[Shows a primeval forest, with great trees, thickets in background, and moss and ferns underfoot. A set in the foreground. To the left is a tent, about ten feet square, with a fly. The front and sides are rolled up, showing a rubber blanket spread, with bedding upon it; a rough stand, with books and some canned goods, a rifle, a fishing-rod, etc. Toward centre is a trench with the remains of a fire smoldering in it, and a frying pan and some soiled dishes beside it. There is a log, used as a seat, and near it are several books, a bound volume of music lying open, and a violin case with violin. To the right is a rocky wall, with a cleft suggesting a grotto.]
[At rise: GERALD pottering about his fire, which is burning badly, mainly because he is giving most of his attention to a bound volume of music which he has open. He is a young man of twenty-two, with wavy auburn hair; wears old corduroy trousers and a grey flannel shirt, open at the throat. He stirs the fire, then takes violin and plays the Nibelung theme with gusto.]
GERALD. A plague on that fire! I think I'll make my supper on prunes and crackers to-night!
MIMI. [Enters left, disguised as a pack-peddler; a little wizened up man, with long, unkempt grey hair and beard, and a heavy bundle on his back.] Good evening, sir!
GERALD. [Starts.] Hello!
MIMI. Good evening!
GERALD. Why . . . who are you?
MIMI. Can you tell me how I find the road, sir?
GERALD. Where do you want to go?
MIMI. To the railroad.
GERALD. Oh, I see! You got lost?
MIMI. Yes, sir.
GERALD. [Points.] You should have turned to the right down where the roads cross.
MIMI. Oh. That's it!
[Puts down burden and sighs.]
GERALD. Are you expecting to get to the railroad to-night?
MIMI. Yes, sir.
GERALD. Humph! You'll find it hard going. Better rest. [Looks him over, curiously.] What are you--a peddler?
MIMI. I sell things. Nice things, sir. You buy?
[Starts to open pack.]
GERALD. No. I don't want anything.
MIMI. [Gazing about.] You live here all alone?
GERALD. Yes . . . all alone.
MIMI. [Looking of left.] Who lives in the big house?
GERALD. That's my father's camp.
MIMI. Humph! Nobody in there?
GERALD. The family hasn't come up yet.
MIMI. Why don't you live there?
GERALD. I'm camping out--I prefer the tent.
MIMI. Humph! Who's your father?
GERALD. John Isman's his name.
MIMI. Rich man, hey?
GERALD. Why . . . yes. Fairly so.
MIMI. I see people here last year.
GERALD. Oh! You've been here before?
MIMI. Yes. I been here. I see young lady. Very beautiful!
GERALD. That's my sister, I guess.
MIMI. Your sister. What you call her?
GERALD. Her name's Estelle.
MIMI. Estelle! And what's your name?
GERALD. I'm Gerald Isman.
MIMI. Humph! [Looking about, sees violin.] You play music, hey?
MIMI. You play so very bad?
GERALD. [Laughs.] Why . . . what makes you think that?
MIMI. You come 'way off by yourself!
GERALD. Oh! I see! No . . . I like to be alone.
MIMI. I hear you playing . . . nice tune.
GERALD. Yes. You like music?
MIMI. Sometimes. You play little quick tune . . . so?
GERALD. [Plays Nibelung theme.] This?
MIMI. [Eagerly.] Yes. Where you learn that?
GERALD. That's the Nibelung music.
MIMI. Nibelung music! Where you hear it?
GERALD. Why . . . it's in an opera.
MIMI. An opera?
GERALD. It's by a composer named Wagner.
MIMI. Where he hear it?
GERALD. [Laughs.] Why . . . I guess he made it up.
MIMI. What's it about? Hey?
GERALD. It's about the Nibelungs.
GERALD. Queer little people who live down inside the earth, and spend all their time digging for gold.
MIMI. Ha! You believe in such people?
GERALD. [Amused.] Why . . . I don't know . . .
MIMI. You ever see them?
GERALD. No . . . but the poets tell us they exist.
MIMI. The poets, hey? What they tell you about them?
