Otho the Great

Scene I

Conrad So, I am safe emerged from these broils!
Amid the wreck of thousands I am whole;
For every crime I have a laurel-wreath,
For every lie a lordship. Nor yet has
My ship of fortune furled her silken sails —
Let her glide on! This dangered neck is saved,
By dexterous policy, from the rebel's axe;
And of my ducal palace not one stone
Is bruised by the Hungarian petards.
Toil hard, ye slaves, and from the miser-earth
Bring forth once more my bullion, treasured deep,
With all my jewelled salvers, silver and gold,
And precious goblets that make rich the wine.
But why do I stand babbling to myself?
Where is Auranthe? I have news for her
Shall —

[Enter Auranthe]

Auranthe Conrad! what tidings? Good, if I may guess
From your alert eyes and high-lifted brows.
What tidings of the battle? Albert? Ludolph?
Conrad You guess aright. And, sister, slurring o'er
Our by-gone quarrels, I confess my heart
Is beating with a child's anxiety,
To make our golden fortune known to you.
Auranthe So serious?
Conrad Yes, so serious, that before
I utter even the shadow of a hint
Concerning what will make that sin-worn cheek
Blush joyous blood through every lineament,
You must make here a solemn vow to me.
Auranthe I prithee, Conrad, do not overact
The hypocrite. What vow would you impose?
Conrad Trust me for once. That you may be assured
'Tis not confiding in a broken reed,
A poor court-bankrupt, outwitted and lost,
Revolve these facts in your acutest mood,
In such a mood as now you listen to me.
A few days since, I was an open rebel —
Against the Emperor, had suborned his son —
Drawn off his nobles to revolt, and shown
Contented fools causes for discontent,
Fresh hatched in my ambition's eagle nest.
So thrived I as a rebel, and, behold —
Now I am Otho's favourite, his dear friend,
His right hand, his brave Conrad!
Auranthe I confess
You have intrigued with these unsteady times
To admiration. But to be a favourite —
Conrad I saw my moment. The Hungarians,
Collected silently in holes and corners,
Appeared, a sudden host, in the open day.
I should have perished in our empire's wreck,
But, calling interest loyalty, swore faith
To most believing Otho; and so helped
His blood-stained ensigns to the victory
In yesterday's hard fight, that it has turned
The edge of his sharp wrath to eager kindness.
Auranthe So far yourself. But what is this to me
More than that I am glad? I gratulate you.
Conrad Yes, sister, but it does regard you greatly,
Nearly, momentously — ay, painfully!
Make me this vow —
Auranthe Concerning whom or what?
Conrad Albert!
Auranthe I would inquire somewhat of him:
You had a letter from me touching him?
No treason 'gainst his head in deed or word!
Surely you spared him at my earnest prayer?
Give me the letter — it should not exist!
Conrad At one pernicious charge of the enemy,
I, for a moment-whiles, was prisoner ta'en
And rifled — stuff! the horses' hoofs have minced it!
Auranthe He is alive?
Conrad He is! but here make oath
To alienate him from your scheming brain,
Divorce him from your solitary thoughts,
And cloud him in such utter banishment,
That when his person meets again your eye,
Your vision shall quite lose its memory,
And wander past him as through vacancy.
Auranthe I'll not be perjured.
Conrad No, nor great, nor mighty;
You would not wear a crown, or rule a kingdom.
To you it is indifferent.
Auranthe What means this?
Conrad You'll not be perjured! Go to Albert then,
That camp-mushroom — dishonour of our house.
Go, page his dusty heels upon a march,
Furbish his jingling baldric while he sleeps,
And share his mouldy ratio in a siege.
Yet stay — perhaps a charm may call you back,
And make the widening circlets of your eyes
Sparkle with healthy fevers. The Emperor
Hath given consent that you should marry Ludolph!
Auranthe Can it be, brother? For a golden crown
With a queen's awful lips I doubly thank you!
This is to wake in Paradise! Farewell
Thou clod of yesterday — 'twas not myself!
Not till this moment did I ever feel
My spirit's faculties! I'll flatter you
For this, and be you ever proud of it;
Thou, Jove-like, struck'd'st thy forehead,
And from the teeming marrow of thy brain
I spring complete Minerva! But the prince —
His highness Ludolph — where is he?
Conrad I know not:
When, lackeying my counsel at a beck,
The rebel lords, on bended knees, received
The Emperor's pardon, Ludolph kept aloof,
Sole, in a stiff, fool-hardy, sulky pride;
Yet, for all this, I never saw a father
In such a sickly longing for his son.
We shall soon see him, for the Emperor
He will be here this morning.
Auranthe That I heard
Among the midnight rumours from the camp.
Conrad You give up Albert to me?
Auranthe Harm him not!
E'en for his highness Ludolph's sceptry hand,
I would not Albert suffer any wrong.
Conrad Have I not laboured, plotted — ?
Auranthe See you spare him:
Nor be pathetic, my kind benefactor,
On all the many bounties of your hand —
'Twas for yourself you laboured — not for me!
Do you not count, when I am queen, to take
Advantage of your chance discoveries
Of my poor secrets, and so hold a rod
Over my life?
Conrad Let not this slave — this villain —
Be cause of feud between us. See! he comes!
Look, woman, look, your Albert is quite safe!
In haste it seems. Now shall I be in the way,
And wish'd with silent curses in my grave,
Or side by side with 'whelmed mariners.

[Enter Albert]

Albert Fair on your graces fall this early morrow!
So it is like to do, without my prayers,
For your right noble names, like favourite tunes,
Have fall'n full frequent from our Emperor's lips,
High commented with smiles.
Auranthe Noble Albert!
Conrad [aside] Noble!
Auranthe Such salutation argues a glad heart
In our prosperity. We thank you, sir.
Albert Lady! O, would to Heaven your poor servant
Could do you better service than mere words!
But I have other greeting than mine own,
From no less man than Otho, who has sent
This ring as pledge of dearest amity;
'Tis chosen I hear from Hymen's jewel'ry,
And you will prize it, lady, I doubt not,
Beyond all pleasures past, and all to come.
To you great duke —
Conrad To me! What of me, ha?
Albert What pleased your grace to say?
Conrad Your message, sir!
Albert You mean not this to me?
Conrad Sister, this way;
For there shall be no " gentle Alberts" now,
No " sweet Auranthes!" [aside]

[Exeunt Conrad and Auranthe]

Albert (solus) The duke is out of temper; if he knows
More than a brother of a sister ought,
I should not quarrel with his peevishness.
Auranthe — Heaven preserve her always fair! —
Is in the heady, proud, ambitious vein;
I bicker not with her — bid her farewell!
She has taken flight from me, then let her soar —
He is a fool who stands at pining gaze!
But for poor Ludolph, he is food for sorrow:
No levelling bluster of my licensed thoughts,
No military swagger of my mind,
Can smother from myself the wrong I've done him —
Without design, indeed — yet it is so —
And opiate for the conscience have I none! [Exit]
Scene 2 The Court-yard of the Castle.
[Martial Music. Enter, from the outer gate, Otho, Nobles, Knights, and Attendants. TheSoldiers halt at the gate, with banners in sight]

Otho Where is my noble herald?

