Heliogabalus (A Buffoonery in Three Acts)

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DRAMATIS PERSONS[edit]


VARIUS AVITUS BASSIANUS HELIOGABALUS:


Emperor of Rome.


PAULA:


His senior wife.


ANNIA FAUSTINA:


CAELESTIS:


AQUILIA SEVERA:


Alinia:


Dacia:


■ Junior wives.


LUCIA THE GALATIAN:


A Christian maiden.


SIMON OF Cappadocia:


A Christian clergyman.


CAius macrinus:


Commander of the West-
ern fleet.


POLORUS:


A physician.


PISO:


A physician.


RUFINIUS:


Major-domo to helio-
GABALUS.


HECATUS:


A Greek.


CORNELIA METELLI:


A public woman.


LUCIUS MACEDONICUS:


A pickpocket.


Army Officers, Imperial Guards, Additional Wives of the Emperor, Dancing Girls, Slaves, etc.


ACT I: The atrium in the imperial palace. The night before New Year's Day, A.D. 221.
ACT II: The imperial bed-chamber. Toward the middle of the year 221.
ACT III: Antechamber and banquet hall in the palace. The evening of the following day.

ACT I[edit]

 

 
ACT I
The atrium in the imperial palace on the Palatine Hill. A splendid and even gorgeous apartment, perhaps
fifty feet long and twenty broad. The spectator views it from one side, and one of the longitudinal walls
thus constitutes the background. At the left of the spectator is the arched doorway that leads into the
ostium, or entrance hallway. At the right are two doors giving into the peristyle, or garden. In the back are
doors opening upon various apartments, among them, a small triclinium or banquet-room.
The atrium has walls of Cipilino marble, and there are ornate pillars supporting each door-frame. In the
centre of the floor is a small pool, perhaps six by eight feet, and flush with the floor. Above it, in the
ceiling, is a skylight with movable bronze sashes, and gaudy silk blinds beneath. Despite the architectural
magnificence of the apartment, its furniture, to modern eyes, seems meagre. To the spectator's right,
between the garden doors, there is a solium — a high, stiff, ungainly chair, very wide, and upholstered in
imperial purple, i.e., a colour rather like the crimson of today. In front of the solium stands a very ornate
mensa, or table, with a few backless stools. There is nothing more. Light is furnished by Roman lamps
More very tall candelabra. The moon filters through the skylight.
It is the night before New Yearns Day of the year 221 A.D.
As the curtain rises, heliogabalus' atriensis, or major-domo, rufinius by name, ushers in the two
physicians, Piso and polorus. rufinius is a stout Gaul with a full red beard. He wears, of course, no toga,
but there are chevrons of imperial purple on the short left sleeve of his tunic, piso and polorus wear the
paenula — a long, plain cape, with a hood not unlike a monk's cowl. Piso's paenula is black, but polorus'
shows the florid colours of a modern bathrobe. PISO is an old man and wears a long white beard; polorus
is younger and wears his clipped, almost in the Van Dyke manner.
RUFINIUS, as soon as the two doctors have come to anchor by the pool, offers them a salver on which
stand two goblets of wine and a dish of peanuts.

RUFINIUS
The Emperor will be out presently. The banquet is just ending,
[From within comes the sound of half-hearted mirth.] ■

PISO
[Reaching for one of the goblets] Very thought-
ful of you, Rufinius: I need it. I was up all night with a confinement case.

POLORUS
[Somewhat sniffishly] Yes, my dear Doctor Piso, they are very tiresome, I'm glad I've been able to give
them up.

PISO
[Waspishly] Give them up? I, Doctor Polorus, I never give them up! I pull them through.
POLORUS
[Rather floored; apologetically] I don't mean patients; I mean cases.
PISO
[Put into good humour by the success of his repartee] But I mean neither patients nor cases; I mean
husbands.

POLORUS
[Amiably, trying to make peace] I suppose he
was drunk, as usual.
PISO
Drunk? His very tears smelt like toddy. You could scarcely call him a husband in alcohol. He was an
alcoholic extract of husband.
POLORUS
It's astounding how much they get down when such things are going on in the house.
PISO
Yes, and the tighter they get, the more they want to kiss the baby. And if you let them do it, then you have
two cases of delirium tremens on your hands— father and child. And the mother raising hell.
[Sounds of feeble, somewhat laborious mirth come from the banquet-room]
POLORUS
What do you think of—? [Nodding toward the banquet-room]
[piso takes a handful of peanuts and munches them during the following, now and then biting into a bad
one and spitting it into the pool]
PISO
What is your idea?
POLORUS
It looks simple. I say diabetes.
PISO
Why?
POLORUS
Well, for one thing, he's always so thirsty. Then, his legs are beginning to trouble him. Thirdly—
PISONonsense! He was born with that thirst. As for his legs, they are simply overworked. The human leg was
designed to carry a man, and nothing more. Add his clothes, his conscience, his artillery, and his jewelry,
and then pile on a barrel of wine or so every day, and it begins to lose confidence in itself.
POLORUS
The Empress Paula tells me—
PISO
Yes, I know all about the patent medicines he's swallowed and the quacks he's had here. There was that
Syrian, for instance. He prescribed water-drinking.
POLORUS
She says he couldn't keep it on his stomach.
PISO
No wonder! I daresay his stomach wondered what it was.
POLORUS
What do you think of proposing?
PISO
Nothing could be simpler. If this were an ordinary man, say you or that fat poinsettia over there,
[indicating rufinius] I'd simply put him to bed, give him a good big dose of castor oil, and then send in
my bill. Maybe I'd add a mustard plaster, and a gargle in the morning. The next day, repeat the dose. And
so on.
PISO
[Uneasily] But surely you're not going to—?
POLORUS
[Horrified] What! Prescribe castor oil for an emperor? The gods forbid! Where are your professional
ethics? Besides, I've been in jail, and don't like it. And when I think of lions in the arena gumming this old
epidermis—!
[Paula enters from the peristyle, and the two physicians, catching sight of her at once, make low bows]

PISO AND POLORUS
Majesty!

PAULA
[To PISO, gushingly] Oh, doctor, I am so glad to see you! I have been so worried!
  
PISO
[In his best manner] Be calm! This— [indicating POLORUS] is Dr. Polorus, my— [maliciously] assistant.
Doctor, you are honoured by the notice of the Empress Paula.

PAULA
[Buttonholing Piso tragically] I surely hope you gentlemen can do something for the poor Emperor. You can't imagine what I have gone through. I think
he's getting worse all the time. And those awful quacks he has had!
PISO
Yes, I have heard. It's common gossip.
PAULA
One of them put him on water! Like a horse! [It gradually becomes evident that paula, who is about 37
and rather chunky, is somewhat alcoholized and inclined to weep] I thought he would die the first night.
I was up the whole night. I wouldn't let any of the other ladies touch him. I suffered terribly.
[Succumbing to the martyr complex, she sobs boozily on piso's shoulder}

PISO
[With professional tact] And what seemed to be the symptoms?
PAULA
Just grief, I guess. The love of a pure woman. I still feel very faint.
POLORUS
Perhaps a goblet of wine—
PAULA
[Promptly motioning to rufinius] And you, too.
 
Pardon me for forgetting. I am all worn out. You doctors have to be up all night, and——

PISO
[Reaching for his goblet] People simply will send for one. I seldom get out of my clothes. [The three drink]

POLORUS
And you were saying that the Emperor——

PAULA
Doctor, you'd hardly believe it. He's so changed I hardly know him——always complaining about his
stomach-aches, and taking pills and things. You know how lively he used to be—always up to some
pleasantry. Why, even when we had a quiet dinner here at home——just him and me and the other girls—
he'd have in one of those dancers from Mesopotamia, and make him dance on a red-hot stove. Always
something jolly. And how he would laugh and cut up! But now look at him! Even this New Year's Eve
banquet is like a funeral. Think of it! He wouldn't let me go to it—and I've been sitting beside him at
banquets for——well, ever since I was almost a child. And all the other girls barred out, too—— all except
Dacia.

PISO
[Professionally] Too bad, too bad!

PAULA
I say nothing against Dacia——not a word. She is a very nice girl. I was glad to see him marry her—— that is,
if he had to marry anybody. I thought he had wives enough. You can imagine what trouble it makes for
me. But you don't want to hear my afflictions.

POLORUS
Your Majesty was saying that the Emperor is depressed.

PAULA
Depressed? You'd think he had on damp underclothes! And he keeps on sending for those quacks —even
those crazy dervishes and religious healers from Asia.

PISO
Religion? Aha! Mental symptoms!

PAULA
Why, yesterday I hear he actually had in one of those awful Jews—Christians, some of them now call
themselves——the kind they burn at the circus.

PISO
Riff-raff! They actually say they can cure a sick man without medicine. [To polorus] Your pardon, Doctor.

polorus
No offence at all, I assure you. My family is from
 Spain—Mendoza was the family name. I loathe these kikes as much as you do.

PAULA
[Continuing] So I sent for you doctors. I hear you do wonders. But you must be careful. No feeling of
pulses or sticking out of tongues. Just say you have heard he is feeling poorly, and have dropped in as a
matter of patriotism. Don't tell him I sent for you. He'll be here in a few moments, as soon as the banquet
[she sniffs sarcastically] is over. You'll see how sick he is the moment he comes in.
POLORUS
And as for the symptoms. Majesty: you say he complains of—
[His speech is cut short by the entrance of a guest who comes from the triclinium supported by two
slaves. He is very drunk and they drop him beside the pool and proceed to bathe his face]
PAULA
Oh, the poor man! Something has disagreed with him.
PISO
Who is the gentleman?
PAULA
I don't know him. I think he is one of the generals
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from the colonies. [To one of the slaves'] Who is he?
THE SLAVE
Caius Macrinus, Majesty. Commander of the Western Fleet.
PISO
Ah, a naval officer! [To the slave] Is he taken this way often?
THE SLAVE
[Idiotically] Only when he drinks.POLORUS
I think it may be fits. Let's take a look at him.
PAULA
Shall I order some wine?
PISO
No. That is, not for the patient.
[As RUFiNius makes for the goblets, Piso and POLORUS approach CAius and shoulder the slaves away,
caius collapses at the edge of the pool, and before piso, who is aged and stiff, can grab his end, slides into
the water, and out of PO-LORUs's hands. The slaves jump in after him and drag him ashore, and the two
doctors proceed to revive him]
POLORUS I
Grab his arm and pump it up and down!
 
PISO
What do you take me for, a milk-maid? I am a physician!
POLORUS
I thought we'd try some artificial respiration.
PISO
Artificial respiration your grandmother! Slap him on the back: that'll fetch him.
POLORUS
Yes, and give him pneumonia.
PISO I
Pneumonia, flapdoodle! A drunken man never gets pneumonia!
POLORUS '
Since when?
PISO
Since the time of Romulus and Remus.
POLORUS Well, I have seen it.
PISO
You thought you saw it. The patient probably had cholera. Or maybe a fractured skull.

POLORUS
[Sarcastically] Palm-reader!
 
PISO
[With equal sarcasm] Barber!
PAULA
[Brightly] Why not roll him on a barrel?
POLORUS
Too late! He's getting over it. Besides, [indicating the banquet room] what barrels there are, are in there.
[cAius sits up and gazes about him weakly. Catching sight of PAULA, he waves his hand at her feebly. He
has forgotten where he is, and doesn't know that she is the Empress]
CAIUS
[Thickly] Ah there, fair one! How about a little drink!
PISO
[Horrified] Sacrilege!
PAULA
[Flattered by his apparent admiration] Oh, let the poor commander alone. He's feeling badly. [She
approaches him, with a goblet] There, that will make you better.
CAIUS
I remember you, little peppermint, but I can't place you. Didn't we meet in—^Alexandria?
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PAULA
[Sympcahetically] Oh, don't worry your poor head.
CAIUS
It doesn't worry me. I remember you now. What's become of that little dark girl?PISO
[In alarni] The Commander seems to be flighty. He imagines he's in a—^er, a private house.
RUFINIUS
[Taking charge of the situation^ I'd better help him out.
[He grabs CAius, and with the two slaves, begins leading him out^
CAIUS
[Drunkenly] But I haven't paid for the drink! Let me pay for the drink! I insist upon paying for the drink!
I—
[Exeunt}
POLORUS
Delirium!
PAULA
[Virtuously} I can't imagine what he was talking about.
PISO
Oh, I have seen thousands of such cases. Most doctors make the mistake of—
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[Iflie is cut short by an uproar in the triclinium. Trumpets sound. Suddenly three slaves appear at the
door, crying "The Emperor!" paula at once prepares to depart^
PAULA
[To the doctors^ Remember. Very careful! Don't ask him to stick out his tongue!
[As PAULA slinks into the peristyle, heliogabalus enters from the triclinium, with dacia on his arm. He is
tall, sallow and apparently somewhat liquored; his bad humour is obvious. He stalks across the stage to
the solium without at word, hands up dacia, and takes his seat beside her with a scowl. He wears a
magnificent toga of imperial purple, with a wide band of cloth-of-gold at the bottom. He carries a small
baton, with a gigantic ruby at one end. He is bareheaded
[dacia is a very pretty blonde of, say, nineteen. It is plain that she admires heliogabalus vastly, but there is
a touch of awe in her admiration, and it gives her a bit of stage-fright to be with hirw as here. She is
dressed in the white garment of a Roman matron
[Following the two come several slaves, and two or three army officers. The latter have been guests at the
banquet and are more or less tight[heliogabalus, seated upon the solium, claps his hand to his tummy and turns to dacia]
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HELIOGABALUS
There it is again—that grinding pain.
DACU
I'm 50 sorry, dear. Shall I send for something?
HELIOGABALUS
The oyster-soup, I dessay. [dacia pats his arm^ Or the speeches.
[He dismisses the subject and sweeps the atrium with his eye. It alights upon the two doctors, who
immediately drop to their knees'\
HELIOGABALUS
\Irascibly'\ So there you are! Get up! [They arise"] Well, what are you doing in the Night Court?
PISO
May it please your Majesty, the thought occurred to us that it would be a favourable moment for—spaying
our respects.
HELIOGABALUS
Aha, the crows smell the carrion! So you heard that I was ill?
PISO
Not exactly ill, Majesty, but—^well, one might say slightly indisposed.
HELIOGABALUS
Indisposed? A sweet word. Then a man who has had his head cut off is suffering from tonsilitis. [Hy-
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[Act I] HELIOGABALUS 27
pochondriacly'l I tell you my stomach has all gone to pieces. I can hardly digest the hlush on a peach.
PISO Your Majesty describes the symptoms very trenchantly. Half the doctor's work is done for him.
HELIOGABALUSI haven't mentioned a damned symptom, you scurvy old body-snatcher. If I began to tell you all my
symptoms I'd talk your ear off.
POLORUS
Perhaps your Majesty will favour us with, say a specimen or two.
HELIOGABALUS
[He hesitates, but finally thinks well of the suggestion] Well, if you are interested .... For example, what
would you say of a sort of peculiar buzzing sensation at the pit of the stomach, an hour after meals? [He
makes elaborate circular motions with his fist] And then a sour head-ache, with peculiar flashes of light
before the eyes? Sometimes white; sometimes red; sometimes a sort of greenish purple, or pinkish yellow,
or bluish—
[He halts lugubriously]
POLORUS
[Judiciailly and with a profound frown] I should call it hyperacidity.

PISO
[Derisively] What! Hyperacidity? Then where is your heart-bum?
HELIOGABALUS
[Interrupting] Sir, I said nothing of any heart-bum.
PISO
Precisely. My learned friend here simply—
HELIOGABALUS
[Petulantlyl See here, who's sick, you or I? I tell you about stomach-ache, and you begin talking of heart
bum.
POLORUS
[Virtuously] I didn't mention it. Majesty.
HELIOGABALUS
And it's lucky for you that you didn't mention it. Majesty! What is your guess?

POLORUS
I say hyperacidity.

HELIOGABALUS
Yes, that was your first guess. Now what is your second?

POLORUS
Cholelithiasis.

HELIOGABALUS
And then? What is number three?

POLORUS
Nervous dyspepsia.
HELIOGABALUS
[In a sepulchral voice, gradually working himself into a rage] And which one do you favour for the death
certificate?
POLORUS
[Horrified] Surely Your Majesty is joking!
HELIOGABALUS
[Now thoroughly enraged, he leaps down from the solium and proceeds toward polorus like a lion
stalking a deer] Joking? Is a coroner's inquest a joke? Is an autopsy a joke? [He explodes with wrath and
bawls for the guard] Out with the jackass! Shove him into tier two and fatten him for the leopards! Out
with him!
[polorus is hustled out, loudly protesting. Piso attempts a discreet sneak, but heliogabalus detects it]
heliogabalus Grab the old one! Duck him in the pool! [The slaves grab poor piso and throw him in. He
comes up instantly and tries to scramble out]
PISO
[Sputtering] Injustice! Injustice!

HELIOGABALUS
Again![They duck him]
PISO
[Coming up again] I confess! Let me out! I admit everything!
[The slaves haul him out. He shakes himself like a wet dog]
HELIOGABALUS
Now throw him out. [They proceed to do it]
PISO
Where is my stethoscope? I lost my stethoscope! I want my stetho— [Exit]
DACIA
[Sweetly, as heliogabalus returns to the solium and wearily reseats himself] You excite yourself, dear.
[She caresses him as if he were a troubled child, but a bit timorously] You should be calmer. That old
quack isn't worth—
HELIOGABALUS
Calm? How can I be calm with that dog-fight going on in my tummy? My sweet birdie, you underestimate
the effects of matter on mind. I ought to have kissed you an hour ago. It was my duty. Moreover, I
inclined to it—the thought presented itself to me. But just then I was seized. I love you—but I am sick.

