Becket and other plays
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Part 6 out of 6
I met her first at a farm in Cumberland--
She was there six years ago.
And if she never mention'd me, perhaps
The painful circumstances which I heard--
I will not vex you by repeating them--
Only last week at Littlechester, drove me
From out her memory. She has disappear'd,
They told me, from the farm--and darker news.
She has disappear'd, poor darling, from the world--
Left but one dreadful line to say, that we
Should find her in the river; and we dragg'd
The Littlechester river all in vain:
Have sorrow'd for her all these years in vain.
And my poor father, utterly broken down
By losing her--she was his favourite child--
Has let his farm, all his affairs, I fear,
But for the slender help that I can give,
Fall into ruin. Ah! that villain, Edgar,
If he should ever show his face among us,
Our men and boys would hoot him, stone him, hunt him
With pitchforks off the farm, for all of them
Loved her, and she was worthy of all love.
They say, we should forgive our enemies.
Ay, if the wretch were dead I might forgive him;
We know not whether he be dead or living.
Philip Edgar of Toft Hall
In Somerset. Perhaps you know him?
(_Aside_.) Ay, for how slightly have I known myself.
This Edgar, then, is living?
One Philip Edgar of Toft Hall in Somerset
Is lately dead.
Dead!--is there more than one?
Nay--now--not one, (_aside_) for I am Philip Harold.
That one, is he then--dead!
(_Aside_.) My father's death,
Let her believe it mine; this, for the moment,
Will leave me a free field.
Dead! and this world
Is brighter for his absence as that other
Is darker for his presence.
Is not this
To speak too pitilessly of the dead?
My five-years' anger cannot die at once,
Not all at once with death and him. I trust
I shall forgive him--by-and-by--not now.
O sir, you seem to have a heart; if you
Had seen us that wild morning when we found
Her bed unslept in, storm and shower lashing
Her casement, her poor spaniel wailing for her,
That desolate letter, blotted with her tears,
Which told us we should never see her more--
Our old nurse crying as if for her own child,
My father stricken with his first paralysis,
And then with blindness--had you been one of us
And seen all this, then you would know it is not
So easy to forgive--even the dead.
But sure am I that of your gentleness
You will forgive him. She, you mourn for, seem'd
A miracle of gentleness--would not blur
A moth's wing by the touching; would not crush
The fly that drew her blood; and, were she living,
Would not--if penitent--have denied him _her_
Forgiveness. And perhaps the man himself,
When hearing of that piteous death, has suffer'd
More than we know. But wherefore waste your heart
In looking on a chill and changeless Past?
Iron will fuse, and marble melt; the Past
Remains the Past. But you are young, and--pardon me--
As lovely as your sister. Who can tell
What golden hours, with what full hands, may be
Waiting you in the distance? Might I call
Upon your father--I have seen the world--
And cheer his blindness with a traveller's tales?
Call if you will, and when you will. I cannot
Well answer for my father; but if you
Can tell me anything of our sweet Eva
When in her brighter girlhood, I at least
Will bid you welcome, and will listen to you.
Now I must go.
But give me first your hand:
I do not dare, like an old friend, to shake it.
I kiss it as a prelude to that privilege
When you shall know me better.
(_Aside_.) How beautiful
His manners are, and how unlike the farmer's!
You are staying here?
Yes, at the wayside inn
Close by that alder-island in your brook,
'The Angler's Home.'
Are _you_ one?
No, but I
Take some delight in sketching, and the country
Has many charms, altho' the inhabitants
I am glad it pleases you;
Yet I, born here, not only love the country,
But its inhabitants too; and you, I doubt not,
Would take to them as kindly, if you cared
To live some time among them.
If I did,
Then one at least of its inhabitants
Might have more charm for me than all the country.
That one, then, should be grateful for your preference.
I cannot tell, tho' standing in her presence.
(_Aside_.) She colours!
Be not afraid of me,
For these are no conventional flourishes.
I do most earnestly assure you that
[_Shouts and cries without_.
What was that? my poor blind father--
_Enter_ FARMING MAN.
Miss Dora, Dan Smith's cart hes runned ower a laaedy i' the holler
laaene, and they ha' ta'en the body up inter your chaumber, and they be
all a-callin' for ye.
The body!--Heavens! I come!
But you are trembling.
