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scene II.] FATAL curiosity. 13
Cease, cease, heart-easing tears .
Char. What's this?—A letter superscrib'd to me! None could convey it here, but you, Maria. Ungen'rous, cruel maid to use me thus ! To join with flatt'ring men, to break my peace, And persecute me to the last retreat?
Mar. Why should it break your peace to hear the
Of honoe love? This letter is—
Char. No matter whence: return it back unopen'd: I have no love, no charms, but for my Wilmot, Nor would have any.
Mar. Alas! Wilmot's dead; Or, living, dead to you.
Char. I'll not despair: Patience shall cherish hope; Nor wrong his honour by unjust suspicion. I know his truth, and will preserve my own.
But, to prevent all future importunity,
Char. This visit's kind. Agnes. Few else would think it so : Those who would once have thought themselves much honour'd By the least favour, though 'twere but a look, I could have shown them, now refuse to see me. 'Tis misery enough to be reduc’d To the low level of the common herd, Who, born to beggary, envy all above them : But 'tis the curse of curses, to endure The insolent contempt of those we scorn. Char. By scorning, we provoke them to contempt, And thus offend, and suffer in our turns : We must have patience. Agnes. No, I scorn them yet; But there's no end of suffring : Who can say Their sorrows are complete : My wretched husband, Tir'd with our woes, and hopeless of relief, Grows sick of life. And, urg'd by indignation and despair, Would plunge into eternity at once, By foul self murder. Char. Gracious Heaven support him Agnes. His fixed love for me, Whom he would fain persuade to share his fate, And take the same uncertain, dreadful course, Alone withholds his hand. Char. And may it ever ! Agnes. I've known with him the two extremes of life, The highest happiness, and deepest woe, With all the sharp and bitter aggravations Of such a vast transition—Such a fall In the decline of life!—I have as quick,
As exquisite a sense of pain, as he, And would do any thing, but die, to end it; But there my courage fails. Death is the worst That fate can bring, and cuts off ev'ry hope. 1 Char. We must not chuse, but strive to bear our lot Without reproach or guilt. By one rash act Of desperation, we may overthrow The merit we've been raising all our days, And lose our whole reward. And now, methinks, Now, more than ever, we have cause to fear, And be upon our guard. The hand of Heaven Spreads clouds on clouds o'er our benighted heads, And wrapp'd in darkness, doubles our distress. I had, the night last past, repeated twice, A strange and awful dream: I would not yield To fearful superstition, nor despise The admonition of a friendly power, That wish'd my good. Agnes. I have certain plagues enough, Without the help of dreams, to make me wretched, Char. I would not stake my happiness or duty, On their uncertain credit, nor on aught But reason, and the known decrees of Heaven. Yet dreams have sometimes shown events to come, And may excite to vigilance and care. My vision may be such, and sent to warn us, (Now we are tried by multiply'd afflictions) To mark each motion of our swelling hearts, Lest we attempt to extricate ourselves, And seek deliv'rance by forbidden ways— To keep our hopes and innocence entire, Till we're dismiss'd to join the happy dead, Or Heaven relieves us here. Agnes. Well, to your dream. Char. Methought, I sat, in a dark winter's night, On the wide summit of a barren mountain;
The sharp, bleak winds, pierc'd through my shiv'ring