Jo and Meg
[Illustration: JO AND MEG.
COPIES OF EARLY DAGUERREOTYPES.
"It was at this period of her life that she was violently attacked by a
mania for the stage, and writing and enacting dramas. Her older sister,
Anna, had the same taste, and assisted her in carrying out all her
_Mrs. Cheney's Life of Louisa M. Alcott._]
WRITTEN BY "JO" AND "MEG"
AND ACTED BY
THE "LITTLE WOMEN"
By Anna B. Pratt.
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.
A Foreword, by Meg . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Norna; or, The Witch's Curse . . . . . . . . 17
The Captive of Castile; or, The Moorish
Maiden's Vow . . . . . . . . . . . 97
The Greek Slave . . . . . . . . . . 149
Ion . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
Bianca: an Operatic Tragedy . . . . . . . 261
The Unloved Wife; or, Woman's Faith . . . . . 279
A FOREWORD BY MEG.
In the good old times, when "Little Women" worked and played together,
the big garret was the scene of many dramatic revels. After a long day
of teaching, sewing, and "helping mother," the greatest delight of the
girls was to transform themselves into queens, knights, and cavaliers of
high degree, and ascend into a world of fancy and romance. Cinderella's
godmother waved her wand, and the dismal room became a fairy-land.
Flowers bloomed, forests arose, music sounded, and lovers exchanged
their vows by moonlight. Nothing was too ambitious to attempt; armor,
gondolas, harps, towers, and palaces grew as if by magic, and wonderful
scenes of valor and devotion were enacted before admiring audiences.
Jo, of course, played the villains, ghosts, bandits, and disdainful
queens; for her tragedy-loving soul delighted in the lurid parts, and no
drama was perfect in her eyes without a touch of the demonic or
supernatural. Meg loved the sentimental rôles, the tender maiden with
the airy robes and flowing locks, who made impossible sacrifices for
ideal lovers, or the cavalier, singing soft serenades and performing
lofty acts of gallantry and prowess. Amy was the fairy sprite, while
Beth enacted the page or messenger when the scene required their aid.
But the most surprising part of the performance was the length of the
cast and the size of the company; for Jo and Meg usually acted the whole
play, each often assuming five or six characters, and with rapid change
of dress becoming, in one scene, a witch, a soldier, a beauteous lady,
and a haughty noble. This peculiar arrangement accounts for many queer
devices, and the somewhat singular fact that each scene offers but two
actors, who vanish and reappear at most inopportune moments, and in a
great variety of costume. Long speeches were introduced to allow a
ruffian to become a priest, or a lovely damsel to disguise herself in
the garb of a sorceress; while great skill was required to preserve the
illusion, and astonish the audience by these wonderful transformations.
The young amateur of to-day, who can easily call to her aid all the arts
of the costumer and scene-maker, will find it hard to understand the
difficulties of this little company; for not only did they compose
their plays, but they were also their own carpenters, scene-painters,
property-men, dress-makers, and managers. In place of a well-appointed
stage, with the brilliant lights and inspiring accessories of a mimic
theatre, the "Little Women" had a gloomy garret or empty barn, and were
obliged to exercise all their ingenuity to present the scenes of their
But it is surprising what fine effects can be produced with old sheets,
bright draperies, and a judicious arrangement of lights, garlands, and
picturesque properties; and Jo's dramatic taste made her an admirable
stage-manager. Meg was especially handy with saw and hammer, and acted
as stage-carpenter,--building balconies, thrones, boats, and towers
after peculiar designs of her own. Bureaus, tables, and chairs, piled
aloft and arched with dark shawls, made dungeon walls and witch's cave,
or formed a background for haunted forest and lonely glen. Screens of
white cloth furnished canvas on which little Amy's skilful hand depicted
palace halls, or romantic scene for lovers' tryst; and Beth's deft
fingers were most apt in constructing properties for stage adornment,
and transforming the frailest material into dazzling raiment. For the
costumes were a serious consideration. No money could be spared from the
slender purse to supply the wardrobes of these aspiring actors, and many
were the devices to clothe the little company.
Thus a robe in one scene became a cloak in the next, and the drapery of
a couch in the third; while a bit of lace served as mantle, veil, or
turban, as best suited the turn of the play. Hats covered with old
velvet, and adorned with feathers plucked from the duster, made most
effective headgear for gay cavalier or tragic villain. From colored
cotton were manufactured fine Greek tunics and flowing trains; and
remarkable court costumes were evolved from an old sofa-covering, which
had seen better days, and boasted a little gold thread and embroidery.
Stars of tin, sewed upon dark cambric, made a suit of shining armor.
Sandals were cut from old boots. Strips of wood and silver paper were
fashioned into daggers, swords, and spears, while from cardboard were
created helmets, harps, guitars, and antique lamps, that were considered
masterpieces of stage art.
Everything available was pressed into service; colored paper, odds and
ends of ribbon, even tin cans and their bright wrappings were treasures
to the young actors, and all reappeared as splendid properties.
At first a store of red curtains, some faded brocades, and ancient
shawls comprised the stage wardrobe; but as the fame of the performances
spread abroad, contributions were made to the little stock, and the
girls became the proud possessors of a velvet robe, a plumed hat adorned
with silver, long yellow boots, and a quantity of mock pearls and tinsel
Such wealth determined them to write a play which should surpass all
former efforts, give Jo a chance to stalk haughtily upon the stage in
the magnificent boots, and Meg to appear in gorgeous train and diadem of
"The Witch's Curse" was the result, and it was produced with astounding
effect, quite paralyzing the audience by its splendid gloom. Jo called
it the "lurid drama," and always considered it her masterpiece. But it
cost hours of thought and labor; for to construct a dungeon, a haunted
chamber, a cavern, and a lonely forest taxed to the uttermost the
ingenuity of the actors. To introduce into one short scene a bandit, two
cavaliers, a witch, and a fairy spirit--all enacted by two
people--required some skill, and lightning change of costume. To call
up the ghostly visions and mysterious voices which should appall the
guilty Count Rodolpho, was a task of no small difficulty. But inspired
by the desire to outshine themselves, the children accomplished a play
full of revenge, jealousy, murder, and sorcery, of all which indeed they
knew nothing but the name.
Hitherto their dramas had been of the most sentimental description,
given to the portrayal of woman's devotion, filial affection, heroism,
and self-sacrifice. Indeed, these "Comic Tragedies" with their highflown
romance and fantastic ideas of love and honor, are most characteristic
of the young girls whose lives were singularly free from the experiences
of many maidens of their age.
Of the world they knew nothing; lovers were ideal beings, clothed with
all the beauty of their innocent imaginations. Love was a blissful
dream; constancy, truth, courage, and virtue quite every-day affairs of
life. Their few novels furnished the romantic element; the favorite
fairy-tales gave them material for the supernatural; and their strong
dramatic taste enabled them to infuse both fire and pathos into their
Jo revelled in catastrophe, and the darker scenes were her delight; but
she usually required Meg to "do the love-part," which she considered
quite beneath her pen. Thus their productions were a queer mixture of
sentiment and adventure, with entire disregard of such matters as
grammar, history, and geography,--all of which were deemed of no
importance by these aspiring dramatists.
From the little stage library, still extant, the following plays have
been selected as fair examples of the work of these children of sixteen
and seventeen. With some slight changes and omissions, they remain as
written more than forty years ago by Meg and Jo, so dear to the hearts
of many other "Little Women."
Concord, Mass., 1893.
[Illustration: THE THEATRE OF 1848.
"Those Concord days were the happiest of my life. Plays in the barn were
a favorite amusement."
_L. M. Alcott._]
NORNA; OR, THE WITCH'S CURSE.
Count Rodolpho . . . . . _A Haughty Noble._
Count Louis . . . . . _Lover of Leonore._
Adrian . . . . . . . _The Black Mask._
Hugo . . . . . . . _A Bandit._
Gaspard . . . . . . _Captain of the Guard._
Angelo . . . . . . _A Page._
Theresa . . . . . . _Wife to Rodolpho._
Leonore . . . . . . _In love with Louis._
Norna . . . . . . _A Witch._
NORNA; OR, THE WITCH'S CURSE.
[_A room in the castle of_ Rodolpho. Theresa _discovered alone,
and in tears._]
Theresa. I cannot pray; my aching heart finds rest alone in tears. Ah,
what a wretched fate is mine! Forced by a father's will to wed a
stranger ere I learned to love, one short year hath taught me what a
bitter thing it is to wear a chain that binds me unto one who hath
proved himself both jealous and unkind. The fair hopes I once cherished
are now gone, and here a captive in my splendid home I dwell forsaken,
sorrowing and alone [_weeps_]. [_Three taps upon the wall are heard._]
Ha, my brother's signal! What can bring him hither at this hour? Louis,
is it thou? Enter; "all's well."
[_Enter_ Count Louis _through a secret panel in the wall,
hidden by a curtain. He embraces_ Theresa.
Theresa. Ah, Louis, what hath chanced? Why art thou here? Some danger
must have brought thee; tell me, dear brother. Let me serve thee.
Louis. Sister dearest, thy kindly offered aid is useless now. Thou canst
not help me; and I must add another sorrow to the many that are thine. I
came to say farewell, Theresa.
Theresa. Farewell! Oh, brother, do not leave me! Thy love is all now
left to cheer my lonely life. Wherefore must thou go? Tell me, I beseech
Louis. Forgive me if I grieve thee. I will tell thee all. Thy husband
hates me, for I charged him with neglect and cruelty to thee; and he
hath vowed revenge for my bold words. He hath whispered false tales to
the king, he hath blighted all my hopes of rank and honor. I am banished
from the land, and must leave thee and Leonore, and wander forth an
outcast and alone. But--let him beware!--I shall return to take a deep
revenge for thy wrongs and my own. Nay, sister, grieve not thus. I have
sworn to free thee from his power, and I will keep my vow. Hope on and
bear a little longer, dear Theresa, and ere long I will bear thee to a
happy home [_noise is heard without_]. Ha! what is that? Who comes?
Theresa. 'Tis my lord returning from the court. Fly, Louis, fly! Thou
art lost if he discover thee. Heaven bless and watch above thee.
Remember poor Theresa, and farewell.
Louis. One last word of Leonore. I have never told my love, yet she hath
smiled on me, and I should have won her hand. Ah, tell her this, and bid
her to be true to him who in his exile will hope on, and yet return to
claim the heart he hath loved so faithfully. Farewell, my sister.
Despair not,--I shall return.
[_Exit_ Louis _through the secret panel; drops his dagger._
Theresa. Thank Heaven, he is safe!--but oh, my husband, this last deed
of thine is hard to bear. Poor Louis, parted from Leonore, his fair
hopes blighted, all by thy cruel hand. Ah, he comes! I must be calm.
Rod. What, weeping still? Hast thou no welcome for thy lord save tears
and sighs? I'll send thee to a convent if thou art not more gay!
Theresa. I'll gladly go, my lord. I am weary of the world. Its gayeties
but make my heart more sad.
Rod. Nay, then I will take thee to the court, and there thou _must_ be
gay. But I am weary; bring me wine, and smile upon me as thou used to
do. Dost hear me? Weep no more. [_Seats himself._ Theresa _brings wine
and stands beside him. Suddenly he sees the dagger dropped by_ Louis.]
Ha! what is that? 'Tis none of mine. How came it hither? Answer, I
Theresa. I cannot. I must not, dare not tell thee.
Rod. Darest thou refuse to answer? Speak! Who hath dared to venture
hither? Is it thy brother? As thou lovest life, I bid thee speak.
Theresa. I am innocent, and will not betray the only one now left me on
the earth to love. Oh, pardon me, my lord; I will obey in all but this.
Rod. Thou _shalt_ obey. I'll take thy life but I will know. Thy brother
must be near,--this dagger was not here an hour ago. Thy terror hath
betrayed him. I leave thee now to bid them search the castle. But if I
find him not, I shall return; and if thou wilt not then confess, I'll
find a way to make thee. Remember, I have vowed,--thy secret or thy
Theresa. My life I freely yield thee, but my secret--never. Oh, Louis, I
will gladly die to save thee. Life hath no joy for me; and in the grave
this poor heart may forget the bitter sorrows it is burdened with
[_sinks down weeping_].
Rod. The search is vain. He hath escaped. Theresa, rise, and answer me.
To whom belonged the dagger I have found? Thy tears avail not; I will be
obeyed. Kneel not to me, I will not pardon. Answer, or I swear I'll make
thee dumb forever.
Theresa. No, no! I will not betray. Oh, husband, spare me! Let not the
hand that led me to the altar be stained with blood I would so gladly
shed for thee. I cannot answer thee.
Rod. [_striking her_]. Then die: thy constancy is useless. I will find
thy brother and take a fearful vengeance yet.
Theresa. I am faithful to the last. Husband, I forgive thee.
Rod. 'Tis done, and I am rid of her forever; but 'tis an ugly deed. Poor
fool, there was a time when I could pity thee, but thou hast stood
'twixt me and Lady Leonore, and now I am free. I must conceal the form,
and none shall ever know the crime.
[_The panel opens and_ Norna _enters._]
Norna. Heaven shield us! What is this? His cruel hand hath done the
deed, and I am powerless to save. Poor, murdered lady, I had hoped to
spare thee this, and lead thee to a happier home. Perchance, 'tis better
so. The dead find rest, and thy sad heart can ache no more. Rest to thy
soul, sweet lady. But for _thee_, thou cruel villain, I have in store a
deep revenge for all thy sinful deeds. If there be power in spell or
charm, I'll conjure fearful dreams upon thy head. I'll follow thee
wherever thou mayst go, and haunt thy sleep with evil visions. I'll
whisper strange words that shall appall thee; dark phantoms shall rise
up before thee, and wild voices ringing in thine ear shall tell thee of
thy sins. By all these will I make life like a hideous dream, and death
more fearful still. Like a vengeful ghost I will haunt thee to thy
grave, and so revenge thy wrongs, poor, murdered lady. Beware, Rodolpho!
Old Norna's curse is on thee.
[_She bears away_ Theresa's _body through the secret door, and
NOTE TO SCENE SECOND.
The mysterious cave was formed of old furniture, covered with dark
draperies, an opening being left at the back wherein the spirits called
up by Norna might appear. A kitchen kettle filled with steaming water
made an effective caldron over which the sorceress should murmur her
incantations; flaming pine-knots cast a lurid glare over the scene; and
large boughs, artfully arranged about the stage, gave it the appearance
of a "gloomy wood."
When Louis "retires within," he at once arrays himself in the white
robes of the vision, and awaits the witch's call to rise behind the
aperture in true dramatic style. He vanishes, quickly resumes his own
attire, while Norna continues to weave her spells, till she sees he is
ready to appear once more as the disguised Count Louis.
[_A wood._ Norna's _cave among the rocks._ _Enter_ Louis
Louis. Yes; 'tis the spot. How dark and still! She is not here. Ho,
Norna, mighty sorceress! I seek thy aid.
Norna [_rising from the cave_]. I am here.
Louis. I seek thee, Norna, to learn tidings of one most dear to me. Dost
thou know aught of Count Rodolpho's wife? A strange tale hath reached me
that not many nights ago she disappeared, and none know whither she hath
gone. Oh, tell me, is this true?
Norna. It is most true.
Louis. And canst thou tell me whither she hath gone? I will reward thee
Norna. I can. She lies within her tomb, in the chapel of the castle.
Louis. Dead!--it cannot be! They told me she had fled away with some
young lord who had won her love. Was it not true?
Norna. It is false as the villain's heart who framed the tale. _I_ bore
the murdered lady to her tomb, and laid her there.
Louis. Murdered? How? When? By whom? Oh, tell me I beseech thee!
Norna. Her husband's cruel hand took the life he had made a burden. I
heard him swear it ere he dealt the blow.
Louis. Wherefore did he kill her? Oh, answer quickly or I shall go mad
with grief and hate.
_Norna._ I can tell thee little. From my hiding-place I heard her vow
never to confess whose dagger had been found in her apartment, and her
jealous lord, in his wild anger, murdered her.
Louis. 'Twas mine. Would it had been sheathed in mine own breast ere it
had caused so dark a deed! Ah, Theresa, why did I leave thee to a fate
Norna. Young man, grieve not; it is too late to save, but there is left
to thee a better thing than grief.
Louis. Oh, what?
Louis. Thou art right. I'll weep no more. Give me thine aid, O mighty
wizard, and I will serve thee well.
Norna. Who art thou? The poor lady's lover?
Louis. Ah, no; far nearer and far deeper was the love I bore her, for I
am her brother.
Norna. Ha, that's well! Thou wilt join me, for I have made a vow to rest
not till that proud, sinful lord hath well atoned for this deep crime.
Spirits shall haunt him, and the darkest phantoms that my art can raise
shall scare his soul. Wilt thou join me in my work?
Louis. I will,--but stay! thou hast spoken of spirits. Dread sorceress,
is it in thy power to call them up?
Norna. It is. Wilt see my skill. Stand back while I call up a phantom
which thou canst not doubt.
[Louis _retires within the cave._ Norna _weaves a spell above
Norna. O spirit, from thy quiet tomb,
I bid thee hither through the gloom,
In winding-sheet, with bloody brow,
Rise up and hear our solemn vow.
I bid thee, with my magic power,
Tell the dark secret of that hour
When cruel hands, with blood and strife,
Closed the sad dream of thy young life.
Hither--appear before our eyes.
Pale spirit, I command thee _rise_.
[_Spirit of_ Theresa _rises._
Shadowy spirit, I charge thee well,
By my mystic art's most potent spell,
To haunt throughout his sinful life,
The mortal who once called thee wife.
At midnight hour glide round his bed,
And lay thy pale hand on his head.
Whisper wild words in his sleeping ear,
And chill his heart with a deadly fear.
Rise at his side in his gayest hour,
And his guilty soul shall feel thy power.
Stand thou before him in day and night,
And cast o'er his life a darksome blight;
For with all his power and sin and pride,
He shall ne'er forget his murdered bride.
Pale, shadowy form, wilt thou obey?
[_The spirit bows its head._
To thy ghostly work away--away!
[_The spirit vanishes._
The spell is o'er, the vow is won,
And, sinful heart, _thy_ curse begun.
Louis. 'Tis enough! I own thy power, and by the spirit of my murdered
sister I have looked upon, I swear to aid thee in thy dark work.
Norna. 'Tis well; and I will use my power to guard thee from the danger
that surrounds thee. And now, farewell. Remember,--thou hast sworn.
[_Another part of the wood.
Rod. They told me that old Norna's cave was 'mong these rocks, and yet I
find it not. By her I hope to learn where young Count Louis is
concealed. Once in my power, he shall not escape to whisper tales of
evil deeds against me. Stay! some one comes. I'll ask my way.
[_Enter_ Louis _masked._
Ho, stand, good sir. Canst guide me to the cell of Norna, the old
Louis. It were little use to tell thee; thou wouldst only win a deeper
curse than that she hath already laid upon thee.
Rod. Hold! who art thou that dare to speak thus to Count Rodolpho?
Louis. That thou canst never know; but this I tell thee: I am thy
deadliest foe, and, aided by the wizard Norna, seek to work thee evil,
and bring down upon thy head the fearful doom thy sin deserves. Wouldst
thou know more,--then seek the witch, and learn the hate she bears thee.
Rod. Fool! thinkst thou I fear thee or thy enchantments? Draw, and
defend thyself! Thou shalt pay dearly for thine insolence to me!
[_Draws his sword._
Louis. I will not stain my weapon with a murderer's blood. I leave thee
to the fate that gathers round thee.
Rod. "Murderer," said he. I am betrayed,--yet no one saw the deed. Yet,
stay! perchance 'twas he who bore Theresa away. He has escaped me, and
will spread the tale. Nay, why should I fear? Courage! One blow, and I
am safe! [_Rushes forward. Spirit of_ Theresa _rises._] What's
that?--her deathlike face,--the wound my hand hath made! Help! help!
[_Rushes out. The spirit vanishes._
[_Room in the castle of_ Rodolpho.
Rod. I see no way save that. Were young Count Louis dead she would
forget the love that had just begun, and by sweet words and gifts I may
yet win her. The young lord must die [_a groan behind the curtain_]. Ha!
what is that? 'Tis nothing; fie upon my fear! I'll banish all
remembrance of the fearful shape my fancy conjured up within the forest.
I'll not do the deed myself,--I have had enough of blood. Hugo the
bandit: he is just the man,--bold, sure of hand, and secret. I will
bribe him well, and when the deed is done, find means to rid me of him
lest he should play me false. I saw him in the courtyard as I entered.
Perchance he is not yet gone. Ho, without there! Bid Hugo here if he be
within the castle.--He is a rough knave, but gold will make all sure.
Hugo. What would my lord with me?
Rod. I ask a favor of thee. Nay, never fear, I'll pay thee well. Wouldst
earn a few gold pieces?
Hugo. Ay, my lord, most gladly would I.
Rod. Nay, sit, good Hugo. Here is wine; drink, and refresh thyself.
Hugo. Thanks, my lord. How can I serve you?
[Rodolpho _gives wine,_ Hugo _sits and drinks._]
Rod. Dost thou know Count Louis, whom the king lately banished?
Hugo. Nay, my lord; I never saw him.
Rod. [_aside_]. Ha! that is well. It matters not; 'tis not of him I
speak. Take more wine, good Hugo. Listen, there is a certain lord,--one
whom I hate. I seek his life. Here is gold--thou hast a dagger, and can
use it well. Dost understand me?
Hugo. Ay, my lord, most clearly. Name the place and hour; count out the
gold,--I and my dagger then are thine.
Rod. 'Tis well. Now harken. In the forest, near old Norna's cave, there
is a quiet spot. Do thou go there to-night at sunset. Watch well, and
when thou seest a tall figure wrapped in a dark cloak, and masked,
spring forth, and do the deed. Then fling the body down the rocks, or
hide it in some secret place. Here is one half the gold; more shall be
thine when thou shalt show some token that the deed is done.
Hugo. Thanks, Count; I'll do thy bidding. At sunset in the forest,--I'll
be there, and see he leaves it not alive. Good-even, then, my lord.
Rod. Hugo, use well thy dagger, and gold awaits thee. Yet, stay! I'll
meet thee in the wood, and pay thee there. They might suspect if they
should see thee here again so soon. I'll meet thee there, and so
Hugo. Adieu, my lord.
Rod. Yes; all goes well. My rival dead, and Leonore is mine. With her I
may forget the pale face that now seems ever looking into mine. I can
almost think the deep wound shows in her picture yonder. But this is
folly! Shame on thee, Rodolpho. I'll think of it no more. [_Turns to
drink._ Theresa's _face appears within the picture, the wound upon her
brow._] Ha! what is that? Am I going mad? See the eyes move,--it is
Theresa's face! Nay, I will not look again. Yes, yes; 'tis there! Will
this sad face haunt me forever?
Theresa. Forever! Forever!
Rod. Fiends take me,--'tis her voice! It is no dream. Ah, let me go
[Rodolpho _rushes wildly out._]
NOTE TO SCENE FIFTH.
The apparently impossible transformations of this scene (when played by
two actors only) may be thus explained:--
The costumes of Louis and Norna, being merely loose garments, afford
opportunities for rapid change; and the indulgent audience overlooking
such minor matters as boots and wigs, it became an easy matter for Jo to
transform herself into either of the four characters which she assumed
on this occasion.
Beneath the flowing robes of the sorceress Jo was fully dressed as Count
Rodolpho. Laid conveniently near were the black cloak, hat, and mask of
Louis,--also the white draperies required for the ghostly Theresa.
Thus, Norna appears in long, gray robe, to which are attached the hood
and elf-locks of the witch. Seeing Hugo approach she conceals herself
among the trees, thus gaining time to don the costume of Louis, and
appear to Hugo who awaits him.
Hugo stabs and drags him from the stage. Louis then throws off his
disguise and becomes Rodolpho, fully dressed for his entrance a moment
As Hugo does not again appear, it is an easy matter to assume the
character of the spectre and produce the sights and sounds which terrify
the guilty Count; then slipping on the witch's robe, be ready to glide
forth and close the scene with dramatic effect.
[_The wood near_ Norna's _cave._
Norna. It is the hour I bid him come with the letter for Lady Leonore.
Poor youth, his sister slain, his life in danger, and the lady of his
love far from him, 'tis a bitter fate. But, if old Norna loses not her
power, he shall yet win his liberty, his love, and his revenge. Ah, he
comes,--nay, 'tis the ruffian Hugo. I will conceal myself,--some evil is
afoot [_hides among the trees_].
Hugo. This is the spot. Here will I hide, and bide my time [_conceals
himself among the rocks_].
Louis. She is not here. I'll wait awhile and think of Leonore. How will
she receive this letter? Ah, could she know how, 'mid all my grief and
danger, her dear face shines in my heart, and cheers me on. [Hugo
_steals out, and as he turns, stabs him._] Ha, villain, thou hast killed
me! I am dying! God bless thee, Leonore! Norna, remember, vengeance on
Hugo. Nay, nay, thou wilt take no revenge; thy days are ended, thanks to
this good steel. Now, for the token [_takes letter from_ Louis's
_hand_]. Ah, this he cannot doubt. I will take this ring too; 'tis a
costly one. I'll hide the body in the thicket yonder, ere my lord
arrives [_drags out the body_].
Rod. Not here? Can he have failed? Here is blood--it may be his. I'll
call. Hugo, good Hugo, art thou here?
Hugo [_stealing from the trees_]. Ay, my lord, I am here. All is safely
done: the love-sick boy lies yonder in the thicket, dead as steel can
make him. And here is the token if you doubt me, and the ring I just
took from his hand [_gives letter_].
Rod. Nay, nay, I do not doubt thee; keep thou the ring. I am content
with this. Tell me, did he struggle with thee when thou dealt the blow?
Hugo. Nay, my lord; he fell without a groan, and murmuring something of
revenge on thee, he died. Hast thou the gold?
Rod. Yes, yes, I have it. Take it, and remember I can take thy life as
easily as thou hast his, if thou shouldst whisper what hath been this
day done. Now go; I've done with thee.
Hugo. And I with thee. Adieu, my lord.
Rod. Now am I safe,--no mortal knows of Theresa's death by my hand, and
Leonore is mine.
Voice [_within the wood]._ Never--never!
Rod. Curses on me! Am I bewitched? Surely, I heard a voice; perchance
'twas but an echo [_a wild laugh rings through the trees_]. Fiends take
the wood! I'll stay no longer! [_Turns to fly._ Theresa's _spirit
rises._] 'Tis there,--help, help--[_Rushes wildly out._]
Norna. Ha, ha! fiends shall haunt thee, thou murderer! Another sin upon
thy soul,--another life to be avenged! Poor, murdered youth, now gone to
join thy sister. I will lay thee by her side and then to my work. He
hath raised another ghost to haunt him. Let him beware!
[_Chamber in the castle of_ Lady Leonore.
