Part 8 out of 10
Calling it husband with endearing words,
And holds it to her breast.
[KING _goes hastily toward the garden house._]
GARCERAN. Oh, mighty Sire!
ISAAC (_stepping back_).
KING (_standing on the steps, quietly_).
That game is worth a nearer look.
What's more, 'twill soon be time for you to go;
You should not miss the favorable hour.
But you, old man, must come. For not alone,
Nor unobserved would I approach your children.
[_Goes into the house._]
ISAAC. Was that the King? Oh, woe!
GARCERAN. Proceed within.
ISAAC. If he should draw his sword, we all are doomed!
GARCERAN. Go in. And as for being afraid, 'tis not
For you nor for your daughter that I fear.
[_He pushes the hesitating_ ISAAC _into the garden house and follows
* * * * *
_Room in the pavilion. In the background to the left a door; in the
foreground to the right, another door. _RACHEL,_ with a plumed crown on
her head and gold embroidered mantle about her shoulders, is trying to
drag an armchair from the neighboring room, on the right._ ESTHER _has
come in through the principal entrance._
RACHEL. The armchair should stand here, here in the middle.
ESTHER. For Heaven's sake, O Rachel, pray look out;
Your madness else will bring us all to grief.
RACHEL. The King has given this vacant house to us;
As long as we inhabit it, it's ours.
[_They have dragged the chair to the centre._]
RACHEL (_looking at herself_).
Now don't you think my train becomes me well?
And when I nod, these feathers also nod.
I need just one thing more--I'll get it--wait!
[_Goes back through the side door._]
ESTHER. Oh, were we only far from here, at home!
My father, too, comes not, whom she drove off.
RACHEL (_comes back with an unframed picture_).
The royal image taken from its frame
I'll bear it with me.
ESTHER. Art thou mad again?
How often I have warned thee!
RACHEL. Did I heed?
ESTHER. By Heaven, no!
RACHEL. Nor will I heed you now.
The picture pleases me. Just see how fine!
I'll hang it in my room, close by my bed.
At morn and eventide I'll gaze at it,
And think such thoughts as one may think when one
Has shaken off the burden of one's clothes
And feels quite free from every onerous weight.
But lest they think that I have stolen it--
I who am rich--what need have I to steal?--
My portrait which you wear about your neck
We'll hang up where the other used to be.
Thus he may look at mine, as I at his,
And think of me, if he perchance forgot.
The footstool bring me hither; I am Queen,
And I shall fasten to the chair this King.
They say that witches who compel to love
Stick needles, thus, in images of wax,
And every prick goes to a human heart
To hinder or to quicken life that's real.
[_She fastens the picture by the four corners to the back of the
Oh, would that blood could flow with every prick,
That I could drink it with my thirsty lips,
And take my pleasure in the ill I'd done!
It hangs there, no less beautiful than dumb.
But I will speak to it as were I Queen,
With crown and mantle which become me well.
[_She has seated herself on the footstool before the picture._]
Oh, hypocrite, pretending piety,
Full well I know your each and every wile!
The Jewess struck your fancy--don't deny!
And, by my mighty word, she's beautiful,
And only with myself to be compared.
[_The_ KING, _followed by _GARCERAN _and_ ISAAC, _has entered and
placed himself behind the chair, and leans upon the back of the chair,
But I, your Queen, I will not suffer it,
For know that I am jealous as a cat.
Your silence only makes your guilt seem more.
Confess! You liked her? Answer, Yes!
KING. Well, Yes!
[RACHEL, _starts, looks at the picture, then up, recognizes the_ KING,_
and remains transfixed on the footstool._]
KING (_stepping forward_).
Art frightened? Thou hast willed it, and I say 't.
Compose thyself, thou art in friendly hands!
[_He stretches his hand toward her, she leaps from the stool and flees
to the door at the right where she stands panting and with bowed head._]
KING. Is she so shy?
ESTHER. Not always, gracious Sire!
Not shy, but timid.
KING. Do I seem so grim?
(_Approaching her._ RACHEL, _shakes her head violently._)
Well then, my dearest child, I pray be calm!
Yes, I repeat it, thou hast pleased me well;
When from this Holy War I home return
To which my honor and my duty call,
Then in Toledo I may ask for thee--
Where dwell you in this city?
Jew Street, Sire--
Ben Mathes' house.
ESTHER. If not, before you come,
We're driven out.
KING. My word! That shall not be.
And I can keep a promise to protect.
So if at home you are as talkative
And cheerful as I hear you erstwhile were--
Not shy, as now, I'll pass the time away,
And draw a breath far from the fogs of court.
But now depart; the time has long since come.
Go with them, Garceran; but, ere you go,
My picture now return to where it was.
RACHEL (_rushing to the chair_).
The picture's mine!
KING. What ails thee, child? It must
Go back into the frame where it belongs.
RACHEL (_to_ GARCERAN).
The picture touch not, nor the pins therein,
Or I shall fix it with a deeper thrust
(_Making a motion toward the picture with a pin._)
Behold, right in the heart!
KING. By Heaven, stop!
Thou almost frightenedst me. Who art thou,
Art mistress of the black and criminal arts,
That I should feel in my own breast the thrust
Thou aimedst at the picture?
ESTHER. Noble Sire,
She's but a spoiled child, and a wanton girl,
And has no knowledge of forbidden arts!
KING. One ought not boldly play with things like these.
It drove my blood up to my very eyes,
And still I see the world all in a haze.
Is she not beautiful?
GARCERAN. She is, my lord.
KING. See how the waves of light glow o'er her form!
[RACHEL _has meanwhile taken of the picture and rolled it up._]
KING. Thou absolutely wilt not give it up?
RACHEL (_to _ESTHER).
I'll take it.
KING. Well, then, in the name of God!
He will prevent that any ill befall.
But only go! Take, Garceran,
The road that down behind the garden leads.
The folk's aroused; it loves, because it's weak,
To test that weakness on some weaker one.
GARCERAN (_at the window_).
Behold, O Sire, where comes th' entire court,--
The Queen herself leads on her retinue.
KING. Comes here? Accursed! Is here no other door?
Let not the prying crew find here false cause
GARCERAN (_pointing to the side door_).
Sire, this chamber
KING. Think you, then,
Before my servants I should hide myself?
And yet I fear the pain 'twould give the Queen;
She might believe--what I myself believe,
And so I save my troubled majesty.
See to it that she very soon depart.
[_Exit into the side room._]
ESTHER. I told you so! It is misfortune's road.
_Enter the_ QUEEN _accompanied by_ MANRIQUE DE LARA _and several
QUEEN. They told me that the King was in this place.
GARCERAN. He was, but went away.
QUEEN. The Jewess here.
MANRIQUE. Arrayed like madness freed from every bond,
With all the tinsel-state of puppet-play!
Lay off the crown, for it befits thee not,
Even in jest; the mantle also doff!
[ESTHER _has taken both off._]
What has she in her hand?
RACHEL. It is my own.
MANRIQUE. But first we'll see!
ESTHER. Nay, we are not so poor
That we should stretch our hands for others' goods!
