Page images
PDF
EPUB

To joy and sweet forgetfulness of pain;

The sight of me would wake his feeling mind
To other thoughts. I am no doting mistress;
No fond, distracted wife, who must forthwith
Rush to his arms and weep. I am his sister:
The eldest daughter of his father's house:
Calm and unwearied is my love for him;
And having found him, patiently I'll wait,
Nor greet him in the hour of social joy,
To dash his mirth with tears.-
The night wears on; permit me to withdraw.
Freb. Nay, do not, do not injure us so far!
Disguise thyself, and join our friendly train.
Jane. You wear not masks to night.

Lady. We wear not masks, but you may be con-
ceal'd

Behind the double foldings of a veil.

As ever fancy own'd.

Beauty of every cast and shade is there,
From the perfection of a faultless form,
Down to the common, brown, unnoted maid,
Who looks but pretty in her Sunday gown.

1st Gent. There is, indeed, a gay variety.
Rez. And if the liberality of nature
Suffices not, there's store of grafted charms,
Blending in one the sweets of many plants,
So obstinately, strangely opposite,

As would have well defied all other art
But female cultivation. Aged youth,
With borrow'd locks in rosy chaplets bound,
Clothes her dim eye, parch'd lips, and skinny
cheek

In most unlovely softness:

And youthful age, with fat, round, trackless face,

Jane. (after pausing to consider.) In truth, I The downcast look of contemplation deep

feel a little so inclined.

Methinks unknown, I e'en might speak to him,
And gently prove the temper of his mind;
But for the means I must become your debtor.
(To Lady.)
Lady. Who waits? (Enter her Woman.) Attend
this lady to my wardrobe,

And do what she commands you.

[EXEUNT Jane and Waiting-woman. Freb. (looking after Jane, as she goes out, with admiration.) O! what a soul she bears! see how she steps!

Naught but the native dignity of worth
E'er taught the moving form such noble grace.

Lady. Such lofty mien, and high assumed gait
I've seen ere now, and men have call'd it pride.
Freb. No, 'faith! thou never didst, but oft
indeed

The paltry imitation thou hast seen.
(Looking at her.) How hang those trappings on
thy motley gown?

They seem like garlands on a May-day queen,
Which hinds have dress'd in sport.

(Lady turns away displeased.)
Freb. Nay, do not frown; I spoke it but in haste:
For thou art lovely still in every garb.
But see, the guests assemble.

Enter groups of well-dressed people, who pay their
compliments to FREBERG and his LADY; and followed
by her, pass into the inner apartment, where more
company appear assembling, as if by another entry.

Freb. (who remains on the front of the stage
with a friend or two.) How loud the hum
of this gay-meeting crowd!

"Tis like a bee-swarm in the noonday sun.
Music will quell the sound. Who waits without?
Music strike up.

(Music, and when it ceases, enter from the inner
apartment Rezenvelt, with several gentlemen,
all richly dressed.)

Freb. (to those just entered.) What, lively
lants, quit the field so soon?.
Are there no beauties in that moving crowd
To fix your fancy?

Most pensively assumes.

Is it not even so? The native prude,
With forced laugh, and merriment uncouth,
Plays off the wild coquet's successful charms
With most unskilful pains; and the coquet,
In temporary crust of cold reserve,
Fixes her studied looks upon the ground
Forbiddingly demure.

Freb. Fy! thou art too severe.
Rez.

Say, rather, gentle.
I' faith! the very dwarfs attempt to charm
With lofty airs of puny majesty;
Whilst potent damsels of a portly make,
Totter like nurselings, and demand the aid
Of gentle sympathy.

From all those divers modes of dire assault,
He owns a heart of hardest adamant,
Who shall escape to night.

Freb. (to De Mon. who has entered during
Rezen velt's speech, and heard the greatest
part of it.) Ha, ha, ha, ha!

How pleasantly he gives his wit the rein,
Yet guides its wild career!

