Count Alarcos; a Tragedy, by Benjamin Disraeli

Act iv

Scene 1

Interior of a Posada frequented by BRAVOs, in an obscure quarter of
Burgos. FLIX at the fire, frying eggs. Men seated at small tables
drinking; others lying on benches. At the side, but in the front of the
Scene, some Beggars squatted on the ground, thrumming a Mandolin; a
Gipsy Girl dancing.

A BRAVO.
Come, mother, dost take us for Saracens? I say we are true
Christians, and so must drink wine.

ANOTHER BRAVO.
Mother Flix is sour to-night. Keep the evil eye from the olla!

3RD BRAVO.

[advancing to her]

Thou beauty of Burgos, what are dimples unless seen? Smile! wench.

FLIX.
A frying egg will not wait for the King of Cordova.

1ST BRAVO.
Will have her way. Graus knows a pretty wife’s worth. A handsome
hostess is bad for the guest’s purse.

1ST BRAVO.

[rising]

Good companions make good company. Graus, Graus! another flagon.

2ND BRAVO.
Of the right Catalan.

3RD BRAVO.
Nay, for my omelette.

FLIX.
Hungry men think the cook lazy.

[Enter GRAUS with a Flagon of wine.]

1ST BRAVO.
’Tis mine.

2ND BRAVO.
No, mine.

1ST BRAVO.
We’ll share.

2ND BRAVO.
No, each man his own beaker; he who shares has the worst half.

3RD BRAVO.

[to FLIX, who brings the omelette]

An egg and to bed.

GRAUS.
Who drinks, first chinks.

1ST BRAVO.
The debtor is stoned every day. There will be water-work tomorrow,
and that will wash it out. You know me?

GRAUS.
In a long journey and a small inn, one knows one’s company.

2ND BRAVO.
Come, I’ll give, but I won’t share. Fill up.

GRAUS.
That’s liberal; my way; full measure but prompt pezos;
I loathe your niggards.

1ST BRAVO.
As the little tailor of Campillo said, who worked for nothing,
and found thread.

[To the other BRAVO.]

Nay, I’ll not refuse; we know each other.

2ND BRAVO.
We’ve seen the stars together.

AN OLD MAN.
Burgos is not what it was.

5TH BRAVO.

[waking]

Sleep ends and supper begins. The olla, the olla, Mother Flix;

[shaking a purse]

there’s the dinner bell.

2ND BRAVO.
That will bring courses.

1ST BRAVO.
An ass covered with gold has more respect than a horse with a
pack-saddle.

5TH BRAVO.
How for that ass?

2ND BRAVO.
Nay, the sheep should have his belly full who quarrels with his mate.

5TH BRAVO.
But how for that ass?

A FRIAR.

[advancing]

Peace be with ye, brethren! A meal in God’s name.

5TH BRAVO.
Who asks in God’s name, asks for two. But how for that ass?

FLIX.

[bringing the olla]

Nay, an ye must brawl, go fight the Moors. ’Tis a peaceable house,
and we sleep quiet o’ nights.

5TH BRAVO.
Am I an ass?

FLIX.
He is an ass who talks when he might eat.

5TH BRAVO.
A Secadon sausage! Come, mother, I’m all peace; thou’rt a rare hand.
As in thy teeth, comrade, and no more on’t

1ST BRAVO.
When I will not, two cannot quarrel.

OLD MAN.
Everything is changed for the worse.

FRIAR.
For the love of St. Jago, senors; for the love of St. Jago!

5TH BRAVO.
When it pleases not God, the saint can do little.

2ND BRAVO.
Nay, supper for all, and drink’s the best meat. Some have sung
for it, some danced. There is no fishing for trout in dry breeches.
You shall preach.

FRIAR.
Benedicite, brethren —

1ST BRAVO.
Nay, no Latin, for the devil’s not here.

2ND BRAVO.
And prithee let it be as full of meat as an egg; for we do many
deeds, love not many words.

FRIAR.
Thou shalt not steal.