Allow me to go with you to the farm. [_Exeunt_.
What feller wur it as 'a' been a-talkin' fur haaefe an hour wi' my
Dora? (_Looking after him_.) Seeaems I ommost knaws the back on 'im--
drest like a gentleman, too. Damn all gentlemen, says I! I should ha'
thowt they'd hed anew o' gentlefoaelk, as I telled 'er to-daaey when she
fell foul upo' me.
Minds ma o' summun. I could sweaer to that; but that be all one, fur I
haaetes 'im afoor I knaws what 'e be. Theer! he turns round. Philip
Hedgar o' Soomerset! Philip Hedgar o' Soomerset!--Noae--yeas--thaw the
feller's gone and maaede such a litter of his faaece.
Eh lad, if it be thou, I'll Philip tha! a-plaaeyin' the saaeme gaaeme wi'
my Dora--I'll Soomerset tha.
I'd like to drag 'im thruff the herse-pond, and she to be a-lookin' at
it. I'd like to leather 'im black and blue, and she to be a-laughin'
at it. I'd like to fell 'im as deaed as a bullock! (_Clenching his
fist_.) But what 'ud she saaey to that? She telled me once not to
meddle wi' 'im, and now she be fallen out wi' ma, and I can't coom at
It mun be _him_. Noae! Fur she'd niver 'a been talkin' haaefe an hour
wi' the divil 'at killed her oaen sister, or she beaent Dora Steer.
Yeas! Fur she niver knawed 'is faaece when 'e wur 'ere afoor; but I'll
maaeke 'er knaw! I'll maaeke 'er knaw!
Naaey, but I mun git out on 'is waaey now, or I shall be the death on
How the clown glared at me! that Dobbins, is it,
With whom I used to jar? but can he trace me
Thro' five years' absence, and my change of name,
The tan of southern summers and the beard?
I may as well avoid him.
Lilylike in her stateliness and sweetness!
How came she by it?--a daughter of the fields,
She gave her hand, unask'd, at the farm-gate;
I almost think she half return'd the pressure
Of mine. What, I that held the orange blossom
Dark as the yew? but may not those, who march
Before their age, turn back at times, and make
Courtesy to custom? and now the stronger motive,
Misnamed free-will--the crowd would call it conscience--
Moves me--to what? I am dreaming; for the past
Look'd thro' the present, Eva's eyes thro' her's--
A spell upon me! Surely I loved Eva
More than I knew! or is it but the past
That brightens in retiring? Oh, last night,
Tired, pacing my new lands at Littlechester,
I dozed upon the bridge, and the black river
Flow'd thro' my dreams--if dreams they were. She rose
From the foul flood and pointed toward the farm,
And her cry rang to me across the years,
'I call you, Philip Edgar, Philip Edgar!
Come, you will set all right again, and father
Will not die miserable.' I could make his age
A comfort to him--so be more at peace
With mine own self. Some of my former friends
Would find my logic faulty; let them. Colour
Flows thro' my life again, and I have lighted
On a new pleasure. Anyhow we must
Move in the line of least resistance when
The stronger motive rules.
But she hates Edgar.
May not this Dobbins, or some other, spy
Edgar in Harold? Well then, I must make her
Love Harold first, and then she will forgive
Edgar for Harold's sake. She said herself
She would forgive him, by-and-by, not now--
For her own sake _then_, if not for mine--not now--
_Enter_ DOBSON _behind_.
By-and-by--eh, lad, dosta knaw this paaeper? Ye dropt it upo' the road.
'Philip Edgar, Esq.' Ay, you be a pretty squire. I ha' fun' ye out, I
hev. Eh, lad, dosta knaw what tha meaens wi' by-and-by? Fur if ye be
goin' to sarve our Dora as ye sarved our Eva--then, by-and-by, if she
weaent listen to me when I be a-tryin' to saaeve 'er--if she weaent--look
to thysen, for, by the Lord, I'd think na moor o' maaekin' an end o'
tha nor a carrion craw--noae--thaw they hanged ma at 'Size fur it.
Dobbins, I think!
I beaent Dobbins.
Nor am I Edgar, my good fellow.
Tha lies! What hasta been saaeyin' to _my_ Dora?
I have been telling her of the death of one Philip Edgar of Toft Hall,
HAROLD (_pulling out a newspaper_).
