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Act I

THE PRELUDE


SCENE: _A plantation of thin young trees, in a misty and rainy
twilight; some woodland blossom showing the patches on the earth
between the stems._

THE STRANGER _is discovered, a cloaked figure with a pointed hood.
His costume might belong to modern or any other time, and the
conical hood is so drawn over the head that little can be seen of
the face._

_A distant voice, a woman's, is heard, half-singing, half-chanting,
unintelligible words. The cloaked figure raises its head and
listens with interest. The song draws nearer and_ PATRICIA CARLEON
_enters. She is dark and slight, and has a dreamy expression.
Though she is artistically dressed, her hair is a little wild. She
has a broken branch of some flowering tree in her hand. She does
not notice the stranger, and though he has watched her with
interest, makes no sign. Suddenly she perceives him and starts
back._

PATRICIA. Oh! Who are you?

STRANGER. Ah! Who am I? [_Commences to mutter to himself, and maps out
the ground with his staff._]

I have a hat, but not to wear;
I wear a sword, but not to slay,
And ever in my bag I bear
A pack of cards, but not to play.

PATRICIA. What are you? What are you saying?

STRANGER. It is the language of the fairies, O daughter of Eve.

PATRICIA. But I never thought fairies were like you. Why, you are taller
than I am.

STRANGER. We are of such stature as we will. But the elves grow small,
not large, when they would mix with mortals.

PATRICIA. You mean they are beings greater than we are.

STRANGER. Daughter of men, if you would see a fairy as he truly is, look
for his head above all the stars and his feet amid the floors of the
sea. Old women have taught you that the fairies are too small to be
seen. But I tell you the fairies are too mighty to be seen. For they are
the elder gods before whom the giants were like pigmies. They are the
Elemental Spirits, and any one of them is larger than the world. And you
look for them in acorns and on toadstools and wonder that you never see
them.

PATRICIA. But you come in the shape and size of a man?

STRANGER. Because I would speak with a woman.

PATRICIA. [_Drawing back in awe._] I think you are growing taller as you
speak.

[_The scene appears to fade away, and give place to the milieu of_
ACT ONE, _the Duke's drawing-room, an apartment with open French
windows or any opening large enough to show a garden and one house
fairly near. It is evening, and there is a red lamp lighted in the
house beyond. The_ REV. CYRIL SMITH _is sitting with hat and
umbrella beside him, evidently a visitor. He is a young man with
the highest of High Church dog-collars and all the qualities of a
restrained fanatic. He is one of the Christian Socialist sort and
takes his priesthood seriously. He is an honest man, and not an
ass._

[_To him enters_ MR. HASTINGS _with papers in his hand._

HASTINGS. Oh, good evening. You are Mr. Smith. [_Pause._] I mean you are
the Rector, I think.

SMITH. I am the Rector.

HASTINGS. I am the Duke's secretary. His Grace asks me to say that he
hopes to see you very soon; but he is engaged just now with the Doctor.

SMITH. Is the Duke ill?

HASTINGS. [_Laughing._] Oh, no; the Doctor has come to ask him to help
some cause or other. The Duke is never ill.

SMITH. Is the Doctor with him now?

HASTINGS. Why, strictly speaking, he is not. The Doctor has gone over
the road to fetch a paper connected with his proposal. But he hasn't far
to go, as you can see. That's his red lamp at the end of his grounds.

SMITH. Yes, I know. I am much obliged to you. I will wait as long as is
necessary.

HASTINGS. [_Cheerfully._] Oh, it won't be very long.

[_Exit._

[_Enter by the garden doors_ DR. GRIMTHORPE _reading an open paper.
He is an old-fashioned practitioner, very much of a gentleman and
very carefully dressed in a slightly antiquated style. He is about
sixty years old and might have been a friend of Huxley's._

DOCTOR. [_Folding up the paper._] I beg your pardon, sir, I did not
notice there was anyone here.

SMITH. [_Amicably._] I beg yours. A new clergyman cannot expect to be
expected. I only came to see the Duke about some local affairs.

