Part 7 out of 11
Plagues, furies, tormentors! I shall go mad! [_Exit._]
There, he says he shall go mad. Well, my head has not been very right of
late. It goes with a whirl and a buzz somehow. I believe I must not
think so deeply. Common people that don't reason know nothing of these
Great wits go mad, and small ones only dull;
Distracting cares vex not the empty skull:
They seize on heads that think, and hearts that feel,
As flies attack the--better sort of veal.
I have overwalked myself, and am quite exhausted. Tell Marian to come
and play to me.
I shall, Sir. [_Exit._]
I have been troubled with an evil spirit of late; I think an evil
spirit. It goes and comes, as my daughter is with or from me. It cannot
stand before her gentle look, when, to please her father, she takes down
her music-book. _Enter William._
Miss Marian went out soon after you, and is not returned.
That is a pity--That is a pity. Where can the foolish girl be gadding?
The shopmen say she went out with Mr. Davenport.
They say they are sure it was he, by the same token that they saw her
slip into his hand, when she was past the door, the casket which you
Gave her, William! I only intrusted it to her. She has robbed me. Marian
is a thief. You must go to the Justice, William, and get out a warrant
against her immediately. Do you help them in the description. Put in
"Marian Flint," in plain words--no remonstrances, William--"daughter of
Reuben Flint,"--no remonstrances, but do it--
I am rock, absolute rock, to all that you can say--A piece of solid
rock.--What is it that makes my legs to fail, and my whole frame to
totter thus? It has been my over walking. I am very faint. Support me
in, William. [_Exeunt_]
SCENE.--_The Apartment of Miss Flyn._
MISS FLYN. BETTY.
'Tis past eleven. Every minute I expect Mr. Pendulous here. What a
meeting do I anticipate!
Anticipate, truly! what other than a joyful meeting can it be between
two agreed lovers who have been parted these four months?
But in that cruel space what accidents have happened!--(_aside_)--As
yet I perceive she is ignorant of this unfortunate affair.
Lord, madam, what accidents? He has not had a fall or a tumble, has he?
He is not coming upon crutches?
Not exactly a fall--(_aside_)--I wish I had courage to admit her to my
If his neck is whole, his heart is so too, I warrant it.
His neck!--(_aside_)--She certainly mistrusts something. He writes me
word that this must be his last interview.
Then I guess the whole business. The wretch is unfaithful. Some creature
or other has got him into a noose.
And I shall never more see him hang----
Hang, did you say, Betty?
About that dear, fond neck, I was going to add, madam, but you
I can no longer labour with a secret which oppresses me thus. Can you be
Who, I, madam?--(_aside_)--Lord, I am so glad. Now I shall know all.
This letter discloses the reason of his unaccountable long absence from
me. Peruse it, and say if we have not reason to be unhappy.
_(Betty retires to the window to read the letter, Mr. Pendulous
My dear Pendulous!
Maria!--nay, shun the embraces of a disgraced man, who comes but to tell
you that you must renounce his society for ever.
Nay, Pendulous, avoid me not.
_(Aside.)_ That was tender. I may be mistaken. Whilst I stood on
honourable terms, Maria might have met my caresses without a blush.
_(Betty, who has not attended to the entrance of Pendulous, through her
eagerness to read the letter, comes forward.)_
Ha! ha! ha! What a funny story, madam; and is this all you make such a
fuss about? I should not care if twenty of my lovers had been----
(_seeing Pendulous_)--Lord, Sir, I ask pardon.
Are we not alone, then?
'Tis only Betty--my old servant. You remember Betty?
What letter is that?
O! something from her sweetheart, I suppose.
Yes, ma'am, that is all. I shall die of laughing.
You have not surely been shewing her----
I must be ingenuous. You must know, then, that I was just giving Betty a
hint--as you came in.
Yes, of our unfortunate embarrassment.
I thought it as well that she should know it at first.
'Tis mighty well, madam. 'Tis as it should be. I was ordained to be a
wretched laughing-stock to all the world; and it is fit that our drabs
and our servant wenches should have their share of the amusement.
Marry come up! Drabs and servant wenches! and this from a person in his
_(Betty flings herself out of the room, muttering.)_
I understand not this language. I was prepared to give my Pendulous a
tender meeting. To assure him, that however, in the eyes of the
superficial and the censorious, he may have incurred a partial
degradation, in the esteem of one, at least, he stood as high as ever.
That it was not in the power of a ridiculous _accident,_ involving no
guilt, no shadow of imputation, to separate two hearts, cemented by
holiest vows, as ours have been. This untimely repulse to my affections
may awaken scruples in me, which hitherto, in tenderness to you, I have
I very well understand what you call tenderness, madam; but in some
situations, pity--pity--is the greatest insult.
I can endure no longer. When you are in a calmer mood, you will be sorry
that you have wrung my heart so. _[Exit.]_
Maria! She is gone--in tears. Yet it seems she has had her scruples. She
said she had tried to smother them. Mermaid Betty intimated as much.
Never mind Retty, sir; depend upon it she will never 'peach.
Lord, sir, these scruples will blow over. Go to her again, when she is
in a better humour. You know we must stand off a little at first, to
It will be decent to let some time elapse.
Lost, wretched Pendulous! to scorn betrayed,
The scoff alike of mistress and of maid!
What now remains for thee, forsaken man,
But to complete thy fate's abortive plan,
And finish what the feeble law began?
_Re-enter Miss Flyn, with Marian._
Now both our lovers are gone, I hope my friend will have less reserve.
