The Yeomen of the Guard


   

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Dialogue following No. 1

Enter Wilfred.

Wilfred. Mistress Meryll!

Phœbe. (looking up) Eh! Oh! it's you, is it? You may go away, if you like. Because I don't want you, you know.

Wilfred. Haven't you anything to say to me?

Phœbe. Oh yes! Are the birds all caged? The wild beasts all littered down? All the locks, chains, bolts, and bars in good order? Is the Little Ease sufficiently comfortable? The racks, pincers, and thumbscrews all ready for work? Ugh! you brute!

I didn't become an assistant-tormentor because I like
assistant-tormenting.
Watercolour by W. Russell Flint.
I didn't become an assistant-tormentor because I like assistant-tormenting.  Watercolor by W. Russell Flint.

Wilfred. These allusions to my professional duties are in doubtful taste. I didn't become a head-jailer because I like head-jailing. I didn't become an assistant-tormentor because I like assistant-tormenting. We can't all be sorcerers, you know. (Phœbe is annoyed.) Ah! you brought that upon yourself.

Phœbe. Colonel Fairfax is not a sorcerer. He's a man of science and an alchemist.

Wilfred. Well, whatever he is, he won't be one for long, for he's to be beheaded to-day for dealings with the devil. His master nearly had him last night, when the fire broke out in the Beauchamp Tower.

Phœbe. Oh! how I wish he had escaped in the confusion! But take care; there's still time for a reply to his petition for mercy.

Wilfred. Ah! I'm content to chance that. This evening at half-past seven — ah! (Gesture of chopping off a head.)

Phœbe. You're a cruel monster to speak so unfeelingly of the death of a young and handsome soldier.

Wilfred. Young and handsome! How do you know he's young and handsome?

Phœbe. Because I've seen him every day for weeks past taking his exercise on the Beauchamp Tower.

Wilfred. Curse him!

Phœbe. There, I believe you're jealous of him, now. Jealous of a man I've never spoken to! Jealous of a poor soul who's to die in an hour!

Wilfred. I am! I'm jealous of everybody and everything. I'm jealous of the very words I speak to you — because they reach your ears — and I mustn't go near 'em!

Phœbe. How unjust you are! Jealous of the words you speak to me! Why, you know as well as I do that I don't even like them.

Wilfred. You used to like 'em.

Phœbe. I used to pretend I like them. It was mere politeness to comparative strangers.

Exit Phœbe, with spinning wheel.

Wilfred. I don't believe you know what jealousy is! I don't believe you know how it eats into a man's heart — and disorders his digestion — and turns his interior into boiling lead. Oh, you are a heartless jade to trifle with the delicate organization of the human interior.

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