DACIA
[Sentimentally] If you love me, I am happy.
HELIOGABALUS
So am I—theoretically. But this [He rubs
his front sadly. Then he suddenly pulls himself together. To the assemblage] Let us proceed to business.
What is the first case?
[A slave comes forward with a scroll and writing materials and takes his place at the ornate table. He is
the Clerk of the Night Court. Two armed guards stand to either side of him. The following scene is played
very quickly]
THE CLERK
Hecatus; 27 years old; attempted burglary.
HELIOGABALUSHecatus? Is he a Greek?
THE CLERK
Yes, your Majesty.
HELIOGABALUS
Then don't bother to bring him in. Have him thrown into the Tiber at once. Next case.
THE CLERK
Cornelia Metelli; 20 years old; soliciting.
HELIOGABALUS
Bring her in.
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[The guard hauls in a bedraggled old wench, fully 45]
CORNELU
{Beginning to protest from the moment she enters the door] Your Majesty, I give you my word I never
done anything whatsoever at all. I was just walking down the street, going to meet a friend, when that
policeman come up and—
HELIOGABALUS
Stop lying, my dear. I remember you very well. The last time, you held up a drunken pall-bearer on his
way home from a funeral.
CORNELU
Your Majesty, you have got me mixed up with some other lady. I give you my word I never—
HELIOGABALUS
Silence! Now let's be friends. How is trade?
CORNELIA
Your Majesty, you do me wrong, I assure—
HELIOGABALUS
Well, now, are we going to be friends, or do you want me to send you up at once?
CORNELIADon't send me up again!
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HELIOGABALUS
Then answer my polite question. I asked you "How is trade?" I take it that it's not as good as it used to be.
[cornelu begins to sniffle] I suppose the night has to be very dark for you to be—insulted. Or the stranger
very soused.
CORNELIA
A poor girl ain't got a chance, Majesty.
HELIOGABALUS
Not after forty-five. Or fifty. [To the assemblage in general] Consider, gentlemen, the sad fate of this poor
working girl. Think of her days of hope, of happiness. Of success. Think of the men she has charmed!
Think of the old, sad romance of her betrayal! I dare say it was some gladiator, or an actor. Ah, the misery
of the years! And now contemplate her beauty in its decay: the night must be very dark, or the stranger
very soused. Observe that sepulchral wreck of what once was a human face. [CORNELIA sobs] No, my
baby, I shall not send you up. Instead I am going to do something for you. Day chases day: you need a
comfortable home. I appoint you a Vestal Virgin.
CORNELIA
[In horror] Oh, my God! Oh, your Majesty!
HELIOGABALUS
Sheriff, do your duty! [The guard drags her out, protesting raucously] Next case!
 
THE CLERK
Lucius Macedonicus; aged 30; picking pockets. [The prisoner is brought in]
HELIOGABALUS
Guilty or not guilty?
THE PRISONER
Not guilty.
HELIOGABALUS
That is to say, guilty.

THE PRISONER
Believe me, your Majesty, I wouldn't lie to—

HELIOGABALUS
[To the clerk] How many terms has he served?

THE CLERK
Twenty-seven, your Majesty.

HELIOGABALUS
I begin to doubt the efficacy of the modern jail system. Let me think. [He meditates] The sheriff is ordered
to take the prisoner to the place of execution [The prisoner yells, but is silenced by the
guard, and heliogabalus goes on] and there chop
off the index finger of his right hand—with one clean blow of a well-honed sword—no amateurish
butchering.

the clerk
Any further command?
 
[Act I] HELIOGABALUS 35

HELIOGABALUS
On his recovery, he is to be given a place on the police force.
THE CLERK
[In surprise] The police force?
HELIOGABALUS
I said the police force. A pickpocket with the index finger of his right hand gone is harmless. And so is a
policeman. Call the next case.
[The prisoner is hustled out]
HELIOGABALUS
[Calling after] Bring me the finger, Sheriff. I admire it. [To the Clerk] What is the next case?
THE CLERK
Lucia the Galatian, alias Lucia the Christian; aged 21; blasphemy and inciting to riot. One of the soapbox
cases, your Majesty.

HELIOGABALUS
Bring her in.
[lucia is brought in by the guard. She wears a simple white stola, the common dress of Roman women,
with a cross embroidered in front. She is very pretty, and heliogabalus shows imme- diate signs that he
has duly observed the fact. He settles his toga, wets his finger, smoothes his eyebrows, and assumes a
mixture of amiable

smile and judicial frown, lucia folds her arms and is silent]
DACIA
[To HELIOGABALUS] She is very pretty.
HELIOGABALUS
[Heavily] Oh, yes—in a sense.
DACIA
It's a pity to see such a pretty girl in the hands of the police.
HELIOGABALUS
[Grasping at the idea] A pity? It's revolting! Darling, it shocks me to expose you to such a spectacle. I
really can't permit it. My conscience would never let up on me.
DACIA
But—
HELIOGABALUS
Exactly. Wifely duty, and all that. I understand. You love me. But I can't permit it, really. Moreover, it is
getting very late. You must have your rest. [He rises] My arm.
DACIA
I am not sleepy at all, dear.
HELIOGABALUS
See. It has begun already! Insomnia from late hours. That's the way I began. I promised your father to
take care of you, to cherish you, to—
 
DACIA
But—

HELIOGABALUS
I positively refuse to let you sacrifice yourself. I hadn't noticed the time. Now, my dear. [He offers his
arm, and she dutifully takes it, though with obvious reluctance. They step down from the solium and
proceed to the door of the peristyle. At the door] You have been getting paler and paler for an hour. I
noticed it hut didn't say anything. Now right to bed, my little ginger snap. Don't forget that Heliogabalus
loves you. [He gives her a peck of a kiss] I'll be with you anon.
[She goes out without a word. Immediately the door closes behind her, heliogabalus makes his way back
to the solium with noticeable haste. First he takes a precautionary look over his shoulder at the door; then
he devotes himself to a long gaze at lucia]

heliogabalus
[Genially] So this is Lucia!

LUCIA
[Oratorically] The peace of the Lord be with you, Caesar! I am not afraid.

heliogabalus
Well, surely not. I had no thought of harming you, my dear.
 
LUCIA
Ye who live by the sword shall perish by the sword-It is so written.

HELIOGABALUS
Perhaps you are right. But why did you kick up this disturbance on the street?

LUCIA
I made no disturbance, Caesar. I obeyed the command. I preached the Son of God.

HELIOGABALUS
God? Which God?

LUCIA
The One God.

HELIOGABALUS
So there is only one now? I heard the rumour only last week. But why get excited about it? Why stir up
those poor country yokels at the market, and give the policemen trouble?

LUCIA
I came to preach the Word. I came to bring peace. Aye, even peace to you, Caesar;—with the sin and
blood upon your hands.

HELIOGABALUS
[To the clerk] Mr, Clerk, the defendant is in the shadow. Can't we move the lamps a bit? [The clerk moves
them experimentally]

HELIOGABALUS
So; an inch or so to the left. That's better. [To lucia] And now, my dear, about this blood upon my hands.
Surely you have confused me with some one else. I am never violent.

LUCia
It was by your decree that they died—burned alive, torn to pieces by wild beasts, butchered by gladiators
—five hundred souls.

HELIOGABALUS
Oh-h, you mean those—what do you call them?— Christians! Well, surely you are not complaining of that.
All that is a mere matter of administrative routine. They practise magic; they claim to be able to heal the
sick, even to raise the dead. The law is the law.
LUCIA
It is their faith that gives life; it is their faith that heals. And that faith [touching her hearti is here.
HELIOGABALUS
[To the clerk] I'll have to trouble you about the lights again. Bring that big lamp nearer to the prisoner.
The rest of you stand back.
[The clerk so places the light that lucia's face is in the full glare of it. heliogabalus views her with obvious
and prolonged admiration]
 
HELIOGABALUS
Thank you; now I can hear her better. [To lucia] And you were saying, my dear?

LUCIA
[Striking her heart again] My faith is here. The truth is here. The power of the spirit is here.

HELIOGABALUS
Yes, so far, so good. But surely you don't claim to be a magician like those other Christians. A pretty girl
like you!

LUCIA
There is no magic! There is only the spirit.

HELIOGABALUS
But, my dear! What has the spirit to do with the belly-ache? How can the spirit help a man when he is
doubled up? What could it do for me?

LUCIA
Even you, Caesar. Even you are not beyond the grace of the Lord.

HELIOGABALUS
[Growing more interested] Do you mean to say that I can be cured by this new magic, this so-called
Christianity?

LUCIA
By Christianity, Caesar, and by the spirit within. Even you may be healed.

HELIOGABALUS
Do you mean without swallowing any more pills?
LUCIA
I know nothing of pills. I know only the work of the Lord.
HELIOGABALUS
But what I am getting at is: what is the machinery of it? How do you set the Lord to working? Just how do
you do it?
LUCIA
[Simply] We pray.
HEUOGABALUS
Is that all?
LUCU
We lay on hands.
HELIOGABALUS
[Vastly interested] So! You lay on hands? And do you yourself—that is to say, are you yourself a practitioner of this—this—laying on of hands?
[He leans over to glance cautiously at the door through which dacia has gone]
LUCIA
My prayers have been answered. I take no reward. I would ask the Lord's mercies even for you, Caesar.
HELIOGABALUS
Well, all I have to say is that you are a very nice
 
I .I..! — I — ^^—^11 ^1^—

girl. First you accuse me of murdering your friends, and now you say you are willing to pray for me,— and
even to lay on hands.
LUCIA.
It is the command: forgive those who have ill-used you.
HELIOGABALUS
Oh, I say: now you are going too far. Imagine me ill-using you. Sweet piece, you wrong me.
LUCIA
[In surprise] I am not to be burned?
HELIOGABALUS
The idea! Burn you! The very thought of it revolts me. You have been misinformed, my dear. I am a very
humane man—even a polite man.
LUCIA.
But—
HELIOGABALUS
Yes, I know what you are going to say. Now and then I am irritable—and maybe order a man or two, or a
dozen or so, to the—that is, now and then, I let the law take its course. But when a man is in bad health
and always has the stomach-ache—he sometimes gets out of humour. Who wouldn't? You have no idea
how much I have suffered, and what awful medicines I have taken. Not half an hour ago I had to have
another of those quacks ducked in this very
[Act I] HELIOGABALUS 43
room. Well, the Christians have this easy cure— this way of curing by laying on hands—and yet they let
me suffer. Is it any wonder that I sometimes lose my temper? Now you say that you also know the trick,
and I was wondering—
LUCIA
I shall pray for you, Csesar.
HELIOGABALUS
Yes, by all means. But this laying on of hands— I have a notion that it might, er—fit my particular case
even better.
LUCIA [Diffidently] We could try.
HELIOGABALUS
So we could. But not here. I have a feeling that a crowd might be—well, unsympathetic. [To the clerk]
The court recesses, Mr, Clerk. Clear the room!
[The guards proceed to drive every one out in headlong haste, leaving only heliogalbus, lucia and
RUFINIUS]
HELIOGABALUS
[To RUFiNius] I shall cross-examine the witness in chambers. [To lucia, offering her his arm] My dear.
[As they go out, heliogabalus takes another precautionary look at the peristyle. They go into
 
one of the rooms at the rear. The door closes. RUFiNius, to whom the business is an old story, heaves a
sigh, pours out two goblets of wine, and places them on the small table near the door. He then goes to the
door of the ostium, and calls out to an unseen guard]
RUFINIUS
[In bored tones} Better get the musicians ready, Sampinus. They'll probably be wanted presently. Are
they all sober?
[The guard makes no reply, but the clank of his sword is heard. As rufinius turns back, paula enters from
the peristyle. She is somewhat dishevelled]
PAULA
The Emperor—where is the Emperor?
RUFINIUSHe has just stepped out, Majesty.
PAULA
Just stepped out? Where has he gone?
RUFINIUS
He hasn't gone anywhere, Majesty.
PAULA
Bosh. Either he is out or he is not out. Don't deceive me!
[rufinius, .stumped, answers nothing, but his eyes wander to the door, paula quickly notices]
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PAULA
So he's in there, is he? And who is it this time?
RUFINIUS
A young woman, Majesty—a young Christian woman.
[There is a loud knock on the inside of the door, and RUFINIUS steps to answer. He opens the door very
slightly and pokes his head in]
RUFINIUS
Majesty?
HELIOGABALUS
[Within] Music!
[rufinius claps his hands, and instantly two musicians come in from the ostium. One has a Greek pipe and
the other a lyre. The piper blows a loud blast and breaks into lively music. Suddenly there are again loud
knocks on the inside of the door, and rufinius pokes in his head once more]
HELIOGABALUS
[Within] Not so damned loud! Something soft —and dreamy!
RUFINIUS
[To the musicians] Turn off the air in that pipe! [HELIOGABALUS' order appears ominous to both
RUFINIUS and PAULA, and they look at each other]

PAULA
This looks serious.

RUFINIUS
I fear so, Majesty.
PAULA
You say she is a Christian girl—one of those ex-Jewesses who bawl and beat tambourines on the streets?
What does she look like?
RUFINIUS
I regret to report—
PAULA
Speak up! Is she good-looking?
RUFINIUS
[Reluctantly] In a sense, yes.
PAULA
That means she is very beautiful, doesn't it? Do I know any one she looks like?
RUFINIUS
[With a heavy attempt at courtliness] Your Majesty must consult your mirror.
PAULA
Enough of that blather! Do you think that I don't know I'm—nearly twenty-eight? [With bitterness] If I
were still what I used to be, I'd be in that room myself.
[Another knock on the inside of the door, rufin-ius responds. Unintelligible words from within.
RUFINIUS turns, empties the two goblets, takes an-
 
[Act I] HELIOGABALUS 47
other flask from the table, and refills them. The musicians keep droning softly^
PAULA
What is that stuff?
RUFINIUS
The wine from Britain, brought to the Emperor by Caius Macrinus.
PAULA
You mean that stuff that tastes like smoke? Wine your grandpa! So he's going to try that on that poor girl!
The third degree!
[rufinius passes in the two goblets]
RUFINIUS
It is somewhat heady.
PAULA
I should say it is. Why, the first time I tried it my head spun around like a ballet girl. Now tell me about
this girl. Is it just a—you know—or is it—?
RUFINIUS
I'm afraid it is.
PAULA
Is what? [Maudlinlyl Tell me, Rufinius! You wouldn't desert me! Tell me the truth!
RUFINIUS
I'm afraid it's serious.
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PAULA
You mean—?
RUFINIUS
Well, he hasn't ordered any guard to take her away in the morning.
PAULA
[Hysterically] There! I knew it! He'll marry her, and then I'll have another on my hands. Eleven already
and now one more! I'll go crazy if he keeps this up.
RUFINIUS
[Reassuringly] Well, maybe I'm wrong, after all. Perhaps he's merely interested in her talk.
PAULA
[Inconsolable] Yes, that's the worst of it. If it was only her looks I wouldn't care. A man gets his fill of
looking in no time. But when he begins to listen he's lost. [Bursting into tearsli I think this is too much.
I've tried to be a good chief wife to the Emperor. Have you ever heard me complain when he came home
with a girl and—sent for the musicians? Never! But I'm getting tired of this marrying. When he marries
another one I have her on my hands. Who has to keep order among them? Who protects them when he
gets into a bad humour and begins to talk of throwing half a dozen of them to the crocodiles?
[She blubbers]
 
RUFINIUS
But maybe Your Majesty is too pessimistic. I have a feeling that—
[A knock from within the door interrupts %im. He goes to the door and the salver is handed out. On it are
the two goblets. One is empty; the other is still fulV\
PAULA
[Rushing up, she immediately notes the full goblet] Ha! One still full! [Hysterically] What did I tell you?
This one is a wise one: she refuses to drink. Now he's done for!
RUFINIUS
[Alarmed at last] It looks pretty bad.
PAULA
Bad? I tell you it's all over! I got him that way myself—and so did most of the others. I know! [Rising to
martyrdom] Oh, what have I done to deserve this! And a Christian, too—a common street woman,
praying and bawling in the gutters! Imagine the palace with her around! Worse, imagine the Emperor!
Here, give me the goblet. I feel faint!
[She downs the goblet]
[A commotion inside. A hand on the knob of the door]
RUFINIUS
[In alarm] Your Majesty had better—
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PAULA
Yes, yes. [Starting off] Let me know what happens.[She sneaks out just as heliogabalus enters with the girl on his arm]
HELIOGABALUS
[To RUFiNius] Kick these vermin out [indicating the musicians] They play bawdy music. [ RUFINIUS
kicks them out]
HELIOGABALUS
[To lucia] And now, little dear, as I was saying—
[His eye suddenly lights on the two goblets, and he notes that the second one has been emptied]
HELIOGABALUS
Rufinius!
RUFINIUS
Majesty!
HELIOGABALUS
Who emptied this goblet?
RUFINIUS
[In great confusion] Your Majesty, I assure you—
HELIOGABALUS
Silence! I don't want to hear any lies from you. So you have taken to the jug again—after all your
promises? While I am hard at work, engaged in the
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administration of justice—labouring at affairs of state—^you loll out here in the atrium in your cups!
RUFINIUS
[At a loss] Your Majesty, I—
HELIOGABALUS
I have ordered you not to lie! If you tell me that it evaporated—in four minutes—to the galleys! If you say
you gave it to a blind beggar—^to the boa constrictors! If you say thieves broke in and stole it— I'll burn
you like a—like a Christian!
RUFINUS[Eager to shield the Empress, he takes the blame. He falls to his knees] Majesty! I ask forgiveness!
HELIOGABALUS
Ha! You save your life! [Irritably] But this sort of thing has got to stop! I can't have drinking men about
me. [A pause while he meditates] You must be punished. You must have your lesson. [Another pause]
How would you like to lose those beautiful pink whiskers?
RUFINIUS
[Horror-stricken, he falls flat on the floor] Majesty!
HELIOGABALUS
That's it, exactly. Call in the guard and we'll chop
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them off at once—and maybe a slice of ear with them.
LUCU
[Protesting] I hope your Majesty— [She is cut off by the entrance of PAULA, who bounds in from the
peristyle, paula, by now, is in the last stages of a crying drunk]
PAULA
Stop!
HELIOGABALUS
[Startled] What?
PAULA
Rufinius is innocent!
HELIOGABALUS
Then it was—
PAULA
Yes, I drank it. I was feeling faint. I took it— medicinally.
HELIOGABALUS Well, it seems to have medicated you, all right.
PAULA
I think I had cause to be ill.HELIOGABALUS
What had you been eating?
PAULA
Yes, laugh while I suffer! You never think of me!
 
