SCENE VIII.--Lord Seaford's room. LILIA and LORD SEAFORD. Her hand lies in his.
It may be true. I am bewildered, though. I know not what to answer.
|Let me answer:--|
You would it were so--you would love me then?
[A sudden crash of music from a brass band in the street, melting away in a low cadence.]
Let me go, my lord!
(retaining her hand).
Why, sweetest! what is this?
(vehemently, and disengaging her hand). Let me go. My husband! Oh, my white child!
[She hurries to the door, but falls.]
I thought you trusted me, yes, loved me, Lilia!
Peace! that name is his! Speak it again--I rave. He thought I loved him--and I did--I do. Open the door, my lord!
[He hesitates. She draws herself up erect, with flashing eyes.]
Once more, my lord--
Open the door, I say.
[He still hesitates. She walks swiftly to the window, flings it wide, and is throwing herself out.]
|Stop, madam! I will.|
[He opens the door. She leaves the window, and walks slowly out. He hears the house-door open and shut, flings himself on the couch, and hides his face.]
Enter LADY GERTRUDE.
Dear father, are you ill? I knocked three times; You did not speak.
I did not hear you, child.
My head aches rather; else I am quite well.
Where is the countess?
|She is gone. She had|
An urgent message to go home at once. But, Gertrude, now you seem so well, why not Set out to-morrow? You can travel now; And for your sake the sooner that we breathe Italian air the better.
|This is sudden!|
I scarcely can be ready by to-morrow.
It will oblige me, child. Do what you can. Just go and order everything you want. I will go with you. Ring the bell, my love; I have a reason for my haste. We'll have The horses to at once. Come, Gertrude, dear.
SCENE IX.--Evening. Hampstead Heath. LILIA seated.
The first pale star! braving the rear of Day! And all heaven waiting till the sun has drawn His long train after him! then half creation Will follow its queen-leader from the depths. O harbinger of hope! O star of love! Thou hast gone down in me, gone down for ever; And left my soul in such a starless night, It has not love enough to weep thy loss. O fool! to know thee once, and, after years, To take a gleaming marsh-light for thy lamp! How could I for one moment hear him speak! O Julian! for my last love-gift I thought To bring that love itself, bound and resigned, And offering it a sacrifice to thee, Lead it away into the wilderness; But one vile spot hath tainted this my lamb; Unoffered it must go, footsore and weary, Not flattering itself to die for thee. And yet, thank God, it was one moment only, That, lapt in darkness and the loss of thee, Sun of my soul, and half my senses dead Through very weariness and lack of love, My heart throbbed once responsive to a ray That glimmered through its gloom from other eyes, And seemed to promise rest and hope again. My presence shall not grieve thee any more, My Julian, my husband. I will find A quiet place where I will seek thy God. And--in my heart it wakens like a voice From him--the Saviour--there are other worlds Where all gone wrong in this may be set right; Where I, made pure, may find thee, purer still, And thou wilt love the love that kneels to thee. I'll write and tell him I have gone, and why. But what to say about my late offence, That he may understand just what it was? For I must tell him, if I write at all. I fear he would discover where I was; Pitiful duty would not let him rest Until he found me; and I fain would free From all the weight of mine, that heart of his.
[Sound of a coach-horn.]
It calls me to rise up and go to him, Leading me further from him and away. The earth is round; God's thoughts return again; And I will go in hope. Help me, my God!
SCENE X.--Julian's room. JULIAN reading. A letter is brought in. He reads it, turns deadly pale, and leans his arms and head on the table, almost fainting. This lasts some time; then starting up, he paces through the room, his shoulders slightly shrugged, his arms rigid by his sides, and his hands clenched hard, as if a net of pain were drawn tight around his frame. At length he breathes deep, draws himself up, and walks erect, his chest swelling, but his teeth set.
Me! My wife! Insect, didst thou say my wife?
[Hurriedly turning the letter on the table to see the address.]
