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Prov. None, since the curfew rung.
There's some in hope. Prov. It is a bitter deputy.
Duke. Not so, not so; his life is parallel'd Even with the stroke and line of his great justice; He doth with holy abstinence subdue That in hiinself, which he spurs power To qualifys in others : were he mealidó With that which he corrects, then were he tyran
nous ; But this being so, he's just. Now are they come.
[Knocking within.-Provost goes out.' This is a gentle provost : Seldom, when The steeled gaoler is the friend of men.How now? What noise? That spirit's possess'd with
haste, That wounds the unsisting postern with these strokes.
Provost returns, speaking to one at the door, Prov. There he must stay, until the officer Arise to let him in; he is call’d up.
Duke. Have you no countermand for Claudio yet,
None, sir, none.
You something know; yet, I believe, there comes
Enter a Messenger.
Mess. My lord hath sent you this note; and by me this further charge, that you swerve not from the smallest article of it, neither in time, matter, or other circumstance. Good morrow; for, as I take it, it is almost day.
Prov. I shall obey him. [Exit Messenger, Duke. This is his pardon; půrchas'd by such sin,
[Aside. For which the pardoner himself is in :: Hence hath offence his quick celerity, When it is borne in high authority : When vice makes mercy, mercy's so extended, That for the fault's love, is the offender friended. Now, sir, what news?
Prov. I told you: Lord Angelo, be-like, thinking me remiss in mine office, awakens me with this unwonted putting on :9 methinks, strangely; for he hath not used it before.
Duke. Pray you, let's hear.
Prov. [Reads.] Whatsoever you may hear to the contrary, let Claudio be executed by four of the clock; and, in the afternoon, Barnardine: for my better satis
faction, let me have Claudio's head sent me by fire. Let
say you to this, sir?
and bred: one that is a prisoner nine years old.'
Duke. How came it, that the absent duke had not either deliver'd him to his liberty, or executed him ? I have heard, it was ever his manner to do so.
Prov. His friends still wrought reprieves for him: And, indeed, his fact, till now in the government of lord Angelo, came not to an undoubtful proof.
Dake. Is it now apparent ?
Duke. Hath be borne himself penitently in prison?
Prov. A man that apprehends death no dreadfully, but as a drunken sleep; careless, reckless, and fearless of what's past, present, or to come; insensible of mortality, and desperately mortal.
Duke. He wants advice.
Prov. He will hear none; he hath evermore had the liberty of the prison; give him leave to escape hence, he would not: drunk many times a day, if not many days entirely drunk. We have very often awaked him, as if to carry him to execution, and show'd him a seeming warrant for it: it hath not moved him at all.
Duke. More of him anon. There is written in your brow, Provost, honesty and constancy: if I read it not truly, my ancient skill beguiles me; but in the boldness of my cunning, I will lay myself in hazard. Claudio, whom here you have a warrant to execute, is no greater forfeit to the law than Angelo who hath sentenced him: To make you understand this in a manifested effect, I crave but four days respite; for the which you are to do me both a present and a dangerous courtesy.
Prov. Pray, sir, in what?
Pror. Alack! how may I do it? having the hour limited;, and an express command, under penalty, to deliver his head in the view of Angelo? I may my case as Claudio's, to cross this in the smallest.
Duke. By the vow of mine order, I warrant you, if my instructions may be your guide. Let this Barnardine be this morning executed, and his head borne to Angelo.
Pror. Angelo hath seen them both, and will dis, cover the favour.2
Duke. O, death's a great disguiser: and you may add to it. Shave the head, and tie the beard; and say, it was the desire of the penitent to be so bared before his death : You know, the course is common. If any thing fall to you upon this, more than thanks and good fortune, by the saint whom I profess, I will plead against it with my life.
Pror. Pardon me, good father; it is against my oath.
Duke. Were you sworn to the duke, or to the deputy?
Prov. To him, and to his substitutes.
Duke. You will think you have made no offence, if the duke avouch the justice of your dealing?
Prov. But what likelihood is in that?
Duke. Not a resemblance, but a certainty. Yet since I see you fearful, that neither my coat, integrity, nor my persuasion, can with ease attempt you, I will go further than I meant, to pluck all fears out of you. Look you, sir, here is the hand and seal of the duke. You know the character, I doubt not; and the signet is not strange to you,
Prov. I know them both.
Duke. The contents of this is the return of the duke; you shall anon over-read it at your pleasure ; where you
shall find, within these two days he will be here. This is a thing, that Angelo knows not: for he this very day receives letters of strange tenor ; perchance, of the duke's death; perchance, entering into some monastery; but, by chance, nothing of what is writ. Look, the unfolding star calls up
the shepherd : Put not yourself into amazement, how these things should be: all difficulties are but easy when they are known. Call your executioner, and off with Barnardine's head: I will give him a present shrift, and advise him for a better place. Yet you are amazed; but this shall absolutely resolve you. Come away; it is almost clear dawn. [Exeunt.