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Love and Intrigue

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<SPAN name="link2H_4_0009" id="link2H_4_0009"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> ACT II. </h2> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0010" id="link2H_4_0010"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE I.&mdash;A room in LADY MILFORD'S house. On the right of the stage </h2> <p> stands a sofa, on the left a pianoforte. </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> LADY MILFORD, in a loose but elegant negligee, is running her hand over the keys of the pianoforte as SOPHY advances from the window. </pre> <p> SOPHY. The parade is over, and the officers are separating, but I see no signs of the major. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (rises and walks up and down the room in visible agitation). I know not what ails me to-day, Sophy! I never felt so before&mdash;you say you do not see him! It is evident enough that he is by no means impatient for this meeting&mdash;my heart feels oppressed as if by some heavy crime. Go! Sophy, order the most spirited horse in the stable to be saddled for me&mdash;I must away into the open air where I may look on the blue sky and hear the busy hum of man. I must dispel this gloominess by change and motion. </p> <p> SOPHY. If you feel out of spirits, my lady, why not invite company! Let the prince give an entertainment here, or have the ombre table brought to you. If the prince and all his court were at my beck and call I would let no whim or fancy trouble me! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (throwing herself on the couch). Pray, spare me. I would gladly give a jewel in exchange for every hour's respite from the infliction of such company! I always have my rooms tapestried with these creatures! Narrow-minded, miserable beings, who are quite shocked if by chance a candid and heartfelt word should escape one's lips! and stand aghast as though they saw an apparition; slaves, moved by a single puppet-wire, which I can govern as easily as the threads of my embroidery! What can I have in common with such insipid wretches, whose souls, like their watches, are regulated by machinery? What pleasure can I have in the society of people whose answers to my questions I know beforehand? How can I hold communion with men who dare not venture on an opinion of their own lest it should differ from mine! Away with them&mdash;I care not to ride a horse that has not spirit enough to champ the bit! (Goes to the window.) </p> <p> SOPHY. But surely, my lady, you except the prince, the handsomest, the wittiest, and the most gallant man in all his duchy. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (returning). Yes, in his duchy, that was well said&mdash;and it is only a royal duchy, Sophy, that could in the least excuse my weakness. You say the world envies me! Poor thing! It should rather pity me! Believe me, of all who drink of the streams of royal bounty there is none more miserable than the sovereign's favorite, for he who is great and mighty in the eyes of others comes to her but as the humble suppliant! It is true that by the talisman of his greatness he can realize every wish of my heart as readily as the magician calls forth the fairy palace from the depths of the earth! He can place the luxuries of both Indies upon my table, turn the barren wilderness to a paradise, can bid the broad rivers of his land play in triumphal arches over my path, or expend all the hard-earned gains of his subjects in a single feu-de-joie to my honor. But can he school his heart to respond to one great or ardent emotion? Can he extort one noble thought from his weak and indigent brain? Alas! my heart is thirsting amid all this ocean of splendor; what avail, then, a thousand virtuous sentiments when I am only permitted to indulge in the pleasures of the senses. </p> <p> SOFHY (regarding her with surprise). Dear lady, you amaze me! how long is it since I entered your service? </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. Do you ask because this is the first day on which you have learnt to know me? I have sold my honor to the prince, it is true, but my heart is still my own&mdash;a heart, dear Sophy, which even yet may be worth the acceptance of an honorable man&mdash;a heart over which the pestilential blast of courtly corruption has passed as the breath which for a moment dims the mirror's lustre. Believe me my spirit would long since have revolted against this miserable thraldom could my ambition have submitted to see another advanced to my place. </p> <p> SOPHY. And could a heart like yours so readily surrender itself to mere ambition? </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (with energy). Has it not already been avenged? nay, is it not even at this very moment making me pay a heavy atonement (with emphasis laying her hand on SOPHY'S shoulder)? Believe me, Sophy, woman has but to choose between ruling and serving, but the utmost joy of power is a worthless possession if the mightier joy of being slave to the man we love be denied us. </p> <p> SOPHY. A truth, dear lady, which I could least of all have expected to hear from your lips! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. And wherefore, Sophy? Does not woman show, by her childish mode of swaying the sceptre of power, that she is only fit to go in leading-strings! Have not my fickle humors&mdash;my eager pursuit of wild dissipation&mdash;betrayed to you that I sought in these to stifle the still wilder throbbings of my heart? </p> <p> SOPHY (starting back with surprise). This from you, my lady? </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (continuing with increasing energy). Appease these throbbings. Give me the man in whom my thoughts are centered&mdash;the man I adore, without whom life were worse than death. Let me but hear from his lips that the tears of love with which my eyes are bedewed outvie the gems that sparkle in my hair, and I will throw at the feet of the prince his heart and his dukedom, and flee to the uttermost parts of the earth with the man of my love! </p> <p> SOPHY (looking at her in alarm). Heavens! my lady! control your emotion&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (in surprise). You change color! To what have I given utterance? Yet, since I have said thus much, let me say still more&mdash;let my confidence be a pledge of your fidelity,&mdash;I will tell you all. </p> <p> SOPHY (looking anxiously around). I fear my lady&mdash;I dread it&mdash;I have heard enough! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. This alliance with the major&mdash;you, like the rest of the world, believe to be the result of a court intrigue&mdash;Sophy, blush not&mdash;be not ashamed of me&mdash;it is the work of&mdash;my love! </p> <p> SOPHY. Heavens! As I suspected! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. Yes, Sophy, they are all deceived. The weak prince&mdash;the diplomatic baron&mdash;the silly marshal&mdash;each and all of these are firmly convinced that this marriage is a most infallible means of preserving me to the prince, and of uniting us still more firmly! But this will prove the very means of separating us forever, and bursting asunder these execrable bonds. The cheater cheated&mdash;outwitted by a weak woman. Ye yourselves are leading me to the man of my heart&mdash;this was all I sought. Let him but once be mine&mdash;be but mine&mdash;then, oh, then, a long farewell to all this despicable pomp! </p> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0011" id="link2H_4_0011"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE II.&mdash;An old valet of the DUKE'S, with a casket of jewels. The </h2> <p> former. </p> <p> VALET. His serene highness begs your ladyship's acceptance of these jewels as a nuptial present. They have just arrived from Venice. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (opens the casket and starts back in astonishment). What did these jewels cost the duke? </p> <p> VALET. Nothing! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. Nothing! Are you beside yourself? (retreating a step or two.) Old man! you fix on me a look as though you would pierce me through. Did you say these precious jewels cost nothing? </p> <p> VALET. Yesterday seven thousand children of the land left their homes to go to America&mdash;they pay for all. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (sets the casket suddenly down, and paces up and down the room; after a pause, to the VALET). What distresses you, old man? you are weeping! </p> <p> VALET (wiping his eyes, and trembling violently). Yes, for these jewels. My two sons are among the number. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. But they went not by compulsion? </p> <p> VALET (laughing bitterly). Oh! dear no! they were all volunteers! There were certainly some few forward lads who pushed to the front of the ranks and inquired of the colonel at what price the prince sold his subjects per yoke, upon which our gracious ruler ordered the regiments to be marched to the parade, and the malcontents to be shot. We heard the report of the muskets, and saw brains and blood spurting about us, while the whole band shouted&mdash;"Hurrah for America!" </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. And I heard nothing of all this! saw nothing! </p> <p> VALET. No, most gracious lady, because you rode off to the bear-hunt with his highness just at the moment the drum was beating for the march. 'Tis a pity your ladyship missed the pleasure of the sight&mdash;here, crying children might be seen following their wretched father&mdash;there, a mother distracted with grief was rushing forward to throw her tender infant among the bristling bayonets&mdash;here, a bride and bridegroom were separated with the sabre's stroke&mdash;and there, graybeards were seen to stand in despair, and fling their very crutches after their sons in the New World &mdash;and, in the midst of all this, the drums were beating loudly, that the prayers and lamentations might not reach the Almighty ear. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (rising in violent emotion). Away with these jewels&mdash;their rays pierce my bosom like the flames of hell. Moderate your grief, old man. Your children shall be restored to you. You shall again clasp them to your bosom. </p> <p> VALET (with warmth). Yes, heaven knows! We shall meet again! As they passed the city gates they turned round and cried aloud: "God bless our wives and children&mdash;long life to our gracious sovereign. At the day of judgment we shall all meet again!" </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (walks up and down the room in great agitation). Horrible! most horrible!&mdash;and they would persuade me that I had dried up all the tears in the land. Now, indeed, my eyes are fearfully opened! Go&mdash;tell the prince that I will thank him in person! (As the valet is going she drops the purse into his hat.) And take this as a recompense for the truth you have revealed to me. </p> <p> VALET (throws the purse with contempt on the table). Keep it, with your other treasures. [Exit. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (looking after him in astonishment). Sophy, follow him, and inquire his name. His sons shall be restored to him. (SOPHY goes. LADY MILFORD becomes absorbed in thought. Pause. Then to SOPHY as she returns.) Was there not a report that some town on the frontier had been destroyed by fire, and four hundred families reduced to beggary? (She rings.) </p> <p> SOPHY. What has made your ladyship just think of that? Yes&mdash;such was certainly the fact, and most of these poor creatures are either compelled to serve their creditors as bondsmen, or are dragging out their miserable days in the depths of the royal silver mines. </p> <p> Enter a SERVANT. What are your ladyship's commands? </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (giving him the case of jewels). Carry this to my treasurer without delay. Let the jewels be sold and the money distributed among the four hundred families who were ruined by the fire. </p> <p> SOPHY. Consider, my lady, the risk you run of displeasing his highness. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (with dignity). Should I encircle my brows with the curses of his subjects? (Makes a sign to the servant, who goes away with the jewel case.) Wouldst thou have me dragged to the earth by the dreadful weight of the tears of misery? Nay! Sophy, it is better far to wear false jewels on the brow, and to have the consciousness of a good deed within the breast! </p> <p> SOPHY. But diamonds of such value! Why not rather give some that are less precious? Truly, my lady, it is an unpardonable act. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. Foolish girl! For this deed more brilliants and pearls will flow for me in one moment than kings ever wore in their richest diadems! Ay, and infinitely more beautiful! </p> <p> SERVANT enters. Major von Walter! </p> <p> SOPHY (running hastily to the help of LADY MILFORD, who seems fainting). Heavens, my lady, you change color! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. The first man who ever made me tremble. (To the SERVANT.) I am not well&mdash;but stay&mdash;what said the major?&mdash;how? O Sophy! I look sadly ill, do I not? </p> <p> SOPHY. I entreat you, my lady, compose yourself. </p> <p> SERVANT. Is it your ladyship's wish that I should deny you to the major? </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (hesitating). Tell him&mdash;I shall be happy to see him. (Exit SERVANT.) What shall I say to him, Sophy? how shall I receive him? I will be silent&mdash;alas! I fear he will despise my weakness. He will&mdash;ah, me! what sad forebodings oppress my heart! You are going Sophy! stay, yet&mdash;no, no&mdash;he comes&mdash;yes, stay, stay with me&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> SOPHY. Collect yourself, my lady, the major&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0012" id="link2H_4_0012"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE III.&mdash;FERDINAND VON WALTER. The former. </h2> <h3> FERDINAND (with a slight bow). I hope I do not interrupt your ladyship? </h3> <p> LADY MILFORD (with visible emotion). Not at all, baron&mdash;not in the least. </p> <p> FERDINAND. I wait on your ladyship, at the command of my father. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. Therein I am his debtor. </p> <p> FERDINAND. And I am charged to announce to you that our marriage is determined on. Thus far I fulfil the commission of my father. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (changing color and trembling). And not of your own heart? </p> <p> FERDINAND. Ministers and panders have no concern with hearts. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (almost speechless with emotion). And you yourself&mdash;have you nothing to add? </p> <p> FERDINAND (looking at SOPHY). Much! my lady, much! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (motions to SOPHY to withdraw). May I beg you to take a seat by my side? </p> <p> FERDINAND. I will be brief, lady. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. Well! </p> <p> FERDINAND. I am a man of honor! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. Whose worth I know how to appreciate. </p> <p> FERDINAND. I am of noble birth! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. Noble as any in the land! </p> <p> FERDINAND. A soldier! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (in a soft, affectionate manner). Thus far you have only enumerated advantages which you share in common with many others. Why are you so silent regarding those noble qualities which are peculiarly your own? </p> <p> FERDINAND (coldly). Here they would be out of place. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (with increasing agitation). In what light am I to understand this prelude? </p> <p> FERDINAND (slowly, and with emphasis). As the protest of the voice of honor&mdash;should you think proper to enforce the possession of my hand! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (starting with indignation). Major von Walter! What language is this? </p> <p> FERDINAND (calmly). The language of my heart&mdash;of my unspotted name&mdash;and of this true sword. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. Your sword was given to you by the prince. </p> <p> FERDINAND. 'Twas the state which gave it, by the hands of the prince. God bestowed on me an honest heart. My nobility is derived from a line of ancestry extending through centuries. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. But the authority of the prince&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> FERDINAND (with warmth). Can he subvert the laws of humanity, or stamp glory on our actions as easily as he stamps value on the coin of his realm? He himself is not raised above the laws of honor, although he may stifle its whispers with gold&mdash;and shroud his infamy in robes of ermine! But enough of this, lady!&mdash;it is too late now to talk of blasted prospects&mdash;or of the desecration of ancestry&mdash;or of that nice sense of honor&mdash;girded on with my sword&mdash;or of the world's opinion. All these I am ready to trample under foot as soon as you have proved to me that the reward is not inferior to the sacrifice. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (in extreme distress turning away). Major! I have not deserved this! </p> <p> FERDINAND (taking her hand). Pardon me, lady&mdash;we are without witnesses. The circumstance which brings us together to-day&mdash;and only to-day&mdash; justifies me, nay, compels me, to reveal to you my most secret feelings. I cannot comprehend, lady, how a being gifted with so much beauty and spirit&mdash;qualities which a man cannot fail to admire&mdash;could throw herself away on a prince incapable of valuing aught beyond her mere person&mdash;and yet not feel some visitings of shame, when she steps forth to offer her heart to a man of honor! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (looking at him with an air of pride). Say on, sir, without reserve. </p> <p> FERDINAND. You call yourself an Englishwoman&mdash;pardon me, lady, I can hardly believe you. The free-born daughter of the freest people under heaven&mdash;a people too proud to imitate even foreign virtues&mdash;would surely never have sold herself to foreign vices! It is not possible, lady, that you should be a native of Britain, unless indeed your heart be as much below as the sons of Britannia vaunt theirs to be above all others! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. Have you done, sir? </p> <p> FERDINAND. Womanly vanity&mdash;passions&mdash;temperament&mdash;a natural appetite for pleasure&mdash;all these might, perhaps, be pleaded in extenuation&mdash;for virtue often survives honor&mdash;and many who once trod the paths of infamy have subsequently reconciled themselves to society by the performance of noble deeds, and have thus thrown a halo of glory round their evil doings&mdash;but if this were so, whence comes the monstrous extortion that now oppresses the people with a weight never before known? This I would ask in the name of my fatherland&mdash;and now, lady, I have done! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (with gentleness and dignity). This is the first time, Baron von Walter, that words such as these have been addressed to me&mdash;and you are the only man to whom I would in return have vouchsafed an answer. Your rejection of my hand commands my esteem. Your invectives against my heart have my full forgiveness, for I will not believe you sincere, since he who dares hold such language to a woman, that could ruin him in an instant&mdash;must either believe that she possesses a great and noble heart&mdash; or must be the most desperate of madmen. That you ascribe the misery of this land to me may He forgive, before whose throne you, and I, and the prince shall one day meet! But, as in my person you have insulted the daughter of Britain, so in vindication of my country's honor you must hear my exculpation. </p> <p> FERDINAND (leaning on his sword). Lady, I listen with interest. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. Hear, then, that which I have never yet breathed to mortal, and which none but yourself will ever learn from my lips. I am not the low adventurer you suppose me, sir! Nay! did I listen to the voice of pride, I might even boast myself to be of royal birth; I am descended from the unhappy Thomas Norfolk, who paid the penalty of his adherence to the cause of Mary, Queen of Scots, by a bloody death on the scaffold. My father, who, as royal chamberlain, had once enjoyed his sovereign's confidence, was accused of maintaining treasonable relations with France, and was condemned and executed by a decree of the Parliament of Great Britain. Our estates were confiscated, and our family banished from their native soil. My mother died on the day of my father's execution, and I&mdash;then a girl of fourteen&mdash;fled to Germany with one faithful attendant. A casket of jewels, and this crucifix, placed in my bosom by my dying mother, were all my fortune! </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> [FERDINAND, absorbed in thought, surveys LADY MILFORD with looks of compassion and sympathy. </pre> <p> LADY MILFORD (continuing with increased emotion). Without a name&mdash; without protection or property&mdash;a foreigner and an orphan, I reached Hamburg. I had learnt nothing but a little French, and to run my fingers over the embroidery frame, or the keys of my harpsichord. But, though I was ignorant of all useful arts, I had learnt full well to feast off gold and silver, to sleep beneath silken hangings, to bid attendant pages obey my voice, and to listen to the honeyed words of flattery and adulation. Six years passed away in sorrow and in sadness&mdash;the remnant of my scanty means was fast melting away&mdash;my old and faithful nurse was no more&mdash;and&mdash; and then it was that fate brought your sovereign to Hamburg. I was walking beside the shores of the Elbe, wondering, as I gazed on its waters, whether they or my sorrows were the deeper, when the duke crossed my path. He followed me, traced me to my humble abode, and, casting himself at my feet, vowed that he loved me. (She pauses, and, after struggling with her emotion, continues in a voice choked by tears.) All the images of my happy childhood were revived in hues of delusive brightness&mdash;while the future lowered before me black as the grave. My heart panted for communion with another&mdash;and I sank into the arms opened to receive me! (Turning away.) And now you condemn me! </p> <p> FERDINAND (greatly agitated, follows her and leads her back). Lady! heavens! what do I hear! What have I done? The guilt of my conduct is unveiled in all its deformity! It is impossible you should forgive me. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (endeavoring to overcome her emotion). Hear me on! The prince, it is true, overcame my unprotected youth, but the blood of the Howards still glowed within my veins, and never ceased to reproach me; that I, the descendant of royal ancestors, should stoop to be a prince's paramour! Pride and destiny still contended in my bosom, when the duke brought me hither, where SCENEs the most revolting burst upon my sight! The voluptuousness of the great is an insatiable hyena&mdash;the craving of whose appetite demands perpetual victims. Fearfully had it laid this country waste separating bridegroom and bride&mdash;and tearing asunder even the holy bonds of marriage. Here it had destroyed the tranquil happiness of a whole family&mdash;there the blighting pest had seized on a young and inexperienced heart, and expiring victims called down bitter imprecations on the heads of the undoers. It was then that I stepped forth between the lamb and the tiger, and, in a moment of dalliance, extorted from the duke his royal promise that this revolting licentiousness should cease. </p> <p> FERDINAND (pacing the room in violent agitation). No more, lady! No more! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. This gloomy period was succeeded by one still more gloomy. The court swarmed with French and Italian adventurers&mdash;the royal sceptre became the plaything of Parisian harlots, and the people writhed and bled beneath their capricious rule. Each had her day. I saw them sink before me, one by one, for I was the most skilful coquette of all! It was then that I seized and wielded the tyrant's sceptre whilst he slumbered voluptuously in my embrace&mdash;then, Walter, thy country, for the first time, felt the hand of humanity, and reposed in confidence on my bosom. (A pause, during which she gazes upon him with tenderness.) Oh! 