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قراءة كتاب Androcles and the Lion

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‏اللغة: English
Androcles and the Lion

Androcles and the Lion

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 4

could put a thousand cruel deaths on me. I tell you, it is physically impossible. Listen, Captain: did you ever try to catch a mouse in your hand? Once there was a dear little mouse that used to come out and play on my table as I was reading. I wanted to take him in my hand and caress him; and sometimes he got among my books so that he could not escape me when I stretched out my hand. And I did stretch out my hand; but it always came back in spite of me. I was not afraid of him in my heart; but my hand refused: it is not in the nature of my hand to touch a mouse. Well, Captain, if I took a pinch of incense in my hand and stretched it out over the altar fire, my hand would come back. My body would be true to my faith even if you could corrupt my mind. And all the time I should believe more in Diana than my persecutors have ever believed in anything. Can you understand that?

THE CAPTAIN (simply) Yes: I understand that. But my hand would not come back. The hand that holds the sword has been trained not to come back from anything but victory.

LAVINIA. Not even from death?

THE CAPTAIN. Least of all from death.

LAVINIA. Then I must not come back either. A woman has to be braver than a soldier.

THE CAPTAIN. Prouder, you mean.

LAVINIA (startled) Prouder! You call our courage pride!

THE CAPTAIN. There is no such thing as courage: there is only pride. You Christians are the proudest devils on earth.

LAVINIA (hurt) Pray God then my pride may never become a false pride. (She turns away as if she did not wish to continue the conversation, but softens and says to him with a smile) Thank you for trying to save me from death.

THE CAPTAIN. I knew it was no use; but one tries in spite of one's knowledge.

LAVINIA. Something stirs, even in the iron breast of a Roman soldier!

THE CAPTAIN. It will soon be iron again. I have seen many women die, and forgotten them in a week.

LAVINIA. Remember me for a fortnight, handsome Captain. I shall be watching you, perhaps.

THE CAPTAIN. From the skies? Do not deceive yourself, Lavinia. There is no future for you beyond the grave.

LAVINIA. What does that matter? Do you think I am only running away from the terrors of life into the comfort of heaven? If there were no future, or if the future were one of torment, I should have to go just the same. The hand of God is upon me.

THE CAPTAIN. Yes: when all is said, we are both patricians, Lavinia, and must die for our beliefs. Farewell. (He offers her his hand. She takes it and presses it. He walks away, trim and calm. She looks after him for a moment, and cries a little as he disappears through the eastern arch. A trumpet-call is heard from the road through the western arch).

CENTURION (waking up and rising) Cohort of the tenth with prisoners. Two file out with me to receive them. (He goes out through the western arch, followed by four soldiers in two files).

Lentulus and Metellus come into the square from the west side with a little retinue of servants. Both are young courtiers, dressed in the extremity of fashion. Lentulus is slender, fair-haired, epicene. Metellus is manly, compactly built, olive skinned, not a talker.

LENTULUS. Christians, by Jove! Let's chaff them.

METELLUS. Awful brutes. If you knew as much about them as I do you wouldn't want to chaff them. Leave them to the lions.

LENTULUS (indicating Lavinia, who is still looking towards the arches after the captain). That woman's got a figure. (He walks past her, staring at her invitingly, but she is preoccupied and is not conscious of him). Do you turn the other cheek when they kiss you?

LAVINIA (starting) What?

LENTULus. Do you turn the other cheek when they kiss you, fascinating Christian?

LAVINIA. Don't be foolish. (To Metellus, who has remained on her right, so that she is between them) Please don't let your friend behave like a cad before the soldiers. How are they to respect and obey patricians if they see them behaving like street boys? (Sharply to Lentulus) Pull yourself together, man. Hold your head up. Keep the corners of your mouth firm; and treat me respectfully. What do you take me for?

LENTULUS (irresolutely) Look here, you know: I—you—I—

LAVINIA. Stuff! Go about your business. (She turns decisively away and sits down with her comrades, leaving him disconcerted).

METELLUS. You didn't get much out of that. I told you they were brutes.

LENTULUS. Plucky little filly! I suppose she thinks I care. (With an air of indifference he strolls with Metellus to the east side of the square, where they stand watching the return of the Centurion through the western arch with his men, escorting three prisoners: Ferrovius, Androcles, and Spintho. Ferrovius is a powerful, choleric man in the prime of life, with large nostrils, staring eyes, and a thick neck: a man whose sensibilities are keen and violent to the verge of madness. Spintho is a debauchee, the wreck of a good-looking man gone hopelessly to the bad. Androcles is overwhelmed with grief, and is restraining his tears with great difficulty).

THE CENTURION (to Lavinia) Here are some pals for you. This little bit is Ferrovius that you talk so much about. (Ferrovius turns on him threateningly. The Centurion holds up his left forefinger in admonition). Now remember that you're a Christian, and that you've got to return good for evil. (Ferrovius controls himself convulsively; moves away from temptation to the east side near Lentulus; clasps his hands in silent prayer; and throws himself on his knees). That's the way to manage them, eh! This fine fellow (indicating Androcles, who comes to his left, and makes Lavinia a heartbroken salutation) is a sorcerer. A Greek tailor, he is. A real sorcerer, too: no mistake about it. The tenth marches with a leopard at the head of the column. He made a pet of the leopard; and now he's crying at being parted from it. (Androcles sniffs lamentably). Ain't you, old chap? Well, cheer up, we march with a Billy goat (Androcles brightens up) that's killed two leopards and ate a turkey-cock. You can have him for a pet if you like. (Androcles, quite consoled, goes past the Centurion to Lavinia, and sits down contentedly on the ground on her left). This dirty dog (collaring Spintho) is a real Christian. He mobs the temples, he does (at each accusation he gives the neck of Spintho's tunic a twist); he goes smashing things mad drunk, he does; he steals the gold vessels, he does; he assaults the priestesses, he does pah! (He flings Spintho into the middle of the group of prisoners). You're the sort that makes duty a pleasure, you are.

SPINTHO (gasping) That's it: strangle me. Kick me. Beat me. Revile me. Our Lord was beaten and reviled. That's my way to heaven. Every martyr goes to heaven, no matter what he's done. That is so, isn't it, brother?

CENTURION. Well, if you're going to heaven, I don't want to go there. I wouldn't be seen with you.

LENTULUS. Haw! Good! (Indicating the kneeling Ferrovius). Is this one of the turn-the-other-cheek gentlemen, Centurion?

CENTURION. Yes, sir. Lucky for you too, sir, if you want to take any liberties with him.

LENTULUS (to Ferrovius) You turn the other cheek when you're struck, I'm told.

FERROVIUS (slowly turning his great eyes on him) Yes, by the grace of God, I do, NOW.

LENTULUS. Not that you're a coward, of course; but out of pure piety.

FERROVIUS. I fear God more than man; at least I try to.

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