1ST BRAVO.
He blasphemes.

FRIAR.
But what is theft?

2ND BRAVO.
Ay! there it is.

FRIAR.
The tailor he steals the cloth, and the miller he steals the meal;
is either a thief? ’tis the way of trade. But what if our trade
be to steal? Why then our work is to cut purses; to cut purses is
to follow our business; and to follow our business is to obey the
King; and so thieving is no theft. And that’s probatum, and so, amen.

5TH BRAVO.
Shall put thy spoon in the olla for that.

2ND BRAVO.
And drink this health to our honest fraternity.

OLD MAN.
I have heard sermons by the hour; this is brief; every thing falls off.

[Enter a PERSONAGE masked and cloaked.]

1ST BRAVO.

[to his Companions]

See’st yon mask?

2ND BRAVO.
’Tis strange.

GRAUS.

[to FLIX]

Who is this?

FLIX.
The fool wonders, the wise man asks. Must have no masks here.

GRAUS.
An obedient wife commands her husband. Business with a stranger,
title enough.

[Advancing and addressing the Mask.]

Most noble Senor Mask.

THE UNKNOWN.
Well, fellow!

GRAUS.
Hem; as it may be. D’ye see, most noble Senor Mask, that ’tis an
orderly house this, frequented by certain honest gentlemen, that
take their siesta, and eat a fried egg after their day’s work,
and so are not ashamed to show their faces. Ahem!

THE UNKNOWN.
As in truth I am in such villanous company.

GRAUS.
Wheugh! but ’tis not the first ill word that brings a blow.
Would’st sup indifferently well here at a moderate rate, we are
thy servants. My Flix hath reputation at the frying-pan, and my
wine hath made lips smack; but here, senor, faces must be uncovered.

THE UNKNOWN.
Poh! poh!

GRAUS.
Nay, then, I will send some to you shall gain softer words.

1ST BRAVO.
Why, what’s this?

2ND BRAVO.
Our host is an honest man, and has friends.

5TH BRAVO.
Let me finish my olla, and I will discourse with him.

THE UNKNOWN.
Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke. I come here on business,
and with you all.

1ST BRAVO.
Carraho! and who’s this?

THE UNKNOWN.
One who knows you, though you know not him. One whom you have never
seen, yet all fear. And who walks at night, and where he likes.

2ND BRAVO.
The devil himself!

THE UNKNOWN.
It may be so.

2ND BRAVO.
Sit by me, Friar, and speak Latin.

THE UNKNOWN.
There is a man missing in Burgos, and I will know where he is.

OLD MAN.
There were many men missing in my time.

THE UNKNOWN.
Dead or alive, I care not; but land or water, river or turf, I will
know where the body is stowed. See

[shaking a purse]

here is eno’ to point all the poniards of the city. You shall
have it to drink his health.

A BRAVO.
How call you him?

THE UNKNOWN.
Oran, the Moor.

1ST BRAVO.

[Jumping from his seat and approaching the Stranger.]

My name is Guzman Jaca; my hand was in that business.

THE UNKNOWN.
With the Moor and three of your comrades?

1ST BRAVO.
The same.

THE UNKNOWN.
And how came your quarry to fly next day?

1ST BRAVO.
Very true; ’twas a bad business for all of us. I fought like
a lion; see, my arm is still bound up; but he had advice of
our visit; and no sooner had we saluted him, than there
suddenly appeared a goodly company of twelve serving-men,
or say twelve to fifteen —

THE UNKNOWN.
You lie; he walked alone.

1ST BRAVO.
Very true; and if I am forced to speak the whole truth, it was thus.
I fought like a lion; see, my arm is still bound up; but I was not
quite his match alone, for I had let blood the day before, and my
comrades were taken with a panic, and so left me in the lurch.
And now you have it all.

THE UNKNOWN.
And Oran?

1ST BRAVO.
He fled at once.

THE UNKNOWN.
Come, come, Oran did not fly.

