Beelingo.com

English Audio Books

Love and Intrigue

SPONSORED LINKS
<SPAN name="link2H_4_0017" id="link2H_4_0017"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> ACT III. </h2> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0018" id="link2H_4_0018"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE I. </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> Room at the President's. Enter PRESIDENT and WORM. </pre> <p> PRESIDENT. That was an infernal piece of business! </p> <p> WORM. Just what I feared, your excellency. Opposition may inflame the enthusiast, but never converts him. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. I had placed my whole reliance upon the success of this attempt. I made no doubt but if the girl were once publicly disgraced, he would be obliged as an officer and a gentleman to resign her. </p> <p> WORM. An admirable idea!&mdash;had you but succeeded in disgracing her. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. And yet&mdash;when I reflect on the matter coolly&mdash;I ought not to have suffered myself to be overawed. It was a threat which he never could have meant seriously. </p> <p> WORM. Be not too certain of that! There is no folly too gross for excited passion! You say that the baron has always looked upon government with an eye of disapprobation. I can readily believe it. The principles which he brought with him from college are ill-suited to our atmosphere. What have the fantastic visions of personal nobility and greatness of soul to do in court, where 'tis the perfection of wisdom to be great and little by turns, as occasion demands? The baron is too young and too fiery to take pleasure in the slow and crooked paths of intrigue. That alone can give impulse to his ambition which seems glorious and romantic! </p> <p> PRESIDENT (impatiently). But how will these sagacious remarks advance our affairs? </p> <p> WORM. They will point out to your excellency where the wound lies, and so, perhaps, help you to find a remedy. Such a character&mdash;pardon the observation&mdash;ought never to have been made a confidant, or should never have been roused to enmity. He detests the means by which you have risen to power! Perhaps it is only the son that has hitherto sealed the lips of the betrayer! Give him but a fair opportunity for throwing off the bonds imposed upon him by nature! only convince him, by unrelenting opposition to his passion, that you are no longer an affectionate father, and that moment the duties of a patriot will rush upon him with irresistible force! Nay, the high-wrought idea of offering so unparalleled a sacrifice at the shrine of justice might of itself alone have charms sufficient to reconcile him to the ruin of a parent! </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Worm! Worm! To what a horrible abyss do you lead me! </p> <p> WORM. Never fear, my lord, I will lead you back in safety! May I speak without restraint? </p> <p> PRESIDENT (throwing himself into a seat). Freely, as felon with felon. </p> <p> WORM. Forgive me, then. It seems to me that you have to ascribe all your influence as president to the courtly art of intrigue; why not resort to the same means for attaining your ends as a father? I well remember with what seeming frankness you invited your predecessor to a game at piquet, and caroused half the night with him over bumpers of Burgundy; and yet it was the same night on which the great mine you had planned to annihilate him was to explode. Why did you make a public exhibition of enmity to the major? You should by no means have let it appear that you knew anything of his love affair. You should have made the girl the object of your attacks and have preserved the affection of your son; like the prudent general who does not engage the prime of the enemy's force but creates disaffection among the ranks? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. How could this have been effected? </p> <p> WORM. In the simplest manner&mdash;even now the game is not entirely lost! Forget for a time that you are a father. Do not contend against a passion which opposition only renders more formidable. Leave me to hatch, from the heat of their own passions, the basilisk which shall destroy them. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. I am all attention. </p> <p> WORM. Either my knowledge of human character is very small, or the major is as impetuous in jealousy as in love. Make him suspect the girl's constancy,&mdash;whether probable or not does not signify. One grain of leaven will be enough to ferment the whole mass. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. But where shall we find that grain? </p> <p> WORM. Now, then, I come to the point. But first explain to me how much depends upon the major's compliance. How far is it of consequence that the romance with the music-master's daughter should be brought to a conclusion and the marriage with Lady Milford effected? