An Allegory

By Mary Carolyn Davies

Copyright, 1918, by Egmont Arens.
All rights reserved.


Reprinted from No. 6, of the "Flying Stag Plays," published by Egmont Arens, by special permission of Miss Davies. The professional and amateur stage rights on this play are strictly reserved by the author. Applications for permission to produce this play should be made to Egmont Arens, 17 West 8th Street, New York.

The Slave With Two Faces was first produced in New York City by the Provincetown Players, on January 25th, 1918, with the following cast:

Life, the SlaveIda Rauh.
First GirlBlanche Hays.
Second GirlDorothy Upjohn.
A WomanAlice MacDougal.
A ManO. K. Liveright.
A Young ManHutchinson Collins.
A WorkmanO. K. Liveright.
And Others.


Scene designed by Norman Jacobsen. Produced under the direction of Nina Moise.
Incidental music written by Alfred Kreymborg.


An Allegory

By Mary Carolyn Davies


[The Scene is a wood through which runs a path. Wild rose bushes and other wood-things border it. On opposite sides of the path stand two girls waiting. They have not looked at each other. The girls wear that useful sort of gown which, with the addition of a crown, makes a queen—without, makes a peasant. The first girl wears a crown. The second carries one carelessly in her hand.]


First Girl [looking across at the other]. For whom are you waiting?

Second Girl. I am waiting for Life.

First Girl. I am waiting for Life also.

Second Girl. They said that he would pass this way. Do you believe that he will pass this way?

First Girl. He passes all ways.

Second Girl [still breathing quickly]. I ran to meet Life.

First Girl. Are you not afraid of him?

Second Girl. Yes. That is why I ran to meet him.

First Girl [to herself]. I, too, ran to meet him.

Second Girl. Ah! he is coming!

First Girl. No. It is only the little quarreling words of the leaves, and the winds that are always urging them to go away.

Second Girl. The leaves do not go.

First Girl. Some day they will go. And that the wind knows.

First Girl. Why are you not wearing your crown?

Second Girl. Why should we wear crowns? [She places the crown upon her head.]

First Girl. Do you not know?

Second Girl. No.

First Girl. That is all of wisdom—the wearing of crowns before the eyes of Life.

Second Girl. I do not understand you.

First Girl. Few understand wisdom—even those who need it most—

Second Girl. He is coming! I heard a sound.

First Girl. It was only the sound of a petal dreaming that it had fallen from the rose-tree.

Second Girl. I have waited—

First Girl. We all long for him. We cry out to him. When he comes, he hurts us, he tortures us. He kills us, unless we know the secret.

Second Girl. What is the secret?

First Girl. That he is a slave. He pretends! He pretends! But always he knows in his heart that he is a slave. Only of those who have learned his secret is he afraid.

Second Girl. Tell me more!

First Girl. Over those who are afraid of him he is a tyrant. He obeys—Kings and Queens!

Second Girl. Then that—

First Girl. —Is why we must never let him see us without our crowns!

Second Girl. How do you know these things?

First Girl. They were told me by an old wise man, who sits outside the gate of our town.

Second Girl. How did he know? Because he was one of those who are kings?

First Girl. No. Because he was one of those who are afraid.

Second Girl [dreamily]. I have heard that Life is very beautiful. Is he so? I have heard also that he is supremely ugly; that his mouth is wide and grinning, that his eyes slant, and his nostrils are thick. Is he so?—or is he—very beautiful?

First Girl. Perhaps you will see—for yourself—Ah!

Second Girl.

[As Life saunters into view at the farthest bend of the path. He walks like a conqueror. But there is something ugly in his appearance. Life sees the girls just as a sudden sun-ray catches the jewels of their crowns. He cringes and walks like a hunchback slave. He is beautiful now.]

First Girl. He has seen our crowns!

Second Girl. Ah!

First Girl. Remember! You are only safe—as long as you remain his master. Never forget that he is a slave, and that you are a queen.

Second Girl [to herself]. I must never let him see me without my crown.

First Girl. Hush! He is coming!

Second Girl. He is very beautiful—

First Girl. While he is a slave.

Second Girl [not hearing]. He is—very beautiful—

First Girl. Life!

