[A white figure comes up the path with lights.]
Peas. A ghost or a watchman, and one’s as bad as the other—so we may take to cover for the time.
[Elizabeth enters, meanly clad, carrying her new-born infant; Isentrudis following with a taper and gold pieces on a salver. Elizabeth passes, singing.]
Deep in the warm vale the village is sleeping,
Sleeping the firs on the bleak rock above;
Nought wakes, save grateful hearts, silently creeping
Up to the Lord in the might of their love.
What Thou hast given to me, Lord, here I bring Thee,
Odour, and light, and the magic of gold;
Feet which must follow Thee, lips which must sing Thee,
Limbs which must ache for Thee ere they grow old.
What Thou hast given to me, Lord, here I tender,
Life of mine own life, the fruit of my love;
Take him, yet leave him me, till I shall render
Count of the precious charge, kneeling above.
[They pass up the path. The Peasants come out.]
Peas. No ghost, but a mighty pretty wench, with a mighty sweet voice.
Woodc. Wench, indeed? Where be thy manners? ’Tis her Ladyship— the Princess.
Peas. The Princess! Ay, I thought those little white feet were but lately out of broadcloth—still, I say, a mighty sweet voice—I wish she had not sung so sweetly—it makes things to arise in a body’s head, does that singing: a wonderful handsome lady! a royal lady!
Woodc. But a most unwise one. Did ye mind the gold? If I had such a trencherful, it should sleep warm in a stocking, instead of being made a brother to owls here, for every rogue to snatch at.
Peas. Why, then? who dare harm such as her, man?
Woodc. Nay, nay, none of us, we are poor folks, we fear God and the king. But if she had met a gentleman now—heaven help her! Ah! thou hast lost a chance—thou might’st have run out promiscuously, and down on thy knees, and begged thy pardon for the newcomer’s sake. There was a chance, indeed.
Peas. Pooh, man, I have done nothing but lose chances all my days. I fell into the fire the day I was christened, and ever since I am like a fresh-trimmed fir-tree; every foul feather sticks to me.
Woodc. Go, shrive thyself, and the priest will scrub off thy turpentine with a new haircloth; and now, good-day, the maids are a-waiting for their firewood.
Peas. A word before you go—Take warning by me—avoid that same serpent, wisdom—Pray to the Saints to make you a blockhead—Never send your boys to school—For Heaven knows, a poor man that will live honest, and die in his bed, ought to have no more scholarship than a parson, and no more brains than your jackass.
The Gateway of a Castle. Elizabeth and her suite standing at the top of a flight of steps. Mob below.