Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership
DefectiveByDesign.org

 


Title:      The Fountain (1926)
Author:     Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953)
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0400121h.html
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     HTML - Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          January 2004
Date most recently updated: January 2004

This eBook was produced by: Don Lainson dlainson@sympatico.ca

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

THE FOUNTAIN

A Play in Eleven Scenes

 

by

 

Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953)

 

 

1926

 

 

 

Characters

IBNU ASWAD, a Moorish chieftain

JUAN PONCE DE LEON

PEDRO, his servant

MARIA DE CORDOVA

LUIS DE ALVAREDO

YUSEF, a Moorish minstrel

DIEGO MENENDEZ, a Franciscan

VICENTE DE CORDOVA, Maria's husband

ALONZO DE OVIEDO

MANUEL DE CASTILLO I--nobles

CRISTOVAL DE MENDOZA

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS

A SOLDIER

FRIAR QUESADA, a Franciscan

BEATRIZ DE CORDOVA, daughter of Maria and Vicente

NANO, an Indian chief

A CHIEF OF THE INDIANS IN FLORIDA

A MEDICINE MAN

A FIGURE

A POET OF CATHAY

AN OLD INDIAN WOMAN OF THE BAHAMAS

A DOMINICAN MONK

FATHER SUPERIOR OF THE DOMINICANS IN CUBA

JUAN, nephew of Juan Ponce de Leon

Nobles, Monks, Soldiers, Sailors, Captive Indians of Porto Rico, Indians in Florida

Time: Late Fifteenth and early Sixteenth Centuries.

 

 

 

Scenes

PART ONE

SCENE I: Courtyard of the house of Ibnu Aswad, Granada, Spain--the night of the Moorish capitulation, 1492.

SCENE II: Columbus's flagship on the last day of his second voyage, 1493.

 

PART TWO

SCENE III: Courtyard of the Government House, Porto Rico, an afternoon twenty years or more later.

SCENE IV: Cabinet of Bishop Menendez in the Government House--an evening three months later.

SCENE V: A prisoner's cell in the Government House--the same time.

SCENE VI: Same as Scene Three--immediately follows Scene Five.

 

PART THREE

SCENE VII: A strip of beach on the Florida coast--a night four months later.

SCENE VIII: The same--noon the following day.

SCENE IX: A clearing in the forest--that night.

SCENE X: The same, some hours later.

SCENE XI: Courtyard of a Dominican monastery in Cuba--several months later.

 

 

 

THE FOUNTAIN

 

 

SCENE ONE

 

SCENE--Courtyard of Ibnu Aswad's palace in Granada.

The section forms a right triangle, its apex at the rear, right. In the left, center, a massive porte-cochère opens on the street. On the right, a door leading into the house itself. In the center of the courtyard, a large splendid fountain of green marble with human and animal figures in gilt bronze. The peristyle of the gallery running around the court is supported by slender columns of polished marble, partly gilded. The interspaces above the horseshoe arches springing from the columns are filled with arabesques, texts from the Koran, red, blue and gold in color. Above are the latticed windows of the women's apartments. Over the house-top a sky with stars can be seen. It is early night.

As the curtain rises, the court is empty and there is silence except for the splash of the fountain. Then a loud, imperious knocking, as of someone pounding with the hilt of a sword, is heard from the porte-cochère. Ibnu Aswad enters from the right. He is an elderly, noble-looking Moor, the lower part of his face covered by a long, white beard. His expression is one of great pride borne down by sorrow and humiliation. He goes out through the porte-cochère, and returns ushering in Juan Ponce de Leon and his servant, Pedro. Juan is a tall, handsome Spanish noble of thirty-one, dressed in full uniform. His countenance is haughty, full of a romantic adventurousness and courage; yet he gives the impression of disciplined ability, of a confident self-mastery--a romantic dreamer governed by the ambitious thinker in him. Pedro is a dull-looking young fellow.

 

JUAN--(as they enter--to Aswad) Your pardon, Sir Moor.

ASWAD--(haughtily) You are quartered here? (Juan bows in affirmation.) Welcome then, since it is the will of Allah that you should conquer.

JUAN--(graciously) I am no conquerer here. I am a stranger grateful for hospitality.

ASWAD--(unbending a bit) You are kind. I have seen you in action on the field. You are brave. Defeat loses its bitterness when the foe is noble. (moodily and bitterly--staring at the fountain) The waters of the fountain fall--but ever they rise again, Sir Spaniard. Such is the decree of destiny. (with fervor) Blessed be Allah who exalteth and debaseth the kings of the earth, according to his divine will, in whose fulfillment consists eternal justice. (fiercely and defiantly) Whosoever the victor, there is no conqueror but Allah!

JUAN--(stiffening--coldly) Your fortitude does you honor. (by way of dismissing the subject--abruptly) I am expecting friends. Will that disturb your household? If so--

ASWAD--(coldly) My house is your house. It is decreed. (He bows with stately grace and goes out, right.)

JUAN--(makes a movement as if to detain him--then shrugs his shoulders) What can I do for him? (ironically repeating Ibnu's inflection) It is decreed by Spain if not by Allah. (seeing Pedro lolling against the wall, drowsily staring at the fountain--amused) Lazy lout! Does the fountain cause you, too, to dream? (in a tone of command) Bring the wine. They will be here soon.

PEDRO--Yes, sir. (He goes. Juan paces back and forth, humming to himself. Pedro returns and approaches his master cautiously--in a mysterious whisper) A lady, sir.

JUAN--(frowning) Is she alone? (Pedro nods, Juan smiles cynically.) Surely you have mistaken her calling. Tell her I am not here. (As Pedro turns to go, Maria de Cordova appears in the arch of the porte-cochère. A heavy black veil is thrown over her face.)

MARIA--(her voice forced and trembling) Juan!

JUAN--(immediately the gallant cavalier, makes a motion for Pedro to leave, and bows low--mockery in his voice) Beautiful lady, you do me an unmerited honor.

MARIA--(wearily) Spare me your mockery, Juan. (She throws back her veil. She is a striking-looking woman of thirty-eight or forty, but discontent and sorrow have marked her age clearly on her face.)

JUAN--(astonished) Maria! (then with genuine alarm) In God's name!

MARIA--(her voice breaking) Juan, I had to come.

JUAN--(sternly) Your husband is my brother in arms. Tonight--here--he is to be among my guests. I feel that every word we speak now degrades me in my honor.

MARIA--(in a tone of great grief) You are cruel! I had to speak with you alone. This is my one chance. I leave the Court tomorrow.

JUAN--(with evident relief) Ah.

MARIA--(stares at him with a pitiful appeal. He avoids her eyes.) Oh, what a fool I am--(with a half-sob, as if the confession were wrung from her)--to love you, Juan! (She makes a movement toward him, but he steps back, aloof and cold.)

JUAN--(frowning) That word--we have never uttered it before. You have always been--my friend. (after a pause, with deep earnestness) Why must you ruin our rare friendship for a word that every minstrel mouths? (then with irritation) Love, love, love we chatter everlastingly. We pretend love alone is why we live! Bah! Life is nobler than the weak lies of poets--or it's nothing!

MARIA--(wounded and indignant) If you had had to fight for love as you have fought for glory!--

JUAN--(struck by the pain in her tone, kneels and kisses her hand--remorsefully) Forgive me! I would die rather than bring sorrow to a heart as kind as yours. Keep me forever in that heart, I beg--but as a friend--as it has always been.

MARIA--(with a gasp of pain) Ah! (taking her hand from his--with a deep sigh) God give you knowledge of the heart!

JUAN--(rises--plainly endeavoring to change the subject) You are leaving the Court?

MARIA--The Queen has granted my wish to retire to Cordova. (passionately) I'm sick of the Court! I long for simple things! I pray to become worthy again of that pure love of God I knew as a girl. I must seek peace in Him! (after a pause) Granada is ours. The Moors are driven from Spain. The wars are over. What will you do now, Juan?

JUAN--Peace means stagnation--a slack ease of cavaliers and songs and faded roses. I must go on.

MARIA--Where will you go?

JUAN--(smiles half-whimsically at an idea) Perhaps with the Genoese, Christopher Columbus, when he sails to find the western passage to Cathay.

MARIA--(disturbed) But they say he is mad.

JUAN--(seriously now) Mad or not, he dreams of glory. I have heard he plans to conquer for Spain that immense realm of the Great Khan which Marco Polo saw.

MARIA--What! Abandon your career at Court now when your exploits have brought you in such favor? No one would ruin himself so senselessly save in despair! (jealously) It must be from love you are fleeing! (fiercely mocking) Is a woman avenging women? Tell me her name!

JUAN--(with a mocking laugh) Love, love, and always love! Can no other motive exist for you? God pity women!

MARIA--(after a pause--sadly) God pity me--because pity is what you offer me. (as Juan seems about to protest wearily) Don't deny it, Juan. It sneers at me in your pretended scorn of love--You wish to comfort my humiliation! Am I a fool? Have you not loved others? I could name ten--

JUAN--Maria!

MARIA--Do you imagine I haven't guessed the truth? Those others had youth--while I--And my love seems to you--pitiable!

JUAN--(kneeling and taking her hand--with passionate earnestness) No, dear friend, no! I swear to you! (after a pause) What you call loves--they were merely moods--dreams of a night or two--lustful adventures--gestures of vanity, perhaps--but I have never loved. Spain is the mistress to whom I give my heart, Spain and my own ambitions, which are Spain's. Now do you understand?

MARIA--(sadly) No, Juan. (He rises.) I understand that I am growing old--that love has passed for me--and that I suffer in my loneliness. Perhaps if God had granted me a child--But His justice punishes. He has seen my secret sin. I have loved you, Juan, for years. But it was only in the last year when my heart, feeling youth die, grew desperate that I dared let you see. And now, farewell, until God's will be done in death. We must not meet again.

JUAN--(sternly) No. (passionately) I wish to God you had not told me this!

MARIA--(gently) If you are still my friend you will not wish it. It was my final penance--that you should know. And, having told you, I am free, for my heart is dead. There is only my soul left that knows the love of God which blesses and does not torture. Farewell once more, Juan. (He kneels and kisses her hand. She puts the other on his head as if blessing him.) You are noble, the soul of courage, a man of men. You will go far, soldier of iron--and dreamer. God pity you if those two selves should ever clash! You shall have all my prayers for your success--but I shall add, Dear Savior, let him know tenderness to recompense him when his hard youth dies! (She turns quickly and goes out.)

JUAN--(looks after her in melancholy thought for a while--then sighs deeply and shrugs his shoulders) Time tarnishes even the pure, difficult things with common weakness. (Luis de Alvaredo enters through the porte-cochère. He is a dissipated-looking noble, a few years older than Juan. His face is homely but extremely fetching in its nobility, its expression of mocking fun and raillery. He is dressed carelessly, is slightly drunk.)

LUIS--(mockingly) Lover of glory, beloved of women, hail! (He comes to the startled Juan as voices are heard from the porte-cochère--in a hurried, cautioning whisper) The devil, Juan! Have you lost your wits--or has she? I recognized her--and Vicente was only ten paces behind. (then again mockingly) Discretion, my stainless knight, discretion!

JUAN--(sternly) Stop! You wrong her and me. (Sounds of a loud, angry dispute are heard from without.) What is that brawling?

LUIS--My Moor. (explaining hurriedly to Juan) A fellow poet--a minstrel of their common folk. We found him running amuck about the streets declaiming to the stars that their king, Abdallah, had sold his soul to hell when he surrendered. (with admiration) By God, Juan, how he cursed! Oh, he's a precious songster, and as poet to poet I collared him and dragged him with us. Our friend, Diego, would have cut his throat for the Church's glory had I not interfered.

JUAN--(smiling) As madman for madman, eh? But why bring him here to howl?

LUIS--He has a lute. It is my whim he should sing some verses. (with an amused grin) The dog speaks only Arabic. If he is wily, he will chant such curses on our heads as will blight that fountain dry--and no one of us but me will understand. (with great glee) It will be sport, Juan! (The clamor from outside grows more violent.) By God, Diego will murder my minstrel--after all my pains. (starts to hurry out--stops in the entrance) Remember, Juan. Vicente may have recognized--the lady.

JUAN--(nods, frowning) The devil take all women! (Luis goes out. Pedro enters, carrying two large baskets full of bottles and sets them down, rear.) Drink and forget sad nonsense. Bring out cushions. We will sit beside the fountain. (Pedro goes into the house, right. Luis reënters, holding Yusef by the arm--a wizened old Moor dressed in the clothes of the common people, but wearing the turban signifying that he has made the pilgrimage to Mecca. His deep-set eyes smolder with hatred but physically he is so exhausted as to seem resigned to his fate. They are followed by Diego Menendez, a Franciscan monk, about the same age as Juan and Luis. He has a pale, long face, the thin, cruel mouth, the cold, self-obsessed eyes of the fanatic. Just now he is full of helpless fury and indignation. Accompanying him is Vicente de Cordova, a gray-haired, stern, soldierly noble of forty-five. Following them are the three nobles, Oviedo, Castillo and Mendoza. They are the type of adventurous cavaliers of the day--cruel, courageous to recklessness, practically uneducated--knights of the true Cross, ignorant of and despising every first principle of real Christianity--yet carrying the whole off with a picturesque air.)

MENENDEZ--(angrily) I protest to you, Juan. It is heresy to suffer this dog's presence when we offer thanks to God for victory.

JUAN--(stares at the Moor interestedly for a moment--then carelessly) I see no desecration, Diego--if he will sing, not howl. (turning to Vicente, scrutinizing his face keenly--carelessly) What do you say, Vicente?

VICENTE--(gives him a dark look of suspicion--coldly and meaningly) I say nothing--now.

JUAN--Ah! (He and Luis exchange a look.)

OVIEDO--Well, I say let him remain. We may have sport with him.

CASTILLO--(with a cruel smile) Perhaps with a sword-point we can persuade him to sing where the townsfolk hid their gold.

MENDOZA--Your words are inspired, Manuel!

LUIS--(scornfully) Materialists! You would sack heaven and melt the moon for silver. Juan, where is your wine? (Pedro appears, bringing cushions and goblets for each. He uncorks the bottles and pours their goblets full. Scorning a goblet Luis snatches a bottle from him and drinks from that.)

JUAN--(keeping a wary eye on Vicente) Let us drink. (takes a goblet from Pedro) To our most Gracious Sovereigns and to Spain! (He drinks.)

MENENDEZ--And to the Church! (angrily) But I will not drink until that infidel is moved apart!

VICENTE--I agree.

JUAN--(impatiently) Let the Moor go, Luis--since Diego takes himself so seriously.

VICENTE--(coldly resentful) And I? (Juan is about to reply irritably when Luis breaks in hurriedly.)

LUIS--Shhh! I'll sing a song for you. (releasing the Moor and pointing to the rear) Go, brother bard, and take your ease. (The Moor goes to the right, rear, and squats down in the shadow by the wall. Luis sings)

 

Love is a flower
Forever blooming.
Life is a fountain
Forever leaping
Upward to catch the golden sunlight,
Striving to reach the azure heaven;
Failing, falling,
Ever returning
To kiss the earth that the flower may live.

