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mistresses, and women for a base deluder. And shall a wife do less? Your chidings hurt me, Charlotte.
Char. And come too late; they might have sav'd you else. How could he use you so?
Mrs. Bev. 'Twas friendship did it. His heart was breaking for a friend.
Char. The friend that has betray'd him.
Char. Unless a friend has wanted! Sister! sister!
Mrs. Bev. My Beverley speaks nobly of him.
Char. And Lewson truly-But I displease you with this talk
-To-morrow will instruct us. Mrs. Bev. Stay till it comes then I would not think so hardly.
Char. Nor I, but from conviction-Yet we have hope of better days. My uncle is infirm, and of an age that threatens hourly.- Or, if he lives, you never have offended him; and for distresses so unmerited he will have pity.
Mrs. Bed. I know it, and am cheerful. We have no more to lose; and for what's gone, if it brings prudence k home, the purchase is well made.
Char. My Lewson will be kind too. While he and I have life and means, you shall divide with us- And
see, he's here!
Enter LEW SON. We were just speaking of you.
Lew. "Tis best to interrupt you, then. Few characters will bear a scrutiny; and where the bad outweighs the good, he's safest that's least talk'd of. What say you, in Madam?
[To Charlotte. Char. That I hate scandal, tho' a woman_therefore ! talk seldom of
you. Mrs. Bev. Or, with more truth, that, tho' a woman, she loves to praise-therefore talks always of you. leave you to decide it.
Lew. How good and amiable! I came to talk in private with you,
of matters that concern you.
Lew. I am too grave, perhaps; but be assurd of this, I have no news that troubles me, and therefore should not you.
Char. I am easy then-Propose your question.
Lew. 'Tis now a tedious twelve-month, since with an open and kind heart
you said you lov'd Char. So tedious, did you say?
Lew. And when in consequence of such sweet words, I press'd for marriage, you gave a voluntary promise that you would live for me.
Char. You think me chang'd then! [Angrily. Lew. I did not say so.
A thousand times I have press d for the performance of this promise: but private cares, a brother's and a sister's ruin, were reasons for delaying it. Char. I had no other reasons. Where will this end? Lew. It shall end presently. Char. Go on, Sir.
Lew. A promise, such as this, given freely, not extorted, the world thinks binding; but I think otherwise.
Char. And would release me from it?
Lew. Time, and a near acquaintance with my faults, may have brought change-if it be so; or, for a moment, if you have wish'd this promise were unmade, here Í acquit you of it.—This is my question, then; and with such plainness as I ask it, I shall entreat an answer.-Have you repented of this promise?
Char. Stay, Sir. The man that can suspect me, shall find me chang'd—Why am I doubted?
Lew. My doubts are of myself. I have my faults, and you
have observation. If from my temper, my words or actions, you have conceiv'd a thought against me, or even a wish for separation, all that has passid is nothing.
Char. You startle me-But tell me
-I must be answer'd first. Is it from honour you speak this? Or do you wish me chang’d?
Lew. Heaven knows I do not. The hopes of an union with my Charlotte are the joy of my life.
Yet for a promise, tho' given in love, and meant for binding; if time, or accident, or reason should change opinion—I had much rather release you from such a promise, than exact its fulfilment.
Char. Why, now I'll answer you. Your doubts are certainties I am really chang'd.
Lew. Indeed ?
Char. I could torment you now, as you have me: but it is not in my nature.—That I am chang’d, I own: for what at first was inclination, is now grown reason in me; and from that reason, had I the world! nay, were I poor as any pea.sant's child and you too earning but your daily bread by daily toil, with but a cottage to invite me to- I would be your's, and happy.
Lew. My kindest Charlotte! [Taking her hand] thanks are too poor for this- -and words too weak! but, if we love so, why should our union be delay'd?
Char. For happier times. The present are too wretched.
Lew. I may have reasons that press
Lew. No, madam; I am bound in honour to make conditions first- I am bound by inclination too. This sweet profusion of kind words pains me while it pleases. I dread the losing you!
Char. Astonishment! what mean you?
Lew. First promise, that to-morrow, or the next day, you will be mine for ever.
Char. I do - tho' misery should succeed.
Lew. Thus, then, I seize you! and with you every joy that I look for from this world's treasures!
"Char. And thus I seal my promise. (Embracing him.] Now, Sir, your secret?
Lew. Your fortune's lost.
Char. My fortune lost! I'll study to be humble then. But was my promise claim'd for this? How nobly generous! where learnt you this sad news?
Lero. From Bates, Stukely's prime agent. I have oblig'd him, and he's grateful-He told it me in friend. ship, to warn me from
Charlotte. Char. 'Twas honest in him, and I'll esteem him for it. Lew. He knows much more than he has told.
Char. For me it is enough. And for your generous love, I thank you from my soul. If you'd oblige me more, give me a little time.
Lew. Why time? It robs us of our happiness.
Char. I have a task to learn first. The little pride this fortune gave me must be subdued. Once we were equal; and might have met obliging and oblig'd. But now 'tis otherwise; and for a life of obligations, I have not learnt to bear it.
Lew. Mine is that life. You are too noble!
Lew. It must be so; we live but for each other. Keep what
know a secret; and when we meet tomorrow, more may be known.-Farewel.
[Exit. Char. My poor, poor sister! how would this wound her! but I'll conceal it, and speak comfort to her.
[Exit. SCENE III. A room in the Gaming-House.
Enter BEVERLEY and STUKELY.
[Angrily. Stu. Where we may vent our curses.
Bev. Ay, on yourself, and those counsels that have destroy'd me. A thousand fiends were in that bosom, and all let loose to tempt me
- I had resisted else. Stu. Go on, Sir-I have deserv'd this from you. What have I done?
Bev. What the arch-devil of old did sooth'd with false hopes, for certain ruin. VOL. 1.
Stu. Myself unhurt, nay pleas'd at your destruction -So your words mean. Why, tell it to the world. I am too poor to find a friend in't.
Bev. A friend! what's he? I had a friend.
Bev. Ay; I'll tell you of this friend. He found me happiest of the happy. Fortune and honour crowu'd me; and love and peace liv'd in my heart. One spark of folly lurk'd there; that too he found; and by deceitful breath blew it to flames that have consum'd me. This friend were you to me.
Słu. A little more, perhaps—The friend who gave his all to save you; and not succeeding, chose ruin with you. But no matter; I have undone you, and am a villain.
Bev. No; I think not--The villains are within.
Bev. Dawson and the rest-We have been dupes to sharpers.
Stu. How know you this? I have had doubts as well as you; yet still as fortune chang’d I blush'd at my own thoughts-But you have proofs, perhaps?
Bec. Ay, proofs infallible. Repeated losses-Night after night, and no reverse-Chance has no hand in this.
Stu. I think more charitably; yet I am peevish in my nature, and apt to doubt-The world speaks fairly of this Dawson, so does it of the rest. We have watch'd 'em closely too. But 'tis a right usurp'd by losers, to think the winners knaves--We'll have more manhood in
Bev. I know not what to think. This night has stung me to the quick-Blasted my reputation toomI have bound my honour to these vipers; play'd meanly upon credit, till I tired them; and now they shun me to rifle one another. What's to be done?
Stu. Nothing. My counsels have been fatal.
Bev. Oh shame! Traitor! 'tis you have brought it on me. [Taking hold of him.] Shew me the means to save me, or I'll commit a murder here, and next upon myself.
Stu. Why do it then, and rid me of ingratitude.