Why, if she love him more than me, why then Let her go with him!--Gone to Italy! Pursue, says he? Revenge?--Let the corpse crush The slimy maggot with its pulpy fingers!-- What if I stabbed--
[Taking his dagger, and feeling its point.]
Whom? Her--what then?--Or him--
What yet? Would that give back the life to me? There is one more--myself! Oh, peace! to feel The earthworms crawling through my mouldering brain!-- But to be driven along the windy wastes-- To hear the tempests, raving as they turn, Howl Lilia, Lilia--to be tossed about Beneath the stars that range themselves for ever Into the burning letters of her name-- 'Twere better creep the earth down here than that, For pain's excess here sometimes deadens pain.
[He throws the dagger on the floor.]
Have I deserved this? Have I earned it? I? A pride of innocence darts through my veins. I stand erect. Shame cannot touch me. Ha! I laugh at insult. I? I am myself--
Why starest thou at me? Well, stare thy fill; When devils mock, the angels lend their wings:-- But what their wings? I have nowhere to fly. Lilia! my worship of thy purity! Hast thou forgotten--ah! thou didst not know How, watching by thee in thy fever-pain, When thy white neck and bosom were laid bare, I turned my eyes away, and turning drew With trembling hand white darkness over thee, Because I knew not thou didst love me then. Love me! O God in heaven! Is love a thing That can die thus? Love me! Would, for thy penance, Thou saw'st but once the heart which thou hast torn-- Shaped all about thy image set within! But that were fearful! What rage would not, love Must then do for thee--in mercy I would kill thee, To save thee from the hell-fire of remorse. If blood would make thee clean, then blood should flow; Eager, unwilling, this hand should make thee bleed, Till, drop by drop, the taint should drop away. Clean! said I? fit to lie by me in sleep, My hand upon thy heart!--not fit to lie, For all thy bleeding, by me in the grave!
[His eye falls on that likeness of Jesus said to be copied from an emerald engraved for Tiberius. He gazes, drops on his knees, and covers his face; remains motionless a long time; then rises very pale, his lips compressed, his eyes filled with tears.]
O my poor Lilia! my bewildered child! How shall I win thee, save thee, make thee mine? Where art thou wandering? What words in thine ears? God, can she never more be clean? no more, Through all the terrible years? Hast thou no well In all thy heaven, in all thyself, that can Wash her soul clean? Her body will go down Into the friendly earth--would it were lying There in my arms! for there thy rains will come, Fresh from the sky, slow sinking through the sod, Summer and winter; and we two should lie Mouldering away together, gently washed Into the heart of earth; and part would float Forth on the sunny breezes that bear clouds Through the thin air. But her stained soul, my God! Canst thou not cleanse it? Then should we, when death Was gone, creep into heaven at last, and sit In some still place together, glory-shadowed. None would ask questions there. And I should be Content to sorrow a little, so I might But see her with the darling on her knees, And know that must be pure that dwelt within The circle of thy glory. Lilia! Lilia! I scorn the shame rushing from head to foot; I would endure it endlessly, to save One thought of thine from his polluting touch; Saying ever to myself: this is a part Of my own Lilia; and the world to me Is nothing since I lost the smiles of her: Somehow, I know not how, she faded from me, And this is all that's left of her. My wife! Soul of my soul! my oneness with myself! Come back to me; I will be all to thee: Back to my heart; and we will weep together, And pray to God together every hour, That he would show how strong he is to save. The one that made is able to renew-- I know not how.--I'll hold thy heart to mine, So close that the defilement needs must go. My love shall ray thee round, and, strong as fire, Dart through and through thy soul, till it be cleansed.-- But if she love him? Oh my heart--beat! beat! Grow not so sick with misery and life, For fainting will not save thee.--Oh no! no! She cannot love him as she must love me. Then if she love him not--oh horrible!--oh God!
[He stands in a stupor for some minutes.]
What devil whispered that vile word, unclean? I care not--loving more than that can touch. Let me be shamed, ay, perish in my shame, As men call perishing, so she be saved. Saved! my beloved! my Lilia!--Alas, Would she were here! oh, I would make her weep, Till her soul wept itself to purity! Far, far away! where my love cannot reach. No, no; she is not gone!
