Lewis. Ruined, no doubt! Lo! here the culprit comes.
Come hither, dearest. These, my knights and
Lament your late unthrift (your conscience speaks
The causes of their blame); and wish you warned,
As wisdom is the highest charity,
No more to interfere, from private feeling,
With heaven’s stern laws, or maim the sovereign’s wealth,
To save superfluous villains’ worthless lives.
Lewis. Not I, fair, but my counsellors,
In courtesy, need some reply.
Eliz. My Lords;
Doubtless, you speak as your duty bids you:
I know you love my husband: do you think
My love is less than yours? ’Twas for his honour
I dare not lose a single silly sheep
Of all the flock which God had trusted to him.
True, I had hoped by this—No matter what—
Since to your sense it bears a different hue.
I keep no logic. For my gifts, thank God,
They cannot be recalled; for those poor souls,
My pensioners—even for my husband’s knightly name,
Oh! ask not back that slender loan of comfort
My folly has procured them: if, my Lords,
My public censure, or disgraceful penance
May expiate, and yet confirm my waste,
I offer this poor body to the buffets
Of sternest justice: when I dared not spare
My husband’s lands, I dare not spare myself.
Lewis. No! no! My noble sister?
What? my Lords!
If her love move you not, her wisdom may.
She knows a deeper statecraft, Sirs, than you:
She will not throw away the substance, Abbot,
To save the accident; waste living souls
To keep, or hope to keep, the means of life.
Our wisdom and our swords may fill our coffers,
But will they breed us men, my Lords, or mothers?
God blesses in the camp a noble rashness:
Then why not in the storehouse? He that lends
To Him, need never fear to lose his venture.
Spend on, my Queen. You will not sell my castles?
Nay, you must leave us Neuburg, love, and Wartburg.
Their worn old stones will hardly pay the carriage,
And foreign foes may pay untimely visits.
C. Wal. And home foes, too; if these philosophers
Put up the curb, my Lord, a half-link tighter,
The scythes will be among our horses’ legs
Before next harvest.
Lewis. Fear not for our welfare:
We have a guardian here, well skilled to keep
Peace for our seneschal, while angels, stooping
To catch the tears she sheds for us in absence,
Will sain us from the roaming adversary
With scents of Paradise. Farewell, my Lords.
Eliz. Nay,—I must pray your knighthoods—You
Our dais and bower as private guests to-day.
Thanks for your gentle warning; may my weakness
To such a sin be never tempted more!
[Exeunt Elizabeth and Lewis.]
C. Wal. Thus, as if virtue were not its own reward, is it paid over and above with beef and ale? Weep not, tender-hearted Count! Though ‘generous hearts,’ my Lord, ‘and ladies’ tenderness, too oft forget’—Truly spoken! Lord Abbot, does not your spiritual eye discern coals of fire on Count Hugo’s head?