'that the man, by whom, of all others, I least wish to be misunderstood, should compel me to turn braggart and parade my unobtrusive virtues to the glare of admiration! Walter, I have burst open the doors of prisons&mdash;I have cancelled death-warrants and shortened many a frightful eternity upon the galleys. Into wounds beyond my power to heal I have at least poured soothing balsam. I have hurled mighty villains to the earth, and oft with the tears of a harlot saved the cause of innocence from impending ruin. Ah! young man, how sweet were then my feelings! How proudly did these actions teach my heart to support the reproaches of my noble blood! And now comes the man who alone can repay me for all that I have suffered&mdash;the man, whom perhaps my relenting destiny created as a compensation for former sorrows&mdash;the man, whom with ardent affection, I already clasped in my dreams. </p> <p> FERDINAND (interrupting her). Hold, lady, hold! You exceed the bounds of our conference! You undertook to clear yourself from reproach, and you make me a criminal! Spare me, I beseech you! Spare a heart already overwhelmed by confusion and remorse! </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (grasping his hand). You must hear me, Walter! hear me now or never. Long enough has the heroine sustained me; now you must feel the whole weight of these tears! Mark me, Walter! Should an unfortunate&mdash;impetuously, irresistibly attracted towards you&mdash;clasp you to her bosom full of unutterable, inextinguishable love&mdash;should this unfortunate&mdash;bowed down with the consciousness of shame&mdash;disgusted with vicious pleasures&mdash;heroically exalted by the inspiration of virtue&mdash;throw herself&mdash;thus into your arms (embracing him in an eager and supplicating manner); should she do this, and you still pronounce the freezing word "Honor!" Should she pray that through you she might be saved&mdash;that through you she might be restored to her hopes of heaven! (Turning away her head, and speaking in a hollow, faltering voice.) Or should she, her prayer refused, listen to the voice of despair, and to escape from your image plunge herself into yet more fearful depths of infamy and vice&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> FERDINAND (breaking from her in great emotion). No, by heaven! This is more than I can endure! Lady, I am compelled&mdash;Heaven and earth compels me&mdash;to make the honest avowal of my sentiments and situation. </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (hastening from him). Oh! not now! By all that is holy I entreat you&mdash;spare me in this dreadful moment when my lacerated heart bleeds from a thousand wounds. Be your decision life or death&mdash;I dare not&mdash;I will not hear it! </p> <p> FERDINAND. I entreat you, lady! I insist! What I have to say will mitigate my offence, and warmly plead your forgiveness for the past. I have been deceived in you, lady. I expected&mdash;nay, I wished to find you deserving my contempt. I came determined to insult you, and to make myself the object of your hate. Happy would it have been for us both had my purpose succeeded! (He pauses; then proceeds in a gentle and faltering voice.) Lady, I love!&mdash;I love a maid of humble birth&mdash;Louisa Miller is her name, the daughter of a music-master. (LADY MILFORD turns away pale and greatly agitated.) I know into what an abyss I plunge myself; but, though prudence bids me conceal my passion, honor overpowers its precepts. I am the criminal&mdash;I first destroyed the golden calm of Louisa's innocence&mdash;I lulled her heart with aspiring hopes, and surrendered it, like a betrayer, a prey to the wildest of passions. You will bid me remember my rank&mdash;my birth&mdash;my father&mdash;schemes of aggrandisement. But in vain&mdash;I love! My hopes become more fervent as the breach widens between nature and the mere conventions of society&mdash; between my resolution and worldly prejudices! We shall see whether love or interest is victorious. (LADY MILFORD during this has retired to the extreme end of the apartment, and covers her face with both hands. FERDINAND approaches her.) Have you aught to answer, lady? </p> <p> LADY MILFORD (in a tone of intense suffering). Nothing! Nothing! but that you destroy yourself and me&mdash;and, with us yet a third. </p> <p> FERDINAND. A third? </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. Never can you marry Louisa; never can you be happy with me. We shall all be the victims of your father's rashness. I can never hope to possess the heart of a husband who has been forced to give me his hand. </p> <p> FERDINAND. Forced, lady? Forced? And yet given? Will you enforce a hand without a heart? Will you tear from a maiden a man who is the whole world to her? Will you tear a maiden from a man who has centered all his hopes of happiness on her alone? Will you do this, lady? you who but a moment before were the lofty, noble-minded daughter of Britain? </p> <p> LADY MILFORD. I will because I must! (earnestly and firmly). My passions, Walter, overcome my tenderness for you. My honor has no alternative. Our union is the talk of the whole city. Every eye, every shaft of ridicule is bent against me. 'Twere a stain which time could never efface should a subject of the prince reject my hand! Appease your father if you have the power! Defend yourself as you best may! my resolution is taken. The mine is fired and I abide the issue. </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> [Exit. FERDINAND remains in speechless astonishment for some moments; then rushes wildly out. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0013" id="link2H_4_0013"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE IV.