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Act I


THOROLD, Earl Tresham.
HENRY, Earl Mertoun.
GERARD, and other retainers of Lord Tresham.

Time, 17--


SCENE I.--The Interior of a Lodge in Lord Tresham's Park.
Many Retainers crowded at the window, supposed to command
a view of the entrance to his Mansion.

GERARD, the Warrener, his back to a table on which are flagons,

FIRST RETAINER. Ay, do! push, friends, and then you'll push down me!
--What for? Does any hear a runner's foot
Or a steed's trample or a coach-wheel's cry?
Is the Earl come or his least poursuivant?
But there's no breeding in a man of you
Save Gerard yonder: here's a half-place yet,
Old Gerard!

GERARD. Save your courtesies, my friend. Here is my place.

SECOND RETAINER. Now, Gerard, out with it!
What makes you sullen, this of all the days
I' the year? To-day that young rich bountiful
Handsome Earl Mertoun, whom alone they match
With our Lord Tresham through the country-side,
Is coming here in utmost bravery
To ask our master's sister's hand?

GERARD. What then?

SECOND RETAINER. What then? Why, you, she speaks to, if she meets
Your worship, smiles on as you hold apart
The boughs to let her through her forest walks,
You, always favourite for your no-deserts,
You've heard, these three days, how Earl Mertoun sues
To lay his heart and house and broad lands too
At Lady Mildred's feet: and while we squeeze
Ourselves into a mousehole lest we miss
One congee of the least page in his train,
You sit o' one side--"there's the Earl," say I--
"What then?" say you!

THIRD RETAINER. I'll wager he has let
Both swans he tamed for Lady Mildred swim
Over the falls and gain the river!

GERARD. Ralph,
Is not to-morrow my inspecting-day
For you and for your hawks?

He's coarse-grained, like his carved black cross-bow stock.
Ha, look now, while we squabble with him, look!
Well done, now--is not this beginning, now,
To purpose?

FIRST RETAINER. Our retainers look as fine--
That's comfort. Lord, how Richard holds himself
With his white staff! Will not a knave behind
Prick him upright?

FOURTH RETAINER. He's only bowing, fool!
The Earl's man bent us lower by this much.

FIRST RETAINER. That's comfort. Here's a very cavalcade!

THIRD RETAINER. I don't see wherefore Richard, and his troop
Of silk and silver varlets there, should find
Their perfumed selves so indispensable
On high days, holidays! Would it so disgrace
Our family, if I, for instance, stood--
In my right hand a cast of Swedish hawks,
A leash of greyhounds in my left?--

GERARD. --With Hugh
The logman for supporter, in his right
The bill-hook, in his left the brushwood-shears!

THIRD RETAINER. Out on you, crab! What next, what next? The Earl!

FIRST RETAINER. Oh Walter, groom, our horses, do they match
The Earl's? Alas, that first pair of the six--
They paw the ground--Ah Walter! and that brute
Just on his haunches by the wheel!

You, Philip, are a special hand, I hear,
At soups and sauces: what's a horse to you?
D'ye mark that beast they've slid into the midst
So cunningly?--then, Philip, mark this further;
No leg has he to stand on!

FIRST RETAINER. No? that's comfort.

SECOND RETAINER. Peace, Cook! The Earl descends. Well, Gerard, see
The Earl at least! Come, there's a proper man,
I hope! Why, Ralph, no falcon, Pole or Swede,
Has got a starrier eye.

THIRD RETAINER. His eyes are blue:
But leave my hawks alone!

FOURTH RETAINER. So young, and yet
So tall and shapely!

FIFTH RETAINER. Here's Lord Tresham's self!
There now--there's what a nobleman should be!
He's older, graver, loftier, he's more like
A House's head.

SECOND RETAINER. But you'd not have a boy
--And what's the Earl beside?--possess too soon
That stateliness?

FIRST RETAINER. Our master takes his hand--
Richard and his white staff are on the move--
Back fall our people--(tsh!--there's Timothy
Sure to get tangled in his ribbon-ties,
And Peter's cursed rosette's a-coming off!)
--At last I see our lord's back and his friend's;
And the whole beautiful bright company
Close round them--in they go!
[Jumping down from the window-bench, and making for
the table and its jugs.]
Good health, long life,
Great joy to our Lord Tresham and his House!