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. How can you ask me, Worm? If the match with Lady Milford is broken off I stand a fair chance of losing my whole influence; on the other hand, if I force the major's consent, of losing my head. </p> <p> WORM (with animation). Now have the kindness to listen to me. The major must be entangled in a web. Your whole power must be employed against his mistress. We must make her write a love-letter, address it to a third party, and contrive to drop it cleverly in the way of the major. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Absurd proposal! As if she would consent to sign her own death-warrant. </p> <p> WORM. She must do so if you will but let me follow my own plan. I know her gentle heart thoroughly; she has but two vulnerable sides by which her conscience can be attacked; they are her father and the major. The latter is entirely out of the question; we must, therefore, make the most of the musician. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. In what way? </p> <p> WORM. From the description your excellency gave me of what passed in his house nothing can be easier than to terrify the father with the threat of a criminal process. The person of his favorite, and of the keeper of the seals, is in some degree the representative of the duke himself, and he who offends the former is guilty of treason towards the latter. At any rate I will engage with these pretences to conjure up such a phantom as shall scare the poor devil out of his seven senses. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. But recollect, Worm, the affair must not be carried so far as to become serious. </p> <p> WORM. Nor shall it. It shall be carried no further than is necessary to frighten the family into our toils. The musician, therefore, must be quietly arrested. To make the necessity yet more urgent, we may also take possession of the mother;&mdash;and then we begin to talk of criminal process, of the scaffold, and of imprisonment for life, and make the daughter's letter the sole condition of the parent's release. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Excellent! Excellent! Now I begin to understand you! </p> <p> WORM. Louisa loves her father&mdash;I might say even to adoration! The danger which threatens his life, or at least his freedom&mdash;the reproaches of her conscience for being the cause of his misfortunes&mdash;the impossibility of ever becoming the major's wife&mdash;the confusion of her brain, which I take upon myself to produce&mdash;all these considerations make our plan certain of success. She must be caught in the snare. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. But my son&mdash;will he not instantly get scent of it? Will it not make him yet more desperate? </p> <p> WORM. Leave that to me, your excellency! The old folks shall not be set at liberty till they and their daughter have taken the most solemn oath to keep the whole transaction secret, and never to confess the deception. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. An oath! Ridiculous! What restraint can an oath be? </p> <p> WORM. None upon us, my lord, but the most binding upon people of their stamp. Observe, how dexterously by this measure we shall both reach the goal of our desires. The girl loses at once the affection of her lover, and her good name; the parents will lower their tone, and, thoroughly humbled by misfortune, will esteem it an act of mercy, if, by giving her my hand, I re-establish their daughter's reputation. </p> <p> PRESIDENT (shaking his head and smiling). Artful villain! I confess myself outdone&mdash;no devil could spin a finer snare! The scholar excels his master. The next question is, to whom must the letter be addressed&mdash; with whom to accuse her of having an intrigue? </p> <p> WORM. It must necessarily be some one who has all to gain or all to lose by your son's decision in this affair. </p> <p> PRESIDENT (after a moment's reflection). I can think of no one but the marshal. </p> <p> WORM (shrugs his shoulders). The marshal! He would certainly not be my choice were I Louisa Miller. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. And why not? What a strange notion! A man who dresses in the height of fashion&mdash;who carries with him an atmosphere of eau de mille fleurs and musk&mdash;who can garnish every silly speech with a handful of ducats&mdash;could all this possibly fail to overcome the delicacy of a tradesman's daughter? No, no, my good friend, jealousy is not quite so hard of belief. I shall send for the marshal immediately. (Rings.) </p> <p> WORM. While your excellency takes care of him, and of the fiddler's arrest, I will go and indite the aforesaid letter. </p> <p> PRESIDENT (seats himself at his writing-table). Do so; and, as soon as it is ready, bring it hither for my perusal. </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> [Exit WORM. [The PRESIDENT, having written, rises and hands the paper to a servant who enters. </pre> <p> See this arrest executed without a moment's delay, and let Marshal von Kalb be informed that I wish to see him immediately. </p> <p> SERVANT. The marshal's carriage has just stopped at your lordship's door. