The Regent - A Drama In One Act

A poem by Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

CARL'ANTONIO, Duke of Adria

TONINO, his young son

LUCIO; Count of Vallescura, brother to the Duchess

CESARIO, Captain of the Guard

GAMBA, a Fool


OTTILIA, Duchess and Regent of Adria

LUCETTA, a Lady-in-Waiting

FULVIA, a Lady of the Court


Courtiers, Priests, Choristers, Soldiers, Mariners, Townsfolk, etc.

The Scene is the Ducal Palace of Adria, in the N. Adriatic

The Date, 1571




THE REGENT

SCENE.--A terraced courtyard before the Ducal Palace. Porch and entrance of Chapel, R. A semicircular balcony, L., with balustrade and marble seats, and an opening whence a flight of steps leads down to the city. The city lies out of sight below the terrace; from which, between its cypresses and statuary, is seen a straight stretch of a canal; beyond the canal are sand-hills and the line of the open sea. Mountains, L., dip down to the sea and form a curve of the coast.

As the curtain rises, a crowd of town and country folk is being herded to the back of the terrace by the Ducal Guard, under Cesario. Within the Chapel, to the sound of an organ, boys' voices are chanting the service of the Mass.

Cesario, Gamba the Fool, Guards, Populace.


Cesario. Way there! Give room! The Regent comes from Mass.
Guards, butt them on the toes--way there! give room!
Prick me that laggard's leg-importunate fools!

Guards. Room for the Regent! Room!

[The sacring bell rings within the Chapel.

Cesario. Hark there, the bell!

[A pause. Men of the crowd take off their caps.

Could ye not leave, this day of all the year,
Your silly suits, petitions, quarrels, pleas?
Could ye not leave, this once in seven years,
Our Lady to come holy-quiet from Mass.
Lean on the wall, and loose her cage-bird heart,
To lift and breast and dance upon the breeze.
Draws home her lord the Duke?

Crowd. Long live the Duke!

Cesario. The devil, then! Why darken his approach?


Gamba (from the bench where he has been mending his viol). Because, Captain, 'tis a property knaves and fools have in common--to stand in their own light, as 'tis of soldiers to talk bad logic. That knave, now--he with the red nose and the black eye--the Duke's colours, loyal man!--you clap an iron on his leg, and ask him why he is not down in the city, hanging them out of window!
Go to: you are a soldier!

Cesario. And you a Fool, and on your own showing stand in your own light.

Gamba. Nay, neither in my own light, nor as a Fool. So should myself stand between the sun and my shadow; whereas I am not myself--these seven years have I been but the shadow of a Fool. Yet one must tune up for the Duke.

(Strikes his viol and sings.)

"Bird of the South, my Rondinello----"

Flat-Flat!


Cesario (calling up to watchman on the Chapel roof). Ho there! What news?

A Voice. Captain, no sail!

Cesario. Where sits
The wind?

Voice. Nor' west, and north a point!

Cesario. Perchance
They have down'd sail and creep around the flats.

Gamba (tuning his viol). Flats, flats! the straight horizon, and the life
These seven years laid by rule! The curst canal
Drawn level through the drawn-out level sand
And thistle-tufts that stink as soon as pluck'd!
Give me the hot crag and the dancing heat,
Give me the Abruzzi, and the cushioned thyme--
Brooks at my feet, high glittering snows above.
What were thy music, viol, without a ridge?


[Noise of commotion in the city below.


Cesario. Watchman, what news?

A Voice. Sir, on the sea no sail!

One of the Crowd. But through the town below a horseman spurs--
I think, Count Lucio! Yes--Count Lucio!
He nears, draws rein, dismounts!

Cesario. Sure, he brings news.


Gamba. I think he brings word the Duke is sick; his loyal folk have drunk so much of his health.

[A murmur has been growing in the town below. It breaks into cheers as Count Lucio comes springing up to the terrace.

Enter Lucio.


Lucio. News! Where's the Regent? Eh? is Mass not said?
Cesario, news! I rode across the dunes;
A pilot--Nestore--you know the man--
Came panting. Sixteen sail beyond the point!
That's not a galley lost!

Crowd. Long live the Duke!

Lucio. Hark to the tocsin! I have carried fire--
Wildfire! Why, where's my sister? I've a mind--


[He strides towards the door of the Chapel; but pauses at the sound of chanting within, and comes back to Cesario.