GERALD. Well, they have great rocky caverns, down in the depths of the earth. And they have treasures of gold . . . whole caves of it. And they're very cunning smiths . . . they make all sorts of beautiful golden vessels and trinkets.
MIMI. Trinkets, hey! [Reaches into bundle.] Like this, hey?
[Holds up a gold cup.]
GERALD. [Surprised.] Oh!
MIMI. Or this, hey?
GERALD. Why . . . where did you get such things?
MIMI. Ha, ha! You don't know what I got!
GERALD. Let me see them.
MIMI. You think the Nibelungs can beat that, hey? [Reaches into bag.] Maybe I sell you this cap! [Takes out a little cap of woven gold chains.] A magic cap, hey?
GERALD. [Astounded.] Why . . . what is it?
MIMI. [Puts it on his head.] You wear it . . . so. And you play Nibelung music, and you vanish from sight . . . nobody finds you. Or I sell you the magic ring . . . you wear that . . . [Hands it to GERALD.] Put it on your finger . . . so. Now you play, and the Nibelungs come . . . they dance about in the woods . . . they bring you gold treasures . . . ha, ha, ha! [Amused at GERALD's perplexity.] What you think they look like, hey? . . . those Nibelungs!
GERALD. Why . . . I don't know . . .
MIMI. What do your poets tell you? ha?
GERALD. Why . . . they're little men . . . with long hair and funny clothes . . . and humpbacked.
MIMI. Look like me, hey?
GERALD. [Embarrassed.] Why . . . yes . . . in a way.
MIMI. What are their names?
GERALD. Their names?
MIMI. Yes . . . what ones do you know about?
GERALD. Well, there was Alberich, the king.
GERALD. He was the one who found the Rheingold. And then there was Hagen, his son.
GERALD. He killed the hero, Siegfried.
MIMI. Yes, yes!
GERALD. And then there was Mimi.
MIMI. Ah! Mimi!
GERALD. He was a very famous smith.
MIMI. [Eagerly.] You know all about them! Somebody has been there!
GERALD. What do you mean?
MIMI. Would you like to see those Nibelungs?
GERALD. [Laughing.] Why . . . I wouldn't mind.
MIMI. You would like to see them dancing in the moonlight, and hear the clatter of their trinkets and shields? You would like to meet old King Alberich, and Mimi the smith? You would like to see that cavern yawn open . . . [points to right] and fire and steam break forth, and all the Nibelungs come running out? Would you like that? ha?
GERALD. Indeed I would!
MIMI. You wouldn't be afraid?
GERALD. No, I don't think so.
MIMI. But are you sure?
GERALD. Yes . . . sure!
MIMI. All right! You wear my magic ring! You wait till night comes! Then you play! [Puts away trinkets.] I must go now.
GERALD. [Perplexed.] What do you want for your ring?
MIMI. It is not for sale. I give it.
MIMI. Money could not buy
it. [Takes up pack.] I came to you because you play that music.
GERALD. But I can't . . . it . . .
MIMI. It is yours . . . you are a poet! [Starts left.] Is this the way?
GERALD. Yes. But I don't like to . . .
MIMI. Keep it! You will see! Good-bye!
GERALD. But wait!
MIMI. It is late. I must go. Good-night.
GERALD. Good-night. [Stands staring.] Well, I'll be switched! If that wasn't a queer old customer! [Looks at ring.] It feels like real gold! [Peers after MIMI.] What in the world did he mean, anyhow? The magic ring! I hope he doesn't get lost in those woods to-night. [Turns to fire.] Confound that fire! It's out for good now! Let it go. [Sits, and takes music score.] Nibelungs! They are realer than anybody guesses. People who spend their lives in digging for gold, and know and care about nothing else. How many of them I've met at mother's dinner parties! Well, I must get to my work now. [Makes a few notes; then looks up and stretches.] Ah, me! I don't know what makes me so lazy this evening. This strange heaviness! There seems to be a spell on me. [Gazes about.] How beautiful these woods are at sunset! If I were a Nibelung, I'd come here for certain! [Settles himself, reclining; shadows begin to fall; music from orchestra.] I'm good for nothing but dreaming . . . I wish Estelle were here to sing to me! How magical the twilight is! Estelle! Estelle!
