Contents I II
V VI VII
audience chamber in the palace of the Emperor—a
spacious, high-ceilinged room with bare, whitewashed walls. The floor is
of white tiles. In the rear, to the left of center, a wide archway
giving out on a portico with white pillars. The palace is evidently
situated on high ground for beyond the portico nothing can be seen but a
vista of distant hills, their summits crowned with thick groves of palm
trees. In the right wall, center, a smaller arched doorway leading to
the living quarters of the palace. The room is bare of furniture with
the exception of one huge chair made of uncut wood which stands at
center, its back to rear. This is very apparently the Emperor's throne.
It is painted a dazzling, eye-smiting scarlet. There is a brilliant
orange cushion on the seat and another smaller one is placed on the
floor to serve as a footstool. Strips of matting, dyed scarlet, lead
from the foot of the throne to the
It is late afternoon but the
sunlight still blazes yellowly beyond the portico and there is an
oppressive burden of exhausting heat
in the air.
As the curtain rises, a native
negro woman sneaks in cautiously from the entrance on the right. She is
very old, dressed in cheap calico, bare-footed, a red bandana
handkerchief covering all but a few stray wisps of white hair. A bundle
bound in colored cloth is carried over her shoulder on a stick. She
hesitates beside the doorway, peering back as if in extreme dread of
being discovered. Then she begins to glide noiselessly, a step at a
time, toward the doorway in the rear. At this moment, Smithers appears
beneath the portico.
Smithers is a tall,
stoop-shouldered man about forty. His bald head, perched on a long neck
with an enormous Adam's apple, looks like an egg. The tropics have
tanned his naturally pasty face with its small, sharp features to a
sickly yellow, and native rum has painted his pointed nose to a
startling red. His little, washy-blue eyes are red-rimmed and dart about
him like a ferret's. His expression is one of unscrupulous meanness,
cowardly and dangerous. He is dressed in a worn riding suit of dirty
white drill, puttees, spurs, and wears a white cork helmet. A cartridge
belt with an automatic revolver is around his waist. He carries a riding
whip in his hand. He sees the woman and stops to watch her suspiciously.
Then, making up his mind, he steps quickly on tiptoe into the room. The
woman, looking back over her shoulder continually, does not see him
until it is too late. When she does Smithers springs
forward and grabs her firmly by the shoulder. She struggles to get away,
fiercely but silently.
his grasp—roughly) Easy! None o' that, me birdie. You can't
wriggle out now I got me 'ooks on yer.
the uselessness of struggling, gives way to frantic terror, and sinks to
the ground, embracing his knees supplicatingly) No tell him! No tell
great curiosity) Tell 'im? (then scornfully) Oh, you mean 'is
bloomin' Majesty. What's the gaime, any 'ow? What you sneakin' away for?
Been stealin' a bit, I s'pose. (He taps her bundle with his riding
her head vehemently) No, me no steal.
liar! But tell me what's up. There's somethin' funny goin' on. I smelled
it in the air first thing I got up this mornin'. You blacks are up to
some devilment. This palace of 'is is like a bleedin' tomb. Where's all
the 'ands? (The woman keeps sullenly silent. Smithers raises his whip
threateningly.) Ow, yer won't, won't yer? I'll show yer what's what.
I tell, Mister. You no hit. They go—all go. (She makes a
sweeping gesture toward the hills in the distance.)
to the 'ills?
Him Emperor—great Father. (She
astonishment giving way to an immense,
touches her forehead
to the floor with a
quick mechanical jerk.) Him sleep after eat. Then they go—all go. Me old woman.
Me left only. Now me go too.
Ow! So that's the
ticket! Well, I know bloody well wot's in the air—when they runs orf to the
'ills. The tom-tom'll be thumping out there bloomin' soon. (with extreme
vindictiveness) And I'm bloody glad of
it, for one! Serve 'im right! Puttin' on airs, the stinkin' nigger! 'Is Majesty!
Gawd blimey! I only 'opes
I'm there when they takes 'im out to shoot 'im. (suddenly) 'E's
still 'ere all right, ain't 'e?
WOMAN—Yes. Him sleep.
to find out soon as wakes up. 'E's cunnin'
enough to know when
'is time's come. (He goes to the
doorway on right and whistles shrilly with his
fingers in his mouth.
