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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Metternich Encounters Napoleon’s Shadow
By Edmond Rostand (1868–1918)
 
        
From ‘L’Aiglon’: Translation of Louis N. Parker
  
  In the third act the “Eaglet” as the Duke of Reichstadt, only son of Napoleon I., is called, is seen in his cabinet at Schoenbrunn.  The Duke opens his door very gently, listens a moment, then enters quickly and places one of Napoleon’s little hats on the table.

THE DUKE—                            The signal!
[He returns to his room.]
[Flambeau, an old soldier of Napoleon’s, enters wearing the Austrian livery.]
  Flambeau—’Tis time. Well, signal? Are you here?—Perhaps.
[He hunts for it.]
“Flambeau,” he said, “you cannot fail to find it.”
Now, is it high or low, or black or white?
Or great or small?
[He sees the hat.]
        5
    The Emperor’s—! Small and great!
[He goes toward the window.]
Oh, but the Countess watches in the park,
And if the signal’s here I am to signal:
[He takes out his handkerchief.]
No! This won’t do. A white flag makes her ill.
[A Servant enters with a reading-lamp, which he carries toward the Duke’s room.]
  The Servant—The Duke of Reichstadt’s reading-lamp.
  Flambeau  [leaping upon him and seizing the lamp]—    You dolt!
        10
It’s leaking! It must have fresh air!
[He takes it out on the balcony.]
You wave it three times so: arrange the wick;
[He does as he says and gives the lamp back to the Servant.]
That’s it. See that?
  The Servant—                        Oh, aren’t you clever?
[He carries the lamp into the Duke’s room.]
  Flambeau—To-morrow—flight!
[Sedlinzky enters.]
  Sedlinzky—The Duke?
  Flambeau  [pointing to the room]—    In there.
  Sedlinzky—                Watch here.
  Flambeau  [locking the door after him]—    Locked!
  Sedlinzky  [without]—                    Take the key out.
  Flambeau—                                Out.
        15
  Sedlinzky—None but the Emperor has the key. Be careful—
Watch.
  Flambeau—As I always do.
[He bends over the keyholes and arranges them carefully.]
                        And for the night
I’ll close the eyelids of the keyholes softly.
  Sedlinzky’s Voice—Good-night, you Piedmontese.
  Flambeau—                    Good-night, my Lord.
        20
  Sedlinzky’s Voice—Remember! you’re on duty.
  Flambeau—                            I’m on duty.
  Sedlinzky’s Voice—Well, that’s all right. Good-night.
  Flambeau—                                Good-night!
[He throws off his livery coat.  Puts on the busby, which is standing on the console, and shoulders the musket.  He is now in the full accoutrement of a Grenadier of the Guards.]
                            And thus,
Suddenly upright, thin, unliveried,
Locked in till dawn, and safe against surprise,
Glowering with grizzled brows beneath his busby,        25
Straight in his ancient uniform, his gun
Firm in his arm, his hand on his right nipple,
The fixed and regulation attitude,
Standing thus every night before your threshold
Giving himself a password full of pride,        30
Pleased with a deed that’s grave, and yet a jest,
A Grenadier at Schönbrunn stands on guard
About the son as once about the Father.
’Tis the last time! You’ll never hear of it.
’Tis for myself. A private luxury.        35
I must be mad to do a thing like this
For no one’s eye, but just to say “By Jove,
That’s rather good!” At Schönbrunn! In their teeth!
But I’m delighted!—I’m content!
[He hears the noise of a key in the door.]
                        I’m damned!
[The door opens gently.]
Who can have got the key?
[He retires into the shadow by the Duke’s door.]
[Metternich enters, carrying a large candelabrum.]
  Metternich—                            No, no! This scene
        40
Must never be repeated.
  Flambeau—                Nepomuk!
  Metternich—Yes, I will speak to-night. We are alone.
[As he puts down the candelabrum he sees the hat.]
What’s this? I never knew he had one like—
Ah! the Archduchess must have sent him this;
So there thou art, thou legendary hat!        45
’Tis many years—Good day!—What sayst thou? What?
No, from thy little sable pyramid
Twelve years of splendor gaze on me in vain.
I do not fear thee now.
The leathern tag        50
With which he constantly could take thee off,
And so win cheers yet leave thy shape unharmed.
