The Return of the Druses

Act IV

Robert Browning

Enter DJABAL.>.

Let me but slay the Prefect. The end now!
To-morrow will be time enough to pry
Into the means I took: suffice, they served,
Ignoble as they were, to hurl revenge
True to its object. [Seeing the robe, etc., disposed.
                        Mine should never so
Have hurried to accomplishment! Thee, Djabal,
Far other mood befitted! Calm the Robe
Should clothe this doom’s awarder!
                        [Taking the robe.] Shall I dare
Assume my nation’s Robe? I am at least
A Druse again, chill Europe’s policy
Drops from me: I dare take the Robe. Why not
The Tiar? I rule the Druses, and what more
Betokens it than rule?—yet—yet—

[Lays down the tiar.
[Footsteps in the alcove.]                He comes!
[Taking the sword.
If the Sword serve, let the Tiar lie! So, feet
Clogged with the blood of twenty years can fall
Thus lightly! Round me, all ye ghosts! He’ll lift . . . 
Which arm to push the arras wide?—or both?
Stab from the neck down to the heart—there stay!
Near he comes—nearer—the next footstep! Now!
[As be dashes aside the arras, ANAEL is discovered.
Ha! Anael! Nay, my Anael, can it be?
Heard you the trumpet? I must slay him here,
And here you ruin all. Why speak you not?
Anael, the Prefect comes!        [ANAEL screams.
                                        So slow to feel
’T is not a sight for you to look upon?
A moment’s work—but such work! Till you go,
I must be idle—idle, I risk all!
[Pointing to her hair.]
Those locks are well, and you are beauteous thus,
But with the dagger ’t is, I have to do!

With mine!


                                        Djabal, ’t is thy deed!
It must be! I had hoped to claim it mine—
Be worthy thee—but I must needs confess
’T was not I, but thyself . . .  not I have . . . Djabal!
Speak to me!

        Oh, my punishment!

                                                Speak to me
While I can speak! touch me, despite the blood!
When the command passed from thy soul to mine,
I went, fire leading me, muttering of thee,
And the approaching exaltation,—“make
One sacrifice!” I said,—and he sat there,
Bade me approach; and, as I did approach,
Thy fire with music burst into my brain.
’T was but a moment’s work, thou saidst—perchance
It may have been so! Well, it is thy deed.

It is my deed.

        His blood all this!—this! and . . . 
And more! Sustain me, Djabal! Wait not—now
Let flash thy glory! Change thyself and me!
It must be! Ere the Druses flock to us!
At least confirm me! Djabal, blood gushed forth—
He was our tyrant—but I looked he’d fall
Prone as asleep—why else is death called sleep?
Sleep? He bent o’er his breast! ’T is sin, I know,—
Punish me, Djabal, but wilt thou let him?
Be it thou that punishest, not he—who creeps
On his red breast—is here! ’T is the small groan
Of a child—no worse! Bestow the new life, then!
Too swift it cannot be, too strange, surpassing!

[Following him as be retreats.
Now! Change us both! Change me and change thou!

    DJABAL [sinks on bis knees].
Behold my change! You have done nobly. I!—

Can Hakeem kneel?

                        No Hakeem, and scarce Djabal!
I have dealt falsely, and this woe is come.
No—hear me ere scorn blast me! Once and ever,
The deed is mine. Oh think upon the past!

    ANAEL [to herself].
Did I strike once, or twice, or many times?

I came to lead my tribe where, bathed in glooms,
Doth Bahumid the Renovator sleep:
Anael, I saw my tribe: I said, “Without
A miracle this cannot be”—I said
“Be there a miracle!”—for I saw you.

His head lies south the portal.

                                —Weighed with this
The general good, how could I choose my own?
What matter was my purity of soul?
Little by little I engaged myself—
Heaven would accept me for its instrument,
I hoped: I said Heaven had accepted me.

Is it this blood breeds dreams in me? Who said
You were not Hakeem? And your miracles
The fire that plays innocuous round your form?

