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one of Death's Dances danced by Nations each with its heart in the right place and faithfully obedient to whatever Head may happen to be on its shoulders.
THE MUSE (pulling out her tablets resumes writing). So the Ballet proceeded; but for this to continue it was necessary to keep up the music of that Orchestra of Passions which sat, in the enclosure marked “Patriotism,” around the slippery and reeking stage: Jealousy, Greed, Loyalty, Chivalry, Comradeship, Reverence, Discipline, Routine; Ennui and Egotism; Justice, Prejudice with Pugnacity and Bullying; Widow Fear with her nimble children, Suspicion and Panic, playing on penny whistles, fog-horns and that mediaeval tocsin-bell in its wrapper of newspapers; Idealism and Adventure, that splendid pair blowing their silver trumpet and woodland horn; Hatred, who never ceased tuning up at the harmonium of SelfRighteousness; Sin, whom the Wise Gods call Disease, and her classic crew, Rapine, Lust and Murder, with their bullroarers and rattles; Science and Organization seated a little apart, for none of their old established allegoric companions could bear their new-fangled instruments, but whose gramophone and pianola brayed and strummed away unflaggingly, when all the other musicians showed signs of weariness, and only Heroism, a smile in his clear blind eyes, found ever fresh breath and ever more jubilant notes. The rest of the band was beginning to flag, either because the Passions, as is notorious, are lacking in endurance, or because they had fuddled themselves with the strong liquor which was unceasingly handed round by Satan’s lackeys of the Press and Pulpit. The less noble ones were coming in a little at random, Suspicion and Panic, notably, screaming at the Heads of the Nations, and Fear, poor slut, being seized with delirium tremens. None of all this was noticed by the Dancers; yet they began to dance a little less fiercely, and fell to mistaking their vis-à-vis for partners and vice versa, to the despair of the Ballet Master, who wheeled from side to side at his desk, hitting the somnolent Passions of the orchestra resounding whacks, and cracking his fleshless joints like castanets.
Now Satan began to fear that the performance might dribble out untimely, for except the voice of Heroism and the mechanical instruments of Science and Organization, the sounds were feeble and intermittent, and the Nations were beginning to halt and stumble, and even to curtsy to each other as if the end might be at hand.
SATAN (to himself). This will never do. Why, we haven’t yet come to the figure of Famine and Insurrection. There yet remain several generations of young lads waiting for slaughter and an endless stock of Virtue to be wasted. Hi! Rapine, Murder and Lust, dear nimble followers of Sin, come to my help, and fetch me two new players from out of that audience of Sleepy Virtues!
THE MUSE (declaiming very slowly as she writes). Sleepy indeed they were, and some, like Wisdom, Equanimity and Temperance, but especially Truthfulness, had long since fallen into consoling dreams, after closing their eyes and bunging up their ears against sights and sounds offensive to their principles, but which they had not grit enough to interrupt. But among the Virtues two were not asleep, and sat motionless under the spell of hideous fascination, their eyes fixed, their hearing intent with horror almost pleasant in its excess. These two were called Pity and Indignation, sister and brother of divinest breed; she was like waters under moonlight and as gentle, murmuring and lovely, and also, like such waters, dangerous in her innocence; the other golden and vivid as flame, and, like flame, tipped with terrible scarlet, purifying but devastating.
To them, who were fascinated with horror before that dance, there sprang at Satan’s bidding, Rapine, Murder and Lust, the crew of Death’s Mother-Paramour Sin, whom the Gods call Disease in their wisdom; and straightway that noble pair of twins, Pity and Indignation, responded to the hideous summons. Hand in hand they leaped from among the Sleeping Virtues, and flew, on rushing pinions, into the midst of Satan’s orchestra. Fear and her Brood fell back; Idealism and Adventure, wellnigh spent with breathless blowing of their silver trumpet and hunting horn, made room eagerly. Heroism, that blind, smiling young giant, recognized at once Pity’s delicious healing breath and Indignation’s fiery blast; he shook himself, and, with renewed vigour, his godlike youthful voice sung out words which no one could distinguish but all the world understood. And Sin with her crew fell at the new-comers’ feet and fawned upon them.
Even before either of that immortal pair had uttered a sound, the flagging Dancers, the bleeding Nations, weary of that stage slippery with blood and entrails, felt the wind of the wings of Pity and Indignation, and in its pure breath suddenly revived.
The holy pair required no instruments. Pity merely sobbed, and her sobs were like the welling-up notes of many harps, drowning the soul in tender madness. But Indignation hissed and roared like a burning granary when the sparks crackle as they fly into the ripe, standing harvest, and the flames wave scores of feet high in the blast of their own making.
SATAN (intent and meditative ; thoughtfully to himself). This is the supreme sacrifice to me; I am the Waster of all kinds of Virtue.
DEATH (with a gesture of adoring rapture towards SATAN). Now nothing can stop the dancing, and this shall yet be the greatest triumph of Ballet Master Death ! (Raps on his desk.) Ladies and Gentlemen, dear simple and valiant Nations of my Corps de Ballet, we will now proceed to the third and last figure of our Dance; it is called: “Duty to our children; Loyalty to our dead.”
SATAN (bows benignly towards DEATH). You might have trusted Satan, dear Ballet Master Death! Pity and Indignation can renew Death's Dance when all the Nations have danced themselves to stumps, and the ordinary band, save perhaps Widow Fear and her children, can fiddle and blow no longer. (He raises himself slightly in his seat, radiantly attentive, lifting one hand imperceptively as in benediction, and repeating low to himself.) I am the Waster of all kinds of Virtue.
The AGES-To-CoME burst into frantic applause, crying
THE MUSE (holding her stylus and tablets, bows to SATAN and says in a clear quiet voice). And thus the Ballet of the Nations is still a-dancing.
END OF PART II.
Author’s Note for Stage Managers (other than Satan).
In the event of this play being performed, it is the author's imperative wish that no attempt be made at showing the Dancing of the Nations. The stage upon the stage must be turned in such a manner that nothing beyond the footlights, the Orchestra and auditorium shall be visible to the real spectators, only the changing illumination which accompanies the Ballet making its performance apparent. Similarly, in accordance with Satan’s remarks on p. 49, none of the music must be audible, except the voice and drum of Heroism. Anything beyond this would necessarily be hideous, besides drowning or interrupting the dialogue.