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O wickedness !
Elhelbert. Deluded monarch, 'tis a cruel lie.
Otho. Peace, rebel-priest !
•Insult beyond credence !
Erminia. Almost a dream !
We have awaked from !
A foolish dream that from my brow hath wrung
A wrathful dew. O folly ! why did I
So act the lion with this silly gnat ?
Let them depart. Lady Erminia !
I ever grieved for you, as who did not ?
But now you have, with such a brazen front,
So most maliciously, so madly striven
To dazzle the soft moon, when tenderest clouds
Should be unloop'd around to curtain her;
I leave you to the desert of the world
Almost with pleasure. Let them be set free
For me! I take no personal revenge
More than against a nightmare, which a man
Forgets in the new dawn.
[Exit LUDOLPH. Otho. Still in extremes. No, they must not be loose.
Ethelbert. Albert, I must suspect thee of a crime
Otho. Fear’st thou not my fury, monk ?
Conrad, be they in your safe custody
Till we determine some fit punishment.
It is so mad a deed, I must reflect
And question them in private ; for perhaps,
By patient scrutiny, we may discover
Whether they merit death, or should be placed
In care of the physicians.
[Exeunt Otho and Nobles, ALBERT following. Conrad. My guards, ho! Erminia.
Albert, wilt thou follow there?
Wilt thou creep dastardly behind his back,
And shrink away from a weak woman's eye?
Turn, thou court-Janus! thou forget'st thyself;
Here is the duke, waiting with open arms,
To thank thee; here congratulate each other;
Wring hands; embrace; and swear how lucky 'twas
That I, by happy chance, hit the right man
Of all the world to trust in.
Trust! to me!
Conrad (aside). He is the sole one in this mystery.
Erminia. Well, I give up, and save my prayers for
You, who could do this deed, would ne'er relent,
Though, at my words, the hollow prison-vaults
Would groan for pity.
Manacle them both !
Ethelbert. I know it-it must be--I see it all!
Albert, thou art the minion !
Ah! too plain-
Conrad. Silence ! Gag up their mouths! I cannot bear
More of this brawling. That the Emperor
Had placed you in some other custody!
Bring them away.
[Exeunt all but ALBERT. Albert. Though my name perish from the book of honor, Almost before the recent ink is dry, And be no more remember'd after death, Than
drummer's in the muster-roll ; Yet shall I season high my sudden fall With triumph o'er that evil-witted duke! He shall feel what it is to have the hand Of a man drowning, on his hateful throat.
Enter GERSA and SIGIFRED.
Gersa. What discord is at ferment in this house?
Sigifred. We are without conjecture; not a soul
We met could answer any certainty.
Gersa. Young Ludolph, like a fiery arrow, shot By us.
Sigifred. The Emperor, with crossid arms, in thought.
Gersa. In one room music, in another sadness,
Perplexity every where!
A trifle more!
Follow ; your presences will much avail
To tune our jarred spirits. I'll explain.
Scene I.-AURANTHE's Apartment.
AURANTHE and CONRAD discovered.
Conrad. Well, well, I know what ugly jeopardy
We are caged in; you need not pester that
Into my ears. Pr’ythee, let me be spared
A foolish tongue, that I may
Of remedies with some deliberation.
You cannot doubt but 'tis in Albert's power
To crush or save us ?
No, I cannot doubt.
He has, assure yourself, by some strange means,
My secret; which I ever hid from him,
Knowing his mawkish honesty.
Cursed slave !
Auranthe. Ay, I could almost curse him now myself,
Wretched impediment! Evil genius!
A glue upon my wings, that cannot spread,
When they should span the provinces! A snake,
A scorpion, sprawling on the first gold step,
Conducting to the throne, high canopied.
Conrad. You would not hear my counsel, when his life
Might have been trodden out, all sure and hush'd;
Mow the dull animal forsooth must be
Entreated, managed! When can you contrive
The interview he demands ?
It must be done as my bribed woman can
Unseen conduct him to me; but I fear
'Twill be impossible, while the broad day
Comes through the panes with persecuting glare.
Methinks, if 't now were night I could intrigue
With darkness, bring the stars to second me,
And settle all this trouble.
Nonsense! Child !
See him immediately ; why not now?
Auranthe. Do you forget that even the senseless door-posts
Are on the watch and gape through all the house ;
How many whisperers there are about,
Hungry for evidence to ruin me:
Men I have spurn’d, and women I have taunted.
Besides, the foolish prince sends, minute whiles,
His pages-so they tell me—to inquire
After my health, entreating, if I please,
To see me.
Conrad. Well, suppose this Albert here;
What is your power with him ?
He should be
My echo, my taught parrot ! but I fear
He will be cur enough to bark at me;
Have his own say ; read me some silly creed
'Bout shame and pity.
What will you do then ?
Auranthe. What I shall do, I know not; what I would
Cannot be done ; for see, this chamber-floor
Will not yield to the pick-axe and the spade,-
Here is no quiet depth of hollow ground.
Conrad. Sister, you have grown sensible and wise,
Seconding, ere I speak it, what is now,
I hope, resolved between us.
Say, what is 't ?
Conrad. You need not be his sexton too; a man
May carry that with him shall make him die
Elsewhere,-give that to him; pretend the while
You will to-morrow succumb to his wishes,
Be what they may, and send him from the Castle
On some fool's errand : let his latest groan
Frighten the wolves !
Alas! he must not die!
Conrad. Would you were both hearsed up in stilling lead !
Auranthe. Conrad, hold! I would not bear
The little thunder of your fretful tongue,
Tho' I alone were taken in these toils,
could free me; but remember, sir,
You live alone in my security :
So keep your wits at work, for your own sake,
Not mine, and be more mannerly.
Thou wasp !
If my domains were emptied of these folk,
And I had thee to starve-
0, marvelous !
But Conrad, now be gone; the Host is look'd for;
Cringe to the Emperor, entertain the Lords,
And, do ye mind, above all things, proclaim
My sickness, with a brother's sadden'd eye,
Condoling with Prince Ludolph. In fit time
Return to me.
Conrad. I leave you to your thoughts.
[Exit. Auranthe (sola). Down, down, proud temper! down,
Why do I anger him when I should kneel ?
Conrad! Albert! help! help! What can I do?
O wretched woman! lost, wreck’d, swallow'd up,
Accursed, blasted ! O, thou golden Crown,
Orbing along the serene firmament
Of a wide empire, like a glowing moon;
And thou, bright sceptre ! lustrous in my eyes,-
There-as the fabled fair Hesperian tree,
Bearing a fruit more precious! graceful thing,
Delicate, godlike, magic! must I leave