[Enter Conrad, from the Castle, attended by two Knights and Servants, Albert following]

Well, hast told
Auranthe our intent imperial?
Lest our rent banners, too o' the sudden shown,
Should fright her silken casements, and dismay
Her household to our lack of entertainment.
A victory!
Conrad God save illustrious Otho!
Otho Ay, Conrad, it will pluck out all grey hairs;
It is the best physician for the spleen;
The courtliest inviter to a feast;
The subtlest excuser of small faults;
And a nice judge in the age and smack of wine.

[Enter, from the Castle, Auranthe, followed by Pages holding up her robes, and a trainof Women. She kneels]

Hail my sweet hostess! I do thank the stars,
Or my good soldiers, or their ladies' eyes,
That, after such a merry battle fought,
I can, all safe in body and in soul,
Kiss your fair hand and Lady Fortune's too.
My ring! now, on my life, it doth rejoice
These lips to feel't on this soft ivory!
Keep it, my brightest daughter; it may prove
The little prologue to a line of kings.
I strove against thee and my hot-blood son,
Dull blockhead that I was to be so blind,
But now my sight is clear; forgive me, lady.
Auranthe My lord, I was a vassal to your frown,
And now your favour makes me but more humble;
In wintry winds the simple snow is safe,
But fadeth at the greeting of the sun:
Unto thine anger I might well have spoken,
Taking on me a woman's privilege,
But this so sudden kindness makes me dumb.
Otho What need of this? Enough, if you will be
A potent tutoress to my wayward boy,
And teach him, what it seems his nurse could not,
To say, for once, I thank you, Sigifred!
Albert He has not yet returned, my gracious liege.
Otho What then! No tidings of my friendly Arab?
Conrad None, mighty Otho.

[To one of his Knights, who goes out]

Send forth instantly
An hundred horsemen from my honoured gates,
To scour the plains and search the cottages.
Cry a reward, to him who shall first bring
News of that vanished Arabian,
A full-heaped helmet of the purest gold.
Otho More thanks, good Conrad; for, except my son's,
There is no face I rather would behold
Than that same quick-eyed pagan's. By the saints,
This coming night of banquets must not light
Her dazzling torches; nor the music breathe
Smooth, without clashing cymbal, tones of peace
And in-door melodies; nor the ruddy wine
Ebb spouting to the lees; if I pledge not,
In my first cup, that Arab!
Albert Mighty Monarch,
I wonder not this stranger's victor-deeds
So hang upon your spirit. Twice in the fight
It was my chance to meet his olive brow,
Triumphant in the enemy's shattered rhomb;
And, to say truth, in any Christian arm
I never saw such prowess.
Otho Did you ever?
O, 'tis a noble boy! — tut! — what do I say?
I mean a triple Saladin, whose eyes,
When in the glorious scuffle they met mine,
Seemed to say — " Sleep, old man, in safety sleep;
I am the victory!"
Conrad Pity he's not here.
Otho And my son too, pity he is not here.
Lady Auranthe, I would not make you blush,
But can you give a guess where Ludolph is?
Know you not of him?
Auranthe Indeed, my liege, no secret —
Otho Nay, nay, without more words, dost know of him?
Auranthe I would I were so over-fortunate,
Both for his sake and mine, and to make glad
A father's ears with tidings of his son.
Otho I see 'tis like to be a tedious day.
Were Theodore and Gonfrid and the rest
Sent forth with my commands?
Albert Ay, my lord.
Otho And no news! No news! 'Faith! 'tis very strange
He thus avoids us. Lady, is't not strange?
Will he be truant to you too? It is a shame.
Conrad Will't please your highness enter, and accept
The unworthy welcome of your servant's house?
Leaving your cares to one whose diligence
May in few hours make pleasures of them all.
Otho Not so tedious, Conrad. No, no, no, no —
I must see Ludolph or the — What's that shout!
voices without Huzza! huzza! Long live the Emperor!
Other voices Fall back! Away there!
Otho Say, what noise is that?

[Albert advancing from the back of the stage, whither he had hastened on hearing thecheers of the soldiery]

Albert It is young Gersa, the Hungarian prince,
Picked like a red stag from the fallow herd
Of prisoners. Poor prince, forlorn he steps,
Slow, and demure, and proud in his despair.
If I may judge by his so tragic bearing.
His eye not downcast, and his folded arm,
He doth this moment wish himself asleep
Among his fallen captains on yon plains.

[Enter Gersa, in chains, and guarded]

Otho Well said, Sir Albert.
Gersa Not a word of greeting,
No welcome to a princely visitor,
Most mighty Otho? Will not my great host
Vouchsafe a syllable, before he bids
His gentlemen conduct me with all care
To some securest lodging? — cold perhaps!
Otho What mood is this? Hath fortune touched thy brain?
Gersa O kings and princes of this feverous world,
What abject things, what mockeries must ye be,
What nerveless minions of safe palaces!
When here, a monarch, whose proud foot is used
To fallen princes' necks, as to his stirrup,
Must needs exclaim that I am mad forsooth,
Because I cannot flatter with bent knees
My conqueror!
Otho Gersa, I think you wrong me:
I think I have a better fame abroad.
Gersa I prithee mock me not with gentle speech,
But, as a favour, bid me from thy presence;
Let me no longer be the wondering food
Of all these eyes; prithee command me hence!
Otho Do not mistake me, Gersa. That you may not,
Come, fair Auranthe, try if your soft hands
Can manage those hard rivets to set free
So brave a prince and soldier.
Auranthe [sets him free] Welcome task!
Gersa I am wound up in deep astonishment!
Thank you, fair lady. Otho! emperor!
You rob me of myself; my dignity
Is now your infant; I am a weak child.
Otho Give me your hand, and let this kindly grasp
Live in our memories.
Gersa In mine it will.
I blush to think of my unchastened tongue;
But I was haunted by the monstrous ghost
Of all our slain battalions. Sire, reflect,
And pardon you will grant, that, at this hour,
The bruised remnants of our stricken camp
Are huddling undistinguished, my dear friends
With common thousands, into shallow graves.
Otho Enough, most noble Gersa. You are free
To cheer the brave remainder of your host
By your own healing presence, and that too,
Not as their leader merely, but their king;
For, as I hear, the wily enemy,
Who eased the crownet from your infant brows,
Bloody Taraxa, is among the dead.
Gersa Then I retire, so generous Otho please,
Bearing with me a weight of benefits
Too heavy to be borne.
Otho It is not so;
Still understand me, King of Hungary,
Nor judge my open purposes awry.
Though I did hold you high in my esteem
For your self's sake, I do not personate
The stage-play emperor to entrap applause,
To set the silly sort o' the world agape,
And make the politic smile; no, I have heard
How in the Council you condemned this war,
Urging the perfidy of broken faith —
For that I am your friend.
Gersa If ever, sire,
You are my enemy, I dare here swear
'Twill not be Gersa's fault. Otho, farewell!
Otho Will you return, Prince, to our banqueting?
Gersa As to my father's board I will return.
Otho Conrad, with all due ceremony, give
The prince a regal escort to his camp;
Albert, go thou and bear him company.
Gersa, farewell!
Gersa All happiness attend you!
Otho Return with what good speed you may; for soon
We must consult upon our terms of peace.

