Chantecler: Play in Four Acts by Rostand, Edmond
Play in Four Acts By EDMOND ROSTAND
Translated By GERTRUDE HALL
CHANTECLER PATOU THE BLACKBIRD THE PEACOCK THE NIGHTINGALE THE GRAND-DUKE THE SCREECH-OWL LITTLE SCOPS THE GAME-COCK THE HUNTING DOG A CARRIER-PIGEON THE WOOD-PECKER THE TURKEY THE DUCK THE YOUNG GUINEA-COCK THE PHEASANT-HEN THE GUINEA-HEN THE OLD HEN THE WHITE HEN THE GREY HEN THE BLACK HEN THE SPECKLED HEN THE TUFTED HEN
A Gander. A Capon. Chickens. Chicks. A Cockerel. A Swan. A Cuckoo. Night-birds. Fancy Cocks. Toads. A Turkey-hen. A Goose. A Garden Warbler. A Woodland Warbler. A Spider. A Heron. A Pigeon. A Guinea-pig. Barnyard animals. Woodland Creatures. Rabbits. Birds. Bees. Cicadas. Voices.
_The customary three knocks are heard. The drop-curtain wavers and is rising, when a voice rings out, "Not yet!" and the_ MANAGER, _a gentleman of important mien in evening dress, springing from his proscenium box, hurries toward the stage, repeating, "Not yet!"_
_The curtain is again lowered. The_ MANAGER _turns toward the audience, and resting one hand on the prompter's box, addresses them:_
The curtain is a wall,--a flying wall. Assured that presently the wall will fly--why haste? Is it not charming to delay--and just look at it for a while?
Charming to sit before a great red wall, hanging beneath two gilt masks and a scroll--The thrilling moment is when the curtain thrills, and sounds come from the other side.
You are desired to-night to listen to those sounds and entering the scene before you see it, to wonder and surmise--
_Bending his ear, the_ MANAGER _listens to the sounds now beginning to come from behind the curtain._
A footstep--is it a road? A flutter of wings--is it a garden?
_The curtain here rippling as if about to rise, the_ MANAGER _precipitately shouts, "Stop!--Do not raise it yet!" Then again bending his ear, continues making note of the noises, clear or confused, single or combined, that from this onward come without stop from behind the curtain._
A magpie cawing flies away. Great wooden shoes come running over flags. A courtyard, is it?--If so above a valley--from whence that softened clamour of birds and barking dogs.
More and more clearly the scene suggests itself--Magically sound creates an atmosphere!--A sheep bell tinkles intermittently--Since there is grazing, we may look for grass.
A tree, too--a tree must rustle in the breeze, for a bullfinch warbles his little native song; and a blackbird whistling the song he has caught by ear, implies, we may presume, a wicker cage.
The rattling of a wagon run out of a shed--the dripping of a bucket drawn up overfull--the patter of doves' feet alighting on a roof--Surely it is a farmyard--unless it be a mill!
Rustling of straw, click of a wooden latch--A stable or a haymow there must be. The locust shrills: the weather then is fine.--Church-bells ring: it is Sunday then.--Chatter of jays: the woods cannot be far!
Hark! Nature with the scattered voices of a fair midsummer day is composing--in a dream!--the most mysterious of overtures--harmonised by evening distance and the wind!
And all these sounds--song of a passing girl--laughter of children jogged by the donkey trotting--faraway gun-reports and hunting-horns --these sounds describe a holiday.
A window opens, a door closes--The harness shakes its bells. Is it not plain in sight, the old farmyard?--The dog sleeps, the cat but feigns to sleep.
Sunday!--Farmer and farmer's wife are starting for the fair. The old horse paws the ground--
A ROUGH VOICE [_Behind the curtain, through the horse's pawing._] Whoa, Dapple!
ANOTHER VOICE [_As if calling to a laggard._] Come along! We shan't get home till morning!
AN IMPATIENT VOICE Are you ready?
ANOTHER VOICE Fasten the shutters!
MAN'S VOICE All right!
WOMAN'S VOICE My sunshade!
MAN'S VOICE [_Through the cracking of the whip._] Gee up!
THE MANAGER The wagon to the jingling of the harness rattles off, jolting out ditties. A turn in the road cuts off the unfinished song.--They are gone, quite gone. The performance can begin.
Some philosophers would say there was not a soul left, but we humbly believe that there are hearts. Man in leaving does not take with him all drama. One can laugh and suffer without him. [_He listens again._]
Ardently humming, a velvety bumblebee hovers--then is still; he has plunged into a flower--Let us begin. Pray note that Aesop's hump to-night does duty as prompter's box!
The members of our company are small, but--[_Calling toward the flies._] Alexander! [_To the audience._] He is my chief machinist. [_Calling again._] Let it down!
A VOICE [_From the flies._] It's coming, sir!
MANAGER We have lowered between the audience and the stage an invisible screen of magnifying glass--
But there the violins are tuning up: Scraping of crystal bows, picking of strings!--Hush! Let the footlights now leap into brightness, for at a signal from their little leader the crickets' orchestra have briskly fallen to!
Frrrt! The bumblebee emerges from the flower, shaking the yellow dust--A Hen comes on the scene as in La Fontaine's fable. A Cuckoo calls, as in Beethoven's symphony.
Hush! Let the chandelier draw in its myriad lights--for the curious call-boy of the woods has, airily, to summon us, repeated thrice his double call--
And since Nature is one of our performers, and feathered notables are on our staff--Hush! the curtain must go up: A wood-pecker's bill has rapped out the three strokes!
THE EVENING OF THE PHEASANT-HEN
_A farmyard such as the sounds from behind the curtain have described. At the right, a house over-clambered with wistaria. At the left, the farmyard gate, letting on to the road. A dog-kennel. At the back, a low wall, beyond which distant country landscape. The details of the setting define themselves in the course of the act._
_The whole barnyard company,_ HENS, CHICKENS, CHICKS, DUCKS, TURKEYS, _etc.;_ THE BLACKBIRD _in his cage_, THE CAT _asleep on the wall, later_ A BUTTERFLY _on the flowers._
THE WHITE HEN [_Pecking._] Ah! Delicious!
ANOTHER HEN What are you eating?
ALL THE HENS [_Rushing to the spot._] What's she eating?
THE WHITE HEN A small green beetle, crisp and nice, tasting of the rose-leaves he had lived on.
THE BLACK HEN [_Standing before the_ BLACKBIRD'S _cage._] Really, the Blackbird whistles amazingly!
THE WHITE HEN Any little street urchin can do as much!
THE TURKEY [_Solemnly._] An urchin who had learned of a shepherd in Sicily!
THE DUCK He never whistles his tune to the end--
THE TURKEY That's too easy, carrying it to the end! [_He hums the tune the_ BLACKBIRD _has been whistling._] "How sweet to fare afield, and cull--and cull--" You should know, Duck, that the thing in art is to leave off before the end! "And cull--and cull--" Bravo, Blackbird!
[_The_ BLACKBIRD _comes out on the little platform in front of his cage and bows._]
A CHICK [_Astonished._] Can he get out?
BLACKBIRD Applause is salt on my tail!
THE CHICK But his cage?
THE TURKEY He can come out, and he can go in again. His cage has that sort of spring.--"And cull--and cull--" The whole point is missed if you tell them what you cull!
THE BLACK HEN [_Catching sight of a_ BUTTERFLY _alighting on the flowers above the wall at the back._] Oh, what a gorgeous butterfly!
THE WHITE HEN Where?
THE BLACK HEN On the honey-suckle.
THE TURKEY That kind is called an Admiral.
THE CHICK [_Looking after the_ BUTTERFLY.] Now he has settled on a pink.
THE WHITE HEN [_To the_ TURKEY.] An Admiral, wherefore?
THE BLACKBIRD Obviously because he is neither a seaman nor a soldier.
THE WHITE HEN Our Blackbird has a pretty wit!
THE TURKEY [_Nodding and swinging his red stalactite._] He has better than wit, my dear!
ANOTHER HEN [_Watching the_ BUTTERFLY.] It's sweet--a butterfly!
THE BLACKBIRD Easy as possible to make! You take a W and set it on top of a Y!
A HEN [_Delighted._] A flourish of his bill, and there you have your caricature!
THE TURKEY He does better than execute caricatures! Hen, our Blackbird forces you to think while obliging you to laugh. He is a Teacher in wit's clothing.
A CHICK [_To a_ HEN.] Mother, why does the Cat hate the Dog?
THE BLACKBIRD Because he appropriates his seat at the theatre.
THE CHICK [_Surprised._] They have a theatre?
THE BLACKBIRD Where dumb-shows are given.
THE CHICK Eh?
THE BLACKBIRD The hearthstone from whence both alike wish to watch the play of the Fire among the Logs.
THE TURKEY [_Delighted._] How aptly he conveys that the hatred of peoples is at bottom a question of wanting the other's territory. There's a brain for you!
THE SPECKLED HEN [_To the_ WHITE HEN, _who is pecking._] Do you peck peppers?
THE WHITE HEN Constantly.
THE SPECKLED HEN How can you stand the sting?
THE WHITE HEN It imparts to the feathers a delicate rosy tint.
THE SPECKLED HEN Oh, does it!
A VOICE IN THE DISTANCE Cuckoo!
THE WHITE HEN Listen!
THE VOICE [_From a greater distance._] Cuckoo!
THE WHITE HEN The Cuckoo!
A GREY HEN [_Comes running excitedly._] Which Cuckoo? The one who lives in the woods, or the one who lives in the clock?
THE VOICE [_Still further off._] Cuckoo!
THE WHITE HEN The one of the woods.
THE GREY HEN [_With a sigh of relief._] Oh, I was so afraid of having missed the other!
THE WHITE HEN [_Going near enough to her to speak in an undertone._] Do you mean to say you love him?
THE GREY HEN [_Sadly._] Without ever having set eyes on him. He lives in a chalet hanging on the kitchen wall, above the farmer's great-coat and fowling-piece. The moment he sings, I rush to the spot, but I never get there in time to see anything but his little wicket closing. This evening I mean to stay right here beside the door--[_She takes up her position on the threshold._]
A VOICE White Hen!
THE SAME, _a_ PIGEON _on the roof, later_ CHANTECLER.
THE WHITE HEN [_Looking about with quick jerks of her head._] Who called me?
THE VOICE A pigeon.
THE WHITE HEN [_Looking for him._] Where?
THE PIGEON On the sloping roof.
THE WHITE HEN [_Lifting her head and seeing him._] Ah!
THE PIGEON Though I am the bearer of an important missive, I would not miss the opportunity--Good evening, Hen!
THE WHITE HEN Postman, howdedo?
THE PIGEON My duty on the Postal Service of the Air obliging me this summer evening to pass your habitations, I should be most happy if--
THE WHITE HEN [_Spying a crumb of some sort._] One moment, please.
ANOTHER HEN [_Running eagerly towards her._] What are you eating?
ALL THE HENS [_Arriving at a run._] What's she eating?
THE WHITE HEN A simple grain of wheat.
THE GREY HEN [_Taking up her conversation with the_ WHITE HEN.] As I was telling you, I mean to stay right on the door-step there--[_Showing the door of the house._]
THE WHITE HEN [_Looking at the door._] The door is shut.
THE GREY HEN Yes, but I shall hear the hour striking, and I will catch a look at my Cuckoo by stretching my neck,--
THE PIGEON [_Calling, slightly out of patience._] White Hen!
THE WHITE HEN One moment, please! [_To the_ GREY HEN.]--Catch a look at your Cuckoo, by stretching your neck where?--Where?
THE GREY HEN [_Pointing with her beak at the small, round opening at the foot of the door._] Through the cat-hole!
THE PIGEON [_Raising his voice to a shout._] Am I to be kept here cooling my feet on your rain-pipe? Hi, there, whitest of Hens!
THE WHITE HEN [_Hopping towards him._] You were saying?
THE PIGEON I was about to say--
THE WHITE HEN What, bluest of Pigeons?
THE PIGEON That I should consider myself past expression fortunate if--But no! I am abashed at my own boldness!--if I might be so favoured as to be permitted to get a glimpse--
THE WHITE HEN Of what?
THE PIGEON Oh, just a glimpse, the very least glimpse of--
ALL THE HENS [_Impatiently._] Of what?--What?
THE PIGEON Of his comb!
THE WHITE HEN [_Laughing, to the others._] Ha! ha! he wishes to see--
THE PIGEON [_In great excitement._] That's it! Just to see--
THE WHITE HEN There, there, cool down!
THE PIGEON I am shaking with excitement!
THE WHITE HEN You are shaking down the roof!
THE PIGEON You can't think how we admire him!
THE WHITE HEN Oh, everyone admires him!
THE PIGEON And I promised my missis to tell her what he is like!
THE WHITE HEN [_Quietly pecking._] Oh, he's a fine fellow, no doubt of that!
THE PIGEON We can hear him crowing from our dove-cote. The One he is whose song is more an ornament to the landscape than the white hamlet to the hill! The One he is whose cry pierces the blue horizon like a gold-threaded needle stitching the hill-tops to the sky! The Cock he is! When you would praise him, call him the Cock!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Hopping up and down in his cage._] Tick-tock!--who sets all hearts a-beating, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock!
A HEN Our Cock!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Thrusting his head between the bars of his cage._] My, thy, his, her, our, your, and their Cock!
THE TURKEY [_To the_ PIGEON.] He will soon be coming in from his usual round in the fields.
THE PIGEON You have the honour of his acquaintance, sir?
THE TURKEY [_Importantly._] I have known him from a baby. This chick--for to me he is still a chick!--used to come to me for his bugle lesson.
THE PIGEON Ah, indeed? You give lessons in--
THE TURKEY Certainly. A bird who can gobble is qualified to teach crowing.
THE PIGEON Where was he born?
THE TURKEY [_Indicating an old covered basket, badly battered and broken._] In that old basket.
THE PIGEON And is the hen who brooded him still living?
THE TURKEY [_Again indicating the basket._] She is there.
THE PIGEON Where?
THE TURKEY In that old basket.
THE PIGEON [_More and more interested._] Of what breed is she?
THE TURKEY She is just a good old-fashioned Gascon hen, born in the neighbourhood of Pau.
THE BLACKBIRD [_Thrusting out his head._] She is the one Henry the Fourth wished to see cooking in every Frenchman's pot!
THE PIGEON How proud she must be of having hatched such a Cock!
THE TURKEY Yes, proud with a lowly foster-mother's pride. Her beloved chick is coming to his inches, that is all she seems to understand or care about. And when you tell her this, her clouded reason gives a momentary gleam-- [_Calling towards the basket._] Hey, old lady, he is growing!
ALL THE HENS He is growing!
[_The lid of the basket is suddenly lifted, and a bristling aged hen's head appears._]
THE PIGEON [_To the_ OLD HEN, _gently and feelingly._] Does it make you happy, mother, to think of him grown to a big fine Cock?
THE OLD HEN [_Nodding, sententiously._] Happy?--Wednesday's crops do credit to Tuesday! [_She disappears, the lid drops._]
THE TURKEY She opens now and then, like that, and ping! shoots at us some such pearl of homely lore--
THE PIGEON [_To the_ WHITE HEN.] White Hen!
THE TURKEY --not always wholly without point!
THE OLD HEN [_Reappearing for an instant._] In the Peacock's absence, the Turkey spreads his tail!
[_The_ TURKEY _turns quickly around, the lid has already dropped._]
THE PIGEON [_To the_ WHITE HEN.] Is it a fact that Chantecler is never hoarse, never the very least husky?
THE WHITE HEN [_Keeping on with her pecking._] Perfectly true.
THE PIGEON [_With growing enthusiasm._] Ah, you must be proud Cock who will be numbered among Illustrious Animals and his name remembered five, ten, fifteen years!
THE TURKEY Very proud. Very proud. [_To a_ CHICK.] Who are the Illustrious Animals? Tell them off!
THE CHICK [_Reciting a lesson._] Noah's Dove--Saint Rocco's Poodle--The--the Horse of Cali--
THE TURKEY Cali--?
THE CHICK [_Trying to remember._] Cali--
THE PIGEON This Cock, now--this Cock of yours--Is it true that his song attunes, inspires, encourages, makes labour light, and keeps off birds of prey?
THE WHITE HEN [_Pecking._] Perfectly true.
THE CHICK [_Still hunting for his word._] Cali--Cali--
THE PIGEON White Hen, is it true that by his song, defender of the warm and sacred egg, he has frequently kept the lissome weasel from--
THE BLACKBIRD [_Looking out between the bars._]--messing his shirtfront with omelette?
THE WHITE HEN Perfectly true.
THE CHICK Cali--
THE TURKEY [_Helping him._] Gu?
THE CHICK Gu--
THE PIGEON Is it true--?
THE CHICK [_Jumping for joy at having found._] Gula!
THE PIGEON --true that, as report says, he has a secret for his amazing singing, a secret whereby his crow becomes the brilliant burst of red which makes the poppies of the field feel themselves contemptible imitations?
THE WHITE HEN [_Weary of this questioning._] Perfectly true.
THE PIGEON That secret, that great secret, is it known to anyone?
THE WHITE HEN No.
THE PIGEON He has not even told his Hen?
THE WHITE HEN [_Correcting him._] His Hens.
THE PIGEON [_Slightly shocked._] Ah, he has more than one?
THE BLACKBIRD He crows, remember, you only coo.
THE PIGEON Well, then, he has not even told his favourite?
THE TUFTED HEN [_Promptly._] No, he has not!
THE WHITE HEN [_As promptly._] No, he has not!
THE BLACK HEN [_As promptly._] No, he has not!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Thrusting out his head._] Hush!--An aërial drama! The Butterfly, absorbed in his head of blossom, banquets, all oblivious of--
[_A great green gauze butterfly-net appears above the wall, softly coming towards the_ BUTTERFLY _settled on one of the flowers._]
A HEN What is that?
THE TURKEY [_Solemnly._] Fate!
THE BLACKBIRD In a thin disguise of gauze!
THE WHITE HEN Oh, a net--at the end of a cane!
THE BLACKBIRD No harm in the cane--it's the kid at the other end of the cane! [_Half aloud, watching the_ BUTTERFLY.] You neat little fop, sailing from rose to rose, to-night you'll be neat as a pin can make you!
ALL [_Watching the cautious approach of the net beyond the wall._] Nearer--Nearer--Hush! He'll catch it!--No he won't!--Yes, he will!
SUDDENLY OUTSIDE Cock-a-doodle-doo!
[_At the sound, the_ BUTTERFLY _flies off. The_ NET _wavers a moment, with an effect of disappointment, then disappears._]
SEVERAL HENS What?--Eh?--What was it?
A HEN [_Who having hopped up on a wheelbarrow can follow the flight of the_ BUTTERFLY.] He is off and away, over the meadow.
THE BLACKBIRD [_With ironical emphasis._] It's Chantecler, practicing knight-errantry!
THE PIGEON [_With emotion._] Chantecler!
A HEN He is coming!
ANOTHER HEN He is just outside--
THE WHITE HEN [_To the_ PIGEON.] Now you will see. He's a very fine bird indeed.
THE BLACKBIRD [_Thrusting his head between the bars._] Easy as possible to make, a Cock!
THE TURKEY [_Admiringly._] Admirable amenity!
THE BLACKBIRD You take a melon--a fine specimen, I will grant,--for the trunk. For the legs, two sticks of asparagus,--prize sticks, of course. For the head, a red pepper,--as handsome as you may find. For the eye, a currant,--exceptionally clear and light. For the tail, a sheaf of leeks, with luxuriant blue-green flags. For the ear, a dainty kidney-bean, --extra, superfine!--And there you have him, there's your Cock!
THE PIGEON [_Gently._] One thing you have omitted--His heavenly clarion call!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Indicating_ CHANTECLER, _who now appears upon the wall._] Yes, but with the exception of that--slight detail, you must own my portrait is a likeness.
THE PIGEON Not at all. Not in the very least. [_Contemplating_ CHANTECLER _with a very different eye from the_ BLACKBIRD'S.] What I see, beneath that quivering hemlet, is Summer's glorious and favoured knight, who, from a groaning wain at evening borrowing its golden harvest-robe has arrayed himself in this, and lifts it from the dust with a gleaming sickle!
CHANTECLER [_On the wall, in a long guttural sigh._] Coa--
THE BLACKBIRD When he makes that noise in his throat, he either is in love, or preparing some poetic outburst.
CHANTECLER [_Motionless on the wall, with head high._] Blaze forth in glory!--Dazzle--
THE BLACKBIRD He's letting off hot air!
CHANTECLER Irradiate the world!
A HEN Now he pauses--one claw lifted--
CHANTECLER [_In a sort of groan of excessive tenderness._] Coa--
THE BLACKBIRD That, if you please, is ecstasy!
CHANTECLER Thy gold is of all gold alone beneficent! I worship thee!
THE PIGEON [_Under breath._] To whom is he talking?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Sneering._] To the sun, sonny, the sun!
CHANTECLER O thou that driest the tears of the meanest among weeds And dost of a dead flower make a living butterfly-- Thy miracle, wherever almond-trees Shower down the wind their scented shreds, Dead petals dancing in a living swarm-- I worship thee, O Sun! whose ample light, Blessing every forehead, ripening every fruit, Entering every flower and every hovel, Pours itself forth and yet is never less, Still spending and unspent--like mother's love!
I sing of thee, and will be thy high priest, Who disdainest not to glass thy shining face In the humble basin of blue suds, Or see the lightning of thy last farewell Reflected in an humble cottage pane!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Thrusting out his head._] Can't call it off now, boys, he's started on an ode!
THE TURKEY [_Watching_ CHANTECLER _as by a series of stately hops he comes down a pile of hay._] Here he comes, prouder than--
A HEN [_Stopping in front of a small tin cone._] See there! The new-fangled drinking-trough! [_She drinks._] Handy!
THE BLACKBIRD Prouder than a drum major chanting as he marches: "My country, 'tis of thee!"
CHANTECLER [_Beginning to walk about the yard._] Thou smilest on the--
ALL THE HENS [_Rushing to the_ WHITE HEN _who is eating something._] What's she eating?
THE WHITE HEN Corn. Nothing but corn.
CHANTECLER Thou smilest on the sunflower craning after thee, And burnishest my brother of the vane, And softly sifting through the linden-trees Strewest the ground with dappled gold, So fine there's no more walking where it lies.
Through thee the earthen pot is an enamelled urn, The clout hung out to dry a noble banner, The hay-rick by thy favour boasts a golden cape, And the rick's little sister, the thatched hive, Wears, by thy grace, a hood of gold!
Glory to thee in the vineyards! Glory to thee in the fields! Glory among the grass and on the roofs, In eyes of lizards and on wings of swans,-- Artist who making splendid the great things Forgets not to make exquisite the small!
'Tis thou that, cutting out a silhouette, To all thou beamest on dost fasten this dark twin, Doubling the number of delightful shapes, Appointing to each thing its shadow, More charming often than itself.
I praise thee, Sun! Thou sheddest roses on the air, Diamonds on the stream, enchantment on the hill; A poor dull tree thou takest and turnest to green rapture, O Sun, without whose golden magic--things Would be no more than what they are!
THE PIGEON Bravo! I shall have something to tell my mate. We shall long talk of this!
CHANTECLER [_Seeing him, with noble courtesy._] Young blue-winged stranger, with new-fledged bill, thanks! Pray lay my duty at her coral feet!
[_The_ PIGEON _flies off._]
THE BLACKBIRD Jolly your admirers, it pays!
CHANTECLER [_In a cordial voice, to the whole barnyard._] To work now, all of you, with a will!
[_A_ FLY _darts past, buzzing._]
CHANTECLER Busy and resonant Fly, I love thee! Behold her! What is her flight but the heart-whole gift of herself?
THE TURKEY [_Loftily._] Yes.--She has dropped considerably in my esteem, however, since that matter of the--
CHANTECLER Of the what?
THE TURKEY Of the Fly and the--
CHANTECLER I never thought much of that story. Who knows whether the coach would have reached the top of the hill without the Fly? Do you believe that rude shouts "Gee up! Ge' lang!" were more effective than the hymn to the Sun buzzed by the little Fly? Do you believe in the virtue of a blustering oath? Really believe it was the Coachman who made the coach to go? No, I tell you, no! She did much more than the big whip's noisy cracking, did the little Fly, with the music straight from her buzzing heart!
THE TURKEY Yes, but all the same--
CHANTECLER [_Turning his back on him._] Come, let us make of labour a delight! Come, all of you!--High time, Ganders my worthies, you escorted your geese to the pond.
A GANDER [_Lazily._] Is it quite necessary, do you think?
CHANTECLER [_Going briskly towards him, with a look that forbids discussion._] Quite! And let there be no idle quacking and paltering! [_The_ GANDERS _go off in haste._] You, Chicken, your task, as you know, is to pick off slugs, your full number before evening being thirty-two.--You, Cockerel, go practise your crow. Four hundred times cry Cock-a-doodle-doo in hearing of the echo!
THE COCKEREL [_Slightly mortified._] The echo--?
CHANTECLER That is what I was doing to limber up my glottis before I was rid of the egg-shell sticking to my tail!
A HEN [_Airily._] None of this is particularly interesting!
CHANTECLER Everything is interesting! Pray go and sit on the eggs you have been entrusted with! [_To another_ HEN.] You, walk among the roses and verbenas, and gobble every creature threatening them. Ha, ha! If the caterpillar thinks we will make him a gift of our flowers he can stroke his belly--with his back! [_To another._] You, hie to the rescue of cabbages in old neglected corners, where the grasshopper lays siege to them with his vigorous battering-ram! [_To the remaining_ HENS.] You--[_Catching sight of the_ OLD HEN, _whose shaking, senile head has lifted the basket-lid._] Ah, there you are, Nursie! Good day! [_She gazes at him admiringly._] Well, have I grown?
THE OLD HEN Sooner or later, tadpole becomes toad!
CHANTECLER True! [_To the _HENS,_ resuming his tone of command._] Ladies, stand in line! Your orders are to peck in the fields. Off at a quick-step, go!
THE WHITE HEN [_To the_ GREY HEN.] Are you coming?
THE GREY HEN Not a word! I intend to stay behind, to see the Cuckoo. [_She hides behind the basket._]
CHANTECLER You, little tufted hen, was it just my fancy that you looked sulky falling into line?
THE TUFTED HEN [_Going up to him._] Cock--
CHANTECLER What is it?
THE TUFTED HEN I, who am nearest to your heart--
CHANTECLER [_Quickly._] Hush!
THE TUFTED HEN It annoys me not to be told--
THE WHITE HEN [_Who has drawn near on the other side._] Cock--
THE WHITE HEN [_Coaxingly._] I who am your favourite--
CHANTECLER [_Quickly._] Hush!
THE WHITE HEN [_Caressingly._] I want to know--
THE BLACK HEN [_Who has softly drawn near._] Cock--
THE BLACK HEN Your special and tender regard for me--
CHANTECLER [_Quickly._] Hush!
THE BLACK HEN Tell me, do--
THE WHITE HEN --the secret--
THE TUFTED HEN --of your song? [_Going still closer to him, in a voice thrilled with curiosity._] I do believe that you have in your throat a little copper contrivance--
CHANTECLER That's it, that's what I have, very carefully concealed!
THE WHITE HEN [_Same business._] Most likely, like great tenors one has heard of, you gulp raw eggs--
CHANTECLER You have guessed!--A second Ugolino!
THE BLACK HEN [_Same business._] My idea is that taking snails out of their shells, you pound them to a paste--
CHANTECLER And make them into troches! Exactly!
ALL THREE HENS Cock--!
CHANTECLER Off with you all! Be off! [_The_ HENS _hastily start, he calls them back._] A word before you go. When your blood-bright combs--now in, now out of sight, now in again--shall flash among the sage and borage yonder, like poppies playing at hide-and-seek,--to the real poppies, I enjoin you, do no injury! Shepherdesses, counting the stitches of their knitting, trample the grass all unaware that it's a crime to crush a flower--even with a woman! But you, my Spouses, show considerate and touching thought for the flowers whose only offence is growing wild. The field-carrot has her right to bloom in beauty. Should you spy, as he strolls across some flowery umbel, a scarlet beetle peppered with black dots,--the stroller take, but spare his strolling-ground. The flowers of one same meadow are sisters, as I hold, and should together fall beneath the scythe!--Now you may go. [_They are leaving, he again calls them back._] And remember, when chickens go to the--
A HEN --fields--
CHANTECLER --the foremost--
THE HENS ALL TOGETHER --walks ahead!
CHANTECLER You may go! [_They are again starting, he peremptorily calls them back._] A word! [_In a stern voice._] Never when crossing the road stop to peck! [_The_ HENS _bow in obedience._] Now let me see you cross!
A HORN [_In the distance._] Honk! Honk! Honk!
CHANTECLER [_Rushing in front of the_ HENS _and spreading his wings before them._] Not yet!
THE HORN [_Very near, accompanied by a terrific snorting._] Honk! Honk! Honk!
