The Blackbirds: Comedietta



GELOSA . . Queen.

JANE Maid.

JOHN . Servant.

BIANCO NERO } Princes.

VOLATILE .... Princess.


Guards, Attendants, etc.


Hall of palace. Queen sitting at. dinner. Enormous pie on the table. John waiting. Musicians, etc.

Queen. John, tell his majesty the dinner’s served, for doubtless he has quite forgotten it.

John. I ’ll go, your majesty. [Exit.

Queen. These men are so provoking with their ways; each worse than other. My departed lord would rave like bedlam were the dinner served a minute late. The king is just as bad; he never knows when ’t ’s dinner time at all.

Enter John.

John. His majesty will be here in an instant.

Queen. An instant, yes! His instants are like days in Jupiter; he’s no idea of time. A sun-dial under a cloudy sky would know as well. [Calls.] Alfred Silurian! Why don’t you come?

King [without]. Yes, my love, as soon as I have finished one word more of this inscription.

Queen. Bother your inscriptions, the paltry things! They never had a sense when men could read them, much less have they now. Do come!

Enter King, looking at a coin.

King. Oh rare and beautiful! A Pharaoh’s coin, two tigers gamboling upon a bank, on the reverse a legend, FULEPAUP: in English, Make your game. A glorious coin!

Queen. Oh, do let your coins alone and come to dinner! How can you be engaged in that useless nonsense!

King. Entrancing science! And it all began with only half a sixpence.

Queen. Yes, I see, Alfred Silurian; you can’t blind me; I see it plainly, ’t is a love affair; there is a woman in it. It’s a pledge, — some giddy thing you ’ve broke a sixpence with.

King. What cause for jealousy ? ’T was years ago, long ere I married, and she wed a duke; I have not seen her now these twenty years.

Queen. No cause! I should like to know if there’s no cause when a married man keeps tokens of a first love. A rival is a rival, married or single, dead or alive. To think that I have wasted my blooming youth on a faithless profligate that treasures in his bosom a prior attachment! What monsters of iniquity men are !

King. I should n’t think you would have tried a second monster.

Queen. Oh, my poor departed husband was the one exception. I was his only love.

King. I should n’t be surprised. He was too ill-tempered to be civil to more than one woman in his life.

Queen. How dare you thus abuse my first love! Sweet-tempered angel, look at him.

[ Takes a locket from her bosom and holds it to him open.

King. That is a pleasant expression.

Queen. No, that’s you, you odious creature! [Turning it over.] The other side. There, see those transcendent features. It serves me right for marrying again. To he deceived by a treacherous. . . .

King. Good! go on: such scolding is one of the tribulations men get to heaven by. I shall soon be ready to he canonized.

Queen. Never! I’ll be no means of grace to you. I’ll be a patient and obedient wife first. You shall never have a chance to claim credit for your forbearance to me ; I will be the injured one myself.

King. Well, either way you like. Both have their compensations.

Queen. Then do let’s cut the pie.

King. What is it ?

Queen. Blackbirds.

King. No !

Queen. Yes, four-and-twenty fat ones.

King. Delicious ! ’T is my favorite game.

Queen. I had forgotten that. I never would have had them. Next time I ’ll ask you first.

King. I ’ll say the contrary, ami checkmate you.

Queen. Then I will have it as you say, and spite you so.

King. Then I ’ll double again. I shall always be one move ahead. But to-day, by accident, we both agree. You cannot change it now. So I ’ll cut the pie. Strike up the music.

[Musicians play. King begins to cut the pie. Chorus is heard very gently, “ Sing a song of sixpence.”

Queen. Hark I what’s that?

King [stopping]. Oh, it ’s nothing but a Christmas carol outside.

Queen. No ! Listen ! it is in the pie. Just hear what they ’re singing. About a sixpence. It’s a reproof to you. The power’s above take notice of your faithlessness.

King. Pshaw, nonsense! That’s a woman’s whim. The song ’s a common one. Anybody can sing it.

Queen. No. It’s ominous. I have a presentiment.

King. Bah, of course you have ; women always do.

Queen. This is of some great event. Pray Heaven it may be prosperous.

King. Let us hope so, by all means. So here goes.

[King begins to take off the cover. It flies up and there come out first a princess, who runs and falls at thefeet of the Queen, then two princes, Nero and Bianco, who cross swords in front.1

Princess. Dear lady, help me! Pray don’t let them fight !

Nero. Fool !

Bianco. Knave !

King. What means this broil, and wherefore came you here ?

Nero. Your majesty . . .

Bianco. Sire . . .

Nero. May it please your majesty, this milksop here . . .

Bianco. Revered sire, this ill-scheming villain . . .

Nero. May it please your majesty, this milksop here has had the weakness . . .

Bianco. Revered sire, this ill-scheming villain has the presumption . . .

Nero. May it please your majesty, this milksop here has had the weakness to become enamored . . .

Bianco. Revered sire, this ill-scheming villain has the presumption to propose . . .

Nero. May it please . . .

King. Untimely rioters, be silent — hold your tongues ! If you can’t agree to talk one at a time, let this young woman tell us something. What are you here for ? Who are you ? Why this unseemly altercation ?

Princess. Your majesty, I am a poor orphan brought up at a neighboring castle. These are two young gentlemen that live there. A most unheard-of chance has brought us here.

