Olive Tilford Dargan.

Semiramis, and other plays online

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Mrs. C. (Bewildered) Are you mad, Edgar?

Poe. No. Sane at last. I have been mad until now. I have drunk
loneliness and death. Here I breathe, grateful, glad as a
flower! My breast swells and falls as a bird's throat with
happy song! O, aunt, help me to accept this fair new
life - the only real life! Do not drive me back to gloom
and the devils! Give me your Virginia!

Mrs. C. A child, Edgar! A child!

Poe. To you - only to you. She has her full dower of
beauty - womanhood's portion.

Mrs. C. She has a right to her education. I can not wrong my
child.

Poe. I will teach her - teach her more than she will ever learn
at the great mess table of knowledge where the genius must
take his treacle and the blacksmith his ambrosia! O, aunt,
you will give her to me?

Mrs. C. Edgar, I love you dearly, - but - my little girl - my
Virginia -

Poe. (Bitterly) There is a difference then. She is yours, I am
not.

Mrs. C. Do not be cruel. I am a distracted mother!

Poe. My dear aunt!

(Virginia runs into yard and flings her arms about her
mother)

Vir. O, mama, uncle had to stop at Judge Carroll's and they got
into an argument and Mrs. Carroll said they would be at it
for hours - she knew by the way the judge was filling his
pipe - and told me to run back if I wanted to - Mama! Edgar!
What is the matter?

Mrs. C. Edgar does not want you to leave home, dear.

Poe. Tell her all, aunt. (Mrs. Clemm is silent. Poe takes
Virginia's hand)

Poe. Virginia, you who have the face of a houri, the form of a
sylph, and the heart of an angel, will you be my wife?

Mrs. C. Edgar!

Poe. My gentle one, can I not teach you to love me?

Vir. Teach me? Ah, I love you now, Edgar!

Mrs. C. Virginia!

Vir. I do! I do, mama! And oh, what happiness beyond my
dream - to be - his wife!

(Poe embraces her gently and draws her toward the garden,
right. They go out slowly. Mrs. Clemm turns toward the
cottage, weeping. At the step she hesitates, looks toward
the garden, and slowly goes after them, murmuring
distractedly)

Zu. (Who has observed the scene with growing horror) Fo' de
Lawd, fo' de Lawd, bless dem two babies! O, de signs am
all wrong! Miss Babylam' came back when she done start
away! An' Freddy bird hop right on my ol' wool dis
mawnin', kase why, he want tell me sumpin gwine happen to
Babylam'. An', oh, dis po' ol' niggah is kilt, kase dis is
de day Miss Babylam's fadder done die! De missus she go
'bout cryin' dis mawnin, an' I allus 'member she do dat
dis bery day! Wha' make Mars Nelson come fo' Babylam'? O,
fo de Lawd, fo de Lawd! (Tat and Bony stare at their
mother in terror as she proceeds) I see de black hawk what
flies outen de dead swamp! Ooo! I see knives a drippin'
an' guns a poppin'! Oooooooo! I see de coffin, de
coffin - an' it's all dark night, an' de rain comin' down
de chimney - an' de wind - de wind - it say "Ooooooooooo!"
(Bends her knees and body, and stares moaning. Tat and
Bony cling to her skirts. She turns on them with a scream,
at which they tumble to the ground) Wha' yo' doin' heah,
yo' black no 'count niggahs?

(Enter from the gate the old minister, Doctor Barlow)

Doctor B.
Good morning, Mum Zurie. You seem to be agitated. Can
I help you?

Zu. Lawd, no! beg yo' pahdon, sah! I's jes so mighty tickled!
Dese heah two niggahs so comicky like! Lawd, no, I wasn't
alligated at all, beg yo' pahdon, sah!

Doctor B.
I'm glad to hear it, Zurie. Is your mistress at home?

Zu. Yes, sah. Dey all be in de gahden.

Doctor B.
I'll just take a walk in there then.

(Exit, right)

Zu. Wha' make me le'm go in de gahden? My brain it jes all
wool and no sense at all! Wha' now he fin' Mars Edgah
kissin' Miss Babylam'? Well, ain't dey gwine ter be
married? Married! O, lawd! (Throws her apron over her head
and sits on the ground. Re-enter Mrs. Clemm and Doctor
Barlow. He carries his hat in one hand and mops his brow
with the other)

Doctor B.
Well, well, well! Upon my word! Your nephew - pardon
me - is possessed of a rather impetuous spirit - rather
impetuous, pardon me!

