Cast of Scene 2:
Richard, lord of the Yarbury estates
Mary, Richard’s wife
Charles, Richard and Mary’s dying son
Ailred, steward of the estate
[Richard and Ailred standing at Charles’ deathbed; Mary enters]
Mary: No, no, my Charles, no!
What dark fate befalls us here?
I walk in nightmare valleys now,
Disbelieving this could be day.
Let this be a mistral dream,
And I an unhappy slumberer,
Wracked with chills;
Let not this moment crystalize
Into the hard reality
Of the unforgetfulness of God.
Oh, to awake!
Richard: If I could wake you, beloved,
And myself besides,
From out this hell-sent misery,
I would tear old Atlas from his mount
To do the thing.
Mary: Speak to me truth;
Vain consolations can wait:
Ailred: An act of God, my lady:
Mary: Not the plague?
I’ve fears of the plague’s touch
Snaking through my soul.
Ailred: Not the plague.
The young master was riding the grounds,
All at peace, when rose a hostile wind.
It tore loose a great limb
From the ancient family tree
That stands on guard at Yarbury gate.
Master Charles was struck.
Mary: Struck! Does he yet live?
Ailred: Barely, my lady. He breathes,
But it may be the breath of one
Not long for this world.
Richard: Enough of truth, Ailred.
I would speak more consolations—
Vain reflections of a father’s hope, perhaps,
Yet what but hope remains?
So let us hope.
Mary: An act of God, said the steward…
Why should the King of heaven
Condemn my son to die?
Richard: Say not that it was God’s hand, beloved—
Irreverence deepens the terror of the hour.
Ailred: My words were poorly chosen, Lady.
Mary: No, well chosen, Ailred—
What could this be but divine omen?
A hostile wind tears down the family tree—
And in so tearing, uproots my family.
Richard: The Lord is just, but this act
Was nature’s hateful caprice, nothing more.
Say not it was our God.
Mary: It was! But he is just, yes,
And justice is hard and cold,
Made for days like this!
I see no mournful sensitivity
In heaven’s dark severity,
No tears nor trembling lips that cry
For the passing of my son.
My son! Oh, my son…
What just cause could Christ Almighty have
For wreaking holy vengeance upon thee?
None! You were a light, a joy,
A fanfare on a dappled autumn day—
Never thought of greed nor lustful smirk
Ever made pass my Charles’ face—never!
No, let God be damned a tyrant
Before my Charles is defamed!
Mary: You! You, Richard, you!
Bear up to the day’s necessity,
An accounting of our shame,
And your misbegotten responsibility
For pale death knocking at our door!
Behold the stern assessment of a woman’s mind!
What shall it be? That God is unjust?
No, say you. Then what?
That our Charles was so hated
By the Fount of Everlasting Love
That his blood was demanded
To atone for wicked crimes?
No? Then you, Richard, you!
Lord of the house! Planted in Yarbury soil,
Just like the ancient tree!
And just like that tree, your weakness
Now brings ruin to your boy!
Richard: What speak you here?
What have I done?
Mary: God knows, and you.
Me, I only know that my son dies
Upon your stately bed,
Down-struck by your hallowed branch—
If God is just, then the fault
Must needs be yours.
He punishes the sins of the fathers
To the third and fourth generation
Of their children!
If Charles himself deserved not to die,
Then either God is cruel,
Or the good God still reigns,
And our son falls
For some unspoken crime of yours.
Richard: You pierce my heart, Mary!
Whence comes this hate for me?
Mary: The cask of my love is split asunder here,
And all its strength spills out
On the young man dying yonder.
The hate you hear is the hollow vacancy
Of the reservoir of my love—
It goes, and fire licks the planks
That once held it so secure.
Go, before my flame consumes you—
Go! Out of my seeing,
Out of my hearing!
Richard: God have mercy. I go.