MANRIQUE (_going toward the side door_).
And, too, in yonder chamber let us look,
If nothing missing, or perhaps if greed
With impudence itself as here, has joined.
GARCERAN (_barring the way_).
Here, father, call I halt!
MANRIQUE. Know'st thou me not?
GARCERAN. Yes, and myself as well. But there be duties
Which even a father's rights do not outweigh.
MANRIQUE. Look in my eye! He cannot bear to do it!
Two sons I lose on this unhappy day.
(_To the _QUEEN.)
Will you not go?
QUEEN. I would, but cannot. Yes,
I surely can, by Heaven, for I must.
Although your office an unknightly one,
I thank you that you do it faithfully;
'Twere death to see--but I can go and suffer--
If you should meet your master ere the eve,
Say, to Toledo I returned--alone.
[_The QUEEN and her suite go out._]
GARCERAN. Woe worth the chance that chose this day of all,
To bring me home--from war to worse than war!
RACHEL (_to_ ESTHER, _who is busied with her_).
And had my life been forfeit, I'd have stayed.
ESTHER (_to_ GARCERAN).
I pray you now to bring us quickly home.
GARCERAN. First, let me ask the King his royal will.
(_Knocking at the side door._)
Sire! What? No sign of life within? Perchance
An accident? Whate'er it be--I'll ope!
[_The_ KING _steps out and remains standing in the foreground as the
others withdraw to the back of the stage._]
KING. So honor and repute in this our world
Are not an even path on which the pace,
Simple and forward, shows the tendency,
The goal, our worth. They're like a juggler's rope,
On which a misstep plunges from the heights,
And every stumbling makes a butt for jest.
Must I, but yesterday all virtues' model,
Today shun every slave's inquiring glance?
Begone then, eager wish to please the mob,
Henceforth determine we ourselves our path!
(_Turning to the others._)
What, you still here?
GARCERAN. We wait your high command.
KING. If you had only always waited it,
And had remained upon the boundary!
Examples are contagious, Garceran.
GARCERAN. A righteous prince will punish every fault,
His own as well as others'; but, immune,
He's prone to vent his wrath on others' heads.
KING. Not such a one am I, my friend. Be calm!
We are as ever much inclined to thee;
And now, take these away, forever, too.
What's whim in others, is, in princes, sin.
(_As he sees _RACHEL _approaching._)
Let be! But first this picture lay aside,
And put it in the place from whence you took 't.
It is my will! Delay not!
RACHEL (_to_ ESTHER).
Come thou, too.
(_As both approach the side door_).
Hast thou, as is thy wont, my picture on?
ESTHER. What wilt
RACHEL. My will--and should the worst betide--
[_They go to the side door._]
KING. Then to the border, straight I'll follow thee;
And there we'll wash in Moorish blood away
The equal shame that we have shared this day,
That we may bear once more the gaze of men.
[_The girls return._]
RACHEL. I did it.
KING. Now away, without farewell!
ESTHER. Our thanks to thee, O Sire!
RACHEL. Not mine, I say.
KING. So be it; thankless go!
RACHEL. I'll save it up.
KING. That is, for never!
RACHEL. I know better.
[_They go, accompanied by_ GARCERAN, ISAAC _bowing deeply._]
KING. And high time was it that she went; in sooth,
The boredom of a royal court at times
Makes recreation a necessity.
Although this girl has beauty and has charm
Yet seems she overbold and violent,
And one does well to watch what one begins.
[_Enter a servant._]
SERVANT. Mighty Sire?
KING. The horses fetch.
SERVANT. Toledo, Sire?
KING. Nay, to Alarcos, friend.
We're for the border, for the war, and so
Make ready only what we need the most.
For in Toledo four eyes threaten me;
Two full of tears, the other two, of fire.
She would not leave my picture here behind,
And bade defiance unto death itself.
And yet there needed but my stern command
To make her put it back where it belonged.
She tried her actress arts on me, that's all;
But did she put it in the frame again?
Since I am leaving here for many moons
Let all be undisturbed as 'twas before;
Of this affair let every trace be gone.
[_He goes into the ante-chamber. A pause as one of the servants takes up
from the chair the clothes which_ RACHEL _had worn, but holds the crown
in his hand. The_ KING _comes back holding_ RACHEL'S _picture._]
KING. My picture gone--and this one in its place!
It is her own, and burns within my hand--
(_Throwing the picture on the floor._)
Avaunt! Avaunt! Can boldness go so far?
This may not be, for while I think of her
With just repugnance, this her painted image
Stirs up the burning passion in my breast.
Then, too, within her hands my picture rests!
They talk of magic, unallowed arts,
Which this folk practises with such-like things
And something as of magic o'er me comes--
(_To the servant._)
Here, pick this up and spur thee on until
Thou overtake them.
SERVANT. Whom, my liege?
KING. Whom? Whom?
The girls of course, I mean, and Garceran;
Return this picture to the girls and ask--
SERVANT. What, Sire?
KING. Shall my own servants then become
The sharers in the knowledge of my shame?
I'll force th' exchange myself, if it must be!
Take up the picture--I will touch it not!
[_The servant has picked up the picture._]
KING. How clumsy! Hide it in your breast; but nay,
If there, it would be warmed by other's glow!
Give 't here, myself will take it; follow me--We'll
overtake them yet! But I surmise,
Since now suspicion's rife, there may some harm,
Some accident befall them unawares.
My royal escort were the safest guide.
Thou, follow me!
[_He has looked at the picture, then has put it in his bosom._]
Stands there not, at the side,
The Castle Retiro, where, all concealed,
My forebear, Sancho, with a Moorish maid--!
SERVANT. Your Majesty, 'tis true!
KING. We'll imitate
Our forebears in their bravery, their worth,
Not when they stumble in their weaker hours.
The task is, first of all to conquer self--And
then against the foreign conqueror!
Retiro hight the castle?--Let me see!
Oh yes, away! And be discreet! But then--Thou
knowest nothing! All the better. Come!
[_Exit with servant._]
_Garden in the royal villa. In the background flows the Tagus. A roomy
arbor toward the front at the right. At the left, several suppliants in
a row, with petitions in their hands._ ISAAC _stands near them._
ISAAC. You were already told to linger not.
My daughter soon will come to take the air.
And _he_ is with her--_he_; I say not who.
So tremble and depart, and your requests
Take to the King's advisers in Toledo.
[_He takes the petition from one of them._]
Let's see! 'Twon't do.
PETITIONER. You hold it upside down.
ISAAC. Because the whole request is topsy-turvy turvy--And
you are, too. Disturb no more--depart.
2D PETIT. Sir Isaac, in Toledo me you knew.
ISAAC. I know you not. In these last days my eyes
Have suddenly grown very, very weak.
2D PETIT. But I know you! Here is the purse of gold
You lost, which I herewith restore to you.
ISAAC. The purse I lost? I recognize it! Yea,
'Twas greenish silk--with ten piasters in't!
2D PETIT. Nay, twenty.
ISAAC. Twenty? Well, my eye is good;
My mem'ry fails me, though, from time to time!
