The Rim of the World


Writers: Floyd Dell


"The Rim of the World" was first produced by the Liberal Club, New York City, at Webster Hall, in 1915, with the following cast:

The Maid ......... Jo Gotsch

The Gypsy ........ Floyd Dell

The King.......... Edward Goodman

The Princess...... Marjorie Jones


Morning. A room in a palace, opening on a balcony. Through the arched broad window at the back is seen the sky, just beginning to be suffused with the rosy streakings of dawn. A large, wide heavy seat stands on a dais, with a low square stool beside it. A girl kneels on the stool, with her head and arms on the chair, dozing.

The dark figure of a man appears on the balcony. He puts a leg over the window-ledge and climbs in slowly.

A little noise wakes the girl. She stirs, looks round, jumps up, and starts to scream.

THE MAN. Oh, not so loud!

THE GIRL. (finishes the scream in a subdued voice.)

THE MAN. That's better! But you ought to be more careful. You might wake somebody up.

THE GIRL. Who are you?

THE MAN. That's just what I was about to ask you---tell me, are you a

Princess, or a maidservant?

THE GIRL. A Princess?---did you really think I might be a Princess?

THE MAN. Well, there are pretty Princesses. But I had rather you were a maidservant.

THE GIRL. Would you? Well, so I am!

THE MAN. Thank you, my dear. And what would you like me to be?

THE MAID. I'm afraid you're somebody not quite proper!

THE MAN. Right, my dear. You are a person of marvellous discernment. I am, in fact---

THE MAID. The king of the Gypsies!

THE GYPSY. How did you know?

THE GIRL. I guessed it!

THE GYPSY. H'm. You knew, I suppose, that our band has just encamped outside the city?


THE GYPSY. And you have heard of the exploits of the Gypsy king. You know that there is no wall high enough to keep him out, no force of soldiers strong enough---

THE MAID. I know it by your eyes. They have the gypsy look in them.

THE GYPSY. Where have you ever seen gypsies before?

THE MAID. Never mind. But tell me---the wall around the palace is seventeen feet high---

THE GYPSY. True enough!

THE MAID. A guard of soldiers continually marches around it---

THE GYPSY. Very true!

THE MAID. And there are spikes on the top. How did you get over?

THE GYPSY. That is my secret. Would I be the gypsy king if everybody knew what I know?

THE MAID. Won't you tell me?

THE GYPSY. Women have asked me that many times. But I never tell. But, though I won't tell you how I entered, I don't mind telling you why.

THE MAID. Oh, I know that already!

THE GYPSY. You think, perhaps, that I am a thief as well as a housebreaker---that it is in the hope of royal treasure left unguarded that I have come here. ...

THE MAID. You have come here because you took a fancy to see what was on the other side of the wall. Isn't that it?

THE GYPSY. At last I have found some one in this stupid city who understands me. Young woman---


THE GYPSY. You do not belong here. There is no one here who does things because they are foolish and interesting. Would you like to come away with me?

THE MAID. Oh, no. You must not think, because I understand you, that I approve of you. You see---

THE GYPSY. You don't approve of me?

THE MAID. No---but I like you. I can't help it. I always did like Gypsies. You see, I was brought up among them.

THE GYPSY. You a Gypsy child!

THE MAID. I suppose I was. Though I always preferred to imagine that I was some Princess that had been changed in the cradle and stolen away. When I was hardly more than a baby, I remember that I disapproved of their rough ways. I can still faintly remember the jolting of the wagons that kept me awake, and the smell of the soup in the big kettle over the fire.

THE GYPSY. It is a good smell.

THE MAID. But I did not think so! It smelled of garlic. And when I was six years old, I ran away. The tribe had encamped just outside the city here, and I wandered away from the tents, and entered the city-gate, and hid myself, and at night I came straight to the palace. The soldiers found me, and took me to the old king. He said that I should be the child of the palace. So they gave me white bread with butter on it, and put me to sleep between smooth white sheets.

THE GYPSY. Gypsy children cannot thrive when they are taken into cities. They turn away from white bread with butter on it, and remembering the good smell of the soup in the big kettle over the fire, they fall sick with hunger. As for you---

THE MAID. I thrived on the white bread with butter on it.

THE GYPSY. You were a little renegade. But I forgive you! And now to my business, I have come to see the King, and talk with him. We kings should become better acquainted, don't you think? I will ask him what he considers the proper price for telling fortunes, and find out what his ideas are on the subject of horse-trading. And no doubt he will ask me what I think about his coming marriage with the Princess of Basque. She is to arrive to-night, I believe, and be married tomorrow, to this King whom she has never seen!

THE MAID. Be careful, or you will awaken him. That is his bed-chamber, there.

THE GYPSY. Ah! Is he a light sleeper?

THE MAID. The King sleeps soundly, and awakens punctually every morning at six.

THE GYPSY. (with a glance at the sky) It is not quite six. Every morning, you say? And what then?

THE MAID. He goes for a walk at seven, and breakfasts at eight. Every morning.

THE GYPSY. Regularly?

THE MAID. The King is always on time to the moment.

THE GYPSY. Ah, one of those clockwork kings!

THE MAID. You must not make fun of him. He is a good king.

THE GYPSY. I have no doubt of it. And his regularity will be a great comfort to his queen. She will always know that she will get her kiss regularly, punctually, on the stroke of the clock. But---you say the King rises at six, and goes for a walk at seven. What does he do in the meantime?

THE MAID. First he comes here and has his morning drink. Then he is dressed for his walk.

THE GYPSY. And what is your part in these solemn proceedings?

THE MAID. I tie his slippers for him, and pour his drink.

THE GYPSY. It is a great honour! So great an honour that you come here before the sun is up to be ready for your duties. Do you entertain the King with conversation while he takes his morning drink?

THE MAID. No---the Gazetteer does that.

