Judith by Arnold Bennett

Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Sander van Rijnswou and PG Distributed Proofreaders WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR _NOVELS_ A MAN FROM THE NORTH ANNA OF THE FIVE TOWNS LEONORA A GREAT MAN SACRED AND PROFANE LOVE WHOM GOD HATH JOINED BURIED ALIVE THE OLD WIVES’ TALE THE GLIMPSE THE ROLL CALL HELEN WITH THE HIGH HAND
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Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Sander van Rijnswou and PG Distributed Proofreaders

WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR

_NOVELS_

A MAN FROM THE NORTH
ANNA OF THE FIVE TOWNS
LEONORA
A GREAT MAN
SACRED AND PROFANE LOVE
WHOM GOD HATH JOINED
BURIED ALIVE
THE OLD WIVES’ TALE
THE GLIMPSE
THE ROLL CALL
HELEN WITH THE HIGH HAND
CLAYHANGER
HILDA LESSWAYS
THE CARD
THE REGENT
THE PRICE OF LOVE
THESE TWAIN
THE LION’S SHARE
THE PRETTY LADY

_FANTASIES_

THE GRAND BABYLON HOTEL
THE GATES OF WRATH
THERESA OF WATLING STREET
THE LOOT OF CITIES
HUGO
THE GHOST
THE CITY OF PLEASURE

_SHORT STORIES_

TALES OF THE FIVE TOWNS
THE GRIM SMILE OF THE FIVE TOWNS
THE MATADOR OF THE FIVE TOWNS

_BELLES-LETTRES_

JOURNALISM FOR WOMEN
FAME AND FICTION
HOW TO BECOME AN AUTHOR
THE TRUTH ABOUT AN AUTHOR
MENTAL EFFICIENCY
HOW TO LIVE ON TWENTY-FOUR HOURS A DAY THE HUMAN MACHINE
LITERARY TASTE
FRIENDSHIP AND HAPPINESS
THOSE UNITED STATES
PARIS NIGHTS
MARRIED LIFE
LIBERTY
OVER THERE: WAR SCENES
THE AUTHORS CRAFT
BOOKS AND PERSONS
SELF AND SELF-MANAGEMENT

_DRAMA_

POLITE FARCES
CUPID AND COMMONSENSE
WHAT THE PUBLIC WANTS
THE HONEYMOON
THE TITLE
THE GREAT ADVENTURE
MILESTONES (In Collaboration with Edward Knoblock)

_In Collaboration with Eden Phillpotts_

THE SINEWS OF WAR: A ROMANCE
THE STATUE: A ROMANCE

*JUDITH*

A PLAY IN THREE ACTS

_Founded on the apocryphal book of “Judith”_

BY

ARNOLD BENNETT

LONDON

1919

_First published April 30, 1919_

NOTE

This play was presented for the first time at the Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, on Monday, April 7th, 1919, with the following cast:

Judith LILLAH MCCARTHY
Haggith ESME HUBBARD
Rahel MADGE MURRAY
Ozias CAMPBELL GULLAN
Holofernes CLAUDE KING
Bagoas ERNEST THESIGER
Achior GEOFFREY DOUGLAS
Chabris E.H. PATERSON
Charmis FEWLASS LLEWELLYN
Ingur FREDERICK VOLPE
Messenger FELIX AYLMER
Soldier CLIFFORD MOLLISON
Attendant EDWIN OXLEE

The play was produced by WILFRED EATON

CHARACTERS

_Hebrews_

JUDITH
HAGGITH, her waiting-woman
RAHEL
OZIAS, Governor of Bethulia
CHABRIS, an elder
CHARMIS, an elder
A SOLDIER
A MESSENGER

_Assyrians_

HOLOFERNES, General of the Assyrian armies BAGOAS, his chief eunuch
ACHIOR, a captain
INGUR, a soldier
AN ATTENDANT ON BAGOAS

ACT I

_A street in the city of Bethulia_.

ACT II

SCENE I. _The valley near the Assyrian camp. Time, morning; two days later_.

SCENE II. _The tent of Holofernes. Time, later, the same morning_.

SCENE III. _The same. Time, the same night_.

ACT III

SCENE I. _Same as Act I. Time, later, the same night._

SCENE II. _The same. Time, the next day_.

ACT I

_A street in the city of Bethulia in Judea. Bethulia is in the hill country, overlooking the great plain of Jezreel to the south-west. Back, the gates of the city, hiding the view of the plain. Right, Judith’s house, with a tent on the roof. Left, houses. The street turns abruptly, back left, along the wall of the city. Left centre, a built-up vantage-point, from which the plain can be seen over the gates_.

TIME: _Fifth century B.C.

Towards evening_.

Ozias _is standing alone in the street, drinking from a leathern bottle. Enter_ Chabris, _back left_.

OZIAS _(quickly, but with perfect calmness, hiding the bottle in his garments_). Old man! It is years since I saw you. How came you past the guard, old man?

CHABRIS. Old? Old? I am not yet a hundred. Who are you?

OZIAS. Ozias.

CHABRIS. Ah! So this is Ozias, the son of Ezbon. Before your father could walk I have nursed him on my knee; and he was filled like the full moon–with naughtiness.

OZIAS. What has brought you at last out of your house? Are you come to prophesy once more?

CHABRIS. I have given up prophesying.

OZIAS. A profession full of risks.

CHABRIS. I pass my endless days in meditation and solitude.

OZIAS. That sounds much safer. How comely is the wisdom of old men!

CHABRIS. And what do you do, sprig?

OZIAS. Has none told you?

CHABRIS. I see nobody but my daughter’s granddaughter, and her I forbid to speak to me, because being a woman she has the tongue of a woman, and a woman’s tongue is unfavourable to meditation. How should I be told?

OZIAS. I am the governor of this great city of Bethulia.

CHABRIS. You are responsible for this city?

OZIAS. I am.

CHABRIS. Now I understand my misfortune. And the truth was in me when I said to your mother as she lay dying: Better it is to die without children than to have them that are ungodly.

OZIAS. Oh! How comely a thing is the judgment of grey hairs!

CHABRIS. You ask me what has brought me at last out of my house. I will tell you. Thirst! Thirst has brought me out of my house. Every morning and every evening my great-grandchild serves me with pulse and water. For five days she has furnished less and less water, and this day–not a drop! Can one eat pulse without water to drink? Half an hour ago I went to her to reason with her, and she lay on her bed cracked, and raved that she herself had not drunk for three days and that there was no water left in all Bethulia. So I came at last out of my house into the streets of this city famous for its cool fountains which never fail. And lo! I meet the governor of this city, and he is Ozias! Ozias! Seven days do men mourn for him that is dead, but for an ungodly man all the days of his life! Why is there no water in Bethulia, sprig?

OZIAS. Old man, meditation is good and solitude is good, but think not because you sit staring all day at your own belly that the sun and stars have ceased to revolve round the earth and the kings of this world to make war. Is it possible that you do not know what has happened?

CHABRIS. I only know that I cannot eat pulse without water to drink.

OZIAS. Bethulia is besieged.

CHABRIS. Who is besieging Bethulia?

OZIAS. Holofernes.

CHABRIS. I have never heard his name. Who is he?

OZIAS. Never heard the name of the chief captain of Nebuchadnezzar? Have you heard the name of Nebuchadnezzar, by chance?

CHABRIS. I seem to remember it.

OZIAS. Come up here. (_They go up the steps to the vantage-point_.) Look! A hundred and twenty thousand foot-soldiers. Twelve thousand archers on horseback. Oxen and sheep for their provisions. Twenty thousand asses for their carriages. Camels without number. Infinite victuals; and very much gold and silver. The like was never seen before.

CHABRIS (_stepping down_.) Why has Nebuchadnezzar set about this thing? What harm has Bethulia done to him?

OZIAS. Much harm. Nebuchadnezzar has decided to be God. He has decreed that all nations and tribes shall call upon him as God. And he has conquered the whole earth, excepting only Judea; and Bethulia is the gate into Judea, and Bethulia has not listened to his decree, and I am the governor of Bethulia. So Nebuchadnezzar the great king is very angry and Holofernes is the tool of his wrath.

CHABRIS (_going up the steps again and gazing_.) How many did you say?

OZIAS. A hundred and twenty thousand foot and twelve thousand horse.

CHABRIS. At any rate this will be the last war.

OZIAS. Why?

CHABRIS. Why! Because plainly war cannot continue on such a scale. Or if it does, mankind is destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar has rendered war ridiculous.

OZIAS _(laughs; then half to himself, sarcastically)._ What is heavier than lead, and what is the name thereof, but an aged fool?

CHABRIS (_descending again, self-centred_). It remains that I cannot eat pulse without water to drink. (_To_ Ozias.) And surely Bethulia has more wells than any other city of Judea.

OZIAS. The wells are at the foot of the hills, and Holofernes has seized them all.

CHABRIS. That is not fighting.

OZIAS. It is war.

CHABRIS. No, no! In my time soldiers fought fairly.

OZIAS. And killed each other. Why should Holofernes sacrifice thousands of lives to take the heights when he can reach the same result by letting his men sit still and watch?

CHABRIS. I say this is not war. Once I travelled many days to Nineveh. It is a city of extravagance, and when I beheld its mad, new-fangled ways, I knew that the last day was nigh. I was right. Three thousand and five hundred years since Jehovah created Adam, and Eve from his rib … Too long! Too long! And what is pulse without water? I must have water.

OZIAS. It is thirty-four days since Holofernes took the wells. If you have received water up to yesterday your great-grandchild must indeed have thirsted that you might drink. I have distributed water by measure, but now the cisterns are empty, and women and young men fall down in the streets, and there is no water in Bethulia. We are all in like case, the high and the lowly.

CHABRIS. Then give me your bottle.

OZIAS. What bottle?

CHABRIS. I saw you put it from your lips as I came.

OZIAS. It behoves you to understand, old man, that my solemn duty as governor is to maintain my own strength, for if I fell the city would fall. Without me to inspire them the populace would yield in a moment. What is the populace? Poltroons, animals, sheep, rabbits, insects, lice!

CHABRIS. Give me the bottle.

OZIAS. It is as empty as the cisterns.

CHABRIS. Give it to me, or I will cry through the streets that you are concealing water. (Ozias _gives him the bottle_. Chabris _drinks_. Ozias _snatches the bottle away and conceals it_.) Ah!

(_A figure is glimpsed in the tent on the roof of_ Judith’s _house_. Ozias _starts_.)

CHABRIS. What is that up yonder?

OZIAS. Nothing.

CHABRIS. Whose house is this?

OZIAS. It is the house of Judith, the daughter of Merari.

CHABRIS. Ah! Merari, the son of Ox, the son of Oziel–Oziel and I were little playful boys together–the son of Elcia, the son of Raphaim, the son of Eliab, the son of Nathanael, the son of—-

OZIAS. Old man, your memory is terrible. Have pity!

CHABRIS. The draught has revived me. So Merari married and had a daughter. What manner of woman is she?

OZIAS. She is the widow of Manasses, who died of the heat in the barley harvest. And she is childless. And she is very rich; for Manasses left her gold and silver and menservants and maid-servants and cattle and lands. And she has remained a widow in her house three years and four months, and never has she come forth. And there is none to give her an ill word, for she fears the Lord greatly.

CHABRIS. Yes. But what _manner_ of woman is she?

OZIAS. She is beautiful to behold.

CHABRIS (_to himself_). Oh! _That_ manner of woman!

OZIAS. And she has fasted all the days of her widowhood, except the eves of the Sabbaths and the Sabbaths, and the eves of the new moons and the new moons, and the feasts and solemn days of the House of Israel.

CHABRIS. You are most deeply versed in her life. Is she exceeding beautiful?

OZIAS. She is exceeding beautiful.

CHABRIS. Then it was she who _peeped_ (_with a peculiar emphasis on the word_) from the tent a moment since.

OZIAS. Old man, you have eyes.

CHABRIS. It is the draught of water.

OZIAS. She is said to take the air in her tent daily at this hour.

CHABRIS (_accusingly_). And that is why you are here, Ozias.

OZIAS. No! I come here to reflect upon my plans for the saving of the city, and because of this vantage-point, to view the army of the Assyrians.

CHABRIS. This vantage-point is new since my day. You have built it here, not to see the Assyrians, but to see Judith. And that is why you have set a guard to keep the street empty.

OZIAS. And if it be so, what then? Old man, you are so old that to confess in your ear is sweet, like murmuring secrets into the grave. If I do come to this place to watch for the marvellous vision of Judith, what then?

CHABRIS. What then? And the populace of Bethulia dying of thirst?

OZIAS. The populace!… Mice! Rats! Beetles! (_He makes the motion of crushing with his foot_.)

CHABRIS. Yet the city is doomed. You can have no hope.