&mdash;Miller's House. </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> MILLER meeting LOUISA and MRS. MILLER. </pre> <p> MILLER. Ay! ay! I told you how it would be! </p> <p> LOUISA (hastening to him with anxiety). What, father? What? </p> <p> MILLER (running up and down the room). My cloak, there. Quick, quick! I must be beforehand with him. My cloak, I say! Yes, yes! this was just what I expected! </p> <p> LOUISA. For God's sake, father! tell me? </p> <p> MRS. MILLER. What is the matter, Miller? What alarms you? </p> <p> MILLER (throwing down his wig). Let that go to the friezer. What is the matter, indeed? And my beard, too, is nearly half an inch long. What's the matter? What do you think, you old carrion. The devil has broke loose, and you may look out for squalls. </p> <p> MRS. MILLER. There, now, that's just the way! When anything goes wrong it is always my fault. </p> <p> MILLER. Your fault? Yes, you brimstone fagot! and whose else should it be? This very morning when you were holding forth about that confounded major, did I not say then what would be the consequence? That knave, Worm, has blabbed. </p> <p> MRS. MILLER. Gracious heavens! But how do you know? </p> <p> MILLER. How do I know? Look yonder! a messenger of the minister is already at the door inquiring for the fiddler. </p> <p> LOUISA (turning pale, and sitting down). Oh! God! I am in agony! </p> <p> MILLER. And you, too, with that languishing air? (laughs bitterly). But, right! Right! There is an old saying that where the devil keeps a breeding-cage he is sure to hatch a handsome daughter. </p> <p> MRS. MILLER. But how do you know that Louisa is in question? You may have been recommended to the duke; he may want you in his orchestra. </p> <p> MILLER (jumping up, and seizing his fiddlestick). May the sulphurous rain of hell consume thee! Orchestra, indeed! Ay, where you, you old procuress, shall howl the treble whilst my smarting back groans the base (Throwing himself upon a chair.) Oh! God in heaven! </p> <p> LOUISA (sinks on the sofa, pale as death). Father! Mother! Oh! my heart sinks within me. </p> <p> MILLER (starting up with anger). But let me only lay hands on that infernal quill-driver! I'll make him skip&mdash;be it in this world or the next; if I don't pound him to a jelly, body and soul; if I don't write all the Ten Commandments, the seven Penitential Psalms, the five books of Moses, and the whole of the Prophets upon his rascally hide so distinctly that the blue hieroglyphics shall be legible at the day of judgment&mdash;if I don't, may I&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> MRS. MILLER. Yes, yes, curse and swear your hardest! That's the way to frighten the devil! Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Oh, gracious heavens! What shall we do? Who can advise us? Speak, Miller, speak; this silence distracts me! (She runs screaming up and down the room.) </p> <p> MILLER. I will instantly to the minister! I will open my mouth boldly, and tell him all from beginning to end. You knew it before me, and ought to have given me a hint of what was going on! The girl might yet have been advised. It might still have been time to save her! But, no! There was something for your meddling and making, and you must needs add fuel to the fire. Now you have made your bed you may lie on it. As you have brewed so you may drink; I shall take my daughter under my arm and be off with her over the borders. </p> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0014" id="link2H_4_0014"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE V. </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> MILLER, MRS. MILLER, LOUISA, FERDINND. </pre> <p> (All speaking together). </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> FERDINAND (rushes in, terrified, and out of breath). Has my father been here? LOUISA (starts back in horror). His father? Gracious heaven! MRS. MILLER (wringing her hands). The minister here? Then it's all over with us! MILLER (laughs bitterly). Thank God! Thank God! Now comes our benefit! </pre> <p> FERDINAND (rushing towards LOUISA, and clasping her in his arms). Mine thou art, though heaven and hell were placed between us! </p> <p> LOUISA. I am doomed! Speak, Ferdinand! Did you not utter that dreaded name? Your father? </p> <p> FERDINAND. Be not alarmed! the danger has passed! I have thee again! again thou hast me! Let me regain my breath on thy dear bosom. It was a dreadful hour! </p> <p> LOUISA. What was a dreadful hour? Answer me, Ferdinand! I die with apprehension! </p> <p> FERDINAND (drawing back, gazing upon her earnestly, then in a solemn tone). An hour, Louisa, when another's form stepped between my heart and thee&mdash;an hour in which my love grew pale before my conscience&mdash;when Louisa ceased to be all in all to Ferdinand! </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> [LOUISA sinks back upon her chair, and conceals her face. </pre> <p> (FERDINAND stands before her in speechless agitation, then turns away from her suddenly and exclaims). Never, never! Baroness, 'tis impossible! you ask too much! Never can I sacrifice this innocence at your shrine. No, by the eternal God! I cannot recall my oath, which speaks to me from thy soul&mdash;thrilling eyes louder than the thunders of heaven! Behold, lady! Inhuman father, look on this! Would you have me destroy this angel? Shall my perfidy kindle a hell in this heavenly bosom? (turning towards her with firmness). No! I will bear her to thy throne, Almighty Judge! Thy voice shall declare if my affection be a crime. (He grasps her hand, and raises her from the sofa.) Courage, my beloved!&mdash;thou hast conquered&mdash;and I come forth a victor from the terrible conflict! </p> <p> LOUISA. No, no, Ferdinand, conceal nothing from me! Declare boldly the dreadful decree! You named your father! You spoke of the baroness! The shivering of death seizes my heart! 'Tis said she is about to be married! </p> <p> FERDINAND (quite overcome, throws himself at her feet). Yes, and to me, dear unfortunate. Such is my father's will! </p> <p> LOUISA (after a deep pause, in a tremulous voice, but with assumed resignation). Well! Why am I thus affrighted? Has not my dear father often told me that you never could be mine? But I was obstinate, and believed him not. (A second pause; she falls weeping into her father's arms.) Father, thy daughter is thine own again! Father, forgive me! 