One-Act Plays
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a play in one-act

by Hortense Flexner

The following one-act play is reprinted from Representative One-Act Plays by American Authors. Ed. Margaret Gardner Mayorga. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1919. It is now in the public domain and may therefore be performed without royalties.



[The main street of Domremy, in front of the shattered church sacred to Jeanne D'Arc. Roofless houses and broken buildings stand huddled in ruins. The place is deserted and silent. From the right comes a peasant girl, Yvonne, finely made and young. She wears a coarse, wool skirt and a gray shawl loosely folded about her shoulders. Taking her way down the sunken street, she pauses before the door of the church and kneels. As she does so, another peasant girl, slight and erect, comes silently from the church. The time is late afternoon in May. The south wind is stirring. Yvonne stands.]

YVONNE: I heard a voice that called across the wind.

THE OTHER: A voice? My thoughts were prayers.
What vision I have seen, no words have said.

YVONNE: The dead! Their souls are strange upon the air,
And cannot find the way to Paradise.
Perhaps they spoke.

THE OTHER: Or cannon far away.

YVONNE: (covering her ears) O, no--

THE OTHER: Alas -- and did you live in Domremy?

YVONNE: Before they came. But now
The great shells have not left a house -- not one.
Even the Church,
Jeanne's church in which she heard the angels speak,
Is broken to the ground--

THE OTHER: Jeanne dwelt once in a prison far from home;
There was a day -- ah well --
She can forego the church.

YVONNE: (with energy) But no! We will rebuild it stone by stone,
There is no villager shall rest
Till it is whole.

THE OTHER: There's better work to do for Jeanne
Than build a church.

YVONNE: And let her think we have forgot again?
Or that we are afraid?

THE OTHER: It was so long ago -- and now --

YVONNE: But Jeanne is Domremy!
We think of her, as if she had not died.
In early Spring
We make a pageant -- every Spring for Jeanne,
To show her as a girl, here where she lived,
And heard the voices first -- a shepherd girl,
In clothes like these, like yours.
I was the Maid last May!

THE OTHER: You Jeanne? And rode a charger too?
In armor like a man's. And were you mocked,
Until you crowned the King that day at Rheims,
Thrown in a cell -- and burned -- all in the play?

YVONNE: You saw it then? Perhaps you lived near by?

THE OTHER: Near by.

YVONNE: And are you coming now to find the things
The soldiers have not battered to a ruin?

THE OTHER: Not I -- no -- no --

YVONNE: (with defiance) Nor I!

THE OTHER: What then? A hidden relic in the church?

YVONNE: I should not seek for that in Domremy.
The one I wore so many years for luck,
About my throat, I gave the lad who played
Jeanne's lover in the fête. (Stolidly)
Relic and lad are buried in a ditch
Beyond Arras -- how should I know?

THE OTHER: And so you came?

YVONNE: I came to pray to Jeanne D'Arc.

THE OTHER: Trudged all the way through blood and mire--

YVONNE: To pray her come again. They say she hears,
When May is young, and that her spirit flies
Close -- close to Domremy when leaves are new,
And tender things are born.

THE OTHER: You'd have her come? Is there not strife enough?
France has good friends, and all the kings are crowned.

YVONNE: Jeanne D'Arc would make an end of war.
She'd stop the guns!
When she was just a girl -- alone and mocked,
She took a sword and flashed it through the land,
Until she pressed the foe upon the sea.
And would she not today?
Shall one love France the less for being safe
In Paradise?

THE OTHER: Poor Jeanne.

YVONNE: (remembering) It was a miracle--

THE OTHER: I do not know.

YVONNE: She was so young, so slight -- but all her soul
Burned as a torch.
A spirit lies in Jeanne to wake the dead.
If she should come, we could not wait and wait,
Gain here, lose there, hide in the trenches, wait,
And drag the war to years.
O, she would show the way!
No girl, this time, but saint she'd draw her sword--

THE OTHER: (sharply) No -- no --

YVONNE: (mocking) Jeanne D'Arc without a sword!

THE OTHER: Without a sword!

YVONNE: It was her strength. She saw it in a dream--

THE OTHER: Jeanne had her soul before she had the sword.

YVONNE: (scornfully) A soul against the guns!

THE OTHER: It is the only thing they may not break.

YVONNE: But who would know Jeanne D'Arc without her sword?

THE OTHER: Hush! She will weep in Paradise for that.

YVONNE: (frightened) I love her--

THE OTHER: She hates her sword!

YVONNE: You dare! She carried it the day
They crowned the King.

THE OTHER: The day she failed! Poor Jeanne! She did not know
A peasant girl must never crown a king,
Nor fight his foes. If she had known--
If she had only known--

YVONNE: (more and more amazed) But Jeanne did know. A spirit showed the way.

THE OTHER: (continuing) She would have struck the King--there as he knelt,
And killed him with her sword. It was her sin
She did not kill the King. He was the foe
Of France--all kings are foes of all the men
They rule. How else should they send men to death
For little things? What that a King can fear
Is worth the death of one--one peasant lad,
Who loves the sky?
Jeanne was no saint--she was a shepherd girl,
Who did not know how things would come to pass.

YVONNE: The voices spoke--

THE OTHER: O yes--the voices. Better had she heard
Her pitying heart--

YVONNE: Jeanne was a soldier maid. Her pitying heart
Was but the girl--

THE OTHER: It was herself--the most of her--the flame!
And it shall lead when she shall come again.

YVONNE: A pitying heart the leader of a host?

THE OTHER: (gladly) Yes--yes. A pitying heart!

YVONNE: (as if humoring one a little mad) And what host then?

THE OTHER: A host of pitying hearts, which kings shall fear,
More than defeat and death.

YVONNE: (making ready to go) It is a dream--as mine--a dream.

THE OTHER: The voices were not more.

YVONNE: If that were true, Jeanne would be here today,
And my prayer heard.

THE OTHER: (continuing in exaltation) An army kings shall fear,
A silent host,
Mourning at broken hearthstones in all lands,
Hating one thing--a hate that makes them kin,
Stronger than blood and bone--the hate of death.
Which is their love of life.
These Jeanne shall lead, the brooding ones who give
In grief and tears, knowing so well the end,
The raw earth mound that's left, where kings have passed.
These Jeanne shall find--

YVONNE: (stirred) Women--women of France.

THE OTHER: Women of all the earth shall be Jeanne's strength.
And she shall go to them,
In peasant clothes--a maid!
And where she finds a woman at her toil,
She'll stop and say,
"Would you have back your dead?"
And by their answer they shall follow Jeanne,
Until her army, swelling like a flood,
Pours down the earth undammed.
What can the kings build up against this tide,
The woe and rage, impatience and despair
Of all the witheld women of all years,
Borne down on them at last?
What can they do, if men no longer mad,
But grim with agony and blood and death,
Leap from the trenches, break the mighty guns,
And with the women turn their faces home?
O, in that hour the puny kings shall see
As some great mountain blotting out the sun,
The shadow of our wrath,
And know defeat--all kings alike--
But people shall be free!

YVONNE: (rapt) Jeanne and the women -- when?

THE OTHER: She was a peasant girl--

YVONNE: (looking down at her wooden shoes) A peasant girl!
(As she lifts her eyes, she is alone. With terror.) Voices!
It was the Maid herself.
I am afraid.

[She kneels upon the stone step of the church, in the crack of which, strangely, a lily is growing.]


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