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The loathsome grave, that robb'd us of our son,
And all our joys in him must be our refuge.
Y. Wilm. Let ghosts unpardon'd, or devoted fiends,
Fear without hope, and wail in such sad strains;
But grace defend the living from despair!
The darkest hours precede the rising sun,
And mercy may appear when least expected.
0. Wilm. This I have heard a thousand times
And have, believing, been as oft deceiv'd. |
Y. Wilm. Behold in me an instance of its truth. |
At sea twice shipwreck'd, and as oft the prey |
Of lawless pirates; by the Arabs thrice
Surpris'd, and robb'd on shore; and once reduc’d
To worse than these, the sum of all distress
That the most wretched feel on this side hell;
Even slavery itself: Yet here I stand,
Except one trouble that will quickly end,
The happiest of mankind.
O. Wilm. A rare example - -
Offortune's changes; apter to surprise -
Or entertain, than comfort or instruct. -
If you would reason from events, be just, -
And count, when you escap'd, how many perish'd,
And draw your inference thence.
Agnes. Alas! who knows, -
But we were render'd childless by some storm,
In which you, though preserv'd, might bear a part?
Y. Wilm. How has my curiosity betray'd me
Into superfluous pain! I faint with fondness;
And shall, if I stay longer, rush upon them;
Proclaim myself their son; kiss, and embrace them;
Till, with the excess of pleasure and surprise,
Their souls transported, their frail mansions quit,
And leave them breathless in my longing arms.
By circumstances then, and slow degrees,
They must be let into a happiness
Too great for them to bear at once, and live:
That Charlotte will perform. I need not feign
To ask an hour for rest. [Aside.) Sir, I entreat
The favour to retire; where, for a while,
I may repose myself. You will excuse
This freedom, and the trouble that I give you:
'Tis long since I have slept, and nature calls.
O. Wilm. I pray, no more: Believe we're only
That you should think any excuse were needful.
Y. Wilm. The weight of this, to me is some in-
Takes a Casket out of his Bosom, and gives it
to his Mother.
And its contents of value: If you please
To take the charge of it till I awake,
I shall not rest the worse. If I should sleep
Till I am ask'd for, as perhaps I may,
I beg that you would wake me.
Agnes. Doubt it not
Distracted as I am with various woes,
I shall remember that. [Exit, with OLD WILMOT.
Y. Wilm. Merciless grief!
What ravage has it made 1 how has it chang'd
Her lovely form and mind! I feel her anguish,
And dread, I know not what, from her despair.
My father too—O, grant them patience, Heaven '
A little longer, a few short hours more,
And all their cares, and mine, shall end for ever.
Agnes. Who should this stranger be 3—And then this casket— ~ He says it is of value, and yet trusts it, As if a trifle, to a stranger's hand. His confidence amazes me—Perhaps It is not what he says—I'm strongly tempted To open it, and see.—No, let it rest Why should I pry into the cares of others, Who have so many sorrows of my own 2 With how much ease the spring gives way! Surprising ! My eyes are dazzl'd, and my ravish'd heart Leaps at the glorious sight. How bright's the lustre, And how immense the worth of these fair jewels — Ay, such a treasure would expel for ever Base poverty, and all its abject train; Famine; the cold neglect of friends; the scorn, Or more provoking pity of the world. Plenty, content, and power, might take their turn, And lofty pride bare its aspiring head At our approach, and once more bend before us. A pleasing dream —'Tis past; and now Iwake: For sure it was a happiness to think, Though, but a moment, such a treasure mine.
Nay, it was more than thought—I saw, and touch'd
The bright temptation; and I see it yet—
'Tis here—'tis mine—I have it in possession—
Must I resign it 2 Must I give it back 2
Am I in love with misery and want?—
To rob myself, and court so vast a loss 2
Retain it then—But how —There is a way—
Why sinks my heart? Why does my blood run cold?
Why am I thrill'd with horror —'Tis not choice
But dire necessity suggests the thought.
O. Wilm. The mind contented, with how little pains The wand'ring senses yield to soft repose ! He's fallen asleep already—Happy man : What dost thou think, my Agnes, of our guest ? He seems to me a youth of great humanity: Just ere he clos'd his eyes, that swam in tears, He wrung my hand, and press'd it to his lips; And with a look, that pierc'd me to the soul, Begg'd me to comfort thee: And—dost thou hear me 2– What art thou gazing on 2—Fie, 'tis not well.— This casket was deliver'd to you clos'd : Why have you open'd it? Should this be known, How mean must we appear! Agnes. And who shall know it 2 O. Wilm. There is a kind of pride, a decent dignity, Tuo to oves, which, spite of our misfortunes, I say be maintain'd, and cherish'd to the last. To live without reproach, and without leave To quit the world, shows sovereign contempt, And noble scorn of its relentless malice. Agnes. Shows sovereign madness, and a scorn of SenSe. Pursue no farther this detested theme:
I will not die; I will not leave the world,
For all that you can urge, until compell’d.
O. Wilm. To chase a shadow, when the setting
Is darting his last rays, were just as wise
As your anxiety for fleeting life,
Now the last means for its support are failing:
Were famine not as mortal as the sword,
Your warmth might be excus’d—But take thy
Die how you will, you shall not die alone.
Agnes. Nor live, I hope,
O. Wilm. There is no fear of that.
Agnes. Then, we'll live both.
O. Wilm. Strange folly! where the means ?
Agnes. There—those jewels :
O. Wilm. Ah Take heed
Perhaps thou dost but try me—yet take heed
There's naught so monstrous, but the mind of man,
In some conditions, may be brought t'approve :
Theft, sacrilege, treason, and parricide,
When flatt'ring opportunity entic'd,
And desperation drove, have been committed
By those who once would start to hear them nam'd.
Agnes. And add to these detested suicide,
Which, by a crime much less, we may avoid.
O. Wilm. How couldst thou form a thought so
very damning 2
So advantageous, so secure, and easy;
And yet so cruel, and so full of horror!
Agnes. "Tis less impiety, less against nature,
To take another's life, than end our own.
O. Wilm. No matter, which, the less or greater
Howe'er we may deceive ourselves or others,
We act from inclination, not by rule,
Or none could act amiss: and that all err,
None but the conscious hypocrite denies.