CHANTECLER [_Barring the_ HENS' _passage, while everything shakes._] Wait!
THE HORN [_Far away._] Honk! Honk! Honk!
CHANTECLER [_Standing aside for them to pass._] You can safely go!
THE GREY HEN [_From her hiding-place._] He has not seen me!
THE TUFTED HEN You may think this is fun! Now everything we eat will taste of gasoline!
CHANTECLER, _the_ BLACKBIRD _in his cage, the_ CAT _still asleep on the wall, the_ GREY HEN _behind the_ OLD HEN'S _basket._
CHANTECLER [_To himself, after a pause._] No, I will not trust a frivolous soul with such a weighty secret. Let me try rather to cast off the burden of it myself--forget and [_Shaking his feathers._] just rejoice in being a rooster! [_He struts up and down._] I am beautiful. I am proud. I walk--then I stand still. I give a skip or two, I tread a measure.--I shock the cart sometimes by my boldness with the fair, so that it raises scandalised shafts in horror to the sky!--Hang care!--A barleycorn--Eat and be merry.--The gear upon my head and under my eye is a far more gorgeous red, when I puff out my chest and strut, than any robin's waistcoat or finch's tie.--A fine day. All is well. I curvet--I blow my horn. Conscious of having done my duty, I may quite properly assume the swagger of a musketeer, and the calm commanding bearing of a cardinal. I can--
A VOICE [_Loud and gruff._] Beware, Chantecler!
CHANTECLER What silly beast is bidding me beware?
THE SAME, PATOU.
PATOU [_Barking inside his kennel._] I! I! I!
CHANTECLER [_Retreating._] Is it you, Patou, good shaggy head starting out of the dark, with straws caught among your eyelashes?
PATOU Which do not prevent my seeing what is plain as that hen-house rrrroof!
CHANTECLER When he rolls his r's like that he is very cross indeed.
PATOU It's my devotion to you, Cock, makes me roll my r's. Guardian of the house, the orchard and the fields, more than all else I am bound to protect your song. And I growl at the dangers I suspect lurking. Such is my humour.
CHANTECLER Your humour? Your dogma, suspicion is! Call it your _dog_ma!
PATOU You can stoop to a pun? From bad to worse! I'm enough of a psychologist to feel the evil spreading, and I've the scent of a rat-terrier.
CHANTECLER But you are no rat-terrier!
PATOU [_Shaking his head._] Chantecler, how do we know?
CHANTECLER [_Considering him._] Your appearance is in fact peculiar What actually is your breed?
PATOU I am a horrible mixture, issue of every passer-by! I can feel barking within me the voice of every blood. Retriever, mastiff, pointer, poodle, hound--my soul is a whole pack, sitting in circle, musing. Cock, I am all dogs, I have been every dog!
CHANTECLER Then what a sum of goodness must be stored in you!
PATOU Brother, we are framed to understand each other. You sing to the sun and scratch up the earth. I, when I wish to do myself a good and a pleasure--
CHANTECLER You lie on the earth and sleep in the sun!
PATOU [_With a pleased yap._] Aye!
CHANTECLER We have ever had in common our love for those two things.
PATOU I am so fond of the sun that I howl at the moon. And so fond of the earth that I dig great holes and shove my nose in it!
CHANTECLER I know! The gardener's wife has her opinion of those holes.--But what are the dangers you discern? All lies quiet beneath the quiet sky. Nothing appears to be threatening my humble sunlit dominions.
THE OLD HEN [_Lifting the basket-lid with her head._] The egg looks like marble until it gets smashed! [_The lid drops._]
CHANTECLER [_To_ PATOU.] What dangers, friend?
PATOU There are two. First, in yonder cage--
PATOU That satirical whistling.
CHANTECLER What about it?
CHANTECLER In what way?
PATOU In every way!
CHANTECLER [_Ironical._] Bad as all that, is it? [_The_ PEACOCK'S _squall is heard in the distance: "Ee--yong!"_]
PATOU And then that cry, the Peacock's!
[_The_ PEACOCK, _further off: "Ee--yong!"_]
PATOU More out of tune all by itself than a whole village singing society!
CHANTECLER Come, what have they done to you, that whistler and that posturer?
PATOU [_Grumbling._] They have done to me--that I know not what they may do to you! They have done to me--that among us simple, kindly folk they have introduced new fashions, the Blackbird of being funny, the Peacock of putting on airs! Fashions which the latter in his grotesque bad taste picked up parading on the marble terraces of the vulgar rich, and the former--Heaven knows where! along with his cynicism and his slang. Now the one, travelling salesman of blighting corrosive laughter, and the other, brainless ambassador of Fashion, their mission to kill among us love and labour, the first by persiflage, the second by display,--they have brought to us, even here in our peaceful sunny corner, the two pests, the saddest in the world, the jest which insists on being funny at any cost, and the cry which insists on being the latest scream! [_The _ BLACKBIRD _is heard tentatively whistling, "How sweet to fare afield"._] You, Cock, who had the sense to prefer the grain of true wheat to the pearl, how can you allow yourself to be taken in by that villainous Blackbird! A bird who practises a tune!
CHANTECLER [_Indulgently._] Come, he whistles his tune like many another!
PATOU [_Unwillingly agreeing, in a drawling growl._] Ye-e-es, but he never whistles it to the end!
CHANTECLER [_Watching the_ BLACKBIRD _hopping about._] A light-hearted fellow!
PATOU [_Same business._] Ye-e-es, but he lies heavy on our hearts. A bird who takes his exercise indoors!
CHANTECLER You must own he is intelligent!
PATOU [_In a longer, more hesitant growl._] Ye-e-e-es! But not so very! For his eye never brightens with wonder and admiration. He preserves before the flower--of whose stalk he sees more than of its chalice--the glance which deflowers, the tone which depreciates!
CHANTECLER Taste, my dear fellow, he unmistakably has!
PATOU Ye-e-e-es! But not much taste! To wear black is too easy a way of having taste! One should have the courage of colours on his wing.
CHANTECLER You will admit at least that he has an original fancy. No denying that he is amusing.
PATOU Ye-e-es--No! Why is it amusing to adopt a few stock phrases and make them do service at every turn? Why amusing to miscall, exaggerate, and vulgarise?
CHANTECLER His mind has a diverting, unexpected turn--
PATOU Ready but cheap! I cannot think it particularly brilliant to remark, with a knowing wink, at sight of an innocent cow at pasture, "The simple cow knows her way to the hay!" Nor do I regard it as evidence of notable mental gifts to answer the greeting of the inoffensive duck, "The quack shoots off his mouth!" No, the extravagances of that Blackbird, who makes me bristle, no more constitute wit than his slang achieves style!
CHANTECLER He is not altogether to blame. He wears the modern garb. See him there in correct evening dress. He looks, in his neat black coat--
PATOU Like a beastly little undertaker who, after burying Faith, hops with relief and glee!
CHANTECLER There, there! You make him blacker than he is!
PATOU I do believe a blackbird is just a misfit crow!
CHANTECLER His diminutive size, however--
PATOU [_Vigorously shaking his ears._] Oh, be not deceived by his size! Evil makes his models first on a tiny scale. The soul of a cutlass dwells in the pocket-knife; blackbird and crow are of the selfsame crape, and the striped wasp is a tiger in miniature!
CHANTECLER [_Amused at_ PATOU'S _violence._] The blackbird in short is wicked, stupid, ugly--
PATOU The chief thing about the Blackbird is--that you can't tell what he is! Is there thought in that head? feeling in that breast? Hear him! "Tew-tew-tew-tew tew--"
CHANTECLER But what harm does he do?
PATOU He tew-tew-tews! And nothing is so mortal to thought and sentiment as that same derisive tew-tewing, disingenuous and non-committal! Day by day, and that is why I roll my rs, I must witness this debasing of language and ideals. It's enough to produce rabies!
CHANTECLER Come, Patou!--
PATOU In their objectionable jargon, they have the ha-ha on all of us! I am no fastidious King Charles, but I dislike, I tell you, being referred to as His Whiskers!--Oh, to be gone, escape, follow the heels of some poor shepherd without a crust in his wallet, but at least, at evening drinking from the glassy pond, to have--oh, better than all marrow-bones!--the fresh illusion of lapping up the stars!
CHANTECLER [_Surprised at_ PATOU'S _having lowered his voice to utter the last words._] Why do you drop your voice?
PATOU You see?--If we speak of stars nowadays we must do it in a whisper! [_He lays his head on his paws in deep dejection._]
CHANTECLER [_Comforting him._] Be not downcast!
PATOU [_Lifting his head again._] No, it is too silly and too weak! I'll shout it if I please! [_He howls with the whole power of his lungs._] Stars!--[_Then in a tone of relief._] There, I feel better!
CHICKENS [_Passing at the back, mocking._] Stars!--Ho! Stars for ours! Stars! [_They go off, fooling and giggling._]
PATOU Hear them! Our pullets will be whistling soon like blackbirds!
CHANTECLER [_Proudly strutting up and down._] What care I? I sing, and have on my side the Hens.
PATOU Trust not to the hearts of Hens--or of crowds. You are too willing to take the price of your singing in lip-service.
CHANTECLER But love--love is glory awarded in kisses!
PATOU Ah! I, too, was young once, I had my wilding devil's beauty,--an inflammatory eye, an inflammable heart. Well, I was deceived. For a handsomer dog?--No, they deceived me for a miserable cur!--[_Roaring in sudden wrath._] For whom?--For whom, do you suppose?
CHANTECLER [_Retreating._] You alarm me!
PATOU For a low-down dachshund who trod on his own ears!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Who has overheard_ PATOU'S _last words, sticking his head between the bars of his cage._] Still harping on the dachshund, is he? What's the odds, old chappie? You were the goat!--How does being the goat matter?
PATOU But you up there, scoffing at everything, who are you, may one ask?
BLACKBIRD I'm the pet of the poultry yard!
PATOU Bad luck is what you'll bring them!
BLACKBIRD A prophecy-sharp?--Say, wisteria, we are twisted up with laughter! [_He comes out of his cage and hops to the ground._]
PATOU [_As he approaches_] Grrrrrrr--
CHANTECLER Hush! He's a friend!
PATOU A false one.
CHANTECLER [_To_ BLACKBIRD.] Fine things we learn when the talk is of you!
THE OLD HEN [_Her head protruding from the basket._] Strike rotten wood, and see the wood-lice scatter! [_The basket-lid drops._]
PATOU [_To_ CHANTECLER.] He laughs at you behind your back!
BLACKBIRD [_To_ PATOU.] Ha, retriever, you retrieve?
PATOU When you pour forth your heart in your ardent cry, giving it over and over, he calls it the same old saw that your jag-toothed red crest stands for!
CHANTECLER So that's what you say?
BLACKBIRD [_Affecting simplicity._] You surely don't mind? How can it affect you? And a joke about you is always so sure of success!
PATOU [_To the_ BLACKBIRD.] Point-blank, do you admire or despise the Cock?
BLACKBIRD I make fun of him in spots, but admire him in lump!
PATOU You always peck two kinds of seed.
THE BLACKBIRD My cage has two seed-cups, you see.
PATOU I am single-minded and downright!
THE BLACKBIRD You--are an old poodle of the year 48! I am an up-to-date bird!
PATOU [_Gruffly._] Out of my way! lest I give your black coat red tails! [_The_ BLACKBIRD _nimbly gets out of the way,_ PATOU _goes into his kennel grumbling._] I'll show him some up-to-date jaws!
CHANTECLER Be quiet! It's his way. The truth is that if once he stood in the presence of beauty, this very Blackbird would applaud!
PATOU Not with both wings! What can you expect of a bird who, with woodbine and juniper full in sight, prefers to go inside and peck at a musty biscuit?
BLACKBIRD He never seems to suspect that the poacher is a blackguardly sort of brute!
PATOU What I know is that the underbrush is all a delicate golden gloom--
THE BLACKBIRD Yes, but leaden shot can cleave your delicate gold. The quail is such a canny bird, that he lies low lest he make his last appearance on toast. And so, in lack of quail--
PATOU Does the great stag delight any the less in his green forest for turning over among the grass at evening some bit of a rusty cartridge?
THE BLACKBIRD No, old chap--but the stag, you see, is just another kind of a hat-rack!
PATOU Oh, but freedom, freedom, with violets looking on! Love!--
THE BLACKBIRD Antediluvian pastimes! not nearly such good fun as my nice new wooden trapeze. Oh, my cage, let us sign a joyful three-six-nine years' lease! I live like a Duke, I have filtered drinking-water--[_At_ PATOU'S _significant start and growl, he springs aside, finishing._] You can sling mud upon me, I have a porcelain bath!
CHANTECLER [_Slightly out of patience._] Why not make a practice of talking simply and to the point?
THE BLACKBIRD I like to make you sit up, and watch you blinking.
PATOU Grrrrr--in the plain interest of public decency, I say it behooves us--
THE BLACKBIRD Don't say behooves, say it's up to you, old chap!
CHANTECLER What's all this juggling with words?
THE BLACKBIRD The thing, Chantecler, quite the thing! I knew a city sparrow once, and it's the way they talk in fashionable circles.
CHANTECLER I was well acquainted with a little red-breast, who lived beneath a city poet's eaves; he did not talk like you.
THE BLACKBIRD I belong to my time. Every chap that's a bit of a swell nowadays must be a bit of a tough. It's smart, you know.
PATOU I froth at the mouth! Smart,--there's the Peacock's password!
CHANTECLER Oh, the Peacock, by the way, what is he doing these days?
THE BLACKBIRD Ogling with his tail-feathers!
PATOU Baneful his example has been to many an humble heart.
CHANTECLER What signs do you see of his influence?
PATOU A thousand nothings.
THE OLD HEN [_Appearing._] Bubbles floating down the stream tell of laundresses up stream! [_The lid drops._]
CHANTECLER I am sure I have not seen the smallest bubble from which--
PATOU [_Indicating a_ GUINEA-PIG, _who is passing._] See there, that Guinea-pig--
CHANTECLER [_Considering him._] What about him? He is just a yellow Guinea-pig!
GUINEA-PIG [_Snippily correcting._] Khaki, if you please!
CHANTECLER [_To_ PATOU.] Kha--?
PATOU A bubble!--And yonder waddling duck--
CHANTECLER [_Looking at him._] He is going to take his bath--
THE DUCK [_Drily._] My tub!
PATOU A bubble!
[_A long grating noise is heard within the house Crrrrrrr, then._]
THE CLOCK Cuckoo!
THE GREY HEN [_Leaving her hiding-place and running towards the cat-hole._] His voice!--Now through the kitty's little door I finally shall see him! [_She thrusts her head into the hole. The_ CUCKOO'S _call is not repeated._] Oh, deary, deary me! I am too late! [_Calling._] Bis! Encore!
CHANTECLER [_Turning around at the noise._] Eh?
THE GREY HEN [_Desperately, with her head in the cat-hole._] He has stopped!
THE BLACKBIRD It was the half-hour.
CHANTECLER [_Close behind the_ GREY HEN, _abruptly._] How does it happen, my love, that we are not in the fields?
THE GREY HEN [_Turning, scared._] Goodness gracious!
CHANTECLER What are we doing, my love, in the cat-hole?
THE GREY HEN [_Upset._] I was just taking a peep--
CHANTECLER To see whom?
THE GREY HEN [_More and more upset._] Oh--!
CHANTECLER [_Dramatically._] Who is it?
THE GREY HEN Oh--
THE GREY HEN [_In the voice of a woman caught in guilt._] The Cuckoo!
CHANTECLER [_Amazed._] You love him?--But wherefore?
THE GREY HEN [_Drops her eyes, then with emotion._] He is Swiss!
PATOU A bubble!
THE GREY HEN He is a thinker. He takes his airing--
CHANTECLER She loves a clock!
THE GREY HEN --always takes his airing at the same hour, like Kant.
CHANTECLER Like what?
THE GREY HEN Like Kant.
CHANTECLER Did one ever--! Out of my sight!
THE BLACKBIRD Trot, Kant you?
[THE GREY HEN _hurries off._]
CHANTECLER Here's a pretty--Wherever did she learn that Kant--?
PATOU At the Guinea-hen's.
CHANTECLER That foolish old party of the crazy cries and the white-plastered beak?
PATOU She has taken a day.
CHANTECLER A day off, do you mean?
PATOU No, a day at home.
CHANTECLER A day at--Where does she receive?
THE BLACKBIRD In a corner of the kitchen-garden.
PATOU Under the auspices of that strawman with the unsavoury old top-hat.
CHANTECLER The scarecrow?
THE BLACKBIRD Yes, his being there makes the affair select.
CHANTECLER [_Bewildered._] How is that?
THE BLACKBIRD Don't you see? He scares off all the puny fowl--. Poor relations are not wanted at a function.
CHANTECLER So the Guinea-hen has a day!
PATOU [_Phlegmatically._] A bubble!
CHANTECLER A balloon!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Imitating the_ GUINEA-HEN.] Mondays, my dear--
CHANTECLER And what do they do at that feather-brain's parties?
PATOU Cluck and cackle. The Turkey-cock airs his social gifts, the Chick gets into society.
BLACKBIRD [_Imitating the_ GUINEA-HEN.] From five to six--
PATOU No, morning.
THE BLACKBIRD You see, she must take advantage of the time when the garden is deserted, and yet have it a five-o'clock tea. So she chose the hour when the old gardener is at his early potations.
CHANTECLER What nonsense!
THE BLACKBIRD Quite so.
PATOU You needn't talk. You go to her teas.
CHANTECLER He goes--?
THE BLACKBIRD Yes, I am one of their ornaments.
PATOU And I am not so sure but that some day--
CHANTECLER What are you mumbling to your brass-studded collar?
PATOU --some Hen may get you too to go!
PATOU Led by the end of your beak.
CHANTECLER [_In high wrath._] Me?--
PATOU For when a new Hen heaves in sight, you can't help yourself, you know--you lose your balance-wheel--
THE BLACKBIRD You slowly circumambulate the fair one--[_He imitates the_ COCK _walking around a_ HEN.] "Yes, it's me.--Here I am!" And you say, "Coa--"
CHANTECLER I never knew a more idiotic bird!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Continuing to mimic him._] You let your wing hang, sentimentally--your foot performs a sort of stately jig--[_A shot is heard._] Ha! I don't like that!
PATOU [_Starts up quivering, and scents the air._] Poaching Julius is at his tricks again!
THE BLACKBIRD Dog, it seems to stimulate you agreeably!
PATOU [_With ears up-pricked and shining eyes._] Yes! [_Suddenly, as if controlling himself, passionately._] No--!
THE BLACKBIRD What affects you so?
PATOU Oh, horrible, horrible! A poor little partridge perhaps--
THE BLACKBIRD Is that streaming eye, my friend, a result of age or rheumatism?
PATOU Neither! But I have within me several dogs, and there is conflict amidst me. My hunter's nostril twitches at a shot, but, directly, my house-dog's memory raises before me a bleeding wing, the glazing eye of a doe, the pathos of a rabbit's dying look--and I feel the heart of a Saint Bernard waking in my breast! [_Another shot._]
THE SAME, A GOLDEN PHEASANT, _later_ BRIFFAUT.
A GOLDEN PHEASANT [_Flying suddenly over the wall, and dropping in the yard, mad with fright._] Hide me!
PATOU A golden pheasant!
GOLDEN PHEASANT Is this great Chantecler?
THE BLACKBIRD All over the shop, we're famous!
GOLDEN PHEASANT [_Running hither and thither._] Save me, if you are he!
CHANTECLER I am!--Rely on me!
GOLDEN PHEASANT [_Jumping and casting himself on_ CHANTECLER.] Merciful powers!
CHANTECLER But what a nervous bird it is--a golden pheasant!
GOLDEN PHEASANT I have no breath left! I ran too hard!-[_Faints._]
THE BLACKBIRD Puff!--Out goes his light!
CHANTECLER [_Upholding the_ PHEASANT _with one wing._] How beautiful he is, with drooping neck and softly ruffled throat-feathers! [_He runs to the drinking-trough._] Water!--One almost hesitates to dim such beauty with a wetting--[_He splashes him vigorously with his other wing._]
THE GOLDEN PHEASANT [_Coming to._] I am pursued! Oh, hide me!
THE BLACKBIRD "And the villain still--" Here's melodrama!
[_To the_ PHEASANT.] How the dickens did he manage to miss you?
THE PHEASANT Surprise!--The huntsman was looking for a little grey lark. Seeing me rise, he cried, "Thunder!" He saw but a flash of gold, and I a flash of fire.--But the dog is chasing me, a horrible dog--[_Seeing_ PATOU _he quickly adds._] I am speaking of a hunting-dog! [_To_ CHANTECLER.] Hide me!
CHANTECLER The trouble is he is so conspicuous. That increases our dilemma. Where can he lie concealed?--Gentle sir, my lord, most noble stranger, where might we hope to hide the rainbow, supposing it in danger?
PATOU There by the bench with the beehives stands my green cottage, very much at your service.--Go in, I pray! [_The_ GOLDEN PHEASANT _goes in, but his long tail projects._] There is too much of this golden vanity!--The tip is still in sight.--I shall have to sit on it.
[BRIFFAUT _appears above the wall. Long hanging ears and quivering chops._]
PATOU [_To_ BRIFFAUT, _affecting unconcern._] Good afternoon!
BRIFFAUT [_Snuffing._] Humph, what a good smell!
PATOU [_Pointing to his bowl._] My poor dinner! Soup with seasonable vegetables.
BRIFFAUT [_Hurriedly._] Have you seen a pheasant-hen go by?
PATOU [_In astonishment, reflecting._] A pheasant-hen,--?
CHANTECLER [_Walking about, with an assumption of gaiety._] Impressive, isn't he, Briffaut there? with his look of a thoroughbred old Englishman!
PATOU No, but I saw a pheasant.
BRIFFAUT That was she!
PATOU A pheasant-hen wears dun. This was a golden pheasant He went off towards the meadow.
BRIFFAUT It is she!
CHANTECLER [_Going towards him, incredulous._] A pheasant-hen with golden plumage?
BRIFFAUT Ah, you do not know what sometimes happens?
CHANTECLER _and_ PATOU No.
THE BLACKBIRD We are in for a hunting yarn!--Give me chloroform!
BRIFFAUT It sometimes happens--the thing is exceptional, of course--My master knows because he has read about it.--It sometimes happens--An extraordinary phenomenon to be sure! which is likewise observed among moor-fowl.--It happens--
PATOU What happens?
BRIFFAUT That the pheasant-hen--Ah, my dear fellows--!
CHANTECLER [_Stamping with impatience._] The pheasant-hen what?--what?
BRIFFAUT Makes up her mind one day that the cock-pheasant goes altogether too fine. When the male in springtime puts on his holiday feathers, she sees that he is handsomer than she--
THE BLACKBIRD And it makes her sore!
BRIFFAUT She leaves off laying and hatching eggs. Nature then gives her back her purple and her gold, and the pheasant-hen proud and magnificent Amazon, preferring to put on her back blue, green, yellow, all the colours of the prism, rather than under a sober grey wing to shelter a brood of young pheasants, flies freely forth--Light-mindedly she sheds the virtues of her sex, and having done it--sees life! [_He sketches with his paw a slightly disrespectful gesture._]
CHANTECLER [_Dryly._] Pray, what do you know about it?
BRIFFAUT [_Astonished._] Is he annoyed?
PATOU [_Aside._] Already!
CHANTECLER In short, the pheasant your master missed--
BRIFFAUT Was a she!--[_He stops and scents the air._] Oh but!--
PATOU [_Quickly, showing his dish._] You know, it's my dinner you smell!
BRIFFAUT It smells very unusually good.
CHANTECLER [_Aside._] I don't like that way his nose has of twitching.
BRIFFAUT [_Starting upon another story._] Fancy such an instance as the following--
THE BLACKBIRD Holy Smoke! Here comes another!--Oh, I say, hire a hall!
[_A distant whistle is heard._]
CHANTECLER [_Quickly._] You are whistled for!
BRIFFAUT The deuce! Good evening! [_Disappears._]
PATOU Good evening.
CHANTECLER Gone, at last!
BLACKBIRD [_Calling._] Briffaut!
CHANTECLER Great Glory, what are you doing?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Calling._] I have something to tell you!
BRIFFAUT [_His head reappears above the wall._] Well--?
THE BLACKBIRD Look out, Briffaut!
CHANTECLER [_Low to the_ BLACKBIRD.] Do you make sport of our fears?
THE BLACKBIRD You are losing something!
THE BLACKBIRD Time!
BRIFFAUT [_Disappearing with a snort of fury._] Wow!
CHANTECLER, THE BLACKBIRD, PATOU, THE PHEASANT-HEN
CHANTECLER [_After a moment, to the_ BLACKBIRD _who from his cage, which he has returned, can see off over the wall._] Is he gone?
THE BLACKBIRD He is nearly out of sight!
CHANTECLER [_Going toward_ PATOU'S _kennel._] Madam, come forth!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Appearing at the threshold of the kennel._] Well?--A rebellious, self-freed slave I am--even as that dog was saying! But of great lineage, and proud as I am free--A pheasant of the woods!
THE BLACKBIRD Whew! We hate ourself, don't we!
THE PHEASANT-HEN In the forest where I live there comes a-poaching--
CHANTECLER That madman who would have given to vile lead a jewel for setting!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Beneath foliage--not so thick but a sunbeam may glide in!--I make my home. I am descended, however, from elsewhere. From whence? From Persia? China? None can tell! But of one thing we may be certain: that I was meant to shimmer in the blue among the fragrant gum-trees of the East, and not to be chased through brambles by a hound!--Am I the ancient Phoenix? or the sacred Chinese hen? Whence was I brought to this land? And how brought? And by whom? History is not explicit on the point, and leaves us a splendid choice. Wherefore I choose to have been born in Colchis, from whence I came on Jason's fist. I am all gold. Perhaps I was the Fleece!
THE PHEASANT-HEN The Pheasant!
PATOU [_Politely correcting her._] Pheasant-hen.
THE PHEASANT-HEN I refer to my race, for which I stand, by token of my crimson shield. Yes, my ancient fate of being a dead leaf beside a ruby, having appeared to me one day too distinctly dull a lot, I stole his dazzling plumage from the male. A good thing, too, for it becomes me so much better! The golden tippet, as I wear it, curves and shimmers. The emerald epaulette acquires a dainty grace. I have made of a mere uniform a miracle of style!
CHANTECLER She is distractingly lovely, so much is certain!
PATOU He is never going to fall in love with a woman dressed as a man!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Who has again hopped down from his cage._] I must go and tell the Guinea-hen that a golden bird has blown into town. She'll have a fit! She will invite her! [_Off._]
CHANTECLER So you come to us from the East, like the Dawn?
THE PHEASANT-HEN My life has the picturesque disorder of a poem. If I came from the East, it was by way of Egypt.
PATOU [_Aside, heart-broken._] A gypsy, on top of the rest!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To_ CHANTECLER, _tossing and twisting her head so that the colours ripple at her throat._] Have you noticed these two shades? They are our own especial colours--the Dawn's and mine! Princess of the underbrush, queen of the glade, I am pleased to wear the yellow locks of an adventuress. Dreamy and homesick for my unknown home, I choose my palaces among the rustling flags and withered irises that fringe the pool. I dote upon the forest, and when it smells in autumn of dead leaves and decaying wood--
PATOU [_In consternation._] She is mad!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Wild as a tree-bough in a southerly gale, I tremble, flutter, spend myself in motion, till a vast languor overtakes me--
CHANTECLER [_Who for a minute or so has been letting his wing hang, now begins slowly circling about the_ PHEASANT-HEN, _in the manner of the_ BLACKBIRD _aping him, with a very gentle, throaty._] Coa--[_The_ PHEASANT-HEN _looks at him. Believing himself encouraged, he takes up again louder, while circling about her._] Coa--
THE PHEASANT-HEN My dear sir, I prefer to tell you at once that if it is for my benefit you are doing that--
CHANTECLER [_Stopping short._] What?
THE PHEASANT-HEN The eye--the peculiar gait--the drooping wing--the "Coa--"
CHANTECLER But I--
THE PHEASANT-HEN You do it all very nicely, I admit; only, it has not the very slightest effect upon me!
CHANTECLER [_Slightly abashed._] Madam--
THE PHEASANT-HEN Oh, I understand, of course. We are the illustrious Cock! Not a Hen in the world but preens her feathers in the hope--the very touching hope, certainly--of offering us a moment's distraction, some day, between two songs. We are so sure of ourself that we never hesitate, not even when the lady is a visitor, and not quite the ordinary short-kirtled Hen whom one can engage without further ceremony by such advances--
THE PHEASANT-HEN I do not bestow my affections quite so lightly. For my taste, anyhow, you are altogether too frankly Cock of the Walk!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Spoiled! The only Cock to my fancy would be a plain inglorious Cock to whom I should be all in all.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Love a celebrated Cock? I am not such a very woman!