 

(They all applaud as he finishes.)

JUAN--Charming, Sir Poet--but a lie. (mockingly) Love, and love, and always love! The devil seize your flower! Do fountains flow only to nourish flowers that bloom a day and die?

LUIS--Roar, lion! You will not wake my dream that life is love!

JUAN--Listen to him, Diego! We know his only love is his old mother; and yet, to judge from his songs, you would think him a greater philanderer than--than--

VICENTE--(interrupting sneeringly) Than you, Don Juan?

JUAN--(turning on him--coldly) Gossip gives many a false name--but gossip only deludes old women.

VICENTE--(growing pale) Do you intend that insult? (Their hands go to the hilt of their swords. The three nobles quicken to excited interest. Luis leaps between them.)

LUIS--For God's sake! Is either of you a Moor? (raises his bottle) Let us drink again to Spain!

OVIEDO--And to the next war!

CASTILLO--May it be soon!

MENDOZA--With a world to sack! Sing us a song of that, Luis!

LUIS--I am too thirsty. But come, I was forgetting our infidel. Let me use persuasion--(He goes back to the Moor, and can be heard talking to him in Arabic.)

JUAN--We were speaking of wars to come. With whom?

OVIEDO--With anyone!

JUAN--But guess. I think it will be in lands beyond strange seas--Cipango and Cathay--the cities of gold that Marco Polo saw.

OVIEDO--But who will lead us there?

JUAN--Why, Christopher Columbus. (They all laugh.)

CASTILLO--That Genoese mongrel!--to lead Spaniards!

MENDOZA--He's mad. He claims the earth is round--like an egg! (They all laugh.)

JUAN--(impressively) I saw him today. He was riding his flea-bitten mule as if he were a Cæsar in a triumph. His eyes were full of golden cities.

CASTILLO--Bah, Juan, you romance! The man's an idiot!

LUIS--(coming back) The more fool you to think so! He will yet find for Spain the Western Passage to the East.

CASTILLO--Or fall off the world's edge! I will wager you would not go with him for all the gold in Indies!

LUIS--You would lose!

JUAN--I'm planning to go. (All are astonished.) But not on his first voyage. Before I pledge my sword I must have proof that it can serve Spain's glory. There is no profit in staking life for dreams.

LUIS--There is no profit in anything but that! You're from the East, Moor. Tell us of the Great Khan, of Cipango and Cathay and Cambuluc, of golden roofs and emerald-studded lintels to the doors. Your people must have heard these wonders.

MENDOZA--Yes, let him sing of treasure. (But the Moor remains silent.)

LUIS--Wait, I'll talk to him. (He goes back and speaks to the Moor in Arabic. The latter replies.)

MENENDEZ--(furiously) This is all treasonable. The dog had broken the peace. The punishment is death.

JUAN--(mockingly) Let him sing of treasure, Diego. Even the Church loves gold.

LUIS--(coming back--exultantly) He consents, Juan--because I am a colleague. He will sing of treasure in the East--a tale told to his father by some wandering poet who came from Cathay with a caravan. (All except the outraged Diego and the sullen, preoccupied Vicente quicken to interested attention. The Moor strikes a few notes on his lute.) Hush! (The Moor begins a crooning chant of verses, accompanying himself on the lute. At first they are all held by its strange rhythm, then they begin to betray impatience.)

OVIEDO--By God, our wolf turns into a sick shepherd.

LUIS--Hush!

CASTILLO--(impatiently) What does he sing?

LUIS--(enrapt--vaguely) Hush, hush.

MENENDEZ--(rising to his feet as the Moor's recitative abruptly ends--harshly) This is the service in a devil's mass!

LUIS--(passes his hand across his eyes, then stares into the fountain dreamily) He sang of treasure--but strange to your longing. There is in some far country of the East--Cathay, Cipango, who knows--a spot that Nature has set apart from men and blessed with peace. It is a sacred grove where all things live in the old harmony they knew before man came. Beauty resides there and is articulate. Each sound is music, and every sight a vision. The trees bear golden fruit. And in the center of the grove, there is a fountain--beautiful beyond human dreams, in whose rainbows all of life is mirrored. In that fountain's waters, young maidens play and sing and tend it everlastingly for very joy in being one with it. This is the Fountain of Youth, he said. The wise men of that far-off land have known it many ages. They make it their last pilgrimage when sick with years and weary of their lives. Here they drink, and the years drop from them like a worn-out robe. Body and mind know youth again, and these young men, who had been old, leap up and join the handmaids' dance. Then they go back to life, but with hearts purified, and the old discords trouble them no more, but they are holy and the folk revere them. (with a sigh) That's his tale, my friends--but he added it is hard to find that fountain. Only to the chosen does it reveal itself.

MENENDEZ--(furiously) Idolatry!

OVIEDO--Is this his treasure? By God, he mocks us!

LUIS--Fools! Beauty is lost on you. Your souls clink like coppers. (Menendez slinks back step by step toward the Moor. Luis grabs a bottle.) Come, let us drink! We'll all to Cathay with Don Christopher. You can burrow for dung there--but I will search for this fountain.

JUAN--(drinking--a bit tipsily) Drink and forget sad nonsense! The devil! His song beguiled me until you tricked it into that old woman's mumble. Youth! Is youth a treasure? Then are we all--except Vicente--priceless rich; and yet, God's blood, one has but to look to see how poor we are!

LUIS--Poor in spirit! I understand you, Juan.

JUAN--Fountain of youth, God help us, with love to boot! I wish he'd sung instead of the armies and power of the Great Khan! (then half-aside to Luis) The tale is always told to the wrong person. There was one here not long ago who would have given pearls for drops from that same fountain!

VICENTE--(who has crept vengefully toward Juan in time to hear these last words--with cold fury) A moment ago you taunted me with age--and now you dare--(He slaps Juan across the face. They draw their swords.)

LUIS--(trying to intervene) For God's sake, friends!

OVIEDO--(with excited interest) A duel! (The others echo this. Suddenly there is a harsh shriek from the rear. Menendez appears from the shadow, dagger in hand, a look of fanatical triumph on his face. Forgetting the duel, the others stand appalled.)

MENENDEZ--(sheathing the dagger) I have slain the dog. It was high time.

LUIS--Miserable bigot! (Raging, he tries to throw himself at the monk, but Juan grasps him and forces him down on a cushion. He breaks down, weeping.)

MENENDEZ--(coldly scornful) What! A soldier of Christ weep for an infidel!

JUAN--(sternly) Be still, Diego! (then frowning--curtly, in a tone of dismissal which silences all protest) Our reveling is under an ill star. There is blood upon it. Good-night. (turning to Vicente) Until tomorrow.

(Vicente bows and goes, accompanied by Menendez. The young nobles troop out behind, disputing noisily about the coming duel.)

JUAN--(comes over and puts his hand, on Luis' shoulder--in a mocking, but comforting tone) Come, Luis. Your brother romancer is dead. Tears will not help him. Perhaps even now he drinks of that Fountain of Youth in Dreamland--if he is not in hell.

LUIS--(raising his head) Juan, why do you always sneer at beauty--while your heart calls you liar?

JUAN--(frowning) I have Spain in my heart--and my ambition. All else is weakness. (changing his tone--carelessly) Well, you were right. Vicente recognized--and so, a duel. I'll prick him in the thigh and send him home to bed. She will nurse and love him then--and hate me for a murderer. Thus, all works out for the best in this fair world! But--a rare thing dies--and I'm sad, Luis. (shaking himself and taking a goblet of wine) Come, forget sad nonsense. We will drink to voyaging with Don Christopher--and to the battles before those golden cities of Cathay!

LUIS--(recovering his spirits--grabbing a bottle) Lucifer fire your cities! I drink to my fountain!

JUAN--Your health, Sir Lying Poet!

LUIS--And yours, Sir Glory-Glutton! (They laugh, clink goblet and bottle, and drink as

 

The Curtain Falls)

 

 

SCENE TWO

 

SCENE--About a year later--Columbus's flagship on the last day of his second voyage. The section of the vessel shown reveals the main deck amidships, the mainmast, the mainsail with its Maltese Cross, the two higher decks of the poop, the lateen sail on the mizzenmast, etc. Wooden stairs on the starboard, near the bulwark, are the means of getting from one deck to another.

It is the time just preceding the dawn. The ship is sailing steadily on a calm sea. There is a large lantern at center of the main deck, another low down in the rigging on the port side, another over the cross which hangs over the stern from the high poop. The ship is crowded with people. On the main deck are the nobles. They are dressed in rich uniforms, in armor. Most of them are asleep, lying sprawled on the deck, wrapped in their cloaks--or huddled in hunched attitudes, their backs propped against the mast or the bulwarks. But one small group has apparently been awake all night. They are sitting cross-legged, throwing dice by the light of the lantern. The faces of the gamesters are haggard and drawn, their eyes feverish. Prominent among them are Oviedo, Castillo, Mendoza and Luis.

On the first deck of the poop, the monks, all Franciscans, are lying asleep. Here, also, are four of the converted Indians Columbus is bringing back. They are dressed in incongruous costumes, half savage and half civilized. They are huddled in the right corner, not asleep, but frozen in a helpless apathy.

On the highest deck Juan is seen standing by the pilot who tends the helm.

 

LUIS--(excitedly) Double or quits!

OVIEDO--Done. (They play. Luis loses.)

LUIS--I am ruined again! (with a comical groan of despair) Fortune is a damned mercenary wench. She scorns the poor. (takes up the dice to throw) Once more!

OVIEDO--(grumblingly) No. You owe me more than you can pay.

LUIS--I will soon be rich as Croesus. Don Columbus says we will sight land today--the Indies, Isles of Spice, Cipango, Cathay, who knows what? I will stake my future wealth against yours. Come! One more cast for anything you wish.

OVIEDO--(dryly) For gold--gold I can see and touch.

LUIS--(disgustedly) The devil! I must borrow from Juan then. (He gets to his feet.)

OVIEDO--He will not thank you to wake him on a beggar's errand.

LUIS--Do you imagine he sleeps with his Promised Land so near? He is astern on the Admiral's poop keeping a watch of his own--for fear the lookout will miss Cathay!

CASTILLO--Juan is over-eager. He will make the Genoese jealous.

MENDOZA--Has already. It is plain Columbus slights him.

OVIEDO--From policy. He knows Juan is in disgrace at Court since the duel. Our admiral trims his sails to the wind.

CASTILLO--Juan paid dearly for Vicente's wound--a pinprick that hardly drew blood.

MENDOZA--It was the scandal.

LUIS--(indignantly) All false--the malice of envious tongues! Vicente himself apologized to Juan. As for the lady, when I was home in Cordova I saw her with Vicente. You could not find a more married pair. It was even rumored they were to have a child--(Juan has come down from the Admiral's poop, passed through the sleeping monks and now appears by the light of the lamp in the rigging at the head of the stairs to the main deck. Luis breaks off suddenly.) Is that you, Juan? Come, be a brother. This son of luck (he indicates Oviedo) has won everything but my skin.

JUAN--(with a laugh) Then stake the Fountain of Youth which you will find--tomorrow! Sold by the cask it should make you the richest man in Spain. (The nobles laugh.)

LUIS--(with real aversion) What trader's scheming--from you! (then jokingly) Take care! When the pox of old age is on you will come begging to me! (then rattling the dice) But come, loan me gold for a last cast of revenge. (then with a sudden idea) And you throw for me. My star is behind a cloud.

OVIEDO--Not fair. Juan always wins.

JUAN--(frowning) This is no time for gaming.

LUIS--(insistently) Just once, Juan.

JUAN--(consenting unwillingly) Only once. The stakes are yours. Let the cast be an augury for me. (He takes gold from his purse. He and Oviedo play. Oviedo wins and there is a murmur of astonishment.)

OVIEDO--(exultantly) I win. The first time I have ever beat you, Juan.

JUAN--(getting up) A poor omen. (then mockingly) But here on the under side of earth these signs must run by opposites.

MENDOZA--(half frightenedly) Can we be hanging head down and not know it?

CASTILLO--Bah! The Genoese made his first voyage safely. We cannot fall off, it seems.

OVIEDO--Columbus may be a liar.

MENDOZA--(savagely) A low-born braggart! He displayed his origin in the hoggish demands he made on the crown. What could the Sovereigns be thinking of--to make this foreign upstart an Admiral and a Viceroy?

JUAN--(sternly rebuking) It is not for us to question. (He pauses--then adds) His enterprise has served Spain well. He is our commander. That is enough to know. (He turns his back on them and walks to the port side where he stands by the rigging looking out to sea. The nobles look after him for a moment in an abashed silence.)

CASTILLO--(mockingly) You are a perfect Christian, Juan--to love your enemy.

OVIEDO--(yawns) Put out the lantern. Let us sleep. The dawn will wake us. (Mendoza puts out the lantern. All except Luis wrap themselves in their robes and lie down on the deck. Luis comes over to Juan.)

LUIS--(scornfully) Look at those clods. They would snore through the Last Judgment. (then as Juan is silent) What are you dreaming of--Cathay and glory?

JUAN--No. (then suddenly) When I came down I heard Vicente's name--and mention of a child. What were you saying?

LUIS--Gossip of Cordova. My mother told me Maria was having masses said that she might bear an heir--and the rumor was her prayers were answered.

JUAN--(with deep sincerity) God grant it. She will be happy then. (with an ironical laugh) Did I not tell you that night our duel would reconcile them? (soberly) But I pay. Well, what matter the cost if Maria wins happiness?

LUIS--(reassuringly) One exploit and the Court will be at your feet again.

JUAN--(shaking his head) We will be far from Spain--out of sight and mind. Columbus will be king here, and he and I are by nature antagonistic. (There is a noise from the higher deck of the poop. A tall figure can be made out coming up on deck there from the companionway. He moves back until the light from the lantern above the cross reveals him. It is Columbus. He is in full uniform but wears no hat on his long, white hair. A commanding figure of noble presence, the face full of the ardent, fixed enthusiasm of the religious devotee.)

LUIS--(pulling Juan back into the shadow) Speak the devil's name! (They stand, watching and listening, but hidden from the poop.)

COLUMBUS--(to the helmsman) Have you held the course?

HELMSMAN--Southwest by west, sir.

COLUMBUS--(peering about him) Will the dawn never come? (He comes to the edge of the deck and calls down where the monks are--in a low voice) Father Menendez. Are you awake?

MENENDEZ--(gets up quickly from among the sleeping monks) I am here, your Excellency. (He mounts to the deck above and stands waiting respectfully.)

COLUMBUS--(begins in a blunt, perfunctory tone) Toscanelli's map must be in error. We should have sighted land before. (A pause. He paces back and forth.) The sun will soon be up. It leaps from the darkness in these parts. (a pause, then with evident irritation) A weary voyage, Father! The spirit of these nobles is perverse. They look on this voyage as an escapade in search of easy riches, not as a crusade for the glory of God.

MENENDEZ--(curtly) They are brave. Many of them have proven their ability in war--Juan Ponce de Leon, for one.