With thee he fanned himself after each victory;
Thou couldst not fall from his unheeding fingers,
But straight a king would stoop to pick thee up.        55
To-day, my friend, thou art a reach-me-down,
And if I tossed thee through the casement yonder
Where wouldst thou end thy days?
  Flambeau  [to himself]—                            In a museum!
  Metternich—The famous little hat—how very ugly!
They called it little—is it really little?        60
No; it is big; enormous; it’s the hat
A little man puts on to increase his inches.
For ’twas a hat set the legend going:
The real Napoleon, after all, was Poupart.
Ah, never think my hatred of thee slumbers!        65
’Twas for thy shape’s sake first I hated thee.
Thou vampire-hat of bloody battlefields,
Hat that seemed fashioned out of raven’s wings.
I hated thee for pitilessly soaring
Above the fields which witnessed our defeats,        70
Half-circle, seeming on the ruddy sky
The orb half-risen of some sable sun!
And for thy crown wherein the devil lurks,
Thou juggler’s hat, laid with a sudden hand
Upon a throne, an army, or a nation—        75
When thou wert lifted all had disappeared.
I hated thee for the salutes I gave thee,
For thy simplicity—mere affectation—
Thy insolent joy, thou piece of common beaver
Amid the glittering diadems of gold;        80
For staying firmly on his haughty head
When I sought flattering epithets to please thee.
Conqueror, new, acclaimed, I hated thee!
I hate thee now, old, conquered and betrayed!
I hate thee for thy haughty shadow, cast        85
Forever on the wall of history;
I hate thee for thy Jacobin cockade,
Staring upon me like a bloodshot eye;
For all the murmurs sounding in thy shell,
That huge black shell the waves have left behind        90
Wherein the shuddering listener may hear
The rumor of a nation on the march.
I hate thee for the pride of France, whose bounds
Thou hast enlarged until she scorns the world,
For Béranger I hate thee, and Raffet,        95
For all the songs and all the pasquinades,
And for the halo of Saint Helena.
I hate thee, hate thee. I shall not be happy
Until thy clumsy triangle of cloth,
Despoiled of its traditions, is again        100
What it should ne’er have ceased to be in France—
The headgear of a village constable.
I hate—but suddenly—how strange!—the present
Sometimes with impish glee will ape the past!—
Seeing thy well-known shape before me thus        105
Carries my mind back to a distant day,
For it was here he always put thee down
When twenty years ago he sojourned here.
This room was then the ante-chamber; here,
Waiting till graciously he showed himself,        110
Dukes, Princes, Magyars, huddling in a corner,
Fixed from afar their humbled eyes upon thee,
Like lions, dreading with a helpless fury
The tamer’s hat forgotten in the cage.
’Twas thus he placed thee, and here lay, as now,        115
Weapons and papers. One might say ’twas he
Had tossed thee carelessly upon the map,
That this were still his home, this Bonaparte!
And that by turning, on the threshold—there—
I should behold the Grenadier on—
[He starts on seeing Flambeau standing rigid before the Duke’s door; he rubs his eyes.]
                                Ha!
        120
No! no! I’m not feverish; my tête-à-tête
With the old hat plays havoc with my nerves!
[He looks and draws near.  Flambeau does not move.]
Or have the moonbeams conjured up a spectre?
What is it, then? Let’s see—let’s see—let’s see!
[He strides furiously toward Flambeau.]
Who are you, fellow?
  Flambeau  [presenting his bayonet]—        Who goes there?
  Metternich  [recoiling]—                            The devil!
        125
  Flambeau  [coldly]—Pass, devil.
  Metternich  [with a forced laugh, coming toward him again]—    Yes,—a very clever jest,
But—
  Flambeau  [presenting his bayonet again]—    Who goes there?
  Metternich  [recoiling]—                    But—
  Flambeau—                        Move and you are dead.
  Metternich—But—I—
  Flambeau—        Quiet!
  Metternich—                Let me pass!
  Flambeau—                    The Emperor sleeps!
  Metternich—What!
  Flambeau—        Silence!
  Metternich—                I’m the Austrian Chancellor!
        130
I am all-powerful! I’m—
  Flambeau—                            Shut your mouth!
  Metternich—I want to see the Duke of Reichstadt!
  Flambeau—                                Out!
  Metternich—How—out?
  Flambeau—  What’s Reichstadt? Never heard of Reichstadt!