Well, my man, it seems that you can read. Look there--under the deaths.
'O' the 17th, Philip Edgar, o' Toft Hall, Soomerset.' How coom thou to
be sa like 'im, then?
Naturally enough; for I am closely related to the dead man's family.
An 'ow coom thou by the letter to 'im?
Naturally again; for as I used to transact all his business for him, I
had to look over his letters. Now then, see these (_takes out
letters_). Half a score of them, all directed to me--Harold.
'Arold! 'Arold! 'Arold, so they be.
My name is Harold! Good day, Dobbins!
'Arold! The feller's cleaen daaezed, an' maaezed, an' maaeted, an' muddled
ma. Deaed! It mun be true, fur it wur i' print as black as owt. Naaeay,
but 'Good daaey, Dobbins.' Why, that wur the very twang on 'im. Eh,
lad, but whether thou be Hedgar, or Hedgar's business man, thou hesn't
naw business 'ere wi' _my_ Dora, as I knaws on, an' whether thou calls
thysen Hedgar or Harold, if thou stick to she I'll stick to thee--
stick to tha like a weasel to a rabbit, I will. Ay! and I'd like to
shoot tha like a rabbit an' all. 'Good daaey, Dobbins.' Dang tha!
SCENE.--_A room in_ STEER'S _House. Door leading into bedroom at the
DORA (_ringing a handbell_).
The little 'ymn? Yeaes, Miss; but I wur so ta'en up wi' leaedin' the owd
man about all the blessed murnin' 'at I ha' nobbut larned mysen haaefe
'O man, forgive thy mortal foe,
Nor ever strike him blow for blow;
For all the souls on earth that live
To be forgiven must forgive.
Forgive him seventy times and seven:
For all the blessed souls in Heaven
Are both forgivers and forgiven.'
But I'll git the book ageaen, and larn mysen the rest, and saaey it to
ye afoor dark; ye ringed fur that, Miss, didn't ye?
No, Milly; but if the farming-men be come for their wages, to send
them up to me.
Yeaes, Miss. [_Exit.
DORA (_sitting at desk counting money_).
Enough at any rate for the present. (_Enter_ FARMING MEN.) Good
afternoon, my friends. I am sorry Mr. Steer still continues too unwell
to attend to you, but the schoolmaster looked to the paying you your
wages when I was away, didn't he?
Yeaes; and thanks to ye.
Some of our workmen have left us, but he sent me an alphabetical list
of those that remain, so, Allen, I may as well begin with you.
ALLEN (_with his hand to his ear_).
Halfabitical! Taaeke one o' the young 'uns fust, Miss, fur I be a bit
deaf, and I wur hallus scaaered by a big word; leaestwaaeys, I should be
wi' a lawyer.
I spoke of your names, Allen, as they are arranged here (_shows
book_)--according to their first letters.
Letters! Yeas, I sees now. Them be what they larns the childer' at
school, but I were burn afoor schoolin-time.
But, Allen, tho' you can't read, you could whitewash that cottage of
yours where your grandson had the fever.
I'll hev it done o' Monday.
Else if the fever spread, the parish will have to thank you for it.
Meae? why, it be the Lord's doin', noaen o' mine; d'ye think _I'd_ gi'e
'em the fever? But I thanks ye all the saaeme, Miss. (_Takes money_.)
DORA (_calling out names_).
Higgins, Jackson, Luscombe, Nokes, Oldham, Skipworth! (_All take
money_.) Did you find that you worked at all the worse upon the cold
tea than you would have done upon the beer?
Noae, Miss; we worked naw wuss upo' the cowd tea; but we'd ha' worked
better upo' the beer.
Come, come, you worked well enough, and I am much obliged to all of
you. There's for you, and you, and you. Count the money and see if
it's all right.
All right, Miss; and thank ye kindly.
[_Exeunt_ LUSCOMBE, NOKES, OLDHAM, SKIPWORTH.
Dan Smith, my father and I forgave you stealing our coals.
[DAN SMITH _advances to_ DORA.
DAN SMITH (_bellowing_).
Whoy, O lor, Miss! that wur sa long back, and the walls sa thin, and
the winders brokken, and the weather sa cowd, and my missus a-gittin'
ower 'er lyin'-in.
