Cromwell Part 29

_Eliz._ No! no!

There is no time. My breath is short. O Pearson, Rouse him from that cold torpor, ere I die.

Life will not turn my hour-gla.s.s any more, Whose thin sands, sinking at their centre fast, Ebb hollowly away. I would but speak A few soft words of comfort, pray him to Repent; there is repentance,--for his heart Sinn'd not so deeply as the world may think.

_Crom._ [_Raising himself._] Who said repentance?

What's done, is done well.

I stand acquitted. Daughter, cheer thee, rise.

Thou shalt recover, my sweet darling. List!

It was the Lord reveal'd it to me.

_Eliz._ Cease!

Father, blaspheme no longer; with such words Feed the wild fever of the enthusiast crew, Pander to hypocrites; but not here, now, Deceive thyself, or me--

[_During this Pearson has slowly withdrawn._]

_Crom._ This is not well; As the Lord liveth, those poor lips, my child, Speak foolishness. Who taught thee to rebuke Thy father? Know, he stands 'twixt thee and G.o.d, Not thou between the living G.o.d and him.

_Eliz._ What was that agony that tore thee now?-- Why didst thou swoon and talk of murder, kings, Of h.e.l.l and sulphur and the mocking fiends?

_Crom._ Must thou now learn that when my soul is dark With sorrow, agitation, melancholy, I am possess'd with black delirious fits?-- 'Twas so ere thou wert born, ere I was call'd Unto a burden heavier, than man Unsuffering may bear; but, daughter, listen!

I am not guilty! if the human mind May keep account with its own issuings forth To act and do; if thought deceive us not, And reason live in man. I am not guilty, if The blind chimera of an earth-crown'd king Be less than G.o.d's truth--not, if it be well To love this people; to have drawn the sword For mercy's sake alone. I am not guilty!

(O G.o.d! call back her eyes' fast fading light, Lest she die judging me.) I am not guilty!

Except in loving thee too well. My lips Shall speak no more at the eternal judgment Than this--

_Eliz._ 'Tis truth! It cannot be but truth, All things seem different, yet just now I thought To see more clearly, whilst I dar'd to judge him-- How happy am I now--forgive me, oh!

My father!

_Crom._ It has been, that I have shrunk From n.o.ble consciousness of the good work, For love of thee--seeing thee pine and faint, Deeming thy parent guilty of much blood, And great deeds for the small base thought of self.

Thus, like the patriarch, I have cried aloud Unto the Lord, rebelling thus against His holy will. This is my darkest error.

_Eliz._ Now, let me comfort him and die in peace.

O father, 'tis another love that bends This blighted form to earth.

_Crom._ Ha! What is this?

Thy husband!

_Eliz._ Fear not, I am pure in thought And deed--yet I was married early, Ere I had lov'd. I could not choose but love, When I saw one--No matter--I am pure; But death is welcome. Do not frown on me: I ne'er had told thee, but for comfort's sake, Lest thou shouldst think that thou hadst slain thy daughter.

_Crom._ Can this be true?

And she is dying thus!

Would I had known it sooner; ere, alas!

It was too late. Come, tell me everything.

[_He kneels down beside her._]

_Eliz._ Nay, let this thing go by; clasp me unto thee.

Forgive me all the pain that I have cost thee.

I feel as if I were again a child That prattled by thy side, ere strife had come, And sown those wrinkles in thy lofty brow; 'Bend till my faded fingers reach to smooth them!

I cannot think but of an evening walk, When thou didst tell me of the life of David, And how he dwelt with G.o.d--'twas on the bench Round the oak tree in the fair pasturage, [_Organ plays._]

Behind the church;--see, see, yon arched window Is full of light. Hush! they are singing, hush!

The sun is cheerful! Nature praises G.o.d.

Leave me not yet, my father, spare one hour Unto thy child. Nay, then, we shall meet soon.

Thou smil'st, sweet Spirit, all the rest grows dim!

See by yon pale and monumental form, The old man kneeling, weeps. I come! I come!

[_Falls back and dies, her hands clasped in the att.i.tude of a rec.u.mbent marble effigy. During the latter part, till the interruption, an organ is heard playing solemn music._]

_Enter a Servant, L.; he makes a sign that some one is coming. CROMWELL bows his head. Enter a PHYSICIAN, LADY CROMWELL, and Sisters, L._

_Phy._ Doth she sleep?--

_Crom._ Ay, tread softly, for the ground Is holy--

_Phy._ [_Addressing the body._] Lady!

_Crom._ He, she answereth, Is there! [_Points above._]

_Lady Crom._ Dead! oh, Elizabeth!

_Crom._ Why griev'st thou, woman!

Rejoice with the angels rather.

Did I not hear But now an organ?-- [_To the Physician._]

_Phy._ 'Twas, I think, my lord, Your secretary, Milton.

_Crom._ Let him come here.

[_Exit PHYSICIAN, U.E.R. During this time, LADY CROMWELL kneels by the body of her daughter, whilst a curtain is drawn round the couch. The folding-doors and curtains close all in as CROMWELL goes, L._]

_Enter an OFFICER and Officers in Naval Uniform with Despatches, L._

_Offi._ These to your Highness!

_Crom._ [_Tearing them open._] C. From our admiral, The gallant Blake. Another victory-- The Hollanders have yielded, that did late Insult our English flag.

[_Shouting is heard without._]

_Milton._ [_Who has entered, U.E.R., unperceived._]

Most humble tenders From France and Spain await your Excellency.

_Crom._ Ay! we will treat anon.

_Milton._ The Turks have yielded The traitor Hyde--The Vaudois, sav'd, are blessing, In their bright peaceful valleys, your great name, First in their prayers to Heaven--

_An Usher._ Sir, there are messages From various sects; the enfranchis'd Jews, and all Whose burdens you have lighten'd, pray to see you.

_Crom._ Let all come in. I need all grateful hearts Around me now.

_Enter an Officer with IRONSIDES, L._

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