Leonore. Ah, how wearily the days go by. No tidings of Count Louis, and
Count Rodolpho urges on his suit so earnestly. I must accept his hand
to-day, or refuse his love, and think no more of Louis. I know not how
to choose. Rodolpho loves me: I am an orphan and alone, and in his
lovely home I may be happy. I have heard it whispered that he is both
stern and cruel, yet methinks it cannot be,--he is so tender when with
me. Ah, would I could forget Count Louis! He hath never told his love,
and doubtless thinks no more of her who treasures up his gentle words,
and cannot banish them, even when another offers a heart and home few
would refuse. How shall I answer Count Rodolpho when he comes? I do not
love him as I should, and yet it were no hard task to learn with so fond
a teacher. Shall I accept his love, or shall I reject?
[Norna _suddenly appears._
Leonore. Who art thou? Leave me, or I call for aid.
Norna. Nay, lady, fear not. I come not here to harm thee, but to save
thee from a fate far worse than death. I am old Norna of the forest, and
though they call me witch and sorceress, I am a woman yet, and with a
heart to pity and to love. I would save thy youth and beauty from the
blight I fear will fall upon thee.
Leonore. Save me! from what? How knowest thou I am in danger; and from
what wouldst thou save me, Norna?
Norna. From Lord Rodolpho, lady.
Leonore. Ah! and why from him? Tell on, I'll listen to thee now. He hath
offered me his heart and hand. Why should I not accept them, Norna?
Norna. That heart is filled with dark and evil passions, and that hand
is stained with blood. Ay, lady, well mayst thou start. I will tell thee
more. The splendid home he would lead thee to is darkened by a fearful
crime, and his fair palace haunted by the spirit of a murdered wife.
[Leonore _starts up._
Leonore. Wife, sayest thou? He told me he was never wed. Mysterious
woman, tell me more! How dost thou know 'tis true, and wherefore was it
done? I have a right to know. Oh, speak, and tell me all!
Norna. For that have I come hither. He hath been wed to a lady, young
and lovely as thyself. He kept her prisoner in his splendid home, and by
neglect and cruelty he broke as warm and true a heart as ever beat in
woman's breast. Her brother stole unseen to cheer and comfort her, and
this aroused her lord's suspicions, and he bid her to confess who was
her unknown friend. She would not yield her brother to his hate, and he
in his wild anger murdered her. I heard his cruel words, her prayers for
mercy, and I stood beside the lifeless form and marked the blow his evil
hand had given her. And there I vowed I would avenge the deed, and for
this have I come hither to warn thee of thy danger. He loves thee only
for thy wealth, and when thou art his, will wrong thee as he hath the
Leonore. How shall I ever thank thee for this escape from sorrow and
despair? I did not love him, but I am alone, and his kind words were
sweet and tender. I thought with him I might be happy yet, but--Ah, how
little did I dream of sin like this! Thank Heaven, 'tis not too late!
Norna. How wilt thou answer Lord Rodolpho now?
Leonore. I will answer him with all the scorn and loathing that I feel.
I fear him not, and he shall learn how his false vows are despised, and
his sins made known.
Norna. 'Tis well; but stay,--be thou not too proud. Speak fairly, and
reject him courteously; for he will stop at nought in his revenge if
thou but rouse his hatred. And now, farewell. I'll watch above thee, and
in thy hour of danger old Norna will be nigh. Stay, give me some token,
by which thou wilt know the messenger I may find cause to send thee. The
fierce Count will seek to win thee, and repay thy scorn by all the evil
his cruel heart can bring.
Leonore. Take this ring, and I will trust whoever thou mayst send with
it. I owe thee much, and, believe me, I am grateful for thy care, and
will repay thee by my confidence and truth. Farewell, old Norna; watch
thou above the helpless, and thine old age shall be made happy by my
Norna. Heaven bless thee, gentle lady. Good angels guard thee. Norna
will not forget.
Leonore. 'Tis like a dream, so strange, so terrible,--he whom I thought
so gentle, and so true is stained with fearful crimes! Poor, murdered
lady! Have I escaped a fate like thine? Ah, I hear his step! Now, heart,
be firm and he shall enter here no more.
Rod. Sweet lady, I am here to learn my fate. I have told my love, and
thou hast listened; I have asked thy hand, and thou hast not refused it.
I have offered all that I possess,--my home, my heart. Again I lay them
at thy feet, beloved Leonore. Oh, wilt thou but accept them, poor tho'
they be, and in return let me but claim this fair hand as mine own?
[_Takes her hand and kneels before her._
Leonore [_withdrawing her hand_]. My lord, forgive me, but I cannot
grant it. When last we met thou didst bid me ask my heart if it could
love thee. It hath answered, "Nay." I grieve I cannot make a fit return
for all you offer, but I have no love to give, and without it this poor
hand were worthless. There are others far more fit to grace thy home
than I. Go, win thyself a loving bride, and so forget Leonore.
Rod. What hath changed thee thus since last we met. Then wert thou kind,
and listened gladly to my love. Now there is a scornful smile upon thy
lips, and a proud light in thine eye. What means this? Why dost thou
look so coldly on me, Leonore? Who has whispered false tales in thine
ear? Believe them not. I am as true as Heaven to thee; then do not cast
away the heart so truly thine. Smile on me, dearest; thou art my first,
last, only love.
Leonore. 'Tis false, my lord! Hast thou so soon forgot _Theresa_?
Rod. What! Who told thee that accursed tale? What dost thou mean,
Leonore. I mean thy sinful deeds are known. Thou hast asked me why I
will not wed thee, and I answer, I will not give my hand unto a
Rod. Murderer! No more of this! Thy tale is false; forget it, and I will
forgive the idle words. Now listen; I came hither to receive thy answer
to my suit. Think ere thou decide. Thou art an orphan, unprotected and
alone. I am powerful and great. Wilt thou take my love, and with it
honor, wealth, happiness, and ease, or my hate, which will surely follow
thee and bring down desolation on thee and all thou lovest? Now choose,
my hatred, or my love.
Leonore. My lord, I scorn thy love, and I defy thy hate. Work thy will,
I fear thee not. I am not so unprotected as thou thinkest. There are
unseen friends around me who will save in every peril, and who are sworn
to take revenge on thee for thy great sins. This is my answer;
henceforth we are strangers; now leave me. I would be alone.
Rod. Not yet, proud lady. If thou wilt not love, I'll make thee learn to
fear the heart thou hast so scornfully cast away. Let thy friends guard
thee well; thou wilt need their care when I begin my work of vengeance.
Thou mayst smile, but thou shalt rue the day when Count Rodolpho asked
and was refused. But I will yet win thee, and then beware! And when thou
dost pray for mercy on thy knees, remember the haughty words thou hast
this day spoken.
Leonore. Do thy worst, murderer; spirits will watch above me, and thou
canst not harm. Adieu, my lord.
Rod. Foiled again! Some demon works against me. Who could have told her
of Theresa? A little longer, and I should have won a rich young bride,
and now this tale of murder mars it all. But I will win her yet, and
wring her proud heart till she shall bend her haughty head and sue for
How shall it be done? Stay! Ha, I see a way!--the letter Louis would
have sent her ere he died. She knows not of his death, and I will send
this paper bidding her to meet her lover in the forest. She cannot doubt
the lines his own hand traced. She will obey,--and I'll be there to lead
her to my castle. I'll wed her, and she may scorn, weep, and pray in
vain. Ha, ha! proud Leonore, spite of thy guardian spirits thou shalt be
mine, and then for my revenge!
_Enter_ Leonore _with a letter_.]
Leonore. 'Tis strange; an unknown page thrust this into my hand while
kneeling in the chapel. Ah, surely, I should know this hand! 'Tis
Louis's, and at last he hath returned, and still remembers Leonore
[_opens letter and reads_].
Dearest Lady,--I am banished from the land by Count Rodolpho's
false tales to the king; and thus I dare not venture near thee.
But by the love my lips have never told, I do conjure thee to
bestow one last look, last word, on him whose cruel fate it is
to leave all that he most fondly loves. If thou wilt grant this
prayer, meet me at twilight in the glen beside old Norna's
cave. She will be there to guard thee. Dearest Leonore, before
we part, perchance forever, grant this last boon to one who in
banishment, in grief and peril, is forever thy devoted
He loves me, and mid danger still remembers. Ah, Louis, there is nothing
thou canst ask I will not gladly grant. I'll go; the sun is well-nigh
set, and I can steal away unseen to whisper hope and comfort ere we part
forever. Now, Count Rodolpho, thou hast given me another cause for hate.
Louis, I can love thee tho' thou art banished and afar.
Hark! 'tis the vesper-bell. Now, courage, heart, and thou shalt mourn no
[_Glen near_ Norna's _cave.
Leonore. Norna is not here, nor Louis. Why comes he not? Surely 'tis the
place. Norna! Louis! art thou here?
[_Enter_ Rodolpho, _masked_.
Rod. I am here, dear lady. Do not fear me; I may not unmask even to
thee, for spies may still be near me. Wilt thou pardon, and still trust
me tho' thou canst not see how fondly I am looking on thee. See! here is
my ring, my dagger. Oh, Leonore, do not doubt me!
Leonore. I do trust thee; canst thou doubt it now? Oh, Louis! I feared
thou wert dead. Why didst thou not tell me all before. And where wilt
thou go, and how can I best serve thee? Nought thou canst ask my love
shall leave undone.
Rod. Wilt thou let me guide thee to yonder tower? I fear to tell thee
here, and old Norna is there waiting for thee. Come, love, for thy
Louis's sake, dare yet a little more, and I will tell thee how thou
canst serve me. Wilt thou not put thy faith in me, Leonore?
Leonore. I will. Forgive me, if I seem to fear thee; but thy voice
sounds strangely hollow, and thine eyes look darkly on me from behind
this mask. Thou wilt lay it by when we are safe, and then I shall forget
this foolish fear that hangs upon me.
Rod. Thine own hands shall remove it, love. Come, it is not far. Would I
might guide thee thus through life! Come, dearest!
[_Castle of_ Rodolpho. _The haunted chamber.
Enter_ Rodolpho _leading_ Leonore.]
Leonore. Where art thou leading me, dear Louis? Thy hiding-place is a
pleasant one, but where is Norna? I thought she waited for us.
Rod. She will soon be here. Ah, how can I thank thee for this joyful
hour, Leonore. I can forget all danger and all sorrow now.
Leonore. Nay, let me cast away this mournful mask! I long to look upon
thy face once more. Wilt thou let me, Louis?
Rod. Ay, look upon me if thou wilt;--dost like it, lady? [_Drops his
disguise._ Leonore _shrieks, and rushes to the door, but finds it
locked_.] 'Tis useless; there are none to answer to thy call. All here
are my slaves, and none dare disobey. Where are thy proud words now?
hast thou no scornful smile for those white lips, no anger in those
beseeching eyes? Where are thy friends? Why come they not to aid thee?
Said I not truly my revenge was sure?
Leonore. Oh, pardon me, and pity! See, I will kneel to thee, pray, weep,
if thou wilt only let me go. Forgive my careless words! Oh, Count
Rodolpho, take me home, and I will forget this cruel jest [_kneels_].
Rod. Ha, ha! It is no jest, and thou hast no home but this. Didst thou
not come willingly? I used no force; and all disguise is fair in love.
Nay, kneel not to me. Did I not say thou wouldst bend thy proud head,
and sue for mercy, and I would deny it? Where is thy defiance now?
Leonore [_rising_]. I'll kneel no more to thee. The first wild fear is
past, and thou shalt find me at thy feet no more. As I told thee _then_,
I tell thee _now_,--thine I will never be; and think not I will fail or
falter at thy threats. Contempt of thee is too strong for fear.
Rod. Not conquered yet. Time will teach thee to speak more courteously
to thy master. Ah, thou mayst well look upon these bawbles. They were
thy lover's once. This ring was taken from his lifeless hand; this
dagger from his bleeding breast, as he lay within the forest whence I
led thee. This scroll I found next his heart when it had ceased to beat.
I lured thee hither with it, and won my sweet revenge. [Leonore _sinks
down weeping._] Now rest thee; for when the castle clock strikes ten, I
shall come to lead thee to the altar. The priest is there,--this ring
shall wed thee. Farewell, fair bride; remember,--there is no escape, and
thou art mine forever.
Leonore [_starting up_]. Never! I shall be free when thou mayst think
help past forever. There is a friend to help me, and an arm to save,
when earthly aid is lost. Thine I shall never be! Thou mayst seek me; I
shall be gone.
Rod. Thou wilt need thy prayers. I shall return,--remember, when the
clock strikes ten, I come to win my bride.
Leonore. He has gone, and now a few short hours of life are left to me;
for if no other help shall come, death can save me from a fate I loathe.
Ah, Louis, Louis, thou art gone forever! Norna, where is thy promise now
to guard me? Is there no help? Nor tears nor prayers can melt that cruel
heart, and I am in his power. Ha! what is that?--_his_ dagger, taken
from his dying breast. How gladly would he have drawn it forth to save
his poor Leonore! Alas, that hand is cold forever! But I must be calm.
He shall see how a weak woman's heart can still defy him, and win
liberty by death [_takes the dagger; clock strikes ten_]. It is the
hour,--the knell of my young life. Hark! they come. Louis, thy Leonore
ere long will join thee, never more to part.
[_The secret panel opens._ Adrian _enters masked._]
Adrian. Stay, lady! stay thy hand! I come to save thee. Norna sends
me,--see, thy token; doubt not, nor delay; another moment, we are lost.
Oh, fly, I do beseech thee!
Leonore. Heaven bless thee; I will come. Kind friend, I put a helpless
maiden's trust in thee.
Adrian. Stay not! away, away!
[_Exit through the secret panel, which disappears._
Rod. Is my fair bride ready? Ha! Leonore, where art thou?
Voice. Gone,--gone forever!
Rod. Girl, mock me not; come forth, I say. Thou shalt not escape me.
Leonore, answer! Where is my bride?
Voice [_behind the curtains_]. Here--
Rod. Why do I fear? She is there concealed [_lifts the curtain; spirit
of_ Theresa _rises_]. The fiends! what is that? The spirit haunts me
Voice. Forever, forever--
Rod. [_rushes to the door but finds it locked_]. What ho! without
there! Beat down the door! Pedro! Carlos! let me come forth! They do not
come! Nay, 'tis my fancy; I will forget it all. Still, the door is fast;
Leonore is gone. _Who_ groans so bitterly? Wild voices are sounding in
the air, ghastly faces are looking on me as I turn, unseen hands bar the
door, and dead men are groaning in mine ears. I'll not look, not listen;
'tis some spell set on me. Let it pass!
[_Throws himself down and covers his face._
Voice. The spell will not cease,
The curse will not fly,
And spirits shall haunt
Till the murderer shall die.
Rod. Again, spirit or demon, wherefore dost thou haunt me, and what art
thou? [Theresa's _spirit rises._] Ha! am I gone mad? Unbar the door!
Help! help! [_Falls fainting to the floor._]
Norna. Lie there, thou sinful wretch! Old Norna's curse ends but with
[_A room in the castle of_ Rodolpho.
Rod. Dangers seem thickening round me. Some secret spy is watching me
unseen,--I fear 'tis Hugo, spite the gold I gave him, and the vows he
made. A higher bribe may win the secret from him, and then I am undone.
Pedro hath told me that a stranger, cloaked and masked, was lurking near
the castle on the night when Leonore so strangely vanished [_a laugh_].
Ha!--what's that?--methought I heard that mocking laugh again! I am
grown fearful as a child since that most awful night. Well, well, let it
pass! If Hugo comes to-night, obedient to the message I have sent, I'll
see he goes not hence alive. This cup shalt be thy last, good Hugo!
[_Puts poison in the wine-cup._] He comes,--now for my revenge!
[_Enter_ Hugo.] Ah, Hugo, welcome! How hath it fared with thee since
last we met? Thou lookest weary,--here is wine; sit and refresh thyself.
Hugo. I came not hither, Count Rodolpho, to seek wine, but gold. Hark
ye! I am poor; thou art rich, but in my power, for proud and noble
though thou art, the low-born Hugo can bring death and dishonor on thy
head by whispering one word to the king. Ha!--now give me gold or I will
Rod. Thou bold villain, what means this? I paid thee well, and thou
didst vow to keep my secret. Threaten me not. Thou art in my power, and
shall never leave this room alive. I fear thee not. My menials are at
hand,--yield thyself; thou art fairly caught, and cannot now escape me.
Hugo. Nay, not so fast, my lord. One blast upon my horn, and my brave
band, concealed below, will answer to my call. Ha! ha! thou art caught,
my lord. Thy life is in my hands, and thou must purchase it by fifty
good pistoles paid down to me; if not, I will charge thee with the crime
thou didst bribe me to perform, and thus win a rich reward. Choose,--thy
life is nought to me.
Rod. Do but listen, Hugo. I have no gold; smile if thou wilt, but I am
poor. This castle only is mine own, and I am seeking now a rich young
bride whose wealth will hide my poverty. Be just, good Hugo, and forgive
the harsh words I have spoken. Wait till I am wed, and I will pay thee
Hugo. That will I not. I'll have no more of thee, false lord! The king
will well reward me, and thou mayst keep thy gold. Farewell! Thou wilt
see me once again.
Rod. Stay, Hugo, stay! Give me but time; I may obtain the gold. Wait a
little, and it shall be thine. Wilt thou not drink? 'Tis the wine thou
likest so well. See! I poured it ready for thee.
Hugo. Nay; I will serve myself. Wine of thy mixing would prove too
strong for me [_sits down and drinks._ Rodolpho _paces up and down
waiting a chance to stab him_]. Think quickly, my good lord; I must be
gone [_turns his head._ R. _raises his dagger._ Hugo _rising_]. I'll
wait no more; 'tis growing late, and I care not to meet the spirits
which I hear now haunt thy castle. Well, hast thou the gold?
Rod. Not yet; but if thou wilt wait--
Hugo. I tell thee I will not. I'll be deceived no longer. Thou art mine,
and I'll repay thy scornful words and sinful deeds by a prisoner's cell.
And so, adieu, my lord. Escape is useless, for thou wilt be watched.
Hugo is the master now!
Rod. Thou cunning villain, I'll outwit thee yet. I will disguise myself,
and watch thee well, and when least thou thinkest it, my dagger shall be
at thy breast. And now one thing remains to me, and that is flight. I
must leave all and go forth poor, dishonored, and alone; sin on my
head, and fear within my heart. Will the sun never set? How slow the
hours pass! In the first gloom of night, concealed in yonder old monk's
robe, I'll silently glide forth, and fly from Hugo and this haunted
house. Courage, Rodolpho, thou shalt yet win a name and fortune for
thyself. Now let me rest awhile; I shall need strength for the perils of
the night [_lies down and sleeps_].
Norna. Poor fool! thy greatest foe is here,--her thou shalt not escape.
Hugo shall be warned, and thou alone shalt fall.
[_She makes signs from the window and vanishes._
Rod. [_awakes and rises_]. Ah, what fearful dreams are mine!
Theresa--Louis--still they haunt me! Whither shall I turn? Who comes?
[_Enter_ Gaspard.] Art thou another phantom sent to torture me?
Gasp. 'Tis I, leader of the king's brave guards, sent hither to arrest
thee, my lord; for thou art charged with murder.
Rod. Who dares to cast so foul a stain on Count Rodolpho's name.
Gasp. My lord, yield thyself. The king may show thee mercy yet--
Rod. I will yield, and prove my innocence, and clear mine honor to the
king. Reach me my cloak yonder, and I am ready.
[Gaspard _turns to seek the cloak._ Rodolpho _leaps from the
window and disappears._
Gasp. Ha! he hath escaped,--curses on my carelessness! [_Rushes to the
window._] Ho, there! surround the castle, the prisoner hath fled! We'll
have him yet, the blood-stained villain!
[_Exit_ Gaspard. _Shouts and clashing of swords heard._
Leonore _and_ _Adrian_.]
Adrian. Dear lady, can I do nought to while away the lonely hours? Shall
I go forth and bring thee flowers, or seek thy home and bear away thy
bird, thy lute, or aught that may beguile thy solitude? It grieves me
that I can do so little for thee.
Leonore. Nay, 'tis I should grieve that I can find no way to show my
gratitude to thee, my brave deliverer. But wilt thou not tell me who
thou art? I would fain know to whom I owe my life and liberty.
Adrian. Nay, that I may not tell thee. I have sworn a solemn vow, and
till that is fulfilled I may not cast aside this sorrowful disguise.
Meanwhile, thou mayst call me Adrian. Wilt thou pardon and trust me
Leonore. Canst thou doubt my faith in thee? Thou and old Norna are the
only friends now left to poor Leonore. I put my whole heart's trust in
thee. But if thou canst not tell me of thyself, wilt tell me why thou
hast done so much for me, a friendless maiden?
Adrian. I fear it will cause thee sorrow, lady; and thou hast grief
enough to bear.
Leonore. Do not fear. I would so gladly know--
Adrian. Forgive me if I make thee weep: I had a friend,--most dear to
me. He loved a gentle lady, but ere he could tell her this, he died, and
bid me vow to watch above her whom he loved, and guard her with my life.
I took the vow: that lady was thyself, that friend Count Louis.
Leonore. Ah, Louis! Louis! that heart thou feared to ask is buried with
Adrian. Thou didst love him, lady?
Leonore. Love him? Most gladly would I lie down within my grave
tonight, could I but call him back to life again.
Adrian. Grieve not; thou hast one friend who cannot change,--one who
through joy and sorrow will find his truest happiness in serving thee.
Hist! I hear a step: I will see who comes.
Leonore. Kind, watchful friend, how truly do I trust thee!
Adrian. Conceal thyself, dear lady, with all speed. 'Tis Count Rodolpho.
Let me lead thee to the inner cave,--there thou wilt be safe.
[_They retire within; noise heard without. Enter_ Rodolpho.
Rod. At last I am safe. Old Norna will conceal me till I can find means
to leave the land. Ha!--voices within there. Ho, there! old wizard,
hither! I have need of thee!
Adrian. What wouldst thou?
Rod. Nought. Get thee hence! I seek old Norna.
Adrian. Thou canst not see her; she is not here.
Rod. Not here? 'Tis false,--I heard a woman's voice within there. Let me
Adrian. 'Tis not old Norna, and thou canst not pass.
Rod. Ah, then, who might it be, my most mysterious sir?
Adrian. The Lady Leonore.
Rod. Ha!--how came she hither? By my soul, thou liest! Stand back and
let me go. She is mine!
Adrian. Thou canst only enter here above my lifeless body. Leonore is
here, and I am her protector and thy deadliest foe. 'Tis for thee to
yield and leave this cell.
Rod. No more of this,--thou hast escaped me once. Draw and defend
thyself, if thou hast courage to meet a brave man's sword!
Adrian. But for Leonore I would not stoop so low, or stain my sword; but
for her sake I'll dare all, and fight thee to the last.
[_They fight their way out. Enter_ Rodolpho.
Rod. At length fate smiles upon me. I am the victor,--and now for
Leonore! All danger is forgotten in the joy of winning my revenge on
this proud girl! Thou art mine at last, Leonore, and mine forever!
[_Rushes towards the inner cave. Spirit of_ Theresa _rises._] There 'tis
again! I will not fly,--I do defy it! [_Attempts to pass. Spirit touches
him; he drops his sword and rushes wildly away._] 'Tis vain: I
cannot--dare not pass. It comes, it follows me. Whither shall I fly?
[_Exit. Enter_ Adrian _wounded._
Adrian. I have saved her once again,--but oh, this deathlike faintness
stealing o'er me robs me of my strength. Thou art safe, Leonore, and I
am content. [_Falls fainting._]
Leonore. They are gone. Ah, what has chanced? I heard his voice, and now
'tis still as death. Where is my friend? God grant he be not hurt! I'll
venture forth and seek him [_sees_ Adrian _unconscious before her_]. Oh,
what is this? Adrian, kind friend, dost thou not hear me? There is blood
upon his hand! Can he be dead? No, no! he breathes, he moves; this mask,
I will remove it,--surely he will forgive.
[_Attempts to unmask him; he prevents her._
Adrian [_reviving_]. Nay, nay; it must not be. I am better now. The blow
but stunned me,--it will pass away. And thou art safe?
Leonore. I feared not for myself, but thee. Come, rest thee here, thy
wound is bleeding; let me bind it with my kerchief, and bring thee wine.
Let me serve thee who hath done so much for me. Art better now! Can I do
aught else for thee?
Adrian. No more, dear lady. Think not of me, and listen while I tell
thee of the dangers that surround thee. Count Rodolpho knows thou art
here, and may return with men and arms to force thee hence. My single
arm could then avail not, though I would gladly die for thee. Where then
can I lead thee,--no place can be too distant, no task too hard for him
whose joy it is to serve thee.
Leonore. Alas! I know not. I dare not seek my home while Count Rodolpho
is my foe; my servants would be bribed,--they would betray me, and thou
wouldst not be there to save. Adrian, I have no friend but thee. Oh,
pity and protect me!
Adrian. Most gladly will I, dearest lady. Thou canst never know the joy
thy confidence hath wakened in my heart. I will save and guard thee with
my life. I will guide thee to a peaceful home where no danger can
approach, and only friends surround thee. Thy Louis dwelt there once,
and safely mayst thou rest till danger shall be past. Will this please
Leonore. Oh, Adrian, thou kind, true friend, how can I tell my
gratitude, and where find truer rest than in _his_ home, where gentle
memories of him will lighten grief. Then take me there, and I will prove
my gratitude by woman's fondest friendship, and my life-long trust.
Adrian. Thanks, dear lady. I need no other recompense than the joy 'tis
in my power to give thee. I will watch faithfully above thee, and when
thou needest me no more, I'll leave thee to the happiness thy gentle
heart so well deserves. Now rest, while I seek out old Norna, and
prepare all for our flight. The way we have to tread is long and weary.
Rest thee, dear lady.
Leonore. Adieu, dear friend. I will await thee ready for our pilgrimage,
and think not I shall fail or falter, though the path be long, and
dangers gather round us. I shall not fear, for thou wilt be there. God
bless thee, Adrian.
[_Room in the castle of_ Louis.
Leonore _singing to her lute._]
The weary bird mid stormy skies,
Flies home to her quiet nest,
And 'mid the faithful ones she loves,
Finds shelter and sweet rest.
And thou, my heart, like to tired bird,
Hath found a peaceful home,
Where love's soft sunlight gently falls,
And sorrow cannot come.
Leonore. 'Tis strange that I can sing, but in this peaceful home my
sorrow seems to change to deep and quiet joy. Louis seems ever near, and
Adrian's silent acts of tenderness beguile my solitary hours, and daily
grow more dear to me. He guards me day and night, seeking to meet my
slightest wish, and gather round me all I hold most dear. [_Enter a_
Page.] Angelo, what wouldst thou?