(De Mon. is silent.)
Rez. (smiling archly.) What, think you, Fre-
berg, the same powerful spell
Of transformation reigns o'er all to night?
Or that De Monfort is a woman turn'd,
So widely from his native self to swerve,
As grace my folly with a smile of his ?

De Mon. Nay, think not, Rezenvelt, there is no
smile

I can bestow on thee. There is a smile,
A smile of nature too, which I can spare,
And yet, perhaps, thou wilt not thank me for it.
(Smiles contemptuously.)
Rez. Not thank thee! It were surely most un-
grateful

No thanks to pay for nobly giving me
What, well we see, has cost thee so much pain.
For nature hath her smiles of birth more painful
gal-Than bitterest execrations.

Rez. Ay, marry, are there! men of every fancy
May in that moving crowd some fair one find,
To suit their taste, though whimsical and strange,

Freb. These idle words will lead us to dis

quiet:

Forbear, forbear, my friends! Go, Rezervelt,
Accept the challenge of those lovely dames,
Who through the portal come with bolder steps
To claim your notice.

Enter a group of LADIES from the other apartment, who walk slowly across the bottom of the stage, and return to it again. REZ. shrugs up his shoulders, as if unwil ling to go.

I've proudly to th' inquiring stranger told
Her name and lineage! yet within her house,
The virgin mother of an orphan race
Her dying parents left, this noble woman
Did, like a Roman matron, proudly sit,

1st Gent. (to Rez.) Behold in sable veil a lady Despising all the blandishments of love;

comes,

Whose noble air doth challenge fancy's skill

To suit it with a countenance as goodly.

Whilst many a youth his hopeless love conceal'd,
O, humbly distant, woo'd her like a queen.
Forgive, I pray you! O forgive this boasting!

(Pointing to Jane De Mon. who now enters in a In faith! I mean you no discourtesy.
thick black veil.)

Rez. Yes, this way lies attraction. (To Freb.)

With permission, (going up to Jane.)
Fair lady, though within that envious shroud
Your beauty deigns not to enlighten us,
We bid you welcome, and our beauties here
Will welcome you the more for such concealment.
With the permission of our noble host-

(Taking her hand, and leading her to the front
of the stage.)

Jane. (to Freb.) Pardon me this presumption, courteous sir:

I thus appear, (pointing to her veil,) not careless of respect

Unto the generous lady of the feast.

Beneath this veil no beauty shrouded is,
That, now, or pain or pleasure can bestow.
Within the friendly cover of its shade
I only wish, unknown, again to see
One who, alas! is heedless of my pain.

De Mon. Yes, it is ever thus. Undo that veil,
And give thy countenance to the cheerful light.
Men now all soft, and female beauty scorn,
And mock the gentle cares which aim to please.
It is most damnable! undo thy veil,

And think of him no more.

Jane. I know it well, even to a proverb grown,
Is lovers' faith, and I had borne such slight:
But he, who has, alas! forsaken me,
Was the companion of my early days,
My cradle's mate, mine infant play fellow.
Within our opening minds, with riper years,
The love of praise and generous virtue sprung:
Through varied life our pride, our joys were one;
At the same tale we wept: he is my brother.
De Mon. And he forsook thee ?—No, I dare not
curse him:

My heart upbraids me with a crime like his.

Jane. Ah! do not thus distress a feeling heart.
All sisters are not to the soul entwined

With equal bans; thine has not watch'd for thee,
Wept for thee, cheer'd thee, shared thy weal and

Wo,

As I have done for him.

De Mon. (eagerly.) Ah! has she not?
By heaven! the sum of all thy kindly deeds
Were but as chaff poised against massy gold,
Compared to that which I do owe her love.
O pardon me! I mean not to offend-
I am too warm-but she of whom I speak
Is the dear sister of my earliest love;
In noble, virtuous worth to none a second:
And though behind those sable folds were hid
As fair a face as ever woman own'd,
Still would I say she is as fair as thou.
How oft amidst the beauty-blazing throng,

Jane. (Off her guard, in a soft natural tone of voice.) O no! nor do me any.