CHANTECLER But--well--still--We might, however, Madam, take a little stroll together!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Yes, like two friends.
CHANTECLER Two friends.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Two chickens.
CHANTECLER Very old!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Quickly._] No, no--not old! Very ugly!
CHANTECLER [_Quicker still._] Oh, no, not ugly! [_Coming nearer to her._] Will you take a turn in the yard?--Accept my wing!
THE PHEASANT-HEN You shall show me the sights.
CHANTECLER [_Stopping before the_ CHICKENS' _drinking-trough._]This, of course, is hideous. It is a model drinking-trough on the siphon principle, made of galvanised iron. But everything excepting that is charming, noble, time and weather worn, from the hen-house roof to the stable door--
THE BLACKBIRD [_Returning._] The Guinea-hen is having a fit!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To_ CHANTECLER, _looking about her._] And so you live here untroubled, and have nothing to fear?
CHANTECLER Nothing whatever. Because the owner is a vegetarian An amazing man, a lover of animals. He calls them by names borrowed from the poets. The donkey there is Midas; the heifer, Io.
THE BLACKBIRD The showman's on the job!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Indicating the_ BLACKBIRD.] And that?
CHANTECLER Our humorist.
THE PHEASANT-HEN What does he do?
CHANTECLER Oh, he keeps busy!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Doing what?
CHANTECLER Trying never to appear a fool, and that's hard work.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Possibly--but most unattractive! [_They move towards the back._]
THE BLACKBIRD [_With a glance at the_ PHEASANT-HEN'S _scarlet breast._] Size up the highfalutin' dame!--Get on to the waistcoat will you?
CHANTECLER [_Continuing the round._] The hay-cock. The old wall. The wall, when I sing, is alive with lizards, the hay-cock bends to listen. I sing on the spot where you see the earth scratched up, and when I have sung, I drink in the bowl over there.
PHEASANT-HEN Your song then is a matter of importance?
CHANTECLER [_Seriously._] The greatest.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Why?
CHANTECLER That is my secret.
THE PHEASANT-HEN If I should ask you to tell me?
CHANTECLER [_Turning the conversation, and showing a pile of brushwood tied in bundles._] My friends, the fagots.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Stolen from my forest!--So what they say is true?--you have a secret?
CHANTECLER [_Dryly._] Yes, Madam.
THE PHEASANT-HEN I suppose it would be useless to insist--
CHANTECLER [_Climbing on the wall at the back._] And from here you can see the remainder of the estate, to the edge of the kitchen-garden, where they ply at evening a serpent ending like a sprinkling can.
THE PHEASANT-HEN What?--This is all?
CHANTECLER This is all.
THE PHEASANT-HEN And do you imagine the world ends at your vegetable-patch?
THE PHEASANT-HEN Do you never, as you watch, far overhead, the wedge of the south-flying birds, dream of vaster horizons?
PHEASANT-HEN But all these things about you are dreary and poor and flat!
CHANTECLER And I can never become used to the richness and wonder of these things!
THE PHEASANT-HEN It is always the same, you must agree!
CHANTECLER Nothing is ever the same,--nothing,--ever,--under the sun! And that because of the sun!--For _She_ changes everything!
THE PHEASANT-HEN She--Who?
CHANTECLER Light, the universal goddess! That geranium planted by the farmer's wife is never twice the same red! And that old wooden shoe, spurting straw, what a sight, what a beautiful sight! And the wooden comb hanging among the farmer's smocks, with the green hair of the sward caught in its teeth! The pitchfork, stood in the corner, like a misbehaving child, dozing as he stands and dreaming of the hay-fields! And the bowl and skittles there,--the trim-waisted skittles, shapely maids, whose orderly quadrilles Patou in his gambols clumsily upsets! The great worm-eaten bowl whose curved expanse some ant is always crossing, travelling with no less pride than famed explorers,--around her ball in 80 seconds!--Nothing, I tell you, is two instants quite the same!--And I, sweet lady, have been so susceptible ever, that a garden-rake in a corner, a flower in a pot, cast me long since into a helpless ecstasy, and that from gazing at a morning-glory I fell into the startled admiration which has made my eye so round!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Thoughtfully._] One feels that you have a soul.--A soul then may find wherewithal to grow, so far from life and its drama, shut in by a farmyard wall with a cat asleep on it?
CHANTECLER With power to see, capacity to suffer, one may come Ito understand all things. In an insect's death are hinted all disasters. Through a knot-hole can be seen the sky and marching stars!
THE OLD HEN [_Appearing._] None knows the heavens like the water in the well!
CHANTECLER [_Presenting her to the _PHEASANT-HEN_ before the basket-lid drops._] My foster-mother!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Politely approaching._] Delighted!
THE OLD HEN [_Slyly winking at her._] He's a fine Cock!
THE PHEASANT-HEN He is a Cock, moreover, for whom that fact is not the only thing in the world!
CHANTECLER [_Who has gone toward_ PATOU.] There, my dear boy, is a Hen with whom one can have a bit of solid conversation.
THE SAME, _the_ GUINEA-HEN, _and the whole_ POULTRY-YARD
_Cries outside, nearer and nearer,_ "Ah!--" _Enter all the_ HENS _in tumult, preceded by the agitated_ GUINEA-HEN.
THE BLACKBIRD [_In his cage._] The next course will be Guinea-hen!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Running to the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] Ah, my dear, my dear, my dear!--A beauty, a very beauty!--We have come to make your acquaintance, my dear!
[_General admiration,_ "Ah!--" _The_ PHEASANT-HEN _is surrounded. Conversation, cries, clucking._]
CHANTECLER [_Watching the_ PHEASANT-HEN, _aside._] How well she walks, with free and graceful gait!--[_He looks at the_ HENS.] So differently from my Hens! [_Irritably, to the_ HENS.] Ladies, you walk as if you had blisters! You walk as if you trod on your own eggs!
PATOU No mistaking the symptoms! He is very much in love.
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Presenting her son to the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] The Guinea-cock, my son.
THE YOUNG GUINEA-COCK [_Looking admiringly at the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] What a jolly shade of blond!
A HEN [_Disparagingly._] Like butter!
CHANTECLER [_Turning, dryly to the_ HENS.] It is time you went indoors.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Amiably._] So soon?
CHANTECLER They retire early.
A HEN [_A little mortified._] Yes, we must turn in.
THE PHEASANT-HEN They go in by a ladder!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] Let us be great friends, my dear, shall we?
CHANTECLER [_Looking at the_ PHEASANT-HEN, _aside._] Her sumptuous court-dress sets her apart from the rest, and removes her far above.--My Hens are dowdies!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To the_ GUINEA-HEN, _excusing herself._] I return to my forest home to-night.
THE GUINEA-HEN [_In excessive grief._] So soon--? [_A shot in the distance._]
PATOU They are still after game.
THE GUINEA-HEN You must stay.
CHANTECLER [_Eagerly._] That's it! Let us keep her a prisoner among us till to-morrow.
PHEASANT-HEN But where can I spend the night?
PATOU [_Indicating his kennel._] There, in my bachelor's quarters.
PHEASANT-HEN I?--Sleep beneath a roof?
PATOU [_Insisting._] Go in, I pray.
THE PHEASANT-HEN But you? What shall you do?
PATOU I shall do very well!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Resigning herself._] I will stay then until to-morrow.
THE GUINEA-HEN [_With piercing cries._] Ah! Ah! But to-morrow, my dear! to-morrow--
ALL [_In alarm._] What is it?
THE YOUNG GUINEA-COCK To-morrow is my mother's day!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Impetuously._] My dear, would you care to come to-morrow quite informally, and take a simple snail with us? The Peacock--
CHANTECLER [_Mounting the ladder, from whence he can inspect the scene._] Quiet, if you please! Evening has blown its smoke across the sky--[_In a tone of command._] Is every one in his accustomed place?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Lower, to the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] The Peacock is coming. We shall hold our little gathering among the currant-bushes.
CHANTECLER Are the turkeys on their roost?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Same business._] From five to six.
CHANTECLER Are the ducks in their pointed house?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Same business._] The Tortoise has kindly said we may expect her.
CHANTECLER [_On the last rung of the ladder._] Is every one under cover?--Every chick under a wing?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Still insisting with the_ PHEASANT-HEN _that she come on the morrow._] The Tufted Hen has promised to bring the Cock.--[_To_ CHANTECLER.] Charmed, I am sure.
THE TUFTED HEN [_Looking out of the hen-house._] You will come, won't you, dear?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_At the foot of the ladder, looking up at him._] Oh, but you will?
THE PHEASANT-HEN Because you said "No!" to the other!
CHANTECLER [_Wavering._] Ah!
PATOU Humph! I beseech you--
CHANTECLER [_Still wavering._] I--
PATOU Humph! He is weakening.--They will make him pay dear if he yields!
THE OLD HEN [_Appearing._] Make a reed into a pipe and play a tune upon it! [_The basket-lid drops._]
[_Night is thickening._]
CHANTECLER [_Still hesitating._] I--
A VOICE Let us go to sleep--
THE TURKEY [_On his roost, solemnly._] _Quandoque dormitat_--
THE BLACKBIRD [_In his cage._] Dormittimus!
CHANTECLER [_Very firmly to the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] I will not go. Good night.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Slightly offended._] Good night! [_With a curt hop she enters the dog-kennel._]
PATOU [_Falling asleep, stretched in front of his kennel._] Let us sleep until the sky grows pink--pink as--as--a puppy's tummy--
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Dropping off._] From five to six--
THE BLACKBIRD [_Likewise dropping off._] Tew--tew--[_He nods._] tew--
CHANTECLER [_Still at the top of the ladder._] All sleeps.--[_He spies a_ CHICK _stealing out._] Is that a chick I see?--[_Springing after him and driving him in._] Let me catch you!--[_In driving back the_ CHICK, _he finds himself near the kennel. He calls very softly._] Pheasant-hen!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Lost among the straw, sleepily._] What do you want?
CHANTECLER [_After a moment's hesitation._] Nothing.--Nothing! [_He goes back to the top of his ladder._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN Shall I be able to sleep, I wonder--
PATOU [_Falling sound asleep._] A puppy's tum--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Indistinctly, overcome by slumber._] To sleep under a roof?--I, with my gypsy tastes?
CHANTECLER I am going in. [_He disappears in the hen-house. He is heard saying in a dreamy voice._] It is time to shut my--my--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_In a last effort._]--gyp--sy--tastes.--[_Her head nods and disappears among the straw._]
CHANTECLER [_His voice, sleepier and fainter._]--to shut my eyes--[_Silence. He sleeps. Two green eyes are seen suddenly kindling at the top of the wall._]
THE CAT And to open mine! [_Immediately two more yellow eyes shine forth from the darkness above the hay-cock._]
A VOICE And mine! [_Two more yellow eyes on the wall._]
ANOTHER VOICE And mine! [_Two more yellow eyes._]
ANOTHER VOICE And mine!
_The_ POULTRY-YARD _asleep. The_ CAT _awake. Three_ SCREECH-OWLS, _later the_ MOLE _and the_ VOICE _of the_ CUCKOO.
FIRST VOICE Two green eyes?
THE CAT [_Sitting up on the wall, and looking at the other phosphorescent eyes._] Six golden eyes?
FIRST VOICE On the wall?
THE CAT On the rick?--[_He calls._] Owls!
THE OWLS Cat!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Waking up._] What's this?
THE SCREECH-OWL [_To the_ CAT.] Great plot against him!
THE CAT To-night?
THE THREE OWLS To-night, too-whit!
THE CAT Pfitt!--Where?
THE OWLS The hollies, too-whoo!
THE CAT What o'clock?
THE OWLS Eight, too-whit! too-whoo!
FIRST OWL Bats weaving soft black snares of flight--
THE CAT Are they with us?
THE THREE OWLS They are!
FIRST OWL Mole, burrowing from nether to upper night--
THE CAT Is she with us?
THE THREE OWLS She is!
THE CAT [_Talking toward the house-door._] You, strike your eight strokes bravely, Cuckoo of the little clock!
THE SCREECH-OWL Is he with us?
THE CAT He is!--And I am pleased to tell you, silent night-watchers that some of the day-birds are likewise with us.
THE TURKEY [_Coming forward surrounded by a number of the barnyard constituents, obsequiously._] So it is settled for this evening, dear Round Eyes? You will be there?
THE OWLS We will be there! All the Round Eyes of the neighbourhood will be there!
THE BLACKBIRD That's a show I'd like to see!
PATOU [_In his sleep._] Grrrrrrr--
THE CAT [_To the startled_ NIGHT-BIRDS.] The dog is dreaming.--He growls in his sleep.
CHANTECLER [_Inside the hen-house._] Coa--
THE OWLS [_Frightened._] Himself!
THE TURKEY Fly!
FIRST OWL No need. The night is dark. We can vanish by merely closing our eyes. [_They shut their luminous eyes. Darkness._ CHANTECLER _appears at the top of the ladder._]
CHANTECLER [_To the_ BLACKBIRD.] Did you hear anything, Blackbird?
THE BLACKBIRD I did, indeed, old chap.
THE OWLS [_Frightened._] What's this?
THE BLACKBIRD A black conspiracy--
THE BLACKBIRD [_With melodramatic emphasis._] Against you!--Tremble!
CHANTECLER [_Going in again, unalarmed._] Joker!
THE OWLS He has gone in.
THE BLACKBIRD I have betrayed no one!
AN OWL The Blackbird then is with us?
THE BLACKBIRD No--but may I come and look on?
AN OWL A Night-bird never eats a black bird. You can come.
THE BLACKBIRD The password?
THE OWL Terror and Talons!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Putting her head out of the dog-kennel._] I can't breathe in that stifling, low-roofed little house, and--[_Catching sight of the_ NIGHT-BIRDS.] Oh!--[_She darts aside, behind the kennel, and watches._]
THE OWLS Hush! [_They close their eyes._ THE CAT _does the same. After a time, hearing no further sound, they open them again._] It was nothing. Let us be off.
THE GROUP OF THE DISAFFECTED [_With fawning obsequiousness to the_ NIGHT-BIRDS.] Success to you, Owls,--success!
THE OWL Thanks! But how is it that you are with us?
THE CAT Ah, night brings out what daylight will not own to! I do not like the Cock because the Dog does.--There you have it!
THE TURKEY I do not like him, for the reason that having known him as a Chick I cannot admit him as a Cock!
A DUCK I do not like the Cock because, not being web-footed, he marks his passage by a track of stars!
A CHICKEN I do not like the Cock because I'm such a homely bird!
ANOTHER CHICKEN I do not like the Cock because he has his picture painted in purple on all the plates!
ANOTHER CHICKEN I do not like the Cock because on all the steeples he has his statue in gilt-bronze!
AN OWL [_To a big overgrown_ CHICKEN.] Well, well!--And you, Capon?
THE CAPON [_Dryly._] I do not like the Cock!
THE CUCKOO [_Beginning to strike eight inside the house._] Cuckoo!
FIRST OWL The hour!
SECOND OWL Let us go!
THE CUCKOO Cuckoo!
FIRST OWL The moon!
THE CUCKOO Cuckoo!
FIRST OWL Silently cleave the blue air--
THE CUCKOO Cuckoo!
THE MOLE [_Suddenly pushing up through the ground._]--the dark earth!
FIRST OWL There comes the Mole!
THE CUCKOO Cuckoo!
FIRST OWL [_To the_ MOLE.] And you, why do you hate him?
THE MOLE I hate him because I have never seen him!
THE CUCKOO Cuckoo!
FIRST OWL And you, Cuckoo, do you know why you hate him?
THE CUCKOO [_On the last stroke._] Because he does not have to be wound up! Cuckoo!
FIRST OWL And we do not love--
SECOND OWL [_Hurriedly._] We are keeping the others waiting--
ALL --the Cock, because--[_They fly off. Silence._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Coming slowly from behind the kennel._] I am beginning to love him!
THE MORNING OF THE COCK
_Wild hillside, moss-grown and ferny, overlooking a valley with scattered villages and winding river. Ruined wall, fragment of some vanished terrace. Gigantic chestnut tree, rank hollies and foxgloves. Litter suggesting neglected corner of a park: gardening implements lying on the ground, fagots, broken flower-pots._
_The_ NIGHT-BIRDS, _of all sorts and sizes, form a great circle, perching in tiers on the branches, the briers, the stones; the_ CAT _crouches in the grass; the_ BLACKBIRD _hops hither and thither on a fagot._
_At the rise of the curtain the_ NIGHT-BIRDS _are discovered, motionless, black shapes with closed eyes. The_ GRAND DUKE _is perched upon a tree branch above the rest. The_ SCREECH-OWL'S _phosphorescent eyes alone are wide open. He proceeds with the roll-call, and at every name two great round eyes brighten in the dark._
THE SCREECH-OWL [_Calling._] Strix! [_Two eyes light up._] Scops! [_Two more eyes light up._] Grand-Duke! [_Two more eyes._] Metascops! [_Two more eyes._] Minor! [_Two more eyes._]
ONE NIGHT-BIRD [_To the other._] The Great Bubo presides.
THE SCREECH-OWL [_Calling._] Owl of the Wall! Of the Belfry! Of the Cloister! Of the Yew! [_At every name two more eyes have opened wide._]
A NIGHT-BIRD [_To another just arriving._] The roll is called!
THE OTHER I know. All there is to do is to open our eyes.
THE SCREECH-OWL Asio! Nictea! Nyctalis! [_Three more pairs of eyes have opened._] Brachyotus! [_No eye opening at the name, he repeats._] Brachyotus!
ONE OF THE NIGHT-BIRDS He will be here directly. He stopped to eat a linnet.
BRACHYOTUS [_Arriving._] Present!
THE SCREECH-OWL Not one of them would miss, when the meeting relates to the Cock!
BRACHYOTUS Not one!
THE SCREECH-OWL Carine! [_Two eyes open._] Caparacoch! [_No eye opening, he repeats emphatically._] Ca-pa-ra-coch!--Well?--Well?
CAPARACOCH [_Arriving out of breath, opens his eyes, faltering an excuse. _] I live a long way off!
THE SCREECH-OWL [_Dryly._] You should have started the earlier! [_Looking around._] We are all present, I believe. [_Calling._] Flammeolus! And Flammeoline! [_All the eyes are now open._]
THE GRAND-DUKE [_Solemnly._] Before beginning, let us give, but not too loud, the cry which makes us all as one!
ALL Long live the Night!
_And in a weird, savage, hurried chorus, interspersed with hoots and flapping of wings, all talking together and rocking themselves in hideous glee._
THE GRAND-DUKE Praise the Night, discreet, propitious, When with wadded wing and muted O'er the sleeping world we fly, And the partridge in the bracken Ne'er suspects the hovering presence Till we pounce without a cry.
THE SCREECH-OWL Praise the Night, convenient, secret, When in slaughtering baby rabbits We can do it at our ease, Daub the grass with blood in comfort, Spare the pains to look like heroes, Be ourselves where no one sees!
AN OLD HORNED-OWL Praise the density of darkness!
A WOOD-OWL The intensity of stillness Letting crunching bones be heard!
A BARN-OWL Freshness pleasantly contrasting With the genial warmth of blood drops Spurting from a strangled bird!
THE WOOD-OWL Praise the black rock oozing terror!
THE SCREECH-OWL And the cross-roads where our screeches, Furrowing the startled air, Our demoniac yelling, hooting, Make the hardened unbeliever Cross himself and fall to prayer!
THE GRAND-DUKE Praise the snares of the great Weaver, Night, whose only fault or weakness Is her tolerance of stars!
THE SCREECH-OWL For spectators are not wanted At the work of plucking fledglings-- Be they Jupiter and Mars!
THE GRAND-DUKE Praise the Night, when we take vengeance On the goldfinch for his beauty, On the titmouse for his grace! When the darkness takes possession Let them tremble, those confiding Hostages of Day's!
THE WOOD-OWL For there is a choice in murder!
THE GRAND-DUKE And the inkier the blackness All the clearer do we see To select the whitest pigeon In the dove-cote, and the bluest Blue jay on the shuddering tree!
THE BARN-OWL Praise the hour and taste and relish Of the eggs we suck, destroying Hopes of many a haughty line!
THE SCREECH-OWL And the councils where in whispers We prepare what shall resemble Accidents by every sign!
THE GRAND-DUKE Praise the shadow's grim suggestions! The advantage over others We inherit through their fright!
THE SCREECH-OWL For our grisly cachinnations Give the very eagle goose-flesh--
ALL TOGETHER Praise our patroness, the Night!
THE GRAND-DUKE And now let the Screech-Owl in his russet robe take the floor.
SEVERAL VOICES Silence!
THE BLACKBIRD [_On his fagot._] What an awf'ly lovely evening party!
THE SCREECH-OWL [_Oratorically._] Brethren of the Night--
THE GRAND-DUKE [_To the_ OWL _next to him._] The meeting-place seems to me particularly well chosen. The blackest spot, the moldiest tree. To the right, old postherds. To the left, in the dark between the hollies--the view!
THE SCREECH-OWL Brethren of the Night!--
AN OWL There comes the Mole!
SEVERAL VOICES Silence!
THE OWL She must have taken, to come here, a route below the roots of the daisies--
THE BLACKBIRD The subway, what else?
THE GRAND-DUKE [_To his neighbor._] Is that the Blackbird?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Coming forward._] Yes, your Grace. And the two agate balls over there are the Cat.
THE GRAND-DUKE I can hear him licking his paws.
THE SCREECH-OWL [_Resuming._] Brethren of the Night! Inasmuch as everybody here--and we plume ourselves upon it!--is possessed of the evil eye--
ALL THE BIRDS [_Chuckling and rocking in their peculiarly disgusting and characteristic fashion._] Ha, ha!
THE GRAND-DUKE [_Spreading his wings to demand silence._] Hush! [_All return to their appalling stillness._]
THE BLACKBIRD My eye is merely roguish. I am here to look on, you know, without taking sides,--in the artist spirit, that's all.
AN OWL If you are not taking sides, then you are siding with us!
THE BLACKBIRD Oh, I say, what a primitive notion!
THE SCREECH-OWL [_Completing his sentence._] Let us express ourselves with simple and direct malevolence: the Cock is a robber!
ALL A robber! He robs us!
THE BLACKBIRD Now, what the--Robs you of what?
THE GRAND-DUKE Of health! Gladness!
THE BLACKBIRD How is that?
THE SCREECH-OWL By his crowing!
THE GRAND-DUKE His crowing brings on enlargement of the spleen and pericarditis! For it heralds--
THE BLACKBIRD [_Hopping about._] Oh, I see--The light!
[_All make a violent motion in his direction; the_ BLACKBIRD _frightened, hides among the fagots._]
THE GRAND-DUKE [_Emphatically._] Never speak that word! When that word is spoken, Night at the horizon feels a crawling discomfort, a titillation underneath her wing.
THE BLACKBIRD [_Cautiously correcting himself._] The brightness of--[_General start of dismay repeated; the_ BLACKBIRD _again dodges behind the fagots._]
AN OWL [_Hurriedly._] Never utter that horrible grating word, which so hatefully suggests the scratching of a match!
THE SCREECH-OWL You should express yourself: The Cock heralds the folding back of the pall--
THE BLACKBIRD But the day--[_Start and threatening gesture from all._]
ALL [_In voices of unspeakable anguish._] Not that word!
THE GRAND-DUKE You must refer to it as "that which will be!"
THE BLACKBIRD What difference does it make whether or not he heralds the--
ALL [_Stopping him._] Ha!
THE BLACKBIRD --the folding back of the pall, since that which will be--will be!
THE GRAND-DUKE [_In tones of despair._] Simple torture it is to hear a brazen throat forever reminding you of what you know to be only too true!
ALL [_Writhing in pain._] Too true! Too true!
THE GRAND-DUKE He begins while the night is still pleasant and cool--
CRIES ON ALL SIDES He is a robber, a thief!
THE GRAND-DUKE He cheats us!
ALL THE OWLS He cheats us! Cheats us!
THE GRAND-DUKE Of the good bit of night there still is left.
AN OWLET He compels us to leave our posts beside the warrens--
THE SCREECH-OWL Our feasts of steaming flesh!
THE WOOD-OWL The witches' routs where we ride perched on the fist of a hag!
THE GRAND-DUKE After cock-crow an Owl is no longer in his normal state--
THE SCREECH-OWL He does evil in a hurry!
THE GRAND-DUKE And bungles it in consequence!
THE OLD HORNED-OWL As soon as the Cock has crowed all becomes temporary provisional--
THE BARN-OWL Though the Night be still black, we are painfully aware of it growing less and less black!
THE SCREECH-OWL When his metallic voice has cleft the night, we squirm like a worm in a fruit that is cut in two.
THE BLACKBIRD [_On his fagot, mystified._] The other Cocks, however--
THE GRAND-DUKE Their song creates no uneasiness. It is his song which must be silenced.
ALL THE NIGHT-BIRDS [_Flapping their wings, in a long lament._] Silenced! Silenced!
AN OWL How can it be accomplished?
THE SCREECH-OWL The Blackbird here has worked in our cause.
THE BLACKBIRD Who--I?
THE SCREECH-OWL Yes, you laughed at him.
ALL [_Cackling._] Ha, ha!
THE GRAND-DUKE [_Spreading his wings._] Hush! [_They resume their sinister stillness._]
THE SCREECH-OWL But his song has not acted any the less directly on our gall-bladders for the fun that has been made of him. He has grown stronger than ever since he was found ridiculous.
ALL What shall we do?
THE SCREECH-OWL The Peacock, that great booby--
ALL [_Cackling and rocking._] Ha, ha!
THE GRAND-DUKE [_Opening his wings._] Hush! [_All instantly motionless._]
THE SCREECH-OWL Through the Peacock, likewise working in our cause, the Cock came out of fashion. But his song is just as inconvenient, in fashion or out of it. He is all the more proudly uncompromising for no longer being in style.
ALL What shall we do?
AN OWL Cut his throat!
CRIES Death to the Cock!
AN OWL Death to that aristocrat posing as a democrat and socialist!
ANOTHER With spurs on his heels, but a liberty cap on his head!
THE GRAND-DUKE Night-birds all, arise!
[ALL, _arising with outspread wings and glaring eyes, increase enormously in size. The night appears doubly dark._]
THE BLACKBIRD [_With unabated lightness._] Midnight to the fore!
THE SCREECH-OWL Kill him! But how can we, when our eyes cease to see the moment he comes out?
ALL [_Wailing like an ancient chorus._] Woe!
THE OLD HORNED-OWL [_Craftily._] How kill--from afar?
THE GRAND-DUKE By means of what secret spring?
A VOICE [_From the tree._] Duke, may I lay a plan before the assembly?
THE GRAND-DUKE Scops! Let us hear!
ALL [_At sight of a small_ OWL _dropping from a bough, and coming forward with tiny hops._] Scops, dear little Scops!
SCOPS [_Bowing before the_ GRAND-DUKE.] You are aware, mighty Blind-by-day-and-seer-by-night, that in pleasant gardens up yonder hill a breeder of birds--termed aviculturist, raises for exhibitions--termed agricultural, the most magnificent Cocks of the most extraordinary varieties. Now, that great discoverer of rare birds, the Peacock, who, possessing a voice which pierces the ear-drum cannot abide a voice which pierces the darkness--the Peacock, whose specialty it is to confer celebrity upon every strange beast--
THE GRAND-DUKE [_To his neighbour._] From every strange region!
SCOPS Cherishes the dream of presenting these same Cocks to-morrow, in the kitchen garden, at the--
ALL TOGETHER [_Laughing._] Guinea-hen's!
SCOPS And launching among her set these Birds whose glory will be the finishing blow to the glory of Chantecler.
THE BLACKBIRD Flatten him out like a pan cake!
THE SCREECH OWL But those Cocks are always locked in!
SCOPS I am coming to that. This evening, when a maid, having entered their wire-netted close, was scattering corn in a golden shower, I started up suddenly from the hollow of a pollard willow, and the girl--
AN OWL [_To his neighbour._] What a bright mind, our little Scops!
SCOPS At sight of the ill-omened bird--
ALL [_Cackling and rocking._] Ha, ha!
THE GRAND-DUKE [_Spreading his wings._] Hush! [_All suddenly still._]
SCOPS Fled, with one arm across her eyes! The cage was left open, and the whole fantastic host will meet Chantecler to-morrow at the--
ALL [_With peals of laughter._] Guinea-hen's!
THE BLACKBIRD He is not going. He has refused.
SCOPS The devil!
THE CAT [_Quietly._] Go on, Scops. He will be there.
THE BLACKBIRD [_Looking at him from a distance._] What do you know about it, pocket panther?
THE CAT I saw a Pheasant-hen exciting his admiration, and I saw that he would go.
THE BLACKBIRD It's when you're sound asleep that you see everything!
THE GRAND-DUKE [_To_ SCOPS.] Very well, then, let us suppose him going.