The old woman springs to her feet and runs out of the
doorway, rear. Smithers goes after
her, reaching for his revolver.) Stop or I'll
shoot! (then stopping—indifferently)
Pop orf then,
if yer like, yer black
cow. (He stands in the doorway, looking after her.)
(Jones enters from the
right. He is a tall, powerfully-built,
anyone—greatly irritated and blinking
full-blooded negro of
middle age. His features are typically negroid, yet there is something
decidedly distinctive about his face—an underlying strength of
will, a hardy, self-reliant confidence in himself
that inspires respect.
His eyes are alive with a keen, cunning intelligence. In manner he is
shrewd, suspicious, evasive. He wears a light blue uniform coat, sprayed
with brass buttons, heavy gold chevrons on his
shoulders, gold braid
on the collar, cuffs, etc. His pants are bright
red with a light blue
stripe down the side. Patent leather laced boots with brass spurs, and
a belt with a long-barreled, pearl-handled revolver in a holster complete
his makeup. Yet there is something not altogether
ridiculous about his
grandeur. He has a way of carrying
Who dare whistle dat
way in my palace? Who dare wake up de Emperor? I'll git de hide
frayled off some o' you niggers sho'!
himself—in a manner half-afraid
JONES—(putting on his
suavest manner, which fails to
and half-defiant) It
was me whistled to yer. (as Jones frowns angrily) I got news
cover up his contempt
for the white man) Oh, it's you, Mister Smithers. (He sits down on his
throne with easy dignity.) What news you
got to tell me?
close to enjoy his discomfiture)
No. I ain't perceived nothin'
Don't yer notice nothin' funny today?
of de kind!
ain't so foxy as I thought yer was. Where's
where dey mostly runs to minute
all your court? (sarcastically) The Generals and the Cabinet
Ministers and all?
I closes my eyes—drinkin'
rum and talkin' big down in de town. (sarcastically) How
come you don't know dat? Ain't you sousin'
with 'em most
a wink) That's part of
the day's work. I got ter—ain't I—in my business?
enraged) Gawd blimey, you was
JONES—(his hand going
to his revolver like a flash—menacingly)
glad enough for me ter
take yer in on it when you landed here first. You didn' 'ave no 'igh
and mighty airs in them days!
Talk polite, white
man! Talk polite, you heah me! I'm boss heah now, is you fergettin'?
(The Cockney seems
about to challenge this last statement with the facts but
something in the other's eyes holds and cowes him.)
cowardly whine) No 'arm meant, old
JONES—(condescendingly) I accepts
yo' apology. (lets
his hand fall from his revolver) No use'n you rakin' up ole times. What I was den is one
thing. What I is now 's another. You didn't
let me in on yo'
crooked work out o' no kind feelin's dat
time. I done de dirty work fo' you—and most o' de brain work, too,
fo' dat matter—and I was wu'th money to
you, dat's de reason.
blimey, I give yer a start, didn't I—when
JONES—No, you didn't
have no s'cuse to look down on me fo'
no one else would. I
wasn't afraid to 'ire yer like the rest was—'count of the story about
your breakin' jail back in the States.
dat. You been in jail
you'self more'n once.
It's a lie! (then trying
tings I ain't got to be tole. I kin see
to pass it off by an
attempt at scorn) Garn! Who told yer that fairy tale?
'em in folk's eyes. (then after a pause—meditatively) Yes, you
sho' give me a
start. And it didn't take long from dat time to
git dese fool, woods'
niggers right where I wanted dem. (with pride) From stowaway
to Emperor in two years! Dat's goin' some!
curiosity) And I bet you got yer pile
satisfaction) I sho' has! And it's in
o' money 'id safe some
a foreign bank where
no pusson don't ever git it out but me no matter what come. You didn't
I was holdin' down dis
Emperor job for de glory in it, did you? Sho'! De fuss and glory part
of it, dat's only to turn de heads o' de low-flung, bush niggers dat's
here. Dey wants de big circus show for deir money.
I gives it
to 'em an' I gits de
money. (with a grin) De long green, dat's me every time! (then
rebukingly) But you ain't got no kick agin me, Smithers.
I'se paid you back all you done for me many times. Ain't I pertected you
and winked at all de crooked tradin' you been
doin' right out in de
broad day. Sho'. I has—and me makin' laws to stop it at de same
time! (He chuckles.)
