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Mrs. H. Without flattery then, madam, he appears to be most amiable.
Countess. Good !And a handsome man ?
Countess. “Oh, yes !" It sounded almost like " Oh, sio !" But I must tell you, that he looks upon you to be a Irandsome womalı. [Mrs. Haller smiles.] You make no reply to this?
Mrs. H. What shall I reply? Derision never fell from your lips; and I am little calculated to support it.
Countess. As little as you are calculated to be the cause of it. No ;-- was in earnest-Now?
Mrs. H. You confuse me! But why should I play the prude? I will own there was a time when I thought myself handsome. 'Tis past. Alas! The enchanting beauties of a female countenance arise from peace of mind-the look, which captivates an honourable man, must be reflected from a noble soul.
Countess. Then Heaven grant my bosom may ever hold as pure a heart, as now thuse eyes bear witness lives in yours.
Mrs. H. (With sudden wildness. Oh! Heaven forbid ! Countess. (Astonished.] How !
Mrs. H. (Checking her tears.] Spare me! I am a wretch. The sufferings of three years can give me no claim to your friendship No, not even to your compassion. Oh! Spare me!
[Going Countess. Stay, Mrs. Haller. For the first time, I beg your confidence.--My brother loves you.
Mrs. H. [Starting, and gazing full in the face of the Countess.] For mirth, too much--for earnest, too lourn. ful!
Countess. I revere that modest blush. Discover to me who you are. You risk nothing. Pour all your griefs into a sister's bosom. Am I not kind ? And can I not be silent?
Mrs. H. Alas! But a frank reliance on a generous mind is the greatest sacrifice to be offered by true repentance. This sacrifice I will offer. (Hesitating.) Did you never hear-Pardon me~Did you never hear-Oh! how shocking is it to unmask a deception, which alone has recommended me to your regard ! But it must be so.—MadamFie, Adelaide ! Does pride become you ? Did you ever hear of the Countess Waldbourg ?
Countess. I think I did hear, at the neighbouring court, of such a creature, She plunged an honourable liusband into misery. She ran away with a villain.
Mrs. H. She did indeed. (Falls at the feet of the Countess.] Do not cast me from you.
Countess. For Heaven's sake! You are Mrs. H. I am that wretch.
Countess. ( Turning from her with horror.) Ha !-Begone! [Going. Her heart draws her back.] Yet, she is unfortunate : she is unfriended! Her image is repentance-Her life the proof. Be still awhile, remorseless prejudice, and let the genuine feelings of my soul avow-they do not truly honour virtue, who can insult the erring heart that would return to her sanctuary. [Looking with sorrow on her.) Rise, I beseech you, rise! My husband and my brother may surprise us. I promise to be silent.
[Raising her. , Mrs. H. Yes, you will be silent-But, oh ! Conscience ! conscience! thou never wilt be silent. [Clasping her hands.) Do not cast me from you.
Countess. Never! Your lonely life, your silent anguish and contrition, may at length atone your crime. And never shall you want an asylum, where your penitence may lament your loss. Your fault was youth and inexperience ; your heart never was, never could be concerned in it.
Mrs. H. Oh! spare me! My conscience never reproaches me so bitterly, as when I catch my base thoughts in search of an excuse! No, nothing can palliate my guilt ; and the only just consolation left me, is to acquit the man I wronged, and own I erred without a cause of fair conplaint.
Countess. And this is the mark of true repentance. Alas! my friend, when superior sense, recommended too hy superior charms of person, assail a young, though wedded
Mrs. H. Ah! not even that inean excuse is left me. In all that merits admiration, respect, and love, he was far, far beneath my husband. But to attempt to account for my strange infatuation—I cannot bear it.
I thought my husband's manner grew colder to me. "Tis true I knew, that his expenses, and his confidence in deceitful friends, had embarrassed his means, and clouded his spirits ; yet I thonght he denied me pleasures and amusements still within our reach. My vanity was mortified ! My confi. dence not courted. The serpent tongue of my seducer promised every thing. But never could such arguments avail, till, assisted by forged letters, and the treachery of a servant, whom I most confided in, he fixed my belief that my lord was false, and that all the coldness I com. plained of was disgust to me, and love for another; all his home retrenchments but the means of satisfying a rival's luxury. Maddened with this conviction, (conviction it was, for artifice was most ingenious in its proof,) I left my children-father-husband, to follow—a villain.
