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Representative Plays by American Dramatists: 1856-1911: Francesca da Rimini by George Henry Boker

Part 2 out of 4

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GUIDO. Say we refuse: Why, then, before a week,
We'll hear Lanciotto rapping at our door,
With twenty hundred ruffians at his back.
What's to say then? My lord, we waste our breath.
Let us look fortune in the face, and draw
Such comfort from the wanton as we may.

CARDINAL. And yet I fear--

GUIDO. You fear! and so do I.
I fear Lanciotto as a soldier, though,
More than a son-in-law.

CARDINAL. But have you seen him?

GUIDO. Ay, ay, and felt him, too. I've seen him ride
The best battalions of my horse and foot
Down like mere stubble: I have seen his sword
Hollow a square of pikemen, with the ease
You'd scoop a melon out.

CARDINAL. Report declares him
A prodigy of strength and ugliness.

GUIDO. Were he the devil--But why talk of this?--
Here comes Francesca.

CARDINAL. Ah! unhappy child!

GUIDO. Look you, my lord! you'll make the best of it;
You will not whimper. Add your voice to mine,
Or woe to poor Ravenna!

_Enter_ FRANCESCA _and_ RITTA.

FRANCESCA. Ha! my lord--
And you, my father!--But do I intrude
Upon your counsels? How severe you look!
Shall I retire?

GUIDO. No, no.

FRANCESCA. You moody men
Seem leagued against me. As I passed the hall,
I met your solemn Dante, with huge strides
Pacing in measure to his stately verse.
The sweeping sleeves of his broad scarlet robe
Blew out behind, like wide-expanded wings,
And seemed to buoy him in his level flight.
Thinking to pass, without disturbing him,
I stole on tip-toe; but the poet paused,
Subsiding into man, and steadily
Bent on my face the lustre of his eyes.
Then, taking both my trembling hands in his--
You know how his God-troubled forehead awes--
He looked into my eyes, and shook his head,
As if he dared not speak of what he saw;
Then muttered, sighed, and slowly turned away
The weight of his intolerable brow.
When I glanced back, I saw him, as before,
Sailing adown the hall on out-spread wings.
Indeed, my lord, he should not do these things;
They strain the weakness of mortality
A jot too far. As for poor Ritta, she
Fled like a doe, the truant.

RITTA. Yes, forsooth:
There's something terrible about the man.
Ugh! if he touched me, I should turn to ice.
I wonder if Count Lanciotto looks--

GUIDO. Ritta, come here. [_Takes her apart._

RITTA. My lord.

GUIDO. 'Twas my command,
You should say nothing of Count Lanciotto.

RITTA. Nothing, my lord.

GUIDO. You have said nothing, then?

RITTA. Indeed, my lord.

GUIDO. 'Tis well. Some years ago,
My daughter had a very silly maid,
Who told her sillier stories. So, one day,
This maiden whispered something I forbade--
In strictest confidence, for she was sly:
What happened, think you?

RITTA. I know not, my lord.

GUIDO. I boiled her in a pot.

RITTA. Good heaven! my lord.

GUIDO. She did not like it. I shall keep that pot
Ready for the next boiling.

[_Walks back to the others._

RITTA. Saints above!
I wonder if he ate her! Boil me--me!
I'll roast or stew with pleasure; but to boil
Implies a want of tenderness,--or rather
A downright toughness--in the matter boiled,
That's slanderous to a maiden. What, boil me--
Boil me! O! mercy, how ridiculous!

[_Retires, laughing._

_Enter a_ MESSENGER.

MESSENGER. Letters, my lord, from great Prince Malatesta.
[_Presents them, and exit._

GUIDO. [_Aside._] Hear him, ye gods!--"from great Prince Malatesta!"
Greeting, no doubt, his little cousin Guido.
Well, well, just so we see-saw up and down.
[_Reads._]
_"Fearing our treachery,"_--by heaven, that's blunt,
And Malatesta-like!--_"he will not send
His son, Lanciotto, to Ravenna, but"_--
But what?--a groom, a porter? or will he
Have his prey sent him in an iron cage?
By Jove, he shall not have her! O! no, no;
_"He sends his younger son, the Count Paolo,
To fetch Francesca back to Rimini."_
That's well, if he had left his reasons out.
And, in a postscript--by the saints, 'tis droll!--
_"'Twould not be worth your lordship's while to shut
Paolo in a prison; for, my lord,
I'll only pay his ransom in plain steel:
Besides, he's not worth having."_ Is there one,
Save this ignoble offshoot of the Goths,
Who'd write such garbage to a gentleman?
Take that, and read it. [_Gives letter to_ CARDINAL.

CARDINAL. I have done the most.
She seems suspicious.

GUIDO. Ritta's work.

CARDINAL. Farewell!

FRANCESCA. Father, you seem distempered.

GUIDO. No, my child,
I am but vexed. Your husband's on the road,
Close to Ravenna. What's the time of day?

FRANCESCA. Past noon, my lord.

GUIDO. We must be stirring, then.

FRANCESCA. I do not like this marriage.

GUIDO. But I do.

FRANCESCA. But I do not. Poh! to be given away,
Like a fine horse or falcon, to a man
Whose face I never saw!

RITTA. That's it, my lady.

GUIDO. Ritta, run down, and see if my great pot
Boils to your liking.

RITTA. [_Aside._] O! that pot again!
My lord, my heart betrays me; but you know
How true 'tis to my lady. [_Exit._

FRANCESCA. What ails Ritta?

GUIDO. The ailing of your sex, a running tongue.
Francesca, 'tis too late to beat retreat:
Old Malatesta has me--you, too, child--
Safe in his clutch. If you are not content,
I must unclose Ravenna, and allow
His son to take you. Poh, poh! have a soul
Equal with your estate. A prince's child
Cannot choose husbands. Her desires must aim,
Not at herself, but at the public good.
Both as your prince and father, I command;
As subject and good daughter, you'll obey.

FRANCESCA. I knew that it must be my destiny,
Some day, to give my hand without my heart;
But--

GUIDO. But, and I will but you back again!
When Guido da Polenta says to you,
Daughter, you must be married,--what were best?

FRANCESCA. 'Twere best Francesca, of the self-same name,
Made herself bridal garments. [_Laughing._

GUIDO. Right!

FRANCESCA. My lord,
Is Lanciotto handsome--ugly--fair--
Black--sallow--crabbed--kind--or what is he?

GUIDO. You'll know ere long. I could not alter him,
To please your taste.

FRANCESCA. You always put me off;
You never have a whisper in his praise.

GUIDO. The world reports it.--Count my soldiers' scars,
And you may sum Lanciotto's glories up.

FRANCESCA. I shall be dutiful, to please you, father.
If aught befall me through my blind submission,
Though I may suffer, you must bear the sin.
Beware, my lord, for your own peace of mind!
My part has been obedience; and now
I play it over to complete my task;
And it shall be with smiles upon my lips,--
Heaven only knows with what a sinking heart!
[_Exeunt._

SCENE II.

_The Same. Before the Gates of the City. The walls hung with banners,
flowers, etc., and crowded with citizens. At the side of the scene is
a canopied dais, with chairs of state upon it. Music, bells, shouts,
and other sounds of rejoicing, are occasionally heard. Enter_ GUIDO,
_the_ CARDINAL, NOBLEMEN, KNIGHTS, GUARDS, _etc., with banners, arms,
etc._

GUIDO. My lord, I'll have it so. You talk in vain.
Paolo is a marvel in his way:
I've seen him often. If Francesca take
A fancy to his beauty, all the better;
For she may think that he and Lanciotto
Are like as blossoms of one parent branch.
In truth, they are, so far as features go--
Heaven help the rest! Get her to Rimini,
By any means, and I shall be content.
The fraud cannot last long; but long enough
To win her favour to the family.

