Pieces People Ask For/An Original Idea

This duologue incorporates several works by other authors, which are linked throughout.




Festus, a rejected suitor. Stella, the cruel rejecter.

Scene.—A handsomely furnished apartment in the house of Stella. Table, c., with rich cover, books, flowers, etc. Tête-à-tête, r. c., arm-chairs, r. and l. of table, c. Entrances, r., l., and c. Enter Festus, l., in evening costume.

Festus. "Thus far into the bowels of the land have we inarched on without impediment." Here am I once more in the place from which, but one short week ago, I made an unceremonious exit as the rejected suitor of a young, lovely, and talented lady. Rejected suitor!—those words slip very smoothly from the lips, as pleasantly as though they were associated with some high-sounding title of nobility. There is nothing in the sound of them to conjure up the miserable, mean, contemptible, kicked-out feeling which a man experiences who has received at the hands of lovely woman that specimen of feminine handicraft—the mitten. All my own fault, too! I'm a bashful man. Modesty, the virtue which is said to have been "the ruination of Ireland," is the rock against which my soaring ambition has dashed itself. I have sat in this room, evening after evening, upon the edge of a chair, twirling my thumbs, and saying—nothing. I couldn't help it. I have brought scores of compliments to the door, and left them in the hall with my hat. I wanted to speak; I kept up "a deuce of a thinking;" but somehow, when I had an agreeable speech ready to pop out of my mouth, it seemed to be frightened at the sight of the fair object against whom it was to be launched, and tumbled back again. It's no use: when a man is in love, the more he loves, the more silent he becomes; at least it was so in my case. And when I did manage, after much stammering and blushing, to "pop the question," the first word from the lady set me shivering; and the conclusion of her remarks set me running from the house utterly demoralized,—"I shall always be happy to see you as a friend, your conversation is so agreeable." Here was a damper, after six weeks of unremitting though silent attention. But she likes me, I'm sure of that. It is my silence which has frightened her. I only need a little more variety in my style of conversation to make myself agreeable to her. I have an original idea; and I advise all bashful men to take warning from my past experience, and profit by my future. I will borrow language in which to speak my passion. There's nothing very original in borrowing, financially speaking; but to borrow another man's ideas by which to make love, I call original. And, as luck would have it, I have an excellent opportunity to test my new idea. Lounging in the sanctum of my friend Quill, the editor of "The Postscript," a few days ago, he called my attention to an advertisement which had just been presented for insertion. It ran thus: "Wanted, a reader,—a gentleman who has studied poetic and dramatic compositions with a view to delivery, who has a good voice, and who would be willing to give one evening a week to the entertaining of an invalid. Address, with references, 'Stella,' Postscript Office." I recognized the handwriting as that of the lady to whom I had been paying attentions, the signature as the non de plume under which she had written several poetic contributions for the press; and I had no trouble in guessing the meaning of the advertisement, knowing she has an invalid uncle. "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." I felt that it was high tide with me, and boldly launched my canoe; answered the advertisement under the assumed name of "Festus," and waited for a reply. It came: "Stella is satisfied with the references of Festus. and will give him an opportunity to test his ability as a reader Tuesday evening next,"[1] etc. You will naturally conclude that my heart bounded with rapture on receiving this favorable answer. It did nothing of the sort: on the contrary, the rebound almost took away my breath. I began to shiver and shake, and felt inclined to retreat. But "love conquers all things." I determined to persevere; and here I am, by appointment, to test the practicability of my original idea. The lady is a fine reader. I am well acquainted with her favorite authors; and, if I can but interest her in this novel suit, may at least pass a pleasant evening if I am not unspeakably happy. I was told to wait for Stella. (Takes a book from table, and sits L. of table, with his back to R.) Shakspeare, ah! Let me draw a little courage from the perusal of this. (Enter Stella, r., in evening costume, with flowers in her hair.)

