Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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CJodUessmel
No donbt,
right.



AU iervice ranke the same with God —
With God. whoee puppett^ beet and wortt.
An we; there is no last nor first,

I8he sleeps.



KING VICTOR AND KING CHARLES



A TRAGEDY



This was No. H. of Bells and PomegranaJtes
and was issned in 1842, though it appears to
have been written before the publication of
Pippa Passes, The following is the adyertise-
ment prefixed to the tragedy when first pub-
lished and always afterward retained.

** So far as I know, this tragedy is the first ap-
tiBtio eoosequenoe of what Voltaire termed * a
terrible erent without consequences ; ' and al-
though it professes to be historical, I haTe taken
more pains to arrive at the history than most
readers would thank me for particularizing:
since acquainted, as I will hope them to be, with
the chief circumstances of Victor's remarkable
European career — nor quite ignorant of the sad
and snprising facts I am about to reproduce (a
tolerable account of which is to be found, for
instance, in Abbe Roman's lUcity or even the
fifth of Lord Orrery's Letters from Italy) — I
cannot expect them to be Tersed, nor desirous



of becoming so, in all the detail of the memoirB,
correspondence, and relations of the time.
From these only may be obtained a knowledge
of the fiery and audacious temper, unscrupu-
lous selfishness, profound dissimulation, and
singular fertility in resources, of Victor — the
extreme and painful sensibility, prolonged im-
maturity of powers, earnest good purpose and
Tacillating will of Gharies — the noble and right
woman's manliness of his wife — and the ill-
considered rascality and subsequent better-
advised rectitude of D'Ormea. When I say,
therefore, that I cannot but belicTe my state-
ment (combining as it does what i^pears cor-
rect in Voltaire and plausible in Condoroet)
more true to person and thing than any it has
hitherto been my fortune to meet with, no
doubt my word irill be. taken, and my evidence
8pared*as readily. R. B."

LosDOS, 1842.



PERSONS

Yktor AiULDBDi, lint King of Sardinia.
Chablss KuAMvmu, hie son. Prince of
Pta.TXBSA, wife of Chsrlea.
D*Obhsa, minister.



FIRST YEAR, 1730. — KING VICTOR
PART I



— The CotmeO Chamber of Rivdi Palace, near
TuriHy a}mfnunieaUng with a Hall at the back, an
Apartment to the Uift, and another to the right of the
stage.

Tnn, 1780-31.



Charles,



CUAXLUy POLTXSMA.

Tonthinkso? Well,Idonot.



Polyiena, My beloved,

AU must clear up ; we shall be happy yet :
This cannot last forever — oh, may change
To-day or any day 1

Cha. — May change ? Ah yes —

May change!

Pol, Endure it, then.

Cha. No doubt a life

Like this drags on, now better and now worse.
My father may . . . may take to loving me ;
And he may take D^Ormea closer yet
To counsel him ; — may even cast off her
— That bad Sebastian ; but he also may
... Or no, Polyxena, my only friend,
He may not force you from me ?

Pol, Now, force me



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KING VICTOR AND KING CHARLES



From yoat — me, dose by yon as if there

noomed
No Sebastians, no D*Ormeas on onr path —
At RivoU or Turin, still at hand,
Arch-eounsellor, prime confidant . . . force

me!
Cha, Because I felt as sure, as I feel sure
We clasp hands now, pf being happy once.
Young was I, quite neglected, nor concerned
By the world's business that engrossed so much
My father and my brother : if 1 peered
From out my privacy, — amid the crash
And blaze of nations, domineered those two.
•Twas war, peace — France our foe, now —

England, friend —
In love with Spain — at feud with Austria!

Well-
I wondered, laughed a mementos laugh for pride
In the chivalrous couple, then let drop
My curtain — "I am out of it," I said —
When . . .
Pol. Ton have told me, Charles.