[Exeunt Gersa and Albert with others]

And thus a marble column do I build
To prop my empire's dome. Conrad, in thee
I have another steadfast one, to uphold
The portals of my state; and, for my own
Pre-eminence and safety, I will strive
To keep thy strength upon its pedestal.
For, without thee, this day I might have been
A show-monster about the streets of Prague,
In chains, as just now stood that noble prince:
And then to me no mercy had been shown,
For when the conquered lion is once dungeoned,
Who lets him forth again? or dares to give
An old lion sugar-cates of mild reprieve?
Not to thine ear alone I make confession,
But to all here, as, by experience,
I know how the great basement of all power
Is frankness, and a true tongue to the world;
And how intriguing secrecy is proof
Of fear and weakness, and a hollow state.
Conrad, I owe thee much.
Conrad To kiss that hand,
My emperor, is ample recompense,
For a mere act of duty.
Otho Thou art wrong;
For what can any man on earth do more?
We will make trial of your house's welcome,
My bright Auranthe!
Conrad How is Friedburg honoured!

[Enter Ethelbert and six Monks]

Ethelbert The benison of heaven on your head,
Imperial Otho!
Otho Who stays me? Speak! Quick!
Ethelbert Pause but one moment, mighty cnqueror,
Upon the threshold of this house of joy.
Otho Pray, do not prose, good Ethelbert, but speak
What is your purpose.
Ethelbert The restoration of some captive maids,
Devoted to Heaven's pious ministries,
Who, driven forth from their religious cells,
And kept in thraldom by our enemy,
When late this province was a lawless spoil,
Still weep amid the wild Hungarian camp,
Though hemmed around by thy victorious arms.
Otho Demand the holy sisterhood in our name
From Gersa's tents. Farewell, old Ethelbert.
Ethelbert The saints will bless you for this pious care.
Otho Daughter, your hand; Ludolph's would fit it best.
Conrad Ho! let the music sound!

[Music. Ethelbert raises his hands, as in benediction of Otho.
Exeunt severally. The scene closes on them]

Scene 3 The Country, with the Castle in the distance.

[Enter Ludolph and Sigifred]

Ludolph You have my secret; let it not be breath'd.
Sigifred Still give me leave to wonder that the Prince
Ludolph and the swift Arab are the same;
Still to rejoice that 'twas a German arm
Death doing in a turbaned masquerade.
Ludolph The Emperor must not know it, Sigifred.
Sigifred I prithee, why? What happier hour of time
Could thy pleased star point down upon from heaven
With silver index, bidding thee make peace?
Ludolph Still it must not be known, good Sigifred;
The star may point oblique.
Sigifred If Otho knew
His son to be that unknown Mussulman
After whose spurring heels he sent me forth,
With one of his well-pleased Olympian oaths,
The charters of man's greatness, at this hour
He would be watching round the castle walls,
And, like an anxious warder, strain his sight
For the first glimpse of such a son returned —
Ludolph, that blast of the Hungarians,
That Saracenic meteor of the fight,
That silent fury, whose fell scimitar
Kept danger all aloof from Otho's head,
And left him space for wonder.
Ludolph Say no more.
Not as a swordsman would I pardon claim,
But as a son. The bronzed centurion,
Long toiled in foreign wars, and whose high deeds
Are shaded in a forest of tall spears,
Known only to his troop, hath greater plea
Of favour with my sire than I can have.
Sigifred My lord, forgive me that I cannot see
How this proud temper with clear reason squares.
What made you then, with such an anxious love,
Hover around that life, whose bitter days
You vexed with bad revolt? Was't opium,
Or the mad-fumed wine? Nay, do not frown,
I rather would grieve with you than upbraid.
Ludolph I do believe you. No, 'twas not to make
A father his son's debtor, or to heal
His deep heart-sickness for a rebel child.
'Twas done in memory of my boyish days,
Poor cancel for his kindness to my youth,
For all his calming of my childish griefs,
And all his smiles upon my merriment.
No, not a thousand foughten fields could sponge
Those days paternal from my memory,
Though now upon my head he heaps disgrace.
Sigifred My Prince, you think too harshly —
Ludolph Can I so?
Hath he not galled my spirit to the quick?
And with a sullen rigour obstinate
Poured out a phial of wrath upon my faults?
Hunted me as a Tartar does the boar,
Driven me to the very edge o' the world,
And almost put a price upon my head?
Sigifred Remember how he spared the rebel lords.
Ludolph Yes, yes, I know he hath a noble nature
That cannot trample on the fallen. But his
Is not the only proud heart in his realm.
He hath wronged me, and I have done him wrong;
He hath loved me, and I have shown him kindness;
We should be almost equal.
Sigifred Yet, for all this,
I would you had appeared among those lords,
And taken his favour.
Ludolph Ha! till now I thought
My friend had held poor Ludolph's honour dear.
What! would you have me sue before his throne
And kiss the courtier's missal, its silk steps?
Or hug the golden housings of his steed,
Amid a camp, whose steeled swarms I dared
But yesterday? And, at the trumpet sound,
Bow like some unknown mercenary's flag,
And lick the soiled grass? No, no, my friend,
I would not, I, be pardoned in the heap,
And bless indemnity with all that scum —
Those men I mean, who on my shoulders propped
Their weak rebellion, winning me with lies,
And pitying forsooth my many wrongs;
Poor self-deceived wretches, who must think
Each one himself a king in embryo,
Because some dozen vassals cried — " My Lord!"
Cowards, who never knew their little hearts,
Till flurried danger held the mirror up,
And then they owned themselves without a blush,
Curling, like spaniels, round my father's feet.
Such things deserted me and are forgiven,
While I, least guilty, am an outcast still,
And will be, for I love such fair disgrace.
Sigifred I know the clear truth; so would Otho see,
For he is just and noble. Fain would I
Be pleader for you —
Ludolph He'll hear none of it;
You know his temper, hot, proud, obstinate;
Endanger not yourself so uselessly.
I will encounter his thwart spleen myself,
To-day, at the Duke Conrad's, where he keeps
His crowded state after the victory,
There will I be, a most unwelcome guest,
And parley with him, as a son should do,
Who doubly loathes a father's tyranny;
Tell him how feeble is that tyranny;
How the relationship of father and son
Is no more valid than a silken leash
Where lions tug adverse, if love grow not
From interchanged love through many years.
Ay, and those turreted Franconian walls,
Like to a jealous casket, hold my pearl —
My fair Auranthe! Yes, I will be there.
Sigifred Be not so rash; wait till his wrath shall pass,
Until his royal spirit softly ebbs
Self-influenced; then, in his morning dreams
He will forgive thee, and awake in grief
To have not thy good morrow.
Ludolph Yes, today
I must be there, while her young pulses beat
Among the new-plumed minions of the war.
Have you seen her of late? No? Auranthe,
Franconia's fair sister, 'tis I mean.
She should be paler for my troublous days —
And there it is — my father's iron lips
Have sworn divorcement 'twixt me and my right.
Sigifred [aside] Auranthe! I had hoped this whim had passed.
Ludolph And, Sigifred, with all his love of justice,
When will he take that grandchild in his arms,
That, by my love I swear, shall soon be his?
This reconcilement is impossible,
For see — but who are these?
Sigifred They are messengers
From our great emperor; to you, I doubt not,
For couriers are abroad to seek you out.