1ST BRAVO.
Very true. We left him alone with the Count.
And now you have it all.

THE UNKNOWN.
Had he slain him, the body would have been found.

1ST BRAVO.
Very true. That’s the difference between us professional
performers, and you mere amateurs; we never leave the bodies.

THE UNKNOWN.
And you can tell me nothing of him?

1ST BRAVO.
No, but I engage to finish the Count, any night you like now,
for I have found out his lure.

THE UNKNOWN.
How’s that?

1ST BRAVO.
Every evening, about an hour after sunset, he enters by a private
way the citadel.

THE UNKNOWN.
Hah! what more?

1ST BRAVO.
He is stagged; there is a game playing, but what I know not.

THE UNKNOWN.
Your name is Guzman Jaca?

1ST BRAVO.
The same.

THE UNKNOWN.
Honest fellow! there’s gold for you. You know nothing of Oran?

1ST BRAVO.
Maybe he has crawled to some place wounded.

THE UNKNOWN.
To die like a bird. Look after him. If I wish more, I know
where to find you. What ho, Master Host! I cannot wait to
try your mistress’s art to-night; but here’s my scot for our
next supper.

[Exit THE UNKNOWN.]

Scene 2

A Chamber in the Palace of Alarcos.

The COUNTESS and SIDONIA.

SIDO.
Lady, you’re moved: nay, ’twas an idle word.

COUN.
But was it true?

SIDO.
And yet might little mean.

COUN.
That I should live to doubt!

SIDO.
But do not doubt;
Forget it, lady. You should know him well;
Nay, do not credit it.

COUN.
He’s very changed.
I would not own, no, not believe that change,
I’ve given it every gloss that might confirm
My sinking heart. Time and your tale agree;
Alas! ’tis true.

SIDO.
I hope not; still believe
It is not true. Would that I had not spoken!
It was unguarded prate.

COUN.
You have done me service:
Condemned, the headsman is no enemy,
Bat closes suffering.

SIDO.
Yet a bitter doom
To torture those you’d bless. I have a thought.
What if this eve you visit this same spot,
That shrouds these meetings? If he’s wanting then,
The rest might prove as false.

COUN.
He will be there,
I feel he will be there.

SIDO.
We should not think so,
Until our eyes defeat our hopes.

COUN.
O Burgos,
My heart misgave me when I saw thy walls!
To doubt is madness, yet ’tis not despair,
And that may be my lot.

SIDO.
The palace gardens
Are closed, except to master-keys. Here’s one,
My office gives it me, and it can count
Few brethren. You will be alone.

COUN.
Alas!
I dare not hope so.

SIDO.
Well, well, think of this;
Yet take the key.

COUN.
O that it would unlock
The heart now closed to me! To watch his ways
Was once my being. Shall I prove the spy
Of joys I may not share? I will not take
That fatal key.

SIDO.
’Tis well; I pray you, pardon
My ill-timed zeal.

COUN.
Indeed, I should be grateful
That one should wish to serve me. Can it be?
’Tis not two months, two little, little months,
You crossed this threshold first; Ah! gentle air,
And we were all so gay! What have I done?
What is all this? so sudden and so strange?
It is not true, I feel it is not true;
’Tis factious care that clouds his brow, and calls
For all this timed absence. His brain’s busy
With the State. Is’t not so? I prithee speak,
And say you think it.

SIDO.
You should know him well;
And if you deem it so, why I should deem
The inference just.

COUN.
Yet if he were not there,
How happy I should sleep! there is no peril;
The garden’s near; and is there shame? ’Tis love
Makes me a lawful spy. He’ll not be there,
And then there is no prying.

SIDO.
Near at hand,
Crossing the way that bounds your palace court,
There is a private portal.

COUN.
If I go,
He will not miss me. Ah, I would he might!
So very near; no, no; I cannot go;
And yet I’ll take the key.

[Takes the key.]

