Act 1:
Scene 1: An Elegant apartment in the royal palace. The windows opening on a Balcony, adorned with flowers. Julian sleeping on a couch--Annabel Annab. No, still he sleeps-- 'Twas but the myrtle bud Tapping against the casement, as the wind Stirred in the leafy branches. Well he loved That pleasant bird-like sound, which, as a voice Summoned us forth into the fresher air Of eve, or early morn. Ah! when again-- And yet his sleep is hopeful. For seven nights He had not tasted slumber. Who comes here? Enter Alfonso, (as Theodore) The gentle page! Alas! To wake him now! Hush, Theodore! Tread softly--softlier, boy! Alfon- Doth he still sleep? Annab. Speak lower. Alfon Doth he sleep? Annab Come this way, Theodore! Here, close to me He sleeps. He hath not mov'd in all the hours That thou hast been away. Alfon. Then we may hope, Dear lady, we may hope! Annab. Alas! Alas! See how he lies, scarce breathing. Whilst I hung Over his couch, I should have thought him dead, but for his short and frequent sighs. Alfon Ah me! Not even in slumber can he lose the sense Of that deep misery. And I--he wakes! Dost thou not see the quivering mantle heave With sudden motion? Annab. Thou hast wakened him. Thy clamorous grief hath roused him. Hence! begone! Alfon. And yet his eyes are closed. He sleeps. He did but move his hand. Annab. How changed he is! How pale! how wasted! Can one little week Of pain and sickness so have faded thee, My princely Julian! But eight days ago There lived not in this gladsome Sicily So glad a spirit. Voice, and step, and eye, All were one happiness, till that dread hour, When, drest in sparkling smiles, radiant and glowing, With tender thoughts, he flew to meet the King And his great father. He went forth alone, Frenzy and grief came back with him. Annab. Alf. And I, Another grief. Annab. Thou wast a comforter. All stranger as thou art, hast thou not shared My watch as carefully, as faithfully, As I had been thy sister? Alfon. I never heard before That 'twas to meet the king that fatal night, Knowingly, purposely! How could he guess That they should meet? What moved him to that thought? Annab. Stranger, altho' thou be, thou can'st but know Prince Julian's father is the regent here, And rules for his young kinsman, King Alfonso. Alfon. Aye!-- for Alfonso? Annab. Where pity him? Alfon. I know not; but I am an Orphan too. I interrupt thee, Lady. Annab. Yet, in truth, A gentle pity lingers round the name Of King Alfonso, orphaned, as thou say'st, And drooping into sickness, when he lost His father--Ever since, the mournful boy Hath dwelt in the Villa d'Oro. Alf. Hast thou seen him? Annab. The King? No-- I'm of Naples. When Prince Julian First brought me here, a bride, his royal cousin Was fixed beside his father's dying bed. I never saw him, yet I know him well, For I have sate, and listened hour by hour, To hear my husband speak of the fair prince And his excelling virtues. Alf. Did he? Ah! But 'twas his wont, talking of those he loved, To gild them with the rich, and burnished glow Of his own brightness, as the evening sun Decks all the clouds in glory. Annab. Very dear Was that young boy to Julian--'twas a friendship Fonder than common, blended with a kind Protecting tenderness; such as brother Mightly shew unto the younger born. Alfon. Oh! he hath proved it. Annab. Thou dost know them both? Alfon. I do. Say on, dear Lady. Annab. Three weeks since, The Duke of Melfi went to bring his ward Here to Messina. Alfon. To be crowned. They came not But wherefore went Prince Julian forth to meet them? Annab. Father nor cousin came, nor Messenger From Regent or from King; and Julian chafed, And fretted at delay. At length, a peasant Brought tidings that the royal two that morn Left Villa d'Oro. Glowing from the chace, Prince Julian stood, the bridle in his hand, New lighted, soothing now his prancing steed. And prattling now to me. He heard the tale, And instant sprang again into his seat, He spake no word; but, as he passed, Just glanced back at me, with his gladsome eyes, And such a smile of joy, and such a wave Of his plumed bonnet--His return thou know'st. Alfon. I was its wretched partner. Annab. He on foot, Thou on the o'er travell'd horse; slow, yet all stained With sweat, and panting, as if escaped From hot pursuit; and how he called for wine For his poor Theodore, his faithful page! Then sate him down, and