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The Poetical Works of George MacDonald

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SCENE VIII.--_A dungeon in the monastery. A ray of the moon on the floor_. ROBERT.

One comfort is, he's far away by this. Perhaps this comfort is my deepest sin. Where shall I find a daysman in this strife Between my heart and holy Church's words? Is not the law of kindness from God's finger, Yea, from his heart, on mine? But then we must Deny ourselves; and impulses must yield, Be subject to the written law of words; Impulses made, made strong, that we might have Within the temple's court live things to bring And slay upon his altar; that we may, By this hard penance of the heart and soul, Become the slaves of Christ.--I have done wrong; I ought not to have let poor Julian go. And yet that light upon the floor says, yes-- Christ would have let him go. It seemed a good, Yes, self-denying deed, to risk my life That he might be in peace. Still up and down The balance goes, a good in either scale; Two angels giving each to each the lie, And none to part them or decide the question. But still the words come down the heaviest Upon my conscience as that scale descends; But that may be because they hurt me more, Being rough strangers in the feelings' home. Would God forbid us to do what is right, Even for his sake? But then Julian's life Belonged to God, to do with as he pleases! I am bewildered. 'Tis as God and God Commanded different things in different tones. Ah! then, the tones are different: which is likest God's voice? The one is gentle, loving, kind, Like Mary singing to her mangered child; The other like a self-restrained tempest; Like--ah, alas!--the trumpet on Mount Sinai, Louder and louder, and the voice of words. O for some light! Would they would kill me! then I would go up, close up, to God's own throne, And ask, and beg, and pray to know the truth; And he would slay this ghastly contradiction. I should not fear, for he would comfort me, Because I am perplexed, and long to know. But this perplexity may be my sin, And come of pride that will not yield to him! O for one word from God! his own, and fresh From him to me! Alas, what shall I do!


Hark, hark, a voice amid the quiet intense! It is thy Duty waiting thee without. Rise from thy knees in hope, the half of doubt; A hand doth pull thee--it is Providence; Open thy door straightway, and get thee hence; Go forth into the tumult and the shout; Work, love, with workers, lovers, all about: Of noise alone is born the inward sense Of silence; and from action springs alone The inward knowledge of true love and faith. Then, weary, go thou back with failing breath, And in thy chamber make thy prayer and moan: One day upon His bosom, all thine own, Thou shall lie still, embraced in holy death.

SCENE I.--A room in Julian's castle. JULIAN and the old Nurse.

Nembroni? Count Nembroni?--I remember: A man about my height, but stronger built? I have seen him at her father's. There was something I did not like about him:--ah! I know: He had a way of darting looks at you, As if he wished to know you, but by stealth.

The same, my lord. He is the creditor. The common story is, he sought the daughter, But sought in vain: the lady would not wed. 'Twas rumoured soon they were in grievous trouble, Which caused much wonder, for the family Was always reckoned wealthy. Count Nembroni Contrived to be the only creditor, And so imprisoned him.


Nurse. Where is the lady?
Down in the town.


But where?


  If you turn left,

When you go through the gate, 'tis the last house Upon this side the way. An honest couple, Who once were almost pensioners of hers, Have given her shelter: still she hopes a home With distant friends. Alas, poor lady! 'tis A wretched change for her.


  Hm! ah! I see.

What kind of man is this Nembroni, nurse?

Here he is little known. His title comes From an estate, they say, beyond the hills. He looks ungracious: I have seen the children Run to the doors when he came up the street.

Thank you, nurse; you may go. Stay--one thing more: Have any of my people seen me?

But me, my lord.


  And can you keep it secret?--

know you will for my sake. I will trust you. Bring me some supper; I am tired and faint. [Nurse goes.] Poor and alone! Such a man has not laid His plans for nothing further! I will watch him. Heaven may have brought me hither for her sake. Poor child! I would protect thee as thy father, Who cannot help thee. Thou wast not to blame; My love had no claim on like love from thee.--How the old tide comes rushing to my heart!

I know not what I can do yet but watch. I have no hold on him. I cannot go, Say, I suspect; and, Is it so or not? I should but injure them by doing so. True, I might pay her father's debts; and will, If Joseph, my old friend, has managed well During my absence. I have not spent much. But still she'd be in danger from this man, If not permitted to betray himself; And I, discovered, could no more protect. Or if, unseen by her, I yet could haunt Her footsteps like an angel, not for long Should I remain unseen of other eyes, That peer from under cowls--not angel-eyes-- Hunting me out, over the stormy earth. No; I must watch. I can do nothing better.

SCENE II.--A poor cottage. An old Man and Woman sitting together.

How's the poor lady now?


  She's poorly still.

I fancy every day she's growing thinner. I am sure she's wasting steadily.


  Has the count

Been here again to-day?


  No. And I think

He will not come again. She was so proud The last time he was here, you would have thought She was a queen at least.


  Remember, wife,

What she has been. Trouble like that throws down The common folk like us all of a heap: With folks like her, that are high bred and blood, It sets the mettle up.


  All very right;

But take her as she was, she might do worse Than wed the Count Nembroni.