In a forest where the boughs enlacing
Wove a canopy of green,
Passed a comely youth and maid slow pacing
Mossy trunks between.
Chorus. oh, tragic history,
Oh, wondrous mystery,
A youth and maid were seen
Quickly starting from a neighboring thicket,
With his flashing rapier bare,
Pouring fierce oaths like an open spicket,
Stood a rival there.
Chorus. Oh, tragic history,
Oh, wondrous mystery,
Behold the frightened pair !
Not a word he to the maiden uttered,
But with scorn the youth addressed, “ If you know which side your bread is buttered,
Go, young man, go West.”
Chorus. Oh, tragic history,
Oh, wondrous mystery,
Here ’s jealousy confessed !
Thrust and parry in an angry scrimmage
Did those jealous rivals bold.
Stood the maiden like a plaster image,
Chilled with horror cold.
Chorus. Oh, tragic history,
Oh, wondrous mystery,
Oh, fury uncontrolled !
Then some sorceress or kindly fairy
Rivals, maid, and retinue
Changed to blackbirds, and to regions airy
Chattering off they flew.
Chorus. Oh, tragic history,
Oh, wondrous mystery,
Oh, what an awful stew !
Caught and baked were we with paste around us,
Seasoned a la sauce Tartare ;
Then you took the cover off and found us,
And so here we are.
Chorus. Oh, tragic history,
Oh, wondrous mystery,
That is too strong by far !

King. ’T is marvelous indeed !

Queen. I told you so, and has a deep significance.

King. But say, young woman, know you these two rivals well?

Princess. I only saw them rarely in the park.

Queen. Have you encouraged them ?

Princess. So as a maid not impolite might+ give encouragement to flattering youths inclined to flirt, — no more.

Queen. A dangerous sport, the cause of many woes !

King. Quite like her sex ; their web has many threads, and each may catch a fly.

Queen. Their natural prey. But not too many ; one is quite enough.

Princess. I’m sure I meant no harm. Men are such fools !

Nero. She has as good as accepted me.

Bianco. ’T is false ! She’s sworn undying constancy to me.

Nero. She smiles a greeting when we meet.

Bianco. Conceited puppy ! She presses my hand at parting.

Nero. She trembles when I enter the apartment.

Bianco. She may well, seeing so conscienceless a reprobate. But she blushes whenever I address her.

Nero. She ought to blush for shame, a girl of sense, to speak to such a ninny.

Bianco. She wears the flowers I give her.

Nero. She is the idol of my soul’s devotion.

Bianco. She is my sovereign mistress. I will maintain my claim against the universe.

Nero. I will exterminate any presumptuous rival that dares mention her name.

Bianco. The Princess Volatile is mine.

Nero. Liar ! She’s mine.

[They fight.

King. Ho, guards, arrest them. [ They give up their swords.] Young woman, speak ; which is the favored lover?

Princess. May it please your majesty, I cannot yet decide.

King. Then take one of them forthwith ; the other shall be executed instantly. Prepare the block !

Queen. For shame — to force a woman’s inclination in such haste ! Give her time. We ’ll entertain them in the palace and await the event. Whichever one she choose, the other ’ll doubtless hang himself and save us trouble.

[Gesture of assent from Bianco and of dissent from Nero.

King. No. They ’ve spoiled our royal dinner, they disturb the peace. And more, I doubt me much they may be tramps. Perhaps ’t is their intent to rob the palace.

Queen. Suspicious monster ! I’m sure their tale is true.

King. Silence, woman, you ’re an unbalanced sentimentalist ! Go read The Nation ! The public peace demands it. Let them be confined. Guards, conduct them to the Square Tower.

Queen. Oh, never mind, my dears ! It will not be severe. You ’ll find the cells attractive. They ’re furnished by the Household Art Company on plans of Eastlake.

Princess. Oh !

Nero. Has n’t your majesty a convenient. dungeon ?

Bianco. Or a comfortable rack ? We should prefer them much.

Queen. Ungrateful creatures ! I am President of the Criminal Comfort Society. You ’ll find all modern conveniences, Psyche mirrors . . .

Princess. Oh, how charming!

Queen. Electric bells and speakingtubes. I ’ll call a meeting instantly to bewail your fate, and circulate petitions for your discharge.

King. Enough. Conduct them, guards. [They go out with guards.] These people touch me strangely. The maiden is of a rare beauty. She, at least, might lodge more regally.

Queen. Never ! I ’ll have no gay coquettes inside the palace. You deceitful creature, with your broken sixpences and tokens, you are not to be trusted ! I ’ll countermine your schemes. Don’t even speak to her but in my presence. But the girl is an attractive creature. She reminds me of my dear departed — Ah!

King. Well, what now ?

Queen. My lost Amanda ! Her envious relatives stole her away after my husband’s death. She should be just her age. Can it be she?

King. Oh, gammon! She might more likely be the child of . . .

Queen. Silence! Don’t dare to speak of her, the brazen creature, the rival of your lawful wife. This girl is infinitely handsomer. My husband had such hair and eyes.

King. A hideous, squinting lout, of sinister aspect. I knew him well.

Queen. Unfeeling wretch ! — to trifle with the sorrow of a wife and mother.

Enter Maid, with fruit.

Maid. Will you have dessert now ?