CARDINAL. Tis a dull trick. Thou hast not dealt with her
Wisely nor kindly, and I dread the end.
If, when this marriage was enjoined on thee,
Thou hadst informed Francesca of the truth,
And said, Now daughter, choose between
Thy peace and all Ravenna's; who that knows
The constant nature of her noble heart
Could doubt the issue? There'd have been some tears,
Some frightful fancies of her husband's looks;
And then she'd calmly walk up to her fate,
And bear it bravely. Afterwards, perchance,
Lanciotto might prove better than her fears,--
No one denies him many an excellence,--
And all go happily. But, as thou wouldst plot,
She'll be prepared to see a paragon,
And find a satyr. It is dangerous.
Treachery with enemies is bad enough,
With friends 'tis fatal.

GUIDO. Has your lordship done?

CARDINAL. Never, Count Guido, with so good a text.
Do not stand looking sideways at the truth;
Craft has become thy nature. Go to her.

GUIDO. I have not heart.

CARDINAL. I have. [_Going._

GUIDO. Hold, Cardinal!
My plan is better. Get her off my hands,
And I care not.

CARDINAL. What will she say of thee,
In Rimini, when she detects the cheat?

GUIDO. I'll stop my ears up.

CARDINAL. Guido, thou art weak,
And lack the common fortitude of man.

GUIDO. And you abuse the license of your garb,
To lesson me. My lord, I do not dare
To move a finger in these marriage-rites.
Francesca is a sacrifice, I know,--
A limb delivered to the surgeon's knife,
To save our general health. A truce to this.
Paolo has the business in his hands:
Let him arrange it as he will; for I
Will give Count Malatesta no pretext
To recommence the war.

CARDINAL. Farewell, my lord.
I'll neither help nor countenance a fraud.
You crafty men take comfort to yourselves,
Saying, deceit dies with discovery.
'Tis false; each wicked action spawns a brood,
And lives in its succession. You, who shake
Man's moral nature into storm, should know
That the last wave which passes from your sight
Rolls in and breaks upon eternity! [_Exit._

GUIDO. Why, that's a very grand and solemn thought:
I'll mention it to Dante. Gentlemen,
What see they from the wall?

NOBLEMAN. The train, my lord.

GUIDO. Inform my daughter.

NOBLEMAN. She is here, my lord.

_Enter_ FRANCESCA, RITTA, LADIES, ATTENDANTS, _etc._

FRANCESCA. See, father, what a merry face I have,
And how my ladies glisten! I will try
To do my utmost, in my love for you
And the good people of Ravenna. Now,
As the first shock is over, I expect
To feel quite happy. I will wed the Count,
Be he whate'er he may. I do not speak
In giddy recklessness. I've weighed it all,--
'Twixt hope and fear, knowledge and ignorance,--
And reasoned out my duty to your wish.
I have no yearnings towards another love:
So, if I show my husband a desire
To fill the place with which he honours me,
According to its duties, even he--
Were he less noble than Count Lanciotto--
Must smile upon my efforts, and reward
Good will with willing grace. One pang remains.
Parting from home and kindred is a thing
None but the heartless, or the miserable,
Can do without a tear. This home of mine
Has filled my heart with two-fold happiness,
Taking and giving love abundantly.
Farewell, Ravenna! If I bless thee not,
Tis that thou seem'st too blessed; and 'twere strange
In me to offer what thou'st always given.

GUIDO. [_Aside._] This is too much! If she would rail a while
At me and fortune, it could be endured. [_Shouts, music, etc., within._

FRANCESCA. Ha! there's the van just breaking through the wood!
Music! that's well; a welcome forerunner.
Now, Ritta--here--come talk to me. Alas!
How my heart trembles! What a world to me
Lies 'neath the glitter of yon cavalcade!
Is that the Count?

RITTA. Upon the dapple-gray?

FRANCESCA. Yes, yes.

RITTA. No; that's his--

GUIDO. [_Apart to her._] Ritta!

RITTA. Ay; that's--that's--

GUIDO. Ritta, the pot! [_Apart to her._

RITTA. O! but this lying chokes! [_Aside._]
Ay, that's Count Somebody, from Rimini.

FRANCESCA. I knew it was. Is that not glorious?

RITTA. My lady, what?

FRANCESCA. To see a cavalier
Sit on his steed with such familiar grace.

RITTA. To see a man astraddle on a horse!
It don't seem much to me.

FRANCESCA. Fie! stupid girl!
But mark the minstrels thronging round the Count!
Ah! that is more than gallant horsemanship.
The soul that feeds itself on poesy,
Is of a quality more fine and rare
Than Heaven allows the ruder multitude.
I tell you, Ritta, when you see a man
Beloved by poets, made the theme of song,
And chaunted down to ages, as a gift
Fit for the rich embalmment of their verse,
There's more about him than the patron's gold.
If that's the gentleman my father chose,
He must have picked him out from all the world.
The Count alights. Why, what a noble grace
Runs through his slightest action! Are you sad?
You, too, my father? Have I given you cause?
I am content. If Lanciotto's mind
Bear any impress of his fair outside,
We shall not quarrel ere our marriage-day.
Can I say more? My blushes speak for me:
Interpret them as modesty's excuse
For the short-comings of a maiden's speech.

RITTA. Alas! dear lady! [_Aside._

GUIDO. [_Aside._] 'Sdeath! my plot has failed,
By overworking its design. Come, come;
Get to your places. See, the Count draws nigh.

GUIDO _and_ FRANCESCA _seat themselves upon the dais, surrounded by_
RITTA, LADIES, ATTENDANTS, GUARDS, _etc. Music, shouts, ringing of
bells, etc. Enter_ MEN-AT-ARMS, _with banners, etc.;_ PAGES _bearing
costly presents on cushions; then_ PAOLO, _surrounded by_ NOBLEMEN,
KNIGHTS, MINSTRELS, _etc., and followed by other_ MEN-AT-ARMS. _They
range themselves opposite the dais._

GUIDO. Ravenna welcomes you, my lord, and I
Add my best greeting to the general voice.
This peaceful show of arms from Rimini
Is a new pleasure, stranger to our sense
Than if the East blew zephyrs, or the balm
Of Summer loaded rough December's gales,
And turned his snows to roses.

PAOLO. Noble sir,
We looked for welcome from your courtesy,
Not from your love; but this unhoped for sight
Of smiling faces, and the gentle tone
In which you greet us, leave us naught to win
Within your hearts. I need not ask, my lord,
Where bides the precious object of my search;
For I was sent to find the fairest maid
Ravenna boasts, among her many fair.
I might extend my travel many a league,
And yet return, to take her from your side.
I blush to bear so rich a treasure home,
As pledge and hostage of a sluggish peace;
For beauty such as hers was meant by Heaven
To spur our race to gallant enterprise,
And draw contending deities around
The dubious battles of a second Troy.

GUIDO. Sir Count, you please to lavish on my child
The high-strained courtesy of chivalry;
Yet she has homely virtues that, I hope,
May take a deeper hold in Rimini,
After the fleeting beauty of her face
Is spoiled by time, or faded to the eye
By its familiar usage.

PAOLO. As a man
Who ever sees Heaven's purpose in its works,
I must suppose so rare a tabernacle
Was framed for rarest virtues. Pardon me
My public admiration. If my praise
Clash with propriety, and bare my words
To cooler judgment, 'tis not that I wish
To win a flatterer's grudged recompense,
And gain by falsehood what I'd win through love.
When I have brushed my travel from my garb,
I'll pay my court in more befitting style.

_Music. Exit with his train._

GUIDO. [_Advancing._] Now, by the saints, Lanciotto's deputy
Stands in this business with a proper grace,
Stretching his lord's instructions till they crack.
A zealous envoy! Not a word said he
Of Lanciotto--not a single word:
But stood there, staring in Francesca's face
With his devouring eyes.--By Jupiter,
I but half like it!

FRANCESCA. [_Advancing._] Father?

GUIDO. Well, my child.

FRANCESCA. How do you like--

GUIDO. The coxcomb! I've done well!

FRANCESCA. No, no; Count Lanciotto?

