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Win. That I would, though 'twere a mile to the bottom. [Drinking.] Ha! 'tis cheering, i'faith!
Wil. And this uncle, you say—
Win. Of Madam Helen ?-Ah, there lies the mischief! Wil. What mischief can be in him?-[Wilford invites Adam to drink again—they do so.] Why, he is dead.
Win. Come nearer: see you prate not, now, on your life! Our good master, Sir Edward, was arraigned on his account, in open court.
Wil. Arraigned !-How mean you?
Win. Alas! boy, tried-tried for-nearer yet-his
Win. Why, what! why, Wilford!-Out, alas! the boy's passion will betray all! What, Wilford, I say!
Wil. You have curdled my blood!
Win. What, varlet! thou darest not think ill of our worthy master?
Wil. I-I am his secretary; often alone with him, at dead midnight, in his library; the candles in the sockets; and a man glaring upon me who has committed murUgh! [Crosses to R.
Win. Committed!-Thou art a base, lying knave to say it! Well, well; hear me, pettish boy, hear me.Why, look now, thou dost not attend.
Wil. I-I mark-I mark.
Win. I tell thee, then, our good Sir Edward was beloved in Kent, where he had returned, a year before, from his travels. Madam Helen's uncle was hated by all the neighbourhood, rich and poor-a mere brute. Dost mark me?
Wil. Like enough; but when brutes walk upon two legs, the law of the land, thank Heaven! will not suffer us to butcher them.
Win. Go to, you firebrand! Our good master laboured all he could, for many a month, to sooth his turbulence, but in vain. He picked a quarrel with Sir Edward in the public county assembly; nay, the strong ruffian struck him down, and trampled on him. Think on that, Wilford; on our good master, Sir Edward, whose great soul was nigh to burst with the indignity!
Wil. Well, but the end on't?
Win. Why, our young master took horse for his own house, determined, as it appeared, to send a challenge to this white-livered giant in the morning.
Wil. I see: he killed him in a duel.
Win. See, now, how you fly off! Sir Edward's revenge, boy, was baffled; for his antagonist was found dead in the street that night, killed by some unknown assassins on his return from the assembly.
Wil. Indeed!-Unknown assassins!
Win. Nay, 'tis plain our good Sir Edward had no hand in the wicked act; for he was tried, as I told you, at the next assize. Heaven be thanked! he was cleared beyond a shadow of doubt.
Wil. He was? [Crossing to L.] I breathe again! 'Twas a happy thing-'twas the only way left of cleansing him from a foul suspicion.
Win. But, alas! lad, 'tis his principal grief; he was once the life of all company, but now
Sir Edward Mortimer. [Without, R.] Winterton!
Win. Hark! some one calls. Out on thee! thou hast sunk my spirits into my heels. [Looking off, R.] Who calls merry old Adam Winterton ?
Sir Edward. [Without, R.] hither to me!
Adam Winterton, come
Win. Nay, by our lady, 'tis Sir Edward himself!— Pestilence on't! if I seem sad now 'twill be noted. I come, good Sir Edward! Now, I charge thee, Wilford, do not speak of it for thy life. [Singing.] "When birds" -To Wilford, speaking.] Not a word, on thy life! [Singing.]-"do carol on the bush,
With a heigh no nonny."
Mercy on me!
[Exit, R. Wil. This accounts, then, for all. Poor, unhappy gentleman! This unravels all, from the first day of my service, when a deep groan made me run into the library, and I found him locking up his papers in the iron chest, as pale as ashes. Eh! what can be in that chest? Perhaps some proof of-No, I shudder at the suggestion! 'Tis not possible one so good can be guilty of-I know not what to think, nor what to resolve; but curiosity is roused, and, come what may, I'll have an eye upon him.
SCENE III-A Library—a door, R. F.-a book-case, R. C. —an iron chest, with a key in it, L. c.—a table, L., with writing materials, a pistol, &c.
SIR EDWARD MORTIMER discovered at the writing-table, L., ADAM WINTERTON, attending, R.
Sir E. 'Tis his first trespass, so we'll quit him, Adam ; But caution him how he offend again.
As keeper of the forest, I should fine him,
Win. Nay, that your worship should: he'll prove ere long,
Mark but my words-a sturdy poacher. 'Well, 'Tis you know best.
Sir E. Well, well, no matter,
Win. Ay, bless your honour!
The rogue has lived this year upon that lurcher.
ter to me;
I would employ him; he must ride for me
On business of much import.
That it should chance so! I have sent him forth
Sir E. Nay, nay, do not fret :
'Tis better that my business cool, good Adam,
Win. Ah! you've a kindly heart!
Win. [Aside.] Wilford!-Mercy on me!
Sir E. Send him in, I prithee.
Win. I shall, sir.
Heaven bless you! Heaven bless
Sir E. Good morning, good old heart! [Rising.] This honest soul
Would fain look cheery in my house's gloom,
Smiles in the midst of blast and desolation,
As swallows skim the air!—that fame's sole fountain,
[A knock at the door, R. F. How now!-Who's there?-Come in.
Enter WILFORD, k. d. f.
Wilford, is't you ? You were not wont to knock.
sir; yes, at your
You were not used to be so cautious.
I never used; but I-hum!-I have learned-
Wil. Better manners, sir. I was quite raw
Sir E. Ay, indeed!
Winterton!-[Aside.] No, he dare not! [Stepping up to Wilford.] Hark you, sir!
Sir E. [Retreating from him, L.] What am I about? Oh, Honour! Honour!
Thy pile should be so uniform, displace
One atom of thee, and the slightest breath
Wil. Last night, sir?
Sir E. Ay; it treats of Alexander.
[Goes to the book-case, R. C.
Sir E. Books
(My only commerce now,) will sometimes rouse me
Sir E. Indeed-Why so, lad? He is reckoned brave,
[Mortimer starts-Wilford and he exchange looksboth confused.
[Aside.] I have touched the string! 'Twas unawares-I cannot help it.