Didn't I say that we had forgiven you? But, Dan Smith, they tell me
that you--and you have six children--spent all your last Saturday's
wages at the ale-house; that you were stupid drunk all Sunday, and so
ill in consequence all Monday, that you did not come into the
hayfield. Why should I pay you your full wages?
I be ready to taaeke the pledge.
And as ready to break it again. Besides it was you that were driving
the cart--and I fear you were tipsy then, too--when you lamed the lady
in the hollow lane.
DAN SMITH (_bellowing_).
O lor, Miss! noae, noae, noae! Ye sees the holler laaene be hallus sa dark
i' the arternoon, and wheere the big eshtree cuts athurt it, it gi'es
a turn like, and 'ow should I see to laaeme the laaedy, and meae coomin'
along pretty sharp an' all?
Well, there are your wages; the next time you waste them at a pothouse
you get no more from me. (_Exit_ DAN SMITH.) Sally Allen, you worked
for Mr. Dobson, didn't you?
Yeaes, Miss; but he wur so rough wi' ma, I couldn't abide 'im.
Why should he be rough with you? You are as good as a man in the
hayfield. What's become of your brother?
'Listed for a soaedger, Miss, i' the Queen's Real Hard Tillery.
And your sweetheart--when are you and he to be married?
At Michaelmas, Miss, please God.
You are an honest pair. I will come to your wedding.
An' I thanks ye fur that, Miss, moor nor fur the waaege.
'A cotched ma about the waaeist, Miss, when 'e wur 'ere afoor, an' axed
ma to be 'is little sweet-art, an soae I knaw'd 'im when I seed 'im
ageaen an I telled feyther on 'im.
What is all this, Allen?
Why, Miss Dora, meae and my maaetes, us three, we wants to hev three
words wi' ye.
That be 'im, and meae, Miss.
An' meae, Miss.
An' we weaent mention naw naaemes, we'd as lief talk o' the Divil afoor
ye as 'im, fur they says the master goaes cleaen off his 'eaed when he
'eaers the naaeme on 'im; but us three, arter Sally'd telled us on 'im,
we fun' 'im out a-walkin' i' West Field wi' a white 'at, nine o'clock,
upo' Tuesday murnin', and all on us, wi' your leave, we wants to
Him as did the mischief here, five year' sin'.
Theer, Miss! You ha' naaemed 'im--not me.
He's dead, man--dead; gone to his account--dead and buried.
I beae'nt sa sewer o' that, fur Sally knaw'd 'im; Now then?
Yes; it was in the Somersetshire papers.
Then yon mun be his brother, an'--we'll leather '_im_.
I never heard that he had a brother. Some foolish mistake of Sally's;
but what! would you beat a man for his brother's fault? That were a
wild justice indeed. Let bygones be bygones. Go home.' Goodnight!
(_All exeunt_.) I have once more paid them all. The work of the farm
will go on still, but for how long? We are almost at the bottom of the
well: little more to be drawn from it--and what then? Encumbered as we
are, who would lend us anything? We shall have to sell all the land,
which Father, for a whole life, has been getting together, again, and
that, I am sure, would be the death of him. What am I to do? Farmer
Dobson, were I to marry him, has promised to keep our heads above
water; and the man has doubtless a good heart, and a true and lasting
love for me: yet--though I can be sorry for him--as the good Sally
says, 'I can't abide him'--almost brutal, and matched with my Harold
is like a hedge thistle by a garden rose. But then, he, too--will he
ever be of one faith with his wife? which is my dream of a true
marriage. Can I fancy him kneeling with me, and uttering the same
prayer; standing up side by side with me, and singing the same hymn? I
fear not. Have I done wisely, then, in accepting him? But may not a
girl's love-dream have too much romance in it to be realised all at
once, or altogether, or anywhere but in Heaven? And yet I had once a
vision of a pure and perfect marriage, where the man and the woman,
only differing as the stronger and the weaker, should walk hand in
hand together down this valley of tears, as they call it so truly, to
the grave at the bottom, and lie down there together in the darkness
which would seem but for a moment, to be wakened again together by the
light of the resurrection, and no more partings for ever and for ever.
(_Walks up and down. She sings_.)
