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Magic

Magic
Gilbert Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton

Magic A Fantastic Comedy

NOTE

This play was presented under the management of Kenelm Foss at The Little Theatre, London, on November 7, 1913, with the following cast:

THE PRELUDE

Scene: A plantation of thin young trees, in a misty and rainy twilight; some woodland blossom showing the patches on the earth between the stems.

The Stranger is discovered, a cloaked figure with a pointed hood. His costume might belong to modern or any other time, and the conical hood is so drawn over the head that little can be seen of the face.

A distant voice, a woman's, is heard, half-singing, half-chanting, unintelligible words. The cloaked figure raises its head and listens with interest. The song draws nearer and Patricia Carleon enters. She is dark and slight, and has a dreamy expression. Though she is artistically dressed, her hair is a little wild. She has a broken branch of some flowering tree in her hand. She does not notice the stranger, and though he has watched her with interest, makes no sign. Suddenly she perceives him and starts back.

Patricia. Oh! Who are you?

Stranger. Ah! Who am I? [Commences to mutter to himself, and maps out the ground with his staff.]

I have a hat, but not to wear;
I wear a sword, but not to slay,
And ever in my bag I bear
A pack of cards, but not to play.

Patricia. What are you? What are you saying?

Stranger. It is the language of the fairies, O daughter of Eve.

Patricia. But I never thought fairies were like you. Why, you are taller than I am.

Stranger. We are of such stature as we will. But the elves grow small, not large, when they would mix with mortals.

Patricia. You mean they are beings greater than we are.

Stranger. Daughter of men, if you would see a fairy as he truly is, look for his head above all the stars and his feet amid the floors of the sea. Old women have taught you that the fairies are too small to be seen. But I tell you the fairies are too mighty to be seen. For they are the elder gods before whom the giants were like pigmies. They are the Elemental Spirits, and any one of them is larger than the world. And you look for them in acorns and on toadstools and wonder that you never see them.

Patricia. But you come in the shape and size of a man?

Stranger. Because I would speak with a woman.

Patricia. [Drawing back in awe.] I think you are growing taller as you speak.

    [The scene appears to fade away, and give place to the milieu of Act One, the Duke's drawing-room, an apartment with open French windows or any opening large enough to show a garden and one house fairly near. It is evening, and there is a red lamp lighted in the house beyond. The Rev. Cyril Smith is sitting with hat and umbrella beside him, evidently a visitor. He is a young man with the highest of High Church dog-collars and all the qualities of a restrained fanatic. He is one of the Christian Socialist sort and takes his priesthood seriously. He is an honest man, and not an ass.
    [To him enters Mr. Hastings with papers in his hand.

Hastings. Oh, good evening. You are Mr. Smith. [Pause.] I mean you are the Rector, I think.

Smith. I am the Rector.

Hastings. I am the Duke's secretary. His Grace asks me to say that he hopes to see you very soon; but he is engaged just now with the Doctor.

Smith. Is the Duke ill?

Hastings. [Laughing.] Oh, no; the Doctor has come to ask him to help some cause or other. The Duke is never ill.

Smith. Is the Doctor with him now?

Hastings. Why, strictly speaking, he is not. The Doctor has gone over the road to fetch a paper connected with his proposal. But he hasn't far to go, as you can see. That's his red lamp at the end of his grounds.

Smith. Yes, I know. I am much obliged to you. I will wait as long as is necessary.

Hastings. [Cheerfully.] Oh, it won't be very long.

    [Exit.

    [Enter by the garden doors Dr. Grimthorpe reading an open paper. He is an old-fashioned practitioner, very much of a gentleman and very carefully dressed in a slightly antiquated style. He is about sixty years old and might have been a friend of Huxley's.

Doctor. [Folding up the paper.] I beg your pardon, sir, I did not notice there was anyone here.

Smith. [Amicably.] I beg yours. A new clergyman cannot expect to be expected. I only came to see the Duke about some local affairs.

Doctor. [Smiling.] And so, oddly enough, did I. But I suppose we should both like to get hold of him by a separate ear.

Smith. Oh, there's no disguise as far as I'm concerned. I've joined this league for starting a model public-house in the parish; and in plain words, I've come to ask his Grace for a subscription to it.

Doctor. [Grimly.] And, as it happens, I have joined in the petition against the erection of a model public-house in this parish. The similarity of our position grows with every instant.

Smith. Yes, I think we must have been twins.

Doctor. [More good-humouredly.] Well, what is a model public-house? Do you mean a toy?

Smith. I mean a place where Englishmen can get decent drink and drink it decently. Do you call that a toy?

Doctor. No; I should call that a conjuring trick. Or, in apology to your cloth, I will say a miracle.

Smith. I accept the apology to my cloth. I am doing my duty as a priest. How can the Church have a right to make men fast if she does not allow them to feast?

Doctor. [Bitterly.] And when you have done feasting them, you will send them to me to be cured.

Smith. Yes; and when you've done curing them you'll send them to me to be buried.

Doctor. [After a pause, laughing.] Well, you have all the old doctrines. It is only fair you should have all the old jokes too.

Smith. [Laughing also.] By the way, you call it a conjuring trick that poor people should drink moderately.

Doctor. I call it a chemical discovery that alcohol is not a food.