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And then he laughed. I knew it was the ghost
Of my dead father speaking through his lips,
And could not kill him.

BEATRICE.

Miserable slaves ! Where, if ye dare not kill a sleeping man, Found ye the boldness to return to me With such a deed undone? Base palterers ! Cowards and traitors! Why, the very conscience Which ye would sell for gold and for revenge Is an equivocation: it sleeps over A thousand daily acts disgracing men; And when a deed where mercy insults heaven. .. Why do I talk ? (Snatching a dugger from one of them and raising it)

Hadst thou a tongue to say, She murdered her own father, I must do it! But never dream ye shall outlive him long !

OLIMPIO. Stop, for God's sake!

Marzio.

I will go back and kill him.

OLIMPIO.
Give me the weapon, we must do thy will.

BEATRICE.
Take it ! Depart! Return! (Exeunt OLIMPIO and MARZIO.)

How pale thou art !
We do but that which 'twere a deadly crime
To leave undone.

LUCRETIA.
Would it were done!
BEATRICE.

Even whilst
That doubt is passing through your mind, the world
Is conscious of a change. Darkness and hell
Have swallowed up the vapour they sent forth
To blacken the sweet light of life. My breath
Comes, methinks, lighter, and the jellied blood
Runs freely thro' my veins. Hark!

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Enter OLIMPIO and MARZIO.

He is...
OLIMPIO.

Dead!
MARZIO.
We strangled him that there might be no blood;
And then we threw his heavy corpse i' the garden
Under the balcony; 'twill seem it fell.

BEATRICE. (giving them a bag of coin)
Here, take this gold, and hasten to your homes.
And, Marzio, because thou wast only awed
By that which made me tremble, wear thou this !

(Clothes him in a rich mantle)
It was the mantle which my grandfather
Wore in his high prosperity, and men
Envied his state: so may they envy thine.
Thou wert a weapon in the hand of God
To a just use. Live long and thrive! And, mark,
If thou hast crimes, repent: this deed is none.

(A horn is sounded.)

LUCRETIA.
Hark, 'tis the castle horn; my God! it sounds
Like the last trump.

BEATRICE.

Some tedious guest is coming.

LUCRETIA.
The drawbridge is let down; there is a tramp
Of horses in the court; fly, hide yourselves !

(Exeunt OLIMPIO and Marzio.)

BEATRICE
Let us retire to counterfeit deep rest;
I scarcely need to counterfeit it now:
The spirit which doth reign within these limbs
Seems strangely undisturbed. I could even sleep
Fearless and calm: all ill is surely past. (Exeunt.)

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SCENE IV.

ANOTHER APARTMENT IN THE CASTLE. ENTER ON ONE SIDE THE

LEGATE SAVELLA, INTRODUCED BY A SERVANT, AND ON THE
OTHER LUCRETIA AND BERNARDO.

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SAVELLA.
Lady, my duty to his Holiness
Be my excuse that thus unseasonably
I break upon your rest. I must speak with
Count Cenci; doth he sleep?
LUCRETIA. (in a hurried and confused manner)

I think he sleeps ;
Yet wake him not, I pray, spare me awhile,
He is a wicked and a wrathful man;
Should he be roused out of his sleep to-night,
Which is, I know, a hell of angry dreams,
It were not well ; indeed it were not well.
Wait till day break. ... (aside) 0, I am deadly sick!

SAVELLA.
I grieve thus to distress you, but the Count
Must answer charges of the gravest import,
And suddenly; such my commission is.

LUCRETIA. (with increased agitation)
I dare not rouse him : I know none who dare...
'Twere perilous; ... you might as safely waken
A serpent; or a corpse in which some fiend
Were laid to sleep.

SAVELLA.

Lady, my moments here Are counted. I must rouse him from his sleep, Since none else dare.

LUCRETIA (aside.)

O, terror! O, despair! (To Bernardo) Bernardo, conduct you the Lord Legate to Your father's chamber. (Exeunt SAVELLA and BERNARDO.)

Enter BEATRICE.

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19

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BEATRICE.

'Tis a messenger
Come to arrest the culprit who now stands
Before the throne of unappealable God.
Both Earth and Heaven, consenting arbiters,
Acquit our deed.

LUCRETIA.

Oh, agony of fear! Would that he yet might live! Even now I heard The Legate's followers whisper as they passed They had a warrant for his instant death. All was prepared by unforbidden means Which we must pay so dearly, having done. Even now they search the tower, and find the body; Now they suspect the truth; now they consult Before they come to tax us with the fact; 0, horrible, 'tis all discovered !

BEATRICE.

Mother, What is done wisely, is done well. Be bold As thou art just. 'Tis like a truant child To fear that others know what thou hast done, Even from thine own strong consciousness, and thus Write on unsteady eyes and altered cheeks All thou wouldst hide. Be faithful to thyself, And fear no other witness but thy fear. For if, as cannot be, some circumstance Should rise in accusation, we can blind Suspicion with such cheap astonishment, Or overbear it with such guiltless pride, As murderers cannot feign. The deed is done, And what may follow now regards not me. I am as universal as the light; Free as the earth-surrounding air; as firm As the world's centre. Consequence, to me, Is as the wind which strikes the solid rock But shakes it not. (A cry within and tumult)

VOICES.

Murder! Murder! Murder!
Enter BERNARDO and SAVELLA.

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SAVELLA (to his followers).
Go search the castle round; sound the alarm;
Look to the gates that none escape !

BEATRICE.

What now?

BERNARDO.
I know not what to say... my father's dead.

BEATRICE.
How; dead! he only sleeps; you mistake, brother.
His sleep is very calm, very like death;
"Tis wonderful how well a tyrant sleeps.
He is not dead ?

BERNARDO.

Dead; murdered,
LUCRETIA. (with exctreme agitation)

Oh, no, no,
He is not murdered though he may be dead;
I have alone the keys of those apartments.

SAVELLA.
Ha! Is it so ?

BEATRICE.

My Lord, I pray excuse us;
We will retire; my mother is not well:
She seems quite overcome with this strange horror.

(Exeunt LUCRETIA and BEATRICE.)

SAVELLA.
Can you suspect who may have murdered himn?

BERNARDO
I know not what to think.

SAVELLA.

Can you name any Who had an interest in his death?

BERNARDO.

Alas!
I can name none who had not, and those most
Who most lament that such a deed is done;
My mother, and my sister, and myself.

SAVELLA.
'Tis strange! There were clear marks of violence.

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