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Proc. Knowest thou the history
Of this thy native land ? Who was her king
When first thou madest acquaintance with the sun,
The blessed sun God gave thee leave to see
When he vouchsafed thee draw the breath of life
Fern. Why Manfred then was king.
Proc. What came of him ?
Fern. He lost his crown.
Proc. 'Tis false !
Fern. [aside]. What power hath this mysterious man That while he chafes me thus, I thus forbear!
Proc. Were one to take thy purse from thee by force, Wouldst
that thou hadst lost it ? Thou wouldst say That thou wast robb'd of it. So Manfred was Robb’d of his crown. Lost it! Who say you now Is king of Sicily?
Fern. Charles of Anjou.
Proc. That's false
Again! Charles of Anjou is usurper
And not a king—not king of Sicily.
Manfred was slain in battle, was he not?
Fern. He was.
He died as became a king
Defending his own crown against the robber
Who wrench'd it from his brow. You answer well.
You know your country's history. What next?
Who follow'd in the strife? Who struggled next
With the arch felon ? Held his throat to him
For it was nothing else, with powers so broken-
Ere he would tamely be a looker-on,
And see him wear the spoil ?
The chivalrous, the patriotic prince !
He took the cause up-but he lost the day.
Fern. And with the day his life.
Proc. How ! Can't
Know you so far the tragedy so well,
And do you halt at the catastrophe
Which brings the crowning horror of the whole ?
The prince was taken captive-taken alive
Whole! without scaith! No wound, the matter even
Of a pin's scratch! Now mark the freebooter
In Charles of Anjou-him thou namedst now
The King of Sicily. Mark now how blood
And plunder go together like sworn friends.
Conradine was a captive. What had he done?
What Charles himself had done in such a case,
And had a right so to have done, were he
A saint and not a robber. Fought for the crown
Of his forefathers ! What could Conradine
That Charles need fear? He was bound hand and foot.
He was as one that's bedridden! that's struck
With a palsy! Charles had just as much to fear
From Conradine as from an infant in the cradle.
What did he to him ?-He beheaded him !
Fern. 'Twas sacrilege!
Proc. 'Twas murder !-murder, sir !
Murder and sacrilege !--Conradine met the scaffold
In his own kingdom, like a host that's butcher'd
In his own house, by thieves ! Now mark, young man,
How bruised, broken, lost in fortunes, still
The noble spirit to the last bears up
And towers above its fate. Beside the block,
Within the axe's glare, yet would not he
up his righteous cause, but from his hand
His gauntlet drew and flung into the space
'Twixt him and those who came to see him die.
“ For Jesu' sake," he cried, “ who loves me there
Pick up my gage, and with it take the charge
A dying man gives with his parting breath,
That he present it to that kinsman of
My house who takes its rightful quarrel up,
And whom with all my rights 1 here invest!"
I see the story somewhat touches thee.
Fern. I never heard it told so well before,
Wast thou a stander-by?
Proc. I was. What then ?
Fern. Didst thou pick up
Proc. Wouldst thou have done it?
Fern. I would.
Proc. And wherefore ?
Fern. Out of pity for
The murder'd king.
Proc. What !--Given thy private cares,
Hopes, havings, up, to consecrate thy life
To his most desperate cause -his throne usurp'd !
His land o'errun! his people scatter'd, that
Together not so many hang as one
Might call a broken troop -So seeming-lost
A cause as that, at cost so dear hadst thou
Embraced, and ta'en the gauntlet up?
Fern. I had !
Proc. (taking a glove from his breast]. There 'tis ! There ! As I
[pluck'd it from the scaffold foot!
The look that martyr cast upon me then,
It shed more healing unction on my soul,
Than fifty thousand masses at my death
Could do, each chanted by as many lips,
And all of holy men. Now mark how Right,
Although, at setting out, a dwarf in thews,
By holding on will gather sinew, till
It moves that giant Might. With seconding,
Levies, munitions, allies, subsidies-
None other than this empty glove, I went
From Sicily; where now I stand again,
With monarchs and their kingdoms at my back,
The sworn abettors of the righteous hand,
Which, fleshless, tendonless, reduced to bone,
Its holy cause with life thus clothes again,
And arms with retribution. That same hand
Once fill’d this glove, which now I hold to thee.
Fern. For what?
Proc. To swear by it.
Fern. The oath?
Proc. Death to the Gaul whoe'er he be, that now
Has footing in the land !-Death without pause
Of ruth-eye, ear, be stone to voice or look
Of deprecation ! Once your blade is out,
While there's a tyrant's heart to lend a sheath,
Never to let it know its own!
Fern. That oath
I will not take.
Proc. Thou wilt not? Thou'rt a traitor!
Proc. Thou'rt a coward !
Fern. [drawing]. Try if I fear death!
