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A DRAMA, IN FIVE ACTS.-BY BENJAMIN THOMPSON.
MRS. HALLER. CHARLOTTE. ANNETTE. CLAUDINE. SUSAN.
would have laughed at me, indeed. (Draws a green SCENE I-The Skirts of Count Wintersen's Park. purse from his pocket.) I am to carry this money to The park-gates in the centre. On one side, a low old Tobias; and Mrs. Haller said I must be sure lodge among the trees; on the other, in the back-not to blab, or say that she had sent it. Well, well, ground, a peasant's hut.
Peter. Pooh, pooh! never tell me; I'm a clever lad, for all father's crying out every minute, "Peter," and "Stupid Peter!" But I say Peter is not stupid, though father will always be so wise. First, I talk too much; then I talk too little; and if I talk a bit to myself, he calls me a driveller. Now I like best to talk to myself; for I never contradict myself, and I don't laugh at myself as other folks do. That laughing is often a plaguy teasing custom. To be sure, when Mrs. Haller laughs, one can bear it well enough; there is a sweetness even in her reproof, that somehow-but, lud! I had near forgot what I was sent about. Yes, then they
No. 5.-THE BRITISH DRAMA.
she may be easy for that matter; not a word shall drop from my lips. Mrs. Haller is charming, but silly, if father is right; for father says, "He that spends his money is not wise, but he that gives it away is stark mad."
Enter the STRANGER from the lodge, followed by FRANCIS. At sight of Peter the Stranger stops, and looks suspiciously at him. Peter stands opposite to him with his mouth wide open. At length, he takes off his hat, scrapes a bow, and goes into the hut.
Stra. Who is that?
Peter. And why not, pray? But I did go there for nothing, though. Do you think one must be paid for everything? If Mrs. Haller were to give me but a smiling look, I'd jump up to my neck in the great pond for nothing.
Fra. It seems, then, Mrs. Haller sent you?
Peter. How should I know? "Look you!" says
Stra. (With acrimony.) Ay, ay; he knows how to Mrs. Haller, "Master Peter, be so good as not to tell his story, no doubt.
Fra. In that hut. (Stranger goes into the hut.) A good master, though one almost loses the use of speech by living with him. A man kind and clear; though I cannot understand him. He rails against the whole world, and yet no beggar leaves his door unsatisfied. I have now lived three years with him, and yet I know not who he is. A hater of society, no doubt; but not by Providence intended to be so. Misanthropy in his head, not in his heart.
Enter the STRANGER and PETER from the hut. Peter. Pray, walk on.
Stra. (To Francis.) Fool!
mention it to anybody." (With much consequence.) "Master Peter, be so good."—Hi hi, hi! "Master Peter, be so"-Hi, hi, hi!
Fra. Oh! that is quite a different thing. Of course, you must be silent then.
Peter. I know that; and so I am, too. For I told old Tobias, says I, "Now, you're not to think as how Mrs. Haller sent the money; for I shall not say a word about that as long as I live," says I. Fra. There you were very right. Did you carry him much money?
Peter. I don't know; I in a bit of a green purse. little matter that she has last fortnight.
didn't count it. It was Mayhap, it may be some scraped together in the
Fra. And why just in the last fortnight? Peter. Because, about a fortnight since, I carried him some money before.
Fra. From Mrs. Haller?
Peter. Ay, sure! who else, think you? Father's not such a fool. He says it is our bounden duty, as Christians, to take care of our money, and not give any thing away, especially in summer; for then, he says, there's herbs and roots enough in conscience to satisfy all the reasonable hungry poor. But I say father's wrong, and Mrs. Haller's right.
But this Mrs. Haller seems a
Fra. Yes, yes. strange woman, Peter.
Peter. Ay, at times, she is plaguy odd. Why, she'll sit and cry you a whole day through, without any one's knowing why. Ay, and yet, somehow or other, whenever she crics, I always cry too, witout knowing why.
Fra. (To the Stranger.) Are you satisfied?
Fra. Good day, Master Peter.
Peter. You're not going yet, are you?