SCOPS Chantecler, for all his fame, has retained his bluff country squire's frankness. When he sees this--
THE BLACKBIRD [_Prompting._] Tea-fight--
SCOPS And the contortions of those--
THE BLACKBIRD [_Same business._] Snobs--
SCOPS In the presence of those--
THE BLACKBIRD [_Same business._] Big guns--
SCOPS He is sure to say things which they are equally sure to take up.
THE GRAND-DUKE [_Thrilled._] And do you believe that a cock-fight--?
SCOPS Such is my fond hope.
THE CAT But listen, Scops. Suppose Chantecler should win?
SCOPS Know, Angora, that there will be among those fancy cocks a genuine game-cock, lean, with tawny wing, the same who--
THE BLACKBIRD [_Seeing the_ OWLS _puff out their feathers for joy._] Sensation among the audience!
SCOPS The same who has defeated the most famous champions--the White Pile. And as this victor in Flemish and English encounters wears at his heels, for the defter dispatching of his enemy, two razors fastened there by the ingenuity of man, by tomorrow night Chantecler will be dead, and his eyes picked out of their sockets.
THE SCREECH-OWL [_Enthusiastically._] We will go and gloat over his corpse!
THE GRAND-DUKE [_Risen to his full height, formidable._] And his comb, which looked above his forehead like an incarnate bit of scarlet dawn, we will take his comb,--our dearest dream at length fulfilled!--and we will eat it!
ALL [_With a yell, which ends in their ferocious cackling and rocking._] And we will eat it,--eat it, ha, ha!
THE GRAND-DUKE [_Spreading his wings._] Hush! [_Dead silence._]
SCOPS And after that--
THE BLACKBIRD [_Hopping._] It's quite a tidy proposition as it stands--
THE BLACKBIRD Your scheme! By Jingo, if I were the sort of bird to take things solemnly, I would go straight to the Cock and tell him. But I will do nothing of the sort. [_He concludes, with four little hops._] For I know--that all this--will turn out--beautifully!
SCOPS [_Ironically._] Beautifully indeed! [_He continues in growing excitement._] And after that, if those absurd Cocks of far-fetched breeds have not by to-morrow evening gone back to their cages, we will eat them all, no longer good for anything!
THE GRAND-DUKE [_In his neighbour's ear._] And after that we will eat the Blackbird for dessert.
THE BLACKBIRD [_Who has not caught the last sentence._] What did he say?
SCOPS [_Quickly._] Nothing! [_In a still increasing frenzy of glee._] And after that--
[_In the distance: Cock-a-doodle-doo! Instant silence. _SCOPS_ stops short and collapses, as if mown down. All the puffed _OWLS_ appear suddenly to have grown thin._]
ALL [_Looking at one another and blinking._] What is it? What was that? [_They hastily spread their wings and call to one another for flight._] Grand-Duke! Minor! Minimus!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Hopping from one to the other._] Going? So soon? Why, what's your hurry?
VOICE [_Of one of the_ NIGHT-BIRDS _calling to another._] Nyctalis!
THE BLACKBIRD It's hours before daybreak. Oceans of time, you have!
AN OWL Asio, are you coming?
ANOTHER OWL [_Calling._] Nictea!
ANOTHER [_Fluttering up to him._] Yes, my dear! [_They all stagger and trip over their wings._]
THE BLACKBIRD What makes them stumble?
THE NIGHT-BIRDS [_Winking and blinking with marked evidences of pain._] Oh, how it hurts! Ow! Ow!
THE BLACKBIRD Lightning opthalmia, I declare! [_One by one the_ OWLS _fly off._]
THE GRAND-DUKE [_The last to go, spins on himself with a cry of pain and rage._] How does he contrive, that pernicious Cock, to have a voice that fairly puts out your eyes! [_He heavily flaps off._]
VOICES OF THE NIGHT-BIRDS [_In the distance._] Strix!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Looking after them among the branches, and later in the blue space over the valley._] They are calling one another!
VOICE IN THE DISTANCE Scops!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Bending over the valley, where the dark wings are dwindling and fading._] They wheel--waver--dip--
VOICES [_Dying in the distance._] Owl of the Wall! Of the Belfry! Of the Yew!
THE BLACKBIRD Gone! [_He looks about, gives a hop, and with an immediate return to levity._] But it's supper-time.--Now for a bite of cold grasshopper! [_The_ PHEASANT-HEN _suddenly flies over the brushwood tangle, dropping beside him._] You!
THE BLACKBIRD, THE PHEASANT-HEN, _later_ CHANTECLER
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Panting, tragically earnest._] I ran all the way.--You were there.--Oh, I am half dead with terror!--Well you must have overheard their dreadful secret! You, his friend!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Cheerfully rummaging among the moss._] Or the thigh of a katydid will do.
THE PHEASANT-HEN I was watching from a distance. I crouched in a ditch--[_In an anguished voice._] Well?
THE BLACKBIRD [_In genuine surprise._] Well, what?
THE PHEASANT-HEN Their conspiracy--
THE BLACKBIRD [_Calmly._] It all went off very nicely.
THE PHEASANT-HEN What do you mean?
THE BLACKBIRD The shadow was a correct and appropriate blue, and the Owls said perfectly characteristic things.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_In wild alarm._] Heavens, they plotted his death?
THE BLACKBIRD His decease, which is not nearly so bad.
THE PHEASANT-HEN But--
THE BLACKBIRD Don't smite your brow! In spite of the Screech-Owl's grave and self-important tone, I shouldn't wonder if it all amounted to very little.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Those Owls--
THE BLACKBIRD Are good enough in their various parts, but it's the old excessive style of acting.
THE PHEASANT-HEN I beg your pardon?
THE BLACKBIRD Back numbers!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Oh?
THE BLACKBIRD They have eyelashes, fancy, all the way round their eyes! It's too much of a good thing, really.--And that black plot, those desperately dark designs, all that belongs to the year one; you can see moss growing on its back!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Fluttering hither and thither feverishly._] I am never quite sure of understanding when a person is talking in fun.
THE BLACKBIRD [_Winking at her._] No flies on your acting!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Surely you wouldn't be laughing if he were in danger? Those ruffians--?
THE BLACKBIRD Prattlers! Wooden Swords! Knights of Hot Air!
THE PHEASANT-HEN But Scops--?
THE BLACKBIRD A stuffed Owl!
THE PHEASANT-HEN And the Great Bubo--?
THE BLACKBIRD Just two ten-candle-power lamps, to be turned on and off with a switch,--crick-crack! And Flammeolus, two lamps likewise--but acetylene!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Bewildered by his imagery._] And so--?
THE BLACKBIRD No, trembling Gypsy, there's not enough in this great plot to choke a flea withal!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Truly? I have been so horribly afraid--
THE BLACKBIRD Fear, I warn you, lovely Zingara, leads to dyspepsia! It's because he keeps his eye closed and buried in the sand that the ostrich has preserved his famous digestion!
THE PHEASANT-HEN So it might seem.
THE BLACKBIRD We have in these latter days bowed Tragedy respectfully out of the house!
THE PHEASANT-HEN But had we not best warn Chantecler, so that--
THE BLACKBIRD He would go instantly and challenge them. And then such a whetting of steel!
THE PHEASANT-HEN You are right. So he would.
THE BLACKBIRD On your principle, mad Gitana, an oak-gall could be made into a world.
THE PHEASANT-HEN You have much good sense.
THE BLACKBIRD Daughter of the forest, I have.
CHANTECLER'S VOICE [_Outside._] Coa--
THE PHEASANT-HEN Chantecler!
CHANTECLER [_Approaching on the left, between the hollies, calls from afar._] Who is there?
THE PHEASANT-HEN It is I!
CHANTECLER [_Still from a distance._] Alone?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_With a significant look at the_ BLACKBIRD.] Yes, alone.
THE BLACKBIRD [_Understanding._] I vanish--I am off to supper.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Low to the_ BLACKBIRD.] And so--?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Motioning her to be silent._] Keep it dark! [_As he is leaving, by the right, in the manner of one giving an order to a waiter._] Earwigs for one!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Low._] It is wiser, you think, not to tell him?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Before disappearing among the flower-pots._] Well, rather!
THE PHEASANT-HEN, CHANTECLER.
CHANTECLER [_Who has reached the_ PHEASANT-HEN'S _side._] Out so early?
THE PHEASANT-HEN To see the daybreak.
CHANTECLER [_With repressed emotion._] Ah--?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Teasingly._] What troubles you?
CHANTECLER I have had a wretched night.
THE PHEASANT-HEN So sorry! [_A pause._]
CHANTECLER Are you going to the Guinea-hen's?
THE PHEASANT-HEN I stayed over solely for that purpose.
CHANTECLER Ah, yes, I know. [_A pause._] I dislike her extremely.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Come to her party.
THE PHEASANT-HEN As you please. Then we may as well say good-bye.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Come to the Guinea-hen's. We shall have a chance to see something of each other there.
THE PHEASANT-HEN You are determined not to come?
CHANTECLER I am coming--but I hate it.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Why?
CHANTECLER It is weak.
THE PHEASANT-HEN No, no! That is no great sign of weakness!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Softly, coming closer to him._] What would be showing a sweet, delightful, and fully masculine weakness--
CHANTECLER [_In alarm at her approach._] What?
THE PHEASANT-HEN Would be to tell me your secret. Oh, just a wee bit!
CHANTECLER [_With a start._] The secret of my song?
THE PHEASANT-HEN Yes.
CHANTECLER Golden Hen, my secret--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Coaxingly._] Often from the edge of the woods I hear you in the first golden glimmer of day--
CHANTECLER [_Flattered._] My song has reached your shapely little ear?
THE PHEASANT-HEN It has!
CHANTECLER [_Abruptly, moving away from her._] My secret--Never!
THE PHEASANT-HEN You are not very gallant!
CHANTECLER No--I am full of conflict and misery.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Languidly reciting._] The Cock and the Pheasant-hen a Fable--
CHANTECLER [_Half aloud._] A Cock loved a Pheasant-hen--
THE PHEASANT-HEN And would not tell her anything--
THE PHEASANT-HEN It was horrid of him!
CHANTECLER [_Pressing close to her._] Moral: Your dress has the fascinating rustle of silk!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Moral: I dislike familiarity! [_Withdrawing from him._] Go home to your Hen of the plebeian petticoat!
CHANTECLER [_Stamping._] I shall be angry!
THE PHEASANT-HEN No, no, don't be angry--Say "Coa--" [_They stand bill to bill._]
CHANTECLER [_Angrily._] Coa--
THE PHEASANT-HEN No, no! Say it nicely--
CHANTECLER [_In a long, tender coo._] Coa--
THE PHEASANT-HEN Look at me without laughing. Your secret--
THE PHEASANT-HEN You are dying to tell it to me!
CHANTECLER Yes, I feel that I shall tell, and I know I shall do ill in telling. And it's all because of the gold on her dainty little head! [_Going brusquely nearer to her._] Shall you prove worthy, at least, of having been chosen? Is your breast true red to the core?
THE PHEASANT-HEN Now tell me!
CHANTECLER Look at me, Pheasant-hen, and try, if indeed it be possible, try to recognise, by yourself, sign by sign, the vocation of which my body is the symbol. Guess, to begin with, at my destiny from my shape, and see how, curved like a sort of living hunting-horn, I am as much formed for sound to turn and gain volume within me, as the wild duck is formed to swim!--Wait!--Mark the fact that, impatient and proud, scratching up the earth with my claws, I appear always to be seeking something in the soil--
THE PHEASANT-HEN You are seeking for grains of corn, seeds, I suppose.
CHANTECLER Never! I have never looked for such things. I find them occasionally, into the bargain, but disdainfully I give them to my Hens.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Well, then, in your perpetual scratching, what is it you are looking for?
CHANTECLER The right spot! For always before singing I carefully choose my stand. Pray, observe--
THE PHEASANT-HEN True, and then you ruffle your feathers.
CHANTECLER I never start to sing until my eight claws, after clearing a space of weeds and stones, have found the soft, dark turf underneath. Then, placed in direct contact with the good earth, I sing!--And that is already half the mystery, Pheasant-hen, half the mystery of my song, which is not of those songs one sings after composing them, but is received straight from the native soil, like sap! And the time above all when that sap arises in me,--the hour, briefly, in which I have genius, in which I can never doubt I have!--is the hour when dawn falters on the boundaries of the dark sky. Then, filled with the same quivering as leaves and grass, thrilled to the very tips of my wing quills, I feel myself a chosen instrument. I accentuate my curve of a hunting-horn, Earth speaks in me as in a conch, and ceasing to be an ordinary bird, I become the mouthpiece, in some sort official, through which the cry of the earth escapes toward the sky!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Chantecler!
CHANTECLER And that cry which rises from the earth, that cry is such a cry of love for the light, is such a deep and frenzied cry of love for the golden thing we call the Day, and that all thirst to feel again: the pine on its bark, the tortuous roots in woodland paths on their mosses, the feather-grass on each delicate spray, the tiniest pebble in its tiniest mica flake; it is so wonderfully the cry of all that misses and mourns its colour, its reflection, its flame, its coronet, its pearl; the beseeching cry of the dew-washed meadow begging for a wee rainbow at every grass-tip, of the forest begging a burst of fire at the end of each gloomy avenue; that cry which mounts to the sky through me is so greatly the cry of all that feels itself in disgrace, plunged in a sunless pit, deprived of light without knowing for what offence; is the cry of cold, the cry of fear, the cry of weariness, of all that night disables or disarms; the rose shivering alone in the dark, the hay wanting to be dried and go to the mow, the sickle forgotten out of doors by the reaper and fearing it will rust in the grass, the white things dismayed at not looking white; is so greatly the cry of the innocent among beasts, who have nothing to conceal, of the brook fain to show its crystal clearness; and even--for thy very works, O Night, disown thee!--of the puddle longing to glisten, the mud longing to become earth again, by drying; it is so greatly the magnificent cry of the field impatient to feel its wheat and barley growing, of the blossoming tree mad for still more blossoms of the green grapes craving a purple side; of the bridge waiting for footsteps, for shadows of birds among shadows of branches; the voice of all that yearns to sing, to drop the garb of mourning, live again, serve again, be a brink, be a bourn, a sun-warm seat, a stone glad to comfort with warmth the hand touching, or the insect overcrawling it; finally, it is so greatly the cry toward the light of all Beauty, all Health, all which wishes, in sunshine and joy, to see its work while doing it, and do it to be seen--And when I feel that vast call to the Day arising within me, I so expand my soul to make it more sonorous, by making it more spacious, that the great cry may still be increased in greatness; before giving it, I withold it in my soul a moment so piously; then, when, to expel it, I contract my soul, I am so convinced of accomplishing a great act, I have such faith that my song will make night crumble like the walls of Jericho--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Frightened._] Chantecler!
CHANTECLER And sounding its victory beforehand, my song springs forth so clear, so proud, so peremptory, that the horizon, seized with a rosy trembling--_obeys!_
THE PHEASANT-HEN Chantecler!
CHANTECLER I sing! Vainly Night offers to compromise, offers a dubious twilight--I sing again! And suddenly--
THE PHEASANT-HEN Chantecler!
CHANTECLER I fall back, blinded by the red light bathing me, dazzled at having, I, the Cock, made the Sun to rise!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Then the whole secret of your song--?
CHANTECLER Is that I dare assume that the East without me must rest in idleness! I sing, not to hear the echo repeat, a shade fainter, my song! I think of light and not of glory! Singing is my fashion of waging war and bearing witness. And if my song is the proudest of songs, it is that I sing clearly to make the day rise clear!
THE PHEASANT-HEN What he says sounds slightly mad!--You are responsible for the rising of--
CHANTECLER That which opens flower, eye, soul, and window! Certainly! My voice dispenses light! And when the sky is grey, the reason is that I have sung badly.
THE PHEASANT-HEN But when you sing by day?
CHANTECLER I am practising, or else promising the ploughshare, the hoe, the harrow, the scythe, not to neglect my duty of waking them.
THE PHEASANT-HEN But what wakens you?
CHANTECLER The fear of forgetting.
THE PHEASANT-HEN And you believe that at the sound of your voice the whole world is suffused--?
CHANTECLER I have no clear idea of the whole world. But I sing for my own valley, and desire that every Cock may do the same for his.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Still--
CHANTECLER But here I stand, explaining, perorating, and forgetting altogether to make my dawn.
THE PHEASANT-HEN His dawn!
CHANTECLER Ah, what I say sounds mad? I will make the dawn before your very eyes! And the wish to please you adding its ardour to the ordinary forces of my soul, I shall rise in singing, as I feel, to unusual heights, and the dawn will rise more fair to-day than ever it rose before!
THE PHEASANT-HEN More fair?
CHANTECLER Assuredly,--in just the measure that strength is added to the song by the knowledge of listeners, boldness to the exploit by the consciousness of lovely watching eyes--[_Taking his stand upon a hillock at the back, overlooking the valley._] Now, Madam!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Gazing at his outline against the sky._] How beautiful he is!
CHANTECLER Look attentively at the sky. Already it has paled. The reason is that a short while back, with my earliest crow I ordered the sun to stand in readiness just below the horizon.
THE PHEASANT-HEN He is so beautiful that what he says almost seems possible!
CHANTECLER [_Talking toward the horizon._] Ha, Sun, I feel you just behind there, stirring--and I laugh with pride and joy amidst my scarlet wattles--[_Rising on tiptoe suddenly, in a voice of startling loudness._] Cock-a-doodle-doo!
THE PHEASANT-HEN What great breath lifts his breast-feathers?
CHANTECLER [_Toward the east._] Obey!--I am the Earth, and I am Labour! My comb is the pattern of a forge fire, and the voice of the furrow rises to my throat! [_Whispering mysteriously._] Yes, yes, month of July--
THE PHEASANT-HEN To whom is he speaking?
CHANTECLER You shall have it earlier than April! [_Bending to right and left, encouragingly._] Yes, Bramble!--Yes, Brake!
THE PHEASANT-HEN He is magnificent!
CHANTECLER [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] You see, I must at all times remember--[_Stroking the earth with his wing._] Yes, dear Grass!--remember the humble prayers whose interpreter I become. [_Talking to invisible things._] The golden ladder?--I understand! that you may all dance on it together!
THE PHEASANT-HEN To whom are you promising a ladder?
CHANTECLER To the Motes--Cock-a-doodle-doo!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Watching the sky and landscape._] A shiver of blue runs across the thatched roofs.--A star went out just then--
CHANTECLER No, it veiled itself. Even by daylight the stars are there.
THE PHEASANT-HEN You do not extinguish them?
CHANTECLER I extinguish nothing! But you shall see how great I am at kindling!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Oh, I see a dawning of--
CHANTECLER What do you see?
THE PHEASANT-HEN The blue is no longer blue!
CHANTECLER I told you! It is already green!
THE PHEASANT-HEN The green is turning to orange--
CHANTECLER You will have been the first this morning to see the transformation!
[_The distant plain takes on velvety purplish hues._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN It all seems to end in leagues of purple heather.
CHANTECLER [_Whose crow is beginning to tire._] Cock-a-doo--
THE PHEASANT-HEN Oh--yellow among the pine trees!
CHANTECLER Gold it ought to be,--gold!
THE PHEASANT-HEN And pearly grey--
CHANTECLER It shall be white!--I haven't done it yet! Cock-a-doodle-doo--It's very bad so far, but I won't give up!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Every hollow in every tree is pink as a wild rose--
CHANTECLER [_With growing enthusiasm._] Since love lends me strength in addition to faith, I say the Day to-day shall be more beautiful that the Day!--Do you see? Do you see the eastern sky at my voice dappling itself with light?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Lured along and half persuaded by the madness of the_ COCK.] Such a thing might be, after all, since love is involved in the mystery!
CHANTECLER Resume, horizon, at my command, your fringe of little poplars!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Bending over the valley._] There emerges from the shadow, gradually, a world of your creation--
CHANTECLER Sacred things you are witnessing--To sacred things I am initiating you!--Define your outlines, distant hills! Pheasant-hen, do you love me?
THE PHEASANT-HEN We shall always love to be in the secret of the Makers of Dawn!
CHANTECLER You help me to sing better. Come closer. Collaborate.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Springing to his side._] I love you!
CHANTECLER Every word you whisper in my ear shall be translated into sunshine for all the world to see!
THE PHEASANT-HEN I love you!
CHANTECLER Say it again, and I will gild that mountain suddenly!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Wildly._] I love you!--Let me see you gild it!
CHANTECLER [_In his greatest, most splendid manner._] Cock-a-doodle-doo! [_The mountain turns golden._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Pointing to the lower ranges, still purple._] But the hills?
CHANTECLER Each in its turn. To the highest peaks belong the earliest rays! Cock-a-doodle-doo!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Ah!--across yonder drowsing slope a stealing gleam--
CHANTECLER [_Joyously._] I dedicate it to you!
THE PHEASANT-HEN The distant villages are coming into view.
CHANTECLER Cock-a--[_His voice breaks._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN You are weary!
CHANTECLER [_Stiffening himself._] I refuse to be! [_Wildly._] Cock-a-doodle-doo!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Exhausted!
CHANTECLER Do you see those tatters of mist still clinging? Cock-a-doodle-doo!
THE PHEASANT-HEN You will kill yourself!
CHANTECLER I only live, dear, when I am killing myself giving great splendid cries!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Pressing close to his side._] I am proud of you!
CHANTECLER [_With emotion._] Your head bows--
THE PHEASANT-HEN I listen to the Day arising in your breast! I delight to hear first in your lungs what by-and-by will be purple and gold on the mountain sides!
CHANTECLER [_While the little distant houses begin to smoke in the dawn._] I dedicate to you moreover those reawakened farmsteads. Man offers trinkets, I--wreaths and plumes of smoke!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Looking off._] I can see your work growing,--growing in the distance.
CHANTECLER [_Looking at her._] I can see it in your eyes!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Over the meadows--
CHANTECLER On your throat--[_In a smothered voice._] Oh, it is exquisite!
THE PHEASANT-HEN What?
CHANTECLER I am at once doing my duty, and making you more fair. I am gilding my valley, while brightening your wing. [_Tearing himself from love, and dashing toward the right._] But the shadow still fights all along the line of retreat. There is much to be done over there! Cock-a-doodle-doo!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Looking up at the sky._] Oh, look!
CHANTECLER [_Looking too, sadly._] How can I prevent it? The morning star is fading out!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_In a tone of regret for the little bright spark which the growing light must necessarily quench._] It is fading out--
CHANTECLER Alas!--But shall we therefore despond? [_And tearing himself from melancholy, he springs toward the left._] There is still much to do over here. Cock-a--[_At this point the crowing of other_ COCKS _ascends from the valley._ CHANTECLER _listens, then softly._] Hark! Do you hear them now?
THE PHEASANT-HEN Who dare--?
CHANTECLER The other Cocks.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Bending above the plain._] They are singing in the rosy light--
CHANTECLER Yes, they believe in the light as soon as they see it.
THE PHEASANT-HEN They sing all in a haze of blue--
CHANTECLER I sang in total blackness. My song rose from the cheerless shade, and was the first to rise. It is when Night prevails that it's fine to believe in the Light!
THE PHEASANT-HEN How dare they sing when you are singing?
CHANTECLER Let them sing! Their songs acquire significance from mingling with mine, and their tardy but numerous cries unconsciously hasten the flight of the dark. [_Straightening upon his hillock, he calls to the distant_ COCKS.] Now, all together!
CHANTECLER AND ALL THE COCKS Cock-a-doodle-doo!
CHANTECLER [_Alone, with familiar cordiality._] Forward, forward, boldly, Day!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Beside him, stamping her feet._] Boldly, Day!
CHANTECLER [_Crying encouragements to the Light._] Yes, there, there before you, is a roof for you to gild! Come, come, a touch of green on that patch of waving hemp!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Beside herself with excitement._] A glimmer of white on that road!
CHANTECLER A wash of blue on the river!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_In a great cry._] The Sun! Look, the Sun!
CHANTECLER There he is, I can see him, but we must hale him from that grove! [_And both of them, moving backward together, appear to be drawing something after them._ CHANTECLER _prolonging his crow as if to drag up the_ SUN _by it._] Cooooooo--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Shouting above_ CHANTECLER'S _crow._] There he comes--
THE PHEASANT-HEN --climbing--
THE PHEASANT-HEN --above--
THE PHEASANT-HEN --the poplars!
CHANTECLER [_In a last, dry-throated, desperate crow._] Cock-a-doodle-doo [_Both stagger, suddenly flooded with light._] It is done! [_He adds, in a tone of satisfaction._] A proper Sun,--a giant! [_He totters toward a mossy rise and drops against it._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Running to him, while all grows brighter and brighter._] One song now to greet the beautiful rising Sun!
CHANTECLER [_Very low._] I have no voice left. I spent it all. [_Hearing the other_ COCKS _crowing in the valley, he adds gently._] It matters not. He has the songs and praises of the others.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Surprised._] What? After he appears, he hears no more from you?
CHANTECLER No more.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Indignant._] But in that case, perhaps the Sun believes the other Cocks have made him rise?
CHANTECLER It matters not.
THE PHEASANT-HEN But--
CHANTECLER Hush! Come to my heart and let me thank you. Never has there been a lovelier dawn.
THE PHEASANT-HEN But what will repay you for all your pains?
CHANTECLER Echoes of awakening life down in the valley! [_Confused living noises are beginning to mount from below._] Tell me of them. I have not the strength to listen for myself.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Runs to the top of the rise, and listens._] I hear a finger knocking against the rim of a brazen sky--
CHANTECLER [_With closed eyes._] The Angelus.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Other strokes, which sound like a human Angelus after the divine--
CHANTECLER The forge-hammer.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Lowing,--then a song--
CHANTECLER The plow.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Continuing to listen._] Sounds as of a bird's nest fallen into the little street--
CHANTECLER [_With growing emotion._] The school!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Imps of whom I catch no glimpse buffet one another in the water--
CHANTECLER Women washing linen.
THE PHEASANT-HEN And suddenly, on all sides, what are they--iron locusts rubbing their wings together?
CHANTECLER [_Half rising, in the fullness of pride._] Ah, if scythes are whetting, the reapers will soon be harvesting the golden grain! [_The sounds increase and mingle: bells, hammers, washer-women's wooden spades, laughter, singing, grinding of steel, cracking of whips._] All at work! And I have done that!--Oh, impossible!--Pheasant-hen, help me! This is the dreadful moment! [_He looks wildly about him._] I made the sunrise! I did! Wherefore And how? And where? No sooner does my reason return--than I go mad! For I who believe I have power to rekindle the celestial gold--I--well--oh, it is dreadful--
THE PHEASANT-HEN What is?
CHANTECLER I am humble-minded, modest! You will never tell?
THE PHEASANT-HEN No, no!
CHANTECLER You promise? Ah! let my enemies never know!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Moved._] Chantecler!
CHANTECLER I feel myself unworthy of my glory. Why was I chosen, even I, to drive out black night? No sooner have I brought the heavens to a white glow, than the pride which lifted me aloft drops dead. I fall to earth. What, I, so small, I made the immeasurable dawn? And having done this, I must do it again? Nay, but I cannot! Nay, it would be vain! Never need I attempt it! Despair overtakes me--Comfort me, love!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Tenderly._] My own!
CHANTECLER Such a burden of responsibility resting upon me! That inspiring breath which I await when I scratch in the sand, will it come again? I feel the whole future depending upon an incomprehensible something which might perchance fail me! Do you understand now the anguish gnawing me? Ah, the swan is certain, by bending his neck, to find under water the grasses he delights in; the eagle, when he swoops from the blue, sure of falling upon his prey; and you are ever sure of finding in the earth the well supplied nests of the ants,--but I, for whom my own work remains a mystery, I, possessed ever by the fear of the morrow, am I sure of finding my song in my heart?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Clasping him with her wings._] Surely, you will find it, surely!
CHANTECLER Yes, talk to me like that. I listen, I heed you. You must believe me when I believe, and not when I doubt. Tell me again--
THE PHEASANT-HEN You are beautiful!
CHANTECLER About that I care very little.
THE PHEASANT-HEN And you sang beautifully!
CHANTECLER Say that I sang badly, but tell me that it is I who make--
THE PHEASANT-HEN Indeed, indeed, I admire you beyond all bounds and measure!
CHANTECLER No,--tell me that what I told you is true--
THE PHEASANT-HEN What?
CHANTECLER That it is I who make--
THE PHEASANT-HEN Yes, my glorious Beloved, yes, it is you who make the dawn appear!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Suddenly appearing._] Well, well, old man!
THE SAME, THE BLACKBIRD
CHANTECLER The Blackbird!--My secret!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Bowing with every sign of admiration._] Allow me to--
CHANTECLER That inveterate mocker! [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] Leave us not alone! My soul is still open--his mockery would enter in!
THE BLACKBIRD Ripping!
CHANTECLER Where have you come from?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Indicating an empty overturned flower-pot._] From that flower-pot.
