E-text prepared by Al Haines
A Drama, in Five Acts
ALFRED B. RICHARDS
Author of "CROESUS, King of Lydia," a Tragedy; "VANDYCK," a Play of Genoa, "DEATH AND THE MAGDALEN," and other Poems; "THE DREAM OF THE SOUL," and other Poems; "OXFORD UNMASKED;" Part II of "BRITAIN REDEEMED;" and "POEMS, ESSAYS AND OPINIONS."
London: Printed by Petter, Duff, and Co. Playhouse Yard, Blackfriars
MILTON, his Secretary.
BASIL, his Half-Brother.
SIR SIMON NEVEL, their Uncle.
IRETON, Son-in-law of Cromwell.
HARRISON, ) DESBOROUGH, ) BRADSHAW, ) MARTEN, ) Parliamentarians. LILBURNE, ) HACKER, ) LUDLOW, ) SIR HARRY VANE, )
WILLIAM, Servant to Arthur.
HEZEKIAH NEWBORN, Host.
PEARSON, Attendant on Cromwell.
WYCKOFF, Accomplice of Basil.
BOWTELL, an Ironside.
Cavaliers, Roundheads, Officers, Gentlemen, Soldiers, Guests of the Inn, Poachers, Citizens, a Preacher, Old Man, Trooper, Servants, Messengers, &c., &c.
THE LADY CROMWELL.
ELIZABETH, her Daughter.
FLORENCE NEVEL, Daughter of Sir Simon.
BARBARA, Maid of Florence.
Attendants, Women, &c.
[1st Cut.] [2nd Grooves.]
A Lane near a Village. Afternoon.
Enter ARTHUR WALTON and WILLIAM, R.S.E.
Arthur. Give me your arm, my feet tread heavily; The sameness of this scene doth pierce my heart With thronging recollections of the past. There is nought chang'd—and what a world of care, Of sorrow, passion, pleasure have I known, Since but a natural part of this was I, Whose voice is now a discord to the sounds Once daily mellow'd in my youthful being. Methinks I feel like one that long hath read A strange and chequer'd story, and doth rise, With a deep sigh to be himself again.
Will. One would not think, Sir, how much blood had stain'd Old England, since we left her, finding thus All things so peaceful; but one thing I mark'd As we did skirt the village.
Arth. What was that?
Will. The king's face was defac'd—the sign o' the inn At jolly Master Gurton's—mind you not How sad it look'd? Yet 'neath it I've been gay, A time or two; 'tis not my fortune now: Those bright Italian skies have even marr'd My judgment of clear ale.
Arth. I'faith 'twill need A marvellous scant repair.
Will. One jovial day Of honest mud and wholesome English fog.
Arth. That sign! 'twas once the royal head of James; Some thirsty limner passing made it Charles; I've heard it said 'twas e'en our good Queen Bess, By curious folk that trac'd her high starch'd ruff In the quaint faded back of antique chair, Her stomacher in Charles's shrivell'd vest— Who in his turn is gone. Well, take this letter, See the old knight; but not a word to him. Stay, I forgot, my little rosy cousin Should be a woman now; thus—full of wiles, Glancing behind the man that trusts her love To his best friend, and wanton with the girls She troops with, in such trifling, foolish sort, To turn the stomach of initiate man. Fie! I care not to hear of her; yet ask If she be well. Commend me to my brother; Thou wilt not tarry—he will give thee gold, And haste to welcome me—go! At the inn We'll meet some two hours hence.
Will. Hem! I doubt much About this welcoming.—Sad human Nature! This brother was a careful, godly youth That kept accounts, and smiling pass'd a beggar, Saying, "Good-morrow, friend," yet never gave. Where head doth early ripen, heart comes late— Therefore, I say, I doubt this welcoming. [Exeunt.]
[Last Cut.] [2nd Grooves.]
An Apartment in a Manor House.
Enter BASIL WALTON and FLORENCE, R.
Basil. [following Florence.] I'll break thy haughty spirit!
Flor. Will you, sir?— 'Tis base, ungentle, and unmannerly, Because, forsooth, you covet my poor wealth, Which likes me not, as I care not for it, To persecute a helpless girl like me.
Basil. I will protect thee; but accept my love. Nay, do not frown so.
Flor. Love! say'st thou? Profane, Vile misuse of that sacred word. Away! Touch not my hand with your cold fingers—Off!
Basil. Thou foolish child, wouldst throw thyself away Upon some beggar? were he here, perchance Thy cousin Arthur? Come, our lands unite, Be prudent—
Flor. Prudent! Oh, there is no match Half so imprudent, as when interest Makes two, in heart divided, one—no work So vain, so mean, so heartless, dull and void, As that of him who buys the hollow "yes" From the pale lips where Love sits not enthron'd, Nor fans with purple wing the bosom's fire. Prudence! to waste a life, lose self-respect, Or e'en the chance of love bestowed and met?—
Basil. Sweet cousin, wilt not love me?
Flor. No! nor wish To hate thee, could I help it—therefore, go!
Basil. Well then I must— [Seizes her hand.]
Flor. For pity's sake; if not I'll fly thee and my home.
Basil. Ha! leave your father, Desert the old man in his hour of need? Fine ethics, truly. [Advances.]
Flor. Heaven! Leave me, sir— There something tells me Arthur will return, Whom you have cozen'd of his heritage, And then he'll aid me.
Basil. [Aside.] Hath she seen him then, Or heard? I must beware—
[A Servant enters and beckons him out, L.]
Nay! none can know. [Aside.] Doubtless a message from him—I must see That they meet not, or else— [Aloud.] Adieu! fair cousin; I trust you'll find your senses yet ere long.
[Exit BASIL, L.]
Flor. Once more he's gone—O world! indeed thou art Too oft the bad man's friend.
Sir Sim. [Within.] Ho! nephew Basil, Ho! Basil!
[Enter SIR SIMON, R.] Where's my nephew? [To Florence.]
Flor. He has left This moment, sir! O listen, he is rude. I cannot wed him,—Father! make me not Unhappy—
Sir Sim. Nay! Thou know'st, indeed, my child, How I do love thee. 'Tis a good young man, And wealthy—no fool, like his brother. Fool, Said I?—a madman, ape, dolt, idiot, ass, An honourable ass to give the land His weak sire left him, to our Basil—Ha! He'll give none back, I think !—no! no! Come, girl! Wouldst thou be foolish, too? I would not marry For money only, understand—no! no! That I abhor, detest, but in my life I never saw a sweeter, properer youth. You like him not? Tush! marriage doth bring liking. Ay! love too—you are young!
Flor. But, I've enough— Why wed at all?
Sir Sim. Girl! girl! I say, would'st drive Thy father mad! A very handsome man, A healthy fine young man—lands joining too! Nay! I could curse you, wench! Not have him? This Comes from your mawkish sentiment. You are No child of mine—
Flor. Dear father! Hear me!
Sir Sim. Mark! You're not of legal age—I'll drive you forth. I'd rather see you dead, here, at my feet, Than baulk my counsels thus. Nay, try and see If sentiment will feed you, trick you out. O, who would be a father?
Flor. Have I not E'er shown you love and duty?
Sir Sim. Then obey! If I'd said nought—Oh! then you'd been in love With him, against my will—
Flor. No, sir, indeed! Spare me—I'll think—I'll try. Be kind to me!
Sir Sim. Well, well, child, 'tis not right to treat me thus: If I were full of passion—harsh, unkind, Your conduct were less cruel. But, you'll kill The old man some day with your cruelty. You don't care for him—not you; yet he acts All for your good. Some day you'll think so when You've lost him. Come, come, dry your tears, now kiss me; I should die happy, were you married well. I am old—all this agitation kills me.
Flor. Nay, father, talk not so.
Sir Sim. You should obey me. Your mother never dar'd oppose me thus; She swore obedience, and I made her keep it.
Flor. [Aside.] My mother, she died young, and yet too old; The breath of her whole life was one long sigh; She look'd like her own mourning effigy. Her sad "good morrow" was as others say "Good night." We never saw her smile but once, And then we wept around her dying couch, For 'twas the dazzling light of joy that stream'd Upon her from the opening gates of heaven; That smile was parted, she so gently died, Between the wan corpse and the fleeting spirit.
Sir Sim. [Aside.] She looks just like her mother. That pale face Making its sad obedience a reproach. If she would flout, sulk, scold, resist my will, I'd make her have him ere the day grew cold.
Flor. Her very kisses chill'd our infant brows; She pluck'd the very flowers of daily life As from a grave where Silence only wept, And none but Hope lay buried. Her blue eyes Were like Forget-me-nots, o'er which the shade Of clouds still lingers when the moaning storm Hath pass'd away in night. It mattered not, They were the home from which tears never wander'd.
Sir Sim. [Aloud.] I shall lose patience shortly. Oh, that gout! Here, girl, assist me. Would you see me fall?
Flor. Well, father, leave me to myself awhile. I would obey you if I could.
Sir Sim. That's right. You know I'm rough, but then who loves you like A father? You ought not to try me thus; Indeed you ought not. Come, my dear, we'll go, And find your cousin. [FLORENCE hesitates.] Hey! not now? Beware, 'Tis better now! no nonsense. Come, come, come. You know you can do what you please with me, But then you must be more obedient—so! [Going slowly, R.] Your hand! You do me harm, girl! with this strife. Gently—your cousin never frets me thus. [Exeunt, R.]
[Enter BASIL reading a letter, WILLIAM following, L. FLORENCE returns, R., and steals behind them, and listens to their conversation.]
Basil. [With a letter in his hand.] Good William, thou shalt drink to me. [Gives him money.] And art thou still called thirsty William?
Will. What answer shall I bear to my master?
Basil. Thy master? 'Tis a good youth, though a wild—I hope he be well. Yet, frankly, I would that he had not just now returned. Our uncle is so violent, and will not hear his name. Arthur hath been so imprudent, loose, eh? William, I regret the old man hath heard of these things.
Will. My master is a very Puritan, sir!
Basil. [Aside.] Let his worth go begging, then—but he will soon be bad as his fortunes demand. Your poverty-stricken gentlemen were better on the coast of Barbary than in this civilized country. And whatever he do, he shall be judged harshly. [Aloud to William.]
I doubt not—Lies, lies; I said so at the time. Then you see my cousin Florence, a simple girl, trembles at his very name. You cannot wonder at it;—such stories have been told. Confess now, William, thy master hath been a prodigal. Doth he pay thy wages? Thou art scurvily clad. I have a place now—as it were.
Will. I desire no better, sir! I thank you, than where I am.
Basil. Oh! I did not mean unless you had left my brother first. Now, he desireth a thousand pound. Simply I have it not. There is no rent paid now. I would he had written rather than come. I will give him five hundred that I have, if he will pledge me his honourable word to leave England for five years. Are there not wars abroad whereby men live?—
Will. And die!
Basil. I would I could see him. But I have promised mine uncle not, and he cannot bear any shock to his health. Go, tell him this.
Will. Worshipful Master Basil! you will excuse me, but I must speak my master's mind. He saith he hath signed away his inheritance to thee, and that he expects this small gift, ere he comes among ye. He is but in sorry plight of dress, and he hath ever shown much affection for you.
Basil. Does he threaten? Hark ye, I owe him nought. Let justice be done. The fortune was mine by birth. Our father acted basely. My brother did very properly restore it. Shall he boast of a bare act of justice? He hath no claim on me. Shall I furnish his profligacies, his expenses, his foreign debaucheries, because I have gotten back mine own?
