II.
Scene 1 A splendid Hall of Audience in the Royal Palace. D'Alba and Bertone. D'Alba. Again refuse to see me! Bert. Nay, my lord, She's still beside her husband's couch, and Paolo Refused to bear the message. D'Alba. Even her lacquey Reads my hot love and her contempt. No matter! How's Julian? Bert. Mending fast. D'Alba. 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 Exit Bertone 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 Nobles. Ha! Calvi, welcome. Calvi. A fair good morrow, D'Alba! D'Alba. Hast thou heard These heavy tidings? The young kingKing-- Approaching to meet the other Lords as they enter. My Lords, Good morrow's out of date. Know ye the news? So men salute to-day. Calvi. Alfonso dead? D'Alba. Murdered. Calvi. And Melfi King. D'Alba. Aye, here's a letter.giving a letter to Calvi. From the great Regent--Pshaw! how my rude tongue Stumbles at these new dignities!--the King. Therefore I summoned ye. He will be here Anon. Enter Valore and other Nobles. Valore, thou art late. Valore. This tale Puts lead into men's heels. How fell it? D'Alba. Read! Count Calvi! Read! Calvi. reads

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.---

He hath been wounded!
D'Alba. He's alive. The boy! Only the pretty boy! Read on. Read on. Calvi. reads

Make known these missives to our loyal people. We shall follow them straight. From your loving cousin,"The King."