THE GYPSY. The Gazetteer---what is the Gazetteer?

THE MAID. The Gazetteer is a man whose duty it is to find out all that happens in the city each day, and recite it to the King the next morning.

THE GYPSY. Has the King as much curiosity as that? I would never have thought it.

THE MAID. It isn't curiosity. It's just a custom that has sprung up. All the merchants and well-to-do people hire a Gazetteer. It may be useful to them---but I think the King regards it more as a duty than a pleasure.

THE GYPSY. I remember now. They have something like it in the taverns.

I foresee a great future for it....

THE MAID. And it seems to go with that new drink.

THE GYPSY. What new drink?

THE MAID. Why, the new drink from Arabia. It has a queer name. Ka-Fe.

THE GYPSY. Ka-Fe---and what is it like?

THE MAID. It is dark, and served hot with sugar and cream.

THE GYPSY. It sounds interesting. I would like to taste it. What is it most like---mead, perhaps, or wine, or that strong liquor distilled from juniper berries?

THE MAID. Like none of these. It does not make men talk and sing and tell their secrets and reveal their love and their hate, and knock their heads against the stars and tangle their feet one with the other....

THE GYPSY. Then what is the good of it?

THE MAID. It makes the head clearer, and sobers the judgment. It makes men think more and talk less. And it gives them strength to rule their inward feelings.

THE GYPSY. What a pity! People are too much like that as it is.

THE MAID. The King says that some time the whole world will learn to drink it!

THE GYPSY. A world of Ka-Fe drinkers! A world where people rule their inward feelings and hide their secret thoughts! I shall be dead before then, thank heaven!

THE MAID. But you keep your secrets---even from women---so you say.

THE GYPSY. It was a vain boast. Sometime, with my head in a woman's lap, I shall blab away the secrets that give me power. I know it. Somewhere in the world is a woman whose look will intoxicate me more than wine. And for her sake I shall invent some new folly.

THE MAID. What a pity!

THE GYPSY. No---the thought cheers me. So long as there are women, men will be fools. Their Ka-Fe will not help them.

THE MAID. Do you approve of folly, then?

THE GYPSY. It is the thing that makes life worth living. I have committed every kind of folly I know, and the world would be dull and empty if I did not think that some new and greater folly lay ahead.

THE MAID. You think, then, that one should surrender oneself to folly?

THE GYPSY. I think so truly. What have you on the tip of your tongue?

What folly have you given yourself to, my child?

THE MAID. I am afraid you will laugh at me. ...

THE GYPSY. Not I. Tell me, my dear, are you in love?

THE MAID. Yes....

THE GYPSY. With some one who will never give you love in return?

THE MAID. Yes. ...

THE GYPSY. And is it---?

THE MAID. The King---yes. Oh, I am a fool to tell you!

She hides her face in her hands.

THE GYPSY. Listen, my child. You are not more a fool than I. The other day I rode out on a swift horse to be by myself under the sky, and think my thoughts. And there, a two days' journey from this city, I saw the slow-moving caravan of the Princess of Basque, on her way to wed this King whom she has never seen. Curiosity drew me near, for I wanted to see the face of the Princess. I tied my horse to a tree, and hid among the bushes by the road-side as they passed. I saw her among the cushions of the royal wagon. She had a strange, wild beauty. I saw her, and loved her, and grew sick with loneliness. I rode back to the city, and tried to wash out the memory of that face with wine. But it was no use, so I left the tavern and climbed the wall and entered the palace, that I might look also at the man whom she is to wed. When I have seen him, then I shall---I don't know what. But---we are two foolish ones, you and I!

THE MAID. Thank you for telling me that. But you must go now. It is almost time for the King to come.

THE GYPSY. What if he found me here---what would he do? Have me beheaded, or merely thrown into prison?

THE MAID. No---he is a kind king. He would only tell you how wrong it is to break into people's houses and show disrespect for the law.

THE GYPSY. I had almost rather be put in prison than lectured at. Well, I must invent something to explain my presence. (There is a knock.) Who is that?

THE MAID. Hide yourself. I will see.

THE GYSPY. (from behind the curtains of the window) I am hidden.

The maid goes to the door, and comes back with a paper in her hand.


THE MAID. (looking at the paper) The Gazetteer is ill, and cannot come.

THE GYPSY. (emerging from the curtains) The Gazetteer is ill....

THE MAID. The King will be annoyed.

THE GYPSY. We will spare his majesty that annoyance. I shall be the King's Gazetteer this morning!

THE MAID. But how can you?

THE GYPSY. Leave that to me. (He takes his position behind the curtains.) Such news as he has never heard, I shall recite to the King!

THE MAID. Ssh! Here he comes now!

The King enters, in his dressing gown, yawning, with his hand over his mouth. In the midst of his yawn, he speaks.

THE KING. Goo' mo'ing!

THE MAID. (bowing) Good morning, your majesty!

THE KING. (glancing out at the morning sky) Looks like a nice day today. (He sits down.)

THE GYPSY. (from slightly behind the King's seat) Not a cloud in your majesty's sky!

THE KING. (twisting about to look at him) And who the devil are you?

THE GYPSY. (coming around in front and bowing) I am the Gazetteer.

THE KING. (sputtering) What are you trying to palm off on me? You are not my Gazetteer! My Gazetteer is decently dressed in black and white. You come here in red and yellow. What does it mean?

THE MAID. Your majesty, your own Gazetteer is ill and cannot come, so he has sent his cousin, who is in the same business.

THE KING. (disgustedly) Bring me my Ka-Fe. (The maid goes out.) Now tell me, sirrah, you don't mean to say that you are used by respectable people as a source of information? I cannot believe it!

