SCENE Road in a Wood.
WALLACE and LACY.
LACY. The troop will be impatient; let us hie
Back to our post, and strip the Scottish Foray
Of their rich Spoil, ere they recross the Border.
Pity that our young Chief will have no part
In this good service.
WAL. Rather let us grieve
That, in the undertaking which has caused
His absence, he hath sought, whate'er his aim,
Companionship with One of crooked ways,
From whose perverted soul can come no good
To our confiding, open-hearted, Leader.
LACY. True; and, remembering how the Band have proved
That Oswald finds small favour in our sight,
Well may we wonder he has gained such power
Over our much-loved Captain.
WAL. I have heard
Of some dark deed to which in early life
His passion drove him, then a Voyager
Upon the midland Sea. You knew his bearing
LACY. Where he despised alike
Mahommedan and Christian. But enough;
Let us begone, the Band may else be foiled. [Exeunt.
Enter MARMADUKE and WILFRED.
WIL. Be cautious, my dear Master!
MAR. I perceive
That fear is like a cloak which old men huddle
About their love, as if to keep it warm.
WIL. Nay, but I grieve that we should part. This Stranger,
For such he is
MAR. Your busy fancies, Wilfred,
Might tempt me to a smile; but what of him?
WIL. You know that you have saved his life.
MAR. I know it.
WIL. And that he hates you!, Pardon me, perhaps
That word was hasty.
MAR. Fy! no more of it.
WIL. Dear Master! gratitude's a heavy burden
To a proud Soul. Nobody loves this Oswald,
Yourself, you do not love him.
MAR. I do more,
I honour him. Strong feelings to his heart
Are natural; and from no one can be learnt
More of man's thoughts and ways than his experience
Has given him power to teach: and then for courage
And enterprise, what perils hath he shunned?
What obstacles hath he failed to overcome?
Answer these questions, from our common knowledge,
And be at rest.
WIL. Oh, Sir!
MAR. Peace, my good Wilfred;
Repair to Liddesdale, and tell the Band
I shall be with them in two days, at farthest.
WIL. May He whose eye is over all protect you! [Exit.
Enter OSWALD (a bunch of plants in his hand).
OSW. This wood is rich in plants and curious simples.
MAR. (looking at them). The wild rose, and the poppy, and the
Which is your favourite, Oswald?
OSW. That which, while it is
Strong to destroy, is also strong to heal,
Not yet in sight!, We'll saunter here awhile;
They cannot mount the hill, by us unseen.
MAR. (a letter in his hand). It is no common thing when one like
Performs these delicate services, and therefore
I feel myself much bounden to you, Oswald;
'Tis a strange letter this!, You saw her write it?
OSW. And saw the tears with which she blotted it.
MAR. And nothing less would satisfy him?
OSW. No less;
For that another in his Child's affection
Should hold a place, as if 'twere robbery,
He seemed to quarrel with the very thought.
Besides, I know not what strange prejudice
Is rooted in his mind; this Band of ours,
Which you've collected for the noblest ends,
Along the confines of the Esk and Tweed
To guard the Innocent, he calls us "Outlaws";
And, for yourself, in plain terms he asserts
This garb was taken up that indolence
Might want no cover, and rapacity
Be better fed.
MAR. Ne'er may I own the heart
That cannot feel for one, helpless as he is.
OSW. Thou know'st me for a Man not easily moved,
Yet was I grievously provoked to think
Of what I witnessed.
MAR. This day will suffice
To end her wrongs.
OSW. But if the blind Man's tale
Should 'yet' be true?
MAR. Would it were possible!
Did not the soldier tell thee that himself,
And others who survived the wreck, beheld
The Baron Herbert perish in the waves
Upon the coast of Cyprus?
OSW. Yes, even so,
And I had heard the like before: in sooth
The tale of this his quondam Barony
Is cunningly devised; and, on the back
Of his forlorn appearance, could not fail
To make the proud and vain his tributaries,
And stir the pulse of lazy charity.
The seignories of Herbert are in Devon;
We, neighbours of the Esk and Tweed: 'tis much
MAR. Treat him gently, Oswald;
Though I have never seen his face, methinks,
There cannot come a day when I shall cease
To love him. I remember, when a Boy
Of scarcely seven years' growth, beneath the Elm
That casts its shade over our village school,
'Twas my delight to sit and hear Idonea
Repeat her Father's terrible adventures,
Till all the band of playmates wept together;
And that was the beginning of my love.
And, through all converse of our later years,
An image of this old Man still was present,
When I had been most happy. Pardon me
If this be idly spoken.
OSW. See, they come,
MAR. (points). The woman is Idonea.
OSW. And leading Herbert.
MAR. We must let them pass,
This thicket will conceal us.
[They step aside.
Enter IDONEA, leading HERBERT blind.
IDON. Dear Father, you sigh deeply; ever since
We left the willow shade by the brook-side,
Your natural breathing has been troubled.
You are too fearful; yet must I confess,
Our march of yesterday had better suited
A firmer step than mine.
IDON. That dismal Moor,
In spite of all the larks that cheered our path,
I never can forgive it: but how steadily
'You' paced along, when the bewildering moonlight
Mocked me with many a strange fantastic shape!,
I thought the Convent never would appear;
It seemed to move away from us: and yet,
That you are thus the fault is mine; for the air
Was soft and warm, no dew lay on the grass,
And midway on the waste ere night had fallen
I spied a Covert walled and roofed with sods,
A miniature; belike some Shepherd-boy,
Who might have found a nothing-doing hour
Heavier than work, raised it: within that hut
We might have made a kindly bed of heath,
And thankfully there rested side by side
Wrapped in our cloaks, and, with recruited strength,
Have hailed the morning sun. But cheerily, Father,,
That staff of yours, I could almost have heart
To fling't away from you: you make no use
Of me, or of my strength; come, let me feel
That you do press upon me. There, indeed
You are quite exhausted. Let us rest awhile
On this green bank. [He sits down.
HER. (after some time). Idonea, you are silent,
And I divine the cause.
IDON. Do not reproach me:
I pondered patiently your wish and will
When I gave way to your request; and now,
When I behold the ruins of that face,
Those eyeballs dark, dark beyond hope of light,
And think that they were blasted for my sake,
The name of Marmaduke is blown away:
Father, I would not change that sacred feeling
For all this world can give.
HER. Nay, be composed:
Few minutes gone a faintness overspread
My frame, and I bethought me of two things
I ne'er had heart to separate, -my grave,
And thee, my Child!
IDON. Believe me, honoured Sire!
'Tis weariness that breeds these gloomy fancies,
And you mistake the cause: you hear the woods
Resound with music, could you see the sun,
And look upon the pleasant face of Nature
HER. I comprehend thee, I should be as cheerful
As if we two were twins; two songsters bred
In the same nest, my spring-time one with thine.
My fancies, fancies if they be, are such
As come, dear Child! from a far deeper source
Than bodily weariness. While here we sit
I feel my strength returning. The bequest
Of thy kind Patroness, which to receive
We have thus far adventured, will suffice
To save thee from the extreme of penury;
But when thy Father must lie down and die,
How wilt thou stand alone?
IDON. Is he not strong?
Is he not valiant?
HER. Am I then so soon
Forgotten? have my warnings passed so quickly
Out of thy mind? My dear, my only, Child;
Thou wouldst be leaning on a broker reed,
IDON. O could you hear his voice:
Alas! you do not know him. He is one
(I wot not what ill tongue has wronged him with you)
All gentleness and love. His face bespeaks
A deep and simple meekness: and that Soul,
Which with the motion of a virtuous act
Flashes a look of terror upon guilt,
Is, after conflict, quiet as the ocean,
By a miraculous finger, stilled at once.