Stella. My maid said Festus was in this room. Ah! there he is, deep in a book: that's so like these literary gentry! No sooner are their roving eyes fastened on a book than it is seized with the avidity with which a starving man grasps a loaf of bread. He seems happy: I will not disturb him. (Sits on tête-à-tête.) What a strange idea! Here am I to pass the evening listening to the voice of one whom I never saw before. This is one of my uncle's whims: he fears I am working too hard to entertain him with readings from his favorite authors, and so determines to employ a reader to relieve me. Dear uncle, with all his pain and suffering he has a sharp eye: he notices my want of spirit, and thinks it is caused by weariness. He little knows that the true cause is that stupid lover of mine, who sat here evening after evening as dumb as an oyster, until, out of spite, I started him off. What could have ailed the man? Nothing could he say but "Yes, ma'am," "No, ma'am," "Fine evening," "Good-night." I never was so plagued in all my life, for I should have liked the fellow if he had only tried to make himself agreeable; but he was as silent and stupid as—Festus here. (Festus rises, gesticulating with his hand, his eyes fastened on the book.) What can the man be about?

Festus. (Reading.) "Is this a dagger which I see before me? the handle towards my hand? Come, let me clutch thee! I have thee not, and yet I see"—(Turns and sees Stella. Drops book, and runs behind chair very confused.)

Stella. Good gracious! you here again?

Festus. I beg your pardon. You are—I am—

Stella. I thought, sir, I was to have no more of your agreeable society.

Festus. I beg your pardon, madam: you seem to be in error. I am Festus,—Festus.

Stella. You Festus?

Festus. Oh, yes: I'm Festus! I came here by appointment.

Stella. What do you mean, sir? I expected a gentleman here to read.

Festus. Exactly! Pray, are you the invalid?

Stella. Sir, you are insulting! You will be kind enough to leave this room at once. I thought the last time you were here—

Festus. Excuse me for interrupting; but you evidently mistake me for some other person. I never was in this house before.

Stella. Is the man crazy? Do you mean to say you did not make a proposal of marriage to me in this very room a week ago?

Festus. Madam, you surprise me. To the best of my knowledge and belief, I never saw you before.

Stella. Was there ever such assurance? Is not your name—

Festus. Festus; and yours Stella. Am I not right?

Stella. Sir, this is very provoking; but, if you are Festus, what is your object in calling here?

Festus. To entertain you.

Stella. To entertain me! With what, pray? Sitting on the edge of a chair, and twirling your thumbs?

Festus. (Aside.) That's a hard hit. (Aloud.) With readings, if you please.

Stella. Readings! Pray, what do you read? Ovid's "Art of Love"?

Festus. Madam, I answered your advertisement, being desirous of securing the situation of reader to an invalid.

Stella. You won't suit.

Festus. You haven't heard me.

Stella. No, but I've seen you; and your silence cannot be excelled by your reading.

Festus. Will you hear me read?

Stella. No: you will not suit.

Festus. Very well: then I claim the trial. Remember your promise,—"Stella is satisfied with the references of 'Festus,' and will give him an opportunity to test his ability as a reader Tuesday evening," etc.

Stella. Oh, very well! If you insist upon making yourself ridiculous, proceed. (Sits in chair, r. of table, and turns her back on Festus.)

Festus. But will you not listen to me? I cannot read to you while you sit in that position.

Stella. I told you I did not wish to hear you read: you insist. Proceed: I am not interested.

Festus. Oh, very well! My first selection shall be from the writings of one well known to fame,—a lady whose compositions have electrified the world; whose poetic effusions have lulled to sleep the cross and peevish infant, stilled the noisy nursery, and exerted an influence upon mankind of great and lasting power; one whose works are memorable for their antiquity,—the gift of genius to the budding greatness of the nineteenth century. (Producing a book from his pocket.) I will read from Mother Goose.

Stella. (Starting up.) Mother Goose!

Festus. Yes: are you acquainted with the lady?

Stella. (Sarcastically.) I have heard of her.

Festus. (Reads in very melodramatic style.)

"'We are three brethren out of Spain,
Come to court your daughter Jane.'
'My daughter Jane she is too young:
She is not skilled in flattering tongue.'
'Be she young, or be she old,
'Tis for her gold she must be sold.
So fare you well, my lady gay:
We will return another day.'"

How do you like that?

Stella. (Fiercely.) I don't like it.

Festus. No? Perhaps you prefer some other style of delivery. (Reads with a drawl.)

"'We awe thwe bwethwen-aw out of Spain,
Come to court-aw your dawtaw Jane-aw.'"

Stella. Oh, do read something else!

Festus. Certainly.

"Hi diddle diddle! the cat and the fiddle!
The cow jumped over the moon"—

Stella. (Jumps up.) Pray, sir, do you intend to read that nonsense the whole evening?

Festus. Oh, no! I think I can get through the book in about an hour.