[Enter Theodore and Gonfrid]

Theodore Seeing so many vigilant eyes explore
The province to invite your highness back
To your high dignities, we are too happy.
Gonfrid We have no eloquence to colour justly
The emperor's anxious wishes.
Ludolph Go. I follow you.

[Exeunt Theodore and Gonfrid]

I play the prude: it is but venturing —
Why should he be so earnest? Come, my friend,
Let us to Friedburg castle.

Act II

Scene I An Antechamber in the Castle.

[Enter Ludolph and Sigifred]

Ludolph No more advices, no more cautioning:
I leave it all to fate — to any thing!
I cannot square my conduct to time, place,
Or circumstance; to me 'tis all a mist!
Sigifred I say no more.
Ludolph It seems I am to wait
Here in the anteroom — that may be a trifle.
You see now how I dance attendance here,
Without that tyrant temper, you so blame,
Snapping the rein. You have medicined me
With good advices; and I here remain,
In this most honourable anteroom,
Your patient scholar.
Sigifred Do not wrong me, Prince.
By Heavens, I'd rather kiss Duke Conrad's slipper,
When in the morning he doth yawn with pride,
Than see you humbled but a half-degree!
Truth is, the Emperor would fain dismiss
The nobles ere he sees you.

[Enter Gonfrid, from the Council-room]

Ludolph Well, sir! what?
Gonfrid Great honour to the Prince! The Emperor,
Hearing that his brave son had re-appeared,
Instant dismissed the Council from his sight,
As Jove fans off the clouds. Even now they pass.

[Enter the Nobles from the Council-room. They cross the stage, bowing with respectto Ludolph, he frowning on them. Conrad follows. Exeunt Nobles]

Ludolph Not the discoloured poisons of a fen,
Which he who breathes feels warning of his death,
Could taste so nauseous to the bodily sense
As these prodigious sycophants disgust
The soul's fine palate.
Conrad Princely Ludolph, hail!
Welcome, thou younger sceptre to the realm!
Strength to thy virgin crownet's golden buds,
That they, against the winter of thy sire,
May burst, and swell, and flourish round thy brows,
Maturing to a weighty diadem!
Yet be that hour far off; and may he live,
Who waits for thee, as the chapped earth for rain.
Set my life's star! I have lived long enough,
Since under my glad roof, propitiously,
Father and son each other re-possess.
Ludolph Fine wording, Duke! but words could never yet
Forestall the fates; have you not learnt that yet?
Let me look well — your features are the same;
Your gait the same; your hair of the same shade;
As one I knew some passed weeks ago,
Who sung far different notes into mine ears.
I have mine own particular comments on't;
You have your own, perhaps.
Conrad My gracious Prince,
All men may err. In truth I was deceived
In your great father's nature, as you were.
Had I known that of him I have since known,
And what you soon will learn, I would have turned
My sword to my own throat, rather than held
Its threatening edge against a good King's quiet:
Or with one word fevered you, gentle Prince,
Who seemed to me, as rugged times then went,
Indeed too much oppressed. May I be bold
To tell the Emperor you will haste to him?
Ludolph Your Dukedom's privilege will grant so much.

[Exit Conrad]

He's very close to Otho, a tight leech!
Your hand — I go. Ha! here the thunder comes
Sullen against the wind! If in two angry brows
My safety lies, then Sigifred, I'm safe.

[Enter Otho and Conrad]

Otho Will you make Titan play the lackey-page
To chattering pigmies? I would have you know
That such neglect of our high Majesty
Annuls all feel of kindred. What is son —
Or friend, or brother, or all ties of blood —
When the whole kingdom, centred in ourself,
Is rudely slighted? Who am I to wait?
By Peter's chair! I have upon my tongue
A word to fright the proudest spirit here! —
Death! — and slow tortures to the hardy fool,
Who dares take such large charter from our smiles!
Conrad, we would be private. Sigifred!
Off! And none pass this way on pain of death!