GUIDO. Well enough.
But hang this fellow--hang your deputies!
I'll never woo by proxy.

FRANCESCA. Deputies!
And woo by proxy!

GUIDO. Come to me anon.
I'll strip this cuckoo of his gallantry!
[_Exit with_ GUARDS, _etc._

FRANCESCA. Ritta, my father has strange ways of late.

RITTA. I wonder not.

FRANCESCA. You wonder not?

RITTA. No, lady:
He is so used to playing double games,
That even you must come in for your share.
Plague on his boiling! I will out with it. [_Aside._]
Lady, the gentleman who passed the gates--

FRANCESCA. Count Lanciotto? As I hope for grace,
A gallant gentleman! How well he spoke!
With what sincere and earnest courtesy
The rounded phrases glided from his lips!
He spoke in compliments that seemed like truth.
Methinks I'd listen through a summer's day,
To hear him woo.--And he must woo to me--
I'll have our privilege--he must woo a space,
Ere I'll be won, I promise.

RITTA. But, my lady,
He'll woo you for another.

FRANCESCA. He?--ha! ha! [_Laughing._]
I should not think it from the prologue, Ritta.

RITTA. Nor I.

FRANCESCA. Nor any one.

RITTA. 'Tis not the Count--
'Tis not Count Lanciotto.

FRANCESCA. Gracious saints!
Have you gone crazy? Ritta, speak again,
Before I chide you.

RITTA. 'Tis the solemn truth.
That gentleman is Count Paolo, lady,
Brother to Lanciotto, and no more
Like him than--than--

FRANCESCA. Than what?

RITTA. Count Guido's pot,
For boiling waiting-maids, is like the bath
Of Venus on the arras.

FRANCESCA. Are you mad,--
Quite mad, poor Ritta?

RITTA. Yes; perhaps I am.
Perhaps Lanciotto is a proper man--
Perhaps I lie--perhaps I speak the truth--
Perhaps I gabble like a fool. O! heavens,
That dreadful pot!

FRANCESCA. Dear Ritta!--

RITTA. By the mass,
They shall not cozen you, my gentle mistress!
If my lord Guido boiled me, do you think
I should be served up to the garrison,
By way of pottage? Surely they would not waste me.

FRANCESCA. You are an idle talker. Pranks like these
Fit your companions. You forget yourself.

RITTA. Not you, though, lady. Boldly I repeat,
That he who looked so fair, and talked so sweet,
Who rode from Rimini upon a horse
Of dapple-gray, and walked through yonder gate,
Is not Count Lanciotto.

FRANCESCA. This you mean?

RITTA. I do, indeed!

FRANCESCA. Then I am more abused--
More tricked, more trifled with, more played upon--
By him, my father, and by all of you,
Than anything, suspected of a heart,
Was ever yet!

RITTA. In Count Paolo, lady,
Perchance there was no meditated fraud.

FRANCESCA. How, dare you plead for him?

RITTA. I but suppose:
Though in your father--O! I dare not say.

FRANCESCA. I dare. It was ill usage, gross abuse,
Treason to duty, meanness, craft--dishonour!
What if I'd thrown my heart before the feet
Of this sham husband! cast my love away
Upon a counterfeit! I was prepared
To force affection upon any man
Called Lanciotto. Anything of silk,
Tinsel, and gewgaws, if he bore that name,
Might have received me for the asking. Yes,
I was inclined to venture more than half
In this base business--shame upon my thoughts!--
All for my father's peace and poor Ravenna's.
And this Paolo, with his cavalcade,
His minstrels, music, and his pretty airs,
His showy person, and his fulsome talk,
Almost made me contented with my lot.
O! what a fool--in faith, I merit it--
Trapped by mere glitter! What an easy fool!
Ha! ha! I'm glad it went no further, girl;
[_Laughing._]
I'm glad I kept my heart safe, after all.
There was my cunning. I have paid them back,
I warrant you! I'll marry Lanciotto;
I'll seem to shuffle by this treachery. No!
I'll seek my father, put him face to face
With his own falsehood; and I'll stand between,
Awful as justice, meting out to him
Heaven's dreadful canons 'gainst his conscious guilt.
I'll marry Lanciotto. On my faith,
I would not live another wicked day
Here, in Ravenna, only for the fear
That I should take to lying, with the rest.
Ha! ha! it makes me merry, when I think
How safe I kept this little heart of mine! [_Laughing._
[_Exit, with_ ATTENDANTS, _etc._

RITTA. So, 'tis all ended--all except my boiling,
And that will make a holiday for some.
Perhaps I'm selfish. Fagot, axe, and gallows,
They have their uses, after all. They give
The lookers-on a deal of harmless sport.
Though one may suffer, twenty hundred laugh;
And that's a point gained. I have seen a man--
Poor Dora's uncle--shake himself with glee,
At the bare thought of the ridiculous style
In which some villain died. "Dancing," quoth he,
"To the poor music of a single string!
Biting," quoth he, "after his head was off!
What use of that?" Or, "Shivering," quoth he,
"As from an ague, with his beard afire!"
And then he'd roar until his ugly mouth
Split at the corners. But to see me boil--
that will be the queerest thing of all!
I wonder if they'll put me in a bag,
Like a great suet-ball? I'll go, and tell
Count Guido, on the instant. How he'll laugh
To think his pot has got an occupant!
I wonder if he really takes delight
In such amusements? Nay, I have kept faith;
I only said the man was not Lanciotto;
No word of Lanciotto's ugliness.
I may escape the pot, for all. Pardee!
I wonder if they'll put me in a bag!
[_Exit, laughing._

SCENE III.

_The Same. A Room in_ GUIDO'S _Palace. Enter_ GUIDO _and_ RITTA.

RITTA. There now, my lord, that is the whole of it:
I love my mistress more than I fear you.
If I could save her finger from the axe,
I'd give my head to do it. So, my lord,
I am prepared to stew.

GUIDO. Boil, Ritta, boil.

RITTA. No; I prefer to stew.

GUIDO. And I to boil.

RITTA. Tis very hard, my lord, I cannot choose
My way of cooking. I shall laugh, I vow,
In the grim headsman's face, when I remember
That I am dying for my lady's love.
I leave no one to shed a tear for me;
Father nor mother, kith nor kin, have I,
To say, "Poor Ritta!" o'er my lifeless clay.
They all have gone before me, and 'twere well
If I could hurry after them.

GUIDO. Poor child. [_Aside._]
But, baggage, said you aught of Lanciotto?

RITTA. No, not a word; and he's so ugly, too!

GUIDO. Is he so ugly?

RITTA. Ugly! he is worse
Than Pilate on the hangings.

GUIDO. Hold your tongue
Here, and at Rimini, about the Count,
And you shall prosper.

RITTA. Am I not to boil?

GUIDO. No, child. But be discreet at Rimini.
Old Malatesta is a dreadful man--
Far worse than I--he bakes his people, Ritta;
Lards them, like geese, and bakes them in an oven.

RITTA. Fire is my fate, I see that.

GUIDO. Have a care
It do not follow you beyond this world.
Where is your mistress?

RITTA. In her room, my lord.
After I told her of the Count Paolo,
She flew to have an interview with you;
But on the way--I know not why it was--
She darted to her chamber, and there stays
Weeping in silence. It would do you good--
More than a hundred sermons--just to see
A single tear, indeed it would, my lord.

GUIDO. Ha! you are saucy. I have honoured you
Past prudence, malpert! Get you to your room!
[_Exit_ RITTA.]
More of my blood runs in yon damsel's veins
Than the world knows. Her mother to a shade;
The same high spirit, and strange martyr-wish
To sacrifice herself, body and soul,
For some loved end. All that she did for me;
And yet I loved her not. O! memory!
The darkest future has a ray of hope,
But thou art blacker than the sepulchre!
Thy horrid shapes lie round, like scattered bones,
Hopeless forever! I am sick at heart.
The past crowds on the present: as I sowed,
So am I reaping. Shadows from myself
Fall on the picture, as I trace anew
These rising spectres of my early life,
And add their gloom to what was dark before.
O! memory, memory! How my temples throb! [_Sits._

_Enter_ FRANCESCA, _hastily._

FRANCESCA. My lord, this outrage--
[_He looks up._]
Father, are you ill?
You seem unhappy. Have I troubled you?
You heard how passionate and bad I was,
When Ritta told me of the Count Paolo.
Dear father, calm yourself; and let me ask
A child's forgiveness. 'Twas undutiful
To doubt your wisdom. It is over now.
I only thought you might have trusted me
With any counsel.