Queen. Oh, what is it ?

King. I will have none. I have no appetite for mortal food. These things unhinge my soul.

Queen. You ’re thinking of that jade and her sixpence. You know you are.

King. Woman, leave me ; your vile suspicions are unseasonable.

Maid. ’T is apples of Sodom, your majesty, and sour grapes.

Queen. Ugh ! take them away, I’ve had a surfeit of them. I ’ll drown my sorrows with my bread and honey in the kitchen. [Exit Queen.

King. Maid, remove the dinner, but beware lest thou disturb the cover of the pie. It holds a legion of enchanted folk. Already has it sent forth three whose state and history perplex us much.

Maid. Oh my ! [Exit King.] Enchanted people ? I should like to see them so. And it’s so lonesome here. Heighho ! John’s of no use; he’s such a stupid dolt. Oh, if one should be a prince, and marry me !

I should like a handsome lover,
Tall and fair with eyes of blue,
Round whose full-arched temples hover
Crispy curls of chestnut hue.
But if such I can't discover,
Why, a plainer one will do ;
lovers NOW, alas, are few,
So a plainer one will do.
I should like a high-born lover,
Rich in generous virtues too,
One whose pride of birth shall cover
No base deed nor thought untrue.
But if such I can't discover,
Why, a humbler one will do.
lovers now, alas, are few ;
So a humbler one will do.
I should like a wealthy lover,
Who with costly gifts will woo,
So that I may live in clover,
Diamonds wear and fashions new.
But if such I can’t discover,
Why, a poorer one will do.
lovers now, alas, are few ;
So a poorer one will do.
I should like a constant lover,
Ne'er his love to change or rue,
But to find till life is over
Charms in me still fresh and new.
But if he should prove a rover,
Why, another one will do.
Flying love I ’ll ne’er pursue,
For another one will do.

Oh dear, I was born a princess, I am sure. I must have been changed at nurse. I feel Sometimes a lofty spirit. This servile life is irksome to me. I feel I have a destiny. I will try the pie for just one . . . Oh, mercy, suppose it should be a woman ! Horrors, one less chance for me! I won’t risk it. Oh, pooh, it’s sure to be a man ! The men always crowd out first everywhere. I must — I must. Oh, I wonder what he ’ll be like! If it should be a prince ! [ Steps cautiously to the pie.] I will — no, I won’t. What should I do with him ? Oh, I could hide him somewhere ; or perhaps he’d run away with me. Wouldn’t that be divine ! Oh !

[ Takes up the cover. A page jumps out and falls at her feet.

Page. Ah, to what heavenly regions have I soared ? or if thou art of mortal mold, fair maid, what land is this, that boasts such beauty rare ?

Maid. I ’m but a simple serving maid, fair sir.

Page. Then are you, sure, of noble birth, by arts of sorcery to servile tasks abased.

Maid [aside]. I always said so. I knew it all the time.

Page. Ah, deign to turn on me those beauteous eyes, that I may bask in their effulgent gleam.

Maid. Your looks and language please me, certainly ; but if I be of lineage high, it fits me not to be too forward with strange folk.

Page. I’m not a stranger, for our souls have met in other states of being . . .

Maid. Hark ! — what ’s that ? Oh, mercy, ’t is the king ! What shall I do ? Oh, go, run, hide !

Page. Let him come in ; I fear him not.

Maid. Courageous heart ! But women, timid souls, are filled with fear. Spare me the test.

Page. Then show me a hiding-place.

Maid. Here, here, a bag. Some call it pocket. It is meant for rye.

[ Puts him in the bag and sets him in the corner.

Enter King.

King. Come, lazy maid, why this delay ? The table here? ’T will soon be supper-time, and nought prepared. For now I do bethink me, we have had no dinner. Once and again I ’ve counted o’er my coins, and shrewdly does my stomach cry for food. And why this pocket full of rye ? It should not thus be standing in the banquet-hall of kings.

Maid. Oh, don’t disturb it, your majesty. Maybe it is enchanted like the pie. Perhaps a man is in it.

[King draws back.

King. ’T were well to try. I’ll pierce it with my sword.

Maid. Please don’t ! If it’s enchanted, the least bit of a hole might let the creature out.

King. ’T is true. I ’ll take it with me to the well and throw it in, so I ’ll dissolve the charm.

Maid. Oh, gracious me! The water will be spoiled. [Aside.] ’T would be a shame to have one’s love drowned like a kitten five days old.

King. I ’ll risk the water, so we break the spell. What ho, attendants, take the bag away !

[Enter two attendants, who take up the bag and carry it out, the King marching ahead. Page throws kisses at the Maid through a hole in the bag behind their backs.

Maid [to Page as they go out]. Cling to the bucket and I ’ll draw you up. [Soliloquizes.] Pray Heaven I lose him not! So sweet of speech. So handsome too. John’s such a stupid dolt. The looking-glass can tell me more than he.

[Takes out a pocket mirror and prinks.

Queen [outside]. Jane, you silly girl, come here. You ’re always loitering, crimping your hair, or fribbling up yourself with gewgaws. Flounces and furbelows become not serving maids. I ’ll give you warning instantly.

Maid. She envies me that I am fair and young. Give me warning indeed ! I ’ll leave her for my charming prince and give her none. Coming, ma’am.

[Exit. Curtain.