Fra. Mrs. Haller will be waiting for an answer. Peter. So she will. And I have another place or two to call at. (Takes off his hat to the Strarger.) Servant, sir.
Peter. Ay, I'd have him to know that I'm no blab.
Fra. Now, sir.
Stra. What do you want?
Fra. Were you not wrong, sir?
Stra. Hem! Wrong!
Fra. Can you still doubt?
Stra. I'll hear no more! Who is this Mrs Haller? Why do I always follow her path? Go where I will, whenever I try to do good, she has always been there before me.
Fra. You should rejoice at that.
That there are other good and charitable people in the world beside yourself. Stra. Oh, yes!
Fra. Why not seek to be acquainted with her.
I saw her yesterday in the garden up at the castle. Mr. Solomon, the steward, says she has been unwell, and confined to her room almost ever since we have been here. But one would not think it to look at her; for a more beautiful creature I never
Stra. So much the worse. Beauty is a mask. Fra. In her it seems a mirror of the soul. Her charities
Stra. Talk not to me of her charities. All women ish to be conspicuous: in town by their wit; in the country by their heart.
Fra. 'Tis immaterial in what way good is done.
Fra. To this poor old man, at least.
Fra. His most urgent wants, indeed, Mrs. Haller has relieved; but whether she has or could have given as much as would purchase liberty for the son, the prop of his age
Stra. Silence! I will not give him a doit! (In a peevish tone.) You interest yourself very warmly in his behalf. Perhaps you are to be a sharer in the gift.
Fra. Sir, sir, that did not come from your heart. Stra. (Recol ecting himself.) Forgive me!
Fra. Poor master! How must the world have used you before it could have instilled this hatred of mankind, this constant doubt of honesty and virtue!
Stra. Leave me to myself. (Throws himself on a seat; takes a book from his pocket, and reads.)
Fra. (Aside, surveying him.) Again reading! Thus it is from morn to night. To him nature has no beauty; life no charm. For three years I have never seen him smile. What will be his fate at last? Nothing diverts him. Oh! if he would but attach himself to any living thing! were it an animal-for something man must love.
Enter TOBIAS from the hut.
Tob. Oh! how refreshing, after seven long weeks, to feel these warm sunbeams once again! Thanks, thanks, bounteous heaven! for the joy I taste. (Presses his cap between his hands, looks up, and prays. The Stranger observes him attentively.)
Fra. (To the Stranger.) This old man's share of earthly happiness can be but little; yet mark how grateful he is for his portion of it.
Stra. Because, though old, he is but a child in the leading-strings of Hope.
Fra. Hope is the nurse of life.
Stra. And her cradle is the grave. (Tobias replaces his cap.)
Fra. I wish you joy. I am glad to see you are so much recovered.
Tob. Thank you! Heaven and the assistance of a kind lady have saved me for another year or two.
Fra. How old are you, pray?
Tob. Seventy-six. To be sure I can expect but little joy before I die. Yet, there is another and a better world.
Fra. To the unfortunate, then, death is scarcely an evil?
Tob. Am so unfortunate? Do I not enjoy this glorious morning? Am I not in health again? Believe me, sir, he who, leaving the bed of sickness, for the first time breathes the fresh pure air, is, at that moment, the happiest of his Maker's ereatures.
Fra. Yet 'tis a happiness that fails upon
strong lad; and took an honest wife. Heaven blessed my farm with rich crops, and my marriage with five children. This lasted nine or ten years. Two of my children died. I felt it sorely. The land was afflicted with a famine. My wife assisted me in supporting our family: but four years after. she left our dwelling for a better place; and of my five children only one son remained. This was blow upon blow. It was long before i regained my fortitude. At length resignation and religion had their effect. I again attached myself to life. My son grew, and helped me in my work. Now the state bas called him away to bear a musket. This is to me a loss, indeed. I can work no more. I am old and weak; and true it is, but for Mrs. Haller, I must have perished.
Fra. Still, then, life has its charms for you? Tob. Why not, while the world holds anything that's dear to me? Have not I a son? Fra. Who knows that you will ever see him more? He may be dead.