THE GYPSY. Your majesty, it would ill become me to deprecate the character of my clientele. They may not be rich, they may not be influential, but they are the foundation of your kingdom's prosperity. And I must say for myself that for the one person that your Gazetteer serves, I serve many. You may sneer at my quality if you like, but I point to my circulation. I am the official Gazetteer of the Red-Horse Tavern, and scores of petty tradesmen, as well as clerks, bricklayers and truck drivers, depend upon me for their knowledge of the world's events.

THE KING. Well, well! So you are in your humble way an agency of civilization!

THE GYPSY. Your majesty may well say so!

The maid has returned with the Ka-Fe. She puts the tray on the floor beside the seat, and kneels by it. The King's cup she places on the stool at his hand.

THE KING. (sipping his Ka-Fe) Very well. Proceed.

THE GYPSY. (reciting) This is the story of a crime! The shop of the widow Solomon stands in the middle of the great street which takes its name from our King---may he live long and prosper! In that shop are displayed for sale diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls, and all manner of precious stones, set in rings and chains curiously wrought of silver and gold. And there yesterday came a band of robbers---not in the night, when all men are asleep, and even the watch-dog dozes beside the door--- but in the glare of day, intent on wickedness. They entered the shop, and with the threat of death stopped up the mouths of the servitors. Then they filled a large sack with their precious booty, and escaped. They have not been apprehended. This is the sixth in the series of daring daylight robberies that has occurred within the month. The failure of the police to deal with this situation has provoked widespread comment on the incompetency of the King's Chief of Police, and there are some who assert that the police are in league with the robbers. The magnificent new house which the Chief of Police has been erecting, ostensibly with the money left him by a rich aunt of whom nobody ever heard, seems to lend colour to these---

THE KING. What! What! What's this? Why, I never heard such impudence!

Fellow, do you mean to tell me---

He becomes speechless, and sets down his Ka-Fe.

THE GYPSY. Your majesty, I have especially softened the wording of this piece of news in order not to offend your majesty's ears. But in substance that is the story which was told last night at every tavern in the city.

THE KING. But, sirrah, I cannot permit---I simply cannot permit---why--- why---!

THE GYPSY. Suppose, your majesty, we skip the police news, and go on to gentler themes.

THE KING. That would be better---much better.

THE GYPSY. Shall we take up---politics?

THE KING. (wearily) Oh, yes.

THE GYPSY. (reciting) A debate between the rival factions who seek to influence the governing of our kingdom through the so-called Council of Peers was held last night outdoors in the public market. The rival orators exceeded one another in dullness and hoarseness. The attendance was very slight. The general public takes little interest in these proceedings, knowing as it does that they are merely a diversion for the scions of old families whose energies are unemployed except in time of war. It is the general feeling, moreover, that the King may be depended upon to govern the kingdom properly without the interference of these aristocratic meddlers.

THE KING. Ah, splendid, splendid! Let us hear that again!

THE GYPSY. A debate between the rival factions---

THE KING. No, no---the last part. That about meddling.

THE GYPSY. It is the general feeling, moreover, that the King may be depended upon to govern the kingdom properly---

THE KING. Without interference from these aristocratic meddlers. Yes, yes! Those are my sentiments exactly. How well put that is---without interference! Ah, it shows that I am appreciated among the lower classes. They understand me. What did you say they were? Petty tradesmen and clerks and bricklayers?

THE GYPSY. And truck drivers, your majesty.

THE KING. And truck drivers. Splendid fellows, all of them. As you said---the backbone of my kingdom. I must appoint a royal commission to investigate the welfare of the truck drivers. The Council of Peers will object---but I shall ignore them. Broken-down aristocrats! what do they know about governing a kingdom? They are useful only in war-time. Fighting is their only talent. In times of peace they are a nuisance. I shall not let them come between me and my people. ... (He rises, and with a dignified oratorical gesture addresses an imaginary audience)---Tradesmen! Clerks! Truck drivers! The time has come--- (He pauses, frowns, and sits down again.) Never mind that now. Go on with the news.

THE GYSPY. The rest of the political news is uninteresting, your majesty.

THE KING. It usually is. This is the first time it has ever been otherwise. Turn to something else.

THE GYPSY. I will turn to the society items, your majesty.


THE GYPSY. (reciting) All tongues are discussing the approaching nuptials of the King and the Princess of---

THE KING. Tut! tut! I fear this is not a proper topic for---

THE GYPSY. It is a matter of interest to all your subjects, your majesty.

THE KING. Well, well---go on. A public figure like myself must submit to having his private affairs discussed. It is unfortunate, but---go on.

THE GYPSY. (reciting)---the approaching nuptials of the King and the Princess of Basque. The details of the royal bride's trousseau are already well known to the public, down to the last garter. The six embroidered chemises from Astrakhan---

The maid shows great interest. The King is embarrassed.

THE KING. But, my dear fellow---really, you know---! This is---!

THE GYPSY. Items of this nature, your majesty, are recited in the bazaar to audiences composed exclusively of women. Under the circumstances there is surely no impropriety---

THE KING. Very well. I accept your explanation. But as your present audience is not composed exclusively of women, I suggest that you omit those details.

THE GYPSY. Your majesty, I omit them. The account continues.... (Reciting) The marriage has excellent reasons of state for being made, inasmuch as it cements in friendship two kingdoms which have been at war with each other off and on for a hundred years. But it has its romantic side as well. It is, in fact, a love-match. The fact that the royal lovers have never seen each other only emphasizes its romantic quality. Their joy in beholding in actuality what they have for three long months cherished so dearly in imagination, is a theme for the poet laureate---who will, however, we fear, judging from his past performances, hardly do it justice. It is, as we have said, a love- match. The royal pair fell in love with what they had heard of each other---the Princess of Basque with the image she had formed in her mind from glowing reports of the King's valour, amounting to rashness, his fluency of poetic speech, his manly bearing, and his irrepressible wit.... (The King nods gravely at each item.) While the King became madly enamoured of the reputation of the Princess of Basque for sweetness, industry in good works, and the docility which befits a wife, even of a King.... (The King nods gravely at these items also.) She is, indeed, a pattern of all the domestic virtues---she is quiet, obedient, dignified---

There is a cry in a high feminine voice, outside. All look toward the window. A girl appears, running past, with short loose hair tossing about her face. She pauses, and flings herself over the window-ledge, and is standing---panting, red-cheeked, smiling---in the room. The King rises.