[He lies motionless; music dies away, and there is a long silence. The forest is dark, with gleams of moonlight. Suddenly there is a faint note of music . . . the Nibelung theme. After a silence it is repeated; then again. Several instruments take it up. It swells louder. Vague forms are seen flitting here and there. Shadows move.]
GERALD. [Starting up suddenly.] What's that? [Silence; then the note is heard again, very faint. He starts. It is heard again, and he springs to his feet.] What's that? [Again and again. He runs to his violin, picks it up, and stares at it. Still the notes are heard, and he puts down the violin, and runs down stage, listening.] Why, what can it mean? [As the music grows louder his perplexity and alarm increase. Suddenly he sees a figure stealing through the shadows, and he springs back, aghast.] Why, it's a Nibelung! [Another figure passes.] Oh! I must be dreaming! [Several more appear.] Nibelungs! Why, it's absurd! Wake up, man! You're going crazy! [Music swells louder; figures appear, carrying gold shields, chains, etc., with clatter.] My God!
[He stands with hands clasped to his forehead, while the uproar swells louder and louder, and the forms become more numerous. He rushes down stage, and the Nibelungs surround him, dancing about him in wild career, laughing, screaming, jeering. They begin to pinch his legs behind his back, and he leaps here and there, crying out. Gradually they drive him toward the grotto, which opens before them, revealing a black chasm, emitting clouds of steam. They rush in and are enveloped in the mist. Sounds of falling and crashing are heard. The steam spreads, gradually veiling the front of the stage.]
[Nets rise with the steam, giving the effect of a descent. During this change the orchestra plays the music between Scenes II and III in Das Rheingold.] SCENE II
[Nibelheim: a vast rocky cavern. Right centre is a large gold throne, and to the right of that an entrance through a great tunnel. Entrances from the sides also. At the left is a large golden vase upon a stand, and near it lie piles of golden utensils, shields, etc. Left centre is a heavy iron door, opening into a vault. Throughout this scene there is a suggestion of music, rising into full orchestra at significant moments. The voices of the Nibelungs are accompanied by stopped trumpets and other weird sounds.]
[At rise: The stage is dark. A faint light spreads. A company of Nibelungs crosses from right to left, carrying trinkets and treasures. Clatter of shields, crack of whips, music, etc. Another company of Nibelungs runs in left.]
FIRST NIB. [Entering.] The earth-man has come!
SECOND NIB. Where is he?
FIRST NIB. He is with Mimi!
SECOND NIB. What is he like?
FIRST NIB. He is big! [With a gesture of fright.] Terrible!
THIRD NIB. Ah!
SECOND NIB. And the king? Does he know?
FIRST NIB. He has been told.
THIRD NIB. Where is the king?
FIRST NIB. He comes! He comes!
[The orchestra plays the Fasolt and Fafnir music, Rheingold, Scene II. [Enter a company of Nibelungs, armed with whips, and marching with a stately tread. They post themselves about the apartment. Enter another company supporting KING ALBERICH. He is grey-haired and very feeble, but ferocious-looking, and somewhat taller than the others. His robe is lined with ermine, and he carries a gold Nibelung whip--a short handle of gold, with leather thongs. He seats himself upon the throne, and all make obeisance. A solemn pause.]
ALBERICH. The earth-man has come?
FIRST NIB. Yes, your majesty!
ALB. Where is Mimi?
ALL. Mimi! Mimi!
[The call is repeated off.]
MIMI. [Enters left.] Your majesty.
ALB. Where is the earth-man?
MIMI. He is safe, your majesty.
ALB. Did he resist?
MIMI. I have brought him, your majesty.
ALB. And Prince Hagen? Has he come?
MIMI. He is without, your majesty.
ALB. Let him be brought in.
[All cry out in terror.]
MIMI. Your majesty. He is wild! He fights with everyone! He . . .
ALB. Let him be brought in.