'O happy lark, that warblest high
Above thy lowly nest,
O brook, that brawlest merrily by
Thro' fields that once were blest,
O tower spiring to the sky,
O graves in daisies drest,
O Love and Life, how weary am I,
And how I long for rest.'
There, there, I am a fool! Tears! I have sometimes been moved to tears
by a chapter of fine writing in a novel; but what have I to do with
tears now? All depends on me--Father, this poor girl, the farm,
everything; and they both love me--I am all in all to both; and he
loves me too, I am quite sure of that. Courage, courage! and all will
go well. (_Goes to bedroom door; opens it_.) How dark your room is!
Let me bring you in here where there is still full daylight. (_Brings_
EVA _forward_.) Why, you look better.
And I feel so much better that I trust I may be able by-and-by to help
you in the business of the farm; but I must not be known yet. Has
anyone found me out, Dora?
Oh, no; you kept your veil too close for that when they carried you
in; since then, no one has seen you but myself.
Poor blind Father's little guide, Milly, who came to us three years
after you were gone, how should she know you? But now that you have
been brought to us as it were from the grave, dearest Eva, and have
been here so long, will you not speak with Father today?
Do you think that I may? No, not yet. I am not equal to it yet.
Why? Do you still suffer from your fall in the hollow lane?
Bruised; but no bones broken.
I have always told Father that the huge old ashtree there would cause
an accident some day; but he would never cut it down, because one of
the Steers had planted it there in former times.
If it had killed one of the Steers there the other day, it might have
been better for her, for him, and for you.
Come, come, keep a good heart! Better for me! That's good. How better
You tell me you have a lover. Will he not fly from you if he learn the
story of my shame and that I am still living?
No; I am sure that when we are married he will be willing that you and
Father should live with us; for, indeed, he tells me that he met you
once in the old times, and was much taken with you, my dear.
Taken with me; who was he? Have you told him I am here?
No; do you wish it?
See, Dora; you yourself are ashamed of me (_weeps_), and I do not
wonder at it.
But I should wonder at myself if it were so. Have we not been all in
all to one another from the time when we first peeped into the bird's
nest, waded in the brook, ran after the butterflies, and prattled to
each other that we would marry fine gentlemen, and played at being
That last was my Father's fault, poor man. And this lover of yours--
this Mr. Harold--is a gentleman?
That he is, from head to foot. I do believe I lost my heart to him the
very first time we met, and I love him so much--
That I dare not tell him how much I love him.
Better not. Has he offered you marriage, this gentleman?
Could I love him else?
And are you quite sure that after marriage this gentleman will not be
shamed of his poor farmer's daughter among the ladies in his
Shamed of me in a drawing-room! Wasn't Miss Vavasour, our
schoolmistress at Littlechester, a lady born? Were not our
fellow-pupils all ladies? Wasn't dear mother herself at least by one
side a lady? Can't I speak like a lady; pen a letter like a lady; talk
a little French like a lady; play a little like a lady? Can't a girl
when she loves her husband, and he her, make herself anything he
wishes her to be? Shamed of me in a drawing-room, indeed! See here! 'I
hope your Lordship is quite recovered of your gout?' (_Curtsies_.)
'Will your Ladyship ride to cover to-day? (_Curtsies_.) I can
recommend our Voltigeur.' 'I am sorry that we could not attend your
Grace's party on the 10th!' (_Curtsies_.) There, I am glad my nonsense
has made you smile!
I have heard that 'your Lordship,' and 'your Ladyship,' and 'your
Grace' are all growing old-fashioned!
But the love of sister for sister can never be old-fashioned. I have
been unwilling to trouble you with questions, but you seem somewhat
better to-day. We found a letter in your bedroom torn into bits. I
couldn't make it out. What was it?
From him! from him! He said we had been most happy together, and he
trusted that some time we should meet again, for he had not forgotten
his promise to come when I called him. But that was a mockery, you
know, for he gave me no address, and there was no word of marriage;
and, O Dora, he signed himself 'Yours gratefully'--fancy, Dora,
'gratefully'! 'Yours gratefully'!
Infamous wretch! (_Aside_.) Shall I tell her he is dead? No; she is
still too feeble.
Hark! Dora, some one is coming. I cannot and I will not see anybody.
It is only Milly.
_Enter_ MILLY, _with basket of roses_.
Well, Milly, why do you come in so roughly? The sick lady here might
have been asleep.
