ACT III
SCENE. A Magnificent Cathedral. A Gothic Monument in the Foreground, with Steps round it, and the Figure of an old Warrior on the top. D'Alba, Leanti, Valore, Calvi, and other nobles. Calvi. Where stays the King? Leanti He's robing to assume The Crown. Calvi. What a gloom reigns in the Cathedral! Where are the people, who should make and grace This pageant? Valore. 'Tis too sudden. D'Alba. Saw ye not How coldly, as the slow procession moved, Men's eyes were fixed upon him? Silently We passed amid dull silence. I could hear The chink of money, which the heralds flung, Reverberate on the pavement. They, who stooped To gather up the coin, looked on the impress Of young Alfonso, sighed and shook their heads As 'twere his funeral. Calvi. Methinks this place The general tomb of his high line doth cry Shame on us! The mute citizens do mourn him Better than we. D'Alba Therefore the gates are closed, And none but peers of Sicily may pass The guarded doors. Leanti. Where is Prince Julian? D'Alba. Sick Here comes the Mighty One, and the great Prelates That shall anoint his haughty brow; 'tis bent With a stern joy. Enter Melfi, in Royal Robes, preceded by Nobles, Officers, &c. bearing the Crown, Archbishop, Bishops, &c. Melfi. No! To no tapered shrine. Here, reverend Fathers, here! This is my altar: The tomb of my great ancestor, who first Won from the Paynim this Sicilian crown, And wore it gloriously; whose name I bear As I will bear his honour'd sceptre. Here, At this most kingly altar, will I plight My vow to Sicily, the nuptial vow That links my fate to her's. Here I'll receive Her Barons' answering faith. Hear me, thou shade Of great Rugiero, whilst I swear to guard With heart and hand the realm thy valour won, The laws thy wisdom framed--brave legacy To prince and people! to defend their rights, To rule in truth and justice, peacefully, If peace may be; and with the awful arm Of lawful power to sweep the oppressor off From thy blest Isle; to be the Peasants' King-- Nobles, hear that!--the Peasants' King and yours! Look down, Ancestral Spirit, on my oath, And sanctify and bless it! Now the crown. D'Alba. What noise is that at the gate? Melfi. Crown me, I say. Archb. 'Tis fallen! Save us from the ill omen! Melfi. Save us From thy dull hands, old dotard! Thou a Priest, And tremble at the touch of power! Give me The crown. D'Alba It fits thee not. Melfi. Give me the crown, And with a steady grasp it shall endue These throbbing brows that burn till they are bound With that bright diadem. Enter Julian and Alfonso. Julian Stop. Place it here! This is the King! the real, the only King! The living King Alfonso! Melfi. Out, foul traitor! 'Tis an impostor. Julian. Look on him, Count D'Alba! Calvi, Valore, look! Ye know him well. And ye that never saw him, know ye not His father's lineaments? Remove thy hand From that fair forehead. 'Tis the pallid brow Bent with pensiveness, the dropping eyelid, The womanish changing cheek--his very self! Look on him. Do ye know him? Do ye own Your King? Calvi. 'Tis he. D'Alba The boy himself! Julian. Now place The crown upon his head; and hear me swear Low at his feet, as subject, kinsman, Prince, Allegiance. Alfon. Rise, dear Cousin. Julian. Father, kneel, Kneel here with me thou, his first subject, thou The guardian of the state, kneel first, and vow Thy princely fealty. Melfi. Hence, abject slave! And thou, young minion-- Julian. to Alf. Fear not. Father, kneel! Look where thou art. This is no place, my lord, To dally with thy duty: underneath Thy fathers' sleep; above their banners wave Heavily. Death is round about us. Death And Fame. Have they no voice for thee? Not one, Of one long storied line but lived and died A pure and faithful Knight, and left his son Honour--proud heritage! I am thine heir, And I demand that bright inheritance Unstained, undimmed. Kneel, I implore thee! I, Thy son. Melfi Off, cursed viper! Off, ere I hurl thee on the stones! Julian. I've done My duty. Was it not my duty? Alfon. Julian, Sit here by me; here on the steps. D'Alba Again We must demand of thee, my Lord of Melfi, How chanced this tale of murder? Here's our Prince, Safe and unhurt. But where's the Assassin? Where The regicide? Where he that wounded thee? Melfi. Pointing to Julian Demand of him. D'Alba. Where be these murderers? Art sure thou saw'st them, Duke? Or was't a freak Of the deft Fay Morgana? Didst thou feel The trenchant blade? Or, was the hurt thou talk'st of A fairy wound, a phantasm? Once again I warn thee, speak. Melfi. Demand Prince Julian, Sir, This work is his. D'Alba. He speaks not. Little King, What say'st thou? Alfon. Julian saved