You must consider this apartment as yours while you stay here. 'Tis
larger and more commodious than your own.
You are kind, Maria. My sad story I have troubled you with. I have some
jewels here, which I unintentionally brought away. I have only to beg,
that you will take the trouble to restore them to my father; and,
without disclosing my present situation, to tell him, that my next
step--with or without the concurrence of Mr. Davenport--shall be to
throw myself at his feet, and beg to be forgiven. I dare not see him
till you have explored the way for me. I am convinced I was tricked into
Your commands shall be obeyed implicitly.
You are good (_agitated_).
Moderate your apprehensions, my sweet friend. I too have known my
sorrows--(_smiling_).--You have heard of the ridiculous affair.
Between Mr. Pendulous and you? Davenport informed me of it, and we both
took the liberty of blaming the over-niceness of your scruples.
You mistake. The refinement is entirely on the part of my lover. He
thinks me not nice enough. I am obliged to feign a little reluctance,
that he may not take quite a distaste to me. Will you believe it, that
he turns my very constancy into a reproach, and declares, that a woman
must be devoid of all delicacy, that, after a thing of that sort, could
endure the sight of her husband in----
The sight of a man at all in----
I comprehend you not.
In--in a--_(whispers)_--night cap, my dear; and now the mischief is out.
Is there no way to cure him?
None, unless I were to try the experiment, by placing myself in the
hands of justice for a little while, how far an equality in misfortune
might breed a sympathy in sentiment. Our reputations would be both upon
a level, then, you know. What think you of a little innocent
shop-lifting, in sport?
And by that contrivance to be taken before a magistrate? the project
And yet I am more than half persuaded it is feasible.
Mr. Davenport is below, ma'am, and desires to speak with you.
You will excuse me--_(going--turning back.)_--You will remember the
Depend on me.
And a strange man desires to see you, ma'am. I do not half like his
Shew him in.
_(Exit Betty, and returns--with a Police Officer. Betty goes out.)_
Your servant, ma'am. Your name is----
Flyn, sir. Your business with me?
_(Alternately surveying the lady and his paper of instructions.)_ Marian
Aye, aye, Flyn or Flint. 'Tis all one. Some write plain Mary, and some
put ann after it. I come about a casket.
I guess the whole business. He takes me for my friend. Something may
come out of this. I will humour him.
_(Aside)_--Answers the description to a tittle. "Soft, grey eyes, pale
Yet I have been told by flatterers that my eyes were blue--_(takes out
a pocket-glass)_--I hope I look pretty tolerably to-day.
Blue!--they are a sort of blueish-gray, now I look better; and as for
colour, that comes and goes. Blushing is often a sign of a hardened
offender. Do you know any thing of a casket?
Here is one which a friend has just delivered to my keeping.
And which I must beg leave to secure, together with your ladyship's
person. "Garnets, pearls, diamond-bracelet,"--here they are, sure
Indeed, I am innocent.
Every man is presumed so till he is found otherwise.
Police wit! Have you a warrant?
Tolerably cool that! Here it is, signed by Justice Golding, at the
requisition of Reuben Flint, who deposes that you have robbed him.
How lucky this turns out! _(aside.)_--Can I be indulged with a coach?
To Marlborough Street? certainly--an old offender--_(aside.)_ The thing
shall be conducted with as much delicacy as is consistent with security.
Police manners! I will trust myself to your protection then. _[Exeunt.]_
JUSTICE, FLINT, OFFICERS, &c.
Before we proceed to extremities, Mr. Flint, let me entreat you to
consider the consequences. What will the world say to your exposing your
The world is not my friend. I belong to a profession which has long
brought me acquainted with its injustice. I return scorn for scorn, and
desire its censure above its plaudits.
But in this case delicacy must make you pause.
Delicacy--ha! ha!--pawnbroker--how fitly these words suit. Delicate
pawnbroker--delicate devil--let the law take its course.
Consider, the jewels are found.
'Tis not the silly baubles I regard. Are you a man? are you a father?
and think you I could stoop so low, vile as I stand here, as to make
money--filthy money--of the stuff which a daughter's touch has
desecrated? Deep in some pit first I would bury them.
Yet pause a little. Consider. An only child.
Only, only,--there, it is that stings me, makes me mad. She was the only
thing I had to love me--to bear me up against the nipping injuries of
the world. I prate when I should act. Bring in your prisoner.
_(The Justice makes signs to an Officer, who goes out, and returns with
What mockery of my sight is here? This is no daughter.
Daughter, or no daughter, she has confessed to this casket.
_(Handling it.)_ The very same. Was it in the power of these pale
splendours to dazzle the sight of honesty--to put out the regardful eye
of piety and daughter-love? Why, a poor glow-worm shews more brightly.
Bear witness how I valued them--_(tramples on them)_.--Fair lady, know
you aught of my child?
I shall here answer no questions.
You must explain how you came by the jewels, madam.
_(Aside.)_ Now confidence assist me!----A gentleman in the
neighbourhood will answer for me----
That lives in the next street?
The same----now I have him sure.
Let him be sent for. I believe the gentleman to be respectable, and will
accept his security.
Why do I waste my time, where I have no business? None--I have none any
more in the world--none.
What is the meaning of this extraordinary summons?--Maria here?
Know you any thing of my daughter, Sir?
Sir, I neither know her nor yourself, nor why I am brought hither; but
for this lady, if you have any thing against her, I will answer it with
my life and fortunes.
Make out the bail-bond.
(_Surveying Pendulous_.) Please, your worship, before you take that
gentleman's bond, may I have leave to put in a word?