Auerstadt, Elchingen, they’re dukes I know.
Reichstadt’s no duke. There’s been no victory there.        135
  Metternich—But, we’re at Schönbrunn!
  Flambeau—                    I should rather think so!
Thanks to our new success we’re quartered here;
And here we’re getting ready at our leisure
To give the world another drubbing! See?
  Metternich—What’s that you say? A new success?
  Flambeau—                                Colossal!
        140
  Metternich—This is July the ninth in Eighteen—
  Flambeau—                                Nine!
  Metternich—Can I be mad?
  Flambeau—        Who are you? Where d’you spring from?
Why aren’t you snug in bed? It’s very fishy—
  Metternich—I—
  Flambeau—    Who let this braggart pass? The Mameluke?
  Metternich—The Mameluke?
  Flambeau—            All’s going to the dogs!
        145
  Metternich—But—
  Flambeau—        You here in the ante-room at night!
  Metternich—But I—
  Flambeau—        You calmly cross the Rosa chamber
Unchallenged by the sentinel on guard!
  Metternich—What?
  Flambeau—    When you ventured through the small rotunda,
Was there no yatagan to shave your cheek,        150
Were there no sergeants in the white saloon
Brewing their punch upon the golden stove?
No bristling veterans in the china room?
And in the galleries? The Grenadiers
Saw you come strolling as a matter-of-course?        155
A man may cross the oval cabinet
And not be turned to mince-meat by Duroc?
  Metternich—The Marshal—?
  Flambeau—            Is the bulldog turned to lapdog?
  Metternich—I come here—
  Flambeau—                So the palace is an inn?
And when you’d managed all the sentinels,        160
Where were the rest? The porter? Gone to bed?
The valet? Absent? And the secretary?
Where was he hidden? In his own portfolio?
  Metternich—But I—
  Flambeau—            Instead of being after you,
No doubt the Aide-de-Camp was after women!        165
  Metternich—But—
  Flambeau—        And the Moor was saying prayers to Allah?
At any rate it’s lucky I was here.
What discipline! If he looks into this
I’ll bet my head he’ll let the beggars know!
  Metternich—I’m going—
  Flambeau—            Ah! don’t stir! You’ll wake him!
        170
He’s sleeping on his little bed of laurels.
  Metternich  [falling into an armchair.]—Was never such a dream! ’Twill make an epic!
[His hand touches the flame of one of the candles.]
Well, but this candle—
  Flambeau—                        Burns.
  Metternich  [feeling the point of Flambeau’s bayonet]—    This weapon—
  Flambeau—                                Stings!
  Metternich—Then I’m awake! I’m—
  Flambeau—                        Hold your tongue!
  Metternich—And what of Waterloo?
  Flambeau—                    Of water—what?
[Listening.]
        175
The Emperor stirred.
  Metternich—                The Emperor?
  Flambeau—                            Oh, my stars!
Now you turn whiter than a bugler’s horse!
  Metternich—It is the Duke of Reichstadt! I’m not scared!
It is the Duke! I’m sure of it!
  Flambeau—                            The Emperor!
[The Duke enters, with the reading-lamp in his hand.]
  Metternich—Aha! ’Tis you! ’Tis you! It is your Highness!        180
Ah, but how glad I am!
  The Duke  [puzzled]—                Why are you glad?
  Metternich—The joke was played so well, I really thought
Another might come out!
  Flambeau  [as if waking from a dream]—        Faith, so did I!
  The Duke  [to Flambeau]—What’s this?
  Flambeau—        My little joke.
  Metternich  [ringing]—                Help!
  The Duke—                    Fly!
  Flambeau—                                The window!
  The Duke—The sentinel will shoot you!
  Flambeau—                            If he can.
        185
  The Duke—Your livery!
  Metternich  [putting his foot on it]—    No!
  Flambeau—                Bah!
[Aside to the Duke, while Metternich rings again.]
                            I will seek my cavern.
  The Duke—But I—
  Flambeau—    The ball to-morrow!
  The Duke—                        Are you mad?
  Flambeau—                            You’ll find me.
  The Duke—Quiet!
[Flambeau goes out by the window.]
  Metternich—                        If he’d only break
His neck—He’s singing!
  The Duke  [on the balcony]—                Hush!
  Flambeau’s Voice—                            My little joke!
[A shot is heard.]
