Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
Lord and Lady Russell (1876)
The Heir of Linne
By Isabella Harwood (“Ross Neil”) (1840–1888)
 
(From Act II, Scene I)

Enter LIONEL, JOHN OF THE SCALES following.

  Lion.  Break off—let silence be. Your pardon, friends;
But I have that to say which till ’tis said
Burns in my throat.
  Lady F.            Alas! my lord, what is’t?
  Lion.  And yet as hard to tell as keep untold—
You being all my friends, to whom my griefs        5
Are even as your own.
    Lady F.            O but yet tell.
  Hub.  We’ll strive our best to bear.
  Sir Ruf.                    We will be strong.
  Lion.  Know then, a beggar stands before you here—
A landless, houseless beggar.
  Lady F.                What means this?
O now I see—a jest.
  Lord F.            Faith, a good jest.
        10
  Sir Ruf.  Or would be good if ’twere not beggarly.
  Hub.  When next you try the appetite of belief,
Offer a smaller mouthful.
  Lion.                Have you ne’er
Heard a voice speak from a sad heart before,
That now you know it not? I say again        15
I am a beggar, out of land and goods
Tricked by yon villain, who of all you see
Is master and disposer.
  John.              ’Tis quite true,
Dear lords and ladies, though so strange it seems—
True, I mean I am master; which, I take it,        20
Is the point of chief concern.
  Lion.                  Ay, true, all true.
He hath spent, and let me spend, till from my store
The last round coin hath rolled (surely made round
To roll the easier); and more than this,
Hath tied my hands so to my sides with debt        25
I cannot reach them forth for timely aid,
And must stand by and see a bond enforced
That gives to him the house and lands of Linne.
  John.  Yes, if before this hour to-morrow night
Those five-and-twenty thousand crowns you owe        30
Be not paid back in full—my little all.
  Lion.  Thus stands it, friends. You see, a desp’rate case.
[A pause, during which the Guests look
at each other, and whisper.
[Aside]  Poor girl, poor love; I dare not lift my eyes
To where she is, as one who stabs himself,
Yet turns away from looking on the wound.        35
[To AMABEL, who stands near him.]  Tell me, how fares the Lady Geraldine?
  Amab.  I will go and comfort her. O my sweet friend!
  Lett.  Need I say how I pity?
  Geral.                    You need not——
Nor pity one who pities not herself.
  Lion.  [aside.]  I knew not how she loved me, or how true        40
She spake, saying that gold to her was dross.
Come, for her sake I will be strong as she.
[Aloud.]  Your silence, friends, well shows you think the time
Too short for help to reach me.
  Lord F.                    Why indeed
I see not how, in four-and-twenty hours—        45
To be quite plain with you, as sure I am
You wish us to be plain, I cannot think
You have been wholly prudent.
  Hub.                      Rankest folly
To put such trust in others! ’Tis so easy
To keep account oneself of what one owes.        50
  Sir Ruf.  Had you been earlier open with your friends!
There would have then been time for us to give
Advice that might have saved.
  Lion.                      But now, I see,
’Tis all too late for friendship’s self to help—
And trust me, though time served you to redeem        55
My lands, as well I know you fain would do,
I ne’er had suffered you to have your will
At any peril of your own grave loss.
The folly hath been mine, and mine must be
The paying of the forfeit.
  Lord F.                On my word,
        60
A noble spirit.
  Sir Ruf.        From my lord of Linne
I looked for nothing less, yet must admire.
  Lion.  And now that of my state you know the worst,
You next shall learn my hopes, the arms wherewith
I look to vanquish Fortune; for be sure        65
While I have friends—or others peradventure,
Called by a dearer name—who still will deign
To wish me well, I’ll wrestle for their sake
Till I have slain my troubles or they me,
Yea, strive to tame disaster for my slave        70
To help me to new wealth, which I’ll go forth
Into the world to conquer with the sword
Of love and hope.
  Lord F.            An excellent resolve!
  Sir Ruf.  Wherein all our best wishes shall be yours.
  Lion.  Thanks. If those wishes have borne fruit or not        75
Before three years are over shall you know;
For three years being ended, with no sight
Or news of me, conclude me either dead
Or of my hopes fall’n short, and look no more
To see me in your midst. And thou, who once        80
Wert to have been the sunshine of my home,
Think thyself free, when those three years are done,
To make bright with thy smiles another’s hearth;
Longer I would not have thy fair young life
Wasted with bootless waiting.
  Lady F.                But, my lord,
        85
Since to my daughter still you seem to ascribe
Part in your fortunes, you will pardon me
If I should ask you what the surety is
For their so speedy mending.
  Lion.                Chiefly, madam,
Strong heart and hands, by love made stronger.
  Lady F.                            Ah!
        90
  Lion.  The gold I hope one day to dower her with
Is now stored up in that new fairer world
Mariners tell us of beyond the west,
The treasure-house of earth, rich with a glow
Of million sunsets—there will I go seek        95
My second fortune, or, it may be, chance
To find it on the seas, where Spanish galleons
Crowd sail at sight of the smallest English bark.
  Lady F.  A little scattered, sir, it seems to lie.