(_Agitated._) I guess what is coming.
I have seen that gentleman hold up his hand at a criminal bar.
(_Aside._) Better and better.
My eyes cannot deceive me. His lips quivered about, while he was being
tried, just as they do now. His name is not Pendulous.
He pleaded to the name of Thomson at York assizes.
Can this be true?
I could kiss the fellow!
He was had up for a footpad.
A dainty fellow!
My iniquitous fate pursues me everywhere.
You confess, then.
I am steeped in infamy.
I am as deep in the mire as yourself.
My reproach can never be washed out.
I am doomed to everlasting shame.
We are both in a predicament.
I am in a maze where all this will end.
But here comes one who, if I mistake not, will guide us out of all our
_Enter Marian and Davenport._
_(Kneeling.)_ My dear father!
Do I dream?
I am your Marian.
Let me clear up the rest.
Was inadvertently in your daughter's hand, when, by an artifice of her
maid Lucy,--set on, as she confesses, by this gentleman here,--
I plead guilty.
She was persuaded, that you were in a hurry going to marry her to an
object of her dislike; nay, that he was actually in the house for the
purpose. The speed of her flight admitted not of her depositing the
jewels; but to me, who have been her inseparable companion since she
quitted your roof, she intrusted the return of them; which the
precipitate measures of this gentleman _(pointing to the Officer)_ alone
prevented. Mr. Cutlet, whom I see coming, can witness this to be true.
_Enter Cutlet, in haste._
Aye, poor lamb! poor lamb! I can witness. I have run in such a haste,
hearing how affairs stood, that I have left my shambles without a
protector. If your worship had seen how she cried _(pointing to
Marian),_ and trembled, and insisted upon being brought to her father.
Mr. Davenport here could not stay her.
I can forbear no longer. Marian, will you play once again, to please
your old father?
I have a good mind to make you buy me a new grand piano for your naughty
suspicions of me.
What is to become of me?
I will do more than that. The poor lady shall have her jewels again.
Upon reasonable terms _(smiling)._ And now, I suppose, the court may
I guess what is passing in your mind, Mr. Davenport; but you have
behaved upon the whole so like a man of honour, that it will give me
pleasure, if you will visit at my house for the future; but _(smiling)_
not clandestinely, Marian.
I own I had prejudices against gentry. But I have met with so much
candour and kindness among my betters this day--from this gentleman in
particular--_(turning to the Justice)_--that I begin to think of
leaving off business, and setting up for a gentleman myself.
You have the feelings of one.
Marian will not object to it.
But _(turning to Miss Flyn)_ what motive could induce this lady to take
so much disgrace upon herself, when a word's explanation might have
This gentleman _(turning to Pendulous)_ can explain.
This gentleman, I repeat it, whose backwardness in concluding a long and
honourable suit from a mistaken delicacy--
Drove me upon the expedient of involving myself in the same disagreeable
embarrassments with himself, in the hope that a more perfect sympathy
might subsist between us for the future.
I see it--I see it all.
(_To Pendulous._) You were then tried at York?
CUT DOWN and CAME TO LIFE AGAIN. False delicacy, adieu! The true sort,
which this lady has manifested--by an expedient which at first sight
might seem a little unpromising, has cured me of the other. We are now
on even terms.
Marry,--I know it was your word.
And make a very quiet--
Agreeing pair of--
And let the prejudiced against our profession acknowledge, that a
money-lender may have the heart of a father; and that in the casket,
whose loss grieved him so sorely, he valued nothing so dear as _(turning
to Marian)_ one poor domestic jewel.
* * * * *
THE WIFE'S TRIAL; OR, THE INTRUDING WIDOW
A DRAMATIC POEM
_Founded on Mr. Crabbe's Tale of "The Confidant."_
* * * * *
MR. SELBY,--a Wiltshire Gentleman_.
KATHERINE, _Wife to Selby_.
LUCY, _Sister to Selby_.
MRS. FRAMPTON, _a Widow_.
SCENE.--_At Mr. Selby's house, or in the grounds adjacent_.
* * * * *
MR. SELBY, KATHERINE.
Do not too far mistake me, gentlest wife;
I meant to chide your virtues, not yourself,
And those too with allowance. I have not
Been blest by thy fair side with five white years
Of smooth and even wedlock, now to touch
With any strain of harshness on a string
Hath yielded me such music. 'Twas the quality
Of a too grateful nature in my Katherine,
That to the lame performance of some vows,
And common courtesies of man to wife,
Attributing too much, hath sometimes seem'd
To esteem in favours, what in that blest union
Are but reciprocal and trivial dues,
As fairly yours as mine: 'twas this I thought
Gently to reprehend.
In friendship's barter
The riches we exchange should hold some level,
And corresponding worth. Jewels for toys
Demand some thanks thrown in. You took me, sir,
To that blest haven of my peace, your bosom,
An orphan founder'd in the world's black storm.
Poor, you have made me rich; from lonely maiden,
Your cherish'd and your full-accompanied wife.
But to divert the subject: Kate too fond,
I would not wrest your meanings; else that word
Accompanied, and full-accompanied too,
Might raise a doubt in some men, that their wives
Haply did think their company too long;
And over-company, we know by proof,
Is worse than no attendance.
I must guess,
You speak this of the Widow--
'Twas a bolt
At random shot; but if it hit, believe me,
I am most sorry to have wounded you
Through a friend's side. I know not how we have swerved
From our first talk. I was to caution you
Against this fault of a too grateful nature:
Which, for some girlish obligations past,
In that relenting season of the heart,
When slightest favours pass for benefits
Of endless binding, would entail upon you
An iron slavery of obsequious duty
To the proud will of an imperious woman.