Cka, Polyxena —

When suddenly, — a warm March day, just

that!
Just so much sunshine as the cottage child
Basks in delighted, while the cottier
Takes off his bonnet, as he ceases work.
To catch the more 01 it — and it must fall
Heavily on m^ brother ! Had you seen
Philip — the hon-featured ! not like me !
Pol. I know —

Cha. And Philip's mouth vet fast to mine.
His dead cheek on my cheek, his arm still

round
My neck, — they bade me rise, " for I was heir
To the Duke," they said, ''the right hand of

the Duke:"
mil then he was my father, not the Duke.
So ... let me finish . . . the whole intricate
World Vbusiness their dead boy was bom to, I
Must conquer, —ay. the brilliant thing he was
I of a sudden must be : my faults, my follies,
— All bitter truths were told me, all at once.
To end the sooner. What I simply styled
Their overlooking me, had been contempt :
How should the Duke emplov himself, forsooth,
With such an one, while lordlv Philip rode
By him their Turin through? But he was

punished.
And must put up with — me ! 'T was sad

enough
To learn mv future portion and submit.
And then the wear and worry, blame on blame !
For, spring-sounds in my ears, spring-smells

about.
How could I but grow dizzy in their pent
Dim palace-rooms at first ? My mother's look
As they discussed my insignificance.
She and my father, and I sitting by, —
I bore : I knew how brave a son they missed ;
Philip had gayly run state-papers through.
While Charles was spelling at them painfully !
But Victor was my father spite of that.
**' Duke Victor*s entire life has been," I said,
** Innumerable efforts to one end ;
And on tiie point now of that end's success,
Our Ducal turning to a Kingly crown.



Where 's time to be reminded 't is his child
He spurns?" And so I suffered — scarcely

suffered.
Since I had you at length !

Pol. ^ To serve in place

Of monarch, minister and mistress, Charles I
Cha. But, once that crown obtained, then

was*t not like
Our lot would alter? '\When he rests, takes

breath.
Glances around, sees who there 's left to love^*
Now that my mother's dead, sees I am left —
Is it not like he '11 love me at the last ? "
Well, Savoy turns Sardinia ; the Duke 's King :
Could I -precisely then — could you expect
His harshness to redouble ? These few months
Have been . . . have been . . . Polyxena, do yon
And God conduct me, or I lose myself !
What would he have? What is't they want

with me ?
Him with this mistress and this minister.
— You see me and you hear him; juage ua

both!
Pronounce what I should do, Polyxena I
Pol. Endure, endure, beloved! Say yon

not
He is your father ? All 's so incident
To novel sway ! Beside, our life must chaiM^e :
Or you 'U acquire his kinproraft, or he 'U find
Harshness a sorry way of teaching it.
I bear this — not that there 's so much to bear.
Cha. You bear? Do not I know that you,

though bound
To silence for my sake, are perishing
Piecemeal beside me ? Ana how otherwise
When every creephole from the hideous Court
Is stopped ; the Minister to dog me. here —
The Mistress posted to entrap yon. there !
And thus shall we grow old m sucn a life :
Not careless, never estranged, — but old: to

alter
Our life, there is so much to alter !

Pol. Come —

Is it agreed that we forecio complaint
Even at Turin, yet complain we here
At Rivoli ? * T were wiser you announced
Our presence to the King. What 's now afoot
I wonder ? Not that any more 's to dread
Than eveir day's embairaasment : but pieas
For me. why train so fast succeeded train
On the nigh-road, each gayer still than each I
I noticed your Archbishop's pursuivant.
The sable cloak and silver cross ; such pomp ^
Bodes . . . what now, Charles ? Can yon con-
ceive?
Cka. Not I.

Pol. A matter of some moment —
Cha. There 'sour life I

Which of the group of loiterers that stare
From the lime-avenue, divines that I —
About to figure presentiy, he thinks.
In face of all assembled — am the one
Who knows precisely least about it ?

Pol. Tush I

D'Ormea's contrivance I

Cha. Ay, how otherwise

Should the young Prince serve for the old King's

foU?



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KING VICTOR AND KING CHARLES



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— So that the simplest ooaitier majr remark
Twere idle raisiiiff parties for a Pnnce
Content to lin^ the eourt's laugrhi^gr-stock.
Something, 't is like, aboot that weary business
[PohUimg to popera he has laid dawnj and uMeh

PoLTXSVA eataminet.
— Not that I comprehend three words, of coinse,
After all last night's stndy.

