A MEAN APARTMENT IN GIACOMO'S HOUSE.
GIACOMO: 'Tis midnight, and Orsino comes not yet. [THUNDER, AND THE SOUND OF A STORM.] What! can the everlasting elements Feel with a worm like man? If so, the shaft Of mercy-winged lightning would not fall On stones and trees. My wife and children sleep: They are now living in unmeaning dreams: But I must wake, still doubting if that deed Be just which is most necessary. O, Thou unreplenished lamp! whose narrow fire Is shaken by the wind, and on whose edge Devouring darkness hovers! Thou small flame, Which, as a dying pulse rises and falls, Still flickerest up and down, how very soon, Did I not feed thee, wouldst thou fail and be As thou hadst never been! So wastes and sinks Even now, perhaps, the life that kindled mine: But that no power can fill with vital oil That broken lamp of flesh. Ha! 'tis the blood Which fed these veins that ebbs till all is cold: It is the form that moulded mine that sinks Into the white and yellow spasms of death: It is the soul by which mine was arrayed In God's immortal likeness which now stands Naked before Heaven's judgement seat! [A BELL STRIKES.] One! Two! The hours crawl on; and, when my hairs are white, My son will then perhaps be waiting thus, Tortured between just hate and vain remorse; Chiding the tardy messenger of news Like those which I expect. I almost wish He be not dead, although my wrongs are great; Yet...'tis Orsino's step... [ENTER ORSINO.] Speak!
ORSINO: I am come To say he has escaped.
ORSINO: And safe Within Petrella. He passed by the spot Appointed for the deed an hour too soon.
GIACOMO: Are we the fools of such contingencies? And do we waste in blind misgivings thus The hours when we should act? Then wind and thunder, Which seemed to howl his knell, is the loud laughter With which Heaven mocks our weakness! I henceforth Will ne'er repent of aught designed or done But my repentance.
ORSINO: See, the lamp is out.
GIACOMO: If no remorse is ours when the dim air Has drank this innocent flame, why should we quail When Cenci's life, that light by which ill spirits See the worst deeds they prompt, shall sink for ever? No, I am hardened.
ORSINO: Why, what need of this? Who feared the pale intrusion of remorse In a just deed? Although our first plan failed, Doubt not but he will soon be laid to rest. But light the lamp; let us not talk i' the dark.
GIACOMO [LIGHTING THE LAMP]: And yet once quenched I cannot thus relume My father's life: do you not think his ghost Might plead that argument with God?
ORSINO: Once gone You cannot now recall your sister's peace; Your own extinguished years of youth and hope; Nor your wife's bitter words; nor all the taunts Which, from the prosperous, weak misfortune takes; Nor your dead mother; nor...
GIACOMO: O, speak no more! I am resolved, although this very hand Must quench the life that animated it.
ORSINO: There is no need of that. Listen: you know Olimpio, the castellan of Petrella In old Colonna's time; him whom your father Degraded from his post? And Marzio, That desperate wretch, whom he deprived last year Of a reward of blood, well earned and due?
GIACOMO: I knew Olimpio; and they say he hated Old Cenci so, that in his silent rage His lips grew white only to see him pass. Of Marzio I know nothing.
ORSINO: Marzio's hate Matches Olimpio's. I have sent these men, But in your name, and as at your request, To talk with Beatrice and Lucretia.
GIACOMO: Only to talk?
ORSINO: The moments which even now Pass onward to to-morrow's midnight hour May memorize their flight with death: ere then They must have talked, and may perhaps have done, And made an end...
GIACOMO: Listen! What sound is that?
ORSINO: The house-dog moans, and the beams crack: nought else.
GIACOMO: It is my wife complaining in her sleep: I doubt not she is saying bitter things Of me; and all my children round her dreaming That I deny them sustenance.
ORSINO: Whilst he Who truly took it from them, and who fills Their hungry rest with bitterness, now sleeps Lapped in bad pleasures, and triumphantly Mocks thee in visions of successful hate Too like the truth of day.
GIACOMO: If e'er he wakes Again, I will not trust to hireling hands...
ORSINO: Why, that were well. I must be gone; good-night. When next we meet—may all be done!
GIACOMO: And all Forgotten: Oh, that I had never been!
END OF ACT 3.