THE KING. (furious, yet coldly polite) And who, in the name of the sacred traditions of womanhood, are you?

THE FIGURE. I---I am the Princess of Basque!

They stare at her.

Mid-day. Yellow curtains have been drawn across the broad window. On the wide seat, the King, dressed in purple robes, sits with head bowed in thought.... There is a noise of shouting outside. The King looks up.

THE KING. (sadly) There it is again.

THE GYPSY. (entering) Your majesty---

THE KING. You? What are you doing here?

THE GYPSY. Your majesty, the palace is in a turmoil. The attendants are helping the soldiers keep order among the crowd in the courtyard---the gentlemen-in-waiting are receiving deputations with wedding presents--- the women are distributing medals bearing the image of the bride. All the city is celebrating her unexpected arrival, and rejoicing with you in your presumed happiness. In this disturbed state of affairs, I have been drafted into your majesty's service, and come to bring you a message.

THE KING. (bitterly) I hoped I would never see you again. It all began with you. If I were a superstitious person I would say you brought misfortune with you into this house. Before you came this morning, everything was as it had always been---orderly and regular. What is your message? That madwoman has not escaped, has she?

THE GYPSY. The young woman who calls herself the Princess of Basque is safe under lock and key, according to your majesty's orders.

THE KING. Is she well-guarded?

THE GYPSY. The soldier who conducted her from the room this morning is keeping guard at the door, your majesty. I recognized him by the black eye she gave him.

THE KING. Good. What is your news?

THE GYPSY. Your majesty, I am bidden to tell you that the Royal Archivist, whom you bade to search through the histories of your royal ancestors for some precedent to guide you in this matter, has locked himself with his forty assistants in the royal library, and cannot be roused by knocking.

THE KING. They have fallen asleep among the archives.... What else?

THE GYPSY. Your majesty, the Royal Physician has been summoned, according to your orders, to examine the young woman as to her sanity. But she refuses to answer all questions, asserting that she is in a state of abounding health, and is in no need of the services of a physician.

THE KING. How can we prove her mad if she will not answer questions!

THE GYPSY. Further, I am bidden to tell you that the watchman on the tower has seen two horsemen in the far distance galloping toward the city. They come by the eastern road, and it is believed that they are couriers from the King of Basque.

THE KING. This matter must be settled before they arrive. Is there anything else?

THE GYPSY. Yes, your majesty. The Eldest of the Wise Men has come here in answer to your summons.

THE KING. Bring him in. And do you remain here in attendance.

THE GYPSY. Yes, your majesty.

He goes to the door.

THE KING. This would never have happened to my ancestors. Not to Otho, nor Magnus, nor Carolus, nor Gavaine. Am I less than these? Perhaps I am, but the same blood flows in my veins, and while it flows I shall rule as they ruled.

The Gypsy ushers in the Eldest of the Wise Men.

THE WISE MAN. Your majesty---

THE KING. I have sent for you, O Eldest of the Wise Men, in an hour of extreme perplexity. Not lightly would I have torn you from your meditations. I have need of your wisdom.

THE WISE MAN. Whatever your majesty wishes to know, I shall answer out of the fulness of knowledge born of long study and deep reflection. Speak, O King! Is it of Infinity that you would ask? or of Eternity?--- or of the Absolute?

THE KING. Nothing so simple. I want to know what to do with a madwoman who climbed in at my window an hour since, asserting herself to be the daughter of the King of Basque, and my affianced bride---and with a misguided populace which insists upon celebrating my alleged happiness. (The tumult is heard outside, this time with a harsh note in it. The King starts, turning to the Gypsy.) Is that a sound of rejoicing?

THE GYPSY. No, your majesty. That sound means that the rumour has just spread among them that the Princess of Basque has been falsely imprisoned in the palace. They are calling for blood.

THE KING. What! An uprising against me?

THE GYPSY. Not at all, your majesty. They hold your majesty blameless. They believe that you have been deceived by the false counsel of the Eldest of the Wise Men. It is his blood they are calling for.

THE KING. (to the Eldest of the Wise Men) There you have it! That, as someone

has admirably phrased it, is the situation in a nutshell. What shall we do?

THE WISE MAN. (stupefied) But your majesty---!

THE KING. Your advice---what is it? Come, be quick. Out of your wisdom, born of long study and deep reflection, speak the word that shall set this jangled chaos in order once more.

THE WISE MAN. Your majesty, I am afraid I do not understand these things. If you had asked me about the Absolute---

THE KING. There is no Absolute any more! The Absolute has been missing from this kingdom---and for all I know, from the Universe---since half- past six o'clock this morning. No one regrets its absence more than I. There can be no comfort, no peace, no order, without an Absolute. But we must face the facts. The Absolute is gone, and this kingdom will be without one until I restore it with my own hands. I shall set about doing so immediately. And meanwhile, old man, you had better seek some safe corner where my misguided populace cannot lay hands on you.

THE WISE MAN. Your majesty---

THE KING. Go. We have business to attend to. (The Eldest of the Wise Men goes out.) And now, you sharp-nosed scoundrel, I want some of your advice! When the roof of the world has fallen in, there are no precedents, wisdom is worthless, and the opinion of one man is as good as that of another,---if not better. So what have you to suggest?

THE GYPSY. Your majesty, before I make my suggestion, let me confess to you that I had underrated the force of your majesty's personality. Not until this moment have I understood that you possess the qualities of kingship as well as the title of king.

THE KING. Well, what of that?