Pol. The faint heart I

Why, as we rode and yon rehearsed jnst now
Its substance • • . (that 's the folded speech I

mean,
Coneeming the Redaction of the Fiefs)
— What would yon have? — I fancied whUe

you spoke.
Some tones were just your ftUher's.

Cha. Flatteryt

Pol, I iaxitded so: — and here lurks, sure



Ky note upon the Spanish Claims! TouVe

mastered
The fief-s^eech thoroughly : this other, mind.
Is an opimon von delirer, — stay.
Best read it slowly orer once to me :
Read — there *s hare time ; yon read it firmly —

loud
— Rather kmd, lookiiur in his face. — don'tsink
Yoor eye once — ay, thus! ** If Spain claims*'

. . . beffin
— Just as yon look at me t
, Cia. At yon t Oh truly,

Too have I seen, say, marshalling your teoops,
Dismissinflr councils, or, through doors aiar.
Head sunk on hand, dcTOured bv slow chagrins
— Then radiant, for a crown had all at once
Seemed possible again 1 I can behold
Him, whose least whisper ties my spirit &st.
In tms sweet brow, naught could divert me from
Save objects like Sebastian^s shameless lip,
Or worse, the dipped gray hair and dead white

face
And dwindling eye as if it ached with gaOe,
D'Ormea wears . . .

(As ka kis$es her, enter /ram the Knm's apartmeni
D'OmnsA.)

I said he would divert
M^kiases from your brow I

n'Ormea. [Aside.] Here! So, King Victor
Spoke truth for once : and who 's ordained,

but I
To make that memorable? Both in call,
AshedeeUred! Were *t better gnash the teeth,
<^ laugh outright now ?

Cka. [to P0L.J What *s his visit for ?

jyO. X Aside.} 1 question if they even speak

tome.
Pol. [to Cha.] Face the man! Hell sup-
pose you tear him else.
[Aloma.] The Marquis bears the King's com-
noiand, no doubt?
D'O. [Aside.] Precisely !— If I threatened
him, perhaps?
Well, this at least is punishment enough I
Men used to jpromise punishment would come.
C%a. Dehver the King's message, Marquis I
lyO. [Aside.) Ah —

So anxioos for his fate? [Aloud.] A word,
mj Prince,



Before you see your father— jnst one woid
Of oouiMell

Cha. Oh, your counsel certainly I
Polyzena. the Marquis counsels us !
Well, sir? Be brief, however I
.D'O.^ ^ What? You know

As much as I ? —preceded me, most like.
In knowledge I So ! ('Tie in his eye, beside —
His voice : he knows it, and his heart 's on flame
Already I) Yon surmise why yon, myself,
Del Borgo, Spava, fifty nobles more.
Are summoned thus ?

Cha. Is the Prince used to know.

At any time, the pleasure of the King,
Before his minister ? — Polyzena,
Stay here till I conclude my task : I feel
Tour presence (smile not) through the walls,

and take
Fresh heart. The King 's within that chamber ?

D' O. [Passing the table whereon a paper lies^
exdaimsy as he glances at it] ^* Spain 1 ''

Pol. [Aside to Cha.J Tarry awhile : what
ails the minister?

D^O. Madam, I do not often trouble yon.
The Prince loathes, and you scorn me — let that

pass!
But since it touches him and you, not me.
Bid the Prince listen !

Pol[toCHAA Surely you will listen:

— Deceit ? — Those fingers crumpling up his

vest?
Cha. Deceitful to the venr fingers' ends 1
D^O. [who has approached them, overlooks ths
other paper Chablbs continues to hold].
My project for the Fiefs f As I supposed t
Sir, I must ^ve you light upon those measures

— For this IS mine, and that I spied of Spain,
Mine too I

Cha. Release me I Do von gloze on me

Who bear in the world's face (tnat is, the world
Ton make for me at Turin) your contempt ?

— Tour measures? — When was not a hateful

task
D'Ormea's impontion ? Leave my robe I
What post can I bestow, what grant concede ?
Or do you take me for the King ?

