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Previous Excerpt Act I, Scene 1





The Obscure Bird


Scene 2

In the same room, somewhat later, Arnaud
awaits Martine.  She enters and bows.  He
gestures for her to come closer.

 Martine.  Duke Arnaud, my ingratitude even now Is
     heavy on me;
And I have learn’d me to repent the sin
Of disobedient opposition;
I beseech your lordship to make it
Natural rebellion, too strong for reason's force,
And do entreat thou pardon me my wrongs.

 Arnaud.  Come hither, gentle mistress. Do you
Perceive where most you owe obedience?

 Martine.  My life and education both do learn me
How to respect you: you are the lord of duty.

 Arnaud.  (Affectionately.)
Relenting fool, and shallow, changing woman,
Thou hast redeemed thy lost opinion.
I here forget all former griefs, cancel all grudge,
And drown the sad remembrance of those wrongs
Which thou supposest I have done to thee.

 Martine.  Supposest?
      (Aside, tamping down her rising outrage.)
O, constancy, be strong upon my side.

 Arnaud.  With my nobler reason ’gainst my fury
Do I take part; thou being penitent,
All is whole.

 Martine.  (Swallowing her outrage.)
Thou shalt find that I'll resume the shape which
Thou dost think
I have cast off.

 Arnaud.  And, since I saw thee,
The affliction of my mind amends, with which,
I fear, a madness held me.

 Martine.  To leave thee in thy madness, ’twere my sin.
I should have found some way
To ease the gnawing vulture of thy mind
That was thy cause of anger.

 Arnaud.  Lay not that flattering unction to your soul
That not your trespass but my madness spoke.

 Martine.  Once again, I beseech thee pardon me.

 Arnaud.  Now no discourse, except it be of love:
’Tis pity that we make our faces vizards
To our hearts, disguising what they are.
If I be false, or swerve a hair from truth,
When time is old and hath forgot itself,
When mighty states characterless are gated
To dusty nothing, yet let memory
Upbraid my falsehood!

 Martine.  As I believe thee, and humbly thank thee,
May I now beseech thee to grant one boon?

 Arnaud.  What shall you ask of me that I’ll deny?

 From her jacket pocket, Martine pulls two small,
framed, keepsake photos, looks at one, and
shows it to Arnaud.

 Martine.  I have bewept a worthy husband’s death,
And lived by looking on his images:
A man whom fortune hath cruelly scratched.

 Arnaud.  So I have lost—how sharp the point
Of this remembrance is!—my dear son.

 Martine.  So came I a widow:
And never shall have length of life enough
To rain upon remembrance with mine eyes.

 Martine shows Arnaud the other photo.

 Martine.  Look here upon my husband Pascal’s face;
These eyes, these brows, were molded out of yours.
You to him engaged a father’s word
To do me all the grace and good you could.
Now liberty is all that I request,
That I may have welcome and free access
To my husband’s lands.

 Arnaud.  (Flirtatiously.)
I’ll tell you how these lands are to be got.

 Martine.  So shall you bind me to your highness’ service.

 Arnaud.  What service wilt thou do me, if I give them?

 Martine.  What you command, that rests in me to do,
Except I cannot do it.

 Arnaud.  Ay, but thou canst do what I mean to ask.

Martine.  Why, then I will do what your grace commands.

 Arnaud.  An easy task; ’tis but to love your duke.

 Martine.  That’s soon performed, because I am his subject.

 Arnaud.  Why, then thy husband’s lands I freely give thee.

 Martine.  I take my leave with many thousand thanks.

 Arnaud.  What love think’st thou I sue so much to get?

 Martine.  My love till death, my humble thanks, my prayers;
That love which virtue begs and virtue grants.

 Arnaud.  No, by my troth, I did not mean such love.
But now you partly may perceive my mind.

 Martine.  I am sorry that I am deceived in you;
My mind will never grant what I perceive.

 Arnaud.  Why, then thou shalt not have thy husband’s lands.

 Martine.  (Tying to make light of this sexual extortion.)
This merry inclination, Duke Arnaud,
Accords not with the sadness of my suit;
Please you dismiss me either with “ay” or “no.”

 Arnaud.  Ay, if thou wilt say “ay” to my request;
No if thou dost say “no” to my demand.

 Martine.  Then no, my lord.  My suit is at an end.

Arnaud.  (Suddenly enraged.)  Ingrateful creature!
You spurn me like a cur out of your way!
With thy contempt I am struck to the quick.

 Martine.  I am sorry that I run in your displeasure.

 Arnaud.  Martine, as you look to have my pardon,
If you will perform my bidding
Your trespass shall be well forgot.

 Martine.  I beseech your grace: let me know my trespass
By its own visage.

 Arnaud.  You well know, disobedient wretch!

 Martine.  Treacherous man; thou hast beguiled my hopes.
What would you have me be?  A whore?

 Arnaud.  (Turning slightly manic with lust.)
Who lives that’s not depraved or depraves?
It is a bawdy planet, that will strike
Where ’tis predominant; and ’tis powerful!

 Martine.  Boundless intemperance in nature is a tyranny.
Thou subtle, perjured, false, disloyal man!