Page. My master bid me bring these flowers and crave thee to accept them
Leonore. Bear him my thanks, and tell him that his gift is truly
welcome. [_Exit_ Page.] These are the blossoms he was gathering but now
upon the balcony; he hath sent the sweetest and the fairest [_a letter
falls from the nosegay_]. But what is here? He hath never sent me aught
like this before [_opens and reads the letter_].
Dearest Lady,--Wilt thou pardon the bold words I here address
to thee, and forgive me if I grieve one on whom I would bestow
only the truest joy. In giving peace to thy heart I have lost
mine own. I was thy guide and comforter, and soon, unknown to
thee, thy lover. I love thee, Leonore, fondly and truly; and
here I ask, wilt thou accept the offering of a heart that will
forever cherish thee. If thou canst grant this blessed boon,
fling from the casement the white rose I send thee; but if thou
canst not accept my love, forgive me for avowing it, and drop
the cypress bough I have twined about the rose. I will not pain
thee to refuse in words,--the mournful token is enough. Ask
thine own heart if thou, who hast loved Louis, can feel aught
save friendship for the unknown, nameless stranger, who through
life and death is ever
Thy loving Adrian.
Oh, how shall I reply to this,--how blight a love so tender and so true?
I have longed to show my gratitude, to prove how I have revered this
noble friend. The hour has come when I may make his happiness, and prove
my trust. And yet my heart belongs to Louis, and I cannot love another.
Adrian was his friend; he loved him, and confided me to him. Nobly hath
he fulfilled that trust, and where could I find a truer friend than he
who hath saved me from danger and from death, and now gives me the power
to gladden and to bless his life. Adrian, if thou wilt accept a sister's
love and friendship, they shall be thine. Louis, forgive me if I wrong
thee; for though I yield my hand, my heart is thine forever. This rose,
Adrian, to thee; this mournful cypress shall be mine in memory of my
blighted hopes [_goes to the_ _window and looks out_]. See! he is
waiting yonder by the fountain for the token that shall bring him joy or
sorrow. Thou noble friend, thy brave, true heart shall grieve no longer,
for thus will Leonore repay the debt of gratitude she owes thee [_flings
the rose from the window_]. He hath placed it in his bosom, and is
coming hither to pour forth his thanks for the poor gift bestowed. I
will tell him all, and if he will accept, then I am his.
[_Enter_ Adrian _with the rose_.
Adrian. Dear lady, how can I tell thee the joy thou hast given me. This
blessed flower from thy dear hand hath told thy pardon and consent. Oh,
Leonore, canst thou love a nameless stranger who is so unworthy the
great boon thou givest.
Leonore. Listen, Adrian, ere thou dost thank me for a divided heart.
Thou hast been told my love for Louis; he was thy friend, and well thou
knowest how true and tender was the heart he gave me. He hath gone, and
with him rests my first deep love. Thou art my only friend and my
protector; thou hast won my gratitude and warmest friendship. I can
offer thee a sister's pure affection,--my hand is thine; and here I
pledge thee that as thou hast watched o'er me, so now thy happiness
shall be my care, thy love my pride and joy. Here is my hand,--wilt thou
accept it, Adrian?
Adrian. I will. I would not seek to banish from thy heart the silent
love thou bearest Louis. I am content if thou wilt trust me with thy
happiness, and give me the sweet right to guide and guard thee through
the pilgrimage of life. God bless thee, dearest.
Leonore. Dear Adrian, can I do nought for thee? I have now won the right
to cheer thy sorrows. Have faith in thy Leonore.
Adrian. Thou hast a right to know all, and ere long thou shalt. My
mysterious vow will now soon be fulfilled, and then no doubt shall part
us. Thou hast placed thy trust in me, and I have not betrayed it, and
now I ask a greater boon of thy confiding heart. Wilt thou consent to
wed me ere I cast aside this mask forever? Believe me, thou wilt not
regret it,--'tis part of my vow; one last trial, and I will prove to
thee thou didst not trust in vain. Forgive if I have asked too much.
Nay, thou canst not grant so strange a boon.
Leonore. I can--I will. I did but pause, for it seemed strange thou
couldst not let me look upon thy face. But think not that I fear to
grant thy wish. Thy heart is pure and noble, and that thou canst not
mask. As I trusted thee through my despair, so now I trust thee in my
joy. Canst thou ask more, dear friend?
Adrian. Ever trust me thus! Ah, Leonore, how can I repay thee? My love,
my life, are all I can give thee for the blessed gift thou hast
bestowed. A time will come when all this mystery shall cease and we
shall part no more. Now must I leave thee, dearest. Farewell! Soon will
Leonore. I will strive to be a true and loving wife to thee, dear
Adrian; for I have won a faithful friend in thee forever.
[_Hall in the castle of_ Count Louis.
_Enter_ Leonore, _in bridal robes_.]
Leonore. At length the hour hath come, when I shall look upon the face
of him whom I this day have sworn to love and honor as a wife. I have,
perchance, been rash in wedding one I know not, but will not cast a
doubt on him who hath proved the noble heart that beats within his
breast. I am his, and come what may, the vows I have this day made shall
be unbroken. Ah, he comes; and now shall I gaze upon my husband's face!
Adrian. Dearest, fear not. Thou wilt not trust me less when thou hast
looked upon the face so long concealed. My vow is ended, thou art won.
Thy hand is mine; Leonore, I claim thy heart.
[_Unmasks._ Leonore _screams and falls upon his breast_.
Leonore. Louis, Louis! 'Tis a blessed dream!
Louis. No dream, my Leonore; it is thy living Louis who hath watched
above thee, and now claims thee for his own. Ah, dearest, I have tried
thee too hardly,--pardon me!
Leonore. Oh, Louis, husband, I have nought to pardon; my life, my
liberty, my happiness,--all, all, I owe to thee. How shall I repay thee?
[_Weeps upon his bosom._]
Louis. By banishing these tears, dear love, and smiling on me as you
used to do. Here, love, sit beside me while I tell thee my most strange
tale, and then no longer shalt thou wonder. Art happy now thy Adrian
hath flung by his mask?
Leonore. Happy! What deeper joy can I desire than that of seeing thy
dear face once more? But tell me, Louis, how couldst thou dwell so long
beside me and not cheer my bitter sorrow when I grieved for thee.
Louis. Ah, Leonore, thou wouldst not reproach me, didst thou know how
hard I struggled with my heart, lest I should by some tender word, some
fond caress, betray myself when thou didst grieve for me.
Leonore. Why didst thou fear to tell thy Leonore? She would have aided
and consoled thee. Why didst thou let me pine in sorrow at thy side,
when but a word had filled my heart with joy?
Louis. Dearest, I dared not. Thou knowest I was banished by the hate of
that fiend Rodolpho. I had a fair and gentle sister, whom he wed, and
after cruelty and coldness that I dread to think of now, he murdered
her. I sought old Norna's aid. She promised it, and well hath kept her
word. When Count Rodolpho's ruffian left me dying in the forest, she
saved, and brought me back to life. She bade me take a solemn vow not to
betray myself, and to aid her in her vengeance on the murderer of
Theresa. Nor could I own my name and rank, lest it should reach the king
who had banished me. The vow I took, and have fulfilled.
Leonore. And is there no danger now? Art thou safe, dear Louis, from the
Louis. Fear not, my love. He will never harm us more; his crimes are
known. The king hath pardoned me. I have won thee back. He is an
outcast, and old Norna's spells have well-nigh driven him mad. My
sister, thou art well avenged! Alas! alas! would I could have saved, and
led thee hither to this happy home.
Leonore. Ah, grieve not, Louis; she is happy now, and thy Leonore will
strive to fill her place. Hast thou told me all?
Louis. Nay, love. Thou knowest how I watched above thee, but thou canst
never know the joy thy faithful love for one thou mourned as dead hath
brought me. I longed to cast aside the dark disguise I had vowed to
wear, but dared not while Rodolpho was at liberty. Now all is safe. I
have tried thy love, and found it true. Oh, may I prove most worthy of
Leonore. Louis, how can I love too faithfully the friend who, 'mid his
own grief and danger, loved and guarded me. I trusted thee as Adrian; as
Louis I shall love thee until death.
Louis. And I shall prize most tenderly the faithful heart that trusted
me through doubt and mystery. Now life is bright and beautiful before
us, and may you never sorrow that thou gav'st thy heart to Louis, and
thy hand to Adrian the "Black Mask."
[_A dungeon cell._
Rodolpho _chained, asleep.
Norna. Thy fate is sealed, thy course is run,
And Norna's work is well-nigh done.
[_Vanishes. Enter_ Hugo.
Rod. [_awaking_]. Mine eyes are bewildered by the forms I have looked
upon in sleep. Methought old Norna stood beside me, whispering evil
spells, calling fearful phantoms to bear me hence.
Hugo [_coming forward_]. Thy evil conscience gives thee little rest, my
Rod. [_starting up_]. Who is there? Stand back! I'll sell my life most
dearly. Ah, 'tis no dream,--I am fettered! Where is my sword?
Hugo. In my safe keeping, Count Rodolpho, lest in thy rage thou may'st
be tempted to add another murder to thy list of sins. [Rodolpho _sinks
down in despair._] Didst think thou couldst escape? Ah, no; although
most swift of foot and secret, Hugo hath watched and followed thee. I
swore to win both gold and vengeance. The king hath offered high reward
for thy poor head, and it is mine. Methinks it may cheer your solitude
my lord, so I came hither on my way to bear thy death warrant to the
captain of the guard. What wilt thou give for this? Hark ye! were this
destroyed, thou might'st escape ere another were prepared. How dost thou
like the plot?
Rod. And wilt thou save me, Hugo? Give me not up to the king! I'll be
thy slave. All I possess is thine. I'll give thee countless gold. Ah,
pity, and save me, Hugo!
Hugo. Ha, ha! I did but jest. Thinkest thou I could forego the joy of
seeing thy proud head laid low? Where was thy countless gold when I did
ask it of thee? No, no; thou canst not tempt me to forget my vengeance.
'Tis Hugo's turn to play the master now. Mayst thou rest well, and so,
good even, my lord.
Rod. Thus end my hopes of freedom. My life is drawing to a close, and
all my sins seem rising up before me. The forms of my murdered victims
flit before me, and their dying words ring in mine ears,--Leonore
praying for mercy at my feet; old Norna whispering curses on my soul.
How am I haunted and betrayed! Oh, fool, fool that I have been! My
pride, my passion, all end in this! Hated, friendless, and alone, the
proud Count Rodolpho dies a felon's death. 'Tis just, 'tis just!
[_Enter_ Louis _masked._] What's that? Who spoke? Ah, 'tis mine unknown
foe. What wouldst thou here?
Louis. Thou didst bribe one Hugo to murder the young Count Louis, whom
thou didst hate. He did thy bidding, and thy victim fell; but Norna
saved, and healed his wounds. She told him of his murdered sister's
fate, and he hath joined her in her work of vengeance, and foiled thee
in thy sinful plots. I saved Leonore, and guarded her till I had won her
heart and hand, and in her love find solace for the sorrow thou hast
caused. Dost doubt the tale? Look on thine unknown foe, and find it true
Rod. Louis, whom I hated, and would kill,--thou here, thou husband of
Leonore, happy and beloved! It is too much, too much! If thou lovest
life, depart. I'm going mad: I see wild phantoms whirling round me,
voices whispering fearful words within mine ears. Touch me not,--there
is blood upon my hands! Will this dream last forever?
Louis. May Heaven pity thee! Theresa, thou art avenged.
Rod. Ah, these are fearful memories for a dying hour! [_Casts himself
upon the floor._]
Norna. Sinful man, didst think thy death-bed could be peaceful? As they
have haunted thee in life, so shall spirits darken thy last hour. _I_
bore thy murdered wife to a quiet grave, and raised a spirit to affright
and haunt thee to thy death. _I_ freed the Lady Leonore; _I_ mocked and
haunted thee in palace, wood, and cell; _I_ warned Hugo, and betrayed
thee to his power; and _I_ brought down this awful doom upon thee. As
thou didst refuse all mercy to thy victims, so shall mercy be denied to
thee. Remorse and dark despair shall wring thy heart, and thou shalt die
unblessed, unpitied, unforgiven. Thy victims are avenged, and Norna's
work is done.
Rod. Ha! ha! 'tis gone,--yet stay, 'tis Louis' ghost! How darkly his
eyes shine on me! See, see,--the demons gather round me! How fast they
come! Old Norna is there, muttering her spells. Let me go free! Unbind
these chains! Hugo, Louis, Leonore, Theresa,--thou art avenged!
[_Falls dead._ Norna _glides in and stands beside him._
CAPTIVE OF CASTILE;
THE MOORISH MAIDEN'S VOW.
Bernardo . . . . . . _Lord of Castile._
Ernest L'Estrange . . . . _An English Lord._
Hernando . . . . . . _A Priest._
Selim . . . . . . . _A Slave._
Zara . . . . . . . _Daughter to Bernardo._
CAPTIVE OF CASTILE;
THE MOORISH MAIDEN'S VOW.
[_A thick wood. Storm coming on.
Ernest. This summer sky, darkened by storm, is a fit emblem of my life.
O happy England, why did I leave thee; why let dreams of fame and honor
win me from a home, to wander now a lonely and bewildered fugitive? But
why do I repine? Life, health, and a brave heart yet are mine; and 'mid
all my peril, God may send some joy to cheer me on to happiness and
honor. Hist! a footstep. 'Tis a light one, but a Moorish foe steals
like a serpent on his prey. I'll hide me here, and if need be I'll sell
my life as a brave man should [_conceals himself among the trees_].
[_Enter_ Zara, _weeping._
Zara. Heaven shield me! Whither shall I turn? Alone in this wild forest,
where may I find a friend to help. The dark storm gathers fast, and I am
shelterless. The fierce Spaniard may be wandering nigh, and I dare not
call for aid. Mistress of a hundred slaves, here must I perish for one
to lead me. Father, the faint heart turns to thee when earthly help is
past; hear and succor thy poor child now, who puts her trust in thee.
Ernest [_coming forward_]. Lady, thy prayer is heard. God hath not sent
me here in vain. How may I best serve thee?
Zara. Gentle stranger, pity and protect a hapless maid who puts her
faith in thee. Guide me from this wild wood, and all the thanks a
grateful heart can give are thine.
Ernest. I ask no higher honor than to shield so fair a flower from the
storm, or from rude hands that may harm it. But how chanced it, lady,
that thou art wandering thus unattended? 'Tis unsafe for youth and
beauty while the Spanish army is so near.
Zara. It was a foolish fancy led me hither, and dearly am I punished.
Journeying from a distant convent to my father's home, while my
attendants rested by a spring I wandered through the wood, unthinking of
the danger, till turning to retrace my steps, I found myself lost and
alone. I feared to call, and but for thee, kind stranger, might have
never seen my home again. Ask not my name, but tell me thine, that in my
prayers I may remember one who has so aided me.
Ernest. It were uncourteous to refuse thy bidding, lady. Ernest
L'Estrange is the name now honored by the poor service I may do thee. In
the Spanish army I came hither, and fear I have seen the last of home
or friends. The Moors now seek my life, and ere I can rejoin my ranks, I
may be a slave. But the storm draws nearer. Let me lead thee to some
Zara. Methinks I see a glimmer yonder. Let us seek it, for with thee I
fear no longer. I can only give thee thanks, most noble stranger; yet a
day may come when she for whom thou dost now risk thy life may find a
fit return, worthy thy courtesy to one so helpless and forlorn.
[_Exit_ Ernest _and_ Zara.
[_Room in the castle of_ Bernardo. Zara _alone_].
Zara. 'Tis strange how the thought haunts me still. Long months have
passed since last I saw that noble face, and yet those gentle eyes look
on me! Ernest!--'tis a sweet English name, and 'twas a noble English
heart that felt such tender pity for a helpless maid. Hark! my father's
step! He comes to tell of victories gained, of kingdoms won. Oh, would
he might bring some word of him I have so longed to see and thank once
[_Enter_ Bernardo _with a casket._
Ber. Joyful tidings, Zara! Grenada is free. Here, love, are gems for
thee; they have shone on many a fair lady's neck, but none more fair
than thine. And here are things more precious far to me than all their
gold and gems,--a goodly list of prisoners taken in the fight, and sent
to cool their Spanish blood in our deepest cells. Ah, many a proud name
is here,--Ferdinand Navarre, Carlos of Arragon, Lord L'Estrange, and
Baron Lisle. But, child, what ails thee?
Zara [_starting up_]. L'Estrange! Is he a prisoner too? Hast thou read
aright? Father, Father, it was he who saved me from a bitter death in
yonder forest. I never told his name lest it should anger thee. For my
sake spare him, and let the gratitude thou hast felt for that kind deed
soften thy heart to the brave stranger.
Ber. Nay, Zara! He is thy country's foe, and must be sacrificed to save
her honor. 'Twas a simple deed thou hast spoken of. What brave man but
would save a fair girl from storms or danger? 'Tis a foolish thought,
love; let it pass.
Zara. Oh, Father! I who never bent the knee to man before, implore thee
thus [_kneels_]. Be merciful! Leave not the English lord to the dark and
fearful doom that waits him. I know too well the life-long captivity,
more terrible than death itself, that is his fate. Oh, speak! Say he is
Ber. Nay, what wild dream is this? Listen, child! I tell thee he must
suffer the captivity he merits as thy country's foe. He hath borne arms
against thy king, slain thy kindred, brought woe and desolation thro'
the land our fathers gave us. And thou wouldst plead for him! Shame on
thee! Thou art no true daughter of thy suffering country if thou canst
waste one tear on those who were well lodged in our most dreary
dungeons. Call thy pride to aid thee, Zara, and be worthy of thy noble
Zara. Father, thou hast often told me woman's lot was 'mid the quiet
scenes of home, and that no thoughts of fame or glory should lie within
a heart where only gentleness and love should dwell; but I have learned
to honor bravery and noble deeds, and I would pledge my troth for the
noble stranger. See the English knight, and if he win thee not to
gratitude, thou art not the tender father who, through long years, hath
so loved and cherished thy motherless child.
Ber. Nay, Zara, nay; honor is a sterner master than a father's love. I
cannot free the captive till the king who hath sealed his doom shall
pardon also. The prisoners are men of rank, and for thy country's sake
must die. Forget thy foolish fancy, child, and set thy young heart on
some fairer toys than these false English lords. Adieu, love; I must to
Zara. Ah, there was a time when Zara's lightest wish was gladly granted.
This cruel war hath sadly changed my father; he hath forgotten all his
generous pity for suffering and sorrow. But my work is yet undone, and
the stranger is a captive. He _shall_ be free, and I will pay the debt
of gratitude I owe him. I will brave my father's anger; but whom can I
trust to aid me? Ha! Selim! He is old and faithful, and will obey
[_claps her hands_].
Selim. Your bidding, lady.
Zara. Selim, thou hast known me from my birth, and served me well. I
have done thee many a kindness. Wilt thou grant me one that shalt repay
all that I have ever shown to thee?
Selim. Lady, thou hast made a slave's life happy by thy care, and
through the long years I have served thee, hast never bid me do aught
that was not right. If my poor services can aid thee now, they are most
Zara. Listen, Selim, while I tell thee what I seek. Thou knowest an
English soldier saved and led me from the forest yonder, and thou
knowest how my father thanked and blessed the unknown friend who had so
aided me. Yet now, when it is in his power to show the gratitude he
felt, he will not, and has doomed the man he once longed to honor to a
lonely cell to pine away a brave heart's life in sorrow and captivity. I
would show that gentle stranger that a woman never can forget. I would
free him. Thou hast the keys. This is the service I now crave of thee.
Selim. Lady, canst thou ask me to betray the trust my lord, thy father,
hath been pleased to place in me? Ask anything but this, and gladly will
I obey thee.
Zara. Ah, must I ever ask and be refused? Selim, listen! Thou hast a
daughter; she is fair and young, and thou hast often sighed that she
should be a slave. If thou wilt aid me now, the hour the chains fall
from the English captive's limbs, that hour shalt see thy daughter free,
and never more a slave. If thou wilt win this joy for her, then grant my
prayer, and she is free.
Selim. Oh, lady, lady, tempt me not! much as I love my child, I love
mine honor more. I cannot aid thee to deceive thy father.
Zara. Nay, Selim, I do not ask it of thee. The proud name my father
bears shall ne'er be stained by one false deed of mine. I ask thee but
to lead me to the prisoner's cell, that I may offer freedom, and tell
him woman's gratitude can never fail, nor woman's heart forget. And if
my father ask thee aught of this, thou shalt answer freely. Tell him
all, and trust his kindness to forgive; and if evil come _I_ will bear
it bravely,--thou shalt not suffer. Thou shalt win thy fair child's
freedom, and my fadeless thanks.
Selim. Thou hast conquered, lady; and for the blessed gift that is my
reward, I will brave all but treachery and dishonor. Thou shalt find thy
truest slaves in the old man and his daughter [_kneels and gives the
Zara. Thanks, good Selim, thanks; thou shalt find a grateful friend in
her thou hast served so well. I will disguise me as a female slave, and
thou shalt lead me to the cell. Now go; I will join thee anon. [_Exit_
Selim.] Oh, Ernest, Ernest! thy brave heart shall pine no longer.
Another hour, and thou art free. Chains cannot bind, nor dungeons hold
when woman's love and gratitude are thine.
[_Dungeon in the castle of_ Bernardo.
Ernest L'Estrange, _chained._]
Ernest. So end my dreams of fame and honor! A life-long captive, or a
sultan's slave are all that fate has left me now. Yet, 'mid disgrace and
sorrow, one thought can cheer me yet, and one sweet vision brighten e'en
my dreary lot. I have served my country well, and won the thanks of
Spain's most lovely daughter. Sweet lady, little does she dream amid her
happiness that memories of her are all now left to cheer a captive's
heart. But hist!--a footstep on the stair. Perchance they come to lead
me forth to new captivity or death. [_Enter_ Zara, _disguised as a
slave_] Ah, who comes here to cheer the cell of the poor captive?
Zara. Captive no longer, if life and liberty be dear to thee. Say but
the word, and ere the sun sets thou shalt be free amid the hills of
Ernest. Who art thou, coming like a spirit to my lonely cell, bringing
hopes of freedom? Tell me, what hath moved thee to such pity for an
Zara. Not unknown to her I serve. She hath not forgot thee, noble
stranger. When thou didst lead her from the dim wood, she said a day
might come when she, so weak and helpless then, might find some fit
reward for one who risked his life for her. That hour hath come, and she
hath sent her poor slave hither, and with her thanks and blessing to
speed thee on thy way.
Ernest. And is she near, and did she send thee to repay my simple deed
with one like this? Ah, tell her name! Where doth she dwell, and whence
the power to set me free?
Zara. I may not tell thee more than this. Her father is Bernardo of
Castile. She heard thy name among the captives doomed, and seeks to save
thee; for if thou dost not fly, a most cruel death awaits thee. Listen
to her prayer, and cast these chains away.
Ernest. It cannot be. Much as I love my freedom, I love my honor more;
and I am bound until my conqueror shall give back my plighted word, to
seek no freedom till he shall bid me go. Nay, do not sigh, kind friend;
I am no longer sad. From this day forth captivity is sweet. Tell thy
fair mistress all my thanks are hers; but I may not take the gift she
offers, for with freedom comes dishonor, and I cannot break my word to
her stern father. Tell her she hath made my fetters light, this cell a
happy home, by the sweet thought that she is near and still remembers
one who looks upon the hour when first we met as the happiest he hath
Zara. If there be power in woman's gratitude, thou shalt yet be free,
and with thine honor yet unstained. She will not rest till all the debt
she owes thee is repaid. Farewell, and think not Zara will forget
[_turns to go; her veil falls_].
Ernest [_starting_]. Lady!--and is it thou? Ah, leave me not! Let me
thank thee for the generous kindness which has made a lone heart happy
by the thought that even in this wild land there is still one to
remember the poor stranger.
Zara. Pardon what may seem to thee unmaidenly and bold; but thou wert in
danger; there were none whom I could trust. Gratitude hath bid me come,
and I am here. Again I ask, nay, I implore thee, let me have the joy of
giving freedom to one brave English heart. England is thy home: wouldst
thou not tread its green shores once again? Are there no fond hearts
awaiting thy return? Ah, can I not tempt thee by all that man most
loves, to fly?
Ernest. Lady, my own heart pleads more earnestly than even thy sweet
voice; but those kind eyes were better dimmed with tears for my sad
death than be turned coldly from me as one who had stained the high name
he bore. And liberty were dearly purchased if I left mine honor here
behind. Ask me no more; for till thy father sets me free, I am his
prisoner here. Ah, dearest lady, thou hast made this lone cell bright,
and other chains than these now hold me here.
Zara. Then it must be. Much as I grieve for thy captivity, I shall honor
thee the more for thy unfailing truth, more prized than freedom, home,
or friends. And though I cannot save thee now, thou shalt find a Moorish
maiden true and fearless as thyself. Farewell! May happy thoughts of
home cheer this dark cell till I have won the power to set thee free.
Ernest. Liberty hath lost its charms since thou art near me, lovely
Zara. These chains are nothing now, for the fetters that thy beauty,
tenderness, and grace have cast about my heart are stronger far.
Ber. [_unfolding a scroll_]. At length 't is done, and here I hold the
doom of those proud lords who have so scorned my race. The hour has
come, and Bernardo is revenged. What, ho! Zara, where art thou?
Zara. Dear father, what hath troubled thee, and how can Zara cheer and
Ber. 'Tis joy, not sorrow, Zara, gives this fierce light to mine eye. I
have hated, and am avenged. This one frail scroll is dearer far to me
than all the wealth of Spain, for 'tis the death-knell of the English
Zara. Must they all die, my father?
Ber. Ay, Zara,--all; ere to-morrow's sun shall set they will sleep
forever, and a good deed will be well done. I hate them, and their
paltry lives can ill repay the sorrow they have wrought.
Zara. Let me see the fatal paper. [_Takes the scroll; aside._] Yes,
_his_ name is here. Ah, how strange that these few lines can doom brave
hearts to such a death! [_Aloud._] Father, 'tis a fearful thing to hold
such power over human life. Ah, bid me tear the scroll, and win for thee
the thanks of those thy generous pity saves.
Ber. [_seizing the paper_]. Not for thy life, child! Revenge is sweet,
and I have waited long for mine. The king hath granted this; were it
destroyed, the captives might escape ere I could win another. Nay, Zara,
this is dearer to me than thy most priceless gems. To-night it shall be
well guarded 'neath my pillow. Go to thy flowers, child. These things
are not for thee,--thou art growing pale and sad. Remember, Zara, thou
art nobly born, and let no foolish pity win thee to forget it.