COLUMBUS--(resentfully) A bravo! A duelist!

LUIS--(in an indignant whisper) The devil seize him!

JUAN--(grimly) Another aftermath of that cursed duel!

MENENDEZ--(shortly) You are unjust, Excellency.

COLUMBUS--Oh, I admit he possesses all the attributes but the one which alone gives them virtue--an humble piety. On this great quest there is no place for egotists who seek only selfish ends. We must all feel ourselves unworthy servants of God's Holy Will. (then breaking off--abruptly) But I did not call you to speak of him. (after a pause--despondently) My soul is overburdened, Father.

MENENDEZ--(dryly) You wish to confess?

COLUMBUS--(surprised) Confess? (then in a loud, ringing tone) Yes, to all men! Their mouths are full of lies against me. They say the demands I made for my share of discovery prove my low-minded avarice. Knaves! What can they know of my heart? Is it for myself I desire wealth? No! But as a chosen instrument of God, Who led me to His Indies, I need the power that wealth can give. I need it for God's glory, not my own! (more and more exaltedly) I have a dream, Father! Listen! From my earliest youth I have hated the infidel. I fought on the ships of Genoa against their corsairs and as I saw my city's commerce with the East cut off by their ruthlessness, I prayed for one glorious last Crusade that would reclaim the Mediterranean for Christendom and, most fervent prayer of all, regain from profanation the Holy Sepulchre of our Lord Jesus! (He blesses himself. Menendez also. Then he hurries on exultantly.) And now an answer is granted! With my share of the wealth from Indies, from Cipango and Cathay, I will fit out an army--the Last Crusade! I have promised it to His Holiness, the Pope--fifty thousand men, four thousand horse, with a like force to follow after five years. I shall reconquer the Blessed Tomb of Christ for the True Faith! And to that sacred end I devote my life and all my wealth and power! (He stands looking up to heaven with the rapt gaze of a devotee.)

MENENDEZ--(dryly) Such a pious ambition does you honor.

JUAN--(unable to restrain himself calls mockingly) The Crusades are dead--and the wealth of the East is still unwon.

COLUMBUS--(stung--indignantly) Who dares--?

JUAN--(proudly) A noble of Spain who thinks of her greatness while you dream of Genoa and Rome; a soldier of the present, not the ghost of a Crusader! (then with exasperated mockery) God's blood, have all our leaders become half monk? There was a time for that when we fought the Moor, but now a new era of world empire dawns for Spain. By living in the past you will consecrate her future to fanaticism!

COLUMBUS--(angrily) Insolent!

JUAN--(vehemently) No. I respect you, Columbus--but I have my vision, too. Spain can become the mistress of the world, greater than ancient Rome, if she can find leaders who will weld conquest to her, who will dare to govern with tolerance. (He laughs a bitter, mocking laugh.) But what a time to speak! Look at the men of this fleet--now when the East dawns for them! I agree with you, Don Christopher--a weary voyage! Adventurers lusting for loot to be had by a murder or two; nobles of Spain dreaming greedy visions of wealth to be theirs by birthright; monks itching for the rack to torture useful subjects of the Crown into slaves of the Church! And for leader to have you, Don Christopher--you who will pillage to resurrect the Crusades! Looters of the land, one and all! There is not one who will see it as an end to build upon! We will loot and loot and, weakened by looting, be easy prey for stronger looters. God pity this land until all looters perish from the earth! (While he is speaking it has grown perceptibly lighter.)

COLUMBUS--(furiously) Who are you? Stand forth! You dare not!

JUAN--(jumps up to the lower level of the poop and advances to the ladder to the Admiral's poop--proudly) It is I--Juan Ponce de Leon! Why should I not dare? Do you want men under your command--or lackeys?

COLUMBUS--(striving to control his rage) Silence! (A wailing cry of "Land Ho" comes from the mainmast head. Immediately the same cry can be heard coming over the water from the other vessels of the fleet. Instantly all is confusion. Everyone jumps to their feet, half awake, peering about bewilderedly. The four Indians sense what has happened and hang over the bulwark, staring over the seas with intense longing. A crowd of half-dressed sailors and rabble pour up from below decks. There is a babble of excited shouts. Columbus looks upward to see where the lookout is pointing, then turns to the horizon off the starboard bow. Juan leaps to the ratlines.)

THE CROWD--Land! Land! Where? I heard the call. He shouted land! Is it Cathay? Where is he pointing? Look where the Admiral looks. When the sun comes--(Suddenly the ship is flooded by shafts of golden crimson light. They all cry) The sun!

JUAN--(pointing) There! I see! In a haze of gold and purple--Greater Spain!

ALL--(crowd to the starboard side and to the front. The Indians are pushed away, jostled, thrown aside contemptuously with imprecations until they are hunched disconsolately in the background in dumb terror and bewilderment.) Where? I see! Where? There! There! Cathay. Cipango. Is it Cathay? Where are the golden cities? Where are the golden roofs? Is it Cipango? The Indies! The Isles of Spice! Marco Polo's land! (They all crowd, pushing and elbowing each other, craning their necks, the eyes of all, rabble, soldiers, nobles, priests, straining with the same greedy longing, the lust to loot.)

JUAN--(exultantly) Cathay or Cipango or the Isles of Spice, what difference? It shall be Greater Spain! (The crowd cheers vociferously.)

COLUMBUS--(trying to quell the tumult) Silence, I say! (fixing his eyes sternly on Juan with undisguised hostility--rebukingly) The earth is God's! Give thanks to Him! Kneel, I command you! Raise the cross! (The monks raise their cross. They kneel but the nobles and soldiers hesitate waiting for Juan as if they saw in him their true commander.)

JUAN--(leaps down from the rigging, drawing his sword--with fierce exultance) This is a cross too, a soldier's cross--the cross of Spain! (He sticks his sword-point into the deck before him. He kneels before it. All the nobles and soldiers do likewise with a great flourish of gestures and excited shouts. They are all kneeling with their quivering cross swords, hilts rising above their heads.)

COLUMBUS--(from his knees--looking up to heaven devoutly) Te Deum! (The monks begin to chant. All join in, their pent-up excitement giving to the hymn a hectic, nervous quality. Juan does not sing but stares at the land on the distant horizon.)

 

(The Curtain Falls)

 

 

SCENE THREE

 

SCENE--Twenty years or so later--the courtyard of the Governor's palace, Porto Rico. Flowers, shrubs, a coco-palm, orange and banana trees. A large, handsome fountain closely resembling that of Scene One, is at center. Two marble benches are at front and rear of fountain. A narrow paved walk encircles the fountain basin, with other walks leading from it to the different entrances. Doors to the interior of the house are at left and right. The main entrance to the courtyard, opening on the road, is at rear center.

It is in the late, languid hours of a torrid afternoon. The courtyard bakes in the heat, the fountain shimmering in the heat-waves.

Juan is seated on the stone bench in front of the basin. He is dressed in the full uniform of his authority as Governor. His face is aged, lined, drawn. His hair and beard are gray. His expression and attitude are full of great weariness. His eyes stare straight before him blankly in a disillusioned dream. The lines about his compressed lips are bitter.

Luis enters from the left, rear. He is dressed in the robe of a Dominican monk. His face shows the years but it has achieved a calm, peaceful expression as if he were at last in harmony with himself. He comes down to Juan and puts a hand on his shoulder.

 

JUAN--(starts--then greets his friend with a smile) Ah, it's you, reverend Father. (He accents this last mockingly.)

LUIS--(good-naturedly) Yes, illustrious Governor. (He sits beside Juan--with a laugh) You are like a sulky child, Juan. Come, is it not time, after five years, you forgave me for being a Dominican?

JUAN--(bitterly) My friend deserting to my enemy!

LUIS--(protestingly) Come, come! (then after a pause, with a sigh) You have always had the dream of Cathay. What had I? What had I done with life?--an aimless, posing rake, neither poet nor soldier, without place nor peace! I had no meaning even to myself until God awakened me to His Holy Will. Now I live in truth. You must renounce in order to possess.

JUAN--The world would be stale indeed if that were true! (after a pause--irritably) I fight the battles; you monks steal the spoils! I seek to construct; you bind my hands and destroy!

LUIS--(remonstrating) You speak of Diego and his kind.

JUAN--(frowning) Whether you convert by clemency or he by cruelty, the result is the same. All this baptizing of Indians, this cramming the cross down their throats has proved a ruinous error. It crushes their spirits and weakens their bodies. They become burdens for Spain instead of valuable servitors.

LUIS--Your army crushed them first--

JUAN--They had to be conquered, but there I would have stopped. (then irritably) God's blood, here we are arguing about this same issue--for the thousandth time! It is too late. Talk is useless. (with a weary sigh) We do what we must--and sand covers our bodies and our deeds. (with a smile) And the afternoon is too hot, besides. Tell me some news. Will the fleet from Spain make port today?

LUIS--Just now I saw them rounding the point under full sail. They should anchor inside soon. (They are interrupted by the noise of several people approaching from outside. Oviedo and Friar Quesada, a Franciscan, enter, followed by the Indian chief, Nano, who is guarded by two soldiers with drawn swords. Quesada is a thin young monk with the sallow, gaunt face and burning eyes of a fanatic. Oviedo is aged but gives no evidence of having changed in character. Nano is a tall, powerfully built Indian of fifty or so. Although loaded down with chains, he carries himself erect with an air of aloof, stoical dignity. He wears a headdress of feathers. His face and body are painted, ornaments are about his neck. He is naked except for a breechclout and moccasins.)

QUESADA--(fiercely and arrogantly) I demand justice on this dog!

JUAN--(freezing--proudly) Demand?

QUESADA--(with ill-concealed hatred but awed by Juan's manner) Pardon my zeal in the service of God, Your Excellency. I ask justice. (then defiantly) But it is not the Church's custom to be a suppliant.

JUAN--So much the worse--(sternly) What is this Indian's crime?

QUESADA--His tribe will not pay the tithes--and he himself has dared to refuse baptism!

JUAN--(coldly) I'll question him. (then as Quesada hesitates, raging inwardly--sternly) You may go.

QUESADA--(controlling his rage, bows) Yes, Your Excellency. (He goes.)

JUAN--(to Oviedo with a certain contempt) You also have a charge against this Indian?

OVIEDO--(angrily) A plea for justice! These dogs will not pay their taxes. And we who own estates cannot get them to work except by force, which you have arbitrarily curtailed. Then why not punish them by leasing their labor to us until their debt's wiped out? Thus the government will be paid, and we will have workers for our mines and fields.

JUAN--(disgustedly) Your brain is not inventive, Oviedo! You are well aware that is the same blunder which failed on Espaniola. It means slavery. It defeats its purpose. The Indians die under the lash--and your labor dies with them. (contemptuously) Do you think I am Columbus that you ask this folly of me?

OVIEDO--(haughtily) You refuse? (He goes to the rear where he turns--threateningly) Take care, Juan! There will come a day of reckoning--when Diego returns from Spain. (He goes out.)

JUAN--(frowning) Diego? What do you mean?

OVIEDO--(with a revengeful smile) Nothing. Adios, Don Juan. (He goes out.)

JUAN--(with a bitter laugh) There you have it! Bah! What use--? (He suddenly seems to see Nano for the first time. They stare at each other.) I was forgetting you. Are you not Nano, chief of the last tribe I conquered? (as the Indian is silent--imperiously) Speak!

NANO--The devils were with you. Our villages were burned. Women and children were killed--my wives, my children!

JUAN--(frowning) Contrary to my command. But, again, what use? The dead are dead. It is too late. (after a pause--with a sort of weary self-mockery) Have you ever heard of Cathay--Cipango? Do you know of vast countries to the west--many peoples--great villages with high walls--much gold?

NANO--I have heard.

JUAN--(surprised--eagerly) Ah! Where are they? (Nano points west.)

LUIS--(amusedly) Where the fountain of youth of my drunken days is located--in dreamland!

JUAN--(with a certain seriousness) Do you know, they say there is a similar fountain legend among these tribes. (then to Nano with a mocking smile) My friend here is growing impatient waiting for immortality in heaven and would rather gain it here on earth--

LUIS--Juan!

JUAN--So tell him, O Mighty Chief, if there is not over there--a fountain--a spring--in which old men bathe or drink and become young warriors again?

NANO--(to both their surprise) The tale is told. Not here. In my home--a land that never ends. Our priests told the tale. I was young then. I was captured in war and brought here. I was adopted. I have never returned.

JUAN--(lost in thought) So? Where is this land, your home? (Nano points as before.) Where Cathay is? And the fountain--the spring--is there?

NANO--(after a moment's hesitation) Yes. My people call it the Spring of Life.

LUIS--(whimsically) A pretty title, indeed. (sceptically) But none can find it, I suppose?

NANO--Those the Gods love can find it.

JUAN--(scornfully) Aha, that old trick of poets--evasion of facts! (turning to Luis) Do you remember the Moor that night in Granada? "Only to the chosen." Here is the echo! Bah! What jugglery! (then thoughtfully) But it is strange. Where there is so much smoke, there must be a spark of fire. The Moor traced his myth back to the East--Cathay--and now we discover it again--still in Cathay--circling the world--(then, as if ashamed of himself for taking it so seriously--carelessly) At all events, it is added evidence that Cathay is near. (The boom of a cannon comes from the harbor.)

LUIS--The fleet has anchored. Diego will soon be here. If you can give this Indian into my keeping I will attempt his conversion.

JUAN--(impatiently) Until his case is investigated, he must go to prison. You may see him there. (to Nano, sternly) If it is proven you have encouraged rebellion against Spain, you will be hung. Against any other charge I will try to save you. (summoning the soldiers) Guard. (They salute and lead Nano out, left. Juan paces up and down in frowning thought.) Diego! Did you hear Oviedo threaten me with him? What mischief will he bring from Spain this time, I wonder? The cursed spider! His intriguing will destroy all my work here--(with impotent anger) And the fight is hopeless. His weapons are whispers. A man of honor stands disarmed. (intensely) Would to God this fleet brought me the King's patent to discover new lands! I would sail tomorrow for Cathay--or for the moon!

LUIS--(firmly) Fight your battle here! This is your land. You conquered it.

JUAN--Columbus discovered it; and I still feel his influence, like a black fog, stifling me!

LUIS--(mollifyingly) He is dead. Forgive. He suffered too much injustice to be just.

JUAN--How can my pride forgive? For years I held his solitary outposts; I suffered wounds and fevers; I fought the Indians for him while he went sailing for the Garden of Eden, the mines of Solomon, his Bible-crazed chimeras! He knew my honor would not permit my conspiring against him as others did. So he ignored my services and deliberately condemned me to obscurity! Never one mention of my name in his reports to Spain! It is only since his downfall--(breaking off) But this, too, is an old story. (then with sudden exasperation) Why should I not sail to find Cathay? He failed in that--but I would succeed! I am no visionary chasing rainbows. (desperately) I tell you I loathe this place! I loathe my petty authority! By God, I could sink all Porto Rico under the sea for one glimpse of Cathay!

