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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 3. The Same. The Apartments Of The Empress
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 3. The Same. The Apartments Of The Empress Post by :peterwarrior Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :2136

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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 3. The Same. The Apartments Of The Empress

PART THIRD. ACT FOURTH. SCENE III.

(A March morning, verging on seven o'clock, throws its cheerless stare into the private drawing-room of MARIE LOUISE, animating the gilt furniture to only a feeble shine. Two chamberlains of the palace are there in waiting. They look from the windows and yawn.)


FIRST CHAMBERLAIN

Here's a watering for spring hopes! Who would have supposed when the Emperor left, and appointed her Regent, that she and the Regency too would have to scurry after in so short a time!


SECOND CHAMBERLAIN

Was a course decided on last night?


FIRST CHAMBERLAIN

Yes. The Privy Council sat till long past midnight, debating the burning question whether she and the child should remain or not. Some were one way, some the other. She settled the matter by saying she would go.


SECOND CHAMBERLAIN

I thought it might come to that. I heard the alarm beating all night to assemble the National Guard; and I am told that some volunteers have marched out to support Marmot. But they are a mere handful: what can they do?

(A clatter of wheels and a champing and prancing of horses is heard outside the palace. MENEVAL enters, and divers officers of the household; then from her bedroom at the other end MARIE LOUISE, in a travelling dress and hat, leading the KING OF ROME, attired for travel likewise. She looks distracted and pale. Next come the DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO, lady of honour, the COUNTESS DE MONTESQUIOU, ladies of the palace, and others, all in travelling trim.)


KING OF ROME (plaintively)

Why are we doing these strange things, mamma,
And what did we get up so early for?


MARIE LOUISE

I cannot, dear, explain. So many events
Enlarge and make so many hours of one,
That it would be too hard to tell them now.


KING OF ROME

But you know why we a setting out like this?
Is it because we fear our enemies?


MARIE LOUISE

We are not sure that we are going yet.
I may be needful; but don't ask me here.
Some time I will tell you.

(She sits down irresolutely, and bestows recognitions on the assembled officials with a preoccupied air.)


KING OF ROME (in a murmur)

I like being here best;
And I don't want to go I know not where!


MARIE LOUISE

Run, dear to Mamma 'Quiou and talk to her
(He goes across to MADAME DE MONTESQUIOU.)
I hear that women of the Royalist hope
(To the DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO)
Have bent them busy in their private rooms
With working white cockades these several days.--
Yes--I must go!


DUCHESS OF MONTEBELLO

But why yet, Empress dear?
We may soon gain good news; some messenger
Hie from the Emperor or King Joseph hither?


MARIE LOUISE

King Joseph I await. He's gone to eye
The outposts, with the Ministers of War,
To learn the scope and nearness of the Allies;
He should almost be back.

(A silence, till approaching feet are suddenly heard outside the door.)

Ah, here he comes;
Now we shall know!

(Enter precipitately not Joseph but officers of the National Guard and others.)


OFFICERS

Long live the Empress-regent!
Do not quit Paris, pray, your Majesty.
Remain, remain. We plight us to defend you!


MARIE LOUISE (agitated)

Gallant messieurs, I thank you heartily.
But by the Emperor's biddance I am bound.
He has vowed he'd liefer see me and my son
Blanched at the bottom of the smothering Seine
Than in the talons of the foes of France.--
To keep us sure from such, then, he ordained
Our swift withdrawal with the Ministers
Towards the Loire, if enemies advanced
In overmastering might. They do advance;
Marshal Marmont and Mortier are repulsed,
And that has come whose hazard he foresaw.
All is arranged; the treasure is awheel,
And papers, seals, and cyphers packed therewith.


OFFICERS (dubiously)

Yet to leave Paris is to court disaster!


MARIE LOUISE (with petulance)

I shall do what I say! . . . I don't know what--
What SHALL I do!

(She bursts into tears and rushes into her bedroom, followed by the young KING and some of her ladies. There is a painful silence, broken by sobbings and expostulations within. Re-enter one of the ladies.)


LADY

She's sorely overthrown;
She flings herself upon the bed distraught.
She says, "My God, let them make up their minds
To one or other of these harrowing ills,
And force to't, and end my agony!"

(An official enters at the main door.)


OFFICIAL

I am sent here by the Minister of War
To her Imperial Majesty the Empress.

(Re-enter MARIE LOUISE and the KING OF ROME.)

Your Majesty, my mission is to say
Imperious need dictates your instant flight.
A vanward regiment of the Prussian packs
Has gained the shadow of the city walls.


MENEVAL

They are armed Europe's scouts!

(Enter CAMBACERES the Arch-Chancellor, COUNT BEAUHARNAIS, CORVISART the physician, DE BAUSSET, DE CANISY the equerry, and others.)