shook with the cold fit Of anguish fever, till the strong couch rocked Like a child's cradle. There he sate and sighed, And then the frenzy came. Theodore! Alfon. Lady! Annab. He utters nought but madness; yet sometimes, Athwart his ravings, I have thought--I have feared-- Theodore, thou must know the cause Alfon. Too well. Annab. Oh, tell me. Alfon. Hush! he wakes! Annab. Julian! dear Julian! Julian Sure I have slept a long, long while! Where am I? How came I hither? Whose kind hand is this? My Annabel! Annab. Oh, what a happiness To see thee wake from gentle sleep! Art thou not better? Shall I raise thee up? Julian Aye, dearest. Have I, then been ill? I'm weak, I trouble thee, my sweet one. Annab. 'Tis a joy To minister unto thee. Julian Wipe my brow, And part these locks, that the fresh air may cool My forehead--Feel, it burns. Annab. Alas! how wild This long neglect hath made thy glossy curls! How tangled! Julian I am faint. Pray lay me down. Surely the day is stifling Annab. There.--Good boy. Throw wide the casement. Doth not the soft breeze Revive thee? Julian I am better. I will rise. So, dear wife, A sick man is as wayward as a child; Forgive me. I have I been long ill. Annab. A week. Julian I have no memory of aught. 'Tis just Like waking from a dream, a horrible Confusion of strange miseries, crime and blood, And all I love.-- Great heaven, how clear it seems! How like a truth! I thought that I rode forth On my white Barbary horse. Say, did I ride Alone that day? Annab. Yes. Julian. Did I? Could I? No. Thou dost mistake. I did not. Yet, 'tis strange How plain that horror lives within my brain, As what hath been. Annab. Forget it. Julian. Annabel, I thought I was upon that gallant steed At his full pace. Like clouds before the wind We flew, as easily as the strong bird That soars nearest the sun, till, in a pass, Between the mountains, screams and cries for help Rang in mine ears, and I beheld--O heav'n! It was not--could not--no! no! I have been sick Of a sharp fever, and delirium shews, And to the bodily sense makes palpable Unreal forms, objects of sight and sound, Which have no being, save in the burning brain Of the poor sufferer. Why should it shake me? Annab. Could'st thou walk to the window, and quaff down The fragrant breeze, it would revive thee more Than food or sleep. Forget these evil dreams. Can'st thou not walk? Julian. I'll try. Annab. Lean upon me, And Theodore. Approach dear boy; support him. Alfonso approaches Julian Julian. Eyeing him Ha! art thou there? Thou? I am blinded. dazzled. Is this a vision? this fair shape, that seems A living child? Do I dream now? Annab. He is Young Theodore, the page, who that sad night Returned. Julian. Then, all is real. Lay me down, That I may die Alfon. Alas! I feared too surely That when he saw me,-- Annab. Julian! This is grief Not sickness, Julian! Alfon. Rouse him not, dear Lady! See how his hands are clenched!--Waken him not To frenzy! Oh, that I alone could bear This weight of misery! Annab. He knows the cause, And I-- It is my right, my privilege To share thy woes, to soothe them. I'll weep with thee, And that will be a comfort. Did'st thou think Thou could'st be dearer to me than before, When thou wast well and happy? But thou art Now. Tell me this secret. Oh, spare my heart I'll be faithful, I'll never breathe a word.--Oh, spare my heart This agony of doubt! What was the horror horror That maddened thee? Julian. Within the rifted rocks Of high Albano, rotting in a glen, Dark, dark at very noon, a father lies Murdered by his own son. Annab. And thou did'st see The deed! An aweful sight to one so good! Yet-- Julian. Birds obscene, and wolf, and ravening fox, Ere this-- only the dark hairs on the ground. And the brown crusted blood! And she can ask Why I am mad! Annab. Oh! a thrice aweful night To one so duteous! Holy priests should lave With blessed water that foul spot, and thou, Pious and pitying, thou shalt-- Julian. Hear at once, Innocent torturer; that, drop by drop, Pour'st moulten lead into my wounds, that glen-- Hang not upon me--In that darksome glen My father lies. I am a murderer! A parricide! Accurst of god and man! Let go my hand. Purest and whitest saint, Let go. Annab. This is a madness. Even now The fever shakes him. Julian. Why, the mad are happy. Annabel, this is a soul-slaying truth. There stands a witness. Alfon. Julian knew