THE GYPSY. This, your majesty. There is only one man in your kingdom who can cope with this girl whom you call mad. Your servants cannot do it. As I passed by the room where she is imprisoned, I heard the soldier whose eye she blacked talking to her. He was saying that it was a great honour to have had a black eye from her hands, and he was begging her autograph. If she had desired to escape, she could have done so---he is her devoted slave. And the doctor who went to examine her as to her sanity has stayed to talk to her about horse-breaking. That, as you know, is his avocation; and he has found in her a woman who knows more about it than he does. He sits there like a man entranced. They are all putty in her hands.

THE KING. (impatiently) Get to the point.

THE GYPSY. I have said that there is only one man in the kingdom who can cope with her. And that man is your majesty's self.


THE GYPSY. Yes---you must go to her yourself.

THE KING. There's an idea. But what am I to do then?

THE GYPSY. Talk to her, make her your friend. Coax her secret out of her, and you will find that she is some madcap actress from a travelling company of mountebanks, who has done this thing in order to have the story told by the gazetteers and bring people to look at her. Get her to confess, and then let her story spread among the crowd---and the whole uprising that is now taxing the resources of the palace guard will dissolve in a burst of laughter.

THE KING. I will do it. If it is not a kingly duty, I shall at least accomplish it in a kingly manner. Thank you, my friend. But what is this?

THE MAID. (entering) Your majesty---

THE KING. Speak. What is it?

THE MAID. Two couriers from the King of Basque have arrived on foam-flecked horses, and ask to see you instantly.

THE KING. Let them wait. I have other affairs in hand. Send them here on the stroke of noon. (To the Gypsy) Your explanation may be the correct one. But my own opinion is that she is mad. Whatever it is, I shall soon have the truth.

THE GYPSY. May the fortune of kings attend you!

The King goes out. The Gypsy and the maid seat themselves idly on the edge of the dais.

THE MAID. Poor woman! No doubt she went mad with love of the King, until she imagined herself to be his bride. I can understand that! Poor woman!

THE GYPSY. I am almost sorry for him.

THE MAID. Sorry for him? You mean, for her!

THE GYPSY. The Princess of Basque needs none to be sorry for her. She can take care of herself---as she proved on the eye of the soldier who locked her up.

THE MAID. Then you believe it? That she is the Princess of Basque?

THE GYPSY. I know it. Have I not seen her face?

THE MAID. Then why did you not speak up?

THE GYPSY. Who am I, to interfere in the prenuptial courtesies of a royal pair? Besides, it will give her an insight into the character of her future husband.

THE MAID. You are very unjust to the King, to say that. He is not unkind. He only had her locked up because he thought her demented.

THE GYPSY. Precisely. Oh, she is not one to mind a little rough handling. She gives as good as she gets. She will not hold that against him. But that he should think her mad because she came unattended, at an unexpected hour, with flushed cheeks and laughing lips to meet her lover---!

THE MAID. Because she came climbing in at the window like a madwoman!

THE GYPSY. You think as the King does. For you there are no ways but the way to which you are accustomed. That is sanity to you, and all else is madness. You have a map of life which is like your maps of the world---with all the safe known places marked by their familiar names, and outside you have drawn childish pictures of fabulous beasts, and written, "This is a desert." But I tell you I have gone into these deserts, and found good green grass there, and sweet spring water, and delightful fruits. And beyond them I have seen great mountains and stormy seas.... And I shall go back some day, and cross those mountains and those seas, and find what lies beyond.

THE MAID. Yes, it must be interesting to travel.

THE GYPSY. (brought down to earth) Forgive me, child. Do you know, you are very like the King. That is just what he would have said.

THE MAID (pleased) Is it?

THE GYPSY. Word for word. You are the feminine counterpart of your ruler. What a pity you cannot help him manage his kingdom!

THE MAID. Hush! Here he comes now! And she is with him!

They rise respectfully. The King enters, followed by the Princess of Basque.

THE KING. We can conduct our conversation better in here. (To the others) Leave us.

THE GYPSY. Yes, your majesty.

They go out.

THE KING. Pray be seated, madam.

THE PRINCESS. In your majesty's presence?

THE KING. I will sit down too. We will sit here together. It is unconventional, but---there is no one to see. Please!

He takes her by the hand and conducts her up the dais to the wide seat. He seats himself beside her.

THE PRINCESS. It is very kind of your majesty to give so much of your time to a troublesome girl.

THE KING. I confess that I find it a pleasure to converse with you. It is a relief from the burden of my royal responsibilities.

THE PRINCESS. I did not know that a king had responsibilities. I thought he stood above such things.

THE KING. My responsibilities are many and grave.

THE PRINCESS. Yes. What are they?

THE KING. It would take too long to enumerate them in detail. Suffice it to say that the happiness of a whole people depends on me.

THE PRINCESS. The happiness of a whole people.... That means: merchants---and clerks---and---

THE KING. And bricklayers. Yes, and truck drivers. They look to me for their happiness.

THE PRINCESS. In what does the happiness of a truck driver consist, O King?

THE KING. I am not sure. But I am going to appoint a royal commission to find out for me.

THE PRINCESS. I can tell you now. The happiness of a truck driver consists in drinking beer with his friends at the tavern in the evening, and taking his sweetheart out to see the royal menagerie on Sunday afternoon. And do you know how you can best sub serve that happiness, O King? By letting him alone, to drink his beer, and make love to his sweetheart.

THE KING. You are wrong. You must be wrong. If the happiness of a people were as simple as that, there would be no need of governments and kings to promote it.

THE PRINCESS. Be thankful, O King, that they do not know that---and that they like to have kings and queens, to whom they give, in their generosity, palaces and horses and---and silken chemises from Astrakhan! Why not enjoy the gifts we have, as the truck driver enjoys his beer and his sweetheart? Let us each have our brief flash of happiness in the sun, O King!

