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Old W. Nor would I live to see it. But despatch. I
[Exit Agnes.

Where must I charge this length of misery,
That gathers force each moment as it rolls,
And must at last o'erwhelm me, but on hope:
Vain, flattering, delusive, groundless hope,
That has for years deceiv'd me? Had I thought,
As I do now, as wise men ever think,
When first this hell of poverty o'ertook me,
That power to die implies a right to do it,
And should be us'd when life becomes a pain,
What plagues had I prevented! True, my wife
Is still a slave to prejudice and fear-

I would not leave my better part, the dear, (Weeps.)
Faithful campanion of my happier days,

To bear the weight of age and want alone.
I'll try once more.

Re-enter AGNES, and after her, YOUNG WILMOT.

Return'd, my life, so soon

Agnes. The unexpected coming of this stranger Prevents my going yet.

Young W. You are, I presume,

The gentleman to whom this is directed.
What wild neglect, the token of despair,
What indigence, what misery appears
In this once happy house! What discontent,
What anguish and confusion, fill the faces
Of its dejected owners! (Aside.)

Old W. (Having read the letier.) Sir, such welcome As this poor house affords, you may command. Our ever friendly neighbour, once we hop'd

T' have call'd fair Charlotte by a dearer name;
But we have done with hope-I pray excuse
This incoherence. We had once a son. (Weeps.)
Agnes. That you are come from that dear virtuous

Revives in us the mem'ry of a loss,
Which, though long since, we have not learn'd to

Young W. The joy to see them, and the bitter pain

It is to see them such, touches my soul
With tenderness and grief, that will o'erflow.
They know me not, and yet I shall, I fear,
Defeat my purpose and betray myself. (Aside.)
Old W. The lady calls you, here, her valu'd

Enough, though nothing more should be imply'd,
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 purpos'd to enrich
You with herself, and end her fruitless soirow
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 seal'd our doom: no second hope shall spring
To dry our tears, and dissipate despair.

Agnes. The last, and most abandon'd of our kind!

By heaven or earth neglected or despis'd!
The loathsome grave, that robb'd us of our son,
And all our joys in him must be our refuge.

Young W. Let ghosts unpardon'd, or devoted flends,

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.

Old W. This I have heard a thousand times repeated,

And have, believing, been as oft deceiv'd.

Young W. 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'a To worse than these, the sum of all distress That the most wretched feel on this side hellEven slavery itself: but here I stand, Except one trouble that will quickly end, The happiest of mankind.

Old W. A rare example

Or entertain, than comfort and instruct.
Of fortune's changes; apter to surprise
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 & part?

Young W. 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

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. (Aside.) Sir, I en-

The favour to retire; where, for awhile,
I may repose myself. You will excuse
This freedom, and the trouble which I give you :
'Tis long since I have slept, and nature calls.

Old W. I pray, no more: believe we're only troubled,

That you should think any excuse were needful.
Young W. The weight of this, to me is some in-
cumbrance. (Gives a casket 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.

Young W. Merciless grief!

[Exit with Old W.

What ravage has it made! 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-Oh! grant them patience, heaven,
A little longer, a few short hours more,
And all their cares and mine, shall end for ever.


SCENE I.-A Room in Old Wilmot's house. Enter AGNES, with the casket in her hand. And then

Agnes. Who should this stranger be?
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

o 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? With how much ease the spring gives way!-Surprising!

My eyes are dazzled, and my ravish'd heart Leaps at the glorious sight. How bright's the lustre,

And how immense

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 I wake:
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? 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 thrill'd with horror? 'Tis not choice, But dire necessity suggests the thought.


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.
Old W. How couldst thou form a thought so
very damning ?

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.

Old W. 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.
Oh! what is man, his excellence and strength,
When, in an hour of trial and desertion,
Reason, his noblest power, may be suborn'd
To plead the cause of vile assassination!
Agnes. You're too severe: Reason may justly

For our own preservation.

Old W. Rest contented:

Whate'er resistance I may seem to make,
I am betray'd within: my will's seduc'd.
And my whole soul's infected. The desire
Of life returns, and brings with it a train
Of appetites, that rage to be supply'd;

Old W. The mind contented, with how little Whoever stands to parley with temptation,


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

What art thou gazing on? 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?

Old W. There is a kind of pride, a decent dignity,
Due to ourselves; which, spite of our misfortunes,
May be maintain'd and cherish'd to the last.
To live without reproach, and without leave

To quit the world, shews sovereign contempt,
And noble scorn of its relentless malice.

Parleys to be o'ercome.

Agnes. Then nought remains,

But the swift execution of a deed
That is not to be thought on, or delay'd.

Old W. Gen'rous, unhappy man! Oh! what could move thee

To put thy life and fortune in the hands
Of wretches mad with anguish!

Agnes. By what means

Shall we effect his death?