Stella. Sir, you have forced yourself here, an unwelcome visitor: you insist upon my hearing such nonsense as Mother- Goose melodies for an hour. Do you call that gentlemanly?

Festus. Madam, you advertised for a reader. I have applied, with your permission, for the situation. Under the circumstances, I naturally expected to have your attention during the reading of such selections as I should offer; instead of which, you turn your back upon me, and very coolly bid me proceed. Do you call that ladylike?

Stella. Frankly, no. You have asked the trial: you shall have it. For an hour I will hear you; and, though I strongly suspect the situation of reader is not the object of your visit, you shall have no reason to complain of my inattention. Is that satisfactory?

Festus. Pray go a step farther. You are said to have fine elocutionary powers. May I not hope to have the pleasure of hearing your voice? Grant me your assistance, and my hour's trial may perhaps be made agreeable to both.

Stella. Oh! not quite certain of your ability, Mr. Festus?

Festus. Not in the presence of so fine a reader.

Stella. A compliment! Well, I agree.

Festus. Let me hear you read: that will give me courage to make the attempt myself.

Stella. Oh, very well! Remembering your partiality for juvenile literature, you will pardon me if I read a very short but sweet poem. (Produces a printed handkerchief from her pocket.)

Festus. Ah, a pocket edition!

Stella. (Reads from the handkerchief.)

"Who sat and watched my infant head
When sleeping on my cradle-bed,
And tears of sweet affection shed?
My mother.

When sleep forsook my open eye,
Who was it sang sweet lullaby,
And rocked me that I should not cry?
My mother.

When pain and sickness made me cry,
Who gazed upon my heavy eye,
And wept for fear that I should die?
My mother."

There, sir! what do you say to that?

Festus. It's very sweet. But that child had too many mothers. Now, I prefer Tom Hood's parody. (Reads "A Lay of Real Life," by Thomas Hood.)


Who ruined me ere I was born,
Sold every acre, grass or corn,
And left the next heir all forlorn?
My Grandfather.

Who said my mother was no nurse,
And physicked me, and made me worse,
Till infancy became a curse?
My Grandmother.

Who left me in my seventh year,
A comfort to my mother dear,
And Mr. Pope the overseer?
My Father.

Who let me starve to buy her gin,
Till all my bones came through my skin,
Then called me "ugly little sin"?
My Mother.

Who said my mother was a Turk,
And took me home, and made me work,
But managed half my meals to shirk?
My Aunt.

Who "of all earthly things" would boast,
"He hated others' brats the most,"
And therefore made me feel my post?
My Uncle.

Who got in scrapes, an endless score,
And always laid them at my door,
Till many a bitter bang I bore?
My Cousin.

Who took me home when mother died,
Again with father to reside,
Black shoes, clean knives, run far and wide?
My Stepmother.

Who marred my stealthy urchin joys,
And, when I played, cried "What a noise!"—
Girls always hector over boys?—
My Sister.

Who used to share in what was mine,
Or took it all, did he incline,
'Cause I was eight, and he was nine?
My Brother.

Who stroked my head, and said, "Good lad,"
And gave me sixpence, "all he had;"
But at the stall the coin was bad?
My Godfather.

Who, gratis, shared my social glass,
But, when misfortune came to pass,
Referred me to the pump? Alas!
My Friend.

Through all this weary world, in brief,
Who ever sympathized with grief,
Or shared my joy, my sole relief?

Stella. That is very amusing; but, Mr. Festus, if this is the extent of your elocutionary acquirements—

Festus. Oh, I beg your pardon! By no means! With your permission, I will read something a little more sombre,—Edgar Poe's "Raven."

Stella. That is certainly more sombre. Proceed.

Reading. "The Raven," by Edgar A. Poe. Festus.

Stella. Excellent! Mr. Festus, you are certainly a good reader. But this seems to affect you.

Festus. It does, it does; for I, too, have lost one—

Stella. A raven?

Festus. Pshaw! Come, madam, I believe you are to read now, and I to listen.

Stella. Certainly. I will read, with your permission, Whittier's "Maud Muller."

Festus. I should be delighted to hear it.

Reading. "Maud Muller." Stella.

Festus. Beautiful, beautiful! Madam, this, too, affects me.

Stella. How?

Festus. When I think "it might have been."

Stella. Then I wouldn't think of it, if I were you. What shall we have now?