DO. Not 1 1

Not yet for King, — not for, as yet, thank (3od,
One who in . . . shall I say a year, a month ?
Ay ! — shall be wretoheder than e W was slave
In his Sardinia. — Europe's spectacle
And the world^s by-word 1 What? The Prince

aggrieved
That I excluded him our counsels ? Here

[ Touching the paper in CHABLSi^t hand.
Accept a method of extorting gold
From Savoy 's nobles, who must wring its worth
In silver first from tillers of the soil.
Whose hinds again have to contribute brass
To make up the amount : there 's counsel, sir.
My counsel, one year old ; and the fruit, this—
Savoy 's become a mass of nusery
And wrath, which one man has to meet — the

King:
Yon 're not the King 1 Another counsel, sir I
Spa in entertains a project (here it lies)
Which, jessed, makes Austria offer that same



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KING VICTOR AND KING CHARLES



Thus mach to baffle Spain : he promiseB ;
Then oomes iSpain, breathless. lest she be fore-
stalled.
Her offer follows ; and he jnomises . . •

Cka, — Promises, sir, when he has just agreed
To Austria's offer?

V'O. That 's a counsel. Prince !

But past our foresight, Spain and Austria

(choosing
To miUce their quarrel up between themselyes
Without the intervention of a friend)
Produce both treaties, and both promises . . •

Cha, How?

D''0, Prince, a counsel I And the fruit of
that?
Both parties coTenant afresh, to fall
Together on their friend, blot out his name,
Abolish him from Europe. So, take note,
Here's Austria and here's Spain to fight

against.
And what sustains the King but Savov here,
A miserable people mad with wrongs ?
Ton 're not the King I

Cha. Polyzena, you said



All would clear up : all does clear up to me.
B'O, aear up! 'T is no such thing
envy, then ?



Ton see the King's state in its length and

breadth?
You Uame me now for keepimr yon aloof
From counsels and the fruit of counsels ? Wait
Till I explain this morning 's business I

Cha. \Aside,] No-

Stoop to my father, yes, — D'Ormea, no ;

— Tne King's son, not to the King '9 counsel-

lor t
I will do something, but at least retain
The credit of my deed I [Aloud J\ Then it is

this
You now expressly come to tell me ?

D'O. This

To tell I You apprehend me ?

Cha. Perfectly.

Further, D 'Ormea, yon have shown yourself.
For the first time these many weeks and

months.
Disposed to do my bidding?
D'O. FramtheheartI

Cha, Acquaint my father, first, I wait his
pleasure:
Next ... or, I'll tell you at a fitter time.
Acquaint the King I

D'O. [A$ide,] ^ If I 'scape Victor yet I
first, to prevent this stroke at me : if not, —
Then, to avenge it! [To Cha. J Gracious sir,
I go. [Qoet,

Cha, Qod, I forbore ! Wbioh more offends,
that man
Or that man's master ? Is it come to this ?
Have they suppoflMsd (the sharpest insult yet)
I needed e'en his intervention ? No !
No — dull am I. conceded^ — but so dull,
Scarcely I Their step decides me.
Pol. How decides?

Cha. You would be freed D'Ormea 's eye
and hers?

— Gould flv the court with me and live content ?
go, this it IS for which the knights anemble !



The whispers and the closeting of late,
The savageness and insolence of old.
— Forthw!

Pol. What mean you ?

Cha. How? You f ail to oatoh

Their clever plot ? I missed it, but could yon f
These last two months of care to inculcate
How dull I am, — D'Ormea's present visit
To prove that, being dull, I might be worse
Were I a King —as wretched as now dull —
You recognize in it no winding np
Of a long plot?

Pol. Why should there be a plot ?

Cha. The crown's secure now; I should
shame the crown —
An old complaint ; the point is, how to gain
Mj place for one more nt in Victor's eyes.
His mistress the Sebastian's child.

Pol. In truth?

Cha. They dare not quite dethrone Sardi-
nia's Irinoe :
But the^ may descant on my dulness till
They sting me into even praying them
Grant leave to hide my head, resign my state.
And end the ooil. Not see now ? In a word.
They 'd have me tender them myself my rights
As one incapable ; — some cause for that,
Since I delated thus long to see their drift I
I shall apprise the King ne may resume
Myrights this moment.

Pol. Pause! I dare not think

So ill of ^ctor.

Cha. Think no ill of him I

Po/. — Nor think him, then, so shallow as to
suffer
His purpose be divined thus easily.
And yet — you are the last of a great line ;
There 's a great heritage at stake ; new days
Seemed to await this newest of the realms
Of Europe : — Charles, you must withstand
this!

