Roxane, Cyrano and, for a moment, Sister Martha.
ROXANE (without turning round):
What was I saying?. . .
(She embroiders. Cyrano, very pale, his hat pulled down over his eyes, appears. The sister who had announced him retires. He descends the steps slowly, with a visible difficulty in holding himself upright, bearing heavily on his cane. Roxane still works at her tapestry):
Time has dimmed the tints. . .
How harmonize them now?
(To Cyrano, with playful reproach):
For the first time
Late!--For the first time, all these fourteen years!
CYRANO (who has succeeded in reaching the chair, and has seated himself--in a lively voice, which is in great contrast with his pale face):
Ay! It is villainous! I raged--was stayed. . .
By?. . .
By a bold, unwelcome visitor.
ROXANE (absently, working):
Ay, cousin,--the last creditor
Who has a debt to claim from me.
Have paid it?
No, not yet! I put it off;
--Said, 'Cry you mercy; this is Saturday,
When I have get a standing rendezvous
That naught defers. Call in an hour's time!'
Oh, well, a creditor can always wait!
I shall not let you go ere twilight falls.
Haply, perforce, I quit you ere it falls!
(He shuts his eyes, and is silent for a moment. Sister Martha crosses the park from the chapel to the flight of steps. Roxane, seeing her, signs to her to approach.)
ROXANE (to Cyrano):
How now? You have not teased the Sister?
CYRANO (hastily opening his eyes):
(In a comically loud voice):
Sister! come here!
(The sister glides up to him):
Ha! ha! What? Those bright eyes
Bent ever on the ground?
SISTER MARTHA (who makes a movement of astonishment on seeing his face):
CYRANO (in a whisper, pointing to Roxane):
Hush! 'tis naught!--
(Loudly, in a blustering voice):
I broke fast yesterday!
SISTER MARTHA (aside):
I know, I know!
That's how he is so pale! Come presently
To the refectory, I'll make you drink
A famous bowl of soup. . .You'll come?
There, see! You are more reasonable to-day!
ROXANE (who hears them whispering):
The Sister would convert you?
Nay, not I!
Hold! but it's true! You preach to me no more,
You, once so glib with holy words! I am
Astonished!. . .
(With burlesque fury):
Stay, I will surprise you too!
Hark! I permit you. . .
(He pretends to be seeking for something to tease her with, and to have found it):
. . .It is something new!--
To--pray for me, to-night, at chapel-time!
Good Sister Martha is struck dumb!
SISTER MARTHA (gently):
I did not wait your leave to pray for you.
(She goes out.)
CYRANO (turning to Roxane, who is still bending over her work):
That tapestry! Beshrew me if my eyes
Will ever see it finished!
I was sure
To hear that well-known jest!
(A light breeze causes the leaves to fall.)
The autumn leaves!
ROXANE (lifting her head, and looking down the distant alley):
Soft golden brown, like a Venetian's hair.
--See how they fall!
Ay, see how brave they fall,
In their last journey downward from the bough,
To rot within the clay; yet, lovely still,
Hiding the horror of the last decay,
With all the wayward grace of careless flight!
CYRANO (collecting himself):
Nay, nay, Roxane!
Then let the dead leaves fall the way they will. . .
And chat. What, have you nothing new to tell,
My Court Gazette?
CYRANO (growing whiter and whiter):
The nineteenth: having eaten to excess
Of pear-conserve, the King felt feverish;
The lancet quelled this treasonable revolt,
And the august pulse beats at normal pace.
At the Queen's ball on Sunday thirty score
Of best white waxen tapers were consumed.
Our troops, they say, have chased the Austrians.
Four sorcerers were hanged. The little dog
Of Madame d'Athis took a dose. . .
You hold your tongue, Monsieur de Bergerac!
Monday--not much--Claire changed protector.
CYRANO (whose face changes more and more):
Tuesday, the Court repaired to Fontainebleau.
Wednesday, the Montglat said to Comte de Fiesque. . .
No! Thursday--Mancini, Queen of France! (almost!)
Friday, the Monglat to Count Fiesque said--'Yes!'
And Saturday the twenty-sixth. . .
(He closes his eyes. His head falls forward. Silence.)
ROXANE (surprised at his voice ceasing, turns round, looks at him, and rising, terrified):
(She runs toward him crying):
CYRANO (opening his eyes, in an unconcerned voice):
What is this?
(He sees Roxane bending over him, and, hastily pressing his hat on his head, and shrinking back in his chair):
Nay, on my word
'Tis nothing! Let me be!
But. . .
That old wound
Of Arras, sometimes,--as you know. . .
'Tis nothing, 'twill pass soon;
(He smiles with an effort):
See!--it has passed!
Each of us has his wound; ay, I have mine,--
Never healed up--not healed yet, my old wound!
(She puts her hand on her breast):
'Tis here, beneath this letter brown with age,
All stained with tear-drops, and still stained with blood.
(Twilight begins to fall.)
His letter! Ah! you promised me one day
That I should read it.
What would you?--His letter?
Yes, I would fain,--to-day. . .
ROXANE (giving the bag hung at her neck):
See! here it is!
CYRANO (taking it):
Have I your leave to open?
(She comes back to her tapestry frame, folds it up, sorts her wools.)
'Roxane, adieu! I soon must die!
This very night, beloved; and I
Feel my soul heavy with love untold.
I die! No more, as in days of old,
My loving, longing eyes will feast
On your least gesture--ay, the least!
I mind me the way you touch your cheek
With your finger, softly, as you speak!
Ah me! I know that gesture well!
My heart cries out!--I cry "Farewell"!'
But how you read that letter! One would think. . .
CYRANO (continuing to read):
'My life, my love, my jewel, my sweet,
My heart has been yours in every beat!'
(The shades of evening fall imperceptibly.)
You read in such a voice--so strange--and yet--
It is not the first time I hear that voice!
(She comes nearer very softly, without his perceiving it, passes behind his chair, and, noiselessly leaning over him, looks at the letter. The darkness deepens.)
'Here, dying, and there, in the land on high,
I am he who loved, who loves you,--I. . .'
ROXANE (putting her hand on his shoulder):
How can you read? It is too dark to see!
(He starts, turns, sees her close to him. Suddenly alarmed, he holds his head down. Then in the dusk, which has now completely enfolded them, she says, very slowly, with clasped hands):
And, fourteen years long, he has played this part
Of the kind old friend who comes to laugh and chat.
No, never; Roxane, no!
I should have guessed, each time he said my name!
No, it was not I!
It was you!
I see through all the generous counterfeit--
The sweet, mad love-words!
The voice that thrilled the night--you, you!
I swear you err.
The soul--it was your soul!
I loved you not.
You loved me not?
You loved me!
See! how you falter now!
No, my sweet love, I never loved you!
Things dead, long dead, see! how they rise again!
--Why, why keep silence all these fourteen years,
When, on this letter, which he never wrote,
The tears were your tears?
CYRANO (holding out the letter to her):
The bloodstains were his.
Why, then, that noble silence,--kept so long--
Broken to-day for the first time--why?
Why?. . .
(Le Bret and Ragueneau enter running.)