Pleaese, Miss, Mr. Dobson telled me to saaey he's browt some of Miss
Eva's roses for the sick laaedy to smell on.
Take them, dear. Say that the sick lady thanks him! Is he here?
Yeaes, Miss; and he wants to speaek to ye partic'lar,
Tell him I cannot leave the sick lady just yet.
Yea's, Miss; but he says he wants to tell ye summut very partic'lar.
Not to-day. What are you staying for?
Why, Miss, I be afeard I shall set him a-sweaering like onythink.
And what harm will that do you, so that you do not copy his bad
manners? Go, child. (_Exit_ MILLY.) But, Eva, why did you write 'Seek
me at the bottom of the river'?
Why? because I meant it!--that dreadful night! that lonely walk to
Littlechester, the rain beating in my face all the way, dead midnight
when I came upon the bridge; the river, black, slimy, swirling under
me in the lamplight, by the rotten wharfs--but I was so mad, that I
mounted upon the parapet--
You make me shudder!
To fling myself over, when I heard a voice, 'Girl, what are you doing
there? It was a Sister of Mercy, come from the death-bed of a pauper,
who had died in his misery blessing God, and the Sister took me to her
house, and bit by bit--for she promised secrecy--I told her all.
And what then?
She would have persuaded me to come back here, but I couldn't. Then
she got me a place as nursery governess, and when the children grew
too old for me, and I asked her once more to help me, once more she
said, 'Go home;' but I hadn't the heart or face to do it. And then--
what would Father say? I sank so low that I went into service--the
drudge of a lodging-house--and when the mistress died, and I appealed
to the Sister again, her answer--I think I have it about me--yes,
there it is!
'My dear Child,--I can do no more for you. I
have done wrong in keeping your secret; your Father
must be now in extreme old age. Go back to him and
ask his forgiveness before he dies.--SISTER AGATHA.'
Sister Agatha is right. Don't you long for Father's
I would almost die to have it!
And he may die before he gives it; may drop off any day, any hour. You
must see him at once. (_Rings bell. Enter_ MILLY.) Milly, my dear, how
did you leave Mr. Steer?
He's been a-moaenin' and a-groaenin' in 'is sleep, but I thinks he be
Tell him that I and the lady here wish to see him. You see she is
lamed, and cannot go down to him.
Yeaes, Miss, I will. [_Exit_ MILLY.
I ought to prepare you. You must not expect to find our Father as he
was five years ago. He is much altered; but I trust that your return--
for you know, my dear, you were always his favourite--will give him,
as they say, a new lease of life.
EVA (_clinging to_ DORA).
Oh, Dora, Dora!
_Enter_ STEER, _led by_ MILLY.
Hes the cow cawved?
Be the colt deaed?
He wur sa bellows'd out wi' the wind this murnin', 'at I tell'd 'em to
gallop 'im. Be he deaed?
Not that I know.
That hasta sent fur me, then, fur?
DORA (_taking_ STEER'S _arm_).
Well, Father, I have a surprise for you.
I ha niver been surprised but once i' my life, and I went blind
Eva has come home.
Hoaem? fro' the bottom o' the river?
No, Father, that was a mistake. She's here again.
The Steers was all gentlefoaelks i' the owd times, an' I worked early
an' laaete to maaeke 'em all gentle-foaelks ageaen. The land belonged to
the Steers i' the owd times, an' it belongs to the Steers ageaen: I
bowt it back ageaen; but I couldn't buy my darter back ageaen when she
lost hersen, could I? I eddicated boaeth on em to marry gentlemen, an'
one on 'em went an' lost hersen i' the river.
No, father, she's here.
Here! she moaent coom here. What would her mother saaey? If it be her
ghoaest, we mun abide it. We can't keep a ghoaest out.
EVA (_falling at his feet_).
O forgive me! forgive me!
Who said that? Taaeke me awaaey, little gell. It be one o' my bad daaeys.
[_Exit_ STEER _led by_ MILLY.
DORA (_smoothing_ EVA'S _forehead_).
Be not so cast down, my sweet Eva. You heard him say it was one of his
bad days. He will be sure to know you to-morrow.
It is almost the last of my bad days, I think. I am very faint. I must
lie down. Give me your arm. Lead me back again.
[DORA _takes_ EVA _into inner room_.