Man, are you mute? I say the town's aflame
Below! But here, up here, you stand and stare
Like prisoners loosed to daylight. Rub your eyes,
Believe!

Cesario (musing). It has been long.

Lucio. As tapestry
Pricked out by women's needles; point-device
As saints in fitted haloes. Yet they stab,
Those needles. Oh, the devil take their tongues!

Cesario. Why, what's the matter?

Lucio. P'st! another lie
Against the Countess Fulvia; and the train
Laid to my sister's ear. Cesario,
My sister is a saint--and yet she married:
Therefore should understand ... Would saints, like cobblers,
Stick but to business in this naughty world!
Ah, well! the Duke comes home.

Cesario. And what of that?

Lucio. Release!

Cesario. Release?

Lucio (mocking a chant within the Chapel). From priests and petticoats Deliver us, Good Lord!

Gamba (strikes a chord on viol). AMEN!

Cesario. Count Lucio,
These seven years agone, when the Duke sailed,
You were a child--a pretty, forward boy;
And I a young lieutenant of the Guard,
Burning to serve abroad. But that day, rather,
I clenched my nails over an inward wound:
For that a something manlier than my years--
Look, bearing, what-not--by the Duke not miss'd,
Condemned me to promotion: I must bide
At home, command the Guard! 'Tis an old hurt,
But scalded on my memory.... Well, they sailed!
And from the terrace here, sick with self-pity,
Wrapped in my wrong, forgetful of devoir,
I watch'd them through a mist--turned with a sob--
Uptore my rooted sight--
There, there she stood;
Her hand press'd to her girdle, where the babe
Stirred in her body while she gazed--she gazed--
But slowly back controlled her eyes, met mine;
So--with how wan, how small, how brave a smile!--
Reached me her hands to kiss ...
O royal hands!
What burdens since they have borne let Adria tell.
But hear me swear by them, Count Lucio--
Who slights our Regent throws his glove to me.

Lucio. Why, soothly, she's my sister!

Cesario. 'But the court
Is dull? No masques, few banquetings--and prayers
Be long, and youth for pastime leaps the gate?'
Yet if the money husbanded on feasts
Have fed our soldiery against the Turk,
Year after year, and still the State not starved;
Was't not well done? And if, responsible
To God, and lonely, she has leaned on God
Too heavily for our patience, was't not wise?--
And well, though weary?

Lucio. I tell you, she's my sister!

Cesario. Well, an you will, bridle on that. Lord Lucio,
You named the Countess Fulvia. To my sorrow,
Two hours ago I called on her and laid her
Under arrest.

Lucio. The devil! For what?

Cesario. For that
A lady, whose lord keeps summer in the hills
To nurse a gouty foot, should penalize
His dutiful return by shutting doors
And hanging out a ladder made of rope,
Or prove its safety by rehearsing it
Upon a heavier man.

Lucio. I'll go to her.
Oh, this is infamous!

Cesario. Nay, be advised:
No hardship irks the lady, save to sit
At home and feed her sparrows; nor no worse
Annoy than from her balcony to spy
(Should the eye rove) a Switzer of the Guard
At post between her raspberry-canes, to watch
And fright the thrushes from forbidden fruit.

Lucio. Infamous! infamous!

Cesario. Enough, my lord:
The Regent!


[Doors of the Chapel open. The organ sounds, with voices of choir chanting the recessional. The Court enters from Mass, attending the Regent Ottilia and her son Tonino. She wears a crown and heavy dalmatic. Her brother Lucio, controlling himself with an effort, kisses her hand and conducts her to the marble bench, which serves for her Chair of State. She bows, receiving the homage of the crowd; but, after seating herself, appears for a few moments unconscious of her surroundings. Then, as her rosary slips from her fingers and falls heavily at her feet, she speaks.

Regent. So slips the chain linking this world with Heaven,
And drops me back to earth: so slips the chain
That hangs my spirit to the Redeemer's cross
Above pollution in the pure swept air
Whereunder frets this hive: so slips the chain--
(She starts up)--God! the dear sound! Was that his anchor dropped?
Speak to the watchman, one! Call to the watch!
What news?

Cesario. Aloft! What news?

Voice above. No sail as yet!