Prison cell. Princess sings.

Two lovers sue my hand to gain,
And tell with sighs their anxious pain.
I’d gladly wed ere beauty wane,
Which shall it be ?
Which shall it be ?
I can't marry both of them,
So which shall it be ?
The one ambitious, keen, and bold,
Well fit tho reins of stato to hold,
And win advancement, fame, and gold.
Which, etc.
The other ardent, generous, fond,
Dreaming of love, and naught beyond,
Formed but to bless the marriage bond.
Which, etc.
If pride and power could satisfy
The yearnings of the heart that cry,
I ’d wed the clever one, nor sigh,
Which, etc.
If love and youth would always stay,
And keep all worldly cares at bay,
I ’d take the ardent one, nor say, Which, etc.
But since love must abandon pride,
And greed of power sweeps love aside,
I cannot, though I would, decide. Which, etc.

Princess [taking photographs from the table]. Bianco, Nero, wherefore, are ye two ? O niggard Nature, to divide the stuff meant for but one ! Why must I choose between ? If only, Nero, you were fair and fond, or you, Bianco, wise, 't were easy done. But in you, alas, I see high power and wealth ; in you fond love alone and marriage bliss. I ’ll trust to chance ; kind Venus, give me aid. [Shuffles the photographs and starts to draw, then stops.] No, drawing one, the other I must lose. Oh, sad necessity ! I dare not draw. I ’ll take the clever one. What woman e’er would lose the chance to hear her female friends, all choked with envy, say, “ She married well” ? But then my heart would starve. I ’ll choose for love. I should he wretched, though, without the pomp of brilliant retinue and life in state. Either ’s a sorry lot. I ’ll wait and see. Stand there, ambitious Nero ! [Puts Nero’s picture on table in frame.] I will think of thee by day and roll in luxury. [Kisses Bianco’s picture and puts it in her bosom.] But thou, Bianco, he here next my heart and fill my dreams with bliss. [A noise in the wall.] Dear me, what’s that ! [Bianco digs a hole in the wall and enters.] Why, Bianco, how came you here ? I am glad you came. It is very lonely here.

Bianco. Ah, princess, might I always cheer your loneliness as well !

With sighs my choked words mingling
My veins with passion tingling,
Thy love I sue.
Thy bright eyes' lambent flashes,
Streaming through long dark lashes,
Have pierced me through.
Thy form of such perfection,
Its motion seems reflection
Of some sweet strain,
Thy virtues far excelling
The temple fair their dwelling,
My peace have slain.

Princess. Oh, how enchanting ! I wish you would always woo me so. No, on the whole you’d better not ! I should be so charmed with the wooing I should forget to be won, and that would be a pity. But how came you here ?

Bianco. Oh, the air was so bad in my cell. I am fastidious about ventilation, and I cut through.

Princess. Now, don’t affect indifference. It is n’t nearly so becoming. You came to see me, you know you did. Go on with your wooing. You do better in the impassioned rôle.

Bianco. Of course I did. What walls could keep me from you?

Princess. Is that a conundrum ? You mustn’t ask them.

Bianco. Exasperating enchantress, you drive me to madness. You have no heart.

Princess. Oh, yes, I have — in preparation, as the publishers say ; out in a few days.

Bianco. Then I may hope ?

Princess. Of course you may do that. Men always do. They think their wretchedness a greater claim to women’s sympathy. Pray, how much have you to give in return for all these perfections that you sang just now ?

Bianco. Oh, nothing, I know. I cannot hope to match such gifts of mind and person. But indeed I love you.

Princess. Oh, you told me that before.

Bianco. True, I am not worthy; I was a fool to dream of it.

Princess. No doubt ; all men are that.

Bianco. I ’ll sue no more. I see my rival sneering at me from yon picture. He is preferred. I ’ll find some quick device to stop the flurry of this beating heart.

Princess. Don’t he a goose. It would be very foolish to quit the world seeing another’s photograph, at least without inquiry. Kurtz takes them well and sells them cheap enough. Girls’ albums are all full of them. I have another here, not so ill-looking, either.

[ Takes his from her bosom.

Bianco. Oh, ecstasy ! I am preferred, then. [Seizes her hand.

Princess. Oh, not so fast. I have not said so. You jump at conclusions.

Bianco. At least a ray of hope lights my despair. I will be patient.

[A noise.

Princess. There’s a noise ! Don’t let yourself be seen. Hide, hide, in here !

[Showing him a place. Nero climbs over the wall on the other side.

Nero. Princess adored by gods and men, I find you thus alone. Accept my suit and make me happiest of men. All my gifts are at your service. You shall rise with me to heights sublime of power. We will sit on pinnacles of greatness.

Princess. I should think ’t would be uncomfortable ; and they say the air is thin up there. Love would lack nutriment.

Nero. Bah ! such romantic passion is a fancy less substantial than moonbeams. My love is of a thicker fabric. It thrives best in elevation.

Princess. I fear ’t is tough and leathery, like lichens on a mountain-top.

Nero. But it can stand the strain of life. Ah, now I see you keep my picture there to gaze upon; ’t is well ; I knew you were a girl of sense. My hope’s confirmed. I seal your sweet consent.

[ Tries to kiss her, but she slips away.