Act I] HELIOGABALUS 53
Here am I, so faint I can hardly walk—and you give banquets, and bring in women off the street, and turn
the palace into a—
HELIOGABALUS
[Sternly] My dear, you talk pish. This lady is Lucia. Lucia, the Empress. Lucia was arrested— by a
grievous error—and brought before me—and we have been discussing certain problems—chiefly
sociological.
PAULA
Yes, I know what your problems are—whether to make love to her and fill her with nonsense, or just
grab her.
HELIOGABALUS
My dear, I forbid you. Such talk is libellous, and grossly licentious. You will make me believe that the
wine has—affected you.
PAULA
[To LUCIA] Don't you let him come over you with his soft-soap. That man could talk a woman into
anything. Haven't I seen him do it, with one girl after another? He'll make you believe you are Venus and
then, when you get to be as I am, he'll—
HELIOGABALUS
What foolishness, my dear! Imagine this beautiful, this innocent, girl ever getting like you are!

PAULA
Wasn't I beautiful and innocent once?

HELIOGABALUS
Well, maybe once.

PAULA
[Maudlin] And when I think of those other poor girls.

HELIOGABALUS
[To Lucia] Unluckily, my sweet Venus, the Empress is not herself. I have noticed it for some time. About
twenty years. [To paula] Wouldn't it be better, darling, if you went to bed? Perhaps a good night's rest
would help you. Or shall I send for Piso?

PAULA
Piso? Never! That dirty old fraud—

HELIOGABALUS
And yet you sent for him to monkey with my stomach—my poor, sick stomach! Don't say you didn't. I
know all about it. By this time, my dear, you should have more respect for my spy system.

PAULA
That's the way: You always put it on me! When you have done something, you accuse me of something.
Oh, what—

HELIQGABALUS
[Humouring her] But why go into that? You are

Act I] HELIOGABALUS 55

—ill, and ought to be in bed. And besides, I have business. There is, for example, the matter of Ru-finius'
ear. It had better be attended to at once.

RUFINIUS
Oh, Majesty, Majesty!

PAULA
Rufinius is innocent. I drank the wine—all of it!

HELIOGABALUS
I believe you—^but nevertheless, Rufinius lied to me. Can I afford to let it get about that it is safe to lie to
the Emperor of Rome? Surely not. Now, go to bed and get a good night's rest and let me attend to
Rufinius' ear. He is tired of waiting. The longer we put off the matter of his ear, the longer it will take to
heal.
[Taking her arm he pushes her out]

PAULA
[Going out blubbering} What have I ever done to deserve such awful, such cruel, such— [She disappears]

HELIOGABALUS
[To rufinius] Now get the guard, and bring in the tools. It'll be all over in a few minutes.
rufinius [Screeching] Pardon, Majesty, pardon! I—
 
HELIOCABALUS
Silence! I have already pardoned you. This other business is a mere reminder, a souvenir. Go get the
guard. I am busy.
[rufinius staggers to his feet, and starts slowly toward the ostium]

LUCIA
But surely, your Majesty, you are not—

HELIOGABALUS
It won't take three minutes, I assure you. I'll do it myself—and I have a steady hand. Then we can resume
our—studies—

LUCIA
[Clutching his arm] But surely this is not necessary. "Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord." I beg of you,
Caesar—
HELIOGABALUS
Oh, I forgot. Your religion. Your Christianity.
LUCIA
We are forbidden to shed blood, even an enemy's.
HELIOGABALUS
But no one is asking you to shed any blood, little pigeon. I'll do it myself. Besides, there won't be much.
LUCIA
Or to see it shed.
Digitized by Microsoft®HELIOGABALUS
Well, now, isn't that going rather far? Wouldn't it be fair to call that a rather extreme view?
LUCIA.
[Her hands on him^ Caesar, I beg of you, I implore you—
HELIOGABALUS
[Melting, he slips his arm around her'\ Oh, if you put it on those grounds, why, of course— [He strokes
her hair'\ Do you like me, Lucia, just a little bit?
LUCIA
I'd like you more, Caesar, if—
HELIOGABALUS
[Sentimentally^ How much more?
LUCIA
[Her eyes downcasti Maybe a great deal more, if—
HELIOGABALUS
Honest? You swear it?
LUCIA
We are forbidden to swear. "Let your Aye be Aye, and your Nay—"
HELIOGABALUS
Yes, but you would, wouldn't you?
LUCIA I think I would, Caesar.
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HELIOGABALUS
[Calling to rufinius] Rufinius, you may keep your ear. And your beautiful pink whiskers, too.
RUFINIUS
[Turning at the ostium'\ Your Majesty is good!
HELIOGABALUSMoreover, you look tired! You have long hours. Suppose you take a little nap out in the ostium. I'll call
you if I want you. I have a bit more—^business —with this young lady.
RUFINIUS
At your Majesty's command.
HELIOGABALUS
And before you go out, you might as well dim some of these lights. They seem to me to be a bit glary, so to
speak. How about putting out that big one over there? [rufinius extinguishes it] So, that's better. Now run
along. If I want you I'll call. But don't sit up for me.
[Exit rufinius]
HELIOGABALUS
[Approaching lucia and eyeing her admiringlyll And now, my dear and very delightful Christian maiden,
now that we are alone, let us sit down and have a cosy little chat. Oh, not on that stool; it will tire your
back, Why not here? [He mQunts the
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Act I] HELIOGABALUS 59
solium] See, I'll sit here in my regular place, and you—^well, you sit so. [He draws her to his knee] How's
that? Comfortable?
LUCIA
I am afraid, Caesar. My people will be wondering where I am.
HELIOGABALUS
And a good joke on them, too. [He laughs elaborately] They'll think you are on your way to the lions—and
here you are as safe as a bug in a rug— and converting the Emperor to this Christianity, as you call it.
Now, about that Christian kiss you showed me—^just how is it done?
LUCIA
[Pecking at him modestly and very gingerly] Like this.
HELIOGABALUS
[Disappointed, shaking his head] Um, kind o' short. Not like—^but maybe—after a while, after a little
while . . .
LUCIA
[Bashfully, but with art] I'm afraid you won't respect me.HELIOGABALUS
[Looks at her sharply] What's that?
LUCIA
I said I thought you would think I was—
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HELIOGABALUS
Pish-posh, little goose-liver. I never think such things. Don't mention them.
LUCIA
But you have a wife already.
HELIOGABALUS
A wife? I have eleven.
LUCIA
[Horrified] What! Eleven!
HELIOGABALUS
Eleven living. My poor, dear Marcia is dead— among others. Paula succeeded her. Dynastic reasons, my
juicy plum: the merit system was unheard of in those days. Then there is Annia Faustina, with the red
hair. And Caelestis. I married her in Gaul: I was very lonely. And then there is Aquilia Severa. And Falia.
And dear little Dacia. That was Dacia who was with me when those scoundrels brought you in. You will
like Dacia—that is, you would like her if you knew her. And then there is Gestina. And—
[He hesitates]
LUCIA
That makes seven.
HELIOGABALUS
And Blenina, the blonde. And Alinia. And—
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LUCIA.
That makes nine.HELIOGABALUS
Well, let so much be considered the reading of the minutes. It would only bore you to go on. Besides, why
do it? Put them beside you, my new baby—oh, my! You saw one of them—Paula. Imagine a cultivated
man, a man of artistic tastes, swapping a real kiss with—
LUCU
But the Lord forbids. A man must cleave to one wife.
HELIOGABALUS
A sensible idea. In fact, a capital idea. If the rest of Christianity is like that, put down my name at once.
But it's too late.
LUCIA
You have married all these women?
HELIOGABALUS
Every one of them, so far as I can make out. Including Paula.
LUCIA
Then you have broken the law of the Lord. Then you have sinned.
HELIOGABALUS [Snuggling close] Oh, come now. Surely it is no sin to marry. I always thought that—
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LUCIA
Marriage is of the Lord.
HELIOGABALUS
Well, then, how do you make it out that I have sinned? If it's all right to marry one wife, why should it be a
sin to marry another wife?
LUCIA
You are mocking me, Caesar.
HELIOGABALUS
Not at all, I assure you. I am quite serious. Just why should it be a sin, as you call it, to marry more than
one?
LUCIAThere are many reasons, Caesar. The Lord has spoken. A man, in His eyes, can truly love but one woman.
HELIOGABALUS
Fiddlesticks, little prune cake. I have eleven wives, and I love no less than four of them.
LUCIA
Love them?
HELIOGABALUS
Well, more or less. At all events, I did love them.
Now—
LUCIA
You loved them truly?
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Act I] HELIQGABALUS 63
HELIOGABALUS
One of them for two long years!
LUCIA. But marriage must endure unto death.
HELIOGABALUS
It did. It wasn't my fauh. But figure it for yourself: When I caught her with that gladiator, what could I
do? It was a great shock to me.
LUCIA
You—?
HELIOGABALUS It cut me to the heart. I almost felt like taking some of the poison myself.
LUCLi.
[Horrified'] You had her poisoned?
HELIOGABALUS What was I to do? I went as far as I decently could. I invited the gladiator to dinner.
They died in each other's arms. I even buried him at my own expense.
LUCIAYou are horrible.
HELIOGABALUS
I am a husband.
LUCIA
You are a pagan—^an infidel!
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HELIOGABALUS And you? Isn't a Christian an infidel? You, too, are an infidel—^but [sentimentally^ —a
very dear, sweet little infidel. Now, how about another of those Christian kisses—but this time a man's
size one?
LUCIA
[Not heeding him] Could you share your love— or what you call your love—for me with any other woman?
HELIOGABALUS
[Under the spell of her beauty] You try my philosophy sorely.
LUCIA
[Insistent] Could you?
HELIOGABALUS
Well, I'm no longer as young as I used to be.
LUCIA
Could you?
HELIOGABALUS
Turn your head a bit, so that the light falls on your hair. Ah, the moon! There, that's better. Now, what
was it you said?
LUCIA
Could you share your love for me with another woman?
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HELIOGABALUS
[A pause, during which he admires the picture. Emphatically'^ No!LUCIA
[Radiant'\ Ah, Caesar, you see! Or you begin to see. The star of Bethlehem has begun to shine in Rome!
HELIOGABALUS
[His arm about herl I don't see any star, my dear, but the stars that shine in your amethyst eyes. Now,
please— [A kiss^ And now another.
LUCL\.
What! Right away!
HELIOGABALUS Don't be afraid of crowding them. I could stand millions of those stingy Christian
kisses. A thousand of them would only make one real, honest Roman kiss.
No. Yes.
No, Caesar. I order you.
LUCIA
HELIOGABALUS
LUCIA
HELIOGABALUS
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LUCIA.
[At once archly and coolly] In whose name, Caesar?
HELIOGABALUS
[Desperately in her thrall] In the name of your God, whose light I am beginning to see.
LUCIA
[Now more persuaded] Well, just a little one. [HELIOGABALUS negotiates a long, strangling, gurgling
buss]
LUCIA
Oh, my!
HELIOGABALUS
Was it nice?LUCIA
[Coquettishly] No. You are bad, Caesar.
HELIOGABALUS
What! Bad!
LUCIA
Bad, bad, Caesar.
[A great crash in the ostium, with yells, helio-GABALUS jumps to his feet and reaches for his sword,
almost dropping lucia. Presently a Christian comes bounding in, with rufinius and two guards hanging to
him. rufinius is in his undershirt and basrefooted. The Christum is a man of gigantic stature, and the
three have diffi-
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Act I] HELIOGABALUS 67
culty in holding him. But finally they pin his arms behind him^
THE CHRISTIAN
I want to see Caesar! I must face Caesar!
HELIOGABALUS
[Observing that the three have at last made him, fast. Folding his arms] Let him speak.
THE CHRISTIAN
I accuse you, Caesar, of debauchery.
HELIOGABALUS
What! You come here in the middle of the night to—
THE CHRISTIAN
I call on you in the name of the Lord—
HELIOGABALUS
[To Lucia] Do you know this gentleman? Who is he, and what does he want?
THE CHRISTIAN
I want you to liberate that poor, innocent girl— that lamb of the Lord.LUCIA
He is Simon of Cappadocia.
SIMON
[Still roaring] Let her go! Release her from your loathsome embraces!
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HELIOGABALUS
Listen to that! [To Lucia] Think of that, my dear!
LUCIA
[Quietly] You are wrong, Simon. The great Caesar has done me no harm.
HELIOGABALUS
There, you see!
SIMON
He has not laid his hands on you?
LUCIA
No. That is—
SIMON
[Refusing to believe it] You fear him. You are afraid to speak! [To heliogabalus] Caesar, what are you
doing to this maiden?
HELIOGABALUS
Doing to her? I am admiring her.
SIMON
What are you going to do to her?
HELIOGABALUS
[Embarrassed] Now, really— [To lucla] Who did you say he is?
LUCIA
One of our pastors—Simon. [Apologetically] He is very—Digitized by Microsoft®
HELIOGABALUS
A pastor? That is, a clergyman? [To simon] Are you in holy orders?
SIMON I am a poor shepherd. I seek this strayed lamb. The wolves—
HELIOGABALUS
Good enough. I respect you for it. So you are a clergyman? Well, that simplifies matters enormously. Get
out your tools. [Bells begin to ring out] The New Year!
SIMON
[In alarm] Tools?
HELIOGABALUS The things necessary for your ceremony of holy marriage. I assume that you carry them
with you. [The din increases] It's the New Year—and I turn over a new leaf!
LUCIA
[In astonishment; protesting] But, Caesar—
HELIOGABALUS
Nonsense, my dear. Tomorrow it may be raining, or there may be a parade— [To simon] And now,
Doctor, you may begin. Do I stand here?
[The din still increases]
LUCIA
[Swept off her feet] But, Caesar, your other wives!

HELIOGABALUS
[Himself completely gone^ I am done with my other wives!
LUCIA
Done with them?
HELIOGABALUS
Henceforth and for ever! You shall be my one wife! And your faith my faith!
LUCIA[Wide-eyed] You mean—you mean, Caesar, that through me, through love for me, you have come to see
the light?
HELIOGABALUS
[Swung along by the situation] I mean, my fair maiden, that I have seen some kind of light in your
beautiful eyes. I don't know just what it is, or exactly what it stands for, but I love you, adore you, want
you—and am willing to follow it—blindly.
SIMON
[To LUCIA, in amazement] Can you—do you— believe?
LUCIA
[Taking the Emperor's hand, as the chimes swell to a great clamour] The great Caesar sees at last!
HELIOGABALUS
[His eyes feasting upon her] What wonderful hair!

CURTAIN

ACT II[edit]



ACT II
Sometime in the middle of the year 221 a.d.
The scene is the cubicula nocturna, or bedroom, of the Emperor in the Palace. Time: 10 P.M.
A rather shallow and crowded apartment, with doors at the left and upper right, and a single window at
the right. The Romans, of course, did not have beds of the sort we sleep in today. The thing they used was
a sort of chaise-longue — that is, it had no foot-board, heliogabalus' bed is to the left of the spectator, with
its back against the back wall and its foot facing the footlights. Beside it, separated by a space of no more
than two feet, is the huge bed of his wives. It is, in design, exactly like his own, but it is at least 20 feet
wide. The bed-clothing stretches unbrok-enly from side to side of it, but there are separate pillows —
twelve of them, each embroidered with a large monogram in purple. The pillow with the "L" [for LUCIA] is
nearest heliogabalus' bed. In the narrow space between this huge bed and heliogabalus' there is a small
night table, and on it are a lamp and a bottle of water and goblet. This lamp furnishes the only light in
73
the room. Twelve clothes-racks, piled with finery, are at the extreme right.
As the curtain rises, heliogabalus is propped up in bed, reading a scroll by the light of the lamp. LUCIA is
the only occupant of the other bed. She is lying near the middle of it, and is thus about 10 feet from
heliogabalus.
HELIOGABALUS, Still holding the scroll in one hand, reaches over, pours out a goblet of water, looks at
it sourly, makes a face, heaves a sigh, and drinks it.
HELIOGABALUS
What stuff! No wonder I've still got the stomachache. [Slowly rolling up the scroll as he gives it a final
scrutiny] Hm—hm—hm— . . .
LUCIA
[After a pause, sleepily] What have you been doing, Caesar?
HELIOGABALUS
Drinking that washing-water you make me drink, and reading.
LUCIA
Reading what?
HELIOGABALUS
Poetry.
LUCIA
[Piously] Poetry is corrupting.
 