The favours are not slight to her I owe.
Slight or not slight, the tribute she exacts
Cancels all dues--_[A voice within.]_
even now I hear her call you
In such a tone, as lordliest mistresses
Expect a slave's attendance. Prithee, Kate,
Let her expect a brace of minutes or so.
Say, you are busy. Use her by degrees
To some less hard exactions.
I conjure you,
Detain me not. I will return--
Use thy own pleasure--_[Exit Katherine.]_
but it troubles me.
A visit of three days, as was pretended,
Spun to ten tedious weeks, and no hint given
When she will go! I would this buxom Widow
Were a thought handsomer! I'd fairly try
My Katherine's constancy; make desperate love
In seeming earnest; and raise up such broils,
That she, not I, should be the first to warn
The insidious guest depart.
So soon return'd!
What was our Widow's will?
A trifle, Sir.
Some toilet service-to adjust her head,
Or help to stick a pin in the right place--
Indeed 'twas none of these.
or new vamp up
The tarnish'd cloak she came in. I have seen her
Demand such service from thee, as her maid,
Twice told to do it, would blush angry-red,
And pack her few clothes up. Poor fool! fond slave!
And yet my dearest Kate!--This day at least
(It is our wedding-day) we spend in freedom,
And will forget our Widow.--Philip, our coach--
Why weeps my wife? You know, I promised you
An airing o'er the pleasant Hampshire downs
To the blest cottage on the green hill side,
Where first I told my love. I wonder much,
If the crimson parlour hath exchanged its hue
For colours not so welcome. Faded though it be,
It will not shew less lovely than the tinge
Of this faint red, contending with the pale,
Where once the full-flush'd health gave to this cheek
An apt resemblance to the fruit's warm side,
That bears my Katherine's name.--
Our carriage, Philip.
_Enter a Servant_.
Now, Robin, what make you here?
May it please you,
The coachman has driven out with Mrs. Frampton.
He had no orders--
None, Sir, that I know of,
But from the lady, who expects some letter
At the next Post Town.
How is this?
I came to tell you so, but fear'd your anger--
It was ill done though of this Mistress Frampton,
This forward Widow. But a ride's poor loss
Imports not much. In to your chamber, love,
Where you with music may beguile the hour,
While I am tossing over dusty tomes,
Till our most reasonable friend returns.
I am all obedience. [_Exit Katherine_]
Too obedient, Kate,
And to too many masters. I can hardly
On such a day as this refrain to speak
My sense of this injurious friend, this pest,
This household evil, this close-clinging fiend,
In rough terms to my wife. 'Death! my own servants
Controll'd above me! orders countermanded!'
What next? _[Servant enters and announces the Sister]
Sister! I know you are come to welcome
This day's return. 'Twas well done.
You seem ruffled.
In years gone by this day was used to be
The smoothest of the year. Your honey turn'd
So soon to gall?
Gall'd am I, and with cause,
And rid to death, yet cannot get a riddance,
Nay, scarce a ride, by this proud Widow's leave.
Something you wrote me of a Mistress Frampton.
She came at first a meek admitted guest,
Pretending a short stay; her whole deportment
Seem'd as of one obliged. A slender trunk,
The wardrobe of her scant and ancient clothing,
Bespoke no more. But in a few days her dress,
Her looks, were proudly changed. And now she flaunts it
In jewels stolen or borrow'd from my wife;
Who owes her some strange service, of what nature
I must be kept in ignorance. Katherine's meek
And gentle spirit cowers beneath her eye,
As spell-bound by some witch.
Some mystery hangs on it.
How bears she in her carriage towards yourself?
As one who fears, and yet not greatly cares
For my displeasure. Sometimes I have thought,
A secret glance would tell me she could love,
If I but gave encouragement. Before me
She keeps some moderation; but is never
Closeted with my wife, but in the end
I find my Katherine in briny tears.
From the small chamber, where she first was lodged,
The gradual fiend by specious wriggling arts
Has now ensconced herself in the best part
Of this large mansion; calls the left wing her own;
Commands my servants, equipage.--I hear
Her hated tread. What makes she back so soon?
_Enter Mrs. Frampton._
O, I am jolter'd, bruised, and shook to death,
With your vile Wiltshire roads. The villain Philip
Chose, on my conscience, the perversest tracks,
And stoniest hard lanes in all the county,
Till I was fain get out, and so walk back,
My errand unperform'd at Andover.
And I shall love the knave for ever after.
A friend with you!
My eldest sister, Lucy,
Come to congratulate this returning morn.--
Sister, my wife's friend, Mistress Frampton.
Be seated. For your brother's sake, you are welcome.
I had thought this day to have spent in homely fashion
With the good couple, to whose hospitality
I stand so far indebted. But your coming
Makes it a feast.
She does the honours naturally--[_Aside_.]
As if she were the mistress of the house--[_Aside_.]
I love to be at home with loving friends.
To stand on ceremony with obligations,
Is to restrain the obliger. That old coach, though,
Of yours jumbles one strangely.
I shall order
An equipage soon, more easy to you, madam--
To drive her and her pride to Lucifer,
I hope he means. [_Aside_.]
I must go trim myself; this humbled garb
Would shame a wedding feast. I have your leave
For a short absence?--and your Katherine--
You'll find her in her closet--
Fare you well, then. [_Exit_.]