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. So much the better&mdash;as for the arrest, let it be managed with such precaution that no disturbance arise. </p> <p> SERVANT. I will take care, my lord. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. You understand me? The business must be kept quite secret. </p> <p> SERVANT. Your excellency shall be obeyed. </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> [Exit SERVANT. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0019" id="link2H_4_0019"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE II. </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> The PRESIDENT&mdash;MARSHALL KALB. </pre> <p> MARSHAL (hastily). I have just looked in, en passant, my dear friend! How are you? How do you get on? We are to have the grand opera Dido to-night! Such a conflagration!&mdash;a whole town will be in flames!&mdash;you will come to the blaze of course&mdash;eh? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. I have conflagration enough in my own house, one that threatens the destruction of all I possess. Be seated, my dear marshal. You arrive very opportunely to give me your advice and assistance in a certain business which will either advance our fortunes or utterly ruin us both! </p> <p> MARSHAL. Don't alarm me so, my dear friend! </p> <p> PRESIDENT. As I said before, it must exalt or ruin us entirely! You know my project respecting the major and Lady Milford&mdash;you are not ignorant how necessary this union is to secure both our fortunes! Marshal, our plans threaten to come to naught. My son refuses to marry her! </p> <p> MARSHAL. Refuses! Refuses to marry her? But, my goodness! I have published the news through the whole town. The union is the general topic of conversation. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Then you will be talked of by all the town as a spreader of false reports,&mdash;in short, Ferdinand loves another. </p> <p> MARSHAL. Pooh! you are joking! As if that were an obstacle? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. With such an enthusiast a most insurmountable one! </p> <p> MARSHAL. Can he be mad enough to spurn his good-fortune? Eh? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Ask him yourself and you'll hear what he will answer. </p> <p> MARSHAL. But, mon Dieu! what can he answer? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. That he will publish to the world the crime by which we rose to power&mdash;that he will denounce our forged letters and receipts&mdash;that he will send us both to the scaffold. That is what he can answer. </p> <p> MARSHAL. Are you out of your mind? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Nay, that is what he has already answered? He was actually on the point of putting these threats into execution; and it was only by the most abject submission that I could persuade him to abandon his design. What say you to this, marshal? </p> <p> MARSHAL (with a look of bewildered stupidity). I am at my wits' end! </p> <p> PRESIDENT. That might have blown over. But my spies have just brought me notice that the grand cupbearer, von Bock, is on the point of offering himself as a suitor to her ladyship. </p> <p> MARSHAL. You drive me distracted! Whom did you say? Von Bock? Don't you know that we are mortal enemies? And don't you know why? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. The first word that I ever heard of it! </p> <p> MARSHAL. My dear count! You shall hear&mdash;your hair will stand on end! You must remember the famous court ball&mdash;it is now just twenty years ago. It was the first time that English country-dances were introduced&mdash;you remember how the hot wax trickled from the great chandelier on Count Meerschaum's blue and silver domino. Surely, you cannot have forgotten that affair! </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Who could forget so remarkable a circumstance! </p> <p> MARSHAL. Well, then, in the heat of the dance Princess Amelia lost her garter. The whole ball, as you may imagine, was instantly thrown into confusion. Von Bock and myself&mdash;we were then fellow-pages&mdash;crept through the whole saloon in search of the garter. At length I discovered it. Von Bock perceives my good-fortune&mdash;rushes forward&mdash;tears it from my hands, and, just fancy&mdash;presents it to the princess, and so cheated me of the honor I had so fortunately earned. What do you think of that? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. 'Twas most insolent! </p> <p> MARSHAL. I thought I should have fainted upon the spot. A trick so malicious was beyond the powers of mortal endurance. At length I recovered myself; and, approaching the princess, said,&mdash;"Von Bock, 'tis true, was fortunate enough to present the garter to your highness; but he who first discovered that treasure finds his reward in silence, and is dumb!" </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Bravo, marshal! Admirably said! Most admirable! </p> <p> MARSHAL. And is dumb! But till the day of judgment will I remember his conduct&mdash;the mean, sneaking sycophant! And as if that were not aggravation enough, he actually, as we were struggling on the ground for the garter, rubbed all the powder from one side of my peruke with his sleeve, and ruined me for the rest of the evening. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. This is the man who will marry Lady Milford, and consequently soon take the lead at court. </p> <p> MARSHAL. You plunge a dagger in my heart! But why must he? Why should he marry her? Why he? Where is the necessity? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Because Ferdinand refuses her, and there is no other candidate. </p> <p> MARSHAL. But is there no possible method of obtaining your son's consent? Let the measure be ever so extravagant or desperate&mdash;there is nothing to which I should not willingly consent in order to supplant the hated von Bock. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. I know but one means of accomplishing this, and that rests entirely with you. </p> <p> MARSHAL. With me? Name it, my dear count, name it! </p> <p> PRESIDENT. You must set Ferdinand and his mistress against each other. </p> <p> MARSHAL. Against each other? How do you mean?&mdash;and how would that be possible. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Everything is ours could we make him suspect the girl. </p> <p> MARSHAL. Ah, of theft, you mean? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Pshaw!&mdash;he would never believe that! No, no&mdash;I mean that she is carrying on an intrigue with another. </p> <p> MARSHAL. And this other, who is he to be? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Yourself! </p> <p> MARSHAL. How? Must I be her lover? Is she of noble birth? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. What signifies that? What an idea!&mdash;she is the daughter of a musician. </p> <p> MARSHAL. A plebeian?&mdash;that will never do! </p> <p> PRESIDENT. What will never do? Nonsense, man! Who in the name of wonder would think of asking a pair of rosy cheeks for their owner's pedigree? </p> <p> MARSHAL. But consider, my dear count, a married man! And my reputation at court! </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Oh! that's quite another thing! I beg a thousand pardons, marshal; I was not aware that a man of unblemished morals held a higher place in your estimation than a man of power! Let us break up our conference. </p> <p> MARSHAL. Be not so hasty, count. I did not mean to say that. </p> <p> PRESIDENT (coldly.) No&mdash;no! You are perfectly right. I, too, am weary of office. I shall throw up the game, tender my resignation to the duke, and congratulate von Bock on his accession to the premiership. This duchy is not all the world. </p> <p> MARSHAL. And what am I to do? It is very fine for you to talk thus! You are a man of learning! But I&mdash;mon Dieu! What shall I be if his highness dismisses me? </p> <p> PRESIDENT. A stale jest!&mdash;a thing out of fashion! </p> <p> MARSHAL. I implore you, my dearest, my most valued friend. Abandon those thoughts. I will consent to everything! </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Will you lend your name to an assignation to which this Louisa Miller shall invite you in writing? </p> <p> MARSHAL. Well, in God's name let it be so! </p> <p> PRESIDENT. And drop the letter where the major cannot fail to find it. </p> <p> MARSHAL. For instance, on the parade, where I can let it fall as if accidentally in drawing out my handkerchief. </p> <p> PRESIDENT. And when the baron questions you will you assume the character of a favored rival? </p> <p> MARSHAL. Mort de ma vie! I'll teach him manners! I'll cure him of interfering in my amours! </p> <p> PRESIDENT. Good! Now you speak in the right key. The letter shall be written immediately! Come in the evening to receive it, and we will talk over the part you are to play. </p> <p> MARSHAL. I will be with you the instant I have paid sixteen visits of the very highest importance. Permit me, therefore, to take my leave without delay. (Going.) </p> <p> PRESIDENT (rings). I reckon upon your discretion, marshal. </p> <p> MARSHAL (calls back). Ah, mon Dieu! you know me! </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> [Exit MARSHAL. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0020" id="link2H_4_0020"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE III. </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> The PRESIDENT and WORM. </pre> <p> WORM. The music-master and his wife have been arrested without the least disturbance. Will your excellency read this letter? </p> <p> PRESIDENT (having read it). Excellent! Excellent, my dear secretary! poison like this would convert health itself into jaundiced leprosy. The marshal, too, has taken the bait. Now then away with my proposals to the father, and then lose no time&mdash;with the daughter. </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> [Exeunt on different sides. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0021" id="link2H_4_0021"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE IV.&mdash;Room in MILLER'S House. </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> LOUISA and FERDINAND. </pre> <p> LOUISA. Cease, I implore you! I expect no more days of happiness. All my hopes are levelled with the dust. </p> <p> FERDINAND. All mine are exalted to heaven! My father's passions are roused! He will direct his whole artillery against us! He will force me to become an unnatural son. I will not answer for my filial duty. Rage and despair will wring from me the dark secret that my father is an assassin! The son will deliver the parent into the hands of the executioner. This is a moment of extreme danger, and extreme danger alone could prompt my love to take so daring a leap! Hear me, Louisa! A thought, vast and immeasurable as my love, has arisen in my soul&mdash;Thou, Louisa, and I, and Love! Lies not a whole heaven within this circle? Or dost thou feel that there is still something wanting? </p> <p> LOUISA. Oh! cease! No more! I tremble to think what you would say. </p> <p> FERDINAND. If we have no longer a claim upon the world, why should we seek its approbation? Why venture where nothing can be gained and all may be lost? Will thine eyes sparkle less brightly reflected by the Baltic waves than by the waters of the Rhine or the Elbe? Where Louise loves me there is my native land! Thy footsteps will make the wild and sandy desert far more attractive than the marble halls of my ancestors. Shall we miss the pomp of cities? Be we where we may, Louisa, a sun will rise and a sun will set&mdash; SCENEs before which the most glorious achievements of art grow pale and dim! Though we serve God no more in his consecrated churches, yet the night shall spread her solemn shadows round us; the changing moon shall hear our confession, and a glorious congregation of stars join in our prayers! Think you our talk of love can ever be exhausted! Oh, no! One smile from Louisa were a theme for centuries&mdash;the dream of life will be over ere I can exhaust the charms of a single tear. </p> <p> LOUISA. And hast thou no duty save that of love? </p> <p> FERDINAND (embracing her). None so sacred as thy peace of mind! </p> <p> LOUISA (very seriously). Cease, then, and leave me. I have a father who possesses no treasure save one only daughter. To-morrow he will be sixty years old&mdash;that he will fall a victim to the vengeance of the President is most certain! </p> <p> FERDINAND (interrupting her). He shall accompany us. Therefore no more objections, my beloved. I will go and convert my valuables into gold, and raise money on my father's credit! It is lawful to plunder a robber, and are not his treasures the price for which he has sold his country? This night, when the clock strikes one, a carriage will stop at your door&mdash;throw yourself into it, and we fly! </p> <p> LOUISA. Pursued by your father's curse! a curse, unthinking one, which is never pronounced in vain even by murderers&mdash;which the avenging angel hears when uttered by a malefactor in his last agony&mdash;which, like a fury, will fearfully pursue the fugitives from shore to shore! No, my beloved! If naught but a crime can preserve you to me, I still have courage to resign you! </p> <p> FERDINAND (mutters gloomily). Indeed! </p> <p> LOUISA. Resign you? Oh! horrible beyond all measure is the thought. Horrible enough to pierce the immortal spirit and pale the glowing cheeks of joy! Ferdinand! To resign you! Yet how can one resign what one never possessed? Your heart is the property of your station. My claim was sacrilege, and, shuddering, I withdraw it! </p> <p> FERDINAND (with convulsed features, and biting his underlip). You withdraw it! </p> <p> LOUISA. Nay! look upon me, dearest Ferdinand. Gnash not your teeth so bitterly! Come, let my example rouse your slumbering courage. Let me be the heroine of this moment. Let me restore to a father his lost son. I will renounce a union which would sever the bonds by which society is held together, and overthrow the landmarks of social order. I am the criminal. My bosom has nourished proud and foolish wishes, and my present misery is a just punishment. Oh! leave me then the sweet, the consoling idea that mine is the sacrifice. Canst thou deny me this last satisfaction? (FERDINAND, stupefied with agitation and anger, seizes a violin and strikes a few notes upon it; and then tears away the strings, dashes the instrument upon the ground, and, stamping it to pieces, bursts into a loud laugh.) Walter! God in Heaven! What mean you? Be not thus unmanned! This hour requires fortitude; it is the hour of separation! You have a heart, dear Walter; I know that heart&mdash;warm as life is your love&mdash;boundless and immeasurable&mdash;bestow it on one more noble, more worthy&mdash;she need not envy the most fortunate of her sex! (Striving to repress her tears.) You shall see me no more! Leave the vain disappointed girl to bewail her sorrow in sad and lonely seclusion; where her tears will flow unheeded. Dead and gone are all my hopes