HER. Unhappy Woman!
IDON. Nay, it was my duty
Thus much to speak; but think not I forget,
Dear Father! how 'could' I forget and live,
You and the story of that doleful night
When, Antioch blazing to her topmost towers,
You rushed into the murderous flames, returned
Blind as the grave, but, as you oft have told me,
Clasping your infant Daughter to your heart.
HER. Thy Mother too! scarce had I gained the door,
I caught her voice; she threw herself upon me,
I felt thy infant brother in her arms;
She saw my blasted face, a tide of soldiers
That instant rushed between us, and I heard
Her last death-shriek, distinct among a thousand.
IDON. Nay, Father, stop not; let me hear it all.
HER. Dear Daughter! precious relic of that time,
For my old age, it doth remain with thee
To make it what thou wilt. Thou hast been told,
That when, on our return from Palestine,
I found how my domains had been usurped,
I took thee in my arms, and we began
Our wanderings together. Providence
At length conducted us to Rossland, there,
Our melancholy story moved a Stranger
To take thee to her home, and for myself
Soon after, the good Abbot of St. Cuthbert's
Supplied my helplessness with food and raiment,
And, as thou know'st, gave me that humble Cot
Where now we dwell. For many years I bore
Thy absence, till old age and fresh infirmities
Exacted thy return, and our reunion.
I did not think that, during that long absence,
My Child, forgetful of the name of Herbert,
Had given her love to a wild Freebooter,
Who here, upon the borders of the Tweed,
Doth prey alike on two distracted Countries,
Traitor to both.
IDON. Oh, could you hear his voice!
I will not call on Heaven to vouch for me,
But let this kiss speak what is in my heart.
Enter a Peasant.
PEA. Good morrow, Strangers! If you want a Guide,
Let me have leave to serve you!
IDON. My Companion
Hath need of rest; the sight of Hut or Hostel
Would be most welcome.
PEA. Yon white hawthorn gained,
You will look down into a dell, and there
Will see an ash from which a sign-board hangs;
The house is hidden by the shade. Old Man,
You seem worn out with travel, shall I support you?
HER. I thank you; but, a resting-place so near,
'Twere wrong to trouble you.
PEA. God speed you both.
HER. Idonea, we must part. Be not alarmed,
'Tis but for a few days, a thought has struck me.
IDON. That I should leave you at this house, and thence
Proceed alone. It shall be so; for strength
Would fail you ere our journey's end be reached.
[Exit HERBERT supported by IDONEA.
Re-enter MARMADUKE and OSWALD.
MAR. This instant will we stop him
OSW. Be not hasty,
For, sometimes, in despite of my conviction,
He tempted me to think the Story true;
'Tis plain he loves the Maid, and what he said
That savoured of aversion to thy name
Appeared the genuine colour of his soul,
Anxiety lest mischief should befal her
After his death.
MAR. I have been much deceived.
OSW. But sure he loves the Maiden, and never love
Could find delight to nurse itself so strangely,
Thus to torment her with 'inventions'! death,
There must be truth in this.
MAR. Truth in his story!
He must have felt it then, known what it was,
And in such wise to rack her gentle heart
Had been a tenfold cruelty.
OSW. Strange pleasures
Do we poor mortals cater for ourselves!
To see him thus provoke her tenderness
With tales of weakness and infirmity!
I'd wager on his life for twenty years.
MAR. We will not waste an hour in such a cause.
OSW. Why, this is noble! shake her off at once.
MAR. Her virtues are his instruments, A Man
Who has so practised on the world's cold sense,
May well deceive his Child, what! leave her thus,
A prey to a deceiver?, no, no, no,
'Tis but a word and then
OSW. Something is here
More than we see, or whence this strong aversion?
Marmaduke! I suspect unworthy tales
Have reached his ear, you have had enemies.
MAR. Enemies! of his own coinage.
OSW. That may be,
But wherefore slight protection such as you
Have power to yield? perhaps he looks elsewhere.
I am perplexed.
MAR. What hast thou heard or seen?
OSW. No, no, the thing stands clear of mystery;
(As you have said) he coins himself the slander
With which he taints her ear; for a plain reason;
He dreads the presence of a virtuous man
Like you; he knows your eye would search his heart,
Your justice stamp upon his evil deeds
The punishment they merit. All is plain:
It cannot be
MAR. What cannot be?
OSW. Yet that a Father
Should in his love admit no rivalship,
And torture thus the heart of his own Child
MAR. Nay, you abuse my friendship!
OSW. Heaven forbid!,
There was a circumstance, trifling indeed,
It struck me at the time, yet I believe
I never should have thought of it again
But for the scene which we by chance have witnessed.
MAR. What is your meaning?
OSW. Two days gone I saw,
Though at a distance and he was disguised,
Hovering round Herbert's door, a man whose figure
Resembled much that cold voluptuary,
The villain, Clifford. He hates you, and he knows
Where he can stab you deepest.
MAR. Clifford never
Would stoop to skulk about a Cottage door,
It could not be.
OSW. And yet I now remember,
That, when your praise was warm upon my tongue,
And the blind Man was told how you had rescued
A maiden from the ruffian violence
Of this same Clifford, he became impatient
And would not hear me.
MAR. No, it cannot be,
I dare not trust myself with such a thought,
Yet whence this strange aversion? You are a man
Not used to rash conjectures
OSW. If you deem it
A thing worth further notice, we must act
With caution, sift the matter artfully.
[Exeunt MARMADUKE and OSWALD.
SCENE, The door of the Hostel.
HERBERT, IDONEA, and Host.
HER. (seated). As I am dear to you, remember, Child!
This last request.
IDON. You know me, Sire; farewell!
HER. And are you going then? Come, come, Idonea,
We must not part, I have measured many a league
When these old limbs had need of rest, and now
I will not play the sluggard.
IDON. Nay, sit down.
[Turning to Host.
Good Host, such tendance as you would expect
From your own Children, if yourself were sick,
Let this old Man find at your hands; poor Leader,
[Looking at the dog.
We soon shall meet again. If thou neglect
This charge of thine, then ill befall thee! Look,
The little fool is loth to stay behind.
Sir Host! by all the love you bear to courtesy,
Take care of him, and feed the truant well.
HOST. Fear not, I will obey you; but One so young,
And One so fair, it goes against my heart
That you should travel unattended, Lady!
I have a palfrey and a groom: the lad
Shall squire you, (would it not be better, Sir?)
And for less fee than I would let him run
For any lady I have seen this twelvemonth.
IDON. You know, Sir, I have been too long your guard
Not to have learnt to laugh at little fears.
Why, if a wolf should leap from out a thicket,
A look of mine would send him scouring back,
Unless I differ from the thing I am
When you are by my side.
HER. Idonea, wolves
Are not the enemies that move my fears.
IDON. No more, I pray, of this. Three days at farthest
Will bring me back, protect him, Saints, farewell!
HOST. 'Tis never drought with us, St. Cuthbert and his Pilgrims,
Thanks to them, are to us a stream of comfort:
Pity the Maiden did not wait a while;
She could not, Sir, have failed of company.
HER. Now she is gone, I fain would call her back.
HOST. (calling). Holla!
HER. No, no, the business must be done.
What means this riotous noise?
HOST. The villagers
Are flocking in, a wedding festival,
That's all, God save you, Sir.
OSW. Ha! as I live,
The Baron Herbert.
HOST. Mercy, the Baron Herbert!
OSW. So far into your journey! on my life,
You are a lusty Traveller. But how fare you?
HER. Well as the wreck I am permits. And you, Sir?
OSW. I do not see Idonea.
HER. Dutiful Girl,
She is gone before, to spare my weariness.
But what has brought you hither?
