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Old W. Nor would I live to see it. But despatch. I
Where must I charge this length of misery,
I would not leave my better part, the dear, (Weeps.)
To bear the weight of age and want alone.
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.
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;
Revives in us the mem'ry of a loss,
Young W. The joy to see them, and the bitter pain
It is to see them such, touches my soul
Enough, though nothing more should be imply'd,
Agnes. The last, and most abandon'd of our kind!
By heaven or earth neglected or despis'd!
Young W. Let ghosts unpardon'd, or devoted flends,
Fear without hope, and wail in such sad strains;
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.
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
Till, with the excess of pleasure and surprise,
Too great for them to bear at once. and live:
The favour to retire; where, for awhile,
Old W. I pray, no more: believe we're only troubled,
That you should think any excuse were needful.
I shall not rest the worse. If I should sleep
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
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?
He says it is of value, and yet trusts it,
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,
Though, but a moment, such a treasure mine.
To rob myself, and court so vast a loss?
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.
Enter OLD WILMOT.
In some conditions, may be brought t'approve :
And desperation drove, have been committed
So advantageous, so secure, and easy;
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,
Or none could act amiss: and that all err,
For our own preservation.
Old W. Rest contented:
Whate'er resistance I may seem to make,
Old W. The mind contented, with how little Whoever stands to parley with temptation,
The wand'ring senses yield to soft repose!
What dost thou think, my Agnes, of our guest?
What art thou gazing on? Fie, 'tis not well.
Agnes. And who shall know it?
Old W. There is a kind of pride, a decent dignity,
To quit the world, shews sovereign contempt,
Parleys to be o'ercome.
Agnes. Then nought remains,
But the swift execution of a deed
Old W. Gen'rous, unhappy man! Oh! what could move thee
To put thy life and fortune in the hands
Agnes. By what means
Shall we effect his death?
Old W. Why, what a fiend!
How cruel, how remorseless and impatient,
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,
Old W. To chase a shadow, when the setting sun
Now the last means for its support are failing:
Your warmth might be excus'd; but take thy choice:
Old W. There is no fear of that.
Agnes. Then, we'll live both.
Old W. Strange folly! where the means?
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!
I ought not to reproach thee. I confess
Agnes. The stranger sleeps at present; but so
His slumbers seem, they can't continue long.
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,
Enter OLD WILMOT and AGNES.
Or could a habit so disguise your son,
Agnes. Heard you that?
What prodigy of horror is disclosing,
Old W. Pr'ythee, peace:
The miserable damn'd suspend their howling,
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!
[Exeunt Randal, Eustace, and Charlotte.
Agnes. Let life forsake the earth, and light the
And death and darkness bury in oblivion
Or view the grave of such detested parricides!
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,
Devour their millions daily; and shall I
Of manhood, pity, mercy, or remorse,
Agnes. Where do you go? The street is that way.
Old W. True; I had forgot.
Our guilt and desolation must be told,
Agnes. Ever kind,
But most in this.
Old W. I will not long survive thee.
Agnes. Do not accuse thy erring mother, Wil
With too much rigour, when we meet above.
(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.
What are we doing? Misery and want
I'd give them all to speak my penitence,
Enter RANDAL and EUSTACE.
Are these the fruits of all thy anxious cares
My sovereign right of grief?
Was he thy son? hands, reeking with
That flow'd through purer channels, from thy
Compute the sands that bound the spacious ocean,
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
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!
The wretched parents and ill-fated son.