Princess. Wait ; my lips give signals only from my heart. You have n’t touched that yet. The mind is in the eye, so look your fill. But I hear some one. Go, hide !

[Shows him another hiding-place.

Enter King.

King. Fair maiden . . .

Princess. Ah, your majesty. This visit augurs well for clemency. I hope my indecision may be pardoned.

King. I pray you, pardon my intrusion. Your advent hath stirred thoughts in me of times now long since passed. Pray, have you any coins — a sixpence, say — about you ?

Princess [aside]. Mercy, is the king insane? [Aloud.] You speak in riddles, sire.

King. A half would do.

Princess [aside]. I 'll humor him; they say it ’s the safest course. [Aloud.] I have n’t even half a one, your majesty ; I spent the last for cream-cakes at the pastry cook’s.

King. ’T was natural ; I only hoped you might perhaps have half a one. You ’re very like a maid I knew and broke a sixpence with.

Princess. I am sure I am not the one.

King. Maybe she had a child. If you be she, I fain would know, and do her kindness, too.

Princess. Alas, I have not even such a token of my mother. I never knew her. She is dead, they say. But I sometimes think she may be living, and I may find her.

King. Pray Heaven you may, since you ’re not her I seek. Besides, the queen once lost a child, and you might take its place. But hush, I heard a step. I fear the queen might find me here, and so her jealous mind would fire, and ruin all. I ’ll hide.

Princess. Here, then. [Hides him.

Enter Queen.

Queen. Poor girl !

Princess. Ah, your majesty.

Queen [aside]. She more and more reminds me of him. Can it be she ? I ’ll sound her. [Aloud.] My dear, you must be lonely here without your mother.

Princess. I am used to that, your majesty; I never had one.

Queen [aside]. ’T is more suspicious. I am pierced with doubts. [Aloud.] There are many such. Did she die in your childhood ?

Princess. They told me so.

Queen. Have you anything of hers to know her by ?

Princess. Nothing. I only have a little bib I wore in infancy, curious wrought and fair.

Queen. Oh, show it me ! I had a daughter that was stolen away.

Princess. Dear me ! I left it at the castle where I dwelt.

Queen. Oh run, fly, bring it ! But stay ; some one comes. Don’t breathe a word, the thing is secret. Hide me quick. [Hides her.

Enter Maid.

Maid. Sweet lady, I am come to comfort you. You must want attendance. You have doubtless always had a train.

Princess. Oh, yes. I went abroad with twenty servitors. They were with me then when I became a blackbird, and were changed with me.

Maid. It must be charming so to live in state.

Princess. ’T was often irksome. If I had my little page I should be happy to be rid of them.

Maid [aside]. Her page ! It must be he. Oh dear, she loves him ! How could she help it ? [Aloud.] So you had a page. You liked him well ?

Princess. Indeed, he was the loveliest of lads, gay, brave, and gentle, formed to dazzle maids.

Maid. Think you he followed you ?

Princess. I’m sure he did. I fear he ’s still enchanted in the pie.

Maid [aside]. If she discovers him, he’s lost to me. She mourns for him, that’s sure; I'll ask her more. [Aloud.] What if I release him ?

Princess. I should be very grateful. I ’ll give you choice of twenty more as fair as he.

Maid. And even him ?

Princess. Yes, him as well as any, if he pleases you.

Maid. Oh, heavenly lady, I 'll serve you ever for such a boon.

Princess. Why do you set your heart on him ? Many are more beautiful than he.

Maid [falling on her knees and hiding her face in the princess’s lap]. I have already rescued him and he is mine. I love him.

Princess. You well deserve him, then. He ’s yours, if he consent.

Maid. He will, I know.

Princess. How do you know that ?

Maid. He told me so.

Princess. The rogue ! It’s just his way. But hark ! I think I heard something. Quick, in here. You might be blamed. [Hides her.] So now they are caged. I ’ll just step out and take the air. And why not turn the key ?

[Goes out and turns-the key in the lock. They come out one at a time, beginning at the centre and following down the right, each one running back when the next one appears. Then in orderdown the left in same manner. Then the King comes out.

King. All quiet ? Where is the maid ? No one here ?

[Looks around. Queen comes out.

Queen. Yes, I am here. Sink through the floor and hide from light of day, detected villain !

King. My dear, it is n’t day, it’s evening ; and besides, there’s no trap-door. You may put out the light if you like, and we shall all be hid.

Queen. Never! I ’ll watch you.

King. You wrong me. I only came to see if she had half a sixpence with her.

Queen. That’s a blind. You praised her comeliness even in my presence. I know you well. You have been singing love-songs to beguile her.

King. I have forgotten how to sing since I married you. I thought she had a look of one . . .

Queen. Again my rival ! I shall burst with rage.

King. I ’ll say no more. But this maid might well supply your loss. She has no mother, so she says.

Queen. I will adopt such one as pleases me. ’T is my concern.

King. As you like. She’s nothing to me. She has not the token.

Queen. If I thought she could be the child of that base huzzy, she should not live a minute in the palace. But where is she ? You have removed her.

King. No, I hid, and found her gone. But how came you here ? You have been tampering with my prisoners. Leave affairs of state to me.

Queen. I only thought she might know something of my daughter.

[Nero comes out.

Nero. She might well, your majesty. Perhaps ’t is she herself. She is an orphan.

King. How came you here ?

