The Yeomen of the Guard

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Dialogue following No. 4

Sergeant Meryll. (goes up to Phœbe) Nay, lass, be of good cheer, we may save him yet.

Phœbe. Oh! see, father — they bring the poor gentleman from the Beauchamp! Oh, father! his hour is not yet come?

Sergeant Meryll. No, no — they lead him to the Cold Harbour Tower to await his end in solitude. But softly — the Lieutenant approaches! He should not see thee weep.

Enter Fairfax, guarded by Yeomen. The Lieutenant enters, meeting him.

Lieutenant. Halt! Colonel Fairfax, my old friend, we meet but sadly.

Fairfax. Sir, I greet you with all good-will; and I thank you for the zealous care with which you have guarded me from the pestilent dangers which threaten human life outside. In this happy little community, Death, when he comes, doth so in punctual and business-like fashion; and, like a courtly gentleman, giveth due notice of his advent, that one may not be taken unawares.

Lieutenant. Sir, you bear this bravely, as a brave man should.

Fairfax. Why, sir, it is no light boon to die swiftly and surely at a given hour and in a given fashion! Truth to tell, I would gladly have my life; but if that may not be, I have the next best thing to it, which is death. Believe me, sir, my lot is not so much amiss!

Oh, father, father, I cannot bear it! Watercolour by W. Russell Flint.
Oh, father, father, I cannot bear it!  Watercolor by W. Russell Flint.

Phœbe. (aside to Sergeant Meryll.) Oh, father, father, I cannot bear it!

Sergeant Meryll. My poor lass!

Fairfax. Nay, pretty one, why weepest thou? Come, be comforted. Such a life as mine is not worth weeping for. (sees Sergeant Meryll.) Sergeant Meryll, is it not? (to Lieutenant) May I greet my old friend? (Shakes Sergeant Meryll's hand.) Why, man, what's all this? Thou and I have faced the grim old king a dozen times, and never has his majesty come to me in such goodly fashion. Keep a stout heart, good fellow — we are soldiers, and we know how to die, thou and I. Take my word for it, it is easier to die well than to live well — for, in sooth, I have tried both.

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