CHANTECLER But how--?
THE BLACKBIRD I was having my early snack cozily in the earthenware retreat you see, when suddenly--oh, allow me to express at once the amazement, the admiration--
CHANTECLER Eavesdropping inside a pot! How can you stoop to--
THE BLACKBIRD Hang the pot! I've had a sensation! I tell you I was wild! My feet were doing such a horn-pipe I had trouble to keep my eye steady at the peep-hole.
THE PHEASANT-HEN You could see us?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Showing the hole at the bottom of the flower-pot._] Could I see you! Yonder stump of red cone has exactly the black hole to let through my yellow bill. Apologies,--but it was too tempting! A bird of taste, I am.
THE PHEASANT-HEN For the sake of this sincere tribute, I forgive you all the rest!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Coming and going in excitement._] Oh, wonderful, and again wonderful, and then again wonderful!--Hear me rant!
CHANTECLER [_Amazed._] What, is it possible that you--?
THE BLACKBIRD Am I given to gush? This time, old man, it's the genuine article, Enthusiasm with a capital E!
CHANTECLER Are you in earnest?
THE BLACKBIRD Must I send you a blankety carrier-pigeon with the news?--That Cock and that crow,--oh, my soul!--And then the day breaking,--oh, my stars!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To_ CHANTECLER.] There seems to be no reason, dear, why I should not leave you alone together.
CHANTECLER But where are you going?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Slightly ashamed of her own frivolity._] I am going to the--
THE BLACKBIRD The Guinea-hen's Day he's just given the finishing touches to!
CHANTECLER [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] Must I go too?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Tenderly._] No, after rising to such heights, I think you may be excused from the Guinea-hen's at home!
CHANTECLER [_With a touch of sadness._] You, however, are going?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Gaily._] I want to show off your sunshine on my dress! I will be back directly. Wait for me here.
THE BLACKBIRD Yes, much better keep out of the way.
CHANTECLER [_Looking at him._] Wherefore?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Quickly._] Nothing! [_Falling into fresh ecstasies._] Oh, this blessed Cock of ours!
CHANTECLER [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] You will not be long?
THE PHEASANT-HEN The merest moment. [_Low to him before leaving._] You see, even the Blackbird is impressed! [_She flies off._]
CHANTECLER, THE BLACKBIRD
CHANTECLER [_Coming back to the_ BLACKBIRD.] And so that habitual skeptical sneer--?
THE BLACKBIRD Wiped out! My satirical whistling, as the Dog called it, now expresses pure admiration. Listen, like this: [_He whistles admiringly._] Tew!--How is that?--Tew-tew [_Nodding soberly._] That's all right!
CHANTECLER [_Innocently._] You are not such a bad fellow, after all. I said so to the Dog.
THE BLACKBIRD [_With profound conviction._] You're a wonderful old boy!
CHANTECLER [_Modestly._] Oh!
THE BLACKBIRD To come it over the Hens--[_He again whistles Admiringly._] make them believe that he engineers the dawn! [CHANTECLER _starts._] A simple idea, but it took you to get on to it! Brother, I believe you were hatched in Columbus' egg!
THE BLACKBIRD All other Don Juans are donkeys beside you! Says he to himself: Make the daybreak to impress little pheasant-hens! And does it, too--succeeds!
CHANTECLER [_In a smothered voice._] Be still!
THE BLACKBIRD Neat, the little roof which must be gilded! Complete, the ladder for the Motes!
CHANTECLER [_In a spasm of pain._] Be still!
THE BLACKBIRD And the access of modesty, a sweet little final touch! I kiss my hand to you! Oh, he knows how--no mistake he knows--
CHANTECLER [_Constraining himself, in a curt voice._] The Dawn? Certainly, I know her. I think I may claim that honor!
THE BLACKBIRD You precious fakir! Don't you consider you have succeeded?
CHANTECLER In bringing on the day? Yes, certainly, I have succeeded admirably, in this case.
THE BLACKBIRD Oh, you do it so well! How awfully well he does it!
CHANTECLER Making the light? Of course, I have done it so often! I am used to it. The Sun obeys me.
THE BLACKBIRD So, worthy Joshua! You feel the dawn coming, and then you crow! For lightness of touch and richness of invention, give us a lyric poet!
CHANTECLER [_Bursting forth._] Wretch!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Surprised._] Are you keeping it up with me? [_Winking._] Oh, we know how the thing is done!
CHANTECLER You may know,--not I! I just open my heart and sing!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Hopping about._] That's the idea!
CHANTECLER Blackbird, laugh at everything besides, but not at that, if you love me!
THE BLACKBIRD I love you!
CHANTECLER [_Bitterly._] With half a heart!
THE BLACKBIRD Can't say a word about his _Fiat Lux?_
CHANTECLER Not that! Not that!
THE BLACKBIRD Old man, it's not my fault that I'm no gull.
CHANTECLER [_Looking after him as he hops about._] He cannot keep still long enough, I suppose, to let the sacred truth sink in. [_Trying to stop him in his hopping._] You behold the agony of emotion shaking me. No more baffle and keep me off with words!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Hopping past him._] Catch, if you can, and convince me!
CHANTECLER [_Imploring._] It's a matter of life--my profoundest life! Oh, convince you I must, if only for a second! I feel the holy impulse to struggle with your soul!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Hopping past him._] Do you!
CHANTECLER In solemn earnest, at the bottom of your heart, you did--did you not?--believe me?
THE BLACKBIRD I believe you!
CHANTECLER [_With pressing anguish._] You must in some manner be aware of the dreadful cost to me of that song? Come, use your reason. To sing as you heard me sing, you must realise that I needed--
THE BLACKBIRD A whopping muscle and a tolerable nerve!
CHANTECLER No, let us not make light of serious things, responsible winged creatures that we are!
THE BLACKBIRD Let us go in for heavy-weight truths, by all means!
CHANTECLER But can't you see that to look straight at the sun, rising before his eyes by the exertions of his larynx, one must have at the same time--
THE BLACKBIRD Stentorian lungs and the eyes of a lynx! [_He hops out of the way._]
CHANTECLER [_Controlling himself._] No, I cannot give up the hope of winning this soul to the truth! [_With desperate patience._] Come, now, have you any conception, unhappy bird, of what dawn actually is?
THE BLACKBIRD I should say so! It's the time of day when fluffy Aurora gets busy, as it were, and plays ball!
CHANTECLER But what do you say when you see the dawn shining upon the mountains?
THE BLACKBIRD Mountains, I say, what on earth are you blushing about?
CHANTECLER And what do you say when you hear me singing in the furrow long before the cricket is awake?
THE BLACKBIRD Cricket, I say, you scandalous slug-a-bed! [_He hops out of the way._]
CHANTECLER [_Beside himself._] Are you conscious of no impulse to exclaim, cry out, when I have made a dawn so fine and fiery-red that the heron, flying in the early glow, looks from afar like a flamingo?
THE BLACKBIRD Sure, brother, sure! I feel like shouting, "Bully, do it again!" [_He hops out of the way._]
CHANTECLER [_Exhausted._] That soul! I am more spent with chasing it than with a whole day's grasshopper hunting! [_Violently._] Did you not see the sky?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Simply._] How could I? The ground is all you can see through that little black hole. [_Pointing at the flower-pot._]
CHANTECLER Did you see the mountain-tops tremble and turn crimson?
THE BLACKBIRD While you were crowing, I had my eye on your feet.
CHANTECLER [_Sorrowfully._] Ah!
THE BLACKBIRD They were performing on the soft sod something choice in the line of fancy dances!
CHANTECLER [_Giving up._] I pity you! Back to your darkness, obscure Blackbird!
THE BLACKBIRD Your obedient servant, illustrious Cock!
CHANTECLER My course is toward the sun!
THE BLACKBIRD Take along smoked glasses!
CHANTECLER Blackbird, do you know the one thing upon earth worthy that one should live wholly for its sake?
THE BLACKBIRD There I draw the line. I won't enter the debate!
CHANTECLER That thing is effort, Blackbird--effort, which uplifts and ennobles the lowest! For which reason, you, contemner of every sublime aspiration, I contemn! And that fragile roseate snail, struggling unaided to silver over a whole fagot, I honour!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Snapping up the snail._] I'll make him look silly!
CHANTECLER [_With a cry of horror._] Abominable! To point a joke--put out a little flame! An end. Here we part. You have no more heart than soul. [_Going._]
THE BLACKBIRD [_Hopping up on the fagot._] I have mind, however!
CHANTECLER [_Turning, disdainfully._] That is open to discussion.
THE BLACKBIRD [_Acidly._] Oh, very well! I was administering, in my merry little characteristic way, a grain of antidote against lunacy. But I wash my claws of you. Go ahead, justify the report of your enemies.
CHANTECLER [_Returning._] Who? What?
THE BLACKBIRD Strut about with your bill-board: "I'm the whole show!"
CHANTECLER You associate with those who hate me?
THE BLACKBIRD Do you object?
CHANTECLER No, you pitiful jester! The habit has grown so strong, you can no more be in earnest about friendship now than anything else. [_Going nearer to him._] Who are my enemies?
THE BLACKBIRD The Owls.
CHANTECLER You sorry fool! Can't you see that to believe in my destiny becomes all too easy if the Owls are against me?
THE BLACKBIRD Rest happy, then. They have a deal on--your lighting of the world being a trifle flashy for their taste--a deal on for cutting your throat.
CHANTECLER Through whom?
THE BLACKBIRD A brother bird.
CHANTECLER A Cock?
THE BLACKBIRD A Saint George of a Cock, who is to meet you--
THE BLACKBIRD At the Guinea-hen's.
CHANTECLER What a farce!
THE BLACKBIRD Wait! It's one of those Cocks bred and trained for fighting, who would make just two bites of either you or me. [_As_ CHANTECLER _abruptly starts toward the back._] Where are you going?
CHANTECLER To the Guinea-hen's.
THE BLACKBIRD Ha! I forgot our knightly spurs and helmet! [_He makes a feint of preventing him._] Take my advice, don't go!
CHANTECLER But I will go!
THE BLACKBIRD Hold on!
CHANTECLER [_Stopping beside the flower-pot, as if amazed._] How singular!
THE BLACKBIRD What?
CHANTECLER Did I understand you to say you came out of that flower-pot?
THE BLACKBIRD You did.
CHANTECLER [_Incredulous._] But how could you possibly have got into it?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Getting into the pot._] I told you, and tell you again! Through that little black hole I was looking at the--[_He thrusts his bill through the hole at the bottom._]
CHANTECLER The earth! And now through a little blue hole you shall look at the sky! [_With a vigorous blow of his wing he turns the pot over the_ BLACKBIRD, _who is heard fluttering beneath it, with smothered cries._] For you hate and shun the blue sky, you Dwellers in Pots! But one can force you to see at least as much as would cover a corn-flower, by overturning your pot, now and then--with the sweep of a wing! [_Off._]
THE GUINEA-HEN'S DAY
_Corner of a kitchen-garden, enclosed on the sides by hedges. At the back, espaliers. Vegetables and flowers of all kinds. Cold frames. Among the fruit trees, an upright pole, rigged in an old frock-coat, pair of trousers, and opera hat, fills the function of scarecrow._
_The_ GUINEA-HEN, HENS, DUCKS, _etc.; the_ PHEASANT-HEN, _the_ BLACKBIRD, _later_ PATOU.
_At the rise of the curtain, multitudinous clatter and confused swarming of_ HENS _and_ CHICKENS.
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Going impetuously from one to the other._] How do you do? How do you do?--There is scarcely room to move! My guests reach all the way to the cucumber patch!
CHORUS [_Up in the air._] _Busily buzzing_--
THE GUINEA-HEN A regular crush!
A HEN [_Gazing at a row of huge pumpkins._] What attractive objects!
THE GUINEA-HEN Art pottery! Rather good of its kind, if I do say so!
A CHICK [_Listening with his bill in the air._] Singers?
THE GUINEA-HEN Yes,--
CHORUS _Busily buzzing_--
THE GUINEA-HEN [_In her sprightliest manner._] The Wasps! [_To a_ CHICKEN.] How do you do? [_She flits from one guest to the other._]
THE WASPS _Busily buzzing Estival glees. Fill we with murmurs The mulberry trees_!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Passing with the_ BLACKBIRD _and laughing._] So you were caught?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Finishing his story._] Exactly as if a hat had been plumped down over me. But I managed by beating my wings to throw off the beastly pot. [_Looking around him._] Chantecler has not come yet?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Surprised._] Is he coming?
PATOU [_Suddenly appearing on the wheelbarrow, from whence he can watch the scene as from a pulpit._] I still hope he may change his mind.
THE BLACKBIRD Patou there, in the wheelbarrow?
PATOU [_Shaking his surly head, and a bit of broken chain hanging from his collar._] Chantecler told me everything Blackbird, as he went by. In a towering rage I broke my chain, and am here to keep an eye on the wicked lot of you.
THE GUINEA-HEN [_To the_ BLACKBIRD.] Has he invited himself to my party, that moth-eaten old thing?
CHORUS [_Among the trees._] _Our praises, Sun, our praises!_
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Looking upward._] Music?
THE GUINEA-HEN The Cicadas!
CHORUS OF CICADAS _We simmer in thy gaze, We bask beneath thy blaze, Receive our grateful praise!_
THE YOUNG GUINEA-COCK [_Low and quickly to his mother._] Tsicadas, mother. You must pronounce it Tsi!
A MAGPIE [_In black coat and white tie, announcing the guests as they arrive through a hole such as Chickens dig at the foot of hedges._] The Gander!
THE GANDER [_Entering, jocularly._] What's all this fuss and feathers my lady? Our names called as we enter?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Demurely._] Yes, you see, expecting some rather great people, I thought it well to stand an usher at the blackthorn door.
THE MAGPIE [_Announcing._] The Duck!
THE DUCK [_Entering, impressed by the elegance of the occasion._] Here is style and grandeur indeed! Our names called!
THE GUINEA-HEN Yes, you see, expecting some rather great people--
THE MAGPIE The Turkey-hen!
THE TURKEY-HEN [_Entering, after a supercilious glance._] This is quite more of an affair, my dear, than I was anticipating.--Names called!
THE GUINEA-HEN Yes, I had in the Magpie to supplement my usual staff.
CHORUS [_Among blossoming branches._] _Boom! Boom! From bloom to bloom_!
THE TURKEY-HEN [_Lifting her bill._] A Chorus?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Breezily._] The Bees!
CHORUS _Make distant flowers Bride and groom!_
THE TURKEY-HEN Wonders on every side!
THE GUINEA-HEN The Bees here, the Tsicadas yonder--[_To a passing_ HEN.] How do you do? How do you do?
BEES [_At the right._] _Boom!_
CICADAS [_At the left._] _Our praises!_
CICADAS _Our praises!_
THE GUINEA-HEN [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] My garden produces the most remarkable of everything!
THE YOUNG GUINEA-COCK The brightest flowers!
THE GUINEA-HEN The big potatoes!
THE BLACKBIRD And peaches! Perfect peaches!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Inconvenienced by the movement and the crowd, to the_ BLACKBIRD.] Let us stand out of the crowd a moment, behind this watering-pot.
THE BLACKBIRD The watering-pot, alias the Intermittent Baldpate, so called because there flows from his copper scalp when he is tilted a marvelous growth of silver hair.
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Spying the_ CAT, _who, outstretched along an apple-bough is watching with half-closed eyes._] I have among my guests the Cat.
THE BLACKBIRD Tomkyns de Tomkyns! [_A_ BIRD _is heard warbling in a tree._]
THE GUINEA-HEN I have the Chaffinch!
THE BLACKBIRD Let him chaff inchworms, what care we?
THE GUINEA-HEN The Darning-needle!
THE BLACKBIRD She shall mend up Ragged Robin, now's his chance!
PATOU [_More and more disgusted._] All that is supposed to be funny!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Pecking a cabbage leaf from which roll drops of dew._] I have the Dew!
PATOU [_Grimly._] Your witticism for her?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Brightly._] Fresh-water pearls!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Pointing out several_ CHICKS _walking among the crowd._] Have you seen them? I have several of the A.I.'s Chicks!
THE PHEASANT-HEN A.I.?
THE GUINEA-HEN The Acme Incubator.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Oh, have you?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Presenting the_ CHICKS.] All from the topmost compartment!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Indeed?
ONE OF THE CHICKS [_Nudging his neighbour._] She is dumbfounded!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Contemptuously._] Eggs hatched by the old vulgar method, fie!
THE BLACKBIRD, Good Lord, exempt us!
THE MAGPIE [_Announcing._] The Guinea-pig!
THE GUINEA-HEN It's the famous one, you know! The Guinea-pig who was inoculated--surely you remember the case--very well, that's the one! There you see him. I made a point of getting him to come. Everybody is here! I have everybody! I have--[_To the_ GUINEA-PIG.] How do you do? [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] I have our great philosopher Tur-Key--Yes, it should be written with a hyphen--who will give us a little talk among the currant bushes under the tea-roses--[_To a passing_ HEN.] How do you do? [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] Educational Tea or Currant Topics! [_Whirling from one to the other._] Everyone is here, everyone of the slightest mark or consequence! The Pheasant-hen is here, in a frock from fairyland. The Duck is here, who is so good as to say he will recite for us by and by. The Tortoise is here--[_Noticing that the_ TORTOISE _is not there_] I was mistaken, the Tortoise is not here. She is late.
THE BLACKBIRD [_Affecting deep concern._] What is the little talk she seems so regrettably likely to miss?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Suddenly serious._] The Moral Problem.
THE BLACKBIRD What a pity!
[_The_ GUINEA-HEN _goes to the back, scattering greetings, in ecstasies of sociability._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To the_ BLACKBIRD.] Who is the Tortoise?
THE BLACKBIRD A hard old character, impervious, I fear, to moral problems, who goes in for walking matches in a loud check suit!
[_Murmur among the hollyhocks._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN Listen, a Drone!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Briskly returning._] The Drone is here! In the bright light overhead, what a stylish figure of a fly!
THE BLACKBIRD No "at home" complete without it! Ladies cry for it! Won't be happy until--
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Jumping up in the air toward the_ DRONE.] How do you do? How do you do? [_She follows his flight with excited leaps and hops._]
THE BLACKBIRD [_Touching his brow with his wing._] She is dotty!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_At the back, with shrill_ GUINEA-HEN _cries._] It's my last day! How do you do? My last day until August! Mondays in August, don't forget!
A HEN [_Seeing cherries dropping around her._] Oh, cherries, look!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Looking upward._] It is the Breeze!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Fluttering forward again, excited as ever._] I have the Breeze, who now and then shakes down a cherry! I never ask her. She comes unasked. What's-his-name is here! And What's-her-name is here, and--[_To the back tumultuously._]
THE BLACKBIRD And Thingumbob, and Stick-in-the-mud! [_He has arrived without appearance of design beneath the tree where the_ CAT _is lying, and asks rapidly, under breath._] Cat, what about the conspiracy?
THE CAT [_Who from his tree can see beyond the hedge._] It is afoot. I see the interminable file of phenomenal Cocks approaching, headed by the Peacock who comes to present them.
A CRY [_Outside._] Ee--yong! [_The_ CROWD _throngs toward the entrance._]
PATOU [_Grumbling._] That abominable concertina cry--
THE MAGPIE The Peacock!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To the_ BLACKBIRD.] Have you a fancy name for him?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Imitating the_ PEACOCK'S _cry._] Our great Accordee-yong!
THE SAME, THE PEACOCK.
THE GUINEA-HEN [_To the_ PEACOCK, _who enters slowly, with his head borne very stiff and high._] Master, dear Master, would you be so extremely condescending as to come and stand with your back to these sunflowers? Peacock! Sunflowers! A study for Burne-Jones!
ALL [_Crowding around the_ PEACOCK.] Master! Master!
A CHICKEN [_Low to the_ DUCK.] A word from him can make one's fortune in society!
ANOTHER CHICKEN [_Who has succeeded in forcing his way to the_ PEACOCK, _stammering with emotion._] Master, what do you think of my latest "cheep"? [_Suspense. Religious silence._]
THE PEACOCK [_Solemnly, letting the word drop slowly from his beak._] Definitive. [_Sensation._]
A DUCK [_Trembling._] And my "quack"? [_Suspense._]
THE PEACOCK Ultimate! [_Sensation._]
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Delighted, to the_ HENS.] I may say that it is at my days most especially he throws off these specimens of a verbal art which might fairly be called--
THE PEACOCK Lapidary.
ALL THE HENS [_Rolling up their eyes._] Wonderful!
A HEN [_Coming forward, faint with emotion._] Master, high priest of taste, what do you think of my dress? [_Suspense._]
THE PEACOCK [_After a glance._] Affirmative. [_Sensation._]
THE TUFTED HEN [_Same business._] And my bonnet? [_Suspense._]
THE PEACOCK Absolute. [_Sensation._]
THE GUINEA-HEN [_In a burst of emotion._] Our bonnets are absolute!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Affecting exclusive interest in the_ BEES.] Ah, there is the Choir Invisible striking up again!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Presenting the young_ GUINEA-COCK _to the_ PEACOCK.] My son!--What do you think of him?
THE PEACOCK Plausible.
CHORUS OF WASPS _Busily buzzing_--
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Overjoyed, running to the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] Oh, he said he was plausible!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Who was?
THE GUINEA-HEN My son!
CHORUS OF BEES
_When July Too holly glows Seek the shade Inside the rose_!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Returning to the_ PEACOCK.] Does not the rhythm of that chorus impress you as--
THE PEACOCK Asunartetos!
A HEN [_To the_ GUINEA-HEN.] Your guest, my dear, can fit an epithet!
THE GUINEA-HEN Pontiff of the Unexpected Adjective I call him!
THE PEACOCK [_Distilling his words, in a discordant haughty voice._] True it is that--
THE GUINEA-HEN Ah, this is most pleasant, most pleasant! He is going to talk to us.
THE PEACOCK --a Ruskin rather more refined, I hope, than the earlier one, with a tact--
THE GUINEA-HEN Very true!
PEACOCK --a tact for which I stand largely in my own debt, I have constituted myself Petronius-Priest and Maecenas-Messiah volatile volatiliser of words, and that, jeweled judge, I love by my cameos and filigrees of speech to represent the Taste of which I am the--
PATOU Oh, my poor head!
THE PEACOCK [_Nonchalantly._]--shall I say guardian?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Effervescently._] Do say guardian!
THE PEACOCK No. Thesmothetes. [_Respectful murmur of delight._]
THE GUINEA-HEN [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] Now you have seen our Peacock! Aren't you excited?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Slightly bored._] Yes,--because I know the Cock is coming.
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Delighted._] To-day? He is coming to-day? [_She announces to the general company, enthusiastically._] Chantecler!
THE PEACOCK [_Slightly miffed._] A far greater triumph lies in store for you, fair friend.
THE GUINEA-HEN Triumph? [_The_ PEACOCK _nods mysteriously._] What triumph?
THE PEACOCK [_Walking away from her._] You shall see.
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Following him._] Of what triumph are you speaking?
THE PEACOCK I said, "You shall see!"
MAGPIE [_Announcing._] Cock Braekel of Campine!
THE SAME, _then gradually the_ COCKS.
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Stopping short, amazed._] Braekel? At my party? There's some mistake.
THE BRAEKEL COCK [_Bowing before her._] Madam--
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Breathless with emotion in the presence of this white_ COCK _braided with black._] This unexpected pleasure--
THE MAGPIE [_Announcing._] Cock Ramelslohe--
THE GUINEA-HEN Heavens!
THE MAGPIE [_Finishing._]--of the Slate-blue Claw!
THE PEACOCK [_In the_ GUINEA-HEN'S _ear, while the startling_ RAMELSLOHE _bows._] He is one of the most recent leucotites!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Blankly._] A leucotite--How interesting!
THE MAGPIE [_Announcing in a louder and louder, more and more impressive voice._] Cock Wyandotte of the Sable Spur! [_Shiver of emotion among the_ HENS.]
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Off her head with excitement._] Heavens and gracious powers--my son!
THE YOUNG GUINEA-COCK [_Running to her._] Mamma!
THE GUINEA-HEN Wyandotte! Cock Wyandotte!
THE PEACOCK [_With a fine carelessness._] Cock with strawberry coronet, product of Art Nouveau!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_To the newcomers who are surrounded by astonished murmurs._] Strawberry coronet!--Gentlemen--
THE YOUNG GUINEA-COCK [_Who has gone to take a look outside._] Mamma!
THE GUINEA-HEN --so kindly condescending to honour my poor house--
THE YOUNG GUINEA-COCK Mamma, there are still others coming!
THE MAGPIE His lordship, the Cock--
THE GUINEA-HEN Heavens, what Cock?
THE MAGPIE Cock of Mesopotamia with the Double Comb!
THE GUINEA-HEN Double! Oh! [_Dashing to welcome the newcomer._] Charmed, charmed indeed!
THE PEACOCK Out upon the obsolete! I wished to show you a few young gentlemen slightly superlative and veritably precious.
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Returning to the_ PEACOCK.] How shall I thank you, Peacock, dear friend? [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN, _patronizingly._] You will excuse me, I know, you charming little thing. You must understand, my dear, that his lordship the Cock of Mesopotamia has just arrived! [_Running to the_ COCK, _who bows his two combs._] A proud day for us! Charmed, delighted, enchanted!
MAGPIE Cock d'Orpington of the Feather-ringed Eye!
THE GUINEA-HEN Feather-ringed--Oh!
THE BLACKBIRD The plot thickens!
THE MAGPIE [_While the_ GUINEA-HEN _is flying toward the_ ORPINGTON COCK.] Bearded Cock of Varna!
THE PEACOCK [_To the_ GUINEA-HEN.] A typical Slav!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Leaving the_ ORPINGTON _for the_ BEARDED COCK.] Oh, the Slav soul we have heard so much about! Charmed, beyond words, charmed!
THE MAGPIE Rose-footed Scotch Grey Cock!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Leaving the_ BEARDED COCK _for the_ SCOTCH GREY.] Oh, that rose foot! I do admire that rose foot! Think of introducing that rose foot at my tea! [_With conviction._] What a social event!
THE MAGPIE Cock--
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Out of her senses._] No, I say, no! There can't be any more!
THE MAGPIE Cock with Goblet-shaped comb!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Who at every name rushes excitedly toward the newcomer._] Charmed, I am sure! Oh, what a novel notion! Goblet-shaped!
THE MAGPIE Blue Cock of Andalusia!
THE GUINEA-HEN Your egg, I presume, was laid in the vibrating hollow of a guitar! Delighted and honored,--both!
THE MAGPIE Cock Langsham!
THE PEACOCK A Tartar!
ALL THE HENS [_Smitten with amazement at sight of the black giant._] A Tartar!
THE MAGPIE Gold-penciled Hamburg Cock!
ALL THE HENS [_At sight of the gold-laced_ COCK _in the cocked hat._] Gold-penciled Hamburg!
THE GUINEA-HEN My kitchen-garden party will be famous! [_To the_ HAMBURG COCK, _whose breast is striped with black and yellow._] Oh, what a wonderful waistcoat! May I ask what it is made of?
THE BLACKBIRD Of zebra!
THE GUINEA-HEN Zebra, you don't say so! It will be the pride of my life, of my whole--
THE MAGPIE Cock--
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Jumping._] No, I can't believe it!
THE MAGPIE --of Burma!
THE GUINEA-HEN Burma! [_Increasing general agitation._]
THE PEACOCK An East Indian.
THE GUINEA-HEN Oh, I can see his Hindu soul right in his eyes, the Hindu soul we hear so much about! [_Running to the newcomer, in an adoring voice._] Charmed, charmed! The Hindu soul--oh!
THE MAGPIE Padua Cocks--The Dutch Padua of Poland!
THE GUINEA-HEN Dutch of Poland! This is really more than I ever aspired to!
[_The_ PADUA COCKS _enter, shaking their plumes._]
THE MAGPIE The Gold Cock! The Silver Cock!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_In ecstasies of admiration before the flowing plume of the latter._] With a waterfall on his head!
THE BLACKBIRD And a suspension bridge!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_No longer conscious of what she is saying._] And a suspension bridge!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To_ PATOU.] Poor Guinea-hen, she will say anything after anybody!
THE MAGPIE [_Announcing in a louder and louder tone ever more extraordinary_ COCKS.] Bagdad Cock!
THE PEACOCK [_Dominating the tumult._] Consummately Arabian Nights.
THE GUINEA-HEN Did you hear? Consummately Arabian Nights!
ALL THE HENS To be sure! Awfully Arabian Nights!
THE PEACOCK Kamaralzaman himself is hardly more so.
THE MAGPIE Bantam Cock with ruffles!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Transported._] How eighteenth century this is! Look, oh, look! A dwarf! A dwarf! Dwarfs! Little cunning bits of dwarfs!