[Exeunt Conrad and Sigifred]

Ludolph This was but half expected, my good sire,
Yet I am grieved at it, to the full height,
As though my hopes of favour had been whole.
Otho How you indulge yourself! What can you hope for?
Ludolph Nothing, my liege; I have to hope for nothing.
I come to greet you as a loving son,
And then depart, if I may be so free,
Seeing that blood of yours in my warm veins
Has not yet mitigated into milk.
Otho What would you, sir?
Ludolph A lenient banishment;
So please you let me unmolested pass
This Conrad's gates, to the wide air again.
I want no more. A rebel wants no more.
Otho And shall I let a rebel loose again
To muster kites and eagles 'gainst my head?
No, obstinate boy, you shall be kept caged up,
Served with harsh food, with scum for Sunday-drink.
Ludolph Indeed!
Otho And chains too heavy for your life:
I'll choose a gaoler, whose swart monstrous face
Shall be a hell to look upon, and she —
Ludolph Ha!
Otho Shall be your fair Auranthe.
Ludolph Amaze! Amaze!
Otho Today you marry her.
Ludolph This is a sharp jest!
Otho No. None at all. When have I said a lie?
Ludolph If I sleep not, I am a waking wretch.
Otho Not a word more. Let me embrace my child.
Ludolph I dare not. 'Twould pollute so good a father!
O heavy crime! that your son's blinded eyes
Could not see all his parent's love aright,
As now I see it. Be not kind to me —
Punish me not with favour.
Otho Are you sure,
Ludolph, you have no saving plea in store?
Ludolph My father, none!
Otho Then you astonish me.
Ludolph No, I have no plea. Disobedience,
Rebellion, obstinacy, blasphemy,
Are all my counsellors. If they can make
My crooked deeds show good and plausible,
Then grant me loving pardon, but not else,
Good Gods! not else, in any way, my liege!
Otho You are a most perplexing, noble boy.
Ludolph You not less a perplexing noble father.
Otho Well, you shall have free passport through the gates.
Ludolph Farewell! and by these tears believe,
And still remember, I repent in pain
All my misdeeds!
Otho Ludolph, I will! I will!
But, Ludolph, ere you go, I would inquire
If you, in all your wandering, ever met
A certain Arab haunting in these parts.
Ludolph No, my good lord, I cannot say I did.
Otho Make not your father blind before his time;
Nor let these arms paternal hunger more
For an embrace, to dull the appetite
Of my great love for thee, my supreme child!
Come close, and let me breathe into thine ear.
I knew you through disguise. You are the Arab!
You can't deny it. [Embracing him]
Ludolph Happiest of days!
Otho We'll make it so.
Ludolph 'Stead of one fatted calf
Ten hecatombs shall bellow out their last,
Smote 'twixt the horns by the death-stunning mace
Of Mars, and all the soldiery shall feast
Nobly as Nimrod's masons, when the towers
Of Nineveh new kissed the parted clouds!
Otho Large as a God speak out, where all is thine.
Ludolph Ay, father, but the fire in my sad breast
Is quenched with inward tears! I must rejoice
For you, whose wins so shadow over me
In tender victory, but for myself
I still must mourn. The fair Auranthe mine!
Too great a boon! I prithee let me ask
What more than I know of could so have changed
Your purpose touching her?
Otho At a word, this:
In no deed did you give me more offence
Than your rejection of Erminia.
To my appalling, I saw too good proof
Of your keen-eyed suspicion — she is naught!
Ludolph You are convinced?
Otho Ay, spite of her sweet looks.
O, that my brother's daughter should so fall!
Her fame has passed into the grosser lips
Of soldiers in their cups.
Ludolph 'Tis very sad.
Otho No more of her, Auranthe — Ludolph, come!
This marriage be the bond of endless peace! [Exeunt]

Scene 2 The Entrance of Gersa's Tent in the Hungarian Camp.
[Enter Erminia]

Erminia Where! where! where shall I find a messenger?
A trusty soul? a good man in the camp?
Shall I go myself? Monstrous wickedness!
O cursed Conrad! devilish Auranthe!
Here is proof palpable as the bright sun!
O for a voice to reach the Emperor's ears!

[Shouts in the Camp]
[Enter an Hungarian Captain]

Captain Fair prisoner, you hear those joyous shouts?
The king — ay, now our king — but still your slave,
Young Gersa, from a short captivity
Has just returned. He bids me say, bright Dame,
That even the homage of his ranged chiefs
Cures not his keen impatience to behold
Such beauty once again. What ails you, lady?
Erminia Say, is not that a German, yonder? There!
Captain Methinks by his stout bearing he should be —
Yes — it is Albert; a brave German knight,
And much in the Emperor's favour.
Erminia I would fain
Inquire of friends and kinsfolk, how they fared
In these rough times. Brave soldier, as you pass
To royal Gersa with my humble thanks,
Will you send yonder knight to me?
Captain I will. [Exit]
Erminia Yes, he was ever known to be a man
Frank, open, generous; Albert I may trust.
O proof! proof! proof! Albert's an honest man;
Not Ethelbert the monk, if he were here,
Would I hold more trustworthy. Now!

[Enter Albert]

Albert Good Gods!
Lady Erminia! are you prisoner
In this beleaguered camp? Or are you here
Of your own will? You pleased to send for me.
By Venus, 'tis a pity I knew not
Your plight before and, by her son, I swear
To do you every service you can ask.
What would the fairest — ?
Erminia Albert, will you swear?
Albert I have. Well?
Erminia Albert, you have fame to lose.
If men, in court and camp, lie not outright,
You should be, from a thousand, chosen forth
To do an honest deed. Shall I confide — ?
Albert Ay, anything to me, fair creature. Do;
Dictate my task. Sweet woman —
Erminia Truce with that.
You understand me not; and, in your speech,
I see how far the slander is abroad.
Without proof could you think me innocent?
Albert Lady, I should rejoice to know you so.
Erminia If you have any pity for a maid,
Suffering a daily death from evil tongues;
Any compassion for that Emperor's niece,
Who, for your bright sword and clear honesty,
Lifted you from the crowd of common men
Into the lap of honour — save me, knight!
Albert How? Make it clear; if it be possible,
I, by the banner of Saint Maurice, swear
To right you.
Erminia Possible! — Easy. O my heart!
This letter's not so soiled but you may read it —
Possible! There — that letter! Read — read it.