GUIDO. [_Aside._] Would I had!

FRANCESCA. Ah! well,
I understand it all, and you were right.
Only the danger of it. Think, my lord,
If I had loved this man at the first sight:
We all have heard of such things. Think, again,
If I had loved him--as I then supposed
You wished me to--'twould have been very sad.
But no, dear sir, I kept my heart secure,
Nor will I loose it till you give the word.
I'm wiser than you thought me, you perceive.
But when we saw him, face to face, together,
Surely you might have told me then.

GUIDO. Francesca,
My eyes are old--I did not clearly see--Faith,
it escaped my thoughts. Some other things
Came in my head. I was as ignorant
Of Count Paolo's coming as yourself.
The brothers are so like.

FRANCESCA. Indeed?

GUIDO. Yes, yes.
One is the other's counterpart, in fact;
And even now it may not be--O! shame!
I lie by habit. [_Aside._

FRANCESCA. Then there is a hope?
He may be Lanciotto, after all?
O! joy--

_Enter a_ SERVANT.

SERVANT. The Count Paolo. [_Exit._

FRANCESCA. Misery!
That name was not Lanciotto!

GUIDO. Farewell, child.
I'll leave you with the Count: he'll make it plain.
It seems 'twas Count Paolo. [_Going._

FRANCESCA. Father!

GUIDO. Well.

FRANCESCA. You knew it from the first! [_Exit_ GUIDO.]
Let me begone:
I could not look him in the face again
With the old faith. Besides, 'twould anger him
To have a living witness of his fraud
Ever before him; and I could not trust--
Strive as I might--my happiness to him,
As once I did. I could not lay my hand
Upon his shoulder, and look up to him,
Saying, Dear father, pilot me along
Past this dread rock, through yonder narrow strait.
Saints, no! The gold that gave my life away
Might, even then, be rattling in his purse,
Warm from the buyer's hand. Look on me, Heaven!
Him thou didst sanctify before my eyes,
Him thou didst charge, as thy great deputy,
With guardianship of a weak orphan girl,
Has fallen from grace, has paltered with his trust;
I have no mother to receive thy charge,--
O! take it on thyself; and when I err,
Through mortal blindness, Heaven, be thou my guide!
Worse cannot fall me. Though my husband lack
A parent's tenderness, he yet may have
Faith, truth, and honour--the immortal bonds
That knit together honest hearts as one.
Let me away to Rimini. Alas!
It wrings my heart to have outlived the day
That I can leave my home with no regret! [_Weeps._

_Enter_ PAOLO.

PAOLO. Pray, pardon me. [_Going._

FRANCESCA. You are quite welcome, Count
A foolish tear, a weakness, nothing more:
But present weeping clears our future sight.
They tell me you are love's commissioner,
A kind of broker in the trade of hearts:
Is it your usual business? or may I
Flatter myself, by claiming this essay
As your first effort?

PAOLO. Lady, I believed
My post, at starting, one of weight and trust;
When I beheld you, I concluded it
A charge of honour and high dignity.
I did not think to hear you underrate
Your own importance, by dishonouring me.

FRANCESCA. You are severe, my lord.

PAOLO. No, not severe;
Say candid, rather. I am somewhat hurt
By my reception. If I feel the wound,
'Tis not because I suffer from the jest,
But that your lips should deal it.

FRANCESCA. Compliments
Appear to be the staple of your speech.
You ravish one with courtesy, you pour
Fine words upon one, till the listening head
Is bowed with sweetness. Sir, your talk is drugged;
There's secret poppy in your sugared phrase:
I'll taste before I take it.

PAOLO. Gentle lady--

FRANCESCA. I am not gentle, or I missed my aim.
I am no hawk to fly at every lure.
You courtly gentlemen draw one broad rule--
All girls are fools. It may be so, in truth,
Yet so I'll not be treated.

PAOLO. Have you been?
If I implied such slander by my words,
They wrong my purpose. If I compliment,
'Tis not from habit, but because I thought
Your face deserved my homage as its due.
When I have clearer insight, and you spread
Your inner nature o'er your lineaments,
Even that face may darken in the shades
Of my opinion. For mere loveliness
Needs inward light to keep it always bright.
All things look badly to unfriendly eyes.
I spoke my first impression; cooler thought
May work strange changes.

FRANCESCA. Ah, Sir Count, at length
There's matter in your words.

PAOLO. Unpleasant stuff,
To judge by your dark brows. I have essayed
Kindness and coldness, yet you are not pleased.

FRANCESCA. How can I be?

PAOLO. How, lady?

FRANCESCA. Ay, sir, how?
Your brother--my good lord that is to be--
Stings me with his neglect; and in the place
He should have filled, he sends a go-between,
A common carrier of others' love;
How can the sender, or the person sent,
Please overmuch? Now, were I such as you,
I'd be too proud to travel round the land
With other people's feelings in my heart;
Even to fill the void which you confess
By such employment.

PAOLO. Lady, 'tis your wish
To nettle me, to break my breeding down,
And see what natural passions I have hidden
Behind the outworks of my etiquette.
I neither own nor feel the want of heart
With which you charge me. You are more than cruel;
You rouse my nerves until they ache with life,
And then pour fire upon them. For myself
I would not speak, unless you had compelled.
My task is odious to me. Since I came,
Heaven bear me witness how my traitor heart
Has fought against my duty; and how oft
I wished myself in Lanciotto's place.
Or him in mine.

FRANCESCA. You riddle.

PAOLO. Do I? Well,
Let it remain unguessed.

FRANCESCA. You wished yourself
At Rimini, or Lanciotto here?
You may have reasons.

PAOLO. Well interpreted!
The Sphinx were simple in your skilful hands!

FRANCESCA. It has become your turn to sneer.

PAOLO. But I
Have gall to feed my bitterness, while you
Jest in the wanton ease of happiness.
Stop! there is peril in our talk.

FRANCESCA. As how?

PAOLO. 'Tis dangerous to talk about one's self;
It panders selfishness. My duty waits.

FRANCESCA. My future lord's affairs? I quite forgot
Count Lanciotto.

PAOLO. I, too, shame upon me. [_Aside._

FRANCESCA. Does he resemble you?

PAOLO. Pray drop me, lady.

FRANCESCA. Nay, answer me.

PAOLO. Somewhat--in feature.

FRANCESCA. Ha!
Is he so fair?

PAOLO. No, darker. He was tanned
In long campaigns, and battles hotly fought,
While I lounged idly with the troubadours,
Under the shadow of his watchful sword.

FRANCESCA. In person?

PAOLO. He is shorter, I believe,
But broader, stronger, more compactly knit.

FRANCESCA. What of his mind?

PAOLO. Ah, now you strike the key!
A mind just fitted to his history,
An equal balance 'twixt desert and fame.
No future chronicler shall say of him,
His fame outran his merit; or his merit
Halted behind some adverse circumstance,
And never won the glory it deserved.
My love might weary you, if I rehearsed
The simple beauty of his character;
His grandeur and his gentleness of heart,
His warlike fire and peaceful love, his faith,
His courtesy, his truth. I'll not deny
Some human weakness, to attract our love,
Harbours in him, as in the rest of us.
Sometimes against our city's enemies
He thunders in the distance, and devotes
Their homes to ruin. When the brand has fallen,
He ever follows with a healing rain,
And in his pity shoulders by revenge.
A thorough soldier, lady. He grasps crowns,
While I pick at the laurel.