'Twas not your child's fault that the dream was so heavenly&mdash;the waking so terrible! </p> <p> MILLER. Louisa! Louisa! O merciful heaven! she has lost her senses! My daughter! My poor child! Curses upon thy seducer! Curses upon the pandering mother who threw thee in his way! </p> <p> MRS. MILLER (weeping on LOUISA'S neck). Daughter, do I deserve this curse? God forgive you, major! What has this poor lamb done that you bring this misery upon her? </p> <p> FERDINAND (with resolution). I will unravel the meshes of these intrigues. I will burst asunder these iron chains of prejudice. As a free-born man will I make my choice, and crush these insect souls with the colossal force of my love! [Going. </p> <p> LOUISA (rises trembling from the sofa, and attempts to follow him). Stay, oh, stay! Whither are you going? Father! Mother! He deserts us in this fearful hour! </p> <p> MRS. MILLER (hastens towards him, and detains him). The president is coming hither? He will ill-use my child! He will ill-use us all,&mdash;and yet, major, you are going to leave us. </p> <p> MILLER (laughs hysterically). Leave us. Of course he is! What should hinder him? The girl has given him all she had. (Grasping FERDINAND with one hand, and LOUISA with the other.) Listen to me, young gentleman. The only way out of my house is over my daughter's body. If you possess one single spark of honor await your father's coming; tell him, deceiver, how you stole her young and inexperienced heart; or, by the God who made me! (thrusting LOUISA towards him with violence and passion) you shall crush before my eyes this trembling worm whom love for you has brought to shame and infamy! </p> <p> FERDINAND (returns, and walks to and fro in deep thought). 'Tis true, the President's power is great&mdash;parental authority is a mighty word&mdash;even crimes claim respect when concealed within its folds. He may push that authority far&mdash;very far! But love goes beyond it. Hear me, Louisa; give me thy hand! (clasping it firmly). As surely as I hope for Heaven's mercy in my dying hour, I swear that the moment which separates these hands shall also rend asunder the thread that binds me to existence! </p> <p> LOUISA. You terrify me! Turn from me! Your lips tremble! Your eyes roll fearfully! </p> <p> FERDINAND. Nay, Louisa! fear nothing! It is not madness which prompts my oath! 'tis the choicest gift of Heaven, decision, sent to my aid at that critical moment, when an oppressed bosom can only find relief in some desperate remedy. I love thee, Louisa! Thou shalt be mine! 'Tis resolved! And now for my father! </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> [He rushes out, and is met by the PRESIDENT. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0015" id="link2H_4_0015"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE VI. </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> MILLER, MRS. MILLER, LOUISA, FERDINAND, PRESIDENT, with SERVANTS. </pre> <p> PRESIDENT (as he enters). So! here he is! (All start in terror.) </p> <p> FERDINAND (retiring a few paces). In the house of innocence! </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Where a son learns obedience to his father! </p> <p> FERDINAND. Permit me to&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> PRESIDENT (interrupting him, turns to MILLER). The father, I presume? </p> <p> MILLER. I am Miller, the musician. </p> <p> PRESIDENT (to MRS. MILLER). And you, the mother? </p> <p> MRS. MILLER. Yes, alas! her unfortunate mother! </p> <p> FERDINAND (to MILLER.) Father, take Louisa to her chamber&mdash;she is fainting. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. An unnecessary precaution! I will soon arouse her. (To LOUISA.) How long have you been acquainted with the President's son? </p> <p> LOUISA (with timidity). Of the President's son I have never thought. Ferdinand von Walter has paid his addresses to me since November last. </p> <p> FERDINAND. And he adores her! </p> <p> PRESIDENT (to LOUISA). Has he given you any assurance of his love? </p> <p> FERDINAND. But a few minutes since, the most solemn, and God was my witness. </p> <p> PRESIDENT (to his son angrily). Silence! You shall have opportunity enough of confessing your folly. (To LOUISA.) I await your answer. </p> <p> LOUISA. He swore eternal love to me. </p> <p> FERDINAND. And I will keep my oath. </p> <p> PRESIDENT (to FERDINAND). Must I command your silence? (To LOUISA). Did you accept his rash vows? </p> <p> LOUISA (with tenderness). I did, and gave him mine in exchange. </p> <p> FERDINAND (resolutely). The bond is irrevocable&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> PRESIDENT (to FERDINAND). If you dare to interrupt me again I'll teach you better manners. (To LOUISA, sneeringly.) And he paid handsomely every time, no doubt? </p> <p> LOUISA. I do not understand your question. </p> <p> PRESIDENT (with an insulting laugh). Oh, indeed! Well, I only meant to hint that&mdash;as everything has its price&mdash;I hope you have been more provident than to bestow your favors gratis&mdash;or perhaps you were satisfied with merely participating in the pleasure? Eh? how was it? </p> <p> FERDINAND (infuriated). Hell and confusion! What does this mean? </p> <p> LOUISA (to FERDINAND, with dignity and emotion). Baron von Walter, now you are free! </p> <p> FERDINAND. Father! virtue though clothed in a beggar's garb commands respect! </p> <p> PRESIDENT (laughing aloud). A most excellent joke! The father is commanded to honor his son's strumpet! </p> <p> LOUISA. Oh! Heaven and earth! (Sinks down in a swoon.) </p> <p> FERDINAND (drawing his sword). Father, you gave me life, and, till now, I acknowledged your claim on it. That debt is cancelled. (Replaces his sword in the scabbard, and points to LOUISA.) There lies the bond of filial duty torn to atoms! </p> <p> MILLER (who has stood apart trembling, now comes forward, by turns gnashing his teeth in rage, and shrinking back in terror). Your excellency, the child is the father's second self. No offence, I hope! Who strikes the child hits the father&mdash;blow for blow&mdash;that's our rule here. No offence, I hope! </p> <p> MRS. MILLER. God have mercy on us! Now the old man has begun&mdash;we shall all catch it with a vengeance! </p> <p> PRESIDENT (who has not understood what MILLER said). What? is the old pander stirred up? We shall have something to settle together presently, Mr. Pander! </p> <p> MILLER. You mistake me, my lord. My name is Miller, at your service for an adagio&mdash;but, as to ladybirds, I cannot serve you. As long as there is such an assortment at court, we poor citizens can't afford to lay in stock! No offence, I hope! </p> <p> MRS. MILLER. For Heaven's sake, man, hold your tongue! would you ruin both wife and child? </p> <p> FERDINAND (to his father). You play but a sorry part here, my lord, and might well have dispensed with these witnesses. </p> <p> MILLER (coming