SIXTH RETAINER. My father drove his father first to court,
After his marriage-day--ay, did he!

Lord Tresham, Lady Mildred, and the Earl!
Here, Gerard, reach your beaker!

GERARD. Drink, my boys!
Don't mind me--all's not right about me--drink!

He's vexed, now, that he let the show escape!
Remember that the Earl returns this way.

GERARD. That way?


GERARD. Then my way's here.

Will die soon--mind, I said it! He was used
To care about the pitifullest thing
That touched the House's honour, not an eye
But his could see wherein: and on a cause
Of scarce a quarter this importance, Gerard
Fairly had fretted flesh and bone away
In cares that this was right, nor that was wrong,
Such point decorous, and such square by rule--
He knew such niceties, no herald more:
And now--you see his humour: die he will!

SECOND RETAINER. God help him! Who's for the great servants' hall
To hear what's going on inside! They'd follow
Lord Tresham into the saloon.


Leave Frank alone for catching, at the door,
Some hint of how the parley goes inside!
Prosperity to the great House once more!
Here's the last drop!

FIRST RETAINER. Have at you! Boys, hurrah!

SCENE II.--A Saloon in the Mansion


TRESHAM. I welcome you, Lord Mertoun, yet once more,
To this ancestral roof of mine. Your name
--Noble among the noblest in itself,
Yet taking in your person, fame avers,
New price and lustre,--(as that gem you wear,
Transmitted from a hundred knightly breasts,
Fresh chased and set and fixed by its last lord,
Seems to re-kindle at the core)--your name
Would win you welcome!--

MERTOUN. Thanks!

TRESHAM. --But add to that,
The worthiness and grace and dignity
Of your proposal for uniting both
Our Houses even closer than respect
Unites them now--add these, and you must grant
One favour more, nor that the least,--to think
The welcome I should give;--'tis given! My lord,
My only brother, Austin: he's the king's.
Our cousin, Lady Guendolen--betrothed
To Austin: all are yours.

MERTOUN. I thank you--less
For the expressed commendings which your seal,
And only that, authenticates--forbids
My putting from me... to my heart I take
Your praise... but praise less claims my gratitude,
Than the indulgent insight it implies
Of what must needs be uppermost with one
Who comes, like me, with the bare leave to ask,
In weighed and measured unimpassioned words,
A gift, which, if as calmly 'tis denied,
He must withdraw, content upon his cheek,
Despair within his soul. That I dare ask
Firmly, near boldly, near with confidence
That gift, I have to thank you. Yes, Lord Tresham,
I love your sister--as you'd have one love
That lady... oh more, more I love her! Wealth,
Rank, all the world thinks me, they're yours, you know,
To hold or part with, at your choice--but grant
My true self, me without a rood of land,
A piece of gold, a name of yesterday,
Grant me that lady, and you... Death or life?

GUENDOLEN. [apart to AUSTIN]. Why, this is loving,

AUSTIN. He's so young!

GUENDOLEN. Young? Old enough, I think, to half surmise
He never had obtained an entrance here,
Were all this fear and trembling needed.

He reddens.

GUENDOLEN. Mark him, Austin; that's true love!
Ours must begin again.

TRESHAM. We'll sit, my lord.
Ever with best desert goes diffidence.
I may speak plainly nor be misconceived
That I am wholly satisfied with you
On this occasion, when a falcon's eye
Were dull compared with mine to search out faults,
Is somewhat. Mildred's hand is hers to give
Or to refuse.

MERTOUN. But you, you grant my suit?
I have your word if hers?

TRESHAM. My best of words
If hers encourage you. I trust it will.
Have you seen Lady Mildred, by the way?

MERTOUN. I... I... our two demesnes, remember, touch,
I have beer used to wander carelessly
After my stricken game: the heron roused
Deep in my woods, has trailed its broken wing
Thro' thicks and glades a mile in yours,--or else
Some eyass ill-reclaimed has taken flight
And lured me after her from tree to tree,
I marked not whither. I have come upon
The lady's wondrous beauty unaware,
And--and then... I have seen her.

