The same. Elizabeth lying on straw in a corner. A crowd of women round her. Conrad entering.
Con. As I expected—
A sermon-mongering herd about her death-bed,
Stifling her with fusty sighs, as flocks of rooks
Despatch, with pious pecks, a wounded brother.
Cant, howl, and whimper! Not an old fool in the town
Who thinks herself religious, but must see
The last of the show and mob the deer to death.
[Advancing] Hail! holy ones! How fares your charge to-day?
Abbess. After the blessed sacrament received,
As surfeited with those celestial viands,
And with the blood of life intoxicate,
She lay entranced: and only stirred at times
To eructate sweet edifying doctrine
Culled from your darling sermons.
Woman. Heavenly grace
Imbues her so throughout, that even when pricked
She feels no pain.
Con. A miracle, no doubt.
Heaven’s work is ripe, and like some more I know,
Having begun in the spirit, in the flesh
She’s now made perfect: she hath had warnings, too,
Of her decease; and prophesied to me,
Three weeks ago, when I lay like to die,
That I should see her in her coffin yet.
Abbess. ’Tis said, she heard in dreams
her Saviour call her
To mansions built for her from everlasting.
Con. Ay, so she said.
Abbess. But tell me, in her confession
Was there no holy shame—no self-abhorrence
For the vile pleasures of her carnal wedlock?
Con. She said no word thereon: as for
No Chrisom child could show a chart of thoughts
More spotless than were hers.
Nun. Strange, she said nought;
I had hoped she had grown more pure.
Con. When, next, I asked her,
How she would be interred; ‘In the vilest weeds,’
Quoth she, ’my poor hut holds; I will not pamper
When dead, that flesh, which living I despised.
And for my wealth, see it to the last doit
Bestowed upon the poor of Christ.’
2d Woman. O grace!
3d Woman. O soul to this world poor, but rich toward God!
Eliz. [awaking]. Hark! how they cry for bread!
Poor souls! be patient!
I have spent all—
I’ll sell myself for a slave—feed them with the price.
Come, Guta! Nurse! We must be up and doing!
Alas! they are gone, and begging!
Go! go! They’ll beat me, if I give you aught:
I’ll pray for you, and so you’ll go to Heaven.
I am a saint—God grants me all I ask.
But I must love no creature. Why, Christ loved—
Mary he loved, and Martha, and their brother—
Three friends! and I have none!
When Lazarus lay dead, He groaned in spirit,
And wept—like any widow—Jesus wept!
I’ll weep, weep, weep! pray for that ‘gift of tears.’
They took my friends away, but not my eyes,
Oh, husband, babes, friends, nurse! To die alone!
Crack, frozen brain! Melt, icicle within!