LUIS--(alarmed) Juan!

JUAN--(after a pause--ironically) Well, do not fear that I will leave your precious island. The patent will never come--and if it did, there is a flaw--(despondently, with a great weariness) It is too late. Cathay is too far. I am too weary. I have fought small things so long that I am small. My spirit has rusted in chains for twenty years. Now it tends to accept them--to gain peace. (with passionate yearning) If I could only feel again my old fire, my energy of heart and mind--! If I could be once more the man who fought before Granada--! But the fire smolders. It merely warms my will to dream of the past. It no longer catches flame in deeds. (with a desolate smile of self-pity) I begin to dread--another failure. I am too old to find Cathay.

MENENDEZ--(appears in rear in time to hear this last. He is dressed in a Bishop's robes. He looks his years, but his expression of rabid fanaticism has changed to one, not less cruel, of the crafty schemer made complacent by a successful career, the oily intriguer of Church politics. He hesitates with a suspicious, inquisitive glance from one to the other--then advances with a forced air of joviality.) What is this I hear? Too old? Tut-tut! This is heresy, Juan. (The two turn, startled. Juan stares at him resentfully. Menendez exchanges a cold bow of condescension with Luis, then comes to Juan with outstretched hands, smiling oilily.) Have you no greeting for me, old friend?

JUAN--(takes his hands perfunctorily--then sarcastically) Who would expect you unattended--like any eavesdropping monk?

MENENDEZ--(unruffled) My eagerness to see you. I have great news. I often spoke to the King about you. He now holds you in the highest esteem, and as a proof of his favor I bring you--(then with a sly smile) But, on second thought, I should not say, I bring you. That is reserved for a worthier hand!

JUAN--(impatiently) I dislike mysteries.

MENENDEZ--(provokingly) I will give you this hint out of respect for the old age you were lamenting! Prepare to welcome youth--and a prize you have sought for all your life in the Indies--a gift more welcome to you than wine was to Luis before he repented! (With this parting gibe, he turns away.) Pardon me if I leave you. I must make preparations--for this event. (He bows mockingly and goes off right.)

JUAN--(angrily) Schemer! (He paces up and down.)

LUIS--(after pondering a moment--suddenly) I have it! It must be your patent to explore! He has obtained it from the King--because he wishes to get rid of you here! You stand in his way--your policy of clemency. He wants to be dictator to introduce torture and slavery! Yet he is afraid to fight you openly, so what craftier scheme than to send you away contented, grateful for a gift, bribed without knowing it?

JUAN--(resentfully) Then I will fool the fox! There is no compulsion in such a patent. (then confused) But--it would be my highest hope come true--too late! Too late! I am too old. (with an attempt at a railing tone) God's blood, I need to find Cathay--if your Fountain of Youth is there!

LUIS--I hear a crowd coming. I must go. It adds to their spleen to find us together. (He presses Juan's hand.) Whatever comes, be firm, old friend. (He goes out left. The murmur of the crowd increases. Juan sinks on the bench before the fountain, oblivious to it, lost in gloomy thought. Beatriz de Cordova appears, attended by her duenna and a crowd of richly dressed nobles. She is a beautiful young girl of eighteen or so, the personification of youthful vitality, charm and grace. The nobles point out Juan to her. She dismisses them, motioning for them to be quiet--then comes in and approaches Juan, keeping the fountain between them. She holds a sealed document in her hand. Finally she calls in a trembling, eager voice)

BEATRIZ--Don Juan! (Juan whirls on his bench and stares through the fountain at her. He utters a stunned exclamation as if he saw a ghost. His eyes are held fascinated by her beauty. Then suddenly she laughs--a gay, liquid, clear note--and coming quickly around confronts him.) It is I, Don Juan.

JUAN--(stares at her still fascinated--then, reminded, springs to his feet and bows low with his old mocking gallantry) Pardon! I am bewitched! I thought you were the spirit of the fountain. (then more mockingly) Beautiful lady, you do me unmerited honor!

BEATRIZ--(hurt and confused by his tone) You don't know me? Why, I'm Beatriz. (as he bows but shows no recognition) Has Bishop Menendez not told you--?

JUAN--(suspiciously) Nothing of you, my lady.

BEATRIZ--I am Beatriz de Cordova--

JUAN--(guessing--amazed, stares at her--a pause, slowly) Maria's child!--you!

BEATRIZ--(letting it all pour forth regardless) She died a year ago--and--I am your ward now. It was her last wish. My father was dead. There was no near relative whom she would trust. I asked the King to send me here to you. He bade me wait until the Bishop could escort me. He made me the bearer of this gift for you--your dearest wish, he said. (She gives him the document.)

JUAN--(unrolls it--a pause as he stares at it dully, then bitterly) The patent--to find Cathay!

BEATRIZ--Yes! And you can find it where the others failed, I know! You were my dear mother's ideal of Spanish chivalry, of a true knight of the Cross! That was her prophecy, that you would be the first to reach Cathay!

JUAN--She spoke of the man she knew. (staring at her fascinatedly--eagerly) She sends me you--and you are youth! Is it in mockery?

BEATRIZ--(suddenly) Oh, Don Juan, I recall something she said I must remember when we should meet. "Bring him tenderness," she said. "That will repay the debt I owe him for saving me for you." She said these words were secrets to tell you alone. What did she mean, Don Juan?

JUAN--(deeply moved) Tenderness? Do you bring me that, Beatriz? (then as if recalling himself) No, do not--for it means weakness. Bring me the past instead. Give me back--the man your mother knew.

BEATRIZ--(who has been scrutinizing him without paying attention to his words) You are older than I dreamed, Don Juan.

JUAN--(wounded--with harsh violence) No tenderness there! Youth! A cuirass of shining steel! A glittering sword! Laughter above the battle! (Then seeing her look of frightened astonishment at his wild words, he controls himself and adds with a melancholy bitterness) It was so long ago, Beatriz--that night in Granada--a dimly-remembered dream--(then with a sudden return of his mockingly gallant manner) Forgive me. I have become a savage lost to manners. (He kneels and kisses her hand with all his old-time gallantry.) Welcome, dear ward, to Porto Rico! (She looks down at his bowed head, blushing with pleasure and naïve embarrassment, as

 

The Curtain Falls)

 

 

SCENE FOUR

 

SCENE--Three months later--Menendez' official study in the palace--a large, high-ceilinged, bare room with a heavy table at center. The color scheme is dark and gloomy, the atmosphere that of a rigid, narrow ecclesiasticism. In one corner is an altar with high candles burning before it. Heavy hangings shut out the light from the lofty, arched windows. An enormous crucifix hangs on the wall in rear. The room is like an exaggerated monk's cell, but it possesses a somber power over the imagination by the force of its concentration. There is a main entrance at rear, center, and a smaller side door at left, hidden by curtains.

It is early evening. Menendez is seated at the table. He is frowningly impatient, listening and waiting for someone. There is the sound of approaching footsteps. Menendez turns eagerly in his chair. Quesada enters through the hangings on the left. His face is ominous and set. He wears a sword and pistols over his robe which is tucked up over high riding boots and spurs. He is covered with dust, and has evidently been riding hard. He bows respectfully to Menendez.

 

MENENDEZ--I had begun to think you would never come. (then with anxiety) What news?

QUESADA--The meeting is being held. They have gathered in the fort outside the town.

MENENDEZ--Good! It is moving according to my plan, then.

QUESADA--They all agree that Don Juan must resign his patent.

MENENDEZ--Unless he sails to find Cathay at once?

QUESADA--Yes. They are all mad for the gold (with a sneer) over there, the report of which I have had rumored about, as you directed.

MENENDEZ--Good. Then we shall be rid of Juan and all the discontented spirits on the island at one stroke!

QUESADA--(excitedly) But they also demand that first the Indian, Nano, must be burned at the stake. They believe he has bewitched the Governor. They know of Don Juan's secret interviews with him.

MENENDEZ--(angrily) Who told them?

QUESADA--(after a moment's hesitation--defiantly) I did.

MENENDEZ--(angrily) Fool!

QUESADA--(alarmed--humbly) But the dog still refuses baptism.

MENENDEZ--(sternly) Is this a time to consider one Indian? Idiot! You know as well as I that my intention has been to attack Juan on one issue, and only one--his failure to sail for Cathay now that he has the King's patent. What have all the Nanos, hung or unhung, to do with that?

QUESADA--Much! If Don Juan were not bewitched by Nano's spells, he would have sailed long since.

MENENDEZ--And you told the rabble that? God pardon you! Was it any part of my orders that you should play upon the mob's lust for blood? I have worked for a peaceable revolt that would awaken Juan to his weakness and shame him into leaving. You have dared to evoke a madness which might easily sweep away all recognized authority. Quick! What was the rabble's mood when you left? (Quesada avoids his eyes. Menendez pounds the table.) Answer me!

QUESADA--(evasively) They had been drinking--

MENENDEZ--(furiously, a note of alarm creeping in) Ah!

QUESADA--(now thoroughly cowed) They were clamoring to march on the palace. Don Oviedo was trying to restrain them--

MENENDEZ--(fiercely--with bitter scorn) You cursed blunderer! No, I am the dolt for having trusted you!

QUESADA--(kneeling--cowed) Forgive me, Your Grace!

MENENDEZ--Your action was treachery to me! And I shall punish you! When this expedition sails for that golden fable, Cathay, you shall go with it. Then blunder all you like! (He rises and strides to the window at rear.)

QUESADA--(humbly) I humbly accept my penance.

MENENDEZ--(bitterly) Behold the first fruits of your excessive piety! (He points.) The southern horizon is aflame!

QUESADA--(rising) They must have set fire to the Indian villages.

MENENDEZ--Blood and fire! Your merry dance begins well! (He lets the curtains fall back.) Only Juan can control them now--if he would only promise them to sail at once--but no, he is too proud. He will fight armed rebellion to the last--and we will all go down in the same ruin!

QUESADA--(scornfully) He is not the man he was--since Nano bewitched him.

MENENDEZ--(disgustedly) Bah! You fool! (then intently) Yet there is truth in what you say. He has grown weak--between Luis' influence and the girl's meddling--(abruptly) Come! There is still a chance. Summon Don Juan to me at once! (this last in a shout of impatience)

JUAN--(from outside, rear, mockingly) There is no need for messengers. (He enters. In the three months he has aged greatly. His hair and beard have grown perceptibly white. Beneath the bitter, mocking mask there is an expression of deep, hidden conflict and suffering on his face as if he were at war with himself.)

MENENDEZ--(startled, afraid of what Juan may have overheard) You heard--?

JUAN--(scornfully) Only what you shouted. Am I a monk to listen at keyholes? (this with a glance at Quesada) But I know your intrigues. This meeting of yapping curs--you see, I have heard the rumor--you would have me sail at their bidding, and thus you would be free to rule this island in God's Holy Name! Is it not so?

MENENDEZ--(controlling his anger) You have lost your senses. You will not realize that things have reached a crisis! The government has slipped through your fingers while you played at being a loving father--

JUAN--(stung--fiercely) It's a lie! (controlling himself) I tell you again, Diego, I will sail at my pleasure, not yours.

MENENDEZ--(persuasively) You have kept repeating that--and meanwhile your apathy has ruined us. Your soldiers and sailors are in open mutiny. The mob has risen. (urgently) Juan, do you want rebellion to overwhelm us? You promised them Cathay--

JUAN--(proudly) It was you who promised them in my name, you mean, to make certain you would be rid of me!

MENENDEZ--(tauntingly--noting Juan's reactions craftily) I promised because I thought you were still Juan Ponce de Leon. But you are not. You have become merely a slave to a girl's sentimental whims! You are too feeble to govern here and too weak for Cathay. (Juan's hand goes to his sword. Menendez continues cuttingly.) Then for the sake of Spain, resign your office and surrender your patent for discovery to someone with the youth and courage to dare!

JUAN--(infuriated, half drawing his sword) Take care, Diego! Your cloth cannot condone such insults!

MENENDEZ--(in a softened, oily tone) Forgive me, Juan. I insult you for your own sake! Push on to your greatest victory! Do not wait here in a stupor for inglorious defeat!

JUAN--(shaken) I shall sail--but first I must know--know for a certainty, beyond all doubt--exactly where--(He stops abruptly)

MENENDEZ--(inquisitively) What?

JUAN--(suspiciously) Nothing.

QUESADA--(who has been listening with feverish interest--points to Juan accusingly) He has gone to Nano every day. Look at his eyes! He is bewitched! (Juan starts guiltily but tries to ignore him contemptuously.)

MENENDEZ--Be still, Quesada! (He looks at Juan.) These interviews are mysterious, Juan.

JUAN--(quickly--half turning away and averting his eyes--with forced carelessness) I need accurate information for my voyage that only Nano can give me. That is why I have delayed.

MENENDEZ--(looking at him sharply) So? I had thought it might be affection for Beatriz that held you.

JUAN--(vehemently) No!

MENENDEZ--(keenly) Why are you so vehement? It would be natural enough. You have lived alone. To find a daughter in your declining years--

JUAN--(pale with rage and agony) Daughter? How could she look upon me--?

MENENDEZ--(soothingly but with a taunting intent) She used to regard you as her hero, her great commander. She must wonder now at this old man's weakness in you.

JUAN--(frenziedly) Do you dare taunt me in her name? I will sail, I say! I will sail the very first day after I discover--(then distractedly, shaken) Enough, Diego! I shall do what I wish and when it pleases me! (He rushes out rear as if furies were hounding him. Menendez looks after him, a sneering smile of satisfaction gradually coming over his face as if something were proven to him.)

MENENDEZ--(half to himself, half to Quesada) I should have guessed it before. Yet, who would have thought--He is bewitched, certainly.

QUESADA--(eagerly) Yes!

MENENDEZ--(dryly) But you are blaming the wrong witch. The guilty one is sinless. (Quesada puzzles over this paradox with open eyes. Menendez ponders for a moment, then he turns to Quesada.) Bring the Lady Beatriz.

QUESADA--Yes, Your Grace. (He bows and hurries out, left. Menendez sits thoughtfully, evidently planning out his campaign. A moment later Beatriz enters. She bows respectfully.)

BEATRIZ--(reservedly) You wish to see me, Your Grace?

MENENDEZ--(nods and motions her to a chair. He scrutinizes her face carefully for a moment, then begins in a playful, ironical tone.) Beauty did not leave a stone on stone of ancient Troy. Are you another Helen, Beatriz?

BEATRIZ--(confused) I--don't understand.

MENENDEZ--(coldly and brusquely) Not understand that rebellion is seething in Porto Rico?--a rebellion that will deal destruction to us all!

BEATRIZ--(bewildered) Rebellion? (then spiritedly) Who would dare rebel against Don Juan?

MENENDEZ--(belittlingly) Juan is powerless. His own soldiers have taken the lead against him. He is facing ruin! Do you understand? I wish I had words of fire to brand it on your brain! For I tell you on my conscience, as God's minister, you are the one responsible!

BEATRIZ--(stunned) I? I? You are jesting! (then with haughty resentment) I harm Don Juan, who is my second father!