THE YOUNG GUINEA-COCK [_Low._] Mamma, do control yourself!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Screaming in the midst of the_ COCKS.] No, no, I can't and won't! That is Kamaralzaman! I don't really know which I prefer, which I--
THE MAGPIE Guelder Cock!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Rushing to the newcomer._] This is truly a treat! Another Belgian!
THE MAGPIE Serpent-necked Cock!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Rattled._] To you, dear Seacock, I owe this Perpentneck!
THE MAGPIE Duck-sided Cock! Crow-billed Cock! Hawk-footed Cock!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Who has fallen upon the new arrivals, bursts into shrill volubility before the last of them._] This surpasses all! An albino! Charmed, my dear sir, honoured, enchanted! Oh, on his head he wears a cheese!
A HEN So he does, a cheese!--A cream cheese, to be sure! A cream cheese!
ALL THE HENS A cream cheese!
THE MAGPIE Crève Coeur Cock!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Rushing to meet him._] Oh, he has horns on his head!
THE PEACOCK Satanic.
THE MAGPIE Ptarmigan Cock!
THE PEACOCK Aesthetic.
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Rushing up to him._] Oh, he wears on his head an Assyrian helmet!
THE MAGPIE White Pile--
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Rushing up to him._] He wears on his head--[_Stopping short at sight of his docked comb._] Nothing whatever. He wears nothing whatever on his head. How odd it looks!
THE CAT [_From his apple tree, to the_ BLACKBIRD, _indicating the_ WHITE PILE GAME-COCK.] There is the champion. The dust conceals a razor on his lean foot. [_The_ GAME-COCK _disappears among the throng of fancy_ COCKS, _who are surrounded by a swarm of cackling_ HENS.]
THE MAGPIE Negro Cock!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Gone quite mad among the multitude of_ COCKS _now filling the kitchen-garden with their extraordinary head-gear aigrettes, and plumes and helmets, double and triple combs._] Charmed, honoured, enchanted--enchanted, honoured, charmed!
PATOU She has taken leave of her wits!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_To the empty air._] Charmed, charmed, enchanted, en--
THE MAGPIE Cock with Supernumerary Toe!--Naked-necked Cock!
THE GUINEA-HEN Naked?
THE MAGPIE Necked!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_To a_ HEN.] My dear, now we shall see something worth while!
THE MAGPIE Japanese Cocks--Cock Splendens!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_At sight of this_ COCK _whose tail is eight yards long._] Oh!--In a swallow tail!
THE MAGPIE Clump-backed--
THE BLACKBIRD [_Perceiving that this_ COCK _is absolutely flat at the back._] In a monkey-jacket!
THE MAGPIE [_Finishing._]--or Tailless Cock!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Beside herself._] He has nothing whatever behind! This is the crowning moment of my career! [_To the newcomer, effusively._] Charmed! No tail! This is--
THE BLACKBIRD I like his cheek!
THE MAGPIE [_While more and more heterogeneous_ COCKS _appear._] Cock Walikikili, called Choki-kukullo! Pseudo-Chinese Cuculicolor!
THE GUINEA-HEN What a choice gathering!
THE PEACOCK Kaleidoscopically cosmopolitan.
THE MAGPIE Blue Java! White Java!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Losing all shame._] Won't Java cup o' coffee?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Falling upon the_ JAVA COCKS.] Charmed, charmed!
THE MAGPIE Brahma Cock! Cochin Cock!
THE PEACOCK [_Proudly._] The great vicious Cocks, representatives of the corrupt East, the putrescent Orient!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Intoxicated._] Putrescent!
THE PEACOCK Unwholesome, morbid grace!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_To the_ COCHIN COCK.] Charmed! Charmed!--Do notice his obscene eye!
THE MAGPIE [_Announcing wildly, infected with the general delirium._] Chili Cock, curled hindside fore! Antwerp Cock, curled inside out!
ALL THE HENS [_Fighting for the newcomers._] Oh, putrescent!--Oh, hindside fore!
THE GUINEA-HEN Inside out!
THE MAGPIE Shankless Jumping-cock!
A HEN [_Fainting with emotion._] I suppose he jumps with his stomach!
THE GUINEA-HEN An India-rubber Cock!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To_ PATOU, _who from his wheelbarrow is looking off into the distance._] And Chantecler?
PATOU Will be here soon.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Can you see him?
PATOU Yes, off there, scratching up the earth. Now he is on his way.
THE MAGPIE Ghoondook Cock with Umbrella Topknot!
CRY OF ENTHUSIASM Oh!
THE MAGPIE Iberian Cock with Lint Side Whiskers!
CRY OF ENTHUSIASM Oh!
THE MAGPIE Cock Bans Backin or Fat Cheek of Thuringia!
CRY OF ENTHUSIASM Oh!
THE MAGPIE Yankee Cochin of Plymouth Rock!
[_Sudden silence._ CHANTECLER _has appeared at the entrance, just behind the_ COCK _last announced._]
CHANTECLER [_To the_ MAGPIE.] Pray simply say, "The Cock!"
THE SAME, CHANTECLER, _later_ THE PIGEONS, _and_ THE SWAN.
THE MAGPIE [_After looking_ CHANTECLER _up and down, disdainfully._] The Cock!
CHANTECLER [_From the threshold, to the_ GUINEA-HEN.] Your pardon Madam,--my humble duty!--for venturing to present myself in this plumage--
THE GUINEA-HEN Come in, I pray!
CHANTECLER I hardly know whether I should. I have a limited number of toes--
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Indulgently._] Oh, never mind!
CHANTECLER I cannot claim to be a Carpathian, and--I hardly know how to conceal it from you--I have feet!
THE GUINEA-HEN Oh, let not that distress you!
CHANTECLER A plain red-pepper comb, an ordinary garlic clove ear--
THE GUINEA-HEN Of course, of course, we will excuse you. You came in your business suit!
CHANTECLER Nay, my best! Pardon if my best combines merely the green of all April with the gold of all October! I stand abashed. I am the Cock, just the Cock, without further addition. The Cock such as he is still found in some old-fashioned barnyard. A Cock shaped like a Cock, whose outline persists in the vane on the steeple-top in the artist's eye, and the humble toy which a child's hand finds among shavings in a little wooden box.
AN IRONICAL VOICE [_From among the group of gorgeous prodigies._] The Gallic Cock, in short?
CHANTECLER [_Gently, without even turning._] Sure as I am of my aboriginal claim to this soil, I make no point of assuming the name. But, now you mention it, I recognise that when one simply says the Cock, that is the Cock he means!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Low to_ CHANTECLER.] I have seen your adversary!
CHANTECLER [_Catching sight of the_ PHEASANT-HEN _approaching._] Be still! She must know nothing of this!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Coquettishly._] Did you come for the sake of seeing me?
CHANTECLER [_Bowing._] I am weak, you remember!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Listening to the_ COCHIN-CHINA COCK, _who is talking in an undertone, thickly surrounded by_ HENS.] That Cock from Cochin China is simply awful!
CHANTECLER [_Turning._] Enough!
THE HENS [_Around the_ COCHIN COCK, _giving little scandalised cries._] Oh!--
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Tickled._] Oh, you naughty bird!--He is quite the most improper of our gallinacea!
CHANTECLER [_Louder._] Enough!
THE COCHIN-CHINA COCK [_Stops, and with mocking surprise._] Is it the Gallic Cock objecting?
CHANTECLER I am not Gallic if you give the word a base or ridiculous meaning. By Jove! Every Hen here knows whether my trumpet blast belongs to a soprano! But your perverse attempts to wring blushes from little baggages in convenient corners outrage my love of Love! It is true that I care more to retain love's dream than these Cochin-Chinese, who, courting a giggle, use refinement in coarseness, research in vulgarity; true that my blood has swifter flow in a less ponderous body, and that I am not a feathered pig,--but a Cock!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Come, come away to the woods,--I love you!
CHANTECLER [_Looking around him._] Oh, to see a real being appear! Someone simple, someone--
THE MAGPIE [_Announcing._] Two Pigeons!
CHANTECLER [_Drawing a breath of relief._] At last,--pigeons! [_He runs eagerly to the entrance._]
THE PIGEONS [_Entering with a series of somersaults._] Hop!
CHANTECLER [_Falling back in amazement._] What is this?
THE PIGEONS [_Introducing themselves between two springs._] The Tumblers! English Clowns!
CHANTECLER Where am I?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Running after the_ TUMBLERS _who disappear among the throng of guests._] Hop! Hop!
CHANTECLER Pigeons turning acrobats!--Oh, the joy of seeing something true, something unblemished--
THE MAGPIE [_Announcing._] The Swan!
CHANTECLER [_Coming forward delighted._] Good! A Swan! [_Shrinking away._] He is black!
THE BLACK SWAN [_With swaggering satisfaction._] I have discarded the whiteness while preserving the outline!
CHANTECLER The real Swan's shadow does no less! [_Thrusting the_ SWAN _aside to hop up on a bench whence, through a gap in the hedge, he can see the distant meadows._] Let me climb up on this bench. I need to make sure that Nature still exists--though so far away! Ah, yes! The grass is green, a cow is grazing, a calf sucking--And Heaven be praised, the calf has a single head! [_Coming down again beside the_ PHEASANT-HEN.]
THE PHEASANT-HEN Oh, come away to the innocent woods, sincere and dewy, where we will love each other!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Pointing at_ CHANTECLER _and the_ PHEASANT-HEN, _who are standing close and talking low._] We are getting on!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Intensely interested._] Do you think so? [_She spreads her wings to screen them._] Oh, I am so fond of helping along a clandestine love affair!
THE BLACKBIRD [_Sticking his bill under the_ GUINEA-HEN'S _wing so as to keep the pair in sight._] I believe she has thoughts of annexing his comb.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To_ CHANTECLER.] Come, dearest, come away!
CHANTECLER [_Resisting._] No, I must sing where Destiny placed me. I am useful here, I am beloved--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Remembering what she overheard the night before in the farmyard._] Are you so sure?--Come away to the woods, where we shall hear real pigeons cooing tenderly to each other!
THE TURKEY [_At the back._] Ladies, the great Peacock--
THE PEACOCK [_Modestly._] The Super-peacock--who supervenes, and supersedes--
THE GUINEA-HEN Will spread his tail for us! He has expressed his amiable willingness so far to favour us.
[_The company falls into groups of spectators, the outlandish_ COCKS _forming a wreath around their patron._]
THE PEACOCK [_Preparing to spread his tail._] I am, by precious natural gift, in addition to my multifarious accomplishments something of a--shall I say artist in firework?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Effervescently._] Yes!
THE PEACOCK No. Pyrotechnist. For the choicest piece in urban gardens, where Catharine-wheels on festival nights spurt sidereal spray, and rockets shot into gold-riddled skies fall back in prismatic showers, is less sapphirine, smaragdine, cuprine--
THE PEACOCK --than, I venture to say, ladies, am I--
THE PHEASANT-HEN Oh, I understood that last word!
THE PEACOCK --when I unfurl the union of fan, jewel-case, and screen, upon which I offer to the self-same sunbeams that redden the reed all the joyous gems you now may contemplate!
CHANTECLER What a silly bill!
[_The_ PEACOCK _has spread his tail._]
A COCK [_To the_ PEACOCK.] Master, which of us will you make the fashion?
THE PADUA COCK [_Quickly coming forward._] Me! I look like a palm-tree!
A CHINA COCK [_Pushing the_ PADUA COCK _aside._] I look like a pagoda!
A BIG FEATHER-FOOTED COCK [_Pushing the_ CHINA COCK _aside._] Me! I have cauliflowers sprouting at my heels!
CHANTECLER Each is in one the show and Mr. Barnum!
ALL [_Parading and filing past the_ PEACOCK.] See my beak! See my feet! See my feathers!
CHANTECLER [_Suddenly shouting at them._] Lo! While you hold your costume contest, a Scarecrow gives you his blessing!
[_Behind them, in fact, the wind has lifted the arms of the_ SCARECROW, _which loosely wave above the pageant._]
ALL [_Starting back._] What?
CHANTECLER Behold this dummy talking to that lay-figure! [_While the wind blows through the flapping rags._] What say the trousers, dancing their limp fandango? They say, "We were once the fashion!" And, terror of the titlark, what says the old hat which a beggar would none of? "I was the fashion!" And the coat? "I was the fashion!" And the tattered sleeves, that no one has care to mend, try to clasp the Wind, whom they take for the Fashion, and drop back empty--The Wind has passed, the Wind is far!
THE PEACOCK [_To the animals slightly dismayed by this address._] You poor-spirited creatures, that thing cannot talk!
CHANTECLER Man says the same of us.
THE PEACOCK [_To the birds nearest to him._] He is vexed because of those Cocks whom I introduced. [_To_ CHANTECLER, _ironically._] What, my dear sir, do you say to these resplendent gentlemen?
CHANTECLER I say, my dear sir, that these resplendent gentlemen are manufactured wares, the work of merchants with highly complex brains, who to fashion a ridiculous Chicken have taken a wing from that one, a topknot from this. I say that in such Cocks nothing remains of the true Cock. They are Cocks of shreds and patches, idle bric-a-brac, fit to figure in a catalogue, not in a barnyard with its decent dunghill and its dog. I say that those befrizzled, beruffled, bedeviled Cocks were never stroked and cherished by Nature's maternal hand. I say that it's all Aviculture, and Aviculture is flapdoodle! And I say that those preposterous parrots, without style, without beauty, without form, whose bodies have not even kept the pleasing oval of the egg they were hatched from, look like so many desperate fowls escaped from some hen-coop of the Apocalypse!
A COCK My dear sir--
CHANTECLER [_With rising spirit._] And I add that the whole duty of a Cock is to be an embodied crimson cry! And when a Cock is not that, it matters little that his comb be shaped like a toadstool, or his quills twisted like a screw, he will soon vanish and be heard of no more, having been nothing but a variety of a variety!
A COCK I protest--
CHANTECLER [_Going from one to the other._] Yes, Cocks affecting incongruous forms, Cocks crowned with cocoa-palm coiffures--Hear me talk like the Peacock! I lapse into alliteration! [_Finding his fun in bewildering them with cackling guttural volubility._] Yes, Cockerels cockaded with cockles, Cockatrice-headed Cockasters, cock-eyed Cockatoos! Not content to be common Cocks, your crotchet it was to be what but crack Cocks? Yes, Fashion, to be accounted of thy flock, these chuckle-headed Cocks craved to be Super-cocks. But know ye not, ye crazy Cocks, one cannot be so queer a Cock, but there may occur a queerer Cock? Let some Cock come whose coccyx boasts a more flamboyant shock, and you pass like childish measles, croup or chicken-pox! Consider that to-morrow, high Cockalorums, fancy Cocks, consider that day after to-morrow, cheese-capped goblet-crested Cocks, in spite of curly hackle and cauliflowered hocks, a more fantastic Cock than ever may creep out of a--box! For the Cock-fancier, to diversify his stock, may more fantastically still combine his Cutcutdaycuts and his Cocks, and you will be no more--sad Cuckoos made a mock!--but old rococo Cocks beside this more coquettish Cock!
A COCK And how, may one learn from you, can a Cock secure himself against becoming rococo?
CHANTECLER One royal way there is: to think only of crowing like a right and proper Cock!
A COCK [_Haughtily._] We are well known, I beg to state, for our exceptionally fine crowing!
CHANTECLER Known to whom?
THE SAME, _three_ CHICKENS, _noticeable among the rest for a certain jaunty pertness of gait and demeanour, who for a minute or so have been moving among the artificial_ COCKS.
FIRST CHICKEN To us, of course!
SECOND CHICKEN To us!
THIRD CHICKEN To us!
ALL THREE [_Bowing at once._] Good morning!
FIRST CHICKEN Your voice?
SECOND CHICKEN Tenor?
THIRD CHICKEN Bass?
SECOND CHICKEN Robusto?
THIRD CHICKEN Di cortesia?
CHANTECLER [_Bewildered, looking toward the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] What is this? An interlude?
THE PHEASANT-HEN An interview.
SECOND CHICKEN Do you take it in your chest?
THIRD CHICKEN Or in your head?
CHANTECLER Do I take what?
FIRST CHICKEN Pray talk without reserve. We represent the Board of Investigation into the Gallodoodle Movement.
CHANTECLER That's all very well, but I--[_Attempting to pass._]
FIRST CHICKEN You will find it difficult, I think, to leave, until you have answered such questions as we are pleased to ask. Is your early meal a light one?
SECOND CHICKEN You have tendencies, no doubt--
SECOND CHICKEN What do you feel most particularly drawn to?
FIRST CHICKEN [_Without smiling._] Have you nothing to communicate with regard to your song?
CHANTECLER I just sing.
SECOND CHICKEN And when you sing--?
CHANTECLER The heavens hear me.
THIRD CHICKEN Have you a special method?
FIRST CHICKEN You live--
CHANTECLER To sing!
SECOND CHICKEN And your song--?
CHANTECLER Is my life!
THIRD CHICKEN But how do you sing?
CHANTECLER I take pains.
FIRST CHICKEN But do you scan [_Beating furiously with his wing._] one-one-two One-three? Three-one? Or four? What is your dynamic theory?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Shouting._] Who has not his little pet dynamic theory?
SECOND CHICKEN Where do you place the accent? On the Cock--?
THIRD CHICKEN On the Doo?
CHANTECLER On the--
FIRST CHICKEN [_Impatiently._] What is your school?
CHANTECLER Schools of Cocks?
SECOND CHICKEN [_Rapidly._] Certainly. Some sing Cock-a-doodle-doo, and some Keek-a-deedle-dee!
CHANTECLER Cock--? Keek--?
THIRD CHICKEN Not to speak of those who--
A COCK [_Coming forward._] The correct and proper way to crow is Cowkerdowdledow!
CHANTECLER What Cock is that?
FIRST CHICKEN An Anglo-Indian.
SECOND CHICKEN And the Turk over there, whose comb suggests a cyst, crows Coocooroocoocoo!
THIRD CHICKEN [_Shouting in his ear._] Do you not upon occasions vary your Cockadoodledoo with Cackadaddledaa?
ANOTHER COCK [_Springing up at the right._] I, for one, entirely suppress the vowels: C-ck-d-dl-d!
CHANTECLER [_Trying to get away._] Is it a Welsh Rabbit dream?
ANOTHER COCK [_Springing up at the left._] O-a-oo-e-oo! Have you ever tried suppressing the consonants?
ANOTHER COCK [_Pushing aside all the others._] I mix the whole thing up--Cuck-o-deedle-daa!--in a free and supple song!
CHANTECLER My brain reels!
ALL THE COCKS [_Gathered about him, fighting._] No! Cuckodee--No, Cackadaa--No, Coocooroo--
THE COCK [_Who mixes all up._] The free Cockadoodle! The free crow is obligatory!
CHANTECLER Pray, who is that, speaking with such authority?
FIRST CHICKEN It is a wonderful Cock who has never sung at all.
CHANTECLER [_In humble despair._] And I am only a Cock who sings!
EVERYBODY [_Drawing away from him in disgust._] I wouldn't mention it if I were you!
CHANTECLER I give my song as the rose-tree gives its Rose!
THE PEACOCK [_Sarcastically._] Ah, I was waiting for the Rose! [_Pitying laughter._]
CHANTECLER [_Low, nervously, to the_ BLACKBIRD.] Is my prospective slayer going to keep me waiting much longer?
EVERYONE [_Disgusted._] The Rose? Oh!
THE GUINEA-HEN If you must mention flowers, let them be rather less--
THE PEACOCK Elementary. [_With the most disdainful impertinence._] So you are still at the declension of _Rosa?_
CHANTECLER I am, you--Peacock! You, I suppose, may be forgiven for speaking slightingly of the Rose, being a rival candidate for the beauty prize. [_Looking around him._] But I summon these Cocks, from Dorking to Bantam, to defend with me--
A COCK [_Nonchalantly._] Pray whom?
CHANTECLER The Rose, _Rosam;_ to declare on the spot and forthwith--
THE BLACKBIRD [_Ironically._] You set yourself up as the champion--
CHANTECLER _Rosarum,_ of roses, I do!--To declare that worship is due--
A COCK To whom, pray?
CHANTECLER To roses, _rosis!_--in whose hearts sleep rain-drops like essences in fragrant vials, to declare that they are, and ever will be--
A VOICE [_Cold and cutting._] Painted jades, things of naught! [_All the fancy_ COCKS _draw aside, revealing the_ WHITE PILE GAME COCK, _who appears, tall and lean and sinister at the further end of their double row._]
CHANTECLER At last!
THE BLACKBIRD It's time to climb up on the chairs!
CHANTECLER [_To the_ WHITE PILE.] Sir--
THE PHEASANT-HEN You are never going to challenge that giant?
CHANTECLER I am! To appear tall it is sufficient to talk on stilts! [_To the_ GAME COCK, _slowly crossing the stage toward him._] Know that such a remark is not to be endured, and permit me to tell you--[_Finding a_ CHICK _between himself and the_ GAME COCK, _he gently puts him aside, saying_] Run to your mother, tot! [_To the_ WHITE PILE, _looking insolently at his docked comb_]--that you look like a Fool who has mislaid his coxcomb!
THE WHITE PILE [_Astonished._] Fool? Coxcomb? What? What? What?
CHANTECLER [_Beak to beak with the_ GAME COCK.] What? What? What? [_A pause. They arch themselves, with bristling neck-hackle._]
THE WHITE PILE [_Emphatically._] In America, during my grand tour, I killed three Claybornes in a day. I have killed two Sherwoods, three Smoks, and one Sumatra. I have killed--let me advise anyone fighting me to take something beforehand to keep down his pulse!--three Red-game at Cambridge and ten Braekels at Bruges!
CHANTECLER [_Very simply._] I, my dear sir, have never killed anything. But as I have at different times succored, defended, protected, this one and that, I might perhaps be called, in my own fashion, brave. You need not take these mighty airs with me. I came here knowing that you would come. That rose was dangled to afford you the opportunity for brutal stupidity. You did not fail to nibble at its petals. Your name?
THE GAME COCK White Pile. And yours?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Running desperately to the_ DOG.] Patou!
CHANTECLER [_To_ PATOU, _who is growling between his teeth._] You, keep out of this!
PATOU So I will, but it's rrrrrrrough!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To_ CHANTECLER.] A Cock does not risk his life for a Rose!
CHANTECLER A slur upon a flower is a slur upon the Sun!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Running to the_ BLACKBIRD.] Do something! This must be patched up--You know you had promised me!
THE BLACKBIRD Everything can be patched up, my dear, except the quarrels of a fellow's friends!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Giving loud cries of despair._] Horrible! Oh, horrible A five-o'clock tea at which guests kill each other! How dreadful--[_To her son._] that the Tortoise should not have got here yet!
A VOICE [_Crying._] Chantecler, ten against one!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Seating her company, assisting the_ HENS _to climb upon flower-pots, cold-frames, pumpkins._] Quick! quick!
THE BLACKBIRD Our charming hostess is in great feather, doing the honours of an affair of honour.
PATOU [_To_ CHANTECLER.] Go in and thrash him. This crowd is longing for the sight of your blood.
CHANTECLER [_Sadly._] I was never anything but kind!
PATOU [_Showing the ring which has formed, the faces lighted with hateful eagerness._] Look at them! [_All necks are craned, all eyes shine; it is hideous._ CHANTECLER _looks, understands, and bows his head._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_With a cry of rage._] It's a disgrace! A disgrace to the name of fowl!
CHANTECLER [_Raising his head again._] So be it. But they shall at least learn to-day who I was, and my secret--
PATOU No, don't tell them, if it's what my old dreamer's heart has apprehended!
CHANTECLER [_Addressing the multitude, in a loud voice, solemnly, like one confessing his faith._] Know, all of you, that it is I--[_Deep silence falls. To the_ WHITE PILE, _who has given a sign of impatience._] Your pardon, excellent duellist, but I have a mind, before getting myself killed, to do something brave--
THE WHITE PILE [_Surprised._] Ah?
CHANTECLER Yes,--get myself laughed at!
THE PHEASANT-HEN No, dearest, no! Don't do it!
CHANTECLER I wish to perish amid salvos of laughter! [_To the crowd._] Riot, spirit of Mockery! Disciples of the Blackbird, prepare! [_In a still louder voice, hammering home every word._] It is I, who, by my song, bring back the light of day! [_Amazement, then vast laughter shakes the multitude._] Is the merriment well under way? On guard!
THE GOLDEN PADUA COCK [_Nodding his plume._] Gentlemen, engage!
VOICES [_Amid storms of laughter._] Funny! Side-splitting! Was anything ever so droll? I shall die laughing!
THE BLACKBIRD The old Gallic love of a joke is not dead!
A CHICKEN He sings light into the sky!
A DUCK The Sun gets up to hear him!
CHANTECLER [_Avoiding the blows which the_ WHITE PILE _is beginning to aim at him._] Yes, it is I who give you back the Day!
A CHICK And a jolly fine day it is!
CHANTECLER [_While parrying and attacking._] The crowing of other Cocks, able neither to make nor mar, is no better nor worse than sonorous sneezing! Mine--[_He is wounded._]
A VOICE Biff! In the neck!
CHANTECLER --mine makes--[_He is again wounded._]
THE TURKEY Insufferable self-sufficiency!
CHANTECLER --the light--[_Again he is struck._]
A VOICE Biff! On the neb!
CHANTECLER --the light appear!
A VOICE Biff! In the eye!
CHANTECLER [_Blinded with blood._] Yes, the light!
A VOICE [_Sneering._] Better have let sleeping darkness lie!
CHANTECLER [_Automatically repeating beneath his adversary's blows._] It is I who make the dawn appear!
PATOU [_Barking._] Aye! Aye! Aye!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Sobbing._] Stand up to him, darling! Oh, hit back! Hit back!
A CHICK Fellows, a nickname for the dawn!
ALL Yes! Yes!
[_The_ WHITE PILE _hurls himself upon_ CHANTECLER.]
THE PHEASANT-HEN Oh, cruel!
THE BLACKBIRD Chantecler's Light o' Love!
A VOICE A nickname for the Cock!
ALL Yes! Yes!
THE BLACKBIRD Grand Master of Illuminations!
ANOTHER VOICE Purveyor of Sunny Beams!
CHANTECLER [_Defending himself foot to foot._] Thanks! Another quip, for I can still fight with my feet!
A VOICE The Alarm-Cock!
CHANTECLER [_Who seems upheld by their insults._] Another pun! And I who know no more of fighting than can be learned on a peaceful farm--
A VOICE Thresh out his hayseed!
CHANTECLER Thanks! I--[_His torn feathers fly around him._]
CRY OF JOY See his fur fly!
CHANTECLER I feel--Another pleasantry!
A VOICE Lay on, Macfluff!
CHANTECLER Thanks! I feel that the more I am mocked, insulted, flouted, and denied--
AN ASS [_Stretching his neck over the hedge._] Hee-haw!
CHANTECLER Thanks!--the better I shall fight!
THE WHITE PILE [_Chuckling._] He is game, but he's giving out.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Enough. Enough. Oh, stop!
A VOICE On White Pile, twenty to one!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Seeing_ CHANTECLER'S _bleeding neck._] He bleeds, oh!
A HEN [_Rising on tiptoe behind the_ GOLDEN PADUA COCK.] I should like to see the blood!
THE WHITE PILE [_Increasing the fury of his onset._] I'll have your gizzard!
THE HEN [_Trying to see._] The Padua Cock's hat shuts off my view!
THE BLACKBIRD Hats off!
A VOICE That was a stinger! On his comb!
SHRILL CRIES [_From the crowd._] Land him one! Do him up! Lay him out! Have his gore!
PATOU [_Standing up in his wheelbarrow._] Will you stop behaving like human beings?
CRIES [_Furiously keeping time with the blows showering upon_ CHANTECLER.] In the neck! On the nut! On the wing! On the--[_Sudden silence._]
CHANTECLER [_Amazed._] What is this? The ring breaks up, the shouting dies--[_He looks around. The_ WHITE PILE _has drawn away and backed against the hedge. A strange commotion agitates the crowd._ CHANTECLER, _exhausted, bleeding, tottering, does not understand, and murmurs._] What joke are they preparing against my end? [_And suddenly._] Joy, Patou, joy!
CHANTECLER I have done them an injustice. All of them, ceasing to insult and mock me, look, gather round me, closer and closer--look!
PATOU [_Seeing them all, in fact, crowding around_ CHANTECLER, _and gazing anxiously at the sky, looks up too, and says simply._] It is the hawk!
CHANTECLER Ah! [_A dark shadow slowly sweeps over the motley crowd, who crouch and cower._]
PATOU When that great shadow falls, it is not the fine, strange Cocks we trust to keep off the bird of prey!
CHANTECLER [_Suddenly grown great of size, his wounds forgotten, stands in the midst of them, and in an authoritative tone._] Yes, close around me, all of you, all! [_All, huddled in their feathers, their heads drawn in between their wings, press against him._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN Dear, brave, and gentle heart!