OSW. A slight affair,
That will be soon despatched.
HER. Did Marmaduke
Receive that letter?
OSW. Be at peace. The tie
Is broken, you will hear no more of 'him'.
HER. This is true comfort, thanks a thousand times!
That noise! would I had gone with her as far
As the Lord Clifford's Castle: I have heard
That, in his milder moods, he has expressed
Compassion for me. His influence is great
With Henry, our good King; the Baron might
Have heard my suit, and urged my plea at Court.
No matter he's a dangerous Man. That noise!
'Tis too disorderly for sleep or rest.
Idonea would have fears for me, the Convent
Will give me quiet lodging. You have a boy, good Host,
And he must lead me back.
OSW. You are most lucky;
I have been waiting in the wood hard by
For a companion here he comes; our journey
Lies on your way; accept us as your Guides.
HER. Alas! I creep so slowly.
OSW. Never fear;
We'll not complain of that.
HER. My limbs are stiff
And need repose. Could you but wait an hour?
OSW. Most willingly! Come, let me lead you in,
And, while you take your rest, think not of us;
We'll stroll into the wood; lean on my arm.
[Conducts HERBERT into the house. Exit MARMADUKE.
OSW. (to himself coming out of the Hostel).
I have prepared a most apt Instrument
The Vagrant must, no doubt, be loitering somewhere
About this ground; she hath a tongue well skilled,
By mingling natural matter of her own
With all the daring fictions I have taught her,
To win belief, such as my plot requires.
Enter more Villagers, a Musician among them.
HOST. (to them). Into the court, my Friend, and perch yourself
Aloft upon the elm-tree. Pretty Maids,
Garlands and flowers, and cakes and merry thoughts,
Are here, to send the sun into the west
More speedily than you belike would wish.
SCENE changes to the Wood adjoining the Hostel MARMADUKE and
MAR. I would fain hope that we deceive ourselves:
When first I saw him sitting there, alone,
It struck upon my heart I know not how.
OSW. To-day will clear up all. You marked a Cottage,
That ragged Dwelling, close beneath a rock
By the brook-side: it is the abode of One,
A Maiden innocent till ensnared by Clifford,
Who soon grew weary of her; but, alas!
What she had seen and suffered turned her brain.
Cast off by her Betrayer, she dwells alone,
Nor moves her hands to any needful work:
She eats her food which every day the peasants
Bring to her hut; and so the Wretch has lived
Ten years; and no one ever heard her voice;
But every night at the first stroke of twelve
She quits her house, and, in the neighbouring Churchyard
Upon the self-same spot, in rain or storm,
She paces out the hour 'twixt twelve and one
She paces round and round an Infant's grave,
And in the churchyard sod her feet have worn
A hollow ring; they say it is knee-deep
Ah! what is here?
[A female Beggar rises up, rubbing her eyes as if in sleep a
Child in her arms.
BEG. Oh! Gentlemen, I thank you;
I've had the saddest dream that ever troubled
The heart of living creature. My poor Babe
Was crying, as I thought, crying for bread
When I had none to give him; whereupon,
I put a slip of foxglove in his hand,
Which pleased him so, that he was hushed at once:
When, into one of those same spotted bells
A bee came darting, which the Child with joy
Imprisoned there, and held it to his ear,
And suddenly grew black, as he would die.
MAR. We have no time for this, my babbling Gossip;
Here's what will comfort you.
[Gives her money.
BEG. The Saints reward you
For this good deed! Well, Sirs, this passed away;
And afterwards I fancied, a strange dog,
Trotting alone along the beaten road,
Came to my child as by my side he slept
And, fondling, licked his face, then on a sudden
Snapped fierce to make a morsel of his head:
But here he is, [kissing the Child] it must have been a dream.
OSW. When next inclined to sleep, take my advice,
And put your head, good Woman, under cover.
BEG. Oh, sir, you would not talk thus, if you knew
What life is this of ours, how sleep will master
The weary-worn. You gentlefolk have got
Warm chambers to your wish. I'd rather be
A stone than what I am. But two nights gone,
The darkness overtook me wind and rain
Beat hard upon my head and yet I saw
A glow-worm, through the covert of the furze,
Shine calmly as if nothing ailed the sky:
At which I half accused the God in Heaven.
You must forgive me.
OSW. Ay, and if you think
The Fairies are to blame, and you should chide
Your favourite saint no matter this good day
Has made amends.
BEG. Thanks to you both; but, O sir!
How would you like to travel on whole hours
As I have done, my eyes upon the ground,
Expecting still, I knew not how, to find
A piece of money glittering through the dust.
MAR. This woman is a prater. Pray, good Lady!
Do you tell fortunes?
BEG. Oh Sir, you are like the rest.
This Little-one it cuts me to the heart
Well! they might turn a beggar from their doors,
But there are Mothers who can see the Babe
Here at my breast, and ask me where I bought it:
This they can do, and look upon my face
But you, Sir, should be kinder.
MAR. Come hither, Fathers,
And learn what nature is from this poor Wretch!
BEG. Ay, Sir, there's nobody that feels for us.
Why now but yesterday I overtook
A blind old Greybeard and accosted him,
I' th' name of all the Saints, and by the Mass
He should have used me better! Charity!
If you can melt a rock, he is your man;
But I'll be even with him here again
Have I been waiting for him.
OSW. Well, but softly,
Who is it that hath wronged you?
BEG. Mark you me;
I'll point him out; a Maiden is his guide,
Lovely as Spring's first rose; a little dog,
Tied by a woollen cord, moves on before
With look as sad as he were dumb; the cur,
I owe him no ill will, but in good sooth
He does his Master credit.
MAR. As I live,
'Tis Herbert and no other!
BEG. 'Tis a feast to see him,
Lank as a ghost and tall, his shoulders bent,
And long beard white with age yet evermore,
As if he were the only Saint on earth,
He turns his face to heaven.
OSW. But why so violent
Against this venerable Man?
BEG. I'll tell you:
He has the very hardest heart on earth;
I had as lief turn to the Friar's school
And knock for entrance, in mid holiday.
MAR. But to your story.
BEG. I was saying, Sir
Well! he has often spurned me like a toad,
But yesterday was worse than all; at last
I overtook him, Sirs, my Babe and I,
And begged a little aid for charity:
But he was snappish as a cottage cur.
Well then, says I I'll out with it; at which
I cast a look upon the Girl, and felt
As if my heart would burst; and so I left him.
OSW. I think, good Woman, you are the very person
Whom, but some few days past, I saw in Eskdale,
At Herbert's door.
BEG. Ay; and if truth were known
I have good business there.
OSW. I met you at the threshold,
And he seemed angry.
BEG. Angry! well he might;
And long as I can stir I'll dog him. Yesterday,
To serve me so, and knowing that he owes
The best of all he has to me and mine.
But 'tis all over now. That good old Lady
Has left a power of riches; and, I say it,
If there's a lawyer in the land, the knave
Shall give me half.
OSW. What's this? I fear, good Woman,
You have been insolent.
BEG. And there's the Baron,
I spied him skulking in his peasant's dress.
OSW. How say you? in disguise?
MAR. But what's your business
With Herbert or his Daughter?
BEG. Daughter! truly
But how's the day? I fear, my little Boy,
We've overslept ourselves. Sirs, have you seen him?
[Offers to go.
MAR. I must have more of this; you shall not stir
An inch, till I am answered. Know you aught
That doth concern this Herbert?
BEG. You are provoked,
And will misuse me, Sir?
MAR. No trifling, Woman!
OSW. You are as safe as in a sanctuary;
BEG. He is a most hard-hearted Man,
MAR. Your life is at my mercy.
BEG. Do not harm me,
And I will tell you all! You know not, Sir,
What strong temptations press upon the Poor.
