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V. Wilm. You arc, I presume,
[Gives a letter.
O. Wilm. [Having read the letter.] —Sir, such welcome
As this poor house affords, you may command. Onr ever friendly neighbour—Once we hoped To liave called fair Charlotte by a dearer name, But we have done with hope—I pray excuse This incoherence—We had once a son. [Weeps.
Agn. That you are come from that dear virtuous maid, Revives in us the memory of a loss, Which, though long since, we have not learned to bear.
Y. Wilm. The joy to see them, and the bitter pain It is to see them thus, touches my soul With tenderness and grief, that will o'crflow. —They know me not, and yet I shall, I fear, Defeat my purpose, and betray myself. [Aside.
O. Wilm. The lady calls you here her valued friend; Enough, though nothing more should be implied, To recommend you to our best esteem; —A worthless acquisition! May she find Some means that better may express her kindness! But she, perhaps, has purposed to enrich You with herself, and end her fruitless sorrow For one, whom death alone can justify For leaving her so long. If it be so. May you repair his loss, and be to Charlotte A second, happier Wilmot! Partial nature, Who only favours youth, as feeble age Were not her offspring, or below her care, Has scaled our doom: No second hope shall
spring, To dry our tears, and dissipate despair.
Agn. The last and most abandoned of our kind, By heaven and earth neglected or despised, Ine loathsome grave, that robbed us of our son, And all our joys in him, must be our refuge.
Y. Wilm. hei ghosts unpardoned, or devoted fiends, Fear without hope, anil wail in such sad strains; But grace defend the living from despair! The darkest hours p/ecedc the rising sun, And mercy may appear, when least expected.
O. Wilm. This I have heard a thousand times repeated, And have, believing, been as oft deceived.
Y. Wilm. Bebola in me an instance of its truth. At sea twice shipwrecked, and as oft the prey Of lawless pirates ; by the Arabs thrice
Surprised, and robbed on shore; and once reduced To worse than these, the sum of all distress That the most wretched feel on this side hell, 'Ev'n slavery itself: Yet here I stand, Except one trouble, that will quickly end, The happiest of mankind.
O. Wilm. A rare example Of fortune's changes; apter to surprise Or entertain, than comfort or instruct If you would reason from events, be just, And count, when you escaped, how many perished; And draw your inference thence.
Agn. Alas! Who knows, But we were rendered childless by some storm, In which you, though preserved, might bear a part?
Y. Wilm. How has my curiosity betrayed 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 troubled, That you should think any excuse were needful.
Y. Wilm. The weight of this to me is some incumbrance, [Takes a casket out qf 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 asked for, as perhaps I may, I beg that you would wake me.
Agn. Doubt it not: Distracted as I am with various woes, I shall remember that. [Exit, with Old WlLMOT.
Y. Wilm. Merciless grief I What ravage lias it made! how has it changed 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. How near is misery and joy allied! Nor eye, nor thought can their extremes divide: A moment's space is long, and lightning slow To fate descending to reverse our woe, Or blast our hopes, and all our joys o'erthrow.
[Exit. SCEXE I.—The Scene continues
Enter Agnes alone, with the casket in her hand.
Agn. Who should this stranger be ? And then
Nay, it was more tlian thought 1 saw and
touched The bright temptation, and I sec it yet— 'Tis here—'tis mine—I have it in possession— , Must I resign it? Must I give it back? Am I in love with misery and want, To rob myself, and court so vast a loss? Retain it then—But how? There is a way— Why sinks my heart? Why does my blood run
cold? Why am I thrilled with horror? 'Tis not choice, But dire necessity suggests the thought.
Enter Old WlLMOT.
O. Wilm. The mind contented, with how little
hear me? >
What art thou gazing on ?—Fie, 'tis not well!
Agn. And who shall know it?
O. Wilm. There is a kind of pride, a decent dignity, Due to ourselves; which, spite of our misfortunes, Mav be maintained, and cherished to the last. To live without reproach, and without leave To quit the world, shews sovereign contempt, And noble scorn of its relentless malice.
Agn. Shews 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 compelled.
0. Wdm. To chase a shadow, when the settingsun Is darting his last rays, were just as wise As your anxiety for fleeting life. Now the last means for its support arc failing: Were famine not as mortal as the sword, Your warmth might be excused—But take thy
choice: Die how you will, you shall not die alone.
Agn. Nor live, 1 hope.
O. Wilm. There is no fear of that.
Agn. Then, we'll live both.
O. Wilm. Strange folly ! where the means?
Agn. There—those jewels!
O.Wilm. Ha! Take heed! Perhaps thou dost but try me—yet take heed! There s nothing so monstrous but the mind of
man, In some conditions, may be brought to approve: Theft, sacrilege, treason, and parricide, When flattering opportunity .enticed, And desperation drove, have been committed By those, who once would start to hear them named.
Agn. And add to these detested suicide, Which, by a crime much less, we may avoid.
0. Wilm. How couldst thou form a thought so very damning? So advantageous, so secure, and easy; And yet so cruel, and so full of horror!
Agn. Tis less impiety, less against nature, To take another's life, than end our own.