But, meanin' no 'arm, you been
dey ain't all dry yet. I'se
grabbin' right and
left yourself, ain't yer? Look at the taxes you've put on 'em! Blimey!
You've squeezed 'em dry!
still heah, ain't I?
his secret thought) They're
JONES—Ain't r de
Emperor? De laws don't go for him. (judicially)
dry right now, you'll
find out. (changing the subject abruptly)
And as for me breakin'
laws, you've broke 'em all yerself just as
fast as yer made 'em.
You heah what I tells
you, Smithers. Dere's little stealin' like you does, and dere's
big stealin' like I
does. For de little stealin' dey gits you in jail soon or late. For de
big stealin' dey makes you Emperor and puts you in de Hall o' Fame
when you croaks. (reminiscently) If dey's
one thing I learns in
ten years on de Pullman ca's listenin' to de white quality talk,
it's dat same fact. And when I gits a chance to use it I winds up
Emperor in two years.
repress the genuine admiration of
Luck? What you mean—luck?
the small fry for the large) Yes, yer turned the bleedin' trick, all fight. Blimey, I
never seen a bloke 'as 'ad the bloomin' luck
you'll say as that swank about the silver
Oh, dat silver bullet! Sho'
bullet ain't luck—and
that was what first got the fool blacks
on yer side the time
of the revolution, wasn't it?
was luck! But I makes
dat luck, you heah? I loads de dice! Yessuh! When dat murderin'
nigger ole Lem hired to kill me takes aim ten feet
away and his gun
misses fire and I shoots him dead, what you heah
yer'd got a charm so's no lead bullet'd
JONES—(proudly) I got
brains and I uses 'em quick.
kill yer. You was so
strong only a silver bullet could kill yer, you told 'em. Blimey,
wasn't that swank for yer—and plain, fat-'eaded
Dat ain't luck.
they wasn't 'ardly likely to get no silver
dere all dem fool, bush niggers
bullets. And it was
luck 'e didn't 'it you that time.
was kneelin' down and
bumpin' deir heads on de ground like I was a miracle out o' de
Bible Oh Lawd, from dat time on I has dem all eatin' out of my hand. I
cracks de whip and dey jumps through.
sniff) Yankee bluff done it.
JONES—Ain't a man's
talkin' big what makes him big-long
as he makes folks
believe it? Sho', I talks large when I ain't got nothin' to back it up,
but I ain't talkin' wild just de same. I knows
I kin fool 'em—I
knows it—and dat's backin' enough fo' my game. And ain't
I got to learn deir lingo and teach some of dem English befo' I
kin talk to 'em? Ain't dat wuk? You ain't never
learned ary word er
it, Smithers, in do ten years you been heah, dough
you' knows it's money
in yo' pocket tradin' wid 'em if you does. But you'se too shiftless
to take de trouble.
Never mind about me. What's this
out my bluff. I has de silver bullet
I've 'eard about yer
really 'avin' a silver bullet moulded for yourself?
moulded and I tells 'em
when do time comes I kills myself wid it.
I tells 'em dat's
'cause I'm de on'y man in de world big enuff to
git me. No use'n deir
tryin'. And dey falls down and bumps deir heads. (He laughs.) I does
dat so's I kin take a walk in peace widout no
jealous nigger gunnin' at me from behind de trees.
Then you 'ad it made—'onest?
JONES—Sho' did. Heah
she he. (He takes out his revolver,
breaks it, and takes
the silver bullet out of one chamber.) Five lead an' dis silver
baby at de last. Don't she shine pretty? (He
holds it in his hand,
looking at it admiringly, as if strangely fascinated.)
SMITHERS—Let me see.
(reaches out his hand for it)
yo' hands whar dey b'long, white
man. (He replaces it
in the chamber and puts the revolver back on his hip.)
Gawd Nimey! Mink I'm a bleedin'
JONES—No, 'tain't dat.
I knows you 'se scared to steal from
thief, you would.
me. On'y I ain't 'lowin'
nary body to touch dis baby. She's my rabbit's foot.
bloomin' charm, wot? (venomously)
Oh, I'se good for six months yit
Well, you'll need all
the bloody charms you 'as before long, s' 'elp me!