Countess. But, with such a heart, my friend cuuld not remain long in her delusion ?
Mrs. H. Long enough to make a sufficient penitence impossible. Oh, what were my sensations when the mist dispersed before my eyes! I called for my husband, but in vain !~I listened for the prattle of my children, but in vain !
Countess. [Embracing her.] Here, here, on this bosom only shall your future tears be shed ; and may I, dear sufferer, make you again familiar with hope !
Mrs. H. Oh! impossible !
Countess. We must endeavour to gain some accouut of them. We must-Hold! My husband and my brother ! Oh, my poor brother! I had quite forgotten him. Quick, dear Mrs. Haller, wipe your eyes. Let us meet them.
Mrs. H. Madam, I'll follow. Allow me a moment to compose myself.-[Exit Countess, R.) I pause !-Oh! yes--to compose myself! [Ironically. She little thinks it is but to gain one solitary moment to vent my soul's remorse. Once, the purpose of my unsettled mind was self-destruction. Heaven knows how I have sued for hope and resignation. I did trust my prayers were heard. -Oh! spare me further trial! I feel, I feel my heart and brain can bear no more.
END OF ACT III.
SCENE I.-The Skirts of the Park, Lodge, fc., as before.
A Table, spread with Fruits, &c.
Francis discooered placing the Supper. Fra. I know he loves to bave his early supper in the fresh air; and, while he sups, not that I believe any thing can amuse him, yet I will try my little Savoyards' pretty voices. I have heard him speak as if he had loved music. [Music without, L.] Oh, here they are Enter, L., Annette and CLAUDINE, playing on their
We rambling minstrels, blithe and free,
Where'er we roam,
We find a home,
And greeting, to reward our toil.
Nor busy cares annoy our breast;
With grateful lay,
Hail, rising day,
That rosy health and peace bestows !
dow, and at the conclusion he comes out.
Fra. Well then, I wished to amuse myself a little. I don't think my recreations are so very numerous.
Stra. That's true, my poor fellow; indeed they are not. Let them go on.-l'll listen. (Retires and sits down, R.
Fra. But to please you, my poor master, I fear it must be a sadder strain.-Annette, have you none but these chcer-1 ful songs ?
Ann. O, plenty. If you are dolefully given, we can be as sad as night. I'll sing you an air Mrs. Haller taught me, the first year she came to the Castle.
Fru. Mrs. Haller! I should like to hear that.
A grief I'll ne'er impart;
But it consumes my heart.
My lot for ever he,
Be never known by thee !
And when pale characters of death
Shall mark this alter'd cheek,
My life's last hope would speak,
Nor mercy ask for me;
Unpardon'd, love, by thee. Stra. [Surprised and moved.] Oh! I have heard that air before, but 'twas with other words, (Rises.] Francis, share our supper with your friends I need none.
[Enters the Lodge. Fra. So I feared. Well, [Crosses, c.] my pretty favourites, here are refreshments.- [Leads them to the table.] So, disturbed again! Now will this gentleman call for more music, and make my master mad. Go, go, and return when you observe this mau is gone.-[Exeunt, L. Annette and Claudine, singing.- Francis sits and eats. ]—I was in hopes that I might at least eat my supper peaceably in the open air; but they follow at our heels like bloodhounds.
Enter BARON, from Gates. Bar. (L.) My good friend, I must speak to your master.
Fra. (R.) Can't serve you.
Fru. [Rising.] I will announce you, sir ; but it won't avail ! I shall be abused, and you rejected. However, we can but try.
[Going Bar. I only ask half a minute. [Francis goes into the Lodge.] But when he comes, how am I to treat him? I never encountered a misanthrope before. I have heard of instructions as to conduct in society ; but how I am to behave towards a being who loathes the whole world, and his own existence, I have never learned.
Enter the STRANGER, from Lodgp.. Stra. (R.) Now; what's
Bar. (L.) 1 beg pardon, sir, for—[Suddenly recognizing him.) Charles
your will ?