De Mon. What voice speaks now? Withdraw,
withdraw this shade!

For if thy face bear semblance to thy voice,
I'll fall and worship thee. Pray! pray undo!
(Puts forth his hand eagerly to snatch away the

veil, whilst she shrinks back, and Rezenvelt
steps between to prevent him.)

Rez. Stand off: no hand shall lift this sacred veil.

De Mon. What, dost thou think De Monfort fall'n

so low,

That there may live a man beneath heaven's roof,
Who dares to say, he shall not?

Rez. He lives who dares to say

Jane. (throwing back her veil, much alarmed, ana
rushes between them.) Forbear, forbear!
(Rezenvelt, very much struck, steps back respect-
fully, and makes her a low bow. De Monfort
stands for a while motionless, gazing upon her,
till she, looking expressively to him, extends
her arms, and he, rushing into them, bursts into
tears. Freberg seems very much pleased. The
company then advancing from the inner apart-
ment, gather about them, and the Scene closes.)

SCENE II. DE MONFORT'S APARTMENTS

Enter DE MONFORT, with a disordered air, and his hand
pressed upon his forehead, followed by JANE.

De Mon. No more, my sister, urge me not again:
My secret troubles cannot be reveal'd.
From all participation of its thoughts
My heart recoils: I pray thee be contented.
Jane. What, must I, like a distant humble friend,
Observe thy restless eye, and gait disturb'd,
In timid silence, whilst with yearning heart
I turn aside to weep? O no! De Monfort!
A nobler task thy nobler mind will give;
Thy true intrusted friend I still shall be.

De Mon. Ah, Jane, forbear! I cannot e'en to
thee.

Jane. Then, fy upon it! fy upon it, Monfort!
There was a time when e'en with murder stain'd,
Had it been possible that such dire deed
Could e'er have been the crime of one so piteous,
Thou wouldst have told it me.

De Men. So would I now-but ask of this no

more.

All other trouble but the one I feel

I had disclosed to thee. I pray thee spare me ;
It is the secret weakness of my nature.

Jane. Then secret let it be; I urge no farther.
The eldest of our valiant father's hopes,
So sadly orphan'd, side by side we stood,

Like two young trees, whose boughs in early Here I entreat thee on my bended knees.

strength

Screen the weak saplings of the rising grove,

And brave the storm together

I have so long, as if by nature's right,

Thy bosom's inmate and adviser been,

I thought through life I should have so remain'd,
Nor ever known a change. Forgive me, Monfort,
A humbler station will I take by thee:
The close attendant of thy wandering steps;
The cheerer of this home, with strangers sought
The soother of those griefs I must not know:
This is mine office now: I ask no more.

Alas! my brother!

(Kneeling.)

(De Monfort starts up, and catching her in his arms, raises her up, then placing her in the chair kneels at her feet.)

De Mon. Thus let him kneel who should th'
abased be,

And at thine honour'd feet confession make.
I'll tell thee all-but, O! thou wilt despise me.
For in my breast a raging passion burns,
To which thy soul no sympathy will own-
A passion which hath made my nightly couch

De Mon. O Jane! thou dost constrain me with A place of torment; and the light of day,
thy love!

Would I could tell it thee.

With the gay intercourse of social man,
Feel like the oppressive airless pestilence.

Jane. Thou shalt not tell me. Nay, I'll stop mine O Jane! thou wilt despise me.

ears,

Jane.
Say not so:
Nor from the yearnings of affection wring
I never can despise thee, gentle brother.
What shrinks from utterance. Let it pass, my A lover's jealousy and hopeless pangs

brother.