This sheet, no doubt, explains the circumstance--Just
where you found the purse, perhaps, and how.
There is no further need that this report
Should go on file. And yet, just let me have't!
We will convey it to the proper place,
That every one may know your honesty!
[_The petitioners present their petitions; he takes one in each hand and
throws them to the ground._]
No matter what it be, your answer's there.
(_To a third._)
I see you have a ring upon your hand.
The stone is good, let's see!
[_The suppliant hands over the ring._]
That flaw, of course,
Destroys its perfect water! Take it back.
[_He puts the ring on his own finger._]
3D PETIT. You've put it on your own hand!
ISAAC. What, on mine?
Why so I have! I thought I'd given it back.
It is so tight I cannot get it off.
3D PETIT. Keep it, but, pray, take my petition too.
ISAAC (_busy with the ring_).
I'll take them both in memory of you.
The King shall weigh the ring--I mean, of course,
Your words--although the flaw is evident--The
flaw that's in the stone--you understand.
Begone now, all of you! Have I no club?
Must I be bothered with this Christian pack?
[GARCERAN _has meanwhile entered._]
GARCERAN. Good luck! I see you sitting in the reeds,
But find you're pitching high the pipes you cut.
ISAAC. The royal privacy's entrusted me;
The King's not here, he does not wish to be.
And who disturbs him--even you, my lord,
I must bid you begone! Those his commands.
GARCERAN. You sought a while ago to find a club;
And when you find it, bring it me. I think
Your back could use it better than your hand.
ISAAC. How you flare up! That is the way with Christians?
They're so direct of speech--but patient waiting,
And foresight, humble cleverness, they lack.
The King is pleased much to converse with me.
GARCERAN. When he is bored and flees his inner self,
E'en such a bore as you were less a bore.
ISAAC. He speaks to me of State and of finance.
GARCERAN. Are you, perhaps, the father of the new
Decree that makes a threepence worth but two?
ISAAC. Money, my friend, 's the root of everything.
The enemy is threat'ning--buy you arms!
The soldier, sure, is sold, and that for cash.
You eat and drink your money; what you eat
Is bought, and buying's money--nothing else.
The time will come when every human soul
Will be a sight-draft and a short one, too;
I'm councilor to the King, and if yourself
Would keep in harmony with Isaac's luck--
GARCERAN. In harmony with you? It is my curse
That chance and the accursed seeming so
Have mixed me in this wretched piece of folly,
Which to the utmost strains my loyalty.
ISAAC. My little Rachel daily mounts in grace!
GARCERAN. Would that the King, like many another one,
In jest and play had worn youth's wildness off!
But he, from childhood, knowing only men,
Brought up by men and tended but by men,
Nourished with wisdom's fruits before his time,
Taking his marriage as a thing of course,
The King now meets, the first time in his life,
A woman, female, nothing but her sex,
And she avenges on this prodigy
The folly of too staid, ascetic youth.
A noble woman's half, yes all, a man--
It is their faults that make them woman-kind.
And that resistance, which the oft deceived
Gains through experience, the King has not;
A light disport he takes for bitter earn'st.
But this shall not endure, I warrant thee!
The foe is at the borders, and the King
Shall hie him where long since he ought to be;
Myself shall lead him hence. And so an end.
ISAAC. Try what you can! And if not with us, then
You are against us, and will break your neck
In vain attempt to clear the wide abyss.
(_The sound of flutes._)
But hark! With cymbals and with horns they come,
As Esther with King Ahasuerus came,
Who raised the Jews to fame and high estate.
GARCERAN. Must I, then, see in this my King's debauch
A picture of myself from early days,
And be ashamed for both of us at once?
[_A boat upon which are the_ KING, RACHEL _and suite, appears on the
KING. Lay to! Here is the place--the arbor here.
RACHEL. The skiff is rocking--hold me, lest I fall.
[_The_ KING _has jumped to the shore._]
RACHEL. And must I walk to shore upon this board
So thin and weak?
KING. Here, take my hand, I pray!
RACHEL. No, no, I'm dizzy.
GARCERAN (_to himself_).
Dizzy are you? Humph!
KING (_who has conducted her to the shore_).
It is accomplished now--this mighty task!
RACHEL. No, never will I enter more a ship.
(_Taking the_ KING's _arm._)
Permit me, noble Sire, I am so weak!
Pray feel my heart, how fev'rishly it beats!
KING. To fear, is woman's right; but you abuse it.
RACHEL. You now, hard-hearted, take away your aid!
And, oh, these garden walks, how hard they are!
With stones, and not with sand, they're roughly strewn
For men to walk on, not for women's feet.
KING. Put down a carpet, ye, that we have peace.
RACHEL. I feel it well--I merely burden you!
Oh, were my sister only here with me,
For I am sick and tired unto death!
Naught but these pillows here?
(_Throwing the pillows in the arbor violently about._)
No, no, no, no!
I see your weakness happily abates.
(_Catching sight of _GARCERAN.)
Ah, Garceran! Behold, she's but a child!
GARCERAN. A spoiled child, surely!
KING. Yes, they all are that.
It suits her well!
GARCERAN. According to one's tastes!
KING. See, Garceran! I feel how wrong I am;
And yet I know there needeth but a nod,
A simple word, to make it all dissolve--This
dream--into the nothing that it is.
And so I suffer it because I've need,
In this confusion which myself have caused.
How is the army?
GARCERAN. As you long have known,
The enemy is arming.
KING. So shall we.
A few days more, and I shall put away
This toying from me, and forevermore;
Then time and counsel shall be found again.
GARCERAN. Mayhap the counsel, but the time slips by!
KING. With deeds we shall regain the ground that's lost.
RACHEL. I hear them speaking; and I know of what--Of
And not be lonesome in this concourse loud.
I see you come not. No, they hold you back.
Not any comfort give they me, nor joy.
They hold me here, apart, in slavery.
Would I were home again in father's house,
Where every one is at my beck and call,
Instead of here,--the outcast of contempt.
KING. Go thou to her!
GARCERAN. What? Shall I?
KING. Go, I say!
RACHEL. Sit down by me, but nearer, nearer--so!
Once more I say, I love you, Garceran.
You are, indeed, a knight without a flaw,
Not merely knight in name, as they it learn--
Those iron, proud Castilians--from their foes,
The Moors.--But these Castilians imitate
In manner borrowed, therefore rough and crude,
What those, with delicate and clever art,
Are wont to practise as a native gift.
Give me your hand. Just see, how soft it is!
And yet you wield a sword as well as they.
But you're at home in boudoirs, too, and know
The pleasing manners of a gentler life.
From Dona Clara cometh not this ring?
She's far too pale for rosy-cheeked love,
Were not the color which her face doth lack
Replaced by e'er renewing blush of shame.
But many other rings I see you have--
How many sweethearts have you? Come, confess!
GARCERAN. Suppose I ask the question now of you?
RACHEL. I've never loved. But I could love, if e'er
In any breast _that_ madness I should find
Which could enthrall me, were my own heart touched.
Till then I follow custom's empty show,
Traditional in love's idolatry,
As in the fanes of stranger-creeds one kneels.