Zara. Oh, Father, Father, whom I have so loved and honored, now so cold,
so pitiless. The spirit of revenge hath entered thy kind heart, and
spread an evil blight o'er all the flowers that blossomed there. I
cannot win him back to tenderness, and Ernest, thou must perish. I
cannot save thee,--perhaps 'tis better so; but oh, 'twill be a bitter
parting! [_Weeps._] Nay, nay, it shall _not_ be! When this wild hate
hath passed, my father will repent. Alas! 't will be too late. _I_ will
save him from that sorrow when he shall find he hath wronged a noble
heart, and slain the friend he should have saved. But stay! how shall I
best weave my plot? That fatal paper, once destroyed, I will implore and
plead so tenderly, my father will repent; and ere another scroll can
reach his hands, I will have won thy freedom, Ernest! This night
beneath his pillow it will be; and I, like a midnight thief, must steal
to that couch, and take it hence. Yet, it shall be done, for it will
save thee, Father, from a cruel deed, and gain a brave heart's freedom.
Ernest, 'tis for thee! for thee!
[_Chamber in the castle._
Bernardo _sleeping_. _Enter_ Zara.]
Zara. He sleeps calmly as a child. Why do I tremble? 'T is a deed of
mercy I would do, and thou wilt thank me that I dared to disobey, and
spare thee from life-long regret. The paper,--yes, 'tis here! Forgive
me, Father; 'tis to save thee from an evil deed thy child comes stealing
thus at dead of night to take what thou hast toiled so long to win.
Sleep on! no dark dream can break thy slumber now; the spirit of revenge
shall pass away, and I will win thee back to pity and to love once more.
Now, Ernest, thou art saved, and ere to-morrow's sun shall rise this
warrant for thy death shall be but ashes, and my task be done.
Zara. The long, sleepless night at length hath passed. The paper is
destroyed, and now nought remains but to confess the deed, and brave my
Zara [_starts_]. Why so stern, my father? Hath thy poor Zara angered
Ber. I have trusted thee as few would trust a child. Thou art fair and
gentle, and I had thought true. Never, Zara, till now hast thou deceived
me; and if thou wouldst keep thy father's love and trust, I bid thee
answer truly. Didst thou, in the dead of night steal to my pillow, and
bear hence the paper I had told thee would be there? Thy slave girl,
Zillah, missed thee from thy couch, and saw thee enter there. She
feared to follow, but none other came within my chamber, and this morn
the scroll is gone. Now answer, Zara! Didst thou take the warrant, and
where is it now?
Zara. Burnt to ashes, and scattered to the winds. I have never stained
my soul with falsehood, and I will not now. Oh, Father! I have loved and
honored thee through the long years thou hast watched above me. How
could I love on when thou hadst stained with blood that hand that
blessed me when a child, how honor when thou hadst repaid noble deeds
with death? Forgive me that I plead for those thou hast doomed! I alone
am guilty,--let thine anger fall on me; but, Father, I implore thee,
leave this evil deed undone. [_Kneels._]
Ber. Thou canst plead well for thy father's and thy country's foe. What
strange fancy hath possessed thee, Zara? Thou hast never wept, tho' many
a Christian knight hath pined and died within these walls; and even
now, methinks, thou speakest more of gratitude than mercy, and seem
strangely earnest for the English lord who did thee some small service
long ago. Speak, Zara! wouldst thou save them _all_? Were I to grant
thee all their lives save his, wouldst thou be content to let _him_ die?
Zara. Nay, Father; but for his tender care thou wouldst have no daughter
now to stand before thee, pleading for the life he bravely risked in
saving mine. Oh, would I had died amid the forest leaves ere I had
brought such woe to him, and lived to lose my father's love! [_Weeps._]
Ber. Listen, Zara! Little as I know of woman's heart, I have learned to
read thine own; and if I err not, thou hast dared to love this stranger.
Ha! is it so? Girl, I command thee to forget that love, and leave him to
Zara. Never! I will not forget the love that like a bright star hath
come to cheer my lonely heart. I will _not_ forget the noble friend
who, 'mid his fiercest foes, could brave all dangers to restore an
unknown maiden to her home. And when I offered liberty (for I have
disobeyed and dared to seek his cell), he would not break the word he
had plighted, Father, unto thee. He bade me tempt him not, for death
were better than dishonor. Ah, canst thou doom him to a felon's death?
Then do it; and the hour that sees that true heart cease to beat, that
hour thou hast lost the child who would have loved and clung to thee
Ber. Child, thou hast moved me strangely. I would grant thy prayer, but
thou shalt never wed one of that accursed race. I bear no hate to the
young lord, save that he is thy country's foe; and if he gains his
freedom, he will win thee too. By Allah! it shall never be. Yet, listen,
Zara! If I grant his life wilt thou ask no more?
Zara. 'T is all I ask; grant me but this, and I will give thee all the
gratitude and love this poor heart can bestow.
Ber. Then 'tis done. Yet hold! the price that thou must pay for this
dear boon is large. Thou must swear never to see him more; must banish
love, nay, even memory of that fatal hour when first he saw and saved
thee. If thou wilt vow to wed none but one of thine own race, his life
and liberty are thine to give. Speak, Zara! Wilt thou do all this?
Zara. Oh, Father, Father, anything but this! Pity, gratitude, and love
have bound me to him, and the fetters thou hast cast around him are not
stronger than the deep affection he hath wakened in my heart. Ah, why
wilt thou not give life and liberty to him, and joy to thy child? I will
not take the vow.
Ber. Then his fate is sealed. Thy girl's heart is too selfish to forego
its own joy for his sake. Thou dost not love enough to sacrifice thy
happiness to win his freedom. I had thought more nobly of thee, Zara.
Zara. I _will_ be worthy all thou mayst have thought me; but thou canst
little know the desolation thou hast brought me. Thou shalt see how
deeply thou hast wronged me, and my love. I will bear all, suffer all,
if it will win the life and liberty of him I love so deeply and so well.
Ber. Would to Heaven thou hadst never seen this English stranger! Again,
and for the last time, Zara, I ask thee, Wilt thou leave the captive to
his fate, and seek another heart to love?
Zara. Never! I could mourn his death with bitter tears; but oh, my love
is worthy a deeper sacrifice! He shall never suffer one sad hour if I
may spare him, and never know that liberty to him will bring such
life-long sorrow unto me.
Ber. Then thou wilt take the vow I bid thee?
Zara. I will.
Ber. Then swear by all thou dost hold most dear, and by thy mother's
spirit, to wed one only of thy father's race; and through joy and
sorrow, thro' youth and age, to keep thy vow unbroken until death.
Zara. I swear; and may the spirit of that mother look in pity on the
child whose love hath made her life so dark a path to tread.
Ber. May thou find comfort, Zara! I would have spared thee this, but now
it cannot be. Yet thy reward shall well repay thee for thy sacrifice.
The English knight is free, and thou shalt restore him unto life and
liberty. May Allah bless thee, child!
Zara. 'Tis over! The bright dream is past. Oh, Ernest! few will love
thee as I have done; few suffer for thee all that I so gladly bear; and
none can honor thy true, noble heart more tenderly than she whose hard
lot it is to part from thee forever. Still amid my blighted hopes one
thought can brighten my deep sorrow,--this sacrifice but renders me
more worthy of thee, Ernest. Now farewell, love; my poor heart may
grieve for its lost joy, and look for comfort but in Heaven.
Ernest _chained_. _Enter_ Zara.]
Zara. My lord, I seek thee with glad tidings.
Ernest. Why so pale, dear lady? Let no care for me dim thine eye, or
chase the roses from thy cheek. I would not barter this dark cell while
thou art here for a monarch's fairest home.
Zara. Thou wilt gladly leave it when I tell thee thy captivity is o'er,
and I am here to set thee free. I have won thy liberty, and thou mayst
fly with honor all unstained; for here my father grants thy pardon, and
now bids thee go.
Ernest. How can I thank thee for thy tenderness and pity; how may I best
show the gratitude I owe thee for the priceless boon of freedom thou
hast this day given?
Zara. Nay, spare thy thanks! I have but paid the debt I owed thee, and
'tis but life for life. Now haste; for ere the sunset hour thou must be
beyond the city gates, and on thy way to home and happiness [_takes off
his chains_]. And now, brave heart, thou art free, and Zara's task is
done [_turns to go_].
Ernest. Stay, lady! thou hast loosed the chains that bound these hands,
but oh, thou hast cast a stronger one around my heart; and with my
liberty comes love, and thoughts of thee, thy beauty, tenderness, and
all thou hast done for me. Lady, thou hast cast away my fetters, but I
am captive still [_he kneels_]. Ah, listen, Zara, while I tell thee of
the love that like a sweet flower hath blossomed in this dreary cell,
and made e'en liberty less precious than one word, one smile from thee.
Zara. I may not listen,--'tis too late, and 'tis a sin for me to hear
thee. Ah, ask me not why, but hasten hence, and leave me to the fate
thou canst not lighten.
Ernest. Never! I will not leave thee till I have won the right to cheer
and comfort her who has watched so fearlessly o'er me. Tell me all, and
let me share thy sorrow, Zara.
Zara. Ah, no! It cannot be! Thou canst not break my solemn vow. Go!
leave me! Heaven bless thee, and farewell!
Ernest. A solemn vow! Hast thou bound thyself to win my freedom? Then
never will I leave this cell till thou hast told me all. I swear it, and
I will keep the oath.
Zara. Ernest, I implore thee, fly, or it may be too late. Thou canst not
help me, and I will not tell thee. Ah, leave me! I cannot save thee if
thou tarry now.
Ernest. Never, till thou hast told me by what noble sacrifice thou hast
saved this worthless life of mine. Let me free thee from thy sorrow,
Zara, or help thee bear it. Thou hast won my pardon, and I will not go
till thou hast told me how.
Zara. And wilt thou promise to go hence when I have told thee all, and
let me have the joy of knowing thou art safe?
Ernest. I _will_ leave thee, Zara, if thou canst bid me go. Now tell me
all thy sorrow, love, and let me share it with thee.
Zara. Ernest, I sought to save thee; for I had learned to love the noble
stranger who had done so kind a deed for me. I sought to win my father
back to gratitude. I wept and sued in vain,--he would not grant thy
life, the boon for which I prayed. Alone I watched above thee, and when
the warrant for thy death was sent, I took it from his pillow and
destroyed it. Thou wast safe. My father charged me with the deed; and
when I told him all, he bid me love no more, and leave thee to thy fate.
He bid me show how strong my woman's heart could be, and told me if I
yet desired thy freedom, I might win it if I took a solemn vow to wed
none but of my father's race. I took the vow, and thou art free. Ah, no
more!--and let us part while yet I have the strength to say farewell.
Ernest. And is it yet too late? Canst thou not take back the vow, and
yet be mine? I cannot leave thee,--rather be a captive here till thou
shalt set me free. Come, Zara, fly with me, and leave the father who
would blight thy life to satisfy a fierce revenge. Ah, come and let me
win thee back to love and happiness.
Zara. Ernest, tempt me not. By that sad vow I swore by all my future
hopes, and by my dead mother's spirit, I would never listen to thy words
of love. And stern and cruel tho' my father be, I cannot leave him now.
Deep and bitter though this sorrow be, 'tis nobler far to bear the
burden than to cast it down and seek in idle joys to banish penitence;
for thorns would lie amid the flowers. Farewell! Forget me, and in happy
England find some other heart to gladden with thy love. Oh, may she
prove as fond and faithful as thy Moorish Zara.
Ernest. I will plead no more, nor add to that sad heart another sorrow.
I will be worthy such true love, and though we meet no more on earth, in
all my wanderings sweet tender thoughts of thee shall dwell within my
heart. I will bear my sorrow as a brave man should. The life thou hast
saved and brightened by thy love shall yet be worthy thee. Farewell! May
all the blessings a devoted heart can give rest on thee, dearest. Heaven
bless thee, and grant that we shall meet again.
Zara. Gone, gone, forever! Oh, Father, couldst thou know the deep grief
and despair thy cruelty has brought two loving hearts, thou wouldst
relent, and call them back to happiness. Where can I look for comfort
now? [_Weeps._] I will seek the good priest who hath so long watched
above the motherless child. I must find rest in some kind heart, and he
will cheer, and teach me how to suffer silently. I will seek old
[_Cell of the priest._
Hernando _reading_. _Enter_ Zara.]
Zara. Father, I have come for help and counsel. Wilt thou give it now as
thou hast ever done to her who comes to learn of thee how best to bear a
sorrow cheerfully and well?
Her. Speak on, dear child. I know thy sorrow. Thou hast loved, and
sacrificed thy own life's joy to win a brave heart's freedom. Thou hast
done nobly and well; thy sorrow will but render thee more worthy of the
happiness thou hast so truly won.
Zara. No, no; we shall never meet again on earth. Ah, holy father, they
who told thee of my love for one who well might win the noblest heart,
have told thee but the lightest part of the deep grief that bears me
down. Listen to me, Father, and then give me comfort if thou canst. To
win my lover's freedom, I have sworn a solemn oath to wed none but of my
father's race. Ernest came from sunny England, and I am the daughter of
a Moorish lord. Alas, 'tis vain to hope! The vow is given, and must be
Her. Ay, Zara, and it may be kept; but these sad tears will change to
sighs of joy when I have told thee all. Then thou wilt bless the vow
which brings thee sorrow now.
Zara. Oh, speak! Tell me what joy canst thou give to lighten grief like
mine! Give me not too much hope; for if it fail, despair thou canst not
banish will cast a deeper gloom o'er this poor heart. Now, tell me all.
Her. Calm thyself, poor child; it will be well with thee, and thou shalt
yet blossom in thy loveliness beside the heart thou hast won. I will
tell thee the true tale of thy fair mother's life. She loved and wed a
stranger, and thus won the hatred of her Moorish kindred, who sought to
win her for their prince's bride. And when she fled away with him to
whom her true heart's love was given, they vowed a fierce revenge. Years
passed away; she drooped and died. Thy father perished bravely on the
field of battle, and left his child to me. I stood beside thy mother's
dying bed, and vowed to guard her babe till thou wert safe among thy
Moorish kindred. I have watched thee well, and thou art worthy all the
happiness thy true heart hath won. Bernardo of Castile is but thy
mother's friend; thy father was an English lord, and thou canst keep thy
vow, and yet wed the brave young Englishman who hath won thy love.
Zara. Heaven pardon this wild, wilful heart that should mourn the sorrow
sent, when such deep joy as this is given. Ah, Father, how can I best
thank thee for the blessed comfort thou hast given?
Her. Thy joy, dear child, is my reward. When thou art safe with him
thou lovest, my task on earth is done, and I shall pass away with happy
thoughts of the sweet flower that bloomed beside the old man's path
through life, and cheered it with her love. Bless thee, my Zara, and may
the spirit of thy mother watch above thee in the happy home thou hast
gained by thy noble sacrifice.
Zara. Oh, Father, may the joy thy words have brought me brighten thine
own life as they have mine. The blessings of a happy heart be on thee.
[_Kneels, kisses his hand. Exit._
[_Hall in the castle._
Zara. Selim said the packet would be here [_takes the paper_]. Ah, 'tis
from Ernest! He is near me,--we may meet again [_opens letter and
Lady,--Thy father will this night betray the city to the
Spanish king, who hath promised his life and liberty for this
treachery. He will not keep his oath, and thy father will be
slain. Then bid him fly, and save all he most loves, for no
mercy will be shown to those within the walls when once the
Spanish army enters there. Save thyself. Heaven bless thee.
Brave and true unto the last! O heart! thou mayst well beat proudly, for
thou hast won a noble prize in the love of Ernest L'Estrange. Time
flies; this night the city is betrayed, and we must fly. Bernardo, lord
of fair Castile, is a traitor. Ah, thank Heaven he is _not_ my father!
Yet for the love I bore him as a child, he shall be saved; and I will
cheer and comfort him now that the dark hour of his life has come.
Ber. Zara, why dost thou look thus on me? I come to bid thee gather all
thou dost most prize, for the army is before the city, and we may be
conquered ere to-morrow's sun shall set.
Zara. Seek not to deceive me. I know all; and the love I bore thee as my
father is now turned to pity and contempt for the traitor who will this
night betray Castile.
Ber. Girl, beware, lest thy wild folly anger me too far! What meanest
thou? Who has dared to tell thee this?
Zara. Thou wouldst betray, and art thyself betrayed; and were it not for
him whom thou hast wronged and hunted, ere to-morrow's dawn thou wouldst
be no more, and I a homeless wanderer. Here! read the scroll, and see
how well the false king keeps his word he plighted thee for thy deed of
Ber. [_reads, and drops the paper_]. Lost! lost! Fool that I was to
trust the promise of a king! Disgraced, dishonored, and betrayed! Where
find a friend to help me now? [_Weeps._]
Zara. Here,--in the child who clings to thee through danger, treachery,
and death. Trust to the love of one whom once thou loved, and who still
longs to win thee back to happiness and honor.
Ber. Nay, child, I trust thee not. I have deceived thee and blighted all
thy hopes of love. Thou canst not care for the dishonored traitor. Go!
tell my guilt to those I would this night deliver up to death, and win a
deep revenge for all the wrong I have done thee. I am in thy power now.
Zara [_tearing the paper_]. And thus do I use it! No eye shall ever read
these words that do betray thee; no tongue call down dishonor on thy
head. Thy plot is not yet known, and ere to-night the gates may be well
guarded. Thou mayst fly in safety, and none ever know the stain upon thy
name. Thou whom I once called father, this is my revenge. I know all the
wrong thou hast done me,--the false vow I made to save the life of him I
loved. Zara's pity and forgiveness are thine, freely given; and her
prayer is that thou mayst find happiness in some fair land where only
gentle thoughts and loving memories may be thine.
Ber. Thou hast conquered, Zara; my proud heart is won by thy tender pity
and most generous pardon to one who hath so deeply wronged thee. But I
will repay the debt I owe thee. Thou shalt find again the loving father
and the faithful friend of thy young life. Thou shalt know how well
Bernardo can atone for all the sorrow he hath brought thee.
Zara. And I will be again thy faithful child.
Ber. 'Tis well; and now, my Zara, ere the dawn of another day we must
be far beyond the city gates. Selim shall guide us, and once free,
together we will seek another and a happier home. Courage, my child, and
haste thee. I will prepare all for our flight. Remember, when the turret
bell strikes seven, we meet again.
[_Embraces_ Zara, _and exit_.
Zara. Farewell! I will not fail thee. Love, joy, and hope may fade, but
duty still remains. Oh, Ernest, couldst thou but see thy own true Zara
now! Wouldst thou could aid me! [_Enter_ Ernest _disguised_.] Ah, who
comes? A stranger. Speak! thine errand!
Ernest [_kneeling, presents a scroll_]. An English knight without the
gates did bid me seek thee with this scroll. May it please thee, read.
Zara [_opens and reads_].
Lady,--Thou mayst trust the messenger. He will lead thee in
safety to one who waits for thee. Delay not; danger is around
Ah, here! so near me! Hope springs anew within my heart. Yes, I will go.
Homeless, friendless no more! Happy Zara! joy now awaits thee. Yet
stay!--my promise to Bernardo! I cannot leave him thus in danger, and
alone. What shall I do? Oh, Ernest, where art thou now?
Ernest [_throwing off disguise, and kneeling before her_]. Here, dearest
Zara! here at thy feet, to offer thee a true heart's fond devotion. To
thee I owe life, liberty, and happiness. Ah, let me thus repay the debt
of gratitude. Thy love shalt be my bright reward; my heart thy refuge
from all danger now. Wilt thou not trust me?
Zara. Ernest, thou knowest my heart is thine, and that to thee I trust
with joy my life and happiness. No vow stands now between us. I am
Ernest. Then let us hence. All is prepared; thy father shall be saved.
This night shall see us on our way to liberty; and in a fairer land we
may forget the danger, sorrow, and captivity that have been ours. Come,
dearest, let me lead thee.
Zara. I come; and, Ernest, 'mid the joy and bright hopes of the future,
let us not forget the sorrow and the sacrifice that hath won for us this
happiness; and mayst thou ne'er regret the hour that gave to thee the
love of the Moorish maiden, Zara.
THE GREEK SLAVE.
Constantine . . . . . _Prince betrothed to Irene._
Queen Zelneth . . . . . _His Mother._
Irene . . . . . . . _The Greek Princess._
Ione . . . . . . . _The Greek Slave._
Helon . . . . . . . _A Priest._
Rienzi . . . . . . . _A Traitor._
THE GREEK SLAVE.
[_Apartment in the palace of_ Irene.
Irene, _reclining upon a divan._]
Irene. How strange a fate is mine! Young, fair, and highborn, I may not
choose on whom I will bestow my love! Betrothed to a prince whom I have
never seen; compelled to honor and obey one whom my heart perchance can
never love, alas! alas!
And yet, they tell me that Constantine is noble, brave, and good. What
more can I desire? Ah, if he do but love me I shall be content [_noise
without; she rises_]. Hark! 'tis his messenger approaching with letters
from the queen, his mother. I will question this ambassador, and learn
yet more of this young prince, my future husband [_seats herself with
[_Enter_ Rienzi. _Kneels, presenting a letter._
Rienzi. The queen, my mistress, sends thee greeting, lady, and this
scroll. May it please thee, read. I await your pleasure.
Irene [_takes the letter and reads_]. My lord, with a woman's curiosity,
I fain would ask thee of thy prince, whose fate the gods have linked
with mine. Tell me, is he tender, true, and noble? Answer truly, I do
Rienzi. Lady, he is tender as a woman, gentle as thy heart could wish,
just and brave as a king should ever be. The proudest lady in all Greece
were well matched with our noble Constantine.
Irene. And is he fair to look upon? Paint me his likeness, if thou
Rienzi. I can but ill perform that office. Thou must see if thou wouldst
rightly know him. The gods have blessed him with a fair and stately
form, a noble face, dark locks, and a king-like brow that well befits
the crown that rests upon it. This is he, our brave young prince; one to
honor, lady; one to trust and--love.
Irene. 'Tis a noble man thou hast painted. One more question and thou
mayst retire. Hath he ever spoken of her who is to be his wife? Nay, why
do I fear to ask thee? Does he love her?
Rienzi. Lady, I beg thee ask me not. Who could fail to love when once he
had looked upon thee?
Irene. Thou canst not thus deceive me. Answer truly: What doth he think
of this betrothal and approaching marriage?
Rienzi. He hath not seen thee, princess, knows of thee nothing save that
thou art beautiful, and one day to become his wife. But he is young, and
hath no wish to wed, and even his mother's prayers have failed to win
his free consent to this most cherished plan, that by uniting thy fair
kingdom unto his, he can gain power over other lands and beautify our
Irene. Perchance his heart is given to another. Has no fair Grecian
maiden won the love he cannot offer me?
Rienzi. Nay, lady. He loves nought but his mother, his subjects, and his
native land. But soon we trust, when thou art by his side, a deeper love
will wake within him, and thou wilt be dearer than country, home, or
Irene. 'Tis well; thou mayst retire. I will send answer by thee to thy
queen, and seek some gift that may be worthy her acceptance. And now,
adieu! [Rienzi _bows and retires._] He does not love me, then, and I
must wed a cold and careless lord. And yet--so tender to all others, he
could not be unkind to me alone.
Oh, that I could win his love unknown, and then when truly mine, to cast
away the mask, and be myself again. Stay! let me think. Ah, yes; I see a
way. Surely the gods have sent the thought! I will disguise me as a
slave, and as a gift sent to his mother, I can see and learn to know
him well. I will return with the ambassador, Rienzi. I spake to him of a
gift. He little thinks in the veiled slave he shall bear away, the
princess is concealed. Yes, Constantine, as a nameless girl will Irene
win thy heart; and when as a wife she stands beside thee, thou shalt
love her for herself alone.
[_A room in the palace of_ The Queen.
The Queen _alone._]
Queen. Why comes he not? They told me that our ambassador to the
Princess Irene had returned, and bore a gift for me. Would that it were
a picture of herself! They say she is wondrous fair; and could my
wayward son but gaze upon her, his heart might yet be won. [_Enter_
Irene, _disguised as the slave,_ Ione.] Ah, a stranger! Who art thou?
[Ione _kneels and presents a letter._
Queen [_reads the letter_]. Ah, welcome! Thy mistress tells me she hath
chosen from among her train the fairest and most faithful of her slaves,
as a gift for me. With thanks do I accept thee. Lift thy veil, child,
that I may see how our maidens do compare with thee. [Ione _lifts her
veil._ The Queen _gazes in surprise at her beauty._] Thou art too
beautiful to be a slave. What is thy name?
Ione. Ione; may it please thee, lady.
Queen. 'Tis a fit name for one so fair; and thy country, maiden?
Ione. With the princess, my kind mistress, have I dwelt for many happy
years; and honored by her choice now offer my poor services to thee.
Queen. What canst thou do, Ione? Thou art too fair and delicate to bear
the heavy water-urn or gather fruit.
Ione. I can weave garlands, lady; touch the harp, and sing sweet songs;
can bear thee wine, and tend thy flowers. I can be true and faithful,
and no task will be too hard for thy grateful slave, Ione.
Queen. Thou shalt find a happy home with me, and never grieve for thy
kind mistress. And now, listen while I tell thee what thy hardest task
shall be. I will confide in thee, Ione, for thou art no common slave,
but a true and gentle woman whom I can trust and love. Thou hath heard
thy lady is betrothed to my most noble son; and yet, I grieve to say, he
loves her not. Nay, in the struggle 'gainst his heart, hath lost all
gayety and strength, and even the name Irene will chase the smile away.
He loves no other, yet will not offer her his hand when the heart that
should go with it feels no love for her who is to be his wife. I honor
this most noble feeling; yet could he know the beauty and the worth of
thy fair lady, he yet might love. Thou shalt tell him this: all the kind
deeds she hath done, the gentle words she hath spoken; all her
loveliness and truth thou shalt repeat; sing thou the songs she loved;
weave round his cups the flowers she wears; and strive most steadfastly
to gain a place within his heart for love and Lady Irene. Canst thou,
wilt thou do this, Ione?
Ione. Dear lady, all that my poor skill can do shall yet be tried. I
will not rest till he shall love my mistress as she longs to be
Queen. If thou canst win my son to health and happiness again, thou
shalt be forever my most loved, most trusted friend. The gods bless
thee, child, and give thy work success! Now rest thee here. I will come
ere long to lead thee to the prince.
[_Exit_ The Queen.
Ione. All goes well; and what an easy task is mine! To minister to him
whom I already love; to sing to him, weave garlands for his brow, and
tell him of the thoughts stirring within my heart. Yes, I most truly
long to see him whom all love and honor. The gods be with me, and my
task will soon be done.
[_Another room in the palace._
Constantine, _sad and alone._]
Con. Another day is well-nigh passed, and nearer draws the fate I dread.
Why must I give up all the bright dreams of my youth, and wed a woman
whom I cannot love?
They tell me she is young and fair, but I seek more than that in her who
is to pass her life beside me. Youth and beauty fade, but a noble
woman's love can never die. Oh, Irene, if thou couldst know how hard a
thing it is to take thee, princess though thou art! [_Enter_ Ione.] Ah,
lady, thou hast mistaken thy way! Let me lead thee to the queen's
Ione. Nay, my lord; I have come from her. She bid me say it was her will
that I, her slave, should strive with my poor skill to while away the
time till she could join thee.