him not. It was to save a life, a worthless life! Oh, that I had but died beneath the sword Which seemed to tremble! That I had ne'er Been born to grieve thee, Julian! Pardon me, Dear Lady, pardon me! Annab. Oh, gentle boy, How shall we soothe this grief? Alfon. Alas, alas! Why did he rescue me? I'm a poor orphan; None would have wept for me. I had no friend In all the world, but one.. Shame on me, that I shunned the sword. Julian. By heaven It could not be a crime to save thee! Kneel Before him, Annabel. He is the King. Annab. Alfonso! Alfon. Aye, so please you, fairest Cousin, But still your servant. Do not hate me, lady, Tho' I have caused this misery. We have shared One care, one fear, one hope; have watched & wept Together! Oh, how often I have longed, As we sate silent by his restless couch, To fall upon thy neck, and mix our fearstears, And talk of him. I am his own poor Cousin. Thou wilt not hate me. Annab. Save that lost one, who Could hate such innocence? Julian. 'Twas not in hate, But wild ambition. No ignoble sin Dwelt in his breast. Ambition, mad ambition, That was his idol. To that bloody god He offered up the milk white sacrifice, The pure, unspotted victim. And even then, Even in the crime, without a breathing space For penitence, or prayer, my sword--Alfonso, Thou would'st have gone to heaven. Annab. Art thou certain That he is dead? Julian. I saw him fall. The ground Was covered with his blood. Annab. Tell me the tale. Did'st thou-- I would not wantonly recall That scene of anguish. Did'st thou search his wound? Julian. Annabel, in my eyes that scene will dwell For ever, shutting out all lovely sights, Even thee, my Beautiful! That torturing thought Will burn, a living fire within my breast, Perpetually; words can nothing add, And nothing take away. Fear not my frenzy; I am calm now. Thou know'st how buoyantly I darted from the straight, o'er vale & hill, Counting the miles by minutes. At the pass Between the Albano mountains, I first breathed A moment my hot steed, expecting still To see the royal escort. Afar off, As I stood, shading with my hand my eyes, I thought I saw them; when, at once, I heard From the deep glen, east of the pass, loud cries Of mortal terror. Even in agony I knew the voice, and darting thro' the trees. I saw Alfonso, prostrate on the ground, Clinging around the knees of one, who held A dagger over him, in act to strike, Yet, with averted head, as if he feared To see his innocent victim. His own face Was hidden. till at one spring I plunged my sword, Here, here, he died. Annab. And thou-- Julian. I could have lain In that dark glen for ever; but there stood The dear-bought and the dear kinsman and prince And friend. We heard the far-off clang of steeds And armed men, and fearing some new foe, Came homeward. Annab. And did he, then, the unhappy, Remain upon the ground? Julisn. Alas! he did. Annab. Oh! it was but a swoon. Listen, dear Julian, I tell thee, I have comfort. Julian. There is none Left in the world. But I will listen to thee, My faithfullest. Annab. Count D'Alba sent to crave An audience. Thou wast sleeping. I refused To see him; but his messenger revealed To Constance his high tidings, which she poured In my unwilling ears; for I so feared To wake thee, that ere half her tale was told I chid her from me. Yet she surely said The Duke, thy father-- Julian. What? Annab. Approached the city. Julian. Alive? Alive? Oh! no! no! no! Dead! Dead! The corse! the clay cold corse! Annab. Alive, I think; But Constance-- Julian. He will sink under this shock Of hope. Annab. Constance heard all. Julian. Constance! What ho! Constance! Annab. She hears thee not. Julian. Go seek her,--fly! If he's alive, why art thou not returned? When that one little word will save two souls? Exit Annabel. Alfon. Take patience, dearest cousin. Julian. Do I not stand Here, like a man of marble? Do I stir? She creeps; she creeps. Thou would'st have gone and back In half the time. Alfon. Nay, nay, 'tis scarce a minute. Julian. Thou may'st count hours and ages on my heart.-- Is she not coming? Alfon. Shall I seek her? Julian. Hark! They've met. There are two steps; two silken gowns Rustling, one whispering voice. Annabel! Constance! Is he--one word!--Only one word! Enter Annabel. Annab. He lives! Julian sinks on his knees before the couch. Alfonso & Annabel go to h im. Scene drops. End of the First Act.