KING (_who meanwhile has been pacing up and down, now stands in the
foreground at the left and speaks in an aside to a servant_).
Bring me my arms, and full accoutrements,
And wait for me beside the garden-house.
I will to camp where they have need of me.
RACHEL. I beg you, see your King! He thinks he loves;
Yet when I speak to you and press your hand,
He worries not. With good economy,
He fills his garish day with business,
And posts his ledger, satisfied, at ev'n.
Out on you! You are all alike--you, too.
O were my sister here! She's wise--than I
Far cleverer! Yet, too, when in her breast
The spark of will and resolution falls,
She flashes out in flames, like unto mine.
Were she a man, she'd be a hero. Ye
Before her courage and her gaze should flinch.
Now let me sleep until she comes, for I
Myself am but the dreaming of a night.
[_She lays her head on her arm and her arm on her pillows._]
GARCERAN (_steps to the_ KING _who stands watching the reclining
Most noble Sire--
KING (_still gazing_). Well?
GARCERAN. May I now go back
Once more unto the army and the camp?
KING (_as above_).
The army left the camp? Pray tell me why.
GARCERAN. You hear me not--myself, _I_ wish to go.
KING. And there you'll talk, with innuendo, prate--
GARCERAN. Of what?
KING. Of me, of that which here took place.
GARCERAN. For that I'd need to understand it more.
KING. I see! Believest thou in sorcery?
GARCERAN. Since recently I almost do, my lord!
KING. And why is it but recently, I pray?
GARCERAN. Respect, I thought the wonted mate of love;
But love together with contempt, my lord--
KING. "Contempt" were far too hard a word; perhaps
An "unregard"--yet, nathless--marvelous!
GARCERAN. In sooth, the marvel is a little old,
For it began that day in Paradise
When God from Adam's rib created Eve.
KING. And yet he closed the breast when it was done,
And placed the will to guard the entering in.
Thou may'st to camp, but not alone:--with me.
RACHEL (_sitting up_).
The sun is creeping into my retreat.
Who props for me the curtain on yon side?
(_Looking off stage at the right._)
There go two men, both bearing heavy arms;
The lance would serve my purpose very well.
(_Calling off stage._)
Come here! This way! What, are ye deaf?
[_The servant, returning with the lance and helmet, accompanied by a
second servant bearing the King's shield and cuirass, enters._]
RACHEL. Give me your lance, good man, and stick the point
Here in the ground, and then the roof will be
Held up in that direction. Thus it throws
A broader shadow. Quickly, now! That's right!
You other fellow, like a snail, you bear
Your house upon your back, unless, perhaps,
A house for some one else. Show me the shield!
A mirror 'tis, in sooth! 'Tis crude, of course,
As all is, here, but in a pinch 'twill do.
(_They hold the shield before her._)
One brings one's hair in order, pushes back
Whatever may have ventured all too far,
And praises God who made one passing fair.
This mirror's curve distorts me! Heaven help!
What puffy cheeks are these? No, no, my friend,
What roundness nature gives us, satisfies.--
And now the helmet--useless in a fight,
For it conceals what oft'nest wins--the eyes;
But quite adapted to the strife of love.
Put me the helm upon my head.--You hurt!--
And if one's love rebels and shows his pride,
Down with the visor!
(_Letting it down._)
He in darkness stands!
But should he dare, mayhap, to go from us,
And send for arms, to leave us here alone,
Then up the visor goes.
(_She does it._)
Let there be light!
The sun, victorious, drives away the fog.
KING (_going to her_).
Thou silly, playing, wisely-foolish child!
RACHEL. Back, back! Give me the shield, give me the lance!
I am attacked, but can defend myself.
KING. Lay down thy arms! No ill approacheth thee!
(_Taking both of her hands._)
_Enter ESTHER from the left rear._
RACHEL. Ah thou, my little sister! Welcome, here!
Away with all this mummery, but quick!
Don't take my head off, too! How clumsy, ye!
(_Running to her._)
Once more be welcome, O thou sister mine!
How I have long'd to have thee here with me!
And hast thou brought my bracelets and my jewels,
My ointments and my perfumes, with thee now,
As from Toledo's shops I ordered them?
ESTHER. I bring them and more weighty things besides--
Unwelcome news, a bitter ornament.
Most mighty Sire and Prince! The Queen has from
Toledo's walls withdrawn, and now remains
In yonder castle where ill-fortune first
Decreed that you and we should meet.
Your noble father, Don Manrique Lara,
Who summons all the kingdom's high grandees
From everywhere, in open letters, to
Discuss the common good, as if the land
Were masterless and you had died, O King.
KING. I think you dream!
ESTHER. I am awake, indeed,
And must keep watch to save my sister's life.
They threaten her. She'll be the sacrifice!
RACHEL. O woe is me! Did I not long ago
Adjure you to return unto the court
And bring to naught the plotting of my foes!--
But you remain'd. Behold here are your arms,
The helm, the shield, and there the mighty spear
I'll gather them--but Oh, I cannot do 't.
KING (_to _ESTHER).
Now tend the little girl. With every breath
She ten times contradicts what she has said.
I will to court; but there I need no arms;
With open breast, my hand without a sword,
I in my subjects' midst will boldly step
And ask: "Who is there here that dares rebel?"
They soon shall know their King is still alive
And that the sun dies not when evening comes,
But that the morning brings its rays anew.
Thou follow'st, Garceran!
GARCERAN. I'm ready.
Becomes of us?
RACHEL. O stay, I beg you, stay!
KING. The castle's safe, the keeper faithful, too;
And he will guard you with his very life.
For though I feel that I have sinned full sore,
Let no one suffer who has trusted me
And who with me has shared my guilt and sin.
Come, Garceran! Or, rather, take the lead;
For if the estates were in assembly still,
Not called by me, nor rightfully convened,
I then must punish--much against my will.
Command them to disperse--and quickly, too!
Thy father tell: Although protector he
And regent for me in my boyhood days,
I now know how to guard my right myself--
Against him, too, against no matter whom.
Come on! And ye, farewell!
RACHEL (_approaching_). O mighty Prince!
KING. No more! I need my strength and steadfast will,
No parting words shall cripple my resolve.
Ye'll hear from me when I have done my work;
But how, and what the future brings, is still
Enwrapt in night and gloom. But come what may,
I give my princely word ye shall be safe.
Come, Garceran! With God! He be with you!
[_Exeunt KING and GARCERAN at the left._]
RACHEL. He loves me not--O, I have known it long!
ESTHER. O sister, useless is too tardy knowledge,
When injury has made us sadly wise.
I warned thee, but thou wouldst not ever heed.
RACHEL. He was so hot and ardent at the first!
ESTHER. And now makes up in coolness for his haste.
RACHEL. But I who trusted, what shall be my fate?
Come, let us flee!
ESTHER. The streets are occupied;
Against us all the land is in revolt.
RACHEL. And so I then must die and am so young?
And I should like to live! Not live, indeed--
But die, unwarned, an unexpected death!
'Tis but the moment of our death that shocks!
(_At_ ESTHER's _neck._)
Unhappy am I, sister, hopeless, lost!
