C. Hugo. Where, and a plague? Where?
C. Wal. Nay, I speak mystically,—there is nought there but what beer will quench before nightfall. Here, peeping rabbit [to a Page at the door], out of your burrow, and show these gentles to their lodgings. We will meet at the gratias. [They go out.]
C. Wal [alone]. Well:—if Hugo is a brute, he at least makes no secret of it. He is an old boar, and honest; he wears his tushes outside, for a warning to all men. But for the rest!—Whited sepulchres! and not one of them but has half persuaded himself of his own benevolence. Of all cruelties, save me from your small pedant,—your closet philosopher, who has just courage enough to bestride his theory, without wit to see whither it will carry him. In experience, a child: in obstinacy, a woman: in nothing a man, but in logic-chopping: instead of God’s grace, a few schoolboy saws about benevolence, and industry, and independence—there is his metal. If the world will be mended on his principles, well. If not, poor world!—but principles must be carried out, though through blood and famine: for truly, man was made for theories, not theories for man. A doctrine is these men’s God—touch but that shrine, and lo! your simpering philanthropist becomes as ruthless as a Dominican. [Exit.]
Elizabeth’s bower. Elizabeth and Lewis sitting together.
Eliz. Oh that we two were Maying
Down the stream of the soft spring breeze;
Like children with violets playing
In the shade of the whispering trees!
Oh that we two sat dreaming
On the sward of some sheep-trimmed down
Watching the white mist steaming
Over river and mead and town!
Oh that we two lay sleeping
In our nest in the churchyard sod,
With our limbs at rest on the quiet earth’s breast,
And our souls at home with God!
Lewis. Ah, turn away those swarthy diamonds’
Mine eyes are dizzy, and my faint sense reels
In the rich fragrance of those purple tresses.
Oh, to be thus, and thus, day after day!
To sleep, and wake, and find it yet no dream—
My atmosphere, my hourly food, such bliss
As to have dreamt of, five short years agone,
Had seemed a mad conceit.
Eliz. Five years agone?
Lewis. I know not; for upon our marriage-day
I slipped from time into eternity;
Where each day teems with centuries of life,
And centuries were but one wedding morn.
Eliz. Lewis, I am too happy! floating higher
Than e’er my will had dared to soar, though able;
But circumstance, which is the will of God,
Beguiled my cowardice to that, which, darling,
I found most natural, when I feared it most.
Love would have had no strangeness in mine eyes,
Save from the prejudice which others taught me—
They should know best. Yet now this wedlock seems
A second infancy’s baptismal robe,
A heaven, my spirit’s antenatal home,
Lost in blind pining girlhood—found now, found!
[Aside] What have I said? Do I blaspheme? Alas!
I neither made these thoughts, nor can unmake them.