class="dialog">ANDROCLES (rising) Meggy: there's one chance for you. It'll take him pretty nigh twenty minutes to eat me (I'm rather stringy and tough) and you can escape in less time than that.
MEGAERA. Oh, don't talk about eating. (The lion rises with a great groan and limps towards them). Oh! (She faints).
ANDROCLES (quaking, but keeping between the lion and Megaera) Don't you come near my wife, do you hear? (The lion groans. Androcles can hardly stand for trembling). Meggy: run. Run for your life. If I take my eye off him, its all up. (The lion holds up his wounded paw and flaps it piteously before Androcles). Oh, he's lame, poor old chap! He's got a thorn in his paw. A frightfully big thorn. (Full of sympathy) Oh, poor old man! Did um get an awful thorn into um's tootsums wootsums? Has it made um too sick to eat a nice little Christian man for um's breakfast? Oh, a nice little Christian man will get um's thorn out for um; and then um shall eat the nice Christian man and the nice Christian man's nice big tender wifey pifey. (The lion responds by moans of self-pity). Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Now, now (taking the paw in his hand) um is not to bite and not to scratch, not even if it hurts a very, very little. Now make velvet paws. That's right. (He pulls gingerly at the thorn. The lion, with an angry yell of pain, jerks back his paw so abruptly that Androcles is thrown on his back). Steadeee! Oh, did the nasty cruel little Christian man hurt the sore paw? (The lion moans assentingly but apologetically). Well, one more little pull and it will be all over. Just one little, little, leetle pull; and then um will live happily ever after. (He gives the thorn another pull. The lion roars and snaps his jaws with a terrifying clash). Oh, mustn't frighten um's good kind doctor, um's affectionate nursey. That didn't hurt at all: not a bit. Just one more. Just to show how the brave big lion can bear pain, not like the little crybaby Christian man. Oopsh! (The thorn comes out. The lion yells with pain, and shakes his paw wildly). That's it! (Holding up the thorn). Now it's out. Now lick um's paw to take away the nasty inflammation. See? (He licks his own hand. The lion nods intelligently and licks his paw industriously). Clever little liony-piony! Understands um's dear old friend Andy Wandy. (The lion licks his face). Yes, kissums Andy Wandy. (The lion, wagging his tail violently, rises on his hind legs and embraces Androcles, who makes a wry face and cries) Velvet paws! Velvet paws! (The lion draws in his claws). That's right. (He embraces the lion, who finally takes the end of his tail in one paw, places that tight around Androcles' waist, resting it on his hip. Androcles takes the other paw in his hand, stretches out his arm, and the two waltz rapturously round and round and finally away through the jungle).
MEGAERA (who has revived during the waltz) Oh, you coward, you haven't danced with me for years; and now you go off dancing with a great brute beast that you haven't known for ten minutes and that wants to eat your own wife. Coward! Coward! Coward! (She rushes off after them into the jungle).
Evening. The end of three converging roads to Rome. Three triumphal arches span them where they debouch on a square at the gate of the city. Looking north through the arches one can see the campagna threaded by the three long dusty tracks. On the east and west sides of the square are long stone benches. An old beggar sits on the east side of the square, his bowl at his feet. Through the eastern arch a squad of Roman soldiers tramps along escorting a batch of Christian prisoners of both sexes and all ages, among them one Lavinia, a goodlooking resolute young woman, apparently of higher social standing than her fellow-prisoners. A centurion, carrying his vinewood cudgel, trudges alongside the squad, on its right, in command of it. All are tired and dusty; but the soldiers are dogged and indifferent, the Christians light-hearted and determined to treat their hardships as a joke and encourage one another.
A bugle is heard far behind on the road, where the rest of the cohort is following.
CENTURION (stopping) Halt! Orders from the Captain. (They halt and wait). Now then, you Christians, none of your larks. The captain's coming. Mind you behave yourselves. No singing. Look respectful. Look serious, if you're capable of it. See that big building over there? That's the Coliseum. That's where you'll be thrown to the lions or set to fight the gladiators presently. Think of that; and it'll help you to behave properly before the captain. (The Captain arrives). Attention! Salute! (The soldiers salute).
A CHRISTIAN (cheerfully) God bless you, Captain.
THE CENTURION (scandalised) Silence!
The Captain, a patrician, handsome, about thirty-five, very cold and distinguished, very superior and authoritative, steps up on a stone seat at the west side of the square, behind the centurion, so as to dominate the others more effectually.
THE CAPTAIN. Centurion.
THE CENTURION. (standing at attention and saluting) Sir?
THE CAPTAIN (speaking stiffly and officially) You will remind your men, Centurion, that we are now entering Rome. You will instruct them that once inside the gates of Rome they are in the presence of the Emperor. You will make them understand that the lax discipline of the march cannot be permitted here. You will instruct them to shave every day, not every week. You will impress on them particularly that there must be an end to the profanity and blasphemy of singing Christian hymns on the march. I have to reprimand you, Centurion, for not only allowing this, but actually doing it yourself.
THE CENTURION. The men march better, Captain.
THE CAPTAIN. No doubt. For that reason an exception is made in the case of the march called Onward Christian Soldiers. This may be sung, except when marching through the forum or within hearing of the Emperor's palace; but the words must be altered to "Throw them to the Lions."
The Christians burst into shrieks of uncontrollable laughter, to the great scandal of the Centurion.
CENTURION. Silence! Silen-n-n-n-nce! Where's your behavior? Is that the way to listen to an officer? (To the Captain) That's what we have to put up with from these Christians every day, sir. They're always laughing and joking something scandalous. They've no religion: that's how it is.
LAVINIA. But I think the Captain meant us to laugh, Centurion. It was so funny.
CENTURION. You'll find out how funny it is when you're thrown to the lions to-morrow. (To the Captain, who looks displeased) Beg pardon, Sir. (To the Christians) Silennnnce!
THE CAPTAIN. You are to instruct your men that all intimacy with Christian prisoners must now cease. The men have fallen into habits of dependence upon the prisoners, especially the female prisoners, for cooking, repairs to uniforms, writing letters, and advice in their private affairs. In a Roman soldier such dependence is inadmissible. Let me see no more of it whilst we are in the city. Further, your orders are that in addressing Christian prisoners, the manners and tone of your men must express abhorrence and contempt. Any shortcoming in this respect will be regarded as a breach of discipline.(He turns to the prisoners) Prisoners.
CENTURION (fiercely) Prisonerrrrrs! Tention! Silence!
THE CAPTAIN. I call your attention, prisoners, to the fact that you may be called on to appear in the Imperial Circus at any time from tomorrow onwards according to the requirements of the managers. I may inform you that as there is a shortage of Christians just now, you may expect to be called on very soon.