Valore. The King. How he will wear his state! Why, D'Alba, Thy worshipped Annabel chose well; she'll be A Queen. D'Alba. Yet, my poor title, had she graced it, Comes by unquestion'd sheer descent, unstain'd 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. Enter Leanti Leanti! Leanti. Lords, The King is at the gate. D'Alba. The King! Now, Sirs, Don your quick smiles, and bend your supple knees;-- The King! Enter Melfi. aside He's pale, he hath been hurt.aloud My liege, Your vassals bid you welcome. Melfi. Noble Signors, 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; though the ripe and bearded ear Escap'd his sickle--but ye know the tale; Ye welcomed me as King; and I am spared The painful repetition. Valore. Sire, we know From your own royal hand enough for joy And sorrow. Death hath ta'en a goodly child And spared a glorious man. But how-- Melfi. My lord, What wouldst thou more? Before I entered here Messina's general voice had hailed her Sovereign. Lacks but the ceremonial form. 'Twere best The accustomed pageant were performed even now, Whilst ye, Sicilian Barons, strength and grace Of our Sicilian realm, are here to pledge Solemn allegiance. Say I sooth, Count D'Alba? 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. Melfi. Scoffer! Lords, The corse is missing. Calvi. Ha! Perchance he lives? Melfi. He fell, I tell thee. Valore. And the Assassin? Melfi. He Escaped, when I too fell. D'Alba. He! Why, my liege, Was there but one? Melfi. What mean ye, Sirs? Stand off. D'Alba. Cannot your Highness guess the murderer? Melfi. Stand from about me, Lords! Dare ye to front A King? What do 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? Leanti. Deign to receive our homage, Sire, and pardon The undesigned offence. Your Highness knows Count D'Alba's mood. Melfi. And he knows mine. Well! Well! Be all these heats forgotten. Calvi. to D'Alba How his eye Wanders around the circle. Melfi. 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. Exit Calvi Valore. Sire, the Prince hath lain Sick of a desperate malady. Melfi. Alas! And I--Sick didst thou say? Valore. Eight days have passed Since he hath left his couch. Leanti. He's better now. The gentle Princess, who with one young page Hath tended him-- Melfi. What page? Leanti. A stranger boy, Seen but of few, young Theodore. Melfi. A stranger! Say on. The Princess--? Leanti. As I crossed the hall, I met her, with her own glad step, her look Of joy; and when I asked how fared Prince Julian? She put her white hands into mine, with such A smile, and then passed on. Melfi. Without a word? Leanti. Without a word, save the mute eloquence Of that bright smile. D'Alba. aside 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-- Melfi. Stop. D'Alba. My liege, I speak it in his honour. 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 He knew-- Melfi. Stop. No, no, no, he knew it not! He is my son. Enter Calvi, followed by Julian. Calvi. My liege, the Prince! Melfi. Already! 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. Julian! Julian. Melfi. Julian. Father! Melfi. I know what thou would'st say. The hat And sable plumes concealed--No more of it. Jul. Oh, Father! Melfi. Rise, my son. Let us forget What--How is Annabel? They say she has been A faithful nurse. Thou hast been sick? Julian. I'm well. Melfi. Fie! when thou tremblest so. Julian. I'm well. I have been Sick, brainsick, heartsick, mad. I thought--I feared-- 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 thou art here, And I--Oh nothing but a father's heart Could ever have forgiven! Melfi. No more. No more! Thou hast not told me of thy wife. Julian. She waits To pay her duty. Melfi. Stay. Count D'Alba looked With evil eyes upon thee, and on me Cast his accustomed tauntings. Is there aught Amiss between ye? Julian. No. Melfi. He hath not yet Perhaps forgotten your long rivalry For Annabel's fair hand. A dangerous meaning Lurked 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. Julian. To day! Melfi. Have I not said? Julian. Send me just risen from a sick couch to Madrid! Send me from home, from thee! Banish me! Father, Canst thou not bear my sight? Melfi. I cannot bear Contention. Must I needs remind thee, Julian, I have also been ill? Julian. I'll go to day. How pale he is! I had not dared before To look upon his face. I'll go to day. Melfi. This very hour? Julian. This very hour. Melfi. My son! Now call thy--yet a moment. Where's the boy-- He shall aboard with thee--thy pretty page? Julian. The King? Mean'st thou the King? Melfi. He, whom thou call'st-- Julian. Wilt thou not say the King? Melfi. Young Theodore. Hearken, 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 favourite page, a spoilt and 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. Julian. He is the King. Melfi. Call lady Annabel. Julian. The King, I say, The rightful King, the only King! I'll shed The last drop in my veins for King Alfonso. Melfi. 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. Julian. 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 lovedst 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 gush Of natural grief, I had no utterance-- But thou didst vow for both protection, faith, Allegiance; thou didst swear so fervently, So deeply, that the spirit flew to Heaven Smiling. I'll keep that oath. Melfi. Even if again thy sword-- Julian. Urge not that thought on me. 'Tis a fire Here in my heart, my brain. Bethink thee, Father, Soldier or statesman, thine is the first name Of Sicily, the General, Regent, Prince, The unmatch'd in power, the unapproach'd in fame; What could that little word a King do more For thee? Melfi. 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 Its spell! Guns and shouts are heard without. 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. Guns, bells, and shouts again. Hark, King Rugiero! Dost hear the bells, the shouts? Oh 'tis a proud 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. Shouts again. Dost thou not hear Long live the King Rugiero? Julian. The shout is weak. Melfi. Augment it by thy voice. Would the words choak Prince Julian? Cannot he Wish long life to his Father? Julian. Live, my Father! Long live the Duke of Melfi! Melfi. Live the King! Julian. Long live the King Alfonso! Melfi. 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 overproud Of thee and thy young fame. That lofty brow Seem'd form'd to wear a crown. Chiefly for thee-- Where is the Page? Julian. Oh Father, once again 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! Melfi. Unmanly, rise! lest in that slavish posture I treat thee as a slave. Julian. Strike an thou wilt, Thy words pierce deeper, to the very core! Strike 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 This bitterness! Melfi. I'll reign. Julian. Aye, reign indeed; Rule 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. Melfi. Go to; thou art mad. Julian. Not yet; but thou may'st make me so. Melfi. I'll make thee The heir of a fair crown. Julian. Not all the powers Of all the earth can force upon my brow That heritage of guilt. Cannot I die? But that were happiness. I'd rather drag 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 Etna, between snow and fire; Rather than sita crown'd and honour'd prince Guarded by children, tributaries, friends, On an usurper's throne. Guns without. Melfi. I must away. We'll talk of this anon. Where is the boy. Julian. Safe. Melfi. Trifle not with my impatience, Julian; Produce the child. Howe'er thou may deny Allegiance to the king, obey thy father. Julian. I had a father. Melfi. Ha! Julian. But he gave up Faith, loyalty, and honour, and pure fame, And his own son. Melfi. My son! Julian. 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. Melfi. 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 cloud, '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. Guns again. Hark! 'tis the hour! I must away. Back to thy chamber, son, And chuse if I shall curse thee. Exit Melfi. Julian. 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! The boy! Rushes out. END OF THE SECOND ACT