Cha. Ah!

You dare not then renounce the splendid court
For one whom all the world despises ? Speak I

Pol. My gentle husband, speak I wiU, and
truth.
Were this as you believe, and I once sure
Your duty lay in so renouncing rule,
I could . . . could? Oh what happiness it

were
To live, my Charles, and die, alone with you !

Cha. I grieve I asked you. To the prea-
ence^hen I
By this, D'Ormea acquaints the King, no

doubt.
He fears I am too simple for mere hints.
And that no less will serve tJian Victor's mouth
Demonstrating in council what I am.
I have not breathed, I think^ these many years I

PU. Why, it may be ! — if he desire to wed
Tliat woman, call legitimate her child.

Cha, You see as much? Oh, let his will
have way !
You 'U not repent confiding in me, love ?
Tliere 's many a brighter spot in Piedmont, far,
Than Rivoli. I 'U seek him : or, suppose
Yon hear first how I mean to roeak my mind ?
Loudly and firmly both, this tune, be sure I



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KING VICTOR AND KING CHARLES



149



I yet may we yonr Rluiie-laiid, who ean tell?
Onoe away, ever then away I I hreathe.

Pol. And I too breathe.

Cha, Come, my Polyxeaa I



KING VICTOR

PART 11

XnUr Kara Ynnoi, bearing the regalia on a cusMoHt
from hi* apartment. He calls UnuUg —

D^Ormea I — for patienoe f aiU me, treading thus
Ammng the obeoore trains I haye laid, — my

knights
Safe in the hall here — in that anteroom.
My son, — D*Ormea, where? Of this, one

touch — [Laying down the crown.

This fireball to these mnte blaok oold trains —

then
Outbreak enough I

ICimUmpialing it.] To lose all, after aD I
This, dancing o*er my house forages — shaped,
Brave meteor, like the crown of C^rus now,
Jerusalem, Spain, England, every change
The braver, — and when I have dntohed a

prize
My ancestry died wan with watching for,
To lose it ! —by a slip, a fanlt, a trick
Learnt to advantage onee and not unlearned
When past the use, — *^]ust this once more " (I

tnou^t)
** Use it with Spain and Austria happily^
And then awi^ with trick I *' An oversight
I ^d have repaired thrice over, any time
Hiese fifty years, must happen now I There *s



At lei^th ; and Ij to make the most of peace.

Ventured my project on our people here.

As needing not their help: which Europe

knows.
And means, cold-blooded, to dispose herself
(Apart from plausibilities of war)
To crush the new-made King — who ne'er till

now
Feared her. As Duke, I lost each foot of earth
And laughed at her: my name was left, my

sword
Left, all was left! But she can take, she

knows.
This erown, herself conceded • . .

. That's to try,
Emd. Europe! — My career's not closed as

yet.
This boy was ever subject to my will.
Timid and Ume — the fitter I — D*Ormea, too
What if the sovereign also rid himself
Of thee, his prime of parasites ? I delay I
D'Ormeal

(uU D'Obms^ enUre, tAe King eeaU Mtnee^f.)

My son, the Prince — attends he ?

D'O. Sir,

He does attend. The erown prepared!— it



That you persiBt in yoor resolve.

Victor. Who'scome?

^le chaneeUor and the chamberlain? My
knights?



D^O. The whole Annunxiata. If, my liege.
Tour fortune had not tottered worse tlum
now . . .
Fic Del Borgo has drawn up the schedules?



Mv son's, too ? Elzcellent ! Onlv, beware
Of the least blunder, or we look but fools,
first, yon read the Annulment of the Oaths ;
Del Borgb follows ... no, the Prince shall sign;
Then let Del Borgo read the Instrument :
On which, I enter.

D^O, Sir, this may be truth :

Ton, sir, may do as you affect — may break
Your engine, me, to pieces : try at least
If not a spring remam worth saving I Take
My counsel as I 've counselled many times !
What if the Spaniard and the Austrian threat ?
There 's England, Holland, Venice — which ally
Select you ?

Vic. Aha! Come, D'Ormea, — " truth "
Was on your lip^ a minute since. Allies ?
I 've broken faith with Venice, Holland, Eng-
land

— As who knows if not you ?