MENENDEZ--(seeming to grow more icy under her anger) Who has done most in influencing him to softness and lax discipline--

BEATRIZ--(indignantly) You mean because I have pitied the suffering of the Indians--?

MENENDEZ--(dryly) Let us judge your pity by its results. These heathen no longer fear. They defy our Holy Faith. They sneer at baptism. These Indians shirk their labor. And because Don Juan spends his time with you, he has forgotten not only his duty to govern but his oath to seek Cathay. The soldiers and sailors have waited too long in idleness. Now they revere him no longer as a daring general who will lead them to glory but despise him for a dissembler, delaying because he has lost the courage for action! And so they have conspired. Those are the facts. Will you deny your influence is deep at the root of them? (Beatriz is too overwhelmed by the ruthlessness of his attack to reply. He pushes his advantage.) And can you deny that a great change has come over Don Juan since your arrival? You cannot have helped but notice this!

BEATRIZ--He has seemed--to become despondent at times.

MENENDEZ--(vehemently) Spiritless! Infirm! His thoughts wander like a senile old man's! I believe his mind is failing him!

BEATRIZ--(horrified) No! No!

MENENDEZ--You must face the truth! (sternly) When you take a life's ambition from a man like Juan, the man withers away. You have made him forget Cathay. Why? Why have you not urged him to go--for his own sake? When you brought out the patent, you dreamed of him as he dreams of himself--a conqueror and hero!

BEATRIZ--(hesitatingly) Father Luis told me we must keep him here--or else his good work would be undone--

MENENDEZ--This uprising will undo it in an hour! (then soothingly) Father Luis is a good man--but blind. You are a girl--and inexperienced--Come. (He pauses, watching her keenly, then takes her hand, and leading her to the window, pulls back the curtain.) Look!

BEATRIZ--(with a shudder of horror) Ah!

MENENDEZ--Now do you believe in the rebellion--in Juan's danger?

BEATRIZ--(horrified) Fire!

MENENDEZ--And murder! In the Indian villages. See what your pity for them has done! And it will not stop there. That is only the first spark of revolution. They'll march here! (impressively) Beatriz, you can save Don Juan. He loves you--as his daughter. Urge him to sail at once! Rouse the hero in him! Give him back his sanity! He is my old friend. I implore you for his sake, Beatriz!

BEATRIZ--(bewilderedly) Yes--yes--but give me time to think--to pray for guidance--(She kneels before the altar.)

MENENDEZ--(impatiently) There is no time! (There is a noise of hurrying steps and Oviedo enters. He is booted, spurred, covered with dust, his face betraying anxiety and alarm.)

OVIEDO--(without stopping to see who is there, bursts forth) Diego! I tried to check them, but they have gone mad! They are marching on the town! Juan will be lost!

MENENDEZ--(to Beatriz who has turned around in terror) You hear!

OVIEDO--The time has come to abandon that sick fool! We must openly lead this rebellion!

BEATRIZ--(springs to her feet and faces him--her eyes flashing) Coward! (He falls back, his hand on his sword, glaring at her.)

MENENDEZ--(urgently) Go, Beatriz! (She passes Oviedo with a scathing glance, and goes out rear. Menendez turns to Oviedo with an ironical but worried smile.)

MENENDEZ--If she will but speak to Juan as she did to you, we may still win, my friend!

 

(The Curtain Falls)

 

 

SCENE FIVE

 

SCENE--Nano's dungeon--a circular cavern, hollowed out by Nature and cut out by man in the solid rock under the Government house. The enclosed space is narrow but lofty, cylindrical in form. A cut-in flight of steps leads from the floor in rear to a trapdoor above. The high wall glistens with moisture. A small bench is at right. A lantern stands on one of the lower steps. In the middle of the floor stands a soldier, thick-set, brutal-looking, his sleeves rolled up over his muscular arms. He is blowing with a bellows on a charcoal brazier, glowing red-hot, in which are thrust several irons. On the wall in the rear, his toes barely touching the floor, Nano hangs with his arms outstretched over his head, the wrists bound by chains to iron sockets in the rock. His head hangs on one side as if he were in a state of semi-consciousness. His body is thin and wasted.

The trap-door is opened and a circular patch of gray light falls on the stairs. This is obscured as someone descends. It is Juan. He shuts the trap-door behind him and comes down. He stops when he is opposite Nano's head, and, leaning over, stares at the savage's face. The latter opens his eyes. His head stiffens proudly erect on his shoulders. He and Juan stare into each other's eyes. Juan drops his guiltily, turns away and descends to the floor, where the soldier is standing at attention.

 

JUAN--(harshly) Has he spoken?

SOLDIER--Not one word, sir.

JUAN--Then you have not obeyed--

SOLDIER--(indicates the irons in the fire) I have tried every trick I know--but he's made of iron.

JUAN--(looks up at Nano with intense hatred) Dog! (Then he turns to the soldier.) Go and keep guard above.

SOLDIER--Yes, sir. (He bends down to pick up the brazier.)

JUAN--(harshly) No.

SOLDIER--(with a glance at him--understandingly) Yes, sir. (He goes up the stairs, opens the trap-door and disappears, letting it fall shut behind him. Juan sinks on the stone bench at right and stares up at Nano, who looks back at him with unflinching defiance. A pause.)

JUAN--(his eyes now fixed dully on the floor--half-aloud to himself) Diego did not lie. The storm is gathering. (with bitter hopelessness) What matter? I could pray that it might be a deluge annihilating mankind--but for Beatriz. (He groans, then raises his eyes again to Nano.) Why do you look at me? I can never read your eyes. They see in another world. What are you? Flesh, but not our flesh. Earth. I come after--or before--but lost, blind in a world where my eyes deflect on surfaces. What values give you your loan of life? Answer! I must know the terms in which to make appeal! (The savage is silent, motionless. A pause. Then Juan, as if suddenly reminded, jumps to his feet in a frenzy of impatience.) Answer me, dog! I must find the will to act--or be dishonored!

NANO--(solemnly--in a faint voice) The Gods are angry.

JUAN--(with wild joy) You speak! At last! Nano, why have you kept dumb while I implored--?

NANO--The Gods have stopped your ears.

JUAN--(going on obsessed, regardless) Juan Ponce de Leon--to torture a helpless captive! Why did you bring me to such shame? Why would you not answer my question?

NANO--(with contempt) My tongue grew weary. For a moon I answered every day.

JUAN--(fiercely) But you lied! Tell me the truth now! Where is the fountain?

NANO--(indifferently, shutting his eyes) Only the Gods know.

JUAN--The same lie! You told me at first that men of your former tribe knew! You must know! This is your revenge--for the death of your wives and children! Must I swear to you again they were killed in spite of my strict orders? Come! Forget them! I will give you your choice of all your women on the island--your freedom--I will petition the King to honor you--give you back your lands--anything if you will answer me! (Nano remains silent. Juan utters a furious cry and, rushing to the brazier, takes a red-hot coal with the tongs and holds it before the Indian's eyes.) Dog! I will burn that scorn from your eyes! (The Indian stares at the hot iron immovably. Juan lets it fall to the floor with a desperate groan of misery.) Pardon! Forgiveness in Christ's name! It is you who torture me! Nano, I burn to hell! I love! (He suddenly stops, chilled to despair by the implacable isolation in the savage's face. He throws himself down on the bench in an apathy. Finally he slowly draws his sword and speaks in a dead voice.) Either you speak or you die. I swear it.

NANO--(with aloof contempt) What is death?

JUAN--(dully) I will die, too. Perhaps in the grave there is oblivion and peace. (after a pause) You are a fool, Nano. If you would help me I could make you pilot of the fleet to guide us to your land. The fountain once found, you would be free. No harm should come to your people. Do you never long for your old home?

NANO--(who has been listening with quickened interest) Home? To the land of flowers. My home of many warriors. (after a pause) You will let me guide the great winged canoes--to my home?

JUAN--(eagerly) Yes. (in great suspense) Will you help me? Tell me! (He has sprung to his feet.)

NANO--Only the Gods--(He checks himself abruptly.)

JUAN--(frenziedly) Ah! (He raises his sword as if to run the savage through?)

NANO--(looking into Juan's eyes without noticing the threat) The tongues of the white devils are false. How can I trust your word?

JUAN--I take my sacred oath! (He raises his hand.)

NANO--Your God is a God of lies.

JUAN--(wildly) By your God then--since mine has forsaken me!

NANO--(lifts his head and murmurs some supplication, as if begging forgiveness--then looks at Juan with savage triumph) I will guide you--but remember the way is long!

JUAN--(triumphantly) At last! What does it matter how long or difficult! (raising his arms) Ah, God's blood, I already feel new life, the will to live! I can conquer now! (A pounding of a sword-butt on the trap-door. Then it is flung open.)

SOLDIER--Pardon, Excellency--

BEATRIZ' VOICE--(calls down) Don Juan! Don Juan!

JUAN--(exultantly) Her voice! A happy omen! (He hurries up the stairs.)

NANO--(again lifting his eyes to heaven--with religious fervor) Great Spirit, forgive my lie. His blood shall atone!

 

(The Curtain Falls)

 

 

SCENE SIX

 

SCENE--Same as Scene Three--Courtyard of the Governor's House--a stifling twilight. The sky is darkening with clouds.

Beatriz' voice--from the left--calls down as at the end of preceding scene.

 

BEATRIZ--Don Juan! Don Juan! (His voice is heard, "Beatriz." She enters, pale and agitated, runs to rear and looks for signs of the insurrection--then hurries back just in time to meet Juan, who enters, left. He is in a tense state of hectic excitement, his face ghastly pale, his obsessed eyes burning feverishly, his drawn sword still in his hand. She starts back from him, frightened by his appearance.)

JUAN--(in a strained, high-pitched tone) Was it the fountain called--or you, Beatriz? You, for you are the fountain! (He takes her hand impetuously and kisses it.)

BEATRIZ--(flurriedly) I came to warn you--

JUAN--(with a sharp glance) Warn? Then you have seen Diego? Bah! (He makes a gesture of contempt with his sword as if brushing all revolutions aside.) When the hour comes, I shall be strong. The will breathes in me again. Forget all else, Beatriz. Give me your thoughts! Have you been happy here with me?

BEATRIZ--(not knowing what to say or do) Yes--yes. (trying to return to her mission) But--

JUAN--You came as a benediction--that cursed me. (abruptly) Have you not noticed how much older I have grown?

BEATRIZ--(convinced he is out of his head--resolved to humor him--frightened but pityingly) You can become young again.

JUAN--(exultantly) I will! (then mysteriously) This is a strange world with many wonders still undiscovered.

BEATRIZ--(seeing a chance to bring in her point--quickly) Then discover them. The search will make you young.

JUAN--(deeply and superstitiously impressed) From your own lips! It is another blessed augury! (eagerly) But pretend I am young. What then?

BEATRIZ--Why then you would be happy.

JUAN--(intensely) You promise--? Have you never loved?

BEATRIZ--(bewildered) Loved?

JUAN--Since you speak of happiness.

BEATRIZ--I loved my mother--my father--I love you, Don Juan.

JUAN--(avidly) Ah, say that again! Those words are blood to my heart!

BEATRIZ--(earnestly) I love you as I loved my father--

JUAN--(brusquely--wounded to the quick) Has love never stolen into your dreams? You are no nun. Come, tell me the image of the one you dream of as a lover.

BEATRIZ--(resolved to pass this off jestingly) It is a great secret. You insist? Well then, it is your double--(Juan utters a cry of joy, bending toward her. She adds hastily) You as my mother described you in the wars before Granada.

JUAN--(bitterly) When I had youth. But I loved only glory then. Did she not tell you that?

BEATRIZ--Why then--that is why she said, bring him tenderness.

JUAN--(somberly) You have fulfilled her wish--or was it her revenge? (then abruptly) And what if I should myself become that double?--the knight of Granada with your gift of tenderness--what then?

BEATRIZ--(frightened by his strangeness) Ah, now, you are jesting, Don Juan. (She forces a laugh.)

JUAN--(passionately) No, Beatriz! (She instinctively shrinks away from him. He calms himself.) No more now. I fear your laughter. First let the consummation--Then you will not laugh. You--(trying to read her mystified eyes--miserably uncertain) What will you do?

BEATRIZ--(controlling her timidity--softly persuasive) You are ill, Don Juan. Will you listen to my cure for you?

JUAN--Yes.

BEATRIZ--(with energy) Sail and find Cathay!

JUAN--(with a start, tormentedly) You, too, condemn me! But I swear to you I have longed to go! I have hated my own cowardice! I have played the traitor to every dream, every great hope--But, Beatriz, when I go, I will leave my life behind with you. So--until I knew--I was afraid of losing what I have--(then with a quick change to something approaching triumphant decision) But that is past! My will has risen from the dead. It is decreed by your own lips. I shall sail at once!

BEATRIZ--Oh, I am glad!

JUAN--(sadly) Glad I am leaving you?

BEATRIZ--No, I shall be sad and lonely. It is for your own welfare--

JUAN--But promise me one boon--

BEATRIZ--(eagerly) Anything!

JUAN--Promise you will not marry until I return--or you hear I am dead?

BEATRIZ--(confused) I have never even thought of marrying.

JUAN--(in deadly earnest in spite of his pitiful pretense at a joking tone) Until I present my double to you--?

BEATRIZ--(relieved and laughing easily) Why, I might change my mind then, Don Juan.

JUAN--Will you seal that pledge with a kiss? (He forces a smile to conceal his longing.)

BEATRIZ--(uncertainly--forcing a laugh) Yes, Don Juan. (She lifts her face to him. He starts to kiss her on the lips but something in her face stops him and he ends by kissing her reverentially on the forehead--forcing a smile)

JUAN--There--upon your forehead--for remembrance. The other--for tenderness--is still a promise of my dream. (There is a sound of hurrying step and Juan moves away from Beatriz guiltily. Luis enters from the rear. His face is agitated, full of alarm and anxiety.)

BEATRIZ--(greeting him eagerly, glad of the interruption) Father Luis.

LUIS--Juan! I bring you terrible news. (He sees Juan's drawn sword.) Ah, you know! It is time you drew your sword.

JUAN--(scornfully) You mean the scum rises? When I tell them the fleet sails tomorrow--

LUIS--Will you give them Nano to burn at the stake? That is their first demand. (Beatriz gives a horrified cry.)

JUAN--(stunned--unbelievingly) Surrender Nano? No, it is impossible. You have heard rumors--

LUIS--Quesada has roused their cruelty to frenzy. (He points to where a red glow is mounting up in the sky.) See! They are burning the Indian quarter. May God have mercy!

JUAN--(in a rage) Kill Nano? The curs! I shall order a company of my guard--

LUIS--(looking at him pityingly) Your guard is leading the mob! (reproachfully) Juan, Juan, why have you lived in a dream! I warned you time after time. If you had been governor in anything but name--

JUAN--(sinking on the bench--stupidly) Call the guard. I must order them to disperse.

BEATRIZ--(pityingly) His mind is sick--

LUIS--(rather peremptorily) Will you leave us, Beatriz?

