Olive Tilford Dargan.

Semiramis, and other plays online

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thou vouchsafe thy visions to these eyes, then fill them
with cold clay? Pour to these ears thine own philosophies,
then send the crawling worm to pluck their treasure out?
(Falls to chair. Enter Mrs. Schmidt)

Mrs. S. (Holding out letter) Here it is, sir.

Poe. (Rousing) What, Smidgkin?

Mrs. S. The letter's come, sir.

Poe. Thank you. (Takes letter. Mrs. Schmidt waits expectantly)
If you will be so good, Smidgkin - I mean if you will be so
cruel as to bereave me of your presence while I break this
very personal seal - very personal, I assure you -

Mrs. S. No, sir. I stay to see what's inside o' that!

Poe. Since you desire it, madam. (Starts to open letter and
hesitates) I - hope you are well, my good Smidgkin.

Mrs. S. Always am. Hadn't you better see what's in it?

Poe. To be sure.... I hope you have a good fire in your room
this chilly weather, Smidgkin.

Mrs. S. Always do. I'll break it for you, Mr. Poe.

Poe. O, no, no! I couldn't think of troubling you. The rain
beats very heavily. I hope your-er-roof will not be
injured.

Mrs. S. Law me, I had every leaf tinkered up them sunny days
last week. I believe in preparin' for a rainy day, _I_ do,
Mr. Poe.

Poe. Indeed, yes, - if only we were all so wise, but, alas, my
dear Smidgkin, some of us build so high that the angels
have to come down and tinker our roofs ... and when they
won't, Smidgkin ... when they won't (Lays letter on the
table) ... I hope you have no errands to take you from
your cheerful fireside in weather like this, Mrs.
Smidgkin.

Mrs. S. My name is Schmidt, Mr. Poe.

Poe. Pardon me, madam.

Mrs. S. Air you a goin' to open that letter or air you not?

Poe. Why, good woman, to be sure I am. I did not know you were
particularly interested. Excuse me. Here goes - and God
mend the devil's work. (Opens letter and reads) 'I have
talked with Brackett - ' Brackett! (Drops letter and sits
dumb)

Mrs. S. He sent you the ten dollars, hey? Where is it, hey?
Seems to me that's white paper with mighty few marks on
it! Not much like a ten dollar bill! Where is it, I say?
Lost in the mailbags, I reckon! It will come by next post!
You're certain - quite certain, Smidgkin! I tell you, Mr.
Poe, this is once too often!

Poe. A bare, unfurnished room like this -

Mrs. S. Is worth just a dollar a week to me, which is exactly a
dollar more than you can pay!

Poe. Mrs. Smidgkin, there is a legend in the world that pity
never wholly leaves the breast of woman.

Mrs. S. Shame to your tongue, Mr. Poe, that says I haven't been
as kind to you as your own mother - sister! Haven't you had
this room nigh to a month since I've seen a cent for it?
Didn't I give you stale bread a whole week, an' coffee a
Sunday mornin'? An' you dare say I'm not a Christian,
merciful woman? You come out o' here, or I'll put hands on
you, I will!

Poe. Mrs. Smidgkin, Mrs. Smidgkin, are you aware that the rain
pours outside like the tears of the Danaides on their
wedding night? And speaking of weddings, Smidgkin -

Mrs. S. Schmidt! As you'll find on my good man's tombstone, an'
some day on my own, bless God!

Poe. O, don't talk so, I beg you!

Mrs. S. Why now, Mr. Poe! Law me, who'd a thought you could be
so softhearted - about a tombstone, too!

Poe. As I said, my dear madam - speaking of weddings - pray take
this chair. 'Tis all I have to offer. Gladly will I stand
before you, though I am but slightly bolstered within for
the attitude. Speak to me, madam. Let one thought fly from
thy caging brow to me a beggar vile.

Mrs. S. O, Mr. Poe!

Poe. Thanks for the burden of those syllables.

Mrs. S. My dear Mr. Poe!

Poe. Again? You overwhelm me? Dare I speak? You have suspected?
You know why I linger in this dear room - dear as the
barrier that staves off guttery death? This kindness is
sincere? I may trust it and speak?

Mrs. S. You may, Mr. Poe.