OSW. Speak out.
BEG. Oh Sir, I've been a wicked Woman.
OSW. Nay, but speak out!
BEG. He flattered me, and said
What harvest it would bring us both; and so,
I parted with the Child.
MAR. Parted with whom?
BEG. Idonea, as he calls her; but the Girl
MAR. Yours, Woman! are you Herbert's wife?
BEG. Wife, Sir! his wife not I; my husband, Sir,
Was of Kirkoswald -many a snowy winter
We've weathered out together. My poor Gilfred!
He has been two years in his grave.
OSW. We've solved the riddle Miscreant!
MAR. Do you,
Good Dame, repair to Liddesdale and wait
For my return; be sure you shall have justice.
OSW. A lucky woman! go, you have done good service. [Aside.
MAR. (to himself). Eternal praises on the power that saved
OSW. (gives her money). Here's for your little boy and when you
I'll be his Godfather.
BEG. Oh Sir, you are merry with me.
In grange or farm this Hundred scarcely owns
A dog that does not know me. These good Folks,
For love of God, I must not pass their doors;
But I'll be back with my best speed: for you
God bless and thank you both, my gentle Masters.
MAR. (to himself). The cruel Viper! Poor devoted Maid,
Now I 'do' love thee.
OSW. I am thunderstruck.
MAR. Where is she holla!
[Calling to the Beggar, who returns; he looks at her stedfastly.
You are Idonea's mother?
Nay, be not terrified it does me good
To look upon you.
OSW. (interrupting). In a peasant's dress
You saw, who was it?
BEG. Nay, I dare not speak;
He is a man, if it should come to his ears
I never shall be heard of more.
OSW. Lord Clifford?
BEG. What can I do? believe me, gentle Sirs,
I love her, though I dare not call her daughter.
OSW. Lord Clifford did you see him talk with Herbert?
BEG. Yes, to my sorrow under the great oak
At Herbert's door and when he stood beside
The blind Man at the silent Girl he looked
With such a look it makes me tremble, Sir,
To think of it.
OSW. Enough! you may depart.
MAR. (to himself). Father! to God himself we cannot give
A holier name; and, under such a mask,
To lead a Spirit, spotless as the blessed,
To that abhorred den of brutish vice!
Oswald, the firm foundation of my life
Is going from under me; these strange discoveries
Looked at from every point of fear or hope,
Duty, or love involve, I feel, my ruin.
SCENE A Chamber in the Hostel OSWALD alone, rising from a Table
on which he had been writing.
OSW. They chose 'him' for their Chief! what covert part
He, in the preference, modest Youth, might take,
I neither know nor care. The insult bred
More of contempt than hatred; both are flown;
That either e'er existed is my shame:
'Twas a dull spark a most unnatural fire
That died the moment the air breathed upon it.
These fools of feeling are mere birds of winter
That haunt some barren island of the north,
Where, if a famishing man stretch forth his hand,
They think it is to feed them. I have left him
To solitary meditation; now
For a few swelling phrases, and a flash
Of truth, enough to dazzle and to blind,
And he is mine for ever -here he comes.
MAR. These ten years she has moved her lips all day
And never speaks!
OSW. Who is it?
MAR. I have seen her.
OSW. Oh! the poor tenant of that ragged homestead,
Her whom the Monster, Clifford, drove to madness.
MAR. I met a peasant near the spot; he told me,
These ten years she had sate all day alone
Within those empty walls.
OSW. I too have seen her;
Chancing to pass this way some six months gone,
At midnight, I betook me to the Churchyard:
The moon shone clear, the air was still, so still
The trees were silent as the graves beneath them.
Long did I watch, and saw her pacing round
Upon the self-same spot, still round and round,
Her lips for ever moving.
MAR. At her door
Rooted I stood; for, looking at the woman,
I thought I saw the skeleton of Idonea.
OSW. But the pretended Father
MAR. Earthly law
Measures not crimes like his.
OSW. 'We' rank not, happily,
With those who take the spirit of their rule
From that soft class of devotees who feel
Reverence for life so deeply, that they spare
The verminous brood, and cherish what they spare
While feeding on their bodies. Would that Idonea
Were present, to the end that we might hear
What she can urge in his defence; she loves him.
MAR. Yes, loves him; 'tis a truth that multiplies
His guilt a thousand-fold.
OSW. 'Tis most perplexing:
What must be done?
MAR. We will conduct her hither;
These walls shall witness it from first to last
He shall reveal himself.
OSW. Happy are we,
Who live in these disputed tracts, that own
No law but what each man makes for himself;
Here justice has indeed a field of triumph.
MAR. Let us be gone and bring her hither; here
The truth shall be laid open, his guilt proved
Before her face. The rest be left to me.
OSW. You will be firm: but though we well may trust
The issue to the justice of the cause,
Caution must not be flung aside; remember,
Yours is no common life. Self-stationed here
Upon these savage confines, we have seen you
Stand like an isthmus 'twixt two stormy seas
That oft have checked their fury at your bidding.
'Mid the deep holds of Solway's mossy waste,
Your single virtue has transformed a Band
Of fierce barbarians into Ministers
Of peace and order. Aged men with tears
Have blessed their steps, the fatherless retire
For shelter to their banners. But it is,
As you must needs have deeply felt, it is
In darkness and in tempest that we seek
The majesty of Him who rules the world.
Benevolence, that has not heart to use
The wholesome ministry of pain and evil,
Becomes at last weak and contemptible.
Your generous qualities have won due praise,
But vigorous Spirits look for something more
Than Youth's spontaneous products; and to-day
You will not disappoint them; and hereafter
MAR. You are wasting words; hear me then, once for all:
You are a Man and therefore, if compassion,
Which to our kind is natural as life,
Be known unto you, you will love this Woman,
Even as I do; but I should loathe the light,
If I could think one weak or partial feeling
OSW. You will forgive me
MAR. If I ever knew
My heart, could penetrate its inmost core,
'Tis at this moment. Oswald, I have loved
To be the friend and father of the oppressed,
A comforter of sorrow; there is something
Which looks like a transition in my soul,
And yet it is not. Let us lead him hither.
OSW. Stoop for a moment; 'tis an act of justice;
And where's the triumph if the delegate
Must fall in the execution of his office?
The deed is done if you will have it so
Here where we stand that tribe of vulgar wretches
(You saw them gathering for the festival)
Rush in the villains seize us
OSW. Yes, they
Men who are little given to sift and weigh
Would wreak on us the passion of the moment.
MAR. The cloud will soon disperse farewell but stay,
Thou wilt relate the story.
OSW. Am I neither
To bear a part in this Man's punishment,
Nor be its witness?
MAR. I had many hopes
That were most dear to me, and some will bear
To be transferred to thee.
OSW. When I'm dishonoured!
MAR. I would preserve thee. How may this be done?
OSW. By showing that you look beyond the instant,
A few leagues hence we shall have open ground,
And nowhere upon earth is place so fit
To look upon the deed. Before we enter
The barren Moor, hangs from a beetling rock
The shattered Castle in which Clifford oft
Has held infernal orgies with the gloom,
And very superstition of the place,
Seasoning his wickedness. The Debauchee
Would there perhaps have gathered the first fruits
Of this mock Father's guilt.
Enter Host conducting HERBERT.
HOST. The Baron Herbert
Attends your pleasure.
OSW. (to Host). We are ready
(to HERBERT) Sir!
I hope you are refreshed. I have just written
A notice for your Daughter, that she may know
What is become of you. You'll sit down and sign it;
'Twill glad her heart to see her father's signature.
[Gives the letter he had written.
HER. Thanks for your care.
[Sits down and writes. Exit Host.