BEATRIZ--(obediently) Yes, Father. (then excitedly) I must see Bishop Menendez--(She hurries out, right.)

LUIS--(comes and slaps Juan on the back--sternly) Juan! Awake, in God's name!

JUAN--(startled to action, springs to his feet) I shall protect his life with my own!

LUIS--In order to torture him yourself?

JUAN--(vehemently but guiltily) A lie! (suspicious--resentfully) Have you seen him? I gave orders--

LUIS--It is weeks since I was permitted to see him; and you have avoided meeting me. Why?

JUAN--(harshly) I have no patience with your converting. I need Nano as he is.

LUIS--Because you prefer his heathen myths--

JUAN--(controlling an outburst of rage) Myths? Why myths? Cathay is there. (He points.)

LUIS--I was not speaking of Cathay. You are sailing tomorrow? Does this mean you have finally wrung from this poor Indian's agonies a faith in magic fountains--?

JUAN--(losing control of himself--raging) Fool! You are like those dullards who, when Columbus said the earth was round, brayed at him for blaspheming! Listen to me! I do not believe Nano; I believe in Nature. Nature is part of God. She can perform miracles. Since this land was discovered have we not found wonders undreamed of before? The points in Nano's story hold true to the facts we know. His home is a beautiful mainland--"A land of flowers," in his own words. Is not Cathay also known as the "Flowery Land"? There are great walled cities with roofs of gold inland to the West. Is not that Marco Polo's land beyond all doubt? And the fountain is in Cathay. All the evidence from around the world proves that! And I shall find it!

LUIS--(pityingly) But this evidence is merely fable, legend, the dreams of poets!

JUAN--(furiously) Have praying and fasting made you an imbecile? What evidence had Columbus? And you--you believe Christ lived and died. Well, have you talked with men who saw Him in the manger, or on the cross?

LUIS--Juan, this is blasphemy!

JUAN--(with bitter despair) Then let it be! I have prayed to Him in vain.

LUIS--Juan!

JUAN--(with all the power of his will in the words) Let me be damned forever if Nature will only grant me youth upon this earth again!

LUIS--(horrified) Juan! You defy your God!

JUAN--There is no God but Love--no heaven but youth!

LUIS--(looks at his tortured face intently--suddenly realizes--in a tone of great pity) So that is it--I have been blind. I thought your love saw in her--a child, a daughter!

JUAN--(intensely) A child--yes--for a time--but one morning standing by the fountain she was a woman. More than a woman! She was the Spirit of Youth, Hope, Ambition, Power to dream and dare! She was all that I had lost. She was Love and the Beauty of Love! So I loved her, loved her with all the intensity of Youth's first love--when youth was dead! Oh, it was monstrous folly, I admit. I called myself a senile fool! I suffered with the damned. I lived in hell without the recompense of being dead! And I loved her more--and more! (His head sinks down on his hands. A great sob racks his whole body.)

LUIS--(overcome by compassion, his voice trembling) Old friend--God in His Mercy have pity on you! (He is interrupted by the hurried entrance of Beatriz from the right.)

BEATRIZ--(indignantly) Bishop Menendez says he can do nothing--that you must give Nano up! (The angry tumult of a mob marching is heard from the distance. Frightenedly) Listen! Oh, Don Juan, you will save him, will you not?

JUAN--(starting up--in a voice in which rage and apprehension are blended) I must! (He listens to the rising murmur of the mob. As he does so his whole body stiffens into defiant determination. He becomes in an instant the commander again.) Cowardly rabble! (He springs to the entrance on the left and shouts to the soldier on guard) Bring Nano! (He comes back to where Beatriz and Luis are standing and looks around the courtyard as if measuring his position.) I shall face them here. Take Beatriz away, Luis.

BEATRIZ--I wish to stay with you!

MENENDEZ--(enters from the right) Juan! (seeing his drawn sword--apprehensively) What? You will defy them? Then you are lost! Yield to them, I advise you. Give Nano to justice. (While he is speaking Nano is half carried in by the soldiers. He is limp and exhausted.)

JUAN--(with wild scorn) Ah, High Priest! Deliver him up, eh?

MENENDEZ--Juan! You are impious! (angrily) It is sacrilege--to compare this Indian dog--you mock our Blessed Savior! You are cursed--I wash my hands--His will be done! (He turns and strides back into the house, right.)

LUIS--(at a nearer roar from the mob) Juan! Escape! There is still time--

JUAN--Run from jackals! Is my honor dead?

LUIS--(as a smashing battering sounds from outside) They are at the outer gate! Come, Beatriz, in God's name! (She struggles but he succeeds in getting her as far as the entrance, right. A last crashing smash is heard as the outer gate gives way. A moment later the advance guard of the mob pour in--all of the lower rabble, these. Some wave torches above their heads. All are armed with pikes, knives, and various crude weapons that they have picked up or stolen.)

JUAN--(in a roar of command) Back! (They hesitate for a moment. Then they see Nano and with yells of fury rush for him around the fountain. Juan springs to meet them. With quick thrusts and cuts of his sword he kills or wounds four of the foremost, who drop to the ground. The rest fall back frightened and awed for the moment. In this lull the remainder of the mob pour in from the rear, crowding and jostling each other. They are a nondescript crowd, ranging from nobles, richly dressed, soldiers, sailors, to the riff-raff of the criminal element in bright-colored rags. There are a number of monks among them, Franciscans who urge them on, a few Dominicans who plead for restraint.)

THE MOB--Don Juan! It's the Governor--push back there!--To the flames with the Indian dog! Seize him! Stand aside, Don Juan! Heretic! He's bewitched! The dog refused baptism! Torture!

JUAN--(sternly) I will kill the man who touches this Indian! (He walks up and down before them, his sword ready to thrust, looking from eye to eye--scathingly) Scoundrels! Where is your valor now? Prick up your courage! (mockingly) Come! Who wishes to die?

A NOBLE--We demand justice! (Yells of approval from the crowd. They push in closer. Juan levels his sword at the breast of the nearest who springs back with a frightened cry. The mob sways and surges, close packed and indecisive, cowed by Juan's eyes.)

QUESADA--(suddenly pushing his way to the front of the crowd--pointing at Nano, frantically) Give him up! You are bewitched! (The mob are again aroused. There are cries of "To the stake! Torture!" etc.)

JUAN--No! (Yells of rage. The mob surges forward. Juan raises his sword.) I will kill the first one who--(They recoil again, all but Quesada. With his free hand Juan sweeps him to one side contemptuously--then fiercely threatening the crowd) Will you rebel against the Governor of your King? Then you are traitors to Spain! And, by God's blood, I will hang one of you on every tree! (The crowd gives way by inches, sullenly, their yells reduced for the moment to a rebellious muttering: "The King will remove you! Hang the Indians! Hang them! Hang Nano!" etc.)

A SOLDIER--We mean no harm to you, Don Juan. Keep your word to us. Order the fleet to sail. (a yell of acclamation from the soldiers and sailors)

QUESADA--And give over that dog! The Inquisition shall know you protect infidels!

JUAN--I am Spain's soldier, not the Inquisition's! Soldiers and sailors! I tell you it is in Spain's service this Indian's life is spared. The fleet sails tomorrow--and we need Nano to pilot our voyage! (A tumult from the bewildered crowd. Shouts of various nature: "The fleet sails! Tomorrow! Hurrah! He jokes! He mocks us! Spare him? No luck with a heathen on board! What does he mean? Guide us? No! The curse of the Church!" But the mob is puzzled, blundering, and Juan continues with a sort of condescension as if he were speaking to children.) Silence! Since you are so stupid, I must explain. This Nano was born on the mainland--Cathay!--our goal, do you understand?--and I have put off sailing while I questioned him. We must have his knowledge. He must be our pilot. (with a fierce glance at Nano as if to let his threat strike home) And if he fails in his promise to me, I will gladly give him to you for punishment.

QUESADA--(furiously) You say this to save him!

JUAN--Soldiers, sailors, I appeal to you! Can this mad monk lead you to conquest? You must decide between us. (The crowd are all turning his way, becoming greedily enthusiastic. Juan sees the psychological moment to play a trump card.) But to convince you finally, listen to Nano. Speak, Nano! Tell them what you told me--of the golden cities. Speak! (Then under cover of the crowd's shouts of "Down with the dog! Torture! Hear! Let him speak! Don Juan says let him!" etc., he adds in a fierce whisper to the Indian) If you wish ever to see your home again!

NANO--(mechanically, in a clear monotonous voice, with expressionless face) A big land--far mighty cities--gold--

JUAN--You hear? The cities of gold! (The crowd murmurs excitedly.)

NANO--There is much gold. The houses have gold on them.

A SOLDIER--Cipango! We'll storm their cities for them!

A SAILOR--Loot, my bullies!

JUAN--Glory and gold for all of you! And now go! (The crowd are jubilant. Shouts of "Up anchor! Ahoy Cathay! At last! We sail! Sack! Riches! Gold!" etc. Juan shouts above the tumult) Go! Disperse! Tomorrow we sail! (A voice cries, "Long live Don Juan!" The whole mob takes it up. Juan begins to give way under the strain--wearily) Go. Go.

THE MOB--(led by a sailor, takes up a sort of chanty song in mighty chorus, dancing wildly, waving their torches, crowding out, rear)

 

The Cities of Gold
In far Cathay--
Their great Khan is old,
And his wealth untold
In prize for our bold
Who sail away.
Aye!
His gold for our bold who sail away!!

 

BEATRIZ--(as the last of the mob disappear--rushing up to Juan with great admiration) You have saved him! What they have said of you is true indeed--lion by nature as well as name!

JUAN--(bitterly) Lion? No! Tricky politician! If I had been the Juan of long ago, I would not have plead or bargained with such curs. I would have--(He raises his sword threateningly--then lets his arm sink limply. The sword slips from his fingers and falls to the ground.)

BEATRIZ--(kneels quickly and presents its hilt to him) I give you back your sword--to bring good fortune. Now you must find the golden cities!

JUAN--(taking it--longingly) I care only for the one, Beatriz--the golden city of Youth, where you are queen. (She looks into his face smilingly, mystified as--

 

The Curtain Falls)

 

 

SCENE SEVEN

 

SCENE--Four months later--a strip of beach on the Florida coast--a bright, moonlight night. The forest runs diagonally from right, front, to left, rear--a wall of black shadow. The sand gleams a pallid white in the moonlight. The rhythmic ebb and flow of waves is heard--their voice on a windless night of calm.

As the curtain rises, an Indian is discovered, standing in the moonlight, just out of the shadow of the forest. He is old, but still erect and warrior-like, a chief by his demeanor. His body, naked save for a piece of deerskin at his waist, is elaborately painted, as is his face. A knot of feathers is in his hair. A tomahawk and flint knife are at his waist. He is motionless and silent as a statue, one hand clasping his unslung bow as if it were a staff, but he peers intently at some object in the ocean before him. Finally, he gives an ejaculation of surprise and makes a motion of summons to the forest behind him. The Medicine Man glides out of the darkness to his side. This latter is incredibly old and shrunken, daubed with many insignia in paint, wearing many ornaments of bone and shell. They confer together in low tones with much pantomime. A man is evidently swimming toward them from some strange object out at sea. Other Indians steal from the forest, form a group in the shadow behind the two, point out to sea, gesticulate. At a sharp command from the Chief, they unsling their bows, fit arrows to strings, crouch in an ambush in the shadow. The Chief does likewise and stands waiting, prepared for what may come. Nano walks up the beach from front, left. His naked body glistens with drops of water. He sees the Chief and stops, raising his right hand above his head. The Chief makes a sign. The other Indians dart from their ambush and surround Nano.

 

CHIEF--Bind him.

NANO--(calmly) Is a brother an enemy? (They all start with surprise at hearing their own language. Nano goes on.) This is the land of my fathers. I am Nano, a son of Boanu, who was a chief. (They all stare at him. The Chief makes a sign to the Medicine Man, who comes forward and examines Nano's face intently.)

MEDICINE MAN--His words are truth. He is Nano--or an evil spirit in his body. (He shakes a charm at him.) Are you from the Land of the Dead?

NANO--I am of the living. They did not chain me. They think I fear the sea. I come to warn you. I swam from the great canoes. They are the warships of the Spaniards.

CHIEF--(mystified) What are Spaniards? Their winged canoes are like the boats of Gods.

NANO--These are no Gods. They are men who die from wounds. Their faces are white, but they are evil. They wear shirts that arrows cannot pierce. They have strange sticks that spit fire and kill. Their devils make them strong. But they are not true warriors. They are thieves and rapers of women.

CHIEF--Have they no God?

NANO--(with scorn) Their God is a thing of earth! It is this! (He touches a gold ornament that the Chief wears.)

MEDICINE MAN--(mystified) Gold? Gold is sacred to the Sun. It can be no God itself.

NANO--(contemptuously) They see only things, not the spirit behind things. Their hearts are muddy as a pool in which deer have trampled. Listen. Their Medicine Men tell of a God who came to them long ago in the form of a man. He taught them to scorn things. He taught them to look for the spirit behind things. In revenge, they killed him. They tortured him as a sacrifice to their Gold Devil. They crossed two big sticks. They drove little sticks through his hands and feet and pinned him on the others--thus. (He illustrates. A murmur of horror and indignation goes up among them.)

MEDICINE MAN--To torture a God! How did they dare?

NANO--Their devils protected them. And now each place they go, they carry that figure of a dying God. They do this to strike fear. They command you to submit when you see how even a God who fought their evil was tortured. (proudly) But I would not.

MEDICINE MAN--(suspiciously) If you defied them, how are you alive?

NANO--I am craftier than they. They have an old chief who is cursed with madness. Him I told of the Spring of Life. I said I would find it for him.

MEDICINE MAN--Only the Gods can reveal it. Why have you told this lie?

NANO--(fiercely) Revenge! I have made a plan. Is there a spring near?

CHIEF--(mystified) Yes. In the forest.

NANO--(with satisfaction) Good! Listen. This mad chief is the mightiest among them. Without him they would turn cowards. Tomorrow night I will lead him to the spring. You must lie hidden. We will kill him there. Is this clear?

CHIEF--Yes.

NANO--I will swim back now. I escaped to tell you of my plan and warn you. They would lay waste your land as they did mine. They killed my wives and children. They burned. They tortured. They chained warriors neck to neck. They beat them with a whip to dig in the fields like squaws. This old chief led them. My heart is fire. Until he dies, it will know no peace.

CHIEF--I begin to feel your hatred.

NANO--Then remember to hide by the spring.

CHIEF--We will not forget.

NANO--It is well. (He turns and strides down to the sea. They stand watching him in silence.)

MEDICINE MAN--(uneasily, thoughtful) Only devils could build great canoes that fly with wings. My brothers, they are evil spirits. Nano has made war with them. They have beaten him. Can we trust his plan?

CHIEF--What is your counsel?

MEDICINE MAN--I have heard the voice of the Great Spirit speaking in the night. Let us first try to propitiate their devils.