Regent. Ah, pardon, sirs! My ears are strung to-day,
And play false airs invented by the wind.
Methought a hawse-pipe rattled ...

Gamba (chants to his viol). Shepherds, see--
Lo! What a mariner love hath made me!

Regent. What chants the Fool?

Gamba. Madonna, 'tis a trifle
Made by a silly poet on wives that stand
All night at windows listening the surf--
Now he comes! Will he come? Alas! no, no!

Lucio. Peace, lively! Madam, there is news--brave news!
I'm from the watch-house. There the pilots tell
Of sixteen sail to the southward! Sixteen sail,
And nearing fast!

Regent. Praise God! dear Lucio!


[She has seated herself again. She takes Lucio's hand and speaks, petting it.


What? Glowing with my happiness? That's like you.
But for yourself the hour, too, holds release.

Lucio (between sullenness and shame, with a glance at
Cesario). "Release?"

Regent. You will forgive? I have great need
To be forgiven: sadly I have been slack
In guardianship, and by so much betrayed
My promise to our mother's passing soul.
Myself in cares immersed, I left the child
Among his toys--and turn to find him man--
But yet so much a boy that boyhood can
(Wistfully) Laugh in his honest eyes? Forgive me, Lucio!
Tell me, whate'er have slackened, there has slipped
No knot of love. To-morrow we'll make sport,
Be playmates and invent new games, and old--
Wreath flowers for crowns--


[He drags his hand away. She gazes at him wistfully, and turns to the Captain of the Guard.]


Cesario,
What are the suits?

Cesario. They are but three to-day,
Madonna. First, a scoundrel here in irons
For having struck the Guard.

Regent (eying the culprit). His name, I think,
Is Donatello Crocco. Hey? You improve,
Good man. The last time 'twas your wife you basted.
At this rate, in another year or two
You'll bang the Turk. Do you confess the assault?

Prisoner. I do.

Regent. Upon a promise we dismiss you.
Your tavern, as it comes into our mind,
Is the 'Three Cups.' So many, and no more,
You'll drink to-day--have we your word? Three cups,
And each a Viva for the Duke's return.

Prisoner. Your Highness, I'll not take it at the price
Of my good manners. I'm a gallant man:
And who in Adria calls. 'Three cheers for the Duke!'
But adds a fourth for the Duchess? Lady, nay;
Grant me that fourth, or back I go to the cells!


[The Regent laughs and nods to the Guard to release him.]


Regent. What next?

An Old Woman (very rapidly). Your Highness will not know me--Zia
Agnese, Giovannucci's wife that was;
And feed a two-three cows, as a widow may,
On the marshes where the grass is salt and sweet
As your Highness knows--and always true to pail
Until this Nicolo--

Nicolo. Lies! lies, your Highness!

Old Woman. Having a quarrel, puts the evil eye
On Serafina. She's my best of cows,
In stall with calf but ten days weaned.

Nicolo. Lies! lies!

Old Woman. I would your Highness saw her! When that thief
Hangs upon Lazarus' bosom, he'll be bidding
A ducat for each drop of milk he's cost me,
To cool his tongue.

Regent. Ay--ay, the cow is sick,
I think; and mind me, being country-bred,
Of a cure for such: which is, to buy a comb
And comb the sufferer's tail at feeding-time.
If Zia Agnese do but this, she'll counter
The Evil Eye, and maybe with her own
Detect who thieves her Serafina's hay.

Old Woman. God bless your Highness!

Nicolo. God bless your Highness!

Regent (taking up a fresh suit). Why, what's here? "Costanza,
Wife of Giuseppe Boni, citeth him
And sueth to live separate, for neglect
And divers beatings, as to wit----" H'm, h'm--
Likewise to keep the child Geronimo,
Begotten of his body. You defend
The suit, Giuseppe?

A Young Peasant (shrugs his shoulders). As the woman will!
I'll not deny I beat her.

Regent. But neglect!
How came you to neglect her? Look on her--
The handsome, frowsy slut, that, by appearance,
Hath never washed her body since she wed.
A beating we might pass. But how neglect
To take her by the neck unto the pump
And hold her till her wet and furious face
Were once again worth kissing? Well--well--well!
Neglect is proven. She shall have deserts:
(To a Clerk) But--write, "Defendant keeps his lawful child."

Young Peasant. My lady--

Wife. Nay, my lady--

Regent. Eh? What's this?