Mrs. C. O, Doctor Barlow, what must I do? You heard him! He
wants to be married now - this hour!

Doctor B.
Trust me, Mrs. Clemm, I shall perform no ceremony
without your full consent.

Mrs. C. O, I am sure of that! But must I consent? If I refuse
him he may take her away from me. And Nelson will make
trouble if we wait. Edgar will let no one oppose him.

Doctor B.
_I_ should not attempt it, Mrs. Clemm.

Mrs. C. If it _is_ to be, it is better to let it be now. What
makes me so helpless is the fact that Virginia is against
me. She loves him.

Doctor B.
Naturally, Mrs. Clemm, naturally.

(They enter the cottage)

Zu. Wha' dat man talk so now? He better quit preachin' ef he
can't hep folks no more 'n dat! Sho', ol' Zurie hussef
know dat much!

(Enter from the road a swarm of girls. They wear graceful
organdie gowns, and large ricestraw hats trimmed with bows
and streamers. Some carry baskets, which they drop, and
all troop about the yard)

Gertrude.
Where's Virginia, Mum Zurie?

Zu. (Hesitating) She wa' in de house 'bout so long ago.

Ger. I'll see!

Zu. Wait a minute! Mis' Clemm she an' de minister talkin' on
impo'tant business. Maybe it's dat mortgage, I dunno!
(Grimaces)

Ger. We'll go into the garden then. (All start, right)

Zu. Law, you jes oughter see dat cherry tree hangin' full by
de back gate!

Girls. O! O! O! (They rush off, disappearing behind the cottage.
Re-enter Poe and Virginia from the garden as Mrs. Clemm
appears at the front door)

Vir. O, 'tis too sweet to be true! How have I won you, Edgar?

Poe. By beauty, that speaks loudest when most silent. (Mrs.
Clemm meets them) God bless you, aunt. I see 'yes' in your
eyes. You could not deny me.

Mrs. C. No.

Poe. Run, Virginia, and put on your fairy's dress! I want you
to look as if you were leaping out of a flower into my
heart! (Virginia goes in) O this beautiful world! Just to
live, my aunt! Is it not enough? Literature is disease!
The sick-robe of the soul! Who can write that does not
_live_ - and who that _lives_ would write! But I must do
it - I must work for her. Not a wind shall blow upon my
Virginia! I will find the fairy paths for her feet! Not a
satyr shall leer from the wood! She will be ready soon. I
shall wait for her in the orchard. I would not see her
again until she is mine - all mine!

(Exit, left, singing)

'Come, Apollo's pipes are merry - '

(Mrs. Clemm goes in)

Zu. (Rising) I don' reckon it make no difference 'bout dis
heah bush now! (Goes to side door and sits on step
disconsolately. The girls come running back)

Mabel. Here's the finest cherry on the tree for the prettiest
mouth! Open, who gets it! (Girls open their mouths. Mabel
eats cherry)

Gertrude.
O, vanity!

Mab. No, I just took it for Virginia.

Annie. Let's play _Ant'ny Over_ while we're waiting! Where's a
ball? Bony, get a ball!

Bony. Can't do it, missis! Y'all los' it las' time yo's all
here!

Dora. _Marlow Bright_ then! Half with me and half with Mabel!
(Girls divide, the two companies taking opposite bases
some distance apart)

Dora. Marlow, marlow, marlow bright!
How many miles to the old turnpike?

Mab. Three score and ten!

Dora. Can we get there by candle light?

Mab. Yes, if your toes are tripping light!

Dora. Any robbers on the way?

Mab. Three blind witches, so they say,
And Robin Hood with all his _men_!

(With the last word the girls exchange bases, the
travellers, with Dora, trying to reach the opposite
base without being caught by the robbers with Mabel.
Virginia comes to the door of cottage)

Annie. There's Virginia! (Girls stop playing as Virginia joins
them)

Gert. How pretty you look!

Mab. You're a _real_ nymph!

Annie. Come, let's be off now! (Picks up a basket)

Vir. Girls - I - there isn't going to be any picnic.

Girls. No picnic!

Vir. But a wedding.

Girls. A wedding! Where? Where?

Vir. Right here - under the bay tree.

Girls. Who? Who?

Vir. Why - cousin Edgar - and -

Girls. You! you! (All talk at once in excited babble. Virginia
breaks from them and runs into the house. Girls keep
tumultuous talk partly distinguishable)

Gert. He's so handsome!