CHIEF--I do not know how to war with devils. That is your duty. Let us summon the council. (He makes a sign at which his followers disappear silently into the wood. He and the Medicine Man follow as--

 

The Curtain Falls)

 

 

SCENE EIGHT

 

SCENE--The same. High noon of the following day--glaring sunlight on the beach, an atmosphere of oppressive heat and languor. The earth seems dead, preserved in some colorless, molten fluid. The forest is a matted green wall. The sound of the sea has the quality of immense exhaustion.

On the beach, a sort of makeshift altar is being erected--two round boulders supporting a flat slab of rock. On top of the slab is placed a shallow bowl made of bark. A group of Indians, under the direction of the Medicine Man, are hurriedly putting on the finishing touches to this shrine. They keep casting awed apprehensive glances seaward. The Medicine Man is binding two branches of a tree together in the form of a cross. All the Indians are feathered and painted as for an unusual solemn occasion.

 

THE INDIANS--(their eyes on the sea as they work--frightenedly) The small canoes leave the great winged ones. They are coming! The sun gleams on their shirts that arrows cannot pierce. Their fire-sticks glitter in the sun. Their faces are turned. Their faces are pale! They are watching us!

MEDICINE MAN--(finishing his work) Keep your hearts brave! (giving the cross to two Indians) Here. This is their totem pole. Stand it there. (They dig a hole in the sand before the altar and set the cross there; but they make the mistake of setting it head down. The Medicine Man grunts with satisfaction.) They will think we adore the same devil. They will leave us in peace.

INDIAN--(his eyes on the sea) The last canoe has left the great ships. (He gives a cry of fear echoed by the others.) Aie! Fire and smoke! (They cower. The hollow boom of a cannon fired in salute reverberates over the sea. They all shrink with terror, bowing their heads.)

INDIAN--(awe-struck) The Thunder fights with them!

INDIAN--They are white Gods!

MEDICINE MAN--(frightened himself, but rallying his followers sternly) You have the hearts of squaws. Quick! Where is the gold? (An Indian comes to him with an earthenware vessel. He empties it out on the bowl on the top of the altar. It is full of gold nuggets of different sizes. They form a heap glowing in the sun.)

INDIANS--They come! They come!

MEDICINE MAN--(sternly) Pretend to worship their gold devil but pray to our Great Father, the Sun. He can defeat all devils. Pray to him! (An Indian starts to beat rhythmically on the small drum. The Medicine Man lifts his shrill voice in the first strains of the chant. Immediately the others all join in as if hypnotized.) Great Father, Mighty One, Ruler of Earth. Maker of Days. Ripener of the Corn. Creator of Life. Look down upon us out of your Sky-Tent. Let our song rise to you. Let it enter your heart. Mighty One, hear us. Hide not your face in clouds. Bless us at the dawn. And at the day's end. (They form a circle and dance about the altar, their eyes raised to the sun overhead. Their chant hides the noise of the Spaniards landing. Then the Spaniards appear from the left, front. First comes Juan, his face wild and haggard, his eyes obsessed. He is accompanied by Luis. Following him are a squad of soldiers, guarding Nano, who is in chains. Then come four Franciscan monks, led by Quesada, who wears a sword and pistol over his robe. The others carry crosses. Following them is a group of nobles, richly dressed. Then come ranks of soldiers. They all stare at this Indian ceremony with contemptuous scorn.)

JUAN--(irritably) Make them cease their accursed noise, Luis. Let Nano speak to them.

LUIS--(advancing toward the Indians--in a loud but friendly voice, raising his right hand) Peace, brothers. (The Indians stop, petrified, staring with awe at the white men. The Medicine Man lifts his right hand and advances a step toward Luis. Quesada notices the cross, utters a furious exclamation, strides forward to verify his suspicion. When he sees that it is indeed upside down his face grows livid with fury.)

QUESADA--The cross head down! The black mass! (He pulls out his pistol.) Blaspheming dog! (He fires. The Medicine Man falls. The other Indians who have shrunk back toward the woods in terror at his first move, now turn tail in panic and flee.)

LUIS--(in horror) Stop, Quesada! (Quesada pulls up the cross and is setting it back upright when the Medicine Man, by a last dying effort, draws his knife, and writhing to his feet, plunges it into Quesada's back. They both fall together, the Indian dead. Quesada shudders and is still. A yell of rage goes up from the Spaniards. They rush forward toward the woods as if to pursue the Indians but Juan shouts a command.)

JUAN--Halt! Fools! (They stop prudently but sullenly. Juan turns to Luis, who is kneeling beside Quesada.) Is he dead?

LUIS--Yes. (crossing himself) May his soul rest in peace. (All echo this, crossing themselves.)

JUAN--An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. (mockingly) And now it is his eye, his tooth. (then with a shudder) Take him away. This is a bloody baptism for Cathay. (turning to Nano as the soldiers carry the bodies aside) Is this the land, Nano?

NANO--(his eyes smoldering with hate) Yes.

JUAN--You said it was a wonder land--a land of flowers. I see no flowers.

NANO--(in a sinister tone) In the forest--flowers grow by a spring--

JUAN--(harshly--with an apprehensive glance about) Silence!

A NOBLE--(from the group that has been stirring impatiently) Your Excellency. The banners of Castile and Aragon wait on your pleasure.

JUAN--(making a confused gesture as if wiping cobwebs from his brain) Yes--yes--I must take possession. Bring the banners. (He kneels on one knee. They all do likewise.) In the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, and of his most gracious Majesty, the sovereign of Castile and Aragon, I do hereby annex to his dominions this land and all its environs. And I call the land Florida. (He bends and kisses the sand. The banners are planted in the ground, where they hang motionless from their poles. Juan, having made this effort, seems to fall into a stupor.)

A NOBLE--(in a mocking whisper) A pretty name!

A NOBLE--He has grown imbecile. Will he go spring-hunting here, too? My faith, with all the water he has drunk in the past four months, he must be flooded. (They all snicker at this.)

A NOBLE--(impatiently) Will he never get off his knees and let us rise?

LUIS--(sensing what is going on behind their backs--to Juan--who seems to be praying with bowed head--plucking his sleeve) Juan! Come!

JUAN--(vaguely) I was praying--to what God, who knows? (He rises to his feet weakly. At this, they all rise.)

A NOBLE--(pointing excitedly) Look! In that bowl on the stones. Is it not gold? (They all rush forward to the altar. The noble picks up a piece of it--his voice hoarse with greedy triumph) Gold! (They all grab at the bowl, upsetting its contents on the sand. They bend down and clutch for it crying) Gold! This must be a rich land! There must be more! The Golden Cities are near! Cathay at last! (The soldiers forget discipline, break ranks, form a disorderly, pushing crowd about their leaders. Even the monks edge forward inquisitively.)

LUIS--(urgently) Juan! Look! This is disgraceful!

JUAN--(coming to himself with a start--in a furious tone of command) Get back to your ranks! A brave example you set, nobles of Spain! (His personality is compelling. They all slink to their former order again, muttering rebelliously. Juan seems suddenly seized with a wild exultation.) Cathay! We have found Cathay! This is the land--the Flowery Land! Our dreams lie hidden here! Sing the Te Deum! Sing! (There is an oppressive silence for a moment, in which the heat, the sun glaring on the beach, the green of the forest, all nature seems to lay upon these men a mysterious spell, a sudden exhausted recognition of their own defeat. Then the Franciscan monks raise their voices mechanically and spiritlessly in the Te Deum. Other listless voices gradually join theirs as--

 

The Curtain Falls)

 

 

SCENE NINE

 

SCENE--About midnight--in the forest. Gigantic tree-trunks, entwined with vines in flower, are in the foreground. Festoons of Spanish moss hang clear to the ground from the branches. Through the network one sees a circular clearing, grass-grown, flooded with moonlight. There is the soft murmur of a spring which bubbles from the ground in the center of this open space. Indians are crouched in ambush among the trees, motionless, their eyes fixed on the clearing.

The stillness is broken by the whistled call of a bird. The Indians stir alertly. One of them whistles in answer to the call. An Indian creeps swiftly in from the left. The Chief comes from his place of ambush to meet him.

 

CHIEF--He comes?

INDIAN--He has entered the forest.

CHIEF--I will give Nano the signal when we are ready. Go. Hide. (The Indian takes a place with the others. The Chief fits an arrow to his bow and crouches in the shadow. There is a pause of silence--then the noise of someone pushing his way through the woods at the rear of the clearing. Nano appears there, followed by Juan.)

JUAN--Why do you stop?

NANO--This is the place.

JUAN--(looking around him disappointedly) This?

NANO--There is the spring.

JUAN--(stepping forward to look at it--with growing anger) It looks a common spring like any other. Beware, dog! In these past months you have shown me many springs--

NANO--(quickly) The voyage was long. There were many islands. You forced me to lead you to a spring on each. But I told you the Spring of Life was here.

JUAN--I feared your revenge might lie. (relapsed into a mood of somber preoccupation--bitterly) I drank of every one. I closed my eyes. I felt the stirring of rebirth. Fool! Always the mirror in the spring showed me the same loathsome blighted face--(He groans--then with a harsh laugh) A sacred grove, the legend says! Some of those springs bubbled from sandy water! Beautiful maidens? There were none. At one place I found an old hag filling her bowl, who drank and mumbled at me. (then in a harsh tone of command) Nano! I command you to tell me if you have lied. (distractedly) I must have certainty, be it of faith or despair!

NANO--This is the spring.

JUAN--(looking around him) But where are the trees with golden fruit, the maidens, the fountain--? (bewildered, staring--grasping at hope) And yet--this spot has singular beauty. I feel enchantment. But why do I shudder? (A low whistled signal comes from the Chief hidden on the edge of the clearing. Juan starts.) Sssh! What was that?

NANO--A bird. (insistently) It is a magic spring. Drink!

JUAN--(bending over the spring) A mirror of moonlight. The dead eyes of a corpse stare back in mine. (He kneels by the spring as if fascinated.) I dare not drink. To whom can I pray? Beatriz! Oh, to hear your voice once more, to see your face! And yet I see you everywhere. Your spirit inspires all things wherever there is beauty. I hear you call in the song of the waves, the wind is your breath, the trees reach out with your arms, the dawn and sunset promise with your lips! You are everywhere and nowhere--part of all life but mine! (He breaks off, turning distrustful, harried eyes on the impatient Nano--bitterly) I am a spectacle for laughter, eh? A grotesque old fool!

NANO--(in a fierce tone of command) Drink!

JUAN--(hectically--goading himself to action) The test. Spirit of Eternal Youth, I pray to you! Beatriz! (He bends down and drinks. As he does so Nano darts away from him to the woods in front.)

NANO--(hurriedly) Kill when he stands again! (The Indians can be seen raising their bows, taking aim.)

JUAN--(having drunk, remains kneeling by the spring--in a trembling tone of hesitating joy) New life thrills in me! Is it youth? Do I dream? Then let me never wake till the end of time! (then harshly) Coward! How often have you looked death in the face. Are you afraid of life? Open! Open and see! (He opens his eyes and stares down into the spring. A terrible groan tears from his breast.) O God! (His grief is turned immediately into a frenzy of rage.) Treacherous dog. You betrayed me. (He leaps to his feet, drawing his sword. There is a twanging of many bows, the whiz of a flight of arrows. Juan falls, clutches at the grass, is still. The Indians pour out into the clearing but keep a cautious distance from Juan.)

NANO--(With more courage than they, he bends down over the body.) He wore no shining shirt. He is dead. (He does a wild dance of savage triumph beside the body--then stops as suddenly.) Quick. To their camp. The great Spirit has made them helpless. Be brave and kill! (He runs swiftly into the woods, followed by the whole band, brandishing their weapons. There is a pause. Then the fierce yells of the savages as they fall upon the sleeping camp, the howls of terror of the Spaniards, the screams of the dying, a few futile musket-shots.)

 

(The Curtain Falls)

 

 

SCENE TEN

 

SCENE--The same clearing in the woods some hours later. There is no intervening fringe of trees in this scene, the open space is in full view. The Spring is at center. The wall of forest forms a semicircular background. As the curtain rises, there is a pitch-blackness and silence except for the murmur of the Spring. Then the sound of someone struggling to rise from the ground, falling back again with a groan of pain. Juan's voice comes out of the darkness.

 

JUAN--(as if he had just regained consciousness--then with a groan of rage and pain as memory returns) Fool! Why did I look? I might have died in my dream. (a pause--weakly) Sleep seems humming in my ears. Or is it--death!--death, the Merciful One! (He stirs and his voice suddenly grows strident.) No, No! Why have I lived! To die alone like a beast in the wilderness? (with a bitter mocking despair) O Son of God, is this Thy justice? Does not the Savior of Man know magnanimity? True, I prayed for a miracle which was not Thine. Let me be damned then, but (passionately) let me believe in Thy Kingdom! Show me Thy miracle--a sign--a word--a second's vision of what I am that I should have lived and died! A test, Lord God of Hosts! (He laughs with a scornful bravado.) Nothing! (But even as he speaks a strange unearthly light begins to flood down upon a spot on the edge of the clearing on the right. Startled in spite of himself) This light--the moon has waned--(Beneath the growing light a form takes shape--a tall woman's figure, like a piece of ancient sculpture, shrouded in long draperies of a blue that is almost black. The face is a pale mask with features indistinguishable save for the eyes that stare straight ahead with a stony penetration that sees through and beyond things. Her arms are rigid at her sides, the palms of the hands turned outward. Juan stares at her, defiance striving with his awe.) What are you? (forcing a sneer) An angel in answer to my prayer? (He cannot control a shudder--tries to calm himself. He stares at the figure--after a pause, boldly) Or are you Death? Why then I have often laughed in your eyes! (tauntingly) Off with your mask, coward! (mockingly but uneasy) Delightful Lady, you are enigmatic. One must embrace you with bold arms, tear off your masquerade. That was my pastime once--to play at love as gaming. Were I the Juan of long ago--but you see I am old now and wounded. (He pauses. The figure is frozen. He asks a bit falteringly) Are you--Death? Then wait--(in passionate invocation) O Beatriz! Let me hear your voice again in mercy of farewell! (As if in answer to this the voice of Beatriz sings from the darkness)

VOICE--

 

Love is a flower
Forever blooming
Life is a fountain
Forever leaping
Upward to catch the golden sunlight
Upward to reach the azure heaven
Failing, falling,
Ever returning,
To kiss the earth that the flower may live.