'fore dey gits sick o'
my game. Den, when I sees trouble comin', I makes my getaway.
SMITHERS—Ho! You got
it all planned, ain't yer?
JONES—I ain't no
fool. I knows dis Emperor's time is sho't.
Dat why I make hay
when de sun shine. Was you thinkin' I'se aimin' to hold down dis job
for life? No, suh! What good is gittin' money if you stays back in
dis raggedy country? I wants action when I spends.
And when I sees dese
niggers gittin' up deir nerve to tu'n me out, and I'se got all de
money in sight, I resigns on de spot and beats it quick.
JONES—None o' yo'
SMITHERS—Not back to
the bloody States, I'll lay my oath.
Why don't I? (then with an
easy laugh) You mean
'count of dat story 'bout me breakin' from jail back dere? Dat's
SMITHERS—(skeptically) Ho, yes!
ain't 'sinuatin' I'se a liar,
No, Gawd strike me! I was only
come dey're lies?
thinkin' o' the bloody
lies you told the blacks 'ere about killin' white men in the
been in jail, if you 'ad, wouldn't yer
deadliness) You mean lynchin' 'd
then? (with venom) And
from what I've 'eard, it ain't 'ealthy
for a black to kill a
white man in the States. They burns 'em in oil, don't they?
scare me? Well, I
tells you, Smithers, maybe I does kill one white man back dere, Maybe I
does. And maybe I kills another right heah 'fore long if he don't
force a laugh) I was on'y spoofin'
JONES—(in the same
tone—slightly boastful) Maybe
yer. Can't yer take a
joke? And you was just sayin' you'd never ken in jail.
I goes to jail dere
for gettin' in an argument wid razors ovah a crap game. Maybe I gits
twenty years when dat colored man die. Maybe I gits in 'nother
argument wid de prison guard was overseer ovah us
when we're wukin' de
roads. Maybe he hits me wid a whip and I splits
his head wid a shovel
and runs away and files de chain off my leg
and gits away safe.
Maybe I does all dat an' maybe I don't. It's a
story I tells you so's
you knows I'se de kind of man dat if you evah
repeats one words of
it, I ends yo' stealin' on dis yearth mighty
Think I'd peach on yer? Not
relaxing) Sho' you has—and you
me! Ain't I always
been yer friend?
his composure—and with it his
JONES—Go ahead! Shoot
de piece. Must be bad news from de
malice) And just to
show yer I'm yer friend, I'll tell yer that
bit o' news I was goin'
happy way you look.
Maybe it's gettin' time for
What's dat you say? Talk plain.
you to resign—with
that bloomin' silver bullet, wot? (He finishes
with a mocking grin.)
noticed any of the guards or servants about
Dey're all out in de garden sleepin'
the place today, I 'aven't.
under de trees.
When I sleeps, dey
sneaks a sleep, too, and I pretends I never suspicions
it. All I got to do is
to ring de bell and dey come flyin', makin'
a bluff dey was wukin'
all de time.
SMITHERS—(in the same
mocking tone) Ring the bell
alertness, but preserving the same
now an' you'll bloody
well see what I means.
careless tone) Sho' I
rings. (He reaches below the throne and
pulls out a big,
common dinner bell which is painted the same vivid
scarlet as the throne.
He rings this vigorously—then stops
to listen. Then he
goes to both doors, rings again, and looks out.)
him with malicious satisfaction,
JONES—(in a sudden
fit of anger flings the bell clattering
after a pause—mockingly) The bloody ship is sinkin' an' the
bleedin' rats 'as
slung their 'ooks.
into a corner)
Low-flung, woods' niggers!
(then catching Smither's eye on him, he controls
himself and suddenly
bursts into a low chuckling laugh.) Reckon I
overplays my hand dis once! A man can't take
de pot on
a bob-tailed flush all
de time. Was I sayin' I'd sit in six months
mo'? Well, I'se
changed my mind den. I cashes in and resigns de job
of Emperor right dis
admiration) Blimey, but you're
JONES—No use'n fussin'.
When I knows de game's up I kisses
a cool bird, and no
it goodbye widout no
long waits. Dey've all run off to de hills, ain't
bleedin' man jack of 'em.
revolution is at de post. And de Emperor better
git his feet smokin'
up de trail. (He starts for the door in rear.)