GUENDOLEN [aside to AUSTIN]. Note that mode
Of faltering out that, when a lady passed,
He, having eyes, did see her! You had said--
"On such a day I scanned her, head to foot;
Observed a red, where red should not have been,
Outside her elbow; but was pleased enough
Upon the whole." Let such irreverent talk
Be lessoned for the future!

TRESHAM. What's to say
May be said briefly. She has never known
A mother's care; I stand for father too.
Her beauty is not strange to you, it seems--
You cannot know the good and tender heart,
Its girl's trust and its woman's constancy,
How pure yet passionate, how calm yet kind,
How grave yet joyous, how reserved yet free
As light where friends are--how imbued with lore
The world most prizes, yet the simplest, yet
The... one might know I talked of Mildred--thus
We brothers talk!

MERTOUN. I thank you.

TRESHAM. In a word,
Control's not for this lady; but her wish
To please me outstrips in its subtlety
My power of being pleased: herself creates
The want she means to satisfy. My heart
Prefers your suit to her as 'twere its own.
Can I say more?

MERTOUN. No more--thanks, thanks--no more!

TRESHAM. This matter then discussed...

MERTOUN. --We'll waste no breath
On aught less precious. I'm beneath the roof
Which holds her: while I thought of that, my speech
To you would wander--as it must not do,
Since as you favour me I stand or fall.
I pray you suffer that I take my leave!

TRESHAM. With less regret 'tis suffered, that again
We meet, I hope, so shortly.

MERTOUN. We? again?--
Ah yes, forgive me--when shall... you will crown
Your goodness by forthwith apprising me
When... if... the lady will appoint a day
For me to wait on you--and her.

TRESHAM. So soon
As I am made acquainted with her thoughts
On your proposal--howsoe'er they lean--
A messenger shall bring you the result.

MERTOUN. You cannot bind me more to you, my lord.
Farewell till we renew... I trust, renew
A converse ne'er to disunite again.

TRESHAM. So may it prove!

MERTOUN. You, lady, you, sir, take
My humble salutation!


TRESHAM. Within there!
[Servants enter. TRESHAM conducts MERTOUN to the door.
Meantime AUSTIN remarks,]
Here I have an advantage of the Earl,
Confess now! I'd not think that all was safe
Because my lady's brother stood my friend!
Why, he makes sure of her--"do you say yes--
She'll not say, no,"--what comes it to beside?
I should have prayed the brother, "speak this speech,
For Heaven's sake urge this on her--put in this--
Forget not, as you'd save me, t'other thing,--
Then set down what she says, and how she looks,
And if she smiles, and" (in an under breath)
"Only let her accept me, and do you
And all the world refuse me, if you dare!"

GUENDOLEN. That way you'd take, friend Austin? What a shame
I was your cousin, tamely from the first
Your bride, and all this fervour's run to waste!
Do you know you speak sensibly to-day?
The Earl's a fool.

AUSTIN. Here's Thorold. Tell him so!

TRESHAM [returning]. Now, voices, voices! 'St! the lady's first!
How seems he?--seems he not... come, faith give fraud
The mercy-stroke whenever they engage!
Down with fraud, up with faith! How seems the Earl?
A name! a blazon! if you knew their worth,
As you will never! come--the Earl?

GUENDOLEN. He's young.

TRESHAM. What's she? an infant save in heart and brain.
Young! Mildred is fourteen, remark! And you...
Austin, how old is she?

GUENDOLEN. There's tact for you!
I meant that being young was good excuse
If one should tax him...


GUENDOLEN. --With lacking wit.

TRESHAM. He lacked wit? Where might he lack wit, so please you?

GUENDOLEN. In standing straighter than the steward's rod
And making you the tiresomest harangue,
Instead of slipping over to my side
And softly whispering in my ear, "Sweet lady,
Your cousin there will do me detriment
He little dreams of: he's absorbed, I see,
In my old name and fame--be sure he'll leave
My Mildred, when his best account of me
Is ended, in full confidence I wear
My grandsire's periwig down either cheek.
I'm lost unless your gentleness vouchsafes"...

TRESHAM... "To give a best of best accounts, yourself,
Of me and my demerits." You are right!
He should have said what now I say for him.
Yon golden creature, will you help us all?
Here's Austin means to vouch for much, but you
--You are... what Austin only knows! Come up,
All three of us: she's in the library
No doubt, for the day's wearing fast. Precede!