Will. You will not see him?—
Will. Nor send him the money?—
Basil. No! except with the proviso I told thee of.
Will. You have no other message?—
Will. Oh! Well, sir, I think the execution of my barren commission needs no farther stay. Touching that small portion of mammon wherewith thou wouldst endow my master's passage across the seas, in his name I will venture to refuse the gratility.
Basil. Wouldst jest, villain? There are stocks! Back to the beggar that sent thee. [Exit R.]
[WILLIAM going, L., FLORENCE approaches him from behind.]
Flor. Good friend! I have heard something of your discourse. I would fain see thy master.
Will. Art thou not his cousin, lady?
Flor. I am.
Will. He hath often spoken of thee far hence.
Flor. We were children together. Is his temper sweet as it used to be? Hath he grown taller? I have much to say to him. Is he sunburnt? Doth he wear a beard? They say much ill of him.
Will. Lady! believe it not; [aside]—for I affect much his society. [Aloud.] He is a good master and kind, though of a strange mood. For women, he cannot abear them.
Flor. Indeed! Good friend, nevertheless I must see your master. Bring me to him.
Will. I am going to the inn, where he awaits me. Will it please you to meet me opposite the old barn in two hours?
Flor. I will, I will, for I need his advice much. I am sore distressed. Here is for thee. Lose no time! [Gives him money.] Farewell! [Exit R.]
Will. By'r lady, angels! both of them. [Exit L.]
An extensile landscape, with a road on the L; overhung with foliage. A Country Inn, U.E.R. Table, chairs, villagers sitting, a waiter bringing in refreshments during the symphony of the following
GLEE and CHORUS.
Cold, oh! cold the March winds be; High up in a leafless tree The little bird sits and wearily twits, The woods with perjury: But the cuckoo-knave sings hold his stave, (Ever the spring comes merrily) And "O poor fool!" sings he— For this is the way in the world to live, To mock when a friend hath no more to give, Whether in hall or tree!
[The villagers retire severally.]
[Enter WILLIAM, L.]
Will. So this publican hath ceased to be a sinner! To think now of old sophisticate Gurton being called Hezekiah Newborn. Gadso, he babbles of salvation like the tap his boy left running this morning to see the troop of cavaliers go by. Yet I marked the unregenerate Gurton swore round ere Newborn found his voice to upbraid sourly as becomes a saint. He hath been more civil since I heard him. O Newborn, how utterly shalt thou be damned!
Host. The Lord be with thee, young man. It did seem to me that thou wert discoursing aloud in prayer. Doth thy master desire any creature-comfort?
Will. Master Gurton! thy belly hath kept pace with thy righteousness.
Host. Ha! Who told thee my carnal name? I prithee abstain. It doth remind me of the bonds of the flesh.
Will. Simply, thou art known to me. I am William Nutbrown.
Host. Nay! What, mine own friend Will, that had his bastard fathered on me? Why, he was a youth!
Will. He was! A youth of promise. Behold the fulfilment in these legs, this manly bosom!
Host. O wonderful! and to think I knew thee not! But thou art horribly, and as it were most monstrously improved? Will Nutbrown! to be sure—and whence comest thou?
Will. From the land of beccaficos, mine old Newborn! but thou understandest not—thou hast merely observed the increase of local timber and the decay of pigeon-houses. Thy sole chronicle hath been the ripe birth of undistinguishable curly-headed village children, and the green burial of undistinguished village bald old men hath been thine only lesson. Thou hast simply acquired amazement at the actions of the man of experience. Doth a quart measure still hold a quart?
Host. Alas! more—I will tell thee of it. These be sore times for us. You must know there hath been a Parliament commission of inquiry into weights and measures, and last Michaelmas a year, no! let me see—well, marry! there came down—
Will. Well, well, thou shalt finish anon.
Host. It went nigh to kill me.
Will. Thou shalt tell me all hereafter.
Host. Damnation! but I am glad. The Lord forgive me! I had nearly sworn.
Will. Thou hadst—nearly.
Host. And art thou a vessel of grace, or a brand given to the burning? Of a verity—
Will. Come, no lies with me! I shall doubt thee if thou cantest one word except in thy calling. Yet I saw by thy first look thou wert glad to see me; so give me thy hand, and I will shake it ere some one calls for a draught of ale, and thou dost relapse into the sordid and muddy calculation that makes thy daily self, and so forget that the friend of thy youth hath revisited thee. Nay, fear not, I will not betray thee to thy present customers. But first tell me, why thou art so changed: seeing that the cavaliers should be thy best friends?
Host. Friend Will! Twill tell thee—the cavaliers drink lustily, and of claret and sherris with spice, whereas, it is true, the elect chiefly do affect ale. But, O Will! your cavalier—not to speak of my keeping never a serving wench honest for a month, and I have daughters now grown—your best cavalier would ever pull out a long embroidered purse, with one gold piece in it, regarding which he would briskly swing it round, and jerking it together, replace in his doublet, saying between his hiccups, "Prithee, sweet Spigot!" or it may he, "Jolly Master Gurton! chalk it up; when the king hath his own again, I will repay thee;" or "I will go coin it from Noll's ruby nose," and would ride away singing, and in a fortnight the poor gentleman would surely be slain. And, as for your worst kind of cavalier, when I did gently remind him, he would swear and draw his rapier and make a fearful pass near my belly—that I was glad to see him depart with a skinful of mine own wine unpaid for. Moreover, Master Will, an he were handsome and a moon-raker, my wife, that is now at rest, would ever take his part, and cry shame on me for a cuckoldy villain to teaze a sweet, loyal gentleman so, that would pay when a could—moreover—
Will. Hold! Thy reasons are sufficient—Thou art, worthy Hezekiah! become a saint, to escape martyrdom. Methinks I see the gallant foin at thy belly.
[Draws his sword and makes a feint at the Host.]
Host. Have a care—[William makes feints.]
Will. I shall die! Gadzookers! thus, was it thus!—and thy wife—a cuckoldy villain—merely a figure of speech though, Master Gurton! Eh? Thou didst not suspect?
Host. Wilt thou be quiet; I see no jest.
Will. Nay, I'll be bound not. Sa! Sa!
Host. Laugh an thou likest; but put up thy toasting-iron.
Will. Well, thou hast reason for thanksgiving. But I think thy wife was right, if the poor gentleman's thrust was drunken, 'twas a compliment to thy wine. A scurvy rogue to ask for his money when he was poor, and thy wine did affect him.
Host. But to speak seriously, good Will, what bringeth thee here? Who is thy master! Can I assist thee in anything?
Will. Well, I pity thee, and will say no more. My master is young Arthur Walton. He hath returned. He gave up the fortune to his brother Basil.
Host. I thought he was settled abroad.
Will. No! no! He is here, and now he wanteth assistance from his brother; for we are in some present straits, and this Basil will have nought to say to him. What I shall want of thee is information of the family; and mayhap thy daughter will have to see Mistress Florence for us with a message.
[Enter TAPSTER and two or three Roundhead Soldiers, L.]
Tap. Master, master! here be soldiers quartered on us.
Will. The Philistines be upon thee!
Host. O Lord!——be praised. See directly and water the double ale—Tell my daughter to lock up the Trinidado tobaccos—Haste!
[Enter IRETON, HARRISON, and Soldiers, L.U.E.]
Ire. [Reading Papers.] Give us to drink, good measure; for the flesh is thirsty. That we have shall be paid. Who is that fellow [points to William] with his sword drawn?
Har. Ha! a malignant.—Smite him!
Sold. Lo! he shall die.
Host. Hold! hold! 'tis an innocent youth. He did but draw his weapon to defy the evil one. He is strong in prayer. [To William aside.] Speak quickly, an thou lovest thyself—something from Tobit, or the Psalmody.
Har. Thou hearest—Sin-Despise! touch not the youth. Lo, I myself have wrestled with the powers of darkness. [To William.] In what shape cometh he?
Will. With horns, an't please you, [Aside.] very like Master Newborn there.
Har. [To himself.] With me 'tis different. In the curtain'd night, A Form comes shrieking on me, With such an edg'd and preternatural cry 'T would stir the blood of clustering bats from sleep, Tear their hook'd wings from out the mildew'd eaves, And drive them circling forth— I tell ye that I fight with him until The sweat like blood puts out my burning eyes. Call you this dreaming?
Will. [Aside to the Host.] Dost think the gentleman eats suppers?
Ire. A plague upon his damn'd repentant fancies!
Har. [Still to himself.] 'Twas on the heath, As he did gripe and hold it from his breast, He cut my blade with fifty pallid fingers, On his knees, crying out He had at home an old and doating father; And yet I slew him! There was a ribbon round his neck That caught in the hilt of my sword. A stripling, and so long a dying? Why 'Tis most unnatural!
Host. [Aside to William.] I would not have his conscience to be vintner to the Parliament.
Will. [To Host.] Nor I, for my master to be a fat-witted Duke, and I his chief serving-man.
Ire. Here we need counsel, and he raves of dreams And devils. Yet, 'tis true, he fights as if He were possess'd by them. Come, Harrison! Will you not hear how fortune dawns upon us?—
Har. Ay! indeed— Excuse me, Ireton, I was something absent; I think my health of late is shatter'd much. Sometimes I talk aloud. Did I not speak But now of Joab in the Bible, And how he did slay Abner?— Thou know'st I read the Scripture very oft.
A Trooper. Ay! he goes to bed with it under his pillow, lest the evil one should prevail. Desborough told him of it.
Har. Heard you of Falkland's death?
Ire. At Newbury?— I did. On either side, in this sad war The good and noble seem the ripest fruit, And so fall first.
Har. Thus let them perish, all That strive against the Lord. Is Cromwell nigh?—
Ire. He will be here anon.
Har. [To himself.] The mighty men Of Israel slew all. It was a sin To spare the child in the womb. I am a fool To shiver thus to think that night must come. The lion trembles at the sun's eclipse, But, not for murder of the innocent lamb. Who walks across my grave?—
Ire. Come, let us go: I cannot pray or wrestle in the spirit; But let us talk of earthly fights and toils. I love fat quarters in a Bishopric As well as any preacher of us all.
Har. Come, men, to quarters— In four hours' time we march To join Lord Essex—see your girths are slack'd, Your pistols prim'd, your beasts fed, and your souls Watching for grace, the word is "Kill and slay"— 'Twere best all eat, for I will fast and pray.
[Exeunt HARRISON and IRETON, R.S.E.]
A Soldier. [To William.] I say, wilt thou discourse?
2nd Sold. Give him a text.
3rd Sold. He lacketh speech—He is a dumb Amalekite.
1st Sold. I will even awaken him with a prick of my sword.
Host. Nay! he is strong in the word. [To William.] Preach something, if thou beest wise.
Will. What the devil!—
3rd Sold. Ay! uplift thy voice against Beelzebub.
Host. Thou couldst talk fast enough just now.
Will. Gurton! for this I will undo thee. Newborn! thou didst just now water thine ale. Hezekiah! thou dissemblest, which is more than thy wife used to do; for she feared thee not.
Host. I pity thee, and will say no more.
1st Sold. Here is a stool, let him mount thereon.
Will. These be ignorant knaves. I will practice on them. It may come to good. [Mounts the stool.] The Lord leadeth his people through the wilderness to salvation, crinkeldom cum crankeldom. [Mutters to himself.]