DOCTOR. [_Smiling._] And so, oddly enough, did I. But I suppose we
should both like to get hold of him by a separate ear.

SMITH. Oh, there's no disguise as far as I'm concerned. I've joined this
league for starting a model public-house in the parish; and in plain
words, I've come to ask his Grace for a subscription to it.

DOCTOR. [_Grimly._] And, as it happens, I have joined in the petition
against the erection of a model public-house in this parish. The
similarity of our position grows with every instant.

SMITH. Yes, I think we must have been twins.

DOCTOR. [_More good-humouredly._] Well, what is a model public-house? Do
you mean a toy?

SMITH. I mean a place where Englishmen can get decent drink and drink it
decently. Do you call that a toy?

DOCTOR. No; I should call that a conjuring trick. Or, in apology to your
cloth, I will say a miracle.

SMITH. I accept the apology to my cloth. I am doing my duty as a priest.
How can the Church have a right to make men fast if she does not allow
them to feast?

DOCTOR. [_Bitterly._] And when you have done feasting them, you will
send them to me to be cured.

SMITH. Yes; and when you've done curing them you'll send them to me to
be buried.

DOCTOR. [_After a pause, laughing._] Well, you have all the old
doctrines. It is only fair you should have all the old jokes too.

SMITH. [_Laughing also._] By the way, you call it a conjuring trick that
poor people should drink moderately.

DOCTOR. I call it a chemical discovery that alcohol is not a food.

SMITH. You don't drink wine yourself?

DOCTOR. [_Mildly startled._] Drink wine! Well--what else is there to
drink?

SMITH. So drinking decently is a conjuring trick that you can do,
anyhow?

DOCTOR. [_Still good-humouredly._] Well, well, let us hope so. Talking
about conjuring tricks, there is to be conjuring and all kinds of things
here this afternoon.

SMITH. Conjuring? Indeed? Why is that?

_Enter_ HASTINGS _with a letter in each hand._

HASTINGS. His Grace will be with you presently. He asked me to deal with
the business matter first of all.

[_He gives a note to each of them._

SMITH. [_Turning eagerly to the_ DOCTOR.] But this is rather splendid.
The Duke's given 50 to the new public-house.

HASTINGS. The Duke is very liberal.

[_Collects papers._

DOCTOR. [_Examining his cheque._] Very. But this is rather curious. He
has also given 50 to the league for opposing the new public-house.

HASTINGS. The Duke is very liberal-minded.

[_Exit._

SMITH. [_Staring at his cheque._] Liberal-minded!... Absent-minded, I
should call it.

DOCTOR. [_Sitting down and lighting a cigar._] Well, yes. The Duke does
suffer a little from absence [_puts his cigar in his mouth and pulls
during the pause_] of mind. He is all for compromise. Don't you know the
kind of man who, when you talk to him about the five best breeds of dog,
always ends up by buying a mongrel? The Duke is the kindest of men, and
always trying to please everybody. He generally finishes by pleasing
nobody.

SMITH. Yes; I think I know the sort of thing.

DOCTOR. Take this conjuring, for instance. You know the Duke has two
wards who are to live with him now?

SMITH. Yes. I heard something about a nephew and niece from Ireland.

DOCTOR. The niece came from Ireland some months ago, but the nephew
comes back from America to-night. [_He gets up abruptly and walks about
the room._] I think I will tell you all about it. In spite of your
precious public-house you seem to me to be a sane man. And I fancy I
shall want all the sane men I can get to-night.

SMITH. [_Rising also._] I am at your service. Do you know, I rather
guessed you did not come here only to protest against my precious
public-house.

DOCTOR. [_Striding about in subdued excitement._] Well, you guessed
right. I was family physician to the Duke's brother in Ireland. I knew
the family pretty well.

SMITH. [_Quietly._] I suppose you mean you knew something odd about the
family?

DOCTOR. Well, they saw fairies and things of that sort.

SMITH. And I suppose, to the medical mind, seeing fairies means much the
same as seeing snakes?