 

JUAN--(raptly) Youth! (As the song is sung, the same mystical light floods down slowly about the Spring, which is transformed into a gigantic fountain, whose waters, arched with rainbows, seem to join earth and sky, forming a shimmering veil, which hides the background of forest. Juan and the figure are left at the edge of this, on the outside. The form of Beatriz appears within as if rising from the spring. She dances in ecstasy--the personified spirit of the fountain. Juan cries with a voice trembling with joy) The Fountain! Let me drink! (He tries to drag himself to it but cannot--in anguish) Must I die--? (making a furious gesture of defiance at the figure and struggling to rise) No! I defy you! (Exhausted, he sinks back crying beseechingly) Beatriz! (But she seems not to see or hear him. Juan half sobs in despair) She will not see! She will not hear! Fountain, cruel as the heart of youth, what mercy have you for the old and wounded? (He sinks down overcome by weakness. Beatriz vanishes from the fountain. In her place appears the form of a Chinese poet. He is a venerable old man with the mild face of a dreamer and scholar. He carries a block and writes upon it with a brush, absorbed in contemplation. Juan looking up and seeing him--startled) What are you? (groping at some clue in his memory) I know--that night in Granada--the Moor's tale--(excitedly) Of the poet from the East who told his father the Fountain lie! Are you not that poisoner of life? (The poet raises his hand as if in summons. The form of the Moorish minstrel of Scene One appears at his side.) The Moor! (raging) Infidel dog! Your lie has cursed me! (The form of Nano appears at the other side of the Chinese poet. Juan struggles to reach his sword in a fury.) Murderer! (Then his eyes are caught by a fourth figure which materializes beside the Moor. It is Luis as he was in Scene One. With a cry of joy) Luis--old friend--(Then as Luis seems neither to see nor hear him, he sink back helplessly.) No--another mocking phantom! (He watches the Chinese poet, who seems to be reading what he has written to all of them.) See! The dead lie to the living. It passes on--from East to West--round the round world--from old worlds to new--cheating the old and wounded--Ha! (He laughs harshly and wildly. The Chinese poet takes the Indian by one hand, the Moor by the other. These latter stretch out their hands to Luis, who takes them, thus completing the circle. Beatriz' voice can be heard singing)

VOICE--

 

Life is a field
Forever growing
Beauty a fountain
Forever flowing
Upward beyond the source of sunshine
Upward beyond the azure heaven,
Born of God but
Ever returning
To merge with earth that the field may live.

 

(As she sings, the four forms disappear as if they were dissolved in the fountain.)

JUAN--(lost in the ecstasy of her song) Sing on, Youth! (with a start as the song stops--stupidly) The ghosts are gone. What is the answer to their riddle? I am no poet. I have striven for what the hand can grasp. What is left when Death makes the hand powerless? (addresses the figure pitifully, trying to mock) O Mighty Relaxer of hands, have you no vision for the graspers of earth? (The figure raises a summoning hand. One by one, within the fountain, solemn figures materialize. First the Chinese poet, now robed as a Buddhist priest; then the Moorish minstrel, dressed as a priest of Islam; and then the Medicine Man as he was in Scene Eight, decked out in all the paint and regalia of his office; lastly, Luis, the Dominican monk of the present. Each one carries the symbol of his religion before him. They appear clearly for a moment, then fade from sight, seeming to dissolve in the fountain. Juan has stared at them with straining eyes--in a bewildered voice) All faiths--they vanish--are one and equal--within--(awe and reverence creeping into his voice) What are you, Fountain? That from which all life springs and to which it must return--God! Are all dreams of you but the one dream? (bowing his head miserably) I do not know. Come back, Youth. Tell me this secret! (For a moment the voice of Beatriz is heard from the darkness.)

 

Death is a mist
Veiling sunrise.

 

(Juan seems to fall into a rapt spell. The form of an old Indian woman appears from the left. She falters forward, a wooden bowl under her arm, as if she were going to fill it at the fountain.)

JUAN--(recognizing her aghast) Damned hag! I remember you waited beside a spring to mock me! Begone! (But the old woman stretches out her hands to him with a mysterious beseeching. Juan shudders--then after a struggle with himself gets to his feet painfully.) So be it. Sit here by me. I am old, too--and, poor woman, you cannot fill your bowl there. Come. (He grasps her hands. In a flash her mask of age disappears. She is Beatriz. Juan gazes at her in an ecstasy--faltering, his mind groping) Beatriz! Age--Youth--They are the same rhythm of eternal life! (Without his noticing it, Beatriz recedes from him and vanishes in the Fountain. He raises his face to the sky--with halting joy) Light comes! Light creeps into my soul! (Then he sees the figure walk slowly from its place and vanish in the Fountain.) Death is no more! (The figure materializes again within the Fountain but this time there is no mask, the face is that of Beatriz, her form grown tall, majestic, vibrant with power. Her arms are raised above her head. Her whole body soars upward. A radiant, dancing fire, proceeding from the source of the Fountain, floods over and envelops her until her figure is like the heart of its flame. Juan stares at this vision for a moment, then sinks on his knees--exultantly) I see! Fountain Everlasting, time without end! Soaring flame of the spirit transfiguring Death! All is within! All things dissolve, flow on eternally! O aspiring fire of life, sweep the dark soul of man! Let us burn in thy unity! (Beatriz' voice rises triumphantly)

VOICE--

 

God is a flower
Forever blooming
God is a fountain
Forever flowing.

 

(The song ceases. The light fades. There is darkness. Juan's voice is heard sobbing with happiness.)

JUAN--O God, Fountain of Eternity, Thou art the All in One, the One in All--the Eternal Becoming which is Beauty! (He falls unconscious. A pause. Then the faint misty light of the dawn floats over the clearing. Juan is seen lying where he had fallen. There is the noise of someone approaching from the woods in the rear, Luis and a brother Dominican enter from the forest.)

LUIS--(seeing Juan) God be praised! (He rushes forward and kneels by Juan's body. Juan stirs and groans.) He moves! Juan! It's Luis! Our friends were murdered. A boat from the fleet is waiting--

JUAN--(in a dreaming ecstasy) God--Thou art all--

DOMINICAN--He prays.

LUIS--Delirium. Let us carry him. We'll sail for the nearest settlement--

JUAN--(as they raise him) Light! I see and know!

LUIS--It is the dawn, Juan.

JUAN--(exultantly) The dawn! (They carry him out as

 

The Curtain Falls)

 

 

SCENE ELEVEN

 

SCENE--Some months later. The courtyard of a Dominican monastery in Cuba. A crude little home-made fountain is in center. This is the only adornment of the quadrangle of bald, sun-baked earth, enclosed on the left and in the rear by a high white wall, on the right by the monastery building itself. The entrance to this is an arched doorway surmounted by a crucifix of carved wood. Two niches on either side of this door shelter primitive wooden figures of the Holy Family and Saint Dominic. In the wall, center, is another arched door with a cross above it. Beyond the wall nature can be seen and felt--vivid, colorful, burgeoning with the manifold, compelling life of the tropics. Palm trees lean over the wall casting their graceful shadows within. Vines in flower have climbed to the top and are starting to creep down inside.

A sunset sky of infinite depth glows with mysterious splendor.

As the curtain rises, Juan and the Father Superior are discovered. Juan is asleep, reclining on a sort of improvised invalid's chair, his cloak wrapped around him, facing the fountain. He is pale and emaciated but his wasted countenance has gained an entirely new quality, the calm of a deep spiritual serenity. The Father Superior is a portly monk with a simple round face, gray hair and beard. His large eyes have the opaque calm of a ruminating cow's. The door in the rear is opened and Luis enters. He closes the door carefully and tiptoes forward.

 

LUIS--(in a whisper) He is sleeping?

FATHER SUPERIOR--As you see, Father.

LUIS--(looking down at Juan) How calm his face is--as if he saw a vision of peace.

FATHER SUPERIOR--It is a blessed miracle he has lived so long.

LUIS--He has been waiting. (sadly) And now, I am afraid his desire is fulfilled--but not as he dreamed. Rather the cup of gall and wormwood--

FATHER SUPERIOR--(mystified) You mean the caravel brings him bad tidings?

LUIS--Yes; and I must wake him to prepare his mind.

FATHER SUPERIOR--I will leave you with him. It is near vesper time. (He turns and goes into the monastery.)

LUIS--(touching Juan on the arm--gently) Juan, awake. (Juan opens his eyes.) The caravel has anchored.

JUAN--From Porto Rico?

LUIS--Yes.

JUAN--(with an air of certainty--with exultant joy) Then Beatriz is here!

LUIS--(disturbed--evasively) There has been a frightful insurrection of the Indians. Diego was killed. (hastily) But I will not trouble you with that. (then slowly) Beatriz comes to nurse you--(with warning emphasis)--her second father, those were her words.

JUAN--(smiling) You need not emphasize. I know her heart. (then earnestly) But I must tell her my truth. (then with a sort of pleading for assurance) It is for that I have waited, to tell her of the love I bore her--now--as farewell--when she cannot misunderstand. (proudly) My love was no common thing. It was the one time Beauty touched my life. I wish to live in her memory as what she was to me. (sinking back--with a flickering smile, weakly) Come, old friend, are you grown so ascetic you deny my right to lay this Golden City--the only one I ever conquered--at the feet of Beauty?

LUIS--(kindly persuasive) Silence is better, Juan. You should renounce--

JUAN--(gently) All is renounced. But do you begrudge a traveler if he begs a flower from this earth, a last token of the world's grace, to lend farewell the solace of regret?

LUIS--(more and more troubled) Juan--I--I speak because--you have suffered--and now--I would not have you suffer more, dear friend. (then blurting out most brusquely) The caravel brings you a surprise. Your nephew, Juan, has arrived from Spain and comes from Porto Rico to greet you.

JUAN--(vaguely) My nephew? (The sound of voices comes from inside the monastery.) Beatriz! (The Father Superior appears in the doorway ushering in Beatriz and Juan's nephew. They are followed by the Duenna and the nephew's servant, who carries his master's cloak and a lute. During the following scene these two remain standing respectfully by the doorway for a time, then go back into the monastery, the servant leaving the cloak and lute on the ground beside the doorway. The Father Superior retires immediately. Luis, after a clasp of Juan's hand, also withdraws, exchanging greetings as he passes the nephew and Beatriz. Beatriz glows with fulfillment, is very apparently deeply in love. The nephew is a slender, graceful young cavalier. He is dressed richly.)

BEATRIZ--(halting a moment with a shocked exclamation as she sees Juan's wasted face--then rushing forward and flinging herself on her knees beside his chair. Hastily) Don Juan! Oh, this is happiness--to find you still--recovered from your wounds! Oh, I'll say prayers of thanksgiving! (Impulsively she kisses him.)

JUAN--(thrilled--choked--unable to say but one word) Beatriz! Beatriz!

NEPHEW--(kneels and kisses Juan's hand. Startled, Juan's eyes search his face keenly, apprehensive of what he, too, plainly sees there.) I greet you, sir. God grant you may soon be strong again.

JUAN--(weakly) Soon--I shall be strong--against all wounds. (after a pause) And so your name is Juan, too?

NEPHEW--In your honor. Though I can add no honor to it, I hope to bear it worthily.

JUAN--(hostility creeping into his tone) You come out here adventuring?

NEPHEW--I come to serve Spain!

JUAN--(harshly) A heart as steeled as your sword. Have you that?

BEATRIZ--(eagerly--somewhat hurt by Juan's reception) Oh, he is brave! When the mob tried to storm the palace it was Juan who led the defenders.

JUAN--(more and more agitated--trying to hide his growing resentment under effusive amiability) Bravely done! But you have doubtless heard great tales of mountains of jewels--Golden Cities of Cathay--you hope to grow rich.

NEPHEW--(proudly) I do not care for riches; and as for Golden Cities, I only wish to plant Spain's banner on their citadels!

JUAN--(inspired by respect in spite of himself) Brave dreams! Echoes blown down the wind of years.

BEATRIZ--(looking at the nephew with great pride as Juan searches her face) He is as you were in my mother's tales. (She and the nephew are held by each other's eyes.)

JUAN--(after a conquering struggle with his bitterness--fatalistically) So--thus old heart--in silence. (then rousing himself--intensely) But with joy! with joy! (They look at him in puzzled alarm. He smiles gently at Beatriz.) Then you have found him at last--my double?

BEATRIZ--(blushing, confusedly) I--I do not know, Don Juan.

JUAN--Then I know. (musing a bit sadly) You have stolen my last gesture. An old man had a tale to tell you--oh, so brave a tale!--but now he sees that if youth cannot, age must keep its secrets! A sad old ghost to haunt your memory, that would be a poor wedding gift. (They again look from him to each other, mystified and apprehensive. Juan suddenly looks up at them--with a startling directness) You love each other! (He hurries on with feverish gayety.) Forgive--I'm a rough soldier--and there is need for haste. Quick. Do you not ask my blessing?

BEATRIZ--(falling on her knees beside him--happily) Oh, yes, good Don Juan! (The nephew kneels beside her.)

JUAN--(He raises his hands over their heads.) Youth of this earth--love--hail--and farewell! May you be blessed forever! (He touches their heads with his hands--then sinks back, closing his eyes. They rise and stand looking down at him uncertainly.)

NEPHEW--(after a pause--in a whisper) He wishes to sleep.

BEATRIZ--(as they walk apart, in a whisper, the tears in her eyes) Oh, Juan, I'm afraid--and yet--I am not sad.

NEPHEW--(takes her in his arms passionately) My life! My soul! (He kisses her.)

BEATRIZ--My love!

NEPHEW--Life is beautiful! The earth sings for us! Let us sing, too! (He strides over to where the lute is and picks it up.)

BEATRIZ--(happily) Yes--(then reminded) Ssshh! (She points at Juan.)

NEPHEW--(urgingly) He is asleep. We can go out beyond the walls. (He puts his arms around her and leads her out through the door in rear.)

JUAN--(opening his eyes and looking after them, a tender smile on his lips) Yes! Go where Beauty is! Sing! (From outside the voices of Beatriz and his nephew are heard mingling in their version of the fountain song.)

 

Love is a flower
Forever blooming
Beauty a fountain
Forever flowing
Upward into the source of sunshine,
Upward into the azure heaven;
One with God but
Ever returning
To kiss the earth that the flower may live.

 

(Juan listens in an ecstasy, bows his head, weeps. Then he sinks back with closed eyes exhaustedly. Luis enters from the monastery.)

LUIS--(hurries forward in alarm) Juan! (He hears the song and is indignant) Have they lost all feeling? I will soon stop--(He starts for the door in rear.)

JUAN--(in a ringing voice) No! I am that song! One must accept, absorb, give back, become oneself a symbol! Juan Ponce de Leon is past! He is resolved into the thousand moods of beauty that make up happiness--color of the sunset, of tomorrow's dawn, breath of the great Trade wind--sunlight on grass, an insect's song, the rustle of leaves, an ant's ambitions. (in an ecstasy) Oh, Luis, I begin to know eternal youth! I have found my Fountain! O Fountain of Eternity, take back this drop, my soul! (He dies. Luis bows his head and weeps.)

FATHER SUPERIOR--(enters from the right) Vespers. (then in a voice of awe as he stares at Juan) Is he--dead?

LUIS--(aroused--exaltedly) No! He lives in God! Let us pray. (Luis sinks on his knees beside Juan's body, the Father Superior beside him. He lifts his eyes and clasped hands to heaven and prays fervently. The voices of Beatriz and the nephew in the fountain song seem to rise to an exultant pitch. Then the chant of the monks swells out, deep and vibrant. For a moment the two strains blend into harmony, fill the air in an all-comprehending hymn of the mystery of life as

 

The Curtain Falls)

 

This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia