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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From ‘The Death of Tintagiles’
By Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949)
 
From ‘The Plays of Maurice Maeterlinck,’ Second Series: Translation of Richard Hovey

Scene:  At the top of a hill overlooking the castle.  Enter Ygraine, holding Tintagiles by the hand.

YGRAINE—Thy first night will be troubled, Tintagiles. Already the sea howls about us; and the trees are moaning. It is late. The moon is just setting behind the poplars that stifle the palace. We are alone, perhaps, for all that here we have to live on guard. There seems to be a watch set for the approach of the slightest happiness. I said to myself one day, in the very depths of my soul,—and God himself could hardly hear it,—I said to myself one day I should be happy. There needed nothing further: in a little while our old father died, and both our brothers vanished without a single human being able since to tell us where they are. Now I am all alone, with my poor sister and thee, my little Tintagiles; and I have no faith in the future. Come here; sit on my knee. Kiss me first: and put thy little arms there, all the way around my neck; perhaps they will not be able to undo them. Rememberest thou the time when it was I that carried thee at night when bedtime came; and when thou fearedst the shadows of my lamp in the long windowless corridors?—I felt my soul tremble upon my lips when I saw thee, suddenly, this morning. I thought thee so far away, and so secure. Who was it made thee come here?  1
  Tintagiles—I do not know, little sister.  2
  Ygraine—Thou dost not know any longer what was said?  3
  Tintagiles—They said I had to leave.  4
  Ygraine—But why hadst thou to leave?  5
  Tintagiles—Because it was the Queen’s will.  6
  Ygraine—They did not say why it was her will?—I am sure they said many things.  7
  Tintagiles—I heard nothing, little sister.  8
  Ygraine—When they spoke among themselves, what did they say?  9
  Tintagiles—They spoke in a low voice, little sister.  10
  Ygraine—All the time?  11
  Tintagiles—All the time, sister Ygraine; except when they looked at me.  12
  Ygraine—They did not speak of the Queen?  13
  Tintagiles—They said she was never seen, sister Ygraine.  14
  Ygraine—And those who were with thee, on the bridge of the ship, said nothing?  15
  Tintagiles—They minded nothing but the wind and the sails, sister Ygraine.  16
  Ygraine—Ah! that does not astonish me, my child.  17
  Tintagiles—They left me all alone, little sister.  18
  Ygraine—Listen, Tintagiles, I will tell thee what I know.  19
  Tintagiles—What dost thou know, sister Ygraine?  20
  Ygraine—Not much, my child. My sister and I have crept along here, since our birth, without daring to understand a whit of all that happens. For a long while, indeed, I lived like a blind woman on this island; and it all seemed natural to me. I saw no other events than the flying of a bird, the trembling of a leaf, the opening of a rose. There reigned such a silence that the falling of a ripe fruit in the park called faces to the windows. And no one seemed to have the least suspicion; but one night I learned there must be something else. I would have fled, and could not. Hast thou understood what I have said?  21
  Tintagiles—Yes, yes, little sister: I understand whatever you will.  22
  Ygraine—Well, then, let us speak no more of things that are not known. Thou seest yonder, behind the dead trees that poison the horizon—thou seest the castle yonder, in the depth of the valley?  23
  Tintagiles—That which is so black, sister Ygraine?  24
  Ygraine—It is black indeed. It is at the very depth of an amphitheatre of shadows. We have to live there. It might have been built on the summit of the great mountains that surround it. The mountains are blue all day. We should have breathed. We should have seen the sea and the meadows on the other side of the rocks. But they preferred to put it in the depth of the valley; and the very air does not go down so low. It is falling in ruins, and nobody bewares. The walls are cracking; you would say it was dissolving in the shadows. There is only one tower unassailed by the weather. It is enormous; and the house never comes out of its shadow.  25
  Tintagiles—There is something shining, sister Ygraine. See, see, the great red windows!  26
  Ygraine—They are those of the tower, Tintagiles: they are the only ones where you will see light; it is there the throne of the Queen is set.  27
  Tintagiles—I shall not see the Queen?  28
  Ygraine—No one can see her.  29
  Tintagiles—Why can’t one see her?  30
  Ygraine—Come nearer, Tintagiles. Not a bird nor a blade of grass must hear us.  31
  Tintagiles—There is no grass, little sister.  [A silence.]—What does the Queen do?  32
  Ygraine—No one knows, my child. She does not show herself. She lives there, all alone in her tower; and they that serve her do not go out by day. She is very old; she is the mother of our mother; and she would reign alone. She is jealous and suspicious, and they say that she is mad. She fears lest some one rise into her place, and it was doubtless because of that fear that she had thee brought hither. Her orders are carried out no one knows how. She never comes down; and all the doors of the tower are closed night and day. I never caught a glimpse of her; but others have seen her, it seems, in the past, when she was young.  33
  Tintagiles—Is she very ugly, sister Ygraine?  34
  Ygraine—They say she is not beautiful, and that she is growing huge. But they that have seen her dare never speak of it. Who knows, indeed, if they have seen her? She has a power not to be understood; and we live here with a great unpitying weight upon our souls. Thou must not be frightened beyond measure, nor have bad dreams; we shall watch over thee, my little Tintagiles, and no evil will be able to reach thee: but do not go far from me, your sister Bellangère, nor our old master Aglovale.  35
  Tintagiles—Not from Aglovale either, sister Ygraine?  36
  Ygraine—Not from Aglovale either. He loves us.  37
  Tintagiles—He is so old, little sister!  38
  Ygraine—He is old, but very wise. He is the only friend we have left; and he knows many things. It is strange; she has made thee come hither without letting any one know. I do not know what there is in my heart. I was sorry and glad to know thou wert so far away, beyond the sea. And now—I was astonished. I went out this morning to see if the sun was rising over the mountains; and it is thou I see upon the threshold. I knew thee at once.  39
  Tintagiles—No, no, little sister: it was I that laughed first.  40
  Ygraine—I could not laugh at once. Thou wilt understand. It is time, Tintagiles, and the wind is growing black upon the sea. Kiss me harder, again, again, before thou standest upright. Thou knowest not how we love. Give me thy little hand. I shall guard it well; and we will go back into the sickening castle.  [Exeunt.]  41
 
