Page images
PDF
EPUB

testy? Don't you see, excellent but shortsighted Ballet Master Death, that knocking at Self-Interest's door has brought Fear, that over-retiring slut, to her window? Hi! Widow Fear! It's only a couple of old friends inviting you to a little entertainment. The Muse (writing on her tablets, while what she is describing is seen happening by the spectator). So, Fear, squalid beyond all other Passions, came down, hesitating just a little, because she had heard Self-interest refuse the invitation. But she was speedily dragged along by her shabby, restless twins, Suspicion and Panic; and the family carried penny whistles and fog-horns and a cracked storm-and-massacre bell, genuine mediaeval, but wrapped in yesterday's Daily Mail and Globe. Satan (to the Muse). Rather an unpresentable lot, though first-rate performers. I hope we have something really handsome, a few genuine Virtues, to make up for them, since the Nations have grown detestably superfine of late, and some of the other indispensable members of our Orchestra aren't very attractive either. Ah! the very thing! (Goes forward to meet two new-comers. ) I am enchanted that you deign to join our amateur band, small but very choice and famous under the name of Patriotism, my dear Lady Idealism and my brilliant young Prince Adventure. (He rustles his wings in ceremonious salutation to the new-comers.) The Muse (writes after looking round). And Idealism and Adventure, bride and bridegroom, having come out of their palace of cloud and sunbeams and rainbow, went up into the theatre. Very magnificent they were, and of noblest bearing, if a little over-dressed. Idealism carried a silver trumpet and Adventure a woodland horn. (sin and her crew slink in.) There came also Death's mother (or wife, for their family relations are primitive and best not inquired into), Sin, whom the all-knowing Gods call Disease; nor was there any need of calling her. With her came her well-known crew, Rapine, Lust, Murder, and Torture, fitted out with bullroarers and rattles and other cannibalish instruments.

Satan (standing near the Muse on the steps). Here comes Hatred along with Self-Righteousness.

Muse (looks up and then writes). Pretending not to be acquainted,but nevertheless hurrying together out of the tavern of Vanity, and trundling between them a huge double-bass and a small harmonium, on which, as soon as they had unpacked, SelfRighteousness most obligingly offered to give Hatred his right pitch. Hatred, the stupidest of all Passions, yet the most cunning in deceits, brought with him a double-bass of many strings: shrill and plaintive gut, rasping steel and growling bronze, and more besides; some strangely comforting in their tone like a rich cordial, although they heartened men to massacre each other.

Death (in a hurry). That'll do to begin with; and there are a lot of the Orchestra, both virtuous and vicious Passions, already within. Heroism will join as soon as we have begun, and he can be dumped anywhere. See! here troop the Dancers for a few words of encouragement from your Lordship. By the way, you mustn't mind if they address you as Lord of Hosts; they are rather ignorant of everything except my especial dances.

Satan. Oh, I have so many noms de guerre! my dear Ballet Master.

Death. Since some of you have your instruments handy, just strike up a bit, you, Widow Fear, and you, Madame Idealism; and you, Hatred, growl on the deep string, not too loud. Just a bar or two, no matter what, only to make the Nations look up and get over that tiresome mauvaise honte of theirs.

The Muse (writing). The Nations had meanwhile arrivedby twos and twos on the top step of the theatre, each brilliant and tidy in its ballet dress, which was far better cut and of handsomer stuff, of course, than its everyday broadcloth or rags. And Idealism and Adventure, Hatred and Self-Righteousness, all fell to tuning, for unlike some other members of the Orchestra they were sticklers for correctness. Enter Science and Organization. The Muse (not writing, but speaking as she looks round). Whom have we here? I have never seen either of these before in all the centuries of my regular attendance at Death's Ballets. All other Human Passions are correctly dressed in allegoric fashion, classical, or mediaeval, or biblical. But one of these two new-comers, might, for all I see, be a clerk in a public office; and as to the lady, if one may call her such, she seems to be wearing a laboratory smock, let alone spectacles; uncompromisingly literal and modern. Death (jumping down three steps with a clatter, and flying at the new-comers). Get out with you! Kick them out! Kick out the new-fangled intruders who want to spoil our fun! Knock them down! Trample on them! Don't you see they are aliens? Spies? Spies in the service of Life and Progress I