(_After a pause, with a voice broken by sobs._)
And is the necklace set with amethysts,
ESTHER. It is. And pearls it has as bright
And many, too, as are thy tears.
RACHEL. I would
Not look at it at all--at least not now.
But only if our prison lasts too long,
I'll try divert eternal wretchedness,
And shall adorn myself unto my death.
But see, who nears? Ha, ha, ha, ha, it is,
In sooth, our father, armed cap-a-pie!
[ISAAC, _a helmet on his head, under his long coat a cuirass, enters
from the left._]
ISAAC. 'Tis I, the father of a wayward brood,
Who ere my time are shortening my days.
In harness, yes! When murder stalks abroad,
Will one's bare body save one from the steel?
A blow by chance, and then the skull is split!
This harness hides, what's more, my notes of 'change,
And in my pockets carry I my gold;
I'll bury that and curse and soul will save
From poverty and death. And if ye mock,
I'll curse you with a patriarchal curse--
With Isaac's curse! O ye, with voices like
The voice of Jacob, but with Esau's hands,
Invert the law of primogeniture!
Myself, my care! What care I more for you!
RACHEL. What noise?
ESTHER. The drawbridge has been raised--
And now our refuge is a prison too.--
RACHEL. A token that the King has left these walls.
So hastes he forth.--Will he return again?
I fear me no--I fear the very worst!
(_Sinking on_ ESTHER's _breast_.)
And yet I loved him truly, loved him well!
_A large room with a throne in the foreground to the right. Next to the
throne, and running in a straight row to the left, several chairs upon
which eight or ten Castilian grandees are sitting. Close to the throne_,
MANRIQUE DE LARA, _who has arisen._
MANRIQUE. In sadness we are now assembled here,
But few of us, whom close proximity
Allowed to gather in so short a time.
There will be more to join us presently.
Stern, universal need, delaying not,
Commands us count ourselves as competent.
Before all others, in our earnest group,
Is missing he to whom belongs the right
To call this parliament and here preside;
We then are half illegal at the start.
And so, my noble lords, I took the care
To ask her royal majesty, the Queen,
Although our business much concerns herself,
Here to convene with us and take her place,
That we may know we are not masterless,
Nor feel 'tis usurpation brought us here.
The subject of our council at this time
I hope--I fear--is known to all too well.
The King, our mighty sov'reign--not alone
In rank, estate, and dignity he's high,
But, too, in natural gifts, that when we gaze
Behind us in the past's wide-open book,
We scarce again can find his equal there--
Except that strength, the lever of all good,
When wandered from her wonted path of good,
Wills e'er to do her will with equal strength--
The King, I say, withdraws himself from court,
Lured by a woman's too lascivious charm,
A thing in no wise seeming us to judge--
_The_ QUEEN, _accompanied by_ DONA CLARA _and several ladies, enters
from the right, and seats herself on the throne, after she has indicated
to the grandees who have arisen that they are to resume their seats._
MANRIQUE. Have I permission, Majesty?
MANRIQUE. What I just said, I shall repeat
"A thing in no wise seeming us to judge."
But at the bound'ries arms him now the Moor,
And threats with war the hard-oppressed land;
So now the right and duty of the King
Is straight to ward this danger from us all,
With forces he has called and raised himself.
But see, the King is missing! He will come,
I know, if only angry that we called
Of our own power and will this parliament.
But if the cause remains that keeps him hence,
Unto his former bonds he will return,
And, first as last, we be an orphan land.
[_The_ QUEEN _signs him to continue._]
First of all, the girl must go.
Full many propositions are at hand.
Some are there here who wish to buy her off,
And others wish to send her from the land,
A prisoner in some far distant clime.
The King has money, too, and though she's far,
You know that power can find whate'er it seeks.
A third proposal--
[_The_ QUEEN, _at these words, has arisen._]
Pardon, noble Queen!
You are too mild for this our business drear!
Your very kindness, lacking vigorous will
From which to draw renewal of its strength,
Has most of all, perhaps, estranged our King.
I blame you not, I say but what is true.
I pray you, then, to waive your own desire,
But if it please you otherwise, then speak!
What flow'ry fate, what flatt'ring punishment,
Is suited to the sin this drab has done?
MANRIQUE. In truth?
QUEEN (_more firmly_).
MANRIQUE. Ye hear, my lords!
This was the third proposal, which, although
A man, I did not earlier dare to speak.
QUEEN. Is marriage not the very holiest,
Since it makes right what else forbidden is,
And that, which horrible to all the chaste,
Exalts to duty, pleasing unto God?
Other commandments of our God most high
Give added strength to our regard for right,
But what so strong that it ennobles sin
Must be the strongest of commandments all.
Against that law this woman now has sinned.
But if my husband's wrong continueth,
Then I myself, in all my married years,
A sinner was and not a wife, our son
Is but a misborn bastard-spawn, a shame
Unto himself, and sore disgrace to us.
If ye in me see guilt, then kill me, pray!
I will not live if I be flecked with sin.
Then may he from the princesses about
A spouse him choose, since only his caprice,
And not what is allowed, can govern him.
But if she is the vilest of this earth,
Then purify your King and all his land.
I am ashamed to speak like this to men,
It scarce becomes me, but I needs must speak.
MANRIQUE. But will the King endure this? If so, how?
QUEEN. He will, indeed, because he ought and must.
Then on the murd'rers he can take revenge,
And first of all strike me and this, my breast.
[_She sits down._]
MANRIQUE. There is no hope of any other way.
The noblest in the battle meet their doom--
To die a bitter, yea, a cruel death--
Tortured with thirst, and under horses' hoofs,
A doubler, sharper, bitt'rer meed of pain
Than ever, sinner on the gallows-tree,
And sickness daily takes our best away;
For God is prodigal with human life;
Should we be timid, then, where his command,
His holy law, which he himself has giv'n,
Demands, as here, that he who sins shall die?
Together then, we will request the King
To move from out his path this stumbling-block
Which keeps him from his own, his own from him.
If he refuse, blood's law be on the land,
Until the law and prince be one again,
And we may serve them both by serving one.
_A servant comes._
SERVANT. Don Garceran!
MANRIQUE. And does the traitor dare?
SERVANT. The message is his Majesty's.
MANRIQUE. That's diff'rent. An' he were my deadly foe,
He has my ear, when speaks he for the King.
MANRIQUE. At once your message give us; then, farewell.
GARCERAN. O Queen, sublime, and thou my father, too,
And ye besides, the best of all the land!
I feel today, as ne'er before I felt,
That to be trusted is the highest good,
And that frivolity, though free of guilt,
Destroys and paralyzes more than sin
Itself. _One_ error is condoned at last,
Frivolity is ever prone to err.
And so, today, though conscious of no fault,
I stand before you sullied, and atone
For youthful heedlessness that passed for wrong.
MANRIQUE. Of that, another time! Your message now!
GARCERAN. The King through me dissolves this parliament.
MANRIQUE. And since he sent frivolity itself
He surely gave some token from his hand,
Some written word as pledge and surety?