Would thou could’st speak,
Thou little instrument, and tell me all
The secrets of thy office! My heart beats;
’Tis my first enterprise; I would it were
To do him service. No, I cannot go;
Farewell, kind sir; indeed I am so troubled,
I must retire.

[Exit COUNTESS.]

SIDO.
Thy virtue makes me vile;
And what should move my heart inflames my soul.
O marvellous world, wherein I play the villain
From very love of excellence! But for him,
I’d be the rival of her stainless thoughts
And mate her purity. Hah!

[Enter ORAN.]

ORAN.
My noble lord!

SIDO.
The Moor!

ORAN.
Your servant.

SIDO.
Here! ’tis passing strange.
How’s this?

ORAN.
The accident of war, my lord.
I am a prisoner.

SIDO.
But at large, it seems.
You have betrayed me

ORAN.
Had I chosen that,
I had been free and you not here. I fought,
And fell in single fight. Why spared I know not,
But that the lion’s generous.

SIDO.
Will you prove
Your faith

ORAN.
Nay, doubt it not.

SIDO.
You still can aid me.

ORAN.
I am no traitor, and my friends shall find
I am not wanting.

SIDO.
Quit these liberal walls
Where you’re not watched. In brief, I’ve coined a tale
Has touched the Countess to the quick. She seeks,
Alone or scantly tended, even now,
The palace gardens; eager to discover
A faithless husband, where she’ll chance to find
One more devout. My steeds and servants wait
At the right post; my distant castle soon
Shall hold this peerless wife. Your resolute spirit
May aid me much. How say you, is it well
That we have met?

ORAN.
Right well. I will embark
Most heartily in this.

SIDO.
With me at once.

ORAN.
At once?

SIDO.
No faltering. You have learned and know
Too much to spare you from my sight, good Oran.
With me at once.

ORAN.
’Tis urgent; well at once,
And I will do good service, or I’ll die.
For what is life unless to aid the life
Has aided thine?

SIDO.
On then; with me no eye
Will look with jealousy upon thy step.

[Exeunt both.]

Scene 3

A retired spot in the Gardens of the Palace.

[Enter the COUNTESS.]

COUN.
Is’t guilt, that I thus tremble? Why should I
Feel like a sinner? I’ll not dare to meet
His flashing eye. O, with what scorn, what hate
His lightning glance will wither me. Away,
I will away. I care not whom he meets.
What if he love me not, he shall not loathe
The form he once embraced. I’ll be content
To live upon the past, and dream again
It may return. Alas! were I the false one,
I could not feel more humbled. Ah, he comes!
I’ll lie, I’ll vow I’m vile, that I came here
To meet another, anything but that
I dared to doubt him. What, my Lord Sidonia!

[Enter SIDONIA.]

SIDO.
Thy servant and thy friend. Ah! gentle lady,
I deemed this unused scene and ill-timed hour
might render solace welcome. He’ll not come;
Ho crossed the mountains, ere the set of sun,
Towards Briviesca.

COUN.
Holy Virgin, thanks!
Home, home!

SIDO.
And can a hearth neglected cause
Such raptures?

COUN.
I, and only I, neglect it;
My cheek is fire, that I should ever dare
To do this stealthy deed.

SIDO.
And yet I feel
I could do one as secret and more bold.
A moment, lady; do not turn away
With that cold look.

COUN.
My children wait me, sir;
Yet I would thank you, for you meant me kindness.

SIDO.
And mean it yet. Ah! beauteous Florimonde,
It is the twilight hour, when hearts are soft,
And mine is like the quivering light of eve;
I love thee!

COUN.
And for this I’m here, and he,
He is not false! O happiness!

SIDO.
Sweet lady —

COUN.
My Lord Sidonia, I can pardon thee,
I am so joyful.

SIDO.
Nay, then.

COUN.
Unhand me, Sir!

SIDO.
But to embrace this delicate waist. Thou art mine:
I’ve sighed and thou hast spurned. What is not yielded
In war we capture. Ere a flying hour,
Thy hated Burgos vanishes. That voice;
What, must I stifle it, who fain would listen
For ever to its song? In vain thy cry,
For none are here but mine.

