-- An old valet of the DUKE'S, with a casket of jewels. The former.
VALET. His Serene Highness begs your ladyship's acceptance of these jewels as a nuptial, present. They have just arrived from Venice.
LADY M. (opens the casket, and starts back in astonishment). What did these jewels cost the duke?
LADY M. 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?
VALET. Yesterday seven thousand children of the land left their homes to go to America--they pay for all.
LADY M. (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!
VALET (wiping his eyes, and trembling violently). Yes, for these jewels--My two sons are among the number
LADY M. But they went not by compulsion?
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--, "Hurrah for America."
LADY M. And I heard nothing of all this!--saw nothing!
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--here, crying children might be seen following their wretched father--there, a mother distracted with grief was rushing forward to throw her tender infant among the bristling bayonets--here, a bride and bridegroom were separated with the sabre's stroke--and there, graybeards were seen to stand in despair, and to fling their very crutches