Miss Dora! Miss Dora!
DORA (_returning and leaving the bedroom door ajar_).
Quiet! quiet! What is it?
Mr. 'Arold, Miss.
Yeaes, Miss. He be saaeyin' a word to the owd man, but he'll coom up if
ye lets 'im.
Tell him, then, that I'm waiting for him.
[_Exit_. DORA _sits pensively and waits_.
You are pale, my Dora! but the ruddiest cheek
That ever charm'd the plowman of your wolds
Might wish its rose a lily, could it look
But half as lovely. I was speaking with
Your father, asking his consent--you wish'd me--
That we should marry: he would answer nothing,
I could make nothing of him; but, my flower,
You look so weary and so worn! What is it
Has put you out of heart?
It puts me in heart
Again to see you; but indeed the state
Of my poor father puts me out of heart.
Is yours yet living?
No--I told you.
Confusion!--Ah well, well! the state we all
Must come to in our spring-and-winter world
If we live long enough! and poor Steer looks
The very type of Age in a picture, bow'd
To the earth he came from, to the grave he goes to,
Beneath the burthen of years.
More like the picture
Of Christian in my 'Pilgrim's Progress' here,
Bow'd to the dust beneath the burthen of sin.
Sin! What sin?
Not his own.
Still read, then?
Yes; our carters and our shepherds
Still find a comfort there.
Carters and shepherds!
Scorn! I hate scorn. A soul with no religion--
My mother used to say that such a one
Was without rudder, anchor, compass--might be
Blown everyway with every gust and wreck
On any rock; and tho' you are good and gentle,
Yet if thro' any want--
Of this religion?
Child, read a little history, you will find
The common brotherhood of man has been
Wrong'd by the cruelties of his religions
More than could ever have happen'd thro' the want
Of any or all of them.
--But, O dear friend,
If thro' the want of any--I mean the true one--
And pardon me for saying it--you should ever
Be tempted into doing what might seem
Not altogether worthy of you, I think
That I should break my heart, for you have taught me
To love you.
What is this? some one been stirring
Against me? he, your rustic amourist,
The polish'd Damon of your pastoral here,
This Dobson of your idyll?
No, Sir, no!
Did you not tell me he was crazed with jealousy,
Had threaten'd ev'n your life, and would say anything?
Did _I_ not promise not to listen to him,
Not ev'n to see the man?
Good; then what is it
That makes you talk so dolefully?
I told you--
My father. Well, indeed, a friend just now,
One that has been much wrong'd, whose griefs are
Was warning me that if a gentleman
Should wed a farmer's daughter, he would be
Sooner or later shamed of her among
The ladies, born his equals.
More fool he!
What I that have been call'd a Socialist,
A Communist, a Nihilist--what you will!--
What are all these?
They did not last three Junes. Such rampant weeds
Strangle each other, die, and make the soil
For Caesars, Cromwells, and Napoleons
To root their power in. I have freed myself
From all such dreams, and some will say because
I have inherited my Uncle. Let them.
But--shamed of you, my Empress! I should prize
The pearl of Beauty, 'even if I found it
Dark with the soot of slums.
But I can tell you,
We Steers are of old blood, tho' we be fallen.
See there our shield. (_Pointing to arms on mantelpiece_.)
For I have heard the Steers
Had land in Saxon times; and your own name
Of Harold sounds so English and so old
I am sure you must be proud of it.
As yet I scarcely feel it mine. I took it
For some three thousand acres. I have land now
And wealth, and lay both at your feet.
And _what_ was
Your name before?
Come, come, my girl, enough
Of this strange talk. I love you and you me.
True, I have held opinions, hold some still,
Which you would scarce approve of: for all that,
I am a man not prone to jealousies,
Caprices, humours, moods; but very ready
To make allowances, and mighty slow
To feel offences. Nay, I do believe
I could forgive--well, almost anything--
And that more freely than your formal priest,
Because I know more fully than _he_ can
What poor earthworms are all and each of us,
Here crawling in this boundless Nature. Dora,
If marriage ever brought a woman happiness
I doubt not I can make you happy.
You make me
And I never said
As much before to any woman living.
No! by this true kiss, _you_ are the first
I ever have loved truly. [_They kiss each other_.
EVA (_with a wild cry_).