Sallie. He's a prince!

Annie. Too young to be married!

Ethel. He's twenty!

Gladys. Older!

Mab. No!

Mamie. Virginia is a baby!

Alma. She's taller than any of us!

Annie. But younger!

Sallie. Yonder's Allie Kirby!

Mamie. Won't she be surprised! I wasn't one bit!

Annie. Nor I!

Other Girls.
Nor I! Nor I!

Ethel. I'll tell her!

Annie. No, let me!

Other Girls.
I will! I will!

(As Allie enters all the girls rush to her and talk at
once, trying to tell her the news. Mrs. Clemm and Virginia
come out of the house and join them)

Mrs. C. My little yard never held so many flowers before.

Allie. Is it true, Mrs. Clemm?

Annie. Of course it is! But you're not going to let him take her
away from us!

Mrs. C. No, my dears. She will be one of you still.

Vir. Where is Edgar?

Bony. 'Deed, he wah in de orchard 'bout two drecklys ago.

Vir. He doesn't know I'm ready. I'll go tell him!

Girls. Do! do!

Mrs. C. Daughter!

Girls. Do let her go, Mrs. Clemm!

Mab. We'll all go! What fun!

Gert. We'll play 'hunt the bridegroom!'

(Girls run off, disappearing in various directions)

Mrs. C. What will Doctor Barlow think? (Goes in. Allie, the last
of the girls, pauses as she passes to the side door where
Zurie is sitting)

Allie. Why, Mum Zurie, you look as if Miss Virginia were going to
be buried instead of married.

Zu. (Jumping at the word 'buried') Sho' now, can't Zurie hab
de toothache wheneber she please, missus?

Allie. Toothache? O, I'm sorry, Mum Zurie.

Zu. Mars Edgah he's a mighty fine young man! Yo' won't see no
sech grow up roun' _heah_!

Allie. But what a pity he isn't rich!

Zu. Rich? Wha' fo' Mars Edgah want to be rich? All he got to
do is jes scribble, scribble on a piece o' papah, an' de
gol' come rollin' down de chimney! Rich! Yo' better say
yo' prayers yo' get a Mars Edgah too!

Allie. I'll get you to pray for me, Mum Zurie.

(Runs away laughing)

Zu. Wha' fo' now she say I look lak Miss Babylam' gwine ter be
buried? O, de good Lawd hep ol' Zurie!

(Goes in. Enter Poe, left. He is moody and disturbed)

Poe. I feel it - a wind from out that solitude. It calls me back
... it calls me back....

Vir. (Without, calling) Edgar!

Poe. Sweet voice from the fields of the sun! (Prays) Jehovah,
guide thou me! (Virginia peers around a shrub) Who could
lock life's door on such a face? It is God's gift. I take
it. (Virginia comes to him slowly. He takes her in his
arms. Mrs. Clemm and the minister come out of the house
and pause on the steps looking at them. The girls come
rushing back laughing and shouting, and at sight of Poe
and Virginia become suddenly silent)

(CURTAIN)




ACT III.


Scene I: Interior of Clemm cottage. A large room simply furnished.
Low fire burning in fireplace. Poe at table writing. Suddenly
drops pen and picks up two letters)

Poe. I must destroy these. She must not know.... My wife....
(drops letters absentmindedly) ... Married. Married? What
spirit so subtly fine can mingle here?... Back, back, ye
troops of devils damned or angels blest - I know not which
to call ye - summoning me to those lone regions of the mind
where none may follow! None?... Helen could tread those
airy worlds with me!... Helen!... Far, far as zenith stars
that ride the blue meridian thou art, and I, deep, deep,
to nadir sink! (Drops his head to the table)

Virginia. (Without) Edgar! (He lifts his head smiling as she
enters)

Vir. (Holding out a book) O, I know the alphabet! I can say it
all! (Gives him the book) Watch now, and see if I make a
mistake!

Edgar. (Smiling.) I'll hardly need the book, dear.

Vir. (Pouting.) O, I forget that you know everything!

Poe. Not everything. (Taking her face between his hands as she
sits on his knee, the book falling at their feet) I do not
know how to be happy when this beautiful face is gone. My
wife is the fairest lady in all the world.

Vir. Then what does it matter about this old Greek, Edgar?
(Touching book with her foot)

Poe. Just this. You can not always be young and beautiful, and
when you are no longer the fairest I want you to be the
wisest.

Vir. And if I am you will love me always?