CAMBACERES

Your Majesty,
There's not a trice to lose. The force well-nigh
Of all compacted Europe crowds on us,
And clamours at the walls!


BEAUHARNAIS

If you stay longer,
You stay to fall into the Cossacks hands.
The people, too, are waxing masterful:
They think the lingering of your Majesty
Makes Paris more a peril for themselves
Than a defence for you. To fight is fruitless,
And wanton waste of life. You have nought to do
But go; and I, and all the Councillors,
Will follow you.


MARIE LOUISE

Then I was right to say
That I would go! Now go I surely will,
And let none try to hinder me again!

(She prepares to leave.)


KING OF ROME (crying)

I will not go! I like to live here best!
Don't go to Rambouillet, mamma; please don't.
It is a nasty place! Let us stay here.
O Mamma 'Quiou, stay with me here; pray stay!


MARIE LOUISE (to the Equerry)

Bring him down.

(Exit MARIE LOUISE in tears, followed by ladies-in-waiting and others.)


DE CANISY

Come now, Monseigneur, come.

(He catches up the boy in his arms and prepares to follow the Empress.)


KING OF ROME (kicking)

No, no, no! I don't want to go away from my house--I don't want to! Now papa is away I am the master! (He clings to the door as the equerry is bearing him through it.)


DE CANISY

But you must go.

(The child's fingers are pulled away. Exit DE CANISY with the King OF ROME, who is heard screaming as he is carried down the staircase.)


MADAME DE MONTESQUIOU

I feel the child is right!
A premonition has enlightened him.
She ought to stay. But, ah, the die is cast!

(MADAME DE MONTESQUIOU and the remainder of the party follow, and the room is left empty. Enter servants hastily.)


FIRST SERVANT

Sacred God, where are we to go to for grub and good lying to-night? What are ill-used men to do?


SECOND SERVANT

I trudge like the rest. All the true philosophers are gone, and the middling true are going. I made up my mind like the truest that ever was as soon as I heard the general alarm beat.


THIRD SERVANT

I stay here. No Allies are going to tickle our skins. The storm which roots--Dost know what a metaphor is, comrade? I brim with them at this historic time!


SECOND SERVANT

A weapon of war used by the Cossacks?


THIRD SERVANT

Your imagination will be your ruin some day, my man! It happens to be a weapon of wisdom used by me. My metaphor is one may'st have met with on the rare times when th'hast been in good society. Here it is: The storm which roots the pine spares the p--s--b--d. Now do you see?

FIRST AND SECOND SERVANTS

Good! Your teaching, friend, is as sound as true religion! We'll not go. Hearken to what's doing outside. (Carriages are heard moving. Servants go to the window and look down.) Lord, there's the Duchess getting in. Now the Mistress of the Wardrobe; now the Ladies of the Palace; now the Prefects; now the Doctors. What a time it takes! There are near a dozen berlines, as I am a patriot! Those other carriages bear treasure. How quiet the people are! It is like a funeral procession. Not a tongue cheers her!

THIRD SERVANT

Now there will be a nice convenient time for a little good victuals and drink, and likewise pickings, before the Allies arrive, thank Mother Molly!

(From a distant part of the city bands are heard playing military marches. Guns next resound. Another servant rushes in.)


FOURTH SERVANT

Montmartre is being stormed, and bombs are falling in the Chaussee d'Antin!

(Exit fourth servant.)


THIRD SERVANT (pulling something from his hat)

Then it is time for me to gird my armour on.


SECOND SERVANT

What hast there?

(Third servant holds up a crumpled white cockade and sticks it in his hair. The firing gets louder.)


FIRST AND SECOND SERVANTS

Hast got another?


THIRD SERVANT (pulling out more)

Ay--here they are; at a price.

(The others purchase cockades of third servant. A military march is again heard. Re-enter fourth servant.)


FOURTH SERVANT

The city has capitulated! The Allied sovereigns, so it is said, will enter in grand procession to-morrow: the Prussian cavalry first, then the Austrian foot, then the Russian and Prussian foot, then the Russian horse and artillery. And to cap all, the people of Paris are glad of the change. They have put a rope round the neck of the statue of Napoleon on the column of the Grand Army, and are amusing themselves with twitching it and crying "Strangle the Tyrant!"


SECOND SERVANT

Well, well! There's rich colours in this kaleidoscopic world!


THIRD SERVANT

And there's comedy in all things--when they don't concern you. Another glorious time among the many we've had since eighty-nine. We have put our armour on none too soon. The Bourbons for ever!

(He leaves, followed by first and second servants.)


FOURTH SERVANT

My faith, I think I'll turn Englishman in my older years, where there's not these trying changes in the Constitution!

(Follows the others. The Allies military march waxes louder as the scene shuts.)

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