A splendid Hall of Audience in the royal Palace,
D'Alba and Bertone, entering.
Again refuse to see me!
Nay, my lord,
She's still beside her husband's couch, and Paolo
Refused to bear the message.
Even her lacquey
Reads my hot love, and her contempt! No matter.
He'll live! He'll live!
She watches over him, making an air
With her sweet breath. He'll be immortal! Yet
If that dark tale be true, or half. Bertone,
Haste to the court of guard. Seek Juan Castro,
A Spanish soldier. Lead him home. I'll join ye.
Hence! I expect the Barons, whom I summoned
To meet me here. Come back! See if the Princess
Will now admit me. No!--'Twould wake suspicion.
Hence to the Court of Guard!
I think that scorn
Doth fan love more than beauty. Twice to-day
Have I paced patiently these royal halls,
Like some expecting needy courtier. Swell not,
Proud charmer, thy vast debt! Where lag these Barons?
Methinks this change might rouse--
Enter Calvi, followed by other Lords.
Ha, Calvi! Welcome.
A fair good morrow, D'Alba.
Hast thou heard
These heavy tidings? The young king.
Meeting the other lords, as they drop in
Good morrow's out of date! Know ye the
And Melfi, King?
Giving a Letter Aye, here's a letter from the great regent.--
Pshaw! How my rude tongue
Stumbles at these new dignities! The King.
Therefore I summoned ye. He will be here
Enter Valore and other Nobles.
Valore, thou art late.
Puts lead into men's heels. How fell it?
Count Calvi! Read!
He hath been wounded!
He's alive. The boy only,
Only the pretty boy! Read on. Read on!
Alfonso being dead, and I hurt almost to death, they left me fainting on the ground, where I lay, till a poor, but honest, muleteer bore me to his hut.---
How proudly he will wear his state. Why, D'Alba,
Thy worshipped Annabel chose well. She'll be
Yet my poor title, had she graced it,
Comes by unquestioned sheer descent, unstained
By dark, mysterious murder. My good Fathers,--
Heaven rest their souls! lie safely in the churchyard,
A simple race! Whilst these high princes--Sirs,
These palace walls have echoes, or I'd tell ye,--
'Tis a deep riddle--but amongst them all
The pretty boy is dead.
The King is at the gate.
The King! Now, Sirs,
Don your quick smiles, and bend your supple
He's pale,--he hath been hurt.aloud My liege,
Your vassals bid you welcome.
I greet you well. Thanks, D'Alba. Good Leanti
I joy to see those reverend locks. I never
Thought to behold a friendly face again.
And now I bring ye sorrow. Death hath been
Too busy, tho' the ripe and bearded ear
Escaped his sickle--but ye know the tale;
Ye welcomed me as King, and I am spared
The painful repetition.
Sire, we know,
From your own royal hand enough for joy
And sorrow. Death hath ta'en a goodly boy,
And spared a glorious man. But how--
What wouldst thou more? Before I entered here,
Messina's general voice had hailed her Sovereign,
Lacks but the ceremonial form. 'Twere best
Th' accustomed pageant were performed even
Whilst ye, Sicilian Barons, strength & grace
Of our Sicilian realm, are here to pledge
Solemn allegiance. Say I sooth, Count D'Alba?
In sooth my liege, I know not. Seems to me
One form is wanting. Our bereaved state
Stands like a widow, one eye dropping tears,
For her lost lord, the other turned with smiles
On her new bridegroom. But even she, the Dame
Of Ephesus, the buxom relict, famed
For quick dispatch o'er every widowed mate,
Woman or state, even she, before she wed,
Saw the good man entombed. The funeral first,
And then the coronation!
The corse is missing.
Ha! perchance he lives.
He fell, I tell thee.
And the Assassin is?--
When I, too, fell.
He! Why, my liege,
Was there but one?
What mean ye, Sirs? Stand off!
Cannot your Highness guess the murderer?
Stand from about me, Lords! Dare ye to front
A King? What d'ye doubt me, you, or you?
Dare ye to doubt me? Dare ye look a question
Into mine eyes? Take thy gaze off! A king
Demands a modester regard. Now, Sirs,
What do ye seek? I tell ye, the fair boy
Fell underneath the Assassin's sword, and I,
Wounded almost to death, am saved to prove
My subjects' faith, to punish, to reward,
To reign, I tell ye, nobles. Now, who questions?
Who glares upon me now? What, are ye mute?
Deign to receive our homage, Sire, and pardon
The undesigned offence. Your highness knows
Count D'Alba's mood.
And he knows mine. Well! Well!
Be all these heats forgotten.
A pause, during which, Melfi looks round the circle
How his eye
Wanders around the circle!