GARCERAN. Hot-foot he followeth.
MANRIQUE. That is enough!
So in the royal name I now dissolve
This parliament. Ye are dismissed. But list
Ye to my wish and my advice: Return
Ye not at once unto your homes, but wait
Ye rather, round about, till it appears
Whether the King will take the task we leave,
Or we must still perform it in his name.
However, you, in princely service skilled,
If spying be your office 'mongst us here,
I beg you tell your King what I advised,
And that th' estates in truth have been dissolved,
But yet are ready to unite for deeds.
GARCERAN. Then once again, before you all, I say
No tort have I in this mad escapade.
As it was chance that brought me from the camp,
So chanced it that the King selected me
To guard this maiden from the people's rage;
And what with warning, reason, argument,
A man may do to ward off ill, although
'Twas fruitless, I admit,--that have I tried.
I should deserve your scorn were this not so.
And Dona Clara, doubly destined mine,
By parents both and by my wish as well,
You need not hang your noble head, for though
Unworthy of you--never worthy,--I
Not less am worthy now than e'er before.
I stand before you here and swear: 'Tis so.
MANRIQUE. If this is so, and thou art still a man,
Be a Castilian now and join with us
To serve thy country's cause as we it serve.
Thou art acquainted in the castle there;
The captain opes the gates if thou demand.
Perhaps we soon shall need to enter thus,
If deaf the King, our noble lord.
GARCERAN. No word
Against the King, my master!
MANRIQUE. Thine the choice!
But follow for the nonce these other lords,
The outcome may be better than we think.
[_Servant entering from the left._]
SERVANT. His Majesty, the King!
MANRIQUE (_to the estates, pointing to the middle door_).
(_To the servants._)
And ye, arrange these chairs along the wall.
Naught shall remind him that we gathered here
QUEEN (_who has stepped down from the throne_).
My knees are trembling, yet there's none to aid.
MANRIQUE. Virtue abode with strength in days of yore,
But latterly, estranged, they separate.
Strength stayed with youth--where she was wont to be--
And virtue fled to gray and ancient heads.
Here, take my arm! Though tottering the step,
And strength be lacking,--virtue still abides.
[_He leads the _QUEEN _off at the right. The estates, with _GARCERAN,_
have gone out through the centre door. The_ KING _comes from the left,
behind him his page._]
KING. The sorrel, say you, limps? The pace was fast,
But I no further need shall have of him.
So to Toledo, pray you, have him led,
Where rest will soon restore him. I, myself,
Will at my spouse's side, in her own coach
Return from here, in sight of all the folk,
That what they see they may believe, and know
That discord and dissension are removed.
[_The page goes._]
I am alone. Does no one come to meet?
Naught but bare walls and silent furniture!
It is but recently that they have met.
And oh, these empty chairs much louder speak
Than those who sat upon them e'er have done!
What use to chew the bitter cud of thought?
I must begin to remedy the ill.
Here goes the way to where my wife doth dwell.--
I'll enter on this most unwelcome path.
[_He approaches the side door at the right._]
What, barred the door? Hallo, in there! The King
It is, who's master in this house! For me
There is no lock, no door to shut me out.
[_A waiting-woman enters through the door._]
KING. Ye bar yourselves?
WAITING WOMAN. The Queen, your Majesty--
(_As the _KING _is about to enter rapidly._)
The inner door she, too, herself, has locked.
KING. I will not force my way. Announce to her
That I am back, and this my summons is--
Say, rather, my request--as now I say.
KING (_standing opposite the throne_).
Thou lofty seat, o'ertopping others all,
Grant that we may no lower be than thou,
And even unexalted by these steps
We yet may hold just measure of the good.
_Enter the _QUEEN.
KING (_going toward her with outstretched hands_).
I greet thee, Leonore!
QUEEN. Be welcome, thou!
KING. And not thy hand?
QUEEN. I'm glad to see thee here.
KING. And not thy hand?
QUEEN (_bursting into tears_).
O help me, gracious God!
KING. This hand is not pest-stricken, Leonore,
Go I to battle, as I ought and must,
It will be smeared and drenched with hostile blood;
Pure water will remove the noisome slime,
And for thy "welcome" I shall bring it pure.
Like water for the gross and earthly stain
There is a cleanser for our sullied souls.
Thou art, as Christian, strong enough in faith
To know repentance hath a such-like might.
We others, wont to live a life of deeds,
Are not inclined to modest means like this,
Which takes the guilt away, but not the harm--
Yes, half but is the fear of some new sin.
If wishing better things, if glad resolve
Are any hostage-bond for now and then,
Take it--as I do give it--true and whole!
QUEEN (_holding out both hands_).
O God, how gladly!
KING. No, not both thy hands!
The right alone, though farther from the heart,
Is giv'n as pledge of contract and of bond,
Perhaps to indicate that not alone
Emotion, which is rooted in our hearts,
But reason, too, the person's whole intent,
Must give endurance to the plighted word.
Emotion's tide is swift of change as time;
That which is pondered, has abiding strength.
QUEEN (_offering him her right hand_).
That too! Myself entire!
KING. Trembleth thy hand!
(_Dropping her hand._)
O noble wife, I would not treat thee ill.
Believe not that, because I speak less mild,
I know less well how great has been my fault,
Nor honor less the kindness of thy heart.
QUEEN. 'Tis easy to forgive; to comprehend
Is much more difficult. How it _could_ be,
I understand it not!
KING. My wife and queen,
We lived as children till but recently.
As such our hands were joined in marriage vows,
And then as guileless children lived we on.
But children grow, with the increase of years,
And ev'ry stage of our development
By some discomfort doth proclaim itself.
Often it is a sickness, warning us
That we are diff'rent--other, though the same,
And other things are fitting in the same.
So is it with our inmost soul as well--
It stretches out, a wider orbit gains,
Described about the selfsame centre still.
Such sickness have we, then, but now passed through;
And saying we, I mean that thou as well
Art not a stranger to such inner growth.
Let's not, unheeding, pass the warning by!
In future let us live as kings should live--
For kings we are. Nor let us shut ourselves
From out this world, and all that's good and great;
And like the bees which, at each close of day,
Return unto their hives with lading sweet,
So much the richer by their daily gain,
We'll find within the circle of our home,
Through hours of deprivation, added sweets.
QUEEN. If thou desirest, yes; for me, I miss them not.
KING. But thou wilt miss them then in retrospect,
When thou hast that whereby one judges worth.
But let us now forget what's past and gone!
I like it not, when starting on a course,
By any hindrance thus to bar the way
With rubbish from an earlier estate.
I do absolve myself from all my sins.
Thou hast no need--thou, in thy purity!
QUEEN. Not so! Not so! My husband, if thou knew'st
What black and mischief-bringing thoughts have found
Their way into my sad and trembling heart!
KING. Perhaps of vengeance? Why, so much the better!
Thou feel'st the human duty to forgive,
And know'st that e'en the best of us may err.
We will not punish, nor avenge ourselves;
For _she_, believe me, _she_ is guiltless quite,
As common grossness or vain weakness is,
Which merely struggles not, but limply yields.