DOCTOR. [_With a sour smile._] Well, they saw them in Ireland. I suppose
it's quite correct to see fairies in Ireland. It's like gambling at
Monte Carlo. It's quite respectable. But I do draw the line at their
seeing fairies in England. I do object to their bringing their ghosts
and goblins and witches into the poor Duke's own back garden and within
a yard of my own red lamp. It shows a lack of tact.

SMITH. But I do understand that the Duke's nephew and niece see witches
and fairies between here and your lamp.

[_He walks to the garden window and looks out._

DOCTOR. Well, the nephew has been in America. It stands to reason you
can't see fairies in America. But there is this sort of superstition in
the family, and I am not easy in my mind about the girl.

SMITH. Why, what does she do?

DOCTOR. Oh, she wanders about the park and the woods in the evenings.
Damp evenings for choice. She calls it the Celtic twilight. I've no use
for the Celtic twilight myself. It has a tendency to get on the chest.
But what is worse, she is always talking about meeting somebody, some
elf or wizard or something. I don't like it at all.

SMITH. Have you told the Duke?

DOCTOR. [_With a grim smile._] Oh, yes, I told the Duke. The result was
the conjurer.

SMITH. [_With amazement._] The _conjurer_?

DOCTOR. [_Puts down his cigar in the ash-tray._] The Duke is
indescribable. He will be here presently, and you shall judge for
yourself. Put two or three facts or ideas before him, and the thing he
makes out of them is always something that seems to have nothing to do
with it. Tell any other human being about a girl dreaming of the fairies
and her practical brother from America, and he would settle it in some
obvious way and satisfy some one: send her to America or let her have
her fairies in Ireland. Now the Duke thinks a conjurer would just meet
the case. I suppose he vaguely thinks it would brighten things up, and
somehow satisfy the believers' interest in supernatural things and the
unbelievers' interest in smart things. As a matter of fact the
unbeliever thinks the conjurer's a fraud, and the believer thinks he's a
fraud, too. The conjurer satisfies nobody. That is why he satisfies the
Duke.

[_Enter the_ DUKE, _with_ HASTINGS, _carrying papers. The_ DUKE _is
a healthy, hearty man in tweeds, with a rather wandering eye. In
the present state of the peerage it is necessary to explain that
the_ DUKE, _though an ass, is a gentleman._

DUKE. Good-morning, Mr. Smith. So sorry to have kept you waiting, but
we're rather in a rush to-day. [_Turns to_ HASTINGS, _who has gone over
to a table with the papers._] You know Mr. Carleon is coming this
afternoon?

HASTINGS. Yes, your Grace. His train will be in by now. I have sent the
trap.

DUKE. Thank you. [_Turning to the other two._] My nephew, Dr.
Grimthorpe, Morris, you know, Miss Carleon's brother from America. I
hear he's been doing great things out there. Petrol, or something. Must
move with the times, eh?

DOCTOR. I'm afraid Mr. Smith doesn't always agree with moving with the
times.

DUKE. Oh, come, come! Progress, you know, progress! Of course I know how
busy you are; you mustn't overwork yourself, you know. Hastings was
telling me you laughed over those subscriptions of mine. Well, well, I
believe in looking at both sides of a question, you know. Aspects, as
old Buffle called them. Aspects. [_With an all-embracing gesture of the
arm._] You represent the tendency to drink in moderation, and you do
good in _your_ way. The Doctor represents the tendency not to drink at
all; and he does good in _his_ way. We can't be Ancient Britons, you
know.

[_A prolonged and puzzled silence, such as always follows the more
abrupt of the_ DUKE'S _associations or disassociations of thought._

SMITH. [_At last, faintly._] Ancient Britons....

DOCTOR. [_To_ SMITH _in a low voice._] Don't bother. It's only his
broad-mindedness.

DUKE. [_With unabated cheerfulness._] I saw the place you're putting up
for it, Mr. Smith. Very good work. Very good work, indeed. Art for the
people, eh? I particularly liked that woodwork over the west door--I'm
glad to see you're using the new sort of graining ... why, it all
reminds one of the French Revolution.