OSW. (aside to MARMADUKE). Perhaps it would be useful
That you too should subscribe your name.
[MARMADUKE overlooks HERBERT
then writes examines the letter
MAR. I cannot leave this paper. [He puts it up, agitated.
OSW. (aside). Dastard! Come.
[MARMADUKE goes towards HERBERT
and supports him MARMADUKE
tremblingly beckons OSWALD to take his place.
MAR. (as he quits HERBERT). There is a palsy in his limbs he
shakes. [Exeunt OSWALD and HERBERT MARMADUKE following.
SCENE changes to a Wood a Group of Pilgrims and IDONEA with them.
FIRST PIL. A grove of darker and more lofty shade I never saw.
SEC. PIL. The music of the birds
Drops deadened from a roof so thick with leaves.
OLD PIL. This news! It made my heart leap up with joy.
IDON. I scarcely can believe it.
OLD PIL. Myself, I heard
The Sheriff read, in open Court, a letter
Which purported it was the royal pleasure
The Baron Herbert, who, as was supposed,
Had taken refuge in this neighbourhood,
Should be forthwith restored. The hearing, Lady,
Filled my dim eyes with tears. When I returned
From Palestine, and brought with me a heart,
Though rich in heavenly, poor in earthly, comfort,
I met your Father, then a wandering Outcast:
He had a Guide, a Shepherd's boy; but grieved
He was that One so young should pass his youth
In such sad service; and he parted with him.
We joined our tales of wretchedness together,
And begged our daily bread from door to door.
I talk familiarly to you, sweet Lady!
For once you loved me.
IDON. You shall back with me
And see your Friend again. The good old Man
Will be rejoiced to greet you.
OLD PIL. It seems but yesterday
That a fierce storm o'ertook us, worn with travel,
In a deep wood remote from any town.
A cave that opened to the road presented
A friendly shelter, and we entered in.
IDON. And I was with you?
OLD PIL. If indeed 'twas you
But you were then a tottering Little-one
We sate us down. The sky grew dark and darker:
I struck my flint, and built up a small fire
With rotten boughs and leaves, such as the winds
Of many autumns in the cave had piled.
Meanwhile the storm fell heavy on the woods;
Our little fire sent forth a cheering warmth
And we were comforted, and talked of comfort;
But 'twas an angry night, and o'er our heads
The thunder rolled in peals that would have made
A sleeping man uneasy in his bed.
O Lady, you have need to love your Father.
His voice methinks I hear it now, his voice
When, after a broad flash that filled the cave,
He said to me, that he had seen his Child,
A face (no cherub's face more beautiful)
Revealed by lustre brought with it from Heaven;
And it was you, dear Lady!
IDON. God be praised,
That I have been his comforter till now!
And will be so through every change of fortune
And every sacrifice his peace requires.
Let us be gone with speed, that he may hear
These joyful tidings from no lips but mine.
[Exeunt IDONEA and Pilgrims.
SCENE, The Area of a half-ruined Castle on one side the entrance
to a dungeon OSWALD and MARMADUKE pacing backwards and
MAR. 'Tis a wild night.
OSW. I'd give my cloak and bonnet
For sight of a warm fire.
MAR. The wind blows keen;
My hands are numb.
OSW. Ha! ha! 'tis nipping cold.
[Blowing his fingers.
I long for news of our brave Comrades; Lacy
Would drive those Scottish Rovers to their dens
If once they blew a horn this side the Tweed.
MAR. I think I see a second range of Towers;
This castle has another Area come,
Let us examine it.
OSW. 'Tis a bitter night;
I hope Idonea is well housed. That horseman,
Who at full speed swept by us where the wood
Roared in the tempest, was within an ace
Of sending to his grave our precious Charge:
That would have been a vile mischance.
MAR. It would.
OSW. Justice had been most cruelly defrauded.
MAR. Most cruelly.
OSW. As up the steep we clomb,
I saw a distant fire in the north-east;
I took it for the blaze of Cheviot Beacon:
With proper speed our quarters may be gained
[Looks restlessly towards the mouth of the dungeon.
MAR. When, upon the plank,
I had led him 'cross the torrent, his voice blessed me:
You could not hear, for the foam beat the rocks
With deafening noise, the benediction fell
Back on himself; but changed into a curse.
OSW. As well indeed it might.
MAR. And this you deem
The fittest place?
OSW. (aside). He is growing pitiful.
MAR. (listening). What an odd moaning that is!
OSW. Mighty odd
The wind should pipe a little, while we stand
Cooling our heels in this way! I'll begin
And count the stars.
MAR. (still listening). That dog of his, you are sure,
Could not come after us he 'must' have perished;
The torrent would have dashed an oak to splinters.
You said you did not like his looks that he
Would trouble us; if he were here again,
I swear the sight of him would quail me more
Than twenty armies.
MAR. The old blind Man,
When you had told him the mischance, was troubled
Even to the shedding of some natural tears
Into the torrent over which he hung,
Listening in vain.
OSW. He has a tender heart!
[OSWALD offers to go down into the dungeon.
MAR. How now, what mean you?
OSW. Truly, I was going
To waken our stray Baron. Were there not
A farm or dwelling-house within five leagues,
We should deserve to wear a cap and bells,
Three good round years, for playing the fool here
In such a night as this.
MAR. Stop, stop.
You'd better like we should descend together,
And lie down by his side what say you to it?
Three of us we should keep each other warm:
I'll answer for it that our four-legged friend
Shall not disturb us; further I'll not engage;
Come, come, for manhood's sake!
MAR. These drowsy shiverings,
This mortal stupor which is creeping over me,
What do they mean? were this my single body
Opposed to armies, not a nerve would tremble:
Why do I tremble now? Is not the depth
Of this Man's crimes beyond the reach of thought?
And yet, in plumbing the abyss for judgment,
Something I strike upon which turns my mind
Back on herself, I think, again my breast
Concentres all the terrors of the Universe:
I look at him and tremble like a child.
OSW. Is it possible?
MAR. One thing you noticed not:
Just as we left the glen a clap of thunder
Burst on the mountains with hell-rousing force.
This is a time, said he, when guilt may shudder;
But there's a Providence for them who walk
In helplessness, when innocence is with them.
At this audacious blasphemy, I thought
The spirit of vengeance seemed to ride the air.
OSW. Why are you not the man you were that moment?
[He draws MARMADUKE to the dungeon.
MAR. You say he was asleep, look at this arm,
And tell me if 'tis fit for such a work.
[Leans upon OSWALD.
OSW. This is some sudden seizure!
MAR. A most strange faintness, will you hunt me out
A draught of water?
OSW. Nay, to see you thus
Moves me beyond my bearing. I will try
To gain the torrent's brink.
MAR. (after a pause). It seems an age
Since that Man left me. No, I am not lost.
HER. (at the mouth of the dungeon). Give me your hand; where are
you, Friends? and tell me
How goes the night.
MAR. 'Tis hard to measure time,
In such a weary night, and such a place.
HER. I do not hear the voice of my friend Oswald.
MAR. A minute past, he went to fetch a draught
Of water from the torrent. 'Tis, you'll say,
A cheerless beverage.
HER. How good it was in you
To stay behind! Hearing at first no answer,
I was alarmed.
MAR. No wonder; this is a place
That well may put some fears into 'your' heart.
HER. Why so? a roofless rock had been a comfort,
Storm-beaten and bewildered as we were;
And in a night like this, to lend your cloaks
To make a bed for me! My Girl will weep
When she is told of it.
MAR. This Daughter of yours
Is very dear to you.
HER. Oh! but you are young;
Over your head twice twenty years must roll,
With all their natural weight of sorrow and pain,
Ere can be known to you how much a Father
May love his Child.
