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Nought to my ear, save howl of hungry dog
That hears the house is stirring-nothing else.
No,-now-I hear it not myself—no-nothing. The city's hum is up—but ere you came 'Twas audible enough.
VAN DEN BOSCH.
In God's name what?
A horseman's tramp upon the road from Bruges.
Why then be certain, 'tis a flag of truce !
If once he reach the city we are lost.
Nay, if he be but seen, our danger's great.
What terms so bad they would not swallow now?
Let's send some trusty varlets forth at once
To cross his
And send him back to Bruges ?
Send him to hell—and that's a better place.
Nay, softly, Van den Bosch ; let war be war,
But let us keep its ordinances.
I say, but let them see him from afar,
And in an hour shall we, bound hand and foot,
Be on our way to Bruges.
Not so, not so. My rule of governance has not been such As e'er to issue in so foul a close.
What matter by what rule thou may'st have govern'd ?
Think'st thou a hundred thousand citizens
Shall stay the fury of their empty maws
Because thou'st ruled them justly?
That such a hope is mine.
Then thou art mad, And I must take this matter on myself. [18 going.
Hold, Van den Bosch; I say this shall not be.
I must be madder than I think i
Ere I shall yield up my authority,
Which I abuse not, to be used by thee.
This comes of lifting dreamers into power.
I tell thee, in this strait and stress of famine,
The people, but to pave the way for peace,
Would instantly despatch our heads to Bruges.
Once and again I warn thee that thy life
Hangs by a thread.
Why, know I not it does ? What hath it hung by else since Utas' eve?
Did I not by mine own advised choice
Place it in jeopardy for certain ends?
And what were these? To prop thy tottering state?
To float thee o'er a reef, and, that performid,
To cater for our joint security ?
No, verily; not such my high ambition.
I bent my thoughts on yonder city's weal;
I look'd to give it victory and freedom;
And working to that end, by consequence
From one great peril did deliver thee-
Not for the love of thee or of thy life,
Which I regard not, but the city's service;
And if for that same service it seem good
I will expose thy life to equal hazard.
Oh, Lord ! to hear him speak,
What a most mighty emperor of puppets
Is this that I have brought upon the board !
But how if he that made it should unmake?
Unto His sovereignty who truly made me
With infinite humility I bow!
Both, both of us are puppets, Van den Bosch;
Part of the curious clock-work of this world,
We scold and squeak and crack each other's crowns ;
And if by twitches moved from wires we see not,
I were to toss thee from this steeple's top,
I should be but the instrument—no more-
The tool of that chastising Providence
Which doth exalt the lowly and abase
The violent and proud: but let me hope
There's no such task appointed me to-day.
Thou passest in the world for worldly wise :
Then seeing we must sink or swim together,
What can it profit thee, in this extreme
Of our distress, to wrangle with me thus
For my supremacy and rule? Thy fate,
As of necessity bound up with mine,
Must needs partake my cares : let that suffice
To put thy pride to rest till better times.
Contest—more reasonably wrong-a prize
More precious than the ordering of a shipwreck.
Tush, tush, Van Artevelde ; thou talk'st and talk'st,
And honest burghers think it wondrous fine.
But thou might'st easilier with that tongue of thine
yon smoke to fly i' th' face o' the wind
Than talk away my wit and understanding.
I say yon herald shall not enter here.
I know, sir, no man better, where
Is serviceable singly, where it needs
To be by acts enforced. I say, beware,
And brave not mine authority too far.
Hast thou authority to take my
life? What is it else to let yon herald in To bargain for our blood ?
Thy life again!
Why what a very slave of life art thou !
Look round about on this once populous town;
Not one of these innumerous house-tops
But hides some spectral form of misery,
Some peevish pining child and moaning mother,
Some aged man that in his dotage scolds
Not knowing why he hungers, some cold corse
That lies unstraightened where the spirit left it.
Look round and answer what thy life can be
To tell for more than dust
the balance. I too would live-I have a love for lifeBut rather than to live to charge my soul With one hour's lengthening out of woes like these, I'd leap this parapet with as free a bound As e'er was school-boy's o'er a garden wall.
I'd like to see thee do it.
I know thou wouldst;
But for the present be content to see
My less precipitate descent; for lo !
There comes the herald o'er the hill.
[Exit. VAN DEN BOSCH.
Beshrew thee! Thou shalt not have the start of me in this.
[He follows, and the scene closes.