  Lion.  Not long ago I held discourse with one        100
Who in those lands and waters of the west
Had made himself from poor in brief space rich,
And who so took my ear his prisoner
With things he told me—of balm-breathing groves
Where birds like jewels sparkle in and out,        105
And many-coloured skies that blend and change
With the blushing hills their blushes—then again
Of the crash of oak ’gainst oak, and steel ’gainst steel
And the sacred cry of Spaniards to their saints,
And, following soon, the full-voiced English cheer        110
Telling of victory, and good gold won
From use of foreign foes—with things like these
He so ensnared my fancy that well-nigh
He made me wish my fortune still to seek.
  Sir Ruf.  [Aside.]  A modest wish, soon granted.
  Lion.                        He I speak of—
        115
A wealthy burgher now—a few years since
Had only in the world his own stout heart,
And a poor patrimony of no more
Than some two thousand crowns, but these enough
To equip and man the bark that made him heir        120
Of far-off Indian kings and Spanish dons.
Now I, you see, am strong, and of a spirit,
I trust, to dare as much as any dare;
So with two thousand crowns I hope to make
My fortunes equal his. These still I lack,        125
But shall not long, I know, when once I say
That of my friends I will not shame to ask
A petty loan that will not do them hurt.
Which of you all will lend two thousand crowns?
Or give; since it may be that death, belched up        130
By angry seas, or slung by foeman’s hand,
Will make my bond a mock. Which of you? speak.  [A pause.
I see you think it is for me to choose
Whom I will have for helper, and in truth
Where I know all to be so much my friends,        135
By making choice of one I need not fear
To give the rest offence. Hubert Fitzwater,
To you in this great need I bring my suit,
Both since you are my brother, and because
I did you lately a good turn, which now        140
I should be churlish if I gave you not
Occasion to requite.
  Hub.                What! taunt me, sir,
With favours past? I have just now at hand
No more than what for present use I need;
But let me say, if aught could make me fling        145
Your favors back into your teeth, ’twere this.
  Lion.  I do confess that when I asked of you
Most gravely I mistook; yet pray believe,
To taunt you I meant not. Sir Rufus Rollestone,
In the shrill-voiced hunting-field, and at the board        150
Where wine makes warm, you long have been my friend,
Nor now that sport and feast for me are done
Will be aught other. Those two thousand crowns
Whereon I build my hopes I ask of you,
Nor shame to ask.
  Sir Ruf.        Of me! Upon my life,
        155
More sorry am I than I well can say,
But I have paid away of late such sums—
That new estate I bought—and then some wine
I’ve just laid down—and, to confess the truth,
I scarce can see my way——
  Lion.                Yet in your place
        160
Methinks I could have found one. Nay, not now——
Although you offered now, I would not take.
  Sir Ruf.  I offer not; would only that I could
In justice to myself.
  Lion.                Will none else speak?
Not one among them all? O now I find        165
What I knew not before—a poor man’s friends
In justice to themselves must all be poor.
Why then, my Lord Fitzwater, unto you,
Whom I thought not to trouble, must I turn,
You who perchance less easily can spare        170
Than some of those, who will not.
  Lord F.                    And who said
I could not spare? you take upon yourself
To speak strange things. It doth indeed fall out
That at this moment—most unhappily—
At this especial moment——
  Lady F.                At this moment
        175
He hath to think of the welfare of his child.
So can do nought to help the hopes of one
Whose suit he favours not, and doth forbid.
Is it not so, my lord?
  Lord F.            ’Twas even thus
I was about to say.
  Lion.            You would deny me
        180
All chance of winning her?
  Lady F.                Most absolutely,
As a suitor quite unfit.
  Lord F.            O quite unfit.
  Lion.  But your denial, sir, and, madam, yours,
I will not take; ’tis she, and only she,
Whose sentence I will stand by. Geraldine,        185
Betrothed, belovèd, speak; will you not wait
A poor three years, to see if for your sake
I cannot force from Fortune’s hand as much
As will, with my great love, make up a tribute
That, at your feet laid, your love will not scorn?        190
Answer, and for the battle give me strength.
  Geral.  My parents have for me made answer, sir,
Whereby, as is my duty, I abide.
  Lion.  Because it is your duty, not your will?
Nay, then, if still you love me, I have right        195
To claim you still for mine, my bride, my queen,
Whom in the citadel of my love I’ll hold
’Gainst all the opposing world. That duty’s none
Which bids you break your heart.
  Geral.                    O but I hope        200
My heart is framed less weakly than you deem,
And since you thus constrain me to speak plain,
I tell you, sir, I can as easily
Put from my heart one that in false disguise
Hath sought to enter there, as from my person        205
This token of my all too simple trust
And his deceit.
[Disengages a ring from her chain,
and throws it down. LIONEL mechanically
does the same, then looks round, as
one bewildered.
  Lion.            They have the faces still
Of men and women.
 
 
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