OZIAS. No hope? Am I then a dead body? Am I a rotting corpse? True, the city will be taken, and when the city is taken I may be killed. But in your meditations, old man, has it not occurred to you that death must be highly interesting? Or I may be seized for a slave. But either I should cease speedily to be a slave, or I should become the most powerful slave in Babylon. (_Reflectively_.) We might be enslaved together.

CHABRIS. Who?

OZIAS. Judith and I. The history of the world is full of miracles. Meanwhile, I live, and the strong savour of life inflames my nostrils; and the ever-increasing magnificence and terror of war is like wine in my mouth. I shake with delight at the vastness and the mystery of the future…. And there is woman!

CHABRIS. I feel I can eat my pulse now.

OZIAS. There is still woman.

_A fracas is heard, back. Enter_ Rahel, _running, followed by two soldiers and a mixed group of Bethulians, including_ Charmis, _an elder_.

RAHEL (_to_ Chabris, _like a termagant_). Why did you go forth alone, grandad, frightening me when I looked and could not find you? At your age! Come back with me this moment.

CHABRIS. Ay! There is still woman!

OZIAS (_angrily, to_ first soldier). Did I not give an order to bar the street?

FIRST SOLDIER. My lord, some of these are elders of high authority, and would pass. As for the girl—-

RAHEL (_to_ Chabris). This moment! (_She faints and falls_.)

CHABRIS (_indifferently, as_ Charmis _moves towards_ Rahel). Let her lie. She will come to of herself–or not, as God wills.

OZIAS (_to the soldiers, with cold fierceness_). Get back to your places. (_Exeunt soldiers_.)

CHARMIS (_looking at_ Ozias _and indicating_ Rahel). She is the fourteenth I have seen faint from thirst in the streets this day.

OZIAS (_soothingly_). Alas! And you or I may be the next. We are all in like case. But what is to be done?

(_Confused feeble exclamations from the group of citizens:_ ‘We want to know. We are come for that. There is but one thing to be done.’)

OZIAS (_still soothingly_). Who among you will be the spokesman?

CHARMIS. We are all spokesmen.

OZIAS. Even the children?

CHARMIS. Even the children. In our extremity we are all spokesmen.

OZIAS. But not all at once. Will you begin, honourable Charmis? You know that I am the servant of the citizens.

CHARMIS (_nervously oratorical_). Lord Ozias, may the God of Israel judge between us and you, for you have done us a great injury. (_Looks round for approval. The group approves._)

OZIAS. An injury? I? Have I not said that I am the servant of the citizens?

CHARMIS (_more confidently_). And I say again that you have done us a great injury, in that you have not asked peace of the Assyrians. For we have no helper, and the God of Israel has sold us into the hands of the Assyrians. We are thrown down before them with thirst and with great destruction. Therefore now we demand–(_looks round_)–I say we demand that you call the Assyrians, and deliver the whole city for a spoil to the people of Holofernes and to all his army. For it is better for us to be made a spoil than to die of thirst. We will be the slaves of Holofernes, so that our souls may live and so that we may not see the death of our infants before our eyes, nor our wives nor our children die. (_A mother in the group convulsively seizes her child. Pause_. Ozias _walks about_.) We take to witness against you the heaven and the earth and our God and the God of our fathers, which punishes us according to our sins and the sins of our fathers; and we demand of you that you deliver up the city to Holofernes and his host. (_A silence_.)

(Ozias _ascends solemnly to the vantage-point._)

OZIAS (_dominating the assembly_). Friends, it would seem that Charmis has made an end. His words are excellent and full of pity. Who follows him? Who will speak next? My ear waits. (_A silence_.) Ah! Then give heed. The words of Charmis are full of pity, but I also have pity. Do not I too cherish our women, and our maidens and our young children? And because I pity I would not yield to the monster Holofernes. Yes, the monster! This is not war that he wages. Once our enemy strove fairly with the warriors of Israel. Now he makes our women and children to die of thirst. The magnificence of war is gone from the earth, and Holofernes by the excess of his hosts has rendered war ridiculous. (Chabris _raises his hands_.) The peoples of the earth will perceive that henceforward the institution of war cannot continue, and after this there will be no more war. But meanwhile, if I go crouching to the feet of Holofernes, what will happen and what will come to pass? Surely it will come to pass that the monster who has sat down to watch us die of thirst will slay our little children and our old men, and dishonour our women, and ravish our innocent virgins; for the enslaving of the conquered will not content his anger nor satisfy the lust of his great hosts. Shall these things be? I say they shall not be. But what am I, save the servant of the citizens of Bethulia? And what do I speak, save the thought that is in your hearts? There is no cowardice in you. You are not sheep, nor rabbits, nor beetles, nor lice. You are valiant men, and women lion-hearted. Without you I am naught, and if I defy Holofernes, my fortitude is yours and my resolve springs from you. Charmis has invoked the holy name of the God of Israel. Let Israel not forget its God, for never has the Most High forsaken Israel. Brethren, be of good courage. Let us yet endure five days. Five short days. And if these days pass and the God of Israel turn not his mercy towards us, then will I do according to the word of Charmis. Such is my oath to you. And so it shall be.

Haggith _enters from the house of_ Judith.

HAGGITH. My lord Ozias!

OZIAS (_quickly descending the steps_). What say you?

HAGGITH. My mistress, the lady Judith, will speak with you. She comes.

RAHEL (_half rising_). Water!

OZIAS (_excited_.) The lady Judith comes out of her house after three years.

VOICES IN THE GROUP (_excited and impressed_.) Judith is coming, after three years! Judith! The widow!

OZIAS (_sternly to the group_). Get hence, everyone to his own charge. Soldiers! Clear the street! (Two soldiers _advance, running to obey_.) The men to the walls and towers. The women and children to their houses. (_To_ Rahel, _who has risen, indicating_ Chabris.) Take the aged fool away, girl. (_Ruthlessly and contemptuously_.) Get home, all of you. Rabble! Insects! Lice!

(_The street is cleared, not without difficulty, and_ Ozias _is left alone with_ Haggith.)

_After a pause_, Judith _enters slowly, in widow’s apparel and sackcloth_.

(_Exit_ Haggith _into the house_.)

JUDITH. Greetings, Lord Ozias.

OZIAS. Lady, greetings. (_They salute_.)

JUDITH. Where are the people?

OZIAS. I invited them to go away.

JUDITH. Why?

OZIAS. Your waiting-woman said that you would speak with me.

JUDITH. But what I have to say I would have said before them.

OZIAS. Forgive your servant.

JUDITH. No! It is I, the woman, who should ask to be absolved.

OZIAS. I beseech you—-

JUDITH (_simply_). Perhaps you dismissed the people because it is not meet for them to see all the workings of the mind which has authority over them.

OZIAS (_warmly responsive_). Ah! Lady! In your wisdom and your understanding you have comprehended what it is to be the governor of a besieged city. You, alone!

JUDITH. This is a day memorable beyond all the days of Bethulia.

OZIAS. It is a day memorable beyond all the days of Bethulia–because Judith, the widow of Manasses, has issued from her house and from her secrecy, and because after long years she has lightened the city with her countenance.

JUDITH (_smiling_). We hold converse with words, but the shadow of destruction is over us, and our hearts are darkened, and we hide our hearts in speech. Ozias, governor of Bethulia, show me your heart.

OZIAS. I dare not.

JUDITH. Dare! I am not afraid.

OZIAS. YOU are more beautiful than aforetime–were it possible.

JUDITH (_accepting the compliment_). And if I am?

OZIAS. That is what is in my heart! Behold my heart, and the depths of my heart. Look deep, and deeper, and still you will see naught therein but the beauty and the subtlety of Judith.

JUDITH. It is no common man that with the parched tongue of thirst can talk thus while unspeakable calamity assails the city.

OZIAS. It is Ozias.

JUDITH (_gently_). I came not to meet Ozias, but the governor of Bethulia. From my tent I hearkened to the words which he spoke to the people, and the Lord said to me: Go down to him, thou, a woman. And I am here.

OZIAS. The Lord reigns! That which I said to the people did not please the ear of Judith?

JUDITH. No.

OZIAS. I spoke to the people according to their understanding. Have you not said it is not meet for the people to know the thoughts of the ruler? Hearken again? And I will speak now to the wise woman. I flattered the people with vain praise of their courage, when they have no courage. I affrighted the people with a prophecy of terror, when there is no terror–for Holofernes is a great warrior, and has compassion in his greatness, for he is a Babylonian. I gave them hope of succour when succour is none–for, with a hundred and twenty thousand footmen and twelve thousand horse against us (_with dry humour_) to count upon the mercy of the Lord is presumption.

JUDITH (_moves aside and returns. Sweetly_). Why then did you speak thus to the people? And to what end did you deceive them? I beseech you yet again to show me your heart, for it is right that I should know.

OZIAS. I saw the vastness of the future as in a vision. If the God of Israel perchance is merciful, and the city is saved at the eleventh hour, then it will be said in Jerusalem that there is none like Ozias of Bethulia for steadfastness, for he alone by his ardour revived the fainting populace and held firm the city; and great will be my recompense…. But that is a dream. Always I have faced the substance of things, and the substance is that Nebuchadnezzar has decreed to rule over the whole earth, and from the east to the west there is no living man that shall not bow down before Nebuchadnezzar. Bethulia will fall. I, the governor, shall be taken captive and shown to Nebuchadnezzar, and in that day Holofernes shall say to Nebuchadnezzar: Lo! Here is Ozias the Israelite who resisted thy mighty armies for thirty-four days and yet five days more. Use him if it seem good to thee. And I shall be lifted up to be a satrap of Nebuchadnezzar, and I shall partake of the bright glory of Nebuchadnezzar. And–(_hesitates_.)

JUDITH (_subtly and sweetly_). And?

OZIAS (_in an outburst_). What am I without you, O Judith? Before Manasses loved you, did I not love you? For three years have I not watched over you in all honour and respect, and troubled you not with my importunity until this day, which is the day of days? What am I without you, and what shall be my dominion and my satrap’s throne if you do not sit in majesty by my side, O Rose of Sharon and matchless among women?

Judith (_as before_). My lord, you are like a rushing river.

OZIAS. You have seen my heart.

JUDITH. I have seen it.

OZIAS. And what say you?

_There is the sudden sound of a disturbance. Enter, from back, soldiers, holding_ Achior, _and a group of excited citizens_. Haggith _appears at the house-door._

OZIAS (_fiercely_). What! Are my commands no more than the wind in the corn, and is there to be naught but tumult within the walls of this city?

VOICES IN THE GROUP. An Assyrian! An Assyrian!

FIRST SOLDIER. Lord Ozias! We saw this man lying bound at the foot of the hill, and we descended and loosed him and brought him privily into Bethulia by the secret way. And now we present him to my lord.

OZIAS Fools! Then no longer is the secret way secret.

VOICES. Slay him! Stone him! Whip the dog!

JUDITH (_nobly scornful, to the crowd_). Oh! Brave! Oh! Men of courage and high valour!

OZIAS (_to_ Achior). Who are you?

ACHIOR. Achior.

OZIAS. Your condition?

ACHIOR (_with calm, genial candour_). Captain of all the Ammonites in the army of Holofernes.

JUDITH. Let them loose him, Lord Ozias. His eyes are not the eyes of treachery.

OZIAS (_to the soldiers_). Loose him. (_To_ Achior.) And how come you here? Speak the truth–and fear.

ACHIOR. My mouth shall say truth, but I will not fear.

OZIAS. My hand is terrible.

ACHIOR. Thus it happened. When the children of Israel had shut up the passages of the hill country and had fortified all the tops of the high hills, Holofernes was very angry. And he called the captains of Ammon and said to them: Tell me now, ye sons of Chanaan, who these Israelites are that dwell in the hill country, and wherein is their power and strength, and why they have determined not to come and meet me, more than all the inhabitants of the west? And I, Achior, answered the question of Holofernes.

OZIAS. And what answer gave you?

ACHIOR. I said to Holofernes: This people is descended of the Chaldeans. But they left the way of their ancestors and would not follow the gods of their fathers; and they worshipped the God of heaven. So they were cast out from the face of the gods of Chaldea, and they fled into Mesopotamia. And they came to Chanaan. But when a famine covered all the land of Chanaan they went down into Egypt, and the king of Egypt brought them low with labouring in brick and made them slaves. Then they cried to their God, and he smote all the land of Egypt with plagues…. And God dried the Red Sea for them.

VOICES. It is true. It is true!

ACHIOR. And they came to Chanaan, and drove before them the inhabitants of that land, and they dwelt in that country many days. And while they sinned not before their God they prospered, because the God that hates iniquity was with them.

VOICES. It is true.

