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A Long Time Ago: A Tragic Fantasy
by [?]



“A Long Time Ago” was first produced by the Provincetown Players,
New York City, in 1917, with the following cast:

The Old Woman ………….. Miriam Kiper
The Fool……………….. Duncan MacDougal
The Queen………………. Ida Rauh
The Sailor……………… George Cram Cook
The Prince……………… Pendleton King

The courtyard of a palace. On one side, broad steps, and a door, leading to the palace. On the other, steps leading downward. At the back, a rose-arbour, and in front of it a wide seat.

On the steps before the door a fool is sitting, plucking at a musical instrument. On the lower steps stands an old woman, richly dressed

Why do you sit there, fool, and twang at that harp? There’s no occasion for making music. Nobody has been winning any battles. How long has it been since a great fight was heard of?

If there had been a battle, old woman, they would
have had to get some one besides myself to celebrate
the winning of it. I do not like fighting.

What does a scrawny little weakling like you know of fighting,
and why should you have an opinion?

The days of fighting are over, and a good thing it is, too. Four kingdoms we have about us, that in the bloody old days we would be for ever marching against, and they against us, killing and burning and destroying the crops till a quiet man would be sick to think of it. But that’s all past. Twenty years we have been at peace with them, and that’s ever since the young queen was born, and I hope it may last as long as she lives.

There’s no stopping a fool when he starts to talk. But it is right you are that the good old days are gone. Those were the days of great heroes, like the father of her that is now Queen. They were fine men that stood beside him, and one was my own man. I said to him, “This is the time a brave man is sure to be killed. If you come back to me, I’ll always think you were a coward.” He died along with a thousand of the best men in the kingdom fighting around the King. That was a great day. Four kingdoms at once we fought, and beat them to their knees. Glad enough they were to make peace with the child of that dead king.

Spare me, woman. I’ve heard that old story often enough. What do you suppose all that fighting was for, if it wasn’t to put an end to quarrelling for all time? If the old King was alive now, he’d sit in his palace and drink his ale and listen to music, and when he saw the young men giving kisses to the young women under the trees he’d be glad enough. But you still go cawing for blood, like an old crow.

I’ll not talk to such a one. You can see with your own eyes that our enemies are strong and prosperous. We let them into the kingdom with their silks and their satins and their jewels to sell. They walk about the city here and laugh to themselves, thinking how they will spoil and destroy everything soon. It may be this year, it may be next year. If the old King were alive, he’d never have let them get half so strong. He would have kept them in fear of us, and trained up a fine band of heroes, too, making raids on them once in a while. There’s the city that shoves itself right up against our borders–I can see our men coming home from the spoiling of it, all red with spilt wine and blood. . . .