Con. Thou, a slave? By the gods! methought it was some highborn
lady,--nay, even the Princess Irene herself, seeking the queen, my
Ione. She was my mistress, and bestowed me as a gift upon the queen.
This scroll is from her hand. May it please thee, read it [_kneels and
Con. Rise, fair maiden! I would rather listen to thy voice. May I ask
thee to touch yon harp? I am weary, and a gentle strain will sooth my
troubled spirit. Stay! let me place it for thee.
[_Prince moves the harp and gazes upon_ Ione _as she sings and
The wild birds sing in the orange groves,
And brightly bloom the flowers;
The fair earth smiles 'neath a summer sky
Through the joyous fleeting hours.
But oh! in the slave girl's lonely heart,
Sad thoughts and memories dwell,
And tears fall fast as she mournfully sings,
Home, dear home, farewell!
Though the chains they bind be all of flowers,
Where no hidden thorn may be,
Still the free heart sighs 'neath its fragrant bonds,
And pines for its liberty.
And sweet, sad thoughts of the joy now gone,
In the slave girl's heart shall dwell,
As she mournfully sings to her sighing harp,
Native land, native land, farewell!
Con. 'Tis a plaintive song. Is it thine own lot thou art mourning? If
so, thou art a slave no longer.
Ione. Nay, my lord. It was one my Lady Irene loved, and thus I thought
would please thee.
Con. Then never sing it more,--speak not her name! Nay, forgive me if I
pain thee. She was thy mistress, and thou didst love her. Was she kind
to thee? By what name shall I call thee?
Ione. Ione, your Highness. Ah, yes; she was too kind. She never spake a
cruel word, nor chid me for my many faults. Never can I love another as
I loved my gentle mistress.
Con. And is she very fair? Has she no pride, no passion or disdain to
mar her loveliness? She is a princess; is she a true and tender woman
Ione. Though a princess, 'neath her royal robes there beats a warm, true
heart, faithful and fond, longing to be beloved and seeking to be worthy
such great joy when it shall come. Thou ask'st me of her beauty.
Painters place her face among their fairest works, and sculptors carve
her form in marble. Yes, she is beautiful; but 'tis not that thou
wouldst most care for. Couldst thou only know her!--pardon, but I think
thou couldst not bear so cold a heart within thy breast as now.
Con. Ah, do not cease! say on! There is that in the music of thy voice
that soothes and comforts me. Come, sit beside me, fair Ione, and I will
tell thee why I do not love thy princess.
Ione. You do forget, my lord, I am a slave; I will kneel here.
[_Prince reclines upon a couch._ Ione _kneels beside him._
Con. Listen! From a boy I have been alone; no loving sister had I, no
gentle friend,--only cold councillors or humble slaves. My mother was a
queen, and 'mid the cares of State, tho' fondly loving me, her only son,
could find no time to win me from my lonely life.
Thus, tho' dwelling 'neath a palace roof with every wish supplied, I
longed most fondly for a friend. And now, ere long, a crown will rest
upon my head, a nation bend before me as their king. And now more
earnestly than ever do I seek one who can share with me the joys and
cares of my high lot,--a woman true and noble, to bless me with her
Ione. And could not the Princess Irene be to thee all thou hast dreamed?
Con. I fear I cannot love her. They told me she was beautiful and
highborn; and when I sought to learn yet more, 'twas but to find she
was a cold, proud woman, fit to be a queen, but not a loving wife. Thus
I learned to dread the hour when I must wed. Yet 'tis my mother's will;
my country's welfare calls for the sacrifice, and I must yield myself.
Ione. They who told thee she was proud and cold do all speak falsely.
Proud she is to those who bow before her but to gain some honor for
themselves, and cold to such as love her for her royalty alone. But if a
fond and faithful heart, and a soul that finds its happiness in noble
deeds can make a queen, Irene is worthy of the crown she will wear. And
now, if it please thee, I will seek the garden; for thy mother bid me
gather flowers for the feast. Adieu, my lord! [_She bows, her veil
falls_; Constantine _hands it to her._] Nay, kings should not bend to
serve a slave, my lord.
Con. I do forget myself most strangely. There, take thy veil, and leave
me [_turns_ _aside_]. Nay, forgive me if I seem unkind, but I cannot
treat thee as a slave. Come, I will go with thee to the garden; thou art
too fair to wander unprotected and alone. Come, Ione [_leads her out_].
[_The gardens of the palace._
Ione _weaving a garland._]
Ione. The rose is Love's own flower, and I will place it in the wreath I
weave for thee, O Constantine! Would I could bring it to thy heart as
easily! And yet, methinks, if all goes on as now, the slave Ione will
ere long win a prince's love. He smiles when I approach, and sighs when
I would leave him; listens to my songs, and saves the withered flowers I
gave him days ago. How gentle and how kind! Ah, noble Constantine, thou
little thinkest the slave thou art smiling on is the "proud, cold"
Princess Irene, who will one day show thee what a fond, true wife she
will be to thee [_sings_].
[_Enter_ Helon; _kneels to_ Ione.
Ione. Helon, my father's friend! thou here! Ah, hush! Betray me not! I
am no princess now. Rise, I do beseech thee! Kneel not to me.
Helon. Dear lady, why this secrecy? What dost thou here, disguised, in
the palace where thou art soon to reign a queen?
Ione. Hark! is all still? Yes; none are nigh! Speak low. I'll tell thee
all. Thou knowest the young prince loves me not,--nay, do not sigh; I
mean the princess, not the slave Ione, as I now call myself. Well, I
learned this, and vowed to win the heart he could not give; and so in
this slave's dress I journeyed hither with Rienzi, the ambassador, as a
gift unto the queen.
Thus, as a poor and nameless slave, I seek to win the noble Constantine
to life and love. Dost understand my plot, and wilt thou aid me, Father
Helon. 'Tis a strange thought! None but a woman would have planned it.
Yes, my child, I will aid thee, and thou yet shall gain the happiness
thy true heart well deserves. We will talk of this yet more anon. I
came hither to see the prince. They told me he was pale and ill, in
sorrow for his hated lot. Say, is this so?
Ione. Ah, yes, most true; and I am cause of all this sorrow. Father,
tell me, cannot I by some great deed give back his health, and never
have the grief of knowing that he suffered because I was his bride? How
can I avert this fate? I will do all, bear all, if he may be saved.
Helon. Grieve not, my child; he will live, and learn to love thee
fondly. The cares of a kingdom are too much for one so young; but he
would have happiness throughout his native land, and toiling for the
good of others he hath hidden his sorrow in his own heart, and pined for
tenderness and love. Thou hast asked if thou couldst save him. There is
one hope, if thou canst find a brave friend that fears no danger when a
good work leads him on. Listen, my daughter! In a deep and lonely glen,
far beyond the palace gates, there grows an herb whose magic power 'tis
said brings new life and strength to those who wreathe it round their
head in slumber. Yet none dare seek the spot, for spirits are said to
haunt the glen, and not a slave in all the palace but grows pale at
mention of the place. I am old and feeble, or I had been there long ere
this. And now, my child, who canst thou send?
Ione. I will send one who fears not spirit or demon; one who will gladly
risk e'en life itself for the brave young prince.
Helon. Blessed be the hand that gathers, thrice blessed be he who dares
the dangers of the way. Bring hither him thou speakest of. I would see
Ione. She stands before thee. Nay, start not, Father. _I_ will seek the
dreaded glen and gather there the magic flowers that may bring health to
Constantine and happiness to me. I will away; bless, and let me go.
Helon. Thou, a woman delicate and fair! Nay, nay, it must not be, my
child! Better he should die than thou shouldst come to harm. I cannot
let thee go.
Ione. Thou canst not keep me now. Thou hast forgot I am a slave, and
none may guess beneath this veil a princess is concealed. I will take my
water-urn, and with the other slaves pass to the spring beyond the city
gates; then glide unseen into the haunted glen. Now, tell me how looks
the herb, that I may know it.
Helon. 'Tis a small, green plant that blossoms only by the broad, dark
stream, dashing among the rocks that fill the glen. But let me once
again implore thee not to go. Ah, fatal hour when first I told thee!
'Tis sending thee to thy death! Stay, stay, my child, or let me go with
Ione. It cannot be; do thou remain, and if I come not back ere set of
sun, do thou come forth to seek me. Tell Constantine I loved him, and so
farewell. I return successful, or I return no more.
[Ione _rushes out._
Helon. Thou brave and noble one to dare so much for one who loves thee
not! I'll go and pray the gods to watch above thee, and bring thee
[_A terrace beside the palace.
Con. Why comes she not? I watched her slender form when with the other
slaves she went forth to the fountain yonder. I knew her by the rosy
veil and snow-white arm that bore the water-urn. The morning sun shone
brightly on the golden hair, and seemed more beautiful for resting
there; and now 'tis nearly set, and yet she comes not. Why should I
grieve because my mother's slave forgets me? Shame on thee, Constantine!
How weak and childish have I grown! This fever gives no rest when Ione
is not here to sing sweet songs, and cheer the weary hours. Ah, she
comes! [_Enter_ Ione _with basket of flowers._] Where hast thou been,
Ione? The long day passed so slowly, and I missed thee sadly from my
side. But thou art pale; thy locks are damp! What has chanced to thee?
Speak, I beseech thee!
Ione. 'Tis nothing; calm thyself, my lord. I am well, and bring thee
from the haunted glen the magic flowers whose power I trust will win
thee health and happiness. May it please thee to accept them [_kneels,
and gives the flowers_].
Con. Thou, thou, Ione? Hast thou been to that fearful spot, where mortal
foot hath feared to tread? The gods be blessed, thou art safe again! How
can I thank thee? Ah, why didst thou risk so much for my poor life? It
were not worth the saving if thine were lost.
Ione. My lord, a loving nation looks to thee for safety and protection.
I am but a feeble woman, and none would grieve if I were gone; none weep
for the friendless slave, Ione.
Con. Oh, say not thus! Tears would be shed for thee, and one heart
would grieve for her who risked so much for him. Speak not of death or
separation, for I cannot let thee go.
Ione. I will not leave thee yet, till I have won thy lost health back.
The old priest, Helon, bid me seek the herbs, and bind them in a garland
for thy brow. If thou wilt place it there, and rest awhile, I am repaid.
Con. If thy hand gave it, were it deadly poison I would place it there.
Now sing, Ione; thy low sweet voice will bring me pleasant dreams, and
the healing sleep will be the deeper with thy music sounding in mine
[_The prince reclines upon the terrace._ Ione _weaves a garland
Flowers, sweet flowers, I charge thee well,
O'er the brow where ye bloom cast a healing spell;
From the shadowy glen where spirits dwell,
I have borne thee here, thy power to tell.
Flowers, pale flowers, o'er the brow where ye lie,
Cast thy sweetest breath ere ye fade and die.
[Ione _places the garland on the head of the prince, who falls
asleep. She sits beside him softly singing._
[The Queen's _apartment._
The Queen _alone._]
Queen. 'Tis strange what power this slave hath gained o'er Constantine.
She hath won him back to health again, and never have I seen so gay a
smile upon his lips as when she stood beside him in the moonlight
singing to her harp. And yet, tho' well and strong again, he takes no
interest in his native land. He comes no more to council hall or feast,
but wanders 'mong his flowers with Ione. How can I rouse him to the
danger that is near! The Turkish sultan and his troops are on their way
to conquer Greece, and he, my Constantine, who should be arming for the
fight, sits weaving garlands with the lovely slave girl! Ah, a thought
hath seized me! Why cannot she who hath such power o'er him rouse up
with noble words the brave heart slumbering in his breast? I hear her
light step in the hall. Ione, Ione,--come hither! I would speak with
Ione. Your pleasure, dearest lady.
Queen. Ione, thou knowest how I love thee for the brave deeds thou hast
done. Thou hast given health unto my son, hath won him back to
happiness. Thou hast conquered his aversion to the princess, and he will
gladly wed her when the hour shall come. Is it not so?
Ione. Dear lady, that I cannot tell thee. He never breathes her name,
and if I speak of her as thou hast bid me, he but sighs, and grows more
sad; and yet I trust, nay, I well know that when he sees her he will
gladly give his hand to one who loves him as the princess will. Then do
not grieve, but tell thy slave how she may serve thee.
Queen. Oh, Ione, if thou couldst wake him from the quiet dream that
seems to lie upon his heart. His country is in danger, and he should be
here to counsel and command. Go, tell him this in thine own gentle
words; rouse him to his duty, and thou shalt see how brave a heart is
there. Thou hast a wondrous power to sadden or to cheer. Oh, use it
well, and win me back my noble Constantine! Canst thou do this, Ione?
Ione. I will; and strive most earnestly to do thy bidding. But of what
danger didst thou speak? No harm to him, I trust?
Queen. The Turkish troops are now on their way to carry woe and
desolation into Greece, and he, the prince, hath taken no part in the
councils. His nobles mourn at his strange indifference, and yet he heeds
I know not why, but some new happiness hath come to him, and all else is
forgot. But time is passing. I will leave thee to thy work, and if thou
art successful, thou wilt have won a queen's most fervent gratitude.
Adieu, my child!
[_Exit_ The Queen.
Ione. Yes, Constantine, thy brave heart shall awake; and when thy
country is once safe again, I'll come to claim the love that now I feel
[_Apartment in the palace.
Enter_ Ione _with sword and banner._]
Ione. Now may the gods bless and watch above thee, Constantine; give
strength to thine arm, courage to thy heart, and victory to the cause
for which thou wilt venture all. Ah, could I but go with thee, thy
shield would then be useless, for with mine own breast would I shelter
thee, and welcome there the arrows meant for thee.
He comes; now let me rouse him from this dream, and try my power o'er
Con. What high thoughts stirring in thy heart hath brought the clear
light to thine eye, Ione, the bright glow to thy cheek? What mean these
arms? Wouldst thou go forth to meet the Turks? Thy beauty would subdue
them sooner than the sword thou art gazing on so earnestly.
Ione. Thou hast bade me speak, my lord, and I obey; but pardon thy slave
if in her wish to serve she seem too bold. Thy mother and thy subjects
wonder at thy seeming indifference when enemies are nigh. Thine army
waits for thee to lead them forth; thy councillors sit silent, for their
prince is gone. While grief and terror reign around, he is wandering
'mong his flowers, or listening to the music of his harp. Ah, why is
this? What hath befallen thee? Thou art no longer pale and feeble, yet
there seems a spell set on thee. Ah, cast it off, and show them that
thou hast no fear.
Con. I am no coward, Ione; but there is a spell upon me. 'Tis a holy
one, and the chain that holds me here I cannot break,--for it is _love_.
I have lost the joy I once took in my subjects and my native land, and
am content to sit beside thee, and listen to the music of thy voice.
Ione. Then let that voice arouse thee. Oh, fling away the chain that
keeps thee from thy duty, and be again the noble prince who thought but
of his people. Oh, let me plead for those who sorrow for thy care, and
here let me implore thee to awaken from thy dream and be thyself again
Con. Oh, not to me! Rise, I beseech thee, rise! Thou hast led me to my
duty; I will obey thee.
Ione. I would have thee gird on thy sword, and with shield upon thine
arm, and banner in thy hand, go forth and conquer like a king. Show
those who doubt thee that their fears are false,--that thou art worthy
of their love. Lead forth thy troops, and save thy country from the woe
that now draws nigh. Victory surely will be theirs when thou shalt lead
Con. Give me my sword, unfurl my banner, and say farewell. I will return
victorious, or no more. Thy voice hath roused me from my idle but most
lovely dream, and thy brave words shall cheer me on till I have won the
honor of my people back. Pity and forgive my fault; and ah, remember in
thy prayers one who so passionately loves thee. Farewell! farewell!
[_Kisses her robe and rushes out._ Ione _sinks down._
[_On the battlements._
Ione, _watching the battle._]
Ione. The battle rages fiercely at the city gates, and the messengers
are fearful of defeat. I cannot rest while Constantine is in such peril.
Let me watch here and pray for him. Ah, I can see his white plume waving
in the thickest of the fight, where the blows fall heaviest and the
danger is most great. The gods guard him in this fearful hour! See how
small the brave band grows; they falter and retreat. One blow now
bravely struck may turn the tide of battle. It shall be done! I will arm
the slaves now in the palace, and lead them on to victory or death. We
may win--and if _not_, I shall die in saving thee, Constantine!
[Ione _rushes out._
[_The castle terrace.
Con. The victory is ours, and Greece again is free, thanks to the gods,
and to the brave unknown who led on my slaves, and saved us when all
hope seemed gone. Who could have been the fearless stranger? Like an
avenging spirit came the mysterious leader, carrying terror and
destruction to the Turkish ranks. My brave troops rallied and we won the
day. Yet when I sought him, he was gone, and none could tell me where.
He hath won my deepest gratitude, and the honor of all Greece for this
But where is Ione? Why comes she not to bid me welcome home? Ah, could
she know that thoughts of her gave courage to my heart, and strength to
my weak arm, and led me on that I might be more worthy her! Ah, yonder
comes the stranger; he may not think to see me here. I will step aside.
[Constantine _retires. Enter_ Ione _in armor, bearing sword._
Ione. The gods be thanked! the brave young prince hath conquered. From
the flying Turk I won his banner back, and now my task is done. I must
fling by this strange disguise and be myself again. I must bind up my
wound and seek to rest, for I am faint and weary. Ah, what means this
sudden dimness of mine eyes, this faintness--can it be death? 'T is
welcome,--Constantine, it is for thee!
[Ione _faints_; Constantine _rushes in._
Con. Ione, Ione, look up and listen to the blessings of my grateful
heart for all thou hast dared and done for me. So pale, so still! Ah,
must she die now I have learned to love so fervently and well? Ione,
Ione. Pardon this weakness; I will retire, my lord.
Con. Ah, do not leave me till I have poured out my gratitude. My country
owes its liberty to thee: then let me here before thee offer up my
country's thanks, and tell thee what my heart hath striven to hide. Dear
Ione, listen, I do beseech thee! [_Kneels._]
Ione. My lord, remember Lady Irene.
Con. [_starting up_]. Why comes she thus between my happiness and me?
Why did she send thee hither? Thou hast made the chain that binds her to
me heavier to be borne; the sorrow of my heart more bitter still. Nay,
do not weep. I will be calm. Thou art pale and faint, Ione,--lean thus
Ione. Nay, leave me; I cannot listen to thee. Go, I pray thee, go!
Con. Not till thou hast pardoned me. I have made thee weep, and every
tear that falls reproaches me for my rash words. Forget them, and
Ione. Ask not forgiveness of thy slave, my lord. 'Tis I who have
offended. And think not thus of Lady Irene, who in her distant home hath
cherished tender thoughts of one whom all so honored. Think of her grief
when she shall find thee cold and careless, and shall learn that he who
should most love and cherish, deems her but a burden, and hates the wife
whom he hath vowed to wed. Ah, think of this, and smile no more upon the
slave who may not listen to her lord.
Con. Thou art right, Ione. I will obey thee, and seek to hide my sorrow
within my lonely breast. Teach me to love thy mistress as I ought, and I
will sacrifice each selfish wish, and be more worthy thy forgiveness,
and a little place within thy heart. Trust me, I will speak no more of
my unhappy love, and will seek thee only when thine own voice bids me
The sunlight of thy presence is my truest joy, and banishment from thee
the punishment my wilful heart deserves. Rest here, Ione, and weep for
me no more. I am happy if thou wilt but smile again. Farewell, and may
the gods forever bless thee! [_Kisses her robe, and rushes out._]
[_A gallery in the palace._
_Enter_ Ione _with flowers._]
Ione. How desolate and dreary all hath grown! The garden once so bright
hath lost its beauty now, for Constantine no longer walks beside me. The
palace rooms seem sad and lonely, for his voice no longer echoes there,
and the music of his harp is never heard. His pale face haunts me
through all my waking hours, and his mournful eyes look on me in my
dreams. But soon his sorrow all shall cease, for nearer draws the day
when Princess Irene comes to claim the heart so hardly won, and will by
constancy and love so faithfully reward. Hark! I hear a step. It is
Rienzi. How shall I escape,--my veil is in the garden! He knows me and
will discover all. Stay! this curtain shall conceal me [_hides within
[_Enter_ Rienzi _stealthily._
Rienzi. How! not here? I told the messenger to meet me in the gallery
that leads from the garden. Curses on him! he hath delayed, and were I
discovered in this part of the palace, all might be betrayed. I'll wait,
and if he comes not, I'll bear the message to the friends myself, and
tell the bold conspirators we meet to-night near the haunted glen, to
lay yet farther plans. We must rid the kingdom of the prince, who will
be made ere long our king, for his bridal with the Princess Irene draws
more near. But ere the royal crown shall rest upon his brow, that head
shall be laid low. The queen will soon follow her young son, and then
we'll seize the kingdom and rule it as we will. Hark! methought I heard
a sound. I may be watched. I'll stay no longer, but seek the place
myself [_steals out and disappears in the garden_].
[Ione _comes from her hiding-place._
Ione. Surely the gods have sent me to watch above thee, Constantine, and
save thee from the danger that surrounds thee. I will haste to tell him
all I have discovered. Yet, no! Rienzi may escape, and I can charge none
other with the crime. They meet near the haunted glen, and not a slave
would follow even his brave prince to that dark spot. How can I aid him
to discover those who seek to do him harm? Stay! I will go alone. Once
have I dared the dangers of the way to save thy life, Constantine; again
I'll tread the fearful path, and watch the traitors at their evil work.
It shall be done! I will dare all, and fail not, falter not, till thou
who art dearer to me than life itself art safe again.
[_A wood near the haunted glen._ Ione _shrouded
in white glides in and conceals herself among
the trees. Enter_ Rienzi.]
Rienzi [_looking fearfully about_]. 'Tis a wild and lonely spot, and
'tis said strange spirits have been seen to wander here. Why come they
not? 'Tis past the hour, and I who stand undaunted when the fiercest
battle rages round me, now tremble with strange fear in this dim spot.
Shame on thee, Rienzi, there is nought to fear [_opens a scroll and
reads_]. Here are their names, all pledged to see the deed accomplished.
'Tis a goodly list and Constantine must fall when foes like these are
round him. [Ione _appears within the glen._
Ha! methought I heard a sound! Nay, 'twas my foolish fancy. Spirits, I
Ione. Beware! Beware!
Rienzi. Ye gods, what's that? It was a voice. [_Rushes wildly towards
the glen, sees_ Ione, _drops scroll and dagger._] 'Tis a spirit! The
gods preserve me, I will not stay! [_Exit in terror._]
Ione. Saved! saved! Here are the traitors' names, and here Rienzi's
dagger to prove my story true. Now hence with all my speed, no time is
to be lost! These to thee, Constantine, and joy unfailing to my own fond
[_Apartment in the palace.
Con. This little garland of pale, withered flowers is all now left me of
Ione, faded like my own bright hopes, broken like my own sad heart. Yet
still I cherish it, for her dear hand wove the wreath, and her soft eyes
smiled above the flowers as she twined them for my brow. Those happy
days are passed; she comes no more, but leaves me sorrowing and alone.
And yet 'tis better so. The princess comes to claim my hand, and then
'twill be a sin to watch Ione, to follow her unseen, and listen to her
voice when least she thinks me near. The gods give me strength to bear
my trial worthily, and suffer silently the greatest sorrow life can
give,--that of losing her [_leans sadly upon the harp_].
Ione. My lord--He does not hear me, how bitter and how deep must be his
grief, when the voice that most he loves falls thus unheeded on his ear.
Con. [_starting_]. And thou art really here? Ah, Ione, I have longed for
thee most earnestly. Ah, forgive me! In my joy I have disobeyed, and
told the happiness thy presence brings. What wouldst thou with me?
Ione. My lord, I have strange tidings for thine ear.
Con. Oh, tell me not the Princess Irene hath arrived!
Ione. Nay, 'tis not that. I have learned the secret of a fearful plot
against thy life. Rienzi, and a band of other traitors, seek to win thy
throne and take the life of their kind prince.
Con. It cannot be, Ione! They could not raise their hands 'gainst one
who hath striven for their good. They cannot wish the life I would so
gladly have lain down to save them. Who told thee this, Ione? I
cannot--no, I will not think they could prove so ungrateful unto their
Ione. I cannot doubt the truth of this, my lord, for one whose word I
trust learned it, and followed to the haunted glen, there saw Rienzi,
whose guilty conscience drove him from the place, leaving behind this
scroll whereon are all the traitors' names. And this dagger,--'tis his
own, as thou mayst see [_shows dagger and scroll_].
Con. I can no longer doubt; but I had rather have felt the dagger in my
heart than such a wound as this. The names are few; I fear them not, and
will ere long show them a king may pardon all save treachery like this.
But tell the name of thy brave friend who hath discovered this deep
treason, and let me offer some reward to one who hath watched above me
with such faithful care.
Ione. Nay, my lord, no gift, no thanks are needed. 'Tis a true and
loving subject, who is well rewarded if his king be safe.
Con. Thou canst not thus deceive me. It was thine own true heart that
dared so much to save my life. Oh, Ione, why wilt thou make me love thee
more by deeds like these,--why make the sorrow heavier to bear, the
parting sadder still?
Ione. Thou dost forget, my lord, I have but done my duty. May it please
thee, listen to a message I bear thee from the queen.
Con. Say on. I will gladly listen to thy voice while yet I may.
Ione. She bid me tell thee that to-morrow, ere the sun shall set, the
Princess Irene will be here. [Constantine _starts and turns aside._]
Forgive me that I pain thee, but I must obey. Yet, farther: thy bride
hath sent her statue as a gift to thee, and thou wilt find it in the
queen's pavilion. She bid me say she prayed thee to go look upon it, and
remember there thy solemn vow.
Con. Oh, Ione, could she send none but thee to tell me this? To hear it
from thy lips but makes the tidings heavier to bear. Canst thou bid me
go, and vow to love one whom I have learned to hate? Canst thou bid me
leave thee for a fate like this?
Ione. My lord, thou art soon to be a king; then for thy country's sake,
remember thy hand is plighted to the princess, and let no kindly
thoughts of a humble slave keep thy heart from its solemn duty.
Con. I am no king,--'tis I who am the slave, and thou, Ione, are more to
me than country, home, or friends. Nay, do not turn away,--think only of
the love I bear thee, and listen to my prayer.
Ione. I must not listen. Hast thou so soon forgot the vow thou made that
no word of love should pass thy lips? Remember, 'tis a slave who stands
Con. Once more thou shalt listen to me, Ione, and then I will be still
forever. Thou shalt be my judge, thy lips _shall_ speak my fate. I
cannot love the princess. Wouldst thou bid me vow to cherish her while
my heart is wholly thine? Wouldst thou ask me to pass through life
beside her with a false vow on my lips, and, with words of love I do not
feel, conceal from her the grief of my divided heart? Must I give up all
the bright dreams of a happier lot, and feel that life is but a bitter
struggle, a ceaseless longing but for thee? Rather bid me to forget the
princess and bind with Love's sweet chains the slave unto my side,--my
Ione. The _slave_ Ione can never be thy bride, and thou art bound by
solemn vows to wed the Princess Irene. My duty and thine honor are more
precious than a poor slave's love. Banish all thoughts of her, and prove
thyself a faithful lord unto the wife who comes now trustingly to thee.