GUENDOLEN. Austin, how we must--!

TRESHAM. Must what? Must speak truth,
Malignant tongue! Detect one fault in him!
I challenge you!

GUENDOLEN. Witchcraft's a fault in him,
For you're bewitched.

TRESHAM. What's urgent we obtain
Is, that she soon receive him--say, to-morrow--,
Next day at furthest.

GUENDOLEN. Ne'er instruct me!

--He's out of your good graces, since forsooth,
He stood not as he'd carry us by storm
With his perfections! You're for the composed
Manly assured becoming confidence!
--Get her to say, "to-morrow," and I'll give you...
I'll give you black Urganda, to be spoiled
With petting and snail-paces. Will you? Come!

--MILDRED'S Chamber. A Painted Window overlooks the Park


GUENDOLEN. Now, Mildred, spare those pains. I have not left
Our talkers in the library, and climbed
The wearisome ascent to this your bower
In company with you,--I have not dared...
Nay, worked such prodigies as sparing you
Lord Mertoun's pedigree before the flood,
Which Thorold seemed in very act to tell
--Or bringing Austin to pluck up that most
Firm-rooted heresy--your suitor's eyes,
He would maintain, were grey instead of blue--
I think I brought him to contrition!--Well,
I have not done such things, (all to deserve
A minute's quiet cousin's talk with you,)
To be dismissed so coolly.

MILDRED. Guendolen!
What have I done? what could suggest...

GUENDOLEN. There, there!
Do I not comprehend you'd be alone
To throw those testimonies in a heap,
Thorold's enlargings, Austin's brevities,
With that poor silly heartless Guendolen's
Ill-time misplaced attempted smartnesses--
And sift their sense out? now, I come to spare you
Nearly a whole night's labour. Ask and have!
Demand, be answered! Lack I ears and eyes?
Am I perplexed which side of the rock-table
The Conqueror dined on when he landed first,
Lord Mertoun's ancestor was bidden take--
The bow-hand or the arrow-hand's great meed?
Mildred, the Earl has soft blue eyes!

MILDRED. My brother--
Did he... you said that he received him well?

GUENDOLEN. If I said only "well" I said not much.
Oh, stay--which brother?

MILDRED. Thorold! who--Who else?

GUENDOLEN. Thorold (a secret) is too proud by half,--
Nay, hear me out--with us he's even gentler
Than we are with our birds. Of this great House
The least retainer that e'er caught his glance
Would die for him, real dying--no mere talk:
And in the world, the court, if men would cite
The perfect spirit of honour, Thorold's name
Rises of its clear nature to their lips.
But he should take men's homage, trust in it,
And care no more about what drew it down.
He has desert, and that, acknowledgment;
Is he content?

MILDRED. You wrong him, Guendolen.

GUENDOLEN. He's proud, confess; so proud with brooding o'er
The light of his interminable line,
An ancestry with men all paladins,
And women all...

MILDRED. Dear Guendolen, 'tis late!
When yonder purple pane the climbing moon
Pierces, I know 'tis midnight.

GUENDOLEN. Well, that Thorold
Should rise up from such musings, and receive
One come audaciously to graft himself
Into this peerless stock, yet find no flaw,
No slightest spot in such an one...

MILDRED. Who finds
A spot in Mertoun?

GUENDOLEN. Not your brother; therefore,
Not the whole world.

MILDRED. I am weary, Guendolen.
Bear with me!

GUENDOLEN. I am foolish.

MILDRED. Oh no, kind!
But I would rest.

GUENDOLEN. Good night and rest to you!
I said how gracefully his mantle lay
Beneath the rings of his light hair?

MILDRED. Brown hair.

GUENDOLEN. Brown? why, it IS brown: how could you know that?

MILDRED. How? did not you--Oh, Austin 'twas, declared
His hair was light, not brown--my head!--and look,
The moon-beam purpling the dark chamber! Sweet,
Good night!

GUENDOLEN. Forgive me--sleep the soundlier for me!
[Going, she turns suddenly.]
Perdition! all's discovered! Thorold finds
--That the Earl's greatest of all grandmothers
Was grander daughter still--to that fair dame
Whose garter slipped down at the famous dance!