ALL. Prince Hagen! Prince Hagen!
MIMI. [Calling.] Prince Hagen !
[Some run out. The call is heard off All stand waiting in tense expectation. The music plays the Hagen motives, with suggestions of the Siegfried funeral march. Voices are heard in the distance, and at the climax of the music PRINCE HAGEN and his keepers enter. He is small for a man, but larger than any of the Nibelungs; a grim, sinister figure, with black hair, and a glowering look. His hands are chained in front of him, and eight Nibelungs march as a guard. He has bare arms and limbs, and a rough black bearskin flung over his shoulders. He enters right, and stands glaring from one to another.]
ALB. Good evening, Hagen.
HAGEN. [After a pause.] Well?
ALB. [Hesitating.] Hagen, you are still angry and rebellious?
HAGEN. I am!
ALB. [Pleading.] Hagen, you are my grandson. You are my sole heir . . . the only representative of my line. You are all that I have in the world!
ALB. You place me in such a trying position! Have you no shame . . . no conscience? Why, some day you will be king . . . and one cannot keep a king in chains!
HAGEN. I do not want to be in chains!
ALB. But, Hagen, your conduct is such . . . what can I do? You have robbed . . . you have threatened murder! And you . . . my grandson and my heir . . .
HAGEN. Have you sent for me to preach at me again?
ALB. Hagen, this stranger . . . he has come to visit us from the world above. These earth-men know more than we . . . they have greater powers . . .
HAGEN. What is all that to me?
ALB. You know that you yourself are three-quarters an earth-man . . .
HAGEN. I know it. [With a passionate gesture.] But I am in chains!
ALB. There may be a way of your having another chance. Perhaps this stranger will teach you. If you will promise to obey him, he will stay with you . . . he will be your tutor, and show you the ways of the earth- men.
HAGEN. I will not have it!
HAGEN. I will not have it, I say! Why did you not consult me?
ALB. But what is your objection . . .
HAGEN. I will not obey an earth-man! I will not obey anyone!
ALB. But he will teach you . . .
HAGEN. I do not want to be taught. I want to be let alone! Take off these chains!
ALB. [Half rising.] Hagen! I insist . . .
HAGEN. Take them off, I say! You cannot conquer me . . . you cannot trick me!
ALB. [Angrily.] Take him away!
[The Nibelungs seize hold of him to hustle him off.]
HAGEN. I will not obey him! Mark what I say . . . I will kill him. Yes! I will kill him!
[He is dragged off protesting.]
ALB. [Sits, his head bowed with grief, until the uproar dies away; then, looking up.] Mimi!
MIMI. Yes, your majesty.
ALB. Let the earth-man be brought.
MIMI. Yes, your majesty!
ALL. The earth-man! The earth-man!
[The call is heard as before. GERALD is brought on; the orchestra plays a beautiful melody, violins and horns. MIMI moves left to meet him.]
GERALD. [Enters left with attendants; hesitating, gazing about in wonder. He sees MIMI, and stops; a pause.] The pack peddler!
MIMI. The pack peddler!
GER. And these are Nibelungs?
MIMI. You call us that.
GER. [Laughing nervously.] You . . . er . . . it's a little disconcerting, you know. I had no idea you existed. May I ask your name?
MIMI. I am Mimi.
GER. Mimi! Mimi, the smith? And may I ask . . . are you real, or is this a dream?
MIMI. Is not life a dream?
GER. Yes . . . but . . .
MIMI. It is a story. You have to pretend that it is true.
GER. I see!
MIMI. You pretend that it is true . . . and then you see what happens! It is very interesting!
GER. Yes . . . I have no doubt. [Peers at him.] And just to help me straighten things out . . . would you mind telling me . . . are you old or young?
MIMI. I am young.
GER. How young?
MIMI. Nine hundred years young.
GER. Oh! And why did you come for me?
MIMI. The king commanded it.
GER. The king? And who may this king be?
MIMI. King Alberich.
GER. Alberich. [Stares at the king.] And is this he?
MIMI. It is he.
GER. And may I speak to him?
MIMI. You may.
