[A street of the city.]
Enter PRIULI, solus.
PRIU. Why, cruel heaven, have my unhappy days
Been lengthened to this sad one? Oh! dishonor
And deathless infamy is fall'n upon me.
Was it my fault? Am I a traitor? No.
But then, my only child, my daughter, wedded; 5 There my best blood runs foul, and a disease Incurable has seized upon my memory,
To make it rot and stink to after ages.
Curst be the fatal minute when I got her;
Or would that I'd been anything but man, 10 And raised an issue which would ne'er have wronged me.
The miserablest creatures (man excepted)
Are not the less esteemed, though their posterity
Degenerate from the virtues of their fathers;
The vilest beasts are happy in their offsprings, 15 While only man gets traitors, whores, and villains. Curst be the names, and some swift blow from fate
Lay his head deep, where mine may be forgotten!
Enter BELVIDERA in a long mourning veil.
BELV. He's there -- my father, my inhuman fa-ther,
That, for three years, has left an only child 20 Exposed to all the outrages of fate, And cruel ruin. -- Oh! --
PRIU. What child of sorrow
Art thou, that com'st thus wrapped in weeds of sad-ness,
And mov'st as if thy steps were towards a grave?
BELV. A wretch who from the very top of happiness 25 Am fallen into the lowest depths of misery, And want your pitying hand to raise me up again.
PRIU. Indeed, thou talk'st as thou hadst tasted sorrows; Would I could help thee!
BELV. 'Tis greatly in your power. The world, too, speaks you charitable, and I, 30 Who ne'er asked alms before, in that dear hope Am come a-begging to you, sir.
PRIU. For what?
BELV. Oh, well regard me! Is this voice a strange
Consider, too, when beggars once pretend
A case like mine, no little will content 'em. 35
PRIU. What wouldst thou beg for?
BELV. Pity and forgiveness.
(Throws up her veil.)
By the kind tender names of child and father,
Hear my complaints, and take me to your love.
PRIU. My daughter?
BELV. Yes, your daughter, by a mother
Virtuous and noble, faithful to your honor, 40 Obedient to your will, kind to your wishes, Dear to your arms. By all the joys she gave you,
When in her blooming years she was your treasure,
Look kindly on me; in my face behold
The lineaments of hers y'have kissed so often, 45 Pleading the cause of your poor cast-off child.
PRIU. Thou art my daughter.
BELV. Yes -- and y'have oft told me
With smiles of love and chaste, paternal kisses,
I'd much resemblance of my mother.
Hadst thou inherited her matchless virtues, 50 I'd been too blest.
BELV. Nay, do not call to memory
My disobedience, but let pity enter
Into your heart, and quite deface the impression;
For could you think how mine's perplexed, what sad-ness,
Fears, and despairs distract the peace within me, 55 Oh, you would take me in your dear, dear arms, Hover with strong compassion o'er your young one,
To shelter me with a protecting wing
From the black gathered storm that's just, just breaking!
PRIU. Don't talk thus.
BELV. Yes, I must; and you must hear too. 60 I have a husband --
PRIU. Damn him!
BELV. Oh, do not curse him!
He would not speak so hard a word towards you
On any terms, howe'er he deal with me.
PRIU. Hah! what means my child?
BELV. Oh, there's but this short moment 65 'Twixt me and fate. Yet send me not with curses
Down to my grave; afford me one kind blessing
Before we part: just take me in your arms
And recommend me with a prayer to heaven,
That I may die in peace; and when I'm dead -- 70
PRIU. How my soul's catched!
BELV. Lay me, I beg you, lay me
By the dear ashes of my tender mother.
She would have pitied me, had fate yet spared her.
PRIU. By heaven, my aching heart forebodes much
Tell me thy story, for I'm still thy father. 75
BELV. No, I'm contented.
BELV. No matter.
PRIU. Tell me.
By yon blest heaven, my heart runs o'er with fondness.