CHANTECLER [_The shadow sweeps over the crowd a second time. The_ GAME COCK _makes himself small._ CHANTECLER _alone remains standing, in the midst of a heap of ruffled, trembling feathers._]
A HEN [_Looking up at the_ HAWK.] Twice the black shadow has swept over us!
CHANTECLER [_Calling to the_ CHICKS, _who come madly running._] Chicks, come here to me!
THE PHEASANT-HEN You take them under your wing?
CHANTECLER I must. Their mother is a box!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Looking upward._] He hovers over us--[_The shadow of the_ HAWK, _circling lower and lower, passes for the third time, darker than ever._]
ALL [_In a moan of fear._] Ah!
CHANTECLER [_Shouting toward the sky._] I am here!
PATOU He has heard your trumpet cry!
THE PHEASANT-HEN He flies further.
[_All rise with a joyous cry of deliverance, "Ah!" and go back to their places to watch the end of the combat._]
PATOU Without loss of a moment they form the ring again.
CHANTECLER [_With a start._] What did you say? [_He looks. It is true, the ring has immediately formed._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN Now they want you killed to be revenged for their fine scare.
CHANTECLER But now I shall not be killed! I felt my strength come back when the common enemy flew across the sky. [_Striding boldly up to the_ WHITE PILE.] I got back my courage, fearing for the others.
THE WHITE PILE [_Amazed at being smartly attacked._] Whence has he drawn new strength?
CHANTECLER I am thrice stronger now than you. Black excites me, you see, as red excites the bull, and thrice I have stared at night in the form of a bird's shadow!
THE WHITE PILE [_Driven to bay, against the hedge, prepares to use his razors._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Screaming._] Look out! He has two sharp razors at his heels, the beast!
CHANTECLER I knew it!
THE CAT [_From his tree, to the_ GAME COCK.] Use your knives!
PATOU [_Ready to spring from his wheelbarrow._] If he uses those, I'll strangle him, that's all!
THE CROWD Oh!
PATOU I will! Howl you never so loud!
THE WHITE PILE [_Feeling himself lost._] No help for it!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Closely watching him._] He is getting one of his razors ready!
THE WHITE PILE [_Striking with his sharp spur._] Take that! Die! [_He utters a terrible cry, while_ CHANTECLER, _avoiding the blow, springs aside._] Ah! [_He drops to the ground. Cry of amazement._]
SEVERAL VOICES What is it?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Who has hopped up to the fallen_ COCK _and examined him._] Nothing! Merely he has dexterously slashed his left claw with his right!
THE CROWD [_Following and hooting the_ WHITE PILE, _who, having picked himself up, limps off._] Hoo! Hoo!
PATOU _and the_ PHEASANT-HEN [_Laughing and weeping and talking, all in one, beside_ CHANTECLER, _who stands motionless, utterly spent, with closed eyes._] Chantecler! It is we! The Pheasant-hen! The Dog! Speak to us, speak!
CHANTECLER [_Opening his eyes, looks at them and says gently._] The day will rise to-morrow!
THE SAME, _except the_ WHITE PILE
THE CROWD [_After seeing the_ WHITE PILE _off, return tumultuously to_ CHANTECLER, _hailing him with acclamations._] Hurrah!
CHANTECLER [_Drawing away from them, in a terrible voice._] Stand back! I know your worth! [_The crowd hastily draws back._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Close by his side._] Come away to the woods, where true-hearted animals live!
CHANTECLER No, I will stay here.
THE PHEASANT-HEN After finding them out?
CHANTECLER After finding them out.
THE PHEASANT-HEN You will stay here?
CHANTECLER Not for their sakes, but the sake of my song. It might spring forth less clear from any other soil! But now, to inform the Day that it is sure to be called tomorrow I will sing! [_Obsequious movement of the crowd, attempting to approach._] Back! All of you! I have nothing left but my song! [ALL _draw away, and alone in his pride, he begins._] Co--[_To himself, stiffening himself against pain._] Nothing left but my song, therefore let us sing well! [_He tries again._] Co--Now, I wonder, shall I take it as a chest-note, or--Co--a head-note? Shall I count one-three, or--Co--And the accent? Since they filled my head with all that sort of thing, I--Coocooroo--Keekee-ree--And the theory? The dynamic theory? Cock-a--I am all tangled up in schools and rules and rubbish! If he reduced his flight to a theory, what eagle would ever soar? Co--[_Trying again, and ending in a raucous, abortive crow._] Co--I cannot sing any more, I, whose method was not to know how, but be quite certain why! [_In a cry, of despair._] I have nothing left! They have taken everything from me, my song and everything else. How shall I get it back?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Opening her wings._] Come away to the woods!
CHANTECLER [_Falling upon her breast._] I love you!
THE PHEASANT-HEN To the woods, where the simple birds sing their sweet unconscious songs!
CHANTECLER Let us go! [_Both go toward the back._ CHANTECLER _turning._] But there is one thing I wish to say--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Trying to lead him away._] Come to the woods!
CHANTECLER --to all the Guineahennery gathered beneath these arbors. Let the garden--the Bees agree with me, I fancy!--let the garden work untroubled at changing its blossoms into fruit--
BUZZING OF BEES _We agree--ee--ee_!
CHANTECLER Nothing good is ever accomplished in the midst of noise. Noise prevents the bough--
BUZZING [_Further off._] _So say we--e--e! we--e--e_!
CHANTECLER --from bringing its apple to perfection, prevents the grape--
BUZZING [_Dying away among the foliage._] _So say we--e--e_!
CHANTECLER --from ripening on the vine. [_Going toward the back with the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] Let us go! [_Turning and coming again angrily toward the front._] But I wish furthermore to say to these H--[_The_ PHEASANT-HEN _lays her wing across his beak._]--ens that those unnatural Cocks will lightly take themselves away, back to the gilded mangers of their sole affection, the moment they hear the cry of Chick-chick-chick-chick-chick! [_Imitating a servant girl calling_ CHICKENS _to feed._] For all those charlatans are stalking appetites, and nothing more!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Trying to lead him off._] Come! Come!
A HEN She is eloping with him.
CHANTECLER I am coming! But--[_Coming forward again._] I must first say to this Peacock, in the presence of that Addlepate--[_Indicating the_ GUINEA-HEN.]
THE GUINEA-HEN He insults me in my own house. Sensational!
CHANTECLER False hero whom Fashion has taken for leader, you walk in such terror of appearing behindhand to the eyes of your own tail that your throat is blue with it! But, urged forward, on and on, by every staring eye upon it, you will fall at last, breathless for good and all, and end in the false immortality bestowed, false artist, by the--[_Imitating the manner of the_ PEACOCK.] shall I say bird-stuffer?
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Mechanically._] Yes!
CHANTECLER No. Taxidermist,--to use the word you would prefer. That, my dear Peacock, is what I wished to say.
THE BLACKBIRD Bang!
CHANTECLER [_Turning toward him._] As for you--
THE BLACKBIRD Fire away!
CHANTECLER I will! You became acquainted one grey morning with a city sparrow, did you not tell us so? That was your ruin. You have been possessed ever since with the desire to appear like one yourself.
THE BLACKBIRD But--
CHANTECLER From that hour, unresting, acting the sparrow night and day, the sparrow even in sleep, self-condemned to play the sparrow without respite, you have appeared--famous jay!
THE BLACKBIRD But--
CHANTECLER Pathetic effort of a country birdkin, twisting his thick bill to talk with a city accent! Ah, you wish to bite off bits of slang? My friend, they are green! Every grape you pick breaks in your jaws, for city grapes are glass bubbles! Having taken from the sparrow only his make-up and grimace, you are just a clumsy understudy, a sort of vice-buffoon! And you serve up stale old cynicisms picked up with crumbs in fashionable club-rooms, poor little bird, and think to astonish us with your budget of scandalous news--
THE BLACKBIRD But--
CHANTECLER I have not exhausted my ammunition! You wish to imitate the sparrow? But the sparrow does not, slyly and meanly mischievous, make a cult of sprightliness is not funny with authority, is not the pedant of flippancy! You percher among low bushes, who never care to fly, you wish to imitate--[_Turning to one of the exotic_ COCKS _cackling behind him._] Silence, Cock of Japan! or I shall spoil a picture!
THE JAPANESE COCK [_Hurriedly._] I beg your pardon!
CHANTECLER [_Continuing to the_ BLACKBIRD.] You wish to imitate the sparrow, who, rising on light wing, underlines his words with a telegraph wire! Very well, I hate to grieve you, but--you know I can hear the sparrows when they come to steal my corn!--you are not in it, you do not pull it off. Your lingo is a fake!
THE BLACKBIRD A--?
CHANTECLER And your performance is a shine!
THE BLACKBIRD He can talk slang?
CHANTECLER I can talk anything!--It's the Paris article made in Germany!
THE BLACKBIRD But--
CHANTECLER Fire away, I think you said. I hope you don't mind my air-gun?
THE BLACKBIRD I--
CHANTECLER The Grand Master of Illuminations is entirely at your service. What do you say?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Hastily._] Nothing! [_He tries to get away._]
CHANTECLER You wish to ape the sparrow of city streets! But his impudence is not a manner of prudence, an art of remaining vague, an elegant method of having no opinion. His eyes always express either wrath or delight. Do you care to know the secret by which the little beggar, with his "Chappie" and his "See" can steal away our hearts? It is that he is frank and fearless that he believes, that he loves, that the railings of a balcony where some child strews crumbs for him are the only cage he ever knew! It is that one can be sure of his gaiety of soul, since he is gay when he is hungry! But you who, void of gaiety because void of love, have imagined that evil wit can take the place of good humour, and that one can play the sparrow when he is a sleek and vulgar trimmer, sniggering behind his wing, what I say to you is, "Guess again, Mock-sparrow, guess again!"
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Always applauding everything that is said at her receptions._] Good! That was extremely good!
A CHICKEN [_To the crestfallen_ BLACKBIRD.] You will make him smart for this?
THE BLACKBIRD [_Prudently._] No. I will take it out on the Turkey. [_At this point a_ VOICE _calls, "Chick-chick-chick-chick-chick!" and all the_ FANCY COCKS, _rushing toward the irresistible call to food, hurry out, tumbling over one another in their haste._]
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Running after them._] Are you going?
A PADUA COCK [_The last to leave._] I beg to be excused! [_Disappears._]
THE GUINEA-HEN [_In the midst of the hubbub._] Are you going? Must you go? Oh, don't go yet!
CHANTECLER [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] Come, my golden Pheasant!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Running to_ CHANTECLER.] Are you running away?
CHANTECLER To save my song!
THE GUINEA-HEN [_Running to the_ YOUNG GUINEA-COCK.] My son, I am in such a state--I am in such--
A HEN [_Calling after_ CHANTECLER.] And when shall we see you again?
CHANTECLER [_Before going._] When you have grown teeth! [_Off with the_ PHEASANT-HEN.]
THE GUINEA-HEN [_To the_ YOUNG GUINEA-COCK.] This has been quite the finest affair of the season! [_Darting madly about among the departing guests._] Au revoir! Mondays in August! Don't forget!
THE MAGPIE [_Announcing._] The Tortoise!
THE NIGHT OF THE NIGHTINGALE
_In the Forest. Evening. Huge trees with thick gnarled roots. At the base of one of the trees, Time or a lightning stroke has hollowed a sort of chamber. Rising slopes carpeted with heather. Rabbit holes. Mosses. Toadstools. Stretched between two ferns, a great cobweb, spangled with water-drops. At the rise of the curtain_, RABBITS _are discovered on every side among the underbrush, peacefully inhaling the evening air. A time of serene silence and coolness._
_A_ RABBIT _in front of his burrow_, CHOIR OF UNSEEN BIRDS.
A RABBIT It is the hour when with sweet and solemn voices the two warblers, Black-cap of the Gardens, and Red-wing of the Woods, intone the evening prayer.
A VOICE [_Among the branches._] O God of Birds!
ANOTHER VOICE O God of Birds! or, rather, for the Hawk Has surely not the same God as the Wren, O God of Little Birds!
A THOUSAND VOICES [_Among the leaves._] O God of Little Birds!
FIRST VOICE Who breathed into our wings to make us light, And painted them with colours of His sky, All thanks for this fair day, for meat and drink-- Sweet sky-born water caught in cups of stone, Sweet hedgerow berries washed of dust with dew, And thanks for these good little eyes of ours That spy the unseen enemies of man, And thanks for the good tools by Thee bestowed To aid our work of little gardeners, Trowels and pruning-hooks of living horn.
THE SECOND VOICE To-morrow we will fight borer and blight, Forgive Thy birds to-night their trespasses, The stripping of a currant-bush or two!
THE FIRST VOICE Breathe on our bright round eyes and over them The triple curtain of the lids will close. If Man, the unjust, pay us by casting stones, For filling field and wood and eaves with song, For battling with the weevil for his bread, If he lime twigs for us, if he spread snares, Call to our memory Thy gentle Saint, Thy good Saint Francis, that we may forgive The cruelty of men because a man Once called us brothers, "My brothers, the birds!"
THE SECOND VOICE Saint Francis of Assisi--
A THOUSAND VOICES [_Among the leaves._] Pray for us!
THE VOICE Confessor of the mavis--
ALL THE VOICES Pray for us!
THE VOICE Preacher to the swallows--
ALL THE VOICES Pray for us!
THE VOICE O tender dreamer of a generous dream, Who didst believe so surely in our soul That, ever since, our soul, and ever more, Affirms, defines itself--
ALL THE VOICES Remember us!
THE FIRST VOICE And by the favour of thy prayers obtain The needful daily sup and crumb! Amen.
THE SECOND VOICE Amen!
ALL THE VOICES [_In a murmur spreading to the uttermost ends of the forest._] Amen!
CHANTECLER [_Who, having a moment before stepped from the hollow tree, has stood listening._] Amen!
[_The shade has deepened and taken a bluer tinge. The spiderweb, touched by a moonbeam, looks as if sifting silver dust. The_ PHEASANT-HEN _comes from the tree and follows_ CHANTECLER _with little short feminine steps._]
CHANTECLER, _the_ PHEASANT-HEN, _from time to time the_ RABBITS, _now and then the_ WOODPECKER.
CHANTECLER How softly sleeps the moonlight on the ferns! Now is the time--
A LITTLE QUAVERING VOICE Spider at night, Bodeth delight!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Thanks, kind Spider!
CHANTECLER Now is the time--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Close behind him._] Now is the time to kiss me.
CHANTECLER All those Rabbits looking on make it a trifle--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Suddenly flaps her wings; the frightened_ RABBITS _start, on all sides white tails disappear into rabbit-holes. The_ PHEASANT-HEN _coming back to_ CHANTECLER.] There! [_They bill._] Do you love my forest?
CHANTECLER I love it, for no sooner had I crossed its verdant border than I got back my song. Let us go to roost. I must sing very early to-morrow.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Imperiously._] But one song only!
THE PHEASANT-HEN For a month I have only allowed you one song.
CHANTECLER [_Resignedly._] Yes.
THE PHEASANT-HEN And has the Sun not risen just the same?
CHANTECLER [_In a tone of unwilling admission._] The Sun has risen.
THE PHEASANT-HEN You see that one can have the Dawn at a smaller cost. Is the sky any less red for your only crowing once?
THE PHEASANT-HEN Well then? [_Offering her bill._] A kiss! [_Finding his kiss absent-minded._] You are thinking of something else. Please attend! [_Reverting to her idea._] Why should you wear yourself out? You were simply squandering the precious copper of your voice. Daylight is all very well, but one must live! Oh! the male creature! If we were not there, with what sad frequency he would be fooled!
CHANTECLER [_With conviction._] Yes, but you are there, you see.
THE PHEASANT-HEN It is barbarous anyhow to keep up a perpetual cockaduddling when I am trying to sleep.
CHANTECLER [_Gently correcting her._] Doodling, dearest.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Duddling is correct.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Raising her head toward the top of the tree and calling._] Mr. Woodpecker! [_To_ CHANTECLER.] We will ask the learned gentleman in the green coat. [_To the_ WOODPECKER _the upper half of whose figure appears at a round hole high up in the tree trunk; his coat is green, his waistcoat buff, and he wears a red skull-cap._] Do you say cockaduddling or cockadoodling?
THE WOODPECKER [_Bending a long professorial bill._] Both.
CHANTECLER _and the_ PHEASANT-HEN [_Turning to each other, triumphantly._] Ah!
THE WOODPECKER Duddling is more tender, doodling more poetic. [_He disappears._]
CHANTECLER It is for you I cockaduddle!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Yes, but you cockadoodle for the Dawn!
CHANTECLER [_Going toward her._] I do believe you are jealous!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Retreating coquettishly._] Do you love me more than her?
CHANTECLER [_With a cry of warning._] Be careful, a snare!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Jumping aside._] Ready to spring! [_Dimly visible against a tree, is, in fact, a spread bird-net._]
CHANTECLER [_Examining it._] A dangerous contrivance.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Forbidden by the game-laws of 44.
CHANTECLER [_Laughing._] Do you know that?
THE PHEASANT-HEN You seem to forget that the object of your affections comes under the head of game.
CHANTECLER [_With a touch of sadness._] It is true that we are of different kinds.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Returning to his side with a hop._] I want you to love me more than her. Say it's me you love most. Say it's me!
THE WOODPECKER [_Reappearing._] I!
CHANTECLER [_Looking up._] Not in a love-scene.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To the_ WOODPECKER.] See here,--you! Be so kind another time as to knock!
WOODPECKER [_Disappearing._] Certainly. Certainly.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To_ CHANTECLER.] He has a bad habit of thrusting his bill between the bark and the tree, but he is a rare scholar, exceptionally well informed--
CHANTECLER [_Absent-mindedly._] On what subjects?
THE PHEASANT-HEN The language of birds.
THE PHEASANT-HEN For, you know, the birds when they say their prayers speak the common language, but when they chat together in private they use a twittering dialect, wholly onomatopoetic.
CHANTECLER They talk Japanese. [_The_ WOODPECKER _knocks three times with his bill on the tree: Rat-tat-tat!_] Come in!
THE WOODPECKER [_Appearing, indignant._] Japanese, did you say?
CHANTECLER Yes. Some of them say, Tio! Tio! and others say Tzoui! Tzoui!
THE WOODPECKER Birds have talked Greek ever since Aristophanes!
CHANTECLER [_Rushing to the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] Oh, for the love of Greek! [_They bill._]
THE WOODPECKER Know, profane youth, that the Black-chat's cry Ouis-ouis-tra-tra, is a corruption of the word Lysistrata! [_Disappears._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To_ CHANTECLER.] Will you never love anyone but me?
[THE WOODPECKER'S _knock is heard: Rat-tat-tat._]
CHANTECLER Come in!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To_ CHANTECLER.] Do you promise?
THE WOODPECKER [_Appears, soberly nodding his red cap._] Tiri-para! sings the small sedge-warbler to the reeds. Incontrovertibly from the Greek. _Para,_ along, and the word water is understood. [_Disappears._]
CHANTECLER He has Greek on the brain!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Reverting to her idea._] Am I the whole, whole world to you?
CHANTECLER Of course you are, only--
THE PHEASANT-HEN In my green-sleeved Oriental robe, I look to you--how do I look?
CHANTECLER Like a living commandment ever to worship that which comes from the East.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Exasperated._] Will you stop thinking of the light of day, and think only of the light in my eyes?
CHANTECLER I shall never forget, however, that there was a morning when we believed equally in my Destiny, and that in the radiant hour of dawning love you forgot, and allowed me to forget, your gold for the gold of the Dawn!
THE PHEASANT-HEN The Dawn! Always the Dawn! Be careful, Chantecler I shall do something rash! [_Going toward the Back._]
CHANTECLER You will infallibly do as you like.
THE PHEASANT-HEN In the glade not long ago I met the--[_She catches herself and stops short, intentionally._]
CHANTECLER [_Looks at her, and in an angry cry._] The Pheasant? [_With sudden violence._] Promise me that you will never again go to the glade!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Assured of her power over him, with a bound returns to his side._] And you, promise that you will love me more than the Light!
CHANTECLER [_Sorrowfully._] Oh!
THE PHEASANT-HEN That you will not sing--
CHANTECLER More than one song, we have settled that point. [_Rat-tat-tat, from the_ WOODPECKER.] Come in!
THE WOODPECKER [_Appearing and pointing with his bill at the net._] The snare! The farmer placed it there. He declared he would capture the Pheasant-hen.
THE PHEASANT-HEN He flatters himself!
THE WOODPECKER And that he would keep you on his farm.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Indignant._] Alive? [_To_ CHANTECLER, _in a tone of reproach._] Your farm!
CHANTECLER [_Seeing a_ RABBIT _who has returned to the edge of his hole._] Ah, there comes a Rabbit!
THE RABBIT [_Showing the snare to the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] You know if you put your foot on that spring--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_In a tone of superiority._] I know all about snares, my little man. If you put your foot on that spring, the thing shuts. I am afraid of nothing but dogs. [_To_ CHANTECLER.] On your farm, which you secretly yearn for.
CHANTECLER [_In a voice of injured innocence._] I?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_To the_ RABBIT, _giving him a light tap with her wing to send him home._] Afraid of nothing but dogs. And since you put me in mind of it, I think I must go and perplex their noses, by tangling my tracks all among the grass and underwoods.
CHANTECLER That's it, you go and fool the dogs!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Starts of, then returns._] You are homesick for that wretched old farm of yours?
CHANTECLER I? I? [_She goes off. He repeats indignantly._] I? [_Watching her out of sight, then, dropping his voice, to the_ WOODPECKER.] She is not coming back, is she?
THE WOODPECKER [_Who from his high window in the tree can look off._] No.
CHANTECLER, THE WOODPECKER.
CHANTECLER [_Eagerly._] Keep watch! They are going to talk with me from home.
THE WOODPECKER [_Interested._] Who?
CHANTECLER The Blackbird.
THE WOODPECKER I thought he hated you.
CHANTECLER He came near it, but the Blackbird cast of mind admits of compromise, and it amuses him to keep me informed.
THE WOODPECKER Is he coming?
CHANTECLER [_Who is a different bird since the_ PHEASANT-HEN'S _exit, light-hearted, boyishly cheerful._] No, but the blue morning-glory opening in his cage amid the wistaria, communicates by subterranean filaments with this white convolvulus trembling above the pool. [_Going to the convolvulus._] So that by talking into its chalice--[_He plunges his bill into one of the trembling milky trumpets._] Hello!
THE WOODPECKER [_Nodding to himself._] From the Greek, _allos_, another. He talks with another.
CHANTECLER Hello! The Blackbird, please!
THE WOODPECKER [_Keeping watch._] Most imprudent, this is! To choose among the convolvuli exactly the one which--
CHANTECLER [_Lighter and lighter of mood, returning to the_ WOODPECKER.] But it's the only one open all night! When the Blackbird answers, the Bee who sleeps in the flower wakes up and we--
THE BEE [_Inside the convolvulus._] Vrrrrrrrrr!
CHANTECLER [_Briskly running to the flower and listening at the horn-shaped receiver._] Ah? This morning, did you say?
THE WOODPECKER [_Filled with curiosity._] What is it?
CHANTECLER [_In a voice of sudden emotion._] Thirty chicks have been born! [_Listening again._] Briffaut, the hunting-dog, is ill? [_As if something interfered with his hearing._] I believe it is the Dragon-flies, deafening us with the crackling of their wings--[_Shouting._] Will you be so kind, young ladies, as not to cut us off? [_Listening._] And big Julius obliges Patou to go with him on his hunting expeditions? [_To the_ WOODPECKER.] Ah, you ought to know my friend Patou! [_Burying his bill again in the flower._] So? Without me everything goes wrong? Yes! [_With satisfaction._] Yes! Waste and carelessness naturally!
THE WOODPECKER [_Who has been keeping watch, warns him suddenly under breath._] Here she comes!
CHANTECLER [_With his bill in the flower._] Indeed?
THE WOODPECKER [_Fluttering desperately._] Hush!
CHANTECLER The Ducks spent the night under the cart, did they?
THE WOODPECKER Pst!
SCENE FOURTH THE SAME, THE PHEASANT-HEN
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Who has come upon the scene, with a threatening gesture at the_ WOODPECKER.] Go inside! [_The_ WOOD PECKER _precipitately disappears. She stands listening to_ CHANTECLER.]
CHANTECLER [_In the convolvulus, more and more deeply interested._] You don't mean it! What, all of them?--Yes?--No--Oh!--Well, well!--Is that so?
THE WOODPECKER [_Who has timidly come back, aside._] Oh, that an ant of the heaviest might weigh down his tongue!
CHANTECLER [_Talking into the flower._] So soon? The Peacock out of fashion?
THE WOODPECKER [_Trying to get_ CHANTECLER'S _attention behind the_ PHEASANT-HEN'S _back._] Pst!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Turning around, furious._] You!--You had better! [_The_ WOODPECKER _alertly retires, bumping his head._]
CHANTECLER [_In the flower._] An elderly Cock?--I hope that the Hens--? [_With intonations more and more expressive of relief._] Ah, that's right! that's right! that's right! [_He ends, with evident lightening of the heart._] A father! [_As if answering a question._] Do I sing? Yes, but far away from here, at the water-side.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Oh!
CHANTECLER [_With a tinge of bitterness._] Golden Pheasants will not long allow one to purchase glory by too strenuous an effort, and so I go off by myself, and work at the Dawn in secret.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Approaching from behind with threatening countenance._] Oh!
CHANTECLER As soon as the beauteous eye which enthralls me--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Pausing._] Oh!
CHANTECLER --closes, and in her surpassing loveliness she sleeps--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Delighted._] Ah!
CHANTECLER I make my escape.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Furious._] Oh!
CHANTECLER I speed through the dew to a distant place, to sing there the necessary number of times, and when I feel the darkness wavering, when only one song more is needed, I return and noiselessly getting back to roost, wake the Pheasant-hen by singing it at her side.--Betrayed by the dew? Oh, no! [_Laughing._] For with a whisk of my wing I brush my feet clear of the tell-tale silveriness!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Close behind him._] You brush your--?
CHANTECLER [_Turning._] Ouch! [_Into the convolvulus._] No nothing! I--Later!--Ouch!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Violently._] So! So! Not only you keep up an interest in the fidelity of your old flames--
CHANTECLER [_Evasively._] Oh!
THE PHEASANT-HEN You furthermore--
THE BEE [_Inside the morning-glory._] Vrrrrrrr!
CHANTECLER [_Placing his wing over the flower._] I--
THE PHEASANT-HEN You deceive me to the point of remembering to brush off your feet!
THE PHEASANT-HEN This clodhopper, see now, whom I picked up off his haystack--and to rule alone in his soul is apparently quite beyond my power!
CHANTECLER [_Collecting himself and straightening up._] When one dwells in a soul, it is better, believe me, to meet with the Dawn there, than with nothing.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Angrily._] No! the Dawn defrauds me of a great and undivided love!
CHANTECLER There is no great love outside the shadow of a great dream! How should there not flow more love from a soul whose very business it is to open wide every day?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Coming and going stormily._] I will sweep everything aside with my golden russet wing!
CHANTECLER And who are you, bent upon such tremendous sweeping [_They stand rigid and erect in front of each other, looking defiance into each other's eyes._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN The Pheasant-hen I am, who have assumed the golden plumage of the arrogant male!
CHANTECLER Remaining in spite of all a female, whose eternal rival is the Idea!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_In a great cry._] Hold me to your heart and be still!
CHANTECLER [_Crushing her brutally to him._] Yes, I strain you to my Cock's heart--[_With infinite regret._] Better it were I had folded you to my Awakener's soul!
THE PHEASANT-HEN To deceive me for the Dawn's sake! Very well, however much you may abhor it, you shall for my sake deceive the Dawn.
CHANTECLER I? How?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Stamping her foot; in a capricious tone._] It is my formal and explicit wish--
CHANTECLER But listen, dear--
THE PHEASANT-HEN My formal and explicit wish that you should for one whole day refrain altogether from singing.
CHANTECLER That I--
THE PHEASANT-HEN I desire you to remain one whole day without singing.
CHANTECLER But, heavens and earth, am I to leave the valley in total darkness?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Pouting._] What harm will it do to the valley?
CHANTECLER Whatever lies too long in darkness and sleep becomes used to falsehood and consents to death.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Leave singing for one day--[_In a tone of evil insinuation._] It will free my mind of certain suspicions troubling it.
CHANTECLER [_With a start._] I can see what you are trying to do!
THE PHEASANT-HEN And I can see what you are afraid of!
CHANTECLER [_Earnestly._] I will never give up singing.
THE PHEASANT-HEN And what if you were mistaken? What if the truth were that Dawn comes without help from you?
CHANTECLER [_With fierce resolution._] I shall not know it.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_In a sudden burst of tears._] Could you not forget the time, for once, if you saw me weeping?
CHANTECLER No, I could not.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Nothing, ever, can make you forget the time?
CHANTECLER Nothing. I am conscious of darkness as too heavy a weight.