[Starting and facing wildly through the room.]
|It is a lie--|
Deluding blind revenge, not keen-eyed love. I must do something.--
Ah! there's the precious thing That shall entice her back.
[Kneeling and clasping the child to his heart.]
My little Lily,
I have lost your mother.
[Beginning to weep.]
She was so pretty,
Somebody has stolen her.
Will you go with me,
And help me look for her?
|O yes, I will.|
[Clasping him round the neck.]
But my head aches so! Will you carry me?
Yes, my own darling. Come, we'll get your bonnet.
Oh! you've been crying, father. You're so white!
[Putting her finger to his cheek.]
SCENE XI.--A table in a club-room. Several Gentlemen seated round it. To them enter another.
Why, Bernard, you look heated! what's the matter?
Hot work, as looked at; cool enough, as done.
A good antithesis, as usual, Bernard, But a shell too hard for the vulgar teeth Of our impatient curiosity.
Most unexpectedly I found myself Spectator of a scene in a home-drama Worth all stage-tragedies I ever saw.
What was it? Tell us then. Here, take this seat.
[He sits at the table, and pours out a glass of wine.]
I went to call on Seaford, and was told He had gone to town. So I, as privileged, Went to his cabinet to write a note; Which finished, I came down, and called his valet. Just as I crossed the hall I heard a voice-- "The Countess Lamballa--is she here to-day?" And looking toward the door, I caught a glimpse Of a tall figure, gaunt and stooping, drest In a blue shabby frock down to his knees, And on his left arm sat a little child. The porter gave short answer, with the door For period to the same; when, like a flash, It flew wide open, and the serving man Went reeling, staggering backward to the stairs, 'Gainst which he fell, and, rolling down, lay stunned. In walked the visitor; but in the moment Just measured by the closing of the door, Heavens, what a change! He walked erect, as if Heading a column, with an eye and face As if a fountain-shaft of blood had shot Up suddenly within his wasted frame. The child sat on his arm quite still and pale, But with a look of triumph in her eyes. He glanced in each room opening from the hall, Set his face for the stair, and came right on-- In every motion calm as glacier's flow, Save, now and then, a movement, sudden, quick, Of his right hand across to his left side: 'Twas plain he had been used to carry arms.
Did no one stop him?
|Stop him? I'd as soon|
Have faced a tiger with bare hands. 'Tis easy In passion to meet passion; but it is A daunting thing to look on, when the blood Is going its wonted pace through your own veins. Besides, this man had something in his face, With its live eyes, close lips, nostrils distended, A self-reliance, and a self-command, That would go right up to its goal, in spite Of any no from any man. I would As soon have stopped a cannon-ball as him. Over the porter, lying where he fell, He strode, and up the stairs. I heard him go-- I listened as it were a ghost that walked With pallid spectre-child upon its arm-- Along the corridors, from door to door, Opening and shutting. But at last a sting Of sudden fear lest he should find the lady, And mischief follow, shot me up the stairs. I met him at the top, quiet as at first; The fire had faded from his eyes; the child Held in her tiny hand a lady's glove Of delicate primrose. When he reached the hall, He turned him to the porter, who had scarce Recovered what poor wits he had, and saying, "The count Lamballa waited on lord Seaford," Turned him again, and strode into the street.
Have you learned anything of what it meant?
Of course he had suspicions of his wife: For all the gifts a woman has to give, I would not rouse such blood. And yet to see The gentle fairy child fall kissing him, And, with her little arms grasping his neck, Peep anxious round into his shaggy face, As they went down the street!--it almost made A fool of me.--I'd marry for such a child!
SCENE XII.--A by-street. JULIAN walking home very weary. The child in his arms, her head lying on his shoulder. An Organ-boy with a monkey, sitting on a door-step. He sings in a low voice.
Look at the monkey, Lily.
|No, dear father;|
I do not like monkeys.
Hear the poor boy sing.
[They listen. He sings.]