[_Another silence. As the_ DUKE _lounges alertly about the room_,
SMITH _speaks to the_ DOCTOR _in an undertone._

SMITH. Does it remind you of the French Revolution?

DOCTOR. As much as of anything else. His Grace never reminds me of
anything.

[_A young and very high American voice is heard calling in the
garden. "Say, could somebody see to one of these trunks?"_

[MR. HASTINGS _goes out into the garden. He returns with_ MORRIS
CARLEON, _a very young man: hardly more than a boy, but with very
grown-up American dress and manners. He is dark, smallish, and
active; and the racial type under his Americanism is Irish._

MORRIS. [_Humorously, as he puts in his head at the window._] See here,
does a Duke live here?

DOCTOR. [_Who is nearest to him, with great gravity._] Yes, only one.

MORRIS. I reckon he's the one I want, anyhow. I'm his nephew.

[_The_ DUKE, _who is ruminating in the foreground, with one eye
rather off, turns at the voice and shakes_ MORRIS _warmly by the
hand._

DUKE. Delighted to see you, my dear boy. I hear you've been doing very
well for yourself.

MORRIS. [_Laughing._] Well, pretty well, Duke; and better still for Paul
T. Vandam, I guess. I manage the old man's mines out in Arizona, you
know.

DUKE. [_Shaking his head sagaciously._] Ah, very go-ahead man! Very
go-ahead methods, I'm told. Well, I dare say he does a great deal of
good with his money. And we can't go back to the Spanish Inquisition.

[_Silence, during which the three men look at each other._

MORRIS. [_Abruptly._] And how's Patricia?

DUKE. [_A little hazily._] Oh, she's very well, I think. She....

[_He hesitates slightly._

MORRIS. [_Smiling._] Well, then, where's Patricia?

[_There is a slightly embarrassed pause, and the_ DOCTOR _speaks._

DOCTOR. Miss Carleon is walking about the grounds, I think.

[MORRIS _goes to the garden doors and looks out._

MORRIS. It's a mighty chilly night to choose. Does my sister commonly
select such evenings to take the air--and the damp?

DOCTOR. [_After a pause._] If I may say so, I quite agree with you. I
have often taken the liberty of warning your sister against going out in
all weathers like this.

DUKE. [_Expansively waving his hands about._] The artist temperament!
What I always call the artistic temperament! Wordsworth, you know, and
all that.

[_Silence._

MORRIS. [_Staring._] All what?

DUKE. [_Continuing to lecture with enthusiasm._] Why, everything's
temperament, you know! It's her temperament to see the fairies. It's my
temperament not to see the fairies. Why, I've walked all round the
grounds twenty times and never saw a fairy. Well, it's like that about
this wizard or whatever she calls it. For her there is somebody there.
For us there would not be somebody there. Don't you see?

MORRIS. [_Advancing excitedly._] Somebody there! What do you mean?

DUKE. [_Airily._] Well, you can't quite call it a man.

MORRIS. [_Violently._] A man!

DUKE. Well, as old Buffle used to say, what is a man?

MORRIS. [_With a strong rise of the American accent._] With your
permission, Duke, I eliminate old Buffle. Do you mean that anybody has
had the tarnation coolness to suggest that some man....

DUKE. Oh, not a _man_, you know. A magician, something mythical, you
know.

SMITH. Not a _man_, but a medicine man.

DOCTOR. [_Grimly._] I am a medicine man.

MORRIS. And you don't look mythical, Doc.

[_He bites his finger and begins to pace restlessly up and down the
room._

DUKE. Well, you know, the artistic temperament....

MORRIS. [_Turning suddenly._] See here, Duke! In most commercial ways
we're a pretty forward country. In these moral ways we're content to be
a pretty backward country. And if you ask me whether I like my sister
walking about the woods on a night like this! Well, I don't.