MAR. Thank you, old Man, for this! [Aside.
HER. Fallen am I, and worn out, a useless Man;
Kindly have you protected me to-night,
And no return have I to make but prayers;
May you in age be blest with such a daughter!
When from the Holy Land I had returned
Sightless, and from my heritage was driven,
A wretched Outcast but this strain of thought
Would lead me to talk fondly.
MAR. Do not fear;
Your words are precious to my ears; go on.
HER. You will forgive me, but my heart runs over.
When my old Leader slipped into the flood
And perished, what a piercing outcry you
Sent after him. I have loved you ever since.
You start where are we?
MAR. Oh, there is no danger;
The cold blast struck me.
HER. 'Twas a foolish question.
MAR. But when you were an Outcast? Heaven is just;
Your piety would not miss its due reward;
The little Orphan then would be your succour,
And do good service, though she knew it not.
HER. I turned me from the dwellings of my Fathers,
Where none but those who trampled on my rights
Seemed to remember me. To the wide world
I bore her, in my arms; her looks won pity;
She was my Raven in the wilderness,
And brought me food. Have I not cause to love her?
HER. More than ever Parent loved a Child?
MAR. Yes, yes.
HER. I will not murmur, merciful God!
I will not murmur; blasted as I have been,
Thou hast left me ears to hear my Daughter's voice,
And arms to fold her to my heart. Submissively
Thee I adore, and find my rest in faith.
OSW. Herbert! confusion! (aside). Here it is, my Friend,
[Presents the Horn.
A charming beverage for you to carouse,
This bitter night.
HER. Ha! Oswald! ten bright crosses
I would have given, not many minutes gone,
To have heard your voice.
OSW. Your couch, I fear, good Baron,
Has been but comfortless; and yet that place,
When the tempestuous wind first drove us hither,
Felt warm as a wren's nest. You'd better turn
And under covert rest till break of day,
Or till the storm abate.
(To MARMADUKE aside). He has restored you.
No doubt you have been nobly entertained?
But soft! how came he forth? The Night-mare Conscience
Has driven him out of harbour?
MAR. I believe
You have guessed right.
HER. The trees renew their murmur:
Come, let us house together.
[OSWALD conducts him to the dungeon.
OSW. (returns). Had I not
Esteemed you worthy to conduct the affair
To its most fit conclusion, do you think
I would so long have struggled with my Nature,
And smothered all that's man in me? away!
[Looking towards the dungeon.
This man's the property of him who best
Can feel his crimes. I have resigned a privilege;
It now becomes my duty to resume it.
MAR. Touch not a finger
OSW. What then must be done?
MAR. Which way soe'er I turn, I am perplexed.
OSW. Now, on my life, I grieve for you. The misery
Of doubt is insupportable. Pity, the facts
Did not admit of stronger evidence;
Twelve honest men, plain men, would set us right;
Their verdict would abolish these weak scruples.
MAR. Weak! I am weak there does my torment lie,
OSW. Verily, when he said
How his old heart would leap to hear her steps,
You thought his voice the echo of Idonea's.
MAR. And never heard a sound so terrible.
OSW. Perchance you think so now?
MAR. I cannot do it:
Twice did I spring to grasp his withered throat,
When such a sudden weakness fell upon me,
I could have dropped asleep upon his breast.
OSW. Justice is there not thunder in the word?
Shall it be law to stab the petty robber
Who aims but at our purse; and shall this Parricide
Worse is he far, far worse (if foul dishonour
Be worse than death) to that confiding Creature
Whom he to more than filial love and duty
Hath falsely trained shall he fulfil his purpose?
But you are fallen.
MAR. Fallen should I be indeed
Murder perhaps asleep, blind, old, alone,
Betrayed, in darkness! Here to strike the blow
[Flings away his sword.
OSW. Nay, I have done with you:
We'll lead him to the Convent. He shall live,
And she shall love him. With unquestioned title
He shall be seated in his Barony,
And we too chant the praise of his good deeds.
I now perceive we do mistake our masters,
And most despise the men who best can teach us:
Henceforth it shall be said that bad men only
Are brave: Clifford is brave; and that old Man
[Taking MARMADUKE'S sword and giving it to him.
To Clifford's arms he would have led
His Victim haply to this desolate house.
MAR. (advancing to the dungeon). It must be ended!
OSW. Softly; do not rouse him;
He will deny it to the last. He lies
Within the Vault, a spear's length to the left.
[MARMADUKE descends to the dungeon.
(Alone.) The Villains rose in mutiny to destroy me;
I could have quelled the Cowards, but this Stripling
Must needs step in, and save my life. The look
With which he gave the boon I see it now!
The same that tempted me to loathe the gift.
For this old venerable Greybeard faith
'Tis his own fault if he hath got a face
Which doth play tricks with them that look on it:
'Twas this that put it in my thoughts that countenance
His staff his figure Murder! what, of whom?
We kill a worn-out horse, and who but women
Sigh at the deed? Hew down a withered tree,
And none look grave but dotards. He may live
To thank me for this service. Rainbow arches,
Highways of dreaming passion, have too long,
Young as he is, diverted wish and hope
From the unpretending ground we mortals tread;
Then shatter the delusion, break it up
And set him free. What follows? I have learned
That things will work to ends the slaves o' the world
Do never dream of. I 'have' been what he
This Boy when he comes forth with bloody hands
Might envy, and am now, but he shall know
What I am now
[Goes and listens at the dungeon.
Praying or parleying? tut!
Is he not eyeless? He has been half-dead
These fifteen years
Enter female Beggar with two or three of her Companions.
(Turning abruptly) 'Ha! speak' what Thing art thou?
(Recognises her.) Heavens! my good Friend! [To her.
BEG. Forgive me, gracious Sir!
OSW. (to her companions). Begone, ye Slaves, or I will raise a
And send ye dancing to the clouds, like leaves.
[They retire affrighted.
BEG. Indeed we meant no harm; we lodge sometimes
In this deserted Castle 'I repent me.'
[OSWALD goes to the dungeon listens returns to the Beggar.
OSW. Woman, thou hast a helpless Infant keep
Thy secret for its sake, or verily
That wretched life of thine shall be the forfeit.
BEG. I 'do' repent me, Sir; I fear the curse
Of that blind Man. 'Twas not your money, sir
BEG. (going). There is some wicked deed in hand: [Aside.
Would I could find the old Man and his Daughter.
MARMADUKE: re-enters from the dungeon.
OSW. It is all over then; your foolish fears
Are hushed to sleep, by your own act and deed,
Made quiet as he is.
MAR. Why came you down?
And when I felt your hand upon my arm
And spake to you, why did you give no answer?
Feared you to waken him? he must have been
In a deep sleep. I whispered to him thrice.
There are the strangest echoes in that place!
OSW. Tut! let them gabble till the day of doom.
MAR. Scarcely, by groping, had I reached the Spot,
When round my wrist I felt a cord drawn tight,
As if the blind Man's dog were pulling at it.
OSW. But after that?
MAR. The features of Idonea
Lurked in his face
OSW. Psha! Never to these eyes
Will retribution show itself again
With aspect so inviting. Why forbid me
To share your triumph?
MAR. Yes, her very look,
Smiling in sleep
OSW. A pretty feat of Fancy!
MAR. Though but a glimpse, it sent me to my prayers.
OSW. Is he alive?
MAR. What mean you? who alive?
OSW. Herbert! since you will have it, Baron Herbert;
He who will gain his Seignory when Idonea
Hath become Clifford's harlot is 'he' living?
MAR. The old Man in that dungeon 'is' alive.
OSW. Henceforth, then, will I never in camp or field
Obey you more. Your weakness, to the Band,
Shall be proclaimed: brave Men, they all shall hear it.