[Life bows to the ground at her feet.]

Second Girl [in delight]. Ah!

First Girl. Life, I would have opals on a platter.

[Life bows in assent.]

Second Girl. Oh-h!

First Girl. And pearls!

[Life bows.]

Second Girl. Ah!

First Girl. And a little castle set within a hedge.

[Life bows.]

Second Girl. Yes—

First Girl. I would have a fair prince to think tinkling words about me. And I would have a strawberry tart, with little flutings in the crust. Go, see that these things are made ready for me.

[Life bows in assent and turns to go.]

Second Girl. Ah!

First Girl. See? It is so that one must act. It is thus one must manage him. So and not otherwise it is done. Now—do you try. [She plucks a rose from a bush beside her, and twirls it in her fingers.]

Second Girl. Life! [Life kneels.] I have a wish for a gown of gold. [Life bows.]

First Girl. Yes!

[And over his bowed head, the two laugh gayly at the ease of his subjection.]

Second Girl. And a little garden where I may walk and think of trumpets blowing.

[Life bows.]

Second Girl. It is a good rule.

First Girl [calling slave back as he is leaving]. I have a wish for a gray steed. [Life bows.] Bring me a little page, too. With golden hair. And with a dimple.

[Life acquiesces, and starts to leave.]

First Girl [calling him back with a gesture]. Life! [An important afterthought.] With two dimples!

Second Girl. And an amber necklace! Bring me an amber necklace!

First Girl [tossing away the rose she has just plucked]. And a fresh rose.

[Life bows; turns to obey. The two are convulsed with mirth at the adventure and its success.]

First Girl. Life!

[Life halts.]

Second Girl. What are you going to do?

First Girl. Come here!

[Life comes to her. With a quick movement she snatches one of the gold chains from about his neck.]

Second Girl [frightened]. How can you dare?

First Girl. What you see you must take. [She seizes his wrist and pulls from it a bracelet.]

Second Girl [frightened]. Ah!

First Girl. Go!

[Exit Life..]

Second Girl. But why—

First Girl. He does not like beggars, Life. You see, he is a slave himself.

Second Girl. He is so beautiful.

First Girl. Do not forget that he is your slave.... This rosebush [touches it] is a queen who forgot.

Second Girl. Ah!

First Girl [pointing to bones that seemed part of bushes along roadside]. Those are the bones of others who forgot.

Second Girl. But he is beautiful!

First Girl. Only so long as you are his master.

Second Girl. But he is kind!

First Girl. Only so long as you are not afraid of him.

Second Girl. But you snatched—

First Girl. Life is the only person to whom one should be rude.

[They hear sounds of moaning and cries and a harsh voice menacing some unseen crowd.]

Second Girl. What is that?

First Girl. Come! We must not be seen! [Pulls her companion behind bush at side of stage.]

Second Girl. What will be done to us?

First Girl. Hush! If he should see you! He is always watching for the first sign of fear.

Second Girl. What is the first sign of fear?

First Girl. It is a thought—

Second Girl. But can he see one's thoughts—

First Girl. Only thoughts of fear.

Second Girl. If one hides them well even from oneself?

First Girl. Even then. But words are more dangerous still. If we say we are afraid we will be more afraid, because whatever we make into words makes itself into our bodies.

Voices Off Stage. Oh, master! Mercy, master!

First Girl. It spoils him, this cringing. It spoils a good servant. As long as he is kept in his place—

[A man enters and kneels, looking at Life off stage, in fear.]

First Girl [steals to man and says]. But he is only a slave. Do you not see that he is a slave?

Man. How can you say that? Look at his terrible face. Who that has seen his face can doubt that he is a master, and a cruel one?

First Girl. He cannot be a master unless you make him so.

Man. What is this that you are saying? Is it true?

First Girl. Yes, it is true. Even though it can be put into words it is true.

Man [starts to rise, sinks to knees again]. Yes. I see that it is true. But go away.

First Girl [crouching behind bush again]. Ah!

[Life crosses the stage, with a whip of many thongs driving a huddled throng of half crouching men and women. They kneel and kiss his robe. His mouth is wide and grinning, his eyes slant, his nostrils are thick. He is hideous.]