Tob. Alas! he may. But as long as I am not sure of it, he lives to me: and if he falls, 'tis in hig country's cause. Nay, should I lose him, still I should not wish to die. Here is the hut in which I was born. Here is the tree that grew with me; and, I am almost ashamed to confess it-I have a dog I love.
Fra. A dog!
Tob. Yes! Smile if you please: but hear me. My benefactress once came to my hut herself, some time before you fixed here. The poor animal, unused to see the form of elegance and beauty enter the door of penury, growled at her. "I wonder you keep that surly, ugly animal, Mr. Tobias," said she; "you, who have hardly food enough for yourself." "Ah! madam," I replied, "if I part with him, are you sure that anything else will love me?" She was pleased with my answer.
Fra. (To the Stranger.) Excuse me, sir; but I wish you had listened.
Stra. I have listened.
Tob. Now I'll go as quick as these old legs will bear me. What a delightful errand! I go to reenjoy-lease my Robert! How the lad will rejoice! There is a girl, too, in the village, that will rejoice with him. Oh! Providence, how good art thou! Years of distress never can efface the recollection of
Tob. True; but less so in old age. Some fifty years ago my father left me this cottage. I was a
former happiness; but one joyful moment drives | Haller. It gives me infinite pleasure to see you from the memory an age of misery.
[Exit. Fra. (Looks after him.) Why am I not wealthy? 'Sdeath! why am I not a prince? I never thought myself envious; but I feel I am. Yes, I must envy those who, with the will, have the power to do good. [Exit. SCENE II.-An Ante-chamber in Wintersen Castle. Enter SUSAN, meeting Footman with table and chairs.
Susan. Why, George, Harry! where have you been loitering? Put down these things. Mrs. Haller has been calling for you this half-hour. Foot. Well, here I am, then. What does she want with me?
Susan. That she will tell you herself. Here she
Enter MRS. HALLER with a letter, a Maid following.
Mrs. H. Very well; if those things are done, let the drawing-room be made ready immediately. [Exeunt Maids.] And, George, run immediately into the park, and tell Mr. Solomon I wish to speak with him. (Exit Footman.] I cannot understand this. I do not learn whether their coming to this place be but the whim of a moment, or a plan for a longer stay: if the latter, farewell, solitude! farewell, study!-farewell! Yes, I must make room for gaiety and mere frivolity. Yet could I willingly submit to all; but should the Countess give me new proofs of her attachment, perhaps of her respect, oh! how will my conscience upbraid me! Or-I shudder at the thought!-if this seat be visited by company, and chance should conduct hither any of my former acquaintances!-Alas, alas! how wre'ched is the being who fears the sight of any one fellow-creature! But, oh! superior misery! to dread still more the presence of a former friend! Who's there?
Peter. Nobody. It's only me.
Mrs. H. But you have observed my directions? Peter. Oh yes, yes. I told old Tobias as how he would never know, as long as he lived, that the morey came from you.
Mrs. H. You found him quite recovered, I hope? Peter. Ay, sure, did I. He's coming out to-day for the first time.
Mrs. H. I rejoice to hear it.
Peter. He said that he was obliged to you for all; and, before dinner, would crawl up to thank you.
Mrs. H. Good Peter, do me another service. Peter. Ay, a hundred, if you'll only let me have a good long stare at you.
Mrs. H. With all my heart. Observe when old Tobias comes, and send him away. Tell him I am busy, or asleep, or unwell, or what you please. Peter. I will, I will.
Sol. (Without.) There, there, go to the post-office. Mrs. H. Oh! here comes Mr. Solomon. Peter. What, father? Ay, so there is. Father's a main clever man: he knows what's going on all over the world.
Mrs. H. No wonder; for you know he receives as many letters as a prime minister and all his
look so charmingly well. You have had the goodness to send for your humble servant. Any news from the great city? There are very weighty matters in agitation. I have my letters, too.
Mrs. H. (Smiling.) I think, Mr. Solomon, you must correspond with the four quarters of the globe.