ACHIOR. But when they departed from the way which their God appointed, then they were destroyed in many battles very sore, and were led captives into a land that was not theirs, and the temple of their God was cast to the ground.

VOICES. Gentile dog! Shall we not render him to pieces?

JUDITH. There is but one truth, brethren, whether it please or whether it displease.

OZIAS (_to_ Achior). Make an end.

ACHIOR. And I said to Holofernes: But now this people are returned to their God, and have possessed Jerusalem, and are seated in the hill country. (_With more emphasis_.) And I said further to Holofernes: Now therefore, my lord and governor, if there be any error in this people, let us go up and we shall overcome them. But if there be no iniquity in their nation, let my lord now pass by, lest their Lord defend them and we become a reproach before all the world.

JUDITH. It was well said.

OZIAS. Lady, it was well said–if the slave said it. (_To_ Achior.) I demanded of you: How came you _here_?

ACHIOR. Thus. When I had finished speaking to Holofernes, all they that were about my lord and governor rose up in wrath and cried: Kill him. And the face of Holofernes darkened, and he said: And who art thou, Achior, that thou hast prophesied among us to-day that we should not make war with the people of Israel because of their God? And who is God but Nebuchadnezzar? Nebuchadnezzar by my hand will destroy the Israelites, and their God shall not deliver them. Their mountains shall be drunken with their blood and their fields shall be filled with their dead bodies. (_The_ citizens _show alarm_.) And thou, Achior, shalt be delivered up to the Israelites in Bethulia, and when thou seest me again thou shalt fall among the slain…. And he commanded his servants, and they took me, and carried me secretly to the foot of the hill of Bethulia. And here am I!

OZIAS (_after a pause, positively_). It is a wicked device for our undoing.

JUDITH. How so?

OZIAS. Plainly this fellow lies, and he has come subtly with a tale to spy out our strength. Presently he will seek to escape from us again to the Assyrians.

VOICES. Spy! Stone him! Rend him!

ACHIOR (_to_ Ozias). To Holofernes, my lord and governor, I spoke truth; and to you also I speak truth. Never has my mouth lied, nor my tongue uttered deceit. If death is ordained for my recompense, so be it.

JUDITH (_to_ Ozias). He is a fair youth, and has spoken truly and feared not.

OZIAS (_with meaning_). Lady, he is a fair youth, and fearless. But by what sign know you that he has spoken truly?

JUDITH. By the glance of his eyes I know.

OZIAS. It is a sign that suffices not. Shall it be said that Ozias was deceived, and shall Ozias imperil his renown, by reason of the glance of a youth when he looks at a woman–even you?… And if he lies not, then he is a fool and his folly was great.

ACHIOR. I spoke the truth to Holofernes.

OZIAS (_fiercely_). But to speak truth did not content you. Having answered Holofernes, you must needs offer counsel to your lord and governor! Who were you to offer counsel to the greatest of all the captains of the earth? The protection of the mighty conqueror covered you, and lo! in your folly did you estrange yourself from him. Fool!

ACHIOR. I said to Holofernes, my lord and governor, that which I was appointed to say–that, no more and no less.

OZIAS. And who appointed you to say that which you said?

JUDITH. If there be a God in Israel, and if the Lord has not abandoned us, may not this youth be the messenger of the Most High to bring us comfort, and for a warning to the vainglory of Holofernes?

OZIAS (_with irony_). All is possible to the Lord. Yet may his purposes be hidden from us. (_To the soldiers_.) Until the Lord vouchsafe new wisdom to me, his servant, bind fetters about the feet of Achior, and take him to the house of bondage, and set a guard over him, for a spy is not more dangerous than a fool.

CHARMIS (_springing forward_). It shall be done, Ozias.

(_The soldiers begin to put chains on_ Achior.)

JUDITH (_quietly_). Shame him not with fetters, lord Ozias.

OZIAS (_after a pause, to the soldiers_). Unbind him! (_The soldiers obey_.) Take him off! Speedily! Away! All! Let none remain! Hasten, I say!

(_Exeunt back, all except_ Ozias _and_ Judith. _As he goes_ Achior _kisses Judith’s robe_.)

JUDITH (_to_ Achior, _as he does so_). Truth-teller!

(_At a sign from_ Judith, Haggith _re-enters the house_.)

OZIAS. Your face is turned from me, because of the youth. Yet you came out to see the governor of the city, and the governor could do no other than I have done.

JUDITH (_looking at him_). Ozias, you have shown me your heart.

OZIAS. Yea!

JUDITH. And in the moment when the youth came you asked of me my counsel.

OZIAS. Yea!

JUDITH. Hear me now, for the words you have spoken before the people this day are not right.

OZIAS. What words?

JUDITH. This promise that you have uttered to deliver the city to our enemies, unless within five days the Lord turn to help. Who are you that seek to stand instead of God among the children of men?

OZIAS. Stand instead of God!

JUDITH. Who are you that have tempted God this day? For you cannot find the depth of the heart of man,–how then shall you search out God or comprehend his purpose? Brother, provoke not the Lord our God to anger. For if he will not help us within these five days, he has power to defend us when he will, even every day. Do not bind the counsels of God. For God is not as man that he may be threatened, neither as the son of man that he should be wavering. Therefore let us wait for salvation from him, and he will hear our voice,–if it please him. Moreover, this city is the key and the gateway to all Judea. If it be obstinate in resistance, Judea is not defiled, but if it be taken the whole land shall lie waste and God will require the profanation of it at our mouth.

OZIAS. All that you have spoken is truth, and there is none to gainsay your words. From the beginning of your days we have known your wisdom, and your understanding is manifest…. (_With significance_.) But we are thirsty.

JUDITH. If we are thirsty, let us give thanks to the Lord our God, who tries us, even as he did our fathers.

OZIAS. The people in the extremity of their thirst compelled me to an oath, which I will not break.

JUDITH. Say you the people, Ozias? As for them, you hold them lightly, and they are as naught in your eyes. So much you have avowed.

OZIAS (_in a new tone_). It is true. This day I hold the people lightly. But when the great madness and desperation of thirst comes at last upon them, who shall hold them? In that day they will seize the things forbidden, and they will drink the wine sanctified and reserved for the priests that serve the Lord. And to avert from me the wrath of Joachim, the high priest of Jerusalem, I have sent already a messenger to Jerusalem to bring a licence that this matter may be lawful.

JUDITH (_shocked_). Nay!

OZIAS. I say it will be so.

JUDITH. It shall not be so.

OZIAS. Then pray you to the Most High for the city, even for all of us, and the Lord will send rain for our cisterns and we shall faint no more. Pray, for you are a godly woman, and the God of Israel shall listen.

JUDITH (_with supreme impressiveness_). Hear me again, Ozias. This night I will do a thing which shall go throughout all the generations to the children of Israel. You shall stand this night in the gate of the city, and I will go forth from the city with my waiting-woman; and within the days that you have promised to deliver the city to our enemies the Lord will visit Israel by my hand.

OZIAS. On what errand will you go?

JUDITH. Enquire not of my act, for I will not declare it until the things are finished that I do. But this I declare, that the Lord has inclined himself to me, and now he has sent Achior for a sign.

OZIAS. You go to Holofernes!

JUDITH. To Holofernes.

OZIAS. Do not go!

JUDITH. But why shall I not go?

OZIAS. The perils of the heathen will surround you, and harm will surely befall you, for Holofernes will work lamentable evil upon you. And I cannot suffer it.

JUDITH (_smiling_). Did not Ozias say that Holofernes was a great warrior and had compassion in his greatness?

OZIAS (_insistent_). I cannot suffer it, for if any shame come upon you I will not live.

JUDITH. God will not see his handmaid shamed. Moreover I regard not myself in this thing, but the welfare of the people of Israel.

OZIAS (_kneeling_). Judith, I entreat you! For you are the light of my eyes, and without you the world is not.

JUDITH (_softly_). I know it. Think you that in these years I have not seen the depths of your heart, Ozias? Think you that I was blind in my tent? Think you that I watched not upon you? You were comely in my sight. But this day you have revealed your pride. For you seek not God, but the vanity of the earth, and you would make all Israel the instrument of your glory, denying the Lord. And I am sad.

OZIAS. Forgive me, Rose of Sharon.

JUDITH (_softly_). Who am I, to forgive my brother? Peace be upon you! (_She turns towards her house_.)

OZIAS (_rising,_). Stay!

JUDITH. I go to prepare myself for that which I have to do. (_Exit into the house_.)

(_A soldier shows himself, back._)

OZIAS. Friend!

FIRST SOLDIER (_approaching and saluting_). Lord! Your command!

OZIAS. Send to me the officer of the watch.

FIRST SOLDIER. Lord, the honourable lieutenant lies sick.

(Haggith _appears at the door of the house_.)

OZIAS. Thirst has overcome him?

FIRST SOLDIER (_bowing_). He raves on the bed, lord, and his tongue is like the tongue of a dog.

OZIAS. Who then commands the watch by the watchfires this night?

FIRST SOLDIER. I, lord. The watchfires wait the torch.

OZIAS. Will you, too, faint, and will your tongue be like the tongue of a dog?

FIRST SOLDIER (_grimly_), Not mine, lord.

OZIAS. DO the people complain?

FIRST SOLDIER. Lord, they whine and snivel mightily.

_Enter_ Haggith _with a small sack._

OZIAS. Is the secret way shut?

FIRST SOLDIER. Shut and barred, lord.

OZIAS. It must be opened…. Stand! I will see to it.

FIRST SOLDIER. AS my lord wills.

OZIAS. Has the watch aught to drink?

FIRST SOLDIER. My lord knows that no drop is left in the gourds.

(Ozias _waves him away, and he retires_.)

OZIAS (_to_ Haggith, _who is busy with the sack_). Woman, has the lady Judith perchance dreamed a dream?

HAGGITH (_enigmatically_). My mistress has dreamed no dream. Why does the lord Ozias ask?

OZIAS. It seemed to me–(_stops_)

HAGGITH. Dreams lift up fools. (_Exit into the house_.) (_Exit Ozias, L_.)

(_The soldier strolls forward. Twilight begins to fall_.)

(_Enter_ Haggith _from the house with more baggage_.)

HAGGITH (_to the soldier; curtly; not looking at him_). So thou hast no water?

FIRST SOLDIER (_with genial freedom_). Yea, Haggith, we have still a little.

HAGGITH. Then thou has lied to the governor?

FIRST SOLDIER. _Him_? (_With a jerk of the shoulder_!) _He_ knows! In truth now, thinkest thou he would expect us soldiers to keep guard without water? _He_ knows! But he is a great lord, and in seemliness he asks for a lie, and that which he asks is given to him–in seemliness.

HAGGITH. But the officer raving as thou hast said with thirst?

FIRST SOLDIER. Ah! It is the business of a worshipful officer to scorn deceit and to suffer.

HAGGITH. And all the people?

FIRST SOLDIER. The people are the people. But we soldiers are soldiers–and must drink, or we cannot guard. (_Yawns_.) Eh! I could lie down and snore for seven years, but I am appointed to watch all night.

HAGGITH (_suddenly caressing_). Sweet warrior! Would I could rest thee!

FIRST SOLDIER (_startled by the change in her demeanour_). Haggith! Thou art marvellously and desirably changed.

HAGGITH. I am practising to thy profit for that which lies before me and my mistress.

FIRST SOLDIER. What meanest thou?

HAGGITH. Chut! If thou hast heard a word, let it die with thee–it will not burst thee.

FIRST SOLDIER. Lord! turn away from me vain hopes and concupiscence.

HAGGITH. And so thou sleepest not this night!… Neither do I sleep.

FIRST SOLDIER. What?

HAGGITH. I go with my mistress upon a journey.

FIRST SOLDIER. What journey? There can be no journey for thee, unless thou leave the city and wend to the Assyrians.

HAGGITH (_curt again_). Nevertheless we go upon a journey.

FIRST SOLDIER. It is madness.

HAGGITH. It may be.

FIRST SOLDIER. Who can tell the heart of a master? Not I! When dost thou depart?

HAGGITH. My mistress is attiring.

FIRST SOLDIER. Thou dost not attire her?

HAGGITH. I! I, who have charge over all that is hers! Wilt thou tell me, then, what is the task of her tiring-women? Idle sluts!

FIRST SOLDIER. And this is thy baggage?

HAGGITH (_matter-of-fact_). A cruse of oil, a bag of parched corn, fine bread, three lumps of figs–and a bottle of wine–yea, the last!

FIRST SOLDIER (_drawing in his lips_). Ah! But thou wilt need an ass for this cargo.

HAGGITH (_drily_). I am the ass.

_Enter_ Judith, _magnificently dressed_.

(_The_ soldier _retires, back_.)

JUDITH. Is all prepared?

HAGGITH. All is prepared, mistress.

_Enter_ Ozias, _L_.

