02 April 2013

from The Man Born to be King, the twelfth play, The King Comes to his Own (Dorothy L. Sayers)

(A soft knocking on the door)

JOHN: Is that you, Mary?
JOHN: Come in.  My mother will be down in a moment ... How did you find them all at Bethany?
MARY MAGDALEN: With heart and spirit broken.  But a little comforted to know that all of us were safe.  They were dreadfully anxious, thinking you and Peter had been arrested, and wondering what would happen to your mother and Mary Cleophas, and the mother of our dear Lord, left unprotected in Jerusalem.  Martha scolded me terribly for having run off into danger, crying and kissing me all the time, and breaking off every few minutes to fly to the kitchen and cook some little tempting dish or other to comfort us.
JOHN: Dear funny Martha!
MARY MAGDALEN: And when we couldn't eat, exclaiming that she was a wicked woman, and had broken the Sabbath for us, all to no purpose!  And Matthew said without thinking, 'Don't you worry - the Sabbath was made for man -' and that just about finished us.
JOHN: I know.  A familiar word - the echo of a laugh - it is like a stab in the heart.  Yesterday I found a pair of old sandals, moulded by the feet that wore them.  We hid them from Peter.
MARY MAGDALEN: Peter is here with you?
JOHN: Like a sick animal that has crawled home to die.  He can't eat.  He can't sleep.  He can't forgive himself (with passionate self-reproach) It was my fault.  I knew he was frightened, yet I left him alone in the house of Annas.  Dear Lord! was there none of us you could trust for five minutes?
MARY MAGDALEN: Poor Peter!  He takes his failures hard.
JOHN: He calls himself a worse traitor than - I can't speak the name.  It is like poison in me.  I can't say our Master's prayer.  'Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive' - no, it's impossible ... You heard what became of him?
MARY MAGDALEN: Yes.  John, you can't hate him worse than he came to hate himself.  His self-hate murdered him.
JOHN (slowly): If I hate him, I am his murderer too ... Oh, God! there is no end to our sins!  Do we all murder Jesus and one another?
MARY MAGDALEN: John, dear, you don't hate Judas - not really.  You can't bear the idea of hurting him.  You don't understand his sin or his despair, but that's because you've never been truly wicked.  The Master's the only good man I ever met who knew how miserable it felt to be bad.  It was as if he got right inside you, and felt all the horrible things you were doing to yourself ... But I don't suppose Judas ever let him in.  He was too proud.  I think it was harder for him than for people like Matthew and me and that poor robber on the cross.  We know we're so awful anyhow that it's no good pretending we're not, even to ourselves.  So it doesn't matter if other people come in and see what we're like inside.
JOHN: Blessed are the humble, and the wretched and the poor -
MARY MAGDALEN: And the lost sheep and the sinners.  You know, when the Rabbi said that, he really meant it ... Don't fret too much about Peter.  He's not proud.  He'll never go the way of Judas ... Only, don't be soft with him.  The Rabbi wasn't soft - he was sharp and stern and bracing, and never let you pity yourself.  Peter must face what he did, and learn to put it aside and do better next time.
JOHN: What next time?  Our Master is dead.  When you anointed him in the house of Simon the Leper, it was for his burial, as he said.  And here come Mary Cleophas and my mother, bringing the spices that they have prepared ... Mother, Mary Magdalen is here.
SALOME: Good morning, Mary dear.
MARY MAGDALEN: Dear Salome.  Dear Mary Cleophas.
MARY CLEOPHAS: God bless you, Magdalen.  Mary the mother of Jesus sends you her love.
MARY MAGDALEN: How is she, poor lady?
MARY CLEOPHAS: Worn out with grief, but wonderfully brave and calm.  She said very sweetly that she commended her son's body to our love.  And she gave us this to take with us.
MARY MAGDALEN: Oh, but what is it? I never saw such a beautiful casket.  The gold and jewels are fit for a king's treasure.
MARY CLEOPHAS: It came from a king's treasure.  It is King Balthazar's gift of myrrh, that he brought to Jesus at Bethlehem.  It has waited for him three-and-thirty years.
MARY MAGDALEN: It shall lie above his heart where the soldier's spear smote him ... I have brought aloes and cassia ...
SALOME: Palm-wine for the washing; cloves and balm of Gilead ...
MARY CLEOPHAS: Labdanum, camphire, nard, and oil of sandal and cedar.
MARY MAGDALEN: We shall need a basin.
SALOME: Here it is.  And a comb and scissors ... Have we towels enough?
MARY CLEOPHAS: I think so.  And a clean linen garment.  And fresh grave-bands.
MARY MAGDALEN: We shall find those at the sepulchre.  Joseph of Arimathea brought them; a new garment, white as snow; and we dressed our Master in it and swathed the long cloths about him and bound his head with a fine napkin.  The richest nobleman could have no better.
SALOME: Take them, all the same.  It is well to be prepared ... Are the gates of the city open?  Mary, how did you get in?
MARY MAGDALEN: I made a little present to the watchman.  He is expecting us, and will let us out by the postern.
SALOME: Then we had best be starting ...
JOHN: I don't like your going alone.  Hadn't I better come too?
SALOME: No, dear.  We shall be safer without you.  Nobody will interfere with three women bound on an errand of mercy.  Besides, this is a woman's business.
JOHN: I wish there was something I could do.  I feel so helpless and hopeless.
SALOME: It's always so, my son.  Men make a great bustle in life, but women wind the swaddling-bands and the grave-bands for all of them ... Come and see us out, and bar the door after us.
JOHN (meekly): Yes, Mother ... The moon's still up.  You'll be able to find your way.
MARY CLEOPHAS: And the sun will rise soon.  It's close on cock-crow.
JOHN: That's a bad time with Peter.  I must go up to him.
MARY MAGDALEN: That's right, John.  Peter's your job.  Do your best for him.
JOHN: I will, Mary ... (He unbars the door) ... Wait a moment ... All's quiet.  Not a soul in the street ... Go quickly, and God be with you!

(He bars the door again)

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