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- Caesar and Cleopatra - 4/28 -


CLEOPATRA. Yes: the sacred white cat: is it not dreadful? I brought him here to sacrifice him to the Sphinx; but when we got a little way from the city a black cat called him, and he jumped out of my arms and ran away to it. Do you think that the black cat can have been my great-great-great-grandmother?

CAESAR (staring at her). Your great-great-great-grandmother! Well, why not? Nothing would surprise me on this night of nights.

CLEOPATRA. I think it must have been. My great-grandmother's great-grandmother was a black kitten of the sacred white cat; and the river Nile made her his seventh wife. That is why my hair is so wavy. And I always want to be let do as I like, no matter whether it is the will of the gods or not: that is because my blood is made with Nile water.

CAESAR. What are you doing here at this time of night? Do you live here?

CLEOPATRA. Of course not: I am the Queen; and I shall live in the palace at Alexandria when I have killed my brother, who drove me out of it. When I am old enough I shall do just what I like. I shall be able to poison the slaves and see them wriggle, and pretend to Ftatateeta that she is going to be put into the fiery furnace.

CAESAR. Hm! Meanwhile why are you not at home and in bed?

CLEOPATRA. Because the Romans are coming to eat us all. YOU are not at home and in bed either.

CAESAR (with conviction). Yes I am. I live in a tent; and I am now in that tent, fast asleep and dreaming. Do you suppose that I believe you are real, you impossible little dream witch?

CLEOPATRA (giggling and leaning trustfully towards him). You are a funny old gentleman. I like you.

CAESAR. Ah, that spoils the dream. Why don't you dream that I am young?

CLEOPATRA. I wish you were; only I think I should be more afraid of you. I like men, especially young men with round strong arms; but I am afraid of them. You are old and rather thin and stringy; but you have a nice voice; and I like to have somebody to talk to, though I think you are a little mad. It is the moon that makes you talk to yourself in that silly way.

CAESAR. What! you heard that, did you? I was saying my prayers to the great Sphinx.

CLEOPATRA. But this isn't the great Sphinx.

CAESAR (much disappointed, looking up at the statue). What!

CLEOPATRA. This is only a dear little kitten of the Sphinx. Why, the great Sphinx is so big that it has a temple between its paws. This is my pet Sphinx. Tell me: do you think the Romans have any sorcerers who could take us away from the Sphinx by magic?

CAESAR. Why? Are you afraid of the Romans?

CLEOPATRA (very seriously). Oh, they would eat us if they caught us. They are barbarians. Their chief is called Julius Caesar. His father was a tiger and his mother a burning mountain; and his nose is like an elephant's trunk. (Caesar involuntarily rubs his nose.) They all have long noses, and ivory tusks, and little tails, and seven arms with a hundred arrows in each; and they live on human flesh.

CAESAR. Would you like me to show you a real Roman?

CLEOPATRA (terrified). No. You are frightening me.

CAESAR. No matter: this is only a dream--

CLEOPATRA (excitedly). It is not a dream: it is not a dream. See, see. (She plucks a pin from her hair and jabs it repeatedly into his arm.)

CAESAR. Ffff--Stop. (Wrathfully) How dare you?

CLEOPATRA (abashed). You said you were dreaming. (Whimpering) I only wanted to show you--

CAESAR (gently). Come, come: don't cry. A queen mustn't cry. (He rubs his arm, wondering at the reality of the smart.) Am I awake? (He strikes his hand against the Sphinx to test its solidity. It feels so real that he begins to be alarmed, and says perplexedly) Yes, I--(quite panicstricken) no: impossible: madness, madness! (Desperately) Back to camp--to camp. (He rises to spring down from the pedestal.)

CLEOPATRA (flinging her arms in terror round him). No: you shan't leave me. No, no, no: don't go. I'm afraid--afraid of the Romans.

CAESAR (as the conviction that he is really awake forces itself on him). Cleopatra: can you see my face well?

CLEOPATRA. Yes. It is so white in the moonlight.

CAESAR. Are you sure it is the moonlight that makes me look whiter than an Egyptian? (Grimly) Do you notice that I have a rather long nose?

CLEOPATRA (recoiling, paralyzed by a terrible suspicion). Oh!

CAESAR. It is a Roman nose, Cleopatra.

CLEOPATRA. Ah! (With a piercing scream she springs up; darts round the left shoulder of the Sphinx; scrambles down to the sand; and falls on her knees in frantic supplication, shrieking) Bite him in two, Sphinx: bite him in two. I meant to sacrifice the white cat--I did indeed--I (Caesar, who has slipped down from the pedestal, touches her on the shoulder) Ah! (She buries her head in her arms.)

CAESAR. Cleopatra: shall I teach you a way to prevent Caesar from eating you?

CLEOPATRA (clinging to him piteously). Oh do, do, do. I will steal Ftatateeta's jewels and give them to you. I will make the river Nile water your lands twice a year.

CAESAR. Peace, peace, my child. Your gods are afraid of the Romans: you see the Sphinx dare not bite me, nor prevent me carrying you off to Julius Caesar.

CLEOPATRA (in pleading murmurings). You won't, you won't. You said you wouldn't.

CAESAR. Caesar never eats women.

CLEOPATRA (springing up full of hope). What!

CAESAR (impressively). But he eats girls (she relapses) and cats. Now you are a silly little girl; and you are descended from the black kitten. You are both a girl and a cat.

CLEOPATRA (trembling). And will he eat me?

CAESAR. Yes; unless you make him believe that you are a woman.

CLEOPATRA. Oh, you must get a sorcerer to make a woman of me. Are you a sorcerer?

CAESAR. Perhaps. But it will take a long time; and this very night you must stand face to face with Caesar in the palace of your fathers.

CLEOPATRA. No, no. I daren't.

CAESAR. Whatever dread may be in your soul--however terrible Caesar may be to you--you must confront him as a brave woman and a great queen; and you must feel no fear. If your hand shakes: if your voice quavers; then--night and death! (She moans.) But if he thinks you worthy to rule, he will set you on the throne by his side and make you the real ruler of Egypt.

CLEOPATRA (despairingly). No: he will find me out: he will find me out.

CAESAR (rather mournfully). He is easily deceived by women. Their eyes dazzle him; and he sees them not as they are, but as he wishes them to appear to him.

CLEOPATRA (hopefully). Then we will cheat him. I will put on Ftatateeta's head-dress; and he will think me quite an old woman.

CAESAR. If you do that he will eat you at one mouthful.

CLEOPATRA. But I will give him a cake with my magic opal and seven hairs of the white cat baked in it; and--

CAESAR (abruptly). Pah! you are a little fool. He will eat your cake and you too. (He turns contemptuously from her.)

CLEOPATRA (running after him and clinging to him). Oh, please, PLEASE! I will do whatever you tell me. I will be good! I will be your slave. (Again the terrible bellowing note sounds across the desert, now closer at hand. It is the bucina, the Roman war trumpet.)

CAESAR. Hark!

CLEOPATRA (trembling). What was that?

CAESAR. Caesar's voice.

CLEOPATRA (pulling at his hand). Let us run away. Come. Oh, come.

CAESAR. You are safe with me until you stand on your throne to receive Caesar. Now lead me thither.

CLEOPATRA (only too glad to get away). I will, I will. (Again the bucina.) Oh, come, come, come: the gods are angry. Do you feel the earth shaking?

CAESAR. It is the tread of Caesar's legions.


Caesar and Cleopatra - 4/28

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