The Weakest Goeth to the Wall – Scene 13

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Enter HERNANDO, DON UGO, and MERCURY, disguised, in private conversation with HERNANDO; with soldiers.

 HERNANDO
I like thy words, and though I reck not much
The death of any private man in France,
Because in multitudes consists our glory,
Yet to make known how we do cherish such
As will in any sort revolt to us,
Kill Epernoun, as thou hast underta’en,
And thy reward shall be a run of gold.

MERCURY
Hernando, I will do it, not so much
For money as for zeal I bear to Spain,
Though I confess, the principal reason
That urgeth me, being a Frenchman born,
So to forget the love my country claims,
Is the unsufferable wrongs I bear,
The wrongs that Epernoun hath done to me.
And in that point I hold it no disgrace
To malice him that first dishonour’d me.

HERNANDO
Why, true, thy reason is substantial.
For say a father do forget to show
The love by nature  be doth owe his son;
In my opinion, ’tis no sin at all
If such a son cast off the awful duty
Which to his father otherwise were due.
In all things just proportion must be kept.
If the king care not for the commonwealth,
Why should the commonwealth respect the king?
But to the purpose: how wilt thou contrive
The manner of his death?

MERCURY
Why, as I told your grace:
In this day’s parley ‘twist the French and you,
Whilst you are busy, I’l insert myself
Amongst the soldiers of that aged earl,
And gathering near his person, suddenly,
Thus send my poniard to his hateful breast.

[MERCURY offers to stab HERNANDO.  DON UGO stays his arm.

 DON UGO
What, didst thou mean to wound our general?

HERNANDO
Silence, Don Ugo.  No such matter, man.
[Aside to DON UGO.] He is a villain, and we’ll use him so.

MERCURY
[Aside.] I am indifferent.  Had I spill’t his blood,
It was my coming; but prevented thus,
Now Epernoun shall be the mark I aim at.
For one I vow, though to have slain them both
Had been exceeding good.  [Aloud.] How, now, my lord?
Misconster not.  I meant your grace no hurt,
Though mine enkindled fury when I thought
Of Epernoun made me draw forth my poniard.
It was to show how resolute I am.

HERNANDO
I know it was. Sound we parley then,
That Epernoun may know we are in place
Where conference was appointed to be had.
[To MERCURY.] And as they march, fall thou in ring with them.

Enter EPERNOUN, carried in his chair, and soldiers marching.

Now, cripple, what your legs refuse to do,
I know you hands will presently perform;
I mean, deliver me the crown of France.

EPERNOUN
Raise me a little, fellows, in my chair.
Hernando, what saidst thou?  Deliver thee
The crown of France?  Why, straggling Spaniard,
What makes thee overween thy valour so?
Thinks thou because I seem a wither’d three,
That I am sapless quite?  No, duke, there lives
Within this rivell’d flint some sparks of fire,
Which if thou touch, will fly into thy face.
Nor do not thou contemn me for mine age;
This eye is not so dim, but I preceive
The marks of arrogance upon thy brow.
Ay, and for frown, I can return thee frown.
What, glory not so much upon my strength.
The day hath been, this body which thou seest
Now falling to the earth but for these props,
Hath made as tall a soldier as yourself
Totter within his saddle; and this hand,
Now shaking with the palsy, cask the beaver
Of my proud foe until he did forget
What ground he stood upon.  Go to!  Go to!
The crown of France deliver’d to thy hand?
Good king, how is thy dignity blasphem’d!
But do thy worst.  I am his substitute,
And though I cannot strike, yet iwth a beck
Can I raise up more fists aboutthine ears
Than thou hast hairs upon thy tawny scalp.

HERNANDO
Am I revil’d and baffled to my face,
And by a dotard?  One, but for his tongue,
In whom there is no difference ‘twixt himself,
A mere anatomy, a Jack-of-Lent,
And the pale image of a bloodless ghost?
Yet doth he look as big as Hercules,
And would be thought to have a voice like thunder.
Well, Epernoun, there is a privilege
That babes may speak their pleasure without check,
Else quickly should my sword break off this parley,
And with a fillip and thee to thy grave.

EPERNOUN
Callest a me babe?  It never shall be said,
But Epernoun will show himself a man,
And whilst the breath is in his nostrils, prove
A real substance, and maintain the right
Of Louis of France, even by the dint of sword.
[To his soldiers.] Lend me your hands.  I’ll challenge him the fight.
Twit me with ‘babe?’  Lend me your hands, I say!

FIRST SOLDIER
Ah, good my lord, presume not.  You are weak.

EPERNOUN
‘Weak,” knave?  Thou liest!

HERNANDO
Give him a standing stool,
And then perhaps the child will learn to go.