Sol. Beg pardon, not with the whole world, Mrs. Haller; but (consequentially) to be sure, I have correspondents, on whom I can rely, in the chief cities of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.
Mrs. H. And yet I have my doubts whether you know what is to happen this very day, at this very place. We
Sol. At this very place! Nothing material. meant to have sown a little barley to-day, but the ground is too dry; and the sheep-shearing is not to be till to-morrow.
Peter. No, nor the bull-baiting till
Sol. Hold your tongue, blockhead! Get about your business.
Peter. Blockhead! There again! I suppose I'm not to open my mouth. (To Mrs. H.)
Mrs. H. The Count will be here to-day.
Mrs. H. With his lady, and his brother-in-law, Baron Steinfort.
Sol. My letters say nothing of this. You are laughing at your humble servant.
Mrs. H. You know, sir, I'm not much given to jesting.
Sol. Peter! Good lack-a-day! His right honourable excellency Count Wintersen, and her right his honourable lordship Baron Steinfort-and, Lord honourable excellency the Countess Wintersen, and have mercy! nothing in proper order! Here, Peter, Peter!
Peter. Well, now, what's the matter again?
Sol. Call all the house together directly! Send to the gamekeeper, tell him to bring some venison. Tell Rebecca to uncase the furniture, and take the covering from the Venetian looking-glasses, that her right honourable ladyship the Countess may look at her gracious countenance: and tell the cook to let me see him without loss of time: and tell John to catch a brace or two of carp. And tell -and tell-and tell-tell Frederick to friz my Sunday wig. Mercy on us! Tell-there, go! [Exit Peter.] Heavens and earth! so little of the new furnishing of this old castle is completed! Where are we to put his honourable lordship the Baron?
Mrs. H. Let him have the little chamber at the head of the stairs; it is a neat room, and commands a beautiful prospect.
Sol. Very right, very right. But that room has always been occupied by the Count's private secretary. Suppose-hold! I have it. You know the little lodge at the end of the park: we can thrust the secretary into that.
Mrs. H. You forget, Mr. Solomon; you told me that the Stranger lived there.
Sol. Psha! What have we to do with the Stranger? Who told him to live there? He must turn out.
Mrs. H. That would be unjust; for you said that you let the dwelling to him; and, by your own account, he pays well for it.
Sol. He does, he does. But nobody knows who he is. The devil himself can't make him out. To So'. Good morning, good morning, to you, Mrs. be sure, I lately received a letter from Spain, which
informed me that a spy had taken up his abode in right honourable excellency Count Wintersen, my this country, atd from the description
Mrs. H. A spy! Ridiculous! Everything I have heard bespeaks him to be a man, who may be allowed to dwell anywhere. His life is solitude and silence.
Sol. So it is.
Mrs. H. You tell me, too, he does much good.
Mrs. H. He troubles no one.
Sol. True, true!
Mrs. H. Well, what do you want more?
Sol. I want to know who he is. If the man would only converse a little, one might have an opportunity of pumping; but if one meets him in the limewalk, or by the river, it is nothing but "Good morrow;" and off he marches. Once or twice I have contrived to edge in a word: "Fine day." "Yes." "Taking a little exercise, I perceive." "Yes;" and off again like a shot. The devil take such close fellows, say I. And, like master like man; not a syllable do I know of that mumps his servant, cept that his name is Francis.
Peter. Bless our noble master!
Baron S. Old and young, I see, they'll allow me no peace. (Aside) Enough, enough, good Mr. Solomon. I am a soldier: I pay but few compliments, and require as few from others.
Sol. I beg, my lord-We do live in the country, to be sure, but we are acquainted with the reverence due to exalted personages.
Peter. Yes; we are acquainted with exalted personages.
Baron. S. What is to become of me? (Aside.) Well, well, I hope we shall be better acquainted. You must know, Mr. Solomon, I intend to assist, for a couple of months, at least, in attacking the well-stocked cellars of Wintersen.