Will. Of all thirsts, there be none like that after righteousness.—[Mutters to himself.]
Will. [Aside.] For strong ale, which I think hath to do with the conversion of this Gurton. [Mutters to himself.]
1st Sold. Lift thy voice higher, that we stumble not in the dark.
Will. [Aside.] I would I could remember a text—anything will do—[Aloud.] The General Cromwell hath, they say, a red nose, and doth never spit white, which I look upon as a great sign, as was the burning bush to Moses!
2nd Sold. Ha! Blasphemest thou?
3rd Sold. He scoffeth!
4th Sold. Down with him.
Host. O fool! There will be blood spilt!
[They drag WILLIAM down (the HOST vainly endeavouring to interfere) and buffet him; as Sin-Despise draws his sword, the trumpets sound outside to saddle.]
[Enter HARRISON, R.S.E.]
Har. Why dally ye? Away! Smite hip and thigh. To horse, to horse! what ho! Zerubbabel! Mount, mount, I say, for bloody Goring's near— To saddle, ho!
[They immediately fall into line, and leave quickly, L. The trumpets are still heard sounding. Exeunt all but HOST and WILLIAM, who arranges his collar and adjusts himself.]
Host. [Breathless.] What thinkest thou of this?
Will. Think! what of? Thy late wife's virtue? I would she were here.
Host. These be now your civil wars: didst mark? he said all should have been paid. Now, with them that were here, there were some fourscore and ten quarts that might have been drunk, had they staid an hour or so; and now to ride off thirsty to be killed.
Will. Well, it might have been worse, for they might have drunk it, and departed in that military haste which precludes payment.
Host. Ay! ay! thou wilt have thy jest.
[Exit into house.]
[Enter ARTHUR WALTON, L.]
Arth. Where hast thou been so long?
Will. Truly at the burial of one Generosity!
Arth. And what manner of person was he?
Will. A fool in this world, but an angel of light in the next; if the word of God be true, which I remember to have heard in my childhood in the church there.
Arth. And how was he buried?
Will. About the setting of the sun, when he had no more to give. I saw none in the garb of mourning, though many wore long faces, because their gain was stopped.
Arth. And what wrote they on his tomb?
Will. Other names than his own. Extravagance, folly, imprudence, were the best terms there. One whom he had released from gaol, carved madness with a flint stone. There was but one would have painted his true name, but his tears defaced it—a humble dependent, who had been faithful to him, but whom he regarded not, being accustomed to his services.
Arth. Out! rogue! I have humoured thee too long, leave thy rascal allegory. Hast seen my brother?
Will. Ay, and thy cousin. She is a rare girl, and remembereth thee well. Thy brother is not attached to thee. He will give thee five hundred pounds if thou wilt swear to quit England for ever. He abuseth thee finely, saith thou art a debauched vagabond, which is an insult to me thy serving companion, whom he threatened with the stocks. Wilt thou not slay him?
Arth. O monstrous! Can it be? Fool that I have been. My father, thou wert right, indeed!
Will. Thy cousin would see thee. She is miserable about something, and will be here presently.
Arth. I will wither him with my reproaches.
Will. You have bad stuff to deal with. He will not become good suddenly, as in some stage-plays. You shall not frown him into a virtuous act. Nevertheless, abuse him, an 'twill do thee good. Look you, dear master, I will describe him. He hath a neat and cheerful aspect, and talketh very smoothly; nay, for a time he shall agree with everybody, that you shall think him the most good-natured fellow alive; he shall be as benevolent as a lawyer nursing his leg, whilst he listens to the tale of him whom his client oppresseth, and you shall win him just as easily. Let the question of gain put him in action, and the devil inside shall jump out, like an ape stirred up to malice. He affects, too, a vulgar frankness, which is often the mask of selfishness, as a man who helps himself first at table with a "ha! ha!" in a facetious manner, a jocose greediness, which is most actual, real earnest within.
Arth. Alas! If this be true, what chance have I? for such a one as thou describest would call charity herself a cheat, and deem the emotion of an angel morbid generosity.
Will. Bless you, he hath reasons! he would refuse tenpence to a starving wretch, because he owed ten pounds to his shoemaker, though he had ten thousand in his coffers at home. Yet would he still owe the ten pounds.
Arth. Nay, cease! I love not to hear it.
Will. And yet so meanly would he adopt appearances in the world's eye, that should he have to cross a muddy street where a beggar kept a passage clear with his besom, lest the gallants should soil their bravery, he would time his crossing, till one driven, or on horseback, should be near, that he might pass hurriedly on without giving him a groat, as in fear of being o'erridden. Like Judas—
Arth. Cease! cease! I bid thee cease!
Will. Thy cousin is very beautiful and gentle.
Arth. I will but see her, then my sword must carve my fortunes. Did she speak kindly of me? Alas! I need some welcoming. Go seek her. It is time.
[Exit WILLIAM, R.]
O sweet hour! In yonder heaven deep the stars are lit For evening service of seraphic quires— Eternal pomp of serried, blazing worlds, The heraldry of God, ere yet Time was. The moon hangs low, her golden orb impearl'd In a sweet iris of delicious light, That leaves the eye in doubt, as swelling die Round trills of music on the raptur'd ear, Where it doth fade in blue, or softly quicken. How, through each glade, her soft and hallowing ray Stole like a maiden tiptoe, o'er the ground, Till every tiny blade of glittering grass Was doubled by its shadow. Can it be, That evil hearts throb near a scene like this? And yet how soon comes the Medusa, Thought, To chill the heart's blood of sweet fantasy! For, O bright orb! That glid'st along the fringe of those tall trees, Where a child's thought might grasp thee, Art thou not This night in thousand places hideous? To think Where thy pale beams may revel—on the brow Of ghastly wanderers, with the frozen breast And grating laugh, in murder's rolling eye, On death, corruption, on the hoary tomb, Or the fresh earth-mould of a new-made grave, On gaping wounds, on strife,—the pantomime Of lying lips, and pale, deceitful faces— Ay! searching every scene of rank pollution, In each foul corner busy as at play, With new horror gilding vice, disease, decay, Boast not, pale moon! to me thy harlot ray!
[Enter WILLIAM, R.]
Will. Sir, they come! Your collar is unfasten'd and your hair disorder'd. Let me—[Attempts to adjust AUTHUR'S dress.]
Arth. Heed it not! I thought you knew me better.
Will. Just a moment.—
Arth. No! yet will I meet her softly. She is the only creature of her sex, For whom I feel some kindness; 'tis because I knew her ere I knew the world beside, And all the lie of passion, that is nurs'd For long in early blighted hearts alone, Whom rank possession of the thing they pin'd for, Had cured in one short month.—Well, I'll be kind, Nay more, affectionate—
[Enter FLORENCE and BARBARA, R. He salutes her distantly.]
Fair mistress, thus I claim a young acquaintance, that hath grown Old in long absence.
Flor. [Rushing to him] Arthur! dearest. Arthur! How strange! Dear cousin! Sir! I wish'd to see you, Needing protection—nay! I was to blame, Too hasty, you must think me bold indeed!
Arth. [Aside] Is all her nature, art?—How beautiful! [Aloud.] Dear Florence. [Attempts to take her hand warmly, she bows.] I have scarcely words to speak. Cousin! I'll be your champion. [Aloud.]
Flor. There is nought In which you can assist me? I have come Here, cousin, to entreat you, take this money. Indeed, you can repay me quite soon, when Your brother is more just. It is for him That I would give it—
Arth. For him? yes! you are Betroth'd?
Flor. My father wills so—
Arth. I need not This money—
Flor. Cousin, take it. You are proud. Will you refuse me?
Arth. 'Tis my character To doubt your sex, and yet from you I'd take it, But that I need it not in truth.
Flor. Why doubt us? Ah! cousin, I have heard you have been wild, And so think women false, as you deceive them.
Arth. That you have heard is false!
Flor. I thought so. Now I could indeed imagine it were true. Because, perchance, you've lightly won some hearts, Thus you must be severe and scoff at all, As if you had good reason!—It is proof Of an ungenerous mind or scatter'd heart.
Arth. Fair cousin, at your feet I would recant Mine error.
Flor. 'Tis polite, sir, thus to yield All your experience.
Arth. Nay, then! Do you not Believe a man may once love faithfully?
Flor. 'Twere base to doubt it—yet I think not you: You know you could not tell if it were true, Your love might be a jest. [She goes up the stage.]
Arth. [following FLORENCE.] By heaven! No.
[WILLIAM and BARBARA come forward.]
Will. Young woman! I doubt not your attachment, nor wonder at your love; but it cannot be returned. Principle forbids; and this heart is blighted.
Barb. Plighted, or not, I want none of it. What nonsense the man talks!
Will. This beard—what think you of it?
Barb. That it is red.
Will. Yet 'tis not for you.
Barb. I would humbly desire so.
Will. Do you know, lively rustic, that the beard of Mars, the god of war, is auburnly inclined? It is much affected by the ladies of the south.
Barb. I would they had it then, for it is an abhorr'd thing here.
Will. What a rank prude is woman, thus to disguise her inclination. They call thee Barbara—Bab! restrain not thy fancy. Come, hang round my neck and love me. What! wouldst thou be an exception to thy sex?
Barb. [Strikes him.] Take that, thou coxcomb!
[Runs up the stage, WILLIAM follows, ARTHUR and FLORENCE advancing.]
Arth. Break not my dream. It is not late. The night Will lose her beauty as thy footsteps fade In distance from me. Florence, go not yet. I had a thousand loyal thoughts, I swear, To utter, and as many questions, Florence, To ask thee of thyself. Thou lovest not, Thou canst not love my brother; for thou saidst As much, nay more, this moment.
Flor. Did I so? Perchance I might have done; but then I love My father—
Arth. Tell me so again!
Flor. Indeed, I love My father!
Arth. Cruel! no, I'd have thee say If thou dost love my brother.
Flor. He's my cousin.
Arth. Or any one!
Barb. Dear lady, it is time.
Flor. Farewell, sir! yet I bid you take this purse 'Tis justice—nay, my will!
Arth. Oh, farewell, Florence May angels light thy feet, and all the stars From heaven race with envious beams to shed Celestial brightness on the path thou blessest.
[Exit FLORENCE, R. ARTHUR gazes after FLORENCE. WILLIAM and BARBARA, coming down, L.]
Will. Sweet Bab, I love thee.
Barb. That is a man's saying.
Will. Thou wouldst not have it said by anything but a man. Thou wilt not forget?
Barb. There, yes! no! anything!
[Tries to get away. WILLIAM gives BARBARA a kiss.]
Barb. Oh, dear, I must go. [Exit R.]
Arth. She's gone!
Will. They are, sir!
Arth. What they—
Will. Mistress Florence and Barbara, sir!
Arth. Why stand here prating, then? Go follow; see no harm comes, quick, the road Is dangerous. I'll wait here. Leave them not Before they are safe in. [Exit WILLIAM, R.] For thy sake, Florence, I will believe perfection's in thy sex. How much I might have said. Yes! I have been Imagination's wildest fool to deck With qualities that did beseem them not All the worst half of women. Thus we stoop To pick up hectic apples from the ground, Pierc'd by the canker or the unseen worm, And tasting deem none other grow but they, Whilst on the topmost branches of life's tree Hangs fruitage worthy of the virgin choir Of bright Hesperides. Soft! Who comes here? Surely my rascal is not yet return'd— The times are full of plotting. I will hide—
[Stands aside. Voices heard.]