MILDRED. Is she--can she be really gone at last?
My heart! I shall not reach the window. Needs
Must I have sinned much, so to suffer.
[She lifts the small lamp which is suspended before the Virgin's
image in the window, and places it by the purple pane.]
[She returns to the seat in front.]
Mildred and Mertoun! Mildred, with consent
Of all the world and Thorold, Mertoun's bride!
Too late! 'Tis sweet to think of, sweeter still
To hope for, that this blessed end soothes up
The curse of the beginning; but I know
It comes too late: 'twill sweetest be of all
To dream my soul away and die upon.
[A noise without.]
The voice! Oh why, why glided sin the snake
Into the paradise Heaven meant us both?
[The window opens softly. A low voice sings.]

There's a woman like a dew-drop, she's so purer than the purest;
And her noble heart's the noblest, yes, and her sure faith's the
And her eyes are dark and humid, like the depth on depth of lustre
Hid i' the harebell, while her tresses, sunnier than the wild-grape
Gush in golden tinted plenty down her neck's rose-misted marble:
Then her voice's music... call it the well's bubbling, the bird's

[A figure wrapped in a mantle appears at the window.]

And this woman says, "My days were sunless and my nights were
Parched the pleasant April herbage, and the lark's heart's outbreak
If you loved me not!" And I who--(ah, for words of flame!) adore
Who am mad to lay my spirit prostrate palpably before her--

[He enters, approaches her seat, and bends over her.]

I may enter at her portal soon, as now her lattice takes me,
And by noontide as by midnight make her mine, as hers she makes me!

[The EARL throws off his slouched hat and long cloak.]

My very heart sings, so I sing, Beloved!

MILDRED. Sit, Henry--do not take my hand!

MERTOUN. 'Tis mine.
The meeting that appalled us both so much
Is ended.

MILDRED. What begins now?

MERTOUN. Happiness
Such as the world contains not.

MILDRED. That is it.
Our happiness would, as you say, exceed
The whole world's best of blisses: we--do we
Deserve that? Utter to your soul, what mine
Long since, Beloved, has grown used to hear,
Like a death-knell, so much regarded once,
And so familiar now; this will not be!

MERTOUN. Oh, Mildred, have I met your brother's face?
Compelled myself--if not to speak untruth,
Yet to disguise, to shun, to put aside
The truth, as--what had e'er prevailed on me
Save you to venture? Have I gained at last
Your brother, the one scarer of your dreams,
And waking thoughts' sole apprehension too?
Does a new life, like a young sunrise, break
On the strange unrest of our night, confused
With rain and stormy flaw--and will you see
No dripping blossoms, no fire-tinted drops
On each live spray, no vapour steaming up,
And no expressless glory in the East?
When I am by you, to be ever by you,
When I have won you and may worship you,
Oh, Mildred, can you say "this will not be"?

MILDRED. Sin has surprised us, so will punishment.

MERTOUN. No--me alone, who sinned alone!

MILDRED. The night
You likened our past life to--was it storm
Throughout to you then, Henry?

MERTOUN. Of your life
I spoke--what am I, what my life, to waste
A thought about when you are by me?--you
It was, I said my folly called the storm
And pulled the night upon. 'Twas day with me--
Perpetual dawn with me.

MILDRED. Come what, come will,
You have been happy: take my hand!

MERTOUN [after a pause]. How good
Your brother is! I figured him a cold--
Shall I say, haughty man?

MILDRED. They told me all.
I know all.

MERTOUN. It will soon be over.

Oh, what is over? what must I live through
And say, "'tis over"? Is our meeting over?
Have I received in presence of them all
The partner of my guilty love--with brow
Trying to seem a maiden's brow--with lips
Which make believe that when they strive to form
Replies to you and tremble as they strive,
It is the nearest ever they approached
A stranger's... Henry, yours that stranger's... lip--
With cheek that looks a virgin's, and that is...
Ah God, some prodigy of thine will stop
This planned piece of deliberate wickedness
In its birth even! some fierce leprous spot
Will mar the brow's dissimulating! I
Shall murmur no smooth speeches got by heart,
But, frenzied, pour forth all our woeful story,
The love, the shame, and the despair--with them
Round me aghast as round some cursed fount
That should spirt water, and spouts blood. I'll not
...Henry, you do not wish that I should draw
This vengeance down? I'll not affect a grace
That's gone from me--gone once, and gone for ever!