Ask thine own heart if life could be a bitter pilgrimage, when a
sacrifice like this had been so nobly made. A tender wife beside thee,
a mother's blessing on thy head,--oh, were not this a happier fate than
to enjoy a short, bright dream of love, but to awake and find thy
heart's peace gone, thy happiness forever fled; to see the eyes that
once looked reverently upon thee now turned aside, and lips that spoke
but tender words now whisper scornfully of broken vows thou wert not
brave enough to keep. Forgive me, but I cannot see the prince so false
to his own noble heart. Cast off this spell; forget me, and Irene shall
win thee back to happiness.
Con. Never! All her loveliness can never banish the pure, undying love I
bear to thee. Oh, Ione, canst thou doubt its truth, when I obey thee now
and prove how great thy power o'er my heart hath grown? Oh, let the
sacrifice win from _thee_ one gentle thought, one kind remembrance of
him whose life thou hast made so beautiful for a short hour. And in my
loneliness, sweet memories of thee shall cheer and gladden, and I will
bear all for thy dear sake. And now farewell. Forgive if I have grieved
thee, and at parting grant me one token to the silent love that
henceforth must lie unseen within my heart. Farewell, Ione! [_He kisses
Ione [_falling at his feet_]. Ah, forgive me,--here let me seek thy
pardon for the grief I have brought thee. May all the happiness that
earth can bring be ever thine. But, if all others should forsake thee,
in thine hour of sorrow remember there is one true heart that cannot
change. Oh, may the gods bless thee! 'Tis my last wish, last prayer
Con. Stay! I would claim from thee one little word which hath the power
to brighten e'en my sorrow. I have never asked thee, for I thought my
heart had read it in thine eyes that looked so kindly on me; in the lips
that spoke such gentle words of hope. But ah! tell me now at parting
dost thou _love_ me, dear Ione?
Ione. I do, most fondly, truly love thee.
Con. Ione, thy voice hath been a holy spell to win me to my duty. Thy
love shall keep me pure and faithful, till we meet above. Farewell!
Ione. Farewell!--and oh, remember how I have loved thee; and may the
memory of all I have borne for thee win thy pardon for any wrong I may
have done thee. The princess will repay the grief the slave hath caused
thy noble heart. Remember Ione, and be true.
Con. Gone, gone, now lost to me forever! Remember thee! Ah, how can I
ever banish thy dear image from this heart that now hath grown so
desolate? I will be true. None shall ever know how hard a struggle hath
been mine, that I might still be worthy thee. Yes, Irene, I will strive
to love thee, and may the gods give me strength; but Ione, Ione, how can
I give thee up! [_Picks up a flower_ Ione _has dropped, and puts it in
his bosom and goes sadly out._]
[The Queen's _pavilion. A dark curtain
hangs before an alcove. Enter_ Constantine.]
Con. The hour hath come when I shall gaze upon the form of her who hath
cast so dark a shadow o'er my life. Beautiful and young, and blessed
with all that makes her worthy to be loved, and yet I fear I have not
taught my wilful heart the tenderness I ought.
I fear to draw aside the veil that hides her from me, for I cannot
banish the sweet image that forever floats before mine eyes. Ione's soft
gaze is on me, and the lips are whispering, "I love thee!" But I have
promised to be true,--no thoughts of her must lead me now astray. My
fate is here [_approaches the curtain_]. Let me gaze upon it, and think
gently of the wife so soon to be mine own. Why do I fear? Courage, my
heart! [_He draws aside the curtain, and_ Ione, _veiled, appears as a
statue upon its pedestal._] Another veil to raise! How hard the simple
deed hath grown. One last sweet thought of thee, Ione, and then I will
no longer falter. [_He turns away and bows his head._]
Ione. Constantine! [_He starts, and gazes in wonder as the statue,
casting aside the veil, comes down and kneels._] Here at thy feet kneels
thy hated bride,--the "proud, cold princess," asking thee to pardon all
the sorrow she hath given thee. Ah, smile upon me, and forget Ione, who
as a slave hath won thy love, but as the princess will repay
it,--forgive, and love me still!
Con. Thou, thou Irene,--she whom I so feared to look upon? Ah, no!--thou
art Ione, the gentle slave. Say am I dreaming? Why art thou here to make
another parting the harder to be borne? Fling by thy crown and be Ione
Irene [_rising_]. Listen, Constantine, and I will tell thee all. I am
Irene. In my distant home I learned thou didst not love me, and I vowed
to win thy heart before I claimed it. Thus, unknown, the proud princess
served thee as a slave, and learned to love thee with a woman's fondest
faith. I watched above thee that no harm should fall; I cheered and
gladdened life for thee, and won the heart I longed for. I knew the
sorrow thou wouldst feel, but tried thy faith by asking thee to
sacrifice thy love and keep thine honor stainless. Here let me offer up
a woman's fondest trust and most undying love. Wilt thou believe, and
pardon mine offence? [_Kneels again before him._]
Con. Not at my feet, Irene!--'tis I who should bend low before thee,
asking thy forgiveness. For all thou hast dared for me; for every
fearless deed; for every loving thought, all I can lay before thee is a
fond and faithful heart, whose reverence and love can never die, but
through the pilgrimage of life shall be as true and tender as when I
gave it to the slave Ione [_embraces_ Irene].
NOTE TO ION.
This play was found too uninteresting for presentation, and was left
unfinished, but is here given as a specimen of what the young authors
considered _very fine_ writing.
The drama was, of course, to end well. Cleon, being free, at once
assembles a noble army, returns to conquer Mohammed and release Ion, who
weds the lovely Zuleika, becomes king, and "lives happily forever
Mohammed . . . . . . _The Turk._
Cleon . . . . . . . _Prince of Greece._
Ion . . . . . . . _Son of Cleon._
Adrastus . . . . . . _A Priest._
Hafiz . . . . . . . _Turkish Envoy._
Hassan . . . . . . . _A Slave._
Murad . . . . . . . _A Slave._
Abdallah . . . . . . _A Slave._
Iantha . . . . . . . _Wife of Cleon._
Zuleika . . . . . . _Daughter of Mohammed._
Medon . . . . . . . _A Slave._
Selim . . . . . . . _A Slave._
[_Room in the palace of_ Cleon.
Iantha _and_ Adrastus.]
Iantha. How wearily the days wear on, and the heavy hours so fraught
with doubt press like death upon my aching heart. To the young, the
fair, the happy, life is a blissful dream, filled with bright joys; for
hope like a star beams on their pathway. But to the grief-worn heart,
worn with weary watching, vexed with sad cares, whose hours are filled
with fear, and ever thronging sorrows, whose star burns with a dim
uncertain light,--oh, weary, weary is the pilgrimage; joyless the
present, dark the future; and the sooner all is o'er, the better.
Adrastus. Daughter, thou hast forgot. The radiant star may pale and
fade, but He who giveth it its light still liveth. Turn unto Him thy
worn and bleeding heart, and comfortless thou shalt not be.
Iantha. Father, I cannot. When I would pray for resignation, words fail
me, and my soul is filled with murmuring, while round me throng visions
of battle-fields and death. Ever comes before me the form of Cleon,--no
longer bright and beautiful as when, burning with hope and confidence in
his high calling, he went forth to conquer or to die; but fallen,
bleeding, perhaps dead, or a captive in the dungeon of the pagan, doomed
to waste in hopeless misery the long years of his manhood. And my
boy,--what will be his fate? Father, can I think on this and pray?
Adrastus. 'Tis hard, Iantha; but to His aid alone canst thou look up to
save thy husband from the horrors of a bloody war. Call on Him, and He,
the merciful, will in thy great need be near thee.
Medon. A stranger craveth audience.
Iantha [_rushing forward_]. A stranger! Cometh he from my lord?
Medon. I know not, lady; but as a messenger is he clad, and with great
haste demandeth speech of thee, saying he bore tidings of great import.
Iantha. Admit him instantly. [_Exit_ Medon.] Father, do thou follow, and
speed him hither.
Adrastus. I hasten to obey thee. Bear a brave heart, my daughter. I feel
that hope is near.
Iantha [_joyfully_]. Hope,--thrice blessed word!--wilt thou indeed visit
this doubting heart once more, and sweeten the cup thou hast so long
forsaken? [_Enter_ Hafiz.] Welcome! comest thou from my lord? Thy
Hafiz. To the wife of Cleon, late commander of the rebel Greeks, am I
sent to bear tidings of their defeat by Mohammed, now master of all
Adrastus. And my lord,--the noble Cleon?
Hafiz. Betrayed, defeated, and now lying under sentence of immediate
death in the dungeon of the Sultan.
Iantha. Lost! lost! lost! [_Falls fainting on a couch._]
Adrastus. Daughter, look up!--there is yet hope. There is no time for
rest. Up! rouse thy brave, till now, unconquered heart and cast off this
spell. And thou, slave, hence,--away!
Iantha [_rousing_]. Defeated, imprisoned, condemned,--words unto one
heart fraught with such dire despair. Tell me, Father, oh, tell me
truly, do I dream?
[_Enter_ Ion, _who stands listening._
Adrastus. 'Tis no dream. The rough soldier did but tell thee in rude
speech, what I was hastening in more guarded words to bear thee. 'Tis
true; thy lord is in Mohammed's power, a victim to the perfidy of
pagans, and doomed unto a speedy death. Nay, Iantha, shrink not, but as
a soldier's wife, glory in the death of thy brave knight, dying for his
country; and in his martyrdom take to thy soul sweet comfort.
Iantha. Comfort! Oh, man, thou little knowest woman's heart! What to her
is glory, when him she loveth is torn from her forever? What to the
orphan is the crown of martyrdom, the hero's fame, the praise of
nations, the homage of the great? Will they give back the noble dead,
heal the broken heart, tear bitter memories from the wounded soul to
whom earth is desolate? Nay, Father, nay. Oh, Cleon, would I could die
Adrastus. This mighty sorrow o'erpowers her reason and will destroy all
hope. Iantha, daughter, rouse thyself; let the love thou dost bear thy
lord now aid in his deliverance. From the wealth of thy heart's true
affection, devise thou some way to save him.
Iantha. Aid me, Father; I have no power of thought. I will trust all to
Adrastus. I know not what to counsel thee; my life hath ill fitted me to
deal with soldiers and with kings. But if some messenger--
Iantha. Nay, it will not serve. None will dare brave the anger of the
pagan, and death were the doom of such as approach him other than as a
slave. And yet,--perchance he might relent. Oh, were there some true
heart, fearless and loving, to aid me now in mine hour of distress!
Where can I look for help?
Ion [_coming forward_]. Here, Mother,--_I_ will seek the camp of
Iantha. Thou!--my Ion, my only one. No, no; it may not be,--thy tender
youth, thy gentle, untried spirit. 'Tis madness e'en to think on!
Ion. Mother, am I not a soldier's son, cradled 'mid warriors? Runs not
the blood of heroes in these veins? Are not my father's deeds, his
bright, untarnished name, my proud inheritance? What though this tender
form is yet untried; what though these arms have never borne the
knightly armor? No victor's laurels rest on this youthful brow, and I
bear no honored name among the great and glorious of our land; yet,
Mother, have I not a father, for whose dear sake I may yet purchase that
knighthood for which this young heart glows? Am I not the son of Cleon?
Adrastus. Verily doth a spirit move the boy. Look on him now, Iantha,
and let no weak, unworthy doubt of thine curb the proud spirit that
proves him worthy of his sire.
Iantha. My son, my fair, young Ion, thou art all now left my widowed
heart. How can I bid thee go! The barbarous pagan will doom thee to a
cruel death. How canst thou, an unknown youth, move the fierce heart
that hath slain thy sire?
Ion. Fear not, Mother; he who calls me to this glorious mission will
protect me. Shall I stand weeping while my father still breathes the air
of pagan dungeons; while the base fetters of the infidel rest on his
limbs, and his brave followers lie unavenged in their cold, bloody
graves; while my country's banner, torn, dishonored, is trampled in the
dust,--and he the proud, the brave, till now unconquered defender of
that country's honor, lies doomed to an ignominious death? Oh, Mother,
bid me go!
Adrastus. Iantha, speak to the boy! Let him not say his _mother_ taught
Iantha. My Ion, go,--strong in thine innocence and faith, go forth upon
thy holy mission; and surely He who looketh ever with a loving face on
those who put their trust in Him, will in His mercy guard and guide thee
[_girds on his sword_]. Farewell! Go,--with thy mother's blessing on
Ion. Now is my heart filled all anew with hope and courage, and I go
forth trustingly. Father, thy blessing [_kneels before_ Adrastus].
Adrastus. Go, thou self-anointed victim on the altar of thy love. Bless
thy pure, faithful heart!
Ion [_rising_]. Farewell! Embrace me, Mother.
Iantha [_pressing_ Ion _to her breast_]. Farewell, my Ion. And if the
great Father wills it that I look not again on thee in life, into His
care do I commit thee. Farewell!
Ion. Mother, farewell! And if I fall, mourn not, but glory that I died
as best became the son of Cleon [_draws his sword_]. And now leap forth,
my sword!--henceforth is there no rest nor honor till we have conquered.
Father, I come, I come! [Ion _rushes out;_ Iantha _rushes to the window,
tears off her veil and waves it to_ Ion.]
[_Tent of_ Mohammed; _maps and arms lying
about._ Mohammed _and_ Hafiz.]
Moh'd. And spake they no word of ransom or of hostage?
Hafiz. None, sire. The lady lay as one struck dead; and the priest, foul
Christian dog, bade me go hence, and tarry not.
Moh'd. And held you no speech with those about the princess. Sure, there
were some to listen to thy master's word.
Hafiz. Great master, I sought in vain to set before them the royal will.
At first it were as though a spell had fallen on them. Nay, some did
turn aside and weep, rending their hair, as though all hope were lost.
Then, when I strove to win them to some counsel, they woke to such an
uproar, cursing thy perfidy, and vowing most dire and speedy vengeance
on thee, clashing their weapons and crying, "Down with the pagan dogs!"
Then, drawing forth their lances with fierce oaths, they drove me from
the gates in such warlike manner, I could but strive with haste to make
good mine escape, and without rest have I journeyed hither to bring thee
Moh'd. By the prophet! and is it thus they serve the royal messenger.
But they shall rue it dearly. Cleon shall die. To-morrow's sun shall
never shine for him. The proud Greeks shall learn to dread Mohammed's
ire, and bend their haughty heads before him in the dust. I offer
ransom, and they will not harken. I send them honorable terms, and they
thrust my messenger rudely from their gates. They have dared to brave
me,--they shall feel my power!
Hafiz. Mighty Mohammed, if thy poor slave might offer counsel, were it
not wise to tarry till the Greeks on cooler thought shall seek thee with
some treaty which may avail thee better than such hasty vengeance. How
much more worthy were a heavy ransom than the life of a single miserable
Moh'd. Peace, slave! I have said Cleon shall die, and, by Allah! so I
have not word from these rebel dogs ere three days shall wear away, his
body swung from the battlements shall bear them tidings of Mohammed's
power. [_Enter_ Selim.] What hath befallen, Selim, that thou comest in
Selim. Most mighty king, there waits without a youth, demanding speech
Moh'd. A youth! Who may he be, and what seeks he with us?
Selim. Most gracious sire, I know not. Our guard surprised him wandering
without the camp,--alone, unarmed, save with a single sword; young, and
I think a Greek. Abdallah seized him as a spy, and led him hither to
await thy royal will. He doth refuse all question, demanding to be led
before thee, where he will unfold his errand.
Moh'd. A Greek! Bring him before us, an he prove a spy he shall hang
before the day waxeth older by an hour. Hence,--bring him hither!
[_Exit_ Selim.] By Allah! my proud foes have deigned to send us
messengers, and seek to win the favor so rudely scorned. They know not
Mohammed, and, so they humble not themselves, will sue in vain.
[_Enter_ Selim, _dragging_ Ion.
Selim. Your Mightiness doth behold the youth. [_To_ Ion, _who stands
proudly._] Kneel, slave!
Ion. I kneel not unto tyrants.
Moh'd. How, bold stripling! Weigh with more care thy speech, and forget
not before whom thou dost stand. [_To_ Selim.] Go, slave, and stand
without; see that none enter here unbidden. [_Exit_ Selim.] Speak, boy!
Who art thou, and why dost thou seek thus fearlessly the presence of thy
foe?--and beware thou speakest truly if it is as a friend to treat in
honorable fashion, or as a spy, thou now standest before us.
Ion. I am a Greek, son to the noble Cleon, now thy captive; I seek his
Moh'd. Son to Cleon! Now, by the Prophet, 'tis wondrous strange! And
thou hast ventured alone into the camp amid thy deadly foes? Speak,
Ion. To offer hostage; to treat with Mohammed for a father's life; to
move to pity or to justice the heart that hath doomed a noble soldier
unto an unjust death.
Moh'd. And where, my bold prince, are thy followers, thy slaves, thy
Ion. On yonder plain, cold in their graves.
Moh'd. Hast thou brought ransom? Where is thy gold?
Ion. In the coffers of the Turkish Mohammed, plundered from his
Moh'd. Thou spakest of hostage,--I see it not.
Ion. 'Tis here,--the son of Cleon.
Moh'd. Thou! and thinkest thou thy young, worthless life were a fit
hostage for the leader of a rebel band, the enemy of all true followers,
whose capture hath cost blood and slaves and gold? By Allah! boy, thou
must name a higher price to win the life thou doth seek.
Ion. I have nought else to offer. Thy hand hath rent from me friends,
followers, gold, a sire. But if this young life hath any worth to thee,
if these arms may toil for thee, this form bear burdens to thy royalty,
take them,--take all, O king, but render unto me that life without which
Greece is lost.
Moh'd. Peace! Thy speech is vain; thy life is nought to me.
Ion. I will serve thee as a slave; in all things do thy
bidding,--faithful, unwearied, unrepining. Grant but my boon, and
monarch shall never have a truer vassal than I will be to thee. Great
Mohammed, let me not plead in vain.
Moh'd. Peace, I say; anger me not.
Ion. O king, hast thou no heart? Think of the ruined home, the mourning
people, the land made desolate by thee; of her who now counts the weary
hours for tidings of those dear to her,--tidings fraught with life or
death as thou shalt decree; of the son by thee doomed to see his honored
sire, hero of a hundred battles dragged like a slave unto a shameful
death. As thou wilt have mercy shown to thee, that mercy show thou unto
me. Oh, say to me, "Thy father lives!"
Moh'd. Away! I will not listen.
Ion. Nay, I _will_ kneel to thee. I who never knelt to man before, now
implore thee with earnest supplication. 'Tis for a father's life.
Moh'd. Kneel not to me,--it is in vain. Thy father is my captive, my
deadliest foe, whom I hate, and curse,--ay, and will slay. Boy, dost
thou know to whom thou dost bow?
Ion [_rising proudly_]. To the pagan Mohammed,--he who with murderous
hand hath bathed in blood the smiling plains of Greece; profaned her
altars, enslaved her people, and filled the land with widows' tears and
orphans' cries; he who by perfidy makes captives of his foes, refusing
hostage and scorning honorable treaty; turns from all supplicants,
closes his heart to mercy, and tramples under foot all pity and all
justice,--the murderer, and the tyrant. Yes, king, I know to whom I
Moh'd. [_in great anger_]. Ho, without there, guards!--Selim! [_Enter_
Selim _and soldiers._] Away with the prisoner! Bind him fast; see he
escape not. Mohammed stands not to be braved by a beardless boy! Hence!
[_Guards approach with chains._]
Ion. Lay not hands upon me,--I am no slave! One more appeal: May a son
look once more upon his father ere death parts them forever? May I but
for an hour speak with Cleon?
Moh'd. Once more thou mayst look upon the rebel Greek. When he hangs
from yonder battlement thou mayst gaze unbidden as thou will. Away! With
to-morrow's sun, he dies.
Ion. So soon, O king!--nay, the son of Cleon kneels not to thee again
[_turns to go_].
Moh'd. Stay,--yield up thy sword! Bend thy proud knee, and surrender
unto me the arms thou art unworthy now to bear.
Ion [_drawing his sword_]. This, my sword, girded on by a mother's hand,
pledged to the deliverance of a captive sire, dedicated to the service
of my country, unstained, unconquered,--_thus_ do I surrender thee. [_He
breaks the sword, and flings it down._]
Moh'd. Again dost thou brave me! Away with the rebel! Bind him hand and
foot. He shall learn what it is to be Mohammed's slave. Hence, I say!
Ion. I am thy captive, but thy slave--never! Thou mayst chain my limbs,
thou canst _not_ bind my freeborn soul! Lead on,--I follow.
[_Exit_ Ion _and guards_.
[_Tent of_ Zuleika; _guitar, ottoman, etc._]
Zuleika [_pacing up and down_]. Night draweth on apace, and ever nearer
comes the fatal hour. With to-morrow's dawn all hope is o'er, for
Mohammed hath sworn the Greek shall die, and when was _he_ ere known to
fail in his dread purpose? In vain have I wept before him, imploring him
to have some mercy; in vain have I sought with golden promises to move
the stony-hearted Hafiz,--all, all hath failed, and I am in despair. And
that brave youth, his true heart filled with love's pure devotion,
seeking by the sacrifice of his own life to save a father! And now each
moment bringeth nearer the death-hour of that father, and he is mourning
in solitude that he may not say farewell. Where can I turn for help? Ah,
Hassan! my faithful slave. He is true, and loveth me like his own. He
must aid me [_claps her hands_; _enter_ Hassan]. Hassan, thou lovest me,
and would not see me grieve?
Hassan. Allah, forbid! Thou art dear to old Hassan as the breath of
life, and while life lingers he will serve thee.
Zuleika. Then must thou aid me in a deed of mercy. Who doth keep watch
to-night before the tent of the young Greek?
Hassan. Mine is the watch. Wherefore dost thou seek to know?
Zuleika. Hassan, thou hast sworn to serve me. I have a boon to ask of
Hassan. Speak, lady! thy slave doth listen.
Zuleika. Thou knowest that with the morning sun Mohammed hath sworn
Cleon shall die. Such is the fierce anger he doth bear his foe he hath
refused all mercy and scorned to listen to the prayers of the young
prince who hath journeyed hither at peril of his own life to place
himself in the power of the king as hostage for his father.
Hassan. It is indeed most true. Poor youth!
Zuleika. 'Tis of him I would speak to thee. Mohammed, angered at his
boldness, hath, as thou knowest, guarded him in yonder tent, denying him
his last sad prayer to speak once more in life with his father. Oh,
Hassan, what must be the agony of that young heart to see the hours
swift speeding by, and know no hope.
Hassan. What wouldst thou have me do?
Zuleika. Lead him to his father; give him the consolation of folding to
his breast the beloved one to save whose life he hath sacrificed his
Hassan. Dear mistress, thou art dreaming, and cannot know the danger of
so rash a deed. Bethink thee of Mohammed's anger, the almost certain
doom of such as dare to brave his mighty will. I pray thee let not thy
noble heart lead thee astray. Thou canst not save him, and will but harm
Zuleika. Hassan, thy love and true devotion, I well know, doth prompt
thee to thus counsel, and in thy fear for me thou dost forget to think
of mercy or of pity. I thank thee; but thou canst not move me from my
firm resolve. Again I ask thee, Wilt thou aid me?
Hassan [_falling at her feet_]. Pardon, but I cannot. Heed, I implore
thee, the counsel of thy faithful servant, and trust to the wisdom these
gray hairs have brought. Thou art young and brave, but believe me,
maiden, dangers of which thou dost not dream beset the path, and I were
no true friend did I not warn thee to beware. Do not tempt me; I cannot
aid thee to thy ruin.
Zuleika. Then will I go alone. I will brave the peril, and carry comfort
to a suffering soul [_turns to go_; Hassan _catches her robe_].
Hassan. Maiden! once more let thy slave entreat. Thy father places faith
in me. I am the captive's guard.
Zuleika. Peace, Hassan, peace; if life be then so dear to thee, and thy
duty to thy king greater than that thou dost owe to thy fellow-man,
Allah forbid that I should tempt thee to forget it. But did death look
me in the face, I would not tarry now.
Hassan. And thou wouldst seek the captive's cell?
Zuleika. This very hour. Soon it will be too late.
Hassan. Thou knowest not the way,--soldiers guard every turn. Oh, tarry
till the dawn, I do implore thee.
Zuleika. The darkness shall be my guide, Allah my guard; shrouded in yon
dark mantle none will deem me other than a slave. Again I ask thee, Wilt
Hassan. I go. I were no true man to tremble when a woman fears not. I
will guide thee, and may Allah in his mercy shield us both. Say thy
prayers, Hassan, for thy head no longer rests in safety.
Zuleika. Come, let us on! The moments speed. The darkening gloom
befriends us. First to the tent of the young prince, and while I in
brief speech do acquaint him with mine errand, thou shalt keep guard
without. Then will we guide him to his father, and unto Allah leave the
rest [_shrouds herself in dark mantle and veil_]. Lead on, good Hassan.
Let us away!
Hassan. Fold thy veil closer, that none may know the daughter of
Mohammed walks thus late abroad. Come, and Allah grant we sleep not in
[_Exit, leading_ Zuleika.
Ion _chained, in an attitude of deep despair, upon
a miserable couch. He does not see the entrance
of_ Zuleika _and_ Hassan.]
Zuleika. Stand thou without as watch, good Hassan, and warn me if any
shall approach. [_Exit_ Hassan.] Young Greek, despair not; hope is nigh.
Ion [_starting up_]. Bright vision, whence comest thou? Art thou the
phantom of a dream, or some blest visitant from that better land, come
to bear me hence? What art thou?
Zuleika. I am no vision, but a mortal maiden, come to bring thee
Ion. Consolation! ah, then indeed thou art no mortal; for unto grief
like mine there is no consolation, save that which cometh from above.
Zuleika. Nay, believe it not. Human hearts are at this moment hoping,
and human hands are striving earnestly to spare thee the agony thou dost
Ion. Are there then hearts to feel for the poor Greek? I had thought I
was alone,--alone 'mid mine enemies. Sure, those fetters are no dream,
this dark cell, the words "Thy father dies!" No, no! it is a dread
reality. The words are burned into my brain.
Zuleika. Is death, then, so dread a thing unto a warrior? I had thought
it brought him fame and glory.