Nero. I heard a noise, and feared there might be mischief brewing. So I rushed to rescue my affianced mistress.

[Enter Bianco.

Bianco. ’T is false. The mischief is his own. He wished to carry off the maid.

King. Bless my soul, this is too much. Such quarreling is enough to split the kingdom. She must choose at once. If not, I 'll hang you both and lay the burden on her conscience. But till we find her, I decree a general amnesty.

Enter Maid.

Maid. And may I be included too ?

King. Gracious ! what are you doing here with these young men ?

Queen. The lazy maid, she ’s always gadding.

Maid. I came, like all the rest of you, to see the lady. I had a better right than any man.

King. 'Sh ! Say no more. Everybody is pardoned.

King. Grace and pardon for all peccadilloes,
In peace lay your heads on your pillows ;
But let music first sound,
Let the measure go round,
And care be consigned to the billows.
Chorus. Then bury the hatchet, the hatchet, the hatchet,
And keep a millennial day ;
This moment of gladness, oh, snatch it,
oh, snatch it,
And each one enjoy what he may.
Queen. I banish my jealous suspicion
Of the king, on one simple condition,
That he never shall name
That brazen-faced dame,
But leave her to go to perdition.
Chorus. Then bury, etc.
Nero. I wait for my lady’s decision,
With my rival avoiding collision ;
My wrath I ’ll repress
In hope to possess
The fair creature that dazzles my vision.
Chorus. Then bury, etc.
Bianco. My soul that with sorrow is yearning,
The passion my bosom is burning,
I 'll console for a while,
And with sweet hope beguile,
My suspense into confidence turning.
Chorus Then bury, etc.
Maid. With joy my whole being is thrilling,
My lover to wed me is willing ;
The princess says yes,
And relieves my distress
At the loss of a young man so killing.
Chorus. Then bury, etc.

[_They try to get out, but find the door locked.

King. Caught, cribbed, caged, trapped, confined. The locksmith, ho ! A lucky chance you put in bells and tubes. [Rings and speaks.] What, ho ! We can’t get out.

Muffled voice outside. Coming, sir, coming.

King. Then while the night away with merriment.

[ They sing the chorus, and dance. Curtain.


Court of the palace, with a well.

Princess. Oh, what a lark ! I wish I could have seen them when they met. I trust they got out safe. [Laughs.] But I’m choked with laughing. I am so thirsty. And here ’s a well, old oaken bucket and all, just like the song. How delightful ! I wonder if I could n’t draw some water. [ Takes hold of the rope.] Mercy ! I did n’t know it was so heavy. [Drops it down again. A groan from below.] What’s that ? Everything is enchanted here. . . . Pshaw, how silly ! It was only the creaking of the rope. [ Tries again and draws it up. The Page comes up, hanging to the rope. Screams.] Here ’s a man. Murder ! fire ! thieves ! help ! . . .

Page. Oh, don’t be alarmed.

Princess. Why, it’s only my page ! For goodness’ sake, how in the world did you come here ?

Page. That heartless maid — she hid me in a pocket of rye and the king threw me down the well. She said she ’d rescue me. But she’s played me false. Confound her !

Princess. But ’t was she that broke the charm and let you out. I thought you were in love with her.

Page. And so I was, but I discard her, the unfeeling wretch !

Princess. Pray, don’t be angry ; I think she loves you.

Page. Why did she almost drown me, then ?

Princess. Maybe for romance. She wanted to receive her dripping lover to her arms as Hero did Leander. Or perhaps to tease you. It is a girl’s privilege to tease the man she loves.

Page. But do you really think she loves me ?

Princess. I’m very sure ; she told . . . But it won’t do to tell secrets. Your sex is quite conceited enough, already.

Page. You’ve seen her, then? Delightful! I can guess the secret. I will forgive her, but I ’ll pay her off in teasing.

Princess. Oh, yes ; that’s fair. But here come the king and the rest. Keep your wits about you.

Enter King and others, except Nero.

King. Treacherous jade ! What are you here for ?

Princess. I was very thirsty, and I stepped out to the well to drink.

King. But you locked us in! The royal family under lock and key ! It’s a capital offense.

Princess. Did I ? I quite forgot there was a catch. I beg your royal pardon. But how did you get out ? I am so sorry.

King. We waited for the locksmith. But who’s this strange young man, here ?

Princess. It is my pretty page. He was enchanted like the rest.

King. Who let him out ? Why, this is rank revolution. I gave strict orders . . .

Enter Maid, with clothes.

Maid. May it please your majesty, I let him out. I only wanted one; I thought you would n’t mind. Besides, it was before the amnesty. You pardoned us all, you know.

King. Good gracious ! Why, the kingdom ’s upside down ! I ’ll . . . I ’ll . . . I ’ll . . . abdicate, . . . I ’ll . . .

All. Oh !

Queen. Give me the fellow ; I have use for him.

King. Woman, let my prerogative alone.

Queen. ’T is my affair. You needn’t be alarmed. Go, fly, young man, and get the princess’s bib, the one she wore in infancy. Bring it, and look for pardon at our hands. Go !

Princess. It’s in the bureau, second drawer, left hand.

[He goes to wing. Changed to a blackbird, he flies across from that side and pecks the Maid’s nose.

Maid. Oh, my nose, my nose ! [Puts her hand to her nose.] It’s gone, and I shall be a fright.