FRANCESCA. Stay, my lord!
I asked your brother's value, with no wish
To hear you underrate yourself. Your worth
May rise in passing through another's lips.
Lanciotto is perfection, then?

PAOLO. To me:
Others may think my brother over-nice
Upon the point of honour; over-keen
To take offence where no offence is meant;
A thought too prodigal of human life,
Holding it naught when weighed against a wrong;
Suspicious of the motives of his friends;
Distrustful of his own high excellence;
And with a certain gloom of temperament,
When thus disturbed, that makes him terrible
And rash in action. I have heard of this;
I never felt it. I distress you, lady?
Perhaps I throw these points too much in shade,
By catching at an enemy's report.
But, then, Lanciotto said, "You'll speak of me,
Not as I ought to be, but as I am."
He loathes deceit.

FRANCESCA. That's noble! Have you done?
I have observed a strange reserve, at times,
An over-carefulness in choosing words,
Both in my father and his nearest friends,
When speaking of your brother; as if they
Picked their way slowly over rocky ground,
Fearing to stumble. Ritta, too, my maid,
When her tongue rattles on in full career,
Stops at your brother's name, and with a sigh
Settles herself to dismal silence. Count,
These things have troubled me. From you I look
For perfect frankness. Is there naught withheld?

PAOLO. [_Aside._] O base temptation! What if I betray
His crippled person--imitate his limp--
Laugh at his hip, his back, his sullen moods
Of childish superstition?--tread his heart
Under my feet, to climb into his place?--Use
his own warrant 'gainst himself; and say,
Because I loved her, and misjudged your jest,
Therefore I stole her? Why, a common thief
Would hang for just such thinking! Ha! ha! ha!
[_Laughing._]
I reckon on her love, as if I held
The counsels of her bosom. No, I swear,
Francesca would despise so mean a deed.
Have I no honour either? Are my thoughts
All bound by her opinions?

FRANCESCA. This is strange!
Is Lanciotto's name a spell to all?
I ask a simple question, and straight you
Start to one side, and mutter to yourself,
And laugh, and groan, and play the lunatic,
In such a style that you astound me more
Than all the others. It appears to me
I have been singled as a common dupe
By every one. What mystery is this
Surrounds Count Lanciotto? If there be
A single creature in the universe
Who has a right to know him as he is,
I am that one.

PAOLO. I grant it. You shall see,
And shape your judgment by your own remark.
All that my honour calls for I have said.

FRANCESCA. I am content. Unless I greatly err,
Heaven made your breast the seat of honest thoughts.
You know, my lord, that, once at Rimini,
There can be no retreat for me. By you,
Here at Ravenna, in your brother's name,
I shall be solemnly betrothed. And now
I thus extend my maiden hand to you;
If you are conscious of no secret guilt,
Take it.

PAOLO. I do. [_Takes her hand._

FRANCESCA. You tremble!

PAOLO. With the hand,
Not with the obligation.

FRANCESCA. Farewell, Count!
'Twere cruel to tax your stock of compliments,
That waste their sweets upon a trammelled heart;
Go fly your fancies at some freer game. [_Exit._

PAOLO. O, Heaven, if I have faltered and am weak,
Tis from my nature! Fancies, more accursed
Than haunt a murderer's bedside, throng my brain--
Temptations, such as mortal never bore
Since Satan whispered in the ear of Eve,
Sing in my ear--and all, all are accursed!
At heart I have betrayed my brother's trust,
Francesca's openly. Turn where I will,
As if enclosed within a mirrored hall,
I see a traitor. Now to stand erect,
Firm on my base of manly constancy;
Or, if I stagger, let me never quit
The homely path of duty, for the ways
That bloom and glitter with seductive sin! [_Exit._

ACT III

SCENE I. _Rimini. A Room in the Castle._ LANCIOTTO _discovered
reading._

LANCIOTTO. O! fie, philosophy! This Seneca
Revels in wealth, and whines about the poor!
Talks of starvation while his banquet waits,
And fancies that a two hours' appetite
Throws light on famine! Doubtless he can tell,
As he skips nimbly through his dancing-girls,
How sad it is to limp about the world
A sightless cripple! Let him feel the crutch
Wearing against his heart, and then I'd hear
This sage talk glibly; or provide a pad,
Stuffed with his soft philosophy, to ease
His aching shoulder. Pshaw! he never felt,
Or pain would choke his frothy utterance.
'Tis easy for the doctor to compound
His nauseous simples for a sick man's health;
But let him swallow them, for his disease,
Without wry faces. Ah! the tug is there.
Show me philosophy in rags, in want,
Sick of a fever, with a back like mine,
Creeping to wisdom on these legs, and I
Will drink its comforts. Out! away with you!
There's no such thing as real philosophy!
[_Throws down the book._]

[_Enter_ PEPE.]

Here is a sage who'll teach a courtier
The laws of etiquette, a statesman rule,
A soldier discipline, a poet verse,
And each mechanic his distinctive trade;
Yet bring him to his motley, and how wide
He shoots from reason! We can understand
All business but our own, and thrust advice
In every gaping cranny of the world;
While habit shapes us to our own dull work,
And reason nods above his proper task.
Just so philosophy would rectify
All things abroad, and be a jade at home.
Pepe, what think you of the Emperor's aim
Towards Hungary?

PEPE. A most unwise design;
For mark, my lord--

LANCIOTTO. Why, there! the fact cries out.
Here's motley thinking for a diadem!--
Ay, and more wisely in his own regard.

PEPE. You flout me, cousin.

LANCIOTTO. Have you aught that's new?--
Some witty trifle, some absurd conceit?

PEPE. Troth, no.

LANCIOTTO. Why not give up the Emperor,
And bend your wisdom on your duties, Pepe?

PEPE. Because the Emperor has more need of wisdom
Than the most barren fool of wit.

LANCIOTTO. Well said!
Mere habit brings the fool back to his art.
This jester is a rare philosopher.
Teach me philosophy, good fool.

PEPE. No need.
You'll get a teacher when you take a wife.
If she do not instruct you in more arts
Than Aristotle ever thought upon,
The good old race of woman has declined
Into a sort of male stupidity.
I had a sweetheart once, she lectured grandly;
No matter on what subject she might hit,
T was all the same, she could talk and she would.
She had no silly modesty; she dashed
Straight in the teeth of any argument,
And talked you deaf, dumb, blind. Whatever struck
Upon her ear, by some machinery,
Set her tongue wagging. Thank the Lord, she died!--
Dropped in the middle of a fierce harangue,
Like a spent horse. It was an even thing,
Whether she talked herself or me to death.
The latest sign of life was in her tongue;
It wagged till sundown, like a serpent's tail,
Long after all the rest of her was cold.
Alas! poor Zippa!

LANCIOTTO. Were you married, fool?

PEPE. Married! Have I the scars upon me? No;
I fell in love; and that was bad enough,
And far enough for a mere fool to go.
Married! why, marriage is love's purgatory,
Without a heaven beyond.

LANCIOTTO. Fie, atheist!
Would you abolish marriage?

PEPE. Yes.

LANCIOTTO. What?

PEPE. Yes.

LANCIOTTO. Depopulate the world?

PEPE. No fear of that.
I'd have no families, no Malatesti,
Strutting about the land, with pedigrees
And claims bequeathed them by their ancestors;
No fellows vapouring of their royal blood;
No one to seize a whole inheritance,
And rob the other children of the earth.
By Jove! you should not know your fathers, even!
I'd have you spring, like toadstools, from the soil--
Mere sons of women--nothing more nor less--
All base-born, and all equal. There, my lord,
There is a simple commonwealth for you!
In which aspiring merit takes the lead,
And birth goes begging.

LANCIOTTO. It is so, in truth;
And by the simplest means I ever heard.