[Gives him a letter]

Albert [reads it ] " To the Duke Conrad. — Forget the threat you made atparting, and I will forget to send the Emperor letters and papers of yours I have become possessedof. His life is no trifle to me; his death you shall find none to yourself." [Speaks tohimself ] 'Tis me — my life that's pleaded for! [Reads ] " He, for his own sake,will be dumb as the grave. Erminia has my shame fixed upon her, sure as a wen. We are safe.Auranthe ."
A she-devil! A dragon! I her imp!
Fire of Hell! Auranthe — lewd demon!
Where got you this? Where? When?
Erminia I found it in the tent, among some spoils
Which, being noble, fell to Gersa's lot.
Come in, and see. [They go in and return ]
Albert Villainy! Villainy!
Conrad's sword, his corselet, and his helm,
And his letter. Caitiff, he shall feel —
Erminia I see you are thunderstruck. Haste, haste away!
Albert O I am tortured by this villainy.
Erminia You needs must be. Carry it swift to Otho;
Tell him, moreover, I am prisoner
Here in this camp, where all the sisterhood,
Forced from their quiet cells, are parcelled out
For slaves among these Huns. Away! Away!
Albert I am gone.
Erminia Swift be your steed! Within this hour
The Emperor will see it.
Albert Ere I sleep:
That I can swear. [Hurries out]
Gersa [without] Brave captains! thanks. Enough
Of loyal homage now!

[Enter Gersa]

Erminia Hail, royal Hun!
Gersa What means this, fair one? Why in such alarm?
Who was it hurried by me so distract?
It seemed you were in deep discourse together;
Your doctrine has not been so harsh to him
As to my poor deserts. Come, come, be plain.
I am no jealous fool to kill you both,
Or, for such trifles, rob the adorned world
Of such a beauteous vestal.
Erminia I grieve, my Lord,
To hear you condescend to ribald phrase.
Gersa This is too much! Hearken, my lady pure!
Erminia Silence! and hear the magic of a name —
Erminia! I am she — the Emperor's niece!
Praised be the Heavens, I now dare own myself!
Gersa Erminia! Indeed! I've heard of her.
Prithee, fair lady, what chance brought you here?
Erminia Ask your own soldiers.
Gersa And you dare own your name.
For loveliness you may — and for the rest
My vein is not censorious.
Erminia Alas! poor me!
'Tis false indeed.
Gersa Indeed you are too fair:
The swan, soft leaning on her fledgy breast,
When to the stream she launches, looks not back
With such a tender grace; nor are her wings
So white as your soul is, if that but be
Twin-picture to your face. Erminia!
Today, for the first day, I am a king,
Yet would I give my unworn crown away
To know you spotless.
Erminia Trust me one day more,
Generously, without more certain guarantee,
Than this poor face you deign to praise so much;
After that, say and do whate'er your please.
If I have any knowledge of you, sir,
I think, nay I am sure, you will grieve much
To hear my story. O be gentle to me,
For I am sick and faint with many wrongs,
Tired out, and weary-worn with contumelies.
Gersa Poor lady!

[Enter Ethelbert]

Erminia Gentle Prince, 'tis false indeed.
Good morrow, holy father! I have had
Your prayers, though I looked for you in vain.
Ethelbert Blessings upon you, daughter! Sure you look
Too cheerful for these foul pernicious days.
Young man, you heard this virgin say 'twas false —
'Tis false, I say. What! can you not employ
Your temper elsewhere, 'mong these burly tents,
But you must taunt this dove, for she hath lost
The Eagle Otho to beat off assault?
Fie! fie! But I will be her guard myself;
In the Emperor's name, I here demand of you
Herself, and all her sisterhood. She false!
Gersa Peace! peace, old man! I cannot think she is.
Ethelbert Whom I have known from her first infancy,
Baptized her in the bosom of the Church,
Watched her, as anxious husbandmen the grain,
From the first shoot till the unripe mid-May,
Then to the tender ear of her June days,
Which, lifting sweet abroad its timid green,
Is blighted by the touch of calumny;
You cannot credit such a monstrous tale.
Gersa I cannot. Take her. Fair Erminia,
I follow you to Friedburg — is't not so?
Erminia Ay, so we purpose.
Ethelbert Daughter, do you so?
How's this? I marvel! Yet you look not mad.
Erminia I have good news to tell you, Ethelbert.
Gersa Ho! ho, there! Guards!
Your blessing, father! Sweet Erminia,
Believe me, I am well nigh sure —
Erminia Farewell!
Short time will show.

[Enter Chiefs]

Yes, father Ethelbert,
I have news precious as we pass along.
Ethelbert Dear daughter, you shall guide me.
Erminia To no ill.
Gersa Command an escort to the Friedburg lines.

[Exeunt Chiefs]

Pray let me lead. Fair lady, forget not
Gersa, how he believed you innocent.
I follow you to Friedburg with all speed. [Exeunt]


Scene I The Country.

[Enter Albert]

Albert O that the earth were empty, as when Cain
Had no perplexity to hide his head!
Or that the sword of some brave enemy
Had put a sudden stop to my hot breath,
And hurled me down the illimitable gulf
Of times past, unremembered! Better so
Than thus fast-limed in a cursed snare,
The limbo of a wanton. This the end
Of an aspiring life! My boyhood passed
In feud with wolves and bears, when no eye saw
The solitary warfare, fought for love
Of honour 'mid the growling wilderness.
My sturdier youth, maturing to the sword,
Won by the siren-trumpets, and the ring
Of shields upon the pavement, when bright-mailed
Henry the Fowler passed the streets of Prague.
Was't to this end I louted and became
The menial of Mars, and held a spear
Swayed by command, as corn is by the wind?
Is it for this, I now am lifted up
By Europe's throned Emperor, to see
My honour be my executioner —
My love of fame, my prided honesty
Put to the torture for confessional?
Then the damned crime of blurting to the world
A woman's secret! — though a fiend she be,
Too tender of my ignominious life —
But then to wrong the generous Emperor
In such a searching point, were to give up
My soul for football at Hell's holiday!
I must confess — and cut my throat — today?
Tomorrow? Ho! some wine!

[Enter Sigifred]

Sigifred A fine humour —
Albert Who goes there? Count Sigifred? Ha! Ha! Ha!
Sigifred What, man, do you mistake the hollow sky
For a thronged tavern — and these stubbed trees
For old serge hangings — me, your humble friend,
For a poor waiter? Why, man, how you stare!
What gipsies have you been carousing with?
No, no more wine; methinks you've had enough.
Albert You well may laugh and banter. What a fool
An injury may make of a staid man!
You shall know all anon.
Sigifred Some tavern brawl?
Albert 'Twas with some people out of common reach;
Revenge is difficult.
Sigifred I am your friend;
We meet again today, and can confer
Upon it. For the present I'm in haste.
Albert Whither?
Sigifred To fetch King Gersa to the feast.
The Emperor on this marriage is so hot,
Pray Heaven it end not in apoplexy!
The very porters, as I passed the doors,
Heard his loud laugh, and answered in full choir.
I marvel, Albert, you delay so long
From these bright revelries; go, show yourself,
You may be made a duke.
Albert Ay, very like:
Pray, what day has his Highness fixed upon?
Sigifred For what?
Albert The marriage. What else can I mean?
Sigifred Today! O, I forgot, you could not know;
The news is scarce a minute old with me.
Albert Married today! Today! You did not say so?
Sigifred Now, while I speak to you, their comely heads
Are bowed before the mitre.
Albert O! monstrous!
Sigifred What is this?
Albert Nothing, Sigifred. Farewell!
We'll meet upon our subject. Farewell, count! [Exit]
Sigifred Is this clear-headed Albert? He brain-turned!
'Tis as portentous as a meteor. [Exit]