D'O. But why with me

Break faith — with one ally, yonr best, break
faith?

Vic, When fiirst I stumbled on you, Marquis
— 'twas
At Mondovi — a little lawyer's clerk . . .

D'O. Therefore your soul's ally! — who
brou^t jrou through
Your auarrel with the Pope, at pains enough —
Who simply echoed you in these affairs —
On whom you cannot therefore visit these
Affairs' ill fortune — whom you trust to guide
You safe (yes, on my soul) through these affairs !

Vic. I was about to notice, had you not
Prevented me, that since that great town kept
With its chicane D'Ormea's satchel stuffed
And D'Ormea's self sufficientlv recluse.
He missed a sight, — my naval armament
When I burned Toulon. How the skiff ezuHs
Upon the galliot's wave I — rises its height,
O^Brtops it even ; but the great wave bursts.
And heU-deep in the horrible profound
Buries itself the ffalliot : shall the skiff
Think toescape the sea's black tronjgh in turn ?
Apply this : you have been my minister

— Next me, above me possibly ; — sad post.
Huge care, abundant lack of peace of mind ;
Who would desiderate the eminence ?

You gave your soul to get it ; you 'd vet give
Your soul to keep it, as I mean yon shall,
D'Ormea ! What if the wave ebbed with me ?
Whereas it cants you to another crest ;
I toss you to my son ; ride out ^our ride I
D'O. Ah, you so much despise me ?
Vic. You,DOrmea?

Nowise : and 1 11 inform yon wh;r. A king
Must in his time have many ministers.
And I 've been rash enough to part with mine
When I thought proper. Of the tribe, not one
( ... Or wait, did Pianene? . . . ah, just the

same!)
Not one of them, ere his remonstrance reached
The length of yours, but has assured me (com*

monly



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KING VICTOR AND KING CHARLES



Standiiifir much as yon stand, — or nearer, say,
Tlie door to make nis exit on his speech)
— I should repent of what I did. D'Ormea,
Be candid, yon approached it when I bade von
Prepare tne sohednlesi But yon stoppea in

time,
Ton have not so assured me : how should I
Despise you then ?

{Enter GHAaLss.)

Vic, [Changing his tone,] Are you instructed?
Do
My order, point by point I About it, sir I
x)*0. You so despise me I [Aside,] One last
stay remains —
Tlie boy 's discretion there.

[To Cha.] For your sake. Prince,
I pleaded, wholly m your interest,
To save you from this fate 1

Cha. [Aside.] Must I be told

The Prince was supplicated for — by him ?
Vic. [To D'O.J Apprise Del Boigo, iSpaya,
and the rest.
Our son attends them ; then return.
D'O. One word I

Cha, [Aside.] A moment's pause and they
would drive me hence,
I do believe I
D'O. [Aside.] Let but the boy be firm I
Vic. Ton disobey?

Choi [ToD'O.] Ton do not disobev

Me, at least. Did you promise that or no r
D'O. Sir, I am yours: what would you?

Tours am 1 1
Cha. When I have said what I shall say,
'tis like
Tour face will ne'er again disgust me. Go !
Through you, as through a breast of glass. I see.
And for your conduct, from m^ youth till now.
Take my contempt! Ton might have spared

me much.
Secured me somewhat, nor so harmed yourself :
That 's over now. Qo, ne'er to come again !

D^O. As son, the father — father, as the son t
My wits! My wits! [Goes.

Vic. [Seated.] And you, what meant you,
pray,
Speakmg thus to D'Ormea ?

Cha. Let us not

Waste words upon D'Ormea ! Those I spent
Have half unsettled what I came to say.
His presence vexes to my very soul.

Vtc. One called to manage a kingdom, Charles,
needs heart
To bear up under worse annoyances
Than seems D'Ormea— to me, at least.

Cha. [Aside.] ^ Ah, good!

He keeps me to the point ! Then be it so.
[AloudT] Last night, sir, brought me certain

papers — these —
To be reported on, — your way of late.
Is it last night's result that you demand ?
Vic. For Qod's sake, what has night brought
forth ? Pronounce
The . . • what 's your word ? — result !



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 32 of 198)