PEPE. Think of it, cousin. Tell it to your friends,
The statesmen, soldiers, and philosophers;
Noise it about the earth, and let it stir
The sluggish spirits of the multitudes.
Pursue the thought, scan it, from end to end,
Through all its latent possibilities.
It is a great seed dropped, I promise you,
And it must sprout. Thought never wholly dies;
It only wants a name--a hard Greek name--
Some few apostles, who may live on it--
crowd of listeners, with the average dulness
That man possesses--and we organize;
Spread our new doctrine, like a general plague;
Talk of man's progress and development,
Wrongs of society, the march of mind,
The Devil, Doctor Faustus, and what not;
And, lo! this pretty world turns upside down,
All with a fool's idea!

LANCIOTTO. By Jupiter,
You hit our modern teachers to a hair!
I knew this fool was a philosopher.
Pepe is right. Mechanic means advance;
Nature bows down to Science' haughty tread,
And turns the wheel of smutty artifice:
New governments arise, dilate, decay,
And foster creeds and churches to their tastes:
At each advance, we cry, "Behold, the end!"
Till some fresh wonder breaks upon the age.
But man, the moral creature, midst it all
Stands still unchanged; nor moves towards virtue more,
Nor comprehends the mysteries in himself,
More than when Plato taught academies,
Or Zeno thundered from his Attic porch.

PEPE. I know not that; I only want my scheme
Tried for a while. I am a politician,
A wrongs-of-man man. Hang philosophy!
Let metaphysics swallow, at a gulp,
Its last two syllables, and purge itself
Clean of its filthy humours! I am one
Ready for martyrdom, for stake and fire,
If I can make my great idea take root!
Zounds! cousin, if I had an audience,
I'd make you shudder at my eloquence!
I have an itching to reform the world.

LANCIOTTO. Begin at home, then.

PEPE. Home is not my sphere;
Heaven picked me out to teach my fellow-men.
I am a very firebrand of truth--
A self-consuming, doomed, devoted brand--
That burns to ashes while I light the world!
I feel it in me. I am moved, inspired,
Stirred into utterance, by some mystic power
Of which I am the humble instrument.

LANCIOTTO. A bad digestion, sage, a bilious turn,
A gnawing stomach, or a pinching shoe.

PEPE. O! hear, but spare the scoffer! Spare the wretch
Who sneers at the anointed man of truth!
When we reached that, I and my followers
Would rend you limb from limb. There!--ha! ha! ha!
[_Laughing._]
Have I not caught the slang these fellows preach;
A grand, original idea, to back it;
And all the stock in trade of a reformer?

LANCIOTTO. You have indeed; nor do I wonder, Pepe.
Fool as you are, I promise you success
In your new calling, if you'll set it up.
The thing is far too simple.

_Trumpet sounds within._

PEPE. Hist! my lord.

LANCIOTTO. That calls me to myself.

PEPE. At that alarm,
All Rimini leaped up upon its feet.
Cousin, your bridal-train. You groan! 'Ods wounds!
Here is the bridegroom sorely malcontent--
The sole sad face in Rimini. Since morn,
A quiet man could hardly walk the streets,
For flowers and streamers. All the town is gay.
Perhaps 'tis merry o'er your misery.

LANCIOTTO. Perhaps; but that it knows not.

PEPE. Yes, it does:
It knows that when a man's about to wed,
He's ripe to laugh at. Cousin, tell me, now,
Why is Paolo on the way so long?
Ravenna's but eight leagues from Rimini--

LANCIOTTO. That's just the measure of your tongue, good fool.
You trouble me. I've had enough of you--
Begone!

PEPE. I'm going; but you see I limp.
Have pity on a cripple, gentle Count. [_Limps._

LANCIOTTO. Pepe!

PEPE. A miracle, a miracle!
See, see, my lord, at Pepe's saintly name
The lame jog on.

MALATESTA. [_Without._] Come, Lanciotto!

LANCIOTTO. Hark!
My father calls.

PEPE. If he were mine, I'd go--
That's a good boy! [_Pats_ LANCIOTTO'S _back._

LANCIOTTO. [_Starting._] Hands off! you'll rue it else! [_Exit._

PEPE. [Laughing.] Ha! ha! I laid my hand upon his hump!
Heavens, how he squirmed! And what a wish I had
To cry, Ho! camel! leap upon his back,
And ride him to the devil! So, we've had
A pleasant flitting round philosophy!
The Count and Fool bumped heads, and struck ideas
Out by the contact! Quite a pleasant talk--
A friendly conversation, nothing more--
'Twixt nobleman and jester. Ho! my bird,
I can toss lures as high as any man.
So, I amuse you with my harmless wit?
Pepe's your friend now--you can trust in him--
An honest, simple fool! Just try it once,
You ugly, misbegotten clod of dirt!
Ay, but the hump--the touch upon the hump--
The start and wriggle--that was rare! Ha! ha!

[_Exit, laughing._

SCENE II.

_The Same. The Grand Square before the Castle. SOLDIERS on guard, with
banners, etc._ CITIZENS, _in holiday dresses, cross the scene.
The houses are hung with trophies, banners, garlands, etc. Enter_
MALATESTA, _with_ GUARDS, ATTENDANTS, _etc._

MALATESTA. Captain, take care the streets be not choked up
By the rude rabble. Send to Caesar's bridge
A strong detachment of your men, and clear
The way before them. See that nothing check
The bride's first entrance into Rimini.
Station your veterans in the front. Count Guido
Comes with his daughter, and his eyes are sharp.
Keep up a show of strength before him, sir;
And set some labourers to work upon
The broken bastion. Make all things look bright;
As if we stood in eager readiness,
And high condition, to begin a war.

CAPTAIN. I will, my lord.

MALATESTA. Keep Guido in your eye;
And if you see him looking over-long
On any weakness of our walls, just file
Your bulkiest fellows round him; or get up
A scuffle with the people; anything--
Even if you break a head or two--to draw
His vision off. But where our strength is great,
Take heed to make him see it. You conceive?

CAPTAIN. Trust me, my lord. [_Exit with_ GUARDS.

_Enter_ PEPE.

PEPE. Room, room! A hall; a hall!
I pray you, good man, has the funeral passed?

MALATESTA. Who is it asks?

PEPE. Pepe of Padua,
A learned doctor of uncivil law.

MALATESTA. But how a funeral?

PEPE. You are weak of wit.
Francesca of Ravenna's borne to church,
And never issues thence.

MALATESTA. How, doctor, pray?

PEPE. Now, for a citizen of Rimini,
You're sadly dull. Does she not issue thence
Fanny of Rimini? A glorious change,--
kind of resurrection in the flesh!

MALATESTA. [_Laughing._] Ha! ha! thou cunning villain! I was caught.
I own it, doctor.

PEPE. [_Aside._] This old fool would laugh
To see me break a straw, because the bits
Were of unequal lengths. My character
Carries more dulness, in the guise of wit,
Than would suffice to break an ass's back.

[_Distant shouts, music, &c._]

Hark! here comes Jeptha's daughter, jogging on
With timbrels and with dances.

MALATESTA. Jeptha's daughter!
How so?

PEPE. Her father's sacrifice.

MALATESTA. [_Laughing._] Ho! ho!
You'll burst my belt! O! you outrageous wretch,
To jest at Scripture!

PEPE. You outlandish heathen,
Tis not in Scripture!

MALATESTA. Is it not?

PEPE. No more
Than you are in heaven. Mere Hebrew history.
She went up to the mountains, to bewail
The too-long keeping of her honesty.
There's woman for you! there's a character!
What man would ever think of such a thing?
Ah! we of Rimini have little cause
For such a sorrow. Would she'd been my wife!
I'll marry any woman in her case.

MALATESTA. Why, Pepe?

PEPE. Why? because, in two months' time,
Along comes father Jeptha with his knife,
And there's an end. Where is your sacrifice?
Where's Isaac, Abraham? Build your altar up:
One pile will do for both.

MALATESTA. That's Scripture, sure.

PEPE. Then I'm a ram, and you may slaughter me
In Isaac's stead.

MALATESTA. Here comes the vanguard. Where,
Where is that laggard?