I'll stay by thee; I'll cheer thee, comfort thee:
Pursue with thee the study of some art,
Or nobler science, that compels the mind
To steady thought progressive, driving forth
All floating, wild, unhappy fantasies;
Till thou, with brow unclouded, smilest again;
Like one who, from dark visions of the night,
When th' active soul within its lifeless cell
Hold its own world, with dreadful fancy press'd
Of some dire, terrible, or murderous deed,
Wakes to the dawning morn, and blesses heaven.
De Mon. It will not pass away: 'twill haunt me
still.

[blocks in formation]

Jane. Ah! say not so, for I will haunt thee Unknit thy brows, and spread those wrath clench'd

too;

And be to it so close an adversary,

That, though I wrestle darkling with the fiend,
I shall o'ercome it.

De Mon.
Thou most generous woman!
Why do I treat thee thus? It should not be-
And yet I cannot-0 that cursed villain!
He will not let me be the man I would.

Jane. What say'st thou, Monfort? O! what
words are these?

They have awaked my soul to dreadful thoughts.
I do beseech thee speak!

(He shakes his head, and turns from her; she
following him.)

By the affection thou didst ever bear me;
By the dear memory of our infant days;
By kindred living ties, ay, and by those
Who sleep i' the tomb, and cannot call to thee,
I do conjure thee speak!

(He waves her off with his hand, and covers his
face with the other, still turning from her.)
Ha! wilt thou not?
(Assuming dignity.) Then, if affection, most
unwearied love,

Tried early, long, and never wanting found,
O'er generous man hath more authority,

More rightful power than crown or sceptre give,
I do command thee.

hands.

Some sprite accursed within thy bosom mates

To work thy ruin. Strive with it, my brother!
Strive bravely with it; drive it from thy breast:
'Tis the degrader of a noble heart:
Curse it, and bid it part.

De Mon. It will not part. (His hand on his
breast.)

I've lodged it here too long: With my first cares I felt its rankling touch; I loathed him when a boy.

Jane. Who didst thou say?

De Mon. O! that detested Rezenvelt;
E'en in our early sports, like two young whelps
Of hostile breed, instinctively reverse,
Each 'gainst the other pitch'd his ready pledge,
And frown'd defiance. As we onward pass'd
From youth to man's estate, his narrow art
And envious gibing malice, poorly veil'd
In the affected carelessness of mirth,
Still more detestable and odious grew.
There is no living being on this earth
Who can conceive the malice of his soul,
With all his gay and damned merriment,
To those, by fortune or by merit placed
Above his paltry self. When, low in fortune,
He look'd upon the state of prosperous men,
As nightly birds, roused from their murky holes,

(He throws himself into a chair, greatly agi- Do scowl and chatter at the light of day,
tated.)

De Monfort, do not thus resist my love.

I could endure it; even as we bear
Th' impotent bite of some half-trodden worm,

I have kill'd thee.

De Mon. Turn, turn thee not away! look on me still

I could endure it. But when honours came,
And wealth and new-got titles fed his pride;
Whilst flattering knaves did trumpet forth his O! droop not thus, my life, my pride, my sister;

praise,

And grovelling idiots grinn'd applauses on him;
O! then I could no longer suffer it!

It drove me frantic.-What! what would I give!
What would I give to crush the bloated toad,
So rankly do I loathe him!

Jane. And would thy hatred crush the very man
Who gave to thee that life he might have ta'en?
That life which thou so rashly didst expose
To aim at his ? O! this is horrible!

De Mon. Ha! thou hast heard it, then? From all the world,

But most of all from thee, I thought it hid.

Jane. I heard a secret whisper, and resolved Upon the instant to return to thee.

Didst thou receive my letter?

De Mon. I did! I did! 'twas that which drove me hither.

I could not bear to meet thine eye again.

Jane. Alas! that, tempted by a sister's tears,
I ever left thy house! These few past months,
These absent months, have brought us all this wo.
Had I remain'd with thee it had not been.