Poe. Well then, sweet Smidgkin, will you open the broad gates
of genial widowhood to admit a fallen wretch to the warmth
of your bosom and hearthstone - particularly the latter?

Mrs. S. (With dignity) I presume, Mr. Poe, that I am addressed
by an offer of marriage. I have had offers before, Mr.
Poe, - one an undertaker who drove a good business, but he
looked for all the world like one of his own corpses an'
what is business says I to a woman in good circumstances
with a longin' heart? I don't mind sayin' it, Mr. Poe, a
nice lookin' man always did take my eye, an' you'll be a
pretty figure when you're plumped out a bit, indeed you
will, but your addresses of this offer is somewhat
unusual, an' if you'll give me time -

Poe. The weather, madam, will admit of no delay. Since you are
so determined, I must give up hope and seek shelter under
Jove's great canopy.

Mrs. S. O, don't go there, Mr. Poe - it's a bad place, that Canpy
house, an' I've heard Jove talked about for a vile
barkeep! I guess since you're so impetus I'll say yes to
these addresses of marriage, Mr. Poe.

Poe. Ha! ha! ha!

Mrs. S. What do you mean, Mr. Poe? My dear Eddie, I should say!

Poe. I mean, madam, that death loves a joke.

Mrs. S. O, my sweet Eddie, don't be talkin' about death. You're
so pale I don't wonder - and a'most starved out I'll
venture my word for it. But you won't know yourself in a
week. I've got the sweetest room downstairs - all in blue
an' white, with a bed three feet o' feathers, soft as a
goosebreast, I warrant, an' I'll tuck you in an' bring you
a toddy that'll warm you to your toes, it will, an' -

Poe. Ha! ha! ha! Well, why not? I seize this wretched plank or
sink with all that in me is. Men have done it. But not
Edgar Poe! Sell my soul for a broth-dish - a saucepan - a
feather-bed -

Mrs. S. O, he's out of his mind, sure he is! My sweet Eddie, he's
loved me distracted!

Poe. Can this be woman?

Mrs. S. Law me!

Poe. The sex that knew a Virginia - that knows a Helen? No!
there are men, women ... and angels!

Mrs. S. Look here, Mr. Poe, don't you mention no women 'round me!
O, Eddy, my Eddy! (Offers to caress him)

Poe. Away! You wench from Venus' kitchen! (Going) This weather
... once I could have braved it with the wildest wing that
ever flew. But now.... (coughs wretchedly)

Mrs. S. No rent an' no husband either!

Poe. Up, heart, we go! Henceforth I live by spirit-bread! Lead
me, ye unseen comrades, to immortal feasts! (Exit)

(CURTAIN)


Scene II: An hour later. A bar-room. Door in center, rear. Four
men at table, left, rear, playing cards.

Haines. Was afraid you wouldn't show up to-night, Juggy.

Juggers.
Nothing like a stormy night for a good game. Never miss
one. Rain brings me luck.

Black. Then, by Jacks, you'll have it all your way to-night. It's
pouring hogsheads. Your deal, Sharp. (They play in
silence. Poe enters, rear, walks uncertainly across the
room and takes a seat, right, front. There seems to be
life only in his eyes, their burning light revealing a
soul struggling free from a corpse. He sits unnoticed for
a short time)

Sharp. (To barkeeper) Say, Thomas, I thought this was a
gentleman's house. What's that in the corner? Looks like a
coffin might 'a' spilt it on the way to the graveyard.

Bark. (In lower tone) He's one o' these writin' fellers in hard
luck. I've let him hang around here a good deal, for he's
always quiet and gives me no show for kickin' him out. But
say the word and he goes.

Haines. Looks more like a sick man than a bum.

Sharp. Bah! He can drink till he wets his boots. I know that sort
of a face.

Bark. Never drinks anything 'round here.

Sharp. Good reason. You don't wear a charity medal.

Jug. Let him stay for luck.

Sharp. Whose luck? You're doing all the winning to-night,
Juggers. He's a Jonah for the rest of us. I want his eye
off me, I say.

Black. O, let him alone. I'd ask a burglar to have a seat in my
house a night like this - 'pon honor, I would. Play up.
(They play on)

Poe. What a noble palace is here! How the gleaming vault
reaches to heaven and mocks the stars! What resplendent
lights! As though the master had taken burning planets for
his candles! How far they throw their beams - around the
world and into the nether sea!