DUKE. I am afraid you Americans aren't so advanced as I'd hoped. Why! as
old Buffle used to say....

[_As he speaks a distant voice is heard singing in the garden; it
comes nearer and nearer, and_ SMITH _turns suddenly to the_ DOCTOR.

SMITH. Whose voice is that?

DOCTOR. It is no business of mine to decide!

MORRIS. [_Walking to the window._] You need not trouble. I know who it
is.

_Enter_ PATRICIA CARLEON

[_Still agitated._] Patricia, where have you been?

PATRICIA. [_Rather wearily._] Oh! in Fairyland.

DOCTOR. [_Genially._] And whereabouts is that?

PATRICIA. It's rather different from other places. It's either nowhere
or it's wherever you are.

MORRIS. [_Sharply._] Has it any inhabitants?

PATRICIA. Generally only two. Oneself and one's shadow. But whether he
is my shadow or I am his shadow is never found out.

MORRIS. He? Who?

PATRICIA. [_Seeming to understand his annoyance for the first time, and
smiling._] Oh, you needn't get conventional about it, Morris. He is not
a mortal.

MORRIS. What's his name?

PATRICIA. We have no names there. You never really know anybody if you
know his name.

MORRIS. What does he look like?

PATRICIA. I have only met him in the twilight. He seems robed in a long
cloak, with a peaked cap or hood like the elves in my nursery stories.
Sometimes when I look out of the window here, I see him passing round
this house like a shadow; and see his pointed hood, dark against the
sunset or the rising of the moon.

SMITH. What does he talk about?

PATRICIA. He tells me the truth. Very many true things. He is a wizard.

MORRIS. How do you know he's a wizard? I suppose he plays some tricks on
you.

PATRICIA. I should know he was a wizard if he played no tricks. But once
he stooped and picked up a stone and cast it into the air, and it flew
up into God's heaven like a bird.

MORRIS. Was that what first made you think he was a wizard?

PATRICIA. Oh, no. When I first saw him he was tracing circles and
pentacles in the grass and talking the language of the elves.

MORRIS. [_Sceptically._] Do you know the language of the elves?

PATRICIA. Not until I heard it.

MORRIS. [_Lowering his voice as if for his sister, but losing patience
so completely that he talks much louder than he imagines._] See here,
Patricia, I reckon this kind of thing is going to be the limit. I'm just
not going to have you let in by some blamed tramp or fortune-teller
because you choose to read minor poetry about the fairies. If this gipsy
or whatever he is troubles you again....

DOCTOR. [_Putting his hand on_ MORRIS'S _shoulder._] Come, you must
allow a little more for poetry. We can't all feed on nothing but petrol.

DUKE. Quite right, quite right. And being Irish, don't you know, Celtic,
as old Buffle used to say, charming songs, you know, about the Irish
girl who has a plaid shawl--and a Banshee. [_Sighs profoundly._] Poor
old Gladstone!

[_Silence as usual._

SMITH. [_Speaking to_ DOCTOR.] I thought you yourself considered the
family superstition bad for the health?

DOCTOR. I consider a family superstition is better for the health than a
family quarrel. [_He walks casually across to_ PATRICIA.] Well, it must
be nice to be young and still see all those stars and sunsets. We old
buffers won't be too strict with you if your view of things sometimes
gets a bit--mixed up, shall we say? If the stars get loose about the
grass by mistake; or if, once or twice, the sunset gets into the east.
We should only say, "Dream as much as you like. Dream for all mankind.
Dream for us who can dream no longer. But do not quite forget the
difference."

PATRICIA. What difference?

DOCTOR. The difference between the things that are beautiful and the
things that are there. That red lamp over my door isn't beautiful; but
it's there. You might even come to be glad it is there, when the stars
of gold and silver have faded. I am an old man now, but some men are
still glad to find my red star. I do not say they are the wise men.

PATRICIA. [_Somewhat affected._] Yes, I know you are good to everybody.
But don't you think there may be floating and spiritual stars which will
last longer than the red lamps?