 Arnaud.  (Becoming giddy with desire.)
Let copulation thrive!
As we are human, thus should we do;
No barricado for a belly;
To’t, luxury, pell-mell!
Be not like yon simpering dame,
Whose face between her forks presages snow;
That minces virtue, and does shake the head
To hear of pleasure’s name;
The wren goes to’t, and the small gilded fly
Does lecher in our sight;
The fitchew, nor the soiled horse, goes to’t
With more riotous appetite.

 Laughing, Arnaud reaches with a finger to set a
lock of hair behind her ear, but she withdraws.

 Arnaud.  It would grieve an able man to leave
So sweet a bedfellow.

 Martine.  Shall I be tempted of the devil thus?
I will not be your . . .  I cannot say “whore”:
It does abhor me now to speak the word.
Take my defiance!  I despise thee!

 Arnaud.  Evermore cross’d and cross’d, nothing but crossed!
The hearts of princes kiss obedience,
So much they love it; but to stubborn spirits
They swell, and grow as terrible as storms.
I’ll tame you; I’ll bring you in subjection;
Either frame your will to mine and be ruled
By me, or I will make you.

 Martine.  Never!  So will I die ere I will yield.

 Arnaud.  Let me put in your mind, if you forget,
What you have been ere this, and what you are;
Withal, what I have been, and what I am.
Thou must needs be sure
My spirit and my place have in them power
To make this bitter to thee;
Come not within the measure of my wrath.
Look to it well and say you are well warned.

 Martine.  I must offend before I be attainted;
And I never did offend thee in my life;
My lord, I am loyal, true, and crimeless.
Tender my suit, I heartily beseech thee.

 Arnaud.  But you take exceptions to my boon;
And for your offence I will be deaf
To pleading and excuses; therefore use none.

 Martine.  Thou shalt have none, for I made no offence.
If it please thee, dismiss me hence.

 Arnaud.  Leave me.  Your mind perhaps may change;
For this time, though full of my displeasure,
Yet I free thee from the dead blow of it.
Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.
Thou art obdurate, flinty, hard as steel,
Nay, more than flint, for stone at rain relenteth;
Art thou a woman born, and canst not feel
What ’tis to love?  How want of love tormenteth?
I prithee, Martine, do not make me mad.

 Arnaud grips the sides of his head as Martine

 Martine.  Yet again?  Brainsick, degenerate man:
You lack the season of all natures, sleep—
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course—
To repair your self with comforting repose
And ease you of your griefs; never shall you
Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of slumber.
The time will come when you shall wish for me
To help you cure your brains and your
Desperate languishings. I take my leave.

 Exit Martine.  Arnaud shouts in her direction.

 Arnaud.  Now do I wish it!  Cure me of this evil!
Cure this great breach in my abused nature!
Fie, fie upon her! she’s able to freeze the god
Priapus, and undo a whole generation!

 Contessa enters unnoticed behind him and
stands listening.

 Arnaud.  Hysterica passio, down!
The more she spurns my love,
The more it grows and fawneth on her still;
When to her beauty I commend my vows,
She twits me with my falsehood,
And bids me think how I have been forsworn.
Merciful powers,
Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature
Gives way to in repose.

 Contessa approaches and places a hand on
his shoulder.

 Contessa.  Come, sir, come, sir.

 Arnaud.  Contessa! My dearest!
I am vanquished; these haughty words of hers
Have batter’d me like roaring cannon-shot;
She shall rue this treason with her tears.
I will have an apology.

 Contessa.  Why, what a wasp-stung and impatient fool
Art thou to break into this woman’s mood.
I would you would make use of your good wisdom
Whereof I know you are fraught.

 Arnaud.  (Still wound up.)  Like the hectic in my blood
     she rages!

Contessa.  Say that she were gone—a moiety of your rest
Might come to you again.

 Arnaud.  (Still wound up.)  One way or other, she is for me.

 Contessa.  My dearest lord, put away
These dispositions that of late transform you
From what you rightly are.  You do unbend
Your noble strength, to think so brainsickly.
Listen to me; take my counsel:
It would better fit your honor to change
Your mind.  You do not know her, as I do:
To your high person her will is most malignant;
She does disdain you much beyond your thoughts.

 Arnaud.  Which makes me sweat with wrath.  She
      hath despis’d
Me rejoicingly, and I’ll be merry
In my revenge.

 Contessa.  She never loved you, only affected
Greatness got by you, as wife to your son.
She hath bought the name of whore thus dearly.

 Arnaud.  Yet your brother did love her.

 Contessa.  Doth it therefore ensue that she should love you?
And as for Pascal, let me be cruel:
When he was dear to us, we did hold him so.
That a brother should
Be so perfidious!—he whom next thyself
Of all the world I loved, did betray us.
So I do wash his name out of my blood.

 Arnaud.  You allay my rages and revenges with
Your colder reasons.

 Contessa.  I have a brain that leads my use of anger
To better vantage: I’d give you a further edge
And drive your purpose on.
’Tis policy and stratagem must do
That you affect; and so must you resolve,
That what you cannot as you would achieve,
You must perforce accomplish as you may.

 Arnaud.  I will conclude to hate her, nay, indeed,
To be revenged upon her.

 Contessa.  We shall make those that do offend you suffer,
And all things shall redound unto your good.


Copyright by A. K. Ludwig


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