Eliz. How long their altar?
To God I gave—and God shall pay me back.
Fool! to have put my trust in living man,
And fancied that I bought God’s love, by buying
The greedy thanks of these His earthly tools!
Well—here’s one lesson learnt! I thank thee, Lord!
Henceforth I’ll straight to Thee, and to Thy poor.
What? Isentrudis not returned? Alas!
Where are those children?
They will not have the heart to keep them from me—
Oh! have the traitors harmed them?
Guta. Do not think it.
The dowager has a woman’s heart.
Eliz. Ay, ay—
But she’s a mother—and mothers will dare all things—
Oh! Love can make us fiends, as well as angels.
My babies! Weeping? Oh, have mercy, Lord!
On me heap all thy wrath—I understand it:
What can blind senseless terror do for them?
Guta. Plead, plead your penances! Great
All she has done and suffered, and forbear
To smite her like a worldling!
Eliz. Silence, girl!
I’d plead my deeds, if mine own character,
My strength of will had fathered them: but no—
They are His, who worked them in me, in despite
Of mine own selfish and luxurious will—
Shall I bribe Him with His own? For pain, I tell thee
I need more pain than mine own will inflicts,
Pain which shall break that will.—Yet spare them, Lord!
Go to—I am a fool to wish them life—
And greater fool to miscall life, this headache—
This nightmare of our gross and crude digestion—
This fog which steams up from our freezing clay—
While waking heaven’s beyond. No! slay them, traitors!
Cut through the channels of those innocent breaths
Whose music charmed my lone nights, ere they learn
To love the world, and hate the wretch who bore them!
Guta. This storm will blind us both: come
here, and shield you
Behind this buttress.
Eliz. What’s a wind to me?
I can see up the street here, if they come—
They do not come!—Oh! my poor weanling lambs—
Struck dead by carrion ravens!
What then, I have borne worse. But yesterday
I thought I had a husband—and now—now!
Guta! He called a holy man before he died?
Guta. The Bishop of Jerusalem, ’tis said,
With holy oil, and with the blessed body
Of Him for whom he died, did speed him duly
Upon his heavenward flight.
Eliz. O happy bishop!
Where are those children? If I had but seen him!
I could have borne all then. One word—one kiss!
Hark! What’s that rushing? White doves—one—two—three—
Fleeing before the gale. My children’s spirits!
Stay, babies—stay for me! What! Not a moment?
And I so nearly ready to be gone?
Guta. Still on your children?