[Enter ORAN.]

ORAN.
Turn, robber, turn —

SIDO.
Ah! treason in the camp! Thus to thy heart.

[They fight. ORAN beats off SIDONIA, they leave the scene fighting;
the COUNTESS swoons.]

[Enter a procession with lighted torches, attending the Infanta SOLISA
from Mass.]

1ST USH.
A woman!

2ND USH.
Does she live

SOL.
What stops our course?

[The Train ranging themselves on each side, the Infanta approaches
the COUNTESS.]

SOL.
Most strange and lovely vision! Does she breathe?
I’ll not believe ’tis death. Her hand is cold,
And her brow damp; Griselda, Julia, maidens
Hither, and yet stand off; give her free air.
How shall we bear her home? Now, good Lorenzo,
You, and Sir Miguel, raise her; gently, gently.
Still gently, sirs. By heavens, the fairest face
I yet did gaze on! Some one here should know her.
’Tis one that must be known. That’s well; relieve
That kerchief from her neck; mind not our state;
I’ll by her side; a swoon, methinks; no more,
Let’s hope and pray!

[They raise the body of the COUNTESS, and bear her away.]

[Enter Count of LEON.]

LEON.
I’ll fathom this same mystery,
If there be wit in Burgos. I have heard,
Before I knew the Court, old Nunez Leon
Whisper strange things — and what if they prove true?
It is not exile twice would cure that scar.
I’ll reach him yet. ’Tis likely he may pass
This way; ’tis lonely, and well suits a step
Would not be noticed. Ha! a man approaches;
I’ll stand awhile aside.

[Re-enter ORAN.]

ORAN.
Gone, is she gone!
Yet safe I feel. O Allah! thou art great!
The arm she bound, and tended with that glance
Of sweet solicitude, has saved her life,
And more than life. The dark and reckless villains!
O! I could curse them, but my heart is soft
With holy triumph. I’m no more an outcast.
And when she calls me, I’d not change my lot
To be an Emir. In their hall to-night
There will be joy, and Oran will have smiles.
This house has knit me to their fate by ties
Stronger than gyves of iron.

LEON.
Do I see
The man I seek? Oran!

[ORAN turns, and recognising Leon, rushes and seizes him.]

ORAN.
Incarnate fiend,
Give her me, give her me!

LEON.
Off, ruffian, off!

ORAN.
I have thee and I’ll hold thee. If I spare
Thy damned life, and do not dash thee down,
And trample on thee, fiend, it is because
Thou art the gaoler of a pearl of price
I cannot gain without thee. Now, where is she?
Now by thy life!

LEON.
Why, thou outrageous Moor,
Hast broken thy false prophet’s rule, and so
Fell into unused drink, that thus thou darest
To flout me with thy cloudy menaces?
What mean’st thou, sir? And what have I withheld
From thy vile touch? By heavens, I pass my days
In seeking thy dusk corpse, I deemed well drilled
Ere this, but it awaits my vengeance.

ORAN.
Boy!
Licentious boy! Where is she? Now, by Allah!
This poniard to thy heart, unless thou tell’st me.

LEON.
Whom dost thou mean?

ORAN.
Thy comrade and thy crew
They all have fled. I left the Countess here.
She’s gone. Thou fill’st her place.

LEON.
What Countess? Speak.

ORAN.
The Count Alarcos’ wife.

LEON.
The Count Alarcos!
I’d be right glad to see him; but his wife
Concerns the Lord Sidonia. If he have played
Some Pranks here ’tis a fool, and he has marred
More than he’ll ever make. My time’s worth gems;
My knightly word, dusk Moor, I tell thee truth.
I will forget these jest, but we must meet
This night at my palace.

ORAN.
I’ll see her first.

[Exit ORAN.]

LEON.
Is it the Carnival? What mummery’s this?
What have I heard? One thing alone is clear.
We must be rid of Oran.