You a protector of humanity!
Avenger you of outraged innocence!
MAR. 'Twas dark dark as the grave; yet did I see,
Saw him his face turned toward me; and I tell thee
Idonea's filial countenance was there
To baffle me it put me to my prayers.
Upwards I cast my eyes, and, through a crevice,
Beheld a star twinkling above my head,
And, by the living God, I could not do it.
OSW. (to himself). Now may I perish if this turn do more
Than make me change my course.
(To MARMADUKE.) Dear Marmaduke,
My words were rashly spoken; I recall them:
I feel my error; shedding human blood
Is a most serious thing.
MAR. Not I alone,
Thou too art deep in guilt.
OSW. We have indeed
Been most presumptuous. There 'is' guilt in this,
Else could so strong a mind have ever known
These trepidations? Plain it is that Heaven
Has marked out this foul Wretch as one whose crimes
Must never come before a mortal judgment-seat,
Or be chastised by mortal instruments.
MAR. A thought that's worth a thousand worlds!
[Goes towards the dungeon.
OSW. I grieve
That, in my zeal, I have caused you so much pain.
MAR. Think not of that! 'tis over we are safe.
OSW. (as if to himself, yet speaking aloud). The truth is
hideous, but how stifle it?
[Turning to MARMADUKE.
Give me your sword nay, here are stones and fragments,
The least of which would beat out a man's brains;
Or you might drive your head against that wall.
No! this is not the place to hear the tale:
It should be told you pinioned in your bed,
Or on some vast and solitary plain
Blown to you from a trumpet.
MAR. Why talk thus?
Whate'er the monster brooding in your breast
I care not: fear I have none, and cannot fear
[The sound of a horn is heard.
That horn again 'Tis some one of our Troop;
What do they here? Listen!
OSW. What! dogged like thieves!
Enter WALLACE and LACY, etc.
LACY. You are found at last, thanks to the vagrant Troop
For not misleading us.
OSW. (looking at WALLACE). That subtle Greybeard
I'd rather see my father's ghost.
LACY. (to MARMADUKE). My Captain,
We come by order of the Band. Belike
You have not heard that Henry has at last
Dissolved the Barons' League, and sent abroad
His Sheriffs with fit force to reinstate
The genuine owners of such Lands and Baronies
As, in these long commotions, have been seized.
His Power is this way tending. It befits us
To stand upon our guard, and with our swords
Defend the innocent.
MAR. Lacy! we look
But at the surfaces of things; we hear
Of towns in flames, fields ravaged, young and old
Driven out in troops to want and nakedness;
Then grasp our swords and rush upon a cure
That flatters us, because it asks not thought:
The deeper malady is better hid;
The world is poisoned at the heart.
LACY. What mean you?
WAL. (whose eye has been fixed suspiciously upon OSWALD). Ay,
what is it you mean?
MAR. Hark'e, my Friends;
Were there a Man who, being weak and helpless
And most forlorn, should bribe a Mother, pressed
By penury, to yield him up her Daughter,
A little Infant, and instruct the Babe,
Prattling upon his knee, to call him Father
LACY. Why, if his heart be tender, that offence
I could forgive him.
MAR. (going on). And should he make the Child
An instrument of falsehood, should he teach her
To stretch her arms, and dim the gladsome light
Of infant playfulness with piteous looks
Of misery that was not
LACY. Troth, 'tis hard
But in a world like ours
MAR. (changing his tone). This self-same Man
Even while he printed kisses on the cheek
Of this poor Babe, and taught its innocent tongue
To lisp the name of Father could he look
To the unnatural harvest of that time
When he should give her up, a Woman grown,
To him who bid the highest in the market
Of foul pollution
LACY. The whole visible world
Contains not such a Monster!
MAR. For this purpose
Should he resolve to taint her Soul by means
Which bathe the limbs in sweat to think of them;
Should he, by tales which would draw tears from iron,
Work on her nature, and so turn compassion
And gratitude to ministers of vice,
And make the spotless spirit of filial love
Prime mover in a plot to damn his Victim
Both soul and body
WAL. 'Tis too horrible;
Oswald, what say you to it?
LACY. Hew him down,
And fling him to the ravens.
MAR. But his aspect
It is so meek, his countenance so venerable.
WAL. (with an appearance of mistrust). But how, what say you,
LACY. (at the same moment). Stab him, were it
Before the Altar.
MAR. What, if he were sick,
Tottering upon the very verge of life,
And old, and blind
LACY. Blind, say you?
OSW. (coming forward). Are we Men,
Or own we baby Spirits? Genuine courage
Is not an accidental quality,
A thing dependent for its casual birth
On opposition and impediment.
Wisdom, if Justice speak the word, beats down
The giant's strength; and, at the voice of Justice,
Spares not the worm. The giant and the worm
She weighs them in one scale. The wiles of woman,
And craft of age, seducing reason, first
Made weakness a protection, and obscured
The moral shapes of things. His tender cries
And helpless innocence do they protect
The infant lamb? and shall the infirmities,
Which have enabled this enormous Culprit
To perpetrate his crimes, serve as a Sanctuary
To cover him from punishment? Shame! Justice,
Admitting no resistance, bends alike
The feeble and the strong. She needs not here
Her bonds and chains, which make the mighty feeble.
We recognise in this old Man a victim
Prepared already for the sacrifice.
LACY. By heaven, his words are reason!
OSW. Yes, my Friends,
His countenance is meek and venerable;
And, by the Mass, to see him at his prayers!
I am of flesh and blood, and may I perish
When my heart does not ache to think of it!
Poor Victim! not a virtue under heaven
But what was made an engine to ensnare thee;
But yet I trust, Idonea, thou art safe.
WAL. How! what? your Idonea?
But now no longer mine. You know Lord Clifford;
He is the Man to whom the Maiden pure
As beautiful, and gentle and benign,
And in her ample heart loving even me
Was to be yielded up.
LACY. Now, by the head
Of my own child, this Man must die; my hand,
A worthier wanting, shall itself entwine
In his grey hairs!
MAR. (to LACY). I love the Father in thee.
You know me, Friends; I have a heart to feel,
And I have felt, more than perhaps becomes me
Or duty sanctions.
LACY. We will have ample justice.
Who are we, Friends? Do we not live on ground
Where Souls are self-defended, free to grow
Like mountain oaks rocked by the stormy wind.
Mark the Almighty Wisdom, which decreed
This monstrous crime to be laid open 'here',
Where Reason has an eye that she can use,
And Men alone are Umpires. To the Camp
He shall be led, and there, the Country round
All gathered to the spot, in open day
Shall Nature be avenged.
OSW. 'Tis nobly thought;
His death will be a monument for ages.
MAR. (to LACY). I thank you for that hint. He shall be brought
Before the Camp, and would that best and wisest
Of every country might be present. There,
His crime shall be proclaimed; and for the rest
It shall be done as Wisdom shall decide:
Meanwhile, do you two hasten back and see
That all is well prepared.
WAL. We will obey you.
(Aside.) But softly! we must look a little nearer.
MAR. Tell where you found us. At some future time
I will explain the cause. [Exeunt.
SCENE The door of the Hostel, a group of Pilgrims as before;
IDONEA and the Host among them.
HOST. Lady, you'll find your Father at the Convent
As I have told you: He left us yesterday
With two Companions; one of them, as seemed,
His most familiar Friend. (Going.) There was a letter
Of which I heard them speak, but that I fancy
Has been forgotten.
IDON. (to Host). Farewell!
HOST. Gentle pilgrims,
St. Cuthbert speed you on your holy errand.
[Exeunt IDONEA and Pilgrims.
SCENE A desolate Moor.