me. D'Alba. Saved! From whom? From what! Alfon. A king should have no memory But for good deeds. My lords, an it so please you, We'll to the Palace. I'll not wear to-day This crown. Some fitting season; but not now. I'm weary. Let us home. D'Alba. Aye, take him hence. Home with him, Count Valore. Stay by him Till I come to ye. Leave him not. Nay, Calvi, Remain. Hence with the boy. Alfon. My Cousin Julian, Wilt thou not go with us? Julian. I've done my duty. Was't not my duty? But look there! look there! I cannot go with thee. I am his now. All his. Alfon. Uncle-- Melfi. Away, bright spotted worm-- D'Alba What, ho! the guard! Alfon. My lord, where Julian is I need no guard. Question no more of this, But follow us. Exeunt Alfonso, Valore, and other nobles. Melfi. I do contemn myself That I hold silence. Warriors, kinsmen, friends, Barons of Sicily, the valiant princes Of this most fertile and thrice famous Isle, Hear me! What yonder crafty Count hath dared, With subtle question and derisive smile, To slide into a meaning, is as true As he is false. I would be King; I'd reign Over fair Sicily; I'd call myself Your Sovereign, Princes; thine, Count D'Alba, thine, Calvi, and old Leanti--we were comrades Many a year in the rough path of war. And now ye know me all. I'll be a King Fit for this warlike nation, which brooks sway Only of men. Yon slight fair boy is born With a woman's heart. Let him go tell his beads For us and for our kingdom, I'll be King. I'll lend unto that title such a name, As shall enchase this bauble with one blaze Of honour. I'll lead on to glory, lords, And ye shall shine in the brightness of my fame As planets round the sun. What say ye? D'Alba. Never! Calvi, &c. Never! Melfi. Say thou, Leanti, thou'rt a soldier Worthy of the name,--a brave one! What say'st thou? Leanti. If young Alfonso-- D'Alba. Peace. Why this is well. This morning I received a tale--I'm not An over-believer in man's excellence; I know that in this slippery path of life The firmest foot may fail; that there have been Ere now ambitious generals, grasping heirs, Unnatural kinsmen, foul usurpers, murderers!-- I know that man is frail, and might have fallen Tho' Eve had never lived,--Albeit I own The smiling mischief's potency. But this, This tale was made up of such several sins, All of them devilish, treason, treachery, And pitiless cruelty made murder pale With their red shame,--I doubt not readily When man and guilt are joined--but this the common And general sympathy that links our kind Forbade to believe. Yet now before ye all, His peers and mine, before the vacant throne He sought to usurp, before the crown that fell As conscious from his brow, I do arraign Rugiero, Duke of Melfi, General, Peer, Regent and Prince, of Treason. Melfi. Treason! D'Alba. We quarrel not for words. Let these but follow And bold emprise shall bear a happier name. Sicilians, have ye lost your Island spirit? Barons, is your ancient bravery tamed down By this vain scoffer? I'll to the people. They Love their old soldier. D'Alba. Stop. Duke, I arraign thee Of murder; planned, designed, attempted murder, Though incomplete, on the thrice sacred person Of young Alfonso, kinsman, ward, and King. Wilt thou defend this too? Was't a brave deed To draw the assassin's sword on that poor child? Seize him! Melfi. Come near who dares! Where be thy proofs? Where be thy witnesses? D'Alba. There's one. Prince Julian, Rouse thee!He sits erect and motionless As yon ancestral image. Doth he breathe? Rouse thee, and answer, as before thy God, As there is truth in Heaven. Didst thou not see Thy father's sword at young Alfonso's breast? Lay not the boy, already dead with fear, At his false guardian's feet? Answer! Melfi. Aye, speak, Prince Julian! Dost thou falter now? On, on, And drive the dagger home! On, on, I say. Calvi. We wait your Highness' answer. Leanti. Julian. Which among ye Dares question me? What are ye, Sirs? D'Alba. The States of Sicily. Julian. The States! Without a head! Without a King! Without a Regent! States! The States! Are ye the States that 'gainst all form Of justice or of guardian law drive on To bloody trial, him your Greatest? Here, too! Here! Will ye build up scaffolds in your churches? And turn grave priests to beadsmen? I'll not answer. Calvi. The rack may force thee. D'Alba. He but smiles. Convey The Duke to the Hall of Justice. We shall follow. Go summon Juan Castro thither. Hence! Why loiter ye? Melfi. A word with thee, Prince Julian. I pray ye, listen, 'tis no treason, lords. I would but say, finish thy work. Play well The part that thou hast chosen. Cast aside All filial yearnings. Be a gallant foe. Rush onward