of happiness in this world; yet still shall I inhale ever and anon the perfumes of the faded wreath! (Giving him her trembling hand, while her face is turned away.) Baron Walter, farewell! </p> <p> FERDINAND (recovering from the stupor in which he was plunged). Louisa, I fly! Do you indeed refuse to follow me? </p> <p> LOUISA (who has retreated to the further end of the apartment, conceals her countenance with her hands). My duty bids me stay, and suffer. </p> <p> FERDINAND. Serpent! thou liest&mdash;some other motive chains thee here! </p> <p> LOUISA (in a tone of the most heartfelt sorrow). Encourage that belief. Haply it may make our parting more supportable. </p> <p> FERDINAND. What? Oppose freezing duty to fiery love! And dost thou think to cheat me with that delusion? Some rival detains thee here, and woe be to thee and him should my suspicions be confirmed! </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> [Exit. </pre> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0022" id="link2H_4_0022"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE V. </h2> <p> LOUISA (she remains for some time motionless in the seat upon which she has thrown herself. At length she rises, comes forward, and looks timidly around). Where can my parents be? My father promised to return in a few minutes; yet full five dreadful hours have passed since his departure. Should any accident&mdash;&mdash;good Heavens! What is come over me? Why does my heart palpitate so violently? (Here WORM enters, and remains standing unobserved in the background.) It can be nothing real. 'Tis but the terrible delusion of my over-heated blood. When once the soul is wrapped in terror the eye behold spectres in every shadow. </p> <p> <SPAN name="link2H_4_0023" id="link2H_4_0023"> <!-- H2 anchor --> </SPAN> </p> <div style="height: 4em;"> <br /><br /><br /><br /> </div> <h2> SCENE VI. </h2> <pre xml:space="preserve"> LOUISA and WORM. </pre> <p> WORM (approaches her). Good evening, miss. </p> <p> LOUISA. Heavens! who speaks! (Perceives him, and starts back in terror.) Ha! Dreadful! dreadful! I fear some dire misfortune is even now realizing the forebodings of my soul! (To WORM, with a look of disdain.) Do you seek the president? he is no longer here. </p> <p> WORM. 'Tis you I seek, miss! </p> <p> LOUISA. I wonder, then, that you did not direct your steps towards the market-place. </p> <p> WORM. What should I do there? </p> <p> LOUISA. Release your betrothed from the pillory. </p> <p> WORM. Louisa, you cherish some false suspicion&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> LOUISA (sharply interrupting him). What is your business with me? </p> <p> WORM. I come with a message from your father. </p> <p> LOUISA (agitated). From my father? Oh! Where is my father? </p> <p> WORM. Where he would fain not be! </p> <p> LOUISA. Quick, quick, for God's sake! Oh! my foreboding heart! Where is my father! </p> <p> WORM. In prison, if you needs must know! </p> <p> LOUISA (with a look towards heaven). This, too! This, too! In prison, said you? And why in prison? </p> <p> WORM. It is the duke's order. </p> <p> LOUISA. The duke's? </p> <p> WORM. Who thinking his own dignity offended by the insults offered to the person of his representative&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> LOUISA. How? How? Oh ye Almighty Powers! </p> <p> WORM.&mdash;&mdash;Has resolved to inflict the most exemplary punishment. </p> <p> LOUISA. This was still wanting! This! Yes, in truth. I now feel that my heart does love another besides Ferdinand! That could not be allowed to escape! The prince's dignity offended? Heavenly Providence! Save, oh! save my sinking faith! (After a moment's pause, she turns to WORM.) And Ferdinand? </p> <p> WORM. Must choose between Lady Milford's hand and his father's curse and disinheritance. </p> <p> LOUISA. Terrible choice!&mdash;and yet&mdash;yet is he the happier of the two. He has no father to lose&mdash;and yet to have none is misery enough! My father imprisoned for treason&mdash;my Ferdinand compelled to choose between Lady Milford's hand or a parent's curse and disinheritance! Truly admirable! for even villany so perfect is perfection! Perfection? No! something is still wanting to complete that. Where is my mother? </p> <p> WORM. In the house of correction. </p> <p> LOUISA (with a smile of despair). Now the measure is full! It is full, and I am free&mdash;released from all duties&mdash;all sorrows&mdash;all joys! Released even from Providence! I have nothing more to do with it! (A dreadful pause.) Have you aught else to communicate? Speak freely&mdash;now I can hear anything with indifference. </p> <p> WORM. All that has happened you already know. </p> <p> LOUISA. But not that which is yet to happen! (Another pause, during which she surveys WORM from head to foot.) Unfortunate man! you have entered on a melancholy employment, which can never lead you to happiness. To cause misery to others is sad enough&mdash;but to be the messenger of evil is horrible indeed&mdash;to be the first to shriek the screech-owl's