[Sophia and Agnes enter.]
[Aside] Shame on thee, heart! why sink, whene’er we meet?
Soph. Daughter, we know of old thy strength,
Beyond us worldlings: shrink not, if the time
Be come which needs its use—
Eliz. What means this preface? Ah! your
looks are big
With sudden woes—speak out.
Soph. Be calm, and hear
The will of God toward my son, thy husband.
Eliz. What? is he captive? Why then—what
There are friends will rescue him—there’s gold for ransom—
We’ll sell our castles—live in bowers of rushes—
O God! that I were with him in the dungeon!
Soph. He is not taken.
Eliz. No! he would have fought to the death!
There’s treachery! What paynim dog dare face
His lance, who naked braved yon lion’s rage,
And eyed the cowering monster to his den?
Speak! Has he fled? or worse?
Soph. Child, he is dead.
Eliz [clasping her hands on her knees.]. The world is dead to me, and all its smiles!
Isen. Oh, woe! my Prince! and doubly woe, my daughter.
[Elizabeth springs up and rushes out.]
Oh, stop her—stop my child! She will
Dash herself down—Fly—Fly—She is not made
Of hard, light stuff, like you.
Soph. I had expected some such passionate outbreak
At the first news: you see now, Lady Agnes,
These saints, who fain would ‘wean themselves from earth,’
Still yield to the affections they despise
When the game’s earnest—Now—ere they return—
Your brother, child, is dead—
Agnes. I know it too well.
So young—so brave—so blest!—And she—she loved him—
Oh! I repent of all the foolish scoffs
With which I crossed her.
Soph. Yes—the Landgrave’s dead—
Attend to me—Alas! my son! my son!
He was my first-born! But he has a brother—
Agnes! we must not let this foreign gipsy,
Who, as you see, is scarce her own wits’ mistress,
Flaunt sovereign over us, and our broad lands,
To my son’s prejudice—There are barons, child,
Who will obey a knight, but not a saint:
I must at once to them.
Agnes. Oh, let me stay.
Soph. As you shall please—Your brother’s
Is somewhat to you, surely—and your smiles
Are worth gold pieces in a court intrigue.
For her, on her own principles, a downfall
Is a chastening mercy—and a likely one.
Agnes. Oh! let me stay, and comfort her!
You girls adore a scene—as lookers on.
Agnes [alone]. Well spoke the old monks, peaceful watching life’s turmoil, ’Eyes which look heavenward, weeping still we see: God’s love with keen flame purges, like the lightning flash, Gold which is purest, purer still must be.’