And yet, methinks, it should not move you thus.
You dared him to the field; both bravely fought;
He, more adroit, disarm'd you; courteously
Return'd the forfeit sword, which, so return'd,
You did refuse to use against him more;
And then, as says report, you parted friends.
De Mon. When he disarm'd this cursed, this
worthless hand

Of its most worthless weapon, he but spared
From devilish pride, which now derives a bliss
In seeing me thus fetter'd, shamed, subjected
With the vile favour of his poor forbearance;
Whilst he securely sits with gibing brow,
And basely bates me like a muzzled cur
Who cannot turn again.-

Until that day, till that accursed day,

I knew not half the torment of this hell Which burns within my breast. Heaven's lightnings blast him!

Jane. O this is horrible! Forbear, forbear!
Lest Heaven's vengeance light upon thy head,
For this most impious wish.

De Mon.
Then let it light.
Torments more fell than I have felt already
It cannot send. To be annihilated,

What all men shrink from; to be dust, be nothing,
Were bliss to me, compared to what I am!

Jane. O wouldst thou kill me with these dreadful words?

Look on me yet again.

[blocks in formation]

In better days, wert wont to be my pride. De Mon. I am a wretch, most wretched in myself,

And still more wretched in the pain I give. | O curse that villain! that detested villain! He has spread misery o'er my fated life: He will undo us all.

Jane. I've held my warfare through a troubled
world,

And borne with steady mind my share of ill;
And then the helpmate of my toil wert thou.
But now the wane of life comes darkly on,
And hideous passion tears me from my heart,
Blasting thy worth.-I cannot strive with this.
De Mon. (affectionately.) What shall I do?
Jane.
Call up thy noble spirit;
Rouse all the generous energy of virtue;
And with the strength of heaven-endued man,
Repel the hideous foe. Be great; be valiant.
O, if thou couldst! e'en shrouded as thou art
In all the sad infirmities of nature,
What a most noble creature wouldst thou be!
De Mon. Ay, if I could: alas! alas! I cannot.
Jane. Thou canst, thou mayst, thou wilt.
We shall not part till I have turn'd thy soul.

Enter MANUEl.

De Mon. Ha! some one enters. Wherefore comest thou here?

Man. Count Freberg waits your leisure. De Mon. (angrily.) Be gone, be gone! I cannot see him now. [EXIT Manuel. Jane. Come to my closet; free from all intrusion, I'll school thee there; and thou again shalt be My willing pupil, and my generous friend, The noble Monfort I have loved so long, And must not, will not lose.

De Mon. Do as thou wilt; I will not grieve thee. [EXEUNT.

more.

ACT III.

SCENE I-COUNTESS FREBERG'S DRESSING-ROOM. Enter the COUNTESS dispirited and out of humour, and: throws herself into a chair: enter, by the opposite side,. THERESA.

Ther. Madam, I am afraid you are unwell: What is the matter? does your head ache? Lady. (peevishly.)

De Mon. (raising his hands to heaven.) Let me 'Tis not my head: concern thyself no more

but once upon his ruin look,

Then close mine eyes for ever!

Jane in great distress, staggers back, and supports herself upon the side scene. De Mon. alarmed, runs up to her with a softened voice.)

Ha! how is this? thou'rt ill; thou'rt very pale.
What have I done to thee? Alas, alas!

I meant not to distress thee.-O my sister!

With what concerns not thee. Ther. Go you abroad to-night?

No,

[blocks in formation]

Jane. (shaking her head.) I cannot speak to thee. With all those wreaths of richly hanging flowers.

Did I not overhear them say, last night,

As from the crowded ball-room ladies past, How gay and handsome, in her costly dress, The Countess Freberg look'd?

Lady.

If she o'erheard her own request neglected,
Until supported by a name more potent?
Freb. Think'st thou she is a fool, my good The-

resa,

Didst thou overhear it? Vainly to please herself with childish thoughts
Of matching what is matchless-Jane De Monfort?
Think'st thou she is a fool, and cannot see,

Ther. I did, and more than this.

Lady. Well, all are not so greatly prejudiced; All do not think me like a May-day queen, Which peasants deck in sport.