Scene 4

A Chamber in the Palace.
The Countess ALARCOS lying on a Couch,
the Infanta kneeling at her side;
MAIDENS grouped around. A PHYSICIAN and the PAGE.

SOL.
Didst ever see so fair a skin? Her bodice
Should still be loosened. Bring the Moorish water,
Griselda, you. They are the longest lashes!
They hang upon her cheek. Doctor, there’s warmth;
The blood returns?

PHY.
But slowly.

SOL.
Beauteous creature!
She seems an angel fallen from some star.
’Twas well we passed. Untie that kerchief, Julia;
Teresa, wave the fan. There seems a glow
Upon her cheek, what but a moment since
Was like a sculptured saint’s.
PHY.
She breathes.

SOL.
Hush, hush!

COUN.
And what is this? where am I?

SOL.
With thy friends.

COUN.
It is not home.

SOL.
If kindness make a home,
Believe it such.

[The PHYSICIAN signifies silence.]

Nay lady, not a word,
Those lips must now be closed. I’ve seen such eyes
In pictures, girls.

PHY.
Methinks she’ll sleep.

SOL.
’Tis well.
Maidens, away. I’ll be her nurse; and, doctor,
Remain within.

[Exeunt PHYSICIAN and MAIDENS.]

Know you this beauteous dame?

PAGE.
I have heard minstrels tell that fays are found
In lonely places.

SOL.
Well, she’s magical.
She draws me charm-like to her. Vanish, imp,
And see our chamber still.

[Exit PAGE.]

It is the hour
Alarcos should be here. Ah! happy hour,
That custom only makes more strangely sweet!
His brow has lost its cloud. The bar’s removed
To our felicity; time makes amends
To patient sufferers.

[Enter COUNT ALARCOS.]

Hush, my own love, hush!

[SOLISA takes his hand and leads him aside.]

So strange an incident! the fairest lady!
Found in our gardens; it would seem a swoon;
Myself then passing; hither we have brought her;
She is so beautiful, you’ll almost deem
She bears some charmed life. You know that fays
Are found in lonely places.

ALAR.
In thy garden!
Indeed ’tis strange! The Virgin guard thee, love.
I am right glad I’m here. Alone to tend her,
’Tis scarcely wise.

SOL.
I think when she recovers,
She’ll wave her wings and fly.

ALAR.
Nay, for one glance!
In truth you paint her bright.

SOL.
E’en now she sleeps.
Tread lightly, love; I’ll lead you.

[SOLISA cautiously leads ALARCOS to the couch;
as they approach it, the COUNTESS opens her eyes and shrieks.]

COUN.
Ah! ’tis true,
Alarcos
[relapses into a swoon.]

ALAR.
Florimonde!

SOL.
Who is this lady?

ALAR.
It is my wife.

SOL.

[flings away his arms and rushes forward.]

— Not mad!
Virgin and Saints be merciful; not mad!
O spare my brain one moment; ’tis his wife.
I’m lost: she is too fair. The secret’s out
Of sick delays. He’s feigned; he has but feigned.

[Rushing to Alarcos.]

Is that thy wife? and I? and what am I?
A trifled toy, a humoured instrument?
To guide with glozing words, vilely cajole
With petty perjuries? Is that thy wife?
Thou said’st she was not fair, thou did’st not love her:
Thou lied’st. O, anguish, anguish!

ALAR.
By the cross,
My soul is pure to thee. I’m wildered quite.
How came she here

SOL.
As she shall ne’er return.
Now, Count Alarcos, by the cross thou swearest
Thy faith is true to me.

ALAR.
Ay, by the cross,

SOL.
Give me thy dagger.

ALAR.
Not that hand or mine.

SOL.
Is this thy passion!

[Takes his dagger.]

Thus I gain the heart
I should despise.

[Rushes to the couch.]

COUN.
What’s this I see?

ALAR.

[seizing the Infanta’s upraised arm]

A dream
A horrid dream, yet but a dream.

THE END OF THE FOURTH ACT.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19