HELIOGABALUS
I agree with you. Listen to this: [Reading] We shall meet beyond the Jordan
In the heavenly fields so fair; We shall meet our loved and lost ones—
There will be no parting there.
LUCIA
[Somewhat uncertainly] Who wrote it?
HELIOGABALUSOne of your Christian poets—Commodianus. What you call a hymn writer. It sickens me.
LUCIA
[Challengingly] I like it.
HELIOGABALUS
Yes, and you also like the Song of Solomon. I blush for you, little sweetbread. The Song of Solomon is
pretty raw stuff. It is astonishing what a few months of marriage will do to an otherwise modest girl.
LUCIA
[Primly] Solomon sang of Paradise.
HELIOGABALUS
Oh, did he? But he took good care to fill Paradise with cuties. He had the imagination of a sailor. If
Paradise is actually full of that sort of thing—if such didoes go on there—then all I can say is that—
 
LUCIA
Now don't start moralizing, Caesar.
HELIOGABALUS Why not? I am moral: why shouldn't I moralize? Is it a crime for a cow to give milk?
LUCIA
[An exclamation of disgust] Oh, you always—
HELIOGABALUS
I have been faithful to you, little pullet, for 180 days and, what's more, 180 nights. How's that for morals?
I defy you to find me a Christian to match it, at any weight. Think of it! Here am I, still in the prime of life,
Emperor of Rome, Pontifex Maxi-mus and all the rest of it, and yet I am as virtuous as a convict in the
death-house. Here am I without a glass of schnapps for six months. Here am I with twelve wives, at least
five of them charming, and I lock eleven of them out, and—

LUCIA
You must obey the Word.

HELIOGABALUS
Well, I have obeyed it. And what do I get for it? I still have my stomach-ache. And the
one wife I have left rolls over about half a mile, and leaves me to shiver over bad poetry. [He throws the
scroll on the floor] My dear, you must allow something to my training. I am used to society at night.
Loneli-

[Act II] HELIOGABALUS 77

ness always starts up my dyspepsia. How many times have I suddenly wakened and cast my eye over that
bed and watched the sweet girls as they slumbered, or whispered to one another, or nudged one another,
or giggled in their more or less perfect innocence. There was always at least one awake. And when she
saw me sitting up wearily, tortured by some business of state, she would crawl over and pour me out a
drink of the real stuff, and then snuggle into bed with me, and stroke my hair, and—

LUCIA
There was always an Eye upon you. There was One who saw.

HELIOGABALUS
Well, if there was, then I call it damned bad form. Even the gods should have some decency.

LUCIA
[Horrified] Decency?

HELIOGABALUS
Well, then, say good manners.

LUCIA
Now you blaspheme, Caesar. You should pray.

HELIOGABALUS
I am willing. I have no objection to prayer—in its proper place. As you may recall, I was originally
designed for the church: it was only accident that threw me into politics. But your proposal, now—
 
your scheme of praying here every evening—isn't it a bit vulgar?
LUCIA
What an idea!
HELIOGABALUS
Still, I can't rid myself of it. It haunts my conscience, so to speak. Just think of it a moment. Imagine
praying in a—bedroom! Don't you get a vague flavour of, say, impropriety? Isn't it a trifle— indelicate?
LUCIA
I think you are talking nonsense.
HELIOGABALUS
[Reaching for the water-jug and pouring out another goblet] Maybe I am, [He takes a swallow, chokesand spits it out'\ But isn't that precisely what a man seeks in marriage—a sort of virtuous nonsense? You
forget the way I make a living, my cold little rabbit. My days are filled with gloomy duties. If I didn't look
solemn as an owl the people would lose confidence in me. Say I go to the circus. There are twenty Jews in
the arena, and the guards let out the lions. One Jew tries to climb up another Jew. Imagine the fun!
LUCIA
How you talk!
HELIOGABALUS
[Rubbing his stomach, as if feeling a pain] Nev-
 
Act II] HELIOGABALUS 79
ertheless, it is actual fun, genuine humour—and I naturally want to squat on my little rearo, throw back
my ears and yell. But I am the Emperor, and so I must keep my dignity. Every one else whoops and bawls,
but if I go further than a snicker then it begins to be talked of in the barber-shops, and people say that I
am drinking too much. [He casts a self-pitying glance at the water-bottle] Even as it is, a good many of
them think that I am somewhat—flightier—than I ought to be. For example, consider my interest in you
especially my interest in your faith—this so-called Christianity of yours. Well, to you it may be serious
enough, but think how it must appear to the average respectable Roman. He regards it as simply pishpos
—and he thinks of me much as he would think of me if he heard that I was interested in some sort of
idiotic Egyptian sorcery.
LUCIA.
[Primly] I see no possible connection.
HELIOGABALUS
Naturally not, little canary. You are not a Roman. Well, neither am I. I was born in Syria. I am
hyphenated. But now to get to my point. First, my business all day is solemn; secondly, these little
theological debates of ours in the evening are solemn. So you see what is the matter. I lack recreation. I
lack—well, there is nothing to distract and mellow my mind.
 
LUCIA
[With a touch of sarcasm^ Well, what do you suggest?
HELIOGABALUS
[Brightening] I suggest, first of all, little squash-pie, that you come over here and give your little papa a
great big kiss.
LUCIA[Still primly] You had better go to sleep.
HELIOGABALUS
What! At ten o'clock! That's another thing: this ten o'clock business. Really I—
LUCIA
It is time.
HELIOGABALUS
Yes, it is time for a kiss. Plenty of time—time for a good, long, damp, sticky one. [Wheedling, half rising]
Now, come on, Lucia! Be nice!
[She rolls one eye at him, but doesn't answer. He projects one leg out of bed]
HELIOGABALUS
Shall I? [She rolls the other eye indifferently] Do you dare me? I double-dare you to dare me! [She
remains silent]
HELIOGABALUS
[Now completely out of bed, and standing in the narrow space between the beds] Well, here goes eti-

Act II] HELIOGABALUS 81
quette! Strictly speaking, my gumdrop, you should come to me. Remember, I am Emperor, not to say
Pontifex Maximus. But let it go. Do I get the kiss?
LUCIA
[With a stiff coquetry] A kiss—perhaps.
HELIOGABALUS
Only perhaps. And only a kiss?
LUCLV.
[Slightly unbending] Well, then, maybe—
HELIOGABALUS
Well, then maybe what?
LUCIA
Maybe a kiss.
HELIOGABALUS
Hear, hear! Maybe a kiss! And here I am Emperor, not to say Pontifex Maximus, not to say a husband!
[He climbs into the big bed and starts across toward LUCiA on hands and knees. She begins to roll away
from him] Hey, there, little cocoanut, where are you going? [He falls flat] Halt! [He gets in motion again]
Remember, sweet oyster: love, honour and obey!
[lucia eludes him, and he descends to various monkey-shines by way of wheedling her. He grabs a pillow
and hurls it at her and she flings it back at him. Finally, to the tune of her screeches, he reaches her. He
grabs her arm.
 
[At this instant there is a heavy knocking at the door. HELIOGABALUS leaps back, and listens on hands
and knees, ears up, in the attitude of a cocker-spaniel]
HELIOGABALUS
Thirty thousand oh-hells!
LUCIA
[Covering her ears with pillows] Caesar!
HELIOGABALUS
[He crawls out of the big bed very clumsily, and' into his own bed again] Who is it? [An unintelligible
voice is heard outside] Who? [Another blubber] What? [Another] Who? [Another]
LUCIA
It must be Rufinius.
HELIOGABALUS
Ah, Rufinius! So it's Rufinius? And I told him I was—reading. [He slides out of bed into the space between
the two beds and grasps the heavy water-bottle by the neck]
LUCIA
[In alarm] Don't hurt him!

HELIOGABALUS
Sh-h-h-h! [The knock is repeated] Sh-h-h-h! [He takes a firm grip on the bottle] Come in! [As the door
opens and rufinius' head appears.

HELIOGABALUS lets fly with the bottle. It misses RUFiNius by a foot, but he ducks back and slams the
door. A moment's silence]

HELIOGABALUS
I bet it singed him, anyway. [He climbs back into bed]

LUCIA.
You might have killed him.

HELIOGABALUS
Might have killed him. I ought to have killed him. I'll attend to it in the morning.

LUCIA
He thinks I made you throw that bottle at him. [Pause] He doesn't like me.

HELIOGABALUS
[Wearily] Nonsense. What makes you think so?

LUCIA
I just simply know it.

HELIOGABALUS
[Testily] Hang this intuition! How do you know it? What's the evidence?

LUCIA
[Somewhat reluctantly] Well, when I gave him a tract one day last week he wouldn't take it.

HELIOGABALUS
Why not?
LUCIA
He said he was a heathen, and proud of it. He said his father was a Gaulish prince and worshipped idols. I
warned him of—hell-fire.
HELIOGABALUS
And what did he say to that?
LUCIA
He said—well, he said he had made up his mind to go to hell.
HELIOGABALUS
[Chuckling] Good for old Rufinius! For that I'll have to let him off. Remind me not to have him killed in
the morning.

LUCIA
[Querulously] You seem to sympathize with him.

HELIOGABALUS
In a sense, yes. Things are not as they used to be —not as he likes them. Rufinius, you see, is getting old,
and old fellows dislike changes.

LUCLA
Have I changed anything?

HELIOGABALUS
You surely have. The palace is not quite the— well, not quite what it used to be.

Act II] HELIOGABALUS 85

LUCIA
[Defiantly] The change is for the better, Caesar!

HELIOGABALUS
Morally, yes. Spiritually, yes. But——er, socially, so to speak,——[a pause]——hardly. [He climbs wearily into
bed] Almost I am persuaded——

LUCIA
[Sniffling] You are longing for those awful women. You want them back.
HELIOGABALUS

[Trying to convince himself of his own earnestness] No, no. Really not, I assure you. I feel like—like a
man who has come out of a lion's cage into a—

LUCIA
Into a what?

HELIOGABALUS
[At a loss] Into a—er—into—

LUCIA
[Banally] Into Paradise?

HELIOGABALUS
[Quickly] Well, surely not into Solomon's Paradise! [Bitterly] Har, har!

LUCIA
Still, you miss them.
 
HELIOGABALUS
Of course I do. Wouldn't a man miss—well, whatever he has become accustomed to? Wouldn't he miss his
underdrawers?

LUCIA
There you go again!

HELIOGABALUS
What have I done now? Mentioned underdrawers! Well, if a man isn't to mention his underdrawers to his
wife, who is he to talk about them to? And if he doesn't talk about them in a bedroom, where is he to talk
about them?

LUCIA
[Primly] Why talk about them at all?

HELIOGABALUS
Why? Simply because they have to be talked about. [With growing irascibility] Don't their buttons come
off? Don't they get lost in the wash? Don't they shrink? Don't they split up the back? Don't they tickle?

LUCIA
Well, why didn't you let me know it?

HELIOGABALUS
Know what?

LUCIA
That their buttons were off, and—

HELIOGABALUS
But they are not off. I was merely arguing. I used an illustration. As we Christians say, I spoke in a
parable.

LUCIA
I think you are exciting yourself for nothing. You are tired out. Why don't you go to sleep?

HELIOGABALUS
[Wearily] Yes, there seems to be nothing else to do. My trouble used to be that I didn't get sleep enough.
But now—! [He composes himself heavily, and for a moment there is silence. He then tosses in bed and
fusses with the bed-clothes, muttering under his breath and whining] I've got a stomach-ache.

LUCIA
[Raising herself and gazing at him] Are you cold, Caesar?

HELIOGABALUS
[Bitterly] Who'd care if I froze to death? . . . And why do you persist in always calling me Caesar? It's so
darned stiff and unbedroomy. My old wives used to call me pet names—like Helio and Gabby.

LUCIA
[After a pause, archly] Would you really like me to kiss you?
 
HELIOGABALUS
[He sits up quickly, and stares at her] Say that again. Louder.

LUCIA
Would you really like me to kiss you?

HELIOGABALUS
[With a sigh] You say it just as you might say, "Will you have another plate of fish-soup?"

LUCIA
But would you?

HELIOGABALUS
[Meditatively] Well, I dare say it might make me forget my stomach-ache—if it was a real kiss. [With
elaborate manner] Am I to understand that you have an itch in that direction?

LUCIA
[Taken aback] Itch?

HELIOGABALUS
Pardon an old soldier, little moonstone. I should say an inclination, an impulse——a prompting.

LUCIA
[Getting out of bed] Now I'll show you, Caesar, that I do love you, with a Christian love.

HELIOGABALUS
[Somewhat at a loss] Positively, darling, you alarm me.

Act II] HELIOGABALUS 89
 
[She has got to heliogabalus' bed by now. She enters the space between the two beds, and he sits up and
takes her by the waist]

LUCIA
There!
[She kisses him — but very formally and briefly]

HELIOGABALUS
Ah!

LUCIA
Now, Caesar, you know 1 love you.

HELIOGABALUS
No; so far I merely suspect it. What is needed is corroboration. Now for another, sweet icebox—and let it
be a bit more easy and dreamy. Let yourseK go a bit. Don't hold your breath. Don't—forgive me, little on
—be so gol-damed Christian.
[A long one, during which, his arms about her, LUCIA tries to fight away from him. As they fall apart lucia grasps the bed for support]

LUCIA
[Her hands to her face] Oh!

HELIOGABALUS
You may well say "Oh!" Many a woman lives and dies without ever getting such a kiss.
LUCIA
[Startled] It took my breath.
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HELIOGABALUS
[Not without pride] I dare say. [Hospitably] But aren't you chilly out there? Why not come in?
LUCIA
[Suddenly covering her face with her hands] Oh, those other women! Those awful women!
HELIOGABALUS [Patting her shoulder] Forget them! I expunge them from the minutes! I'll get rid of
them—all of them!
[At this, PAULA, who has been concealed under he-LiOGABALUs' bed, suddenly pops out her head.
HELIOGABALUS and LUCIA, of course, cannot see her. Her face mirrors the utmost indignation and she
strains her head to hear better]
LUCU
All of them? Even that fat old Paula?
HELIOGABALUS
Purge your mind of all concern, darling. I'll have Paula poisoned in the morning. She has lived too long.
LUCIA
[Horrified] Oh, never! I won't have her poisoned.
HELIOGABALUS
Well, then, I'll marry her off to old Caius Macri-nus—and ship them both to Persia.

LUCIA
But the others?
HELIOGABALUS
I'll marry off the whole crowd to Caius. The old souse deserves it.
LUCIA
[Insinuatingly] Even that pretty one—^that Dacia?
HELIOGABALUS
Yes, either marry her off [weakening] or send her home to her mama. But enough of this. You'll catch
your death of cold.
LUCIA
[Without warmth, as if speaking to her father] Is there room?
HELIOGABALUS
Oh, surely. [He moves over and she climbs in] Let me help you. [He gives her a hand and she crawls
under the covers. He then puts his arm around her, and they sit up together] After all, confess that this is
better than the farm over there. Now isn't it? When I crawl in there I feel like a lost orphan. Do you
remember how I mislaid you the other night? I thought you had fallen out of bed, but there you were all
the while, eighteen feet away. And now—
[Another kiss]
LUCU
Caesar, you are so—
 
HELIOGABALUS
[Puffing out his chest'\ I thought you'd like it. But it really takes me some time to get into form. Now tell
me the truth: this is really nicer than praying, isn't it?
LUCIA
[Tremulously] I'm afraid it is—sometimes.
HELIOGABALUS
Afraid it is? What are you afraid of?
LUCIA[Relapsing into the Christian] We are taught that—
HELIOGABALUS
Now there you go with that Christianity again! You are taught, are you? Well, I'll teach you something
easier to learn. I am the old professor! Now to proceed with the lesson—
[Another kiss. Toward its end there is a knock at the door, heliogabalus draws back and glances over his
shoulder, but quickly resumes the buss. Another knock]
HELIOGABALUS
[In a sudden rage] Say, what do they think this is? A farce? If it's that old interrupting wheeze Rufinius
again, off go both his legs! And both ears! And maybe a bud or two of nose!
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[ LUCIA in terror leaps from the bed and into her own bed. Another knock at the door'\
LUCIA
You had better let him in. If it wasn't important, he surely wouldn't risk his life.
HELIOGABALUS
[Obviously impressed by the notion] Maybe you are right. But let me take at least one more shot at him as
he comes in. I won't kill him. All I want to do is to cripple him. [Gets out of bed, but before he can find a
missile, there is yet another knock, this time very urgent, and he gives it up] Come in!
[The door opens ever so little, rufinius thrusts his hand through the crack. When nothing strikes it, he
follows with his head, very warily. As he comes in paula draws in her head]
rufinius Your Majesty's pardon! I ask pardon!
HELIOGABALUS
[Severely] Well, alarm clock?
RUFINIUS
A very important matter. [He glances about him, his eyes alighting on lucia] For your Majesty's private
ear. Perhaps it would be better—
HELIOGABALUS
Let's hear it.
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RUFINIUS[He comes closer] I really think—■
HELIOGABALUS
[Testily] Go on with your story, kill-joy.
[rufinius drops his voice so that his words are not audible. The purport of the dialogue must be revealed
by heliogabalus' answers and exclamations. While it is elaborately going on, with the backs of both turned
to the bed, paula pokes out her head and listens intently, lucia, sitting up in bed, also tries hard to hear,
but it is improbable that she catches more than an occasional word]
HELIOGABALUS
[Aloud] Make it short. I'm very busy, [rufinius whispers, and heliogabalus suddenly grows interested and
somewhat alarmed] What do they want? ... I thought they were all sound asleep over in the North Wing. .
. . She isn't? What! A riot—and Paula not in it? Then where is she? . . . Go find her. I know she's behind it.
. . . And get the rest to bed. Drunk or sober, get them to bed. . . . Tell them I absolutely order it.
[A noise outside, and a woman's scream]
LUCIA
[From the bed, in alarm] What was that?
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HELIOGABALUS
[Oi»er his shoulder, reassuringly] Nothing, my dear. Stay in bed like a nice girl.
LUCIA.
[Half out] You are having some one killed!
HELIOGABALUS
Bosh! Stay in bed! [To rufinius] Get them back in the North Wing, and post a guard at—
[He is cut short by a terrific uproar outside^ Women screaming. The sound of a bugle. The clank of
swords. Loud and prolonged military orders. A man's voice: "Let go!" A woman's: "Stick him in the eye!"
[HELIOGABALUS and RUFINIUS turn toward the closed door and gape at it dumbfounded, apparently
disinclined to open it and face the music. As they move toward it irresolutely, paula rolls from under the
bed, leaps to her feet, dashes between them, blows a loud whistle, gets to the door, and throws it open]
PAULA
Come in, girls! I am with you!
[At this, LUCIA, still in bed, screams shrilly, and HELIOGABALUS and RUFINIUS fall back. As the door
swings open caelestis bounds in with a Prcetorian guard dragging behind her. At sight of the imperialbedchamber, he is so far overcome that he lets go and rushes out again. In the door-
way, he collides with aquilia severa, annia FAUSTINA and ALINIA, all in a great state of excitement. They
knock him over, and leap into the room, glaring about them truculently^
PAULA
[Levelling a melodramatic forefinger at helioga-BALUs] There he is! He was plotting to poison all of us!
[Obviously, paula strikes heliogabalus with a good deal of terror. He backs away from her, and keeps a
safe distance while she declaims. She takes the centre of the stage at once, the other wives grouped behind
her. After her accusation there is a moment of electric silence. She fixes heliogabalus with a glare]
heliogabalus [Weakly] Oh, surely you exaggerate. I—
PAULA
Me first, and then the rest of you. I heard it with my own ears. And I heard a lot besides. Such talk! I lay
there under the bed blushing.
LUCU [Sitting up in bed] You ought to blush, you— you—^you—
[She is overcome by indignation]
PAULA
Out of my bed, you—you—you!
 
