British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

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

BY RICHARD CUMBERLAND


ACT I

SCENE I

A merchant's compting-house.1

In an inner room, set off by glass doors, are discovered several clerks, employed at their desks. A writing table in the front room. STOCKWELLis discovered reading a letter; STUKELYcomes gently out of the back room, and observes him some time before he speaks.

STUKELY. He seems disordered: something in that letter; and I'm afraid of an unpleasant sort. He has many ventures of great account at sea; a ship richly freighted for Barcelona; another for

Lisbon; and others expected from Cadiz of still 5
greater value. Besides these, I know he has many deep concerns in foreign bottoms, and underwritings to a vast amount. I'll accost him. Sir! Mr. Stockwell!

STOCKWELL. Stukely! -- Well, have you 10
shipped the cloths?

STUKELY. I have, sir; here's the bill of lading, and copy of the invoice: the assortments are all compared: Mr. Traffick will give you the policy upon

'Change. 15

STOCK. 'Tis very well; lay these papers by; and no more, of business for a while. Shut the door, Stukely; I have had long proof of your friendship and fidelity to me; a matter of most intimate concern

lies on my mind, and 'twill be a sensible relief 20
to unbosom myself to you; I have just now been informed of the arrival of the young West Indian, I have so long been expecting; you know who I mean.

STUKELY. Yes, sir; Mr. Belcour, the young 25
gentleman, who inherited old Belcour's great estates in Jamaica.

STOCK. Hush, not so loud; come a little nearer this way. This Belcour is now in London; part of

his baggage is already arrived; and I expect him 30
every minute. Is it to be wondered at, if his coming throws me into some agitation, when I tell you, Stukely, he is my son?

STUKELY. Your son!

STOCK. Yes, sir, my only son; early in life I 35
accompanied his grandfather to Jamaica as his clerk; he had an only daughter, somewhat older than myself; the mother of this gentleman: it was my chance (call it good or ill) to engage her affections:
and, as the inferiority of my condition made it 40
hopeless to expect her father's consent, her fondness provided an expedient, and we were privately married; the issue of that concealed engagement is, as I have told you, this Belcour.

STUKELY. That event, surely, discovered 45
your connection.

STOCK. You shall hear. Not many days after our marriage old Belcour set out for England; and, during his abode here, my wife was, with great

secrecy, delivered of this son. Fruitful in expe­ 50
dients to disguise her situation, without parting from her infant, she contrived to have it laid and received at her door as a foundling. After some time her father returned, having left me here; in
one of those favorable moments that decide 55
the fortunes of prosperous men, this child was introduced; from that instant, he treated him as his own, gave him his name, and brought him up in his family.

STUKELY. And did you never reveal this 60
secret, either to old Belcour, or your son?

STOCK. Never.

STUKELY. Therein you surprise me; a merchant of your eminence, and a member of the British

parliament, might surely aspire, without offence, 65
to the daughter of a planter. In this case too, natural affection would prompt to a discovery.

STOCK. Your remark is obvious; nor could I have persisted in this painful silence, but in obedience

to the dying injunctions of a beloved wife. The 70
letter you found me reading conveyed those injunctions to me; it was dictated in her last illness, and almost in the article of death (you'll spare me the recital of it); she there conjures me, in terms as
solemn as they are affecting, never to reveal 75
the secret of our marriage, or withdraw my son, while her father survived.

STUKELY. But on what motives did your unhappy lady found these injunctions?

STOCK. Principally, I believe, from appre­ 80
hension on my account, lest old Belcour, on whom at her decease I wholly depended, should withdraw his protection: in part from consideration of his repose, as well knowing the discovery would deeply
affect his spirit, which was haughty, vehement, 85
and unforgiving: and lastly, in regard to the interest

____________________
1
Counting-house.

-723-

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