OZIAS (_ecstatic at the sight of_ Judith’s _splendour_). O, loveliness! O, lily of the field! Who shall withstand you, and who shall say you nay?

JUDITH (_smiling_). I am ready to depart.

OZIAS. The secret way is opened. I will lead you to it.

JUDITH (_gently_). The secret way? I will take no secret way.

OZIAS. But hear me, lady. The peril from the archers far off–

JUDITH. What did I say to you, lord Ozias? I said: You shall stand this night in the gate of the city, and I will go forth. My desire is that you command the gatemen to open the gates, so that I and my waiting-woman may pass out before all men, and in the sight of the Lord. (_She bends to examine_ Haggith’s _baggage_.)

OZIAS (_moved. Calling to the_ soldiers). Ho! Let the gates of the city be opened, that the lady Judith may go forth.

FIRST SOLDIER. Yea, lord. (_Calling to others, off._) Gatemen!

(_The gatemen man the gate-chains, and citizens rush in with cries_: ‘What shall happen to us? The lady Judith leaves the city? At night-fall? What is it?’)

OZIAS (_fiercely, to the crowd_). Get hence! Dogs!

JUDITH (_softly_). Let them stay, Lord Ozias, for that which I do, I do not in secret, neither shall it be hidden.

OZIAS (_to the crowd_). Make a way clear to the gates.

JUDITH. Before I go, I will look into the valley whither I descend. (_She mounts to the vantage-point_).

VOICES. Water! Water! Or we die!

JUDITH (_from the vantage-point_). Brethren, bewail not! Remember what things the Lord did to Abraham, and how he tried Isaac, and what happened to Jacob in Mesopotamia. For the Lord has not tried us in the fire as he did them, neither has he taken vengeance upon us. But the Lord scourges them that come near to him, to admonish them. (_She kneels. Following her example, everybody kneels_.) O Lord God of my father Simeon, the Assyrians are multiplied in their power; they trust in shield, and spear, and bow, and sling; and know not that thou art the Lord which breakest battles; the Lord is thy name. Behold their pride, and send thy wrath upon their heads; give into my hand, which am a widow, the power that I have conceived. For thy power standeth not in multitude, nor thy might in strong men. Smite the Assyrians by the deceit of my lips; break down their stateliness by the hand of a woman. And make my speech and deceit to be their wound and stripe, who have purposed cruel things against thy covenant and against the top of Zion. And make every nation and tribe to acknowledge that thou art the God of all power, and that there is none other that protecteth the people of Israel but thou. (_She rises. The crowd murmurs:_ ‘Amen.’ _All rise._ Judith _comes down from the vantage-point. Silence_.)

OZIAS (_moved_). Open the gates.

JUDITH (_to_ Haggith). Nothing is forgotten?

HAGGITH. Nothing.

(Judith _moves a step towards the gates._)

OZIAS. The soul of my soul goes with you into the valley.

JUDITH (_to_ Haggith, _solemnly_). And the knife?

(Haggith _gives a gesture. At the same moment a woman comes from the house with a knife, which she hands to_ Haggith, _who hands it to_ Judith, _who takes it ceremoniously, and hides it in her dress. The gates are now opened, and the distant plain under the setting sun is seen covered with the tents of the Assyrian army_.)

(Judith _goes slowly through the gates, followed by_ Haggith _carrying the baggage_.)

VOICES (_as_ Judith _passes_). Water! Water!

OZIAS (_with deep emotion_). Close the gates. Light the watchfires.

(_The gates begin slowly to close. The glow of the watchfires is seen_.)

CURTAIN.

ACT II

SCENE I

_The valley of Jezreel. The city of Bethulia on the hill in the distance_.

Haggith _with her baggage enters to_ Ingur _and his men_.

TIME: _The next morning but one_.

INGUR. What art thou?

HAGGITH (_prudishly and coldly_). If it please thee, I am a woman.

INGUR. No. Thou art a hedgehog.

HAGGITH (_suddenly cajoling_). I ask pardon. When I saw thy great handsomeness I grew afraid, and my tongue was stiffened. In my country there is no man so handsome as thou art.

INGUR. Ah! (_Much mollified_.) And what then is thy country?

HAGGITH. I am a woman of the Hebrews, and I have come from Bethulia.

INGUR (_astonished_). A woman of the Hebrews! From Bethulia! (_To his men_). Stand back from my face. (_The men retire. To_ Haggith.) This is a rare strange tale.

HAGGITH. Could I lie to _thee_? I have escaped from the city, which is given over to be consumed. I sought water for my thirst, for in Bethulia there is no water, and the people faint in the streets.

INGUR. But it is a long journey from Bethulia, and thou art fresh and delicate as though just risen from thy bed.

HAGGITH (_smiling_). I can hide nothing from thee, mighty wolf. I am, indeed, but just risen from my bed. The night before last night I set forth secretly, and came into the valley yesterday at noon, and lay soft in a cave where three springs bubbled, and drank, and slept until this morning’s sunrise.

INGUR. What is thy name?

HAGGITH. Haggith.

INGUR. Thy name is as strange as thy errand, and as thyself; and surely thou art a woman of the Hebrews, which is a race of lunatics, as I am told.

HAGGITH. I have figs fit for a great king. (_Opens her sack and offers some figs_.)

INGUR _(eating)._ Um! And what else hast thou? Let me touch thee, Haggith. (_He touches her carefully_). Yes, thou art outlandish, and no doubt mad, but comely. Comely! Thou hast the likeness and feel of a woman. Always have I hankered after strange women, and now lo! one falls ripe into my mouth. (Haggith _shrinks. Reassuringly._) In a way of speaking! In a way speaking! For thou art not in my mouth. And so thou earnest to slake thy thirst?

HAGGITH. Yes, my roaring lion.

INGUR. Listen! Thou hast saved thy life with water. But thou art lost.

HAGGITH. Lost?

INGUR. Ay! A woman in the camps of the Assyrians–she is undone. She is a lamb in a den of terrible tigers. (_Comfortingly_.) No, no! I will protect thee, but I warn thee that thou art undone. I am honest. (_Caresses her_.)

HAGGITH (_clumsily returning his caress_). _Thou_ wilt not harm me.

INGUR. I will not tear thee to pieces, but thou shalt come away with me. (_She timidly strokes him_). Thou hast not the habit of this stroking.

HAGGITH. My mistress commanded me, when I encountered any noble Assyrian, to use him thus. It is true that I have not the habit. Nevertheless I do what I can.

INGUR (_startled at the mention of a mistress_). Thy–thy mistress? Ye are two? Where then is thy mistress? Tell me upon the instant–is she fairer than thou?

HAGGITH. Seven times more fair.

INGUR. Fetch her!

HAGGITH. My mistress is washing herself in a fountain of water by the cave. She sent me forward in peace and friendliness to announce her coming.

INGUR. Fetch her! (_Suddenly perceiving_ Bagoas _in the distance, he changes his manner_.) Stay! Bagoas is approaching, and he may have seen thee. His eyes are sharp. Stand off. (Haggith _moves away a little_.) But when I tell thee, fall down on thy face.

HAGGITH. Is he a great captain?

INGUR. His mightiness is the chief eunuch of the Prince, and there is none greater than he save only the Prince himself, for Bagoas has charge over all the women of the Prince’s tents.

HAGGITH. Women of the Prince’s tents?

INGUR. Ay! Wives! Concubines! Virgins! Beyond counting. Didst thou think in thy Hebrew pride, that the Prince was a savage and a barbarian?… Down, damsel! Here is Bagoas. Embrace the earth for thy life’s sake. (Haggith _obeys_.)

_Enter_ Bagoas, _with attendants, L_.

(Ingur _salutes him with extreme deference_.)

BAGOAS. Who art thou?

INGUR. Ingur, mightiness, commanding twenty footmen.

BAGOAS. Begone from my sight. This morning the Prince condescends to walk through the camp, that all the armies may take joy in his countenance. It is not meet that he should be seen of any lower than a lieutenant.

INGUR (_indicating_ Haggith). Mightiness, a woman of the Hebrews escaped from Bethulia to find water! And by my subtlety I have captured her.

BAGOAS. A woman of the Hebrews! (_Surveying_ Haggith.) Rise, scum, and let me behold thy deformity. (Haggith _obeys_.)

INGUR. And there is another yet to appear,–her mistress, seven times fairer.

BAGOAS. Her mistress may be seven times fairer than this eyesore, and yet ugly. (_To_ Haggith.) Who is thy mistress?

HAGGITH. The lady Judith.

BAGOAS. Judith! A name fit only for a cat! Why is she here? How is she here? What is her secret and detestable purpose? For there is a trick in this thing.

HAGGITH. I know not my mistress’s purpose.

BAGOAS. Tell me thy mistress’s purpose, or I will have thee smothered.

HAGGITH. I know only that if Holofernes—-

BAGOAS (_stopping her angrily_). Callest thou the illustrious one by his name? The most high _Prince_ Holofernes, foul wench.

HAGGITH. The most high Prince Holofernes–if he so wills my mistress would speak with his highness.

BAGOAS (_laughing heartily_). Speak with the Prince? _Speak_ with the Prince? Ha-ha! (_All the men laugh_.) What is the state of thy mistress?

HAGGITH. The lady Judith is a widow.

BAGOAS (_still more amused_). Aha! A widow! And the Hebrew hag would _speak_ with Prince Holofernes! (_The men laugh and jeer_.)

_Enter_ Judith, _R_.

(Haggith _goes quickly to her. All the men stare at_ Judith, _deeply impressed_.)

HAGGITH (_aside to_ Judith). There are many hussies in the camps, thousands and thousands, mistress. This lord is the chief eunuch.

BAGOAS (_aside to an attendant_). If this be an example of the Bethulian women, I shall have a momentous business upon me when their city falls.

FIRST ATTENDANT. Yea, mightiness.

(Judith, _signing to_ Haggith _to stand aside, bows to the ground before_ Bagoas; _then rises again_.)

BAGOAS (_after a short pause_). You are very beautiful.

JUDITH. There are beautiful women in Judea, but no man of Judea would look twice at such as I, a shrunken widow, like dried fish.

(_Exit_ Ingur, _excitedly, L_.)

BAGOAS. I have heard how you have escaped out of Bethulia and come hither in order to find water. (_Blandly_.) Aught else?

JUDITH. My desire also was to have speech privately with the great conqueror, Holofernes.

BAGOAS. Ah! We are well met, you and I. For I am Bagoas, chief eunuch to the illustrious Prince. (_Aside to second attendant_.) Run. Fetch the box of veils. (_Exit_ second attendant, _L_.)

JUDITH (_saluting once more_). I supplicate then, mighty Bagoas, that you lead me quickly to the illustrious Prince Holofernes.

BAGOAS. Surely! Surely! It is my pleasure to content you. (_Aside, to attendant, anxiously_.) This dried fish by her damnable beauty will reach great power, and if I speak not softly to her now she will undo me in that day.

FIRST ATTENDANT. Yea, mightiness.

JUDITH. I humbly thank your mightiness.

BAGOAS. But it is necessary that you should relate to me your little affair. For no woman speaks to the illustrious Prince until she has spoken to me.

JUDITH. It cannot be so.

BAGOAS (_persuasively_). In my ear, privily. Approach.

JUDITH. It cannot be so.

BAGOAS. What mean you–it cannot be so?

JUDITH. I will utter my errand to the illustrious Prince Holofernes alone.

BAGOAS (_losing his self-control; angrily_). What? Thou queasy chit! Thou minx! Thou jade! Baggage! Mopsy! Shamelesss wench! Thou wilt not obey Bagoas, chief eunuch in the camps of the Assyrians! I will make thee the slave of my slave and the plaything of scullions. (_Stops._ Judith _smiles_. Haggith _subsides alarmed at her feet_.) Thou shalt be abandoned to the sutlers and the ass-drivers, and thus thou shalt learn who is Bagoas and what is his power! (_Stops again._ Judith _still smiles_.) The strumpets of the kitchens shall scorn thee! I–I—-

JUDITH (_smiling sweetly_). Mightiness! Mightiness! I am your bondwoman, but it is appointed by heaven that I shall speak with the illustrious Prince Holofernes himself.

BAGOAS (_controlling himself, smiling_). Well, if it is appointed by heaven, so shall it be. Forget my words. They had no evil intent, for I was trying you, as my duty is. (_Aside to attendant_.) The sweetness of her glance dissolves my backbone.

FIRST ATTENDANT. Yea, mightinesss.

BAGOAS (_to_ Judith). Follow me, lady. (_Aside to_ attendant.) Thinkest thou the Prince will come this way? (_Pointing_.)

FIRST ATTENDANT. Yea, mightiness.

BAGOAS. Or that?

FIRST ATTENDANT. Yea, mightiness.