Wife. The poor bambino! Nay, 'twas not the suit!
How should Giuseppe, being a fool, a man--

Young Peasant. Aye, aye: that's sense. I love him: still, you see--

Regent. An if my judgment suit you not, go home,
The pair. (As they are going she calls the woman back.)
Costanza! hath your husband erred
With other woman?

Young Peasant. Never!

Wife. I'll not charge him
With that.

Regent. But, yes, you may. This man hath held
Another woman to his breast.

Wife. Her name?
That I may tear her eyes!

Regent. Her name's Costanza.
The same Costanza that, with body washed,
With ribbon in her hair, light in her eyes,
Arrayed a cottage to allure his heart.
Go home, poor fools, and find her!...
Heigh! No others? [Heaves a sigh.]
Captain, dismiss the Guard. The watch, aloft--
Set him elsewhere. We would not be o'erlooked.
You only, Lucio--you, Lucetta--stay;
You for a while, Cesario.

[Exeunt Courtiers, Guard, Crowd, etc.]

Heigh! that's over--
The last Court of the Regent; and the books
Accounts of stewardship, my seven years all,
Closed here for audit.
Nay, there's one thing more--
Brother, erewhile I spoke you sisterly,
You turned away, and still you bite your lip:
Signs that may short my preface. It concerns
The Countess Fulvia.

Lucio. Ha!

Regent. Go, bring her, Captain.

[Exit Cesario.]

List to me, Lucio: listen, brother dear,
First playmate-child, tending whose innocence
Myself learned motherhood. Shall I deny
Youth to be loved and follow after love?
There is a love breaks like a morning beam
On the husht novice kneeling by his arms;
And worse there is, whose kisses strangle love,
Whose feet take hold of hell. My Lucio,
Follow not that!

Lucio. Why, who--who hath maligned
The Countess?

Regent Not maligned. Lucetta, here--

Lucio. Lucetta! Curse Lucetta and her tongue!
Am I a child, to be nagged by waiting-maids?

Regent. No, but a man, and shall weigh evidence.

Lucio. But I'll not hear it! If her viper tongue
Can kill, why kill it must. But send me a man,
And I will smite his mouth--ay, slit his tongue--
That dares defame the Countess!

Regent. Stay: she comes.

[Enter the Countess Fulvia, Cesario attending.]

Madam, the reason wherefore you are summoned
No doubt you guess, from a rude earlier call
Our Captain paid you. Certain practices,
Which you may force me name, are charged upon you
On testimony you may force me call
And may with freedom question.

Fulvia. I'll not question:
No, nor I will not answer.

Lucio. Then I'll answer!'
For me, for all, she is innocent!

Regent. For you?
We'll hope it: but 'for all' 's more wide an oath
Than you can swear, sir. I'll not bandy you
Words nor debate. Myself the ladder saw;
Lucetta, here, the ladder and the man.
What man she will not say. Cesario
Has tracked his footprint on her garden plots.
Must we say more?

Fulvia. No need. Her fingering mind
Is a close cupboard turning all things rancid.

Lucio. Yea, for such wry-necks all the world's a lawn
To peek and peer and pounce a sinful worm;
The fatter, the more luscious.

Regent. Lucio,
This woman nought gainsays.

Fulvia (fiercely). As why should I?
I'll question not, nor answer. 'Neath your brow
My sentence hunches, crawls, like cat to spring.
Pah! there's no prude will match your virtuous wife
You'd banish me?

Regent. I do. Cesario,
See to it the City gate shuts not to-night.
And she this side.

Fulvia (laughs recklessly). To-night? To-night's your own.
Most modest woman! Duchess, there's a well
By the road, some seven miles beyond the town.
There, 'neath the stars, I'll dip a hand and drink
To the good Duke's disport. But have a care!
That cup's not yet to lip.

Regent. Captain, remove her.
Lucio, remain.

[Exeunt the Countess Fulvia, Cesario following]

Lucio. I'll not remain--When ice
Sits judge of fire, what justice shall be done?
Sister, there be your books--peruse them. There
The sea-line--bide you so with back to it.
While the cold inward heat of cruelty
Warms what was once your heart, now crusted o'er
With duty and slimed with poisonous drip of tongues.
God help the Duke, if what he left he'd find!