song, to stand by when the bleeding heart trembles upon the iron shaft of necessity, and the Christian doubts the existence of a God&mdash;Heaven protect me! Wert thou paid a ton of gold for every tear of anguish which thou must witness, I would not be a wretch like thee! What is there yet to happen? </p> <p> WORM. I know not. </p> <p> LOUISA. You pretend not to know? This light-shunning embassy trembles at the sound of words, but the spectre betrays itself in your ghastly visage. What is there yet to happen? You said the duke will inflict upon him a most exemplary punishment. What call you exemplary? </p> <p> WORM. Ask me no more. </p> <p> LOUISA. Terrible man! Some hangman must have schooled thee! Else thou hast not so well learned to prolong the torture of thy victim before giving the finishing stroke to the agonized heart! Speak! What fate awaits my father? Death thou canst announce with a laughing sneer&mdash;what then must that be which thou dost hesitate to disclose? Speak out! Let me at once receive the overwhelming weight of thy tidings! What fate awaits my father? </p> <p> WORM. A criminal process. </p> <p> LOUISA. But what is that? I am an ignorant, innocent girl, and understand but little of your fearful terms of law. What mean you by a criminal process? </p> <p> WORM. Judgment upon life or death. </p> <p> LOUISA (firmly). Ah! I thank you. </p> <pre xml:space="preserve"> [Exit hastily by a side door. </pre> <p> WORM (alarmed). What means this? Should the simpleton perchance&mdash; confusion! Surely she will not&mdash;I must follow her. I am answerable for her life. (As he is going towards the door, LOUISA returns, wrapped in a cloak.) </p> <p> LOUISA. Your pardon, Mr. Secretary, I must lock the door. </p> <p> WORM. Whither in such haste? </p> <p> LOUISA (passing him). To the duke. </p> <p> WORM (alarmed, detains her). How? Whither? </p> <p> LOUISA. To the duke. Do you not hear? Even to that very duke whose will is to decide upon my father's life or death. Yet no?&mdash;'tis not his will that decides, but the will of wicked men who surround his throne. He lends naught to this process, save the shadow of his majesty, and his royal signature. </p> <p> WORM (with a burst of laughter). To the duke! </p> <p> LOUISA. I know the meaning of that sneering laugh&mdash;you would tell me that I shall find no compassion there. But though I may meet (God preserve me!) with nothing but scorn&mdash;scorn at my sorrows&mdash;yet will I to the duke. I have been told that the great never know what misery is; that they fly from the knowledge of it. But I will teach the duke what misery is; I will paint to him, in all the writhing agonies of death, what misery is; I will cry aloud in wailings that shall creep through the very marrow of his bones, what misery is; and, while at my picture his hairs shall stand on end like quills upon the porcupine, will I shriek into his affrighted ear, that in the hour of death the sinews of these mighty gods of earth shall shrivel and shrink, and that at the day of judgment beggars and kings shall be weighed together in the same balance (Going.) </p> <p> WORM (ironically). By all means go to the duke! You can really do nothing more prudent; I advise you heartily to the step. Only go, and I give you my word that the duke will grant your suit. </p> <p> LOUISA (stopping suddenly). What said you? Do you yourself advise the step? (Returns hastily). What am I about to do? Something wicked surely, since this man approves it&mdash;how know you that the prince will grant my suit? </p> <p> WORM. Because he will not have to grant it unrewarded. </p> <p> LOUISA. Not unrewarded? And what price does he set on his humanity? </p> <p> WORM. The person of the fair suppliant will be payment enough! </p> <p> LOUISA (stopping for a moment in mute dismay&mdash;in a feeble voice). Almighty God! </p> <p> WORM. And I trust that you will not think your father's life over-valued when 'tis purchased at so gracious a price. </p> <p> LOUISA (with great indignation). True, oh! true! The great are entrenched from truth behind their own vices, safely as behind the swords of cherubim. The Almighty protect thee, father! Your child can die&mdash; but not sin for thee. </p> <p> WORM. This will be agreeable news for the poor disconsolate old man. "My Louisa," says he, "has bowed me down to the earth; but my Louisa will raise me up again." I hasten to him with your answer. (Affects to be about to depart.) </p> <p> LOUISA (flies after him and holds him back). Stay! stay! one moment's patience! How nimble this Satan is, when his business is to drive humanity distracted! I have bowed him to the earth! I must raise him up again! Speak to me! Counsel me! What can I, what must I do? </p> <p> WORM. There is but one means of saving him! </p> <p> LOUISA. What is that means? </p> <p> WORM. And your father approves of it&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> LOUISA. My father? Oh! name that means. </p> <p> WORM. It is easy for you to execute. </p> <p> LOUISA. I know of nothing harder than infamy! </p> <p> WORM. Suppose