BAGOAS. If the Prince so much as sees her before the city is taken, never will the city be taken, and we shall all be her captives.

FIRST ATTENDANT. Yea, mightiness.

BAGOAS (_beating the attendant_). I will lead her by the path to the cave, for the Prince will surely not come that way. (_To_ Judith.) Follow me, lady.

(Bagoas _moves R_. Judith _hesitates a moment as_ Haggith _picks up her sack. Enter R. the heralds of Holofernes, followed by_ Holofernes.)

BAGOAS (_to himself_). Holofernes! (_To his attendants_.) Hide her, rascals, or Assyria is undone. (_The attendants range themselves between_ Judith _and_ Holofernes.)

(Bagoas _receives_ Holofernes _with a prostration and high ceremony_.)

HOLOFERNES. Where is this woman?

BAGOAS. Woman, Prince?

HOLOFERNES (_impatient_). This Hebrew woman, I say! One Ingur has run among the tents chattering, and the rumour of her has spread through the camps like a plague. By Nebuchadnezzar the one god, where is she, for it has been told to me that her beauty excels the beauty of all the women of the East and ravishes the eye exceedingly?

BAGOAS. Ah! It is of Judith that the Prince deigns to speak. Lo! I had caught her and was bringing her to your highness. (_To_ attendants.) Stand aside, dogs.

(Judith _is revealed to_ Holofernes. _She prostrates herself and then rises_. Holofernes _gazes at her, entranced_.)

HOLOFERNES. So thou hast escaped out of Bethulia to find water for thy thirst?

JUDITH. To find water, and to have speech with the most illustrious Prince.

HOLOFERNES. Woman (_approaching her a step, and then standing still_), be of good comfort, and fear not in thy heart, for I never hurt any that was willing to serve Nebuchadnezzar, the god of all the earth. And if thy people that dwell in the mountains had not held me lightly, I would not have lifted up my spear against them, but they have done these things to themselves.

BAGOAS (_aside, to_ Holofernes). Terrible master, she is full of guile and deceitfulness, and came not at all for water, but for a hidden purpose against you. Therefore enquire of her closely.

HOLOFERNES (_to_ Bagoas). Chastise thy tongue, ere it overthrow thee, fiend. There is no guile in that face. (_To_ Judith.) Tell me now thy message and wherefore in truth thou art come. And tremble not, for thou shalt live this night.

JUDITH. Great prince, receive the words of your servant and suffer your handmaid to speak in your presence, and I will declare no lie to my lord.

HOLOFERNES. Speak.

JUDITH. I will speak to my lord alone.

BAGOAS (_aside to_ Holofernes). It is a device against my lord.

HOLOFERNES (_to_ Judith). Speak now, I command thee.

JUDITH. My message concerns the fate of Bethulia, and of all the Assyrians, and of my lord. Life and death are in it, for I have communed with heaven.

HOLOFERNES. Which heaven? Thine or mine?

JUDITH. There is but one God.

HOLOFERNES (_roughly_). And he is Nebuchadnezzar. Speak thy tale.

JUDITH. I will speak to my lord alone.

BAGOAS (_aside to_ Holofernes). It is a device.

HOLOFERNES (_angrily_). Speak out all thy heart, and quickly!

JUDITH. I will speak to my lord in my lord’s tent.

HOLOFERNES (_furious_). In my tent! Who art thou who defiest me, and what is thy licence, heathen slave, to defile the tent of Holofernes? Bind her. Take her away, and twist the cords about her neck, and strangle her, and cast her insolence into the lake.

(Judith _is seized and bound in an instant_.)

HOLOFERNES (_in two minds_). Wait!

BAGOAS. She is bound, illustrious prince.

HOLOFERNES. Wait!

BAGOAS (_aside to_ Holofernes). Prince, let not the benevolence of your heart be your undoing, for in the loveliness of her face is cunning and great peril. I have lived all my days amid the craftiness of women, and my lord also knows somewhat of their strange tricks, which bring ruin to the carnal.

HOLOFERNES (_reflective_). Who would despise these Hebrews that have among them such women as she? (_Fiercely_). Surely it is not good that one man among them should be left; for if one were let go he might deceive the whole earth.

JUDITH (_advancing a step, appealingly_). Will the wise man cast away a pearl, and will my lord in anger lose his servant for ever?

BAGOAS (_to_ Holofernes). Let her not speak with my lord alone in my lord’s tent.

JUDITH. I would speak with the illustrious prince–and with Bagoas also. (_She smiles_.)

HOLOFERNES (_with a gesture_). I cannot lose thee. (_To attendants_.) Unbind her.

BAGOAS (_aside_). May heaven be with us, for the woman is against us!

HOLOFERNES (_to_ Bagoas). Veil her, that her face and form be not seen as she passes to my tent, for she is mine.

BAGOAS (_calling_). The veils! The veils! Where is the rascal?

_The attendant rushes in panting with the box of veils. He is followed by_ Ingur.

(Judith _is elaborately veiled in a series of veils by_ Bagoas _and his attendants_).

HOLOFERNES. Let her follow me.

(_Exeunt, R, with great ceremony_, Holofernes _and his heralds, followed by_ Judith.)

INGUR (_as they go, stopping_ Bagoas, _who goes last_). Mightiness, pardon your slave.

BAGOAS. Well?

INGUR (_pointing to_ Haggith). Your slave captured the mistress. Reward him with this outlandish wench.

BAGOAS (_carelessly_). The fool goeth out to seek his own damnation. Take her.

CURTAIN.

SCENE II

_Interior of the tent of_ Holofernes. _A couch with curtains, L. The principal entrance to the tent is at the back. Secondary entrances in the hangings, L. and R._

TIME: _The same morning, later._

Bagoas _and his attendant are unveiling_ Judith.

BAGOAS. Animal, wouldst thou dare to behold that which is thy lord’s? Leave the last veil, and away with thee.

FIRST ATTENDANT. Yea, mightiness!

(_Exit back with the veils already removed from_ Judith.)

BAGOAS. Queen of the night of Holofernes!

JUDITH (_through the veil_). Mighty Bagoas!

BAGOAS. The Prince comes to look upon you in his tent.

JUDITH. Mighty Bagoas, deign to answer a question I will put.

BAGOAS. Deign to ask, lady, and my humility shall answer; for your beauty has blinded Holofernes this day and he is your captive, and his servant is your servant, and there is no law in the camps of the Assyrians save your glance. (_He makes a covert gesture of half-amused resentful resignation_.)

JUDITH. Nebuchadnezzar is your god? Is it not so, Bagoas?

BAGOAS. Nebuchadnezzar is henceforward the god of the Assyrians and of all the lands which their spears conquer. It is an official order.

JUDITH. If Nebuchadnezzar laid a command upon you, would you disregard it?

BAGOAS. I would not, for my skin is very valuable to me.

JUDITH. As Nebuchadnezzar is your god, so is the Lord of Israel mine. And my God laid a secret command upon me to speak with Prince Holofernes alone and with none other in his tent. Thus, and thus only, was it that I refused to speak in the presence even of the mighty Bagoas. But as I withstood you in the valley there, the God of Israel descended upon me and I heard the voice of God in my ear, and the voice said: ‘It is permitted to thee to speak with Bagoas also.’ Therefore I yielded to the importunity of Prince Holofernes and of Bagoas.

BAGOAS. Your god is a wise god and has discernment.

JUDITH. This I tell you, that there may be peace and good intelligence between us. Is there peace between us?

BAGOAS. Lady, in my heat I admonished you with hard words and much vituperation.

JUDITH (_innocently_.) By Nebuchadnezzar, I heard none.

BAGOAS. There is peace between us. And in the closeness of our intelligence you and I will rule them that rule all Assyria.

_Enter_ Holofernes, _L_.

(Bagoas _prostrates himself_. Holofernes _walks about, ignoring_ Judith.)

HOLOFERNES (_to_ Bagoas). At what hour is the Council of Captains?

BAGOAS. The Council awaits your highness.

(_Suddenly_ Holofernes _snatches the veil from_ Judith, _and throws it on the floor. He gazes at her._ Judith _prostrates herself_. Holofernes _drops on to the couch, and looks at everything except_ Judith.)

HOLOFERNES (_imperiously_). Rise. (Judith _rises. A pause_. Holofernes _plays with a jewel on his costume. Without looking at_ Judith.) And Achior?

JUDITH. Illustrious Prince.

HOLOFERNES. Did the slave reach Bethulia?

JUDITH. The men of Bethulia took him, and he declared to them all that he had spoken to my lord Prince. And many approved him.

HOLOFERNES. And what sayest _thou_ of Achior?

JUDITH. O lord and governor, I say: Reject not the word of Achior, but lay it up in your heart.

HOLOFERNES. Thou art bold.

JUDITH. The word of Achior is true. For the Israelites shall not be punished, and the sword shall not prevail against them, except they sin against their God.

HOLOFERNES. Not even _my_ sword?

JUDITH. Not even the sword of my lord and governor, except they sin against their God. (_With significance_.) But they will sin.

HOLOFERNES. Ah! They will sin? In what will they sin?

JUDITH. Death is fallen upon them, and they will provoke their God to anger, for their water is scant, and they faint in their thirst; and they will drink the holy wine which was sanctified and reserved for the priests who serve before the face of our God: which thing is not lawful for any of the people so much as to touch with their hands.

HOLOFERNES. What has all this to do with me? There is no god but Nebuchadnezzar.

JUDITH. It touches my lord and governor, because, knowing all this, I am fled from Bethulia, which shall be accurst; and the God of Israel has sent me to work things with my lord and governor whereat the whole earth shall be astonished.

HOLOFERNES (_looking at her, interested_). What things? And what have I to do with thy god? I need not thy god, for after the Israelites have drunk their wine they will thirst again; and when the city is broken with fainting, it will fall safe into my hands while I sit and watch.

JUDITH (_with fire_). And when the city has fallen while the Assyrians sit and watch, and when all men whisper one to another that the greatest captain of the earth conquered by a device because he dared not attack boldly with spear, and bow, and sling–in that day will my lord and governor be content? Or will he be ashamed, and blush to lift up his eyes?

HOLOFERNES (_disturbed_). It is a true word.

BAGOAS. It is a true word.

HOLOFERNES (_savagely_). This day will I attack the city and take it, and though I make fifty thousand widows and orphans in Assyria I will compass Bethulia, and not one house in it shall be left standing, nor one Israelite alive.

JUDITH (_shaking her head slowly_). Why is my lord against the pleasure of the Most High? Do I not say, and has it not been revealed to me, that Bethulia shall not perish until its inhabitants have sinned before God? Listen, illustrious Prince, I will remain this night. And when the time comes I will go into the valley, and I will pray to God, and mayhap He will tell me when the Israelites in Bethulia have committed their sin. And I will come and show it to you, and thereupon my lord and governor shall go forth with all his army, and none shall resist him.

HOLOFERNES (_fascinated_). Thou wilt come to me when the time is at hand for my triumph!

JUDITH. And hearken further! I will lead my lord and governor in the midst of Judea, until he comes to Jerusalem; and I will set his throne in the midst of Jerusalem, and a dog shall not so much as open his mouth at my lord and prince. For these things were declared unto me from on high, and I am sent to tell them.

HOLOFERNES (_aside to_ Bagoas, _excitedly_). There is not such a woman from one end of the earth to the other, both for beauty of face and wisdom of words.

BAGOAS. It may well be so, Prince. But I have not seen the whole earth.

HOLOFERNES (_to_ Judith). Thou hast done well to come to me, that strength may be in my hands and destruction upon them that lightly regard Nebuchadnezzar, the one god. Thou art ravishing in countenance, and if thou do as thou hast spoken, thou shalt dwell in my house which is over against the house of King Nebuchadnezzar, and thou shalt be renowned through the east and through the west. Bagoas, prepare meat and wine for her.

BAGOAS (_making as if to give an order_). To hear is to obey.

JUDITH. I will not eat of my lord’s meat, nor drink of his wine, lest there be offence; I have brought provision by my waiting-woman.

BAGOAS. But if thy provision fail?

JUDITH (_significantly_). My provision will not fail before the Lord works by my hand the things which He has determined.

Bagoas _claps his hands. Enter an attendant_.

BAGOAS. Fetch Haggith, the waiting-woman of the lady Judith! Quickly! (_Exit attendant. To_ Holofernes.) Prince, shall the Hebrew woman eat and drink of her provision in my lord’s tent?

HOLOFERNES. She shall eat and drink in my tent, and she shall not leave it.

BAGOAS. Then it is right that my lord remains not. And moreover the Council humbly waits for my lord. (_Exit_ Holofernes, _L_.)

BAGOAS (_to_ Judith, _as he follows_ Holofernes). Did I not say that you and I shall rule them that rule Assyria? (_Exit L_.)