Poe. Always.

Vir. Give me the book! (Picks it up) O, I will eat Greek! I
will breakfast with the heroes, dine with the bards, and
sup with the gods! But what a pity one must begin with the
alphabet to end with - what were those lovely lines I found
in your book yesterday?

And Helen on the walls rose like a star,
And every Trojan said 'she's worth our blood,'
And every Greek ploughed new his way to her -

Go on, Edgar! I'm sure you know them!

(As she repeats the lines he presses her head to his
shoulder and puts his hand over her eyes. His face is full
of agony, but there is only sweetness in his voice.)

Poe. Not now, my little wife. Some other time.

Vir. Helen is such a beautiful name. I wish I had been named
Helen.

Poe. Thank God you are not!

Vir. (Looking up hastily) Why -

Poe. I mean that I want you to be just as you are - my
Virginia - nothing else!

Vir. (Seeing he is troubled) I am keeping you from your work.
You should have sent me away. I'll be angry with you,
Edgar, if you let me disturb you. Now I'm going to find
the last rose of summer for you.

Poe. But you haven't said your lesson.

Vir. O! (begins) Alpha, beta, - now if I say them right you are
to give me a kiss for reward!

Poe. And if you miss one, I'll give you a kiss for
encouragement.

Vir. (Seeing letter) O, a letter from New York! You've made me
your secretary, you know, and of course I must read your
letters! (Picks it up and glances at it) He says Mr.
Willis will certainly give you a place on his paper.
(Drops letter and looks at him quietly) It is your chance
for fortune.

Poe. I am not going, love.

Vir. If you go now it means success, if you wait failure.

Poe. I shall not go, Virginia.

Vir. If you were not married you would go.

Poe. Then I am glad I can not go.

Vir. But you _can_ go, Edgar.

Poe. My darling, I will never take you away from your mocking
birds and roses. Don't you think any more about it. Run
away now and find me a flower. You will have to look sharp
under the leaves, for the wind is whistling to-day. Our
little sham winter has begun to bluster. (Exit Virginia)
She shall not suffer. She shall not! Though my heart
surges like a prisoned sea hers shall not move her bosom's
alabaster!... Why didn't I burn that letter. (Throws it
into the fire. Take up the other one) I must keep the
lawyer's. I shall need it. (Puts it in his pocket) Now
work - work - work - (Resumes writing) '_The Kingdom of the
Sun is peopled with beings whose distinguishing attribute
is color instead of form as with us. This color varies
with each thought of the spirit that it invests, and also
with the eye that beholds it. There is no need to pellet
the ear with rude words, for the most refined meanings and
emotions are conveyed by these subtle variations of color
coming and going like breathing light. Were - _' (Enter
Mrs. Clemm)

Mrs. C. Edgar, dear, your breakfast has been waiting two hours.

Poe. O, thank you, aunt. Don't trouble about me this morning. I
shall want nothing.

Mrs. C. But, Edgar, my son, I must speak. You do not sleep and
eat as people should who wish to live long for those who
love them.

Poe. Dear aunt, pray - we'll talk about it some other time. I
_must_ work now!

Mrs. C. I am sorry to disturb you, love, but there is one question
I must ask you. Have you heard from the lawyer? (Poe is
silent) A letter came. I thought you would tell me, and
not force me to ask about what I must know. Is the place
sold?

Poe. No.

Mrs. C. But it will be? We must lose our home?

Poe. No, darling mother! I am going to pay off everything! This
very article I am writing will bring me fame if I finish
it. So please help me by not worrying one bit, and don't
let our Virginia suspect anything.

Mrs. C. It would kill her! O, Edgar, I have been wanting to tell
you how grateful I am to you for your gentleness to her.
Though she looks so strong, she has been frail from her
birth. I know that she must die early. I ought to have
told you - that day - but I could think of nothing. You will
forgive me, Edgar? She is such a child. I wonder at your
patience. But you will never be impatient with her, Edgar?

Poe. If I am, may God that moment end my villain's life! Go
now, sweet mother, for I must work, and remember that you
are to be troubled about nothing. (Exit Mrs. Clemm, right,
rear) Goodbye, Art! Thou pure chrystalline dream! I must
turn my brain into a mint and coin money! O, Poesy, thou
only divine mistress given to man, some day I will return
to thee! (Writes) '_Were zephyrs made visible by means of
ever changing hues - _' (Bony and Tat rush into the room.
Poe glares at them with a face of fury. They turn to fly
panic-stricken. Tat trips on a chair and lies moaning. Poe
goes to her)

Poe. (Gently) Are you hurt, Tatsy?

