BY RICHARD CUMBERLAND
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?
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____________________