Festus. Suppose we read together.

Stella. Together?

Festus. Yes, a scene from some play. There's "The Marble Heart."

Stella. Oh, there's nothing in that but love-scenes!

Festus. It's a favorite play with me; and I have been thinking, while you were reading, that the character of "Marco" is one in which you might excel.

Stella. Indeed! I have studied the character.

Festus. (Aside.) I should think so. (Aloud.) Let us attempt a scene. Come, you shall have your choice.

Stella. Thank you. Then I will choose "the rejection scene."

Festus. (Aside.) Of course you would! (Aloud.) Very well.

Stella. Do you know, Mr. Festus, I think there is something very odd in your attempting a love-scene?

Festus. Do you? I have attempted them, and with success too.

Stella. Ah! I remember there was one attempted here.

Festus. Indeed!

Stella. Yes; but the gentleman's name was not Festus.

Festus. Shall we try the scene?

Stella. You must prompt me if I fail.

Festus. Fail! "In the bright lexicon of youth, there's no such word as fail."

Stella. Ah! but, in attempts at acting, there are many failures.

Festus. True; but yours will not be one of them.

Stella. (Aside.) Another compliment! I begin to like the fellow.

Festus. Now, then, the scene! (Stella takes a bouquet from the table, sits on tête-à-tête, r.)

Scene from "The Marble Heart." Arranged for this piece. Published in No. 15 Reading-Club.


Scene.Same as before. Enter Festus, c.

Festus. It is astonishing how much a little borrowed plumage becomes a bashful man. The ice once broken by the inspiring thoughts and words of the love-sick "Raphael," I feel now almost equal to the composition and delivery of an energetic and passionate appeal that shall carry the heart of the lady by storm; but then, having once been refused, I dread a second attempt. "A burnt child fears the fire;" and a singed lover trembles before the blazing eyes of the object of his adoration. I have yet a short time before the expiration of my hour of trial, and the character of "Sir Thomas Clifford" from which to borrow courage. (Enter Stella, c.)

Stella. Well, mysterious "Festus," what new fancy is agitating your fertile brain?

Festus. Madam, to tell you the truth, I was—thinking—of you.

Stella. Of me, or of your future salary?

Festus. Both.

Stella. What of me?

Festus. (Very awkward and confused.) That I think—I think—that you—you—are—are—

Stella. Well, what am I?

Festus. (Abruptly.) A very fine reader.

Stella. Oh! is that all?

Festus. All worth mentioning.

Stella. Sir!

Festus. That is all I am at liberty to mention.

Stella. What if I should grant you liberty to say more?

Festus. Oh! then—then I should say—I should say—

Stella. Well, what would you say?

Festus. It's your turn to read.

Stella. (Aside.) Stupid! (Aloud.) Well, sir, what shall I read?

Festus. Oh! oblige me by making your own selection.

Stella. There's "The Bells," by Poe. Do you like that?

Festus. Oh, exceedingly!

Stella. But I don't know how to read it: it's very difficult.

Festus. Perhaps I can assist you. (Aside.) I'll provoke her a bit; see if she has a temper.

Stella. Well, you are very kind. (Aside.) I'll see if I can make him talk.

Festus. Well, then, you take the book, and read. (Hands her copy of Poe.) When I think you need correcting, I will speak.

Stella. Very well. (They sit, c. Stella reads in a very tragic tone, emphasizing the words in Italics.)

"Hear the sledges with the bells,
Silver bells!"

Festus. Oh, stop, stop, stop! Dear me! that's not the way to read. There's no silver in your bells. Listen:—

"Hear the sledges with the bells,
Sil-ver bells!"

Very silvery, don't you see?

Stella. Oh, yes! excuse me. (Reads in a very silly tone.)

"Hear the sledges with the bells,
Sil——ver bells!"

Festus. Oh, no, no! that's too silly.

Stella. Sir!

Festus. I mean, there's too much of the sil in silver. (Repeats his reading. She imitates it.)

Festus. Ah! that's better. Thank you: you are charming. (She looks at him.) That is, a charming reader. Go on.

Stella. (Reads.)

"What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle"—

Festus. (Interrupting.) I beg your pardon: "twinkle."

Stella. No, sir: "tinkle."

Festus. But I am sure it is "twinkle."

Stella. Can't I believe my own eyes?

Festus. Not unless they "twinkle."