Scene 2 An Apartment in the Castle.
[Enter, as from the Marriage, Otho, Ludolph, Auranthe, Conrad, Nobles, Knights, Ladies,etc. Music]

Otho Now, Ludolph! Now, Auranthe! Daughter fair!
What can I find to grace your nuptial day
More than my love, and these wide realms in fee?
Ludolph I have too much.
Auranthe And I, my liege, by far.
Ludolph Auranthe! I have! O, my bride, my love!
Not all the gaze upon us can restrain
My eyes, too long poor exiles from thy face,
From adoration, and my foolish tongue
From uttering soft responses to the love
I see in thy mute beauty beaming forth!
Fair creature, bless me with a single word!
All mine!
Auranthe Spare, spare me, my Lord; I swoon else.
Ludolph Soft beauty! by tomorrow I should die,
Wert thou not mine. [They talk apart]
First Lady How deep she has bewitched him!
First Knight Ask you for her receipt for love philtres.
Second Lady They hold the Emperor in admiration.
Otho If ever king was happy, that am I!
What are the cities 'yond the Alps to me,
The provinces about the Danube's mouth,
The promise of fair sail beyond the Rhone;
Or routing out of Hyperborean hordes,
To these fair children, stars of a new age?
Unless perchance I might rejoice to win
This little ball of earth, and chuck it them
To play with!
Auranthe Nay, my Lord, I do not know.
Ludolph Let me not famish.
Otho [to Conrad] Good Franconia,
You heard what oath I sware, as the sun rose,
That unless Heaven would send me back my son,
My Arab, no soft music should enrich
The cool wine, kissed off with a soldier's smack;
Now all my empire, bartered for one feast,
Seems poverty.
Conrad Upon the neighbour-plain
The heralds have prepared a royal lists;
Your knights, found war-proof in the bloody field,
Speed to the game.
Otho Well, Ludolph, what say you?
Ludolph My lord!
Otho A tourney?
Conrad Or, if't please you best —
Ludolph I want no more!
First Lady He soars!
Second Lady Past all reason.
Ludolph Though heaven's choir
Should in a vast circumference descend
And sing for my delight, I'd stop my ears!
Though bright Apollo's car stood burning here,
And he put out an arm to bid me mount,
His touch an immortality, not I!
This earth, this palace, this room, Auranthe!
Otho This is a little painful; just too much.
Conrad, if he flames longer in this wise,
I shall believe in wizard-woven loves
And old romances; but I'll break the spell.
Conrad He'll be calm, anon.
Ludolph You called?
Yes, yes, yes, I offend. You must forgive me;
Not being quite recovered from the stun
Of your large bounties. A tourney, is it not?

[A sennet heard faintly]

Conrad The trumpets reach us.
Ethelbert [without] On your peril, sirs,
Detain us!
First Voice [without] Let not the Abbot pass.
Second Voice [without] No,
On your lives!
First Voice [without] Holy father, you must not.
Ethelbert [without] Otho!
Otho Who calls on Otho?
Ethelbert [without] Ethelbert!
Otho Let him come in.

[Enter Ethelbert leading in Erminia]

Thou cursed Abbot, why
Hast brought pollution to our holy rites?
Hast thou no fear of hangmen, or the faggot?
Ludolph What portent — what strange prodigy is this?
Conrad Away!
Ethelbert You, Duke?
Erminia Albert has surely failed me!
Looked at the Emperor's brow upon me bent!
Ethelbert A sad delay!
Conrad Away, thou guilty thing!
Ethelbert You again, Duke? Justice, most noble Otho!
You — go to your sister there and plot again,
A quick plot, swift as thought to save your heads;
For lo! the toils are spread around your den,
The world is all agape to see dragged forth
Two ugly monsters.
Ludolph What means he, my lord?
Conrad I cannot guess.
Ethelbert Best ask your lady sister,
Whether the riddle puzzles her beyond
The power of utterance.
Conrad Foul barbarian, cease:
The Princess faints!
Ludolph Stab him! O, sweetest wife!

[Attendants bear off Auranthe]

Erminia Alas!
Ethelbert Your wife?
Ludolph Ay, Satan! does that yerk ye?
Ethelbert Wife! so soon!
Ludolph Ay, wife! O, impudence!
Thou bitter mischief! Venomous bad priest!
How darest thou lift those beetle brows at me?
Me — the prince Ludolph, in this presence here,
Upon my marriage-day, and scandalize
My joys with such opprobrious surprise?
Wife! Why dost linger on that syllable,
As if it were some demon's name pronounced
To summon harmful lightning, and make yawn
The sleepy thunder? Hast no sense of fear?
No ounce of man in thy mortality?
Tremble! for, at my nod, the sharpened axe
Will make thy bold tongue quiver to the roots,
Those grey lids wink, and thou not know it, monk!
Ethelbert O, poor deceived Prince! I pity thee!
Great Otho! I claim justice —
Ludolph Thou shalt have 't!
Thine arms from forth a pulpit of hot fire
Shall sprawl distracted! O that that dull cowl
Were some most sensitive portion of thy life,
That I might give it to my hounds to tear!
Thy girdle some fine zealous-pained nerve
To girth my saddle! And those devil's beads
Each one a life, that I might, every day,
Crush one with Vulcan's hammer!
Otho Peace, my son;
You far outstrip my spleen in this affair.
Let us be calm, and hear the abbot's plea
For this intrusion.
Ludolph I am silent, sire.
Otho Conrad, see all depart not wanted here.

[Exeunt Knights, Ladies, etc.]