OSW. Carry him to the Camp! Yes, to the Camp.
Oh, Wisdom! a most wise resolve! and then,
That half a word should blow it to the winds!
This last device must end my work. Methinks
It were a pleasant pastime to construct
A scale and table of belief as thus
Two columns, one for passion, one for proof;
Each rises as the other falls: and first,
Passion a unit and 'against' us proof
Nay, we must travel in another path,
Or we're stuck fast for ever; passion, then,
Shall be a unit 'for' us; proof no, passion!
We'll not insult thy majesty by time,
Person, and place the where, the when, the how,
And all particulars that dull brains require
To constitute the spiritless shape of Fact,
They bow to, calling the idol, Demonstration.
A whipping to the Moralists who preach
That misery is a sacred thing: for me,
I know no cheaper engine to degrade a man,
Nor any half so sure. This Stripling's mind
Is shaken till the dregs float on the surface;
And, in the storm and anguish of the heart,
He talks of a transition in his Soul,
And dreams that he is happy. We dissect
The senseless body, and why not the mind?
These are strange sights the mind of man, upturned,
Is in all natures a strange spectacle;
In some a hideous one hem! shall I stop?
No. Thoughts and feelings will sink deep, but then
They have no substance. Pass but a few minutes,
And something shall be done which Memory
May touch, whene'er her Vassals are at work.
Enter MARMADUKE, from behind.
OSW. (turning to meet him). But listen, for my peace
MAR. Why, I 'believe' you.
OSW. But hear the proofs
MAR. Ay, prove that when two peas
Lie snugly in a pod, the pod must then
Be larger than the peas prove this 'twere matter
Worthy the hearing. Fool was I to dream
It ever could be otherwise!
OSW. Last night
When I returned with water from the brook,
I overheard the Villains every word
Like red-hot iron burnt into my heart.
Said one, "It is agreed on. The blind Man
Shall feign a sudden illness, and the Girl,
Who on her journey must proceed alone,
Under pretence of violence, be seized.
She is," continued the detested Slave,
"She is right willing strange if she were not!
They say, Lord Clifford is a savage man;
But, faith, to see him in his silken tunic,
Fitting his low voice to the minstrel's harp,
There's witchery in't. I never knew a maid
That could withstand it. True," continued he,
"When we arranged the affair, she wept a little
(Not the less welcome to my Lord for that)
And said, 'My Father he will have it so.'"
MAR. I am your hearer.
OSW. This I caught, and more
That may not be retold to any ear,
The obstinate bolt of a small iron door
Detained them near the gateway of the Castle.
By a dim lantern's light I saw that wreaths
Of flowers were in their hands, as if designed
For festive decoration; and they said,
With brutal laughter and most foul allusion,
That they should share the banquet with their Lord
And his new Favourite.
OSW. I knew
How you would be disturbed by this dire news,
And therefore chose this solitary Moor,
Here to impart the tale, of which, last night,
I strove to ease my mind, when our two Comrades,
Commissioned by the Band, burst in upon us.
MAR. Last night, when moved to lift the avenging steel,
I did believe all things were shadows yea,
Living or dead all things were bodiless,
Or but the mutual mockeries of body,
Till that same star summoned me back again.
Now I could laugh till my ribs ached. Oh Fool!
To let a creed, built in the heart of things,
Dissolve before a twinkling atom! Oswald,
I could fetch lessons out of wiser schools
Than you have entered, were it worth the pains.
Young as I am, I might go forth a teacher,
And you should see how deeply I could reason
Of love in all its shapes, beginnings, ends;
Of moral qualities in their diverse aspects;
Of actions, and their laws and tendencies.
OSW. You take it as it merits
MAR. One a King,
General or Cham, Sultan or Emperor,
Strews twenty acres of good meadow-ground
With carcases, in lineament and shape
And substance, nothing differing from his own,
But that they cannot stand up of themselves
Another sits i' th' sun, and by the hour
Floats kingcups in the brook a Hero one
We call, and scorn the other as Time's spendthrift;
But have they not a world of common ground
To occupy both fools, or wise alike,
Each in his way?
OSW. Troth, I begin to think so.
MAR. Now for the corner-stone of my philosophy:
I would not give a denier for the man
Who, on such provocation as this earth
Yields, could not chuck his babe beneath the chin,
And send it with a fillip to its grave.
OSW. Nay, you leave me behind.
MAR. That such a One,
So pious in demeanour! in his look
So saintly and so pure! Hark'e, my Friend,
I'll plant myself before Lord Clifford's Castle,
A surly mastiff kennels at the gate,
And he shall howl and I will laugh, a medley
OSW. In faith, a pleasant scheme;
But take your sword along with you, for that
Might in such neighbourhood find seemly use.
But first, how wash our hands of this old Man?
MAR. Oh yes, that mole, that viper in the path;
Plague on my memory, him I had forgotten.
OSW. You know we left him sitting see him yonder.
MAR. Ha! ha!
OSW. As 'twill be but a moment's work,
I will stroll on; you follow when 'tis done.
SCENE changes to another part of the Moor at a short distance
HERBERT is discovered seated on a stone.
HER. A sound of laughter, too! 'tis well I feared,
The Stranger had some pitiable sorrow
Pressing upon his solitary heart.
Hush! 'tis the feeble and earth-loving wind
That creeps along the bells of the crisp heather.
Alas! 'tis cold I shiver in the sunshine
What can this mean? There is a psalm that speaks
Of God's parental mercies with Idonea
I used to sing it. Listen! what foot is there?
MAR. (aside looking a HERBERT). And I have loved this Man! and
she hath loved him!
And I loved her, and she loves the Lord Clifford!
And there it ends; if this be not enough
To make mankind merry for evermore,
Then plain it is as day, that eyes were made
For a wise purpose verily to weep with!
A pretty prospect this, a masterpiece
Of Nature, finished with most curious skill!
(To HERBERT.) Good Baron, have you ever practised tillage?
Pray tell me what this land is worth by the acre?
HER. How glad I am to hear your voice! I know not
Wherein I have offended you; last night
I found in you the kindest of Protectors;
This morning, when I spoke of weariness,
You from my shoulder took my scrip and threw it
About your own; but for these two hours past
Once only have you spoken, when the lark
Whirred from among the fern beneath our feet,
And I, no coward in my better days,
Was almost terrified.
MAR. That's excellent!
So, you bethought you of the many ways
In which a man may come to his end, whose crimes
Have roused all Nature up against him pshaw!
HER. For mercy's sake, is nobody in sight?
No traveller, peasant, herdsman?
MAR. Not a soul:
Here is a tree, ragged, and bent, and bare,
That turns its goat's-beard flakes of peagreen moss
From the stern breathing of the rough seawind;
This have we, but no other company:
Commend me to the place. If a man should die
And leave his body here, it were all one
As he were twenty fathoms underground.
HER. Where is our common Friend?
MAR. A ghost, methinks
The Spirit of a murdered man, for instance
Might have fine room to ramble about here,
A grand domain to squeak and gibber in.
HER. Lost Man! if thou have any close-pent guilt
Pressing upon thy heart, and this the hour
MAR. A bold word from 'you'!
HER. Restore him, Heaven!
MAR. The desperate Wretch! A Flower,
Fairest of all flowers, was she once, but now
They have snapped her from the stem Poh! let her lie
Besoiled with mire, and let the houseless snail
Feed on her leaves. You knew her well ay, there,
Old Man! you were a very Lynx, you knew
The worm was in her
HER. Mercy! Sir, what mean you?
MAR. You have a Daughter!
HER. Oh that she were here!
She hath an eye that sinks into all hearts,
And if I have in aught offended you,
Soon would her gentle voice make peace between us.
MAR. (aside). I