Stella. Look for yourself. (Shows him the book.)

Festus. My stars! it is "tinkle." I beg your pardon. Go on.


"How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air"—

Festus. No, no: frosty,—frosty air.

Stella. No, sir: it's icy air.

Festus. You are mistaken: "frosty."

Stella. Am I? Look for yourself.

Festus. Well, I declare! It is, I see, icy. I beg your pardon. Go on.

Stella. I see, I see. You are bent on interrupting me. What do you mean, sir?

Festus. What can you expect, if you don't know how to read?

Stella. Sir, this is provoking. I don't know how to read?

Festus. Not "The Bells," I know.

Stella. Oh! do you? Well, sir, I know you are no gentleman; and I know, if you want "The Bells" read (starts up, and throws book at him), read it yourself.

Festus. Madam, what am I to understand by this?

Stella. That your presence is no longer agreeable to me.

Festus. Oh, very well, very well! I understand you wish me to go. (Stella stands, r., with her back to him.) You wish me to go. I will intrude no longer. (Very loud.) Since you—wish—me—to—go— (Aside.) Confound it, I believe she does! (Aloud.) Very well, madam, very well. Good-evening. (Exit, l.)

Stella. He'll be back in three minutes. (Enter Festus, L.)

Festus. I forgot my hat. You'll excuse me if I take my— (Aside.) Confound it, she won't speak! (Stands irresolute a moment, and then approaches her.) Madam,—Stella,—I was wrong. You can read "The Bells" divinely. I hear them ringing in my ears now. I beg your pardon. Read "The Bells" in any manner you please: I shall be delighted to listen.

Stella. Oh, very well! Since you have returned, I will read.

Reading."The Bells," Poe.Stella.

Festus. Splendid, splendid!

Stella. Now, sir, I shall be happy to listen to you once more.

Festus. Your "Bells" have stirred the fires of patriotism within my heart; and I will give you, as my selection, "Sheridan's Ride."

Reading. "Sheridan's Ride," Reid. Festus.

Stella. Excellent! Mr. Festus, you are a very spirited rider,—I mean reader. Now, suppose, for variety, we have another scene.

Festus. With all my heart. What shall it be?

Stella. Oh! you select. Pray, Mr. Festus, did you have any design in selecting the scene from "The Marble Heart"?

Festus. Well, I like that. You selected it yourself.

Stella. But the play was your selection; and you were very perfect in the part of "Raphael."

Festus. Well, I selected what I thought I should most excel in.

Stella. You excel in love-making! That's good. But I must say, you act it well.

Festus. Yes—that is—I think that circumstances—occurring—which would make—circumstances—perfectly—that is, I mean to say that—circumstances—indeed—what were you saying?

Stella. Ha, ha, ha! O mighty Festus! you've lost your place; but, as you have a partiality for love-scenes, what is your next?

Festus. What say you to a scene from "The Hunchback"? "The secretary of my lord'? You know the scene,—"Julia" and "Sir Thomas Clifford."

Stella. Oh, yes! I am familiar with it; but I think, as an applicant for a situation, you are making me perform more than my share of work.

Festus. Oh! if you object—

Stella. Oh! but I don't object. Proceed. (Sits, l.of table. Festus exits, l.)


(Arranged for this piece.)

Julia, Stella. Sir Thomas Clifford, Festus.