_Enter_ Haggith, _back, with provisions_.

HAGGITH (_excited, looking round to see if they are alone_). Mistress! Is it possible?

JUDITH. What has taken thee?

HAGGITH. Is this the tent of the monster?

JUDITH. Hush!

HAGGITH (_whispering_). It is greater and more magnificent than the temple at Bethulia. (_Looking into a corner_.) But unclean. Have they no besoms?… Ah! (_Looking up at the roof_.) The bigness of it makes me small like a child before it can walk. I could not live comfortably in such a great windy place. No! I prefer our own house to all this royalty.

JUDITH. Give me food, Haggith. Where hast thou been? (_She sits_.)

HAGGITH. Mistress, I have been with the man Ingur! (_Arranging_ Judith’s _costume, and then setting out the food and wine_.) In obedience to your command. At Bethulia, being busied all my days with the ordering of your possessions, I had no time for traffic with men; neither desire. And I deemed them terrible and masterful creatures. And when you commanded me to go forth into the camps and delude and entangle with wiles whatever Assyrian I should meet, I was afraid. For it was in my heart that I could not accomplish this thing. Yet I have done it prettily. And it is easier to me far than sweeping with a besom. Either all men are simpletons and besotted with self-conceit, or Ingur exceeds greatly in folly. I have been given to him for his slave, but he is mine and knows it not. (_She sits_.)

JUDITH. Where hast thou left him?

HAGGITH. Mistress I would not suffer that you should pass from my sight, and I followed you, and Ingur followed me gladly, and at last the guard seized him for that he was found within the precincts of the prince’s quarter, which is forbidden to his rank, and many stripes will be his. Mistress, you eat not.

JUDITH (_trying to eat_). Yes, I eat. Do thou eat for me.

HAGGITH. I have eaten and drunk–with Ingur.

JUDITH. But not of his provision?

HAGGITH (_nodding_). He so softly entreated me.

JUDITH. It is a sin and an offence for thee, being an Israelite.

HAGGITH. For such as my high-born mistress, it is an offence. But for the handmaid–pooh! She eats as she can, and the Lord turneth away his glance until she has finished her platter. Moreover, did you not lay it upon me to beguile the dolt? And verily, mistress, I have rejoiced much this day; and Ingur—-

JUDITH. Silence with thy prattle. Bethink thee of the dread business upon which I am come down from Bethulia into the valley?

HAGGITH (_subdued; offering food_). Eat, mistress.

JUDITH. I cannot. My soul rejects it, and my body is on fire with expectation and suspense. (_Rising_. Haggith _also rises_.) Stay thou where thou art, for I will go forth alone. I must commune with the God of Israel for my tranquillity, and I dare not seek him in the tent of the heathen. (_Exit, back_.)

(Haggith _gathers the meat together_.)

_Enter_ Holofernes _and_ Bagoas, _L_.

HOLOFERNES (_looking about the tent, alarmed_). Where is she? Has she fled? If she has escaped me, this shall be thy last day, Bagoas. What is this girl here?

BAGOAS. Prince, has any woman yet slipped through these hands? This girl is the waiting wench of the lady Judith. (_To_ Haggith.) Where is thy mistress, wench?

HAGGITH (_frightened and foolish_). My mistress having eaten … having eaten naught, is gone to–to–to–pray.

BAGOAS. Bring her. Her god may wait, but not the illustrious Prince. Run with both thy legs.

HAGGITH. Ye–es, mightiness. (_Exit, back_)

HOLOFERNES. Bagoas, with thine arts thou shalt persuade the Hebrew woman to come to us and to eat and drink with us this night.

BAGOAS (_grimly_). Persuasion shall be used, highness. My arts are many and various.

HOLOFERNES. It will be a shame for our person if we let such a woman go, not having delighted in her company. If we do not draw her to us she will laugh us to scorn.

BAGOAS. Yea, highness. But my lord has but this moment appointed a great feast with his captains at sunset. How then shall he eat and drink with the lady Judith?

HOLOFERNES. Thick-skull! Speak not to me of my captains! The Council of the Captains was as dust in my mouth, and I could not away with it. Therefore I sharply dismissed the Council, and soothed their damnable pride with the promise of a mighty feast. But what care I for the captains? My heart thirsts horribly for this Hebrew woman, and I am full of a great madness.

BAGOAS. So be it, highness. Nevertheless, the Prince has promised to his captains a mighty feast, and the word of Holofernes is a rock that cannot be shaken.

HOLOFERNES. Oh! What a calamity is love! And there is no slave so trodden down as him that is the slave of desire…. Bah! I will eat and drink quickly with the captains, and the woman shall await me here.

_Enter_ Judith, _back. On seeing_ Holofernes _she prostrates herself_.

HOLOFERNES. Arise, sorceress. (Judith _rises. To_ Bagoas.) Go fetch leopard skins for her repose.

BAGOAS. I will send for the skins on the instant, highness.

HOLOFERNES. Thou wilt go thyself to fetch them, elephant. And come not back without the finest skins in my wardrobe. See to it.

(_Exit_ Bagoas, _back_.)

HOLOFERNES. Come closer. (Judith _obeys_.) Look into my eyes. (Judith _obeys_.) Sorceress, thou knowest thy power.

JUDITH. I have no power, save that which is given to me from on high.

HOLOFERNES. Thou wast praying to thy god?

JUDITH. Yea, highness.

HOLOFERNES. Didst thou demand of him that he should tell thee if the Israelites in Bethulia had committed their sin, and if the time of my triumph was at hand?

JUDITH. No, lord. I prayed for the forgiveness of the transgressions of thy handmaid.

HOLOFERNES. Why didst thou not demand of him what I ask thee?

JUDITH. Who am I to hasten the God of Israel? In the night time, and in the darkness, when all men sleep,–then it is that my God condescends towards me, and my ear hears his secret purposes.

HOLOFERNES (_low_). This night?

JUDITH. Who can search out heaven?

HOLOFERNES. This night?

JUDITH. It may be.

HOLOFERNES. And thou wilt come to me in the night and tell me thy message?

JUDITH. I will come to thee in the night, great prince.

HOLOFERNES. And thou wilt eat and drink with me in my triumph?

JUDITH (_after a pause_). If it pleases my lord.

HOLOFERNES. Thou wilt eat of my meat and drink of my wine, which I will give thee?

JUDITH (_after a pause_). If my lord is alone and there is none with him. For it is not right that any should see me.

HOLOFERNES. I will be alone. But Bagoas shall stand at the door of the tent.

JUDITH. As my lord wills.

HOLOFERNES (_ecstatic, moving a little towards her; she responds_). Fairest among women! Can it be!… The way of God is wondrous.

(_A half-veiled Assyrian woman appears through the hangings R., and watches_.)

JUDITH (_solemnly and significantly_). There are yet hid greater things than this, and thou hast yet seen but a few of his works.

HOLOFERNES (_sinking back on the couch, mysteriously afraid_). Sorceress!

(_The watcher disappears_.)

JUDITH (_cooingly_) Does my lord shrink from his handmaid?

(Holofernes _stretches his hands to her_.)

CURTAIN.

SCENE III

SCENE: _The same_.

TIME: _The same night_.

_Wine and food are set by the couch_.

_A lamp is burning_.

BAGOAS (_at back entrance to tent, calling to people off_). To your beds, all of you. Let none remain. (_He stands a moment at the entrance; a few distant shouts are heard; then silence_. Bagoas _comes within the tent towards the couch. To_ Holofernes.) The waiters are gone, Prince. There is no one left to disturb the night.

HOLOFERNES. Hast thou seen her?

BAGOAS (_after a pause_). No, prince.

HOLOFERNES. But didst thou look?

BAGOAS. I looked, O illustrious.

HOLOFERNES. Is there moonlight?

BAGOAS. The moon is clouded, highness.

HOLOFERNES. Give me wine. (Bagoas _obeys_.) Bagoas!

BAGOAS. Prince?

(_The hangings of the tent R., balloon inwards a little_.)

HOLOFERNES (_looking behind him sharply, spilling some wine_). The wind is rising.

BAGOAS. It is but a night breeze.

HOLOFERNES (_as he drinks gloomily_). Bagoas, she has escaped back to her own people.

BAGOAS (_aside_). I would she had, the jade! (_To_ Holofernes.) Prince, she cannot escape. Every path from the valley is guarded.

HOLOFERNES. What guard could restrain such a woman?

BAGOAS. Ah! Prince! What guard could restrain her?

HOLOFERNES. Dost thou echo me?

BAGOAS. I humbly think the thought of his highness.

HOLOFERNES. Do thy thinking outside.

(Bagoas _bows and moves towards the entrance_. Judith _is standing there. The two look at each other for a moment_.)

BAGOAS (_with a gesture, indicating_ Judith). Highness!

HOLOFERNES (_Jumping up. To_ Bagoas). Begone to thy post!

(Judith _glides in silently_. Bagoas _goes out. They pass by each other without a word or a salutation, but mutually scrutinizing_.)

JUDITH. The great feast of the captains is over?

HOLOFERNES. The captains are departed, drunken with wine and their pride. But thy feast and my feast is not begun. (_Points to the repast_.)

JUDITH (_enigmatically_.) I am here.

HOLOFERNES (_ecstatic_.) Art thou in truth here, or do my eyes behold that which is not?

JUDITH. Did I not say that I should come in the night?

HOLOFERNES. Yea, I trusted thee. I trusted thee so much that at the feast of the captains I commanded that all my hosts shall attack Bethulia, with bow, and sling, and spear, at sunrise, and also I gave the word of Holofernes for a pledge that naught in the heavens or on the earth should resist the onset of the Assyrians; for some among them feared the word of Achior which they had heard.

JUDITH. You have not done this thing?

HOLOFERNES. I have done it.

JUDITH. Would you forestall God, and would you speak the decrees of God before they are uttered?

HOLOFERNES. Thou saidst thou wouldst pray to thy god this night and that he would tell thee when the Israelites in Bethulia had committed their sin, and that thou wouldst come to me to proclaim the hour of my triumph.

JUDITH. I said: I will pray to God and _mayhap_ he will tell me.

HOLOFERNES. Thou hast prayed, and thy god hath not answered?

JUDITH. He has not answered.

HOLOFERNES (_with bravado_). He is no god, then, thy god. Let us drink.

JUDITH (_as_ Holofernes _moves towards her, solemnly_). Touch not your handmaid, and touch not the goblet. (_She goes to the skins, R_.)

HOLOFERNES (_following_ Judith _gently_). Thou art offended.

JUDITH. Stand afar off, Holofernes, and meddle not with her that communes with the Most High.

(Judith _kneels_. Holofernes _goes in the direction of the couch. Silence_. Bagoas _has been seen once or twice in the porch of the tent, his back turned. He has now gone again. Two half-veiled Assyrian women appear through the hangings, R., and watch a moment, then vanish_. Judith _slowly rises_.)

HOLOFERNES. What has befallen thee?

JUDITH. It has befallen me that this moment the God of Israel has spoken and my ear has heard his command. (_Approaching_ Holofernes.)

HOLOFERNES. What saith thy god?

JUDITH. My ear has heard that the Israelites in Bethulia have committed their sin, and at sunrise the Assyrians shall assault Bethulia and none shall withstand them.

HOLOFERNES. A miracle!

JUDITH. A miracle in thy tent, O great warrior!

HOLOFERNES. To-morrow is appointed to be the day of my triumph.

JUDITH (_moved_). Yea, it is so.

HOLOFERNES (_gratefully_). Hear me, Judith. Thy god shall be my god.

JUDITH. In truth thou art set apart to be his. HOLOFERNES (_close to her_). Thy body trembles.

JUDITH (_smiling_). Thinkst thou then that I was not afraid for thee? But my fear is gone from me, for now I know thy fate and the decree of heaven concerning thee.

HOLOFERNES (_aside_). To-morrow is appointed for my triumph, but this night also shall I exult. (_To_ Judith.) Let us eat and drink together, for we are alone in the night, and thou hast promised.

JUDITH (_gaily_). Let us feast.

HOLOFERNES (_animated by her responsive tone_). Take off thy tunic; thou art in thy own house. Let Holofernes be thy tire-woman. (_Approaching her_.)

JUDITH. No! (_Moving from him to the further side of the couch_.) But he shall be my slave to serve me. Pour out the wine, great slave.

(_While_ Holofernes _cheerfully obeys_, Judith _takes the knife from her garments and places it behind the couch. Then, as he stands with the wine, gazing at her and separated from her only by the couch, she slowly removes her tunic and appears in indoor attire. She comes towards him and takes the wine from him and drinks_.)

HOLOFERNES. I feared that in the strictness of thy Hebrew scruples thou wouldst not drink of my wine.

JUDITH. I will drink again. (_She does so_.)

