To these enter OCTAVIO PICCOLOMINI with all his train. At the same time DEVEREUX and MACDONALD enter from out the Corridor with the Halberdiers.—WALLENSTEIN’S dead body is carried over the back part of the stage, wrapped in a piece of crimson tapestry.
OCTAVIO (entering abruptly).
It must not be! It is not possible!
I’ll not believe it. Say no!
[GORDON, without answering, points with his hand to the body of WALLENSTEIN as it is carried over the back of the stage. OCTAVIO looks that way, and stands overpowered with horror.]
DEVEREUX (to BUTLER).
Here is the golden fleece—the Duke’s Sword—
Is it your order—
BUTLER (pointing to OCTAVIO).
Here stands he who now
Hath the sole power to issue orders.
[DEVEREUx and MACDONALD retire with marks of obeisance. One drops away after the other, till only BUTLER, OCTAVIO, and GORDON remain on the stage.]
OCTAVIO (turning to BUTLER).
Was that my purpose, Butler, when we parted?
O God of Justice!
To thee I lift my hand! I am not guilty
Of this foul deed.
Your hand is pure. You have
Avail’d yourself of mine.
Thus to abuse the orders of thy Lord—
And stain thy Emperor’s holy name with murder,
With bloody, most accursed assassination!
I’ve but fulfilled the Emperor’s own sentence.
O curse of Kings,
Infusing a dread life into their words,
And linking to the sudden transient thought
The unchanging irrevocable deed.
Was there necessity for such an eager
Dispatch? Couldst thou not grant the merciful
A time for mercy? Time is man’s good Angel.
To leave no interval between the sentence,
And the fulfilment of it, doth beseem
God only, the immutable!
Rail you against me? What is my offense?
The Empire from a fearful enemy
Have I deliver’d, and expect reward;
The single difference betwixt you and me
Is this: you placed the arrow in the bow:
I pull’d the string. You sow’d blood, and yet stand
Astonish’d that blood is come up. I always
Knew what I did, and therefore no result
Hath power to frighten or surprise my spirit.
Have you aught else to order; for this instant
I make my best speed to Vienna; place
My bleeding sword before my Emperor’s throne,
And hope to gain the applause which undelaying
And punctual obedience may demand
From a just judge.