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Empress. Let every one Repair to the tournament.
Let it proceed, As we ourself were there. [To Ulrick.] And you, my lord, Preside for us. It is our will the lists Be opened straight. The Countess stays with me.
Flourish.-All go out except the Empress and Coun
tess. Wo are alone! Now, how am I a let To such espousals as your choice would make ?
Coun. Do you not know?
Empress. Girl, be direct with me,
Nor in the headlong passion of your soul,
That seems to joy in strife and wrack, forget
'Tis your liege lady that vouchsafes
Coun. That I forget, and everything beside,
Except one thing, in still revolving which
The earth hath shrunk in estimation
Into a grain—the sun into a spark !
Naught hath kept substance but my dosolation,
Which seems to me to fill up space itself
Till nothing else hath room.
Empress. Thy desolation
Who made it for thee ?
Coun. Thou !
Empress. In what regard ?
Coun. In thy attractive favor shown to Huon !
Empress. I made thy desolation ? Thou thyself
Didst make it with thy pride, the greater, but
Worse portion of thee!
Coun. By my pride ?
Empress. Thy pride,
Which evil counsellor to thy love, advised it
To blush with shame at homage from the which
It could not yet refrain, because 'twas due-
Tribute to such desert, as far behind
Left all desert beside, and might have worn
The subject's heart-whose mistress's it won!
Thy story-everything are known to me
Coun. Then thou confessest it ?
Coun. What ?
I brook not such tone from thee.
Coun. The heart
Will speak, despite the checks of shows and forms,
Shadows compared to its realities !
It is not so with thee ?-e'er hast thou felt
A pang !—and if thou hast, whose, then, thy palace ?
Tby retinue !-thy guards!-thy empire -Gone
With all their proud appurtenances, and
No habitation left thee but thy breast,
The only house of happiness or woe!
How shall it be with me, then, with a heart
Maddened with torture? Shall I cast about
To furnish looks, and words, and tones for things,
I have no interest in, and thou, that hast,
In equal case wouldst give to disregard ?
Empress. Remember thou'rt a subject !
Coun. So I will
While thou'rt the Empress; but when thou becomest
A woman-a mere woman like myself-
Stepp'st from the eminence that lifts thee 'bove me-
Level'st thee to me in one common nature-
I deal with thee as woman deals with woman!
I own thy power! I must, and do! Thy breath
Can doom me exile, bondage, what it will !
There I submit! Thou art the Empress there.
But when thou thwart'st me in the interests
Which are the right not more of one than all-
Trenchest upon my private peace-my love-
Thou dost me wrong, for which I challenge thee
As equal may an equal.
Empress. Come! Thy challenge ?
What dost allege against me ?
Coun. Thou dost love him !
Empress. Ay, by my troth, as much as thou didst scorn
Coun. He did accuse me to thee?
Empress. Wayward woman, He never spoke of thee, except with love! Coun. How couldst thou love him then? How could
thy greatness Forget itself to try and steal a heart, Thou knew'st to be another's ?
E'en Sundays not excepted. Sirs, your friend
Is a coward.
[Coolly puts up her sword. Sir Rup. Furies !
Cath. Fiends, and all sorts of imps !
Swearing won't save you, sir-I'll prove my words.
I dare you at the tournament, to-morrow,
To break a lance with me.- Observe you, sirs :
My sword to your dagger, he takes flight to-day,
And waits not for to-morrow.
Sir Rup. Will I not?
I will have satisfaction:--I accept
His challenge. I will have satisfaction, sirs !
Cath. You shall, and have it to your heart's content.
Take linsey-woolsey with a halt, and the skin
Of a negro, rather than essay a tilt
With chance to win a Countess! I could laugh
To scorn, the man that would believe him! Oh!
He shall have satisfaction! I could beat him
With a rush in rest.-He shall have satisfaction !
Sirs, he will cower at the very sight of me!
Fall on his knees, and beg his life of me
With claspéd hands. He shall have satisfaction !
[They go out severally. SCENE III.-A Room in the Castle.
Enter CountESS, L. V. E. Coun. It is confirmed-the place he holds beside her, Her every action speaks.
Of all her court,
He is the only one, whose duties to her
She takes as favours, not as things of course.
He comes ! Who stops him thus untimely?
How changed he is! The fiery hardihood
Of the life he hath of late made consort of,
Hath given another spirit to his eyes;
His face is cast anew, as circumstance
Could alter Nature's modelling, and work,
Improving on her mould.
Is that the man
Was once my father's serf, and I did scorn?
Fell ever at my wayward frown that brow?
Or stooped that knee for me, to kiss the ground ?
Would they do it now? Fell ever at my feet
That form, as prostrate as the hand of death
Had struck it to the floor ? 'Twould take that hand
To lay it now there--and a waive of mine
Had done it once! If he confesses hold
Of any other, never shall he learn
His hold of me; but if he strives in love,
I bless my stars I have the 'vantage ground.
[Huon enters and remains standing at a distance, with
his eyes on the ground. Coun. Is Huon here, and does not Huon speak. (Pauses. Absent so long, no greeting for a friend A woman, too! (Pauses.] No salutation kind, Prelude of happy news she'd joy to hear, Relation of adventures she would thrill To listen to,-exploits she would wonder at, And the next moment at her wonder blush, Knowing whose arm achieved them!
Huon. I am glad To find
Coun. You are glad to find me well ?
I hope you are! It were not saying much,
I trust, to say I know you are ! You are glad
To find me well! Is that your news for me?
If 'tis, it is strange news.
Huon. You wished to see me,
And I am here to learn your will.
Coun. More news !
You are a friend worth parting with, you bring
Such marvels home with you! Some time, methinks,
Since last we met together, and you are glad
To find me well !-and, as I wished to see you,
You are here to learn my will ! You were not here,
Had not I sent for you.
Huon. It would have been
Coun. Presumptuous ?
Huon. Yes, madam, In the serf. Coun. [With sudden indignation. No, sir, not in the
favourite Of the Empress! She rises.] Huon, this is not the way We ought to meet—it should not be in anger !
You are come home, and you are welcome home.
Requires my tongue a backer to give credence ?
Well, there's my hand beside ! Do you not take
My hand ?
Huon. You are a noble lady, madam,
Whose father was my lord, by leave of whom
I thought, and had a will—did what I did-
Yea, kept the very blood within my veins.
Behoves it I should take his daughter's hand ?
Coun. You mock me !
Huon. Would I did, and 'twere a dream!
But dreams are not repeated day by day,
And day by day reminds me of a time
I was your father's serf.
Coun. No more of this.
Huon. Oh, would no more! The wounded body heals : The pain is over, all is sound again, A scar reminds
you of it-nothing more! Not so the heart, you lacerate it once! Habit may dull, pursuit engross--divert; But never are you ransomed from the throe. Live your
meridian out, it comes again, Fresh as at first, to make you writhe anew.
Coun. We do not meet to talk of grievances.
Huon, I offered you my hand just now.
Huon. Oh! 'tis a hand
Thou hast forbidden mine to meet.
Coun. No, Huon,
Not as friends. (Sits. Then aside, recovering herself. I'll
see him clearly first.
Sit down, and let us talk. I have fifty things
I want to say to you, yet know not which
To begin with. Huon, do you like the Empress ?
Huon. Like her!
Coun. Yes-like her! That's the word I said.
Perhaps it should be, “love her?"
Huon. Love her, madam !
Coun. [Interrupting him.] I see you do! Go on! What
were you going
? Huon. Oh, contrast marvellous! beyond Belief of nature !