The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Volume Iii Part 123

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Make way, make way! My lord, the governor, Is close behind me, riding down the pa.s.s.

[_Exit_ TELL.]

ARMGART (_excitedly_).

The Viceroy comes!

[_She goes toward the pa.s.s with her children_. GESSLER _and_ RUDOLPH DER HARRAS _appear on horseback at the upper end of the pa.s.s_.]

 

STUSSI (_to_ FRIESSHARDT).

How got ye through the stream, When all the bridges have been carried down?

FRIESS.

We’ve fought, friend, with the tempest on the lake; An Alpine torrent’s nothing after that.

STUSSI.

How! Were you out, then, in that dreadful storm?

FRIESS.

We were! I’ll not forget it while I live.

STUSSI.

Stay, speak–

FRIESS.

I can’t–must to the castle haste, And tell them, that the governor’s at hand.

[_Exit_.]

STUSSI.

If honest men, now, had been in the ship, It had gone down with every soul on board:– Some folks are proof ‘gainst fire and water both.

[_Looking round_.]

Where has the huntsman gone with whom I spoke?

[_Exit_.]

_Enter_ GESSLER _and_ RUDOLPH DER HARRAS _on horseback_

GESSLER.

Say what you will; I am the Emperor’s liege, And how to please him my first thought must be.

He did not send me here to fawn and cringe, And coax these boors into good humor. No!

Obedience he must have. The struggle’s this: Is king or peasant to be sovereign here?

ARMGART.

Now is the moment! Now for my pet.i.tion!

GESSLER.

‘Twas not in sport that I set up the cap In Altdorf–or to try the people’s hearts– All this I knew before. I set it up That they might learn to bend those stubborn necks They carry far too proudly–and I placed What well I knew their pride could never brook Full in the road, which they perforce must pa.s.s, That, when their eye fell on it, they might call That lord to mind whom they too much forget.

HARRAS.

But surely, sir, the people have some rights–

GESSLER.

This is no time to settle what they are.

Great projects are at work, and hatching now.

The Imperial house seeks to extend its power.

Those vast designs of conquest which the sire Has gloriously begun, the son will end.

This petty nation is a stumbling-block– One way or other, it must be put down.

[_They are about to pa.s.s on_. ARMGART _throws herself down before_ GESSLER.]

ARMGART.

Mercy, lord governor! Oh, pardon, pardon!

GESSLER.

Why do you cross me on the public road?

Stand back, I say.

ARMGART.

My husband lies in prison; My wretched orphans cry for bread. Have pity, Pity, my lord, upon our sore distress!

HARRAS.

Who are you? and your husband, what is he?

ARMGART.

A poor wild hay-man of the Rigiberg, Kind sir, who on the brow of the abyss, Mows the unowner’d gra.s.s from craggy shelves, To which the very cattle dare not climb.

HARRAS (_to_ GESSLER).