Queen. Quick, the royal court-plaster. No, I have it here. [ Puts some on.

King. Goodness! here’s more magic. Go hang a horseshoe on the kitchen door. I will surround the palace with a charm.

Maid. Oh, don’t, your majesty. Perhaps he could n't come back.

Queen. On your life don’t break the spell.

King. I will go, then, and count my coins till he come back.

Enter Nero.

Nero. Speaking of coins, I have a half a sixpence here. Will ’t please your majesty to accept it ? It will add to your collection.

King. Merciful heavens ! a sixpence ? Let me see it, quick ! [Nero hands it to him.] It is, it is ! It has the same device.

Queen. So have all sixpences.

King. Silence, woman ! Nero, how came you by this ?

Nero. My mother gave it me long since.

King. Your mother ! It must be he. And now I think of it, he looks like her. Son of my earliest love, come to my arms.

[They embrace.

Queen. Oh, this is too much ! To receive before my very eyes my rival’s child. Offspring of that deceitful woman, go, leave my presence !

King. Never ; he shall stay. We do adopt him as our heir apparent. Nay, we ’ll make an era. We will proclaim ourself, by act of parliament, Emperor of Alaska and the Sandwich Isles. He shall be regent of those outer realms, and styled Imperial Highness. He shall wed the maiden if he condescend to take her. She must consent. No woman ever yet refused a crown.

Queen. I will not brook this insult. I will make the world too hot to hold him. Bianco shall be my special favorite and espouse the princess under my protection. Now choose.

Princess. Oh dear ! This is a trying case. . . . I ’ll . . . take the crown.

King. There, I told you so. She’s wise as she is beautiful. She cannot be your child.

Queen. I would disown her, if she were. No, I ’ll keep her with me to enjoy the misery she brings upon herself.

King. No doubt you will torment her cleverly enough. You have rare gifts that way.

Bianco. All women have ; even when they love. But I will seek a remedy to ease my galled spirit.

Nero. Try glycerine, ’t is excellent for galls.

Bianco. What readiest way to end my wretched life ?

Nero. I’ve seen it in the papers that freezing was an easy way.

Bianco. ’T is well. I will sit down and freeze me in her bitter coldness.

Princess. Oh do, Bianco. There’s a dear. I could n’t bear to have you live.

. . . And I ’ll be just as cold as ice. You will not suffer long. [Bianco sits down.] Good-by.

Bianco. You ’ll find a half a sixpence when I ’m dead, hung by a ribbon on my neck. Bury it with me. It was my mother’s gift in infancy.

Queen. How touching ! What affection ! There’s a youth of different stamp, no offspring of that heartless flame of yours. Young woman, see what a heart you’ve thrown away.

Princess. I always knew he had a heart.

Bianco. ’T is yours until it cease to beat.

Princess. You ’re a dear good creature. But 't would never do. Be reasonable now ; don’t make a fuss.

King. Come, then, we ’ll celebrate the nuptials. Bless you ! [The blackbird flies across the stage again, the other way, with the bib in his beak. The Queen screams.] For goodness’ sake what is the matter now ?

Queen. The bib, the bib. [Enter Page with the bib.] Quick, let me see it. It is, I am, thou art, she is, we are, it is, it is !

King. Speak, say, tell, explain ! What means this great ado ? Run for the doctor, somebody ! The queen is in a fit.

Queen. It is my child. That faded yellow coronet I wrought myself.

[ They embrace. Chorus.

Sweet infant stolen from the crib,
Welcome to princely joys ad lib.,
Won by the bib.
The bib, the bib, the blessed bib,
With rocket, Bengal light, and squib
We hail the bib.
Speak, orators, in language glib ;
Write, chroniclers, with fresh-cut nib ;
Tell of the bib.
The bib, the bib, the blessed bib,
With rocket, Bengal light, and squib
We hail the bib.
Sail, racing yachts, with close-hauled jib ;
Groan, tables, with the fat ox-rib ;
Honor the bib.
The bib, the bib, the blessed bib,
With rocket, Bengal light, and squib
We hail the bib.

King. A lucky chance. How things come out. It surely was a wondrous pie. I hoped she ’d find her mother. And indeed she much resembles her. At least she favors not that hideous knave, her father.

Queen. She is his very image. Revile thou not that choicest type of manhood.

King. Enough, the two shall wed and thus end all suspicious jealousy.

Queen. Agreed. I ’m sorry for this poor enamored youth. But ’t is an affair of state. You must devote yourself, Bianco, for your country.

Bianco. Oh, I do, I do ! I feel the fire of patriotism in my veins. See, I am resigned.

[Assumes a heroic attitude in his seat.

King. Farewell, Bianco ; I will see your funeral rites performed right handsomely.

Queen. Farewell ; we will remember you occasionally.

Princess. Oh yes. Bianco, I will strew flowers on your grave, say once a year, till you ’re forgotten. Good-by, dear.

Nero. Farewell ; I do forgive you.

[ They weep.

Page. If your majesties have done, here’s half a sixpence that I found hard by. ’T was in the road, as thrown from some high window in the palace.

Nero. Pshaw, ’t is not a coin — a little paltry piece of tin.