through the fight. Trample me down. Tread on my neck. Be perfect in that quality Which thou call'st justice. Quell thy womanish weakness. Let me respect the enemy, whom once I thought my Son. Julian. Once, Father! Melfi. I'm no Father! Rouse not my soul to curse thee! Tempt me not To curse thy Mother--She whom once I deemed A saint in purity; Be resolute, Falter not with them. Lie not. Julian. Did I ever? Melfi. Finish thy work. On, soldiers! Exit Melfi, guarded. D'Alba. Answer, Prince! The Duke, as thou hast heard, disclaims thee. Julian. Dare not A man of ye say that. I am his son-- Tremble lest my sword should prove me so;--a part Of his own being. He gave me this life, These senses, these affections. The quick blood That knocks so strongly at my heart is his-- Would I might spill it for him! Had ye no fathers, Have ye no sons, that ye would train men up In parricide? I will not answer ye. D'Alba. This passion is thy answer. Could'st thou say No; in that simple word were more comprised Than in a world of fiery eloquence. Canst thou not utter No? 'Tis short and easy, The first sound that a stuttering babe will lisp To his fond nurse,--yet thy tongue stammers at it! I ask him if his father be at once Traitor and Murderer, and he cannot say, No! Julian. Subtle blood-thirsty fiend! I'll answer To nought that thou canst ask. Murderer! The king Lives. Seek of him. One truth I'll tell thee, D'Alba, And then the record of that night shall pass Down to the grave in silence. But one sword Was stained with blood in yonder glen--'twas mine! I am the only guilty. This I swear Before the all-seeing God, whose quenchless gaze Pierced through that twilight hour. Now condemn The Duke of Melfi an ye dare! I'll speak No more on this foul question. Leanti. Thou the guilty? Thou! Julian. I have said it. D'Alba. I had heard a tale-- Leanti. This must be sifted. D'Alba. In that twilight hour A mortal eye beheld them. An old Spaniard, One of the guard--By Heaven it is a tale So bloody, so unnatural, man may scarce Believe it! Leanti And the king still lives. D'Alba Why, 'tis A mystery. Let's to the Hall of Justice And hear this soldier. Sir, they are ambitious, Father & son--We can pass judgment there, This is no place;--Leanti, more ambitious Than thou canst guess. Julian. Aye, by a thousand fold! I am an eaglet born, and can drink in The sunlight, when the blinking owls go darkling, Dazzled and blinded by the day. Ambitious! I have had day dreams would have shamed the visions Of that great Master of the world, who wept For other worlds to conquer. I'd have lived An age of sinless glory, and gone down Storied and epitaphed and chronicled, To the very end of time. Now--But I still May suffer bravely, may die as a Prince, A Man. Ye go to judgment. Lords, remember I am the only guilty. Calvi We must needs On such confession, give you into charge A prisoner. Ho! Captain. Leanti. Goes he with us? D'Alba. No; for the hall is near, and they are best Questioned apart. Walk by me, good Leanti, And I will shew thee why. Leanti. Is't possible That Julian stabb'd his father? D'Alba. No. Thou saw'st They met as friends; no! no! Exeunt Calvi and other Lords Enter Annabel . Annab. Where is he? Where? Julian! D'Alba. Fair Princess-- Annab. Stay me not. My Julian! D'Alba. Oh, how she sinks her head upon his arm! How her curls kiss his cheek! and her white hand Lies upon his! The cold and sluggish husband! He doth not clasp that loveliest hand, which nature Fashioned to gather roses, or to hold Bunches of bursting grapes. Leanti. Count D'Alba, see, We are alone. Wilt thou not come? D'Alba. Anon. Now he hath seized her hand, hath dared to grasp, He shall not hold it long. Leanti. They'll wait us, Count. D'Alba. That white hand shall be mine. Exeunt D'Alba and Leanti Julian. My Annabel, Why art thou here? Annab. They said--I was a fool That believed them!--Constance said she heard a cry, Down with the Melfi! and the rumour ran That there had been a fray, that thou wast slain. But thou art safe, my Julian? Julian. As thou seest. Thou art breathless still. Annab. Aye. I flew through the streets, Piercing the crowds like light. I was a fool; But thou had'st left me on a sudden, bearing The young Alfonso with thee, high resolve Fixed in thine eye. I knew not--Love is fearful; And I have learnt to fear. Julian. Thou tremblest still. Annabel. The Church is cold and lonely; and that seat, At the foot of yon grim warrior, all too damp For thee. I like not thus to see thee, Julian, Upon a tomb. Thou must submit thee still To thy poor nurse. Home! By the way thou'lt tell me What hath befallen. Where is Alfonso? Julian. Say The