[Again changing her whole manner.
Ah, thou wouldst try me thou art Hakeem still!

Woe—woe! As if the Druses of the Mount
(Scarce Arabs, even there, but here, in the Isle,
Beneath their former selves) should comprehend
The subtle lore of Europe! A few secrets
That would not easily affect the meanest
Of the crowd there, could wholly subjugate
The best of our poor tribe. Again that eye?

    ANAEL [after a pause springs to his neck].
Djabal, in this there can be no deceit!
Why, Djabal, were you human only,—think,
Maani is but human, Khalil human,
Loys is human even—did their words
Haunt me, their looks pursue me? Shame on you
So to have tried me! Rather, shame on me
So to need trying! Could I, with the Prefect
And the blood, there—could I see only you?
—Hang by your neck over this gulf of blood?
Speak, I am saved! Speak, Djabal! Am I saved?

[As DJABAL slowly unclasps her arms, and puts her silently from him.
Hakeem would save me. Thou art Djabal. Crouch!
Bow to the dust, thou basest of our kind!
The pile of thee, I reared up to the cloud—
Full, midway, of our fathers’ trophied tombs,
Based on the living rock, devoured not by
The unstable desert’s jaws of sand,—falls prone.
Fire, music, quenched: and now thou liest there
A ruin, obscene creatures will moan through.
—Let us come, Djabal!

                                Whither come?

                                                At once—
Lest so it grow intolerable. Come!
Will I not share it with thee? Best at once!
So, feel less pain! Let them deride,—thy tribe
Now trusting in thee,—Loys shall deride!
Come to them, hand in hand, with me!

                                                Where come?

Where?—to the Druses thou hast wronged! Confess,
Now that the end is gained—(I love thee now—)
That thou hast so deceived them—(perchance love thee
Better than ever.) Come, receive their doom
Of infamy! O, best of all I love thee!
Shame with the man, no triumph with the God,
Be mine! Come!

Never! More shame yet? and why?
Why? You have called this deed mine—it is mine!
And with it I accept its circumstance.
How can I longer strive with fate? The past
Is past: my false life shall henceforth show true.
Hear me! The argosies touch land by this;
They bear us to fresh scenes and happier skies.
What if we reign together?—if we keep
Our secret for the Druses’ good?—by means
Of even their superstition, plant in them
New life? I learn from Europe: all who seek
Man’s good must awe man, by such means as these.
We two will be divine to them—we are!
All great works in this world spring from the ruins
Of greater projects—ever, on our earth,
Babels men block out, Babylons they build.
I wrest the weapon from your hand! I claim
The deed! Retire! You have my ring—you bar
All access to the Nuncio till the forces
From Venice land.

                Thou wilt feign Hakeem then?

    DJABAL [putting the Tiara of Hakeem on bis head] .
And from this moment that I dare ope wide
Eyes that till now refused to see, begins
My true dominion: for I know myself,
And what am I to personate. No word?

[Anael goes.
’T is come on me at last! His blood on her——
What memories will follow that! Her eye,
Her fierce distorted lip and ploughed black brow!
Ah, fool! Has Europe then so poorly tamed
The Syrian blood from out thee? Thou, presume
To work in this foul earth by means not foul?
Scheme, as for heaven,—but, on the earth, be glad
If a least ray like heaven’s be left thee!
I shall be calm—in readiness—no way
Surprised.                            [A noise without.]
                This should be Khalil and my Druses.
Venice is come then! Thus I grasp thee, sword!
Druses, ’t is Hakeem saves you! In! Behold
Your Prefect!

Enter LOYS. DJABAL hides the khandjar in his robe.