LUCIA
You—you—you—!
PAULA
No more of this Christian monkey-business! Into the street you go, where you came from!

LUCIA
Do you dare——!

PAULA
Yes, the street. I saw you myself. I saw you haranguing those loafers, and singing songs, and passing a
soup-plate for coppers.

LUCIA
[Leaping from bed] I refuse to allow you to say that. I was preaching the Word. I was seeking souls.

PAULA
[Moving toward her truculently] Um-hum! I know what you were seeking. You had one eye on the Palace
all the while.

LUCIA
[In high indignation] There is not a word of truth in it. It is infamous.

PAULA
Bah!

THE OTHER WIVES
Bah! Bah!

LUCIA
I was on my Master's business.

PAULA
And I am here on my own business. I'll give you two minutes to get out of this room—and stay out.
[HELIOGABALUS, observing that both sides have forgotten him, gives a sardonic wink and tiptoes
upstage toward his bed. He carefully and quietly crawls in, fixes the pillow behind him, and settles down
to observe the row. rufinius sneaks toward the door]

LUCIA
Never in the world! This is my room now. It has been sanctified!
PAULA
Sanctified nothing. It's my room— our room. You never were legally married to the Emperor. You are
nothing but a—
LUCIA
Oh, what a lie! I was married by my own pastor.
PAULA
Yes, by one of your Christian street-preachers. I've seen him! He looks like a drum-major. But this is
Rome, and—LUCIA
[Explosively] Well, when it comes to that, what of yourself? Where did you come from? Doesn't

Act II] HELIOGABALUS 99

everybody know that you were a chamber-maid in Alexandria?
PAULA
[Sputtering] I was nothing of the sort, you——! My father was a general in the army.
ANNIA
My father was Governor of Macedonia.
LUCIA
[Leaping at the chance] Oh, was he? And who was your first husband? [The boaster is abashed]
LUCIA
I'll tell you. His name was Pomponius Bassus— and he was hanged.
[The boaster begins to snivel, and paula comes to the rescue]
PAULA
[Grandly] And he deserved it. The way he treated that poor, dear—
LUCIA
Yes, and he was hanged six weeks after that hussy came here and tempted poor Caesar.
[HELIOGABALUS tums over in the bed]
PAULA
A thumping lie! I remember every detail of it. It wasn't six weeks at all . . . And now you throw on your
clothes and get out of here! Out with you!
 
LUCIA
I shall do absolutely nothing of the sort.

PAULA
This free love stuff has got to stop. And it's my place to see that it—

LUCIA
It's your place to turn all these heathen women out of the palace, and then turn yourself out, and so save
the Emperor from such sinful—
PAULA
You're a common man-teaser.
LUCIA
You are an old scare-crow!
PAULA
I'll have you thrown out of the door!
LUCIA
I'll have you thrown out of the window!
PAULA
You are a loose woman!
LUCIA
You used to be a loose woman!
[The shot injures poor old paula so badly that she jumps at LUCIA and grabs her by the arm, shaking her
furiouslyJi
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PAULA
I dare you to say such a thing!
LUCIA
Let me go, you—you—infidel! I'll— [She wrests herself free and deals paula a clout over the head, paula
lunges at her with vast ferocity, but she quickly delivers another blow. A huge uproar, heliogabalus
stretches his neck to see it. rufinius several times steps forward ais if to interfere, but always thinks better
of it. PAULA has the advantage of weight, but lucia is by far the more agile. Various shrill exclamations
"Oh, you will, will you? Take that! Ouch! Oh, my ear! Whoop!" etc. To the extreme right, beyond the large
bed, is the fleet of coat-racks, each enormously laden with feminine finery, paula backs lucia into them,
but straightway comes to grief herself, for lucia upsets the nearest upon her, and, when she falls, heaves
another after it. paula, completely buried in clothes, yells for help, and the three other wives, who have so
far done no more than encourage her with shouts, now come to the attack. LUCIA, leaping behindanother rack, pushes it at them, and it halts them. Then, seeing herself outdone by numbers, she calls for
help herself]
LUCL\.
Oh, oh! Help! Help, Caesar! Save me!
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HELIOGABALUS
\^Crawling from the bed quietly and idiotically^ Did I hear you call? What's the trouble? Have you
dropped something?
LUCIA.
[At the top of her lungs'\ These filthy creatures are trying to kill me!
PAULA
[Under the pile of clothes] She bit me!
[The other wives unearth paula and stand her on her feet. It is seen that she has a black eye. LUCIA
retreats to the door at the left and stands there at bay. The other wives haul paula fo-i ward the centre of
the stage, heliogabalus crosses to a place between lucia and the others]
LUCIA
[Hysterically] That old washtub tried to stab me.
PAULA
[Breaking from the others, her hand on her black eye] It's a dirty lie! She kicked me in the—
LUCIA
She called me awful names!
CAELESTIS
I saw her draw a dagger!

Act II] HELIOGABALUS 103

HELIOGABALUS
Stop! Be quiet! What sort of bar-room row is this? Do you know where you are?PAULA
I am in my own room. This room is mine.
AQUILIA
And ours.
PAULA
Yes, and theirs.
LUCIA
[Furiously^ It's mine!
HELIOGABALUS
[Decisively] It's mine. [Coolly, with judicial poise^ And it wouldn't be going too far, ladies, to say that I
am scandalized by such proceedings. I really am. In all my experience, embracing many long years and
the whole Roman empire, from Britain in the far North to Persia in the extreme—
PAULA
[Bursting into tears] You bring in a woman off the streets—
LUCIA
[In tears, too] You let an old unbelieving harridan, a disreputable old—
HELIOGABALUS
As I was saying, ladies, in all my—

PAULA
I demand that that creature be put out!
LUCIA
I demand my rights as your wife!

HELIOGABALUS
Really, my dear, you must excuse me. On this point the principles of jurisprudence are quite clear. A
judge is plainly forbidden to sit in a case in which he has an interest. If he has an interest in one side it is
enough. If he has an interest in both sides, then surely——

LUCIA
Both sides?

HELIOGABALUS
Exactly.

LUCIA
Do you mean to say that you are interested in the side of this——this fat old——this—?

HELIOGABALUS
Rid your mind of prejudice, my dear. Observe the thing calmly and judicially. Granting all you say
——though I am by no means granting it——the fact remains nevertheless that according to Roman—if not
Christian—law, I am married to this lady—these ladies—and that that marriage——those marriages— is
and are still legally binding. With the fact go certain obligations. I may deplore, as much as you do, their
somewhat unwise and emotional appear—

Act II] HELIOGABALUS 105

LUCIA
Oh, what a—!

HELIOGABALUS
All I ask is that you try to—

LUCIA
Then you don't love me.

ANNIA
The idea!

HELIOGABALUS
I protest, my dear, that—

LUCIA
[Bursting into tears] Then you don't love me! Then you told me a falsehood! You aren't a Christian! I—I
I—
[Quite undone by her feelings, she suddenly hides her face in her hands, darts to the left-hand door,
swings it open, runs out, and slams it after her]

HELIOGABALUS
[Starting toward the door after her] My dear girl, I—

PAULA
[Resolutely] Let her go!

HELIOGABALUS
But she'll catch cold out there. Remember, she has on a very light—

CAELESTIS
Very light nothing. It's flannel. Anyway, she deserves to catch cold.

HELIOGABALUS
Really, Caelestis, you are quite savage.

PAULA
Who wouldn't be, the way we have been treated? [Conciliatingly] But I say nothing against you. I know
how you are when such a minx gets after you.

HELIOGABALUS
Let us not discuss it.

PAULA
[Bitterly] No; what's the use? I have had eighteen years of it—first in the East and now here in Rome. I
know you can't help it, poor old dear. One glance at such a doll and you are gone. [To the other wives]
And now let us try to forget it. It's getting late.
[Instantly they begin to take off their outer garments and let down their hair]

HELIOGABALUS
[In alarm] What are you doing?
PAULA
[Grimly] Getting ready to go to bed. We are sleepy.

[Act II] HELIOGABALUS 107
HELIOGABALUS
But, my dear—look, there is Rufinius still in the room!
[The wives glance at rufinius, scream and try to hide themselves, rufinius, much embarrassed, ducks out
of the door]
PAULA
[With a bitter grin] Well, now he's gone. [She continues disrobing]
HELIOGABALUS
But, but——this is really quite irregular. Let us wait until we are all a bit less excited, as it were. Now be a
good girl. [Wheedlingly] Go back to bed in the North Wing, and let me collect my thoughts a bit.
PAULA
Here I am, and here I stay.
[She throws her girdle over one of the coat-racksl
HELIOGABALUS
But in a minute Lucia'll be coming back, and then— [He frantically begins dressing and
racing against the undressers]
PAULA
If she comes back, I'll bite her again. [She kicks off her sandals]
 
AQUILIA
[Emerging in nothing save a short shift] Do you think we would sleep in a bed with such a creature?
HELIOGABALUS
[Drawing his tunic over his head in wild alarm]
But the poor girl must sleep somewhere.
PAULA
Let her sleep out in the corridor.
[She drops her outer dress and stands forth in a grotesque chemise, decorated with little blue ribbons.
The sight so far appals heliogabalus that disgust is converted into indignation and indignation into
resolution]
HELIOGABALUS
Very well, then. If she must sleep out there, then I sleep out there too!
[He is now pretty fully dressed and struggles into his sandals]
PAULA
[Somewhat shaken] You're not going to leave us?
HELIOGABALUS
[Adjusting his tunic] I am going to leave us!
PAULA
Leave us here all alone?
HELIOGABALUS
Aren't there four of you?
 
[Act II] HELIOGABALUS 109
PAULA.
But with not a man in the room?
ANNIA
[Whimpering] Suppose burglars should break in?
HELIOGABALUS
[Sarcastically] Paula can deal with them.
PAULA
[In tears] No, I can't!
HELIOGABALUS
Then let Rufinius come in. He can have my bed.
PAULA
[With a yell] The idea! Do you accuse me of—
HELIOGABALUS
[At the door to the extreme left] I accuse you of nothing. [Opening the door] And now—
[As he throws the door open, lucia is revealed) She has been eavesdropping and is much distraught]

LUCIA
[In a faint voice] I am cold.
HELIOGABALUS
[Uncertainly] I was just coming out to—
LUCIA
[Catching sight of the wives —PAULA in the middle of the floor in her chemise and the other three in

bed — she gives a scream and totters toward the centre of the stage. There she does a grand faint at
paula's feet]
PAULA
[Leaping back] Oh, my God!
HELIOGABALUS
[Solemnly] You have killed her. She has frozen to death.
PAULA
[Alarmed] I did nothing of the sort. She went out of her own free will.
  

AQUILIA
[jumping from bed] Get her into bed, quick!
HELIOGABALUS [Reaching down and grabbing her under the arms] Get her into my bed.
[The other wives pile out, and help paula and heli-OGABALUS to carry her to his bed]

PAULA
[Snivelling] I wouldn't have hurt her for the world.

HELIOGABALUS
Tell Rufinius to get those two doctors I pardoned.
[PAULA, still in her chemise, rushes to the door, flings
it open and exits]

CAELESTIS
Rub her wrists.

ANNIA
Have you a key? Try a key at the back of her neck.

HELIOGABALUS
Cover her up!

AQUILIA
Try massaging her ears.

HELIOGABALUS
Go get some water.
[AQUILIA rushes to the door, flinging it open just in time to admit Piso and POLORUS. They come in at a
gallop, followed by rufinius, paula and a slave pushing a wheeled table covered with huge bottles, rolls of
plasters, etc. The scene must move at lightning speed]

PISO
[Idiotically, in great excitement] Which is the patient? [He looks from one wife to another, and then
observes lucia on the bed] Ah!

POLORUS
[Crowding to the front] Pass me the brandy.

PISO
Brandy? On what theory?

POLORUS
This is no time for theories, idiot! The patient needs help.
 
PISO
Well, how are you going to help her until you establish the diagnosis?

POLORUS
What could be plainer? A horse-doctor could see that she has fainted.
[He proceeds to pour out a large drink of the brandy]

PISO
[Very learnedly] Suppose it is coma? Suppose she has been poisoned? [PAULA gives a shriek]

POLORUS
Nonsense! Then where is your cyanosis? [He proceeds to lift lucia's head and pour some of the brandy
into her mouth]

PISO
Stop! I forbid it!
[During this rapid dialogue the three other wives
flutter about, and heliogabalus and paula
crowd close to the bed]

POLORUS
[Continuing with the brandy] I stand on my Hip-pocratic oath. I insist on the brandy.
PISO
I appeal to your decency. Don't kill the patient. [paula screams again] Let me feel her pulse.
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POLORUS
Stand back! You are suffocating her!
HELIOGABALUS
ILosingpatience] Here, fools! Give me the goblet.
[He seizes jt and pours half of its contents down lucia's throat. She gasps, coughs, gags and then gradually
sits up. As she opens her eyes she sights paulaJ
LUCIA
[An exclamation of terror] Oh! Oh! Take her away!
[ PAULA hops back in great confusion]
PAULA
[Ingratiatingly] Don't be afraid, dearie.
LUCIA
[Screams] She tried to stab me!PAULA
[In great excitement] The idea! I never did anything—
LUCU
I can see the devil standing behind her!
[PAULA swings about quickly to look behind her,
loses her balance, throws up her arms, and falls
down with a crash]

PAULA
Help!
POLORUS
[Rushing to the rescue] Brandy! Brandy! [A great hub-bub. The wives crowd around]

PISO
[Shrilly, over the tumult] I forbid it!

HELIOGABALUS
Give her air!
[POLORUS applies the brandy jug to paula's lips and she begins to gurgle, gag and blubber]

PAULA
[Still gasping, and rising to a sitting position on the floor] That Christian tried to put a spell on me. She
has the evil eye.

LUCIA
[Shrilly, from the bed] There are devils in her! She is like the Gadarene swine.

PAULA
[Struggling to her feet, assisted by the doctors, the other wives and heliogabalus] Liar!

LUCIA
She is possessed by demons, Caesar.

PAULA
[Again in great fright] Let me out of here! I feel something coming over me!
 
AQUILIA
I feel it, too. I—I—
[She flops across the big bed. polorus leaps to the rescue with the brandy-jug, but as he reaches her she
sits up and knocks it out of his hand]

PISO
[Prancing about] Where is the ammonia? Who has the ammonia bottle?
[He searches for it on the wheeled table, but can't, find it]

PAULA
Let me out! Let me out!

POLORUS
Ammonia your grandmother! Where are the sedatives? Who took the poppy-water? Where is the poppy
water?
[He makes a wild search for it]

HELIOGABALUS
[Quietly] I think you're right. They need something to calm their nerves. [He finds and seizes the bottle]
Ah, here it is! Ammonia would half kill them.

PISO
I protest!

PAULA
I want to get out of here. [rufinius tries to calm her]

HELIOGABALUS
One second, darling. [As polorus offers her a goblet of the poppy-water] Now be a nice little girl, and
swallow this medicine. It will make you dream beautifully.

PAULA
[Dubiously] What is it, doctor?

HELIOGABALUS
Never ask a doctor what anything is. Remember your manners. He mightn't know. It will make you
dream that you are seventeen, and in love with a gladiator.

PAULA
You're sure it won't hurt me?

POLORUS
Oh, absolutely no.

PISO
I—

HELIOGABALUS
[To Piso] Silence! [To paula] Now down with it.
[She drinks it, and at once grows somewhat calmer.
Gradually she succumbs, and by the time she goes
out she is very sleepy]
PAULA [Smacking her lips] It tastes like—it tastes like—
 
POLORUS
Exactly. And now for the other ladies. Who's next?
HELIOGABALUS
[Sharply] Caelestis!
[The wife on the bed struggles up and comes for-, ward]
POLORUS
[The goblet in hand] Ready?
HELIOGABALUS
Shut your eyes!
[caelestis swallows the dose without a word]
POLORUS
[Refilling the goblet] Next!
HELIOGABALUS
Come, Aquilia.
AQUILIA
[Doubtfully] It won't make me fat?
POLORUS
Oh, surely not.
AQUILIA
You're positive?
HELIOGABALUS
Positive. Down with it. [She swallows the dose] And now little Annia. One, two, three!
 