ALB. Let the earth-man advance. Hail!
GER. Good evening, Alberich.
MIMI. [At his elbow.] Your majesty!
GER. Good evening, your majesty.
ALB. [After along gaze.] You play our music. Where did you learn it?
GER. Why . . . it's in Wagner's operas. He composed it.
ALB. Humph . . . composed it!
GER. [Aghast.] You mean he came and copied it!
ALB. Of course!
GER. Why . . . why . . . we all thought it was original!
ALB. Original! It is indeed wonderful originality! To listen in the Rhine-depths to the song of the maidens, to dwell in the forest and steal its murmurs, to catch the crackling of the fire and the flowing of the water, the galloping of the wind and the death march of the thunder . . . and then write it all down for your own! To take our story and tell it just as it happened . . . to take the very words from our lips, and sign your name to them! Originality!
GER. But, your majesty, one thing at least. Even his enemies granted him that! He invented the invisible orchestra!
ALB. [Laughing.] Have you seen any orchestra here?
[Siegfried motive sounds.]
GER. I hadn't realized it! Do you mean that everything here happens to music?
ALB. If you only had the ears to hear, you would know that the whole world happens to music.
GER. [Stands entranced.] Listen! Listen!
ALB. It is very monotonous, when one is digging out the gold. It keeps up such a wheezing, and pounding.
[Stopped trumpets from orchestra.]
GER. Ah, don't speak of such things! [Gazes about; sees cup.] What is this?
ALB. That is the coronation cup.
GER. The coronation cup?
ALB. One of the greatest of our treasures. It is worth over four hundred thousand dollars. It is the work of the elder Mimi, a most wonderful smith.
GER. [Advancing.] May I look at it?
ALB. You will observe the design of the Rhine maidens.
GER. I can't see it here. It's too dark. Let me have a candle.
MIMI. A candle?
ALL. A candle!
ALB. My dear sir! Candles are so expensive! And why do you want to see it? We never look at our art treasures.
GER. Never look at them!
ALB. No. We know what they are worth, and everyone else knows; and what difference does it make how they look?
GER. Oh, I see!
ALB. Perhaps you would like to see our vaults of gold? [Great excitement among the Nibelungs. The music makes a furious uproar. ALBERICH gives a great key to MIMI, who opens the iron doors.] Approach, sir.
MIMI. Hear the echoes. [Shouts.]
GER. It must be a vast place!
ALB. This particular cavern runs for seventeen miles under the earth.
GER. What! And you mean it is all full of gold?
ALB. From floor to roof with solid masses of it.
GER. Incredible! Is it all of the Nibelung treasure?
ALB. All? Mercy, no! This is simply my own, and I am by no means a rich man. The extent of some of our modern fortunes would simply exceed your belief. We live in an age of enormous productivity. [After a pause.] Will you see more of the vault?
GER. No, I thank you. [They close it.] It must be getting late; and, by the way, your majesty, you know that no one has told me yet why you had me brought here.
ALB. Ah, yes, sure enough. We have business to talk about. Let us get to it! [To MIMI.] Let the hall be cleared. [MIMI drives out the Nibelungs and retires.] Sit on this rock here beside me. [Confidentially.] Now we can talk things over. I trust you are willing to listen to me.
GER. Most certainly. I am very much interested.
ALB. Thank you. You know, my dear sir, that I had a son, Hagen, who was the slayer of the great hero, Siegfried?
GER. Yes, your majesty.
ALB. A most lamentable affair. You did not know, I presume, that Hagen, too, had a son, by one of the daughters of earth?
GER. No. He is not mentioned in history.
ALB. That son, Prince Hagen, is now living; and, in the course of events, he will fall heir to the throne I occupy.
GER. I see.
ALB. The boy is seven or eight hundred years old, which, in your measure, would make him about eighteen. Now, I speak frankly. The boy is wild and unruly. He needs guidance and occupation. And I have sent for you because I understand that you earth-people think more and see farther than we do.
ALB. I wish to ask you to help me . . . to use your strength of mind and body to direct this boy.
GER. But what can I do?
