I.
Scene 1: An Apartment in the Royal Palace. An Apartment in the Royal Palace. 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 Summon'd 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 Avoid the couch; come this way; close to me. He sleeps. He hath not moved 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! Leave me! 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. 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? Aye, and he If ever in this wild mysterious woe One sight or sound hath cheered him, it hath been A glance, a word of thine. Alf. He knows me not. Ann. He knows not me. Alfon. I never heard before That 'twas to meet the King yon fatal night-- Knowingly, purposely-- How could he guess That they should meet? What moved him to that thought? Annab. Stranger, although thou be, thou canst but know Prince Julian's father is the regent here, And rules for his young kinsman King Alfonso! Alfon. Aye--Poor Alfonso! Annab. Wherefore 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 sayst, 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 listen'd, 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 burnish'd 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 Might fitly 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, No liveried groom; a slow foot-pacing serf, Brought tidings that the royal two, that morn Left Villa d'Oro. Glowing from the chase Prince Julian stood, the bridle in his hand, New lighted, soothing now his prancing steed. And prattling now to me;-- for I was still So foolish fond to fly into the porch To meet him, when I heard the quick sharp tread Of that bright Arab, whose proud step I knew Even as his master's voice. He heard the tale And instant sprang again into his seat, Wheeled round, and darted off at such a pace As the fleet greyhound, at her speed, could scarce Have matched. He spake no word; but as he passed, Just glanced back at me, with his dancing eyes, And such a smile of joy, and such a wave Of his plumed bonnet! His return thou know'st. Alfon. I was his wretched partner. Annab. He on foot, Thou on the o'er-travelled horse, slow, yet all stained With sweat, and panting, as if fresh 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 sigh'd; And then the frenzy came. Theodore! Alfon. Lady! Annab. He utters nought but madness;--yet sometimes, Athwart his ravings, I have thought--have feared-- Theodore, thou must know the cause? Alfon. Too well. Annab. Oh, tell me-- Alfon. Hush! He wakes. Alfonso retires behind the couch, out of Julian's sight. Annab. Going to Julian, whilst Alfonso keeps behind the couch, out of his sight 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 gently 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 Yes. I'm better. I will rise. Raise me again;--more upright;-- So! Dear wife, A sick man is as wayward as a child; 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 of help Rang in mine ears, and I beheld--O God! It was not--Could not--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. Couldst thou walk to the window and quaff down The fragrant breeze, it would revive thee more Than food or sleep. Forget these evil dreams. Canst thou not walk? Julian. I'll try. Annab. Lean upon me, And Theodore. Approach dear boy; support him. Alfonso approaches Julian Julian. seeing Alfonso Ha! Art thou here? 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. Didst 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. I'll be faithful, I'll never breathe a word. Oh spare my heart This agony of doubt! What was the 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 didst see The deed! An awful 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 awful 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 molten 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 That seemed so terrible! 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 worldsave one. I had been reared. In simpleness; a quiet grave had been A fitter home for me than the rude world; A mossy heap, no stone, no epitaph, Save the brief words of grief and praise (for Grief Is still a Praiser) he perchance had spoke When they first told him the poor boy was dead. 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, Though I have caused this misery. We have shared One care, one fear, one hope, have watched and wept Together. Oh how often I have longed, As we sate silent by his restless couch, To fall upon thy neck and mix our tears, 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. Didst thou-- I would not wantonly recall That scene of anguish--Didst 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 thee, straight o'er vale and 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 through 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 Into his side; then our eyes met, and he-- That was the mortal blow! --screamed and stretched out His hands. Falling and dying as he was, He half rose up, hung speechless in the air, And looked--Oh what had been the bitterest curse To such a look! It smote me like a 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-- Alf. 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 and Annabel go to him, and the scene falls. End of the First Act.