British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

By George Henry Nettleton; Arthur Eillicot Case | Go to book overview

ing tempest lost, the cruel, artful Millwood pre­ 65
vailed upon the wretched youth to promise -- what I tremble but to think on.

BLUNT. I am amazed! What can it be?

LUCY. You will be more so, to hear it is to attempt

the life of his nearest relation and best benefac­ 70
tor --

BLUNT. His uncle! whom we have often heard him speak of as a gentleman of a large estate and fair character in the country where he lives.

LUCY. The same. She was no sooner pos­ 75
sessed of the last dear purchase of his ruin, but her avarice, insatiate as the grave, demanded this horrid sacrifice. Barnwell's near relation and unsuspected virtue must give too easy means to seize the good
man's treasure, whose blood must seal the dread­ 80
ful secret and prevent the terrors of her guilty fears.

BLUNT. Is it possible she could persuade him to do an act like that? He is, by nature, honest, grateful, compassionate, and generous; and though his love

and her artful persuasions have wrought him to 85
practise what he most abhors, yet we all can witness for him with what reluctance he has still complied! So many tears he shed o'er each offence, as might, if possible, sanctify theft, and make a merit of a crime.

LUCY. 'Tis true, at the naming the murder of 90
his uncle he started into rage, and, breaking from her arms, where she till then had held him with well- dissembled love and false endearments, called her 'cruel, monster, devil,' and told her she was born for
his destruction. She thought it not for her pur­ 95
pose to meet his rage with rage, but affected a most passionate fit of grief -- railed at her fate and cursed her wayward stars, that still her wants should force her to press him to act such deeds as she must needs
abhor as well as he: but told him necessity had 100
no law, and love no bounds; that therefore he never truly loved, but meant, in her necessity, to forsake her; then kneeled, and swore that since, by his refusal, he had given her cause to doubt his love, she
never would see him more, unless, to prove it 105
true, he robbed his uncle to supply her wants, and murdered him to keep it from discovery.

BLUNT. I am astonished! What said he?

LUCY. Speechless he stood; but in his face you

might have read that various passions tore his 110
very soul. Oft he, in anguish, threw his eyes towards heaven, and then as often bent their beams on her; then wept and groaned, and beat his troubled breast. At length, with horror, not to be expressed, he cried:
'Thou cursed fair! have I not given dreadful 115
proofs of love? What drew me from my youthful innocence, to stain my then unspotted soul, but love? What caused me to rob my worthy gentle mater, but cursed love? What makes me now a fugitive
from his service, loathed by myself, and scorned 120
by all the world, but love? What fills my eyes with tears, my soul with torture never felt on this side death before? Why, love, love, love! And why, above all, do I resolve (for,' tearing his hair, he cried,
'I do resolve) to kill my uncle?'125

BLUNT. Was she not moved? It makes me weep to hear the sad relation.

LUCY. Yes -- with joy, that she had gained her point. She gave him no time to cool, but urged him

to attempt it instantly. He's now gone; if he 130
performs it and escapes, there's more money for her; if not, he'll ne'er return, and then she's fairly rid of him.

BLUNT. 'Tis time the world were rid of such a

monster. 135

LUCY. If we don't do our endeavors to prevent this murder, we are as bad as she.

BLUNT. I'm afraid it is too late.

LUCY. Perhaps not. -- Her barbarity to Barnwell

makes me hate her. We have run too great a 140
length with her already. I did not think her or myself so wicked as I find, upon reflection, we are.

BLUNT. 'Tis true, we have all been too much so. But there is something so horrid in murder, that all

other crimes seem nothing when compared to 145
that. I would not be involved in the guilt of that for all the world.

LUCY. Nor I, heaven knows; therefore, let us clear ourselves by doing all that is in our power to prevent

it. I have just thought of a way that, to me, 150
seems probable. Will you join with me to detect this curs'd design?

BLUNT. With all my heart. He who knows of a murder intended to be committed and does not dis

cover it, in the eye of the law and reason is a 155
murderer.

LUCY. Let us lose no time; I'll acquaint you with the particulars as we go. Exeunt.


SCENE III

A walk at some distance from a country seat.

Enter BARNWELL.

BARN. A dismal gloom obscures the face of day; either the sun has slipped behind a cloud, or journeys down the west of heaven with more than common speed, to avoid the sight of what I'm doomed to act.

Since I set forth on this accursed design, where'er 5
I tread, methinks, the solid earth trembles beneath my feet. Yonder limpid stream, whose hoary fall has made a natural cascade, as I passed by, in doleful accents seemed to murmur 'Murder.' The earth,

____________________
77] O1 demands.
94] O1 cruel monster.
113] O1 om. troubled.
118] O1 om. worthy.
120] D6O7 himself.
134] O1O2MD4 was rid.
140] O1 We've.
153] O1 heart. How else shall I clear myself? He.
SCENE III. 4] D6O7 I am.

-616-

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