Sol. Why not whole years, my lord? Inexpressible would be the satisfaction of your humble servant, and though I say it, well-stocked, indeed, are our cellars. I have, in every respect, here ex-managed matters in so frugal and provident a way, that his right honourable excellency the Count will be astonished. (Baron S. yawns.) Extremely sorry it is not in my power to entertain your lordship.
Mrs. H. You are putting yourself into a passion, and quite forget who are expected. Sol. So I do. Mercy on us! There now, you see what misfortunes arise from not knowing people.
Mrs. H. 'Tis near twelve o'clock already! If his lordship has stolen an hour from his usual sleep, the family must soon be here. I go to my duty; you will attend to yours, Mr. Solomon. [Exit. Sol. Yes, I'll look after my duty, never fear. There goes another of the same class. Nobody knows who she is again. However, this much I do know of her, that her right honourable ladyship, the Countess, all at once, popped her into the house, like a blot of ink upon a sheet of paper. But why, wherefore, or for what reason, not a soul can tell. "She is to manage the family within doors." She is to manage! Fire and faggots! Haven't I managed everything, within and without, most reputably, these twenty years? I must own I grow a little old, and she does take a deal of pains; but all this she learned of me. When she first came here-mercy on us!-she didn't know that linen was made of flax. But what was to be expected from one who has no foreign correspondence? [Exit.
SCENE I.-A Drawing-room in the castle.
Sol. Well, for once, I think I have the advantage of Madam Haller. Such a dance have I provided to welcome their excellencies, and she quite out of the secret! and such a hornpipe by the little brunette! I'll have a rehearsal first, though, and then surprise their honours after dinner. (Flourish of rural music without.)
Peter. (Without.) Stop; not yet, not yet; but make way there, make away, my good friends, tenants, and villagers. John, George, Frederick! Good friends, make way.
Sol. It is not the Count: it's only Baron Steinfort. Stand back, I say: and stop the music. Enter BARON STEINFORT, ushered in by PETER and footmen. Peter mimicks and apes his father. I have the honour to introduce to your lordship myself, Mr. Solomon, who blesses the hour in which fortune allows him to become acquainted with the honourable Baron Steinfort, brother-in-law of his
Peter. Extremely sorry.
Sol. Where can Mrs. Haller have hid herself?
Sol. Why, who she is, I can't exactly tell your lordship.
Peter. No, nor I.
Sol. None of my correspondents give any account of her. She is here in the capacity of a kind of a superior housekeeper. Methinks I hear her silver
voice upon the stairs. I will have the honour of sending her to your lordship in an instant.
Baron S. Oh! don't trouble yourself.
Sol. No trouble whatever. I remain, at all times, your honourable lordship's most obedient, humble, and devoted servant. Peter. Devoted servant.
[Exit, bowing. [Exit, bow ng. Baron S. Now for a fresh plague. Now am I to be tormented by some chattering, old, ugly, hag, till I am stunned with her noise and officious hospitality. Oh, patience, what a virtue art thou! Enter MRS. HALLER, with a tecoming courtesy. Baron S. rises, and returns a bow in confusion. (Aside.) No, old she is not. Casts another glance at her. No, by Jove! nor ugly.
Mrs. H. I rejoice, my lord, in thus becoming acquainted with the brother of my benefactress.
Baron S. Madam, that title shall be doubly valuable to me, since it gives me an introduction equally to be rejoiced at.
Mrs. H.(Without attending to the compliment.) This lovely weather, then, has enticed the Count from
Baron S. Not exactly that. You know him. Sunshine or clouds are to him alike, as long as eternal summer reigns in his own heart and family. and amiable philosophy. Ever in the same happy Mrs. H. The Count possesses a most cheerful humour; ever enjoying each minute of his life. But you must confess, my lord, that he is a favourite child of fortune, and has much to be grateful to her for. Not merely because she has given him birth and riches, but for a native sweetness of
temper, never to be acquired; and a graceful suavity of manners, whose school must be the mind. And, need I enumerate among fortune's favours, the hand and affections of your accomplished sister?
Baron. S. True, madam; my good easy brothe