ALB. I wish you to stay here and be Prince Hagen's tutor.
ALB. [Anxiously.] If you will do it, sir, you will carry hence a treasure such as the world has never seen before. And it is a noble work . . . a great work, sir. He is the grandson of a king! Tell me . . . will you help me?
GER. Let me think. [A pause.] Your majesty, I have things of importance to do, and I have no time to stay here . . .
ALB. But think of the treasures!
GER. My father is a rich man, and I have no need of treasures. And besides, I am a poet. I have work of my own...
ALB. Oh! don't refuse me, sir!
GER. Listen! There is, perhaps, something else we can do. How would it do to take Prince Hagen up to the world?
ALB. [Starting.] Oh!
GER. This world is a small one. There he might have a wide field for his energies. He might be sent to a good school, and taught the ideals of our Christian civilization.
ALB. [Pondering anxiously.] You mean that you yourself would see to it that proper care was given to him?
GER. If I took him with me it would mean that I was interested in his future.
ALB. It is a startling proposition. What opportunity can you offer him?
GER. I am only a student myself. But my father is a man of importance in the world.
ALB. What does he do?
GER. He is John Isman. They call him the railroad king.
ALB. You have kings in your world, also!
GER. [Smiling.] After a fashion . . . yes.
ALB. I had not thought of this. I hardly know what to reply. [He starts.] What is that?
[An uproar is heard of left. Shouts and cries; music rises to deafening climax. Nibelungs flee on in terror.]
HAGEN. [Rushes on, struggling wildly, and dragging several Nibelungs.] Let me go, I say! Take off these chains!
ALB. [Rising in seat.] Hagen!
HAGEN. I will not stand it, I tell you!
ALB. Hagen! Listen to me!
ALB. I have something new to tell you. The earth-man has suggested taking you up with him to the world.
HAGEN. [A sudden wild expression flashes across his features.] No! [He gazes from one to the other, half beside himself.] You can't mean it!
ALB. It is true, Hagen.
HAGEN. What . . . why . . .
ALB. You would be sent to school and taught the ways of the earth-men. Do you think that you would like to go?
HAGEN. [Wildly.] By the gods! I would!
ALB. [Nervously.] You will promise to obey . . .
HAGEN. I'll promise anything! I'll do anything!
ALB. Hagen, this is a very grave decision for me. It is such an unusual step! You would have to submit yourself to this gentleman, who is kind enough to take charge of you . . .
HAGEN. I Will! I will! Quick! [Holding out his chains.] Take them off!
ALB. [Doubtfully.] We can trust you?
HAGEN. You can trust me! You'll have no trouble. Take them off!
ALB. Off with them!
MIMI. [Advances and proceeds to work at chains with a file.] Yes, your majesty.
HAGEN. [TO GERALD.] Tell me! What am I to do?
GER. You are to have an education . . .
HAGEN. Yes? What's it like? Tell me more about the earth-people.
GER. It's too much to try to tell. You will be there soon.
HAGEN. Ah! Be quick there! [Tears one hand free and waves it.] By the gods!
ALB. [To GERALD.] You had best spend the night with us and consult with me . . .
HAGEN. No, no! No delay! What's there to consult about?
ALB. We have so much to settle . . . your clothes . . . your money . . .
HAGEN. Give me some gold . . . that will be all. Let us be off!
GER. I will attend to everything. There is no need of delay.
HAGEN. Come on! [Tears other hand free.] Aha! [Roams about the stage, clenching his hands and gesticulating, while the music rises to a tremendous climax.] Free! Free forever! Aha ! Aha ! [Turning to GERALD.] Let us be off.
GER. All right. [To ALBERICH.] Good-bye, your majesty.
ALB. [Anxiously.] Good-bye.
HAGEN. Come on!
ALB. [As Nibelungs gather about, waving farewell.] Take care of yourself! Come back to me!
HAGEN. Free! Free! Ha, ha, ha!
MIMI. [With Nibelungs.] Good-bye!
[Exit, with GERALD, amid chorus of farewells, and wild uproar of music.] [CURTAIN]