Scene-26 The Guest Room of the Convent.
Hugo, Eric,and Orion. Enter Ursula, Agatha, and Nuns.
Bravado, consternation, and fear has set in amongst those assembled,
now that the robbers are at the Convent gates. 



URSULA
(Please note. I have inserted Stops** 1-4
both in the music score** and the text** for convenience.) 

Hugo, we reject thine offers,
Not that we can buy
Safety from the Church's coffers,
Neither can we fly.

Far too great the price they seek is,
Let their lawless throng
Come, we wait their coming; weak is
Man, but God is strong.
 ERIC (A friend of Hugo's)
Think again on our proposals,
It will be too late
When the robbers hold carousals
On this side of the gate.
URSULA
For myself I speak and others
Weak and frail as I;
We will not desert our brothers
In adversity.

*

HUGO (to the Nuns)
Does the Abbess thus advance her 
Will before ye all?
A NUN
We will stay.
HUGO
Is this thine answer,
Agatha? The wall
Is a poor protection truly,
And the gates are weak,
And the Norsemen most unruly.
Come, then.
A NUN (to Agatha)
Sister, speak!
ORION (aside to Hugo)
Press her! She her fears dissembling,
Stands irresolute,
She will yield--her limbs are trembling,
Though her lips are mute.
                             [A trumpet is heard without.
ERIC
Hark! their savage war-horn blowing
Chafes at our delay.
HUGO
Agatha, we must be going.
Come, girl!
AGATHA (clinging to Ursula)
Must I stay?
URSULA
Nay, my child, thou shalt not make me
Judge; I cannot give
Orders to a novice.
AGATHA
Take me,
Hugo! Let me live!

**

ERIC(to Nuns)
Foolish women! will ye tarry,
Spite of all we say?
HUGO
Must we use our strength and carry
You by force away?
URSULA
Bad enough thou art, Sir Norman,
Yet thou wilt not do
This thing. Shame!--on men make war, man
Not on women few.
ERIC
Heed her not--her life she barters,
Of her free accord,
For her faith; and, doubtless, martyrs
Have their own reward.
URSULA
In the Church's cause thy father
Never grudged his blade--
Hugo, did he rue it?
ORION
Rather!
He was poorly paid.
HUGO
Abbess, this is not my doing,
I have said my say;
How can I avert the ruin,
Even for a day,
Since they count two hundred fairly,
While we count a score;
And thine own retainers barely
Count a dozen more?

***

AGATHA (kneeling to Ursula)
Ah! forgive me. Lady Abbess,
Bless me ere I go;
She who under sod and slab is
Lying, cold and low,
Scarce would turn away in anger
From a child so frail;
Not dear life, but deadly danger,
Makes her daughter quail.


HUGO
Eric, will those faces tearful
To God's judgement seat
Haunt us?
ERIC
Death is not so fearful.
HUGO
No, but life is sweet--
Sweet for once, to me, though sinful.
ORION (to Hugo)
Earth is scant of bliss,
Wisest he who takes his skinful
When the chance is his.
ORION (to Ursula)
Lady Abbess! stay and welcome
Osric's savage crew;
Yet when pains of death and hell come,
Thou thy choice may'st rue.
URSULA (to Orion)
What dost thou 'neath roof-trees sacred?
Man or fiend, depart!
ORION
Dame, thy tongue is sharp and acrid,
Yet I bear the smart.
URSULA (advancing and raising up a crucifix)
I conjure thee by this symbol
Leave us!
                               [Orion goes out hastily

****

HUGO
Ha! the knave,
He has made an exit nimble:
Abbess! thou art brave.
Yet once gone, we're past recalling;
Let no blame be mine.
See, thy sisters' tears are falling
Fast, and so are thine.
URSULA
Fare you well! the teardrop splashes
Vainly on the ice.
Ye will sorrow o'er our ashes
And your cowardice.
ERIC
Sorry am I, yet my sorrow
Cannot alter fate;
Should Prince Otto come to-morrow,
He will come too late.
HUGO
Nay, old comrade, she hath spoken
Words we must not hear;
Shall we pause for sign or token--
Taunted twice with fear?
Yonder, hilt to hilt adjusted,
Stand the swords in which we trusted,
Years ago. Their blades have rusted,
So, perchance, have we.
Ursula! thy words may shame us,
Yet we once were counted famous,
Morituri, salutamus,
Aut victuri, te!
              Adam Lindsay Gordon
                      [They go out.


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