How like you her assurance?
Even so well,
That if this Widow were my guest, not yours,
She should have coach enough, and scope to ride.
My merry groom should in a trice convey her
To Sarum Plain, and set her down at Stonehenge,
To pick her path through those antiques at leisure;
She should take sample of our Wiltshire flints.
O, be not lightly jealous! nor surmise,
That to a wanton bold-faced thing like this
Your modest shrinking Katherine could impart
Secrets of any worth, especially
Secrets that touch'd your peace. If there be aught,
My life upon't, 'tis but some girlish story
Of a First Love; which even the boldest wife
Might modestly deny to a husband's ear,
Much more your timid and too sensitive Katherine.
I think it is no more; and will dismiss
My further fears, if ever I have had such.
Shall we go walk? I'd see your gardens, brother;
And how the new trees thrive, I recommended.
Your Katherine is engaged now--
I'll attend you. [_Exeunt._]
HOUSEKEEPER, PHILIP, _and_ OTHERS, _laughing_.
Our Lady's guest, since her short ride, seems ruffled,
And somewhat in disorder. Philip, Philip,
I do suspect some roguery. Your mad tricks
Will some day cost you a good place, I warrant.
Good Mistress Jane, our serious housekeeper,
And sage Duenna to the maids and scullions,
We must have leave to laugh; our brains are younger,
And undisturb'd with care of keys and pantries.
We are wild things.
Good Philip, tell us all.
Ay, as you live, tell, tell--
Mad fellows, you shall have it.
The Widow's bell rang lustily and loud--
I think that no one can mistake her ringing.
Our Lady's ring is soft sweet music to it,
More of entreaty hath it than command.
I lose my story, if you interrupt me thus.
The bell, I say, rang fiercely; and a voice,
More shrill than bell, call'd out for "Coachman Philip."
I straight obey'd, as 'tis my name and office.
"Drive me," quoth she, "to the next market town,
Where I have hope of letters." I made haste.
Put to the horses, saw her safely coach'd,
And drove her--
--By the straight high-road to Andover,
Pray, warrant things within your knowledge,
Good Mistress Abigail; look to your dressings,
And leave the skill in horses to the coachman.
He'll have his humour; best not interrupt him.
'Tis market-day, thought I; and the poor beasts,
Meeting such droves of cattle and of people,
May take a fright; so down the lane I trundled,
Where Goodman Dobson's crazy mare was founder'd,
And where the flints were biggest, and ruts widest,
By ups and downs, and such bone-cracking motions,
We flounder'd on a furlong, till my madam,
In policy, to save the few joints left her,
Betook her to her feet, and there we parted.
Ha! ha! ha!
Hang her! 'tis pity such as she should ride.
I think she is a witch; I have tired myself out
With sticking pins in her pillow; still she 'scapes them--
And I with helping her to mum for claret,
But never yet could cheat her dainty palate.
Well, well, she is the guest of our good Mistress,
And so should be respected. Though I think
Our Master cares not for her company,
He would ill brook we should express so much,
By rude discourtesies, and short attendance,
Being but servants. (_A bell rings furiously._) 'Tis her bell
Good, good, bestir yourselves: who knows who's wanted?
But 'twas a merry trick of Philip coachman. [_Exeunt._]
SCENE.--_Mrs. Selby's Chamber._
MRS. FRAMPTON, KATHERINE, working.
I am thinking, child, how contrary our fates
Have traced our lots through life. Another needle,
This works untowardly. An heiress born
To splendid prospects, at our common school
I was as one above you all, not of you;
Had my distinct prerogatives; my freedoms,
Denied to you. Pray, listen--
I must hear
What you are pleased to speak!--How my heart sinks here!
My chamber to myself, my separate maid,
My coach, and so forth.--Not that needle, simple one,
With the great staring eye fit for a Cyclops!
Mine own are not so blinded with their griefs
But I could make a shift to thread a smaller.
A cable or a camel might go through this,
And never strain for the passage.
I will fit you.--
Intolerable tyranny! [_Aside._]
You were not once so slack.--As I was saying,
Not a young thing among ye, but observed me
Above the mistress. Who but I was sought to
In all your dangers, all your little difficulties,
Your girlish scrapes? I was the scape-goat still,
To fetch you off; kept all your secrets, some,
Perhaps, since then--
No more of that, for mercy,
If you'd not have me, sinking at your feet,
Cleave the cold earth for comfort. [_Kneels._]
This to me?
This posture to your friend had better suited
The orphan Katherine in her humble school-days
To the _then_ rich heiress, than the wife of Selby,
Of wealthy Mr. Selby,
To the poor widow Frampton, sunk as she is.
'Twas something, or 'twas nothing, that I said;
I did not mean to fright you, sweetest bed-fellow!
You once were so, but Selby now engrosses you.
I'll make him give you up a night or so;
In faith I will: that we may lie, and talk
Old tricks of school-days over.
Hear me, madam--
Not by that name. Your friend--
My truest friend,
And saviour of my honour!
This sounds better;
You still shall find me such.
That you have graced
Our poor house with your presence hitherto,
Has been my greatest comfort, the sole solace
Of my forlorn and hardly guess'd estate.
You have been pleased
To accept some trivial hospitalities,
In part of payment of a long arrear
I owe to you, no less than for my life.
You speak my services too large.
For what an abject thing were life to me
Without your silence on my dreadful secret!
And I would wish the league we have renew'd
Might be perpetual--
Have a care, fine madam! [_Aside._]
That one house still might hold us. But my husband
Has shown himself of late--
How Mistress Selby?