THE KING. Your philosophy is the deadly enemy of mine.

THE PRINCESS. And must we be enemies of each other, too?

THE KING. Never, madam. Let us be friends in spite of our opinions.

THE PRINCESS. Your majesty is very gracious.

THE KING. And now that we are friends, I hope you will not keep up the jest any longer. The lady who is to be my wife and queen arrives in a few hours. You can see how necessary it is that the matter be cleared up before she comes. You will not continue to embarrass me?

THE PRINCESS. Now that we are friends, I will tell you the truth. I am not she who is to be your wife and queen.

THE KING. Thank you. And in return, I forgive you freely for all the disturbances you have caused to me and my kingdom.

THE PRINCESS. I am sorry.

THE KING. Of course, you did not understand what you were doing. You did not realize how necessary to a kingdom is the tranquillity which comes only from perfect order and regularity. There has not been such a day as this before in the history of my kingdom. And there will never be such a day again. Tomorrow all will be smooth and regular again.

THE PRINCESS. Smooth and regular! Do you mean that you like things always to be the same, with never any change?

THE KING. I happen to like it, yes. But it is not a question of what one likes. It is a question of what is necessary. Even if I did not like order, I would have to submit myself to its routine. That is what it means to be a king.

THE PRINCESS. And is that what it means to be a queen?

THE KING. In this kingdom, yes. In other places, there may be some relaxation of the traditional rule which compels a queen to be in every way a pattern to her subjects. But the queen of my kingdom will always be a model of perfect womanhood.

THE PRINCESS. And what if she did not wish to be?

THE KING. She would learn that her wishes were unimportant.

THE PRINCESS. And if she refused to learn that?

THE KING. (grimly) I would teach her.

THE PRINCESS. (with flashing eyes) You mean you would make her obey?

THE KING. That is a hard saying. But this kingdom has not been built up with centuries of blood and toil to be torn down at the whim of a foolish girl. I have a duty to perform, and that is to hand on the kingdom to my descendants as it was handed on to me from my great ancestors, Otho and Magnus, Carolus and Gavaine. And by the blood that once flowed in their veins and now flows in mine, I will so do it---and rather than fail, I would break into pieces a woman's body and a wife's heart.

THE PRINCESS. I understand you fully. And may I go now?

THE KING. First you must tell me who you are and how you came to play this mad prank.

THE PRINCESS. Your majesty, I am only a foolish girl. I will not tell you my name, but I came from the kingdom of Basque.

THE KING. Have you ever seen the Princess, by any chance?

THE PRINCESS. I was in the royal caravan.

THE KING. Then you know the Princess!

THE PRINCESS. Not so well as I thought, your majesty. But I had heard so much talk of her coming marriage and of her great happiness, that there was nothing else in my mind. I dreamed of it day and night.

THE KING. Poor child.

THE PRINCESS. You may well say so. I dreamed of it until I lost all sense of reality, and imagined that I was that happy girl who was going to meet her lover.

THE KING. Madness!

THE PRINCESS. It was madness---nothing else. I thought I was to become free---to throw off the restraints that had chafed me for so long at home. I thought I was going to see everything I wished to see, and do everything I wished to do---to follow every impulse, no matter where it led me---to commit every pleasant folly I chose---and be happy.

THE KING. What queer notions!

THE PRINCESS. I had queerer notions than that. I thought I loved a man that I had never seen. I thought he loved me. I pitied myself and him because we were so long apart, and I burned to go to him. So, while the slow-moving caravan was yet far from its destination, I rose secretly in the night, while the others slept, and saddled the fastest horse in the train. I rode under the stars, with only one thought---his arms about me at the journey's end, his lips on mine. So I came to the city. I scaled the walls, and entered the palace at dawn.

THE KING. But tell me---the wall around the palace is seventeen feet high---

THE PRINCESS. True enough.

THE KING. A guard of soldiers continually marches around it---

THE PRINCESS. Very true.

THE KING. And there are spikes on the top. How did you get over?

THE PRINCESS. That is my secret. The rest I have told you. And now let me go.

THE KING. Tell me one thing more---

THE PRINCESS. Nothing more! I must go! I feel that if I stay any longer, something dreadful will happen!

THE KING. (taking her hand and detaining her) What do you fear?

THE PRINCESS. I feel like the maiden in the story who was told that if she stayed till the clock struck, she would be changed into the shape of an animal. Something tells me that if I stay here till the clock strikes, we shall both be transformed into beasts. Oh, let me go!

THE KING. No, wait!

The clock strikes noon.

THE PRINCESS. (staring at the door) I am lost!

THE GYPSY. (at the door, announcing) The couriers of the King of


The couriers enter. They stare amazed at the girl seated beside the King.

FIRST COURIER. The Princess!


The King and the Princess look at each other. Then the King speaks.

THE KING. (challengingly) Where should the Princess be, but beside her affianced husband?

FIRST COURIER. We came to tell you that she was missing from the caravan.

SECOND COURIER. We feared for her safety.

THE KING. Your fears were needless.

FIRST COURIER. They told us---

THE KING. Never mind what they told you. You have seen. And now leave us.

THE COURIERS. Yes, your majesty.

They go, the Gypsy following.

THE KING. And now, with apologies for the misunderstanding and delay, let me welcome you to my palace and my arms---my princess and my queen!

THE PRINCESS. You will not hold me to it!

THE KING. We cannot escape it.

THE PRINCESS. But I am no fit queen for you. You know what I am like.

You do not want me for a wife!

THE KING. It is not the things one wants, but the things that are necessary....

THE PRINCESS. I will never marry you.

THE KING. You shall marry me tomorrow.


THE KING. The preparations are made for the wedding. Two kingdoms hang on the event.

THE PRINCESS. Let them hang!

THE KING. You, the daughter of my father's ancient foe, are to unite two kingdoms in fraternal amity. Do you understand? War and peace are in the balance.