Ion. Death! Oh, maiden! To the soldier on the battle-field, fighting for
his father-land 'mid the clash of arms, the fierce blows of foemen, the
shouts of victory; 'neath the banner of his country, the gratitude of a
nation, the glory of a hero round his brow,--death were a happy, ay, a
welcome friend. But alone, 'mid foes, disgraced by fetters, dragged to a
dishonored grave, with none to whisper of hope or comfort, death is a
cruel, a most bitter foe.
Zuleika. Mine errand is to take from that death the bitterness thou dost
mourn, to give a parting joy to the life now passing.
Ion. Oh, hast thou the power to save my father's life! Oh, use it now,
and Greece shall bless thee for thy mercy!
Zuleika. Oh, that the power _were_ mine, how gladly would I use it in a
cause so glorious! I am but a woman, and tho' the heart is strong, the
arm is very weak. I cannot save thy father, but trust I may still cheer
the parting hours with a brief happiness.
Ion. Lady, thy words of kindly sympathy fall like sweet music on my
troubled heart, and at thy magic call hope springeth up anew. Thou art
unknown, and yet there is that within that doth whisper I may trust
Zuleika. Thou mayst indeed. Heaven were not more true than I will be
unto my word. [Hassan _pauses before the door_.]
Hassan. Lady, the hours are fleeting. It were best to make good speed.
Zuleika. Hassan, thou dost counsel aright; morn must not find me here.
[_To_ Ion.] Young Greek, thou knowest with the coming dawn thy father
Ion. Ay, ere another moon doth rise that life, so dear to Greece, shall
be no more; the heart that beat so nobly at his country's call be still
forever,--I know it well!
Zuleika. And hast thou no last word for him, no parting wish?
Ion. O maiden, my life were a glad sacrifice, so that I might for a
single hour look on him,--for the last time say, "My father, bless thy
Zuleika. That hour shall be thine. Fold thyself in yonder cloak, and
Ion. Follow thee,--and whither?
Zuleika. To thy father's presence. Thou shalt spend with him the last
hours of his earthly life. Stay not; this friendly gloom will ere long
Ion [_falling on his knees and catching her robe_]. Art thou my guardian
angel? Oh, may the consolation thou hath poured into a suffering soul,
fall like heaven's dew upon thine own; and if the prayers of a grateful
heart bring hope and joy and peace, thy life shall bloom with choicest
blessings. O maiden, how do I bless thee! [_Kisses her robe._]
Zuleika. Speak not of that,--kneel not to me, a mortal maiden. Thy
gratitude is my best reward. Hassan, lead on!
Hassan. Lady, I do thy bidding. First let me lead thee to a place of
Zuleika. Nay, Hassan, I tarry here,--thou canst return; I will await
thee. Now make all speed,--away!
Ion. Let us hence; my heart can ill contain its joy. Oh, my father,
shall I see thee, hear thy voice, feel thine arms once more about me,
and die with thy blessing on my head. Heaven hath blessed my mission.
Zuleika. Shall we depart? The hour wanes.
Ion. I will follow whither thou shalt lead. But, stay! is there no
danger unto thee? Will thy deed of mercy bring suffering to thee, my
Zuleika. Fear not for me. Yet one pledge must I ask of thee on which my
safety doth depend. 'Tis this: Swear that from the moment thou dost
leave me until thou art again a prisoner here, though the path lie plain
before thee thou wilt not fly.
Ion. I swear. Thou mayst trust me.
Zuleika. Yet once again. Breathe not to mortal ear the _means_ by which
thou sought'st thy sire, and let the memory of this hour fade from thy
heart forever. [Ion _bows assent_.] What pledge have I of thy secrecy,
and of thy truth?
Ion. The word of a Greek is sacred, and were not my gratitude my surest
pledge to _thee_?
Zuleika. Pardon, I do trust. Now haste thee.
Ion [_pointing to his fetters_]. Thou dost forget I am a prisoner still.
Zuleika. Hassan, unloose these fetters, and give the Greek his freedom.
[Hassan _takes off the chains_; Ion _springs joyfully forward_.]
Ion. Now am I free again, and with the Turk's base fetters have I cast
off my fears and my despair. Hope smiles upon me, and my father calls.
Oh, let us tarry not.
Zuleika [_folding a dark mantle round him_]. Thus shrouded, in safety
thou mayst reach his cell; this ring will spare thee question. Hassan
will guide thee, and I--will pray for thy success. Farewell! May Allah
Ion. Lady, though I may never know thee, never look on thee again, the
memory of this brief hour will never fade. The blessed gift of mercy
thou dost bestow will I ever treasure with the deepest gratitude, and my
fervent prayer that all Heaven's blessings may rest upon thee cease but
with my life [_falls on his knee and kisses her hand_]. Pardon,--'tis my
only thanks. Spirit of mercy, farewell! farewell! [_Follows_ Hassan;
Zuleika _gazes after him, then sinks down weeping_.]
[_Tent of_ Cleon _the Greek_.
Cleon, _chained, pacing to and fro_.]
Cleon. A few short hours and all is o'er,--Cleon sleeps with his
fathers. I could have wished to die like a hero in my harness, and have
known my grave were watered by my loved one's tears; to take my wife
once more unto my bosom; once more bless my noble Ion; and pass hence
with the blest consciousness of victory won. 'Tis bitter thus to die,
ingloriously and alone. [_Proudly raising his head._] But the name of
Cleon is too dear unto his people e'er to be forgotten. The memory that
he strove ever for his country's welfare shall strew with tearful
blessings his unhonored grave. [_Steps approach; voices are heard._] Ah,
they come! They shall find me ready. [_Enter_ Ion.] Has mine hour come?
I am here.
[Ion _casts off his cloak, and springs forward_.]
Ion. Father! O my father!
Cleon [_starting back wildly_]. Thou? Here!
Ion. Yes, thy Ion; bless me, Father [_kneels_].
Cleon [_raising and clasping_ Ion _to his breast_]. Here, on my heart,
dear one. I turn to meet my executioners, and see thee, my boy. Great
Heaven, I bless thee! [_They embrace tenderly and weep._] Thou camest
Ion. Alone, with my good sword.
Cleon. Thy guide through the perils of the way, my child?
Ion. The good Father who doth guide all who trust in him.
Cleon. And thine errand?
Ion. To behold thee, my father, and with my life to strive for thy
Cleon. My noble boy, thou hast come unto thy death. Oh, who could bid
thee thus brave the doom that must await thee?
Ion. My mother bid me forth; and as she girded on my sword, she bid me
seek my father, with her blessing on my mission.
Cleon. My brave Iantha, thus for thy country's sake to doom thine own
heart to so deep a sorrow [_looks sadly upon_ Ion]. Tell me, my son, did
thy mother bear bravely up against the fatal tidings? I had feared her
tender heart might but ill meet a blow so fearful. Speak to me of her.
Ion. When the rude Turk did in rough speech acquaint her with thy fell
defeat, she sank as one o'erpowered by her grief, praying the friendly
hand of death might take her hence; but soon the spirit of the Greek
rose high within her, and, banishing her fears, with brave and trusting
heart she sent me forth to seek, and if it might be, save thee. Ah, my
father, that I might die for thee!
Cleon. And thou hath come to see me die! Dost thou not know that with
the night thy father passeth hence, and when the stars again look forth
it will be upon his grave?
Ion. Father, 'tis because thou art doomed that I am here. And if my
heart speak truly, those same bright stars shall serve to guide thee
back to freedom.
Cleon. Thou doth speak wildly. What wilt thou do? Wilt _thou_ brave the
Ion [_proudly_]. Nay, I have knelt for the last time unto Mohammed. I
have offered him my liberty, my service, ay, my life itself, and he hath
scorned me. I have deigned to bow before him as a suppliant, and he hath
spurned me; I have sought by all the power love and despair could teach
to move him, and his ear was closed to me. I seek him not again.
Cleon. Child, what hath led thee to the presence of the king? How didst
thou brave the frown of him before whom even armed men do tremble? Didst
thou dream thy feeble voice could reach a heart so cruel, that thy
prayers could soften one who knoweth not the name of mercy?
Ion. Love can brave all dangers. It giveth wisdom to the untaught,
strength to the weak, hope to the despairing, comfort to the mourner.
Love hath been my guide, my guard.
Cleon. My boy! my Ion! Truly doth God place in the pure heart of such as
thou his truest wisdom, his deepest faith [_embraces him with deep
emotion_]. But--art not thou in danger? Did not thy bold speech anger
the proud king? Art thou still free?
Ion. Let not thy heart be vexed with fears for me,--I am unharmed.
Cleon. Ion, deceive me not, but as thou hopest for thy father's love,
speak truly. Art thou in danger from the Turk, and in thy devotion to
thy father dost thou seek to be thyself the sacrifice? Answer me, Ion.
Ion. Father, I sought to spare thy too o'erburdened heart another grief.
I _am_ a prisoner in Mohammed's power, and know not if my fate be life
Cleon. 'Tis as I feared; and thou, the last hope of thy country, must
fall,--all, all, for me! Oh, mine own disgrace were bitter, but to see
thee die! Oh, woe is me!
Ion. Father, were it not better thus to die, than in disgraceful peace
to pass away with no thought for our fatherland, no proud consciousness
of having at the call of duty sacrificed all we held most dear, and
leave a name held sacred as one who yielded life and liberty on the
altar of his country?
Cleon. But that thou in thine innocence and bloom should meet death at
the hands of heartless foemen; and for _my_ sake! 'Tis this that tears
Ion. The purer the victim the more acceptable the sacrifice. But fear
not, dear father. The Turk is yet a man; 'tis 'gainst thee he wars, and
he will not wreak his vengeance on a child. He may relent, and for my
love's sake, pardon mine offence.
Cleon. Child, thou knowest not Mohammed. He pardons none; all fall
before him, with relentless hand,--all strew his pathway unto victory.
Will he then spare and pity thee? Nay, sire and son must fall! [_Stands
sorrowfully._ Ion _suddenly sees_ Zuleika's _ring upon his hand, and
Ion. Father, thou shalt yet breathe the air of freedom, shall clasp my
mother to thy heart; once more shall lead thy gallant band onward to
Cleon. Raise not bright hopes to crush them at their birth; wake not to
dreams of triumph the heart that hath striven to drive hence all save
the solemn thoughts meet for one so soon to pass away.
Ion [_pointing to the door_]. See, the gray morning 'gins to glimmer in
the east. 'Tis no time for despair. Haste, Father, freedom is near!
Cleon. What doth thus move thee, Ion? Dost thou forget these chains,
the guards, the perils at each step? Thou art dreaming!
Ion. I tell thee 'tis no dream. Thou shalt be free. This mantle will
disguise thee; this ring open a pathway through the guards; these stars
shall be thy silent guide. Wilt thou go?
Cleon. 'Tis strange! Whence then that ring? How dost thou, a captive,
wander thus freely, and offer liberty with such a bounteous hand?
Ion. A solemn oath doth forbid me to reveal to living man the secret of
this hour; but if ever angels do leave their homes to minister to
suffering souls, 'twas one most bright and beautiful who hath this night
led me unto thee, and placed in mine hand the power to set thee free.
Cleon. Truth speaketh in thine earnest eye and pleading voice, and yet I
dare not listen to thy tale.
Ion. Oh, Father, heed not thy fears, thy doubts! Take thy liberty,
believing it heaven-sent. No oath binds thee to Mohammed; thou art no
rightful prisoner of war,--neither duty nor honor doth demand thy stay.
Thy country calls, and Heaven doth point the way.
Cleon. 'Tis true; no oath doth bind me to the Turk, and yet to fly--My
soldier's spirit doth ill brook such retreat.
Ion. Then stay not, my father, but whilst thou may, depart.
Cleon. Bright hopes call me hence. Life, love, fame, beckon me away.
[Hassan _looks in_.]
Hassan. The promised hour hath well-nigh gone. Prepare, young Greek; we
Ion. A moment more. [_Exit_ Hassan.] Father, time wanes. Once more I do
Cleon. Heaven grant I choose aright! Come Ion, we will forth together.
[Ion _folds the cloak about_ Cleon; _gives him the ring_.] Come, let us
Ion. Nay, but one can pass forth. Thou goest. I await the morning here.
Cleon. Then do I tarry also. Nay, Ion, I will not go hence without thee.
Ion. Then all is lost. Father, thy stay can nought avail me. It cannot
save, and thou wilt but sacrifice thine own priceless life.
Cleon. Then fly with me; let me bear thee to thy mother. Alone, I will
Ion. I cannot go; a vow doth bid me stay,--a vow that nought shall tempt
me from the camp to-night; and when did a Greek e'er break his plighted
Cleon. If thine honor bid thee stay, thy father will not tempt thee
hence; but he may stay and suffer with thee the fate of the faithful
[_throws off the mantle_].
Ion. Oh, my father, do not cast from thee the priceless boon of liberty.
Think of thy broken-hearted wife, thy faithful followers, thy
unconquered foes; think, Father, of thy country calling on thee for
deliverance. What were my worthless life weighed 'gainst her freedom.
And what happier fate for a hero's son than for a hero's sake to fall!
Cleon. Thou true son of Greece! Mayst thou yet live to wield a sword for
thine oppressed land, and gird with laurels that brow so worthy them.
Hassan. No longer may I stay: thine hour is past.
Ion. I come,--yet one moment more, good Hassan; it is my last. [_Exit_
Hassan.] Once more, my father, do I entreat thee,--go. Thou dost forget
a guardian spirit watcheth over me, and the power that led me hither may
yet accomplish my deliverance. If nought else can move thee, for my sake
go, and win for me that freedom mine honor doth now forbid me to seek.
Break not my heart, nor let me plead in vain.
Cleon. My boy, for thy dear sake do I consent. I _will_ earn thy
deliverance bravely, as a soldier should; and thy dear image shall be
to me the star that leads me on to victory.
Ion [_joyfully_]. Away! Hassan will guide thee past the guards. Then
fly,--and Heaven guide thee, O my father! [Ion _again shrouds_ Cleon _in
the mantle, concealing his chains in the thick folds_.] Thus muffle thy
tell-tale fetters, that no sound may whisper to the Turks there walks a
Greek under the free heavens forth to freedom.
Cleon. My Ion, one last embrace! God grant 'tis not our last on earth!
Bless thee, thou true young heart! Heaven guard thee!
[Hassan _enters in haste_.
Hassan. Art ready? We must depart. [Cleon _bows his head and follows_.
Ion _rushes after, looking from the tent_.]
Ion. Saved! saved! The morning sun that was to shine upon his grave,
will smile upon him far, far from foemen's power. And Mohammed, thinking
to look upon a dying slave, shall waken to the sound of his victorious
war-trump. Ion, thy mission is accomplished. Thou hast given a saviour
to thy fatherland, and mayst fall thyself without a murmur [_looks up
thankfully; a loud noise without_].
[_Enter_ Abdallah _and_ Murad.
Abd. Where is the prisoner? Come forth!
Ion. I am here [_comes forward_].
Abd. Ha!--here is treason! Without there!--the prisoner hath escaped!
Murad. Who flieth yonder, past the camp?
Abd. 'Tis he! Forth, call for aid! Search without delay! Here is foul
work abroad. First, seize yon boy; fetter the base spy; bear him before
the king. Speed hence!
Murad [_to_ Ion]. Infidel dog, thou shalt learn what it is to brave
[_They seize_ Ion, _and drag him away_.]
NOTE TO BIANCA.
The peculiarity of this opera was that while the words were committed to
memory, the music was _composed_ and _sung_ as the scene proceeded.
In spite of its absurdity, this play was a great favorite; for Jo was
truly superb as the hapless Bianca, while her trills and tragic agonies
were considered worthy of the famous Grisi herself.
Adelbert . . . . . . _Betrothed to Bianca._
Huon . . . . . . . _His Rival._
Juan . . . . . . . _A Page._
Bianca . . . . . . . _A Spanish Lady._
Hilda . . . . . . . _A Witch._
Huon. Hist! All is still. They are not yet here. On this spot will the
happy lovers meet. O wretched Huon! she whom thou so passionately doth
love will here speak tender words to thy thrice hated rival. Yet I,
unseen, will watch them, and ere long my fierce revenge shall change
their joy to deepest woe. Hark! they come! Now, jealous heart, be still!
[_Hides among the trees._]
[_Enter_ Bianca _and_ Adelbert.
Adel. Nay, dearest love, fear not; no mortal eye beholds us now, and yon
bright moon looks kindly down upon our love.
[_They seat themselves beneath the trees._
Bianca. Ah, dearest Adelbert, with thee I feel no fear, but thy fierce
rival Huon did vow vengeance on thee, for I did reject his suit for
thine. Beware! for his wild heart can feel no pity, tenderness, or love.
Adel. I fear him not. Ere long thou wilt be mine, and then in our fair
home we will forget all but our love. Think not, dearest, of that dark,
revengeful man; he does not truly love thee.
Bianca. Near thee I cannot fear; but when thou art far from me, my fond
heart will ever dread some danger for thee. Ah, see the moon is waning;
dear love, thou must away.
Adel. Ah, sweet moments, why so quickly fled? 'Tis hard to leave thee,
thou bright star in my life's sky, and yet I must, or all may be
betrayed. Fare thee well, dear love. One sweet kiss ere we part! [_They
Bianca. Farewell! Ah, when shall I again behold thee? Oh, be not long
away, for like a caged bird I pine for thee.
Adel. When next yon moon doth rise beneath thy lattice, thou shalt hear
my light guitar.
Bianca. Fail not to come. I shall watch for thee the live-long night,
and if thou comest not, this fond heart will grieve.
Both. Farewell, till yon bright moon doth rise,
Farewell, dear love, farewell!
Farewell, farewell, farewell!
Farewell, dear love, farewell!
Bianca. Ah, love, thou magic power, thus ever make my breast thy home.
Adieu, dear spot! I fly to happiness and--
Huon. _Me_--[Bianca _shrieks, and seeks to fly_. Huon _detains her_.]
Bianca. Unmanly villain, touch me not. What dost thou here concealed?
Huon. I listen to thy lover's fond and heartless vows. What is his love
to mine? Ah, lady, he loves thee for thy wealth alone. Again I ask, nay,
I implore thee to be mine! Oh, grant me now my prayer!
Bianca. Never! never! I will not listen to thee more. My heart is all
another's; my hatred and contempt are thine.
Huon. Now, by yon moon 'neath which thy tender vows were plighted, do I
swear to win thee, proud and haughty lady, to these arms. Thou shalt
curse the day when thou didst cast away my love, and wake my deep
[_A cave in the forest._ Hilda _leaning over a
boiling caldron. Enter_ Huon.]
Hilda. Ha! who art thou, and what wouldst thou with old Hilda? Speak,
and be obeyed.
Huon. O mighty wizard, I have sought thee for a charm to win a proud and
scornful woman's love,--some mystic potion that shall make her cold
heart burn for me. Ah, give me this, and gold uncounted shall be thine.
Hilda. I will give to thee a draught that shall chase her coldness and
her pride away, and make the heart now beating for another all thine
own. Hold! 'tis here,--three crimson drops when mingled in her wine,
will bring the boon thou askest [_gives_ Huon _a tiny phial_].
Huon. Oh, blessed draught that wins for me the love I seek. Proud
Bianca, now art thou in my power, and shalt ere long return the love of
the once hated and despised Huon. Great sorceress, say how can I repay
thee? Fear not to claim thy just reward.
Hilda. I ask no gold. But when thy prize is won, remember thou old
Hilda's warning. Woman's heart is a fragile thing, and they who trifle
with it should beware. Now go; I would be alone.
Huon. Farewell! When my love and my revenge are won, I'll bless this
hour and Hilda's charm.
Hilda. Poor fool! thou little thinkest thy love-charm is a deadly
draught, and they who quaff it die. When thou shalt seek thy lady,
hoping for her love, a dead bride thou wilt win. Ha! ha! old Hilda's
spells work silently and well.
[_Room in the castle of_ Bianca. _Evening.
Huon. How can I best give the draught that none may see the deed? Ha!
yonder comes her page, bearing wine. Now in her cup will I mingle these
enchanted drops, and she shall smile on me when next I plead my suit.
Ho, Juan, my boy! come hither; I would speak with thee. [_Enter_ Juan
_with wine._] Where is thy lady now?
Juan. At her lattice, watching for Lord Adelbert, and gazing on the
flowers he hath sent.
Huon [_aside_]. She shall never watch and wait for him again. [_Aloud._]
Whence bearest thou the wine, Juan? Is it to thy lady?
Juan. Yes, my lord. She bid me haste. I must away.
Huon. Stay! clasp my sandal, boy; I will repay thee if thy mistress
chide. [Juan _stoops;_ Huon _drops the potion into the wine cup._]
Thanks; here is gold for thee. Away, and tell thy lady I will be here
Ha, ha! 'tis done! 'tis done!
My vengeance now is won,
And ere to-morrow's sun shall set,
Thou, haughty lady, shalt forget
The lover who now hastes to thee,
And smile alone, alone on me.
[Bianca's _castle. A moonlit balcony.
Bianca. He comes not. Yon bright moon will ere long set, and still I
hear not the dear voice 'neath my lattice singing. Adelbert! Ah, come!
Hist! I hear his light boat on the lake. 'Tis he! 'tis he! [_Leans over
[Adelbert _sings in the garden below._
The moon is up, wake, lady, wake!
My bark is moored on yonder lake.
The stars' soft eyes alone can see
My meeting, dear one, here with thee.
Wake, dearest, wake! lean from thy bower,
The moonlight gleams on tree and flower.
The summer sky smiles soft above;
Look down on me, thou star of love!
Bianca. Adelbert, dear love, now haste thee quickly up to me.
[_Enter_ Adelbert _upon the balcony._
Adel. Sweet love, why fearest thou? None dare stay me when I fly to
thee. Ah, sit thee here, and I will rest beside thee. [Bianca _seats
herself;_ Adelbert _lies at her feet._]
Bianca. Thou art weary, love. I'll bring thee wine, and thou shalt rest
while I do sing to thee. [_She gives him wine; he drinks._]
Adel. Thanks to thee, dearest love, I am weary now no longer. When here
beside thee, pain, sorrow, time are all forgot. Ah! what is this?--a
deadly pang hath seized me. All grows dark before mine eyes. I cannot
see thee. Yon cup,--'twas poisoned! I am dying, dying!
Bianca. Ah, nay, thou art faint! Speak not of dying, love. [Adelbert
_falls._] Adelbert, Adelbert, speak!--speak! It is thine own Bianca
calls thee! [_Throws herself beside him._]
Adel. Farewell, dear love, farewell! Huon hath won his vengeance now.
God bless thee, dearest. Oh, farewell! [_Dies._]
Bianca. Awake! awake! All, cold and still! Thou true, brave heart, thou
art hushed forever. Huon! yes! 'twas he; and he hath sought to win me
thus. But 'tis in vain! Where is the poisoned cup that I may join thee,
Adelbert? [_Takes the cup._] Ah, 'tis gone: there is no more. Yet I will
be with thee, my murdered love. For me life hath no joy, and I will find
thee even in death [_falls fainting to the ground_].
The garden._ Bianca _singing._]
Faded flowers, faded flowers,
They are all now left to cherish;
For the hopes and joys of my young life's spring
I have seen so darkly perish.
Cold, ah, cold, in the lone, dark grave,
My murdered love lies low,
And death alone can bring sure rest
To this broken heart's deep woe.
Faded flowers, faded flowers,
They are all now left to cherish;
For ah, his dear hand gathered them,
And my love can never perish.
[_Enter_ Huon _and kneels at her feet._
Bianca [_starting up_]. Fiend! demon! touch me not with hands that
murdered him! Hence! out of my sight,--away!
Huon. Nay, lady, nay! I swear by Heaven it was not I. The spell I
mingled in thy cup was but to win thy love. The old witch hath deceived
me, and given that deadly poison. Forgive me, I implore thee, and here
let me offer thee my love once more.
Bianca [_repulsing him_]. _Love!_ darest thou to speak of love to me,
whose bright dream of life thou hast destroyed? _Love!_ I who loathe,
scorn, hate thee with a deep and burning hate that death alone can
still! Oh, Heaven, have mercy on my tortured heart, and let it break.
Huon [_aside_]. His death hath well-nigh driven her mad. Dear lady,
grieve not thus. Let me console thee. Forget thy love, and seek in mine
the joy thou hast lost.
Bianca. Forget! Ah, never, never, till in death I join him! Forgive
thee? Not till I have told thy crime. Yes, think not I will rest till
thou, my murdered Adelbert, art well avenged. And thou!--ah, sinful
man, tremble, for thou art in my power, and my wronged heart can feel no
Huon [_fiercely_]. Wouldst thou betray me? Never! Yield thou to my love,
or I will sheathe my dagger in thy heart, and silence thee forever!
Bianca. I will not yield. The world shall know thy guilt, and then sweet
death shall be a blessing.
Huon. Then die, and free me from the love and fear that hang like clouds
above me [_stabs her_].
Bianca. Thy sin will yet be known, and may God pardon thee! O earth,
farewell! My Adelbert, I come, I come! [_Dies._]
Huon. Dead! dead! Oh, wretched Huon! Where now seek rest from bitter
memories and remorse. Ha, a step! I must fly. Angel, fare thee well!
[Huon's _room._ Huon _asleep upon a couch.
Enter_ Bianca's _spirit. She lays her hand
Huon [_starting in affright_]. Ha! spirit of the dead, what wouldst thou
now? For long, long nights why hast thou haunted me? Cannot my agony,
remorse, and tears win thee to forget? Ah, touch me not! Away! away! See
how the vision follows. It holds me fast. Bianca, save me! save me!
[_Falls and dies._]
THE UNLOVED WIFE;
Count Adrian . . . . . _Nina's Husband._
Don Felix . . . . . . _His Secret Rival._
Nina . . . . . . . _The Unloved Wife._
Hagar . . . . . . . _A Fortune Teller._
THE UNLOVED WIFE;
[_Room in the palace of_ Count Adrian.
Nina. 'Tis a fair and lovely home and well befits a gay young bride; but
ah, not if she bear a sad and weary heart like mine beneath her bridal
robes. All smile on me and call me happy, blessed with such a home and
husband; and yet 'mid all my splendor I could envy the poor cottage
maiden at her spinning-wheel. For ah, 'mid all her poverty one sweet
thought comes ever like a sunny sky to brighten e'en her darkest hours,
for she is loved; while I yet sigh in vain for one kind word, one
tender glance, from him I love so fondly. Ah, he comes, no sad tears
now, sorrow is for my lonely hours and I will smile on _him_ e'en though
my heart is breaking.
[_Enter_ Count Adrian.
Adrian [_coldly_]. Good-even, madam, I trust all things are placed
befitting a fair lady's bower and thou hast found thy home a pleasant
Nina. Adrian, husband, speak not thus to me. I could find more joy in
some poor cell with thee, than all the wealth that kings could give if
thou wert gone. Look kindly on me and I ask no more. One smile from thee
can brighten all the world to these fond eyes. Oh, turn not away, but
tell me how have I angered thee, and grant thy pardon for thy young
wife's first offence.