Jul. (Alone.) A wedded bride?
Is it, a dream?
Oh, would it were a dream!
How would I bless the sun that waked me from it!
I am wrecked
By mine own act! What! no escape? no hope?
None! I must e'en abide these hated nuptials!
Hated!—ay, own it, and then curse thyself
That mad'st the bane thou loathest for the love
Thou bear'st to one who never can be thine!
Yes, love! Deceive thyself no longer. False
To say 'tis pity for his fall,—respect
Engendered by a hollow world's disdain,
Which hoots whom fickle fortune cheers no more!
'Tis none of these: 'tis love, and, if not love,
Why, then, idolatry! Ay, that's the name
To speak the broadest, deepest, strongest passion
That ever woman's heart was borne away by!
He comes! Thoud'st play the lady,—play it now!
(Enter Clifford, l.)
Speaks he not?
Or does he wait for orders to unfold
His business? Stopped his business till I spoke,
I'd hold my peace forever! (Clifford kneels, presenting a letter.)
Does he kneel?
A lady am I to my heart's content!
Could he unmake me that which claims his knee,
I'd kneel to him,—I would, I would! Your will?
Clif. This letter from my lord.
Jul. Oh, fate! who speaks?
Clif. The secretary of my lord. (Rises.)
Jul. I breathe!
I could have sworn 'twas he!
(Makes an effort to look at him, but is unable.)
So like the voice!—
I dare not look lest there the form should stand.
How came he by that voice? 'Tis Clifford's voice
If ever Clifford spoke! My fears come back.
Clifford, the secretary of my lord!
Fortune hath freaks, but none so mad as that.It cannot be!—it should not be! A look,
And all were set at rest. (Tries to look at him again, but cannot.)
So strong my fears,
Dread to confirm them takes away the power
To try and end them. Come the worst, I'll look.
(She tries again, and is again unequal to the task.)
I'd sink before him if I met his eye!
Clif. Wilt please your ladyship to take the letter?
Jul. There, Clifford speaks again! Not Clifford's breath
Could more make Clifford's voice; not Clifford's tongue
And lips more frame it into Clifford's speech.
A question, and 'tis over! Know I you?
Clif. Reverse of fortune, lady, changes friends:
It turns them into strangers. What I am
I have not always been.
Jul. Could I not name you?
Clif. If your disdain for one, perhaps too bold
When hollow fortune called him favorite,
Now by her fickleness perforce reduced
To take an humble tone, would suffer you—
Jul. I might?
Clif. You might.
Jul. O Clifford! is it you?
Clif. Your answer to my lord. (Gives the letter.)
Jul. Your lord!
Clif. Wilt write it?
Or, will it please you send a verbal one?
I'll bear it faithfully.
Jul. You'll bear it?
Clif. Madam,
Your pardon; but my haste is somewhat urgent.
My lord's impatient, and to use despatch
Were his repeated orders.
Jul. Orders? Well (takes letter),
I'll read the letter, sir. 'Tis right you mind
His lordship's orders. They are paramount.
Nothing should supersede them. Stand beside them!
They merit all your care, and have it! Fit,
Most fit, they should. Give me the letter, sir.
Clif. You have it, madam.
Jul. So! How poor a thing
I look! so lost while he is all himself!
Have I no pride?
If he can freeze, 'tis time that I grow cold.
I'll read the letter. (Opens it, and holds it as about to read it.)
Mind his orders! So!
Quickly he fits his habits to his fortunes!
He serves my lord with all his will! His heart's
In his vocation. So! Is this the letter?
'Tis upside down, and here I'm poring on't!
Most fit I let him see me play the fool!
Shame! Let me be myself! (She sits a while at table, vacantly
gazing on the letter, then looks at Clifford.)
How plainly shows his humble suit!
It fits not him that wears it. I have wronged him!
He can't be happy—does not look it—is not!
That eye which reads the ground is argument
Enough. He loves me. There I let him stand,
And I am sitting! (Rises, and points to a chair.)
Pray you, take a chair. (He bows as acknowledging and declining
the honor. She looks at him a while.)
Clifford, why don't you speak to me? (Weeps.)
Clif. I trust
You're happy.
Jul. Happy? Very, very happy!
You see I weep I am so happy. Tears
Are signs, you know, of naught but happiness.
When first I saw you, little did I look
To be so happy. Clifford!
Clif. Madam?
Jul. Madam!
I call thee Clifford, and thou call'st me madam!
Clif. Such the address my duty stints me to.
Thou art the wife elect of a proud earl
Whose humble secretary sole am I.
Jul. Most right! I had forgot! I thank you, sir,
For so reminding me, and give you joy
That what, I see, had been a burthen to you
Is fairly off your hands.
Clif. A burthen to me?
Mean you yourself? Are you that burthen, Julia?
Say that the sun's a burthen to the earth!
Say that the blood's a burthen to the heart!
Say health's a burthen, peace, contentment, joy,
Fame, riches, honors, everything that man
Desires, and gives the name of blessing to!—
E'en such a burthen Julia were to me
Had fortune let rue wear her.
Jul. (Aside.) On the brink
Of what a precipice I'm standing! Back,
Back! while the faculty remains to do't!
A minute longer, not the whirlpool's self
More sure to suck thee down! One effort! (Sits.) There!
(Recovers her self-possession, takes up the letter, and reads.)
To wed to-morrow night! Wed whom? A man
Whom I can never love! I should before
Have thought of that. To-morrow night. This hour
To-morrow,—how I tremble!
At what means
Will not the desperate snatch! What's honor's price?
Nor friends, nor lovers,—no, nor life itself!
Clifford, this moment leave me! (Clifford retires up the stage
out of her sight.)
Is he gone?
Oh, docile lover! Do his mistress' wish
That went against his own! Do it so soon,
Ere well 'twas uttered! No good-by to her!
No word, no look! 'Twas best that so he went.
Alas the strait of her who owns that best
Which last she'd wish were done! What's left me now?
To weep, to weep! (Leans her head upon her arm, which rests upon the table, her other arm hanging listless at her side. Clifford comes down the stage, looks a moment at her, approaches her, and, kneeling, takes her hand.)
Clif. My Julia!
Jul. Here again?
Up, up! By all thy hopes of heaven go hence!
To stay's perdition to me! Look you, Clifford!
Were there a grave where thou art kneeling now,
I'd walk into't and be inearthed alive
Ere taint should touch my name! Should some one come
And see thee kneeling thus! Let go my hand!—
Remember, Clifford, I'm a promised bride—
And take thy arm away! It has no right
To clasp my waist! Judge you so poorly of me
As think I'll suffer this? My honor, sir!
(She breaks from him, quitting her seat.)
I'm glad you've forced me to respect myself:
You'll find that I can do so.
Clif. There was a time I held your hand unchid;
There was a time I might have clasped your waist:
I had forgot that time was past and gone.
I pray you, pardon me.
Jul. (Softened.) I do so, Clifford.
Clif. I shall no more offend.
Jul. Make sure of that.
No longer is it fit thou keep'st thy post
In's lordship's household. Give it up! A day, An hour, remain not in it.
Clif. Wherefore?
Jul. Live
In the same house with me, and I another's?
Put miles, put leagues, between us! The same land
Should not contain us.
Clifford, Clifford!
Rash was the act, so light that gave me up,
That stung a woman's pride, and drove her mad,
Till in her frenzy she destroyed her peace!
Oh, it was rashly done! Had you reproved,
Expostulated, had you reasoned with me,
Tried to find out what was indeed my heart,
I would have shown it, you'd have seen it, all
Had been as naught can ever be again.
Clif. Lov'st thou me, Julia?
Jul. Dost thou ask me, Clifford?
Clif. These nuptials may be shunned—
Jul. With honor?
Clif. Yes.
Jul. Then take me! Hold!—hear me, and take me, then!
Let not thy passion be my counsellor;
Deal with me, Clifford, as my brother. Be
The jealous guardian of my spotless name.
Scan thou my cause as 'twere thy sister's. Let
Thy scrutiny o'erlook no point of it,
And turn it o'er not once, but many a time,
That flaw, speck, yea, the shade of one,—a soil
So slight not one out of a thousand eyes
Could find it out,—may not escape thee; then
Say if these nuptials can be shunned with honor!
Clif. They can.
Jul. Then take me, Clifford—