[Exit Lucio]

Regent. Is't so, I wonder? Go, Lucetta, fetch
My glass, if haply I may tell.

[Exit Lucetta.]

Is't so?
And have these years enforced, encrusted me
To something monstrous, neither woman nor man?
My lord, my lord! too heavy was the load
You laid! Yet I'll not blame you: for myself
Ruled the straight path the long account correct
As in these books, my ledgers....

[While she turns the pages, Gamba the Fool creeps in and hoists himself on the balustrade. He tries his viol, and sings.]

SONG: Gamba.

Bird of the South, my Rondinello--

Regent. Hey? That Song!

Gamba. Hie to me, fly to me, steel-blue mate!
Under my breast-knot flutters thy fellow;
Here can I rest not, and thou so late.
Home, to me, home!
'Love, love, I come!'
--Dear one, I wait!
Quanno nacesti tu, nacqui pur io:
La lundananza tua, 'l desiderio mio!
You know the song, madonna?

Regent. Ay, fool. Sit
Here at my feet, sing on.

Gamba (sings).

Bird of the South, my Rondinello
Under thy wing my heart hath lain
Till the rain falling on last leaves yellow
Drumm'd to thee, calling southward again.
Home, to me, home!
'Love, love, I come!'
Ah, love, the pain!
Addio, addio! ed un' altra volt' addio!
La lundananza tua, 'l desiderio mio!
(Pause).
A foolish rustic thing the shepherd wives
In our Abruzzi croon by winter fires,
Of their husbands in the plains.

Regent. Gamba!

Gamba. Madonna?

Regent. I'd make thee my confessor. Mindest thou,
By Villalago, where from Sanno's lake
The stream, our Tasso, hurls it down the glen?
One noon, with Lucio--ever in those days
With Lucio--on a rock within the spray,
I wove a ferny garland, while the boy
Roamed, but returned in triumph, having trapped
A bee in a bell-flower--held it to my ear,
Laughing, dissembling that he feared to loose
The hairy thief. So laughed we--and were still,
As deep in Vallescura wound a horn,
And up the pathway 'neath the dappling bough
Came riding--flecked with sunshine, man and horse,--
My lord, my lover; and that song, that song
Upon his lips....

Voice of Watchman. Sail ho! a sail! a sail!

[Murmur of populace below. It grows and swells to a roar as enter hurriedly courtiers, guards, and others: Cesario; Lucetta with mirror.]

Lucetta. My lady! O my lady!--

Cesario. See, they near!
Galley on galley--look, there, by the point!

Regent. O, could my heart keep tally with the surge
That here comes crowding!

Lucetta. Joy, my lady! Joy!

All. Joy! Joy, my lady!

[They press flowers on her. A pause, while they watch. On the canal the galleys come into sight. They near: and as the oars rise and fall, the rowers' chorus is borne from the distance. It is the Rondinello song]

Chorus in Distance. La lundananza tua, 'l desiderio mio!

Regent. Thanks, my good, good friends!
And deem it not discourteous if alone
I'd tune my heart to bliss.
My glass, Lucetta!

[Takes mirror.]

Some thoughts there are--some thoughts----

Courtiers. God save you, madam!

[They go out, leaving the Regent alone.]

Regent (she loosens the clasp of her robe). Some thoughts
--some thoughts--
Fall from me, envious robe!
Rest there, my crown--thou more than leaden ache!
Ah!--
God! What a mountain drops! I float--I am lifted
Like thistledown on nothing. Back, my crown--
Weight me to earth! Nay, nay, thy rim shall bite
No more upon this forehead ... Where's my glass?
O mirror, mirror, hath it bit so deep?
My love is coming, hark! O, say not grey,
Sweet mirror! Tell, what time to cure it now?
And he so near, so near!
How shall I meet him?
Why how but as the river leaps to sea,
Steel to its magnet, child to mother's arms?

[She catches up flowers from the baskets left by the courtiers, and decks herself mildly.]