THE KING. Or peace. It rests with you.

THE PRINCESS. I begin to understand. How strange to think of myself as a peace-offering---a gift from one kingdom to another! Is that what it means to be a Princess?

THE KING. That is what it means.

THE PRINCESS. I had rather be a Gypsy, and choose my lover as I wandered the roads!

THE KING. But you are a Princess, and your choosing is between peace and war. Do you choose war?

THE PRINCESS (fiercely) For myself, yes. I would gladly lead an army against you. I would destroy with the sword everything that your kingdom stands for. And you---I would kill with pleasure.

THE KING. You might kill me, but the things for which my kingdom stands you cannot kill. They are indestructible. They are older than the world, and will last longer.

THE PRINCESS. (sadly) Yes---there was order before the world began its tumult, and there will be quiet when the final night sets in. I am only a spark in the great darkness, a cry in the wide silence.

THE KING. Do you submit?

THE PRINCESS. I am not stronger than death. I submit. I would not have those truck drivers leaving their sweethearts to go to war on account of me. (She goes up to the curtain, and touches it.) How thin the prison-wall is! And yet it shuts me away from the sunlight.

THE KING (gently) I am a good king, and I shall be a good husband.

THE PRINCESS. It will be easy for you, perhaps. To me it will not come so easy to be a good wife.

THE KING. Put yourself in my hands, and I will teach you.

THE PRINCESS. I will try. (She kneels at his feet.) O King, I will be obedient to you in all things. I will obey your commands, and be as you wish me to be---a good wife and a good queen.

THE KING. (taking her hand and raising her to his side) For my sake!

THE PRINCESS. For the sake of the truck driver and his sweetheart.

THE KING. As you will.

THE PRINCESS. I ask one small wish---that you leave me now. I must think over my new condition and all that it means.

THE KING. I am happy to see you in so profitable a frame of mind. Let me remind you that the royal luncheon will be served promptly in half an hour.

THE PRINCESS. I shall be there---on time.

THE KING. Meanwhile I leave you to your thoughts.

He goes.

THE PRINCESS. How weak I am! (She goes to the wide seat, and sits down, brooding. The Gypsy steals in, and crouches on the dais beside the wide seat.) A good queen, and a good wife---?

THE GYPSY. (softly) Impossible.

THE PRINCESS (startled) Was it I said that?

Night. The curtains are drawn aside. The walls and pillars are silhouetted against a moonlit sky.... The Gypsy is standing by the window, looking out.

THE GYPSY. Ah, nameless and immortal goddess, whose home is in the moonbeams! I speak to you and praise you for perhaps the last time. O august and whimsical goddess, I am about to die for your sake---I, the last of your worshippers! When I have perished on your altar, the whole world will be sane. Your butterflies will no longer whirl on crimson wings within the minds of men; only the maggots of reason will crawl and fester. You will look, and weep a foolish tear---for all this is not worth your grief---and take your flight to other constellations.

THE MAID. (who has just entered and stands listening) The constellations! Oh, do teach me astronomy!

THE GYPSY. Astronomy! Why do you want to be taught astronomy?

THE MAID. Because I want to be able to tell fortunes from the stars.

THE GYPSY. That is astrology, my dear---a much more useful science. Come, and I will give you a lesson. Do you see that dim planet swinging low on the horizon? That is my star. Its name is Saturn. It is the star of mischief and rebellion. I was born under that star, and I shall always hate order as Saturn hated his great enemy Jupiter.

THE MAID. One does not need to know the stars to tell that. But let me counsel you to caution.

THE GYPSY. Ah, my dear, that was a wifely speech! You will make a success of marriage.

THE MAID. I shall never marry.

THE GYPSY. It would be a pity not to make some good man happy. You are the ideal of every male being in this kingdom, including its ruler.

THE MAID. Do you really think I am the sort of girl to make the King happy?

THE GYPSY. I am sure of it. You are the very one. You have all the domestic virtues. You are quiet, dignified, obedient. If you have any thoughts or impulses which do not fit into the frame of wifely domesticity, you know how to suppress them.

THE MAID. You are making fun of me.

THE GYPSY. I am speaking the truth. You would make the King a perfect wife. Ah, if only you were the Princess of Basque, and she a child of the gypsies!---Shall I read your fortune from the stars?


THE GYPSY. What is your birthday?

THE MAID. I do not know.

THE GYPSY. It is strange for a child of the gypsies not to know that.

But I can guess. You were born under the sign of Libra.

THE MAID. How can you tell that?

THE GYPSY. You counselled me to caution. Only one born under the sign of the scales could have made that speech. You have the balanced temperament.

THE MAID. Which is my star?

THE GYPSY. You are sixteen years old. When you were born, the planet housed in the sign of Libra was Venus. And so you will love not too much, nor too little, but well. A fortunate planet! There it is, high in the heavens. And see, it is in conjunction with Jupiter. Do you know what that means?

THE MAID. No! Tell me!

THE GYPSY. It means that love and authority will presently come together in your life.... Oh, happy, happy child!

THE MAID. But I do not understand.

THE GYPSY. There are some things past understanding. Even I do not quite understand it yet. I must think it out.

THE MAID. Then think quickly---and advise me. For I read my fortune otherwise. I see myself growing hollow-eyed with looking in eternal silence at the man I love---and worse than that, at the woman I hate--- for I do hate her. I shall go mad with wanting to speak out my love and hate. Tell me what to do!

THE GYPSY. I cannot advise to rashness. I can only say---speak out your love and hate.

THE MAID. Do you mean---tell him?

THE GYPSY. Yes. Tell him. And do not be afraid. There is no man so proud but he is moved to tenderness when a woman says she loves him. You go to an easy task, my dear, as I go to a hard one. For there is no woman so kind but her heart is stirred with a base triumph and an easy scorn when a man speaks out his love....