King [taking it]. Yes, ’t is a sixpence, but it’s not so ancient. The date’s a modern one, not five years since. And see, it fits the one you gave me. A curious coincidence. You say you had this from your mother many years ago ?

[Nero tries to get out of sight.

Queen. He ’s slipped away. No doubt it is a scheme of his to win your favor. He cut a sixpence in two and threw away the other half. He is astute enough.

Princess. Shame ! ’T was a heartless trick. He’s not the son, then.

King. 'T is clear, he is an impostor.

Maid. I’m certain, now I look at him, he is the low-born creature that I was changed at nurse for.

King. No doubt, no doubt. You must be, then, of gentle blood.

Princess. If he’s a villain, I may break the match.

King. Of course. And I renounce him. He ’s no son of that sweet angel. Let him be put under the pump and banished.

Page. Put him in the well.

Princess. No, put him in the pie.

King. Good ! What ho, bring in the pie. [Exit John.

Nero. But, your majesty, I pray for grace. I am an honest man. I never stole. The sixpence was my own.

King. True, there are few who do not steal, and they deserve encouragement. We pardon you.

Queen. But your majesty says often, " Let no guilty man escape.”

King. ’Sh ! That’s in dispatches, and is meant for show. What do women know of politics? He must, however, stay away a while, until the thing blows over. Say till to-morrow or next day.

Queen. But meantime we must find another husband for the princess.

King. Yes ; why not the page?

Maid. Oh, your majesty, that ’s worse than stealing.

King. I did not know he loved the maid. . . .

Page. I did love her, but since she left me in the well my ardor’s cooled. So if your majesty insists . . .

Maid. Ungrateful creature, ’t was to save your life.

Page. Oh, that makes a difference, and if their majesties allow, I would fain espouse her instead of the princess.

King. Does the maid incline ?

Maid. I would have had him, but ’t was he that nipped my nose.

Page. I only tried to kiss you, and you dodged.

Maid. I did n’t mean it.

Page. I promise I will not offend again.

Maid. You need n’t promise, I will pardon you.

Page. Do your majesties consent ?

Queen. By all means, take the flibbertigibbet. You ’re welcome to her.

King. She’s no worse than others, and of gentle blood. ’T is well. We 'll have the wedding in place of the princess’s. We are entitled to a festival after all this worry. The princess must wait. [Screams outside.

Enter John.

John. Oh, mercy, your majesty, the cover of the pie fell off and twenty stout fellows rushed out! They ’re rummaging the pantry for provisions.

King. Good ! I’m glad they ’re all out. We shall have no more enchantment. Let them come in and dance a measure at the wedding.

Princess. Your majesty, Bianco also has a coin.

King. Bless me, so he has ; I ’d quite forgotten him. Let’s see it.

Bianco. Look at it here. It is a talisman my mother gave me. I would die with it upon me.

King [comparing his own]. What ! it. seems to fit. I do distrust my skill in coins. But ’t is the same.

All. It is.

King. You must be the son. ’T is you I make my heir.

Page. There’s a half sixpence that is worth a crown.

Princess. Then it all comes right, after all. My dear Bianco, you may thaw out now.

Bianco. And may I wed the princess ?

King. No doubt, if she be willing and the queen consents.

Bianco. Then shall I be blessed at last, sweet princess ?

Princess. Oh yes, of course. ’T was you I wanted all the time, but circumstances, you know . . .

Bianco. Oh, acme of delight ! My head whirls, dizzy with ecstasy.

Princess. It ought. “ Love makes the world go round ” always.

Bianco. I sit among the stars.

Princess. The best place. The stars sit in the stage boxes. But it’s expensive, unless you ’re one yourself.

Bianco. Go on, I do not mind your gibes. My heart’s so full of bliss there is no cranny left for sorrow.

Princess. Oh, that is too sweet ! I can’t resist it ; I will gibe no more.

[ Gives him her hand. He embraces her.

Bianco [to the Queen]. Ah, may I hope, your gracious majesty, still to retain your favor, even though I be descended from the hated fair and wear the token of the severed coin ?

Queen. You do belie such lineage, young man, and must affect your father I consent.

Bianco. So I may wed your newfound daughter, then ?

Queen. Such union heals all woes. Take him, my dear.

King. A worthy son-in-law. So let the priest be sent for, and the nuptials made forthwith, now when she ’s in the humor. Heaven knows what turn her fickle fancy next may take.

[Sings with chorus.

No more the love-sick youth shall sigh ;
Sing a song of sixpence !
The maid no more his suit deny ;
Sing, etc.
The future now is love’s ally ;
A pocket full of rye, of rye !
Four and twenty in a pie,
Four and twenty blackbirds !

The cortege gay to church shall hie,
While rustic swains throw glances sly
At blushing maids that cry, Oh, fie !

Let German bands the horse-hair ply,
Skip, whirl, and slide, ye dancers spry ;
Champagne shall foam and corks shall fly.

Let streaming bunting hide the sky,
Let colored fires all nature dye,
Let salvos wild the cannou try !

Their wedded bliss shall age defy,
Around them swarm the smaller fry,
And keep the generous line for aye.

J. B. Greenough.

  1. The appearance of the princes can he easily managed by means of a pine table with a hole in It about as large as a flour barrel, over which the pie, made of pasteboard, rests. A cloth conceals the place under the table, and guards or attendants or musicians will conceal the communication behind the scenes.