  The Duke—Missed!        190
  Metternich—With what ease he finds his way about.
  The Duke—He knows it; he has been here once before.
  Metternich  [to the lackeys who show themselves at the door]—Too late. Begone! I do not need your help.
[The lackeys disappear.]
  The Duke—And not a word of this to the police!
  Metternich—I never raise a laugh against myself.        195
What’s the importance of a veteran’s joke?
You’re not Napoleon.
  The Duke—                        Who has settled that?
  Metternich—You have his hat, perhaps, but not his head!
  The Duke—Ah, yes, an epigram to damp my ardor.
’Tis not the pin-prick this time, ’tis the lash        200
That drives me headlong toward the wildest dreams.
I’ve not the head, you say? How do you know?
  Metternich  [takes the candelabrum in his hand and leads the Duke to the cheval glass]—How do I know? Just glance into this mirror.
Look at the sullen sadness of your face,
The grim betrayal of your fair complexion,        205
This crushing golden hair—I bid you look!
  The Duke  [struggling to get out of his grasp]—No!
  Metternich—        You’re environed with a fatal mist!
  The Duke—No!
  Metternich—        Though you know it not, ’tis Germany,
’Tis Spain, for ages dormant in your blood,
Make you so haughty, sorrowful, and charming.        210
  The DukeNo! no!
  Metternich—        Bethink you of your self-distrust!
You—reign? Come, come! You would be pale and wan;
One of those timid, introspective kings
Who are imprisoned lest they abdicate.
  The DukeNo, no!
  Metternich—        Not yours the energetic brow!
        215
Yours is the brow of languor and of yearning.
  The Duke  [shaking, passes his left hand across his brow]—My—brow?
  Metternich—            And drearily your Highness passes
Over an Austrian brow a Spanish hand!
  The DukeNo!
  Metternich—    And those eyes through which your ancestors
Look forth!
  The Duke—        The eyes—?
  Metternich—            Ay! note them well! The eyes
        220
Wherein how many eyes we’ve seen before
Dream of the fagot, weep for perished squadrons!
Dare you, whose conscience is so sensitive,
Ascend the throne of France with eyes like those?
  The Duke—Ah! but my Father!—
  Metternich—                Naught of him is in you!
        225
Search! Search again! Come closer to the light!
He stole our ancient blood to mix with his,
That his might grow more ancient. But he stole
Only the racial melancholy, and
The feebleness, and—
  The Duke—                I beseech you!
  Metternich—                                Look!
        230
Look in the mirror! You turn pale?
  The Duke—                            Enough!
  Metternich—And on your lips you recognize the pout
As of a doll, of Marie Antoinette,
Her whom your France beheaded; for your Father,
While stealing glory, stole mishap as well!        235
Nay! raise the chandelier!
[He forces the chandelier into the Duke’s right hand, and holds him by that wrist.]
  The Duke—                            I am afraid.
  Metternich—You cannot gaze into this glass at night,
But all your race will gibber at your back!
Look—in the gloom—that shade is Mad Johanna,
And yonder Thing, that moves so deathly slow,        240
Is the pale sovereign in his crystal coffin.
  The Duke—No! ’Tis the radiant pallor of my Father!
  Metternich—Yonder, recoiling, Rudolph and his lions!
  The Duke—The clash of steeds and weapons! ’Tis the Consul!
  Metternich—Lo! in a noisome crypt one fashions gold.        245
  The Duke—He fashions glory on the sands of Egypt.
  Metternich—Aha! Here’s Charles the Fifth, with hair cropped close,
Dying for having sought self-burial!
  The Duke—                                Help!
Father!
  Metternich—        The Escurial! Grisly phantoms
And frowning walls!
  The Duke—                Ah, hither! smiling visions:
        250
Compiègne and Malmaison!
  Metternich—                    You see them! see them!
  The Duke—Roll, drums of Arcola, and drown his voice!
  Metternich—The mirror’s teeming!
  The Duke  [twisting his wrist loose, but still holding the chandelier]—            I will shatter it!
  Metternich—Others, and others yet, arrive!
  The Duke  [hurling the chandelier into the mirror]—        ’Tis shattered!        255
Not one remains! Not one!
  Metternich  [pointing at the Duke with a terrible gesture]—    Yes!—One!
  The Duke—                                No, no!
It is not I! Not I!—My Father!—Help!

CURTAIN.
 
 
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