They go out. From the other side the King and the Princess come in.

THE KING. I have shown you your apartment. If there is anything wanting to your comfort, name it and it shall be provided.

THE PRINCESS. Nothing is wanting, not even a lock on the door. I shall be happy in my dreams at least.

THE KING. Your delicacy of mind does you credit. I am glad to find that you are not lacking in that supreme attribute of young womanhood--- modesty.

THE PRINCESS. You mistake me. There shall be no lock on the door of my dreams. And I shall meet again in dreams the lover whom I know so well.

THE KING. (scandalized) Princess!

THE PRINCESS. Do you put a ban on my dreams, too?

THE KING. I forbid you to discuss such subjects.

THE PRINCESS. Very well. I shall keep my thoughts to myself.

THE KING. Princess, I understand that it is your avocation to be a horse-breaker.

THE PRINCESS. It is one of them.

THE KING. It shall be one of mine to be a woman-breaker.

THE PRINCESS. It is well to know where we stand.

THE KING. You promised this morning to submit yourself to me, and learn to be a good wife.

THE PRINCESS. So I did. And perhaps so will I. I do not know.

THE KING. In what way do I displease you? If it is anything which I can change without hurt to the well-being of my kingdom and the traditions of my ancestors, I will gladly change it.

THE PRINCESS. There are many things---too many to enumerate in detail.

THE KING. Name one of them.

THE PRINCESS. For one thing, you seem a trifle less handsome than the portrait of you they gave me.---But I suppose you have been thinking the same thing about me. Indeed, my portrait must have flattered me greatly, since you did not recognize me this morning....

THE KING. For a moment---it must have been intuition---I did think it was you. Unfortunately, I allowed my judgment to lead me astray.

THE PRINCESS. It always will, if you pay any attention to it. So you did believe it was I for a moment? That is interesting! And how did you feel?

THE KING. I---shall I tell you?

THE PRINCESS. Yes---tell me!

THE KING. I felt embarrassed that I should have been receiving you in my dressing gown.

THE PRINCESS. (scornfully) Oh!

She walks away.

THE KING. (sadly) I should not have told you about it.

THE PRINCESS. (coming back to him) Yes. It was quite right to tell me. And I can see now why you would feel that way. You wanted to look your best for me, didn't you? I quite understand that. I spent weeks trying on my new gowns, and deciding in which one I would seem most beautiful to you. Only, of course, I forgot at the last moment, and rode off to you in this!

THE KING. I---I can understand how you felt. I am---sorry I disappointed you. Forgive me.

THE PRINCESS. Yes. (After a silence) I suppose we can be happy together---after a fashion.

THE KING. I am sure of it. And now---shall we go down to the throne-room to rehearse the ceremony for tomorrow?

THE PRINCESS. Please leave me here a while. I want to think.

THE KING. Very well. I shall come for you presently.

He goes.

THE PRINCESS. (after a pause) If I make up my mind to it---!

THE GYPSY. (appearing over the window-ledge) Never!

THE PRINCESS. Who are you?

THE GYPSY. Say that I am the wind, coming in at your window as I have come so many times before when you lay awake in your chamber, bringing you strange thoughts.

THE PRINCESS. If you are the wind bringing me strange thoughts, you come to me for the last time.

THE GYPSY. Or say that I am a dream that has come to you often in your chamber when you lay asleep.

THE PRINCESS. I am forbidden to dream, now.

THE GYPSY. Or say that I am a Gypsy, come to tell a Queen that he loves her.

THE PRINCESS. Those words are like an echo. I seem to have heard them many times. Come nearer.

He enters, and kneels to her.

THE GYPSY. This is my last folly. I come to you, O princess, and offer all I have---my love, and a bed on the heath under the stars.

THE PRINCESS. That is not enough, my friend. There are other things.

THE GYPSY. What other things?

THE PRINCESS. Dimly, as from another life, I seem to remember the jolting of the wagons that rocked me to sleep, and the good smell of the soup in the big kettle over the fire.

THE GYPSY. (rising) This is beyond reason!

THE PRINCESS. All beautiful things are beyond reason, my friend.

THE GYPSY. You are a Gypsy?

THE PRINCESS. I am a Gypsy's sweetheart. Take me away with you.

THE GYPSY. How can we leave this palace?

THE PRINCESS. The way we came.

THE GYPSY. The wall---

THE PRINCESS. Is seventeen feet high. A guard of soldiers continually marches around it. And there are spikes on the top. How did we get over? That is our secret!

THE GYPSY. You have no regrets?


THE GYPSY. Your promise to the King?

THE PRINCESS. I am as mutable as wind.

THE GYPSY. Let us go.

THE PRINCESS. One moment! There is a girl here I am sorry for. Can we not think of some way to help her before we go? She loves the King. Think!

THE GYPSY. I have thought. She is the rightful Princess of Basque--- stolen from her cradle by Gypsies. Tomorrow an old woman from the tribe will come with the proofs. The King will marry her, and they will be happy.

THE PRINCESS. And I am the Gypsy child left in her place! But is it really true?

THE GYPSY. What matters reality to us? We are not real.

THE PRINCESS. Good-bye, then, to this place of solid fact that has imprisoned us too long. In another moment we shall melt into the moonlight.

THE GYPSY. Kiss me!


THE GYPSY. No. There is a fire in our kisses that would shatter and destroy these comfortable walls. Under the stars, among the winds, we shall quench the hunger and thirst of our love. And there let our dream come true....

THE PRINCESS. Ah, there is a fire in our hearts that will shatter and destroy all comfort, even our own. Not even there, under the stars, among the winds, shall the hunger and thirst of love be quenched. Never shall our dream come true....

THE GYPSY. It is enough that we go to be companions of the winds and stars, wanderers with them....

He leads her to the window.

THE PRINCESS. Over the rim of the world!

They ascend and vanish outside.