Life. You! Give me your ideals. Three ideals! Is that all you have?

Young man. Life has robbed me of my ideals.

Workman. He robbed me too.

Young man. But I had so few.

Workman. When you have toiled to possess more, he will take those from you also.

Life [to an old woman]. For twelve hours you shall toil at what you hate. For an hour you shall work at what you love, to keep the wound fresh, to make the torture keener.

Old Man. Ah, pity! Do not be so cruel! Let me forget the work I love!

Life. Dog! Take what I give you! It is not by begging that you may win anything from me!

A Voice. Give me a dream! A dream to strengthen my hands!

Another Voice. A little love to make the day less terrible!

Third Voice. Only rest, a little rest! Time to think of the sea, and of grasses blowing in the wind.

A Woman. Master!

[Life lashes her with his whip. The woman screams. Life draws back from them, and dances a mocking dance, dancing himself into greater fury, laughing terribly, he lashes out at them. Several fall dead. He chokes a cripple with his hands. Finally he drives them off the stage before him, several furtively dragging the bodies with them.]

Second Girl [as the two emerge from their hiding place]. Oh! I wish never to see his face as they saw it!

First Girl. You will not, unless you kneel—never kneel, little queen.

Second Girl. I shall never kneel to Life. I shall stand upright, as you have taught me, and I shall say, "Bring me another necklace, Life—"

First Girl. I must go now for a little while. I shall come back. Do not forget. [She goes out.]

Second Girl. I shall say—

[Life's voice is heard off stage. Second Girl cowers. Life enters.]

Second Girl. Slave! I would have the chain with the red stone! [As Life submissively approaches, she snatches it from his neck.] And this!

[Snatching at his hand and pulling the ring from a finger. The slave bows. She happens to look toward the spot where the bodies were, and shivers.]

Life [raising his head in time to see the look of horror. From this moment his aspect gradually changes until from the slave he becomes a tyrant]. Are you afraid of me?

Second Girl. No.

Life. There are many who are afraid of me.

Second Girl. You are a slave.

Life. There are many who are afraid.

Second Girl. You are only a slave.

Life. A slave may become a master.

Second Girl. No.

Life. I may become—

Second Girl. You are my slave.

Life. If I were your master—

Second Girl. You are a slave.

Life. If I were your master, I would be kind to you. You are beautiful.

Second Girl. Ah!

Life. You are very beautiful.

Second Girl. It is my crown that makes me beautiful.

Life. If you should take your crown from your head, you would still be beautiful.

Second Girl. That I will not do.

Life. You are beautiful as the slight burning of the apple-petal's cheek when the sun glances at the great flowers near it. You are beautiful as the little pool far in the forest which holds lily-buds in its hands. You are beautiful—

Second Girl [aside]. I think he wants me to be afraid, so I will say it. I have heard that men are like that. I am not afraid, but I will say it to please him.

Life. Are you afraid of me?

Second Girl. Yes.

Life. Are you afraid?

Second Girl. Yes, I am afraid.

Life. Ah, that pleases me.

Second Girl [aside]. I knew that I would be able to please him! Whatever I make into words makes itself into my body, she said, like fear—but she does not know everything! It is impossible that she should know everything! And it is so pleasant to please him—And so easy! I am not afraid of him. I have only said that I am afraid.

Life. Will you not take your crown from your head?

Second Girl. No.

Life. There is nothing so beautiful as a woman's hair flying in the wind. I can see your hair beneath your crown. Your hair would be beautiful flying in the wind.

Second Girl [removes crown]. It is only for a moment.

Life. Yes, you are beautiful.

Second Girl [to herself]. It may be that I was not wise—

Life. You are like a new flower opening, and dazzling a passing bird with sudden color.

Second Girl. She said that I must not—

Life. You are like the bird that passes. Your hair lifts like winks in the sun.

Second Girl. He has not harmed me.

Life. Your crown is like jewels gathered from old galleons beneath the sea. May I see your crown?

Second Girl [holds it out cautiously toward him, then changes her mind]. No—

Life. Let me hold it in my fingers. I shall give it back to you.