Flowers for my hair, flowers at the breast! Sweet flowers,
He'll crush you 'gainst his corslet. He has arms
Like bands of iron for clasping, has my love.
He'll hurt, he'll hurt ... But oh, sweet flowers, to lie
And feel you helpless while he grips and bruises
Your weak protesting breasts! You'll die in bliss,
Panting your fragrance out.--
Wh'st! Hush, poor fool!
I have unlearned love's very alphabet.
Men like us coy, demure ... Then I'll coquet
And play Madam Disdain--but not to-day.
To-morrow I'll be shrewish, shy, perverse,
Exacting, cold--all April in my moods:
We'll walk the forest, and I'll slip from him,
Hide me like Dryad 'mid the oaks, and mark
His hot dark face pursuing; or I'll couch
In covert green, and hold my breath to hear
His blundering foot go by; then up I'll leap,
And run--and he'll run after. O this lightness!
I'll draw him like a fairy, dance and double--
Yet not so fast but he shall overtake
At length, and catch me panting. O, I charge you,
I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem,
Wake not my love beneath the forest bough
Where we lie dreaming!

[Fanfare of trumpets in the distance.]

Trumpets, hark! and drums!
They have landed! From the quay they march!
Flowers! flowers!
They are near ... I see him!... Carlo! lord and love!
He looks--waves--O 'tis he! O foolish heart!--
I had feared he'd ta'en a wound.
What is't they shout?
Eh? 'Victory!'--yes, yes. He's browner, thinner;
And the dear eyes, how gaunt!... Yes
'Victory!'
'Victory!' ... lord, and love!,..

[The shouts of acclamation are heard now close
under the terrace. Spears and banners are
seen trooping past. Beside herself, she throws
flowers to them, laughing, weeping the while.
Then, running to the Chapel door, she
prostrates herself before the image of the
Virgin that crowns its archway.]

O Mary, Mother!
Thou, in whose breast all women's thoughts have moved,
All woman's passions heaved. Lo! I adore!
Sweet Mother, hold my hands, rejoice with me:
My bridegroom cometh!

[During this invocation the Countess Fulvia has crept in, a stiletto in her hand. She leans over the Regent and stabs her twice in the breast.]

Fulvia. Then with that!--and that!
Go meet him!

Regent (turns, looks up, and falls on her face).
Oh! I am slain!

Fulvia. And I am worse!
But there's my flower, my red flower, on your breast.--
Go, meet your lord and show it!

[She passes down the steps as Lucetta runs in.]

Lucetta. Madam! Madam!
The Duke is at the gate--Madam!--
Christ! she is murdered! Murder! Murder!

Regent. Fie,
Lucetta! peace! What word to greet the Duke
For his home-coming! Lift me ... Quick, my robe--
My Crown! Call no one. O, but hasten!

Lucetta (helpless, wringing her hands). Madam!

Regent. I need your strength, and must I steady you?
Lucetta, years ago you disarrayed me
Upon my bridal night. I would you'd whisper
The rogueries your tongue invented then.
I have few moments, girl ... I'd have them wanton.
Make jest this mantle hides the maid I was.
I'll have no priest, no doctor--Fetch Tonino!
I must present his son--
[Lucetta runs out.
All's acted quick:
Bride-bed, conception, birth--and death! But he
Shall sum it in one moment death not takes ...
What noise of trumpets!... Is the wound not covered?

[She wraps herself carefully in her mantle as the courtiers pour in. The child Tonino runs to her and stands by her side. Lucio, Cesario, all the Court, group themselves round her as the Duke enters. He rushes in eagerly; but she sets her teeth on her anguish, and receives him with a low reverence.]

Welcome my lord!

Duke. Ottilia!

Regent. Good my lord,
Welcome! This day is bright restores you to
Your loyal Duchy.

Duke (impatient). Wife! Ottilia!

Regent (she lifts a hand to keep him at distance).
There must be forms, my lord--some forms! Cesario,
Render the Duke his sceptre. As bar to socket,
When the gate closes on a town secure,
So locks this rod back to his manly clutch--
Cry all, 'Long live the Duke!'

All. Long live the Duke!

Duke. Wife, make an end with forms!

Lucio (to Cesario). And so say I!
A man would think my sister had no blood
In her body.

Cesario (watching the Regent). Peace, man: something there's amiss.

Regent. Yet here is he that sceptre shall inherit.
Lucetta, lead his first-born to the Duke.
His first-born!--Nay but look on him how straight
Of limb, how set and shoulder-square, tho' slender!
He'll sit a horse, in time, and toss a lance
Even with his father.