SMITHERS—Goin' out to
look for your 'orse? Yer won't find
JONES—(alarmed for a
second, scratches his head, then
any. They steals the 'orses
first thing. Mine was gone when I went
for 'im this mornin'.
That's wot first give me a suspicion of wot
I hoofs it. Feet, do
yo' duty! (He pulls out a gold watch and
looks at it.) Three-thuty. Sundown's at
six-thuty or dereabouts. (Puts his watch back—with
cool confidence) I got
plenty o' time to make it easy.
SMITHERS—Don't be so
bloomin' sure of it. They'll be after
Dat fool no-count nigger! Does
you 'ot and 'eavy. Ole
Lem is at the bottom o' this business an' 'e
'ates you like 'ell. 'E'd
rather do for you than eat 'is dinner, 'e
you think I'se scared
o' him? I stands him on his thick head more'n
once befo' dis, and I
does it again if he come in my way—(fiercely)
And dis time I leave
him a dead nigger fo' sho'!
to cut through the big forest—an'
scorn) Look-a-heah, white man!
these blacks 'ere can
sniff and follow a trail in the dark like 'ounds.
You'd 'ave to 'ustle
to get through that forest in twelve hours even
if you knew all the
bloomin' trails like a native.
Does you think I'se
a natural bo'n fool?
Give me credit fo' havih' some sense, fo' Lawd's
sake! Don't you s'pose
I'se looked ahead and made sho' of all de chances?
I'se gone out in dat
big forest, pretendin' to hunt, so many times
dat I knows it high
an' low like a book. I could go through on dem
trails wid my eyes
shut. (with great contempt) Think dese ig'nerent
bush niggers dat ain't
got brains enuff to know deir own names even
can catch Brutus
Jones? Huh, I
s'pects not! Not on yo'
life! why, man, de white men went after me
wid bloodhounds where
I come from an' I jes' laughs at 'em. It's a
shame to fool dese
black trash around heah, dey're so easy. You watch
me, man'. I'll make
dem look sick, I will. I'll be 'cross de plain
to de edge of de
forest by time dark comes. Once in de woods in de
night, dey got a swell
chance o' findin' dis baby! Dawn tomorrow I'll
be out at de oder side
and on de coast whar dat French gunboat is
stayin'. She picks me
up, take me to the Martinique when she go dar,
and dere I is safe wid
a mighty big bankroll in my jeans. It's easy
as rollin' off a log.
SMITHERS—(maliciously) But s'posin' somethin' 'appens
Dey don't—dat's de answer.
wrong an' they do nab
for argyment's sake—what'd you do?
got five lead bullets in dis
gun good enuff fo'
common bush niggers—and after dat I got de
silver bullet left to
cheat 'em out o' gittin' me.
Ho, I was fergettin' that silver
kin bet yo' whole roll on one
bullet. You'll bump
yourself orf in style, won't yer? Blimey!
thing, white man. Dis
baby plays out his string to de end and when
he quits, he quits wid
a bang de way he ought. Silver bullet ain't
none too good for him
when he go, dat's a fac' I—(then shaking
off his nervousness—with a confident laugh) Sho'! what is I
talkin' about? Ain't
come to dat yit and I never will—not wid
trash niggers like
dese yere. (boastfully) Silver bullet bring
me luck anyway.
I kin outguess,
outrun, outfight, an' outplay de whole lot o' dem
de board any time o'
de day er night! You watch me!
(From the distant
hills comes the faint, steady thump of a tom-tom,
low and vibrating. It
starts at a rate exactly corresponding to normal
to the minute—and
continues at a gradually accelerated rate from
uninterruptedly to the very end of the play. Jones
starts at the sound. A
strange look of apprehension creeps into his
face for a moment as
he listens. Then he asks, with an attempt to
regain his most casual manner.) What's dat drum
SMITHERS—(with a mean
grin) For you. That means the
bleedin' ceremony 'as
started. I've 'eard it before and I knows.
is 'oldin' a bloody meetin', 'avin'
sho' need it!
a war dance, gettin'
their courage worked up b'fore they starts after
there 'oldin' their 'eathen religious
JONES—(a tiny bit
awed and shaken in spite of himself)
service—makin' no end
of devil spells and charms to 'elp 'em against
your silver bullet.