Satan (with an archangelic gesture which paralyses the uplifted skeleton arm of Death). Hush, hush! Which is Master here, I wonder? Will you never learn manners, you senseless old relic of the Stone Age, with your rabble of instruments fit for an ethnological museum? (Turns to the newcomers.) Excuse his country manners, dear Madame Science and dear Councillor Organization. You know the ways of skeletons; their skulls are inevitably empty. The Muse (writing). The two new-comers carried newfangled instruments, and fell to unpacking them; Science, a handy gramophone; and Organization a miniature pianola with its various rollers. Science. Do not mention it, my Lord. Qui sait comprendre salt tout pardonner, so it is part of my professional duty to find excuses for your Ballet Master's very interesting primitiveness.

Organization. It's all as it should be. And of course there's no denying that Science and I are permanently on the staff of Life and Progress; but that firm is working slack at present; so we feel at liberty to take a brief temporary engagement elsewhere.

The Muse (writing). Satan extended both hands in welcome, and Science snatched the opportunity of hurriedly verifying whether or not they were furnished with claws.

Satan (low to Science and Organization). Nothing could be more conducive to the success of our Ballet, and I only hope our collaboration may grow permanent. You see, Death is getting a bit old for his job and dreadfully prejudiced. Besides I fear it can't be denied that both of you have done one or two things calculated to rub him the wrong way; and then everything is so dreadfully exaggerated by the daily press! Come here, you peppery old Ballet Master and salute the lady and gentleman prettily. (Places one hand above Death's head, and playfully twitches his arms and legs like a marionette on a string for the amusement of Science and Organization.) That's right! Now shake hands with this illustrious couple, who will keep up our Ballet with their wonderful mechanical instruments when the rest of our classic band have neither strings nor wind left. And now you had better so far unbend as to tell me how you intend the members of your Orchestra to sit once we are all in the theatre; and also give a few last instructions to all our excellent and obliging performers. Is all the Orchestra here? Let me see the list of them. Dear Clio, this is work for you, like Homer's catalogue of ships. Please read out the list of the Passions constituting the famous Orchestra called Patriotism.

The Muse (reading the list. As she calls each name, its owner makes obeisance to Satan). Greed, Loyalty, Chivalry, Comradeship, Reverence, Discipline, Routine, Ennui, Egotism, Prejudice, Pugnacity, Bullying. Death. Those are already in the theatre with their instruments. The Muse. Justice . . . Ah! here she comes, august, stern Daughter of the Gods! And, I may add, most successfully got up like her own statue, the one of blood-coloured porphyry on that pillar in Florence. Satan. Exactly! Her falchion drawn ready to decapitate someone she cannot see, and that neat bandage on her eyes making her unaware of what it is she weighs out in her scales with such unerring muscular precision. I have a genuine regard for Justice, Clio. The Muse. Idealism and Adventure Satan. They will sit with some of those already inside. Loyalty plays first fiddle to Discipline's second; Reverence is the alto, and Routine the bass, of that quartet. Ennui is, of course, waiting for Adventure. The Muse. Self-Righteousness Satan. On the same side as Justice, Idealism, Chivalry, Comradeship, Prejudice and Pugnacity; but see that SelfRighteousness be on no account separated from Hatred, whom she has to keep up to his pitch. Egotism, Bullying, Jealousy and Cruelty will sit next to him. The Muse. Science and Organization Satan. Must be given distinguished seats a little apart.

The Muse. Statecraft——

Satan. That is our deaf prompter; he is in his little box. The Muse. Widow Fear, with Suspicion and Panic; Sin, with Rapine, Murder, Lust and Torture. Satan. In a corner well to themselves. They are never very presentable, and will soon be drunk. Many thanks, Clio.

« PreviousContinue »