Duke. There's my blessing, boy!
But stand aside. Look in my face, Ottilia--
Hearken me, all! One thing these seven years
My life hath lacked, which wanting, all your cannon,
Your banners, vivas, bells that rock the roofs,
Throng'd windows, craning faces--all--all--all
Were phantasms, were noise.--

Lucio (exclaims). Why look, here's blood!
Here, on the boy's hand!

Regent. Ay! a scratch, no worse,
Here, when I pinned my robe.

Duke (continuing). Nay, friends, this moment
My Duchy her dear hand restores to me
To me's a dream. More buoyant would I tread
Dumb street, deserted square, climb ruin'd wall,
Where in a heap beneath a broken flag
Lay Adria.--
So that amid the ruins stood my love
And stretched her hands so faintly--stretched her hands
So faintly. See! She's mine! She lifts them--

Regent (totters and falls into his arms with a tired, happy laugh, which ends in a cry as his arms enfold her). Ah!

[She faints.

Duke. (after a moment, releasing her a little). What's here? Ottilia!

Lucetta. My mistress swoons!

A Courtier. 'Tis happiness--

Duke. Fetch water!

Lucio. Nay this blood--
Came of no scratch!

Lucetta. Loosen her bodice--

Duke. Blood?
Why blood? Where's blood?

(Stares as the mantle is imclasped and falls open).
Ah, my God!

Lucetta. Murder! murder!
The Countess Fulvia--

Cesario. Speak!

Lucetta. There--while she knelt--
Stabbed her, and fled.

Cesario. Which way?

[Lucetta points to the stairs. He dashes off in pursuit.]

Duke. All-seeing God!
Where were thine eyes, or else thy justice? Dead?
O, never dead!

Lucio. Ay, Duke, push God aside,
As I push thee. I have the better right:
I killed her--I. O never pass, sweet soul,
Till thou hast drunk a shudder of this wretch,
Thy brother, playmate, murderer!

Duke. Wine! bring wine--

Regent (as the wine is brought and revives her).
Flower, he will crush thee--but the bliss, the bliss!
I swim in bliss. What ... Lucio? Where's my lord?
Dear, bring him: he was here awhile and held me.
Say he must hold, or the light air will lift
And bear me quite away.

[Re-enter Cesario. In one hand he carries his sword, in the other a dagger.]

Lucio. Cesario!
What! Is that devil escaped? To think--to think
I drank her kisses!--What? Where is she?

Cesario. Dead.
I raised the cry: the people pointed after;
Ran with me, ravening. Just this side the bridge
She heard our howl and turned--drew back the dagger
Red with our lady's blood, then drove it home
Clean to her own black heart.

Regent. God pardon her!
I would what blood of mine clung to the blade
Might mix with hers and sweeten it for mercy.

Lucio. Will you forgive her? Then forgive not me!

Regent. Dear Lucio!--You'll not pluck away your hand
This time? Hush! Where's Cesario?... Friend, farewell.
Where lies the body?

Cesario. Sooth, madonna, I flung it
To the river's will, to roll it down to sea
Or cast on muddy bar, for dogs to gnaw.

Regent. The river? Ah! How strong the river rolls!
Hold me, my lord--

Duke. Love, love, I hold you

Regent.--Ay!
The child, too--You will hold the child?...
This roar
Deafens but will not drown us.

[Within the Chapel the choir is chanting a dirge. Gamba goes and closes the door on the sound: then creeps to the foot of the couch. The dying woman gently motions aside the cross a priest is holding to her, and looks up at her husband.]

[Below the terrace a voice is heard singing the Rondinello song.]

Look! beyond
Be waters where no galley moves with oar,
So wide, so waveless,--and, between the woods,
Meadows--O land me there!... Hark, my lord's voice
Singing in Vallescura! Soft my, love,
I am so tired--so tired! Love, let me play!
[Dies.]

[The Courtiers lift the body in silence and bear it to the Chapel, the Duke and his train following. The doors close on them. On the stage are left only Cesario, standing by the balustrade; and Gamba, who has seated himself with his viol and touches it, as still the voice sings below--]

Addio, Addio! ed un'altra volt'addio!
La lundananza tua, 'l desiderio mio!

[On the last note a string of the viol cracks, and with a cry the Fool flings himself, heart-broken, on the empty couch. Cesario steps forward and stands over him, touching his shoulder gently.]

CURTAIN.

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