Not, not impatient. You misconstrue him.
He honours, and he loves, nay, he must love
The friend of his wife's youth. But there are moods
I understand you;--in which husbands,
And wives that love, may wish to be alone,
To nurse the tender fits of new-born dalliance,
After a five years' wedlock.
Was that well
Or charitably put? do these pale cheeks
Proclaim a wanton blood? this wasting form
Seem a fit theatre for Levity
To play his love-tricks on; and act such follies,
As even in Affection's first bland Moon
Have less of grace than pardon in best wedlocks?
I was about to say, that there are times,
When the most frank and sociable man
May surfeit on most loved society,
Preferring loneness rather--
To my company--
Ay, your's, or mine, or any one's. Nay, take
Not this unto yourself. Even in the newness
Of our first married loves 'twas sometimes so.
For solitude, I have heard my Selby say,
Is to the mind as rest to the corporal functions;
And he would call it oft, the _day's soft sleep._
What is your drift? and whereto tends this speech,
That you would
Abstain but from our house a month, a week;
I make request but for a single day.
A month, a week, a day! A single hour
In every week, and month, and the long year,
And all the years to come! My footing here,
Slipt once, recovers never. From the state
Of gilded roofs, attendance, luxuries,
Parks, gardens, sauntering walks, or wholesome rides,
To the bare cottage on the withering moor,
Where I myself am servant to myself,
Or only waited on by blackest thoughts--
I sink, if this be so. No; here I sit.
Then I am lost for ever!
[_Sinks at her feet--curtain drops._]
SCENE.--_An Apartment, contiguous to the last_.
SELBY, _as if listening_.
The sounds have died away. What am I changed to?
What do I here, list'ning like to an abject,
Or heartless wittol, that must hear no good,
If he hear aught? "This shall to the ear of your husband."
It was the Widow's word. I guess'd some mystery,
And the solution with a vengeance comes.
What can my wife have left untold to me,
That must be told by proxy? I begin
To call in doubt the course of her life past
Under my very eyes. She hath not been good,
Not virtuous, not discreet; she hath not outrun
My wishes still with prompt and meek observance.
Perhaps she is not fair, sweet-voiced; her eyes
Not like the dove's; all this as well may be,
As that she should entreasure up a secret
In the peculiar closet of her breast,
And grudge it to my ear. It is my right
To claim the halves in any truth she owns,
As much as in the babe I have by her;
Upon whose face henceforth I fear to look,
Lest I should fancy in its innocent brow
Some strange shame written.
Sister, an anxious word with you.
From out the chamber, where my wife but now
Held talk with her encroaching friend, I heard
(Not of set purpose heark'ning, but by chance)
A voice of chiding, answer'd by a tone
Of replication, such as the meek dove
Makes, when the kite has clutch'd her. The high Widow
Was loud and stormy. I distinctly heard
One threat pronounced--"Your husband shall know all."
I am no listener, sister; and I hold
A secret, got by such unmanly shift,
The pitiful'st of thefts; but what mine ear,
I not intending it, receives perforce,
I count my lawful prize. Some subtle meaning
Lurks in this fiend's behaviour; which, by force,
Or fraud, I must make mine.
The gentlest means
Are still the wisest. What, if you should press
Your wife to a disclosure?
I have tried
All gentler means; thrown out low hints, which, though
Merely suggestions still, have never fail'd
To blanch her cheek with fears. Roughlier to insist,
Would be to kill, where I but meant to heal.
Your own description gave that Widow out
As one not much precise, nor over coy,
And nice to listen to a suit of love.
What if you feign'd a courtship, putting on,
(To work the secret from her easy faith,)
For honest ends, a most dishonest seeming?
I see your drift, and partly meet your counsel.
But must it not in me appear prodigious,
To say the least, unnatural, and suspicious,
To move hot love, where I have shewn cool scorn,
And undissembled looks of blank aversion?
Vain woman is the dupe of her own charms,
And easily credits the resistless power,
That in besieging Beauty lies, to cast down
The slight-built fortress of a casual hate.
I am resolved--
Success attend your wooing!
And I'll about it roundly, my wise sister. [_Exeunt_.]
MR. SELBY. MRS. FRAMPTON.
A fortunate encounter, Mistress Frampton.
My purpose was, if you could spare so much
From your sweet leisure, a few words in private.
What mean his alter'd tones? These looks to me,
Whose glances yet he has repell'd with coolness?
Is the wind changed? I'll veer about with it,
And meet him in all fashions. [_Aside._]
All my leisure,
Feebly bestow'd upon my kind friends here,
Would not express a tithe of the obligements
I every hour incur.
No more of that.--
I know not why, my wife hath lost of late
Much of her cheerful spirits.
It was my topic
To-day; and every day, and all day long,
I still am chiding with her. "Child," I said,
And said it pretty roundly--it may be
I was too peremptory--we elder school-fellows,
Presuming on the advantage of a year
Or two, which, in that tender time, seem'd much,
In after years, much like to elder sisters,
Are prone to keep the authoritative style,
When time has made the difference most ridiculous--
The observation's shrewd.
"Child," I was saying,
"If some wives had obtained a lot like yours,"
And then perhaps I sigh'd, "they would not sit
In corners moping, like to sullen moppets
That want their will, but dry their eyes, and look
Their cheerful husbands in the face," perhaps
I said, their Selby's, "with proportion'd looks
Of honest joy."
You do suspect no jealousy?
What is his import? Whereto tends his speech? [_Aside._]
Of whom, of what, should she be jealous, sir?