[Enter four POACHERS, one carrying a fawn.]
1st Poach. I tell thee that I heard 'em bay.
2nd Poach. And I too! Curse me, but I thought his fangs did meet in the calf of my leg.
[Enter POACHERS, L.U.E.]
3rd Poach. 'Tis like it was the tooth of a dog-bramble.
2nd Poach. Well, well; it is the nature of man to hunt forbidden deer.
Arth. [Aside] And to carve his name on benches.
2nd Poach. And while game be preserved, there will be the likes of we.
3rd Poach. Right too. But it is a mortal sin to make us men into dog's-meat, and to hunt us with foreign bloodhound varmint. Hast heard, friend Gregory, who stole my apples?
4th Poach. Not I!
3rd Poach. Would I could catch the thieving rascals! Look ye, the tree is mine, and it does but hang over the road a scantling; and, as sure as nights are dark, comes me some ragged pilferers, that have not to pay an honest drunkenness, and basely steal my apples.
Arth. [Aside] Oh, most benighted conscience of the villains!
4th Poach. Shall I lend thee my bull-bitch to watch thy tree? She hath a real gripe for a rascally thin leg. Your orphan, your cast-away, hath no chance with her, I warrant. A rare bitch!
Arth. [Aside] O gentle sophist! what a line is here; Lions tear wolves, wolves rend the stricken deer.
3rd Poach. Well, now, I thank thee, friend Gregory. Thou art a true man. I will so belabour and flay any of the cyder-blooded rascals, an thy bitch shall hold him; 'twill do a man good to hear of it.
1st Poach. I know the bitch. She'll kill them outright! These be right times. There be no inquests now, Master Gregory?
4th Poach. What's that to me more than you others? I did not murder him!
1st Poach. Who? The Puritan young gentleman whom Noll the brewer, that is general now, made such a stir about—
3rd Poach. As if plenty didn't die in these wars—
1st Poach. Or the girl, Gregory! eh? the girl by the well, with her finger cut, and her throat—
4th Poach. Damn thee, have done! She was dead, ere I found her, and I did but take—
1st Poach. The ring, thou wouldst say.
2nd and 3rd Poach. Come, confess now!
Arth. [Aside] This is black devilry. Alas! poor England! How many private, sleeping villanies Now wake to horrid life that else had slept, But for the times' most bloody anarchy?
2nd Poach. They say this Cromwell is near these parts.
4th Poach. I heard another speak! [Loud] I never saw the girl till she was brought in, I tell ye.
2nd Poach. I heard it too.
1st Poach. 'Twas a cricket, or some such fowl.
3rd Poach. There's some one near. Look sharp!
4th Poach. Let's beat about— [Loudly] As for the girl, I saw her brought in. 'Twas a piteous sight—A love business, mark ye! I did not find her. [They discover ARTHUR.]
1st Poach. Ha!
4th Poach. Silence him!
3rd Poach. Curse thee, what brings thee here?—
Arth. Offhands! ye know me not. [To 4th POACHER.] Thou murderous dog! Wilt cut my throat as thou didst hers?—
[4th POACHER staggers back.]
4th Poach. Will no one finish him? 'Tis a spy; he will tell of ye all.
[ARTHUR struggles and they strike at him.]
[Enter CROMWELL, R.U.E.]
Crom. Who be these knaves? What, murder! Ha! then strike: Down with the sons of Belial!
[Strikes down 4th POACHER with his sword. The rest fly.]
The Lord is merciful to thee, young man! [To ARTHUR.] Another moment, and thy soul had fled— Wherefore, I hope, since it hath chanced so, And yet not chanc'd, since 'tis appointed thus, That no one falls or lives, unless the God Of battles hath decreed. Wherefore I trust Thou art of the good work.
[Enter WILLIAM, R.]
Will. My master bloody?— A dead man on the ground!—a knight of the road by his looks— [Sees CROMWELL.] What a grim stranger!
Crom. Sirrah! move That carrion. [WILLIAM going up to his Master.]
Will. Sir! I wait on this gentleman. What a look! [Aside.] I am sure he is either the devil, or some great Christian. [Aloud.] I will, my Lord! [Moves the body.] Come along! To think now this dead, two-legged thing should have been active enough just now to catch a four-footed live deer. No sooner does a man die, but you would think he had swallowed the lead of his coffin. Come along! Lord! how helpless it is! Why, he shall no more kick at his petty devouring, no, no more than if he were a dead king! [Exit with body, U.E.L.]
Crom. Ha! 'Tis well said. Would that this blood had not been shed. 'Tis dreadful To send a soul destroy'd to plead against The frail destroyer. Yet I could not help it. [TO ARTHUR.] How farest thou now?
Arth. Good sir, I thank you for My life so promptly sav'd—not courtesy, But breath did fall me.
Crom. 'Tis a fearful thing That I have done. A life! I might have struck Less fiercely. God forgive me for the deed. [To Arthur.] Would he have slain thee?
Arth. 'Twas a murderer Most double-dyed in blood. I heard them speak His guilt.—
Crom. O, I could weep! and yet his death Had the best reason for't. Whence comest thou, sir?
Arth. I am but late returned unto this land.
Will. Yes! yes, from Italy, Rome, gracious sir! Us'd to these things, you see—
Crom. Peace, knave, thou scoffest! Revilest thou; because a fellow-sinner's dead? Shame be upon thee!
Will. [Aside.] If I should be impertinent to him, 'twill be behind his back. He hath a quelling eye; although a man fear not. Now, amidst other brave men with swords, he would be as one that carried sword, and petronel to boot.
Crom. [To Arthur.] I fain would hear from thee, young sir, More of the land from whence thou comest. 'Tis My hap, I thank God's holy will, to stay In this my country, lifting now her head From the curst yoke of proud Idolatry, Lately so vexing her, I thought to leave, A little while ago, her shores for ever, Unto the new Jerusalem, beyond The western ocean, where there are no kings, False worship, or oppression—but, no more. What say'st thou of this Italy? John Milton Loves well to speak romantic lore of Rome— A poet, though a great and burning light. I would have knowledge of it to confound him; A sober joke, a piece of harmless mirth. What think'st thou then of Rome where Brutus liv'd?
Arth. 'Tis the decay of a once splendid harlot, Painting her ruin, that the enthusiast eye Lives on the recollection still, and thus The alms of passers by still meet her cravings. She stands, her scarr'd proud features mock'd with rags, Fixt at the end of a great thoroughfare, With shrill gesticulation, fawning ways, Clinging unto the traveller to sustain Her living foul decay, and death in life, She is the ghoul of cities; for she feeds Upon the corpse of her own buried greatness.
Crom. Doubtless thou hast seen much to fill thy mind With such disgust.
Arth. Good, sir! I did scarce feel it, Till I return'd.
Will. Nay, sir! I do remember as we stood in the mouldy big Circus, having sundry of the lousy population idling within, whereby I did then liken it to a venerable cheese, in which is some faint stir of maggotry, that thou didst make a memorable speech against the land, where the only vocation of a nobleman is to defile the streets and be pimp to his own wife.
Arth. Cease, cease, yet there is truth in what he says.
Crom. Yet are there not amends in poetry, Art, science, and a thousand delicate thoughts Glowing on canvass, chisell'd in cold forms, The marbled dreams of sculptor's classic brain? Milton hath told of these.
Arth. Alas! 'tis but Corruption's gilding. 'Tis the trick of vice Full oft to pander in a graceful form; But when the finer chords of hearts are set In eyes glued to a dancer's feet, or ears Strain'd to the rapture of a squeaking fiddle, Think you 'tis well? Oh, say, should Englishmen Arrive at this, such price to set on art, Ne'er rivalling the untaught nightingale, That with their ears shut to wild misery, Deaf to starvation's groans, the prayer of want, The giant moan of hunger o'er the land, Till the sky darken with the face of angels, God's smiling ministers, averted—then! To buy a male soprano they should give His price in gold, that peach-fed lords and dames Might have their senses tickled with the trills Evolv'd from a soft, tumid, warbling throat— Why then farewell to England and her glory!
Crom. Methinks the end of all things should be near, When that doth happen!
Arth. Did I hear aright That Milton was thy friend?
Crom. Yea! with the saints, That crowd in arm'd appeal before high Heaven To set this nation free. He is my friend, And England's.
Arth. I in Italy did know That excellent man. Full often we have sat Upon the white and slippery marble limb Of some great ruin'd temple, whilst all round Was dipp'd in the warm, lustrous atmosphere We know not here, and purple eve did glow With shadows soft as beds of fallen roses, And he hath spoken in clear tones until He built up all again, and glory's home Grew glorious as ever. Then his voice Would sudden deepen into holy thought And mournful sweet philosophy, 'till all The air grew musical and my soul good. How well do I remember it. Yes! Milton was My honour'd tutor and my loving friend.
Crom. Came not his thoughts here often?—
Arth. Latterly, He would speak much of England, and of change Political, and coming strife and battles—
Crom. Ay! battles— Hast thou not a sword, young man? Thou should'st be friend of righteousness to know That zealous patriot and pure-minded man, Of whom thou spakest; surely he hath taught thee More than mere classic lore—wisdom and faith To help this stricken people from the thrall Of their idolatrous, self-seeking rulers?
Arth. Fair sir! I know you not enough for this: I am a stranger to these hapless broils Between your sovereign and some of you. Yet let me thank you for this worthless life— Worthless indeed, could I so lightly join So grave a cause as yours. Still deem me not The serf of custom to uphold a wrong, Or slave of tyrants to deny a right, Or such a one whose brib'd and paltry soul Aims shafts of malice at a patriot's heart, Hating the deed he cannot estimate: As if, when some great exile to our land Whose lips were touched with freedom's sacred fire, But poor in wealth as virtue's richest heir, Came speaking of the wrongs his country bore, Men said in youth he robb'd an orphan trust, The proof since burnt, betray'd a trusting friend, Haply now dead, or any other lie So monstrous, wicked, gross, improbable, That weak men found it easier to believe Than the invention; while the bad in heart, By true worth most offended, felt relief, Protesting still they wish'd it were not so, With that lean babble, custom's scant half-mask, Worn uselessly by hatred. Think me not Of these—nor yet too rash in sympathy. I would reflect well ere I draw the sword To fling the sheath away; I bid you now A kind farewell.
Crom. Full soon to meet array'd In arms, the instruments of Heaven together Thou art of us. Thy heart, thy tongue, thy sword. Are ours—now good night! [With emotion.] Sir, this poor land Needs all her honest children—noble sorrow, And yet a cheerful spirit to assert The truth of right, yea! God's eternal truth, Lest the world die a foolish sacrifice And perish flaming in the night of space, An atheist torch to warn the universe— Smile not, I pray thee. We meet soon; farewell!
[Exit CROMWELL, L.]