Ye are met,
Barons of Sicily, in such august
And full assemblage, as may well beseem
Your office; honour well yourselves and me;
Yet one is missing,--greatest, first and best,--
My son. Knows not Prince Julian, that his father
Is here? Will he not come? Go, some one say
That I would see him.
Sire, the Prince hath lain
Sick of a desperate malady.
And I--sick, did'st thou say?
Eight days have passed
Since he hath left his couch.
He's better now.
The gentle princess, who, with one young page
Hath tended him--
A stranger boy,
Seen but of few, young Theodore.
Say on. The princess--
As I crossed the hall,
I met her with her own glad step, her look
Of joy, and when I asked how fared prince
She put her white hands into mine, with such
A smile, and then passed on--
Without a word?
Without a word, save the mute eloquence
Of that bright smile.
Oh! 'twas enough! On him!
Smile on that dotard! Whilst I. aloud Why, my lords,
Here's a fine natural sympathy, the son
Sickens at the father's wound! The very day,--
The very hour. He must have known the deed;
Perchance, he knows the Assassin.
I speak it in his honor. Many an heir
Had been right glad to step into a throne
Just as the mounting pulse of youth beat high.
A soldier, too! And with a bride so fair,
So delicate, so fashioned for a Queen
By cunning nature. But he--for full surely
Stop--no, no, no--he knew it not!
He is my son!
Enter Calvi, follow'd by Julian.
My liege, the
Pardon me, good my lords, that I request
A moment's loneliness. We have been near
To death since last--Have touched upon the grave--
And there are thoughts, which only our own hearts
Should hear. I pray ye, pardon me. I'll join ye
Within the hour for the procession.
Exeunt D'Alba, Leanti, Valore, Calvi &c.
Approach! Come nearer! Speak to me!
Has he forgot to call me father?
I know what thou would'st say
What would'st thou? Thou didst summon me.
Thou hast been ill.
Fie! when thou shakest so.
I'm well. Call not these thoughts again--I have been
Sick, brainsick, heartsick, mad! But that is past!
It was a foretaste of the pains of hell
To be so mad, and yet retain the sense
Of that, which made me so. But all is past,
Is it not, father? Ne'er to live again,
Even in a dream. Is it not past?
Thou hast not told me of thy wife. They say
She has been a constant nurse to thee.
She, and one other--Oh that I might tell
The story of their goodness! She attends
To pay her duty.
Stay! Count D'Alba looked
With evil eyes upon thee, and on me
Cast his accustomed tauntings. Is there aught
Amiss between ye?
He hath not yet
Perhaps forgotten your long rivalry
For Annabel's fair hand. A dangerous meaning
Lived in those bitter gibes; a dangerous foe
Were D'Alba. Julian, the sea-breeze to thee
Brings health and strength and joy. I have an errand
As far as Madrid. None so well as thou
Can bid it speed. There shalt away to-day.
Tis thy best medicine--Thou and thy young wife--
The wind is fair.
Have I not said?
Send me, just risen from a sick couch, to Madrid!
Lead me from home, from thee! Banish me! Father,
Can'st thou not bear my sight?
I cannot bear
Contention. Must I needs remind thee, Julian,
I have also been ill?
I'll go to-day.
How pale he is. I had not dared before
To look upon his face. I'll go to-day.
This very hour?
This very hour.
Now call thy--Yet a moment--Where's the boy?
He shall aboard with thee--thy pretty page!
The king! Mean'st thou the king?
He, whom thou call'st--
Wilt thou not say the king?
Harken, prince Julian. I am glad, right glad,
Of what hath chanced. 'Twas well to bring him hither
And keep him at thy side. He shall away
To Spain with thee, that Theodore--Forget
All other titles. He'll be glad of this.
A favorite page, a spoilt & petted boy
To lie in summer gardens, in the shade
Of orange groves, whose pearly blossoms fall
Amidst his clustering curls, and to his lute
Sing tenderest ditties--such his happy lot.
Whilst I--go, bring thy wife.
He is the king.
Call lady Annabel.
The king, I say!
The rightful king! The only king! I'll shed
The last drop in my veins for king Alfonso!
Once I forgave thee. But to beard me thus,
And for a weak, and peevish youth, a faintling,
A boy of a girl's temper, one who shrinks
Trembling and crouching at a look, a word,
A lifted finger, like a beaten hound!
Alas! poor boy, he hath no other friend,
Since thou, who should'st defend him,--Father! Father!