Second Girl. No.

Life. I shall give it back.

Second Girl. If you will surely give it back to me—

Life [takes crown]. But your hair is lovelier without a crown. [Flings it from him.]

Second Girl. What have you done?

Life. It was only in jest.

Second Girl. But you promised—

Life. In jest.

Second Girl. But—

Life. Ho-ho! Laugh with me. What a jest!

Second Girl [laughs, then shivers].

Life [in high good humor with himself]. Dance for me. You are young. You are happy. Dance!

Second Girl. What shall my dance say?

Life. That it is Spring, and that there are brooks flowing, newly awakened and mad to be with the sea. That there is a white bud widening under the moon, and in a curtained room a young girl sleeping. That the sun has wakened her—

Second Girl [dances these things. At first she is afraid of him, then she forgets and dances with abandon]. And now give me back my crown.

Life. You do not need a crown, pretty one.

Second Girl. I am afraid of you!

Life. Afraid of me! What have I done?

Second Girl. I do not know.

Life. Do not be afraid.

Second Girl. I am afraid.

Life. I shall be a kind master to you.

Second Girl. Master?

Life. A kind master.

Second Girl. You are my slave.

Life. I shall never be your slave again.

Second Girl. And if she were right? If it is true?

Life. What are you saying?

Second Girl. Nothing—

Life. You must call me master.

Second Girl. No. That I will not do.

Life [leering at her]. Call me master. Then I shall be kind to you.

Second Girl. No. I can not.

Life [picks up his whip from the path, toying with the whip but laughing at her]. Then I shall be kind.

Second Girl. Master—

Life. It has a good sound.

Second Girl. You will give me—

Life. Greedy one! Be grateful that I do not punish you.

Second Girl. You would not strike me?

Life. If you do not obey—

Second Girl [whispering]. You would not strike—

Life. You must kneel.

Second Girl [repeating]. Never kneel, little queen—

Life. You must kneel to me.

Second Girl. No.

Life [raising the whip as if to strike]. On your knees! Slave!

Second Girl. You were kind! Life, you were kind! You said beautiful words to me.

Life. Kneel.

Second Girl. You would be always kind, you said—

Life. Will you obey?

Second Girl. I shall never—

[Life curls his whip around her shoulders.]

Second Girl [screams]. Do not flog me. I will kneel. [Kneels.]

Life. So? In that way I can win obedience.

Second Girl. Master!

Life. It has a good sound.

Second Girl. Pity! Have pity!

Life. Do not whine. [Kicks her.]

Second Girl [rises staggering]. Spare me!

Life. I shall beat you, for the cries of those who fear me are sweet in my ears. [Beats her.]

Second Girl. Master!

Life [flinging aside whip]. But sweeter yet are stilled cries—[He seizes her, they struggle.]

Second Girl. He is too strong—I can struggle no longer!

[They struggle. Life chokes her to death and flings her body from him. Then laughing horribly he goes off the stage.]

First Girl [enters skipping merrily. Singing].

Heigho, in April,
Heigho, heigho,
All the town in April
Is gay, is gay!

[She plucks rose from bush.]

Heigho, in April,
In merry, merry April,
Love came a-riding
And of a sunny day
I met him on the way!
Heigho, in April,
Heigho, heigho—

[Suddenly seeing the body, she breaks the song, and stares without moving. Then she goes very slowly toward it, smooths down the dead girl's dress, and kneels beside the body. Whispers.]

She was young ... he was cruel.... [Touches the body.] She also was a queen. She snatched his trinkets. See, there on her dead neck is his chain with the red fire caught in gold. And on her finger his ring. But he was too strong ... too strong.... [She stands, trembles, cowering in terror.] Life has broken her.... Life has broken them all.... Some day.... I am afraid....

[Life enters, still the ugly tyrant. She remains cowering. His eyes rove slowly over the stage, but she sees him a second before he discovers her. She straightens up just in time to be her scornful self before his eyes light upon her. As she speaks Life becomes the slave again.]

First Girl [carelessly flings rose down without seeing that it has fallen upon the body]. Life! Bring me a fresh rose!

[The slave bows abjectly and goes to do her bidding.]