HOLOFERNES _(taking the goblet and drinking)._ Dost thou verily know thy power and thy dominion, Judith?

JUDITH (_simply_). Yes, I know it now better than thou.

HOLOFERNES. Thou dost not. For I am mad for thee, and thou hast set thy seal upon me for evermore. My heart cannot hold thee, for thou hast filled it to overflowing, and all men see that my heart is full of thee and runneth over. Yea, I have a hundred and two and thirty thousand that bow themselves at my feet and that live and die by my glance. And I am at _thy_ feet and thy glance is my joy and my sorrow according to thy whim. Judith, I entreat thee, command me something. For whatever thou command me, that will I execute. And be not afraid in thy command, for my power is very great and there is none like it save only my lord Nebuchadnezzar’s.

JUDITH (_tenderly_). I command thee that thou be happy. For thy captive has no other desire.

HOLOFERNES. Say not my captive. For it is I that am thy prisoner. And I will set thee on my throne, and in my great boldness I will dare to sit beside thee. But thou shalt reign. And we will live together in Assyria long years.

JUDITH (_changing her mood_). There is no requisition in the grave whether you have lived ten or an hundred or a thousand years. But the God of Israel is a shield.

HOLOFERNES (_eagerly_). And I have told thee that thy god shall be my god; but in secret, because of that which I owe to King Nebuchadnezzar. Yet shall the whole earth know that thou, Judith, alone art my god.

JUDITH. But thou hast other wives.

HOLOFERNES. No!

JUDITH. Yes! It has been whispered to me that thou hast many wives, and concubines without number.

HOLOFERNES. It is a lie. For from this night I have put away from me all women but thee, and there is not one among them to compare with thee. (_Appealingly_). And since the judgment of heaven hath done a miracle by thee in the tent of Holofernes this night, wilt thou deny, O tenderness! that thou hast been divinely appointed to me, and I to thee?

JUDITH. I will not deny that the Lord is in this thing. And for thy comfort I will tell thee that which thou knowest not.

HOLOFERNES (_expectant_). Tell me.

JUDITH. Before I escaped from Bethulia, as I lay on my bed, a vision came to me, and it was the vision of Holofernes in the likeness of his majesty and his might. And I saw the vision by my bed, and so it was that I came down into the valley…. (_Softly_.) And wouldst thou that I should have uttered this secret to any but thee!

HOLOFERNES (_full of emotion_). I will kiss thy lips, and thou art mine, O fragrance!

JUDITH. Kiss my lips.

(Holofernes _kisses her, and then in an excess of feeling stumbles backward_.)

(_A half-veiled Assyrian woman appears at the opening R., and watches_. Bagoas, _in the porch of the tent, turns and sees her, and dashes at her with a weapon. Both disappear through the opening, R._)

JUDITH (_moving with stealth towards the hidden knife, comfortingly_). O mighty child, where is thy strength, and where is thy terribleness? Rest thee a moment on the couch, and thy soul’s captive will tend thee.

(Holofernes _drops on the couch, and_ Judith _caresses him_.)

HOLOFERNES (_murmuring_). My great joy has overthrown me.

(Judith, _seizing the knife and leaning over_ Holofernes, _kills him while she is still caressing_.)

JUDITH (_as she uses the knife; murmuring_). Thou that wouldst go against the pleasure of the Most High! Thou that wouldst defile Judea! Thou that hast dishonoured with thy kiss the widow of Manasses! Thou that hast compelled me to guile and deceit and much lying so that I might perform the will of God! The grave shall be thy house!

_Enter_ Haggith, _L_.

JUDITH (_turning to_ Haggith, _firmly and impressively_). I have done that which I had to do, and the power of Assyria is fallen. (_Pointing_.) Take the head by the beard, and put it in thy sack, and let us depart.

CURTAIN.

ACT III

SCENE I

SCENE: _Same as Act I_.

TIME: _A few hours later than Act II, Scene III, the same night. The sole light is that of torches, and watchfires (off)._

_The gatemen are at the gates_.

_There is a knocking on the outside of the gates_.

_Enter First Soldier, running_.

FIRST SOLDIER (_to a gateman, who is climbing up in order to look over the top of the gates_). Look not over, booby. Thy fool’s face might meet the point of an Assyrian spear. (_The gateman slips down quickly_.)

(_Renewed knocking_.)

FIRST SOLDIER (_shouting_). None can enter the city till sunrise. And not then if I like not the aspect of his phiz.

HAGGITH (_off_). It is Haggith, servant of the lady Judith. Open the gates quickly, for I am become a woman of much consequence.

FIRST SOLDIER. Haggith? It is the voice of Haggith; yet it may also be devils. (_To another soldier who has entered_.) Run! Rouse the lord Ozias. (_Exit soldier_.)

HAGGITH. I have water with me. Many gourds! Fresh water! Cool water!

(_The gatemen begin to work the gate-chains_.)

FIRST SOLDIER. What do ye, dogs? Stop, and await the order of the lord Ozias.

GATEMEN (_continuing to work the chains_). Water! Water!

FIRST SOLDIER. Pull, then, dogs. If there is water and it is wet I will taste it. But if there is not water, I will slay the first soul that enters. (_As the gates begin to open a little_.) Hold! No wider!

_Enter_ Haggith _with two gourds_.

(_The gourds are snatched from her, and the men, including the First Soldier, drink_.)

FIRST SOLDIER (_as he drinks_). Yea, it is indeed Haggith. Where is thy mistress, and whence comest thou, my beloved water-carrier, for thou art my beloved? (Haggith _slaps his face_.)

_Enter_ Ozias, _L_.

OZIAS (_furious_). Why are the gates opened? What is this?

FIRST SOLDIER. Haggith, lord, with water that is stronger than wine. (_Handing a gourd to_ Ozias _to soothe him_.)

OZIAS. Where is thy mistress, wench? (_Drinks_.)

HAGGITH (_stiffly_). I am the forerunner of my mistress, who has sent me, and before many hours are passed the lady Judith will come also. (_She goes to the gates and beckons_.)

OZIAS. What art thou doing?

_Enter_ Ingur, _bearing a sack_.

VOICES. An Assyrian! An Assyrian! (_Men spring at_ Ingur.)

HAGGITH. Let him alone; he is my bondman and I have tamed him.

OZIAS. Shut the gates, for I will enquire into this matter.

HAGGITH. There are yet ten other Assyrians outside the gates, carrying gourds for me.

OZIAS. Ten other Assyrians! It is a trick!

HAGGITH (_proudly_). By my command they are chained by their necks, neck to neck. Fetch in the gourds, men, and give the people to drink.

(_The gourds are brought in amid cries and excitement. They are taken off, L_.)

OZIAS. Shut the gates, I say.

FIRST SOLDIER. And the ten Assyrians, great lord?

OZIAS. Let them await my enquiry where they stand.

FIRST SOLDIER. Lord Ozias, if they flee?

HAGGITH. Hold thy mouth, gaby! Wouldst _thou_ flee with thy neck chained to nine necks? Moreover, where will they flee? For the camps of the Assyrians are broken, and in their terrible confusion the Assyrians fall one upon another.

(_The gatemen talk among themselves and stare at the Assyrians outside, who cannot be seen by those within the city. The gates remain open a little_.)

OZIAS (_impatiently_). What is thy tale, Haggith?

HAGGITH. My mistress has slain Holofernes in his tent in the night, and the power of Assyria is undone.

OZIAS (_astounded_). Slain Holofernes! Thou art mad in thy raving.

HAGGITH (_to_ Ingur). Open the mouth of the sack, and let my lord behold the head of Holofernes and see that I am mad. (_To soldier_.) A torch, that the Lord Ozias may discover the manner of my raving.

(Ozias _looks into the sack and sees the head of_ Holofernes.)

OZIAS. Great is the Lord of Israel!

HAGGITH. And my mistress is the right hand of the Lord.

OZIAS. Great is the Lord of Israel!

VOICES (_deeply moved_). His name shall live for ever.

OZIAS. How did thy mistress accomplish this mighty deed?

HAGGITH. AS for that, she will tell it to my lord with her own voice when she shall come. And now will my lord give ear to the commands of the lady Judith, which she doth lay upon my lord by me, Haggith? First, the head of Holofernes shall be set upon a spear on the highest wall in the great square before the temple. So shall all the Israelites know that God yet watcheth over Israel. (_To the soldiers_.) Take the sack and do as my lady hath ordained by me, Haggith.

OZIAS (_to men, who hesitate_). Take the sack. It is my command.

(_Exeunt two men, L., with sack_.)

HAGGITH. Next, ye shall send men for water to the wells beneath the city that all may drink, for already the Assyrians are fled from the wells, knowing that Holofernes is dead. And ye shall send forth all your army into the valley to fall upon the Assyrians, for they are afraid of the judgment of God, and none dare abide in the sight of his neighbour. Neither can they stand against the chosen race of God.

OZIAS (_to First Soldier_). Let every armed man in the city be roused, and publish the order of Ozias that the Captains lead their bands swiftly into the valley by the secret way to fall upon the Assyrians.

(_Exit First Soldier and another, with joyous cries, L_.)

HAGGITH. Thus hath the lady Judith spoken by me, Haggith.

OZIAS. Whither is thy mistress gone, and why does she tarry?

HAGGITH. My mistress is hidden in a sure place in the valley, for there is one among the Assyrians who fears not God. And he is Bagoas, the chief eunuch of Holofernes, and he has sworn an oath to kill my mistress, for that by guile she did cut off the head of Holofernes. And Bagoas searches for my mistress in the folds of the valley. But he will not find her.

OZIAS (_perturbed_). How knowst thou that he will not find her?

HAGGITH. Because the Lord of Israel is a sharp sword and protecteth his servants…. And also because my mistress is most cunningly hidden.

_Enter_ Charmis, _L_.

CHARMIS (_joyously excited_). What is the miracle that I hear, Ozias?

OZIAS (_blandly_). There is no miracle; but that which I had planned with the lady Judith has come to pass. Take women and old men Charmis, and go ye to the wells and bring water to the city, for the wells are delivered into my hands.

CHARMIS (_hesitating_). Women and old men? But the onslaught against the Assyrians of which I hear?

OZIAS (_imperiously_). Go quickly. For who is the governor of this city? Is it thou or is it I?

(_Exit_ Charmis, _L_.)

(_Men and women have gathered joyously in the street_.)

VOICES (_mockingly, indicating_ Ingur, _with a tendency to horseplay_). The Assyrian! The Assyrian!

OZIAS. Take him to the guard-house and chain him to Achior.

HAGGITH. He shall not go, lord Ozias. For as my mistress beguiled Holofernes, so did I beguile Ingur, and he is my slave. But I have not cut off his head, and he is dear to me because I have not cut off his head. And he is mine, and let none touch him (_looking at the soldiers_), or my anger, which is the anger of the lady Judith, shall be upon that man. (_Hearing a noise, she glances at the house_.) What do I see? The sluts are in the tent of my mistress, which is forbidden them. Out, sluts! (_Exit angrily into the house_!)

(Ingur _follows her quickly for protection_.)

_Enter_ Messenger.

OZIAS. And you?

MESSENGER (_saluting_). Do my eyes behold the great lord Ozias, governor of Bethulia?

OZIAS. Your eyes behold him.

MESSENGER. It is not yet dawn, nevertheless the streets of the city are full of a great going and coming, but I found none to lead me to the house of the lord Ozias. Yet when I saw my lord’s visage my heart said: ‘This is he.’

OZIAS. What is your affair with me?

MESSENGER. I am a messenger.

OZIAS (_curtly_). Speak quickly, for the government of this city in this hour is no common matter, and the whole charge of it lies upon me.

MESSENGER. And I am no common messenger. I come with wings through the night from Jerusalem, from Joachim, the high priest.

OZIAS. Ah! (_Changing his tone and beckoning the messenger aside_.) What tidings do you bear?

MESSENGER. I bear the licence from Joachim.

OZIAS. What licence?

MESSENGER. The licence for the people of Bethulia to drink the wine which is sanctified and reserved to the priests which serve the Lord.

OZIAS (_affecting to be puzzled_). Who hath demanded this licence from Joachim?

MESSENGER (_surprised_). The lord Ozias sent a messenger to Jerusalem to beseech that the licence should be granted. And my lord’s messenger travelled so swiftly that in the moment when he reached the temple at Jerusalem he fell sick and vomited, and I have come to Bethulia in his place, for after he had vomited he unfolded to me the secret way into the city.

OZIAS (_grandly_). It is true. In the heavy multitude of my cares I had forgotten this matter of the licence.

MESSENGER (_confidentially_). And Joachim hath bidden me to say privily that if any have already in their extremity drunk of the sanctified wine it shall be denied utterly–for the sake of the church.

OZIAS. Ah!

