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Sif, Pardon me, my lord, If, by this sudden accident alarm'd, I leave you for a moment. [Exit SIFFREDI.
Osm. Let me think What can this mean * Is it to me aversion ? Or is it, as I fear'd, she loves another ? Ha!—yes—perhaps the king—the young Count
They were bred up together Surely that,
That cannot be—Has he not given his hand,
In the most solemn manner, to Constantia 2
Does not his crown depend upon the deed 2
What is it then?—I care not what it be.
She must be mine.—She is —If yet her heart
Consents not to my happiness, her duty,
Join'd to my tender cares, will gain so much
Upon her generous nature—That will follow.
The man of sense, who acts a prudent part,
Nor flatt'ring steals, but forms himself the heart.
The Garden belonging to SIFFREDI's House.
Enter SIGIs MUNDA and LAURA. Sig. [With a Letter in her Hand.] 'Tis done!—I am a slave –The fatal vow Has pass'd my lips! But here is still new matter of distress.
O, Tancred, cease to persecute me more!
O, grudge me not some calmer state of woes
Some quiet gloom to shade my hopeless days,
Where I may never hear of love and thee l—
Has Laura too conspired against my peace 3
Why did you take this letter?—Bear it back
I will not court new pain. [Giving her the Letter.
Laura. Madam, Rodolpho
Urged me somuch, nay, even with tears conjured me,
But this once more to serve th’ unhappy king
For such he said he was—that though enraged,
Equal with thee, at his inhuman falsehood,
I could not to my brother's fervent prayers
Refuse this office. Read it—his excuses
Will only more expose his falsehood.
Sig. No ;—
It suits not Osmond's wife to read one line
From that contagious hand—she knows too well
Laura. He paints him out distressed beyond ex-
Even on the point of madness.
He dies to see you, and to clear his faith.
Sig. Save me from that —That would be worse
than all !
. Laura. Ibut report my brother's words; who then
Began to talk of some dark imposition,
That had deceived us all : when, interrupted,
We heard your father and Earl Osmond near,
As summon'd to Constantia's court they went.
Sig. Ha! imposition Well, if I am doom'd
To be, o'er all my sex, the wretch of love,
In vain I would resist. Give me the letter—
To know the worst is some relier—Alas,
It was not thus, with such dire palpitations,
That, Tancred, once, I used to read thy letters
[Attempting to read the Letter, but gives it to
Ah, fond remembrance blinds me!—Read it, Laura.
Laura. [Reads.] Deliver me, Sigismunda, from that most exquisite misery which a faithful heart can suffer— To be thought base by her, from whose esteem even virtue borrows new charms. When I submitted to my cruel situation, it was not falsehood you beheld, but an ercess of love. Rather than endanger that, Ifor a while gave up my honour. Every moment, till I see you, stabs me with severer pangs than real guilt itself can feel. Let me then conjure you to meet me in the garden, towards the close of the day, when I will explain this mystery. We have been most inhumanly abused; and that by the means of the very paper which I gave you from the warmest sincerity of love, to assure to you the heart and hand of TANCRED.
Sig. There, Laura! there the dreadfulsecretsprung!
That paper l ah, that paper it suggests
A thousand horrid thoughts—I to my father
Gave it; and he, perhaps—I dare not cast
A look that way!—If yet indeed you love me—
Behold he comes—the king !
Sig. Heavens ! how escape
No—I will stay.—This one last meeting—Leave me.
Tan. And are these long, long hours of torture ast 2 My life : My Sigismunda! [Throwing himself at her feet. Sig. Rise, my lord. To see my sovereign thus, no more becomes me. Tan. O, let me kiss the ground on which you tread — Let me exhale my soul in softest transport
Since I again behold my Sigismunda! [Rising.
Unkind how could'st thou ever deem me false?
How thus dishonour love 2 after the vows,
The fervent truth, the tender protestations,
Which mine has often pour'd, to let thy breast,
Whate'er th' appearance was, admit suspicion?
Sig. How ! when I heard, myself, your full consent
To the late king’s so just and prudent will
Heard it before you read, in solemn senate 2
When I beheld you give your royal hand
To her, whose birth and dignity of right
Demands that high alliance? Yes, my lord,
You have done well. The man whom Heaven ap-
To govern others, should himself first learn
To bend his passions to the sway of reason.
In all, you have done well;-but when you bade
My humble hopes look up to you again,
And sooth'd with wanton cruelty my weakness—
That too was well—my vanity deserved
The sharp rebuke.
Tan. Chide on, chide on. Thy soft reproaches
Instead of wounding, only sooth my fondness.
No, no, thou charming consort of my soul!
I never loved thee with such faithful ardour,
As in that cruel, miserable moment,
You thought me false !
It was thy barbarous father, Sigismunda,
Who caught me in the toil. He turn'd that paper,
Meant for th' assuring bond of nuptial love,
To ruin it for ever! he, he wrote
That forged consent you heard beneath my name.
Had he not been thy father Ha! my love!
You tremble—you grow pale !—
Sig. O, leave me, Tancred
Tan. No!—Leave thee!—Never!—never, till you
My heart at peace; till these dear lips again
Pronounce thee mine !—Without thee, I renounce
Myself, my friends, the world!—Here, on this hand—
Sig. My lord, forget that hand, which never now
Can be to thine united
Tan. Sigismunda |
What dost thou mean *—Thy words, thy look, thy
Seem to conceal some horrid secret—Heavens !
No—that was wild—Distraction fires the thought!—
Sig. Inquire no more I never can be thine.
Tan. What!—Who shall interpose Who dares
To brave the fury of an injured king 2
Who, ere he sees thee ravish'd from his hopes,
Will wrap all blazing Sicily in flames |
Sig. In vain your power, my lord—This fatal error,
Join'd to my father's unrelenting will,
Has placed an everlasting bar betwixt us—
I am Earl Osmond's—wife
Tan. Earl Osmond's wife
[After a long pause, during which they look at
one another with the highest agitation, and
most tender distress.
Heavens! did I hear thee right —What! married?
Lost to thy faithful Tancred —lost for ever !
Could'st thou then doom me to such matchless woe,
Without so much as hearing me?—Distraction!
Alas! what hast thou done?—Ah, Sigismunda!
Thy rash credulity has done a deed,
Which, of two happiest lovers that e'er felt
The blissful power, has made two finish'd wretches :
But—madness!—Sure thou know'st it cannot be?
This hand is mine !—a thousand thousand vows