[POLORUS fills the goblet again and it goes down immediately']
POLORUS
Ah! So much for that!
HELIOGABALUS
[Herding the wives toward the door"] And now you girls try to get some rest, and leave the doctors with
poor Lucia. I'm afraid it may be a case for immediate operation. They'll have to examine her from head to
foot.
LUCIA
[From the bedli I won't have any operation! I won't be examined from head to foot! The power of the
spirit is enough.
PISO
Oh, hardly.LUCIA
[Petulantly"] I refuse to be cut up!
HELIOGABALUS
Now, now, be calm. Look at the other girls. [To paulaJ And now try to get some rest. I'll come out to see
you immediately after the operation. [Moving her toward the door, the others following] Take things
easily for—
PAULA
I feel so—
HELIOGABALUS
Yes, yes, but you'll feel better presently.
 
[Act II] HELIOGABALUS 119
heliogabalus [To POLORUS in a hoarse whisper'\ Give them all another dose—a double dose. Especially
Paula. She has the stomach of a policeman.
[The wives wobble out, followed by polorus, the slave with the table of medicines, and rufinius. Only piso
remains]

PISO
[Ingratiatingly] Your Majesty's excellent suggestion of an operation is—

HELIOGABALUS
[Turning with great deliberation, and kicking PISO in the rear] Out!
[piso, after an instant of amazement, leaps for the door and disappears]

LUCIA
That Paula is an old hyena, Caesar. She tried to bite me.

HELIOGABALUS
[He seats himself on the edge of the big bed, his legs swinging in the open space between the two beds.
His manner is that of weariness and resignation] Yes, she's somewhat—explosive. I am afraid she's
sometimes unwise in the use of — er, stimulants?

LUCIA
Afraid? She's been drunk for months—ever since—
 
HELIOGABALUS
Yes, she's taken it very hard.

LUCIA
[Somewhat oratorically] Wine is a mocker. Strong drink is raging.

HELIOGABALUS
A mocker, yes——but also a consoler. Don't forget that poor old Paula must have time to get used tOk
things. I daresay the new regulations rather oppress her.

LUCIA
You mean she longs for all those old dissipations— those banquets every night, and all that worldly
carnality—and this room full of those awful women?

HELIOGABALUS
Exactly, though I doubt that she'd describe it in just that way. You see, she was brought up in Alexandria
—a rather lively burg. It's all a matter of training. Here she had certain responsibilities, certain interesting
duties—
LUCIA
Yes, I know what those duties were. They were sinful in the sight of God.
HELIOGABALUS
Perhaps. Nevertheless, they occupied her mind. Let us be just to her. She was competent. She knew
 
[Act II] HELIOGABALUS 121
her business. I never had any trouble with those girls while she was in charge of them.
LUCIA
Those scarlet women!
HELIOGABALUS
Now you are exaggerating. They are all quite respectable. My marriage to every one of them is, as I've told
you, sound in Roman law.LUCIA
But not in the eye of God. The Scripture says "A bishop shall have but one wife."
HELIOGABALUS
But I'm not a bishop.
LUCIA
Well, surely no one ought to be allowed more wives than a bishop.
HELIOGABALUS
Granted. But here they are.
LUCIA
Turn them away. Read the Word.
HELIOGABALUS
[A bit irritated] Yes, yes; I have read it. The theory is very lovely. It has affected me greatly; I have
adopted it as you know. But here I have these girls legally on my hands, and surely you wouldn't ask me
to—=
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LUCIA
You should be glad to get rid of them. Such a pack of—of—
HELIOGABALUS
Now, now, I must really forbid you. Paula, of course, is open to a certain criticism, at least aesthetically.
And Cselestis is probably no stunner. But among the others there are certainly a number who—

LUCIA

[Tearfullyl You don't love me in the proper Christian way!
HELIOGABALUS What nonsense! I love you to an extreme degree. [He takes up and kisses her hand] My
affection for you is really colossal. But let us be just. Surely it's absurd to say that all of them are—^well,
offensive. There are surely exceptions.
LUCIA
[Resolutely] Not one.
HELIOGABALUSOh, come now. For example, there is Dacia. I haven't seen her for these long months, but I remember her
quite clearly Surely Dacia has a certain oharm. She is young, she has a good complexion, ghe §ings very
acceptably, and she—
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LUCIA
I see what is the matter. You are homesick for her and her kind. For her and the old infidel life.
HELIOGABALUS
Not at all. I merely remember her. That's all. I merely remember. A toothsome girl. But a lady. Her father
was a philosopher in Athens . .'. she wasn't in that crowd. She is naturally affectionate.
LUCIA
And kissing all the time, I suppose. Never a moment for the things of the spirit. Always the flesh.
HELIOGABALUS Oh, by no means. I really wouldn't have permitted it. I quite agree with you there. Such
things may be overdone. At my age.

LUCIA
But you like it, don't you?

HELIOGABALUS
[Looking at her sharply] Yes—on occasion. But there is where I agree with you: that is the precise reason
why the thing should be limited. [A bit wistfully] If one kissed too much, one would be too happy. And
that, of course, wouldn't do at all.

LUCIA
The happiness of this life is as dust.
 
HELIOGABALUS
[Grudgingly] So you tell me.

LUCIA
The happiness to come is eternal.

HELIOGABALUS
Well, I hope so. But, you see, my trouble is old Paula's. I was brought up wrong. I suppose it is incurable. I
notice, at times, an almost irresistible las-
civiousness——what you call worldliness. [Amorously]
When I see you there in your nightie
I forget all about Christianity and can hardly resist the temptation to
throw my arms around you and give you a hug. I
know it's wrong, but there it is.

LUCIA
[Somewhat shaken] Well, I shouldn't call it las-
civiousness. And it isn't exactly wrong.

HELIOGABALUS
[Ironically] No?

LUCIA
The Scriptures say——

HELIOGABALUS
Ah? Then let us be glad they approve it, little pot-pie. It is pleasant to be virtuous——that is, more or less.

LUCIA
[Demurely after a pause] Do you want to kiss me?

HELIOGABALUS
[He begins slowly to take off his tunic. As he an-
sivers, it is over his head] I am perfectly willing.
But, I warn you, I'm not going to stand any more
Christian kisses. And what's more, if I'm interrupted
any more by any low-comedy Palais Royal knocking
on that dog-gone door just as I am on the point of—
[He is duly cut short by a loud knocking on the
door. He tries to get out of his tunic quickly,
and then, thinking better of it, decides to let it
down again]
  

HELIOGABALUS
[Wrathfully] What is it now? [An unintelligible answer from without] Hey? [Another mumble] I can't
hear you. Come in.[Enter rufinius. He stops near the door and glances at lucia dubiously]

RUFINIUS
I came in, Majesty, to report— [He stops]

HELIOGABALUS
[Coming down toward rufinius] What! I'm good and damn sick of this "I came in to report, Majesty," just
as I'm about to—— What's up? More trouble?
 
RUFINIUS
No, Majesty. The ladies are all asleep.

HELIOGABALUS
Hear, hear! And he "comes in to report, Majesty" just as Majesty is about to——

RUFINIUS
The Empress Paula is breathing very heavily. Majesty. The doctors are trying to revive her.

HELIOGABALUS
[In a sudden rage] What! Revive her! Seven thousand loud damns. Tell them to give her another dose of
the same—give them another dose all 'round. Tell those quacks that—the infernal boobies! Off go their
toes if a single patient wakes—and both ears. Now quick, before they revive her!
[Pushes RUFINIUS toward the door]

RUFINIUS
As you order. Majesty. But there is another matter.

HELIOGABALUS
What is it, foul fool?

RUFINIUS
Another one of the ladies has come over from the North Wing——Dacia.

HELIOGABALUS
[Softening] Ah, Dacia! What does she want? Surely she ——

[Act II] HELIOGABALUS 127

RUFINIUS
Oh, not at all. She asked me to inquire how her Majesty is, and if you yourself are feeling quite well.

HELIOGABALUS
Ah, very thoughtful of her. Tell her I am quite well. And don't forget to thank her. Remember, Rufinius,
give her my thanks.

RUFimus
[Going to the door] As you order. Emperor.

HELIOGABALUS
Tell her not to neglect her music lessons. And—— but just say I may want to see her for
an instant tomorrow——some business——of state——that I had forgotten.

RUFINIUS
As ordered, Majesty. [He goes out]

LUCIA
You are still thinking of that heathen Dacia.

HELIOGABALUS
Nonsense, sweet potato. You are really quite absurd. [Suddenly irritated] Damn it all, a
man must be polite.

LUCIA
[Jealously] But you used to love her before I converted you to the Faith.

HELIOGABALUS
[Starting to take off his tunic again] Ah, who knows? Love——what is it? A sort of optical delusion, an
enchantment——almost alcoholic.
[He gets it over his head, and stands rubbing his bare arms and shoulders]

LUCIA
Love comes from the soul.

HELIOGABALUS Yes, even the soul takes a hack at it. [He starts to climb into the small bed]

LUCIA
[Loudly] Where are you going?

HELIOGABALUS
[His leg in mid-air, coaxing in baby-like tone] Please! I don't want to sleep over there— [indicating the big bed] —in Siberia. It's so cold—and when I get cold it always gives me my stomach-ache.

LUCIA No! One must not think of the flesh, Caesar.

HELIOGABALUS
But you're my wife, aren't you? You wouldn't have me freeze to death?

LUCIA
But not a pagan wife. I am a Christian wife.
 
HELIOGABALUS
Well, doesn't a Christian wife promise to cherish her husband? [Still coaxing, and shivering] Please!

LUCIA.
No.

HELIOGABALUS
Please, please!

LUCIA
Again, no, Caesar.

HELIOGABALUS
[With a weary sigh, crawling into the big bed] Lucia, I can't understand you or this Christianity either.
What's the idea of trying to make people miserable by forbidding them to do what they want to, and then,
when they're unhappy about it, telling them they're awfully happy but don't know it?
[LUCIA rolls over and does not reply. HELIOGABALUS sighs]

HELIOGABALUS
Anyway, I don't seem to get used to this going to bed sober. [He props himself up in bed, and rambles on
without paying much heed to Lucia] Now, you were saying that love is of the soul. But see what a
conclusion it brings you to: then even old Paula must have a soul, for old Paula used to love me.
 
LUCIA
[Sleepily] Paula, too, has an immortal soul.

HELIOGABALUS
The gods forbid! [Humorously] But what of, er——what of, say Dacia, for example?

LUCIA
[Yawning] This Dacia, too, has a soul.

HELIOGABALUS
Nobly spoken. And much better news! [Half dreamily] But what is this so-called soul you speak of? Is it a
gas? Has it got length, breadth, thickness? Is the soul in the body, or the body in the soul? When I used to
cut a Christian into two halves, which half was the soul in? Was it divided too? Well, then, suppose I had
him run through a sausage cutter, and he came out, say, in four million pieces: was the soul in four
million pieces, too? You say that the soul re-enters the body on the day of judgment. Well, suppose I take
two Jews and cut off their heads, and put the head of A on the body of B, and vice versa. Does the soul of
A go into the body of A or into the head of A, which is on the body of B? If it goes into the head, is it
responsible for the sins of the body of B? [He reaches over and, slyly watching lucia out of the comer of
his eye, pours out a goblet of the brandy which the doctors have left there, slowly sipping it with much lip
smacking as he goes on] Do you follow me?
 
LUCIA.
[Half asleep] Oh, how you talk, Caesar!

HELIOGABALUS
Talk? Talking is my trade, little icicle. Talk is the heart's blood of politics. . . . And of love, I used to have
even greater skill than I have today. He had a smooth and slippery tongue, had Heliogabalus. Years ago,
when I was a lieutenant in the army, I used to——[sighs] Well, they were all willing: my conscience is
perfectly clear. As the lawyers say. Caveat emptor. When a girl has a taste for epigrams she must be
careful: a man of my wit is dangerous. I'll never forget my poor dear first wife——good old Mar-
cia. It was an epigram that made her fall in love with me. I remember the circumstances perfectly. She was
complaining that love was beyond her comprehension——that it was ineffable, indescribable,
transcendental. "Love," I replied, with droll perspicacity, "Love," I replied, "is the triumph of imagination
over intelligence."
[He chuckles]

LUCIA
[Yawns audibly, and turns over]

HELIOGABALUS
You interrupt me, cold darling. What I was about to say is that poor old Marcia laughed so hard she rolled
clear out of bed. An old joke—as old as the Babylonians. But fact! You should have heard the
bump when she landed on her— [a sidelong glance] —her upholstery. I had to haul her back into bed.
[He sips again] Ah, love, indeed! A short preface to a long book! [He pauses and waits for appreciation.
No sound comes from LUCIA. He goes on in a slightly louder voice] Love is like war: easy to begin but very
hard to stop. [Another inquiring glance at LUCIA] When loves dies there is never any funeral: the corpse
remains in the house. [Another] A woman in love is less modest than a man: she has less to be ashamed
of. [A longish pause. He takes a deep draught] Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another,
[LUCIA is still silent. He lifts himself to his elbow and regards her contemplatively. He calls her softly]
Lucia! Sweet Lucia! . . . Asleep! [A sigh] Christianity is fatal to the—er— epigram. How Marcia used to
giggle! And little Dacia! Dacia has a sense of humour. An intelligent girl, Dacia. And how her nose puckers
when she is a bit—squiffed. Somehow, I— [He empties the goblet and composes himself. The regular
breathing of LUCIA can be heard] This Christianity may be all right in the daytime, but at night—
[Suddenly, from somewhere below the window there comes the soft, low sound of a girl's voice, raised in
song. It is a song of love and passion, and heliogabalus sits up in bed to listen. Toward the end he glances
at LUCIA, scarcely concealing a rising aversion. The song ended, he settles himself, wets his lips, and smiles
amorously]

HELIOGABALUS
[In a caressing whisper] Dacia!

CURTAIN

 

ACT III[edit]



ACT III
The next night.
A corridor in the palace. It stretches longitudinally across the stage and is rather narrow. In the wall to
the back there is a wide and high arch, covered with heavy hangings of imperial purple, showing two large
embroidered H's, with wreaths above them, in gold. The solid wall of the corridor, seen to the two sides of
the central hangings, is of colouted marble. The hangings conceal the state banquet hall, and the corridor
is the emperor's means of getting to the latter from his private apartments. All decorations are simple, but
of the utmost richness.
During the whole act, down to the last scene, sounds of revelry come from the banquet hall — laughter,
music and the clinking of goblets — now faintly and now loudly.
As the curtain rises Piso and polorus enter, followed by a slave pushing their rolling table of medicines
and instruments. They are in long white tunics, reaching below the knees, and with short sleeves — the
early Roman equivalent of modern operating gowns.
PISO
[To the slavel Here, Ambrose, shove it to this
side.
137

[The slave runs the table to the left, halts it by the back wall, and exits]
POLORUS
[Officiously] Where is the headache powder?
PISO
[Reaching to the shelf beneath the table, he brings up a huge blue bottle] Here you are. Do you think we
have enough?
POLORUS
It's enough to kill them, but I doubt that it's enough to cure them, once they get started.
PISO
Well, if we run out of it, we can give them some cholera mixture. They'll never know the difference.
POLORUS
[Busily arranging the bottles] All this does me good, my boy. It makes me young again.
PISO
Do you think the moral movement is really over?
POLORUS
If it isn't, then why this good old-fashioned banquet? Why all the old crowd? Why all the old girls? I
suspect that Paula arranged the whole thing. Have you seen the list of guests?
PISO
No.
 
POLORUS
Well, not a tank is missing. Every zinc-lined stomach and copper-plated kidney in Rome is here. By the
way, have we got enough stomach-pumps?
PISO
[Indicating them] Here are six.
POLORUS
Maybe that will be enough. [He roots among the medicines] I have a feeling that this will finish the
Christian wife. She'll never stand for an old-time banquet.
PISO
Then let us thank all the gods. If Christianity ever actually got on its legs, the doctoring business would go
to pot. All this praying and fasting and going to bed at ten o'clock is fatal to pathology. The aim of
medicine is to save a man from the just consequences of his own vices. If he gives up his vices, then—
POLORUS
But he never does. All he ever comes to is the exchange of one vice for another. This praying that you
mention is a vice. Fasting is a vice. Going to bed at ten o'clock is a vice.
PISO
Maybe so. But I am speaking medically. The medicine that we studied was designed for certain ends. It
supposes the existence of certain vices.
 
You and I know, for example, how to treat a man who has eaten too much or who hasn't had sleep
enough. But what of the man who has fasted, and at the same time got too much sleep? There you stand
medicine on its head. And I am too old to learn it all over again.
POLORUS
[Argumentatively] You make imaginary difficulties, Dr. Piso. Simply give him a dose of salts, say I, and
trust to luck. You talk as if a physician had to cure his patient. Nonsense. All he has to do is to try to cure
him.
PISO
[Bridling] Is that so? Then how do you— [He is cut short by the entrance of CAius macrinus from the left.
CAius lumbers toward piso and is seen to be already far gone in. liquor]
CAIUS
Say, Doctor—
PISO
Why, Commander! What brings you here?
CAIUS
Ain't this the night of the banquet? I thought this was the night of the banquet. If this ain't the night of the
banquet, then I—
PISO
Of course it is. But how did you get here?

CAIUS
Ain't this the palace? I thought this was the palace. I saw a lot of girls going in the basement and so I
thought it was the palace.
PISO
So it is. But this is the Emperor's private corridor. You ought to have gone the other way, through the
atrium.
CAIUS
Excuse me, gentleman. I apologize. [He attempts a right-about-face'\ Which way did you say? I thbught I
was in the palace. I saw a lot of cuties going into the basement and so I thought it was the palace.
[Suddenly pulling himself up^ But say, Doctor, I knew I wanted to see you about something. You are Dr.
Piso, ain't you?
PISO
I am the Dr. Piso.
CAIUS
I remember you that time I had that carbuncle. Where was it? Somewhere in Gaul. My, my! How the
years do skip along! Here it's July again— [He pauses uncertainly^ Is it? Is it July again?
PISO
[Professionally] You say you desire to consult me, Commander?
CAIUS
Doctor, you know what it is—this sea-faring life.
 