Arth. A rude and uncurb'd martialist!—and yet A God-intoxicated man. 'Tis not A hypocrite, too haggard is his face, Too deep and harsh his voice. His features wear No soft, diluted, and conventional smile Of smirk content; befitting lords, and dukes, Not men of nature's honoured stamp and wear— How fervently he spake Of Milton. Strange, what feeling is abroad! There is an earnest spirit in these times, That makes men weep—dull, heavy men, else born For country sports, to slip into their graves, When the mild season of their prime had reach'd Mellow decay, whose very being had died In the same breeze that bore their churchyard toll, Without a memory, save in the hearts Of the next generation, their own heirs, When they in turn grew old and thought of dying— Even such men as these now gird themselves With swords and Bibles, and, nought doubting, rush Into the world's undying chronicles! This struggle hath in it a solemn echo Of the old world, when God was present still In fiery columns, burning oracles: Ere earnest faith and new reality Had grown diluted, fading from the earth Through feeble ages of a mock existence, Whose Heaven and Hell were but as outer fables, That trouble not man's stage-like dream of life.
[Exit into the Inn.]
END OF ACT I.
A large Barn with folding doors. In it a number of Cavaliers drinking at various rude tables. Some women are interspersed among them. Many are playing at dice, &c. Their arms are piled in a corner.
1st Cav. [Sings]
Noll's red nose, In a bumper here goes To Beelzebub his own master; With the pikes at his flank Of our foremost rank, And the devil to find him plaster, Fairfax and Harrison, On them our malison. But drink and sing A health to the KING— Gentlemen! steady, Fill, now be ready.
All. He shall have his own again!
[Shouting and huzzaing.]
A Cav. A toast! gentlemen. "Noll's nose a-fire, and the devil's youngest daughter to baste it with aqua-vitae!"
All. Ha! ha!
A Cav. Would that Goring's moonrakers might come across the snuffling organ and cut it off. We would have it by way of pavillon. Thou, Frank Howard! shouldst carry it as senior cornet. Thou wouldst be like curly-headed David with the spoils of the Philistine drum-major Goliah. Led on by its light we'd march direct to Whitehall, our trumpets sending dismay to the virtue of the starched coifs of the round rosy rogues of London.
A Cav. [Arranging his love-lock.] Plague on't, I don't think their virtue would tremble at the chance.
Anoth. Cav. Lord! what rumpling of sober dimities! Poor little plump partridges, they cannot help their forced puritanism.—But all women are for king and cavalier in their hearts.
[Two Cavaliers advance with angry gestures to the front of the stage.]
1st Cav. I tell thee, Wilmington! 'twas I she did regard.
2nd Cav. And I tell thee that thou thinkest wrong. I know she loves me.
1st Cav. Did she tell thee so?
2nd Cav. This kerchief was hers.
1st Cav. Bah! Thou didst steal it from thy mother, boy! Go home and return it to her.
2nd Cav. Ha!
3rd Cav. Who is this piece of goods—she at the White Dragon?
1st Cav. Nay, a mercer's daughter. Wouldst like the address? She entertaineth well.
2nd Cav. How! 'Tis false!
1st Cav. I met her yestereen, and she said thou shouldst have been a canting Psalmsinger. Thou art so innocent a youth.
2nd Cav. Hell's fire! I'll not bear this. I tell thee she waved her hand to me from her lattice, and dropped this kerchief.
1st Cav. And to me she gave her garter when I left her.
2nd Cav. To hang thyself? Nay, thou liest!
1st Cav. [Strikes him down.] Take that, thou fool!
[He rises, they draw. Closing in of the Cavaliers near, confusion.]
3rd Cav. Hold, gentlemen! 'Tis a mere wanton! I believe these wenches are dowered by old Noll to set our young hot-bloods by the ears. Hold! 'Tis not worth!
[They continue tonight. The 2nd Cavalier is wounded.]
A Cavalier, richly dressed, who has entered, L., in the meanwhile, and made inquiring gestures.
Cav. For whose sake? O shame! shame! The King— The Queen needs all your blood, and ye must shed it In shameless broils like these! Thus the dear blood that should, if spilt it be, Dye our white spotless cause with its rich crimson, Must now for every muslin thing that spites Her prentice-lover, making fools of you. And O ye others, loyal gentlemen! I weep indeed for England and our King, To see ye all, in this the perilous gasp Of hardy enterprize, yourselves forget, Like Circe's brutish swine. I tell ye now, While ye are lost in drunken quarrelling, Cromwell is near.
3rd or 4th Cav. The King shall have his own. Lillibullero!
Cav. I say, thee General Cromwell Is on the road with some four hundred men, And will surprise us. [Confused movement to arm.]
1st Cav. [Who has continued to drink.] Ha! What does it concern thee with thy preaching? Dost thou want ought here? [Touching his sword-hilt.] I care not for thee or Noll. Would he were here, and a matter of four thousand to back him. [Draws.] Sa! sa! canst fight as well as talk? Wilt take up the bilbo? Come, adopt the weapon of him I have sliced. Come, be nimble, sir, jig. I would fain go visit the haulage of my fancy.
[A confused noise without.]
Cav. Too late! O gentlemen! here, Willsden, is thy sword. Varley, arouse thee! The enemy! Away, women! Come, gentlemen—this table—a barricade, so— [1st Cavalier stands in his way.] Off, fool! [Hurls him aside.]
A tremendous explosion; the wide doors behind are burst in by a petard; the barn falls, and discovers a view of York. Enter CROMWELL with IRONSIDES through the break.
Crom. Yield, sons of Belial!
Cav. O Charles, my king! 'Tis time to die, ere see thy cause thus lost!
[Throws himself on the pikemen.]
Here, cavaliers! a blow, one blow, 'tis Noll The butcher, brewer Noll, that in your songs Ye send to hell so often. Send him now, If ye be men, not cowards. What! at loss!
[1st Cavalier staggers against him as he parries two or three pikemen, and he receives a mortal stroke, and falls. During this the other cavaliers are struck down or disarmed.]
Alas! I might have reach'd him, but betray'd By our own rotten conduct, die—Oh, had I words Now could I prophesy—destruction—Charles! My king! [Dies.]
Crom. There is no king save one, and He Is with us! [Points to 1st Cavalier.] Yon poor wretch—what saith he? Nay! Strike not his mouth.
1st Cav. I defy thee, Satan! I'll back my rapier, an' thou wilt fight, Brewer! Curse on thy muddy veins, thou hast no honourable desperation in thee. Come, if thou beest a man, give up thy odds. What, ho! Excalibur!
[Makes a rush to get at CROMWELL]
Crom. It seemeth that The ungodly fret. Go, place him in the stocks. I charge ye harm him not— But give him ale, Wine, and a scurvy song-book—Such as he Do make us triumph. Fie, fie, Cornet Dean! Well, stop his mouth, an't please ye; come, away! [Trumpets sound.] This is a gift of God, see burial Unto the dead—now on to Marston Moor.
[Enter WILLIAM, U.E.L.]
Will. So my master hath at last turned roundhead with a vengeance, and therefore I, to whom the rogue is necessary, am here, on the brink of nowhere. To think that so much merit may be quenched by the mechanical art of a base gunner, who hath no fear in his actions; for I take it that a discreet reverence for the body we live in, which the vulgar term fear, shows the best proof of the value of the individual. Egad! life here is as cheap as the grass on an empty common, where there is no democracy of goose to hiss at the kingly shadow of a single ass in God's sunshine. My master hath not done well; for he must have known that I could not leave him without a moral guide and companion—to die, too, with the sin of my unpaid wages on his conscience. Well, pray heaven, there come soon a partition of the crown jewels amongst us, after which I will withdraw this right arm from a cause I cannot approve; but to cherish principles one should not lack means; therefore, [taking the feather from his cap and throwing it down] lie thou there, carnal device! and I will go look for a barber and be despoiled, like a topsy-turvy Samson, not to lose strength, but to gain it. I thank heaven that our camp did yesterday fall in dry places, for there were many of these sour-visaged soldiers called me Jonah, and I did well to escape ducking in a horse-pond. Soft, here be some of them coming. Yestere'en I committed sacrilege in a knapsack, and stole a small Bible from amid great plunder for my salvation. Now will I feign to read it, and I doubt not the sin will be pardoned, for self-preservation is the second law of nature, as I have generally observed fornication to be the first!
Enter a party of Soldiers, R.
[Looking up.] These be some of Oliver's Ironsides; every one of whom is, as David, a man of war and a prophet; truly they are more earnest and sober than the others.
1st Troop. To-morrow we shall sup in York.
Will. [Aside.] How the man of war identifies himself with the remnant of those that shall sup.
2nd Troop. Not so—for this morning, when a surrender was demanded, they would have hanged our messenger. That raging Beelzebub, Rupert, in expected hourly to the relief. [Distant firing.] There! there! he is come.
1st Troop. What say the generals?
2nd Troop. Our own Cromwell is very prompt; but the rest chafe much, and the Scots are sore backsliders.
3rd Troop. I would we might be led on and the trumpets sounded, that the walls of yon Jericho might fall about their ears, and deliver them into our hands alive.
Will. Worthy martialist! may I speak?
1st Troop. Ay so?
Will. Is the King there in person?
2nd Troop. Surely not; he is in that city of abomination, Oxford.
[Here CROMWELL enters, U.E.R., with his face covered.]
Will. Is it not true that ye did ask them that guard the city to yield it in the King's name?
2nd Troop. I heard the message: it was so worded.
Will. 'Tis an excellent contradiction, to fight for and against. If ye should meet the King now in battle, would you fire on him with your pistols, or cleave him with your swords?
1st Troop. Nay!
Crom. [Discovering himself.] But I say, yea!
Will. [Without seeing CROMWELL.] What, in his own name, kill him for himself, for his own sake, as it were? I would fain argue that with your general—[sees CROMWELL.]—another time. Farewell, worthy sirs!
Crom. Stay, thou base knave! I'll have thee whipped without The army of the saints. Hearken ye all! Charles Stuart I would gladly smite to death: Not as a king, but as a man that fights Against the honour, conscience of the king, And the true rights of all his loving subjects. Is any here the muscles of whose arm Grow slack to think he may meet such an one In arms to-morrow? Let him home to-day, God and his country have no need of him.
Soldiers. A Cromwell! Cromwell! Lead on, we'll slay the king.
Crom. I did but say If ye should meet him, ye would not turn back.
Soldiers. No! No!
Crom. Nor slur the onset?
Crom. Nor spare A courtier for his likeness to the King?
Soldiers. No! No!
Crom. Why then ye are mine own, [observing the soldiers.] My brave and trusty Ironsides! See here Are some right honest faces I have known From childhood, and they'll follow me to death, If needed.—Let the paltry Scot go hence, And even Fairfax rein his charger back— We'll on unto the breach. The Lord Himself Will ride in thunder with our mail-clad host: The proudest head that ever wore a crown Shall not withstand us.—Strike! and spare not! Ho! Down with the curs'd of God!
Soldiers. A Cromwell! Cromwell! Let us come on!
Crom. The sun that stood in Heaven, Until his beams grew red with two days' blood Of slaughtered Canaan, shall see them flee like chaff before us—
Soldiers. Joshua! cry aloud, A Joshua!—
Crom. These gay Philistine lords That fight for Dagon, will ye fly them, or Hurl them and Dagon down?—
Soldiers. A Samson! Samson!
[Distant cannon heard. Cheering from the Soldiers.]
Will. [Aside.] Here's gory enthusiasm! Now whilst every man is ready to preach individually on his own account, and the whole collectively are about to sing a psalm, I will endeavour to steal away unperceived, lest any of them, imagining himself somewhere between Deuteronomy and Kings, should take it upon himself to proclaim that I come from Gibeon, and so—
Crom. [To William.] Hither! sirrah! It is well I know the master that thou servest, or else thy back had paid the license of thy speech. Tell him I would speak with him two hours hence in his own quarters. [Exit William, U.E.L.] Good friend, [to a soldier] I am thirsty in the flesh. Get me, I prithee, a cup of thine ale. [Soldier goes out.] [To another soldier.] Give me thy pipe, Ruxton! is it right Trinidado?—[To them all.] Think ye now, the generals fare better than ye do—I mean now, Desborough or Rossiter, or our brave Ireton?