O. Wilm. No matter which the less or greater crime: 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. 0! what is man, his excellence and strength, When in an hour of trial and desertion, Reason, his noblest power, may be suborned To plead t lie cause of vile assassination 1
Agn. You're too severe: Reason may justly plead For our own preservation.
0. Wilm. Rest contented;
Whate'er resistance I may seem to make,
Agn. Then nought remains
U. Wilm. Generous, unhappy man! O! what
Agn. By what means
O. Wilm. Why, what a fiend!
sign. Barbarous man!
perish In some remote, inhospitable land; The loveliest youth, in person and in mind, That ever crowned a groaning mother's pains! Where was thy pity, where thy patience then i Thou cruel husband! thou unnatural father! Thou most remorseless, most ungrateful man! To waste my fortune, rob me of my son, To drive me to despair, and then reproach me For being what thou hast made me f
O. Wilm. Dry thy tears: I ought not to reproach thee. I confess That thou hast suffered much: So have we both. But chide no more; I am wrought up to thy purpose. The poor, ill-fated, unsuspecting victim, Ere he reclined him on the fatal couch, From which he's ne'er to rise, took oft'the sash, And costly dagger that thou saw'st him wear, And thus, unthinking, furnished us with arms Against himself. Steal to the door, And bring me word, if he be still asleep.
Is all the happiest of mankind can hope for.
Enter AGNES, with Young WlLMOT's dagger.
Agn. The stranger sleeps at present; but so restless His slumbers seem, they can't continue long. Here, I've secured his dagger.
O. Wilm. O Agnes! Agnes! if there be a hell, 'Tis just we should expect it.
[Goei to take the dagger, but lets it fall. Agn. Shake off this panic, and be more yourself! 0. Wilm. What's to be done I On what had
we determined 1 Agn. You're quite dismayed.
[Takes up the dagger. O. Wilm. Give me the fatal steel. 'Tis but a single murder, Necessity, impatience, and despair, The three wide mouths of that true Cerberus, Grim poverty, demand: they shall be stopped. Ambition, persecution, and revenge, Devour their millions daily: And shall I— But follow me, and see how little cause You had to think, there was the least remain Of manhood, pity, mercy, or remorse, Left in this savage breast.
[Going the wrong way,
O. Wilm. True; I had forgot
Agn. O softly! softly! The least noise undoes us.— What are we doing? Miser)' and want
Are lighter ills than this! I cannot bear it!
Stop, hold thy liand!—Inconstant, wretched woman!
What! doth my heart recoil? O Wilmot!
Wilmot! What power shall I invoke to aid thee, Wilmot'
Enter Charlotte, Eustace, and Randal.
Char. What strange neglect! The doors are all unbarred, And not a living creature to be seen!
Enter Old Wilmot and Agnes.
Char. Sir, we are come to give and to receive
Agn. Heard you tliat ?—
O. Wilm. Prithee, peace!
O..Wilm. Curses and deprecations are in vain: The sun will shine, and all things have their
course, When we, the curse and burden of the earth, Shall be absorbed, and mingled with its dust. Our guilt and desolation must be told, From age to age, to teach desponding mortals, How fin- beyond the reach of human thought Heaven, when incensed, can punish—Die thou first. [Stabs Agnes.
I durst not trust thy weakness.
Jan. Ever kind, .
But most in this!
O. Wilm. I will not long survive thee. Agn. Do not accuse thy erring mother, Wilmot, With too much rigour, when we meet above! To give thee life for life, and blood for blood, Is not enough. Had I ten thousand lives, I'd give them all to speak my penitence, Deep, and sincere, and equal to my crime. Oh Wilmot! oh my son! my son! [Dies.
Enter Randal and Eustace. Eust. O WiJmot! Wilmot!
Are these the fruits of all thy anxious cares For thy ungrateful parents? Cruel fiends!
O. Wilm. What whining fool art thou, who would'st usurp My sovereign right of grief!—Was he thy son ?— Say, canst thou shew thy hands reeking with
blood, That flowed, through purer channels, from thy
loins.' Compute the sands that bound the spacious ocean, And swell their number with a single grain; Increase the noise of thunder with thy voice; Or, when the raging wind lays nature waste, Assist the tempest with thy feeble breath; But name not thy faint sorrow, with the anguish Of a curst wretch, who only hopes from this
[Stabbing himself. To change the scene, but not relieve his pain!
Rand. A dreadful instance of the last remorse! May all your woes end here!
O. Wilm. O would they end A thousand ages hence, I then should suffer Much less than I deserve. Yet let me say, You'll do but justice to inform the world, This horrid deed, that punishes itself, Was not intended, thinking him our son; For that we knew not till it was too late. Proud, and impatient under our afflictions, While Heaven was labouring to make us happy, We brought this dreadful ruin on ourselves. Mankind may learn but oh [Dies.
Rand. Heaven grant they may! And may thy penitence atone thy crime !— Tend well the hapless Charlotte, and hear hence These bleeding victims of despair and pride; Toll the death-bell! and follow to the grave The wretched parents and ill-fated son.