MESSENGER. And here is the licence. (_Offering it_.)

OZIAS. Friend, keep the licence and render it back to Joachim, the high priest in Jerusalem. For I need it not, and I demanded it only by excess of prudence such as becomes the governor of a city besieged and thirsting. But we Bethulians are a faithful and a constant people, and we have trusted in the Most High. And if perchance any have drunk of the sanctified wine unknown to me (_with a grimace_)–it shall be denied utterly, for the sake of seemliness.

MESSENGER. But in the days of trial to come, will not the lord Ozias have need of the licence?

OZIAS (_grandly_). Friend, return ye to Joachim and say to him that the Lord has delivered Bethulia from the Assyrians by the subtlety of his servant Ozias.

MESSENGER (_amazed_). What says my lord?

OZIAS. Yea, this night the head of Holofernes is set on a spear in the square before the temple, and the Assyrians flee one from another in disorder, and my hosts are about to descend upon them and rend them to pieces where they stand foolishly in the valley.

MESSENGER. But this thing is marvellous beyond the understanding of man!

OZIAS. It is indeed marvellous.

MESSENGER. And when Joachim enquires of me who hath taken Holofernes the great captain to behead him, and by what device, what shall I answer to Joachim?

OZIAS. You will answer that Ozias, knowing the weakness of Holofernes, sent down to him secretly a woman, a certain Judith of Bethulia, and upon the counsel of Ozias the woman by wiles compassed the death of Holofernes as I have told you.

MESSENGER. It is a tale which fathers shall tell to their children, and to their children’s children, and men shall wonder thereat for all time. And now your servant will say to you a thing which has not been told to him but which his ear has heard. It was said among the mighty that if my lord Ozias should save Judea from the heathen, he would receive notable advancement and be raised up among the great ones of the land. (Ozias _bows_.) Yet will Joachim not be astonished, for it was spoken in Jerusalem that among all the Israelites there is none like the lord Ozias for cunning and obstinacy in defence.

OZIAS (_nettled_). Nevertheless it is meet that Joachim should be astonished, for with five thousand have I set at naught one hundred and two and thirty thousand, and in the chronicles of Israel there is written down no deed to match the delivery of Judea from the Assyrians.

MESSENGER. The God of Israel hath saved Israel.

OZIAS. The God of Israel hath save Israel,–by my hand. Go ye, and when you have eaten and drunk, set ye forth again for Jerusalem.

(_The Messenger salutes and exit, L_.)

(_Throughout this scene excited and joyous men and women frequently pass the street in twos and threes_.)

(_Dawn is breaking and the torches begin to pale_.)

_Enter_ Haggith _and_ Ingur _from the house._

OZIAS. Where art thou going?

HAGGITH. Lord Ozias, I came up from the valley to bring water, and to give tidings. Now I go down again to the valley with Ingur and his men to seek out my mistress, and to take new raiment to her, and lead her to the city; for since the Israelites are fallen upon the Assyrians, my mistress is no longer in danger.

_Enter_ Achior.

OZIAS. Slave, who hath dared to loose thee?

ACHIOR. There was none left to guard, and I came forth.

OZIAS (_to a soldier_). Seize this fellow and bind him with fetters.

(_The torches are by this time extinguished_.)

HAGGITH. Lord, it cannot be so. For the lady Judith commanded me to bring Achior also, for her protection, seeing that the youth came from the Assyrians at the bidding of the God of Israel to give comfort to Israel, and for a sign to my mistress.

OZIAS (_after a pause_). I also will go with you, for it is right that the governor should do honour to the lady Judith.

HAGGITH. My mistress commanded me to say to the lord Ozias that he should remain in the city to prepare for her a welcome. (_She points to the gates and_ Achior _gladly moves forward. She takes_ Ingur _by the ear_.) Bestir thy legs, booby!

OZIAS. The subtlety of women is past knowing.

HAGGITH (_at the gates, maliciously_). It may be. But would the lord Ozias invite the displeasure of my mistress? It is day. Let my lord sit in the sun.

CURTAIN.

SCENE II

SCENE: _The same_.

Charmis _is alone at the open gates. Glimpses are caught of the people beyond the gates_.

TIME: _Afternoon of the same day_.

CHABRIS (_entering to_ Charmis, _at the gates_). They say there is now much water in Bethulia.

CHARMIS. Seeing that I have toiled mightily seven hours this day in charge of six score crazy carriers to carry water up from the wells! Would that Ozias had granted me a whip to sharpen their brains! And now Ozias hath left me in charge of the gates.

CHABRIS. Where is Ozias, and what does he do?

CHARMIS. He stands here beyond the gates to receive Judith and the women who have gone forth to meet her.

CHABRIS. What is the deed of Judith? (_The noise of an approaching procession is heard_. Charmis, _ignoring_ Chabris, _goes a little outside the gates to watch._ Chabris _continues in a louder voice_.) The streets of the city are empty. I say the streets of the city are empty.

CHARMIS. Dodderer! The whole city is afoot on the hill-side, and all the Assyrians left alive are fled in panic into the East.

CHABRIS. Then I will return to my house and drink again. No! I will remain, and my eyes shall regard the women, as of old.

_Enter through the gates a procession of women (including_ Rahel), _waving branches. At the end of the procession come_ Haggith _and_ Ingur, _and finally_ Judith, _with_ Achior _on one hand, and_ Ozias _on the other. Townspeople and soldiers, garlanded, follow the procession_.

BALLET.

OZIAS (_to_ Judith). O daughter, blessed be thou above all the women of the earth. Thou art the exaltation of Jerusalem and the great glory of Israel, for the Lord hath directed thee to the cutting off of the head of the chief of our enemies, and thou hast revenged our ruin.

VOICES. So be it.

JUDITH. Holofernes came out of the mountains from the north, and his horsemen covered the hills; and he bragged that he would burn up the borders of Israel, and kill her young men with the sword, and make the virgins as a spoil. But the Almighty Lord hath disappointed the Assyrians by the hand of a woman; and my sandals ravished the eye of Holofernes, and my beauty took his mind prisoner, and the knife passed through his neck. Let all creatures serve the Lord!

VOICES. So be it!

OZIAS. Charmis, I appoint you to lead the people to the Temple, where are the banners of the Assyrians which we have captured this day, and each woman shall take a banner, and all shall return to this place before the house of the Lady Judith.

CHARMIS (_swollen with pride_). I obey, lord Ozias.

(_The procession begins to move away, L_. Haggith _displays her importance and bullies_ Ingur, _who accompanies her_.)

RAHEL (_to_ Chabris). What, grandad! You are abroad once more! (_She takes him with her like a disobedient child_.)

(_Exeunt, processionally, all except_ Judith, Ozias _and_ Achior.)

OZIAS (_to_ Achior). Thou goest not with the people?

JUDITH (_to_ Achior). Stay, I pray you, Achior.

OZIAS (_to_ Judith, _with growing excitement_). I wish to speak privily with the lady Judith, _now_!

JUDITH. Let us speak here.

OZIAS. Shall we not go into your house, you and I?

JUDITH. My house is not ready to receive you, Ozias.

OZIAS. Let it be so. But before Achior I will not speak.

JUDITH. Achior, go into my house, and do honour to my dwelling, and repose in it.

ACHIOR. Gladly, O lady! (_Exit into the house_.)

JUDITH. What is the urgency that oppresses you, Ozias, and why are you troubled in the hour of triumph?

OZIAS (_losing control of himself_). Who is the heathen Achior that you should prefer him and make your mouth sweet to him?

JUDITH. Leave Achior, and let us come at once to the matter that presses.

OZIAS. Oh! I will not speak smoothly for a pretence! Thou knowest that my jealousy smokes against Achior. Yea, and against Holofernes also.

JUDITH. But Holofernes is dead.

OZIAS. Before he went down to his place, didst thou not sin with him?

JUDITH. As the Lord liveth, my countenance deceived him to his destruction, yet did he not shame me.

OZIAS. Blessed be our God!

JUDITH. But how does this matter touch thee, and what is my virtue in thy regard?

OZIAS. Let Holofernes suffice thee, and drive not me also to death with the softness of thy voice. Art thou not aware that the soul of my soul burns for thee and will not wait–the more so since thou hast done a mighty deed and art proved a woman beyond all women?

JUDITH. Nay! I have done naught; but the Lord hath saved Israel by _thy_ hand.

OZIAS. What is this humbleness?

JUDITH. AS I came towards the city with Achior, the messenger from Jerusalem met us in the way, and he was full to bursting of the word of Ozias, and that Ozias had delivered Israel, and that what I did I did by thy device and at thy command. But the messenger in speaking knew not that he spoke to Judith, and I let him go.

OZIAS. Judith—-

JUDITH. Yet it seems to me that thou wast ignorant of all that which I went out to do, and my plan was hidden from thee.

OZIAS (_powerfully persuasive_). Hearken to me, Judith. I swear it was for thee that I boasted. My aim was that thy mighty deed should gain preferment in Jerusalem. But thou art a woman and therefore preferment is not for thee. Yet now by reason of my boasting I shall be greatly advanced and lifted up, and in all Judea there will be none higher than me, and thus wilt thou also be advanced and lifted up.

JUDITH. I desire no preferment.

OZIAS. But I would have it in thy behalf; and my appetite is double. I rage for glory and dominion, and I rage also for thee. And I will offer thee glory and dominion, for I seek these things as a gift to thy beauty. And if I cannot lay them on thy lap my heel shall spurn mankind and I will tread it to dust. My desires are terrible; they will not be withstood; they consume me daily, but daily I am renewed. I am on fire, but by the fierceness of the fire I am strengthened. I was conceived for greatness and my mother bore me for mastery, and the huge earth shall shake with the terror of my commands…. And I am held between thy fingers.

JUDITH. I deny not thy greatness.

OZIAS. Surely thou canst not. For thou too art great. And my greatness yearns to thine.

JUDITH. Wilt thou listen?

OZIAS. I hear.

JUDITH. With this greatness of thine goes deceit and laxity of mind.

OZIAS. Yet when thou didst thy mighty deed didst thou not deceive cruelly?

JUDITH. I deceived not for myself, but for Israel; and my guile was for the glory of God. But thy heart is set only upon advancement and power, which is corruption.

OZIAS. Judith, canst thou not lift thy thoughts beyond good and evil, and canst thou not contemplate the marvellous greatness of man? I will abase myself before none but thee, and in my ear there is no commandment but thine; and all other decrees will I mock. I would have thee in marriage, and I would have no other but thee. Wilt thou take me to thee, and wilt thou yield thyself without fear to the terrible flame of my love? For thus shalt thou fulfil thyself and me. But give heed before thou answerest, and know that if thou turnest from me, I will make all the nations of the earth to tremble with my fury.

JUDITH. Thou art great also in thy loving.

OZIAS. Once thou didst love me.

JUDITH. Nay! I but looked upon thee in kindness. But now I will not go to thee in marriage.

OZIAS (_half admiring_). Thou art not then afraid of my wrath!

JUDITH. I am Judith.

OZIAS (_with a fresh access of violence_). Thou hungerest for Achior. Wouldst thou marry a heathen, thou a Hebrew woman?

JUDITH. And thou, if I had not accomplished the will of the Lord, and if thou hadst been carried to Babylon as thou saidst, wouldst thou not have denied the Most High and gone after other gods? But Achior believeth in our God, and this day will be joined into the house of Israel.

OZIAS (_savagely scornful_). What is Achior but a simpleton!

JUDITH. It may be. But I love him and he shall rule me … for he came hither for a sign from the Lord.

OZIAS (_savagely resentful_). Oh! If I did not love thee, would I not undo thee!

JUDITH. Thou! Thou art Ozias, but I am she who cut off the head of a mightier than thou, even Holofernes in his tent. Go thy ways and fulfil greatness. As for me I will remain obediently in my house, and truth and righteousness shall reign in my house.

(_The procession returns, the women bearing the banners of the Assyrians_. Achior _enters from the house_.)

(Judith _is crowned with olives_.)

JUDITH. And now let the priests and the elders enter with me into my house, and Achior shall follow them, so that he may be received into Israel, and I will be betrothed to him with all the ceremonies of the law, for he came to me as a messenger from God. And when the marriage has been performed, I will submit myself to him as a wife to her husband.

HAGGITH. And let Ingur also be received into Israel, for he has repented of his idolatries. And he shall be my husband, yet shall he not rule me.

OZIAS. Brethren, hearken! This night I go to Jerusalem, for I am called to higher things, because I have delivered Israel. And I shall not return to this little city; but ye will have tidings of me in the years to come, and ye will say proudly to the strangers within your gates: He was a Bethulian and once he ruled over us.

JUDITH. The lord Ozias is called to greatness. Peace go with him.

ALL. So be it.

CURTAIN.