A Soldier. Ay! do they. But just now we saw a store of good things carried into Desborough's tent. Lo! there goes Jepherson and Fight-the-good-Fight Egerton this instant to feast on the fat things of the earth. [Here the soldier gives him a cup of ale.]
Crom. [Pausing ere he drinks.] What is thy name, friend?
A Soldier. [Near.] Born-again Rumford.
Crom. A babe, I do protest, a babe of grace. See you not, he cannot speak himself. [Drinks, and throws the remainder over Born-again Rumford's beard. Returns the cup and prepares his pipe.] Now, Born-again! I think thou art baptized again! [The soldiers laugh.] So there is feasting and gluttony amongst our captains. Hearken ye, I shall call a conference straightway. When the generals be come, which they will do with sore grumbling, then do ye fall to and spare not! I will stand between you and the fierce wrath of them that be spoiled. Three rolls on the kettledrum shall be the signal. See that ye leave nothing. [Going, L.]
[As he goes he strikes his pipe on the back of the corslet of one of the soldiers; so that the ashes fall on his neck.]
Sol. Now may the devil!
Crom. Ho! swearest thou?—fy! fy! for shame, Orderly officer! set Hezekiah Sin-Despise down in thy book five shillings for an oath. Truly Sin-Despise is no fitting name for thee, but rather 'Overcome-by-Sin.' Come, as I did tempt thy railing, I will pay thy fine. [Gives him money.] Tush! grin not so, man. I thought my Ironsides were proof against fire as well as steel. [Exit, L.]
Shouts of the Soldiers. Live, Cromwell! live, our worthy general!
[WILLIAM re-enters and joins the Soldiers. Exeunt, B.]
Enter ARTHUR reading a letter, U.E.L.
"——and so, cousin, I am very miserable, and if you have this influence with the General Cromwell, whose fair daughter I do so well remember, get me a home with her; for, alas! I can stay no longer here. And yet my father? But to wed with one that I despise, it is impossible, and all things are prepared, I look to you alone for rescue. Farewell. Florence."
I will! I will "Postscript. I hear you are engaged in these dreadful wars. Pray heaven! you have chosen aright; for I know not. But peril not your life more than becomes true valour; for I have heard you are dear to many. Adieu!" I dear to many?—let's see, there is my faithful serving-man—poor fellow, he likes not this life, and doth assume an amusing kind of fear, but I do believe thinking more of me than himself. Well then; I had a dog; but he was lost the night of our passage, when but for his inveterate barking, for which I beat him, I had surely been drowned in the cabin, where I slept, when the vessel was stranded—he loved me; but for more—I know them not.
O dearest Florence! were I lov'd indeed by thee, There were indeed a bright star in the sky, To guide my shatter'd bark of destiny! [Retires, U.R.]
Enter CROMWELL, IRETON, DESBOROUGH, and others, U.E.L., ARTHUR joins them.
Crom. Thus, gentlemen, the reports being ended, I would but detain you a short while in prayer.
Des. Nay! as I said before, we are fatigued, and the body needs refreshment.
Ire. [Apart to Cromwell.] How the pampered boar frets!
Crom. [To Desborough.] Will you to my tent?—I can give you a soldier's fare, with a soldier's welcome, a crust and cup of ale, and we can discourse what remains.
An Officer. Indeed we are engaged; but if the General Cromwell would honour us—
Crom. I thank you, I have supped ere you have dined.
[Drum rolls. A loud shout of merriment and clatter is heard.]
Des. What is that—in my tent too!
[Looking off, R. WILLIAM comes forward, R.]
By Heaven! rank mutiny. I'll have them shot.
Will. Nay! worthy sir, knock out the priming of your wrath from the matchlock of your vengeance, and abide till to-morrow, when you shall see many a stout fellow and gormandizer to boot levelled. [To Cromwell.] Great Sir! they complain that the wine is thin.
Crom. Go purchase some strong waters. [Gives him money.] I must not have my fellows' stomachs unsettled. Here, thou graceless knave.
Will. An't please you, we had no time for grace; but we return thanks to you, under Heaven.
Des. This then is your work, General Cromwell! Call you this discipline?
Crom. [To the Soldiers as they enter, R.] Go hence, you rascals.
[Soldiers entering with whooping and shouts.]
Sound bugles! fall in! quick march!
[The Soldiers march round and fall in a line in perfect order, WILLIAM bringing up the rear, shouldering a bone.]
Ire. [To Arthur Walton.] See you now the bent of this? How he doth make them his own? I tell you that the day will come, this host shall follow him alone, ay! and perchance England—
Crom. [To Desborough, who has remained apart, indignant.] Come, Desborough! if thou hast digested thine indignation—[Taking Desborough's arm, kindly.]
Ire. As he will never his dinner.
Crom. Thou wilt unto my tent, where is store of wholesome food.
Enter HARRISON, L., hurriedly.
Har. I fear they will not sally forth; our host Meanwhile will melt away. Despondency Sits heavy on my soul.
[Firing is heard from the town.]
Ire. If they abide In York, we'd best draw off. [Exit ARTHUR, L.]
Crom. But Rupert! Rupert! Wilt he not fight—The fiery-headed fool Will rush out on us from yon fenced town, And then—Whom have we here?
[An Orderly hastens in.]
Ord. The earl doth bid you Prepare for instant action; Rupert and Newcastle Are forth outside the gates.
Crom. Said I not so?— Their hearts are hardened by the Lord of hosts. [Musketry in the distance.] [To an officer entering.] Did you not hear me when I said "Bring up the fascines?" How shall we cross the ditch? Do you not heed? Quick, man!
Offi. Even as Balaam said to Balak, Lo! I will but speak what the Lord hath put in my mouth. [Turning to the Soldiers.] Wherefore, I say, O brethren, be ye as they the Lord set apart to Gideon—
Crom. [Striking him with his pistol butt.] Take that, thou babbling fool! this is no fitting time to preach. Ho! Jepherson. Bring up the facines.
Enter ARTHUR, L., to CROMWELL.
Arth. Fairfax is beaten, and our right wing scattered.
Crom. Hist! dismay not these. Doth Rupert follow them?
Arth. He doth fight fiercely.
Crow. Then will I meet him. Victor to victor, we will close together. Ho! forward!
[Another Officer enters.]
Offi. The musketry of Belial hath mowed our ranks, and the sons of Zeruiah—
Crom. Tush, tell me not of Zeruiah, or, by the Eternal, I will smite thee! Speak in English.
Offi. The Scotch are in disorder. Lucas, and Porter, and the malignant Goring are playing havoc with them. Newcastle, with his white coats, is winning on us at the pike's point.
Crom. That's what is done. What is to do? What says the General?
Offi. That you charge Rupert.
Crom. Why did you not speak sooner? I am dead To hear you drawl thus. Righteous Lambert, on! Bring up the regiments. Tell brave Frizell, He shall see sport anon—
[A Soldier gives him his morion.]
I will not wear it! I cannot see around—
[A heavy discharge of cannon heard without.]
Here is a dinner for thee. See thou carve it Right well. On! on! a Cromwell for a Rupert!
Soldiers. The Lord and Cromwell!
Crom. Nay, not thus: shout rather "God and his people! England! Liberty!"
[Different parties of wounded Soldiers enter U.E.L; some being assisted, and others staggering; the scene becomes dark and obscured with clouds of smoke. Several Soldiers fall down.]
[Enter WILLIAM, R., meeting a wounded Trooper, L.]
Troop. How goes the day? Why art thou not with the saints, that are now fighting?
Will. I was about to fight; but they waited not for me. It is all over now. The king hath no more chance than a butterfly three days at sea amongst a covey of Mother Carey's chickens. I would pursue, but lack spurs and a horse, or you should not find me here; [Aside.] or within ten miles of it.
Troop. Get me some water, friend!
Will. Ah! you would have watered me in a pond two days since; but here—this is better than water.
[The Soldier takes a flask from him.]
Troop. I think thou saidst that the malignants were smitten. Praised be the Lord! Yet I would I had not seen my father's white hairs amid yon accursed red coats. I parried a stroke from him that must have jarred the old man's arm.
[Falls back exhausted.]
Will. An' this be not a lesson! I have no father that is a malignant, and could therefore only undergo simple murder. However, [touching the hilt of his sword] rest thou there! in Mercy's hallowed name—nay more, as rashness is animal, so a due timidity is soul, which is mind, and I have a great mind to run away, and mind being soul, I think I have a greater soul than Alexander.
[A loud discharge of cannon, L.]
Now if it were not for that, this foolish brute, my body, might rush off in that direction, but it don't, for a great mind prevents it, therefore—
[Stage more dark. He runs off in an opposite direction to the shot, R. More wounded enter and fall down, U.E.L.]
Enter an Old Man in the King's uniform, of red coats, L.
Old Man. I thought the day was ours. The headlong Rupert Swept all before him, like the wind that bends The thin and unkind corn, his men were numb With slaying, and their chargers straddling, blown With undue speed, as they had hunted that Which could not turn again—e'en thus was Rupert, When round to meet his squadrons came a host Like whirlwind to the wind. There was a moment that the blood-surge roll'd Hither and thither, while you saw in the air Ten thousand bright blades, and as many eyes Of flame flashed terribly. Then Rupert stay'd His hot hand in amazement, And all his blood-stain'd chivalry grew pale: The hunters, chang'd to quarry, fled amain, I saw the prince's jet-black, favourite barb Thrown on her haunches; then away, away, Her speed did bear him safe. Then there came one, A grisly man, with head all bare and grey, That shouted, "Smite and scatter, spare not, ho! Ye chosen of the Lord!" and they did smite, As on the anvil; till the plumed helms Of all our best bent down. Alas! alas! That I should see this day—-
[Looks about and finds his son.]
What's this, my son! Wounded? my disobedient child? I thought of him But now in charging, as I met a foe That beat my sword-arm down—had he been there I had not suffer'd—nay, what colours these? Against the king?—he is my son; I'll bear Him off, and win him to his king and me.
[Takes him up, several cross the stage flying. Musketry from L. to R. A shot strikes the Old Man, who falls. Several officers and soldiers enter fighting with swords and firearms.]
CROMWELL enters pursuing, L. to R.
Crom. Strike home! spare none! The father with the son, That fights for tyranny. [To a Trooper.] Give me thy sword! Mine own is hack'd with slaying— Where is Rupert? The haughty Rupert now?— Where is this king, That tempts the God of battles?—Are they gone, That cost these precious lives?
[Here the sun breaks out in splendour and lights up the battle-ground behind.]
"Let God arise, And let his enemies be scattered!"
END OF ACT II.
An apartment in Cromwell's house.
Enter CROMWELL, ARTHUR, the LADY ELIZABETH, L.
Crom. To have a home, that is no fitting home, Is worse than the sad orphan's part, who gathers His lean crumbs from the world's wide eager table, And pares the flint-stones borne in stranger breasts, To eke him out against the cruel winds—
[Crosses to his daughter.]