King! the rightful, the acknowledged King! Annabel, this rude stone's effigy Of the founder of our line; the gallant chief Who swept away the Saracen, and quelled Fierce civil broils; and, when the people's choice Crowned him, lived guardian of their rights, and died Wept by them as a father. And methinks To-day I do not shame my ancestor; I dare to sit here at his feet, and feel He would not spurn his son. Thou dost not grieve To lose a crown, my fairest? Annab. Oh no! no! I'm only proud of thee. Thy fame's my crown. Jul. Not fame but conscience is the enduring crown, And wearing that impearled, why to lose fame Or life were nothing. Ann. Where's thy father, Julian? Forgive me, I have pained thee. Julian. No. The pang Is mastered. Where? He is a prisoner Before the States. I am a prisoner here. These are my guards. Be calmer, Sweetest. Rend not This holy place with shrieks. Annab. They seek thy life! They'll sentence thee! They'll kill thee! No! they shall not, Unless they kill me first. What crime--O God, To talk of crime and thee!--What falsest charge Dare they to bring? Julian. Somewhat of yon sad night They know. Annab. Where's Theodore? The page? The King? Doth he accuse thee too? Jul. Poor gentle Cousin! He is as innocent as thou. Ann. I'll fetch him. We'll go together to the States. We'll save thee. We, feeble though we be, woman and boy, We'll save thee. Hold me not! Julian. Where would'st thou go? Annab. To the States. Julian. And there? Annab. I'll tell the truth, the truth, The irresistible truth! Let go. A moment May cost thy life,--our lives. Nothing but truth, That's all thy cause can need. Let go. Julian. And he, My father? Annab. What's a thousand such as he, To thee, my husband! But he shall be safe. He is thy father. I'll say nought can harm him. He was ever kind to me! I'll pray for him. Nay, an thou fear'st me, Julian, I'll not speak One word; I'll only kneel before them all, Lift up my hands, and pray in my inmost heart, As I pray to God. Julian. My loving wife, to Him Pray, to Him only. Leave me not, my dearest; There is a peace around us in this pause, This interval of torture. I'm content And strong to suffer. Be thou-- Enter D'Alba, Calvi, Leanti and Nobles Ha! returned Already! This is quick. But I'm prepared. The sentence! Annab. Tell it not! Ye are his Judges. Ye have the power of life and death. Your words Are fate. Oh speak not yet! Listen to me. D'Alba. Aye; a long summer day! What would'st thou? Annab. Save him! Save him! D'Alba. He shall not die. Annab. Now bless thee, D'Alba! Bless thee! He's safe! He's free! Julian. Once more I ask His doom, for that is mine. If ye have dared, In mockery of justice, to arraign And sentence your great Ruler, with less pause Than a petty thief taken in the manner, what's Our doom? D'Alba. Sir, our great ruler (we that love not Law's tedious circumstance may thank him) spared All trial by confession. He avowed Treason and regicide; and all that thou Hadst said or might say, he avouched unheard For truth, then cried; as thou hast done, for judgment, For death. Julian. I can die too. Leanti. A milder doom Unites ye. We have spared the royal blood. D'Alba. Only the blood. Estates and honours all Are forfeit to the King; the assembled states Banish ye; the most holy Church declares ye Beneath her ban. This is your sentence, Sir. A Herald waits to read it in the streets Before ye, and from out the city gate To thrust ye, outlawed, excommunicate, Infamous amongst men. Ere noon to-morrow Ye must depart from Sicily; on pain Of death to ye the outlaws, death to all That harbour ye, death to whoe'er shall give Food, shelter, comfort, speech. So pass ye forth In infamy! Annab. Eternal infamy Rest on your heads, false judges! Outlawed! Banished! Bereft of all state and title! Thou art still Best of the good, greatest amongst the great, My Julian! Must they die that give thee food And rest and comfort? I shall comfort thee, I thy true wife! I'll never leave thee. Never! We'll walk together to the gate, my hand In thine, as lovers. Let's set forth. We'll go Together. Julian. Aye; but not to-night. I'll meet thee To-morrow at the harbour. Annab. No! no! no! I will not leave thee. Julian. Cling not thus. She trembles. She cannot walk. Brave Sir, we have been comrades; There is a pity in thine eye, which well Beseems a soldier. Take this weeping lady To King Alfonso. Tell the royal boy One, who was once his Cousin and his friend, Commends her to him. Go. To-morrow, dearest, We'll meet again. Now for the sentence. Lords, I question not your power. I submit To all, even to this shame. Be quick! be quick! Exeunt. END OF THE THIRD ACT.