified wine unknown to me (_with a grimace_)--it shall be denied utterly, for the sake of seemliness.

MESSENGER. But in the days of trial to come, will not the lord Ozias have need of the licence?

OZIAS (_grandly_). Friend, return ye to Joachim and say to him that the Lord has delivered Bethulia from the Assyrians by the subtlety of his servant Ozias.

MESSENGER (_amazed_). What says my lord?

OZIAS. Yea, this night the head of Holofernes is set on a spear in the square before the temple, and the Assyrians flee one from another in disorder, and my hosts are about to descend upon them and rend them to pieces where they stand foolishly in the valley.

MESSENGER. But this thing is marvellous beyond the understanding of man!

OZIAS. It is indeed marvellous.

MESSENGER. And when Joachim enquires of me who hath taken Holofernes the great captain to behead him, and by what device, what shall I answer to Joachim?

OZIAS. You will answer that Ozias, knowing the weakness of Holofernes, sent down to him secretly a woman, a certain Judith of Bethulia, and upon the counsel of Ozias the woman by wiles compassed the death of Holofernes as I have told you.

MESSENGER. It is a tale which fathers shall tell to their children, and to their children's children, and men shall wonder thereat for all time. And now your servant will say to you a thing which has not been told to him but which his ear has heard. It was said among the mighty that if my lord Ozias should save Judea from the heathen, he would receive notable advancement and be raised up among the great ones of the land. (Ozias _bows_.) Yet will Joachim not be astonished, for it was spoken in Jerusalem that among all the Israelites there is none like the lord Ozias for cunning and obstinacy in defence.

OZIAS (_nettled_). Nevertheless it is meet that Joachim should be astonished, for with five thousand have I set at naught one hundred and two and thirty thousand, and in the chronicles of Israel there is written down no deed to match the delivery of Judea from the Assyrians.

MESSENGER. The God of Israel hath saved Israel.

OZIAS. The God of Israel hath save Israel,--by my hand. Go ye, and when you have eaten and drunk, set ye forth again for Jerusalem.

(_The Messenger salutes and exit, L_.)

(_Throughout this scene excited and joyous men and women frequently pass the street in twos and threes_.)

(_Dawn is breaking and the torches begin to pale_.)

(_Enter Haggith _and Ingur _from the house._)

OZIAS. Where art thou going?

HAGGITH. Lord Ozias, I came up from the valley to bring water, and to give tidings. Now I go down again to the valley with Ingur and his men to seek out my mistress, and to take new raiment to her, and lead her to the city; for since the Israelites are fallen upon the Assyrians, my mistress is no longer in danger.

(_Enter Achior.)

OZIAS. Slave, who hath dared to loose thee?

ACHIOR. There was none left to guard, and I came forth.

OZIAS (_to a soldier_). Seize this fellow and bind him with fetters.

(_The torches are by this time extinguished_.)

HAGGITH. Lord, it cannot be so. For the lady Judith commanded me to bring Achior also, for her protection, seeing that the youth came from the Assyrians at the bidding of the God of Israel to give comfort to Israel, and for a sign to my mistress.

OZIAS (_after a pause_). I also will go with you, for it is right that the governor should do honour to the lady Judith.

HAGGITH. My mistress commanded me to say to the lord Ozias that he should remain in the city to prepare for her a welcome. (_She points to the gates and Achior _gladly moves forward. She takes Ingur _by the ear_.) Bestir thy legs, booby!

OZIAS. The subtlety of women is past knowing.

HAGGITH (_at the gates, maliciously_). It may be. But would the lord Ozias invite the displeasure of my mistress? It is day. Let my lord sit in the sun.

(CURTAIN.)

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