Oh, well found, Djabal! but no time for words.
You know who waits there?        [Pointing to the alcove.
                                Well!—and that ’tis there
He meets the Nuncio? Well? Now, a surprise—
He there—

        I know—

                        ——is now no mortal’s lord,
Is absolutely powerless—call him, dead—
He is no longer Prefect—you are Prefect!
Oh, shrink not! I do nothing in the dark,
Nothing unworthy Breton blood, believe!
I understood at once your urgency
That I should leave this isle for Rhodes; I felt
What you were loth to speak—your need of help.
I have fulfilled the task that earnestness
Imposed on me: have, face to face, confronted
The Prefect in full Chapter, charged on him
The enormities of his long rule; he stood
Mute, offered no defence, no crime denied.
On which, I spoke of you, and of your tribe,
Your faith so like our own, and all you urged
Of old to me: I spoke, too, of your goodness,
Your patience—brief, I hold henceforth the Isle
In charge, am nominally lord, but you,
You are associated in my rule—
Are the true Prefect! Ay, such faith had they
In my assurance of your loyalty
(For who insults an imbecile old man?)
That we assume the Prefecture this hour.
You gaze at me? Hear greater wonders yet—
I cast down all the fabric I have built.
These Knights, I was prepared to worship . . .  but
Of that another time; what’s now to say,
Is—I shall never be a Knight! Oh, Djabal,
Here first I throw all prejudice aside,
And call you brother! I am Druse like you:
My wealth, my friends, my power, are wholly yours,
Your people’s, which is now my people: for
There is a maiden of your tribe, I love—
She loves me—Khalil’s sister——


                                                Start you?
Seems what I say, unknightly? Thus it chanced:
When first I came, a novice, to the isle . . . 

Enter one of the NUNCIO’S Guards from the alcove.

Oh horrible! Sir Loys! Here is Loys!
And here—        [Others enter from the alcove.
[Pointing to DJABAL.] Secure him, bind him—this is he!

[They surround DJABAL.

Madmen—what is ’t you do? Stand from my friend,
And tell me!

        Thou canst have no part in this—
Surely no part! But slay him not! The Nuncio
Commanded, slay him not!

                                Speak, or . . . 

                                                The Prefect
Lies murdered there by him thou dost embrace.

By Djabal? Miserable fools! How Djabal?

[A Guard lifts DJABAL’S robe; DJABAL flings down the khandjar.

    LOYS [after a pause].
Thou hast received some insult worse than all,
Some outrage not to be endured—
                        [To the Guards.] Stand back!
He is my friend—more than my friend. Thou hast
Slain him upon that provocation.

No provocation! ’T is a long devised
Conspiracy: the whole tribe is involved.
He is their Khalif—’t is on that pretence—
Their mighty Khalif who died long ago,
And now comes back to life and light again!
All is just now revealed, I know not how,
By one of his confederates—who, struck
With horror at this murder, first apprised
The Nuncio. As ’t was said, we find this Djabal
Here where we take him.

    DJABAL [aside].
Who broke faith with me?

    LOYS [to DJABAL].
Hear’st thou? Speak! Till thou speak, I keep off these,
Or die with thee. Deny this story! Thou
A Khalif, an impostor? Thou, my friend,
Whose tale was of an inoffensive tribe,
With . . . but thou know’st—on that tale’s truth I pledged
My faith before the Chapter: what art thou?

Loys, I am as thou hast heard. All ’s true.
No more concealment! As these tell thee, all
Was long since planned. Our Druses are enough
To crush this handful: the Venetians land
Even now in our behalf. Loys, we part.
Thou, serving much, wouldstfain have served me more;
It might not be. I thank thee. As thou hearest,
We are a separated tribe: farewell!

Oh where will truth be found now? Canst thou so
Belie the Druses? Do they share thy crime?
Those thou professest of our Breton stock,
Are partners with thee? Why, I saw but now
Khalil, my friend: he spoke with me—no word
Of this! and Anael—whom I love, and who
Loves me—she spoke no word of this.