PEPE. At the mirror, uncle,
Making himself look beautiful. He comes,
[_Looking out._]
Fresh as a bridegroom! Mark his doublet's fit
Across the shoulders, and his hose!--
By Jove, he nearly looks like any other man!

MALATESTA. You'd best not let him hear you. Sirrah, knave,
I have a mind to swinge you! [_Seizes his ear._

PEPE. Loose my ear!
You've got the wrong sow, swineherd! You're unjust.
Being his father, I was fool sufficient
To think you fashioned him to suit yourself,
By way of a variety. The thought
Was good enough, the practice damnable.

MALATESTA. Hush! or I'll clap you in the pillory.

_Enter_ LANCIOTTO.

PEPE. [_Sings._] Ho, ho, ho, ho!--old Time has wings--
We're born, we mourn, we wed, we bed,
We have a devilish aching head;
So down we lie,
And die, and fry;
And there's a merry end of things!

[_Music, &c., within._]

Here come Ravenna's eagles for a roost
In Rimini! The air is black with them.
When go they hence? Wherever yon bird builds,
The nest remains for ages. Have an eye,
Or Malatesta's elephant may feel
The eagle's talons.

LANCIOTTO. You're a raven, croaker.

PEPE. And you no white crow, to insure us luck.

MALATESTA. There's matter in his croak.

PEPE. There always is;
But men lack ears.

MALATESTA. Then eyes must do our work.
Old Guido shall be looked to. If his force
Appear too great, I'll camp him out of town.

LANCIOTTO. Father, you are a sorry host.

MALATESTA. Well, well,
I'm a good landlord, though. I do not like
This flight of eagles more than Pepe. 'Sdeath!
Guido was ever treacherous.

LANCIOTTO. My lord,
You mar my holiday by such a thought.
My holiday! Dear saints! it seems to me
That all of you are mocking me.

PEPE. So--so--
Guido was ever treacherous?--so--so!

MALATESTA. So--so! How so?

PEPE. What if this treachery
Run in the blood? We'll tap a vein then--so!

MALATESTA. Sew up your mouth, and mind your fooling fool!

PEPE. Am I not fooling? Why, my lord, I thought
The fooling exquisite.

LANCIOTTO. [_Aside._] This thoughtless knave
Hits near us sometimes with his random shafts.
Marriage for me! I cannot comprehend,
I cannot take it to my heart; the thing
Seems gross, absurd, ridiculous. Ah! well,
My father bears the folly of it all;
I'm but an actor in his comedy.
My part is bad, but I must through with it.
[_Retires._

_Shouts, music, &c., within._

PEPE. Look! here's the whole parade! Mark yonder knave--
The head one with the standard. Nature, nature!
Hadst thou a hand in such a botch-work? Why,
A forest of his legs would scarcely make
A bunch of fagots. Mark old Guido, too!
He looks like Judas with his silver. Ho!
Here's news from sweet Ravenna!

MALATESTA. [_Laughing._] Ha! ha! ha!

PEPE. Ah! now the bride!--that's something--she is tooth-some.
Look you, my lord--now, while the progress halts--
Cousin Paolo, has he got the dumps?
Mercy! to see him, one might almost think
'T was his own marriage. What a doleful face!
The boy is ill. He caught a fever, uncle,
Travelling across the marshes. Physic! physic!
If he be really dying, get a doctor,
And cut the matter short. 'Twere merciful.

MALATESTA. For heaven's sake, cease your clamour! I shall have
No face to meet them else. 'Tis strange, for all:
What ails Paolo?

PEPE. Dying, by this hand!

MALATESTA. Then I will hang you.

PEPE. Don't take up my craft.
Wit's such a stranger in your brain that I
Scarce knew my lodger venturing from your mouth.
Now they come on again.

MALATESTA. Stand back!

PEPE. [_Looking round._] The bridegroom?
He flies betimes, before the bride shows fight.
[_Walks back, looking for_ LANCIOTTO.

_Music, shouts, ringing of bells, &c. Enter_ MEN-AT-ARMS, _with
banners, &c_., GUIDO, CARDINAL, KNIGHTS, ATTENDANTS, &_c.; then_
PAOLO, _conducting _FRANCESCA, _followed by _RITTA, LADIES, PAGES,
_&c., and other_ MEN-AT-ARMS. _They file around the stage, and halt._

MALATESTA. Welcome, to Rimini, Count Guido! Welcome,
And fair impressions of our poor abode,
To you, my daughter! You are well returned,
My son, Paolo! Let me bless you, son.

[PAOLO _approaches._]
How many spears are in old Guido's train?

[_Apart to_ PAOLO.

PAOLO. Some ten-score.

MALATESTA. Footmen?

PAOLO. Double that.

MALATESTA. 'Tis well.
Again I bid you welcome! Make no show
Of useless ceremony with us. Friends
Have closer titles than the empty name.
We have provided entertainment, Count,
For all your followers, in the midst of us.
We trust the veterans of Rimini
May prove your soldiers that our courtesy
Does not lag far behind their warlike zeal.
Let us drop Guelf and Ghibelin henceforth,
Coupling the names of Rimini and Ravenna
As bridegroom's to his bride's.

GUIDO. Count Malatesta,
I am no rhetorician, or my words
Might keep more even with the love I feel:
Simply, I thank you. With an honest hand
I take the hand which you extend to me,
And hope our grasp may never lose its warmth.--
You marked the bastion by the water-side?
Weak as a bulrush. [_Apart to a_ KNIGHT.

KNIGHT. Tottering weak, my lord.

GUIDO. Remember it; and when you're private, sir,
Draw me a plan.

KNIGHT. I will, my lord.

GUIDO. How's this?
I do not see my future son-in-law.

MALATESTA. Lanciotto!

LANCIOTTO. [_Advancing._] I am here, my lord.

FRANCESCA. [_Starting._] O! heaven!
Is that my husband, Count Paolo? You,
You then, among the rest, have played me false!
He is--[_Apart to _PAOLO.

PAOLO My brother.

LANCIOTTO [_Aside._] Ha! she turns from me.

PEPE. [_Approaching _LANCIOTTO, _sings._]

Around, around the lady turned,
She turned not to her lord;
She turned around to a gallant, gallant knight,
Who ate at his father's board.

A pretty ballad! all on one string though.

LANCIOTTO. Pepe, go hence! [PEPE _retires._]
[_Aside._] I saw her start and pale,
Turn off with horror; as if she had seen--
What?--simply me. For, am I not enough,
And something over, to make ladies quail,
Start, hide their faces, whisper to their friends,
Point at me--dare she?--and perform such tricks
As women will when monsters blast their sight?
O! saints above me, have I come so low?
Yon damsel of Ravenna shall bewail
That start and shudder. I am mad, mad, mad!
I must be patient. They have trifled with her:
Lied to her, lied! There's half the misery
Of this broad earth, all crowded in one word.
Lied, lied!--Who has not suffered from a lie?
They're all aghast--all looking at me too.
Francesca's whiter than the brow of fear:
Paolo talks.--Brother, is that well meant?
What if I draw my sword, and fight my way
Out of this cursed town? 'Twould be relief.
Has shame no hiding-place? I've touched the depth
Of human infamy, and there I rest.
By heaven, I'll brave this business out! Shall they
Say at Ravenna that Count Lanciotto,
Who's driven their shivering squadrons to their homes,
Haggard with terror, turned before their eyes
And slunk away? They'll look me from the field,
When we encounter next. Why should not I
Strut with my shapeless body, as old Guido
Struts with his shapeless heart? I'll do it! [_Offers, but shrinks back._] 'Sdeath!
Am I so false as to forswear myself?
Lady Francesca! [_Approaches_ FRANCESCA.

FRANCESCA. Sir--my lord--

LANCIOTTO. Dear lady,
I have a share in your embarrassment,
And know the feelings that possess you now.

FRANCESCA. O! you do not.

PAOLO. [_Advancing._] My lady--

LANCIOTTO. Gentle brother,
Leave this to me. [PAOLO _retires._

FRANCESCA. Pray do not send him off.