I thought my legs would give out first. But it turns out to be my stomach.
PISO
You have indigestion?
CAIUS
No, sir! I can digest anything. I could eat an alligator. Tail and all.
PISO
But—
CAIUS
[Looking about him cautiously] Shhhh! I'm coming to it! I can eat anything, but—but— [His voice
quavers]
PISO
But you're not what you used to be at—
CAIUS
[He nods mournfully] Half a dozen bottles of wine, and I'm not worth a damn. The fact is, I am almost a
teetotaler—practically. I hardly drink a thing—scarcely. [He sighs boozily] Think of what's ahead of me
tonight. They're all here—the military, the judiciary, the Senate. If I drink with all those gold-fish, then
I'll be laid up tomorrow, and maybe die. And if I don't drink, then I disgrace the navy.
PISO
Too bad. But maybe I can help you.
 
CAIUS
That's what I was getting at, Doctor. I remember, out in Asia Minor, how those slick Persians would take a
hooch of something or other, and then they were ready for anything. The point is, what was it?
PISO
Olive oil.
POLORUS
Ammonia.
PISO
Ammonia your uncle!
POLORUS
[Bitingly] Yes, ammonia one's uncle! An ounce in a glass of milk, before or after.
CAIUS
Could I take them both?
PISO
Yes, if you are crazy.
POLORUS
Why not? The ammonia will fix him, and the olive oil won't kill him. [Busying himself at the table] Let us
mix them.
[He pours the olive oil and ammonia into a beaker, and starts to stir the mixture]
CAIUS
[Getting affectionate and placing his arm around
POLORUS' neck] Oh, Doctor! Give me a big one! Don't tease me with a pony!
POLORUS
This is the regular size for elephants and gladiators. Now—there you are—down with it!
[He hands CAius the beaker. CAius downs it at a fearful gulp, and comes up spluttering and rolling his
eyes]
CAIUS
[Faintly] Is there a chaser?
PISO
No. Let it alone. The fire will go out of itself. [ CAIUS attempts to speak, but achieves only an un-
intelligible whisper]
POLORUS
[Elbowing him toward the left] Go out in the atrium, Commander, and stick your head in the pool. [cAius
again attempts to speak, but cannot, and waddles off]
PISO
[Calling after him] Don't forget the professor!
POLORUS
[Coming back] That old soak is on his last legs. Practically a teetotaler! I wonder what he—
PISO
[At the table] Where did you get that olive oil?
 
POLORUS
Out of the tall yellow bottle.
PISO
Well, you wasted four ounces of good turpentine liniment.
POLORUS
[Examining the bottles] Um, it's six of one and half a dozen of the other. But I didn't waste any ammonia.
I gave him ninety per cent, alcohol.
PISO
What are the odds? I once cured a case of chilblains with a couple of liver pills.
POLORUS
You ought to try some of those pills on the Emperor.
PISO
Ought to try them? I have given him a keg of them.
POLORUS
Then it's no wonder I can't cure him.
PISO
[Irascibly] You? Do you ever cure patients? Oh, my word! It's those infernal powders of yours that
counteract the pills. No wonder he gets worse. I can never give him enough of my pills to catch up with
your powders. If you—
[He is interrupted by the sudden appearance of
SIMON, the Christian giant, from the right. Simon's eyes are staring, and he is evidently labouring under much excitement]
SIMON
[In a sepulchral voice] God be with you!
PISO
[Startled] The same to you. Reverend. But what are you doing here?
SIMON
[Mysteriously] I have business here.
POLORUS
Business here? Don't you know what's going on?
SIMON
I see preparations for debauchery—sin—venery— the devil's work.
PISO
Not so loud, old schooner. The Emperor is giving this banquet. Remember the Espionage Act.
SIMON
My business is with the Emperor.
POLORUS
[Amazed and amused] Surely you are not going to the banquet yourself? [piso haw-haws]
 
SIMON
[Solemnly] I have come to—to—to— [He hesitates] I have come to—
PISO
You have come to look them over?
POLORUS
You want to see whether the girls really do take off their—
SIMON
[Cutting in] Girls? Bah! I abhor the scarlet woman. My prayers are for one pure woman, for—
PISO
The wife Lucia!
POLORUS
[Nodding his head] He's mashed on her.
SIMON
[Indignantly] I am old enough to be her father.
PISO
Yes, so is the Emperor.
SIMON
Let him have a care! Let him remember the wrath to come.
POLORUS
What! At a banquet?
SIMON
Even at a banquet. Even amid the flesh-pots.
Even among the scarlet women. Let him remember his lawful wife. I hear talk that is terrible.
PISO
What do you hear?
SIMON
That he plans to cast her off. More, that he plans to—murder her.
POLORUS
[Glancing about him] Oh, I say!
SIMON
Even as he has murdered other poor women—trusting hearts—discarded wives. [Suddenly infuriated]
But not the wife Lucia! The moment his slaves touch the anointed of the Lord— [He draws a dagger] —
that moment I plunge this knife into his heathen heart!
PISO
[Nervously] My dear sir, calm yourself. This is awful talk. I positively refuse to listen to any such
anarchism.
SIMON
I shall wait here. I am ready. I shall serve the Lord.
POLORUS
Suppose you let me have that knife, I am more used to such things. You are a clergyman. It may cut you.
[As he steps forward, there are noises outside, to
the left. The hand behind the curtain strikes up more loudly, and presently voices call "The Emperor! The
Emperor!"]
SIMON
[Flourishing the dagger] Nay! I shall wait here! I am ready.
[More cries. The music grows louder. Piso and
POLORUS grow increasingly alarmed. Cries of
"The Emperor! The Emperor!"]
PISO
[In a panic] What are we to do?
POLORUS
If we had time we could anesthetize him.
PISO
Yes, if we had time we could hypnotize him. But now?
SIMON
Pray to the Lord!
POLORUS
Yes, yes, but not now. Not here. I never miss the Day of Atonement. I promised my old mother. [In full
demoralization, to Piso] You tackle him.
PISO
[Panic-stricken, to simon] Why not go out and take a little walk and come back later?

SIMON
I stay here. I am set here to watch. An angel charged me to—
[Shouts of "The Emperor!" very near. The music grows louder still. Cheers behind the hangings]
POLORUS
[Pushing him back frantically] But you're blocking up the passage-way. It is forbidden. Surely you don't
want to offend the Emperor,
SIMON
[Idiotically] Not unnecessarily.
PISO
Well, then—
POLORUS
[Inspired] Ah, here!
[He shoves simon behind the hangings at the extreme right, where they overlap the back wall]
PISO
[Greatly relieved] Whew!
POLORUS
[Coming back] Just in time! [Suddenly alarmed again] But suppose he jumps out and— [He drops his
voice]
PISO
[Resolutely] Who?
 
POLORUS
[In surprise] Who? This blamed—

PISO I didn't see anybody. Did you?
POLORUS
[With a relieved wink] No. I saw no one.
PISO
He must have sneaked in during the day.
POLORUS
Maybe the wife Lucia let him in.
[Cries of "The Emperor!" just outside. With it an unexpected babble of women's voices, Piso and
POLORUS, at this new sound, look at each other in sudden astonishment as rufinius enters]
RUFINIUS
His Imperial Majesty!
[rufinius is followed by two centurions, piso drops to one knee and polorus follows suit. HELIOGABALUS
Stalks in with paula hanging to one arm and caelestis to the other. Behind the three, crowded closely, are
annia Faustina, AQUILIA SEVERA, and three or four other wives. Last of all comes dacia. heliogabalus
wears a magnificent toga of imperial purple, with gold borders very heavily embroidered, and a wreath of
laurel. He moves to the centre of the stage
without a word, and as if scarcely conscious of PAULA and CAELESTis. A murmur of confused speech
among the other wives. Obviously, there has been an encounter outside. Piso and PO-LORUS get to their
feet, and move off discreetly toward the right, pushing their wheeled table ahead of them. Presently they
go out. rufin-lus takes station at the side of the archway leading into the banquet hall, directly before the
place where simon is concealed. The centurions go to the extreme right, and stand impassive. Throughout
this scene, sounds of revelry come from the banquet hall]
HELIOGABALUS
[Suddenly shaking off paula and caelestis, and swinging 'round to face the other wives, his arms folded]
The answer is Yes and No!
PAULA
[Melodramatically] What!
HELIOGABALUS
Yes to question number one; no to question number two.
THE OTHER WIVES[Together] Which is which? ... Do we come back? . . . What can he mean? . . . Which question is number
one? . . . He's going to put her out!

PAULA
[Authoritatively] Silence! Let me do the talking. [To HELIOGABALUS, bravely but a bit uneasily] What
do you mean . . . darling?
HELIOGABALUS
Simply this, molasses jar. You all come back— but not together.
THE OTHER WIVES
[In a babble, as before. They don't quite know whether to hail the news, or to protest] Oh, we come back! .
. . But what does that mean? ... I don't understand it at all . . . Do you mean—?
PAULA
[Sharply] Silence!
[The babble is cut short instantly. A momentary silence, heliogabalus stands with his arms folded. The
wives look uneasy and a bit foolish]
PAULA
[To HELIOGABALUS, quaveringly] You are not going to—?
HELIOGABALUS
Carpenters are at work building a plain double-bed. I have ordered that farm taken out and burned. The
double-bed will suffice until—
PAULA
But I thought we were to come back.
 
HELIOGABALUS
You do—but you come back one by one.
CiELESTIS
But where will the rest of us sleep?
HELIOGABALUSWhere you have been sleeping—during the late revolution. Sleep wherever you please. If the palace isn't
big enough, I'll have barracks built.
PAULA
[Maudlinly] Oh, my poor head! I can't understand a thing he says!
HELIOGABALUS
Let me explain. The old system had its advantages. I was used to it and strongly approved it. But the older
I get, the more I learn. At ninety or a hundred I should be genuinely wise. One thing I have learned is that
the Christian system, too, has—
PAULA
[Hysterically] He's deserting us for that street-woman!
[The other wives set up a shrill protest of "Ohs"]
HELIOGABALUS
[Talking them down] The Christian system, too, has its advantages. It is lonesome, but peaceful. I sleep
better. The ventilation is better. More air. Fewer breathing.

PAULA
I protest against it as immoral! We are your lawful—
HELIOGABALUS
[Sardonically] Immoral? Hah, because it's pleasant! You, too, have become infected by this Christianity.
PAULA
Oh, what an insult!
HELIOGABALUS
But to resume. You take your turns one by one, quietly and in order. First, let us say—well, first one of
you. To be selected by me. I have a system worked out. Each stays on until—until I feel like a change.
Then the next. And so on.
PAULA
I see it all. It's a scheme to get that Christian hussy in—and then keep us out!
HELIOGABALUS
[Darkly, rolling his eye over the group of wivesl. The Christian girl will not be the first. She must take her turn.
CAELESTIS
See! She remains. What did I tell you? [The other wives babble]
HELIOGABALUS
If you are my lawful wives, then she is my lawful wife. I must be just. As Pontifex Maximus I am the incarnation of justice.
PAULA
I am against justice for Christians!
HELIOGABALUS
[Humorously] Exactly. There is always some one that justice doesn't apply to.
CAELESTIS
You might take her in, and then keep her a year.
HELIOGABALUS
It's theoretically possible, but very improbable. No, my inclination to the Christian system has its limits.
The girl must take her turn. I must suffer, say once a year. Where is she, by the way?
PAULA
Praying somewhere, I suppose.
CAELESTIS
[Maliciously] Maybe she has run off with that old bed-tick of an evangelist.
HELIOGABALUS
I shall ask her to pray for you, Cselestis.
CAELESTIS
[Horrified] Oh, oh! She'll put a spell on me!
HELIOGABALUS
Never fear. [Wearily] I have tried it. Her spells are nothing. She couldn't even cure my stomach-ache. . . . And now, off with you. I have important
business. I am entertaining the Supreme Bench.
PAULA
[Defiantly] It is your duty to turn her out.
CAELESTIS
It is your duty to—
ANOTHER WIFE
It is your duty—
HELIOGABALUS
[Irritably] Duty! Duty! Always my duty! Well, it is my duty to—
PAULA
Do your duty and you'll be happy.
HELIOGABALUS
A fallacy, my dill pickle. Duty may make a man able to stand a thing, but it never makes him enjoy it. Now
good-night.
[He shoos them toward the door, left]
PAULA
I object! I protest!
[The other wives begin to babble, joining her protest]
HELIOGABALUS
Enough! I order you—as Emperor! [They grow silent and slink away] Disobey, and— [They start out, HELIOGABALUS following them toward the door]
The name of the evening's nominee will reach you in due course.
PAULA
[At the door] I—

HELIOGABALUS
[Peremptorily] Guards!
[PAULA run s out, and the others crowd after her. In the scuffle, one of the wives is pushed to one side,
and finds herself inside after the door bangs. It is dacia. heliogabalus, turning back toward the entrance
to the banquet-room, notices her. She hasn't said a word during the preceding scene, but has noticeably
hung back. Now, facing the Emperor, she is suddenly confused, and turns toward the door in alarm. But
he halts her]
HELIOGABALUS
What! Little Dacia! [She nods shyly] I didn't notice you. I didn't hear a word from you.
DACIA
[Ingenuously] I didn't say anything.
HELIOGABALUS
Not a word about duty?
DACIA
No.
 
HELIOGABALUS
[Elaborately kissing her hand] Thank you,
DACIA
I hope you are feeling much better.
HELIOGABALUS
Thank you again. If I saw more of you, Dacia, I'd soon be well. [A pause] I heard you singing last night. It
was very sweet of you.
DACIA [Simply] I thought you might like me to do it.
HELIOGABALUS
[Now thoroughly interested] Like it? I loved it! You gave me pleasant dreams. I dreamed that things were
as—as they used to be, and that—
DACIA
[Snuggling into his arms] Have you missed me?
HELIOGABALUS
Enormously! At first I wondered just what it was I missed so much, but then I knew. It was my little
wifey. [He kisses her gently] Now she's never going to leave me again.
DACIA
[With all the art of the cutie, but apparently simply] If you want me.
HELIOGABALUS
I want you every minute. [With elaborate tender-
ness] I was so worried about you. How did your cold get? Better? You are sure you take care of yourself? I
wish you would stop wearing those very thin stockings. [Feeling of her frock] And this dress! It's like a
night-gown.
DACIA
[Coyly, burying her face on his shoulder] I have a new night-gown.
HELIOGABALUS
When am I to see it?
DACIA
You never notice such things.
HELIOGABALUS
What nonsense. Didn't I notice the pink one—the one you worked yourself—all those forget-me-nots?
DACIA
That was the first you ever saw.
HELIOGABALUS
[Sentimentally] I'll never forget it. Ah, those days! Those happy, happy days!
[During all this scene simon has occasionally peeped out from behind the hangings, his eyes popping as
heliogabalus grows more and more ardent. RUFiNius has discreetly turned his back and the centurions
are far to the right, also with their backs toward thee centre. All the while noisy music and whoops have
been coming from the banquet-hall, with occasional bursts of applause. Now and then a definite voice may be heard —
probably old CAius's]
DACIA
You do love me, don't you?
HELIOGABALUS
Don't you know it?
DACIA
I think so. But how much?
HELIOGABALUS
That much. [An enormous kiss. Then — helio-GABALUS straightens up, glances at the banquet-room
entrance, and gives a weary sigh] Well, I suppose I must go in. It's really important—a very serious affair
—the first in months. You know why there has been none. I made a lamentable error. I hate bloodshed,
but I really think I'd be justified in—
[SIMON peeps from behind the hangings, his eyes popping]
DACIA
But I'll see you soon?
HELIOGABALUS
I should surely hope so. I nominate you number one. And I'll make Paula number two, so there'll be no
temptation to—
DACIA
[Very demurely] You won't be long?
 