Three months have scarcely passed since thy dear brother,
(Oh, surely thou loved'st him!) with the last words
He ever spake, besought thy guardian care
Of his fair child. Next upon me he turned,
His dying eyes, quite speechless then, and thou,
I could not speak, for poor Alfonso threw
Himself upon my breast with such a
Of natural grief, I had no utterance--
But thou didst vow for both protection, faith
Allegiance; thou did'st swear so fervently,
So deeply, that the Spirit flew to heaven
Smiling--I'll keep that oath.
Even if again--
Urge not that thought upon me. 'Tis a fire
Here in my heart; my brain. Bethink thee, father,
Soldier, Statesman, thine is the first name
Of Sicily, the General, Regent, Prince,
The unmatched in power, the unapproached in fame,--
What could that little word a king do more
That little word! Why that is fame,
And power, and glory! That shall fill the world
Lend a whole age its name, and float along
The Stream of Time with such a buoyancy,
As shall endure when palaces and tombs
Are swept away like dust. That little word!
Beshrew thy womanish heart, that cannot feel
Hark! Hark! The Guns! I feel it now
I am proclaimed. Before I entered here,
'Twas known throughout the City that I lived,
And the boy-king was dead. Hark! King Rugiero.
Dost hear the bells, the shouts? Oh, 'tis a
And glorious feeling thus at once to live
Within a thousand bounding hearts, to hear
The strong out-gushing of that present fame,
For whose uncertain dim futurity
Men toil, and slay, and die! Without a crime--
I thank thee still for that--without a crime,--
For he'll be happier,--I am a king!
Dost thou not hear, Long live the King, Rugeiro!
The shout is weak.
Augment it by thy voice.
Would the words choake Prince Julian? Cannot he
Wish long life to his father?
Live, my father!
Long live the Duke of Melfi!
Live the King!
Long live the king, Alfonso!
Now, by heaven,
Thou art still brainsick. There is a contagion
In the soft dreamy nature of that child,
That thou, a soldier--I was over proud
Of thee, and thy young fame, that lofty brow
Seemed made to wear a crown. Chiefly for thee--
Where is the page?
Oh father, once
Take pity on us all! For me! For me!
Thou hast always been to me the kindest, fondest,--
Preventing all my wishes-- I'll not reason,
I'll not contend with thee. Here at thy feet
Prostrate in spirit, as in form I cry
For mercy! Save me from despair, from sin!
Make known these missives to our loyal people. We shall follow them straight. From your loving cousin,
rise! Lest in that slavish posture
I treat thee as a slave.
Smite an thou wilt,
Thy words strike deeper, to the very core.
Smite an thou wilt, but hear me. Oh my father,
I do conjure thee by that name, by all
The boundless love it guerdons, spare my soul
Aye, reign, indeed!
Reign over mightier realms! Be conqueror
Of crowned passions! King of thy own mind!
I've ever loved thee as a son,--Do this,
And I shall worship thee. I will cling to thee!
Thou shalt not shake me off!
Go to--Thou'rt mad!
Not yet; but thou may'st make me so.
I'll make thee
The heir of a fair crown.
Not all the power
Of all the earth can force upon my brow
That heritage of guilt. Cannot I die?
But that were happiness! I'd make thee
A weary life, beneath the silent rule
Of the stern Trappist, digging my own grave;
Myself a living corse cut off from the sweet,
And natural kindness that man shews to man,
I'd rather hang, a hermit, on the steep
Of horrid Ætna, between snow and fire,
Rather than sit, a crowned and honoured prince,
Guarded by children, tributaries, friends,
On an Usurper's throne.
Shouts and guns without
I must away.
We'll talk of this anon. Where is the
Trifle not with my impatience, Julian.
Produce the child. However thou may deny
Allegiance to the king, obey thy father.
I had a father.
But he gave up
Faith, loyalty, & honor, and pure fame,
And his own son.
I loved him once
And dearly. Still too dearly! But with all
That burning, aching, passionate old love
Wrestling within my breast, even face to face,
Those eyes upon me, and that trembling hand
Thrilling my very heartstrings--Take it off,
In mercy, take it off! Still I renounce thee,
Thou hast no son--I have no father. Go
Down to a childless grave.
Even from the grave
A father's curse may reach thee, clinging to thee,
Cold as a dead man's shroud, shadowing thy days,
Haunting thy dreams, and hanging, a thick
'Twixt thee and heaven. Then when, perchance thine own
Small prattling pretty ones shall climb thy knee,
And bid thee bless them, think of thy dead father,
And groan, as thou dost now.
Hark! 'tis the hour
I must away. Back to thy chamber, son,
And chuse if I shall curse thee.
after a pause
Did he curse me?
Did he? Am I that withered, blasted wretch?
Is that the fire that burns my brain? not yet,--
Oh, do not curse me yet--He's gone. The boy!
End of Act 2 d.