Scene:  An apartment in the castle.  Aglovale and Ygraine discovered.  Enter Bellangère.
  Bellangère—Where is Tintagiles?
  42
  Ygraine—Here; do not speak too loud. He sleeps in the other room. He seems a little pale, a little ailing too. He was tired by the journey and the long sea-voyage. Or else the atmosphere of the castle has startled his little soul. He cried for no cause. I rocked him to sleep on my knees; come, see. He sleeps in our bed. He sleeps very gravely, with one hand on his forehead, like a little sad king.  43
  Bellangère  [bursting suddenly into tears]—My sister! my sister! my poor sister!  44
  Ygraine—What is the matter?  45
  Bellangère—I dare not say what I know, and I am not sure that I know anything, and yet I heard that which one could not hear—  46
  Ygraine—What didst thou hear?  47
  Bellangère—I was passing near the corridors of the tower—  48
  Ygraine—Ah!  49
  Bellangère—A door there was ajar. I pushed it very softly. I went in.  50
  Ygraine—In where?  51
  Bellangère—I had never seen the place. There were other corridors lighted with lamps; then low galleries that had no outlet. I knew it was forbidden to go on. I was afraid, and I was going to return upon my steps, when I heard a sound of voices one could hardly hear.  52
  Ygraine—It must have been the handmaids of the Queen: they dwell at the foot of the tower.  53
  Bellangère—I do not know just what it was. There must have been more than one door between us; and the voices came to me like the voice of some one who was being smothered. I drew as near as I could. I am not sure of anything, but I think they spoke of a child that came to-day and of a crown of gold. They seemed to be laughing.  54
  Ygraine—They laughed?  55
  Bellangère—Yes, I think they laughed, unless they were weeping, or unless it was something I did not understand; for it was hard to hear, and their voices were sweet. They seemed to echo in a crowd under the arches. They spoke of the child the Queen would see. They will probably come up this evening.  56
  Ygraine—What? this evening?  57
  Bellangère—Yes, yes, I think so.  58
  Ygraine—They spoke no one’s name?  59
  Bellangère—They spoke of a child, of a very little child.  60
  Ygraine—There is no other child.  61
  Bellangère—They raised their voices a little at that moment, because one of them had said the day seemed not yet come.  62
  Ygraine—I know what that means; it is not the first time they have issued from the tower. I knew well why she made him come; but I could not believe she would hasten so! We shall see; we are three, and we have time.  63
  Bellangère—What wilt thou do?  64
  Ygraine—I do not know yet what I shall do, but I will astonish her. Do you know how you tremble? I will tell you—  65
  Bellangère—What?  66
  Ygraine—She shall not take him without trouble.  67
  Bellangère—We are alone, sister Ygraine.  68
  Ygraine—Ah! it is true, we are alone! There is but one remedy, the one with which we have always succeeded! Let us wait upon our knees as the other times. Perhaps she will have pity! She allows herself to be disarmed by tears. We must grant her all she asks us; haply she will smile; and she is wont to spare all those who kneel. She has been there for years in her huge tower, devouring our beloved, and none, not one, has dared to strike her in the face. She is there, upon our souls, like the stone of a tomb, and no one dare put forth his arm. In the time when there were men here, they feared too, and fell upon their faces. To-day it is the woman’s turn: we shall see. It is time to rise at last. We know not upon what her power rests, and I will live no longer in the shadow of her tower. Go—go, both of you, and leave me more alone still, if you tremble too. I shall await her.  69
  Bellangère—Sister, I do not know what must be done; but I stay with thee.  70
  Aglovale—I too stay, my daughter. For a long time my soul has been restless. You are going to try. We have tried more than once.  71
  Ygraine—You have tried—you too?  72
  Aglovale—They have all tried. But at the last moment they have lost their strength. You will see, you too. Should she order me to come up to her this very night, I should clasp both my hands without a word; and my tired feet would climb the stair, without delay and without haste, well as I know no one comes down again with open eyes. I have no more courage against her. Our hands are of no use and reach no one. They are not the hands we need, and all is useless. But I would help you, because you hope. Shut the doors, my child. Wake Tintagiles; encircle him with your little naked arms and take him on your knees. We have no other defense.  73
 
 
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