Guta. I’ll take the veil with you.
Eliz. ’Twere but a moment’s work,—
To slip into the convent there below,
And be at peace for ever. And you, my nurse?
Isen. I will go with thee, child, where’er
Eliz. Ah! my brother! No, I dare not—
I dare not turn for ever from this hope,
Though it be dwindled to a thread of mist.
Oh that we two could flee and leave this Babel!
Oh if he were but some poor chapel-priest,
In lonely mountain valleys far away;
And I his serving-maid, to work his vestments,
And dress his scrap of food, and see him stand
Before the altar like a rainbowed saint;
To take the blessed wafer from his hand,
Confess my heart to him, and all night long
Pray for him while he slept, or through the lattice
Watch while he read, and see the holy thoughts
Swell in his big deep eyes!—Alas! that dream
Is wilder than the one that’s fading even now!
Who’s here? [A Page enters.]
Page. The Count of Varila, Madam, begs permission to speak with you.
Eliz. With me? What’s this new terror?
Tell him I wait him.
Isen [aside]. Ah! my old heart sinks—
God send us rescue! Here the champion comes.
[Count Walter enters.]
Wal. Most learned, fair, and sanctimonious Princess—
Plague, what comes next? I had something orthodox ready;
’Tis dropped out by the way.—Mass! here’s the pith on’t.—
Madam, I come a-wooing; and for one
Who is as only worthy of your love,
As you of his; he bids me claim the spousals
Made long ago between you,—and yet leaves
Your fancy free, to grant or pass that claim:
And being that Mercury is not my planet,
He hath advised himself to set herein,
With pen and ink, what seemed good to him,
As passport to this jewelled mirror, pledge
Unworthy of his worship. [Gives a letter and jewel.]
Isen. Nunc Domine dimittis servam tuam!
[Elizabeth looks over the letter and casket, claps her hands and bursts into childish laughter.]
Why here’s my Christmas tree come after Lent—
Espousals? pledges? by our childish love?
Pretty words for folks to think of at the wars,—
And pretty presents come of them! Look, Guta!
A crystal clear, and carven on the reverse
The blessed rood. He told me once—one night,
When we did sit in the garden—What was I saying?
Wal. My fairest Princess, as ambassador,
What shall I answer?
Eliz. Tell him—tell him—God!
Have I grown mad, or a child, within the moment?
The earth has lost her gray sad hue, and blazes
With her old life-light; hark! yon wind’s a song—
Those clouds are angels’ robes.—That fiery west
Is paved with smiling faces.—I am a woman,
And all things bid me love! my dignity
Is thus to cast my virgin pride away;