MERTOUN. Mildred, my honour is your own. I'll share
Disgrace I cannot suffer by myself.
A word informs your brother I retract
This morning's offer; time will yet bring forth
Some better way of saving both of us.

MILDRED. I'll meet their faces, Henry!

MERTOUN. When? to-morrow!
Get done with it!

MILDRED. Oh, Henry, not to-morrow!
Next day! I never shall prepare my words
And looks and gestures sooner.--How you must
Despise me!

MERTOUN. Mildred, break it if you choose,
A heart the love of you uplifted--still
Uplifts, thro' this protracted agony,
To heaven! but Mildred, answer me,--first pace
The chamber with me--once again--now, say
Calmly the part, the... what it is of me
You see contempt (for you did say contempt)
--Contempt for you in! I would pluck it off
And cast it from me!--but no--no, you'll not
Repeat that?--will you, Mildred, repeat that?

MILDRED. Dear Henry!

MERTOUN. I was scarce a boy--e'en now
What am I more? And you were infantine
When first I met you; why, your hair fell loose
On either side! My fool's-cheek reddens now
Only in the recalling how it burned
That morn to see the shape of many a dream
--You know we boys are prodigal of charms
To her we dream of--I had heard of one,
Had dreamed of her, and I was close to her,
Might speak to her, might live and die her own,
Who knew? I spoke. Oh, Mildred, feel you not
That now, while I remember every glance
Of yours, each word of yours, with power to test
And weigh them in the diamond scales of pride,
Resolved the treasure of a first and last
Heart's love shall have been bartered at its worth,
--That now I think upon your purity
And utter ignorance of guilt--your own
Or other's guilt--the girlish undisguised
Delight at a strange novel prize--(I talk
A silly language, but interpret, you!)
If I, with fancy at its full, and reason
Scarce in its germ, enjoined you secrecy,
If you had pity on my passion, pity
On my protested sickness of the soul
To sit beside you, hear you breathe, and watch
Your eyelids and the eyes beneath--if you
Accorded gifts and knew not they were gifts--
If I grew mad at last with enterprise
And must behold my beauty in her bower
Or perish--(I was ignorant of even
My own desires--what then were you?) if sorrow--
Sin--if the end came--must I now renounce
My reason, blind myself to light, say truth
Is false and lie to God and my own soul?
Contempt were all of this!

MILDRED. Do you believe...
Or, Henry, I'll not wrong you--you believe
That I was ignorant. I scarce grieve o'er
The past. We'll love on; you will love me still.

MERTOUN. Oh, to love less what one has injured! Dove,
Whose pinion I have rashly hurt, my breast--
Shall my heart's warmth not nurse thee into strength?
Flower I have crushed, shall I not care for thee?
Bloom o'er my crest, my fight-mark and device!
Mildred, I love you and you love me.

Be that your last word. I shall sleep to-night.

MERTOUN. This is not our last meeting?

MILDRED. One night more.

MERTOUN. And then--think, then!

MILDRED. Then, no sweet courtship-days,
No dawning consciousness of love for us,
No strange and palpitating births of sense
>From words and looks, no innocent fears and hopes,
Reserves and confidences: morning's over!

MERTOUN. How else should love's perfected noontide follow?
All the dawn promised shall the day perform.

MILDRED. So may it be! but--
You are cautious, Love?
Are sure that unobserved you scaled the walls?

MERTOUN. Oh, trust me! Then our final meeting's fixed
To-morrow night?

MILDRED. Farewell! stay, Henry... wherefore?
His foot is on the yew-tree bough; the turf
Receives him: now the moonlight as he runs
Embraces him--but he must go--is gone.
Ah, once again he turns--thanks, thanks, my Love!
He's gone. Oh, I'll believe him every word!
I was so young, I loved him so, I had
No mother, God forgot me, and I fell.
There may be pardon yet: all's doubt beyond!
Surely the bitterness of death is past.

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