I only bear the guilt, myself alone.
QUEEN. Let me believe what keeps and comforts me
The Moorish folk, and all that like them are,
Do practise secret and nefarious arts,
With pictures, signs and sayings, evil draughts,
Which turn a mortal's heart within his breast,
And make his will obedient to their own.
KING. Magic devices round about us are,
But we are the magicians, we ourselves.
That which is far removed, a thought brings near;
What we have scorned, another time seems fair;
And in this world so full of miracles,
We are the greatest miracle ourselves!
QUEEN. She has thy picture!
KING. And she shall return 't,
In full view I shall nail it to the wall,
And for my children's children write beneath:
A King, who, not so evil in himself,
Hath once forgot his office and his duty.
Thank God that he did find himself again.
QUEEN. But thou, thyself, dost wear about thy neck--
KING. Oh yes! Her picture? So you knew that, too?
[_He takes the picture with the chain from his neck, and lays it on the
table in the foreground to the right._]
So then I lay it down, and may it lie--
A bolt not harmful, now the thunder's past.
The girl herself--let her be ta'en away!
She then may have a man from out her race--
[_Walking fitfully back and forth from the rear to the front of the
stage, and stopping short now and then._]
But no, not that!--The women of this race
Are passable, good even, but the men
With dirty hands and narrow greed of gain--
This girl shall not be touched by such a one.
Indeed, she has to better ones belonged.
But then, what's that to me?--If thus or thus,
If near or far--they may look after that!
QUEEN. Wilt thou, then, Don Alfonso, stay thus strong?
KING (_standing still_).
Forsooth, thou ne'er hast known or seen this girl!
Take all the faults that on this broad earth dwell,
Folly and vanity, and weakness, too,
Cunning and boldness, coquetry and greed--
Put them together and thou hast this woman;
And if, enigma thou, not magic art,
Shouldst call her power to charm me, I'll agree,
And were ashamed, were't not but natural, too!
QUEEN (_walks up and down_).
Believe me, husband, 'twas not natural!
KING (_standing still_).
Magic there is, in truth. Its name is custom,
Which first not potent, later holds us fast;
So that which at the outset shocked, appalled,
Sloughs off the first impression of disgust,
And grows, a thing continued, to a need--
Is this not of our very bodies true?
This chain I wore--which now here idly lies,
Ta'en off forever--breast and neck alike,
To this impression have become so used--
The empty spaces make me shake with cold.
I'll choose myself another chain forthwith;
The body jests not when it warning sends.
And now enough of this!
But that you could
Avenge yourselves in blood on this poor fool--
That was not well!
(_Stepping to the table._)
For do but see these eyes--
Yes, see the eyes, the body, neck, and form!
God made them verily with master hand;
'Twas she _herself_ the image did distort.
Let us revere in her, then, God's own work,
And not destroy what he so wisely built.
QUEEN. Oh, touch it not!
KING. This nonsense now again!
And if I really take it in my hand,
(_He has taken the picture in his hand_)
Am I another, then? I wind the chain
In jest, to mock you, thus about my neck,
The face that 'frights you in my bosom hide--
Am I the less Alfonso, who doth see
That he has err'd, and who the fault condemns?
Then of your nonsense let this be enough!
[_He draws away from the table._]
KING (_wildly looking at her_).
What is 't?
QUEEN. O God in heav'n!
KING. Be frighted not, good wife! Be sensible!
Repeat not evermore the selfsame thing!
It doth remind me of the difference.
(_Pointing to the table, then to his breast._)
This girl there--no, of course now she is here--
If she was foolish, foolish she would be,
Nor claimed that she was pious, chaste, and wise.
And this is ever virtuous women's way--
They reckon always with their virtue thus;
If you are sad, with virtue comfort they,
If joyous is your mood, virtue again,
To take your cheerfulness at last away,
And show you as your sole salvation, sin.
Virtue's a name for virtues manifold,
And diff'rent, as occasion doth demand--
It is no empty image without fault,
And therefore, too, without all excellence.
I will just doff the chain now from my neck,
For it reminds me--
And, then, Leonore,
That with the vassals thou didst join thyself--
That was not well, was neither wise nor just.
If thou art angry with me, thou art right;
But these men, my dependents, subjects all--
What want they, then? Am I a child, a boy,
Who not yet knows the compass of his place?
They share with me the kingdom's care and toil,
And equal care is duty, too, for me.
But I the _man_ Alfonso, not the King,
Within my house, my person, and my life--
Must I accounting render to these men?
Not so! And gave I ear but to my wrath,
I quickly would return from whence I came,
To show that they with neither blame nor praise
Shall dare to sit in judgment over me.
[_Stepping forward and stamping on the floor._]
And finally this dotard, Don Manrique,
If he was once my guardian, is he still?
[_DON MANRIQUE appears at the centre door. The QUEEN points to the KING,
and wrings her hand. MANRIQUE withdraws with a reassuring gesture._]
KING. Presumes he to his sov'reign to prescribe
The rustic precepts of senility?
Would he with secret, rash, and desp'rate deed--
(_Walking back and forth diagonally across the stage_)
I will investigate this case as judge;
And if there be a trace here of offense,
Of insolent intent or wrongful act,
The nearer that the guilty stand to me,
The more shall boldness pay the penalty.
Not thou, Leonore, no, thou art excused!
[_During the last speech, the QUEEN has quietly withdrawn through the
door at the right._]
Whither, then, went she? Leave they me alone?
Am I a fool within mine own abode?
[_He approaches the door at the right._]
I'll go to her--What, is it bolted, barred?
[_Bursting open the door with a kick._]
I'll take by storm, then, my domestic bliss.
[_He goes in._]
[_DON MANRIQUE and GARCERAN appear at the centre door. The latter takes
a step across the threshold._]
MANRIQUE. Wilt thou with, us?
GARCERAN. My father!
MANRIQUE. Wilt thou not?
The rest are gone--wilt follow them?
GARCERAN. I will.
[_They withdraw, the door closes. Pause. The_ KING _returns. In the
attitude of one listening intently._]
KING. Listen again!--'Tis nothing, quiet all!--
Empty, forlorn, the chambers of the Queen.
But, on returning, in the turret room,
I heard the noise of carriages and steeds,
In rushing gallop, hurrying away.
Am I alone? Ramiro! Garceran!
[_The page, comes from the door at the right._]
KING. Report! What goes on here?
PAGE. Illustrious Sire,
The castle is deserted; you and I
Are at this hour its sole inhabitants.
KING. The Queen?
PAGE. The castle in her carriage left.
KING. Back to Toledo then?
PAGE. I know not, Sire.
The lords, howe'er--
KING. What lords?
PAGE. Sire, the estates,
Who all upon their horses swung themselves;
They did not to Toledo take their way--
Rather the way which you yourself did come.
KING. What! To Retiro? Ah, now fall the scales
From these my seeing and yet blinded eyes!
Murder this is. They go to slay her there!
My horse! My horse!
PAGE. Your horse, illustrious Sire,
Was lame, and, as you know, at your command--
KING. Well, then, another--Garceran's, or yours!