Ther.
And who said this?
Lady. (putting her handkerchief to her eyes.)
E'en my good lord, Theresa.

Ther. He said it but in jest. He loves you well.
Lady. I know as well as thou he loves me well.
But what of that! he takes in me no pride:
Elsewhere his praise and admiration go,
And Jane De Monfort is not mortal woman.
Ther. The wondrous character this lady bears
For worth and excellence: from early youth
The friend and mother of her younger sisters,
Now greatly married, as I have been told,
From her most prudent care, may well excuse
The admiration of so good a man

As my good master is. And then, dear madam,
I must confess, when I myself did hear

How she was come through the rough winter's storm,

To seek and comfort an unhappy brother,
My heart beat kindly to her.

Lady. Ay, ay, there is a charm in this I find:
But wherefore may she not have come as well
Through wintry storms to seek a lover, too?

Ther. No, madam, no, I could not think of this. Lady. That would reduce her in your eyes, mayhap,

To woman's level.-Now I see my vengeance!
I'll tell it round that she is hither come,
Under pretence of finding out De Monfort,

To meet with Rezen velt. When Freberg hears it, 'Twill help, I ween, to break his magic charm. Ther. And say what is not, madam ?

That love and admiration often thrive
Though far apart?

Re-enter LADY, with great violence.
Lady. I am a fool, not to have seen full well,
That thy best pleasure in o'errating so
This lofty stranger is to humble me,
And cast a darkening shadow o'er my head.
Ay, wherefore dost thou stare upon me thus
Art thou ashamed that I have thus surprised thee?
Well mayst thou be so !

Freb. True; thou rightly say'st. Well may I be ashamed: not for the praise Which I have ever openly bestowed On Monfort's noble sister; but that thus, Like a poor, mean, and jealous listener, She should be found, who is Count Freberg's wife. Lady. O, I am lost and ruin'd! hated, scorn'd! (Pretending to faint.)

Freb. Alas, I've been too rough!

(Taking her hand and kissing it tenderly.) My gentle love! my own, my only love! See, she revives again. How art thou, love? Support her to her chamber, good Theresa, I'll sit and watch by her. I've been too rough.

[EXEUNT Lady, supported by Freb. and Ther.

SCENE II.-DE MONFORT DISCOVERED SITTING BY A TABLE READING. AFTER A LITTLE TIME, HE LAYS DOWN HIS BOOK, AND CONTINUES IN A THOUGHTFUL POSTURE.

Enter to him JANE DE MONFORT. Jane. Thanks, gentle brother

(Pointing to the book.)

Lady. How canst thou know that I shall say Thy willing mind has rightly been employ'd:

what is not?

'Tis like enough I shall but speak the truth.

Ther. Ah no! there is-
Lady.

Well, hold thy foolish tongue.

Did not thy heart warm at the fair display
Of peace and concord, and forgiving love?
De Mon. I know resentment may to love be
turn'd;

(Freberg's voice is heard without. After hesi-Though keen and lasting, into love as strong:
tating.)

I will not see him now.

And fiercest rivals in th' ensanguin'd field
[EXIT. Have cast their brandish'd weapons to the ground;
Joining their mailed breasts in close embrace,
With generous impulse fired. I know right well
The darkest, fellest wrongs have been forgiven
Seventy times o'er from blessed heavenly love:
I've heard of things like these; I've heard and
wept.

Enter FREBERG by the opposite side, passing on hastily. Ther. Pardon, my lord; I fear you are in haste. Yet must I crave that you will give to me The books my lady mentioned to you: she Has charged me to remind you.

Freb. I'm in haste.

(Passing on.) But what is this to me?

Ther. Pray you, my lord: your countess wants

them much;

The Lady Jane De Monfort ask'd them of her.
Freb. (returning instantly.) Are they for her?
I knew not this before.

will, then, search them out immediately. There is naught good or precious in my keeping, That is not dearly honour'd by her use.

Ther. My lord, what would your gentle countess

say

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »