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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Lady Of Lyons; Or, Love And Pride - Act 3 - Scene 2
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The Lady Of Lyons; Or, Love And Pride - Act 3 - Scene 2 Post by :Danny Category :Plays Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2902

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The Lady Of Lyons; Or, Love And Pride - Act 3 - Scene 2

ACT III - SCENE II

(MELNOTTE'S cottage--Widow bustling about--a table spread for supper.)


Widow. So, I think that looks very neat. He sent me a line, so blotted that I can scarcely read it, to say he would be here almost immediately. She must have loved him well indeed to have forgotten his birth; for though he was introduced to her in disguise, he is too honorable not to have revealed to her the artifice, which her love only could forgive. Well, I do not wonder at it; for though my son is not a prince, he ought to be one, and that's almost as good, (Knock at the door.) Ah! here they are.

(Enter MELNOTTE and PAULINE.)

Widow. Oh, my boy--the pride of my heart!--welcome, welcome! I beg pardon, ma'am, but I do love him so!

Pauline. Good woman, I really--why prince, what is this?--does the old lady know you? Oh, I guess, you have done her some service. Another proof of your kind heart? is it not?

Mel. Of my kind heart, ay!

Pauline. So you know the prince?

Widow. Know him, madam?--Ah, I begin to fear it is you who know him not!

Pauline. Do you think she is mad? Can we stay here, my lord? I think there's something very wild about her.

Mel. Madam, I--no, I cannot tell her; my knees knock together: what a coward is a man who has lost his honor! Speak to her--speak to her (to his mother)--tell her that--O Heaven, that I were dead!

Pauline. How confused he looks!--this strange place?--this woman--what can it mean?--I half suspect--Who are you, madam!--who are you! can't you speak? are you struck dumb?

Widow. Claude, you have not deceived her?--Ah, shame upon you! I thought that, before you went to the altar, she was to have known all.

Pauline. All! what!--My blood freezes in my veins!

Widow. Poor lady!--dare I tell her, Claude? (MELNOTTE makes a sign of assent.) Know you not then, madam, that this young man is of poor though honest parents? Know you not that you are wedded to my son, Claude Melnotte?

Pauline. Your son! hold--hold! do not speak to me.--(Approaches MELNOTTE, and lays her hand on his arm.)--Is this a jest? is it? I know it is, only speak--one word--one look one smile. I cannot believe--I who loved thee so--I cannot believe that thou art such a--No, I will not wrong thee by a harsh word--Speak!

Mel. Leave us--have pity on her, on me: leave us.

Widow. Oh, Claude, that I should live to see thee bowed by shame! thee of whom I was so proud!
(Exit by the staircase.)

Pauline. Her son--her son!

Mel. Now, lady, hear me.

Pauline. Hear thee! Ay, speak--her son! have fiends a parent? speak, That thou mayst silence curses--speak!


Mel. No, curse me: Thy curse would blast me less than thy forgiveness.

Pauline (laughing wildly).
"This is thy palace, where the perfumed light
Steals through the mist of alabaster lamps,
And every air is heavy with the sighs
Of orange-groves, and music from the sweet lutes,
And murmurs of low fountains, that gush forth
I' the midst of roses!" Dost thou like the picture?
This is my bridal home, and thou my bridegroom.
O fool--O dupe--O wretch!--I see it all
Thy by-word and the jeer of every tongue
In Lyons. Hast thou in thy heart one touch
Of human kindness? if thou hast, why, kill me,
And save thy wife from madness. No, it cannot
It cannot be: this is some horrid dream:
I shall wake soon.--(Touching him.) Art flesh art man? or but
The shadows seen in sleep? It is too real.
What have I done to thee? how sinn'd against thee,
That thou shouldst crush me thus?

Mel. Pauline, by pride
Angels have fallen ere thy time: by pride
That sole alloy of thy most lovely mould
The evil spirit of a bitter love,
And a revengeful heart, had power upon thee.
From my first years my soul was fill'd with thee:
I saw thee midst the flow'rs the lowly boy
Tended, unmark'd by thee--a spirit of bloom,
And joy, and freshness, as if Spring itself
Were made a living thing, and wore thy shape!
I saw thee, and the passionate heart of man
Enter'd the breast of the wild-dreaming boy.
And from that hour I grew--what to the last
I shall be--thine adorer! Well, this love
Vain, frantic, guilty, if thou wilt, became
A fountain of ambition and bright hope;
I thought of tales that by the winter hearth
Old gossips tell--how maidens sprung from kings
Have stoop'd from their high sphere; how love, like death
Levels all ranks, and lays the shepherd's crook
Beside the sceptre. Thus I made my home
In the soft palace of a fairy Future!
My father died; and I, the peasant-born,
Was my own lord. Then did I seek to rise
Out of the prison of my mean estate;
And, with such jewels as the exploring mind
Brings from the caves of knowledge, buy my ransom
From those twin gaolers of the daring heart
Low birth and iron fortune. Thy bright image
Glass'd in my soul, took all the hues of glory,
And lured me on to those inspiring toils
By which man masters men! For thee I grew
A midnight student o'er the dreams of sages.
For thee I sought to borrow from each grace,
And every muse, such attributes as lend
Ideal charms to love. I thought of thee,
And passion taught me poesy--of thee,
And on the painter's canvas grew the life
Of beauty! Art became the shadow
Of the dear starlight of thy haunting eyes
Men call'd me vain--some mad--I heeded not;
But still toil'd on--hoped on--for it was sweet,
If not to win, to feel more worthy thee?

Pauline. Has he a magic to exorcise hate!

Mel. At last, in one mad hour, I dared to pour
The thoughts that burst their channels into song,
And sent them to thee--such a tribute, lady,
As beauty rarely scorns, even from the meanest.
The name--appended by the burning heart
That long'd to show its idol what bright things
It had created--yea, the enthusiast's name,
That should have been thy triumph, was thy scorn!
That very hour--when passion, turn'd to wrath,
Resembled hatred most--when thy disdain
Made my whole soul a chaos--in that hour
The tempters found me a revengeful tool
For their revenge! Thou hadst trampled on the worm
It turn'd and stung thee!

Pauline. Love, sir, hath no sting.
What was the slight of a poor powerless girl
To the deep wrong of this most vile revenge?
Oh, how I loved this man!--a serf!--a slave!

Mel. Hold, lady! No, not slave! Despair is free!
I will not tell thee of the throes--the struggles
The anguish--the remorse: No, let it pass!
And let me come to such most poor atonement
Yet in my power. Pauline!

(Approaching her with great emotion, and about to take her hand.)

Pauline. No, touch me not!
I know my fate. You are, by law, my tyrant;
And I--O Heaven!--a peasant's wife! I'll work
Toil--drudge--do what thou wilt--but touch me not;
Let my wrongs make me sacred!

Mel. Do not fear me.
Thou dost not know me, madam: at the altar
My vengeance ceased--my guilty oath expired!
Henceforth, no image of some marble saint,
Niched in cathedral aisles, is hallow'd more
From the rude hand of sacrilegious wrong.
I am thy husband--nay, thou need'st not shudder;
Here, at thy feet, I lay a husband's rights.
A marriage thus unholy--unfulfill'd--
A bond of fraud--is, by the laws of France,
Made void and null. To-night sleep--sleep in peace.
To-morrow, pure and virgin as this morn
I bore thee, bathed in blushes, from the shrine,
Thy father's arms shall take thee to thy home.
The law shall do thee justice, and restore
Thy right to bless another with thy love.
And when thou art happy, and hast half forgot
Him who so loved--so wrong'd thee, think at least
Heaven left some remnant of the angel still
In that poor peasant's nature!

Ho! my mother!
(Enter Widow.)

Conduct this lady--(she is not my wife;
She is our guest,--our honor'd guest, my mother)--
To the poor chamber, where the sleep of virtue,
Never, beneath my father's honest roof,
Ev'n villains dared to mar! Now, lady, now,
I think thou wilt believe me. Go, my mother!


Widow. She is not thy wife!

Mel. Hush, hush! for mercy's sake! Speak not, but go.

(Widow ascends the stairs; PAULINE follows weeping--turns to look back.)

Mel. (sinking down). All angels bless and guard her!

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