I do not know, but women have their fancies;
And underneath a cold indifference,
Or show of some distaste, husbands have mask'd
A growing fondness for a female friend,
Which the wife's eye was sharp enough to see
Before the friend had wit to find it out.
You do not quit us soon?
'Tis as I find
Your Katherine profits by my lessons, sir.--
Means this man honest? Is there no deceit? [_Aside_.]
She cannot chuse.--Well, well, I have been thinking,
And if the matter were to do again--
What matter, sir?
This idle bond of wedlock;
These sour-sweet briars, fetters of harsh silk;
I might have made, I do not say a better,
But a more fit choice in a wife.
The parch'd ground,
In hottest Julys, drinks not in the showers
More greedily than I his words! [_Aside_.]
Is to be frank and jovial; and that man
Affects me best, who most reflects me in
My most free temper.
Were you free to chuse,
As jestingly I'll put the supposition,
Without a thought reflecting on your Katherine,
What sort of woman would you make your choice?
I like your humour, and will meet your jest.
She should be one about my Katherine's age;
But not so old, by some ten years, in gravity.
One that would meet my mirth, sometimes outrun it;
No puling, pining moppet, as you said,
Nor moping maid, that I must still be teaching
The freedoms of a wife all her life after:
But one, that, having worn the chain before,
(And worn it lightly, as report gave out,)
Enfranchised from it by her poor fool's death,
Took it not so to heart that I need dread
To die myself, for fear a second time
To wet a widow's eye.
Some widows, sir,
Hearing you talk so wildly, would be apt
To put strange misconstruction on your words,
As aiming at a Turkish liberty,
Where the free husband hath his several mates,
His Penseroso, his Allegro wife,
To suit his sober, or his frolic fit.
How judge you of that latitude?
In European customs bred, must judge. Had I
Been born a native of the liberal East,
I might have thought as they do. Yet I knew
A married man that took a second wife,
And (the man's circumstances duly weigh'd,
With all their bearings) the considerate world
Nor much approved, nor much condemn'd the deed.
You move my wonder strangely. Pray, proceed.
An eye of wanton liking he had placed
Upon a Widow, who liked him again,
But stood on terms of honourable love,
And scrupled wronging his most virtuous wife---
When to their ears a lucky rumour ran,
That this demure and saintly-seeming wife
Had a first husband living; with the which
Being question'd, she but faintly could deny.
"A priest indeed there was; some words had passed,
But scarce amounting to a marriage rite.
Her friend was absent; she supposed him dead;
And, seven years parted, both were free to chuse."
What did the indignant husband? Did he not
With violent handlings stigmatize the cheek
Of the deceiving wife, who had entail'd
Shame on their innocent babe?
He neither tore
His wife's locks nor his own; but wisely weighing
His own offence with her's in equal poise,
And woman's weakness 'gainst the strength of man,
Came to a calm and witty compromise.
He coolly took his gay-faced widow home,
Made her his second wife; and still the first
Lost few or none of her prerogatives.
The servants call'd her mistress still; she kept
The keys, and had the total ordering
Of the house affairs; and, some slight toys excepted,
Was all a moderate wife would wish to be.
A tale full of dramatic incident!--
And if a man should put it in a play,
How should he name the parties?
The man's name
Through time I have forgot--the widow's too;--
But his first wife's first name, her maiden one,
Was--not unlike to that your Katherine bore,
Before she took the honour'd style of Selby.
A dangerous meaning in your riddle lurks.
One knot is yet unsolved; that told, this strange
And most mysterious drama ends. The name
Of that first husband---
Sir, your pardon--
The allegory fits your private ear.
Some half hour hence, in the garden's secret walk,
We shall have leisure. [_Exit._]
Sister, whence come you?
From your poor Katherine's chamber, where she droops
In sad presageful thoughts, and sighs, and weeps,
And seems to pray by turns. At times she looks
As she would pour her secret in my bosom---
Then starts, as I have seen her, at the mention
Of some immodest act. At her request
I left her on her knees.
The fittest posture;
For great has been her fault to Heaven and me.
She married me, with a first husband living,
Or not known not to be so, which, in the judgment
Of any but indifferent honesty,
Must be esteem'd the same. The shallow Widow,
Caught by my art, under a riddling veil
Too thin to hide her meaning, hath confess'd all.
Your coming in broke off the conference,
When she was ripe to tell the fatal _name_,
That seals my wedded doom.
Was she so forward
To pour her hateful meanings in your ear
At the first hint?
Her newly flatter'd hopes
Array'd themselves at first in forms of doubt;
And with a female caution she stood off
Awhile, to read the meaning of my suit,
Which with such honest seeming I enforced,
That her cold scruples soon gave way; and now
She rests prepared, as mistress, or as wife,
To seize the place of her betrayed friend--
My much offending, but more suffering, Katherine.
Into what labyrinth of fearful shapes
My simple project has conducted you--
Were but my wit as skilful to invent
A clue to lead you forth!--I call to mind
A letter, which your wife received from the Cape,
Soon after you were married, with some circumstances
Of mystery too.
I well remember it.
That letter did confirm the truth (she said)
Of a friend's death, which she had long fear'd true,
But knew not for a fact. A youth of promise
She gave him out--a hot adventurous spirit--
That had set sail in quest of golden dreams,
And cities in the heart of Central Afric;
But named no names, nor did I care to press
My question further, in the passionate grief
She shew'd at the receipt. Might this be he?