LANCIOTTO. 'Tis fitter so.

FRANCESCA. He comforts me.

LANCIOTTO Indeed?
Do you need comfort?

FRANCESCA. No, no--pardon me!
But then--he is--you are--

LANCIOTTO. Take breath, and speak.

FRANCESCA. I am confused, 'tis true. But, then, my lord,
You are a stranger to me; and Paolo
I've known so long!

LANCIOTTO. Since yesterday.

FRANCESCA. Ah! well:
But the relationship between us two
Is of so close a nature, while the knowledge,
That each may have of each, so slender is
That the two jar. Besides, Paolo is
Nothing to me, while you are everything.
Can I not act? [_Aside._

LANCIOTTO. I scarcely understand.
You say your knowledge of me, till to-day,
Was incomplete. Has naught been said of me
By Count Paolo or your father?

FRANCESCA. Yes;
But nothing definite.

LANCIOTTO. Perchance, no hint
As to my ways, my feelings, manners, or--
Or--or--as I was saying--ha! ha!--or--
[_Laughing._]
As to my person?

FRANCESCA. Nothing, as to that.

LANCIOTTO. To what?

FRANCESCA. Your--person.

LANCIOTTO. That's the least of all. [_Turns aside._]
Now, had I Guido of Ravenna's head
Under this heel, I'd grind it into dust!
False villain, to betray his simple child!
And thou, Paolo--not a whit behind--
Helping his craft with inconsiderate love!--
Lady Francesca, when my brother left,
I charged him, as he loved me, to conceal
Nothing from you that bore on me: and now
That you have seen me, and conversed with me,
If you object to anything in me,--
Go, I release you.

FRANCESCA. But Ravenna's peace?

LANCIOTTO. Shall not be perilled.

GUIDO. [_Coming behind, whispers her._] Trust him not, my child;
I know his ways; he'd rather fight than wed.
Tis but a wish to have the war afoot.
Stand firm for poor Ravenna!

LANCIOTTO. Well, my lady,
Shall we conclude a lasting peace between us
By truce or marriage rites?

GUIDO. [_Whispers her._] The devil tempts thee:
Think of Ravenna, think of me!

LANCIOTTO. My lord,
I see my father waits you.
[GUIDO _retires._

FRANCESCA. Gentle sir,
You do me little honour in the choice.

LANCIOTTO. My aim is justice.

FRANCESCA. Would you cast me off?

LANCIOTTO. Not for the world, if honestly obtained;
Not for the world would I obtain you falsely.

FRANCESCA. The rites were half concluded ere we met.

LANCIOTTO. Meeting, would you withdraw?

FRANCESCA. No. Bitter word! [_Aside._

LANCIOTTO. No! Are you dealing fairly?

FRANCESCA. I have said.

LANCIOTTO. O! rapture, rapture! Can it be that I--
Now I'll speak plainly; for a choice like thine
Implies such love as woman never felt.
Love me! Then monsters beget miracles,
And Heaven provides where human means fall short.
Lady, I'll worship thee! I'll line thy path
With suppliant kings! Thy waiting-maids shall be
Unransomed princesses! Mankind shall bow
One neck to thee, as Persia's multitudes
Before the rising sun! From this small town,
This centre of my conquests, I will spread
An empire touching the extremes of earth!
I'll raise once more the name of ancient Rome;
And what she swayed she shall reclaim again!
If I grow mad because you smile on me,
Think of the glory of thy love; and know
How hard it is, for such a one as I,
To gaze unshaken on divinity!
There's no such love as mine alive in man.
From every corner of the frowning earth,
It has been crowded back into my heart.
Now, take it all! If that be not enough,
Ask, and thy wish shall be omnipotent!
Your hand. [_Takes her hand._] It wavers.

FRANCESCA. So does not my heart.

LANCIOTTO. Bravo! Thou art every way a soldier's wife;
Thou shouldst have been a Caesar's! Father, hark!
I blamed your judgment, only to perceive
The weakness of my own.

MALATESTA. What means all this?

LANCIOTTO. It means that this fair lady--though I gave
Release to her, and to Ravenna--placed
The liberal hand, which I restored to her,
Back in my own, of her own free good-will.
Is it not wonderful?

MALATESTA. How so?

LANCIOTTO. How so!

PAOLO. Alas! 'tis as I feared! [ _Aside._

MALATESTA. You're humble?--How?

LANCIOTTO. Now shall I cry aloud to all the world,
Make my deformity my pride, and say,
Because she loves me, I may boast of it? [_Aside._]
No matter, father, I am happy; you,
As the blessed cause, shall share my happiness.
Let us be moving. Revels, dashed with wine,
Shall multiply the joys of this sweet day!
There's not a blessing in the cup of life
I have not tasted of within an hour!

FRANCESCA. [_Aside._] Thus I begin the practice of deceit,
Taught by deceivers, at a fearful cost.
The bankrupt gambler has become the cheat,
And lives by arts that erewhile ruined me.
Where it will end, Heaven knows; but I--
I have betrayed the noblest heart of all!

LANCIOTTO. Draw down thy dusky vapours, sullen night--
Refuse, ye stars, to shine upon the world--
Let everlasting blackness wrap the sun,
And whisper terror to the universe!
We need ye not! we'll blind ye, if ye dare
Peer with lack-lustre on our revelry!
I have at heart a passion, that would make
All nature blaze with recreated light! [_Exeunt._

ACT IV

SCENE I. _The Same. An Apartment in the Castle. Enter_ LANCIOTTO.

LANCIOTTO. It cannot be that I have duped myself,
That my desire has played into the hand
Of my belief; yet such a thing might be.
We palm more frauds upon our simple selves
Than knavery puts upon us. Could I trust
The open candour of an angel's brow,
I must believe Francesca's. But the tongue
Should consummate the proof upon the brow,
And give the truth its word. The fault lies there.
I've tried her. Press her as I may to it,
She will not utter those three little words--
"I love thee." She will say, "I'll marry you;--
I'll be your duteous wife;--I'll cheer your days;--
I'll do whate'er I can." But at the point
Of present love, she ever shifts the ground,
Winds round the word, laughs, calls me "Infidel!--
How can I doubt?" So, on and on. But yet,
For all her dainty ways, she never says,
Frankly, I love thee. I am jealous--true!
Suspicious--true! distrustful of myself;--
She knows all that. Ay, and she likewise knows,
A single waking of her morning breath
Would blow these vapours off. I would not take
The barren offer of a heartless hand,
If all the Indies cowered under it.
Perhaps she loves another? No; she said,
"I love you, Count, as well as any man;"
And laughed, as if she thought that precious wit.
I turn her nonsense into argument,
And think I reason. Shall I give her up?
Rail at her heartlessness, and bid her go
Back to Ravenna? But she clings to me,
At the least hint of parting. Ah! 'tis sweet,
Sweeter than slumber to the lids of pain,
To fancy that a shadow of true love
May fall on this God-stricken mould of woe,
From so serene a nature. Beautiful
Is the first vision of a desert brook,
Shining beneath its palmy garniture,
To one who travels on his easy way;
What is it to the blood-shot, aching eye
Of some poor wight who crawls with gory feet,
In famished madness, to its very brink;
And throws his sun-scorched limbs upon the cool
And humid margin of its shady strand,
To suck up life at every eager gasp?
Such seems Francesca to my thirsting soul;
Shall I turn off and die?

_Enter_ PEPE.

PEPE. Good-morning, cousin!

LANCIOTTO. Good-morning to your foolish majesty!

PEPE. The same to your majestic foolery!

LANCIOTTO. You compliment!

PEPE. I am a troubadour,
A ballad-monger of fine mongrel ballads,
And therefore running o'er with elegance.
Wilt hear my verse?

LANCIOTTO. With patience?

PEPE. No, with rapture.
You must go mad--weep, rend your clothes, and roll
Over and over, like the ancient Greeks,
When listening to Iliad.

LANCIOTTO. Sing, then, sing!

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