The phantom cry! _You_--did _you_ hear a cry?
She must be crying out 'Edgar' in her sleep.
Who must be crying out 'Edgar' in her sleep?
Your pardon for a minute. She must be waked.
Who must be waked?
I am not deaf: you fright me.
What ails you?
You know her, Eva.
[EVA _opens the door and stands in the entry_.
Make her happy, then, and I forgive you.
Happy! What? Edgar? Is it so? Can it be?
They told me so. Yes, yes! I see it all now.
O she has fainted. Sister, Eva, sister!
He is yours again--he will love _you_ again;
I give him back to you again. Look up!
One word, or do but smile! Sweet, do you hear me?
[_Puts her hand on_ EVA'S _heart_.
There, there--the heart, O God!--the poor young heart
Broken at last--all still--and nothing left
To live for.
[_Falls on body of her sister_.
Living ... dead ... She said 'all still.
Nothing to live for.'
She--she knows me--now ...
She knew me from the first, she juggled with me,
She hid this sister, told me she was dead--
I have wasted pity on her--not dead now--
No! acting, playing on me, both of them.
_They_ drag the river for her! no, not they!
Playing on me--not dead now--a swoon--a scene--
Yet--how she made her wail as for the dead!
Pleaese, Mister 'Arold.
The owd man's coom'd ageaen to 'issen, an' wants
To hev a word wi' ye about the marriage.
Yeaes, the marriage.
Granny says marriages be maaede i' 'eaven.
She lies! They are made in Hell. Child, can't you see?
Tell them to fly for a doctor.
O law--yeaes, Sir!
I'll run fur 'im mysen. [_Exit_.
All silent there,
Yes, deathlike! Dead? I dare not look: if dead,
Were it best to steal away, to spare myself,
And her too, pain, pain, pain?
My curse on all
This world of mud, on all its idiot gleams
Of pleasure, all the foul fatalities
That blast our natural passions into pains!
You, Master Hedgar, Harold, or whativer
They calls ye, for I warrants that ye goaes
By haaefe a scoor o' naaemes--out o' the chaumber.
[_Dragging him past the body_.
Not that way, man! Curse on your brutal strength!
I cannot pass that way.
Out o' the chaumber!
I'll mash tha into nowt.
The mere wild-beast!
Out o' the chaumber, dang tha!
Lout, churl, clown!
[_While they are shouting and struggling_ DORA
_rises and comes between them_.
DORA (_to_ DOBSON).
Peace, let him be: it is the chamber of Death!
Sir, you are tenfold more a gentleman,
A hundred times more worth a woman's love,
Than this, this--but I waste no words upon him:
His wickedness is like my wretchedness--
Beyond all language.
You--you see her there!
Only fifteen when first you came on her,
And then the sweetest flower of all the wolds,
So lovely in the promise of her May,
So winsome in her grace and gaiety,
So loved by all the village people here,
So happy in herself and in her home--
Theer, theer! ha' done. I can't abeaer to see her.
A child, and all as trustful as a child!
Five years of shame and suffering broke the heart
That only beat for you; and he, the father,
Thro' that dishonour which you brought upon us,
Has lost his health, his eyesight, even his mind.
HAROLD (_covering his face_).
It seem'd so; only there was left
A second daughter, and to her you came
Veiling one sin to act another.
You wrong me there! hear, hear me! I wish'd, if you-- [_Pauses_.
Could love me, could be brought to love me
As I loved you--
I wish'd, I hoped
To make, to make--
_What_ did you hope to make?
'Twere best to make an end of my lost life.
O Dora, Dora!
_What_ did you hope to make?
Make, make! I cannot find the word--forgive it--
For what? to whom?
To him, to you!
[_Falling at her feet_.
To _him_! to _me_!
No, not with all your wealth,
Your land, your life! Out in the fiercest storm
That ever made earth tremble--he, nor I--
The shelter of _your_ roof--not for one moment--
Nothing from _you_!
Sunk in the deepest pit of pauperism,
Push'd from all doors as if we bore the plague,
Smitten with fever in the open field,
Laid famine-stricken at the gates of Death--
Nothing from you!
But she there--her last word
Forgave--and I forgive you. If you ever
Forgive yourself, you are even lower and baser
Than even I can well believe you. Go!
[_He lies at her feet. Curtain falls_.
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