you were to release the major from his engagement? </p> <p> LOUISA. Release him! Do you mock me? Do you call that a choice to which force compelled me? </p> <p> WORM. You mistake me, dear girl! The major must resign you willingly, and be the first to retract his engagement. </p> <p> LOUISA. That he will never do. </p> <p> WORM. So it appears. Should we, do you think, have had recourse to you were it not that you alone are able to help us? </p> <p> LOUISA. I cannot compel him to hate me. </p> <p> WORM. We will try! Be seated. </p> <p> LOUISA (drawing back). Man! What is brooding in thy artful brain? </p> <p> WORM. Be seated. Here are paper, pens, and ink. Write what I dictate. </p> <p> LOUISA (sitting down in the greatest uneasiness). What must I write? To whom must I write? </p> <p> WORM. To your father's executioner. </p> <p> LOUISA. Ah! How well thou knowest to torture souls to thy purpose. (Takes a pen.) </p> <p> WORM (dictating to her). "My dear Sir (LOUISA writes with a trembling hand,) three days, three insupportable days, have already passed&mdash;already passed&mdash;since last we met." </p> <p> LOUISA (starts, and lays down her pen). To whom is the letter? </p> <p> WORM. To your father's executioner. </p> <p> LOUISA. Oh! my God! </p> <p> WORM. "But for this you must blame the major&mdash;the major&mdash;who watches me all day with the vigilance of an Argus." </p> <p> LOUISA (starting up). Villany! Villany beyond all precedent! To whom is the letter? </p> <p> WORM. To your father's executioner. </p> <p> LOUISA (paces to and fro, wringing her hands). No, no, no! This is tyrannical! Oh Heaven! If mortals provoke thee, punish them like mortals; but wherefore must I be placed between two precipices? Wherefore am I hurled by turns from death to infamy, from infamy to death? Wherefore is my neck made the footstool of this blood-sucking fiend? No; do what thou wilt, I will never write that! </p> <p> WORM (seizing his hat). As you please, miss! It rests entirely on your own pleasure! </p> <p> LOUISA. Pleasure, say'st thou? On my own pleasure? Go, barbarian! Suspend some unfortunate over the pit of hell; then make your demands, and ask your victim if it be his pleasure to grant your request! Oh! Thou knowest but too well that the bonds of nature bind our hearts as firmly as chains! But all is now alike indifferent. Dictate! I cease to think! Artifices of hell, I yield to ye! (She resumes her seat at the table.) </p> <p> WORM. "With the vigilance of an Argus." Have you written it? </p> <p> LOUISA. Proceed, proceed! </p> <p> WORM. "The president was here yesterday. It was amusing to see how warm the poor major was in defence of my honor." </p> <p> LOUISA. Excellent! Excellent! Oh! Admirable! Quick! quick, go on! </p> <p> WORM. "I had recourse to a swoon&mdash;a swoon&mdash;that I might not laugh aloud"&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> LOUISA. Oh, Heavens! </p> <p> WORM. "But the mask which I have worn so long is becoming insupportable &mdash;insupportable. Oh! if I could but rid myself of him." </p> <p> LOUISA (rises, and walks a few turns with her head bent down, as if she sought something upon the floor: then returns to her place, and continues to write). "Rid myself of him." </p> <p> WORM. "He will be on duty to-morrow&mdash;observe when he leaves me, and hasten to the usual place." Have you written "the usual place?" </p> <p> LOUISA. Everything, everything! </p> <p> WORM. "To the usual place, to meet your devotedly attached Louisa." </p> <p> LOUISA. Now then, the address? </p> <p> WORM. "To Marshal von Kalb." </p> <p> LOUISA. Eternal Providence! A name as foreign to my ear as these scandalous lines are to my heart! (She rises, and for some moments surveys the writing with a vacant gaze. At length she hands it to WORM, speaking in a voice trembling and exhausted.) Take it, Sir! What I now put into your hands is my good name. It is Ferdinand&mdash;it is the whole joy of my life! You have it, and now I am a beggar&mdash;&mdash; </p> <p> WORM. Oh! Not so! Despair not, dear girl! You inspire me with the most heartfelt pity! Perhaps&mdash;who knows? I might even now overlook certain parts of your conduct&mdash;yes! Heaven is my witness, how deeply I compassionate your sorrows! </p> <p> LOUISA (giving him a piercing look). Do not explain yourself! You are on the point of asking something more terrible than all. </p> <p> WORM (attempting to kiss her hand). What if I asked this little hand? Would that be terrible, Louisa? </p> <p> LOUISA (with great indignation). Yes! for I should strangle you on the bridal night: and for such a deed I would joyfully yield my body to be torn on the rack! (She is going, but comes hurriedly back.) Is all settled between us, sir? May the dove be released? </p> <p> WORM. A trifle yet remains, maiden! You must swear, by the holy sacrament, to acknowledge this letter for your free and voluntary act. </p> <p> LOUISA. Oh God! Oh God! And wilt thou grant thine own seal to confirm the works of hell? (WORM leads her away.) </p> <p>
SPONSORED LINKS