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Bar. Madam! Can you, Countess, be serious ?
Mrs H. Not that title, I beseech you! I am not a child, who wishes to avoid deserved punishment. What were my penitence, if I hoped advantage from it beyond the consciousness of atonement for past offence ?
Countess. But if your husband himself?-
Mrs H. Oh! he will not ! he cannot! And let him rest assured I never would replace my honour at the expence of his.
Bar. He still loves you.
Mrs H. Loves me! Then he must not-No-he must purify his heart from a weakness which would degrade him!
Bar. Incomparable woman! I go to my friend perhaps for the last time! Have you not one word to send him?
Mrs H. Yes, I have two requests to make. Often when, in excess of grief, I have despaired of every consolation, I have thought I should be easier if I might behold my husband once again, acknowledge my injustice to him, and take a gentle leave of him for ever. This, therefore, is my first request--a conversation for a few short minutes, if he does not quite abhor the sight of me. My second request ishnot to see, but to hear, some account of my poor children.
Bar. If humanity and friendship can avail, he will not for a moment delay your wishes.
Countess. Heaven be with you!
[Exit BARON. Countess. Come, my friend, come into the air, till he returns with hope and consolation.
Mrs H. Oh! my heart! how art thou afflicted ! My husband! My little ones! Past joys and future fears-Oh, dearest inadam, there are moments in which we live years ! Moments which steal the roses
from the cheek of health, and plough deep furrows in the brow of youth.
Countess. Banish these sad reflections. Come, let us walk. The sun will set soon; let nature's beauties dissipate anxiety.
Mrs H, Alas! Yes, the setting sun is a proper scene for me. Countess. Never forget a morning will succeed.
The Skirts of the Park, Lodge; 8c. as before.
Enter BARON. Bar. On earth there is but one such pair. They shall not he parted. Yet what I have undertaken is not so easy as I at first hoped. What can I answer when he asks me, whether I would persuade him to renounce his character, and become the derision of society ? For he is right: a faithless wife is a dishonour! and to forgive her is to share her shame. What though Adelaide may be an exception; a young deluded girl, who has so long and so sincerely repented, yet what cares an unfeeling world for this? The world! he has quitted it. 'Tis evident he loves her still: and upon this assurance builds my sanguine heart the hope of a happy termination to an honest enterprise. Enter FRANCIS with trvo Children, WILLIAM and
Bar. It darts like lightning through my brain, A word with you. I know you love your master. Strange things have happened here. Your master has found his wife again.
Fra. Indeed! Glad to hear it.
Bar. The unexpected appearance of the children may perhaps assist us.
Fra. How so?
Bar. Hide yourself with them in that hut. Before a quarter of an hour is passed you shall know more,
Bar. No more questions, I entreat you. Time is precious.
Fra. Well, well: questions are not much in my way. Come, children.
Will. Why, I thought you told me I should see
Fra. So you shall, my dear. Come, moppets.
[Goes into the Hut with the Children. Bar. Excellent ! I promise myself much from this little artifice, If the mild look of the mother fails, the innocent smiles of these his own children will surely find the way to his heart. (Taps at the Lodge Door, the STRANGER comes out.] Charles, I wish you joy.
Stra. Of what?
Stra. Show a bankrupt the treasure which he once possessed, and then congratulate him on the amount!
Bar. Why not, if it be in your power to retrieve the whole ?
Stra. I understand you : you are a negociator from my wife. It won't avail.
Bar. Learn to know your wife better. Yes, I am a messenger from her; but without power to treat. She, who loves you unutterably, who without you never can be happy, renounces your forgiveness; because, as she thinks, your honour is incompatible with such a weakness,
Stra. Pshaw! I am not to be caught.
Stra. Steinfort, let me explain all this. I have lived here four months. Adelaide knew it.
Bar. Knew it! She never saw you till to-day.
Stra. That you may make fools believe. Hear further: she knows too, that I am not a common sort of
heart is not to be attacked in the usual way. She, therefore, framed a deep-concerted plan. She played a charitable part; but in such a way, that it always reached my ears. She played a pious, modest, reserved part, in order to excite my curiosity. And at last, to-day she plays the prude. She refuses my forgiveness, in hopes, by this generous device, to extort it from my compassion.
Bar. Charles! I have listened to you with astonishment. This is a weakness only to be pardoned in a man who has so often been deceived by the world. Your wife has expressly and stedfastly declared, that she will notaccept your forgiveness, even if you yourself were weak enough to offer it.
Stra. What then has brought you hither?
Bar. More than one reason. First, I am come in. my own name, as your friend and comrade, to conjure you solemnly not to spurn this creature from you; for, by my soul, you will not find her equal.
Stra. Give yourself no further trouble.
Bar. Her sincere repentance has long since obliterated her crime.
Stra. Sir! a wife, once induced to forfeit her hon nour, must be capable of a second crime. Bar. Not so, Charles. Ask
heart what pora tion of the blame
your own. Stra. Mine!
Bar. Yours. Who told you to marry a thoughtless inexperienced girl? One scarce expects established principles at five-and-twenty in a man, yet you require them in a girl of sixteen! But of this no more. She has erred;
she has repented; and, during three years, her conduct has been so far above reproach, that even the piercing eye of calumny has not discovered a speck upon this radiant orb.
Stra. Now, were I to believe all this and I con-' fess that I would willingly believe it-yet can she never again be mine. [With extreme asperity.) Oh! what a feast would it be for the painted dolls and vermin of the world, when I appeared among them with my runaway wife upon my arm! What mocking, whispering, pointing !
-Never! Never! Never! Bar. Enough! As a friend I have done my duty : I now appear as Adelaide's ambassador. She requests one moment's conversation : she wishes once again to see you, and never more! You cannot deny her this, this only, this last request.
Stra. Oh! I understand this too: she thinks my firmoess will be melted by her tears: she is mistaken. She may come.
Bar. She will come, to make you feel how much you
mistake her. I go for her. Stra. Another word. Bar. Another word !
Stra. Give her this paper, and these jewels. They belong to her.
[Presenting them. Bar. That you may do yourself. [Exil. Stra. The last anxious moment of my life draws