                                                        Poor boy!
Anael, who loves thee? Khalil, fast thy friend?
We, offsets from a wandering Count of Dreux?
No: older than the oldest, princelier
Than Europe’s princeliest race, our tribe: enough
For thine, that on our simple faith we found
A monarchy to shame your monarchies
At their own trick and secret of success.
The child of this our tribe shall laugh upon
The palace-step of him whose life ere night
Is forfeit, as that child shall know, and yet
Shall laugh there! What, we Druses wait forsooth
The kind interposition of a boy
—Can only save ourselves if thou concede:
—Khalil admire thee? He is my right-hand,
My delegate!—Anael accept thy love?
She is my bride!

                Thy bride? She one of them? 249

My bride!

                And she retains her glorious eyes!
She, with those eyes, has shared this miscreant’s guilt!
Ah—who but she directed me to find
Djabal within the Prefect’s chamber? Khalil
Bade me seek Djabal there, too. All is truth.
What spoke the Prefect worse of them than this?
Did the Church ill to institute long since
Perpetual warfare with such serpentry?
And I—have I desired to shift my part,
Evade my share in her design? ’Tis well.

Loys, I wronged thee—but unwittingly:
I never thought there was in thee a virtue
That could attach itself to what thou deemest
A race below thine own. I wronged thee, Loys,
But that is over: all is over now,
Save the protection I ensure against
My people’s anger. By their Khalif’s side,
Thou art secure and mayst depart: so, come!

Thy side? I take protection at thy hand?

Enter other Guards.

Fly with him! Fly, Sir Loys! ’T is too true:
And only by his side thou mayst escape.
The whole tribe is in full revolt: they flock
About the palace—will be here—on thee—
And there are twenty of us, we the Guards
O’ the Nuncio, to withstand them! Even we
Had stayed to meet our death in ignorance,
But that one Druse, a single faithful Druse,
Made known the horror to the Nuncio. Fly!
The Nuncio stands aghast. At least let us
Escape thy wrath, O Hakeem! We are naught
In thy tribe’s persecution! [To LOYS.] Keep by him!
They hail him Hakeem, their dead Prince returned:
He is their God, they shout, and at his beck
Are life and death!

    LOYS [springing at the kbandjar DJABAL had thrown down, seizes him by the throat].
Thus by his side am I!
Thus I resume my knighthood and its warfare,
Thus end thee, miscreant, in thy pride of place!
Thus art thou caught. Without, thy dupes may cluster:
Friends aid thee, foes avoid thee,—thou art Hakeem,
How say they?—God art thou! but also here
Is the least, youngest, meanest the Church calls
Her servant, and his single arm avails
To aid her as she lists. I rise, and thou
Art crushed. Hordes of thy Druses flock without:
Here thou hast me, who represent the Cross,
Honor and Faith, ’gainst Hell, Mahound and thee.
Die! [DJABAL remains calm] Implore my mercy, Hakeem, that my scorn
May help me! Nay, I cannot ply thy trade;
I am no Druse, no stabber: and thine eye,
Thy form, are too much as they were—my friend
Had such. Speak! Beg for mercy at my foot!

[DJABAL still silent.
Heaven could not ask so much of me—not, sure,
So much. I cannot kill him so.
                                [After a pause.] Thou art
Strong in thy cause, then—dost outbrave us, then.
Heardst thou that one of thine accomplices,
Thy very people, has accused thee? Meet
His charge! Thou hast not even slain the Prefect
As thy own vile creed warrants. Meet that Druse!
Come with me and disprove him—be thou tried
By him, nor seek appeal! Promise me this,
Or I will do God’s office. What, shalt thou
Boast of assassins at thy beck, yet truth
Want even an executioner? Consent,
Or I will strike—look in my face—I will!

Give me again my khandjar, if thou darest!

[LOYS gives it.
Let but one Druse accuse me, and I plunge
This home. A Druse betray me? Let us go!
[Aside.] Who has betrayed me?
[Shouts without.
                                        Hearest thou? I hear
No plainer than long years ago I heard
That shout—but in no dream now. They return!
Wilt thou be leader with me, Loys? Well.

The Return of the Druses - Contents    |     Act V

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