Alva (who at the same time makes a sign to Ferdinand). Hold, Egmont!— Your sword!- (The centre door opens and discloses the gallery, which is occupied with guards, who remain motionless.)
Egmont (after a pause of astonishment). This was the intention? For this thou hast summoned me? (Grasping his sword as if to defend himself.) Am I then weaponless?
Alva. The king commands. Thou art my prisoner. (At the same time guards enter from both sides.)
Egmont (after a pause). The king?—Orange! Orange! (after a pause, resigning his sword). Take it! It has been employed far oftener in defending the cause of my king than in protecting this breast.
(He retires by the centre door, followed by the guard and Alva’s son. Alva remains standing while the curtain falls.)
Scene I.—A Street. Twilight
Clara, Brackenburg, Burghers
Brackenburg. Dearest, for Heaven’s sake, what wouldst thou do?
Clara. Come with me, Brackenburg! Thou canst not know the people, we are certain to rescue him; for what can equal their love for him? Each feels, I could swear it, the burning desire to deliver him, to avert danger from a life so precious, and to restore freedom to the most free. Come! A voice only is wanting to call them together. In their souls the memory is still fresh of all they owe him, and well they know that his mighty arm alone shields them from destruction. For his sake, for their own sake, they must peril everything. And what do we peril? At most, our lives, which if he perish, are not worth preserving.
Brackenburg. Unhappy girl! Thou seest not the power that holds us fettered as with bands of iron.
Clara. To me it does not appear invincible. Let us not lose time in idle words. Here comes some of our old, honest, valiant burghers! Hark ye, friends! Neighbours! Hark! —Say, how fares it with Egmont?
Carpenter. What does the girl want? Tell her to hold her peace.
Clara. Step nearer, that we may speak low, till we are united and more strong. Not a moment is to be lost! Audacious tyranny, that dared to fetter him, already lifts the dagger against his life. Oh, my friends! With the advancing twilight my anxiety grows more intense. I dread this night. Come! Let us disperse; let us hasten from quarter to quarter, and call out the burghers. Let every one grasp his ancient weapons. In the market-place we meet again, and every one will be carried onward by our gathering stream. The enemy will see themselves surrounded, overwhelmed, and be compelled to yield. How can a handful of slaves resist us? And he will return among us, he will see himself rescued, and can for once thank us, us, who are already so deeply in his debt. He will behold, perchance, ay doubtless, he will again behold the morn’s red dawn in the free heavens.