Bony. (At door, turning back, suddenly impudent at sound of
Poe's softened voice) She jes sullin', Mars Edgah. She
play possum like dat wid me!

Poe. Get out, you little imp! (Bony vanishes) Where are you
hurt, Tatsy? (She moans bitterly) Poor little girl! Her
foot is twisted. A sprain perhaps. (Picks her up and
carries her to sofa) Never mind! I've got a fairy in a
bottle will cure that in a jiffy. Just rub it on, and ho,
Tatsy is well again!

(Enter Zurie, Bony clinging to her)

Zu. Wha' my chile? Lawdy God, my chile sho' 'nuf hurt! (Goes
to Tatsy)

Poe. It's the foot, Zurie. Be careful!

Zu. Yas, I's seen dat foot befoh! (Gives foot a yank) Dat's
her ol' trick, Mars Edgah. She jes foolin' yo'! Don' yo'
be so soft hearted next time. Yo' jes take her by de back
ob de neck and wring her head off!

Poe. I certainly will!

(Exit Zurie, drawing Tat. Poe goes back to his work.
Groans, and looks with desperation at his manuscript)

Poe. O, if this eludes me! I must not lose it now! (Writes)
'_In this Kingdom of the Sun there is a central creating
light that plays upon these color-beings with its own
transmuting - _'

(Re-enter Mrs. Clemm, bearing a tray)

Mrs. C. My dear, I've brought you some toast and an egg.

Poe. (Jumping up and staring at her) They don't eat toast and
eggs in the Kingdom of the Sun!

Mrs. C. Edgar!

Poe. Forgive me! It's just something I'm writing here. But for
God's sake take the stuff away!

(Mrs. Clemm turns to go, the tray trembling in her hands.
Poe runs to her and kisses her) You sweetest and best of
mothers, don't you see that if I eat this I'll spend the
next two hours digesting toast and eggs, and if I don't
eat it I'll be making our fortune, putting a roof over our
heads, and keeping our Virginia happy!

Mrs. C. I only meant to be kind, Edgar.

Poe. I know you did, and you're my darling mother, - but don't
be kind any more.

(Exit Mrs. Clemm. Poe sits despairingly at table. Enter
Ethel and Annie)

Eth. O, Edgar, where is Virginia? We want her to go nutting
with us.

Annie. We shall have her now! You shan't keep her all to yourself
just because you've married her!

Poe. Take her by all means!

Eth. You needn't be vicious about it. Where is she?

Poe. I don't know, - and pardon if I say that just at this
moment I don't care!

(Gathers up papers and goes toward stairway in corner of
room)

Annie. You needn't run from us. I'm sure we're glad to go. I'll
find Virginia.

Eth. And I'll write that note to Gladys while you're gone.
(Seats herself in Poe's chair. Exit Annie, left, rear)
Come back, if you want to, Edgar. You won't disturb me at
all. (Writes. Poe pauses on stairway and looks at her.
Ethel lifts her eyes) You needn't look so far to see me.
I'm not the North Pole! What _are_ you thinking of, Edgar?

Poe. Of what Anacreon said to a fly that lighted on his brow
when he was composing an ode to Venus.

Ethel. O! What was it?

Poe. Away, thou rude and slight impertinence,
That with thy puny and detested bill
Dost think to feed on immortality.

(Goes upstairs)

Ethel. Beast! (Writes) Virginia spoils him. If I had him now I'd
soon make a nice comfortable husband out of him!... An
envelope?... Yes.... (Takes one) Stamp?... Yes.... (Takes
one) I'll get Bony to mail this for me.

(Exit, right, rear. Poe comes down stairway)

Poe. Gone? Deliverance! It's too chilly for work upstairs.
(Coughs) What shall I do here this winter with only one
comfortable room in the house? Keep warm by the fire in my
brain, I suppose. (Sits and writes. Virginia is heard
without, humming a song. She enters, left, front, with a
rose in her hand)

Vir. Darling, I found it deep under the leaves - Oh! (Starts out
softly. Poe writes on without looking up. At the door she
turns and throws the rose towards him. It falls onto the
table and upsets ink over papers)

Poe. (Leaping up) By every fiend in hell!


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Online LibraryOlive Tilford DarganSemiramis, and other plays → online text (page 14 of 17)