Tears were not all. When that first shower was past,
With clasped hands she raised her eyes to Heav'n,
As if in thankfulness for some escape,
Or strange deliverance, in the news implied,
Which sweeten'd that sad news.
Something of that
I noted also--
In her closet once,
Seeking some other trifle, I espied
A ring, in mournful characters deciphering
The death of "Robert Halford, aged two
And twenty." Brother, I am not given
To the confident use of wagers, which I hold
Unseemly in a woman's argument;
But I am strangely tempted now to risk
A thousand pounds out of my patrimony,
(And let my future husband look to it
If it be lost,) that this immodest Widow
Shall name the name that tallies with that ring.
That wager lost, I should be rich indeed--
Rich in my rescued Kate--rich in my honour,
Which now was bankrupt. Sister, I accept
Your merry wager, with an aching heart
For very fear of winning. 'Tis the hour
That I should meet my Widow in the walk,
The south side of the garden. On some pretence
Lure forth my Wife that way, that she may witness
Our seeming courtship. Keep us still in sight,
Yourselves unseen; and by some sign I'll give,
(A finger held up, or a kerchief waved,)
You'll know your wager won--then break upon us,
As if by chance.
I apprehend your meaning--
And may you prove a true Cassandra here,
Though my poor acres smart for't, wagering sister.
SCENE.-_Mrs. Selby's Chamber._
MRS. FRAMPTON. KATHERINE.
Did I express myself in terms so strong?
As nothing could have more affrighted me.
Think it a hurt friend's jest, in retribution
Of a suspected cooling hospitality.
And, for my staying here, or going hence,
(Now I remember something of our argument,)
Selby and I can settle that between us.
You look amazed. What if your husband, child,
Himself has courted me to stay?
My wonder and my pleasure equally.
Yes, courted me to stay, waiv'd all objections.
Made it a favour to yourselves; not me,
His troublesome guest, as you surmised. Child, child!
When I recall his flattering welcome, I
Begin to think the burden of my presence
What, for Heaven--
A little, little spice
Of jealousy--that's all--an honest pretext,
No wife need blush for. Say that you should see
(As oftentimes we widows take such freedoms,
Yet still on this side virtue,) in a jest
Your husband pat me on the cheek, or steal
A kiss, while you were by,--not else, for virtue's sake.
I could endure all this, thinking my husband
Meant it in sport--
But if in downright earnest
(Putting myself out of the question here)
Your Selby, as I partly do suspect,
Own'd a divided heart--
My own would break--
Why, what a blind and witless fool it is,
That will not see its gains, its infinite gains--
Gain in a loss,
Or mirth in utter desolation!
He doting on a face--suppose it mine,
Or any other's tolerably fair--
What need you care about a senseless secret?
Perplex'd and fearful woman! I in part
Fathom your dangerous meaning. You have broke
The worse than iron band, fretting the soul,
By which you held me captive. Whether my husband
_Is_ what you gave him out, or your fool'd fancy
But dreams he is so, either way I am free.
It talks it bravely, blazons out its shame;
A very heroine while on its knees;
Rowe's Penitent, an absolute Calista!
Not to thy wretched self these tears are falling;
But to my husband, and offended heaven,
Some drops are due--and then I sleep in peace,
Reliev'd from frightful dreams, my dreams though sad.
I have gone too far. Who knows but in this mood
She may forestall my story, win on Selby
By a frank confession?--and the time draws on
For our appointed meeting. The game's desperate,
For which I play. A moment's difference
May make it hers or mine. I fly to meet him.
MR. SELBY. MRS. FRAMPTON.
I am not so ill a guesser, Mrs. Frampton,
Not to conjecture, that some passages
In your unfinished story, rightly interpreted,
Glanced at my bosom's peace;
You knew my wife?
Even from her earliest school-days.--What of that?
Or how is she concerned in my fine riddles,
Framed for the hour's amusement?
By my _hopes_
Of my new interest conceived in you,
And by the honest passion of my heart,
Which not obliquely I to you did hint;
Come from the clouds of misty allegory,
And in plain language let me hear the worst.
Stand I disgraced or no?
Then, by _my_ hopes
Of my new interest conceiv'd in you,
And by the kindling passion in _my_ breast,
Which through my riddles you had almost read,
Adjured so strongly, I will tell you all.
In her school years, then bordering on fifteen,
Or haply not much past, she loved a youth--
My most ingenuous Widow--
Met him oft
By stealth, where I still of the party was--
Prime confidant to all the school, I warrant,
And general go-between--
One morn he came
In breathless haste. "The ship was under sail,
Or in few hours would be, that must convey
Him and his destinies to barbarous shores,
Where, should he perish by inglorious hands,
It would be consolation in his death
To have call'd his Katherine _his_."
Thus far the story
Tallies with what I hoped.
The doubt of doing wrong, and losing him;
And my dissuasions not o'er hotly urged,
Whom he had flatter'd with the bride-maid's part;--
I owe my subtle Widow, then, for this.
Briefly, we went to church. The ceremony
Scarcely was huddled over, and the ring
Yet cold upon her finger, when they parted--
He to his ship; and we to school got back,
Scarce miss'd, before the dinner-bell could ring.
And from that hour--
Nor sight, nor news of him,
For aught that I could hear, she e'er obtain'd.
Like to a man that hovers in suspense
Over a letter just receiv'd, on which
The black seal hath impress'd its ominous token,
Whether to open it or no, so I
Suspended stand, whether to press my fate
Further, or check ill curiosity
That tempts me to more loss.--The name, the name
Of this fine youth?
What boots it, if 'twere told?