Adrian. The pardon I could give were worthless for the time is past.
'Tis too late to ask forgiveness now. It matters not, then say no more
Nina. My lord, I charge thee tell me of what dark crime thou dost think
me guilty! Fear not to tell me; innocence is strong to bear and happy to
forgive. Ah, leave me not, I cannot rest till I know all, and if the
deep devotion of a woman's heart can still repair the wrong, it shall be
thine--but answer me.
Adrian. Canst thou unsay the solemn words that bound us at the altar
three short days ago? Canst thou give back the freedom thou hast taken,
break the vows thou hast plighted, cast away that ring and tell me I am
free? Do it, and my full forgiveness shall be thine.
Nina. Give thee back thy freedom; am I a chain to bind thee to what thou
dost not love? Take back the vows I made to honor thee; what dost thou
mean? I am thy wife and dost thou hate me?
Adrian. I do.
Nina. God help me now. Tell me, Adrian, I implore thee, tell me what
have I done to tempt such cruel words from thee? I loved thee and left
all to be thy wife, and now when my poor heart is longing for one tender
word to cheer its sorrow, thou, the husband who hath vowed to love and
cherish me, hath said thou dost hate me. Ah, am I sleeping? Wake me or
the dream will drive me mad.
Adrian. 'Tis a dream I cannot banish. We must part.
Nina. Part--go on, the blow hath fallen, I can feel no more. Go on.
Adrian. Thou knowest I wooed thee. Thou wert fair and wondrous rich; I
sought thy gold, not _thee_, for with thy wealth I would carve out a
path through life that all should honor. Well, we were wed, and when I
sought to take thy fortune it was gone, and not to me, but to thy
father's friend, Don Felix. It was all left to him, and thou wert
penniless; and thus I won a wife I loved not, and lost the gold I would
have died to gain. Thinkest thou not I am well angered? But for thee I
might yet win a noble bride whose golden fetters I would gladly wear.
Nina. And this is he to whom I gave my heart so filled with boundless
love and trust. Oh, Adrian, art thou so false? What is gold to a woman's
deathless love? Can it buy thee peace and all the holy feelings human
hearts can give? Can it cheer and comfort thee in sorrow, or weep fond,
happy tears when thou hast won the joy and honor thou dost seek? No,
none of these, the golden chains will bind thee fast till no sweet
thought, no tender hope can come to thee. I plead not now for my poor
self, but for thine own heart thou doth wrong so cruelly by such vain
Adrian. Enough. Thou hast a noble name and men will honor thee, thou
wilt suffer neither pain nor want. I will leave thee and wander forth to
seek mine own sad lot. Farewell, and when they ask thee for thy husband,
tell them thou hast none, and so be happy [_turns to go_].
Nina. Oh, Adrian, I implore thee stay. I will bear all thy coldness, ay
even thy contempt. I will toil for thee and seek to win the gold for
which thou dost sigh, I will serve thee well and truly, for with all my
heart I love thee still. Leave me not now or I shall die! [_Kneels and
clasps his hand._]
Adrian. I am a slave till death shall set me free. We shall not meet
again. Nay, kneel not to me. I do forgive thee, but I cannot love thee
Nina. This is more than I can bear. Oh, Father, take thy poor child
home, and still the sorrow of this broken heart.
[_Home of_ Hagar, _the gypsy.
Enter_ Hagar _and_ Nina.]
Hagar. What brings thee hither, gentle lady, and how can the wanderer
serve the high-born and the fair?
Nina [_sadly_]. There is often deeper sorrow in the palace than the cot,
good Hagar, and I seek thee for some counsel that will cure the pain of
a lonely heart. I have tried all others' skill in vain, and come to thee
so learned in mystic lore to give me help. I am rich and can repay thee
Hagar. I can read a sad tale in thy pale and gentle face, dear lady.
Thou art young and loving, but the hope of youth is gone; and thou art
sorrowing with no fond heart whereon to lean, no tender voice to comfort
and to cheer. Ah, have I read aright? Then the only charm to still thy
pain is death.
Nina. 'Tis death I long for. That still, dreamless sleep would bring me
peace. But 'tis a fearful thing to take the life God gave, and I dare
not. Canst thou not give me help?
Hagar. Within this tiny casket there is that which brings a quiet sleep
filled with happy dreams, and they who drink the draught lie down and
slumber, and if not awakened it will end in death. But thou, sweet lady,
wouldst not leave this fair world yet. Tell me more, for this old heart
is warm and tender still, and perchance I can help thee.
Nina. 'Tis strange that I can feel such faith in thee, kind friend, but
I am young and lonely and I seek some heart for counsel. Thou art from
my own fair land and I will tell thee of my sorrow. 'Tis a short, sad
tale. I loved, was wed, and then--oh, darksome day--I learned my husband
felt no love, and sought me only for my gold. I was penniless, and thus
he cast me off; and now for long, long weeks I have not seen him, for he
would not dwell with her who loved him more than life itself. Now give
me some sweet charm to win that lost heart back. Ah, Hagar, help me.
Hagar. I can give thee no truer charm than that fair face and noble
soul, dear lady. Be thou but firm and faithful in thy love and it will
win thy husband back. God bless and grant all happiness to one who doth
so truly need it.
Nina. Give me the casket; and when life hath grown too bitter to be
borne then will I gladly lay the burden down, and blessing him I love so
well sleep that calm slumber that knows no awaking. Farewell, Hagar,
thou hast given me comfort and I thank thee.
[_One year is supposed to have elapsed._ _A
room in the palace of_ Nina. _Enter_ Adrian
Adrian. Here last I saw her one long year ago. How the wild, sweet voice
still rings in my ear imploring me to stay. I can find no rest save
here; and thus do I seek my home, worn out by my long wandering, and
trusting to learn tidings of poor Nina. If she be true and love me still
I will cast away my pride, my coldness, and all vain hopes of wealth,
and let the sunlight of that pure, young life brighten my life
henceforth. I hear a step, and will hide here, perchance I may thus see
her [_hides behind curtain_].
Nina. No rest for thee poor heart, ever whispering that dear name, ever
sorrowing for those hard words that gave so deep a wound. All is dark
and lonely, for he is gone. Only these withered flowers, dearer by far
than my most costly gems, for his hand hath touched them, and he smiled
on me when they were given. Oh, Adrian, wilt thou never give one tender
thought to her who still loves and prays for thee? Death will soon free
thee from thy hated wife.
Adrian [_stealing forth_]. And this is she, whose pure young love I have
cast away, the fond, trusting bride I left alone and friendless. She
still loves on, and offers up her prayers for one who sought to break
that tender heart so cruelly. I will watch well and guard thee, Nina;
and if thou art truly mine thou shalt find a happy home with him thy
patient love hath won.
[_Exit_ Adrian _and re-enter_ Nina.
Nina [_with_ Adrian's _picture_]. Ah, these cold eyes smile kindly on me
here, and the lips seem speaking tender words. Other faces are
perchance more fair, but none so dear to me. Oh, husband, thou hast cast
me off; and yet, though lonely and forsaken, I still can cherish loving
thoughts of thee, and round thy image gather all the tender feelings
that a woman's heart can know. Thy cruel words I can forgive, and the
trusting love I gave thee glows as warmly now as when thou didst cast it
by and left me broken-hearted [_weeps_; _enter_ Don Felix]. My lord,
what seekest thou with me? Thou dost smile. Ah, hast thou tidings of my
husband? Tell me quickly, I beseech thee.
Don Felix. Nay, dear lady--But sit thee down and let me tell thee why I
came. [_He leads her to a sofa._] Thou knowest I have been with thee
from a child. I stood beside thee at the altar, and was the first to
cheer and comfort thee when thou wast left deserted and alone. Let me
now ask thee, Wouldst thou not gladly change thy sad lot here for a gay
and joyous life with one who loves thee fondly?
Nina. It were indeed a happy lot to be so loved and cherished; but
where, alas, is he who could thus feel for one so lonely and forsaken?
Don Felix [_kneeling_]. Here at thy feet, dear Nina. Nay, do not turn
away, but let me tell thee of the love that hath grown within my heart.
[_Nina starts up._] Thy wedded lord hath cast thee off. The law can free
thee. Ah, then be mine, and let me win and wear the lovely flower which
he hath cast away.
Nina. Lord Felix, as the wife of him thou dost so wrong, I answer thee.
Dost thou not know the more a woman's heart is crushed and wounded the
more tenderly it clings where first it loved; and though deserted, ay,
though hated, I had rather be the slighted wife of him, than the honored
bride of the false Costella. Now leave me--I would be alone.
Don Felix. A time will come, proud woman, when thou shalt bend the knee
to him whom now thou dost so scorn. Beware, for I will have a fierce
revenge for the proud words thou hast spoken.
Nina. I am strong in mine own heart and fear thee not. Work thy will and
thou shalt find the wife of Adrian de Mortemar needs no protector save
her own fearless hand.
Don Felix. Now, by my faith, thou shalt bow that haughty head, and sue
to me for mercy, and I will deny it. I'll win her yet, she shall not
idly brave my anger. Now to my work,--revenge.
[_Exit_ Don Felix.
[_Apartment in palace of_ Nina.
Nina. Ever thus alone, mourning for him who loves me not; was ever heart
so sad as mine. Oh, Adrian, couldst thou but return even for one short
hour to thy poor Nina. [_Enter_ Adrian, _disguised_.] Ha, who art thou
that dares to enter here in such mysterious guise? Thine errand,
Adrian. Forgive me, lady, if I cause thee fear; I would have thee know
me as a friend, one who will watch above thee, and seek to spare thee
every sorrow. Dear lady, think me not too bold, for I have known thee
long and have a right to all thy confidence. Thy husband was my nearest
friend; and, when he left thee friendless and alone, I vowed to guard
and save thee in all peril. Wilt thou trust me? See, I bear his
ring,--thou knowest it?
Nina. 'Tis indeed his ring. Whence came it? Ah, hast thou seen him? Tell
me, and I will give thee all my confidence and thanks [_takes the ring
and gazes beseechingly upon_ Adrian, _who turns aside_].
Adrian. He is well, lady, and happy as one can be who bears a cold,
proud heart within his breast. He has cast away an angel who could have
cheered and blessed his life, and sought to find in gold the happiness
thy love alone could bring. He has suffered, as he well deserves to do.
Spend not thy pity upon him.
Nina [_proudly_]. And who art thou to speak thus of him? Thou canst not
judge till thou also hast been tried and like him deceived. He sought
for wealth to bring him fame and honor; and when he found it not, what
wonder that he cast aside the love that could not bring him happiness.
Thou art no true friend to speak thus of one so worthy to be loved. And
think not I reproach him for my lonely lot. Ah, no, I still love on; and
if he wins the wealth he covets I can give my heart's best blessing, and
so pass away that he shall never know whose hand hath crushed the flower
that would have clung about his life and shed its perfume there [_turns
Adrian [_aside_]. She loves me still. I'll try her further [_aloud_].
Lady, idle tongues have whispered that when thy lord deserted thee thou
didst find a solace for thy grief in a new lover's smiles. Perchance yon
picture may be some gay lord who hath cheered thy solitude and won thy
heart. I fain would ask thee.
Nina. Sir stranger, little dost thou know a woman's heart. I have found
a comfort for my lonely hours in weeping o'er the face whose smiles
could brighten life for me, or dim it by disdain and coldness. The face
is there; my first, last, only love is given to him who thinks it
worthless and hath cast it by.
Adrian [_taking the picture_]. 'Tis the Count, thy husband. Lady, he is
unworthy such true love; leave him to his fate, and let not thy life be
darkened by his cruelty and hate.
Nina. Thou canst not tempt me to forget. No other love can win me from
the only one who hath a place within my heart. Let me cherish all the
memories of him, and till life shall cease be true unto my husband. Now
leave me, unknown friend; I trust thee for his sake, and will accept thy
friendship and protection. I offer thee my gratitude and thanks for thy
kind service, and will gladly seek how best I may repay it.
Adrian. Thanks, lady. Thou shalt find me true and faithful, and my best
reward will be the joy I labor to restore to thee [_kneels and kisses
Nina. Farewell, again I thank thee.
Adrian. So young, so lovely, so forsaken, who would not pity and
protect. I will guard her well, and ere long claim the treasure I so
madly cast away ere I had learned its priceless value. Nina, thou shalt
yet be happy on the bosom of thy erring and repentant husband.
[_Hall in the palace of_ Nina.
_Enter_ Nina _and_ Don Felix.]
Nina. I tell thee, my lord, I will not listen, naught thou canst say
will change my firm resolve. I cannot wed thee.
Don Felix. Nay, then listen. Thy cruel husband left thee and for one
long year thou hast sorrowed in thy lonely home, and would not be
comforted. He hath returned.
Nina. Ah--[_Rushes forward._]
Don Felix. Thou may'st well start, but think not he will come to thee,
chains hold him fast and--mark ye--'twas _I_ who bound those chains.
Nina. Do I dream, my husband here and in captivity; nay, I believe thee
not. 'Tis a false tale to anger me. I heed thee not [_turns away
Don Felix. Thou wilt heed me ere I am done. What thinkest thou of this
thy husband's dagger? See, here his name. 'Twas taken from his hands ere
the cold chains bound them. Ah, thou dost believe me now!
Nina. Oh, tell on. I _will_ listen now. Why hast thou done this cruel
deed? Why make this his welcome home? Thou hast fettered and imprisoned
him and now art here to tell me of it? Ah, dost thou hate him? Then give
all thy hate to me; but oh, I pray thee, comfort him.
Don Felix. When thou didst reject my suit, I told thee I would be
revenged; I said a day would come when thou, so cold and haughty then,
would kneel to me imploring mercy and I would deny thee. That time hath
come, and I am deaf to all thy prayers.
Nina. For his sake will I kneel to thee beseeching liberty for _him_. I
had no love to give thee. Ah, pardon if I spake with scorn, and pity me.
What can I do to win thee back to mercy? Ah, listen and be generous.
Don Felix. 'Tis now too late. He is in my power; and a dagger can soon
rid thee of a cruel husband, me of a hated rival.
Nina. God have pity on me now. Don Felix, let me plead once more. Set
Adrian free, and I will take his place in yon dark cell and welcome
there the dagger that shall set me free.
Don Felix. And wilt _thou_ wear the chains? Wilt enter that lone cell
and perish there? Canst thou do this?
Nina. Ay, gladly will I suffer pain, captivity, and death, for thee,
Adrian, for thee.
Don Felix. Then woman's love is stronger than man's hate, and I envy him
you would die for, Nina.
Nina. Ah, love alone can make home blest, and here it dwells not. I can
free him from his fetters and his hated wife. Tell him I loved him to
the last, and blessed him ere I died. Lead on, my lord, I am ready.
Don Felix [_aside_]. I thought I had steeled my heart with hatred and
revenge; but oh, they pass away before such holy love as this. Would I
could win her to myself, for she would lead me on to virtue and to
happiness. Yet one more trial and she may be mine at last.
[_Street near_ Adrian's _palace_.
Adrian. 'Tis all discovered, my mysterious captivity and my release. Don
Felix, whom I trusted, wove the dark plot and sought by false words to
win Nina from me. He has dared to love her; and he shall dearly pay for
his presumption. He knows not that I watched above her in disguise; and
now while I was in captivity he hath taken her from her home. Let him
beware. If aught of harm hath come to her, woe betide him who hath
caused one tear to fall, or one sad fear to trouble her. I must seek and
save her. No peril will be too great to win her back to this heart that
longs so fondly for her now.
[_A cell in the palace of_ Don Felix.
Nina. 'T is strange; here in this dark cell, tho' fettered and alone, I
feel a deeper joy than when a proud and envied bride I dwelt in my
deserted home. For here his foot hath trod; these walls have echoed to
the voice I love; these chains so cold and heavy I more gladly wear than
e'en the costly gems once clasped upon these arms, for they were his.
Here his sad tears fell perchance for his captivity; but I can smile and
bless the hour when I could win thy freedom, Adrian, with my poor
liberty. Hark--they come. Is it to claim the vow I made to yield my
bosom to the dagger meant for his? I am ready. [_Enter_ Don Felix.]
Alone, my lord; methought it were too sad a task for thee to take my
life. Well, be it so; you claim my vow. I can die still blessing thee,
my Adrian [_kneels before_ Don Felix].
Don Felix. Rise, Nina; ah, kneel not to me, nor think this hand could
take the life it prizes more than happiness or honor. I came not here to
harm thee; Heaven forbid! I came once more to offer thee my heart, my
home, and all the boundless love you have so scorned. Thy husband hath
deserted thee; no ties too fast to sever bind thee to him. Thou art
alone, a captive, and I alone can free thee. Think of the love I bear
thee, Nina, and be mine [_takes her hand_].
Nina. Where is thy boasted honor now? Where the solemn vow thou didst
make me that my lonely cell should be as sacred to thee as my palace
halls? Where is thy pity for the helpless wife of him whom thou didst
call thy friend? I never loved thee, now I scorn thee. A true and pure
affection never binds such chains as these, nor causes bitter tears like
mine to flow. Rather suffer death than cherish in my heart one tender
thought of thee. Thou hast my answer, now leave me.
Don Felix. Not yet, proud captive. I have sought to win thee gently; but
now, beware. Think not to escape me, thou shalt feel how deep a
vengeance I can bring on thee and him thou lovest. Thou shalt suffer all
the sorrow I can inflict,--shalt know thy proud lord forsaken and in
danger when a word from me can save, and _that_ word I will not speak.
All the grief and pain and hatred that my jealous heart can give will I
heap upon his head, and thus through him I will revenge myself on thee.
Nina. Thou canst not harm him, he is safe and free. Do thy worst, I care
not what fate thou hast for me, a fearless hand soon finds a way to free
a soul from sorrow and captivity. This heart thou canst not reach. It
fears thee not.
Don Felix. Can I not make thee tremble, haughty woman? I love thee
still, and I will win thee. I go to work thee sorrow; and when next we
meet I will bring thee token of thy husband's death or, what may touch
thee nearer, his hate of thee.
[_Exit_ Don Felix.
Nina. 'Tis a dark and fearful dream,--Adrian in danger, and I cannot
save him. Oh, that I were free again, naught should stay me; and I would
win him back by the power of woman's love and faith. Lord Felix will
return, he hath vowed revenge; where then can I look for a true heart to
comfort and protect me [_sinks down in despair_].
[_Enter_ Adrian, _still in disguise_.]
Adrian. Here is a friend to aid thee.
Nina [_starting up_]. Who--who art thou?
Adrian. Thy guardian. Lady, thou hast said thou wouldst trust me, and I
am here to save.
Nina. Forgive me that I doubt thee; yet I do fear to trust, for I am
well-nigh crazed with sorrow. Art thou my husband's friend?
Adrian. I am true as Heaven to thee, poor lady. I have watched above
thee and can save. Here, here is the ring thou knowest; ah, do not doubt
Nina. I know thee now and put all my faith in thee. Take me hence. Ah,
save me! Lead me to my home, and the thanks of a broken heart are thine.
Lead on, kind friend, I will follow thee.
Adrian [_aside_]. Oh, this is a bitter punishment for me. It breaks my
heart. [Aloud.] This way, dear lady, a secret door doth let us forth;
step thou lightly. Thus let me shroud thee.
[_He wraps_ Nina _in a dark robe, and they disappear thro' the
_Enter_ Nina _and_ Hagar.]
Nina. Welcome to thee, Hagar; sit thee down and tell me why hast thou
come to seek me in my lonely home?
Hagar. Sweet lady, fear not; no evil tidings do I bring, but a wondrous
tale of happiness in store for thee. When thy father died, few doubted
but his wealth would come to thee; and it would, indeed, have all been
thine had not that false Don Felix stolen the will away. He took the
paper that left all to thee, and thus he won the orphan's gold. But
three short days ago, a dreadful crime which he had done was brought to
light, and he hath fled. He told me all and bid me give thee, this, thy
father's will. [Hagar _gives paper to_ Nina.]
Nina. 'Tis strange, most strange. But tell me, Hagar, how didst thou
come to know that evil man?
Hagar. I knew him when he came from Italy with thee and thy father years
ago. And as I watched thy path through life so I watched his, and thus
he learned to trust me. 'Tis thus I gained for thee that wealth so long
withheld; and now my work is done. Thou wilt win thy husband's love, and
so be happy. God bless thee, gentle lady, and farewell.
Nina. Ah, stay and tell me how can I best show the gratitude I deeply
feel. Thou hast brought me wealth and happiness, how can I repay thee?
Hagar. I ask no other joy than that I see in thy fair face. I go now to
my own dear land, and we shall not meet again; but old Hagar will
remember thee, and pray that life may be one long, bright dream of love
with the husband thou hast won. Farewell.
Nina. The clouds have passed away and I am happy now; and the wealth
_he_ longed for it is mine to give. Oh, Adrian, come back to her thou
hast cast aside. [_An arrow bearing a letter is thrown in at the window
and falls at her feet._] What means this letter? Stay, let me see what
it may tell me. 'Tis from Adrian. Ah, does an angel watch above me that
such joy is mine? [_Opens the letter and reads._]
Think not to win me back with thy new wealth; I cannot love
thee. Be happy with thy gold; it cannot buy the heart of the
Nina. This from him! No, no, it cannot be; he would not speak such words
to me; his wife. Yet, 't is his hand--I must believe--and a deeper
darkness gathers round me. No joy, no hope, is left to bind me unto
life. If I were gone he might be happy with another. I can never win his
love, then why live on to dim his pathway. I will leave my gold to him,
for it is worthless now; and when, with her he loves in some fair home,
he sends perchance one thought of her who died to free him, I shall be
repaid for this last sacrifice. Ah, Hagar, little didst thou think the
joy foretold would end so soon, and this thy gift would win for me the
rest I long for now [_takes from her bosom the phial and drinks_]. It
will soon be past. Now, till sleep steals o'er me, I will send one last
word, Adrian, to thee. [_She writes, then sinks upon the couch._] My
heart grows faint, and my eyes are heavy with the last slumber they
shall ever know. The poison does its work too soon; but I am done with
life, and the soft, sweet sleep of death is holding me. Oh, my husband,
may this last deed of mine give thee all the joy it could not bring to
her who could only die for thee. Farewell life, farewell love; my latest
prayer is for thee, Adrian. [_She lies down and falls gently asleep._]
[_Terrace in_ Nina's _garden_.
_Enter_ Adrian _with letter_.]
Adrian. What means this letter from her hand? 'Twas given me by her
servant while she slept. Does she call me home again? Ah, little can she
know how fondly now her cold, proud husband longs to fold her in his
arms and bless the hour when he lost wealth and won her noble love.
[_Opens the letter and reads._]
I send thee back the cruel words that have banished all the
hopes of happiness with thee. I cannot win thy heart; and this
sad truth hath broken mine. And now, upon my dying bed, I leave
thee all the wealth that could not win one tender smile for her
who pined for it in vain. Thou hast scorned my love, take thou
the gold which is worthless to me now. Farewell, my husband; I
am faithful to the last, and my lips blessed thee ere they
drank the draught that soon will free me from my sorrow, and
thee from thy unloved but loving
Adrian. My cruel words? What means this? Stay, there is another paper,
and it may tell me more. [_Reads_ Felix's _forged letter and dashes it
down_.] 'Tis false, false as the villain's heart who forged the lie and
brought agony like this to that pure, loving heart. Oh, Nina, Nina, now
when I so fondly love thee, thou hast been deceived, and died still
blessing him thou deemed so cruel and so cold. Oh, that I could but win
thee back for one short hour, that I might tell my penitence and my deep
sorrow for the grief I have brought thee. Yet, blessed thought, it may
not be too late. She slept but one short hour ago, when this was taken
from her hand. She may yet linger at the gates of death, and I may call
her back to happiness and life once more. Oh, if I may but win this
blessing to my heart, my life shall be one prayer of thankfulness for
the great boon [_rushes out_].
Nina _lies in a deep trance upon her couch_.
Adrian _rushes in_.]
Adrian. Nina! Nina! wake, love, it is I thy husband who doth call thee.
Oh, can I not win thee back to life now when I have learned to love with
all my heart's faith and fondness. [_He kisses her hands and weeps._]
Calm and still she lies, all my tender words cannot awake her, and these
bitter tears but fall unheeded and in vain. Was it for this I won that
warm young heart,--for this short sorrowing life, this lonely death? Ah,
couldst thou see this proud heart humbled now, and these repentant tears
that wet thy quiet brow. Nina, wife, oh, wake and tell me I am forgiven!
[_Kneels beside her._]
Nina [_rousing_]. Adrian!
Adrian [_starting up_]. She breathes, she lives, my prayer is heard.
'Tis not too late.
Nina [_still dreaming_]. Methought I was in heaven, for Adrian bent o'er
me; the face I loved smiled lovingly upon me, sweet tender words were
spoken, and the joy of that short moment well repaid the sorrow I had
borne ere that last sleep came. I am happy now for Adrian hath said he
Adrian. Thy deathlike sleep still hangs about thee, thou art still on
earth, and I am here to bring thee joy. Ah, waken and learn thy dream is
true. Thy husband loves thee.
Nina. So the sweet vision said, but it hath passed, and this will vanish
too. Ah, why hast thou called me back? Life is but a chain that binds me
unto sorrow, then let me sleep again and dream that Adrian is true.
Adrian. Nina! Nina! rouse thyself, it is no dream; he hath bent above
thee weeping bitter tears and pouring forth his whole heart's love,
remorse, and sorrow. His voice hath called thee back to life, and he is
here. [Nina _rises and looks wildly about her_.] Here, love, at thy feet
seeking thy pardon for the deep wrong he hath done thee, praying thy
forgiveness! [_Throws himself at her feet._ Nina _stretches forth her
arms, and they embrace with tears of joy_.]
Nina. Adrian, husband, I have naught to pardon. Thou hast won me from
the sleep of death, I am thine, thy heart is my home, and I am only
Adrian. I am unworthy such great happiness. Oh, Nina, thou art the true
angel of my life; and thou hast led me on to win a deeper joy than all
the wealth of earth could give. I cast thy pure affection by, and sought
in selfish sorrow to forget thee; but I could not. Thy dear face shone
in all my dreams, and thy voice still lingered in mine ear, imploring me
to love thee. Then I returned to find thee drooping like a blighted
flower. All loved and honored thee; and I vowed to watch, and, if I
found thee true and loving still, to tell thee all, and give my heart to
thee forever. I have now won thee, and I love thee, dearest.
Nina. Oh, I am too blest! Life is a flower-strewn path henceforth, where
I will gladly journey if thou wilt be my guide; and here upon thy
breast, dear love, now smiles the happy wife,--no longer the lonely and
LOUISA M. ALCOTT'S FAMOUS BOOKS.
[Illustration: Walton Bucketson. Sculp.
_Louisa May Alcott_]
* * * * *
JO'S BOYS, AND HOW THEY TURNED OUT. A sequel to "Little Men." With a new
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Passages in italics are indicated by _underscores_.
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