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SCENE II.-The House Van Artevelde.
URSEL, VAN RYK, and Van Muck.
He will be here for his breakfast anon,
And call you this his breakfast ?
An ounce of horseflesh and half an oaten cake. It is his only meal; and if I were to make it larger, he would ne'er look at it.
Why we ourselves fare better.
I fare somewhat better, and for thee, thou wouldst make a famine where there was none. No more than this morsel of meat in four-and-twenty hours !
No more; and if he hath been abroad, 'tis more than likely that he shall bring home some little child, some sick woman to share it with him.
It is wonderful how stout he is withal. Some men shall but bite their nails and their belly's full.
There is a difference in men; I might eat the four hoofs of an ox and my stomach should droop you, look you, and flap you, look you, like an empty sail. Here he comes.
A herald, sirs, is coming here from Bruges.
other of thy readiest men,
Sir, saving your displeasure, Swink and Kloos
Thou sayest not so; God's vengeance on their stomachs!
Sir, at your pleasure.
And beware, Van Muck.
Sir, safe he shall be, whosoe'er would harm him.
CLARA enters, but remains behind.
And now, Van Ryk, I have a charge for thee.
Art to mount guard beside the postern-gate
the stair that climbs the steeple. Betake thee thither, and until I come, Inward or outward let none pass the wicket. [Turning to CLARA.] How fares my sister? nay—come
No nearer, Philip, for I breathe contagion.
What, com’st thou from the hospital ?
Straight thence. God help me for a pestilent little fool! I tend the sick from weary day to day, Though Heaven has set its face against a cure, And they that should have thank'd me for my pains Will never more speak word.
Thou heed'st not that. No, I am certain 'tis for no man's thanks That thou hast toil'd ; and let them live or die, Thou hast thine own reward. Much hast thou merited, my sister dear, Since these disastrous times have fallen upon us. In easier hours it may be I had cause This time or that, to wish thy boldness less, Though trusting still that time, which tempers all, Would bring thee soberer thoughts and tame thy heart. What time to tardy consummation brings, Calamity, most like a frosty night That ripeneth the grain, completes at once. But now that we're alone,—not gone, Van Ryk ?
Sir, to speak freely, had it been your pleasure
Tut, tut, Van Ryk; 'twill come, the time will come, And action to thy heart's content thou'lt have.
[Exit Van Ryk. Now render me account of what befel, Where thou hast been to-day.
It is but little.
the debt, and save more lives than one. I went. It seem'd a wealthy man's abode; The costly drapery and good house-gear Had, in an ordinary time, betokened That with the occupant the world went well. By a low couch, curtain'd with cloth of frieze, Sat Ukenheim, a famine-stricken man, With either bony fist upon his knees, And his long back upright. His eyes were fix’d And mov'd not, though some gentle words I spake : Until a little urchin of a child That callid him father, crept to where he sat And pluck'd him by the sleeve, and with its small And skinny finger pointed: then he rose,
And with a low obeisance, and a smile
Poor soul! and wherefore ?
That I soon perceived. He pluck'd aside the curtain of the couch, And there two children's bodies lay composed. They seem'd like twins of some ten years
age, And they had died so nearly both together He scarce could say which first: and being dead, He put them, for some fanciful affection, Each with its arm about the other's neck, So that a fairer sight I had not seen Than those two children, with their little faces So thin and wan, so calm, and sad, and sweet. I look'd upon them long, and for a while I wish'd myself their sister, and to lie With them in death as they did with each other ; I thought that there was nothing in the world I could have lov'd so much; and then I wept. And when he saw I wept, his own tears fell, And he was sorely shaken and convulsed, Through weakness of his frame and his great grief.
Much pity was it he so long deferred