EPERNOUN
Yet ‘child’ again?  Alack, it will not be!
My heart is good enough, but tyrant age
Benumbs those instruments with which my heart
Should execute the office of a knight.
Medina, thou mayest thank the rigorous hands
Of strength-decaying age.  These legs of mine,
Had they not proved rebels to my mind,
Ere this, I would ahve taught thee to usurp
Upon out confines.  But what they omit,
Here are both legs and arms to see perform’d.

 [MERCURY presses forward and stands beside EPERNOUN.

 FIRST SOLDIER
Sirrah, stand back! Knowst thout what manners is,
To press so near the person of our general?

MERCURY
I am a soldier.  Wherefore may I not?

FIRST SOLDIER
Shall every common soldier, at a time
When serious matters ar determin’d on
Betwist both armies, impudently thrust
Into the secrets of his prince?  Stand back!

SECOND SOLDIER
Lay hands upon the villain!  See within his fist
A naked poniard?

EPERNOUN
How now, contrymen,
What unexpected mutiny is that?

HERNANDO
[Aside.] A plague upon’t, Don Ugo, he’s discover’d!

FIRST SOLDIER
Some treason, as it seems, my noble lord.
This base companion, since youfirst began
To sit in parley, hath as sundry times
Saucily presum’d to undermine your talk,
And being reprehended for the same,
We found this dagger hid within his sleeve.

EPERNOUN
Doubtless, he meant to murder me.
Now, God be thanked, I have ‘scap’d his hands.

HERNANDO
List, Epernoun, he is a man of mine.
Touch not a hair of him, lest for that hair,
I send a hundred thousand of your souls
To dwell in darkness.

EPERNOUN
How!  A man of thine!
Unless I be deceiv’d, I know that faace;
It is the traitor Mercury disguis’d.

HERNANDO
Mercury!  My foe!  Had I but known so much,
I would have made himsure enough ere this!
But Epernoun, mark what I say to thee:
If thou wilt redeliver to my hands
That juggling duke, as I am gentleman
And true to Spain, I will depart your land.

EPERNOUN
Deliver him!  Not for the wealth of Spain,
Nor for the treasure you do yearly bag
From both the Indies.  But, Medina, say,
What reason mov’d thee term the duke thy man?
And wherefore didst thou mention redelivery,
As though sometime he had been in thy hand?

HERNANDO
I’ll tell thee, Epernoun, as I am knight,
Not swerving from the truth in any point,
And keeping faith.  Accordingly reward
His traitorous purpose, which is all I crave.
This morning he was brought unto my tent,
Where, being admitted, openly he show’d
How he had been disgrac’d and wrong’d by thee;
For which he promis’d, if I would consent,
In this day’s parley, he would murder thee.
I, seeing his resolution, was persuaded;
And promising, I needs must say, reward,
Though I do know when he had done the deed,
How I was minded to have dealt with him,
He thrust himself amongst thy followers,
And what the peril is you see yourselves.
But all this while I knew not who he was,
More than a private, discontented person;
For if I had, the wretch had never lived
To be an eyesore to his countrymen.

FIRST SOLDIER
Oh, bloody practice!  Soldiers, join with me,
And we will tear him piecemeal with our hands!

ALL THE REST
Agreed!  Let him not live a minute longer!

EPERNOUN
Pacify yourselves.  Not one of you,
On pain of our displeasure, once offer
To touch a lilmb of him.  Ingrateful Duke,
Wherein hath Epernoun deserv’d thy hate,
That thou shouldst basely seek to murder him?
But wherefore ask I that, when ’tis well known,
Thou didst as wrongfully pursue the like
Of noble Lod’wick, that true gentleman,
That very map of honourable carriage.
Amend, amend, be sorry for thy fault,
That though thy body perish by the laaw,
Thy wretched soul may have a place in heaven.

MERCURY
Tell not me, Epernoun, of heaven not hell.
I am a peer and regent of this realm,
And thus you ought not to entreat a prince.

ALL SOLDIERS
Thou, regent of the realm?  Speak that again,
And we will slit thy weasand with out swords!

EPERNOUN
Soldiers, forbear!

HERNANDO
Nay, Epernoun, show justice
Upon that caitiff, that perjured slave,
That coward duke, or here I do rotest,
Forever I will speak in thy dispraise,
Reporting to the world thou art no knight,
Not worthy of the name of Epernoun.

EPERNOUN
My lord, I may not take upon myself
To be his judge. he is a peer of France,
And must have open trial by his peers.
But when the king, my master, doth return,
As shortly we are told he means to do,
At his discretion be his punishment.
Meanspace, Medina, I can do no more,
But see him safely kept in iron bands.

HERNANDO
Now, that as thou art knight, and for this day,
I do proclaim a solemn truce with thee,
And not a sword of ours shall hurt the French.

EPERNOUN
As I am knight and liegeman to the king,
he shall be kept in fetters til he come.

HERNANDO
It is enough.  Now back unto our tents.

EPERNOUN
And we unto the city whence we came,
And for our safety, praise Jehovah’s name.                         [Exeunt.

Proceed to the next scene

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