(He guffaws loudly.)
Blimey, but they're balmy as 'ell!
Huh! Takes more'n dat
to scare dis chicken!
the other's feeling—maliciously)
contemptuous sniff) I ain't no chicken-liver
Ternight when it's
pitch black in the forest, they'll 'ave their pet
devils and ghosts 'oundin'
after you. You'll find yer bloody 'air
'll be standin' on end
before termorrow mornin'. (seriously)
It's a bleedin' queer
place, that stinkin' forest, even in daylight.
Yer don't know what
might 'appen in there, it's that rotten still.
Always sends the cold
shivers down my back minute I gets in it.
like you is. Trees an'
me, we' se friends, and dar's a full moon comin'
bring me light. And
let dem po' niggers
make all de fool spells dey'se a min' to. Does
yo' s'pect I'se silly,
enuff to b'lieve in ghosts an' ha'nts an' all
dat ole woman's talk?
G'long, white man! You ain't talkin' to me.
(with a chuckle)
Doesn't you know dey's got to do wid a man
was member in good
standin' o' de Baptist Church? Sho' I was dat when
I was porter on de
Pullmans, befo' I gits into my little trouble.
Let dem try deir
heathen tricks. De Baptist Church done pertect me
and land dem all in
hell. (then with more confident satisfaction)
And I'se got little
silver bullet o' my own, don't forgits.
SMITHERS—Ho! You 'aven't
give much 'eed to your Baptist
pretends to! Sho' I pretends!
Church since you been
down 'ere. I've 'card myself you 'ad turned
yer coat an' was takin'
up with their blarsted witch-docters, or whatever
the 'ell yer calls the
Dat's part o' my game
from de fust. If I finds out dem niggers believes
dat black is white,
den I yells it out louder 'n deir loudest. It
don't git me nothin'
to do missionary work for de Baptist Church.
I'se after de coin,
an' I lays my Jesus on de shelf for de time hem'.
(stops abruptly to
look at his watch—alertly) But I ain't
de time to waste no
more fool talk wid you. I'se gwine away from heah
dis secon'. (He
reaches in under the throne and pulls out an expensive
Panama hat with a
bright multi-colored band and sets it jauntily on
his head.) So long,
white man! (with a grin) See you in
jail sometime, maybe!
SMITHERS—Not me, you
won't. Well, I wouldn't be in yer bloody
JONES—(contemptuously) You're de frightenedest man
boots for no bloomin'
money, but 'ere's wishin' yer luck just the
evah I see! I tells
you I'se safe's 'f I was in New York City. It
takes dem niggers from
now to dark to git up de nerve to start somethin'.
By dat time, I'se got
a head start dey never kotch up wid.
SMITHERS—(maliciously) Give my regards to any ghosts
dat ghost got money, I'll tell
yer meets up with.
him never ha'nt you
less'n he wants to lose it.
Garn! (then curiously)
JONES—I travels light
when I wants to move fast. And I got
Ain't yer takin' no
luggage with yer?
tinned grub buried on
de edge o' de forest. (boastfully) Now
say dat I don't look
ahead an' use my brains! (with a wide, liberal
gesture) I will all
dat's left in de palace to you—and you
better grab all you
kin sneak away wid befo' dey gits here.
Righto—and thanks ter yer.
you think I'd slink out de back door like a common
(as Jones walks toward
the door in rear—cautioningly) Say! Look
'ere, you am't goin' out that way, are
nigger? I'se Emperor yit,
ain't I? And de Emperor Jones leaves de way he comes,
and dat black trash
don't dare stop him—not yit, leastways.
(He stops for a moment
in the doorway, listening to the far-off
but insistent beat of
the tom-tom.) Listen to dat
roll-call, will you? Must be mighty
big drum carry dat
far. (then with a laugh) Well, if dey ain't
no whole brass band to
see me off,
I sho' got de drum
part of it. So long, white man. (He puts his
hands in his pockets
and with studied carelessness, whistling a tune,
he saunters out of the
doorway and off to the left.)
him with a puzzled admiration)
'E's got 'is bloomin'
nerve with 'im, s'elp me! (then angrily)
Ho-the bleedin' nigger—puttin' an 'is bloody airs! I 'opes they
nabs 'im an' gives 'im