Ludolph, be calm. Ethelbert, peace awhile.
This mystery demands an audience
Of a just judge, and that will Otho be.
Ludolph Why has he time to breathe another word?
Otho Ludolph, old Ethelbert, be sure, comes not
To beard us for no cause; he's not the man
To cry himself up an ambassador
Without credentials.
Ludolph I'll chain up myself.
Otho Old Abbot, stand here forth. Lady Erminia,
Sit. And now, Abbot! what have you to say?
Our ear is open. First we here denounce
Hard penalties against thee, if't be found
The cause for which you have disturbed us here,
Making our bright hours muddy, be a thing
Of little moment.
Ethelbert See this innocent!
Otho! thou father of the people called,
Is her life nothing? Her fair honour nothing?
Her tears from matins until even-song
Nothing? Her burst heart nothing? Emperor!
Is this your gentle niece — the simplest flower
Of the world's herbal — this fair lily blanched
Still with the dews of piety, this meek lady
Here sitting like an angel newly-shent,
Who veils its snowy wings and grows all pale —
Is she nothing?
Otho What more to the purpose, Abbot?
Ludolph Whither is he winding?
Conrad No clue yet!
Ethelbert You have heard, my liege, and so, no doubt, all here,
Foul, poisonous, malignant whisperings;
Nay open speech, rude mockery grown common,
Against the spotless nature and clear fame
Of the Princess Erminia, your niece.
I have intruded here thus suddenly,
Because I hold those base weeds, with tight hand,
Which now disfigure her fair growing stem,
Waiting but for your sign to pull them up
By the dark roots, and leave her palpable,
To all men's sight, a lady, innocent.
The ignominy of that whispered tale
About a midnight gallant, seen to climb
A window to her chamber neighboured near,
I will from her turn off, and put the load
On the right shoulders; on that wretch's head,
Who, by close stratagems, did save herself,
Chiefly by shifting to this lady's room
A rope-ladder for false witness.
Ludolph Most atrocious!
Otho Ethelbert, proceed.
Ethelbert With sad lips I shall:
For, in the healing of one wound, I fear
To make a greater. His young highness here
Today was married.
Ludolph Good.
Ethelbert Would it were good!
Yet why do I delay to spread abroad
The names of those two vipers, from whose jaws
A deadly breath went forth to taint and blast
This guileless lady?
Otho Abbot, speak their names.
Ethelbert A minute first. It cannot be — but may
I ask, great judge, if you today have put
A letter by unread?
Otho Does't end in this?
Conrad Out with their names!
Ethelbert Bold sinner, say you so?
Ludolph Out, tedious monk!
Otho Confess, or by the wheel —
Ethelbert My evidence cannot be far away;
And, though it never come, be on my head
The crime of passing an attaint upon
The slanderers of this virgin.
Ludolph Speak aloud!
Ethelbert Auranthe, and her brother there.
Conrad Amaze!
Ludolph Throw them from the windows!
Otho Do what you will!
Ludolph What shall I do with them?
Something of quick dispatch, for should she hear,
My soft Auranthe, her sweet mercy would
Prevail against my fury. Damned priest!
What swift death wilt thou die? As to the lady
I touch her not.
Ethelbert Illustrious Otho, stay!
An ample store of misery thou hast,
Choke not the granary of thy noble mind
With more bad bitter grain, too difficult
A cud for the repentance of a man
Grey-growing. To thee only I appeal,
Not to thy noble son, whose yeasting youth
Will clear itself, and crystal turn again.
A young man's heart, by Heaven's blessing, is
A wide world, where a thousand new-born hopes
Empurple fresh the melancholy blood:
But an old man's is narrow, tenantless
Of hopes, and stuffed with many memories,
Which, being pleasant, ease the heavy pulse —
Painful, clog up and stagnate. Weight this matter
Even as a miser balances his coin;
And, in the name of mercy, give command
That your knight Albert be brought here before you.
He will expound this riddle; he will show
A noon-day proof of bad Auranthe's guilt.
Otho Let Albert straight be summoned.

[Exit one of the Nobles]

Ludolph Impossible!
I cannot doubt — I will not — no — to doubt
Is to be ashes! — withered up to death!
Otho My gentle Ludolph, harbour not a fear;
You do yourself much wrong.
Ludolph O, wretched dolt!
Now, when my foot is almost on thy neck,
Wilt thou infuriate me? Proof! Thou fool!
Why wilt thou tease impossibility
With such a thick-skulled persevering suit?
Fanatic obstinacy! Prodigy!
Monster of folly! Ghost of a turned brain!
You puzzle me — you haunt me — when I dream
Of you my brain will split! Bald sorcerer!
Juggler! May I come near you? On my soul
I know not whether to pity, curse, or laugh.

[Enter Albert, and the Nobleman]

Here, Albert, this old phantom wants a proof!
Give him his proof! A camel's load of proofs!
Otho Albert, I speak to you as to a man
Whose words once uttered pass like current gold;
And therefore fit to calmly put a close
To this brief tempest. Do you stand possessed
Of any proof against the honourableness
Of Lady Auranthe, our new-spoused daughter?
Albert You chill me with astonishment. How's this?
My Liege, what proof should I have 'gainst a fame
Impossible of slur? [Otho rises]
Erminia O wickedness!
Ethelbert Deluded monarch, 'tis a cruel lie.
Otho Peace, rebel-priest!
Conrad Insult beyond credence!
Erminia Almost a dream!
Ludolph 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 unlooped 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
So fiendish —
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,

[Enter Guards]

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.
Albert Trust! to me!
Conrad [aside] He is the sole one in this mystery.
Erminia Well, I give up, and save my prayers for Heaven!
You, who could do this deed, would ne'er relent,
Though, at my words, the hollow prison-vaults
Would groan for pity.
Conrad Manacle them both!
Ethelbert I know it — it must be — I see it all!
Albert, thou art the minion!
Erminia 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 honour,
Almost before the recent ink is dry,
And be no more remembered after death,
Than any 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 crossed arms, in thought.
Gersa In one room music, in another sadness,
Perplexity everywhere!
Albert A trifle mere!
Follow; your presences will much avail
To tune our jarred spirits. I'll explain. [Exeunt]

Act IV

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. Prithee, let me be spared
A foolish tongue, that I may bethink me
Of remedies with some deliberation.
You cannot doubt but 'tis in Albert's power
To crush or save us?
Auranthe No, I cannot doubt.
He has, assure yourself, by some strange means,
My secret; which I ever hid from him,
Knowing his mawkish honesty.
Conrad 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 hushed;
Now the dull animal forsooth must be
Entreated, managed! When can you contrive
The interview he demands?
Auranthe As speedily
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.
Conrad Nonsense! Child!
See him immediately; why not now?
Auranthe Do you forget that even the senseless doorposts
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 spurned, and women I have taunted?
Besides, the foolish prince sends, minute whiles,
His pages — so they tell me — to
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