Thou say'st she was thy playmate— Come, thou hast Mov'd the stern soldier to thy woman's will. Go, sir! [To Arthur.] and fetch this Florence from her roof. There should be no such scandal done in England, As the loud insult of a marriage forc'd Before God's altar.
Arth. If they do oppose?
Crom. Thy brother is a worker in my hands, Leave him to me; the old man loves his wealth Too well. I say, go quickly, and return With speed direct—I'd have thee near me, [Aside.] for Thy noble confidence that dares to speak The first-fruits of thy mind,— I have regard [Aloud.] For thee, young man, see that you keep it warm As now—but mind, no swords, as ye are brothers— Not e'en reproach.—Sweet heart, when foolish mercy [To his daughter.] Doth beg an idle tale from thy dear lips, Perchance thou'lt seek thy father—until then, All good be with thee! [Crosses to R.] Sir! I will direct [To Arthur.] A present escort for you.
[Exit CROMWELL, R.]
Arth. Lady! deem My heart coin'd into words to thank you nothing For payment of this service.
Eliz. Sympathy Is just as often born of happiness, As bitter suffering of the world's contempt. Within the magic circle of a home, Happy and loved as mine is, The heart is touched with pity's gentle wand To do her lightest bidding— But in this, There is no kind emotion worth the name; For I would see my school-fellow and friend To talk old nothings, something still to us, And look beneath the lashes of her eyes, To learn her plaint against the selfish world, And read her trust in Heaven— Is she fair As childhood promised ?—[Looking archly at Arthur.] Do you know, I think You love her more than cousinship demands?
Arth. Nay! she is worthy of all love.
Eliz. Well, well, sir! I shall know when I see you both together.
Exeunt ELIZABETH, R., ARTHUR, L.
[1st Cut.] [2nd Grooves.]
A Hall in a Manor House.—Discovered SIR SIMON, in an easy chair, supported by servants, BASIL and FLORENCE attending.
Sir Sim. I am thy father. Would'st kill me, girl? O dear! I saw Master Stacker, the court physician that was, to-day. [Coughs.] Oh, I am very ill.
Flor. Dear father! what said he?
Sir Sim. That I have a disease of the heart. Now I don't agree with him. There he is mistaken. Why I might die instantly with a disease of the heart. He is a clever man, but quite mistaken there. You see, my heart never beats fast, but when I am agitated, and I was out of breath this morning with the stairs—O dear! [Places his hand to his heart.] Thou dost agitate me, girl—but there is no disease here—no! no! I am very ill—but I shall not die yet!
Flor. Dear father! pray be careful.
Sir Sim. Now, had he said 'twas asthma—'tis a long-lived complaint. I have known very old men with asthma. Our chirurgeon, Master Gilead Stubbs, said I was asthmatic, and we have been much together. Many a good flagon of claret have we drank, and should he not know my constitution?
Sir Sim. Yes, yes, I know. [To Florence.] Come, thou must marry him. Curse on this physician. I never felt so before. [Places his hand to his heart.]
Flor. Oh, father; do not urge this suit!
Sir Sim. Girl! I will leave thee nought if thou dost not—save my curse!
Flor. No, no!
Sir Sim. All my hopes——'Tis very odd. Stop, stop! I have a pain here, here! Wilt thou promise?
Flor. I will do all. O God!
Enter ARTHUR, L.
Sir Sim. Who is this? 'Tis their father! I promised him that Arthur should wed my daughter. He is come to claim her, and see, he beckons me—
[Falls back and dies in the chair, servants bear him off, R.]
Basil. Dead, dead! I am frustrated.
Flor. Oh, Arthur! look to my father.
Arth. [Returning and supporting her.] Thou hast no father, Florence! I have a home for thee, with one that's young and gentle like thyself. [She faints.]
Basil. Mark, thou art my brother! I swear [Aside.] I will have vengeance! At the moment too She yielded. Beggar, thus to thwart me—Oh, If I dar'd, I could smite him, as he smiles On that unconscious, pretty piece of goods.
[Retires, L., surly, looking at ARTHUR. Servants come in with BARBARA.]
Arth. Take her unto her chamber 'till we leave.
[Servants take FLORENCE off, exeunt, R., all but BASIL.]
Enter WYCKOFF stealthily to BASIL, L.
Wyck. As for your brother, in these troublesome times, as I said, it were less trouble to put him out of the way in a broil. Colour it with the affectation of party spirit, and, as you are on both sides, in a manner, it matters not on which you disagree. You might draw swords yourselves, and have me and one or two stout fellows near, who would rush in and stab him, as it were, to prevent mischief between you.
Basil. I tell you, it will not do. He is a favourite with Cromwell. How often am I to tell you that I would not break with Noll. There are secrets! You see one does not know yet which side will prevail.
Wyck. Well, I cannot help you. If, now, it were to circumvent a woman, to betray a saucy piece of virtue—then I would go great lengths in deception; remind me that I tell thee a story will make thee laugh. 'Twas ere my trip to America. I would have sold her to the plantations. 'Sblood, will not that do for him?—
Basil. I tell there is better.
Wyck. Doth he know that by your father's disposition of the property, his relinquishment of it in your favour is void! I say, the old fellow knew thee well, eh? [Laughs.]
Basil. Curse on thy ribald jests; keep them for the girls thou betrayest. No, no, he knows nothing.
Wyck. Let me tell thee of the girl. She loved a mean fellow that was her father's apprentice, and perspired in good behaving. A tremulous young man; with hissing red cheeks and a clump hand that looked through his fingers during evening prayers at the maid-servants, as they knelt; yet cried "Amen" with a reverence, and had the gift to find his own bedchamber afterward. It was a mercy to pave her from him, for they had surely procreated fools. Yet she liked not the sea, and one night she fell overboard in a calm, and the sharks had a white morsel. She walked in her sleep. I wish, though, she had left her ear-rings behind.
Basil. Hush! hush!
Wyck. Thus it is to be such a fellow as you. You pretend to be so tender-hearted. Well, I never wished to kill my brother. If I had one I could love him, unless he were a damned scrupulous sinner, that makes faces at doing what he is always wishing. Why, hark you, with your peccadilloes, you resemble a monkey over a hot dish of roasted chestnuts; you keep grinning round with your mouth watering, till they get cold, before you taste.
Basil. I tell thee that I hate him and fear him not. Would that his blood might freeze upon my door-step on a December night! If he were here now, I would stab him before thee.
Wyck. Ay, in the back.
Basil. But I have a plan that shall undo him most securely. Come in here, and I will tell thee over a stoup of right claret.
Wyck. Now you speak reason; for I am but a dry rogue, and am never fit for much early in the morning, without I sit up all night. [Exeunt, L.]
[Last Cut.] [2nd Grooves.]
A handsomely fitted Chamber in London.—A practicable window in F.
Enter ARTHUR WALTON, FLORENCE, the LADY ELIZABETH CROMWELL.
Eliz. [To Arthur.] Urge not your suit through me, when she is here. Give half Love's reasons that to me you gave, Why she should not be cruel, and I think You'll hardly find her so—[To Florence.] Nay! be not scornful, You know I can betray you—[Goes to the window.]
Flor. Oh, be silent!
Arth. Dear cousin, will you forth to walk? The day Is fine.
Eliz. [Running to the window.] I do protest it has been raining long.
Arth. To-morrow I must leave—
Flor. To-morrow, really? Shall you be absent long? Adieu, then, sir.
Arth. Distraction! I deserve not this unkindness. Florence, why spurn my love thus?—
Flor. Nay, I think But just escaped one brother's persecution, 'tis Too bad another should annoy me.
Arth. Pardon, Madam, my cousin; henceforth I'll not grieve you.
Arth. [Rushing to her.] What is it?
Flor. Nothing, but I think you promis'd To ride my horse; you know she is too gay; Nay, 'tis no matter if you have forgotten. It is no wonder, since you walked so long With those two foreign ladies yesterday: The youngest dresses somewhat out of taste To suit our English fancy. Did you not The other evening speak of English dress As something prudish, not quite to your taste? Are you going far to-morrow?—
Arth. They are not foreign, I do assure you; I have known them long, The daughters of my honour'd friend, John Milton.
Eliz. [Aside.] She knows it well as he does.
Flor. No? Indeed?
Arth. [Pointing to Elizabeth.] Ask her.
Flor. I am not curious, sir, to hear With whom you walk; but, if you mention them, Of course 'tis natural I speak of it— Elizabeth! Will you come here and answer him! he talks Of one old Milton's daughters, when I'd ask About the fashions.
Eliz. [With emotion, at the window.] See, there goes another Doom'd to the block; the excellent Laud scarce cold Within his grave— It makes me heart-sick, girl! To live, when just men die, that love their king, And I, his daughter, his, that wills it so, And does not stir to save them—nay, approves, Condemns, and sanctions; O 'tis dreadful! dreadful!
Arth. [To FLORENCE.] Is she thus often!
Flor. Ay, too often thus Of late she suffers. [Runs to her.] Dear Elizabeth! There, Walton, go!
Arth. And may I hope?—
Flor. Is this a time? Do you not see she is ill?— You will return, Ere long—go, call a servant!
[He looks at her, she waves her hand impatiently, he goes out. Exit ARTHUR, L.]
Eliz. [Points to the window.] Is it gone?— He was quite young. Think you my father sat In judgment on him?
Flor. Know you not he is Now with the army?
Eliz. True! true!
[Passes her hand over her brow.] It is o'er. Where is your cousin gone?
Eliz. Arthur Walton.
Flor. Oh! he has left.
Eliz. Your answer to him?
Eliz. Out, flirt! I found you weeping, and you told me You lov'd him—
Flor. Did I? I'd forgotten it.
Eliz. Well, you will lose him thus.
Flor. Then, he's not worth The keeping, in my thought.
Eliz. You have done wrong. I know the business he is gone upon. You may not see him more—
Flor. I don't believe it, Although he said it.
Eliz. Girl! he hath to do A secret and most dangerous mission.
Flor. What! In truth!—I'll call him back to speak to you.
[Runs to the window.]
Ah! he has gallop'd off so fast without Once turning. Ah! to danger—Oh, wretch! wretch! Fool that I am. [Weeps.]
Eliz. [To FLORENCE.] Poor child! You love him, then?
Flor. Oh! yes, I love him all— All, for I am not vain. There is no thought Dividing the wild worship of my soul.
Eliz. And yet you spoke so carelessly, and trifled With this the noblest and the best oblation, A woman—but a poor divinity, I fear at best, my Florence!—may receive, The heart of a true gentleman. I mean No creature of dull circumstance, himself A mean incumbrance on his own great wealth. How oft before their lovers women try To seem what they are not—if true their hearts, As thine is, apes not more fantastic show— If mean and paltry, frankness is the flag 'Neath which they trim their pirate, little bark To capture their rich prize—
Flor. Enough! enough! I know it all, I cannot help it, if He were here now, I could not choose but do it. I have a head-ache. I must weep alone. I pray you to excuse me for an hour.
[She goes out, R.S.E.]
Eliz. Poor girl! how needless is the pain she gives Two true and faithful hearts—and I myself, That never had the chance to love, or heart To give away, yet seem to know so well What it must be.—Oh, were I Florence now, Could I have dealt so harshly with him?—No! Why, one would think I lov'd him. She said so But yesterday. Indeed I love them both— Him for his love of her. Elizabeth! Why burns thy cheek thus?—Yet a transient thought Might stain the wanderings of a seraph's dream, And thou art mortal woman. Oh, beware! Dwell not on "might have," "could;" since "cannot be" Points from thy past to thy futurity. [Exit, L.]