THE PHEASANT-HEN You are conscious of darkness as--Shall I tell you the truth? You think you sing for the Dawn, but you sing in reality to be admired, you--songster, you! [_With contemptuous pity._] Is it possible you are not aware that your poor notes raise a smile right through the forest, accustomed to the fluting of the thrush?
CHANTECLER I know, you are trying now to reach me through my pride, but--
THE PHEASANT-HEN I doubt if you can get so many as three toadstools and a couple of sassafras stalks to listen to you, when the ardent oriole flings across the leafy gloom his melodious pir-piriol!
THE WOODPECKER [_Reappearing._] From the Greek: Pure, _puros._
CHANTECLER No more from you, please! [_The_ WOODPECKER _hurriedly withdraws._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Insisting._] The echo must make some rather interesting mental reservations, one fancies, when he hears you sing after hearing the great Nightingale!
CHANTECLER [_Turning to leave._] My nerves, my dear girl, are not of the very steadiest to-night.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Following._] Did you ever hear him?
THE PHEASANT-HEN His song is so wonderful that the first time--[_She stops short, struck by an idea._] Oh!
CHANTECLER What is it?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Aside._] Ah, you feel the weight of the darkness--
CHANTECLER [_Coming forward again._] What?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_With an ironical curtsey._] Nothing! [_Carelessly._] Let us go to roost! [CHANTECLER _goes to the back and is preparing to rise to a branch. The_ PHEASANT-HEN _aside._] He does not know that when the Nightingale sings one listens, supposing it to be a minute, and lo! the whole night has been spent listening, even as happens in the enchanted forest of a German legend.
CHANTECLER [_As she does not join him, returns to her._] What are you saying?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Laughing in his face._] Nothing!
A VOICE [_Outside._] The illustrious Cock?
CHANTECLER [_Looking around him._] I am wanted?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Who has gone in the direction from whence came the voice._] There, in the grass! [_Jumping back._] Mercy upon us! They are the--[_With a movement of insuperable disgust._] They are the--[_With a spring she conceals herself in the hollow tree, calling back to_ CHANTECLER.] Be civil to them!
CHANTECLER, _the_ PHEASANT-HEN, _hidden in the tree, and the_ TOADS.
A BIG TOAD [_Rearing himself in the grass._] We have come--[_Other_ TOADS _become visible behind him._]
CHANTECLER Ye gods, how ugly they are!
THE BIG TOAD [_Obsequiously._]--in behalf of all the thinking contingency of the Forest, to the author of so many songs--[_He places his hand on his heart._]
CHANTECLER [_With disgust._] Oh, that hand spread over his paunch!
THE BIG TOAD [_With a hop toward_ CHANTECLER.]--at once novel,--
ANOTHER TOAD [_Same business._] Pellucid!
ANOTHER [_Same business._] Succinct!
ANOTHER [_Same business._] Vital!
ANOTHER [_Same business._] Pure!
ANOTHER [_Same business._] Great!
CHANTECLER Gentlemen, pray be seated. [_They seat themselves around a large toadstool._]
THE BIG TOAD True, we are ugly--
CHANTECLER [_Politely._] You have fine eyes.
THE BIG TOAD [_Raising himself by bearing with both hands upon the rim of the toadstool._] But, Knights of this fungoid Round Table, we desire to do homage to the Parsifal who has given to the world a sublime song--
SECOND TOAD A true song!
THE BIG TOAD And a celestial!
THIRD TOAD And a no less terrestrial!
THE BIG TOAD [_With authority._] A song by comparison with which the song of the Nightingale sinks into insignificance!
CHANTECLER [_Astonished._] The Nightingale's song?
SECOND TOAD [_In a tone of finality._] Is not a circumstance to yours!
THE BIG TOAD [_With a hop._] It was high time that a new singer--
ANOTHER [_Same business._] And a new song--
FIFTH TOAD [_Quickly, to his neighbour._] And a song by a stranger--
THE BIG TOAD Came to change conditions here.
CHANTECLER Ah, I shall change conditions?
ALL Glory to the Cock!
CHANTECLER I do not see that the forest thinks so poorly of me after all!
THE BIG TOAD Played out, the Nightingale!
CHANTECLER [_More and more surprised._] Really?
SECOND TOAD More and more his song confesses itself effete--
THE BIG TOAD Mawkish!
THIRD TOAD Null!
FOURTH [_Contemptuously._] And his old-fashioned pretense of inspiration!
FIFTH TOAD And the name he has adopted: Bul-bul!
ALL THE TOADS [_Puffing with laughter._] Bul-bul!
THE BIG TOAD This is the way he goes on: [_Parodying the song of the_ NIGHTINGALE.] Tio! Tio!
SECOND TOAD His solitary idea is an old silver trill copied from the bubbling spring. [_He imitates in grotesque fashion the singing of the_ NIGHTINGALE.] Tio! Tio!
THE BIG TOAD [_Quickly._] Do not attempt, you, the Renovator of Art, to defend that ancient high authority on sentimental gargling!
SECOND TOAD That superannuated tenor quavering out his cavatinas to the glory of minor poetry and the edification of fogydom!
THIRD TOAD The Harp that twanged through Tara's hall, and insists on twanging still!
CHANTECLER [_Indulgently._] But why should he not, after all, if he enjoys it?
THE BIG TOAD Endeavouring to impose on a suffering and surfeited public the musty old fashion of ingenious fioritura!
CHANTECLER Audiences nowadays, of course, look for a different sort of thing.
THIRD TOAD Your song has exposed the artificiality of his.
ALL [_In an explosion._] Down with Bul-bul!
CHANTECLER [_Whom the_ TOADS _have gradually surrounded._] Gentlemen and honored Batrachians, my voice, it is true, gives forth natural notes--
THE BIG TOAD Yes, notes which lend us wings--
CHANTECLER [_Modestly._] Oh!
ALL [_Waggling their bodies as if about to fly._] Wings!
THE BIG TOAD Their secret being that they sing Life!
CHANTECLER That is true.
SECOND TOAD Yes, my dear fellow, Life!
CHANTECLER [_With careless complacency._] My crest for that reason is flesh and blood!
ALL THE TOADS [_Clapping their little hands._] Good, very good!
THE BIG TOAD That formula is a programme.
SECOND TOAD Since we are assembled around a table, why should we not offer to the Chief--
CHANTECLER [_Modestly, hanging back from the suggested honour._]Gentlemen--
SECOND TOAD --to the Chief of whom we stood in notable need, a banquet?
ALL [_Beating enthusiastically upon the toadstool._] A banquet!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Looking out from the tree._] What is the matter?
CHANTECLER [_In spite of all, rather flattered._] A banquet!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Slightly ironical._] Shall you accept?
CHANTECLER You see, my dear--the new tendencies--Art,--the thinking contingency of the Forest--[_Indicating the_ TOADS.] Yes, I have lent wings to--[_In a light and careless tone._] It's all up with the Nightingale, you see. Musty old method! Antiquated trill! This is the way he goes on--[_To the_ TOADS.] How was it you said he went on?
ALL THE TOADS [_Comically._] Tio! Tio!
CHANTECLER [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN, _with pitying indulgence._] He goes on like this: Tio! Tio! And I believe I need not scruple to accept--
A VOICE [_In the tree above him breaks forth in a long note, limpid, and heart-moving._] Tio! [_Silence._]
CHANTECLER [_Startled, raising his head._] What was that?
THE BIG TOAD [_Quickly, visibly embarrassed._] Nothing! It is he!
THE VOICE [_Slowly and wonderfully, with the sigh of a soul in every note._] Tio! Tio! Tio! Tio!
CHANTECLER [_Turning upon the_ TOADS.] Scum of the earth!
THE TOADS [_Backing away from him._] What--?
THE SAME, _the_ NIGHTINGALE _unseen, and little by little all the_ FOREST CREATURES.
THE NIGHTINGALE [_From the tree, in his emotionally throbbing voice._] Tiny bird, lost in the darkness of the tree, I feel myself turning into the heart-beat of the infinite night!
CHANTECLER [_To the_ TOADS.] And you have dared--
THE NIGHTINGALE Hushed lies the ravine beneath the magic of the moon--
CHANTECLER --to compare my rude singing with that divine voice? Scum of the earth! Toads! And I never divined that they were doing to him here what was done to me over yonder!
THE BIG TOAD [_Suddenly swelling to a great size._] Toads! Yes, as it happens, we are Toads!
THE NIGHTINGALE Vapour of pearl wreathes the summits in an ethereal veil--
THE BIG TOAD [_Self-appreciatively._] We are Toads, certainly, magnificently embossed with warts! [_All rear themselves up, swollen, standing between_ CHANTECLER _and the tree._]
CHANTECLER And I perceived not, I who have never known envy, to what venomous feast I was bidden!
THE NIGHTINGALE What matter? Sooner or later, you, the strong, and I, the tender, we were fated, despite all the Toads in the world, to understand each other!
CHANTECLER [_With religious fervour._] Sing!
A TOAD [_Who has hastily dragged himself to the tree in which the_ NIGHTINGALE _is singing._] Let us clasp the bark with our slimy little arms, and slaver upon the foot of the tree! [_All crawl toward the tree._]
CHANTECLER [_Trying to stop one of them who is clumsily hopping._] But are you not yourself gifted with a singing voice of exceptional purity?
THE TOAD [_In a tone of sincerest suffering._] I am, but when I hear somebody else singing, I can't help it,--I see green! [_He joins his companions._]
THE BIG TOAD [_Working his jaws as if chewing something which foamed._] There foam up beneath our tongues I know not what strange soapsuds, and--[_To his neighbour._] Are you frothing?
THE OTHER I am frothing.
ANOTHER He is frothing.
ALL We are frothing.
A TOAD [_Tenderly laying his arm about the neck of a dilatory_ TOAD.] Come and froth!
CHANTECLER [_To the_ NIGHTINGALE.] But will they not trouble and prevent your mellifluent song?
THE NIGHTINGALE In no wise. I will take their refrain into my song--
THE BIG TOAD [_Patting a little_ TOAD _on the head to encourage him._] Don't be afraid, go ahead,--froth!
THE TOADS [_All together, at the base of the tree to which they form a crawling, writhing girdle._] The Toads, croak! croak! the Toads are we!
THE NIGHTINGALE --And make of both a Villanelle!
THE TOADS We welter in malignity!
THE NIGHTINGALE The while they fume beneath my tree I fill with song the enchanted dell--
THE TOADS The Toads, croak! croak! the Toads are we! [_And the Villanelle proceeds, sung by the alternate voices, one of which, ever higher and more enraptured, carries the song proper, and the others, ever angrier and lower, the burden of the song._]
THE NIGHTINGALE _and_ THE TOADS, _alternately_ I sing! for Wind, that harper free, And music bubbling from the well-- --We welter in malignity!--
And fragrance floating from the lea, Of meadow-sweet and pimpernel-- --The Toads, croak! croak! the Toads are we!--
And Luna showering ecstasy, All weave so wonderful a spell-- --We welter in malignity!--
Its melting magic moveth me The secret of my heart to tell! --The Toads, croak! croak! the Toads are we!--
Within my heart all sympathy, Within mine eye all visions dwell-- --We welter in malignity!--
Life, Death, I turn to rhapsody, Who am the deathless Philomel! --The Toads, croak! croak! the Toads are we, Who welter in malignity!
CHANTECLER Beside those heavenly pipes, ah, me! my voice is Punchinello's squeak! Sing on! Sing on! The Croakers are in retreat.
THE TOADS [_Retreating, overcome by the conquering song._] Croak! croak!
CHANTECLER Their fate to seethe in the cauldron of a witch! But you, the creatures of the forest come to slake the thirst of their hearts at your song. See them creeping to the lure--
THE TOADS [_From the underbrush._] Croak! croak!
CHANTECLER A doe, look! tiptoeing on delicate hoofs, followed by a wolf who has forgotten to be a wolf--
THE TOADS [_Lost among the grass._] Croak!
CHANTECLER The squirrel steals down from the lofty tree-tops. The whole vast forest is stirred by a thrill of brotherliness.
THE TOADS [_Out of sight._]--roak!
CHANTECLER The echo alone now repeats--
FAINT DISTANT VOICE --oak!
CHANTECLER Gone! Gone are the Toads!
[_Music holds the night: a song without words, delicate volleys of rapturous notes._]
CHANTECLER The Glow-worms have lighted their small, green lamps. All that is good comes forth, while hate shrinks back to its lair. Now they that shall be eaten lay themselves down in the grass by the side of them that shall eat them. The Star of a sudden looks nearer to earth, and forsaking her web the Spider draws herself up toward your song, climbing by her own silken thread.
ALL THE FOREST [_In a moan of ecstasy._] Ah!
[_And the forest lies as if under a spell; the moonlight is softer, the tender green fire of the glow-worm shines blinking among the moss; on all sides, between the tree-boles creep, shadow-like, the charmed beasts; eyes shine, moist muzzles point toward the source of the music. The_ WOODPECKER _stands at his bark window, dreamily nodding; all the_ RABBITS, _with uppricked ears, sit at their earthen doors._]
CHANTECLER When he sings thus without words, what is he singing, Squirrel?
THE SQUIRREL [_From a tree-top._] The joy of swift motion.
CHANTECLER And what say you, Hare?
THE HARE [_In the coppice._] The thrill of fear!
CHANTECLER You, Rabbit?
ONE OF THE RABBITS The Dew!
CHANTECLER You, Doe?
THE DOE [_From the depths of the woods._] Tears!
THE WOLF [_In a gentle distant howl._] The Moon!
CHANTECLER And you, Tree with the golden wound, singing Pine?
THE PINE-TREE [_Softly beating time with one of its boughs._] He tells me that my drops of resin in the form of rosin will sing upon the bows of violins!
CHANTECLER And you, Woodpecker, what does he say to you?
THE WOODPECKER [_In ecstasy._] He says that Aristophanes--
CHANTECLER [_Promptly interrupting him._] Never mind! I know! You, Spider?
THE SPIDER [_Swinging at the end of one of her threads._] He sings of the raindrop sparkling in my web like a royal gift.
CHANTECLER And you, Drop of Water, sparkling in her web?
A LITTLE VOICE [_From the cobweb._] Of the Glow-worm!
CHANTECLER And you, Glow-worm?
A LITTLE VOICE [_In the grass._]Of the Star!
CHANTECLER And you, if one may so far presume as to question you, of what does he sing to you, Star?
A VOICE [_In the sky._] Of the Shepherd!
CHANTECLER Ah, what fountain is it--
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Who is watching the horizon between the trees._] The darkness is lightening.
CHANTECLER What fountain, in which each finds water for his thirst? [_Listening with greater attention._] To me he speaks of the Day, which arises and shines at my song!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Aside._] And speaks of it so eloquently that for once you will forget it!
CHANTECLER [_Noticing a_ BIRD _who having come a little way out of the thicket is beatifically listening._] And how do you, Snipe, translate his poem?
THE SNIPE I don't know. I only know I like it--It is sweet!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Who is not lured--she!--into forgetting to watch the sky between the branches, aside._] The night is wearing away!
CHANTECLER [_To the_ NIGHTINGALE, _in a discouraged voice._] To sing! To sing! But how, after hearing the faultless crystal of your note, can I ever be satisfied again with the crude, brazen blare of mine?
THE NIGHTINGALE But you must!
CHANTECLER Shall I find it possible ever again to sing? My song, alas, must seem to me always after this too brutal and too red!
THE NIGHTINGALE I have sometimes thought that mine was too facile, perhaps, and too blue!
CHANTECLER Oh, how can you humble yourself to make such a confession to me?
THE NIGHTINGALE You fought for a friend of mine, the Rose! Learn, comrade, this sorrowful and reassuring fact, that no one, Cock of the morning or evening Nightingale, has quite the song of his dreams!
CHANTECLER [_With passionate desire._] Oh, to be a sound that soothes and lulls!
THE NIGHTINGALE To be a splendid call to duty!
CHANTECLER I make nobody weep!
THE NIGHTINGALE I awaken nobody! [_But after the expression of this regret, he continues in an ever higher and more lyrical voice._] What matter? One must sing on! Sing on, even while knowing that there are songs which he prefers to his own song. One must sing,--sing,--sing,--until--[_A shot. A flash from the thicket. Brief silence, then a small, tawny body drops at_ CHANTECLER'S _feet._]
CHANTECLER [_Bending and looking._] The Nightingale!--The brutes! [_And without noticing the vague, earliest tremour of daylight spreading through the air, he cries in a sob._] Killed! And he had sung such a little, little while! [_One or two feathers slowly flutter down._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN His feathers!
CHANTECLER [_Bending over the body which is shaken by a last throe._] Peace, little poet!
[_Rustling of leaves and snapping of twigs; from a thicket projects_ PATOU'S _shaggy head._]
_The same_, PATOU, _emerging for a moment from the brush._
CHANTECLER [_To_ PATOU.] You! [_Reproachfully._] You have come to get him?
PATOU [_Ashamed._] Forgive me! The poacher compels me--
CHANTECLER [_Who had sprung before the body, to protect it, uncovers it._] A Nightingale!
PATOU [_Hanging his head._] Yes. The evil race of man loves to shower lead into a singing tree.
CHANTECLER See, the burying beetle has already come.
PATOU [_Gently withdrawing._] I will make believe I found nothing.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Watching the day break._] He has not noticed that night is nearly over.
CHANTECLER [_Bending over the grasses which begin to stir about the dead bird._] Insect, where the body has fallen, be swift to come and open the earth. The funereal necrophaga are the only grave-diggers who never carry the dead elsewhere, believing that the least sad, and the most fitting tomb, is the very clay whereon one fell into the final sleep. [_To the funeral insects, while the_ NIGHTINGALE _begins gently to sink into the ground._] Piously dig his grave! Light lie the earth upon him!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Aside, looking at the horizon._] Over there--
CHANTECLER Verily, verily, I say unto you, Bul-bul to-night shall see the Bird of Paradise!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Aside._] The sky is turning white! [_A whistle is heard in the distance._]
PATOU [_To_ CHANTECLER.] I will come back. He is whistling me. [_Disappears._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Restlessly dividing her attention between the horizon and the_ COCK.] How can I conceal from him--[_She moves tenderly toward_ CHANTECLER, _opening her wings so as to hide the brightening East, and taking advantage of his grief._] Come and weep beneath my wing! [_With a sob he lays his head beneath the comforting wing which is quickly clapped over him. And the_ PHEASANT-HEN _gently lulls him, murmuring._] You see that my wing is soft and comforting! You see--
CHANTECLER [_In a smothered voice._] Yes!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Gently rocks him, darting a glance now and then over her shoulder to see how the dawn is progressing._] You see that a wing is an outspread heart--[_Aside._] Day is breaking! [_To_ CHANTECLER.] You see that--[_Aside._] The sky has paled! [_To_ CHANTECLER.]--that a wing is--[_Aside._] The tree is steeped in rosy light! [_To_ CHANTECLER.]--partly a shield, and partly a cradle, partly a cloak and a place of rest,--that a wing is a kiss which enfolds and covers you over. You see that--[_With a backward leap, suddenly withdrawing her wings._] the Day can break perfectly well without you!
CHANTECLER [_With the greatest cry of anguish possible to created being._] Ah!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Continuing inexorably._] That the mosses in a moment will be scarlet!
CHANTECLER [_Running toward the moss._] Ah, no! No! Not without me! [_The moss flushes red._] Ungrateful!
THE PHEASANT-HEN The horizon--
CHANTECLER [_Imploringly, to the horizon._] No!
THE PHEASANT-HEN --is glowing gold!
CHANTECLER [_Staggering._] Treachery!
THE PHEASANT-HEN One may be all in all to another heart, you see, one can be nothing to the sky!
CHANTECLER [_Swooning._] It is true!
PATOU [_Returning, cheery and cordial._] Here I am! I have come to tell you that they are all mad over there, at the topsy-turvy farm, to have back the Cock who orders the return of Day!
CHANTECLER They believe that now I have ceased to believe it!
PATOU [_Stopping short, amazed._] What do you mean?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Bitterly pressing close to_ CHANTECLER.] You see that a heart pressing against your own is better than a sky which does not in the very least need you.
THE PHEASANT-HEN That darkness after all may be as sweet as light if there are two close-clasped in the shade.
CHANTECLER [_Wildly._] Yes! Yes! [_But suddenly leaving her side he raises his head and in a ringing voice._] Cock-a-doodle-doo!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Taken aback._] Why are you crowing?
CHANTECLER As a warning to myself,--for thrice have I denied the thing I love!
THE PHEASANT-HEN And what is that?
CHANTECLER My life's work! [_To_ PATOU.] Up and about! Come, let us go!
THE PHEASANT-HEN What are you going to do?
CHANTECLER Follow my calling.
THE PHEASANT-HEN But what night is there for you to rout?
CHANTECLER The night of the eyelid!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Pointing toward the growing glory of the dawn._] Very well, you will rouse sleepers--
CHANTECLER And Saint Peter!
THE PHEASANT-HEN But can you not see that Day has risen without the benefit of your crowing?
CHANTECLER I am more sure of my destiny than of the daylight before my eyes.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Pointing at the_ NIGHTINGALE _who has already half disappeared into the earth._] Your faith can no more return to life than can that dead bird.
[_From the tree above their heads suddenly rings forth the heart-stirring, limpid, characteristic note: Tio! Tio!_]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Struck with amazement._] Is it another singing?
PATOU [_With quivering ear._] And singing still better, if possible.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Looking up in a sort of terror at the foliage, and then down at the little grave._] Another takes up the song when this one disappears?
THE VOICE In the forest must always be a Nightingale!
CHANTECLER [_With exaltation._] And in the soul a faith so faithful that it comes back even after it has been slain.
THE PHEASANT-HEN But if the Sun is climbing up the sky?
CHANTECLER There must have been left in the air some power from my yesterday's song.
[_Flights of noiseless grey wings pass among the trees._]
THE OWLS [_Hooting joyfully._] He kept still!
PATOU [_Raising his head and looking after them._] The Owls, fleeing from the newly risen light, are coming home to the woods.
THE OWLS [_Returning to their holes in the old trees._] He kept still!
CHANTECLER [_With all his strength come back to him._] The proof that I was serving the cause of light when I sang is that the Owls are glad of my silence. [_Going to the_ PHEASANT-HEN, _with defiance in his mien._] I make the Dawn appear, and I do more than that!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Choking._] You do--
CHANTECLER On grey mornings, when poor creatures waking in the twilight dare not believe in the day, the bright copper of my song takes the place of the sun! [_Turning to go._] Back to our work!
THE PHEASANT-HEN But how find courage to work after doubting the work's value?
CHANTECLER Buckle down to work!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_With angry stubbornness._] But if you have nothing whatever to do with making the morning?
CHANTECLER Then I am just the Cock of a remoter Sun! My cries so affect the night that it lets certain beams of the day pierce through its black tent, and those are what we call the stars. I shall not live to see shining upon the steeples that final total light composed of stars clustered in unbroken mass; but if I sing faithfully and sonorously and if, long after me, and long after that, in every farmyard its Cock sings faithfully, sonorously, I truly believe there will be no more night!
THE PHEASANT-HEN When will that be?
CHANTECLER One Day!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Go, go, and forget our forest!
CHANTECLER No, I shall never forget the noble green forest where I learned that he who has witnessed the death of his dream must either die at once or else arise stronger than before.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_In a voice which she does her best to make insulting._] Go and get into your hen-house by the way of a ladder.
CHANTECLER The birds have taught me that I can use my wings to go in.
THE PHEASANT-HEN Go and see your old Hen in her old broken basket.
CHANTECLER Ah, forest of the Toads, forest of the Poacher, forest of the Nightingale, and of the Pheasant-hen, when my old peasant mother sees me home again, back from your green recesses where pain is so interwoven with love, what will she say?
PATOU [_Imitating the_ OLD HEN'S _affectionate quaver._] How that Chick has grown!
CHANTECLER [_Emphatically._] Of course she will! [_Turning to leave._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN He is going! When faithless they turn to leave, oh, that we had arms, arms to hold them fast,--but we have only wings!
CHANTECLER [_Stops short and looks at her, troubled._] She weeps?
PATOU [_Hastily, pushing him along with his paw._] Hurry up!
CHANTECLER [_To_ PATOU.] Wait a moment.
PATOU I am willing. Nothing can sit so patiently and watch the dropping of tears as an old dog.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Crying to_ CHANTECLER, _with a leap toward him._] Take me with you!
CHANTECLER [_Turns and in an inflexible voice._] Will you consent to stand second to the Dawn?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Fiercely drawing back._] Never!
CHANTECLER Then farewell!
THE PHEASANT-HEN I hate you!
CHANTECLER [_Already at some distance among the brush._] I love you, but I should poorly serve the work to which I devote myself anew at the side of one to whom it were less than the greatest thing in the world! [_He disappears._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN, PATOU, _later the_ WOODPECKER, RABBITS, _and, all the_ VOICES _of the awakening forest._
PATOU [_To the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] Mourn!
THE SPIDER [_In the centre of her-web which now sifts the gold dust of a sunbeam._] Spider at morn, Cometh to warn!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Furiously, tearing down the cobweb with a brush of her wing._] Be still, hateful Spider!--Oh, may he perish for having disdained me!
THE WOODPECKER [_Who from his window has been watching_ CHANTECLER'S _departure, suddenly, frightened._] The poacher has seen him!
THE OWLS [_In the trees._] The Cock is in danger!
THE WOODPECKER [_Leaning out to see better._] He breaks his gun in two!
PATOU [_Alarmed._] To load it! Is that murderous fool in sheepskin gaiters going to fire upon a rooster?
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Spreading her wings to rise._] Not if he sees a pheasant!
PATOU [_Springing before her._] What are you doing?
THE PHEASANT-HEN Following my calling! [_She flies toward the danger._]
THE WOODPECKER [_Seeing that in her upward swing she must touch the spring of the forgotten snare._] Look out for the snare! [_Too late. The net falls._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Utters a cry of despair._] Ah!
PATOU She is caught!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Struggling in the net._] He is lost!
PATOU [_Wildly._] She is--He is--
[_All the_ RABBITS _have thrust out their heads to see._]
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Crying in an ardent prayer._] Daybreak protect him!
THE OWLS [_Rocking themselves gleefully among the branches._] The gun-barrel shines, shines--
THE PHEASANT-HEN Dawn, touch the cartridge with your dewy wing! Trip the foot of the hunter in a tangle of grass! He is your Cock! He drove off the darkness and the shadow of the Hawk! And he is going to die. Nightingale, you, say something! Speak!
THE NIGHTINGALE [_In a supplicating sob._] He fought for a friend of mine, the Rose!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Let him live! And I will dwell in the farmyard beside the ploughshare and the hoe! And renouncing for his sake all that in my pride I made a burden and torment to him, I will own, O Sun, that when you made his shadow you marked out my place in the world!
[_Daylight grows. On all sides, rustles and murmurs._]
THE WOODPECKER [_Singing._] The air is blue!
A CROW [_Cawing as he flies past._] Daylight grows!
THE PHEASANT-HEN The forest is astir--
ALL THE BIRDS [_Waking among the trees._] Good-morning! Good-morning! Good-morning! Good-morning! Good-morning!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Everyone sings!
A JAY [_Darting past like a streak of blue lightning._] Ha, ha!
THE WOODPECKER The Jay shakes with homeric laughter.
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Crying in the midst of the music of the morning._] Let him live!
THE JAY [_Again darting past._] Ha, ha!
A CUCKOO [_In the distance._] Cuckoo!
THE PHEASANT-HEN I abdicate!
PATOU [_Lifting his eyes heavenward._] She abdicates!
THE PHEASANT-HEN Forgive, O Light, to whom I dared dispute him! Dazzle the eye taking aim, and be victory awarded, O Sunbeams--
THE JAY _and the_ CUCKOO [_Far away._] Ha! Cuckoo!
THE PHEASANT-HEN --to your powder of gold--[_A shot. She gives a sharp cry, ending in a dying voice._]--over man's black powder! [_Silence._]
CHANTECLER'S VOICE [_Very far away._] Cock-a-doodle-doo!
ALL [_In a glad cry._] Saved!
THE RABBITS [_Capering gaily out of their burrows._] Let us turn somersets among the thyme!
A VOICE [_Fresh and solemn, among the trees._] O God of birds!
THE RABBITS [_Stopping short in their antics stand abruptly still; soberly._] The morning prayer!
THE WOODPECKER [_Crying to the_ PHEASANT-HEN.] They are coming to examine the trap!
THE PHEASANT-HEN [_Closes her eyes in resignation._] So be it!
THE VOICE IN THE TREES God by whose grace we wake to this new day--
PATOU [_Before leaving._] Hush! Drop the curtain! Men folk are coming! [_Off._]
[_All the woodland creatures hide. The_ PHEASANT-HEN _is left alone, and, held down by the snare, with spread wings and panting breast, awaits the approach of the giant._]