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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 6. A Highway In The Outskirts Of Avignon
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 6. A Highway In The Outskirts Of Avignon Post by :mlm46 Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :1838

Click below to download : The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 6. A Highway In The Outskirts Of Avignon (Format : PDF)

The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 4 - Scene 6. A Highway In The Outskirts Of Avignon

PART THIRD. ACT FOURTH. SCENE VI.

(The Rhone, the old city walls, the Rocher des Doms and its edifices, appear at the back plane of the scene under the grey light of dawn. In the foreground several postillions and ostlers with relays of horses are waiting by the roadside, gazing northward and listening for sounds. A few loungers have assembled.)

FIRST POSTILLION

He ought to be nigh by this time. I should say he'd be very glad to get this here Isle of Elba, wherever it may be, if words be true that he's treated to such ghastly compliments on's way!

SECOND POSTILLION

Blast-me-blue, I don't care what happens to him! Look at Joachim Murat, him that's made King of Naples; a man who was only in the same line of life as ourselves, born and bred in Cahors, out in Perigord, a poor little whindling place not half as good as our own. Why should he have been lifted up to king's anointment, and we not even have had a rise in wages? That's what I say.


FIRST POSTILLION

But now, I don't find fault with that dispensation in particular. It was one of our calling that the Emperor so honoured, after all, when he might have anointed a tinker, or a ragman, or a street woman's pensioner even. Who knows but that we should have been king's too, but for my crooked legs and your running pole-wound?

SECOND POSTILLION

We kings? Kings of the underground country, then, by this time, if we hadn't been too rotten-fleshed to follow the drum. However, I'll think over your defence, and I don't mind riding a stage with him, for that matter, to save him from them that mean mischief here. I've lost no sons by his battles, like some others we know.

(Enter a TRAVELLER on horseback.)

Any tidings along the road, sir of the Emperor Napoleon that was?

TRAVELLER

Tidings verily! He and his escort are threatened by the mob at every place they come to. A returning courier I have met tells me that at an inn a little way beyond here they have strung up his effigy to the sign-post, smeared it with blood, and placarded it "The Doom that awaits Thee!" He is much delayed by such humorous insults. I have hastened ahead to escape the uproar.


SECOND POSTILLION

I don't know that you have escaped it. The mob has been waiting up all night for him here.


MARKET-WOMAN (coming up)

I hope by the Virgin, as 'a called herself, that there'll be no riots here! Though I have not much pity for a man who could treat his wife as he did, and that's my real feeling. He might at least have kept them both on, for half a husband is better than none for poor women. But I'd show mercy to him, that's true, rather than have my stall upset, and messes in the streets wi' folks' brains, and stabbings, and I don't know what all!

FIRST POSTILLION

If we can do the horsing quietly out here, there will be none of that. He'll dash past the town without stopping at the inn where they expect to waylay him.--Hark, what's this coming?

(An approaching cortege is heard. Two couriers enter; then a carriage with NAPOLEON and BERTRAND; then others with the Commissioners of the Powers,--all on the way to Elba.

The carriages halt, and the change of horses is set about instantly. But before it is half completed BONAPARTE'S arrival gets known, and throngs of men and women armed with sticks and hammers rush out of Avignon and surround the carriages.)


POPULACE

Ogre of Corsica! Odious tyrant! Down with Nicholas!


BERTRAND (looking out of carriage)

Silence, and doff your hats, you ill-mannered devils!


POPULACE (scornfully)

Listen to him! Is that the Corsican? No; where is he? Give him up; give him up! We'll pitch him into the Rhone!

(Some cling to the wheels of NAPOLEON'S carriage, while others, more distant, throw stones at it. A stone breaks the carriage window.)


OLD WOMAN (shaking her fist)

Give me back my two sons, murderer! Give me back my children, whose flesh is rotting on the Russian plains!


POPULACE

Ay; give us back our kin--our fathers, our brothers, our sons--victims to your curst ambition!

(One of the mob seizes the carriage door-handle and tries to unfasten it. A valet of BONAPARTE'S seated on the box draws his sword and threatens to cut the man's arm off. The doors of the Commissioners' coaches open, and SIR NEIL CAMPBELL, GENERAL
KOLLER, and COUNT SCHUVALOFF--The English, Austrian, and Russian Commissioners--jump out and come forward.)


CAMPBELL

Keep order, citizens! Do you not know
That the ex-Emperor is wayfaring
To a lone isle, in the Allies' sworn care,
Who have given a pledge to Europe for his safety?
His fangs being drawn, he is left powerless now
To do you further harm.


SCHUVALOFF

People of France
Can you insult so miserable a being?
He who gave laws to a cowed world stands now
At that world's beck, and asks its charity.
Cannot you see that merely to ignore him
Is the worst ignominy to tar him with,
By showing him he's no longer dangerous?


OLD WOMAN

How do we know the villain mayn't come back?
While there is life, my faith, there's mischief in him!

(Enter an officer with the Town-guard.)


OFFICER

Citizens, I am a zealot for the Bourbons,
As you well know. But wanton breach of faith
I will not brook. Retire!

(The soldiers drive back the mob and open a passage forward. The Commissioners re-enter their carriages. NAPOLEON puts his head out of his window for a moment. He is haggard, shabbily dressed, yellow-faced, and wild-eyed.)


NAPOLEON

I thank you, captain;
Also your soldiery: a thousand thanks!
(To Bertrand within) My God, these people of Avignon here
Are headstrong fools, like all the Provencal fold,
--I won't go through the town!


BERTRAND

We'll round it, sire;
And then, as soon as we get past the place,
You must disguise for the remainder miles.


NAPOLEON

I'll mount the white cockade if they invite me!
What does it matter if I do or don't?
In Europe all is past and over with me. . . .
Yes--all is lost in Europe for me now!


BERTRAND

I fear so, sire.


NAPOLEON (after some moments)

But Asia waits a man,
And--who can tell?


OFFICER OF GUARD (to postillions)

Ahead now at full speed,
And slacken not till you have slipped the town.

(The postillions urge the horses to a gallop, and the carriages are out of sight in a few seconds. The scene shuts.)

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