Jug. (To Haines, who is looking at Poe) Mind your play there,
Haines.

Poe. I know this place. It is the poet's house of dream that
all my life I've sought to reach. I am dying now, and they
let me in, because I have been true to them. The master
will read it in my face. I have not eaten of the
flesh-pots! I have beggared my body, but I have not
beggared my soul!

Sharp. Curse it, Juggers! It's yours again!

Haines. Take your medicine, Sharp. A man must know how to lose
as well as win.

Poe. Yonder is the master, arrayed all in white and gold and
sapphire. Those angels that attend him are poets wrapped
in fires of love. They talk about me now, and ask if I am
worthy to come in. O, I have loved ye well, immortal dead!
Through noons that burnt the world I've tracked your dewy
shadows! No day died in my eyes but ye were whispering
priests! And midnight stars have learned your names of me!

Sharp. (Throwing down cards) It's that hoodoo in the corner!

Poe. How wonderful their voices! They speak a strange language,
but I can interpret it.

Sharp. I'll not play another card until he goes!

Poe. He says that by the trembling of the planet-lights an
earth-soul come this way. He sees me!

Black. Well, by Jacks, I've got a dollar for his supper and bed.

Poe. He says that 'tis a strange creature carrying a burning
brand in his bosom.

Sharp. You can afford to be a fool. You've helped Juggers rake
in.

Poe. Not a brand, he says, but an immortal star.

Sharp. Thomas, set that oil painting outside, will you?

Poe. They ask the master if they may come to meet me.
(Barkeeper approaches Poe) Ah, the master comes himself,
for I am one of the chosen.

Barkeeper.
Get out o' this!

Poe. (Rising slowly) Thou mighty one, thy servant hears thee!

Bark. Eh?

Poe. I'll be the humblest round thy throne.

Bark. Look here, I was a little soft about you, but now you just
shove along!

Poe. I beg your pardon, - may I ask the name of this planet?

Bark. Eh?

Poe. Is it - the earth?

Bark. (Shaking him) None o' your squibs!

Poe. (Recognizing and throwing him off with momentary strength)
Do not touch me, George Thomas. I will go.

Black. (Flinging him a piece of silver, which falls to the floor)
There's a bed for you.

Poe. I dare not touch it, sir, lest I be infected, for the
angels who look upon us know that I shall be in health
when fever shall sit on your bones and agues make their
bed in your marrow!

Jug. A gentleman can't stand that jaw. Kick him out, Thomas, or
I will.

Poe. Do not touch me! You walking clay! who button your coats
about three meals a day and think you have belted in the
universe! Go listen to the sea lapping rock and bone to
her oblivious mill, and know your hearts shall sleep as
sand within her shells! By the dead worlds that drift in
yonder void, and long have sung the swan-song of their
deities, this too shall pass, and ere it passes flesh
shall learn its impotence! Grey stalkers from the past
shall clutch the throat of days! All wrongs shall rise and
gather their revenge! And man -

Sharp. Here you crazy Tom! That's just enough!

(Tries to take hold of Poe)

Poe. Off! See what I see! The Conqueror Worm! Fold on fold the
red-fanged monster creeps! Look! your doom, ye swine with
sodden eyes fast shut against sublimities! Ye -

Jug. (Taking Poe by the throat) I'll stop your croaking!

(Haines and Black pull Juggers from Poe, who falls to seat
utterly exhausted)

Haines. Can't you keep your hands off a sick man?

Jug. Sick! He's the devil!

Haines. Then you might as well make his acquaintance.

Poe. 'Tis here ... death ... and all is yet to say. O, I have
chattered as a babe! Now, I could speak, and dust is in my
mouth!... Helen, you told me to be content with the
letters.... I have tried to read ... to steal God's book.
He has punished ... but death pays my bond. Soon I shall
read with His eyes and be at peace. Peace! (Gives a dying
shudder) Nevermore!... (Rises, staggers to door and opens
it wide) O, Night, with thy minstrel winds, blow gently on
me dead ... for I have been thy lover! (Looks back at the
men who are gazing at him intently, and speaks lowly,
erect and godlike) In His own image created He man!...
(Turns and steps into the darkness.)

(CURTAIN)







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