PAGE. They've taken every horse from here away,
Perhaps with them, perhaps but driv'n afar;
As empty as the castle are the stalls.
KING. They think they will outstrip me. But away!
Get me a horse, were't only some old nag;
Revenge shall lend him wings, that he may fly.
And if 'tis done? Then, God above, then grant
That as a man, not as a tyrant, I
May punish both the guilty and the guilt.
Get me a horse! Else art thou in their league,
And payest with thy head, as all shall--
(_Standing at the door, with a gesture of violence._)
[_He hastens away._]
_A large room in the castle at Retiro, with one door in the centre and
one at each side. Everywhere signs of destruction. In the foreground, at
the left, an overturned toilet table with scattered utensils. In the
background, at the left, another overturned table; above it a picture
half torn from its frame. In the centre of the room, a chair. It is
dark. From without, behind the middle wall, the sound of voices,
footsteps, and the clatter of weapons, finally, from without--"It is
enough! The signal sounds! To horse!" Sounds of voices and footsteps die
out. Pause. Then Isaac comes from the door at the right, dragging along
a carpet, which is pulled over his head, and which he later drops._
ISAAC. Are they then gone?--I hear no sound.
No, no, 'tis naught! When they, a robber band,
Searched all the castle through, I hid myself,
And on the ground all doubled up I lay.
This cover here was roof and shield alike.
But whither now? Long since I hid full well
Here in the garden what I saved and gained;
I'll fetch it later when this noise is past.--
Where is the door? How shall I save my soul?
ESTHER _enters from the door at the left._
ISAAC. Who's there? Woe's me!
ESTHER. Is't thou?
ISAAC. Is't thou, then, Rachel?
ESTHER. What mean'st thou? Rachel? Only Esther, I!
ISAAC. Only, thou say'st? Thou art my only child--
Only, because the best.
ESTHER. Nay, rather say,
The best because the only. Aged man,
Dost thou, then, nothing know of this attack,
Nor upon whom they meant to vent their wrath?
ISAAC. I do not know, nor do I wish to know,
For has not Rachel flown, to safety gone?
Oh, she is clever, she!--God of my fathers!
Why dost thou try me--me, a poor old man,
And speak to me from out my children's mouths?
But I believe it not! 'Tis false! No, no!
[_He sinks down beside the chair in the centre, leaning his head against
ESTHER. So then be strong through coward fearsomeness.
Yet call I others what I was myself.
For when their coming roused me from my sleep,
And I went hurrying to my sister's aid,
Into the last, remote, and inmost room,
One of them seizes me with powerful hand,
And hurls me to the ground. And coward, I,
I fall a-swooning, when I should have stood
And offered up my life to save my sister,
Or, at the very least, have died with her!
When I awoke, the deed was done, and vain
My wild attempt to bring her back to life.
Then could I weep, then could I tear my hair;
That is, indeed, true cowardice, a woman's.
ISAAC. They tell me this and that. But 'tis not true!
ESTHER. Lend me thy chair to sit upon, old man!
[_She pulls the chair forward._]
My limbs grow weak and tremble under me.
Here will I sit and here will I keep watch.
[_She sits down._]
Mayhap that one will think it worth his while
To burn the stubble, now the harvest's o'er,
And will return and kill what still is left.
ISAAC (_from the floor_).
Not me! Not me!--Some one is coming. Hark!
No, many come!--Save me--I flee to thee!
[_He runs to her chair, and cowers on the floor._]
ESTHER. I like a mother will protect thee now,
The second childhood of the gray old man.
And, if death comes, then childless shalt thou die--
I following Rachel in advance of thee!
_The KING appears at the centre door, with his page, who carries a torch._
KING. Shall I go farther, or content myself
With what I know, though still it is unseen?
This castle all a-wreck, laid bare and waste,
Shrieking from ev'ry corner cries to me
It is too late, the horror has been done!
And thou the blame must bear, cursed dallier,
If not, forsooth, a party to the deed!
But no, thou weepst, and tears no lies can tell.
Behold, I also weep, I weep for rage,
From hot and unslaked passion for revenge!
Come, here's a ring to set your torch within.
Go to the town, assemble all the folk,
And bid them straight unto this castle come
With arms, as chance may put within their reach;
And I, when morning comes, with written word,
Will bring the people here, at my command--
Children of toil and hard endeavor, they,
As an avenger at their head I'll go,
And break down all the strongholds of the great,
Who, half as servants, half again as lords,
Serve but themselves and overrule their master.
Ruler and ruled, thus shall it be, and I,
Avenging, will wipe out that hybrid throng,
So proud of blood, or flowing in their veins,
Or dripping on their swords from others' wounds.
Thy light here leave and go! I'll stay alone
And hatch the progeny of my revenge.
[_The servant puts his torch into the ring beside the door and
KING (_taking a step forward_).
What moves there? Can it be there still is life?
ISAAC. Gracious Lord ill-doer, O,
O, spare us, good assassin!
KING. You, old man?
Remind me not that Rachel was your child;
It would deface her image in my soul.
And thou--art thou not Esther?
ESTHER. Sire, I am.
KING. And is it done?
ESTHER. It is.
KING. I knew it well,
Since I the castle entered. So, no plaints!
For know, the cup is full; an added drop
Would overflow, make weak the poisonous draught.
While she still lived I was resolved to leave her,
Now dead, she ne'er shall leave my side again;
And this her picture, here upon my breast,
Will 'grave its image there, strike root within--
For was not mine the hand that murdered her?
Had she not come to me, she still would play,
A happy child, a joy to look upon.
Perhaps--but no, not that! No, no, I say!
No other man should ever touch her hand,
No other lips approach her rosy mouth,
No shameless arm--she to the King belonged,
Though now unseen, she still would be my own.
To royal might belongs such might of charms!
ISAAC. Speaks he of Rachel?
ESTHER. Of thy daughter, yes.
Though grief increase the value of the loss,
Yet must I say: Too high you rate her worth.
KING. Think'st thou? I tell thee, naught but shadows we--
I, thou, and others of the common crowd;
For if thou'rt good, why then, thou'rt learned it so;
If I am honest, I but saw naught else;
Those others, if they murder,--as they do--
Well, so their fathers did, came time and need!
The world is but one great reechoing,
And all its harvest is but seed from seed.
But she was truth itself, ev'n though deformed,
And all she did proceeded from herself,
A-sudden, unexpected, and unlearned.
Since her I saw I felt myself alive,
And to the dreary sameness of my life
'Twas only she gave character and form.
They tell that in Arab desert wastes
The wand'rer, long tormented in the sands,
Long tortured with the sun's relentless glare,
Some time may find a blooming island's green,
Surrounded by the surge of arid waves;
There flowers bloom, there trees bestow their shade,
The breath of herbs mounts soothing in the breeze
And forms a second heav'n, arched 'neath the first.
Forsooth the serpent coils among the brush;
A famished beast, tormented by like thirst,
Perchance comes, too, to slake it at this spring;
Yet, tired and worn, the wand'rer doth rejoice,
Sucks in with greedy lips the cooling draught,
And sinks down in the rank luxuriant growth.