A rustic Garden, with an Arbour in F. A Table, on which are Books, Papers, &c.
Enter ARTHUR, U.E.R.
Arth. She's soul-less like the rest, and I am but A tame romantic fool to worship her— I will not see her more, and thus the faults Which, from her beauty, seem'd like others' charms, Shall give her semblance of a Gorgon— No! Rather her beauty will so soften down In sweet forgetfulness of all beside, That growing frenzied at the loss I find E'en shipwreck'd hope were better than despair. Here comes my friend.
Enter MILTON slowly, L.
Arth. Good even, Master Milton.
Mil. Ha! is it thou? my poor eyes are grown dim, Methinks, with ever gazing back upon The glorious deeds of ages long flown by. Welcome, dear friend—most welcome to these arms. Nay! it is kind to seek me thus— Thine eyes Are bright still; yet thy cheek is furrow'd more Than should be; thou'rt not happy—Nay, I know, Like all true hearts that beat in English breasts, Thine must be most unhappy in these times—
Arth. I am so—
Mil. Thou hast fought well. I have heard it—
Arth. From Cromwell?
Mil. Yes, from him—
Arth. It is of him That I would speak, as well as of this cause That we call Freedom. I have doubts of all That urge this cruel war—Where is the end? I fight against a tyrant, not a king To set a tyrant up, or what is worse, A hundred tyrants. Think you it may be A struggle for the power they feign to hate!
Mil. What have you seen to make you think so!
Arth. Much! The spirit of a demon host that strives Each for himself against the common good, Rather than that true patriot zeal of Rome We us'd to read of—hatred, jealousy, With the black ferment of the hungry mob To gain by loss of others; and the aim Of one man, more than all, seems set upon An elevation high, as Hell is deep; For such, if gain'd, the fit comparison.
Mil. The common error of a generous mind, To do no good, and shrink within itself, Sick of the jostling of the wolfish throng. Your cause is just; though devils fight for it, Heaven with its sworded angels doth enlist them: So works a wise and wondrous Providence.
Arth. Tell me, what think you then of Cromwell? Is he Ambitious, cruel, eager, cunning, false, Slave to himself and master sole of others? Is his religion but as puppet-wires, To set a hideous idol up of self, Like some fierce God of Ind? Or is he but A fiery pillar leading the sure way— Arriv'd, content to die by his own light, As others lived upon his burning truth, And struggled to him from surrounding darkness?
Mil. There is much good in him, yet not all good; And yet believe the cause he seeks divine. Listen! this is the worst 'twere possible To speak of him. He is a man, Whom Heaven hath chosen for an instrument, Yet not so sanctified, to such high use, That all the evil factions of the heart, Ambition, worldly pride, suspicion, wrath, Are dead within him—and thus, mark you how Wisdom doth shine in this, more than if pure, With unavailing; excellent tears and woe, He pray'd afar in dim and grottoed haunt To quench the kingdom's foul iniquities— An interceding angel had not done it So well as this fierce superstitious man.
Arth. But if the king be prisoner and were slain?
Mil. I trust not that; yet kings are not divine—
Arth. Nor churches, temples, still ye would not rend The altar vow'd to Heaven.
Mil. No, but purge The living fire upon it, when the name Is brutish and discolour'd.—When kings fail, Let's bastardize the craven to his breed, And hurl him recreant down!
Arth. But not destroy—
Mil. 'Twould heal the sight of millions yet unborn.
Arth. In this I am not with you; yet I grant So far 'tis well. I trust a different end. The king, that hath much noble feeling in him, Will yield; and then we will give back again His just prerogative—
Mil. It may be so. Where is the high-soul'd Stratford?—The same weakness That yielded there is obstinacy now, To the last drop of the pride-tainted blood That through the melancholy Stuart's veins Doth creep and curdle—
Arth. You do make me sad—
Mil. Nay, there is sadness in the noble task Appointed us. An hour past came Cromwell here As full of sorrow for the king; as thou— Hating the sour and surly Presbyter And bitter wrath of the fierce Parliament. He parted from me in an angry mood Because I coldly met his warm desire That Charles might reign again—
Arth. Indeed! Is't so?
Enter a Servant to MILTON, R.
Serv. There is a messenger would see you, sir!
Mil. I will be back anon, pray rest awhile.
[Goes out, R. Servant follows MILTON.]
Arth. He should be right, that is so wise and good, Living like some angelic visitant, Dismay'd not from his purpose and great aim By all the fierce and angry discord round. So one in sober mood and pale high thought Stands in a door-way, whence he sees within The riot warm of wassailing, and hears All the dwarf Babel of their common talk, As each small drunken mind floats to the top And general surface of the senseless din; Whilst every tuneless knave doth rend the soul Of harmony, the more he hath refus'd To sing; ere Bacchus set him by the ears With common sense, his dull and morning guide; And stutterers speak fast, and quick men stutter, And gleams of fitful mirth shine on the brow Of moody souls, and careless gay men look Fierce melodrama on their friends around; While talk obscene and loyalty mark all; Then good or bad emotions meet the eye, Like a mosaic floor, whose black and white Glistens more keenly, moisten'd by the stain Of liquor widely spilt.
Re-enter Servant, R.
Serv. Sir! will you enter? 'Tis Master Andrew Marvel that is here.
[1st Cut.] [3rd Grooves.]
A Room in GURTON'S Alehouse. Night.
Enter WILLIAM, with a letter in his hand, S.E.R.
Will. So now, a letter from my Master to his cousin, and then, of course, an answer to that. I had need go get myself fitted like Mercury, with wings at his heels. To be the lacquey of a man that hath quarrelled with his mistress! And to know the final issue all the time, that it is sure to be made up between them. And to hear him mutter "the last," between his teeth, while sealing it. He was to have journeyed this evening, too, but the General Cromwell, with a face very red and perturbed, and a nose as it were of lava; his wart being ignited like the pimple of a salamander, hath been desiring to see him instantly. There is something going to happen among them. Well, in these confused days, Since I'm of those that have got nought to lose, Perchance I may step in some richer shoes!
Enter the HOST, partly undressed, in his sleep, with a candle in his hand. He walks carefully about the Room, and then exit, U.E.R. On the other side, as he goes out, enter WYCKOFF and BASIL, S.E.L.
Basil. I thought I heard a noise.
Wyck. 'Tis an old house, and probably there is a Parliament of grey rats busy. I mind well aboard ship, as I did once visit the hold, where we had store of ingots and bales of wealthy goods, I saw them sitting. I ordered the long boat to be cast loose and got ready, but said nothing, except to a few; for I knew something would happen; and sure enough in three days was a leak—whew! I hear the bubbling of the water now in my head—here I am, you see——
Basil. And the rest?—
Wyck. Are there! [Points downwards.] In the long-boat we found a very old rat; a tough morsel; but we ate him, and drank sea-water. We were forced to throw the gold overboard! [Looks around.] Is there nothing we can get to swig now?—
Basil. They are all abed.
Wyck. I hate the sound of snoring, when I am about at night. It puts one in mind of groans. Shall I rouse the host?—
Basil. No! no! to business—first to hide these papers.
Wyck. Ay! and about thy brother.
Basil. You see these letters addressed to me in his name by Sir Marmaduke Langdale, touching the rising in the North, I will place them under yon plank in the floor. 'Tis already loosened. Then, when he is accused to Cromwell, who hath strong doubts of him—I have seen to that; besides, I know him, he doth fear for the king, and will incense them all—I will have them found, and then—
Wyck. Why thou art Satan's trump-card! Mind I have been thy faithful tool, thy messenger, and love thee—thou mayest as well sign me the paper thou didst speak of—five hundred a year—I will then eschew dice and go live virtuously with a woman and repent my youthful misdeeds. I am not like thee, to sin when I have plenty.
Basil. Yes! yes! but come, assist—[They lift up a plank, U.E.L., in the floor, and deposit papers; as they do so, enter HOST, still asleep, U.E.R. He goes to a cup-board, which he opens, and then pouring out a glass of spirits—drinks, and gives a kind of satisfied grunt.] Hold! we are seen. [Draws a dagger.]
Wyck. [Springing up.] The devil! where is my knife?—Hist! Do you not see?—he sleeps. I have seen this before. Did I not tell you of the girl?—I have heard them teaze him about this. [To Basil.] Be quiet, fool! [They watch the HOST; he takes a pitcher of water and pours into the flask he had been drinking from.] The damned old thief! I could have sworn it yesterday. He waters his strong drink. That's why I have not been so well here. I have a cursed cholic these three days, and missed the warm nip it should give my stomach. The poisonous old dog!
Basil. Are you sure?
Wyck. Look at his eyes. You shall see me flourish my blade before them, and he shall not wink. But don't touch him. [He goes up to him and menaces him.] 'Tis all safe; he will go now. [The HOST replaces the things, and goes slowly out, U.E.R. The clock strikes twelve.] Come, let us see where he puts his keys. [They steal out after him.]
A large apartment dimly lighted. Tables with writing materials. A practicable door and stairs in L.F., practicable doors, R. and L.U.E.'S, chairs, &c.
CROMWELL enters, R., very much agitated, followed by his daughter ELIZABETH. After pacing across and back, he stops short in the middle of the stage and speaks.
Crom. Have I not promis'd thee that I will save him, If he will save himself? [To his daughter.]
Eliz. Thou hast, dear father. And then, with blessings on thy righteous name, Rejecting all they offer thee, vain titles, And selfish, mean, dishonourable honours, Thou wilt return unto our natural home At Huntingdon, and I will read to thee, As I was wont. Thy hair then will not whiten So fast, and sometimes thou wilt have a smile Upon thy countenance, that grows so stern Of late, I hardly dare look up to thee, And call thee "dearest father"— Shall it be? Did the king speak thee fair?
Crom. [Gloomily.] Too fair, too fair! E'en to be honest fair. Our good John Milton Speaks bitter words. He saith Lord Strafford grac'd Right well the block, that put his trust in him. What saith the Scripture of the faith of princes?
Eliz. 'Twas not the fault of Charles that Strafford died.
Crom. It was his fault to sign— He should have died Himself first. Daughter! urge me not—I'll do What the Lord wills in this. Go! mind the household, Thou little Royalist.
Eliz. Nay! father, hear me—
Crom. Away, puss! Where are Richard and thy husband?
Eliz. I will not leave thee, 'till thou promisest—
Crom. As the Lord liveth, is it not enough To struggle with a royal hypocrite, To keep his feet from falling, 'mid dissension, On all sides, worse than chaos, liker hell! To be thus baited, by one's own pale household, Prating of what they may not understand? Thy brother Richard with his heavy step, Ploughing his way from book-cas'd room to room, With eye as dull as huckster's three-day's fish, And just as silent; then thy mother with Her tearful and beseeching look, that moves Like a green widow in a mourning trance, The very picture of "God help us all;" And thou, with sickly whining worse than they, Do ye think I shall do murder? Why not go At once unto the foe, and there be spurn'd By Henrietta, that false Delilah?— Or plot my death for loyalty? What is A father in your minds weigh'd with a king? Yet what is "king" to you? ye were not bred To lick his moral sores in ecstasy, And bay like hounds before the royal gate On all the world beside—Go hence! go hence! I would be left alone—