Old W. Why, what a fiend!

How cruel, how remorseless and impatient,
Have pride and poverty made thee!

Agnes. Barbarous man!

Whose wasteful riots ruin'd our estate,

And drove our son, ere the first down had spread His rosy cheeks, spite of my sad presages, Earnest entreaties, agonies, and tears,

To seek his bread 'mongst strangers, and to perish In some remote, inhospitable land

The loveliest youth, in person and in mind,

Agnes. Shews sovereign madness, and a scorn of That ever crown'd a groaning mother's pains!


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.

Old W. To chase a shadow, when the setting sun
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 choice:
Die how you will, you shall not die alone.
Agnes. Nor live, I hope.

Old W. There is no fear of that.

Agnes. Then, we'll live both.

Old W. Strange folly! where the means?
Agnes. There, those jewels!

Old W. Ah! Take heed!

Perhaps thou dost but try me-yet take heed! There's nought so monstrous, but the mind of man,

Where was thy pity, where thy patience then!
Thou cruel husband! thou unnat'ral 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'st made me!
Old W. Dry thy tears:

I ought not to reproach thee. I confess
That thou hast suffer'd much: so have we both.
But chide no more; I'm wrought up to thy pur-


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Agnes. The stranger sleeps at present; but so

His slumbers seem, they can't continue long.
Here, I ve secur d his dagger.

Old W. Oh, Agnes, Agnes! if there be a hell, 'Tis just we should expect it.

Agnes. Shake off this panic, and be more your


Old W. What's to be done? On what had we

Agnes. You're quite dismay'd.

Old W. Give me the fatal steel. "Tis but a single murder,

Sir, we are come to give and receive
A thousand greetings. Ha! what can this mean?
Why do you look with such amazement on us?
Are these your transports for your son's return?
Where is my Wilmot? Has he not been here?
Would he defer your happiness so long,

Or could a habit so disguise your son,
That you refus'd to own him?

Agnes. Heard you that?

What prodigy of horror is disclosing,
To render murder venial!

Old W. Pr'ythee, peace:

The miserable damn'd suspend their howling,
And the swift orbs are fix'd in deep attention.
Rand. What means these dreadful words and
frantic air!

That is the dagger my young master wore.

Eust. My mind misgives me. Do not stand to

On these dumb phantoms of despair and horror!
Let us search further. Randal, shew the way.

[Exeunt Randal, Eustace, and Charlotte.

Agnes. Let life forsake the earth, and light the


And death and darkness bury in oblivion
Mankind and all their deeds, that no posterity
May ever rise to hear our horrid tale,

Or view the grave of such detested parricides!
Old W. Curses and deprecations are in vain:
The sun will shine, and all things have their

When we, the curse and burdens of the earth,

(Takes the dagger.) Shall be absorb'd, and mingled with its dust.

Necessity, impatience, and despair,

The three wide mouths of that true Cerberus,
Grim poverty, demand: they shall be stopp'd.
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.

Agnes. Where do you go? The street is that way.

Old W. True; I had forgot.

Our guilt and desolation must be told,
From age to age, to teach desponding mortals,
How far beyond the reach of human thought
Heaven, when incens'd, can punish-Die thou first.
I durst not trust thy weakness.

Agnes. Ever kind,

But most in this.

Old W. I will not long survive thee.

(Stabs Agnes.)

Agnes. Do not accuse thy erring mother, Wil


With too much rigour, when we meet above.
To give thee life for life, and blood for blood,

(Going the wrong way.) Is not enough. Had I ten thousand lives,

Agnes. Quite, quite confounded!

Old W. Well, I recover. I shall find the way.
Agnes. Oh! softly, softly! The least noise un-

does us.

What are we doing? Misery and want
Are lighter ills than this. I cannot bear it!
Stop! hold thy hand!-Inconstant, wretched wo-


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I'd give them all to speak my penitence,
Deep and sincere, and equal to my crime.
Oh, Wilmot! oh, my son, my son!

Eust. Oh! Wilmot, Wilmot!


Are these the fruits of all thy anxious cares
For thy ungrateful parents? Cruel fiends!
Old W. What whining fool art thou, who wouldst

My sovereign right of grief?
Say, canst thou shew thy

Was he thy son? hands, reeking with

That flow'd through purer channels, from thy

Compute the sands that bound the spacious ocean,
And swell their numbers 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 curs'd wretch, who only hopes from this
(Stabbing himself.)

To change the scene, but not relieve the pain.

Rand. A dreadful instance of the last remorse! May all your woes end here!

Old W. Oh! 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!

Rand. Heaven grant they may!


And may thy penitence atone thy crime!
"Tend well the hapless Charlotte, and bear hence
These bleeding victims of despair and pride;
Toll the death-bell! and follow to the grave

The wretched parents and ill-fated son.


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