But are you sure there is no other man Stands in his way?


  How can I tell? So be,

He should be here to help her. What she'll do I am sure I do not know. We cannot keep her. And for her work, she does it far too well To earn a living by it. Her times are changed-- She should not give herself such prideful airs.

Come, come, old wife! you women are so hard On one another! You speak fair for men, And make allowances; but when a woman Crosses your way, you speak the worst of her. But where is this you're going then to-night? Do they want me to go as well as you?

Yes, you must go, or else it is no use. They cannot give the money to me, except My husband go with me. He told me so.

Well, wife, it's worth the going--but to see: I don't expect a groat to come of it.

SCENE III.--Kitchen of a small inn. Host and Hostess.

That's a queer customer you've got upstairs! What the deuce is he?


  What is that to us?

He always pays his way, and handsomely. I wish there were more like him.


  Has he been

At home all day?


He has not stirred a foot

Across the threshold. That's his only fault-- He's always in the way.


What does he do?

Paces about the room, or sits at the window. I sometimes make an errand to the cupboard, To see what he's about: he looks annoyed, But does not speak a word.

  He must be crazed,

Or else in hiding for some scrape or other.

He has a wild look in his eye sometimes; But sure he would not sit so much in the dark, If he were mad, or anything on his conscience; And though he does not say much, when he speaks A civiller man ne'er came in woman's way.

Oh! he's all right, I warrant. Is the wine come?

SCENE IV.--The inn; a room upstairs. JULIAN at the window, half hidden by the curtain.

With what profusion her white fingers spend Delicate motions on the insensate cloth! It was so late this morning ere she came! I fear she has been ill. She looks so pale! Her beauty is much less, but she more lovely. Do I not love he? more than when that beauty Beamed out like starlight, radiating beyond The confines of her wondrous face and form, And animated with a present power Her garment's folds, even to the very hem!

Ha! there is something now: the old woman drest In her Sunday clothes, and waiting at the door, As for her husband. Something will follow this. And here he comes, all in his best like her. They will be gone a while. Slowly they walk, With short steps down the street. Now I must wake The sleeping hunter-eagle in my eyes!

SCENE V.--A back street. Two Servants with a carriage and pair.

1st Serv.
Heavens, what a cloud! as big as Aetna! There! That gust blew stormy. Take Juno by the head, I'll stand by Neptune. Take her head, I say; We'll have enough to do, if it should lighten.

2nd Serv.
Such drops! That's the first of it. I declare She spreads her nostrils and looks wild already, As if she smelt it coming. I wish we were Under some roof or other. I fear this business Is not of the right sort.

1st Serv.

  He looked as black

As if he too had lightning in his bosom. There! Down, you brute! Mind the pole, Beppo!

SCENE VI.--Julian's room. JULIAN standing at the window, his face pressed against a pane. Storm and gathering darkness without.

Plague on the lamp! 'tis gone--no, there it flares! I wish the wind would leave or blow it out. Heavens! how it thunders! This terrific storm Will either cow or harden him. I'm blind! That lightning! Oh, let me see again, lest he Should enter in the dark! I cannot bear This glimmering longer. Now that gush of rain Has blotted all my view with crossing lights. 'Tis no use waiting here. I must cross over, And take my stand in the corner by the door. But if he comes while I go down the stairs, And I not see? To make sure, I'll go gently Up the stair to the landing by her door.

[He goes quickly toward the door.]

Hostess (opening the door and looking in). If you please, sir--

[He hurries past]

  The devil's in the man!

SCENE VII.--The landing.

Voice within.
If you scream, I must muffle you.

Julian (rushing up the stair).

  He is there!

His hand is on her mouth! She tries to scream!

[Flinging the door open, as NEMBRONI springs forward on the other side.]


What the devil!--Beggar!

[Drawing his sword, and making a thrust at JULIAN, which he parries with his left arm, as, drawing his dagger, he springs within NEMBRONI'S guard.]

Julian (taking him by the throat).

  I have faced worse

storms than you.

[They struggle.]

Heart point and hilt strung on the line of force,

[He stabs him.]

Your ribs will not mail your heart!

[NEMBRONI falls dead. JULIAN wipes his dagger on the dead man's coat.]

If men will be devils,
They are better in hell than here.

[Lightning flashes on the blade.]

What a night
For a soul to go out of doors! God in heaven!

[Approaches the lady within.]

Ah! she has fainted. That is well. I hope It will not pass too soon. It is not far To the half-hidden door in my own fence, And that is well. If I step carefully, Such rain will soon wash out the tell-tale footprints. What! blood? He does not bleed much, I should think! Oh, I see! it is mine--he has wounded me. That's awkward now.

[Takes a handkerchief from the floor by the window.]

Pardon me, dear lady;

[Ties the handkerchief with hand and teeth round his arm.]

'Tis not to save my blood I would defile Even your handkerchief.

[Coming towards the door, carrying her.]

  I am pleased to think

Ten monkish months have not ta'en all my strength.

[Looking out of the window on the landing.]

For once, thank darkness! 'Twas sent for us, not him.

[He goes down the stair]

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