Proc. Death is a little thing to brave or fear.
Except a thought of the after-reckoning,
The which to fear becomes, not shames, a man:
'Tis but a plunge and over, ta’en as oft
By the feeble as the stout. Give me the man
That's bold in the right—too bold to do the wrong.
Not bold as that, thou art a traitor still
And coward !
Fern. Draw !
Proc. For what? To pleasure thee ?'
To place myself on base equality
With one whom I look down upon ?
Fern. Or draw,
Or I will
Proc. Villain, to thy knee !
My knee !
Proc. What! fear'st thou degradation ? How
Can he crouch lower than he does who kneels
To his own weaknesses, when Duty bids him
up and take the manly post becomes him At the side of Virtue. Were thy mother-she That bore thee in her womb-in fetters, how Wouldst deal with those that put them on? Wouldst talk And laugh with them-shake hands with them-embrace them ? “ Thou wouldst not !" But I tell thee, slave, thou wouldst. For what's thy country, be she not thy mother,
And like a mother loved by thee? Thou slave;
That seekest kindred with thy country's foes !
Hast thou a father ?
Fern. Draw !
Proc. Hast thou a father ?
Fern. But with my sword's point will I answer thee!
Proc. Hast thou a father boy ?
Fern. Hast thou a hand ?
Behoves that it be quick and seek thy sword !
Thy life's in danger!
Proc. Hast thou a father, still
to thee? Fern. Thy sword, or I'm upon
thee : Proc. Then thou wilt have a murder on thy soul, For from my stand I will not budge an inch, Nor move, so far, my arm to touch my sword, Until thou answer'st me. Hast thou a father? Fern. [bursting into tears]. No,-nol thou churlish, harsh, re
[morse less man
That bait'st me with thy coarse and biting words,
As boors abroad let loose unmuzzled dogs
Upon a tether'd beast! my arm withheld
By thy defencelessness, that hast defence
At hand, but will not use it-who art thou
To use me thus? to do me shameful wrong
And then deny me means to right myself?
What have I done to thee to use my heart
As if its strings were thine to strain or rènd ?
Thou mak’st my veins hot with my boiling blood,
And not content, thou followest it
Mine eyes inflaming with my scalding tears,
Thou kindless, ruthless man ! Hast thou a father ?
I never knew one!
Proc. [aside]. I thank God!
Fern. Thou hadst
A father-hadst a father's training-
How blest the son that hath. O Providence,
What is there like a father to a son ?
A father, quick in love, wakeful in care,
Tenacious of his trust, proof in experience,
Severe in honour, perfeet in example,
Stamp'd with authority! Hadst such a father?
I knew no training, save what fostering
Did give me, in the mood : and was bestow d
Like bounty to a poor dependant; which
He might take or leave. Those who protected me
Were masters of my native land, not sons.
How could I learn the patriot's lofty lesson ?
They told me Sicily had given me birth,
But then they taught me also I was son
To a contentless and ungracious mother.
And they were kind to me. What wouldst thou have
Of a young heart, but what you'd ask of wax-
To take the first impression given to it?
Except that, unlike wax, it is not quick
What once it takes to render up again.
Proc. [aside]. O, my poor boy!
Fern. If thou hadst a father,
'Twas cruel, knowing that thou wast so rich,
To taunt me, where, knew'st not that I was poor,
Thou mightst at least suspect my poverty.
How had I loved my father! He had had
The whole of my heart. I would have given it him
As a book to write in it whate'er he would.
I never had gainsaid him—never run
Counter to him. I had copied him, as one
A statue doth of the rare olden virtue,
In jealous, humble imitation.
I had lived to pleasure him. Before I had
Disgraced him, I had died.
Proc. [aside]. My son! My son !
Fern. Thou weep'st. O Heaven !
Proc. Thou wast made captive in
A stormed hold.
Proc. That hold belong'd To John of Procida.
Fern. It did.
Proc. 'Twas storm'd And taken, in his absence.
Fern. So 'tis said.
Proc. That John of Procida had then a son Just four years old.
Fern. That age was mine, I have heard,
When first the Governor adopted me.
Proc. There was no other child within the castle.
Fern. Was there not ?
Fern. I must have been that child !
Proc. Upon his right fore-arm he bore a mark.
Fern. Yes; here !
Proc. Yes ; in the very place thou point'st to.
Fern. I am the son of John of Procida !
Proc. Thou art ;—and I am John of Procida.
Fern. [falling on his knee]. Father!
Proc. My son! My boy! My child I left
At four years old and thought was dead !
Fern. Thou own'st me?
Proc. Own thee !-Ay !-Look at me and tell me, boy, Dost thou not see thy father ?
Fern. Yes! Thy looks
Are words of love that call me from thy feet
Up to thy arms.
Proc. Up to them, then !