HELIOGABALUS
How could I be long? [Kissing her briefly again] And don't forget! [He whispers to her, and, as if blushing,
she hides her face on his shoulder] You! understand?
DACIA
[Whispers] I'll be there.
HELIOGABALUS
And now— [Another kiss] Wear that pink one. You know. Now I must— [A sudden idea] But why not
simply stay? How idiotic of me not to have thought of it! You can sit right beside me as you used to do. I'll
get away all the sooner.
DACIA
But it's a men's party!
HELIOGABALUS
Pish! You'd be welcome at any men's party. Just watch how the judiciary gape at you!
DACIA
But my frock! This old thing!
HELIOGABALUS
It's perfect! Those old rats never look at the clothes; they look at the girl, [He takes his laurel wreath from
his head and puts it on dacia's head] There! The last touch!
[dacia is still doubtful and hangs back to steal a glance at herself in a pocket-mirror, but helio-
GABALUS takes her arm and they turn toward the entrance to the banquet-hall, rufinius claps his hands,
trumpets ring out; the two centurions step forward and draw back the hangings. A scene of gaudy
splendour is revealed. The banquet-hall reaches to the back of the stage, with a floor three steps higher
than that of the corridor. A superb flash of colour. There is a huge horseshoe of a table, very low, and it is
surrounded by the low couches on which the Romans reclined at meals. Around the horse-shoe are
grouped the guests — senators, generals, ambassadors, judges and other magnificoes — chiefly elderly
and grizzled men. CAius is to the left, and is quickly seen to be far gone in liquor, heliogabalus' place is in
front and to the right, so that when he rises to speak his profile is toward the audience in the theatre. In
the centre of the horse-shoe is a small dancing floor, and exactly in the middle of it a tall fountain, with
coloured lights playing upon it. The walls of the hall are richly decorated, and various barbaric banners
show brilliant patches of colour. All the guests are in ' white togas, but on the shoulder of every onei there
is some coloured badge of rank. The musicians are far to the rear and their music is heard constantly,
save when heliogabalus speaks. They play strange, levantine tunes, sometimes in the old Greek modes.
Translated into modern tones, their music sounds as if made by two violins, a 'cello, a zither, an oboe and a snare
drum. As the hangings go back, and heliogabalus, with DACIA on his arm, is revealed to the banqueters,
there is a sudden silence. Then CAIUS springs to his feet and shouts "Vivat Imperator!" and the whole
assemblage rises. The old boys stand unsteadily as he mounts the three steps and moves toward his place
— it is evident that they have been dining very well. There is no cheer, but the chord of C major is
sounded loudly by the musicians. This cuts off the dance that has been in progress. The dancer, half
naked, pauses irresolutely for a second, and then, full of stage-fright, leaps off the dancing floor, plunges
through the standing guests to the left, and disappears. The guests all crane their necks to see dacia]

CAIUS
[Turning tipsily as the dancer makes off] Hey, there!
HELIOGABALUS
[Taking his place, with dacia beside him] Let us sit.
[The guests settle down, some gracefully enough, but others with much difficulty. They all continue to
steal stares at dacia]

CAIUS
[Rising unsteadily] Majesty, the dancer took to the woods. I feel I ought to apologize.
HELIOGABALUS
[Genially] Maybe something struck her suddenly —conscience, or gallstones, or something.
CAIUS
Oh, no. I've known that little one for years— sound as a gladiator. Maybe— [He winks] I'd better go and
and—
[He rises wobblingly]
HELIOGABALUS
[Cutting in] And fetch her?
CAIUS
That's it—and fetch her.
[He winks elaborately again and wobbles off, stumbling once or twice over his toga]
HELIOGABALUS
[Rising in his best imperial manner. As he gets to his legs the musicians repeat the massive chord of C
major] Gentlemen, my apologies for my tardiness. The fact is, I didn't know until the last minute if my
health would permit me to join you. I was brought here on a litter, attended by two physicians. They are
out in the ante-chamber at this moment, mixing pills. [With the sudden malignancy of the dyspeptic] I
shall take, say, 5,000 more pills. Then we'll
see how far a doctor's neck can stretch—a curious scientific experiment—vivisection, so to speak.
[Recovering his former manner] But this is no talk for a banquet. If I told you my symptoms you would
fall into faints, with screams of horror. [One of the guests struggles to his feet and makes as if to speak]
Yes, Senator, I have tried that Armenian lithia water. I don't doubt it cured your ringing in the ears, but it
has only made my stomach-ache worse. No more water! I have got down enough water of late to float
Caius' whole fleet. To the sewers with water! What have we here? [He lifts up a goblet and sniffs at it]
Aha! Good red Terentum! Gentlemen, I pledge you!
[The whole assemblage rises, goblets in hand.
Slaves elbow in with fresh jars of wine, placing
them upon the table]
VARIOUS GUESTS
Vivat Imperator! Vivat Elegabalus!
HELIOGABALUS
Gentlemen, let us all drink to Rome, the one perfect and immortal Empire—^the model and despair of
other states—the mother of justice—the guardian of civilization! Rome cannot die! Rome forever!
GUESTS
Rome forever!
[They drink stupendous drafts, some of them coming up quite out of breath
 
[heliogabalus sits down, and offers a sip from his goblet to DACIA. As the others tumble into their places,
there is a turmoil to the left, and CAIus' voice is heard]
CAIUS
[In a hoarse voice, without] Oh, come on, dearie! Don't be afraid!
[The guests snicker]
HELIOGABALUS
[Rising so that he can see] Bring her in, Caius.
[CAIUS comes in with an almost naked dancing-girl. She is coal-black and very much abashed. The
guests whoop and roar as they see her]
CAIUS
This is a different one. Majesty. I couldn't find the other one. I hunted high and low. [Again he winks
elaborately] This one is an Egyptian—her name is Irene. I take a fatherly interest in this one.
A GUEST
Dear old papa!
ANOTHER GUEST
[Mimicking a baby] Da-da! Da-da!
HELIOGABALUS She seems bashful.
CAIUS Just a little. Ain't used to dancing before ladies. [An elaborate and idiotic bow to dacia] She has
her instructions: no rough stuff. Perhaps her Majesty—
HELIOGABALUS
Let her display her art. This is a different "Her Majesty."
CAIUS
[Very drunk] Profound apologies. My error. No offence, Majesty, I assure you. My eyes—astigmatism—
HELIOGABALUS
Now then!
[The music starts with a crash, and the dancer leaps into a wild dance. At first the guests regard her
stolidly, but in a few seconds some of them begin to rise to see her better^
CAIUS
[Rising] This is nothing. Majesty. This is just the start.
HELIOGABALUS
Very interesting. Has the dance any significance? Is it symbolical?
CAIUS
I should say it is. If you understand it, it brings tears to your eyes. Very affecting, indeed. I'll explain it.
You observe that sort of flop-flop of the arms? Well, that signifies— [The music drowns him out. To the
musicians, over his shoulder] Not so loud, professor. Where do you think you are?
[The music grows soft. The dancing girl now launches into a series of amazing wriggles, oc- casionally
leaping into the air. CAius, very solemnly and unsteadily, explains as she goes on. HELIOGABALUS,
while this is in progress, sips his wine, and gradually grows very mellow in humour. Now and then he
laughs and claps his hands]
CAIUS
Her dark complexion, gentlemen, signifies death. Wash them, and they are almost white. People think Egyptians are niggers—all a mistake. I knew a girl in Memphis—her name was Saidee—almost as white as anybody. [The girl begins to shed veils] There it is, plain enough. The man is dying. Casting off this
mortal coil. Dying by inches. First his feet, then his arms, then his stomach, then his lungs, then his—and
so on. [The girl squats, and wriggles about] Death struggles. Poor fellow doesn't want to go. Thinks he is
too young. [She leaps into the air] Last gasp. You can almost hear it. [She begins to whirl]{ Getting dizzy.
Scared. Sends for the priest. [The music slackens a bit] Prayers. [Louder and faster again] Too late. It's all
up. [A wild leaping about] Throw out the reverend and send for the embalmers. [She leaps into the
fountain] The soul takes flight. [She is now almost naked. The water plays upon her] Nothing left but the
body. Hardly a stitch on. Have to strip 'em, of
course, to pickle 'em. Very interesting process. They keep for ever, [The girl now launches into her final
cavortings] This shows the soul in the Egyptian heaven. Very subtle symbolism. Every wriggle means
something. I remember—
[During this last speech, lucia has quietly slipped into the fore-scene, from the door to the right.
RUFiNius, of course, observes her at once, and is visibly startled and alarmed. But those in the banquet
hall, at first, do not see her. helio-GABALUS and DACIA are watching the dancer, and chuckling over
CAius' exposition. The guests, with veil after veil coming off, see nothing else. It is CAIUS whose eyes first
take her in. He halts, glances swiftly at HELIOGABALUS, and then at LUCIA again. But before his eyes
are followed by HELIOGABALUS, LUCIA has spoken]
LUCIA
[In round, resonant tones] For shame!
[HELIOGABALUS has been lolling with his arm around DACIA. The words electrify him. He leaps to his
feet, and stands there for a second as if thunderstruck and speechlessj
LUCIA
[Her arms folded, standing firmly, as if defying the universe to move her] For shame!
[The music stops and the dancer collapses. CAIUS grasps the table unsteadily. A dozen other
guests leap to their feet. There is a dead silence]

HELIOGABALUS
[Taking a step forward] Hell!
LUCIA
You may well say hell. There is nothing in hell itself—
HELIOGABALUS
[Conciliatingly, coming down the steps] Now, now, my dear. Really, you must—
LUCIA
Don't touch me, Beelzebub!
HELIOGABALUS
Oh, I say, darling! [He is patently nonplussed. He turns 'round to his guests] Gentlemen— [A deprecating,
apologetic gesture] You will pardon me. My stomach, unluckily—
[He comes down to the corridor floor, and the two centurions swiftly and discreetly draw the hangings. In
doing so they accidentally uncover a corner of SIMON, hut it is only for an instant, and they don't notice
it. Neither does rufinius, who has retired to the right. DACIA has come out with HELIOGABALUS, but
she slips quietly to the left and stands against the wall, silent during the ensuing scene]
LUCIA
[Oratorically] For less than this the flames con-
sumed Sodom and Gomorrah! That woman was naked!
HELIOGABALUS
[Weakly] But she was a coloured woman, my dear. Didn't you notice?
LUCIA
This infamy must end! A scarlet woman naked before you—and a scarlet woman in your arms!
HELIOGABALUS
[A sudden change of manner] A what in my arms?
LUCIA
A scarlet woman!
[It takes a moment for the charge to soak in, but when it does heliogabalus is completely changed. No
more conciliation. He is furiously angry and shows it]
HELIOGABALUS
A scarlet woman? That "scarlet woman" is my wife!
LUCIA
[Still resolutely, but somewhat alarmed by his rage] I am your wife. Your one wife.
HELIOGABALUS
Are you? Well, that is something to be remedied. That is a curable disease. A "scarlet woman"! Think of it!
 
LUCIA
[Now beginning to realize that she has gone too far] You would put me away?
HELIOGABALUS
Either you put that crazy Christian balderdash away, or I put you away. Once and for all time, I have got
enough of it. I am Emperor here, and I must live like an Emperor, not like a slave. This praying shakes my
nerves; water has given me a terrible stomach-ache; I have chills at night.
LUCIA
[Rather weakly] The Word—
HELIOGABALUS
Maybe, but not for me! Damn water! Damn the Christian style of kissing! Damn going to bed at ten
o'clock! Damn—
LUCIA
[Her hands over her ears] Get thee behind me, Satan!
HELIOGABALUS
Satan! So Dacia is a scarlet woman, and I am Satan! And I thought I was Emperor of Rome! [Wildly,
showing that there was wine in his goblet] For less than this, I have—
[His fists clenched, he pauses]
LUCIA
You can't harm me. The Lord is with me.

HELIOGABALUS
[This last defiance determines him] Oh, is he? Then we'll see what he'll do for you when the alligators
begin to sniff you. Guards!
[As the centurions spring forward, lucia screams]
LUCIA
[In great terror] Would you kill me?
[But before the centurions can reach her or helio-
GABALUS can reply, simon leaps from behind the
hangings, his dagger drawn]
SIMON
Stop, tyrant!
[HELIOGABALUS Steps back, startled, and for an instant the centurions hesitate in alarm]
LUCIA
Help me, Simon!
SIMON
Lay a hand on this maiden and I'll—
[He flourishes the dagger and makes at helioga-BALUS, but by this time the centurions have recovered
their heads, and are immediately upon him. RUFiNius, from the right, also leaps to the rescue, and in two
seconds simon is pinned from behind and his dagger is on the floor, dacia, during all this, has screamed
once or twice, but has not moved from her place. Sounds of music come from behind the hangings, and
shouts of
 
laughter — loud enough to show that the banqueters are very drunk, and do not hear the commotion in
front]
 
HELIOGABALUS
[To SIMON] So there you are!

SIMON
[Almost incoherently] Murderer! You would send your lawful wife to the lions! Pagan! Heathen! [Rolling
his eyes upward] O Lord, watch over Thy servant! 0 Lord, send Thy lightnings to blast this heretic!

HELIOGABALUS
Bosh! Save all that O Lord business until you need it more. It won't be long. [To RUFiNius] Take this man
to the circus, and have him chained— arm, leg and neck. There will be orders about him tomorrow
morning. I'll want the iron stake and a couple of barrels of whale-oil.

[LUCIA screams and rushes toward heliogabalus supplicatingly, but simon drops on his knees in ecstasy.
It gradually appears that he welcomes death — that he craves martyrdom]

SIMON
[His eyes rolling] O Lord, I thank Thee! To die in Thy name! Lord, I thank Thee for this boon!
HELIOGABALUS
[Astonished] What!

LUCIA
I am to blame, not he. Let me—

SIMON
[Still happy] O Lord, I thank Thee for this boon —this martyrdom! I thank Thee!

HELIOGABALUS
Silence! What is the idiot doing?

LUCIA
He is happy that he may die for the Faith.

HELIOGABALUS
The Faith? What has the Faith to do with it? He is to die for an attempt at assault and battery.

LUCIA
It is all one.

HELIOGABALUS
Do you mean to say that murder is a part of Christianity?

LUCIA
No, but martyrdom is.

SIMON
[To the centurions and rufinius] Brothers, let us pray. Let me pray for you.

HELIOGABALUS
Never in the world! I have heard enough praying to last me for ever. [To lucia, still not quite able to
comprehend it] So he actually wants to be burned?

LUCIA
[Preachily] He thirsts for paradise.

HELIOGABALUS
[Humorously] Solomon's, I guess! Well, I'm surely not going to accommodate him. [To SIMON] Get up.
[To RUFiNius and the centurions] Let him go. [To simon] You are reprieved.

SIMON
[Blubbering] Caesar, I—

HELIOGABALUS
Silence! I say you are reprieved. You are not going to get to paradise if I can help it. [To the centurions]
Take him out, give him a good cowhiding, and run him out of town. [To SIMON] If you ever come back,
off goes your Adam's apple. And I'll slice your nose flat with your face. Bear that in mind.

LUCIA
[Heroically] If he goes, then I go too.

HELIOGABALUS
[Overjoyed by the news, he is momentarily speechless; then —] Oh, surely not! You don't mean to say that
you—

LUCIA
Then I go too!
HELIOGABALUS
But that's really too much! [Bracing up percepti-
bly] It's really more than I deserve, fair gooseberry!

LUCIA.
[Rising to eloquence] I turn my back on Nineveh. Out there in the West— [her arms flung wide toward
the audience] — there is my work. There I shall preach the Word. Far from these Roman cities and the
sins of men. There lies the future harvest of the Lord.

HELIOGABALUS
[Appraising the audience. Somewhat doubtfully] Um—well—I wish you luck. [Eagerly] But could you get
ready in time? You see, Simon is leaving at once.

LUCIA
I go with him.

HELIOGABALUS
But your clothes? It will take you some time to pack.

LUCIA
The Lord's work is not done in fine raiment. As I am, so shall I preach the Word.

HELIOGABALUS
[Very eager to get her off] Nobly spoken. If you need any money—

LUCIA
I want no money, I shall pray for you.

HELIOGABALUS
[In alarm] But surely not here. This is no place for prayer. [Indicating the banquet-room] It's really
rather too—er—riotous, isn't it? Pray for me after you get started. Pray for me out there— [pointing in the
direction of the audience] —in the West.

LUCIA. I shall pray for you every day and every night.

HELIOGABALUS
Yes, yes—every night—out there— [again pointing] —in the West. And now I must get back to my guests.
The centurions will see you off. I surely wish you every sort of luck. Let me hear from you now and then.
Let me hear how your enterprise comes on. I'll send word that you are to be protected. A happy journey.

LUCIA
Fare you well! May the Lord keep you!

HELIOGABALUS
Thanks. Are you sure you don't need more clothes?
LUCIA

I need no worldly goods. My Faith, the Lord, are enough!

HELIOGABALUS
So you said. Well, then, good-bye and good luck!
If you ever get into difficulties, don't hesitate to write to me. Simply "The Emperor, Rome," will reach me.

LUCIA
[Going] The Lord be with you.

HELIOGABALUS
Thank you.

LUCIA
The Lord forgive you!

HELIOGABALUS
Thank you.

LUCIA
The Lord bless you!

HELIOGABALUS
Thank you!
[She goes out slowly, and rufinius and the centurions follow with SIMON ]

SIMON
[At the door] I suffer for the Faith. I—
           
HELIOGABALUS
[To rufinius] Omit the cowhiding.
[As they go out, heliogabalus turns back alone. DACIA has been concealed by the opened door at the left.
HELIOGABALUS, observing simon's dagger on the floor, picks it up and looks at it reflectively. He runs
his hands along the blade. He applies the point to his breast. He tries the
effect of the cold steel on his throat. Loud music from within, and a great crash. Laughter and applause]

DACIA
[Stepping forward, somewhat alarmed by his toying with the knife] Be careful!

HELIOGABALUS
[He gives a start and turns quickly] There you are! And I was wondering what had become of you!

DACIA
I was here all the while.

HELIOGABALUS
Here?

DACIA
Over in the corner. [Snuggling close to him] I was awfully scared.

HELIOGABALUS
[Now grandly brave] Don't let it worry you, tender baby. It's the trade risk. If this stomach-ache of mine
fetches me, or those quacks poison me with their pills, I'll be the first Roman Emperor to die in bed for
two hundred years. [Amorously] But we don't want to think of such things, do we? It was worth risking
my life to get rid of that theologian.

DACIA
[Coyly] I thought you—liked her.

HELIOGABALUS
Bah! I work so hard that sometmies my mind wanders. Then there is my stomach-ache. I thought she
could cure it with that Christian magic of hers—that praying, and 0 Lording, and so on. But it didn't work.

DACIA
Poor dear! And now you have to go back to the awful banquet. [Yells from within]

HELIOGABALUS
[Tenderly] Do you want me to go back?

DACIA
I? What have I to do with it?

HELIOGABALUS
You have everything to do with it. Do you want me to?

DACIA
[Half a whisper] No.
[There ensues a long kiss. The arm of coincidence
provides a dreamy tune from the band behind
the hangings]

HELIOGABALUS
Let us cut the banquet! To hell with the banquet! What do you say?

DACIA
[Like a naughty child] To hell with the banquet!

HELIOGABALUS
[Half to himself] Imagine that Christian— [taking her arm] Come on! [They sneak half-way across the
stage. His eyes feast upon her. He halts a moment] What wonderful hair!
[They tiptoe off like truants as


THE CURTAIN FALLS

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).