Festus. Stop one moment. (Looks at watch.) Time's up.

Stella. So soon?

Festus. The tone of your voice expresses regret. What is your decision?

Stella. My decision?

Festus. Upon my application for the situation of reader. Shall I have it?

Stella. Perhaps the terms will not suit.

Festus. Madam, I am willing to serve you on any terms. Allow me to throw off the mask of "Festus," which of course you have seen through, and offer myself for a situation under the name of—

Stella. Stop: you are not going to pronounce that name before all these good people?

Festus. Of course not. But what shall I do? Stella, I feel that "Raphael" and "Sir Thomas Clifford" have inspired me to attempt love-making on my own account. Grant me the opportunity to make application for the situation made vacant by my unceremonious exit the other night. Let "Festus" apply once more.

Stella. What shall I say? (To audience.) Would you? He seems to have found his tongue; and who knows but what he may make an agreeable beau? I think he had better call again; for to have a lover who can make love by borrowing, is, at least,—under the circumstances—under the circumstances—what is it, Festus?

Festus. Circumstances? Why, under the circumstances, I should say it was "An Original Idea."

Note. The "Readings" and "Scenes" maybe varied to suit the taste of the performers. "The Garden Scene" in "Romeo and Juliet," scenes from "Ingomar," "The School for Scandal," etc., have been used with good effect.

  1. Or the evening of the performance.