SMITH. [_With decision._] Yes. But they are fixed stars.

DOCTOR. The red lamp will last my time.

DUKE. Capital! Capital! Why, it's like Tennyson. [_Silence._] I remember
when I was an undergrad....

[_The red light disappears; no one sees it at first except_
PATRICIA, _who points excitedly._

MORRIS. What's the matter?

PATRICIA. The red star is gone.

MORRIS. Nonsense! [_Rushes to the garden doors._] It's only somebody
standing in front of it. Say, Duke, there's somebody standing in the
garden.

PATRICIA. [_Calmly._] I told you he walked about the garden.

MORRIS. If it's that fortune-teller of yours....

[_Disappears into the garden, followed by the_ DOCTOR.

DUKE. [_Staring._] Somebody in the garden! Really, this Land
Campaign....

[_Silence._

[MORRIS _reappears rather breathless._

MORRIS. A spry fellow, your friend. He slipped through my hands like a
shadow.

PATRICIA. I told you he was a shadow.

MORRIS. Well, I guess there's going to be a shadow hunt. Got a lantern,
Duke?

PATRICIA. Oh, you need not trouble. He will come if I call him.

[_She goes out into the garden and calls out some half-chanted and
unintelligible words, somewhat like the song preceding her
entrance. The red light reappears; and there is a slight sound as
of fallen leaves shuffled by approaching feet. The cloaked_
STRANGER _with the pointed hood is seen standing outside the garden
doors._


PATRICIA. You may enter all doors.

[_The figure comes into the room_

MORRIS. [_Shutting the garden doors behind him._] Now, see here, wizard,
we've got you. And we know you're a fraud.

SMITH. [_Quietly._] Pardon me, I do not fancy that we know that. For
myself I must confess to something of the Doctor's agnosticism.

MORRIS. [_Excited, and turning almost with a snarl._] I didn't know you
parsons stuck up for any fables but your own.

SMITH. I stick up for the thing every man has a right to. Perhaps the
only thing that every man has a right to.

MORRIS. And what is that?

SMITH. The benefit of the doubt. Even your master, the petroleum
millionaire, has a right to that. And I think he needs it more.

MORRIS. I don't think there's much doubt about the question, Minister.
I've met this sort of fellow often enough--the sort of fellow who
wheedles money out of girls by telling them he can make stones
disappear.

DOCTOR. [_To the_ STRANGER.] Do you say you can make stones disappear?

STRANGER. Yes. I can make stones disappear.

MORRIS. [_Roughly._] I reckon you're the kind of tough who knows how to
make a watch and chain disappear.

STRANGER. Yes; I know how to make a watch and chain disappear.

MORRIS. And I should think you were pretty good at disappearing
yourself.

STRANGER. I have done such a thing.

MORRIS. [_With a sneer._] Will you disappear now?

STRANGER. [_After reflection._] No, I think I'll appear instead. [_He
throws back his hood, showing the head of an intellectual-looking man,
young but rather worn. Then he unfastens his cloak and throws it off,
emerging in complete modern evening dress. He advances down the room
towards the_ DUKE, _taking out his watch as he does so._] Good-evening,
your Grace. I'm afraid I'm rather too early for the performance. But
this gentleman [_with a gesture towards_ MORRIS] seemed rather impatient
for it to begin.

DUKE. [_Rather at a loss._] Oh, good-evening. Why, really--are you
the...?

STRANGER. [_Bowing._] Yes. I am the Conjurer.

[_There is general laughter, except from_ PATRICIA. _As the others
mingle in talk, the_ STRANGER _goes up to her._

STRANGER. [_Very sadly._] I am very sorry I am not a wizard.

PATRICIA. I wish you were a thief instead.

STRANGER. Have I committed a worse crime than thieving?

PATRICIA. You have committed the cruellest crime, I think, that there
is.

STRANGER. And what is the cruellest crime?

PATRICIA. Stealing a child's toy.

STRANGER. And what have I stolen?

PATRICIA. A fairy tale.


CURTAIN

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

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