nearer, with increasing confidence). To be plain and above board&mdash;No offence, I hope&mdash;your excellency may have it all your own way in the Cabinet&mdash;but this is my house. I'm your most obedient, very humble servant when I wait upon you with a petition, but the rude, unmannerly intruder I have the right to bundle out&mdash;no offence, I hope! </p> <p> PRESIDENT (pale with anger, and approaching MILLER). What? What's that you dare to utter? </p> <p> MILLER (retreating a few steps). Only a little bit of my mind sir&mdash;no offence, I hope! </p> <p> PRESIDENT (furiously). Insolent villain! Your impertinence shall procure you a lodging in prison. (To his servants). Call in the officers of justice! Away! (Some of the attendants go out. The PRESIDENT paces the stage with a furious air.) The father shall to prison; the mother and her strumpet daughter to the pillory! Justice shall lend her sword to my rage! For this insult will I have ample amends. Shall such contemptible creatures thwart my plans, and set father and son against each other with impunity? Tremble, miscreants! I will glut my hate in your destruction&mdash;the whole brood of you&mdash;father, mother, and daughter shall be sacrificed to my vengeance! </p> <p> FERDINAND (to MILLER, in a collected and firm manner). Oh! not so! Fear not, friends! I am your protector. (Turning to the PRESIDENT, with deference). Be not so rash, father! For your own sake let me beg of you no violence. There is a corner of my heart where the name of father has never yet been heard. Oh! press not into that! </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Silence, unworthy boy! Rouse not my anger to greater fury! </p> <p> MILLER (recovering from a stupor). Wife, look you to your daughter! I fly to the duke. His highness' tailor&mdash;God be praised for reminding me of it at this moment&mdash;learns the flute of me&mdash;I cannot fail of success. (Is hastening off.) </p> <p> PRESIDENT. To the duke, will you? Have you forgotten that I am the threshold over which you must pass, or failing, perish? To the duke, you fool? Try to reach him with your lamentations, when, reduced to a living skeleton, you lie buried in a dungeon five fathoms deep, where light and sound never enter; where darkness goggles at hell with gloating eyes! There gnash thy teeth in anguish; there rattle thy chains in despair, and groan, "Woe is me! This is beyond human endurance!" </p> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0016" id="link2H_4_0016"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE VII. </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> Officers of Justice&mdash;the former. </pre> <p> FERDINAND (flies to LOUISA, who, overcome with fear, faints in his arms.) Louisa!&mdash;Help, for God's sake! Terror overpowers her! </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> [MILLER, catching up his cane and putting on his hat, prepares for defense. MRS. MILLER throws herself on her knees before the PRESIDENT. </pre> <p> PRESIDENT (to the officers, showing his star). Arrest these offenders in the duke's name. Boy, let go that strumpet! Fainting or not&mdash;when once her neck is fitted with the iron collar the mob will pelt her till she revives. </p> <p> MRS. MILLER. Mercy, your excellency! Mercy! mercy! </p> <p> MILLER (snatching her from the ground with violence). Kneel to God, you howling fool, and not to villains&mdash;since I must to prison any way! </p> <p> PRESIDENT (biting his lips.) You may be out in your reckoning, scoundrel! There are still gallows to spare! (To the officers.) Must I repeat my orders? </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> [They approach LOUISA&mdash;FERDINAND places himself before her. </pre> <p> FERDINAND (fiercely). Touch her who dare! (He draws his sword and flourishes it.) Let no one presume to lay a finger on her, whose life is not well insured. (To the PRESIDENT.) As you value your own safety, father, urge me no further! </p> <p> PRESIDENT (to the officers in a threatening voice). At your peril, cowards! (They again attempt to seize LOUISA.) </p> <p> FERDINAND. Hell and furies! Back, I say! (Driving them away.) Once more, father, I warn you&mdash;have some thought for your own safety! Drive me not to extremity! </p> <p> PRESIDENT (enraged to the officers). Scoundrels! Is this your obedience? (The officers renew their efforts.) </p> <p> FERDINAND. Well, if it must be so (attacking and wounding several of them), Justice forgive me! </p> <p> PRESIDENT (exasperated to the utmost). Let me see whether I, too, must feel your weapon! (He seizes LOUISA and delivers her to an officer.) </p> <p> FERDINAND (laughing bitterly). Father! father! Your conduct is a galling satire upon Providence, who has so ill understood her people as to make bad statesmen of excellent executioners! </p> <p> PRESIDENT (to the officers). Away with her! </p> <p> FERDINAND. Father, if I cannot prevent it, she must stand in the pillory&mdash;but by her side will also stand the son of the president. Do you still insist? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. The more entertaining will be the exhibition. Away with her! </p> <p> FERDINAND. I will pledge the honor of an officer's sword for her. Do you still insist? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Your sword is already familiar with disgrace. Away! away! You know my will. </p> <p> FERDINAND (wrests LOUISA from the officer and holds her with one arm, with the other points his sword at her bosom.) Father, rather than tamely see my wife branded with infamy I will plunge this sword into her bosom. Do you still insist? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Do it, if the point be sharp enough! </p> <p> FERDINAND (releases LOUISA, and looks wildly towards heaven). Be thou witness, Almighty God, that I have left no human means untried to save her! Forgive me now if I have recourse to hellish means. While you are leading her to the pillory (speaking loudly in the PRESIDENT'S ear), I will publish throughout the town a pleasant history of how a president's chair may be gained! [Exit. </p> <p> PRESIDENT (as if thunder-struck). How? What said he? Ferdinand! Release her instantly! (Rushes after his son.) </p> <p>
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